A constant annoying ringing catches his attention first. Slowly, the awareness of deep, throbbing, penetrating pain throughout his skull demands all of Simon's attention. Try as he might, he can't remember daring Kasuko to another sake drinking challenge. He might not be as bright as River, but he's always learned well from his past mistakes. Opening his eyes might explain something about the current situation, but he doubts it'll bring about pleasant results, if his migraine is any indicator.
Okay, slowly, he thinks as opens his eyes a fraction. "Tamade –" he moans when the attempt to move his eyelids (palpebral orbicularis oculi) results in searing pain. The surrounding muscles in his face spasm in concert with searing throb in his head.
"Easy, Doctor," a woman's soft voice says. The tone elicits a memory of soft cocoa skin and leather and sadness. Zoë.
"Yes," she answers to what he must have said out loud.
"Where are we?" He lifts a hand to find out why his face feels like he spent six hours on the beaches of Bahama Lake without an ounce of skin protectant every time he blinks or speaks.
"You don't want to be doing that, Doctor." Zoë gently stops his hand's upward trajectory with her own. "The Captain will be here soon and then we'll be on Serenity." Her touch disappears and his mind races with a million and one possibilities about his own condition. He realizes that Zoë's grasp on his wrist hadn't been gentle – it had been weak. A former field medic, it's unlikely she removed her hand; rather her strength had failed to allow her to hold on and continue to restrain him.
"Zoë? Where are you? How are you? What happened?"
"Beside you, and I'm fine. Jayne's gone to get the Captain and we'll be on Serenity," she replies. It isn't his imagination. Her voice sounds weaker now, but reassuring. No threat of impending danger; well, none other than their reliance on Jayne to save them.
"Great, the Hero of Canton will be having Serenity in the air and off as soon as Mal's set foot off the ship," Simon theorizes as he pushes into a sitting position and feels around the gritty, slick floor. Gravel and glass dig into his hands opening up dozens of new cuts. And absorbing billions of bacteria. The migraine and hundreds of burning nerves in his face cloud his mind as he casts about for what happened. For where they are. If River's safe.
Bracing against the pain, he opens his eyes wide to look around, but it's too dark to even make out shapes or his own waving hand. Dust permeates the air with the residue of burnt plastic and blood. He hopes it's his own. His ears are still ringing, but he can hear Zoë breathing at his left – shallowly. Broken ribs are a possibility. Water drips somewhere to the right. Nothing moves, or at least, nothing moves that makes a sound. Convinced they are alone and safe for now, he continues his exploration towards Zoë.
His hand encounters a shallow jelly substance centimeters before poking the firm muscle of Zoë.
Jelly. One of them has bled enough to make a pool of blood. And he was out long enough for the blood to coagulate. Frustration and fear make him curse out loud.
"Language, Doctor. River hears you talking like that and she's likely to skin Jayne alive just on principle before he can even begin to mutiny."
Simon muffles his laughter; it will only make the pain worse. Zoë's voice is softer than before. Warmth radiates from her leg. Not too much, but not terribly shocky either. That or she recovered from it while he was unconscious. He wipes his hands on his clothes and reaches out. "Zoë, what's wrong? Something's wrong, tell me."
"Just a little shrapnel, Doc. T'ain't nothing."
Zoë's lapse into slurred slang erases all of his conscious knowledge of his own pain. Simon reaches out towards the warmth and feels wet, slick leather, but no obvious wounds. She grunts as his hands pass her gun belt to her shirt.
"Easy, safe mission, Doc. Jayne and Zoë help you carry the meds to Lafferty's homestead. You see to his sick daughter while Zoë gets paid and everyone's happy."
So safe that Zoë hadn't worn her armored vest. Lafferty was an old friend of theirs that they were eager to help. The hot, wet fabric of Zoë's blouse, just beneath the start of her right rib cage, leads to one of her hands, which gives way to his probing touch to reveal a ragged slice in her stomach. It's a wonder she hasn't bled out yet. Not cold from shock, though – has it been long enough for infection? He doesn't smell anything that would indicate one and the air is clear of fecal odors. He keeps probing though to make sure nothing sharp remains inside that might tear the bowels if she's moved. Or seizes. She cries out and curses when his probing encounters her bowels.
