Notes: Mal/River, post-Serenity. Joss Whedon's, not mine.
Love keeps her flying, Mal says.
Mal says a lot of things, mostly in his head where he thinks no one can find them. But River can, and does.
She doesn't like to poke around in people's heads, really, but Mal is an exception. He's the only one she reads because she wants to, not because she has no choice. It's the only way with him to really know what's going on.
His impure thoughts make her giggle, until she runs across a stray one about her. Her eyes widen and the ship jolts as she accidentally hits the button above her head. It takes a lot to shock River these days, and she silently commends Mal for achieving the near-impossible.
Mal likes to think of himself as a father-figure to her and the rest of the crew, but he's not her father, not really. And she's never thought of him that way. In fact, when she gets over the initial shock, the idea sounds kind of shiny, as Kaylee would say.
She turns her head slowly. Mal has taken to keeping her company in the extra pilot seat sometimes. Without warning, River leans over and kisses him, hard, on the mouth.
When she pulls away, he asks, "What are you doin', little albatross?"
"Flying," she says without pulling her eyes away from him.
He chuckles quietly. "Lìngrén jingyì, darlin'. I guess you are, at that."