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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: Immanent

Author: Eleanor K.

Fandom: Firefly

Pairing: Mal/Simon

Rating: NC-17

Posted: 11 Nov 2002

Spoilers: for Safe, plus very minor ones for Bushwhacked and Serenity. Actually, not so much spoilers for Serenity as parts you won't get if you haven't seen it/read the script.


Disclaimer: They're not mine. All hail Joss.

Notes: Many thanks to Lady Serez for her beta skills.

Warnings: angst and gory dreams.

Translations: "luh-suh" means crappy.


Sitting on the floor next to River's bed, holding her hand as she sleeps, Simon dreams.

He hears River's words, Daddy will come and take us home, it'll all be okay, everything okay, and he sees Mal and Zoe striding through the dust kicked up by Serenity's engines. Time to go. What does that make us? Big damn heroes, sir. Ain't we just.

Everything will be okay.

He has fallen, skinned his knee, and the man who picks him up isn't his father, but is wearing his father's favorite suit, looking dark and distinguished, but when Simon looks at the face, it is Mal smiling at him tenderly, gently, with I-will-never-hurt-you eyes.

Everything will be okay, he tells River, six-year-old River in her fluffy pink dress. We'll find a place, a safe place. Tears hang in her eyes: You didn't come for me, Simon, I knew you wouldn't, and she recedes into the darkness where he cannot follow. He's not fast enough, not smart enough. He tracks her glowing footsteps, but they vanish too quickly, leaving no trace.

And here is Mal, once again, in familiar suspenders and boots, here to take back what belongs to him, and Simon walks forward calmly to kneel at his feet, feeling rough hands tangle in his hair.

The zipper sounds as loud as a chainsaw, and when he looks up he sees his father's face.

Simon wakes with sweat congealing on his body and dry sobs squeezing his throat. The dream is tangled in his mind, dark and obscene, carrying the same feeling of wrongness that he got from the bodies on the Reaver ship. Things that should never be.

He disengages from River's hand and straightens her covers. She looks peaceful enough now. No bad dreams mar her face. He smiles, taking some comfort from her... serenity.

In the little lounge area outside the infirmary, he throws himself into a chair, not prepared to try sleeping again just yet.

"You're up late, Doc."

Simon jumps up again, his heart racing, but it is only Mal, face emerging out of the shadows. He sinks slowly back down.

"You scared me."

"I could tell. Your sister-- she all right?"

Simon wonders whether that is actually concern in Mal's voice, or whether he asks only because he feels it is the right thing to do. Perhaps the motivation doesn't matter. He does at least ask.

"It doesn't seem to have done her any harm. I don't think she ever doubted you would come back for us."

"And you did, I take it?"

"I saw you leave." He tries to keep the hurt out of his voice, but it does no good. There is so much betrayal in those words. He didn't want Mal to know.

"Had to leave."

"I know. There was nothing else you could do."

And he does understand this, now.

The thing is, he was trying so hard to convince himself that the captain would come for them, trying so hard to convince River, and then... to see their hope take off into space...

And he wasn't even surprised. Hurt, but not surprised.

Surprise was to be saved up for big damn hero Mal walking out of the night to reclaim his property. Echoes of the dream ring in Simon's head, though the details are fading already, and he shivers.

"Hey, Doc... are you all right?"

Mal is frowning at him, worried.

"I'm fine."

"It's just, you look kinda sick all of a sudden. Pale and sweaty like."

"I'm fine."

"Did they hurt you? Hit you or anything?"

"No. Captain, really, I'm fine."

"Were you around their sick?"

"Well, I am a doctor."

Mal stands and pulls Simon out of his chair. "Come on. You're the doctor, so you can check yourself out. I'll just watch and make sure you don't pass out or some such."

