Simon looked at Kaylee's stubborn expression and gritted his teeth. "Look, Kaylee, it's been long enough for you to stop acting this way. Everyone, myself included, is over it. You have to stop treating the Captain like a pariah."

"How can you be so calm about this!?" Kaylee exclaimed. "He treats you like a piece of go se and you just take it!?"

Simon smiled faintly and replied, "He's human Kaylee, with all the same faults as everyone else. And believe it or not, he's hurting too."

She snorted derisively.

"He is! Everyone treated him like an outcast on his own ship and you are still doing it. How do you suppose that makes him feel? He misses you, Kaylee," Simon finished softly.

A little uncertain, Kaylee protested, "But he broke your heart for no reason."

Simon shook his head. "Not for no reason, just one that we don't know. I truly appreciate how much you've taken my side, Kaylee. You're a great friend and one I'll always treasure. But it's over and giving Mal the silent treatment isn't going to solve anything, it'll just drag things out. And, ah, I'd really rather not do that."

"Oh Simon, I'm sorry, I didn't even think about that," Kaylee apologized.

"It's all right. Just…talk to the Captain, all right?"

Kaylee nodded reluctantly.

* * * *

"Captain!"

Mal stopped short in shock from Kaylee's hail. He faced her cautiously. "Yes, Kaylee?"

After staring at him a long moment, Kaylee hauled back and punched him in the stomach. Hard. Mal bent double, gasping for air even as he backed away. He didn't have to ask what it was for, at least.

"Done now," Kaylee announced grimly.

Finally getting some air back, he croaked, "You sure?"

She nodded and announced, "I just hope you know that Simon's fair game now."

"You putting your hat in the ring?" Mal asked, wincing as he rubbed his abdomen.

"Nope. But I hear tell that Jayne and Inara are."

Surprise flooded through Mal. "But…Inara's a Companion. She can't…can she?"

Kaylee shrugged and answered, "I guess she can, because she is. And he might like that, not having to worry about…well…not having to worry."

The unspoken 'again' rang in the air. Clearing his throat, Mal asked, "So we're square now?"

A little sad, Kaylee nodded. "I don't like to second guess you, Cap'n, but I really think you made a mistake letting Simon go. Especially the way you did."

He watched her go with mixed emotions. Being the one to break up with Simon, Mal had no cause to get jealous if the other man took up with either Jayne or Inara. Not that the doctor would. There was no way Inara or Jayne could…no…was there?

Mal stopped short again, really thinking about it. Jayne was unrefined and crude, not to mention murderous on the whole, but he was also intensely loyal after his own fashion and very, very strong. Simon probably wouldn't mind someone who could actually protect him where Mal had failed. And Jayne had that whole animal magnetism thing going on, too. There was definitely something to be said for sheer and unadulterated brute strength.

And if Simon was soured off of men for a time, then Inara was the perfect choice. Delicate, beautiful, graceful, soft-spoken and alluring, Inara could fill Simon's need for the finer things in life. The things that Mal could never provide. So really, both were fully qualified to win Simon's heart.

Mal started to sweat a little at the thought.

* * * *

Pleased with the amount of medical supplies he'd been able to secure for the infirmary, Simon forgot to think about how he'd get everything back to the ship. He stared at the stacks of boxes in rapidly growing dismay.

"Problem, doc?"

Simon looked over at Jayne leaning against the sturdy trike a few yards away and grinned. "Not anymore. Would you mind helping me get all this back to Serenity?"

Jayne grinned back and gestured to the cart attached to the three-wheeled vehicle. "Kinda thought you might get carried away, so I came prepared."

Snorting, Simon pointed out, "With the amount of trouble you all attract, I hardly think that I'm getting 'carried away.'"

Laughing, Jayne nodded and grabbed a box. "True enough, doc, true enough. But don't act like it's just us finding mischief to get into."

Simon grinned at the pointed comment and agreed, "I supposed that's right enough, as well."

It took a good hour to get the boxes loaded properly for a single trip. There were glass containers and Simon didn't want anything to get jostled or broken. Simon found Jayne strangely easy to get along with during that time, not making any rude comments about his fussiness. Almost as though the merc was going out of his way to be nice to him.

