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Too Close

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Jayne lifted his head with great difficulty. His breathing was heavy, his skin was sallow, and his movements were abnormally slow. He coughed a few times, shoulders tense, limbs trembling as he knelt there on all fours. But nothing followed the coughs. No more retching. Not even dry heaves.

Nothing at all except a canteen being shoved in his face. Jayne turned his head to see Simon squatting down beside him, offering the water. “Rinse out your mouth.”

Jayne tensed up when Simon got too close. “Get the hell out of here, Doc.”

Ignoring the command, Simon held the canteen there. “You shouldn’t get dehydrated. If you’re thirsty, take it easy and drink in slow sips,” Simon said.

Jayne was reluctant to obey. But after another few coughs, he transferred his weight to one hand instead of two, grabbed the canteen, and helped himself.

Simon put a hand on Jayne’s back and placed another on his forehead. “Why didn’t you tell me you were ill? As ship’s doctor, it’s something I should have been informed of at least before we left the ship.” He glanced back down the trail. There was dense brush on either side, and the windy path was hidden as it went back further so he couldn’t see where the others were setting up camp. If he listened closely, he could hear them, however. And he wondered if they’d heard Jayne getting sick; the man hadn’t exactly been able to keep it too quiet.

“I didn’t say so ’cause I didn’t want you fussing and touching and calling attention to it, that’s why. Now get off me and go away.” He shrugged and shook off Simon’s touch. “‘Sides, it ain’t like I never had the flu before. I can take care of myself.” Pushing up from the ground, Jayne got back to his feet.

But he didn’t stay there for more than a second before wobbling unsteadily. Simon snapped up quickly and grabbed him, wrapping his arms around the man protectively and compensating for his lack of balance. “I’m taking you back to my tent,” Simon said. “So I’ll be able to keep an eye on you.”

Jayne glanced sideways, annoyed and irritated. Then, with all the sarcasm he could muster, “You just want me close so you can have your way with me. I see how it is.” But he wrapped his arm around Simon’s waist and used that to keep himself upright as he took a cautious step.

“That’s right,” Simon agreed, moving at the slowest pace imaginable back along the trail. “You’re weak and fluish and I just can’t get enough of you right now. I can’t wait until I can take my liberties with you and you won’t have any say in the matter.”

“You get all hot and bothered over my fever, huh? That’s sicker than I feel. I shoulda guessed.” Jayne stumbled and coughed and Simon held him up, wondering if they shouldn’t walk a little closer to the side in case Jayne got sick to his stomach again.

“Why do you think I became a doctor?” Simon joked.

They snuck Jayne into the tent and the man flopped down onto Simon’s sleeping roll at once. He coughed into the fabric to quiet the sound and curled up on his side with his arms around his stomach.

Simon unzipped the flaps of the tent on the sides at the top so there would be a cross breeze going through. Then he made to leave, but Jayne reached out and grabbed Simon by the wrist, squeezing tightly. “Where the hell do you think you’re goin’?”

Simon looked back, startled. He began to explain, but didn’t get past the “I thought you told me to…” before trailing off. “Nowhere. I’m going nowhere,” he said, sitting down beside the man. Jayne moved close, resting his head on Simon’s thigh like a pillow. And Simon’s hand naturally rested on Jayne’s back, where it instinctively began rubbing.

“Just gonna rest a bit,” Jayne said, closing his eyes. “Then you can have your way with me now that I’m in your tent, kay?”

“That sounds fair,” Simon agreed, smiling with amusement, though Jayne wouldn’t see. “In the meantime I’ll just sit and plot about what dastardly perverted things I can do to you.” As Jayne drifted peacefully off to sleep, Simon wondered if he ever dared to tell Jayne how close to the mark the man had gotten.