the reluctant lobotomist (fourfreedoms) wrote,
the reluctant lobotomist
fourfreedoms

I started another new one. Please, no sharp objects.

[ mood | limbo ]
[ music | Sin Sin Sin-Robbie Williams ]

Title: Returning Sight to The Blind.
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters. Joss Whedon has just made them incredibly easy to manipulate into my mad fantasies, but they're still his.
Summary: Job goes south as they inevitably do, but at least it comes with some earth shattering revelations for the captain.
Pairing: Mal/Simon, Mal/Inara (mentions of)
Chapter: 1/?
Genre: romance
Rating: pg-13 for naughty dreams and walking in on people
acknowledgments: xtinethepirate this is all your fault. I would never have gotten into this pairing without you.

Simon bolted awake. His sheets were too hot, and he could feel the uncomfortable sensation of sweat rolling down the small of his back. He had to try to quiet his mind. Last week he’d woken River with one of his dreams, and this was one he definitely didn’t want her to see. This one he very much wished he’d never seen himself. It only reminded him of what he wanted so desperately and could never have.

Blurred Dreams of fingertips gliding over skin, stolen kisses, and fingernails gripping into biceps like warm marble chased behind his eyes now every time he seemed to close them.

Kaylee had invited him to her bunk that evening. He’d known what she wanted. Hell, he wasn’t blind. In the beginning it had just been so flattering to be liked that he couldn’t help responding to her affection. During his days on Osiris he’d been showered with attention. A witty young brilliant doctor was hard to ignore. However, they’d always backed off when they realized he was single-minded about a cause that wasn’t them. By the time he’d made birth on Serenity a part of him was aching desperately to be taken care of. He’d let things get away from him with Kaylee. Now he wasn’t quite sure how to make them right again. Especially considering that he wanted something—someone so desperately and it wasn’t her.

Sooner or later he’d have to explain that he didn’t like her the way she liked him. Not only would she be heartbroken and probably refuse to speak to him for months, but the entire crew would probably line up to take shots at him.

He sighed. There would be no more sleep for him tonight, only feverish images and dirty thoughts. He didn’t want to see them anymore. Didn’t want to be the person who pined away for the person he could never have, especially considering that Mal was like to cork out his head if he even looked at him that way.

There was a job going down tomorrow. Simon could only hope that none of the crew members would be unfortunate enough to get shot. God knows he was working on little enough sleep. He would probably cause them more damage than good. He shoved his blankets off and rotated his head upon his shoulders, hoping desperately to clear his head.

He left his quarters in search of a cup of tea. As a result of Inara’s move back on to Serenity the tea had vastly improved, perhaps the only good that Simon could see out of it, the uncharitable part of him had thought at the time. Simon had always been fond of tea in all its derivations: ceylon, assam, lapsang souchong, oolong, macha, sencha, earl grey, green, jasmine, rooibos, or chai. Serenity always had tea, but it was often of the take-out Chinese restaurant variety.

He wasn’t alone in his desire for the hot drink. Zoë sat in the galley, a full pot in front of her, her expression blank from tiredness.

‘“llo, Doc,” she rubbed one eye and sighed. Simon pulled a cup out of a cabinet and reached for the pot. “Strong stuff, just so’s you know.”

Simon smiled and poured himself a cup anyway. He could tell it was one of Inara’s best ceylons, known as the “royal gold tips.” He wondered how it was that Inara always managed to come by this stuff on the planets they frequented.

“What’s keepin’ you up, doctor?” Zoë asked for the sake of conversation.

“Dreams,” Simon took a swallow and was assaulted with the taste of oversteeped tea. “Yourself?” he asked as he struggled not to cough around the mouthful.

Zoë smiled slightly at his sputtering. “Wash’s snoring enough to be heard on that polaris 9 ship hangar he’s always talkin’ about.”

Simon knew his expression must have been wistful because Zoë paused in the midst of drinking her tea. “You’ll find yourself someone, Doc.”

