Just Cause

by Kellygirl

Notes: A huge thanks to Liss for a great job she did with betaing this giant thing. ME owns the crew of Serenity, I'm just writing about them for fun. No profit gained. Feedback is much appreciated Summary: An emergency causes beliefs to change.

Mal took a hesitant step into the infirmary. All he could see was Simon with his back to the door, fiddling with something that looked complicated and a little scary. The way Simon's shoulders tensed told Mal Simon knew he was there. He waited, not wanting to get closer until Simon let on that it was okay to do so. Mal ran a hand through his hair, aware that maybe it was too soon for him to talk to Simon about what had happened.

He couldn't let this wait, he needed to get it out in the open because the next time he saw Simon it had to be the way he always saw him. As a core trained doctor, a fugitive from Alliance 'justice.' The doctor was on his ship to protect his sister and save them from having to find some back door black market hack every time one of them got seriously shot or injured. He'd already saved most of them from certain death. Also there was that ear thing. Mal didn't think he'd trust just any doctor to sew his ear back on.

Simon turned around but only stared at him, his face unreadable, waiting for him to start, to say something. Yesterday afternoon Simon had pronounced him well enough to go sleep in his own bed instead of remaining in the infirmary. He'd left and showered and slept late into the night. Zoe had checked on him this morning and Mal didn't ask her why she was doing so and not Simon. He'd made his way to the kitchen where he breathed a sigh of relief that no one was around. A quick bowl of soup and back to his room to sleep and dream about confused images that flowed through his mind like water through a sieve.

He stepped further into the infirmary, looking everywhere then finally at Simon. He ran a thumb nervously up and down one of his suspenders before concentrating on making himself appear calm and collected.

"I figure we gotta talk, Simon."

Before he could say more, the other man stepped closer, his hand coming up briefly to touch Mal's cheek and forehead. Simon stepped back and clasped his hands together. Mal looked at the younger man's hands and in a flash he was back, back in Simon's room, in Simon's bed and Simon was touching Mal's chest, cool fingers stroking over him again and again, occasionally touching his nipples while his head was buried between Mal's thighs. He'd come so hard and Simon had kept sucking and swallowing and finally stopping with one final lap of his tongue.

"Have you eaten anything?" Simon asked. Mal nodded. "Good, you still look a little pale but that shouldn't last very long. Be sure to drink plenty of water. I'd prefer some type of juice but water will have to do. No alcohol for at least a week." Simon turned away, walking over to a neatly arranged counter and started re-arranging things. "Though I don't think the desire to drink will be a problem, will it?" The young doctor turned to look at Mal for his answer. Mal coughed and wondered if this was Simon's way of bringing up what happened. Good as a place as any to start. He leaned against one of the infirmary beds.

"No that won't be a problem. It'll be a while before I trust some bartender not to drug my drink on order of some man I pissed off two years ago."

Simon nodded and crossed his arms. He looked down at his feet.

"How much do you remember? Do you remember getting back to the ship?"

Zoe holding on to one of his arms, ordering Jayne not to shoot the little old man behind the bar. Wash running ahead, telling Zoe he'd get the doc, his head hurting and a pressure around his heart. Stumbling down some dark street, stopping while Zoe stuck a finger down his throat, Jayne's voice in the background asking what was wrong with him. Zoe's quiet voice telling Jayne he'd been drugged and to watch their backs.

Mal scratched the back of his neck and shrugged.

"Yeah, vaguely. I remember you and Zoe arguing over whether or not to pump my stomach and Inara saying something about it being too late, that it was already in my system. I felt like my skin was burning and my heart was beating a lot more faster than it was supposed to. What was it?"

Simon grabbed a notebook but Mal would bet he didn't need it. After something like this, one would tend to remember every detail.

"The clinical name is trazepamphedrine. Apparently it's very popular with whorehouses when they get new employees. I had only heard of a few cases back in the core. Inara had heard of more and told me its street name is 'Moneymaker.' It makes the recipient very, umm, amorous. The drug leaves the system through sexual activity. If sexual activity is not available the drug can cause a heart attack, a coma and a breakdown of vital organs."

Mal ran his hand over one of the infirmary beds. He could almost feel the heat from where his body had lain, arms strapped to the sides, gasping for breath and trying to figure out why he was sweating so much. Simon's hand had rested on his leg while he had talked with Zoe and Inara. It was like looking through a long tunnel. Kaylee, Jayne and Book had looked in from the windows.

Simon continued, "Someone wanted to try and embarrass you but didn't count on Zoe and Jayne getting you out of there so fast. Unfortunately, the walk back also helped the drug circulate faster into your system. I could have tried to sedate you and hope you slept it off but Inara told me that she'd never heard of that working. In the cases she'd studied at the academy the patient slipped into a coma and their chances of survival went down. The drug was meant to be alleviated by releasing the buildup of hormonal stress."

"Did you all draw straws?" At the shocked look on Simon's face, Mal raised his hands. "Sorry, that was mean. I meant uh, why you? I kinda recall Inara offering her 'services'." The thought that he could be having this conversation with Inara made his stomach cramp.

Simon coughed and cleared his throat. His shirt wasn't buttoned up all the way and Mal could see the shadow of a small red bruise near the hollow of his throat.

"I'm the doctor and you were my patient. I needed to be close to monitor your temperature and heart rate. Besides I thought it would be easier if it were me." Mal didn't say anything, but he felt Simon wasn't telling him something. Simon looked at him then continued to talk while staring at a spot over Mal's shoulder.

