He got into some fresh clothes and cleaned up the various cuts before going straight back to see River. Simon pushed him out of the room and told him to get some sleep. He sat on the couch right outside. At least he's sitting, Simon thought with a sigh.

Kaylee and Jayne showed up along with Zoe. Kaylee pulled him into a bone crunching hug.

"I knew you'd come back!" she sniffed.

"Can't…breathe…"

She let go of him sheepishly.

"Sorry. 'Cited's all."

"What happened?" Jayne asked.

"Well, River was shot in the leg. They hit be from behind. They said it took three blows to knock me out. When I woke up, we were in some basement. I was handcuffed to the wall and chained to a table. River was 'cross the room. She wasn't movin' or respondin' but when they came in, the Leeches, they said she was alive. Then assh…the guy kicked her. When I wouldn't say where you were, not that I knew, they decided to let me watch her die. I got outta the cuffs, but broke my wrist. Then I made it over to her in time. We worked out a plan, took 'em out, freed the prisoners, took out an entire bar full of guys, waved you, and then waited."

They took a moment to digest it all.

"How's River? How are you?" Zoe asked.

"I'm fine. Just the wrist, luckily. We had to perform surgery on her. She had a punctured lung. The doc's givin' her blood as we speak. She was touch 'n go there for awhile…"

"Wow…Cap'in…that's somethin'. I'm glad you're both here and okay."

"Zoe, we need to get outta-"

"Already done sir. You didn't feel us take off?"

"Must have been busy."

"You need some rest," Kaylee suggested.

"So I've been told by that doc fiancé of yours."

She giggled and then kissed him on the cheek before going to check on Simon and River.

"Sorry I didn't…go back…" Jayne grumbled.

"You both would of been taken. It's good that you left when you did."

Jayne nodded and then left, probably to either work out or get drunk. Mal let out a sigh and leaned back. The day was taking its toll on him.

"By touch and go, you mean…?"

"She died, Zo. Took lots of CPR, but I got her back. I almost lost her."

She heard his voice shaking. He realized that he said I almost lost her instead of, we almost lost her. Zoe smiled at him, catching the slip.

"You care for her, don't you sir?"

"I…is it obvious?"

"A little."

He rubbed his aching forehead.

"My advice is get some sleep and…" she got up and then looked back at him. "…tell her."

"You mean you're in favor of this?"

"You love who you're gonna love."

She left too. He gazed in at River. Simon was sitting beside her, holding her hand. She was still asleep. Tell her. That's what he had said. "I got a lot to say to you that I haven't said, and you need to hear it."

He was able to get some sleep, but not a lot. Kaylee had slipped past him while he was out. Nightmares woke him up. He got up and flew in to make sure she was alive. Simon jumped when he entered.

"Captain, is everything-"

"How's River?"

"She's better. Why did you burst in so suddenly?"

"I just needed to see for myself that she was okay."

"You need to get some-"

"GORRAMIT! WOULD EVERYONE STOP TELLIN' ME TO GET SOME REST? I DON'T WANT TO REST!"

Simon leapt back. It was miracle that he didn't wake River up with his shouting. He pulled a stool over and sat beside her. He reached out and took her other hand. Simon watched, slightly confused.

"Did something happen today to make you so…like this?" Simon asked.

"You can get the story from Kaylee, Jayne, or Zoe, Doc. I don't feel like tellin' it again."

Simon busied himself with stopping the blood transfusion. He had given as much as he could for the time being. Mal watched her sleep peacefully. There was a difference between seeing her sleep and seeing her there…helpless and hurting. Simon saw something in his eyes. He didn't know what it was, but he definitely cared for his mei mei more than he thought he did.

"I'm going to go get something to drink to keep my strength up. You need to eat. I'll get a plate of something for you."

"Thanks."

Simon nodded and then left.

Mal bent down and gently kissed her on the cheek.

"Hey there little one. You're gonna be okay."

She moved a bit and seemed to smile like she heard his voice. He smiled and then set his head beside hers on the table. Then, he slipped into a dreamless and serene sleep. Simon came in only a few minutes later to find Mal sleeping beside his sister. He sighed and set the plate of food aside.

Mal felt the bed shift. His eyes shot open and he sat up, looking down at River. She was waking up. Her eyes opened and the first thing she saw was Mal looking down at her with a smile.

"Told you I'd be here."

"You don't break promises," she yawned.

"I don't. You're gonna be okay."

"I know. I heard you."

