Author: Tessa (frellingblonde)
Series: Previous chapters can be found at my LiveJournal under "Random Recollections."
Summary: Surgery! Flashbacks! Mind-reading! Simon gets punched! Oh, just read the freakin' thing.
Disclaimer: I'm not Joss, therefore, I don't own Firefly.
Feedback: Remember, there's a special hell for people who don't comment. ;-P
Cross-posted to: ff_fanfic, afterserenity, imeantosay_, and enginesex
"Hey Doc?" Mal stood in the doorway to the infirmary. "Just wanted to let you know we'll be hitting atmo in about ten minutes, and your sister's at the controls, so brace yourself."
"I heard that." River said over the comm.
Mal shuddered. "I hate when she does that. What you got there?"
"X-rays." Simon replied. "I wanted to take a look at Penny's lungs and make sure they weren't affected by the attack. They don't appear to have been."
"That's good." Mal said. He stepped fully into the room. "Pretty girl. What was it she'd been up to since you saw her last?"
"Her sister told me she took over as the local midwife after their aunt died about a year ago. That didn't surprise me too much, her interest in medicine always seemed genuine." Simon replied.
"So, she was pretty tough, huh?" Mal observed. "Back when she was a honey trap, I mean. Hope she remembers enough of that training to teach that husband of hers a lesson when she gets home."
Simon chuckled at the thought. Michel was about the same size as Jayne, but he had no doubt that Penny could drop him easily. "I'm fairly surprised she hasn't already..." He trailed off and looked closer at the x-ray he was holding up. "Ai-ya tyen-ah."
"Something wrong?" Mal asked.
"She's got three broken ribs, here, here, and here." Simon said, pointing. "These two have already started to heal. And right here, this one appears to have fully healed. These are old fractures, they didn't happen in the attack."
"Her husband?" Mal looked as disturbed as Simon was feeling.
Simon shook his head. "I don't know what else they could be from. But it doesn't make any sense, the Penny I knew wouldn't have let a man who raised a hand to her live, let alone hit her more than once."
"People can change." Mal pointed out. "Not always for the better."
"I just can't imagine..." Simon stopped himself again. "Listen to me, talking about her like I really know her. I'm not sure she even really knows herself."
An hour after Serenity landed at the Eavesdown Docks, Simon was still in the infirmary when Kaylee went looking for him.
"Sweetie?" She ventured cautiously. Mal had told her about what Simon had seen in the x-rays, and how upset he had seemed. He turned to her, and the look in his eyes spoke volumes. "It's real bad, huh?"
"There are fractures in four of her ribs, her right clavicle, and her right wrist." Simon replied, as if he were describing an anonymous patient to another doctor. "Some of them are fully healed, a couple of them happened as recently as a month ago. None of them appear to have been treated or set properly."
Kaylee shuddered at the thought. "Her husband's been doing all that to her?" She knew that there were men like that in the 'verse, but she didn't like to think about them. She was so lucky to have a man like Simon.
"Well, we shouldn't automatically jump to that conclusion." Simon admitted. "But it seems likely that it's him. I don't know who else it could be."
"The cap'n knew her daddy." Kaylee pointed out. "Browncoats look out for each other. If it is her husband who's been givin' her all them beatings, he'll be sure and teach him a lesson when we get back. Probably Zoe and Jayne, too."
Simon shook his head. "They shouldn't have to. I don't understand how Penny could be putting up with that kind of treatment from anyone. She used to knock me flat on my back if I stepped too close to her during an argument. With what she'd been through in the past, she wouldn't tolerate anything that could be percieved as a physical threat."
Kaylee frowned. "You'd never hit a woman."
"Of course not." Simon agreed. "I never once raised a hand to her in anger. But from what little she actually told me, I was the first man other than her father who didn't. Which is why this is so bizarre. With the kind of training she had, she could take down a man even Michel's size easily. She's perfectly capable of defending herself."
"Maybe she was protecting her kids?" Kaylee suggested. She remembered a woman who'd lived in her hometown when she was a child, who had ended up dead trying to protect her son from her drunk husband. "Letting him knock her around so he'd leave them alone?"
"It's possible." Simon said. "I just wish I could do more for her."
