Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapter Forty
Sunday, February 25, 2007

Kaylee and Jaynee quarrel, Inara threatens, Zoe makes an observation, and Mal issues orders. Canon pairings +1 (River/ofc). NC17 (for being creepy in an uncomfortable sort of way).


Chapter Forty: Veluti in speculum (As in a mirror) Part I

*** *** *** Chapters 1-10, Chapters 11-20, Chapters 21-30, Chapter 31, Chapter 32, Chapter 33, Chapter 34, Chapter 35, Chapter 36, Chapter 37, Chapter 38, Chapter 39 *** *** ***

The dark tones of the voices in the galley finally explored into loud anger.

Kaylee’s pained voice broke first, “Jayne, I don’t understand how you can be such a cold hundan, after everything Simon’s been through, and done for us. The money shouldn’t matter!”

Jayne matched her call and raised. “Look, ya don’t like ma answer, that’s just fine lil’Kaylee, but you asked and ya don’t get to twistin’ up my words to make me sound like wangbadan niao shi de dugui, just ‘cause I agree with Simon!”

“Simon’s only saying that ‘cause he don’t wan’ ta be a burden – yer sayin’ it ‘cause you don’t think he’s worth the cost!” Kaylee hurled back with fury in her voice.

From where Mal and Zoë stood, unseen, it sounded like Jayne’s blood vessels might be set to pop when he yelled back at her, “Damn straight I don’t think he’s worth the cost, and I ain’t just talking about the coin. Kaylee, we ain’t talking about the Simon we dragged offa the Pandora, more broken than fixed. Would be different if it were. He’s got two hands work fine now and he barely made it outta the last surgery alive an’ free ‘cause it was a gorram trap. And I ain’t weeping loud tears over Ceres’ getting snatched and compared to it being you or River – or say Zoë and them babies – we got off damn lucky. Coulda been Simon, Kaylee. Almost was. Out cold, couldn’t do a ruttin’ thing to defend himself? How’s the cost a that hand looking ta ya now? ‘Cause from where I’m standing it’s looking pretty damn steep.”

Inara’s voice was exasperated, but it remained on the right side of calm. “Jayne. Simon. I have such an urge to bianda bei of both of you. This is not about money, which, I might remind you is the Captain’s sole prerogative to decide. If you are not happy with your pay or the jobs we are taking, then you may leave. That is your prerogative. Neither is it for you, Simon, nor you, Jayne, to make assumptions about the risks relative to the gains. The arrangements are as safe as they can possibly be.”

“Go se, ‘Nara. Yer talkin’ like Simon don’t even get a say.”

“Jayne, you don’t understand…”

“Let me tell ya what I understand. Yer talkin’ about grabbin’ Simon, taking him back to the gorram place where he got snatched before he were beat on fer days, knockin’ him out cold whether he gives ya his say-so or not, and then cuttin’ on him fer twelve hours.”

Mal decided to end the argument there, and stepped into the dining room. Zoë followed him. “Enough, Jayne. This isn’t up for debate. You don’t want to go through with this?” Simon raised his head from where it rested on his hands to shake his head. “Well, that’s tough. Captain’s orders, so suck it up.”

Only because Zoë was in the direct line of sight of the rest of the crew did she manage not to roll her eyes. She watched as Simon stood, and the others tensed in response; fully expecting the edgy young doctor to explode, and the argument to turn into fisticuffs. Zoë watched them carefully, as the crew’s expressions turned to surprise when Simon merely nodded his head in a sad, detached sort of way, and exited the kitchen quietly with a firm but low “Yes, Sir.” Zoë managed – barely – to keep her own surprise from her eyes.

“You’ve all got things to be doing, so get to ‘em.” Mal pointedly remarked to the rest of the crew, who wisely scattered.

“Well, if that wasn’t down right bone chillin’,” Zoë murmured next to Mal.