He squeezed her hand gently. She smiled before falling back asleep. Simon watched from outside. Mal found the plate of food and ate a little bit before also falling back asleep. Simon had gotten the entire story from Kaylee, well not the entire story. Only Zoe knew that. He was impressed with what they did and that Mal broke his wrist to get to her. Maybe the captain isn't half bad. He thought.

He monitored her for another few days, just to make sure she was okay. Mal rarely left her side. He slept on the other bed or beside her, slumped over on the stool. Simon had to force him to eat. Whenever River woke up, which was becoming more frequent, she instantly looked around for Mal. Once she found him she'd reach out to him if he wasn't already holding her hand. Their new connection was puzzling to Simon. She hadn't reached for him once, or even spoken to him much. She was almost twenty, he had expected her to need him less eventually.

"You can go back to your bed tonight," Simon announced happily.

"That's good. I hate this room and doctors. No offense," River said with a sly grin.

"You brat!" Simon teased.

Mal smiled, not wanting to interrupt the sibling moment. She had been mostly reaching out for him rather than the doc.

"I'll give you a lift to your-"

"No worries doc, I got it."

River smiled as her captain delicately picked her up. She put her arms around his neck, leaning her cheek against his shoulder. It was so much better when they weren't fighting for their lives. He put her down on her bed and got ready to cover her up and then leave.

"Wait."

"What is it, darlin'?"

"I was wondering if you could perhaps stay with me for a little while…"

He smiled and shut the door before going towards the chair in the corner of the room. She looked at him with those big brown eyes like, Closer. He sighed, but it was a happy sigh, and carefully climbed on the bed so he wouldn't hurt her. She curled up in his lap. His grin widened and he gently started stroking her hair.

"Captain?"

"Yes?"

"What did you need me to hear?"

His mouth went dry. "What?"

"I was dying, you were calling to me. I heard you, I just couldn't answer. You said that you had some things you needed me to hear. Have you said them already?"

His heart was racing. She could feel his fear again. The same she felt before they went out on their heist. Then, it lessened as he resumed tenderly stroking her hair.

"I haven't said them yet."

"Now's a good time."

He laughed.

"That it is."

"Well?"

"I'm gettin' there!"

She laughed as much as her aching chest would allow.

"I'm sorry for bein' nervous around you lately. It ain't your fault. I just had some stuff to sort out."

"Have you sorted it out?"

"I have. I don't know when or how, but I got these…feelings. They won't go away and they're real intense. I can't breathe or talk when I feel them."

"That's why you make me dizzy. Strong emotions override thoughts."

"So I figured out. I thought I had lost you and it made me realize I've been dumb."

"It took you this long to figure that out?"

"Hey!"

She smiled.

"Continue."

"I shouldn't have acted like I did 'round you. But you make me act like a school boy. All tongue tied and flushed…" he paused before continuing. "It took me too damn long, but I love you, little one. I should of said, but I couldn't."

It all made sense. The nervousness, the looks, the stray thoughts she heard, how hard he fought to get her back. She looked up at him. He couldn't breathe. It had been awhile sense they had spoken. He was starting to regret telling her, but then she painfully sat up by grabbing onto his suspenders and leaning against him. He cradled her in his strong arms. She put her arms around his neck, pulling him down into a kiss. A REAL KISS, NOT CPR. His heart stopped for a second. They only broke apart when they needed air.

"I love you too," she whispered into his neck. "But you're a boob for taking this long to say it and acting like an idiot around me." She moved closer to him. "But you know what?"

"What?"

She smiled. "You're my idiot."

"I wouldn't have it any other way."

****

"There's your cut. Thirty-five percent," Mal said as Jayne dropped the bags at Badger's feet. It had been two weeks, just like they promised.

"Where's the little one?" Badger asked curiously.

River floated in and stood beside Mal with a smile.

"There she is. 'Ow are you?" Badger grinned.

"Good. 'N you?"

"Shiny. I was wonderin' if you might like to get some dinn'r with me."

"Sorry, but I'm taken love."

"Taken?"

Mal put his arm around her, smiling widely.

"We have to go. Business to do. Goodbye, Badger."

Mal and River walked away arm in arm. He bent down and kissed her on the top of the head before getting out of Badger's line of sight.

"He isn't happy," River giggled.

"He's just jealous. As he should be."

"Right. I'm your little one."

"Damn straight."

He pulled her into a kiss. What can be better than this? They both thought.

Nothing.

The end

A/N: I don't think that this is as fluffy as some of my other stuff. Yes, no, maybe?? Thanks for reading, reviews are loved. Thanks! Much love