AN: And finally you very patient people, we have the last chapter (well, there's a one-shot that follows, so be sure to look out for "Am I pretty?" when I put it up). I should also give a bid shoutout to EngineAngel who was my beta for this story when I wrote it. She deserves a big hug for her hard work :)
AN2: I probably should mention that it actually was Christmas-time when I wrote this last chapter. (story was written between Halloween and Christmas, 2005)
Chapter 24: Home for Christmas
This wasn't how he had imagined it to be.
That was what was on Simons mind as he was laying on the bed, Kaylee sprawled on top of him, exhausted and sweaty. Just like him. He wanted their first time after the twins had been born to be special. Not that he complained about the events, it had definatly been amazing sex. And he loved feeling her body close to his in the afterglow. Welcoming the feeling of being upmost happy and satisfied, as he was running his hands through Kaylee's thick, soft hair, listening to her steady breathing.
The twins were closing in on turning three months now. Thinking about that it was amazing that they hadn't done this sooner. But then again there had been so many things going on that they never had a long enough alone moment to take advantage of it. From work-situations, all-nighters with crying and the exhaustion that just led to naps when they finally had a moment alone. If there was one thing he was sure of when it came to the twins was that he could never get himself to do anything that improper when being in the same room as them. It didn't matter if they were asleep or awake, it felt too weird. Luckily this was a properness that Kaylee actually agreed with.
So it had been far too long allready. This was part of the reason Simon wanted to make it special. A way for him to show her how much he treasured her. It had been thoroughly planned. They were mere days away from her home world, where the entire crew on Kaylee's family's insistance would be celebrating christmas. Jack had even made Kaylee promise to muck up the engine if she heard as much as a notion of the crew leaving before two full weeks had passed. The proud, newly-made grandparents wanted a substantial amount of bonding time with the twins, before seeing them off world.
Having only been there for three days on his last and so far only visit, Simon had a private chat with his mother-in-law over the cortex, asking her where he could find a nice, private place to take Kaylee on a date. Rose knew right away what the intention of the date was and gave him a knowingly chuckle as she suggested the old guest hut on the property. Simon had still not gotten used to his inlaws such openness about these kinds of things. And he wasn't yet sure if he felt comfortable with it, but he guessed he just had to. His own parents would never, ever talk about sex this openly, not even maritual sex.
Wash and Zoe had immediatly agreed to take on a babysitting job, as the two had recently started contemplating on whether or not now was a good time to try for a baby of their own. They hadn't reached a conclution yet, but they still welcomed the practise. He had asked them before talking to Rose on the cortex, as he hadn't wanted to give his mother-in-law the impression that he did this to bed her daughter.
So his plans had all been in order. The hut had been cleaned up, it was a mite late for getting true fresh strawberries, but Rose had promised him that there were some greenhouse grown ones attainable not too far from town. Kaylee deserved strawberries. He was going to give her everything he could give, was going to take his time, cherishing every part of her. It was supposed to be slow, romantic and special.
But then he had seen her at the infirmary doorway, dressed in her tight green jumpsuit. The one that showed off every curve in her body. Parts of it was stained with engine grease, which also sticked to her hairline, the tip of her nose and the upper right cheek. Her hair was drawn back to a knut, which showed some grease on the edges of her ears as well. The jumpsuit was unzipped far enough to show that she had absolutely nothing underneath it and she wore the most mischievous grin he had ever seen. He had lost all willpower that moment. They barely even made it back to their room.
It had been a nooner. The most amazing and passionate nooner he had ever had, but still... a nooner. He didn't feel guilty about them playing hookey today. The twins were happily being watched by Inara and River in the former companion's shuttle. It was just, he wanted more for them, for Kaylee. No matter how good it had been, she deserved more than just a romp in the middle of the day. Yet, as he felt her move slightly, he was torn between holding back to put his plans into action or taking her on for round two.
- What you thinkin' 'bout, Kaylee murmured, raising her head from his chest, looking into his eyes.
- Do you know how amazing you are?
- Come on, she giggled. - I was way out of practice.
- Even if I wasn't myself I wouldn't have noticed. I guess it's just like riding a bike.
He blushed as he heard himself say it. Kaylee just grinned and kissed him softly.
- That wasn't what I meant, he explained as the kiss ended. - On how amazing you are. It's how you are in every way. From your brilliant work on the engine to how you always have a way of believing in people, even when they give you every single reason not to, to what an amazing mother you are to the twins. I'm the luckiest man in the world to have you. I love you so much.
