"It ain't right, that's all I'm sayin'."
Mal rolled his eyes and looked up from the cargo manifest. Cows. Cows? This was the precious cargo that had to be smuggled off Persephone? Why him? And why did the drop point have to be so damn far? And now this, "What's not right now, Jayne?"
Jayne was scowling down at him, looking pissier than usual. The man only seemed happy when he was polishing his weaponry or being worshipped as a hero. "Wash and Zoe! It ain't right that we have to see 'em all lovey all the time. Was bad enough them going at it for hours while you and Kaylee were partying on Persephone. I can't even get away from it right now. It's enough to drive a man insane. The noises!" He threw up his hands. "Wash!"
"Uh-huh." Was there any way to head this off?
"We got you having women throwing themselves at your feet --"
"One woman, and she tried to scam us, Jayne."
"Still. And Inara's always off doing her thing."
"Inara's business is out of bounds."
"Whatever. Shit, even Kaylee and the doc are making googly eyes at each other."
Googly eyes? He'd have to watch out for that.
"And all I'm sayin' is that it ain't right that I ain't getting some of that action too."
"You want Simon and Kaylee to make googly eyes at you too?"
Jayne's face went even darker. "You know what I'm talking about."
Hell yes, he did. "Look, if it makes you feel any better, I don't think the Shepherd and River are 'getting some of that action' either."
Jayne stomped a few paces away and Mal caught a few words, "crazy" and "preacher" and "probably not even anatomically correct".
"Hey!" He yelled at Jayne's back, "Didn't I see you with women all over you at the mud colony? It's more than I got!"
Turning around, Jayne snarled, "That was weeks ago! And...mudders!"
"What the hell do you want me to do? You're getting paid the same cut as Zoe -- why don't you spend a little of it next time we're on a planet?"
"Zoe's getting paid and she's getting sex for free!"
He struggled to keep his face straight until Jayne had stalked his way out of the room. Grinning, he tried to imagine what Zoe's response would have been, had she heard that. Wash would probably be howling with laughter. Jayne. Ah, Christ.
He looked down at the cargo manifest again. Cows. Cows? They still had over three weeks 'till they got to the drop point, and he wasn't sure how much more manure he could stomach venting out the airlock.
They were all starting to go a little stir-crazy, locked up in the ship.
* * * *
Hours later, Zoe came knocking at his bunk. "Hey. How're you feeling?"
Sitting up, he shrugged carefully. "Been worse. I'm not dead, anyway. Just having a little rest."
"So - any idea what's up with Jayne?"
"What isn't up with Jayne?"
She smiled. "He was just down in the cargo hold, muttering about smacking the cows. He's looking pretty pissy."
He rubbed his temples. "I don't know. He came in here ranting about googly eyes and lovey people and it not being right. And he said something about being annoyed by the sounds you and Wash make while you 'go at it'. All the time."
He watched as Zoe tried valiantly not to look smug.
"Jayne will never know what he's missing."
"I suspect he thinks it's the other way around."
"So basically," she said, still grinning smugly, "Jayne is annoyed because he's not having regular sex, and I am? And what's this about googly eyes?"
"Kaylee and Simon."
"Ah." She gave him a look that was positively evil. "This is too good to pass up, Mal. How long do we have left on this run?"
"Close to a month. And Zoe? Don't push him too far. I'm not set up for another fight right now, especially if he brings out Vera."
"Right, sir. I'll just let you get some sleep now."
"You do that." He had a feeling it would be the last decent sleep he had for a while. Thankfully Zoe and Wash's bunk was far from his. The privileges of owning this bucket -- er, beauty. He patted Serenity's bulkhead, and lay back down.
* * * *
He was intensely glad that he still had to take it easy. Simon told him to rest, and that meant a lot of time in his bunk. It also meant minimal exposure to the torturing of Jayne by Zoe and Wash. As it was, Zoe was strutting around the ship smug as can be, while Wash just looked insufferably satisfied. It was enough to make even Mal start to feel annoyed at the two of them, and he couldn't even hear their off-hours entertainment.
Jayne had taken to carrying Vera with him everywhere, haunting the corridors and muttering to himself. Or possibly to the gun.
Who the hell named a gun Vera anyway? The name made Mal think of kindly grandmothers and home cooking.
