The only sound in the pitch-black room was Serenity’s humming engine. Mal had been twisting and turning for an hour. Seeking, but never finding, sleep.
“Mal,” Simon mumbled into his pillow. The shifting stopped. Mal sighed
“You all right…you seem…don’t know…,” Simon turned and spooned against Mal’s back.
“Yeah I….,” Mal snuggled closer to Simon, intertwining their fingers. Simon kissed the nape of Mal’s neck, breathing deeply.
“It’s the boy isn’t it? The little boy we saw today. Him and his father?” Simon asked. He’d seen how Mal’s eyes followed the father and his son as they walked through the marketplace. Watched, as the boy had hung on to his fathers hand in the ever moving mass of people.
“That obvious?” Mal asked.
“No, not…obvious. But you’ve done it before. I’ve seen you long for that before,” Simon whispered.
“Simon it ain’t because I’m not happy with you. You gotta believe me,” Mal desperately tried to explain.
“You always wanted children.”
“Yeah but I chose you!” Mal turned so he was on his side facing Simon.
“Mal, I’ve never…there are ways…”
“Wha’? You expecting to sprout lady-parts?” Mal teased
“Oh God No!” Simon snorted. But there were ways and Simon had looked into them. More than once. Every time Mal longed for what he believed was unattainable, Simon spend hours going over the pros and cons.
He was almost ready.
”Ohhhh shiny!” Kaylee squealed when they told the crew what they had decided to do. Mal coughed and kept scratching his neck. Simon was studying the table with an intensity normally reserved for bullet wounds. Jayne started laughing but was interrupted by the preacher.
“This is indeed a happy turn of events,” Book proclaimed.
“Yeah well,” Mal mumbled and looked at Simon, silently begging him to say something.
“Ah yes…um…we decided to tell you this early in the…um… process because I’ll have to take different kinds of hormones to prepare and…um there are certain side affects,” he stammered.
“Nothing dangerous?” Kaylee said her smile almost disappearing.
“No, I might get a bit emotional and sensitive,” Simon said, more at ease with the medical part of the explanation.
“So what are the side affects?” Wash asked.
“So ya the one getting knocked up cause ya’re the prissy one?” Jayne asked.
“No Jayne. I’m the one carrying the child because I don’t get shot at two times a week!”
“Oh,” the merc nodded “Makes sense.”
Wash looked at Simon. He was sitting on the couch, not moving, with a hand over his mouth. He moaned occasionally but made no other sounds.
“You look like crap,” Wash announced. Simon opened one eye and glared at him.
“Thank you! And for my next trick I am going to sit here and not throw up.”
Kaylee came in holding a glass of water. She handed it to Simon. He slowly sat up and drank a little.
“Who made this?” Jayne yelled as he strode into the common room.
“Made what?” Kaylee said. Jayne showed her his protein mush.
“It’s all wrong,” Jayne stabbed at it with his chopsticks. “Tastes like someone already ate it once.”
Simon paled and ran out of the room.
Mal woke up alone. He shifted around enjoying the extra space. Simon probably went to pee. Again. Pregnancy didn’t agree very well with Simon’s bladder. Or maybe he'd gone to get something to eat. It amazed Mal that Simon nearly ate as much as Jayne now.
Wasn’t it taking too long? He’d been gone more than 20 minutes, maybe longer. Something could be wrong with Simon or the baby. He got out of bed and was up the ladder in a flash.
He checked River’s room but she was sound asleep and Simon wasn’t there.
The Infirmary. But he wasn’t there either. Looking at the empty but brightly lit room, Mal started to panic slightly. What if Simon hadn’t made it to the Infirmary? Visions of Simon hurt and in pain flooded his mind and he stormed through the hallway and into the galley.
Simon was sitting at the table eating. He looked up and smiled. Mal had never really believed it when people said that pregnant women glowed. It sounded a bit creepy but Simon’s skin did have a glow to it and his eyes seemed to sparkle more.
Mal walked over and joined Simon at the table, sitting opposite his lover. Simon started eating again. Mal just sat there for a while watching Simon concentrate completely on the food. Mal leant forward peeking at the contents of the bowl Simon ate from. It was red and yellow lumps with swirls of white liquid.
“What is that?” Mal pointed. Simon looked up a little startled as if he’d completely forgotten Mal was even there.
“Ah well…it’s canned tomatoes and peaches with milk,” he said with a frown.
“That’s disgusting!” Mal made a face to illustrate.
“Yes. I know” Simon put another spoonful in his mouth.
“I said rub them.”
“Because they hurt.”
“Yes that’s …. MAL! That is not my foot!”
“I’m a doctor, Mal. I know the difference between my crotch and my f-foot.”
“’S good to know.”
He nearly had a heart attack when he climbed down the rungs to his bunk and saw the Doc sitting on the floor. Was he crying? Shit. The Doc’s eyes were red, his hair tussled and he was cradling something in his hands.
“Doc? Wha’cha doing?” Jayne said wondering where the hell the Captain was. Jayne was really not in the mood for this. What ever the hell this was. After all it wasn’t every day he found the Doc in his bunk and Jayne had never seen him cry before. Simon looked up and Jayne caught himself thinking that pregnant was a good look on the Doc.