"If it had been Inara I think you would have been angry or angrier than you are now. You two have a complex relationship and if she'd had to have sex with you I thought it would have made that relationship even more complicated." Finally Simon met Mal's eyes head on. "Was I wrong?" Mal stared at him. Was his hot and cold liking of Inara so obvious to everyone? Simon looked away and fidgeted. "Nothing has to change. I'm still Serenity's doctor, you're still the captain and in a few days or a week you'll forget all about it."

Mal scratched the back of his neck. "I'm not angry with you, Simon. I feel guilty that you had to do what you did." Suddenly what Simon was hiding popped up in his brain. The question asked of him, when he'd burned with an ache centered low in his stomach, revealed itself like a piece of candy being unwrapped. "I was pretty out of it but you did ask me whether I would be more comfortable with you or Inara."

Mal considered moving closer to Simon then decided to stay where he was. Should he mention that he was remembering more and probably not going to forget anything for a long time? He looked at Simon's hands again and a brief memory flickered. Simon with his hands on Mal's chest, then on his shoulders as he slowly lowered himself onto Mal's cock.

Had he howled at the tight slick heat that enveloped him? Mal looked down at his own hands. He remembered his hands touching Simon, gripping his hips before rubbing and squeezing Simon's cock. He knew his fingers had tasted Simon's release before coming in pulsing waves inside the younger man's body.

"I'm not saying you were wrong, Simon. But it was beyond the call of duty." He wanted Simon to look at him so he could read his expressions but Simon continued to avoid his eyes. "I don't like thinking you had no say in the matter." Before he could continue Simon interrupted him.

"Me! What about you, Mal? You were not exactly in your right mind. It's not like you could say no. You chose between Inara and me but the situation was becoming critical. If you'd changed your mind and wanted her or to just be left alone..." He took a deep breath and continued. "We were out of time."

Simon turned away but Mal could hear his next whispered words. "I kept praying you wouldn't say no or resist. I don't like to think what I would have done if you had." He turned back around and Mal could see fierce determination shining bright in his eyes. "Between you shooting me for forcing you and watching you die, knowing I could have stopped it, I would have chosen force."

Mal didn't say anything, couldn't say anything. Simon hugged himself, "I can't imagine thinking that a year ago but once I cleared everyone out I knew I was going to do whatever was necessary to make you well again."

Mal stepped closer and when Simon looked up, despair written across his face, Mal laid his hand on Simon's shoulder, fingers digging in deep to make sure Simon believed what he was about to say. "You saved me Simon, from either going crazy and dying or being sedated then dying. Sounds to me like you were upholding your oath and I'm not mad at you. I just..."

He really wanted Simon to be able to read his mind right about now. How could he say he wished Simon had gotten some type of enjoyment out of it? It hadn't been that sort of situation but to have it all one sided seemed so unfair. He took a deep breath.

"I just wish it hadn't been all for me. That you could have gotten something from it."

Simon wiped his hand over his face, as if clearing off cobwebs. He shrugged, his eyes on the infirmary floor. His voice held so much guilt Mal could almost touch it. "I came, more than once or twice."

Mal moved his hand from Simon's shoulder, letting it run down his arm. When he flinched, Mal knew there was a hand shaped bruise there, one that encircled Simon's arm, one that would match his right hand exactly. He moved his hand away and stepped back.

"That's just a bodily response. Don't mean much but you should not feel guilty. I would rather know that it wasn't a hardship for you, that I didn't make you do anything you were uncomfortable doing."

Simon shook his head and his next words seemed to hold relief that Mal didn't think Simon took advantage of him. "You didn't. I mean you were conscious but you mostly responded to things I did or you seemed to go with your instinct."

Mal turned away and braced his hands on an infirmary bed. His eyes closed and he was back in the dim light of Simon's room. Harsh breathing from them both had echoed throughout the room. Simon had checked his temperature and made him drink some water. They had been resting and he had come out of a light doze to roll over onto Simon who was sprawled on his stomach. He'd spread Simon's thighs and rocked into him before the other man had been fully awake.

The moans and panting from Simon had driven him faster and faster and he'd leaned forward and bit the back of Simon's neck, making the younger man jerk and twist before he'd let one of his hands race down between Simon's legs. He'd been only half-hard and he'd cursed at Mal's touch.

"What about the time I just went at you like a wild dog? When you cursed me?"

Simon frowned, seeming to have to think about each encounter. How many had there been, Mal wondered. Simon's voice was quiet.

"Oh, I wasn't cursing you. I was kind of sensitive and your hand woke up certain parts of my body that should have stayed asleep." Simon stepped closer to Mal and laid his hand on the older man's chest. "Nothing happened in that room that you should feel bad about. If you want to know if I got some sort of pleasure out of it besides doing what needed to be done, then yes, I suppose I did. That was in no way a regular situation so don't expect yourself to react in a regular way." Simon paused and walked away from Mal, "I know you don't get involved with crew and I agree with that sentiment."

Mal touched Simon's hand, barely rubbing the fingers before resting his hand on top of Simon's. He'd never realized the other man has such graceful fingers, but maybe that was part of what made him such a good doctor.

"You agree with me?" Mal didn't know if he liked that or not. He was getting a headache.

Simon nodded and drew his hand away.

"This is a small ship and feelings can be hurt if people are not careful. A relationship gone bad might make things uncomfortable for more than the two people involved."

It sounded like a warning to Mal and also like Simon was repeating something he'd said to himself many times.

"I take it everyone knows what happened." Simon nodded and hugged himself again before moving to a counter and organizing things on it in a burst of manic energy.

"Perhaps a certain mechanic wasn't happy?" Mal waited for Simon to turn around and answer him. He told himself he was just curious, nothing else. He continued to wait while Simon continued to remove items then put them back in exactly the same spot.

