Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapter Thirty-Three
Monday, January 29, 2007

Kaylee tries to make amends; Simon has a decision to make, a bad night, and an audience; Mal and Inara almost have a moment, but manage to ruin it in the nick of time. Canon pairings; NC17 for adult situations (implied only). 3.5K words.


Even Roses Have Thorns

Chapter Thirty-Three: Primum non nocere (the first thing is to do no harm – from the Hippocratic oath) Part II

*** *** *** Chapters 1-10, Chapters 11-20, Chapters 21-30, Chapter 31, Chapter 32 *** *** ***

Kaylee was surprised not to find River in the infirmary – but then, Inara’s lady doctor was there, and River always left Simon alone for that. Kaylee decided to check the passenger dorms. She knocked on Simon’s door; it seemed very like River to retreat there if she couldn’t be with her brother. “River?”

“Hey Kaylee.” River opened the screen enough for Kaylee to slip in.

“I brought them things you asked for, sweetie.” The girls sat together on Simon’s bed. “Paper and fresh coloured pencils, some charcoals.”

“I didn’t –” River began.

“I know. But I saw them, and I thought that you might like them.”

“Thank you, Kaylee.”

“It’s not a present so much as an apology for being a meiyong de pofu.”

“No, no. Kaylee. I’m not mad. We’re not mad.”

“Ya should be.” Kaylee’s face had lost all of its regained sunshine. “I shoulda – I was –”

“Terrified, miserable, guilt-ridden?” Kaylee nodded, and River drew her into a hug. “I’m glad you haven’t seen so much bad that you can handle it well. That’s a quality to cherish in my brother’s bao bei. We know it, even if you don’t.”

Kaylee managed to hold back her tears. She spoke, to distract herself. “How’d you get to be so wise?” Kaylee handed over another package.

River carefully took the proffered box, “Seen too much bad.” She opened it. “These are perfect.”

Kaylee looked a little uncertain. “I don’t know, but you did say not ripe. The seller was pushed to find a bunch more than three days off ripe, but he found these.”

“No.” River looked up. “No, these are perfect. Simon won’t be able to eat anything like this for a few more days, and he likes hodgeberries – we got into trouble over some at a party, once – so they’re kind of a treat and a way to make him laugh at the same time.”

Kaylee spoke. “He told me about the party.” River looked up. “After that night on Jiangyin. I got them fancy breads you asked for as well.”

River stood up, startled. “Have to go.” She left the room, but turned in the doorway. “Can you bring Simon some toast when the doctor leaves? Only a scrapping of butter.”

“Sure.” Kaylee nodded, pleased to finally feel of some assistance to Simon. River took off at a run.

When the doctor finally finished up in the infirmary, Kaylee brought Simon the toast that River had suggested. “Hey Simon. I brought you some toast. I even cut it up into triangles so that it would be more tasty.”

“Hey, is that pumpernickel?” River’s voice was tired sounding, but contained a little interest.

“Yup. River thought of it, and I managed to get it at the market. I got something else at the market too.”

“For me?”

“Yes.” Kaylee smiled at him and put the plate on his bedside tray table. There was a little box wrapped in paper and string on the plate. “So, ya gonna try some of this toast?”

River could feel Simon’s returning discomfort. He’d already been through all of this once today; but River could also feel Kaylee’s desperate desire to be helpful. And which of them, in truth, was stronger? River slipped off of the counter, and brushed hair off of her brother’s face. “How about I let Kaylee have some time alone with you?” River could feel his embarrassment and fear, but also, his desire to be near to the woman he loved. She could tell that he hadn’t failed to notice Kaylee’s smile at River’s suggestion. Simon nodded. River kissed her brother’s forehead, before she turned and hit the privacy blinds. “I love you, Simon.” And with that, she left.

As she hand fed her lover small triangles of pumpernickel toast, Kaylee spoke to him.

“So, ya wanna hear about my day?” Simon nodded and she continued. “Well, Cap’n gave us all an advance on the money from the Lassiter job – and two whole hours on Triumph to spend it. Well, not two whole hours, ‘cause we all had chores ta do, but as soon as we got the bits for Serenity, we took out for the market. River suggested pickin’ up some bread, and wanted some drawing things for herself – so I got those – oh, and we saw some of the most darling little booties in the ‘verse. And the little hats were so sweet that even Jayne liked ‘em. But he wouldn’t let me get anything, ‘cause Captain Tightpants is being a feifei de pigu.”

