Nocturne in B Flat Minor

Summary: Simon doesn't dance. Oneshot fic with Simon, Kaylee, and River. Mild Simon/Kaylee romance.
Disclaimer: Can I have them. Please? -puppy eyes at Joss-
Setting: After "Objects in Space" but before the Big Damn Movie.

It was a nice planet, far enough from the central planets for it to be safe for Simon and River, yet equally far from being the armpit of the 'verse, as so many of the planets they visited were. What was more, the job that had brought them there was actually perfectly legal, which meant that for once no one had been stabbed, shot, beaten, kidnapped, tortured, or bitten. The locals were very pleased that the delivery of the shipment of persimmons for their new year's holiday had arrived so quickly, and what was more, they were wealthy enough to pay well for said shipment and friendly enough to invite the entire crew of Serenity to join them for the first day of their week of celebrations.

The celebration mostly involved a great feast and a lot of music and dancing. Serenity's crew, put in high spirits by a well-paying job that did not result in anyone being kidnapped, beaten, tortured, stabbed, bitten, or shot, was more than happy to join in the festivities. River was quick to join the dancers, and everyone else was coaxed out among the revelers soon afterwards, even Jayne finally succumbing once he had consumed enough of the local brew.

Only Simon refused to dance. He politely turned away each young woman who came to try to sweet-talk him into taking her into his arms for the next rousing and swinging tune, including Kaylee.

It put a damper on the young mechanic's otherwise quite enjoyable evening. At first she tried wheedling, then playful threatening, and finally resorted to accusing him of thinking he was too good to dance with them. He responded by being shy, and then stubborn, and then sullen, and it all ended with him getting out of his chair and going to hide somewhere on the other side of the room.

It wasn't fair! Even Mal had managed to get Inara into his arms and was swinging her around the dance floor in a slightly drunken, off-beat step while she moved as always with her easy, self-contained grace and somehow managed to keep her feet out from under his boots. But she was laughing and he was smiling and they both seemed to have forgotten for the evening the awkward tension that permeated so much of their relationship.

Yet Simon couldn't bring himself to have even one dance with Kaylee.

At that moment River spun by her, dancing partnerless in perfect step. Her gaze met Kaylee's.

"Simon doesn't dance," she said simply, her mouth and eyes smiling as she twirled. "He could never make his feet understand music." And then she spun away again, lost in a sea of dancers.

Simon couldn't sleep. To his right Mal snored softly, to his left Jayne slept the sleep of the dead or/and completely inebriated, and Book was also asleep somewhere off in the darkness against the far wall of the room.

The mayor had been kind enough to offer them rooms in his small but comfortable manor, as the revelries had lasted so long into the night and no one had really felt up to the long trip in the mule back to the ship. The bed was more comfortable than his bunk on Serenity, and Simon was tired, but for some reason he couldn't get the music from the dances out of his head, and when he closed his eyes the patterns of the native women's' bright skirts swirled on his eyelids.

It was probably something he had eaten; his stomach felt a little queasy and he had a bit of a headache, although the later might have simply been the result of many hours spent listening to loud music, loud talking, and loud laughter.

If he was being honest with himself, he also felt guilty for upsetting Kaylee enough that she felt the need to call him a 'stuck-up, hoity-toity zhu tou.' Even if he was hurt that she thought he was stuck-up.

After all, would it really have been so bad to give her one dance? Even if he didn't know the steps, and would have made a complete fool out of himself? After all, that hadn't stopped Mal.

Simon gave up trying to sleep and sat up slowly, swinging his legs over the side of the cot and setting his bare feet carefully on the floor, not wanting to wake the other sleeping men. Of course, Mal and Jayne would probably sleep through Simon jumping up and down and screaming, but Book might wake up, and Simon didn't want to disturb anyone. He made his way stealthily to the door and slipped out into the hall.

Kaylee, Inara, and River were asleep in the room across the hall and Zoë and Wash were one down, so Simon meandered quietly past the closed doors and down a long set of steps to the ground floor. He had some idea about going outside for some fresh air, but he stopped as he passed through the drawing-room, seeing a half open door off to his left. Not sure exactly what prompted his curiosity, he stepped toward it and peered inside.

