The first of their first dates was on Beckman's Paradise, a backwoods world commonly called Becks. Kaylee, knowing better than Simon what the place was really like, didn't want to go but he insisted he could take care of himself. Zoe, knowing a bad idea when she heard one, settled herself into a dark corner to wait for trouble. It wasn't long a coming. When one of the locals decided Kaylee should dance with him, Zoe stepped in, knocking three men out cold, while Kaylee helped Simon back to the ship. Feeling ashamed that he hadn't been able to protect her, Simon isolated himself in his lab for a week.
During their second attempt, the planet Blue was shook by an earthquake. Kaylee, real proud of how Simon had stepped right in to help the survivors, working through the night and well into the next day, never did realize that she, by working right beside him and always being ready with a kind word, had helped as much as he had.
Jayne invited himself along on their third, making lewd suggestions about what they should be doing until Kaylee ran off crying. Simon wondered if Zoe would teach him how to fight, until Kaylee gave him something to really worry about. She started saying they were jinxed and she meant it too. They remained that way, Kaylee near tears for weeks on end and Simon in a constant panic as he saw her slipping through his grasp, until Inara and Zoe stepped in.
Simon was humming as he prepared for their date. Mal had locked Jayne in the brig for the duration and, while Simon knew he shouldn't take such pleasure in the other man's misfortune, he couldn't help himself. If that bull of an oaf hadn't barged in on their last date, he wouldn't be in danger of losing Kaylee. Simon stopped humming at that thought, feeling lost and afraid until River ran in with a bouquet of flowers. They were imitation, of course, out there in the middle of space, and cheap looking as well to Simon's discerning eye but he promised his sister, quite dutifully, that he'd give them to Kaylee.
He felt awkward, carrying the flowers, as he walked the corridors to Kaylee's cabin. She was standing outside her room, in that pink monstrosity from her one night at a fancy dress ball. Simon kept very careful control over his expression until, as he looked at Kaylee's smile, he realized that, in her own eyes, she was as glamorous as Inara at her best. A genuine smile broke over his face. He took her hand and kissed it, saying, "A pearl of great price."
"But that's from the Bible. It means..." Kaylee's jaw dropped open. That you're precious to me remained unspoken but understood.
To get past the awkwardness of the moment, Kaylee asked about the flowers and Simon, almost cringing because he was afraid she'd hate them, handed the bouquet to her. She exclaimed over them, obviously pleased, and said, "Thank you, kind sir," in what would have been a parody of manners where Simon had grown up.
He held out his arm. "Shall we go?"
As she put her arm through his, the main cabin lights turned off and were replaced by strands of tiny, white bulbs that twinkled around them. Kaylee didn't stop talking about how pretty they were all the way to the shuttle.
"Oh," Kaylee said as she looked around in wonder. She didn't know how Inara had done it but her shuttle looked fancier than any restaurant Kaylee had ever been in. To Simon, all that elegance was a given, almost unnoticed, except that it made him feel more at home.
As Inara poured water into the teapot and started swirling it around, warming the pot before adding the rest of the water, Simon realized she was performing an abbreviated version of the tea ceremony. Just as she was pouring out the tea for them, with Kaylee looking on, fascinated by the ritual, in Simon's eyes the shuttle became, to use Kaylee's word, shiny. The fabrics seemed more luxurious, the lighting more intimate, and the texture of the table more sensuous.
With a smile, Inara left them alone. Kaylee watched as Simon looked around the room in amazement. She understood why she was awed by Inara's arrangement but she'd never seen Simon so impressed by a place before.
Just when the two of them were finishing up their tea, Wash came in sporting an outrageous French accent. Simon thought of how, in the best French restaurants, the waiters ignored the diners, allowing the meal to lengthen out, so they could enjoy each other's company and started to wonder, with a twinge of panic, what they were going to do after they'd finished eating. His mind constructed a miserable evening where Kaylee, realizing they had nothing in common, politely told him that they should just be friends.
Then Wash put the wine on the table. Simon had no idea how such a bottle could have come to be there. It was of the House of Munsan, the grapes of ancient burgundy descent. When Simon had become a doctor, his father had brought out a bottle of Munsan. Kaylee wasn't sure what prompted her to do it, but she reached out and took his hand. Simon, grateful for the contact that grounded him, smiled his thanks.
After Wash had poured out the wine and discretely removed himself, Simon raised his glass, opened his mouth, and then just sat there. "What?" Kaylee asked, leaning in with a smile that Simon recognized as amused.
