Jayne's Special Hell
Jayne's Special Hell
Jayne's Special Hell
There were moments when Jayne sincerely wondered whether maybe Mal had spaced him after all, because he was surely suffering some hellish torments.
Most of those moments of wondering occurred in the infirmary.
Occasionally, they happened in the kitchen.
How much was a man supposed to take, anyway? How was he supposed to react to eyes that kept shooting him these, these looks, with the admiration and the shy little smiles? Trips to the infirmary were the worst, since those included touching. Oh, so gentle touching, and that oh, so concerned voice, both drifting over him and setting all his nerves to tingling. And that trapped feeling would start to build up in Jayne's chest, until he didn't know whether to run and hide under his bunk or start screaming.
Stop it! Just stop it! I ain't who you think I am!
But since Jayne couldn't do either of those things without having to face consequences he really didn't want to face, he would inevitably reach the point where he started to think, why not? Why not just grab the boy and give him what he was asking for, with his wide eyes and lingering glances? If the boy was stupid enough not to see the truth when it was staring him in the face, well, he deserved whatever he got.
But just as inevitably, just as Jayne was about to give in and start grabbing, he would look up, and there would be Mal, watching. Mal, who saw everything, and who hurt Jayne in ways Jayne didn't know he could be hurt. His own feelings baffled and frightened him, as did Mal himself, but one thing Jayne knew: if he laid a hand on Simon, Mal'd see he paid for it. Oh, Mal never said anything, and no one else on the crew noticed anything, but Jayne looked into Mal's eyes, those knowing eyes, and he understood. To deliberately injure Mal was beyond Jayne, why he did not know, and any harm to crew was harm to Mal, lesson learned there, no question. And to take advantage of Simon's, Simon's what? Crush? Whatever. No. Mal was watching, Jayne was cautious, and, between Mal's eyes and Simon's, sometimes in Hell.
Left to himself, Jayne would have let things lie. Safest and easiest thing to do, really. He determinedly disregarded the growing turmoil that sometimes threatened to overwhelm him and in the darkest moments, usually right after he'd been sewn up by Simon while Mal lounged all casual seeming in the door, he thought that his amy-what-its-called must be working really well. He didn't know whether to be relieved or disappointed that Simon didn't seem much inclined to press the issue. Strange, how the doc could be so gorram pushy about some things and so backward about others.
Jayne was not, however, to be left to himself.
They ran up Serenity's ramp, Jayne, Simon and Kaylee, a real hostile group of townfolk on their heels; it was purely amazing the way trouble seemed to follow the crew around. Wash lifted off at once as the ramp was raised behind them, and Simon stumbled. Jayne caught his arm to prevent him from falling and Simon ended up leaning against Jayne's chest, staring up at him with huge eyes. Jayne's blood was up, and he could feel Simon's chest heaving from the run and perhaps not only from the run. There was a pounding in Jayne's ears and the urge was there, strong as it had ever been, no, stronger, to haul Simon up and take that mouth. There was no doubt at all that Simon would give it to him....
A soft gasp caught his attention and both men jerked their heads around to Kaylee who was staring at them, stricken. Jayne actually felt himself going red. He released Simon so quickly, Simon nearly staggered in taking his own weight.
"Now, ain't this a sight," Mal's voice drawled and all three of them snapped their attention to him as he strolled into the cargo bay, hands in pockets. "You do have a real gift for gettin' on folks bad side."
Simon had regained his poise. "A gift we share with everyone on this ship, pretty much."
"You may have a point there," Mal agreed. "Oh, and River's looking for you."
Simon's embarrassment was forgotten at once. He stepped urgently towards Mal. "Is she all right?"
"Well, she seemed pretty well to me, but you're the doctor."
Simon frowned and quickly left to find his sister. Ignoring Jayne, Mal tossed his arm over a shaken Kaylee's shoulders and steered her out, teasing her for details of their latest run-in, leaving Jayne at a loss and wondering how much Mal had seen.
He was to find out. An hour or so later, rounding a corner, there was Mal. Mal didn't touch him, but somehow Jayne was pressed back, Mal's hand planted beside against the wall by Jayne's ear, and Mal's eyes boring into him, and Jayne could not tear his own gaze away.
"So, just how far were you thinkin' on takin' this, Jayne?" Mal's voice was low. "I been waitin' to see if you were gonna speak up, but I guess you ain't got the guts to do it on your own. So, now I'm tellin' you. You want him, he wants you, I reckon I ain't got the right to stop you. But you're gorram well gonna be honest with him. Tell him who you really are, make sure that it is really you he wants, and not this notion of you he's got in his fool head. And you're gonna tell him today. No puttin' it off. And if you lay a hand on him before you tell him, well, let's just say you'll lose that hand and anything else you touch him with. Simon may be a romantic fool, but I won't have him hurt by it more than I can help. Clear?"