"She seemed okay with it but I could read her face. If not for Inara's helpful explanation I don't think she would walked away so quietly. It's not like we-not like I-I never promised..." He stilled and turned so Mal could see his face. His eyes seemed bigger and he was biting his lower lip.

"I can't be whatever she needs me to be. I have to be everything to River and I don't see that ever changing. Even if River gets better she will never be the sister I had. I can't be anything more than Kaylee's friend and I never told her that never told her that's all we could be. I hate that I'm hurting her or that I may continue to do so. That was never my intention."

Mal sighed. Dinnertime and meetings were going to be fun for the next few days. He was tempted to go back to bed.

"Tell her what you just told me, Simon. If you're honest with her it'll be for the best and you two can try and be friends." Mal didn't know why he was trying to offer advice but Simon only shook his head.

"She came by earlier. We both tried to pretend everything was okay, but it felt so awkward and weird. I tried to tell her that we'd only ever be friends but she brushed me off and said we just needed time. She left in a hurry after that."

Simon's eyes seemed to settle and focus on him and Mal could almost see the doctor replacing the worried man.

"Why don't you go lie down and I'll bring you something to eat?"

Mal started to argue to tell Simon he wasn't weak and needed looking after but a startling memory of Simon kissing him, of him kissing Simon, practically devouring his mouth, had him nodding his head and heading back to his room.

He lay down and waited while trying to get his memories in some type of order. It was hard to recall some of what had happened and when it had happened. Simon had warm hands and those graceful fingers had helped bring him off two times when they'd first laid down in Simon's bed. He'd been so hot and confused but when Simon had told him everything was going to be okay, that he was going to be fine, he'd believed him. He'd held on to the fact that Simon wouldn't lie to him, and Simon hadn't looked worried and if he had been worried they would have been in the brightly-lit infirmary.

Mal shifted on his bed, remembering Simon helping him take off his clothes, how every touch of his hands had seemed to cool Mal off before making him burn even hotter. The heat had seemed to burn down to his marrow. Simon had shushed him and murmured meaningless words while his hands had traveled down Mal's legs. He'd been handled so gently by Simon and only a few touches had him spilling over the other man's hands and sinking down onto an unfamiliar bed. There'd been silence before a cool sponge had wiped away the remains of his release along with the sweat on his body.

He watched as Simon climbed down his ladder, a bowl of fragrant soup with him. There were no memories here and Mal wondered if Simon was glad for that. Everything they'd done, they had done in Simon's room. The holes in his memory were rapidly filling up with visions of Simon's body arching underneath his as he drove powerfully into his body. It had been his idea to move from Simon giving him hand jobs to Simon giving him whatever he wanted. Simon hadn't objected but maybe Mal wasn't remembering that part yet. He blinked and tried to pay attention to Simon's ramblings.

"You should be feeling better by tonight. After that I'll do one or two more blood tests to make sure the drug is fully out of your system." Mal realized Simon seemed a little nervous but if their positions were reversed he guessed he'd be nervous too. It wasn't everyday that you had to let your Captain fuck you to save his life. He finished the soup and drunk the water while Simon watched him. He cleared his throat and stood up.

"I realize you're uncomfortable around me right now, Simon and you got every reason to be. But I want you to know I appreciated what you did for me. So, thank you. Now since I'm done eating and drinking another glass of water you can go."

Simon nodded his head.

"I'll go. I hope we can just put this behind us and be how we were before. Nothing has to change, Mal. I don't want that. I know you don't either." He turned to climb the ladder missing the considering look Mal was giving him.

He rested and escaped into a deep dreamless sleep. He woke up feeling pretty good, but the thought of going to eat something made his stomach tilt. He didn't know if it was the thought of food or facing everyone after being sick and knowing they knew how he had been cured. He shrugged and decided to face it all head on. If he didn't feel like eating he'd just drink some coffee and talk to Zoe about job prospects. He walked to the kitchen and the first person his eyes were drawn to was Simon.

Everything Simon had said to him earlier about things remaining the same between them disappeared in the blink of an eye. He saw the awareness of him as someone other than the 'lunatic captain that's about the only thing that stands between me and my sister ending up in some Alliance lab' in Simon's eyes and knew his eyes probably showed a similar response to Simon. Mal had been willing to try to put this incident behind him, but it would be a lie. Things were different between them now and to try and pretend otherwise would not do either of them a bit of good.

Mal noticed everyone was silent and looking at him and then looking at Simon. He nodded to everyone and made his way to the head of the table. Plates were passed around but no one was really talking. Since he was captain it was his job to start.

"Whose turn was it to cook?"

Book answered and started telling a story, one of his abbey stories and after that, Inara made a remark and the earlier silence was pushed away.

He questioned Zoe about a past employer and told Wash to get to Tasvihre so they could pick up an easy job or two. He noticed Jayne staring at Simon with a small smirk on his face and knew he was about to try and stir up trouble. He waited for it and sure enough two minutes later; Jayne gave a fake cough, pounded his chest and declared,

"I think I'm coming down with sumthin, Simon. How about you take me back to your bunk and give me a good checkin out?"

Everyone stopped talking and Mal could see Simon turning pale, then red as he made no comment and continued to eat his food. Jayne leaned in closer to Simon, and managed to leer and sneer at the same time.

"Come on, Doc. I mean you're willing to put out for one sick patient why not for another? I bet you got some interestin' doctoring stuff that can be done with your mouth on my..."

Before he could finish his sentence Mal spoke. His voice was quiet but filled every space in the room.

"Jayne, you need to be really careful about saying what ever you were going to say. I'm sure even you can get your brain out of the gutter long enough to realize that when you actually do get sick or shot up the man you're antagonizing now is the same man that will have to come near you with a needle."

Mal stood up.

