Speed of Choices, The (part five)

by dirty diana

The Speed of Choices (Five)
by dirty diana
rated PG
no spoilers. But it's getting kinda dark, y'all. Disclaimer: I didn't invent these characters. Obviously. Translations: wo tingshuo=okay, hao ba=okay Notes: Sequel to The Speed of Choices, part four. Mad love to sf fan for the beta. Absolutely no love to my Mal and Simon muses for trying to turn me into a no-good liar.

They are five days out of Boros. Simon counts the time down restlessly in his brain. He has spent most of this day in a dark haze, one that he'd like to blame on his lingering concussion. But he knows that that would be too simple.

He seeks refuge from the bright and noisy ship inside his quarters. Except that he doesn't think of them as his quarters any more. He hides there and he reads, a badly written novel missing its front cover, found underneath a table in the common area. Jayne knocks at the doorway.

"Come in," Simon says. He stands up, and drops the book.

"Hey," Jayne says, as he steps in and crosses the room. He stands in front of Simon, and can't quite seem to look at him, as if embarrassed by the sight of the bruises on Simon's face. "I..." He stops.

"What is it, Jayne?" Simon asks, sharply, when the silence begins to hurt his head. He knows that he's being rude. He doesn't suppose that it's any more than the mercenary deserves, except that he's not really mad at Jayne. He knows very well who he's angry at, whose cold and desperate touch still lingers on Simon's skin.

"Listen, doc. I'm glad you're okay, an' all. I just wanted to say..."

Jayne reaches out, placing his hand on Simon's arm. Simon doesn't remember deciding to kiss him, only the act itself, pressing his body against Jayne's, his tongue pushing hungry and demanding into Jayne's mouth.

He doesn't remember deciding to kiss him. He only knows that he is cold, cold from the inside of him to the edges of his skin, and Jayne is strong and hot.

Jayne draws away. But Simon moves towards the warmth, like a satellite pulled by gravity, puts his arms around him and kisses him hard. Jayne kisses him back for just a moment, and then the moment is broken.

"Doc," Jayne says, "you know I ain't really lookin' to get in fight with the captain."

Simon pulls away. He is cold, but the fever plays tricks on you, he knows that. "Hao ba," he says crossly. "What are you looking for, then, Jayne?"

"Hell," Jayne says, suddenly flustered, "I don't know. I wasn't looking for anything. I just wanted to apologise is all. I wasn't meanin' to hurt you quite that bad."

Simon sighs out loud. "Of course not. No one ever means to hurt anybody. It just happens."


Simon's fingers touch his lips, where Jayne's mouth has left wetness and salt. "It's okay, Jayne. Apology accepted."

The merc nods uncertainly, and leaves.

"Lift, Zoe."

"I'm liftin', sir." Zoe answers abruptly, as they lift another large carton off its side and shuffle it across the cargo bay.

Mal knows well enough that he's been barking at his first mate all day, since long before an unexpected engine thrust sent carefully stacked cargo tumbling across the floor. Zoe's known him a long time, long enough to know not to take his bad moods personally.

But today is a very bad day, steadily getting worse. Mal sighs.

Zoe drops her end, and Mal has to let go of his own, the carton's weight narrowly missing his toes. She says, "Have you tried apologising to him, sir?"

"It ain't that simple."

"Yes," Zoe says patiently, "but have you tried?"

Mal sighs again. Zoe doesn't even know the half of it, and he won't explain it to her. He has been carrying it around with him all day, traces of the fevered apathy that Simon left behind in his bed. "It ain't," he repeats with certainty, "that simple."

"Okay, sir," Zoe says. And she kneels to pick up the box. "Liftin'."

Mal finds Simon in River's bunk. The girl is sleeping, curled in a ball under the blanket, her long tangled hair covering her peaceful face. Simon sits at the end of her bed, steadily watching her slumber, as if he can't bear to look away.

Interrupting the silence seems almost profane, as Mal speaks. "Can I talk to you?" he asks.

Simon looks up, his eyes so empty that Mal is startled to look at him. The ghosts are tracked in shadows on the young man's face, a face that looks so much older in the dark.

The no almost leaves his mouth, and then he changes his mind. "Wo tingshuo," he says. He gets up quietly, and leads Mal down the hall, into the cold white privacy of the infirmary.

"What?" Simon stares at him coldly, and Mal realises that he didn't expect it to be this hard.

"How is she?" he asks.

"She's okay. She's not worse than she was when we left, if that's what you mean." He stares at the captain, and sighs. "What is this about? Have you been talking to Jayne?"

"Pardon?" Mal asks in surprise.

"You mean you're not here to tell me that you're sorry?"

