She gazed out into the Black with a sigh. All of the stars seemed to twinkle at once like they were dancing. She wasn't alone. She knew he was there. It was just a matter of time until he announced his presence. His arms slid around her and then she felt his lips pressed to her cheek.
"Distractions on my bridge," she said playfully.
"Now what could be distractin' a first class pilot like you?" he asked with another kiss on her cheek by her ear.
"Husbands with wandering mouths perhaps."
"Do you want him to stop?"
"Now I keep thinkin' there's somethin' special 'bout today…" he whispered.
"What could that be?"
"It happened a year back on some moon in a little chapel. You were there, I was there, the crew was there, and there was a crazy old preacher there too."
"What were we doing there? I can't seem to remember…"
"I conjure we were gettin' married."
She smiled. "Happy anniversary, Mal."
"Happy anniversary, darlin'."
They kissed for a moment or two before she switched it over to autopilot. Mal grinned and handed her a tiny box. She lit up.
"I have something for you too, but while I was trying to wrap it Ricky got a hold of it. He won't give them back. I'm going to get them from him while he's sleeping."
They laughed and then he pointed to the box. "Open it."
It was a gold necklace with a charm of the Chinese characters for "Serenity" on it. She smiled and practically attacked him with a kiss.
"I love it! Where'd you get it?"
"I found it on Persephone and I had to get it."
"Thank you! Could you help me put it on?"
She turned around and moved her hair so he could fasten the necklace. She ran her fingers over the chain and then turned back around.
"What do you think?" she asked.
"I think it was made for you."
They kissed again. "I think Ricky should be asleep now. I'm going to go get your present." She extended her hand and he took it.
They went down to the passenger dorms where Ricky's room was. She cracked the door. Ricky was sound asleep. She snuck in followed by Mal. They both almost cracked up at the sight before them.
Ricky was covered up in a pair of big brown gloves and he was clutching the new pair of suspenders River bought for Mal. She carefully lifted the gloves off of her sleeping nephew. He moved a little bit, but didn't wake. She went for the suspenders, but he held on tighter.
"I can get those in the morning," she whispered as they moved out of his room. She handed Mal the brown gloves. He grinned happily since his other pair was shot to hell. He tried the new ones on and they fit perfectly.
"Just what I needed. Thank you, sweetheart."
"I got you the suspenders too, but Ricky's gotten attached to them."
"That's okay. He can hold onto them for awhile. It ain't like I need somethin' to hold my pants up anyways."
"Oh really?" she smirked.
"Would you like to test that theory?"
"You know I do."
River watched Ricky play with the suspenders she bought for Mal.
"Ricky, those are for Uncle Mal…" she had gone over this with him everyday for the three weeks since their anniversary. Everyday it was the same.
He clutched them tighter. "Unca Mawl's?"
"Yes. They're Uncle Mal's."
"No. They mine!"
"No Auntie Rivar."
She sighed. She wasn't feeling well and fighting with an eighteen month old wasn't helping. Mal came in from their latest job.
"Hey there little man!"
Mal picked him up and gave him a hug before setting him back down. He held onto the suspenders the entire time. River was looking pale. Mal went over to her and kissed her on the top of the head.
"How's my wife doin'?"
"Ricky won't give up your suspenders."
"They mine," Ricky snapped.
"Fine. You can keep them for now, but you have to take good care of them. Okay?" Mal asked.
"Shiny!" Ricky cried. (That was his first word, even before "Dadda" and "Mama")
River managed a weak smile. Mal felt her clammy forehead with the back of his hand. "You look sick. Maybe you should have Simon take a look at you."
"Dadda?" Ricky asked.
"That's right. Your daddy needs to take a gander at Aunt River to make sure everything is shiny."
"Maybe I should…" River sighed.
"I want Dadda!"
"In a minute. Your daddy is takin' care of Mr. Jayne. He got hurt."
"Mr. Jayne?" Ricky inquired.
"He's okay, just a little banged up's all."
"I want Mama!"
"She's out in the junkyard findin' parts to fix Serenity up. She'll be back," Mal promised.
"Unca Mawl play wiff Ricky?"
"Okay. I'll play with you for a little while. You should get some rest," he said as he turned to River. She agreed readily. "Feel better, sweetheart. Call if you need anything." He gave her a quick kiss and then she went to their bunk.
"Unca Mawl keese Auntie Rivar!" Ricky laughed.
