**Part Seventeen**

Word Count: 1,730
This is for the LJ community 50_baby_fics Prompt #10-Milk

She was going crazy again. She was certain of it. Either that or little Mal was. She knew Mal wasn't overly fond of the name. It had nothing to do with the fact the baby wasn't his, which she was relieved to discover from his thoughts. He just didn't understand why she'd want to do such a thing. She'd never be able to explain it to someone like him anyway. And that was why she'd wanted to.

Everything was going smoothly as far as feeding him until today. She'd tried everything she could to get him to latch on and he just wouldn't have anything to do with her breasts. Simon had shown her various ways she could hold him, which she'd tried all of. She'd even tried to come up with a variation or two of her own.

So, it was a very frustrated River and an even more frustrated little Mal that Mal stumbled upon. Little Mal because he was hungry, despite his sudden lack of interest in the food she could supply him with. She was past the point of tears, on the verge of hiccups she'd been at it so hard for a while now.

"Hey now, what's going on in here," Mal said, unsure if he should approach or not. Her emotions had been a rollercoaster since going into labor and he had suffered the most because of that. She read that he understood it wasn't personal. She wondered if Simon had told him that. She also wondered when he'd stop understanding. He saw himself as the bad part of their relationship. At least he wasn't verging on insanity when they'd first met.

"I can't do it. I don't know what I'm doing wrong. I've tried everything and it still doesn't work."

"Do what, Riv?" He apparently decided it was safe to approach because he took the final steps toward the bed where she sat with her legs crossed, little Mal nestled there where she could bounce him.

"Everything was going so easy. So why has that changed all of a sudden? It makes no sense. Mouth goes to nipple, suckling ensues, nourishment is achieved. Nourishment is not only desired but required and yet it goes untapped."

"I'm sure this all makes sense in your mind, but you need to give me something to go on here, bao bay. You're rambling and talking in words that I just don't get the gist of."

"He won't eat!"

"Oh," Mal said simply. "Have you consulted your brother? How long's it been?"

"No, I haven't wanted to bother Simon with it and it's been since this morning."

"River, that's hours ago now."

No wonder he's fussin', he's probably starving.

"You don't think I know that! Can read your mind, you know? If you're going to criticize me, perhaps you'd like to try it."

"No sense making with the sarcasm, Riv. And I would if I could, but that just won't work I'm afraid. Since that is a fact, I'm going to bother your brother with this."

"Fine," she said, resigning herself to the fact she was a failure as a mother if she could not even provide a newborn it's one basic need. Nourishment.

"I just saw him, I'll fetch him."

He left without waiting for her reply and the tears started again as she focused once more on the hungry face of little Mal. Who of course looked nothing like the older Mal she loved. Her mind touching his soothed him. He felt her there, much the same as Mal indicated he did now because he knew what to look for.


"You look like you haven't slept in a week."

"Thank you, Wash, for the keen observation."

"Wow, and you're in such a good mood, too. Apparently, fatherhood is everything they say it is and more."

"Very funny, Wash."

"Why are you here?"

"Hiding for the moment."

Wash chuckled. "At least you're honest, but you'd best be careful who you say that to."

"No, no," he said with a sigh, collapsing in his chair. He could rest his head against the back of it and doze of right here. That wouldn't be fair to River, though, who he knew wasn't getting more than a couple of hours of sleep at a time. "She's having problems, had to send Simon in to talk to her."

"Oh. Anything serious?"

"Don't rightly know. He's taken a mind to stop eating according to her."

"Maybe he's not hungry."

Mal glared at him. "You at all familiar with babies, Wash?"

"Not really, no, can't say I have much knowledge."

"Well, me neither until the past couple of days. That's all they do is eat, sleep, and mess diapers. Not being hungry isn't an option."

"So, Simon will fix it."

"One would hope so, being he's a doctor and it's his nephew." Mal stood again, realizing he'd best hear Simon out. River had been on an emotional roller coaster the past few days, he couldn't exactly count on her understanding or remembering all that Simon might have to say.

"Maybe you should, you know, show him how it's done. A little guidance or learn by example."