"You're doing plenty." Kaylee told him. "You got her this far. As for who's been beatin' on her and why she's been lettin' them, we can ask her when she's better."
"If she gets better." Simon added.
Kaylee stepped forward and wrapped her arms around him from behind. "She will. Don't ask me how I know. I just do. I just got faith is all."
Simon turned around in her embrace, finally smiling. "How did I get lucky enough to have you?"
"You're good to me." Kaylee replied. "And to your sister, and to everyone else on this boat, even if sometimes they don't exactly return the favor."
"I love you, Kaylee." Simon whispered, leaning down to kiss her. "I know I say it a lot, but I feel like I can never say it enough."
"It's okay, honey." Kaylee promised. "I know how you feel. And I love you, too. Now come on, we got a patient to deliver."
"I won't come for you again. You end up here, or get mixed up in something worse, you're on your own. I will not come for you." Gabriel Tam's words were a slap in the face to his son, and Simon found he had to clench his fists at his sides to keep from returning the favor. "Now, are you coming home?"
Simon was incredulous. For a moment, he considered making up something about having an early shift at the hospital. But then he decided not to bother. Instead he just turned and walked away. His father called his name, but he ignored him.
It took only a minute to hail a taxi, and about ten minutes to reach the apartment building. He unlocked the door and stepped inside quietly, not wanting to disturb Penelope.
As soon as he locked the door behind him and turned on the light, he realized it was too late. There she was at the end of the hall. She looked more hurt than angry, and it occured to Simon that he would have almost preferred her to be furious.
"I waited for you." She said softly. She was dressed in a lacy little black number that left no room for doubt about what she had been waiting for.
"I'm sorry." He replied, reaching out for her. "The ER was swamped, I couldn't get away."
Her eyes flashed. "Don't. Don't you stand there and lie to me. Aaron called from some dinner party, said your father left abruptly after getting a call from the feds. He made a few calls, found out that you'd been arrested in a blackout zone." Her lower lip trembled and she blinked furiously, as if trying to fight back tears. "What the hell were you doing in a blackout zone?"
"I was meeting someone." Simon explained. He couldn't tell her why, couldn't tell her about River. He couldn't involve her. That way, if anyone came after him, at least she would be safe.
"Meeting someone?" Penelope repeated. She turned away from him, taking a few shaky breaths. "When I was in the bordello, Simon, most of the men who came through my bedroom door had wedding rings on. And a lot of the ones who didn't had tan lines where the rings usually were. I couldn't refuse to service them, I didn't have any choice. But the whole time, I felt sick, just thinking about the women who were waiting for them at home. I wept for those women. And I swore I would never be one of them."
Simon reached for her again, and she flinched away. "Baobei, please, that's not what I was doing, I swear."
"It's okay." Penelope told him. She tried to swallow the lump in her throat. At least she hadn't told him her news yet. She'd planned a romantic, relaxing evening for that exact purpose. But at least she would be able to give him a clean break from her, if that was really what he wanted. Telling him now would only complicate things. "I really should have seen this coming. I stopped believing in fairy tales a long time ago. Rich, handsome young doctors don't sweep whores off their feet in real life."
"Penelope, I love you." Simon insisted. "I wasn't with another woman tonight."
"Then what were you doing?" Penelope asked.
"I...I can't tell you that." He stammered. "Please, I need you to trust me. I would never do anything to betray you."
She cast a pained, doubtful look at him and stalked down the hallway to the bedroom. After a moment, he heard the door lock behind her.
Immediately after an ambulance that had been sent to the docks to collect the patient departed, Simon went up to the bridge, sending one last wave to the doctor who would be in charge of her surgery and treatment, detailing for him every old injury that he had discovered.
No sooner had he closed the conversation and switched off the screen than Kaylee's voice crackled over the comm. "Simon, honey? I need to see you in our room."
"Are you all right?" He asked, instantly concerned. She hadn't seemed ill that morning, but maybe she had been feeling unwell, and he simply hadn't noticed.
"Not sure." Kaylee admitted. "Just come here, okay?"
