In The Ether 3: Uncomfortableness
Sunday, March 26, 2006

Everyone gets a mite tetchy with the way things are going. Going south, that is.


A/N: Don't own 'em.

Again with the slow pacing, but I had to set up the cliffhanger. We'll get to a gunfight eventually.

To all those worried that the Jaylee will come crawling out of the night and devour you like a cheap margarita during happy hour: seriously now. Go back through all my fics and take at look. It's not like it's subtle where my affections lie, and I ain't talking about the dinos. I just re-watched my DVDs when I had some people visiting, and I happened to notice (again) that Jayne and Kaylee do seem to be really good friends, and I decided to work that in some more, in the brother-sister-get-on-your-nerves way. Don't panic. I may torture Simon a bit (because it's so much fun!), but when it comes down to it, he always gets his snugglebunny. All you Jaylee fans: sorry! But I hope you stay for the Wash humor.

And I caved to the pressure: the dinos make a small appearance. Maybe I'll just start each chapter with a Wash comedy bit?


"Ah! Emily! Surely you know that I find you irresistable!" Monroe sidled up to Julia, teeth gleaming and a predator's look in his eye.

"Yes, Robert. And you are quite handsome and dashing as well. But..."

"Yes, my dear Emily?" Monroe stepped back, worry and confusion creasing his manly brow.

"There's...I've met someone." Julia hid her face, ashamed of her actions, but unwilling to apologize for her heart.

"No! It cannot be! Who? I must know his name!"

"It is I! Let her go like an honorable lizard, Robert! She has made her feelings quite clear!" Steve revealed himself from his hiding place behind the Engine Coolant Monitor.

"Curses! I knew you would stab me in the back some day, Steve - I mean Hoban! Shall we duel for the lady's affections, as I was taught on my stuffy home world?" Monroe began to pace off the distance, preparing for an epic battle for the love of his woman.

"No, Doctor! We shall not bloody ourselves as animals would! We will accept the lady's decision!" Steve turned to Julia. "Come, my beloved! We shall fly to the nearest star, and rule over many lands! Together, of course, for we will be betrothed on a community property planet, as is fitting!"

"Oh, Hoban! You're my hero!" Julia batted her lashes at Steve while making a valiant effort not to swoon.

"Indeed I am, Emily! I am far superior to stuffy doctors!"

"Damn right." Wash looked up from his latest dino puppetry, contemplating his script. He finally looked back down, frowning. "You know something, guys? I think I might have some issues with Simon borrowing my wife. What if he's getting grabby with her right now?"

Wisely, the dinos said nothing.


"I think Wash is really worried about Zoe this time. He's locked himself on the bridge and won't come out." Inara and Kaylee sat up on the catwalk, sipping tea and watching as Mal and Jayne prepped the mule and strapped on even more guns than usual. Inara was trying any subject she could think of to bring up, as Kaylee had seemed somewhat morose ever since Simon left the ship arm-in-arm with Zoe. "I even overheard him talking to himself. Who's Monroe, anyway? Is this some crew-only nickname for Mal I'm not aware of?"

"Dunno, but I gotta say I ain't too thrilled 'bout this whole thing neither, 'Nara. Seemed too fast an' easy. I keep waitin' for the other shoe to drop." Kaylee considered. "You think Cap'n'll mind if we call him Monroe from now on?"

"Not if we only do it behind his back. As for the plan, it did go from 'River has an idea' to 'Simon and Zoe walk into the lion's den' rather quickly, didn't it."

"Yeah. An' Simon's not exactly the best when it comes to the actin'. Shoulda seen him on Canton. Can't lie to save his life." Kaylee leaned back on her hands and blew out a huge breath. "Not too keen on him an' Zoe gettin' shot. I kinda like havin' him around."

Inara chuckled. "I bet you do. Still, Zoe will make sure he survives, I think." She gestured to the two men below. "And if not, our stalwart captain seems primed to go get them. I believe he's actually hoping for a problem so he has an excuse to storm the place."

