Kaylee was good with her hands.
Always had been. Every since she was knee high to a grasshopper, her clever fingers had known almost all on their own how things fit together. It took her a while before she learned that not everybody was pleased with her taking things apart, no matter how patiently she explained that she could put them back together again—and better than they were before. She was lucky; her daddy had seen her gift, and put it to good use.
She'd been twelve when he pulled her out of school and kept her on in his workshop full time. She'd learned everything there was to know about engines by the time her mamma decided it was time she learned how to be a girl. Mamma had shown her how to cook and clean, mend and wash, but the best parts had been when she'd managed to get her youngest daughter out of her grimy canvas coveralls and into actual dresses. As much time as Kaylee spent with the boys at work, she discovered she quite liked spending time with them where they actually looked at her and saw a girl and not another brother, cousin, or pal.
By fourteen, she could disassemble and reassemble an aught-six grav boot in the pitch dark and had gotten felt up by Michael O'Brien at summerfair. As far as she was concerned, it was the best of both worlds. It had also gotten her turned over her daddy's knee and unable to sit comfortably for a week, but she'd figured it was pretty worth it at the time.
Right now, she was intent on taking Simon apart.
She'd gotten his vest off, and the first two buttons of his crisp white shirt were undone. His breath hitched in his throat as her teeth grazed his collarbone, and her clever fingers had his shirt rucked up in the back and were exploring the complex interplay of the muscles of his back. She smiled against his neck as her fingers grazed his sides and he shied away from her questing fingers.
"Ticklish?" she asked, and he wrapped his arms tight around her, trapping her arms against her sides.
"How much is a bit?" she asked, wriggling one hand free to let it hover threateningly near his rib cage.
"Oh no you don't!"
She squealed as he rolled her over, trapping her on his bed with his weight. She managed to get the rest of his buttons undone before he grasped her hands in one of his and pinned them to the wall above her head. His shirt hung open, giving her tantalising glimpses of his abdomen.
"No fair." She wriggled beneath him, bucking her hips as his other hand slipped under the hem of her tank top to skim across her stomach.
"Hmmmm.... I wonder if you're ticklish?"
She twisted away from his hand, already laughing even though he had yet to go anywhere near any of her ticklish spots. She was breathless by the time he leaned down for a kiss, gently sucking on her bottom lip. She slipped her hands inside his open shirt, running her nails over his back, tracing his spine with eager fingers.
"We're wearing," she gasped between kisses, "too many clothes. Definitely—" she swallowed a moan as he licked her neck, "too many clothes."
"That's easy to fix," he said, lips brushing her ear. He pulled away just long enough to slip off the now-wrinkled shirt and throw it on the end of the bed, and she gasped.
"You look really good without your shirt," she purred, licking her lips, and she swore he was actually blushing.
"Wish I could say the same, but I've yet to have the pleasure. I think it's time we rectified that situation, don't you?"
There was a mischievous gleam in his eyes as he released her hands, and she pulled her tank over her head and tossed it off the bed.
Clad in nothing but her coverall, which was low around her waist, and a grey cotton bra, she shivered at the sudden chill. Her nipples were hard beneath the soft fabric of her bra, and Simon brushed a hand over her right breast almost reverently. She arched her back, gasping as his thumb teased the hard little nub.
Her eyes drifted closed, and she bit her lip against a cry as he took her nipple into his mouth, tonguing it through the now-damp fabric. His hands crept up her sides, tracing her rib cage and she moaned low in her throat as he reached back to unfasten her bra. She sat halfway up, meaning to help him when she gave a yelp of surprise that caused Simon to sit up so fast he whacked his head on the shelf next to his bed.
River was standing in the doorway, the young girl's eyes wide, lips parted in surprise.
"River!" Simon rubbed the back of his head, eyes bright with tears of pain, and Kaylee groped for her shirt, tugging it over her head. "I thought you were asleep—"
"In the postovulatory phase of a woman's menstrual cycle, the secretion of progesterone begins to rise. Under the combined influence of estrogens and progesterone, the endometrium continues to develop and the uterine glands secrete nutrient materials. The endometrium is now ready to receive and sustain the fertilised ovum, if fertilisation has occurred. The levels of ovarian hormones then remain high and the uterine lining is maintained intact through pregnancy." She tilted her head, dark eyes narrowing as Simon hastily pulled his shirt back on, fumbling with the buttons. "If you have babies, does that mean I'll be an aunt?"
