Chapter 8: Serenity

Simon couldn't believe how quickly time seemed to go by and yet be at a standstill all at once. With the aid of a crutch, he was able to move about the ship more, usually deciding on which level to spend the majority of the day on. The accommodations were small yet comfortable for him. He was pleasantly surprised by what things were packed for him by Benat, Park and Lucinda. The only thing missing was his med kit. Book had the room beside him, all the better to keep him company most nights.

Today he chose the main deck, sitting at the coffee table watching Wash in the galley prepare something for him and his wife. Simon tilted his head as he watched Wash prepare a third bowl. Zoë came up behind her husband, grabbed both of their bowls originally taking them to the dining table as Wash handed Simon his.

Simon shook his head in protest; Wash responded with a firm placement of the bowl in both hands. "You think I'm going to trust you," Wash said, "with my mother's secret recipe that is?"

Simon smiled at that as did Zoë. "Truth be told," she said, moving over to the coffee table instead, "it isn't much of a secret." She looked him in the eye waiting for him to take in the double meaning. "And I know you're not going to leave so much as a morsel in that bowl, right?"

Both of them talked about the day's agenda, something about stopping off to see a badger? Simon drank it all in, knowing he was just given a one-two lecture about barely putting on any weight. But if they only knew how much he was improving otherwise….

Wash stood in the infirmary trying his best to tend to a scrape in the middle of his back with little success. He hadn't intended on colliding with the locker door with that much force. Of course, he hadn't meant to leave that door open in the first place, but that was beside the point. As he spun around for what was probably the third time, he was surprised and relieved to see Simon standing there. "Hey," the pilot said, "mind giving me a hand?"

"You know," Wash said trying to ignore the pain in his back, "I was always the clumsy one growing up. My sister was the only one properly named Grace."

"My sister's graceful, too," Simon said softly. "She's a gifted dancer…among other things."

Wash turned his head slightly, surprised and amused that the other man was finally talking. "So, who's the older one – you or her?"

"That depends. Chronologically, I am. Otherwise, in so many other ways, River is, by years."

Turning his attention to the window that looked out into the cargo bay, Wash noticed how Simon's face lit up as he continued talking about his sister. "Sounds like you two are close," he said. "That's good. That's important."

"We're not now, though," Simon said, his voice dropping in volume. "We're lost. I think I've a map, but…"

Wash stretched out a hand, offering to look at it. He felt the worn paper placed into his hand. The patient studied it as the doctor concluded the treatment. "This is a map all right. Shows you which location, the plans for a facility… I can get you the exact spot of this if you give me time, all right?"

Simon nodded. "Thank you."


"That good for nothing-." Mal turned, half a mind to return to Badger's place and confront him, if anything, just to let off some steam.

"We have other options, Sir," Zoë said as she kept walking knowing he'd be right beside her as always. "Not saying I agree with the first one, but…"

"Why should we want to be dealin' with 'em outer rim planets, Mal?" Jayne picked up a rock and tossed it. "Ain't like they got the kinda platinum we need no how."

Mal grunted. "It's not the fact that I think Patience will shoot me-."

"Again," Zoë added.

He would have loved it if she at least smiled when she said that. "It's just, I want somethin' reliable."

Jayne had a lopsided grin on his face. "What if there were a bounty on either passenger? Or maybe selling off that youn'un as a worker. Doubt the preacher would fetch us a-."

Mal whirled on him, not liking getting his dander up. "We have paying customers, not cargo for pay, got it? Now, how 'bout being quiet from here until, or is that too much to ask?"

"Today, yes, Sir." Zoë said. "It isn't like things go smooth for us."

As if to accentuate the point, shots were fired randomly from one of the side streets. Instantly, Zoë and Mal dropped to the ground, surveying the sides shooting, they determined that it wasn't worth getting involved in. Jayne, on the other hand…

They made it back to the ship without too much damage.



Zoë hobbled into the infirmary prepared to take out the tools she needed. She wasn't going to admit to the Captain that she got hit. It was a flesh wound if that, and if he didn't notice the blood then, she wasn't going to point it out to him now.

The gauze wasn't where it was supposed to be. Simon walked by, responding to the clattering of tools and the opening and closing of drawers and doors. Zoë looked up, exasperated. "I might be looking for a new patient," she said, irritated that she still couldn't find-.

"May I?" he asked, and then purposefully walked to the one part of the infirmary she hadn't checked.

Zoë watched, impressed, yet not completely surprised with the young man's skill. She thought back to when the three of them were at Zhi Ismat's clinic. The few times Simon had opened his eyes, he seemed to focus in on the various supplies and medications.

"I'll admit," she said breaking the silence, "that you're recovering quite well. Some folks I'd seen that damaged never came out of it."

Softly, he asked, "You fought in the war?" She nodded. "Then, you know what it means to give up hope?" Again, she nodded. "How did you find a way to go on?"

"How do you?" she asked. "Look, I'm not gonna say that it's completely gone. It resurfaces now and again – the pain. But, you can't let go and die. Even the smallest symbol can be the key. Just give up and that's a war you never fought."

Simon listened to what she was saying. With a shaky hand, he took out a few items from his pocket. "Have you seen something like this?"

