In The Ether 11: Telling
Friday, October 20, 2006

Simon and Regan tell each other off, Jayne tells Kaylee a little story, and Wash tells everybody about basic chemistry. Bonus: Jayne actually quotes Shakespeare! Kind of.


A/N: I don't own them, but I like trying to figure out their minds.

I want to pop a note in here about Simon's "interrogation". At first, I wanted a lot of sarcastic Simon (I just *adore* sarcastic Simon), as in "Out Of Gas" when he's around Early. But as I thought about it, I realized that the situations aren't really similar and had to think of something different.

One of the best books I've read about "getting into your enemy's mind" is "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card. While the later books got a bit too metaphysical for my taste, one of the lessons from that book that stuck with was that to truly destroy your enemy, you had to love them. But in learning to love them, it gave them the power to hurt you.

I honestly believe Regan and Gabriel loved their children in their own odd way. Not necessarily the way parents should: instead of loving their kids for who they are, they loved them for what they represented: power and prestige. But in return, Simon and River completely loved their parents - just watch how young Simon *beams* at his dad in the beginning of "Safe."

When Early appeared aboard Serenity, Simon had no attachment to this random stranger who didn't know the whole scope of what was going on. This would give him a feeling of "just business", allowing his to keep his cool. Early also forced Simon to think fast, as at that point Simon didn't know River's fate and had to worry about protecting Kaylee as well.

Conversely, Simon's current situation is with someone who not only knew the whole story, but actually caused it (or allowed it to happen, at any rate). Further, Regan has nothing on him: both Kaylee and River are as safe as they can be under Mal's protection. Simon has nothing to lose, and Regan - by loving him and he loving her, in some way - can truly destroy him (this concept will return, as I hope you'll agree in a few chapters). To me, this make Regan light years more dangerous, and thus I allowed Simon to start out brash like he did with Early, but become rather direct with whatever he has to say, practically daring her to kill him. And in turn, he can rile her up faster than anyone.

Whew. We now return you to your regularly scheduled snark-fest.

P.S. Thanks to you who offered to help me fix this up, but once I realized what I needed to do with it, I jammed on my own. Please stick around, though, I'm sure it'll happen again.

P.P.S. The "Thrust and Riposte" part was a metaphor for "back and forth". No actual fencing occurs.


Simon winced as he worked his jaw, listening to the joint pop in and out. Overall, he mused, this was not his finest hour. Breaking his sister out of a government facility to save her life? Damn heroic. Breaking that sister into yet another facility to scan her brain? Genius. Walking unarmed up to your mother and punching her while she's surrounded by dozens of men with very large guns? Definitely not a great plan. The captain might have to revoke his "criminal mastermind" title.

It only took a moment to survey his room - or more accurately, cell - and determine there wasn't anything useful for making an escape. The walls were smooth and plastic, the door control box coded, and the only reasonable way to hang himself would be to use his shoelaces. Not only was Simon not the suicidal type, but these were his last good pair of shoes and damn if he was going to waste them. Simon prided himself on his rationality and strength in the face of danger, and felt he had to conserve his resources, even if the heels of said resources were getting a little worn.

But really, Simon's biggest feeling was relief. It was over. He'd done what he needed: River was safe with people who would protect her. His own safety and survival was never high on his priority list. Sure, he didn't want to be caught and tortured, and would do everything he could to get away. But for the moment it was nice not have to worry about his sister or when the Alliance might come knocking on his door. Until the rescue came - and knowing Mal Reynolds, there would certainly be one in the works already - all he had to do was relax. For once in his life, he could just rest and let someone else make all the decisions for him. It made him almost giddy.

And so it was that Dr. Simon Tam - certified genius, federal fugitive, and major thorn in the Alliance paw - met his first interrogation flat out on his back, snoring, with a goofy grin on his face.

A fact that did not amuse his mother in the slightest when she finally appeared. "Simon! Wake up this instant!"

