Summary: Every scar has a story.
"Tell me about this one," Mal says, tracing a circle around the scar in
the middle of Simon's chest.
Simon tenses, looking down at his chest. "Not that one, Mal. Please.
I'll tell you about any of the others, but...not that one."
Mal gives him a patient look. "I don't recall asking," he says mildly.
"Not that one." Simon shakes his head.
"I'm not asking, Simon."
He waits, not saying anything else. After several long, tense minutes,
Simon sighs, drawing his knees to his chest and resting his head on
them. "When--when I started looking for River," he says, voice muffled,
"I kept running into one dead end after another. Money talks, but it
doesn't always say what you want to hear. People would tell me things
that I knew were false, just because they wanted to get paid." He lifts
his head, wrapping his arms around his knees. "After the first couple
of months, I started to wonder if I was ever going to see my sister
Mal doesn't reach out to touch him. Simon needs to do this on his own
and if Mal touches him he might just clam up. He stays where he is,
"Everyone kept telling me to be patient," Simon continues. "These
things take time, you know. I was going up against the Alliance. Rome,
on Earth-That-Was, wasn't built in a day." His voice is dead,
expressionless. "Meanwhile, my sister was out there somewhere,
suffering, and I couldn't even talk to her." Simon swallows. "I had to
keep working so I had the money to keep searching for her. My family
had money but they weren't going to help me. So I was putting in double
shifts at the hospital every chance I got, trying to earn enough to
find out the truth."
Simon swallows, looking down at his knees. "I was going out of my mind.
I didn't know what I was going to do. I couldn't keep putting in the
hours I was or I'd burn out and be no good as a doctor, but if I wasn't
working I couldn't afford to look for River. And I *had* to find her,
Mal!" Simon's voice rises, anguished. "I had to!" He swallows again,
scrubbing the back of his hand across his eyes to wipe away tears that
"It took me two years of Hell before I could find her, and longer
before I could get her out." Simon's voice is thick with tears and
pain. "I wasn't--I wasn't sane by Persephone. I probably wasn't sane
for a long time before that."
Mal waits silently. It's agonizing to watch Simon go through this--but
it has to be done. Simon has to be able to let this out or it'll keep
eating at him.
Simon exhales shakily. "About a year before Persephone, I--broke. I
just--I couldn't take it anymore. I'd had enough of people telling me
to be patient and my parents telling me that if I kept this up I
wouldn't be their son anymore and..." He trails off, scrubbing at his
eyes again. "It was a Friday. I remember that. I had the night off--I'd
worked the maximum number of hours they'd let me for that week and I
wasn't allowed back in the hospital for another forty-eight hours. I'd
met with someone earlier that evening, hoping for some information,
but--" He shrugs. "Nothing."
Slowly, Simon uncoils a little, enough to see the scar on his chest. "I
went home, and I took out my scalpel. I had one in particular that I
used to cut myself--it was like an old friend." His mouth twists
bitterly. "It was certainly more reliable than my parents." He shakes
his head, cutting off that train of thought. "I sat down in front of
the mirror, and I figured if everyone was going to tell me to be
patient, then I was just going to be patient. Literally." Simon looks
down again before he continues.
"So I took my scalpel and I carved patience into my skin."
It's all Mal can do to not show his reaction. He's furious--but Simon
doesn't need his anger right now.
"You want to know the worst part?" Simon asks bitterly. "That wasn't
the end." His hands clench on his knees and Mal has to stop himself
from prying Simon's fingers apart. There'll be marks on his palms from
this, but better that than more precise slices carved into his skin.
"It became a weekly ritual, you see. Friday night--go home, have a
drink, sharpen the scalpel, re-carve the mark. It's why I started
wearing vests all the time. Sometimes if I moved too much in surgery
the scars would split and I didn't want people asking me why I had
blood on my shirt."
It makes a horrifying amount of sense, Mal thinks.
"I must have cut this fifty times," Simon says. "Maybe more. I lost
track." He swallows, visibly trying to regain control of himself and
failing. "I stopped when we got on board *Serenity*," he says with an
effort. "Because I had River, then. And for a while, I didn't need to
cut myself at all."
"When did you start again?" Mal asks quietly.
Simon shakes his head. "One story per night," he says immediately.
"That was the deal."
It was, and Mal hadn't really expected to get an answer. He nods,
acknowledging Simon's point. "All right," he says. "Now turn over."
Simon smiles and turns over, stretching out on his stomach. Mal's hands
dig into his shoulders and he groans with relief, letting himself go
"You're safe now," Mal says quietly, kneading out the tension in
Simon nods. "I know."