BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

KISPEXI2

MAKE ME A STONE: Ch 2: And who exactly could fix you?
Thursday, November 17, 2005

Simon'a altruism leads to a job going wrong. Mal's not happy.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2626    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

MAKE ME A STONE: Chapter 2. And who exactly could fix you?

Rating: PG-13 Pairing: Not really. Alienation, more like. Warning: It's slashy. It's gory.

Again many thanks to Wedjateye for beta-ing.

* * * * *

AND WHO EXACTLY COULD FIX YOU?

* * * * *

Mal's first thought on waking is of the job on Sulis. How he's gotta deal with that wang ba dan Jonas Marriott again when he'd rather be cutting the hundan's treacherous throat. Mal ain't the forgiving type. Nor the forgetting type neither. What that bastard did – what he stood by and let others do – during the war, well suffice it to say, there'll be a reckoning. One day. When Mal don't need the work he puts Serenity's way.

Yesu tamade, Mal hates compromise. And every gorram day of his life is full of it. Full of doing what he has to do. Some days he'd rather not get up at all.

He turns over, buries his face in his pillow, trying to blot the 'verse out for a few merciful minutes more.

It don't work. Cuz his pillow smells of Simon Tam. How in the good gorram can that be when the boy's always so ruttin' clean? And yet it does. Smells of something dark, hot - sweet with an edge of bitter. Familiar somehow.

Gou shi.

Mal flings the pillow aside and drags himself out of bed.

As he waits for his sink to fill, he glances at his reflection in the mirror above it, then thinks he maybe oughta take a closer look. At his neck, his chest. But there's nothing there that shouldn't be. No bite marks, no scratches. Nope, not marked at all.

He looks up again, catches his own eye and sees something in it he wishes weren't. Cursing himself for being all manner of stupid, he sets about washing, taking extra care over the task. Then he strips the covers from his pillows and the sheets from his bed and bundles them into the old packing case that serves as his laundry basket.

There. Any evidence that there mighta been anything between him and Simon other than what's proper between a captain and his medic has been safely tidied away. Disposed of.

And if the muscles in Mal's back and thighs ache some from the exertion of last night, he ain't gonna think about it. No more than he's gonna dwell on the nervous flutter in his belly when he wonders what it will be like when he sets eyes on Simon again this morning.

Because the last thing he wants or needs is more ruttin' complications.

* * * * *

Simon is usually awake long before his alarm sounds; this morning he must have slept right through it, because his clock says it's nearly 10.00 am.

What a terrible night he had. What a terrible, wonderful, painful, glorious night.

It took him ages to get to sleep after returning to his room, Mal's cold dismissal combined with the vivid sense memory of his touch - of the feel and the taste of him - left Simon restless and twitchy. He remembers checking the time and thinking that he'd have to be rising within the hour and then ... nothing. He must have finally dropped off. And overslept.

Well, at least he doesn't have a patient to tend, none of Serenity's crew having sustained more than superficial injuries for at least a month so it's not like he's in a hurry.

Zao cao! He is, he suddenly remembers. He made the stupid mistake of playing Tall Card with Jayne and Shepherd Book a couple of days ago and ended up with septic vat duty. If it's 10 am now, they'll be making planetfall in less than two hours and breaking atmo sooner than that. Planet authorities don't take kindly to ships emptying their septic vats in atmo and tend to fine those that do. Heavily.

Oh God. Mal's going to kill him.

Simon scrabbles for his clothes, dresses in a hurry, not bothering to fasten every last button, and rushes to the cargo bay where the toe of his shoe catches in the grating and he nearly goes flying. Instead he stumbles into Book.

“Careful, son. Don't want to fall and break something,” the Shepherd murmurs, as he helps him regain his balance. “What's the hurry?”

“Septic vat,” Simon pants. “I've got to-”

Book smiles and pats his arm. “All done, son.”

Simon gapes for a second, then lets out a sigh of relief. “Thank God for that!”

