Man to Man Talk
Disclaimer: I own none of these characters. Oh, wait a minute. Adam's mine!
Summary: Mal and Adam spend a little quality time together.
"Don't worry about it, bao bei," Mal said, leaning down to kiss River gently. As he pulled the blankets up over her chest, he continued. "Me and Adam will have a little quiet time together. You just get some sleep."
River yawned widely. "I don't know why he's been so restless, ai ren. But I'm so tired." She had spent a particularly long day with Adam while Mal and Zoe had been away on a job. Though River was still a young woman, her son had all the rambunctious energy of an eighteen-month-old, and she was exhausted from meeting the constant demands of motherhood.
Mal had come to understand, over the course of his intimate association with his wife, that when River was overly tired, she had a much harder time maintaining her grip on emotional stability. Though she was very rarely given now to psychotic episodes, he kept in mind that it was still a struggle for her to compensate for the damage that had been done to her mental faculties at the Academy, and extreme fatigue made that struggle an almost impossible battle.
And when he had come back onboard Serenity earlier in the day, he discerned that she was perilously close to the ragged edge. Asking Inara to take over piloting duties and Kaylee to look after Adam for awhile, he sent River to their bunk with strict instructions to rest while he and Jayne stowed their latest cargo. But two hours later, when he climbed down to check on her, River was pacing nervously, arms wrapped around her chest and staring into nothing.
Alarmed he might have misread the situation and that River's agitation might be the result of something she was picking up on that he needed to know about, Mal pulled her to him gently.
"What's going on, darlin'?" he asked softly. "You seeing something?"
River rested her head against the steady beating of his heart. "No," she answered, trying to contain the slight muscle spasms that ran through her body.
Feeling the struggle, Mal's arms tightened around her protectively. "Anything unusual happen while I was gone?"
"No," she answered, her voice trembling. "Adam was a little…energetic, but other than that, everything was normal."
Mal led her to their bed, and helped her slip out of her clothes. He lay down beside her for awhile, waiting until her tremors subsided and her breathing was even before he slipped out of the bed and pulled the covers up around her. To her murmured apology, he replied, "'S'alright, bao bei. I'll see to Adam. Sleep well."
She gratefully complied, falling asleep before his feet cleared their ladder.
Finding Kaylee in the kitchen pouring Adam a precious cup of juice, he thanked her for her help with the child.
"Weren't nothin', Cap'n," she replied cheerily. "I think he'd done and got most of his energy out 'fore he got to me, by the looks of it." She gave Adam a soft peck on the head.
Adam smiled delightedly, and guzzled his juice down with apparent relish. Wiping the sticky residue off his face and fingers, Mal scooped him up and headed to the bridge.
After Inara relinquished the pilot's chair and its attendant responsibilities to Mal, he settled Adam in his lap. Adam wriggled for a few minutes, but finally settled down, looking out at the vast expanse of the Black. "Pretty," he said, pointing one chubby finger at the sight.
"It is, at that," Mal answered, feeling the tension of the day melt away as he enjoyed the simple pleasure of his son's company.
Adam leaned his head back against his father's chest, tempted to suck his thumb but remembering that Mama and Daddy wanted him to stop that habit. He fisted his hand in his hair instead. "I missed you, Daddy," he said softly.
"I missed you too," Mal said. "But I had a real good day. What did you do today?"
Adam turned to grin up at him. "Played with Anya," he said happily. Thinking back, he added, "and Miss 'Nara and Mister Jayne…and Miss Kaylee…and Mama."
"That sounds like a lot of playing," Mal said, returning the grin.
Adam nodded, and stared out the window again. After a few minutes of silence, he looked searchingly into Mal's face. "Is Mama upset?"
Mal inhaled and exhaled slowly, all too aware of his son's potential reading capabilities. "No, Adam, she's not upset. But she is very tired. And when Mama gets too tired, she needs us to be extra specially good so she can rest. Think you can do that for her?"
Adam frowned, considering the thought. "Yes," he said solemnly.
"I'm sure you can, little fella," Mal said in praise. "You're a good boy." He kissed Adam's upturned cheek.
Adam snuggled in closer to his father. "Daddy loves Mama," he said, sighing contentedly. "And Mama loves Daddy."
"It's a pure truth," Mal said. "And we both love you, Adam."
"Me too," Adam said, yawning widely, as his eyelids fluttered closed. Mal leaned his head back against the chair and in a short time, followed his son into slumber.