GENIUS SERIES: 14. "Unequal Passions"
Monday, February 6, 2006

"Simon carefully begins to plan what to do next. The crates are opened giving the Captain much more than he bargained for."



SUMMARY: "Simon carefully begins to plan what to do next. The crates are opened giving the Captain much more than he bargained for." 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

* * * * *

Simon Tam watched his mother's face. The smug aura of self congratulation befouling the air between them, though no expression was on his face she knew him too well to be fooled. Regan knew her son was barely holding his emotions in check. It suited her fine. A small measure of payback for his defiance even though that had led to her current rise in status. A back handed compliment was still a compliment of sorts. Simon was smart. Clever and bright in ways that impressed the academic elite. But in the ways of the 'verse and in particular the people who made up those planets within it, he was still a child. And any child could be manipulated.

"You are upset, my son." His teeth grated at the title she did not own. A label Simon felt constricted him to the narrow confines of her own political expedience. And yet he knew she loved him. River too. It was the fact that both of them came way down the list of her priorities that stung. Time and again she had fooled him with a flash of emotion, deep and raw enough that he had believed it to be true. The fabrication was that much uglier when revealed for the artifice it was. Simon wanted to close his eyes. Block out the truth. Ruing the day he and River had come into the household of the Tams. The years his mother had played the gentle caring rock upon which his world was built, while every bump in the road was blamed upon his stern and remote father. A man whose idea of affection was a punishment of silence, shunning, rather than physical abuse. It was as if he was too mean with his affections to waste them on more than the modicum of words necessary to illustrate his grave displeasure.

For Simon the ultimate punishment was the lack of affection, the casual disregard for his or his sister's feelings. Though at the time he had not seen things so clearly, the pain of rejection too keen for other considerations to impinge upon his bruised consciousness. So he vowed to work harder, achieve more and improve his grades. Earn the approval he craved in lieu of affection. The flush of pleasure his father's rare praise elicited had been enough for so long to convince him he was both treasured and loved. It had taken River's disappearance into the maw of the academy and his parents' reaction to his quest to find her for Simon to realise that even the muted show of affection spent on him was not extended to his sister. How that could be he did not know, could not fathom. The lack had surely been his not theirs. Now in hindsight he knew what River had always known. She was different. Suffered a life on the periphery. Only loved when the expression of such emotion was necessary to complete the illusion. Endured when it was not. The truth had never occurred to him. It was as simple as it was painful and marked him with a guilt he would carry to his grave.

"The Council are pleased with you." Said his mother after a minute or two of complete silence. Simon had imagined himself forgotten. Hearing her words he now wished that were true.


Her smile was almost genuine. It took an effort for Simon to remind himself that Regan Tam was the ultimate con artist. After all, she had fooled him all of his life. No wonder he had turned into such a cynical *hundan*, unable to accept the Captain's offer to stay on Serenity for the kindness it had been. An offer of help unlooked for. It left him suspicious and hollow inside. Searching for the hidden angle, the reason behind the words. Expecting vocubulary to educate rather than the simpler truth of actions speaking louder than words. How long it had taken him to realise the error of failing to think beyond the box.

"You do not seem happy."

Simon mentally shook himself out of his solemn reverie and paid attention. "*Duibuqi*, I was wondering where River is." The lie came easy for at its' core was truth.

"*Fang xin*, that is no longer your concern."

Her words made Simon bridle inside yet he kept his expression as blank as possible. Unwilling to give her the means to do even more damage. Yet he wanted to beg and plead with her, ask for her help and hope for the love he longed for to be returned in full measure. Regan cupped his cheek in the palm of her hand, her look warm and indulgent. Even though he knew he was worshipping a false God something inside him was ridiculously pleased, responding to the show of affection. Simon was disgusted with himself for being weak yet knew the pattern had been set between them long ago. Only absence gave him strength, allowed him to see clearly. Proximity his downfall as much as memory. An old saying from Earth-That-Was teased his mind and mocked him: *there are none so blind as those who will not see*. Well. He was not blind any longer but oh, how the sharpened vision hurt. How the crumbling edifice of falsehood took his hopes and dreams and extinguished them into dust.

