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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Post-BDM: The ride to Harvest is long for everyone and emotions are running high. Kaylee finally gets to introduce her two men to her folks and Jayne and River have a little talk about the future.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1902 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
A/N: Here is the next part to my little saga. This one is a bit longer, but I will do my best to get chap. 24 up tomorrow night.
Also, as previously stated, there are 29 chapters total this little opus, after which I will be posting some interim stories that take place before the start of the 28 chapter sequel - buckle in kids, it's going to be a bumpy ride! :o)
Much thanks again to Leiasky for .... well, the list is really too long.
ENJOY AND COMMENT!
A NEW LIFE, ch. 23: A Mother’s Love
The trip to Harvest was dragging for almost the entire crew, but no one was feeling it more than the eight children on board. Each of them was restless for different reasons, but as the first week turned to two and then almost three, they were all starting to get a little out of control.
It was on the eighteenth night of their sojourn that River suggested a slumber party. While Mal had rolled his eyes at the thought, the kids had immediately taken to the idea. With a knowing look, River knew the captain would be unable to say no now, and he had eventually relented, after making sure his name would not make the chaperone list.
So that night, with the help of many of the adults, each child dragged their mattresses and blankets from their bunks into the middle of the cargo bay. River had agreed to oversee the event and Jayne had agreed to help, raising quite a few eyebrows, but not River’s. She had known he’d wanted an excuse to spend more time with her, but with Cadie permanently camped in her bunk, the two of them had been hard-pressed to find a minute to themselves. Of course, overseeing a sleepover with eight kids didn’t exactly promise a lot of quiet moments, but at least Jayne wouldn’t have to put up with Mal’s and doc’s disapproving stares if he tried to put his arm around River. That was getting kind of old.
Gathered around a halogen lamp that they had set in the middle of the bay, all the other lights having been turned off, all eleven of them, including Zoe whom Ellie had pouted into attending, huddled together talking in excited whispers far into the night. As each child began to tell more and more stories of what they imagined life would be like on Harvest, Ellie started to get bored. From her seat in between River and Zoe, she tugged on River’s arm.
“Yes, sweetie,” River asked, turning her gaze to the girl.
“I’m bored. Tell us a story,” Ellie begged. The other children heard her request, instantly chiming in their agreement.
“A scary story,” Milo said, smiling wickedly.
River returned the grin, but shook her head, “Sorry, I don’t know any scary stories.”
Jayne turned a disbelieving look on her. “I know I don’t rightly believe that, darlin’.”
At his statement Rive threw him a look that clearly said “Back-off” and he clamped his mouth shut determined to let River have her way. If she didn’t want to tell these little ones a scary story then who was he to judge? As Zoe cocked an intrigued eyebrow in his direction, Jayne scowled, turning his attention back to River.
“No, not a scary one,” Cleo said quietly, her voice barely carrying across their small circle. “A happy one.”
River smiled at the girl, uncertain whether or not the child could read the expression in the dim light. As she thought on what sort of story to tell, Cadie crawled her way over Ellie to sit firmly in River’s lap. Smiling down at the girl, River pressed a kiss to the top of her head and said, “A happy story, huh?”
All the children nodded eagerly, even Jayne and River again turned a bright smile on him. He smiled back at her and she felt her heart thud against her chest. She was quickly falling in love with him, she hadn’t been wrong when she’d told Simon that a few weeks ago, she just hadn’t been ready to fully admit it.
As she held his gaze, Jayne leaned towards her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. Falling into his side quite comfortably, River thought for a second more and then said, “All right, I’ve got a story.”
Each child adjusted their position to be more fully attentive and River waited until they had all settled again before beginning. “This story is about a little girl who was very lonely,” she said, her voice taking on the hushed quality of a practiced storyteller.
