Pairing: Simon/Jayne, in the story of Much Ado About Nothing's Beatrice & Benedick
Summary: Jayne and Simon were arguing, yet again.
Notes: For ipso__facto, who requested something Simon.
Neither Sweet Nor Nothings
It wasn't news to hear that Jayne and Simon were arguing, yet again. Sometimes Kaylee wondered if they couldn't make a sport out of it, or maybe capture it and put it on the Puppet Theater, on some show people watched on the Cortex for the shock value.
"It still 'twinges' sometimes, as you say, because you won't stop poking at it," Simon was saying, as he pulled a chair out to sit in the dining room.
"I ain't pokin' at it," Jayne said, rooting around somewhere in the storage locker for sugar. "Just peel the bandage back from time to time to get an idea on how it's healin'."
"And it won't be healing properly as long as you keep doing that," Simon repeated. "Whether you're poking or not. That's my point."
"So, hey, isn't it about time to give your sister one'a her crazy pills again?" Jayne grunted, sifting sugar over his oatmeal.
"You know," Simon said, folding his arms and leaning back, "I'd appreciate it if you'd stop referring to her that way." Off Jayne's look, he clarified. "As crazy."
Jayne shrugged, sitting down at the table. "It's what she is, ain't it?"
Simon shrugged as well. "It's obvious she's improved over the past several months," he pointed out.
"I kinda like callin' her crazy, though," Jayne said, and shoveled some oatmeal into his mouth. "Fits her," he added as he chewed.
"That's fine." Simon's voice was suddenly tight and tense as he rose to his feet. "Of course. Why would I expect you to be reasonable, to listen to a reasonable request just because I asked nicely? Silly me, it'll never happen again."
"Now why you gotta act all contrary all of a sudden?" Jayne frowned, taking another mouthful of oatmeal. "Maybe if you wasn't so touchy like you were some girl, I'd be more," he sneered, "reasonable."
"The things you say go a long way to set the mood on this ship, Jayne," Simon said hotly. He put a hand to his chest. "If you don't like me, fine. I can take it, say whatever you like. But all you do when you call River names is make other people tense." He paused. "If you're trying to influence the Captain," he suggested stonily, "I'd suggest you give up on that, too."
"You don't know nothin' 'bout what's in my head, Doctor," Jayne snarled, rising suddenly to his feet. His spoon fell back against the bowl with a clatter. "So how's about you just run along now and do like you said were gonna, 'fore I start really deciding not to be reasonable?"
Simon glared at him for a moment longer, lips pressed firmly into a line and holding back a retort he was sure he'd regret, before he turned away and stormed back down to the passenger quarters, teeth grinding in frustration. He pulled the door to his passenger quarters as far back as it would go, then slid it closed quickly so that it closed with a loud click; as close to a slam as he could manage.
Jayne dumped the contents of his bowl into the sink, then let the bowl fall in, causing as much of a ruckus as he could. "Suddenly I ain't all that hungry anymore," he muttered, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Spitting in an empty corner of the sink with disdain, he started off for his own bunk, letting his footfalls ring heavily through the upper deck.
Kaylee glanced back at River from where she'd been watching in the lounge, and shook her head. "I swear, those two argue like they's a married couple sometimes," she said, laying her cards on the table face-down as she stretched her arms over her head. "Ain't nobody get Simon so riled like that 'cept Jayne," she added, then sighed wistfully. "I wish he'd show me even a half of that kinda excitement. If he looked at me, eyes all flashin' and cheeks red like that..." she shuddered. "I get warm just thinkin' about it."
"He thinks about him at night," River said suddenly, watching the entrance to the kitchen. She still held her cards in her hand, forgotten for the moment.
Kaylee frowned. "What do you mean? Who thinks about who?"
River finally looked down at her cards again. "She likes boys, but she ain't a girl," she muttered. "Just has a girl's name."
"You mean Jayne?" Kaylee asked. "Jayne thinks about-- about Simon at night?" She smiled, uncertain. "That ain't so, River," she said. "Why, he's always talkin' about--" she frowned again, thinking. "And-- well, even if he was sly, he's gotta know Simon'd--"
"He's too polite," River said firmly. "Didn't want to lead you on, make you want something you couldn't have." She looked up at Kaylee sadly. "Only made it worse."
"What're you saying?" Kaylee tucked her hair behind her ears anxiously. "Why would he--" she faltered. "Are you-- are you sayin' Simon's sly, too?"
River pressed her lips together and shook her head as if trying to clear her mind of the thought. "Didn't want to hurt you," she whispered. "He'll be sorry."
