Spoilers and such are still the same. All Chinese translations have been found on the same sites as in Chapter One and have been for this entire fic.
He's Just A Child
Art by me.
Art by dhfreak (on LiveJournal).
---Two Years Later
Amy’s boots hit the grated floors hard as she jogged across the ship, sweeping her almost butt-length hair back into a messy ponytail. It didn’t stay tight, falling with each bounce of her body until it sagged against the base of her skull loosely, dropping strands from the elastic every second.
She jerked to a stop, leaning over the railing that overlooked the hanger as she watched Ricky and River chase a now four-year-old John between the crates. What remained of her ponytail spilled over her shoulders, long bangs hanging in her face as she pushed them back behind her ear.
“Who woulda thought,” Mal mused, stepping up beside her as he watched the fun being had below. “The two of you comin’ here...some sorta crazy magic that did it.”
Amy nodded silently, memory flashing as she remembered the fear she’d felt when she woke up on the dusty ground and saw her son in a stranger’s arms. She bit the corner of a lip as she remembered her body completely freezing when she saw Ricky for the first time in over a year.
“Daddy!” John squealed as Ricky grabbed him around his middle and lifted him into the air. He wrapped his arms around his father’s neck, laughing as Ricky let him hang. He shouted as Ricky spun them around. “Slipping, Daddy!”
“Don’t worry, niánqīng de
. Always safe in Daddy’s arms,” River said, gliding around them as she met Ricky’s eyes. “Always safe now. You are yours and he is his.” She smiled at them both, looking up and meeting Amy’s eyes for less than a second before she turned and began to dance in dizzying spins across the floor.
John giggled. “She’s funny.” He looked up at his father with pleading eyes. “Can we keep playing?”
Ricky lowered John to the ground, pointing up at Amy and Mal. “I need to talk to Mommy,” he said.
“-But,” Ricky grinned, “I think you could get Gramps to play.”
John gasped, excited at the idea as he ran from his father’s side and to the bottom of the stairs. “Gramps! Come play!” he shouted up, bouncing in place.
Amy smiled, nudging Mal slightly. “Duty calls,” she said as her eyes turned back to Ricky. Her smile grew a bit sad as she remembered—as she always did—that her own father didn’t get to run around and play with his grandson like Mal was doing now. Her family wouldn’t get this chance to watch her and John grow. She smiled halfheartedly at Ricky, leaning into his chest as she heard his own whispered apology.
They both knew it wasn’t his fault, that he had nothing to do with this, but she knew he understood. He missed everyone, too. He had been sent here with his old wallet crammed in his pocket. She hadn’t. That big purse she’d carried with her every time she left the house, the one with all the memories she’d saved for Ricky, it had been sitting in her bedroom when she and John were taken. She didn’t have any pictures of her family and sometimes she really feared that one day she’d forget what they looked like. The thought terrified her, thinking of losing her mother’s smile, her father’s voice, Ashley’s sarcastic tone, Robbie’s babyish giggle.
The transition here hadn’t been easy and all those tears that she’d wanted to cry, she hadn’t been able to, not until she was in her room and could hide her face in a pillow. She’d been tossed into this place without a clue of what was going on around her. The social cues, the ways of speech, the guns, the Chinese in the middle of a sentence
, it had been a lot to take in and more than a bit daunting every time she heard one of the crew go off in Chinese and forget that she didn’t understand.
The Chinese was difficult, but she picked it up as quickly as she could. She needed to know it to get around this place. Her best lessons had been standing inside a doorway, listening to Ricky speak to John, first in English, then repeating it in Chinese. She’d stand there, just out of his line of sight, lips forming each word, her voice not even loud enough to be a whisper, worried that if Ricky heard her, he’d stop.
He caught her after the first week and had her sit in. As time went on, he’d challenge her, saying his first line in English before telling her to repeat it in Chinese. It had become a habit for the whole crew, a bit of a game as they taught her what they’d known since birth.
“You miss ‘em.”
