BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

TANISAFAN

A Lonely Road: part seven
Friday, March 24, 2006

The Companion does what she does best, escape and rescue ops are set in motion, and hiding in a cave during a snow storm is a Great Plan.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1751    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

A/N: There's some fairly graphic M/S slash in this chapter. So so ya know :D!

Inara carefully lit the incense and candles that stood on the small altar. She blew out the tip of the incense stick, letting the scented smoke curl up to the ceiling and begin to fill the room, before she started to prepare the tea. Inara sighed as her thoughts drifted to the client she was about to entertain. She’d had the good fortune that an Alliance general had contacted her several weeks ago. Inara had put aside the proposal at the time. He wasn’t someone she would normally select as a client. However, she had gladly dug it back up after Mal had sent her that wave.

She couldn’t suppress a slight shudder when she thought of Simon and River in the hands of the Alliance… And then there was Mal. His face kept drifting to the forefront of her thoughts. Inara frowned when she recollected the expression on his face. If it hadn’t been for her Companion training, she never would have noticed it; but as it was, it was as clear as day to her that Mal felt responsible for River and Simon’s capture.

As she sat down and folded her hands in her lap, Inara smiled sadly. That was Mal for you, she thought. Always fighting battles he couldn’t win. Rallying for causes that weren’t his own. Taking matters to heart that he had no control over. It made him both frustrating and endearing to her. Even though he pretended to be a hard-headed criminal, he always wanted to do what was right. It was why he would never fit in with anyone. It was also why she loved him.

A knock on the door woke Inara from her reverie. She quickly rose from her chair, straightened her silk dress and stood in the centre of the room, radiating beauty. “Chin yin,” she said in a kind voice. The door opened, and a tall man in a military uniform walked in.

Definitely not someone I would have selected if it was up to me, she thought; but if it helped to find Simon and River, she was more than willing to do her part.

“General Marcellin, good afternoon,” she greeted him, showing him the kindest of smiles and softly putting her hand on his lower arm. “I’m very happy you could make it. Would you care to sit?”

--------------------

“Cap’n, that’s awful distractin’,” Kaylee’s muffled voice came from underneath the control panel. Mal stopped pacing up and down the bridge for a second. From the corner of his eye, he saw Zoe shoot her husband a relieved look.

“Hey, I’m no good at waitin’!” Mal said defensively. “We can’t hardly set course for Persephone; it might take us further away from where they’re keeping Simon, and we sure as hell can’t afford to lose any time.” He sounded frustrated and he knew it, but he couldn’t help it.

Zoe nodded slowly. “We know that, sir. None of us like driftin’ through the black without having any idea of where we’re going. But, no offence sir, you’re making everyone a mite twitchy.”

Mal sighed, muttered, “Fine...” under his breath and stomped off. He knew Zoe was right, but it still pissed him off that he was practically being chased off his own bridge. He didn’t stop until he found himself downstairs, in the lounge area right next to the infirmary. He sat down in one of the worn but comfortable chairs and sighed.

Things kept spinning ‘round in his head, and he didn’t take a liking to things spinnin’ round in his head. He didn’t like it when things got complicated. Well, that’s a flat out lie, he thought with a grim smile. He loved it when things got complicated, but only when it was on his own terms. And not in his head, that was for damn sure. His head had to stay clear; not fogged up like right now, with him not bein’ able to think proper.

He glanced at the infirmary, which was in tip-top shape, just like Simon had left it. Hell, it wasn’t like he blamed Simon for leaving. Or Inara, for that matter. He didn’t have call to stop any of his crew from leaving the ship and making a life of their own, just ‘cause he didn’t want one his own self.

No, it was the way Simon had left. Without so much as sayin’ a word... Of course, Mal knew he’d had good reasons. The boy was a lot o’ things, but stupid and rash weren’t among them. He’d probably been thinking of leaving for some time, planning even, if he knew the Doc at all. That was what stung Mal the most. That Simon must’ve had that thought for a good long while, and yet he’d never let it on, not ever.

“Cap’n! Inara’s on the Cortex!” Kaylee yelled down the stairs, shaking Mal brusquely from his thoughts. He immediately jumped up and hurried his way back to the bridge, where everyone else was already sitting in front of the screen. Inara was looking back at them. Apart from her curls being slightly dishevelled, she was as much a picture of grace and composure as ever.

