Work Header


Work Text:


"Okay, right."

Simon inhaled, ready to blow out the candles on his birthday cake.

MALCOLM ("I like an easy, languorous journey.")


Wash swung around in the pilot's seat. "Yeah?"

"How's it coming?"

"Pretty good, actually." Wash indicated the navigation console. "I'm still vectoring. The computer needs another twenty minutes to run through the courses I proposed."

"I'm not in the mood to run into Alliance patrols." Mal leaned against the doorway.

"And we won't."

"Well, you let me know when you got it all sussed."

Wash swung in his seat. "Yeah. After the vectoring, I need to run a quick compare against the star charts—make sure I haven't navigated us straight through a black hole or something."

Mal pointed at Wash. "Don't be late for lunch," he said.


"Kaylee has a little surprise planned for the good doctor."

"Those wacky kids," Wash said. "Ah, young love."

Mal snorted. "Young love—right. The doc can't get it together. I'm not sure what Kaylee sees in him, but she does favor him, it's true."

"What's not to like?" Wash asked. "Smart, handsome, rich, wanted by some scary bad guys…"

"That's our Simon," Mal said. He tapped the door. "So I'll see you at lunch."

Wash waved as Mal turned to leave. "I'll be there," he called.

Mal headed for the cargo bay. He needed to get it cleaned out from their last run. He needed Jayne's help—the big man was a godsend when it came to the heavy lifting. Mal didn't doubt that Jayne was an asset, for all that he wasn't the brightest fire in the 'verse. He was always ready to jump out of a ship, blow something up, or pick up a gun, and their line of work found that kind of enthusiasm useful. But Mal kept Jayne tightly in check, because he knew that Jayne would turn on him or sell them all out if he felt it was to his advantage. So far, Mal had made sure his offers were better, and Jayne did enjoy more autonomy and better perks with Mal than he had with his previous employer, for all that Mal had to continually jerk him back.

As he swung past the infirmary, he saw Jayne through the window—just the man he needed to recruit for a little bit of back-breaking labor. Mal repressed a sigh as he made for the door. Jayne in the infirmary was never a good thing. Jayne and the good doctor didn't get along. Simon, normally so well mannered, barely tolerated Jayne—his uncouthness, his demeanor, his lack of education. Jayne didn't seem to care; apparently, he found Simon only a minor irritant, which Mal was grateful for, because he didn't want Jayne losing control and hauling off and hitting the doctor—or worse. Mal found their sniping alternately entertaining and annoying. And it looked like Jayne was up to something, because, as Mal got closer, he saw Jayne standing close to Simon, pinning him against the counter, face close to Simon's, his body posture aggressive and threatening. Simon didn't look angry, though. He seemed to be smiling at Jayne.

Simon's eyes met his just before Mal reached for the door. Mal entered just in time to hear Simon say, "Can you just pretend you're human? Just for today? Look, tell me what you came in for or get out of my infirmary. I have work to do."


"Jayne, you bothering the doc again?" Mal said. "You two. Always at it."

Jayne swung around in surprise. Simon, ducking his head, muttered something under his breath that Mal didn't catch, and Jayne, pushing away from the counter, freeing Simon, said, "Hey, Mal. Just stopped by for—for something."

Yeah, something—something like a little doctor-baiting, no doubt. "You heard the man, Jayne," Mal said as Simon moved away from Jayne. "Get what you came for."

"Something I can help you with, Captain?" Simon asked as Jayne opened up first one drawer, then another, and rummaged through.

"Nah, I just saw Jayne in here." Mal turned to him. "I need some help today with the cargo bay—we need to get the containers cleaned and stowed."

"You got it, Mal," Jayne said, shutting the drawer. He held something he'd taken from it, a plastic-wrapped device about the size of a pen. "What do you think about our course? We staying steady?"

Mal shook his head. "I've asked Wash to chart us a new one," he said. "He's on it. I'll talk to him in a bit, get an update. You get to work now."

