Simon emerged from the infirmary, absentmindedly flexing his fingers. He glanced up, saw Mal, and froze.

Mal smiled.

Simon blinked. “Mal,” he said. His eyes swept over Mal head to foot and back again.

“Doc,” Mal said genially.

“Where are your clothes?”

“I’m not sure.” Mal looked thoughtful. “I wouldn’t put it past her to have burned them.”

Simon nodded, wondering how ethical it would be to point to the wall behind Mal and shout ‘oh my god!’ so that Mal would turn around, thus giving Simon a good few moments to stare unabashedly. “Everything go according to plan otherwise?” he asked, wondering how Mal was so perfectly tanned. Was there sunbathing going on that nobody told him about?

“As much as it usually does.” Mal smiled, nodding toward the infirmary. “How’s Jayne?”

“Arrogant and obnoxious,” Simon said, rather distractedly, then paused. “I mean-“

“Just like usual, then, huh?” Mal interrupted. “That’s the Jayne we know and tolerate.”

“He’ll be fine.” Simon paused, seriously considering the mislead and ogle plan. “I can’t help but notice that you’re still naked.”

“So I am.” Mal came closer, clapping Simon firmly on the shoulder. “Mind if I squeeze past you and head for my bunk?”

“Oh! Sorry.” Simon moved aside, and when he looked past Mal he saw River, waving merrily at him.

“Captain!” River said loudly.

Mal turned to look at her. “River?”

Simon ogled, leaning forward to get a better view. There was definitely some sunbathing going on, or at least shirtless work of some sort. A few scattered freckles dotted Mal’s shoulders over what looked like a slight sunburn. Simon wanted very much to touch them.

“Just glad you’re okay,” said River, smiling serenely.

“I appreciate that,” Mal said. “Now if you’ll excuse me…”

Simon jerked his head up as Mal turned back, but not fast enough that Mal didn’t notice anything was amiss. Mal raised an eyebrow.

“Captain?” Simon blinked innocently.

Mal nodded. “Simon,” he said.

“You should get dressed,” Simon lied. He leaned against the railing, making room for Mal to pass.

Mal kept the raised eyebrow, but passed Simon by with no further commentary.

With no small amount of embarrassment, Simon realized his palms were sweating. Shaking his head at himself, he wiped them on the railing.

River approached, settling against the wall next to him. “You have a crush on the captain,” she observed.

“I do not,” Simon responded.

River leaned past him, watching Mal’s retreating figure. Simon joined her.

“Well,” Simon sighed. “Maybe a little.”

back to the fic...