“The general told me some very interesting things,” she started. She obviously didn’t want to waste any time exchanging pleasantries, which was something Mal was thankful for. “Apparently, Simon will be put to trial for foiling government projects and for evading the law. The odd thing is that no date has been set for his hearing yet, even though they’re usually held within a week of the arrest. The general said he’d never heard of anything like that before.” She took a deep breath, and then added, “In the mean time, he’s being held at an Alliance work colony on Saint Albans.”

The crew stared at Inara’s image in silence. “Let me guess,” Mal said grimly, his eyes fixed on Inara’s. “The Alliance is a mite pissed off and wants to make an example of the Doc?”

Inara looked back at them gravely. “Not just that... Mal, every high judicial magistrate on the Core lives on Osiris – and so does Simon’s father. With him being a Representative of the Parliament...”

“He decided to pull some strings,” Mal finished Inara’s sentence for her. “To be extra hard on his own son to show that he had nothing to do with Simon and River bein’ on the dodge.”

Inara nodded. “Mal, this is serious. From what general Marcellin has told me, these work colonies... They’re not like anything you’ve seen. The conditions are minimal and the jailers are among the worst types gathered in the ‘Verse – they’re almost worse than the inmates. People die there...” Her voice had taken on a pleading tone.

“Leave it to us, Inara,” Mal spoke softly. In front of him, Wash leaned forward to push some buttons and said, “Heading for Saint Albans now, Mal.” Mal gave him a quick smile, thankful for a crew that wasn’t slow on the uptake.

“What about River?” Jayne said gruffly.

Inara simply shook her head sadly. “I haven’t been able to find out anything yet. The general didn’t seem to have any intel on where they might have taken River; but I’ll continue looking,” she assured him. Jayne nodded and gave an appreciative grunt as he leaned back in his chair.

Mal was looking at the screen intently. “We’re grateful for all the help you can give us, Inara. Just don’t go gettin’ yourself in any trouble over our sakes, all right?” Inara nodded; then she said her goodbyes and the screen went blank again.

Mal turned around and frowned when he saw the look on Zoe’s face. It was a look he’d seen before, and it never boded well.

“Sir...” she said slowly.

“What is it?”

“Saint Albans is four days out. Meaning that, provided we’re able to spring Simon straightaway, we’ll be more than eight days late getting Cara back to Badger on Persephone. The man’s tetchy about hirin’ us on a good day, sir...” she said, letting her conclusions fill the air between them instead of wording them.

“So what do you suggest, Zoe? That we leave them both for the Alliance to play with?” Mal asked. Badger was gonna have their hides for this, he was well aware of that; but it wasn’t like they had a choice.

“I’m not saying that, sir. I want to help Simon and River just as much as the rest of us. Just want to make sure you know what we’re getting ourselves into here.”

Mal nodded appreciatively at his first mate. “I know,” he said grimly, as he turned around and walked back to his bunk. “But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it...”

------------------------------

This is it, Simon found himself thinking as he was roughly shoved back into his cell and fell to the floor. This was where he was going to die. Behind him he heard one of the guards bark with laughter, before the door slammed shut and he was alone again in the silence.

He knew that he had only been here for four days, but it felt like so much longer. Four days of carrying metal plating from one Alliance Cruiser to the other in the shipyard; four days of eighteen-hour labour for a single meagre daily meal; four days of being beaten by the inmates and the guards alike until he couldn’t even think anymore... Four days, but it felt like an eternity.

The metallic sting of blood on his tongue told him that someone’s fist had cracked his lip again. He slowly picked himself up from the floor, wiping his hand roughly across his bottom lip, and leaned against the wall to keep from falling over. He was exhausted, bruised, cold and sick; but none of that came even close to the gnawing uncertainty about what had happened to River. More than anything else, Simon couldn’t stand feeling this helpless. There was no way he could be of any use to River while he was in here.

Simon honestly had no idea how long he would be able to keep this up. On top of it all, he was stuck in an unheated prison cell on the coldest planet on the Rim, wearing nothing but the pants and the silk shirt he had on when he arrived. He was pretty sure he was getting pneumonia, and he did not want to die of pneumonia. He was a doctor, he knew what that did to a person...

The door was pushed open roughly and one of the guards entered, carrying a small metal tray with an indefinable kind of food on it. With some effort, Simon pushed himself away from the support of the wall and walked up to the guard.

