Word Count: 2,540
This is for the LJ community 50_baby_fics Prompt #27-Acceptance
River was resting. Simon suggested she rest as much as possible for the remainder of her pregnancy because once the baby came she'd likely not get much. Mal wasn't sure if that was a slight at him, suggesting he was going to leave everything in River's lap. Or if that was just the way it went. So many things he'd learned during this process.
Things were quiet everywhere on the ship actually. So, he took himself to the bunk better known these days as the nursery. If someone had told him when he bought this boat that he'd have a nursery on here he'd a laughed them all the way back to whatever insane planet they'd come from. Yet, here it was. Blues and yellows and greens aplenty. No pink. River had been that sure from the beginning it was a boy and, as it turned out, she was right.
Kaylee, Zoe and Inara had been busy planning a shower for the next day. It was kind of spur of the moment, but they were finally some place that the womanfolk thought they could do something like that right.
He supposed there was something to be said for Hera being that some place. Coming full circle in his life. The man he'd become had taken shape here with Serenity Valley and here they were visiting it when River was due to deliver a baby any day really. As far as everyone onboard Serenity was concerned he was about to become a father.
And really he was. No one but River knew anything else might be true. The after birthing part was what made the father. Or he'd always thought so. Anyone could make a baby.
"You are still awake," Jayne's voice came from behind him.
"Yeah, just trying to put together this crib. Reckon we're closing in on the time we'll actually need it. I kept putting it off, but we're down to crunch time now."
"Oh," came Jayne's rather bland reply. The merc had been rather aloof and distant over the past couple of months. Mal wasn't sure why and he really didn't try too hard to figure out the puzzle that was Jayne Cobb. He supposed there might be some question in Jayne's mind as to whether he told River the truth about that day at the hospital. Mal hadn't. No sense in it. She might have picked it out of his brain, but she never commented on it.
"Looks all right in here," Jayne said simply after more than a few minutes of silence had passed between the two men.
Mal raked his fingers through his hair, regarding Jayne.
"Why I believe that might be the first nice thing you've said about all of this. Are you feeling well, Jayne?"
"Very funny, Mal. It seems you've always got something to do or are holed up in your bunk with…" he paused just long enough that Mal noticed, "…River."
"Yes, well, like I mentioned a while ago I'd like for us not to have to jump right into a job after the baby comes."
"What if the haul of a lifetime comes about?"
"Well then, I suppose I'd rethink my opinion on the subject. As for now, it ain't happened. And I'm planning on taking some time off for a bit. River's a tiny thing, no way of knowing just what's going to happen."
Quiet again. When did things get so uncomfortable between them? All because he'd married River?
"You know she's good people," he said finally.
"Ain't saying she's not. Just crazy a bit and, well, surprising is all. I always just assumed marriage wasn't your thing."
"People change, Jayne."
"Yeah, I get that."
"So, you need help or something?"
Mal gave the merc a curious glance. "You offering?"
"Yeah, Seems to me two sets a hands would get that thing together a lot faster than just one."
"Well, you surprise me, Jayne. You coming around to the fact this is really happening?"
He smiled slightly at that. "Yeah, but don't tell anyone. If that baby keeps me awake, though, I'm going to take crazy's, err River's, old bunk."
"Reckon I couldn't blame ya." Jayne looked a bit nervous at the moment and Mal couldn't figure out what that was about. "Something a matter, Jayne?"
"Nah, just wondering," he said, pulling a couple of cigars out of his pocket. "Too early to share these together?"
"No, I never heard of any steadfast rule about cigars and fathers, though I think it's supposed to be me giving it to you."
"Well, you don't smoke 'em, so I'd be waiting for years for that to happen."
"Good point," Mal said, taking the offered cigar. "You didn't poison it or anything?"
"Now why'd I go and do a thing like that?"
"Just making sure, you haven't been particularly amicable toward me of late."
"Not sure what that means, but I get it ain't good. I'm just staying out of your way. I may not be the smartest man, but I know newlyweds don't want to be bothered. And when it ain't your bed being warmed ya really don't want the reminder neither."
