Zoe struggled to pry her daughter out of the Captains firm hold and failed. She stepped back with a huff, making a face at Emma to share her annoyance. The little girl smiled at the silly face her mother made but remained still and quiet like a good baby. Zoe glanced at the Captain's sleeping face and didn't bother to hold back a wry chuckle, this phenomenon of Mal’s was something the whole crew found much entertainment in.
How the man was able to be fully asleep while reclining and holding Emma to his chest with one large hand fanned out over her small back and the other cupping her bottom to hold her up in a unmovable grip was beyond them all. She remembered the first time they had caught the captain at it, Zoe had panicked and swooped to scoop her child out of, what she assumed to be, a feeble hold. It was an irrational fear because Zoe knew that Mal was able to sleep in the middle of a gunfight holding his rifle in a equally unbreakable grasp.
But a rifle was not her child so she had grabbed for her baby only to find that she could not pull Emma out of the Captain's arms. In her panic she tried to forcefully pull Emma into her arms... and Mal had followed. The man was stubborn even while asleep! Zoe ended up having to let go of Emma because her pulling only served to keep lifting Mal’s back off the back of the couch when he refused to let her daughter go.
The Captain was not the most graceful of men and all her pulling jerked Mal awake just as he fell back onto the couch with a grunt. Startled to find Zoe hovering far closer than he was comfortable with, apparently watching him sleep, he had flailed around comically for a bit, sputtering half coherent protests.
Little Emma had remained snuggled safely in his arms while he wriggled around the entire time.
The ruckus had drawn the rest of the crew to them and, to the captain's chagrin, it had quickly become their new favorite game: see who can pry a awake, but placid Emma, away from the sleeping Captains arms without waking him. So far they had all been unsuccessful.
Zoe straightened as she debated giving up and waking the captain in order to release her daughter, however it was not in her nature to admit defeat and sleep was something the captain always needed more of so she was loathe to wake him.
Just then Emma smiled her gummiest grin at something behind her mother and Zoe turned to find River stepping into the bridge, a fragrant cup of steaming hot coffee in her hand. Zoe's stomach growled, reminding her that she was missing breakfast. River glaced at Zoe, "You’re doing it wrong," she whispered, mirth thick in her voice as she headed toward Emma and the captain. Immediately little Emma let out a happy peal of baby laughter, clearly excited, she knew quiet time was almost over.
Glancing between the two girls Zoe raised a skeptical but amused eyebrow, "Is that so? By all means then," she encouraged.
Big eyes sparkling River stopped on the other side of the Captain's seat and passed the cup of coffee slowly past his face on her way to set it on the console in front of him. Mal’s nose twitched right away and his nostrils flared as his head turned to follow the scent instinctively.
No longer skeptical but no less entertained Zoe watched the younger woman wriggle her slim fingers between Emma's tiny back and Mal's hand. His fingers automatically curled around Rivers hand, it never failed to make her smile sweetly and her pale thumb swept a graceful path across his rough knuckles indulgently. Zoe pressed her lips together to hold back the amused snort threatening the back of her throat at the way River paused to stare at Mal, eyes soft and warm, clearly lost in her own head. She had to visibly struggle to bring herself back to the task at hand. Zoe almost rolled her eyes good naturedly as River finally looked up at Zoe, a faint blush stained her pale cheeks but her chin lifted entirely unrepentant.
River looked pointedly at Zoe instead, silently telling her to get ready, and then easily pulled Mal's hand away from Emma’s back. It was cake for Zoe to tip her daughter out of the hand supporting her swaddled bottom into her own arms. Finally freed Emma gurgled happily now that quiet time was over making both women smile warmly at the infant.
Zoe laughed quietly at River triumphant face, "I win," she joked, making Zoe laugh harder before thanking River on her way out to get her daughter and herself a late breakfast. She had just stepped through the doorway when Rivers own laughter rang out, a quick glance behind her showed her the cause. Mal had woken up after all and had tumbled River into his lap making a show of jostling her around and rubbing his scratchy morning beard into her neck purely to tickle River into laughing and continue squirming in his lap.
Zoe turned her back to the couples canoodling antics and made sure to close the bridge door behind her, preserving their privacy for a time. As she made her way down the stairs toward the kitchen she spoke to her daughter, "Seems we will have to find our own way to get you out of the Captains clutches little one, Aunt Rivers way only works for her I'm thinking." Emma agreed energetically, happy to keep chatting away in her in her burbling baby talk.