Simon watches Kaylee and the Captain together. He can see that Mal acts differently around her now that Simon and Kaylee are a couple, can see those abortive moments when Mal is about to kiss or touch Kaylee and then thinks better of it, or the way he goes stiff or even pulls away when Kaylee kisses or touches him. The easy physical affection which was always an essential part of the way captain and engineer communicated is gone now.
Simon sees that Kaylee notices it too and doesn't like it.
"I've had plenty of boys before, made no difference to the Cap'n," Kaylee pouts.
"A boyfriend is different," Simon reasons. After all, "a boy in every port" brings with it no expectation of exclusivity. "Mal probably doesn't want to encroach on my territory."
Kaylee playfully jabs Simon in the arm. "I ain't no man's territory, mister."
Simon smiles. "Don't I know it." Beat. "And ow." He rubs his arm.
"You're not jealous of me 'n' the cap'n, right?" Kaylee asks.
"Of course not," Simon lies. He knows that Mal loves Kaylee and that Kaylee loves Mal, and would never try to get in between that, but he can't help if there's a part of him which is jealous. Of both of them.
"I mean, it ain't about sex, me 'n' the cap'n. Not like you 'n' me."
Simon looks away. "Not like us, no," he agrees easily. "But Kaylee, the man's not dead, and he's not sly, and he's not your father, and so I don't think it's possible for him to kiss you and not have it be a little bit about sex."
Kaylee considers this for a moment, then looks confused. "But he coulda' had me at anytime, all he'd o' had to do was ask, is all. He had to know that."
Simon considers his words carefully. "Just because a man wants something, and knows that he can have it, doesn't mean he doesn't know it'd be a bad idea for him to get it. Mal's the captain. He takes that seriously."
Kaylee frowns. "So kissing and no more, and now not even kissing." The frown turns into another pout. "I miss the kissing."
Simon purses his lips. "Okay, still not jealous, but it's very hard for me to not to take that as an affront to my manhood."
Kaylee just hits him again, this time in the other arm, then leans over for a long, lingering kiss. "I like it when you kiss me, silly," she says. "But it's not the same thing."
Simon nods. "You want me to talk to him?" he asks, defeated.
"So let me get this straight," Mal says. "You're telling me you want me to kiss your girlfriend?"
"Well, 'want' might not be exactly the right word," Simon says, flustered. "I'm just saying, I'd be okay with it if you went back to the way you were, so you needn't refrain on my account--and you're enjoying my discomfort right now, aren't you?"
Mal smiles. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't get anything from it," he admits.
It turns out, it does bother him more than he thought it would. Even if their touches aren't nearly as intimate as that between Simon and Kaylee when they are alone, the easiness with which Mal and Kaylee touch each other, the familiarity and comfort they have with each other's bodies, is something he can't help be envious of.
The only thing is, he's not always sure which of the two it is he's jealous of.
Kaylee can tell, too. "You do mind it after all," she notes. "The kissing, me 'n' the cap'n."
Simon knows he can't deny. "Look, I know it's not about that," he says. "It's just my own issue I have to work with, okay?"
"Would it help if you got to kiss him too?"
Simon nearly chokes. "What?"
"Mal and I just don't have the bond you and he have. And--right or wrong--two men just can't kiss without it meaning anything the way a man and a woman can."
"But you said they can't," Kaylee reminds him. "That Mal couldn't kiss me without it being a little bit about sex. So it'd be okay for it to be a little bit about sex when he kissed you too."
Simon blinks at the thought of Mal kissing him and it being a little bit about sex. He can feel his penis stir at the thought. Of Kaylee watching the two of them kiss, smiling and turned on herself, her arousal fueling his fueling hers fueling Mal's fueling his fueling Mal's fueling Kaylee's in one single synergistic triangle.
"Well, I guess that would be okay," he says. "Only--I'm not sure we could do it without it being a lot about sex."
Kaylee's smirk is downright hungry. "That'd be just fine by me," she says.
Simon can see it from Mal's perspective. He knows the Captain would never be here, in Kaylee's bed, without Simon's presence, would view that as a line crossed, an abuse of authority. Simon being here defuses the situation, makes it okay in a way that Simon can't explain but understands in his gut. Mal can be casual in expressing his affection sexually because he knows Kaylee and Simon are anything but.
Mal kisses Kaylee, and even though this time they're using tongue it's still only an extension of the way they've always kissed, the intuitive language of the body they've always spoken to each other. It's a language Simon hardly considers himself fluent in, but he's learned enough to know that Mal's hand on his penis, gently stroking, means friendship, making no more of a claim on him than he does on Kaylee.
Simon kisses Mal's shoulder. He's not sure he would mind being claimed by Mal as he has been by Kaylee, but he's content to accept whatever it is that the Captain's willing to provide, to share Mal with Kaylee to whatever extent it is that Mal's prepared to give himself to them. He helps Kaylee guide Mal to the bed, pushing and guiding Mal down onto and into Kaylee before slipping into Mal himself, the three bodies becoming one. He looks at Kaylee over Mal's shoulder and she looks lovingly back up at him, and knows whatever this is, this relationship between the three of them, he wouldn't have it any other way.