**Part Three**

Word Count: 2,321
This is for the LJ community 50_baby_fics Prompt #17-Vitamins

This wasn't the first time he'd found her like this, though she'd tried to hide it from him at first. Even if the residual evidence wasn't there in the commode, he could see in her face that she was not well. He'd put an end to that real quick, her trying to hide things from him. He was having none of that. If they were going to do this, pull off the façade of being married in front of his crew there could be no secrets between them.

Certainly, not when it pertained to the health of her and the baby. Their baby. Had to get that straight in his mind or he'd slip up at some point when it was important. He didn't marry her just to have her lose it. And where would he be if that happened? He couldn't very well annul the marriage right away. He'd look like an even bigger cad than his crew likely already saw him as. So, he'd be strapped with a wife he had no idea what to do with. Leastwise, when she was sick as she'd been most of the time recently he didn't desire her.

He had a new respect for men who were in the situation he found himself in. She was young and innocent. He had no business coveting her. No business being married to her and knowing that he had rights.

Yet, spending time with her in such close proximity, even if his suite was a might bigger than the others on Serenity. It was still pretty cramped quarters. Now that she took it upon herself to take care of herself, including letting him run a brush through her hair once in a while. She wasn't the least bit bad on the eyes.

Focus, Reynolds, the woman needs you to act not get caught up in thoughts all damned day.

"Tell me what to do," Mal said, knowing she wouldn't answer. Couldn't was more like it. She was too busy emptying the meager contents of her stomach in his latrine. She'd insisted it wasn't morning sickness, but it sure seemed in Mal's opinion to happen about the same time every day.

She was slouched on the floor, panting from the latest round. Her eyes full of not just tears but fear. He saw it there plain as day. He had seen fear written in the eyes of his soldiers repeatedly to know what it looked like. She was scared but too brave to admit that.

"Now who's the reader," she murmured.

He soaked a washcloth with cool water and sat down beside her. He draped an arm around her, bringing her to him so he could apply the cool, damp cloth to her forehead.

"This just started then?"

"A week."

"So, you reckon it's just a spell of morning sickness coming on late?"

It was a struggle for her to talk. She was cool and clammy to the touch. Her pulse and breathing were both slightly erratic and she looked as pale as a ghost. She was strong enough to shake her head, though.

"I'd best get your brother to make a house call then. This can't go on. You barely eat enough as it is to nourish you, let alone little one in there."

"No, he'll know."

"Know what?"

"That you sleep on the floor."

Mal chuckled then. "River, no one's going to figure it out. 'sides, people come into my bunk from time to time, so we need to get good at appearing all marital." He grazed the top of her head with a kiss. It was friendlier in nature than romantic. He felt bad for her hurling her guts out for the past week or so. And she'd married him, stayed at the bar until closing time not feeling well. And hadn't wagered one complaint the entire day.


"Yeah, let me get your brother. Here's the cloth if it helps."

"It does." She sounded so weak and helpless. It was different from her crazy episodes, which made it a little more heart wrenching. She reminded him of a stray cat he'd seen once. Hungry, disheveled, fur matted from exposure to the elements. He was a survivor though, much the way River was.

That was why he'd done it. Married her. No one, no one had the right to mess with someone the way the Alliance had messed with her. They were forming an army is what they were doing. People with abilities they'd use with some sort of delayed pregnancy program built in that they could activate once the subject was no longer useful.

He had taken it upon himself when he should have been sleeping to research how it could have been accomplished. So far he'd come up with nothing. Of course not. The Alliance wasn't going to post their dirty secrets for anyone to find easily.

He went to the living portion of his - their, had to get used to thinking of it as theirs not his for the next little while - suite and pressed the comm.

"Doc, need you in my bunk. Stat," he added with a smile. That was a doctorly thing to say. He returned to the latrine area, leaning against the wall.

"You well enough to let me help you into bed?"

She nodded simply, glancing at him. She looked sickly. Bile collected in his throat at the thought she might be just that. Sick. Could she die? There was a time a couple centuries ago that happened a lot. Centuries seemed like a long time until you were watching someone you cared about look like they were at death's door. And he did care, what that meant he wasn't sure.

It would have been easy enough to just let the cards fall, but he couldn't do that. She wanted the baby, which he'd known she would, the least he could do was see to it that she got what she wanted. If anyone deserved a break, River Tam-Reynolds did.

He closed the distance between them, wiping her face once more with the damp cloth before picking her up. Over halfway through her pregnancy and she was still light as a feather. At night she wore nightgowns that actually fit instead of the sacks that passed as dresses she wore during the day. He could see evidence of the pregnancy then. Once she was done with the pregnancy, he'd get her some new clothes. See to it she was outfitted properly. The baby, too. She could burn the sack-like dresses she'd taken to wearing to this point.

"You called me, Captain?"

"Yes, Doc, I did," he said, settling River comfortably on the bed. He brushed her hair out of the way, looking into her eyes. She was lucid at the moment. He let the cloth rest against her forehead. He fetched the cup from the small table bedside and let her get a drink of water. "She's been getting sick."

"That's not abnormal. She's pregnant."

