Didn't Mean Nothin'
"You filthy son of a whore!"
Simon crawled backwards on his elbows, feet scrabbling at the infirmary tiles until he hit the far wall, where he used the leverage of his spine to help him up to a standing position. His fist smeared messily across his blood smeared face.
"You want another go 'round, doc, is that it?" He stepped forward. "'Cause I'll happily blacken the other eye for ya."
"Jayne." Mal's voice didn't change one bit, but it still sounded like he was growling. "Leave this room, now."
"But..." Jayne didn't turn around.
"I ain't askin'. Best not make that mistake." As Mal stepped between them, his hand rested easily above his hip. There wasn't anything big about the gesture, anybody could be forgiven for not even noticing it, but Jayne did, Jayne knew the holster and the gun that lay underneath it. "Just go to your bunk. I'll be wantin' to talk to you about this tomorrow."
"Weren't my fault, Mal." Not that it would do any good, not that anyone would believe him. "He started it."
"Don't antagonize him, doc. I'll deal with you, soon." Mal hissed to the figure against the wall before turning back to Jayne. "We got a job need doing tomorrow an' I'll rest a mite easier knowing we got a medic still able to medicalise after we get our asses shot at. Again. Go to your bunk."
"Captain." Jayne bit the words out, knowing they sounded anything but obedient. "Yes sir, Captain."
He made sure to nudge Mal with his shoulder as he turned to the door. Zoe was standing just inside, looking ready as ever to jump in if anyone made trouble. The look on her face was stony. Across the room, River's large brown eyes stared at him, boring deep. He didn't dare look to the other bench.
It wasn't like he cared, not really. It didn't mean nothin'.
"Don't." He growled the words out before her feet hit the floor. "Just don't. Climb on back out."
She didn't. He knew she wouldn't.
"You hurt him real bad, Jayne." Her voice shook when she spoke and he cursed himself for making that happen. "Zoe's in there now, sewin' up his face."
"Yeah, well." He hadn't meant to cause anything that needed actual tending. Still. "Boy shouldn't start somethin' he can't finish. Should he?"
"He didn't start nothin'!"
He shrugged, still lying on his back. There wasn't any reason for him to get up, it'd only make it more complicated. The last thing they needed was more complicated. A sigh built up deep in his belly. It felt like a rock. She wouldn't leave without an answer of some kind.
"He made you cry, didn't he?"
"No!" Jayne did look up then, raising his eye brow at her until she blushed. "Well, yeah, okay, he did. But he didn't mean to."
"Never said he did." He did stand up, then, couldn't have the conversation without looking at her. "Don't change the fact of it, though."
She looked at her feet, head down and shoulders drooping.
"He means well, Jayne. He just... he doesn't know nothin' about talkin' to girls."
It made the stone deep in his gut heat up, a smoldering fire of bitterness.
"Any git with half a brain knows that to make girls smile ya don't insult them, Kaylee." He wasn't sure if she meant to shake her head like that, listening to him say the same old words over again. "Guess that means he don't have even that."
It was silent then, both of them stood there and waited.
"That it, then? Is it?" Better to get it over with. "Nice talkin' to ya. Get out of my bunk."
But she didn't move and he watched her fingers curl around the ladder behind her. It made his chest clench.
"Kaylee." It came out like a long, low moan. "Don't do this."
"I'm sorry." It was whispered to the floor and he could hear the rawness of her throat.
"I can't do it again, Kaylee." He meant to say it like he meant it, but it came out like a plea, like he was beggin' her for his life. "Not like this, not..."
"Please?" That was his undoing, right there, that and her eyes when she did look up at him. "Please, Jayne?"
"Gorram it, girl."
His hands came up and landed, softly, on the curve of her neck. She made a sound in the back of her throat, a small sob, a little sigh. He closed his eyes and leaned forward, just enough so that his forehead touched hers.
"Just like always." He didn't know if he believed his own words anymore, but he knew she did, knew she wanted and needed to hear them. "It don't mean nothin'. Not a thing."
"No." He barely heard her answer.
And just like that, like a dam breaking, his fingers closed in tight, wrapped themselves in the hair at the back of her neck and angled her head up to meet his. It was tight and fierce and they were both hungry for it, both desperate for it. Her hands sprang up from behind her and grasped at his waist, pulling him closer.
Didn't take long at all for their clothes to end up on the floor and their bodies to end up on the bed, grasping and pawing, pulling and touching, squeezing, anything to get closer. It was fast and furious, both of them moaning and grunting, loud and needy.
As much as he tried to memorize every second of it, Jayne couldn't help hating himself just a little bit more for it, couldn't stop hating her. It wasn't how he wanted it, wasn't ever how he wanted it.