"You ladies talkin' 'bout me up there?" Mal stuck his hands on his hips, doing his level best to look irritated as he stared up at them. "Not that it's surprisin'. I tend to attract attention from the fairer sex. Well, when I ain't dressin' like 'em."

"Huh. Guess that ain't that often, then," Jayne grunted as he tied yet another box of ammunition to the back of the mule, before lazily ducking Mal's half-hearted punch.

"Don't worry. Nothing to concern yourself with," Inara yelled down. "Monroe," she added softly, only for Kaylee to hear. Kaylee gave her a sly grin.

"I know they'll be back an' right as rain. It's Simon's plan, an' he's all manner of clever, an' Zoe's good at protectin' folk. Guess I'm just outta sorts that when Simon needed a lady friend, he didn't ask me. I coulda been there to help him, with the danger an' narrow escapes, gettin' all close while hidin' in a dark room an' avoidin' the Feds. You know. Like the vids."

"I see. I get the feeling this isn't the first time the thought has occurred to you."

"Nope. But looks like it ain't occurred to him at all."

"Well, to be fair to him, River picked Zoe to go, and was pretty adamant about it. And you did help him, albeit not in the romantic action way. The cover story you gave him was quite impressive."

Kaylee seemed to brighten a bit at this. "That's true. I worked hard for those."

"So I heard." Inara turned and regarded Kaylee appraisingly. "Did you really flash Wash's friend to get him better credentials?"

"Aw, only a little."

"You hussy."

Kaylee giggled. "Well, he got the bad end of the deal. Wasn't even wearin' my cute under things. I been savin' those for someone special."

"Oh. I couldn't possibly guess who that might be."

Kaylee rolled her eyes and sighed wistfully. "Wonder if Simon noticed the fun stuff I left in his profile?"


"So, apparently I have - and I quote - 'a weakness for brunettes that are good with their hands.'"

"Huh. Mine says I got a thing for pale men with Hawaiian shirts." Zoe looked up at Simon and raised an amused eyebrow. "They sure ain't subtle, are they? Maybe next time we don't let the smartass pilot and love-struck mechanic build the identities."

"Love struck?"

"You mean you didn't get the hint? Remind me to knock you around some when we get back."

"Fine, but you'll have to get in line behind Jayne and the Captain." Simon turned the corner and stopped. Up ahead was the convention hall, where a large marquee welcomed 'The Phrenologist Society Annual Banquet'. He would have found the misdirection funny - if he didn't know exactly what these people were actually doing to try and divine what was in someone's head. Above that, the twin glass spires marking the building - the Verbena City convention center was widely considered one of the premier meeting locations on the 'verse - reached into the air, a testament to both engineering and wasteful government spending on Core worlds. All in all, things on the Core were just as Simon remembered them. "There it is. If you have any doubts, now's the time to say so."

Zoe just shook her head. "Nope. We need the cargo - nice of you to provide some direction on that, by the way - and your sister needs you, and you need me. Not one to let my crew down, Simon."

The familiar use of his name - rather than the usual 'Doctor' - was not lost on Simon. But still, they had to stay in character. "Robert."

"I know. Wasn't a mistake."

Simon inclined his head. "Then away we go. We'll keep things low profile. Just follow my lead."

"No arguments there."

Zoe put her arm in Simon's and allowed him to lead her to the building while keeping a feel for the mood of the crowd, but mostly keeping her attention on the doctor. She was counting on a fact she had learned in the war: the troops took their morale from their leader. When he was positive and optimistic, the troops performed at their peak, almost borrowing the mood of their commander to augment their own. Serenity was a fine example of this phenomenon: the tenor of the day was often set by what side of the bed Mal woke up on that morning.

And now, Simon was leading, confidently striding up the steps to the front door. She was going to borrow as much of his confidence as she could manage. So Zoe pasted on a demure and friendly smile - and tried not to have a heart attack - as he steered her directly for the highest ranking official he could see.

