Meaning is Imbued-Simon’s Tale
Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Simon faces the question, "Once you've given up all that you've ever known to protect a loved one, what do you do when that loved one no longer needs you?"


Spoiler warning: I'm operating under the assumption that the refit Serenity undergoes at the end of the BDM takes, at minimum, one month. This story takes place during that layover. This is the sixth story in the Tales series. The rest can be found here: River, Wash, Mal, Kaylee, Zoë, Inara, Jayne, Book Rated PG for some mild language. Thanks go out to my much appreciated beta-ers. Ba Wong=Tyrant Go-se=Crap Mei-mei=Little Sister ***** Simon Tam found himself wandering lost on Persephone. For one thing, he hadn’t the slightest clue as to where he was. He had the two-way he’d taken from Serenity in his pocket, so calling the ship for direction was certainly an option. However, he had chosen to only use it as a last resort. Primarily because neither Jayne nor the captain would ever let him live it down if he did. The streets all began to look the same rather quickly to him. He had managed to stay to the better neighborhoods, but there was still what he considered a huge amount of litter cluttering up the walkways. There were some people moving about between their homes and their workplaces, and Simon was fairly sure that he’d be able to stay lost in the crowd. The Parliamentary Operative had managed to get the bounty removed from his official record, but he was still justifiably cautious. He’d done far too much keeping River from the Alliance’s hands to lower his guard. Simon looked around, trying to get his bearings. He saw a building to his left that he was fairly certain he recognized. Using that landmark to determine where he’d been, he turned in the direction of the docks and walked towards where Serenity should be berthed. He hoped. ***** An hour later, Simon found himself still wandering lost on Persephone. He had apparently found his way to some sort of business district. It was approaching closing time for most businesses and well dressed men and women were starting to exit their offices. With the new arrivals, the crowds were becoming thicker than he’d seen already. He had hoped to find some relative solitude somewhere in the city. He had left the ship alone in the hopes of finding a little time to himself to think, but so far he was still just as lost inside as he was outside. He wasn’t quite sure what his purpose was anymore. A man approached him, wearing what amounted to little better than rags. Simon tensed as he approached, but the man didn’t look dangerous enough to be a bounty hunter, and any type of official law enforcement would have had him bound by law by now. Simon considered bolting, but decided against it. So far he had not apparently been identified as Simon Tam, former fugitive. If he were to make a scene, it could lead to far more attention than he was comfortable with. Still, he began looking for likely hiding places along the street. If the situation became dangerous, all he needed was the time to call the captain, get River hidden, and smash the communicator to prevent any sort of trace. Simon was more than content to be taken into Alliance custody if it meant that his sister would still be free. The man didn’t look much older than Captain Reynolds, and the long coat he wore could have once been brown. By this point, it was so stained all over its surface that Simon was having difficulty determining what its original color might have been. His hear and beard were long and unkempt, and he smelled as though he hadn’t slept indoors in ages. He thrust his left hand out toward Simon. “Hey mister, ya got any spare coin fer a veteran? I fought to keep these worlds independent; I was at New Kashmir.” So, he was a former Browncoat. Simon reached into his pocket to see what he had to offer. The total of his funding came to less than five credits’ worth of coins. He pulled them out and dropped them into the man’s hand. “Here.” When the man smiled, Simon could see that he was missing several teeth, and those that remained were in poor condition. He turned away, and Simon softly muttered, “There, but for the grace of God, goes Malcolm Reynolds. And River, Kaylee, and me.” The captain saw himself as heroically carving his own niche in the ‘verse aboard Serenity. Simon, however, saw Mal as always being one failed criminal act short of becoming that derelict. Simon had come to respect the captain’s courage; after all, Mal had saved both his and River’s life more than once. Mal had come back for them on Jiangyin when he hadn’t had to. They would both have been burned at the stake had the captain not arrived when he did, and Simon was sure that Mal had done it over Jayne’s vehement objection. He wasn’t sure if the captain