It was a small room, empty and still, dark save for the light from the hallway and cool from the night air blowing gently in an open window. A piano stood in the corner, a baby grand, brown burnished with gold in the light that filtered over Simon's shoulder. He had taken a few steps toward the instrument before he even realized that he had moved, but once in the room he figured he might as well go the rest of the way and take a look at the piano.

It was old, its mahogany surface scratched and battered in places, worn until it no longer shone, and yet obviously well-loved and well cared for. He slid his hand along the smooth surface a moment before letting it drop down, almost of its own accord, to caress the slightly battered-looking plastic keys.

His fingers itched.

It had been so long since he'd had a chance to play, nearly a year since he'd been home, and many long months before he'd left had been focused on planning River's rescue and nothing else; he half-wondered if he still remembered anything well enough to play it without the music. He let his fingers fall softly onto a c-sharp chord, a quiet echo of sound filling the room, surprisingly not very out of tune. The notes hung in his ears even after the sound had faded away.

He flexed both hands, trying to stretch the eager ache out of them.

It was late, people were sleeping. He ought to return to bed himself, but the siren call of this piece of his life he had left behind was too overwhelming. When he had made the decision to break River out of that terrible 'academy,' he hadn't thought too much about what he would have to give up. Afterwards, when he had lain in his bunk on Serenity after a long day of chasing River around the ship, holding her when she screamed, and enduring somewhat over-harsh (he thought) comments from Jayne and the captain, he would make lists of all the things he missed; fancy meals with important people, respectful and amiable relationships with his co-workers and colleagues, sleeping in a large, comfortable bed while crickets chirped outside his open window, a society in which he understood all the rules and was secure in his place. Playing had never been on any of those lists; until this very moment he hadn't realize how much he wanted to give his fingers that freedom once again, how much he needed to hear that gentle, elegant music which was so different from anything he could find out here on the edge of nothing.

One song, he promised himself. If he shut the door and played quietly he wouldn't disturb anyone.

There were some easy chairs on the other side of the room flanking a small table with a reading lamp on it; when Simon turned this on and shut the door it cast a small circle of light around itself and left the rest of the room in soft shadows. He sat down on the bench, wincing as old wood creaked slightly under his weight, and set his fingers upon the keys.

His hands were hesitant at first, and the music clumsy, but as he played his fingers started to remember their old skill and he began to recall the intricate patterns of harmony and counterpoint more readily. Soon his hands were pirouetting to the cadence of tunes composed by artists who had lived on Earth-That-Was so long ago that no one now remembered their names.

Of course it couldn't be just one song, and he was quickly lost in the music, too lost to notice when the door opened and a slim figure slipped into the room. Nevertheless, when he happened to glance up and he saw River turning and twirling a few feet away he was neither startled nor surprised.

When Kaylee woke sometime during the night the first thing that she realized was that River was not in the bed next to her. Concerned, she sat up and scanned the room, and, seeing only the sleeping Inara, eased her way out of bed and out the half-open door into the hallway. The sound of quiet music reached her ears then, music that somewhat reminded her of that which had been played at the ball she went to with Mal on Persephone, and yet was gentler and somehow more elegant. She followed the sound downstairs.

When Kaylee quietly opened the door she saw Simon at the piano. He was playing, his hands moving over the keys as precisely as they moved when he was tending to a wound, and yet with a freedom and passion she had never seen in him before. River was there too, dancing in free, twirling movements which would have been funny had they not been so graceful. Suddenly Kaylee felt as though she was intruding.

River paused mid-twirl, her eyes going to Kaylee as though she had known she was standing there. Simon noticed she had stopped and his hands slowed on the keys as he looked up.

River smiled and leaned toward Kaylee conspiratorially.

"It's silly that his fingers can dance and his feet can't," she said, her tone one of exasperated affection. "I gave up trying to teach him a long time ago, so you're going to have to do it." She slipped past Kaylee and out the door.

There was a long, uncomfortable silence as Simon sat and stared at her, his fingers still resting on the keyboard, looking for all the world like a little boy caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

"That was real pretty," Kaylee said finally, paused, and then added; "Don't stop."

Simon seemed to consider a moment, and then he scooted to one side of the bench and gave its surface an inviting pat. Kaylee slid down beside him, and she smiled as he began to play once more.

zhu tou – pig head

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