**Part Seven**

Word Count: 1,588
This is for the LJ community 50_baby_fics Prompt #23-Food Cravings

Paquin

"Why haven't I heard before now you were wanting this stuff, River"

She shrugged. "I hadn't until we had dinner. Haven't had fresh fruit since I found out I was pregnant."

"I see, so it's my fault, is it?" He loaded the last of their purchases onto the mule, regarding it with a look of satisfaction. She'd bet it would take three trips because of the size of some of the baby items, but he'd gone for two. He won. She wasn't quite sure what he'd won. Or, rather, what she'd lost. She should have known better than to question him on the abilities of something on his ship.

"It would seem so."

"At least it ain't pickles and ice cream. I think I might have to put my foot down at giving into that request, but I can handle having to stock up on apples and bananas and the like between now and little Mal's arrival. I might even find it in me to eat a couple myself, help deplete the surplus."

"You need to stop calling him that."

"Why's that?"

"I don't know," she shrugged. She really had no response. So, she picked up one of the bananas she'd bought with her own money much to Mal's dismay and began to eat it. He'd spent so much, and she guessed he couldn't remember having his first coin to spend. She had to buy something for herself.

"Sounds funny."

He seemed to think about that for a minute. "Don't see what's so funny about it. I wouldn't really want to name him Mal. It's just better than calling him an it, and since you know it's a boy. You do still know that, right?"

"Yes," she said, patting her stomach.

"Now. Is there anything else you want before we head back for the night? Make no guarantees we'll come back to town before we head out again. So, speak up now or forever hold your peace." He chuckled lightly. "Didn't Shepherd say that a month or so ago? I expected Simon to pipe up, but I reckon he wanted your baby to have a father all nice and legal like. Even if I may not be his first choice. Or second. Or, well, any number really."

"He's coming around."

"I know."

When she'd cleaned the restaurant out of most of its fresh fruit and seemed to want more still, Mal had made sure more was available for them to take on board Serenity. She'd always been fond of fruit, but today she couldn't get enough of it. She'd started out eating some strawberries and her body just took on a mind of its own. Nothing she'd eaten the past couple of months since she found out she was pregnant had tasted so good as tonight.

The banana finished, she set the peel in her box. She sifted through it, just enjoying being able to touch things that were hers. All hers. Only hers. Of course, she'd share if she was asked to.

"Strawberries, too," she added. It had been that first strawberry that had gotten her. Little Mal, she really had no other name to call him by, seemed to like the fruit, too. He kicked and moved around more in a real short time than she could remember him doing.

"Yes, strawberries, already had some of those thrown in. Couldn't buy as many cuz they don't last as long. So I'm afraid you'll have to make do with a little at a time."

"Tomatoes."

"Now that's an odd request that doesn't quite belong with the others."

"I like them."

"And you do what with them?"

"Eat them."

"Just plain like?"

"Yeah," she said with a shrug.

"Like an apple? Or do you cut them up and do something with them?"

"No, I just eat them. I guess like an apple." Was that unusual? She wasn't sure.

"All right then. I'll see if we can't make a trip tomorrow for some tomatoes. If not, the next stop. I promise."

"Thank you."

"No need. Happy to do it. It's nice to see you eat for a change. I worry about you - both of you - getting enough when I see you eat like a bird. And spread things around on the plate to make me think you've eaten more. Yes, I know that trick," he said when she looked at him. "So, if it's fruit he wants, then fruit he gets."

"And tomatoes."

"And tomatoes. I can go to sleep at night knowing your bellies are satisfied. I reckon I've gotten off pretty easy compared to some of the tales I've heard."

"Did you have something to do tonight?"

"Me?"

"Yes," she said with a frown. "Who else is there for me to ask?"

"Well, I guess the question was a might mystifying because what would I have to do?"

"Maybe you were going to come back here? You like to play cards and drink with other men."

"Well, sure I do, but I think I've had my fair share of socializing for the day. Don't need to drink and I spent enough money on this moon, certainly don't need to fill anyone else's pocket up with more. Besides, I've got two loads of stuff to find a place for. Why do you ask?"

"No reason. I'll help."

"All right. Ready then? I think it's as secure as it's going to get."

"Yes."

"The rest of the crew's probably wondering what happened to us."

"Does it bother you?"

"Does what bother me?"

"That they picture us?"

"Picture us?"

"Yeah, you know."

"They do?"

She laughed at that. "Yes!"

"Well, I guess that all depends. Do I treat you well in their minds?"

"I wouldn't know."

He regarded her then as he drove the mule out of town. "No, I reckon you wouldn't. Does it bother you? Is that why you're asking? I can't very well tell them not to think things, River. And I can't kick my crew off the ship because they think what they naturally should about us."

"No, it's okay I guess. I just wondered." She took an apple, wiped it off on the front of her dress. The baby chose then to kick so she slid her hand over his outline, following the curve of his butt.

"You okay?"

"Yes."

"He okay?"

"Yes, just moving."

"All right then."

She bit into the apple, savoring the tart yet sweet taste. The baby did, too. She smiled as his kicks turned a little more ferocious as they seemed to do when she ate something he particularly liked. Or maybe he didn't like them and was objecting. She guessed she'd never know for sure. If her body wanted it, though, he must like it. Right? She'd have to think on that one.

For now she didn't want to think about serious things. She just wanted to be for the short trip from town to Serenity. She loved riding in the mule. There was something about the wind in her air, rushing against her, through her. It made her feel so free. As if the past four years of her life could be forgotten, scattered like ashes however briefly and shoved to a portion of her brain they hadn't touched.

"Got one of those in there for me?"

"You want one? You had one earlier at the market."

"Yeah, I remember. Said it was my fill for a while, but I changed my mind. It's not just womenfolk that are entitled to a change of thinking."

"Are you craving it, too?"

"I ain't the pregnant one, don't see how that's possible."

His eyes met hers briefly and he winked as she polished an apple for him before handing it to him. She opened her mouth, tempted to ask him about what she and Simon had talked about earlier. Not the nursing part. She didn't see how Mal could tell her not to do that, assuming she was able. The loving him part. She was curious about so many things where it came to this man. Why was Shepherd on his mind? And were they really going to be able to get an annulment without his crew thinking the worst of him? She shook her head and looked away, taking a bite of her apple.

"I see your mind's hard at work. Looking away means you donít want to talk about it. If you change your mind," he said, pulling the mule onto Serenity and into the cargo bay. Like clockwork, the airlock opened when they made their approach. "You know where to find me."

"Yeah, I reckon I do."

"You're starting to sound like me, not sure I like that. Now, I best get to work unloading our haul. You go on up and rest for a bit. You had a full day. You don't, your brother's going to try and take my head off again. And then, well," he held the apple up. "I wouldn't be able to eat this. It's not very often a pretty girl buys me an apple. I'd like to be able to enjoy it."

She smiled shyly as she got out of the mule, protecting her precious cargo. Precious to her. She was going to share some strawberries with Kaylee. River knew the mechanic liked them, and she'd been a help today picking out the dresses. As much as she wanted to sit down and eat them all right now the least River could do is share a strawberry or two.

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