BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE

GOLDY

Verdict - Chapter Four
Friday, February 3, 2006

The aftermath: Simon does his surgery thing, Mal and Inara share a moment, and everyone is anxious. M/I.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2122    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Title: Complications, Chapter Four Pairing: Mal/Inara Disclaimer: Not mine. Which is probably for the best, really, because Joss tends to do Horrible Things to the characters I care about. Summary: Inara undergoes surgery while the rest of the crew is anxious. In other words, people stand around and talk at each a lot and nothing in the way of much happens. Rating: PG Word Count: 2, 941

***

“How she doing?”

Mal jumped and scrubbed a hand over his face before turning to look at Zoe. “Doc sent Kaylee to fetch River. Need her blood, he said. Only type that matches.”

Zoe’s mouth tightened. “Wash used to—”

“Yeah,” Mal said. Then, more defensively, “Said mine wouldn’t help any or I would’ve given it.”

“Didn’t mean to imply otherwise, Sir,” Zoe said. “River ain’t going to like this much.”

“Girl got a thing with needles,” Mal said. “But she’ll do her part. She understands what’s happening better than any of us, I’d wager.”

“I’d wager you were right,” Zoe said. “River has a good heart.”

Mal nodded and the two lapsed into silence, watching Simon work on Inara through the infirmary’s high windows. Her eyes were closed, her face relaxed, giving no indication of her body’s struggle. Simon had been operating for an hour—maybe more. Mal had lost track of time. The bullet rested on a tray near Inara’s head. Doc had given a small thumb’s up when he’d removed it.

Mal turned when River strode across the dining area. As usual, she seemed to dance towards them, her feet taking each step with a cautious grace that some could mistake for timidity.

“Blood is life. Runs through our veins, makes heart beat, organs run, from our toes to fingers,” she whispered.

“That’s right,” Mal said. “Which is why you’re going to be generous and give Inara some of yours, ain’t you?”

River gave him a stern look and went into the infirmary without responding.

“What?” Mal said. “What’d I do?”

“I think you offended the girl, Sir.”

River settled herself down in the chair next to Inara’s bedside and obediently held out her arm to Simon. As he bent to insert the needle in her arm, she stuck her tongue out at Mal over Simon’s shoulder.

“Oh, very nice,” Mal muttered. “Why’d we ever let them on this ship?”

“We’re good people, Sir,” Zoe said.

Mal snorted. Again, silence descended between them. Mal didn’t speak again until a tube flowed from River’s arm into Inara’s.

“Zoe?”

“Sir?”

He took a deep breath and kept his eyes adverted. “Wash ever make you stupid?”

“No one’s ever made me stupid.”

“That ain’t… I mean…” Mal paused. “Did he ever make you feel all mucked up? ‘Till it became near impossible to see right?”

“All the time, Sir,” Zoe said. “Didn’t mean it wasn’t worth it.”

Mal snuck a look at her. Face was impassive, as usual. Didn’t make him feel any less uncomfortable—why did he have to go and bring up Wash for?

He cleared his throat. “How are you doing?”

“Shiny, Sir.”

“Zoe—”

“I’m still breathing, Captain. It ain’t a lot, but it’s enough.”

Mal glanced at Inara’s heart monitor. “Yeah.”

“Sir, you want my advice?”

“On account of you never telling me anything I much want to hear, I’m gonna have to go with ‘no.’”

Zoe gestured to Inara’s prone form. “You mess things up with her and you got no one but yourselves to blame for it.”

“Shiny,” Mal said. “That was real helpful, that was.”

“Just trying to help, Sir.”

“Zoe, last time I….” Mal sighed. “Just don’t want to scare her away again. Kaylee’d be awful upset if Inara left Serenity.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Zoe bite back a smile.

“That a fact? Kaylee?”

In the infirmary, Simon was beginning to stitch up Inara’s wound. River combed the fingers of her free hand through her hair, swinging her legs back and forth. Somehow, Mal found River’s placid demeanor comforting. Girl’d be acting different if Inara weren’t gonna make it.

“Just tryin’ to take one thing a time, Zoe,” Mal said.

***

Inara’s hand was cold. Mal had already covered her with an extra blanket. S’pose it’s just a body’s way of healin’.

Mal didn’t understand why the infirmary’s chairs had to be so gorram uncomfortable. Made it damn hard to spend hours by someone’s bedside. Should see to that next time we get a job.

His only company was the constant beep of the heart monitor. Simon appeared at regular intervals to check Inara’s vitals. All she needed now was rest, he said. Pulled through surgery nicely.

Small comforts. Inara’d live. She’d be changed, though. Bullets altered a person.

Inara’s eyes fluttered and opened. Mal gave a jump of surprise before bending down, squeezing her hand in both of his.