"Look, everybody knows what happened and some of you may think it gives you the right to make remarks," he looked at Jayne again, "but what went on is no one's business but the two people it happened to." He met everyone's eyes and then walked away from the table, throwing a remark behind him for Wash to let him know how long it would take them to get to their destination.

Two hours later Mal rubbed his eyes and set aside his paperwork. He'd discovered a long time ago that if he let the paper side of running his ship wait, it would multiply and take over his room. He accepted the fact that he had to do paperwork and often attacked it with a vengeance that got it over with quickly and with little pain.

Tonight his head throbbed and the lines on his paperwork seemed to waver more than usual. He rubbed his eyes and sighed. The rest could wait until tomorrow. He'd gone over the important things like fuel and food outage. Mal washed his face and looked in the mirror. He didn't look any different, a little tired maybe but he was tired more than he was not. Only difference was it usually didn't show on his face. He got ready for bed and sipped some water. He groaned as another memory made itself known.

Simon had continually tried to make sure he drank water. Sometimes he obeyed and sometimes he didn't. After one time of bathing his face with a cold cloth and squeezing drops into his mouth, Mal had grabbed the cloth and threw it down on the floor. He could still feel the way he'd kissed Simon, sharing the water in his mouth with him. Simon hadn't objected, had just let him touch and stroke every part of his body Mal could reach. The fever in his blood had turned into an inferno and he'd pushed Simon's legs open and touched him like he had every right to.

He still didn't know how many times they'd had sex and all the different ways they'd done so. He could ask Simon and he knew the younger man would tell him but Mal didn't know if that was a wise thing to do. It was over with and it would not benefit Simon to have to recite everything while it was so fresh in his mind. Mal figured he would remember everything in time and then he would have to decide if he wanted to let Simon know.

His sleep was restless and he tried to escape the heavy fog of desire that coated his dreams but it was useless. The sound of someone climbing down into his room had him sitting up and waiting for Simon to turn around. He carried a glass of water and a thermometer. Without speaking he took Mal's temperature and blood pressure. Afterwards Mal drank the cold water. He could get water from his sink but this tasted better.

When the tests were done, Simon said, "You're almost back to your normal readings. That's a good thing. How's your stomach? I noticed you didn't eat much at dinner."

Mal shrugged, "It has its moments. I'll be sure to eat something in the morning. We should make planetfall tomorrow afternoon and I'll even hunt down some type of juice. That make you happy, Doc?"

Simon laughed, "Yes, it does. Try to find orange or pineapple juice. Even grapefruit would be good." Mal nodded his head and before he could stop himself he touched Simon's hip with his hand.

"You have a birthmark right here. I remember it. It looks like a star that's been smudged."

He could feel Simon freeze as his thumb traced the birthmark hidden by clothes. Simon stepped back and Mal let his hand drop to his bed.

"So you remember everything?"

He looked up at the emotionless sound of Simon's voice and nodded his head, "Not all of it but, yeah, a lot." He scratched his head and patted his covers, inviting Simon to sit. After a thoughtful pause Simon sat on the edge as if ready to jump up at any moment. Mal cleared his throat and stared at the ceiling.

"I meant what I said at dinner. This is between us and I know you want to go back to the way we were before but I don't think that's possible. We've seen each other in a certain way, a way that I don't think a lot of other people see either one of us in."

Mal shifted his position on the bed hoping Simon didn't notice he was a little closer to him now. Should he tell Simon what else had been on his mind? He didn't know, and maybe it wouldn't do either of them a bit of good but it was time for him to do some serious thinking about what had happened.

After Simon left, Mal was determined to do just that but he fell asleep and dreamed about floating in a lake of cool water. The next morning he showed up in the infirmary to get his temperature and blood checked. Simon declared him well and told him there was only a trace amount of the drug in his bloodstream. Mal nodded when Simon told him he'd check again in three days. They both acted like they always did when Simon had to do his doctor stuff but Mal wondered if it was just him that felt the underlying tension stretched like a thin cord between them.

~~

They managed to find two little easy jobs on Tasvihre while Mal decided whether or not to go after the man that had poisoned him. He knew he would, but he'd think on it some more. He hadn't thought of Davidson since they'd fought in a bar two years ago but the man must have been mighty pissed to try and get back at Mal after all this time.

He managed not to be alone with anyone, including Simon for a long period of time. He knew no one would ask him any uncomfortable questions but then his crew had a way of surprising him on occasion. Zoe acted the same but she would act as she saw fit until Judgment Day. Wash was his usual joke cracking self but knew better than to make any jokes about what had happened. Mal was sure Book would make an offer to listen to him, but he only got a few searching looks from him before Book asked him a question about the planet they were headed to.

He was happier than he wanted to think about that he and Inara returned to their sarcastic relationship after only a few small bumps. She'd made one offer to talk about what had happened but seemed relieved when he let her know that subject was off limits. River acted the same and he was glad that she didn't look at him and use any of her weird phrases or curse him and his ancestors to the fiery regions of hell.

After the two jobs, Mal had Wash take them to Xianphoe to get some job information and restock some supplies. He was tempted to have a drink in a bar but bought a bottle instead. It was nighttime when he got the chance to sit down in the kitchen and have a drink. The rest of the crew had gone to bed, exhausted after wandering about the docks and market areas of the mid-sized city.

Xianphoe was far enough away from Alliance notice but becoming more fancy every year. He expected soon enough the Alliance would come in and start doing some major rework on the town. That way they could say they were doing some good, never noticing the place was doing fine without them.