"You know. He's not eating so you can show him how it's done."

Mal just stared at him, certain he wasn't hearing his pilot right.

"Come on, you can't say you haven't noticed that her breasts have gotten quite…" Wash's eyes widened. "Not that I'm looking or anything. I mean, Zoe's are more than I'd ever need. But it's not a very subtle change. Certainly something there for the baby to be tempted by."

"I know I didn't just hear you say that, Wash."

"It was just a joke. You know, funny ha ha."

Mal had noticed that, of course. Considering he'd been intimate with every inch of her over the course of the past few months it was hard to miss. Simon had told him it was normal. They could eventually go back the way they were before the pregnancy, or they could stay this way, making this normal. He was sure glad doctors were paid so much money to give such succinct and helpful answers.

"So, just what was the joke again?"

Wash threw his hands up in the air. "Obviously, not a funny one. Either that or somebody's lost his sense of humor."

"Maybe so," Mal said, heading back toward his bunk.

He ran into Simon on the way, already leaving.

"That didn't take long."

"No," Simon said, gesturing for Mal to follow him into the nursery.

"It's yet another normal thing that happens sometimes. Her milk is coming in, which is different from the colostrums she's been producing. So, he just may take a few feedings to get used to it. I've suggested she express if she gets very uncomfortable, but if she wants to continue breastfeeding I wouldn't give him the bottle. I'll research further."

"And if he still don't eat?"

"Then she has a decision to make. I warned her a while ago some women can't, some don't even try. I'm glad she did."

"Why wouldn't she?"

Simon shrugged. "I don't know. Choice, a preference not to think of herself as nothing more than a food source."

"Well, that's ridiculous."

"I agree, but we're not women so it's not really our place to judge. She says she'll try keep trying. He will eat, it just might get painful for her. She can chafe and if he isn't latching on properly that can cause soreness, too."

"Never knew it was so complex."

"It can be, and it can be quite frustrating. I think she feels like she's failing."

"Well now, he's doing fine, ain't he?"


"So, what happens if he still don't want to eat?"

"She switches to bottles and formula I suppose."

"Would she still? I mean, that ain't like a faucet you just turn on and off."

"She'd continue producing milk for a while. How long I don't know. A few weeks, maybe longer. Then she would stop."

"All right."

"There is another option."

"What's that?"

"Well, like I've been telling you both for months. This isn't my specialty. I have a friend back on Osiris, obstetrics is her specialty. She could probably help River, determine if there's just a basic adjustment necessary."

"So, what do we do?"

"Just help her as best as you can. You help, I've seen you. I know the rest of the crew has, too. So, she's getting rest and she seems fine physically. It's just mentally I'm a little worried. It's very important you and I make sure she knows it's not her fault if this doesn't work."

"Of course it ain't. She's trying."

"You and I know that. She knows that, but she's going to have up and down moments. She told me she feels like she's back to just coming out of the Academy some times."

"That bad?"

"That's what she says."

"I'll keep an eye on her, Simon."

"And is going to Osiris an option?"

"She's got her mind set on breastfeeding and is having problems. Don't reckon there's much choice. This person. You trust them?"

Simon shrugged. "I think so. I don’t have to introduce her as my sister. I can just say she's a patient, part of the crew on the ship I'm working on."

"And you think the woman can help her? Fix this problem so that he does whatever he needs to be doing to get fed proper?"

"Yes. He was able to at first, so it's probably just a logistical thing. His mouth there, the nipple here. I just don't know. And quite frankly, doctor or not, she's still my sister."

"I gotcha, Doc."

Mal left the nursery without saying anything more to Simon and headed to the bridge.

"Sir," Wash said, dropping his dinosaurs. Mal chuckled lightly. It gave new meaning to the phrase 'caught with your pants down'.

"Turn us so we're headed toward Osiris."

"I'm sorry," he said, his eyes darting from Mal's, behind him to Simon. "Osiris? We get a line on a job?"

"No, we're going to see about getting my son fed."

"All right," Wash said, clearly confused.

"Don't ask questions, just point us in the right direction. Simon and I will figure out a plan in the meantime to get us in and out without detection."

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