Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapter Twenty-Two
Monday, January 8, 2007

Simon has been captured by the Alliance. Some more angst for the angst lovers. This chapter is rated NC17, for adult themes. Positive comments perfered.


Even Roses Have Thorns

Chapter Twenty-Two: Vixere fortes ante agamemnona (literally, brave men lived before Agamemnon; which is to say heroism exists even if it's not recorded) Part II

*** *** *** Chapters 1-10, Chapters 11-20, Chapter 21 *** *** ***

Not an arraignment cell, then. Well, it had been worth a try.

As soon as he’d been dragged to the holding cell, a small team of medics started to load him up saline and blood, nutrients given intravenously, but he was given no food. It would help him to prepare to survive another round of interrogation, without in any way relieving the pain of his hunger.

Simon thought that that had been a particularly efficient, if sadistic, touch.

When the medics finally left, he peeled himself off of the floor of his cell, and stumbled to his cot to lie down for what little rest he would be permitted.

*** He forced himself to close his eyes. It was another cell, with no hope of escape. Better to rest than to worry. His newest guards had chained him down tightly, his calves and ankles strapped tightly to the floor, and his arms each, separately, chained to the ceiling of the darkened room. He’d been strung up to his maximum extent, so that he couldn’t even switch between the straight and sitting kneeling postures. Even if he hadn’t had broken bones, large swathes of bruised muscles, and cut tissue, he would have been stiff. But his bones were broken, and he was finding it increasingly difficult to breathe even in the little amount of time that he had been left there.

His eyes flew open at the sound of the opening door. Two men, very blank – walked in. Simon didn’t think he’d ever seen anyone who more perfectly fit the term ‘spooks’. One of them leaned back on the front of the desk, and eyed Simon piercingly. The other stood by the side of the desk, checking the instruments. “I’m not going to tell you anything,” Simon hissed at them.

“Well, it’s just as well we reached that understanding early, then, Dr. Tam. Agent Smith?” Agent Hunt’s assistant handed him a scalpel. “As it happens, we don’t particularly care to hear your screams.” The man reached toward Simon’s face with the blade.

“What do you mean?” Simon stammered. What the hell was happening now? “I thought you wanted to know how I broke into your secure facility?”

Hunt paused. “Couldn’t care less, Dr. Tam. What makes you think that?” He looked at his assistant.

Smith shrugged. “I imagine the prison guards told him that that’s why he was being transferred, Sir. I put it down on the transfer form.”

“Ah, yes. The paperwork.” The agent turned back to Simon. “No, that’s just the public reason that you are here. It didn’t take particularly long to work how you had managed your feat, extraordinary though it might have been. We had the security footage from it, after all. Our intent with you is retrieve River Tam.”

Smith couldn’t help but laugh at the expression on Simon’s face.

Hunt smiled and continued. “We’re joking, of course. We do very much want to know how you – not so much broke in – but more importantly, broke back out of our top facility with our most prized possession. But you don’t need your vocal cords for that. Or even your fingers. In the end, your brain can easily be wired to a keyboard.”

“Blinks.” Smith added.

“You will tell us eventually. How much of you is intact at the end is of very little difference to us. In any case, we don’t particularly care to hear you scream.”

“You don’t know. Maybe I’m… really good. The last guys seemed to enjoy it.” ‘Great argument Simon Tam,’ he cursed himself.

Both of them smiled, albeit somewhat wanly, at Simon’s joke. “Well, police in general are a bit… low brow. Our tastes are more refined.” Almost as an off hand remark – though nothing here in truth was said or done off hand, he continued to say, “As are our methods. We will leave the fingers of your right hand intact for the time being. We will find you sister, one way or another. The police are searching for her based on the information that you gave them – but I think it’s likely they’ll find her when she arrives at our open door. You came for her. She’ll come for you.” Hunt paused. “Somehow, I suspect this is one of the rare instances where the brother surpasses the sister.”

“In any case, as with paperwork, we have some formalities to put aside before we get started,” Smith noted aloud.


“Mal, I realise that it’s probably crass to ask…” Inara began.

Mal’s eyebrow shot up. “Oh, please, do go on. This I must hear.”

“Is there any chance that Simon will survive this… shall we say, intact in spirit, if not in body?” Mal’s face went stony. Inara hurried along. “I think I understand the general outline of what’s happening –.” Inara paused and started again. “Mal, Kaylee’s very distressed. The longer this goes on, the more important it becomes that she receives information that she believes she can trust, so that she can continue to hope. She knows that I can’t tell her that everything will be fine. It’s just… been too long. Her head is full of ugly pictures – as, I must admit, is my own. Mal, what’s going on? What are they doing to him? Will they kill him?”

“’Nara, right now we don’t even know for sure who ‘they’ are. But in the general, in answer to your questions: we’re more likely to get him back broken in spirit than body, or broken in both, than intact in spirit but broken in body. Rare’s a man who’s kept his secrets under torture, and I don’t know even one of ‘em.”