A few days into the Wash and Zoe Sex Show (entry restricted), he was on his way to check the cows. Kaylee wanted little to do with them, and Simon hadn't a clue. That left him and Zoe to care for their cargo, and really, Zoe wasn't pulling her weight on this run. He walked into the hold, looked up, and saw Jayne on the catwalk, aiming at the cows, and pretending to shoot. "That gun better not be loaded!" Mal shouted.
Jayne hollered right back, "I ain't some amateur! I don't slip up."
Sure. "You shoot any of these cows, and your cut gets halved. I can't afford to have you screwing up our runs. We're barely scraping by as it is." It was true. Without Inara's rent on the shuttle, they'd be grounded more than he'd like.
Jayne carefully resheathed his gun, caution exaggerated. When he spoke, his voice was quieter, controlled. "Me? Me? If I'm remembering correctly, wasn't me that last jeopardised the run. Nope. Wasn't me sitting locked up in some ritzy prison, waiting to get my guts cut out." He stalked to the stairs, swinging himself over the railing half way down. The cows looked mildly concerned, and parted for him as he walked over to Mal.
"This is the sweetest gig I've ever had. 'cept for the crazy shit that happens to us all the time." Jayne leaned closer, face tight. "I don't want to lose it! Not 'cause you had to go and do something stupid over some woman's honour."
"Jayne, that's the sweetest thing you've ever said to me. I'm sure Inara would be touched too."
"I can be sweet, but this ain't the time for it. Keep your balls out of the fire, Captain, or you won't like what I do to 'em."
"That's real classily put."
"Didn't hire me for my class." He turned and walked away.
That was for damn sure. Just for good measure, he yelled, "I don't want to see you aiming at these cows again!"
Then again, maybe it was better Jayne was aiming at the cows instead of Wash or Zoe.
* * * *
Zoe was downright getting on his nerves. She was an old friend, and he was glad she'd found happiness. She'd pulled him out of danger enough that he was willing to give her some slack, even when her sense of humour turned malicious. This was too much, though. Wash seemed to have some sense, but Zoe kept pushing and pushing at Jayne, waiting for him to snap. Everyone was tense waiting for it too. Kaylee was watching everyone with wide and cautious eyes, and Mal had this feeling that River was fixing herself up for a full-out fit. Not that she's ever been what he'd call 'real stable'. Inara was muttering about leaving for a few days; Shepherd was spending more time than usual with his face in the Bible, and Simon had just declared the infirmary off limits except for emergencies. He'd holed up in there and keyed in the quarantine protocol, only letting River in and out.
The cows didn't help. Their smell had spread though the entire ship, making people twitchy. All except Kaylee, who said she'd gotten used to cows as a kid. Everyone else wanted fresh air, and plenty of it.
"Just cut it out, Zoe." They were sitting in the mess hall, which was uncommonly quiet. Everyone seemed to be avoiding group gatherings. "He hasn't hurt anyone yet, but he's liable to soon. We've got a long time left before we next land, and I don't want any disasters. You had your fun. Leave it alone now."
"His ego needs to be brought down a little."
"Maybe. Maybe yours does too."
She sputtered for a moment. "I'm happy, Mal. Can't I show it?"
"Of course you can. I'm not saying you can't. I'm happy for you and Wash. I can't say how much. But you're deliberately trying to piss Jayne off, and in the process you're annoying me and throwing off the rest of the crew. So cool it." Playing the hard-ass captain wasn't his favourite part of the job, but sometimes he had to make decisions about what was best for the crew. They all knew it, and they all saw it. And anyway, he was getting pretty tired of having Zoe and Wash's happy sex lives thrown in his face too.
He got up from the table, and left Zoe sitting alone. His side ached like a bitch. Best go see Simon.
* * * *
Jayne was striding down the hall, and they nearly collided. His twist to avoid the other man pulled at his stitches, making him wince more than before. "Watch it."
Jayne looked him up and down, scowling faintly. "You hurting?"
"A little. You know, shot in the gut, stabbed in the side...it adds up eventually."
"Shit yeah, I know that feeling. Gonna get something for the pain?"
"Yep. Heading to see Simon right now."
Jayne scowled more. "Huh. Got something better'n that." He started walking in the general direction of his bunk. Mal watched for a minute, then slowly followed.