“Oh…Jayne,” he said attempting to wipe the tears away with the back of his hand. “I just wanted to talk about our next heist.”
“Yeah the hospital one. Wha’ about it?” Jayne asked.
“I just wanted to ask you to be careful. We need the equipment but…not bad enough for someone to get hurt,” Simon started to tear up again.
“Gotcha! No getting hurt,” Jayne really needed Simon out of his bunk. He tried to focus on something else. Something not Simon. He looked at the thing the Doc was holding. It was a hat. The one his Ma had made for him.
“Ya ears cold?” he grumbled. He hated it when people touched his things.
“What?” Simon looked confused. “Oh! No I just saw it on your bed and remembered. Your mother made this for you,” he sighed.
“Look Doc…ya okay?” Jayne had forgotten all about getting Mal.
“Yes,” Simon nodded handing Jayne the hat. “It’s just those damn hormones,” he tried to get up. “Well that is just plain embarrassing.”
“I can’t get up,” Simon blushed.
“Nothing wrong with ya legs?” Jayne was so not carrying the Doc out of his bunk.
“Not my legs,” Simon pointed at his belly.
“Oh,” Jayne normally tried to ignore it.
“Give a hand?” Simon looked up at him extending a hand.
Jayne shifted uncomfortably then sighed and took the hand, kindly pulling Simon to his feet. They were standing too close. Simon’s belly lightly pressed against Jayne’s body. The merc took a step back and let go of Simon’s hand.
“Thanks,” Jayne just nodded.
Simon walked over to the ladder and slowly started climbing it. Jayne realised the Doc couldn’t see the rungs because his belly blocked the view. Jayne grinned and asked “How long?”
“How long? Oh you mean…three months.”
As Simon reached the top of the ladder Jayne heard him mumble “Three long months.”
“You sure you aughta do that?”
“Kneeling an’ bending an’ stretching so much.”
“I have to keep the Infirmary clean, Mal.”
“Just don’t want you working too hard ‘s all.”
“You know I’ll be careful right?”
“And I know you’ll be careful as well. Remember you promised.”
“No getting shot?”
“No getting shot!”
“Or stabbed or punched or kicked or…”
“I feel like a whale,” Simon huffed.
“A what now?” Mal looked up from his paperwork.
“A whale. The biggest mammal on Earth-that-was.”
Mal laughed. “Can’t be that bad, Simon!”
“Who’s pregnant here?” Simon asked with a tired moan. Mal joined him on the bed. “You know there is a side affect to the new hormones I’m taking.”
“Does it hurt anywhere?” Mal asked with concern. Simon moved closer to Mal.
“No” he whispered hot breath ghosting over Mal’s ear.
“Oh!” Mal smiled.
”Shit Zoe!” Mal yelled looking at the woman in the doorway.
”What?” she asked smirking. It was a priceless sight: Mal trying to cover himself and a half naked Simon. Especially with the belly and all.
”You ever learn to knock?” Mal huffed while angrily buttoning his shirt.
”Yes,” she simply answered sharing a smile with Simon.
”Well then fucking knock,” Mal bent down and picked up Simon’s shirt and handed it to him.
”Sorry, sir. Next time you and the ship’s medic are having sex in the supply closet I will definitely remember to knock.”
She nodded to Simon, turned around and left.
”No freaking respect…I just get no freaking respect,” Mal mumbled as he turned around and started unbuttoning Simon’s shirt again.
"Will you look at that?” Wash said. “That’s just disturbing. Unnatural even.”
Mal looked up. Simon was sitting on the couch reading. One hand held the old battered book the other was resting on the top of his belly, thumb soothingly circling round and round. Wash was looking at him.
“You’ll be needing to rephrase that some,” Mal said in a low threatening voice.
“What?” Wash seemed confused, then his eyes widened in shock. “No! No Mal! C’mon I didn’t mean that.”
“Then maybe you need to enlighten me as to what you did mean,” Mal didn’t look convinced.
“It’s just…he’s…he’s relaxed,” Wash stuttered “Not worrying, just sitting.”
Mal looked at Simon again. His eyes were closed. He’d fallen asleep.
“I’ve just never seen him so relaxed…,” Wash desperately continued trying to remove his foot from his mouth.
“It’s okay,” Mal said getting up from his seat at the table. He looked at Wash. “I get a mite protective of…,” his voice trailed off, his hand waved in Simon’s direction.
Wash nodded as Mal moved over and whispered something in Simon’s ear. The younger man looked up sleepily and smiled. Mal helped him up, then proceeded to guide him to their room.
“Who wouldn’t?” Wash said.
Zoë and Wash were sitting on the couch talking. Simon entered, walked over and slowly sat down, one hand stretched out behind him, bracing himself as he sat down.
Wash smiled “Can’t wait much longer, Simon?” he asked.
“You have no idea! My back hurts, my feet are swollen. I have stretch marks…Stretch marks Wash! I think I’m starting to hate Mal a little bit,” Simon said leaning back. Wash looked at Zoë and they both started laughing.
“Yes yes! Mock the pregnant man!” Simon said and started laughing as well.
“Ow!” he winched.
“You okay there?” Zoë asked.