"You have the chance to realise your potential, Simon. I have been speaking with Councillor Morrison and his opinion is that you will shortly be offered a place on Osiris."

"Trauma surgeon?"

The way Simon said it made it obvious that such a position would be a step down though how he could view it as such was a mystery. Being doctor on a Firefly transport was hardly a career advancement. Regan's smile widened. "No, Simon. Head of Trauma."

His eyebrows rose, the muted shock driving every other thought out of his head for a few surreal moments while his brain tried to catch up. "*Shenme*? Is this a joke?"

A frown flickered on Regan's carefully schooled face. Quickly she masked her annoyance. "No, Simon, this is no joke. This is what you have been working towards, studying for, all your life."

That was it? Another slippery step on the greasy slope to hell and all its' dominions? "What happened to the current Head of Trauma?"

If his mother was surprised by his question she did not show it. "He has been promoted to Head of Medical Research."

Once that would have sparked images of cancer research, clinical trials of new drugs and gene therapy. An honorable profession in which to strive to do great good. Now the term had more sinister connotations. Simon wondered at the boy he had once been and tried to reconcile himself with the man he had become.

* * * * *

It was strange how much calmer River became the nearer to danger they were drawn. The Captain had noticed fairly early on how any perceived threat both frightened and grounded her. How could a fragmenting psyche be so much stronger than a whole one? When had the edge of madness been the cure not the malady? And when, oh when, had his own perceptions become so screwed that the tilt of her crazy mind gave him ease? Not for nothing did he walk soft around his little albatross. Not for nothing did he trust her even when he didn't have a clue what in the nine hells was threatening them. Now was not the exception to the rule for in this blackest of 'verses there was no handbook. No guide lines and no star to steer by but the one they created for themselves. A faith Book might have been proud of. Hadn't his friend told him to believe, whatever that belief might be in?

Inara watched the Captain watching River. Noted how the rest of the crew were like figures frozen in a landscape. Each one waiting for the Captain to make a decision that would prompt some reaction or motion from them. Waiting. A hiatus of anticipation.

"We gonna open 'em or stand waitin' around like dummies 'til the purplebellies get us?"

The Captain barely acknowledged Jayne's impatience, his gaze sharpening on River Tam's slowly tilting face. Noting how the motes of dust refracted the light in ways that seemed to slow down time. Gorrammit, was he going crazy? River raised her head and caught his eye, the smile blossoming out from those dark irises until her lips bowed to the inevitable. It was weird the way she savoured his humour even when it was edged in black like now. "This one first, Captain." She said softly, her hands coming down to rest gently on one of the five boxes.

Mal walked towards the box, Jayne straightening as he passed the big man. Zoe passed him a pry bar. In near silence they gathered and watched as the Captain loosened the lid on the crate, Jayne's right hand sliding down to rest on the butt of his gun, his eyes narrowing and wary. Zoe stepped up to the other side of the box and at a nod from Mal helped lift the lid off. Kaylee craned her neck around Jayne, using the mercenary as cover in case something unpleasant popped out. Inara did not look at the box or try to see its' contents, her eyes were fixed firmly on Malcolm Reynolds' shocked face. The pry bar dropped from suddenly lax fingers, his eyes widening slightly, face going a mite pale. "What the *guai* is this?"

The figure was bent as if the body had been folded into the crate with no thought to the placement of bone and cartilege. There was no padding or packing to comfort the reluctant traveller. No clothes neither. Inara stepped up to stand beside Mal, one hand instinctively clutching at his, fingers interlacing, her ruby mouth opening in surprise. Seeing what he saw and hardly wanting to believe the evidence of her eyes. "Slaves?"

River shook her head as she joined them and calmly peered over the top. "No, but not free either."

