Derrial Hoban Tam.

"Derri" for short.

He was seven pounds, three ounces, and every kind of chubby. His arrival came at two-seventeen in the morning and caused a tremendous if very sleepy stir aboard Serenity. Though Simon had hoped to let Kaylee and the baby rest, the entire crew had gathered outside the infirmary by the end of the delivery. Exhausted but beaming, Kaylee overrode her husband's protests and insisted that each crew member greet Derri personally. Some were enthusiastic. Others tried to remain in the background but yielded upon Kaylee's insistence. Even Jayne, after a great deal of sullen muttering, was coaxed into holding out a finger. Derri promptly seized it with his strong baby grip and refused to let go. To everyone's surprise Jayne grinned. "Aw, look at that, he's a tough one! Gonna be just like Uncle Jayne, ain'cha, kiddo?"

The looks of general astonishment among the rest of the crew were kept behind the big man's back, but Kaylee's smile only intensified. Simon soon ushered the intruders from the infirmary after promising they could come back in the morning. Mal lingered for a moment to ensure that Kaylee and the baby were both stable and healthy. He needn't have asked. Simon was in fact rather affronted by the inquiry. "Do you actually think I wouldn't do my utmost for anyone on this ship, let alone my own wife and son?"

"No, no, I ain't sayin' that at all, it's just – this is my ship an' my crew, an'-"

"You've told me that often enough; I think I've gotten the point by now."

"-an' if there's a problem I wanna know about it so's I can fix it quick-like."

"Captain, like I said-"

"Hang on, doctor, I don't think I'm makin' myself clear. Now, I ain't sayin' you ain't good at what you do, but out here in the black there's some that needs more help 'n others, an' infants an' mothers are pretty gorram high on the list. If somethin' goes wrong that you ain't got the know-how or the 'quipment to take care of, you tell me so's I can get 'em to the nearest hospital. Got it?"

"I'm not sure whether to be offended or grateful, captain."

"That's what I'm talkin' about, now go get some rest yourself – you've earned it."

The two men parted ways, Simon back into the infirmary and Mal toward the stairs. As the captain ascended he noticed a shadow on one of the catwalks that did not fit. Closer inspection revealed this shadow to be River, her knees drawn up to her chin and her arms wrapped around her ankles. Mal climbed the next flight of steps and sat down beside her. "Somethin' troublin' you, Little Albatross?"

"He has someone else now."

Mal followed her gaze to the closed infirmary curtains and door. "Who, Simon? 'Course he does, he got Derri to worry about now, Kaylee too. That's what every good daddy does."

"It's so full in there, overflowing down the hall, down the stairs, but I can't look down at the water. Am I wet? I can't see."

"Y'know, I don't understand nothin' you say sometimes."

A sigh fluttered the tousled curtain of hair. "I don't, either."

She began to trace shapes across the top of her bare foot with a finger. The captain at first paid little heed but, as the silence stretched to fill the air around them, he leaned forward to watch.

"What's that ye're drawin'?"


"Chains? Why chains?"

"Chains are hard, they lock and intertwine, but even metal can be bent and broken like a bone, and bones are flesh and flesh is soft and softest of all is the heart between the lungs, beating, beating with sounds like frightened feet…"

Mal liked it when River's rambles trailed off into nothingness without ending in the quavering upbeat of a question. When River asked questions they were almost always impossible to answer – at least, to answer in a way that would satisfy her. He took advantage of her mute doodling to ask his own question again. "What's on yer mind, River? Go on, drop the cards, an' don't you play all chenmo guzhi de ren with me now."

Her fingers stopped tracing pictures and hovered in the air. "Simon, he's full now, I can't hold on. It's too strong, it's rushing me away, there's nothing to hold on to."

"He still loves you, if that's what you're fussin' about. Sure, he got a baby now, an' a little wife, but he'll ever have but one sister an' that's you, River. Ain't nobody Simon's mei-mei 'cept you."

She thought this over.

"Daddy doesn't know."


"Simon's a daddy now but Daddy doesn't know. He won't ever know, doesn't want to. Simon doesn't tell me but I still know. Our fish pulled Daddy's lines and his boat began to tip, so he cut the lines and let them go. Daddy doesn't know."


Unable to find an adequate response, Mal just put his arm around her shoulders. River stiffened at his touch, then acquiesced and leaned her head against his shoulder.

"He didn't worry."

"Who didn't?"

"Daddy. Simon worried but Daddy didn't, when my letters came. Daddy wouldn't listen, wouldn't worry about the right things – that's what Simon thought, they weren't the right things, but maybe they were…" This seemed to upset her and she became restless. Mal gently restrained her.

"Easy now, ain't nothin' we can do 'bout all a' that now."

"Maybe they were the right things, though – Simon was a doctor, Daddy worried when he followed the water…"

"Simon's right where he wants to be, River. Jus' think – if he'd not went fer you he'd not have Kaylee or Derri. And you know what? We wouldn't have you either – you or Simon or Derri. Weren't for you an' your brother, me an' most of my crew'd 'a been dead by now. Simon – well, Simon's a doctor, he fixes us when we're broken. And you – you break what wants to break us."

Wide brown eyes stared up at him. "Is that good?"

"Course it's good, River, that's what crew is, we watch each other's backs. Sure, we done have some disagreements now an' again, but that's 'cause we's still people an' no people is perfect. But when the goin' gets tough, that's when you see what a crew's made of. And I'll be gorram chwen if Serenity's crew ain't made of the best stuff in the 'verse."

"But you still worry, though."

"'Course I worry, I gotta keep this place fed an' fixed an' movin' so's we don't get bushwhacked by Alliance or any lowlifes out there."

"No, I mean…" River struggled with her words. "You worry the way Simon thinks Daddy didn't. About the flying house and the sleeping children. Sometimes you lie awake while they rest and cast your mind among the stars to look for breadcrumb trails."

"Not the stars, Little Albatross, just alleyways an' dodgy bars for our next job."

"But it's always there, in your mind, your path among the stars as you steer the haven to gather breadcrumbs from the comet tails. That's why I like it here – you worry like Daddy didn't."

"You like it that I worry?"

"No. Everybody worries. Simon worries about everything."

"What's all this about likin' me worryin', then?"

River settled more comfortably against Mal's shoulder.

"I like having a daddy again."

Chenmo guzhi de ren = "silent stubborn one"

Chwen = "retarded," "dumbass"

A/N- My first attempt to enter the Firefly 'Verse, this sappy little short was written almost as you see it in one sitting. After the initial draft only a few phrases got tweaked to better convey what I wanted. That was a first. Anyway, please let me know what you think, particularly about the dialogue. A friend who proofed this for me complained about my heavy use of dialect which, although often implied with characters like Mal (especially when we already know what they sound like, as we do him), is not always written and can come off as clunky. I'm a bit worried that happened here but I didn't have the heart to get rid of it.

Please review!