“Oh yes. The baby kicked. Sometimes I think he’s trying to kick his way out,” Simon breathed deeply.
Mal was watching Simon sleep. Sometimes Mal would wake up certain that Simon wasn’t breathing. Panicking he’d put his hand on the younger man’s chest just to feel it rise and fall. Simon sighed and opened his eyes slowly.
”What?” He asked Mal.
”Nothing. I just love you is all,” he answered.
Milk runs! Jayne was sick of them. It wasn’t just the fact that it wasn’t making them as much money as the illegal stuff. It was boring as hell too. Jayne knew why Mal wouldn’t take any risks. Hell the reason was sitting right in front of him.
Simon was quietly looking at Jayne’s test results. ”Well it all looks fine. Your shoulder is more or less as good as new. But I would like to test it’s movability,” he said strenuously getting out of the chair. He stretched for a second putting his hand on the small of his back.
Jayne couldn’t help smirking. Simon walked over to Jayne. The older man was sitting on the medbed. The Doc stopped in front of Jayne and said ”Spread your legs.”
”Wha’?!” Jayne had heard stories about pregnant women who turned into sex maniacs. He eyed the door. Maybe if he…
”I can’t reach your shoulder like this,” Simon said, gently pushing his belly against Jayne’s knees.
”Oh…um…right!” Jayne spread his legs and Simon reached up taking hold of Jayne’s shoulder. He moved the merc’s arm up and down, back and forth and in a circling motion.
”You still need to take it easy for another week, preferably two.”
Jayne nodded. ”’S good ta know.” Simon suddenly went pale his hands clutching Jayne’s thighs. ”Ya all right there, Doc?” Jayne asked, putting his hands on Simon’s hips when the smaller man started swaying.
”Get Mal,” Simon groaned through clenched teeth and passed out.
Mal looked like shit. Eyes red and misery pouring off him in waves. Jayne had never seen him that nervous. Scared. No one had said anything on the way to the clinic.
The silence had been creepy and Jayne eventually went down to the cargo bay to work out. He hadn’t joined the others before they were planetside. Zoë and Book had tried to convince Mal to let them put Simon in the cryocrate but he’d refused.
”I ain’t losing him…and he’s too gorram weak to survive the crate!” Mal had yelled at the top of his voice and the fact that Simon didn’t even react to the yelling had told Jayne that things were really serious.
One month too soon. It was stupid really. That one gorram month could be the difference ’tween the Doc and the kid dying or living.
A doctor entered the waiting room. Mal walked over and talked to him. River was sitting between Jayne and Kaylee. She’d been quiet but in that weird eerie way she had.
”How is he?” Mal asked, his fingers rubbing the blanket he still held in his hands. Kaylee had made it for the baby.
The doctor briefly looked at the blanket, then said ”It was a close call. If you’d brought him here an hour later…,” the doctor shook his head. ”He lost a large amount of blood during the surgery but he’ll be all right.”
Mal relaxed only to grow tense again. ”You didn’t say…is…the baby?” Kaylee made a barely audible sound. River took her hand and squeezed it tight.
The doctor smiled ”He’s small, because of the premature birth but apart from that…ten fingers, ten toes.”
Mal looked at Jayne, Kaylee and River. ”I’m…he…a son.”
He stood outside the door to Simon’s room. Behind it was everything he’d always wanted. He felt a sudden flash of gut wrenching fear. He could have lost them. He hesitated, his fingers on the door handle. If he went in there the Verse would notice. And the Verse had a tendency to take the things, the people, he loved and cared for away.
Taking a deep breath he turned the handle and walked in. The room was dark and only the silvery light of the planet’s two moons forced the looming shadows away. Simon was sleeping. He looked pale almost ghostlike and Mal concentrated on the rise and fall of his chest.
The door slowly shut behind him and he walked over to stand next to the bed. A small sound, like lips parting, startled him and he turned slightly to the right. Next to Simon’s hospital bed was a cot. And in it…
Mal suddenly felt an urge to turn around and leave the room. Find Wash and tell him to get them the hell off the planet. All these months of waiting and he’d never really grasped the idea that he was going to be a father. Him.
This wasn’t something he could bluff his way out off. He couldn’t order someone else to take care of it. He couldn’t up and leave. And he didn’t want to.
”It’s okay, Mal,” Simon was looking at him. ”Go on. You can touch him. He won’t break,” and funnily enough Mal wasn’t worried about the infant breaking. He was worried about himself.
”It’s okay, Mal.” Simon repeated soothingly.
Mal’s hands suddenly seemed too big and far too rough when he reached down and gently lifted the infant. He just stood there.
”Come here. Sit,” Simon patted the bed and smiled. Mal just nodded not trusting his own voice. Simon rubbed Mal’s back and asked ”What should we call him?”
Oh yeah, a name, yes the kid would need a name. Something Mal could call him if he ever found his voice again. And they had talked about it but right now Mal could hardly remember his own.
”Alexander Tamm Reynolds,” River’s voice came from the door.
”Mei mei?” Simon asked.
”Told me,” she explained.
”W-who did Little one?” Oh there his voice was.
”He did!” she giggled and kissed Alexander Tamm Reynolds’ tiny nose.