Simon finds himself frog-marched to the infirmary. Bright cold lights, bright cold metal. River hates it here, but Simon finds himself relaxing almost at once. The scent of antibacterial soap and hand lotion hangs in the air, and it is the smell of home. Not the home he knew with River, but the hospital where he virtually lived during his residency. He steadies himself on the bed and remembers the supply closet with its endless smell of latex gloves and its gurney where he slept rather than go home and face his father.

"Doc?" A hand waves in front of his face. "Anybody home?"

Mal's concern brings him back to the present, and he realizes he has been staring fixedly across the room at, apparently, his own reflection in the stainless steel cabinet door. He shakes his head.

"Sorry, Captain."

He pulls himself up on the bed, thinking maybe he could sleep here, in this womb of metal and fluorescent brightness. Nightmares are for dark and rich places, for the bedroom, the cave of nakedness. His subconscious shouldn't bother him here. He lies down.

"Doc, come on, you're worrying me. Are you sick? You look sick."

"I'm fine."

"Will you stop saying that? And sit up. Here."

Mal holds out a thermometer, and Simon obediently sticks it under his tongue. The chime sounds almost immediately, and he pulls it out. His temperature is normal, but he could have told Mal that. He is fine.

He sways as the lights pulse and dim. He wonders vaguely if there is something wrong with the ship again, but Mal doesn't seem worried about the lights.

"Watch it, you're going to fall right off of there."

Mal is close now, hands on Simon's shoulders, holding him up as the room scrambles briefly around him and then reassembles itself. He looks up into Mal's eyes and has a moment of clarity where he wonders if he is finally losing his mind. Maybe insanity runs in the family.

No, he tells himself firmly. It is nausea, exhaustion, adrenaline poisoning, stress. He can't afford to lose his mind, and therefore he won't.

"I'm fine," he says, and this time he means it.

The captain lets go of his shoulders, and Simon wishes he hadn't. Handprints linger, heat leaving a tangible impression on his skin.

"All right," Mal says slowly. "But you should get some sleep. Go on back to your quarters."

"I'll sleep here tonight."

"Okay... You want me to get the lights when I go?"

Simon shakes his head. He is taking no chances. "Leave them on."

Mal hovers at the door, half in, half out. Wondering where his duty lies, Simon thinks with a touch of bitterness.

"Good night, Captain."

"Night, Doc."

He leaves, and Simon is alone. He will not go mad. He closes his eyes and waits calmly for sleep to come. He trusts the lights and the bright steel, everything visible, everything out in the open. Nightmares cannot survive in a place like this.

Simon dreams.

He throws plates at Kaylee's head, laughing as she tries to duck away. He inserts his scalpel into Book's body and carefully removes his heart, blood pumping out of the severed arteries until he is wading in it, and Zoe stands beside him, saying Welcome to Serenity Valley, Simon. Now you know, now you understand.

The infirmary is gone, and a field of bodies stretches out around him. All of them look dead, but some of them are moving, and he has to save them all. He is on his knees and the blood washes up over his thighs as he moves from one man to the next. His hands slip on his instruments, and there is no pulse, no pulse, no pulse.

He has to crawl now, too tired to stand, and River is somewhere near, he has to find her, has to save her, but he is so tired.

There is a man sitting on a rock, face in his hands, the only living being in this field of horror. Simon crawls to him, uses the rock to try and get to his feet. Hands fall away from the face, and it is Mal, tears rolling through the grime on his cheeks.

Dead, all dead, all dead and I killed them, and Simon doesn't know whether he is speaking the words or Mal is. Blood-sticky hands in Simon's hair, lifting his face to the sky. Look, there's no one there, no medships, they'll never come.

They'll come, Simon tells him. They'll come for us. Daddy will come for us, time to go... Post-holer, for digging graves.

Mal bends toward him, lips parted, but his teeth are stained with blood. Simon jerks back, falling, falling--

And hits the cold floor of the infirmary with a yelp.

"Simon! Are you okay? I heard... Hey, you're on the floor."

Mal stands in the doorway, frowning.

"I fell," Simon says.

"I noticed. Maybe not the best place to sleep. What's wrong with your bunk, anyway?"