“Hey there, sleepyhead,” he said. He smiled. “You been out for a while.”

He watched her eyes drift around the infirmary. He could see her thinking; taking note of her surroundings. Still cautious, Inara. Even drugged up with who-knew-what.

Her eyes finally stopped on his face. “Mal…” she tried to sit up and winced, falling back against the pillows. “I got shot, didn’t I?”

Mal scraped his chair closer. He rested their hands just above her stomach. “That you did. Right about here. Doc patched you all up.”

Inara closed her eyes and smiled. “Guess that officially makes me a part of your crew, doesn’t it?”

Mal didn’t smile. “In all honesty, I’d have preferred skippin’ that step.”

She squeezed his hands. “Have you been watching over me?”

“Well…” Mal cleared his throat. “Whole crew been looking in on you. But I… alright, I been here a while.”

“Is…” Inara drew in a laboured breath. “Is… Niska…?”

“Still alive,” Mal said morosely. “But the two of us have got some unfinished business. He crossed a line.”

“Be… be… be careful, Mal…” Inara yawned. “He’s not… he’s not pleasant…”

“So I’ve heard.”

Inara opened her eyes again and blinked. “I… I feel… strange…”

“Bit like you’ve been shot, maybe? I’d say some strangeness is allowed.” He brought one hand to her face, letting his fingers brush against her cheek. “You did good, Inara, holdin’ on like that. I’m real proud of you.”

“Oh, no,” she whispered. “I must be dying.”

“What?” Mal yelped. “What are you—”

“You’re being nice to me,” she said. “You’re never nice… not unless… there’s a good reason…”

She yawned again.

“I can be nice,” Mal said. He brushed a piece of hair behind her ear. “Hell, I’m a real softie down inside.”

She rose one arm, reaching out blindly. He moved closer and her fingers touched his chin and then traced his lips.

“Always known that about you, Captain,” she murmured. “You who didn’t…”

“Might have a point there.”

Her arm dropped back by her side. The effort of holding it up seemed to have exhausted her. Her eyes drooped shut again.

“Mal?”

“Mmm?”

“I don’t… I don’t wanna… leave…” she struggled for breath. “Serenity’s my home.”

“That she is.” He waited a moment. “I don’t much care for you leavin’ either, Inara.”

“Softie,” she said.

“Yeah, that’s me,” Mal said. He leaned forward and let his lips brush against her forehead. “You get some rest now.”

She nodded, but gave no answer. Soon her breathing evened out and her hand loosened its grip in his. Mal leaned back in his chair, still watching her.

“Cap’n?”

Mal swiveled his head around. “Hey, Kaylee. What’s goin’ on?”

“Nothin,’ just wanted to see how you both were doing, is all.”.

“Inara’s fine,” Mal said. “Better than, for someone who’s been shot.”

Kaylee nibbled at her bottom lip, her eyes huge as she studied Inara. “Cap’n, can I…?”

She gestured to Inara’s hand. Mal quickly dropped it and stood up. “Yeah, course, I mean, I wasn’t…”

“Aww, Cap’n, you’re cute when you’re all flustered-like,” Kaylee said, smiling broadly. She took his seat and picked up Inara’s hand. “She’s awful cold, ain’t she?”

Mal squeezed Kaylee’s shoulder. “She’ll be fine, Kaylee. Doc said so. Never been wrong yet, has he?”

“Nope,” Kaylee said. “Not my Simon.”

“Kaylee, you mind sittin’ with her for a bit? I’ve got… uh… Captain-y duties…”

“Not a jot,” Kaylee said. “You go on.”

“If she wakes up again—”

“You’ll be the first to know, Cap’n.”

“There’s no need to… well, if she asks after me—”

“Go on, Cap’n. Inara and I will be just shiny.”

“Yeah.”

Mal backed away, letting his eyes linger on Inara as long as possible.

“Kaylee?”

“Yes, Cap’n?”

“Never mind… I just…”

“I’ll keep a good eye on her. Won’t hardly even take the time to itch my nose. Okay, Cap’n?”

“Good… great… thanks.”

***

The first thing Mal noticed when he stepped out of the infirmary was the cold. Must’ve dropped some ten degrees while he was with Inara.

Feeling decidedly uncheerful, he marched up to bridge. Jayne and Zoe were busy discussing something or another. Zoe looked worried. Jayne looked sulky.

Must still be all sore ‘bout that trade earlier…

“What’s going on?” Mal demanded. “Last I checked, we were in need of heat.”

“What do you think has happened, Mal, huh?” Jayne said, barring his teeth. “We got no fuel! Thanks to your little trade, we’re nearly dead out here.”