"Everything all right?" Simon asked as Jayne left.

"Jayne bothering you?"

Simon considered. "No—not more than usual."

"He seemed in your face just now."

"It's nothing I can't handle."

Mal stared at Simon, who stared impassively back. "Okay, doc," he said at last. He was getting a vibe. Simon was holding something back. "There something you ain't telling me?"

"Like what?" Simon asked.

"It's all just words, right? He ain't tried to—to do anything to you?"

"Nothing like that," Simon said. "Don't worry. I can take care of myself."

"All right, then."

Mal said his goodbyes and left. But as he headed for the cargo bay, hearing the heavy-booted clatter of Jayne ahead of him, he wondered what was up. He figured Jayne needed some extra watching.

As long as the engine turned, the air kept moving, and the crew kept breathing.

The power source spiked, and the engine automatically switched to the second lead. But this time, the transition shorted out the lead.

Serenity tried to switch back to the first lead but couldn't.

The port compression coil began to heat up.

Kaylee said, "Maybe just a hiccup. I'll go check it out."

Wash got up. "I'll take a look at the helm."

"Fire," River said.

"Okay, right."

And Simon inhaled.

RIVER ("Day is a vestigial mode of time measurement based on solar cycles.")

"The red one, maybe? Here." Inara used her needle to dig through some beads. "This one. Is it big enough?" The needle pierced the hole, and Inara slid it into River's plastic tray.

River poked it. "Red with purple?" she said doubtfully.

"Why not? Like a flower."

"A flower." River thought about it.

"You could wear them, you know—the things you make," Inara said, turning back to her own work.

River shook her head. "I just like to look." She decided the red bead was all right, but she'd need to knot it separately, so it would dangle properly. "You wear yours, though."

"I do," Inara said. She flattened the dress's neckline and turned it so River could see. "What do you think?"

"Pretty." Inara, instead of making jewelry, like River, was sewing white beads around the neckline of a white dress. "Like a wedding dress."

Inara laughed. "Hardly," she said, adjusting the dress in her lap.

"Will you get married someday?" River asked.

"You never know," Inara said lightly. "What about you?"

"I don't think so." River had thought about it. "Unless I get better."

"Oh, honey," Inara said, eyes full of sympathy.

River bit her lip and turned her attention to her necklace. Inara felt sorry for her. She had felt sorry for River even when River did things that hurt Inara. Inara knew River didn't mean it. River was glad of it, because it meant that she would get to continue spending time with Inara, beading like they'd done all week, or maybe letting Inara do her hair—girl things that she hadn't done when she was a girl. She knew Inara did normal, boring things like take showers and clean her shuttle, but Inara was so exotic and beautiful, and her surroundings so lush, that it was sometimes hard to remember that underneath, she was just a regular person.

"Fire," River said.

"I'm sorry?"

River squeezed her eyes shut. They didn't usually do it during the day. They'd done it during the day four times—River could remember each time, better than when they did it at night, because it had been sharper, harder, faster, for fear of being caught. At night, they took their time. They played. But during the day, like now, now, when she was here with Inara, they took each other with an intensity she couldn't resist, didn't want to resist.

"The fire," River said. "The fire inside."

"What fire?" Inara gathered the dress up and half-folded it onto the table.

"I'm hot," River explained, which was true. She couldn't tell Inara what Simon and Jayne were doing, even though Inara would understand. Simon would never forgive her. She didn't even talk about it with Simon. "I have to go." She didn't want it to happen in front of Inara.

"River?" Inara said.

"I'm very tired," River said. "I'm going to sleep."

"Would you like to lie down here?" Inara stood up. "I have a blanket and pillow. Let me fix you a bed."

"No," River said. She felt the heat rise. "I'll be all right. Please don't worry."

She left before Inara could make her stay. She ran to her room, the floor cold against her bare feet, but nothing could cool the fire as it rose inside her.