“Don’t know. From Jayne, well that’s probably as close to actual concern as he’ll get for that boy.”

“Wasn’t what I was referrin’ to, Sir.” Zoë’s voice betrayed nothing.

But Mal recognised all of Zoë’s ‘saying something by saying nothing’ tones, even if he didn’t always understand them. “Which was?”

“Just think it’s strange that it’s Jayne who can see how there might be a problem doing this over Simon’s lack of consent.”


Simon sat in his room, quietly pouring over his notes on Ceres, on every clue she’d ever given him about guarding his mind. He tried some of her techniques, unsure if they were working or not. The ache to cut had become maddening, and yet he dared not even look at it straight on, least it overwhelm him. There had to be some compromise. He looked up from his notes, resting his eyes; his sister’s words floated up to the top of his conscious thought. “The same as what you felt? Oh, but it was, Simon. Felt you feeling it, here. Felt me feeling it, here. Dot, dot, dot. Three little blisters, right in a neat, tidy, perfect row.” Well, if he couldn’t stop her from feeling him feeling the pain, at least he could ensure the she didn’t feel herself feeling it. There were at least some parts of his body that he could injure that River didn’t have. He shuddered, but that was a comfort: at least he wasn’t yet so far gone that such a thought brought with it a sense relief.

The knock on the door did, however, bring that sense of relief, even though he knew it would be momentary. “Come in, Zoë.”

The first mate stepped through. “You weren’t kidding about the ‘unless the Captain orders me to’ part, were you? Not even a little bit.” She shook her head. “May I sit?”

“Of course, Zoë. I’m sorry, I should have offered.” Simon swung himself sideways so that she could sit next to him on the bed.

“We didn’t hear the fight, you know. Don’t know what you said to get Kaylee and Jayne so riled up.”

“I just said that I wouldn’t do it. They took it from there.”

Zoë nodded. “You know they were expecting you to take a swing at the Captain, right?”

“When I stood up? Yeah, I’m sure they did.” Simon’s tone was flat, and his tight smile held no mirth that Zoë could see. Zoë didn’t say anything; she’d hoped, now that Simon had started talking, he might just continue. And, after a few moments’ silence, he did. “When I was on the Skyplex – after Kaylee had left the diner, I was – I was waiting to pay the bill, and you know, just trying to put some distance between us and hoping to leave quietly before the Feds showed – and the guy – the cashier he was just taking forever. And I remember making all of these cosmic promises.”

Simon paused and Zoë watched him silently from the corner of her eyes. “You know, at first, Kaylee wouldn’t go? Didn’t want to split up, didn’t understand, and we didn’t really have time to discuss it. By the time she left, and I was waiting for the cashier – I was so conscious of the seconds we’d wasted and I finally understood – really understood – how frustrating it must be for the Captain when what he needs is trust and timely obedience, and all he’s getting are arguments and questions from me – like the time we were boarded. And I said that if Kaylee just made it back to the ship, I’d never question the Captain’s orders again.”

“And if you both made it back to the ship?”

“I said that if we both made it back safe, that I’d never leave the boat again unless it was absolutely necessary.”

That gave Zoë a long moment’s pause. “That why you said you were never leaving the boat again unless the Captain ordered you off?”

“Yes.” Simon’s mouth was a sad, rather haggard line.

“But you didn’t make it back safely.”

A flicker of some emotion Zoë didn’t recognise crossed Simon’s face quickly. “Close enough for government work.”

‘Ah, yes’, Zoë thought. ‘Snarky Simon – always a joy to deal with’. Zoë patted Simon’s leg comfortingly.

Simon sighed at the gesture, a too-familiar sense of shame creeping up. “I made it back,” he said softly.

“Not all of you.” Zoë’s voice was just as soft.

“No. But enough of me that I don’t want to kill myself nearly as much as I did when I was in there.” Simon’s soft voice went softer and smaller. “And who knows? Maybe someday it will all seem worth while.”

