Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapter Twenty-Five
Sunday, January 14, 2007

Finally, The BIG DAMN Rescue. Some angst, some gore, some fluff, some comfort. This chapter is rated NC17, for adult themes. Positive comments perfered.


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

*** *** *** Chapters 1-10, Chapters 11-20, Chapter 21, Chapter 22, Chapter 23, Chapter 24 *** *** ***

Zoë was right.

River could do this. It was her turn.

As she pushed Serenity into line to dock, she dug deep within herself, beneath her pain at Simon’s pain, beneath Simon’s pain, to the bond she shared with Simon. She could read his mind. He had tried to reach out and touch hers.

But the bond was older than that, older than her abilities. Older than her. Simon, and his love for his unborn, infant, sister had created it. He had always led by example.

She could do this.

It was her turn.


Dr. Tam told him that he was just hallucinating. Blood loss. Neurochemicals. Drug reactions.

But Simon knew better. He had heard his sister’s voice, and her secret message.

“Light it.”


River pushed the Firefly into docking, and dashed for the door, wearing Zoë’s borrowed weapons.

Zoë took the pilot’s seat. She sealed herself into the bridge.

Kaylee was in the engine room. She was still shaky, but she tried to focus on her part. She’d already failed Simon once. She couldn’t bear the thought of doing it again. She sealed off the engine room.

There had been some small dispute about the order to go in, but there had really only been one choice. River had to go first, both because anyone else would be shot on sight and because only she could manage the Shiva-Kali dance of death that would be needed to get them any further into the Alliance ship.

Mal and Jayne would follow at her signal, and Inara would hold the ground leading back to Serenity.

The further they got into the vessel, it became clear that despite its over abundance of armed men, the vessel was a modified med ship. A science vessel? It hit Mal. A flying academy. No more daring one-man rescues like those of Simon Tam would ever be possible. It didn’t matter. No one else might be able to storm their precious floating hell, but their prodigy could.

When they finally reached the room Simon was being held in, River neatly put a bullet into each of the heads of the two men torturing her brother. Jayne retrieved the keys to Simon’s chains and cut him down.

“We good to get out a here, lil’ Albatross?”

“No. Another ghost. Two rooms down.” River pointed.

“Like Simon? Or like you?” Mal asked.

“Not like either. A spy.”

“Jayne, you go retrieve the other prisoner, bring it to the airlock, but don’t let it on Serenity.” Mal hit his comm. “Zoë, going to need you in the infirmary. ‘Nara, bring the gurney.” He gave her directions, but it wasn’t like it was a large vessel. In any case, Inara was a bright girl, and could easily follow the trail of bodies.

Inara made good time, and she and Mal helped River get Simon on to the gurney. “Simon,” she asked. “Simon, can you hear me? You’re going to be all right. Simon?” His eyes flickered open and shut periodically, but he said nothing. River just gripped her brother’s hand tight. “Simon?”

“Leave off, ‘Nara. Boy can’t talk.”

As they moved the gurney, Mal’s words came back to her. Even knowing in advance – she hadn’t known. “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. Want me to continue?”… “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.” She knew now that she hadn’t really believed him. She knew now that Mal had been right.

Through her reverie, Inara heard Mal’s voice. “Jayne, what are ya still doing here? Can’t get in?”

“Ain’t going in Mal.”

“Shen me?” He was about to yell at the mercenary, but he knew with a sudden burst of clarity that it would do no good. Jayne only got like that… “They’re Reavers in there, Jayne?”

“Bunch a’ um. Playing dead.”

“’Nara, you and River get Simon back ta Serenity. Zoë’s in the infirmary.” Mal walked the short distance to the mercenary and peered in the tiny glass viewer.

“It’s eerie-assed Mal, that’s what it is. Reaver witchery.”