She slid the door shut behind her and threw herself on the bed. She was just in time. She could feel Simon, taut and stretched, and when Jayne put his hands on him, she could feel the touch deep inside her. She understood why Simon wanted Jayne so badly, in a way he didn't want Kaylee. With Jayne, there were no courtship games, worries about appropriateness, or fear of hurting someone. The way he wanted Kaylee was softer and gentler, light blue instead of hot, pulsing red. His desire for Jayne was sharp-edged and hard. She had learned all about Jayne, but what amazed her was that she learned about Simon by his response to Jayne, about the depth of his emotions, his capacity to feel, all hidden to her until Jayne touched him. Jayne loosed in Simon all kinds of feelings and colors that she, River, couldn't evoke in her brother. When the two of them were together like this, they became different people, incoherent, all feeling, no mind. It soothed as well as excited her.

Like now. River arched her back when the stroking began in earnest. She didn't feel the touch like touch, but like a brush of emotion, of wanting. She wasn't sure what they did—the mechanics of mouths and penises and anuses and hands—but she understood that they drove each other, pushing and retreating, merging and pulling back, until their bodies broke under the unbearable strain of wanting to be one.

The pressure escalated, arrowing into her stomach. She had never been wanted so much, been touched so thoroughly. It was always like this, the surge of desire so strong that it was almost despair. And it was day, so there was no holding back, no making it last. The fire came fast, burning through her, a gout of flame and heat ripping through the enclosed space of her body, incinerating her, as Simon became one with Jayne. She came with them, her senses blending into Simon's, the shocking ecstasy of it obliterating her sense of identity.

"Simon," River moaned. She loved loving her brother like this, except he didn't know she shared it with him.

When she was herself again, she panted, feeling the wetness between her legs. The men floated together in quiet contentment. They didn't need words. River liked this time best, when they merely existed together, the sharpness between them gone. When they were apart, they thought too much. Simon's thoughts of Jayne were associated with shame. Jayne's were associated with desire. Jayne wanted Simon all the time, and it made him do things like go down to planets and play with women, with whores. They should always be together like this, easy and happy, but they couldn't do that.

She stretched luxuriously. She felt heavy and tired. It was time for a nap.

The port compression coil glowed. The catalyzer tried to dump the extra heat, but the first lead was inaccessible and the second lead had shorted. The engine's turn sped up in an attempt to use the heat. The catalyzer vibrated under the strain before it blew.

Serenity's heart turned for a half hour on leftover power and inertia before the chain reaction began. The fire started when some casing ignited. It cascaded quickly after that, fire ripping through the corridors, eating the oxygen.


"Okay, right."


SIMON ("I'm really—I'm very—very deeply moved.")

You would almost think, Simon thought, that they were all friends, the way they were talking and laughing around the table. Shepherd Book had stories that were so funny that Zoe couldn't stop laughing, and that made Mal laugh. Sometimes, Simon was almost happy here. He smiled at River, who gave him a quick smile back.

Next to him, Jayne stirred, his leg bumping against Simon's. Earlier today, Mal had caught Jayne and Simon practically kissing. Simon had seen Mal only a second before he came in, and he'd barely had time to redirect his conversation with Jayne from bad jokes about blow jobs to their usual insulting banter. Jayne had pretended he'd come to the infirmary to get something, so he'd taken a gum massager from Simon's stock. He'd unwrapped it, and he'd been carrying it around all day. Now, Jayne stuck it in his mouth as he flirted with Inara, who sat across from him.

Just a couple hours ago, he and Jayne had been rolling around in Jayne's bunk. River had been making bead jewelry with Inara, as she had been for the past few days, and he knew they'd be at least two hours, so he'd given into temptation and let Jayne talk him into a quickie. It had been searingly hot and fast, and he still felt a little flushed when he thought about it. He and Jayne didn't have a thing in common, and Jayne knew that Simon was a little sweet on Kaylee, but for the time they were together, nothing mattered.

Simon blinked when Zoe said, "Hey doc, I think Kaylee may need your help after all."