Amy nodded. “Doesn’t really get easier, does it? Even after all this time.”
Amy sighed, closing her eyes as she breathed in that scent of evergreen. “What happened after I left?”
Amy looked up from where she’d laid John in his new crib, nodding towards the hallway. She slipped into the hallway, leaving the door open a crack as she and Ricky sat on the stairs.
“Amy?” he asked, when she didn’t speak right away. He sighed, lowering his eyes to the ground. “They thought I left you and John.”
“What they thought didn’t matter. I knew you wouldn’t just walk away,” she said, placing a hand on his arm. “Ashley knew, too.”
He nodded, staying silent for a few minutes until he spoke again. “What happened with everyone?”
“My parents are getting married again. Or...I guess were considering what year we’re in, huh?” She and Ricky chuckled a bit. “Robbie was just a baby. He just kept growing. Ashley’s seeing this guy, Mark. You remember him?”
“They’d been together three months when John and I...” She shook her head, inhaling slowly. “She and Griffin are still close, best friends.” She bit her lip, thinking. “Ben and I never got back together after Maria. They didn’t last. He and Grace ended up together about a month after you disappeared.”
“Ben and Grace?” Ricky asked, incredulous.
Amy laughed. “It shocked a lot of us, but they’re good. She and Jack never...he was with Madison for a little while, but that didn’t last either. He was single when this...Adrian was upset for a while after you...but this old friend of hers came back, Antonio. She was...she was happy, really happy.”
Ricky smiled at that, happy that Adrian had found what she’d wanted and what he’d never been able to give her. He knew what Antonio had meant to her.
He paused in his thoughts, sending Amy a curious glance. “What about...”
“They didn’t talk about it, but they never gave up on you,” she said, putting a hand over his. “They came to see John, not much, but they came on Christmas. Stay for a couple hours to give him a couple presents. They loved you. It was hard for them.”
Amy didn’t say anything about the tears in his eyes.
“A lot’s changed,” she said, looking down and watching as John jumped onto Mal’s back. “They look happy.”
“You have, too.” “You’ve almost got it. Just remember to add that—yeah, right there.”
Amy sighed gratefully as she finished the last sheet that Ricky and the crew had prepared for her. She may have been learning Chinese okay, but she was still illiterate when it came to reading and writing the language. She had the words, but the letters and symbols were more difficult with their intricate styling.
“Not bad?” Amy laughed, “One mistake today. I think that’s better than ‘not bad.’”
Ricky grinned. “Maybe. You’ll just have to keep it up.”
Amy crinkled her nose at Ricky, wanting to stick her tongue out, but thinking it was too childish. She shook her head, looking at the sheet once more and its mess of Chinese lettering. A year ago and she would have never understood a word this meant, but now, she didn’t have a choice. She had to know this, both to operate here and to give John an example he could learn from.
Just like Ricky.
“You’re really not taking clients anymore?” she asked, voice soft and hesitant. Ricky’s occupation as a Companion was a tense subject all around the ship, but she had to ask even if it was to just confirm her suspicions.
Ricky nodded. “I’ll stay registered, but I won’t be taking clients.”
“Then why stay registered?”
“Having a registered Companion on board is a good thing to have sometimes. Inara won’t always be here when we need her and I’ll have better access to some things than the crew would have otherwise.”
Amy nodded, drawing her bottom lip in between her teeth. She released her lip as she leaned forward and kissed him. It was soft and completely innocent, so much like their first kiss back at band camp. It seemed like a lifetime ago.
Ricky’s eyes were wide when she pulled back and she blushed, but met his eyes with a confidence she didn’t used to have.
“I’m glad,” she whispered, blushing more as she heard the breathless, husky tone she hadn’t intended. “I don’t want to share you.”
Amy turned away from the railing, leaning back against it as Ricky stepped in close to her. She watched him, taking in the hair that he’d let Inara cut the day before, back down to the length it had been when they were back in her world. Twenty years old and he still had that sparkle in his eye when he looked at her. She tried to pretend that it didn’t make her melt, but as he stepped close and their bodies molded together, she knew it was pointless.
