Chapter 6: Home/Elsewhere

It was the first time he had been allowed in the study since the rules were discussed. Now, Simon stood perfectly still before his father, which in and of itself was amazing, he thought as he ignored the pain going up and down his limbs.

While he knew it wasn't a perfect recovery, the fact that he could still move was reassuring. The side effects from the injected drugs plagued him still, but he was improving his ability to 'cheek' the other meds and hide them elsewhere when he had the chance.

Now he had to answer for a communication his father received from Mr. Camberson about Gael. Simon sighed inwardly. He figured out how Gael kept out of trouble – by proximity, anyone else nearby was the automatic guilty one.

"Are you trying to destroy two families now? Grieving your mother and I wasn't enough?"

Simon didn't answer, remembering Benat's words about silence.

"Answer me!" Gabriel shouted as he backhanded Simon.

Simon noted the blood running down his cheek. That didn't happen before, he thought. He stole a glance at his father's ring hand and noticed he had altered it. Simon stood still as the hand swung again, cutting his cheek in the same spot.

Simon wanted to strike back, wanted to take all the anger he had pent up for the Academy and lash out at the parent who made it possible. Instead, he tightened his grip on his own wrists behind his back. His bones were finally healing, or so he liked to think. The last thing he wanted to do was compound the problem.

With every blow, Simon came up with a reason why he was doing this for River. With every blow, Simon reminded himself of the few positives he had left once, not if, he ever escaped from here. With every blow, he imagined it was more poison being purged from his system.

In the end, Simon lost count of the blows.

Simon Tam never would have thought he would be thankful for restraints, slightly loosened now that his parents were gone. Whatever cocktail his parents mixed up for him had sent his body through numerous spasms. Granted, it didn't do his recovering injuries any favors, but at least he didn't fall out of bed.

Lucinda had returned to caring for him, applying a damp cloth to his forehead before checking the bandage on his cheek. Even as she said nothing, he felt her concern for him. He looked up at her and noticed she was crying. His heart broke. Of anyone in this house he never wanted to cause pain, River foremost, it would be Lucinda. He wanted to wipe away the tears but he couldn't.

She leaned forward, mouthed the word, 'Soon' before she kissed him lightly on the forehead then left.

Benat escorted him out to the garden and motioning him to down in a reclining chair. Simon wanted to walk around at least determine whether a bone probably didn't properly mend. Benat wouldn't hear of it. As soon as Simon was settled in, a blanket tucked securely on either side of him, Benat left him there as Park worked.

Simon tried to call out to the gardener, his friend, but all he managed was a croak. He felt the tears of frustration roll down his face as he shook his head angrily. He was falling apart and there was nothing he could do about it.

Park came over to him, a quick glance into the house to see the goings on, and then back to him. "Soon," he mouthed, gently tapping Simon's cheek. He rose as Benat stepped out to motion the other man to come in.

Simon closed his eyes, enjoying the sounds he had so dearly missed. The only thing to make this moment perfect would have been River's laughter. He strained to hear what the others were saying, but it was as quiet in there as it was out here. He resigned himself to the fatigue that pulled at him.

Simon was glad that his parents had finally left for the Friedlichs' banquet. He tasted the dried blood on the corner of his mouth, his penalty for saying the word, 'please.' Or was that his mother? He couldn't remember. The anger and hostility he felt the last time his father and the doctor were in the room almost made Simon sicker than he felt already. The delirium drowned him to the point that he could almost convince himself it was all a horrible dream.

He gave a weak laugh as he heard voices downstairs. That was a new trick, relocating the voices that he heard, moving them out of his head at least. This one sounded angelic yet authoritative. She was someone of prestige, either of Academy or Guild training. That was something different, he thought.

The Good Samaritan's voice was there, too. He could let this fantasy collide with the dulled reality, he thought, as he lost his grip on both – stillness and darkness enveloping him once again.

Simon felt a warm hand upon his forehead briefly. He felt as if he was flying, but since he had never really flown anywhere, he wasn't sure if that was the right analogy. He wanted to open his eyes and take in his surroundings, but he knew that was an absurd thing to do with a dream.

"Are you sure about that, about Alliance hospitals, I mean?" the angel's voice said.

"He was adamant," answered the Samaritan close by. "Were you able to get the-?"

"Yes, but it was interesting dealing with the parents. I've met some cruel people during my line of work, but those two…" She paused. "It's any wonder the poor boy's driven mad."

"In part," the Samaritan said, closer to Simon now. "You're not dreaming, son. You're safe, just as I promised. Sorry it took longer than I wanted. Had to put some things in order first before… Shh. You just rest. It's going to be a painful recovery time for you."

