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|Title: The Moment
Author: Eleanor K.
Notes: Much thanks to Dani for the beta.
After Tracey's funeral, Wash got them out of the world pretty quick. Mal didn't recall giving any orders to that effect, but he wasn't objecting. Zoe must've said something--or more likely didn't have to say anything. Wash knew her pretty well.
The two of them had disappeared down into their bunk an hour past, leaving Mal to watch the view through the front window and think about how much snow in a night sky looked like falling stars.
He reached under the instrument panel and pulled out the bottle taped there. The level was down a few inches from the last time he'd checked it. Not surprising. He wouldn't put it past Wash to drink his booze just because it was his, and it'd been a hard few months besides.
He uncapped it and stuck it between his legs, not drinking quite yet, but prepared when the moment came.
"Captain?" said a voice behind him.
That right there was the moment. Mal raised the bottle and took a long pull instead of answering.
Simon came in anyway and leaned against the railing. There was the silence of two people breathing instead of one. That wasn't so bad. As long as Simon didn't talk, he was tolerable company.
And when he did talk, Mal mostly ended up wanting to hit him.
"Don't think any of us are celebrating tonight, Doc."
Mal sighed. "Notice you're not doing anything about that."
"I...don't know what to do. Everything I say seems to make it worse."
"You do seem to have a talent in that direction." He glanced over and found Simon nodding agreement. Mal passed him the bottle. "Drink up, Doc. We've had worse days than this."
"Still flying," Simon muttered. He tipped the bottle up and took a drink, swallowing smoothly, not even a cough. He squinted at the faded label. "Rising Fire whiskey?"
"Alcohol doesn't solve anything," Simon said, taking a drink and handing the bottle back.
"Nope. It surely doesn't." Mal drank himself, and then wedged the bottle back between his legs.
Simon stared out the front window for all of ten seconds before sinking down to sit on the floor.
"What are you doing on a space ship?"
Simon looked at him, head tilted a bit to one side. "Running from the law, Captain."
"You know what I mean."
"You mean, what am I doing out here when I'm more or less constantly afraid that one of the myriad things that can go wrong on this ship will go wrong and we'll be left at the nonexistent mercy of the vacuum?"
Mal took a second to think through all that before nodding. "Yeah. That's what I mean."
Simon reached for the bottle. Mal handed it over.
"Running from the law, Captain." He took another drink. "I've been afraid since the day I decoded River's letter. I don't see that this is so much different."
"Can't live your whole life being scared."
"It's worked so far."
Mal stood, pulled the bottle from Simon's hand, and yanked him to his feet. He wondered briefly where this was coming from. It wasn't the booze. He hadn't managed to drink that much. Simon was the one who was wobbling and clutching the railing.
"Come on," Mal said. He didn't wait for agreement. It was easier to tow Simon along, hand on his wrist.
It was harder than he'd thought it would be to get Simon into the suit. He stopped trying when Simon kicked his shin.
"Ruttin' hell, Doc! What's wrong with you?"
Simon was breathing hard, pressed back against the wall. Bits of the suit lay on the floor between them. The glove pointed toward the airlock, middle finger extended.
"What's *wrong*? You want me to go out *there* where there's no air or light or-- or-- For what? For fun? Are you insane?"
"Psychotic. So they tell me."
Simon started laughing. Just little chuckles at first, muffled behind his hand. Then so hard he slid down the wall.
Mal wondered if Kaylee had ever seen him laugh like this. He looked older, not younger. Less jumpy, more comfortable in his skin. And a fair bit drunker, to be honest; cheeks flushed, hair mussed, eyes bright.
"You are psychotic," Simon said, finally sobering. "But you don't hate me, do you?"
"Never said I did."
Mal sat next to him, knee knocking his, shoulders not quite touching. He wished he'd brought the booze. He looked over and saw Simon watching him. He felt something warm on his knee and looked down. Simon's hand.
"Kaylee likes you," Mal said. "A whole lot."
"The man Kaylee likes wouldn't be afraid..." Simon waved a hand at the suit and the airlock. "Of that. Of just empty space. He'd know how to put on a suit correctly as well, I imagine."
"You're a little drunk," Mal told him, as Simon's hand slid up his thigh.
"Only a little."
"This won't solve any more problems than booze will."
"No. But you won't have a hangover in the morning."
"We can't do this here."
Simon pushed his legs down and sat on his thighs, hands on his shoulders. His mouth was pink and wet and so close it made Mal's eyes cross to look at it, but he couldn't look anywhere else.
"Yes, we can," Simon said.
"You might be a little crazy your own self."
"Maybe it runs in the family."
There wasn't much to say to that, not if he didn't want Simon to hit him. He opened his mouth anyway, but he didn't have to say anything. Simon's kiss was gentler than he'd expected, and it lasted a long time.
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