The sun beat down without mercy and it wasn't long before Simon's shirt and vest were soaked with sweat. Jayne startled him by pulling off his shirt and wiping himself down, flexing his large muscles this way and that as he did so. The display was impossible to ignore and Simon didn't even try. Jayne was a handsome man, no doubt about that, and he had a body that wouldn't quit. Simon shook his head at himself and thought derisively, You'd think you'd never gone without sex. It hasn't even been that long!

It helped that aside from the physical attraction, there was nothing there to interest Simon. Not that he hadn't come to a grudging respect of the other man over time, even with the stunts the mercenary had pulled, because he had. But there wasn't any deep trust there, and Simon wasn't one to give his body just to find relief. His heart twinged at the thought of trust gone awry.

Simon came back to the present when he collided accidentally with Jayne, box in hand. "Sorry."

Jayne shrugged and took the box from him with a wink. "No problem, doc."

Stretching the kink from his back, Simon started walking towards the passenger's seat when, unexpectedly, Jayne waved him away with, "Go on with ya. I'll unload these."

Simon frowned. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah, go on. You could practically see the building from orbit, it's so big so I know you've got to be itchin' to get into it," Jayne answered.

Simon grinned at the tone that clearly stated Jayne had no idea why that was. "Thank you. Should I pick anything up for you in town?"

Jayne straddled and pulled his shirt back on. He kick-started the bike and pulled the goggles down over his eyes. "Nope. See ya."

Watching the other man go for a moment, Simon shook his head at the unusual kindness and headed towards the bookstore.

* * * *

Mal frowned as Jayne returned without Simon, but with the supplies. "Where's the doc?"

Jayne shrugged. "Probably in that bookstore. I knew he'd be wantin' to go there, so I told him I'd unload for him."

And so it begins, Mal thought bleakly. Doing things for the other man was exactly how Jayne would court someone. "Well, that was…nice of you."

With a grin, Jayne answered, "Nope. I've got m'self an agenda for the doc."

Not wanting to hear about it, Mal snapped, "You might start by calling him Simon," and left.

* * * *

Some time later, walking down the corridor towards the cockpit, Mal fully intended to relieve Wash for a much-deserved break. Unfortunately, Inara snared him on her way out. Surprised by her especially done up appearance, he asked, "Client?"

She smiled brilliantly, eyes positively glowing as she replied, "Not at all. Simon is taking me to what passes for opera on this planet. He just doesn't know it yet."

"That so?"

Nodding, Inara confided, "I haven't looked forward to something so much in a long time. Would you keep an eye on River for us? I don't want Simon to worry about her."

Mal sighed and agreed, "Sure, why not?"

She winked and strolled towards the cargo bay.

Mal turned around and headed for River's room, but didn't find her there. He had more luck in the engine room, though, as she and Kaylee were giggling over fashion books. Smiling, he asked, "You two aren't planning to take over the 'verse now, are you?"

River looked up at him with an odd smile. "Just the ship."

Arching an eyebrow, Mal said, "Be sure and let me know how it goes."

The odd smile grew and River assured him, "You'll know. We're building you a bridge."

"All right then, keep up the good work," Mal encouraged with a grin. "Kaylee, let me know when this party breaks up. Inara's kidnapped Simon to the opera tonight."

"Sure thing, Cap'n."

Mal couldn't take the sympathetic look in her eyes. He spun sharply and left.

* * * *

"Simon?"

Looking up in surprise at Inara's voice, Simon's jaw dropped at the stunning outfit the woman was wearing. He got to his feet instantly and felt as though a brief bow wouldn't be amiss, but restrained himself. "Good evening, Inara. You look beautiful."

She smiled and replied, "Thank you! I found myself all alone with nothing to do tonight and a pair of tickets for the opera. I was hoping that you would accompany me?"

Not feeling properly dressed, nor particularly in the mood to watch the tormented love lives of others, Simon shook his head. "I'm not really dressed for it, as you can see."

Inara looked him over as though just noticing his clothes. "Oh dear, you're right about that. Still, I don't really want to go back to the ship after getting all dressed up. How about dinner? You can pick the restaurant."

Nonplused, Simon hesitated then answered, "Well, I really should get back. River..."

"Is being watched by Mal," Inara interrupted smoothly.

Mal was watching River? Clearing his throat a bit, he asked, "So Mal, ah, he...?"

Inara smiled and nodded. "I met up with him on the way out. He said not to worry about anything and to have a wonderful time."

