**Part Thirteen**

Word Count: 2,001
This is for the LJ community 50_baby_fics Prompt #13-Sonogram

Mal watched rather transfixed. Simon had explained to him before the first one he'd done how the machine worked. He wanted Mal to understand the one he'd been able to come by while outdated would still work. Always with the letting Mal know there was something better out there. Like Mal twisted his arm to get him in the situation he was in currently.

He had rambled on with medical jargon that went over Mal's head. Essentially, what he'd gotten out of it is the purpose of the device was to measure the baby, measure River inside where the baby was currently housed, and make sure that things were on track for the due date Simon had given River.

Hard to believe four months had gone by already and she was on the last leg of this ordeal. Simon had been right about one thing during their talk about River's sex drive. She was changing. She expressed discomfort with things now that just a month ago she got pleasure from. And the perky breasts he'd gotten much enjoyment off of the past month she was no longer keen on being touched, with his hands or his mouth. They adjusted, more because she still wanted him just in different ways.

He wasn't sure what all was actually sore or uncomfortable beyond her feet and back, which he did his best to tend to whenever he could. She wasn't a complainer. There'd been a time or two the last few days he'd seen unshed tears in his eyes. When asked about it she'd wave it off and say the baby was kicking particularly painful just then. He had no way of knowing if that was true or not.

He just hoped if she actually got to the point of needing something she'd speak up. Unlike her, he had no way of knowing if she didn't talk about it.

He tuned into Simon again who was pointing out legs and a butt as well as the evidence that it was a boy. He'd seen X-rays of course, but this was live like a wave. The baby was moving and turning.

"Look at that, he's sucking his thumb," Mal said. He'd never thought about what he might be doing in there. He supposed he had to pass the time doing something.

"Everything's looking good," Simon said, moving the wand-like thing along River's belly. "His head is down, he's low but not too low so I don't think you've dropped yet."


"It would be a sign she's ready to go into labor, the baby shifts, moves down to prepare for delivery."

"Ah," Mal said with a nod.

"And really, he could safely be born any time now. Another couple of weeks would be ideal, but from this point on, I'd feel comfortable not bringing him to a hospital for neo-natal care."

"Thanks, Simon."

"Don't thank me. I'm experiencing this all new myself. Any questions, mei-mei?"

"I don't feel him moving as much anymore."

"He's running out of room. He'll continue to grow, they gain about half of a pound a week from this point forward I read. The sonogram is weighing him in at not quite seven pounds. So, if you carry to term you'd be looking at about nine pounds."

"That seems like a lot for someone as slight as River."

"This can be off by a pound either way. So, he might be closer to six pounds."

"Or could be closing in on eight, which would bring him up to ten pounds going by the math you gave earlier."

"Yes. This isn't an exact science, Mal. Going back to River's question. It's normal for the movements to decrease in intensity, but you should still feel pretty frequent movements even if they're smaller. So, if you don't, you need to tell me. All right, mei-mei?"

"Yes, Simon, I heard you."

He smiled at that, gesturing for Mal to take the wand-like thing. "You want me to hold this?"

"Yeah. Just like that. Let's see if we can get you a picture."

"Like the last one?"

"Yes, compare the two and you'll be amazed at how much he's grown just in this time."

"I already am, don't need to see that first picture to remember."

Simon did whatever needed doing with the machine to get the picture on thermal paper out and handed it to Mal.

"I'll just step out now," he said so that Simon could get on with the rest of the exam. He knew he'd have to be there for the birth of the baby, but there was just something sort of uncomfortable about sitting there watching her brother poke and prod her.

She came out a little while later and looked a little sad.

"Nervous?" He watched as River fixed her dress. She gave herself away by fiddling with the sleeve.

She shot him a glance with a tilt of her head.

"Right. Why'd I ask? Ain't nothing to fret over. Simon said so. Just routine to make sure you're moving along and about where he thinks you are."

"What if it's not normal?"

"What do you think they'd do? Plant you with a Reaver egg? I don't see them doing that, much as I hate to say that I think even they have limits."

"I just wish we know how it happened."

"You want to tell Simon the truth?"

She grew quiet then, sliding on the soft shoes she'd taken to wearing. A step up from barefoot. She couldn't see her feet so well anymore so he insisted she wear something to protect them. He had no idea where all she visited on the ship, but there wasn't any place she couldn't get into and some could be dangerous.

"I'm not sure it would matter at this point."