”Aww” Kaylee squealed ”He’s so adorable” The sleeping infant travelled from person to person until he ended up in Wash’s careful arms.
”Tiny hands” River smiled.
”A true gift from the Lord. Congratulations.” Book touched the baby’s head and looked at Mal and Simon. The younger man nodded his thanks but Mal was too busy keeping an eye on things.
If anyone dropped his son he was going to shoot them. Repeatedly.
”See that?” Mal pointed. ”Your Daddy don’t like it much. Says it’s too black…empty.” The small bundle in his arms stirred. ”Now me I think it’s peaceful-like…Quiet.” The sleeping infant made a small noise. Mal gently caressed his son’s cheek.
”I don’t, you know,” Mal was startled by Simon’s quiet voice.
”Think it’s empty,” the younger man knelt down next to the pilots seat. He placed a warm hand on Mal’s thigh. The other hand cradled their son’s head. ”Not anymore.”
Simon smiled and touched River’s shoulder. ”River?” he whispered not wanting to startle her. She opened her eyes and smiled back.
”Shhh,” she said pushing a finger against his lips. ”Little man’s sleeping.”
”Little man ain’t smelling so good,” Simon looked up at Mal. River slowly sat up on the couch, cradling Alexander.
”Tiny dreams,” she murmured.
”Dreams?” Mal asked ”Now what could a little one like that dream ’bout?”
”Warm gentle hands,” she smiled, touching the Captain’s calloused hand.
”Love drip drip dripping slowly filling places dark and empty,” Mal and Simon looked at the infant and then at each other. Wash came over, sniffed the air and said
”Ahhh the joys of Fatherhood!”
He’d survived Niska’s torture. He didn’t break. He’d had his ear cut off. But he didn’t break. This was a new and terrifying kind of torture. Like Chinese water torture it chipped away at you relentlessly.
”It’s your turn, Mal,” Simon mumbled, covering his ears with Mal’s pillow.
”Wha’ does he want?” Mal tried to rub the sleep out of his eyes.
”You know the drill,” Simon peeked out from under the pillow. ”Go before he wakes everybody up!” Mal stumbled across the room to the cradle. He looked at the little face and the tiny clenched fists.
”Wha’s wrong huh?” He said and lifted the screaming infant out of the cradle. He sniffed the diaper. ”No nothing there…thank God!” He mumbled. Then he started patting and rubbing the wailing baby’s back, trying to make him burp. No such luck.
”He’s hungry,” Simon said from the bed.
Mal trusted him. Even after all that shit on Ariel. He still trusted him. This proved it.
Jayne felt nervous. He’d never felt this nervous his whole life. Not even the first time he’d been forced to point a gun at someone.
The bundle in his arms gurgled and burped. Yeah Mal trusted him. No doubt about that.
”Zoë?” Mal whispered.
”Yes?” She turned around to face him.
He was holding the dark-haired toddler in his arms. Alexander was sleeping, hands clutching Mal’s red shirt. There was a wet spot of drool on it.
”Could you take him?” Mal asked hopefully.
”Sure” Zoë walked over and gently took the boy, careful not to wake him.
”Thanks,” Mal said turning around and walking toward the Infirmary.
”Everything all right, sir?” she asked.
”Oh yeah. Just have this itch I can’t seem to get rid of. Was hoping the Doc wouldn’t mind scratching it.”
Gorram it. He wasn’t a fucking babysitter.
”I ain’t doing it, Mal. Ain’t wha’ I get paid for.”
”No, Jayne. You get paid for your services as a merc,” Mal said pointing at Jayne ”but that ain’t possible cause you just had to piss off a guy who knew how to use a gorram sword!”
”Aww, Mal. Dat ain’t a problem. The Doc, he stitched it on just fine. It’s all healed. Dong ma? Look.” The big man flexed his left hand and looked like a child waving clumsily.
”It’s not healed yet, Jayne.” Simon said lifting Alexander up.
”Ain’t discussing this. Wash’ll be flying, Book and Simon’ll be getting supplies, Kaylee’s getting the spare parts she’s been nagging me ’bout for months and taking River with her. That just leaves you, Jayne. And you’re gonna look after Xander and that’s it!” Mal turned around and tickled the little boy making him squirm in Simon’s arms.
”Dad and Daddy need to go,” Simon said stroking the boys black hair. Big ocean blue eyes filled with tears.
”Wanna go!” Alexander sobbed.
”But Uncle Jayne will be looking after you. Won’t that be fun?” The little boy smiled and Jayne couldn’t help but smile back. Shit he was getting soft. All the little guy had to do was smile. Damn!
”Unce Jayne!” The three-year-old clapped his chubby hands. ”Wanna play oop ball!”
”Sure,” Jayne nodded not looking at Mal or Simon. Smirking bastards! Simon let go of the boy and the little one ran over and gave Jayne a knee-hug.
”Gonna win!” the boy yelled jumping up and down. ”Unce Jayne?”
”Wha’?” Jayne asked but was looking at Mal’s grinning face.
”Love ya Unce Jayne!” The boy hugged the merc’s knee fiercely. Mal sniggered and whispered something in Simon’s ear, making him laugh softly. The little boy looked expectantly up at Jayne. His neck bend as far back as physically possible.