Simon only cracked one eyelid, not sure how his mother was going to play this, and honestly not really caring. He'd had days to think on his parents' betrayal, and had decided - with a little help from a certain mechanic's rather calloused right hand - that his new family was on Serenity, and the one before him could go to hell.

As for his "interrogation", Mother would most likely try to manipulate him, play on his emotions, keep him off guard. She had a lot of practice in that area, honed through years of political machinations. However, Simon also had experience in that area, honed through living on a small ship with Mal and Jayne.

Simon smiled. Mother didn't stand a chance. "Hi, mom. Did you bring me chicken soup?"

Regan Tam's eyebrows drew together. She'd expected swearing, yelling, demands to be set free; all of those things were classic Simon. He was always up front, used to getting his way, painfully blunt, and very tactless. She certainly hadn't expected Simon to calmly lay there as if he was on vacation. "Don't crack wise with me, young man. You're in a great deal of trouble."

"So no soup, then?" Simon closed his eyes again.

"The only soup in your future will be given in a bowl through the bars of a cell!" she snapped. "Do you know what they'll do to you in prison?"

Simon nodded in agreement, eyes still closed. "Yeah. Do you think I'm pretty enough to be kept by only one inmate? I'm the monogamous type, and don't wish to be shared around. I get jealous."

"Simon, dear." Plan A - intimidation - obviously wasn't working. Perhaps she'd misjudged him after all. Mother's voice suddenly warmed as she switched to Plan B. "Don't you want to help your sister? We have doctors. The best in the core - "

"Yes, I believe they proved that the first time. You don't have doctors, mom. You have the best monsters money can buy." He waved his hand dismissively at the thought.

"But, darling, we're your family, and we're River's family, too. We only want to help. Shouldn't your sister be under a doctor's care?"

Simon opened both eyes and sat up, giving his mom a raised eyebrow. Did she really think he'd buy this after her speech? "Doctor? What am I? Chopped liver?"

"No, dear. But you're not a specialist. Besides, doesn't your oath say something about treating family? Are you really the best person to give specialized care to her?" Simon said nothing, but nodded to show she had a point. "Please, help us find her, and we'll see to it she gets the best care possible." Simon seemed to be considering it, so Regan pressed her luck. "It would be the ethical thing to do."

"Ooh, sorry. Your impassioned plea was going great until you got preachy. That oath also says something about 'do no harm', if I recall. How did you do on that score, Mother?"

"I'm not a doctor."

"Precisely. But I am. So I choose to protect my patient from harm."

"And you think I wouldn't? She is my daughter, Simon. I only want what's best for her."

Simon was silent for several seconds as he processed this, suddenly considering if Mother was telling the truth. It had never occurred to him that she had really thought she was doing what was best for River. It still made her a monster, of course. But it also made her human. His innate compassion welled up for a moment, but was quickly crushed with the overwhelming disgust he felt for her. Realizing she still warranted a response, Simon cocked his head and stared her down.

"Fine. Let's review." Simon's voice raised a bit as he began counting on his fingers. "You gave over River to people who can only be described as sub-human. You purposefully misled me and halted my progress when I felt it necessary to help River away from those same people, insinuating that I was crazy even when you knew I wasn't. You donated time, effort and money to the 'slice-up-my-child's-brain' fund - and knowing Father's investment portfolio, I have no doubt you made quite a bit of money in the deal, as well. You attempted to shoot one of my friends right in front of me." Simon leaned forward a bit, obviously warming to his subject now that he had a chance to dump all the bile he'd been storing towards his parents. "But you know what convinced me the most? Even if you explain away all the other things, you know what I remember? When River stood right in front of you and chose to stand with an uneducated, uncouth freighter captain instead of her mother. No. You wouldn't protect her. You didn't protect her. But I will."

"Even if it means your own death?" Mother's voice was getting colder again, and the claws were starting to come out at Simon's condemnation. Not that she felt sorry for what she'd done, but she didn't need to be hearing her perceived faults from her own ungrateful son.

"You still won't find her if I'm dead."

