Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapter Twenty-Four
Saturday, January 13, 2007

Simon has been captured by the Alliance and turned over to Blue Sun. Angsty and owwie. This chapter is rated NC17, for adult themes. Positive comments perfered.


Chapter Twenty-Four: De inimico non loquaris sed cogites
(don't wish ill for your enemy; plan it) Part I

*** *** *** Chapters 1-10, Chapters 11-20, Chapter 21, Chapter 22, Chapter 23 *** *** ***

“River, what the hell – ?” Mal’s stunned face turned towards his fallen, screaming pilot. “’Nara, I thought she was drugged?”

Inara bent down to comfort her. “River, sweet heart, please let us help you…”

After about a minute, her screaming stopped and she writhed on the floor in silent agony.

“River, what do you know?”

“River, is Simon all right?”

"The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across the shoulders and back. At first, it cuts through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles. Finally, the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons, and the entire area is an unrecognisable mass of torn, bleeding tissue." River recited it from memory, in that cold academic tone the others found so disturbing, before adding in a whisper, “Crisscross, left and right, all down his spine.”

At the description, Inara promised her stomach that it could throw up for as long as it liked if it would only wait until she returned to the privacy of her shuttle.

River continued. “He doesn’t know yet.”

“Know what, lil’ Albatross?”

“That was just the first twenty. Three hundred and eighty left to go.” She whimpered.


Mal had picked her up, and tried to carry her to the infirmary, but she insisted that he leave her in Simon’s room. He’d had to carry her like she was a toddler, with her head on his shoulder, and her arms around his neck, and with his arms supporting only her buttocks, because she screamed if her back was even touched. She pleaded with Inara to send Jayne back to her, and to go sit with Kaylee. Mal sat with her as Inara left to do as she’d been asked, but started when she sat upright and began frantically removing her clothes.

Instinct served and he stood up, sputtering, “Hey now, lil’ Albatross, no need for that.” Then again, he didn’t really know what was going on. “Is there?”

“Go get Zoë. Go to the shuttle. Quieter there. Plan.” She threw her dress, then her bra unto on Simon’s floor before laying down and curling up in nothing more than underpants. As Mal looked on she began to sob again. “Go now. Please Captain!”

As he left, he tried not to think of it as fleeing.


As Zoë settled Kaylee onto Inara’s bed, and loaded the mechanic up with the Companion’s soothers, Mal studiously tried to ignore the sound of Inara throwing her guts up in the head. Once again, he felt helpless. If it had been Zoë, he’d have known exactly what to do. But with ‘Nara… he caught Zoë’s gaze. Zoë’s face was as impassive as ever, but she let her captain know what she thought with just the slightest shift in her gaze, sliding past Mal’s face and toward the head.

Mal widened his eyes at her, and she nodded.

Damn, he wasn’t so sure. But, if Zoë thought so… then he would at least try.

He slipped the door open, and slid in. He knelt behind her on the floor, and swept Inara’s hair back, holding it for her as she continued to puke. She acknowledged his presence only by dropping her own rather imperfect one-handed grip on her hair, bracing, instead, the toilet more firmly.

Eventually, she paused. Stopped? She wasn’t certain. “Mal, if you don’t kill those bastards who have Simon, I will do it myself. I will do it with my bare hands.” Her voice was shaky, but he knew that she meant it. She gingerly stood, and flushed the toilet, before washing her hands, and rinsing her mouth. Mal stood with her. “Four hundred lashes. Four hundred. How will he even survive?”

Mal answered truthfully. “He might not.” He looked her in the eye. “Not a word to Kaylee, ‘Nara.”

“Not a word to Zoë, either, Mal.”


Inara answered smoothly. “She’s pregnant Mal. Stress isn’t good for the baby, and more stress is even worse.” She could keep a confidence. Zoë knew Mal best of all of them, and she would tell him when she knew he was ready.

“She’s gonna wonder what’s going on.”

“I think Zoë knows better than to ask.”

Mal nodded. “Probably. Yeah, that’s my Zoë.”


“River, what the good gorram are ya doin’ nekkid?” Jayne, as always, manfully went straight to the point.

“Too much pain. They hurt.” The girl was curled into a ball, crying her eyes out by the sound of it.

It occurred to him that the door was still open. He spoke as he turned to close it. “Yer clothes are hurtin’ ya?”

