Simon and Kaylee didn't just wake up one morning and realise they were in love. Like granules of tea seeping through into boiling water, it was a gradual process. S/K, obviously, begins near the beginning of the series and tracks their relationship throughout Firefly and beyond, discarding movie. First of (probably) five parts.
Cup of Tea – Part One
Kaylee flopped into her hammock with a weary sigh, and began to wipe her greasy hands on a once clean rag. By the rumbling in her stomach, she could tell it was almost eleven o clock. As she did most days, she got to her feet and left the engine room, glancing around the empty galley as she entered. No one was ever around at this time, so soon after breakfast and so near to lunchtime. Kaylee liked it; a moment to herself.
She poured herself a cup of tea and sat at the table, stirring it absently. She was helping herself to a biscuit when footsteps behind her caused her to turn in surprise. When she saw who had arrived, she beamed.
"Simon," she greeted him warmly. He smiled in return, a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes, she noticed.
"Cup of tea?" The words were out of her mouth before she realised it.
He looked marginally surprised, but nodded his thanks. He took a seat as she poured tea into another mug and pushed it towards him. She watched as he added a lump of sugar distractedly and took a sip.
"This is good," he told her appreciatively. He wanted to say something about how she was the only one on this boat who could make a decent cup of tea. He even felt a small urge to thank her; she was the only one on this boat who treated him with anything other than cold resentment. But he didn't say anything.
"Somethin' wrong?" she asked, off the distant look on his face.
He shook his head. She raised her eyebrows disbelievingly and he couldn't help but smile at her persistence.
"It's nothing … it's just …"
"Your sister?" Kaylee supplied.
He nodded, looking guilty for even admitting that River was a problem.
"S'bound to take time," Kaylee told him fairly. "I know it's gotta be hard… you just gotta look at the bright side, doc."
"Simon," he corrected vaguely.
"Simon," Kaylee repeated, smiling.
Simon sighed. "I don't see a bright side," he admitted, despairingly. "It's been a month since I got River out of that place, and … there's been no improvement."
"She was in there for three years," Kaylee reminded him. "But she ain't there now. She's here, with you. That's the bright side."
Simon calmly surveyed the optimistic young woman in front of him, and mused that he'd never met anyone quite so refreshing before. He smiled wanly at her. "It's not much of a bright side."
Kaylee glanced down at her mug and took another sip. "Where is she now?"
"Sleeping," was the answer. At her questioning glance, Simon elaborated. "She sleeps better through the day. I think being able to hear everyone moving around makes her feel … safe. At night, when it's quiet, that's when the nightmares come. So I figure it's better to let her sleep in the mornings and then stay up later."
Kaylee smiled at him sympathetically. "Well, it's good that she feels safe here."
Simon chuckled suddenly. The sound was so unexpected, so unusual from the solemn doctor, that Kaylee started. Her own smile grew.
"You really are an eternal optimist, aren't you?" he asked, and Kaylee noticed a hint of admiration in his voice.
She shrugged, happily.
The next day, at exactly the same time, Kaylee made the tea as usual, taking a packet of biscuits from her locker, and settled happily into her chair. She was surprised to hear footsteps behind her again, and even more surprised, when she turned, to see Simon once more, walking towards her.
"Biscuit?" she offered, holding out the packet.
"Thank you," he said, taking one and sitting next to her. He looked happier today, or at least, less tense.
"How's River?" Kaylee asked.
"Good," he said, nibbling at his biscuit adorably. "She's sleeping now. But earlier, we were talking and…" he broke off, grinning and looked right at her. Kaylee could see that for once, his smile had reached his eyes. "It was almost like I had her back, you know?"
"See," Kaylee said, in a mock I-told-you-so tone. "Bright side."
"Well, there's still a long way to go yet," Simon said, sobering slightly. "But, I'm hopeful."
Kaylee winked at him. "Fingers crossed."
