Baobei = Sweetheart
Ching-wah tsao duh liou mahng = "Frog humping son of a bitch."
Hwoon dahn = jerk/son of a bitch
Lese = crappy
Simon was the worst of their injured, if Zoe’s broken heart wasn’t counted. As it happened, Mal did count Zoe’s grief, but it was the type of pain that he couldn’t fix and so he had to hope that she could manage it on her own. The wound in Zoe’s back was relatively minor, especially compared to her heartbreak. As for Kaylee, even shot in the gut, Simon had managed to talk the others through how to treat the toxin that had been on the Reaver dart that hit her. Jayne’s shoulder wound was a negligible concern; the big man shrugged off that kind of damage. It was one of the reasons that Mal’d kept him around as long as he had.
Mal himself had been skewered and beaten soundly, but by the time he’d rejoined the others, Simon had been too out of it to fuss over him. If, Mal reflected, Simon was likely to fuss over a certain Captain Reynolds, not after that whole ‘not crew’ conversation. Mal winced at the thought. Words were not his friends. The bad kind all but flew out of his mouth, whereas the good ones stuck in his throat and burned like bile. Simon seemed to catch more than his fair share of the bad kind, something Mal knew he had to fix and fix fast. The whole Miranda mess had taught Mal all kinds of things, the first being that Simon Tam belong on Serenity and Mal was going to do whatever it took to keep him there.
Taking help from the Alliance felt like all kinds of wrong, but Mal’d had no choice. The members of his crew were banged up and not just physically, either. He didn’t know what to think of the Operative and that made Mal cranky. Mal had accepted the man’s offer of assistance, despite how he felt about it, both for his people and his ship. He could only hope that the Operative was as honorable as he seemed, even if he had killed dozens of folk in an effort to track down Mal and his crew.
The med staff who’d patched Mal up seemed jumpy and that suited him just fine. Mal didn’t have any problems with making Alliance folk twitchy. Besides, Mac had unleashed a mess of Reavers on these people and yet they were willing to treat him. While Mal was grateful for the medical help, he didn’t have a lot of respect for milksops who had obedience so ingrained that they’d actually assist someone who’d brought Hell itself down on them.
As soon as he was physically able, Mal hobbled his way to the room Simon was being treated in. There was a large glass window, which he would chalk up to the rarified civilized doctors making it easier to show off their skills if it weren’t for the fact that Serenity’s infirmary was set up much the same way. Simon was almost as pale as the sheets he rested upon, a wide bandage covering his middle. River hovered by his side, more sane-looking than Mal had ever seen her. A nurse bustled around the room and, from the way he shot nervous looks at River, Mal thought it a fair bet that the slip of girl made the Alliance folk a lot more nervous than Mal did.
“It’s amazing, isn’t it? What love can do.”
The voice made Mal’s skin crawl and he only barely managed to stop himself from reaching for a gun that wasn’t there. Mal turned slowly and painfully so that he could glare at the Operative. “How you reckon that?”
“That boy loves his sister,” the Operative stepped up to the window and gestured at Simon with his chin. “And the Alliance was nearly toppled as a result. If Simon Tam hadn’t rescued River, had he run to any ship but yours, the truth of Miranda never would have been revealed. The Parliament will be hard-pressed to keep their power.”
It figured. Mal and his fellow Brown Coats had died by the battalion trying to topple the Alliance; the Tams had nearly accomplished it, almost by accident. Mal didn’t even think about trying to stop himself from grinning, but it was a bittersweet smile. “You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
A frown marred the Operative’s smooth face. “I. . . . don’t know.”
“It’s a start,” Mal stated. He hated talking about emotions with people he liked. Since there was no way that the Operative would ever fall into that category, he turned his back on the man and started hobbling to his temporary quarters. “And stay away from the Tams or I’m like to fix any lingering regret I have over not killing you when I had the chance.”
Mal didn’t bother to wait for the Operative’s reply.