Inara stared. “But, with Niska…”

“Niska didn’t want information, just to see us in pain. Never have been beat on by anyone who was doing it for intelligence instead of fun, honestly can’t say for sure I’d last.”

“But you were alright, mostly, both of you. Shook up, but you picked up your lives again, went on.”

“Niska didn’t have us that long.”

“Mal, he had you long enough!”

“And that, right there, is my point.”

Realisation dawned. “No, Mal.” She shook her head. “They’ve already had him so long!”


“Mal, I’m serious. What kind of shape will he be in when we get him back?”

“Assuming we get him back alive…”


“You want the truth?” His tone was warning.

“Ah, yes.” No, no, no. Clearly not. But until she understood, she couldn’t do anything to prepare Kaylee, or, for that matter, herself, for what they would likely find.

“They’ve got him this long – most like they started with questions about the whereabouts of River, and Serenity. They might throw in some questions about Kaylee, too, seeing as she was with him and got away. Might not, too. Doubt they care too much – may save those questions for after they’ve already broke him and the getting’s good. If he’s alive now, it’s only because they haven’t broken him yet, or more likely, ‘cause they think they’ll have a shot at getting River back when we ride to the rescue. And they know we will, they’re counting on it. By now, assuming that he’s still trying to hold out on them, young Simon’s gotten several broken bones. His face – going to guess, busted up lip, quite probably at least one eye swollen shut. Probably not both, it’s supposed to be kinda fun to make your victim watch. They’ve probably permanently ruined his hands. Cut off fingers, smashed his wrists, the like.” Mal could see that Inara’s composer was slipping, but he didn’t stop. She’d said that she wanted to know. “He’s a doctor, he’ll treasure ‘em, so like as not, off they’ll come, early on.”

“Wo de ma.”

“Inara, these guys don’t play games. You been watching too many vids with Kaylee? You think they’re going to be considerate enough to leave him in an easy-to-patch-up state, just ‘cause we’re riding to his rescue? Hell, no. All the more reason to put the crunch on as fast and… crunchy… as possible.” He looked at her appraisingly. “Want me to continue?”

Inara was pale, but nodded.

“Nerves have to be attached to feel pain. So they won’t amputate any more than necessary for the psychological effect, choosing instead to create pain with flame, cold, acid, drugs, maybe even poison. Maybe they’ll feed him. Maybe they won’t. Maybe he’ll refuse food and they’ll force feed him.” He saw Inara pale further. “Yep, that one’s damn unpleasant. Maybe they’ll let him have trips to the head, more likely they’ll lock him up in a cell the size of a coffin until nature has no choice but to run it’s course.” He paused and looked at his watch. “How long’s he been gone now? Yeah, that one’s quite possibly already happened.” He looked at her again.

It took every moment of all of the years of her training to meet his eyes. “That’s so… humiliating, Mal.” Her voice, at first, came out in a whisper of disbelief, but got stronger. “I realise how stupid that sounds. Obviously, that is the entire point of the exercise.” She hesitated. “I can only imagine that it might even be worse for someone like Simon.”

“Yeah, that’s an ‘exercise’ that works pretty well on anybody, but some people are more irrational about their bodies than others. Simon strikes me as that sort. But he’s a doctor, he might be ok. They’ll watch him, see what he reacts to, even when he’s trying not to react. They’re not going to waste their time with the generically scary, and they won’t throw what terrifies you or me or Zoë or Jayne or Kaylee at him – they’ll try their damnedest to pick what utterly, completely terrifies him. His own nightmares, made to order.”

He paused again and caught Inara’s eye, then continued. “You see where I’m going with this now?” Inara nodded in sad and horrified silence. “We’re not going to get Simon Tam back. If we’re lucky, we might get his body back, and, if we’re very, very lucky it might even be alive. But Simon Tam will either have been destroyed in the process, or he’ll buried so deep like as not he’ll never find himself again.”

“You can’t mean that, Mal.”

He sighed and looked out at the black. “Swear I do, ‘Nara. This is his Garden of Gethsemane.” He looked at the Companion quizzically, realising that she might not understand the Christian reference. Her next words elegantly expressed to the exact degree to which she did understand.

“His Serenity Valley.”

*** *** *** Chapter 23 *** *** ***


Monday, January 8, 2007 4:59 AM


Thank you to all who are reading, especially those of you with the shiney comments that keep my muse all happy and fed (unlike Simon).

Poor Simon.

Monday, January 8, 2007 5:51 AM


Ouch. Ok, just the descriptions of what they were going to do to him made me cringe.

It doesn't seem like Simon is much worried. He's real calm in the face of all this. Like he'd prepared for it happening eventually.

It's Kaylee and his sister, and to a lesser extent, everyone else, who is going to end up suffering and guilt-ridden.

