The silk wad slipped up and down Vera's barrel, smooth as you please. Once, twice, and then it was time to change the pad. Not possible to get any gun barrel perfectly clean again, not once rounds had been fired through it. No matter how much time you spent on it, come back a week later and the steel would have sweated out more carbon and exhaust. Heavy firing, without time for a proper cleaning, made it worse, made the build-up thicker, harder to wipe away.
Jayne fitted the next patch into the eye of the cleaning rod. The tip rattled a bit in the barrel mouth and he gave the rod a twist, unwinding the swab and forcing the cloth into the rifling grooves. Tight rifling twists in Vera's barrel made it easier for carbon to gum up. He worked the rod back and forth, easing the thick tip deeper and deeper. Now the solvent was starting to work, drawing the trash out of the metal so the cloth could wipe the barrel clean. Took longer for the cloth to get dirty, but he knew better than to think two-three quick strokes were going to get the job done. Proper rodding took time. No sense in hurrying.
Course, it always helped to have the right materials. Materials and space. A man wanted a bit of privacy, when he was applying spit and lube to his gun. Nobody to jostle an elbow, nobody flaying around, raising dust. Clean sheet to lay everything down on. Or a table, if it were wide and sturdy enough. And the materials - clean, nice-smelling solvent. Good slick, for putting on the finishing touches. Tight-woven cloth for patches. White, for preference, or a pale color, so any dirt showed up clear. Pastels were generally good.
Nope, Jayne thought, if you had everything set up right before hand, there wasn't much better than spending an hour rodding a gun.
Kaylee gave Simon the shirt for his second birthday - his second on Serenity - and the crew threw a party, it being a high-cash week. Simon himself protested that he seemed to have more birthdays than anyone else on the ship. But they threw the party anyway, with presents this time, since everyone had more money than sense that moment. Inara's gift was a volume of poetry - Simon raised his eyebrows and said, "Wu Tsao?" to which the Companion only smiled. Book spent two nights in the galley, slapping all fingers that tried to make their way into his cooking pots, to bring out a meal of epic flavor. And a cake - "Based on actual flour, this time" sprinkled with real sugar. Mal produced, from locations undisclosed, a peach nectar, the bottle still carrying a sprinkle of dust on the shoulders. A small squarish box came with a note signed "from Z & W" and proved to be two brand new batteries for Simon's portable 'scope.
Kaylee got him a fancy shirt, even though the gloss had worn off her infatuation with him and his inner-core ways. Everyone had expected her to sulk about the ship and mope for months, when she finally gave up on the young doctor. Instead, the gilt had worn off and what was left was a comfortable sort of affection, instead of the raging wildfire that had dwelt there, hot and hungry between them, in the months after Simon and his sister had come to Serenity.
And it might have been that most of the crew had figured out that Simon and Jayne had been rutting regularly for the better part of six weeks by the time that birthday swung around. The news surprised everyone involved - possibly not excepting Jayne and Simon themselves. But after the initial shock had worn off, majority opinion was that whatever kept Jayne in a cheerful and non-homicidal mood was to be approved of. Concerns were raised on the subject of the doctor's health - both physical and mental - but as Simon was seen to have a rather smug and satisfied air about him, the subject was quietly let alone.
By any road, the tension was off between Kaylee and Simon, had been off, and now they had progressed to a far more civilized - and articulate - sort of communication, one that involved words and sentences and measured discussions instead of stammering silences, sidelong glances and nova-in-a-kitbag spats. So when Kaylee presented Simon with that shirt, it was in the spirit of this current arrangement - a practical sister's gift, not a sweetheart's favor. And with a touch of the old impulsive and irrepressible Kaylee, because the combination of fine silk and broad pink stripes made for a shinier, brighter, fancier gift than any of the others.
Simon held up the shirt, rendered speechless and staring down at the shimmering folds as they fell down his chest. The rest of the crew pushed back from the table and began to mock, of course. Wash held a high-volume consultation with his wife on the "degree of slink" of the shirt and Mal made a grab for the sleeve that made Simon jerk back, only to come up against Inara's hand.
