Six Weeks To Safety
Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Companion to "Conversation with Inara". The latest installment in the series.


Disclaimer: The characters are not mine, I earned no recompense from the writing. Don't sue.

It was a beautiful summer morning, hangovers notwithstanding. Wedding parties could be dragged out for up to two weeks, and this one was looking like it was going for the long haul. The Frye family was sprawling, and distant relatives were still pouring in to take shifts at the buffet four days after the ceremony. The bride and groom had wondered aloud, to themselves anyway, if anyone would even notice if they left entirely. The new husband was sick of hearing what a nice tan he had. He’d stopped peeling at least, as his wife pointed out. If there was a bright side, Kaylee was sure to find it.

******* Mal walked in to the galley from the bridge. “Just got a wave from our old friend Larry. Seems the market’s ready to sop up some of our supply again. Should be a quick trip to Haven then swing out that away. Quick pocket money all round. Doc, you have any honeymoon specifics yet or are we free to do business?” Jayne was looking like he was not planning on coming off siesta any time soon. “Could just let the women make the run.” Mal paused a moment, then discarded the idea. “They’d be apt to clean the ship on us, state they’re in. Belike to paint it all frilly. “ “Pink slipcovers for all Jayne’s guns?” Simon suggested. Jayne winced. “Better go along.” Mal decided they were in agreement on that point. “Simon, you get to tell Kaylee. I’d planned to leave three-day if you can get away from the festivities, like to take a week at a gentle cruise. No hurry.” Simon stared at him. “You think just because we’re married she won’t get mad at me? Maybe I can talk her into honeymooning closer in to the Core.” Mal chuckled. “Better steamed you than broiled me. I’ll go tell the others. If I can find them.” Simon stood up. “Zoe’s on board, we can try the Frye residence for the rest.” Jayne failed to move. “I’m just gonna set a spell. Loud bunch of hens in that place.” Mal grinned. “All turned you down?” Jayne winced. “Pretty much, ‘cept for the big one with the squint and the beard, and I weren’t offering.” Simon was aghast. “Cousin Zelda’s married to Big Melvin.” Jayne just shivered at the memory. “Weren’t going to stop her none. Enough to shrivel your cod.” The other two men shuddered agreement at the thought, then started on their way to town. *******

Zoe found Jayne sitting on the ramp, repeatedly tossing a knife into the ground just within arm’s reach. She sat down near him, facing the same direction, and began idly plucking at the grass. “Taking up gardening?” “Man needs a hobby.” “You’re all broody looking. What’s got your brow in a crease?” “Thinkin’.” “About?” “Stuff.” “People stuff or stuff stuff?” “Both. “ “Powerful lot of thinking.” “Yep. “ “Nice wedding.” “Yep.” “Kaylee looked pretty.” “She did.” “Simon looked..well, he looked like he was in pain.” “He surely did.” “We shouldn’t laugh.” “Why not?” “Bad karma or something, I think.” “They looked happy.” “They did at that.” She paused a moment. “Do you ever want something more?” “F’rinstance?” “Oh, I don’t know.. job security, a pension, the likelihood that you’ll live to collect a pension?” “Not interested in punchin’ a time card for thirty years then starvin’ for another thirty.” “All right then, how about family?” “Got one, write ‘em regular.” “Not just parents and sibs, not that that’s not plenty. I was talking about one of your own.” “Naw. Gotta worry ‘bout feedin ‘em. Keepin ‘em safe. I surely do not envy the Captain ‘bout now. Got himself in a right jar of cabbage.” He paused to look at her belly. “No offense.” “None taken. I’m sharing his picklement. Walked in with my eyes wide open. You ever want something so badly you’d kill for it?” “Every payday.” She laughed. “Forgot who I was talking with.” “If’n you meant somebody, answer’s no.” “Not even once?” “Come close, not yet.” “Mm. Lack of time, or worried it’s not worth the bother?” “Can’t seem to stick around long enough to find out. Miight not live long enough to make it worth her while, whoever she is. Isn’t. What ever.” “Theoretical women more bother than real ones?” “Real ones are simple, pay ‘em and push.” “Smash and grab more your style?” “It’s a living.” “Is it a life?” “’S my life.” “It is at that. You ever run across her, you be sure to grab her and hold on for all you’re worth.” “Just have to let go again when we break atmo.” “Short joy’s better than none at all. You might be surprised what a woman can be happy with, not just willing to settle for. Keep your eyes open, never can tell when you’ll trip right over her.” “Captain found Shanty in a bar.” “QBG found Mal in a bar. He found her on his ship.” “What’s the difference?” She stood up, dusted off her backside and turned to him. “She was looking, he wasn’t. Took him a little longer, that’s all. Like I said, keep your eyes open. “ “I’ll keep it in mind.” “Best leave you to your thoughts. Thanks for listening.” “Sure thi..what?” “Discord and confusion, my work here is done.” “Anybody ever tell you you’re evil?” “Only third Tuesdays.” As she waddled off, they were both thinking how happy they were not to be the other.

