The night Kaylee ends it between them – "It ain't you," she'd said, grease in her hair and a sad smile on her face, "It ain't you," but Simon knows it is him, in some way, it's always him – Simon wanders into the kitchen, dazed. Serenity is suspiciously quiet, and he doesn't encounter anyone on the way.
Inside, at the table, Jayne is sitting. He's hunched over paper, his expression tired. Simon slides into a seat across from him and asks, "Do you ever get the feeling that the 'Verse is trying to crush even your most feeble attempts at happiness?"
Jayne snorts, not looking up from his paper. "Whatever."
That's to be expected. If he'd wanted philosophy or comfort, maybe he should have gone to Inara. Or possibly River. Instead, he watches Jayne for a few moments, watches him write slowly. "What're you doing?"
Jayne looks up momentarily, his forehead a mass of wrinkles as he glares. "Writin'. Home. So's they know I ain't dead."
"You can write?" It comes out before he can stop himself, and it's ridiculous. Of course Jayne can write. They all know it. But the slight taunt is a knee-jerk reaction.
But Jayne doesn't seem too bothered by it. He just keeps writing while asking, "You ever get the feelin' that the 'Verse is tryin' to annoy the hell out of you by sendin' fahng-tzong fung kwong duh jeh your way?"
Simon gets the hint and shuts up. He sits and half-watches Jayne write his letter. It seems to take a long time, Jayne apparently thinking before each sentence. It makes Simon wonder how much of his life Jayne is truthful about. Does he send his family sanitized versions of his job? Or does he tell them, in painful detail, everything they do, every problem they encounter?
What would Simon write to his parents, if he could?
He pushes the thought aside and instead pictures Jayne's family, eagerly clustered around the latest letter from their traveling son and brother. He imagines them in a tiny, drafty house, gathered around the letter, reading it painstakingly. Maybe they're reading about all the interesting places the crew lands. Maybe they're reading about Reavers and close calls and the latest injury Jayne has had.
He almost asks. Almost. But he can't quite bring himself to intrude on Jayne's life, to break his concentration. So instead, he just sits in the kitchen, enjoying the silence.
Eventually, Jayne folds up his letter, sliding it carefully into a cheap envelope. "You ain't half-bad when you ain't talkin'," he says, as he stands.
"The feeling's mutual," Simon replies, half-smiling.
The events on Miranda, the Reavers, the loss of Wash and Book, they all help pull the crew together. Simon and River are no longer on the periphery, circling the others, in constant danger of being cast loose.
Dynamics have changed. There are still arguments, power struggles, anger and recriminations. But there's cohesion, too. A solidity between the crew that Simon would never have anticipated. It jars him, the first day he thinks of the others as more than friends, crewmates.
"Expanding family," River says to him one evening after dinner, not looking up from her book. "Worlds falling in, family expanding out."
The coherence changes job dynamics too. Simon and River sometimes go out, extra eyes, extra hands. Simon helps with planning, especially as Mal increasingly looks for bigger jobs, things with payouts that will provide a cushion for the crew. The Alliance is busy – busy with media relations and doing things that give them positive profiles. There aren't as many resources being put into patrols. Mal uses the laxity, becomes almost reckless in some ways.
"Might as well take advantage while we can," he says, after talking to Simon about the possibility of another hospital heist. "Won't be like this forever. They'll start tightenin' things up again sooner or later."
Mal doesn't talk about the fallout from Miranda, not often. There isn't much to talk about. Minor riots, some political anger. But it's not a revolution.
"Revolutions come in small steps," Zoe had reminded them, one night.
Mal's mouth had tightened, briefly.
Before, Simon's life had been about River, about balancing himself carefully. Don't antagonize the captain, don't make too many enemies, don't let River hurt herself or anyone else. Don't let the others know, understand, suspect what she truly was.
Now, River is mending herself in small ways. Now, Mal will never tell them to leave. And now, Simon's life is increasingly snapshots of life with the crew, between jobs. Snapshots of planning jobs, and going out on those jobs. Small triumphs, everyday joys.
Tragedies and losses abound, in the 'verse.
Simon knows this. He knows nothing lasts. So he takes the happiness that he can.
He accepts it when Mal puts Jayne and Simon together, a secondary team on jobs that need more people, more planning.
"Simon, you got the smarts. Jayne, you got the guns." That's how Mal justifies it, even though by now Simon knows it isn't quite so straightforward. Jayne, he's learning, thinks fast in tight situations. Simon is good at planning, dealing with details. He can handle himself when things flip sideways suddenly, but Jayne is better at fast reactions.
And Jayne might be armed to the teeth – now more than ever – but Simon is increasingly handling guns with a facility he sometimes closes his eyes against.
Against all odds, he and Jayne actually work well together.
"Don't make any kinda sense," Jayne says, after they come back from their first job, laden with goods.
"No." It had been a two-pronged job, Mal and Zoe stealing goods from one end of town while Jayne and Simon simultaneously hit a distant warehouse. "By all rights we should have failed."
Jayne grins at him. "Mal ain't gonna believe his eyes."
It's true. Simon's under no illusions that Mal and Zoe don't have a back-up plan, put together because Simon and Jayne were most likely to screw up spectacularly. Simon grins back at Jayne. "I'm not quite sure I believe it myself."
When Mal and Zoe get back – sweaty, bloody, and yelling for River to go, go, lift-off, now – Simon and Jayne are waiting for them, arms crossed, expressions smug.
It feels good.
Some jobs, though, don't go so well.
The lawman tosses them both into the cell, his laughter harsh when Simon lands awkwardly, jarring his shoulder. The door clangs shut, a distressingly final sound.
"Hell," Jayne's staring at the door. "Guess we'll be coolin' our heels
for a space."
"How long a space, who knows," Simon says, rubbing at his shoulder. "Why? Why do things have to go wrong?"
