"That was a lesson," Skip explained as he sat back down in his place.
"A lesson?" Mal asked.
"Yes a lesson."
"How was that even possible?"
"Look, I have connections to some very influential people. Let's just say that we worked it out."
"Why? Why would you even bother to teach me a lesson?"
"There's this thing called 'fate' Mal. You questioned it just like you questioned your faith. Now the faith I can't do much about. That's for you to work out with yourself, but fate…now that is my business."
"I'm not followin' you Skip."
"People rarely do, man. Join the club. That's why I use one of these."
He held up a screen and held his hand out in front of it.
"The screen is blank."
"Damn, okay hang on…this thing is always breaking on me…"
He fidgeted with it for a moment or two before an image appeared on the screen. It was of the cryo-box River was in when she first arrived on Serenity.
"Do you recognize this?" he asked.
"I do. It's the box River was in when she showed up on my ship."
"Ding! Right. That box with that girl was meant to be on your ship. Better yet…" he hit a button and a picture of Mal watching her sleep when she first arrived. "That girl was meant to be on your ship with you."
He hit another button and an image of the Black appeared. "Okay buddy, this is how it is. This is the 'verse. It has a balance." He drew a scale on the picture with his finger. "Things are supposed to be in harmony. When something is out of place, well it gets all messed up."
"Okay…" Mal said as he digested this bit of information.
"My job, and their job," he pointed to the ceiling once again. "It's to keep the 'verse in harmony. So when people like you show up and say something is wrong, we usually look into it. If it is wrong, which people have a vibe for that sort of thing, we put it right. But when you showed up…you were messed up."
"I was messed up?"
"Heck yeah man! Things were the way they were supposed to be! I had to prove that to you. You're too big of a player in this to let slip."
"You're sayin' that I have a big place the 'verse?"
"Dude, Miranda was huge! It's going to start all sorts of things! Without you and River, that wouldn't have happened." He made the scale tip.
"So she's s'pposed to hurt?"
"Na. That wasn't right. I'll give you that. We'll get there. Okay, let's review."
He hit a button and a picture of Mal meeting River backstage popped up.
"You didn't think that you were supposed to be with her, yet even in this 'verse you bump into her."
Another image, this time one of Mal lying awake at night.
"You knew that something didn't feel right until she showed up."
Next, a picture of them kissing.
"Even in that 'verse you were with her. Also…Simon and Kaylee were together."
An image of them hugging.
"Wash, dead. Glenn, dead."
Their pictures respectively.
"Inara, gone. Shepherd Book, also dead. Isn't that exactly like your other 'verse?"
"See? Fate has this odd way of working things out."
"She's my fate."
"That wasn't a question."
"I knew that. I was just agreeing with you."
"I set things back."
"But she'll be in pain again."
"Not if I set it back a bit further. You can prevent her from freaking her freak out."
"I'll let you in on a little secret that has to do with your fate and hers. You're both going to die old, together, and after you have a bunch of kids and grandkids running around."
"Yeah man! Your life is going to be kick ass!"
"No problem. It's what a guide does. Now go. You won't have any memories of this really. So it was nice to have met you. If you mess this up I'll find you."
Skip smiled and shook his hand before there was a bright flash of light and a scream.
One month earlier, back in the right 'verse.
River screamed in her sleep and woke up with a jolt. Mal sat up beside her and instinctively pulled her into his arms. She wrapped her arms around him and buried her face into his chest.
"Shh, it's okay darlin'. What's wrong?" he whispered as he stroked her hair and kissed her on the top of the head.
"Nightmare. You were bleeding…"
"It's okay. I'm okay."
"Might not be. Can't predict the future."
"I know that me gettin' shot back a month ago scared you half to death, but sweetheart I'm always gonna get scrapes. I'm a petty thief!"
"Thanks. You need to forget about that. Nothin' is gonna kill me. Not yet."
"Everyone dies, darlin'. Just depends on when and how. And we're gonna die old and together with a bunch of kids and grandkids."
"How can you know?"
"I just know."
She skimmed his thoughts and his certitude brought her comfort. She clung to him a bit tighter.
"I hope so, Mal."
"I know so."
He brushed some of her hair back and she pulled away to look up at him. He got an idea.
"I know this is spur of the moment I don't have anything to make it official yet, but will you marry me?"
"You know I will."
They kissed and a loud bang startled them. They weren't worried though because they knew the source.
"Simon and Kaylee need to stop being so loud while they're…'together'," River sighed.
"Ah I imagine we might get a bit loud…"
"Oh? Want to test that theory?"
"Yes I do."
She smiled at him and pushed him down playfully. And that night, everything was right in the 'verse and Malcolm Reynolds fell in love with his fate all over again.
Thanks for reading! Those of you who are Angel fans recognized the character "Skip" more like he was in season three than he was in four. I had fun with this and I hope that it wasn't too weird. Glenn is the name of the actor that played the man that tried to board the mule during the Reaver attack, so I figured that would be his character name too. Once again, thanks for reading and I hope you liked it!