There were a few moments of comfortable silence between them, until Kaylee spoke.
"There's tea in the kettle, if'n you want it," she told him, taking a sip from her own mug.
He murmured his thanks as he stood up, moving over to pour himself a cup.
"Do you do this every day?" he asked, busying himself with the kettle.
"Do what?" she asked thickly, having just taken a big bite from her biscuit.
He watched in amusement as she wiped cookie crumbs from her mouth, blushing.
"This," He gestured around at the galley. "A cup of tea at eleven, every day?"
She nodded. "Don't be forgettin' the biscuits," she added.
A smile was creeping once more onto his face. "Of course not," He settled back into his seat, looking at her in interest.
"I like it," she told him simply. "It's always quiet round about now, and besides, I can never last till lunchtime. I get hungry." She half whispered the last bit, looking mildly abashed.
Surprisingly, Simon nodded in agreement. "Tell me about it. I used to dread the morning shift, back at the hospital. It's weird how you can go six or seven hours between lunch and dinner without getting hungry, but even an hour after breakfast your stomach starts rumbling."
Kaylee giggled. "Finally, someone with the same problem!"
He smiled at her again, and she felt her stomach jolt from something very different to hunger. It struck her again just how handsome he was.
He started talking again and she shook herself, mentally admonishing herself for staring.
By the fifth day, Kaylee was beginning to expect him. She checked her watch, which read 11:03, and told herself she was being stupid, he was only a few minutes later than usual, and besides, it wasn't as if this was a date … she stirred sugar into her tea, letting the teaspoon clack against the mug louder than was necessary, as if to summon him to her. She heard his footsteps behind her and smiled to herself. Then she turned and smiled even more brightly at him.
"Cup of tea?"
On the ninth day, when he arrived, she wordlessly retrieved another mug from the shelf and started pouring. He stood next to her and pulled the sugar bowl toward them. "Two lumps?" he murmured, almost to himself. She nodded.
On the twelfth day, when he walked in, she was sitting happily in her usual chair, steaming mug before her, with a second mug in front of his usual seat, and a pack of biscuits between the two seats.
"Milky, one sugar," she informed him, as he sat down. He pulled the mug towards him and took a sip. Looking over at her, he gave a big sigh of contentment.
The next day, Kaylee entered the galley to find him sitting there already, mugs and biscuits already in place.
"Very milky, two sugars," he said, sounding quite proud of himself.
She sat opposite him, feeling a little giddy at his thoughtful gesture. She drank deeply from the cup.
Simon leaned back in his chair, his grin growing. "Good."
The day after Simon and River's 'hill-folk abduction,' River went to sleep without a fuss, without Simon even needing to give her a smoother He checked his watch, and saw he had half an hour before meeting Kaylee. Not that they arranged to meet of course, but it had become an unspoken tradition, and one on which he was coming to rely.
They hadn't met as usual the day before, however, as they'd been planetside. Simon winced as he remembered the conversation he'd had with Kaylee in the general store. River had been having a bad day, and he had forgotten himself. He guessed Kaylee knew that, she was nothing if not understanding, and she'd seemed pleased to have him back on board the previous night, not mentioning their exchange or cold shouldering him in anyway. Still, Simon regretted what he'd said, and he had half an hour to prepare for making up for it.
Kaylee reached the galley and gave Simon a wide smile in greeting. Then she took in the sight before her.
"I thought we ate 'em all last night," she gasped.
"I saved my share," Simon told her. "There isn't many…but… uh. They're for you."
He felt himself going red and turned to stir his tea needlessly. Kaylee moved into her seat.
"What's the special occasion?" she asked, eyes still fixed on the plate in front of her.
Simon grimaced. "Actually, it's more of a peace offering… an apology. For what I said yesterday. I was out of order …"
Kaylee cut in. "It's okay, doc, ain't no need to apologise. You was worried about River, I understand."
"That's no excuse for my behaviour."
"It ain't an excuse. It's a reason," she said firmly.
