Christmas Countdown: December 7
"There you are, Bao bei," Mal said as he entered the cockpit. He'd gone looking for Simon after realizing that the younger man was absent from the Christmas party.
Simon had his back to Mal and was intent on watching the stars flow by. "There's an old hymn from the Earth that was. It starts out `Silent night, holy night.' It was written centuries before there were ships like Serenity, but I can't help but wonder. That phrase describes the Black so well."
Mal became more concerned, both at the disconnected tone that his lover used and the way that Simon wasn't looking at him. "That it does, I suppose."
Some of his caution must have been in his tone, because Simon turned and smiled at him. "I know you hate Christmas."
"I don't hate Christmas," Mal protested. "Just God."
Simon cocked his head at him. "For a man that doesn't believe in religion, you were awfully quick to let Kaylee have a party."
"Have you ever tried to tell Kaylee no?" Mal asked. He didn't bother to correct Simon. He believed in religion; he just didn't like it.
"As a matter of fact, I have," Simon stepped up to Mal and poked him on the chest. "Otherwise I'd be sleeping with her instead of you."
Mal took Simon by the wrist and lifted his arm so that he could place a kiss on the tip of Simon's finger. "And I'm mighty glad for that."
Simon laughed and hugged Mal. He lifted his face and kissed the older man quickly, then turned in his arms to look at the stars again. "I know why you like it so much."
Lost in the warmth of holding Simon, Mal just murmured. "Not hard to figure out.,
"Not that," Mal couldn't see Simon's face, but he could hear the smile in his voice. "I meant the Black."
"It's cold and dangerous and full of all sorts of unlawful nonsense," Mal quipped, not sure he liked where the conversation was going. "What's not to like?"
"It's all of that," Simon agreed. "But it's also freedom and freedom can be a cold and dangerous thing." His hands tightened on Mal's, where they rested across Simon's stomach. "But it's beautiful too."
Mal nuzzled his face into Simon's hair. "You're being mighty deep tonight, Simon. Everything okay?"
Simon sighed. "I'm fine."
"There's fine and then there's shiny," Mal disagreed. "You're not shiny. Are you missin' being in the Core for the holiday? I `spect you miss your folks some."
His guess got an inelegant snort from his lover. "Not hardly. Our parents always made sure I had the latest when it came to educational tools, but it was more about appearances than it was to benefit me. And River, they bought River dolls every year right up until she entered the Academy."
"Girls like dolls," Mal offered, uncertain.
Simon turned to stare at him. "Have you met my sister? Can you really see her playing with a doll? Ever?"
Mal bit his lip to keep from smiling. It'd been unintentional – this time - but he did love to see Simon all riled up. "I s'ppose not."
"They never understood her," Simon sagged against Mal. "I think they were actually ashamed of how smart she was."
"Well, we're not ashamed of her," Mal offered.
Scared, yes. Ashamed, no.
"Then again," Mal continued in a lazy drawl, "we have Jayne on the crew, so our standards might be a bit lower."
Simon laughed. "No, I think your standards are just fine."
Mal shook his head. "Now, that's something that I don't get accused of often."
"Having high standards?" Simon patted Mal on the chest. "You just don't let people get close to you often enough."
Which was entirely true, but not something Mal wanted to admit. "Come back to the party, Bao bei? Who knows when we'll get another one."
"Like the one for my birthday went so well?" Despite his comment, Simon let himself be led by the hand back towards the kitchen. "All right. Is River still trying to teach Kaylee to dance?"
"Not when I left," Mal told him. "I think she'd moved on to Jayne."
Simon sighed. "My little sister always did like a challenge."
As it happened, so did Mal, which was why he and Simon were such a perfect match. Loving a Tam wasn't easy and could be downright dangerous, but like the Black, it had its rewards.
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