Word Count: 2,272
This is for the LJ community 50_baby_fics Prompt #3-Test
She knew what they were thinking. She bit her lip to fight back the tears. Even if she wasn't a reader she'd know. It was written plainly on their faces. Except Mal. He was the only one who seemed to be thinking nothing. She focused on him, hoping it would ground her and stop her world from spinning out of control.
The only reason they were all there was they wanted to see the proof she wasn't carrying some contagion. They weren't going to take Simon's word for it. And none of them were going to trust anyone else to tell the truth. They were odd that way.
She knew that they all thought she was crazier than crazy. They didn't understand that her mind was here, capable of working. It was just a mess, a tangled web all jumbled together instead of woven neatly. Occasionally she'd sort the tangles into an organized mess and they'd see her as lucid and coherent. She was working at it, deciphering the maze so Simon wouldn't have to medicate her anymore. Her coherent times were starting to match her incoherent ones through her efforts not Simon's.
Inara was by far the most sympathetic to her situation when Simon announced the results of the battery of tests he'd run. River knew before he'd said. His eyes met hers and he'd recognized that she knew. She'd never forget the look of disappointment on his face. Disappointment in her. He didn't understand! He hadn't wanted to run the test. She knew that from his thoughts and told him to run it. No sense not running every possibility.
Except it shouldn't have been a possibility. Yet there it was. Two pink lines. If she had known that was what it was, she would have just peed on the stick thing and gotten it over with.
Jayne wasn't the only one who wondered just what Simon had rescued her from. Maybe she hadn't been experimented on after all. Maybe she'd been like Inara and the Tam's just didn't like having a whore in their family.
"Don't understand," she whispered, peering at them from under disheveled hair. Jayne was the only one who ever noticed that about her. The others seemed to understand that grooming wasn't a priority to her. Keeping herself from going completely crazy was.
[Thank God it's not me.]
River couldn't help but smile at the companion's thoughts. There were times Inara did not screen her thoughts very well and River was privy to scenarios she had no business having knowledge of. River never blushed, though. There wasn't anything left for her to be shocked about. Being a companion was a legal occupation after all, being an assassin as she was trained to be was questionable at best.
Simon was pacing the length of the infirmary floor, raking his fingers through his hair. He wanted to run the test again, never mind he'd already run it twice. Kaylee's eyes were darting between Simon and River. She wanted to help, but didn't know what to do. There was nothing to do. Simon would not believe her, not yet anyway. He was too upset and disappointed to listen and be reasonable.
"Well, now," Mal said. He was the first to actually speak, breaking the silence that was deafening to River. Jumbled thoughts gave her a headache. She was glad to have something to focus on. "Doesn't that beat all?"
"No one wants to ask the girl," she whispered.
"What was that?"
She said nothing in response. Mal scared her a little. Not that he'd hurt her, but he was the one on this ship with the power. And power was frightening to those who didn't have it. She was powerless. Night and day. Dark and light.
No one seemed to understand. She couldn't be pregnant. There was no way. Her body was still virginal. Contrary to her mind, it was untainted. The one thing she thought they'd been unable to take from her. A lone tear fell, cascading a path over her cheek, down her face, and dropping to the examining table she sat on. They'd even taken that from her it seemed.
She chose then to leave, wanting the privacy of her room. She could read Simon's thoughts. He always forgot at times like this she could. He wanted to drug her, to abort the baby. He wanted to get his hands on the man who'd gotten her in this position. He wondered, too, how it had happened. When it had happened.
She would not let him abort her baby. If the others were surprised at her sudden and hasty departure, no one said anything. Of course not, with her gone they'd be able to talk about her.
Once out of view of the infirmary, she ran. She was faster than the wind in that moment. Floating as her lithe legs carried her the distance to her bunk.
She was the only one in this area right now. It was so quiet, so empty. Like she was. Her hand went to her abdomen. Until now. She wasn't empty anymore.
A knock at the hatch leading to her bunk brought her out of her thoughts and back to reality. There were times she wasn't sure which was which, reality or the places her mind took her. Sometimes her mind's escapades were very appealing and difficult to pull herself away from.
She sat up on her bed, her eyes wide when she spotted the boots on the ladder. They belonged to Mal. He was here, in her bunk. She glanced around quickly to ensure nothing was too out of place. She'd accumulated a few belongings while here on Serenity, but not very many to make a mess.
"How are you feeling, little one?"
"Fine," she mumbled. He wasn't there to ask how she was. He was trying to be nice. Her eyes widened when she caught a glimpse of why he was there before closing herself off. She was getting better at doing that.
"Well, your brother seems to think you might just be the mother of the next Jesus Christ. If you believe in that sort of mythical creature. I told him that wasn't the case, which led to a bit of a scuffle." She saw it now. The bruise on Mal's face. Simon had gotten his hands on someone after all, even if it wasn't the man who'd done this to her. "That was part of my plan, though."