“But it’s not, now.” It wasn’t a question.

“River’s safe. But she’s not happy, and I can’t shake the feeling that that’s my fault. It’s ok,” Simon said quickly, before Zoë could interrupt. “I know that you’re going to tell me that it’s not, but it doesn’t change the circumstances of how my sister’s lover got taken, or how I feel about that.”


Banks looked away from the one-way mirror to glace sideways at his partner. "The phrase 'best two out of three' springs to mind, Sir."

Green’s gaze did not change as he acknowledged Banks’ words. "Indeed?"

"Well, I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that we would end up with the best two, but I propose that there is a way to capture at least Simon Tam without further risk to Blue Sun property and personnel,” Banks amended.

"But not River Tam?"

"Oh, possibly River Tam as well, if we play our cards right. She can be somewhat unpredictable, of course."

"Of course. Your plan is?"

"I propose a straight deal with Dr. Tam. One life for another. He comes willingly, and we stop pursuing River Tam. Everyone has a fulcrum, an axis on which they can be moved. His sister is his."

"The loss on the River Tam project would be irrecoverable."

"If it were final,” Banks agreed before continuing. “On the other hand, as it stands, the cost is currently still mounting. Also, after we have Simon Tam, we may finally be able to get our hands on River Tam."

"We've tried that," Green pointed out.

"No. Hunt and Smith tried that, and their approach, while worthy, failed and increased our losses by an order of magnitude."


"Dr. Tam will accept our offer. We will then have both recovered Ceres Swann and be able to mould Dr. Tam into along his lines of potential - more likely to be along the spy project than the assassin, but still, a worthwhile arrangement. If, afterwards, River Tam seeks to join him, we will allow her. If she, say, has herself mailed to us in cryogenic storage. We will of course let her know that we will be opening the container with extreme caution - and, if necessary - prejudice. Make it clear that we intend to honour our arrangement with Dr. Tam by not pursuing her, but that arrangement does not exclude reprisals should she choose to attempt to interfere with our projects."

Green considered his partner’s reasoning. "Dr. Tam will want some reassurances that we have stopped following her."

"Want, yes, but not necessarily need. He knows that his drive to protect her makes him vulnerable, but I think we can make him an offer - during the negotiations, of course, not up front - that will be the final lure that he desires. I propose that we permit River Tam to write to him - as we did before - and aside from insuring that the contents contain nothing but paper and standard ink, in no way interfere with them. Dr. Tam will be permitted to respond to her letters, although for safety's sake that can be no more than an acknowledgement that he is still alive. Something along the lines of 'I received your letter dated... Love, Simon,' or 'I received your undated letter beginning... Love, Simon'."

Green was impressed with the simple elegance of his partner's plan. He half turned so that he was finally facing Banks. "Tiancai idea. It would be nearly impossible for him to fail to feel a measure of gratitude both for the offer and each time he receives a letter and the ability to comfort his sister."

"I don't know about genius, Sir," Banks spoke modestly. "Really, it's fairly elementary traumatic bonding."

Green waved this away. "Oh, not quite. It's a nice twist - given the relationship between the Tams, the letters will be a significant comfort to Dr. Tam without costing us anything. It also lowers the ego-cost to him of surrendering himself to us."

Banks nodded seriously, and added, "Access to Swann might be another bargaining chip with him; we can acquiesce to his request to see her, be certain of her still being alive. Similarly, it allows us a bargaining chip should either of them feel particularly intractable regarding their training."

"You think there is a relationship between the two?" The smallest indication of questioning passed across Green’s generally unreadable features.

"Well, there would logically have to be some relationship, of course, Sir. If you mean do I think they had a romantic relationship, I think that it is a distinct possibility. It's possible that it is merely a deepening friendship, too - but Swann chose to surrender to give the others a chance to get Dr. Tam away; perhaps more significantly, their personalities are very similar. I suspect that a genuine sympathy would naturally evolve between the two, in a relatively short period of time together."

