Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapter Thirty
Sunday, January 21, 2007

Mal makes his decision with regard to his prisoner. Inara makes breakfast, Zoe has an announcement, and Jayne is delighted. Fluffy. PG.


Chapter Thirty: Caelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt (They change the sky, not their soul, who run across the sea.) Part IV

*** *** *** Chapters 1-10, Chapters 11-20, Chapter 21, Chapter 22, Chapter 23, Chapter 24, Chapter 25, Chapter 26, Chapter 27, Chapter 28, Chapter 29 *** *** ***

As Zoë passed the infirmary on her way the galley she saw River trying to adjust Simon’s bed to a sitting position – not easy with him in it. Zoë smiled at the pair from the doorway.

“’Morning. River honey, let me give you a hand with that.” Together they managed to put the chair into a mostly upright position. It pleased Zoë to see that he wanted to sit up, look around; she felt that it was a sign of progress – at least he was up to feeling boredom.

“Zoë,” said River, pointing to Simon. “How are you feeling? How is the baby doing? Have you been to see Dr. Wren yet?”

Zoë raised an eyebrow at the pair and turned to River for an explanation. River just shook her head and pointed to her brother again, who waved his broken hand at her. “I see that you’ve mastered snark in panto as well. Captain’s gonna love that, Simon.” Zoë almost couldn’t believe it when Simon stuck his tongue out at her. Humour tinged her voice. “Gorram Simon, so your sister’s not the only Tam brat then?” Zoë was faced with synchronised Tam tongue sticking out. She drew a deep breath. “You sure you’re up to talkin’ – dealin’ with this, Simon?”

He noticed that her voice had gone soft and serious again. He nodded.

“Alright. Now River took good care of me while you where gone, and I’ve spoken to Dr. Wren, but I was spotting for a few days. Been resting, but no-one seems to be sure that’ll help.”

“Are you still spotting, Zoë?” River did a passable imitation of Simon’s Dr. Tam voice, but Zoë was concentrating on the boy’s features. Concern, but not fear – that in itself she found reassuring.


She saw his face visibly relax. “That’s good. Hand me the stethoscope, please, Zoë.”

She slipped the thing around his neck and placed it in his ears. She gestured to her belly – and she had begun to think of it as a belly, recently – and he nodded. Zoë slipped her shirt up and tucked it under her bra. River got off of the counter to move the little disc across the first mate’s abdomen. Just as she was about to place it on her skin, River started as though struck, rolled her eyes and picked up the end piece and blew warm air on it for a few seconds. Zoë was nervous, but she managed a tight smile at the silent sibling dynamic. “Thank you River, Simon.”

Zoë noticed that River moved it across the abdomen differently than she had before. Before River had just been listening for any sign of life; it was obvious, by comparison, that Simon’s method had a more precise aim. She was relieved to see Simon’s face break into a happy smile. River slipped the ear pieces from her brother to the first mate; Zoë listened carefully, and heard the tiny heart beat; River moved the disc again, and Zoë heard it again. Then it occurred to her – “Simon, am I?” She watched carefully as his mouth moved.

“Pregnant with twins, Zoë.” He beamed delight at her. River’s voice picked up the rest of his words. “Rest. It might not help, but it won’t hurt. I think you’re probably out of the woods though, as long as you keep away from anything strenuous.”

*** Mal hadn’t slept much, and when he woke still no decision had come to him. He sat up on the edge of his bunk, and looked at his watch. He’d told her that he’d make a decision come morning, and he would hold to that. He walked over to his sink to splash water on his face – mornings like this he was always a little surprised by the face of the man in the mirror: he was still a young man; he just couldn’t remember what the hell that felt like.

He looked at his watch again. He had about forty-five minutes before he would have to talk to his prisoner. He reflected once more on the conversation he’d had with her.

“The bigger problem is trying to figure out if I can trust you. So, let’s start at the beginning. Why’d you choose that uniform to wear?”

“Sir, the war was over before I went to military school. And if it hadn’t been, I still would have chosen to serve. I’m… naturally very vocational.”

“That so?”

“Yes, Sir. I thought about being a nun in my youth.”

Which reminded Mal of having toyed with becoming a priest in his youth. Mal watched her face carefully. If the girl heard the thought, she hadn’t let on. He wasn’t completely sure that she really was a reader. “And you chose to be a solider instead, because?”

Ceres actually wasn’t sure of the answer. A death wish? Wanting to get as far away from home as quickly as possible? Crisis of faith – well, no, that came later. “I’m not really sure. It seemed more fulfilling, somehow. And I guess I didn’t want to take the vows.” Mal stiffened. There was no way he was up to talking about sex with this girl, especially not after what she’d been through. “Not the obedience part, of course, but the vow of poverty really didn’t sit well with me, everything you have belonging to the order – always thinking every luxury you indulge in is taking away from some good you could be doing? I guess that was why. Being a soldier seemed… morally simpler. Legal order? Obey it. Illegal order? Refuse.”