He sipped his second drink slowly. He had no intention of getting drunk, he just wanted to relax and give thought to a few things that he'd being trying to avoid. It wasn't like he thought about that night and half day spent with Simon all the time, but it was interfering with his sleep. He and Simon acted the same around each other and that fact bothered him a little. Did he want Simon to look at him different, to come to him and declare his feelings had changed?

If that happened would he talk and talk to Simon about onboard relationships and tell him they needed to go on as they always had? Mal honestly didn't know. He wanted Simon but knew it'd be hard to get him and keep him. He could do casual and this proved Simon could too, not that the whole situation could be called casual. It wasn't like he'd been drunk and they ended up together messing up the sheets. It had been a medical situation that involved sex. Lots and lots of great sex.

What did he want? Did he want casual? Did he want to be able to undress Simon and touch his body anytime he wanted? At that question his libido gave a rousing 'yes' but his mind spoke up and reminded him that a casual relationship with his ship's doctor would most likely turn into a gorram mess in no time at all. The ship was too small and the situations they often found themselves in tended to be intense. Casual would not remain casual for long, not to mention his crew would most likely have something to say about him and the doctor spending time together.

A small voice inside him muttered it wouldn't be anyone's business but his and Simon's, but he knew that often what two people thought was only between them became other people's concern quicker than you could blink.

The soft footsteps that padded into the kitchen didn't surprise him at all. Mal had always gotten what he didn't need right when he didn't need it. He held the bottle out to Simon.

"Like a drink, doc?" He still hadn't looked at the other man but did watch the pale, slim fingers that curled around the bottle and took it away from him. There was a soft clink of glass against glass and a view of Simon's dark sweater as he sat down, his hand wrapped around his glass. Mal watched him take a drink, watched the throat muscles swallow the liquor and took a sip, hoping it would help him in the following conversation.

"I have to admit, you been on my mind, Simon." At the raised eyebrow from the younger man, Mal kept on. "My memory's about recovered and now all I can think about is what it would be like to experience you with cylinders in full operation." He threw a small smile at Simon and continued.

"I don't know what you want Simon, what you like to do to relax, what makes you laugh but I'd like to find out." He looked into Simon's eyes and took a big jump. "I'd like us to spend more time together and see if both of us would like to take that step."

Mal tried not to fidget after his little speech but it was hard with Simon studying him. He didn't seem surprised at what Mal said but Simon was not as easy to read as when he'd first stepped on his boat. He figured he knew all the arguments Simon would use and he had his thoughts and opinions ready to knock them all aside. He was about to ask Simon to say something, anything when he spoke.

"Mal, what you're feeling, it's just an aftereffect of the drugs. Maybe a little gratitude mixed with desire. You're not a man who indulges in the physical very much and with us still being here, occupying a lot of the same space, you might be feeling a little closer to me since we can relate to each other on a new level. I don't think it would be a good idea for us to get involved."

Mal thought about that statement for a moment. Sure, part of him desired Simon but that wasn't all of it and while he was grateful to Simon for saving his life he didn't feel the need to 'pay' Simon back by getting involved with him.

"I wondered if might be something left over from the drugs too, but it's not. They're gone and I can't say I never thought about you in a different way. I mean, I did but it was a quick thought and I put it away and never allowed myself to take it back out and examine it."

Simon shook his head. "What's changed? River and I are still fugitives with a big price on our heads. We may have to leave one day with barely time to say goodbye. Also being out here is a very precarious thing."

Mal nodded and moved closer, using his empty glass to emphasize his point. "Exactly. River is your number one priority and that's the way it should be. I don't have a problem with that because my number one priority is keeping this ship flying. If that means leaving you and little sis on some planet or putting you both on another ship to avoid us getting caught, I will do it."

Mal got up and walked over to the sink to rinse out his glass. He turned and crossed his arms and looked at Simon. "It is precarious out here and I still don't think crew should get involved but I can't see me courting somebody on some planet who had no clue what happened daily in my life. You understand the 'verse more than you know and I think if it was not to work we could both back away and still be friends."

He could see he had given Simon something to think about. He smiled, walked over to Simon and pulled him to his feet. "You think on that tonight and we'll talk some more tomorrow." He stepped closer and kissed the younger man for a moment and then nodded at him and walked away.

Undressing in his bunk later, Mal let his mind wander to whatever it wanted. Supplies were full, he felt certain the job they were being considered for was theirs and if not he had a few more contacts before they had to head out. He could still feel Simon's lips against his and he wanted more. He wanted to climb down to his room and find Simon waiting for him in his bed, naked and ready. Or naked and sleeping so he could wake him up. He was pretty confident that Simon would agree to them getting to know one another better.

The next morning, Mal was pretty happy and joked with Wash about the man's mild hangover. He was hanging around the bridge with him and Zoe when River came in and handed him a drawing of a flower. "It's fragile. It can be the best thing you are ever trusted with so take care of it." He knew she was not talking about the flower and nodded his head.

"I will, River. I'll do my best." She narrowed her eyes at him for a moment then smiled. In that smile Mal could see the young woman she would have been if she hadn't wanted to go to that school. She left, and Mal looked at Zoe and Wash a moment before leaving and putting the drawing in his room.

On the way out of his room he saw Simon, and Simon saw him. He smiled at the small shy look Simon gave him and he walked closer as Simon stood there smiling at him. He nodded at the invite to the infirmary and stood at the doors while Simon tried to do something with his hands. He finally clasped them in front of him.

"I thought we could talk later, just about anything that came to mind." Mal smiled at the flustered look Simon threw at him. "I mean, after dinner we could sit in the common area and, and talk or play cards."

Mal nodded. "That could work. I like that plan."

Simon took a deep breath. "I need to talk to Kaylee today. I think she knows I only want to be her friend but I want to make sure before it becomes an issue. I don't know what to tell her, don't know what to say to her so she won't be hurt."