Sitting up, so she could gesture with her hands if necessary, Jayne leaned back on one elbow to watch her as she continued. “When this girl was little, very little, even littler than you,” she said, tickling Cadie lightly for a moment and getting a small grin from the girl, “She found herself all alone. And she didn’t know what to do. She didn’t have a mother or a father or any siblings.” She watched as the kids’ eyes grew wide and round, their sadness affecting her more than she’d thought it would. Pushing forward, she said, “But one day, this girl, who was very smart and very sad, was out playing and she met this boy. He was bigger than her and tough, and sometimes he said mean things that she didn’t understand.” So engrossed in River’s story, she knew that Jayne couldn’t even puzzle out that she was describing him.
What a boob, she thought suppressing the eye roll that normally accompanied it. She was quickly discovering that Jayne could easily usurp Simon’s position as “top boob” in her life. “But even though he sometimes said the wrong thing, he was a good person and so the girl went with the boy and they had many adventures together.”
She recounted the tale of Ariel then, talking about how the boy had almost gotten her into big trouble, and then went on to talk about Lilac and the robbery, turning the Reaver chase that had nearly gotten them killed into a harmless pursuit by some local authorities. Then she went on to discuss their search for a secret planet and what they had discovered, again glossing over some of the more disturbing elements of their time on and around Miranda. If the retelling of that story hurt Zoe, it was impossible for any of them gathered there to tell.
By the time she made it through the Ariel story though, Jayne had caught on. He’d sat up a little straighter as she continued to recount their exploits, listening intently as she embellished and relayed each tale. He watched her eyes dance in the dim light and saw the way it shone off her hair and her bare arms. Ai ya, she was beautiful.
Once River had gotten to their most recent trip to Osiris, all the children were drifting to sleep. Looking down to her lap, River was not surprised to see Cadie’s big, blue eyes still looking up at her intently. Giving Jayne a knowing look over the girl’s head, River rose with her and wandered to the far end of the bay, cradling the girl against her and humming softly.
“What is it, little one,” River murmured, her cheek resting against the top of the girl’s head. “You okay? You’re normally asleep in just a few minutes.”
Cadie did not speak, which River did not find surprising. The girl had not spoken since River had met her, had actually not spoken for over a year since she’d been with Millie. But they still communicated. River could feel her mind open and close, searching for answers in the minds of others around her and shutting down if and when those answers, those thoughts got to be too much. The girl had an unbelievable amount of control, so much that River sometimes felt jealously welling in her. She wished that even now, years after she’d been out of the Academy and supposedly on the road to recovery she could manage her gifts with the same kind of restraint.
Just wandering absently, River soon found that she had walked into the common area across from the infirmary. Settling on the couch there, Cadie settled more fully against her, and River kept her arms around the girl loosely, continuing to rock her. She knew that the girl’s mind was still troubled by something; River could feel her tension, her need, as plainly as anything.
They had been sitting there like that for who knows how long, when Cadie finally looked up at her, gazing into River’s brown eyes as the older woman gazed into her big blue ones. Reaching up a tiny hand, River stayed still as Cadie laid it gently against her cheek and murmured, “Mama.”
Sudden tears welled in River’s eyes and she felt them fall even as she tried to fight them back. Not understanding the sudden pain and confusion she felt coming from River, Cadie began to cry her own small tears. Keeping her hand against her cheek, she repeated, a little louder this time, “Mama.”
River looked up suddenly, blinking through her tears at Jayne’s silhouetted form standing a few feet away. Approaching River and Cadie quickly, Jayne noticed his girl’s tears and immediately sat at her side, wiping her cheek with one of his thumbs. “Did she just-"
“Dada.” Cadie’s voice was still quiet, but it was enough to stop Jayne’s words on his lips. Looking to the little girl and back to River, Jayne could not process this information.
“She doesn’t really think that,” Jayne stammered apparently unable to form a coherent thought. “She knows we ain’t her folks, right?”
River nodded once, looking back into the little girl’s face even as she tangled her hands in the ends of River’s hair. “She does,” River said shakily. Brushing some of Cadie’s dark hair out of her eyes, she waited until the little girl’s eyes were back on her face. “Sweetie, I’m not your mama. You know that.”