“Where’s my sister? Where’s River?” he spat. He wasn’t even hoping for a response anymore, but he had to ask. It was all he could think about, and the thought of his sister needing his help was what kept him going. “I demand to talk to an advocate–”

The guard gave him a disgusted glance-over, before letting the tray clatter to the floor with a smirk. Grabbing Simon by his shirt, the guard pounded his fist into Simon’s stomach, making him double over in pain. “Your days of demandin’ are long gone, boy,” he hissed in Simon’s ear, before letting go of his shirt.

Simon fell to the floor next to the tray, gasping for breath. “Enjoy your dinner,” he heard the other man say somewhere above him. Then a kick in the ribs with the sharp tip of the guard’s shoe sucked the rest of the air out of Simon’s lungs, and everything went black...

------------------------------

When Simon regained consciousness, he had no idea how long he had been out, but the small window showed that it was dark outside, and his food –or something that passed for food– had turned cold.

He tried to pick himself up from the floor, but fell back down almost immediately. Every bone in his body hurt. With one arm he shoved the tray, as well as the bits of food that hadn’t been eaten by rats and mice yet, away from him. The mere thought of eating was making him sick to his stomach, even though his medical training told him that he had to eat if he wanted to survive. But he wasn’t so sure he could be bothered anymore.

There is a way out. The idea hit him like a freight train, and he couldn’t believe he hadn’t thought of it before. There was no reason for him to sit around and wait patiently until he died of exhaustion or illness. He slid his hand into the pocket of his pants, his fingers finding their way past the fabric and into a padded hidden pocket, and pulled out a small plastic vial that was filled with a brightly-coloured liquid.

He wasn’t going to die in this cell like a diseased rat. Not when he could take matters into his own hands.

------------------------------

“Hey, Shepherd,” Jayne greeted Book. With a grunt, he placed the weights back in their holders and got up from the bench. “You want me to spot ya?”

Book shook his head. “No, thank you. I just came down here for a spell so I could do some thinking. I find that it’s easier to think down here,” he said with a little smile. Jayne nodded to show he understood, even though he never particularly came down here to think. He had to admit though that’d spent most of the past four days lifting weights, doing bench-presses and generally doin’ all kinds of exercises so he could stay busy...

The Shepherd seemed to have read his mind. “Anything you want to talk about, Jayne?” he asked.

Jayne frowned and scratched his head. “Well... actually I’ve been meanin’ to ask you somethin’, Shepherd. Hope you don’t mind, but since you seem to know a lot about the Alliance and military and all that...”

“What did you want to ask me?” Book asked with a frown. Jayne knew people well enough to sense that the Shepherd had put up his guard and was slightly uncomfortable.

“Ah, nothing,” Jayne said dismissively. “I was just thinking ‘bout River is all. You know, ‘cause us here don’t know a gorram thing about how the Alliance works. But you, I figure, you know all kinds o’ stuff about them. So I figured you might know why she’s so important to the brass and what they might want with her.” He shrugged. “Y’know, ‘cause I was worried. She’s a handful, but she’s just a kid and she don’t deserve all this crap,” he finished.

Book smiled and put his hand on Jayne’s shoulder. “I’m sure we’ll be able to rescue River,” he comforted Jayne. “I honestly don’t know why she appears to be so important to the Alliance, but if she is, that also means that they probably won’t harm her.”

“Any more than they already did, you mean?” Jayne said grimly. Shepherd Book let out a breath and looked back at Jayne gravely. That was good, Jayne thought. He couldn’t always size up the Shepherd, but it was clear as day from his eyes that he was concerned too.

Book coughed. “Jayne, pardon the intrusion but... she doesn’t seem like the kind of person that you would normally invest your time in. You’re very different, and I have to admit that I’m curious about what your connection is to her?”

“You an’ me both, Shepherd...” Jayne said with a sigh. “You an’ me both.” He had no idea what had come over him lately, but ever since River had confided in him, he caught himself thinking of her more and more. Hell, maybe it was just ‘cause she gave him the time of day, which the others hardly ever did. Fact of the matter was, he couldn’t get her out of his head. Jayne swallowed. Her face, all tear-streaked, and those small hands clawing into his shirt…

“Jayne?” Jayne’s head snapped ‘round at the sound of the Captain’s voice. It was immediately followed by Mal’s head as it popped around the door that led to the cargo bay. “You ready to go?” Jayne didn’t reply; he was always ready for the jobs at hand, even if the ones that included rescuing the Doc – again – didn’t rank high on his list of fun things to do.

