a Firefly story
by dirty diana

Translations: mei-mei = little sister, mil = beautiful

Beta by the fabulous sffan. Sequel to Emergence.

It didn't start after the first time. Or the second time, or the tenth time. Truthfully, when the pain started, Simon could no longer remember how many nights that he had spent in Mal's bunk. Nights that Mal would never ask for his presence, but would wait until Simon came, knocking softly at the door.

Nights that weren't full of fever, or heat, or any of the things that Simon supposed that he should want, if the 'verse ever slowed its relentless whirl, long enough for him to want anything at all. Instead the captain brought him warmth, and a few spare moments of stillness. The same things that he brought to everyone, perhaps, but Simon didn't have it in him to crave anything more.

Perhaps the nights weren't many in number. But there had been enough, to make it something like a habit. The pain didn't start until then.

"You should rest," the captain told him, in the middle of the day, watching him closely.

"I'm fine," Simon replied. But his hand shook, rattling the tin cup he clenched too tightly, with a clackety-click noise on the galley table. The liquid spilled over his fingers, cool and wet.

"Rest," Mal ordered him. "We'll manage without you for an hour or two, doctor."

"River..." Simon began, almost automatically.

"I'll keep an eye on her," Mal promised him.

He went to his quarters, and lay down in the dark. The pain became worse, not better, coursing through his body with no beginning or ending place. Simon meant to get up. But he couldn't seem to find the strength.

It wasn't long, before the door opened softly, and she lay down next to him. River smelled like strawberries, pink from fresh juice on her mouth and fingers.

"Kaylee made dessert," she whispered.

"I'm not hungry, mei-mei."

Brown eyes were wide and worried, watching him. "You have to eat. Keep your strength up. To be ready."

"Ready for what?" he asked gently, brushing long strands of hair off her face.

She rested her body against his, tiny and warm in his bed. The pain was somehow lighter where they touched, as Simon breathed in strawberries. "Don't worry," she said. "You'll be ready."

Mal came to see him, after River went to bed. He didn't come to Simon's bunk often, and it was strange to see him there, standing uncomfortably in the doorway. "You okay?" he asked.

"No," Simon said.

Mal nodded. Then he sat, on the edge of the bed, taking up as little space as he could manage. "Want something for it?" he asked. "I could bring your little red bag."

"No, thank you." Simon forced the words out, out of a chest that felt as if it was weighted down by stone.

"You sure?"


"It's happening to you, ain't it?"

"I think it might be, yes."

"I'm sorry," Mal whispered.

The light was making everything worse. Simon closed his eyes, breathing hard, desperate for air. "It's not your fault. You didn' didn't do anything that I didn't ask you to do."

"I didn't know," Mal said.

"I know."

Simon didn't notice when Mal got into the bed with him. But when he opened his eyes again, minutes later or maybe hours, there was a comfortable bulk pressed close to him, against his back.

"Mal," he murmured. The name filled his mouth.

"Is it better?" Mal asked.

Simon couldn't lie, found that he couldn't concentrate for long enough. "Not really."

"Am I hurting you?"

The touch of Mal's hands on him was easy and familiar. They made lazy circles on his back, massaging aching muscles. "No," Simon whispered. He thought he would barely know the difference, the pain so great now that he dreamed of knives, of bright sharp blades, anything to pierce his skin and provide a welcome distraction.

Mal's mouth was next, laying a light kiss on the back of his neck. Simon exhaled, in a rush of precious air, as an involuntary shiver took hold of him. Then inhaled again, as Mal's fingers brushed his lips, and pushed inside his mouth. He bit gently at the tips.

Mal took the invitation, pushing his body closer, his long and strong legs tangling with Simon's own. Simon leaned into the pressure, thirsty for the coolness that Mal was giving him.

Mal's mouth continued to lay kisses along Simon's skin, across his shoulders, as his hands slid across Simon's naked chest. He sighed, trying to push away from the pain, into the grace of the captain's caresses.

Each stroke of Mal's fingers left a trail of goosebumps along throbbing and sensitive skin. Simon sighed again, a noise that turned into a slow and helpless whimper.

"Shhh," Mal whispered. "It's okay."

Simon closed his eyes, and tried to let go. He sank into the touch, as Mal's hands moved further down, loosening the buttons on his pants. A sure thumb skated the curve of his hip, then moved between his legs, to find him hard and aching. Simon couldn't stop himself from making noises, a wordless melody of sounds as Mal cupped him, stroked him. Finding a rhythm, breaking it, renewing it again, as the heat rolled and built inside him. A sweet, persistent touch, until Simon relented, and let go, and let go, over and over again until there was nothing left.

Simon gasped, catching his breath, as he arched back against Mal, rocking back against the firm erection that pressed against him. Mal grunted helplessly, his hands tightening on Simon's skin as Simon moved and thrust against him. Mal held on, moving with him, and then climaxed with a soft moan against Simon's ear. As all the tension left his body, he wrapped his arms close around the other man.

Simon closed his eyes, and slept.

The pain was gone when he awoke, an almost euphoric relief setting underneath his skin.

Mal wasn't asleep. Simon could feel him, hands gliding gently over his back. A thumb gently brushed one small feather. Simon bit his lip at the sensation, new and unnameable.

"Mil ," Mal murmured.

Simon was silent a moment, letting the unfamiliar feeling wash over him. "Funny," he said.

The captain didn't stop touching him. "Funny?"

"I thought it would feel more...more different than this."

"Sometimes it will." Mal's fingers had found a smooth, back-and-forth motion, matching the soft undulating sound of his voice. "Most of the time, it won't."

"River said I was ready."

"Reckon you are." Mal was quiet as his hands explored the fresh softness, Simon's brand-new wings. "Reckon you gotta be."

"I hope so," Simon said, and let Mal touch him.