River sat on the bridge staring wistfully out into the Black. It was so calm and peaceful, stretching out endlessly into infinity. She wished she could be as calm and peaceful but right now her thoughts were swirling. She sighed and leaned back into the chair, hugging her legs against her chest as she tried to find solace from the endless expanse.
"What was that sigh for, albatross?" Mal walked onto the bridge and leaned against the console. He flashed her a brilliant smile as he folded his arms across his chest. River blushed and looked away.
"It's so pretty out there," she replied, trying not to look the cause of her inner storm in the eyes.
A few weeks ago she had begun to notice this strange effect her Captain had on her. Every time he looked at her and smiled, she felt her cheeks grow hot and her stomach flutter. Whenever he came into the room, her stomach did flip-flops and she was less than eloquent. It was quite unnerving and she wasn't sure what to make of it, especially since he was smiling at her more often now. At first she had thought she was simply noticing it more, but as she collated the data obtained from previous interactions she noted that he was indeed smiling more often at her and when he was in her presence. This could only mean one thing.
River narrowed her eyes at Mal, who was now staring out into the Black as well. He knew the way she was feeling! She had always suspected him of having a slight Reader ability and this confirmed it. He had purposefully been doing the very things that made her flustered. He was probably laughing at her silly little crush when she wasn't around. Mortified, River quickly looked away and stared down at the console.
"It's not just pretty, it's beautiful," he said. Something in his voice made River glance up and the look on his face took her breath away. He was no longer staring out into space, but down at her with an intensity that almost frightened her. River swallowed thickly at the look of desire evident in his eyes.
"I should go see what Simon's doing," River said as she stood to leave the bridge. Mal reached out and grabbed her arm before she could go very far.
"River," he said. It was so quiet, it was almost a whisper. Mal drew her closer to his body and placed his other hand on her waist.
"River, tell me if I've been dreaming it," he continued. River stared up at him and came to a shocking realization.
He wanted her.
River shook her head and stepped closer, tilting her head.
"No dreams," she said.
Mal could feel the warmth of her breath on his face as he bent down and gently touched his lips to hers. The kiss grew in intensity as weeks of hidden feelings bubbled to the surface. As they separated, Mal smiled the same smile that gave River butterflies.
"So beautiful," he said as he leaned his forehead against hers. River melted into his embrace and the universe was calm.