Simon turned around, ready to help, when Kaylee appeared, holding a tall, round creation with lit taper candles stuck into it. "Care to make a first incision, Dr. Tam?" She set down the cake and smiled at him. "Happy birthday, Simon."

"Happy birthday," everyone echoed, clapping.

Simon stared at the birthday cake. He hadn't mentioned to anyone that today was his birthday. "This is uh…How did you know? River, did you…?" He turned to her.

"Day is a vestigial mode of time measurement based on solar cycles. It's not applicable." River added, "I didn't get you anything."

Malcolm said, "It seems a fresh warrant for your arrest came up over the cortex. Had your birth date attached right to it."

Simon knew he looked uncomfortable. "Really."

Kaylee said, "Hope you like it. Couldn't get a hold of no flour, so it's mostly protein. In fact, it's pretty much what we just had for dinner." Everyone laughed. "But I tried to get the frosting as chocolately tasting as possible. So."

"Thank you," Simon said, touched. "I'm really—I'm very—very deeply moved." Mal slapped Jayne's hand away as Jayne stuck a finger in the frosting. "Thank you."

"Well, deeply move yourself to blow out them candles so we can try a slice." Jayne indicated the cake. His foot touched Simon's, and Simon felt the jolt into his groin.

"Come on, doc, give a good blow," Kaylee encouraged.

Before Simon could do as she asked, the lights went off, then flicked back on.

Jayne tensed beside him. "What the hell was that?"

Kaylee, ever the mechanic, said, "Maybe just a hiccup. I'll go check it out."

"I'll take a look at the helm." Wash got up.

"Fire," River said.

The cake. "Okay, right."

Simon inhaled to blow out the candles.

The fire ripped through Serenity's interior. Its pace altered but did not slow as the crew slammed doors shut, redirecting it away from inhabited areas. It consumed oxygen as it burned hot and bright. When a door was opened to vacuum, the fire roared out, sucked into the nothingness, burning in space until its fuel was exhausted.

The fire was out, but the damage had been done. Although the engine had been spared, the catalyzer was only a shell. Its components had been fused. And the fire had consumed oxygen as it had burned. The auxiliary life-support system had been damaged in the fire.

The engine couldn't turn.

If the engine didn't turn, they didn't breathe.

Serenity slid through cold space, only momentum keeping her moving.

WASH ("I love my wife.")

It was bad.

It was real bad.

Wash hit the door a little too hard when he opened it. He was more terrified for Zoe's life than his own. She'd done the right thing, the noble thing, by knocking Kaylee out of the way of the rush of fire, but still, he wished she hadn't done it. He couldn't have stopped her, though, nor, he suspected, could she have stopped herself, because she'd done it without thinking. He hunched a little in his layer of sweaters. It was taking everybody longer to do things, a combination of the cold and the declining oxygen content, but they would leave on schedule, he, Zoe, Simon, and River in one shuttle and everyone else in Inara's shuttle—except Mal. Mal was staying aboard Serenity.

"Focus," he muttered. Why was he in the cargo bay again? "Toolbox." It wasn't in its place. He stood stupidly in the middle of the bay and pondered before he remembered that Jayne and Mal had cleaned up the cargo bay earlier that day. That was why nothing was heaped in the middle any more. All the dirty containers had been cleaned, broken down, and stowed. They must have stuck the toolbox somewhere while they shifted things around, because it wasn't where it was supposed to be, right next to the airlock controls.

Wash keyed in the combination of the nearest secure storage area and poked his head in. "Ah," he groaned when he saw that Jayne and Mal had packed it tight, all the empty containers in one place. It would take him hours—well, maybe twenty minutes—to go through it, and he didn't have the time. He ran a hand through his hair. "Okay. They wouldn't hide it." The next storage area had only neatly coiled tie-down ropes and chains. The next one was full of lids—but there, at long last, right near the door, was the toolbox.

