CHOICES - Part 14 D
Friday, March 13, 2009

Time for healing...


Word Count: approx. 2402 Spoilers: Post-Series, Pre-Those Left Behind Paring: Mal/Inara, Crew Rating: PG Author's Note: Still toiling away, slowly but kinda surely. The end grows closer. Thanks as always to the loverly anjulie for graciously reading this over when I forced it down her chat window ;o) Oh yeah, and I’ve taken away the ‘Epilogue’ for Part 14, because it’s gone way past being an Epilogue and into a full part, so… that’s where I’m at! :o) Thanks for reading!

Title: CHOICES – Part 14 D Author: 2x2

By the middle of the next day, Simon decreed Inara stable enough to continue her bed rest in her shuttle, regularly supervised and monitored, and would likely soon be able to eat real food – or at least as real as it got on Serenity.

Inara was relieved, having quickly wearied of her inactivity and the sterility of her surroundings. Not that she wasn’t grateful for all Simon had and was doing for her, and she certainly had no lack of company; quite the opposite, in fact. But she felt exposed in the infirmary, and she longed for the soft comfort of her own bed and silks and the welcome privacy of some genuine solitude.

There was a great deal she still had to sort through and process, not the least of which was finding out what had actually happened to her once she and Mal had been whisked aboard the ship; Simon had put off her questions and none of the crew would discuss it when she prompted. She was seriously beginning to wonder if Mal hadn’t threatened them all with promises to kick them off the ship or throw them out the airlock or some such nonsense because no one was talking – all in an effort to spare her, she was certain, but the not-knowing was driving her mad. It was causing her more anxiety than if they would just come out and tell her. She gathered it must have been a near thing from the way they all avoided her eyes when she asked, but she was fine now if a little tired; had all her fingers and toes and other extremities and, as far as she could tell, was recovering. It was a mystery to her why they wouldn't tell her what had happened, which left her imagination to come up with all manner of scenarios.

She finally cornered Simon when he came into the infirmary to unhook her monitors, demanding that he tell her.

"I'll go over it with you," he promised as he removed the electrodes from her chest efficiently. "There's no need to hurry. I'd prefer that you took a little more time to recover before we go into specifics—"

"I'd like to discuss it now, Simon," she persisted and he could tell by the look in her eyes that he wasn't going to be able to put it off any longer.

He drew in a breath. "All right," he said, nodding as he moved to the door and slid it closed.

“I don’t know how much you remember,” he started and Inara shook her head.

“Almost nothing. I remember Mal… and then Zoe’s voice, but after that...”

Simon nodded. “When we found you, you were barely conscious and had lost a great deal of blood. Mal was in worse shape and I had to concentrate on resuscitating him before I could truly see to your injuries,” he said apologetically, but Inara shook her head, grateful that Simon had saved Mal at all. She did not begrudge him that.

“I had you stabilized, and you should have been fine, but something went wrong. Your vitals suddenly plunged inexplicably, and before I could ascertain why, you went into full cardiac arrest. You weren’t responding to CPR; I had to use the defibrillator to bring you back. I was able to stabilize you again, but your condition deteriorated rapidly, and I couldn’t figure out why,” he said, frustrated with himself. He sighed heavily. “When you went into arrest the second time, I didn’t think I was going to be able to save you. It was as though something were… attacking your heart. I had to administer a shot of adrenaline—“ He paused, considering how much he should tell her as Inara gasped softly, her hand going to her chest in horror, but she had a right to know.

“I’m afraid… There’s been some damage.” ***

Mal had about had enough of his need for the pain-numbing smoothers Simon had prescribed to help him heal - he’d happily go without them if he had his way - unfortunately his body seemed to have other ideas, judging by the bouts of sweat-inducing, gut-wrenching pain that were more than mere stubbornness alone could get him through. He held out as long as could, but sooner than he’d like the pain always became more than he could ignore and he was forced to seek out Simon for another dose of the painkiller. Of course, it didn’t hurt that it gave him an excuse to visit Inara, he mused, but as he came down the stairs he hesitated on the last step at what he saw through the infirmary window.

Inara sat across from the doctor, and though it eased his heart greatly to see her sitting up again, the somber look on Simon's face told him the conversation was serious and, judging by the closed door, a private one. And even though this was his boat and he was in a great deal of pain, he didn't think there was any prize in the 'verse could make him go through that door right now, nor would he ever wish to be in the doc's place.

He watched through the glass a moment but when she lifted a hand to her chest, brow creased in worry, he figured Simon must've told her about her heart and he turned away, having seen enough.