He hurried down to the passenger dorms, hoping that she was all right, that he hadn't been neglecting her. As soon as he laid his hand on the door to their room, it opened just enough for her to reach out and pull him in. Before he knew what was happening, he was on his back on the bed, with a very healthy, and very naked Kaylee straddling him and kissing him breathless.
As she broke the kiss and leaned back a little, his lips curved into a smile. "That was very sneaky of you, Miss Frye."
Kaylee giggled. "Hey, I said I needed you. Just didn't say what for is all." With that, she started undressing him, pausing a few times to let him kiss and stroke her. She felt a slight ache in her core after their encounters the night before, but she still felt a need for him that bordered on desperate. And besides, he didn't exactly seem to mind.
Afterwards, he lay wrapped in her arms, his head pillowed on her sweat-dampened breasts, listening to her quiet breathing and heartbeat as she absently played with his hair. The physical part of their relationship was amazing, whether it was slow, gentle lovemaking or just a hard, fast hump that left them both sated and exhausted.
But there were no words to convey just how much he loved the peaceful moments that came afterward, the intimacy of being completely joined with Kaylee, as close as they could be. Feeling her warm, limp body shiver against him with the lingering sensations filled him with a sense of peace that he needed so much. No matter what else was going on, if he could just have this time with his beloved Kaylee, to hold her and be held by her, everything would be all right.
"You can relax now, right?" Kaylee asked. "You done right by Penny, and she's in good hands now."
"She is." Simon agreed. "I'm all right, Kaylee, I promise."
"Good." Kaylee sighed. She kissed the top of his head softly. "Rest now, baobei. You've earned it."
As Simon's eyes closed and his breathing slowed down and evened out, Kaylee lay awake for a little while, just watching him. She loved being with him in any way, and making love with him was definitely high on her list. There was no denying that he got her more worked up than any other lover she'd ever had before, but lately she'd been feeling like she couldn't get enough of him. She chalked it up to all the excitement and anticipation of the wedding, a smile crossing her face as she drifted finally drifted off.
Sensing that it was safe, that the intense passion and pleasure that Simon and Kaylee had been radiating all over the ship had given way to peace and contentment, River crept down the stairs and stood outside their door. The love that flowed between her brother and her best friend made her smile. Reading them both, she found nothing more than pure bliss.
It was a welcome change from the climate of the ship when Penny had been in the infirmary. Even trapped between life and death, the poor young woman's mind had been crying out. There had been fear coming off of her, and sadness. She carried a heartbreaking secret that River had heard but didn't want to know. She couldn't let Simon find out what she knew, not when he was so happy with Kaylee. Not when he would soon have something so precious occupying his thoughts.
As if on cue, a third presence in Simon and Kaylee's room reached out to her, a tiny little soul, but with a voice that she could hear clearly. She heard impatience, and she couldn't help but laugh softly. This was the first time the presence had been so strong, even though she had been aware of it for nearly three months now.
'Soon, little one.' She promised silently before skipping off. 'They'll be ready to meet you soon.'
"Oh, that is something!" Kaylee giggled, pressing her hand to Zoe's swollen belly. "Simon, c'mere. Feels like he's got hiccups."
"He probably does." Simon replied, laying his hand on the spot.
"Does it hurt when he's so active?" Kaylee asked.
"It can be uncomfortable at times." Zoe admitted. "But I'm used to it." She had a serene smile on her face, and she actually chuckled as her son kicked again.
Simon marveled at how well pregnancy and impending motherhood suited the warrior woman. She seemed more at ease now than he could ever recall her being, and happier than she had been since before Wash's death.
In his former life, he had been more or less indifferent to the idea of having children. It didn't seem like there was really any question, he would establish his career, marry a suitable young lady, and father children to continue the family name. It was what was expected of him. Certainly, he had felt some excitement when he'd found out that Penny was pregnant, and been disappointed when she'd said that the baby wasn't his. But he had always attributed his sadness to the loss of the relationship, and not the child.
It was only after he fell in love with Kaylee, and began to build a future with her, that he found himself actively wanting to be a father. He wanted to see Kaylee's stomach grow, to place his hands on her and feel their baby moving, to hold her as she held their newborn son or daughter in her arms. He knew that their children would be beautiful, cheerful, and brilliant, and that Kaylee would be an incredible mother. There were even times when he believed he might make a good father.