Their kiss was heated, passionate, something that would have been uncomfortable and awkward with anyone but him. She heard herself let out a tiny moan as his fingers tangled in her hair, shivering as his hands threaded down and along her back. Her hair tie fell to the floor and probably through the grated bottom, but she didn’t care.
They were both breathless when they separated, foreheads touching as their eyes remained locked. She stared up into his eyes, not the blue eyes of his father, but the brown of a mother that she knew never deserved him. “Mà mà! Bà bà!”
Their gazes turned and looked down to their son, waving back as he did.
Mal put a hand on John’s shoulder, waving them off with the other. “That ain’t somethin’ I got a desire to see. Move it to your bunk.” He smiled, nodding at Amy. “Two o’ you got somethin’ to celebrate as it is. I got the kid.”
“Yes, Dad,” Ricky said, rolling his eyes.
It made her smile that he was able to finally call Mal that, even if it was said with sarcasm. It was progress. She couldn’t ask for more, not when she knew Ricky and knew how hard it was for him to accept people into his life when he’s been so used to being alone.
She mouthed thank you
to Mal, breath stopping for a second as Ricky took her left hand and kissed the ring he’d presented her with the night before. It was beautiful, a simple band, but beautiful nonetheless. Shiny diamonds and the like would have been impractical in their line of work and bands were something that Wash and Zoë hadn’t even exchanged.
He’d done that for her, gotten down on one knee and presented her with a ring as if they were still back in the early twenty-first century.
She hadn’t even been able to say yes, she’d been crying so much, just nodded and pulled him in for a kiss while the others eavesdropped.
Her parents would have thought she was insane, not just because she was still only nineteen, but because it was Ricky Underwood.
They wouldn’t have understood that in this life, especially theirs, they had to live in the moment. “Here, you could be there one day and gone the next. I don’t want to lose another day, not when I’ve already lost years. I want you by my side, from this end of the verse to the next. Amy Juergens, will you marry me?”
She was marrying Ricky Reynolds—and, God, had Mal tried to hide how happy he was when Ricky took his name last year—that night. Sometimes it really paid to have a Shepherd on board.
They weren’t going to have that big wedding with the princess gown she’d dreamed of since she was six. That would have been sweet, but the longer she lived here, the longer she realized that she’d been living in a fairy world then. All she needed was Ricky, John, and the crew. She wished she had her family, that her dad could walk her down the tiny aisle the girls were making in the bridge. She knew Wash must have been having a hard time, piloting the ship as they moved around him, but she loved him for doing it.
To be married amongst the stars. It was romance of a new age.
Ricky’s hands reached her hips, lifting her off the floor, and her legs wrapped around his waist as they got caught in another kiss. Her body felt hot, heart hammering as if it were going to burst right through her chest and the gray top she’d bought a few stops back. She could feel Ricky against her, could feel his own heart beating fast against her breast as her fingers clenched the red fabric of his button-up.
Mal’s shouted reminder that their son was in viewing distance pulled them apart and Ricky lowered her to the floor as they both flushed.
She kissed him once more, quickly this time, and moved away from him. “Gotta catch me,” she almost purred, giving him that sexy smirk she knew he loved. She stepped back, winking once before she was off, running through the halls of the ship with him hot on her tail.
He caught her just as she reached their bunk, pushing her up against the wall as he kissed her neck. Her head tilted up, eyelids fluttering.
They made their way down the ladder and into the room Mal had moved them into, going straight for their bed. She fell back onto it first, breath coming in short gasps as Ricky climbed on top of her, and she held his face for a second before her fingers caressed the soft skin. His hand took her left away from his face, fingers intertwining as her ring shone in the dim lighting.
“Wŏ ài nĭ
, Ricky,” she whispered, “Wŏ ài nĭ
- Niánqīng de: Young one
- Mà mà: Mommy
- Bà bà: Daddy
- Wŏ ài nĭ: I love you