"Shh, it's okay, Zoë. You've controlled the bleeding and nothing important is nicked. Soon as the Captain gets here, I'll have you in the infirmary and fixed right up."
"Mmm," she answers before whimpering a little as he bears down on the makeshift pressure bandage she's already applied. No arterial damage that he can feel, but he'll reserve final judgment until he can confirm the diagnosis visually. He trusts his hands though. Once, when trapped with a trauma patient in one of the hospital's lifts and even the emergency lighting had failed, he'd managed to hold onto the patient's nicked femoral artery until help arrived. A good surgeon has to be prepared to help his patient in every eventuality – even when the object of the surgery was obscured from the view of the microcams or only visible on a computer rendered image of the organ in question.
He trusts his hands. If only he trusted Jayne to get the Captain back here in time.
"You're right, Zoë, it's just a little shrapnel. Hang on," Simon encourages. "Did Lafferty leave with Jayne?"
Zoë doesn't answer.
"Zoë?" Simon knees her leg, but she remains silent. Passed out, he concludes. He hopes from the pain instead of blood loss.
Self-diagnosis keeps Simon's mind occupied while they wait.
Mild nausea with movement, splitting headache, added to the ringing in the ears indicates concussion.
Gunfire sounds after Lafferty refuses to hand over the medicine. Zoë, Jayne, and Lafferty shoot back. Simon leaves Dora's side when Lafferty goes down, but the canister of ether they brought explodes first.
Explosion. Right. Damage to the eardrum then. His facial pain derives from flash burns.
His eyes widened in surprise when the ether exploded.
His eyelids aren't burned. No matter how much he blinks, the feeling of grit in his eyes persists. Suddenly, the darkness scares him.
The silence doesn't help any. The complete lack of sound outside of his and Zoë's breathing and the ringing in his ears unnerves him. More unnerving that she hasn't started clotting yet.
That's the thing about a hospital surgery – it's never quiet. The surgeon is constantly asking for instruments, the anesthesiologist calling out the patient's vitals, pumps whirring, and banter between the doctors and nurses. It's never quiet. At least not until someone calls the time of death and turns off the screaming heart and neural monitor.
Now all he can hear is breathing. His and Zoë's.
Zoë's is starting to become congested; too much fluid leaking out and finding the wrong places to go. He'd like to maneuver her so that she's sitting more upright, but he can't risk moving his hands. Not if she's to still be alive by the time help gets here.
Help that seems to be taking its own sweet time.
The quiet unnerves him, so he starts talking. She grunts whenever he reveals something too embarrassing - a good sign. She's partly conscious at times, still fighting. Probably in more pain than he is. Talking causes his head to throb something fierce and starts lines of fire across the skin of his face. He pushes on though; it's a small thing to do for his patient.
He hates being this helpless and far away from the infirmary. Funny, once upon a time he felt like that infirmary was just this side of useless. Over a year later, and he's almost stopped pining for the state of the art facilities on Osirus. Or even what passes for state of the art on Persephone or Boros.
"You're probably tired of hearing about my dull medacad adventures. Before I came to Serenity, my life was pretty boring. No, actually, any time I was away from River, my life was pretty boring.
"Can you believe that I don't even have that many memories without her in them? What does that say that before she was born, all I remember is burning my fingers on my birthday cake when I was two?
"She was talking to me before she was walking. Pestering me to carry her places since the maids were instructed to not let her crawl outside. Mother didn't want her staining her dresses.
"It seems like a week after she was walking, she started dancing. Mother and Father were delighted and found an instructor for her immediately. River went; not much a almost two year old can do to prevent it. But as soon as she got home, she was in my room demanding I read my textbooks to her.
"It wasn't long before our parents hired tutors for her and she didn't have time to listen to me read; though I think most of the time she was humoring me and could have read them by herself.
"She always looked for ways to make me feel needed. Or to imitate me. She got me grounded for three months by stealing my hoverboard when she was four. Can you imagine a four year old on a hoverboard? Like everything else, she was good at it. She was three blocks away from the estate before another boarder passed too close and the wake knocked her out of the air. She broke her leg in three places. My parents were so upset – it caused her to miss three different recitals and musicals.
