"Is this over?" Mal asked River.
"It's over. The others have left."
Mal breathed a sigh of relief and then wandered over to the storm shelter. He opened the doors.
"You can come on out. It's over now."
They all rejoiced and embraced one another, glad to have survived the reign of terror they brought down on their planet.
Mal walked over to Zachary's body with a pang of sadness. He lifted the small body into his arms and started to walk away. River would have asked where he was going, but she knew. He was going to put him with his brother. She followed him while Jayne and Zoe stayed back.
River and Jayne had been gone for quite some time. Kaylee sat on the bridge at the helm. She wasn't the best pilot, but River had taught her a few things over the years. She knew enough to get them from place to place.
Simon arrived on the bridge. She knew he was there before he spoke. She smelled his cologne and grinned.
"Well come on in," she beamed.
He appeared beside the consol looking paler than usual. "I got Jason down for his nap. Belle and Ricky are in her room playing with…trolls…"
"Yeah. Miffy, I know. She told me 'bout them the other day."
"Miffy?" Simon asked.
"He's named after Mal. Mal and the word spiffy make Miffy."
"I taught that word my-own-self. Ain't that shiny?"
Simon managed a small smile.
"Don't you worry. River 'n Jayne are the two best fighters there is. Mal 'n Zoe are the toughest people I know. The four of 'em will come back safe 'n sound. Easy peasy."
"I hope you're right, bao bei…" Simon sighed.
"Ah, you know I am."
"No. No what if's. You're always worryin' 'n thinkin' too much. Jus' stay in the moment. Like right now. You're here with your wife…" she smiled.
"Alone…" he continued with a smile.
"See? Silver linin'. Now get them lips over here Dr. Tam!"
Their kiss was interrupted by a proximity alert. Kaylee looked at the screen. It was a Reaver ship.
"Honey, remember how's I taught you how to go to hard burn?" she asked.
"Go to hard burn. Now."
He darted down the corridor while she got ready to fly. There was a nearby moon. If they could get there in time, the Reavers might miss them all together.
"Are you ready?" Kaylee asked over the comm.
"Yes!" Simon called.
She flew towards the moon and the Reavers followed.
"Silver linin'…silver linin'…I learned how to fly a ship…Simon learned how to go to hard burn…" she muttered as she attempted to keep her calm.
They broke through the atmo. Luckily, the moon was filled with ridges and craters. Serenity was about half the size of the Reaver ship. She guided her down into one of the many crevices and the ship struck the rocks above with full force. The ship crashed behind them in a blaze of fire.
"THAT'S MY GIRL!" Kaylee cried happily as she patted Serenity with a smile.
Mal and River returned to the town after putting both of the boys to rest. Mal was never one for funerals, but somehow it just seemed right. They deserved a bit of peace anyhow.
"Let's go," Mal called to Zoe and Jayne. They were busy collecting their weapons from various places around the town.
They all piled into the shuttle after receiving thanks from the town folk. Mal sat up front with River while poor Zoe and Jayne had to crowd in the back with the weapons and ammo.
"Do you want to wave them, or do you want me to?" Mal asked.
"I have to fly," River responded.
Mal got up and made his way over to the screen. He almost twisted his ankle from the treacherous journey over the guns and crates. He was so glad to be back in business with his trigger-happy mercenary.
Kaylee appeared on the screen. She let out a happy squeal.
"SIMON! SIMON! GET IN HERE!" she shouted. Simon came into the frame.
"Captain," he said cordially.
"How are the kids?" Mal asked.
"They're good. How are you?" Simon asked.
"We're all good," he made sure to stress the all part so he'd know that the four of them were still alive and kicking.
"Any injuries?" he asked.
"It's great to see you, Cap'in!" Kaylee beamed.
"It's great to see you too, mei mei."
"We had a little run in with Reavers, we's okay, but we had to set down on a moon right 'round here. I'll send you the location…" Kaylee smiled.
"Okay. We'll see you soon. And Kaylee,"
"Tell Belle I'm comin' home."
"And I love her."
"I'll do that too."
"And I missed her."
"Okay, Cap'in. By the time you're done tellin' me what to say you'll be here!"