“Or at least one of his servants,” Book corrects with a twinkle.

“Yes. Of course. That was very kind of you. Thank you. But now I feel guilty. I should at least do one of your chores in exchange.”

“There's no need.”

“I insist.”

Book nods. “All right, son. I know you don't like cooking detail – how about laundry?”

“Done.”

* * * * *

At Mal's arrival on the bridge, Zoe slips discreetly out of her husband's arms and gets to her feet. She's not embarrassed by the Captain finding her sitting on Wash's lap, but she knows Mal is and has no desire to make him uncomfortable. Nor to rub his nose in the fact she has something that he don't.

“Marriott waved us yet?”

“He did, Sir,” Zoe tells him. “Confirmed terms. Even offered us a secure berth for the ship.”

Mal raises an eyebrow. “Hmm. Must be gettin' soft in his old age.”

“Seems unlikely, Sir.”

Mal nods. “Mayhap we will take Jayne along with us after all.”

* * * * *

There's only one load of laundry awaiting Simon in the utility room. Mal's. The thought of touching the Captain's things in his absence makes Simon uneasy.

It's only when he pulls out that soft blue shirt – his favourite of all Mal's shirts – that he realizes why. Somehow he manages to put it in the washing machine without yielding to the desire to press it to his cheek. Renci Fozu! He'd die of shame if Mal caught him doing such a thing.

He reaches for the next item in the pile. A towel, still damp. Recently used. Simon closes his eyes, focusing on the fabric and imagining it against Mal's skin.

Damn. He promised himself he'd keep a grip on his feelings. Because ... well, even if there were to be a repeat of last night, it would only be more of the same. It's not like he and Mal could ever ... If only he'd told Mal the truth from the start, the whole truth, he might have been able to hope. But not now. Not now.

All that's left in the pile are Mal's bedclothes. Pillowcases, sheets. As soon as Simon picks them up, he knows they're the very same ones he lay on last night. So what possesses him to sniff them, he has no idea.

The scent is unmistakably of Mal, although very faint. Simon breathes it in deeply, trying to catch every last atom, every note of the fragrance that is Mal, but there's not enough of it. These sheets are almost completely clean.

Simon's too smart not to know what that means.

“What are you doing?”

He starts, not having heard River enter the room. She's standing in the doorway, head tilted to one side, watching him.

“Laundry,” Simon tells her, wondering how long she's been there, how much she's seen - how much she knows. “I'm doing the laundry, mei-mei.”

River frowns a little, as if trying to process the information, then approaches and, to Simon's horror, sniffs the sheets too.

“A soldier and afeared,” she scoffs before turning a piercing look on her brother. “You won't get them clean. Not enough perfume.”

Simon bites his lip. It's easy to forget how much of ordinary life River has missed out on. Little things like learning how to carry out simple household chores, things she would have picked up in a heartbeat if she'd had the chance.

He smiles gently at her. “You don't use perfume for laundry, River. You use-”

“Need a word, Doc,” Mal interrupts, appearing in the doorway behind River and inevitably making Simon's heart skip a beat. “This fella Marriott-”

He breaks off at the sight of Simon, hugging his bedlinen to his chest. Hell. Mal was so sure this was the right way to handle the situation. All brisk and business-like. 'Cept now he looks at Simon ..

Mal ain't a Reader. Gorramit, according to some he ain't even particularly perceptive nor sympathetic, but it don't exactly take a mind-reading genius to know what the boy's thinking.

He's thinking that Mal used him. That Mal don't care, never did and never could. He's thinking that Mal wishes last night hadn't happened.

Well, he ain't wrong on that last point, because Mal's in no hurry to replace one source of pain with another.

“Yes?” Simon prompts, unsettled by the prolonged silence and the way Mal is looking at him. “What about Marriott?”

“Uh. Yeah.” Mal gives himself a little shake. “Marriott. The man's no better than somethin' you'd scrape off your shoe but we got no option other than deal with him. Still, I don't plan on takin' any chances with the low-life. Best you keep a close eye on River. Don't let her go wanderin' off, dong ma?”