Kaylee simply stared at her for a long, painful moment; then she seemed to struggle briefly and her face cleared. "Oh, no," she said, holding up her hands reassuringly. "It's all right," she insisted, though the protest sounded weak. "I s'pose..." she shrugged. "I s'pose I shoulda known he was maybe too good to be true. You don't think--" she gasped in sudden surprise. "You don't think he's got a crush on Jayne, too?"
River smiled fondly at her. "Things never work between those two," she said, then looked back towards the dining room. "They're too stubborn to see it."
Kaylee followed her gaze and pushed herself back from the table. "Well," she declared. "I didn't spend all this time tryin' to get Simon to look at me like I was worth somethin' just to have him throw it all away on account of Jayne acting like he's above havin' feelings." She bit her bottom lip thoughtfully as she concocted a plan in her head. It came together for her just like how the gears in Serenity's engine snapped into place; perfect and oiled and meant to work forever and a day long as nothing gummed up the works. She just had to set it in motion.
"River," she said finally, drawing the teen's attention back to her. "Wanna help me out with somethin'?"
River tilted her head, considering. "It just might work," she murmured.
Kaylee found Simon in his room after knocking and poking her head around the door with a grin. Of course he'd let her enter, seeing as how he was just sitting on his bed, eating slices of apple out of a bowl while he read articles and fancy book stories off of the Cortex.
"I thought it was only the Cap'n and Zoe ate their apples like that," Kaylee observed softly as she sat down next to him. She gestured to the slice in his hand, then the ones in the bowl. "Cut up into pieces and all. Zoe said it was grenades why they did it. You had troubles with grenades back in the Core?" She smiled doubtfully at him, raising her eyebrows.
"Grena-- no," Simon smiled as well, looking down at the piece of apple he held in his hand. "No grenades in my hometown, I'm afraid," he said. "It's just habit, really," he admitted. "The apples we ate were always served that way."
Kaylee nodded her understanding, though she clearly didn't really understand what that was like. "Sometimes I forget you had folks doin' those kinds of things for you, back where you come from. Oh, it ain't a bad thing," she rushed to add when Simon looked a bit sheepish. "Just one of the ways you're a little different from some of us on this boat. It don't matter to most of us either way."
"But it does matter a lot to some of you," Simon pointed out.
"Who, the Cap'n?" Kaylee asked. "Aw, he's less ornery about it than he used to be already." Her tone grew wistful. "Maybe Jayne, though," she suggested. "You've been fightin' a lot lately."
"Yes, well," Simon set his data pad aside. "Jayne appreciates me even less than the Captain does."
"But that's just it," Kaylee said thoughtfully. "I ain't sure it's like that at all."
Simon frowned at her. "What do you mean?"
Kaylee shook her head as though he'd startled her. "Oh," she grinned. "Nothin'! I didn't mean nothin' by it. Just-- thinkin' aloud." She tapped her knees nervously and rose to her feet. "Well, I should probably," she jerked a thumb over her shoulder. "Should probably see to the engine, make sure she's turning like she ought to, keep an eye out for anything she's tryin' to tell me." She made her way to the door and slid it open by reaching behind her instead of turning around. "I'll see you later, Simon," she called, squeezing herself backward through the narrow opening she'd created; then, once she was on the other side, she closed the door hurriedly and was gone.
"... well, with Simon I nearly blew it," he heard Kaylee's low voice coming from the engine room, as Simon approached the storage lockers looking for extra bandages. He slowed as he drew nearer, just close enough to hear clearly without being seen.
"Nearly ruined everything, shootin' my mouth off," Kaylee went on in a sullen tone. "You want me to braid this in four or in three?" she asked next, and Simon smiled, realizing that River was with her. Recently he'd come to trust that River was stable enough to move about the ship without strict supervision, but he appreciated that Kaylee so often kept an eye on her and viewed their relationship more like one between peers than between a crew member and the passenger they were supposed to babysit.
"Anyway," Kaylee continued, obviously having been given the answer she'd requested, "the thing is, this one time Jayne told me, he said, 'sparrin' with Simon, well, it's like fightin' with a gorram mirror sometimes,' and I was always wondering what that meant. I think it's 'cause they's both stubborn, neither of 'em ever give so much as an inch, and it causes 'em no end of trouble. I mean," she hesitated as though she were going to say something at great cost to herself. "Where I come from, people don't do things like Jayne does to Simon - I mean to say, pick on 'em, try an' rile 'em up like that - unless they're sweet on them, at least a little."
Simon's eyes widened and he heard River snort and chuckle; he could imagine her putting a hand over her mouth.
"Oh, but I seen it happen dozens of times," Kaylee insisted, "to all sorts of folks, folks just like Jayne. I swear it's true, sure as I'm sittin' before you."
She lowered her voice, and in his mind's eye Simon saw her biting her lip, glancing over her shoulders just to make certain no one was listening. "I hinted around Jayne about it this one time, askin' him, on a lark, and, well. You know that real hunted look he gets," she said, "when he feels cornered, like you got somethin' on him and he doesn't know what it is?"