"She says it wasn't happening before the past week or so. About the time you did those tests and found out this is what ailed her. Maybe you poked or prodded something wrong."

"It's not an ailment, Captain. She's pregnant. You of all people should know that since you are responsible for her being in this position."

"Just fix it, Doc."

Simon sighed heavily. "All right. Let me examine her."

Mal took that as his queue to leave. "I'll be up in the bridge. Page me when you're done or if you need me."

"He's just worried about me, Simon," River said softly. She felt so weak and tired. God, she could sleep for days.

"Tell me about your day, mei-mei. What have you been doing differently the past week or so?"

"Nothing! He won't let me do anything but sleep and eat, even though I don't want to do that sometimes."

"There must be something."

She shifted her head on the pillow, staring at the small table by the bunk. "Vitamins."


She smiled, realizing he probably thought she was losing coherence. "The vitamins you gave me. That's the only thing different."

"When are you taking them?"

"When I wake up."

He nodded, continuing his exam. He was thorough. Of course he would be. Not only was she his sister, she was carrying his nephew. The only one he'd get.

"All right. Before we do anything drastic, try taking them at night before you go to bed. And make sure you've eaten something before you take it so your stomach isn't empty."

"You think that will work?"

"I'm not an obstetrician, but I've been researching things as I can. One of the things I read is that the prenatal vitamins can cause these symptoms in some women."

"All right."

"So, try that, and let me know if you're better."

"Okay, Simon. Thank you."

"You're welcome, mei-mei. Get some rest. You need it. I'll go talk to the captain," he said, drawing the blanket around her.

"Okay," she whispered, feeling herself give into the comfort of being tucked in. It had been so long since someone had done that for her until recently.

Simon found Mal on the bridge with Wash, who quit playing with his dinosaurs as soon as Simon entered the room. He wasn't sure why it was acceptable for the captain to see Wash playing with children's toys and not him, but that wasn't his concern. He wasn't a psychiatrist.

"Is she all right, Doc?" Mal asked. It was kind of eerie, Simon hadn't realized he'd even known he was there.

"I think so. I suggested she take the vitamins at night, just before bed instead of in the morning. And with a bit of food. Not a huge meal, just something to coat her stomach."

"You think that's all it is?"

"I'll give her a couple of days to change the pattern and see if that helps. If not, I'll run some tests."

"All right, guess I need to adjust my schedule then."

"Your schedule?"

"I've been leaving them in her cup by the sink when I get up mornings so she won't forget to take it."

"Oh," Simon said simply, pushing the visual that came to mind of his baby sister in this man's bed. He'd had his doubts, but it seemed the captain was going to look out for his sister. It'd been hard the past ten days or so, letting someone else look after her. That'd been his job for months now, not to mention the time he'd spent trying to find her. Letting go of her wasn't easy, not under these circumstances.

"I'm sorry if I caused it, Doc. I didn't know."

Wash was busy trying not to stare at the two of them as if they were speaking a different language. Simon supposed this was a side of his captain Wash had never seen.

"No way to know. It's a reaction some women have to them, but she hadn't complained."

"She wouldn't."

"You hadn't complained."

"Yeah, well, no offense, I just thought it was normal pregnancy stuff. Never been around a pregnant woman before."

"I can't say as I have either other than my mother."

"I'll take care of her, Doc, don't you fret."

"Let me know in a day or two if she's not better."

"All right." Mal glanced from the control board to Simon. It was the first time he'd looked at him since he'd come to the bridge. "Is that all then?"

"Yeah, I guess it is," Simon said, not sure what he was expecting. He wasn't at all happy with the situation. He hadn't freed his sister from the situation she'd been in for this. She deserved so much better than this type of life.

"You're fugitives now, Doc. Best remember that before you go getting all high and mighty thinking I'm not good enough for your sister."

"How did you…"

"Don't need to have my wife's abilities to know what you think about all of this. I said I'll take care of her, you witnessed me taking vows saying pretty much just that. I may not believe in the God Shepherd does, but I gave my word to your sister with my crew and this ship as my witnesses. If you know anything about me, Doctor, you know that my word is gold. I don't go back on it. She's mine now and I don't take to that type of commitment lightly. You see how I take care of Serenity. Give me some credit."

"She's not a ship, Captain, that Kaylee can put some used parts in and keep afloat until the next, better used part can be found. She's a young woman in a delicate situation, made even more so with a pregnancy."

"I get that. As pleasurable as Serenity is to me, I do know the difference between a Firefly class ship and a woman and the pleasure each in turn gives me."

He left then. If he stayed he'd only argue with Mal, which he was almost positive the captain wanted him to do! At least he saw first hand that his sister's husband was going to take care of her. He wasn't afraid to call on his services if she needed them. He was a little afraid that Mal would keep River closed off. So he'd been mightily relieved to get the call today.

He still had plenty of her records to go through not to mention needing to read up as much as he could on labor and delivery. And pediatrics. She would not go to an Alliance hospital unless she absolutely had to. So he didn't lack for things to do. He had to believe if her condition didn't improve the captain would call him again. It was a difficult pill to swallow, someone else being in charge of her.

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