STOLEN MOMENTS: 19. "True Things"
Friday, May 6, 2005

"The Captain returns to Serenity and finds himself face to face with a tormented Simon."



SUMMARY: "The Captain returns to Serenity and finds himself face to face with a tormented Simon." The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly' are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No infringement of copyright is intended.


A "Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Simon Tam could not stop River's words from circling round and round inside his head. The litany coupling guilt with a myriad of emotions he had been trying hard not to confront let alone identify. It was typical of his sister that he would not be allowed to escape dealing with what had happened. The Captain had given no indication he suspected a thing but River had been adamant and her insistence had blackmailed the doctor into doing the last thing he wanted to do. Sometimes having a genius for a sister was a burden but not one he would exchange for anything in the 'verse. All he had to do was wait for the right moment.

Shepherd Book returned first, Wash fussing and restless as he watched Book secure the mule back in its' place in the cargo bay. Calmly the Preacher let the man babble and expend his anxiety while speaking in a soothing tone that slowly brought calm and order back to the pilot's frantic mind. Kaylee rustled up something to eat but Wash wanted to wait until the others got back so they could all eat together. River looked at Simon and he inwardly sighed. Kaylee poked the distracted doctor in the ribs. He glanced at her in surprise. "*Shenme*?"

Kaylee gave him a sharp look. "You alright?"

"*Qu*. I'll just be glad when everyone's back and we can take off."

Kaylee bit her lip, thinking of Inara, then Simon realised what he had said and looked contrite. "*Duibuqi*, I wasn't thinkin'. I'm sure Inara will be alright, this was her choice Kaylee." The mechanic sniffed. "*Wo zhidao* but why'd she have to leave? What did we do wrong?"

"Nobody did anything wrong," Said the Shepherd. "Sometimes people need a change of scenery that's all."

The Shepherd finished making some tea then poured them each a cup as soon as it was ready. As he took his seat at the table the distinctive clang of the cargo bay door opening brought the missing smile back to Wash's face. "They're back!"

Simon watched him dart out of the commons room with a wry smile. Kaylee had a fond look on her face which she now turned to him. "D'ya think we'll ever be like that, Simon?"

For a moment the doctor looked so stunned it was comical. River laughed then skipped out of the room, Shepherd Book getting to his feet to refill the kettle and get some plates. The others were sure to be hungry. Later, after a mighty fine meal, Zoe turned to the Captain. "Sir, do we need to lift off right away?"

He gave her a blank look. "*Bu qu*, not right away. Why you askin'?"

Zoe got a heated leer on her face and snagged her husband's shirt before cutting a meaningful glance at the Captain. "It's just I need this man to tear my clothes off, sir."

Jayne slapped a hand on his knee and guffawed. "Don't mind us, you go right ahead!"

A look of horror stole over the Captain's face. Kaylee put a hand over her mouth to stifle an attack of the giggles. Wash started to look embarrassed but Zoe had gone from loving wife to stone killer in a heartbeat. "I can hurt you, Jayne."

"Hey, weren't nothin' to get mad at. You're the one talkin' of sex at the dinner table."

The Captain closed his eyes, he could feel a headache coming on. Opening them he rubbed the fingertips of his index and middle finger against his forehead. "Jayne! Can you quit with the unhelpful images, *dong ma*? Plus it's your turn to do the dishes with Book."

"Aw, but Mal..." Jayne argued.

"Best not be mistakin' that for a suggestion."

The mood shifted again. Jayne and Book began to clear the crockery and such from the table, Zoe dragged Wash away with her. River was tugging at Kaylee's hand, the two girls with their heads together as they left in a flurry of arms and legs. The Captain looked up and glanced around, a bemused expression on his tired face. "Was it somethin' I said?"

Simon decided the moment had come. "Um, Captain, can I have a word with you?"

The Captain would have liked nothing better than to put the boy off but something in the doctor's expression stopped him. "*Qu*, best spit it out before it chokes you."

"Perhaps we could go somewhere a bit more..."

His hesitation sharpened the Captain's interest. "Private?"

Simon nodded, grateful he didn't have to spell it out. "*Qing*."

Scraping back his chair the Captain got up and followed Simon out of the commons area, his curiosity piquing when the doctor led him not to the infirmary but to his bunk. Frowning he watched Simon turn and slide the door shut, dropping the lightweight catch for privacy. Mal's eyebrows rose, all weariness forgotten. Simon looked at him for a moment, resisting the urge to fidget or just unlock the door and get the *diyu* out of there. He had no idea how the Captain would react but he had to know. Before making his confession he needed to know something. To his consternation he could already feel his palms begin to sweat. "I always meant to ask you, why didn't you space me? Get rid of me, tell me it was time to go?"