“There’s that whole killing people thing that nuns get to avoid, a’ course.”

“People die.”

“That whole no killing thing in the Bible seemed sorta optional to you? No, maybe you were planning on aiming for the knees.” He watched her carefully. There was still no damn reaction at all, even with him thinking about Book. He listened to her answer.

“Sir, the Bible does not forbid killing. It forbids murder.”

“That so?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Nuances of meaning, I suppose.”

“Yes, Sir.”

“Which brings us ta the part where I ain’t exactly a legitimate authority to be following from that point of view.” The girl said nothing. Mal decided to rephrase it as a question. “Now am I?”

“Sir, you are the Captain of this vessel. That role has traditional responsibilities as well as privileges. Presuming that you stay within those boundaries, yes you are. Morally, at least, if not necessarily legally. Sir. Out in the black you are in a sense sovereign – even if that sovereignty goes unrecognised – thus you are the legitimate authority on this vessel. You don’t keep slaves, do you?”

“No. Everybody on board’s free ta leave.” Then, as an afterthought, “’Cept you a course.”

The girl smiled tightly. “I came aboard as your prisoner, and in a sense, the enemy of your sovereign state. You are still within bounds.”

“You really are ok with just being shot, aren’t you?” Mal peered closely at her face again. “It’s almost like you’re trying to talk me into it. You looking for death?”

“Death doesn’t frighten me, and I do not have a life that I need to get back to – but I’m not looking for death, no. On the other hand, looking to not be a prisoner? Yes. And this should never have been your problem. I won’t deny that the situation we’re in is unfair to me, but I’m aware that it’s also unfair to you. I suppose that I want you to understand that I understand that.”

“And that I should be aware that you’re a reader. Thing is, I’m not convinced.” It wasn’t a question, and as Mal had come to expect, she didn’t answer it. “So, I’m wondering if you could tell me who has Simon’s medical records?”

“Couldn’t say, Sir.”

Mal finished dressing and strapped his guns on, before he made his way to the prisoner’s room. The whole thing would be over in a few minutes, one way or another. “Cadet Swann, you’ve got thirty seconds.” When they were over, he slid the door part way open and stepped in slowly. She was standing to attention again, but he didn’t miss the pad of paper and pencils on the floor that she now had. “At ease, Cadet. I see you had a visitor after I left. Was it Zoë?”

“No, Sir.”

“River, then.” It wasn’t a question; Mal was certain that he wasn’t wrong. If the prisoner was surprised, her face didn’t show it. Was it meant to be a hint to him from River? Curiosity on the girl’s part? Compassion? “I’ve been thinking about what you said last night. I’m prepared to offer you a place on Serenity, if you’re prepared to accept the terms. Since the most ancient times there has existed the concept of parole. You understand what that is?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“You’ve never sworn your commissioned oath, so you can’t break it. I’m willing to offer you parole on the following terms: you take no actions against Serenity or her crew, you pay for your room and board by helping out: maybe you can help River, or help Simon understand what was done to her. Maybe you can help on jobs, don’t know that you’re willing. You can help stack and store and the like. Always something to be done. For my part, I will not expect you to take any overt actions against the Alliance – might ask you to – but I won’t expect it. Finally, you get captured by the Alliance or Blue Sun, and I’ll do unto you as I would if you got caught by Reavers. You willin’ to except these terms for parole?”

“Yes, Sir.”

“You understand the penalty for violating parole?”

“Yes, Sir. Death, Sir.”

“Which no doubt cheers you immeasurably. Alright. Do I have your parole Cadet Swann?” Mal extended his hand to the prisoner.

“You have my parole, Sir,” Ceres said as she shook the Captain’s hand.

“Let’s go meet the crew.”

When Mal and Ceres arrived at the galley, nearly everyone was sitting down, watching expectantly as Inara placed the trays of breakfast in the middle of the table. On seeing Mal and the prisoner, Inara sat wordlessly herself, hiding her sudden discomfort behind a relaxed smile.

“Ladies and menfolk, this here is Ceres Swann.” Mal began.

Jayne interrupted. “Series Swan? What the hell kinda name is Series?”

Mal rolled his eyes. Zoë and Inara stifled laughter, certain of how Jayne was spelling the girl’s name in his head. Mal continued. “Ceres remains our prisoner – but she has offered us her parole, and I’ve accepted it. She’ll get food and dorm, and she’ll be helping out in recompense.”

“She going out on jobs, Mal?” Jayne wanted to know.

“Not as yet. Maybe at some point.” Mal already knew where this was going, and he wasn’t disappointed.

“Long as it don’t cut into my percentage.” Jayne saw the expressions on Kaylee’s, Inara’s and Aren’s faces – Mal and Zoë knew better than to expect a different response form their mercenary – and continued, unapologetically. “What? Ain’t seeing why my percentage should be going to no meiyong de deserter.”