”Love ya.” Jayne mumbled patting the boy’s thick black hair.
This was an awkward position. Simon pinned against the wall, Mal having to duck his head so he didn’t bang it against the ceiling. Simon really wanted to lean forward but there just wasn’t any room.
They had been playing Hide and Seek with Alexander and Simon had found what he believed to be the perfect hiding spot. The little boy would never find him here. But then Mal had found it as well and had refused to go find his own. So here they were and Mal seemed to have forgotten why they were there to begin with.
”Can you get your pants off?”
”Are you insane! Mal, he could find us any second now!” Mal just chuckled and started pulling at Simon’s clothes. A few buttons on his shirt made a ping noise when they hit the wall.
”Sorry,” Mal smirked.
”Look can you mmmm maybe,” Mal tried to shift so Simon’s legs could wrap around Mal’s waist. ”Maybe if…wait…I think if I…”
”Ow! Damn it Mal. That hurt!” Simon winched and rubbed his hand against his crotch.
”Wha’?” Mal looked at him ”Wha’ happened?” he asked.
”You practically kneed me in the crotch,” the younger man huffed.
”Shit sorry!” Mal helped him rub, his fingers interlacing with Simon’s. ”So does it still hurt?”
”Idiot.” Simon moaned. ”Just do something. But make it fast cause Alexander could…or God forbid Jayne!” Jayne had tag teamed with the little boy.
”Doctor’s orders?” Mal huskily asked. His fingers opening Simon’s pants and kissing him at the same time.
”Yes…and…and…shit, Mal…if need be you can…repeat the t-treatment.” Simon rested his head against Mal’s shoulder.
Mal pushed the younger man further back and slowly shimmied down. He was kneeling on the floor in front of Simon.
”You know this ain’t how I pictured my life being,” Mal said gently caressing Simon’s thighs.
”No?” Simon looked down at him and for a split second Mal was certain he saw fear lurking in the blue eyes.
”Naaaw,” he drawled. ”Never imagined it being this good,” He slowly pulled Simon’s pants all the way down. ”Never thought I’d live long enough to have a kid…a family.”
”That’s…Not that I don’t appreciate this Mal. I mean you telling me this, not you down on your knees,” Mal quirked an eyebrow ”Well obviously I appreciate that as well but…oh my God.”
Mal would have said something but his mouth was full and his Ma had always told him not to speak with his mouth full.
”He’s beautiful,” Inara said, her eyes glued to the little boy running around her garden. Alexander was giggling and yelling, running after a laughing River. The Companion looked away and sighed.
”I’m…sorry!” Simon blurted out.
”Don’t be. It would never have worked,” Inara whispered, her voice unsteady. ”I couldn’t be what he wanted…We wouldn’t have been good for each other.” Her hands moved over her face removing invisible cobwebs. ”I could never stop being a Companion and he…”
”Couldn’t share,” Simon finished. They both looked up when Alexander started screaming with delight. Wash was making monster sounds and pretending to hunt the giggling boy.
”Dad! Dad! Save me!” he yelled and collided with a surprised Mal. The Captain started cursing but stopped when he caught Simon’s warning eyes.
”I mean…ehhh…ouch,” he corrected himself. Jayne punched Mal’s shoulder and bellowed.
”Damn Mal ya’r whipped ain’t ya!” Mal just smiled and whispered something in the merc’s ear. Jayne went from smug to shocked.
”He does what?” Jayne's surprised voice loud enough for all to hear. Simon ran over to the two men and started dragging Mal away from a leering Jayne.
”Gotta hurry, Simon,” Mal said unbuttoning Simon’s shirt.
”Wha…,” Simon put the syringe down on the table.
”Got Kaylee looking after Xander and was kinda hoping you’d take care of me.”
”Mmmmm really,” Simon said running his hands over Mal’s chest. ”How long?”
”Maybe 15 minutes…half…an hour,” he answered between kisses.
”Sounds good. Bunk?”
”Waste of time getting there. Here’s good?” Mal put his hand down the front of Simon’s pants. Simon wanted to protest. Someone could walk in on them. God this felt good…but…
”Someone could…” Simon panted.
“Food?” Alexander said.
“Are ya asking me or telling me?” Jayne quirked an eyebrow.
Jayne shook his head and said “Gotta say ya don’t sound too gorram sure, Lill’one,” the big merc ruffled the boy’s hair.
“Kaylee cooked and Dad says you can’t say gorram,” the boy whispered the last word.
“Sure I can! Listen: Gorram. I can even yell it. GORRAM!” Jayne grinned down at the boy.
Alexander giggled. “Again?”
“Gorram!” Jayne yelled and laughed.
“Haven’t I told you not to teach the boy swearwords?” the Captain bellowed when they entered the galley.
“Wasn’t teaching. Was just telling which ones not ta’ say. And gorram is one of ‘em,” Jayne explained. Simon just couldn’t help snorting when he saw Mal glaring at Jayne, while attempting to make Alexander eat his vegetables.
“An’ it ain’t like ya don’t swear ya self. Just the other day ya called that guy who cheated ya a gorram son-of-a…”
“Jayne!” Kaylee raised her voice warningly.
“Yeah yeah no swearwords. Gonna end up not talking if’n I can’t use swearwords.”
