Word Count: 1,467
This is for the LJ community 50_baby_fics Prompt #37-Tiny
Mal felt like the biggest ingrate there was, needing Kaylee to show him how to swaddle little Mal - he would talk to River about her choice in names when she was a little less loopy.
"Babies like to be confined a little, like they were in the womb, Cap'n."
He watched Kaylee, tried to replicate the tucking of the blanket to no avail. Simon was busy keeping an eye on River's vitals while she rested as well as the baby's. She'd pretty much passed out once the baby had come, waking briefly to feed him.
He was preparing to make another go at the whole swaddling thing, unable to resist taking another gander at little Mal's feet and hands. He'd never been around babies more than just to pass them by, barely giving them much notice. He'd never had reason to and what was there to notice really. Both of his feet fit in his hand and then some.
"So, you're the little guy that's been using your Ma as a punching bag these past few months. He can hear me, can't he?" Mal asked Simon.
"Yes. It'll take him a little while to open his eyes and even then he really won't see you for a few weeks, closer to two months. He can hear you, though, and likely recognizes your voice."
"It's been studied quite extensively, and some say proven, that babies hear and are quite aware in the womb. River first and primarily, of course. River's heartbeat will be reassuring. That's part of the benefits of breastfeeding. There's that closeness to the mother. The scent, the sounds, the voice. But, he would have heard you. All of us, really."
"Huh. Listen to what your uncle's telling me. Learn something new every day."
He tried again with the blanket. He was getting better, not quite tight enough at the shoulders but it would do. He picked him up then, careful to support the head like Simon'd showed him. Who'd have thought there was all these rules and regulations to go with having a baby? Particularly for a man who didn't believe he had a gentle bone in his body. It just wasn't in him to be delicate, cater to those that needed extra care.
Not that he thought they came out of their mothers walking and talking. He knew they were helpless and totally reliant on the parents, which was one reason he'd shied away from becoming one. He really didn't want to be saddled with two more people relying on him. Most of the time he'd let the people down who'd had faith in him.
"He'll probably lose some weight over the next couple of days."
"Well, he's on his own now as far as nutrition."
"Oh right, no more umbilical cord."
"So, that's normal then? Nothing to worry about?"
"No. He's a good sized baby as it is. Much bigger, though, I'm not sure we wouldn't have had to do a C-section."
"Is that right?"
"She's just not built to put out ten or eleven pound babies. She could have done it I'm sure, but as tired as she was toward the end there."
"I got ya, Simon. You did all right. Thank you."
"Would you like to hold him?"
"Sure ya have, as his doctor. Hold him as his uncle for a spell."
"I reckon there will be plenty of time for me to hold him."
Simon took the baby from Mal's arms. Mal watched as Simon made the transition almost flawlessly. When Mal had taken him from Kaylee it was almost a comedy of errors trying to get him settled right. He had so much to learn about the little guy.
"Are you planning on getting rid of me or something, Mal?"
Mal frowned. Where was that coming from? "No, what makes you think that?"
"Well, I'll have plenty of time, too."
"Oh, right. I just meant I doubt you're going to come up our way and sit up with him when he's crying or what not."
"I just might."
"It's hard for me to imagine seeing one smaller."
"How do you mean?"
"Well, you're talking about him as if he's above average, however slight. That means the average is smaller than this."
"Yes, I'd say nine and a half pounds is above average."
"So, they come smaller than this. That's all I'm saying. He seems small, helpless." Mal grazed a fingertip along the top of the baby's head, the edge of the soft spot there. He had a bunch of dark hair, taking after his mother Mal supposed. Hard to know considering they weren't sure who the other half of the sperm and egg unit was.
"I didn't work on babies often. It wasn't my specialty, and usually when someone was brought into a trauma unit they needed urgent care. So we tried to filter children to the pediatricians. There was one, though."
Mal noticed Simon hugged the little guy a might closer as he spoke. "What?"
"Someone had thrown her in a trash bin, umbilical cord still attached and everything."
"Could you save her?"
"No," Simon said softly. "She'd been exposed to the elements for too long."
"Who'd do such a thing? They'd have to be a monster." Mal needed another person to put under the blanket umbrella of his offered protection, but the little guy was here and already added. The idea that someone would cast something so small, tiny, and completely defenseless aside like rubbish made him itch to find the offender and pistol whip them til they were unconscious. Probably not the thoughts to have about a woman, and more than likely why working with people was not Mal's strong suit.
"I don't know and I think you're right. Imagine tossing him aside."
"I can't fathom it," Mal said sincerely. He'd seen and done a lot of crazy things in his lifetime, but those who caused harm to children were lower than low in his book. A torturous death was too good for them.
"Funny, you and I seeing eye to eye on something after all."
"You just have a better pedigree than I do, Doc, I get that."
"I'd like your permission to get a letter to our parents."
"I'd drop it on a moon we don't frequent, where we're not known."
"Why would you want to do that?"
"They deserve to know they're grandparents, Mal."
"Oh, I reckon this is a matter that should be talked over with River. It's okay with me, long as you cover your tracks. Don't need Papa and Mama Tam coming after me. Leave your sister a widow and your nephew a bastard in one swoop."
"My parents aren't that bad."
"They left your sister in the Academy."
"They didn't believe me. It was my fault for not being more convincing, for taking so long to decode River's letters."
"Not your fault, Simon. She's told me as much."
"Yes. I'm always amazed how much talking two people can actually do if they're of the mind."
"And here I thought you were a lecherous man taking advantage of my sister."
"Well, I done that, too," Mal said with a low chuckle. "But we talk. Rather, she talks and I try to not just keep up but understand it all. I teach her things."
"Yes, I've seen what you've taught her. Weapons. How to be a thief."
"Now, I have never taught her how to be a thief."
"Just how to help you be one."
"Well, sure, she doesn't mind. She thinks it's fun."
"She won't think it's so fun when she gets shot, or worse."
"I'm teaching her about the ship, too. She's got a good mind, Simon, now that she's less confused and prone to her crazy fits as Jayne calls them."
"I know, you're not telling me anything I don't already know. I'm sincere when I tell you she's the most intelligent person I will probably ever meet."
"So, how'd she end up with a battered ex-soldier, running this heap? That's what your parents will think." He stood then, placing a hand on Simon's shoulder who was still holding little Mal, looking rather fascinated. "I'm going to get some grub. You think it's safe for River, me, and the little one here to inform your parents. Then so be it. I'll throw you out the airlock if they find us and try to harm a hair on my wife or child. So, you'd best think long and hard before making the decision. Got that?"
"Yes, I got it. I just think they ought to know."
"Sometimes, Simon, it's better not to know if what you do with the information would harm or hurt others."
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com