Huh, Mal mused to himself. Jayne Cobb could actually be considerate.
"I've even gone so far as to give Kaylee looks I ain't ever thought about giving her before."
"That's all we need. You stay away from my mechanic!"
"Hey, I ain't doing nothing. I was just making conversation. Thought we could do that. 'sides, I know she's sweet on the doc and all, but with Inara and Simon spending so much time together lately." He shrugged. "I'm not looking for entanglements and if anything I don't want the distraction of regular trim like you had, last thing I need is a little Cobb running around."
Mal couldn't help but laugh at that.
"And it's a good thing what you did."
"Marrying her. I'm not too fond of her, no question there, but a man gets a girl in the family way he's got a responsibility. A girl like her anyway. Reckon they don't get much more innocent and I would have been disappointed if you'd done anything else. That's all I'm saying."
Mal hated to admit it, but Jayne made him feel like a cad just then. She had been innocent, married him to keep herself and her baby safe. And he'd gone and let things get entirely too personal. He didn't mind necessarily and she had been the initiator so evidently she didn't mind either. He shouldn't have mentioned earlier the idea of another baby. He had no business talking like that. For all he knew eventually she'd up and leave, baby and all, tired of life like this. Not that he'd blame her, which was why he'd told her the night he'd given her his mother's ring that he'd grant the annulment or whatever was needed if she ever decided this weren't the life for her. It was a tough life, even for him and he had a nomad's heart.
Realizing Jayne was quiet, probably waiting for some sort of a response from Mal to what he'd just said. "Thanks I think. We're okay then?"
"I admit I've been waiting to see if you were going to leave me off somewhere. I wouldn't blame ya, especially seeming as how she was already pregnant when," he shrugged. "Well, we both know what I done, no sense rehashing the details. Anyway, might not have let her have it if they'd gotten a hold of her, deprived you of a family. And you wouldn't have known about it neither. Would you have? It wasn't until after you found out she was preggers."
"Right, I think it was somewhere around there it happened." That was more accurate than Jayne would ever realize.
Mal hadn't thought about that. Was Jayne feeling guilty? There was an interesting thought. Both men clipped and lit the cigars.
"You're not saying I caused this?"
"You? How could you possibly? Unless you have some sort of invisibility powers I'm not aware of, wasn't no one there for what got me into this situation but me and the missus."
Jayne exhaled with a huff, waving the smoke from the cigar away in the process. "Never mind. It doesn't matter anyway. Does it? Can't undo it."
"No, I suppose not."
"Just don't expect me to babysit or nothing."
"Speaking for both River and myself, Jayne, I think that's something you'll never need to fret about."
"Yeah, I expect I'm the last you'd call on for that."
"And with Inara, Kaylee, Simon and probably even Zoe on board, I suspect the baby won't lack for attention. Lots of aunts and uncles even if they ain't by blood."
"Ain't nothing wrong with the type of family you make for yourself, Jayne. We done all right for ourselves here, this ship and its crew are all the family I'd ever need. Adding River and little Mal, Simon too, into the mix is just another layer."
More quiet as the two men went to work on assembling the crib.
"You still gonna let her come out on jobs?"
"Plan on it. She's a might useful, wouldn't you say?"
Jayne snorted at that. "I guess you would see it that way."
"Right. Because not only is having someone who can read minds going into a situation a bad idea. Couple that ability with someone who can handle a gun better with her eyes closed than most can with their eyes open. That'd sure be a foolish path to follow, cutting her in on business."
"Don't know why you need to do that. You're married to her, she's your responsibility, and you can get her whatever she wants."
"And you'd want no access to money of your own? You 'd want to ask permission to, oh, say buy another weapon? Or," Mal said, gesturing to the cigars they were currently partaking in the enjoyment of. "Need to ask permission to get yourself a handful of these when the mood strikes you? Or how about the pastimes you enjoy engaging on when we're planet side?"
