He knocked on your door, and you'd fucked him before you'd said a word. Didn't even say hello. Just grabbed his hand and pushed him into bed, like you hadn't seen him in a long time.
Or like you might never see him again.
The exertion of sex always leaves Simon flushed. He blushes all over, a deep pink colour you'd never expect to see on such pale skin. It makes a sharp contrast against white sheets.
He looks up, and catches you watching him. "Mal?"
Nothing to do but say what you were thinking. You don't look him in the eye, your gaze still focused on pink skin, shimmering with sweat. The back of his hand, his forearm, the crook of his elbow. "If I asked you to stop seein' Jayne, would you?"
You know that you've caught him off guard, because he doesn't answer right away. "To begin with, I'm not seeing Jayne."
"Fine. Fucking him. Would you?"
Now you look at his face, and you find he's staring back at you, hazel eyes taking this conversation very seriously.
"Mal, you don't want me to stop fucking Jayne."
"I very much doubt it. What would you do with me, if I was all yours?"
You don't answer right away, and Simon nods.
"You've never even thought about it."
He tilts his head at you, knowing that you're lying, and annoyed by it.
"Well," you amend, "I might, if I thought there was any point."
"There isn't any point," he says quietly. "Were you planning to hide me on your transport ship forever, Mal?
"Hadn't thought about it. Of course not. I have. And there isn't any point." He pauses, and sighs. "And frankly, Mal, I wish that you'd just say it. Instead of asking me stupid quetions."
"That you'd prefer if I stopped coming here at night."
You open your mouth, close it again. You watch his skin again for a moment, the flush starting to dim to a pale pink glow. The crease of his belly button, his hip, the length of his thigh. "Reckon I would."
Simon nods, just once, and gets out of bed.
You sit on the bed and watch him get dressed. Watching him get dressed is almost better than watching him get undressed, smooth skin disappearing slowly underneath clothes that never wrinkle.
Even without looking, he knows you're staring at him. "Do you have another question, captain?"
He's already back to calling you captain, the buttons on his pants not yet done. "Sure." You run a hand over the rumpled and still-warm sheets. "You like Jayne, Simon?"
His eyebrows knot together briefly, and then his expression turns clear again, almost a smile. "I like him well enough. Although I don't like to talk about him half as much as you do."
You let that pass, trying through fuzzy thoughts to return to the point. "How does that work? He ain't anything like you. And he..."
"Sold me out," Simon finishes. You and he talked once, about what happened on Ariel and what happened after. Simon says he would never have actually hurt Jayne, and you believed him. But you made a mental note to keep watch on him, just the same. That was a while ago.
"An' you've fogotten it? Just like that?"
"I haven't forgotten it. I've decided not to think about it. It's a lot of work to live in the past."
And he smiles slightly, like he's telling you something you don't already know. And then he's gone.
He decided not to think about it. That's a neat enough trick. You wonder how it works. It has never occurred to you, that you could turn thoughts on and off like a faucet.
Inara's already in the mess when you get there. The iron kettle is rocking gently against the stove; she's making tea.
She doesn't notice when you come in, till you switch on the light, and then she looks up in surprise. You stand there for a long moment, looking at her as she looks back at you, and tonight she's not only combed her hair, she's fully dressed. She's wearing a dark blue corseted dress, expensive silk, long sleeves sweeping against the counter. Her whore costume, you think, then push the thought out of your head.
If Simon can do it.
You don't even realise that you're still staring at her, till she starts to blush. "Mal..." she begins.
You cut her off, taking three strides to stand in front of her. "I got a thing to say to you."
She bows her head slightly. Permission, granted.
"I know you're still thinkin' on what we talked about last night," you begin, roughly. "An' that's fine. Take your time. But I wanted you to know...in case it might make a difference. And maybe it won't, and maybe you never did give a damn one way or the other. But in case it did...I wanted you to know that I ended it with Simon."
"Mal," she sighs heavily, and her dark brown eyes stare down for a moment, studying the countertop. "It doesn't change anything, you know. I've already decided."
And that's like a bullet, like a shot to the heart, but you recover just long enough to say, "I just wanted you to know."
"Thank you. The thing is..." she sighs again, and you wonder what's taking so long, why it's so hard for her to say that she's leaving. Ain't like she's never done it before. "The thing is, Mal, that I worked for Unification."
You stare at her, not knowing how this subject came up. "I figured as much."
"I know you did. And there's nothing I can do, to change what side I was on during the war. Anymore that I can change the fact that I'm a whore."
"They're just words, Mal. They don't hurt me." A tiny smile touches her mouth. "Except when you say them."
"I don't mean.." you begin, but she's begun and she won't be stopped.
"I'm not perfect. Neither of us are. And if I'm going to stay, then you have to accept that. You have to try to accept that, and you have to try to...try."
"Gorrammit, Inara, what do you think I been..." and you stop, rewinding the whole speech in her head. "You're stayin'?"
You lean over the counter and kiss her gently on the lips. She tastes good. Sweet, and slightly familiar.
"Mal." She looks down, like she's embarrassed. "What on earth was that for?"
"Don't rightly know. I'm just workin' on that thing that you said. Tryin', and such. How am I doin', so far?
"Okay." She looks at you, a sweet, honest smile spreading over her pretty face. Behind her, the kettle is starting to whistle its shrill song, but she doesn't seem to notice. "You're doing okay."