Simon woke to the sound of footsteps in the corridor outside. He jumped at a loud snort right by his ear, then hissed as the sudden movement brought his discomfort rushing back.

'Oh, god, Jayne, I'm sorry! I should have been checking on you every hour.' Simon managed to sit enough to turn.

Jayne watched him with sleepy amusement. 'Head ain't fell off yet, so I reckon ya needed the sleep more. An' I know I did.'

'Indulge me,' Simon said, as firmly as he could under the circumstances.

Jayne's eyebrow raised. 'Thought that were what got us inta this mess, doc.'

Simon flushed. 'Yes, well, I still need to check you over.'

Jayne threw back the blanket. 'Check away.'

Ignoring the heat in his face, Simon kept his gaze fixed on Jayne's head rather than the solid wall of muscle that was the mercenary's chest. With careful fingers, he felt around the lump at Jayne's temple and the bruse which ran along his jaw. He could feel Jayne tense as he probed the sorest spots, but the older man remained mute until Simon had finished, blue eyes focussed somewhere over the doctor's shoulder.

'You should be okay, but I want you to take it easy for today at least. No lifting anything heavy, no working out.' At Jayne's pout he added, 'Just today. And if you feel worse at any point, any nausea, severe headaches, come and find me.'

Jayne waited until Simon had managed to extricate himself from the bunk, then shot out a hand, lightning-fast. 'Not so fast there, doc.'


'My turn.' At Simon's bewildered look, he said, 'Wanna see what yer damage is.'

'There's no need, Jayne. I took care of it last night after I treated you.' Simon looked around the bunk, unable to meet Jayne's eyes.

'Wŏ de mā, Simon! Ain't a request!'

Simon glanced at Jayne, surprised at the heat in the big man's voice, then rapidly looked away again.


He pulled off his t-shirt and sweater in one movement, exposing the bruises which had come up in the night. One large hand-print was clearly visible against the pale skin of Simon's shoulder, and there was another along his collarbone where Jayne had pinned him against the wall.

'Keep goin',' Jayne said, his voice low and dark.

Simon swallowed, hooked his thumbs into the waistband of his sweatpants and pulled them down.

A sharp intake of breath told him Jayne could see the other handprint at his hip, black where Jayne's fingers had dug into the muscle. After a long moment, he was about to ask if Jayne was finished, when a touch made him jump.

Jayne's hand brushed lightly over Simon's hip, sending another flush through the young man.

'Spread yer legs, will ya?' Jayne said roughly.

'I don't think-'

'Bend!' Jayne snapped, and Simon found himself bending forwards slightly, closing his eyes in embarrassment as Jayne's calloused hands parted his cheeks.

'Feìfeì de pìyăn!'

Jayne's hands dropped away, and Simon yanked his pants back up. Hurriedly, he pulled on his sweater, grabbed his medical bag from where he'd left it beside the bed, and headed for the ladder.

'Doc, wait up!'

Simon paused, one hand on the ladder, face burning with humiliation. 'What now?'

'Just... Never mind,' Jayne said gruffly. 'Shut the hatch after ya.'

Simon took a deep breath, then, stiffly, climbed the ladder, awkwardly opened the hatch and finally made it up into the corridor. He shut the hatch behind him and stood there a minute. When he was certain he had hidden his embarrassment and could move without wincing, he headed into the galley.

Breakfast was under way.

'Morning, doc. Making house calls, now?' Wash quipped, reaching for another slice of toast.

'I, er...'

Simon was saved by Mal's interruption.

'Jayne had hisself a disagreement with one o' the crates in the cargo hold last night, gave himself a concussion. Doc here had ta give up his comfy bunk ta check his head didn't fall off in the night.'

Shooting the Captain a grateful look, Simon carried on through the galley towards the stairs down to the Infirmary.

'He okay, Simon?' Kaylee asked, her face a picture of concern.