Damn. This was sure to be a mistake. Still, he owed Jayne some time, considering what he'd dealt with for the last few days. Anyway, the man was being downright hospitable, at least for him. It was a rare thing, and it wouldn't hurt to smooth over some anger. They got to Jayne's bunk, a small space with few belongings and an interesting wall hanging. It was neater than Mal had expected. "I like what you've done with the place."
Jayne snorted as he rifled through a lockable metal trunk. He straightened up with a large bottle in his hand. "I ain't no doc, but this has gotten me through a few scrapes." He uncorked the bottle, and took a deep sniff. "Yup. That's the stuff." Upending the bottle, he took a long drink. "Hoo-eee." He shook his head as he held the bottle out.
Reluctantly, Mal took it. "Don't know as this is such a good idea."
"What? Your time at some fancy party spoil you for us?"
"Oh yeah. I'm all set for some life of food the size of my fingers, dull conversation and sword duels. Why, I'm even planning on selling the ship and setting myself up in luxury." He took a swig from the bottle, managing not to choke as the alcohol stripped a few layers from his throat. "Shit."
Jayne almost grinned and grabbed the bottle back. "Yep. Spent a couple of months hooked up on this stuff once. Couldn't get to a doc, but this kept me from screaming all hours of the day. Can't imagine it did much good for my liver, but at least I'm walking." He took another drink. "I always carry a supply around now." He passed it back. "Another couple of mouthfuls and you won't be feeling much pain."
He didn't need a couple more mouthfuls, but he took one anyway. Hell. It was like they were bonding or something. The closest they usually came was when he handed Jayne his cut of the profits. "Thanks. I think I'm good."
"Lightweight." Jayne knocked back a couple more pulls, then corked the bottle. "Hey. Sit. You ain't gonna be able to stand much longer."
He crossed the small space to the bunk and sat heavily down, careful not to jar his side. He was starting to feel not so bad.
"You bleeding again?"
"Nah. Just aching a little." He shifted back a little to lean against the wall. "So, are you going to kill Wash and Zoe?"
"Nah. Ain't worth it. It's just annoying is all." Jayne moved to sprawl next to him, his warmth seeping into Mal across the short distance that separated them.
"Good. 'cause I'd have to throw you out an airlock, and I'm sure Vera would miss you."
"Vera'd go with me."
They were silent for a few minutes. Then,
"Jayne -- Vera?" He looked sidelong at the man.
"Ain't none of your business. That's her name, that's all you need to know."
Well, a man was entitled to his secrets. They sat silently for a few more moments, then Mal pushed himself upright. "Thanks for the hooch. Think I'll go and check in with Simon just to be safe."
"Sure thing." Jayne didn't stand. "Tell Zoe to stay out of my way."
"Jayne? I can't help but notice that that ain't Vera in your pants."
Jayne leered a little. "Nope."
"So, was your plan to get an injured man drunk and grab a quick grope? That's a real classy pass, Jayne."
Jayne leered some more. "Told you didn't hire me for my class."
"True." Mal gestured at the bottle. "Thanks again." He walked out of the bunk room and concentrated on getting to the infirmary before he fell down.
* * * *
Mal woke up in his own bunk to see Jayne staring down at him. He vaguely remembered getting himself back to his bunk after a garbled scolding from Simon. Did he leave the door open? Didn't really matter -- Jayne in a mood wouldn't necessarily respect closed doors.
Jayne crossed his arms, and leaned against the wall. "I just got a lecture about giving hooch to a man who was recently seriously injured."
"I got a version of that a few hours ago."
"Prissy. You got back here fine though."
"Yeah. Simon overreacts sometimes, especially when you're involved."
"No. Simon detoxified me -- his term -- and pumped me full of painkillers. I just had a great sleep."
"I guess my plan ain't gonna work, then."
Jayne didn't even have the grace to look apologetic. "Damn."
He sat up slowly and smirked a little. "It was nice of you to think of me though. I'm feeling all aflutter."
Jayne snorted. "Maybe I'd believe that if you were the doc."
Oh god. Did Jayne make a pass at Simon? He had no idea how he would begin to go about dealing with the problems that might cause. "You didn't, ah --"
"Right. I don't think so."
"Aww. Now I feel even more special."
Jayne nudged him over and sat down. "You know, all this pussyfooting around and snide attitude -- I'd almost think we were courting. So let's just get right to it. If you're up to it. I'm not real interested in the talking thing."