"River didn't care though. It gave her an excuse to act scared of the doctors and refuse to go without me."
A coughing fit seizes Simon and stops his tales of childhood. When it passes, he tries to start again to combat the silence and darkness that surrounds them, but his voice starts cracks too much. Despite the wetness of the cold concrete they sit on, there's not a drop of water to be had.
The noise of Serenity's engines powering down announces the arrival of help. Not a moment too soon, judging by the clamminess of Zoë's skin. Simon racks his brain, but he can't remember what her blood type is relative to the rest of the crew. It's times like these that Wash's absence is more than an emotional pain for Simon – the pilot had been the only universal donor in the bunch.
Simon waits for the appearance of light to show that the crew has found them. Simon tries to shout, but barely manages a grizzled whisper after all the story telling he's done.
"In here," Jayne's voice calls out before the sounds of multiple sets of boots reach Simon and fill him with relief. "Xiaoxin, the rutting supports ain't too stable anymore."
"You don't say," Mal answers. Simon doesn't understand why he can't see them. "Hey, Doc. Ni mei shi ba?" he asks. It sounds like the captain is directly on top of him, but surely Mal and Jayne - well, Mal at least is smart enough to bring some sort of torch with him. His eyes widened in surprise at the explosion.
He pushes the fear of ocular injury away and focuses on the rescue. "I'm fine," Simon answers, as loudly as his parched throat and mouth will allow. "She has internal bleeding – we need to get her to the infirmary so I can operate as soon as possible."
Jayne snorts something, but Simon can't hear what he says because River's talking over him. Why did they let River in here? The building is unstable, even Jayne can see that.
"Shh, Simon. Drink." The smell of wet metal sets his lips to action even before he registers the cold of the canteen on his lips.
"Doc, we're going to put Zoë on the stretcher – can you hang on to what needs holding?" Mal asks.
"Go slowly," Simon has to pause and readjust the volume of his voice now that his throat is wet and working, "and there should be no problem."
"We'll lift just after three – okay?" Mal asks.
Simon nods. "They're moving to my right, Simon, which is directly ahead for you," River adds. She knows. He wonders how obvious his condition is.
"Think it's possible that we can do this and get off this moon before someone 'sides us decides to investigate this neighborhood tragedy?" Jayne asks.
"After three, gents. One, two, three," Mal counts. Simon feels River's hand on the small of his back pushing him in the direction that Zoë's body is being transported. "We're going to lift, Simon. If you want River to-"
"Yes." He feels River kneel at his left side and her hands cover his own. He slides his hand out from under hers and sits back on his heels.
"River?" Mal asks.
"Ready, Captain. Perhaps after one this time."
"Fine then. One." Grunts sound and footsteps start moving away from him. Simon stays put – no since in risking injury on debris he can't see now that they've been rescued.
"Oh, Simon!" Kaylee exclaims from the direction that the others had gone.
"It's not as bad as it looks," he tries to reassure her. Of course, how would I know.
"Of course not. Cap'n said to get you inside, mashong, so we can go and get Zoë fixed up." Her touch on his shoulder is tentative.
"I'm not going to break any worse than I am, Kaylee." His tone makes her speed up and soon he's standing battling waves of nausea and dizziness. Amazing that the room can spin when you can't even see it.
"This way," she says as she tugs on his arm. He stumbles several times on something, but soon their footsteps soften, indicating they've left the cold concrete that he and Zoë had sat on for the dirt of the moon outside.
Dirt should mean light. Sunlight. Starlight. Light from the cargo bay.
Simon shuts his eyes tight and then opens them. Again and again.
Nothing. Not even flashes as the last shred of deluded hope died.
The cold Simon feels isn't just from the moon's fall air.
"Mal, you ain't thinking of letting him –"
"Jayne, out," Mal orders. "Unless you've somehow miraculously learned how to stitch anything together."
Simon breathes the clean, warm air of Serenity and listens to Jayne stomp away. Kaylee retreated quickly in the face of Mal's worry and Simon's anger. Concussions cause mood changes. River stayed and her hand on the small of his back grounds him.
"Simon, can you tell me what to do?" Mal asks. "Like you told Zoë when you were shot."