Something inside died a little at the words. That Mal could blithely give his blessing to what amounted to a romantic evening hurt more than Simon cared to admit. Forcing a smile, he asked, "Then I suppose there's nothing to stop me from a night out with a beautiful woman, is there?"

Inara returned the smile and accepted the arm Simon held out to her.

* * * *

The going out thing developed into an alternating schedule where one day Jayne would tempt him with something and the next, Inara would. On the last several planets, and sometimes in the middle of space, Simon was bombarded with books and outings and more dinners than he'd had in the last year. If Zoe and Kaylee hadn't come along for a few of the outings, he'd have suspected courtship behavior.

Shaking the bizarre thought from his mind, and settling on a far more reasonable explanation, Simon returned to the present where Jayne and Inara were arguing about who had the prior claim to Simon's time for the day. "Excuse me? Jayne, Inara? Could you stop arguing for a second?"

Inara and Jayne both stopped mid-sentence and looked at him. A bit taken aback by the undivided attention, Simon paused then said, "I appreciate your efforts to, ah, distract me, but it really isn't necessary. I'm fine."

"Simon," Inara began gently. "It's all right to show your hurt over the Captain's abandonment. No one would think the less of you for it."

Is that what this is all about? Are they waiting for me to break down? Simon wondered. Sighing, he ran a hand through his hair and replied, "Your concern, misplaced though it is, is appreciated. Now, if you don't mind, I really would like to spend tonight alone."

"But Simon, that's…"

Simon raised his hand sharply, cutting Jayne off. "Out! Both of you! Or next time you can doctor yourselves!"

More of a threat to Jayne than Inara, but it worked on them both. Breathing a bit easier after their departure, Simon closed the door and tinted the windows, hoping that would be enough to keep everyone out since he so rarely did it. He settled down with one of his more recent gifts with a contented sigh.

* * * *

Simon was partway through a chapter of new surgical techniques when there was a tap at the door. Irritated, Simon slammed the book down and crossed to the door. He keyed it open to find Mal on the threshold, looking hunted of all things. Surprised, he asked, "What's wrong?"

Mal brushed past him and answered, "Close the door for God's sake! I'm hoping that Kaylee and Jayne don't find me here. They've been nagging me all afternoon and it's getting a bit thick."

Bemused, Simon closed the door and faced Mal. "Jayne certainly won't find you here because he's been banished for the night."

"Tired of your beau already, Doc?"

"My...beau?"

Mal winced. "Sorry. None of my business."

Simon shook his head, arms crossing over his chest, and ordered, "No, no, go on."

Mal hopped onto a bed, looking for all the world like a big kid waiting for a painful shot. "Kaylee told me how Inara and Jayne set their sights on you now that...you know."

Simon did know and his heart pinched at the reminder. Shoving the pain down, as he'd done consistently since it had happened, he nodded and returned to his chair saying, "Feel free to hide out here as long as you need."

Though he turned the page every so often, Simon wasn't reading. He was thinking about the pain still rife inside him, about the man observing him from less than five feet away. Even without looking, Simon knew that Mal was staring at him. He could feel the heaviness of the gaze upon him.

"How are you?"

If he had to make polite conversation, Simon was going to scream. "Fine."

There was a brief silence before Mal tried again with, "No, I mean, how are you?"

Barely containing his emotions, Simon looked pointedly at Mal. "I'd prefer not to talk about it."

Mal shrugged, glancing away, and replied, "Sure thing."

Simon returned to his book, but it wasn't even five minutes later that Mal jumped off the bed and slowly approached him. He stiffened when one of Mal's hands rested on his shoulder. Even that one touch was enough to quicken his heartbeat. Trying to keep his voice steady, and his emotions under lock and key, Simon asked, "What do you want, Captain?"

"I, I don't know."

The painful whisper was enough to provoke Simon into looking at the other man. Mal's eyes were filled with pain and confusion, so much so that Simon's protective instincts reared up. He stood, pulling Mal into his arms and whispering, "It's going to be all right, I promise. We'll figure this out."

Mal's arms wound about Simon's waist and his face pressed against Simon's throat. There were no tears, but Simon knew Mal was close to some kind of emotional breakdown. It wouldn't surprise him to discover that Mal just didn't know how to cry, or the catharsis that could come with it.

"Sorry," Mal muttered after a few minutes, pulling back.