"I don't know if that's possible, but I do think it's a good idea." He stepped closer and took Simon's clasped hands in his. "If you want to tell her about the possibility of us, that's fine. If you don't that's fine too but she may think you been lying to her when she sees us together."

Simon nodded and Mal pulled him closer for a brief kiss before letting his hands go. Mal smiled at the flustered look Simon gave him and imagined a time when he could get Simon really flustered. He brushed his thumb over Simon's jaw for a moment, then walked out. He needed to have a small talk with Inara. It was time they stopped the dance they had performed since she walked on board.

For once they got the job and got paid half upfront. Mal didn't see any downside to that and their cargo hold was filled quickly with machine parts for some inventor on a planet two days away.

Mal was busy right up to the time dinner rolled around. He was tired but determined to stay awake for awhile to talk to Simon, maybe play some cards. Maybe get Simon alone in some dark corner so he could lay his hands on him. He wanted to know what made Simon gasp and shudder. He noticed Kaylee being quiet at dinner and giving him a few curious looks. He caught Simon's eye once or twice but did not want to get into anything at the table.

After Dinner, Wash and Zoe headed for their room. Jayne and Book headed for the cargo bay and the weights. Kaylee muttered something about the engines but cleaned up first, with River's help. Inara kept looking at him and Kaylee and then at Simon. She didn't say anything, only nodded at him and gave him a brief sad smile before heading for her shuttle.

He found Simon in the common area, shuffling cards and waiting for him. Mal sat down in a chair across from the younger man and Simon dealt him a hand.

"What are we playing?" He picked up his cards and hoped it wasn't poker.

"Gin Rummy. You know how?" Mal nodded and they started to play.

For the next hour Mal discovered that Simon didn't like to lose and it took a lot of thought and strategy to finally win against him. During the game, Kaylee wandered in and wandered out and River had done the same. Mal forgot about being tired and just concentrated on winning. When he did win, he felt like he'd earned it. He grinned at Simon.

"I hope you didn't let me win, because that was difficult."

Simon laughed and gathered the cards up.

"No, that was not me letting you win. Me letting you win would have been a shorter game."

They continued to joke and talk for another hour until Mal caught Simon trying to hide a yawn. He stood and pulled Simon up by his elbow.

"Come on, it's time for all smart doctors to be asleep." He let Simon's elbow go but walked close enough that their arms touched. He watched Simon rub his eyes and thought he looked cute but decided not to tell him that. Wouldn't want the man to think his captain was besotted. Even if he was beginning to be just that.

They reached Simon's room and Mal could read the tension on the other man's face. He cupped Simon's face between his hands.

"Don't worry. It's too soon for that." He wanted to do all kinds of things to Simon but he settled for putting his arms around him and kissing him. The mouth beneath his opened and Mal gently entered, taking his time to nibble and lick every inch of Simon's mouth. Mal pulled him closer, shifted his head a little and delved deeper into the welcome warmth. He enjoyed the kiss for a minute more before pulling back. Simon's hands clung to his arms, and he smiled at the puzzled look on the younger man's face.

Mal turned Simon around and pushed him gently into his room.

"See you in the morning, Simon." He got an absent nod which made him chuckle before heading off to his room.

~~

The next week passed quickly. Seemed like the inventor and his friends were tired of their equipment disappearing or being held for ransom so when Mal delivered for the agreed price they immediately contracted him for two more runs. He had Kaylee look at the equipment they were carrying to make sure he wasn't delivering parts for some gigantic bomb and because he was not he remained in a good mood. He and Simon continued their talking and card playing, with some of the others occasionally joining in. Each night Mal walked Simon to his room and kissed him thoroughly before letting him go for the night.

He didn't keep the kissing to Simon's doorway. He kissed him twice in the infirmary, once in the kitchen and last night he had guided Simon into a nice dark corner and kissed him while letting his hands roam over every part of the younger man he could reach. Simon had made the sweetest noise in the back of his throat and Mal had been so tempted to pull the other man down his ladder and get him in his bed.

Today they had dropped off the last of the equipment. They had a vague agreement with the inventor to deliver some more stuff in about two months. Mal told him he'd see what he could do and asked what the guy was doing. He nodded his head at a lot of techno speak but recognized some talk about fiddling with hospital diagnostic machines to improve them. Some of the stuff he'd transported had been so the inventors' could build a small clinic.

Mal let everyone off the ship to shop and spend some of their credits. Simon was the last to leave with River waiting impatiently for him while he asked Mal if he wanted anything. Mal smiled at him and asked him to bring him back something to eat. An hour later Simon returned alone. He explained that River was with Book and Kaylee. He presented Mal with a good warm steak; some mixed vegetables and some bread layered thick with honey butter. After that very fine meal, Mal returned to the bridge, pulling Simon along behind him. He didn't object when Mal pulled him down onto his lap.

Soon they were kissing, Simon straddling Mal, one arm wrapped around his neck and the other rubbing Mal's chest. Mal groaned at the feel of Simon touching and kissing him. If he wasn't careful he'd tumble the other man right here. He didn't want that so pushed Simon away. Well, after two tries he pushed him away and took a deep breath to get his body under control. He could so easily take this all the way but he needed to be on some kind of alert since he was the one guarding the ship. Plus, he wanted all his attention on Simon when they finally got to a flat surface.

Mal pulled Simon's head down to rest their forehead's together. Now was as good a time as any to ask Simon what he felt they were both ready for.

"Would you lie with me tonight?" Mal felt like he was holding his breath as Simon studied him, looking deep into his eyes. He didn't react to the fingers that grazed his face, but he did return the kiss Simon gave him. When they came up for air Simon answered him.