Mal shrugs, and he still doesn't know. "Would it help?"

"Not especially, captain." Simon pronounces his words carefully, his tone hard and brittle. "Not at all." And he moves past him, moves to go.

Mal's hand reaches out and grabs him by the arm.

Simon glances down, at thick strong fingers digging into his bicep. He says, "Let me go."

"Not till you've listened to a thing or two," Mal tells him.

"Oh?" Simon's voice rises dangerously. "Is that how it works? That's what I get when I don't cooperate?"

"You might get worse." Mal doesn't know what makes him say that, only that right now it's the truest thing that he can think of.

Simon stares at him, face cold, saying nothing. He waits one beat, two beats, and then he's moving away from Mal again, trying to break free.

Mal doesn't think, he only reacts. He holds Simon tighter, one hand on his hip, shoving him backwards.

He pushes the doctor against the infirmary counter, the tile digging sharply into Simon's back. Mal is an iron wall, pressed against him, and the only thing that Simon can feel right now is the tight hard muscle of Mal's body, hands and arms and chest and thighs. He breathes in and inhales only the captain's thick scent, leather and gunpowder.

"That's what you want, ain't it?" Mal demands, his breath hot on Simon's neck. "It's how I would treat any whore. And you're certainly pretty enough to be one, ain't you? More than pretty enough. But more than a mite too tetchy."

His voice is teasing and low, as one knee begins to force itself between Simon's thighs. Simon twists desperately, trying to break free. But he is pinned, trapped in Mal's unrelenting grasp.

Mal watches him writhe, his blue eyes reflecting faint amusement. "You know that I could have just taken what I wanted, at any time. Don't know why you reckon that I'd have to barter for it."

Simon doesn't answer. Abruptly, he has stopped fighting. His eyes have gone cold, his body falling still and stiff as stone underneath Mal's fingers. He licks his lips, slowly, precisely, the image sending up technicolour memories from the base of Mal's brain.

Then Simon is kissing him, hard. Mal responds automatically, he kisses him back, as surprise and desire ripple through him like electricity. Simon's mouth is open, wet and hot.

And then Simon bites down sharply, drawing the taste of blood. Mal falls back with a grunt, as Simon's knee kicks hard at his groin.

It's the shock as much as the force that knocks him to the floor. He lies on the cold ground, breathing heavily in pain. Simon stands over him, his eyes flashing dangerously. Mal knows the look, but he doesn't move fast enough, Simon's hard leather shoe connecting heavily with his left side. He groans in pain, and then Simon's entire weight comes down heavily on his chest.

Simon is sitting on him, straddling him. Mal knows that he has the strength to throw the smaller man off, but the fighting feels too much like fucking, it feels too much like breathing. He's had enough.

Simon's right hand has reached out, putting a light pressure on Mal's throat. He traces a jagged line, and his touch tingles warm on Mal's skin.

He's thinking about something. Mal can see that clearly. "What's that, then?" he asks, managing the words with difficulty.

"Your carotid artery." Simon's voice is calm and even, almost distracted. "It's a fairly major blood vessel."

"Is that a fact?" Mal can barely speak, he can barely breathe, all the air pushed out of him.

"It is." Simon's fingers continue their precise movement, gently stroking back and forth. "I don't really want to fight you, Mal."

"What do you want, then?"

Simon pauses, mid-breath, surprised by the question. Silence, while he sits, contemplating Mal's face, their eyes meeting. Mal wonders if the look in Simon's eyes is reflected in his own, the anger that burned so hard and white hot just a moment ago being quickly replaced by helplessness.

"I want to get the rutting hell off this ship."

Mal breathes in, with difficulty. He nods. "Okay."

"For good, this time," Simon adds.

"Okay, I said." Mal's voice is rough. "But we got another four days till planetfall. You think you can manage to stay away from all my arteries between now and then?"

Simon's mouth curls, the sliver of an ironic smile. "If you try not to threaten me."

"Furthest thing from my mind," Mal answers. "Do you think you can also manage to get off me?" Not nearly light enough to be a whore either, and he only just stops himself from saying it out loud.

Simon stands up, gives Mal a hand and lifts him off the floor. Mal winces at the pain in his side, the familiar ache of a bruised rib.

Simon looks at him in concern. "I'm sorry."

"You ain't."

Simon's tongue sweeps across his lips, that same faint smile. "Well. You earned it."

"I imagine I did," Mal says, then realises that Simon's hand is still held inside his, his fingers smooth and warm. Quickly, he pulls away. "Four days, then."

"Four days," Simon repeats, like a prayer.

Mal leaves the room first. Simon turns out the light.


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