Transition, Part 2
Monday, July 6, 2009

Inara's son delivers a difficult message from the Guild.



Cole knocked softly on the door to his mother’s room and peeked inside. Inara sat at her vanity arranging her hair into an elaborate twist with glittering pins and barrettes, and she frowned when she saw him in the mirror.

“Are you here as a Guild representative?” she asked coolly, setting her styling tools aside and sitting up straight.

“Maybe in another five minutes,” Cole said gently. “For now, I’ll just be your son. How’s your foot?”


“Baba, said –”

“Right,” Inara said congenially. “I just need to stay off it for a few hours and get some rest. I’ll be fine by this evening. How do you like field work?”

She accepted Cole’s hand as she moved from the vanity chair to her red couch, and she propped her injured foot on a pillow.

“I miss my world,” Cole said honestly. He loved being on his ship with Genny and he loved being able to help Zoë with her work and he loved seeing the Companions he helped face-to-face, but it didn’t stop him from missing his world. They circled back to Sihnon every few weeks to check in with the Guild and take on a new batch of work, but it wasn’t enough for Cole. He got homesick all the time. He liked talking to Mama about Sihnon, because she’d grown up there and it was something they could share, even if they couldn’t walk the streets together.

They made small talk for a few minutes until the white elephant in the room became too obvious to ignore. Inara pressed her lips together in frustration and Cole stopped talking.

“I can’t believe they sent you,” she said bitterly.

Recognizing the transition to business, Cole stood and closed the door for privacy.

“The Guild isn’t reputed as a family business,” he said apologetically. “They expect we can maintain professional distance.”

Inara took a deep breath and folded her hands in her lap, sitting as properly as she could with her foot elevated. The low arm on the couch didn’t offer her much support. “I’m sure we can.”

Cole clasped his hands behind his back and then decided that was too imposing a posture, and he sat down on the couch by his mother’s feet. Hers was an unusual case and Genny had warned him not to take it. “I saw the file was marked for transition, and I was surprised. You haven’t been active since before I was born.”

“I suppose you know my reasons, since you’ve seen my record,” she said evenly. “Cole, I –”

“Wait,” Cole said, holding up a hand to stop her. “Before you say anything, I didn’t open the file. It’s unusual to delay transition and … It’s not that I’m trying to draw this out, but I know there are certain things a mother doesn’t share with her son.”

He could see the relief on her face already, but she masked it quickly. Her chin dropped and her voice quivered as she whispered, “Professional distance.”

“I wanted your permission before I took the liberty,” he said. “If you ask me to, I’ll get the file right now, but if you prefer, I can take you back to Sihnon and a representative there …”

Cole trailed off as his mother’s face went suddenly white. She cringed and contracted her body, her hand hovering over her stomach, then pressing over her heart.

“Mama?” he called in alarm, jumping up quickly and placing a hand on her shoulder. He cradled her chin and searched her face, but in a moment, the pain passed and she smiled disarmingly. He wedged next to her on the couch, checking her over even though he wasn’t a doctor and had no idea what he’d just witnessed.

“You’re not lying here because you turned your ankle, are you?”

Inara shook her head and rested weakly against him. “The chip – it keeps malfunctioning …. The pain is becoming more frequent.”

Cole’s eyes went wide, realizing the solution wasn’t as simple as calling for a doctor. Still he was concerned. “There shouldn’t be pain at all. Ta ma de, Mama, you should have called when this started. You need a Guild physician –”

“Simon knows about it.”

Cole reeled again at the breech in confidence. Even among the Guild, the members pretended these medical implants didn’t exist. “He’s not here now, is he? And why would you tell him?”

Inara waved him off but then grabbed his hand and squeezed as another wave of pain hit. When she spoke, her voice was choked. “I got authorization to tell him, because … I nearly died having you.”

Tears welled in his Mama’s eyes and she looked at him mournfully, cradling his cheek. “I didn’t want to leave you without a mother. It was an accident – getting pregnant with Michael. I was so reckless. And then the third time …”

Inara covered her mouth and sobbed at the remembrance of her last pregnancy. Cole had never heard her bring it up. He was just a kid when his Mama had been abducted and assaulted, and when Sky died, he’d started remembering bits and pieces in nightmares. Baba explained some of it – as much as was necessary to counsel him through his nightmares – and it was the reason he’d chosen to work in the branch of the Guild he had. He’d always assumed his Mama had terminated the pregnancy, because the child wasn’t his father’s. Inara had so much pain wrapped in that memory.