Wash flipped it open and began sorting through its contents. It helped to think about something other than Zoe, to have a task. He found that focusing on one thing at a time worked well. He did the task, and then moved onto the next one. "Got it." He needed the electronic calibrator. The manual one worked well enough for rough estimates, which were usually enough, but he needed the fine-tuning of the electronic one right now. He was constructing a panic button, so Mal could just hit it if help came, and the shuttles would be recalled. "Okay. Bridge. Back to the bridge, my home away from home." He stuck the calibrator in his back pocket and grabbed the toolbox's handle. He'd just wheel it out to where it was supposed to go, so someone else could find it when he needed it.

"All right, what's so important?"

Wash recognized Jayne's voice. He stuck his head out the door. Despite the temperature, Jayne wore only his usual short-sleeved T-shirt. The cold didn't seem to bother him, although he'd been carrying a blanket over one shoulder earlier. He blinked when he saw who Jayne was talking to: Simon, hands in the pockets of a heavy, dark coat, collar turned up.

"I got to get the shuttle ready," Jayne continued.

"I'm busy too," Simon snapped. "I've got a patient."

Yeah. Zoe.

"Well, what, then?" Jayne demanded.

"We're in different shuttles," Simon said.

Jayne nodded impatiently.

"I just need to tell you—" Simon started.

"Tell me what?" Jayne asked.

"I don't know who you think about when we're together," Simon said. "Maybe you think about Inara, or Kaylee, or Inara and Kaylee together. But I think about you. When I'm with you, I don't think of anyone else. I don't think I'll see you again. So I wanted you to know."

Wash blinked, stepped back into the storage area, and mentally replayed what Simon had just said. His jaw dropped when he worked through the implications of it. But he apparently wasn't the only one stunned into silence, because Jayne didn't say anything.

"Okay," Simon said. "Wow. I feel better. Much, much better." His tone was mocking. "Goodbye, I guess."

Wash heard footsteps and the slide of the door as it opened.

"Wait," Jayne said.

Wash held his breath.

"What?" Simon asked.

Jayne said, "Every night, I wait for you."

"When I don't come, it's because I'm proving to myself that I don't need you," Simon said. "It's like a failure in myself, wanting you so much."

There was a long, electric silence.

"I have to—to get back to Zoe," Simon said at last.

"Okay," Jayne said.

The door closed behind Simon. Wash leaned against the wall, toolbox forgotten, and listened to Jayne curse in Chinese.

Wait till he told Zoe. She was never going to believe this.

INARA ("Funny and sexy. You have no idea. And you never will.")

"It smells weird in here," Jayne announced. "Is the engine bad? You been having trouble with the engine?"

Inara sighed. Behind her, Kaylee dogged the door shut. "The engine's fine, Jayne," Inara said. Mal had warned her that Jayne would try to take control. She didn't plan to let him. She could handle Jayne—probably better than Mal himself could. "That's incense. You smell incense."

Jayne frowned. "It don't smell right," he complained.

"The incense makes its own smell," Inara said. She sat in the pilot's chair and began a preflight check. "It's supposed to smell nice. It's supposed to be soothing. Excuse me." She leaned past him and flipped a switch.

"How can you tell something's wrong if you make it smell different?" Jayne demanded.

"The way it feels." Inara engaged the engine, and the shuttle shuddered to life.

That seemed to make sense to Jayne. "Okay then," he said. "Whoa," he added as Inara put her hands around the navigational stick. "You want me to do that?" From the tone of his voice, Inara could tell that Jayne was convinced she was going to screw it up.

"This is my home, Jayne. I'm fine."

Jayne clutched his handhold, clearly hanging on for dear life, so Inara was pleased at her smooth, seamless release and push away. She saw that the other shuttle left at virtually the instant hers did, heading in the opposite direction. She thought about contacting Wash, who piloted the other shuttle, but decided against it. What would they say? Good luck? They'd already said that.

"Jayne, you come sit," Kaylee invited, and to Inara's relief, Jayne started over. "These sofa things are real comfortable. Ain't they comfortable, Shepherd Book?"