Simon shot Kaylee a panicked look, and she covered her mouth with both hands to keep from busting out laughing.
"Yes, River. Someday—when I have babies, you'll be an aunt." He took her by the elbow to lead her back to her room. "Someday far, far in the future."
Kaylee buried her face in Simon's pillow to smother her giggles as she heard River's voice drifting back through the open door.
"I'd be an excellent aunt. I'd teach them to walk, and read, and knit."
And then their voices were muffled as she heard River's door snick closed.
Simon found Kaylee in the engine room. Her legs were poking out from beneath the engine, which spun lazily in its housing above her. She was humming as she worked—he couldn't quite make out the tune. Crouching down, he tapped her knee.
"Hey," she grinned at him, and started to slide out from beneath Serenity's heart. He halted her progress with a hand at her waist, and crawled over to her side.
"You'll get all dirty," she protested, waving to his pants and loose-fitting grey sweater. Her hair was pulled into a messy ponytail, and there was an adorable smudge of grease across the bridge of her nose.
He shrugged. "I don't want to interrupt your work—what are you doing, actually?"
"Well, see this?" She pointed to a complicated nest of wires leading into a box beneath the engine. "This controls the atmo and E-Cee. Temperature, humidity—basically, all the stuff that lets us be all comfy and such."
"And it's malfunctioning?"
"Not yet," she said as she pried the cover off the box. "But it's gonna."
"How did you—"
"Haven't you noticed it's been kinda warm the last couple of days?" She grinned. "Excess heat from the engine. E-Cee usually compensates, but when we run hot like this for more than a week or two, starts to get a mite fussy. That's how she lets me know something's wrong with her."
"Just know how to listen, is all."
"You're an excellent diagnostician."
"I don't know about that—"
"All a doctor does is listen to what a patient says, and try to figure out what's wrong with them. Listens to what they say, and listen to what their bodies say. That's exactly what you do with Serenity."
She blushed, and her smile was winsome. "Well, how 'bout that? I'm a ship doctor."
"And a damn good one." He reached over to tuck a lock of hair behind her ear. "About the other night—River has particular ideas about boundaries. And locked doors."
After getting his sister settled safely, Simon had double-checked his door. He'd locked it. He knew he'd locked it. He was beginning to suspect that locks were somewhat useless against his sister and her insatiable curiosity.
He supposed it made a certain kinds of sense. River had been a child when she'd left for the Academy, and while most girls her age had been discovering boys and being discovered by boys in turn, River had instead had her brain cut into countless times.
She'd pretty much missed out on the whole dating experience.
Kaylee chucked. "Yeah—I kinda noticed. Just gave me such a start, seein' her there. She must have got an eyeful."
Simon could feel a blush burning his cheeks. River had no real sense of propriety regarding sexuality. For all intents and purposes, her level of socialisation had been almost completely halted in her early teens. Simon had no idea if she truly understood the differences between eros and agape, or that her spying on her brother was inappropriate.
And considering that at the time, Simon had been this close to having sex for the first time in three years, on a purely older-brotherly level it was annoying as hell.
"She—I don't think she understands—"
"Oh, I bet she understands more'n you think," Kaylee said with a giggle. "What with her reading folks' minds and all. Heck, five minutes in Jayne's company and a girl's bound to get all sorts of an education—"
Simon blanched. "Oh, God. I hadn't thought—"
"Simon, I'm only joking!" Kaylee laid her soldering iron down and brushed her bangs out of her eyes with one grimy hand. She rolled over on her side, head propped up on one hand. "And anyways, if anyone could read my mind lately, it'd be better than any blue vid downloaded off the cortex..."
"Is that so?" He scooted slightly closer, reaching over to trace the curve of her cheek, fingers slipping down inside the neck of her coverall.
"Wanna hear a secret?" she asked, voice dropped so low it was almost swallowed by the vibrations of the engine spinning above their heads, casting moving shadows as it did.