Shocked, the Captain just stared at him. Now that he had broached the prickly subject the doctor began to feel a bit calmer. He sat on his bunk and waited, ready to give the Captain as much time as it would take to get an answer. This was something he needed to know not just idle curiosity. He waved a nervous hand to indicate Mal should take a seat. In a daze he sat on the chair. "What's this all about, Simon?"

"I just need to know. It's something that's been nagging at me ever since I first boarded this ship. We didn't have an exactly auspicious start."

Mal snorted. "Not with you lyin' to me, smugglin' your gorram sister aboard in cryo, then threatenin' not to save Kaylee when that *tamade hundan* fed shot her!"

Simon had the grace to look abashed. "Yes, well, I'm not too proud of that but the question still stands. Why did you let us stay? After all we're fugitives from Alliance justice."

The Captain stared at him for several long moments. The notion of the Alliance and justice in the same sentence was an oxymoron but the boy did have a valid point. Why did he let them stay? Maybe it was time they laid their cards on the table. "For the same reason I kept Jayne."

The answer was not what Simon expected. Something flickered across the Captain's face, something sad and wounded. Rapidly hidden and buried in the fathomless depths of those soul-deep eyes. Simon just had to know. "*Weishenme*?"

"You not been listenin'?"

Simon did not reply. After a minute or two the Captain sighed.

"You're on my crew."

Uncharacteristically, Simon felt the prick of unshed tears. Amazed that with a few mild words the Captain could touch him. He took a chance. "You say that like we're family."

It was not quite a question. The doctor's words surprised the ghost of a smile on the Captain's face and in that moment of insight Simon would have done anything for him. Any gorram thing to bring this tormented but essentially good man back from the brink of the abyss. As if he could make dreams come true Mal's faint smile deepened into a real one and something lightened between them. The Captain's lips twitched. "Are you always this sentimental?"

Startled, Simon laughed. Happy when his amusement was reflected in those moody eyes. After a moment he sobered again. "I never meant to hurt you."

Mal watched him closely, trying to see what this conversation was really about. For now he took the words at face value, curious to see where they would lead him. "*Wo zhidao*."

"I was afraid."

"Of me."

To his surprise Simon shook his head. "No. Of *everyone*. The only one I could trust was River."

Seconds paused on the brink of eternity as if both men realised how fragile this moment How it was something that would likely never come again. "An' now?"

Simon smiled, not the pained little smiles that looked too much like a bad case of wind to be humour but the kind of heartfelt smile he normally reserved for his sister. "Now," Said the doctor being careful to speak clearly so that his sincerity could ring through and illuminate each and every word. "I should have listened to my sister."

The Captain blinked. Confused. "*Shenme*?"

The smile on the doctor's face dimmed, softening the austere planes of his angular features. "I'm a boob."

It occurred to the Captain that there were times when Simon Tam was harder to understand than his sister. Even when the girl's mismatched jumble of words made no literal sense he often had an instinct for what she was trying to say. To convey. "That a medical term? Have to say you're not makin' much sense here."

"I'm saying I trust you, Captain. Mal." He paused to let the words sink in, realising that he had never said them to the Captain's face before. Even more surprised by just how much he meant them. "I appreciate everything you've done for us. All the times I've tried your patience..."

"An' fists. Don't forget them."

He ignored the interruption. "I was blinded by all the things you reminded me of." Simon's voice saddened but he kept his eyes locked on the Captain. Knowing this explanation, apology, admission, confession even had been a long time coming. He might never have the courage to be so frank with him again. "I was raised on a Alliance world, Captain. Core planet. The Tam Estate wasn't the richest but we were far from poor, had social standing. We didn't want for anything. We ate the best food off the finest china. Had all the advantages money and privilege could buy. I was taught that the Independents were the enemy. The barbarians at the gates of civilisation. This belief was inculcated in me from birth and I saw no reason to change that perception. When I first met you it was as if that prejudice had been made flesh, validated. I hated you even though I didn't know you. Hated everything you stood for and had fought for despite the fact that the War was over and the Alliance had won."

Simon paused to draw a ragged breath and steady himself to continue. The Captain made no attempt to speak. "I trusted the Alliance without a second thought right up until they took the one thing I valued more than anything else in my life. My sister." A note of pain tinged the doctor's words. "Naturally I went to my parents but they wouldn't raise a finger to help me find River, turned their backs on me when I needed them most." His words were bitter now, bite sized accusations dipped in bile. "I had to come to you, my enemy, to find the safety and protection we needed." He hissed in a breath to shake off the bitterness. "It hurt, Mal. It also confused me." Simon paused to watch the Captain's reaction. "Why would my enemy help me?" He asked softly. "What did you really want? So you see I was always waiting for you to betray me, betray my sister. I wasn't seeing *you* but what I had been taught you stood for. It was ingrained and instinctive. A judgement reinforced by your casual use of violence. Have you any idea of the effect that had on me?"