She knew then. Knew he didn’t want Kaylee, or any girl for that matter. He could see it in her face. Simon laughed. The only one he had found was deeply in both love and denial about a certain courtesan and also had a predilection for hitting Simon more often than he said hello to him.

“Mmm, out here?” Simon laughed, masking his inner despair. “Well, I suppose Jayne and I could give it a go.”

Zoë made a disgusted sound and took another swallow of tea. “I think you’re settin’ your expectations FAR too low.”

They both chuckled. Simon stood up, cup in hand. “Well, I’m going to go check out the cortex. There’s a new medication up for certification which is supposed to accelerate muscle regeneration.”

“Sounds all kinds of riveting.” Zoë saluted him with her cup. “I meant what I said about you findin’ someone.”

“Nobody out here to find,” Simon replied quietly over his shoulder. He nodded to her and then left.

Zoë looked down at her cup. She sighed again. “Only the Captain, Simon. Only the Captain,” she said to herself after a long moment. She stood up and emptied the last of the tea pot into the sink. Why were men so thick sometimes?

*

“So there’s no fence for this orb-thingy?” Wash asked as they all sat around the kitchen table the next morning getting briefed for the latest job.

Mal shook his head. “The buyer just wants us to make a drop at a specified place somewhere on Ariel. Hasn’t said where yet.”

“From what I understand we’re just actin’ as a courier service.” Zoë said from her station against one wall. “Just grab the thing? We’ve got that device to help us out, and then we get out?”

“That pretty much sums it up,” Mal nodded.

“The Celandine Orb sounds familiar—from my history lessons I should think,” Simon said absently. He watched River, feeling like she knew something she wasn’t sharing.

River only smiled mysteriously. “Thunderstorms!” she stated with an arched brow at Mal.

The crew barely spared River a glance, they were so used to her strange pronouncements. Simon sighed; sometimes it seemed to him that River enjoyed her semi-lucidity.

“Well, you got yourselves an hour to do whatever it is you need to do,” Mal stated with finality.

Zoë nodded, and she and Wash both left, Kaylee and Jayne went to their separate haunts, Inara was in her shuttle—there would be no clientele for her to prepare for where they were going—leaving only Mal, Simon, and River at the table. Simon and Mal both got up and attempted to go through the doorway at the same time, their bodies brushing up against each other.

Simon instantly thought back to this dream from the previous night and sucked in a lungful of air. Mal looked at his doctor strangely, mistaking the sudden intake of breath for pain.

“We all shiny, Doc?”

“Yes, I’m fine.” He smiled tightly and turned away from Mal. “Don’t get blown up.”

Simon walked swiftly towards the infirmary, leaving Mal to stare after his retreating back. There were times he just wanted to shove the doc up against a wall and ravish him, force him to lose a little of that meticulous control. Mal sighed and headed off to his bunk. After all, there were plenty of captainy things to do, no time at all to think about doctors who probably hated his guts. He never even noticed River’s eyes just peering around the doorway to the kitchen.

*
Everything was going absolutely fine. The security was easy enough to get by. They just dropped down the vents and they were in. Finding the right room wasn’t hard. Wash had uploaded the building schematics to Serenity’s mainframe and had guided them through the building. They’d had slight trouble with one guard coming back from the toilets, but other than that they were in perfect shape. With their luck, they should’ve known it couldn’t last.

Kaylee found the security panel easily enough, although Mal knew he would never have seen it himself. She’d cracked it open and immediately started fiddling with the mechanisms inside. Zoë and Jayne stood on guard as she rewired the doors to open. Mal simply waited.

After long minutes Kaylee sighed in frustration. “I know I got the right code to open this luh suh door, but it won’t budge.” She whacked the steel plating with the flat of her palm. “If my guess is correct this is 24 barstock steel. It should blow.”

Everybody turned and looked at Jayne.

The merc started. “What?”

“You got them charges I told you not to bring?” Mal asked dryly.