Simon bristles at the implication that he might not take as good care of River as he should. “Of course,” he says tersely, raising his chin. “As if I would.”

“Could be you're forgettin' that time you tried to get yourself lit on fire,” Mal reminds him in an attempt to lighten the mood but it only makes Simon glare at him and grind his teeth.

Huh, Mal thinks, turning to leave. Turns out there really is more than one way of skinning a cat. Pissing the Doc off looks like it could be real efficacious.

* * * * *

Sulis ain't the warmest of planets, Mal remembers at the last minute. He decides to fetch his coat. Don't wanna be shivering from cold during negotiations with Marriott lest it gets misinterpreted as fear.

Mal's route back to his bunk takes him through the kitchen, where Inara is making one of those weird-smelling teas of hers.

“Good morning,” she says brightly, just as Serenity's engine tone changes. She looks at the chronometer display. “Planetfall – right on schedule.”

Mal scowls at her. “We'll get you to where you wanna be on schedule too, if that's your meanin'.”

A little crease of confusion appears between Inara's brows. “Shen me?”

Mal's scowl darkens. “You're implyin' that when it's my business, we keep to a timetable, but when it's yours-”

Inara's lovely eyes narrow. “I was doing no such thing. But now you come to mention it, it's funny how you always have some excuse-”

“Excuse!” Mal explodes. “Might have a reason for gettin' delayed every now an' then, but that don't mean it's of any interest to me whether or not you spread for some rich hundan.”

She recoils as if he'd slapped her and immediately he regrets his harsh words. Trouble is, ain't no taking 'em back. Cuz if he does, he'll have to admit that it does matter to him.

For a moment or two they glare at each other, angry and regretful about so much that's been between them. About so much that will never be.

At length Inara picks up her cup and leaves.

Soon she'll be gone for good.

* * * * *

The entrance to Marriott's hideout is blocked by a mountain of a man with dark greasy hair and bad teeth. The pupil of one of the beady eyes peering out over pale, fat cheeks is cloudy, almost white. Not exactly a pleasure to look on, but at least this fella wears his ugly on the outside too.

Unlike Jonas Marriott who's smooth, well-dressed and handsome - to them as don't know him.

Mal is ushered into his office. Zoe and Jayne keep close behind. Marriott's flanked by a couple of goons. Half a dozen more are stationed about the room.

“Quite the reception committee,” Mal comments conversationally.

“Oh, do my men make you nervous, Captain Reynolds?” Marriott asks with a wide, pearly-toothed smile. He gestures all but two of them away. “There. Now we can relax. Please – take a seat.”

Mal shakes his head. “Prefer to stand. This won't take but a minute.”

Elbows resting on his desk, Marriott steeples his fingers and purses his lips. “What if I said I had another job for you?”

“I'd say I want payin' for this one first.”

Marriott laughs. “Can't say I'd blame you. You got the goods with you?”

“You got my money?”

Still chuckling at Mal's directness, Marriott opens a drawer and pulls out a wad of platinum. Even without looking at him, Mal knows Jayne's eyes just went round as saucers.

“What did we agree? Two hundred platinum?”

“Four,” Mal corrects.

“Ah, yes. Four.” Marriott counts it out carefully and slides the notes across the table, waiting until Mal places a small leather pouch on the table before letting go. “My diamonds.”

“My money.” Mal pockets it. “Now, what about this other job?”

“Take a seat.”

This time Mal accepts the offer and Marriott pulls a map up on his Cortex screen. “This is big, Mal. Really big. Could make us both very rich men ...”

* * * * *

“Whadja say me an' River hide an' you come find us?” Kaylee asks with her most persuasive smile.

Simon wishes she wouldn't do that, wouldn't look at him that way. Because it makes him feel like a total hundan. When Simon first came aboard Serenity, warm, sweet Kaylee was so unused to Core-world politeness that she misunderstood good manners for attraction and, before he knew it, she'd developed a full-blown crush on him. And now everything he says or does just makes it worse. If only he'd thought twice before reaching out to touch her hair that time. If only he could steel himself to being even the tiniest bit rude towards her ...