'He needs to take things easy today, but he'll be fine,' Simon said, keeping walking. He could feel River's eyes on him until he turned the corner.

With a sigh of relief, Simon dropped his bag back into the infirmary and went to get changed. He desperately wanted to hide in his bunk, but on reflection, he suspected that the Captain would be unimpressed by such behaviour.

He re-entered the galley and helped himself to a mug of coffee, leaning against the cupboards to drink it.

'Somethin' wrong with your chair, doc?' Mal asked innocently.

'No, no, nothing at all,' Simon said, gritting his teeth. He walked stiffly to his customary seat beside his sister and, doing his best to lean unobtrusively on the table, he sat down.

'Sorry, what was that? I didn't quite...'

'I said it looks like you didn't get much in the way of sleep last night,' Zoë repeated.

'More than I thought I would,' Simon admitted.

'You mean Jayne's bunk isn't the den of squalor and iniquity we always thought it was?' asked Wash, grinning.

'No, actually. It's very tidy.'

'Can't have ya givin' away all my secrets now, doc,' Jayne rumbled from the doorway.

'Jayne!' Kaylee gasped. 'Oh my, you really did a number on your head, didn't ya?'

'Mm,' he grunted noncomittally.

'Better take a bit more care when you decide the cargo needs rearranging in the middle of the night,' Mal cautioned, finishing up his coffee. 'Might not happen by til the mornin', next time.'

'Huh?' Jayne scowled, puzzled.

'I think what the Captain is trying to say is that maybe next time you go shifting crates in the hold, you might want to not drop one on your head,' Wash put in, helpfully.

'I could drop one on yers instead,' Jayne offered, sinking into a chair. 'You pack o' vultures left anythin' worth eatin'?'

River leaned forwards and slid him a bowl of oatmeal.

After breakfast, Simon retreated to the infirmary where he amended his inventory of medical supplies, marking off what he'd used in the night. Then he scrubbed the work surfaces, the examination bed, the floor, ignoring the discomfort which flared as he bent, kneeled, scrubbed, did his best to empty his mind.

Finally the infirmary was clean and tidy and there was nothing for Simon to do. He flicked off the light and, moving carefully as though an incautious step would bring thoughts flooding back, he walked over to the sofa outside the infirmary, where he lay down and closed his eyes.


He hadn't slept, Simon was sure, although he had no idea of how much time had passed. So what was it that had disturbed him?

'Fine, say your piece, then.' Mal's voice, coming from the cargo bay.

'Jayne's bruises. They don't look like the type made by a crate. And to my eye, the cargo's just where we left it, whereas your hand is looking a mite bruised.'

Zoë, then.

'What's going on, sir?' she asked. 'The doc's looking rougher than a night in a chair would allow for, and though he's hiding it well, he ain't moving right, got some kind of injury himself.'

Simon winced. She was scarily perceptive. He lay still, praying they didn't look through the doorway and see him there, waiting for Mal's reply.

A sigh, and a pause. Then, 'It's sorted. Doc had a problem, took it ta Jayne. For the top three percent, sometimes he really ain't that bright.'

Simon's face burned with embarrassment again, and he wished fervently that he'd gone back to his room to lie down.

'Oh.' Zoë's soft exclamation contained a world of understanding, and Simon wondered just how the Captain and his First Mate did that, sharing so much without having to say it aloud.

'Ain't going to cause difficulties, is it?' Zoë asked.

'Shouldn't, 'less Kaylee gets wind.'

'I don't imagine it's crossed her mind.'

'No, me neither.'

There was another silence, before Zoë spoke again.

'Anything we can do to help him?'

Mal sighed again. 'I don't know, Zo'. He reminds me of a couple o' men I knew, fought so long an' hard in the War, jus' shut themselves down inside an' kept goin' when those around 'em cracked. But when the War ended, they didn't know how ta stop bein' soldiers, how ta live again.'

'Reckon you'd know about that, sir.' she said drily.