- I love you, too, she murmured, her voice cracking slightly as she felt she would bawl any moment.
Even with it being three months after the birth, her hormone level still hadn't completely stabilized itself, and even with her usual happy cheerfull way it was much easier to move her to tears.
- And this should have been more special...
Simon immediatly recognized her confused, hurtfull look emerging and knew he was well on his way to stomp his foot in his mouth. He feared that if he didn't get the next words out right he would have destroyed the moment.
- It was amazing, but I wanted to give you special. I wanted to take my time with you, show you special in every meaning of the word.
He sighed in relief as he saw the sparkle return to her eyes. He put his hand at the back of her head and captured her bottom lip in a soft, caressing kiss. She moaned slightly. And it took her a moment to reply.
- You show me that every day. An' 'bout takin' your time, I ain't stoppin' ya, you know.
She wriggled her hips suggestively and before she knew it she found herself on her back, giggling as she felt him leaving a trail of caressing kisses all over her body.
- I thought my babysitting was to give you two time to get your work done, Inara teased, as she greeted her best friend.
Kaylee sighed dreamily, not even caring that the afterglow was appearant. Darn it, they were married, there was nothing to be embarassed about. Though she didn't think she would be embarassed had they not been hitched either. As for doing it in the middle of the day, when they were supposed to be working, it had been far too long for her to even care.
- I thought you planned to wait for him to make the move, Inara said, referring to one of the conversation they had a couple of weeks ago.
She knew that the doctor had planned something, as he had asked her if he could buy one of the massage oils she had left from her old companion stash. Inara had assumed it to be for a more appropriate seduction than what she suspected this afterglow to be from.
- I was, but I was tinkerin' with Serenity an' I couldn't get him out of my head. An' I just thought 'to hell with it', you know. Been too long already, so I jus' went to the infirmary... an' well...
- I take it things went well.
- There was definatly some seduction from both sides, Kaylee sighed. - I kinda can't wait 'till the twins are old 'nuff to sleep in their own room. Is that bad?
The mechanic had a look of guilt on her face.
- No, mèimei, the former companion answered. - It's completely natural. You're only twenty-one and allready a mom to two. No matter how much you love them to death, you will always have a need for some alone-time. There's nothing wrong with that. We all know how much you and Simon love them. And they are happy babies.
That moment Leilah announced her presence. Kaylee smiled as she saw her baby girl looking at her waving her tiny arms and legs around. She picked her daughter up and balanced her on her lap, kissing her on the temple. Leilah seemed to like it when she got picked up, because she saw a lot more of her surroundings than just the roof and the people looking down at her. This way she got to see the room and was fascinated with the various colors and objects she saw.
- Where's River, Kaylee asked, noticing that Inara was alone with the twins.
- Mal gave her cook duty, Inara explained.
This caused Kaylee to raise her brow.
- She was trying to give Aidan a bottle and he was a bit stressed out and kept crying instead of eating. River got a bit distressed, and you know if the babies notice us stressing they start stressing. But Mal came by and as he couldn't find Simon he remembered how your mom handled River and asked River to help him with dinner.
The mechanic grinned guiltily as Inara mentioned the captain looking for Simon.
- How are things with you an' capt'n, she asked, raising her brow suggestively.
- Surprisingly slow, the former companion admitted. - It's a bit strange. We have these passionate kisses, but he's never asked me to come with him to his room or asked to come into mine.
- Why ain't you askin' him?
- Because unlike you I've decided to wait for his move.
- Ain't it strange, the mechanic suddenly giggled.
- We're used to guys that goes straight for it, but we fall for a couple that don'.
Inara smiled and nodded. Funny how this worked. She had been approached with many tempting offers of lives in luxury and passion, yet she had fallen for a simple, but good-hearted criminal who yet had to make his move, despite both of them admitting their love for one another. And even though it definatly had been a while for her, it felt nice that Mal didn't rush it. It felt reassuring.
- You ever gonna tell 'im you ain't had a client since he tol' you he loved you?
- I don't think I will. I like him best when he's not too cocky.
This caused a fit of giggles in the mechanic.
Mal had barely opened the hatch before Mrs. Frye came running in. Kaylee immediatly handed the bassinet to Simon, before running to meet her mom in a big, warm hug. She held onto her daughter for five whole minutes, before stepping back to take her in.
- You don' look like you had kids, she remarked. - Thought I tol' the boys to keep you fed.
- They do, ma, don' worry none.
Kaylee was pulled into another hug. Rose saw her daughter way too seldom not to.