“Simon ought to hide,” River declares. “He's very good at it.”

“That might be fun,” Kaylee instantly agrees. She closes her eyes. “One hundred, ninety-nine, ninety-eight ...”

Suddenly Simon has a vision of himself tucked away in some small dark place ... and of Kaylee finding him there ... all alone ... No. Much better that she and River do the hiding and he the seeking. Safety in numbers, and all that.

“Uh- I should really finish up in here ...” He gestures vaguely around the perfectly ordered infirmary, hoping that something looks like it might need attending to. “Why don't the two of you go hide whilst I do that? But hide together, right?”

Kaylee smiles and flutters her lashes. “An' you'll come look for us?”

“Yes.”

“Might find more than you expect,” River giggles as Kaylee takes her by the hand and pulls her towards the door.

Simon frowns but decides not to ask.

* * * * *

Book's conscience is troubling him. It's one thing to fall amongst thieves, altogether another to become one one's own self. Not that Book has taken to doing any actual thieving, but he's stood by whilst others have and helped them get away with the loot. He hasn't lied to the innocent congregations to whom he's delivered heart-felt sermons whilst Serenity's crew robbed the banks they entrusted their money to, but neither has he told them the whole truth. Abiding by the letter of God's law is most certainly not the same as honouring the spirit of it.

Book sighs. Might be he is on the wrong ship after all.

A sudden banging diverts the Shepherd from his gloomy thoughts. He opens his door just as Simon emerges from the infirmary.

“What-?”

“Don't know, son. Sounds like someone's at the cargo bay door.”

The banging sounds again, more insistent now.

“I'll go investigate.”

“I'll come with you.”

A tear-streaked face is pressed up against one of the glass panels. It's a teenage girl with a black eye and blood trickling from her nose.

“Help! Help me, please! He's going to kill me!” she cries, her voice muffled by the thickness of the window.

Simon reaches for the controls to open the door, but Book stops him.

“Don't think the Captain would be too happy about us letting strangers aboard on a planet such as this,” he warns.

Simon stares at him, shocked. “Look at her!” he urges. “She's injured. She's just a kid and there's someone after her. We can't stand by and do nothing.”

Despite all the boy's been through, despite all he's given up, Book envies Simon Tam. He's seen cruelty and darkness aplenty, been cheated and even shot, and yet his first instinct is still to put others first and offer help where he can. Some might regard that as willful stupidity, but Book admires it. Admires and envies it. Even so ...

He tries again. “The Captain said-”

Simon sets his jaw and punches the button decisively. “I'll take full responsibility if the Captain-”

Simon's assertion dies on his lips whilst the preacher says a silent prayer because it's just as Book feared. Six men. Six armed men. The girl is shoved violently out of the way as they stomp into the cargo bay.

The tallest of the gang grins broadly. “Good day to you, gentlemen. No need to panic. We ain't looking to kill nobody, but, in case you're plannin' on puttin' up a fight, I should tell you it's not-” he notices Book's dog collar and laughs. “Well, let's just say it's not against our religion.”

“What do you want?” Simon asks carefully

The intruder rubs his chin. “Depends on what you got.”

“You're robbing us?” Simon laughs in disbelief. “Us? Take a look around. This is hardly a luxury cruiser. Do we look like we have anything worth stealing?”

The tall man casts an appraising eye over Simon's crisp shirt and red vest. “You'll do.”

At his signal Simon is suddenly seized, spun around and slammed up against a crate by a man almost as broad as Jayne. A gun trained on his forehead stops Book from doing anything to prevent the man handcuffing Simon's wrists behind his back.

“What-?” Simon splutters, struggling in vain to break free of his captor's hold. “Let me go!”

“Oh, I don't think so,” the big man replies calmly. “See it's not things we want. What we wants is a hostage - an' guess what? You're it!”

