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Journey to the Heart of the Matter, A

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Their arrangement was a simple one, purely sexual in nature. At least once a week, sometimes twice, if a job had gone particularly well, Simon and Jayne would end up in Jayne's bunk fucking their brains out for as long as they both could stand it. No one else on the ship knew, with the possible exception of River, who seemed to know everything, but since she was keeping quiet about it, Simon liked to pretend that she didn't.

It was for the best - no attachments, no commitments, both of them getting what they needed from each other. Or so Simon keeps telling himself. But it doesn't explain why he's sitting in a seedy bar, his fingers clutched tightly around his beer, his stomach twisted in knots as he tries desperately to ignore Jayne and the pretty whore he's got sitting in his lap. He knew that Jayne saw whores pretty much every time they made landfall, but this was the first time he's had to witness it and, as much as he doesn't want to admit it to himself, it is making him sick with jealously. He takes a long drink of his beer, hoping to dull the feeling.

Simon tries to focus on the conversation Mal and Zoe are having, but to no avail. Every few minutes long dark hair brushes his arm or face as the whore squirms happily in Jayne's arms whenever the big man's hands start wandering into the folds of her blouse. Jayne whispers something that Simon is certain is obscene from the way the girl giggles and blushes - leave it to Jayne to make a whore blush - and Simon grinds his teeth together and shifts away from them and stares into his beer.

A loud squeal pierces the air as Jayne's hand disappears up the girl's skirt.

"Think maybe it's time for you to take her upstairs," Mal says darkly. "I didn't come here for a live sex show, Jayne."

Jayne grins and replies, "Whatever you say, Captain," and gets up from his chair, taking the girl with him.

Simon watches as they disappear up the back staircase and gulps down the last of his beer. He gets up and heads for the bar. He barely hears Mal say, "Hey, where do you think you're going?" and just looks down at the hand holding his arm.

Zoe, always being a bit more observant than the men in her life, puts a hand on Mal's arm, "Let him go, Sir. It's safe enough in here and I think the Doc needs a drink."

Mal frowns and then shrugs, letting go of Simon. "Whatever. Just don't get yourself snatched, dong ma? I don't feel like being a hero today." That said, Mal turns back to his drink.

Simon makes his way to the bar and catches the bartender's attention. "Whiskey, please."

He gets his whiskey and downs it quickly, and then asks for another. He's not quite sure how many he's had when the big brute next to him puts his hand on his ass. Simon looks up at him out of the corner of his eye, sizing the man up. He's note quite as tall as Jayne, but he's broader and more heavily muscled. Simon pauses for a moment, shrugs internally, and thinks, *Why not, Jayne's upstairs fucking himself stupid, so why can't I?* He smiles at the large man and tips back another shot.

"Wanna go upstairs?" the stranger asks quietly, his hot breath blowing against Simon's skin as he leans in so that he's heard above the noise at the bar.

"Sure, why not?" Simon replies, gesturing for the man to lead the way. Simon follows the man through the bar, and up to a dingy room.

Simon looks around at the grungy bed and suppresses a shudder. He's not sure if he's quite drunk enough to do this, but before he has a chance to say anything, the stranger grabs him in a bruising grip and kisses him hard, forcing his tongue into Simon's mouth.

Simon pushes on the brute's chest and manages to pull his lips away. "Hey, you're hurting me."

"Shut up," the man says harshly and squeezes tighter.

"Let me go," Simon says, fear blooming in the pit of his stomach.

"Oh, you're one of those are you?" asks the stranger frowning, "Tease a man and then try and talk his way out of it? Not this time, sweetheart. I ain't letting you go until I get what I want and what I want is a piece of your fine ass," he says.

Simon tries to pull away again, but finds he can't. "Let me go, you fucking bastard!" Simon exclaims, panic cutting through the haze of alcohol clouding his brain.

His head rocks back with the force of the blow he doesn't see coming. His bottom lip splits and blood spatters everywhere and starts to ooze down his chin. Simon shakes his head, trying to clear it. The stranger pulls him in for another kiss and bites down on Simon's lip. Trying not to scream, Simon struggles to get away and is hit again for his efforts.

Simon's head is spinning and it takes a few moments before he realizes that he's been turned around and is being forced toward the bed. Before he has a chance to struggle, the man grabs his hand and twists it up between his shoulder blades and pulls hard. The pain is excruciating and Simon screams.

