Mal came up from the crosswalk between the galley and the engine room and promptly sank onto the sofa in the gaming nook with a loud groan. He bent his head and put it between his legs, clearly hurting from some ailment.
Wash looked up from the sandwich he was eating and cast a glance to Mal. It was a rare sight to see the captain feeling pain and actually showing it. “Hey, you all right there, captainy-type man?” he questioned.
Mal looked up and squinted at Wash. “Too gorram loud,” he muttered and winced. “And bright.”
“Oh,” Wash stated and pushed to his feet. “Migraine.” He grinned softly but quietly crept the wall where the light controls were and dimmed them. Then he crossed the distance to where Mal sat. “Take off your shoes,” he coaxed.
“What?” Mal questioned looking to him.
“Your boots: those things on your feet? Take them off.” Wash sat down beside him and when Mal didn’t comply he bent and began to unzip his boots himself.
Mal wobbled a bit and adjusted so Wash could take his shoes off. “Why am I taking off my boots?”
“Let’s the feet breathe. Get your feet cold and it’ll help knock that headache.” He worked the first boot off and tossed it aside and then wormed the sock off. He then started on the other. “What brought this on?”
“Dunno,” Mal muttered and cricked his knee. “Woke up with it. Did the job anyway; probably should’t’ve. Didn’t make a very good impression, I don’t think.” He tilted his head to the side and sighed as Wash worked the other boot off. “Don’t happen much but when it do it tends t’get real bad.”
Wash dropped Mal’s other sock to the floor and then straightened. “How’s that feel?”
Mal wriggled his toes. “Better, actually.” He pressed them on the cool metal flooring for a few seconds.
“Good. Now turn.” Wash put a hand on his shoulder and adjusted him until Mal’s back was facing him. He tugged lightly at Mal’s suspenders and pushed them aside and then got onto his knees and started kneading Mal’s back, working his fingers into the muscles along his shoulders and up to the thick tense cords in his neck. "Ci bei, Mal, don’t you ever relax?” he questioned, surprised.
Mal groaned at the fingers on his neck and the little sparks of release that the pressure was sending through his body. “Ngh. Not if I can help it,” he muttered and closed his eyes. “Didn’t know when I hired you I was getting’ a personal masseuse, too.”
Wash grinned slightly. “The first massage is free,” he noted cheerfully. “I charge by the hour after this.”
Mal’s head sagged forward, completely relaxing into Wash’s ministrations. “Hell, think I’d even pay y’for this,” he mused. “They teach this sort of thing in flight school these days?”
Wash chuckled. “No, I’m entirely self-taught,” he replied. His fingers worked along Mal’s neck and then up into his hair. He braced Mal’s head with his fingers and used his thumbs to work small circles against his skull. He massaged back down his neck and to the breadth of his shoulders and continued this regime for almost half an hour.
He stopped only when his fingers felt like they’d fall off and sat back on his heels to rest. Mal, unsupported now, slumped back against him. Wash grinned as he caught him and sort of wedged Mal between his legs and put one hand on his shoulder so he wouldn’t topple off the couch. “Feel any better?” he quietly asked.
“Mmm,” Mal mused. His eyes were closed and he looked rather blissful. “If I’d know y’were as good with your hands as that,” he added sleepily, “I’d’ve come on t’you a lot sooner.”
Wash laughed gently and found himself absently tracing a hand through Mal’s hair. “Don't say that, sir,” he answered. “Or I might think you were serious.”
Mal grinned up at him. “Been known t’be serious, on the occasion,” he noted.
For a moment Wash didn’t respond, and then he shifted a little with Mal in his lap until he could bend in towards him. Their eyes were connected and Wash noticed for the first time that Mal’s dark eyes were blue and not brown. It made him grin when he kissed him.
Mal was a tender kisser, or perhaps it was his very languid post-massage state that lent itself to the slow kiss, but Wash didn’t much mind. It was nice – different from other men he’d kissed. When he pulled back he found Mal giving him a curious little glance. “What?” he questioned. He wasn’t quite self-conscious but curious at the expression. “Do I have bad breath or something?”
Mal broke into a bright grin. “No,” he mused and raised a hand to rub against his upper lip. “Just thinkin’ you’re gonna have t’shave off that mustache if we’re goin’ t’continue this.” His eyes twinkled merrily.