The little girl stared at her quizzically for a moment, confused. She could feel River’s pain as clear as anyone, could feel her desire to have a child, and could feel her love for this man sitting at her side. In Cadie’s mind all of these emotions and thoughts added up to a “mama.” So no, she didn’t understand.
Shaking her head firmly, Cadie formed a pout and repeated stubbornly, “Mama. Dada.”
Unable to reason with her, River pulled the girl to her and buried her face in her hair. “No sweetie,” she murmured, over and over again. “No, I’m not your mama.”
Jayne watched in awe as River tried to comfort the little girl who was now crying big tears. He wanted to help her somehow. Even in the dim light, he could read River’s pain on her features and wished he knew, not for the first time, how to take it away.
Finally, spent from her tears, Cadie fell into a fitful sleep. When River felt her drift off, she turned her tear-streaked cheeks to Jayne. “Why did she say that,” he asked, unable to hold back his curiosity. “She’s a smart girl. Surely she remembers her real folks.”
River nodded once not all sure that she could or should explain this to Jayne. Lifting the girl off of her lap slowly, River gently laid her down on the couch beside her and shifted her attention back to Jayne. He instinctively reached for her hand which warmed her very damaged heart. Looking down at their intertwined hands, she started very softly. “She does remember them, although she wishes she didn’t.” River shivered at the emotions the memories of Cadie’s real parents inspired in the girl and Jayne pulled her closer, wrapping an arm around her shoulders in an effort to warm her.
Smiling her thanks to him, she continued. “She’s very confused, a lot of the time. Being so little and being able to read, it’s very difficult for her,” River finished in a whisper, remembering her own struggles that continued to this day, never mind when she’d been only three. “It’s hard enough to process your own thoughts at that age, let alone others’. She’s handled it remarkably well, considering …” River’s voice trailed off as she glanced back over her shoulder to be sure the girl was still sleeping peacefully.
Convinced she was, she turned back to Jayne with fresh tears in her eyes. But he stopped her next statement, by asking, “Is that what’s happenin’ now? Is she readin’ others’ thoughts? Like Kaylee or ‘Nara’s?” He thought he was catching on; it made sense in an odd sort of way.
“Or mine,” she added quietly, unable to meet his gaze. While River did not have a lot of experience in relationships, she did know that women talking about babies or marriage almost always scared men away. And she didn’t want to scare Jayne away, she was only trying to be truthful; only trying to make him understand.
“Oh,” he said softly, really catching on. When River refused to meet his gaze, he placed a hand under her chin and lifted her eyes up to meet his. “What is it, baby girl? You can tell me.”
Stifling more tears, but knowing it was a futile attempt, River held his hand tighter and whispered fiercely, “I love her Jayne, I do love her like she’s my own. But she’s not. And when we get to Harvest, I’m going to have to give her back. I’m going to have to leave her there and I don’t want to.” Looking back to the little girl, River felt her tears fall into her lap as she whispered, “I want to be a mother.” Looking back to Jayne with sadness in her eyes she couldn’t explain, she murmured, “I want that some day.”
“Well, then what’s the problem, baby,” he asked softly, back to being confused. “You’re still young and pretty, you’ll have kids some day, just not right now.” He bit his tongue from saying anything that could implicate him in that equation, even though he wanted to; he didn’t want to scare the poor girl, she was already bothered enough.
“What if I can’t,” she muttered, her voice barely understandable through her tears.
“What,” Jayne asked, certain he must have misheard her.
Turning her big, wet eyes up to him, she murmured again, “What if I can’t?”
Shock registering on his features, Jayne questioned, “What makes you think you can’t?”
River shrugged lightly, her gesture belying the dread she felt. “Dunno. Could be they did something to me at the Academy or it could just be because I’m crazy.”
“Hey now,” Jayne scolded lightly, again bringing her eyes up to meet his. Cupping her face in his hands, he said steadily, “I don’t wanna hear none of that, dong ma? You are perfect and beautiful and I think any kid’d be lucky to have you for a ma.”
Her eyes lit up at his words, and he could see the fire of hope burning in them brightly once again. “Really,” she asked breathlessly, leaning closer to him, and placing her small hands flat against his chest.
