home * fandoms * firefly * bottom
WARNING: If you haven't read the warning on the index page, go back and read it. If you don't, and you don't like what you find here, don't come crying to me.

Title: Expectations

Author: Eleanor K.

Fandom: Firefly

Pairing: Mal/Simon

Posted: 22 March 2003

Spoilers: minor for Safe

Email: emungere@gmail.com

Series/Sequel: Sequel to Immanent.

Disclaimer: So not mine. Joss, could I please have Mal? Just while you're not using him? I'd be real nice to him, I swear...

Warnings: none.

Notes: For Juli because she asked, with much gratitude to her and Cab for commentary and being generally cool and helpful people.

..___..


Mal wakes up every morning with the feeling that there should be sunlight slanting across his bed. It doesn't matter how many years he spends out in the black or how many mornings he woke up in a foxhole with no window and no sun. He suspects he will always spend the first second of waking expecting the warmth of Shadow's sun on his face.

It lasts longer than usual this morning. He blinks at the boy in his arms, trying to remember what he was thinking last night that somehow made this okay.

Simon asked; he remembers that much. He remembers also the wild look in the boy's eyes, something he recognized from looking in the mirror on his own bad days. He couldn't say no to that. And maybe it wasn't such a bad idea after all. Simon seems to have slept well enough, at least. He slept well enough himself.

He looks down at Simon and imagines the glow of sunlight on his skin, filtered through thin white curtains. If you looked closely enough at those curtains, you could see the uneven stitches where his grandmother hemmed them when she was a child. They were silky soft with age and thin with repeated bleachings by the time he occupied that room. If he tries, he can remember the way the ranch looked when viewed through them, everything soft and cloudy, the muslin warm to the touch.

Simon's mouth opens, closes. His lashes flutter, dark against his pale skin. Dark like the burnt edge of white curtains flapping in a charred frame.

Mal lays a hand against Simon's cheek and kisses him lightly, aware of a sweet taste to Simon's mouth that he can't explain. His own lips feel dry and chapped, where Simon's are soft, welcoming, moving now against his own.

So young. The boy is so damned young.

Simon's hazy eyes blink up at him, and he watches the welcome in them fade into confusion, suspicion, and worry.

"Mal?"

He kisses Simon's cheek and gets up, pulling on pants and shirt.

"I'm going to get us some coffee. You stay put, dong ma?"

Simon nods, and Mal watches his face shift back to confusion.

He climbs the ladder and walks barefoot over metal decks that are faintly warm. In the kitchen, he watches the coffee drip into the pot.

There should be sunlight here, too, falling across the kitchen counter onto the floor, warming his feet. He knows, bone-deep, he will never stop missing that. He wonders what Simon misses, if anything. Maybe just a time when he thought the 'verse made some kind of sense, when it didn't seem actively hostile. Mal misses that time himself.

He fills two mugs. The coffee is thick and black, and its ripples look strangely permanent even as they disappear.

He thinks of how Simon looked last night, sick and unnaturally pale, trembling to the touch. Scared, and more than that. Shaken. Mal knows that feeling.

Sometimes you get shaken up so badly that it takes time for things to come clear again, to see things the way they are in the real world and not inside your own head. Mal knows he shouldn't expect windows and sunlight where there are none, but he's been shaken once too often, and he'll never come clear again.

He doesn't want to, really. There are other, darker things he's come to expect, and it's those expectations that keep him alive. It's those expectations that made him go in armed and full throttle last night to get Simon and River. Just knew somehow it wouldn't be as easy as sneaking in and sneaking them out.

He leaves the kitchen and retraces his steps, pausing outside his bunk to shift the mugs to one hand. The grip is awkward, and coffee slops over the side on the way down. He sets down the mugs and runs cold water over his hand. The skin is red.

"Let me see."

He turns his body to block Simon's view. "It's fine."

Simon pushes against him and takes Mal's hand, pulling it out of the stream of water. Simon is still naked, and Mal can see sunlight on his skin, on his hair, painting it with blue-black highlights. He stops fighting and lets Simon get on with the examination.

"You should let me dress this. I have some ointment that will help the pain."

"Later. Sit down. Drink your coffee." He hands Simon a mug and nearly gets coffee spilled on him again as their hands touch and Simon jerks away.

Simon sits stiffly on the edge of the bed. "I should go. I don't want to impose--"

Mal cuts him off with a wave of his hand. "I'll tell you when you're imposing. How are you?"