Jayne shrugs. "I ain't got an answer for you."
It's quiet for a while, until Jayne looks over at him. "You been ornery lately. Tetchy."
This really doesn't seem the time and place for feelings. "Jayne, what are you –"
"I'm guessin' it's 'cause little Kaylee went and kicked you outta her bed," Jayne says, talking right over him, looking a little smug.
Simon just stares.
"'S'all right. I get it. Gettin' it stroked regular and then not – ain't gonna make a man real friendly-like."
"I'm wondering if you could be any more crude."
Jayne smirks. "Course I could."
Simon rolls his eyes, mostly because it's true. "Don't you have a knife? Or a tiny gun? Or some sort of hidden grenades? Anything to help get us out of here and thus out of this conversation? Anything. At all."
Gesturing to his arm – the wound has slowed its bleeding – Jayne asks, "You got some kind of doctory-thing to fix this up here and now?"
"No." And it's not like it's a dire wound anyway.
"There you got it, then."
Sighing, Simon leans forward to inspect the cut as best he can in the half-light. "It's shallow. You'll be fine. Assuming someone gets us out of here before it gets infected." The cell really is filthy.
"Ain't you just the picture of optimism," Jayne says as he smiles. It's the real thing, no smirking. It isn't normal. "You know they'll come. Always do."
"'Less of course they get themselves killed, like the dumbasses they are."
Jayne nods and starts unlacing his boots.
"Getting comfortable? Settling in for a long stay?"
"Naw. These things are real heavy. Got platin' on the toes. I figure, why wait for Mal and Zoe? Them two are always late. So, when the guard comes in with food –"
"You're assuming there will be food." And Simon doesn't even want to think about what that might resemble.
Jayne shakes his head, like he figures Simon is really slow. "Course there'll be food. It's right civilized in this here backwater town." He pulls the boot off. "When he comes in, I'll just knock him out with this." He brandishes the boot.
"Cunning." He's only partially being sarcastic.
"I know it." And Jayne looks like he really does know it. Like he maybe thinks about these things when he's got spare time. "I could make me a livin' out of escapin' jails."
"There's money in that?"
Jayne's mouth turns down, disappointment all over his face. "Naw. Damn shame."
He can't help it. Simon laughs. "It's a real shame when a person's calling isn't a viable living."
Kicking the concrete floor with the foot still wearing a boot, Jayne says, "You don't gotta tell me that."
Maybe they're talking about prison escape artist dreams, but Simon doesn't quite think so. It's interesting. Intriguing, really, to think about Jayne in this way – as someone whose dreams aren't quite being met, someone who once wanted more but settled for what he could have instead. Simon leans his head back against the cold stone wall and thinks about the way dreams and plans for the future shatter so easily.
Eventually, he looks up, sees Jayne crouched by the door. How he's not cramping, Simon can't even guess. "You know, you're not too bad sometimes, Jayne. Even when you talk." He chooses to ignore the earlier comments about Kaylee.
"Quit yappin'. I can hear someone coming down the hall."
Simon shuts his mouth and watches as Jayne's arm flexes, the boot gripped tightly.
Simon's plans almost always work. He doesn't come up with anything lightly, and he doesn't leave room for improvising. He's not sure what it means, but when it's his plan, no one ever suggests cutting corners, or ignoring some of the details.
When things do go wrong – Simon can't see the future, and even River has trouble with that – Jayne's seat-of-the-pants plans typically work too.
So far, they've escaped from jail when Jayne took out the clearly unintelligent guard with his boot. They've hidden in storm drains to avoid an angry mob. They've intimidated bandits by brandishing large guns and generally looking as scary as possible.
In that case, it had been Jayne who had done the intimidating and brandishing. But it had worked.
But for this job, Simon knows Jayne isn't going to work.
"I won't be able to go in alone," he says to everyone, and Jayne nods, like he's expecting that. Simon shakes his head. "And I won't be able to go in with Jayne either."
Mal frowns. "Why not?"
"He won't fit in."
"You think anyone else will? It ain't like I'm gonna send Inara in with you."
Inara nods. "I wouldn't be admitted anyway. Professionals aren't allowed into these sorts of places. They say it makes everyone else feel inadequate."
Mal grins a little. "See? It's got to be Jayne."
Jayne might be good with guns and running and fighting and breaking things. But those skills won't work. "He'll be like a bull in a china shop."
"Hey! I'm sittin' right here!"
Simon shrugs. "Jayne, this is going to require discretion."
"I can do that."
There's a general silence around the table for a moment before Mal says, "Discretion means not pushin' people around and keepin' your mouth shut, Jayne."
"And manners," Simon adds. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but Mal, I think you'd be better suited to this particular job. As long as you don't start any duels or commit any other faux pas."
Mal pushes himself away from the table. "This is your plan. But I ain't goin' in a place like that. Makes me itch. And I can't guarantee no duels."
"No. It's gonna be Jayne, or we ain't doin' this job."
"Maybe Zoe –"
"Don't think so," she says, arms crossed.
Simon closes his eyes briefly. "The payout on this job will be good. Really good. If we can make it work."
Crossing his arms over his chest, Mal nods. "So make it work. You 'n Jayne."
The plan is a heist. The loot is the safe at a resort, and any personal effects they can get from the people there.
"A certain kind of resort," Simon explains to the crew. "It's a place that the very rich go for –" He tries to think of a way to put it.
"For sex," Inara supplies. "You take a partner – or partners – and spend a week or more there, luxuriating in the atmosphere. You can try new things, experiment. They have facilities. Accessories. Trainers. It gets people away from their everyday lives. Lets them be a little bit wild."