“Yes! Rubbing against the…” Her sentence was cut off with one of her own screams. She rolled from her curled position to flat, face down on the bed. The mattress muffled her screams some, but Jayne could already feel his blood pressure rising, as he turned back to the now-howling teenager.

It was then that Jayne noticed them.

About three dozen soft red lines crisscrossing her spine, with more appearing every few seconds, to the rhythm of her cries.

*** They were capable of pushing blood into him as fast as he was losing it, and they did. Simon despaired of even the chance to die. ***

After about two hours, River curled back on her side, and Jayne noticed that the red marks stopped appearing on her.

*** “Now that your punishment has been completed, we will begin with the interrogation.” Agent Hunt lifted Simon’s head so that they could see each other eye to eye. “At this point, you have the opportunity to abort the interrogation. We can have you transferred to a cell once you debrief. You will, of course, be beaten periodically by your guards to keep River Tam interested, but that will be nothing compared to what you have already withstood. Would you like to avail yourself of this chance?”

Simon no longer had the strength for a proud, ‘I’ll never tell,’ choosing instead to weakly shake his head no.

“Well, Sir, it seems that he’s already gotten the hang of non-verbal communication,” said Smith, walking up behind Hunt.

Simon saw the blade in Smith’s hand; these would be his last words. Simon may not have much strength left, but he still had courage. He would make them count. As Smith passed the blade to Hunt, Simon focused on his enemy’s eyes, and spoke with as much steadiness as he could muster: “I will never betray my sister.”

The knife flashed expertly across Simon’s throat. ***

“How much longer we gonna be holed up in here?” Mal growled.

“You want to go out there and listen to her scream, Sir? Gotta say I’m finding it hard to concentrate myself.” Zoë was sitting on the bed, only partly to keep an eye on Kaylee, but Mal didn’t need to know that.

“Girl’s louder than some battles we been in.” Mal acknowledged. “We could just drug her, Zoë.”

“No, we can’t. River’s got a double dose a’ soothers in her already. Any more, and nothing Simon says to his captors will affect her.”

“Why’d she ask for Jayne?”

“At a guess, Sir? Maybe she figures he’s not so crucial to the plannin’ stages of her brother’s big damn rescue.”

“We ain’t plannin’ nothin’ Zoë, we’re just sittin’ here! Four a us, cooped up in the shuttle, while she and Jayne have the whole boat to themselves.”

“Sir, no-one’s stopping you leavin’. You’re the one asked us in here.” Zoë reminded him.

“This don’t strike you as faintly ridiculous, Zoë?”

“Given the circumstances, Sir? No.”

Inara, seated at her computer, interrupted. “It looks like we’ve finally got a lead.”

*** Though no sound came out, Simon howled as Hunt and Smith slowly broke each bone in his left hand. ***

“Still not seeing how we’re gonna make this work, Sir.” Zoë said patiently.

“It’s a puzzle all right, Zoë. You think they’d be making this easy for us. This is all supposed to be in aid of getting River back? Making it kinda hard for the girl.”

“Well, getting there isn’t the problem as such. There is enough room to dock the shuttle.” Inara spoke quietly.

“Yes. And when we do, they’ll storm it, grab River and shoot the rest of us.”

“I thought you liked danger, Mal.”

“Oh, I do. This is a bit rich for my blood, though.”

Zoë and Inara exchanged a glance behind the Captain.

“All right. Let’s play this through again. Who do we got?”

“Captain, Zoë, Jayne, River, Kaylee and Inara.” Zoë answered patiently.

“We need a pilot for Serenity and a pilot for the shuttle. We need a mechanic on Serenity. We need as many bodies with for the rescue as possible.”

“Zoë can pilot Serenity, and I can take the shuttle. We’re not going to get in without River, and there’s no need to take Kaylee: she can see to the engine, and help Zoë. That leaves you, me, Jayne and River to rescue Simon.” Inara put forward her strategy.

“Don’t know, Inara. Kaylee and River are in next to no shape to help.” Zoë put in. “I can pilot Serenity, and you can take the shuttle. We can leave Jayne to help Kaylee with the engine.”

“That leaves us a man down for the rescue Zoë!”