“Er . . .” Jayne had the decency to look sheepish. “Well, yeah.”

“Well?” Mal gestured at the door.

“Oh, right.” The merc dug in his bag, a few of his possessions falling to the floor in his hurry. Everybody jumped back in fear of an explosion going off in their faces. Jayne grinned at their expressions. “I ain’t stupid.”

Mal and Zoë exchanged glances and Kaylee suppressed a smile. Jayne, oblivious to his crewmate’s merriment, set about placing the charges. He liked to think that demolition was sort of an art form, one that the rest of the crew didn’t appreciate. Otherwise they wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it.

“All set, Cap’n.” Jayne took a step back from his handiwork. “We need to be about twenty feet away ‘fore the damage hits.”

The rest of the crew nodded and dutifully paced 20 feet down the corridor all the while keeping a weather eye out for anybody coming round to disrupt their plans. Jayne leaned against the wall, remote detonator in hand, and with one zealous click the door and a large section of wall exploded. Insulation sheeting and steel plates rained down upon them and they were covered in plaster dust. The noise had easily crossed the threshold of pain.

Mal coughed and wiped at his face. “Twenty feet? Jian ta de gui!”

Jayne kicked a piece of sheeting. “Coulda been twenty meters, now that I think back.”

Mal made an exasperated sound and began to pick his way through the debris to the door.

“Someone will have heard that, sir,” Zoë said, already standing at the ready for security guards to come barreling down the corridors.

“I reckon so.” Mal sneezed and made a face. The room was pitch black, the light from the hallway barely penetrating the opening.

Kaylee, who stood with Jayne, picked up a fancy piece of brushed steel and turned it over. “Cap? We got a problem.”

Mal closed his eyes and sighed. “Aiya! Aside from the fact that we just blew up a door in the lower levels of an alliance repository?”

“Well, we blew the instrument panel clear off,” she held up the plate “that means no lights.”

“Yeh-soo! You got a flashlight?” Mal growled back, peering around the gaping hole in the doorway, not exactly sure why he had such a bad feeling about going inside.

“Sir?” Zoë, already anticipating her captain’s wishes, held out a flashlight. Mal nodded his thanks and flicked the high-powered light beam on in an attempt to illuminate the inky blackness. He took a few tentative steps inside before tripping over a lever on the floor.

A large grating sound resounded through what was left of the walls and suddenly the room was flooded with blinding light. Mal blinked and attempted to focus his eyes.

He could see the orb fuzzily. It seemed to be flickering slightly as it sat upon a trivet in the center of the room with a wash of light falling down upon it. The entire set-up was positively melodramatic, recalling in him some of the more outlandish tales from Earth-that-was. The celandine orb was a pretty enough bauble, not something he’d be willing to spend a half-million platinum on, but Lord knew core folk were a strange bunch.

He figured there must be something more to the thing than its beauty, though. You put pretty things on display, not in rooms layered in steel plating, with doors that required elaborate pass codes that not even his genius mechanic could get through.

“Zoë? You got that device-thingy?” Mal gestured at his second-in-command. Zoë gave him a dry look and tossed him the gizmo the buyer had said would deactivate the trivet and magnetic security fields, the latest in technology, of course. Mal looked at the little piece of machinery in his hand and cleared his throat. He wasn’t exactly 100% on how this thing worked. The buyer had claimed you just chucked it at the orb and the magnetic shielding would drop and the orb would be right there for the taking.

He hefted it in his hand and made a few experiment tosses upward with it, before sighing and hoping to god that the thing worked. Mal threw the gizmo at the field and was thrown back by the ensuing back lash. Light pushed on his eyelids and their was a roar of noise that passed well over the threshold of discomfort and made him nauseous from the pain.

Then it was like a weight fell away and everything seemed to be back to normal—earth grav and only the distant whirring of ventilators, rather than 200 pounds of pressure and knives of sound stabbing his ear drums.