"Exactly," Simon says. "It costs a lot to get in. The place has everything – all of the regular resort facilities on top of the sexual aspects. Once you're inside, you pay – platinum or cash, no fund transfers – and you go on your way. If you have valuables – jewels, mostly – you store them in the resort safe. Just in case the staff can't quite be trusted." He smiles, wry. "My parents went to one, a few years ago. They sent me brochures afterwards, and offered to pay my way. As an incentive to meet someone and take her there."
Mal snorts. "It normal for folks to be meddlin' in their kids' sex lives?"
Simon shrugs. "They were relatively subtle. They wanted a daughter-in-law. Anyway, the point is, I know all about these places. And anything else we need to know we can find on the Cortex."
"And from me," River adds. "Get me inside, I can tell you what you need to know."
"Security?" Mal asks.
"High. At least, in terms of getting in. Inside, it's monitored, but security patrols are limited. We won't be allowed to bring any guns inside."
"So I go in there, pose as a client. It'll cost us to for me to get in, but the pay off will be worth it. Inside, I maintain my cover, blow the security feeds, let you, River and Zoe in, and we do the job."
"Stealin' from the rich sex-maniacs."
"They're hardly sex-maniacs, Mal," Inara says, almost smiling. "Just bored people with too much money to spare."
Rubbing his hands together, Mal smirks. "Money I'm happy to take."
Good. He'd hoped they would approve this plan. If it works, it'll bring enough money that they'll be able to avoid the more dangerous jobs for a while. Taking a deep breath, he says, "There's only one thing."
"I can't go in there alone. It would be suspicious."
Jayne promises to be discreet. He promises not to try to smuggle in any guns – though he refuses to leave behind all his knives. He promises to pretend to a minimum of manners. He even keeps the grumbling to a minimum when Simon sends him out with Inara, clothing shopping.
"We have to look the part."
"So how come you ain't comin' too?"
"Inara's going to buy what I need. I've given her my measurements. I have other things to do." Truthfully, he doesn't. Kaylee and River are going over the resort layout, crossing checking their well-advertised security features, trying to figure out possible tricks that might come in handy. Mal and Zoe are talking weapons and timing and tactics. Simon has nothing to do, not now. He just can't quite stomach the thought of clothing shopping with Jayne.
He's not sure why Inara volunteered for this part of the job, but he's glad.
"What if she dresses me up funny? What if come outta them stores
It's hard not to laugh at the suspicious, paranoid expression on Jayne's face. Simon shakes his head, slowly. "Inara knows what we need. She won't make a mistake."
Jayne frowns, and mutters, "That's what I'm afraid of."
When Jayne and Inara come back, they're laden with small, neatly wrapped packages. Inara looks tired, but pleased, and Jayne. Jayne just looks –
"You look tidy," is all that Simon can manage. And he does. It isn't that Jayne normally looks messy – his personal hygiene isn't bad, considering. It's just that now, the edges are smoothed out, over. His hair is subtly different, styled in a way that's slick and shining. His clothes aren't overly flashy, just cut to fit his body. The fabric of his shirt is fine-woven and dyed a brilliant green. The pants are dark, fitted, elegant. "I'm amazed. Inara, you do fantastic work."
"Thank you," she says, handing over the parcels she's holding. "Here are the things you requested." Absently, she adds, "Jayne, stop fidgeting."
"It's itchy," he says, fingering the collar of his shirt.
"Don't be such a baby."
"An' I smell!" He glowers at Simon. "She went and sprayed me with something. Even bought a bitty bottle of it. Told you I didn't wanna come back smellin' funny."
"It's cologne." Inara sighs, rolling her eyes and then looking hard at Simon. He's sure she learned that expression from Mal. "I expect you two to make this job work. I deserve to be paid for the day I've just put in."
Simon nods. She does. She really does.
The resort is almost obscenely luxurious. Once, Simon would have taken it for granted – something he deserved, something he enjoyed. Now, he takes in the ornamental waterfalls, the plush fabrics, the expensive woods, and tries not to gape.
Excessive, all of it. Jayne eyes are a little wide too, as he gazes around the lobby of the resort. But that could partially be from watching the couple in one corner, enjoying each other without thought of where they are.
"Don't stare," Simon says, quietly, as much a reminder to himself as to Jayne.
"Right. 'Cause them two sure don't want us to be starin'." His mouth
stays open slightly when he stops talking.
And he's probably right. Exhibitionism. They're probably trying it out, high on the slight thrill of being watched by strangers.
He and Jayne check in, listen carefully to the assurances of safety for their personal objects, and take in the rules of the resort. A uniformed man escorts them to their room, pointing out the dining halls and cafes, pools and steam rooms, the offices of various sexual experts, and other amenities on the way.
Inside, the room is dominated by a bed.
Jayne takes one look around the room and says, "I wanna eat."
"Yep. You see the food they had spread out for the takin' in the one hall? I ain't ever seen anything like that. Never."
Simon's itching to get out of these clothes, the pants with the ridiculously complicated openings, the overly-heavy jacket, the new boots that creak when he walks. He wants to just do the job. "Do we have to –"
"Maybe you ain't excitable about the food here, but I am. You stay here, or come with me, I don't care. I'm goin'. Anyways, you said we gotta blend in for a couple of days 'fore we do what we're here to do."
So they go and eat. The food is luscious, plentiful, set out in a room that's almost offensive in its opulence. Jayne gorges, all the while watching other people around them. It doesn't take long before he's brushing up against Simon, and running his hand along Simon's thigh. "Gotta look the part," he mutters, gesturing around the room. "Otherwise might raise suspicions."
Simon's got no objection, because surprisingly, Jayne's right. He leans into Jayne's warmth, lets himself almost relax. But when Jayne looks pointedly at one couple – woman on her knees, just visible under the table, and it takes no imagination to understand what she's doing – Simon shakes his head and whispers, "Don't even think about it."
Jayne smirks in response, and clearly, he's thinking about it.
