Fic Title: The Riverrun Series
Link: Part one, the whole series
Rating/Warning(s): NC-17, for violence and sex
Genre: Drama, Angst, General
Why This Must Be Read: Post-movie, River leaves Serenity to keep the crew safe. Mal brings her back, and in deciding to do so, sets into motion the second War for Independence. But war is never easy and Mal and River grow closer and begin to heal each other as they struggle to keep the galaxy from coming apart at the seams. The Firefly universe is treated as such. Places visited on the show, minor characters created by Joss and the writers become vital components. Unlike many Mal/River fics, Mal/Inara isn't brushed aside, but dealt with with painful honesty, and River is never made magically sane. Both Mal and River have deep issues, but they find solace, and even humor in each other, in the midst of a war that would be lost without them.
And then, all in what seemed a rush, Simon and Kaylee were off the ship, and stood waving while the door was closed...
River turned as soon as Simon couldn't see her anymore and fled to her bunk. Mal, after a moment's hesitation, followed. He didn't bother knocking because he figured she'd be expecting him. "An uglier place without them, ain't it?" He could hear Zoe powering up the engine.
She nodded. "Never thought that would matter."
Mal sat down beside her, and it felt natural, by now, for his arm to slip around her shoulders and her to lean up against him. "You know what we got here, though? We got four people used to livin' in far uglier situations than this. Zoe and me, we been through hell together, and when I first met up with Jayne, he was sharin' a bunk with a man who was an ugly situation all his own self. And I figure there wasn't too much room for pretty where they kept you. But you know what we all have in common?"
"What?" River asked softly.
"We all hated it like hell. Even Jayne. Zoe married a man who was, rest his soul, a cheerful, bright fella. I tried to latch on to a woman who glowed at me... You loved Kaylee and played with Wash's dinosaurs, and Jayne spent more'n a little time just talkin' with the Shepherd, takin' pleasure in the way that man made this place just a little less ugly."
"So we have four people who hate ugly places and are very good at killing stuck with no one but each other in a big, ugly, empty ship." She looked up at him. "Is this the comforting part?"
He thought about that for a moment. "Yeah, there actually ain't any comfort in that. But the point I was getting to was that we're people who look for somethin' better. May have a hell of a time of finding it, and we may not find it for a long time. Times like this, we have to be the pretty for each other. Have to remember that killers ain't all we are. We're still people who love and laugh, and if we ain't doin' those things right now, we're still people who can, dong ma?"
She was quiet for a while. "If we're on this ship long enough for me to find Jayne pretty, will you shoot me?"
"Oh, hell yeah. Not gonna mess around with somethin' like that." He gave her one last squeeze then stood up. "Now come on. We got recruitin' to do, and I need you to fly my ship."
River stood up as well. "Once we're on auto-pilot, will you teach me to play basketball?"
"Little girl, I would be honored." Looking down at her, Mal smiled. When she looked at him like that, he could be content remembering there was at least one pretty thing left on his ship.
- From part four "Farewells"