- Don' let that captain get any notions of leavin' now, Rose whispered.
- Worry none, ma, Serenity's land-based.
Rose let go of her daughter and turned to her son-in-law, giving him and Mal a smack in the back of their heads. Surprised to say the least both men rubbed the spot. The woman was strong, they had to give her that.
- Ow, they said in unison.
- Now I told you two to set course home the minute my grandkids was born, Rose accused. - But did you?
Kaylee felt sorry for Simon being scowled at, but she couldn't help, but grin at the sceene with her tiny and very peacefull mother scowling the two taller men. Especially not with how adorable the two looked where they were guiltily staring at the ground.
- Sorry ma'am, they both said, again in unison.
- Now you're my son-in-law an' father of my grandkids, Rose said, her expression mildening. - So I can't stay mad at you forever...
She pulled Simon into a welcomin' hug. And he breathed out in relief, though still feeling the sting from where her hand had met his head. If he hadn't allready admired the woman, he would have now. Even more with what she did next.
- You however, she said to Mal. - Need to work for my affection, startin' with helpin' Jack with the carryin'. You know where to find 'im.
Mals eyes widened and he stared dumbfondly at the woman, the rest of the crew laughing. This was the very first time they had seen Mal truly beeing pushed around by someone. And it was all sorts of funny. He was now off the ship and pretty sure Kaylee had tinkered enough with the engine to make sure she stayed landlocked until it was time to leave. He also was very aware that Rose's cooking was not something he wanted to miss, so he found himself obeying her command without any objection, much to the crews amusement.
Simon offered to help, but Rose shook her head.
- Nonsense, you got 'nuff with the twins. Not gonna make my girl an' me take it all, are you? Now I wanna see my grandkids.
Kaylee who had picked up the bassinet from the floor, pulled the covers back enough to show her mother two sleeping babies. Rose gawped at the sight of her first grandchildren.
- That's the boy, right, she asked, poiting to the baby sleeping at the right side.
- That's Aidan, Kaylee answered. - Aidan Tam.
- Pretty name, Rose sighed. - I like it.
- Simon picked it out.
- Lemme guess, you named the girl?
- That's Leilah, Kaylee said, poiting to the left baby. - Leilah Serenity Tam.
- Definatly my baby girl's doing, Rose chuckled. - Now lets get home, it's gettin' a mite too chilly for my taste. Don' want the rugrats catchin' a cold at this time. You know the way, I need to free a beautiful girl, 'fore I get another Tam in my family.
Rose tilted her head to River receiving a hug from Kaylee's older brother. The girl was grinning from ear to ear when Rob let her go.
- Not that there's somethin' wrong with it, 'course, Rose added, winking at Simon.
Simon inwardly groaned at the suggestion of Rob and River having any form of interesst for one another that exceeded a sibling-like relationship. He knew deep down that Rose was just teasing him, but last time they had been there River had definatly had a small crush on the older man. If he mentioned this concern to Kaylee she would just huff and ask what was wrong with her brother. So far Rob did seem to genuinely just regard River in a sister-like capacity.
- Boob, River said, as she ran past Simon to catch up with Kaylee, who had allready started on the walk to her house.
As Simon hurried to catch up himself, Kaylee's mother turned to the remaining crew members. Some faces she recognized, others not so much.
- Zoe, Rose said, softly, hugging the first mate. - An' Wash. Great to see you two again. You'll be sharin' the guest bedroom, you know where it is.
Rose looked around at the rest and saw at Jayne and Book.
- If I'm to guess, you're Jayne, she said pointing at Jayne. - An' you're the shepard.
- I'm Book, ma'am, Book answered, shaking her hand.
- We ain't got room for all of you, but Rob said he was gonna put the two of you up. He'll show the way.
As the men left, Rose then turned to Inara as she was the last one left.
- An' you must be Inara. Kaylee's tol' me a lot 'bout you.
- She's a wonderfull girl, Mrs Frye.
- Call me Rose, Mrs. Frye makes me feel old, Rose chuckled. - I might be a grandma now, but darn it I ain't old yet.
- We are as young as we feel, Inara agreed.
- Well spoken. Now, I hope you don' mind bunkin' with River.
- Not at all, River's a great girl. She helps me out when I'm watching the twins.
- Great to hear you puttin' that girl to some work. She jus' needs ter have somethin' to do. Not jus' walkin' round the boat all day.
- Very true, the former companion agreed. - It seems she's more at ease when she's working.