Simon was part-listening, and part-enjoying the toast, while simultaneously worrying about how much fixing him up was going to cost – and how long everyone was going to have to wait to get whatever was left of their cuts. It wasn’t that he didn’t understand – Mal’s policy of not dishing out cuts until after major repairs to crew or Serenity were done was the only measure of any kind of insurance that they had out here. Still – the take from the Lassiter… the crew of Serenity could be rich, but instead they were going to have to blow a huge chunk of it on his meiyong de pigu.

Kaylee watched carefully as Simon raised his broken hand and mimicked ‘wind back’. “Captain Tightpants?” Simon nodded and inched his hand forward. “Captain Tightpants is being a feifei de pigu?” Simon nodded and dropped his hand. “Oh, well, turns out our fearless Captain is a superstitious lao baojun who believes a lot of yu ben de fei hua about tempting fate. Thinks us throwing Zoë a baby shower could cause all sorts a untold damage to Zoë or the babies.”

Simon carefully mouthed, “Worried about miscarriage.”

It took Kaylee a moment to parse this. “I know. But Simon, the ‘verse ain’t like that. And Jayne’s nearly as bad. Oh, he claims that he just doesn’t want to go out the airlock, but he was as jumpy as the Cap’n when I suggested a party for Zoë. Men!”

Simon nodded with a mock-serious expression. “Kewu de hundans.”

Kaylee smiled in delight. “Oh, well, if we’re going to get you cussin’ I should reward you.” She planted a light, chaste, kiss on his lips. Simon liked the tickle of her hair brushing off of his skin. He hadn’t realised it, but he had missed it. As she sat back up, he really wished that he could run his fingers through her hair, just once more. She whispered, “Who knew that pretty mouth could talk dirty?” But the expression on his face, as she sat back up, surprised her; he suddenly looked sad. Was it because she’d said ‘talk’? It couldn’t be, could it? What on earth had she done? What could she do? She looked away, confused. When her gaze fell on the little box again, she decided just to move forward. “Here. Let’s get this open and see what it is.” Simon nodded encouragement at her; he hadn’t missed her face fall and he desperately wanted to reach out and hold her hand. He watched her face as she unwrapped the little box slowly, concentrating on undoing the tiny knot that held it closed. After a minute, she looked up proudly. “There. Now see?”

‘My god,’ Simon thought. He mouthed, “You remembered.”

“Well, wouldn’t a thought of it, but I saw it in the bakery when I went to pick up the bread River asked for. And I thought one tiny slice couldn’t hurt. It’s practically bread anyway.”

Simon stared at the slice of poppy-seed cake. It was practically butter, but it was a small slice. And he would be good. He smiled up at her and made a chopping gesture with his bandaged hand, mouthing “Half.”

“No, Simon, it’s so little already!”

“I want you to have half.” He mouthed slowly at her, then smiled.

“If you’re sure.” He nodded. She broke into two pieces and cradled his piece so that the crumbs would fall into her hand as she fed his part to him, before nibbling on her own half. Heart in her throat, she placed the last bit between her lips and bent over Simon, praying that he would share the last bite with her.


“Playing dress up.” River stood in Ceres’ doorway.

“Considering asking for a lock for my door.” Ceres answered with a smile.

“You don’t really mind.” River tilted her head to one side, trying to hear the other girl. It was so strange not to be able to hear her.

Ceres let some thoughts float up and out – silver ribbons reaching out to the other reader. Not really, no.

“How do you do that?”

“I’m not sure.” Ceres paused. “It’s like – visualising things – box things behind gates and in chests, then lift lids, shed light in corners when you want to. Sing songs; recite poems to keep other’s thoughts out. I don’t really know why any of it works; I just do it because it helps. It’s hard to explain.”

“Can you show me?” River stepped closer, and reached for the other girl’s hand. Ceres allowed their hands to join, and pictured the silver ribbons arcing across the small space between them. After a moment, River spoke again. “I think you should wear the green dress. To dinner.” She dropped Ceres’ hand.

“I’m cooking. I’m not sure I want the smell of food in my dresses. How hard is it to keep things clean out here?”

