by tynantblue0162

Spoilers: references to Bushwhacked

Warnings: a little on the dark side in one spot

Disclaimers: Standard disclaimers apply. All hail Joss. One line borrowed from Bushwhacked. Also, one tiny idea borrowed from Stephen King's Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass.

Author's note: I found Kenophobia on two separate sites, so hopefully it's the right word for fear of emptiness.

Response to kirbycrow's deliciously evil fic challenge. (Inspiration:, 1500 words or less)

He clung to the side of Serenity, desperately willing his heart to slow down. River tugged on his arm, pointing out another constellation. Reluctantly, Simon turned his head inside the helmet, peeking out with one eye in the general direction of his sister's waving hand. Nothing. Endless nothing. Galaxies of it, all just a quarter inch of glass away. The sheer magnitude of the emptiness made him dizzy. He turned back to River, wanting to remember the joy on her face, but River was gone. Serenity was gone. He was alone, drifting, tumbling through the void, his screams echoing inside the helmet. When the space suit disappeared, he kept screaming, but now there was only deafening silence. He felt it begin, felt his skin expanding as his body swelled, felt the nothing pull him apart from the inside, blood stretching in his veins-

"Simon! Simon wake up!" Mal was just about to give him a good smack when the blue eyes flew open, wild and panicked. It had been two weeks since his little spacewalk, but Simon's nightmares hadn't stopped. Mal smoothed a dark lock of hair away from the sweaty forehead, kissed it gently.

"I'm sorry I woke you again, Mal."

"Same dream?"

"Same dream. Inara had a good idea with the hypnosis, but obviously..." Simon sighed and rolled away, hating the desperation in his voice. "I don't know what else to do," he whispered.

Mal grabbed his shoulder and rolled him back. "Don't." He brushed Simon's lips with his own. "Don't do that, Simon. Fear's a right useful thing, but it don't own you." He kissed Simon softly, his tongue easing inside, relieved when he felt the doctor respond. He drew back, settled his body over Simon's, and began to drift off.

"Alliance experiments didn't stop River," he mumbled. "Few dreams 'bout nothin' won't stop you." Resting his head on the smooth chest, Mal slept.

Impressive what nothing can do to a man, Simon thought. He stared up at the ceiling, wide awake, combing his fingers through Mal's hair. He hated when Jayne was right.

"Shore leave? Did someone say shore leave??" Wash's hopeful voice echoed over the comm.

Mal threw Zoe a suspicious glare as they descended the stairs from the cargo bay. "Funny how your husband hears when I say shore leave, all the way from the cockpit, but not when I say trash duty or kitchen detail, right to his face."

"An acoustic phenomenon, Sir. Same thing happens in our bunk sometimes, especially when we're-"

"Zoe, I order you not to finish that sentence." Mal stopped outside the infirmary and nodded toward the cockpit. "Go on, tell the Sonic Wonder up there all the details before he explodes."

Smiling to himself as Zoe ran off, Mal stepped into the medlab. He came up behind Simon and pulled the lean body close. His hands rode low on Simon's hips, creeping slowly forward under the doctor's starched white apron.

"Anyone ever tell you how sexy this apron is?" he asked, burying his face in Simon's neck. "It's the little bow at the back. Shows off your ass."

Simon leaned back into Mal's embrace. "That's not my ass you're manhandling, Captain." He closed his eyes and moaned softly as Mal's tongue swirled over the sensitive spot on his neck. "What's this I hear about shore leave?"

Mal sighed, silently cursing Wash again. "Found a place I think might help your sleeping problem." He turned Simon around to face him, alarmed at the dark circles under the doctor's eyes. "Booked two nights. The crew will be planetside with Serenity, we'll take the shuttle."

"We're not staying on the planet?"

"Nope." Mal stifled the guilt that tugged at his insides. Best if Simon didn't know the plan just yet. He kissed Simon's forehead and backed away, enjoying the confused expression. "We leave at four tomorrow." He paused at the door.

"Oh, and Simon? Bring the apron."

