Rating: PG-13 (language)
Disclaimer: *Tamen shuyu* Joss. Taking 'em off the shelf for a bit, is all.
Warnings: Cliche alert!
Notes: Thanks to Dar and Phil for the medical/booze clarifications, Dani and Chrissy for audiencing. *Smooches* to sffan for the beta. Dirty Diana forced me to write this. Or, well, challenged me to write this. Same thing. It's for her cliche-fic challenge. And yes, I stole part of the cliche from another fandom. So?
tamade (diyu): motherfucking (hell)
bizui: shut up
dong ma: understand
"Yeah," Mal replies to Simon, while rummaging through his bag. His knees are starting to ache a bit in the cold, and he knows he packed a heater; or something, anything, warmer than just his pants.
"A shack. In the middle of an arctic wilderness."
Mal finds the heater, and triumphantly places it in the middle of the small room. As he fiddles with the switch, he replies, "Technically, Doc, it's an antarctic wilderness, seein' as how we're in the southern hemisphere of this here planet."
Simon looks supremely uncomfortable, hands stuck in the armpits of his greatcoat, but he edges closer as the heater begins radiating warmth. "And I just know there's a reason we're here, attempting to freeze our nuts off," he grouses.
Mal starts a bit at the profanity falling so easily from Simon's mouth, but replies calmly. "A job, son. Why else do we go anywhere?"
Simon rolls his eyes. "I meant, was there a particular reason I'm here, rather than Zoe, or Jayne, or anyone else on the ship?"
Grinning, Mal answers, "We could be here anywhere from two hours to five days, Doc. Can't take Zoe away from Wash for that long without some *niao-shi* argument breaking out, can't take Kaylee away from her engine for that long without a big fuss, Wash would complain, Book would preach, and I don't see your sister or Inara being that comfortable in such primitive surroundings, can you?" As Simon shakes his head, Mal continues. "'Sides, you smell a damn sight nicer than Jayne." He smirks at Simon's blush, and tosses him some food packs. "Make yourself useful, why don't you, Doc?"
Simon catches all but one of the packets, awkwardly holding them against his chest as he searches for a cabinet to store them in. As he piles them neatly, he asks another question. "Captain, you know I'm not so good in a fight. What if...what if something goes wrong?"
Mal shrugs as he retrieves the fallen packet. "Eh. I ain't too worried about this job. Worse comes to worst? You just stand there and look threatening with a gun." He slaps the younger man on the shoulder. "Know you can do that, at least."
"Not two hours, then?"
"Don't rightly look that way."
"Captain, there's only one bed!"
"Don't get your panties in a twist, Doc. I brought a sleeping roll along."
"Could you please stop calling me Doc?"
"Sure thing, Doc."
The two of them were digging into yet another rehydrated meal. "Gotta say, Doc, you ain't such a good conversationalist."
Mal rolls his eyes. "How am I supposed to remember to call you 'Simon' when you keep calling me 'Captain'? It's Mal." He pauses, considering, chopsticks halfway to his mouth. "Well, at least while we're stuck here."
"How long has it been, anyway?" Simon was poking desultorily at his food.
"About twenty nine hours, give or take. Why?" Mal looks up. "You bored?"
Mal grins, leans back, and snags his pack from behind. "Well, it just so happens I have a possible solution to both our problems in here." As he rummages through the bag, Simon leans across the circle of heat in curiousity, frowning when Mal produces the bottle.
"I don't think that's such a good idea."
Mal looks at the booze, and back at Simon. "Why not?"
"The combination of the cold and the dilating effect of the alcohol could produce some really nasty hypothermia, possibly even frostbite."
"Ya know, *Doc*, it's really hard not to call you 'doc' when you start soundin' like one."
"Where's the tea?"
"Think we're out."
"Really? Oh." Simon sways a bit. Or Mal does. It's hard to tell from this angle. "Pass the bottle, Mal. Straight brandy for me, I guess."
Mal pauses and examines the bottle before handing it over. "So that's what it tastes like. Huh."