“It’s something, alright, Jayne.” Mal didn’t know what to think, but he slowly pushed the door open. The door wasn’t even locked. The room was considerably larger than the one Simon had been in, but only in that it was much longer – the width remained the same, as if the joining walls had been knocked out to create one large room out of three smaller ones. At one end, the end near the door, lay a pile of bodies, mostly Reaver. Laid out next to them were four bodies in Alliance uniform. All around the bodies, drawn in what Mal was certain was fresh blood, was a large circle.

“Jayne, Reavers didn’t do this. Ain’t got enough left in them to care about their dead.”

Jayne looked a bit braver and stepped closer. “Mebbe – them Alliance bodies don’t look like they been worried.”

But if he was right, and this was another academy style facility, and River was right, and there was ‘a spy’ in this room… Mal suddenly turned his flashlight on the ceiling, and Jayne followed suit.

Watching them silently from the ceiling, one hand carefully gripping the heavy chain she hung by, was a rather battered and bloodied young woman.

“Mal, she’s nekkid.”

“Yeah. Seems it’s going around.”


Zoë and Mal stood over Simon’s semi-conscious body. River stood nearby, sorting instruments. The anger on Mal’s face seemed in no way assuaged by the retrieval of the boy, nor the deaths of his captors.

“You up to this, Zoë?” he asked darkly.

“Yes, Sir. We can triage him for the moment, decide what to do when he’s been bandaged up a bit.”

Inara walked in, “I got the supplies you asked for Zoë; O+ blood, saline, plasma, drugs – can we risk knocking him out?”

“Don’t think so. He’ll have ta pass out from the pain.”

Mal broke in. “You got all that from over there?”

“Yes. And there’s more. I asked Jayne and Kaylee to grab everything they can before we break off.”

Jayne and Kaylee quickly turned up, laying their boxes down outside the infirmary. Jayne strayed no farther than the door way, but Kaylee surged forward. She hadn’t seen Simon yet. Inara turned to grab her, but it was too late. The girl had seen. “Wo de ma… and he was so shui…” tears spilled down her cheeks.

Mal’s head snapped up, his face frozen in anger. “Kaylee.”

Zoë, head still bent, interrupted, voice quiet but firm. “Kaylee, we need room to work. Jayne, take her to the engine room. Inara, take the bridge.”

Mal stood in stunned silence as the others obeyed the first mate unquestioningly. It occurred to him that even if he’d spoken in time, they’d have obeyed Zoë. Zoë still hadn’t looked up. “Zoë –”

His old friend still worked smoothly. “Sir, you were about to tear Kaylee I new one. She don’t need it right now, and the rest of us could do without listenin’ to it.”

“Zoë, the boy’s lying here half dead and she’s sad ‘cause he ain’t pretty no more?”

“Sir, that’s not what Kaylee meant and you know it.” Zoë’s attention never wavered. Mal had never been eyeballed by someone who was looking elsewhere, but it seemed that Zoë was more than capable of it. “She’s blaming herself for all a this, her lover losing damn near everything – including his looks. She’s not rejecting him, and you know it damn well. Not fair taking it out on her, and it wouldn’t be even if the girl wasn’t half-mad with grief.”

Mal’s face darkened. “You want to tell me what else I know, Zoë?”

“If you want, Sir.”

He paused. “Zoë, River’s standing right here, you wanna tell me why you couldn’t waited til we were alone?”

Zoë didn’t bother with the obvious. “Girl knows how to respect a conversation she overhears, Sir.”

Mal turned to move toward the door. Zoë continued to speak with out looking up, “Couple more steps and I will put one of Simon’s special ‘Jayne’ soothers in you, Sir.”

He turned, now truly pissed. “Mutiny, Zoë?”

“No Sir. Executive duty, Sir. Relieving you of your command til you get your head out of your gorram ass, Sir.” She looked at the edge of her blade. “Fresh knife, River.” The girl handed a new scalpel to Zoë. “Thank you.”

“You serious?”

“Sir, the way you been acting? I swear by the God you’ve forsaken that were you any other man alive I’d have slapped you by now.”