Green considered this. "That could also work in our favour, if we could subvert them enough to breed. Alternatively, we could merely pursue the project in vitro. Obviously, this would be dependent on how close to each other their talents lie. More significantly, while Dr. Tam's recommendations have a large genetic component, there is quite a lot of evidence that Swann's are largely nurture rather than nature."

"At the very least, Sir, we would breed another genius," Banks pointed out. “And, it’s likely we would breed a genius with some malleable Tam features.”

"This is true. In any case, it merits due consideration." Green turned back, expressionless to the one way glass. “Check the records. See if we have any useable genetic samples from River Tam. It would be worth looking at the possibility of a Simon Tam-River Tam cross, as well.”

“Yes, Sir.” Banks filed the order away in his mind for later, as he too turned his attention back to the glass and waited.

*** *** *** Chapter 41 *** *** ***


Sunday, February 25, 2007 1:23 PM


Apologies for the delay - and that it's not longer.

Working on the next chapter already. My muse is still sulking, but she's around.

Thank you to everyone who's commented - and for everyone who's read and waited to read. It's appreciated.

Sunday, February 25, 2007 1:53 PM


Haha! You're back!

Just plain ouch at Simon's conclusion pertaining the solution to River's psychic pain feeling thingy.

I love it that Jayne and Kaylee seem to be on such opposing viewpoints here. Just so different, having Kaylee being opposed to Simon, and Jayne be on his side.

And can I just say that any moment between Zoe and Simon, from the start of 'Roses' up until now (and likely beyond), is absolutely my favourite part. They're always so well done, you undersand them both very well.

The plan by Banks and Green....I knew that 'business' with Simon wouldn't be over. And Ceres! My God, we must have more of her predicament!

Genius, and nice to have you back.

Sunday, February 25, 2007 5:52 PM


While I presume genetic engineering could be used to iron out the potential problems...a CSI-via-science breeding project? Can I say "Ewww!" vehemently enough?


Still...this was definitely some brilliant writing here, girlfan! Between the Jayne-Kaylee fight over continuing Simon's surgical regimen in lieu of what happened to Ceres and Zoe's conversation with Simon about his surprising response to Mal's order to undergo the definitely have got it goin' on, missy;D


Monday, February 26, 2007 3:43 AM


I'm getting really worried about poor Simon. Why do all fan fic writers delight in torturing him?

Nevertheless, this is a great chapter - update quicker next time, lol xxxxxxxxx

Monday, February 26, 2007 3:46 AM


>I'm getting really worried about poor Simon. Why do all fan fic writers delight in torturing him?

Well, I can't speak for anyone else, but it's because he suffers so well...

Monday, February 26, 2007 8:08 AM


Ugh. The evil plan is exactly right, and coming at the perfect time.

I get the sad feeling that Kaylee is hoping for Simon to "get back to normal" via surgery, when it's increasingly obvious that won't happen anytime soon, if ever. I don't know if it was intentional, but you've got her showing a classic engineering trait (my wife claims that I do this all the time): if something's broken, you work on with it until it's not broken anymore; it's just a matter of time until you hit the solution. This obviously doesn't apply to people, and I think it's starting to drive her bonkers that she can't do anything - to the point that she'd support the Captain forcing the guy she loves to pieces (ouch...sorry, I realize that was a bad joke) into a surgery aganst his will. Inara seems to be taking her role as Captain's Wife to heart, and isn't the best counselor right now - perhaps Zoe can be enlisted to give Kaylee a reality check here? When it's JAYNE that's being the most compassionate, it's time to have a girl talk about supporting your man.

Speaking of which, Zoe continues to be awesome. How she manages to walk the line between supporting the Captain and crew but understanding the other folks on the boat is amazing. And as I said in the previous paragraph, she totally nailed the results of the argument. Can I vote they make Zoe captain?


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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.