"...87...86...85..." River counted loudly, her hands pressed over her eyes from the centre of the cargo bay.
"River," Simon sighed dramatically. "I told you, I have work to do—"
"This is juvenile—"
"Kaylee's already hiding," she said, hands still over her eyes. "—55...54...53..."
"That's not fair! You're skipping ahead!"
"...37...36... You'd better hurry, Simon. 22...21..."
"That's cheating!" he called after her as he ran through the passenger dorm, scanning the area for a suitable hiding place.
"...14...13...12..." came River's sing-song voice as Simon ducked under the metal stairs leading up to the next level and tugged open the storage closet door.
"Hey!" Kaylee whispered as Simon wedged himself between her and the wall. "Find your own hiding place!"
"There aren't any other good ones—" he began, and she put a hand over his mouth.
"Shhhh! She'll find us!" she whispered, trying to peer through the crack between the door and the bulkhead. His eyes were starting to adjust to the dimness and he could make out the curve of her cheek in the gloom.
"Of course she'll find us," Simon whispered back against her fingers. "My sister is a genius who reads minds."
She started to giggle and buried her face in his shoulder to muffle the sound. Her shoulders shook with silent laughter, and he couldn't help but smile at the absurdity of the entire situation. The closet they were hiding in was barely big enough for one, let alone two. It was half-filled with large plastic storage containers, and Kaylee was trapped between them and him. His head kept brushing the low curved ceiling, so he hunched his shoulders to keep from bumping it.
They listened intently for footfalls—any sound that would indicate River was approaching their hiding place. His hands rested lightly on her waist. She had the sleeves of her coveralls tied loosely around her hips, and his thumbs brushed skin left bare between the hem of her brightly pattered top and the canvas. Her hair tickled his cheek. He breathed deep, closing his eyes for a moment. She smelled like shampoo, sweat, and engine grease. It made his head spin slightly, like he'd had too much sake.
Her fingers slipped from his mouth, coming to rest against his collarbone. She shifted her weight slightly, bringing them even closer together. He bit back a gasp as her thigh brushed his, and she stilled at his sudden intake of breath. She turned her face from his shoulder and he felt her breath warm on his cheek.
He bent his head just as she lifted her chin. The kiss was tentative at first, and Simon closed his eyes despite the darkness. Kaylee slid her hand up, fingers toying with the hair at the nape of his neck as she opened her mouth beneath his. Simon felt as if he were in freefall—the 'verse spinning around him as Serenity passed through the spaces between the stars.
He splayed his fingers across her back, tracing her spine as his mouth moved over hers. She teased his tongue with hers, pulling his shirt from the waistband of his trousers. He swore the temperature in the tiny space began to rise as he felt skin against skin as she slid her hands along his sides. He hissed as she drew her nails lightly over his ribs, and he felt her smile against his mouth before she took his bottom lip between her teeth.
He slipped a thigh between her legs, swallowing her ragged gasp as she ground herself against him. His own breath roaring in his ears as they fumbled with clothing in the way of exploring hands, lips, and tongues. He pressed her back up against the stacked cargo containers, and the top one shifted, the sound seeming impossibly loud in the enclosed space.
They froze, still half-wrapped around one another. Simon held his breath as they listened intently for any sound that would signal imminent discovery.
But there were no footsteps from beyond the closet door. One long moment passed, and then another. Kaylee began to giggle. Fighting the laughter that welled up inside his own chest, he clamped a hand over her mouth. His breath caught as she took two of his fingers into her mouth. She swirled her tongue around them, and any fears he had that the mood had been broken were quickly put to rest as she guided them to her breast, arching up into his hand as he ran the damp fingers over the hardened nub beneath the thin cotton.
"Are you...?" he whispered, lips caressing her ear. "Can we—"
"I am," she breathed back, voice cracking, "and you'd better..."
He grinned as he tugged her coveralls lower off her hips until the canvas pooled at her feet, and she began working on the buttons of his pants with suddenly clumsy fingers. He lifted her, and she wrapped her legs around his waist. She guided him inside her and her teeth sank into his shoulder, tempering the pleasure with pain as he sank completely into her. Slowly, still listening for footsteps, he began to move. They rocked against one another in silence punctuated only by their ragged breathing and the sound of flesh meeting flesh as she urged him on, fingers digging into his shoulders.
River and the game were completely forgotten as Kaylee came, whispering his name into his neck, and that was all he needed to join her over the edge.
Mal came into the mess, and found River lying on her back on one of the couches, legs resting against the wall. Her hair was spread out over the cushion, tendrils brushing the floor as she paged through a book.
"Where's your brother?" he asked, and she kept turning pages.
"We're playing hide-and-seek," she said airily.
Mal glanced around the empty mess.
"He's hiding," she clarified.
"Shouldn't you be off seeking?"
She shrugged, and kept reading. "He'll be found when he wants to be."