'Me? I'm the picture o' well-adjusted.' Mal retorted, affronted.

'Of course you are, sir.'

'Just keep an eye on him, Zo'. We can't afford ta have him go fēngle too. Need our doc in top form, amount we get shot at.' Mal sounded tired, and Simon wondered if he'd had any sleep at all.

Guilt and shame swept over him, leaving him filled with self-loathing. Which, of course, made it the perfect moment for Kaylee to chase River down the stairs, past the infirmary and into the cargo bay.

'Tell me somethin', Zo'. How is that two little girls like that can sound so much like a herd of elephants?' Mal asked, his voice rising to a shout. There was a giggle from the girls and then they raced back through to the common area.

Simon sat up with a groan. 'Is there any way I can persuade you that this ship is not a playground, mèi mei? I don't want you to get hurt.'

'Serenity'd never hurt her, Simon!' Kaylee admonished, dropping onto the arm of the sofa, grinning at Simon, while River jumped and caught the handrail of the stairs. Swinging, her boots in danger of falling off her feet, she contemplated Simon with dark eyes, inscrutable.

'You want to keep me safe, but there's so much hurt inside you. You could wash it away but it would take an ocean and there isn't room.'

Kaylee frowned slightly, looking from Simon to River and back again. 'Simon, did you get hurt last night too?'

'I'm fine, Kaylee,' Simon assured her, but under her gaze he looked away to where his sister dangled. 'Really, I am. I was just catching up on some sleep, that's all. I should have gone to my bunk.' He was babbling, he knew, as he frequently did around Kaylee. She made him nervous with her optimism and hope, her certainty in herself, her easy comfort in her body.

'I'm sorry, Simon,' Kaylee said, contrite. 'We didn't mean ta wake ya up. Come on, River. Let's go see if I can fix your hair up nice.'

River dropped to the floor. 'Very well.' She grinned suddenly, and raced up the stairs.

Kaylee followed more slowly. Pausing at the top, she turned and looked down at Simon. 'You're always trying to fix the rest of us, but it ain't no good if you don't take care o' yourself, too. If you break, who'll fix you?'

Simon watched her go, his eyes dark with regret.

Mal stepped through into the common area and leaned against the doorway. 'Some good advice there, doc.'

Simon winced. 'I know,' he said in a low tone. 'It's just...' He took a deep breath, forced himself to look up at the Captain. 'I think... I suspect I may already be broken, and I have no idea how to go about fixing myself.' He looked away again, stared at the deck plating as if he could will it to open up, let him sink through it, but the whole time he could feel the Captain's eyes on him, studying him, assessing his condition. Deciding if he was a threat to the ship.

'I don't think you're broken, doc.' Mal said softly. 'Mayhap a little twisted out o' shape. What you've done, it ain't easy. Give yerself some time.' He paused, and Simon looked up at him as he continued, 'Just don't screw up my crew in the meantime.' The steel was back in the Captain's voice; the gleam in his eyes telling Simon that last part wasn't to be confused with a request.

'I understand, Captain.' Simon pushed himself off the sofa, clenching his jaw.

'Good.' Mal brushed past him and jogged up the stairs. 'See you at dinnertime, doc,' he called over his shoulder without looking back.

Simon stood where he was for a long moment, then, walking stiffly, he went to his room.

Waking an hour before dinner, with nightmare-echoes of River's screams echoing round his head, Simon forced himself up and out of bed. Walking wasn't any easier and he noticed with clinical detachment the blood that dripped into the toilet bowl and the tremor in the hand which held the paper which rasped over his sore opening. Washing himself down, he put on fresh, loose clothes, covering soft cloth with his over-large sweater, and went to the infirmary.

His temperature was up a fraction. Nothing much, but he took the time to lock the door, shade the windows and reapply antiseptic cream before he automatically returned the Infirmary to its habitual pristine state. Running on auto-pilot, he picked up his medical bag and went in search of Jayne.

