"Thanks again. I know it isn't much, but-" Greg began.
"It's plenty. I'm just glad we could get her well," Mal cut across him.
"I owe that to you and Monty and Dr. Tam."
"I'm happy that I could help out," Simon smiled.
Greg shook everyone's hands once again. They had already said goodbye to Karen. She was already back in good health thanks to the medicine and Simon's excellent care.
"We'll get your share to you before you leave," Ned said as he carried the bag of money towards what was now his ship.
"Keep it. We have a full cargo bay of goods to sell. It was nice meetin' you," Mal shook his hand.
"Likewise. I heard a lot about you and it was nice to finally meet you."
Mal nodded and the captains went their separate ways to their ships.
He closed the ramp behind them and hit the comm.
"Take us up, darlin'." He barely got "up" out before he felt the ship lift off of the ground.
Although it had been morning on Athens, it was closer to nighttime on Serenity. That was the trouble with planets all around the 'verse. Time was always changing everywhere they went.
He was tired, but not enough to sleep. Part of the problem was that River was flying the ship. He found it got harder and harder to fall asleep without her near. He heard the hatch open and shut. Shortly after that he felt River slip into bed beside him. He curled his arm around her and then finally nodded off.
-BangBoomBangBangBoom- The sounds of war echoed through the small moon where they had been holding for weeks. The cries of dying men seemed to drown out everything else. He was used to the stench of rotting flesh, the sight of bodies of friends stacked up like firewood, and the feel of blood dripping across his skin. People he knew and cared about were dropping like flies, but he kept fighting. Taking lives became easier and easier. The guilt was no longer distracting. Instead it was safe in the back of his mind. He turned to his friend Monty. They were fighting along side each other as a seeker came hurtling towards them. Monty reached out and pushed him into the dirt while taking it out with a well placed bullet.
-Flash- One by one the bullets struck Monty as he kept fighting. He watched as he took hit after hit. One final shot and Monty fell to the ground. He looked at yet another dead friend.
Mal sat up. His heart was racing. Images from the nightmares remained to remind him that they weren't just a nightmare. They were memories. He shut his eyes to push them to the back of his mind where the guilt usually stayed, but for some reason was hovering at the surface.
River sat up just after he did. She knew that he would probably break her hand if she suddenly touched him, so she decided to talk to him first to let him know that she was there.
He turned towards her while struggling to slow his heartbeat and breathing down. She reached out and wrapped her arms around him, pulling him down to lay against her. He complied thankfully. She soothingly stroked the back of his head without speaking. She was busy reading his thoughts inadvertently. Her touch was able to help him regain his calm. He shut his eyes for a moment just to let her presence wash away everything.
"Memories," she whispered gently. He nodded. "Guilt that you usually ignore is bothering you because of Monty. You think he died because of you. To save you. That isn't true. He died because some terrible men chose to shoot him."
He sat up and leaned against the bulkhead with a sigh. "I still think he wouldn't of been in the line of fire if it wasn't for me."
She sat up beside him. "He would have anyway. He was going to go steal the medication even if you had said no."
"True. He saved me so many times durin' the war, and I did the same. I wouldn't be here right now if he hadn't fought with me."
"That isn't true."
"No, what you were thinking. It isn't true. You think that everyone you know dies. Everyone in the war, your family here on Serenity, Monty. You aren't a magnet for death. There is no such thing. And also, the other thing you were thinking, never think that again. You did deserve to make it out of the valley alive. Just because you've taken lives doesn't mean that you haven't saved other lives. You saved Simon, Zoe, me, and countless others. You are a good person, Malcolm Reynolds. Don't doubt it. You did what you thought was right during the war. You always do what is right and I love you for it. I love you for a lot of reasons."
He smiled sheepishly at her. She curled up in his lap. "Now start talking."
"What about?" he asked.
"Monty. It's been a week and you still haven't mourned. I know how you mourn. You look at the good things about them and remember the good times. You don't dwell on the bad because you're sweet like that."
He laughed and started playing with her hair. He wondered what he ever did to deserve her.
"I wonder the same thing, baby."
He kissed her and then started thinking about Monty. "There was this one time in the camp when we had nothin' to do and Monty suggested that we should draw on our friend Al while he was sleepin'…"
He told story after story about Monty. They both ended up laughing half of the time. He felt some of the weight he had carried since the war disappear. There were some benefits to having a reader for a fiancée. She could see inside his head and understand him without a word being spoken. He was never good with expressing his feelings, but with her he didn't have to. She saw him for who he truly was and yet she didn't run away screaming.
"Neither did you," she said softly.
"You didn't run at the Maidenhead. You brought me back, even after what I did. I was a weapon, but you saw me as a person."