The Captain spoke just as softly. "So why stay?"

The doctor shrugged, his words conveying a sense of helplessness. "Where else could I go? We were fugitives. I'd spent all the money I'd saved just on finding and getting River out. Had barely enough left for our passage, certainly not enough to start looking for any alternatives. But even while I was grateful I was careful, cautious, not willing to let down my defences just in case you sold us out."

Mal gave a long pained sigh. Without realising he was doing it Simon flinched.

"I want to apologise, Mal." He paused to steady his voice. "*Duibuqi*."

For a moment the Captain gave no reaction, his expression shuttered. Face all closed up and remote. "Top Three Per Cent?" He chided softly. "I ain't evil but I ain't no Saint neither. Just recognised early on that when a thing needed doin' it was best to get it done. Quickly, efficiently. If that meant it looked like it didn't mean a thing then that's your lack of understandin' not mine. Didn't mean I took pleasure it in any, never have and never will. Not nothin' gonna happen but more pain and a 'verse of hurt by procrastinatin'."

It was comical to see the surprise on Simon's face. The Captain smiled briefly at the boy's reaction.

"What? You think I don't know any of them long shiny words?"

"I think," Said Simon, his eyes crinkling with humour as the last of his pent up tension dissipated. "That you are much more than you seem, Captain."

"We all are." The Captain looked at the boy for a long moment or two as if weighing something up in his mind. Not sure whether now was the right time to speak on what was in his mind. Then again he couldn't see him and Simon having a conversation like this ever again. His mama always told him not to look for lightening striking the same place twice. Best make use of the Here and Now. "But that's not what this is about, is it?"

Simon blinked. "*Shenme*?"

"Why'd you drug me, Simon?"

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*shenme* = what *qu* = yes (lit. go) *duibuqi* = sorry *wo zhidao* = I know *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *dong ma* = understand *qing* = please *diyu* = hell *tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *weishenme* = why


Saturday, May 7, 2005 1:51 AM


That "Anonymous" was me, not sure what happened there.

Saturday, May 7, 2005 4:59 AM


I love the dinner table conversation gone wrong. Poor Mal. And wow, the tension between Mal and Simon is so palpable in this make-or-break conversation. I felt like I was in the room. More please.

Sunday, May 8, 2005 12:51 PM


Wow...I really can't wait to hear Simon's respone to Mal's last question.
This was a great chapter. The Simon/Mal interaction was well done...very intense.

I can't wait to read more. Keep up the excellent work!

Wednesday, June 1, 2005 10:22 AM


That was so very good! Loved it. Started off smiling at Mal's 'headache' - brought on by the idea of Wash and Zoe having sex - and ended up just bursting with the desire to hug him and Simon. What a pair! (*g*) Very lovely. Very well done.

It's going to take me time to catch up - real life can be so gorram inconvenient - but catch up I will. Eventually.


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His head still ached from the rutting probe but after the men had satisfied themselves that his story was true a thousand questions peppered the air like machine gun fire.

The vessel was shiny, sleek and black with nowhere near the bulk of an Alliance ship. Something about the way it moved through the Black was more than a little creepifying.

Personally she didn't care if Serenity was towed off to a junk yard and stripped into spare parts. She had promised the ship to Jer and his crew as a bonus but it looked like scavengers had beaten them to it.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS: 2. "Counting Chickens"
The fact that her eyes were hard and sharp with intelligence kind of chilled him. Smart women always made him uneasy, it just weren't natural.

What in the nine hells were they so afraid of? Then he remembered Tracy. The body mailed to them by their old war buddy and all the trouble that had brought down on them.

If it was too gorram wet to hunt for rabbits what in the nine hells was his son really hunting? And was it something on four legs or two?

The man was in a terrible condition, his pulse weak, and for some reason he was soaking wet which did nothing to staunch the blood soaking through his clothing and seeping from the poorly tended wound where he had been shot.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 9. "All The King's Men"
The man sighed like the weight of the of the 'Verse was on his shoulders but unlike anyone else he looked like he could carry the weight.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 8. "All The King's Horses"
Without warning something came through the opening and rolled with a metallic clang across the ground before exploding.

THE DICHOTOMY SERIES: 7. "Friend or Foe"
Then he found himself falling, the whole world silent as in slow motion the hordes of *diyu* came to swallow him up and everything disintegrated in fire, blood and pain.