"A Little Adjustment"

Summary: After Miranda, the crew of Serenity faces a few "little" adjustments after another memorable visit to Persephone.

Author's Note: Post-Serenity, so both Wash and Shepard are dead. If you read my profile, and my other stories, you'll see that I write father/son fics. This one is no different. In the show, Mal always acted fatherly towards Kaylee and River, but never to Simon. This fic will mostly center on their relationship as it forms into something closely resembling father and son. Also, I'd like to apologize for the typos in the first chapter. Sorry ;)

Warning: Spanking in this story. If this bothers you, DO NOT READ THIS STORY OR REVIEW IT.

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters or this concept. I'm just borrowing them for entertainment purposes.

Chapter 18: Moving Forward

They buried Kaylee on her home planet, but her true funeral was held on the planet where they had erected the memorials for Wash, Shepard, and Mr. Universe. Kaylee's memorial showed a picture of her true self, rather than the twelve year old they had buried.

They all stared at the hologram image of the sweet smiling young woman who had touched all their lives and improved it just by being herself.

Simon hadn't spoken to anyone, not even River, since Mal had carried him off the Alliance cruiser where they had left all the bodies.

Mal had only spoken to issue orders, ignoring everyone otherwise.

Inara had remained in her shuttle, allowing her grief to run its course.

River had remained at her brother's side, offering what comfort she could.

Jayne had stayed out of the way, his own pain at Kaylee's death nearly outweighing the guilt he felt over it. He hadn't kept his word to Mal, and he even now was waiting for the moment when the captain would decide to dump him out the air lock again. He wouldn't beg this time. He deserved it, after all.

Zoë had stayed at the helm, feeling comfort in sitting in her dead husband's seat. She knew that he and Kaylee were together now and somehow that made her feel somewhat better. She still grieved, in her own way, but at least she knew that wherever Wash was it was now a much happier place because of the chipper young mechanic.

As they all stared at the memorial, Mal glanced over at Inara. Even dressed in a black mourning gown, her hair pulled back into severe bun over which was a black veil, and her face tear stained she looked beautiful to him.

"Marry me?" he asked her, quietly.

She pulled back the veil and looked at him. "What?" she asked with her eyes wide with shock.

"Marry me?" he repeated.

The others were staring at him in total shock, as well.

"Mal," Inara said, "I don't think now…"

He cut her off. "Why not?" he asked, gulping. "Now is the only time we're guaranteed, Inara. Who knows how long it'll be before our faces joins theirs?" He pointed to the stone memorials.

"You're serious," she breathed, realizing he was truly asking her to be his wife.

"Dead serious," he replied, his throat nearly closing with emotion. "I ain't wastin' no more time, Inara. I love you, and I want to marry you."

"Yes," she replied, the grief upon her heart lifting somewhat. It would always be there, but it wasn't as oppressing as before.

"Great," he said, reaching for her hand.

"What now?" Simon asked, looking at both of them.

"I feel like headin' home," Mal said, "to Shadow."

"Why?" the boy asked.

Mal shrugged. "I think I'd like to get married where my ma raised me," he said. "I'd like you kids to see it. If that's all right with you?"

Inara smiled. "I'd like that," she said, tightening her grip on her hand.

"Then let's go," he said, and together they turned to head back toward the ship.

Jayne and Zoë followed, but River and Simon remained behind.

"Is everything going to be all right?" Simon asked his sister.

River looked at him. "Everything changes, Simon," she told him, reaching for his hand. "Time continues to move forward. There is no going back."

"No," he agreed, staring at Kaylee's memorial, "there isn't."

"We must all move forward with it," she continued, "or we'll always be afraid to face what's coming."

Simon nodded. "C'mon, River," he said, gesturing toward Serenity, "let's go home."

River smiled back. "She's happy, Simon," she told him, "are you?"

Simon thought about that. "I'm sad, River," he told her, honestly, "but otherwise, yes. I'm happy. I'm happy that we now have true home and that we have a family that loves us."

"Me, too," River said.

"Good," Simon said, squeezing her hand. "C'mon, before "Pa" comes out yelling."

"He's only ever yelled at you," River reminded him, teasingly.

Simon chuckled. "You're still a brat," he told her, as they turned and headed back to the ship.

"You're still a boob," she told him, and then smacked him on the shoulder, "and you're it!" With that, she let go of his hand and took off.

Simon stood there for a moment, but then he smiled and took off after her. They raced up the ramp and into the ship, stopping as Mal stood there with his arms crossed.

River came to halt, but Simon couldn't stop and plowed into her. They both landed at the captain's feet.

He looked down at them with a raised an eyebrow. "Am I gonna have ta separate you two?" he asked them.

River and Simon looked at each other and laughed. "No, sir," they answered together.

Mal smiled. "All right then," he said, "carry on, but not too loud." With that, he hit the hatch button to raise the ramp.

He stared as he watched Jayne settle down to clean his guns, Inara join River and Simon at their game, and of course Zoë was heading up to the cockpit to get them on their own their way.

He felt his heart twist as he felt Kaylee's absence, but he pushed that down. He'd always miss his little girl, but he knew she would want them to move forward with their lives.

Yes, he thought smiling, we'll move forward. We'll just have to make a few more little adjustments.

The End.

So, Sequel?