Simon smiled. "So I'm forgiven?"
Kaylee shook her head. "Nope. Not until there's something to forgive."
Simon chuckled, despite himself. "Well, I'm still sorry."
Kaylee looked at him with a warm smile. "It's okay."
They looked at each other for a moment. Then Simon shook himself.
"Well, are you going to eat them or not?"
Eyes wide, Kaylee reached over and plucked a glistening strawberry from the plate. Simon watched her eat it, pure joy on her face. The thought that it was worth having to apologise just to watch her eye lashes flutter in ecstasy crossed his mind.
He told himself firmly that there was nothing at all sexual about eating a strawberry, and averted his eyes.
Two months to the day since Simon had boarded Serenity for the first time, he entered the galley at five to eleven as usual. He filled the kettle, and as it boiled, he filled a plate full of biscuits, making sure to add more of Kaylee's favourites to the mix. He moved automatically, going through the motions as he had over and over for the past few weeks, but his mind was elsewhere, worrying about River.
He didn't even hear Kaylee enter, she moved with a softness that belied her bubbly demeanour. When he turned to place the mugs on the table, he found her already seated, and jumped a little, sloshing boiling tea over his right hand.
She giggled for a moment before realising what had happened, and moved quickly to him, taking the mugs out of his hands.
"Simon," she gasped, "Are you okay?"
He winced, shaking the cooling droplets from his skin. "It's fine."
She took his hand in hers, turning it over to look at the inflamed skin. He noticed how soft her hands were, how firm, and worn from working in the engine room. He almost smiled against the pain.
"Cold water," he murmured, and she let his hand go so he could run it under the tap. He heard her moving around behind him as he gently poked his own skin, looking for evidence of a potential blister, but the burn wasn't bad.
She returned to his side and handed him a glass of ice. Thanking her, they moved to the table, and he sank his hand into the ice, letting it numb the stinging flesh.
"Are you okay?" she asked again.
"It's nothing," he told her, glancing at his hand.
"I never meant your hand," she told him, not quite meeting his eye. "When I came in here you was in a world of your own."
"River?" Kaylee pressed.
Simon considered her. Kaylee had, more than anyone on board, bonded with River over the short time they had known each other. Kaylee alone treated River like a normal girl, something which Simon was sure helped immeasurably, and something which he was incapable of himself, despite trying. He sighed heavily.
"It was a bad night," he allowed. She watched him, silently waiting for him to elaborate.
"And an even worse morning," he added.
Kaylee blinked sadly. "I thought she was getting better."
Simon looked down at the uninjured hand resting in his lap. "Some days, it seems like she is. And then other days, it's like she's getting worse."
Kaylee took a biscuit, mournfully snapping it in half and dipping one half into her now lukewarm tea, not really paying attention to her actions.
"I'm sorry," she said after a moment.
He looked at her, wondering if she was going to say anything else. She didn't
He shifted his aching hand slightly. There really wasn't anything else to say.
Two weeks later, Simon entered the galley with a bounce in his step, and found Kaylee sitting there already, tea and biscuits laid out. He gave a curious glance, wondering why she was early, as she usually forced herself to work straight through till eleven.
Smiling in an embarrassed way, Kaylee held up a finger, which he realised she had been nursing in her other hand. It was bleeding a little.
"What did you do?" he asked, hurrying over.
"Got it caught in the engine," she told him, sounding more amused at her own carelessness than anything else.
He took her hand in his, and she smiled at how gentle he was.
"It ain't deep or nothing," she told him, not wanting to trouble the skilled doctor with a tiny graze.
"No, but it's dirty," he said.
"Well, I'm a mechanic," she told him, her voice sounding the slightest bit defensive.
He nodded, his eyes twinkling a little. "I know. But you don't want to risk infection. Come on," he said, gently pulling her to her feet. "I'll clean it and give you a band aid."
"Shiny. What colours you got?"