"Oooo," she cooed, that hand sliding up his back and over his shoulder. "Tell me, doctor, are you free for the Solstice Ball?" This brought out everyone's catcalls, even Zoe's.
"No! I mean, thank you, really - Kaylee, where did you get such a thing?" Simon's hands stroked the fabric again and again.
"Oh, just found it." She gestured at Book, sitting with folded arms and one hand over his wide grin. "Shepherd helped."
"Only with making sure it was the right size. I knew my position as an authority on the ship's laundry would come in handy one day."
"I told them paisley, in vermilion, but they invoked section forty-two and I was over-ruled," River put in, and picked up another chocolate from the box at Simon's elbow.
"I'm glad they did. Hey, you've had three of those already." Simon shifted his new shirt to the other hand, careful to keep it out of the soup bowl, and drew the chocolates out of River's near reach. Unfortunately, this put the shirt within Inara's grasp, and Simon barely twitched it out of her fingers before River leaned across, hand groping for the candy box.
Triumphant, she leaned back, saying, "The order of events is inherently linked to the perspective of the observing system," and popped the sweet into her mouth.
"I thought you said those were for me. Inara, that's mine. Please, don't tear it!"
"It is so pretty, though, Simon," Inara smiled, nearly simpering in a rare moment of exhibitionism. "I don't have anything this beautiful."
The outrageousness of this statement brought Simon to protest forcibly, "Then ask the captain to buy you one." Half a heartbeat of shocked silence came down like a hammer around the table, before Mal leaned back and grinned.
"Can't afford it. I promised Wash all my set-aside. Seems he has a sudden need to buy a slinky dress."
"Yellow, with ribbons and lace," Wash said without missing a beat. "I'm even going to shave my legs." Zoe snorted. "I'll have you know, wife, that many people think my legs are very attractive."
"I don't care what 'many people' think. None of them are gonna have to put up with the stubble burn."
River took another chocolate, distracting Simon from his subtle tug of war with Inara. "River, you can't do that. If you give someone a gift, that means - Inara!"
Inara relented and released the silk. River ate the chocolate. Simon tried to glare at both of them at once, but failed. Inara set both hands on his shoulders and briefly bent to peck at Simon's temple.
"Happy birthday, Simon." She caught up her skirt and sat again, catching Kaylee's eye. "Honey, I think it was a perfect gift. I want one just like it, only in gold."
"Oh, no, this is just for Simon. I don't think I'll be getting anyone else fancy clothes."
Her giggles infected the rest, and only increased when Simon pasted on a smug grin. In the midst of the laughter, Jayne pushed back from the table and walked out.
In the sudden silence that followed his departure, Wash looked from face to face and asked, "Did he really just leave here without hitting anyone?"
"Or cursing," Mal said, cup still halfway to his mouth.
Kaylee's face was stricken. "I - I didn't mean - it was just a birthday -"
"It's okay," Simon said, firmly. "It's a wonderful gift. I've never had anything quite like it before." He smiled again and picked up his chopsticks. "And this is a wonderful meal. Shepherd Book, I think you've outdone yourself."
"Jayne even went off and left food on the table," Wash pointed out, in case anyone had missed that. Simon concentrated on his plate.
"That is a trifle odd. Do you suppose he doesn't feel well? Doctor, perhaps you'd best see if Jayne has indigestion. It could be contagious." Book's face was deadpan.
"I'll ask him. Later. Probably just something he ate at our last stop. Please pass the greens."
Wash reached for the bowl of yams. "Man never did have any discretion about what he put in his mouth." Mal choked and spat tea across the table. Kaylee broke into a fresh spat of giggles and Book raised his eyebrows. Inara coved her smile with one hand. "Ow! Honey, that's my leg you're kicking! My very attractive leg! You're going to bruise it."
"Sorry, honey, thought it was the table leg."
"Not as hurt as you're going to be if you take all those sweet potatoes. Pass them down here."
"Zoe, do you hear that? The captain's threatening your husband!"
"It's his turn. I'm off-duty until zero-seven-hundred."
Simon wiped his mouth and stood up. "Excuse me, I need to, um, change my shirt." He shoved the rest of the candy towards River. "Here, mei-mei. It was a very thoughtful gift."
