|Simon is tired. It's more than the exhaustion
healing wound. It's not just the mental exhaustion of having to deal
River's episodes and brilliant, but dangerous plans. It's everything:
on Serenity; the constant threats by known dangers and things he once
were stories; dealing with ornery and quasi-trustworthy crewmates; his
constant worries that River isn't going to get better, that just maybe,
she's getting worse.
At least Simon has one less problem at the moment: Mal told him earlier that he won't be sending River away from the ship. They can both stay, but Simon has to keep a closer eye on her. Simon had nodded at the words, privately wondering what else he can do. River has a way of slipping from his radar.
Right now, he has had some time alone to assess his position on the ship, and he's finally made a decision that he's been putting off for a long time. It has nothing to do with the captain. It has to do with who Simon thinks is now his most pressing problem: Jayne.
Back on Ariel, he knew almost right away that Jayne had told the Alliance forces about River. After they'd been apprehended, it had only taken Simon a few minutes to connect the sudden change in plan with Jayne's more-furtive-than-usual behaviour and with the arrest itself.
Once he'd realised that Jayne had been betrayed by the Alliance officer, Simon had purposefully ingratiated himself to Jayne, knowing they'd need his sheer brawn if they had any hope of escaping. Simon is well aware of the power of appealing to a man's ego, especially a man like Jayne, someone who has never been granted much respect. Afterwards when they were back on the ship, he'd taken a cue from the mudders of Canton, and gushed about Jayne's bravery and skill. The man's reaction had been gratifying.
At first Simon had hoped that perhaps flattery and awed exclamations about Jayne's actions would help avert any future plans to sell him and his sister out. While he's sure that Mal also figured out the truth, and that he gave Jayne a talking to, Simon has limited faith in Jayne's loyalty to Mal and Serenity. Eventually, Jayne will get tempted by the reward again, because that's the way people like Jayne are. So, while it's nice that Mal is probably watching out for them, it's Simon's job to protect River, any way he can.
The flattery and fawning may have worked for a while, but after listening to Jayne's recent complaints about River's insanity, he's accepted he's going to have to do more. For Jayne, money, food and sex are the basest common denominators, and the lure of the Alliance reward is never going to truly go away. Simon can't offer that kind of money, but perhaps he can distract Jayne from thinking about it too much.
Jayne may not like River, but Simon's seen the looks that the man sends his way. They're hard to miss, Jayne being far from a subtle person. As distasteful as it is, Simon knows now's the time to take advantage of the want that Jayne exudes. The idea makes him feel somewhat ill, but he can't see any other way.
Simon remembers, back after his internship at medical school, the residency at a hospital that catered to less fortunate citizens. Although officially the poor were not supposed to exist, the hospital functioned as a relief station for those who lived at the margins of society. The residency requirements were that all trauma surgeons spend some time at such a hospital.
Simon had just started his tour when one evening a young man had been brought in. The extent of his injuries had been shocking -- not so much because of what they were, but for how they had been inflicted. The game had been some kind of blood sport, part of a betting circuit that catered to the rich who had a taste for cruelty. Simon knew that they existed, but this had been his first confrontation with the results of such perversions. The man had been a player, paid a ridiculous sum to fight to the death.
Simon had been astounded at the things marginal citizens would undertake. One of the other doctors, a woman who had been at the hospital for years, had just shrugged at his exclamations, and said, "Sometimes people do things they despise in order for their families to survive."
He hadn't understood it at the time, that people could face that kind of desperation. Now he realises how naive and pathetic he was in the past, how increasingly he has nothing in common with the person he was.
Simon has had to make some unexpected choices in the recent past, but none have been truly problematic. Although the crew thinks otherwise, Simon's initial reluctance to participate in criminal activities wasn't due to morals and ethics. He has no real problem with what they do, especially since Mal is careful to chose jobs that can't be classified as cruel.
Instead, Simon's dismay was a result of realising that being on a ship with smugglers, killers, and thieves put him and River in a more dangerous situation. Their actions may make them more visible to the Alliance. However, he's since realised they're no less safe here than anywhere. Ultimately, the decision to stay was a relatively easy one.
But this choice is far worse, and really, it can't be avoided any more. Standing, Simon looks around his room, quickly spotting the shirt he's going to wear. It's green silk, ridiculous on Serenity. He shakes his head at its impracticality, and the foolishness that had compelled him to include the shirt when first packing his supplies. Still, it falls well across his shoulders and is a good choice for tonight. He puts it on but leaves it unbuttoned at the collar. With a deep breath, he walks out of his room and heads towards Jayne's bunk.
When he arrives, Simon knocks politely.
"Yeah?" The voice is muffled through the heavy metal of the door.
He pulls the door open slightly so that if Jayne looks up, he can see Simon's face. "Jayne? Can I come in?"
"I've been..." nerves cause his voice to catch a little, and he hopes it seems shy and breathless. If this were real, he wouldn't have trouble voicing his affection, but Simon thinks Jayne is more likely to respond to him if he appears to be shy. "I'd like to talk to you."
Jayne is more terse than usual, and Simon suspects he still resents missing out on the action with the bounty hunter.