“Really,” he murmured, bringing her face closer to him and kissing her lightly. But River would have none of that. Instead, she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him hard and deep, her tongue tracing the edge of his lip until he granted her passage and they worked their mouths and hands over each other.
Parting for air, River loved the feeling of her flushed cheeks and the way Jayne’s hands felt, running up and down her back soothingly. Tired and emotionally spent, River fell into him, snuggling closer as he wrapped his big arms around her. They sat there like that for a few minutes, until finally Jayne felt her breathing start to slow.
“All right, come on, darlin’,” he murmured, pressing a kiss to her temple, and moving to rise.
“No,” she whispered back, staying firmly in his embrace and making it impossible for him to stand. Raising sleepy eyes to him, she said, “We have to stay here, in case the children wake up.”
Sighing, Jayne knew she was right. Sitting back on the couch, Jayne propped his big, booted feet up on the coffee table, leaving his arm up for River to snuggle down with him. She was about to, her face breaking into a wide grin, when she looked over towards Cadie’s still sleeping form. Pulling a blanket from the back of the couch, River covered her lightly. Kissing the tips of her fingers, she reached out to place them against the girl’s forehead, murmuring, “Sleep tight, little one.”
Jayne watched this in silence, more touched by the scene than he would ever admit to anyone. Turning back to him, River gave him another kiss before settling against him and soon falling to sleep, raven-haired, blue-eyed children dancing in her mind’s eye.
Mal’s clear, commanding voice cut through Simon’s sleepy fog as he made his announcement. “This is your captain speaking. We’ll be landing on Harvest in a little over an hour. Anybody who wants to get off, better report to the cargo bay as soon as we hit land.”
Groaning against the sudden intrusion into his sleep, Simon rolled over, reaching for Kaylee’s warm body. When he felt nothing but air, he begrudgingly opened his eyes. Blinking quickly, he saw her sitting at the far end of the room, cradling Daniel to her and speaking to him in hushed tones.
“Good morning,” he said quietly, watching as her eyes lit up at the sound of his voice. Raising her gaze to meet his Kaylee smiled, bright and big and murmured back, “Mornin’.”
Rising, Simon pulled on a shirt and walked over to where she was sitting with their son. The closer Simon got the more concerned he became as he noticed Kaylee’s eye were rimmed red, implying that she had either been crying, unable to sleep or both. Kneeling down beside her, Simon rested his hand to her cheek and tipped her face up to look at his; yes, definitely crying.
Seeing her tear-filled eyes broke his heart. He had caused many of her tears in this past year and his heart plummeted in his chest to think he had done something again to upset her. “Kaylee, what is it,” Simon whispered.
She smiled at him, even as a few stray tears fell down her cheeks. Rolling her eyes in annoyance at herself, Kaylee said, “Oh, it’s nothin’, sweetie. Just jitters is all.”
Confused, Simon looked to her and asked, “Jitters? Why should you be nervous? I’m the one meeting your parents for the first time,” he reminded her, the dread in his belly coiling tightly. Sticking out his hand for a mock handshake, he effected a dry voice and said, “Hi there Mr. Frye. My name’s Simon and I’m the man who knocked up your daughter, got my memory erased and just asked her to marry me. Thanks for having me.”
While Simon had meant it to be a joke, and Kaylee did smile at him good-naturedly, she immediately averted her gaze back to her son’s small form. Sighing, Simon realized he had once again stuck his foot in his mouth. I really am a boob, he thought heavily, even as he reached down to press his mouth to Kaylee’s. She kissed him back, but he could taste her tears and he hated it.
“Kaylee, I didn’t mean it,” he whispered, when they’d again parted. “You know your parents love you. From everything you’ve told me, they’re wonderful, kind-hearted people, just like their daughter.” She smiled up at him, a genuine smile and it caused his heart to swell with fresh love. “Why would you be nervous about seeing them again?” A sudden, new fear gripping his heart, Simon asked quietly, “Do you really think they’re not going to approve of me?”
