Title: Breathing Like the Drowning Man

Author: Sonya

Email: sonyajeb@swbell.net

Summary: Simon's not the only one rethinking first impressions.

Rating: I dunno... PG13 maybe? It's *is* a Jayne POV piece, after all. And the boy has a bit of a potty mouth on him. ;)

Characters: Jayne, Simon and a little UST thrown in for good measure.

Spoilers/Timeline: Sometime in the future... definitely set *after* Ariel because, well, it just is. I'm thinking that this takes place maybe a year or so down the line. *nods*

Disclaimer: They're MINE!!!!! ALL MINE!!!!! MUWAHAHAHAHA!!!! *pauses* What? You mean they're NOT mine??? *frowns* Gorram it. That's no fair. :(

Note: Companion piece to Water Damage, but reading that one isn't necessary for you to understand this one. It works okay as a stand alone fic, I think. However, Water Damage *does* give you Simon's POV of these events, which is always nice, IMHO. (Plus, if you read it, it would just really make me happy. *g*)

Many thanks go out to sffan for being willing to give me a quick beta and for asking for more J/S to begin with.

Oh, and the title is from a song by The Cure, BTW. Just so ya know. :)



ni shou shang le - you're hurt
dong ma? - understand?

(Tara's glossary provided me w/ the 1st one, though she added spiffy accents and special characters which I have left out because they just made my 'puter spew out gibberish. Pity that.)


"I won't let anything eat ya, Doc. Trust me."

The expression on the doctor's face alone made the comment worth it as far as Jayne was concerned. He did that thing where he brought his lips together all prissy-like and raised one eyebrow. Seein' that mouth of his twist up like that was something that the mercenary never tired of. Besides the fact that it meant he'd scored a mighty big point in their ongoing battle of wills, it also just looked damn sexy. Much as he hated to admit it, the doc had a mouth on him that was too gorram pretty for his own good. It just weren't right for a man to have a mouth that pretty. Did funny things to Jayne's head, gave him ideas that he really shouldn't be having. Not ever.

"Somehow," Simon replied. "I hardly find that very reassuring, Jayne."

Jayne rolled his eyes and turned back to the sewer grate he was crouched over, muttering under his breath. *Gorram prissy doctor* And did he just say that out loud? Ugh, better check. Simon got a might bit tetchy when Jayne insulted him too often. Which, on a normal day, was all kinds of fun, but at the moment they had more important things on their minds.

He glanced over at Simon out of the corner of his eye, but did his best to be sneaky about it. Doc didn't look mad none, just sorta disgusted. And Jayne assumed that had more to do with the brown-ish colored water flowing through the sewers below them than it did with him.

After all, if it wasn't for him, the doc would be ten shades of dead by now. After the job went bad and everyone was forced to scatter, the Alliance grunts had been on their trail somethin' fierce. Jayne's quick thinking and even quicker shooting had been the only things that had kept them out of the clutches of the law, a place that neither of them particularly wanted to be. The way Jayne saw it, Simon ought to be grateful to him for keeping his prissy self safe and, most importantly, not dead. 'Course, the doc never did tend to see things Jayne's way. And why was that? Well, Jayne didn't have a ruttin' clue. All he could come up with was, if Simon *did* ever agree with him on something, it would make life entirely too easy.

Jayne smirked at Simon, who had covered his mouth and nose with one hand and was still staring down at the water. "I just hope the smell is the worst thing down there," the doc remarked, his free hand absently picking at the small hole that had begun to appear on the left knee of his pants a few weeks back. It was something of an unconscious habit for Simon. And like many things Jayne had noticed about the man, it was not something that would be considered 'appropriate' on the Core worlds were Simon had spent the majority of his life up until his loony sister had needed his help. In the Core, people didn't have clothes with dirt stains or holes in 'em. If clothing got messed up, them fancified rich folk just tossed it out and got something new to wear instead. Made no sense to Jayne. Clothes just didn't get comfortable until they'd been worn a bit.

Now that he was thinking on it, though, living life out here in the Black had definitely changed Simon a lot. He somehow doubted that the doctor could fit in with the people from his old life anymore, even if he wanted to.

Jayne remembered his first impression of Simon, when he'd come onboard Serenity almost a year ago. He'd thought the boy was a Core-bred pansy with a stick up his ass. Granted, it was still a mighty fine ass, proverbial stick or no. But it was safe to say, good looks aside, he'd had an intense disliking for him right from the start.

Something about him had just rubbed Jayne the wrong way. Like Simon was always looking down on him, sticking his nose up in the air and thinking that he was just plain better than Jayne was. But as time had passed, Jayne had started to come to a different conclusion about the reclusive doctor. He didn't think he was better than everyone else. Matter o' fact, if anything, the exact opposite was true. He spent all his time serving everyone, stitching 'em up after a job gone bad and trying to find a cure for his sister. The man never once seemed concerned with finding fun things for himself. It was right unsettlin', Jayne thought. Because a man couldn't go on like that for too long. He'd burn out if he kept pushing himself so hard without ever taking a break sometime.

