AND BABY MAKES FOUR

This would follow On A Blue Sun World by a few months. Derry , Mal and Kaylee’s son, had a nasty shock there. Simon and his husband discovered that the Blue Hands were still after River, and that they seem to be part of the Blue Sun organization.

AND BABY MAKES FOUR

The warmth of White Sun toasted the pink sand and the tropical sea bore shells for the children to gather.
“Mmmm,, I can truly understand why Wash was  always looking for a beach when he got shore leave, ” said Kaylee, stretching languidly on their blanket.
“We found a few …once here on Bellepheron ,” replied Zoe. “And like he wanted , a naked beach.” She had a wicked grin remembering.
Kaylee glanced at her friend who for once was remembering happiness and not the later tragedy that took her beloved husband.
“Does Beege need more sunblock?” asked Zoe.
“The capt’n’ll take care of it. Since the two of them got sunburnt so bad last month, he’s been super careful.”
“Mal always did love to take care of people.”
“An’ she’s Daddy’s girl, even with the Lee complexion.” Kaylee watched the gleaming red locks of her five year old as she ran in and out of the wavelets lapping the shore.
“Both of ’em are, Kaylee. Derry and Beege. And my Emma. For that matter, River still call him Captain Daddy sometimes when she’s having a moment.”
“Would you have thought that when you first met him, Zoe?”
“That cocky teenage cowboy? Prolly not.  But by the time he made sergeant… the first time….”
“First time?”
“First time he was just twenty. Busted down for insubordination by a tooie looie for refusing to throw his squaddies into a death trap.”
“Then what?”
“The looie got fragged by friendly fire. Tragedy to go so young.”
“Oh… I achully meant how did he make sergeant again.”
“By surviving. By keeping’s men alive. By keeping other squads goin’ what had lost their leaders.”
They watched the children companionably.
“Sun’s changing. we should get back.”
“Will Jayne have the new cargo stowed by now?”
“He was working on getting’ the longshoremen suitably intimidated when we left. It’ll be done, and perfectly, by now.  He’ll be takin the guys off for a beer, I ‘spect.”
“And checkin’ out whorehouses…” laughed Kaylee.
“He says he’s looking for business opportunities. I saw him talking with that Sandy Pollack, Badger’s wife, about her houses last time we was on Persephone.”
“Innerestin’. But I don’t think Jayne is smart enough to run a business, even one he knows as well as a whorehouse.He was tellin’ me about the business once. Think he was just clearin’ his mind. Hiring, work rotas, inspections, inspectors. linen service… Frankly, it would be beyond him. He’d need a partner.”
“He waves that Helen from Heart of Gold pretty often.”
“Captain! Get the kids together! Time to go home!”

…………………………………………………

Back home on Serenity, Mal and Jayne surveyed the neatly stowed banana and breadfruit trees with their huge burlap-wrapped footballs.
“First stop is Nixon on Whittier to drop the trees for new plantations. Then we pick up bananas for Athens about a week further out. Pick up there is rolls of paper they make from coconut fibre for back on Persephone.  Then we’ll need a new contract.”
“Perse will have something’ for us by then.” commented Mal.
“He’s been steady.” replied Jayne,”Dunno why he creeps me out though.”
“Zoe keeps saying’ he’s not her favourite brother. But she said that about Al too, the one who sold me Serenity.”
“I kin understand that…’t weren’t for lil Kaylee bein’ under that engine alla time…” .
“She’s a good boat!. She just need  little lovin’ ”
“As do we all, Capt’n,” said Zoe, striding up. “We seem to be ready to go. Simon and David beat us back to the ship and are in the infirmary putting away the meds they bought here. River and Emma are on the bridge checking out.”
Mal opened the comm. “Derry and Beege, go to the kitchen, I’ll be with you in a moment. River, take us out of this world.”
………………………………………………………………………………

“Serenity’s not a happy girl, Capt’n “said Kaylee. “I can’t spot the actual problem but I did notice a tad more radiation on the geigers than I like. Better keep the kids away from the engine room.
“How serious is it, mei mei?”
“Nuthin’ much prolly.  I’ll get a second opinion when we get to Boros or Eavesdowne. We night need to reinsulate the fuel chambers.”
“Sounds expensive.”
“So’s blowin’ up. Just a main’tence cost. An’ not all that spendy. Has to be new though. Ain’t no secondhand shieldin’. ”
Mal glared at the engine.
…………………………………………………………………………………..

On Whittier the plantation owners were delighted by the new trees and treated the whole crew to a luau, with a traditional whole roast pig and very traditional dancing.
River picked up the basics of the dance immediately and was enjoying learning the more complex hand language.Two of the local boys were obviously happy to teach her.
Zoe and Kaylee smiled indulgently at the pilot and her conquests, although Zoe was keeping an eye on Emma, making sure she was not learning too much from her piloting mentor.
Little Beege was horrified by the roast pig, which had been cooked with head, tail and feet, but her brother thought it was great until he was offered some of the brain. The plantation hands had a robust sense of humour.
The adults ate their fill and drank a large quantity of  sweet banana wine.

…………………………………………………………………………….

The next say they were off on the second leg of their journey.
Kaylee spent even more time than usual in the engine room trying to work out the cause of Serenity’s unhappiness. For a week the crew barely saw her as she tested and retested.
“Only thing I can think is that some of the recycled fuel cells we got were contaminated with too strong elements.”
“How can you have fuel that’s too good?” asked Jayne.
“Well, if you were used to beer and tried drinkin’ whiskey by the litre, instead of by the shot, you’d be pretty sick too.”
“Dead more like.” laughed David.

——————————————————————–
On Athens, their last stop, Kaylee was satisfied to find a chandler who had the shielding panels she wanted and who was willing to make a part trade for the old, slightly hot, panels and the partly used fuel cells for new properly calibrated cells. Even Mal was good with the final cost.
Installing the panels required help from Jayne and Davy, , as well as Mal, all of whom had the long arms and upper body strength Kaylee lacked. Kaylee  supervised and wielded her welding torch with her usual sure touch. They finished a long day hot and sweaty.

