"I told you that there was something wrong."
"How the hell was I supposed to know? I ain't no pilot."
The shock of the crash had thrown Simon across the shuttle, against the starboard side, which now served as the floor. Simon sat up slowly, pressing his fingers to dizzy temples. "Yes," he said dryly. "That's obvious."
"Hell, I ain't got time for any of your fancy jokes right now." Jayne began to right himself slowly, crawling away from the pilot's chair. He studied the blinking lights on the console in confusion. "I gotta get to fixing this engine."
Simon stared. "Do you even know what it looks like?"
"Doc," Jayne complained, as he shuffled across the metal wall of the shuttle, as it curved underneath him. "I already told you."
"Fine, Jayne. I'm not really in the mood for this."
Simon stood up, in one moment of uncertain balance. Then he pushed on the hatch to the shuttle entrance. With two energetic shoves, the hatch sprang open, and sunlight streamed through. Jayne watched as Simon picked up his medical bag, and tossed it up and over the edge. Then Simon grabbed onto the edge of the opening with both hands, and struggled to pull himself up.
"Hey!" Jayne called out. "Where you going?"
Simon didn't answer. His torso, legs, and feet disappeared through the open hatch.
"Gorramit," Jayne muttered underneath his breath, and followed him out.
Simon had already slid down the overheated side of the shuttle, making footprints away from the shuttle in the yellow sand.
"Doc! Where are you headed?"
Simon stopped abruptly. He turned back to look at Jayne, his free hand shading his eyes from the sun. "I'm certainly not staying here. The town that we came from can't be more than a day's walk."
Jayne frowned, looking at him critically. "More like two days in them silly shoes. But I reckon it's safer to stay here. Mal and the Serenity musta picked up our distress call."
"Or perhaps they didn't receive it. Or perhaps they got it, but they're too busy with the crime of the day to come get us." Simon paused, taking a resolute breath. "I am most definitely not staying here with you."
"Hey." Jayne sounded offended. "What's wrong with staying with me? You gave that whole gorram speech. You said we were gonna trust each other."
"That was before you crashed us both into the ground, Jayne."
"Aw, hell." Jayne scowled, and then disappeared, into the belly of the shuttle.
Simon watched the empty hatchway for a moment, then resumed walking. He had made a few hundred meters of progress before Jayne was upon him again, carrying something heavy in his hand.
Simon glanced nervously at Vera, bright noon sunshine glinting off her chamber. "Jayne?" he asked.
"I ain't letting you walk all that way by yourself," Jayne announced stubbornly. "There could be snakes and bears and such. Reckon Mal'll shoot me if I let you get eaten by a bear."
Simon sighed. "Jayne."
"You ain't getting rid of me, doc."
"Fine." Simon shifted the weight of his medical bag from one hand from one arm to the other. "Let's go."
The walk was slow going, in the thick unyielding heat. They stopped twice, pulling a canteen of water from their supplies and drinking.
"Hope we've got enough," Jayne said, swallowing greedily and wiping a few drops from his beard.
"I wasn't expecting to have company," Simon pointed out.
Jayne only scowled in response.
They walked for hours in silence. Eventually the sand gave way to dry brown earth, and then a sparse smattering of trees. Then they entered a thick deep woods, made darker by the dusk setting in overhead.
Jayne insisted on walking ahead. "Don't like it here," he said.
"I doubt there are really bears in this forest."
"That's what my cousin Carl said," Jayne answered. "Just before a bear got him."
Simon scowled in annoyance, as he stumped over another exposed tree root, in their path. "Your stories get so tiresome, Jayne."
"Shhh," Jayne murmured suddenly. "I heard something."
"Perhaps it was the wind," Simon suggested.
"Didn't I tell you to shush? Sounded human-size to me. Bet there's bandits and criminals in these woods.
"You mean besides us?"
With no warning, Jayne grabbed hold of Simon, and wrestled him down, into the dirt. Then he fell on top of him, clapping one hand over Simon's shocked mouth. "Quiet," he whispered fiercely. "And be still."
The noises grew louder and more definite, coming closer. Simon shuddered underneath Jayne's weight.
"Fell right out of the sky." The louder, gruff voice came from very nearby. "I'm telling you, there's a ship out here somewhere that's ripe for looting."
"What if there's survivors?" inquired the softer second voice.
"Won't be survivin' too much longer, once we get there." There was laughter, a short wheezing sound. "They gotta be hurt anyway, a crash like that."
Jayne shifted angrily, vaguely restrained only by Simon's warning glare. Their faces were nearly touching. Jayne settled again, his face still set in a scowl. Both men held their breaths in their throat, as the sound of footsteps continued to move steadily past them.
"Hey." The sounds stopped, suddenly. "Those look like tracks to you?"
"Yeah. Fresh ones."
Laughter again, thin and low. "We might not have to go so far to get paid today, after all."
"Dunno," the soft voice countered. "They kinda seem to stop. Some kinda dead end."
