Lost in the Background - Guilt and Understanding
Monday, November 12, 2007

Second in a set of five oneshots. Simon talks to Kaylee when she wakes up after being shot by Dobson.


As far as Simon was concerned, today was not his best day. Though he was perhaps grateful to be still alive, he was by no means certain how long that was going to last. That, combined with his lack of knowledge on how River would recover from the shock of being woken too early, and the captain’s antagonism, made what little grounds he had made with the rest of the crew seem as naught. For some reason the captain was blaming him for smuggling dangerous and criminal business on his ship, while doing the same deed himself. Simon was not sure if he wanted to think too hard about the reasoning that passed for logic with this crew who held his life in their hands—but perhaps if he stuck close to the Shepherd and Inara, they might keep a level of civilized restraint to the discussion of his and River’s lives.

Rubbing his jaw painfully, Simon went to the infirmary. He had been seething at Mal’s callous response to his situation (though his logic could not entirely blame the captain), but receiving a strong right hook had calmed those feelings down quite a bit. Used to a society where emotions never grew that strong, Simon would have to learn to control this anger he had not fully understood that he had, if not for his jaw’s sake, then for River’s.

As he took a pill to prevent bruising, Simon looked over River again. She looked at peace, but he knew it was just an illusion caused by the sedative. Either that, or—gripped with a sudden fear Simon moved over and put two fingers on her neck to check for a pulse. Idiot, he told himself, you know she’s just sedated. But he had known that she was safe and happy at the Academy as well, and so now he could not trust that which he knew.

There was a rustling behind him, and he turned to see Kaylee shifting and wearily opening her eyes. They were a bit blurry, but cleared a little as she registered him.

“Hey doc...” she murmured. “Am I gonna live?”

Simon walked over to the counter and picked up a thermometer. “There’s no cause for worry right now,” he answered. “You seem to be doing exceptionally well.” Kaylee gave him a cheery grin before letting him take her temperature, and he answered back with as bright a look as he could give. He refrained from saying that she was his first bullet wound; whatever rumors would surface later, Simon did know the meaning of the word “tact”.

“Sure was shiny luck that you were used to doctorin’ like this,” she added, still woozy but coherent, “and not brain surgery or somethin’ like that. You’re real good, doctor.”

“You were an excellent patient,” answered Simon in his warmest tone, unable to be unaffected by her mood.

“Aw, don’t be silly, I was out the whole time,” murmured Kaylee, but a little more glow came back into her face. “I don’t even know why I got shot,” she continued.

Simon’s face darkened, and he turned to put the thermometer back as if he was concentrating on the normal reading. “I am afraid that was my fault,” he said.

“Naw, I remember that part. You didn’t shoot me,” said Kaylee.

“No, but it was because of me that guns were drawn,” said Simon.

“Could you explain that?” asked Kaylee. “’Cause I think you’re prob’ly just goin’ along with what the captain says is your fault.”

Simon felt a little something at her desire to think well of him, but sighed and stood still by the counter. “I’m not just a surgeon,” he said. “I’m also a fugitive from the Alliance.”

“D’ya kill anyone?” asked Kaylee, eyes a little wider.

“No,” answered Simon, allowing himself a bitter smile. “I didn’t do that, at least. I rescued my sister from the Alliance school where she was being tortured and brought her on this ship in a cryogenic sleep. The Alliance didn’t like that, and neither does Captain Reynolds.”

“That’s nice,” said Kaylee dreamily.

“You should be resting,” advised Simon, coming back to stand by her.

“No, no, doctor, I’m awake. You’re gonna finish telling the story.”

“Well, they sent a man to bind me by law, and when I resisted things grew very confused and frantic, and the officer was gun-shy.”

“And he shot me,” finished Kaylee seriously.

“I’m sorry,” said Simon gravely.

For a moment there was nothing, and Simon could not read Kaylee’s face. “Is that your sister?” she asked slowly, turning her head and looking over at River.

“Yes,” said Simon, his voice conveying too many emotions to be defined by Kaylee or even himself. “This is River.”

“You don’t need to be too guilty, doc,” said Kaylee quietly. “I understand.”

“I didn’t mean for—” Simon started.

