Title: Taking Inventory
Rating: R
Summary: Vice and virtue.

Simon likes doing inventory because it's a rote task and it gives him time to think. Back on Osiris, he never had to do rote tasks like this, but he's worlds away from Capital City now--in more ways than one.

His hands move automatically over drugs, needles, suture packets, counting and taking notes. They're low on sutures, which is hardly a surprise. Dermal weaves--could use a few more of those. He'll look the next time they make planetfall. Antibiotic ointment, fine; alcohol wipes, running low. Gauze, swabs--he rolls them neatly, stacking them in a cabinet. One with a lock, although he has little faith in its ability to hold against Jayne's blundering around.

He doesn't want to open the last drawer but he does, his hands shaking slightly as he takes out the trays of surgical implements, cataloguing them. Scissors and clamps, fine. Scalpels--and here he stops, hands clenching on the counter as he fights to regain control of himself.

The metal blades shine in the light, beautifully, dangerously sharp. They call to him, promise him oblivion, release from pain. "No," he whispers, closing his eyes. "I'm done with this."

Some would call Simon Tam a virtuous man. He doesn't drink much, he doesn't indulge in other semi-legal or flatly illegal receational substances, he doesn't sleep around (although he's not averse to sharing his bed). But those who would praise his virtue have no clue about his secrets.

Simon Tam is a doctor, a healer of people's bodies. He puts them together, stitches them up, makes them whole again.

It's himself he takes apart, one careful cut at a time.

"I'm done with this," he says again, even as his hand reaches for the scalpel. His body hums with the promise of release--freedom from pain, from the crushing weight of everything he carries.

*Go on,* his brain whispers. *Do it. No one has to know.*

He finishes inventory, barely knowing what he's writing down, and leaves, the hidden scalpel a solid, comforting weight in his pocket.

After all, he rationalizes, hurrying back to his bunk, a man's got to have at least one vice in his life.
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