Simon kept a tight hold to Mal's belt, preventing him from completely disengaging. "Don't run, Mal, please. Tell me what's going on."

Mal refused to look at Simon as he said, "Don't think I can."

"You can. Whether or not you will, that's another thing altogether," Simon stated softly.

Finally, the slate blue eyes turn to Simon and Mal whispered, "You almost died, Simon. Right here. On my ship. From someone that I brought on board. I almost killed you."

Oh dear God. The anguish in the other man's voice cut through every bit of hurt that Simon had felt since Mal's abandonment. He hadn't even thought about that. Of course Mal would assume responsibility for the whole thing.

"You're supposed to be safe here, you and River. This is supposed to be your home, your refuge. I should have protected you!"

Simon gripped Mal's face between his hands, forcing Mal to look at him. "You were not responsible for Myana's actions, she was."

"But I should have checked her out more. I should have mmph..."

Simon stopped the recriminations the most expedient way he knew how: with a kiss. The first few seconds was just lips against lips, neither moving. Then Mal moaned, a needful, almost pitiful sound, and opened his mouth to Simon.

Simon devoured and plundered Mal's mouth with forceful abandon. He nipped at Mal's tongue and lips, knocking their teeth together in a concerted effort to merge them. Driving Mal backwards, Simon trapped him against the wall and shoved a leg between Mal's knees.

They were both already hard and Simon was dying to get at any patch of bare flesh that he could. Tearing Mal's shirt open sent buttons flying through the air. He ruthlessly bit and sucked his way from nipple to nipple while his hands yanked belt and pants open in turn. Simon was determined to take back what was his, to show Mal that they belonged with no one but each other.

Finally, Simon's hand wrapped around Mal's cock and squeezed. Mal groaned, hips jerking at the contact and his legs splaying as wide apart as his pants would allow. Catching his breath, Simon ordered, "Look at me, Malcolm."

Mal did so, and for a timeless moment, all they did was stare hungrily at each other. Connecting his brain back to his tongue took effort, but Simon succeeded. "I love you. God help me after what you just put me through, but I do. You acting like a gorram idiot hasn't changed that. I'm yours, and you're mine. Forever, as far as I'm concerned. You can hurt me, push me away, leave me behind, and still, I'll love you.

Simon knew that he was right at the widening of Mal's eyes. He knew that somewhere along the line, someone important to Mal had told him that he was no good and didn't deserve love or happiness. Either when he was too young or too vulnerable, or both, to realize that the hateful words weren't true.

"Regardless of whoever told you that you don't deserve love, you do. You deserve love, and a family, someone to care for you when you're sick, someone to share grief with, someone to make love to, and to fuck when the mood's right. You deserve all that and so much more because you, Malcolm Reynolds, are a good man, a decent and honorable man."

"Simon, I..."

"You do," Simon insisted, pumping Mal's cock. Time for some positive reinforcement. He kept the rhythm on Mal's shaft steady and a little hard, just like Mal liked it, and continued to speak. "You're the best man I've known in a long time. I've never loved anyone else like this. Never felt so sure, and so strong, in my feelings. You're good, and kind, and hot, and sexy, and thrilling, and intelligent, and oh yeah, that's good, come on, Malcolm, come on, come for me!"

Mal did, with a heart-rending cry and tears on his face. Simon wrapped an arm around Mal's waist and supported the slide to the floor, going down with him. Mal curled up on his lap, shivering with emotion and unshed tears. Simon stroked his hair with his clean hand, wiping the other on his pants so he could hold Mal.

They sat there for a long time, but Simon didn't see any other tears and sighed to himself. They were going to have to find an 'acceptable' emotional release for Mal so nothing like this ever happened again.

He was positive that his heart just couldn't take it.

* * * *

Simon's thighs made a great pillow, but the floor was too cold to be truly comfortable. But then, feeling like he'd been smashed flat by a compactor didn't really lend itself to moving. Mal still wasn't sure what had happened, but he was fairly certain that Simon had driven a stake or two through some of his nastier demons, crippling, if not killing them off altogether.

Finally sitting up, Mal tucked himself back into his pants and stared at Simon, drinking in the handsome, gentle features. "Anyone ever tell you what an incredible man you are?"

Simon flushed, but looked pleased. "Not that I know of."