"Oh, I see." Regan smiled and shook her head, amused at her son's attitude. He really did think he was so strong and sure. "Stalwart and true, the white knight. Cares nothing for his own fate. You've been spending far too much time with criminals. Did they teach you all that bravado in the face of danger, my brave, brave boy?" Her voice dripped sarcasm.

"We both know I'm not going to jail, and that I'd rather die than give up River to you and your gang of 'doctors' - and I use that term in the loosest possible sense, by the way. So, really. What's it going to be? Torture?"

"You'd really sacrifice yourself for River, then? After all we've given you?"

"You've given me nothing. Besides, I gave it all back, if it was ever really worth anything. May I remind you of that whole 'fugitive' bit?"

"Ah, yes." Mother chuckled. "Since you bring that up, Simon, you do realize that we can do whatever we like with you as a fugitive, yes?"

Simon shrugged, honestly not concerned. "So get on with it."

"Mmmm. What could we do. Oh, I know! Perhaps we could enlist your help with finding your sister, after all."

"Not likely. I'm not sure you're really hearing me, mom. I. Won't. Help. You."

"I believe we can persuade you."

"With what? Money? I find I like the aesthetic lifestyle one adopts when traveling on a tramp freighter. Torture? Sure, you could try it, but if you fry my brain then you've got nothing. Declarations of love and devotion? Has promise at first, but then I remember whom I'm talking to. Besides, someone else has already done that recently, and she's much cuter." Simon leaned back against the wall, arms crossed. "You have nothing I want. And I'll die before I give you anything you want."

Regan smiled, a feral, poisoned look in her eyes. "We can destroy you, son."

Simon thought back to his sister, his life before Serenity that he'd never see again, and the people onboard that ship that he'd also likely never see again. Destroy what?, he thought. There's nothing left. "Good luck. As far as I'm concerned, you already did."

"No." Mother's voice was flat and dead, and for the first time in a long time, Simon was truly afraid. "Oh, no. There's always one thing left."


Mal had spent the last two hours making a loop of his ship: up on the bridge to check on Wash's progress with the pilot's console; back through the galley and down the hall to the engine room to see if Kaylee had the dampers back online yet; down the aft stairs to the passenger dorms where Zoe and Jayne were slowly "extracting" information from Serenity's guests; out to the cargo bay where River stood forlornly looking out the airlock window for any sign of her brother, even though she knew it would do no good; and back up the fore steps to the bridge to pester Wash again. By the end of the fifth lap, Inara was considering hitting him with a blunt object. Luckily for her sanity and the captain's head, Wash had informed Mal that he was ready to go on his end, and if Kaylee could fire up the engine they could finally get moving. Wanting to stay on his bridge and "captain", Mal sent Jayne to check on Kaylee's progress.

"Hey Kaylee. Mal wants to know what - " Jayne stopped as he came through the door to the engine, finding Kaylee alternately banging on some type of metal object and sniffling into her sleeve. "Uhh...what'sa matter with you?"

Kaylee wiped her nose and took another solid thwack at the engine. She wasn't interested in talking about it, especially with Jayne. Lord knew Jayne was probably tickled pink that Simon was missing, and she didn't need to hear him gloat about it. "Nothin', Jayne. I'm kinda busy, so 'less you need somethin', go away."

Jayne narrowed his eyes a touch. Kaylee was usually the happiest soul on the ship - although given to a snit now and then, usually over that damn doctor, she quickly pulled out of it and was back smiling. Truth be told, Jayne didn't like a sad Kaylee. It made the ship...darker somehow. "Cap'n wanted to know about the engine."

"It's fine, we're ready to go." Thwack.

Jayne nodded. "OK then." He almost left. It would have been in character for him. But he couldn't quite make it out the door. "Aw, hell. This about the Doc, girl?" Kaylee sniffed and nodded slightly before giving the engine another beating. Jayne barely suppressed an eye roll at her antics. Gorram girl was too soft for her own good, going and beating up the ship over some sissy that can't even keep from getting caught. But Kaylee was, well, Kaylee, and no one on the ship would allow her to stay in pain if it could be helped. So Jayne tried to do what he did worst - comfort another human being. "Well, now. Don't fret none on him. Cap's got a plan, no doubt, an' we'll get him back for ya."

