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Disclaimer: Firefly and all related elements, characters and indicia © Mutant Enemy Productions and 20th Century Fox Television, 2003. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situations -- save those created by the author for use solely on this website -- are copyright Mutant Enemy Productions and 20th Century Fox Television.
Notes: Written for the Hug Simon Now! challenge. Thank you to skripka and puffgirl_two for shiny (and fast) betas! And TaraLJC for betas of previous incarnations of this story (making it much of what it is now). They all deserve hugs too!
Spoilers for The Message.
Simon peeked into the engine room, and sure enough, Kaylee was there, doing some sort of work on Serenity. She tended to retreat to her domain to keep busy when she was troubled. At least this time she wasn’t in her hammock, letting Tracy’s oh so eloquent message tug at her heartstrings. It had seemed to wrap around her like a bubble of sound, making a barrier that he didn’t think he could penetrate. Not without popping it
He had known when he was unwanted.
He suspected he might still be unwanted, but this time Simon didn’t turn and walk away. He couldn’t leave it, letting the wound fester. His ability to persevere despite the odds made him just that much better of a doctor. Though, as much as he wished he could be, Simon wasn’t perfect. Then he wouldn’t have... he had tried what he could to save Tracy, even though he had known he was too late. He had managed to free his sister, and keep the two of them alive, against all likelihood. He could talk to Kaylee and not screw it up. Maybe.
He took a few cautious steps forward, worried about... everything. Simon knew that sometimes the treatment was worse than the illness. But in the end, being cured was worth it. Or so he told himself.
They hadn’t been talking. Not about real things. Little touches bridged the silence, but it had been days, and he missed their late night conversations. He still pulled out her chair at meals and her hand still rested on his sometimes, but that wasn’t enough anymore. And Kaylee hadn’t come to him, this time. She had shown interest in Tracy, and hadn’t really talked to him since, handhold not withstanding. It had been a strengthening handhold, a comforting intertwining of fingers that said much more than words could. Yet, although he wasn’t good at them, he needed the words to know for certain what was what. But she’d left it there, and he supposed that it was his turn.
It was time for Simon to offer an apology. He wanted, or perhaps needed, to try to make things right again. It was an integral aspect of both of their jobs, the need to fix, mend, make better. He was worried that perhaps she had given up on their relationship, or whatever it was or wasn’t at present. He hoped not. He moved closer and cleared his throat, “I’m sorry,” he offered quietly.
Kaylee slid out from under the engine and stood up seemingly glad to see him, but meeting his eyes with something akin to despair. “Sorry ain’t always gonna cut it, Simon.”
She let out a little sigh of disappointment, an observation which caused Simon’s stomach to drop somewhere to the vicinity of his polished black shoes. It was easier to see her angry than disappointed... the last person who had looked at him like that had been his mother.
He had always tried to make his parents proud. But no one could be perfect, not all of the time. Simon might have seemed that way to others, but never to the woman who had given him life. And she never got angry, just disappointed. When he and River had snuck off at the Cambersons’ and were found much later with disheveled clothing and blue-stained mouths. When he had only made top 3% at Medacad, not top 1%. When he started getting into trouble in his search for River. He could only imagine the look on her face when she saw the first warrant on the cortex. Her children, the fugitives. And he would most likely never see her again -- never be able to explain. With that thought his stomach descended still further. Though he doubted an explanation would do him any good.
But here, he still had a chance. He wanted to be able fix things between himself and Kaylee, but this didn’t require reattaching a leg or sewing a wound shut, which were well within his abilities. It was much harder without being able to use actual thread. His words weren’t as strong as his stitches in silk, nor did he have the confidence that they would hold.
“I know, but what else do I say? I’m not that good at talking to girls.” This statement was accompanied by a self-deprecating smile as he took a tentative step towards her.
“What, didn’t you have enough practice?” Kaylee retorted, bringing up the original source behind their current quarrel.
“Yes, cause I go to parties and chat up girls all the time.” Simon said, his caustic sense of humor getting the better of him. He tried to control it, but sometimes things just slipped out. “My social life hasn’t been a real picnic these past few years. Between work at the hospital and trying to find a way to get River out of the Academy, I really hadn’t had much time for practice.”
“You can’t expect me to believe that a handsome, rich, doctor like you hasn’t had his fair share of girls,” was Kaylee’s reply, “Not even gonna fly. I may not be so book smart, but I ain’t gullible.”
Simon looked at her, silently begging her to tell him what to say, even just a hint. But her eyes remained flat, giving him no help whatsoever.
“All right,” Simon admitted, “There have been girls. Not many. This one girl in Medacad... which got to be rather serious but what with different residency schedules then trying to find River and... But this was all before I even met you.” Another thought occurred to him.
“What about Tracy?”
Kaylee looked up at him as if she’d been slapped. Then, under his steady gaze, she started twisting her hands together, looking at them as if they contained the answers for everything.