“Come on! Say it in my brain. I want to learn.”

Ceres was hesitant – she showed that to River. Are you sure?

Yes. River thought clearly.

The thought came across with the sparkle grey-lilac of excitement. It was also loud, but there was a marked change in focus. Just think at me, not louder. Think of it like a speaker. Change the angle, not the volume.

River tried again. I think you should wear the green dress to dinner. We can wash it later. I’ll show you.

The ribbon of thought wafted a cajoling-spiral-curl. Ceres smiled. You learn fast.

Royal blue and silver: pride. Yes I do. But that isn’t agreement.

Ceres smiled as she picked up the green dress, and started to undress.


After dinner, Kaylee and River walked back together to the infirmary. “I was wonderin’ if you’d mind me sleepin’ in the infirmary with Simon tonight.”

“No, I don’t. We can ask Simon if he does.”

“Ya think he’ll agree?”

River shrugged. “I don’t know.” But Simon did agree. Over his fear, his apprehension. Because he couldn’t take the chance that she would think he was rejecting her. River knew all of this; she loved her unbreakable brother – so strong; she squeezed his shoulder tight as he struggled with his answer and patted it gently when he nodded agreement to his love. “I’d better get something for you, so you can wake Kaylee if you need to.” With an “I love you, Simon,” she left the room.

“What da ya think it is she’s getting?” Kaylee asked. Simon shrugged. “Can I talk about dinner or would that be bad?”

Simon smiled at her. “Was it as good as my toast and cake?”

It took Kaylee a second to work out. “No.” She made her face mock serious. “It was alright, though. Cap’n bought real food. The new girl cooked.”

“Ceres, or Aren?”

“Ceres. River been telling you about her?” Simon nodded. “Anyway, she cooked. River helped, probably for the best since turns out Ceres hasn’t cooked anything in two years. Think there’d have been a riot if the first chicken we’d had in the lifetime of a star got ruined. Dinner reminded me a bit of Book. Ceres seems to know an awful lot about herbs. Oh! ‘Nara picked up some clothes for her in the world. Looks much prettier than in Zoë’s clothes. No word of a lie, had to fold up the pants about eight inches.”

Simon smiled. “Poor thing.”

Kaylee nodded agreement. “Yeah, musta felt real stupid. Still, looks right pretty now. ‘Nara knows her stuff.” Kaylee ran her fingers across Simon’s face and hair. “I should ask ‘Nara to come brush your hair tomorrow. It’s always so nice and relaxing. Would you like that?”

“No.” He mouthed, but his tired eyes were smiling. “You can do it.”

As he expected, she smiled happily. “Ok.” She lent down and gave him another kiss. He breathed deep the smell of her hair.

River waited until the moment had passed before returning with the sock Jayne had made for her – it hadn’t seemed right to undo it. Before, it was just a sock and some coins – now, it was a promise of aid. A symbol of trust. She didn’t want to change that, but she could pass it on. She showed it to the pair, before she put it between her brother’s right arm and his hip. “If you want anything, just push it off the bed. It’ll jingle, and Kaylee will know that you need something. Okay?”

Simon stared. Where the hell had his sister learned that – that whore’s trick?

“Not a trick. Symbol of trust.” She kissed her brother. “Sleep well. I love you, Simon.”

Kaylee woke to the sound of the sock hitting the floor, and saw Simon’s face marked clearly with discomfort. “Want me ta get the doctor?” She whispered as she slid from the counter.

Simon nodded. As she dashed away at her ‘oh my god the engine’s going to explode” full-run Simon wished that he had something to throw, and something to throw it with. He settled for banging his head off of his pillow, and cursing.


Others woke some small factions of a second before Kaylee, before the sock began it’s short journey to the floor. River padded on bare feet to the lounge to wait for Kaylee to return with the doctor; Ceres, in her mind, gathered shadows to herself, and after she’d head River go past, silently crossed the floor to the dresser that contained those things she needed so very much right now. She knew them by feel, though she’d have preferred to turn the light on; she couldn’t risk being disturbed. Body scent. Cotton balls. Witch hazel. She carefully opened the lid of the craft box, and closed her eyes, picking the one she wanted by feel.

