Title: Pride and Joy
Summary: Mal experiences fatherly pride.
Pride and Joy
Mal had a ritual whenever he woke up and it'd been the same for the last four months, ever since he found out. Sure he wasn't exactly bowled over with happiness so much as a good shot of shock, but when it wore off, there was a pride in him he hadn't really thought he'd have. Spent too many years avoidin' anythin' too shiny only to have it all turn around on him when he least expected.
She was still sleeping, her hair fanned out of the pillow. She should be on her side, that's what the doc said. But she always wound up on her back, with the blankets kicked off. She got too warm, she said. "Body's all fussed up over this," she'd grumble whenever he pulled the blankets back around her.
One of her hands sat across her stomach, stained with grease that just wouldn't come out anymore. The other hand was up by her face, her arm curled against the pillow. He slid down the bed slow like, not wantin' to wake her up. He reached over, lifted her small hand from her stomach and pushed her shirt up to just beneath her breasts before laying her hand back down where it had been. She had a nice round bump that couldn't be hid any more and he liked it that way. He pressed his palm over her stomach, thumb stroking the curve affectionately.
The first time he'd done this, she was fast asleep and he was awkward with his words, not sure what he was wantin' to say. But now he had it down; knew what he wanted his kid to know. "You got four months left in there," he told his baby. "Better enjoy it for what it is, 'cause I tell you when you get out here, it's gonna be chaos!" He smiled slightly. "We're dockin' in a few days and your mom here will be all over them greasy parts, lookin' for something else to keep us up and workin' in the black." He traced the tips of her fingers with his, trailing them along her belly at the same time. "I gotta feelin' when you get out here, your favorite toy's gonna be a sparkplug or some part like it."
He was still fearin' what it was gonna be like to be a dad. He was used to order and he knew kids weren't the most orderly types. He knew the ship wasn't exactly child proof, but then there wasn't any place he'd rather be and he knew his Kaylee felt the same. Serenity was their home and it'd be their baby's too. Hell, maybe one day his son or daughter would be captianin' it. That or mechanicin in the back with their mother. He smiled to himself. Didn't sound too bad at all.
Few years back, he never saw himself here. Figured eventually his luck was gonna run out and if the black didn't eat his ship whole then one of the many scrapes they got into would be their end. Without Wash around anymore, he and River did most of the flyin'. It took awhile before Zoe looked anywhere near reminiscent of his old friend, but she was healin' and that was all he could expect. He didn't really know how much it could hurt, to love someone that much and then lose that person. He'd lost people; far too many for him to even count. But he'd never had the kind of relationship Wash and Zoe had. Not until he and Kaylee took a step into the unknowns and wound up finding each other in a way both unexpected and right. Now he found himself married to his mechanic and expecting a child. Gorram it all; he never saw it coming. Ain't no Reynolds itch for that; it was all too good to be feared.
"I ever tell you about the time we barely scraped outta this one core. Had a pack of reavers on our tail and our mule nowhere in sight. Got only our guns on hand and our feet for runnin'." He felt her hand weave into his hair, running through it sleepily as he continued on with his story. She listened, not disturbin' his usual conversation with their unborn child. She didn't even tell him it was an odd thing to do, not like how Jayne told him he was about ready for the bughouse if he thought the baby was gonna talk back. She just laughed when it was funny and rubbed his neck when it wasn't. By the time he was done, he had a smile on his face and was staring at her stomach like he was expectin' their babe to ask for another.
"You told her so many of them stories, she's gonna come out tellin' 'em," Kaylee said with a chuckle.
"Yeah, well, he's gonna need to know about these heroics so he can use 'em later." He slid back up their bed to lie next to her, face turned toward hers while his hand still sat warmly over her stomach. Her arm was wrapped up around him, slipping from his hair to rub the back of his neck. "Seein' as how we're his parents, I'm thinkin' he's not gonna be a stranger to trouble."
She smiled at him, eyes half open. "Well if she's anything like her daddy, she'll get herself outta it no problem."
He reached up, cupping her face and stroking her cheek. When she licked her lips, he was momentarily distracted, but then returned his eyes to hers. "You fell asleep back in the engine room again."
"It was a long walk back here," she replied, lifting a shoulder. "And she likes the sway of the hammock." She patted her round belly, smiling at it fondly. "You carry me back here, capt'n?"
"You know I did," he replied with a sigh. "Can't sleep without you in here anymore. Gettin' to be a hassle waitin' up for your mechanicin to be done." He tried to sound irritated but was sure he failed when she just smiled at him. She turned over slightly, snuggling up to him so her head was under his chin and her arm was pressed in between his. He could feel her stomach pressing against him; his arms fell around her back, fingers kneading into her. Her back was always achin' lately. But did she quit her foolin' around with the engine? Not a chance. "Gotta keep our girl runnin', Mal or this baby ain't never gonna see land, she'll be stuck up here in the black 'til some poor soul finally lends us a hand. Can't have that, now can we?" she'd always say when he suggested she nap more or get off her feet or quit her fussin over things that ain't needin' fussin' over.
"Why don't go paint some flowers on somethin', Kaylee?" he'd ask with a sigh, after finding her covered in grease and tinkering with some part or another.
"'m busy. Flowers can wait!" she'd reply distractedly.
He was just about ready to give it up, but he didn't like her sleepin' in the engine room anymore. He got gorram used to her warm body next to his and it was a real foul shame that all he could do was roll around and stare up into the dark of their bunk, sighing in irritation that sleep was eludin' him again. Whenever she did finally come back, it was no more than five minutes before he was snorin' away. But sometimes he'd go out to the engine room to see what was keepin' her only to find her swayin' away in the hammock, fast asleep and still dressed in her coveralls.
