The gentle hum of Serenity filled his dark bunk along with the soft rustling of the sheets as she rolled over on her side. He put his arm around her and kissed her neck. She moved a bit. He pulled her hair back, knowing that she was awake by her breathing, and kissed her by her ear.
"Darlin', I have a question…" Mal whispered into her ear. River grunted in response. "How long have we been together now?"
"Six months," she yawned.
"How many nights of those six months have you spent in my bunk?"
She thought about it for a second. "Most of them."
"I'm thinkin' that, if you want to, we could make this our bunk instead of my bunk."
She smiled and decided to leave him hanging.
"If you want to. I mean, you're always here. You shouldn't have to go back and forth and I got room. You're apart of the crew, you shouldn't have to stay in the passenger dorms. And," he pulled her closer to his chest. "I'd really like it if you stayed. I hate it when you go."
She waited for it. She loved making him nervous.
"But if you don't want to-"
She turned around so they were facing each other.
"It was already a yes before you even verbalized the question. I just like making you twitchy."
He broke out into a boyish grin and lightly pressed his lips against hers.
"Just to warn you, I'm a morning person…" she sighed.
"I'll be a mornin' person if I have you to wake up to."
"You're such a flirt."
They both got ready to go back to sleep.
"There's just one thing…" River began.
"Wo de ma…here it goes…" he sighed.
"Mal! She has to come with me! I can't leave her alone!"
"Gorramit woman! Why'd you have to adopt a spider? Why couldn't it have been a kitten?"
"You have to admit that you like her just a little bit."
"She's harmless! Brachypelma albopilosums are docile."
"Curly hair tarantulas."
"Then say 'curly hair tarantulas'. You know I'm dumb."
"You're not dumb. You just take longer to process things. Daisy needs someone to be around. If I leave her in my room, I might as well just stay there."
"I can't sleep knowing she's here...watchin' me…"
"I keep her over my bed and she doesn't bother me."
"When have you slept in your bed in the past six months?"
"My point exactly!"
"You won't know she's here. Please, baby?"
Whenever she called him "baby" he would fold quicker than a house of cards in a windstorm.
"Damnit! Fine! You can bring your creepy, I mean cute, and hairy, I mean fuzzy, bug, I mean pet, with you!"
She kissed him goodnight and then rolled over to go to sleep. Sure he lost the fight over Daisy, the pet tarantula, but he didn't mind. He didn't like Daisy that much. Hell, she scared him to death. Still, her presence wouldn't matter since River would be there. That's all he wanted and needed, River.
The six months they were together felt like an eternity, the happiest eternity of his life. Their relationship wasn't always the best. They had their fights. They didn't have them often because they rarely disagreed on anything. If they did, River saw his point of view and usually came up with a compromise that suited them both. They fit so perfectly together on all levels, literally and figuratively. She tucked so neatly against his chest, it was almost like she was made to be there. He figured that she probably was.
They slept in for the first time. Everyone knew that they were together, but they were discreet about it. Now that they had taken the next step, they were through being discreet.
"It feels all sorts of natural sleepin' in with you," he smiled.
"I might never leave if every morning is like this," she yawned.
"Then I'll make every mornin' just like this."
"Ai ya, you are such a flirt!"
She smiled at him and then leaned in like she was about to kiss him, but then she rolled out of bed.
"You're such a tease!" he shot back playfully.
She just smirked and moved to the sink to sponge off. He watched her from his spot under the covers.
"With thoughts like those, we'd be late for breakfast…" she laughed as she inadvertently picked up on what he was thinking.
"I'm not that hungry," he shrugged.
"I am. I worked up an appetite after last night. There's always tonight."
"I like the sound of that," he said happily as he climbed out of bed and gave her a quick peck on the cheek before getting ready for the day.
They emerged from his bunk together and walked into the galley, hand in hand. No one commented luckily. They were all crowded around Kaylee.
"Gorram! I felt it!" Jayne exclaimed. His hand was placed on Kaylee's rather large baby bump.
"He's got a good kick," Kaylee nodded. Simon kissed her on the top of the head and then sat beside her with their plates of food.
Mal and River were finally noticed.
"Good morning," Simon smiled.
"Oh! River, you have to say good mornin' to your nephew!"
River smiled and set her hand lightly on Kaylee's stomach were Jayne's hand had been moments earlier.
"Good morning," she said to Kaylee's tummy. She was greeted with a kick.
"So, do you have any names picked out?" Zoe asked.
"We've been talkin'…" Kaylee nodded.
There was a pause.
"Well?" Mal asked.
"We ain't tellin'! It's a secret, Cap'in!" Kaylee cried.
"Sorry I asked," Mal sighed.
After breakfast, River went onto the bridge to fly the ship. Only twenty minutes later, her voice rang out through the ship.
"Mal, you have a wave."
Mal appeared on the bridge right after that to catch Badger flirting with River.
"Badger," Mal deadpanned, somewhat possessively putting his hand on River's shoulder.
"There you are. Do you recall the things I got you a few months back?"
"I do. Let me guess, it's time for us to repay the favor."
"You know me too well. Something has…come up…that needs to be dealt with. You're the crew to deal with it."
"What's goin' on?" Mal sighed.
"I had a shipment. 'Stead of shippin' it to me, they took my money and kept the goods. I need you to 'take' it back for me."
"Steal it, you mean."
"Correct. A man named Strong-arm 's the one that took it. He heads the operation on a planet called Chloris. I have intell that he's got it in his warehouse in Karpos. He practically owns the town. He thinks he owns the whole gorram 'verse. I'm sendin' you all of the intell now."
"What makes you think I'll do it?"
"This isn't a request."
"Is there pay?"
"Maybe, if I'm feelin' generous. The intell sent. It's everything you'll need. Contact me when you have my cargo."
He cut the wave. Mal and River poured over the information. The town was basically a large lumber mill. Badger was expecting five crates of wood. In the big city planets, wood was nonexistent. Very few people knew what a tree was. He would have gotten a good amount for it.
It was being held in a warehouse in the town of Karpos. It was big and full of security. Not only that, but it doubled as a sawmill. They couldn't just walk in without clearance and without taking out some of the security features. They'd have to have a solid plan.
After plotting the course, they called a meeting with Jayne and Zoe.
"This ain't worth it! We ain't gettin' paid!" Jayne exclaimed.
"He said maybe, but I doubt it. We do owe him for gettin' us all of the things we lost a few months back. I agree, but these days we need all the contacts we can get."
"I agree," Zoe nodded.
"I might have a plan," River said quietly.
"Okay, speak your piece…" Mal said with just the hint of a smile.
"Well, if we can get someone on the inside they can unlock a back door. From there, I could probably get control over the systems and take out the security. Then you'll be free and clear to 'take' the cargo."
"It sounds simple enough, but it really ain't. How do you s'ppose we get someone on the inside?"
"Apprenticeship, perspective buyer, an independent contractor…these are just a few of the options for disguise."
"That's actually a real good idea, Sir."
"I know! She's a genius. We'll have to do some field work to know who to dress up as. We have the layout, so once they're in it shouldn't be too hard to find a way to sneak in."
"You can really take over the system?" Zoe asked skeptically.
"Yes. It's just a matter of mathematically probability used in breaking codes or simple rewiring. Either way it shouldn't be difficult."
"She's great at math," Mal smirked suggestively.
River felt a bit flushed. Zoe raised her eyebrows.
"I'm not gonna ask…" she muttered into her coffee cup.