After they eat, they walk the perimeter of the resort, cataloguing the details that don't show in the brochures. Eventually, they end up by the pool. They lean together, sharing one of the two-person loungers – while Jayne pretends not to watch the way the people around them look at each other, look at him.
Jayne accepts the invitation of a woman, her hair golden in the sunshine. "And you too, of course," she adds graciously to Simon. "I wouldn't want to disrupt your partnership."
Simon shakes his head, eyeing the woman's partner, sitting in a corner. "Thank you, but no."
She nods, and Jayne grins, following her as she walks away. Faintly, Simon hears her say, "My husband will be watching, of course."
"Whatever," Jayne says, grabbing her ass.
Simon tries not to laugh as she jumps slightly. The woman is in for something far different than she bargained for.
Later, much later, Jayne meets him in their room. He's rumpled and grinning. "Rich folk," he says. "Refined. Need takin' down a notch, messin' up a little."
Simon can imagine it, all of the couple's preconceptions about polite and restrained and controlling the situation knocked askew. He can almost see it – the woman sweating and a little wild-eyed, arching under Jayne as the husband watches, mouth open, shocked at the way Jayne makes her writhe.
It's an oddly compelling picture.
"Kinda like you," Jayne adds.
"I assure you, I'm fine."
"You sure? 'Cause it don't seem fair, me gettin' all the goods, and you up here by your lonesome like that."
Simon sighs. "Just get some sleep. Tomorrow's a big day."
Jayne shrugs. "Your loss." He climbs into the bed, and he smells of sex and warmth and satisfaction.
He could demand that Jayne shower, but it really isn't that bad.
The next morning, they eat and then walk carefully around the main security office. "Try not to look like we're doing anything suspicious," Simon mutters to Jayne, who's looking disturbingly shifty as he eyes cameras and locks.
"Try not to look so sweaty and nervous," Jayne replies.
"I'm not!" He's far, far past the point in his life when planning and
executing crime made him nervous.
Ahead of them, the security office door opens, and out walk two guards, laughing and talking about an early lunch. The door slides closed behind them, a solid thunk. Simon looks up at Jayne, who smirks down at him, and grabs his ass and pushes him against the wall.
The guards don't even look at them as they walk past.
"Think it's empty?" Jayne asks quietly.
"Can you open the door?"
"Ah, hell yeah. Let me get near there, and then pounce." He grinds against Simon once – for show, clearly – and then steps away, sauntering towards the door.
Simon watches, grinning at the act, and then moves fast to push Jayne conveniently chest-first against the panel outside the door.
"Nice," Jayne mutters, his hands moving busily in front of him. "These guards ain't got the latest tech, I don't care what they told us when we got here." There's a small pop, and then the door is sliding open.
They step inside.
They're almost done, about to leave, when the lock on the door chimes. "Shit," Jayne hisses, grabbing Simon's arm and dragging him to the small closet in an alcove of the room.
"Shut it," he says, sliding his hand over Simon's mouth and shoving him inside.
It's dark, but not absolutely. There are small orange lights lining the doorway. Jayne's bulk pushes him back against the wall.
"They're going to find us," he whispers.
Jayne shrugs, close enough that Simon can feel the movement. "Yep."
Simon closes his eyes. "Mal is going to kill us if we end up in jail."
"Quit worryin'. I got a plan." And before Simon knows it, Jayne is flicking open the buttons of Simon's ridiculous pants. Jayne's hand is warm, and this is such a bad idea.
"This isn't a good idea," Simon says, trying to push Jayne away, "especially not here."
"It's my plan."
"What, one last thrust? It's brilliant."
Jayne pulls away briefly to undo his own pants. "Hey. I'm here, dressed up in gorram shiny clothes, doing my ruttin' job, being polite, not breakin' stuff, not startin' fights, and now ruttin' close to gettin' pinched by the man. If I gotta play this role, I figure I might as well get something for it." He leans down and – Simon can only think of it as nuzzles – Simon's neck. It's slightly disturbing.
"What," he breathes out, "other than yesterday? And your cut?"
"Yeah." Jayne's breath is hot, hot. "Call this special incentive." One hand slides around the back of Simon's neck, the other grasping at his hip. "'Less you got some kinda serious objection."
What would count as a serious objection to Jayne? Simon's already said no. He has a list of reasons they shouldn't do this. Mostly they involve getting caught by Security. But somehow the list isn't stopping his breath from speeding up. "I don't even really like you?"
"'s mutual. But I seen you lookin' at me all day." Jayne's hand moves from Simon's hip.
He can't deny it. It's been a while, too long, since he'd done something, anything, with someone else. "Well," Simon mutters, "as long as we're clear on that." He pushes Jayne away slightly, enough that he can get his hand between them, pulling Jayne's pants open, and down. Jayne does the same for him, briefly wrapping his hand around Simon's cock. Too briefly. "What –"
"Lube," Jayne says, and Simon hears the snap of a cap opening.
"Sex resort," Jayne retorts. And his hand is back on Simon, slick, warm. He moves roughly, and it feels like his fingers are everywhere, stroking Simon's cock, cupping his balls. Simon just grips Jayne's hips and holds on, goes along for the ride, until Jayne pulls back again. "You just gonna stand there?" he whispers.
"You're not giving me much choice."
"Always been told I got grabby hands." And he shifts forward, lines up against Simon, and rolls his hips.
Simon gasps, pulling Jayne closer, grinding against him, fast, breathless. Jayne's mouth – hot, dry – is on his neck, skimming the edge of his collar. His beard tugs against Simon's skin, rough and prickly. When Jayne bites, just hard enough, Simon jerks forward, into the sharp pain and the tongue that smoothes across his neck immediately afterwards. Jayne shifts, wedges his leg between Simon's, and that's good, even better, almost too good.