After carrying her back to their room, with a whole lot of fancy walkin' so not to rouse her or hit anything, he undressed her and put her in her favorite sleeping shirt, tucking her into bed and climbing in with her. He always put her to bed on her side and slide up behind her to keep her that way, arm thrown around her, holding on tighter than he liked to admit. But as soon as he woke up, she was on her back and holding his hand in hers over her stomach.
"You missin' my body, capt'n?" she teased, moving to straddle his waist as he laid back on their bed. Her hands fell to his chest to hold herself up while one of his covered hers, the other finding her hip, tryin' to steady her above him. She ain't never been real clumsy and she'd been real careful since she found out about the baby, but he was always worrying about her. Hell, if he could, he'd find a nice, comfy little room and lock her away in it so she ain't never get near anything dangerous. 'Course she'd probably find her way out, some way or another, and he'd find her back in the engine room before he could get her full first name out.
Her top was up above her stomach still, stuck like it usually got when he pushed it up. So she sat in her cute little lacy panties, stomach pressing out proudly. He stroked her side, fingers wandering over the curve of her stomach as he stared up at her. Her brown hair hung down in curled tangles, framing her pretty face as she smiled at him all shiny-like, brown eyes lit up. Ain't no point in pretendin' he was all that upset at her, seein' as she was just about the only person who could get him to smile even when he was ragin' mad. All innocent and sweet, the opposite of him in most ways.
"I'm missin' the warmth, is what I'm missin'. Got used to that and now I can't sleep without it," he replied, half-frowning.
She laughed, shaking her head. "You sure know how to make a girl feel wanted, Mal," she said ruefully. "You ain't need to say it. I know you love me." He glanced up at her, mouth quirking with a small smile that she beamed back as if he'd said the words himself. "I'll try to get back here to warm you up," she assured. "Course if we had a hammock in here, it'd be a whole lot easier."
He sighed. "Kaywinnit Reynolds, you don't need no gorram hammock! 'Sides, if I get you that, you'll sleep in there and this bed'll go just as cold before. Can't have that now, can we?"
"'Course not, capt'n," she murmured, smiling. She turned slightly until she was lying on top of him, forced to her side given her round belly. He wrapped his arms around her, inhaling the flowery scent of her hair as she rested her head against his shoulder. "You warm enough now, Mal?"
He closed his eyes, squeezing her slightly. "I'm gettin' warmer."
She giggled against his shoulder, her fingers strokin' the side of his neck like they often did. He could feel her kiss against his bare shoulder and he sighed contently. Ain't never thought he'd have this and he was gorram happy he did. Might not be the cheeriest man there ever was, ain't nowhere near her shininess. But he loved her cheer and she loved his lack of it for some reason ain't never been given. And he didn't want no reason anyway. He liked it how it was, wasn't gonna question how in the 'verse he managed to get where he was. Liked it too gorram much to start questionin' things.
"I'm thinkin' at our next stop, we should get her one of them rockin' cradles. You know? I think she'd like that. She sure likes the hammock, makes her all still like. Like she's sleepin' in there, all cozy and snug. Happy as our ship when she's just had a tune up. Purrin' like a woman just had her nethers twixed real nice." She grinned against him, her nose brushing his neck.
"Fine. But it ain't gonna be no prink frilly thing neither. No son of mine is sleepin' in one of them flowery things," he replied.
She lifted her head, staring at him with amused tenderness. "You ain't never gonna admit she's a girl, are ya? She's gonna get born and you're gonna have her actin' like a rowdy lil' boy instead of a proper lil' girl."
"If she's anything like her momma, she ain't gonna be anywhere near proper to begin with," he replied, brow quirked.
"So you admit she's a girl?"
He sighed, shaking his head. "That there's a boy. I just know it."
"Yeah, you keep thinkin' that capt'n tight pants," she replied, snorting as she laid her head back down. "We'll get a yellow cradle. It's a neutral, I reckon."
"Seems more girl than boy," he muttered under his breath.
"Always so stubborn," she murmured sleepily. "You keep it up, you're gonna find a pink one in this room, time you get back."
"Now don't go threatenin' me, Kaylee."
She giggled. "Only you would find pink to be a threat, Mal."
Her warmth was surrounding him again, from his toes up to his hair and he found his eyes drooping. Didn't know how she did it; feminine wiles or somethin', he wasn't sure. But every time she got up close and used her soothin' voice in a whisper, arms wrapped all around him and body pressed up close, he found himself slippin' away. "Ain't gonna be no pink frillery in here..." he managed in a sleepy slur.
She stroked the underside of his jaw, slow and comforting. "Go on to sleep now, Mal." He felt her kiss his chin. "Time you wake up, I figure I can have flowers painted all around where the cradle 'll go. Be like her own wallpaper."
"Kaywinnit," he groaned.
She laughed lightly, hand running up and down his chest until he couldn't form words anymore, too tired. Maybe havin' a girl wouldn't be so bad. If she was anythin' like her mom, she'd probably drive him right up the wall. Still, he loved Kaylee as much as he loved his boat and that was sayin' somethin'. So he figured any daughter of his would be his pride and joy. He'd rather her have a mobile of screws and bolts than them damn flowers on his walls though. Just before he fell away entirely, he felt her lips against his Adam's apple. Maybe just a few flowers.
Author's Note: I loved this. Hope you did too! Reviews are sustenance, readers! Luv yas - Fina!