Post-BDM obviously; in sequence with everything else I write, ever, some time after "A Mirror in the Heart." Fluff and smut collide.
Simon's come into the habit of visiting River while she pilots, that much is as normal. Granted, his visits often coincide with his bursts of paranoia about her mental state and take the form of subtle quizzes (ones she always passes; she understands his concern, though she's glad he can't read her mind and know how tiresome she finds it). But he means well, and there's plenty of sociable times, too, their brother-sister routine evolved.
There's none of his usual calculated inquisition when he happens into the helm today, though. He's got hands in his pockets, nodding a "hello, mèimei" when he enters but sitting down in the copilot's seat and lapsing into silence almost immediately. River doesn't look up from the course she's setting, but after a good five minutes have passed, she murmurs, "You're worrying about something." She can figure what, but she knows he needs to say it himself.
"It isn't worrying," Simon immediately corrects, his tone defensive though he'd come to seek council about exactly what something she's supposing. Maybe not consciously, but there's nobody else he can ask these things of, and he ought to ask them. "It's simply trying to figure out a plan of action, and-"
"And?" River asks lightly, finally making eye contact.
Simon shakes his head. "I - it's just that-"
"You could always ask Zoe," River says, and Simon casts her a curious glance. "Sometimes, I feel him when I'm here, get memories," she continues. "Sometimes not. But it wouldn't help you, not right now, it was Zoe asked questions. Asked that question."
"I don't follow," Simon says hesitantly.
"You're worrying about - trying to figure it out - how you're going to ask Kaylee."
Trying to lie to River is a pointless exercise, he knows; instead, he goes to stand nearer the door, the better able to see if anyone's approaching. He can still keep secrets from the rest of them, and he'd much rather that than the alternative.
"I don't want to make a mess of it," he mutters. River giggles at that; at least he's finally learned to be wary of his tendency.
"She wouldn't mind spectacle, but you would," she continues, and Simon nods. "Where everyone else could see, you'd be too shy. They won't know till you're ready."
"The possibility of stammering through it isn't a particularly appealing one," he agrees.
"But you know what she'll say," River presses.
Simon touches the back of his neck, frowning. "I know what I think she'll say. I can't know it as a complete certainty."
She's just watching him a moment, and in her way, she has to observe, "You feel like you aren't enough for her."
His expression goes much more serious (a feat of itself). "I know she doesn't care about those things."
"But you get anxious about it even still," she murmurs. "You can't guarantee that you'll give her a fairy tale. It's silly, but you do worry, gēgē."
A sigh. "I - I've dragged her, I've dragged all of them, into so much already."
River's eyes darken a moment, but she seems to shake it off, or she tries to. "Any regrets are situational, not behavioral. There'd be danger out here in any case."
"I can't promise her anything," Simon says, his voice almost a whisper now.
"Can promise her all that matters," River replies with that face, the one that's at once comforting and infuriating, the one that says I have the answers and you'd best listen.
He smiles just a bit, he's still on edge, but he softens at the thought. "I can promise that, yes."
"It will play out fine," she assures. "Would be silliness if it didn't."
Simon ruffles her hair, then. "Ever my loyal sister."
He's got the ring in his pocket all day. Having already resolved to do this when they're alone, he thinks that maybe he could just sneak her off. What River said is true, the fuss and frills (though she may like them) aren't necessary.
He's still he doesn't know exactly how to say it, though insecure comes closest. He'd never thought about this much before her, but he'd grown up just taking for granted that he'd be able to truly offer something to his - his woman? (He's not entirely comfortable with that label, but he's not comfortable with others before she's said yes, either.) Stability, security, not getting into near-death scrapes every week? Something?
She had chosen this life before he was even in it, though. And he knows that much as she loves the occasional brush with the "other half," with a life far fancier than this one, she'd much rather be with people she loves than pretty things. He knows that she loves him, no matter what.
It doesn't mean he can't make a bit of a show, though.
She's fixing something up in the engine room after dinner, so he takes his chance, setting a few things up. When Kaylee descends into her bunk, Simon's at the bottom of the ladder. All but her flower lights are turned off and once she's on the last rungs, he reaches round her waist and stills her.
"Close your eyes," he whispers.
She gives a murmur of curiosity, but she obliges, and he lifts her off the ladder. That elicits a little squeak in turn, and she starts in asking, "What're you-"
"Ssh," he laughs, pressing a finger to her lips and lacing his other hand together with hers.
It's not a long walk to the blanket he's spread on the floor, but for Kaylee it feels so; she's starting to anticipate what might be and it's making her heart beat quick.