The next few days were blessedly busy. The whole crew was kept bustling; fixing the damage to Serenity, both the desecration they’d inflicted on her and what happened during the fight. Mal made sure that Wash’s body was removed from the bridge and that the blood was cleaned up before Zoe set foot on it. Mal pretended not to know that she avoided her empty marriage bed to spend her nights in Wash’s pilot chair, crying silently, but he knew. They all did.
It felt good to work on his ship and watch her start to look like herself again. Mal hadn’t liked turning her into something resembling a Reaver ship anymore than his crew had, but it had been a brutal necessity. Fixing Serenity felt more right than anything had in a long time. The work also had the dual benefit of exhausting him. The Alliance doctors had patched Mal up pretty good, but he still had some healing to do. Even so, Mal pushed himself ruthlessly.
Simon wasn’t released by the medical team until a day or so later. Mal kept on eye on him; Simon was still too pale for Mal’s peace of mind. There was no way that Simon could help him and Jayne with the heavy stuff, so Mal had Simon work with Kaylee. Mal knew all too well how deft Simon’s hands were; he might be a novice when it came to doctoring a ship, but he was a fast learner. Not only that, but River stuck to Simon like glue and the girl learned even faster than her older brother. Mal could see that she’d be a real asset to the crew, now that she was within spitting distance of being sane, and not just as a reader either.
There had been a shift in the Tams’ relationship since Miranda. Before, Simon had taken care of River, but usually from two steps behind. The girl had been crazy, but smart too and been hard to ride herd on. Since getting the filth of Miranda out of her head, River had calmed down. Or maybe it was just that she realized she had an important task ahead of her; taking care of her brother.
“You’ll catch a chill,” River chided her brother as she tried to hand him a sweater. It was their last night on Mr. Universe’s moon and they were taking advantage of eating outside.
“River, I’m fine.” Simon’s lips thinned in annoyance, but the rest of the crew grinned. Even Zoe cracked a slight smile at the role reversal between the two siblings.
“At any given moment, there are hundreds of thousands of microorganisms in the atmosphere capable of causing human sickness,” River told him, brandishing the sweater at him. “Any number of which can pounce if the body is weakened by neglect.”
“Aw, just put the damn thing on and shut her up,” Jayne complained. He changed positions slightly and made a show of flexing his muscles at Zoe. With his usual subtly, Jayne was already out to woo her. Mal was almost looking forward to Zoe slapping him down.
River’s reply was cool, but there was a subtle threat to it. “I take care of Simon now.” She wasn’t looking at Jayne while she made her statement, though. Those unnerving eyes of hers had been pinned directly on Mal.
Mal nodded back at her solemnly. He got the point; he certainly did.
The next day brought many last minute preparations, not all of them obvious. After one last conversation with the Operative, hopefully the last ever, and then Serenity was finally in the air. River left off her Simon-care long enough to help him pilot the ship. Well, if true be told, River did most of the piloting. Mal was downright cheerful. They’d always miss Wash, but River had the makings of a fine replacement pilot.
“Captain Reynolds, a moment, please.”
It did not bode well that Simon was being so formal, but then they’d both done a good job avoiding one another. It wasn’t easy on a relatively small ship, but they’ managed.
Mal stopped and turned around. River was still on the bridge, even though the autopilot was engaged, and Simon was by himself. Despite Simon’s polite words, Mal could tell that the younger man was livid.
“Well, your eyes are all squinty-like,” Mal drawled. “So I’m guessin’ this is anger and not fear.”
“If you didn’t want me. . . River and me. . . on this ship, you could have just said so,” Simon ignored Mal’s comment and plunged right ahead. “But no. You had to make use of River as long as you could, until your precious ship was fixed. Instead of allowing the Operative to transport us wherever we wanted, you’ll just dump River and I off at the most convenient dung heap.”
Mal crossed his arms and hid a smile. He’d known when he’d done it that it wasn’t the most prodigious way to start of this particular conversation, but he did so love to see Simon all riled up. The boy had color in his face for the first time in days.
“What’s got you all pissy, Doc?” Mal asked, even though he damn well knew the answer.