She actually giggled at that, and shifting her position, held out a hand to Simon so he could pull her to her feet. Once he had, she walked Daniel back over to his crib and laid him down, before moving to finish their packing. “No, silly, I think that once they get over that first bit o’ shock, they’re going to love you.”
Simon sighed a silent breath of relief at her assessment, but was still puzzled. Not yet buying the reasoning behind her apprehension, Simon watched her for a moment and when she refused to explain, went to her, wrapping his arms around her waist and resting his chin on her shoulder. “Then what is it, Kaylee,” he asked. Pressing a kiss to her temple, he whispered in her ear, “You can tell me.”
Kaylee leaned back into his embrace, so grateful he was there to hold and comfort her. She couldn’t do this without him. She had been feeling more and more nervous about returning home. At the time, all those weeks ago when she’d first proposed it, it seemed like the most logical choice. She knew her folks, who were good people, would gladly open their home to others, especially to the little ones. And she knew that once her ma and pa had a full understanding of what Walt, Marie and Millie had done for her and their grandson, that they would adopt them as kin.
But now, as they were just an hour from setting down, Kaylee felt unbelievable guilt and shame that her parents did not even know she was a mother or that they were grandparents. Sighing, Kaylee sat on the edge of the bed, and Simon kneeled in front of her. The expression on his face, in his eyes, caused fresh tears to well in her eyes. He was a good man, a strong man and he was in love with her. She didn’t know how she’d ever gotten so lucky.
He waited for her to start, knowing she would. Looking over with sad eyes to Daniel’s crib, Kaylee said quietly, “They don’t know.”
Following her gaze, Simon thought he understood, although he wasn’t sure he wanted to. More than surprised, he looked back to Kaylee and asked, “They don’t know? They don’t know about the baby?”
“They don’t know ‘bout any of it,” she admitted bitterly, more tears falling down her face. Wiping her cheeks with the back of her sleeve, she looked back into his eyes and felt her heart tear a little. She had known this would hurt him, she feared concealing her pain and grief over Simon’s death and her joy over their son’s birth was like admitting she’d been ashamed of them, of him, but at the time, she’d felt she had no other choice. How foolish.
“I didn’t tell my folks a thing,” she continued, averting her gaze as more tears fell. “I didn’t tell ‘em I left Serenity or that I was living with the Everetts or that you were dead or that I was pregnant.” Kaylee looked down at her hands resting in her lap, her fingers absentmindedly fiddling with the engagement ring Simon had given her. It was the fanciest thing she had ever owned and she loved it, because it had come from him.
“What did you say, when you waved them,” Simon questioned, still trying to piece together how Kaylee could have kept such life-altering information from her family; lying had never been her strong suit.
She shrugged and continued to stare at her hands. “I’d wave ‘em regular, like I always did on the ship. Told ‘em everything was real good. Made up stories about the jobs we did or the planets we was visiting.” Fresh tears fell as she again met his deep, blue eyes. “I just couldn’t Simon,” she breathed, hoping he would understand. “I knew if’n I told ‘em, it’d be real, more real than I could handle. I knew they’d beg me to come home and wanna take care of me, but I couldn’t do it.” Her voice was broken by her tears now, and Simon leaned forward as she grabbed his shoulders, looking for purchase, something to hold onto that wouldn’t give way. “I knew if’n I went home, I’d forget all about who I was, the Kaylee who’d managed to survive out here and I’d forget how to be strong and then Daniel’d suffer and I couldn’t do it. I had to be strong for him. I had to do it by myself.” She cried heavily now and fell into Simon even as he reached around to embrace her.
He held her shaking form against him, willing his own tears away. He hated this. He had hoped that now that things were better, now that he’d been back for a little over two months, they could start to put this whole terrible episode behind them. But it seemed that, at every turn, there was a new reminder to him of all the pain his time away had caused. And worst of all, it had caused Kaylee pain, pain she didn’t deserve. And there was nothing he could do to fix that.
As her sobbing subsided, and Simon continued to soothe her, rubbing small circles along her back, he whispered, “Kaylee do you honestly think your parents are going to turn you away?”