“Dang ran! It would just be too much for it to go through without a whole lotta pain.” He picked himself up off the ground, looking to make sure his crew was intact. Zoë was already up and helping Kaylee to her feet and it looked like Jayne had only stumbled at the blast.

Mal was damn well going to get out of this stupid governmental building before anything else could go wrong. He knew his luck, some cosmic entity had long ago invested in making Mal his entertainment. He stomped over to the orb and reached for the sparkly globe. His fingers had barely grazed it and suddenly he was tumbling down to the floor.

“Hell!” was out of his mouth just before he hit the ground and his vision went black. His crew turned in time to see him hit the floor with a dull thwock.

The last thing he heard was Zoë taking charge and a burst of gunshots.

*

Jayne dumped the captain on Simon’s operating table as the doctor himself looked on in distress. If Zoë hadn’t been so worried about Mal’s current unconscious state she would’ve noted the look with satisfaction.

“What happened?” Simon asked as he checked Mal’s pulse.

Zoë held up her hands. “Don’t rightly know for sure. Captain just touched the orb and then he was on the flat of his back.”

Simon tugged open Mal’s left eyelid and shined a light into it. The pupil contracted and Simon let out a quiet breath of relief. “He’s not in a coma—a very good sign. For all intents and purposes, he’s reached R.E.M sleep.”

“Wuzzat?” Jayne had a deeply puzzled expression engraved on his face.

“Never mind!” Zoë quickly interjected. “I touched the orb myself, and I’m fine.”

“I have no medical explanation for it.” Simon picked up one of Mal’s hands and let it go, watching as it thunked bonelessly on the table. “He should be watched. If he doesn’t wake soon, then I’ll administer adrenaline, and see if that doesn’t get him up.”

“Right, well, just make sure he don’t die on us.” Zoë nodded at Simon and then left the infirmary, Jayne following a few steps behind. Her head then poked back around the door. “Oh, and d’you think you could take a look at that the orb?”

Simon nodded. “Shia.”

Simon sighed and stroked Mal’s hair. “Couldn’t go a day without ending up in here somehow, could you?” He fancied that Mal leaned into his hand, but that was probably his own fevered imaginings, the man was for all intents and purpose dead to the world for the moment after all.

*

Mal floated in water, a small lake from the look of it. It was slightly chilly but not altogether unpleasant. Beech trees created a roof over his head, and the light that filtered through was muted and greenish. Mal blinked a bit, feeling very groggy. How had he ever gotten here? The alliance repository had been on a desert moon along with one small settlement of Malthusians. There were no peaceful lakes surrounded in such great old trees.

“Beautiful isn’t it?” a soft voice said from behind him.

Mal whirled around in the water, droplets going everywhere. A little girl sat on a dock, her feet in the water. She was very pale with freakishly large blue eyes and white blonde hair.

“Who are you?” Mal asked. “Where in the gorram ‘verse are we?”

She ignored his first question. “It’s my memory of Earth-that-was. My parents used to bring me here in the summer.”

“All right, you got no call to lie to me.” Mal crossed his arms, noticing for the first time that his clothes stuck to his skin uncomfortably. “Where are we really, and how did I get there?”

The little girl giggled and shook her head. “You are conflicted, Malcolm. You must choose.”

Mal sighed. Clearly she wasn’t going to tell him. “Right, and what exactly would my choices be?”

She huffed. “Don’t be stupid.”

“Wha—” Mal gaped. “All I was tryin’ to do was figure you out.”

“You should figure yourself out first!” She kicked water at him. “Come now, we have very little time.”

“Yeah, before I start thinkin’ ‘bout stranglin’ you for answers.”

“If you strangled me, I would be quite unable to answer anything.”

“Shen jing bing!” Mal rolled his eyes.

She giggled again and gestured at him to follow her. He sloshed out of the water grumpily. The air was much warmer than the water. His clothes, heavy with water, were plastered to his skin. He paused and tugged his shirt away from his chest. The girl stopped when she noticed he was no longer following her, and crossed her arms.