The mercenary wasn't in the cargo bay, nor in the kitchen. He risked a glance down the corridor towards the engine room, but as far as he could tell, only Kaylee was in there, the leg swinging gently over the edge of her hammock all he could see of her. Likewise, standing in the corridor outside the crew quarters, he couldn't catch sight of Jayne in the square of cockpit that he could make out through the open door.

Which meant Jayne was almost certainly in his bunk, and that wasn't a place Simon was anxious to revisit. Pulling his professionalism around him as best he could, he knocked on the hatch.

'C'min,' a sleep-rough voice answered.

Hesitating only a fraction, Simon kicked open the hatch and climbed down, trying hard to ignore the shooting pain it caused.

'Come ta check on me, huh?' Jayne said, propping himself up on one elbow as Simon paused at the bottom of the ladder, waiting out the spots at the edge of his vision. 'Well?'

Simon took a couple of breaths and turned to the mercenary, his professional face firmly in place. 'How are you feeling?'

'Head's still aching, but it ain't a lump hammer poundin' no more.'

Simon fished a small pen-light out of his pocket and, squatting down, flashed it into Jayne's pupils. 'Any blurred vision? Nausea?'

'My eyes was fine til ya shone that in 'em,' Jayne groused, and the rumble of his stomach answered the second question.

With gentle fingers, Simon felt around the lump on the big man's head and the swelling at his jaw. 'They appear to be going down a little. As I've said before, you have remarkable powers of recovery.'

'So is it time ta eat?'

'A few minutes, I think.'

There was an awkward silence, then Jayne frowned. 'You okay, doc? Ain't lookin' so hot yer own self.'

Clinging to his detachment, Simon snapped, 'I'm fine,' and hastily pushed himself to his feet. It proved to be a mistake when the dark spots came back, overtaking his vision and for a second he couldn't breathe.

'Tā mā de!'

He was held upright in the circle of Jayne's arms. 'Let me go!' Simon demanded, and even to his own ears his voice sounded tremulous.

'Thought ya was goin' ta faint on me there,' Jayne rumbled. 'Sure ya c'n stand on yer own?'

'I'm perfectly fine, Jayne,' Simon huffed, proving his point by swaying only a little when Jayne let go.

'Suit yerself,' Jayne scowled. 'If yer done, ya c'n leave.'

Simon set his jaw, managed to pick up his bag without falling over, and made it over to the ladder. He looked up, and his heart sank. Gritting his teeth, he clutched one rung. Lifted a foot, placed it on the first rung. Pushed up. Lifted his other foot. Pushed up-

And then he was lying on Jayne's bed, face down, while the big man deftly stripped him of trousers and underpants. He tried to ask Jayne what was going on, what he thought he was doing, but his teeth were chattering too hard.

'Gorrammit, Simon! Nĭ shăguā!,' Jayne said, disgusted. 'Jus' lie still.'

Simon heard him moving around the bunk, and then a cool washcloth pressed between his cheeks, and Simon heard a whimper, which had to come from himself. He wasn't surprised Jayne was disgusted with him. He was disgusted with himself.

He hadn't realised he'd said that aloud until Jayne put a hand on his shoulder.

'Don't,' Jayne warned. 'Ain't you I'm disgusted with. Never meant ta hurt ya that much,' he admitted gruffly. 'I'm goin' ta get the Cap'n. Stay here.'

He pulled a blanket over Simon, then there was a rustle of clothing being donned, and footsteps light and sure on the rungs of the ladder.

It seemed as though Simon barely blinked before the footsteps were back, joined by a second set which he recognised as belonging to the Captain.

'Simon? Doc!' The blanket was pulled back off him again. 'Ō, zhè zhēn shì ge kuaìlè de jìnzhăn!' Mal said, turning to Jayne. 'Zěnme le?'