"Mighty comfortable," said Shepherd Book. Inara snuck a look over her shoulder and saw that Book didn't look comfortable at all. She repressed a smile. He wasn't sure what to think of her. He disapproved of what she did, but he liked her personally. He had trouble reconciling the two. In that regard, he was a lot like Mal, although Mal was far freer with the insults.

"I suppose she does all that stuff here, on this couch," Jayne said, sitting next to Book. He slapped Book on the knee. "Don't you guess? All her clients and such?"

"I reckon so," Book said weakly.

"Yeah." Jayne sounded dreamy. Inara frowned a little as she set their course. Jayne had always been overt in his admiration of her, and she'd been just as adamant that she would never, in a million years, accept him as a client, even if, by some miracle, he managed to come up with her fee. She knew he was thinking about her and one of her clients on one of those couches, but unlike Book, he found the idea exciting instead of disturbing. Still, she had to appreciate Jayne's directness. At least she knew how things stood with him. She set the autopilot and got up.

"I don't feel right about leaving the captain on his own," Kaylee worried. "And Simon. I hope Simon's okay. And it was his birthday."

"It's a poor way to spend your birthday," Book agreed.

Inara sat next to Kaylee. "I worry about all of them," she said. "I hope Zoe will be all right."

"She will be." Kaylee sounded completely confident. "She's got Simon. He's a good doctor." She brought her knees to her chest. She wore a heavy sweater, left over from Serenity, where it had begun getting very cold as the air grew worse, and it made her look small. "I never did say thank you, Jayne, for keeping Simon out of the kitchen while I made that cake."

"Yup," Jayne said around his new toy. "Pleased to help, Kaylee."

"What did you do?" Kaylee asked. "Did you two fight?"

Jayne smiled. "That about sums it up."

"What is that, Jayne?" Inara held out her hand, and Jayne obligingly handed her the device. "You've been chewing on it all day."

"Gum massager," Jayne said. "That little plastic point? You put it between your teeth and wiggle it. Feels real good."

"Why do you have a gum massager?" Inara asked.

"Simon did say you got nice teeth," Kaylee said.

"It ain't just the doc," Jayne said, and Kaylee laughed. "It's good for you," he explained. "I still got the package here if you want to read it."

"No, that's not necessary." Inara handed it back. "I've been thinking," she said, and she let that hang.

"Me too," Book said.

"It ain't right," Kaylee muttered.

"What?" Jayne asked.

"We have to go back," Inara said.

Jayne looked confused. "We just took off," he said. "Mal told us to go. I prepped a suit for him."

"He won't put it on, and you know it," Kaylee said. She leaned against Inara, who put her arm around Kaylee and stroked her hair. Inara could sense Kaylee's miserableness.

"Maybe," Jayne hedged.

"And you know there's nothing here," Inara said. "I say, we stay on course for two hours, broadcasting a distress signal and Serenity's coordinates, alter course for an hour, then head back. We can make a big triangle—we'll cover more ground that way, give someone a chance to hear us."

"That's a stupid plan," Jayne said. "I say we keep going, get further out. Mal said to keep going."

Inara stared Jayne down. "This is my shuttle," she reminded him.

Jayne pointed his gum massager at her. "Just because you're sweet on Mal don't mean you need to kill all of us to get back to him," he accused.

Heat washed through Inara, and she willed herself not to blush, not to show that Jayne's arrow had hit. Kaylee, feeling Inara tense, lifted her head and looked up at her.

"Don't be ridiculous," Inara snapped. "If help has come, if Serenity has been repaired, then we'd be returning anyway. If it hasn't, we pick up Mal and head back out." The things left unsaid had to stay that way between her and Mal. She hadn't thought they were going to get out of this one alive, and he hadn't either, and yet neither of them had said anything.