Hysterical laughter bubbles under his diaphragm. Only deep breaths keep it drowned for now. "I could see what she was doing then, Mal."
Other than the initial inquiries as to his health, no one has overtly mentioned Simon's state. Blind. No irrigation during the first critical hours of the burn. Actual lack of eye pain even more worrying. Prognosis – miserable. Simon's trying not to focus on Zoë rather than his own condition. Well, on Zoë and keeping the hysterical laughter drowned in a deep, dark abyss.
River is never afraid of the dark.
"He knows what to do," River says. "He knows how to do it."
River's right. But Simon still can't get past the not seeing what he needs to do.
"Mal," Inara interrupts. "I've had some basic medical training. I should be able to find whatever instruments Simon asks for."
"Or he can just hold on until we fly ourselves somewhere with medical facilities." Tension radiates from Mal's voice. In almost any other circumstance, he would be yelling. The sergeant in him, the captain, is controlling his temper for their benefit. Brave front for his crew. Simon's seen it before, the first time when the captain was consoling Kaylee, after she was shot by the Fed.
And didn't that turn out just peachy for you, Simon?
"Closest medical facility with ability to treat Zoë is Greenleaf – six hours at full burn," River states clinically. "It's unlikely her blood volume will last that long even with a full transfusion."
"We'll find an Alliance ship like we did with Book!" Now Mal shouts.
"Mal, even if they would consent to treat her…" Inara trails off mid-sentence.
Simon finishes the sentence in his head – River and Simon. There are still warrants out for them, even if the federally funded bounty hunters have stopped. So nice of the Operative to make sure that happened after killing one-fourth of their crew.
"Simon, tell me – can you do this?" The air in the infirmary vibrates with the desperation in Mal's voice. This is Zoë.
Simon breathes deeply and pictures the scene in his head. Mal towering over Zoë, hands pressing into her abdomen. Inara near the door, frightened but determined to speak truth the Captain while Zoë's incapacitated. River at his side, confident that her big brother will make everything all right. More than once in this infirmary, he's saved someone that should have died. There's no reason he can't do it again. And it's not like trying is going to make things worse.
"I can, but the longer we argue about it, the worse her chances. Inara, the blood substitute and saline drips are in the top left drawer. Do you know how to start an IV?" Simon asks.
"I can start the IV," Mal interrupts. "River, get us set on a course for Greenleaf, full burn and then some. Tell Jayne and Kaylee to get out and push if it'll help."
Simon's glad Mal left after starting the IV. Operations are tense enough knowing that the entire crew watches through the glass windows, closer and more immediate than the clinical observatories for the medacad students on Osirus. Normally, he has no problem blocking out their concerned gazes. Now, he can't see them – they may not even be there – but the knowledge that their gazes are different this time (judging, defeated, mournful) makes his hands shake slightly.
"Simon?' Inara asks. He's been around enough Companions to know that she's deliberately pitching her voice to be smooth and encouraging even as she inquires about whether he's capable and ready to move forward with what needs to be done.
He tries to think of all the times when he's operated effectively blind. This was exactly the reason he loathed neurosurgery and microvasculature repair so much.
"I'm….here, Inara, and no one else is. Zoë doesn't have anyone else." God help him if his hands aren't equal to the task.
"You're an amazing surgeon, Simon. Top three percent if I remember correctly."
Simon nods, but doesn't answer. Fear in the operating room results in dead patients. He was confident in his abilities when he thought they were stuck in a dark room. The room is still dark and he's stuck in it, but his hands haven't changed.
He reviews her injury – a five inch gash in her abdomen caused by shrapnel. No damage to the bowels. Liver is fine, or she'd be dead by now. Some damage to the vasculature leading to the spleen, which is why he couldn't get the blood to clot while they waited for rescue. How'd she make it through the entire war without her spleen being removed? Let alone seven years in Mal's employ afterward. "I need a scalpel and have the microsutures at the ready," Simon instructs as his hands disinfect the surgical field of Zoë's abdomen.
His hands have gotten him this far in his life. He'll have to trust them a bit longer.
By the time Simon's closes Zoë up, he's exhausted. He still doesn't know how long they were stranded in the rubble. His head pounds and his throat has gone completely dry. Numbness permeates the rest of his body.
