Author's notes: Written for the LiveJournal bubbleficathon (http://www.livejournal.com/community/bubbleficathon).
The metal tub wasn't big, maybe only a foot wide and no more than six inches deep, but it looked like it would do. Kaylee watched impatiently as the warm water from the small sink in her room slowly filled the tub. She loved Serenity, but the plumbing, maybe not so much.
It had been a busy day on New Dallas, the most recent stop on their itinerary. It had started out real nice. Mal had set up a deal with some guys he knew, Inara's latest client was even better-looking in real life than on the screen, and Kaylee had scored some replacement parts for the ship at a bargain price. It was amazing what a little smiling at the boy at the counter and some flattery could get you. Zoe probably wouldn't have approved of such methods, but Zoe was a whole lot more intimidating and probably could have gotten a great price just by flexing her little finger. Later on, the day went to hell when Mal's deal went south, gunshots were had, and suddenly Simon was suturing bullet-shaped wounds on both Mal and Jayne, and Wash was tenderly icing his wife's hands. Who could have predicted that the turncoats would have been wearing rock-hard body armor underneath their clothes? Zoe was just lucky she didn't break her hands when she'd punched the weasels. And to hear her tell it, it had been a marvelous display of punching, too.
Anyhow, Kaylee had enjoyed her little exchange with the shopboy. He'd been about her age and wouldn't have been half bad-looking, if not for the chipped front tooth that left a distracting little black rectangular gap when he smiled. But he was helpful and friendly and, nicest of all, happy to be talking to her. She supposed he didn't get to see too many women-folk coming through the store, at least not ones his age who were knowledgeable about mechanics and liked to talk about it. By the end of their conversation, he'd definitely seemed a bit sweet on her, and she'd considered taking him up on his offer to show her around town, and more, if she was interested, hint hint. Busted teeth didn't bother her none, and it had been quite a while since she'd had...well, it had been a while. Long enough for her to be aching for some one-on-one action, particularly of the naked variety. It wasn't right, she thought, being deprived of something so essential to a girl's well-being. She thought of Inara, who got paid to do such things. Sometimes Kaylee daydreamed about what it would be like to be a companion and have rich and exciting men competing for her attention, but she wasn't nowhere near as educated and beautiful as what you had to be for that line of work. Plus, if she were a companion, she wouldn't be able to work on the ship, and that was an idea even more depressing than living like a monk. Well, practically a monk.
The real reason she hadn't taken up with the shopboy, she admitted to herself, was that she was still harboring hope that her first time in a long time would be with Simon. Ever since she'd laid eyes on him, there'd been no one else who even came close. She really needed to get over the doctor; he'd made it clear on numerous occasions that he didn't want her, or at least, didn't want her enough to do anything about it. She just wished he'd stop with the making her feel special, then. He dropped too many compliments and smiled at her too much and stopped to chat with her too often to let her forget about him. It was an insufferable position to be in, being so close and so far away at the same time. She knew he was just being polite, and he was the kindest, gentlest person she'd ever known, but one of these days she was going to have to tell him to just stop, for her own sake. If only she could find the willpower.
The warm water finally filled to the brim of her tub, and she picked it up by the handles and walked it over by her bed. Then she reached underneath the bed and pulled out a small cloth bag. Sitting down on the mattress, she dumped out the contents: a small bottle of lotion, a tiny bottle of a nice-smelling soap, a file, and a small beige block that Inara had told her was a pumice stone. The little set of supplies had been a gift from Inara a few months ago, but this was the first time that Kaylee was using them. She pulled off her shoes, poured a little of the soap into the tub, and submerged her feet.
The water was relaxing, and the flowery scent of the soap began to fill the room. Kaylee lay back on her bad and closed her eyes, letting the water soften the calluses that had formed without her even noticing. This is nice, she thought dreamily, and way overdue. No wonder Inara got regular pedicures. Of course, Inara needed them for her work and Kaylee didn't, but even mechanics deserved pretty feet, necessity or not.
