By Angelfirenze

Disclaimer: If they were mine, a certain part of the Big Damned Movie would have ended with a spectacularly showy landing on Mr. Universe's hangar. Alas...

Summary: You'll allow us. We won't tell you how to shut us out. You've always wanted us...what's so different now...

Timeline: About five years after said BDM, to give everyone room to grow and whatnot.

Rated T: for angst and serious talk but no bad language that I can see.

Pairings: Established Simon/Kaylee, River/Jayne, very slightly implied Zoe/Wash, etc. Ordinarily, River/Jayne makes my head spin unpleasantly, but it's perfect for this story and, anyway, leave it to writing about him being how I ended up tolerating Jayne in the end...*patently amazed*

Notes: Right, this was originally meant to be a oner, but obviously it's just not finished. We all know what happened when they lost. Let's see what happened if they eventually won...

Gabriel never looked at the vidscreens anymore. He was determined to believe that the less attention he paid the whole matter, the better odds that the last five years had never happened.

You'll turn around and there she'll be...

Hadn't those been Regan's words to...Gabriel paused to pinch his nose, uncomfortably steeling himself against the chill he remained unused to even months after the heat generators had begun to break down. It had taken them weeks to learn how to start fires, but none knew how to carry one comfortably with them.

Gabriel paused and forced himself to stand, eyes closed, as many other members of the Alliance brushed angrily past him. He wanted to tell them all to wait, to stop and think. Then he laughed piteously to himself. How dare he, fool he, lecture anyone else on their rushing about?

Simon had known -- had known they were throwing River to unknown wolves but, like little children content in the knowledge that they were being watched over, they deluded themselves, he and Regan, into thinking their government with so many like-minded bodies -- all surely united in the benevolent stewardship of everyone around them -- could never mean their little girl harm.

Gabriel shuddered, then, again forcing back the long-held sob that started to gather the moment he'd recognized what this was. Simon had even made a joke by sending it to him during a meeting.

He entertained, momentarily, the memory of River's invitation to attend the Academy. Her excitement, such refreshment to the boredom that had overtaken her at reaching the pinnacle of everything before.

She'd wanted to learn but, more, to do, to see.

Gabriel dismissed that atrocious line of non-reasoning for the fallacy it was. In no way could River actually be blamed on the obliviousness that was so of use to them. The Alliance had seen an opportunity and simply utilized it -- it had been Gabriel and his blindness that allowed them to do so. Still, he entertained the comforting excuse that it had been what River had wanted. That was fine. A child's exuberance at the worlds around her is never anything to be squashed.

But Simon had gotten the letters -- and even those had come months later than what was truly decent -- had read the disconnect between his sister and this blithering dervish, this mad little...

No, Gabriel shook his head more forcefully and concentrated on putting one foot ahead of the other. River would not, could not be blamed in any way. Neither of them still dared to speak of their children, now out of respect and shame, reverence for the courage he couldn't understand where they'd come by.

Gabriel turned off the crumbling remains of the paved roads in what used to be the heart of the infrastructure. He'd promised Simon he'd read the wave -- the first they'd gotten in more than six years -- in private, not even at home where Alliance beacons detailed their every move. Once upon a time, that had been a comfort but not anymore.

You'll allow us. We won't tell you how to shut us out. You've always wanted us...what's so different now...

Gabriel began to climb the hill he was coming to, marveling with horror even now how the entire area had once been rife with -- albeit artificial -- life. He has never actually seen grass in his lifetime, but he doesn't think the fine rubble left now should count as a replacement.

Settling heavily in his robes, Gabriel removed his pocket watch and glanced at it before scoffing at himself. The face was scratched and cracked, having fallen in some mishap, and where Gabriel would have once gotten it repaired, there is now nowhere to take it to, as half the shops -- including the watchmaker -- are shuttered. He remembers a time when he looked down upon the outer planets, wondered why they clung to such an obviously backward way of life, things falling apart around them and still they stayed, but wasn't that what they did now? They were no better off than those he'd so disdained, but here they stayed because...well, because.

Delicious irony, Simon might have called it.

The capture brightened, throwing a strange glitter across the sterile, yet barren landscape around him and Gabriel was immediately overwhelmed by the sight of Simon clad in a blue overcoat and cap strangely reminiscent of the ancient captures of wars fought centuries before any of them had been born, his normally clean-shaven cheeks bearded but a gentle, relieved smile on his face.