"Won't matter none."

That one caught Jayne by surprise. Again he was headed out the door, and again he turned back. It was obvious Kaylee was powerful upset, so how could it not matter? "How's that? Thought you were all lubed up for his starchy underwear."

"Ain't the point," she answered, giving him a small scowl for his efforts at metaphor. "He won't want me no more even if we find him."

"Don't look like he wanted ya before, neither, so how's that different?"

If looks could kill, the glare Kaylee gave him would have dropped him on the spot. "Did too. Kissed me an' everythin'." She elected not to tell him that the kiss wasn't really romantic, more of a "thank you", but she was willing to let it tide her over for the time being. Kaylee was sure that their heart-to-heart in Simon's bunk had broken at least a little bit of the barrier he kept between them, and that made her current loss all the fresher.

"Huh. It was that bad? What'd you do, try an' slip him some tongue when he weren't lookin' for it? I remember me this one gal back home, Matilda - hell of a name, but she was kinda cute - up an' surprised me that once. Like kissin' a gorram octopus, lemme tell ya."

"No, Jayne. Unlike your 'women', me an' Simon was sweet."

"Oh. Then what's the deal? I mean, he liked it, right? So why you think he - "

"'Cause I forgot him, you idiot!" she snapped. "He's always takin' care of folks, an' the one time he needs me - for real needs me, not just to talk to but to help him - I can't even think of him more than five minutes 'fore he just slips outta my mind." She shrugged, on the verge of fully crying now. "He won't never forgive me for betrayin' him like that."

Betrayal. For a scary minute, Jayne thought she might know. So far as he knew, only the captain and Simon were aware of his behavior on Ariel. Despite his often casual sense of duty, Jayne was sure neither the captain nor the doctor would say anything to the rest of the crew. No matter how much it pained him to admit it, both men were honorable, willing to forgive his slight in return for his friendship. It was a stretch to say that the doctor and the mercenary were friends, but there was certainly a respect between them. And respect demanded not telling how that came about unless all parties were agreed.

But Simon's behavior on Bellerophon once he knew of Jayne's deception was surprising. He didn't threaten or try to kill. He simply told Jayne that they were partners onboard, and that they should learn to work together. Jayne couldn't imagine that Simon would hold anything against Kaylee, and even if he did he'd be quick to forgive her, and he had the story to prove it. But that wasn't his story to tell.

So Jayne watched, trying desperately not to care as Kaylee started crying in earnest. It wasn't her business, he told himself. There were some things you shared with the crew, and some things you didn't. This particular matter was settled with those that needed settling. Telling everyone else was just asking for trouble.

But no matter how hard his heart, there was nothing to melt a man's resolve faster than Kaylee Frye crying her eyes out. Jayne sighed inwardly. He couldn't deny her anything, no matter how badly it was going to bite him in the ass, and he knew that in this case he could tell her what she needed to hear. "Look here, Kaylee. I got a tale to tell ya 'bout the Doc. I can guarantee he won't hold nothin' against ya."

Kaylee sniffed, swallowed thickly, and looked up at him. "How?"

"'Cause he didn't hold nothin' 'gainst me once. But 'fore I say somethin', you got any wrenches on ya?" Kaylee looked at him like he was suddenly loonier than River, and motioned towards her toolbox. Jayne glanced between the tools and the girl for a moment, before walking over and situating himself directly between the two.

"OK," he began, "this story ain't too great on me, an' I shouldn't tell ya it at all. But if'n it'll take that sadness outta ya, I'll do it. Interested?" Kaylee nodded and waited patiently while Jayne took a deep breath. "OK. You remember when we went to Ariel an' had that trouble with the feds?"