“Wish we was back on that beach again, capt’n”
” We could share a shower at least, bao bei.”
“Yeah, that would be relaxin’ ‘.
Their embrace was interrupted by the arrival of Derry and Beege, followed by Emma, who had been caring for the Reynolds children while their parents clambered over the Firefly, putting everything right.
“Mummy we saw horses and llamas and camels and…”
“Leffants!”
“Say it proper, Beege.” coaxed Emma.
“Eyley fants!  We saw elephants with houthes on the back!”
“With what?”
Beege sighed in exasperation. Talking was so much slower than thinking. It was easier conversing with Auntie River.
“Houses on the back of the elephants!”
“‘S true, mummy! They were haulin’ wagons or had packs, that was the llamas and camels, an’ the ‘lephants had little houses on their backs  and there was a lady in one of them.” (“Elephants, ” muttered Beege.) “An’ the lady looked down and gave Beege a bronzer!”
“Gave it from up on the elephant’s back?”
“Well she threw it really and I caught it an’ gave it to Beege.”
Mal was huffing. “Like our kids was beggin’ or sumpin’.” A suspicious look at Derry.”You wasn’t?”
“No, capt’n. We was with Emma anyways an’ she don’t let us do nothing'”
“You kids go get washed up for supper. Davy is cookin’ an’ he went to the market for vegetables, so it should be good. I can smell the bannock.”
“Mummy will we have banana pie?” whispered Beege.
“I hope not. I kinda got my fill of bananas this trip.”
“I like bananas.”
“Still got time for that shower, Kaywinnet?”
“Only to get clean, capt’n. Sorry to disappoint.”

Mal sighed.

As promised, dinner that night was good. Davy had found lettuce, corn and tomatoes and from family recipes he had made Nana Commanda’s Corn Soup and Indian Tacos with bannock. The tacos were one of the few dishes that were just as good with protein as meat.
Beege was pleased that there was banana bread with a tangy marscapone icing, because Hope had gleaned the cargo for overripe fruit and frozen it. Kaylee passed, for once her appetite deserting her.

While Mal read to the children after supper, Kaylee checked the engine room, deserted all day while the panels were being installed. The new fuel cells were installed and there were a few extras in stock.
“See darlin’, we took care of your tummy ache. All this nice fresh fuel, nothing’ too rich for you. An’ those geigers can shut up for a whiles. ” she murmured to Serenity. She climbed into her hammock, rarely used these days when Serenity needed less care as parts were promptly replaced and her duties with her children so often called her away. Serenity hummed her to sleep.
Zoe found her about an hour later. “Mal’s looking’ for you, kid’s bedtime.”
Kaylee looked up at her, startled. “Oh, gosh, I …”
“Don’t worry. You had a busy day.”
“Yeah. I’ll be glad of my bunk tonight.”

She was still tired in the morning, and their usual quiet morning lovemaking nearly put her back to sleep. Mal was feeling energetic and kissing her soundly, left her to nap while he got the kids’ breakfast of porridge, almond milk and raisins.

As the adult crew wandered in, Mal slipped out with some porridge and tea for his wife. Kaylee half woke and sipped her tea while Mal counted out coin for the crew’s pay-packets from the safe under their bunk. He was startled when Kaylee leapt out of bed and dashed for the head, just making it behind the modesty curtain, before she vomited.
Mal held her hair back and supported her to the bed. “Did you eat something bad, darlin’?”
“No. Gimme that calendar, will ya?”
“Sure. Here…. Oh.”
“Yeah, looks like. I’ll get Simon to gimme a peestick later just to confirm. We’ve been movin around so much I might have lost count.”
“Are we happy about this?”
“Well, I ain’t thrilled about the vomiting part, that’s for sure. And I’m not looking forward to waddling around like the kids’ elephants. But yeah, it’s okay.”
“Good. We’ve made pert good kids so far, one more will be even better.”

While the crew were loading the cargo bay with bales of coconut fibre paper for Persephone, Kaylee strolled into the infirmary. Most of the family including Simon was helping tie down the bales, so she went to the cupboard where he kept his sexual health supplies: condoms and lubes, std vaccs, contraceptive shots and patches, pregnancy tests, as well as various instruments he and David used for deliveries. She found a peestick easily and dipped it into the sample she had taken that morning.
Simon came in just as the stick showed her results.
“Congratulations.”
“You are way too quiet, Simon! You scared the shit outta me, sneaking up like that.” She shook the stick disconsolately.
“Sorry about that. You don’t look too happy about the results.”
“I don’t mind another baby. It’s just…. Beege is just getting independent enough that we can leave her at school sometimes and Mal an me can fly together, just us. An  I am not looking forrard to galumphin around, not bein able to do my job proper. Don’t tell Mal I said so? He’s right chuffed.”
“He’s a natural father. I think he has visions of himself as a patriarch, with generations of children clustered around his knees. Next he’ll be growing a long white beard.”
Kaylee leaned her head against Simon’s chest. He wound his arms around her, holding her with the brotherly love she had once hoped would turn romantic. She sighed.
“I take it you’re having morning sickness, same as before? How is your appetite the rest of the time?”
“I just don’t wanna eat anything. That’s different. With the other two, I was a ravenin monster for the first coupla months.”
“Mmmph. Every pregnancy is different. You should be over this in a week or so. Take some calcium tablets for your stomach and I’ve got the usual course of vitamin supplements, folic acid; you know the routine.”
Kaylee sighed again.
“Go have a sleep, mei mei. The cargo is stowed. Davy and I will take over the kids for the rest of the day. He wants to practice.”
“Yeah. Thanks.”
Kaylee kissed his cheek and started back to her stateroom. She turned with big eyes.
“What do you mean, practice? Have you two got a promise?”
Simon’s sapphire eyes glowed with joy.
“We think so. There’s a woman on Haven who will surrogate for us. She’s done it before and likes pregnancy.”
“Huh. No accounting for taste! At least this’un’ll have a playmate.”

On Persephone, the crew moved into their rooms at Perse’ compound. Zoe and Mal were closeted with her brother, working on spreadsheets of acquisition costs, operating costs, wages, losses to attrition, smoothers and bribes, selling costs, taxes…. on and on….
“It was a lot simpler when we was just findin jobs and delivering to them as wanted stuff delivered.”
“And we ate a lot of protein. And sometimes we didn’t eat at all.”
“Yeah, Zo, you’re right. It’s just all this stuff isn’t nearly as much fun.”
“Sir, you ain’t been shot in well over three years. Let’s count that against the not nearly as much fun.”
“You are getting to be real borin, you know that?”
Perseus Alleyne laughed. “You’d think you two were the siblings instead of Zoe and I. We never disagree, do we, mei mei?”
“Not out loud.”
Perse laughed again.
“Our repair and maintenance costs are way down this quarter, in spite of that trouble with the fuel cells a coupla months back.”
“Fuel cells?”
“Kaylee reckoned they had too rich a mixture in ’em for Serenity’s engine. We was able to trade ’em on Athens for the right kind and when she switched them out, Serenity was much happier. Stopped that gorram clicking in the engine room too.”
“You’ve got a genius mechanic there, Mal. I don’t know of many that could keep an old boat like that flying as fast and clean as your Kaylee.”
“Treat her right and she’ll fly true, that’s all.”
“Your ship or your wife?”
“Yes.”