Book looked at the merc and said “And this is bad?”
Mal was straddling Simon’s thighs sharing heated kisses. Simon was leaning against the headboard of their bed, hands roaming freely over Mal’s body. As Simon arched his back seeking the needed contact he heard the door open.
”Daddy look what River bought me. It’s a …eeeehhhhh…”
Simon was so surprised, he pushed Mal of off him and grabbed the nearest pillow holding it in front of his crotch.
”Ow,” Mal hit the floor and glared at Simon. Mal slowly got up and stood there rubbing his hand against his hip. ”Now Xander,” he said ”What did I say ’bout knocking?”
The boy just seemed completely baffled and Mal couldn’t help smiling. Alexander looked so much like Simon standing like that, eyes big and surprised. Then the boy scrunched up his face.
”Eww…that’s just…ewww.” he turned around and ran out.
Simon started laughing. Mal just looked at him, shaking his head.
”Gotta say I don’t share his sentiment.”
”Preacher?” Book looked up.
”Yes, son?” he always enjoyed their little talks. The boy was intelligent and curious. Living out in the black gave Alexander plenty of time to think about things.
”Can we talk about …um…some stuff?” Alexander ran first one hand, then both through his hair.
”Yes of course. Come sit with me,” the preacher pulled out a chair.
”Thanks…um I’ve...” the boy stopped and started shifting in his seat. ”I…when…when we were planetside. I talked to these other kids and…,” Book nodded, encouraging him to continue.
They had stayed on the planet for almost a whole month getting Serenity fixed. Book had spend some time there working in the local church. Alexander had seemed happy surrounded by other children.
”You seemed to have a good time,” Book said in an attempt to make the boy continue.
”Yeah, at first it was really…but then…They asked about my mother. They thought that Kaylee…I should have told them the truth but I just wanted to be…to be like them.” The boy looked defeated.
”Then I don’t know…I lied. I said my Ma was dead and that Dad was alone now…But then they saw them. They saw Dad and Daddy and you know how they can just look at each other. It was so obvious…And I’ve never...before but I…I was embarrassed.” Alexander had tears in his eyes but he wasn’t done yet.
”And then…I thought they were my friends but they said… They said it was disgusting!” Alexander seemed to shrink.
”Well the people there are very religious.” Book said.
”But so are you. You’re a preacher and you don’t thing it’s wrong. Do you?” The boy suddenly seems uncertain and the last two words sounded more like pleading than asking.
”No. What your fathers have is not wrong. You must never let anyone convince you of that. Christianity is about love not condemnation. I understand your need to feel ordinary…but you aren’t. And there will always be those that will belittle you and do you wrong,” Book explained.
”I’m certain that Jayne has taught you quite a few ways to handle such people.”
The boy couldn’t help but smile.
”But ignore them. Their barks are almost always worse than their bite.”
”I aughta still have stood up to them. I still should have told them the truth. I ain’t ashamed,” the boy got up and left the preacher to his own thoughts.
”Daddy?” Alexander was standing outside the Infirmary. He seemed a bit nervous. Simon looked up. Alexander started to scratch his neck, a trait he’d picked up form Mal. His dark brown hair needed to be cut.
”Um…ah,” he hadn’t inherited Mal’s eloquence.
”Are you all right, Alex?” Simon asked.
”Yeah um I’ve been thinking…um…uncle Jayne…” God how it still boggled Simon’s mind to hear Jayne referred to as uncle.
”Um…he…,” Alexander took a big breath ”I’m thinking about maybe hecouldteachmehowtoshoot,” the boy babbled.
”You want Jayne to teach you how to shoot?" Simon translated.
”Yeah” Alexander looked down at the floor. He knew how his Daddy felt about guns. He started to bite and nibble on his little finger.
”You should ask Dad, you know,” Simon walked over and put his hand on the teenagers slim shoulder. ”Mal would want to be the one to teach you.”
The boy looked at his hands. ”Don’t think he’d wanna teach me, Daddy.”
”Mal?” Simon’s head was resting on Mal’s shoulder.
”Hmmm?” Mal mumbled half asleep.
”Alexander wants to learn how to shoot.”
”I know,” Mal ran his hand through Simon’s black hair.
”He’s been thinking about asking Jayne.”
”The thing is…are you listening?” Simon tapped a finger against Mal’s forehead.
”Yes, doctor.” Mal sat up forcing Simon to do the same.
”I think he really wants you to teach him,” Simon said. ”Mal what’s wrong?”
”He’s growing up that’s what’s wrong. Time flying by is what’s gorram wrong.”
”He won’t be a little boy forever,” Simon said and started to rub Mal’s back.
”I just don’t…It’s the whole idea of him growing up and…well.”
”Leaving?” Simon finished.
”Yeah,” Mal scratched his neck.
”We can’t keep him here on Serenity forever,” Simon stopped rubbing Mal’s back and rested his chin on the older man’s shoulder instead.
”We could tie him up!”
”Jayne would beat the crap out of you, Mal!” Simon smiled.
”Yeah he is a mite protective of the kid.”
”All we can do is teach him everything he’ll need to know and then, when he does leave, we can only hope that it’s enough.”