"Ah, that's what I want to hear, boy. Scream for me," the man says and pulls on Simon's arm again. Simon screams again, it feels as though his shoulder is being dislocated.

"Oh, yeah. Yer gonna be so sweet," the stranger whispers in his ear and then licks it. He leans his body against Simon and humps the steel hard length of his cock against Simon's ass. He tugs on Simon's arm again and begins to undo Simon's pants.

Simon is panting for air as sparks of pain shoot up his arm. He's stuck, trapped and the growing knowledge that he's about to be raped turns his brain into nothing but white-hot panic. He's barely aware of the sound of the door behind him slamming open and merely sinks down at the foot of the bed, wrapping his arms tightly around himself and shuddering, when the man behind him is ripped away from him. There's a very loud crashing sound and suddenly Jayne is kneeling beside him in nothing but a pair of boxers.

"Tamade, Simon! What the fuck were you thinking?" Jayne yells at him, shaking him slightly, "Goin' off with some stranger ya didn't know in a place like this!"

"You did," Simon mumbles against his knees, "or was she some long lost friend of yours?"

"Gorramit, Simon!" Jayne exclaims in exasperation, "Don't be like that. I was with a whore, not some stranger I picked up in a bar. You coulda been...really hurt," Jayne says, avoiding what would have happened to Simon had he not gotten there when he had.

Simon sits dejectedly, still holding himself tightly as Jayne tries to coax him to look at him. "You know what, Jayne. I can't do this," he says softly.

"Do what?"

"This," Simon says, waving his hand between them. "Us. It's not working. Seeing you walk off with that hurt, Jayne. It hurt a lot. I can't just be a sometime thing for you."

"What are you sayin'?" Jayne asks, his brow furrowing in confusion.

Simon sits up a bit and wipes at the blood on his chin and lips. "What I'm saying is that it's me or them Jayne. Me or the whores. You can't have both. I won't put up with it."

"You're sayin' you want me to give up the women?" Jayne questions, "And just be with you?"

"Yes, Jayne, that's exactly what I'm asking," Simon replies, his stomach fluttering in anticipation of Jayne's answer.

"I dunno, seems like an awful lot."

Simon's stomach sinks, but he knows he should have known what Jayne's answer was going to be. Jayne had told him when they had started months ago that he preferred women. It *was* an awful lot to ask a man to give something like that up, obviously too much. "Yes, that's what I figured. Could you just go, now, Jayne? I've been humiliated enough for one day. Go back to your whore," Simon says, turning his face away from Jayne.

"Hey, now wait a minute. I never said no. I just said it was an awful lot ta ask. If I'm gonna give up women, you're gonna have to do something for me, in exchange, like."

Simon turns back to Jayne, his heart thumping in his chest, " what?" he asks with some trepidation.

"Like no more hidin'," Jayne says as he gently strokes Simon's cheek. "If we're gonna be together, we're gonna be together - no bein' ashamed of it," Jayne settles down beside Simon and puts his arm around him. "Wonder why I picked the only whore in here with dark hair and pale skin, baobei?" He barely pauses before continuing, "I picked her 'cause she kinda looked like you." Jayne tugs Simon closer and kisses him on the temple. "So how 'bout, it, Simon? How about you walk outta here with me?"

Simon relaxes against Jayne and leans his head against his chest. "Jayne, if I walked out of here with you looking like this, Mal will think you did this to me."

"I'm thinking maybe not," comes Mal's voice from the direction of the door as he steps into the room. "Someone want to tell me what's going on here? That whore came running down the stairs and told me and Zoe we'd better get up here right fast. I'm thinking this has something to do with it," Mal continues as he waves his hand at the body slouched against the wall.

Zoe kneels beside the limp body and checks for a pulse, "He's dead, Sir."

" Gaisi tamade erzi de jinu," Mal mutters angrily. "Looks like the explanation's gonna have to wait. We've got to get out of here before the law shows up. Jayne, go get your clothes, we've got to move."

Jayne stands up and offers Simon a hand. Simon makes it to his feet and then promptly tries to sit down again when his head spins. Jayne puts an arm around him and holds him close. "You okay?"

Steadying himself on Jayne, Simon replies, "Yes, I'm fine. I just got up too fast."

"You sure?" Jayne asks frowning with concern.

Simon smiles slightly and says, "Yes. Go on, go get your stuff. I'd really rather not be standing here trying to convince you I'm okay when the sheriff gets here."