Ricky attempted to make a kissing motion with his mouth.
"Unca Mawl keese Ricky?"
Mal kissed him on the forehead and messed up his Kaylee-colored head of hair. He looked so much like her it was scary. He had Simon's smile though.
"What do you want to play?" Mal asked.
"Mama play makebeeleeve. Dadda play cards."
"Which one do you wanna do?"
"What kind of cards?"
He pointed a fat finger towards a deck of cards on the counter. Mal picked them up and discovered that they were math cards.
"You like math?"
"Runs in the family apparently."
"You know what that means?"
He nodded. Mal didn't know why he was surprised. He was related to Simon and River, of course he'd be a genius. They started playing and Mal wasn't happy to discover that his baby nephew was beating him.
River settled down into their bed for a nap. She listened to the various thoughts around her. Simon's focused thoughts on Jayne's leg wound, Jayne's cursing, Zoe's calm nature as she helped Simon, Mal's amazement for their nephew, and Ricky's quick addition. She felt someone else. It wasn't Kaylee. They weren't thoughts as much as it was just a presence. It was a strong presence that reminded her of Mal, but it wasn't.
She eventually drifted off. When she woke up, she knew why she was sick and the presence she suddenly felt so strongly. She put her hand over her stomach. She had to know for sure, so she would have to wait for Simon to be finished with Jayne. Once she knew that he was, she left their bunk and went into the kitchen where Mal and Ricky were still playing.
"Tree pus tree minus tew eqwills four," Ricky said as he reached out for the card.
"How'd you get that so fast? I just flipped it over!" Mal exclaimed.
"Runs in da familee ."
Mal laughed and then noticed that River had entered.
"I thought you were gonna get some rest."
"I did. Simon is finished with Jayne, so I thought I'd go down and see him."
"I'll take you with me," River smiled as she scooped him up.
Mal watched them walk away with a smile. River tapped lightly on the infirmary door.
"Come in," Simon called. He smiled when he saw that it was River and Ricky. "Hi."
"Dadda!" Ricky cried while reaching out for him.
He picked him up and River sat on the exam table.
"How are you?" Simon asked Ricky.
"That's great! How are you?" Simon asked River.
"I need you to run a test."
"But you hate tests."
"Not this one."
"What test do you need me to run?"
"Dadda, what's that?"
"I'll explain in a minute, Ricky. Let me put you down for just a second."
He set him down on the counter and got ready to draw some of River's blood.
"Why you hurt Auntie Rivar wiff needa?" Ricky inquired as he watched River wince while Simon drew the blood.
"So I can run a test on her blood."
"How long until we know?" River asked Simon.
"Only a few minutes. I just have to run the blood through this machine and it tells me everything I need to know. I got it when Kaylee was pregnant."
"Yes," Simon smiled.
"I want Mama!"
"She'll be back soon," he promised.
The machine beeped. Simon reviewed the results and then turned towards her.
"You're very early along, but you're pregnant." She grinned and pulled Simon into a hug. "Congratulations, mei mei."
"Auntie Rivar happy?"
"Yes Ricky, Aunt River is very happy."
"Pregnant?" he asked curiously.
"That means that Uncle Mal and I are going to have a baby. You're going to have a cousin to play with."
"Yes. We're going to be parents."
"Unca Mawl be dadda, Auntie Rivar be mama?"
"Ricky not matter no more?" he asked with sad eyes.
"No! We're going to love you just as much!"
"I swear. I have to go tell Uncle Mal the news."
She hugged Simon and then Ricky before going up to the kitchen. Mal was busy cleaning up the math cards.
"Did you talk to Simon?" he asked.
"Ricky isn't going to be the youngest crew member anymore."
He grinned and looked at her with a light in his eyes that reminded her of the stars. She laughed as he wrapped his arms around her and picked her up. They kissed for a long amount of time before he set her back down and breathed in the much needed oxygen.
"We're gonna be parents!" he exclaimed happily.
"You don't think it's too soon? We've only been together for two years-"
"No. It's never too soon if'n the love is there. I got enough love for the two of you to fill the 'verse darlin'."
She beamed and they kissed yet again.
"How far along are you?"
"Simon said that it's pretty early."
"Do you know if we're gonna have a little boy or girl yet?"
"Not yet, but when I do you have to wait."
"That ain't fair!"
"You know how I love to mess with you."
"I conjure that's how we created our little one in the first place."