Zoë took one of the small items and looked at it closely. "It's a claim key for a parcel. Do you know where it's at?" Simon shook his head. "I think we could to send a wave to Amnon Duul at the bazaar and see if he might have them." She looked up at him. "Where did these come from?"

Simon completed a couple of more stitches before answering. "There's a group….who wants…to free…some folks. I…was……but..." He looked down ashamed.

He was too young to be a soldier, too clean, too…Core. And yet he was fighting something, she was certain of that. Now, she inspected the sutures on her leg. "You do good work," she said. "You've been doing this long?"

He said nothing as he cleaned up the room; Zoë assisted. She would make it a point to see to it that Kaylee whip up a dessert for tonight, and that Simon would get the largest serving of it.

Dinner was a hodgepodge banquet, as Shepherd's gifts were dwindling to an end as far as fresh foods went. Kaylee had managed to bake a cake of sorts; Zoë added her share of the fruit to the plate meant for Simon.

Jayne complained, "What's with the special treatment?"

"None needed," Zoë said, challenging Jayne to say otherwise.

Mal exchanged glances with his first officer. He knew she thought he was blind to her injury from the earlier outing, knew she took care of it efficiently. But there was something else and he couldn't figure it out right yet.

Looking at the rest of his crew, Kaylee was Kaylee – nothing more to be said there. Wash gave an approving look to his wife during that dessert deal. Book didn't react one way or 'tother. Inara had kept to herself in her shuttle tonight. And the boy was still silent.

"Just ain't right, that's all," Jayne said.

Mal set his chopsticks down and watched the boy glance hesitantly from Kaylee to Zoë to Jayne, then back down at the plate. For a moment, it looked as if he was about to offer the mercenary his share. "I suggest you enjoy that, son," Mal said. "Jayne's a big boy who can skip extras."

Had Mal paid attention to how the seating was exactly, he wouldn't have had the boy at the same corner as Jayne. The mercenary's arm swung back, knocking the plate up and into the boy's face while spilling him out of his chair to boot. "Jayne! Leave now," Mal said, his voice a cold steel tone.

Kaylee was helping the boy clean up. Book and Zoë rose at the same time; she had her weapon drawn just in case. Mal remained sitting, aware of the worry on Wash's face. Jayne left, snatching the plate with the smeared treat and taking the remnants with him.

The boy's hand was tremblin' something fierce. Mal motioned Book to take him down to quarters and administer the necessary shot. Mal in the meantime, had some words to be had with the bully. He'd just give the other man time to pout for a spell first.

Just about everyone was asleep. Simon didn't know how he should have reacted to the selfless kindness that Zoë had shown. He knew he rightly earned the captain's wrath by now. As for Jayne… It was all Simon could do not to flashback to that night in the alley. He hadn't meant to take the seat in the corner; it was the one he 'fell' into given how his leg had acted up again. He would have moved over a chair had Kaylee not been so quick.

He heard voices in the cargo bay and crawled out to investigate, thankful that Book was asleep.

Simon watched the captain strike Cobb across the face with a wrench. A part of him tallied the different bones that were probably cracked or broken along the jaw from the initial contact. As soon as Cobb's head struck the rail, Simon continued the probability of concussions.

"You leave the boy be, Jayne!" Mal advanced on the fallen man, hands on his knees as he bent down to whispered something else in Jayne's ear. Mal straightened back up. "Are we clear about the boundaries set with regards to the boy?" he said aloud.

At the captain's voice, Simon shook his head (big mistake) as he admitted to himself that Cobb was responsible for Simon's latest embarrassment and minor injuries. His sister would call him illogical. And Simon would be inclined to agree. The mental argument spun around in circles until Simon felt fatigued from the dizziness of it.

The captain turned and walked away, wrench still in hand. Simon almost called out when he saw Jayne get up and stride toward the captain as if to strike from behind. The captain sensed it though and backhanded him with the wrench. With that, Jayne was down for the count. Mal shook his head in disgust as he went up the stairs.

"Help me," Simon said to Wash as he tried to drag Cobb towards the infirmary.

Wash was at Simon's side instantly, nudging the wounded man aside. "What do you think you're doing?" All he wanted to do was grab something to snack on until he heard the noises that brought him here.

"He needs…" Simon struggled to regain his breath, "medical….attention." He looked Wash in the eye. "Please."

The pilot shook his head in disbelief. "After what he did to you?" Wash tried to make him laugh by adding, "If Inara, or worse, my wife, realizes that you're out of bed, let alone attempting -."


Wash weighed the options. The young man - it grated his nerves how the others referred to Simon as 'the boy'- had determination, no point of arguing that. And Wash knew how much strength and purpose Simon found in the infirmary. Then again, Wash had no problem letting Jayne lay in a cargo hold and suffer some. Simon's needs outweighed Wash's wish of revenge, though.

"All right, but I'll carry him." That was easier said than done, having dropped the big brute at least half a dozen times from points 'A' to 'B'.

Ignoring the doctor's protests, Wash strapped the patient to the bed. "I don't want to take any chances, got it?" Wash knew Simon was too tired to argue. "So, as your nurse, what do you need me to do?"

Watching the young surgeon's hands move with assuredness just amazed Wash. So focused was he in assisting and watching, that Wash failed to hear the captain enter.

"What the hell is this?"

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