A knock on her door interrupted her musings on the proper footcare of mechanics. "Kaylee?" asked a familiar voice.
Kaylee considered shoving the tub under her bed and acting like he hadn't interrupted anything, but part of her wanted him to see that she wasn't going to toss things aside just for him. Not that he would notice that, but it gave her a small psychological boost to know she was taking this small step in getting over him. "Come in," she called, sitting up.
The door opened, and the handsome doctor entered with a shy smile. "Hey," he said in that warm, gentle way she liked so much. "I needed to get away from the nursery for a while."
Kaylee gave him a funny look. "Nursery?"
"The infirmary. The captain and Jayne are in a contest to see who can be the most helpless, petulant infant now that the anesthesia is wearing off. Well, not literally a contest, but a very good imitation of one, at least. You don't mind if I escape them down here for a while, do you?"
He looked so earnest and lovable that she knew she was going to say yes even before she considered saying no. "No problem," she told him. "Have a seat."
"Oh, thank you so much," he breathed with relief, pulling up a chair opposite her. "I was going a little crazy when they started counting stitches as a measure of masculine virility or some such nonsense. I guess I should just be happy they seem to be recovering in good spirits." He gave a little laugh. "So what are you up to tonight?"
Kaylee pointed to her feet. "Just soaking off the years of toil. Inara gave me a pedicure kit, so I was gonna try it." She held up the pumice stone. "I guess I'm supposed to start with this."
Simon's eyes brightened with recognition. "I remember those. My mother used to have pedicures at the house all the time when I was growing up. She still does, I assume." He spoke the words lightly, but Kaylee sensed the sadness in his voice that he no longer had any contact with his parents.
"Well, you probably know better than me what to do," she offered.
Simon gave another laugh. "I'm no beautician, but I think you just scrape all the tough spots away."
"Why, thank you for that insight, Doctor Tam," she quipped, and lifted a foot out of the water.
Finding a comfortable position for filing her foot was tougher than it seemed. She couldn't really hold her foot above the water, and she felt strange balancing her ankle over her knee. With Simon there watching her, she felt awkward. Her cheeks started to flush as she began to file away. Several minutes passed by in which there was complete silence, with only the sound of the pumice stone's scraping stirring the air. The pressure finally got to her, and she blurted out, "Simon, could you just say something? You're makin' me self-conscious, just sittin' there, not sayin' anything."
"What?" Simon looked like she had just called him back from a daydream. "Sorry, I didn't realize I had gone mute. I was just noticing what lovely feet you have."
Her cheeks turned an even deeper red, and she was grateful for the dim lighting in her room. Her heart fluttered in her chest despite her orders for it not to. "They're just feet," she murmured, silently cursing both herself and him.
"No, I mean it," he insisted. "You have a beautiful arch...lovely ankles...elegant heels....You have gorgeous feet. I saw a lot of feet during the podiatry unit of Medacad, and trust me, I know what I'm talking about."
To her surprise, he left his chair and knelt in front of her on the floor. "Did you know you have twenty-six bones in your foot and ankle?" he asked, taking her foot in his hands.
She shook her head dumbly. What he was getting at, she didn't know. All she knew was that Simon Tam was touching her bare skin, of his own volition, and the tingles that were shooting up her spine were making it hard to formulate complete sentences. Or any words at all.
"That's over a quarter of the bones in your whole body," he continued, turning her foot slightly in his hand. "They're held together with over one hundred muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These are your phalanges," he said, wiggling her toes a bit, and she couldn't help but giggle.
"Then up here," he continued, moving his fingers up the front of her foot, "are your metatarsals. Your pretty arch is supported by the posterior tibial muscle, and your elegant heel is due to a well-formed calcaneus bone."
He set her foot down, back into the water, and looked into her eyes. "It's an amazing piece of construction. One flaw can set off a multitude of problems elsewhere, but you seem to be perfection."
Kaylee's heart was now pounding out of control. She wracked her brain for something to say, but everything caught in her throat. He was doing it again, he was making her feel special, and she had to call him on it, even though she just wanted to tuck the memory away for those times when she felt low.