As he got up, he noticed that Shepherd Book was following his lead. “Captain, I’d like to come with you,” Book said earnestly. “I believe I might be of use.”

Mal nodded. “I believe you might be, too, Shepherd, but the truth is you’re probably more needed on the ship. I got a feeling Wash an’ Kaylee might be in need of some of your mollifyin’ talks. They have to get us off-world in a hurry, can’t have them all jittery.” Mal gave Book a wry smile. The Shepherd nodded to show Mal that he’d comply without making a fuss, and then he turned around and walked back upstairs.

Jayne couldn’t help but admire Mal’s ability to make people do what he wanted without makin ‘em feel any less for doing so. Fact of the matter was, Mal was a born captain and Jayne knew that, even if he wouldn’t admit it if they put a gun to his head. Didn’t mean he couldn’t think it, though.

------------------------------

With a soft thud, Serenity landed in a small clearing in the middle of the snowy forests that covered a large part of Saint Albans.

“So,” Mal said while the airlock opened with a hiss, and the ramp slowly lowered itself onto the crisp snow. “We’re about fifteen minutes from the Alliance colony. Now, it ain’t that heavily guarded ‘cause this place is so deserted that no-one in their right minds would even try to escape and risk freezing to death. Nevertheless, Jayne, I want you to guard the perimeter, but don’t take anyone out if you don’t have to – we don’t want to cause a spectacle, there ain’t no need alerting the Feds of our whereabouts,” Mal said grimly. “Meanwhile, me an’ Zoe will try to break the perimeter and get inside the building.”

Mal looked at Wash, Kaylee and Book intently. “Now, we each got Commpacks with us in case anything goes wrong. Wash, if there’s any word on the Cortex about a prison break, alert us and then try scrambling the signal, okay? I want this to be quick and with a clean getaway.” He firmly ignored the fact that every single member of his crew looked doubtful about that last fact.

“No problem, Mal,” Wash stated. He was standing next to his wife with his arms wrapped around her waist, and he was obviously more nervous about the mission at hand than Zoe was. “Zhen tama yaoming. Zhuyi,” he said softly, giving Zoe a peck just below the ear before he reluctantly let her go and headed back up to the bridge.

Mal couldn’t help but feel a sting of jealousy at the sight. It had to be nice bein’ fussed over from time to time. Even Zoe, who wasn’t exactly the cuddlin’ type, seemed to enjoy it. No-one ever fussed over him like that – ‘cept maybe Simon. Not going there. He brushed the thought away and focused on the matter at hand. “Right. Let’s go spring the Doc,” he said and waited for Jayne and Zoe to walk down the ramp before following them into the woods.

As the three of them neared the thick iron fence, Zoe signalled Jayne, and he quickly disappeared amidst the trees to secure the area. Slowly and stealthily, Zoe made her way up to the barbed wire that surrounded the fence. It never ceased to amaze Mal how Zoe was able to hurry through the snow in those big boots, and yet not make a single sound.

With a few quick and deft movements, Zoe cut her way through the barbed wire and then started on the fence. It was made of thick steel, but Kaylee had supplied them with the best cutters in the ‘Verse, and within a matter of minutes, a flick of Zoe’s hand indicated that it was safe for Mal to follow her.

Trying to be as quiet as mice, Mal followed Zoe along a large deserted courtyard until they reached the building. Blowing out a breath in relief that they’d made it this far, he stood next to Zoe as she leaned her back against the wall and rested for a moment. “That was the easy bit,” she said in a soft voice, and they chuckled.

For a spell, Zoe was quiet. She was more often quiet than not, but Mal knew his first mate well enough to know that she was gathering the strength to say something else. “Sir...” she said finally. “Have you thought about what to do about Simon and River’s father? If we can get Simon out and he hears about it, he’s gonna know exactly where to look for him. And that’s not exactly gonna make it easier on us if we want to get River back as well,” Zoe said in a hushed voice as they started to make their way to the nearest door, both pressed to the wall to avoid being seen. “Not to mention the fact that we got a little kid on board, and that Badger is gonna be on our hides as soon as we get anywhere near Persephone. We’re signing up for a lotta trouble --”

“Shh,” Mal interrupted her as he heard a nearby back door open with a creak. The both of them pressed themselves further against the wall just around the corner, their hands simultaneously going for their guns.