"You'd give your love anything, Simon," River said, with that disconcerting way that meant she thought the words should mean something that everyone else hadn't agreed on. He nodded and turned away, heading forward towards the cargo bay.
"Simon!" Kaylee called him back. "Don't forget your new shirt." She grinned. "And don't worry about coming back right away for your turn at dishes. We're all going to take care of it, after we get done."
"Which won't be for a long, long time." Book drawled. Wash snickered.
Simon snatched at the shirt and fled.
The cargo bay was empty. So were the bridge, the engine room, and the little cubby where Jayne liked to sit when he was in one of his rare silent moods. And there was no answer to the knock on Jayne's door.
The party was beginning to dissolve by that time, the clatter of dishes rolling under the talk and scraps of laughter. Simon ducked into the conduit bypass to avoid Wash bouncing past on his way up to the bridge. Extraditing himself was a little more difficult, especially without smearing insulation putty all over the shirt. He didn't manage to avoid streaking a glob of the gunk up his other hand, which made opening the door to his room ungraceful. At least there was no one there to see, and make his declining evening any more horrid.
There was a little stack of his presents on his bed, with a note in Kaylee's round hand -
River wants Inara to do her hair. Happy Birthday! - K
ps - sorry, but we ate the rest of the chocolates.
"Ah, Kaylee." Simon pressed his free hand to his face, remembering the putty too late.
Jayne's voice spoke right behind his ear. "She's pretty free with your space - wandering in and out like that."
"JESUS!" Simon couldn't figure out how Jayne had managed to hide himself - the room was on the small side, and the burly ex-merc was not. "If this is your idea of some kind of joke -" But the expression on Jayne's face was anything but comical.
"Real nice presents you got there, doc. Bet'r'n I could get you."
"So you decided to give me a heart attack instead?"
Jayne took the shirt from Simon's hand. "See, now this suits you fine. All fanciful and useless."
Simon resisted the urge to snatch after the silk. "Is that what you think of me?"
"We ain't talking about me, here, doc. We're talking about pretty-eyed little Kaylee and her big ol' smile sneaking in here to leave you things on yer bed. We're talking about you slipping on back to the engine room -" Jayne spread one rough hand against Simon's cheek, thumb rasping along his cheekbone. Simon could feel the grease spread over his skin under the pressure. "- an' rutting in her bunk, insteada being where yer supposed to be."
"And where is that? Assuming I ever gave you leave to tell me where I belong." It was always hard, this close to Jayne, to ignore the intensity that flowed off the man, the way all that bulk and muscle could focus, and what it felt like, knowing Simon was the target of that drive.
Like flying. And like leaving the ground in a jet driver, it was both exhilarating and terrifying. And then Jayne would shift closer, and it would get worse, and Jayne would get closer still, and the feeling of near-falling would get worse, until he was flat on his bunk, both of them naked, cocks slipping and bumping together, Jayne's fingers digging into his shoulders and nonsense words tumbling from Jayne's mouth, and the knowledge that it was him, Simon, that made the big man insane like that - that knowledge would cut the ground out from under Simon until he spread his arms and flew, lost in Jayne's rutting craziness.
As opposed the more usual type of insanity that Jayne inhabited.
"You belong where I'm at. Dunno what's so hard to figure out about that." The hand cupping Simon's face gripped harder. The other hand tossed the shirt over the chair, where it slid in a graceful collapse from the arm to the floor. Jayne's fingers skimmed over Simon's crotch, then pressed harder, shaping the cock, cupping his balls.
"Yer supposed to be so smart. I can figure this -" the lower hand squeezed, and Simon gasped, shifting his feet apart. Jayne's voice was a rumble like Serenity's drive at full throttle, his breath damp and whiskey-scented against Simon's neck. " - how come you can't?"
Simon had brought both hands up to push Jayne away. He had no idea why his arms were pulling the big man closer instead. But closer got Jayne's hand pinned between the two of them, so that when Simon started to grind there was something to push against. And closer put Jayne's collarbone within mouth's reach. That tasted of salt and spilt whiskey and Jayne - of Jayne, who, crazy or not, could take a hint. He stopped talking and started applying that filthy mouth to Simon's ear and jawline, lips and tongue and teeth all conspiring to drag Simon with him down into madness. The hand holding Simon's face fell away to seize Simon's hip.
