a Firefly story
by dirty diana
Fantasy warning. Beta by the lovely Inalasahl.
He would have cut them out, if he could have.
He dreamt about it sometimes, the knife in his hands, jagged sharp slices. Blood, all over his fingers, thick and wet, the metal scent of it in his mouth.
He dreamt about it a lot.
Not everyone could see them. Not that they were much to look at. Just a mess of feathers, streaked with dirt, that trailed down to the floor. The girl could. She stared at him endlessly, with wide, open eyes. Like she thought maybe they had something in common.
Her brother saw them too. Examined them with sharp eyes and dispassionate fingers, every time that Mal was in the infirmary. But he had never said anything.
He would have cut them out.
"Captain? Captain? Mal?"
Mal woke with a start. "Doctor."
"You were...making noise."
Mal blinked, bringing the badly lit picture into focus. Simon sat on the edge of his bed, a concerned hand resting lightly on his arm.
"Couldn't have been so loud," Mal said finally. "Didn't wake anyone else." He'd had loud dreams, dreams loud enough to wake the whole squadron. Zoe would simply roll over, then, and kick him hard. Then apologise in the morning. But it woke him up. Stopped the screaming.
Zoe saw them. But only sometimes.
"I was up," Simon answered, and then he blushed. "I wasn't sleeping." And that was true enough. Mal could see the lines on his face. "I thought you might be hurt."
"I'm fine." He didn't bother to put a lot of effort into the lie.
The doctor didn't bother believing it. "Are they causing you pain?" With a glance, a nod at them.
"No," Mal repeated with more certainty. "At least, not tonight."
That was true.
"Do you need some help? With the sleeping?" Simon asked finally. He looked young in the half-light.
"If I did," Mal told him, "I'd say that I wasn't the only one."
Simon was faintly disconcerted, all of a sudden. It was one thing to talk about another man's problems, Mal noticed. A different thing, to talk about his own. Mal wondered if the doctor ever had nightmares.
"You could stay," Mal said. "Ain't neither of us sleeping, anyway."
Simon was fully embarrassed now. He looked at Mal, and then looked away. "Captain..."
"Cards," Mal explained softly. "I'm sure that I have a deck around here somewhere.
Simon stopped to think about that, and then he nodded. They played two hands, of a game that Mal hadn't played in years, and was surprised to find that the doctor knew. Mal won the first hand, and Simon the second.
Sometime during the third, Mal caught him staring.
"I'm sorry." Simon looked away hastily, down at the cards that he was holding.
"It's okay," Mal said. "You can look. Never seen such a thing before, have you?"
"No," Simon admitted.
"I woulda thought you'd seen plenty of strange things, working in a Core hospital."
"So would I." Simon's mouth drew tight. "It turned out that I hadn't seen much."
When they finished the round, Simon said goodnight. He returned to his quarters.
Mal still couldn't sleep. The time with the doctor had rocked him fully awake, despite a tired body that dragged him down.
"I could try removing them," the doctor had suggested once.
"You can really do that?" Mal asked.
"I'm not sure. But I could try."
Mal had been tempted. They should be a blessing, not a burden. Because God had given them to him, as a gift. His Ma told him that. She could see them. She said that they were beautiful.
But then the plague came to Shadow, and nothing was ever beautiful again.
Not a burden, she said. They got heavier every day, just the same.
He had told the doctor no. It didn't seem right. He had carried their weight for so long, on his back.
Simon's knock on his door disturbed him the next night, but he hadn't been asleep.
"I couldn't have been yelling," Mal said, as he let him in.
"No," Simon said quietly.
In the small room, he was almost vibrating with tension, until it was hard to stand next to him.
"Can't sleep?" Mal asked.
"Cards?" Mal offered.
Simon shook his head again. "No. You looked uncomfortable. At dinner. I thought maybe I could help."
Mal nodded. It had been a very long day.
He laid out on his bed, and allowed the doctor to attend to him, muscles and bones that felt so much older than they really were. He tried hard not to wince, at the accidental touch of fingertips to feathers. The doctor's sure hands massaged him slowly. Mal could feel the day's tension passing, through friction and heat.
