Making it from the infirmary to his bunk was a blur. Simon felt like he was running through water. River sat up in her bed
and smiled as he stumbled into the room, but he ignored her, blindly slamming the door and collapsing into his bed. He closed
his eyes and fought to breathe, distantly wondering if it was even possible for his heart to beat hard enough to shake his
whole body. It certainly felt that way.
It was only a kiss.
He replayed it again in his mind, what he saw from the catwalk after he left his safe little cage in the infirmary and headed
back down to his bunk for the night.
It was only a kiss...but it was a kiss! She kissed him!
It had been a good day. He'd felt fine as he walked along over the cargo bay, marvelling in an abstract way at the miracle
of a metal box drifting in space, sustaining life in a vacuum...
He'd heard voices down in the bay, and then Kaylee's laughter rang out bright and clear- shiny, like the metal of the ship
she loved- and he'd stopped and glanced down, smiling, expecting her to look up and see him and smile back, to call out to
him, to share the joke.
She was standing with Jayne, back in the far corner, and Simon rolled his eyes, thinking that maybe it would be best if she
didn't share the joke after all, because it was almost sure to be something foul. Jayne was grinning at her, a flash of teeth
around one of those awful cigars (with his doctor's eyes he imagined he could actually see the poisons spreading out from
it through body and air) and in a minute surely Kaylee would fan the smoke from her face and look up to see Simon.
But instead she reached up, plucked the cigar from Jayne's mouth, brought it to her own lips, and took a deep drag. Simon's
hands tightened convulsively on the railing. Jayne burst out laughing, and Kaylee rolled her eyes and started to cough.
Jayne put his hand on her back to steady her, and she looked at him, and the remote clinical part of Simon's brain noted that
the cigar fell to the floor and probably was ruined as she took Jayne's face in her hands and kissed him.
Only a kiss.
He writhed in frustration on his bunk, punching blindly at the mattress. When had this happened? When did she take her eyes
off of him and start looking somewhere else, and how hadn't he noticed?
Maybe he was wrong, though. Maybe it was all in his head, and that had just been a companionable moment between crewmates,
down in the bay. They'd known each other for some time before he and River came along, after all. The logical assumption
to make was friendship.
Logic was cold comfort and no balm whatsoever for an anxious imagination.
He flipped over onto his stomach and buried his face in his pillow, the heat and moisture of his breath reflecting back against
his skin. All in his head, sure, but so horribly clear in his head, as sharp and vivid as if the images were coming
off the Cortex on a dedicated source box. Bedsheets and kisses and fast-moving hands, Jayne's hungry mouth on Kaylee's pretty
pale skin, her strong hands braced against his chest, somehow looking delicate against all those stupid muscles of
his...oh, and Jayne's hands, his big rough gun-toting hands, slipping up her back under her t-shirt, sliding over the
soft smooth skin and tugging the shirt off over her head, her hair falling down over her face as she kissed him again and
she traced all the other stupid muscles of his body and they...
Wo de tien ah. He threw himself onto his back again before he suffocated, panting for breath and staring at the ceiling.
It's all in your head, Simon, you raving lunatic.
If he got up and walked to Kaylee's bunk right now, if he tapped on the door like a supplicant, of course she would answer,
blinking sleep out of her eyes and smiling at him. She'd ask what he was doing up so late, and he'd tell her all about his
crazy thoughts, and they'd have a good laugh together. And at breakfast, Jayne would say something foolish or crude, and
Kaylee would meet Simon's eyes over the table, and they'd share another secret smile. Of course that's how it would go.
The rest was just his restless mind working overtime.
He felt sick to his stomach.
It was only a kiss.
He remained in his bed. The pictures in his mind...he couldn't look. If he went and checked and the pictures were true,
it would be too much. Just one more thing than he could bear. He'd done his best out here, tried so hard to adapt, to learn
to roll with the punches and live as the Romans did...no, not the Romans, he'd found himself among the Goths and Vandals,
but that wasn't the point. He was trying. And maybe he was taking a little longer to get used to it than Kaylee would
like, but that didn't mean she needed to go running off and share cigars with Jayne, or to kiss him, or to crawl into
bed with him, for God's sake...
Get a hold of yourself, Dr. Tam. All you know for sure is the cigar and the kiss. The rest of it is...problematic.
Thoughts of problems inevitably led to thoughts of River, and he automatically rolled out of bed and walked over to the sliding
partition between his bedroom and hers. He opened it slightly and looked in at her, sound asleep, tangled up in restless
sheets. Her hair spread across the pillow, loose and snarled, and he smiled slightly. It was a little ritual of the mornings-
her combing out her hair until it lay dark and sleek and docile, while he watched and they spoke quietly of this, that, and
the other. A few peaceful, golden moments out of the day.
Whatever Kaylee was or wasn't doing, at least he still had that. He still had this, he had River. His beautiful broken
little sister, who loved him and needed him and who certainly wasn't sharing cigars with dangerous men in the cargo bay.
Come what may, he had River.
He slid the door shut and turned back to his bunk with a bitter little smile. There you go, Dr. Tam. Nicely played, Simon.
Always looking on the bright side.