“A hostage? Me? Why?”

“All in good time, pretty boy, all in good time. Right, take 'im boys. Jonas is waiting.”

Book watches impotently as Simon is half-pushed, half-dragged down the ramp. The tall man follows his gaze and leans in to promise with a grim smile, “You wait here quiet-like an' no harm'll come to him. But you tell anyone he's missin' 'fore your Captain comes back an' I will shoot him stone dead.”

* * * * *

“SIMON!!!!” River screeches.

Wincing at the ear-splitting volume, Kaylee shushes her. “River, sweetie – that's not how we play. We gotta be quiet, dong ma?”

But River is flailing about in the darkness of the cupboard, dislodging pots and sending them clattering to the floor. “They're taking him!”

Unsettled, Kaylee flips the light switch. “Who? Who's takin' who?”

“Watched them cut his friends' throats,” River whispers, covering her face with her hands.

“Kaylee? River?” Through the window in the door, Kaylee's relieved to see Inara rush into the kitchen in a swirl of peach silk. The Companion looks anxiously around the room. “Kaylee! Where are you? What's wrong?”

The mechanic slides the cupboard door open and smiles sheepishly. “We were playin' a game. With Simon. Hide and seek.”

Inara breathes a sigh of relief, then gives her friend a knowing look. “Simon? Really?”

Kaylee blushes and fiddles with her hair. “ 'Ceptin' we've been hiding for ages an' he still ain't found us an' now River's all upset ...”

“Our turn,” River says glumly and promptly bursts into tears.

Kaylee wraps an arm round her.

“I'll fetch Simon-” Inara begins.

“I'm afraid that's not an option,” Book interrupts in a sombre tone. He steps down into the room. “I don't want to alarm anyone but-”

Appearing through the other doorway, Wash pulls a face. “I hate it when people say that.”

* * * * *

It's good to be not breathing the same air as that qing wa cao de liumang, Zoe thinks to herself when she, Mal and Jayne finally get out of Marriott's lair and into daylight again. Captain sure took enough time negotiating the terms of this new job. Not that she blames him. Marriott ain't the sort you trust. But even now, after close on two and a half hours thrashing out the details, Zoe's left with the uncomfortable feeling there's something he wasn't telling them.

“You thinkin' I shoulda turned him down?” Mal asks defensively when he notices her frowning, and she knows it's not just this job he's meaning. Like her, he's remembering those boys, those boys that Marriott traded to save his own skin.

“No, Sir.”

“Gorramit, Zoe, I had to take it!”

“Not arguing, Sir.”

Jayne gives them both a quizzical look. “You two crazy or summat? This has gotta be the best job we ever had in the whole history of ever!”

Mal grunts and picks up the pace. “Be glad when it's done,” he mutters.

Jayne laughs and slaps him on the back. “Yeah, me too. Been a while since I had enough coin for a whore I di'n't have to liquor up first.”

* * * * *

Kaylee, 'Nara, River, Wash, Book ... What with them all standing there, it's hard for Mal not to do a mental roll call of his crew. Kaylee, 'Nara, River, Wash, Book ... but no Simon. Normally that in itself wouldn't worry Mal, because the boy's usually fussing around in the infirmary, but the solemn faces of the others tell him this ain't nothing like 'normally'.

Clasping his hands behind his back, Book steps forward to explain Simon's absence.

Mal listens in silence, gritting his teeth against the rage that's boiling in his gut.

“I'll kill him,” he vows when Book has finished. “I'll ruttin' well kill him.”

Zoe raises a querying eyebrow and, to be truthsome, at this precise juncture Mal ain't sure his own self. Sure, he wants to kill Marriott. Has for a long time and this gives him all the excuse he needs. But he's mad as all hell at Simon too - for still being dumb enough to let himself get took. Mal don't appreciate being faced with the prospect of losing him yet again. Nor being forced to acknowledge, albeit only to his own self, the pain the notion causes him.