Simon's hands moved downwards, settling on Mal's hips, Unconsciously the wings brushed aside, making room for Simon's touch.
The doctor was asking him a question, Mal knew, and the answer wouldn't be simple.
"It's late," Mal said quietly.
"Maybe you should try and get some sleep."
"I'd rather stay here," Simon said quietly. "If that's okay."
Mal breathed in. "That's okay."
The bed dipped and sighed, the creaking sound of Simon's weight leaving the bed.
"Doc?" Mal asked, turning his head.
Simon was taking off his clothes, shirt first, then pants, until he crawled naked and warm into Mal's bed.
Tentatively he reached out and touched Mal's skin. His fingers brushed a hard feathered ridge, and then retreated.
Mal's body tightened. "If you're scared," he said.
Simon shook his head stubbornly. "I'm not scared," he said. "But will I hurt you?"
"No," Mal promised him.
Simon's fingers reached out to him again, touching the smooth, sensitive skin below his navel. Then he tucked his fingers inside the waistband of Mal's pants, and rested them there. He watched Mal for a moment, with dark eyes.
There was something about that look, something hollow and hungry that sent heat rushing straight down the length of Mal's body. He reached forward. Mal took hold of Simon, with hard fingers that pinched his waist, and pulled him closer. Simon slid easily into his arms, as Mal drew him in for a kiss.
Mal soaked him in, the heavy honey taste of his tongue. His hands around Simon's body slid up Simon's spine. He was fascinated by the skin underneath his fingers, Simon's smooth and cool back.
Simon sighed against Mal's mouth. Mal knew that it had been a long time for the both of them.
Simon's legs pushed against his own in the bed, their thighs twined together. Their hips met, grinding and rocking together, as Mal kissed him over again.
Simon's hips ground hard against him, sending a low sweet pressure to Mal's rising cock. Quickly Simon's fingers tugged at the zipper and buttons on Mal's pants, pushing them down over Mal's thighs and knees and onto the edge of the bed. Mal grunted, as his bare skin touched Simon's own.
Warm searching hands found Mal hard, teasing him gently, drawing the fever between his thighs. His thumb and forefingers traced lines across the blood-heavy head. Then Simon slid down his body, leaving a trail of wet kisses, and took Mal into his mouth.
Mal moaned. His fingers stroked the soft back of Simon's head, tangled in his dark hair. Jerkily, his hips thrust forward, into Simon's mouth. Simon didn't ease back, but simply pulled him deeper, opened up for more, until Mal groaned for the last time and came with hard spurts against Simon's tongue.
He was heavy and still for a moment, catching his breath. Simon swallowed him down, and wiped his mouth with the back of his pale hand.
Then he moved up the sticky length of Mal's body, and kissed him. Mal tasted Simon, then tasted himself, as he reached for Simon with a sure hand.
Mal's fingers teased the underside of Simon's balls, then the length of him, hard and pulsing. "Like that?" Mal asked him.
Simon breathed in a sigh. "Harder," he whispered.
Mal pulled him even closer, for a long rough kiss. All the gentleness left his touch and his rhythm as he stroked Simon quick and fast. Simon moaned. He closed his eyes as the sensation took him over, dark eyelashes fluttering.
"Tianna," Simon murmured hotly, and then he fell.
Mal didn't let go.
"They must get so heavy." Simon rolled over, onto his stomach. His voice was soft and slow.
"They do." Mal had figured out that Simon knew when he was lying, although he didn't know how.
"I wish I could do something. To help."
"I wish you could too," Mal said. He stroked the smooth sinewy lines of Simon's back, with tender fingers. Simon would be beautiful with wings. He thought about that, and knew it for sure. They would be perfect, clean and white. "But they ain't yours to carry."
"Still," Simon said. "I wish I could."
Mal nodded. The wings moved abruptly across his body, to cover them both, keeping him warm, until they both fell asleep.