Relaxing back against Simon's chest as they watched the stars in the brilliant night sky, Kaylee wondered why'd she been so flustered earlier.
It was the perfect the date.
Serenity'd been on Gibson's Planet for forty-eight hours to make repairs and take on supplies- -and do a little shady business. They were scheduled to lift off the next day, that is if Kaylee could get the engine intakes cleaned out of the gunk from that asteroid they'd had to hide on for a week.
Butt in the air, headfirst down a tight shaft, she was humming to herself, and failed to notice that she was no longer alone until a hand brushed against her back. Jerking, she cracked her head on the top of the shaft, then slid out, grimacing. On spying Simon looking chagrined, she flushed and rubbed her head.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to startle you."
"It's okay. I wasn't paying attention to anything but Serenity." Kaylee patted a valve and glanced at the hand that had been in her hair.
It was covered with green dust.
"Oops." She shook her head sending dust flying.
"So...will this be our last night on the planet?" Simon asked, stepping back to avoid getting showered with green particles.
"Should be, if the captain gets his business done."
"Have you had a chance to see anything?"
"Nah, but that's okay."
He shuffled his feet awkwardly and rubbed the back of his neck, a nervous gesture she found enchanting. "Maybe we could...maybe you'd like..." He took a deep breath. "Would you like to go out to dinner? There are a few surprisingly elegant restaurants."
"Uh..sure." She smiled brilliantly, and he smiled back.
"This is a mistake," Kaylee groaned, flopping onto Inara's bed. She'd bathed and was wrapped in a robe, her hair only half-dry but no longer dusty.
Inara smiled sweetly and nudged Kaylee back up so she could sit behind her and brush the tangles from the younger girl's hair. "Why?"
"Remember that ball? All the girls there were so snooty and looked down on me. Those are the kind of girls, the kind of places Simon's used to. I ain't going to fit in. See? Ain't."
"Simon doesn't care about any of that."
"He used to."
"He's grown up, Kaylee. He asked you out because he wants to be with you."
Kaylee twisted her head around, a wistful look on her face. "You sure?"
"Of course," Inara chuckled. "I do know what men want, remember?" She turned Kaylee's head back around and returned to brushing the fine brown hair.
"I have nothing to wear."
"You can borrow something of mine."
Shaking her head, Kaylee sighed again. "I'd look like a goose in your gorgeous clothes."
Rapping the brush lightly against Kaylee's head, Inara replied, "We're going to work on this self-esteem problem you have."
"Can you work a miracle in just under two hours?"
"I'll do my best."
Leaving Kaylee to rummage through her costume jewelry, Inara slipped from her quarters and made her way to the medical suite. Simon was alone, polishing some instruments. At her entrance, he glanced up and smiled.
"I hope you're not in need of my services."
"I'm fine, thank you. I just came to...chat. I understand you have a date with Kaylee." Inara forced back a grin as the good doctor blushed.
"Um, yes. I thought...well, we've been dancing around each other..."
The Companion interrupted him gracefully, "You don't need to explain, Simon. I'm happy for both of you. Kaylee is a wonderful young woman, though a bit...unworldly."
"That's what I like about her. I know I hurt her once, came off as quite the snob, but I was very wrong. She's a breath of fresh air, a true...delight." Caught waxing poetic, Simon blushed deeper and returned to polishing the tools of his trade.
"Where are you planning to take her? If I may be so bold..."
"There's a wonderful little bistro I found, elegant but not too stuffy."
Inara nodded and took a few steps towards him until she could brush her fingertips across his arm, stilling his movements. "May I make a suggestion?" At his nod, she continued, "Take her somewhere you can just be yourselves. No three forks and four wine glasses and food she can't pronounce."
"I wouldn't..." Simon cut off and frowned. "There were white linen cloths on the tables and the menu was in French." He sighed and sank back against his examining table. "I'm just naturally drawn to those kind of places. I was born and raised to that level of refinement. It's hard to adjust to something...less."
"I know, but it's harder for Kaylee to adjust to something more. You don't have to take her to a saloon or the races. How about a picnic beneath the stars?"
Simon's troubled look fled and a wide smile crossed his face.
"Are you sure this is fancy enough?" Kaylee asking, twirling back and forth in front of Inara's full-length mirror and examining the knee-length pale blue sundress. It had a sprinkling of pearls across the bodice, but otherwise was very simple. Inara had found a pair of matching slippers and a white silk shawl decorated with blue and white Chinese figures, then helped Kaylee apply light make-up and put her hair up in a simple knot.
"Yes, it's perfect. You look so beautiful." Smiling, Inara hugged Kaylee, and whispered, "You have a wonderful time tonight."
"You don't think there'll be fingerbowls or something horrid like that will there?"
Laughing, the older woman shooed her friend from her quarters.
Simon waited for Kaylee outside the shuttle, wearing a simple white shirt tucked into navy trousers, unwittingly matching her. His eyes widened at the sight of her and he offered her his arm. "You look wonderful."
"So do you," she replied, flushing. "So...I'm dressed okay?"
"Perfect. I hope you enjoy tonight. I haven't done this in years." At her look, he just grinned. "It's a surprise."
A carriage awaited them outside the ship and Simon helped Kaylee into the seat, then gave the driver instructions before joining her. The sun was just setting and the streets were growing busy with those out to share the lovely summer evening. The carriage rolled down the cobbled street towards a large, well-lit park.
As they entered the park and began to pass a lake dotted with swans and ducks, Kaylee gave Simon another look, but he just smiled and took her hand. After a few minutes, the carriage stopped and Simon helped his companion down, then paid the driver.
"What are we doing here?" Kaylee glanced around, looking for a restaurant, and let herself be guided onto the soft grass and over to a willow tree next to the lake. A white cloth was spread beneath the boughs, and a picnic basket sat next to a young boy who scampered off after Simon paid him. "I don't get it."
"It's a picnic."
"I can see that, but..." She shook her head, but couldn't help but smile. "Simon?"
"I decided that instead of a crowded restaurant, I want to sit with you by this peaceful lake, have wine and cheese and I think there's some cold chicken in there, and watch the stars come out." He tugged her down to the cloth and opened the hamper. On top was a small bouquet of violets and pansies. "These reminded me of you when I saw them at the market."
Kaylee took the flowers from him with a trembling hand and brought them to her face. "They're wonderful and smell so good. I...Simon, I can't believe you did this." She looked around, saw a few other couples also enjoying picnics, then placed the flowers aside and started taking food out of the hamper. "You mentioned wine?"
Grinning, Simon found the bottle and opened it, pouring two glasses as he watched her spread out the fruit, cheese, crackers and meat.
"Is this cheesecake?" she gaped.
"I love strawberries."
Taking the glass he offered her, Kaylee leaned forward from her knees and kissed him lightly. "You are a wonder, Dr. Tam."
Simon tasted her on his lips and murmured back, "No, that would be you."
"So, you used to go on picnics like this?" Kaylee asked, snuggling in his arms as they leaned against the tree.
"In college, but I never had a companion as wonderful as you."
"I bet those girls were all so sophisticated," she said a bit wistfully.
"Yes, but they also never appreciated the picnics all that much, either. I loved being outdoors, sitting next to a lake, watching the stars, drinking wine. My friends usually preferred clubs and restaurants. They missed a lot, never looking up at the sky. You look at the sky."
"Kinda have to. It's where I belong."
"Me, too," he replied, leaning down to kiss her ear.
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