She thought about it. Truth was, their disapproval was her greatest fear. She had always been a good girl, always had done what her parents’ had wanted. Sure, they’d all been sad when she’d lit off of Harvest a few years ago with Mal, but they had known that their bright daughter had more to give the ‘verse than she could ever share staying with them, and so with smiles and well wishes they had sent her off. She worried now, when she came back engaged to a man they’d never met with a baby, having hidden the worst year of her life from them, that the disappointment they’d feel would be the end of her.
“I don’t know,” she murmured, her voice muffled as she kept her face pressed to the crook of his neck.
“Well, I do,” Simon said with a determined edge to his voice, pulling her back, so he could again look into her eyes. Cupping her face in his hands, he told her, “Kaylee Frye, you are a beautiful, smart and fully grown woman, not to mention the mother of my child and my fiancée,” Simon reminded her, getting the smile he’d been hoping for. “If your parents have a hard time coping with your decision, then we’ll just have to give them time.” Softening his voice a bit, Simon leaned forward and whispered, “But honestly, I think they’re going to see the same thing I do when I look at you.” He pressed his mouth to hers and she pulled him closer, her hands tangled in the front of his shirt.
When their lips parted, Kaylee whispered, “And what exactly do you see when you look at me, doctor Tam?”
Simon again gazed into those big green eyes, and wiped a few more stray tears away with his thumb. “Love,” he told her truthfully. Sharing another kiss, neither of them noticed as the ship broke atmo.
Mal watched the colors of the marketplace speed by even as he guided the mule through throngs of people. Inara was up front with him, looking none to comfortable with the speed or bumpiness with which he was piloting. Smirking slightly as he knew it would bother her, he swerved a bit more grandly then necessary to avoid a family walking by and got the annoyed look from her he’d been hoping for. Affecting his most innocent grin, he simply shrugged and focused his gaze back ahead.
Simon and Kaylee sat safely strapped into the back, Daniel bundled up against Kaylee’s chest. Once the ship had landed, there’d been no convincing anyone, least of all the children to stay on board and wait. So spilling down the ramp like a cooped up herd, Mal had ordered they all stay close while he and Inara with Kaylee and Simon did the necessary introductions. The Fryes knew they were coming of course, it wasn’t that they had no manners to speak of, they just didn’t quite know all the particulars and Kaylee had insisted that she be the one to explain it to them, in person.
Mal had watched as Kaylee got more and more nervous the closer they’d gotten to her home. He had seen her tension building over the past week or so on the ship and had almost asked her a half dozen times if everything was all right. But with slight annoyance, he realized that wasn’t really his concern anymore, it was the doc’s, and the boy had seemed to manage to calm her down; at least, she had looked a might shinier when they’d emerge from their shuttle this morning.
With Zoe, Jayne and River back at the boat with the others, Mal was thankful for a little respite away from the noise and chaos that had permeated his once peaceful boat over the past three weeks. Okay, maybe not peaceful, but it had been a whole lot quieter before he’d taken all those rugrats on board. Not that he was complainin’ mind, just commentin’.
Speeding out to the edge of the marketplace that surrounded the docks, they were in sight of the Fyre’s house in just under ten minutes. Slowing the mule as they approached, Simon jumped out and was around to help Kaylee by the time Mal had powered the vehicle down. Lending Inara a hand to get down, Kaylee presented her with Daniel. Slightly confused, Inara asked, “Kaylee, don’t you want to take him?”
Kaylee looked over her friend’s shoulder as she saw her mom and pa emerge from the front door. Even at this distance she could see the smiles that lit their faces and it warmed her heart. “I just need a few minutes, ‘Nara,” Kaylee said quickly. Giving her friend’s hand a gentle squeeze, she said, “Please?”
Inara nodded once, still slightly confused as to what exactly was happening. With her reassurance, Kaylee moved past the three of them and practically sprinted into the open and waiting arms of her mother’s embrace. The older and slightly rotund woman swung her baby girl around, crying tears of joy at having her back home. Her father interrupted a moment later, wresting his daughter away from his wife’s grasp and pratically throwing her up in the air. Her feet now a good foot or so off the ground, Kaylee wrapped her arms around her pa’s neck, feeling her tears falling steadily. It felt so good to be home.