“Ya don’t have to tell me that either,” said Kaylee, and then let loose a face-cracking yawn.

Simon smiled good-naturedly. “Now you really must follow the doctor’s orders.”

“Yeah,” said Kaylee, giving one last weary smile before dropping off again.

Simon checked her vitals, and while doing so had another random memory of River (something that apparently happened when you were reunited with your sister after three years and she wasn’t the same), of when they had a discussion on that very phrase. He had just begun studying seriously for medical school and had said that it sounded too cold for such an essential function. River, no more than eight, countered with the comment that medical jargon had to be both exact and distant so that doctor’s would stay professional, but that when it came down to it “vital” was a perfectly friendly word, it was just the way it was said that made him dislike it. “You’ll get over it,” she added sagely. Simon remembered giving her a glare, to which she responded by tilting her head and blinking innocently until he reached over and tickled her mercilessly.

She had been right, though. He did not think about medical phrasing anymore, as it was ingrained into his very mind. Not the coldness—he did care about each patient, though if they were all like River perhaps they thought he should be distant and professional and so interpreted his comments likewise. But there is no one quite like River, which is a benefit to the world, I imagine, he thought.

Seeing that both patients were healthy and likely to stay so, Simon nearly succumbed to a yawn. Since boarding Serenity he had not had a restful night’s sleep, especially since he was unwilling to sedate himself in case something happened. But now that he had no need to fear for River’s discovery, and with some trust in Captain Reynold’s promise that he had nothing to fear for if Kaylee lived, he decided that the risk of leaving his patients alone for an hour or two was very little compared to the risk of treating them while sleep deprived.

Once in his room, Simon sat down on the bed and put his head in his hands. He had not been this tired since—well, the night before he and the underground resistance had broken into the Alliance Academy. But that wasn’t saying much, as his sleep life had only two options now: little sleep or less sleep. Before leaving his old life he had not been a stranger to weariness, but there were laws keeping doctor’s from working too many hours, and he had no worries at home to keep sleep from him, but now, a fugitive and guardian, he wondered if he would ever be able to sleep well again. As soon as the ship landed on Whitefall and Captain Reynolds fulfilled his promise, he and River would be on their own among people whom he would have to distrust until they were proven otherwise, while having to find work to pay for River’s medicines...once he prescribed them...if he could figure out what exactly had been done to her...

Simon’s thoughts broke off as he realized that this was counterintuitive to his plan of resting for an hour or two. Lying back on the bed, he closed his eyes and tried to meditate, shoving the little voices that told him what he “should” be doing (making notes of River’s behavior, preparing her medicine, etc.) deep into his mind where they were at least muffled.

Today had not been Simon’s best day, by any stretch of the imagination. But even being woken before time because of a passing Reaver ship did not make him forget that he had his first mostly restful sleep in three years on the smuggler ship Serenity. A fact Simon would have found ironic if he had thought more closely on it.



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Crew, But Not - Epilogue
FINALLY! The final chapter, as the crew gets back to normal and Simon reflects a little on the adventure.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 13
Lord Tembriar and men board Serenity, while the crew try to hold off until they can escape.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 12
Mal, Zoe, and Jayne come back to the ship while Book gets Wash and Kaylee, but they haven't escaped yet.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 11
Mal needs to escape, and the rest of the crew find themselves in sticky situation of their own, while River and Simon follow Book's plan.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 10
The job is turning out to be troublesome. What's up with Lord Tembriar, and what will the crew do about the incoming feds?

Crew, But Not - Chapter 9
Arriving on Greenleaf, Mal and co. go to finish the job, and Simon and River are left on the ship again.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 8
Things are both better and worse for the crew. Simon starts to wonder about River, worry about his duties on the ship, and what was in that cryo box anyway?

Crew, But Not - Chapter 7
Simon and River find something odd with the cargo, and Simon and Inara match their skills in a game of chess.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 6
Finally, a new chapter! The cargo comes aboard, and Simon starts creating patient profiles.

Crew, But Not - Chapter 5
Simon and River struggle to find their place in Serenity's crew. Mal and his team finally meet the client, while Wash and Kaylee spend some time with the new crewmembers and Book.