- 'Course she is, Rose replied. - But lets get ourselves home, got a dinner that needs makin'
The short woman threw her arm around Inara's back and showed her the way.
- Carefull, Simon whispered in her ear, his hand steadily guiding her forward.
Kaylee's eyes were still closed, as she had promised Simon, but it had been a bumpy walk, as she had no idea where to and Simon clearly hadn't done this before. It was pretty darn romantic though, she decided. Sure she stepped into some holes here and there and nearly tripped a couple of times, but Simon always caught her before she got hurt. Finally after a little bit of walking, Simon stopped her and she heard the creek of an old door opening before he returned to her and guided her into some sort of a house.
- You can open them now, he finally told her.
She obliged and gasped. The old guest hut had been cleaned out and some candles had been lit. The scent of her mommas home cooking hit her nose and made her tummy rumble. Next to the covered plates she spotted on the table, were a large bowl of delicious strawberried.
- How did you get those, she asked.
- Your mom helped me get them.
He slipped his arms around her waist and brought his mouth to her ear.
- See... this is what I had in mind, when I said special, Simon whispered, making her shiver.
He kissed her cheek and neck, resting his head in the crook of her neck for a few seconds before letting her go to pull out her chair. Then he poured her a glass of her dads home made cider, that she loved so much. The food was incredible. True any form for home cooked meal would be welcomed with open arms, but they both thought that Rose had outdone herself with this meal.
This lead to both of them ending up feeling like they were about to burst. Simon tried his best to ignore that feeling as he got up and put on some music, before holding out his hand to her.
- I know I promised you real dancing once the kids were out, but I hope you don't mind it being a slow dance.
I'll be your dream
I'll be your wish
I'll be your fantasy.
The song was old, how old she didn't know, could very much be from back at Earth-that-was. She didn't care though, the writers came and went, but songs were eternal. As long as they carried a message that still applied down the line, they would remain eternal.
Simon slipped his arms around her waist and she rested her head on his shoulder as they started moving slowly with the songs rhytm.
I'll be your hope
I'll be your love
Be everything that you need.
Kaylee found herself humming along to the music. This made Simon smile as he tilted his head backwards to put his lips on her temple. She only half-reluctantly lifted her head and met his kiss. Her teeth gently raking his bottom lip. He groaned and deepened the kiss. They continued to dance while kissing and Simon tried his best to steer her towards the table, when he was close enough he reached for a strawberry and broke the kiss off to feed it to her. She bit halfway over half on purpose, the juices running slowly down her chin. Simon took the hint and met her mouth, half of the strawberry ending up in his.
He brushed her hair behind her back, exposing her neck and left a trail of kisses down her cheekbone to her neck, finding the spot he had learned made her crazy. She slowly backed towards the bed, not wanting him to loose contact with that spot. He fed her another strawberry without loosing contact with the spot. If she didn't loose some layers soon she was really going to go crazy. She was loosening one of the straps of her dress, but he stopped her.
- Don't, he murmured. - I want to do it.
Feeling his kisses on her skin as more and more items of clothing vanished, Kaylee sighed. Simon might object to it, if she said it, but she knew she was the luckiest girl in the world.
Aidan and Leilah lay on their backs on Kaylee's old crawling mat. Rose had fetched some of her old baby toys. One couldn't really call it toys, it was just a set with bright colored objects hanging on it. Some of them made noise, some didn't. It seemed to occupy the twins' attention. Leilah stretched her arm above her head. It was short, but she grabbed the blue plastic ring in front of her and pulled it to her mouth. She was content with that.
- Why does she do that, Wash asked, tilting his head.
He didn't mean to sound so stupid, but he was the youngest in his family and when he had left home he had never even seen a baby upclose. It was part of the reason he was reluctant to the idea of having a baby on their own. He just didn't picture his clueless self as a father, he wouldn't have the slightest idea what to do, just like here.
- They experience the world through their mouths. Their eye sight is still adjusting, but it's not enough for them to register what something is without using more than sight. There's a reason most baby toys are brightly colored and make some sort of noise, as well of being of a special material. They need to use all their senses to register something, from sight, touch, sound to taste. Babies are curious creatures.
Zoe didn't exactly have the world of exposure herself, but she had handled a couple of smelly diapers and a bottle before. As well as picking up some things here and there. That experience had been before the war, she had come out of it hardened, like a shell. When she had first met Wash she had been reluctant to let him any close, but he had remained persistant. She had tried making demands she was sure he would follow up on, including getting rid of his mustache. One that she had overheard him tell Mal he had been saving up. But then he had to have surprised her and shaved it off the very next day. It was about that time she had let her guard down. If he was willing to do that for her, he was worth knowing.
