Disclaimer: I do not own Firefly. Or else this would have happened...
A/N: Thanks to everyone for their wonderful reviews! This is the final chapter, but I am considering doing a sequel, and possibly M-rated one shots. Let me know what you think.
Simon steps into the cockpit, drawn by the loud voices. Maybe he can help…
Gunshots, and he runs - Mal is in there, what if -
Tracey grabs him smoothly as he enters and twists his arm behind him. Simon's heart sinks as he feels the gun pressed to his head.
"Got your doctor," Tracey says, his voice uneven. "Better let me go if you want him alive."
Mal's gun lowers instantly, but Zoe keeps hers trained steadily on her old friend.
"Zoe," Mal says, hoarse, and he's looking right at Simon.
The young doctor shivers, and looks right back.
If I die right now, you need to know… He wants to tell the Captain.
Mal's eyes darken.
"Mal, I..." Simon says quietly.
"It'll be all right, baobei." Mal replies roughly.
Tracey doesn't miss their byplay.
"You want to keep your lover alive, listen up," he insists.
Of course, minutes later, Simon makes Mal's heart nearly stop as he leaps away from Tracey, leaving the former soldier open for Mal's shot.
Simon lies on the ground, panting, staring at the dying man.
"You - you shot me." Tracey says weakly.
Simon can only watch.
The interaction with the dirty Fed goes smooth enough, but Tracey is already dead. They take him home, just as Mal and Zoe had promised.
Simon is still in too much shock, too worried about Mal's feelings, to approach the Captain en route. They arrive soon enough.
Malcolm Reynolds stands alone in the cold, hands in his pockets, silently watching the funeral.
He's lost someone today, and it hurt - Tracey was one of his own. There were things he could have done better - if Mal had just explained, he thinks bitterly, he could've stopped this.
A hand slips into his, and Mal knows whose hand it is without having to look. He squeezes it instinctively, and closes his eyes.
As he holds Simon's hand, all Mal can think is tian ah, it wasn't Simon I lost.
They stand still out of respect, but the moment they're back in the ship, they're falling into each other's arms, clinging tightly, for several brief, precious minutes, before Mal has to go Captain again.
Simon reluctantly lets him go. He's not sure who he wants or needs to comfort more - Mal or himself.
What they have now is something quiet, filled with meaningful gazes and soft touches whenever they see each other.
Nothing happens right away. Its unspoken but understood that they're waiting for the right moment.
Mal checks in on Simon.
"How's that baby coming?"
"Great," Simon says, but his smile is strained.
"You're going to be wonderful," Mal says softly, and kisses him, just barely, on the corner of his mouth.
Simon's mouth is tingling for minutes, and he knows he must look foolish, but...
"Stop grinning like an idiot and focus," Petaline shrieks at him.
Simon hurriedly rearranges his face into a semblance of seriousness.
"It's been a long time since you've done this." Nandi tells her friend softly.
"Not that long," Inara's words are murmured. She turns to her side beneath the covers, and looks at Nandi.
"Since you've been with someone who actually cares for you," Nandi clarifies, rather bluntly.
Inara lets her take her hand.
"I've been… foolish for a long time," Inara wants to cry, but it isn't proper.
Nandi regards her sharply.
"Not foolish, simply in love."
"I'm moving on," Inara pleads, and she's half-telling the truth.
She knows its absurd to hold onto her feelings, when the man she loves so clearly loves another.
Inara knows she will never meet anyone else just like Malcolm Reynolds… Nandi presses a soft kiss to Inara's palm, and the Companion smiles naturally, not faking anything.
But she is just as sure that she will never meet anyone like her Nandi.
The redhead moves to kiss her, and Inara relaxes as their tongues dance slowly, sensually.
"Let me help you," Nandi says, pulling Inara over her.
Inara doesn't bother denying the tears that trickle from her eyes. Only they are not tears of sadness.
Simon rushes through the hallway - River had disappeared, and he has to find her - there's a firefight going on, doesn't she realize?
He sees Inara standing behind a man, a knife to his throat. The man growls, and knocks Inara backwards, and Simon's chest tightens - so does his hand.
The man shrieks as he drops his gun. Simon realizes he's shot someone for the first time.
Inara kicks the man contemptuously as she picks up his weapon.
"Your time is up, Rance Burgess," Nandi says triumphantly, walking over to him. She has rope to bind his wrists, and does so harshly, ignoring his cry - he does have a bullet in his hand, after all.
"Thank you," Inara tells Simon, and he nods.
He can see the gratitude in her eyes, and the sudden feeling of absolution as Nandi and Inara fall into each other's arms. River rounds the corner, and Simon catches her, squeezing her tightly.
"Don't wander off again, mei mei."
The crew has said their goodbyes to Inara. Leaving her at the Heart of Gold wasn't what any of them had expected, but they knew it was her choice.
Kaylee is the most upset, but Simon trusts River to care for her. The doctor sits in the kitchen, drinking tea, and thanking the stars for the small miracle that none of the crew were hurt today.
The Captain comes in, and Simon looks up, and then down again. He feels unsure suddenly.
"How are you feeling?"
Mal knows he means - do you still have feelings for her?
"Shiny, long as you're here." He takes Simon's hand, and the younger man looks up hopefully.
"Mal, do you…" Simon doesn't finish his sentence. He isn't entirely sure what he wanted to ask.
"I'm awful tired," Mal tells Simon seriously. "Nothing like a warm body to help me sleep."
"Mal," Simon whispers.
"I just want to hold you," Mal admits raggedly. "Have to know you're here with me."
"Yes. I won't go, Mal, I won't leave you," Simon promises.
"You better not. Wu de then ah, Simon, I love you." Mal hasn't said those words in so many years - and he's never meant it like he does now.
"Love you too." Simon beams.
They stand and move close, with no hesitation or fumbling. Simon joins their hands together and lets himself be pulled forward until he as encircled in Mal's arms. A slight incline of Mal's head, a welcoming tilt of Simon's mouth, and they share their first kiss.
It as far sweeter than any caress Mal could recall, and all memories of previous lovers fled in the reality of Simon's arms. His soft mouth is firm and pliant, the deepening strokes of his tongue against Mal's own sends desire spiraling through his body.
The first kiss comes to its natural conclusion, and they draw in deep breaths before initiating a second kiss.
"I'm exhausted," Simon admits reluctantly.
"That's just fine," Mal says honestly, and he leads Simon to his bunk. "Tonight, I'm going to hold you. I've waited long enough."
Simon's waited far too long as well.
"Careful, Mal. I don't know if I'll ever let you go."
"Hope that's a promise."
It is. Simon quietly affirms it.
Mal smiles contentedly. He has all he'll ever need right here, in Simon's tender embrace, and right now he hasn't a worry in the world.
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