GENIUS SERIES: 8. "Flesh and Blood"
Thursday, January 19, 2006

"With Serenity's crew reunited there is the dilemna over what to do about the Tams."



SUMMARY: "With Serenity's crew reunited there is the dilemna over what to do about the Tams." 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.


"Firefly" story

Written by Alison M. DOBELL

* * * * *

Waking was all manner of crazy. Not only was the pain running rings around his memory and comprehension it was fragmenting what little grasp he had on the Here and Now. Faces kept looming into focus then out again, the yawing motion making him vaguely sea sick if such a thing was possible in the Black. At least that was where he assumed he was, the familiar thrum of Serenity's engines as distinct as his own gorram heartbeat.

Simon hovered but the Captain did not snap or call him on it, too swiftly losing consciousness again for temper to assert its' impatient and irrational head. It seemed everybody in the 'verse was crammed into the infirmary but the Captain had been wrong in one respect. Serenity was not in the Black, she was landlocked. Kaylee had the engine running ready for Wash to get them out of this world the moment they could shake free of this latest complication, not giving a thought to the fact that they still had not managed to refuel. One catastrophe at a time was all either of them could handle.

"Why ain't he wakin' up?" Growled Jayne, his eyes angry and suspicious as they flicked from the unconscious Captain to just inside the doorway where Gabriel Tam stood staring at them.

"Strictly speaking the Captain *was* awake..."

"Ain't talkin' about nearly, doc. Didn't look that injured."

For a moment no one spoke. Inara was not sure what to make of the tension though it was understandable that none of the crew were too happy to have Gabriel and Regan Tam on Serenity right now but Simon had insisted and for once none of them were inclined to argue the point. With River silent and uncommunicative they instinctively took their cue from her brother, hoping that by doing so they could find out just what in the *diyu* had happened since they were all last together.

"He's exhausted." Simon explained as he finished his examination of the Captain. "I also suspect he has a few cracked ribs."

"So," Said Jayne slowly, wanting everything clear as crystal in his mind. "Nothin' that won't heal?"

They stared at him. Jayne frowned, annoyed at the sudden attention.

"*Shenme*? Just askin' is all."

"The Captain is going to be alright Jayne, though..." The doctor paused to give his father a hard look. "I'm not so sure about anyone else."

Inara had the oddest feeling he was not angry at the Captain's treatment at his father's hands. What lay between father and son had the feel of a much older injury. One less likely to be healed by the simple panacea of time.

* * * * *

The commons room was the location of choice. It was not so much by design as necessity. Simon was determined to speak to his father and under no circumstances - however outwardly benign they might seem - was he prepared to spend a moment with the man alone. Which of course meant the rest of the crew gathered there as well. The only one missing was the Captain. After lingering to make sure Mal really was just sleeping, Inara followed the rest into the charged atmosphere and hoped that no one would do anything stupid. She met the Shepherd's eye and sensed he was feeling the same apprehension. As tense as Simon was, his sister seemed to be relaxed. Relieved even. Hardly stirring more than a step from her mother's side. Regan Tam watched the scene unfolding before her with an almost distant expression on her face. Zoe knew it was anything but. The woman had a focus that would be the envy of professional killers in any 'verse. Didn't matter a good gorram if she was the only one to see it. Just so long as one of them did.

"I want answers, father." Said Simon.

Kaylee marvelled. He did not sound angry, accusatory or even judgemental just calm and stern in a way so alien to her that she was fascinated. All the while a tendril of concern patinating the inside of her brain pan with little drops of worry.

"I don't answer to you!"

"No?" Simon was walking towards Gabriel, his steps slow and measured as if in counterpoint to his words. A way of underscoring an intent the others had no way of following. "Then who do you answer to? The Alliance?"

Gabriel Tam rolled his eyes. "Always the dramatist, my son."

"Not your son."

The quietly spoken words stalled Simon's father. All eyes turned to River. Regan Tam put an arm around her thin shoulders but said not a word. Wash looked concerned.

"River? *Shenme shi*?"

River ignored Wash's question, her eyes fastened on her father. "How can you forget when every time you look in the mirror you remember?"

"They've addled your brain."

"Don't you dare talk to her like that! Anything that happened," Simon spat in barely contained fury, the words spaced like bullet points. "You did to her."

His father laughed. Inara shuddered inwardly. It was not a pleasant sound.

"I didn't do anything, Simon, and if you were half as smart as we'd been led to believe you'd know that."


For a moment silence hung heavy like suspended poison as if each of them were afraid a single drop could kill them. Inara was about to speak up, hoping to defuse the tension before things could get out of hand but Book shook his head and she froze. Simon was only vaguely aware of their silent communication, his eyes fixed on his father. His look unforgiving, every line in his body brittle with tension. Kaylee longed to go to him, to hug him, but this felt serious so she did not interfere. Her eyes wide and anxious followed every flicker of emotion across the doctor's face.

