Disclaimer: Firefly and all related elements, characters and indicia © Mutant Enemy Productions and 20th Century Fox Television, 2003. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situationssave those created by the authors for use solely on this websiteare copyright Mutant Enemy Productions and 20th Century Fox Television.
Author's Note: Comments are not only welcome, they are coveted.
"Hey, Doctor," Kaylee said, sticking her head into the infirmary. "I'm ready to take the next step."
Simon smiled, not muchhe never smiled much, but just a little. For Kaylee, it was just enough. "That's a pun," he said softly, nodding towards her. "It's cute." Then he turned to River, who was curled up in the darkest corner the well-lit infirmary had to offer. Kaylee couldn't really see what the younger girl was doing, but it seemed like she had an assemblage of screws and nuts and bolts and bits of twisted wire all lined up like two armies marching towards each other. She was starring at them intently, almost as if she expected them to move.
"I have to work. Are you going to be okay for an hour?" the doctor asked his sister, and his tone of voice made it clear he doubted she would. "I could bring Inara here; she'd probably play with you, or, or you could go to her. Or I could try and find Shepherd Brooks, he's usually..."
"No," the girl said so softly that Kaylee barely heard it. "Queen's gambit in four."
Simon smiled a little. "Okay, you just yell if you need anything, or get scared. I'll hear you and come running. All right?"
"Check in six," the girl muttered, picking up one of the twisted bits of wire and examining it. "The king dies. 'The wonder is, he hath endured so long: He but usurp'd his life.'"
"Right," Simon said, kissing her forehead and then turning to Kaylee, who was leaning against the infirmary door frame. He offered her his arm and she took it as he escorted her to the diagnostic bed and helped her up.
"Well," he said, being very professional and, in Kaylee's mind, absolutely adorable. "You seem to be getting stronger by the day. I take it you're doing your exercises?"
"Every one," Kaylee said brightly as she let the doctor feel her legs and her back and bend her joints. It wasn't exactly enjoyable, but it wasn't unpleasant at all. "I stood on my own for a whole twenty minutes this morning."
"Good," Simon said. "That's excellent. Wonderful progress. Flex your toes, will you? Good."
He walked over to the counter where he kept a medical log or something and entered whatever new and interesting thing he'd found. Part of Kaylee was dying to know what he found to write down every day, the other part of her realized that she wouldn't understand it, even if he told her. It was a shame. She had a feeling, deep down, that Simon was the kind of person who really liked to talk. He was just so confused and upset about what had happened to his life that all the words inside him got kinda smooshed together in a big festering pile. Kaylee imagined the doctor had horrible dreams. And so, as an act of charity, she tried to be kinder than kind to the doctor, to talk to him, to ask him questions: to care. She didn't know, of course, but she suspected that he sorta smiled more around her than he did around any other of Serenity's crew. She decided to ask about a topic he was sure to discuss: River.
"What she doin'?"
"What?" Simon said, quickly glancing at his sister, terrified that she'd found the drugs or the scalpels. But she hadn't. She was still examining a twisted bit of wire. "She was playing chess with herself," he said. "Had any pain?"
"Yeah," she said honestly. "But nothin' new. Some soreness, like you said."
"You don't feel too tired or sore to work today, do you? I don't want you to push yourself too hard. That'll only make things worse."
"Naw," Kaylee said. "I feel all right."
"Good." He returned to his log.
"So, ah," Kaylee said after a considerable pause. "Did River make that chess set herself? That's pretty original, usin' old screws and bits of nothin'."
"Actually, I made the set," Simon said, closing the book and turning to her. He offered her his arm and she took it.
"Thank you," she said as he helped her off the bed and started leading her out of the room.
"You're welcome," he said out of sheer good breeding that couldn't be forgotten. "That's all right, isn't it?"
"What, you helping me?"
"No, I mean the chess board. I just found the pieces lying around, I assumed they weren't parts we needed..."
"They're not, trust me." Kaylee laughed. "But it was real clever, makin' a board like that."
"We used to play as children. I thought it might..." His voice dropped off and he looked as sad as any person Kaylee'd ever seen. "But now she just sits in front of it for hours, staring at the pieces, quoting 'King Lear.'"
"Never mind," Simon said with a sigh, "It's not important. What is important is getting you walking again." He tried very hard to smile at her; she appreciated the effort.