'Idiot passed out tryin' ta climb the ladder,' Jayne grumbled. 'Looks like he tore somethin' tryin' ta prove he's fine, 'cause he weren't so bad this mornin'.'

Simon forced his eyes open. 'Excuse me, Captain. I don't think I'll be able to join you for dinner after all.'

'Liú kŏushŭi de biăozi hé hóuzi de bèn érzi! Doc, I ain't minded about dinner right this moment. I want ta know what's wrong with you.'

Simon shivered, suppressing the urge to giggle hysterically. 'Shock? An infection? Gross stupidity?'

'Doc...' Mal warned, impatient.

'In my professional opinion, I think the patient has succumbed to a temporary physical collapse in response to the sudden relief from a prolonged period of stress. I should be fine in a few minutes.' Simon revised his estimate in light of the disbelieving grunts that came from the two men. 'An hour, then.'

Mal sighed and stared at Jayne. 'Right. You keep an eye on our resident genius. Don't let him out of here 'til you're absolutely certain he can get up that ladder on his own without killin' hisself.'

'What about dinner? I'm hungry,' Jayne complained.

'I'll bring you both a plate. Make sure he eats.'

'What'll ya tell 'em?'

'The others? You ain't feelin' too good. That crate managed to get through even your hard head. Doc's keepin' an eye on ya, says you ain't to be disturbed.'

Affronted, Jayne asked, 'Why's it gotta be me sick?'

'Less 'n ya want to explain just how come the doc's lyin' there bleedin' out o' his pìgu, I reckon it's the best way.'

'But it were his plan!'

Mal leaned in, anger etched in deep lines across his face. In contrast, his voice was quiet, cold. 'A stupid, dangerous plan that you went along with, an' it almost got you killed.'

Jayne looked away first, anger and shame warring across his strong features.

Simon shivered again, closing his eyes against the scene. It took a couple of attempts before he could speak; a tiny, 'I'm sorry.'

'Best you bìzŭi, doc,' Mal said wearily. 'Save your strength for gettin' back on your feet.'

Simon heard the Captain move away, climb the ladder, shut the hatch behind him. He opened his eyes again when he felt the blanket being pulled up over him, covering his naked lower half again.

'Thank you,' he muttered, too grateful for the warmth to feel more than a passing awkwardness.

'Yeah, well, ya won't get better shakin' fit ta burst,' Jayne said, and went to sit at the very end of the bunk.

'Would... Would you mind just... being close? Just for a little while,' Simon asked, swallowing the rest of his pride. Tears pricked at his eyes as he anticipated the coming rejection. But then the mattress dipped beside him as Jayne stretched out his long frame, pressing his chest to Simon's back, one arm over his waist. Simon's tears dropped silently to the pillow, but his shivering eased off, and by the time the Captain returned with two plates of food, he had himself more or less under control.

'Kaylee offered ta come by and keep you two company,' Mal said, putting the plates down on Jayne's weapons chest, eyeing the two men with resignation. 'I tol' her no, but Jayne, you might want ta think on locking that hatch so she don't surprise you. Don't reckon it'd be the best all round.'

Jayne nodded, not moving from the bed. 'Will do.' As the Captain turned to leave, he added, 'Mal? What if the doc's still sick tomorrow?'

Mal looked back, raising an eyebrow. 'That headache o' yours'll be layin' you low like a fancy lady in an old-time book.'

Simon didn't have to see Jayne to know he was scowling. He butted in hastily, trying to lighten the mood. 'If anyone should be wearing petticoats around here, it should probably be me.'

'Ain't wrong about that!' Mal admitted, his mouth quirked in a half-smile. 'An' you might jus' make a prettier woman than I did, you ever put 'em on.'

'Hah!' Jayne's laugh puffed warm breath over the nape of Simon's neck, leaving a tingling feeling behind. 'Some day I'll have ta see that.'

