EPILOGUE

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters or this universe.

River woke; exhaled a slow, steadying breath. Her mind automatically sought distance from the dream. She used the sound of Mal's pulse surrounding her and and his breath against the skin of her shoulder to anchor herself in reality.

There had been vision in the dream. The warmth of it still thickened the air around her as she stared up at the ceiling. With gentle strokes River set about untwisting her dream from Mal's, but his thoughts and feelings were mingling too closely with hers.

She carefully freed herself from Mal's sleep-heavy embrace and pulled one of his shirts over her underwear before climbing out of his quarters. The farther away from him she walked, the clearer the truth became.

River let her hand caress Serenity, needing to touch something he loved as much as she did, needing courage to look into this inevitable fortune. She wouldn't question it. She would travel this path without a fight; River would grow and she would live up to it.

The best laid plans...

She stopped in the middle of the ship's great womb and listened to the sound of her own heartbeat... loved how strong and whole it had become; loved most how his voice affected it's rhythm.

"Nightmare, darlin'?" River looked over her shoulder as her Captain slid his arms and his love securely around her.

She nestled against him, still looking into the future with wonder, "Just untangling a complication."

"Feel like sharing?" Mal's voice hummed into her ear.

"Too much light to even grasp," she insisted and then smiled as the statement caused his teeth to grind together in frustration. As both Captain and lover, Mal tried to shared the burden of her gift because he understood the gravity of ignored warnings. But River wanted the strain to melt away from him again, needed his support, not his command. She craned her neck so that she could kiss his jaw - reassure him,"Sorry, the riddles are ripe at dawn."

She felt him take in her meaning and slowly the pressure on his mind loosened,"It's okay, I'm beginning to think you can't help it." He kissed her ear gently and then her neck lingeringly. His hands slid from her sides to her stomach and he misinterpreted her shiver, "Anyone likely to interrupt us here?"

"No," River twisted in his arms to put her arms around him, trembled at the intent in his mind. She looked up at him with challenge dark in her eyes, "I have your shirt."

Mal's lips twisted into a smile as he started unfastening buttons, "And I'll be having it back now."

His desire flowing through her in waves took away her breath while the vision still tumbled in her thoughts, "I love you."

Mal paused just a moment to look into her eyes and she knew he was looking for warning, fear or worry - some hint that the dream she'd had needed to be told. She shook her head, answering him silently. Satisfied, he murmured, "I love you too," as he eased her down to the cold metal and kissed her as though nothing else mattered in the universe. And at that moment, River knew that nothing did. You're everything. He didn't need to say it this time.

The vision sharp now in her mind, River arched against him and his right hand caressed the skin that would one day stretch as his child grew within her. Strength, Hope, Love, Future, Life... This is everything.

The End

A/N: Thank you for reading and reviewing. Just a note - I didn't necessarily intend to say that that this meeting would lead to conception... but it's certainly more poetic if it did. The problem I have with that is timing - i.e. this is supposed to be set pretty early in their relationship... and I didn't want it to imply that River manipulated the situation - i.e. If I know that I'm going to conceive a child this night and the timing might not be right because I'm never safe from an evil empire and we live on a smuggling ship - why not just not let things go there this night. So the vision was supposed to be that she would have his child/be a family at some point and that whatever precautions they use in this time basically would fail. IF however, a reader or myself enjoys the poetic nature of this being the moment, then assume it's been some time later when circumstances may not have changed much but everyone has had time to bond, grow, etc.