It was no wonder that Jayne routinely made Inara shudder. Her sensibilities would be appalled by this kind of pass. Mal, however, didn't quite have her standards. He could make worse choices than Jayne, no matter what the others might think. "What exactly are you hoping we'll get right to?" It wasn't as though he really had to ask.
"Loud enough to get back at Zoe and Wash?"
Jayne rolled his eyes. "You got one devious mind, you know that? I was just thinking sex. It's been a while for me, and you too I'll bet. No complications, just fun. You're nice to look at."
The leer came back. "You wann be touched some more?"
Mal stared at the wall. This was a ridiculously bad idea. He had enough trouble keeping Jayne in line as it was. He didn't want to add accusations of favouritism to crew dynamics that were already strained much of the time. Jayne might take it into his head that sex with Mal gave him some special privileges.
It was a terrible idea. But --
"I'm not askin' for flowers or googly eyes. It's just an offer. One time or not, whatever."
"I probably shouldn't do anything too strenuous." It was as close to an outright yes that he could manage.
"I'm used to doing lots of the heavy work around here anyway." Jayne stood and took off his shirt, tossing it across the room. He bent down and started to work on his boots. "You just going to sit there?"
Mal started to unbutton his own shirt, watching the muscles of the other man's shoulders roll as he undid and removed his boots. He could imagine licking those shoulders as he leisurely fucked Jayne. It was too bad he wasn't in any sort of shape for that. He resisted the urge to start stroking himself as he watched. Instead, he unbuttoned his pants, stood up, and dropped them. Jayne caught an eyeful as he straightened up.
"Do you make a habit of fucking your bosses?"
"Not 'till now. You saw some of the scum I used to work for. A guy's gotta have some standards."
"Again, I'm feeling flattered." Mal reached out and trailed his fingers along the top of Jayne's pants, then started to work on the buttons.
"You like kissin'?"
Mal shrugged. "Depends. Are you good?" He slipped his hand inside and lightly stroked Jayne's cock as he used his other hand to push the now loose pants down. Nice. Jayne was hard, big, and everything he'd overheard a couple of mudder women talking about just before they'd left the planet.
Jayne smirked and reached out to curve his hand around Mal's neck and yank him forward. He muttered, "I ain't had any complaints," just before he pressed a hard kiss against Mal's lips, then pulled back slightly. "I bet some of them mudder women are writing songs about kissin' me right now." He moved for another kiss. His free hand strayed around Mal's waist and settled against his back, and he licked his way into Mal's mouth.
Mal tightened his hand around Jayne's cock and stroked quickly a few times, liking Jayne's slight shudder and answering bite on his lower lip. The kissing was pretty damn good, as good as the fingers kneading at the small of his back.
Jayne let go of his neck and reached down to pry Mal's fingers free. Then he closed the slight distance between them, and they were pushing against each other, cocks hard and slick, the friction making them both groan, and then making Mal wince. He pushed away. "I'm not so sure this is a good idea. I don't want to open anything up again."
"Hmm." Jayne was angling back towards his mouth.
"Jayne." He turned his face away, but Jayne just latched onto his earlobe. Mmm. He was being pushed backwards.
"Can't back out now."
Wet heat was licking at his neck, and Jayne's hand was stroking down his belly. It was too distracting for him to think about backing out. Hands pushed him down to his bunk. He looked up, smiling slightly at the want in Jayne's expression.
"How 'bout you just sit back for a little while?" Jayne nudged his legs apart and settled down between them, his fingers trailing up Mal's calf and rubbing slow circles above his knee. He was looking at Mal's side. "That looks pretty painful."
He shrugged a little. "Ah. I've seen worse, especially on myself." He looked as though he was about to elaborate.
Mal wasn't really interested in a game of comparing scars, injuries and stories at this point. He said as much. "You're the one who wanted to get to it." Jayne looked a little disappointed, and it was actually possible that a discussion of battle wounds was his kind of foreplay. "Jayne --"
He was interrupted by a smirk as Jayne grated, "Yeah," and pulled his head down for another fierce kiss. The angle was awkward and his side twinged, but the moment was brief before he was pushed into a sprawl. Taking advantage of his wide-open position, Jayne licked down his neck, then chest, avoiding the wounds and gnawing gently at the bruises. Reaching his broad hands to grip Mal's hips, Jayne paused for an instant before licking across the head of his cock, and then sucking it into his mouth.