“Nothing happened between us. He was just nice, well, except I guess it turns out he wasn’t... He was just trying --” Kaylee paused, searching for words. “I ain’t really been serious about... I mean, I been used to havin’ male companionship and it ain’t ever been no big deal. I like a fella, he likes me, and we have some fun, and that’s that. Simple. But with you… When you said what you did, well, I wanted back to simple, just so I could stop hurting. See if maybe I could stop caring so much. And I couldn’t, Simon. I’m sorry, I --” Kaylee’s voice quavered at that last part. She had studiously avoided looking at him, but now she glanced up. He knew all about caring and then screwing up because of it, and was desperately trying to think of some way to put that into words that would not mess things up yet again. But Kaylee misinterpreted his silence as something else entirely.
“But I guess you maybe don’t feel the same way... Cause I am your only option, after all.” And that thought hurt her. He could see it in her face. She wore an expression not dissimilar from when she had been shot, pain in the pit of her stomach waiting to be mended. And both had been caused, and could be healed, by a certain young doctor.
Simon looked awkward and apologetic. “That’s not even -- I didn’t mean that the way that it must have sounded. Sometimes it’s as if I’m hearing the words coming out of my mouth and they are being said by a different person. Someone who has no idea what I’m thinking, never mind what I’m actually trying to convey.”
“You want me to believe that you’re brain’d been taken over by aliens?”
“Yes. No. I mean... I don’t know how to -- I can be confident, acting as medic. It’s one of the few things that I am sure of. There aren’t many. But I do know that I don’t like you just because you are the only option. Here feels more real just because you’re here too. And these last few days... I missed you. I hadn’t realize how much a part of my life you’d become. But if I was doing what I should, I would be spending all of my time trying to fix River...”
“But you do. Spend most all of your time doin’ just that, I mean. No one expects you to do nothing else. You being there for River -- as her brother, as family -- is, by my way of thinking, just as important as all the doctoring in the ‘verse. ‘Sides, a person can’t live like that, Simon! Just waste away to nothing...”
“I’ve done it, lived with one goal, one purpose -- finding River. I wouldn’t necessarily advise it... but it can be done. And I hope you never have to. It’s not like I haven’t learned to live without people.” Simon shrugged. He had done what he had to. And one of the things that he was sure of was how much he loved his sister.
“You know, maybe you could try to learn to live with people again?” Kaylee suggested, sounding all kinds of hopeful, but was answered with a pain-ridden smile.
“You make it look so easy. And I know that you’re going to say that it is. But you have this amazing way of looking at, well, everything. And I -- I’m just trying to figure out –I didn’t expect... My parents. They wouldn’t -- help me find River. Didn’t want to upset my career. I didn’t really even have many friends, at least not outside Medacad. I had to concentrate on my studies, so I didn’t feel that I could give them, or any girls for that matter, the time they wanted. That they deserved. There was going to be plenty of time once my career had been sufficiently established. And my work was fulfilling. I was making a difference, and that felt... there’s nothing like it in the world. I miss... My primary concern has been and will be to make River well, and I’m a fugitive, on the run. I have nothing to offer...”
Kaylee looked at Simon, incredulously. “What do you mean, nothing to offer?”
“Just that. I have a medkit, some clothes, a sister who takes most of my time and energy and fancy manners that don’t help us because I’m not good at dissembling.” He shrugged.
“That’s not the important stuff, Simon. You’ll learn. You are learning. Am I going to have to tell you good stuff about you now? Cause you’re kinda a genius when it comes to doctoring, you’d risk anything for your sister, and your smile...” Kaylee looked at him encouragingly, a hint of a smile flashing in her eyes.
Simon gave a bitter little laugh. “Right, good doctor. You can still say that even after couldn’t save Tracy?”
“You are a good doctor, and there’s many on this ship that would agree with me on that score. It weren’t your fault. Sometimes a thing can’t be fixed. Just happens, something get broke and keeps things from working like they should. We just have to do what we can... You did. Weren’t your fault.”
And Simon wondered for a second if she wasn’t talking about Tracy anymore. If she was talking about them. If they couldn’t be fixed -- because of what he’d said -- despite what he was saying.
Something of his despair must have crept its way into his expression, because Kaylee rose on the balls of her feet and impulsively wrapped her arms around his shoulders, maybe deciding that they were going to need more than words. Simon froze for a second, before relaxing into her warmth, hands settling on her waist. She absentmindedly stroked his back, soothing the muscles beneath the grey cotton sweater. And he let go of all his burdens for just a little, lost in the heady scent of engine grease and strawberries.
Kaylee sighed and gave him a final squeeze before pulling back reluctantly. “I’d better get back to work. Gotta finish fixing the engine ‘fore bed. The motivator’s not shunting to the dampener properly...”
“Well goodnight then.” Simon said awkwardly, trying his best not to look disappointed.
“Night Simon,” she said as he turned to leave, heading back to her engine. “If I finish up and it’s not too late, I’ll stop by your room ‘fore bed,” she called over her shoulder.
“Ok. I still have to check on River for the night. I’ll probably be up,” he replied from the doorway, before heading off in the direction of River’s room with a lighter step and a smile on his face.
Cheerful humming, punctuated by the clangs of Kaylee’s tinkering, reached his ears and his smile broadened.
And the ‘verse had righted itself again, for the moment.