"Don't touch the wounded dog," River said seriously. "He bites."
"Exactly what I'm sayin'," Kaylee said. "I know Jayne'd rather die than let Simon think for a second he was getting all moonbrained over him." She sighed. "Poor Jayne. I know he likes to think he's all mean-hearted, but sometimes I feel like he could be real good for Simon, you know?" The conversation was broken up by their giggles, and then Kaylee murmured, "there, now it's all tied up and pretty, see?"
The discussion seemed to be over. Simon softly opened a locker and pulled out a small pack of bandages that had been stored there, closing it just as quietly before making his way back to the infirmary. He was left confused, surprised, and a bit apprehensive about what he'd learned from Kaylee's admission, and he wasn't quite certain how to process it.
For a while, he admitted, he had thought that maybe there had been an understanding, even affection, between himself and Jayne. He recalled the feelings he'd had back on Ariel, when he'd thought Jayne had saved him and River. When Jayne had said he had a pretty mouth, Simon's heart had surged just a little. He hadn't allowed himself to give it much thought until they were out of danger... but after they'd gotten back to the ship, Simon occasionally allowed himself to give it so much thought that he spent an extra fifteen minutes in bed in the mornings.
Learning that Jayne had betrayed them had been just like waiting for the other shoe to drop, and for all the cautious sort of person Simon was, he couldn't say he was too surprised. Yet even knowing that, there was no explaining the tender way Jayne had treated both Simon and River after the Feds had apprehended them. Even remorse, Simon felt, didn't begin to explain why Jayne hadn't simply saved himself, or why Jayne had been so patient with River. It hadn't explained why Jayne had even noticed Simon's mouth, let alone needed to comment on it.
If Jayne truly enjoyed the verbal sparring he and Simon engaged in, Simon decided, entering the infirmary, then Simon would gladly keep it up. As he closed the door behind him, he wondered how he could communicate his interest without softening the barbs he threw Jayne's way. It would be a challenge, he was sure, but one he was willing to undertake.
Jayne rolled his eyes as he spied River and Kaylee chasing one another over the catwalk and back out of the cargo bay to the common area yet again. It wasn't bad enough that Mal and Zoe had left him to finish packing away the cargo by himself; now those gorram girls were going to be running around, squealing and making a nuisance of themselves when he had a job to do.
"No, it ain't like that at all," Kaylee was saying, as he approached the stairs with a toolkit he was going to need to remove one of their storage panels. "It's just, some days I worry Simon's gonna to push Jayne too far, and he'll end up hurt real bad."
Jayne quietly applied his wrench to the screws, frowning as he strained to hear what else it was they might say about him. "He wants it," River said thoughtfully, after a moment. "Wants to feel it. Violent. Physical. Skin against skin."
"Simon does?" Kaylee asked, surprised. "No, he don't-- does he really? Our Simon?"
Jayne's eyebrows raised practically to his hairline, and he pressed his fist to his mouth to keep from choking in amusement, but River went on, oblivious. "He keeps the secret deep down," she said in that unwavering tone the girl got sometimes, all certain and eerie-like. "It'll die with him, or he'll die," she said urgently, "if anyone knows it."
"Aw, that's awful sad," Kaylee said. "Simon walkin' around on this boat carryin' such a torch and all. And Jayne's so mean to him, meanwhile."
Jayne frowned at that, and almost thought to protest before he remembered where he was. It wasn't like he was all mean, all the time. He just didn't take to the
Doctor's prissy ways and Core attitude, most days. Though if the Doc was feeling sweet on him, well, that tended to change things up a bit. He'd be lying if he said he'd never thought of the good Doctor in a fancying sort of way. He was especially fond of the thought of the Doctor down on his knees, those pretty lips wrapped around him. And if the Doctor was the sort who liked to be roughed up, talked hard to, Jayne might just be more than happy to oblige.
The next time Simon saw Jayne, he was on his way from the med bay to his quarters, after having given Wash his monthly allergy injections. Jayne approached him from the common area, heading towards the cargo bay.
"Jayne," Simon said cordially, nodding his head. He held Jayne's gaze for a measured glance, then looked away. Jayne merely grunted in response, narrowing his eyes at Simon as he pushed past him in the corridor.
Simon maintained his presence of mind until he'd closed the door to his quarters behind him. Only then did he allow himself to sag a bit against the wall. Was that grunt supposed to mean something? Did Jayne usually respond to a greeting from Simon like that? If his memory served correctly, all Jayne normally did was ignore any attempts at cordial conversation, so for him to even acknowledge that Simon had said anything at all was a departure from the norm.