She could have resisted the midnight-blue-black lure of Kaylee’s fear, and the siren-song of River’s silver-teal mist of sorrow; but the brimstone-red-black smoke of Simon’s shame was too much; coupled with green-black-brown bile of disgust and gore-red-brown of pooling anger-pain it was all she could do to keep some semblance of a separate identity.


Kaylee returned to the infirmary breathless and with Aren and Inara in tow, to find River sitting quietly in the lounge outside. Aren didn’t break stride, but entered the infirmary and closed the door and the blinds in a few fluid, quick movements.

Kaylee hesitated. Did Simon want to be alone? Probably. Even River hadn’t joined him. She sat next to River, and instinctively caught the other girl’s hand. Inara sank into the seat next to her. “Do you know what’s wrong? Is he in pain?”

River nodded sadly. “Yes. But there’s nothing wrong.”

“Sweetie, I don’t understand.”

River repeated herself. “He’s in pain, but there isn’t anything wrong.” At Kaylee’s puzzled, scared expression, River expanded her explanation. “Natural function. Wants privacy.”

Inara’s eyes fluttered closed in sympathy; Kaylee’s hand just jerked to cover her mouth. River squeezed the hand Kaylee had left in hers. “Easier when it’s just the doctor.” She added in a whisper, “At least a little.”


When Aren returned later in the morning, she had to shake Kaylee awake. The girl left with a mumbled “I love ya, Simon.” Aren saw that Simon was already awake.

“Did you manage to get back to sleep?” No wiggle. Well, she’d more or less expected that. “Have you made a decision about surgery this morning?”

Simon had. He’d had hours to ponder the ugliness of his situation. The part of him that was Dr. Tam had put up a small protest about the risk, but it was overruled by the rest of him. Dr. Tam’s complaints of selfishness were also ignored. He wanted to be able to feed himself, care for himself. Touch Kaylee’s hair. Hold a book.

Aren saw his foot wiggle. “Is the decision yes?” Simon’s foot wiggled again. “Okay. How about right after breakfast?” Simon’s foot wiggled. “Good. Will I ask River to play nurse again?” Another wiggle. “Okay. I’m going to grab some food, and then I’ll come straight back and scrub up. Need anything else in the meantime?” No wiggle. “Very well.”

Before Aren left she put up a ‘Nil by mouth’ sign, though she was reasonably certain that Simon could be trusted not to break fast. When Aren returned from breakfast with River in tow, the sign had been replaced with one of a rather battered-looking sad-faced teddy bear and the words “Don’t feed the bear.” Aren thought that River’s expression of innocence was not entirely believable. Simon’s surgery was followed by yet more re-gen boosters and collagen therapy, but he was still sedated, so that round was easier on all concerned. When she and River were finally done, and Simon was sleeping off his anaesthetic, it was well past dinnertime.

Aren left the infirmary feeling far too old to be doing twelve-hour surgeries, only to be faced with most of Serenity’s crew in the lounge. She managed a tired, “It all went well.”

There was a mostly silent collective acknowledgement, before Inara stood and said, “Come along, Aren. Kaylee and I kept some dinner for you and River.”

“River wants to stay with Simon. Which, of course, someone has to, but she really should eat.”

Zoë raised an eyebrow and walked into the infirmary. “Go on, honey, Kaylee’s kept you some dinner. I’ll stay with Simon.”

Aren and Inara watched from the window as River tilted her head to one side and slipped off of the counter. “Thank you Zoë. I love you, Simon.”

River followed Aren and Kaylee to the kitchen, but Inara excused herself from the group; “I’ll join you in a few minutes.”

“Of course, darling.” Aren squeezed her friend’s hand.

Inara watched as Jayne trailed off to the kitchen with the others, and moved closer to Mal. “I was wondering if I might have a few moments of your time?”

“’Course ya can, ‘Nara.” Mal sat back on the couch, and Inara joined him.

They sat together in stillness for a moment; Inara took a deep breath and willed herself to calm. She was frightened. Saying it aloud – well – it made it seem more real. “Mal, I’ve decided not to renew my license this year.”

“Your license?”

“To Companion, as Wash would say.”

Mal nodded silently. He didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t upset her, but he really didn’t want to, especially now – this development he’d barely dared to dream of. “Well now. Any especial reason why you’d care to share?”