Simon had Jayne's hand set right by then, trapped between Jayne's thigh and Simon's cock. Now the other hand groped over his hipbone and down to grip his ass, fingers digging into the cleft there and kneading, helping Simon along with the rhythm he had going against the forward hand. Simon could hear himself, hitching grunts and high-pitched groans. Too loud. The captain would hear, and space them both. But the hands kept rubbing, and Jayne found the pulse point in his neck and started to suck, and the sounds kept coming.
All it took was a twist of his head to bring their mouths together. For one long moment it was delightful, tongues slipping over each other, hot and wet. Then Jayne jerked back - "Hey, I don't -" and fell backwards on the bed.
Simon was after him in a flash. His knees hit the bedspread on either side of Jayne's ribs. "You - you don't kiss on the mouth?" He could hear the challenge in his voice, the barely controlled anger. One hand braced against the wall. The other fumbled at his waistband. "Kiss this, then," Simon panted, finally freeing his cock. "Take it!" He knew he had gone insane, then, and saw a reflection of that in Jayne's expression. The big man's breath was coming hard as Simon's own, putting gusts of air over the purple head. Both hands dug into Simon's hips, so hard his bones ached. Simon kept his eyes locked on Jayne's. It would be so easy for Jayne to throw him aside. Mass for mass, madness for madness, he was no match for the merc.
Then the grip relented, and the hands slide back, over the trousers still covering Simon's ass, to pull the younger man down. Simon shut his eyes against the sight as Jayne's tongue came out and lapped at the smooth head of Simon's cock.
Jayne's lips nuzzled at Simon, razor stubble rasping against the soft skin. Then the wet heat of Jayne's mouth took him in. Simon released his grip on the shaft and cupped the back of Jayne's head. He half expected Jayne to resist. Instead the pressure on his ass increased, pulling him down. The strain started an ache in his back, but that was negligible compared to the feel of Jayne's tongue swirling around the tiny slit in the cockhead.
He mewed and bit his arm in desperation. His hips jerked without conscious control. Jayne huffed through his nose, but Simon kept thrusting, forcing his way into that hot, wet place. There were still sounds coming from his mouth, whining moans that leaked out from his teeth. He was close. There was heat at the back of his knees, coiling at the base of his spine. So close. He wasn't going to warn Jayne, wasn't going to pull out -
The hands cupping his ass pulled him closer even as Jayne swallowed him deeper. Simon could feel the ground slipping away, see the sun burn the trembling air. Jayne sucked again, hard, and Simon stopped breathing. When he came, it was like stepping off into white air, deaf to everything but the roar of wind in his ears.
He woke later with the lights turned down and a pillow under his head, but with his pants still undone and lying open. The bottle of peach nectar was a sharp lump under his thigh. Simon fumbled for it and brought out the book of poetry as well. The back cover was creased. Groaning, he shoved them to one side and rolled over again.
When he finally sat up, hours later, it was to find River standing in his doorway. Her hair was pulled back in a dozen tiny plaits, giving her the look of a starving refugee.
"You take and give, take and give." Her face crumpled. Simon pulled the sheet over himself and scrubbed at his face with his hands. The nectar bottle - now only half-full and carefully stoppered - sat at his feet.
"What? River, I don't understand."
"It's not fair. I try to give but the words won't leave my hands." She stepped forward, the empty chocolate box in her hands. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay, mei-mei. Really, it is. You ate the chocolates -"
"Not in solitude. Kaylee helped."
"- you ate them and shared them with Kaylee and that's fine. It was a fine present, you enjoying something. Okay?"
She nodded, fingers picking at the edges of the lid. "Jayne enjoyed you."
"I'm...not so sure about that." He hesitated, then decided no, he was not having this conversation with his sister. "Honey, let me get dressed, okay? Is it after breakfast?"
She nodded again. "Hours and millions of meters. In this system, relative."