“She’s not a deserter, Jayne.” Zoë spoke up. “Never been commissioned, sworn no oath. Girl can’t desert.”

“Zoë’s right, Jayne. Girl’s a free agent.”

“No she ain’t, Mal! She’s another feng le fugie!”

“Ok, you’re right about that part. That ain’t her fault though, so play nice.” Mal pointed to the others at the table. “You already know Zoë and Dr. Wren, the big man with the big mouth is Jayne, you’ve seen him before; I believe you’ve met River, this here’s Inara and this here’s Kaylee, our mechanic.” He gestured to the table. “Have a seat, Ceres. Inara’s breakfasts are always a treat.” The girl didn’t move. Mal misunderstood. “Jayne’s percentage is coin, Ceres. Don’t got anything to do with what you eat, or it would be Jayne who’s access to the stores we’d be rationing. Everyone on board’s got the same kitchen privileges.” The girl still didn’t move.

Zoë realised why. Mal hadn’t noticed, but she’d seen the expressions on Kaylee and Inara’s face change when Mal had gestured for the girl to sit. With Dr. Wren in Simon’s chair, the only free seats left were Book’s, and Wash’s. Zoë was right. Ceres was pointedly aware of the other women’s expectations that if she sat in Book’s place, Jayne would punch her, and if she sat in Wash’s, Zoë might shoot her. Zoë didn’t need to be a reader, though; she’d known these people long enough without needing to peek into their minds. Zoë pushed her chair back and gestured to it. “Cadet Swann, you’re welcome to my chair.” She pulled out Wash’s, and sat down in that.

River causally took a warm bun as Ceres moved toward Zoë’s chair. “These are nice, Inara.”

“I’ll have to try one myself, lil’Albratross. Pass the basket here, please.” Mal joined in to the purposefully ‘causal’ conversation.

“Oh, Jayne, turns out the answer to your question is yes.” Zoë said as she snatched a bun from the moving basket.

“What question, Zo?” Jayne knew when to play along.

“You asked a while back if I was havin’ doubles.” Zoë reminded him. “Answer’s yes.” This time Jayne didn’t have to play along, his face registered genuinely delight. “Aw, that’s neat, Zoë! Doubles is the best fun, s’like having kittens.” Jayne snatched the bread basket away from Mal. “Best you take another roll, Zo,” Jayne suggested as he pushed the basket toward the first mate.

Aren’s response was more cautious. “How do you know, Zoë?”

Zoë looked up from selecting a second bun to turn a cool look on the other doctor. “Been to see Simon this mornin’.”

“He’s not really up to seeing patients.” Concern and sadness were openly etched across Aren’s features.

“Turns out he is.” Zoë’s voice remained cool, measured. She picked her second bun.

“This is nice. No, really, it is. Zoë’s having twins, congratulations on that Zoë. Our tin woodsman has a heart, likes babies and kittens. Well done. Simon’s up to seeing patients – hard to believe, but alright. Can I have a damn bun now please?”

“Sorry Captain.” Zoë handed the basket back.

*** *** *** Chapter 31 *** *** ***


Sunday, January 21, 2007 6:41 AM


Next chapter: more decisions for Mal, this time with regard to what help they can get for Simon. Simon and Kaylee play cards, with a little help from River and Jayne.

Thank you to all who have read and commented. Those of you who notice these things will have seen that I have changed my policy on comments. I would ask that if you can't be positive, at least please be polite. In general, I perfer to recieve critiques by PM.

Sunday, January 21, 2007 3:38 PM


120 reads and no comments?

Seriously, are there bots reading this? I don't mind if they are, but they should at least comment, right?

Sunday, January 21, 2007 8:13 PM


Oh, goody. Another reader on the crew. Gentlemen, prepare to start your drinking!

Simon seems to be handling things well so far - no major signs of depression. Is this going to change?

Sunday, January 21, 2007 9:06 PM


yay! more please

Sunday, January 21, 2007 11:43 PM


>Oh, goody. Another reader on the crew. Gentlemen, prepare to start your drinking!

a) she's not on the crew - she's a prisoner (albiet with parole)

b) I thought Mal already had :)

>Simon seems to be handling things well so far - no major signs of depression. Is this going to change?

I intend for Simon's mood to flucuate with the fortunes "of war" - as he makes progress - or doesn't.

Anyway, this is meant to be seen as progress - previously he's been suicidal enough for his sister to offer to euthanise him.

Monday, January 22, 2007 2:52 AM


Excellent stuff here, girlfan! Definitely loved how you handled the Zoe-Simon-River moment in the infirmary - Panto!Simon and Squishy!Zoe rock ;D - and the Mal-Ceres flashback and conversation about Ceres' status aboard Serenity;)



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