Then everybody was talking at once, voices raising in anger, confusion and frustration. Only River was silent, her eyes on the first who would awaken. Her tiny hand reaching out not to touch but to implore. Jayne was more than a mite unsettled at the boy in the box. Looked to be no more than fifteen or sixteen, a little younger than River if he was any judge. It was all kinds of creepifying to realise that if this box held a body the other four likely did the same.

* * * * *

"What did you do?"

Simon's voice was clear and calm. He might have been asking about the weather. He watched his mother gracefully pour the tea. The fine bone china cups and saucers reflecting a gentler age. A lie to help the bitter pill that was civilisation in all its' uncivilised glory go down. "Do, *xin gan*?"

"Don't call me that!" He snapped. Simon closed his eyes a moment, horrified at his sudden lack of control. When he opened them again his mother was smiling at him. Softly, gently, as if she had broken something that was meant to be unbreakable. "You know what I am talking about." He added slowly.

An eyebrow crooked, her hand as steady as a rock as she filled the second cup. She handed it to him. "What would you have me say?"

He wanted to laugh but knew it would come out bitter and rusty as if humour were something alien and a stranger to him now. "The truth?"

She shook her head gently. "Oh Simon, Simon, what a disappointment you are."

Anger flared before he could contain his reaction. A spark of triumph lit her eyes and calmed him in an instant. In the game she was playing the first one to lose control always lost. What Simon needed was not simply to find a way to win but to do damage limitation along the way. He did not want his sister paying the price for his inadequacy. Being apart from her was hard and his nerves were stretched almost to the point of breaking. "Mother, just tell me what you did."

"I did nothing."

"Alright," Simon said carefully, keeping his tone even and agreeable. "What did you get your lackeys to do?"

His choice of words amused her. A long delicate sip of the pale genmaicha. The light tinkle of the cup resting back in its' saucer. Every move planned and executed like a military operation. Tactics. For some reason she reminded him in that moment of Inara Serra. The thought burned him and brought an apology to his lips that he swallowed down with care. The two were nothing alike and yet they both knew the subtle art of manipulation. "I want my daughter back."

The reply almost stopped his heart. River! *Wode ma* would they never be free of their parents' attempts to manipulate them? What in the nine hells did they want? "River isn't your daughter any more than I am your son." For a moment Simon was sorry as the words struck Regan Tam like a blow. "How dare you say that! I brought you into this 'verse and I can take you out of it."

"I have no doubt you can but playing with people's genes then producing a viable zygot isn't the same as having a child naturally."

"You *are* my flesh and blood!"

"And I suppose Father is real too?"

"*Bu qu*. I needed a husband, he was handy and it was a price I could afford."

Simon's eyes widened. "What are you saying?"

She smirked. "Gabriel Tam had the connections, I had the money and position. It seemed like the perfect match."

"Partners in crime." Murmured Simon.

"I did not realise how poor the trade until later. Gabriel had the lowest sperm count imaginable. Looking back it was a blessing. Can you imagine God letting a creature like that multiply?"

Mouth open, Simon simply stared. No words to articulate just how bizarre her words sounded. All those years of marriage, the artful ploy of a devoted wife and mother. "*Wo bu dong*, what could be so important you would give up all hope of happiness to attain it?"

"There is no such thing, Simon, and the sooner you realise it the better. Happiness is an illusion. The reality is that life is harsh, you have to fight and scheme to get what you want, to achieve your goals."

"For what?"

"Satisfaction. Respect. Power."

Simon nodded. "It always comes back to that, doesn't it? Power. The opium of the ego."

"Once you accept the truth, Simon, you will be free. Able to take advantage of the kind of pleasures others can only imagine."

He could not answer her for the anger and disgust forming a sour bile inside his gut. Yet he tried to keep his temper, remain cool and as aloof as he could while inwardly he fretted and tried to plan.