“Shh. You don’t have to say,” Cole soothed, taking her into a hug before she revealed so much that it wouldn’t make a difference if he opened her file or not. A single tear rolled down her cheek and she clung to him as he rocked them gently.

“I guess professional distance was never really an option between us,” he said lightly, pulling a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbing her face. “I’ll take you to Sihnon.”

“Do they have to take it?” she asked apprehensively, trembling with the effort to regain composure. “Can’t they fix it?”

Cole shook his head. He knew more about the bureaucratic logistics of transition than the medical aspect. “If it is the chip, then removing it will solve the problem. The pain you feel is not part of transition, Mama. Trust me. I’ve transitioned a dozen Companions. You have nothing to worry about besides a few more gray hairs and a litany of paperwork.”

“Ask them to fix it,” she begged. “Please.”

“Mama, you have to grow old eventually,” Cole said consolingly. Many companions feared transition, but most maintained some level of grace and dignity when he was with them. Perhaps it was a matter of professional distance. Perhaps they did go home and cry alone. Many of them didn’t have anyone to share the burden with. Cole rubbed his Mama’s back, careful not to snag any of the beads on her dress.

“I don’t want to leave you,” she whispered, squeezing him tighter.

Cole didn’t understand the level of apprehension, but unless she asked directly, he wasn’t taking on this case. “Come to Sihnon. The Guild physician will know what to do.”

“Your father will want to come,” she said. “There’s no way I can stop him.”

“That’s perfectly fine,” Cole soothed. “Since I can vouch for him and for the validity of your marriage, I can also authorize you to tell him what you know and prepare him for the transition.”

Inara pulled away from Cole and looked at him with wide doe-eyes. “Really?”

Cole nodded, not realizing that she didn’t know. But then, Guild law on relationships was complicated. “There is a document you both need to sign, but yes. Any marriage exceeding five years –”

Inara jumped suddenly to her feet, knocking Cole as she went. “Mal!”

Her knee buckled as she stepped on her injured foot, and she fell to the floor. Then her face went pale again and her body contracted.

“He’s outside, Mama,” Cole said, catching her gently. He tried to help her and get her back to the bed, but she was using him as a crutch, clinging to her side, and stumbling toward the door.

“Mal!” she shouted again.

“Zoë!” Cole hollered.

Zoë came in almost immediately and cried out in surprise.

“Get Baba,” Cole ordered. He pulled Inara to his chest, trying to figure out how to lift her as she struggled. Zoë didn’t run outside, she just went to the window and opened it up.

“Baba!” she yelled. “Mama ‘Nara wants you.”

“I’m making lunch!” came the muffled reply.

“Mal!” Inara screeched as Cole coaxed her back to the bed and forced her to lie down.

“Sit still. He’s coming, Mama,” Cole said, brushing aside the hair that had fallen out of her elaborate maze of barrettes. She closed her eyes and held his hand, all the while murmuring fearfully about leaving him without a mother.


Mal’s heart thundered as he dashed up the stairs to his bedroom. Inara rarely yelled across the house for him. The only time he ever heard her screaming like that was when she had nightmares about that time she was abducted. Cole had her pretty well-calmed by the time he got there, but her face was pale and splotchy and her hair was a mess, telling him that something had hit her pretty hard.

She stood when she saw him, but Cole had a firm hand on her arm making sure she didn’t keel over. Mal rushed to her, embracing her, and lifting her feet off the ground just enough so she didn’t need to balance herself, and only had to rest safely on him.

“‘Nara,” he whispered in her ear, letting her cry her tears.

“I have to tell you –” she broke off and buried her face against his neck. Both Cole and Zoë were looking at him like frightened babes. He gave each an encouraging nod, and then motioned them out of the room, making sure Zoë closed the door behind her.

“‘Nara?” he said again, this time prompting an explanation with his tone.

“I don’t want to die,” she murmured.