“All right, Missy! I’m comin’!” Mal said in response to her impatience.

She rolled her eyes heavenward and gestured for him to go in front of her.

They stepped out of the circle of trees and instead of being blinded by a powerful sun, they were standing in a darkened bedroom just to the right of the bed. Mal was, by now, totally bewildered. It took him a moment to adjust his eyes, but he could clearly see a figure lying on the bed, he could tell from the angles of the body that it was a man. The man shifted slightly and Mal realized he was staring at a sleeping Simon. He swallowed hard when he noticed that the other man was shirtless, with the blankets pushed down low around his hips.

“Simon, what the—” Mal started towards the ship doctor.

“He can’t hear you,” the girl calmly interrupted.

Mal looked at the little girl over his shoulder, annoyance written into every feature. “All right you—”

She cut him off again, “Shh, watch.”

Mal turned back towards Simon. An arm hooked around Simon’s waist, the hand running across Simon’s lightly muscled abdomen and then upward to play with his nipple absently. Mal couldn’t ignore the feelings of both jealousy and horror at seeing Simon with a lover.

“Mmm, shen me?” Simon’s eyes were still closed as he spoke to the owner of the wandering hand.

“I had a good dream,” a familiar deep voice answered, husky from sleep.

Eyes still closed, Simon smiled gently. He pushed himself back against the person lying spooned up against him. “I can tell.” He let out a breath as the hand wandered down his body to the region hidden by covers.

“Want I should show you?”

“You said it was good,” was all Simon answered. Mal felt nauseous at the obvious familiarity the two lovers had with each other. The second figure shoved Simon onto his back and then climbed on top of him. He ground his hips down into Simon’s own, both moaning softly at the contact. The figure pulled one of Simon’s legs up to wrap around his waist.

Mal gritted his teeth at the sight of them writhing together. Feeling horribly dirty at the same time at the way he was getting turned on from the expression on Simon’s face and the sounds of pleasure he made as his lover tortured him. He didn’t want to see this, didn’t want to hear it either. He didn’t understand how it was Simon had a lover hidden away somewhere, how he managed to visit said lover, and finally how it was they couldn’t see Mal standing in their bedroom.

Simon’s fingers curled into the other man’s hair. He realized it was rather similar to his own. The man chuckled low in his throat as he bit down on Simon’s collarbone, nails scraping down Simon’s chest . Come to think of it, that laugh sounded rather like his own too.

“Tianna, Mal, don’t stop!” Simon choked out.

“What?” Mal burst out. The other man moved slightly and he realized he was, indeed, looking at himself screw Simon into the mattress. The jealous feelings receded a little, maybe Simon really did want him. But what in the gorram hell was goin’ on? It gave him hope that Simon was so enthralled with this alter-ego’s attentions, but Mal wasn’t quite sure if he liked the idea of this guy pretending to be him! Surely that was the only explanation.

“How?” Mal pointed at himself, or the person who liked himself, and Simon twisted together in the bed. The little girl waved a hand to dismiss Mal’s question. Mal looked back at the two figures and then back at the little girl. “And—hey! Should you be watchin’ somethin’ like this?!”

The little girl snorted. “I’m older than you, Grandpa!”

Mal glared at her.

“Oh, all right then! We have to move on anyway!”

*

Ever since the job had gone south Kaylee couldn’t think of anything to do. She’d cleaned and tuned the engine as best she could with the parts she had. She’d bothered Wash at the flight deck. She’d fidgeted around with the things in Inara’s shuttle, pretending not to notice as the companion herself fretted about the room in a circle. Knowing that she was probably making Inara crazy with all her babbling and messing about, she finally excused herself for the kitchen. She would have visited Simon in the infirmary, but not only would Simon be far too preoccupied with his patient for company, it would only remind her of her catatonic captain.

Maybe if she went to the kitchen she could make herself one of Inara’s calming teas and if that didn’t work she could always dose herself with a good glass of whiskey.

