Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Notta. Nothin'. I write only for pleasure, so please don't track me down, drag me away, and toture me for their use. Please.
Story: Some things start with an ending. (OneShot, MalInara/SimonKaylee/Rayne, Angst w/ Character Death...BE WARNED)
Timeline: Post-Serenity (Series and BDM)
Spoilers: Any of the series and BDM
Author: Skychaser


The End of the Beginning

"Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." - Winston Churchill


All good things must come to an end.

Isn't that what they said? Of course, Malcolm Reynolds wondered exactly who 'they' was, but he didn't doubt that 'they' were more than right. In fact, he himself happened to be walking through that end right now.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with but a single step." Inara Serra Reynolds laid a comforting hand on the side of her husband's arm. "Confucius. Old Chinese philosopher. Rouge against the government. Cared more about people than possessions. You'd like him."

"Hmm. Ya reckon so?"

"I do." Inara picked her arm from its position on his shoulder and slipped it around his waist. Mal turned a weary gaze to the outside where empty stars lie beyond a rocky shoal and an atmosphere full of vapor.

"Home," River's voice whispered through his mind, a soft chime on a wind that wasn't there. "Little ones need to settle, be used to land beneath their feet."

He saw the sad stare that pulled on Kaylee's lips, her finger pushing at an immobile panel of steel.

"She won't turn no more Captain. She just ... stopped."

"Stopped?"

"Stopped. Ain't goin. Won't spin. Power core ain't goin' from here to there."

"Can you fix 'er, lil' Kaylee?"

"Can't nobody fix her, Cap. I think Serenity's just…."

Tired.

They were all tired, pulled together and broken apart by tragedy and loss, a small band of misfits who found hope in each other and a ship. And now life had taken its payment. He turned back to watch Zoë, to find her reaction to his worn out thoughts.

Zoë smiled, her broad, bright eyes and laughing grin shining through. She knew. A hand raised itself against lips and eyes shone with brilliance. Suddenly a line sizzled through and the bluish image distorted, only to return in its intensity a few moments later.

Mal dropped his gaze, his hand coming to rest upon a line weary forehead as he mentally brushed back tears. He turned then, lifting his arm above Inara's head and stepping off to leave, not truly caring at that moment as a fine powder flew off of the shovel he swung to his shoulder.

Seemed appropriate Serenity would choose t' give out here, of all places, where buried friends rested in the slim soil.

Haven.

What a name.


Mal brushed past Kaylee, whose face lie buried in Simon's chest; her soft, sobbing gasps inaudible to any but those who tried to hear. Simon's features were twisted in pain for his wife, his heart and mind wrenched yet placated by the last expression he saw echo through her. She had no will to stay any longer.

A small, soft hand hung by his right side, and he felt the grip tighten ever so slightly.

"Daddy," she whispered, her voice faint on the evening breeze. He could hear the desperation in his daughter's voice and Simon grasped a little tighter. An innocent, toddling two-year-old had no experience with death.

Inara watched as her husband paced away, his outline darkening in the distance, a bleak, unwelcoming figure that stood for no interruption. She sighed, her breath joining with the breeze as she closed her eyes, meditating on the sudden caress of the soul that swept through her heart. She was there. She was happy. She was where she belonged. Now only Mal needed to see.

River stared after, her eyes alight and alive, a downturned smile playing with her features while she listened to the wind as it echoed, speaking through the hollows in the rocks. River felt Jayne's arms press softly against her stomach as keenly as the white skirt that drifted against her knees and knew.

She had been waiting. She had been waiting for the moment and then it had come. No one had known she'd been waiting, waiting for her opportunity. Simon saw it. Saw it in her eyes and in her face. Inara felt it. Felt it in the wind and in her hand as she let go. River knew it. Knew it as soon as the iron had pierced cold flesh, the relief that swept through her mind. Jayne understood, in only the way Jayne could. Kaylee heard and believed, although she couldn't let go. Serenity said it was time.

But he couldn't accept. Accept that she had her way. Accept that things were right. Accept that life was good.

Jayne rested his arms around River's stomach, content that the world was right. He wasn't rightly sure exactly how, but he just knew it was. A sudden, sharp tug on his beard caused him to sputter.

"Hey!" he whispered loudly, releasing River to rub his sore jowl. He glanced up as she smirked at him lightly and clasped his hand, slowly tugging on his wrist and coercing him into following their estranged captain.


He hadn't spoken to anyone but 'Nara. From St. Albans to Haven, while his first officer and best friend lay dead in a box in the bottom of his cargo hold, his mind didn't seem to function. But now it functioned plenty good, and a burnin' rage to get Serenity in the air and set an end to his journey and those that had put an end to hers flamed in his chest. His jaw set jagged, his ragged brown coat swinging around his ankles as his pistol burned against his side.

"Time for peace. Not ends."

Mal tensed as the voice drifted from behind, erupting in his ears inside the thick silence that had encased him. He opened his mouth to speak, the words feeling as heavy as molasses against his tongue.

"Is that right? I'm sure certain you, lil'Albatross, of all people would understand when ends come. And I'm not completely certain, but I'm right sure that back there, that's an end."

"Ain't no end Mal." Mal jumped as Jayne's voice echoed from behind him as well. "We ain't dead yet and….uh…well… dyin' don't 'xactly sound appealin' to me right now."

Mal ground his jaw together as he faced the setting sun, its hot red rays beginning to sink into the dusty desert sand.

"Serenity speaks." River addressed Mal calmly, despite the orange and brown rage that flowed from his every pore. He could feel the sharpness of her soft and large brown eyes boring through his soul. "Her little ones need serenity."

"It ain't the end, Mal," Jayne held, his voice a little louder than River's as he grasped her tiny hand in his own. "'S only the beginnin' a' somethin' new, an' the end a' what was a beginnin'. Don't matter Serenity can't fly. We still got ours, each a' us. And we still got each other. And….uh…well….I suppose that's gotta be somethin'."

Mal could almost laugh, had it actually been funny. Crazy girl and crazy man, both tellin' him that it wasn't over. Sad thing is, despite all their philosophizin', he knew they were right.

Mal felt Inara's presence before she spoke, her voice carrying soft like incense.

"She was Serenity, Mal, and no one knew that better than you. When Wash left, he left behind what made Serenity fly–in Zoë. Now it's time to move on. She's with him now, and Serenity doesn't need to fly. She can rest. They both can rest. Together." Inara placed a soft hand on Mal's lower back as she walked around to stand in front of him, her arm encircling his waist.

"You still have us. We're a family. We're your family, all of us. And now, I think Serenity is right. I think it's time we settled down for a while." Inara placed one hand on her flat stomach as she glanced over Mal's shoulder to capture River's eye, a small smile crossing her lips.

Mal sighed as his gaze glistened in the setting sun, a round, red ball of fire that extinguished as it slipped beneath the horizon. He turned his eyes to Inara and placed one hand on her back, the other falling to her stomach.

"The little ones need t' learn t' settle, t' become used t' the land that they got beneath their feet."

River smiled, pressing her back against Jayne and leaning into his embrace, watching the sun set on the old, anticipating its rise on the new.

"Precisely."


Now is the time, if you feel that this story is worthy of your approval, a nice review would be well appreciated. And just might feed my muse, so I get back on my LOOOOONNNGGG forgotten story, Sands of Time. ;) Love y'all!!!