When she didn't say anything, it was his turn to blush a little bit. "I'm sorry, I must be boring you with my medical talk," he apologized lamely and stood up. "I should probably get back to the infirmary to check on Heckel and Jeckel."
"Wait," she blurted, finally finding her tongue. "Say that stuff about perfection again."
He blinked. "What?"
"Say it," she repeated, feeling like her heart had been replaced by a jackhammer. She stood up, both feet still planted in the tub of water.
He looked at her uncertainly. "Your feet are models of perfection?" he tried.
You're not going to get away with this, Simon, she vowed. "No, that's not it."
"Then tell me why you can say such nice things about my feet, but you can't say you like me the way I like you? I'm tired of the mixed signals, Simon. Ain't the rest of me good enough? What are you scared of?"
He stared at her so long that she became afraid he was going to bolt without saying anything at all. Finally, he spoke. "The rest of you is good enough, Kaylee. I'm sorry you had to ask." He took a deep breath. "And you're right. I've been scared. I am scared. Scared that I'll do something wrong because I don't know how this works out here where none of the conventions I know have any meaning anymore. Scared because I like your perceptions of me, and if we're together, I'll ruin everything you think you like about me. Scared because you deserve this phenomenal, great guy, with this amazing zest for life, and I'm just a stuffy doctor who can't even tell you how pretty you are unless he's drunk and who hides behind feet as the only safe way to tell you how he feels. I've never known a girl like you before, Kaylee, and it scares me how much I feel for you, and how inadequate anything is that I could say to tell you how much. So I guess it's been easier for me to do a bad job of hiding it than a good job of not."
Kaylee could only gape at him as she slowly absorbed everything he had said. You deserve this phenomenal, great guy....it scares me how much I feel for you.... His words echoed in her brain. He cares, it suddenly dawned on her. He CARES.
The tense balloon that had been filling her heart burst, and she found herself flooded with warmth, as tears began to pool in the corners of her eyes. They eventually spilled over and slid down her cheeks as her emotions became too strong to keep in check.
"I said the wrong thing, didn't I?" Simon winced.
"No," Kaylee sniffled as she wiped her eyes. "You said exactly the right thing."
"These are good tears!" she exclaimed. "Why do you have to make everything so hard?"
"Because the easy way usually makes far too much sense for an idiot like me," Simon replied, as he closed the gap between them and slid his arms around her. "You're going to have to get used to that if we're going to be together."
She weakly pounded his chest. "Oh, so now we're going to be together? Like you can just say you care and then everything's daisies?"
He smiled and brushed a few hairs out of her wet face. "You want me to waffle about that for a while?"
"Yes--no--I don't know! No waffles! Just kiss me!"
"With pleasure," he grinned, and he lowered his lips to hers.
His kiss was gentle and sweet, full of promise and hinting at passion. Kaylee wrapped her arms around his neck and pushed herself up on her tiptoes. She felt warm and secure and..."Simon?" she interrupted.
His eyes fluttered open. "Yes?"
"I'm still standing in a tub of water, and I think my feet are going to be mistaken for prunes pretty soon."
"Ah," Simon said. With a quick swoop, he slid one arm beneath her knees and lifted her out of the water, cradling her to his chest before laying her gently on her bed. "I think your pedicure is going to have to wait," he informed her.
"Is that so?" she asked slyly, getting the gist. "And why, pray tell, is that?"
"Because," said Simon, climbing onto the bed next to her, "you're overdue for a complete physical examination." He gave her a look that sent a happy shiver down her spine and added, "But not for long."
Then he touched her cheek, kissed her again, and proceeded to make good on his word, leaving no doubts in her mind about his intentions.
Title: Long Overdue
Details: Standalone | PG | het | 13k | 11/30/04
Characters: Kaylee, Simon
Summary: Simon visits Kaylee in her quarters while she's prepping for a pedicure.
Notes: Written for the LiveJournal bubbleficathon (http://www.livejournal.com/community/bubbleficathon).