"For so long I believed everything you told me not realising what was going on under my very nose."

Wash and Zoe exchanged a look. Jayne frowned, Book keeping the mercenary from butting in. But for Simon there was no one else in the room but his father and sister. "Simon, you don't know what you're saying." Gabriel Tam's expression had softened but Simon knew it for the artifice it undoubtedly was. "Come back with us son." Gabriel glanced over at River but she would not meet his eyes and his wife was just staring at him with a strange expression on her face. "All we want is our children back."

"That's impossible." Simon paused. "We're adults now."

"You know what I mean, Simon." He tried a different tack. "You have a duty to us."

The doctor's eyes widened with incredulity. "*Zhizi*? Do you even know the meaning of the word?"

Gabriel Tam's face flushed a dark red, anger coursing through him like molten lava but Simon did not give him a chance to retaliate.

"I've spent the best part of my life being lectured by you about duty. All you wanted was a trophy son to parade among your peers. I was to be groomed for the highest position among the medical elite. A shiny accomplishment to crown a lifetime of lies and deceit..."

"How dare you!" "I dare more than you can possibly imagine!" Simon shot back, now standing only inches from the father he had come to loathe.

Jayne watched the interaction closely. Whatever he might think about the doc he was pretty impressive when his dander was up and this was a side of Simon he could respect. Jayne couldn't wait for the real fighting to start. Made a man wish he'd brought popcorn.

"Am I interruptin' anythin'?"

Everyone turned at the sound of the Captain's voice. Alarmed to see how pale and unsteady he looked, Kaylee hurried over to him before he could topple over. "Cap'n, you sure you should be up? You don't look so good."

"*Xie xie* Kaylee, you always so full of compliments? An' I thought this was my good side. Carry on like that an' you're like to make my head swell." Kaylee flashed him a grin, grateful for the chance to lighten up the atmosphere even a little. Inara came up on the other side of the Captain and put a hand on his arm. "Perhaps we should sit?"

Ignoring the Companion's words Mal nevertheless allowed her and Kaylee to steer him towards the table. Wouldn't do his pride much good to fall flat on his gorram face. Turning his head he caught Zoe's eye. "What the good gorram did I miss?"

"Ain't got to fightin' yet, Cap, so you ain't missed the good part." Said Jayne before Zoe could bring her Captain up to date.

Mal smirked but it was a brief twist of humour, the recent past crowding in on him like fresh bruises, and him feeling a mite fragile and sore as well. He waved a hand in a vague indication for them to continue. "Don't let me be interruptin'."

Simon blinked as if he had lost his place in a book. "Where was I?"

"Moonbrain was sayin' as how he ain't your pa."

The doctor stared at Jayne then looked at River. His sister shrugged. "What's good for the goose..."

"Goose?" Said Wash baffled.

Zoe patted her *zhangfu's* arm. "Try to pay attention, dear."

Gabriel Tam's patience chose that exact moment to run out. "*Bizui*! Enough of this *fei hua*, you and River are coming back with us now."

Mal pushed himself to his feet, his face going pale but determination joining hands with stubborn resolve. "Can't let you do that, Gabe. Don't mind if I call you Gabe? Seems your kids are all growed up an' unless I'm mistakin' the mood they don't wanna go with you."

Gabriel Tam turned away from his son and snarled at the Captain, all pretence at being reasonable in tatters. The ugly now on the outside where everybody could see it. "You will not interfere! I want my children back and that's exactly what is going to happen."

"Got a newsflash for you, ain't gonna happen." The Captain paused and brought his voice down, the quiet cadence more effective than had he shouted. "Not gonna let you hurt 'em no more."

Kaylee's hand flew up to her mouth, eyes wide with consternation and distress.

"They're *my* children, Captain!" Gabriel yelled, the veins standing out on his neck. "Mine, you hear? Bought and paid for."

Everybody stared at him. The Captain for a moment lost for words. All the blood drained out of Simon's face, only River retained any composure. Mal looked sick. "You what?"

"Daddy's mad now." River intoned calmly.

"Simon an' River don't belong to nobody, *dong ma*? You don't own people."

Gabriel Tam threw back his head and gave a bitter little laugh. his voice mocking and reckless. "That's where you're wrong. They're mine, bought and paid for."

"Then it's true?" Said Simon in a faint shocked voice. He had thrown the accusation at his father not because he believed it to be true but because he wanted to hurt him.

"No, Simon. You were free, I was the price." Said River.


Simon Tam looked so stricken that Shepherd Book moved quickly to his side, his kindly expression full of sympathy and compassion. Ready to step in if need be. Regan Tam began to turn, intending to take River with her but the girl moved away and Regan's arm fell loosely to her side. "Tell him. You have to kill the lies with the truth. Only the truth can set you free."