River was the next to learn of Kaylee’s pregnancy. She and Kaylee were teaching Beege how to play jacks, when River leaned against Kaylee’s middle.
“Two hearts.”
Kaylee smiled at her friend. “Yes, but don’t tell anyone yet. Mal and Simon know.”
River looked troubled. “Two hearts, one mind. Pas avant les enfants.”
“We’ll tell everyone soon enough, Riv. Beege, try making the ball go higher, then you have more time to scoop up the jacks.”

Kaylee stayed on Persephone with the children for a few weeks, while Mal, Zoe, River and Jayne did some milk runs between Simon’s clinics. Mostly express mail, always a nice contract since when the Alliance postal system wanted speed and reliability they would pay for it, and some small fancy goods cargoes. The children were in school, with the older children studying for their annual examinations and Beege attending speech therapy classes, which annoyed her so much she was refusing to speak to anyone outside of them.
When the crew returned, Kaylee’s pregnancy was very apparent. Perse held a welcome home party for the crew with two cakes, one congratulating Kaylee and Mal and another for Simon and David, who had signed a contract with their surrogate.
“With any luck, she’ll be ready to accept the embryo in about a month. We have to go to the fertility clinic to make our donations.” said David.
“Have you decided which one will be the father?” asked Kaylee.
“Well, at first we thought we would do the combined donations thing and take a chance on that. And we thought for a moment or three about sibling donation, David impregnating an egg donated by River,  but that felt a little icky. Then we considered a twin pregnancy with one child from each of us, but Mamie, the surrogate, shot that idea down. ” Kaylee shifting uncomfortably, murmured , “Amen, sister!”
“But in the end, we decided to go with a baby that is completely our genetic child.”
“How does that work? Doncha need an egg somewheres? Ain’t neither of you producing those.” asked Kaylee.
“We do need an egg, and Mamie will be providing that, but basically we sort our sperm down so some have only X chromosomes and some have only Y chromosomes. Then we introduce that stripped X into an emptied egg… you realize this is vastly over-simplified?”
“Captain Dummy talk, go on.”
“So now we have an egg with an X chromosome, and we add the other partner’s normal sperm to the petri dish, and once the egg is fertilized, we have a blastocyst with genetic material from both of us!”
“Delighted as I am for your adventures in parenthood, I prefer Kaylee and me’s method.”
“After our troubles at Blue Sun, we knew that we wanted above all to have a family. And we didn’t want to lose part of each other. We really wanted to have a child that was entirely our own.”
“It will be expensive,” added David,” But the technology is pretty well-established. We’ll go to Osiris for the preliminary work and Mamie will stay there during her pregnancy.”
“So your baby will be about six months younger than this one. Close enough for playmates and far enough apart that they won’t be stepping on each other.”
“Good for hand me down clothes and stuff too. ” added Mal. “We’ll need an extra crib though. And a twin stroller would be handy.”
“We’re not even pregnant yet, and you’re taking the whole clan out for walks!” said Simon.
“Oof. This one wants to go for a walk now, ” complained Kaylee.”I swear he’s kicking me in two directions at once.”
David laughed. “Maybe you’re carrying twins.”
Mal looked horrified. “Don’t even think that. Three kids is plenty. Puttin four through school and maybe Academy later, don’t bear thinkin on. ”
“When is your next checkup, Kaylee?” asked David.
“Don’t have one scheduled, but it should be pretty soon.”
“Want me to do it? I can borrow time with the Memorial’s ultrasound. You’re young and healthy and with two successful pregnancies, it should be a cakewalk.”
It was a tense week in the compound, with the older children studying for exams, Beege grumpy about her therapy, Simon and David ‘s excitement about their upcoming fatherhood, and Kaylee still feeling nauseous well past her usual time.
“With the other two I was feeling right giddy, happy giddy not throw up giddy, by now. Mebbee I got the timin wrong and the babe’s due later than I thought.”
David was reassuring,” Given your size, if you were wrong on the date, conception was earlier rather than later. But we have the ultrasound appointment tomorrow and that should settle it.”

Mal walked the children to school the next day since quarterly fees were due. The children had spent a lot of time in the school dorms this session while Serenity was off-world. Homeschooling, even with the help of all the talents of the crew, could not cover the entire curriculum. Then there were the History and Civics courses, where a younger Hope’s spirited denunciation of the Alliance’ formation and policies had fomented rebellion among the students, especially the ship children whose families tended to the Independent view of those subjects. It took a long deliberation before the school had decided that both sides would be covered and the children allowed to choose, with a firm understanding that the examinations were not going to be as even-handed. All the profit from the postal run would be going on school fees. Good thing Serenity still carried some special cargoes that sold for real cashy money.

And if Emma decided to go on to Academy after her Twelve, there would be more fees. And Derry, not even a teen yet, but it looked like he would not be following in his father’s footsteps. More likely he’d want to get Academy training and work with Perse on the business side. Then Beege, who knew where her bright mind would lead her. And the new one. And Simon and Davy’s progeny would definitely be expected to do a lot of schooling. At least the men had their own income, apart from Serenity. Mal suspected that Simon could have bought a fleet of Fireflies with the money he had been able to reclaim when he reconciled with his parents. He no longer took a share of the crew’s profit and Davy, hired on as a nurse for Simon’s Flying Doctor practice, never had.

Zoe walked to the bus stop with David and Kaylee. She was heading further downtown to call on some potential clients and was dressed in snug dark red trousers and matching long coat. Her boots had heels high enough to put her well over 190 cm., taller than Mal and nearly as tall as Jayne.  When she met alone with clients she liked to be able to look down at them, keeping them off balance. Although  fashionably dressed, she still wore her mare’s leg pistol strapped to her thigh and the thin leather band around her neck.
Kaylee was obviously feeling uncomfortable. Her town clothes were usually dresses, unless she was actually searching for parts, but the dress she wore today was larger than she needed, and her swollen feet could only handle flipflop sandals. When she got into the bus, an older woman rose from the courtesy seating at the front and indicated the seat was Kaylee’s.
“Oh no, I’m fine,” Kaylee protested.
“Don’t be silly, dear,” the woman said.” I can manage for a few stops. Maybe one of these young bucks will make room for an old lady.”
Three young men, factory workers, coming off shift by their clothes, jumped up, blushing. The woman smiled sweetly at them, and winked at Kaylee. “Young people today are so much more polite than we were as youngsters,” she remarked.” I swear everyone I grew up with was a lout or a gangster.”
Kaylee laughed. Zoe took the seat of one of the young men, who gazed at her starstruck. David stood for a few stops, then took the seat across from her when the passengers changed. A few stops more and they reached Derrial Book Memorial Hospital- Persephone.