One second, they were side by side beneath the engine. Next second, she was on top of him, breasts pressed up against his chest and hands tangled in his hair.
"Engines make me really, really hot."
"Oh," he said, before her hungry mouth descended on his. He slid his hands along her sides until they reached her lower back. She reached behind her, and repositioned his hands to a more... convenient location. Following her lead, he pulled her closer to him, hands kneading the gentle swell of her buttocks beneath the grey canvas.
"Not a lot of room to manoeuvre," he said against her neck when she let him up for air.
"How much manoeuvring you wanna do?" she asked, green eyes inches from his, one lock of hair slipping down to tickle his cheek.
Before he could answer, she began to move, the zipper of her jump-suit cold against his belly as his sweater rode up. One of her legs slipped between his, the top of her thigh brushing his increasingly apparent evidence of arousal. He hissed, arching against her, and pulled her mouth to his. Her lips parted, tongue darting to taste him as she continued to rub up against him, agonisingly slowly. His breath grew ragged as he slipped a hand between them, pressing fingers against the seam of her coveralls.
She moaned into his mouth as he stroked her through the fabric, his fingers quickening their pace even as the pressure of her leg trapped between his increased. He could no longer hear the engine over the roaring of his own heartbeat in his ears. He wrestled a hand free, impatiently tugging down her zipper. She shed the top half of her coverall, letting if fall back, empty sleeves on either side of her waist.
Breathing deep the smell of sweat, engine grease, and beneath that, the smell of her, he slid his hand beneath her shirt, long fingers roaming over her back until they slipped down the cleft of her cheeks. She moaned again, sucking on his bottom lip as he toyed with the waistband of her panties before he stroked her through the sodden material. She buried her face in his neck, breath coming in gasps as he continued to stroke her, eyes squeezed tightly shut as she began to shudder, whispering his name in time to his strokes.
"Hope I'm not interrupting anything?" came a voice out of nowhere, and Simon's eyes popped open to see a pair of scuffed boots on the other side of the engine.
Kaylee rolled off him, sticking her arms through her coverall and zipping it up in one fluid motion, her cheeks beet red and hair plastered against her forehead and neck with sweat.
She slid out from beneath the engine as Simon scrambled to his feet on the opposite side, praying the engine between them was hiding the noticeable bulge in his loose-fitting trousers.
"I was just showing Simon—" she began, tugging up the zipper on her coveralls another inch.
"Where the engines hooks into the, the—" Simon gestured to the wires that still hung from beneath the engine.
"—the E-Cee controls," Kaylee finished.
"Yes." Simon tried to smooth his hopelessly mussed hair and clothes.
"Got an interest in engines now, Doc?" Mal asked, quirking a brow as he took in Simon's filthy and rumpled sweater.
He was so busted.
"It's really quite fascinating," Simon said, almost wincing at how pathetic he sounded.
"I imagine it is. However, I need to borrow my engineer, if you don't mind—" he turned to Kaylee, all business. "Cortex screen in my quarters is out, and I'm waiting to hear back from Badger's men on Cowlan fed base, as to our next job."
"I'll get right on it, Cap'n." Kaylee grabbed her tool kit.
"I'm just going to—I'll be... I'm going to head back down to the infirmary, I think."
"Good idea. Oh, and Doc?"
"We work before we play," Mal admonished gently, before he followed Kaylee out of the engine room.
Simon sat in the infirmary, staring at the breakdown of the data from the neural imaging scanner for the millionth time. The data scrolled across the screen, the image of his sister's cerebral cortex adjusting each time it cycled, but he just couldn't concentrate on the sample.
Simon had plans. He'd made plans—elaborate ones, even. Plans.
He was going to take things with Kaylee slow. Careful. Their first time would be perfect, and romantic, and carefully planned. It would involve candlelight, good wine, and a real bed—the kind that was actually wide enough for two people to get up to all sorts of mischief in. It would be something they'd be able to treasure for the rest of their lives.