“What happened?” a voice said sharply as Mal heard the muted footsteps of heavy boots stepping onto the crisp snow. Cautiously, he glanced around the corner, and saw two men step out of the safety of the building and into the courtyard. One of them was clearly a guard, judging by his tough appearance, the laser gun hanging from his belt, and the menacing glint in his eyes. The other was dressed in much finer apparel, which, along with his haughty attitude, made Mal assume he was the warden.

“I don’t know, sir,” the guard said. For all his intimidating manners and features, he was obviously nervous around his superior. “We just walked into the cell and found that fancy young doctor expired. Killed ‘imself, I figure.”

Mal felt his heart give a jolt, and he glanced over his shoulder at Zoe. She got the hint rightaway and leaned in to look around the corner as well, her hand never leaving her gun holster.

The warden meanwhile was giving the guard an ice-cold stare. “How did he do it? Didn’t you search him when he arrived?” he bit.

“I wasn’t on duty then, sir!” the other man said vehemently, obviously intent on keeping his job. “’Sides, the man was a brilliant doctor, from what I heard. He probably took some kinda pill he had stashed away. There was no way we could’ve found something like that...”

“Yes, yes, very well,” the warden said impatiently, giving the guard an annoyed wave of the hand. “There’s nothing we can do about that now. He wasn’t meant to be kept alive for long anyway. What did you do with the body?”

Zoe’s eyes darted to Mal’s. He couldn’t quite make out the look in her eyes, but he figured she was thinking the same thing he was. A bit further down the courtyard, he heard the guard reply, “Dumped ‘im in the woods sir. Figured the animals would get rid of him soon enough.”

The warden nodded casually. “Alright, I’ll inform his father as soon he sends us a wave.” He was obviously bored with the conversation already, and Mal felt anger boil in the pit of his stomach. The moment the two men had stepped back inside and closed the door behind them, Mal nodded at the fence and he and Zoe quickly made a break for it.

They didn’t stop running until they were safely past the barbed wire and in the safety of the trees. Clutching his sides, Mal leaned against a tree to try and catch his breath. “You think he’s dead, sir?” Zoe asked, standing beside him and panting only slightly. She didn’t seem convinced, which made Mal a bit more confident about his assumptions.

He shook his head. “No, I don’t think he is. The Doc can be called a lotta things, but stupid and a coward aren’t among them. My bet is, he took some of that medicine him and his sister used back on Ariel. Which means we can wake him up using that antidote he’s got stashed in the infirmary.”

Zoe nodded, relieved. “I was thinking the same thing. The problem is, how are we going to find him? These woods cover an area of miles and miles. It’d be like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

Mal sighed. He wished people wouldn’t always point out the difficult bits of every situation; he was more than aware enough of them as it was. “I know. But we ain’t got time to lose, or he’s gonna freeze to death.” Pausing a moment to consider a course of action, he continued, “Let’s get back to the ship. We’ll all take some of the remedy; and we’ll split up and comb the woods. I think that gives us our best chance to find him.”

Zoe nodded, and immediately reached for her Commpack to alert Wash and Jayne of the situation.

------------------------------

Less than twenty minutes later, Mal was already back in the woods. He’d barely taken the time to explain matters to the others, telling Zoe to fill the crew in while he made a run for the infirmary. It hadn’t taken him long to retrieve the vials that contained the antidote, he still pretty much remembered where Simon kept them. With five of the little vials in his hands, Mal had made his way back to his crew, handing one to each of them and telling them to start combing the woods. They were to stay in touch using their Commpacks, and within a matter of minutes everyone except for Wash, who was staying with the ship, had spread out and was searching the area.

Mal sighed as he stepped briskly through the thick carpet of snow on the forest floor. It was freezing, and the sky told him that there was a lot more snow on the way. He knew Zoe and Jayne could hold their own, and he wasn’t too worried about Book either, but he wished Kaylee hadn’t insisted on helping them look for Simon. Mal knew that she was smart enough not to get lost, but he was still uncomfortable about letting her blunder through the woods all on her own. He hadn’t said no, however, partly because he was too anxious to think things through properly, and partly because she seemed so worried about Simon. Mal knew how much she cared for him and that she wanted to make herself useful instead of just waiting on board the ship.