Twenty minutes later, the ship was airborne and in orbit around Beylix. Mal called a meeting at the kitchen table to begin working out a plan to get their doctor back onboard. "Zoe. What we get from our two passengers?"

"Not a whole lot, sir." Zoe shook her head. "They seem to be fairly well trained, as far as it goes. But honestly, I think the bigger problem is is that they don't know anything."


"Not a thing. They're...well, they're just stupid, sir." Zoe shrugged.

Mal nodded his agreement, having come to that same conclusion on the cargo ramp earlier. "Jayne? Anything?"

Jayne grimaced as he rubbed his shin - the result of Kaylee's reaction to the first part of his Ariel story, when she realized that he'd attempted to give over Simon and River for nothing but a bit of cash. He also blushed a bit, rubbing his cheek where he'd been kissed - the result of Kaylee's reaction to the end of his Ariel story, when she realized that if Simon could forgive Jayne for selling him out, then he'd certainly forgive her for an honest mistake. "Yep, pretty much sums it up. Coupla dumbasses. Said they worked for some other guy name of Harrington, an' they was shuttlin' some bigwig here from Verbena."

"Verbena, huh? They tell you who it was?" Mal, however, was pretty sure he already knew.

"No," Zoe answered. "The bigger one - Jasper - told us that 'she'd fricassee his balls an' serve 'em up on a plate.'"

"Did he now?"

"Exact quote, sir."

"Charming fellow," Book put in as Inara raised a properly offended eyebrow.

"I think it's fair to say was Simon and River's mom that came with our two guests, probably on that fancy ship Wash was so poetic on. Also fair to say it's our doctor on there now, an' from the way Simon told it a few days ago, she ain't the warm an' cuddly type. Could be he don't have a lot of time 'fore they decide to ask him some rather pointed questions. So. Wash? We need to track that ship." Mal turned to his pilot, expecting yet another miracle.

But Wash shook his head. "No can do, Mal. That little scout had a top-of-the-line stealth package on it. It probably followed us all the way here for three days and I never saw it. Besides, even if we did manage to find it, it also had a rather large array of missiles and lasers. If we got too close, they'd just cook us and not even bother to come back for the wreckage."

"Actually, Wash, I doubt that." Book rarely contributed to meeting where less-than-licit jobs were discussed, and attacking a privately registered Alliance scout certainly fell under that description. But in this case, he felt an exception could be made. He pointed across the table. "We still have something they want. River. It's not likely they'd risk killing her." Heads nodded in agreement.

"OK. Let's assume we won't be immediately cooked when we get there. If we can't track it, let's here some other options." Mal opened the floor to anyone with any thought at all.

"Nav sats?" Zoe asked. "It's gotta get a position fix sometime."

"Eh, those are tight-beam burst. The chances of us picking one up is...well, similar to the chance that Jayne's going to spout Shakespeare," Wash answered.

"Aw, hell. I read that crap. Ain't there somethin' 'bout bare bodkins somewhere?"

"Yes, Jayne. Hamlet. But despite what I'm sure you're thinking, a bodkin isn't a naked woman." Inara arched her other eyebrow.

"It ain't?"

"No. It's a dagger."

"Damn, even better. Knew that Shakespeare fella weren't just fulla hot air."

"Air! Nitrogen! Oxygen! Hydrogen! Methinks t'were an easy leap, to pluck bright hydrogen from the pale faced moon!," River sang.

"Quite, moonbrain, we're talkin' 'bout literature here."

"To get us back on track - " Mal began, but was cut off by more random yelling.

"Hydrogen!" The entire group fell silent as Kaylee shouted over the top of them. With Jayne's assurance that Simon was going to speak to her again if he was ever found, she was back full force, looking for anything she could do to help. "Wash, don't that type of cloak put out hydrogen to cover it?"


"So can't we track that?"

"Hmmm....the Alliance 'cloak' puts out hydrogen atoms to cover its own engine wake. Usually, it puts out a low amount, just enough to hide, but not enough for anyone to pick it out of background radiation or what's normally out there. But when they turned on their pulse drive to jump to another moon, there must have been a huge plasma output, which would have to be matched with a huge hydrogen output to mask it. If we switch the sensors around a bit, we might be able to...yeah! That should be enough of a signature to see." Wash grinned hugely. "River, you're a genius."