Jayne gives Simon a one-armed hug and then makes his way past Zoe and Mal.

Simon fidgets a bit under Mal's steady gaze as Zoe stands point, watching for anyone coming up the stairs. He realizes his pants are half undone and blushes furiously as he refastens them and then straightens out his clothes with trembling fingers.

"You're looking mighty shaky there, Doc. You wouldn't be lying would you?" Mal asks quietly.

"I assure you, Captain. I'm fine. Jayne got here before he could do more than just hit me a few times," Simon looks Mal in the eye before continuing on, with a little smirk on his face, "It's not like that's never happened before."

They share a look of amusement and then Jayne comes back into the room fastening his gun belt. Zoe makes a sound, and faster than he can track, all three of them have their guns drawn and pointed at Jayne's whore. She holds her hands up and says quietly, "There's a back way outta here. I can show you. That way you'll be long gone afore any of his friends notice he's missin'."

"Now why would you want to help us?" Zoe asks, her gun holstered, but still at the ready to draw, if necessary. "It's been my experience that killing a local doesn't usually put a spacefarer in the good graces of townsfolk."

The girl frowns at the dead man and says fiercely, "You done us a favour, puttin' that animal down. He liked hurtin' ya. None a the girls would go with him no more. But your friend there didn't know no better." She glances at Simon as she speaks. "You can trust me, I swear."

"Are we going to stand around here jawin' all day?" Jayne asks, "Or are we getting the hell outta here?"

"Man has a point," Mal says. "Let's move."

They follow the girl down the corridor in the opposite direction of the main staircase until they reach a door. She reaches into a pocket in her skirt and pulls out a key and unlocks the door. "This here's the back stairway. It ends in an alley behind the buildin'. Turn left an' follow it until ya reach the next turn, go right an' go until ya reach the street. You can find your way back to your ship from there."

"Thanks," Mal says and presses a few coins into her hands.

The girl frowns, "I didn't do this for money, mister. I told ya, you done us a favour." She holds her hand out to Mal to give the coins back. Mal curls her fingers over the money and says, "Way I see it, if someone finds out you helped us, you might find yourself out of a job. I wouldn't want a pretty thing like yourself starving on our account." Mal smiles at the girl and then he's gone out the door. Jayne follows, a hand on Simon's back, guiding him in front of him, while Zoe takes the rear.

Following the girl's directions, they make their way back to the ship quickly. "Well, there's another town we can't go back to," Mal says as they enter the cargo bay. "Let's go light a fire under that husband of yours and get ourselves in the air before the law shows up."

"Yes, sir," Zoe replies.

Zoe and Mal head towards the cockpit. Almost before Simon can go three steps his arms are full of his sister. Jayne's strong hand on his back is the only thing that keeps him from falling on his ass.

"River!" Kaylee's voice comes from down the corridor. Kaylee comes running into the cargo bay and stops short at the scene before her - Simon bloodied and rumpled holding a sobbing River in his arms, Jayne standing behind him looking horribly uncomfortable. "Oh my God, Simon! What happened? I shoulda known from the way she was actin' that there was somethin' wrong!"

"I'm fine Kaylee. There was an incident in the bar, but it's taken care of," Simon says stroking River's hair.

They all stumble a little as Serenity takes off. "The kind of taken care of that makes us take off right fast?"

"Pretty much," Jayne replies, still standing behind Simon, who's trying to calm his sister down.

"It's okay, mei mei, I'm fine," Simon says to River and tilts her head up. "I'm *fine*."

River sniffles and stops crying. "Almost weren't. Could have been bad, could have been more screams, more pain," she says quietly, running her fingers along Simon's face.

"But there wasn't, River. There wasn't," Simon says reassuringly.

"Because of him," River says, looking at Jayne.

"That's right, mei mei, Jayne stopped the man from hurting me," Simon says quietly.

Jayne shifts uncomfortably as River keeps looking at him. "Simon, make her stop," he says. River pulls away from Simon and goes up on tiptoe and kisses Jayne on the cheek. "Yours now. Keep him safe," she says and then peels away and grabs a stunned Kaylee by the hand and leads her away.

Jayne and Simon stand there watching the girls leave and then Jayne says gruffly, "That sister of yours is crazy, you know that?"