He allowed himself a small smile, and tilted his head back against the door. So it was true, then. Jayne did have some feelings for him. And the grunt he had given Simon in response to his greeting... well, whether that was an intended innuendo or not, there was undoubtedly something predatory about it, something raw and animalistic and... damned attractive.
He gathered his things and planned a trip to the bathroom. It was time, he thought, for a nice long shower.
The next simulated morning cycle found Simon drinking tea quietly in the kitchen. He'd left River to sleeping and hoped he could stay on the Captain's good graces long enough to--
"Kinda early for you to be settin' up here already, don't you think, Doctor?" Mal said, entering the dining room from the crew's quarters. "Thought you'd still be holed up in the infirmary makin' yourself feel at home, same as always."
"Well, I do like to see the outside of my rooms from time to time, you know," Simon answered drily. "I just tend to do it more often when no one else is around."
"No one meaning Jayne, I take it?" Mal suggested as he retrieved a mug from a storage locker and filled it with coffee.
Simon gave him a sharp glance, then returned his attention to his mug and sipped carefully. "What makes you think that?" he asked cautiously.
Mal shrugged and frowned into his coffee. "Word 'round this boat is, the two of you've been havin' some tension of late."
Simon supposed it could be called tension, though he'd hardly say it was of the bad sort. "Not any more than usual, I assure you," he said. Did everyone on this ship know everyone else's business at all times? he wondered.
"Well, I don't need any assuring," Mal told him, "and I don't need my crew to be the best of friends. But some tension starts up between any of mine, and it affects the rest of us whether or not you think it's so." He took a deep gulp from his mug and swallowed it thoughtfully. "Now, if you think you and Jayne are gonna have problems, you let me know, and I'll see what can be done. Otherwise, I 'spect you to work it out 'tween yourselves, dong ma?"
Simon raised his own cup for a drink, keeping his gaze steady on Mal's. "I understand," he said, and took a sip.
Mal nodded. "Glad we're clear," he said, and strode past where Simon was sitting on his way back to his quarters. No sooner had he gone than Jayne made his way into the dining room, looking sleep-muddled and reaching blearily for the coffee pot.
Simon watched him re-heat the coffee, fill a mug with the steaming liquid, then take a few big sips before murmuring, "good morning."
Jayne didn't say anything, make any noise, or even act as though Simon had spoken. On the one hand, Simon supposed it was still quite early and resolved not to take it personally. On the other hand, maybe it was part of Jayne's ruse of disinterest. He sat up a little straighter, trying to maintain an air of casual dislike.
After a long moment, Jayne stirred again. "How's that moonbrained sister of yours doin' this morning?" he asked.
So that was the tack he was going to take. "Oh, I don't know," Simon said, his tone just this side of snappishness. "Why don't you go grunt at her and tell me what she does?"
"Hell," Jayne challenged him, "what if she goes cuttin' on me again?"
"Well, I could hardly blame her if she did," Simon said.
"She does that," Jayne said, turning up the menace in his voice as he took a step towards the spot where Simon was sitting, "I'm thinkin' the captain sure as shit won't be keeping the two of you on board any longer."
"And I'm thinking," Simon said, rising to his own feet, "that maybe we should stop assuming what the captain will and won't do with us." He glared defiantly into Jayne's eyes, head tilted back just enough to concede the height advantage that Jayne had over him. Mal would have a field day if there was an altercation and the fact that Simon had provoked Jayne came to light, but if Simon was right about what was going on between the two of them, Mal need not ever know exactly what was happening in the dining room at that moment.
"So," Jayne said, his voice dangerously low, "how's about we stop with this ruttin' foreplay and finish this in my bunk?"
Simon blinked and his mouth froze on a reply. He'd never been more right and yet so unprepared than at that moment. "Shah muh?" was all he could manage to say.
Jayne shrugged and folded his arms, still glowering down at Simon and standing uncomfortably close. "I'm sure as hell tired of all these word games you got me playin' along with, Doctor," he said. "Now, I ain't much for courtin' and I ain't gonna woo you with fanciness. I just wanna get to business, or not bother any at all. So you tell me if you wanna, and we can take care of this someplace else."
Simon considered Jayne's words carefully and tried not to let the warmth of Jayne's proximity, the scent of him, sway his attention. He swallowed. "All right," he said slowly. "But first let me finish my tea."
Jayne reached over to the table, plucked Simon's cup from the surface, and tossed its contents into the sink. Then in one sudden movement, he gripped Simon's shoulders and kissed him, pressing him back into the table. He tasted Simon thoroughly before breaking it off with a grin and wiping at his mouth with the backs of his knuckles. "I'll be in my bunk," he smirked, and pushed Simon aside, heading back towards the crew quarters.
Simon stayed leaning back against the table for only one breathless moment before hurriedly turning to follow.