"Five Times Simon Couldn't Save Someone"
Summary: He was a doctor, a good one, but he wasn't infallible. He couldn't save everyone.
Disclaimer: I own nothing aside from my goldfish and textbooks.
Author's Note: I'm finally getting around to catching up on posting a bunch of fanfic from my LJ account, so some of you may have read this before...
He remembered when the call came through – his father's urgent whispers that he thought Simon couldn't hear and his mother's tears. It was his father that finally told him about the accident that claimed the life of his best friend Zachary. His parents tried to explain to him that it had been dark and rainy and that no one was really at fault; it was just one of those things that happened. Simon remembered feeling numb and disoriented, that the world was tilting and spinning and switching between a dull, washed out color and too much brightness. He went to the funeral but refused to look at the body, a point that his parents were wise enough not to argue. It was only when Zachary's mother flung herself on the coffin as it was being lowered into the grave, weeping and sobbing hysterically, that Simon knew he wanted to become a doctor. He was seven years old.
Simon lost his first patient in only the third week of his residency. It was one of the slower nights in the emergency room when they received word that there had been a fire in one of the more dilapidated apartment buildings on the edge of the city. Only one man was injured and he was rushed to the trauma ward where Simon was working the night shift. He had third degree burns covering his face, chest, arms, and feet, and most of his clothing had been burned into his skin. He was already crashing when he arrived, and though Simon immediately set the nurses to work pumping him full of fluids and pain medication, the man was dead moments after being pushed through the door. When he went over the case the next morning with his mentor, Simon asked him if losing someone ever got any easier. He was told that it only got harder.
He'd already quit his job at the hospital and was staying in the cheapest, dirtiest apartment he could find when his father died. He'd never know how his mother managed to find his current address since he cut off all ties with his parents after dedicating himself to finding River. It was a note, simple and handwritten, one of the more outdated forms of communication, and he found it slipped under his door one morning. Mr. Tam had died two evenings before of a simple heart attack. Cardiovascular disease was not nearly as widespread as it had once been, particularly on the Core Planets, but it was still known to happen, usually coupled with extreme stress or poor preventative medical care.
Simon reread the note nearly a hundred times before folding it and stuffing it into his back pocket. He didn't attend the funeral, but he clipped the obituary from the newspaper and kept it along with a few other personal items when he fled with River.
Simon could never really get a read on Zoe. She was always too aloof, too calm, too regal for him to ever feel comfortable approaching her.
Now, in her grief over Wash, he felt he understood her a little better. He wished to God he didn't.
He came upon her on the bridge one evening, sitting in the pilot's seat, running her hands over the lights and buttons and brushing her fingertips along the plastic dinosaurs that still graced the helm.
"Zoe?" He winced when he saw her yank her hands away from the console, sitting ramrod straight in the chair. "Sorry. We, um…we missed you at dinner. Is there anything I can do for you?"
"No. Just didn't really feel like eating much of anything."
"Well…I'll just let you be, then." He stood awkwardly in the doorway for a moment, debating whether he should say something else, but what could he add that hadn't already been said?
As he turned to leave he heard her whisper, "Wasn't nothing you could have done if you were there. It happened way too fast for you to have helped."
He waited for her to add something else, but she fell silent again, and Simon took that as his cue to slip away. Later, as he reflected on what she said, he found he wasn't really sure if she was trying to reassure him or herself.
It had started with a fistfight.
Simon afforded himself a single glance up from the operating table and saw Inara with her arms around a hysterical Kaylee. Zoe, ever patient and collected, was asking her slow and deliberate questions, trying to figure out exactly what had happened. Kaylee, her words choked and mangled with sobs, told how the trip she'd taken with Mal and Jayne to one of the planet-side bars started off just fine. It wasn't until one of the extremely inebriated patrons first started talking her up and then roughing her up that things went south. Both Jayne and the captain had come in swinging, and the man's buddies joined the fight as well. The way she put it, it was just fists until the one that had a hold on Mal put two bullets into his stomach at point-blank range.
Once back on Serenity, Simon had managed to find and dig out the bullets and start to repair the damaged tissue before he knew the captain wasn't going to make it. Every time he managed to stop the bleeding in one place, another tear erupted. Mal was running out of time, fast, but there simply wasn't anything that could be done anymore.
When Mal finally stopped breathing, he was about to call it when he heard Zoe murmur to Kaylee, "Sweetie, it wasn't your fault. Dong ma?"
Simon kept placing stitches, suturing ripped tissue, sopping up blood with gauze, hoping against hope that maybe he could resuscitate him once he stopped the bleeding, but nothing at this point would have made one bit of difference. Swallowing thickly, he looked up at the doorway where the rest of the crew was gathered.
The first thing he was Kaylee's shirt, the new pink one that she was so excited to wear. The entire front was stained in blood, and she had streaks of scarlet all the way up to her neck. He saw Inara's arm was also tattooed in round little red spots where Kaylee's fingertips had touched her.
He wasn't sure what to say, but the moment he took off his gloves, he knew they understood. Inara hugged Kaylee closer, burying her tear-streaked face in the mechanic's hair as Zoe swallowed and glanced over at the silent Jayne and River. With a last shattered sob, Kaylee pulled away and ran up the stairs and out the door, going somewhere else on the ship to mourn her captain alone.
Simon bit his lip and was ready to apologize for not being able to help when Inara pulled him into a hug, mercifully saving him from having to say anything at all.