Jayne's face appears at the door, frowning. After a minute, he shrugs, but he doesn't say no. Simon quickly makes his way down the ladder, pulling the door shut behind him. Jayne is sitting on his bed, and Simon joins him, crossing his legs. Taking a deep breath, he starts talking. "I've noticed...um. You watching me. I think. And I thought maybe you wanted..."
"Spit it out."
"Me." He takes another shaky breath, one he can't control, but he knows his nervousness will be misinterpreted by Jayne. "I thought maybe you wanted me."
Jayne is looking at him like he's insane. "What?"
Simon pauses for a carefully calculated moment, then widens his eyes and starts to stand. "Oh no. Jayne, I'm so sorry. I must have..." he backs away from the bed, inching towards the door. His hands shake slightly. "I just thought maybe we could...I know we don't get along all the time, but I look at you and I...like what I see. And I thought you..."
Jayne is still watching him with surprise.
Shaking his head, Simon runs his hand across his eyes. "I'm sorry. I'll just go." He manages to get halfway up the ladder before Jayne's hand closes on his arm.
Simon smiles at the wall. He knows it's a bleak, cold expression, but he smiles because the scenario is working just as he'd imagined it would. He makes his voice quiet, disappointed. "Why?"
Jayne's arms wrap around his waist, and Simon is pulled away from the wall. "I like what I see too."
Jayne's breath is hot against Simon's neck, and he shivers. Fixing his face with an expression of relief, he turns around. Jayne's arms don't leave his waist. "Really?"
Jayne leers a little, and starts unbuttoning Simon's shirt, his rough skin catching slightly on the fine fabric. "Shoulda said somethin' sooner."
Taking a deep breath, Simon apologises, smiles, and pulls Jayne's shirt over his head.
The first night is a little rough, partly because it's been so long since Simon did anything like it. Still, it could be worse. Simon has treated patients where things had obviously been far, far worse. Jayne is hardly gentle, but he's not brutal either. He fucks Simon, almost into the bed, but after he falls quickly asleep. Simon gets dressed quietly and slips out of the room. He walks to the washroom, and scrubs himself clean.
On his way to bed, he checks in on River. She's still sleeping soundly, looking as sweet as he remembers from their childhood.
The next night, he climbs down into Jayne's room without knocking. Jayne is sitting on his bed, sharpening one of his knives. He glances up, nodding to Simon. "What do you like to do, Doctor?"
Simon makes himself smile shyly, unable to quite meet Jayne's eyes. "Anything," He pauses for a moment, then continues, "everything."
Jayne grins back at him and puts down his knife. He stands and starts taking off his clothes. A few minutes later, they're on each other, Jayne muttering something about Simon's pretty mouth. Simon takes it as a cue and gets down on his knees.
It's not terrible. It could be far, far worse. Jayne, for all his awful clothes and questionable personal habits, is not unclean. He doesn't try to hurt or gag Simon, even if his hips sometimes jerk a little too forcefully. Simon just closes his eyes and concentrates on the flesh in his mouth, trying to remember everything he's ever done before. He bitterly thinks that maybe he should focus on trying to feel pride at the approving words Jayne grunts down at him. Maybe right now he could give Inara a run for her money, the act he's putting on is so good.
After, he swallows and stays kneeling until Jayne pulls him upright. He breathes more quickly as Jayne works his hand inside Simon's pants. Jayne jerks him off roughly, all the while biting into Simon's shoulder. It doesn't take Simon long to come.
As he shakes he thinks over and over again: It's not terrible. It could be worse.
It doesn't take long to get into a routine with Jayne. They work, Simon keeps up River's treatments, and at night, after he makes sure she's comfortable in bed, he slips down to Jayne's room. They have sex, usually a couple of times, and then Simon leaves the room. It's unspoken, but they don't talk to the rest of the crew about what's going on between them. It's just as well. Simon doesn't want anyone to start asking questions about why he's letting Jayne touch him.
He's now able to generally get through the sex without clenching his teeth. Jayne can be rough, but he isn't cruel, and his tastes are straight forward. Simon still sometimes worries that Jayne will one day say he wants to tie Simon up, or gag him, or do something utterly vile. It seems less and less likely, though. Jayne is a simple man in more ways than one.
The last few nights he has brought a book with him, because Jayne seems interested in spending a little time together before they have sex. Tonight, Jayne is obsessively cleaning his various weapons. It's almost the same every night, the clinks and clacks of metal, Jayne's muttering and spitting, and the rasp of parts being pulled apart and fit back together. Simon half-reads his book, inwardly thinking that this routine, the dullness of Jayne's life, is likely to slowly drive him insane. The sex is tolerable, as are Jayne's gropes and off-colour jokes. Simon can deal with those things, but the other unvoiced demands Jayne makes of his time -- the sitting and talking, the things that Simon figures Jayne sees as domestic -- they might just break him.
When he was growing up, Simon never considered the theatre as a potential career. He wonders now if he should have, since his act seems to be convincing. But maybe it isn't that much of an accomplishment to convince a man of Jayne's limited intelligence.
"What're you reading?"