Simon, Inara and Mal watched from a distance. Giving Simon a sidelong glance, Mal asked him, “You know somethin’ about what’s goin’ on doc?”
Simon pulled his eyes away from the scene before him; he felt such immense relief in the reception his fiancée had received, he knew that many of her fears at her family’s reaction had been groundless. Of course, he figured they did not yet know about him or Daniel and that was what had Kaylee the most anxious. Looking to Mal and Inara’s concerned faces, he took his son from Inara’s grasp and said, “They don’t know anything about what happened to Kaylee this past year.”
A hand flying to her mouth stifled Inara’s gasp of surprise. Turning sad eyes back to her friend with her parents, Inara saw that she was talking with them, their heads all bowed together as she obviously filled in some of the details. Both parents looked past their daughter with quizzical faces to take in the knot of folks standing a few yards away. Finally, after at least twenty minutes, in which Simon felt not only the hot sun beating down on him, but the weight of her parents’ continued stares, Kaylee looked back and smiled to Simon, motioning him forward.
Readjusting his hold on his son, he looked back to Mal and Inara and flashed them his own tell-tale grin, attempting to make a joke to ease his own rising anxiety. “Maybe Mr. Frye won’t hit me if I’m holding his grandson. Wish me luck,” he murmured, walking steadily towards his new extended family.
As Mal watched the doc go, he felt Inara reach down and grab his hand. Looking to her, he saw her eyes were wetter than he’d generally like. “She really did suffer through all of this alone,” she breathed, her face still focused forward.
Mal didn’t say anything as he knew there was nothing he or any of them could do at this moment to take away any of that residual pain. Wrapping his arm around Inara’s shoulder he drew her close, considering all the many ways he could protect his family, his whole family, from something this devastating ever happening again.
Kaylee could read Simon’s nervousness like a book as he approached and it only made her love him more. Flashing him her most ecstatic grin, as he got close, she reached out and took Daniel. Turning back to her folks, she presented the dark-haired child to his grandparents – more than likely the only grandparents he would ever know.
“Mom, Pa,” Kaylee said quietly, looking into their surprised, but loving faces. “This is your grandson. Daniel Simon Tam.”
With wet eyes, Kaylee’s mother reached out a hand and smoothed it over the baby’s tuft of black hair. Looking to her daughter with more tears running down her face, she breathed, “Oh baby, he’s beautiful.”
Kaylee’s grin grew even wider at her mother’s assessment. ‘Course her baby was beautiful, he looked just like his daddy. Simon moved forward to wrap an arm around her shoulders, matching her grin at the woman’s quick acceptance of their grandson. He felt her sink against him just a bit and he again smiled at her. Not caring what her parents thought of him at that moment, Simon pressed a kiss to her temple, as he murmured in her ear, “I love you, bao bei.”
She smiled brilliantly at him and was about to say something when her father’s gruff voice broke the quiet. “And who exactly are you and why are you kissing my baby girl?” He didn’t like this pretty boy, walking up fine as he pleased with his grandson and making no move to even introduce himself. Even if Kaylee’d been chasing after him for a few years now, it just weren’t right and being from the core, the boy should know better.
Even as Kaylee’s mother gave his arm a quick swat, Simon turned a sheepish look to both adults and felt his cheeks blushing. Extending his hand firmly, he looked Kaylee’s father straight in the eye and said, “Good morning, sir. My name is Simon Tam. I’m the father of Kaylee’s baby.”
“And my fiancé,” Kaylee added, freeing her left hand from under Daniel to flash the ring he’d given her.
Looking between them both, Mr. Frye seemed at a loss for words. As the tension mounted, Mal and Inara noticed that things could easily be spinning out of control. Deciding to take his cue from the pleading look that Kaylee’s ma threw in his direction, Mal stepped up and extended his hand to Mr. Frye.