'I can't know that!' Mal said hurriedly. 'I'm going before my own dinner gets cold. Eat up. I'll come by for the plates before I turn in.' With that, he rapidly climbed the ladder and left them alone.

After the hatch had shut, Jayne shifted and sat up. Simon turned his face to watch the older man as he locked the hatch and retrieved their dinners.

'Ya want some help sittin'?'

Simon shook his head. 'I'll eat it later. I'm not terribly hungry right now.'

'Suit yerself,' the big man grunted, putting Simon's plate back down and starting in on the night's protein stew. As he ate, he kept glancing over at Simon, a small frown creasing his brow, until at last the doctor raised his eyebrows.


Jayne wiped his plate clean with a piece of bread, then popped it in his mouth and chewed slowly.

'What, what?' he asked succinctly, setting his plate on the floor.

'You look... I don't know, puzzled, maybe? I was wondering why that is.'

Jayne shrugged. 'Jus' can't figure ya out right now, is all. You need more company, or c'n I get on with mercen'ry stuff?'

Though Simon was tempted to say yes, he shook his head again. 'Feel free to do whatever it is that 'mercenary stuff' entails. I confess I'm a little curious about it.'

'N this case? Check ma knives, make sure ma girls're all okay. Should be, but better to be safe than stuck in a fire-fight with a jammed gun, right?' He flashed a quick grin and set about checking over his collection of weaponry, which Simon quickly realised was far more extensive than he'd guessed.

When he fell asleep, it was to the rhythmic sound of Jayne honing one of his knives on an oilstone.

Jayne woke Simon later, helped him sit up, made him eat, then let him sink back into that blessed dream-free darkness again. When he stirred in the night, Jayne's arm tightened around him and he quietened again, sleeping so deeply that Jayne had to hold a hand in front of his nose for a minute before he was sure the young man was still breathing.

Morning came, and with it breakfast, brought by Mal with a knock and an override code for the hatch.

'Rise an' shine! How's my invalid today?' One-handed, the Captain dropped down the ladder into the cabin and put down two bowls, then went back and pulled the hatch firmly shut.

Jayne snorted, rubbing sleep from his eyes. 'Mornin',' he said, disentangling himself from the blanket and Simon, who was still fast asleep.

'He okay?' Mal asked, squatting down beside the bed.

'He slept jus' fine, if that's what yer askin',' Jayne said, taking one of the bowls. 'Ain't really woke up since I made him eat las' night.'

Mal laid a hand on Simon's forehead. 'Don't feel hot, an' his colour's better.'

'Reckon he'll be back in his own bunk today?' Jayne asked, a shade too diffidently.

'Why? You goin' ta miss having him share with you?' Mal settled back on his heels, studying his mercenary carefully.

Jayne met his gaze. 'Nope. Gettin' itchy feet, is all.'

'You sure that's all it is? 'Cause from where I'm sat, you two're lookin' mighty domestic.'

Jayne dropped his spoon into the bowl in disgust. 'Hell, Mal, the kid's sick! Ain't surprisin' he's wore hisself out, chasin' after that sister o' his all by his own self. An' I don't reckon it's so surprisin' he don't know how ta let folks get close, given that gŏushĭ family. Gorram appearance more damn important than yer own flesh an' blood! I should'a jus' took him ta bed 'til he couldn't remember 'is own name rather'n lettin' him talk me inta doing it his way.'

Mal regarded the big man with honest surprise. 'Why Jayne, I didn't think I'd ever see your finer feelin's come ta light. That changes a whole lotta things.'

It was Jayne's turn to look suspiciously at the Captain. 'What kinda things?'

Mal grinned and clapped him on the shoulder. 'How we tell li'l Kaylee she ain't the only one in love with our fancy doctor.'

Jayne gaped in shock until Simon, eyes still firmly closed, said, 'Would one of you please tell me this is some sort of dream? Because if it isn't, I can only think I've lost my mind completely. Which is a definite possibility right now.'