”I know, Simon…just don’t like the idea of him holding a gun…needing to use one.”
”But you’ll teach him?”
”Yeah,” Mal nodded ”and then I’ll tie him up.”
Chapter 6: Not a violent man
There's a man pointing a gun at his son’s head. A gun. His son. His.
He is not a violent man. Never was but in that moment he would not think twice about killing whoever he has to. With his bare hands if need be.
Alexander is crying. He’s too young to understand what the gun means. Just a little boy. Toddler. There is a small hole on the knee of the dark blue pants the boy is wearing. That will need to be fixed. Kaylee made those pants. Used one of Mal’s old shirts.
The man is saying something. “…ain’t ya listening? Ya gonna find that sis of yours and then ya’r gonna bring her ta me, ya get that?” He’s pressing the gun hard into Alexander’s black hair. The sun is glittering in it.
Everything is moving so fast. Before Simon knows it, the man is on the ground with Mal pointing a gun at him. Jayne is handing Alexander to Wash. The boy hides his face in the pilot’s gray jumpsuit.
“Gorramn bounty hunter!” Jayne growls.
“Mal leave him to me,” Simon says. Face blank. Cold. Emotionless.
“Simon?” Mal has only seen this happen once before. When an Alliance officer had grabbed River and threatened to drag her off to the Academy again.
“Wanna borrow Binky?” Jayne asks.
Simon just shakes his head “You need to take Alexander inside, Mal. Take Jayne and Wash with you.”
Jayne looks at Mal. Wash takes one look at Simon and start walking up Serenity’s access ramp. Jayne nods and follows. Leaving Mal, Simon and the bounty hunter behind.
“Simon?” Mal repeats.
In that moment the bounty hunter understands that it’s not the huge merc or the Captain he needs to worry about. It’s this younger, better dressed, clean, Core-boy he should be running like hell away from.
Mal looks up and sees Simon walk up the ramp. There’s blood on Simon's white shirt. He knows the bounty hunter isn’t dead. There’s a reason Simon turned down Jayne’s offer.
“Won’t ever see him again,” Jayne drawls.
“Nope,” Mal says.
Chapter 7: Puppy love
“Aunty Kaylee?” Kaylee turned around. Alexander was standing outside the engine room.It was one of several places onboard the ship that were off-limits to the boy. It was just too dangerous.
He looked like he’d just awoken from his afternoon nap. His hair was sticking in all directions and he still had pillow marks on his cheek. The boy could be covered in mud from head to toe and he’d still be cute.
“Looking for your Dad?” Kaylee asked.
“Um…you’re not married are ya?” Alexander asked and scratched his nose with a fist. He spend far too much time with Jayne.
“Not married, no. Why’d you wanna know?” Kaylee asked wiping her oil stained fingers on an old rag.
“Don’t you wanna?” he asked pulling on a lock of his hair.
“Well if I could find a handsome and sweet man…”
“Like me?” he smiled and bounced on the heels of his sock covered feet.
“Like you!” Kaylee hugged the boy.
“You could marry me!” Alexander announced and looked more like Simon than ever.
“I’m much too old for ya,” Kaylee hid her smile behind a greasy hand.
“Nooo! I’m gonna be six soon an’ I know all the letters in the alphabet an’ Daddy showed me how to tie my shoelaces and then I’m gonna be big an’ strong like Dad an’ Daddy…”
“Sweety, we can’t get married,” Kaylee said putting a finger on the babbling boy’s lips.
“It’s cause I don’t have a ship, ain’t it?” the boy looked crestfallen.
“It’s cause we’re family, Sweetheart. You don’t marry your own family.”
“Oh…,” he said looking at his feet.
“Where’d ya go little man.” Jayne called from the end of the hall.
“I was just asking her, Uncle Jayne?” the boy yelled back. Jayne walked over to Kaylee and Alexander.
“An’ wha’ she say then?” Jayne asked.
“No.” Alexander answered disappointedly. But then he looked at Jayne with a thoughtful expression.
“Kaylee? Is Uncle Jayne handsome and sweet?”
Both Jayne and Kaylee blushed and looked embarrassed.
Chapter 8: Don't ask me
Wash was on his back curled up under the pilots seat trying to reach that damn converter. Burned out piece of…
“Yeah?” Wash did a little swearing and wriggled his way out and sat up.
“What does Cao ni ma ou di you mean?” Alexander said tilting his head slightly. He looked like a curious puppy.
”Nothing you need to worry your little head with,” Wash said looking around. If Mal or Simon were around he was going to get his ass handed to him. Wash smiled. Nope, no pissed off Doc or Captain. Thank the gods for small mercies.
”Wash?” the little boy sat down on the floor and fiddled with his shoelace.
”I’m pretty sure we’ve already covered this part,” Wash smiled.
”Nothing. So do you want to borrow my dinosaurs? I bought a new one last planet fall. It’s a herbivore but a real beauty with a looooong neck and…”
”Where did I come from?” Alexander interrupted.
”The Galley?” Wash guessed.
Alexander looked very confused. ”They cooked me?” he seemed horrified.
”Who?” What the hell were they talking about?
”Dad an’ Daddy. They cooked me?!”