Kaylee sighed when she saw the crowded waiting room, but David showed his staff badge and they were shown through closed doors into the part of the hospital reserved for the paying clients who expected more than the ‘universal’ level of care available, at least in principle, to all citizens of the Alliance. This area was less crowded with piped in music that was actual tunes, rather than the carefully chosen white noise and large vid screens of the more public area. There were upholstered chairs instead of benches and cortex screens at each.
Kaylee sank into a chair while David confirmed that they were expected.
‘Are they doin’ all this just because you work for the hospital?’
‘I didn’t ask, but I think Simon may have paid for some upgraded service.’
‘He shouldn’ta done that. We pay our own way.’
‘Kaylee, he loves you. We both do. Let us give you this as a present.’
‘Present?’
‘ A very happy unbirthday to you, Kaywinnet Lee.’
Kaylee laughed and hugged David’s leg, which was the easiest part of him to reach.
A skinny nurse arrived just then and greeted David with enthusiasm. David explained that they had trained together when he did his midwifery courses.
‘And you are David’s wife?’
‘No, no. We’re both married, but not to each other. We crew together on a transport, Serenity, long of Alleyne Reynolds Transport.’
‘Someone told me David was hoping for a child and I jumped to conclusions. My apologies.’
‘I married Simon Tam Do you remember Dr. Tam? We are hoping to have a child not long after this one is born.’
‘Oh yes. Doctor Tam. All of the women in the course and not a few of the men were crushing on him. So shwae. You are a lucky lucky man, Davy.’
By now, the forms were filled and the nurse, Sheila, had helped Kaylee up and into a cubicle where she hoisted herself with David’s help onto a table. Kaylee sighed at the effort.
‘How far along are you?’ asked Sheila.
‘ I kinda lost count for a while there, which is prolly why I’m knocked up, but around three months, less’n four, I think”
‘Mei guanxi, dong ma. It must be hard to remember night and day away from a sun rising and setting. Remember how confused we got when we worked those 48 hour shifts in school, Davy?’
‘No. Which probably proves your point.’
Kaylee flinched at the cold gel Sheila spread on her belly.
‘Sorry, but here we go. And there’s your baby…. babies. Looks like you’re carrying twins.’
‘Tianna, gu zao de.’
‘We should be able to hear their hearts. And there’s the leg of one and the other is sort of folded around, but there’s an arm and another arm and a third.’
‘River told me there were twins weeks ago. She said something; two hearts one mind. When do the hearts start beatin?’
‘Around eight weeks. River is a nurse?”
“No, she’s just…. real sensitive to other people.’
‘Well, I’ll just get the capture of your test so you can show your partner.’
‘And the other kids. They’ll be excited to see their new brothers or sisters.’
‘Could be one of each, too.’

It was hard to know who was most fascinated by the capture of the ultrasound. Beege was disappointed that the babies did not look like her dolls. She wanted to see their faces.
‘They’re just all wrapped up around each other, Babygirl. There’s one baby’s head, the other one is probably behind it. ‘
‘Like they kissing.’
“Like they are kissing, Beege.’
She pouted then chanted,’Babies are kissing, babies kissing, babies kissing.’
Derry rolled his eyes at his little sister. ‘Don’t be silly, mei mei.’
‘Kisses for Derry from his baby sister,’ cried Beege, She lunged over her daddy and planted a kiss other brother’s cheek. Derry cried out in protest, scrubbing his cheek with his sleeve. He jumped up and said. ‘Don’t go kissing at me!’
Beege giggled and lunged after him again. He darted out of the commons, heading along the catwalk above the cargo bay, with his little sister in hot pursuit. Derry dashed into the cargo bay, trying to hide from his sister who was determined to ‘play twins.’ His legs were longer, but Beege was quick.The adults laughed at his annoyance, following to watch the children racing about.
Emma joined in the chase, and Derry, pursued by both girls was starting to tire.
He headed for his bunk, but Emma had already covered that safehouse. In desperation, he knocked on Jayne’s bunk door, dropping down without using the ladder and slamming the door behind him.
‘Now what?’ asked Jayne.
‘The girls are after me…they’re trying to kiss me.’ he complained.
‘Oh. Well, a man needs time to himself.  Look what I got in the market today. It’s called a cutlass. Wanna help me sharpen it?’

About an hour later, Derry stuck his head out of the bunk and signalled that all was clear. Jayne emerged first and strolled down to the commons followed by Derry. The girls were quietly working on a sewing project. Using paper patterns they had cut cotton fabric bought that day on their shopping trip and were pinning them together ready for machining. When they saw Derry, they turned their backs and sniffed.
Derry blushed a little embarrassed by his over-reaction. He sat down on the chesterfield next to his mother, and laid his head on her shoulder. She brushed his hair with one hand, while the other held one of the romance novels she loved. Derry relaxed in her embrace, until her arm tightened and the girls whirled around and piled on him, kissing and tickling. Derry howled in protest, ‘Daddy!’.
With Simon and David, Mal was laughing so hard it was difficult for him to lift the boy safely over his shoulder away from the female lips and hands. Then he held him at arm’s length and kissed him soundly.
Offended, Derry said, ‘ Daddy! Men aren’t supposed to kiss each other!’
‘Hey!’ objected Simon.
‘Don’t be silly, Derry. People who love each other like to kiss each other.’ said his mother.
Mal kissed his son again, then pulled Jayne in for a buss to his cheek. ‘No shame in showin that you are someone’s friend.’ he rumbled. ‘Now apologize to yer uncles for yer words.’
‘Sorry, Davy. Sorry, doc.’
Jayne was looking puzzled then shrugged the unusual display off and headed for the kitchen. ‘Any of them dumplins left?’

