Some jobs leave a mark on a man more than others. Trying to get those cattle for Badger had left a hell of a mark, even if Simon had sewn it up good. He'd felt that one for days. Others, like rutting Saffron and the Lassiter, well, they leave other kinds of marks, ones that leave Mal thinking, wondering. Pondering.

Ain't nothing so calm-damaging as the fallout from the pastry job, though.

After the rutting pastries are off his ship, some things get back to normal. Inara goes back to being their asset, even helping set them up with a legitimate job for a Companion House stationed on Persephone.

Kaylee eventually stops babbling about sweets and how it was real nice to have something decent to eat for a change. He'd been able to keep the dozen he kept aside from that crate (ones without data crystals in 'em) secret for about two hours, before he decided he'd be nice for once (she deserved it for frying the crystals), and hand them over to her.

Things go smooth for a space.

He just pretends not to notice when he sees Simon, all dressed up in that gorram inspector's uniform, sneaking down to Jayne's bunk.

He pretends he ain't seeing it (the first time, the second, and then he stops counting) when Simon emerges, hours later, uniform all mussed up. It wasn't like he'd been hanging around, anyway.

He just ignores it, 'cause thoughts of Jayne and Simon are disturbifying on too many levels. He figures he does a real good job of ignoring, not looking, not acknowledging, until he walks into the kitchen, late one night, to find them sitting. Simon's drinking tea, Jayne's just drinking.

It's tempting to turn around and leave, but gorrammit, he's hungry. He shouldn't have to be hungry on his own ship.


He grunts a greeting in response, looking through the cupboards. Ain't nothing in there worth eating, and he thinks on those pastries almost longingly for a moment. Then he grabs a protein bar.

There's no food inspector uniform in sight, Simon just dressed in a shirt and pants, and Mal's all manner of glad about that. "Surprised to see you two up."  Ah, hell. He didn't mean to say that. 'Cause that's <i>acknowledging</i>.

Simon's just looking at him, and it ain't clear if he's angry or what. So Mal asks, "What?"

Simon's mouth is a little thin line, like when he's real pissed. "You don't want to know, believe me."

Now that, that's just taunting a man. If Inara had said that, he would have accused her of wiles. "Oh, yeah? Something bad happen? Little sister?"

Jayne snorts. "Naw."


Looking at Jayne, lips still all thin, Simon says, "I'm telling you, you don't want to bring this up. Not now."

But Jayne's got that stubborn look on his face, and Mal knows what that means. No way is Simon going to win this little battle. It's kind of fun to watch them stare each other down, so he just stands, eating his bar. Finally, Jayne says,

"Simon's seen you watchin' us sometimes."

Shifting a little, Simon says, "That is not what I said. I said he's been not-watching us. Out of the corner of his eye."

"Whatever. Same thing."

Something doesn't bode well about this. Mal doesn't like the turn of the conversation. But he can't help himself, "I've got no rutting idea what you two are babbling about."

"Oh, I think you do." Those thin lips, is that 'cause he's mad? Or maybe trying not to laugh? 'Cause right now, Mal thinks Simon suddenly looks mighty full of himself. It's Mal's very least favourite Simon-look.


There's silence for a moment, and Simon drinks his tea, just watching at him. It's unnerving. Finally, Jayne pushes back from the table a little, says, "Simon thinks you want in on the action."

Mal chokes on his protein bar. It's undignified.

Even while he's trying to breath, he notices Simon doesn't come over, or offer doctorly help. Probably 'cause he's smart enough to know better, right now. When he can breath again, he moves over to where Simon's sitting, tries on his best angry captain loom. "What in the hell?"

But Simon, he's unfazed. Too much time spent with Jayne, maybe. "It's just logical. You get twitchy when you see us. And don't think I haven't noticed you hanging around outside of Jayne's door."

Flicking a quick glance at Jayne - who looks way too smug and interested right about now - Mal leans down, just a bit. "You got a powerful strange idea of logic. Been talking to your sister too much?"

Simon's back to thin lips again, eyes narrowed now too. "If you're not interested, all you have to do is say no."

And Mal steps back involuntarily, glad he doesn't lose his balance. He thought this was an accusation, not - "This is an offer? You two have an odd way of asking."

Jayne's standing now too, stretching like he's been sitting too long. "Think we're out here this time of night havin' tea and dumplings?"

Mal can't help it. He shudders, points at Jayne and the Simon, and he knows his voice is a little too fast when he says, "You two! It's horrifying. I can't even - Simon, what the rutting hell are you thinking? And Jayne, since when did you - no, wait, I don't want to know." He can't stand it much longer, the two of them just looking at him, Simon so calm, Jayne so expectant. Apart, they're both a pain in his ass too often, but he can take care of that. But together - this united front - it ain't good.

They can't be serious, either. Can they?

Don't matter anyway, 'cause Mal is already out of the kitchen, and there is no way the three of them are ever revisiting this conversation. Ever. Even if he has to ditch one of them (or both) on the next piece of rock with a half-passable atmo.

He thinks on that thought as he walks away, but he can't quite ignore the voices behind him.

"That went well."

"Told you you were ruttin' crazy."

But Simon sounds smug, too damn smug when he replies, "No. I don't think I am."

Gorram it. He's going to regret that rutting pastry job for years to come.

Pairing: Simon/Jayne/Mal (well, maybe in Mal's dream/nightmares)
Rating: PG
Summary: Some jobs leave a mark on a man. Sequel to The Pastry Caper

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