The first time is in the shower. It's been a long day, long and hot, and all Simon can think about is the steady stream of patients that entered and left his sweltering office.
The days are always the same. At first, he'd almost welcomed the repetition, the routine. Now, he lives it without thinking.
When he gets back to their rented rooms, he doesn't check the Cortex for news about the war. He doesn't think about River, or Mal and Zoe. He can't quite bring himself to eat or shower. Instead, he sits on a chair and stares at the wall.
He doesn't look up when Jayne walks in, talking about the heat-wave, the annoying chores on the farm, the way his ass hurts from too many hours out on the horses today, how he needs to practice his aim, because all this farm work is making him soft.
Simon just sits, unable to engage in conversation. He sits until Jayne comes and stands in front of him, and says, "What the hell is your problem?"
Simon doesn't have an answer for that.
No. He does have an answer. But if he starts to talk, it will all come flowing out. He knows he won't be able to stop, and that if he doesn't stop, he'll do something else. Something unexpected. And that might destroy the fragile place they've earned for themselves in town. So he doesn't respond, just stares at Jayne. He takes in the detail of Jayne's pants, worn and dirty, his belt, covered in dust. He breathes in the scent of soil and horses, hay and sunshine.
He sits and breathes until Jayne mutters something about annoying running in the family, and reaches out to pull him up, off the chair. "C'mon. You stink."
"You're one to talk," he says, as follows Jayne to the bathroom.
The room is small, but the shower itself is large. It isn't a separate enclosure. The line between shower and not-shower is demarcated by a slight ledge, just high enough to keep the water from pooling over the entire floor.
"Yer gettin' in the shower," Jayne says, "so get out of them clothes." He's already working on his own pants, having left his boots out in the other room.
It isn't the first time Simon has seen Jayne get undressed – or dressed. The rooms they rent are small, and Jayne doesn't care about privacy. Simon has grown used to seeing Jayne in various states of undress.
It's not generally like this, though. Not – intentional.
Usually, he pretends he's not looking, even if he might be looking at scars, or seeing the ways that farm labour is reshaping Jayne's body in subtle ways. Simon has seen the way his thighs have become more toned, after hours on horseback, checking the edge of the farm, or rounding up goats.
This is the way it has to be. Pretending not to see, pretending not to be consumed with the war.
Pretending to be patient.
River never writes. Jayne doesn't expect to hear from any of them – he's said as much, more than once. But Simon thought he'd hear something. Something coded, something hidden.
Maybe he just hasn't been looking in the right places. Maybe he's missing the messages she sends.
Simon pushes the doubts aside and steps out of his clothes, quickly, efficiently. He lets Jayne push him under the already running shower. He knows what's coming, he knows what he's about to do – what they're about to do – and he's relieved, anticipating, ready. He's half-hard already; he's breathing a little more quickly than usual.
But before anything else, he let's the wide spray of water wash off the day.
The water is hot, one of the few luxuries in the town. The sun – relentless – heats the water in the pipes, in the storage tanks, and the result is abundant hot water throughout the entire day. It's soporific, like the rest of the town.
Sometimes, Simon dreams about cold water, streaming down from the showerhead.
When Jayne pushes him up against the wall, out of the fall of water, Simon doesn't resist. But the tile is cool against his back, and it shocks him – shocks him awake, enough that he pushes back. Jayne frowns at him. "Not interested?"
But he is. He's interested, he has been since before he began this half-life in a dirty little town. Since before River pushed him away. "What took you so long?" He asks the question as he slides one hand down from Jayne's bicep, and curves it around his hip. Carefully, Simon urges him back under the spray.
Jayne looks at him like he thinks maybe Simon has cracked. "I been workin'. Same as every day."
That isn't what Simon means, but he doesn't bother to say so. Instead he closes the distance between them, smiles briefly, and drops to his knees. The floor is concrete, polished and smooth, and it jars him when he lands. He stifles his grunt, and leans forward, presses his mouth to Jayne's hip. "What took you so long?" He slides his mouth down, and asks it again against Jayne's thigh, rough hairs brushing against his lips.
Jayne's hand cups Simon's head, heavy and insistent. Simon gets the hint and moves. He focuses on the body in front of him, the scent of water on skin, the taste of Jayne on his tongue.
The hot water falls all around him.
Prompt: chores, riding
Notes: Expanded scene from Choice.