"Oh god," Simon mutters partially because this is so sordid, and if Mal ever finds out they messed up the job because –
"Shut up," Jayne replies, one hand coming around the back of Simon's neck, pulling Simon's head down against his shoulder. Simon gets the hint, turning his head slightly to suck on exposed skin. Jayne's cock is a hard, hot press against Simon's hip, a perfectly sliding movement against him; Jayne's hip presses against Simon's cock, almost just the right pressure.
It can't last long. Jayne's movements are desperate, and Simon meets them, pushes for more, faster, hands here, mouth there. Jayne's hand cups his ass, one finger sliding down, teasing, and Simon spreads his legs a little, as much as he can in the tiny closet. Jayne's finger rubs tiny circles, not hard enough, even as he slides against Simon.
Then, abruptly, he stops, pulls his hand away. "Jayne –" Simon says, hips thrusting, because he is so close, so, so close.
But Jayne's hand is back, wrapped around – oh god – both of them. Good, solid grip, stroking even as he rocks his hips forward.
Simon reaches out, braces his arms on either side of the closet, and lets Jayne somehow crowd even closer, hand rough, teeth brushing Simon's shoulder.
"C'mon," Jayne mutters, "give it up." And he twists his hand, thumb circling the head of Simon's cock.
Simon comes, biting back a cry. Jayne isn't so quiet, and even as Simon slumps back, breathing hard, he knows that they're in trouble. Jayne unwraps his hand and leans into Simon, shuddering, panting. They're sweaty and filthy, and the heist is destroyed. It's all over.
Sure enough, the closet door slides open. Simon blinks in the bright light. "Hell," he mutters. Jayne turns slightly, grinning at the guards.
The guards look resigned and annoyed. "Not again," one says to the other.
"Third time this week. It's pathetic what some people get off on."
Jayne turns back to Simon, winks, and mouths, 'plan', rolling his hips lazily one last time.
Simon almost laughs.
After that, it goes according to plan. Mal, Zoe and River are able to get past security. They get everything in the safe. It's almost too easy, even when they're running from the security officers, heading towards the shuttle.
Almost, almost, Simon thinks, as he runs. Almost there.
"Sex-addled," Jayne yells, dodging the shots of the guards behind them. "Makes 'em slow. Bad aim!" He turns and fires, and Simon hears the thud of a man falling to the ground.
"Doesn't seem to work that way with you!" Simon yells back. River has made it to the shuttle. And he's almost there.
"I'm special!" Jayne fires again, and then he hangs back, waiting for Simon and Mal to clear the shuttle door.
Later, as they survey the money and jewels that Jayne and Simon laid out on the kitchen table, it's hard to believe they pulled it off. Jayne's standing, arms crossed, looking more smug than Simon's ever seen. Not that he doesn't have reason for it.
"Jayne, your smug's annoyin' me over here." Mal doesn't look up from the money. "But given the circumstances, I ain't gonna bust your ass about it."
"Best you don't."
"You two do good work. Goes against all things natural, but I got a surprisin' minimum of complaints, here."
Jayne grins, and slaps Simon on the shoulder.
Simon isn't sure if he expected Jayne to try anything when they got back to the ship. If he did, he's disappointed.
Though maybe disappointed isn't the word he's looking for. He wasn't lying when he said that he barely even liked Jayne. He doesn't hate him. He doesn't dismiss him the way he used to. But they have next to nothing in common, and Simon can't imagine himself spending time with the man outside of meals or work.
Still, Jayne's hardly subtle about sex, and Simon had expected – something.
Instead, Jayne nods when they cross paths. He half-smiles at meals, although Simon knows that's due to the food more than anything else. When the ship touches down on Boros so they can rest, spend some money, breathe some semi-clean air, Jayne packs up a bag and disappears for two days, not bothering to tell anyone where he's going.
The days off-ship are welcome, full of almost-frenzied shopping. Simon is almost beside himself with joy at the supplies and medicines he buys with his cut.
The second day in, he finds himself in the middle of a bar fight – he should have known better than to agree to a drink with Mal – and as his fist connects with the face of a rather hirsute man, he's surprised that he anticipates Jayne being somewhere behind him.
The next job is a not-so-standard pick up.
"Anything ever standard?" Zoe asks dryly.
Mal frowns. "Folks're just a bit antsy, but we can make good profit from this one." He nods at Simon. "Ain't as fancy as one of the doc's plans, but we can't always be pullin' a heist."
Simon smiles. "But you wish you could." He glances at Jayne, who's smirking.
"Don't matter what I wish," Mal says. "This next one, me and Zoe'll handle it. The rest of you? Just don't get into any trouble."
"Trees!" Kaylee yells, as they step out of the ship. And they are trees – stunted, twisted trees, nothing like the towering hardwoods Simon remembers from preserves on Osiris. But the trees have glossy, green leaves, and tiny white flowers. They surround the field where River landed Serenity.
"Pollen." River sneezes, loud enough that Jayne almost jumps.
Simon can see the pollen in the air, brief puffs of it, blown from the trees whenever there's a breeze. "Do you need something for that?" It's an automatic question. River has always been sensitive to pollens.
But she shakes her head and walks away, following after Kaylee who is wandering towards the trees.
"Jayne, you stay here, watch the ship." Mal gestures off in the distance. "Me an' Zoe gotta meet the contact a-ways out there. He don't want us broadcasting our whereabouts. So keep quiet. An' don't let them two," he jerks his head in Kaylee and River's direction, "frolic and get lost or somethin'."
He doesn't bother telling Simon what to do, just gives him a look. Simon nods.
It's nice, wandering at the edge of the trees, under the warm sunlight. Nice. Relaxing. Simon slides to the ground. In the distance, he can hear the rise and fall of Kaylee and River's voices. He basks.
After about twenty minutes, nice and relaxing turns to boring. It's slightly horrifying to realize that maybe, just maybe, he's become used to the rush of working with this crew. The adrenaline, the near-constant edge. He doesn't quite know how to relax.
