Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapter Forty-Five
Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The aftermath of Simon's meltdown, and Green and Banks continue to look for him. Canon pairings +1 (River/ofc). NC17 (violence, non-con, death, and generalised squickiness).


Even Roses Have Thorns

Chapter Forty-Five: Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat (All (hours) wound, the last kills).

A/N: The prayer here is Tagore's "The Grasp of Your Hand".

*** *** *** Chapters 1-10, Chapters 11-20, Chapters 21-30, Chapters 31-35, Chapters 36-40, Chapter 41, Chapter 42, Chapter 43, Chapter 44 *** *** ***

As Mal neared the engine room, he could hear Kaylee’s voice, though it was completely unintelligible through all of her tears.

“Hey now, lil’Kaylee, Aren’s patchin’ ‘im up right enough and River’s in there giving blood, and it’ll all be fine, ya see? We ain’t even changed course.” Jayne assumed that this was a good sign: Mal’s plan for Simon’s day was still going ahead, after all. At another indistinct soggy objection, Jayne continued. “No. Ain’t yer fault, Kaylee. No point tryin’ figure out why a man’d do such a thing, don’t make no kinda sense.” Honestly Jayne worried that it did make sense on some level, and he hoped the day would never come when he actually understood a man’s reason for ending his own life. “Tell ya one thing, though: nobody kills themselves over a fight with a girl, you stop thinking that it were anythin’ you done.”


As soon as they were thrown into their cell, Ceres immediately began silently stripping off her clothes. If Harley was naked, the Ceres could not leave her alone in that vulnerability. She tucked her sweater around the younger girl’s torso and began tearing her shirt into bandages. As she wrapped Harley’s ribs, the girl began to wake.

“No. NO.”

“Harley, it’s okay, we’re alone again. I’m just wrapping your ribs.”

At Harley’s simple “don’t” Ceres stopped. “Don’t bother. Promise me something.”

“If I can.”

“You can.” Harley’s hoarse voice was insistent.

“Okay, what?”

“The next time they come for us – you – you kill me.”


“Don’t. Ma’am. You know there’s no way out of this. You know that there’s no way this ends well. The only thing left is to end it quickly.”

Ceres wanted to protest, but she couldn’t. She’d known from the start that there was a chance that it would end like this. She took a breath and let it out. “Yeah, okay.”

“Promise me.” Harley’s voice was harsh, demanding.

“I promise.”


When Mal made it to the bridge, he could see Inara checking the course for any possible places where they could shave time. “Got anything?”

“I made a couple of course corrections. Are you ready to take over?” Inara didn’t bother to try to hide the strain in her voice.

“Yes.” Inara rose and Mal took the pilot’s seat.

After giving him a moment to orientate himself, Inara ventured to ask, “How’s Simon doing now?”

“Don’t rightly know. From what Aren tells me we surmounted the biggest hurdle in just finding him alive.” Mal’s pause was heavy, and Inara didn’t try to fill it. After a moment, he went on unprompted. “Still, she’s scared enough not to be offering doctor-platitudes ‘bout it bein’ alright. Won’t even say she’s certain Simon’ll make it to Belleraphon. Which I’m guessing,” he threw a meaningful glance in Inara’s direction, “was his whole damn point to begin with.”

“Oh, no, Mal.” Inara wanted to contradict him, but it just made so much sense. It was just so Simon. They sat together in silence for a few moments before Inara rose to leave; she tried to dredge up some small words of comfort, but all she could manage was, “We’ll get him to Belleraphon in time. He’ll pull through, Mal. We’ll pull him through.”

She listened without turning from the doorway as Mal spoke again. “He’d better. Pullin’ a stunt like that without so much as a fare-thee-well to Kaylee or River? Letting Kaylee’s last memory a him be a fight over him cuttin’?” Mal barely paused, his anger increasingly apparent. “How could he be that selfish? I swear, ‘Nara, when that boy wakes up I’m gonna take my belt to him so hard he won’t sit near on a week.”


When they heard the footsteps coming toward them, the girls stilled their small movements and looked at each other. Both pairs of eyes were still red-rimmed, but their lashes were finally dry. With Ceres’ help, Harley made it to her knees, and folded herself into Ceres’ embrace. She closed her eyes and tried not to concentrate on anything but the sensation of her own heartbeats in her chest as she counted them silently.

Ceres snapped the girl’s neck, and laid her down on the floor of their cell.

She didn’t have much time, but she shimmed into her pants and pulled her sweater over her head before the door to her cell slid open.


Inara sat heavily on the stool in front of her computer; by habit rather than intention her eyes scanned the search she had set. Still nothing. It wasn’t even disappointment anymore, or sadness – just a quietly internalised fact of life. She didn’t even notice the checking, or the lack of a result.