He opened his eyes to see two sets of blue eyes staring down at him. 'So? Which is it?'

'Glad to have you back with us, doc. I was a mite concerned, there,' Mal said, still smiling.

Simon sighed and rolled over onto his back. 'Definitely not a dream, then.'

'Nope,' Jayne grunted, tugging him up into a sitting position.

'Well, I think this is probably one of the more awkward mornings I've had,' Simon confessed.

'How much did you hear?' Mal asked, pushing himself up to claim a corner of the bed.

'I'm not sure. Yes, I'm feeling much better, thank you. Still a little tired, and I don't think I'll be playing hoopball any time soon, but I think I can probably manage to get back to my own bunk. As for the rest...' He looked up at Jayne, who fidgeted uncomfortably.

'I had no idea, Jayne.' Simon put a tentative hand on Jayne's arm. 'I had no idea you felt that way about me, or that-'

'Now wait on a ruttin' moment! I never said-'

'Or that,' Simon continued firmly, 'you had any insight into my predicament. I used you when I thought you were just a big box-dropping man-ape gone wrong thing, when you were actually genuinely trying to help me, and for that I can't make amends.'

'You ain't behaved with a whole lotta honour there,' Mal conceded, watching the pair with undisguised interest. 'Question is, doc, how do you feel about Jayne, and what're you goin' to do about it? I don't hold with my ship being in an uproar, an' it seems to me that no matter what, someone's goin' ta get hurt.'

Simon glanced over at the Captain, twin spots of colour rising high on his cheeks. 'Honestly? I'm not sure how I feel. About anything. It's been so long since I felt anything other than anxiety and outright terror that I can't quite remember what other emotions feel like.'

Jayne gritted his teeth and looked away, shifting away.

Simon kept his hand on the mercenary's arm, continuing, 'I know my plan was desperate, foolish, but there's a reason why I went to Jayne.' He paused, glancing over at the big man. When he continued, his words were for Jayne alone. 'I feel... safe with you. Which is ridiculous, because you could kill or maim me without even breaking a sweat. And that's what I told myself when I came up with my plan. I don't think insomnia breeds clear thinking,' he admitted with a small laugh. 'Anyway, when I was focussed on you, I didn't have to keep on worrying about River. I could put down all that fear, all the worries that I'd never get her out, or keep the Alliance from taking her right back again.

'I suppose I didn't feel alone. With you there, Jayne, I could be a whole person again.'

'Ya could just've said something,' Jayne grumbled, but he turned back towards the doctor, hope flaring in his eyes.

'What, Jayne? I could have come up to you and said 'I can't sleep, but I think if you just hold me for a while I might be able to?' Can you tell me truthfully you wouldn't have laughed at me and run to tell the crew? Besides, I didn't know it myself.'

'Never know now, will we?' Mal said. 'So are you two going ta make something of this?'

Jayne looked at Simon, eyebrow raised, waiting for the young man's answer.

'I don't know.' At Jayne's growl, he added, 'I need a little time to work through all of this, I think, not to mention time to heal up physically.' His hand tightened on Jayne's arm. 'I would very much like it if I could stay here for a little longer, though. I think I could use some more sleep.'

Jayne opened his mouth to protest, then closed it at the look on Simon's face. A slow smile spread across his face. 'Reckon that'd be okay.'

Simon took a deep breath, grinning in relief, and sagged back against the wall.

'I suppose that's my cue to leave,' Mal said lightly, pushing himself to his feet with a groan. 'I expect you both to be at dinner this evening, mind. I need to go speak with Kaylee.'

'I should-' Simon began, but the Captain stopped him with a shake of his head.

'Known her a deal longer than you, an' like you said, you ain't never had what she's lookin' for an' it don't appear you're goin' to, neither. Jayne, stay put with the doc. I'll leave lunch at the hatch, but don't go thinkin' this c'n be a habit. I ain't a waiter, an' that tank duty's mighty temptin' to hand out right now.'

