Even Roses Have Thorns, Chapter Forty-Seven
Sunday, March 25, 2007

Coda to Simon's time of dying. PG (language, themes).


Even Roses Have Thorns

Chapter Forty-Seven: Pulvis et umbra sumus. (We are dust and shadow.)

A/N1: the quote at the beginning of this chapter is from Dante’s Inferno.

*** *** *** Chapters 1-10, Chapters 11-20, Chapters 21-30, Chapters 31-35, Chapters 36-40, Chapters 41-45, Chapter 46 *** *** ***

“We enter'd on a forest, where no track/ Of steps had worn a way. Not verdant there/ The foliage, but of dusky hue; not light/ The boughs and tapering, but with knares deform'd/ And matted thick: fruits there were none, but thorns/ Instead, with venom fill'd.” The man’s mellow voice was familiar as it spoke from the dark of the wood.

There was a pause as Simon considered his possible responses. “You’re not really him,” Simon said confidently as he turned to face the shade of Book.

“How do you know?” Book asked mildly.

“Because you’re exactly as I remember you. No one ever is, you know. So you’re not really him.” Simon studied the face of the man in front of him. “You’re a memory, a dream – perhaps the face of friend on a demon.”

“But you don’t really believe that.” It wasn’t a question.

Simon’s smile faded as he answered. “No. Not yet.”

“Have you decided if you’re dead or not?”

Simon looked around. “If I remember my Dante correctly, I should be one of the trees, not wandering among them. And Dante wasn’t dead in the Divine Comedy.


“So I’m not dead. Or you really are a demon, and this really is Hell.”

“So you’re not sure?”

“So I’m not sure.” Simon agreed quietly as he sat on the exposed root of one of the nearby trees.

Book – or possibly the thing wearing Book’s face – chose a root opposite. “Let’s assume for the moment that I’m not a demon, that I’m a memory or a dream. A voice of your conscience, perhaps.” There was a pause, but Simon didn’t try to fill it. “Why do think I’m here?”

“Because Wash isn’t exactly Virgil material?” Simon’s tone held no trace of the sarcasm of his words; it was – something else.

“No. I think perhaps Wash would make a fine Virgil. It was not, after all, a man of God that guided Dante on his journey, but a storyteller. I think you know why you wouldn’t choose Wash as your guide, even unconsciously.” At Simon’s silence, Book prompted him. “Don’t you, Simon?”

“Yes.” It was a once hesitant and firm. It reminded Simon of his conversation with Mal before Ariel. He recognised the tone, the feeling. “Guilt.” He admitted out loud.

“Yes. At what you are doing to his wife. You know, perhaps better than her, the risk she faces tending to you, the strain she’s been under since her husband died – the strain she’s been under since you were captured.”


“And you feel guilt, too, at what you perceive to wasting chances that he, were he alive, would have taken.”

“Yes.” The endless fighting with Kaylee.

“You think that he died for you. To make your sister whole. Your goal, your mission. But the Miranda broad wave was not your idea. Even if it had been, Wash agreed freely to it, as he did to far less worthy dangers that might have ended his life.” The shade of Book paused again and peered around under the dark canopy. “I wonder if you’ll ever learn that there is always enough blame and guilt to go around without grasping for more?” The shade of Book appeared to sigh. “So. Do your want to talk about your regrets?”

Simon snorted and asked rhetorically, “How long have you got?”

But the shade either missed the humour of the dark comment, or ignored it. In any case, he answered: “Eternity.” Simon said nothing, though he frowned a bit, and Book stood. “Come along. Let’s walk for a bit.”

Simon rose to follow.

After a while – and Simon couldn’t really tell how long – wandering the woods in silence, Book spoke again. “But I wonder if you would truly be punished enough, here. Are your sins really so small?”

Simon’s head snapped toward Book, but the shade didn’t turn around. A cold wind whipped through the forest, and in a moment, the forest was gone. They stood, instead, on a vast frigid plain.

The shade continued, his musing apparently undisturbed by the changing décor. “After all, there are many sins you have committed, and precious few of them for which you have repented. You’ve always enjoyed the privileged arrogance of false pride. I wonder how much of your self-destruction was self-serving? Let’s not pretend, as you wish to, that this will somehow make things better for the others. You know it won’t. Couldn’t possibly. You know that it violates your hierarchy of loyalties, it can’t not. You’re leaving them without a doctor, which they need more than ever, without a brother, which River will never not need. I wonder, on whom are you laying that burden, without so much as a by-your-leave? Leaving without so much as a goodbye for Kaylee, who deserves more than that from you. She got the door open, you know.”

It occurred to Simon that he did know. “The engine outage. The door opened right after.”

“She saved your life, if you’re alive. And if you’re not, well, she tried her best, to save your life, to save your soul, and despite her fear for you – and at your current rate of going, probably despite her fear of you, as well.”

Simon nodded again, remembering the defiant look she’d worn the night before as she’d tried to stop him from hurting himself. She had been frightened, he knew. Certainly for him; he had worried too that she had also been frightened of him. He had threatened her. He shook his head in disbelief and shame as he remembered what he’d said to her.

Her eyes were openly scared as much as defiant. He seen her try to brace herself, then shake her head. “Ain’t letting ya hurt yerself.”