She recalled Duran Haymer’s number and entered it, then waited politely for it to be transferred to his screen.

“Miss Serra.” He acknowledged. “Will you be delayed?” he asked mildly, hinting at his assumption behind the call.

“No, I’m afraid we’re much more likely to be early. There’s been a problem. An accident onboard. Please, if you can, have your surgeon prepared for serious trauma, haemorrhaging – we’ll need as much O+ blood as is possible to arrange for. Enough for two patients.”

Haymer’s always somewhat sad eyes turned serious. “I’m sorry to hear that, Miss Serra. I will inform the surgical team.”


“‘If she dies? We’ll just replace her. Another neighbour, or a childhood friend of your sister, or a former classmate of brother – or one of your cousins. It doesn’t matter to us.’ You see, I remember Agent Banks explaining this to you. I remember it distinctly, in fact. The part I don’t understand, Miss Swann,” Green began almost amiably, “is whether you didn’t believe us, or whether you didn’t think we could do it.” He gazed at her as if curious as to the answer, before his eyes glanced down to the dead body his guards had brought in with their prisoner. “Your responsibility, we said that too. Yours to condemn – well, that was certainly implied. But she was not yours to destroy. Her pain was not yours to end.” Green’s hand when to a call button. “Agent Cooper.”

Ceres, aching arms manacled once again above her, watched as Agent Cooper stepped through with his hand around the arm of another female figure; this time the female’s skin was olive, instead of pale, and her black hair hung loose from behind the dark hood down to her hips. After Cooper, a guard stepped in, and Ceres tried not to think of him in such euphemistic terms as ‘the guard from earlier’. His hand, too, was clasped tightly around another prisoner’s arm – this time the figure was male. Young, too, Ceres thought from her view of his arms under his t-shirt. The woman was thrown to the floor while the male was manacled, kneeling, to the wall.

“It was a two for one arrangement, was it not?” Green continued. “Very well. Then you may have the blood of two young women on your hands. Agent Cooper, in your own time.” Cooper pulled the hood from the girl’s head, and Green supplied her name, “Yes. Elizabeth Disgleirio. A friend of your sister’s, I believe.”

As Agent Cooper began cutting the girl’s clothes off, Ceres abandoned herself to prayer for the second time in what she suspected was less than a day. Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them.

When Cooper removed Elizabeth’s gag, Green reached for it. He smiled and spoke as he tied it tightly around Ceres’ face. “This is about you, not about the intelligence you hold in your brain, or even your abilities. Just about you, and your illusion of control. I will rid you of that. You have nothing here that I don’t give you, and have blatantly squandered the opportunities I have given you. So, this is a lesson. And I’m told the memorable ones always hurt.”

Ceres tried not to react as the spit-slick cloth was slipped behind her teeth. Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it.

Agent Cooper turned to the guard and gestured to Elizabeth in a bored tone. “Rape this woman.” Ceres averted her eyes as the other woman refused, pleaded, and stood stock still as the young man in the hood struggled against his bonds.

When the guard finished, Cooper merely put a bullet between Elizabeth’s eyes. Green pulled the gag loose and let it hang around Ceres’ neck.

Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved, but hope for the patience to win my freedom.

Banks pulled the hood off of the young man on his knees, and pulled the gag free of the boy’s mouth as he saw the boy’s eyes take in the room and it’s two dead, naked, bodies. Banks’ eyebrows rose fractionally as the boy lost the entire contents of his stomach.

Green’s voice interrupted the silence that followed. “Well, that was somewhat more – spectacular – than the introduction I’d planned. Miss Swann, I wonder if you recognise …” but he was interrupted.

At the name Swann, the boy’s head took in the presence of the final girl in the room, and what little colour left in his face drained away completely. “C.C.?” He croaked.

Grant me that I may not be a coward, feeling Your mercy in my success alone; but let me find the grasp of Your hand in my failure.

It was her cousin Sam.


“We’re losing him.” The faintest trace of unease marred Aren’s otherwise cool professional tone.

Once again, Zoë flipped the valve on River’s line closed, wondering if there was enough blood left between the two of them now to keep even one of them alive.


“I’ll make this easy. Is Dr. Tam aboard Serenity?”


Finally. “Miss Swann, were is the present location of Dr. Tam?”

“The present location of Dr. Simon Tam is – beyond all mortal reach.”

Simultaneously, Agent Cooper’s punch threw Ceres face-first into a wall, and the guard on Sam punched him heavily into the stomach, twice.

As Ceres pushed off of the wall, her eyes rested on her cousin’s expression of pain. She turned back to face Cooper, while rubbing the blood from her mouth onto her shoulder, and spoke. “See? This is why I don’t tell you anything.”

Cooper just laid into Ceres for a minute; Ceres could feel the pain of Sam’s blows too as they ran together in her mind.