“Zoe?” Mal said. “He tellin’ the truth?”

“Best to conserve,” she said, nodding. “Don’t know how long we’ll have to go without another job.”

“That so?” Mal said. “Well, how’s about we find one, then?”

“And just how are we gonna do that, Mal?” Jayne said. “Ever since that stunt we played with Miranda, we ain’t exactly been the most popular of folk.”

“Uh… yeah, point taken,” Mal said. He paused, before turning and hollering, “RIVER.”

Zoe and Jayne winced at Mal’s yell. It had the desired effect, however. River’s head popped up from around the corner, her smile mischievous.

“We’ve got ourselves a little problem here,” Mal said. “Our contacts… any of ‘em willin’ to deal? Or they looking to blow our heads off?”

Jayne shifted uncomfortably. “Don’t like when we ask Psychic Girl… never goes well…”

“Patience still remembers that you shot her horse,” River said. “Almost made her cry. Badger respects you, though. Wishes he didn’t, but can’t help himself.”

“Badger it is, then,” Mal said. “Set a course.”

“You sure about this, Sir?” Zoe asked.

“Hell, I ain’t sure ‘bout much these days,” Mal said. “But River sees into things, has a grasp of the human mind. ‘Sides, we need to eat, don’t we?”

River cocked her head to the side; eyes fastened on the stars. “I’ll drive.”

“Okay, then,” Mal said. “That settles it.”

Jayne still looked sulky. “How come I never get to drive?”

“I don’t pay you to drive this boat,” Mal said.

“You don’t pay River nothin’ and she still gets a turn!”

Jayne…” Mal grit his teeth. “I am this close to… just—shut up for five minutes, will you?”

River sat down in the pilot’s chair. Zoe stood, but not in time to hide the flash of pain in her eyes. “You’ll let me know when we get there?”

Mal nodded. Zoe’s grief had the unfortunate result of making him feel less than adequate. All the history they had between them and he still couldn’t manage to come up with any kind of comforting words. It was easier in the war, losing people together. Gave them a bond, a reason to drink too much and curse too much.

He dropped his hand onto River’s shoulder. “You did good.”

She beamed. “I know, Captain.”

“Should put on a sweater or somethin,’ girl. It’s cold in here.”

“Only going to get colder.”

“Yeah, be just our luck,” Mal said. “Where’s your brother?”

“Sleeping. Surgery makes him tired.”

“Well, then.” Mal turned to Jayne. “Find our pilot some warmer clothes, will you? Girl’s got a long trip ahead of her.”

Jayne narrowed his eyes. “Clothes? Girl gets to drive this boat and I get clothes?”

“Jayne, when I give orders on my boat, I expect ‘em to be followed, you got that?”

Jayne grumbled, but obeyed. Mal dropped into the co-pilot’s chair.

“You seem to have things under control, lil’ albatross.”

“I do,” River said simply.

“Well… good. You keep goin’ then.” River’s face scrunched up as she concentrated. Serenity’s engine seemed to obey to her every whim. “And… uh, I’m here if you need help.”

***

When Inara opened her eyes, her head felt clearer, less muddled. She was surprised to find that she wasn’t in any pain. There was only a faint itch, trapped below a bandage wrapped around her stomach.

“Heya, Inara.”

Kaylee’s beaming face came into focus. Inara took a quick look around—she was still in the infirmary. Simon was in the corner, sorting through his cabinets. Kaylee was by her bedside, a smudge of engine grease on her cheek, making her eyes shine brighter.

Inara tried to tell herself she wasn’t looking for Mal. And if she was, then she was certainly not upset to find him gone. The man had no tie to her, of course. It was perfectly in his rights to come and go as he chose.

“Kaylee,” Inara said, smiling. “How are you, sweetie?”

“Better than ever,” she chirped. “Simon says you’re just about ready to move on out of here. Your shuttle’ll ‘prolly be the best place for recovery, anyhows, what with your great big comfy bed and all. Infirmary ain’t exactly the best place on Serenity for the good old R and R.”

“No, that it isn’t,” Inara said. “But I don’t find it nearly as bad as some.”

She and Kaylee shared a smile.

“That’s only ‘cause you ain’t been here as much as the others,” Kaylee said. “Jayne gets all twitchy every time he walks by. Blames it on his bladders or some such thing, but we all know the truth of it.”

Simon came closer while the girls were talking, surreptitiously sliding a needle into Inara’s arm. Inara pretended she didn’t notice. Needles she could handle.

“Where… where is everyone?” Inara asked. “It seems quieter than usual.”

“Oh,” Kaylee rolled her eyes. “Cap’n had to go crawling back to Badger practically beggin’ for a job. Out there now, stealin’ some important thing. River’s with ‘em. Shouldn’t take long.”