Simon didn't know how long he slept or where he was. When he did finally open his eyes, he thought for certain that he was hallucinating. For one thing, an angel was in front of him.

"Hello there," the exotic woman said, her ivory face framed by long curly hair, some of it held back by a silk-covered clip. Her smile was warm, just like everything else about her. "It's any wonder why your mother insisted on getting you a Companion for a date," she said. "A handsome, intelligent gentleman like you should have had no problems on your own."

"Crazy," he whispered, not wanting to break the spell. He felt different, but couldn't pinpoint how or why. He rang his fingers through his hair….that was the first difference he noticed.

"I took the liberty of cleaning you up. You look much better with your hair shorter. I didn't want to go too short unless you want me to." She held up a mirror for him to inspect. He felt human again, civilized.

His voice still a whisper, he asked, "Who..?"

"I'm Inara Serra," she said. "Your mother called for a Companion and I answered. Granted, it was interesting trying to find one's date at a dance that one wasn't at." She smiled. "So, let the record reflect that there is at least one dance owed."

Simon smiled weakly. "Where…?"

Inara made a sweeping motion with her arm showcasing her possession. "You're in my shuttle. We're on our way to a nearby planet where we'll rendezvous with the ship I travel with – Serenity."

Simon nodded taking it all in. "The Samaritan…?"

Inara furrowed her brow before she chuckled. "Ah, Shepherd Book. I'll get him for you." She caressed him briefly then left.

A tall man, dark of complexion and a complete head of white hair knelt down beside him "How are you feeling, son?"

"Thank you," Simon said. "For…"

Book waved him off. "You saved me, remember. So, you're feeling fine? Hungry, thirsty?"

Simon thought about that for a moment. "Yes?" he said more as a question.

Book smiled. "Understandable. Lucinda packed a basket."

"Are…?" Simon didn't know what question he wanted to ask or how he'd frame it. If he did make it off planet, what would happen to Lucinda, Park, or even Benat? Suddenly, the mouthed words and their double meanings made sense. He turned his head away, fearing the answer he knew to be true.

"Benat mentioned plans about them relocating to another planet, Simon. They'll be fine."

Simon turned to look at him, wondering if it was possible for shepherds to lie. But, the older man believed it, so Simon did, too. For the first time in a long while, he felt safe. After sharing a small meal with the shepherd, Simon did as best as he could to get to the cockpit.

"Have a seat," Inara said invitingly. "We've actually a couple days' wait until we meet up with the others – assuming nothing's gone wrong with Mal's plan…again."

Simon made a face. "Bad?"

Inara's laugh was musical, loving and….he couldn't find the other word yet. "That's putting it mildly," she said. "That is certainly putting it mildly." She focused on flying the shuttle.

He didn't know what to make of that. Right now, he was in total awe of the wonders he saw outside. "You'd love this, River," he whispered to himself. Unbidden, he felt himself get choked up. He wanted to flee, to not be embarrassed in front of these two. Instead, he felt a firm hand on his shoulder offering comfort. He looked up and saw Book smiling down at him, similar to the smiles Park gave… Simon gave a short, quick nod then returned his attention to the stars, ignoring the tears that streamed down his face.

Simon struggled to hold on to those images as the convulsions wracked him again. First Inara, then Book took turns holding him still as best as they could on the large bed. At some point, Simon wore himself out, certain he fell asleep in Inara's arms. Book wasn't kidding about the painful recovery.

Simon wanted to stay at this oasis a bit longer. He didn't think it was possible to see so much unadulterated beauty outside of Osiris. Then again, he hadn't realized how many dark corners had existed there, either. He insisted on staying outside to see the sunset and did his best to rise early enough to see the sun's return.

The second morning, Simon took a seat, painfully, beside Book, neither man saying anything. The lack of immediate threats, imaginary or otherwise, was comforting to Simon. Here, he was able to think about his sister, clearer than before, and try to return to plotting her rescue. He closed his eyes trying his best to recall what crumbs from the trail he had before. He didn't know how long he basked in the sun before Book led him back inside.

"In time," Book said softly as they joined Inara for morning tea.

"Do you mind a meal on the go?" she asked. "Wash hailed and they should be here soon."

Simon studied the other woman, wondering if she was aware of what she had said. He was thankful to how forgiving both of them were as he chose to drink in their conversations while adding very little to them. He didn't trust himself, not just yet. His body was finally answering some of his simple commands. His ability to speak logically however…

Book seemed to know what Simon wanted or needed without the younger man having to say a word. Inara had the same gift and training. He could only hope that he'd be able to get on with this crew Inara had mentioned. He would find out soon enough.

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