"Yeah." Jayne's voice was hoarse. "I hear ya, Mal."
"Good." Mal straightened. "That's real good." He moved slowly back. "Today, Jayne." And with that final warning, he was gone.
Jayne slumped against the wall, head tilted back and swore despairingly to himself in Chinese.
Simon glanced up at the opening of the infirmary door and fumbled a bit with an ampule when he saw Jayne hovering awkwardly at the entrance.
"Uh, I saw you was here," Jayne gestured vaguely towards the glass wall. "Could I maybe come in? And... talk? I kinda need to talk. To you."
Simon's heart was suddenly pounding too hard and breathing had become difficult. Talk? Talk. What did that mean? Calm down, calm down, it doesn't necessarily mean... anything. Maybe he wasn't feeling well. Or something. The thought enabled him to pull himself together. He moved closer.
"Of course, Jayne. What's the problem?"
Jayne managed a glance at the doctor and then quickly looked away. "I..." He moved restlessly and aimlessly further into the room. Simon tracked him with his eyes, frowning his concern.
"Don't look at me like that!" Jayne snapped.
Simon's frown deepened, concern giving way to confusion. "I'm sorry..?"
"Like, like you're worried `bout me, like you think I'm worth worrin' `bout! Like you think I'm somethin' special! I ain't special. There ain't nothin' special about me."
"You're wrong!" Simon said intently. He seized on the opportunity to say what Jayne had not let him say before. "How many men would take on armed Alliance police, handcuffed..?"
Jayne cut him short. "You did!"
"Yes, because you did! I would never have done it if you hadn't made the first move! And to do that when, well, honestly, you didn't have much reason to like me. Or River. And I admit, I judged you, by your manner and appearance, and I was wrong...."
"You weren't wrong." Jayne's voice was low and flat.
"Yes, I was." Simon insisted. "You're a courageous and decent man, I've never seen anything like you fighting to get us out of that hospital..."
"I called the Feds."
"...all of us...."
"I called the Feds."
Simon shook his head in denial. "No."
"Yes." Jayne forced himself to really look at Simon for the first time since he entered the infirmary. "I did."
It finally sank in.
"You betrayed us," Simon whispered, leaning back against a counter. His own legs would not hold him. The implications were beating into his mind now. Jayne had done this thing. He had trusted Jayne, God, he'd made a total fool of himself, who else of those he trusted would turn on him. And River...!
"You called... the police," he rasped slowly. "You turned us in. For the reward?"
"And they screwed you over, of course." Simon's voice, strengthening, was almost detached now. "Maybe there is some sort of universal justice after all."
"May be," Jayne muttered uncomfortably, staring at his hands now.
Simon straightened. He felt light headed now, strangely removed from the man before him. "You sold my sister. She attacked you, and she was worth a great deal of money, so you sold her. And I was a bonus, I suppose." He paused but Jayne merely fidgeted and did not answer. Simon looked at Jayne and hated himself. The things he'd been thinking and feeling... He truly understood the expression about scales falling from eyes, it was as if he were seeing truly for the first time and what he saw revolted him. Man-ape gone wrong. How right he'd been.
"They tortured her. You do realize that, don't you? You couldn't have missed it. But you didn't care, did you? You just walked us down there," Simon's voice rose as the detachment fell away, "straight into them. You just didn't count on getting picked up yourself. You son of a bitch!" Beyond sense or self-preservation, Simon sent his fist into the big man's jaw. It was an awkward punch, but Jayne made no attempt to avoid it and it was enough to snap his head to the side. Simon stood trembling and slightly nauseated from the adrenaline rush, fists still clenched. Jayne lightly felt his jaw.
"Reckon I deserved that," he said, his voice very low.
"You deserve a Hell of a lot more than that," Simon was fiercely pleased that his voice was steady, "but I won't be the one to give it to you. Get out of here and don't even think about coming to me the next time some one shoots you, or takes a knife to you. I'd be more likely to applaud than raise a finger to help you."
"Simon..." There was an uncharacteristic pleading note to Jayne's voice but Simon was in no state to care.
"I said, get out!"
Jayne hesitated, then ducked his head in acknowledgment and left the infirmary.
Simon buried his face in his hands.