“I know, Sir. But Serenity needs a pilot and a mechanic, and her pilot and her mechanic are in no shape to do their jobs, Sir.” She took a breath. Nobody was going to like this version of the plan. “Ok: Inara can pilot Serenity and I can take the shuttle. Jayne can stay behind. We’ll still be a man down, but that’s still a stronger team going in then with just you and ‘Nara.”

“Ain’t happen’ Zoë.” But Zoë had already known that. Precedence. “Dammit, there’s gotta be a way we can make this work.”

Precedence. “There might be a way to make this work, Sir.”

“Listenin’.” The Captain sounded weary.

“We don’t split up. Take Serenity in.”

“Like with Niska?” Inara broke in.

Zoë nodded. “Just like.”

“Zo, don’t know what schematics your lookin’ at, but no way we can dock Serenity with that!”

“Wash could.”

“He ain’t here, Zoë!”

“Yes he is.” ‘For a little while, at least,’ she added silently. She laid her hand across her stomach. “River can do it. And she will. Order of Precedence.”

“What the hell?”

“Simon’s nightmares, Sir. River knows them all. The Order of Precedence is his way of valuing our lives – the crew’s lives. You can guess who’s life comes first.” Mal and Inara nodded. “As far as he’s concerned, his life falls lowest of all, far below the baby.”

Mal interrupted. “Don’t see what this is to do with River.”

“River wants to save her brother, Sir. But not if it means bringing him back to a worse nightmare than him dying.” Zoë didn’t elaborate as to how she knew.

“Zoë, the girl’s lyin’ in bed naked screaming her head off.”

“Naked?” Inara repeated. She’d missed that part. Mal nodded.

Zoë was resolute. “Don’t need clothes to pilot.”

*** When he still refused to cooperate, they made him watch as they slowly cut off each painfully broken finger on his left hand. He passed out briefly half way through, but that was quickly remedied. They were going to make the pain last.

*** *** *** Chapter 25 *** *** ***


Saturday, January 13, 2007 1:08 PM


A little shorter than the last chapter (apologies to those who perfer the longer ones, particularly Tamsibling and Leiasky), but it was the best place to stop.

Thank you all who have read and commented - please continue!

Saturday, January 13, 2007 3:45 PM


It's going to take Simon years to recover from this. Kaylee ... I haven't an earthly how Kaylee will take this.

I really want to see Smith and Hunt die.

Saturday, January 13, 2007 7:59 PM


Well, well ... torture much?

I don't know about this ... it seems to have a veered a bit too - otherwordly for my tastes - but I agree that Simon recovering from this will take years. And I don't think Kaylee will survive ... never mind River.

Glad I ate a few hours ago!

Saturday, January 13, 2007 9:57 PM


Whoa...they might as well stop the rescue now. Whatever they get back won't be Simon in any sense of the word. And even if it is, to have his intelligence locked into a body that can't talk, can't operate, and probably won't ever be strong again? I'm sure he'd rather die.

And Kaylee's not going to want him, either. Knowing that she had - at least in her own mind - a part in causing this, she'll never even look at him again. If she doesn't send herself out the airlock first.

Or...this is all a dream, right? Of course. Just a dream...

Sunday, January 14, 2007 4:33 AM


*Whoa...they might as well stop the rescue now. Whatever they get back won't be Simon in any sense of the word.*

This is what Mal warned Inara, and everything he said would happen has happened.

Thinking over this overnight, I'm not sure Kaylee ever really wanted *Simon*, just her swai illusion. Her first instinct where Simon was concerned was to criticize his flaws, and when she could find any, she made them up - her rant at him in the engine room was a perfect example of this. And given how much crying she's done in the last few days, she's not really a fit match for someone who will always be on the run from the authority. Inara, yes. Zoe, heck yes. Kaylee, no.

Will Simon survive this? I don't know, and I don't know if he'll recover, either. But he doesn't strike me as the type to give up either. It'll be interesting to see how/if he copes with the new him.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 4:54 AM


Wow. I'm thinking maybe River's not the only reader?

The next chapter is about to go up.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007 3:19 PM


Holy...f--k! This is some of the darkest and most gut-wrenching stuff I have read in a long while, girlfan! Definitely ain't expecting even the tiniest glimmer of something resembling hope for our BDHs...:(

I bow to you and your superior abilities! For if I had tried such a thing, I know I would have developed merely a pale shade of this...too restrained or too gory;)



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