Simon knew Mal knew the answer too, but he also knew Mal well enough to know that the captain could keep up the dumb act all day long if Simon gave him the chance. “My things are not in my quarters,” Simon bit off each word with icy precision. “If you had not intended for River an I to stay on Serenity, you could have said so earlier.”
“Your things,” Mal started walking again and Simon looked at him in disbelief for a moment before following. “Are in your new quarters.”
“Your old bunk, River’s too, them was guest quarters,” Mal explained, almost offhand about it. “Not seemly for you to be staying there, considering you’re crew and all.”
Mal had gone a couple of more steps before he realized that Simon was no longer keeping up with him. The captain turned to see Simon standing in the middle of the corridor, a haunted look on his face. “Simon.”
“I can’t do this, Mal,” all traces of anger were gone, leaving a very confused and fragile-seeming young man.
“Do what?” Mal asked, making his way back to Simon.
“One day I’m crew and the next day I’m not,” Simon seemed to shrink in on himself. “I can’t get my hopes up that I’ve found River and I a home, only to have you change your mind. Again.”
It occurred to Mal how much he and Simon were alike and yet so very different. They’d both lost everything they’d ever known; their former station in life, friends, family. In Mal’s case, everything had been taken from him as a result of a futile war with the Alliance. Simon, however, had given everything up voluntarily, all in order to save his sister. There was no doubt in Mal’s mind which one of them was the better man.
Mal finished closing the distance between them and wrapped a hand around the back of Simon’s neck. He pulled the younger man close and touched their foreheads together. “You’re crew, Baobei.” Family. “You always were. I was just too much of a Ching-wah tsao duh liou mahng to see that.”
Dark, serious eyes looked up at him sadly. “How do I know that you won’t go blind that way again?”
“Because your sister will hurt me,” Mal responded. “That is one young lady that I seriously do not want to cross.”
Simon abruptly pulled away. “Fine, joke about it.”
Mal grabbed him before he could walk away. “The only thing harder than watching you leave was seeing you almost dead. I may not be as smart or well-educated as a Tam, but I’m not stupid enough to make that mistake again.” He tried to pull Simon towards him again, but the younger man remained stiff.
Given the nature of their conversation, Mal had forgotten where on the ship he was. When the door of the bunk they were standing outside of clanged open, Mal jumped almost as much as Simon did.
“Ah, hell,” Jayne grumbled. “Mal, would you just take fancy boy somewhere, bend him over, and stick him already? Ain’t natural, to talk about it so much.”
Mal pointed a finger at him. “Jayne. Inside.”
“What’d I do wrong?” Jayne complained. “I’m in m’own bunk, entertaining m’self and hearing all this prissy talk’s all done got my left hand out of the mood.”
Mal pinched the bridge of his nose. “Why do my crew all of sudden be thinking I need the details of their sex life?” He muttered under his breath. “Get in your bunk, Jayne.”
They watched while Jayne, glaring all the while, obeyed. When Mal turned back to Simon, he was relieved to see that the interruption had eased the tension somewhat. At least, Simon no longer looked ready to walk off Serenity, even if they were in the middle of the Black.
“At least let me show you your new bunk,” Mal cajoled. “Your crew bunk.”
Simon nodded and Mal took the younger man’s arm. Serenity wasn’t a huge ship and it only took a few moments to reach their destination. When the couple stood outside the entrance, Simon looked at Mal in confusion.
“But, Mal,” he said. “This is your bunk.”
Mal shook his head. “Our bunk.” He held out a hand to Simon. “Let me show you?”
Simon gave Mal a wary look, but allowed himself to be led down into the captain’s quarters. He’d been there before, of course. When they’d wanted to be alone, they’ gone to Mal’s bunk instead of Simon’s, since Simon’s was so close to River’s.