“No one’s going to die. Shh. You’re scaring the kids,” he whispered soothingly, kissing the top of her head. He knew the assurance meant squat, but she wasn’t explaining, so he didn’t know what to do. He set her on her feet and wiped the tears from her face with his thumbs.

“I have to tell you something,” she said, but then lost her strength and cried on his shoulder again. This wasn’t the first time she’d broken into tears and said she was dying and Mal was getting frustrated by it. Something snapped after she’d talked to the Guild, and he’d told her more than once to forget about the money she’d stashed. No gun shop was worth this.

“You ain’t dying in the next ten hours,” he said, and then paused to see if she’d contradict him. He was glad when she nodded and calmed a little. “So why don’t you put on your fancy shoes, and we’ll have this party, I’ll give you your birthday present, and then when we’re orbiting five miles above the planet and staring out at the stars, you can tell me everything.”

“Orbiting?” she repeated, her eyes suddenly alert with intrigue.

Mal bit his lip, trying to cover the fact that he’d spoiled his great surprise. “We have two kids with space ships parked in the port. I’m sure we can talk someone into a once-around.”


The adrenaline was still surging through Cole as he went downstairs with Zoë. They both had burning questions, but neither one had answers. It didn’t help that he wasn’t at liberty to even hint about what he knew. He couldn’t seem to catch his breath, and his heart was racing. His mind spun with guilt, wondering if he’d left so many other companions in such emotional turmoil and they’d managed to hide it from him. He was glad Genny had wrestled his mother’s file out of his hands and told him not to open it.

When they got to the kitchen, Zoë went straight for the hard liquor, and Cole leaned against the counter, trying to get a handle on the moment.

“Genny’s here,” Zoë said, motioning out the window.

Cole glanced out the window and saw his wife coming into the yard, and with hardly a thought, he ran to her. Without a word, he stepped into her arms, and embraced her, using her strength to cut away at the panic he’d felt. Tenderly, she kissed his lips and leaned her forehead against his. She knew something was wrong, and if she knew it was about his Mama, she had the grace not to say ‘I told you so.’

“You were right,” he told her.

He wanted to hold her until his heart rate returned to normal, but was interrupted by Zoë’s firm ‘ahem.’ Intruding on their personal space, she handed Cole a drink and quipped, “I know you two have been apart for almost forty minutes and I’m sure it’s been torture, but the rest of us want to say hello too.”

Genny laughed and Cole took a step back. Michael came quietly and stood next to Cole’s shoulder, giving him an encouraging bump. The way Michael read Mama, Cole figured he’d heard everything.


Please comment before reading on to Part 3


Monday, July 6, 2009 7:40 AM


Wow, so much happening here and a few more answers. Love seeing Mal in this role and love the feeling you've created of his family around him.

Monday, July 6, 2009 8:20 AM


Ooh, yes, this is one of my favourite Firefly related subjects to deal with. :)

Monday, July 6, 2009 10:08 AM


Oooh, I'm on tenderhooks waiting for Inara to tell Mal and will she like her birthday present or will it all be too much? I hope the Guild physicians can fix the implant and that she will be okay, the thought of Inara dying and leaving her family is just too awful to contemplate. Ali D
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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Uncle Jayne loves waking up Serenity's passel of kids, but today he finds one of them broken. Sweet, fluffy. Sweet, fluffy, post-BDM, part of Namesake series.

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Cole and Genny find resolution.

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A few more heart-to-heart chats. Jamie talks to Simon, Mal talks to Cole. Be prepared with tissues, but the end will make you smile.

Transition, Part 10
Jamie and Genny help each other through their respective emotional turmoils.

Transition, Part 9
Little Zoe talks to Michael about Berke, and Michael does not respond as well as she'd hoped. Inara talks to Simon and receives another birthday gift.

Transition, Part 8
Mal is getting worried about Genny, and he talks to Cole. Jayne is glad to see Jamie, but is a little surprised. We find out what Jamie's been up to.

Transition, Part 7
Mal get's Daquan's side of the story. Simon asks River what she wants to do.

Transition, Part 6
Mal and Inara get one more surprise at the space dock, then return home to deal with their uninvited guest.

Transition, Part 5
Mal and Inara share a romantic moment. River's dream about restoring her family turns into a nightmare.

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