Then again, maybe he never did.
He looks up at Jayne, irked that the man is blocking his sunlight. "What?"
"Somethin' ain't right." He sniffs strongly. It's vaguely repulsive.
"Pollen," Jayne says, gesturing at the trees.
"Do you have allergies? I can give you something for that."
Jayne drops down beside him, one hand wrapping around Simon's thigh, the other starting to pull at the buttons of his own pants. "That ain't what I need somethin' for."
"Excuse me?" The words are automatic, though, because Simon knows. He knows where this is leading, what the look on Jayne's face means. So he says, "The others, they're not far, maybe we shouldn't –"
But Jayne just ignores him, his expression focused, even if his eyes are slightly puffy.
It's not a closest in a security room, it's not dark, and this time, Simon is wearing clothes he's actually comfortable in. This isn't part of a plan. Simon should know better, and Jayne is clearly drugged.
They haven't taken anything, been exposed to anything. It doesn't make sense. Except. Pollen, Jayne had said.
"Sex pollen?" he asks, as Jayne leans close, pulling Simon's pants open. Simon lifts his hips slightly, lets Jayne rearrange him, expose him. "It's like some kind of a bad joke." A story, sent in to one of the raunchier corners of the Cortex, a pathetic fantasy dreamed up by an undersexed teenager convinced of alien drugs and endless pleasure.
"I ain't laughin'," Jayne mutters before he takes a deep breath, and wraps his hand around Simon's cock.
Simon bucks up, cursing, as Jayne sucks him in. No preliminaries, nothing but a warm mouth, a strong tongue flicking against the head of Simon's cock. One hand grabs at Jayne's head, wanting to push him down.
But Jayne just takes his hand, pushes it to the ground, and holds it there.
Jayne shouldn't be so good at this, it defies all reason. But he is good, better than good, and Simon just holds on, revels in the slide, the way Jayne's teeth graze across his skin, just the right brush of pressure. Simon's eyes might be closed, but he can imagine what they look like – Jayne's mouth stretched around Simon's cock, red lips against flushed skin, the way Simon arches up, his pants open, his shirt askew, his body held, pushed down. He can imagine the curve of his arm, the way his fingers whiten as they clench against the orange cloth of Jayne's shirtsleeve.
Jayne hums against him, around him, mouth sucking, wet and sloppy. And he's enjoying this, it's obvious; he's taking something he wants. He stops taunting and slides down, taking Simon deeper, tongue pressed up tight against Simon's cock.
Simon digs his fingers into the soil, cool, gritty. "Jayne, I'm –"
Jayne hmmms at him, nods slightly, and that's it. Simon lets go of Jayne's arm, and clasps his hand over his mouth, stifles his groan, and comes.
Jayne swallows around him, leaving him shuddering.
"Gotta stop meetin' like this," Jayne says, slowly, after he pulls away. He sounds congested, worse than before. He needs an anti-histimine, and Simon really needs to do up his pants and go get one.
"What? On the edge of what passes for a forest?" He's panting, breathless, and his words sound strained.
"Nope." Jayne smirks, and his eyes are slightly wild, utterly unfocussed. "Semi-public sex. Gonna start thinkin' you get off on it."
Simon might be getting off on it, but he suspects he isn't going to get away with it. Not in the long run.
Someone will guess, someone will see.
Eventually, Jayne will tell him what he really wants, and why he's pursuing Simon.
It's almost an hour before Kaylee and River come back, entering the ship quietly. From a corner of the cargo bay, Simon watches them, tries to tell if their clothes are dirty or misbuttoned. If there was some kind of improbable sex pollen, surely Jayne wasn't the only one affected.
Simon's sure he wasn't affected himself. He'd felt no compulsion, nothing like Jayne had described later, once they'd come in from the outside, once Simon had made Jayne breathe concentrated, pollen-free oxygen. He'd contemplated claiming otherwise, but there was no point. Simon had acquiesced because he'd wanted Jayne on him, around him.
As far as he can tell, River and Kaylee look fine. There's the slight muss of River's hair, and the relaxed, lidded expression on Kaylee's face, but there are other potential reasons for those things: sunshine, fresh air, running through the trees, laughing and playing tag. All kinds of reasons.
When Mal and Zoe come back with word that the pick up went well – they have cargo on the mule to prove it – Simon nods and asks, "Have you ever heard anything strange about this planet? Any stories?"
Mal shrugs and Zoe walks away.
Sex pollen, Simon thinks.
From across the room, Jayne grins at him.
Before Miranda, there were lean times, dangerous times, more than Simon can remember. These days, the lean times are fewer, and they seem to move from job to job with few interruptions. But still, Mal sometimes tells River to plot a course along the edges of inhabited space.
Nobody likes those times. River's mouth thins, and she doesn't seem to get any of her usual joy out of flying. She increasingly stays in the cockpit, muttering to herself in a way that's both abstract but more stable than Simon's seen in a long while.
Kaylee and Inara retreat to the engine room, or to Inara's shuttle. Zoe paces, Jayne drinks, and Simon thinks about morphine dosages and quick reaction times and how long it might take him to get to each of the crew.
It's not the isolation, or fear of another fire. Serenity has spare parts these days, and no one has ever objected to a break.
It's the Reavers.
Recently, the Alliance has started targeting them, doing so in spectacularly loud, obvious ways. There's publicity about it all over the Cortex.
"Defenders of the citizenry," Mal mutters one day, as they watch updates. Federal lives lost, the number of Reaver ships destroyed. Tactics, praise, triumph.
Even with the Alliance waging war on something other than its own citizens, being on the edge of space isn't a good idea. Because while some of the Reavers meet the Alliance head-on, others are retreating, moving further out.
Three days into a seven-day detour through the Black, Jayne corners Simon in the cargo bay.