"How are her vitals?" At first, he knew where Inara was standing by the movement of her perfume (jasmine and sandalwood), but the stress of the operation had caused them both to sweat and the infirmary is clogged with the scent of both of them.
Inara's hand on his arm causes him to jump slightly. "They're good and holding steady. I gave her the antibiotics you instructed and it's another hour before another dose is due." She tugs his arm gently. "You need to sit down."
Down sounds good. His hand threaded through her arm rather than the way Kaylee had pushed and pulled his hand, he lets her lead him to the couch outside the infirmary where she pushes on his shoulders to prompt him to sit. The change in altitude causes his stomach and inner ear to fight a brief, nauseous battle. Inara sits beside him and rubs his back until he wins it.
"Is there anything I can do for you?" Inara asks. "To get Mal to leave, I had to promise I'd find him as soon as you were done."
Simon starts to shake his head, but the motion causes him to wince as his migraine reemerges in full force. Inara's hand, smooth and uncallused, squeezes his. "One second," and then her soft touch is gone and replaced by sounds of rummaging from inside the infirmary. Top shelf, left corner is where the really good stuff is. "Take these – unless you'd rather have a smoother?" He can't believe he's missing seeing Inara play nurse to him.
"No, Zoë might still need me." His face is starting to burn so he chews the pills so they'll take effect faster.
"Okay then. Here, use the radio if you need something. I'll be back as soon as I can to see to your face." With that, her disappearing footsteps announce her departure.
Crisis averted, Zoë stable and rehydrated, and solitude restored. Now would be an excellent chance to fall asleep or fall apart.
River finds him before Inara comes back. She's silent in deference to his headache, but he'd know the feel of River's hand anywhere. Rougher than Inara's, softer than Kaylee's, and different from Zoë's. She pulls him up off the couch and guides him to the kitchen. No sound of footsteps other than his own, so she's barefoot again. Simon can't find the energy to scold her about tetanus shots.
Something hard and round is pressed into his hand – bringing it to his nose reveals it to bread. Two days old if he remembers correctly the last time Kaylee opened a new package. Warm air with a creamy tomato aroma announces the bowl of soup in front of him. River guides his hand to the spoon she's set beside it.
Simon shakes her hand off and wonders if they're the only two in the kitchen. He's seen the blind eat. He knows this won't be clean and he's not willing to let go that much yet. He's not willing to admit that he'll be wearing stained vests the rest of his life and wandering around the ship bumping into walls if River isn't there to guide him. Bet Kaylee's glad things didn't work out now.
Angry, he tears the roll apart puts it into the soup to soften it. His mother would be mortified, but he lifts the bowl to drink the soup rather than using the spoon. Less chance of spilling and dripping it all over his clothes this way.
"I'm full," he tells River when he finishes the roll. She takes his hand and leads him out of the kitchen, down the steps, and into the passenger dorm to his room. Simon dated a physical therapist that had several blind patients. He knows he should be counting the steps so he'll be able to go to and from on his own, but he's too tired right now. Denial. First stage.
"I'll get Inara to-," she says.
"River, no, just-," he starts, but she's slid the door shut already.
It doesn't take long for the shock he's held back so long to take over and unconsciousness to end the perpetual dark surrounding him.
He jerks awake when Inara's perfume and a shake to his shoulder rouses him. "I wish I could let you sleep, Simon, but it's better to treat your face now."
He nods, but doesn't talk. Lets her do what needs to be done without offering instruction or asking for details. It's not like anything is really going to change the situation, now is it?
She leaves without offering more pain medicine. Likely a local has already been applied – his face finally feels completely numb and shutting his eyes doesn't cause any pain. He wills sleep to return.
There's nothing to see to be awake for anyway.
At Greenleaf, Mal manages to get a doctor to make a house call to Serenity. Idly, Simon wonders if violence motivated the service or if she's a war buddy of the captain. He wishes he could see the doctor to make a judgment about the quality of her practice.
His condition being what it is, he's reduced to sitting on the cabinet they use as a secondary bed in the infirmary and answering mundane questions about Zoë's condition.