"Like you didn't either. Don't go getting high and mighty just cuz you've got someone to keep your bunk warm now."
"Ain't said I didn't. And that's not what we're talking about here. She was held captive for years, Jayne. She gets out here, her brother's given up everything to save her so the lifestyle they were used to is gone. Wouldn't you like the ability to be able to earn two coins to rub together that you could call your own?"
"I guess," Jayne mumbled.
The crib assembled, the cigars finished there wasn't much left to do.
"Doesn't look very big, does it?"
"No," Jayne said in agreement now that they both had a moment to step back and look at their handiwork. "How long will he sleep in there? And you're not really going to call him Mal Junior, are you?"
"I don't know the answer to the first question and no, unless River decides at the last minute that's what she wants. I just wanted something to call him. And it made Simon madder than hell toward the beginning there."
Both men chuckled at that.
"There are worse men he could be named after I suppose."
Mal couldn't deny the words touched him. For Jayne that was as close to pouring his heart out Mal was going to get.
"You're a good man, Jayne, thanks for the cigar and for letting me know you're coming around to the fact there's going to be a baby here shortly."
"Don't see how I've got much choice in the matter."
"Looked for other places to hang your hat?"
"I won't lie to you. You know me."
"Yes. Well, that time comes, let me know. Make no assurances I can meet or even beat the offer but I'd like the chance."
"Right. Night then."
"Night," Mal said. He wanted a few more minutes to take in the room. Soon it wouldn't look like this, sterile, unlived in. It was full of new things that had only been touched to be put in their places. He'd bought the majority of it, but Simon'd pitched in for the crib and he reckoned at the shower tomorrow what was missing from the essentials list would be present and accounted for.
"Yeah, Jayne," Mal turned, regarding the merc who looked like whatever was on his mind was a might painful.
Jayne shook his head. "Just realized I might have neglected to ever say congratulations."
"Thanks," Mal said, not sure if he was able to mask his surprise. He was proficient at keeping his face pretty stoical, always prepared for the unexpected. Except this time, Jayne'd blindsided him. And with that, Jayne was gone.
Mal didn't stay long after that. He joined River in bed, sleeping on the side she preferred.
"He'll love him, too," she whispered.
"Jayne Cobb. He has a heart, just doesn't want anyone to see it. They will, though."
"You shouldn't invade people's private conversations when you're not even present to make them think you might be listening in."
"I wasn't intentionally. You were both tense and I couldn't help it."
"Wasn't sure what he wanted when he first came in."
"He wasn't sure either. Doesn't like the way things are, but unsure how to fix them. The baby will help, when they see he's real."
"I reckon you're right," Mal said, sliding an arm around her waist, gathering her to him. "How is he tonight?"
"Good. Quiet, just a few kicks. My ribs have escaped additional bruising tonight."
He chuckled. "I can't even imagine, and I hate to say it but I'm glad."
"Zoe believes if men were the ones to have babies there wouldn't be any."
"She told you that?"
"No, she thinks it often when she sees I'm uncomfortable."
"I reckon she's probably right."
She turned then to face him, fingertips gliding over his face as if she was reading him as a blind person would their Braille. There was that look again, same as earlier. There was definitely something on her mind. She was probably reading him right now and knew he was mystified by it.
"I'm scared," she admitted softly. He knew it took a lot for her to say that.
"I wish I could assure you."
"It's going to hurt. Simon avoids answering my questions."
"I'm sure that it does, that it will. I don't recall ever hearing anyone claim it was an easy thing you're about to have to go through. It'll be worth it, though, when you see him and hold him."
"Curse him for kicking me so rough."
"There ya go."
"And you'll be there?"
"No where else to be. Arranging it so that's so."
"And a big payoff comes around?"
Mal chuckled, realizing she really had stayed lurking for a while then. "The others can do it without me."
She lowered her lashes then, taking a deep breath. Then without another word, she turned onto her preferred side once more. He kissed her neck and shoulder.
"Get some sleep, bao bay. You need the rest."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com