Jayne wasn't sure what bothered him more, the fact that he could see the doc was heading for a meltdown soon and it wasn't gonna be pretty... or the fact that he actually cared enough to spend time worrying about it.

Pushing those thoughts aside for the moment, he watched as Simon made all kinds of 'interesting' faces at the prospect of havin' to go down into the sewers. "Aw, hell," Jayne grumbled, a plaintive note entering his voice that he tried to ignore. "It ain't *that* bad. I've smelled worse."

"Of course you have. And so have I," Simon replied, lookin' a bit too mischievous for somebody who'd just agreed with him on something. Jayne waited for the punchline. It didn't take long. "Your body odor."

Jayne smirked, not at all upset at the insult. After all, he was gonna get to see Simon drag himself through all kinds of muck and foulness. So it didn't matter what was said now, because Jayne still came out on top in their little war. "Hate ta tell ya this, Doc, but after we get out of this mess, even *you* won't be smellin' all clean and pretty."

Simon glared at him, but it lacked his usual intensity. Prolly 'cause he knew that Jayne was right. "I shudder to think."

Shouldering Vera - it just wouldn't do for him to accidentally drop her in all that mess - Jayne dropped easily through the hole and landed on the ground, water splashing up and soaking his pants up to the knees. And damn, but the smell in here really *was* something horrifyin' now that he was actually down in it. He was starting to wish he'd found a better way for them to get to where they needed to be going. Not that he was about to admit that in front of Simon, of course.

"Ya comin' or not?" he called up to his companion. "We ain't got all day, ya know."

Simon nodded and took a ridiculously big breath of air - prolly tryin' to store it up and make it take longer 'til he had to breathe down here, not that it'd do him much good - before finally dropping down into the sewers. And promptly falling on his ass.

Jayne tried to hold back a snicker as he watched Simon nearly have himself a heart attack tryin' to get up out of the water. But he couldn't help it. It was damn funny. He gave in to the laughter.

"What the hell is so funny?!" Simon demanded, lookin' all riled up now. He shoved a tangled mass of wet hair out of his eyes and glared hotly at Jayne, his mouth twisting in anger and his eyes flashing.

Jayne gulped and made himself look away from the pretty picture in front of him. Simon's mouth weren't the only thing that was too gorram good lookin' for his own good. Especially when he was all worked up over something. When he got fired up like this, Simon looked like a walking ad for sex. And his mussed hair and wet clothing, which clung to him like a second skin and gave Jayne far too many ideas of what said skin looked like, were not helping matters.

"You are," he replied with a snort, forcing himself to sound normal. He told himself to think of other things. Unsexy things. Like his momma or maybe Shepherd Book. As unsexy as he could get.

"Bet that lily white skin o' yours ain't so clean now, eh?"

Gorram it. He just *had* to say something about the doc's skin, didn't he? Now his mind had zoned right back onto the fact that Simon was standing there in front of him, lookin' good enough to eat, and... there was blood on his lips?

Jayne blinked. When the hell had that happened?

"Ni shou shang le."

He took a step closer to the doctor and felt his hand rising of its own accord, reaching out and gently touching the dot of red that glistened there.

Simon's eyes grew as wide as saucers and his voice trembled when he replied hastily, "I'm fine." Jayne watched as he took a step back, almost bumping into the wall in his panic. His voice had gotten so soft that Jayne almost missed it when he added, "It's nothing."

Jayne watched the doctor for a long time, noting the way his breathing had sped up and the flush that had appeared on his cheeks. He was shaking like a leaf, but something told Jayne that it wasn't because of his cold, wet clothing.

Part of him wanted to push this and see just where it would lead them. But something inside told him to wait. Told him to just give it time and see what happened. It was the same voice that told him when and where to shoot in a firefight, the same voice that let him know when danger was coming. That voice had never steered him wrong before.

Matter o' fact, the one time he'd gone against it had been on Ariel, when he'd watched the doc risk everything just to save a man's life... a man he hadn't even known. He'd had second thoughts right at that moment about his decision to turn Simon and River over to the feds. That was the first and last time Jayne had ignored his inner voice, and look where it had gotten him. Almost turned into a bloody smear of nothing by an angry Mal, who told him once and for all where the line really was.

So this time he was going to pay attention to that little voice. And he was going to wait and see what happened.

Jayne turned on his heel and walked off down the tunnel, calling over his shoulder as he went. "Doc! Hurry them fancy britches o' yours up! I wanna get back to the boat before dark, dong ma?"

Simon Tam was a puzzle, all right. And Jayne was no closer to solving it now than he had been a year ago when the man had first walked into his life. But there was one thing he was certain of. When he finally did figure out exactly what it was that existed between them, well, that there was going to be one hell of an interestin' day.