The transformation wasn’t huge; the space wasn’t that big to begin with and Simon hadn’t managed to accumulate many belongings. Repairing Serenity left Mal exhausted, but before he’d fallen into bed each night, he’d managed to work on his space a little bit. It was tidier than it ever had been and room had been found for Simon’s meager possessions. The biggest change was in the small closet area, where Simon’s more colorful garments were hanging side by side of Mal’s. Mal was kind of hoping that Simon would see that as a metaphor for how the rest of their life should be.
“Zoe’s one of the bravest people I know,” Mal said as Simon slowly took in the changes to the bunk. When Simon gave Mal a confused look at the strange segue, he continued. “Loving Wash, after seeing all that death from the war, that wasn’t a small thing.” Mal cleared his throat. “Letting someone in that way, I wasn’t that brave.”
Simon didn’t say anything, which wasn’t the best reaction Mal could have wished for, but at least it wasn’t the worst.
“But seein’ Miranda. . . .” Mal was awkward as he tried to explain. “Makes a man realize that not admitting that he cares ain’t the same thing as not carin’,” Mal continued, graceless but determined. “And after Miranda, well not doing something, not actin’ on your feelings, seems like a downright sin.”
Still not a word from Simon. The younger man was listening, but his face was expressionless, leaving Mal to wonder what Simon was thinking.
“I promise, you can make all the decisions about River,” Mal hadn’t wanted to use that offer to sweeten the bargain, but Simon seemed to be giving him no choice. Mal hoped that giving up that piece of control would prove to Simon, more than anything else, just how serious he was.
It worked. At last, Mal got a reaction out of his lover, although it wasn’t quite the one he expected. Instead of looking all soft and touched-like over Mal’s offer, Simon started to laugh.
“Didn’t think it were funny,” Mal muttered as Simon tried to control himself.
“It’s not that,” Simon brushed tears of laughter from his eyes. “It’s just, after the last few days, I’ve come to realize that the only one capable of making decisions about River is River.” He sobered. “After finding out the type of horror she carried in her head and what she’s capable of physically, I don’t think I’ll need to fear any job that you include her on.”
Mal noticed how Simon worded that. “Any job that I include her on. . . does that mean you’ll stay?”
Simon looked at him from underneath lowered lashes. “On your boat or in your bed?”
“Both,” Mal kept his face serious and his gaze into Simon’s eyes unwavering. “Please.”
An apology was almost as rare as giving up any control over the running of the ship or its crew. Simon knew that and, finally, his expression softened.
“All right,” Simon capitulated. He held up a hand as Mal made a pleased noise and moved to gather him into his arms. “But if you ever ‘conjure’ that I’m not part of the crew again, or River either, I’m gone. We both are.”
“Agreed,” Mal risked a small smile. “You drive a hard bargain, Dr. Tam.”
Simon nodded solemnly. “I learned from the best, Captain Reynolds.”
Mal put his hands in his pockets and a pout on his face. “Are we always gonna be this formal with each other?”
“That might be a little awkward,” Simon considered, head tilted to the side. “Seeing as we’re sharing a room and all.”
That was more like it. Mal started to grin and reached for Simon, who finally allowed himself to be pulled close to Mal. The captain breathed a huge sigh of relief and bent to bury his face into Simon’s hair.
“Missed you,” Simon’s voice was muffled by Mal’s chest. “Missed this.”
“Me too,” Mal admitted.
Simon lifted his face to Mal’s and opened his mouth to say something, but Mal took advantage of him. Their kiss stayed chaste for a moment and then Mal groaned. Shifting his grip until his hands were wrapped around the back of Simon’s neck, he held the doctor in place while he plundered his mouth at will.
As they continued to kiss, Mal pressed forward and Simon yielded. Soon they were at Mal’s narrow bunk. As Simon’s knees hit it, he sat abruptly. Mal looked down, liking the sight of Simon sprawled across his narrow bed. Before Mal joined him there, he dropped his suspenders down and stripped off his shirt.
“You’ve a new scar,” Simon commented in dismay. “That’s lese work, Mal. With the equipment they had at hand, the Operative’s people should have been able to do better than that. Hwoon dahn.”
Mal had a sudden thought. “They did with you, didn’t they?”