He made for the tired old couch across the room and eased himself down slowly, wincing with the effort. Forcing his eyes away from the infirmary, he concentrated on flexing the fingers of his right hand, still finding it difficult. Likely never be the same, he suspected, after slicing his palm wide open as he had drivin’ that dagger into Wing’s leg, but he conjured it was a fair trade all things considered. His fingers still felt cold and stiff too; Simon had said it was likely a result of lowered circulation after his ‘cardiac event’ as the doc liked to describe his nearly dyin’. In any case, it was damned annoying, much like the persistent tightness of his breath that he was doin’ his best to ignore. The ever-present ache in his gut, however, was a constant companion…


His eyes lifted back to the infirmary of their own volition, seeking out Inara, but he couldn’t see her face from where he sat. He closed his eyes instead, letting his head fall back against the couch, hovering on the edge of sleep while he waited – the only thing aside from smoothers that offered any escape from the steady aching.

He jerked awake suddenly as the infirmary door opened, realizing he must have nodded off, and sat up just as Simon stepped through.

“I’ll give you a moment alone,” the doctor said to Inara, half closing the hatch behind him. He met Mal’s eyes briefly before turning away and heading to the passenger dorms, disappearing into his room silently.

Mal looked back to the infirmary, but he couldn’t see Inara. He chewed his lip, hesitating, then slowly brought himself to his feet, moving to the hatch carefully. Inara was leaning against the counter within, her head bowed, apparently deep in thought.

“Hey,” he said, pulling the door open gently.

She startled, standing up taller as she swallowed thickly and forced a smile to her face. “Mal. I didn’t see you there,” she said.

Mal nodded, his eyes searching hers, taking in the falseness of her smile. “You okay?” he asked softly.

Inara gave him a quick nod. “I’m fine, Mal. I’m just… tired,” she deflected. She needed to get to her shuttle. She needed to be alone to sort through this; she didn’t want to do it in front of him.

"You sure? I saw you talkin' to Simon—"

"Yes, I'm sure. I just need to go to my shuttle and lie down for a while,” she said quickly, moving toward the door.

"Lemme help you—"

"Mal, I'm fine. I can go myself…" she trailed off and pressed a hand to her forehead, feeling suddenly light-headed from the rapid movement.

"Humour me," Mal said grimly, slipping his arm around her waist to steady her.

"Really, this isn't necessary…" she protested. She needed to get away from him.

“Don’t care if it’s necessary,“ he persisted and she huffed in annoyance.


“Gorramit, just let me help you, Inara!” he growled out in frustration.

Her eyes flew up to stare at him, their gazes locking for a long moment until they both looked away awkwardly.

“Alright,” she finally acquiesced softly, truthfully grateful for his support, though no less desperate to get away from him. “Just to my shuttle…”

They climbed the stairs slowly, each step a measured and deliberate process that had both of them panting with exertion by the time they reached the first level of the catwalk. Mal felt cold and clammy – he could definitely use that smoother now – and Inara didn’t seem much better.

“Not far now,” he said encouragingly, keeping any sign of his own distress from his voice; he didn’t need her makin’ a fuss.

Inara didn’t answer, her concentration focused on keeping her balance, putting one foot in front of the other, and getting to her shuttle. She heaved a huge sigh of relief as they finally reached the top step and shuffled the last few steps to her hatch.

“I’ll help you inside—“ Mal started, hoping for a chance to sit himself, but Inara cut him off.

"Really, Mal, I'm fine. I just need to rest," she said, extricating herself from his arms to face him in the doorway, effectively blocking his entrance to her shuttle. Wavering on her feet, she pressed her hand against the hatch, steadying herself as he reached for her.

"You sure you're okay?" he asked, concern clouding his features. “You don’t need anything, or want me to stay an’—“

“Mal, I need some time alone,” she blurted finally, cutting him off mid sentence.

He stared at her, mouth snapping shut as his face closed off, hands going to rest on his back pockets in feigned nonchalance.

“I just—” she started, aware that he was hurt but he cut her off.

“No, that’s fine. ‘Course you--,” he rushed out, backing away as he spoke. “Sure. ’Sides, I got… things,” he added, motioning with a thumb over his shoulder. He gave her a tight nod and then disappeared up the stairs.

Inara sighed, regretting that she’d had to push him away, but she’d had no choice. The moment she closed the door and was able to loosen her tightly held control she knew she was going to be sick.

It was too much - the possibility that she would never work again, that her heart would never be strong enough; the sickening thought of that giant syringe of adrenaline passing through her skin and piercing her heart; the grief that still haunted her when she'd thought Mal had died; and now the confusion and hurt she’d seen in his eyes when she pushed him away and the way that affected her... She found herself running to the head, sinking to her knees as she heaved into the toilet, every tightening spasm of muscle an agony to her ribs, every breath hitching on a moan.

Finally, when the shudders stopped and she had collapsed against the cool wall of the shuttle's outer hull, exhausted and in pain, she began the process of putting herself back together. Mal or someone else was bound to come and check on her; she couldn't let them find her like this. She was still a Companion. Even if she could never service clients again, she was still a Companion.

Inara took strength from the thought and, gritting her teeth, she willed herself to her feet though her legs were trembling and weak. She spit into the sink, trying to rid her mouth of the vile after-taste and reached for a cup to rinse with, her breath catching as she caught her reflection in the mirror and took in the extent of the damage for the first time.

