She lay awake, huddled under the soft covers, her small head peeking out like a nervous child. A twenty-five-year-old child who was still young enough to believe in the monsters under her bed, and yet old enough to know they weren't always what they seemed. Lately, she had found that these particular monsters seemed to crawl upward, tunneling through the thick mattress until they buried themselves in the pit of her stomach, disguising themselves as insecurities and apprehensions.
Josephine sighed and opened her eyes, focusing slowly on the dark ceiling of her new room at the Training House, her ears anxiously awaiting the knock on her door she'd been expecting for some time now. After Serenity's abrupt departure two months earlier, she had asked Inara quietly for new sleeping arrangements, unable to lay herself in the luxuriously oversized bed she had shared with him. The Companion had said nothing and made the arrangements promptly. Inara had been a gracious hostess, and, Jo was surprised to find, an even better friend and confidante. Inara seemed to know exactly what Josephine wanted without asking any questions and she now found herself in a smaller, plain room that was just down the hall from the room that Mira and the others still shared. The bed was built for one, and for the most part, her change in location helped to keep her thoughts on the task at hand. That is until night fell, and she lay in her single bed in her dark room, unable to sleep and unable to keep her thoughts from wandering to Malcolm Reynolds and Serenity... and the one worry she kept locked away in the back of her mind for the greater part of the day.
They had parted amicably enough, though hastily, she knew.
It scares me how much I need you, she had said.
It scares me how much I love you, he had responded quietly.
She had wanted to say so much after that. To return his sentiments, to explain to him that she was staying behind to be strong for him, to learn to be the person he deserved, not someone who needed constant looking after. But she couldn't form the words. So she held him instead, trying to force everything she wanted to say into that last embrace, secretly wishing they had taken the time to talk things through properly, to make arrangements, but secretly knowing it wasn't in either of their natures.
They had waved each other twice in the past two months, Jo instigating the first and Mal the second. Both conversations were short and Josephine was saddened to admit, somewhat strained. She inquired after the others, he asked about her progress with Mira and the rest of Rawley's wives, but again, no plans were made, no time limits set.
Jo informed him of how Inara had gracefully handled the fiasco at the ball, expertly manipulating the story and keeping all of their names out of it. She told him that the Companion had upped the security on the facility, ensured him that she was being careful and hadn't heard from or been visited by anymore of Nash's men. Nash... the man she had met twice and yet somehow completely trusted only to be utterly deceived.
She filed this thought away with the others that she had neither the time nor the energy to fret over just yet, and instead let her thoughts return to Mal. They had spoken to each other with carefully chosen words that made her chest ache, but it was as if she was running on auto-pilot and couldn't force herself to behave normally, not even to salvage the few months they had spent together.
Josephine closed her eyes again, willing the wetness that had begun at her eyes away, knowing that it wouldn't do any good to cry over it again. After all, wasn't this one of the main reasons she had stayed behind to begin with? To finally be her own person, to learn to look after herself and not rely entirely on others?
She snorted softly and rubbed a hand across her eyes, wiping away the tears that had managed to fall despite her best efforts.
"Some progress I've made," she whispered into the empty room. As soon as the words left her mouth she knew they weren't entirely true. She had been making progress, just not with herself.
She'd been working everyday with the women they had rescued from Bryce Rawley, and slowly but surely she had regained their trust. But what made her even happier was that through her they began to trust Inara and Ivani and the other women at the Training House. Josephine wasn't surprised to find however, that they became still and unresponsive in the presence of a man and made sure everything they needed was delivered by women.
She sighed again and rolled onto her side, burying her face into her pillow. Josephine had absolutely no illusions about any of them, including herself, ever living a "normal" life, but she had at least hoped, no matter how unrealistically, that they would be able to be around men by this point.
Oh and Mira... she groaned and buried her face deeper into the soft pillow. Mira, the youngest and most troubled, seemed destined to be the last to make any sort of progress. She had attached herself to Josephine and wouldn't go anywhere without her, the unfocused intangible mask always in its place.
And Josephine knew it was a mask, though what was underneath it seemed even more unreadable. Occasionally she would catch Rawley's youngest widow staring at her knowingly, an awed expression in her eyes. But Mira couldn't know, Jo attempted to assure herself, ignoring the nagging sensation that willed her to remember everything that had transpired between herself and the teenage girl.