The question surprises him, and he answers coolly, his tone dismissive. "Nothing that would interest you." It's an automatic dig at Jayne, one he's grown used to catching. Once the words are out, he freezes, then tries to smooth over the mistake. "Sorry. I'm a little distracted. It's a book on frontier medicine that I picked up a few planets back. I first read it in medical school, and reading it again is reminding me of things in the past."
Jayne shrugs and turns his gaze back to the gun in his hand. It's reassuring that he didn't get overtly angry, but it's not enough. Simon closes his book, stands, and starts to undress in the way he knows Jayne likes. Slow, but not too slow, just carefully revealing his skin; taking the time to stroke himself to hardness. By the time he's naked, Jayne has stood and swept his guns and tools out of the way, and is working on his own clothes.
Simon closes the small distance between them, and pushes Jayne's hands out of the way. He unbuckles Jayne's holster, and begins to unbutton Jayne's pants. Jayne's hands are all over Simon's skin; his breath is hot on Simon's neck. Simon is almost finished with Jayne's pants when the other man whispers,
"I know what you're doin'."
Only willpower keeps Simon from freezing and backing away. He can feel his heart rate increase slightly. "What do you mean?" His fingers don't stop moving, and Jayne's pants are finally loose enough to push down.
Jayne pulls him close, licking at his neck. "You're tryin' to distract me."
Oh shit. He wraps his hand loosely around Jayne's cock, pumping slowly. "Am I?" Please, please don't let Jayne be figuring things out.
"Yeah. You hate watchin' me play with the guns. It bores the snot out of you."
What a delightful expression. Simon breathes a sigh of relief, and says, "Maybe. I'd rather have you play with me."
Jayne snorts against his skin. "Figured as much."
Simon doesn't believe in a god, but right now, he's sending up thanks. He sinks to his knees, smiling up at Jayne as he goes down.
Simon's been undertaking his plan for just over a month when Mal announces that they're going to a moon called Fern to meet up with a contact. He claims it's for a legitimate shipping job, and goes so far as to tell them all to take a few days, get off the ship and have some fun. Privately, Simon has his doubts as to why Mal wants them off Serenity, but he nods and smiles with the rest of them.
Fern is pretty, for a fringe world. The plants that are its namesake bloom everywhere, tall and many shades of green. Inara has found a client, and Wash and Zoe are taking advantage of the time to be together. Book contacts the local church, and Jayne heads off by himself. Simon spends much of the day with Kaylee and River, wandering around the shops and buying small gifts and personal items he'd like.
It's nice to wander in the sunshine and breathe non-recycled air. In one shop, he sees a nicely tooled leather knife sheath, and he spends a few precious coins buying it for Jayne. Jayne won't expect the gesture, but maybe it will cement his belief in the act that Simon is putting on. Buying gifts for a lover is something that he'd do in any other situation.
River does well for several hours, but after a while, she starts to get twitchy. Simon and Kaylee take her back to the ship, and she goes for a nap. He's not back on board for more than a hour before Jayne corners him in the infirmary. It's a place Jayne usually avoids, and Simon isn't too happy to see him there. It's the one room on the ship where Simon can still be himself. Still, he can't exactly show his annoyance.
"Hey." Jayne ambles around the small space, picking at random items.
"Hi." He reaches behind him and grabs the gift. "Did you do anything interesting today?"
"Nah. Nothin' much."
Simon nods. "Neither did I." He holds out the gift. "I bought this for you, though."
Frowning slightly, Jayne takes it. "Knife sheath."
Jayne has a gift for stating the obvious."I thought you could use it."
Jayne is turning the leather over in his hands, looking at the stitching. "It's real nice. Sturdy." He looks up, smiling. "I got just the knife for it."
Of course he does. Simon smiles back, holding in how edgy the interaction is making him feel. "Great."
Jayne carefully puts the leather into a side pocket, then advances on Simon. Boxing him against the wall, both arms braced by Simon's head, Jayne leans close. "I got an idea."
Arching his eyebrow in a teasing look, Simon replies, "Oh?" He's almost dreading whatever is coming next.
"Yeah. Checked out a bar while I was out. Looks safe enough. Let's get drunk."
Drunk? Oh god. Simon can't even begin to imagine the swill they'll be drinking. "Don't you think Mal might --"
Jayne cuts him off. "He said have fun. We ain't got nowhere to be tomorrow. It don't look like the sort of place for bar fights, and it ain't none too friendly with the Alliance. Can't see why Mal'd have a problem with us goin' there."
Jayne is close, breathing in Simon's ear, something which by now Simon knows is a prelude to more. So, he pushes Jayne away slightly, and nods. "Ok." He quickly leaves the room to make arrangements for River with Kaylee, and then he and Jayne leave the ship.
It doesn't take long to walk to the bar. In the approaching dark, the ferns Simon earlier admired as so pretty now look mysterious and creepy. When they arrive at the bar, it's a run-down hole, but Simon's seen worse since he's been travelling with the crew of Serenity.
After the first drink -- as bad as he'd imagined -- Simon starts to think maybe this is a good idea after all. It's a chance to get nicely drunk, to forget about the Alliance, River's health, and why he's with Jayne. He can almost imagine he's spending his time with Jayne because he wants to, that he actually cares for the man; that Jayne's not liable to sell him out at any minute.