Mal laughed. "Conjure that's about the truth."
They received the information and arrived at Serenity just an hour later. Belle was waiting with Ricky on the catwalk when the doors opened. Mal was barely out the door before they hugged him.
"Easy there!" he laughed.
"I missed you lots," Belle said into his pant leg. He picked her up and kissed her on the cheek.
"I missed you more. And," he picked Ricky up with his other arm. "I missed you too, little man."
Ricky hugged Mal's neck while Belle kissed him on the cheek a bunch of times. Jayne and Zoe exited behind him followed by River.
Belle reached for her. She picked her up and hugged her tightly.
"I told you I'd be back soon."
"Where were you, Daddy?" Belle asked.
"I was lookin' after some nice folk. Protectin' them from monsters."
"Did you get rid of the monsters?" Ricky asked.
"Did you fight them?" Ricky pressed.
"I sure did."
"Will you tell me more about it?" he asked.
He set Ricky down. Ricky walked over to Kaylee and she took his hand.
"Nice flyin' little Kaylee," Mal said proudly.
"It was nothin'. Simon went to hard burn for me."
"Daddy worked with the engine?" Ricky inquired.
"He sure did."
"Tell me about it!"
Simon took his hand and they walked out discussing the engine.
"Did you get any sleep?" River asked Belle. She shook her head.
"I didn't get my goodnight song."
Mal took her from River. "I think I can fix that, princess. Let's go tuck you in."
"What about the stars?"
Mal tucked her in and sang her goodnight song. He found his shirt on the floor.
"What's this doin' here?" he asked.
"You were gone and I missed you."
He sighed and looked at her. "I'm sorry about bein' gone. If I could of come home I would of."
"I still missed you."
"What can I do to make up for it?"
She thought about it for a moment. "Get me a puppy."
He laughed. "No. Anything else I can do?"
"Can I have another goodnight song?"
"I think I can handle that."
"And another story?"
"And longer looking at the stars?"
"You're pushin' it."
She giggled. "Had to try."
He sang to her again and opened up one of her favorite stories. "Get some sleep, princess. I love you."
"Love you too, Daddy."
He kissed her on the forehead and then started towards his bunk.
Zoe and Jayne sat together at the table. They both had a mug of whiskey. It had been a rough go of it. The kiss complicated things. Before they simply didn't talk about or acknowledge what had happened on that night a little over three months ago. He didn't push it and she didn't start it. They both weren't ones to express their feelings. That's part of the reason they became such good friends. They didn't have to. They were just…there. They made each other's pain disappear.
"Look, I-" Jayne began. Kaylee came through the kitchen with a wave.
"Hi! I'm glad you're both okay! I'm gonna go check on Jason."
She went down into her a bunk. They waited a few minutes to make sure no one else would be passing through.
"I just-" Jayne was cut off again as River passed through to her bunk.
He waited a bit more before trying again.
"What I'm tryin' to say is-"
Simon and Ricky came through to go to their bunk. A few minutes passed and the entire Tam family went back through to go to the passenger dorms to play.
"Gorramit! Listen, Zo, I want to say-"
Mal passed through.
"Don't mind me," he said as he went down into his bunk.
"Can we please talk someplace private?" Jayne finally asked.
"Like?" Zoe asked.
"My bunk, not like that, jus' talkin' is all. I got some stuff I wanna say and this ain't the place if everyone keeps interruptin'!"
Zoe agreed and they went to Jayne's bunk. She sat down on his bed uncomfortably. He remained standing.
"I ain't good with words. So I'm gonna try my best. I know I ain't Wash and I ain't ever gonna be, but I…I love you. I do. I didn't think I could love or ever was gonna, but I do…and I…could. I don't wanna replace him. I know you'll never love me as much as you loved him, but gorramit I just want to make you…not hurt. I wanna make you whole again. If'n…you wanna give this a shot…"
She was breathless by his speech. It was a bit clumsy and awkward, but beautiful at the same time. It was true that she still loved Wash, but she couldn't be alone forever. He did take away the pain. When she was with him, he somehow filled the void. She realized that she hadn't spoken in almost a minute.