Mal felt a slight pang of guilt shoot through him. He had no idea where it came from, and he definitely didn’t have the time to think about what caused it. As he felt the first snowflakes drift into the collar of his coat and looked up at the heavy grey sky, he suddenly spotted something in the corner of his eye.

Whipping his head around, he saw he hadn’t imagined it. Next to a small clump of bushes, there was a limp figure lying on the white ground, dressed in black pants and a silk shirt. His heart in his throat, Mal ran up to him, wishing and hoping to everything he held dear that he hadn’t been wrong.

“Doc? Simon! Simon, wake up,” Mal said, not bothering to hide the anxiety in his voice. There wasn’t no one that could hear him, after all. He quickly knelt down next to Simon’s still and pale body, and took a small vial from his coat pocket. In an almost automatic movement, he filled the syringe with the liquid, found the vein on Simon’s forearm and injected the antidote like he’d done once before.

Mal tossed away the empty syringe and touched Simon’s cheek. He was freezing... Wonder how long he’s been lying in the snow, he thought with a worried frown. Not wanting to waste any more time waiting till Simon woke up, Mal picked him up. Gorram, the boy was heavier than he looked.

Mal grumbled to himself as he struggled through the snowy woods, until he came to a small cave he’d seen earlier, while he’d been searching for Simon. It was only a couple of yards deep, but it was clear of snow and it would shelter them until the crew showed up or until Simon was strong enough to walk back to the ship, whichever came first.

With great effort, Mal crossed the last few yards and carried Simon into the cave. Just as he placed Simon softly on the ground, the young man began to stir. Mal felt relief wash over him.

“Welcome back to the land of the livin’, Doc,” Mal said with a crooked smile.

Simon’s long eyelashes fluttered for a moment, before he blinked and slowly opened his eyes. The very first thing he did, was give Mal a thankful smile that warmed his heart. Before he could say anything, though, Simon’s body convulsed violently as the after-effects of the drug made him retch.

“You doin’ alright?” Mal asked carefully. Simon took a deep breath and lay back down. He looked up at Mal and nodded, even though he was obviously still shaken.

It wasn’t until now that Mal noticed the bad state Simon was in. He’d clearly lost weight, his skin was a sickly pale, he was bruised and battered, and his eyes were all manner of sad and exhausted. The fever had made beads of sweat appear on his forehead. But most of all, he was trembling somethin’ fierce. Mal’s brow furrowed. “Let’s get you warmed up,” he said as he took off his long browncoat and sat down beside Simon.

Even though he wasn’t in the best shape, Simon still managed to give Mal his worried doctorly frown. “Mal, you’ll freeze,” he said, teeth clattering.

Mal smirked. “Said the fella with nothin’ but his fancy silk shirt on,” he retorted. “’Sides, I won’t. Basic military survival training, Doc. There ain’t nothing better to get someone to the right temperature than body heat. Feel free to disagree if I’m wrong,” he finished with a smug grin.

Mal knew he had Simon stumped, so he quickly took the opportunity to unbutton Simon’s shirt. He was clearly doin’ this to keep Simon warm until the storm had settled, he told himself firmly. And he sure as hell wasn’t gonna get all distracted by Simon’s soft skin, or the sculpted muscles that were visible right below it. He wasn’t.

Ignoring Simon’s faintly muttered protests and excuses, Mal quickly took off his own shirt, crumpled it up and shoved it under Simon's head as a makeshift pillow. Then he wrapped his arms around Simon and wrapped the both of them in his long coat. The storm was getting worse, and some errant snow-flakes drifted into the cave entrance, but Mal could feel Simon’s skin responding to the warmth of his own almost instantly.

“Mal...” Simon mumbled, clearly too tired to even open his eyes.

“Hush,” Mal quieted him, “get some sleep.” He’d tried to use his captainy voice but he was afraid that it came out a little too husky for that... Still, he didn’t get any protests this time.

“Not so cold anymore?” Mal said in a soft voice. Simon shook his head while his eyes remained closed. “Told ya. Didn’t they teach you anything in that fancy school of yours, mister top-three-percent?” Mal asked with a smug grin.

As the storm raged on, Mal listened to Simon’s steady breathing until he was calm enough to let sleep overpower him too.