“It wasn't his fault,” Inara protests. “He's a doctor, after all. What else was he supposed to do?”

Mal glares at her, more than a mite uncomfortable at the way she seems to have read his thoughts. “How about obeyin' orders for a gorram change?”

“What are we goin' to do?” Kaylee wails, tears welling in her eyes. “We gotta get him back.”

Jayne frowns. “I don't get it. What's Marriott want with the doc?” A thought occurs to him and he leers. “ 'Less, of course, Marriott's-”

Nimen dou bizui!” Mal snaps. “They've taken him hostage. Which means they wanna renegotiate the deal.”

Jayne looks affronted. “Can they do that?”

“They can if we want Simon back badly enough,” Zoe tells him flatly. “Reckon they were afraid we'd cut them out of the deal, Sir?”

Mal shrugs. “Mayhap. Though, knowin' that snake Marriott, it's more like they're aimin' to convince us to accept less than we agreed.”

“We could always tell 'em they can keep him,” Jayne suggests cheerfully.

“Jayne!” a chorus of voices scolds.

“I was just sayin'!” the mercenary scowls. “What other choice do we got?”

All eyes turn to Mal. After a moment's reflection he addresses Wash. “Take us out of the world, Wash.”

Inara gasps and Kaylee directs a torrent of abuse in Chinese at him but River smiles warmly, declaring “You're it.”

Mal ignores them.

“Jayne – go prep Shuttle One. You an' me are going a-vistin'. Bring Vera. Couple of grenades might be handy too. Zoe – you're in charge of the ship. You don't hear from us by morning, you take her out of here and get as far away as you can, dong ma? Ain't no point in all of us risking our lives for that yu ben de shagua.”

* * * * *

Simon ponders the mud ingrained into the knees of his pants. Will it ever wash out? It was hard to keep his balance with his captors constantly shoving at him and he fell over repeatedly en route to this place.

He looks around in the hope of finding an escape route but the room he's locked in has no windows and only one door. Anyway, he's handcuffed to the radiator. Wo de tian, how could he have been so stupid? Well, at least he's the one paying for his mistake. It could have been Kaylee or River, one of the others.

Oh God. Mal will come for him. There's no doubt in Simon's mind about that. Mal will put his own life at risk to save Simon's. Because he's on his crew. It won't mean any more than that because, for Mal at least, that's enough.

Simon twists his wrists in the handcuffs, yanks on the chain over and over again but to no avail. In frustration, he gives the radiator a hefty kick. The pain that shoots through his toes makes him wince. It also makes him realize that banging his head against the wall isn't really an option either.

Someone must come soon. To check on him. Maybe to explain what they want with him. Or to kill him.

He lets himself slide down onto the cold hard floor and, resting his head against the lumpy ribs of the radiator, he waits.

And waits.

* * * * *

“I dunno why we're botherin',” Jayne grumbles. “How come we're always rescuin' one or the other of 'em? It ain't like they're payin' their way.”

It's not really a question Mal wants to answer. Hell, he doesn't even have an answer. Not a real one - other than “Simon's ship's medic, as you well know. Ain't like you've never needed his services. And River's his sis. They're a package. Can't have one without the other.”

“Don't want either of 'em,” Jayne mutters.

Mal glares at him. “It's not your boat.”

At that the mercenary falls into a resentful silence and the two of them scramble over the top of the rise. Keeping low, they follow it round until the entrance to Marriott's hideaway comes into view. Only one guard on the door. Could be worse.

The scrub affords some cover until they get within five hundred yards of the place, after that it's all open ground. Mal scoops up a handful of stones. An old handkerchief retrieved from his back pocket makes a reasonable sling and with a deft flick of his wrist he sends the stones scattering away to their left.

Marriott's sentry jumps, grabs his weapon and moves off stealthily to investigate. Mal and Jayne rush forward and, whilst the man's back is still turned, gain entry to the building. Mal's plan is to employ some tit-for-tat hostage taking; grab Marriott, force him or his men to free Simon in return for his own release. 'Course, there's stuff that comes after that, but no need to be sharing that with Marriott upfront. Might act as a disincentive to cooperation.