The most recent had occurred just that afternoon. It was an unusually mild day at the Training House, and Jo and Ivani had opted to take the women outside for lunch. Inara had provided them with blankets and baskets of food which they spread out on the lawn in a sort of picnic. She watched in contentment as the women chatted cheerfully amongst themselves and her mind began to stray towards the thoughts she desperately tried to avoid during the light of day. Without warning she felt something warm pressed against her stomach and looked down to see Mira's hand low on her abdomen. Jo turned sharply to the side, her shocked eyes staring directly into Mira's discerning orbs. She shooed her hand away and Mira's expression drifted back into its usual indifference, and just like that it was over.
A soft rap issued from the other side of her door, startling Josephine from her musings. She turned the light on and got up quickly, surprised to find a weary looking Inara clad only in a dressing gown and not the doctor she had seen a few days before.
The Companion smiled tiredly as Josephine stepped aside to let her enter, shutting the door softly behind her. Inara turned around as she reached the bed to regard the other woman, now leaning against the closed door.
"I'm sorry about the lateness of the hour. We only just got the results back and I thought you would want to know right away..." Inara trailed off when Josephine made no sign that she had heard her. "Jo...?"
"Perhaps you should sit down..."
"Inara..." Josephine pleaded quietly.
Inara took a quick breath before continuing. "It's true... you're pregnant."
Josephine closed her eyes and rested her head against the door. She had known for almost a month, but refused to believe or get tested for so long, happy that her oversized clothing had kept the others from seeing the minuscule amount of weight she had gained. But this wasn't really what had been worrying her. This she could deal with if she had to... but...
"And how far along...?" She asked, surprised at her own calmness.
"Almost fourteen weeks," Inara answered softly.
Josephine opened her eyes to regard the Companion, blinking a few times in quick succession, and letting her body slide down the door until she was sitting at its base.
Inara stepped forward in worry and knelt in front of her, placing a hand on top of the younger woman's head. "You're thinking that it might not be his... that it could be Rawley's..."
"Are you channeling River Inara?"
Inara ignored the spitefulness in Josephine's voice and continued. "But that's unlikely, and you shouldn't worry until we've had another test."
"I know, I know," Josephine responded tiredly. "But what if it is Rawley's Inara?"
The Companion remained quiet for a long moment before standing up and pulling Jo with her. "Then you'll deal with it... it's all you can do." Inara raised a hand to the other woman's face, wiping gently at the wetness that she hadn't realized had collected underneath her eyes. "So now you need to..." Inara prompted her quietly.
Josephine nodded and stepped reluctantly out of Inara's reach. "I need to tell Mal before I decide what to do."
"We could wave Serenity," Inara suggested.
"No... I think this needs to be done face to face, besides, he'd need to be around to confirm paternity." She turned to the small dresser against the wall and began pulling things out and piling them on the bed unceremoniously. "Now I just need to find Serenity."
"They're on Dyton, doing a... job. It's about two days journey."
Josephine looked up sharply at Inara's words.
"We've kept in contact," Inara continued, only slightly uncomfortable. "He was under the impression you didn't want to speak to him."
"I did... I mean I do."
Inara smiled and nodded. "That's good to hear. But I really think we should wave Mal first, let him come and get you."
Josephine shook her head and continued emptying the dresser before moving on to the small wardrobe. "No, I don't want to interrupt him while he's working... besides, if I speak to him now I'm afraid I'll loose my nerve," she replied honestly as she pulled a large rectangular box out of the wardrobe.
Inara watched quietly as she sat the box carefully on the bed. "Finally planning on giving him that?"
"Yes, thank you for helping me find it... and for everything Inara."
Inara nodded modestly and moved to the door, opening it halfway. "I'll make the travel arrangements in the morning."
Josephine stopped packing and turned to look at her. "Arrangements for two."
The Companion hesitated and turned back questioningly.
"I'm not sure when or if I'll be returning, and I'd like to take Mira with me."
Inara nodded again, somewhat surprised, and excused herself quickly.
Alone again, Josephine sunk down wearily on the bed, missing the box but upsetting the clothing she had set there moments before. The fear and anxiety she had been suppressing over the last ten minutes suddenly rushed to the surface as she looked down and placed a tentative hand over her stomach, unable to feel joy at the possibility of being a prospective mother.
She felt the tears begin to fall and whispered a question towards her stomach that she knew would get no response.
"Who are you?"