She had never regretted that. It was now time for Wash's to let his guard down. All she had to do was convince him that he would be great with kids, as she imagined him to be.
- Must taste good, Wash concluded, seeing the girl put the same ring back into her mouth.
Leilah's tiny hand clutched around the ring and she was eagerly kicking her legs in all directions. Aidan did too, only he didn't hold anything and before the boy registerred what had happened, he was laying on his stomach.
- Hey, would you look at that, Wash exclaimed.
The boy lifted his head, looking all matters of confused. This was an unusual position for him and he couldn't find a way to get back to his back. He started crying. Wash looked mighty bevildered.
- He just wants some help to get back to his back, Zoe explained.
She wanted to do it herself, but her husband needed to practice.
- Why doesn't he just roll back, Wash asked, his brow raised.
- He doesn't know how to. He got turned around by accident. Possibly this was the first time even. He needs to experience it a couple of times before he can figure out how to do it.
She sat herself close to Wash, stroking his back supportingly as she observed him with the twins. Wash turned the baby around, making sure he didn't bump the head or anything. That was at least one thing he knew. The head was fragile. When Aidan realized he was back on his back, he stopped crying. Leilah was still clutching to the ring, while she was reaching for another object hanging over her. She still hadn't succeded in the task.
Zoe rested her head on Wash's shoulder. He turned and looked at her.
- You really want one of these don't you?
She answered by burying her lips on his shoulder. His arm rested on hers and he looked at how soft and peacefull she looked. Wash was no idiot, he knew that it was an accomplishment to get Zoe's soft side out. With everything that happened in the war, he didn't even know half of it, because there were so many things she just didn't want to share. She had come out a shell and that he had even gotten on the inside of that shell still baffled him. He had been the only one so far to get on Zoe's really soft side, but here he saw the way she looked at the twins. So serene, like she had never even heard of the war. And he knew then that a baby could bring nothing, but good things with it.
- They are awfully cute, he admitted.
She just sighed in an agreement. That they were. So would her and Wash's kid be, if they were ever having one.
- ...young sheperds closeby held nightly watch of their flock. Suddenly an angel appeared in front of them. They were told not to worry, because they came bearing the most joyfull news. Today a savior have been born, in the city of David. He's the Messias, the lord...
Inara chuckled as River snuck up to the tree behind Book, as he was speaking, snatching the angel from the top. The two hadn't completely agreed on which object belonged at the top. Being the tallest, Book had placed the angel there, trying to explain why, with telling everybody the tale of christmas.
It wasn't until the crazy girl had hidden the thing that Book even noticed it being missing. She grinned as she handed him the star to replace it. Admitting his defeat, Book placed the star at the very top of the tree, before glansing at the clock, saying he better go. Jayne and Rob followed. Rose was still working in the kitchen, where River joined her. Inara decided Book had an idea about bed.
- Don't be too loud when you come to bed, she told River, as she got up from the recliner.
- I won't, River called, sounding as she was stiffling a giggle.
Inara climbed up the stairs and opened the door to her and Rivers room. She jumped as she saw a figure moving within the badly lit room.
- Mal, she sighed, slightly annoyed, upon recognizing the man. - You startled me.
The captain chuckled. He had waited all night to find an excuse to prepare the surprise and when Book had started his preaching, Mal had bee quick to take his que and leave. Not knowing how fast Inara would tire of it, he had worked quickly. She had taken longer than he had expected.
As he finally had her there, he put his hands on each side of her face and kissed her.
- Didn' mean to, he murmured.
It took him a great deal of self-control to keep the kiss from growing. He had planned it to go slow, so gorammit he was gonna keep at least one plan the way it was supposed to be.
Inara felt him break the kiss off as he took out something she recognized to be the oil that Simon had bought from her. He chuckled at her puzzled look.
- Couldn't have you be suspicious, could I?
Mal captured her lips in another soft kiss. His hands started working on untying the laces in her dress. Hers started tugging on his shirt, but he stopped her.
- Not yet, he said, tilting his head to the bottle of oil he had placed at the nightstand.
- You're really going to do this, she asked, not meaning to sound so amused.
He answered by untying one of the laces, and ran his hand down her front. The dress soon slid down her body and he motioned her her to lay down on her stomach. She couldn't remember the last time someone had massaged her. Not many of her former clients had done things for her. They bought her presents, took her places, but when it came to the bed, she was the one servicing. Of course there was an odd fella that wanted to pamper her in other ways, but they were far between.