When she arrived, River was already there fiddling about with what looked like old-fashioned photographs.

“What are those?” Kaylee asked, intrigued by the shiny surfaces.

River didn’t answer her; she continued arranging them on the table. Kaylee sat down next to her to get a better look. She picked up the closest one and reckoned it was Simon even though his back was turned, his head was bent, and he was shirtless. Kaylee swallowed at the lean muscled arms, the powerful layers of muscle across his shoulders, and the dark blue pants that rode low on Simon’s hips. No one would ever have guessed he was hiding such a body beneath his stiffly starched clothes.

She put it down and picked up another, all the while blushing. She felt a little guilty for looking at the pictures, but couldn’t stop herself. Simon was a human work of art, as her promiscuous cousin Retty would say with a large smile on her face.

Simon was in mid-pose from one of the kung fu katas she recognized, having seen him doing them on other occasions. However, to Kaylee’s disappointment, he always wore a short-sleeved t-shirt on those occasions. She would’ve liked to see him all sweaty. She picked up picture after picture of Simon at his work-out, squirming a little in her seat as she did so. He looked quite a bit younger, his face more carefree. His hair style was also shorter than it was now, only a few sticky-uppy bits were in the front. The messiness was adorable.

Her favorite was a shot of Simon smiling, eyes closed, as he wiped his forehead with a towel. He looked positively edible.

Kaylee remembered that River was sitting beside her. “Er, did you—uh—did you take these?”

River made a face. Smacking her palm down on a photo, she answered Kaylee’s question: “Lover’s photos!”

“I—yes, I thought that mighta been it!” Kaylee blushed and nodded. Simon probably wouldn’t want her to look at these. “Was she pretty?”

River looked at her strangely. “He!”

“What do you mean ‘he’?” Kaylee stared blankly at the other girl.

River gestured impatiently at the photos. “He took them!”

“I—” Kaylee broke off. “Simon had a boy for a lover?”

River’s expression clearly said ‘duh.’

Kaylee laughed. “Wow, I never thought he’d be the type to go experimentin’.” She got to her feet. “I’ll see you later, River girl!” She left the room thinking River hadn’t noticed her surreptitious grab for her favorite photo.

“She don’t get it,” Zoë said from the doorway of the kitchen.

“So obvious!” River said disgustedly.

“To you.” Zoë shrugged and made herself some tea. “You want any?”

River shook her head, rearranging the photos again.

“How’d you come by those?” Zoë asked. She tipped a bit of vodka into her strong tea, before turning around to lean against the kitchen counter.

“Matthias took them. He liked old photography. Love and then click,” River said, like that answered everything. Seeing the look on Zoë’s face, River continued. “Simon still had them. I thought as much. He never let Matthias keep them.”

“Did Simon love him?” Zoë asked carefully, hoping Simon didn’t have any old hang-ups.

River shook her head. “Photographer gets the prize, but doesn’t know it.” Then she pushed away from the table and skipped off, leaving Zoë once again alone with her tea. Zoë was used to putting up with a lot of craziness between Mal and Wash. Sometimes though, the Tams really beat them all. Zoë believed that River was completely conscious of the mayhem she created; perhaps she even reveled in it a bit.

“Did that answer your question?” Wash asked as he stepped into the kitchen.

“Well . . .”

“Good, if I have to be left out of the loop I might as well do it with company!”

“Yes, you must get lonely.” Zoë chuckled into her cup.

Wash looked affronted. “Wife, am I to believe that was a subtle insult?”

Zoë didn’t say anything just glanced at Wash over the top of her cup.

“Don’t make me bite you!” Wash threatened. “I could just grab your arm and gnaw a chunk out of it.”

Wash caught sight of the look on Zoë’s face. “Or I could pretend I never said that and run in the other direction screaming.”

Zoë smiled. “You could at that. Won’t get you any further in the loop, though. More like the opposite.”

