Lost in the Background - Passing the Time
Monday, November 12, 2007

Fourth in a set of five oneshots. Simon enters the infirmary after the "Kaylee's dead" joke.


Simon was now quite sure that he was doomed to attract cruel jokers. River would have been enough for a normal life, had the Fates been just, but Captain Reynolds was added on out of sadistic pleasure in watching the results, Simon was sure. And, of course, the amusement of the rest of the crew.

Slightly out of breath, Simon straightened his clothing and entered the infirmary. The memory of Mal’s joke was pushed back at the sight of Kaylee’s smiling face.

“Hey, doctor,” she said. “Don’t know if I should, but I’m feeling almost ready to get up. Shepherd here says I’d regret it if I did, though.”

“Considering the location of your wound, I wouldn’t want to wish that kind of pain on anyone, and so I echo his advice,” said Simon, in the smooth tone that indicated that Doctor Tam rather than Fugitive Tam or Brother Simon was in the infirmary now.

“You been shot ‘fore?” asked Kaylee.

“No,” answered Simon, preparing another dosage of pain medicine for her. “I had my appendix removed.”

Kaylee’s face twisted in a way that Simon might have smiled at if he was looking at her. “Doncha need that?”

“Actually, there is no definitive research that has found a purpose for that particular organ,” continued Simon, administering the shot.

“Well, then it don’t really make sense why we have it. Though,” she added, “it’s not like I can’t name a dozen parts on Serenity that she don’t need. Real inefficient design in areas.” She paused, then asked curiously: “There any other body parts we don’t need?”

Simon could not help feeling the worry and bitterness slowly slip off his back from where they had been heavy, and he answered more friendlily. “Not precisely. The human body is more efficient than a man-made object like Serenity, so though there are certain organs you can live without, it would not be a proper recommendation to have them removed simply for that reason. The tonsils, however, are commonly removed if they become inflamed.”

“Y’know, doctor,” continued Kaylee, though Simon had turned to check on River. “You ‘n’ me, we both know our bodies pretty well, just yours are prob’ly harder to work with.”

Simon paused after calculating River’s pulse rate. “That’s likely very true.” For a moment he twitched at the thought of someone equating a ship the same value as human life, but that was just the passionate doctor in him, and he knew full well that Kaylee simply grew more attached than he to inanimate objects.

There was an uncomfortable pause as the almost-forced cheer slowly dissipated, and the general darkness returned. Not entirely—Kaylee was there—but enough.

“Is she all right?” asked Kaylee about River, concerned. “She hasn’t woken all the time you’ve been gone, but Shepherd Book says that’s best.”

“She suffered severe shock by emerging from a cryogenic sleep too quickly,” said Simon. “Or in other words, her body was prepared to be operating at the much lower heart and oxygen rates of deep sleep rather than the activity required of her because of Captain Reynold’s actions. Sleeping is best for her right now.”

“She did appear to be dreaming earlier,” added Book, who had been watching the young ones silently but with interest.

“Calmly?” asked Simon, but with little hope.

“I am afraid I must say, no,” said Book. “She was twitching and even murmured a few incoherent words, but I thought it looked more like a nightmare than something pleasant.”

Simon sighed and rubbed his brow, the pain evident in his face aging him considerably to all other eyes, and his voice low and regretful. “There is nothing I can do for that.”

“She’ll be ok,” said Kaylee, though it was more a question than she likely wanted it to be.

Simon didn’t say anything, but sat down in between the two makeshift beds.

“Don’t you need your rest, son?” asked Book.

“I don’t think I could sleep now,” said Simon. “Perhaps when the job is done. I’m sure the captain will ask us to leave soon.”

“The job?”

Simon smiled wearily. “Yes, they actually found someone to buy their stolen cargo apparently. I believe they’ll head out, afterwards which River and I will have to experience what passes for civilization on the Rim.”

“I don’t think the captain meant it when he said you’d be dropped here,” said Kaylee, brow furrowing.

I have no doubts on that subject,” said Simon shortly.

“Captain’s got a good heart, he wouldn’t be cruel,” said Kaylee.

“I suppose he doesn’t play games with people’s minds either,” said Simon sardonically. “No, I’m sure he would never play ill-spirited jokes.”

The true irony was understandably lost on Kaylee, but she also did not seem to have an answer to the general matter, which gave Simon a sort of perverse pleasure. At least Mal seemed to be known for that behavior, it wasn’t just Simon.

“I’ll talk to him,” said Kaylee. “I don’t think Whitefall’s good for you and your sister.”

“Don’t worry about us,” said Simon, rising and brushing off her comment with a hand. “We’ll survive.”

“Well, if the captain does keep his word,” said Book, “you would be better off starting a new life well rested.”

“The Shepherd has a point, even if it’s not that subtle,” said Kaylee, tipping her head to one side.

Simon smiled halfheartedly. “And I thought I was the doctor.” There were things he needed to do, and so he decided to at least appear to give in to their advice. He almost left the infirmary before pausing and saying on impulse, “You’ve been kind—both of you. I—we appreciate it.”

Book had also risen to leave, and put a hand on Simon’s shoulder as they walked out, saying quietly: “You’ve done nothing not to deserve it.”

“Well, there may be some disagreement on that point,” said Simon almost inaudibly, but Book only thumped his shoulder and chuckled a little.

Returning to his room, Simon straightened up the belongings that were there—or to be accurate, only a little more than they already were. He had brought so little from his old life, and so little to start a new one, and he realized that he couldn’t even pack until he was more informed. What would he need? Would his money be enough to buy clothes for River and a place to stay? Did they have a hospital on this planet, and would it be safe for him to work there now, or should he wait until a less suspicious time? The only other alternative might be roughing it in the wilderness. River would have liked that, he thought wistfully. Before.

But until the captain returned and made his decision clear, any thoughts on this subject were guesses in the dark. He knew nothing of Whitefall. He knew nothing about surviving on a planet; he had barely survived space travel and being a fugitive for a few weeks. But being on Serenity had given him surprising confidence. If these—people—could survive by the skin of their teeth day after day, then it was possible. He had his purpose to keep him focused, and that would make up on the scale for the fact that these people didn’t have any responsibilities beyond their own personal ones. It might even make up for the fact that the government was not hard on their heels.

Simon paused, realizing he was pacing back and forth, fingering the notebook he had picked up from where it had fallen disgracefully from the shelf. He opened it and wrote down the Shepherd’s words about River’s dream.

It’s all so useless, he thought, but did not write. Here he was, trying to distract himself with meaningless checkups on his patients, who did not need active attention, and trying to tell himself that there were “things” to be done before the captain came back. No, he admitted, there is nothing to be done. It’s just waiting and meaningless speculation.

“Self realization is the step that must come before all others” echoed a female voice in his head, the long-buried memory of his psychology teacher. Well, what was the next step, then? He couldn’t make a move until the captain returned, so he might as well see when that might possibly be. He didn’t know the ship very well, but all passages seemed to lead towards the bridge—or the storage areas—or the engine room—well, he would find his way eventually. He had to. To survive one had to find the way, and Simon had always sworn that he would survive. He might dally with trifles while he waited, but it would be soon that this little respite would be over. Would he be ready for whatever would come afterwards? It didn’t matter. His oath was set, and only death would break 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.