“Ready to suture?”

“Yes.” Zoë handled the needle carefully as River passed it to her. “Damn glad now that he got to show me how to do this.” She turned the needle in her hand. “Though, as I recall, he threaded the damn thing himself.” River opened her hand and Zoë passed the needle back with an apologetic smile. “Not real domestic, ya mighta noticed.” A moment later, the girl was done.

“I’m ready with the fearsome brow mop,” River deadpanned, and Zoë smiled as she began sewing Simon back up. Mal turned to leave, but stopped as he heard Zoë’s question.

“River, ya think ya can keep your brother breathing a moment?” the relaxed humour was gone from her voice.

“Yes, ma’am.” The girl replied softly.

He turned to see Zoë walking toward him with one of the soothers she’d threatened him with before in her hand. River could have had it in his neck before the words were out of Zoë’s mouth, but Zoë would never lay that burden on her crew. This was between a Captain and his XO, and he knew his XO like she knew her duty: she would discharge it, however much it cost or pained her.

His hands went up to his shoulders. “Zoë, I’m calmed down. Ain’t gonna do anything rash. I’ll go talk to Kaylee, let her know it’s ain’t her fault, and that things are under control here. Let Jayne have a rest, maybe relieve Inara. Do something about our prisoner. Captain-y things.” Zoë was silent. “Zoë, you did good. I wasn’t thinking straight, am now. May I have my command back now, please?”

Zoë lay the soother back down and took the needle back from River. “Yes, Sir.”

When Mal left, River asked Zoë quietly, “‘May I have my command back now, please?’”

Zoë shrugged. “Mal’s Momma raised him the old fashioned way.” She paused and peered closely at her stitching. “Just be glad he didn’t thank me.”

“No wood shed on Serenity.”


As Mal approached the engine room, he was relieved to hear that Kaylee’s voice was almost normal. Jayne had obviously done well, sitting with her and chatting with her all the while the surgery went on, considerably lightening Kaylee’s heavy burden. He paused to eavesdrop, a tough habit that he hadn’t yet bothered to try to learn to break.

“Yer real sweet Jayne, but don’t change nothin’. Cap’n still mad at me.”

“Don’t worry, lil’ Kaylee, Mal ain’t mad at ya. He’s just mad. Betcha Mama Bear’ll take care a’ him.”

‘Mama Bear?’ Mal’s brain asked.

“Mama Bear?” Kaylee asked aloud.

“Zoë.” Mal didn’t see, but he could imagine the look Kaylee was giving Jayne. Mal was pretty sure that he was wearing it himself. “What, you ain’t never seen your Mother pregnant?”

“Na, I’m the baby.” Kaylee’s voice sounded amused for the first time in days.

“That explains it, then. They get right fierce, and Zoë ain’t ‘xactly mild-mannered as a rule.” Mal smiled at the sound of her light laugher, but listened as Jayne spoke again, more seriously. “Anyway, doncha worry ‘bout a thing. Be right as rain soon as Mal figures out how to blame all’a this on me.”

Mal’s shock and Jayne’s words was quickly superseded by Kaylee’s sad response. “Ain’t right the way ya’llways get blamed, Jayne.”

Jayne didn’t have a wide vocal repertoire. Mal identified the mercenary’s ‘confused’ tone. “Thought you said you were the baby? Ain’tcha got brothers?”

“Yea, were the only girl. Don’t mean nothin’.” Mal recognised the puzzled tone in Kaylee’s voice.

“Don’t mean nothing? Kaylee, they ain’t never told ya what older brothers is for?” Kaylee laughed again, but Mal thought that the man actually sounded aghast.

The girl answered in an amused tone. “Hair pullin’ and tattlin’?”

“Now, lil’Kaylee, hair pullin’s fun, can’t deny a boy that, especially if he ain’t much older than his sister. But tattlin’? They tattled?”


“All of ‘em? Even the oldest?”


