She stepped into the doorway of the galley, staring at how dimly the room was lit in the middle of the night. She'd been in the cockpit watching the stars pass when she'd heard him in the kitchen and recognized the disordered thoughts and faint shuffling as those of someone wanting attention and being unable to ask for it.
He sat sideways at the far end of the table, nursing a cup of coffee and staring down at his hand in his lap.
“You’re far away tonight,” she said softly as she glided down the stairs and into the room more fully.
Mal lifted his head and fixed his darkened eyes on her. He clearly hadn’t noticed her but he was in such a state that her arrival didn’t even draw surprise. “Always am,” he mused and looked back at his hand.
She crossed around the table and her eyes drew to what he was looking at. “You’re hurt,” she noticed immediately.
Mal held the cup of coffee with one hand but just stared at the other, which was gashed rather impressively and dripping on the floor. “Yeah,” he agreed as though she was pointing out that the sky had stars.
She crossed to behind the counter and pulled out a small salve kit from one of the drawers. “Come here, we should wash it.”
Mal looked up at her. “Ain’t hardly but a scratch,” he noted. He got to his feet despite himself though and crossed to her.
She didn’t say anything -- just lightly put her hands on his wrist and held his cut under the sink faucet. The blood washed down the drain, swirling as it went. “Don’t look at it,” she whispered, noticing him frowning at it. She kept her eyes on his hands. “Look at me.”
He obeyed and focused on her lashes as she worked diligently. She spread a thin layer of ointment over his cut and then wrapped a small white bandage over his palm. When she finished she lifted her eyes so they were staring at each other. Her lips curved into a faint smile. “You’ve got to be careful, Mal,” she chided sweetly. “You’re always getting hurt and I can’t always protect you.”
Mal seemed a little intoxicated, perhaps by their proximity, or perhaps by something else entirely; it was probably a mixture of both, and the lateness of the hour. He raised his other hand, the one she wasn’t still holding, and touched the edges of her hair. “Thought I was t’be protectin’ you,” he countered softly.
River gave him a charming smile, one that was all girl and all lucid. “You would think that,” she commented and studied his face for several seconds. Her smile faded just a bit and then she stretched on her toes and kissed the corner of his mouth.
Mal blinked at the action and unlike the way her arrival hadn’t startled him, the little kiss had. His hand pulled away from her hair and touched the place she’d kissed. “What was that for?” He had the faint hint of a smile on his lips now.
She matched his grin with her own. “Wanted to see you smile.”