Zoë’s husband changed the subject. “So, I was thinking of writing a dictionary for River-speak. You think I could make a couple bucks off it?” He sat down next to her.

“Captain might even let you have shore leave for services rendered,” Zoë snorted.

“Deng yi miao, you really think so?” Wash looked about ready to find a pen and paper to start right away.

*

He and the little girl stood against one wall, watching as a friendly dinner affair carried itself out. He’d sort of realized by now that what he was seeing wasn’t quite real. Zoë and Wash were there, as was Kaylee with a man he’d never seen before. River sat next to Simon, her hair perfectly coiffed, something Mal was sure he’d never seen on the teenage girl in his life. Jayne sat with a jagged scar running down the side of one cheek, looking no less happy then anybody else at the table. Even Inara was there, wearing, of all things, something other than the warm colors she normally donned. The only one who was missing was Shepherd Book.

They were all laughing and making merry. River held a glass of alcohol in one hand, looking more and more elegant by the moment. Mal, who sat at the head of the table, leaned over and lightly kissed his doctor, just after saying something at his expense. Simon’s expression showed his wry amusement at both the remark and Mal’s apologetic kiss.

Everybody seemed content, though maybe not bursting with happiness. When Kaylee wasn’t careful her face betrayed her thoughts towards Simon. It caused a twinge of guilt in the pit of his stomach, for whatever reason he was imagining himself with Simon, his own conscious wouldn’t allow him to forget Kaylee.

“Good lord! This is not your conscious.” The little girl poked him in the arm. “This is what could be.”

Mal looked over at the girl. “I was kinda happy with the idea that it’s a dream.”

She rolled her eyes. Mal turned back to the assembled party, noticing a leather duster hung up on one wall with a shiny badge punched clear as day through the lapel.

“Whose is that?” He gestured at the coat with his head.

She looked at him. “Yours.”

“I ain’t never gonna work for the gou shi yu ben de alliance!” Mal stated vehemently, the star shape was a clearly recognizable law enforcement symbol.

“You don’t, sheriff!” she answered with a mocking twinkle in her eye.

“I—sheriff? What do all of them do? Jayne become a sha gua of a lawyer? He gestured at the rest of the people gathered around the table.

“Wash runs a flight school of his own with Kaylee’s help. That’s how she met Evander. He’s a pilot.” She gestured at the unknown man sitting to Kaylee’s right. “River is in academia. Her big project is a core world caliber university—of course she’s doing it mostly with Simon’s money.”

“Money? What money? He don’t got none!”

The girl laughed. “Oh, he can access his bank accounts now.”

Mal looked around the table. So much had changed and yet nobody seemed much older.

The little girl continued, “Zoë and Jayne both work with you, though Jayne’s still got some questionable tactics.”

Mal tried to picture Jayne in law enforcement and couldn’t manage it.

“Simon’s a doctor still, you and he are both so busy, you don’t spend near enough time together, but you manage.” The little girl walked over and put a hand on Inara’s shoulder, who didn’t react in the slightest at the touch. “Inara is still a companion, she visits often, she’ll never say it but she desperately wants a child. She’s thinking about asking Simon to be the father.”

“What? Simon?” Mal jealousy flared at the idea of the two people whom he wants the most having children together.

The little girl gave him an inscrutable look. “You couldn’t completely leave Serenity behind. You keep her docked with Wash. You take jobs sometimes, if the wind blows right, some inside the law and some out. Everybody likes those times, because now the pressure just to stay afloat is gone. All of you pile on to the ship, with the new addition of Evander. Sometimes Wash brings his students.”

“Sounds like a beautiful party, little one.” Mal stared at the group in front of him, partly wistful and partly scornful.

They were laughing over a joke, and Jayne spilled his drink into Simon’s lap. Simon stood up and threatened to strip all the way down the next time Jayne did it, which was enough to make Jayne say he’d never do it again.

“You have your hardships to keep it interesting,” she replied archly her face not divulging anything. “You don’t believe in it?” she asked after long moments of simply watching the group dynamics.