"Ambassador! I wasn't aware that you'd be here. We met last year, at the Anderson's brunch." The Ambassador turned to meet them as Simon stuck out his hand, giving the man a friendly grin as he shook firmly. "Dr. Livingston. And yes, you may presume." Simon's grin blossomed into a wry smile at his own bad joke.

"Ah, uh....yes. Good to see you again!" The Ambassador covered his confusion poorly, brow furrowing.

"Likewise. Have you met my lovely wife, Emily? We're just in from a vacation to the Rim - you wouldn't believe the accommodations on the ship we took - and haven't been to any major functions of late. I fear I'm frightfully late in making the introductions."

"A pleasure, my dear." Zoe held out her hand, and tried very hard not to laugh when the man bowed his head to kiss it, and then tried even harder not to gag at his breath when it became clear the Ambassador had obviously downed a fifth of bourbon at some point during the evening. She took back her hand as quickly as etiquette allowed.

"Well, we'll see you inside. I hear this new research is very exciting!" With a small bow, Simon led Zoe away, aiming for a relatively unoccupied corner. He kept his demeanor calm and easy, nodding politely to anyone he passed.

"So, Robert," Zoe whispered, once they were out of earshot, "I thought we were playing this one 'low profile'. 'Bout gave me a gorram stroke, walking up to that fancy gent."

"We are. The easiest way not to be noticed is to look like you're sucking up to the most powerful person you can find. Since everyone else does the same thing, you blend right in."

"And the Anderson's brunch?"

"Oh, there's always someone named Anderson, and there's always a brunch. Besides, the Ambassador is so pickled I doubt the he can remember what he had for breakfast, much less a lowly doctor he might have met a year ago."

"He's attending a medical lecture totally plastered? Thought this was a private company thing, not a shindig. You're not going to run into some folks you know, are you?"

"Not likely. It is a lecture, but also a reception to woo potential investors with their cutting-edge research. They have some very close government ties and some pretty wealthy backers. Half the people here show up to be seen, not for the content. That fact that we're here to learn something actually makes us somewhat unique." Simon chuckled. "Why? Is all this making you nervous?"

"I'm just dandy, Doc, but you pull something like that again, I'll knock you around and won't even wait 'til we're back on the ship."

"Duly noted." Simon turned them towards the main hall and took a deep breath. "OK. This is it. We need to be in there. To get through the door, they're going to scan our idents and check for weapons." Simon paused. "You didn't bring any weapons, did you?"

"And where do you think I'm going to keep a gun in this thing?"

"Just checking. Now, if our idents are rejected, there won't be any alarms, so keep on the lookout for any odd movements from the police. If that happens, we - "

"If that happens, we run like hell and you follow my lead, dong ma?"

"That was pretty much my plan, yes."

Zoe nodded slightly and plastered her fake smile on again as they approached the door to the lecture hall. She said nothing as Simon handed over their ident cards, and waited tensely while they were checked, hoping that Wash knew what he was doing. She started a bit when the scanner beeped, relaxed slightly when the man at the door waved them through, and finally shook her head when Simon led her towards their seats, dodging through the crowd at the back of the foyer. They actually made it this far with no snags? "So, Robert, when did we become a Cortex flick? It never goes so smooth in real - "

And then Simon was on her. He yanked her into the corner of a room, backing her into a wall and crushing her into an embrace, his hands coming around in a quite intimate fashion. Zoe's own hand reacted without command, quickly coming up and putting two fingers directly below Simon's throat and pressing lightly. "Doctor," she told him quietly, fake smile never wavering, "I know we're supposed to be all friendly tonight, but if you don't remove your hands from my ass I will rip off your genitals and beat you to death with them. And then I'll tell Kaylee and the captain so they can have a go at your corpse."

"Sorry, Emily, but we have a problem," he murmured into her hair, where he mimed kissing her braids passionately. "Look over my left shoulder. Do you see the man and woman sitting at the right edge of the dais?"

Zoe managed to stop herself from continuing to menace Simon, casting a quick glance at the stage. "Yes. Older gent, and she 'pears to be his wife, way they're whispering." Zoe's eyes narrowed. "Huh. He looks familiar. Don't know from where, though. They're doctors?"