"Well duh," she answered.

"So...we find a huge lake of hydrogen. That helps us?"

"Yeah. Port Control will have the trajectory they used to get to orbit, and at what point they left orbit. So we get to that spot and look at the direction of the hydrogen spill. Should tell us which way they went on their first burn."

"What if they turned?," Book asked.

"They won't, or at least, probably won't. Pulse drives are big and hard to steer - pretty much a straight-line type of thing - and take a load of fuel to fire off. For a ship that size, gas is precious. So they'd point at their destination the first time, most likely, so they don't have to stop, change course, and re-burn."

Mal looked around. Inara and Book seemed impressed with the idea, Zoe and Jayne looked mystified, Wash and Kaylee were jabbering excitedly about rerouting sensors, and River wasn't even paying attention any more. "This gonna work?," he asked of no one in particular.

As usual, no one bothered to answer.


Friday, October 20, 2006 10:19 AM


Oooh, I love snarky Simon! Your scene between him and Regan was just perfect!

And why does Simon think he's got nothing left ... something tells me that if Regan got a hold of Kaylee, he'd be hard-pressed to keep his resolve!

Friday, October 20, 2006 10:30 AM


Oooh, on with the Big Damn Rescue! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, October 20, 2006 10:34 AM


> something tells me that if Regan got a hold of Kaylee, he'd be hard-pressed to keep his resolve!

Of course he would. But since he knows better, he honestly doesn't care anymore. Simon considers himself expendable most times, anyway, and Kaylee and River are both as safe as they can get. He doesn't expect to ever get back to them, really - yes, Mal will plot a rescue, but would SImon ever seriously entertain it working?

Friday, October 20, 2006 11:14 AM


Ohh, nicely done! I was glad to see another chapter of this!

I love snarky Simon! And I loved even more that it took his mother off guard.

And Jayne wanting to help Kaylee by telling her what happened on Ariel was excellent!

Sunday, October 22, 2006 3:38 AM


Yaay, another chapter (forget how late this is). As usual, loved it. Brilliant. :)

Sunday, October 22, 2006 8:10 AM


If momma!Tam does to Simon what I think she's going to do, she may end up bitterly regretting her actions. Something tells me she's closer to Simon than she ever was to River. The destruction might be mutual, eh?

Absolutely loved Mal pacing the ship.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006 7:37 AM


Really, really like your series and can't wait for more!
Hope it won't take to long till the next chapter: the suspence with Simon's mother is killing me.


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In The Ether 13: Secret Agent Man
Simon takes a turn at super spy as the crew tracks him down.

In The Ether 12: Motivations
A brief history of Simon Tam

In The Ether 11: Telling
Simon and Regan tell each other off, Jayne tells Kaylee a little story, and Wash tells everybody about basic chemistry. Bonus: Jayne actually quotes Shakespeare! Kind of.

In The Ether 10: Technical Difficulties
Jayne goes trophy hunting, Kaylee and Wash attempt to explain technical things to Mal, and eventually everyone realizes that they left something at the last stop.

Generic S/K Plot Outline
Inspired by a story posted at, I present the outline of pretty much every S/K fic out there (including my own, so no one take it personal-like).

Dino Tales: Loss
The dino army mourns the loss of one of their own.

The Old Switcheroo
Jayne and Simon wake up with unique perspectives on life.

In The Ether 9: Minor Complications
Jake and Jasper check out Serenity, River secures some backup, Jayne discovers his protective side, Simon gets physical, and Kaylee meets an old flame.

In The Ether 8: Lady's Choice
Zoe fixes the plan. Kaylee shows Simon how to turn up the heat.

In The Ether 7: Shore Leave
Mal gives everyone a day on Belix to calm the nerves. Wash gets suspicious. A plan is hatched.