"It don't matter," Kaylee said, dropping her head back down on Inara's shoulder. "If help don't come, we're all dead anyway. Ain't no one out here to pick us up. We'll run out of air here in Inara's shuttle just as sure as on Serenity. Just take a little longer is all."

"Kaylee's right," Book said.

There was a long silence.

"Yeah," Jayne said grudgingly. "Reckon so."


"Okay, right."

The inhalation. The suspension.

And fire.

JAYNE ("I let you through, we all die.")

"Oh, god," Simon gasped. "There."

Jayne bit Simon's neck as he stroked Simon's cock, muffling a groan. They'd made it back. They were fine. They were all fine—Zoe, Mal, and, though he hadn't been injured, Simon, and now Simon was all around him, slick and hot and tight. They moved together in desperation, because they had thought they were dead, only they weren't. They had thought they'd never see each other again or do this again, and that hadn't been so.

"Jayne," Simon said, pushing himself up, and his hips started to thrust. "Don't stop. Don't stop."

Jayne stared up at the beautiful, flushed, sweating man on top of him. There was heat and pressure and warm splashes of wet, and Simon threw his head back when he lost it. Fire rushed through Jayne and consumed him, drove him out of himself, because he wanted, he wanted, and now he had. Completion.

"Oh, wow," Simon said a while later.

"Don't you move," Jayne said drowsily. "You stay right here." He wanted to get soft inside Simon, until he slid out.

Simon smiled at him, eyes blue, and then his eyelashes curled darkly against his cheeks, against that pale, perfect skin, as he shut his eyes, and Jayne pulled him into his chest. "Mmm," Simon said, and cuddled against him.

Jayne didn't want it, this feeling, this wanting, this fire that couldn't be put out. He didn't need it. He wanted to be able to go to bed at night without waiting for Simon to show up, or not. He didn't want to feel his heart twist when he looked at Simon when they'd just come, when they felt close, when every touch made him feel tender and vulnerable inside. His fingers combed Simon's hair, enjoying the texture and softness; it felt nice, to pet him, to watch Simon's lips curve in enjoyment.

They hadn't been docked long before Wash's shuttle showed up. It seemed they'd all had the same idea: come back, see if the captain was ready to be picked up. Help had come: Serenity's engine was turning again. But they found Mal, lying on the ground, unconscious, a bloody wound in his side. Jayne saw immediately that he'd been shot. He'd carried Mal to the infirmary, Inara and Shepherd Book trailing behind him. Kaylee was checking the engine. He'd said, "The doc would be good to see right about now." Then he'd looked up, just about ready to set Mal down on one of the beds, and there he was: Simon, coming in through the door, staring at him, open-mouthed, and everything stopped. Suspension. Then time started up again, Jayne set Mal down, Simon came up next to him, and everybody started talking at once. But Jayne had known that there wouldn't be any games tonight. Simon would come to him, because they were alive.

"Oh," Simon said against his chest, and he smiled as Jayne's soft cock slipped out of him. "Come here."

They rearranged themselves in Jayne's bunk, legs intertwined, holding each other close.

"You want to go again?" Jayne asked.

Simon touched his face. "Yes," he said. "Again. And again. And again."

Jayne frowned at him. "I can only go twice," he said, which Simon knew.

"I know. I meant—" Simon kissed him, slow and deep. "You know? Never mind what I meant."

In the cargo bay, Simon had said, "I don't know who you think about when we're together. Maybe you think about Inara, or Kaylee, or Inara and Kaylee together. But I think about you. When I'm with you, I don't think of anyone else. I don't think I'll see you again. So I wanted you to know."

Jayne didn't have Simon's way with words, but he knew how he felt. When he was with Simon, he couldn't think of Inara, or Kaylee, or any other person. He wanted Simon, only Simon, and it was getting worse, not better.

Jayne opened his mouth to Simon's, and they let it escalate, the fire, the heat. Jayne fell into it. He wanted it. He didn't want to want it.

He'd made up his mind. He'd call the Alliance, claim the reward.

It was the only way out.