She heard the familliar sound of too much oil being splashed onto the hands. Then she felt his hands meet her backside. First he stroked her back up and down, before they found their way to Inara's neck. And he started rubbing. Ouch. If one thing was certain, Mal was not a good masseuse. His fingers pinched in all the wrong places. She allready felt a muscle knot forming.
She was awfully quiet for his liking. He tried moving his hands, maybe they just weren't angled right. She winced and bit her teeth together, as there was a pop, followed by an ache in the muscle above her right shoulderblade. This caused his attention and he immediatly let go.
- What happened, he asked, bewildered.
- I think my muscles formed a knot, Inara explained. - If you could gently rub right... there.
She gently guided his hand to rub the knot out. Her shoulder was still stiff afterwards, but at least it didn't throb anymore, which was a plus. She felt his lips gently caressing her shoulder.
- Not my kinda thing is it, he asked softly.
- Just don't let go of your dayjob anytime soon.
- The thievin'? Wasn't plannin' to.
- Good, because you are one lousy masseuse, she teased.
- Hey, hey, hey, he objected, pouting. - That kinda hurt my feelings
She giggled, pulling his head close for a kiss.
- Can't have you getting too cocky.
It was hard to deepen the kiss as she was still located on her stomach, she grabbed a hold of his shoulder as she rolled onto her back, pulling him down on top of her. Meeting no objections she went back to tugging his shirt free from his pants, just as his lips found a sensitive spot on her neck.
Kaylee sighed and stretched her arms over her head before dropping it back into Simons lap. She was full from the best christmas dinner ever, as was everyone else. The proud grandparents were trying to organize a present exchange, each of them with a baby on their lap. Despite the difficulties, they refused to let go of the grandkids, which was understandable the little time they had gotten to see them, next time they saw them the would most likely be walking.
Mal was seated in one of the recliners, with Inara snuggled up on his lap. The two seemed much more at ease with one another, than they ever had before.
Wash and Zoe had just aligned a couple of pillows in front of the fireplace, where she was leaning back at him, him having his arms wrapped around her and resting his head on her left shoulder. Every other minute he was turning to kiss her cheek.
River had gotten bored from a far too easy chess game with Rob and gone over to poking Jayne, seeing how long it would take before she got on his nerves. Even if Simon had had sympathy for the man-ape he was far too lazy to tell his sister to leave him alone.
- Allright, this one's for River, Rose read out, hoping it would take the girls mind off torturing the mercenary. - But there's nothin' written on who it's from.
- None of us can afford givin' everyone a present, so every year we do a secret santa, Kaylee explained.
- I thought that was just last time.
- No, it's every year, Mal confirmed. - In fact 'fore lil' Kaylee came on board we didn' even do that.
- Can I have my present, River asked innocently.
- Of course, Rose chuckled and handed the girl the parcel.
River unwrapped it to find an empty journal along with a set of pencils.
- I've seen some of your drawings, Zoe said. - And I figured you'd want to maybe keep them in one place. Or you could write a diary.
River immediatly opened the book and started sketching. Rose sighed in relief that the girl had gotten herself preoccupied, as she serached the small pile for the next present.
- Jayne, here's yours, she said, not even daring to try to lift it.
She motioned to Jack who had momentarily left Leilah in her mothers care, to get the gift to Jayne without dropping it or hurting himself. It contained a set of heavy weights. Jayne immediatly turned his head to Book.
- Thought you could use a challenge, the older man said.
- Here's one for you, Shepard, Rose continued.
- I'm called Book, he reminded her, smiling.
He accepted the parcel and found what looked to be a new bible.
- I fixed it, couldn't find the other, River explained, as she received a confused look from Rose, she pointed at Book. - He hid it.
- Well thank you, River, Book answered, looking through the neatly plowed through book. - That was very thoughtfull.
River smiled and went back to her sketching.
- This one's for Zoe, Rose said, handing the larger, soft parcel to the firstmate.
Wash couldn't hide his grin as he watched his wife unwrap a green satin dress.
- Oh, look at the pretty, Kaylee exclaimed.
- That is really beautiful, Inara agreed.
- You got me a slinky dress, Zoe asked her husband, half amused, half moved.
- In case there was ever the need for it. Inara set me up with one of her tailors, Wash said, then chuckled slightly. - She said it was the first time she had measured a dress by a body armor.
Zoe chuckled and kissed her husband.
- I love it.