Mal leaned forward and kissed him gently. "You're an incredible man, Dr. Simon Tam, and I love you. Doesn't seem to matter what I do, or how I try to bury it, I do love you. All this time without you was hell. And the worst of it was knowing that it was my own gorram fault."

Simon cupped Mal's face. "But that's over now."

Mal nodded and agreed, "That's over now. Not to say I won't do something stupid in the future and piss you off, but I won't run again."

"Can I ask why you did this time?"

Mal saw only concern in Simon's eyes, no accusation, which helped him to answer, "Guilt, in part. Like I said, I should've protected you better. And...fear...for the other part. Fear that you'd die and I'd be left with this gaping hole for a heart. Fear that you'd live and blame me. Fear that I would fail you again. But mostly, I think, fear that you were being taken early from the 'verse because you loved me. That, that I'd jinxed you somehow, just because of how I felt for you."

Simon ran his fingers soothingly through Mal's hair. "Whoever told you that you were wrong for feeling love, that you didn't deserve it, was as wrong as wrong can be."

Swallowing heavily against emotion, not ready to face that particular demon, Mal asked, "Not now, Simon, please?"

With a nod, Simon replied, "When you're ready."

Mal sighed, partly in release, partly in relief. "Thanks. So ah, now what?"

Grinning suddenly, Simon stated, "Well, you do realize that we were set up."

Mal frowned. "What are you talking about?"

"Think about it," Simon answered with a chuckle. "Do you honestly think that Jayne and Inara would both, out of the blue and simultaneously, decide that they would want me as a romantic partner. And Mal, really...Jayne?"

Squirming in embarrassment, Mal explained, "I wasn't thinking too clearly."

Still grinning, Simon pointed out, "Which they counted on. Face it, Captain Reynolds. Your crew thinks that they know what's best for you and aren't shy about tricking you into getting it. It's kind of sweet."

Snorting, Mal commented, "I can't rightly complain about the results, but it does gall to be manipulated like that."

"Why don't you let me take care of it?"

Mal eyed the gleefully evil expression on Simon's face and reminded himself that sometimes genius needed expressing in not nice ways. He also made a mental note never to provoke Simon in a similar fashion.

* * * *

Kaylee followed the sound of raised voices to the infirmary only to find that she was the last to arrive. Wash was looking upset, Zoe calm, but on edge. Jayne and Inara had distinctly guilty expressions and Book was compassionate, but concerned. River...well, strangely enough, River was smiling.

"What's going on?" Kaylee asked.

Before anyone could answer, the infirmary door slid open and Simon stormed out, Mal hot on his heels.

"I want you off this ship at the next port, Doctor!"

Simon stopped abruptly, rounding on Mal with, "I wouldn't stay on this gorram leh suh ship if you paid me! Oh wait, you can't pay me, can you? You can't even get a job for this bastard crew!"

Mal grabbed Simon by the shirt and shoved him against the wall. "Don't you ever talk like that again!"

"Or you'll what?"

The quiet fury in Simon's voice drove Kaylee to exclaim, "Stop it! Stop it the both of you!"

"Don't you worry, little Kaylee, the good doc here is getting off, never to darken our door again," Mal bit out furiously.

"No!" Kaylee shouted, near tears. "This is all my fault! You two were getting along fine until I went and meddled!"

"You didn't do this Kaylee," Simon assured her, his hands resting on Mal's, which were still wrapped in Simon's vest.

"But I did! I went and put Jayne and Inara up to courting you so's to make the Cap'n jealous! I just, I just wanted you two back together, where you belong," Kaylee finished miserably.

Disbelief skittered across Mal's voice as he demanded, "Kaylee, how could you?"

"We were all in on it, sir," Zoe proclaimed, standing beside Kaylee.

Mal's jaw dropped open, as he stepped back from Simon. "All of you?"

Nodding stoically, Zoe said, "We thought you just needed a nudge to get back together. Didn't know how serious the break really was."

Arms across his chest, Simon stated, "So you manipulated us, you tricked us."

Almost visibly squirming, Wash stepped forward as well and apologized, "We shouldn't have done it, Simon, Mal. We just, we didn't think..."

Mal's lips twitched suspiciously as Wash trailed off, as miserable as Kaylee. Then Simon's shoulders began to shake. Suddenly, both men were laughing hysterically, leaning on each other for support.

After a shocked moment, Kaylee realized that they'd been had. "You knew!"