"I'm well. And how are you?"

"Oh, I'm great. Apart from you suddenly treating me like I've got rim plague or some such. Think I liked you better half-crazy."

Simon stares at him, mouth hanging open for a moment. He shuts it with a snap. "I already embarrassed myself enough last night--flinging myself at you, for god's sake. Forgive me for trying to put a little rutting distance between us while I'm waiting for you to kick me out."

Hearing Simon swear is always funny, but Mal has the worst time keeping a straight face when the boy says 'rutting,' which, thankfully, he doesn't do often. Only when he feels pretty strongly about the subject at hand.

Mal sits beside him, close enough that he can feel the tension in him, stretched thin and vibrating with it.

"It was you said just one night. Not me."

Confusion spills over from wide blue eyes and settles in Simon's mouth and the line of his shoulders. "You don't like me," he says. "I wasn't wrong about that."

"You remind me of someone I used to like." Mal shrugs and rubs his hands against his thighs. "I can't offer much, but I'll warm your bed. Keep you safe and sane as best I can."

Simon frowns down at his hands and speaks slowly. "It sounds like you're proposing another deal, Captain." He looks at Mal. "What do you get out of this?"

"You, safe and sane." A chance not to incur any more ghosts. An assurance that he won't look back in ten years and expect to see this boy with clear eyes, with intelligence and bravery and unbearable arrogance and see instead a shadow with his face turned to the past.

"I don't understand." Simon's voice is pleading. Always has to know everything.

Mal leans over and kisses him, feels Simon relax against him, trusting, if only for this moment. Shoulder to shoulder, the taste of coffee and that same inexplicable sweetness, the tangled sheets beneath his hands.

He pulls back, just enough to speak. "You don't have to understand. You just have to trust me."

"But why would you--"

"Trust me to do what I say I'll do."

"You said you wouldn't leave without me."

The words are a surprise to both of them, but more to Simon, judging by the look on his face.

"I came back for you."

"Yes. You did."

"I always will. You belong here now."

"To you." Simon looks at him with eyes that slip sideways without meeting his. "You said..."

"Yeah." Mal finds his voice rougher than he expected it to be. "Mine. My responsibility."

"You can't expect me to enjoy being treated like some kind of...property."

"Responsibility. There's a difference."

"Is there? The way you see things, I'm not so sure. I don't want that from you."

"Don't start lying to yourself. That's exactly what last night was about--someone else picking up your slack for a while. It's okay. Nothing wrong with that."

"Mal..." Simon looks at him, finally, face steeled for some hardship he sees coming. "You can't...take care of me like that. That's what parents do. Not-- Not lovers. Not unless I can do the same for you, and I don't think you'd let me."

"I wouldn't know how. That's not what I'm offering."

"I can't let you-- You must see how wrong it would be."

"I see it's what you need."

"I'm not a child."

"Doesn't mean you don't need help. Everyone does, sometimes."

"Even you? But you won't take it, will you?" A frown grows on Simon's face, and Mal can see the gears turning. "Who do I remind you of?"

"Sorry?"

"You said I remind you of someone you used to like. Who?"

"Oh. Nobody special. Just another kid with too much shit weighing him down."

"What happened to him?"

Mal hesitates. "There was...too much. And nobody to help him. He didn't-- It was in the war. He didn't make it."

"You. You didn't make it."

Mal forgets sometimes how smart Simon is.

He looks at the wall opposite him, covered in the detritus of this life he's built. Letters, pictures, the calligraphy piece Kaylee did for his birthday two years ago, a photo of his mother standing in front of the barn. Things he keeps to remind himself that he did make it out, that he is the same person he was before--even if he knows in his heart that it's not true.

"Mal?"

"Yeah."

Simon takes his hand, thumb sliding delicately over the patch of reddened skin on the back. "You're not alone now."

Mal pulls his hand away. "You know what's on offer. And what's not."

"And you know you can't stop me from trying to return the favor."

Simon leans into him, and Mal puts an arm around his shoulders and runs fingers through his hair. Sun-warmed, softer than silk. He can admit, if not out loud, that this is at least as comforting for him as it is for Simon.

Then again, Simon is smarter than Mal ever was. Maybe he knows that already.

-------
..end..

continue to Overturned.

home * fandoms * firefly * top