"Seems good to me, Reynolds. Treatment looks good and no bleeding left over. Fine operation, if I don't say so," the woman announces. She sounds older than Mal, but her accent is less … border than the Captain or Jayne. None of her questions had been stupid and she hadn't missed anything that Simon considered critical. All in all, competent he decides.
"Good to know, Caulder. We appreciate it," Mal replies.
"Knowing the two of you, I'd keep her doped for a couple of days so she has a chance to recover. Other than that, just watch out for infection and biweekly broad spectrum injections as a preventative measure now that she's missing the spleen."
Silence falls and he knows they're looking at him. He waves in the direction of Caulder's voice. "Go ahead, Doctor. You won't be telling me anything I don't already know." He's skipped the bargaining step of grief to depression and can't hide the bitterness from his voice.
"How 'bout you simmer down and let her actually examine you first?"
He doesn't laugh at the fact that Mal thinks Simon needs another doctor to diagnose his own condition. His head doesn't need the trauma of antagonizing Mal when he's in this mood.
Heavy footsteps announce Caulder's arrival at his side, joined soon by the smell of livestock and sweat. Suddenly, Simon wants to question her credentials a bit more. Surely Mal wouldn't find a veterinarian to treat Zoë?
Her hands are smaller than her footsteps led him to believe – almost as small as Kaylee's. Her fingertips ghost over his skin, judging the degree of his burns. "The burns are superficial and no infection that I can see. A few dermal treatments should prevent excessive scarring." Her hands drop to his shoulders. "I'm going to look in your eyes, Dr. Tam."
"Fine." Her use of his title smacks of condescension.
Her touch leave his shoulders and her left hand pushes on his chin lightly to direct his vision up (is she that tall?) and the right circles to the back of his neck to hold his head steady. Her left hand firmly but gently pries his left eye open wide. He doesn't see the light that clicks on, but he can smell onions on her breath as she looks into his left and then his right eye with the ophthalmoscope (Mine or hers?) It's beyond petty, but he doesn't want her touching his instruments.
It doesn't take long for Simon to get fed up with the back and forth of her examination. "Looking five times isn't going to change what you're seeing," he snaps.
"I don't suppose one of you would mind explaining what's going on?" Simon doesn't understand why Mal sounds concerned. Caulder already said Zoë would be fine.
"You want to do the honors?" Caulder asks, unsympathetically. He shakes his head and leans back against the glass. If Mal had wanted his diagnosis, all he had to do was ask before they arrived at Greenleaf. "Dr. Tam has grade four corneal burns on both eyes."
"You know I hate asking for translations."
"The accident blinded him, Reynolds. His only hope for restoration of his vision is a corneal transplant."
"What she's leaving out is that outside the Core, the technique only has a sixty percent success rate," Simon adds. "Assuming that you can afford the black market fees since there's not exactly a border planet donor registry."
"Do you have what you need for treatment?" Caulder asks.
Simon nods. Kaylee does enough welding around the ship that he's always made sure to keep up the stock of meds for eye burns. Not that they'll help him with anything other the pain.
Snapping sounds indicate the exams are over and footsteps leave the infirmary. "I'll send your sister in," Mal offers before retreating after Caulder.
The psychotic leading the blind, a fine pair we make, Simon thinks.
Zoë heals quickly, even without additional help from Simon. River continues to act as pilot for the ship, and Simon slowly learns to find his way around the ship without help. Kaylee's sympathy causes him to lose his temper and yell. Jayne just avoids him. Mal promises that they'll get enough to pay for the surgery he needs and Simon leaves the room every time he does.
Ironic, his sister passes for sane most days and he can't get through a meal without throwing a tantrum over the tone of someone's voice.
He knows how much the corneal transplantation will cost under normal conditions. As a technical fugitive, he can only imagine how that number will be multiplied. And in the end, for nothing. He knows the likelihood of regaining his full vision.
If they'd been in the Core and been able to get to a hospital within thirty minutes of the injury, Simon could've made a full recovery.
Then again, if no one had cut open River's head and played Frankenstein, well…He tries not to think of could've.
"Need your services, Doc," Zoë says one day, months after the accident. As hard as it was to count the days passing before it happened, Simon's given up trying to keep a tally of the time passed since.