The idea is so ridiculous he almost laughs. This isn't what he wanted for his life: a cheap bar, a crude bedmate, an unreliable life on a barely-functional ship. The rest of the crew have dreams for the future: retirement and some land; never having to worry about freedom; children and grandchildren. What do he and River have to look forward to? Endless running, unless the Alliance somehow dissolves and River's pursuers fade away into whatever hell they came from.
At best they can hope to settle in some backwater town on a fringe moon. Even then, the chances of survival aren't great. Without even thinking, Simon can name some of the potential dangers: Reavers, illness and poor medical care, starvation, death at the hands of superstitious and stupid villagers. It's a far cry from the rich, well-appointed and gentle life Simon had envisioned for himself and for River.
After a few more drinks, he's leaning against Jayne and laughing with him at the crude jokes told to them by the other bar inhabitants. Simon laughs when Jayne gropes him; he laughs and sings the song written by the mudders on Canton when Jayne tells the story. Even worse, he laughs when Jayne says they need some time alone, winks at their drinking companions, and lifts Simon under the arms and walks him out of the bar. Simon's still laughing when outside, Jayne pushes him against the alley wall, yanks open his pants, and goes down on him. He comes hard, clenching Jayne's shoulders and grunting out his name.
Jayne rises up after a few moments, watching Simon with lidded eyes and running his tongue over his lower lip. It's a cue if Simon ever saw one, something he recognises even in his inebriated state. He lets himself collapse to the ground, which turns out to be easier than continuing to stand anyway. Jayne's belt is in the way, and Simon tries to undo it, but his fingers feel thick and useless.
Jayne snorts and pushes Simon's hands out of the way. "Not much good for it right now, are you?" He unbuckles the belt himself, and then undoes his pants. Reaching past the fabric, Jayne brings out his cock, stroking himself roughly. Simon watches mutely as Jayne works himself. "Ain't been doin' this too much lately, what with all the fun we've been havin'. Kinda like havin' you watch though."
So Simon watches. In the dim light, he looks at Jayne's cock, his hand; he looks up at Jayne's face, twisted with pleasure. He watches as skin slides over skin, notes when everything starts to get slick. Jayne angles himself closer to Simon by using his free arm to lean against the wall. Simon breathes in the scent of Jayne's arousal, so familiar by now, but not comforting.
Jayne is grunting and Simon can tell he's close. He wonders if Jayne wants to come on his face, or if he'll turn away.
The words take a moment to sink in, long enough for Jayne to repeat himself.
"Simon. Come on, open up."
He does, and Jayne pushes the head of his cock into Simon's mouth, still stroking himself. Simon's lips don't feel quite right, but he does his best to suck Jayne the way he likes, his mouth coming into contact with Jayne's fingers as the man strokes faster.
Jayne's grunting again, the sounds mixed with words. "Yeah. That's real good."
Simon wants to close his eyes against the entire scene: kneeling in god knows what behind some rat-trap bar; sucking off a loveless mercenary like his life depends on it. It's all so sordid. But Jayne likes Simon's eyes to be open when they do this, so Simon ignores the urge to close them.
It doesn't take much longer before Jayne's coming into Simon's mouth, and Simon swallows fast, concentrating on making sure it doesn't go down the wrong way. Jayne pulls away, then pulls Simon up. He smiles as he fastens Simon's clothing then does the same for himself. Wrapping his arm around Simon's waist, and placing Simon's arm around his shoulders, Jayne says, "You ain't never a disappointment, Simon," and walks him back towards the bar.
Simon tries to grin back, ignoring the bitter taste in his mouth.
When they return inside, Jayne gets Simon another couple of drinks, then wanders off for a while. Simon drinks and laughs and tries not to despair at what his life has been reduced to. Eventually, Jayne comes back, smiling down at him and holding more drinks. It doesn't seem fair that Jayne can still walk.
"I fixed us a room."
"Why?" Simon feels pride at how clear the word sounds.
"You ain't in no shape to get back to Serenity. I ain't carryin' you that far."
"It's just upstairs. I checked it out. S'okay. Even got its own bath and all."
"Bath?" He'd love a hot bath, with plenty more water than they ever get on Serenity.
Jayne grins down at him, a happy, unguarded look that Simon can't remember ever seeing before this. "Yep. Got the water heatin' right now. Knew you'd like it."
And he does. Jayne gets him to the room, which isn't as bad as he'd feared. At least it looks clean. And the bath is old and deep, and thankfully the water doesn't take long to arrive. Jayne undresses him with a minimal amount of leering and groping, and then sets him in the bath and places a new drink in his hand. "You just lie there."
Simon closes his eyes and leans back in the warm water, revelling in the feeling of it all around him. When he's finished with his drink, he sets the glass down with exaggerated care, and settles back into the water. Gradually, he slips lower and lower, until just his face is above water, then his nose. He sinks the rest of the way, the water muffling the sounds of the bar beneath them. It's peaceful, and he thinks he could stay that way forever, even if he can't breath. It's only a short time before his lungs start to scream for new air, but Simon stays still, reluctant to let go of the peace. When fingers wind into his hair, pulling tight, he shakes his head, trying to dislodge them. It's useless though. Jayne pulls him up from the water.