Hi, Dad, the cheerful voice called out, reverberating slightly in the isolation. Before you ask, we're here on Persephone. I though - I thought -- And here the familiar, stumblingly shy Simon peeks out as he leans down and scratches the side of his head as a tiny fuzzy-blonde haired girl runs past him, followed by line of several others of similar heights and in varying shades.

The last one, the smallest (this one a dark-haired boy) stops to cling to Simon's pant leg before asking 'Uncle Simon' what he's doing and it's all Gabriel can do not to let whatever sound is desperate to escape any mercy.

I'm sending a wave to my and your mother's father, Simon says patiently, his eyes averted to...Gabriel's grandson now beneath his line of sight. That's part of the reason we came to Persephone in the first place, remember?

You said Daddy wanted to kick Mr. Badger in his male parts for cheating them a long, long time off but that Uncle Mal won't let him because we gon' have to get paid and ain't fussed as to how to go about doin' it, an unseen, terribly versed little boy's voice sounds and Simon glances downward again, his hand coming to ruffle the child's hair.

I did, Simon agrees as the capture wavers momentarily, his voice not straying from the pleasant tone, his eyes now taking on something of visible affection rather than the artificial pleasantry Gabriel had been subject to. I've also asked your pyen juh duh niou fun* of a father to use something approaching proper English or, at least, Mandarin when speaking to you, but no.

No, the little voice of his grandson echoes and Simon actually laughs then, as though he'd expected nothing of the sort.

Suddenly, though Simon bends out of frame and picks the child up to face Gabriel, who suddenly finds he cannot breathe. The boy in his son's arms has his daughter's eyes, but his dark hair is not precisely the right shade. He's stocky and scowls in a way River never did.

Say hello to your grandpa, Raven Hoban Cobb, Simon encourages and the boy says, Hello to your grandfather, Raven Hoban Cobb very precisely but does not look around at the screen. He only has eyes for Simon who patiently allows Raven to push his hands into Simon's beard and press his face as closely as he can before backing away and jumping down to run off.

"I've missed a lot", Gabriel pauses the wave as he says to himself, aware his voice is quite congested as he brushes away tears.

You have, he imagines Simon will say quite carelessly, his newly (or not) ribald nature showing through slightly in well-earned ridicule. We grew up. Now they're doing it, too. I hear it's this newfangled thing called 'life' or something...

Gabriel cannot laugh at the joke and this false Simon doesn't expect him to. Your mother and I... he starts before remembering again that he's talking to a pre-ordained conversation, one-sided, made for him and without his input or expectation of such.

He's earned it, he reminds himself hatefully as he restarts the screen and begins to listen again to what Simon truly says.

I wasn't entirely sure the captain -- ah, that's Captain Malcolm Reynolds -- I could explain him to you, but River would do a far better job and, anyway, it took us forever to get on even footing so, really, I don't want to try. Anyway. I wasn't certain the captain would make a return trip to Persephone considering we've only just taken a job there a month ago and it puts us a week off schedule for our shortcut to avoid Jianying -- oh, right -- I should probably tell you about this time on Jiangyin when River and I were kidnapped by snatchers --

Gabriel's heart jumps into his throat, but he manages not to drop the capture as Simon's face and voice finally take on a hardened tone. But that might imply that you cared and if there's anything I found out when trying to rescue the only family I had, it was that your silly fantasies of status meant more to you than either of us, dedicated source boxes and medacad placements, be damned.

Simon's face is finally hardened now, his now unfamiliar eyes watching something in the distance before he lifts the capture to obscure the entire noisy background. "By the time you and Mother would have come around, River would have been worse than dead. You've seen the evidence now -- I should know, she and I helped put it all out there. No more hiding, Dad. No more assuming, wishing, hoping, crossing fingers. They don't care what's best for you or me or anyone else and they never did."

Simon pulls the capture away from his face and sighs. "I tried to convince you I wasn't trying to hurt you or any of our family, but you wouldn't let me. But it's alright, now, Dad."

Then he smiles again and turns the capture so it lands on a startlingly grown-up River twirling a light brown boy in an over-sized Hawaiian shirt around, both of them barefoot.

"I've got all the family I need."