”Oh...Oh my God! It’s The Talk, we’re having The Talk aren’t we. Damn!” Wash looked around again hoping that someone would come and save him. Alexander just looked at him. ”Right. Okay. Where you came from? And obviously it wasn’t the Galley…but ummmm…Where you came from?”
”Uncle Jayne says that I grew in Daddy’s tummy but that’s just stupid cause how’d I get in there?” Jayne came in with some more tools for Wash.
”Now Lill’ One, ya know ya ain’t allowed on the bridge,” he said and ruffled Alexander’s hair.
”Where’d I come from, Uncle Jayne?”
”Already told ya. From ya’r Daddy’s tummy,” Jayne handed Wash the tools.
”Yeah,” Wash said teasingly ”But how’d he get in there?”
”Dat’s easy! Ya’r Dad an’ Daddy wanted a lill’ one so they took a tiny part of their hearts an’ went to a doc who could but them in ya’r Daddy’s tummy. Them heart-parts grew an’ turned into you. Then the doc took ya out an’ they took you with ’em back ta Serenity.”
”Okay,” The little boy said and took Jayne’s hand. As they walked out of the bridge Wash heard them talk. ”Uncle Wash didn’t know ’bout where I’d come from.”
”Yeah he ain’t awfully bright.”
Chapter 9: All alone
The silence was horrible.
Having to listen to laboured breathing. Hearing him whimper in pain. Hearing Simon mumble medical terms and temperatures and possible cures. Mal held on to his son’s hand. So small.
Wash came by with one of his dinosaurs. Jayne hovered by the door eyes glued to the little boy’s shivering body. Book told Mal that he would pray for Alexander and for once Mal had accepted it with gratitude. Kaylee cried. Her eyes denying to linger on the boy. If she didn’t see it, it wasn’t true.
But the boy still had a fever. Simon still hadn’t slept for three days and Mal still couldn’t leave the boy’s bed.
Finally the fever seemed to break. It stabilised. Simon collapsed and Mal but him in the boy’s bed. There, the two most important people in the whole Verse slept while Mal quietly left the room.
He climbed the rungs to their room and splashed his face with ice cold water from the sink. He looked in the mirror. He barely recognized the man he saw.
“All alone,” a small voice said “All alone and nobody peeking at the weakness underneath.”
“Can’t afford to let go, Little One.” Mal said and turned around so he faced River. She smiled her sad, broken smile and took his hand. She stroked the palm of his hand. Lifted it and placed it against his heart.
“Hear it?” she asked.
“Don’t know wha’ I’d be listening for.”
“Simon, Alexander…in here,” she whispered.
“That’s why you never asked for another,” she claimed.
“Another like Alexander.”
“I almost lost Simon…I love Alexander but without Simon…”
“Simon wanted another,” she nodded.
“I told him no!” Mal said looking at the floor. River’s bare feet were so small and fragile against the cold metal. “I…was selfish…wanted…and it nearly cost Simon’s life. I’d never…”
“The fever is down and Alex just woke up,” Simon’s tired voice announced over the intercom.
The Captain and the girl just stood staring at each other. Then Mal made a small quiet gasping sound and crumbled to the floor. He was sobbing so hard he didn’t hear River’s soothing words or feel her small hands on his broad shoulders.
Chapter 10: Love at first sight
Wash was trying to concentrate on relaxing and drinking his tea. Everything was quiet and calm and he just needed a few moments of almost-tranquillity.
The sighing was making that impossible. Every time he thought that surely that sigh would be the last one, it was followed by another often longer sigh. The pilot put his mug on the galley table and asked “Everything all right and shiny, Alexander?”
“Mmmhmm,” the boy answered with a sigh.
Wash looked at Jayne who was walking through the galley. “You know what all the sighing is about?”
“He ain’t done with the gorramn sighing. Damn boy nearly drove me crazy with it. Had to give up polishing Binky cause of the sighing,” the merc said looking at the boy sitting at the table.
“Did you see her hair?” Alexander asked with a deep heartfelt sigh.
Jayne and Wash just looked at each other. “Wha’ gorramn hair ya talking ’bout?” Jayne asked.
“It was brown, but with these really beautiful strands of red in it. And when the sun was shining in it…,” the boy looked dreamily at the pilot and the merc.
“He’s in love?” Wash asked and laughed forgetting about tea and tranquillity.
“Puppy luuuvvvveeeeeee,” Jayne teasingly drawled. The teenage boy just dismissed them with a pout.
“Who’s in love?” Mal asked from the doorway pulling his suspenders on. Simon followed right behind him. Hair a little tussled and shirt buttoned wrong.
“You’d understand Dad!” Alexander said “You and Daddy!”
“Understand?” Simon looked confused “Understand what?” he asked and fixed his shirt.
“Love at first sight! I mean you and Dad loved each other at first sight, right?!” Alexander exclaimed.
Jayne started sniggering and pointed first at Mal then at Simon “Yeah…It was like getting hit in the head!” the merc snorted “Right Doc?”
Simon and Mal looked at each other for a long moment. Then Simon said “Like getting hit twice, Alexander. That’s how it felt…like getting hit twice.” Alexander smiled and sighed dreamily.
Wash walked off looking for Zoë. Who needed quiet time and tea anyway?