Simon just shakes his head, feeling dazed, and takes the hand Mal offers him. He staggers as he regains his feet, and Mal puts an arm around his shoulders.

He wants to insist that he's fine, but thinks possibly he's not. He leans into Mal's body and lets himself be steered out of the light and into the shadows of the lounge. They sit close together on the couch, legs touching.

"Don't do this to me, Simon," Mal mutters.

Simon would like to ask what, but his brain seems to have lost its connection to his mouth. Mal strokes his hair, and Simon lays his head down carefully on a muscled shoulder.

"You'll be better in the morning," Mal says. "You'll be just fine. You got to be."

Mal catches Simon's eye and looks away quickly. "I can't have the both of you cracking up," he says.

Simon thinks he is just fine now, will be just fine as long as he doesn't have to move. Or maybe move just a bit. He tucks his legs up under him and settles more solidly against Mal's side.

Strange feelings march up and down his spine, making his fingers tingle. Remnants, revenants from his dreams that refuse to rest.

He opens his eyes wide, staring at the grubby walls, the stained floor, the battered furniture. This is real, he tells himself. This is the real world. Maybe Serenity is luh-suh, but its hull stands between him and vacuum and doesn't melt into blood and endless darkness like his dreams tend to do.

The arm around him is real. The man next to him is real, smelling of sweat and body odor and the dust of the planet still clinging to his skin.

Simon drags his mouth across Mal's neck, picking up fine grit, licking it away from his lips, and it is almost an accident when his tongue flicks Mal's neck as well. Almost.

He feels Mal start at the touch, but notes that he does not pull away.

"What do you think you're doing?"

"You're real," Simon tells him.

He knows the words don't make sense, but Mal seems to understand. The hand on his hair picks up where it left off, petting him, smoothing his hair back as if Mal is stroking a cat. Firm, even strokes meant to soothe, very much as Simon strokes River's hair when she wakes from bad dreams.

"I'm not losing my mind." Simon suddenly finds it necessary to assert this.

Mal just shrugs. "Some days are betters than others."

Yes. Some days are better than others, and some nights are worse. At least River is sleeping well tonight, though he knows that if she woke screaming now he could and would pull himself together. He is not losing his mind; he is only letting it drift. He can get it back any time he wants.

He nuzzles into Mal's neck, wondering how long he can get away with this. Mal isn't pulling away, isn't questioning this or even tensing up. Simon brushes his lips upward over stubble, loving the prickle of it on his mouth, on his cheek. He pauses at the corner of Mal's mouth.

"Please," he says. "Just tonight. I need this."

He feels Mal's lips part for a sighed out breath, and then those lips are angled to meet his, and Mal's hand locks in his hair, holding him still to be kissed. He has to suppress the sudden urge to climb into Mal's lap and wrap him up in arms and legs, chain him with his body so that he can't get away.

He needs this. He didn't know how true the words were.

Mal pulls back, and Simon follows until the tug on his hair won't let him.

"Not here," Mal says.

"Where then?" Simon has it half in mind to suggest the infirmary, but he doesn't think Mal would go for that. It doesn't matter. Let the captain decide. It's his ship after all.

Mal smiles with one corner of his mouth. "Your place or mine?"

"I don't care."

He should care, maybe. Should worry whether River might wake up and need him, but he can't. The best he can do is not suggest Mal's quarters because they're less likely to be interrupted. The best he can do is let someone else make the decision so he doesn't have to do what he knows is right.

"Come on, then."

He is pulled to his feet, Mal's arm still solid and warm across his shoulders, and they walk away from Simon's quarters, away from River's. Out to the cargo bay and up the stairs.

He climbs slowly down the ladder to Mal's quarters. He has never been here before. It comes as something of a surprise.

The chair, the pictures, the worn blanket-- this is someone's home. Simon has been on Serenity for months now, but his quarters are barren. Might as well be a hotel room. Mal even has a plant.