liked him, and there were days when Simon would gladly hit him squarely in the face, but Mal saw them as part of the crew, and would always protect them. That didn’t change the fact that, if too many criminal ventures turned out poorly, then Serenity and her crew would be adrift in the black. A good portion of the time, luck seemed to be the only thing that had kept that from happening. The crew was constantly being injured in some fashion in the pursuit of illegal gain. Simon himself had been punched (more than once by the captain himself), cut, and shot. Twice. Now, two of their own had been killed. Shepherd Book and Wash had both been extremely kind to him, and more importantly, to River. Simon hadn’t had much use for religion, and he thought that the former pilot was a bit too….outlandish. They were both good, honest men, and that alone was enough for Simon to mourn them. He might not have been as close to them as he was to others aboard Serenity, but he still considered the two friends. Most of his grieving had been done vicariously through Kaylee, both because he had never been the type to openly express a great deal of emotion, and because Kaylee needed him to act as an anchor when she would break down in tears. That was the problem with the life that the captain led, and that Simon had become a part of. Death was always lurking just out of sight for Serenity. And when it came, there wasn’t even time to mourn properly. Serenity would always be facing some new crisis that required the crew’s attention. Then there was always the possibility that they could run out of funds and Mal couldn’t afford to refuel the ship, which meant that they could all wind up dead or stranded, depending on if the ship died enroute or in port. If circumstances were to change quickly, then Serenity and all aboard her would find themselves in the same situation as that derelict man. Or, they would be dead. That was the simple reality of life aboard Serenity. The captain called it freedom, but Simon considered it tempting fate with the lives of seven people. Simon had never fully understood the kind of thinking that pervaded the border and rim planets. He realized that they wanted the right to decide their own destinies. He could relate to that, given his own problems dealing with his father’s need for control over Simon’s life. But still, how could anyone possibly be happy living day by day, unsure if there would be any food tomorrow? To say nothing of the fact that there was an abundance of people who would steal everything a person had. The core planets were based around civilization and the certainty it brought. Crime was at a minimum and the majority of people had secure employment. He had been too young to have an opinion on unification during the war, but after seeing what the Alliance really was through their treatment of his sister, he understood the Independents’ desire to stay free of it. But he still could not fathom the mindset that stated that this kind of daily life was somehow better than that in the core. The derelict had disappeared from sight. Simon returned to his attempt to find his way, in both senses of the word. Over the last few days, he’d been watching River closely. His sister seemed to have made remarkable progress after her time on Miranda. Her delusions had largely stopped, and she was suddenly able to carry on complicated tasks without losing coherence or focus. He was still administering medication on a regular basis, but he had a sneaking suspicion that the meds weren’t as effective as River’s own brain in maintaining her current state of mind. She seemed to be progressing just fine without him. This was all that Simon had ever hoped for his sister. He wanted her to be healthy and happy, and she seemed to be just that aboard Serenity. After all, she had warmed considerably to Kaylee, and the two of them had become fast friends. River was liked aboard ship by nearly everyone, except Jayne—though by Simon’s estimation, Jayne didn’t like anyone except himself. She was able to assist in repairing the ship, and Kaylee had told him that River was able to perform her jobs aboard in near record time. Kaylee was the only one who could work faster, thanks to her nearly abnormal aptitude for machinery. Simon had seen the two of them, giggling as they were putting together some circuit or conduit or other. It always made him smile to see the two most important women in his life talking and laughing. River deserved a family, and Serenity had given it to her. No matter what else might happen, he would always be grateful to Malcolm Reynolds for making that possible. The captain could be a petty little ba wong on occasion, but Simon wouldn’t pretend that he had somehow provided River with the family environment that was largely Mal’s doing. But his sister did still