EPILOGUE

"Mal."

River's whispered voice jerked Mal awake in an instant. "Huh? What—trouble?" He struggled to get his eyes to adjust to the darkness.

River giggled softly, and he could see her now, propped on her side as she faced him in their bed. "No."

Mal started to relax, hooking his arm around River and pulling her toward him. She sighed contentedly and curled against him, cheek to his chest. "Why the wake-up call, then?" He felt the tickle of her eyelashes and the press of her lips to his collarbone.

"It's past midnight," River murmured, trailing her fingers up and down his side.

Mal chuckled as he realized— "Four months."

River leaned back slightly so she could smile at him. "Four months."

"You plannin' on wakin' me up for every month we're married?"

"Yes." River wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. "I have to think of something big for every year we're married, though," she said between kisses.

Wrapping his other arm around her, Mal rolled to his back, pulling River with him. Her hair curtained her face and spread over Mal's shoulders, and her whole face radiated her happiness. She leaned down to kiss him again, and Mal gave into it completely. If she was going to wake him up, this sure wasn't a bad thing to wake up to.

A short time later, they laid together in a tangle of limbs and sheets. Mal was feeling drowsy again, but River was wide awake, curling and uncurling her toes against his leg and studying him with something akin to anticipation.

"I got a notion you ain't goin' back to sleep," he murmured, brushing her hair off her cheek.

"I'm not sleepy," she replied with a quick grin. She rubbed her nose against his. "Do you want to fly with me?"

Mal raised his eyebrows at her. "Now?"

"Mm-hmm." River practically bounced with anticipation. "We'll be coming to Shadow in a while."

Shadow. It was the first time he was going back there since long before he'd met River. She had wanted to see where he'd grown up, meet some of the folks that'd raised him. "Still got a few hours before the proximity alert wakes us for that," Mal said.

"I know. But I want to fly us the rest of the way. I want to feel the world coming, see it before we're already there." River rolled to her knees and took his hand. "Come with me?"

Mal sighed. He could either get a few more hours of sleep or make his wife happy—not much of a choice there. "You're still a crazy woman, you know that?"

River grinned at him, swinging out of bed and grabbing her robe. "Yes. And you still love me for it."

His lips twitched into a small smile. "I'll get the coffee."

River beamed and tossed Mal his pants before scrambling up the ladder. She was already settling in the cockpit when Mal emerged from their bunk. A very strange, pungent smell permeated the air along the corridor, and it got worse as he headed for the kitchen. He made the coffee as fast as he could and carried two cups back to the bridge. "Kaylee's been cookin' again." He stopped by her chair and handed her one of the cups.

River nodded as she took her coffee in one hand and wrapped her free arm around his waist. "Mushrooms and onions."

"Last time she was pregnant it was tomatoes and potatoes." Mal said. "This happens again, I think we should all run for the hills. Don't think my boat'll ever smell the same."

River looked up at him, a smile playing across her face. "You don't really mind. You're happy when Kaylee's happy."

"Yeah, well, keepin' the crew happy keeps the boat runnin' smooth," Mal muttered.

River smirked at him, her expression telling him that he absolutely wasn't fooling anyone. Of course, he had never been able to fool her. Otherwise they probably wouldn't be here, in the wee hours of the morning, waiting for the first glimpse of Mal's home world, drinking coffee and sharing their lives like this.

And he wouldn't change it for anything in the 'verse.

fin