"I mean…if ya don't…" he cleared his throat waiting for some sort of signal or something from her.
She got up and kissed him again. He was a surprisingly good kisser. She pushed him towards the bed.
"Can I take this as a 'yes'?" he asked hopefully.
"You can take this as a yes."
He grinned and they kissed again, both of them feeling whole for the first time in awhile.
Mal climbed down into his bunk to find River washing off a few minor cuts she got during the fight.
"Are you okay?" he asked as he got closer to her.
"Fine," she said quietly. He knew that tone. It was her, "I'm pissed" tone.
"You're not fine. I hear it in your voice."
She turned around with an angry look in her big brown eyes, the ones that still could leave him breathless after all this time.
"Don't you ever do that ever again, dong ma?" she snapped.
"Do you have any idea how much this affected out daughter? What would have happened if you didn't come home?"
"Do you know what this did to Jayne and Zoe? How this made them suffer?"
"And what about me? Do you have any gorram idea about what this did to me?"
He didn't even try to defend himself. He grabbed her and pulled her into a kiss that she met with her own forcefully. She threaded her fingers in his hair and kissed back harder. He held onto her as tightly as he could. They finally broke apart.
"Now you listen to me, River Reynolds! Did you ever think about what this did to me? Do you know what it's like to tell the woman you love more than anything to take off and leave knowing that you're likely to die when you're two year old daughter is on that ship? Do you know what it's like to think that you'll never see them again or get to watch your daughter grow up? Gorramit, don't answer. I LOVE YOU AND I DON'T WANT TO FIGHT RIGHT NOW! DONG MA?"
"I WANT YOU TO LISTEN TO ME, MALCOLM REYNOLDS! I LOVE YOU AND I WANT YOU TO RIP MY GORRAM CLOTHES OFF RIGHT NOW!"
"WELL GORRAMIT I WILL!"
They kissed again and stumbled over to the bed. They didn't want to be separated for a moment. The fact that they very well could have lost each other burned painfully in their minds.
Their boots were off along with all of their other clothes in a matter of minutes. He kissed every inch of her that he could get his mouth on and she explored his chest at an achingly slow pace. It was torturous as she continued the sultry exploration before meeting his hungry lips with hers.
They lay tangled and breathless after each wearing a contented smile on their faces. She settled against his chest as her fingers mindlessly traced his scars. He brushed some of her hair back and kissed her forehead.
"I am so in love with you," he grinned. She smiled at him, letting the pain and terror of the day be erased by him.
"I am so in love with you," she returned happily.
He wrapped his arms around her and brought her as close as she could possibly be to his body. He was so overjoyed to be home, however there were still a few things haunting him from his experience, one of them being a young boy named Zachary.
"Want to talk about it?" she asked.
River nodded against his neck.
"Darlin', I got an idea for a name for our next kid…"
"Really?" she asked with a smirk.
"I do. What do you think about 'Zachary Reynolds'?"
"I like it, if we have a boy."
"I think we will."
"What do you say about practicing creating this little boy of ours?" she asked with a sly grin.
"I like the way you think."
They emerged from their bunk surprisingly refreshed around the same time that Zoe and Jayne emerged from his bunk also looking refreshed. Mal and River noticed that they were holding hands. Mal looked at River. She confirmed the fact that they were together with a nod. Mal smiled. It was about ruttin' time for Zoe to have someone…
Everyone gathered around for a meal. Ricky sat in between his parents, Jason was in his highchair, Zoe and Jayne were sitting next to each other looking awfully content, Belle was on Mal's lap, and River was next to them smiling widely.
"I'm glad you're home," Belle told Mal with a grin.
"I can't believe it took so long," he sighed. It felt like forever since he had been home.
"It was worth the wait," River smiled recalling the first time they admitted their feelings for each other.
Mal grinned recalling the same memory. "Yes it was."
And so ends my continuing series. I had to end it with Reavers. I had to! There were a lot of references to my previous stories, my first one in particular. I hope you liked these as much as I liked writing them. I'd like to thank you for sticking with them and thank those of you who were kind enough to comment or favorite my stories. I love you all! Thank you very much!