Like most plans hatched on Serenity, this particular one did not go smooth. It was, in fact, hampered by the fact that his every waking moment not spent trying to cure River or patching up the crew after their various mishaps and misadventures was occupied with vivid daydreams of throwing Kaylee up against a wall and ravishing her.
Well-bred young gentlemen of the Core did not throw a girl up against anything.
There were social engagements to which a young lady of standing would be escorted. Dinners with parents, to assess a young man's character. Romantic getaways to bioluminescent lakes and mountain ranges. In short, not a lot of frantic groping in supply closets. His father would have been appalled at his behaviour, and his mother... She would have lectured him for days—on propriety, what kind of example he was setting for his sister, what sort of reputation he would be developing, let alone what damage he might be doing to the young lady in question's social standing.
In short, he wasn't acting like a Tam.
The thing of it was, Simon had never felt more alive. Every second that they weren't together, he wanted to touch her. Every moment they were together, he was unable to keep his hands—or other parts of his anatomy—off her. The way her face lit up when he entered a room made him feel like he was someone worthy of that kind of attention. It was entirely new to him. He'd been considered quite a catch in Medacad—but that had nothing to do with who he was as a person, and everything to do with his wealth and position. Kaylee didn't look at him like a rich doctor who was her ticket to a better life. Kaylee just looked at him and saw Simon. A man she cared about. A man she wanted. A man who made her happy. That was something extraordinarily precious to him, and he was terrified of ever losing it.
It wasn't that he didn't want to court Kaylee—he did. He wished he could fill her room with fresh flowers, drape her shoulders in cashmere and silk, and ply her with chocolate and candied fruit. Heck, he wished he could get her the new sonic screwdriver she'd been raving about for the last week. But what was left from his cut of the last job would barely cover new shoes for River, and it would be weeks until he'd even be able to give Kaylee so much as an origami rose.
"Hey," came a voice, and he looked up to see Kaylee standing in the doorway. "I'm sorry—if you're workin', I can come back later—"
"No—not working, really." With a smile, he switched off the reader, recording the sample data for him to take a look at later. "I was, but I can't seem to concentrate. My train of thought keeps getting interrupted."
She smiled and came the rest of the way into the infirmary, hand trailing along the side of the diagnostic bed as she passed it, touching it lightly with three fingers. "By what?"
Simon was continually amazed that such a simple gesture could make him want to do unspeakable things to those fingers.
"Thoughts of you—and us," he reached forward and pulled her into his lap so that she was straddling him, legs dangling on either side of the chair, "like this."
"Oh," she said as she leaned forward to kiss him lightly. "Where's River?" she asked against his mouth, arching her back slightly.
"I gave her a smoother this afternoon. She's sleeping." He slid his hands around her waist, tilting his head up for another kiss. "Where's the Captain?"
"Playing horseshoes," another kiss, deeper this time. "In the cargo bay," her tongue slipped between his lips briefly, tantalisingly, "with Jayne and Book."
Her hands slipped under his sweater, and she lightly ran her nails over his chest.
"Wash and Zoe?" he asked, slightly breathless as he leaned forward to trail kisses along the side of her neck and underside of her jaw.
"I ain't seen 'em since dinner." She sucked in a breath as he teased the spot where her jaw curved to meet her ear with his tongue. "Doin' what we'd like to be doin', I suspect."
"So, it's just us."
"Yep. Just us."
He leaned his forehead against hers, reaching up to stroke her cheek. "Shiny."
She unzipped her coverall, and he slid his hands over her arms laid bare by her tank top, letting her sleeves fall to either side. He smiled as she shivered, raising gooseflesh along her bare arms.
"Other way 'round," she grinned, shifting her weight and balancing it on the balls of her feet so that her breasts pressed up against his chest, other parts of her pressed more intimately against him.
He slid his hand beneath her shirt, running it up and down the curve of her spine which was damp with sweat. She wore no bra. He grinned and she gasped as he cupped one breast, flicking his thumb across her nipple which puckered instantly at the touch.
He leaned forward, one hand at her lower back holding her firmly against him as he tugged the shirt up so that he could take that hard little nub into his mouth, swirling his tongue around it. Teasing and sucking before he moved on to its mate. Her hands stilled, dropping to his shoulders, and her eyes were closed as she made little sounds of pleasure with each indrawn breath.