"Don't drown." Simon's head is shaken slightly.
"It's just..." he trails off. Jayne is frowning at him, and Simon wants to shrink away from the anger that's sure to come. "It's peaceful. That's all. Quiet."
Jayne just frowns at him for a few more moments, then says, "Didn't pay good coin so you could go and get yourself drowned. Keep your face outta the water, or get out of the tub." Jayne lets go of his hair, and walks back to the bed he was lying on.
Simon nods. He lies there until the water turns cool enough to make him shiver. It's enough of a motivation that he tries to lever himself up, but his body won't cooperate. He's struggling with standing when Jayne moves back towards him, a sheet in his hands.
Simon's lips are too numb to talk. He nods.
Jayne starts to laugh. "You ain't got much drink tolerance, do you? C'mere." Big hands circle Simon's biceps and haul him upwards. It's a feeling he's grown used to, Jayne tossing him and dragging him where ever for sex.
Somehow, Jayne keeps Simon upright while he wraps the sheet around him. Then, Simon is face down on the bed, and he knows what comes next. He struggles to pull himself up, to get into a position that will work for Jayne. Instead, Jayne's hand holds him down, keeps him flat.
"Quit movin' and sleep. Else you're gonna feel like crap tomorrow."
Simon doesn't care. He wants to yell at Jayne to get it over with, to just fuck him already. Doesn't Jayne understand anything? Jayne gets to do whatever he wants with Simon's body, he can fuck Simon 'till doomsday, just as long as he doesn't turn River in to the Alliance. But Simon can't yell. He's drunk and he's tired, and his lips won't move properly. And some part of his mind warns not to say those things to Jayne, because increasingly, it looks like Jayne thinks this is more than just sex, that Jayne believes that Simon actually wants him, likes spending time with him.
Tonight, this cheap bar, the alley sex and the tacky room, bath notwithstanding, Simon knows this is Jayne's idea of quality time together. It's probably what Jayne would consider as 'treating him good'.
There have been no declarations -- Jayne hasn't claimed feelings or any such thing, not that Simon expected them. But, he has noticed how Jayne sits a little taller when they're together in a group, how the man's face softens ever so slightly when Simon climbs down to his room. Simon should feel proud; he's got Jayne where he wants him. Instead, he wants to scream that he'll never really like Jayne; that's he's using sex to keep Jayne, a dumb, dull, man-ape, under control.
But he can't. So he lies there, Jayne's hand heavy on his back, and Simon eventually drifts off.
He wakes up with his mouth feeling like it is full of cotton. He's still face-down on the bed, but he's not alone. Jayne is pressed up next to him, one arm thrown around his shoulders. Soft snores fill the small room.
Simon lies still, trying to assess what happened to him. His head hurts, and his skin itches. He expects to feel like he's been fucked half the night, but as far as he can tell, nothing happened after he fell asleep. After a few minutes, he realises he's still wrapped up in the sheet Jayne had used to dry him off. Jayne is holding him through, not under, a heavy blanket. Simon closes his eyes and eases back into sleep.
The next time he wakes up, he's alone in the bed, and his head is pounding. There are soft noises coming from the corner of the room. Carefully, he pushes himself up to investigate, wincing when he rolls over.
The noises are Jayne in the bath, quickly cleaning himself off, watching Simon all the while.
"'Bout time you woke up. I was wonderin' if I'd have to drag you back to Serenity after all." Jayne's hands splash the water over his biceps. Simon's on intimate terms with those biceps, having bitten, licked and kissed them while Jayne fucks him raw. "You hungry?" Jayne nods his head towards a small table with some food on it.
Jayne shrugs. "Your choice. Me, I always find eatin' after helps. Nothin' fancy, mind, but bread's good."
Bread. Simon hasn't had bread in what feels like years. Kaylee tries her best with the protein powder, but it's never the same.
Jayne must see the change in his face, and he laughs. "Yeah, figured you might get yourself knotted up about bread. They got good stuff here. Want some?" He starts to pull himself out of the bath.
"Yes. But I can get it."
Waving at him to stay down, Jayne walks naked to the table. Simon no longer wants to cringe at the sight. He's used to the way Jayne looks now, has even once, thought favourable things about how Jayne maintains himself.
"No offence, but you look like a Reaver spat you up. Just lie there. Mal'll kill me if I bring you back lookin' like that." Jayne brings him two pieces of bread, with tomatoes sliced on top. Simon hasn't seen tomatoes since his first night on Serenity. He's ashamed at how quickly his hand reaches out to grab a piece.
As he's eating, Jayne watches him carefully. Finally, Simon asks, "What's wrong?"
"Nothin'. I'm wonderin' -- you got your eye on Kaylee?"
Oh lord. He's in no shape to deal with this. He puts the bread down on the bed. "Why are you asking me this?"
"Dunno. You spend time with her, laugh at all her jokes. She likes you. I figure, girl like that, it's hard not to want to have her."