"Well, he can be prepared in the event there is something wrong or different."

She shrugged ever so slightly and Mal walked up behind her, cupping her shoulders. He grazed the back of her head with a kiss.

"Wouldn't negate things between us or change anything."

"Because we share a bed now?"

"Well, in part, yeah. I've come to rely on you as a part of my life and I reckon you feel the same way. I feel you touching my mind now. Not sure what that's about, but it's like butterfly wings once in a while. And I know it's you. Used to find it invasive, but I like knowing you check on me."

She shrugged again and he sighed heavily.

"I'm not sure what you want me to say, River. I haven't spent the last month plus with you the way that we have with the thought to cast you aside."

"And if we hadn't spent it the way that we have?"

"Well, I already told you I realized a while ago this deal was going to keep us together for a while. Have I given you reason to believe I'm despondent about that somehow?"

"No," she said simply. There were times he wasn't sure if she was really upset or if it was the hormones. Or a little of both.

He slid an arm around her waist, spinning her to face him.

"Come on now. You have me, me of all people, looking at sonogram pictures and thinking this little guy might be kind of cute."

"Kind of?"

"Well, yeah, and if he's even an ounce as smart as you are. Well, look out world. And I reckon whatever sperm they planted you with belongs to someone equally as smart and gifted as you are. If not more so. He won't be the most handsome thing, cuz that'd be taking after me." He hoped she read him to know he was teasing. "That means we're set to have a pretty amazing son."


He nodded slightly in understanding. "Is that what this moping is about? You think I'm going to stick you with everything and go about my business? Come on now. I've been putting that lotion stuff on your belly. Even before we made with the intimacy I did that. I rub your feet whenever I can, same as your back. I see to it there's fruit and the tomatoes you're fond of onboard now. And if you told me other things you wanted or needed I'd do that, too."

She was still quiet and he wasn't sure if what he was saying was registering or what was going on with her. He leaned down and kissed her lightly, just a brushing of his lips over hers. "We will do this together, River. Can't say as I know what I'm doing, but I'll help. It'll prepare us for the next one maybe."

"The next one."

"If things go well with the rest of this one and you were of the mind. Yeah. Maybe get a girl who looks like her mother."

"I used to love watching my mother." River took hold of the picture then, peering at it with an intense scrutiny she normally reserved for difficult texts she perused. And memorized in two seconds. "He will be a handsome child because people will see what they want to see. You as the father and they will find him handsome."

"Is that your way of giving me a compliment, bao bay?"

"I think so."

"I accept," he said, latching onto her mouth with a greater intensity than the first one moments ago. "Let's go see about finding that last picture your brother gave us and see how much he's grown."

"I love him," she said, placing a hand over her pregnant belly.

"Of course you do."

"If something happens…"

He shushed her right quick with talk like that. "If something happens, I choose you, River. You hear me. And no doubt or question in my mind. We can make another baby. I cannot make another you."

"You could get another wife."

"I don't want another wife. I didn't want one to begin with, but I've grown used to the one I have and the fact she keeps me awake all night most times. My crew is starting to think I'm slacking off because I sleep so late mornings now. So, no, thank you, you hands down or none. I'm not raising some child planted in you by the Alliance on my own. That'd just be all kinds of twisted."


"Back to Inara again. I thought we'd settled this a while ago. If I'd wanted Inara in this way, don’t you think I would have done something about it? Come on. You can read my mind, River. Have you ever once read anything in there that said I'd prefer her?"

She held up the picture again. It wasn't the clearest thing, but the details were there in black and white. "You will love him?"

"As if he's my own, bao bay."

"If he is able to read…"

"Yeah, I know, I'll need to work at keeping thoughts of the Alliance out of my head. I make no promises."

She looked at him then. There was something she was looking for, wanting from him. If she'd just tell him he'd give it to her. Didn't she know that by now? She'd get around to it in her own time. She always did. Sometimes it was random statements that made no sense by themselves, but when put together became clear. He would wait for where the trail would lead him this time.

"A month."

"A month and you will hold him because you're going to be fine. Between Simon and me, we won't let anything happen to you."

"I can't wait to meet him."

"You know, a few months ago I wouldn't have said this, but I admit I can't either. Seeing him moving like that, though, doing something so human-like as thumb sucking."

"Nothing's going to happen to me."

"Damn straight," he said simply, though he wondered if she had a more direct line on that intel than he did.

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