Staggering unsteadily out to her vanity, she stood before the large mirrors to stare at her face, eyes tracing over the still-swollen puffiness of her bruised cheek, taking in the blackened eyes, the angry red scratches, the scabs, the stitches on her lips, shocked by how terrible it all looked. Closing her eyes a moment, she drew in a deep, steadying breath, releasing it slowly. All those things would heal, she knew; Simon had reassured her of that much at least.

It was as she let her gaze travel lower, parting her robe to reveal the dark purple puncture mark between her breasts, where the doctor had driven the life-saving syringe into her heart, that she shuddered; drew her robe closed with one hand quickly, running the other over her mouth as her stomach threatened to empty its contents again.

"There's been some damage," she heard Simon's voice in her head again. "Damage?"

"The strain on your heart…"

Inara turned away from the mirrors, easing backwards until she reached the edge of her bed where she sat, fighting the urge to be sick again for several long minutes.

"Will I be able to work?"

"…I… I just can't say for certain. Not immediately, of course, but, maybe, with time and rehabilitation—"

"Thank-you, Simon. I understand."

"I'm sorry."

There were tears suddenly, burning in the back of her throat and threatening to spill over her lashes but she fought them back brutally. She would not allow them. She would not feel sorry for herself. And she would not wish for any other circumstance. Had Whelt not injected her with whatever combination of drugs he had, she would not have had the strength to fight Atherton, and Mal would have died. They both would have died. She would not begrudge this path. She would not.

* * * * *

By the time he reached his bunk, Mal’s gut was burning, but he pushed aside the pain, climbing down the ladder despite Simon’s orders, sealing the hatch behind him.

Don’t, Mal told himself grimly as he paced. Don’t let yourself do it. Shipboard romances are nothin’ but trouble. He knew it, had lived by it; didn’t make him want it any less.

Damn her for makin’ him hope again!

Part 15


Friday, March 13, 2009 4:11 PM


Been looking forward to this fic for a long time and you sure didn't disappoint! Oh the angst of two people who deserve each other really screwing things up bad between them and thinking they're doing each other a favor. I love your characterizations and hope for a happy ending somewhere.

Saturday, March 14, 2009 2:23 AM


Hopefully as both Inara and Mal start to heal they will be able to drop the last of the barriers they keep between them. At the moment both of them are pretty fragile but they have the best doctor and crew in the whole 'verse. The ship is pretty shiny too! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, March 14, 2009 6:05 AM


Can really empathize with Inara's grief, here, nicely done and poor Mal, he needs to understand that Inara doesn't want to seem weak in his eyes.


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History of an Object
There’s no reason to keep it, damaged as it is. Save one. Doesn’t matter that it’s finer than any other cup on the ship, even with the crack. Doesn’t matter that it would never hold liquid again without some of it seeping through. Burning your fingers. Was only one reason he still has the cup.

Five Years' War
The night was warm. Clouds, low on the horizon, blue black in the last light of the setting sun. Nothing but the breeze and the buzz of the cicadas breaking the stillness. A perfect evening.

The Close Shore, At the End, Untenable
“Dead ’re in my head tonight,” he said finally. “Can’t get ‘em out. Don’t got the booze or the bar to distract me. Don’t know why I’m here ‘cept I don’t think I can go through it alone.”

The Slower Path: All the Difference - Part 15 - Sequel to The One Less Traveled By
She let out a breath, saying nothing for a long moment before she raised her eyes again. “There are some things I want you to know,” she said softly. “Things I want you to understand.”

Much as he wished he could ignore it, he could see it was important to her that he know whatever it was she wanted to tell him. He knew he wouldn't have let himself see it in the past, but that weren't where they were anymore, or at least, not where they wanted to be, either of them. Their relationship had changed, was changing, and he weren’t so stupid he didn’t recognize that. He didn't know that he wanted to know it, much less understand it, but she was reluctant enough to talk about any aspect of her life as it was; could be he might ought not stop her when she wanted to.

Unlucky at Cards...
“I… You can’t be that lucky!” Mal moaned as Inara beat him again, laying out her cards with a flourish.

The Slower Path: The One Less Traveled By - Part 14 - Sequel to Regrets
They fell silent again, struggling to find the ease that they had found, before; before the argument that had almost ended things.

"I feel like-," she started.

"This is-," he said at the same time.

They looked at each other. "Awkward," they both said, laughing lightly.

Always Had Faith
Faith in a higher power? That was always Mal's thing, the Captain, back in the war.

Loved and Lost
Love’s the biggest kind of hurt there is.

And I wouldn't trade that love for nothin'.

The Mood That Passes Through
He felt the first trembling shudder go through her, heard her breath hitch and felt her fingers grip his skin; knew it was comin', the wave that was cresting the walls she'd built to hold it back, whatever it was. Knew they were about to come crashing down around her. The first sob still hurt though, still lanced through his heart like a searing hot blade to hear her make that sound.