Not mine as usual, I am too poor intellectually to own anything of value.


Simon leans against the table that usually held scalpels and medications. It is clean for once, empty of the bone fragments, bloody clamps, diagnostic tools. It shines, as does every other surface in his med lab. He has been cleaning all day, scrubbing away blood and gristle, fine grains of sand got in places with deep crimson clinging to it. Everything is sanitary again, free of any sign that just twenty four hours prior a war had been fought there. Simon isn't good with guns, not like Jayne, Mal, or Zoe are. He was never trained to hold a weapon in anything other than polite defense. Lessons hadn't taught him much more, but they don't need him for that kind of warfare.

Simon slides to his knees, scrubbing hard at an imagined spot on the operating table's side. He has already scrubbed this, cleaned it twice already. Everyone has peered in already, everyone that could walk at least. Come to witness the remains of the battlefield. Simon had cleaned himself first, flushed his clothing out the air-lock, soaked through as it had been. He'd burned his skin, burned the memories from his mind with water. He scrubbed at the metal, flashes of red still lining his vision. He can taste blood, or is it a memory of it.

Everyone has come by, but Mal and River. River is always last, fashionably late and precocious. Mal hasn't come by, because Mal cant come by.

Kaylee had come first, but things have been so hard between them. He cant look at her sometimes, still holds a torch for her, even though he's resolved himself. Simon loves too much, burns too bright, and Kaylee has too much love to give to save it all for him. She told him to eat, it's been three hours since then, he hasn't eaten. Jayne came next limping along, complained for a bit. He left faster than he came, his limp lessened more from fear of emotions than lack of pain. Simon is falling apart slowly, his knuckles white, Zoe notes it when she stills in the doorway. She doesn't speak, just watches as the good doctor scrubs down a bit of the flooring, her throat closes up.

Inara sits with Simon in silence for an hour, helps him clean his tools, holding them reverently as she does her brushes. Inara loves so many, just as Simon does, and fears so much too. She loves everyone on this ship, even if she feels she doesn't belong. She tries to patch them up, heal as she can, her role, her job, to love, never stop, but it's so hard. Seeing Simon break apart before her, silent with trembling hands, she remembers again, why loving is a double edged sword. "You did everything you could. You serve him well." She whispers on her way out, and it doesn't take a psychic to read the agony in Simon.

River comes last, her steps a dance, her movements joy. She pirouettes, grace and fluidity, hops up onto the table Simon had just cleaned. She ignores the pain in her brother, has felt it in waves for years now, even before that. Simon has always loved too much, opened himself up, he's never been able to hide from her. River was always the one who understood more, learned faster, ran at the unknown. Simon was cautious, careful, loved because their parents were too busy too. River has felt his agony for so long, for just as long as she's felt his love.

"Going to play a game." River sings out, tucking her legs up to her chest so she can peer down at Simon, watch him scrub at the flooring grate. "Going to lie, I know, not 'sposed to, but it's a game, so just playing a game." She assures Simon, who finally breaks from his self-isolation and looks up to her. River smiles, bright all encompassing, Simon returns it, the sadness lurking in the shadowed curve of his lips. "Alright River." He could never deny her, Simon loves too much, because River could never get enough, always hungry for his attention and adulation. He blames himself, she knows it, blames himself for all the harm that has come to them, but she won't let him think of that now.

"You like to dance." River grins, forcing Simon to chuckle softly. She can read the play of memories in her brother's eyes, smiles as some of the shadows chase away from the corners. Simon tilts his head, brushing hair out of his eyes. "You like peas." He offers feebly, letting the scrubber he'd been using rest, his fingers raw from the caustic cleaning solution. He laughs sharply at the grimace River gives.

"You like to sing."

"You like to hide in the background."

"You hate the Captain."

River's words freeze in Simon's veins, his gaze rivets to the ground. So much blood, he can taste it, smell it, it's still there in his memories. Mal's blood, spilling out against his hands, so much of it. So little time. River is cooing at him, holding him, rocking him. He buries his face against her shoulder and measures his breath.

"Simon doesn't love at all." River whispers, the lie so comforting, he wishes he could still believe it. "No more lies Simon, no more hiding, no more games." River holds him, protects him, keeps him safe, as he mourns the loss of his carefully prepared masks. "He could have died River, he could have died and I was powerless to stop it. I'm supposed to be able to stop it." The tears are there, thick in his voice, making his words catch, but they do not fall.

"You stopped it. You're a good doctor Simon. You protect us, all of us." River gently draws away, looks at Simon, holds his gaze. "It was so close." Simon's voice trembles, his back is to the door, he cant see Mal reflected in River's eyes. "I could have lost him." There is so much pain in Simon's voice, that River cant contain her own, she clutches his hands for her own comfort, as much as to comfort Simon. "You won't let him die. You love him, it's okay Simon, don't be afraid. You're a good doctor, you're my doctor remember?" She could have been a doctor, Simon knows River could be anything, not like him, he's stilted by his own doubts, his own limitations. He is a genius, but River is something else, something marvelous. River could tend herself, but she doesn't, she trusts Simon to do that for her.

"You love him." River raises her gaze, holds it steady with Mal, holds them there with the weight of her words. "You won't let anything happen to him." She is speaking but it is no longer sure to whom she is addressing.

"No more lies."

Mal turns, limps back to his room where he'd been put when the med-lab was deemed too unsanitary. It takes him some time to get back down, most of it cursing. That girl would be the end of him, all Mal had left was lies.