"Tracks can't just stop," the first voice insisted. "They must be around here somewhere."
Simon inhaled sharply, fighting nervous breaths.
The footsteps started again. Stopped again.
"You hear something?"
"Yeah. Reckon it came from this direction. Best get your gun out."
There was a rustling sound, and the distinct click of a safety, switching off.
This time, Jayne's movements were too sudden for Simon to stop him. He swung one leg outward, sending the closest man flying, over their heads and into the bushes. Then Jayne ducked down again, in a short shower of bullets, clutching Vera in his hands. Using the nearest tree for cover, Jayne returned fire, barely dodging the answering gunshots.
The shots were loud, echoing against the forest's cool stillness. The man Jayne had tripped swung backwards, stumbling, his own blood sprayed across his face.
Jayne glanced at Simon, stooping long enough to rest one hand on his shoulder. "Stay down," he muttered, and then took off after the second shadow that snaked through the trees.
For a moment Simon simply stared dazedly, at Jayne's disappearing figure. Then slowly he sat up, brushing the dirt from his hands. His breath caught, he moved in a crouch towards the man that Jayne had shot.
The man's eyes were green. They were left wide open, staring. Simon looked around for the medbag that he had dropped a few steps back, then finally gave up and leaned over the body. With shaking fingers, he searched for a pulse.
He jumped at the sound of footsteps behind him. But it was only Jayne, doubled over and out of breath.
"Lost him. Gorram coward."
Simon didn't answer, his head pressed against the man's blood-soaked chest.
Jayne watched him for a moment, in mystified silence. "Whatcha doing, Doctor?"
"I'm trying to find a heartbeat, Jayne. And if you would just shut up, I might be able to hear properly."
Jayne hesitated, scratching his beard. "That man's dead."
"I said," Simon muttered, "I'm trying to listen."
"Yeah, but he's dead."
"Bi zui!" The scream came like a shot out of Simon's mouth, a violent sound that surprised both of them. "Shut up. If you're not helping, then just shut up."
There was a long silence. Jayne stared at Simon, lost for words. Finally, he just shook his head. "Doc, I know I ain't a surgeon or nothing. But I know dead men. And Vera put four bullets in him. And not to sound uncaring or nothing, but if we don't want to join him, we best get out of here. His friend might come back."
Simon stared at the dead man, into wide green eyes. He nodded, mutely.
There was another rough silence.
"I'm sorry about your shirt."
"What?" Simon asked dazedly.
"I messed up your fancy shirt. Sorry about that."
Simon stared numbly down at his white button-down, smeared with dirt, and the darker drying blood. "It's okay, Jayne. I have others."
Jayne nodded. "That's good. Best get moving."
Simon followed him, deeper into the woods.
Soon, only a thin sliver of moonlight wound itself through the trees. When they stopped walking, Jayne made a fire that provided both light and heat, as Simon huddled next to it. He tore open the wrapper on a protein bar, and they ate.
"Suppose Mal's found the shuttle by now?" Jayne asked.
"I don't know," Simon answered quietly. "But if they have, at least they'll be looking for us. Maybe we'll even be found before morning." Simon sighed, chewing at the bland processed material. "I never expected to be homesick for that rusting junkpile."
Jayne chuckled. "Better not let Kaylee hear you calling Serenity names. Swear, she loves that ship like it's a person."
"She's, uh. Very interested in her work."
Jayne grinned. "Yeah, she's pretty involved in something else as well."
Simon didn't answer, swallowing a mouthful of water from the canteen.
"But I wouldn't leave her waiting for too long. It gets awful cold at night in the bunks. Girl might get tired of waiting."
Simon stared at him. "You have an amazing gift for making everything seem so..."
"Simple?" Jayne asked.
"No. That's not the word that I was looking for."
"Don't see what's so wrong about telling it like it is." Jayne shrugged, and shifted his weight on the cold ground, for the fifth time in the last few minutes.
Simon fixed him with a long piercing stare. "You're injured," he said, finally.
"Well, it ain't none so bad." Jayne grimaced, as he moved again. "A little scratch."
Simon was already rolling up his sleeves. "Shut up and take off your pants."
"Doc..." Jayne began, plaintively.
"Right now, Jayne."
Jayne sighed, rolled his eyes, and then finally obeyed. He stood, half-naked, as Simon's hands gently examined his bleeding outer thigh. "It's just sore, is all. Feel like a whore that's been ridden too hard."
Simon mouth tightened, as he squinted to see in the half-light. "That's a lovely analogy."
Jayne frowned. "Ana-what?"
"Analogy. A comparison based on the resemblance in some particulars between things that otherwise aren't alike at all."
"Oh." Jayne winced, as Simon's gloved fingers slid along his torn skin. "You know some useless stuff, doc."
"Yes." Simon continued his examination a moment longer, and finally scowled. "You yuchun idiot," he murmured under his breath. "You've been shot."
"Wasn't but a scratch."
"A bit more than a scratch. The bullet took some flesh with it. You're lucky it stopped bleeding so quickly. Now, hold still. I'm going to clean it up and bandage it."