As they left Osiris , Kaylee came into the kitchen from her work for a cup of tea, and found Simon and David, sitting on the chesterfield holding hands. David was red faced and was breathing heavily. Simon was calm and very still.
‘What’s wrong, guys?’ she asked.
Simon was having trouble with his voice. Not as calm as he seemed. ‘We had a wave from Mamie. She has a new boyfriend and he is unhappy about her career. She’s not going ahead with the pregnancy.’
Kaylee gathered both men’s heads to her bosom. She hugged them, then winced at the pressure she had put on her tender breasts.’Oh dear, what happens now? You did the egg thing on Osiris didn’t ya? Did it take? ‘
‘Yes, that went just fine. We have a viable zygote, frozen and waiting for a womb. But no womb.’
David began weeping silently. Kaylee fetched him a towel from the kitchen to use as a handkerchief. ‘Can you find another surrogate in time? How long….?’
Simon sighed. ‘The frozen zygote can last indefinitely. After all, the generation ships that found the Verse were hundreds of years out from Earth-That-Was and most of the animal cargo were in that form. The surrogate is the hard part. There are no lack of candidates, but not a lot are like Mamie, who really loves being pregnant. There are all kinds of desperate women, but they may not be healthy enough, or stable enough, or have the social supports they need for the job. ‘
Jayne had been lounging in the doorway, just out of sight, but within earshot. ‘You pay the woman, right?’
‘Yes, of course. It can be a job like any other. There are some women who do it for free or just for living costs, since they can’t work during part of the pregnancy and for a few weeks postpartum, but I’m suspicious of that sort of volunteer.’
‘Huh.’ Jayne left the doorway, then returned. ‘Hey. I’m sorry things ain’t goin good.’ He headed back to the cargo bay and his weights.
‘Well, that was oddly nice,’ said Kaylee.
‘Jayne has a good heart,’ said Davy, who was slowly recovering from his emotional freakout. Kaylee and Simon exchanged glances. They had known Jayne for much longer than David.

…………………………………………………………………………………
Later that night, Mal and Kaylee talked while preparing for the night. ‘ Feels bad me growin this un when the boys is so disappointed.’
‘It’s hard on them, for certain. But they do have a baby ready for when they find a woman for hire.’
‘Geez, that sounds like one of Jayne’s whores.’
‘Well, no. Well, yes. I reckon it’s still part of the sex trade, same as nudie dancin and that place that sold those leather things that you and Zoe found on Dyton Colony.’
‘Oh wow, I had almost managed to forget that place. Like Jayne says, when did that get fun? But how’s carryin  a babe sex trade?’
‘Do I really have to explain to the woman that’s gonna present me with twins how babies and sex are related?’
Kaylee laughed. ‘Okay. Got me. But…. Mamie does it because she likes bein preggers, cordin to Simon.’
‘ And that isn’t sorta weirdish sex? She gets the part she likes without the man parts and without the bringing up pesky kids part.’
‘Huh. I’m just finding the likin being knocked up oddish. That’s weirdest. The gettin in the family way is good fun and bringing up the kids is …. well, satisfying. I love ours moren I can explain.’

Mal thought back to the terrifying events at the Silverhold negotiations, when Derry, along as an apprentice, had taken advantage of being thought the innocent child to turn the tables on criminals determined to kill his father and Jayne, killing Niska in the course of events. Mal knew that Derry’s reversion to childish ways was rooted in the terror of that situation. And Mal would have died  to prevent those events from ever touching his boy again.
Kaylee was lying on the bed, Mal sat beside her and kissed the baby bump. ‘Thank you for our babies. I wish this time was easier.’
‘Simon says that twins tend to come early. So at least I won’t have to wait as long as usual.’
‘Bao bei, you can find a silver lining in a hurricane.’
………………………………………………………………………………………..

Jayne finished his reps and wiped down the weight bench.
‘I’ve been thinking’ of retirin’,’ he said.
‘Really?’ asked David, positioning himself on the bench. ‘What put that into your head?’
‘Better than getting killed for real. An ackshully, Mal don’t need me for the kinda straight work we been doin for the past couple years.’
‘You’re still working supercargo.’
‘Mal’s bein polite. I’m a stevedore with a fancy title and a little more responsibility. Zoe could do everythin I do, no sweat. Better, mebbee, cause she’s smarter.’
‘But you do a good job. Never heard complaints.’
‘I screwed up with that Silverhold job. Niska’s men got the drop on me. We got out cause a kid was faster an smarter than me.’
‘Never heard Mal say a word against you, for that or anything else.’
‘Yeah. Well.’
‘What would you do if you retire? You’re not particular old.’
‘Fifty somethin. Lost track a bit. My daddy was dead by my age.’
‘Was he a merc, too?’
‘Naw, welder. Got a cancer in his lungs. Left momma with almost nuthin and our Matty never could work.’
‘Simon told me you send money home to them.’
‘Yeah. Well.’
‘Do you have enough to retire with?’
‘No. I got a plan. ‘ Jayne stopped. ‘You heard tell of Heart of Gold?’
‘You had an adventure there. Simon delivered his first baby.’
‘Yeah….. There’s this whore there. Helen. Smart girl… woman. We get along real good. We bin talkin … wavin… for a couple years.’
David sat up and waited for Jayne to continue.
‘We sorta got a plan to retire together. She’ s gettin old for whorin. But she’s smart and healthy an I told her about you and Simon an your ziggut.’
‘Zygote. Baby.’
‘So. I was thinkin…. an…. I asked Helen… an she thinks it could work.’
David stared at Jayne.
‘She’d surrogate for us?’
‘Yeah. She ain’t never bin knocked up. An she gets checked regular. An she ain’t too old. Anyways, the ziggut ain’t her’n. So you don’t haft worry about the kid bein an idiot or nuthin.’
David couldn’t speak. He stared at Jayne, who was not meeting his eyes.
‘Ya know this is a business proposition. Helen an me been savin for a whiles now, but we ain’t quite got enough for our Plan. So what I want to know is how much you’n Simon would pay for her carryin the ziggut.’
David surged to his feet and kissed Jayne, hugging him with all his strength.
‘What’s with all these guys kissin me nowadays!’
‘I have to talk to Simon. Thank you, Jayne. Whatever we decide, thank you.’

David wanted to leave the negotiating to Simon and Helen.
‘It’s our money, zhàngfū chǒng’ér. You have as much right to it as I do.’
‘But it comes from your work and from your family. And it was yours before we even met.’
“No. We were married by the time I was able to reclaim it.’
‘Still, you earned or inherited it before we married.’
‘And you know that if I die tomorrow, you are my heir.’
‘And River?’
‘Well, she’s my heir too, but you are trustee for her, remember? We went through all this.’
‘ Birthing the baby is dangerous for a father.’
The men considered River’s words.
‘Are we not ready, mei mei?’ asked David.
‘Simon takes care of me. You take care of Simon. I’ll knit.’
The men laughed. ‘I’m being scared, aren’t I? We’re both wanting a family, more than just the two, three of us.’ said David. ‘You negotiate with Helen. You know her a little better than I do. We’ve met, what, once or twice socially at Heart of Gold? Helen does seem like a good choice. She’s healthy, doesn’t want children herself, and can look at this as a business proposition. And I liked her.’
‘I’ll need a lot of wool.’