Out of habit, both Jayne and Mal memorized the layout of the building during their earlier visit so it's easy enough for them to find the main corridor that leads to Marriott's office. They move along quietly, stopping at the sound of voices. Jayne puts an ear to the door and listens carefully. He holds up nine fingers.

Mal grins. All of 'em. In one room. It's almost too gorram easy. He nods to Jayne and the mercenary kicks hard against the door. It flies open to reveal nine horrified faces. Marriott's men start fumbling for their guns. The quickest of them slump to the ground first. Jayne knows his trade.

Seconds later only Marriott is left standing. Hands in the air, he appears to have decided against reaching for a weapon.

Mal walks over and puts him in a none too comfortable head lock. “Feelin' a powerful yearnin' for somethin' sharp here, Jayne,” he remarks, jerking Marriott's head back when he starts to struggle.

Jayne obliges, tossing Binky into Mal's outstretched hand.

“Now,” Mal purrs into his captive's ear, “You got somethin' belongs to us and we'd like it back.” To emphasize just how much he'd like it back, he draws Binky's blade slowly across Marriott's throat, just hard enough to cut a shallow red line.

“D-down the corridor. F-first door to your l-left,” Marriott stammers.

Mal ain't gonna take it on trust. He gives Marriott a shove forwards, and pushes him out into the hallway. Jayne goes on ahead.

The door is locked. Mal frisks Marriott roughly and pulls a bunch of keys from his pocket. “Which one? An' don't even think about playin' me.”

“The big rusty one,” Marriott admits through clenched teeth.

Jayne throws the door open.

Simon's head snaps round, the expression on his face changing rapidly from fear, to relief, to shame.

“Thank God,” he breathes.

Mal don't like the way his innards are reacting to the sight of Simon in chains one little bit. It's making him all manner of uncomfortable. He gives the Doctor one of his blackest scowls.

“You're a gorram moron!” he tells him angrily, hunting through the bunch of keys in his hand until he finds one of the right size. “Got half a mind to leave you here.”

Simon hangs his head. “Sorry. I didn't think ...”

“No, I don't imagine you ruttin' well did!” Mal snaps.

Trouble is, Mal ain't really thinking straight neither. Otherwise, he'd be paying less attention to his medic and more to Marriott. With a sudden twist, Marriott ducks down and out of Mal's one-armed grip. And before Jayne can shoot him where he stands, he's wrenched Binky from Mal's hand and has her point against his Adam's apple.

“Easy now,” Marriott warns in a low voice. He looks across at Jayne. “Put that weapon down.”

Jayne hesitates but, on Mal's nod, complies.

“And the rest. Real slow. Wouldn't wanna make me jumpy, would you?”

Tossing a vicious glare at Simon that accuses him of being the real villain of this piece, Jayne starts laying guns and knives down onto the floor. His expression is grief-stricken – like he's saying farewell to old friends.

Marriott watches with grim but short-lived satisfaction, because suddenly Mal stamps down hard on his foot, spins round and brings a knee up hard into his groin. Marriott lets out a groan of pain and doubles over, but when Mal moves in for a punch, he thrusts out a hand and Binky penetrates Mal's coat. Thankfully the garment's thick enough to stop the blade getting more than half an inch into Mal's skin, but then Marriott yanks it up and across, scoring a ragged, stinging wound over Mal's chest.

Snarling at the pain, Mal seizes Marriott's arm with both hands and bites down on his wrist. Reflexively, Marriott's finger open and Mal snatches the knife away. This time there's no warning cut. He rams it directly into Marriott's throat with all his might and then drags it sideways, opening up a gaping hole which rapidly fills with crimson. With a sickening gurgle, he collapses to the floor clutching at his throat.

Hastily Jayne undoes Simon's handcuffs and yanks him to his feet.