Simon's been expecting it; he's been waiting Jayne to find him, back him against the wall, and make demands. He's hoped for it, because it's been too long, and if it had been much longer, Simon would have admitted defeat and sought Jayne out himself.
Instead, he steps back, back, breathing in the scent of alcohol on Jayne's breath. "Took you long enough," he says, reaching out to hook his fingers along the inside of Jayne's pants and pull him close.
Jayne shrugs, his smile lopsided. "Ain't like I had an engraved invitation tellin' me a time and place."
"I only invite people I like," Simon mutters. The leather of Jayne's belt is smooth, worn. He strokes his thumb along it.
And then there's no more talking, just Jayne's mouth on Simon's neck, his fingers clumsy and insistent at the zipper of Simon's pants. Fast, Simon thinks, as he hooks one leg behind Jayne's. It's always fast. He has the sharp taste of Jayne's skin in his mouth, the taste of cotton from sucking just at the edge of the collar of Jayne's worn t-shirt.
Above them, the steady tap of boots on metal sounds. Simon freezes, even as Jayne's hand works inside of his pants.
Steady, even paces, not too heavy, and Simon pulls his head back. The air is cool on his lips, a sharp contrast to the heat of Jayne's skin. He opens his mouth.
"Zoe," Jayne mutters, getting to it first. "Walks around most nights. Don't sleep so good."
Simon closes his eyes briefly, and whispers, "We should stop. It would just be cruel, if she found us like this. A reminder of what –" he can't finish, and there's no point in saying it aloud. They all know, even Jayne, what she's lost. What she can't have.
"Too late." Jayne jerks his head up. "Ain't never been able to hide out from Zoe. She knows we're here." He shrugs, full-body movement, and Simon stifles a groan. "She don't care. She's got her own thoughts."
Maybe she does, Simon thinks, listening to the way her footsteps fade as she walks away, and grow louder as she walks back. Still. "Let's go somewhere else."
Jayne nods once, sharp, fast, and steps away. He's a little unsteady on his feet. "C'mon then."
In the morning, Simon wakes up in his bed, sore and itching from dried sweat and semen. Jayne's in the bed with him, crowding him against the wall, pressing him into the mattress. It's almost claustrophobic. Simon pulls his arms free and stretches, long and languorous, almost-grimacing at the image of Jayne against him, mouth open, eyelids twitching in REM sleep.
But he doesn't push him away.
Zoe eyes Simon at breakfast. Sit-down meals might be civilized and warm, but sometimes Simon wishes he could skip them. Zoe eats, methodically, calmly, and all the time, she looks at Simon, or glances at Jayne.
Jayne doesn't seem to notice, though Mal picks up on it and gets curious. Eventually, he asks, "There a problem, Zoe?"
She shakes her head. "No."
"You're lookin' at Simon like maybe he's got somethin' you want."
Simon tenses. He's not quite sure why. He expects Zoe to say something, and braces himself for recriminations, and maybe tears when Kaylee finds out, and annoyance from Mal.
Instead, Zoe laughs, bright and real. Everybody stops eating and stares, because Zoe's never laughed much, and lately, not at all.
"What?" Mal asks, like maybe he thinks Zoe has finally broken. And Simon knows that everyone's holding a breath, because nobody talks about it, but they've all wondered when it would come. When Zoe would finally crack.
But Zoe grins and wipes away a tear, her hand a graceful arch that Simon can't help but stare at. "Nothing much. Just that Simon ain't got his hands on anything I want." She looks at Jayne for a minute, her lips twitching. "Nothin' at all."
The tension in the room lessens. Kaylee smiles, tentative, and Inara's expression changes, from nervous to serene. Gently, she holds out an embroidered cloth. Zoe nods and takes it.
Mal frowns, then shrugs. "Never did figure I'd understand how the minds of women work, but it ain't unpleasant to hear you laughin', Zoe."
She dabs at her mouth with the hankerchief and says, "Thank you, sir."
In the end, it's not so much an active decision that Simon makes about the whole thing. It's more of a realization.
He and Jayne work well together on jobs. It's helpful that they're not trying to kill each other anymore. Simon doesn't love Jayne, obviously – he doesn't feel the way he felt with Kaylee, full of affection and wonder and amusement.
But he feels good. Comfortable.
"River," he starts, one morning in the infirmary. She looks up at him from the examination table, her hair pulled back from her face. "You're doing well."
And she is. There are no more screaming fits, no more days of irrational fears and hallucinations. He can't explain it, and he doubts he ever will be able to, even if they one day get access to the latest medical technology. Some things can't be explained through science. The amount they still don't understand about the human brain is unsettling.
So he nods, he accepts her word that she's doing better, that he's not the only one who sees it. "I'm glad." And he is, except for the nagging fear that one day she'll revert, or get worse, as suddenly and inexplicably as she started to get better.
River smiles up at him, happy and not exactly reassuring. "Bullet to the brainpan?"
"I don't think so," he says, and forces himself to laugh, because she's teasing him. This is the way her mind works, even now. He knows that.
"Sometimes you have to do things that need to be done." There's a stubborn angle to her jaw as she says it, an almost-angry cast to her eyes; for a moment he's reminded of Mal. It's unsettling, and he's about to say so when she shakes her head, widens her eyes and laughs at him.
"You're a brat," he says, relieved and unsure.
"Always have been," she replies, as she glances at the door. "Jayne."
Simon looks up, expecting to see Jayne hovering. But there's nothing. "Oh," he says, after a moment. "You know." Of course she does.
"I am your sister." It's a mild reproof, but she punches him as she says it. "You like him. He gets things done. Loud and noisy and clumsy and rude, and you like him."
Not really, he's about to say. It's on the tip of his tongue. Not really. But she just looks at him, and he nods. He realizes.
River laughs again, and Simon knows what he's going to have to do.
Maybe he's known all along.