These are really very short and I don't typically like such short stories. Though, the emotion and the angst rolling off of them, its probably better that they're not much longer :)

Monday, January 8, 2007 6:03 AM


Too short?

I can make them longer. I like longer.

I thought more people were in the 'don't make me scroll down camp'?

Monday, January 8, 2007 6:26 AM


>Tested my stomach a little bit with some of the descriptions.

Ah. Well, only fair to warn you that you might want to stay close to the scroll button/bar next chapter. There will be some owwie parts.

>The end was really good.
Thank you.

Monday, January 8, 2007 9:28 AM


And Mal makes the point I was trying to last chapter...only - in true Mal style - much better than I can. They'd best retrieve Simon soon, or there won't be anything to retrieve.

I have no doubt Simon has expected something like this to happen for years. I often get the feeling he considers himself expendable compared to his sister (or really, given his list of nightmares, everyone else, too). He's probably somewhat relieved he's finally caught and it will be over.

Monday, January 8, 2007 9:34 AM


>And Mal makes the point I was trying to last chapter...only - in true Mal style - much better than I can.

You make your points just fine. :)

Your commentary is actually very helpful, especially for seeing what isn't coming across properly, etc.

Monday, January 8, 2007 9:49 AM


Man, my heart just breaks for Simon and to a lesser extent Kaylee. Even once Simon is back, I don't know if Kaylee will ever be able to love him again as she did before. Her guilt will keep her at a distance, I think. But what I love more than anything is the amount of tension you've built.

Although I agree with Leiasky - they are too short - let us scroll, we don't mind!

Monday, January 8, 2007 10:06 AM


>Although I agree with Leiasky - they are too short - let us scroll, we don't mind!

Very well. Longer it is. It does also mean a longer wait between posts, of course, but I will do my best.

QUESTION: what is the ideal lenght, roughly?

>But what I love more than anything is the amount of tension you've built.

Thank you so much!

Monday, January 8, 2007 6:40 PM


Not really sure's there's an "ideal" length for a story or chapter, girlfan. Some authors write in a way where tens of pages of written text flows by smoothly and quickly, while others write in ways much more suited to short and punchy increments that allow them to keep focus and get the points across without drifting narratively. You, I find, write in the former style but choose to utilized the latter's lengthy constraints;)

And I gotta definitely know how to write Mal! I was seriously awed and humbled with how you just had him lay it all out for Inara about what's been done and will be done to Simon to get the crew to ride to the rescue with River at the front of the pack. Definitely am torn between reeaaallllyyyyy wanting to see how far Simon's mind and body will get destroyed before the rescue and what will happen to Kaylee when she sees the results, and desperately hoping for some cliched "it was all a terrible dream" plot twist of Kaylee's that allows her to see where she's been going wrong. And that's good writin' ;D


Tuesday, January 9, 2007 3:23 AM


Write what length and post at the frequency that is best for you :)

Hunt and Smith are scaring the bejeesus outta me!

Tuesday, January 9, 2007 3:27 AM


>Hunt and Smith are scaring the bejeesus outta me!

Then you're just going to love them, next chapter!


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Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapter Fifty-Three
Ultimate chapter (i.e. the conclusion). PG13 to be on the safe side (language only). Canon pairings +1 (River/ofc).

Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapter Fifty-Two
Penultimate chapter. (No, penultimate is not a fancier version of 'ultimate'.) Some fluff - Jayne gets to go home. PG13 to be on the safe side (probably G, at least if you ignore the comments - man, I can't spell). Canon pairings +1 (River/ofc).

Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapter Fifty-One
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Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapters 46-50
All already posted before, just posted together for convience of new and (re) readers. Overall rating NC-17; this applies to all chapters in this grouping, for violence, non-con, death, extreme angst (hurt w/o comfort) and generalised squickiness. Canon pairings +1 (River/ofc). Postive comments perfered; any cease and desists recieved will be complied with, and shown off at parties.

Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapter Fifty
The BIG DAMN Rescue. Some revenge, some poetic justice. Very narrator pov, but I like it. Hey, it worked for Dickens. NC17 to be on the safe side, but mostly implied. Canon pairings +1 (River/ofc).

Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapter Forty-Nine
The crew pieces together the facts of Simon's disappearance. PG. Canon pairings +1 (River/ofc).

Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapter Forty-Eight
Because it never goes smooth. PG. Canon pairings +1 (River/ofc). Bridging piece.

Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapter Forty-Seven
Coda to Simon's time of dying. PG (language, themes).

Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapter Forty-Six
Simon's point of view, in his time of dying. NC17.

Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapters 41-45
All already posted before, just posted together for convience of new and (re) readers. Overall rating NC-17; this applies to all chapters in this grouping, for violence, non-con, death, extreme angst (hurt w/o comfort) and generalised squickiness. Canon pairings +1 (River/ofc). Postive comments perfered; any cease and desists recieved will be complied with, and shown off at parties.