They had exited the infirmary and were now at the cargo bay, starring up the nearest of many significant flights of stairs on the ship. All the metal staircases were imposing, too tall with jagged edges, tending to sway if more than one person was on them, and on this particular one, the second step after the first landing wobbled. But Kaylee was energetic and ambitious, and Simon had only a basic understanding of physical therapy, as well as the fact he was terrified of what the Captain would do if he thought his new medic was giving the job less than 100%.
"Now, I know you've run up and down these stairs a thousand times, but that was all before you were shot. You can't expect this to be easy," he said in his serious doctor voice. "If you think it's going to be easy, you'll be too frustrated to get anywhere."
"Yes, sir, doctor," Kaylee said with a smile as bright as a white dwarf.
"Good, and, ah, Simon's just fine," Simon tried to smile back at her, it was more of a brown giant. "Unless you want me to walk around calling you 'Mechanic.'"
Kaylee laughed. "No one's ever called me that. But you musta been called 'Doctor' lots, back in the hospital in Central City." She cupped her hand over her mouth to imitate an intercom system. "Dr. Tam, calling Dr. Tam to the O.R."
He smiled, it was almost as bright as a red giant. "You're very kind," he said, somewhat out of the blue.
"Well, so are you," Kaylee said simply.
"You won't think that when we get to the top of the stairs," Simon said. "We should start, if you're up to it?"
"They're only stairs," the mechanic said pragmatically.
"No," Simon asserted. "For the next couple of weeks, they are dangerous. Unless you're with me, you still need someone to carry you up these until I say otherwise. You understand?"
"Yes," Kaylee said, trying not to let her voice show how silly she thought his concern was.
"You've got to understand, if you fall in the common room or something, you don't fall far. The ground will catch you pretty quick. But if your knees give out half way up those stairs, you've got nothing to catch you for twenty feet or so. Nothing but sharp metal edges."
"I get it," Kaylee said earnestly, meeting his intense, sad blue eyes with her own joyful stare. It seemed to unnerve him.
"I, I'm, ah, just trying to, to protect you," Simon stuttered before clearing his throat and focusing on the task at hand. "Now, grab the banister."
"'Kay," Kaylee said, placing her hand on the cool metal. "Got it."
"Good, good," Simon said. "Now, if you'd just sand there for a second, I need to, ah..." He pulled his arm away from hers, forcing her to depend on the banister for balance and support, but only for a second. He positioned himself behind her about a step and slightly to her right, so that while her left hand was on the banister, she could get support from his left hand on her right. Kaylee felt chills run up her spine as he put his right hand on the small of her back. "Here," he said once he was positioned. "Now if you fall, I can catch you."
"I'm not gonna fall, doctor."
"Simon," he said quickly, "And you don't know that. Now, just try one step at a time if you feel tired, or dizzy, or off balance, or want to stop at any time, we will. Just let me know."
"I think I can climb the stairs," Kaylee said, very carefully lifting her right foot and putting it on the first step. She didn't notice how heavily she was leaning on Simon's arm. She did, however, notice how hard it seemed to be to pull her left foot up. She was up one step and her heart was beating like she'd just run up the whole flight.
"Harder than you thought huh?" Simon said, not unkindly. "Don't worry, just one at a time."
It took almost twenty minutes to get to the landing in the middle of the stairs. By the time they reached it Kaylee was huffing for breath and could feel sweat trickling down her neck and back.
"Why don't you rest for a moment?" Simon lowered her into a sitting position on one of the stairs. "I'll run and get you some water."
"No," Kaylee said. "I don't need a drink."
"Don't try and be tough," Simon said. "You're still weak, that's all right. I'll go get you some water."
He skipped down the stairs Kaylee had struggled to mount quickly and effortlessly. She took a deep breath and started humming to herself. He was back in less than a minute with a cup full of water. He smiled when he gave it to her; it was his best smile yet.
"I'm sorry," he said as he sat down next to her. "I should have thought ahead, I knew how hard this would be for you."
"Don't apologize," she said after taking a long, deep drink. She really had been thirsty. "I mean, if you hadn't been here, I'da been killed."
Any remnant of a smile on the doctor's face disappeared as he glanced away. "Well," he said. "I, um, I've wanted to talk to you about that."