Inara let out a breath she hadn’t realised she’d been holding. This was a promising beginning. She let herself relax a little. “There are a lot of reasons, Mal, not least that I don’t want to be a possible vector for the Alliance to track back to Serenity. With everything that’s happened in the last two months – I can’t – I can’t bear the thought of being a threat to you all – your lives, your safety.”

Mal felt a swell of disappointment, and was angry with himself for it. He should be pleased that she cared, and that she was giving up this thing – which while he hated it, he knew she defined herself by it, as a gesture – more than a gesture – of solidarity with him, with his crew. He pushed the anger and hurt down. “So, you gonna resign?” He worded it carefully, and made his voice deliberately even.

Inara didn’t miss the change of tone, or him stiffening beside her. “I’m not going to resign, Mal. It – it would draw too much attention. I’m just going to let it lapse. It will be several months before that happens, which, of course, may still sometimes come in useful to us. But I wanted to let you know, as I don’t plan on taking any clients, and obviously, we’ll have to – come to some other arrangement."

Of course. It was always going to be about business. About arrangements. Barbs about rent and security deposits flashed through his mind, but he shook his anger off; he was not going to start another fight. “Well, we can talk about that. I’m a mite tired, ‘Nara, so I hope you don’t mind if, ah, I’d like to think on alla this a while.” Without waiting for her leave, he turned away.

“No, no – of course not, Mal.” Inara said softly. What on earth had she done wrong now? She decided that she would skip the kitchen and just go straight to her shuttle. Well, for the while in which it was still her shuttle. She could feel a headache coming on.

*** *** *** Chapter 34 *** *** ***


Monday, January 29, 2007 3:41 AM


Once again, thank you to everyone who's read and commented - the support is genuinely appreciated.

Next chapter: More treatments for Simon, but he finally gets to leave the infirmary; Mal and Inara go all truthsome on each other.

Monday, January 29, 2007 5:33 AM


HAHA! I comment!

The way you ended the chapter was damn near painful, in the best way possible. Yes another 'so close, yet so far' moment for those two star-crossed lovers.

"Mal and Inara go all truthsome on each other."

And about time those two stopped dancing around each other with hidden meanings and half truths! THAT should make for very interesting reading.

Loved the moment between Ceres and River, and the thought processes of Ceres's mind and abilities.

The moments with Simon and Kaylee were brilliantly bittersweet.

Can't wait for Simon's little vacation aways from the infirmanry. Even he must hate that room by now.

Again, brilliant.

Monday, January 29, 2007 6:14 AM


I agree with borntofly,I like how ceres managed to open up (and by that I mean show emotion) to river, and I enjoyed your take on how she picks up emotions as colors. The length was good too. Keep up the great work.

Monday, January 29, 2007 7:23 AM


It makes you wonder what triggers Ceres might have. It's like her training was completed, where River's was interrupted. No matter how rational or strong she is, it's likely the Alliance would try the same trick in looking for her that they used on River.

I'm glad Simon decided to go with the surgery (I pretty much figured he would, but you never know when he might decide to be difficult). Being able to at least move around and lift/carry/touch things will probably help him immeasurably.

I'm liking River more and more now. I know I was harsh on her interfering before, and now she's showing how to do it the right way. She's not telling anyone what to do or manipulating them. Instead, she just gives Simon a small nudge to do what he obviously wants to do anyway. Much better, and it seems to be paying off.

Monday, January 29, 2007 7:33 AM


Oh, and Mal and Inara continue to be unintentionally hilarious. Much like Simon and Kaylee back towards the beginning of the story, you want to reach in and slap 'em around until they get the hint.

Monday, January 29, 2007 7:33 AM


Oh...that was definitely a spot-on but depressing way to wrap up the chapter. Gotta wonder though if Inara's a bit too ignorant for her own good about how anyone - let alone Mal - would take her pronouncement:(

Still...brilliant stuff here, girlfan! Definitely loving the balance of angst, joy and the in-between...especially the Silee parts. These two really need this to help develop and define their relationship for the future:D


Monday, January 29, 2007 1:46 PM


Girlfan this is great, please keep up the fabulous work!


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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
How far did Green and Banks get? Five moments of revealation. NC17 (adult themes). Canon pairings +1 (River/ofc).

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.