Later, he finds Jayne holed up in a corner of the cargo bay, lifting weights and sweating.
"What?" Jayne asks, looking up from the bench as he replaces the weights
Simon looks down at the way the sweat darkens small patches of Jayne's grey t-shirt, at Jayne's hands dangling, now free of weights. What the hell, he thinks, and moves to straddle Jayne's hips. "If we're going to do this," he waves his hand between them once, carefully, "then you should know a few things."
Jayne's hands come to settle on Simon's hips. They're light, tense, and maybe, just maybe, Jayne is thinking of throwing Simon off.
Grinning, Simon leans down, sliding one hand under Jayne's shirt. "Well. One thing."
"Fast and frantic is great, don't get me wrong. But I also like to take my time."
Jayne smirks up at him. "Fancy."
"Not really. More like normal."
"Speak for yourself." Jayne's hands tighten and he rocks Simon forward, just slightly.
"Also," He leans even closer, his nose almost brushing Jayne's cheek. "I expect there to be kissing."
"Huh." And just for a minute, Jayne sounds suspiciously like Mal. It's enough to almost send Simon off on a spiral of thought that maybe they're all becoming too much like each other. Close quarters and all. But then Jayne's hips shift, just the tiniest bit, and Simon comes back to paying attention to the moment.
"Kissin'?" Jayne asks.
"Yes." He turns his face slightly, lips brushing against Jayne's stubble, against the edge of his beard. "Lots of kissing."
Jayne grunts and shifts under him, and then there's kissing. It starts with a puff of breath against Simon's lips, warm and humid. Jayne's mouth follows, a mix of soft skin and sharp teeth. He bites at Simon's bottom lip, once, fast, and then snakes his tongue out to lick at the bitten skin. And teeth and lips are good, hot, but Simon wants more, he wants wet and messy and Jayne's tongue in his mouth, the two of them dragging in stuttering breaths.
He braces himself, grasps tight onto Jayne's shoulders, the soft fabric of his shirt. He opens his mouth, sliding his tongue along the edge of Jayne's lips, and they open wide. Simon hums, smug and wanting this, wanting more, when Jayne's hand comes down on his head, holding Simon close.
It's perfect, Jayne's mouth hot and slick and welcoming. Simon's lost in it, the brush of beard and the click of teeth, and the way Jayne's hips are rocking up against him, tiny movements trapped by Jayne's awkward position and Simon's legs. Jayne's tongue almost fucks Simon's mouth, bold, demanding strokes and twists that leave Simon giving as good as he gets, as thorough and sloppy.
He's not sure how long it lasts, how long he's wrapped up in Jayne's mouth and the harsh sounds of ragged breathing mixed up with the wet, slick sounds of skin against skin. But eventually he has to pull back, take a deep breath, because he wants more now, more than kissing fully-clothed in the cargo bay.
"Jayne," he grates out, as he pushes himself upwards. "Bunk."
Jayne smirks up at him, the expression ruined by his glazed eyes and his lips, reddened and wet, gleaming even in the low light. "Kissin'. 's good."
River knows, Zoe knows, and Simon is willing to bet money that Inara knows what's going on. Maybe Kaylee too, if the secret, smiling looks she's been giving him are any indication. Although, with Kaylee, they could just be about the shiny new right couple Mal bought for Serenity on the last landfall.
Simon's been waiting for it to happen, has been counting the days since he and Jayne came to a formal agreement.
Mal. He's waiting on Mal. And he's beginning to think the man is just playing at being stubborn, pretending not to see what's in front of his eyes.
Then again, given the man's history with women, contacts, passengers, who knows?
But the morning when Mal leans his head around the edge of the infirmary door, Simon almost sighs with relief.
"You havin' relations with my merc?"
He doesn't look up, focusing on River's latest test results. He still can't find any physical reasons for her increasing focus, her balance. It's perplexing. "Relations," he says. "That's awfully subtle of you, Mal. I didn't think you had it in you."
"I'm a complex man." Mal steps inside. "You didn't answer my question. Are you?"
"I suppose I am." Simon looks up, carefully keeping his expression bland. "Is there a problem?"
Mal shrugs. "Just seems like you're makin' the rounds of my crew. Makes me wonder, who's next? Might caution you – don't think Zoe's gonna be too friendly if you try somethin' on her."
"Well, I am a notorious Casanova, so you could be wrong about that."
"Never mind. Haven't we already covered this? That I have nothing Zoe wants?"
"Well then. Maybe you'd best make sure you keep your hands away from me."
Sometimes it's next to impossible to tell if Mal's serious or not, and it's rarely worth trying to figure it out. Instead, Simon asks, "Is there a problem? Because I don't really think you need to get involved in this – thing. Between Jayne and I."
The expression on Mal's face is priceless. Simon briefly wishes for a capture. "There's no way I'm gettin' involved with or between you two. I just ain't lookin' to have any complications. Of the annoyin' type."
"Believe me, Captain, there's nothing complicated about this." And it's true, surprisingly so. Maybe it even makes things less complicated, at least in terms of aggravation. It's about as uncomplicated as anyone could hope for.
"Keep it that way."
All in all, it goes better than Simon had expected.
And later that night, lying in a bed still warm from sharing Jayne's bulk, he supposes that, all in all, everything has gone better than he'd expected.
Maybe sometimes the 'Verse is out to destroy even the most feeble attempts at happiness. Then again, maybe it balances that out with surprisingly good sex and living in the moment.
Summary: Against all odds, Simon and Jayne actually work well together.
Notes: This is an attempt to answer various smutfic requests: brown_betty asked for 'undercover lover'; pixelarious asked for a longer story (with smut); bubosquared asked for sex pollen. It seemed to make sense to try and put these all together.
Beta by the lovely, kind, generous and fast lyrstzha. Many, many thianks! All remaining mistakes my own.