"I will."

Mal heard Wash talking and Zoe's soft reply. He helped Simon off his lap and stood. Wash walked in, took one look at the two of them and turned and walked back out. Mal could hear him talking to Zoe.

"We should leave them alone, lambykins. I think they were having a moment."

Mal yelled at Wash.

"Get back in here! I want to pick up some stuff so it's your turn to look after Serenity."

He ignored the smirk plastered on Wash and Zoe's faces and gestured at Simon to follow him.

They visited some of the market stalls together and Mal laughed at the reddening of Simon's face when he asked to see one vendor's massage oil selection. They met up with Jayne and then spotted Book, Kaylee, Inara and River. River carried a bag and Mal could guess what was in it by the licorice stick she was happily chewing.

Dinner was a relaxed affair with everyone talking and telling stories about what they bought. Mal tried not to look at Simon too many times but each time he did, he found Simon staring at him or just turning away to look at someone else. After dinner was done, it was Mal's turn to clean and Simon kept him company telling him a story from his medacad days. At one point Mal splashed him with some water. The look Simon gave him made him do it again.

With a quick flash, Simon was next to him and next to the water. Their wild laughter bought Book and Jayne to the kitchen and Jayne backed away before they could get him wet. Book only raised his eyebrows and looked at his damp shirt. His look said he would get his revenge later. That and he said it too.

Mal ended the fight when Simon almost fell on the slippery floor. They both cleaned up the puddles still laughing. Mal wondered if he was in a good mood because he would be getting sex tonight. He knew it was more than that though. Mal wouldn't take what he considered a big risk on just the possibility of sex. He has decided to share more of his life with Simon and yes, sex was a part of it but it was just that, a part of the whole.

Simon left to check on River and Mal finished his cleaning. He went to the bridge to check on their route with Wash before he made his way to his bunk. He didn't know if he should wait for Simon or go seek him out. Well, he'd asked him to come to his room, so he'd wait. At least, for awhile. He undressed and put on an old white shirt, soft from age and wear and a pair of brown cotton sleep pants. For the next fifteen minutes he sat at his desk going over paperwork. He put it away when he heard his door squeak open.

He waited and watched Simon appear. First, his pale feet on the ladder then the rest of him dressed in dark blue sleep pants and a matching shirt that hung loosely on the younger man's body. Mal met Simon in the middle of his room, not wanting to give the other man time to get even more nervous than he looked to be. He put his hands on Simon's hips and pulled him close. The kiss seemed to come to both of them naturally and in no time Mal's hands were moving on Simon's body, finding a spot on his inner elbow that made the younger man shiver.

Mal helped Simon out of his shirt then took his own off. He liked the glazed look in Simon's eyes a lot. He liked it even more when Simon put his fine doctor hands on his chest. The slim fingers were cool against his skin then they warmed up and started to tease him. While Simon was busy touching his chest he looked at Simon standing before him in nothing but a pair of cotton pants.

The muscles the younger man had surprised Mal but he liked them, liked the pale creamy expanse of Simon's skin and the way the dim lighting in his room curled and created shadows that his hands could explore on Simon's chest and arms. He leaned forward to kiss Simon again and swallowed the moan of disappointment from him. Strong hands pulled Mal closer and massaged the muscles in his lower back before skimming up to his shoulders.

Mal curled one hand around Simon's neck and continued to lick and lap at the inside of his mouth. He broke away for a moment and breathed deep, trying to get some blood flowing into his brain. He smiled at Simon.

"I figured we'd go a little slower, Simon, but you looked so good when you stepped off that ladder. If you like we can take it a little slower."

Simon smiled at him then gave him a quick kiss and pressed his lower body into Mal's.

"Now why would I want to go slower? It seems to me we were both enjoying the speed we were going at just fine."

Mal laughed and kissed Simon again. He only meant it to be a short kiss but it turned into a longer, wetter one that had them both moaning and pressing their bodies together. He pulled Simon to his bed and laid him down. Mal sprawled on top of him for a moment before moving to the side. He kept one leg on top of Simon's and used it to spread the younger man's legs.

He kept sucking on Simon's tongue and moaned low in his throat when Simon did the same to his. One hand was busy in Simon's hair while the other returned to reverently touch the other man's chest. Mal untangled from the kiss to let them both breathe. He watched his hand trace the muscles in Simon's chest and stomach. His thumb brushed over a dusky rose-colored nipple and Mal noted the small quiver that went through Simon's body. He did it again before placing his mouth on the same spot and letting his tongue lick and curl around the hardened nub.

Mal stopped to judge his handiwork and was satisfied with Simon's darkened eyes and the way his mouth was trying to draw in enough oxygen. He leaned down and went to work on the other nipple. He always prided himself on being able to do more than one thing at a time in times of adversity so he let his hand travel and glide over the warm bulge in Simon's pants. Mal tried to memorize the feel and shape of Simon with his fingertips and hand. A whispered "please" had him reaching into the pants and touching Simon's lower stomach, the crease in his hips, his curly pubic hair and finally the base of his cock.

He didn't remember any of this from his drugged experience. This was on another level entirely. For instance he didn't remember the way Simon smelled, all heat and spice with a touch of neediness that made Mal want him even more. Their other time together was like looking down a long hallway and seeing an image. This was having Simon in his arms, letting his hands and body touch the parts of Simon he had been thinking about.

Mal raised up and pulled his own pants off before sliding his hands around Simon's waist and pulling his off too. He stayed on all fours over Simon, letting his eyes take in every inch of skin revealed to him. He finished his survey and let his body lower onto Simon's. He swore he could feel every inch and every inch felt good. He rubbed his body up and down on the other man's and when Simon put his arms around him and rubbed back he sped up.

