You are surprised to see Jayne in the mess hall at this time of night. It is late, two in the morning maybe. You have lost track. The hours make no difference, not when you can't sleep.
"Cap'n, we need to talk."
A more unlikely sentence you can't imagine coming out of Jayne's mouth, but there it is. You fold your arms over your chest, the only indication that you are listening. Not in the mood to make things easy.
"Well, now," Jayne stumbles in the face of your expressionless gaze. "You know. We can't keep sharin' him. It won't work."
That's not news. You knew that already. Knew that from the first night Simon knocked on the door to your bunk, and asked if he could come in.
"Simon, we ain't doin' this." You had pushed him away.
"Why not?" His full mouth half-open, begging you to kiss him. Like you didn't have enough problems.
"'Cause you're fucking Jayne." That was a mistake, and you knew that as soon as the sentence left your mouth. That wasn't a reason. It was an excuse, but it wasn't a reason.
Deep hazel eyes had crinkled at the edges. Was that a smile? A scowl? You hadn't been able to tell. "I'm not fucking him tonight."
And that was it, the end of the argument. He reached for you and you let him, he kissed you and you kissed him back. You tangled your hands in his hair, the warmth of his tongue deep in your mouth, and you forgot. Everything.
It couldn't go on forever. You had known that. What you hadn't been sure of was how much Jayne knew. A question now laid to rest by the mercenary's determined stare, across the mess hall table.
"It was up to me," Jayne said, "I'd say we both take six steps back, and draw for it. But I figure you ain't gonna go for that."
Your mouth twitches in an effort not to say anything. Surprised that Jayne cares enough about the doctor to test the speed of your gun hand. It's a contest that he would lose, but Jayne never thinks anything through. That's his excuse.
You stretch your legs underneath the table, trying to exorcise the tension from your body. "Don't much feel like talking about this tonight, Jayne."
"No? You sayin' it don't bother you? When he comes to you, knowin' he been with me? Knowin' I been inside him..."
An involuntary reflex curls your fingers against the wooden table. Pulling an imaginary trigger, bang. "If it bothers you so much, why don't you talk to him about it?'
"Oh, hell, cap'n. He don't talk. He does lots of other things," smirking slightly, and in your head you'd hit Jayne twice already, knocked him clear across the room, "but he don't talk. You know that."
You did know that.
Except for the occasional burst of lucidity, River was getting worse. And the worse she got, the more she wouldn't shut up, speaking in riddles and rhymes and codes that no one could decipher. Her brother, by contrast, said almost nothing to anyone. He woke up each morning, went to the infirmary and started working. Searching for a cure to a disease that he couldn't name. At night he'd knock on the door to your bunk, with words the last thing on his mind.
You weren't much for talking either. That was what made it perfect. Except for the one thing.
"If I wanted it on, I woulda turned it on."
Inara has entered the mess, and switched on the light. She switches it off again, shrugging, and now her face is illuminated only by the soft fluorescent glow of the safety lights that run along the floorboards. She makes her way to the cupboards, searching for a snack.
"Was I supposed to expect that you were sitting here in the dark?"
You ignore that. "Why aren't you sleepin'? I would think that a...lady in your profession needs her beauty rest."
"She does." Inara opens a packet and pours the contents into a bowl. "I'll be out of your way in a moment. Then you can go back to brooding."
"I wasn't brooding."
"Sulking, then. What's on your mind tonight, captain? Battles lost?"
Your fingers move against the table. Bang. That's the problem with Inara, always has been. Says things just to test you. Likes to talk, when not talking would be best. You and her could talk for a thousand sleepless nights, and not say anything at all.
Ain't no point.
You watch her eat, her chewing motion slow and deliberate. Just like everything else that she does. Her robe is wrapped tightly around her waist, but slips down at the collar to reveal a bare, pink shoulder, and you realize that you've never seen her like this. Out of uniform. Her hair, tousled and uncombed, falls down around her slender neck and onto her back. You wonder if she would have brushed it, if she'd known she'd run into you.
She glances up from her food. "Are you done staring?"
"It's my ship. I can look at what I like."
"Of course." Her long fingers push the empty wrapper into the trash disposal, the bowl into the sink. "Good night, captain."
And she leaves you there, alone in the dark. It would be simpler. If only you could get around the words.