It's true, he'd like to kiss Kaylee, to smell her hair as it fell around his face. She's sweet and makes him laugh, and he never feels like he has to be something else around her.
Pushing the thought away, he turns and tackles Jayne to the bed. The movement makes his head pound. Lying on top of Jayne, Simon bites the shoulder beneath him and replies, "No. She's not my type," then smiles upwards.
Jayne's face relaxes. After a few moments, Simon rolls over, reaches for the bread and finishes eating.
A few hours later, they return to Serenity. Simon's head is pounding, and he tells Jayne he needs to lie down. He makes his way to his room, detouring long enough to find Kaylee and River. They're laughing in the common area, relaxed and happy. Their conversation is odd and disjointed, but Kaylee seems to understand River well enough. It does Simon's heart good to see them, and he stays a while before excusing himself and returning to his room.
He's lying in dim light when Mal knocks at his door and walks in.
Sitting up carefully, Simon says, "Hello, captain. Are you in need of medical assistance?"
"What're you and Jayne doin'?" Mal doesn't look too pleased, and Simon is not in the mood to deal with it right now.
"What do you mean?"
Mal's expression goes flat, as does his voice. "I mean what are you doin' with Jayne?" The words are carefully spaced. "I saw you last night. Stopped in at some bar to get a drink, and what do I see? You, all over Jayne, drunk out of your mind, and laughin' up a storm. Didn't stick around long. Can't say I had much of a stomach for drink after that display." He pauses for a moment, then continues, "Seems like you got a nasty habit of gettin' drunk and plastering yourself over members of my crew. Didn't peg you for that kind, Doc."
Simon closes his yes briefly. He can imagine how he looked. He wants to cringe away from the images in his head, but instead Simon opens his eyes again and smirks up at the captain. "I was having some fun. I believe you told us to get out, take some personal time. So I did."
There's a long pause, Mal's face expressionless the entire time. Then he says, "How long has this been goin' on?"
Schooling his face to his most arrogant expression, Simon replies, "I don't know that it's much of your business, Captain. What I do on my personal time has always been up to me."
"I ain't arguin' that. Still, gotta know the details of crew relationships. Can't say I'm complainin' about how you and Jayne have been more civil with each other lately. But I ain't real interested in you two gettin' trashed in some low-life bar, and puttin' on that kind of display. Might not mean much to you, but right now we're real dependent on havin' some kind of decent reputation."
Even Simon can tell it's a weak excuse. No one knew them at the bar; and even if they did, no one on the fringe gives a damn about drinking and groping. Still, it's not worth the fight to say this right now. He keeps his mouth shut and just stares at Mal.
Eventually, Mal sighs, and leans against the wall. "Simon. You made a point of tellin' us all real early that you're so smart. And I gotta figure -- a guy that smart ain't gonna miss details. He's gonna make the connections, even if it does take some time. So I gotta ask: you know what Jayne did, right?"
He could play it dumb. He could profess confusion at Mal's question. But he feels like garbage and he can't muster the effort to put on another display. Instead, he nods, and he can feel the grim smile form on his face.
"On Ariel. This is what we're talkin' about."
Simon nods again.
Mal's face tightens, and his voice becomes quieter. "And that leads me to ask again what you're doin' with Jayne."
He can't give Mal the truth. Simon can't bear to think about how Mal will probably think he's more of a whore than Inara. Inara is a highly skilled woman in a well-respected profession, no matter what Mal thinks, and the captain still sometimes speaks to her like she's lower than dirt. Simon can't imagine what Mal would think of the way he's trying to deal with Jayne's lack of loyalty and ethics. He stays quiet.
There's another long, uncomfortable silence, broken when Mal pushes himself away from the wall with a grunt. "Well. Guess I'd better go. You and Jayne better be all set to leave atmo in a couple of hours. Don't want no complainin' about sore heads and stomachs."
Mal looks at him steadily, and then says, "I got my eye on him. He won't do it again."
Simon nods, and says quietly, "I know." He's shocked at how bleak the two words sound.
Breaking his gaze, Mal nods back and leaves the room. Simon lies back down and tries not to worry too much. Mal won't say anything to Jayne, even if he has figured it all out. He won't risk disrupting crew dynamics, or Jayne going off on a rampage. Mal might not agree with what Simon's doing, but he's smart enough to respect the decision.
After a while, Simon pushes himself off the bed because he needs to go and prepare River for liftoff. River likes being in space, and she likes the land too, but she doesn't do too well in between.
Leaving Fern is uneventful, and River doesn't panic too much. Simon manages to get a few hours of rest, and by the time dinner is over, he's feeling closer to his usual self -- such as it is since he first entered Jayne's quarters. He's puttering in his room, finding small things to keep him away from Jayne for just a little bit longer, when he hears a knock on the wall outside. "Yes?"
Zoe is at his door, looking somewhat uncomfortable but determined.
"What can I do for you, Zoe?"
Crossing her arms in front of her, she says, "You're a good doctor, but what happens if you're too hurt to help yourself and others, or if we get too many wounded for you to deal with all at once? I did okay with stitching you up a while back, and I know some triage. But I figure you could teach me more, enough to help out if things get real bad."