“That ain’t right, Kaylee.” Was that disbelief in the hardened mercenary’s voice? Truly it was a day of revelations for Mal.

“What, they weren’t supposed to?”

“Naw, Kaylee. That’s yellow. Ain’t supposed to abandon yer little sister like that!”

“What ‘bout when it were my fault?”

“Ain’t never the baby’s fault!”

“What ‘bout when it is, though?”

“Then it’s the oldest’s fault! This ain’t engine mechanics, Kaylee.” Mal took that to be Jayne speak for ‘this isn’t hard to figure out’. “Thems the kosherised rules.” Jayne’s tone was firm.

“Na, Jayne, that ain’t yellow. That’s smarts. No sense getting’ whupped for what ya ain’t done.”

“Dammit, girl, ain’tcha listenin’? That’s what girls have older brothers for. Ain’t smarts. Plain…” Jayne changed tack. “You just go ask Dr. Top Three Percent when he wakes up. See fer yourself if it’s smarts or cowardice.”

There was a noticeable pause before Kaylee spoke again. “Jayne, you saying ya let your parents whup ya for the other’s faults?”

“The baby ain’t supposed to be walkin’ to the wood shed by herself. Don’t know what yer brothers were thinkin’. The baby of the family’s in there, the whole lotta ‘em better be in trouble with ‘er.”

“That why you don’t mind so much the Cap’n being mad at ya, Jayne?”

“That’s what I said.”

“So you’re my ge-ge?”

“Guess so.”

“Then ain’t River the baby?”

“Naw. She’s got Simon.”

“Don’t need another ge-ge?”

It was Jayne’s turn to pause in thought. “Na, yer right. A girl can’t never have ‘nough older brothers. Ok. She can be the baby, but yer my favourite.”

“Xei xei ni ge-ge.”

*** *** *** Chapter 26 *** *** ***


Sunday, January 14, 2007 5:00 AM


Thank you to all have read and commented - especially those who have stuck with the story over their better judgement.

Better days to follow - and the plot thickens.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 5:42 AM


Zoe is just awesome. Jayne almost as much.

Is it bad that I found the Mal and the woodshed scene to be a dead-on accurate characterization of Mal, and damn funny too?

Who is the new chick?

Sunday, January 14, 2007 5:51 AM


>Is it bad that I found the Mal and the woodshed scene to be a dead-on accurate characterization of Mal, and damn funny too?

Not at all. I was hoping that it would be funny, what with the Whedonion motto of "make it dark, make it grim... tell a joke".

Sunday, January 14, 2007 5:51 AM


>Who is the new chick?

She would be the plot thicking.

You know, like with soup.


Sunday, January 14, 2007 7:47 AM


*You know, like with soup.*

Mmmmm, wife soup?

Sunday, January 14, 2007 8:20 AM


> She would be the plot thicking.
OK. I hereby dub the new girl "Cornstarch". It has a long and noble history as a name. Especially in stir-fry.

“Wo de ma… and he was so shui…”
A perfect Simon-esque line, but from Kaylee. Next she can say something about his eyes!

I know medical technology in the future is better than we have now, but I still believe Simon might be too far gone to fix - especially since, ironically, he's probably the only one aboard who could possibly repair all that damage. It will be a true test for Kaylee: does she sitll want Simon for Simon, or is she going to give up now that he's not her dream guy anymore?

Jayne's little speech about being the older brother was awesome. As the older brother myself (although I have no sisters, only another brother) it is often the case that I would take the hits for him. And extra sweet? Jayne included River in the "family".

Tuesday, January 16, 2007 4:42 PM


I sit here in awe at your writing skills, girlfan...the sheer perfection with the dialogue and balance between action and exposition truly boggles my mind!


Really loved Jayne's remarks to Kaylee here through. The amount of layers and character exploration contained within Jayne's spiel on siblings and their duty to their little brothers and sisters were truly astoudning:D



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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.