"If you've lost something in the infirmary, I doubt I can help you find it now," Simon replies bitterly. He probably enters the room even less than River nowadays. The crew has taken to patching their own wounds once again.
"Not what I had in mind," she replies over the radio. "I'm in the cargo bay. Appreciate it if you could find your way down here."
He starts to tell her to find someone else, but he remembers they landed on Ezra earlier that day and Mal cleared it as safe for River to accompany the crew on their errands. Zoë had stayed with the ship. My babysitter.
Sometimes it's hard to not envy every inch of freedom that River has over him. Almost as much as he envied her intelligence before she went to the academy. Outside the ship, he's utterly reliant on someone to guide him. Not exactly conducive to garnering more smuggling jobs.
Simon makes his way through the empty ship - easier to do when Jayne doesn't think it's hilarious to move the furniture - to the cargo bay and waits. "Where are you?"
"Other side of the bay. By the weight bench," she calls.
He rarely enters the cargo bay due to its ever changing geography of cargo, so he doesn't know the number of footsteps to the bench area of if there's anything in his way. He sticks to the outer edge of the cargo bay with a hand on the wall and another in front of him to alert him to any cargo. Kaylee had offered to buy him a sight stick, but he'd refused. Hardly necessary on Serenity with her numerous hand holds.
"Right in front of you, Doctor," Zoë says. The pain in her voices causes him to flash back the accident when they waited for rescue. Panicky, he tries to remember if the intercom by the bay doors connects to the crew's personal radios. It could mean the difference between getting help in five minutes versus the fifteen it will take for him to count his steps back to the cockpit.
"Bit of a scratch. Slipped while putting the hole back to rights."
As he kneels, the copper smell of blood reaches his nose. Using his hands, he feels around until he finds her. As soon as his hand drops below her shoulder, he encounters wetness. Beneath the wet shirt, he can feel the scratch - more a gash really. It runs from the outside of her clavicle down to her lower sternum. It's leaking blood, but nothing indicates an arterial wound. Of course, then it would be unlikely she'd have had the strength to call for me. "This will need stitches."
"I'm not very good at those one handed."
"Can you make it to the infirmary?"
"I won't know till we try." Simon stands and does his best to help Zoë up. He's sure he's more of a hindrance than a help, but she doesn't complain.
With Zoë directing, they cross the empty floor of the cargo bay and navigate the corridor to the infirmary without incident. When she collapses heavily on the examining chair, he panics again. "I should call back Inara or Mal-"
"Not that bad, Simon. Nothing internal. Just a quick stitch job. Surely they made you practice these with your eyes closed in medacad."
"Why? Is that how they taught you in Basic?"
Instinctively, he moves around the room gathering supplies. He forgets how long it's been since he set foot in here, but mercifully, nothing has moved. He arranges his instruments and supplies on the stand beside the chair. "Your shirt?"
"One second-" He reaches out when she moans to find that she's swaying. He steadies her in a sitting position and helps her remove the shirt the rest of the way. "See, like riding a bike," she comments as he helps her lay back down.
Probing, he finds the cut much deeper than he originally thought. His instruments are laid out in order and his time on Serenity has made him accustomed to a lack of assistance during operations. In life and death situations, he's never had the time to look back at the instrument tray so he has little difficulty now that he can't actually see it. He's slower than he used to be, but it's not long before the two large veins that were cut are repaired and he starts to stitch Zoë's skin back together.
Absorbed in his work, he doesn't stop until he hears Mal cursing at the door of the infirmary. It's fortunate he's almost done because Mal pushes him out of the way and everyone's asking Zoë questions.
Simon finds his way to wall and stands still to avoid tripping over the crush of bodies. River grasps his hand and pulls him out into the open space of the hall.
"Told you, silly," she says.
"Told me what, River?"
"It's your hands that make you a doctor. Not your eyes."
He's forced to admit that she's right. After months of sulking and lashing out every time the crew tried to help him, he's managed to do what he always did before the explosion blinded him.
His knowledge is intact. Serenity has never had imaging technology, so he's not even missing a diagnostic tool that he had before. As long as he trusts his hands and his mind, he can still function as a doctor and a surgeon.
Tamade – motherfucker
Xiaoxin – careful
Ni mei shi ba = Are you okay?
Mashong - quickly