Simon stares at her for a moment. "It's not something you can learn in a few hours."
"I get plenty of time between jobs. Might as well use it."
He can't argue against the idea. It would be useful to have someone to help him. Zoe's smart, and she would probably pick things up better than some of the crew. "All right. When should we start?"
"I'm not busy now."
Now? But...Simon shrugs it off. It'll be nice to have a night without Jayne. "Fine. Let me get some things and I'll meet you in the infirmary in a few minutes."
He doesn't watch Zoe walk away. He's too busy wondering if he should stop by Jayne's room and make his apologies. But Jayne will probably delay him, and Zoe will get suspicious if he takes too long or if he arrives at the infirmary rumpled and dazed. So, he gathers some books and heads out of the room.
The lesson doesn't go too badly. He carefully goes over his medical supplies and tells Zoe what everything does. She probably won't remember it all, but it's a start. She asks good questions, and after an hour or so, he starts to enjoy himself. She's a good student, and Simon thinks that had his life gone differently, he might one day have enjoyed teaching in a medical academy.
Hours later, he sends Zoe away with a book on basic anatomy, making her promise she'll read it before their next session. It's late, and Simon heads back to his own room.
The next day is routine, although Mal hasn't said much about the job they're heading to. Simon knows he should enjoy the peace while it lasts. At dinner, another combination of protein and carbohydrate powder, Wash looks at him and announces it's high time Simon learned the basics of piloting.
"What?" He's never wanted to be at the helm of Serenity.
"Pretty much the rest of us can do it in an emergency. No use having you useless. Might come a time when we need you to pilot, if the rest of us are distracted or hurt."
"Oh." It makes sense.
Wash chews another mouthful of food, then continues, "It's an easy run out here, nothing weird to navigate, so why don't you come up after the meal, I'll put you through the basics."
"Thank you." He glances at Jayne, who is frowning slightly. Shit. Maybe Wash won't keep him for too long.
The lesson ends up taking hours. He doesn't quite make it to Jayne's room for the second night in a row.
For the next little while, Simon finds himself in demand. Piloting lessons take up a few evenings, until Wash declares him competent in the case of an extreme personnel emergency. Simon takes it as a complement, and agrees to regular practice flights.
Then Zoe comes back for another lesson, and it's as enjoyable as before. Simon figures she'll soon be a competent equivalent to a paramedic, which is always reassuring.
Kaylee then tells him he needs to learn the basics about Serenity's engine, a task he finds himself enjoying more than he thought he would. It's like surgery, especially when he lets himself think about Serenity the way that Kaylee does.
Finally, Mal pulls him aside after dinner one evening, and tells him it's time he learned some of the legal and financial issues of the ship. So, Simon reads about ownership and the costs of running a cargo ship. Mal shows him safe planets, planets where the crew may have some enemies, and places where they should never go. Simon learns to think about fuel costs and supply costs and where to hide for a while if they all get into trouble.
They're all things he needs to know, and he can't fault the logic of learning them. Still, it seems awfully convenient that all the lessons take place during his free time, time he'd usually spend in Jayne's room. He doesn't miss Jayne -- that would be ridiculous -- and he likes the learning. But after a while, he starts to get twitchy. Jayne can't be terribly pleased, and Simon needs to keep him happy. Simon hasn't even been able to find time to see Jayne during the day. Either Jayne's been busy with Mal, or Simon's been busy with River.
He can feel it all falling apart. So, when Zoe comes around looking for another lesson, he pleads a headache and exhaustion. She's oddly reluctant to leave, which makes Simon more suspicious about the sudden tasks he's been learning, and the monopolising of his free time. Still, he manages to persuade her he needs a night off. After she leaves, he smooths down his hair, takes a deep breath, and quickly heads to Jayne's room.
As usual, he doesn't knock, just opens the door and calls down that he's coming in. When Simon climbs down to Jayne's room, Jayne is predictably sitting on his bunk and sharpening a knife. He recognises the sheath and the knife Jayne has chosen for it. Fighting the urge to roll his eyes, Simon smiles. It feels brittle on his face.
"Been a while, Doc." Jayne doesn't look at him as he says it.
"I know. I'm sorry. It's been frustrating for me too."
Jayne snorts. "I'm sure."
That is not what Simon wants to hear. "You know it has." Smiling even harder, he starts unbuttoning his shirt. "I've missed being with you."
Glancing his way, Jayne says, "Keep that on." Setting his knife aside, he turns towards Simon. "What do you think you're doin'?"
"Um...I'm not sure what you mean."
Shaking his head slightly, Jayne scowls at him. "Here. With me. The sex. It's been real fun, but I got to doin' some thinkin' last few nights."
"Don't make much sense, man like you all over me. You scream and you say do it harder, but can't say as I know why. Just figured I'd gotten lucky."
"Jayne, I --"
"Shut your mouth. Thing is, you had a real good act goin'. All interested and eager: ain't seen nothin' like it before or since Canton. Figured I'd take what I could, and you're real nice to look at. Liked talkin' to you, even if I don't get half of what you say." Jayne pauses, and when he starts talking again, his voice is raw. "Too bad your act started slippin'. Didn't want to see it at first, but little things got through. I started wonderin' what you thought you were doin' with me. Took me a while, but I think I figured it out."