"You know, I had plans," he said, lips against her sternum.
"Plans?" she gasped as he let his hands roam across her lower back, tugging her coverall down lower around her hips.
"I was going to take things slow..." he breathed before he kissed her. Her mouth opened beneath his, hungry and insistent. He drew her bottom lip into his mouth and tugged it gently between his teeth, eliciting a moan from the core of her.
"How slow?" she purred as they parted. Her eyes sparkled with mischief as she rocked against him slowly, teasing.
"This slow?" she asked, clever clever fingers twining in his dark hair. Then it was his turn to moan into her mouth as she rubbed against his hardness. His hands gripped her hips, and he swallowed, gulped in air like a drowning man.
She laughed, hair falling forward to hide her face as she moved. He buried his face between her breasts, licking at the salty sweat that pooled there as she moved against him, and he could feel her searing heat through the thin layers of fabric between them.
He pulled back, fingers fumbling with the buttons of his shirt, wanting to feel slick, hot skin against skin. He froze as he caught sight of movement out of the corner of his eye.
Jayne peering in through the window, his wolfish smile half hidden by the shadow of the ladder.
"Gah!" Simon's eyes widened, and he almost dropped Kaylee.
"Shénme sh—" Kaylee turned following his gaze, and then yelped and yanked her shirt down, face blazing red when she caught sight of Jayne leering at them through the window. "Jayne!"
"What? Don't gotta stop on my account," he said with a shrug, voice muffled by the glass.
"What do you want?" Simon ground out between clenched teeth as he hastily did up his buttons and Kaylee zipped up her coverall.
Jayne pulled open the infirmary doors, still grinning. "Pinched my finger, Doc." Jayne held up the offending digit. "Playin' horseshoes."
Simon stalked over to the drawer, got out a weave, and threw it in its sterile wrapper at Jayne before he slid the doors shut in his face. He jumped when the mercenary knocked on the window, and waved at him cheerfully.
Kaylee buried her face in Simon's neck as he leaned against the doors, sighing.
Kaylee sat Indian-style on her bunk, with the comm nested in her lap. Inara's face shimmered on the cortex screen. The companion was on Beaumonde, due to rendezvous with Serenity when they touched down in a few days. It wasn't unusual for Inara to be off-ship for weeks at a time, but Kaylee was missing her something fierce—and missing their weekly girl-talk sessions.
"How's the Prefect?" she asked, tucking her hair behind her ears. "Tall, dark, handsome?"
"Try short, balding, and sweet," Inara laughed. "We attended the opera last night, and he has three state dinners planned for this week. You'll have to roll me out of my shuttle, he's been feeding me so well. I'd forgotten how nice it is, eating real food every day!"
"Aw, you're making me jealous. We're down to moulded protein again—we'll have to stock up once we come back to the world. I think Shepherd Book is running out of rosemary."
"Oh no, we can't have that!" she said with dismay that was only partially feigned—they all relied on the preacher at this point, to fancy-up dinner some. It was hard to remember how they managed before he came onboard. "I'll see if perhaps I can convince the Prefect to take me shopping for fresh herbs—as a gift for the preacher. How's life on Serenity? Are you and Simon behaving yourselves?"
"Depends on what you mean by 'behaving,'" Kaylee admitted with a giggle, plucking at a loose thread on the hem of her fuchsia tank top.
"So Simon's being... attentive?"
"You wouldn't guess from lookin' at him, but boy—can that boy attend." She sighed. "He's just so... Wow."
Inara laughed, her dark hair falling into her eyes, and she smoothed it away with one perfectly manicured and polished fingertip. "Not getting into too much trouble?"
"Oh believe me, we're trying." Kaylee rolled her eyes. "Serenity seems so big, but the second you try and find some quiet corner to, you know, behave—"
"What about your room?"
"Simon's still funny 'bout having the Captain right next door," Kaylee said with a lopsided grin. "Like to jump right out of his skin at every little sound."
"I can see how that might dampen a young man's spirits." Even on the tiny cortex screen, Kaylee could see Inara's dark eyes sparkling with mischief.