* * * * *

Inara left the cargo bay as Mal reached in to touch the boy's shoulder. A firm but gentle hand to both wake the boy and if needs be calm him. Slowly the figure began to stir. "*Wei* now, *rongyi*. You're safe, *dong ma*? Not nobody gonna hurt you no how."

The boy's head rolled back on his neck so he could look up. The Captain winced and imagined the agony that must be. Hazel eyes blinked back at him. A long measuring look that seemed to go right through his soul to the gorram bulkhead behind him. Was more than a mite unsettling. How the *diyu* was it that the boy was unclothed yet he was the one feeling naked?

"Where am I?"

The voice only quavered a little and Mal thought it might have more to do with the cold than facing a strange group of people after waking in a wooden box. "You're on my boat, Serenity."

A handsome curve of lips tugged into the briefest of smiles then the boy was serious again, his eyes not leaving Mal's. "Who are you?"

Mal was mildly amused at the boy's composure. Not a flicker of fear or self consciousness to show for his rude awakening. "I'm Cap'n of this boat. Name's Malcolm Reynolds. This here's my second, Zoe. The little one is River, the big ugly one is Jayne..."

"*Wei*, I got feelin's!"

The Captain smiled and continued to introduce his crew as Inara returned with a blanket. "The one that can't stop smilin' is my mechanic, Kaylee. Can fix anythin' that's broke even people sometimes." He paused to nod his thanks to Inara as she draped the blanket about the boy's shoulders. "An' this vision of beauty is Inara. Now, seein' as how we're all into the introducin' an' such, what the good gorram do we call you?"

The boy nodded to Inara and began to stand up, Mal and Zoe automatically reaching out to steady him as he did so. Jayne content to stand back and just watch and listen, still waiting to find out whether the boy was friend or foe. Way their luck went he wasn't gonna hold his breath looking for a gorram miracle. The boy let them help him step out of the box, shivering slightly before he could control his natural reaction. Mal frowned, noticing. He shot Zoe a look but could not tell what she was thinking, sure she had noticed it as well.

"My name's Thadius."


"Thadius Clay."

"So, you get called Thadius or Thad or what?"

For some reason the Captain amused him. River watched the byplay with interest and no little satisfaction. In her mind ticking off the minutes until leisurely movement would have to become a scramble but she calculated the time would be well spent.

"What do you wish to call me, Captain?"

"Well now," Mal crossed his arms slowly. "Reckon Thad would be fine enough but prefer the name you call yourself."

That raised surprised eyebrows. It was the most emotion any of the crew had seen upon newcomer's face. The boy nodded and as he answered seemed to blossom from a boy into a man. The change so smooth it kind of stunned everyone. Made Jayne all kinds of nervous, just weren't natural. Inara looked intrigued. Mal was more than a little fascinated.

"If you like Thad, I like Thad."

"I said..."

Before Mal could express what he had meant warm, crystal clear thoughts slid into his mind in a lazy curl that felt like they were laughing at him. Only with amusement not mockery. *I know what you said, Captain, and in front of the others I will always call you Captain. A sign of respect*.

The Captain's eyes went round as saucers. Jayne looked from the boy to Mal in confusion and wondered what the rutting hell was going on.

*When I speak to your thoughts though, you will always be Mal*.

Mal managed a semi coherent grunt before finding his voice. "What if I don't want you to do that?" The others were looking at him kind of strange but the Captain didn't care. Rutting boy was making himself at home in his gorram head and he had no way of articulating just how unsettling that felt. *Fang xin and duibuqi, Captain. I didn't mean any harm or offence. You are the first safe harbour we have found in twelve years. Forgive me for enjoying the moment of first contact*.

The Captain could not speak. Gorrammit, he could hardly think straight yet he knew in his heart, mind and soul that the boy spoke the truth. *Diyu* not the boy nor even the man, but Thad. It was a lot to take in.

"*Zenme hui shir*, sir?"