Simon finds himself backing towards the door.
"You know what I did. On Ariel. Then you seen me watchin' you. So, you decide to play a little game with the dumb merc. Get him all riled up about you. Keep him good and distracted from the money. I figure, someone like you, all prim and proper and dignified, it musta really burned you up to say those pretty things to me; to let me fuck you good every night." Jayne's voice is quiet and bitter. "You must feel real dirty."
Right now, Simon just feels worry and anger that Jayne has been able to figure everything out.
"No reason a fancy core-worlder would let a guy like me do him like that."
For a moment, Simon is speechless. Then, before he can stop it, "No there isn't," slips out. He's tired of the act, tired of letting Jayne's hands travel his body. If Jayne kills him now, at least Mal will probably take care of River as best as he can. "You're right, of course." His voice is cold. "I thought maybe I could distract you, keep your mind off the reward money. It seemed to work for a while."
Jayne laughs, a harsh sound that is nothing like the way he laughed that night in the bar on Fern. "It didn't work. Never could have."
Standing and moving closer, Jayne leans into Simon, his mouth near Simon's ear. His voice a raspy whisper, he says, "I weren't gonna do it again. Got stupid, learned my lesson, got set in my place by Mal. Thought about them screams we heard. Didn't want to get back into that again, any more'n I want to meet face-to-face with Reavers. So, there were no point to you doin' all that."
No. He can't believe he misread the situation so badly.
Gripping Simon's arms, Jayne steps back a pace. "Bet it felt good though, knowin' you were foolin' me like that. Did it make up for feelin' like a whore? Not that I got anything against whorin' in principle. Earnin' an honest wage, bein' up front about the job, that's fine by me." He pauses. "I don't get all uppity about it, not like Mal. Funny though, you weren't real up front now, were you?"
"I never --" Simon only tries to talk because Jayne is so calm. He doesn't seem angry, at least not violently so. He does seem kind of disappointed, but Simon is probably imagining things.
"Told you to keep your mouth shut." Jayne releases his arms, and returns to sitting on his bunk. "Had a lot of good rides, Doctor. You got a real talented mouth, and that ass of yours is sweet. If you ever wanna different job, you come and talk to me. I got the names of a few places you could sell your stuff, earn some good coin. Maybe even enough to get that sister of yours some decent help."
Jayne picks up the knife again. "Right now though, I'm sick of your face. Kinda got myself wonderin' who else you've been whorin' yourself out for. Ain't never been one for sharin'. Did you pay coin to get your sister out from where they were keepin' her? Or did you wave your pretty ass in front of some hard-up guys? Or maybe you're doin' Mal? I figure you might think he'd keep you nice and safe, if you keep him happy. Don't know how you found the time, but then I'm just some dumb merc." He starts sharpening the knife. "I'll thank you to get the hell outta my room."
Simon stays still, unable to move but for the shaking of his hands.
He feels like he should say something, although he's not sure what. "Jayne --"
"I ain't gonna say it again."
His ears have started ringing, and he feels slightly light-headed. Jayne is glaring at him, so he turns around and climbs up the ladder. He pulls himself out of the room and closes the door behind him. Slowly, he walks towards his own room, nodding and automatically smiling when Wash, then Book, pass by him. He stops by River's room to watch her sleep for a few moments. He smooths her hair out of her face and smiles when she murmurs contentedly.
Back in his room, lying fully clothed on his bed, Simon thinks about Jayne's anger and the almost-hurt he thought he saw. He remembers Jayne getting him a room with a bath and bread with tomatoes. He wonders what he's done, and if everyone's figured it out, not just Mal and Jayne. He thinks about himself, down on his knees, sucking Jayne off with abandon; lying on his back and telling Jayne how wonderful he is, how sexy. The memories make him want to retch, but he keeps it under control. It wouldn't do to wake River.
He thinks he's made everything worse. Jayne may not sell them out to the Alliance, but he's likely to be even more intolerant toward River's future uncontrolled actions. Jayne may not be the brightest member of the crew, but he's maybe smart enough to set up situations that will get River into trouble. They might be enough of a problem that Mal starts talking about them leaving Serenity again.
He's misjudged things on a scale that far exceeds any of the mistakes he's ever made. The whole thing is so ridiculous and undignified that it's almost a farce. Simon knows he's smart. His test scores are unbelievably high, and his memory is photographic. He coasted through medical school, learning everything with little effort and a voracious appetite. All this doesn't make him a great judge of people; he can't read body language and intentions the way River has always been able to do. Although he'll never verbally admit it, he recognises it was a mistake to believe that Jayne would be so easily manipulated.
Pulling the sheets across his shoulders, Simon curls into himself and tries not to think for a little while.
Spoilers: Ariel, Objects in Space, Serenity. Takes place after Objects in Space.
Disclaimers: Firefly and all associated characters do not belong to me.
Summary: Simon assesses the situation and makes a decision.
Warnings: This is a little darker than my usual stuff. Some people may think there are consent issues.
Notes: Thanks to Stacey and Squeaky for the fantastic beta jobs!