Brandy tastes sweet and burning and fucking incredible when you're drinking it. The next day, of course, it can taste like ashes.
But Mal awakes to the sensation of sweet and burning and fucking incredible along his back, and, forgetting where he is for a moment, rolls over and snuggles closer. A sudden blast of cold air crashes into his back when he yanks the blanket up by accident.
He's fully awake, partially clothed, and definitely sharing a bed with Simon Tam. Who is also barely clothed. Mal curses quietly, and tries to remember how he got here.
Mal curses again, finding he can't remember shit from after the sixth shot of straight brandy. Somehow, he manages to extricate himself from Simon's arms, and roll out of the bed. Unfortunately, this makes it obvious that his pants are undone, as they fall down around his ankles. Stumbling to the door, Mal curses yet again as he pulls up his pants, closes his shirt, and opens the door.
The wind is icy, and utterly sobering. A few mouthfuls of snow clean out the ashes, and the shivering washes the taint of alcohol from his system. Unfortunately, now it's obvious that he has a splitting headache.
"*Tamade*." He's almost scared to go back in, but he really has no choice. Bracing himself, he opens the door. Simon is sitting up on the bed, blearily examining the room.
"Ugh. What happened?" Simon doesn't look so pretty when he's hungover. His hair is stuck up in odd directions, his eyes seem to have trouble focusing, and that pale skin--there's an awful lot of it on display--has a slightly green tinge.
Mal stands there, unable to answer. He's holding up his pants with one hand, and the other is gripping his shirt. His feet are wet and cold, and so are the ankles of his pants. But damned if he's going to change clothes while Simon's just *there*.
"M...mal?" he stutters, and moves, and suddenly Simon's completely green. Mal manages to move out of Simon's way just in time, warm flesh leaving a cool breeze behind.
While Simon's puking outside, Mal manages to get dry clothes out, and dries his feet. Simon enters, wiping his mouth, and making a face. Mal silently hands him clean clothes, and pointedly turns his back. He still can't think. Rutting headache.
Simon takes the sweater, and mutters something unintelligible as he slips it over his head. "What's that, Doc?" Mal asks, trying to listen around the pounding in his skull.
"Diuretic effect of the alcohol...intensified by the temperature." Simon's dressed now, so Mal turns, and the younger man is sitting on the edge of the bed, head in his hands. "Haven't been this stupid since MedAcad," he groans.
Mal's confused. "Dia-whuh?" He slips a hand under Simon's elbow, trying not to jar either of their heads as he lifts him off the bunk. "C'mon, Doc. Gotta have a hangover cure somewhere in this shack."
"Yeah," Simon mutters. "Need water. We're both dehydrated. Think I have some analgesics, too."
"Well, now. You get the pills, I'll take care of the water." Simon gets propelled toward his pack, and Mal goes to the distiller to fetch their water. When he turns around, Simon's already swallowed, and is trading off a pair of big green pills for a mug of water, which he gulps quickly.
While Mal takes his medicine, Simon refills and drains his mug twice more. "You too, Captain." He nods at the distiller.
"Huh. Big fancy Core education, and the best you have for a hangover is aspirin and water?"
Simon's grin is pain-tinged, but honest. "Well, we still haven't cured the common cold, either."
Mal's still drinking water as he turns to Simon. The doctor's twisting his hands, and looks distinctly nervous.
"Uh, do you...I mean, did we...uh."
Trying to remain poker-faced is hard, but Mal's had years of practice. "What?"
Simon blushes. "Never mind." He stands up, still wobbly from the headache, and steps towards the water distiller again. But instead of making it, he slips in a puddle of water, and his arms go windmilling.
Luckily for Simon, the cabin's small, and Mal lurches across the room to catch him. The rattling of the tin mug falling on the floor is unnoticed as Simon takes a few deep breaths, blood pounding in his head.
The two men are in perfect equilibrium; Mal's precariously balanced, and Simon is inches from the floor. So they don't move, and...well, that's it, until Mal speaks.