"Ain't doing much for mine, neither." Kaylee sighed. "We keep getting' so close—and then there's always just somebody around, wantin' something, or just being nosy. If we could just get five minutes alone—"
"Only five minutes? Poor Simon. You don't think very highly of him, now do you?"
Kaylee fixed Inara with a serious look. Her extra I ain't kidding this time serious look. "'Nara, I'm wound so tight, I think I could pop right about now. It won't take much."
"When you come back to Beaumonde, I could loan you my shuttle for an evening?"
Kaylee chewed her lip. "Don't know if I can wait that long."
"I've always said anticipation is perhaps the most powerful aphrodisiac."
"The part where Simon looks really good with his shirt off is a pretty powerful turn-on, too."
"Really?" Inara's eyes widened. "Simon?"
"I ain't ever seen him working out—you know, like Jayne and Shepherd do? But you do not get a body like that toting boxes of bandages. And if you do, I shoulda set my sights on a doctor long 'fore now..."
"Better than Mal?"
Kaylee raised a brow. "Now why would you be wonderin' a thing like that, I wonder?"
"Just looking for a common point of reference," Inara said airily. The blue screen made it impossible to tell if she was blushing, but Kaylee would bet a week's pay she was.
"Sure you are."
"I'm so glad things are going well, mèimei. When I get back, you'll have to tell me all about it."
"That's a promise," she said, and blew Inara a kiss over the screen, which winked out.
Climbing the ladder outside the infirmary, Simon paused at the entrance of the engine room, looking for telltale legs poking out from beneath Serenity's spinning core. Seeing no sign of Kaylee, he wandered through the empty mess, up to the flight deck.
Wash sat in the pilot's chair, feet up on the console, and fingers interlaced behind his head as he looked up with the blanket of stars overhead. Simon cleared his throat, and Wash leaned back, regarding him while upside down.
"Hey," Simon replied amiably as he sat down in the co-pilot's chair, following Wash's gaze out into the black.
"Just came up to admire the view?"
Simon swallowed, tearing his eyes away from the vast expanse of space. He occasionally still had nightmares about his one and only EVA experience. "Actually, I was thinking..." he trailed off, trying to figure out how best to broach the subject. Wash simply stared up at him, blue eyes guileless as he waited.
"How did you and Zoe do it?" Simon finally blurted out.
"Have a relationship on this ship?" Simon threw up his hands in a gesture of complete frustration. "With its complete and utter lack of privacy?"
Wash chuckled. "Ah. Well, you have to understand, Serenity wasn't quite so crowded, back then. Started out just me and Zoe, Mal and Bester."
"And that was when you started dating?"
"Well—it took a while. Zoe didn't exactly warm to my charms right off, but yeah—by the end of that first year." He grinned at the memory. "Mal wasn't exactly happy about it but he stayed mostly out of our way, and Bester was... well, Bester. If he wasn't stoned off his gourd on low-grade ganja, he had his head stuck so far up inside that engine that a herd of elephants could have copulated in the middle of the mess, and he probably wouldn't have noticed.
"Jayne was next, and once Zoe made it perfectly clear that she was spoken for—and when I say perfectly clear, I mean that Jayne's lucky he still has the use of that hand—he pretty much kept to his bunk. By the time Kaylee had signed on and Inara rented shuttle one, I guess we were, you know—a given."
"But how did you manage to get any time, you know... together?"
"We saw each other most every day—"
"No, I mean... time together."
"Oh, time together." Wash ran his hands through his short, spiky blond hair, and leaned forward in his chair. "Shore leave."
"It's still a week until we dock on Beaumonde!"
"This is true."
Simon buried his head in his hands. "I'm in hell."
"No, you're not." Wash leaned back in his chair once again, fingers laced behind his head. "You're in purgatory."
"What's this I hear about hell and purgatory?"
Simon turned to see Book standing at the top of the stairs. "Evening, Shepherd."
"Sorry if I'm interrupting—this thing sends me signals when it picks up certain keywords." He smiled broadly as he tapped his collar with a finger. "You boys having a theological discussion?"
"More like interpersonal relations 101," Wash said, tilting his head in Simon's direction.