For long moments no one spoke then Regan Tam nodded slowly at the daughter who was kin in name only. "We couldn't have children of our own..." She began.

Before anyone realised what was going to happen Gabriel Tam stepped up to his wife and slapped her across the face. The Captain wasn't close enough to wring the *hundan's* neck but Jayne smacked him down with a closed fist. Would have hit him again if the Preacher hadn't stood in his way. Gabriel stumbled to his feet, eyes blazing as he ranted at his wife. **"*Bizui* you useless *pofu*!"

As if he had not spoken Regan continued. It was something of a relief to finally be honest about what had happened. Even if the why of it now looked as pathetic as the man who had once sold her the dream on the strength of his obsession. Had she really mistaken it for passion? "I was barren. We didn't know it at the time but after five years of trying and not being able to fall pregnant we went to specialists. They did every test." She paused. "You have to understand although we were not fabulously wealthy we had comfortable lives. Lives that could not be complete without children. Gabriel said he knew of a way to put that right. We were so desperate and we had the money."

"You BOUGHT your children?" Gasped Kaylee in shock.

Shepherd Book gave the mechanic a reassuring look. "It's not such an unusual thing, Kaylee. Sometimes an IV programme is used or even a surrogate mother if the problem is carrying a foetus to full turn."

"Or," Said Regan Tam. "The genetic material doesn't come from the parents at all but from biological stock carefully chosen to have the right ingredients for the offspring."

"Oh my God," Simon paled even further. "You had us genetically created."

"Gabriel always wanted a son but he had to be bright, gifted even. Preferrably in one of the professions. We chose a doctor."

"And River?"

Regan smiled albeit a little sadly. "They agreed to engineer a boy for us if I would carry the girl and we raised her as our own."

Simon stared at his sister, his gut wrenching. Malcolm Reynolds had never wanted to shoot someone dead so bad in his life but this was Simon and River's call not his though he would back up whatever they wanted. "Why did they want you to carry River?" Inara asked, genuinely curious.

Typically, River responded before Regan or Gabriel could do so. "It was the Academy. To keep the illusion intact I would appear to simply be very gifted. Be a normal girl. No one would suspect anything. Perfect camoflage. When I reached the right age I would then go to the Academy where the scientists and technicians would activate the dormant programmes and download the command codes."

"Woah, woah!" Interrupted Wash. "Are you sayin' they PROGRAMMED your mind?"

River nodded. "It was the only way to update the software."

Mal was so angry he couldn't speak. Inara felt suddenly faint and dropped into the chair next to him. For a long time no one spoke then Jayne's voice put it all into perspective. "You sayin' you're a gorram computer?"

"You think that's bad," Simon quipped. "Our father's a petrie dish."

The Captain had heard enough and took a step towards Gabriel Tam. Jayne noticed the look in Mal's eye and grinned. "Can I smack him, Mal?"

"No, Jayne. Step aside."

"Huh? I wanna skin the *ben dan*. Make him scream."

"MOVE Jayne, you're spoilin' my gorram aim."

Shepherd Book reached out and gently but firmly took Mal's gun out of his hand. The Captain stared at him as if the Preacher had magicked the gun off him and he was trying to figure out how the good gorram he had done it. Inara coaxed their stubborn Captain into sitting down before he collapsed. The man did not look well. All pasty and sweating now, even the Captain's breath had become laboured. Inara didn't like the look or sound of him but reasoned that if she could keep him in his seat it wouldn't do any harm to let him stay. Besides, this was one story none of them wanted to miss.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*diyu* = hell *shenme* = what *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *zhizi* = duty *xie xie* = thanks *zhangfu* = husband *bizui* = shut up/be quiet *fei hua* = nonsense/garbage talk *dong ma* = understand? *hundan* = bastard *pofu* = bitch *ben dan* = moron (lit. stupid egg)


Thursday, January 19, 2006 11:32 PM


Yay! Love this series! More soon would be good *nod nod* ;)

Friday, January 20, 2006 2:41 AM


Wow. Great chapter. Poor Simon, the truth hurts, but maybe he's lucky afterall. More please?

"Our father's a petrie dish." I like this.

Friday, January 20, 2006 6:40 AM


A twist and a cliffhanger.

Friday, November 4, 2011 9:27 AM


"You think that's bad," Simon quipped. "Our father's a petrie dish."
Ohmgeee poor Simon and River...

Thursday, December 8, 2011 5:23 AM


A quick comment for the 'Anonymous' reader's criticism of the characterisation of Gabriel Tam in this story. Please read the whole story before assuming what is going on with him. Thank you to everyone for your kind comments, glad you are enjoying the ride. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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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.