It was Zoe's way of promising him that she would wear it, come the right occation. River broke the moment by tearing out the page she was scribbling on and curling it up in a ball, only to continue on a new page.
- Factors change, finished prossess turns incomplete. Annoying.
Rose pondered on the words a few second before concluding that she couldn't find the meaning in it. So she went back to fumbling under the tree, there she hit another soft parcel.
- Simon, she read out and handed it to him.
Her son-in-law smiled and carefully unwrapped it. To his horror he saw two small lumps of orange knitwear. It was only a few second later he discovered that they were replicas of the hat they had all been teasing Jayne about, a while back.
- Awwww, how cute, Kaylee cooed, motioning to put the hats onto the twins right away.
- Jayne, Wash teased, putting his hand on the mercenary's shoulder. - I didn't know you knitted.
The crew all took turns to tease the man-ape mercilessly, before Kaylee shushed them.
- They're adorable, tell your ma' thanks, ok?
Simon shuddered. This probably meant the hats would stay on for a very long time. From his corner, Jayne grinned. Things were looking up. He could take some teasing, as long it made the doc uncomfortable.
- Here's one for Inara, Rose called out.
Inara opened the parcel to find a couple of antique ear rings, or something Mal would just call old-lookin'. They weren't as overwhelming as some of her regular pairs, but that was part of why she loved them so much, they were beautiful. She wouldn't call them simple, more like classic.
- I passed a shop and saw them, made me think 'bout you, Mal explained. - You like'em?
She immediatly moved to exchange the ones she was wearing to this pair. Wearing them, she bent down and kissed him. It was an answer enough for him.
- Mal, are you two gonna be all snuggly all the time, Jayne complained. - Makes a man nauseous as it is with doc an' Kaylee without you joinin'em.
- Baby girl, here's one for you, Rose announced, elegantly interrupting the mercenary's complaints.
She pulled out a larger parcel from underneath the tree. Kaylee only reluctantly sat up from Simon's lap, grinning as she started unwrapping it. She wasn't one for taking her time to build up suspence, no she was eagerly ripping the paper quick enough to get it off, but slowly enough to avoid any possible damage for whatever that was inside. The content earned more coos from her than Jayne's hats had.
- I wanna dress'em up right away, she exclaimed. - How'd you afford this?
- The tailor I sent Wash to owed me a favor, she turned the pieces of one of the dresses that I couldn't use anymore into that. It was a too beautiful fabric for me to just throw away. And I know that woman to make miracles out of less. Don't thank me, thank her, I surely could never have done it.
It was a beautyful red silken dress with a rose button at the top and chineese floral patterns on the side for her daughter. As well as an equal styled vest and pants for her son. Simon sat up, resting his arm over Kaylee's shoulder as he took in the sight of the gift.
- That's really beautiful, Inara, he said in awe. - Thank you.
- I hope the buttons aren't too hard to work.
- We'll manage, Kaylee determined, allready working on dressing her baby girl.
For Rose it had been, but moments ago when it had been her dressing baby Kaylee up in a tiny floral dress. It was strange to see her daughter, all grown up, dressing up her own little girl. How quickly time went by.
- Wash, here's one for you, she said, pulling out one of the few parcels left under the tree.
Wash accepted the square parcel and shook it, like he had done ever since he was a little boy. When he heard it scramble slightly, he plastered on a boyish grin. And it was, but seconds before he had it unwrapped.
- I tried to find a firefly model, but I thought this to be pretty damn close, Simon told the pilot.
- This will go nicely with Rex and Bronto up in the cockpit, Wash grinned. - Thank you.
- Jus' as long you remember which one you're flyin', Mal commented. - Zoe, your husband has an awfull lot of toys up there.
- Just keeping my inner child nice and shiny, Wash replied over his shoulder.
- One of the traits I fell for, Zoe murmured.
- I love my wife, Wash proclaimed.
- An' I you, husband.
- Not you two 'swell, Jayne groaned.
- Jealous, River said, flashing Jayne a grin.
- No I ain't.
- Jack, you think you could help me with this one, Rose asked, trying to pull out a lumpy, heavy parcel, without dropping poor Aidan.
- Looks like Kaylee wanted ya to have a work-out, Jack told Mal, as he read the captain's name from the tag.
Mal balanced it on the edge of the recliner as he refused to have Inara move for him to unwrap it. Instead he held it steady as Inara gently tore off the paper. What was revealled was a big metal plaque sporting the words "World's shiniest captain" at the bottom. He immediatly regonized the engine part in the middle to be the blown catalyzer that had almost undone them a year back.