He didn’t give Simon time to answer; Mal was on the younger man quickly, stripping the shirt from him with trembling fingers. Seeming to understand his lover’s frenzy, Simon just lay back and let him. As soon as the pale torso was revealed, Mal let out a huge sigh of relief. Simon’s skin was as unmarred as before. The Alliance doctors who’d treated Simon had taken the extra steps to make sure he was unmarked. Maybe Simon hadn’t alienated them the way that Mal had or, maybe like Mal, the Alliance folk had an appreciation of beauty.
Overcome with feelings of how close he’d come to losing Simon, Mal hid his face in the younger man’s belly. Simon gently ran his fingers through Mal’s hair.
“Yeah,” Mal began nuzzling the soft skin underneath his cheek.
Simon made a breathless noise. “Are you okay?”
Mal blew a quick raspberry onto Simon’s belly, then eased off into a kiss. He continued to kiss his way up Simon’s abdomen and chest, finally ending with a nip to Simon’s chin. “Never better.”
“Good,” Simon’s smile was dazzling. “You think we should take Jayne’s advice?”
“Jayne?” Mal was confused. The heady nearness of Simon tended to do that to him.
“When he said you should bend me over,” Simon reminded him. “And stick me with something. Or did he say poke?”
Hearing even vaguely dirty language from Simon Tam was all kinds of wrong, but sexy too. Mal sometimes felt he’d go to the Special Hell for having sex with someone as pristine as Simon, but it would be worth it.
“Well, seein’ how Jayne gives good advice so rarely,” Mal replied, keeping a serious expression. “We best make use of it.”
In the end, though, Mal didn’t bend Simon over anything. He took him on the bed, face to face, so that he could see every expression on Simon’s face as they joined.
“Mal. . .” Simon moaned the captain’s name as Mal finally sank deep inside of him.
Between their fight over the raid on Lilac and recovering from the assault on Mr. Universe’s moon, it had been weeks since they’d made love. Simon had been as tight as the very first time and Mal had refused to rush things. As a result, Simon had been hoarse from begging as Mal had finally entered him, but Mal’s patience paid off. As Simon’s body yielded to Mal and the warmth enveloped him, Mal felt like he was finally coming home.
“So good, Baobei,” Mal whispered. “So good.”
Mal shifted his hips and slid out part of the way, then reversed direction and plunged deeply. Simon gasped as Mal’s hips pressed close, but he arched his back to allow Mal to get just that little bit closer.
“That’s right, Simon,” Mal coaxed. “Dance for me.”
The bunk they were sharing wasn’t large and the couple was in danger of falling off, but neither man paid much attention to it. Their eyes locked together as their bodies joined and the men reveled in both types of contact. Mal lifted himself up on his arms to give him the proper angle to pound inside that much harder. Sweat ran from his face as their bodies grappled and Simon’s gasps turned into a constant moan as writhed underneath the captain.
“Come for me, Baobei,” Mal commanded. “Do it now, Simon. Now!”
With a cry of triumph, Simon obeyed. His back arched again as he orgasmed, taut with tension. Mal barely registered the movement or the warmth spreading across his belly as Simon’s release coated their stomachs. He was too concentrated on the way Simon’s body clamped down on his, milking an orgasm out of Mal that was almost painful in its intensity.
When it was over, Mal collapsed on top of Simon. Simon took the weight willingly, gathering Mal close and shifting so that they were both on their sides. He winced a little when Mal slid out of him, but then just snuggled his head under Mal’s chin. Mal took the hint and ran his hands up and down Simon’s back. They inevitably ended up on Simon’s ass and Simon sighed happily as Mal cupped his cheeks.
“It’s good to be crew,” Simon murmured in contentment, already half asleep.
“You’ll always be crew,” Mal promised him.
Simon smiled sleepily and drifted off into a happy slumber, never realizing that Mal had lied to him. Simon was crew, but Mal knew that the doctor was more than that. He was everything to Mal and now that Mal finally realized it, he vowed never to forget again.
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