need him. She’d needed him for their entire lives. River’s imagination was always intense, and even though she wouldn’t admit it, she had always relied on Simon to be an anchor of sorts for her. He was the one who would participate in her games when they weren’t too far away from reality, and bring her back to the ‘verse when they were. Even when they were young, she could find herself in trouble. It was Simon’s job to get her out of it, and he was happy to do it. Simon knew River was a special girl, and she loved him. Simon Tam had made it his mission in life to keep his sister from harm. River might be a certified genius and prodigy, but she still needed help sometimes. Of course, like anyone with a gifted sibling, there were times that Simon hadn’t always been willing to give that help. When they were children, he used to resent River’s brilliance. He could still remember, vividly, the moment when his three year old sister had toddled up to his desk and pointed at his writing. “That’s wrong. You spelled it wrong. Mother! Simon doesn’t know how to spell ‘encephalitic!’” He’d wanted to strangle her that day. But, over the years, he’d realized that River was a blessing. It had become impossible to stay angry with his sister after she’d composed that first poem for him. It had made him cry, openly. After he’d managed to free her from the academy, he’d done everything in his power to help her regain her sanity. He’d tried medication after medication, snuck them into a secure Alliance hospital, and spent nights on end without sleep poring over the cortex trying to find some sort of symptomatological precedent. He was happy that River was better. He really was. But, in a way, he was also angry. She had been able to recover her mind without him. She had managed to get the ship to Miranda, and had become largely lucid after her battle with the Reavers. As far as Simon could tell, all of his work with her hadn’t done a thing to restore her sanity. Simon felt his hands clenching into fists. He tamped down the resentment that he was feeling. It wasn’t River’s fault at all that she had been able to get better on her own, any more than it was her fault that the Alliance had altered her to begin with. If there was anyone he should be angry with, it was the academy scientists. The fact remained, however, that he no longer needed to look after his sister so closely. River was capable of looking after herself now. He’d always still be there for her, but he was no longer required to watch over her constantly to ensure her safety. Where did that leave him, then? In a way, Simon envied Captain Reynolds. All that Mal needed in life was knowledge that Serenity was still flying. He’d told Simon that much shortly after they’d met. As long as he was moving through the ‘verse of his own accord, he had purpose. If he could keep Serenity and her crew away from the Alliance and well fed, then that was enough for him. He didn’t seem to think much past the next job the crew would have, but that was good enough for him. As long as there were some prospects, he could carry on. That wasn’t good enough for Simon. His father had once said that being a doctor was more to Simon than simply a career. That was true. Simply “getting by” had never been enough for Simon. He needed more than that if he was going to be happy. He needed meaning. That was what his work in medicine had done for him. He’d been able to do real good on Osiris by saving lives. He’d given that up to rescue River and return her to sanity. He had taken it upon himself to save his sister, and that mission had been his driving force for over a year now. Now he couldn’t even provide her with safe living conditions. That was one of the reasons he disliked living in the black so much. Of course it was a problem to never be sure if he would have a home or meal tomorrow, and the thought that he was always just shy of being killed weighed on his mind. But conditions away from the core made it impossible for him to really feel like he was accomplishing anything. For every wound he treated, another would be waiting the next day, perhaps on the same crewmember. They weren’t doing anything noble, or even noteworthy, they were simply surviving. When he’d been a doctor, he knew that he was doing good by healing the sick and injured. Now, all he could claim to be doing was applying bandages to broken limbs. He’d tried to hide that from himself by saying it was just a means to help River. But apparently, she had been able to help herself well enough without him. Regardless, River was healing rapidly, and it appeared that the Alliance might finally leave them alone. There was, finally, a chance for River to have some peace in her life. It was everything that Simon could have wanted for his sister. By all accounts, he should be happy. So why did he