"Sit down, băobĕi," he says gently, guiding her.
"You're bein' right coy, Simon Tam," she declares, but she arranges herself as best she can, eyes still squeezed shut, as Simon lights three red candles. The scent of cinnamon fills the air, and it gets her tipping her head.
"You can open them," he tells her, and when she does, he's beaming at her.
"Oh, sweetie," she breathes, taking in the candlelight, the wine he's managed to find, the look on his face. That's a new expression, equal parts affection and anticipation.
"You like it, then?"
"More'n just like," she assures him. "It's perfect." What for she doesn't quite know, but she does hope (and she's right to).
Simon pours the wine a proper shop wine, sweet and sharp and hands Kaylee a glass before he continues. "The fact is, I wanted it to be special," he says. "It's deserved."
"You're too nice," she says, blushing and taking a sip of her wine.
"Such niceness is deserved, too," he counters with a smile. "Do you like the wine?"
"Uh-huh," Kaylee nods. "You ain't sipped yours yet."
"In a moment," Simon says, fumbling in his pocket with one hand and taking hers again with the other. "I should talk first."
He takes a breath. "There's been well, no-one in my life to make me feel like you do, Kaylee," he murmurs. "There's been no one like you." Encouraged by her pleasant, shyish lipbiting, he goes on. "Quite honestly, I didn't know it was possible to love someone as much as I love you."
"Me, either," she whispers. "I love you so, so much."
"I can't see my life without you," he continues, and he pulls the box from his pocket. Kaylee's eyes widen, and when he pops it open, her jaw drops. "It's foolish to put it off when this is the surest I've been about something. Kaylee, will you-"
"Yes, yes, yes!" she exclaims, bursting into glad tears.
"Will you marry me?" he finishes with a smile, slipping the delicate little ring on her finger and kissing the top of her hand.
"Yes," she says again, leaning forward to wrap her arms around him. She's sobbing into his shoulder, but it's a good sort, part sobbing and part laughing, and he's tearing up a bit himself, also in that good way.
After a moment of just holding each other, Kaylee pulls back just enough to kiss him passionately on the mouth. Both of them taste sorta salty, but neither cares a whit; they kiss until they're short of breath and then kiss some more.
Finally, they've exhausted themselves, and Kaylee leans up against her bed. Simon moves next to her and pulls her against him, he doesn't want to stop touching her yet and she'd be happy holding him or being held in all her spare moments. They're both needing some air, and she takes the chance to hold her hand out in front of her and examine the ring, angling it towards the light. Simple, sure, and the diamond might be real (it's small enough) or might not, but far's she's concerned it's another piece of perfection.
"I know it's nothing much," Simon murmurs in her ear.
"Don't even," Kaylee giggles. "Real huálì's what it is."
She can't help but be impressed he even got a ring; lots of the girls back home weren't nearly so lucky. Her own mama'd only had some goods traded in her honor, a wooden charm on a cord for round her neck. She does know, though, that even that well-intentioned delight could grate some, so she keeps quiet regarding it.
"I'm honestly relieved you think so," Simon laughs. "I'd hoped it would suit you."
"'Course it does," she replies. "Anyway, pretty's it is, it's what it means I'm more giddy about."
"I am, too," he says, nuzzling against her.
After a moment, she murmurs, "Fine if it's a long engagement. If we got other things need takin' care of first, or…"
"I'm not really sure about that," Simon admits. "What could come up, what could happen I'd like to be able to plan it out to be everything you'd want, but-"
"I ain't got many girlhood dreams what need fulfilled," she chuckles. "It's like the ring, tiānxīn. How we dress it all up's nice, but bein' with you, that's what matters."
She goes for her wine and his, too, and with matching grins, they clink their glasses together in a toast. "To what's to come," she offers.
"To our lives together," he adds.
"I do like the sound that has," she grins.
"Our lives together," Simon repeats. "Us together."
"Kaylee Tam?" she asks in a whisper.
"Kaylee Tam," he confirms. He hadn't been sure she'd want to take his name and hadn't even been sure it was a wise idea for a while, but having it said aloud that she wants it goes that much better.
It makes her grin, too, and she tips her head to kiss him again. He's got his energy back, some, and he slides his hands down her body, easing her onto his lap. "Mmm," she giggles against his lips.
"I've mentioned today how beautiful you are?" Simon asks softly.
"You have," Kaylee smiles. "Can't say I mind hearin' it more, though."