"Everything all right, son?" Book asked, concern etched across his features. "Anything I can help with?"
Simon shook his head, vaguely embarrassed. "No. Not really. I'm just—I'm fine."
"Simon and Kaylee're finding Serenity a bit crowded, these days," Wash explained helpfully. Simon glared at him, and it had no effect at all as the pilot continued to smile serenely at him.
"Finding it hard to get a chance to—"
"I'm sorry—was that private? Was I supposed to keep it a secret? We're all comrades in arms here, right? No secrets between manly men—"
"To get back to the subject at hand—so to speak," Book seemed barely able to contain his enthusiasm. "There is something to be said for the sanctity of marriage. Of... cherishing your partner enough to wait until marriage."
"Hey, I'm all about the sanctity of the marriage bed," Wash said brightly.
"That's because you have a marriage bed," Simon snapped.
"And a marriage floor, and a marriage chair... Really, I'm just a big fan of any marriage surface."
"Please. Stop. I'm getting a mental image I really don't need."
"But you care about Kaylee, don't you?" Book asked, tone deceptively pleasant and merely inquisitive.
"Of course I—very much."
"Do you see your relationship with her solely in physical terms?"
Simon paled. "No—not at all, I mean, not solely—"
"Believe it or not, I was young once. Before I took up Holy Orders, I had my share of... exploits. But my order is quite specific—and quite strict—on the matter of fornication outside of the holy bonds of matrimony. And I do truly believe that there is reason behind it. It elevates what could simply become base—the slaking of a purely physical need—to its proper place: an act of love between a man and woman who have pledged themselves to one another. Whether God is in that equation is, of course, up to the individual. However—"
Book glanced back and forth between Simon, who was clenching his hands into fists, and Wash, who was still grinning, as if daring Simon to drug him or hit him, or both.
"I can see I'm losing you. Forgive me, I tend to jump at any opportunity to use my A-list material, and you're something of a captive audience."
"Shepherd Book, no offence, but this isn't exactly a subject I feel..." Simon winced, "comfortable discussing with a man in your—with a man of the cloth."
"You were discussing it just fine with me a minute ago," Wash said with mock surprise.
"That was different!" Simon hissed.
"The captain says a man of God makes people feel guilty and judged," Book observed, sly twinkle in his eye. "Of course, you'd only feel guilty if you actually had something to feel guilty about, which I'm sure isn't the case."
"Virtuous boy like you," Wash drawled.
"No. Nothing to feel guilty about. Absolutely no sinning in deed going on," Simon assured him quickly. "In thought—all sorts of sinning in thought," he muttered. "But no... deeds."
"Good." Book smiled broadly, and clapped Simon on the shoulder warmly. "Well, I believe I'll turn in for the night."
"Night, Shepherd," Wash called after him with a jaunty wave.
Simon scowled at him darkly. "You know, I know at least sixteen different ways to kill you. Many of them undetectable, even after an autopsy tox screen."
"You'd have to get past Zoe, and I don't think that's gonna happen."
Kaylee giggled, her fingers curled around Simon's hands over her eyes. "Where are you taking me?"
"It's a surprise."
She stopped, and laughed when he bumped into her. "What kind of surprise?'
"A good surprise," he said, mouth brushing her ear. "Come on—just a little further."
She started forward again, tentatively, letting him guide her up a flight of stairs and down the hallway, her sandals whispering across the metal deckplates. Cool air caressed her arms, which her white and blue sleeveless top laid bare. She'd been getting ready for bed when Simon had appeared at her door, and with a finger laid against her lips for silence, lead her to the cargo bay.
"Okay, step up. There's a step here."
Her foot found purchase, and she strained her ears for any sound of their crewmates, but it was silent.
"Okay—keep your eyes closed."
His hands brushed her arms as they came down from her eyes, which she obediently kept squeezed tightly shut. She heard the distinct and unmistakable sound of a door locking before his arms were around her again, wrapping loosely around her waist, his chin resting on her shoulder.
"Okay—you can open them."
They were in shuttle two.