Simon smiles and then hisses as a sharp bolt of pain jolts through his lip. Jayne frowns in concern and says, "Let's get you to the infirmary so you can fix that."

They walk to the infirmary, Jayne's hand resting lightly against the small off Simon's back the whole way. They enter and Simon tries to get the things he needs to tend to his wound.

"You know, Jayne, this would go a lot faster if you would just go stand over there," Simon says, pointing to the far corner of the room, after nearly tripping over Jayne for the third time. Jayne hasn't been more than a step or two away from him since they left the bar and as much as Simon appreciates knowing that Jayne is worried about him, it's making it difficult to maneuver.

Jayne looks a little hurt and Simon sighs softly and puts a hand on Jayne's arm and squeezes lightly. "Go get me a mirror, so that I can take a look at my lip, okay? There should be one in that drawer," Simon says, pointing. While Jayne is getting the mirror, Simon gathers some sterile gauze and some cleaning solution. His lip hurts like hell, but he doesn't think he's going to need stitches.

He gets Jayne to hold the mirror steady while he cleans the wound. He winces as the solution seeps into the cut and has to stop a grin as Jayne winces along with him. As he suspected, the wound is merely painful, not deep, so Simon puts a little antiseptic cream on it and then says, "All right, almost done. Just let me get some pain killers and we can go."

Simon grabs a bottle and tips out a couple of pills. Jayne hands him a cup of water and he swallows them. They leave the infirmary, Jayne guiding Simon down the corridor. Simon frowns for a moment and then says, "My bunk's the other way, Jayne."

"I know. We're going to mine," he replies.

Simon pauses for a second and says, "Jayne, I'm not really up for anything tonight. My head is killing me..."

"Just want to hold you," Jayne mumbles, blushing.

Simon can't quite believe what he's hearing. "Can you say that again, please?"

"You heard me, I ain't sayin' it again," Jayne grumbles, scowling a bit.

Simon smiles slightly and takes Jayne's hand, entwining their fingers. Jayne squeezes his hand lightly and then silently, they continue on to Jayne's bunk. Jayne goes in first and waits as Simon makes his way down. Simon gasps as pain shoots through his abused shoulder as he puts his weight on it. Jayne moves behind him quickly and puts his hands on his hips.

"Let go, I'll help you down," Jayne says.

Simon lets go and Jayne guides him to the floor. Jayne wraps his arms around him and holds him close, kissing the back of his neck. A slow shudder runs through Simon's body as Jayne's soft lips and rough beard slide along his skin. He relaxes into Jayne's embrace and turns around, tilting his lips up for a kiss. Jayne kisses him ever so softly, a little off centre in an effort to avoid the cut on his lip. Simon cares less about the pain and more about the wonderful way Jayne's mouth feels on his that he takes control of the kiss, lengthening and deepening it, pulling away only when he feels the skin starting to split open again.

Jayne cups his face and runs his thumb lightly along Simon's lip, gathering the small drop of blood that has formed. He licks his thumb and then bends down and very, very gently runs his tongue along Simon's lip. Simon moans softly and leans into Jayne, hands clutching at his shirt. Jayne cradles Simon's head against his chest and holds him tightly.

They part slowly and get undressed. Jayne crawls into the bed first and holds the covers up for Simon. Simon gets in beside Jayne and curls himself around the large warm body, resting his head on Jayne's chest. Jayne wraps his arms around Simon and kisses the top of his head.

"You know, I really wanted you to stay that first night," Jayne whispers against Simon's hair, his hand slowly stroking Simon's back.

"Why didn't you say so?" Simon replies, carding his fingers through Jayne's chest hair.

"You said you wanted to go."

"It wouldn't have taken much to convince me to stay. All you had to do was say you wanted me to and I would have."

Jayne laughs shortly, "You know what?"

"What?" Simon says a bit drowsily, the sedative in the painkillers starting to take effect.

"I think we're both a couple of dumbasses," Jayne replies.

"Mnrph?" Simon questions, his eyes drifting closed.

"Both of us pretendin' it was only about the sex, neither of us believin' it for a second, but too chicken shit to tell the other. That's what I call dumbass."

"Uh hun," Simon murmurs affirmatively and then yawns widely.

Jayne ruffles his hair gently. "Go to sleep, Simon. We can talk about our dumbassishness and where we're gonna go from here tomorrow."

"'K," Simon says and lets himself fall asleep in Jayne's arms for the first time.