He'd planned on using his mouth on Simon but the noises they both were making had him continuing rubbing and touching Simon's body. He was so hard he ached but he still wanted to taste Simon so he slid his body down until he could lick and suck Simon's cock into his mouth. He was hard, hot and Mal softly buried his tongue into the slit at the top. He used one hand to jack Simon into his mouth then pull him out. It didn't take Simon long to come, his hand in the older man's hair and Mal let the salty sharp taste flow over his tongue and down his throat.

He crawled back up the bed and smiled smugly at the look on Simon's face. It was one of pure astonishment and pleased satisfaction. He leaned over and kissed him briefly, the ache in his balls intensifying when Simon licked every inch of the inside of his mouth. He pulled him closer and bit Simon's ear lobe before whispering in his ear.

"You look quite the sight Simon Tam." He lowered his voice. "Fetching even." Simon made a pleased noise while Mal reached under a pillow for the small bottle of oil. The smell of the oil blended with the smell of Simon's release had Mal wanting to enter Simon right away but he grasped the edge of his control and took time to slide one finger into Simon and stroke it in and out. He watched Simon's face and the closed eyes and quiet moan he gave had Mal pulling his finger back and stroking back in with two.

Mal scissored his fingers, stretching Simon and when he tilted his hips as if begging Mal for more, Mal removed his fingers and moved between Simon's legs. He kissed Simon while arranging the other man's legs around his waist. Mal was slick with lube and he nudged the opening to Simon's body and slowly began to rock his hips back and forth, each time sinking deeper and deeper into Simon's body. Mal's muscles trembled with the strain of holding back. His next thrust had him sliding all the way in and he paused and groaned at the tight grip that surrounded him.

"Oh, Simon, oh god. You feel so good. I could stay like this forever."

All Mal got was a murmur and a shudder that had him pulling almost all the way out then pushing back in. How could he have taken this for granted, even with some blackmarket drug racing through his system? The feel of Simon's legs around him, the feel of his hot tight body enveloping his cock was amazing. He started to thrust faster and faster, drops of sweat falling onto Simon's chest. He could hear Simon chanting his name over and over and it was hypnotic and with a few more snaps of his hips he froze and came, filling Simon's body.

The loud breathing in the room belonged to Mal and he realized this and didn't care. But he did notice he was lying on Simon so he shifted and pulled out of him. Mal lay on his back and blinked his eyes a few times. He was thirsty but he couldn't move. Simon got up and Mal could happily move his eyes to watch him cross the room and get a glass of water. After taking a long drink, he refilled the glass and brought it to Mal.

Mal drank all the water and put the glass on a side table. Simon got back into the bed and after a pause laid his head on Mal's chest. Mal put his arm around him and pulled him closer.

"You okay?" Mal asked and Simon gave him a very satisfied smile and a tired nod.

He only meant to close his eyes for a moment but he woke up when a knock sounded on his door. The clock said five hours had passed. Mal tugged on a pair of pants and went to answer his door. He pushed a hand through his hair and decided he didn't care who was at his door they would have to take him looking half-awake since that was exactly what he was.

He punched a button and pulled his door open. River looked at him and smiled. He groaned and smiled back. He climbed up his ladder half way.

"You okay? No bounty hunters lurking about?"

River laughed at him and pointed to his room. "Tell Simon I need my medicine soon."

Mal nodded. "Okay, sweetheart. He'll be up in a minute."

She looked at him for a moment, her eyes seeming to burrow in and look at his very soul.

"He's happier than he'll ever be able to tell you. Words would not measure the strength but even with rocks waiting to fall his heart is singing."

Mal swallowed and nodded at her. He didn't know what to say then he did.

"I'll try and live up to that strength, River."

She smiled and waved at him then disappeared from site.

Mal climbed back down the ladder and looked at Simon lying asleep in his bed. Only his head and shoulders were visible and Mal sat on the bed and messed with the other man's hair before sweeping his hand down to his shoulder and shaking him awake.

Blue eyes met his and he returned the sleepy smile with a kiss. "River's been by. Said she's needs some medicine." Simon nodded his head and ran his fingers through his hair before getting up and pulling on his clothes. Mal watched and when Simon put on his own shirt he walked up to him and buttoned the buttons himself. He put his hand on Simon's neck and pulled him closer while his hand traveled from his neck to his back and settled on the younger man's waist.

"You go take care of your sister and I'll see you later." He pulled his arm away so Simon could leave but before he took two steps Mal grabbed his hand and pulled the other man against him and kissed him deep and long.

"I had a good time last night. Wouldn't mind a repeat tonight if you're in the mood."

Simon laughed and pressed his half-hard erection into Mal's thigh.

"I don't think I'll be out of that type of mood for a very long time." Cool hands touched his chest, ghosting over his nipples. "Why don't you get some more sleep? No need for you to stay up."

Mal shrugged and pushed Simon toward the ladder.

"I just might. Go on and tend to your sister."

Mal watched Simon's bare feet disappear and sighed. He looked back at the bed but he wasn't sleepy. Well, he'd just lay down and rest his eyes. As soon as he closed his eyes he had a flash of memory from being in Simon's room two weeks ago. They'd been lying together side by side and Mal had been stroking the both of them off, hands slippery with some kind of lotion. He'd tried to stop, tried to control the burn streaking through his body but he couldn't. He remembered telling Simon he was sorry so sorry but Simon had put his hands on either side of Mal's face and told him it was okay, that everything would be okay.

He turned on his stomach and took a deep breath. He could still smell Simon on his sheets, on him. He yawned and he figured he might go back to sleep after all. He'd need his strength later on.

The End.


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