And for her love, and bravery, he had sneered at her. Thrown her mistakes, her once-secret worries, hesitantly confided to him, into her face. “No, of course not. Where would the fun for you be in that?” Then he’d slammed the door on her, and threatened her when she had tried, desperately, to reach him. “So help me, Kaylee, if you come in here tonight I will put you back on your side of the door.” Kaylee may have been partly motivated of fear, or a selfish childishness, but she had always acted out of love. He had acted out desperation, and despair, and worse: his last acts toward her had been of spite; and worse still: given the chance to make another choice, to make it right – to give her a different last moment – he had chosen otherwise, to let the spite stand. And for all of that, he had felt the certainty of his rightness in the weight of his judgement of her (far smaller) sins. Pride, much? He had dared to judge her: plank vs. splinter. He was reminded again of Nietzsche, and his sister, and of how she had so often reassured him: that which is done out of love always takes place beyond Good and Evil.

He sank to his knees with the weight of his disgust in the snow. It was a long moment before he looked up to meet Book’s hardened expression.

“You’ve betrayed those you loved, who loved you; those to who you had loyalties – by birth or contract – did you really think you could get away these worst of crimes? The suicide discount? No, I think perhaps you should know better.” Book’s gaze cast around the frozen landscape, but Simon knew where they stood already. “Traitors are punished in the lowest circles of Hell, you know".

Simon did. He bowed his head in acceptance of the shade’s pronouncement. He deserved no better – and now, for all time – he would receive none.

He could feel the ice slowly creeping up his feet and legs, and the tears in his eyes froze, unfallen.


Banks stepped into his superior’s office. “Sir, may I have a moment?”

“Certainly.” Agent Green looked up from the medical records that he was studying.

“We’ve found him, sir.”

Green smiled at his partner. “Dr. Tam?”


“Very well. Send an extraction team.”


Inara peered closely at the alert her Cortex search had thrown up: ‘Swann Patriarch sets large reward for information leading to the return of grandson’.

It was an odd coincidence. Without surrendering blindly to hope, Inara began to follow it up.

*** *** *** Chapter 48 *** *** ***


Sunday, March 25, 2007 11:45 AM


Ok. I have posted. That's all I can really say, without more freaking navel-gazing.

Thank you to all of you who have read, and continue to read - especially to all of you who comment (publically and privately) - your interest and encouragement are apprecrieted.

Sunday, March 25, 2007 1:31 PM



I simply loved Simon's little safari through the dreamscape with the not-Book.
Finally, all his actions, and inactions come crashing over him in a rush of guilt. The fact that you've made Simon so incredibly flawed(that is to say, flawed incredibly well) is the perfect reason for it. Maybe justice is being served-maybe. And that fact that Book is his 'spirit guide' is a perfect fit-those two always shared something kinda unique from the other crew. And you gotta love how you haven't killed him off completely *quite* yet....keeps us readers on our toes, which I am going to assume is a goal.

And ending the scene the way you did....there are no words for how incredible that was, though "genius" comes to mind.

And then BOOM! Those hundan holding Ceres have found him? How? Through Ceres? Damnit, you're such a tease!

And may i just say, thank God Inara is still scouring the cortex for information on Ceres. At least someone on that boat is keping their heads about them.

I do tend to gush-A LOT- over your work, but it really is that damn good.

Possibly the most well written chapter yet. Maybe not the most action-packed, longest, angsty or funniest, but most well written for sure. Well, at least that's my opinion.


Sunday, March 25, 2007 2:39 PM


Heeeee! Awesome! Book was an excellent choice! Facing his Hell, indeed.

However, I have to believe he's not quite dead yet. Book's condemnations were a bit too harsh. They were true to an extent, but each of Simon's sins wasn't created in a vacuum - other people (especially Kaylee) had a hand in prompting them. Laying it all at his feet seems overly cruel - which is why it seems more likely that this is indeed his conscience's final attempt at making him work for it.

And now the baddies are coming for the body. At least Inara is still paying attention - I doubt River is exactly in fighting trim right now. With Zoe pregnant and Jayne likely in the engine room taking over for a likely emotinally-basket-cased Kaylee, Serenity is mighty short on guns at the moment. The bad guys continue with their excellent timing.

Sunday, March 25, 2007 6:31 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER really like to play with your readers' emotions, don't ya girlfan? Between the slow build to Simon's 9th Circle of Hell epiphany to the "What?!" moment with Agent Green stating they had found Simon (which means Serenity's location is now known) to the final bit with Inara that teases us with the possibility that Inara is possibly to blame for Green's pronouncement...I was serious in awe:D

Really gotta give you props for the Simon/not-Book scenes as whatever higher power - God, Fate, Simon's subconscious - decides to give Simon a lesson to end all lessons in The Big Picture. The slow build from the outer boundary of Hell to the deepest ring came with the right amount of reflection and analysis that either Book or Simon would through out as justification for their actions. I also have to compliment you on your choice of "guide," since Book is a perfect example of someone who was on the same path but who managed to see the light before he crumbled and took the steps Simon did, and as an individual who was reborn when he took a step away from all he had known to find a better life than what he had wrought. Just hope you can give Simon the same chance.



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