“Thomas, it’s good to see ya.”
Startled by the interruption, the man did not forget his manners. Shaking Mal’s offered hand, he looked to the captain and pointed to Simon. “You know this boy?”
Mal grinned at Simon and Simon found himself praying silently that Mal would not pick now to play a particularly nasty joke on him. Nodding once, he turned a once again sober expression to Kaylee’s father. “I do.”
His eyes again flitting between the two men, Thomas asked him, “He decent? ‘Cause from where I’m standin’ at this very moment,” he continued, eyeing Kaylee with her baby and Simon’s nervous stance, “I’m right uncertain.”
Simon thought for sure he would die from anticipation as Mal dragged out his answer, just to make him suffer, Simon was convinced. However, looking to Kaylee’s hopeful face and the little baby she held to her, Mal knew there was nothing he could say but the truth. Even though he knew he was missing a golden opportunity to cause Simon some additional discomfort, he couldn’t do that to him or Kaylee – they’d both been through plenty already. Clapping a hand on Thomas’ shoulder, Mal met his gaze and answered, “I’m telling you true, Thom. Simon is all kinds of decent and loves lil’ Kaylee somethin’ fierce.”
Looking back to Simon, his gaze still held skepticism and Simon’s mind panicked. Searching for the right thing to say, the one statement that would get him a hearty welcome and a smile from Kaylee’s father, Simon was about to open his mouth, when Thomas cut him off. Extending his hand to the boy, which he shook, he said, “Well, I right suppose I’ll be the judge of how decent you are or aren’t, but at this moment,” he paused, looking to his baby girl’s hopeful face, her eyes shining with tears of joy and nervousness. Thomas continued, knowing he couldn’t rightfully keep anything from his daughter. “Welcome to the family, son.”
Letting out a breath he had not realized he’d been holding, Simon felt Kaylee’s tension ease out of her shoulders as well. Smiling to him, Kaylee grabbed for her mom’s hand and motioned Inara forward with a nod of the head. “Ma, this is ‘Nara, my best friend.”
Smiling to her, Inara was no longer confused over where exactly Kaylee got that wide grin from. Stepping forward, Inara extended a hand to the woman and said, “Mrs. Frye, it’s such a pleasure to meet you. I’ve heard so much about you.”
Eyeing her hand with an amused gaze, Mrs. Frye stepped forward and said jovially, “You know so much ‘bout me and you think I’m gonna shake your hand?” Pulling the woman into a tight embrace, she said, “That’s just core folk for ya.”
Inara smiled at her, even as the woman crushed her to her. When she was finally able extricate herself from the hug, she watched as Mal stepped forward and swept the woman into his arms, laughing as he did so. “Well, now, Winnie, ain’t you a sight for sore eyes.”
“I ain’t a sight for any type o’ eyes, Malcolm, you done know that,” the woman teased, swatting him lightly on the back of the head. “Now we gonna stand out in this sun all day or ya’ll gonna come in and take a load off?” Turning back to regard her baby grandson, she covered his face a bit with the blanket and said, “I don’t want this little ‘un gettin’ that pretty pale skin burnt.”
Mal snorted, thinking of the many comments that had been made at Simon’s expense due to his pale complexion and prettiness, but a jab from Inara and a squinted look from Kaylee forced him to stifle any comment he might have made.
Not arguing, the group made it into the house, Kaylee walking beside Simon and her mother while her father led the way, Mal and Inara bringing up the rear. The two Frye women were chatting away excitedly, talking about anything and everything. Mal and Inara watched them, big smiles gracing their faces as they saw Kaylee truly relax, some of her carefree spirit returning in this environment. They had of course noticed a change in the girl almost immediately once Simon had been found and his memory had come back, but this was different. Kaylee was at ease, at peace and it warmed Inara’s heart to know that her friend, her bright friend, had not lost her ability to smile at any and everything the ‘verse could offer.
Resting her head against Mal’s shoulder as they wandered inside, Inara murmured, “I like it here,” uncertain whether Mal could hear her and not at all bothered if he could.
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