Serenity picked up Helen on Deadwood, and the Heart of Gold workers gave her a farewell party. Petaline took her aside and thanked her for  her years of service, then gave her ten shares in the Heart of Gold corporation. ‘We are growing here, all kinds of entertainment, and you’ve done so much to make that happen. Including being my voice with the Widow Burgess. Call it a pension. But don’t tell any of the other staff I gave you this.’
Helen moved into a stateroom on Serenity to Jayne’s surprise. ‘Gotta be sure everything is ready for implantation, bao bei. I stopped the contras last week and I ain’t been working since we signed the contract. Worst situation would be to show up pregnant. ‘
‘Well, ain’t that just shit on a stick. Got my best girl right here and she ain’t lettin me touch’er.’
‘Jayne Cobb, ain’t you got no imagination? I can give you a better hand job than you can give yourself. And if there was prizes, you know I’d have a row of gold medals for cocksucking. ‘
Jayne, well, Jayne pouted. “Yeah. You got a mouth on you don’t stop. But…’
Helen sighed.’ We’re business partners, right. Don’t mean I don’t like fucking you, cause I do. But this is business. And don’t go all Bǎobǎo yǎnjīng on me. Nǐ shì ràng wǒ jiǎozhì. ‘
Jayne was kissing her neck and slipped his hand up under her dress, pushing aside her skimpy panties. His fingers stroked her clit , making her gasp, then down past her cunt and taint, ending at her ass.
‘What about..?’
‘You really don’t give up easy do you? I charge extra for ass sex, you know. ‘
“yeah , but you ain’t workin now and won’t be ever again, less you wanna, not once we get this gig over with.’
‘Has anyone ever mentioned that you ain’t no good at sweet talk, Cobb?’

After all the fears and tension, the implantation went well. Helen’s cycle had settled quickly and she was  able to be implanted within a day of their arrival on Osiris. The fathers had rented a suite in an exclusive hotel for her to stay in until the pregnancy was firmly established. Helen was thrilled by the luxury of the suite. The down quilts, concierge service, huge bathtubs, bigger beds. She told Jayne she was taking notes for their future business. She could see a demand for a brothel a step down from hiring a Companion, but several steps up from the assemblyline service of Heart of Gold.
‘Not that the punters knew we were timin them, but we girls all had quotas.’
‘Boys too?’
‘Yeah, course. The straight and bi boys,and the top slys.’
Jayne looked puzzled. Helen sighed.
‘The boys who did women didn’t get much work, so they did men too, either blowies or as bottoms, cause they couldn’t get it up for the john. The boys who topped could also bottom and suck cock, so they got a lotta work.’
‘So which should we be lookin for when it comes time. ‘
‘Just look for a pretty face and a nice bum. After that all the boy needs is attitude.’
‘Simon coulda done fine whorin, think?’
‘Got the pretty face and a real nice body, if you like the type. Don know about attitude, but Petaline has him down as a top.’
‘How would she know?’
‘He took advantage of Nandi’s offer before y’all left Heart of Gold. We keep records an Freidreich put him down as a top.’
‘Freidreich?’
‘You don’t remember him? Tall, brown hair, blue eyes? He found a sugar daddy and moved to Dyton Colony bout a year later.’
‘Huh. Innerestin description, remind you of anyone?’
‘You didn’t notice he still looks at the Captain, times?’
‘Kaylee didn’t have a chance, poor kid.’

—————————–
A week after Serenity had left for a postal run to Harvest, Silverhold and Goldengrain,  delivering a legal cargo of genseed and fertilizer, and some time sensitivek documents, Kaylee woke with an aching back. She rose and did the stretches Davy had shown her, muttering about being too old for this shit. The stretches helped however, and after breakfasting on mint tea and congee, she returned to her family’s quarters to make beds. Looking around, she sighed. The suite, three bedrooms surrounding a common space and looking out on the courtyard garden, were untidy from  the children. Mal was usually pretty neat in his habits. Kaylee blessed his mother, whom she had never met, for training him. But as she put away clean clothes and set used aside for the laundrywoman, she decided that beneath the mess was dirt and, fetching a vacuum cleaner, duster, and mop, set about retting up.
About two hours into her work, Helen strolled in and watched. ‘Doesn’t the char take care of most of that, Kay?’
‘Most. But if you want something done well, ya hafta do it your own self, my mamma told me.’
‘Should you be sweating like that, though?’
‘Sweatin? I guess I am, it’s pretty hot in here.” Kaylee went to open the sliding doors to the courtyard. She stopped suddenly. In a strained voice she said,’ Helen. Not to fuss but could you call Davy at the clinic? And bring over that mop. My waters just broke.’

Helen made the call, and Davy told her to bring Kaylee to Book Memorial. Perse employed a large housekeeping staff, and Mafalda drove them, talking the whole way about preemies and twins. Fortunately for the two mothers-to-be she was not the kind to spin tales of gruesome births and poor outcomes.
“Zhèlǐ shì yīgè bùcuò de tóngxìngliàn nánhái tígōng nǐ de bǎobǎo. Tā jiāng zhū shì shùnlì, hěn kuài nǐ jiù huì yǒu tiēshēn zài nǐ de huái lǐ nǐ xīn de.’ she reassured them when she left them at the hospital. “And I’ll finish cleaning your rooms for you. Come home soon!’

Davy was professionally reassuring. He had arranged a delivery room, so Kaylee was not left in a hallway or a noisy ward while she was in labour. While he completed his examination, Helen found a cortex screen and waved Serenity.
Mal was upset that the babies were arriving so early. ‘Davy says that twins do tend to be early, and that you shouldn’t worry. They may have to spend a while in NICU, though, being so little.’
‘We’re closer to Goldengrain than we are to Persephone, but I could get off before maybe at Hera and catch a ride home.’
‘If you think you can, but I suspect that by the time you were here , the babes would be born and Kaylee resting up. I’ll wave you whenever anything happens. And Perse is bringing a portacor from the shop, so Kaylee can show you the babies as soon as they’ve arrived.’ She stopped. ‘And I can record the birth if you want.’
‘No. I was there for the other two. I’m glad of not having captures.’
Helen laughed at his horrified face.

In the delivery room, Davy had done another ultrasound and called Simon away from his appointments. ‘Zhè kàn qǐlái bu cuò, qīn’ài de. I’m going to need a doctor to help deliver … and Kaylee will need a friend.’