She hadn't meant to start it again, hadn't meant for it go that far. It was just... sometimes it was so lonely out in the black. Torn like she was. She wanted everything and nothing, all of it and none of it, all at the same time.
And Simon made it so hard, made it so damn difficult to keep smiling and nodding. He didn't even mean to say those horrid things, didn't even mean to turn around and reject her at every step. She tried so hard and got so very little in return. If only he could see how easy it would be between them.
Sometimes she just had to break down and cry.
That was when Jayne stepped in and that was what made it more complicated. Jayne, who'd made it very clear early on that he wasn't one to mess with, wasn't one to ever stay put anywhere, the big, tough man who didn't have no time for anything 'cept guns and maybe a whore or two. He always seemed to step in and take her side, always pulled Simon's bootstraps up when she didn't have the strength to do it herself.
Simon broke her into pieces and Jayne picked them up.
If she could merge them into one, things would be easier. So much easier.
Her eyes fluttered closed as she felt Jayne's hips press deep into the insides of her thighs, felt his forearms resting beside her head, the bulk of him above her. She felt him and thought of softer skin, of a crisper voice and thinner, darker hair.
"Yes." The word came out of her lips before she could stop it. "Oh, yeah, like..."
It made it worse, so much worse, that thinking about someone else made it better.
"Kaylee." And he always made it clear who he was thinking of, could never let her forget it. "Damn, Kaylee."
"Just... oh..." She was so close, so close. "Si..."
His finger landed on her lips, pressed down hard.
"Yeah, okay." Voice a low scratch in her ear. "If that's what you need, just... just shh."
The salt from his touch oozed into her mouth and she couldn't stop her tongue from poking out to lick at his skin. The moan that escaped his throat rippled all the way through her and she opened her lips, took his whole finger in and sucked hard. It stopped the tears behind her eyes.
"Ai ya, Kaylee."
He had to fist his hands into the pillow beside her face to stop him reaching up and tracing lines down her skin, stop himself running them all over her body. She didn't want that, she never wanted that. She only ever wanted it hard and fast and distant.
It was easier to let him inside her legs than it was inside her defenses.
She always left him aching and empty, always left him wanting more. If only he could be strong enough to push past it, to be soft with her anyway, to show her exactly how he felt. But he was too scared she really would leave his bunk and not come back.
His own desperation tasted foul like stale copper in his mouth.
A low, keening whine rumbled from deep in her throat and he bent his head to suck at it, just hard enough to make her moan louder, just low enough that no one could see it the next day. He could feel the tightening in the depth of his belly, felt it build slowly.
Too slowly, but she was close.
"C'mon." He growled it at her, knew she liked the sound of his voice like that as he pushed harder. "C'mon girl, let it out."
"Yes. Oh god." Her back arched under him and he watched her eyes open to look into his. "Jayne."
And just like that, the sound of his name, his and no one else's, was enough to push him over the edge as well.
"You okay?" He was sure that that one small question was allowed as they both lay back and breathed hard. "You doin' okay?"
He counted to fifteen before she answered.
"Yeah." She said it between pants. "Just... just gimme a minute. Then I'll go."
"You don't gotta..." But he stopped as he scooted to his side, further away from her, because asking or pleading was definitely against the rules. "That's okay, take all the time ya want."
And he waited, waited and watched until her eyes flickered closed, flew open and then closed again, slower and thicker with each time until they stayed closed. His eyes tracked the rise and fall of her chest until her breath came slow and even.
Only then did he lean over and place a small kiss on her forehead, did he run a hand down the side of her face, over the rise of her cheek and down the curve of her neck. He hooked a finger underneath a damp curl of hair stuck to her face and tucked it gently behind her ear.
"You rest, babygirl." He whispered it, almost audible, next to her ear. "I'll watch out for ya."
He always waited 'til she fell asleep, always hoped she would fall asleep instead of getting up and running away, because it wasn't supposed to happen. What they did, when they did it. They always said it wouldn't happen again. Always said it didn't mean nothin'.
Kaylee kept her eyes closed, kept her breath steady.
She had to, she had to pretend to sleep so that he'd take all the pieces he'd just picked up and slowly put them back together again. A gentle caress here, a soft little touch there, the feel of his lips on her own that she wasn't ever supposed to know about.
He'd stop doing it if he knew she was awake. That was how they were. That was how it was supposed to be, but she had tried and hadn't been able to stop herself needing to be needed like that. She couldn't make it hard on them all by acknowledging it, by admitting it. It was just easier like this. Easier to let him think she was asleep.
So that he really would fall asleep with his hands on her and she could snuggle deeper, pull him closer, and sleep in his arms.
And be gone by morning, before he woke up.
Because what happened, they'd both made it clear from the start, it didn't mean nothin'.
It never did.