feel like someone had pulled the floor from beneath him? He felt a hand tug at his left sleeve. He looked over, and down, and saw a young boy, maybe ten years old. The boy was dressed well enough to keep out the elements, but his clothes would have appalled Simon’s mother; they were neither fashionable nor very well made. The boy also appeared to be barefoot. “Hey mister, are you lost?” Kaylee once called him “an easy mark.” He didn’t want to take chances on this boy being some sort of scam artist. “Why would you think that?” “Well, you keep looking around like you don’t know where you are. You stop at every intersection before you cross, and a couple of times back there it looked like you were just picking a direction by guessing. Do you need some directions?” Simon didn’t see any harm in just asking. “Alright. I’m trying to find my way to the Eavesdown Docks.” The boy looked shocked. “Mister, you are way off course there. You’re going to need to take a good hour’s walk to get there.” The boy started to list off a set of complicated directions. Simon managed to repeat them back, and once he felt that he had a decent grasp of them, he started off towards the docks. He’d only gone a few paces before he realized that the boy was following him. He stopped and turned to face the boy. “Thank you for your help, but shouldn’t you be getting home now?” “Nah, I’ve got some time to waste. I sell apples on the corner, and I’ve run out of fruit. No one’s expecting me home for awhile.” The boy had kept walking and was standing beside Simon. Simon decided to let him follow for a bit. He was still wary of making a scene, and being too forceful telling the boy to go back would probably do just that. He smiled as convincingly as he could, and gestured for the boy to come along, and they continued towards the docks. “Mister, where are you from? I don’t see clothes like the ones you’re wearing often. Most folks who wear that kind of stuff are important bankers or something. Are you a banker?” “No, I’m a doctor. I’m just stopping over from the core for a few days while my ship is repaired.” “No kidding? I don’t know many doctors, at least not in person. What’s your name, Mister, if you don’t mind my asking?” Simon didn’t want to be rude. Still, he couldn’t bring himself to use his real name. He tried to decide on a name that was the antithesis of everything he was. Something unsophisticated, loud, and crass. “My name’s Jayne.” The boy looked as if he were stifling a laugh. “’Jayne?’ That’s a girl’s name, mister.” “Well, apparently my mother wasn’t all that fond of me. I guess I must have been a terrible pain to her when I was a child.” “You must have been, to get a name like that.” “I’m sure I deserved it. And what’s your name?” “I’m Thomas.” They kept walking, and eventually passed an Alliance poster, recruiting for Federals. Thomas looked up at it with awestruck eyes. “Would you take a look at that?” “The Alliance does always seem to need more marshals to keep the peace, doesn’t it?” Thomas looked him in the eye. “You bet they do. And I hope that I get to be one of them someday!” Simon was taken aback. He’d seen firsthand just what Alliance Federals were capable of, and he had a difficult time picturing a helpful boy like Thomas in that light. The best response he could come up with was, “Really?” “Oh, yeah! I want to go out into the black and defend the Alliance!” Simon didn’t want to make himself sound like a Browncoat supporter, so he decided to follow along. “There are a lot of people out there who are trying to harm the Alliance.” “Yep. Things aren’t so bad here, but out on the rim worlds, there are all kinds of things going on that the Alliance needs to take care of. I’ve heard about drugs and murders all over the rim. It’s a pit, and the Alliance is going to need every man it can get to clean that mess up.” Simon wished that he had some kind of retort to that. The problem was that, a few years ago, he probably would have said much the same thing. “They do need some civilizing on the rim, I guess.” “Uh-huh. And I’m going to be the guy to help do it. It’s the only way to keep my family safe from all of the problems in the ‘verse. After all, if we stop those bad guys out on the rim, they won’t ever get a chance to come here!” “I don’t think that those people are going to be coming here, though, Thomas.” Thomas looked at him in disbelief. “You don’t ever read the cortex, do you Jayne? The crime groups are spreading in all the time. If we don’t take care of them, they could be here soon!” Simon didn’t have anything to say to that either. He’d spent the last year pressed between the Alliance as it spread out and the Reavers as they spread in. He couldn’t expect this child to have any idea of what the ‘verse really looked like. He probably hadn’t ever left Persephone. If Simon hadn’t