“Too ruttin’ perfect, and I ain’t ever gonna give up Serenity.”

“Ah, I see,” she stated in annoyingly superior voice. “Come on, we’ve got a lot to do.”

*

Inara wanted to go visit Mal in the infirmary, but at the same time she didn’t. Simon would be there, and she knew she wouldn’t be able to keep from crying at the state of Mal. Simon might already have guessed that she had feelings for Mal, but she’d be damned if she gave him any more cause to believe it. Especially since she could see the way they were with each other.

Maybe if they could just get past acting like men, they would realize it. Not that Inara ever really wanted that day to come.

“Hey ‘Nara, River just tol’ me something kinda neat,” Kaylee said as she strolled into to Inara’s shuttle.

“Really, what?” the companion ask, glad of the distraction from thinking about Mal.

“Simon had a boy lover!” Kaylee pronounced, as if this was a supreme benediction. “He’s not quite so stiff like Jayne and the Captain and all o’ you say, after all!”

Inara wasn’t quite sure what to say to Kaylee. She hadn’t really had the heart to tell the young woman that she was barking up the wrong tree.

“I wonder if Simon’s had many lovers,” Kaylee broke Inara’s thought process.

Inara thought about the doctor with his dark blue eyes and pale skin. When she’d first met him she would have said no, maybe one in his entire life. His blunders with Kaylee were completely indicative of little experience with women. However, after a while, Inara had begun to notice things. At Nandi’s place he’d paid absolutely no notice to the women. Inara had thought it was because he was busy birthing a baby, but she’d realized later that none of the women even got more than a professional once over after all the hullabaloo was over. Even Mal, whose iron control was formidable, snuck a glance here or there.

Once she’d seen that, she’d seen Mal and Simon’s catfights in a whole new light. There was a lot of tension between the two, but it certainly wasn’t violence.

Simon was too pretty for other men so inclined not to notice. She wouldn’t be terribly surprised to learn that he’d had more than one, although she doubted he was much of the love ‘em and leave ‘em type.

“I don’t know, Kaylee.” Inara fiddled with the hem of her skirt.

“I think he’d be a good lover,” Kaylee was simply wondering aloud now, “knows exactly what does what better on a body prolly than that person knows themself.”

“That would stand to reason, mei mei,” Inara replied as she lit a stick of incense.

“I think Simon and another boy would be kinda sexy-like.” Kaylee lay back on Inara’s bed, lost in thought.

“Kaylee!” Inara turned and looked at Kaylee.

“What? I gotta work with something, since Simon ain’t like to come to my bunk sayin’ ‘take me away, Kaylee’ anytime soon!”

Inara stared at her friend, wondering if Kaylee really did realize about Simon after all.

“Boy’s so slow about everythin’, I’m like to be old and gray ‘fore he decides to come down to my bunk.”

Inara’s hopes fell. “Well, you know he’s got River.”

“I know.” Kaylee sighed. “Times are a girl just gets tired of waitin’”

Inara smoothed her dress. “Maybe you shouldn’t then.”

“What?” Kaylee rolled over on Inara’s bed. “You mean like go to him?”

“No, I mean maybe you should find somebody else.” Inara winced at how that sounded, but she wasn’t sure what else to say. “For you, that is. You don’t want to pin your hopes on someone who has too much else to worry about to romance you.”

“But—”

“I know you like him Kaylee. A lot. But I don’t think Simon’s ever going to have the guts” she sent a silent apology to Simon for the slander “or the time to ask you for anything.”

“Yeah, I was startin’ to think that myself.” Kaylee sighed. “I just want to wait it out a little longer.”

Inara sighed. Kaylee clearly could not be dissuaded. She feared for the other girl. Kaylee was going to get her heart broken, either through Simon’s inaction, or his action with someone else.

*
So there’s the first chapter. Tell me what you think. I hope it’s not too completely bizarre.

Tags: fanfiction, firefly, mal/simon, slash
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