They almost made it.
That’s what sticks in Simmons’ head the most, later—they almost made it. They were so damn close, Charon’s henchpeople had been retreating, they were holding the door, Carolina and Wash had been only a few halls away—
and then he just had to open his big fat mouth, had to make a crack at Grif, and the idiot had to turn around to answer him, and the armor-piercing round had gone straight into his chest.
It still almost disrupts his bionic heartbeat, thinking about it, almost as bad as it does to look through the observation window of the ICU.
At least it didn’t go into his heart. At least his lung didn’t collapse.
At least and almost—giving up and understanding what happened was his fault. Two things he’s good at. Two things he can’t stop thinking about, three days after the fact.
“Simmons?” Someone’s tugging on his arm, and he jolts out of his reverie to see Doctor Grey standing there. “Can you come into my office, please?”
“Oh.” He turns his head to look at Grif, still lying there, probably enjoying the chance to nap, the stupid fatass, while Simmons is losing his mind over him.
“This will only take a few minutes,” the doctor says, cheerfully, reminding him she’s there. “It’d take longer than that for him to get worse!”
And that’s not exactly comfortable, but it’s better than if she’d said something stupid like “he’s going to be fine,” so Simmons follows her into her office and lets her close the door and forces himself not to look back over his shoulder.
“I need to ask you about his medical history,” she says, carefully, standing behind her desk and shuffling papers. “Now, my records are far from complete, but your limbs that have been replaced by bionics are the same ones Grif has now, correct?”
“Yeah.” He feels his throat close.
“Are there any other non-visible donor organs?”
“Um—heart and lungs? Wait, why? Does he need more? I’m a compatible donor, we know that, I still have—”
“Simmons,” she cut him off. “When we brought him in, we—I—thought the infection had been cleared out, but…I must have missed something. He’s running a fever, and the wounded lung has become inflamed and vulnerable to filling. Grif has pneumonia.”
“But—“ The world is spinning, just a little bit, and Simmons is grateful for his cyborg limbs as his knee locks and prevents him from collapsing. “Aren’t there—pills or something? Or, or, new lungs?”
“If it were just a matter of a prosthetic, there wouldn’t be a problem, but we’re talking about sensitive internal organs that are, forgive me, a bit beyond our current capabilities. We’re so pressed for supplies, you can’t even rub two gearshafts together! Heck, it would take even me seventy hours to come up with a functional prototype!” She coughs, bringing her voice back down to a normal level. “And the variation Grif’s come down with is a particularly nasty strain. We can keep emptying his lungs, but it could cook his brain in forty-eight hours. I have to bolster his immune system, which is the biggest obstacle, since anything we try to replace before recovery could be rejected and attacked as a foreign object. As it is, we’re running the risk that—well. That his current lungs will suffer the same fate before the disease has run its course.” She sighed and placed the stack of papers she’d been fiddling with face down. “That’s why I’m asking you.”
“Wh-what?” Simmons had to fight the urge to run out of the room. “Why are you asking me?”
“When the only course of treatment available is itself dangerous to the patient’s health, and the patient can’t be consulted and has no living will, I have to talk to the patient’s listed next-of-kin. That’s you. Unless it becomes unavoidable, I won’t move forward without your decision.”
Simmons swallowed hard. “So, if Grif doesn’t get the medicine, the fever’s going to kill him. But if he does get the medicine, his…” my “heart and lungs might stop working.”
He’s glad Dr. Grey has her helmet on. He couldn’t take it if he saw any pity in her expression. “Yes.”
Well. That’s no choice at all, is it? Grif’s a survivor; he’s beaten the odds more times than Simmons can count. “Give him the medicine."
It almost works.
That’s what Simmons will remember. It almost works.
It takes three days for the fever to recede, for Grif’s skin to cool down so it doesn’t feel scalding to the touch, for his restlessness to subside and his shivering to stop.
It takes two more days before his lungs stop filling up with fluid, and he wakes up long enough to complain about not being hungry and for Simmons to chew him out and call him an idiot.
“Oh, I’m the idiot? You know what, fuck you. And you smell even worse than I do, when was the last time you took a fucking shower?”
And because Simmons can’t actually remember, Grif tells him to get out. Considering he’s the one they usually have to hose down once a week, Simmons finds this grossly unfair, but he goes anyway.
When he gets back, Grif is asleep, his chest moving up and down more easily than it has in months, and even though Simmons knows that his robotic lung replacements move oxygen in and out at a steady, constant rate, he can feel his chest loosen up.
There are things, he realizes, things they’re going to have to talk about, after Grif wakes up again. But he is going to wake up again, it’s going to be okay.
He lets himself be stupid enough to think it’s going to be okay, and the thought lets him relax enough that his head droops down onto his chest and he’s asleep without knowing.
His flesh-and-blood hand drapes onto the bed, right next to the one he gave Grif.
That’s what Simmons remembers. It was almost okay.
Simmons wakes up to the sound of shrieking monitors, and grabs for Grif’s hand, only to be shoved out of the way by a solidly built nurse as Doctor Grey bends over the bed.
“Someone clear Operating Room Four, now,” she orders. “Prep him for surgery, and get him—” she gestures at Simmons “—out of here.”
Simmons is too stunned to even push back or dig his feet in as he’s unceremoniously evicted to the hallway.
They push him no further, and then seem to forget about him, so he jumps to his feet and runs for the observation room.
It almost works.
That’s what Simmons will remember, in the weeks and months and years to come, when his mechanical heart and lungs refuse to do the decent thing and quit on him. Refuse to cooperate, to stop the same way the heart and lungs he had given to Grif had; refuse to turn into a flat red line on a monitor the way he had to watch on the worst day of his life.
Refuse to fail, because the only one who’s really failed here is Simmons, Simmons and his stupid lungs and stupider heart that hadn’t worked when he most needed them to, when they weren’t even in his chest.
This is what Simmons remembers:
They almost made it out.
It almost worked.
It was, for one whole day, almost going to be okay.