been gifted with prodigious intelligence, Thomas might well have been him. And he would probably be actively supporting the boy if River hadn’t been taken to the academy. Alliance propaganda got a hold on people very early it seemed, and it had certainly done its work well on Thomas. Thomas pulled a pocket watch from his pants pocket. “Oh go-se, I’m going to be late. I better get going, Jayne. Do you think that you can make it to your ship from here?” “Yes, I think I can find it. Thank you, Thomas. Good luck with your plans on getting into the Federals.” Thomas smiled at him, waved, and turned back the way they’d come. Simon turned and continued on to the docks. Simon had meant what he’d said about Thomas having good luck. He hoped that the boy wouldn’t pass the qualifying exam. He wished that there was some way he could have talked Thomas out of his scheme to be a Federal. The problem was that his argument would have hinged on exclaiming to everyone on the street that his sister was a renegade assassin programmed by Alliance scientists in a secret academy. Thomas would probably have turned him in to the Alliance in a matter of minutes. Thomas thought that the Alliance was a symbol of all that was right with humanity, and nothing Simon could say would change that opinion. The boy would either grow up into a productive citizen like Simon’s father, or he’d become the type of law enforcement officer that Captain Reynolds shot dead on a semi-regular basis. And in either case, he’d be happy for the chance to serve the Alliance. Simon passed several more recruiting posters, all calling for much needed young people to help keep the ‘verse safe with bright, friendly looking colors. That was what made the Alliance insidious. It had even managed to fool Simon, before he’d learned better. Unless you looked under the surface, it seemed like a benevolent, beneficial government for all under it. Inara had called the Operative of the Parliament extremely dangerous because he believed wholeheartedly in what he was doing. Thomas was the same way, and so were most of the people in the Alliance. Simon knew better than most on Serenity that the average Federal was sure he or she was fighting for civilization in a wild ‘verse. That was how the average Alliance citizen saw the Federals. They never dreamed what was going on unseen, and they wouldn’t believe it if they were told. Those were the kind of people who wanted to see men like Mal hunted down and bound by law. That left Simon, and River, in the middle of the two. He would never be able to bring River back into “civilized” society again. There would always be a chance that someone would decide she was still an asset to the Alliance. That and Simon’s skin crawled at the thought of being surrounded by the upper crust of Alliance society again. Those were the people who supported what had been done to his sister, knowingly or not. Regardless, he’d never work as a surgeon again. Still, he didn’t think he’d ever really fit in on the rim either. He needed to do something significant in order to feel worthwhile. He couldn’t do that eking out an existence on some ranch somewhere. Living on the rim wouldn’t be any better than living in the core. There would still be hazards, and he still wouldn’t be able to do the work he loved doing. Patching up flesh wounds for farmers wasn’t the kind of important medicine that he was trained for. It would be a waste of his gifts. He needed to matter in order to have purpose. The docks had come into view by this point. Inara, working on restoring Serenity’s old paint scheme, was the first to see him, and offered him a huge wave. Her smile was, as always, stunning. Simon liked the companion. She had always been more than willing to listen to him when he needed to talk, and had always helped when he needed her as a makeshift nurse. She’d been one of the few members of the crew that he hadn’t had to treat for a serious injury. Mal was nearby and offered him a curt nod. It wasn’t much, but it was almost compassion from the captain. Kaylee was on the bridge, and she caught sight of him shortly after that. He could tell she was trying to shout his name through the airtight seal, and he smiled. She must have seen it and realized her mistake, because she looked a little bashful before leaning forward to kiss the foreword window. She grinned at him as she wiped the mark away. River was standing at one of the landing gears, trying to reattach a new module. She seemed happy, just being able to work on the ship. Simon hadn’t noticed right away, but being near Serenity had made him feel calmer. The ship had come to be like a home to him. Kaylee was always calling the crew family. River certainly seemed to consider them as such, especially since she’d not been able to really forgive mother and father for not coming to