"Simon?" Kaylee turned her attention from Zoe to her fiance. "What're you thinking about, there?"
"Just wondering when Zoe is going to tell us the baby's name, actually." Simon replied. "Or if we're going to have to keep guessing."
"Soon." River spoke up. "It's still a secret for now."
Zoe just shrugged. "She's the reader."
"Simon?" Inara leaned into the common area, a little out of breath and with her hair ever so slightly disheveled, something that was odd enough to get the attention of everyone in the room except for River, who just sat quietly, with a small smile on her face. "Mal wants to see you on the bridge, there's a wave coming in from the hospital."
"You look a bit flushed, 'Nara." Kaylee observed as she followed Simon. She gave her friend a teasing wink. "Did you run all the way down here?" She didn't even bother asking what Inara had been doing on the bridge.
"Yes, I did." Inara replied, casually smoothing her hair. "I thought it might be important."
Simon and Kaylee exchanged looks as they made their way up to the bridge. "They really think they're being subtle, don't they?" Simon asked.
"I ain't even sure anymore." Kaylee giggled. "But they ain't doing so bad. Jayne don't know."
"Is that really saying much?" Simon wondered aloud, elicting another snicker from Kaylee. They both stifled their laughter as they reached the bridge. "Mal, you wanted to see me?"
"Got a wave." Mal replied, gesturing to the cortex screen. He didn't get out of his chair or even turn around.
Simon sat down in the other chair and turned on the screen. The Operative's face stared back at him. "Yes?"
"Just thought you would want to know right away, the surgery was successful." The Operative explained, a small hint of a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "The patient is in recovery, and could very well wake up before the end of the day."
"That's good news." Simon replied. "Keep us posted?"
"Actually, you and the rest of the crew have been summoned to the hospital at your earliest possible convenience. There are several key leaders of the resistance here who would like to meet all of you." The Operative stated. "I don't know if any of you fully understand what heros you are, what a remarkable thing you've done." He shut off his screen, ending the conversation before Simon could reply.
"Huh." Kaylee said. "How about that? We're famous."
"Or infamous." Simon added. "What do you think, Mal? Trap?"
"Not a trap." River popped her head in, grinning. Then she disappeared as fast as she had come.
The three people on the bridge were silent until Mal spoke up. "You know, Doc, we really oughta think about puttin' a bell on her." He stated, eliciting soft chuckles from both Simon and Kaylee.
The hospital was smaller than St. Lucy's, Simon noted, but just as clean and cold-looking. The crew followed the Operative through the corridors, noticing the stares and whispers they were getting.
In the recovery ward, he and Kaylee were led over to a bed hidden behind a plain white curtain. Penny was still hooked up to several machines, and a large white bandaged covered one side of her head where an incision into her skull had been made.
"Hi, Penny." Kaylee said softly, leaning over the young woman. "She looks so much better. The bruising's even gone down."
Simon nodded, coming up behind her and almost instinctively placing his hand on her hip, drawing her near. "Once she wakes up, we'll be able to determine if she's suffered any permenant damage or memory loss, but her doctors were optimistic."
"It's because of you, ya know." Kaylee told him, grinning proudly. "She's alive because of you. There's not too many men in this 'verse who would go outta their way to help a girl who'd broken their heart."
Simon knew that she was right. But he couldn't imagine turning his back on anyone in trouble. "What happened between us before doesn't matter. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself if I'd let her die."
"Don't look now," Kaylee said, indicating Penny. "But I think somebody's ears are burnin'."
Sure enough, Penny's eyes were fluttering ever so slightly. "I think you're right." Simon said, checking the monitors. "Go get the doctor, tell him she may be waking up."
Moments after Kaylee left, the young woman's eyes opened, darting around frantically. Recognizing that her fight-or-flight instinct was kicking in, Simon reached out and took her hand. "It's all right, you're safe now. You're in a hospital."
At the sound of his voice, she looked up. Her eyes narrowed and she looked almost confused.
"That's it, just relax." Simon told her in a soothing tone. "Now, do you know who I am?"
By way of an answer, a small fist shot up suddenly, catching him right on the chin.