- Didn' I tell you to throw that part away, he asked Kaylee, who now was standing next to the recliner.
- Thought I'd keep it, she grinned. - Is easy to forget how one lil' thing can make a difference. An' it's easy to forget how you keep us goin'.
- I think you're mistakin' me for you, he chuckled.
- No, I can fix the engine, sure, but you keep us goin' capt'n. When there's hard time, you give everythin' to keep us goin', so I thought it jus' fitted, Kaylee explained. - You like it?
Mal took a minute to truly take in the sight of the sign. Around the top and sides were photos of him with each of the crew members, all appearing to be taken the last two weeks on board. Each of the photos had frames welded onto them, keeping them in place. He pulled the mechanic into a hug and placed a kiss on her temple.
- You always know how to give the best presents, he told her. - Thank you.
Both of them knew that he talked about more than just the sign.
- I do my best, she shrugged.
- Jack, Rose said. - Why don't you go and get our gift.
Kaylee looked at her mother, puzzled. The expression changed to stunned as she saw her dad carrying in a wooden crib.
- We made this when we thought you were jus' havin' one. I ain't gotten to finish the other one, but if Jayne helps me, I'll have it done in a couple of days.
- Hey... why's I gonna be helpin' out, Jayne objected.
- 'Cause you was lazy with your present for Simon.
- I ain't the only one didn' pay none, the man-ape complained. - Why I'm gettin' crib duty?
- You gave'em your ma's gift. Don' count as yours, when your ma' was sendin' it anyway.
The mercinary gruffed, but gave in. No point in arguing when he had the whole room against him. Kaylee suddenly remembered something and hurried up the stairs. Returning, she was carrying a parcel, simillar to the one she had given the captain, only this one was less bulky.
- Ain't much, but here ya go, daddy, she said, handing her dad the parcel. - From me an' Simon.
Simon raised his brow. He hadn't seen that before. He knew Kaylee had made something for her parents, but she had refused to show him. Told him he had to wait, just like everybody else.
The sign was a bit smaller than the captain's, and contained a picture of the twins in the bassinet. Next to it was each of the twins hand and foot prints.
- Ain't that pretty, Rose sighed.
- Even though we ain't gonna be here often, we want you to see 'em every day.
- This gonna be hangin' right here, Jack said, pointing to the mantle.
Simon didn't know why he felt a lump down his throat as he read the words at the bottom of the sign. Maybe it was because it made him think of home. Or maybe it was more specific on how his parents were half across the 'verse celebrating their own christmas and they didn't even know they had grandchildren.
Kaylee, who had sneaked her way onto his lap, wrapped her arms around him and kissed him.
- Got another present for ya, she whispered.
Regan Tam felt Gabriel's arms around her waist, his lips pressed to her temple.
- Merry christmas, he whispered, lovingly, before turning around, heading for bed.
Like the year before it had been a lonely christmas. They tried the best they could to keep the lives to go as normal. But with the exception of the year before it had been so long since it had just been the two of them. No happy, loud chattering. No argument on whether the tree should have a star or and angel on top.
It was years since last she even had seen little River. But at least when she had been at the academy, they would get an occational letter and she would know that her baby girl was someplace safe.
It wasn't the idea that they had to keep up appearances, pretend like their children merely had left the nest and not run away, that was the hard part. It was the constant worry. Were they happy? Were they safe? Were they even alive? For all she knew their lifeless bodies could be lying on some godforsaken bordermoon and she would never know.
She had to remind herself that her oldest was a brilliant doctor and that he most likely was taking good care of himself and his sister. It was the only form of hope she could be carrying.
She was far from tired, despite having been up since long before Gabriel. And with christmas being over, she had to return to every day mode. There was a pile of unopened letters that was screaming her name. She seated herself at the table and began sorting through them.
At the bottom of the pile she noticed an envelope with her name and adress, written in an unknown handwriting. She didn't corespond with anyone. Letter adressed to her usually contained invites to balls, dinnerparties, as well as other society events. But none of them had ever been handwritten, so it was with a curious mind that she opened it and pulled out the photo. It was of poor quality, rough edges, most likely developed in a closet or or another dark room.
Her heart made an immediate jump to her throat, once she noticed what the photo was of. It was like staring at her own two children. The simillarities were stunning to say the least. Her eyes wandered to the side of the photo. A couple of tears of relief found their way down her cheek as she read the text written in an unfamilliar handwriting.
"Merry Christmas, grandma"
AN: Just remember, there's a one-shot that follows this ;)