get her from the academy. He liked these people, and they had all been willing to risk their safety for River and him. When Mal could have turned them in, and would probably have been smarter to do so, he never did. Occasional tyrant or no, he was a good man, deep down. Very, very deep down. In a lot of ways, Mal and his crew had been looking out for both of the Tams. They had very little knowledge of how to live outside the core. If it hadn’t been for this crew, they might not have made it at all. Simon had been so tied up with looking after River that he hadn’t really noticed. Now they could both do something to give back to their new family. River was so talented in so many areas; she would surely find some way to be useful to the crew. Finding that use was up to her to do. Simon was luckier. He knew exactly what he had to do. He had just seen another fine example of the kind of people in the government that they were avoiding, and any idiot could see the kinds of dangers that a life of crime entailed. Men like Niska were all over the ‘verse, waiting for a chance to strike at them. Simon would have to be there to deny death whomever it was after. He owed them that. It was the decent thing to do. He was in their debt, and he would pay it back by serving the crew as best he could. He might not quite belong, but he still considered most of those aboard his friends, the kinds of friends that would die for each other. It wasn’t surgery in the capitol city on Osiris, but it was still good work. He could help those who had helped him, and that would be enough for now. River looked up from her work and saw him. She dropped her tool and waved. “Welcome home!” River looked absolutely thrilled to see him. In all honesty, Simon was just as thrilled to see her. “What, did you miss your big brother?” River put on her best you-are-such-a-boob look and a mischievous glint came into her eyes. “Yes, especially when he was obviously lost beyond hope of recovery in the city. Why didn’t you just call and ask directions? For all we knew, you could have been eaten by some horrible creature from the sewage system. Honestly, sometimes I don’t know why I bother with you.” Simon grinned as he let a little of River’s glint into his own eyes. “Okay brat, that does it!” River shrieked and ran up the cargo ramp. Simon tore after her at a full sprint. She might be smarter and more graceful, but he had always been faster than she was. Just as she opened the door to their cabin, Simon tackled her and they both landed on his bunk. He rolled over and pinned her, and then began to tickle. They had a rule about this sort of thing. No quarter would be asked for, and no quarter would be given. After a few minutes, they were both laughing hysterically. Simon let River go and stood up. She smiled up at him. “You know, when we were younger, you were faster. You’re starting to get old, Simon.” “You just remember mei-mei; ‘older’ just means that I’ve accumulated more dirty tricks.” He reached down and gave his sister a hug. “I love you, River.” “I love you too. But you’re still a dummy.” He pinched her arm and turned towards the door. “It’s about dinnertime, isn’t it? We should probably get to the galley before Jayne devours everything.” “Family dinners are important.” Simon found that he couldn’t agree more.


Tuesday, February 21, 2006 5:44 PM


This is a fantastic look at Simon! And so true, too. He would be too proud to admit needing help, and worried about what he would do with his life now that River is better.

You have a marvelous grasp on all the characters! I look forward to reading your future endeavors.

"I love my captain."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006 5:59 PM


This is a great perspective on Simon and his thought process especially in light of the events of the BDM. I also love his interaction with River. As an only child, I am a sucker for that sibling stuff. Maybe this could be a series with some other points of view thrown in for good measure? Just a thought ...

Wednesday, February 22, 2006 1:09 AM


Great perspective on Simon's thoughts. I haven't read your others, but will now.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006 1:24 AM


I loved Simon thinking everything through and realising that his future was on Serenity and with a crew that were as good as family. Having him appreciate what he has got instead of lamenting what he has lost or can't have is cathartic and nice to see that shown here. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, February 24, 2006 1:40 PM


Beautifully written! I too will go read your others!

Sunday, March 26, 2006 3:46 AM


aww, simon and river are great, aren't they? i loved simon's little introspective musings, very in character and brilliantly written.



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