**Part Twenty**

Word Count: 1,312
This is for the LJ community 50_baby_fics Prompt #09-Rocker

Mal ran his fingers through his hair sleepily, adjusting his suspenders as he staggered from his bunk. It was his turn to wake up with little Mal, bringing him to River in bed if he so requested a middle of the night meal. The fact it was going on nearly morning and he hadn't heard a peep out of his young namesake he was now a little concerned.

He'd been sleeping through the night for the past week or so, but there was usually still the occasional time he stirred wanting some sustenance. Mal couldn't blame him there. Little Mal's source of sustenance held a rather bewitching spell over Mal himself, so a child would be helpless to resist.

He frowned, rubbing his eyes to ensure he was seeing things right. He even went so far as to step out of the nursery and come back. Nope, still there. And he wasn't seeing things. The rocker was not moving by itself, occupied for the first time that he could recall by someone other than River or him. Maybe Simon.

River had never complained about not having one or anything, but he'd seen it and remembered his mama rocking him. This one wasn't as nice as the one from his childhood, or maybe he just had a warped view of it in his memory. In his mind it had been hand carved, elaborately so at that.

He remembered to this day the scuffmarks on the one arm caused by his mother's ring scraping against the wood during years of repeated use. She'd consoled him, soothed him, and read to him there, bedtime stories, tales of things he'd come to believe in and hold onto. A code, one he had to live by even if no one else understood it. And that had included marrying River, though he was sure anyone knowing the situation would have questioned why he'd felt the need to. Didn't matter, they weren't him and hadn't seen what River was like when she'd first been discovered on Serenity.

He hadn't thought the plan entirely through, certainly hadn't counted on their marriage becoming a legitimate and binding one as was the case now. He'd just assumed at some point after having the baby, she'd get tired of running and want to settle down somewhere with the baby. He'd grant the annulment and go on his merry way. Giving the woman and child a chance at a life free from Alliance interference.

She wanted the child, and Mal reckoned if there was someone who'd suffered enough and deserved something they wanted that could bring them happiness. It was River Tam. Reynolds. So, how could he do anything but what he'd done?

She might have gotten away with it, having the baby undetected. He doubted it, though, and claiming the baby was his and not marrying her wasn't an option. Not with her brother onboard the ship anyway. Not to mention Shepherd Book. He was finding though, strangely enough, that he didn't mind being married.

The benefits of having someone in his bunk every night aside, though that was certainly a perk. He liked knowing he could talk to one person. Come off an argument with Jayne about this or that, a disagreement with Zoe about something or other and she'd listen. Sometimes she'd offer input, but usually seemed to understand he just needed to unload. He'd never had that ability before. Ever. Not in the war, not captaining this ship. Unloading. And sometimes he could without having to say a word.

And certainly he'd found there were advantages to having the same woman time and time again. Instead of getting boring as he'd always believed it would, it was somewhat exciting to explore different ways of pleasing her. To learn her, to know the different sounds she made and what they meant. The past couple of months they'd done just that, leading up to this evening when she felt ready to be with him again.

He'd felt a little clumsy truthfully, afraid he would hurt her despite what Simon said about her being cleared for such things. She hadn't said anything, seemed pleased enough but it led to his not sleeping very well. And coming to check on little Mal. There were times he liked having the baby as an excuse. When things on the ship were running smoothly and there was nothing for him to keep busy with, there was always little Mal to check on. Or do something with. He was smiling a bit now, though Simon suggested it could be gas more often than not.

"Jayne," Mal said, eliciting more care so as to not wake little Mal than the sleeping merc. who held the baby.

"Huh?" Even being startled awake, Jayne seemed to understand the cargo he held in his arms was precious and Mal witnessed the big merc's efforts not to dislodge the baby from his arms. The last thing he'd ever have put money on is to find Jayne Cobb sleeping with little Mal in his arms. If he'd had the ability he'd have taken a picture, certain this phenomena would never occur again.

"Rocker comfy enough for you? Need a blanket? A pillow maybe?"

He grunted.

"Mind telling me what you're doing in here sleeping with my son?"

"He woke up."

Mal's lips twitched into a slight smile. Wasn’t this the man who claimed he wouldn't help in such a situation? "I see," he said carefully.

"Once he figured I wasn't his ma and had nothing to offer him he nodded off, just needed to be held I guess."

"And you nodding off, too, that part of the plan?"

"Well, no."

"Why didn't you get me or River?"

Was that a blush on his merc's cheeks?"

"Um, tried that, you sounded occupied. Would have if just rocking him like this hadn't worked. You complaining I left you uninterrupted? I know you ain't gotten any since before he was born."

"No, of course not," Mal said simply, understanding. "Well, thank you, Jayne, that was nice of ya. Wait. How would you know that?"

"I overheard River and Simon talking. It was an accident," Jayne added before Mal could go off on him about eavesdropping. "Didn't tell anyone. It's normal anyway. So, I figured I'd give it a try and apparently Uncle Jayne did the trick all right."

Jayne stood from the rocker then, looking a little odd holding the two-month old baby in his arms as he did so. There was just something very unsettling at seeing Jayne behave in such a manner. Caring. He just wasn't a man that brought such expectations with him.

"No problem. Go on back to bed, Mal. I'll get him settled. He's fine now I reckon. Probably just had a bad dream or the ship did a little lurch that left him unsettled."

"All right."

"Already changed him and everything."

"You change diapers, too?"

"Not another word or this will be the last time I leave you to your wife. Next time I could bang on your hatch or just come in."

Mal waited, watching as Jayne settled little Mal back in his crib, adjusting the blanket around him.

"You never cease to amaze me, Jayne."

"Yeah well, you make a big deal out of it and I'll just deny it ever happened. No one would believe you anyway."

"You're probably right," Mal said, climbing the ladder leading from the nursery. "Night then, Jayne."

"Quit staring at me like that. I'm a multi-faceted man."

Mal scoffed. "Coulda fooled me until tonight, but I reckon you know what you are better than I do. Babies seem to bring out the oddest things in people."

"They're defenseless, that's all. Can't fend for themselves," Jayne said, slipping into his bunk and leaving Mal alone for a moment before he continued to his own bunk.

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