**Part Eighteen**

Word Count: 1,296
This is for the LJ community 50_baby_fics Prompt #26-Disbelief

"No, Wash, stay on course to wherever we were headed."

"I'm sorry," Mal spun around, staring at her as if she'd grown a second hand. He wasn't mad as much as unable to comprehend she'd just come in here and said that. "Please tell me I did not just hear you tell one of my crew to go against my orders."

"You heard correctly, I did. I will not let you and Simon do this."

"This isn't the time or place for discussing this, River."

"I can't think of a better time than now when you're not thinking clearly."

"No, there are better times. Like in the privacy of our room for instance. Not in front of my crew. You disagree with me? Fine. You don't announce it to the ship."

"For heaven's sake, no one's going to think I'm in charge all of a sudden. It's your ship. We just don't need to go to Osiris. This is exactly what they want me to have to do. Get help. You of all people should know that. It's not safe. No one on Osiris is safe, no matter what Simon thinks."

She saw by the look on his face she'd scored a point. He wasn't thinking clearly, putting what he thought was the wellbeing of the child ahead of anyone else's. Her child would not do well in captivity or without a mother. As much fondness as she might have for Mal's crew there wasn't one here she'd entrust little Mal's care to on a permanent basis. He had gifts, too, and she wouldn't want someone raising him who did not understand those gifts as she did. They could be both a blessing and a curse.

And if something happened to her she knew that he'd move the planets themselves to find her. He was not aware of this, of how deep his feelings ran. He'd think of it as honor of someone besting him, but there was more to it than that. It hurt more, realizing that he did not understand these things, than not knowing at all.

"What do you suggest? You need some help that Simon's admitted he's out of his league about."

"I will continue trying and if all else fails I will resort to the less natural way of going about it. Osiris is the last place Simon or I should be setting foot. So, the baby gets bottles instead. He's not going to die from it. You are letting your feelings for the child interfere with the fact that there are people who want us caught. And they would stop at nothing to get their way."

"Mal?" Wash asked, clearly waiting for direction.

"She needs the help, I'm not going to overlook a way to help her because I might get caught."

"There's more at risk here then you can fathom, Simon," Mal said, his eyes never leaving River's. His thoughts were a jumbled mess. No calm would come from his mind right now. She knew, however, that Osiris was out as an option, perhaps more now to him than it was to her. The idea that the doctor Simon knew might very well be a trap set for them. For all they knew she wasn't meant to breastfeed at all.

"I'm not sure what that means," Simon admitted and River smiled. She knew how difficult it was for him to admit something like that.

"It means that we'd be risking you, River, my crew, and the baby. I won't do that." Mal reached for the back of his neck, rubbing the spot there she knew he so often did when his gut and his mind were in opposition. He knew as well as she did this was the last thing they needed to do. "You sure?" Mal asked.

"If you remember at all what got us here, you know how sure I am."

"I remember," he murmured. "I still don't like to think of you not getting some help."

"Perhaps I can help," Inara said from the doorway leading to the bridge.

"Come again? I'm not sure you even know what the problem is."

"Well, it doesn't take a genius to realize there's an issue with your baby. Simon's willing to risk returning to the one planet he should stay away from. And you were willing to deliver him right to the people looking for him. I do know people who might be willing to help."

"You don't say?" Mal said, River stifled a laugh because he wasn't believing the companion just now.

"Yes. I have a client or two who are mothers. Perhaps they could help."

"That's still giving away our location."

"Not if River and the baby come with me."

"I don't like it," Mal said with a shake of his head.

"She's sincere," River said softly.

"You sure about that, bao bay?"

"Yes." She searched deeply into the companion's mind, not ashamed to do so this time. She found it hard to believe the offer was as straightforward and sincere as it seemed outwardly, but it was what it appeared. An offer of assistance.

"Of course I'm sincere. I don't like the implication that I would somehow do something to harm an innocent child. Besides, it might not even be necessary for us to go somewhere. Let me talk with River and we'll see what we can come up with."

"He won't eat," River said simply. Everyone in the room but Inara already knew anyway.

"I see. Well, come with me then."

"Mal?" Wash repeated his question from earlier.

"Stay on course," River replied.

"You are not giving orders."

"I will give them until you start thinking with your head again. A bottle will not kill him if that is the end I have to resort to."

"You seemed so adamant about it, though."

"It makes sense to do it the way it's supposed to be done, but many don't, won't, or can't. He knows I love him regardless."

"Yeah, I reckon he does."

"So, we're not going to Osiris. Is that the verdict?"

"Yes, Wash, it is. Do as the wife says."

"You'll learn pretty quickly that's usually the best route to take. Saves arguments and hours of cold shoulder treatments."

"Thanks for the advice," Mal said as River turned to follow Inara.


"Now there's the last person I ever expected to help out in this situation," Wash said.

"How's that?"

"Well, I mean, Inara helping your wife feed your baby."

"And that's a problem?"

"No, no problem. Glad she could help, because I have to say I agree with River on this one. Going to Osiris would be a suicide mission. Maybe not resulting in deaths, but they'd probably wish it did if they got their hands on them."

"She's a good person," Simon offered. "Of course she offered to help. I didn't stop to think she might have clients who could help."

"Best not be telling Jayne that the ship's companion is assisting my wife with breastfeeding troubles."

Wash laughed.

"I think I was serious. Did I sound like I was telling a joke, Simon?"

Simon smirked, but shook his head. "No."

"Oh, I know you were serious, Sir. Doesn't mean it wasn't funny. See, you do still have your sense of humor!"

"Very funny, Wash. Now, tell me there's a job out there for us. Something quick and easy so that the crew can get their minds back on work and their goal of achieving early fortunes. I'd much prefer it be there than on my personal life."

"But your personal life has become so much more exciting, Mal."

"Mm, no more than yours, Wash."

"I'd argue that, but you'd just threaten to fire me."

"Damn straight. Find us work, Wash."

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