'Thank you, Captain,' Simon said. 'For everything.'

Pausing on the ladder, Mal said, 'Ain't thanks I'm wanting. Just a working ship, my crew somewhat in health, an' a bit o' cashy money ta keep us flyin'.'

Jayne nodded. 'Amen ta that.' He stared at Simon as the hatch slammed shut again.

'What?' Simon asked, looking at Jayne with eyes that held fewer shadows than Jayne had ever seen in them.

'What, what?'

'You're looking at me again.'

'Guess I better quit it, then,' he rumbled softly. Then, too quick for Simon to protest, he tugged the doctor back down onto the bed, settling him so that his back was pressed against Jayne's solid chest. Wrapping one arm around the doctor's waist, he spoke quietly, breath again ruffling the hairs on the back of Simon's neck and sending a shiver down the young man's neck. 'Might 's well get some sleep.'

Simon smiled. Warm and relaxed in the mercenary's comforting embrace, he let sleep claim him once more.

A couple of hours later, he woke with a start as Jayne sat bolt upright.

'Ah, cào! How long ya been in here, Kaylee?' Jane asked, dismayed.

Kaylee was seated at the foot of the ladder, arms wrapped around her knees. Traces of crying showed in the tracks carved through the dirt on her cheeks and in the red of her nose.

'Kaylee!' Simon rolled over and sat up. 'I'm so-'

The engineer sniffed loudly. 'If you're going ta say you're sorry, I swear I'll throw this wrench right at your head!'

'What wrench?' Jayne asked, curious.

She leaned sideways a little, and they could see the wrench in question poking out of the rear pocket of her overalls. It looked heavy.

'I just wanted ta come see for myself, I guess,' she said with a hiccup. 'Cap'n told me not to, but I had ta see. I was goin' ta argue the point, but I've been here a while, an' I ain't never seen the both of ya so... relaxed. You look like ya belong together. Here. In each other's arms...' Her voice broke, and she covered her mouth, waiting until she could speak again.

'Simon, never say yer sorry for lovin' someone. I ain't sorry for lovin' you. I'm sorry I weren't right for you, but I guess it wouldn't have worked.'

Simon stared at her. Not for the first time, she'd rendered him speechless. 'Kaylee...' he trailed off.

'An' you, Jayne! You big lug! You treat him right, ya hear? Don't you hurt him none, or I'll throw wrenches at you too.' She sniffed again, then wiped her nose on a rag fished from a pocket. 'I'm gonna go. Cap'n'll be wonderin' where I got to.'

The two men watched as she stood and rapidly climbed the ladder. Then Simon leaned his head against Jayne's shoulder and took a deep breath.

'That was creepy,' Jayne said. 'Don't suppose there's much reason ta lock the gorramn hatch now.'

'Hah!' The laugh surprised Simon as much as it did the mercenary. 'I suppose not, no.'

Jayne shifted until Simon was using his shoulder as a pillow. 'Got time fer a little more shut-eye, might as well make use of it.'

'Okay.' He drifted off again, thinking how odd it was that this wasn't in the slightest bit strange to him, and that if he could market this cure for insomnia, he'd be a rich man. And Jayne would have the largest shoulders in the 'verse. But he'd far rather stay poor and keep Jayne to himself.


Wŏ de mā - Mother of God
Feìfeì de pìyăn - a baboon's ass-crack
fēngle - loopy in the head
mèi mei - little sister
Tā mā de - Shit
Nĭ shăguā - idiot
ō, zhè zhēn shì ge kuaìlè de jìnzhăn . . . - "Oh, this is a happy development..."
zěnme le - What happened? What's wrong?
Liú kŏushŭi de biăozi hé hóuzi de bèn érzi! - Stupid son of a drooling whore and a monkey.
pìgu - backside
bìzŭi - be quiet
gŏushĭ - crap
cào - fuck