Mal thought he'd hidden it, but Simon knew something was up. He also knew he probably didn't want to know what it was. Mal's secrets tended to be dark around the edges. Pushing the thought away, he gathered his bag when he felt the shuttle land. He was relieved that Mal hadn't made him sit up front, with all those big windows everywhere. He couldn't see where they were going, and that was fine with him. Mal appeared from the cockpit, and they were greeted by smiling hotel staff before being whisked away to their suite.

"Oh, Mal, it's amazing." He threw his arms around Mal's neck, kissing him slowly. "Was that your plan? Distract me with a real bed and then fuck me unconscious?"

"Something like that." Tug. Mal crushed their mouths together before his voice could betray him. He steered them toward the bed, peeling away the layers of Simon's clothing as he went. Simon pushed on his shoulders and he sat, drinking in the sight of all that smooth skin. Simon dropped to his knees, unbuttoning Mal's soft denim shirt and sliding it off his shoulders so it pooled behind him on the bed. Mal tangled his fingers in the dark hair as Simon worked his pants open. Groaned as Simon's tongue spread glossy heat up and down his shaft. Cursed himself when he reached to the side table for lube and saw the switch. Tug. Couldn't be helped. He dragged Simon up and rolled him face down, the sweet doctor spreading eagerly for him without a word.

Mal held himself at bay another moment, mind foggy with lust. Angels whispered in his ear. He didn't have to do it. He could let Simon go on losing sleep until it drove them both insane. Could go on watching the fear steal the doctor away. He battled with his conscience, staring down at the graceful curve of Simon's shoulders, wishing there was another way. Doesn't deserve this, the angels whispered. Doesn't deserve any of it, he shouted back. Simon moaned and arched his back, pressing his ass against Mal's cock. The angels surrendered. Mal sank down, gliding inside with one smooth thrust. "I'm sorry," he sighed, quietly flipping the switch.

The walls wavered, flickered, then faded away. The plush bed became a gravel landscape, the ceiling a sparkling black eternity. The illusion was staggering.

Simon slowly registered what Mal had said. "Sorry? Mal, why are you-" He opened his eyes and his blood froze. The room had vanished around them. The great emptiness of space coiled over him, crushing his mind. "NO! NO! No no no n-"

"Simon." Mal's voice slipped into his head, caressing the panic away. He struggled to sit up, but Mal had him pinned. "Simon, close your eyes again. Tell me what you feel."

Simon whimpered pitifully, and Mal heard a quiet told-you-so in his head. "I... I feel like--"

"Not how you feel, baobei, what you feel." He dipped his head and tasted a slender shoulder, grazing it lightly with his teeth as he rocked his hips forward again. Simon's panic had tightened around him almost painfully.

Eyes closed, his body tingling from adrenaline and passion, Simon's voice was barely a whisper. "The bed. I feel the bed, and the pillows. But..."

"What else." Mal pulled back, raising up on his arms now that Simon had stopped struggling. He strained forward again, head drooping low as his hips settled into a steady rhythm.

Simon realized he was pushing back against Mal, matching his thrusts, grinding his own raging cock against the bed. He hesitated, letting his body take over. "You. I feel you. Wuh de tyen ah, Mal. Please, faster..."

That pale skin glowing softly beneath him, Mal barely resisted the need to finish it quickly. "Gotta open your eyes, Simon. No more hiding."

His words hung in the air, and even as he buried himself in Simon again and again, Mal's heart cracked. Too much, too soon. He should have known.

Finally, Simon's eyes fluttered open. He stared silently into the void, seeing only the nothing between the stars. Suddenly, the barren darkness was pierced by a blazing white comet. He followed its path, eyes coming to rest on a massive blue planet. Vapors drifted in an endless, fluid dance that captivated him. Mal pumped faster. Such beauty, such radiant defiance. He realized that without all that emptiness surrounding it, the planet would just be ordinary. The thought gave him an odd sort of peace. Mal lowered down, covering him, moaning quietly but urgently into his neck. One, two more desperate thrusts; heat spilled into him. He stilled his own body a few seconds early, letting the orgasm roll through him, letting Mal cling to him, trembling and breathless. In that moment, staring into the face of all that emptiness, Simon felt decidedly full.

Word count: 1476.

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to tynantblue0162