Still gasping, Simon exclaimed, "Of course we knew!"

"Consider that little scene payback and a warning, all in one," Mal added sternly. Of course, the effect was ruined by wiping the tears from his eyes. "Don't ever do anything like this again. Next time, the results mightn't be so favorable."

Zoe shook her head in disgust. "Should've known it wouldn't fool you."

Mal and Simon exchanged an amused look, and Simon agreed, "Of course you should've. Now then. If you don't mind, we're going to bed."

Kaylee watched them saunter down the corridor, shoulder to shoulder. She wasn't sure whether or not she had the right to belt them for scaring her like that, then reluctantly decided not. She jumped a little in surprise when River put an arm around her shoulders.

"Built the bridge," River commented happily.

Sighing ruefully as the others broke up and left, Kaylee nodded and leaned against her friend. "We did at that, River. We did at that."

* * * *

Before had been a brief moment to plow through the pain and uncertainty, to take back what had almost been lost. Now was the time for reconnecting. Simon lay flat on his back, naked as the day he was born, and stared up at Mal who was sitting across his hips, also nude. Their fingers were laced together and rested on Mal's thighs. Silence reigned in the room, but it was a comfortable silence, one that spoke of happy times to come.

Mal leaned forward and kissed Simon's collarbone gently, barely touching the skin. He continued with tiny, butterfly kisses across the smooth chest to a nipple that had hardened in anticipation. Simon whimpered at the tease of Mal's warm, wet tongue across the nub. His eyes closed of their own volition, and for several minutes, he only felt what Mal was doing. The slide of a tongue down the crease between his rib cage. Teeth nipping and stinging his flesh. Sucking kisses that pulled the blood to the surface, marking Simon as taken.

Shivering with want, Simon murmured, "I need you, Malcolm."

"Open your eyes," was the whispered reply.

Simon did so and found Mal too close to see clearly. Thinking that perhaps he might need glasses, Simon opened his mouth in mute demand and Mal delivered with a soul stirring kiss that was both gentle and devouring. When Mal pulled back, their shared saliva lingered between them for a moment. Simon grinned and observed, "That's kinda gross."

Chuckling, Mal agreed, "That it is. How about I try it again?"

"Absolutely."

The kiss was deeper and hotter than before, forceful, but not overbearing. Simon lost himself in the feel of Mal's mouth on his and this time didn't even notice if there was any leakage. He simply pushed himself up recaptured Mal for another.

Mal used their joined hands to push Simon back down. "Hold that thought."

"Holding."

Releasing Simon's hand, Mal leaned to the small table beside the bed and pulled out some slick, then set it on the bed by his hip. Staring down at Simon uncertainly, Mal asked, "Make love to me?"

Simon cupped Mal's face tenderly and nodded. "Stay where you are, though. I want to watch you."

Mal flushed a little, smiling self consciously.

Taking the tube and squirting some onto his fingers, Simon sat up and reached behind Mal, teasing a wet finger at the entrance to his lover's body. It wasn't that they'd never done this, but it was pretty rare and they were usually in full lust mode at the time so Simon never got to savor Mal's body. Since he truly enjoyed Mal inside him, Simon hadn't ever felt a lack. Mal was an exquisite lover and there were certainly no complaints.

While he was sitting upright, Simon licked and sucked Mal's nipples until they were hard and he was squirming delightfully in Simon's arms, his ass rubbing Simon's cock. Sliding a finger into Mal was fairly easy, but he took his time, playing with the body at his command. Simon had the distinct feeling that he could ask anything of Mal tonight and it would be granted.

Not a trust that Simon would even dream of abusing.

Mal leaned forward, forcing Simon back as he scooted forward to make the reach an easier one. Smiling up at the other man, Simon added a second finger and watched hungrily at the blissful expression on Mal's face. It was open and revealed everything that he'd ever wanted to know about Malcolm Reynolds. Simon tried to memorize the expression, but knew that he'd never be able to recreate it in his own mind as it was just then. Shifting his fingers around, he found the nub inside Mal, causing his lover to gasp faintly and close his eyes.

As Simon spent a good long time loosening and playing with Mal, Mal returned the favor by caressing the lightly muscled chest with his hands and his tongue. It was a languid affair, neither of them wanting to rush a single moment.

"God, I need you."

Simon smiled brilliantly at the declaration and murmured, "Take me."