Mal's hips surged at the rush of pleasure, and only the hands anchoring his hips and the warning look Jayne flashed at him kept him from forcing himself deeper into Jayne's mouth. For a few minutes, he thought Jayne was going to tease him, going to draw out the pleasure until he was begging. Instead, he set a steady rhythm, repeatedly sucking Mal's cock deep into his throat, swallowing, and then moving back to tongue hard at the tip.
His hands were clenched in the sheets, and carefully he unwound them and reached out to grasp Jayne's shoulders, silently urging him on. Teeth scraped across him delicately, and his back arched as his fingers dug into Jayne's flesh. A few more hard sucks and then Jayne swallowed around him, and the pleasure crested, a warm, rolling sensation that left him moaning and wishing it hadn't ended quite so quickly.
He watched, wide-eyed, as Jayne slowly pulled off him, licking leisurely. There was a disturbing glint in his eyes, but as Jayne's tongue licked him clean, he couldn't quite bring himself to care. He closed his eyes and slumped further down on the bunk, just remembering to unwrap his hands from around Jayne's shoulders.
He was still gasping with residual pleasure when Jayne stood up and moved to straddle his chest, avoiding his stitches. Mal's head was at an awkward angle, pressed up against the wall along with the tops of his shoulders. Jayne reached down to cup his neck, raising him up the slightest bit and changing the angle. He braced himself with his free arm on the wall above Mal's head, and said,
"My turn. Open up."
It wasn't a request. Mal licked his lips just before the slick head of Jayne's cock pushed against and then past them.
Jayne felt huge, and Mal was overwhelmed with the realisation that it had been too long since he'd had a cock in his mouth. He hadn't known how he'd missed the hot slide of flesh between his lips and the pressure against the back of his throat. He'd missed the bitter taste in his mouth, and the sounds of the harsh grunts men made when they fucked each other.
Jayne's hand kept his head angled perfectly, and he just concentrated on the sucking of hard flesh as Jayne pushed slowly in and out of his mouth. His jaw cracked and he sucked harder as Jayne gasped, "Yeah. Like that," all the while watching him.
He stroked his hands up Jayne's thighs to rest on the man's hips. As Jayne pulled outwards, Mal breathed in deeply, then roughly pulled Jayne forward and deep. He held them like that for a few moments, swallowing repeatedly while Jayne gasped and swore. Then Jayne pulled back and resumed his previous rhythm, this time going deeper. For long minutes, Mal sucked, licked and opened his throat for Jayne's cock, moaning as Jayne pushed into him and held his head steady. They didn't stop watching each other until Jayne's body stiffened slightly, his eyes closed, and he came, groaning, all over Mal's tongue.
Mal continued to suck gently until Jayne released his head and pulled away, settling half-on the bunk. His mouth felt -- used. It had been too long since he'd last felt this way. He closed his eyes, not quite willing to see how Jayne might be looking at him. A rough hand grabbed his chin, turning his head sideways. Then Jayne's tongue was in his mouth, slowly mapping its contours before pulling away again.
"Guess I'm glad I didn't shoot you the day we met."
"I could maybe make a habit of fucking with this boss."
"Maybe." He kept his eyes closed.
"You enjoyed yourself."
"Yep." Still, there were crew dynamics to consider. Not to mention that Jayne needed to be kept on a tight leash. Shit. This wasn't what he'd call keeping his balls out of the fire. He couldn't help but feel this had just made the flames worse.
Jayne pushed off the bed. "You should sleep."
He wasn't going to deny it. He opened his eyes, meeting the intense stare of the other man. Jayne didn't look away as he pulled on his pants.
Putting on his boots and shirt, Jayne continued, "Ain't no use to us if you can't keep yourself upright for more'n an hour." He turned and walked out of the room.
Mal watched the door for a few minutes, then turned to face the wall and tried to sleep. At least three more weeks to the drop point.
Spoilers: Anything up to Shindig.
Summary: It just ain't right.
Notes: This takes place during the travel time from Persephone to the drop point for the cargo hold full of cows ('Safe' episode). Squeaky beta read this pointed out wording insanity and continuity issues -- she rocks! Thanks so much :)