He sounded so serious, like a man ready to confess. It made Kaylee very uncomfortable. "You saved my life," she said.
He didn't look at her. He just stared at his hands. "What do you remember, about being shot?"
"Well, it hurt," she said, smiling, hoping to coax a smile out of him as well.
He only nodded his head, as if to concede that point, but he didn't smile. "I mean more about what happened. What was said."
"I remember everyone was scared and angry, prob'ly angry 'cause they were scared."
"That's true," he nodded.
"I remember you lookin' down at me, and Inara stroking my hair and the cap'n holdin' my hand."
"You don't remember what was said?"
"No," she said, craning her neck to try and get a glimpse at his eyes. They were stormy and she started to feel cold. "What were people sayin'?"
"That agent shot you on account of me," Simon said, his voice wavered just a little. "That's, that's not what was said. That's what happened. It was an accident, but it was an accident that wouldn't have happened if I wouldn't have been on the ship."
"No one blames you," Kaylee said. "Besides, you saved me."
"Kaylee, please, just listen," Simon said, lifting his head but not turning to look at her.
"Sure," she said softly.
"The Captain wanted to turn me over to the Alliance. The agent who shot you, Dobson, he was unconscious, but there was still an Alliance ship coming. They didn't know about River, all they knew was that the Alliance wanted me. And, ah, and you were bleeding to death on the floor."
"Yeah," this part of the story was familiar to her. She hadn't been told it, in so many words, but it hadn't been that hard to figure out.
"We all knew that, even if an Alliance doctor would treat you, it'd be too late, you'd lost too much blood. And so I gave the Captain an ultimatum. I'd save your life only if he'd hide me."
"I don't understand," Kaylee said.
He turned and looked at her, his stormy eyes were lined with red. He was on the verge of tears. "When I became a doctor I swore that I'd help anyone who needed it. And you were there, dying. And I refused to help you."
"You had your reasons."
"I did," he said, nodding. "But your life was in the balance. My reasons shouldn't have come into it."
"Why are you tellin' me this?" Kaylee asked. "Are you apologizing?"
"No," Simon said with a sort of bitter laugh. "Although, I wish I were."
"Then why dontcha?"
"Because, an apology needs to be sincere, needs to be real. And the truth is, Kaylee, I'm not really sorry about what I did. I'm so sorry you got hurt. And I'm sorry that your shipmates had to suffer what they did because of River and me. I'm still sorry. But, right now, you're alive and my sister and I are safe, everything worked out. I can't, I don't know how, to be sorry about actions that lead to, well, good fortune."
"Simon," Kaylee said. "I work with engines and I know that sometimes it don't make logical sense how some things fit together. Like the comm system will short out every time the environmental controls are turned up much over eighty degrees, and them systems haven't even got a circuit in common. But sure enough, every time Wash decided to have a tropical party, I can't get the comms up for two days at least."
Simon stared at her and blinked. "I... I don't understand."
"When somethin's workin', you don't ask how. You just let it be."
He smiled his meager smile at her, it didn't quite fade when he started up with his confession again. "Still, for what it's worth, I wish with all my heart that I could have found... this without using you. And if you had died because I was an arrogant, untrusting fool and refused to save you, well... I wouldn't have forgiven myself for the rest of my life."
"'Course you wouldn'a," Kaylee said playfully chewing on her lower lip. "Cap'n woulda sent you out the air lock."
"Well, yes, I suppose the rest of my life would only have been a matter of minutes. I guess what I'm trying to say is..." his voice faultered again.
Kaylee smiled sweetly at him and grabbed his hands, squeezing them lovingly. "You're forgiven."
He looked at her, somewhat shocked. "Thank--thank you."
She took a deep breath and slapped her hands against her legs, "Now, what about tryin' to get to the top of this thing?"
"Um," Simon said, quickly standing up and looking up at the next length of stairs. "All right," he leaned over and pulled Kaylee up to her feet. For a second they were standing very close and Kaylee could practically feel electricity jumping between them. Her imagination ran away with her and created a picture of them kissing. She thought he'd probably be a soft kisser, tentative, gentle.
"Are you sure you're up to this?" He asked, drawing her quickly out of her fantasy. "You're heart rate seems a little high. And every stair we go up we'll have to go down. Down is harder."
"I'm sure," she said, laughing and blushing. "Come on, let's get going."