"I wanted to make a toast but there's nothing I can say, nothing that would match how amazing this night is."
Kaylee raised her glass, clinked it against his, and so, they toasted in silence.
Inara had obviously cooked the meal, her style was distinctive but, instead of creating a cultured experience, she'd gone with something homier. Based on Kaylee's comments, it was the kind of food she'd grown up with although the spices Inara had added, combined with her skill, created an exquisite meal worthy of the finest restaurant Simon had ever eaten at.
By the time they'd finished eating, Simon had forgotten his concerns about what they'd do afterwards. They walked, hand in hand, through the ship, lights twinkling at them as they passed by, to the cargo bay. There was music playing by then, coming through the ship's speakers. Simon should have been able to identify it but, in that magical night, he'd lost the names of even music long known and loved. It was refined though, like something you'd hear at a ball.
"Gosh, I'd love to dance," Kaylee said.
Simon glanced around at the open space of the cargo bay and held out an arm in invitation. "My lady."
"Oh, no," Kaylee said, blushing. "I don't know how to dance, not to something as fancy as this. Sure is pretty though."
"Kaylee," he said, taking her hand. "Remember that square dance you did back on Charity? If you can do that, you can waltz." She gave him an uncertain look. "It's easy. It's just one, two, three. One, two, three." As he repeated the phrase, "one, two, three," over and over again, he started swaying, in time to the count, left for three and then right for three. After Kaylee seemed comfortable swaying with him, he took her in both arms and started taking little steps. The steps got larger and larger and soon they were dancing around the room.
"This is easy," Kaylee exclaimed in delight.
In the middle of their second dance, Kaylee grabbed Simon by one hand and, with a shouted, "Come on," ran him to the engine room.
"Why here?" he asked, amazed that even the engine room had been decorated with the twinkling lights.
"I'm putting my flowers here," she said, taking one of the flowers he'd given her and working it into a metal strut.
"Why?" He had no idea why she'd want to do such a thing.
"Because, silly," she replied, smacking him gently with the bouquet. "I want the flower from our first date in my favorite place."
He thought on that until she began to look upset. "That red flower would look perfect right up there," he said, pointing behind her. "May I place it there for you?" Her smile lit up the room as they decorated it with the rest of the flowers.
"You're right," he said, looking around the room with satisfaction. "This is the perfect place for them."
They chatted long into the night and Simon had to restrain Kaylee, twice, from pulling out some bit of the engine as she explained how it worked. When she got upset with him, he told her, "I just don't want you to get oil on your pretty dress."
"Oh," Kaylee said, pushing her hair back. "I got so caught up talking about engines that I forgot about my dress. I must be wearing you out, talking about machines and all."
"No," he replied. "I've never been interested in machines before but you're explaining them so well, I almost feel like I can understand them."
"Well, of course you can, what with all your book learning. Machines are easy."
"Not to me," he said honestly. "But, listening to how excited you get about them," he trailed off, shaking his head with a smile.
About an hour later, they caught each other trying to hide yawns. Laughing, they strolled back towards Kaylee's cabin. After he'd escorted her home, Simon took Kaylee's hand, to kiss it good evening, but then he paused. His eyes grew wide as he looked at her. Dropping her hand and ignoring Kaylee's look of confusion, Simon gulped and then requested, almost stuttering as he did so, "Miss Kaylee, I beg that you would be kind enough to grant this undeserving man the honor of a kiss."
"Simon! You don't have to ask for a kiss."
He dropped his formality and Kaylee gaped at him, having never seen him so open before. "To ask," he started. "To beg," he tried again. Gathering his courage because he knew he'd have to explain or she'd never understand what it meant to him, he said, "It's a tradition on my homeworld. A young man requests a kiss but it's up to the woman to decide whether she's pleased with him or not."
As she considered him, Kaylee realized, for the first time, that getting their date right meant as much to him as it did to her. She leaned in and kissed him softly on the lips. They kissed a second time. Their third kiss was longer and deeper.
When they stepped apart, she could have sworn he wasn't breathing until he startled and then gave her a formal bow before turning and walking back towards his cabin. He couldn't help looking back, time and time again, until he was out of sight.
Kaylee's lips lit into a wide smile. There was a time such formality would have made her furious but she'd come to realize that was his way when things got too big for him. It was sweet, really. Meant she was important to him.
Kaylee hummed to herself as she climbed down into her cabin.