Mal kept unobtrusive watch over Jayne that evening, and he knew when Jayne shot him that look right before shoving back from the dinner table that the time of reckoning had come. Mal waited a mental count of one hundred before he followed the big man towards the infirmary. He stopped a bit before reaching it and waited, shoulders braced against the wall and hands in pockets. He didn't have to wait long before Jayne appeared, gaze on the floor and a purely dejected expression on his face. He was almost on Mal before noticing him, coming to an abrupt halt when he did.
"How did he take it?" Mal deliberately kept the tone non-confrontational.
Jayne answered flatly. "Somebody needs to teach the boy how to throw a punch." A pause. When Jayne continued there was faint note of something, challenge perhaps?, in his voice. "Reckon that'll be you. Sure it won't be me."
Mal considered. "Wouldn't hurt to teach him a bit, considering the fact that things have a strange tendency to get over complicated `round here."
"Yeah," Jayne said bleakly. "They do at that."
There was a moment of silence before Jayne resumed his trek down the corridor. After a few steps, he stopped and looked back. "Just tell me one thing, Mal," he said, sounding tired and bitter. "How much of this was to protect him and how much was `cause him wantin' me was drivin' you crazy?"
Good question. Mal wondered if he really wanted an answer to it, himself. What he offered Jayne was, "But he wasn't wantin' you, now, was he?"
Jayne stared at him and if there was pain in his eyes, well, Mal was good at ignoring pain. Jayne turned away.
Mal turned in the opposite direction. Simon was likely hating himself about now, running through his head the way he'd been all but throwing himself at Jayne lately. Wondering how he could trust anyone. Including himself. Perhaps, especially himself.
Mal's steps slowed as he neared the glass walls of the infirmary and he looked in carefully, not wanting to attract Simon's attention just yet. He was in time to see the doctor suddenly explode, grabbing some glass jar or other, and flinging it against a wall. Jayne had not closed the infirmary door behind him when he left, and Mal was privileged to hear Simon Tam's repertoire of profanity.
Not bad. Not excellent, but not bad.
Apparently, betrayal constituted appropriate circumstances for cursing.
Mal casually approached the door and poked his head in. "Problem?"
Simon spun to glare at him.
Mal raised his eyebrows. "Looks like a yes," he observed, coming more fully into the room.
"Did you know?" Simon demanded. His eyes looked bruised.
"Could you be more specific?"
Simon's expression evolved to deepest contempt. "Did you know that Jayne called the Alliance at the hospital? That he sold River and me?"
Now for the touchy part. "I knew," Mal said evenly. "And I took care of it. I promise you, you don't need to worry about him tryin' anything like that again."
Simon laughed. It was nothing like any laugh Mal had heard from Simon before. "But you didn't see fit to tell me. You let me make a total fool of myself...!" Simon broke off, a shudder of self directed rage. "But, hey, at least he won't do it again! That's something. I can look forward to it being someone else, next time."
Mal's voice hardened. "Won't be a next time. Ain't nobody else on Serenity gonna turn on you, Simon. My word on that."
"There's always a next time. I've finally accepted that, there is always a next time! Do you know why I'm here?" he demanded suddenly. "Did you ever wonder why I ran off into space with River, instead of turning to my loving parents? Because my father made it very clear that if I ran into any trouble, I was on my own, the law could have me. And if my own rutting parents could sell me out, why not a bunch of strangers?"
"Strangers." Mal's eyes narrowed. "That what we are? We give you shelter, at some risk to ourselves, we come and get you when you get into trouble, and you say we're strangers? And another thing, Simon Tam." Two strides brought him brought before Simon; his hands locked around the doctor's upper arms as he moved in. "I don't know about your parents. They don't sound to me much like they rate the title. But I do know about me. And I do not betray what I've laid claim to. Serenity's mine; that includes her crew. You're a part of that crew. Your sister, maybe not so much, but I reckon she's a part of you, and that's enough." He let go and stepped back.
"I don't want your thanks, or your hero worship, or whatever the Hell it was you were so busy throwin' at Jayne." He ignored the pained tightening of Simon's lips. "I'll see you safe, as far as I'm able, and that's the end of it, understand? That's the way it is, you don't ever question it." He put his hand on Simon's shoulder and caught Simon's gaze with his own. "You want to be afraid of the Alliance, well, that's good sense. But don't fear anything on this ship. Because there is nothing here to hurt you now. Got it?" He shook the shoulder he held lightly for emphasis.
"Got it," Simon replied softly and even summoned the faintest touch of a smile.
There was not the complete faith in Simon's eyes he would have wished for, but there were the beginnings of it.
For now, it was enough.