River was beaming at the boy. The boy was still looking at the Captain. Waiting. Upon Mal's word he and his companions would live or die. "Not rightly sure, Zoe, but seems to me we should get the others out of those gorram boxes. I'm thinkin' we need to get some hot food into them too. Kaylee? Think you can rustle up some soup, *mashang*?"

Happy to be able to help Kaylee nodded, her face a wreath of happy smiles, bouncing on the balls of her feet as she shot a smile of welcome at the boy before hurrying off to the kitchen. Zoe cleared her throat heavily. The boy glanced at her stony expression but was not worried. He knew the chain of command.

"Sir? You losin' what's left of your brain? We don't know him, don't know who else might be in them crates an' we got the Alliance knockin' on our door for more than a polite by-your-leave."

The Captain nodded. "I ain't forgettin', Zoe. Help me open these other crates." He glanced at Jayne. "I'm thinkin' we need to find clothes for these people."

"*Diyu* Mal, my clothes ain't gonna fit. Could put two of him in my shirt."

Thad might be thin as a lath but he was tall for his age, just a few inches shorter than Mal and Jayne. "I'm wonderin' if maybe Simon left any of his things on the ship."

River shook her head. "All gone. But not forever."

"O-kay." Mal took a deep breath. "Reckon they can use a few of my shirts an' such but on'y till we can find somewhere safe to land an' buy new ones."


The Captain reacted to the shock and alarm in Jayne Cobb's voice, his head turning and eyes locking on his mercenary.

"They ain't crew, Mal!"

"No, but I'm thinkin' you are so why we arguin' about this?"

Jayne had all kinds of ideas in mind as to why this was the worst possible thing the Captain could do but the man had turned away from him and was indicating for Zoe to help him with the next crate. Pausing, Mal looked back at Jayne.

"Mayhap you could open some of the crates. Go quicker if we all pitch in."

"Uh uh, that's *fei hua* Cap. You wanna open another can o' worms I can't stop ya but I ain't helpin'."

The Captain's eyes began to narrow but Zoe spoke before angry words started flying. "I wouldn't worry about Jayne, sir, this won't take us but a few moments."

He nodded then made quick work of opening the other four crates. Oddly enough, Thadius did not try to speak to the others or barge in front of the Captain to see that they were alright. He waited and watched, seemingly content to watch his new protector meet the rest of his very unique and deadly family. As one by one the eyes opened, foreign thoughts sifted and settled in the Captain's mind. Thadius was a calm soothing presence ensuring the others did not become abrasive or upset the man's equilibrium, easing the contact until the soft steady hum of their joint consciousness came into sych with the unique idiosynchratic pathways of the Captain's mind. Like warm shadows they settled and merged. Silent. Alert. Home.

* * * * *

CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)

*qu* = yes (lit. go) *hundan* = bastard *duibuqi* = sorry *shenme* = what *fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *guai* = devil/ghost *wei* = hey! *xin gan* = sweetheart *wode ma* = mother of God *bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *wo bu dong* = I don't understand *rongyi* = easy *dong ma* = understand? *zenme hui shir* = what's happening? *fei hua* = nonsense/garbage talk *mashang* = on the double/immediately/at once *diyu* = hell


Monday, February 6, 2006 10:39 PM


Wow, at first I hated Simon but now I'm beginning to change my mind! :O Super chapter!

Tuesday, February 7, 2006 1:40 AM


Hmmmmm. I don't know about these newcomers, it seems too easy.

As always Great new chapter.

Sunday, February 12, 2006 8:50 AM


Yay! New defrostees. That's always fun...
Only a slightly different note:
I'm confused. Who am I allowed to hate? Gabriels' looking more like a victim by the second and I'm even starting to feel sorry for Simon. I think i'll settle for hating Regan... is that allowed or do you have yet more twists?

Thursday, April 14, 2011 3:30 PM


re-reading this series and gotta say the first contact between Mal and the Readers is just so poignant and touching...'safe harbour' indeed


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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.