He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her forehead. "And I'm a mean old man that you see as a good person."
"But that isn't true."
"And you were never a weapon."
She grinned and kissed him before comfortably tucking her head in between his neck and chest. "I can't wait to be your wife."
"I can't wait to be your husband."
Two months later…
"Sir, you need to stop fidgeting…" Zoe commented.
"I can't help it! I hate waitin', 'specially for somethin' as important as this!"
"You can't just turn to a woman and say, 'Hey, this is a nice place. Let's get married today…right now' and expect them to be quick about it. We have things to do."
"Yeah, but you're here and ready to go!"
"Because I'm the best man…woman. I don't have to get prettied up like Kaylee and River do. Just relax."
"Listen to her, Mal. She has a point. 'Sides, I'm gettin' real tired of watchin' you be nervous. It's gettin' me twitchy, and sittin' next to the squirt ain't helpin' matters!" Jayne snapped. Ricky laughed, almost on cue.
Mal turned around to visit with his soon-to-be nephew. It calmed him down a bit to watch the little boy all comfortable in his little seat. He looked more and more like Kaylee everyday only with Simon's eyes. Speaking of Simon, he came into the little chapel a few minutes later. He rushed straight to Ricky to make sure he was okay. He hated leaving him with Jayne, even though Mal and Zoe were there.
"A few more minutes. They're being…girls," Simon sighed.
"Why does it take so gorram long?" Mal asked.
"Mal, language!" Simon snapped as he motioned to Ricky.
"Sorry," Mal mumbled while running his hand through his hair. He was in his usual outfit with suspenders, tan pants, blue shirt, and boots. Zoe, Jayne, and Simon were dressed normally as well since it was a spontaneous decision. The old preacher limped up to the front of the chapel with his bible ready. He placed thick and large glasses tenuously on the edge of his nose and opened the book.
"Do you, take her-" he began while pointing at Mal and then at Zoe respectively.
"No, no. We ain't gettin' married! She's my best man…woman."
"Oh. So then which one of you is the other groom?"
"No. The bride ain't here yet!" Mal growled.
"Sorry, I get confused. You can never tell these days…"
"SIMON!" Kaylee called.
Simon waved to Ricky and then left. Shortly after, Kaylee came down the isle in the frilly dress Mal bought her quite sometime ago. She hugged Mal and then took her place.
"This is so shiny!" she squealed. Mal rolled his eyes, but wore his idiot grin with pride.
The doors opened and Simon came down the isle with River. She was in a dress he didn't recognize. It was pink and blue. She was barefoot since combat boots really didn't go with the outfit. She looked just as beautiful as ever.
"I love you mei mei," Simon whispered as he kissed her on the cheek and sat beside Ricky.
"Is this the bride?" the old man asked.
"Yeah," Mal clarified with annoyance.
"Do you…" he pointed at Mal.
"Malcolm Reynolds," Mal provided.
"Do you Maxwell Reynolds take…"
"River Tam," River filled in.
"River Tam to be your lawfully wedded wife?"
"Do you River Tam take Maxwell Reynolds to-"
"It's Malcolm. Malcolm Reynolds," River corrected. Mal loved the way she said his name.
"Well why didn't you say earlier? That doesn't count if it's the wrong name!"
"I Malcolm Reynolds take River Tam to be my lawfully wedded wife."
"Okay, thank you. Do you River Tam-"
"Do you have the rings?"
Zoe handed them to Mal.
"These rings symbolize your bond and your loyalty to each other until death or divorce do you part. Exchange them please."
They put the rings on each other and then turned to the old man for further instructions.
"By the power invested in me by this moon, God, and my cousin Ester, I now pronounce you husband and wife. Please kiss the bride."
Mal grinned and then pulled her into a passionate kiss.
"Whoa…" the old man muttered, clearly enjoying the show.
They pulled apart. He looked at them both. "Please don't stop on my account. Kiss her again."
"You don't have to ask me twice," Mal smirked as he kissed her again.
The crew applauded and Ricky laughed while they made their way out of the chapel. They went out to a restaurant for their reception.
It was tiny place, but a romantic place. Simon and Kaylee danced a bit before returning to the table and Ricky. Jayne and Zoe got up and surprisingly danced together, although she kept him at a distance while doing so.
"How about a dance, Mrs. Reynolds?" Mal whispered as he led her to the dance floor.
They slowly danced together to an old song Mal recognized. He hummed to it as they moved in a circle.
"I'm gonna be glad to have you to myself for two days," he breathed into her hair.
"I love you, Malcolm Reynolds."
"I love you more, Mrs. Reynolds."
Thanks for reading, I hope you liked it! Possibly one more continuation…