------------------------------

Simon woke up, surprised to find himself on a cold, rocky floor. For a brief moment, he though that he was still in his cell, but as Simon cracked one eye open he realized that he was in a cave. In the entrance, a beautiful white carpet of snow spread out before him. So... why was he so warm and comfortable?

That was when he gradually became aware of a warm body that was pressed up against him. It was accompanied by the slow and steady breathing of someone fast asleep.

Tianna. Simon remembered with a jolt how Mal had found him and brought him here. Oh, this would turn out all manner of bad...

Careful and slowly, so as not to wake up Mal, he turned to look at the face of the sleeping man. It struck Simon that Mal looked so at peace, so much less worried and troubled than he seemed when he was, well, awake.

Simon couldn’t help but smile at such a gorgeous sight. He put his head against Mal’s shoulder and draped an arm across his chest. Listening to the steady rhythm of Mal’s heartbeat, Simon soon drifted off again.

------------------------------

“Captain!”

“Hunh,” Mal stammered when Zoe’s anxious voice, coming through the Commpack, woke him with a start. His eyes flew open, and the first thing he saw was Simon’s face, in deep sleep and only inches from his own. Mal blinked. Gorram, those lashes were gonna be the death of him.

Simon didn’t wake up, he only sighed softly in his sleep, his hand moving slightly so it brushed across Mal’s chest. Mal fought the urge to let out a moan, but unfortunately there were other physical reactions he couldn’t quite suppress. More importantly, it appeared he wasn’t the only one... Mal rolled carefully onto his side so he faced Simon, and pressed into him.

“Captain! You all right?” Zoe’s voice crackled through the Commpack again. This time, both Mal and Simon’s eyes snapped open instantly.

Too late, Mal realized that he was waiting for Simon to pull back in shock. The Doc from his side must’ve had the same idea, because as it was, neither of them was moving; they were just staring at one another.

“Right,” Mal mumbled as his one hand reached for the Commpack, his eyes still fixed on Simon’s. His fingers finally found the transmitter and he closed his hand around it and brought the device to his face. “Hi, Zoe, not to worry. I got him and we’re both fine. The storm caught us off-guard is all. We’ll be there as soon as we can though, so don’t go leavin’ without us, you hear?” With that, he closed the connection and shoved the Commpack out of the way.

He only just now noticed that Simon was still trembling from head to toe, and that eyes were unfocused because of the fever. Mal raised an eyebrow. They ought to get back to the ship before Simon got any worse. He propped himself up on one elbow and turned around so he could get up, when he felt Simon’s grip tighten on him, not allowing him to get to his feet.

“You can’t go,” he mumbled drowsily. “I’m seriously ill, remember? I need nursing.” Even though Simon was still half asleep, not to mention feverish, Mal could still see a little smile creep onto the young doctor’s face.

Mal shook his head and grinned. That boy was so gorram lucky that he could blame all of this on the fever later on. “Why, are you still cold?” he asked, even though he was perfectly aware that that wasn’t why Simon was trembling.

Simon blinked, forcing his eyes to focus. “Probably,” he said, managing dry wit even in these circumstances.

“Liar,” Mal chuckled.

-----------

TBC

COMMENTS

Friday, March 24, 2006 10:20 AM

AMDOBELL


Lovely, though I am happy Mal and Simon are able to have a moment I am also worried about Kaylee - she is so stuck on the doc. Now our Big Damn Heroes just need to figure out how to find and rescue River! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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Tumbling -- Act Two
Inara flirts with a stranger in a bar, and then things start to get weird. M/I and some S/K. Act two of three.

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A Lonely Road: part eight
Things heat up, Kaylee hits Jayne, Badger gets a mite tetchy, and the crew prepares for their hardest job ever.

A Lonely Road: part seven
The Companion does what she does best, escape and rescue ops are set in motion, and hiding in a cave during a snow storm is a Great Plan.

A Lonely Road: part six
The crew has trust issues regarding Jayne, Simon and River get into a peck of trouble, and Mal has to get help from the last person he wants to see...

A Lonely Road: part five
Part five: in which River and Jayne face the inevitable, the cargo is, well... different and Simon makes a very stupid decision. Again.

A Lonely Road: part four
After the wave Mal has received, the long journey through the black makes everyone go a little bit stir-crazy, Simon not in the least...

A Lonely Road: part three
Part three: where Inara leaves, the crewmembers drown their sorrows and things somehow get even worse…