"You're beautiful, wŏ de ài," he tells her, and after a moment of thought, he glances up at the bed; she follows his gaze and grins when he asks, "You want to?"
Unless it's her obviously seducing him, he usually feels he has to ask, even still. She wouldn't really mind him taking her by surprise at times, but she thinks it's sort of darling. "I wanna," she nods.
Simon shifts to pick her up, fully carrying her this time, and kisses her once she's safe in his arms. He doesn't even bother peeling the covers back before he lays her on the bed, and it's one of those moments she loves him the most. First things first, he strips his sweater off, his shoes, then he goes to unzip her overalls; she helps wiggle out of them, feeling desire grow in her belly. Once he's got her down to nothing but camisole and panties, he has to take a moment to admire the sight of her. Eyes wide, skin glowing and almost but not quite tan, just waiting for him. He'll never tire of this.
He tends to her camisole and bra next, kissing her breasts as he does, and she helps him with his pants, all too eager. When they're both unclothed, she presses him to her a moment. "Y'know, I think you're pretty fine lookin', too," she murmurs. "Always have."
Resting against her a moment, he says, "The first time I saw you, I was honestly, I was enchanted."
A little nudge and a laugh. "Took ya long enough, then," she teases.
"I thought I knew what I had the time and means for," he continues. "I I wasn't thinking clearly, I see now." He kisses her cheek, her throat. "Simply put, băobĕi, I need you with me."
"I'd never thought much about any of this," she confesses. "Just figured if t'was gonna happen, it'd feel right. An' even just in thinkin', this's righter than anything's been."
Simon lifts his head, then, and their lips meet, their arms round each other. "It seems unreal," he tells her between their kisses.
"Whassat?" she asks, her breath hitching.
"You," he replies. He's laying on the sentimentality, but both find it right. His hands are exploring her body; the intensity of it balances out some. "How utterly lucky I've been to find you."
"We're both lucky," she corrects.
"To find someone," he continues. "Who's so kind, so bright, so lovely…" His expression changes to that one only for her eyes. "To say nothing of how sexy you are."
She can play that game, too, and she will. "Well," she begins. "I ain't the only one." Her turn for a coded look, hers one he knows to mean let me top? and he obeys easily, flipping their bodies over in one movement. And she wastes no time in sliding down, smirking all the while. He's biting his lip, eying her. This is hardly unheard of for them, but it's rare enough that he's already thinking of how he'll reciprocate. He figures he can go extra rounds tonight (it's no great shock and no chore, either).
As she wraps her lips around him, he moves a hand to the back of her neck, resting there. The moan she gives as she takes him in could strike others as theatrical, perhaps, but he knows it to be sincere. She's just noisy, more than anyone he'd ever had in the past and more than he might have (definitely did) guess; he loves that, too. That she enjoys herself so much. That there's no doubt about her earnestness. (And each sound she makes just arouses him further.)
"I love you," he exclaims, his voice rushed and low. She just offers another moan in turn, longer and even more content than the first, and begins to swirl her tongue around him. She goes slower and faster and then slower again; he holds her a bit tighter, encouraging her and massaging her and keeping her going all at once. He knows she doesn't mind, even likes, such things; they take turns in charge here.
Her fingertips trace up his inner thigh, searching for a sensitive spot and massaging in turn. He groans, a deep powerful sound, and she just smiles to herself; she can feel a warming between her legs, but she's not impatient. Everything in time, and they've got all of it in the 'verse.
It's not terribly long before he climaxes, and she just lets him ride it out before she pulls away, going for her wine and grinning at him. Catching his breath, Simon just announces, "Mmm," in so simple a way they both laugh. She curls up next to him and he runs his hand through her hair.
"Bein' wonderful as you are, think it's deserved," she tells him plainly, pressing her lips to his cheek.
"I'd class you as wonderful, too," he says, pulling her closer to him with a content sigh.
Suddenly, she declares, "We get t'have this the rest of our lives."
"We do," he agrees.
"Guessin' River already knows ya intended this," she giggles.
"Well, not this, exactly," he corrects, raising a playful eyebrow at her. She's again overwhelmed with just how much she loves him when he does things like that; she knows it's only her that's gotten it so. "But yes. She swore not to tell the others."
"When're we gonna?" she asks. "Ain't in a hurry, but it'll need t'be said."
"We ought to do it soon," he muses. "I imagine putting it off too long will just arouse suspicion and possibly tempers."
"An' cranky as it'll get Cap'n, it'd be worse if we tried t'keep it secret," she adds.