"No, they decidedly are not. Which means that to be up there, they must be heavy investors into this little research project."

"Then who - "

He's a lawyer. She doesn't work. And you don't know him directly, but it'd be quite obvious who he is were I to stand next to him." Simon's voice was low and tight as he vacillated between panic and anger. "Emily Livingston, meet Gabriel and Regan Tam. My parents."


Sunday, March 26, 2006 8:40 PM


More more more!!

Sunday, March 26, 2006 8:50 PM


Huh... I wonder how they're gonna get out of this one... Give me more!

Sunday, March 26, 2006 8:56 PM


>Don't panic. I may torture Simon a bit (because it's so much fun!), but when it comes down to it, he always gets his snugglebunny

I wuvs you :)

Zoe's threat was off his genitals was hysterical....Kaylee will need those in the future....

And you brought the parents into the story! Ohhh! My only complaint...the chapter was too short!

Sunday, March 26, 2006 9:24 PM


Oh....shit....does this mean that the Tams were in on the project that played connec-the-dots with River's neurons while she was at the Academy?

Excellent fic so far...can't wait for the rest:)


Sunday, March 26, 2006 9:25 PM


They are so busted!!! I am glad the parents are in this one too! Can't wait for the next post, nice little cliffhanger to leave us on!

Sunday, March 26, 2006 9:29 PM


Would it surprise anyone to know I *like* margaritas in happy hour?

This part was very well done. Your Zoe continues to be spot on. Really, she does.

Monday, March 27, 2006 3:45 AM


Love it so far... I agree. More, More!

Monday, March 27, 2006 5:04 AM


Love Wash playing with his dinos! And Inara overhearing him and thinking Monroe=Mal! LOL The Mal-Jayne intereaction was funny as well.

Your Zoe is spot on, and Simon would be much more confident in his natural environment than he is on Serenity. Well done!

And the twist at the end! I love it.

Guess what I'm trying to say is that I love this story! *g* Hope to see more soon!

"I love my captain."

Monday, March 27, 2006 9:48 AM


That was great! Awesome cliffhanger; I as it seems everyone else am eagerly awaiting the next installment.

Monday, March 27, 2006 1:32 PM


I'll agree with BEB and say "oh shit!" Always knew those parents were involved in a sinister way!

Thanks for the dinos! Also, I loved Zoe's reaction when Simon grabs her! Exactly how she would react, calm and cool, but ready to kill at a moment's notice.

Can't wait for more! Oh yeah, and you were offering margaritas in place of the Jaylee right? First day back after spring break, I could sure use one!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 1:51 AM


Excellently done!


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In The Ether 13: Secret Agent Man
Simon takes a turn at super spy as the crew tracks him down.

In The Ether 12: Motivations
A brief history of Simon Tam

In The Ether 11: Telling
Simon and Regan tell each other off, Jayne tells Kaylee a little story, and Wash tells everybody about basic chemistry. Bonus: Jayne actually quotes Shakespeare! Kind of.

In The Ether 10: Technical Difficulties
Jayne goes trophy hunting, Kaylee and Wash attempt to explain technical things to Mal, and eventually everyone realizes that they left something at the last stop.

Generic S/K Plot Outline
Inspired by a story posted at, I present the outline of pretty much every S/K fic out there (including my own, so no one take it personal-like).

Dino Tales: Loss
The dino army mourns the loss of one of their own.

The Old Switcheroo
Jayne and Simon wake up with unique perspectives on life.

In The Ether 9: Minor Complications
Jake and Jasper check out Serenity, River secures some backup, Jayne discovers his protective side, Simon gets physical, and Kaylee meets an old flame.

In The Ether 8: Lady's Choice
Zoe fixes the plan. Kaylee shows Simon how to turn up the heat.

In The Ether 7: Shore Leave
Mal gives everyone a day on Belix to calm the nerves. Wash gets suspicious. A plan is hatched.