"Keng hay fat choy!" Your merry words ring across the mess hall, as you trip over your own feet and stumble into the captain's arms. He laughs at you.
"You wished me a happy new year already."
"Sure I did," you agree. "But twice the good wishes, twice the good luck. Don't you think?"
"We could use ourselves some good luck this year," Mal says. He is looking across the room as he says this, at River and Simon, sitting together underneath a paper red lantern. River is giggling.
You turn to follow his gaze. "I dunno, cap'n. I think maybe our good luck already came. We just didn't know it yet."
Mal looks down on you with a slight smile. "Kaylee, I think that you're a mite drunk."
"Ain't even." You shake your head solemnly at him. "But just the same, I think I might go to bed now." You glance back across the room, where River is sitting alone, singing to herself. Simon has disappeared. "And I think maybe it's time for you to go to bed as well."
There had been champagne at the party. Not very good champagne, but still the real stuff, bubbly and sweet. Jayne had acquired it on Serenity's last stop. He wouldn't say how.
And now the gorram bubbles have gone straight to your head. You have just managed to get into your quarters without falling down, when you hear a soft voice behind you.
"Keng hay fat choy."
"River!" You spin around, surprised to see her.
Her hands are extended towards you. She is holding a small box, wrapped in red paper.
Your mouth forms an "oh" in surprise. The crew all promised not to exchange gifts; no one could afford them. Instead everyone pooled a few coins to decorate the ship in lanterns and lights, and to pay for the food at dinner. This agreement had been stuck to by everyone except Wash, who surprised Zoe with something in a tiny box that they wouldn't let the rest of the crew see, just said goodnight and ran back to their quarters.
You are slow in unwrapping the box, delicately fighting with the knotted string which binds the paper.
"Just rip it."
"I can't rip it. It's too pretty. I wanna save it and keep it..." your voice trails off, aware that River is laughing at you. She's so beautiful when she laughs, like a star finding its way home. She waits patiently as you untangle the knots, lay aside the string for later, and fold the pretty paper into neat squares. Then you open the box.
Inside sit six plump, perfect strawberries. You can barely believe your eyes. "River, where did you find these? They must have cost..."
She lifts her hand and touches it to your mouth, stopping you mid-sentence. River is never afraid to let you know when you are talking too much.
"They're so red. It's almost a shame to eat 'em." You tilt the box towards her. "Do you want one?"
She shakes her head. "I want to watch you eat them."
You pick up the one on the left. When you bite into it the juice spills over your tongue, so sweet that you gasp. "It's delicious." You eat another, and another, each one an explosion of flavour, cool and sharp. River is watching you, her eyes following each movement of your fingers and mouth. You pick up the fourth strawberry and hold it out towards her. "Are you sure that you don't want one?"
River opens her mouth. You place the berry on her tongue, and she closes her pink lips, biting the fruit off the stem. Red juice trickles down your fingers. Her eyes widen as she tastes it.
"They're good, aren't they?"
She nods, wordless. She holds your hand in hers and licks the juice from your fingers, then with her other hand picks up a strawberry and feeds it to you. You open your mouth, bite, chew. She watches you for a moment, your eyes caught in her gaze, then leans forward and kisses you. Her mouth is ripe and sweet, and the taste makes you dizzy. You pull her towards you, hungrily.
With juice-stained fingers you unbutton her shirt. You need her now, all of her, and her gasp as you stroke small firm breasts tell you that she needs you too. Her nipples harden underneath your palm. You bend your head and taste salty smooth skin, mixed with the sweetness of strawberries.
River has arched her back against you. You kiss her bare shoulders and neck, up to the curve of her ears and down again, licking her bellybutton and on past.
She is lying on her back on the floor as you pull up her skirt, to reveal milk white thighs, dark hair, no panties. You push your hand between, to spread her thighs apart, then rub the flat of your palm against her, listening in satisfaction as she gasps.
When you reach two fingers inside of her, she is pink and moist, glistening like a strawberry. You increase your movement, find her rhythm, feel her react and grind against you. Her breaths come faster as you reach down and taste her, pushing and teasing her with your tongue. Her bare feet push against your back. You push your fingers deeper inside, harder now. River jerks sharply, once, twice, then climaxes. She is calling your name.
You laugh and crawl up to hold her and kiss her, letting her taste her own salt on your lips. "Happy new year, sweetie."
She smiles and reaches over to pick up the last strawberry, pressing it your lips. "Happy new year."