Although the captain and Zoe took it out on cargo runs from time to time, the second shuttle was used mainly for storage. Boxes and cases were stacked against the walls, blocking the rear benches. Kaylee hadn't been inside in weeks, and last time she had, there had been the stale smell of still air, and dust from a dozen worlds.
Now, it smelled of incense and scented candles. Paper lanterns and candles of all shapes and sizes illuminated the interior, which was transformed. It wasn't as opulent as Inara's shuttle by any stretch of the imagination, but Simon had gotten cushions and blankets from the passenger dorm, creating a palette on the floor.
"Oh!" She turned in his arms, grinning. "Simon!"
"It just occurred to me that it was sitting here, empty—"
He didn't get the chance to finish, as Kaylee caught him in an open-mouthed kiss, her hands already started on the buttons of his shirt.
"With our luck," Kaylee managed between breathless kisses as Simon slipped his shirt and vest off, the fabric hitting the floor with a whisper, "Wash'll suddenly bust in," she kicked off her shoes and began walking him backwards toward the bed, "or Shepherd Book—"
"If Wash ever wants to see his dinosaurs again, he'll stay away," Simon assured her, "But about Book—" He pulled back for a second, smoothing her hair back from her face with both hands. "He did get me to thinking. Something he said. Kaylee, if you want to wait until... Until whatever. We can. I can."
His blue eyes were earnest, and he seemed to be holding his breath, waiting for her answer.
She took his hands and pressed kisses into his palms and then leaned forward and, with one hand wrapped around the back of his neck, brushed her lips against his. He closed his eyes, eyelashes brushing her cheek, and she swore he was actually shaking.
"Simon?" she whispered against his mouth. "In about two seconds, I am gonna throw you up against a wall and have my way with you."
"You know, there's a bed—"
And then his mouth was too busy with other things to continue talking.
Simon was fascinated by the curve of her hip. His hand lingered there, fingers splayed and curving to stroke her lower back which was damp with sweat. His hand returned there again and again, tracing and re-tracing that gentle sloping valley.
Kaylee rested her cheek on one outstretched arm, damp tendrils of light brown hair clinging to her neck as she leaned closer and teased the spot where his jaw curved below his ear with her tongue. Her teeth grazed his collarbone, her hair tickling his chin.
They'd put out the lamps, and only a single candle remained, casting long shadows on the walls of the shuttle. His clothes had been kicked into a corner, he wasn't sure which of them had done it. Her shirt was draped over a packing crate, and he was fairly sure one of her shoes was now under the "bed."
"I think what we just did may be illegal on thirty-seven Allied worlds," he said with a chuckle as her hand traced patterns on his bare arm.
"Glad I don't live on any of them," she said as she stretched languidly, like a cat.
He watched her with something akin to awe.
He'd been with women—girls—before. From Sarah Kelley behind the garden shed when he was sixteen, to Ren's cousin Sionan, that summer by the lake during his residency.
Kaylee was different.
He'd known dozens of girls whose every move was a feint, whose every kiss was carefully calculated. Not so, Kaylee. She wasn't coy. There were no games. There was an almost brutal honesty in her every word and action—if she was sad, she cried. If she was happy, she laughed. If she was hungry, she ate. Her every act was done with a simple clarity of purpose and simple joy that was infectious.
When she arched against him, crying out as his fingers slipped between her thighs, it made him want to give her everything. Lay the entire 'verse out on a silver platter and feed it to her a morsel at a time just to see her eyes flutter closed in ecstasy with each taste.
"Think everybody's wonderin' where we up and disappeared to?" she asked as she drew the errant blanket over them and snuggled into the curve of his arm.
"Probably." He stroked her hair, limned in gold by the flickering candlelight.
Nothing had prepared him for this. For how he would feel as he drew soft, mewling cries out of her as he moved inside her. For how his heart skipped a beat as she wrapped her legs around his waist, drawing him deeper. For how her smile, as they lay panting and slick with sweat, their arms and legs a tangle, made him believe that he was home.
That this place could feel safe and sheltered and beautiful simply because they were here together.
"Let them wonder," he said with a smile as he blew out the candle.
lìngrén jingyì stunning, amazing
mèimei little sister
tiānna (exclamation) Oh God
shénme shì? what is it?