Simon was grave when he looked at the ultrasound. ‘Bao bei, I have bad news. Davy thought one of the babies was presenting as a breech birth, but the ultrasound. Look, there’s no way around this. The baby is severely deformed. It is most likely that he won’t survive birth.’
Kaylee was shocked. ‘But you both said that twins just needed more care.’
‘Yes, but you’re not actually carrying twins. There’s only one fetus, but it had started to split into twins. At best we would have conjoined twins sharing some limbs or organs. But this is not ‘at best’. There is little chance of survival and it is my best advice that we take no unusual measures to ensure survival.’
‘How can you say that, Simon? I want my baby to live!’
Another contraction hit, and Kaylee was unable to speak for a few minutes, giving Simon a chance to compose himself.
‘We can do a caesarian delivery, baobei, that will be easier on you and the fetus. But try to understand that it is almost impossible that you will ever hold a living child at the end.’ He stroked her sweaty brow and kissed her hair.
Davy was setting up the delivery room for surgery, aided by Sheila , the nurse who had done the ultrasound months before. She saw Kaylee’s silent tears, and stopped to wipe her cheeks with a warm wet cloth and to murmur soothing words to her. She remembered the happy glow Kaylee had radiated when they first met, and sorrowed that that joyous spark was gone.
Perse had brought the portacor and Kaylee was able to call Mal. He was distressed to see her so fearful and sad. Although labour was not far along, she was already exhausted, her face pasty and sweating.
‘I’m sorry, Mal, I’m sorry.’
‘I want to be there, darlin. I wish there were teleporters like in Wash’ old science fiction vids. Kaywinnet, do what Simon and Davy tell you. Don’t fight this so hard.’
‘Malcolm.’ Kaylee was sobbing now and a contraction hit, twisting her.
‘ I can’t hold you right now, but I am here. Kaywinnet. I’m wiping your face  and kissing your forehead. Kaywinnet. I love you more than my own self.’
Sheila suited her actions to his words. Kaylee relaxed a little.
” Doc, aincha go no meds for her. Does she have to hurt so much?’
‘Mal, Kaylee has been refusing analgesics. This is not going to have a good outcome, and I would like to perform a Caesarian. You understand that I can’t do that without her consent. Can you help persuade her?’
‘Darlin, I don’t want you to suffer like this. Let Simon put you under. Let him help you.’
‘I was wrong headed to insist on workin when I knew I was pregnant. It’s my fault.’
‘Yer just talkin like that because yer in pain. Let Simon do his job. Don’t make all of us …’
Kaylee was alternating between sobs and silent tears. Another contraction hit and Simon was getting concerned.
‘We don’t want to have to remove the fetus from the birth canal. We really need to operate now, if we are going to operate at all.’
‘Kaylee, if ya won’t agree with yer husband, will ya obey yer captain? Take the anaesthetic  and let Simon operate.’
Kaylee half smiled at the grim man who had taken her from her home when she was just a girl and shown her the Verse. Who had trusted her not only with his heart, but with his ship. Who had given her love, agape, caritas, eros, and two children who made her happier than she could believe.
‘Yes capt’n.’ she said.

When she woke, Kaylee asked to see the baby, but Simon dissuaded her. ‘He never drew breath, Kaylee love, he couldn’t, he never developed enough.’
‘So you’ll just hide him away, like some mutant backbirth hidden in the attic.’ she said bitterly.
‘No. No. When Mal gets home we can arrange a proper funeral. He will want that. And I do have captures for when you are stronger if you want to see them.
David was still with his patient. He gave her a sponge bath and helped her put on a fresh nightgown. He quietly gave her the medication to stop her milk, often the hardest part of miscarriage, since milk gave promise of a new beginning when there was only an end. A death.
She was never alone, even when she slept, until Mal arrived, having hitched  with a Browncoat acquaintance who was pleased to give succour to a survivor of Serenity Valley.
They held each other close and wept for their lost child.
Kaylee went on the next run with Mal. Both their children travelled with them. It was two months before they stopped on Persephone again.

—-

Simon and David were cuddled side by side on the big leather chesterfield in the family room of the compound. Beege was stretched across their laps, reading silently now, the story she had been reading aloud to her uncles.
From time to time, she would ask for help with a new word, but mostly the men were  concentrating on each other, with David’s head awkwardly tucked under his smaller husband’s chin. Simon had undone David’ s pigtail and was running his fingers through his long glossy black hair.

Her parents, with Zoe and River  were watching a vid about settlers on a Rim planet, and occasionally hooting at obvious Core propaganda about conditions. The noble Alliance commander was the topic of greatest derision although Kaylee sighed over his probably doomed love for the beautiful Companion. A secondary tale about a hardscrabble family of settlers and their rebellious, but beautiful, daughter and foolish, but handsome, son, was only slightly more realistic.

Emma was gaming with her Uncle Perseus. Their battles were hard fought with Emma’s skills not quite up to her uncle’s cunning and duplicity. Derry was asleep, stretched out on the floor near his father’s feet. Kaylee had covered him with an afghan, part of the never-ending stream of knitted gifts from Radiant Cobb.

Radiant’s little boy, Jayne, was seated with his partner, Helen, now bulky and uncomfortable in late pregnancy, her back to his chest while, like Simon, he brushed her hair, soothing her.

Beege complained, “These laps are getting bumpy.’  and Simon blushed. David kissed him, saying, “I think it’s getting late. Aren’t you a little sleepy, sweetheart?”
‘NO!,’ said Beege.’ It’s not nearly bedtime yet. I want to read.’
‘I meant Simon and I, nu ying.’
‘Grownups are funny, you always want to sleep.’
Simon lifted Beege up and handed her over to her mother. ‘See you in the morning.’

The chorus of goodnights was interrupted by a squeak from Helen. Everyone started at her, while she grabbed her belly.
“Ooh, my. That was ugly. ‘
Simon unwrapped himself from David’s embrace. ‘Is that the first time?’
‘Like that, yeah. I’ve been feeling right uncomfortable all day, like my back is sore from stretching.’
‘Sounds like early labour. You’re the expert, Davy.’
David brought a stethoscope from the infirmary and did a cursory examination. “Well Helen, it looks like you are about to make Si and me fathers.’
Kaylee said, ‘But if that’s the first contraction, it’ll be a while yet. If you and Simon want to …have a rest, you should go now. You could be up at all hours. Zoe and me can cope at this point.’
The two men looked guiltily at each other.
‘Go,’ said Helen,’This could be your last private time for the next year.’
‘More like eighteen years,’ said Mal.

Zoe and Kaylee helped Helen to her feet, while Jayne stood looking lost. The straightforward relationship they had while he was still her client had become  ‘business with benefits’  when they decided to retire together. Helen’s decision to top up their savings by surrogating for Simon and David’s child had seemed like a good idea but he was confused by how tender he felt towards her as the pregnancy progressed.