"Nice room," he says.

And pushes himself against Mal's body, hard enough to make him stagger. He feels arms come around him automatically, holding him up. He reaches up to trace Mal's lips, push them aside. Clean, white teeth. No blood. Mal takes his finger in and sucks on it, tongue against the pad, teeth closing gently behind the first knuckle. Simon closes his eyes.

With one hand he works on Mal's buttons, getting halfway down before his finger is released, his hand pushed away, and the shirt stripped off and dumped on the floor. He flattens his palms on Mal's chest, moving down over brown nipples, flat stomach, hooking over the waistband of Mal's pants. Mal is still wearing his holster, and this, for some reason, comes as a shock. The buckle is ungainly, and his hands slip on it.

Mal unfastens it and tosses it on the chair, then goes to work on Simon's vest and shirt, throwing them aside as well.

Simon can't quite step forward. As much as he wants to feel that smooth expanse of skin against his own, there is something he wants more.

Compared to the buckle, the button and zipper combination of Mal's pants is easy, and the breath he hears Mal suck in when he drops to his knees is so very sweet.

Pants down over Mal's hips, cock in his fist, looking up into wide blue eyes. He watches steadily as he leans forward and closes his lips around the head, traces it with his tongue. Mal watches him with ill-concealed hunger and a sort of grave astonishment. His face says he can't believe this is happening, and more, he can't believe who it's happening with.

Simon smiles, opens his mouth, his throat, takes him in. He moves his hands to the smooth skin of Mal's hips, rubbing lightly with his thumbs, picking up the texture of it and feeling, even here, a faint rime of dust.

He picks up the pace, feeling Mal try not to thrust, try not to choke him. The tiny movements say more, harder, faster, and Simon slides his tongue along the underside, tasting the bitter salt of pre-come and, he could swear, dust. Ground-in planet dirt. He is covered with it himself. Some places just won't let you go.

He looks up, reassuring himself that Mal has undergone no disturbing transformations. He has not. His eyes are closed, mouth open as he pants. The sound is harsh and loud, as loud as Simon's heartbeat, as loud as the wet noise he makes as he sucks Mal's cock.

*Sucks Mal's cock.* The words bounce around inside his head, jolting him for a second, yanking his mind back to him. They sound obscene, and the sound he is making is obscene. He hears Mal's breath hitch in a high pitched gasp, nearly a sob. Obscene can be a good thing, too, he decides.

Now Mal's hands weave through his hair, pulling him into abortive thrusts, and he swallows as Mal comes in near silence. *Near* silence, but Simon hears the ragged breath, the sharp sounds of quick inhale and exhale that Mal cannot suppress. Amid them he hears, with electric shock, his own name.

Mal collapses afterward, falling to his knees and into Simon's arms. Sweat shines on both of them, and the stick and catch it causes as they press together seems somehow more intimate that what they have just done.

Wrapped in a tight, one-armed embrace, Simon feels his pants undone, feels himself gripped with a sweat-slick hand and pumped as he grinds his face against Mal's neck and shoulder, blinding himself. It takes him only seconds to climax, shivering and shaking, the clench of strong fingers digging into the muscle of his back as erotic as the hand around his cock.

They kneel on the floor together for long minutes afterward, recovering. Simon finds himself wishing that this, here and now, could be his world. His real world. Safe, strong, warm. He steels himself for the end, for when he will be sent away. There will be no sleep tonight, not even after this. There will be bad coffee in the galley and perhaps a book to read until the ship begins to wake.

He doesn't expect an invitation to stay.

He certainly doesn't expect Mal to pull him up, to undress them both with silent efficiency as Simon blinks in surprise. Mal takes his hand and leads him across the room to his miniscule bunk, wraps them both in this blanket, soft with wear.

His fingers trail across its threadbare surface. The light snaps off, and Mal's arms come around him in the dark, holding him tightly. Almost tightly enough. Sleep steals in through the air-tight hull.

Simon does not dream.


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