"Well, stubborn a bit," she shrugs. "Reckon 'Nara'll keep him from gettin' too bad, but he's like t'get a smidge protective."
"That's fair, I suppose? It'll - it will be aimed at me, won't it?" he asks.
"Uh-huh," Kaylee says. "He's gotta look after my honor an' such, or feels so, 'cause of my daddy and brothers ain't here. So I'm guessin'."
"How soon will you tell them?" he exclaims. "Should I expect threatening letters? Should I dread my meeting them?"
"Aw, they'll play nice," she chirps. Once she tells them to, anyway. "Long's I'm satisfied, they'll be all right."
"Will you want to have the ceremony back at your home, with your family?" Simon questions.
She has to take a moment to think on that. "I dunno," she says finally. "Bein' able to would mean lots, but s'far off, innit?"
He nods. "You said you didn't have many fantasies about it, but is there anything you've figured out?"
"Nothin' really," she muses. "'Round home, ain't ever much. Usually a few Bible words're read, there's dancin' after? Maybe flowers put about an' whatever kinda pie's in season?"
"If you'd like that, I think it sounds very nice," he nods. "Or if you'd like something else entirely. We've the time to sort it out." Then, a dry chuckle. "Rest assured, you'll not have to go through the sticky business of meeting your in-laws."
"Never ever?" she asks quietly.
"As far as I'm concerned," he sighs, "They've given up that privilege."
She understands, she really does, but it still makes her sad. "S'fine, àirén," she assures. "Whatever mothers do in weddings, we'll, I dunno. Ask Zoe or somethin'? We can figure it."
"We've got the time, yes," he repeats, his expression clouding a bit. He knows it's all right, he knows River's confirmed it, but he still has to say it's on his mind. "I'm sorry I can't give you everything, wŏ qīnai. Whether it matters or not, I still do wish."
"Promise I ain't even worried 'bout it," she tells him. "We'll make a life however we gotta, but it'll be with each other, that's what counts."
"Each other and… and."
"And whatever family comes along," she agrees, voice quiet. Maybe now's not the time to think about it, but she has thought about it. She wants him to know it.
"I love you," he says again, nuzzling into her.
"I love you, too," she murmurs.
A moment passes in silence and snuggling, and then he's giving her the look. A permissive nod, and he adjusts himself over top of her. "I'll never get enough of you," he whispers, grinning.
"Oh, you," she says with a laugh.
Arranged there between her thighs, he's thinking he's going to make this last. He wants her now, and it's clear she's feeling the same, but he's determined to take it slow and gentle. Each look she gives him, each sigh that passes her lips, gets him harder; each curious expression on his face gets her wetter. But there's no rush, no urgency; anyway, it's nicer when it comes after a wait sometimes.
Before he enters her, he leans to kiss her; they're not taking eyes off each other, and the neverending eye contact makes it that much more intense somehow. There are coy smiles, moans, kisses, but no words for the first while, moving their hips and touching each other every which way. He changes his angle as he thrusts and she can't help but whimper when he finds the rightest of them, a noise he can't help but react to.
"Do you know," he begins, "How much you turn me on?" He's tracing around her clit as he speaks, a bit teasingly, and when he finds it, he strokes at varying speeds. She moans full on, and he just adds, "That, băobĕi, you…"
He keeps it up, and Kaylee just gasps. "Wŏ de tiān a, Simon…"
"Kaylee," he sighs, going faster and faster now, all attempts at carefulness forgotten. "Mĕilì de gūniang, wŏ yīshēng de zhìài…"
"Wŏ de nánrén, wŏ de ài," she breathes, running her hands down his back.
Pace still quickening, they keep up going, reduced to wordless sighs as they're closer and closer still, and soon he's brought her with a low wail; his release follows moments after.
"You're amazing," she pants.
"So are you," he smiles, rolling to cuddle her again. Those candles are still flickering, and as Kaylee adjusts, the light catches on her ring. "It's really going to happen," he whispers in her ear. "We're really going to be married."
"We really are," she says. "Dunno I ever been so happy."
"Me too," he returns. "Forever spent with you."
"A right shiny thought."
mèimei; "little sister"
gēgē; "big brother"
băobĕi; "darling,"sweetheart," etc.
wŏ de ài"my love"
àirén; also means "sweetheart"
wŏ qīnai"my dear"
wŏ de tiān a;essentially "oh my god"
mĕilì de gūniang; "beautiful girl"
wŏ yīshēng de zhìài; "love of my life"
wŏ de nánrén; "my man"