The groans and screams could be heard through the ship, rattling doors and vibrating walls, or so it felt to River as she stood a few feet away from the action. The day had come, the special day she had predicted much more accurately than her doctor brother. A few moments more and their crew would be eleven in number.
She was much calmer this time around, attending her second birth. River would be proud of herself if she weren’t so thoughtful, and trying so hard to keep from giggling at Wash who was a terribly confusing combination of excitement and fear right now as he hopped around the medical bay like a bug on a hot plate.
“Okay, Zoe,” Simon told her. “One more push,” he encouraged, as the warrior woman followed the doctor’s instruction, gritting her teeth and forcing her child out into the world.
“She’s here,” murmured River with a smile, though from where she who would play nurse stood, she could not physically see enough of the child to know it was a girl - but it was.
“Oh my God!” Wash gasped at the sight of his child, leaning heavily on the side of the bed for fear of passing out, and Zoe glowed with pride and exhaustion both as her daughter was presented to her.
“There’s my girl,” she gasped out, as close to tears as she had ever been seen to be.
“If you don’t mind, doc,” Wash said then, glancing at Simon. “We were gonna name her Alyssa Simone Washburne.”
“I’m honoured,” the doctor replied, truly moved by the gesture.
He turned then to speak to River only to find she was gone from behind him, wandering out of the door to where Jayne, Kaylee, Inara, and Book sat waiting for news of the new arrival. Daniel and Mal stayed on the bridge, flying the ship and keeping watch for the trouble that always seemed to follow Serenity and her crew around.
“Is everythin’ okay, River?” her mechanic friend asked, rushing at her. “Is Zoe alright, and the baby and all?”
“Yes, all is good.” She smiled at Kaylee and the others, “One more crew member. Baby girl.”
As Inara and Kaylee hurried to see the new arrival, and the Shepherd got on the nearest comm to share the news with the rest of the crew, Jayne hadn’t time to wonder on Zoe and Wash’s little bundle. Something wasn’t right with River, and he was the first to notice, as usual. Nobody thought about Jayne being sensitive or observant, but his job dictated he had to be the latter, at least. He could spot trouble a mile away, be it a sniper or an ambush or whatever. Same could be said for River, he saw something bad about to happen long before she made it too obvious. It was almost as if he could read her as well as she read everyone else these days.
Getting up from the couch, he abandoned the cards he’d been playing solitaire with on the table, and followed River as she wandered aimlessly through the ship. He caught up to her in the galley where she turned around and looked back at him, almost as if she were lost or just forgot what she was doing somehow.
“You okay, bao-bei?” he asked her, pretty sure he knew the answer to that already, but not knowing what else to say.
“Okay.” She nodded her response. “Fine. Absence of problem. Yes, okay is true,” she said definitely, a smile turning her lips as she spoke, and yet she didn’t seem right still.
“River, honey, you’re actin’ weird even for you,” Jayne told her as he came closer, reaching out and placing his hands on her shoulders, ensuring she looked at him. “What in the gorram hell happened in there?” he asked with a frown.
“She pushed, she screamed... so loud and so much pain,” River explained the scene she had witnessed, “and then... perfection.” She smiled up at her man, looking genuinely happy now and that only proved to confuse Jayne all the more. “So tiny, so precise, so...” She stopped short, her expression unreadable to even her husband now. “Mother and child doing well, but mother and child can be different,” she tried to tell him, but her riddles that surfaced once in a while still baffled Jayne when they caught him off guard.
“Yeah, you lost me at pushin’ and screamin’, babydoll,” he told her regretfully. “You wanna maybe start over, use your non-genius words,” he suggested, making her smile.
Sometimes she forgot that she didn’t always make sense, that her own thought patterns rarely matched those of others. It certainly didn’t occur to her so often that her Jayne-man wasn’t as educated or as smart as she was, all she really knew was he was good at what he needed to be good at, and the perfect man for her to be tied to.
“I love Daniel,” she said, plain words no-one could fail to understand. “Perfect you and me in one place, so lucky to have,” she declared.
“True enough.” Jayne nodded, glad she was at least makin’ some semblance o’ sense to him for now.
“So bad to ask for more,” said River, shaking her head, “to want, to want too much,” she struggled out, knowing that greed was over-taking her, and that greed was wrong.
Bad things had happened in her life, but the ‘verse had paid her back for what she suffered. Now she had family, love, husband, child, peace, comfort, everything she could ever dream to want, and yet there was one more thing she craved.
“What ya wantin’ so bad, bao-bei?” her husband begged to be told, hand going to her cheek and turning her face til she was looking at him again. “If’n I knew, I’d give you whatever you wanted, you know that,” he told her.
River leaned her cheek into his palm, feeling the warmth of his body near hers, and even more than that the love that radiated all around the two of them. It was so pure and real, River was sure she would never tire of it. She only hoped her Jayne-man would understand what she wanted to tell him now, her secret wish.
“To be Zoe,” she admitted at length. “To be mother, to scream and push and see the tiny form. Mine and yours,” she explained, gesturing between his chest and hers to illustatre her point. “Real, traditional, true born.”
“Wuh di tyen, ah!” exclaimed Jayne, eyes wide as they could get without falling clean out of his head, “You want ...? Like, you want me to put a bun in your oven?” he asked her, feeling like this whole thing had come entirely out of left field.
“Believe that is a vulgar term for same action, yes.” His young wife giggled her response. “Scientifically speaking, coitus in order to produce zygote which will become embryo then foetus, human child,” she rattled off like the reference book she so often sounded like. “Romantically speaking... make love, make a baby.” She smiled, almost shyly, despite the fact he knew her quite literally inside and out, and knew better than anyone the innocence she could easily fake was less than real. “You and I, please?” she asked, gazing up at Jayne as his mouth opened and closed several times without him making a sound.
This was different. Sex was great, he didn’t even mind the whole love angle on it, but this was something else for Jayne. No being careful, no protection or precautions of any kind. Deliberately trying to make a new life, and all by enjoying the greatest pleasure there was. He’d have to be a ruttin’ fool to say no. ‘Sides, bein’ a husband and a father were the two greatest things in the ‘verse to him, even taking over from shootin’ and fightin’, though he would hardly admit it. A baby made the traditional way by him and River, nothing could be better.
“If’n I didn’t already have a whole bunch of reasons in my head to say yes,” he told her with a grin that only grew wider as he continued, “’s gonna drive Mal and your brother gorram long-suh,” he told her. “What’re we waitin’ for?” he said with a look she knew oh so well.
He practically chased her to their bunk, her laughing all the way, acting like she was trying not to get caught, but that was just part of the game. He caught her outside the hatch, pushed her against the wall and kissed her long and hard, taking her breath away in the best way. Getting down to the bunk without lettin’ up from touchin’ each other didn’t come easy, but if anyone had learned how to do such a thing it was these two.
They were barely down from the ladder before he had her pulled close, her dress already on the bunk floor as her hands went for his belt buckle. It was an afterthought of his to hit the switch that bolted the door, just a moment before they fell back onto the bed, her laughing as they landed awkwardly and in a tangle of limbs.
The humour was gone from the situation within a moment as the seriousness of what they were about to do hit them both full force.
“Ready for a new beginning?” she breathed as she lie beneath him, waiting for the rush she knew came next, and this time would be extra special because of what could come out of it.
His answer came in the way he kissed her as they moved together at last. Jayne hardly ever had to speak for River to know the words in his heart. Right now she knew he had never been more ready for anything in his life, and neither had she.