The women took Helen off to the head , helped her shower and dress in a loose gown that would keep her warm without constricting. They took turns walking with her.

“We should have realized you were close when you cleaned the kitchen yesterday.’ laughed Zoe.’ Fan the cook was insulted that you thought he didn’t keep it clean enough.’
‘But Helen’s always cleaning something.’ Kaylee pointed out. ‘Serenity’s gonna be a pigsty when you two retire.’
‘On the other hand, a lot of the mess is caused by Jayne.’
‘Don’t pick on Jayne. There’s a lot of good in him,’ Helen protested.
‘He’s been good to you, these past few months,’ Kaylee admitted. ‘This sitchation ain’t something a lotta men would understand.’
‘It’s been a good way to earn a pile of cash in a short time,’ said Helen. ‘I don’t think I’ll do it again, though.’
‘Damn straight,’ said Kaylee.
Emma arrived just then with a bottle of cold ginger beer. “For nausea.’ she said, and sat down to watch, while the older women walked.
River joined them, bending close to Helen’s belly, whispering encouragement to the baby. ‘He’s looking forward to meeting us.’ she said.
‘I’m glad of that,’ said Helen. ‘Tell him to hurry up.’
Her second contraction hit. ‘Forty minutes. We’ll be here for a while.’ said Kaylee. ‘I’ll tell the captain he should put the kids to bed.’
But when she returned Beege was with her. ‘She wants to be here.’
‘All us women together, ‘ smiled Beege.
‘Is this suitable for a five year old?’ said Zoe.
‘I’m six, now.’
‘And now I am six, I’m as clever as clever. I think I’ll be six now , forever and ever.’ laughed Emma.
‘Not sure this is suitable for a sixteen year old either.’
‘Oh, momma, think of it as a rite of passage. Primitive people sent teenagers out into the jungle alone. I hang around while a friend pops out a baby.’
‘If it was gonna just pop out, I might agree. We could be here for hours yet.’
‘An I think the fathers did fall asleep.’
‘Or have more stamina than we imagine.’
‘Not Simon…. umm. Never mind.’
‘Pas avant la petite,’ said Emma.
‘I’m six! I’m not little! I go to school!’
‘Practically ready to fly away from the nest, little bird,’ smiled Kaylee.
Two hours later Helen’s contractions were still twenty minutes apart and Beege was restless and bored.
‘I know you want to see the new baby, xiǎo nǚ’ér, but you are droopin and yawnin. Let’s get Daddy to put you to bed.’ Kaylee picked her up and after giving Helen a kiss, Beege relaxed in her arms with little fuss.

‘How’s mama doin, bao bei?’
‘Which one? Helen is still twenty minutes apart but the contractions are startin to speed up. Water ain’t broke yet though. And this mama hopes you’ll put your BabyGirl to bed. Where’s Derry?’
‘He didn’t wake through all the fuss, so I put him into his bed a couple hours back. Left him in his clothes though, so’s not to wake him.’
‘Yah. Fine. Beege go wash for bed; hands, face, pits, bum.’
The sleepy child turned to her father with big eyes. Mal caved and led her to the bunk head, where he gave her a quick wash and helped her into her nightshirt.
She was asleep when her head hit the pillow.

‘Goin’ back, sweetheart?’
‘Yeah, but gimme a minute. I keep watching Helen and feelin jealous.’
Mal wrapped himself around her, sharing the pain of their lost, last baby. Her pillow was often damp in the morning, with silent tears shed in the small hours. He’d cried too, but neither had spoken much about the poor creature, dying in her womb, deformed by radiation.

‘You could stay here. Helen has Zoe and River with her and Davy will be the actual midwife. And Simon is there if worst comes….’ Kaylee started sobbing.
Her tears continued for several minutes. She struggled to speak. ‘I guess our little one was not meant to be. We didn’t …. we didn’t really plan…. he was an accident and…. I didn’t think about the geigers… and I just kept working…. ‘
‘He wasn’t meant to be. It’s not your fault or your responsibility. We’ve got two wonderful kids, who wouldn’t be as great as they are if they didn’t have such a great mama.’
“An what happens next time. I shoulda had Simon tie me off when he had me open.’
‘You were too upset to make that decision. He offered but we both said no.’
‘But he says it could happen again. That I’ll poison any other babes ….’She started sobbing again.
‘That is not what he said. Simon would never say that to you, or to anyone. You’re makin crazy talk.’

‘I’m such an idiot. Maybe I didn’t want to have the baby. Maybe I killed it by not wantin it. ‘
‘Stop it, Kaylee. It’s not in you to do that. You’re a wonderful mamma to our kids. You were very important to Hope when Zoe was so bad when she was new. And you’re mother hen to every passenger we take on, makin them at home.’
‘Not in me?’
‘You’re not a killer, darlin. You’re just not.’
‘I opened an airlock once.’
Mal went cold. The fate of the child-rapist who had never made it to landfall had never been spoken about by the crew or by the passengers on that tragic voyage. Mal had always wanted to believe the outer door of the airlock had been opened by one of the passengers, or perhaps by Jayne, who was deeply incensed when they learned a young girl had been abused and impregnated by her father.
“I don’t care what happened to that hundan. You couldn’t hurt an innocent.”
________________________________

Kaylee slept through the birth of Simon and David’s child. In spite of Helen’s somewhat advanced age for a first birth, the actual delivery was fast and the baby was perfect, with Simon’s blue eyes, but David’s coppery colouring.
‘What’s his name?” asked Beege.
“Desiré Tessouat TamChen” said Simon.
River said, “He doesn’t know, but he thinks it’s Ziggy.”
“Desiré?’ asked Jayne.
“It means…”
“Know what it means, I just think it’s a dumb name.’
“Sounds like a girl’s name,” said River. “Desirée. Tessie.”
“Well, he’s definitely a boy,” said David.
River was inspecting her nephew. “Who did he get the equipment from?”
Emma peered at the naked baby and looked over at her mother, dismayed.
David blushed. “Newborn boys are normally like that.”
“Don’t worry, baby, the proportions change when they get older,” added Zoe.
“Not always,.” said Jayne.
“Could all of you go away now,” said Helen.” I’m a little tired.”

“Did Ziggy pass inspection?” asked Mal, entering the common room from his suite.
“He’s beautiful,’ said Hope.
“And definitely a boy.” added Jayne, unwilling to let a good joke go.
“Sounds like this kid has three proud papas.”

About femmefan1946

Retired professional writer and editor. Nominated for an Aurora Award for work on CAN-CON 2014, which concentrates on introducing new and aspiring writers and artists to agents, editors and publishers.
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