“Miss Swann!” It was Banks’ voice. She opened her eyes to see that he and his partner had entered the room during the punishment beatings. She pulled herself from her side to her knees, resting her weight back on her feet.

Banks watched with a perplexed frown as the girl struggled to her knees. She never, ever, remained down. “Why do you always get up? Why don’t you ever just lay there?” He knew that his question probably puzzled Cooper and Green more than their prisoner. “You know you’re just going to fall again, so why?”

She really did know better than to make eye contact, but sometimes she couldn’t help herself. She could feel her lips twisting into a half-smirk that she didn’t feel, as she answered him. “Sometimes the fall is all that’s left.”

Banks looked away, ostensibly to look back at his file, but Green and Cooper understood; there was just something about that girl that crawled under your skin and found every button to push. When Banks spoke again, he was back on message. “Miss Swann, where is the current location of Dr. Simon Tam? I warn you not to repeat your previous answer to this question.”

“I don’t know.”

“Best guess, then, Miss Swann.”

“Hell.” Seventh circle, second ring. Lost forever to the woods.

“Dr. Tam is dead?” Green and Banks exchanged a look. It didn’t even occur to them to believe her; clearly this was some new gambit she’d worked out.


Banks continued probing. “Details, Miss Swann.”

Green and Banks changed their minds as she spoke; her tone was too certain and pleased for them to think she was feinting – if her hands had been free, Banks could imagine her licking her finger and drawing a triumphal 1 in the air as she answered freely, “Tam, Dr. Simon, deceased. Time of death: sixteen forty one Universal Time. Cause of death: sudden acute gastrointestinal haemorrhage.”

Banks acknowledged her point with a simple, “touché.”

A quick glance at Green’s watch told him that Simon Tam had expired almost seven minutes ago.

*** *** *** Chapter 46 *** *** ***


Wednesday, March 14, 2007 12:12 PM


Thank you to everyone who has read - and continues to read, especially to all those who comment, publically and privately.

Again, I'm afraid this is not a chapter that I'm truly happy with, but at least my muse is producing something (and, hey, even working on my thesis).

For those curious about what I consider my "A" grade material (might have been BEB, can't remember just now it was a comment from ages ago), chapters 18 and 19 spring to mind.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 1:06 PM


Seven minutes dead seems pretty conclusive; Simon's dead-dead. I can't say it isn't unexpected, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed River doesn't go with him.

Good luck with the thesis!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 1:36 PM


Hmm...if Aren is fast with the cooling down, seven minutes isn't insurmountable. And, of course, Ceres could just be lying.

Or not, and no amount of Jayne's big brothering is going to fix Kaylee and River. Especially if River gave up too much blood in the process.

Mal's reaction was perfectly right, and at this point needed. I don't entirely agree with his assessment at this point (Kaylee's last memory was her own damn fault, and I don't think Simon was trying to be selfish, per se, so much as just not caring anymore), but a righteously angry captain ready to "add some structure" to the doc's life might be useful.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007 9:11 PM


Holy shit.

You just killed Simon.
Or, like MG proposed, Cere's is lying through a shit-eating grin.

That...I'll admit...I knew it could very easily be a part of the story, Simon's suicide. I just love (and hate...he's dead, after all) the way you've chosen to do it. Just incredible angstiness. Although, it needs to be said that the repercussions of his death, and even his cutting, will provide some truly deep angst the likes of which have never been achieved.

Ceres's promise....damn, but I bet that woulda hurt a hell of a lot to do that to Harley. You drag the girl, kicking and screaming through such hardship, only to have to end her in such a way to save her from a fate worse than death.
Then to have what happened in the room with Elizabeth and her cousin!
I have the distinct feeling things are going to get much, much worse for Ceres. Much, much worse.

Amazing, simply amazing.
And if Simon really IS dead, then not only is it amazing, but it's harsh, and brutally real in ways that words can't describe. While still being amazing.

Some tough issues confronted here-Bravo!

Thursday, March 15, 2007 1:24 AM



(see it was a short NOOO this time)

I love ... no hate... no love ... no, hate ... no, love this story.


Still rating a ten though, even though YOU KILLED SIMON, YOU ________

Thursday, March 15, 2007 1:07 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER can you not think this your Grade "A" material?!? This chapter was utterly and completely superb in the level of angst, pain and courage that is put forth! And that's not counting how you have probably just offed one of the BDHs through suicide-related injuries and left both the crew and Ceres with quite the post-event existence!

Someone has to show this series off to Joss! Cuz he will want your brain and your skill on his team when it comes time to resurrect the 'Verse next, in whatever format that would entail! I kid you not!


P.S. And I too think it was me who first debated your opinion that you weren't offering your "A" game. It WAS a while ago...but I don't think your quality level has dropped before an A- since the the first paragraph of this tale;D


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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.