Summary: One-shot set within the framework of the continuing Mal/River storyline. Simon faces a moment of temptation.
Simon watched Mal limping up the stairs toward his bunk before turning back to his infirmary. Stretching his neck wearily, he began to clean the room. He wondered idly how many hours he had spent in the last few years doing this very thing after some emergency or another. The emergencies on Serenity tended toward the bloody and life-threatening, and Simon had attended each such emergency for longer than he liked to recall on most days.
He leaned against the counter, his hands falling dejectedly to his sides. It wasn't that he minded the work, he thought wearily. It was just that for each tragedy he averted, he knew three more would rear their heads in the not-too-distant future. The seemingly endless cycle of patching up Mal alone was enough to exhaust the most stalwart of doctors, he mused wryly.
Simon closed his eyes for a long moment, listening to the sound of Serenity's engine. When he'd first boarded the ship, the constant low hum had unnerved him, accustomed as he was to the absolute quiet of his living quarters on Osiris. But now, he found the sound comforting, like the lullaby of a mother or perhaps the heartbeat of an old lover. Smiling slightly at his whimsical turn of thought, he opened his eyes and continued his work.
Having wiped down all the surfaces until they gleamed and set the instruments in their sterilizing solution, he turned to lock the medical supply cabinet. A scant inch from closing the door completely, he stopped, inexorably drawn to look at the bottles of meds stacked so neatly in rows in the cabinet.
Having been shot through the fleshy part of his thigh, Mal had been less than diligent about watching Simon as he handled the narcotics. And for the first time in quite awhile, Simon was alone with the unlocked cabinet, the bottles of meds beckoning to him with the song of a siren.
Simon stood gripping the handle of the cabinet door, his knuckles white with the strain. His mouth was suddenly drier than he could ever remember. Fumbling with his other hand to get a glass of water, he gazed at the bottles until his vision began to blur. Raising the glass to his trembling lips, he drank deeply of the water and willed himself to let go of the door handle.
A little voice, the treacherous one that had overpowered him once before, began to whisper its seductions in his mind. Just once, just one time, just one pill, he heard as clearly as if the voice was coming from the throat of a living, breathing, sympathetic person. No one need know, not ever. Just once, to take the edge off this day.
He reached into the cabinet quickly, before his reason returned to deny him of this the most guilty of his pleasures. Holding the bottle in his shaking hands, he opened it slowly. The little blue pills poured easily into his hand, nestling there sedutively in the hollow of his palm like the most wonderful of gifts. He stared down at his hand, fingering the pills like the beads of a rosary in his hand.
Two wouldn't hurt, the little voice said softly. Just two. Wouldn't even likely be missed in the inventory. Just enough to take the edge off. Just enough to help him relax after the stresses of the day.
He licked his lips in anticipation. He knew the feeling that would come within moments of swallowing the pills. Peace, relaxation, a warmth suffusing his limbs as they worked their chemical magic on his beleaguered brain. Just once more. Just for tonight, the voice said benevolently. What could it hurt? Why would it matter? Who would ever know?
He raised the pills to his mouth and placed them carefully on his tongue. Savoring for a moment the bitter pill taste, he reached for the glass of water again. Raising it to his lips, he opened his mouth to drink, thinking of the blessed release that he would feel in a few moments.
But when he tried to swallow, he found that he could not. The pills stuck painfully at the back of his tongue, as if held by some obstinate force from their destination. And in that moment of reprieve, Simon's will returned. Bending his head over the infirmary sink, he spat out the bitter water and the pills along with it. Hanging his head in shame, he turned on the faucet, washing the evidence of his weakness down the drain.
His shoulders shook with silent sobs as he contemplated the depth of his dependence. For each day that passed drug-free, he had thought that he was getting stronger, more determined than ever not to give in to the treacherous little voice that played and replayed in his head so unmercifully. Every day he looked into Kaylee's hopeful eyes, and felt the sting of his addiction taunting him. And every night, he lay with Kaylee in his arms, feeling the trust she placed in him anchoring him in the moment, stilling the voice for blessed stretches of time.
Scrubbing his face under the faucet, he regained his composure. Someone was bound to turn up soon, he thought, drying his face with one of the infirmary towels. Turning hastily back to the cabinet, he closed the door gently until he heard its distinctive click as it locked. Drawing a deep breath, he squared his shoulders and walked out of the now-immaculate infirmary, turning the light off behind him without a backward glance. One more day, he thought as he walked tiredly up the stairs toward his bunk. He'd made it through one more day.