"It's going to hurt a little."
"I said, okay."
Jayne stood, stubbornly motionless, as Simon began to work. The doctor attended carefully to the wound, then unwrapped a length of sterile bandage, and wrapped it tightly around Jayne's thigh.
Jayne nodded obediently, and began to dress again.
"Would you like something for the pain?" Simon asked.
"No, thanks. I ain't going to be much good to you if I can't shoot straight."
"It's nighttime, Jayne. I doubt your aim will be terribly accurate either way."
Jayne paused, thinking loudly.
"It will help you sleep," Simon added, getting out his needles.
Treated and bandaged, Jayne sat down again. In the dim, flickering firelight, he began to reload his gun, sliding the bullets in one by one. Simon watched him in silence. The night was becoming long, long and too dark.
"Was your cousin Carl really eaten by a bear?" Simon asked suddenly.
"Didn't leave nothing but the bones," Jayne answered.
Simon shuddered, involuntarily.
"I ain't gonna let the bears eat you." Jayne frowned, thinking about it. "They'd probably try and eat me first, anyway. I'm bigger."
"Then I'm glad you're here."
The painkillers were beginning to kick in. Jayne's grimace had subsided, replaced by sleepy creased eyes. He slid Vera's rack forward, with a hard swift motion, and then placed her on the ground in satisfaction. Then he stood up, his body weaving slightly.
Automatically, Simon stood up with him. "Where are you going?"
"I'm going to take a piss," Jayne told him. "You can stay right here. Unless you want to come along and hold it for me."
Simon sat down.
"Thought so," Jayne said. "Be right back, doc. Try not to let the bears get you."
He hobbled off. Simon sat, alone in the near-darkness, watching the fire. The moment of stillness began to stretch too long, and Simon glanced at his watch. Simon watched the minutes tick away, hands on his watch face shuffle forward.
Finally, he rose. The branches and dead leaves crunched underneath his feet, as he made his way in the direction which Jayne had taken.
Something loud and heavy rustled behind him.
"Jayne?" Simon began, but the name stuck in his throat. The breath to speak pushed down in his body, as he was wrestled to the ground by a huge immovable force.
Simon's muscles and bones all screamed, hitting the forest floor without mercy. "Jayne," he croaked breathlessly.
"Simon." Jayne had landed on top of him, not moving. Dazed dark eyes stared at him. "You snuck up on me."
"I was looking for you."
"Well," Jayne answered slowly, "you found me."
"Yes. So I have. Are you going to get off me?"
"You snuck up on me," Jayne repeated.
"Yes, we've established that. Jayne..."
"You're quite pretty to look at, doc."
"You've had five milligrams of morphine, Jayne. I imagine that everyone is pretty."
Jayne looked puzzled. "Wouldn't know. Ain't no-one else here."
Simon began to wriggle uncomfortably, trying vainly to free himself from Jayne's weight. Jayne shifted strong hands and thighs, leaving Simon trapped.
"It does, you know. Get cold in the bunks."
"Jayne..." Simon began, and was interrupted by the salty warm shock of Jayne's mouth on his.
"Light's coming from this direction, sir."
It was Zoe's voice, a flashlight weaving through the trees. Then stopped abruptly, as Mal almost tripped over two of his crew.
"Are you two busy? Because we can make an appointment, and come rescue you later."
Simon blushed from head to toe, underneath the bright yellow light. Jayne scrambled off him in a hurry.
"Mal. Boy, am I glad to see you."
"Jayne." Mal nodded cordially. "Fine mess you've made of my shuttle."
"Weren't my fault," Jayne protested. "That piece of fehua crashed right from under us."
"So you thought you'd just lead us in circles looking for you?" Mal demanded, shaking his head. "Don't know what I was thinking, sending you two on the supply run."
"It weren't my fault," Jayne repeated.
Zoe raised an eyebrow. "So that dead fellow back there was whose doing? His?" She pointed sceptically at Simon, with her gun hand.
Simon's eyes widened. "That was, uh. An accident."
"Figured that much," Mal said. "Zoe, why don't you call Wash on the radio and have him pick us up? Maybe Kaylee can even fix this shuttle in the morning. Reckon we've all been on this rock long enough." Then the captain did a double-take, as he noticed Jayne's limping gait. "What the rutting hell happened to you?"
"I got shot," Jayne answered diffidently. "Took a piece of my leg. Kinda like my cousin Luke, when the bill collectors came for him. Except I still got both my hands."
Mal stared. "What?"
"It's an analogy," Jayne explained to him. "Jeez, Mal, didn't you ever go to school?"
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Author: dirty diana [email] [website]
Details: Standalone | PG | *slash* | 15k | 02/25/04
Characters: Jayne, Simon
Summary: Two men and one shuttle with a broken engine.
Notes: For my own clichefic challenge, to be found at http://shockingpink.web1000.com/challenge/index.html. All my love to sf fan for the beta.
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