"Got your feet yet?"
Awkwardly, Simon manages to twist his body around, and get situated. When he stands, he looks right at Mal. "Yes, of course." The young man gathers some ragged shreds of dignity about himself as he says, "Thank you."
He sways a bit, and Mal catches him again, this time, fortunately, before he goes too far. And now, they're inches apart, and Mal feels the heat radiating off Simon's body. He quashes his body's automatic reaction, and tries to lighten the mood. "Wow, Doc, that stuff hits you hard, don't it?" He's trying for a grin, when he realizes Simon's staring at a point on his neck. "*Shenme*?"
Simon blushes, and pulls away as fast as he can, babbling. "Um, Mal, I'm sorry, I really don't...I mean, I've never done that...not on purpose, at least."
Mal presses his fingers to his neck, spinning for a reflective surface. The distiller is there, and he examines his highly distorted image. "*Tamade diyu*..." he mutters when he finds the hickey.
"Mal...," Simon's almost panicked now. "I...,"
"*Bizui,*" Mal puts a touch of command in his voice, which shuts Simon up. "Look, it ain't your fault." He pauses. "Well, it is your fault, but it's over with now. We just don't say nothing about this to anyone, *dong ma*?"
Mal turns back, and catches a bit of regret in Simon's face, which is quickly shuttered. "Simon?" he almost hates himself for asking.
"Nothing, Mal." Simon turns away, kneels, and begins rummaging through his pack for some extra clothes. "I know you're not...it's nothing."
Frowning, Mal pulls Simon up by the shoulder. "What do you..." he begins, when his question is interrupted by the whine of an engine. "Gorramit!" he shouts, and whirls away. Making sure his shirt is buttoned completely, he grabs his gunbelt and holster. "Client's here, Doc. It's showtime."
Mal sits in the darkened shuttle. It's cold and powered down, but almost full of hopefully profitable cargo. His brain is spinning; the deal went smooth, despite his almost preternatural awareness of Simon at his side. It was downright distracting, he thought, especially since the doc smelled pretty good even when he was a bit sour. Not that Mal smelt much better. He sniffs, and wrinkles his nose. Definitely rank around the edges.
Certainly, it's much better to think about potential showers and the such than about Simon.
As if the thought conjures the doctor up, Simon walks into the cockpit; he had run back to the cabin for a last go through, to make sure they hadn't left anything behind. Simon sits, somewhat tensely, in the co-pilot's chair, and Mal pretends not to notice the sidelong glances Simon's sending his way.
"Everything good, Doc?"
The younger man jumps a bit, and Mal bites his tongue on a bad joke. Not like the Doc deserves any teasing. Well, not at the moment.
"Um, yes, Captain. We got everything packed."
"Well, okay then." Mal flicks the switches, and the shuttle powers up. Mal refuses to think about Simon or sex on the ride back to Serenity. Well, no more than once, and he dismisses it as too much of a cliche.
It's a strained trip.
A week passes. Cargo is sold. Mal has money to keep flying; he should be happy.
He's not, apparently. Something is niggling at the back of his mind, at the corner of his sight. Mal finds himself staring into space and wandering the ship aimlessly. And too often, he finds himself staring at Simon or standing outside the infirmary.
Mal's positive that's not what he wants.
So why does it bug him so much when Simon puts on his aloof air?
His feet have stopped. He's outside the infirmary. Again. Mal watches as Simon cleans some pointy, scary-looking objects. The young man is intent, focused on his work. Mal stares.
Shaking his head, Mal makes up his mind, and enters the room. Simon looks up.
"Doc." Mal nonchalantly strolls to the examination table. "Need you to check out something."
Simon turns, and focuses on Mal. "Certainly." He's all doctor-y and professional, and Mal can't help but grin. "What seems to be the problem?"
Simon leans in closer, looking carefully. "I don't see anything..." His voice trails off.
Mal grins a bit wider. "Was hopin' you could do something about that."