With hot eyes, Mal waited until Simon withdrew his fingers, then lined himself up and slowly lowered himself onto Simon's cock. Their fingers twined together again and Mal bit his lip as he was filled with his lover's body. A groan escaped when he sat flush on Simon, and a trickle of sweat dripped down his temple at the effort he'd just exerted.

It seemed as though he could feel everything in that moment: the tickle of hair on Simon's thighs against his ass; the tension in the lean form beneath him, the hot shaft throbbing dully inside him, each breath and exhalation of his lover. Realizing that his eyes were closed, Mal opened them and discovered Simon staring at him as though he might disappear.

There was pain lingering still in the dark gaze, though of course Simon wasn't showing it on purpose. The depth of love this incredible man had for him was almost frightening. That he'd be forgiven and taken back was something Mal had truly not considered. Simon's faith in him had never faltered, but Mal knew that Simon's heart had taken a harsh beating. That it had been himself to dish it out was something that Mal would have to deal with.

Later. Right now was about making Simon feel good.

Squeezing the cock inside him provoked gasps from Simon that made Mal smile. He couldn't resist the siren temptation of Simon's open mouth and bent forward, sealing their mouths together. As they kissed, Mal rocked back and forth, squeezing and milking him until the other man was moaning almost constantly.

Simon jerked his hips up abruptly and Mal gasped when his prostate was hit, his own cock surging in response.

"Come forward, lean on me," Simon urged breathlessly.

Obeying, Mal placed his hands on Simon's chest, taking the weight off his backside. That left Simon free to thrust, which he started doing as soon as his feet were planted properly. The friction was hot and steady, driving Mal wild almost right away. It was rare for Simon to lose control, but the forceful and somewhat ragged withdrawal and pushing back in told Mal that the other man was already close to coming.

Just as well, since he'd past hard and was working on iron-like himself. Mal didn't know how much longer he could last. One thing he did know, was that he wanted Simon's mouth on his when they came so he leaned all the way down, moving his hands onto the bed and sucking on Simon's lower lip.

Even with Mal teasing and tasting him, Simon managed to warn, "Gonna come, Malcolm, gotta come, come with me!"

The thrusting shook his body as Simon's hips connected again and again with his ass, the hard shaft inside ramming him. Mal's cock ached for release, ached to explode and he shuddered violently, plastering their mouths together as Simon slammed one last time against him and stayed there, spurting his seed deeper than Mal had ever felt before. It triggered his own orgasm and he moaned into Simon's mouth, hot come flooding over Simon's chest.

Mal collapsed, his heart thudding heavily and his breathing uneven, shivering with reaction. It was one of the most intense experiences he'd ever had and Mal wasn't sure he could move. Simon's arms wrapped around him as he kissed Mal sweetly, making love to his mouth.

Though he wanted to stay right where he was, joined to Simon and secure in his lover's arms, Simon urged him to move a few minutes later. Mal did so reluctantly, gasping a little in pain when Simon withdrew. Mal watched as Simon got up and triggered the washing station, wetting a cloth and washing himself off before returning with another damp cloth. Lying on his stomach, Mal shivered when Simon gently wiped between his ass, cleaning his sensitive skin.

"Spread your legs a little, I think I did some damage," Simon ordered with concern.

Mal did as instructed and found himself on the receiving end of an impromptu examination. The downside of being...being married to a doctor. The thought struck Mal dumb and he didn't protest when Simon ran a dermal regenerator over him. As Simon helped him under the covers and Mal settled against him, the thought kept reverberating through his mind. Simon had said forever, hadn't he? The only thing Mal had to figure out now, was if this changed anything.

"You're awfully quiet," Simon observed softly.

Mal nodded, kissing Simon's chest briefly in apology. "Just thinking."

"Anything you want to share?"

Appreciating the neutral tone, Mal replied, "Not just yet."

Simon yawned and said, "All right. You know where I am."

Nodding again, Mal remained silent, listening to Simon fall asleep beneath him. Exhaustion tugged at him, the lack of sleep and emotional roller-coaster, not to mention the marathon love making, all taking their toll. He sighed deeply, trying to relinquish the turmoil that had plagued him since Simon's injury. They were back on course. Everything else would be fine now that they were together.

At least until the next time Mal fucked up.

On that unhappy thought, Mal finally drifted into sleep.