Also Comes in Strange
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 Title: Stolen Fruit
Author: Tania
Summary: Even life near the outer planets offers up moments of sweetness on occasion.
Rating: R
Pairing: Mal/Simon


The corridor is empty, blue tinted light shining on panels full of too many bullet holes, dinged metal, jagged edges. Mal breathes slow, calming breaths and tries to remember the last time Kaylee and River ran through the ship's many halls, laughter and squeals echoing off the blackness of the nothingness that surrounds him. At last, the moment comes to mind, pulling out of focus like a penny arcade show, foggy around the edges. Giggles sounding younger than Mal every remembers being, the splattering sounds of vitamin enhanced fruits crashing to the ground as the girls took a corner too fast, hands at each other's ribs, tickling and pulling at cotton dresses. The moment is as perfect a one as he can recall, and then the laughter is gone. His own bellowing voice sullies the moment, slow baritone asking what in the verse has possessed them that they would ruin a week's worth of rations. He thinks he sees Kaylee's lip tremble, but it's short lived, mere seconds before River has caught a bare foot on a shard of glass left hidden in wait for an unsuspecting child. Blood stains the silver floor, dripping through cracks into the cargo bay, and suddenly the laughter is completely gone. He is ignored as all eyes turn to River and Simon comes from whatever corner he was hiding in, giving Mal an accusatory stare as though it is somehow the Captain's responsibility to keep shoes on the children.

"You're looking more tense than usual."

Mal turns to face Simon, expecting to see the same questioning look that chided him behind closed eyes. Instead there is something near playful around Simon's lips. Like he takes a small glee in catching Mal standing still, no purpose in his step.

"Just wishing there was something besides protein bars and applesauce in the kitchen," Mal says, catching himself in a slouch. Standing tall, he resumes his walk, not bothering to see if the good doctor follows.

"I managed to trade a couple vials of ointment for a couple melons when we stopped on Hera. I was saving them, but I guess there's no point. They'll go soft before long."

"Should rouse the crew, seems unkind to be eating fresh fruit while they're nibbling on reconstituted supplements."

"There's plenty to go around, trust me."

"You're the doc," Mal says, following Simon down the hall, turning towards the crew chambers. "Lead me to your bounty."

Smiling back at Mal, Simon can't help but smile, wondering if the Captain has interest only in his bounty, or if his booty would suffice.

***

The melon is so fresh, red juice runs down Mal's chin with each bite into the ripe flesh. The taste curls around his tongue, glistening sweetness forcing his cheeks to vibrate as he tries to suck each drop of flavor from his tongue. He's almost lost to the rush of natural sugar when he catches a glimpse of Simon, lips stained red, lustrous like a woman's after each taste. There's a hint of the boy within when their eyes lock, laughter inevitable as they realize the absurdity of hiding away in the doctor's quarters with nothing but a pile of green and white melon flesh between them.

"Not quite so provoking as the channels on the cortex my father used to try to block, but it feels just as sinful." Simon tries to lighten the moment, but there's something in Mal's eyes that makes him regret his choice of words. Suddenly his skin feels hot despite the cool liquid spilling down his chest, soaking into his shirt.

"Never had much use for the cortex in such a way," Mal says with a laugh full of military bravado, but somehow lacking any innuendo.

To Simon's ear these few lines give credence to a hundred fantasies of life on the front-line, full of companions and unlicensed brothels. He has no way of understanding Mal, and with the exception of his brief flirtations with Inara, if they could even be called such, Simon is at a loss to know anything of the man behind the image presented.

He knows nothing save this: When he licks his lips and moans as the melon slides down his throat, Mal shifts in his seat and looks away.

Finally, after a year on Serenity, Simon thinks he has found the measure of the man, and for the briefest of seconds he wonders if Mal would shoot him dead for showing that he too notices the blood red stain of full lips and clinging linens, saturated with pink juice.

The moment is all too brief. No sooner have their eyes locked in a curious struggle, both attempting to make the other look away, to ignore the temptations inherent in long voyages around the outer planets. It is a moment of longing and their heads, still swimming with near forgotten pleasures of the palate, cannot stop them from rushing towards each other, strong skilled hands pulling each other's arms closer as their lips lock. One set young and boyish, the other firmset and learned, yet together it is like two children stolen away to an unseen corridor while their parents and guests mingle in the great room. It is innocent and heated all at the same time. A little wetter than expected as both adjust to evening stubble and firm flesh where soft is expected.

Simon smiles into the kiss as the word 'Sly' comes to mind. Is this what they had in mind when they called this act by that name, was it always meant to embody moments stolen over succulent fruit and bodies ripe for touching?

One hunger gives over to another and Simon realizes he is being devoured just as his bartered vine fruit had been moments ago. Just as the fruit was sliced into and stripped from the rind, Simon feels his clothes being peeled back, revealing naked shoulders, curve of buttocks, small of back, and hands still sticky and sugar coated run over his body. The air fills with words in two languages, and sounds universal to all.

It's a stolen moment, and like the pitter patter of naked feet, it feels unexpected, yet somehow fitting in a patchwork spaceship that promises serenity to all who enter. And as he arches into Mal, and Mal curves over him, Simon thinks there may just be a little of that elusive emotion to be found in hidden corners of the Alliance's world after all.

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