“You're hurt,” Simon tells Mal redundantly, almost numb with horror at the blood darkening his shirt.

Mal doesn't even look at him, much less reply.

* * * * *

Back on Serenity, Mal announces loudly, “Zoe! Got some needlework for you!”

He's taking such long strides towards the infirmary that Simon almost has to run to keep up with him.

Mal,” he pleads. “Don't be so ridiculous. I'll do it.”

Abruptly Mal comes to a halt and it's all that Simon can do not to bump into him.

The Captain rounds on him. “This is my boat. I give the orders, not you. Dong ma?”

“But I'm your medic,” Simon protests, cringing at the whine he hears in his voice.

“You ain't my anythin',” Mal leans in to insist. “You're the ship's medic – an' that only for as long as I say so. Mayhap not even that long, the way you keep throwin' yourself in the way of danger!”

Entering the infirmary, where Zoe is already scrubbing up, he waves Simon impatiently away. “Go. Someplace that's else. Zoe can handle this.”

Zoe works her hands into a pair of surgical gloves. “Have had some practice at this, Doctor.”

Ignoring her reassurance, Simon continues to argue. “But you'll scar, Mal.”

“Yeah. Might do. An' whose fault will that be? Yours. Just like it's your fault we got no job!” Mal shouts. “Marriott's buyer won't deal with us. Got some kind of grudge against them as fought against him during the war.”

Mal rips his shirt off and tosses it onto the counter. “Sometimes I wonder why in the good gorram I ain't dumped you an' your crazy sis on some backwater moon an' been off on my merry.”

Simon takes a step towards him. “You've always got that option.”

For a moment Mal stares at him dumbfounded, and then looks away.

“Why don't you go fix River something to eat?” Zoe suggests when Simon just hovers there. Mal's not hurt bad, but if he takes a swing at the Doctor, he might start bleeding again. “She wouldn't take a gorram thing whilst you were missing.”

Simon realizes he's been politely dismissed and moves towards the door. “All right. But don't stint on the dermal regeneration foam, will you?”

Zoe smiles kindly at him. “No. I won't.”

* * * * *

Dinner wasn't the ordeal Mal had expected. Mainly cuz Simon didn't show. Least he did Mal that kindness.

As he undresses for bed, Mal examines Zoe's repair job in the mirror. It ain't as neat as when Simon's sewn him up and most like will leave a scar. But he couldn't have Simon touch him. Not after ... not today ... not when ...

His bed's still unmade, the clean sheets folded in a neat pile where he left them earlier.

Mal looks back at his reflection.

Not all marks show on the outside.

* * * * *

COMMENTS

Thursday, November 17, 2005 3:47 AM

KISPEXI2


Sorry for the delay in posting this chapter. Life! *shakes head*

Thursday, November 17, 2005 7:00 AM

RINNYPJ


Wonderful as always. I love your Mal and Simon. You were the one that first turned me on to them, and I was reluctant, believe you me, to read Slash. Plus, there's always the appeal of Jayne/Kaylee too. ;)

This was excellent, I love that you can write action so well, I suck at at it. And the seemless transition between Mal and Simon's thoughts and feelings is...well, seemless. Excellent work. I can't wait for more!

Thursday, November 17, 2005 12:46 PM

AMDOBELL


Wow, what an angst ridden story you weave for Simon and Mal. I do feel Simon should put Kaylee right though, isn't good to let her go on holding a torch that will never be lit. Very good, I hope Mal forgives him soon. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, December 8, 2005 3:55 PM

ARAGLAS


ohhellsyeah!!!

I love you!

Need I say more?


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YOUR OPTIONS

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Warning: SLASH, but not graphic. Mal and Simon both find that the other has hidden talents. It kinda piques their interest ... *g*

TRAUMA MEDICINE: Chapter 23. Two by two.
Four years have past since Mal was forced to blow up Serenity and Simon disappeared with River and Book. A lot has changed since then. But a lot has stayed the same. The CONCLUSION to this series.