Inara glanced at Simon. His jaw clenched at the mention of his sister’s name, but he focused on the needle in Inara’s arm.

“Oh?” Inara said. “Mal doesn’t really strike me as the begging type.”

“No, he surely ain’t,” Kaylee said. “But we’re in a bit of a rough… well, we’re in need of some fuel now, is all. Cap’n had to do what he sees as best, I reckon.”

“Because of me,” Inara said, “because I was—”

“Inara, no one’s blamin’ you for that!” Kaylee said, alarmed. “Not your fault Niska’s a ruttin’ bastard!”

“Besides,” Simon said, smiling thinly. “Everyone’s blaming Mal for that, anyway.”

“They are, are they?” Inara said.

“That ain’t so!” Kaylee said, shooting Simon a warning look. “We’re blamin’ nobody, Inara. Niska’s the only one at fault here.”

Most of us aren’t blaming either of you,” Simon said quickly. “But if you’d like my advice, it might be wise to stay clear of Jayne for a few days.”

Inara smiled. “I might take you up on that.”

“So, Dr. Tam, she all set?” Kaylee said. “Everythin’s shiny, ain’t it?”

Inara raised her eyebrows. “Doctor? Will I live?”

“Another day at least,” Simon said dryly. “Hard to say for sure, though, on a ship like this.”

“Simon!” Kaylee said. “That ain’t true! Hell, we been all the way to Reaver space and back. I’d say Serenity can get us through near anythin’ at all!”

“It’s probably best not to test that theory,” Inara said.

“Agreed,” Simon said. He relaxed and removed his gloves. “You’ve recovered remarkably well, Inara.”

“Well, you’re a fine doctor, Simon. Thank you.”

“I’m recommending another week or so of bed-rest. Should I lecture you on the dangers of pushing yourself?”

“Ahh, no,” Inara said. “I think it’s safe to say we can skip that one. I’ll look after myself.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a more cooperative patient,” Simon said. “Usually they carry-on so.”

“Cap’n’s always been a bit of a baby,” Kaylee said, pulling a face. “Never much liked to be prodded at.”

Inara laughed—and immediately regretted it.

“Ow,” she said.

Kaylee and Simon each patted her on the shoulder.

“You were awfully brave, Inara, what with bein’ captured and all,” Kaylee said. “Cap’n thinks so too.”

Inara rolled his eyes. “For all the help I was.”

“You never panicked,” Simon said. “That’s important. I remember with River, when I… well, it seemed worse afterwards. It was almost like I was storing the panic up, waiting until it was safe to indulge in it again.”

“Aww, Simon, that was almost poetic-like,” Kaylee said, beaming proudly. A moment later she jumped, hand going to the communicator in her pocket.

“Jayne! How’s the crime go—” Kaylee frowned. “No problem, tell the Cap’n we’ll be landin’ in a moment, won’t take long at all.”

“Things are going smoothly, I take it?” Simon said dryly.

“Everything’s fine, not to worry…” Kaylee said, bounding out of the infirmary. “Just in need of a quick takeoff, is all.”

Simon sighed. “Life will never get boring for us, will it?”

“Not even a small chance,” Inara said.

“Inara, can I ask…” Simon rubbed at the back of his neck. “Why did you choose to stay? The Training House, it’s not near as dangerous as life out here.”

Inara gave herself time to think. “I’m afraid I don’t have much of an answer for you. At least, not one that will make much sense.” She paused. “Why have you and River chosen to stay?”

His answer was a self-defeated shrug.

Inara knew they understood each other perfectly.

COMMENTS

Friday, February 3, 2006 7:19 PM

2X2


Loved this part!!
Mal waitin' by Inara's side, and Inara trying to pretend to herself she isn't lookin' for Mal when she wakes up, or disappointed he isn't there...
Great moment between Inara and Simon at the end too, with them understanding each other perfectly...
Keep it coming, please!!

Saturday, February 4, 2006 12:54 AM

ARCADIA


Glad to see that Inara is okay... I have a soft spot for her her River... they are my favorates. :-) You're doing well. Keep up the good word.

Saturday, February 4, 2006 1:35 AM

AMDOBELL


Nice to see that Inara is out of the woods though not so good that Niska isn't dead. Love the way Mal and Inara are *still* dancing around each other but hope it won't stop them drawing closer. Love how Serenity is home to all of them now. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, February 4, 2006 5:53 AM

SYZG


*big shiny eyes*

loved seeing Mal at 'Nara's bedside. Damn that Niska character...doom shall ensue. Poor Jayne...not even allowed to drive...

syzg

Sunday, February 5, 2006 12:05 PM

TAYEATRA


All together now:

Aww...


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