She smiled at that. Mal believed in religion more than he realized. His God had let him down in his time of need, but the values and beliefs instilled in him until that point still helped guide him. He was a gentleman, not the type that paid for Inara's company. Those men were trying to be gentlemen by dressing a part. Mal was the part without a costume. It worked to his advantage many times because people underestimated him.
"What do you believe?"
"Well, I'm guessing that part of your conversion over to a killing machine was a plan to produce more when needed. You'd get too old eventually, but like produces like much of the time. So, somehow this was planted in you, waiting to be activated. I don't get the where or why of it. I've quit trying to figure out why the Alliance does what it does."
She nodded, feeling another batch of tears starting to form in her eyes.
"Aww, now, don't go doing that," he said, sitting next to her on the bed. He used the pad of his thumb and brushed it over both eyes, taking the tears away.
She nodded simply. "Yes. I have never. There is no other possibility."
"I get that, I do, and I believe you. Some women, maybe I wouldn't, but you I do. The only option here on the ship for you is Jayne and that just wouldn't happen."
She blushed at his frankness. She'd thought of the merc in that capacity. He was a viable specimen for sure. He still wasn't over the idea that she could kill him at any time, though. She noticed he hadn't included himself in her options.
"You don't think Simon rescued me from a life of sin?"
"No. No disrespect toward Inara and those in her chosen line of work, but you'd fit in there about as well as I would I reckon."
She smiled at that.
"So, it seems you've got a problem. You're going to have it, I assume."
She shrugged. "I think I have to."
"Well, now, you don't have to do anything, but I guessed that was going to be your decision. And since it is, I reckon there's only one thing to do in order to fly under the radar of the Alliance."
She ducked her head, mentally counting to one hundred to keep from invading his thoughts. Things still spilled through, though. She wasn't able to completely shut him out when he was thinking this hard, this fast.
"Your brother admits that he isn't equipped to deliver a baby if there are complications, which would suggest when your time is drawing near we'll have to make our way to Persephone or somewhere like that in the event you need more than what we have here on Serenity. We've never needed baby delivering equipment so it wasn't a priority when other more essential things were. They're probably taking that into account, that something like this would bring you out of hiding."
"I reckon, if there were complications, they wouldn't be looking for you to come in with a husband. I mean, what man's going to believe the ramblings of a crazy girl insisting she'd never been with a man but carries the evidence she has."
"Now, I've talked to Shepherd in confidence, assured him my intentions are in the right place. I'm not out to deflower you, River. Once the baby comes and we know for certain you don't need the additional help of an Alliance hospital, we'll get an annulment, and it'll be like it never happened."
"Shepherd agreed to that?"
"He wants you safe, as we all do. He's even agreed to backdate the license. He has an in with the Alliance, not sure what that's all about and I hesitate to ask for fear I'll want him off the ship. And he's proven useful. So, there'd be no indication this baby has come about in any fashion but the regular one."
"But we wouldn't."
"No, of course not," he answered quickly. And he was actually blushing. "Only thing is, no one else on Serenity can know. As far as anyone else is concerned, I'm going to be a proud papa doing right by you. So that means you'll have a change of sleeping quarters for the time being. I'll take the floor or we'll sleep in shifts. We'll figure that out, but the thing is everyone has to think it's real. You're a reader, doubtless they have others at the ready. I don't know if they have any way of knowing the switch has been thrown, but if they do they'll be looking for you nine months from whenever it was activated. It'll be business as usual in every which way, just with a name change is all. Speaking of, Shepherd and I agreed it might be better if you use your middle name."
"Gabrielle," she supplied, reading his thoughts. "After my father."
"All right. Gabrielle Reynolds. It has a nice ring to it, I guess."
"Why are you doing this for me? You don't like us."
"It's not a matter of like or not, River. It's a matter of those people had no right to do these things to you. Using you as a guinea pig is one thing. Not that I approve of that either, but this," he said, gesturing to her abdominal area. "It's just insane. I've always known they'd stop at nothing to win and this just drives that point home."
"It's going to be a boy," she whispered, rubbing her to this point still flat abdomen.
"I can connect with him, yes."
"Then how is it you didn't know you were pregnant?"
"How is it you've never thought to look for a baby inside you, Mal?"
His lips quivered into the hint of a smile like they so often did. "Well, now that's entirely different. That'd be impossible," he snapped his mouth closed. He turned his eyes to her, amusement in them. "Point taken. Come on up now. Your brother wants to run an ultrasound to see how far along you are. I told him I wasn't sure. I implied, privately of course, that there had been more than one opportunity for a baby to take. At the moment, he's the only one that believes I'm the father. Well, the first one I laid the deceitful story on. Then I guess we'll have us a Serenity wedding. What with Zoe and Wash, well, it's not completely out of the realm of reality."
"We'll make them believe it."
He stood then, offering her his hand. She took it, not that she needed his help. She wasn't helpless, but he was being kind she could respond to that with some of her own.
"What if I'd said no?"
"You wouldn't want to jeopardize the child. I took that into account when I thought the plan up."