"Of course it is. Maybe there are leftovers. Go back to your room, or go find Kaylee."
When she had left, he peeled away the slept-in clothes and made a pass at washing himself. Making the bed, he found the battery fallen against the wall and put it away with the nectar and the book. And the empty chocolate box.
The shirt, though, was not in his room.
Simon made his way to the galley but stopped in the entrance to let Book pass. Simon returned the Sheppard's smile and low voiced "Good morning, son, good to see you up and around" hesitantly. No telling what the preacher actually thought.
Then Simon focused on the figure in the galley, and he forgot entirely about Book.
Jayne was sitting at the table, his back to the door, cleaning his guns. His hair was clean and still damp from the bath. The galley light glinted on the slicked-back strands, on the polished metal of Jayne's weapons and on the shiny fabric of the pink-stripped silk of the shirt Jayne was wearing.
The sleeves were torn out - there was no way a shirt sized to fit Simon could accommodate Jayne's beefy build. From what Simon could see, the collar was gone, too.
To one side lay a cloth pile of pink and white. The sleeves, Simon thought. Of course. While Simon watched, Jayne picked up a piece from the pile and stuck it on the end of the metal stick before putting the stick into the gun barrel and ramming it up and down.
The ramming was rather...forceful. Energetic, even.
Footsteps came up behind him. River rounded the corner, pulling Kaylee by the arm. She escorted the engineer to Simon's side, released her hold, and strode away, face expressionless. Kaylee looked past Simon and put her hands to her mouth, gasping.
"Shhh. Did you know about this?"
"No! I mean, only that he came to breakfast like that. We...didn't know what to say."
"Huh." Simon folded his arms, still watching Jayne.
"He - he didn't ask, did he?" Simon shook his head, shrugged. She studied his expression. "It doesn't bother you? Simon, seriously, he ruined your shirt."
Simon set one shoulder against the bulkhead and nodded. "I can see that." He could also see the way the muscles under the shirt's yoke strained at the material, making the shiny material flicker under the lights, the torn edges twitching with the movements of Jayne's arms.
"Is it -" He wanted to look at Kaylee, it was important to know how she felt about this, but tearing his eyes away from Jayne's deltoids was harder than he expected. "Is it all right with you? That he - that I -" When he finally met Kaylee's face, she was grinning.
"Simon." A hand on his arm, a peck on his cheek. "I gave the shirt to you. If you want Jayne to have it now, that's up to you." She stepped back, then led the way into the galley, throwing the next words over her shoulder like piece of fruit. "If that's what you want. I don't see what's to like, but..."
Jayne didn't look up from the task at hand. "I see a slacker of a ship's mechanic who promised me a tube of sila-slick who ain't delivered, yet, that's what I see."
Kaylee reached into her pocket and produced a grime-coated grey tube. "Only because you asked so nice this morning, Jayne. Even said 'please' and all," she added, sotto voce, to Simon. "Start getting all huffy an' mean again," she continued, "I'll have to take it back."
"I asked for the sil-sil, not for an etiquette schooling, missy." Jayne snatched the tube up before Kaylee could take it back. "And what was all that 'oh, I don't know if I have any of that to spare, Jayne'" - Simon winched as Jayne attempted to raise his voice into a falsetto. "Of course you had it, girl like you got something of everything stowed away someplace."
Kaylee's grin was smug. "Anything else you need?"
Jayne's eyes flicked to Simon. "Couple less gabbing slackers standing around like they ain't never seen a man work before, that's what I'd like. Hadn't you ever seen a man work before?"
Simon pulled out a chair and sat down. "Oh, I don't know." He folded his arms and leaned back. The shirt was missing the collar, and half the buttons. "It's a look I could get used to."
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Title: The Shirt Affair
Author: hossgal [email]
Details: Standalone | NC-17 | *slash* | 22k | 10/02/04
Characters: Jayne, Simon
Summary: Jayne wants what he can't have. Simon's the type who has everything.
Notes: Thanks to Victoria P. for the beta. Any hotness to the story is due to her influence. Written for Feldman, who wanted Jayne and his shirt. It kinda grew from there.
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