***** Zoe stood rooted to the spot as she tried to make sense of what her brain was telling her. Instinct screamed trouble, but it made no sense. The young woman had called out to Inara in a friendly enough voice. Zoe had barely registered it. Habit make her look up at any new input in her environment. Inara turned smiling, expecting a friend or new acquaintance. Then the smile faltered as the girl stepped out from the hedge at the side of the road. Zoe’s brain registered the pattern as “weapon” as the girl brought it up and fired. Too late. Zoe had only paused in disbelief for three seconds, trying to make sense of it. The girl was screaming now. “He’s mine! You can’t take him, whore! Mine! My Man!” The stranger was standing over Inara now, kicking her, aiming to fire again.. this time point blank. Zoe hit her with a flying tackle, her body finally having decided her mind was somewhere else. She clubbed the girl unconscious with her own weapon and started calling for help. Adrenaline was obscuring sensation, but she was fairly certain she’d felt something twang when she’d landed. Not good, not good at all. Zoe rose and turned. They were only few dozen yards or so from the ship. The crew had been returning for a siesta after lunch, bellies full, minds elsewhere. She saw Jazmine crouched over Inara, doing something to her head and shouting orders at River, who wheeled and ran into Serenity. Simon had been further back, straggling with Kaylee and was just now running to help. Mal stood like stone, pale as boiled cabbage and almost as green, just staring at the scene. River had returned within seconds, carrying Simon’s case which she opened and dropped at his side, then raced back to the ship, presumably to summon help. Onlookers were starting to scream and shout for an ambulance. Jazmine was covered in blood, the ground was red where Inara had fallen. Simon was frantically injecting things into the injured woman, syringe after syringe, holding an IV bag in one hand above his head and using his teeth to uncap as he went. Zoe started towards them wondering why his nurse wasn’t helping, then realizing as she reached to take the bag of fluids from the doctor that Jazmine’s hands were busy keeping pressure on several wounds. She’d even employed elbow and knees in an attempt to stanch the bleeding. One hand was essentially holding Inara’s head together and keeping an airway open, no easy task when the jaw would rather just drop to the ground. Zoe hadn’t seen anything like this since the war, or at least not anything anyone was trying to save. The local trauma team’s response time was not bad, but it was a long subjective seven minutes until their arrival. Simon and Jazmine let the medics take over and bundle their fallen friend into the waiting floater. It took less than two minutes for the transfer, but that still left another ten precious minutes to the hospital. Simon’s offer to ride along and assist was politely declined. River pulled up on the mule and all but Simon, Jazmine and Jayne climbed in. The former two knew they could be of no further use for a while. The best thing they could do was get out of their blood soaked things and meet the others at the hospital. The latter because he’d been inside and was still unaware of what had transpired. Inara’s attacker had been taken away by the local authorities. It had taken every ounce of self control Mal had to not shoot her on the spot, unconscious and unarmed though she was. The law could sort it all out later, she wasn’t going anywhere for now, and Inara was. One glance at his face was all River needed to decide that the wisest course was to move over and let him drive. Jazmine moved to press his arm in reassurance, then stopped when she realized there was no way to touch him without leaving a trail of blood and other substances. He met her eyes and nodded “We’ll see you there”, then they were gone. Jayne was just coming out from his bunk when he met Simon heading to the infirmary to clean and stow his equipment. Jazmine had gone off in search of a change of clothing and what would basically amount to a full bath in as little time as possible. Simon had been spared the worst of the initial bleeding,so he scrubbed up quickly and appraised Jayne of events while he changed into fresh clothes. They waved for a ride to the hospital and met Jazmine at the airlock. Jazmine motioned Jayne closer with an order of “Sniff, do I still smell like blood?” Jayne obliged. “Naw, Doc neither”. She breathed a sigh of relief. Simon noted that their ride had arrived, so they piled into the waiting vehicle and sped off. “No blood?” she repeated. The mercenary considered for a moment, then declared “Whiffs like a bowl of fruit exploded.”

***** They had been holding vigil for almost two hours in the waiting room. Simon and Jayne had gone off in search of coffee and food. Zoe was pacing the floor. River was circumnavigating the room, inspecting the artwork and pausing intermittently to listen to something unseen. Mal was seated with Jazmine and Kaylee on either side of him, A hand in each of theirs. Kaylee was patting his hand, Jazmine just gently resting her head on his shoulder. He looked at his pilot thoughtfully, then gave a chuckle that had nothing to do with joy. “One down, one to go.” Jazmine raised her head, puzzled. “What?” “Nothing” he replied, then buried his nose in her hair for a moment, bouncing their hands on his leg. River paused in front of them. She held her left kidney, nudged Jazmine and tipped her head at Zoe, who had paused in much the same attitude. Jazmine murmured “Is that what I think it is?” River nodded. “Shit. Thanks Sweetling, at least somebody’s still paying attention around here.” “You have been slightly distracted, but it is understandable.” “Understandable but inexcusable, thanks. Go fetch your brother.” She spoke in a louder voice ” Zoe dear, you need to sit down for a few minutes.” Mal sat up “What’s wrong?”. Jaz answered him quietly ”Not sure yet, maybe nothing.” She looked across the room and asked “How long have you been getting that backache?” The object of their attention looked up as she took a seat. “Since we got here on and off. Hit pretty hard when I landed, must have pulled something.” ““Most likely you’re right, but we should have someone check it out. Have you noticed how often it’s happening?” Jazmine continued. “This is probably the third time, why?”. “Just a natural worrier. Still can’t hurt to make sure everything’s in working order.” was the best attempt at evasion Jazmine found she could muster at the moment. She was kicking herself for not having given the other woman a thorough examination earlier. She’d seen the takedown, heard the impact on the ground. Her head was definitely not where it ought to be right now. She looked up as Simon returned, relieved that there was another pair of eyes that knew what to look for. He’d put on his best cheerful business manner as soon as he saw her face, and turned to face the woman who was probably going into premature labor. “So, Zoe. Tell me about this pain in your back”. Zoe met his eyes, looked pointedly at Mal glanced at Jayne, then raised her eyebrow and countered “Which one?”.

****** Three hours later Zoe had been admitted to the maternity ward for observation, where she was receiving drugs to stop her contractions. She’d been promised a discharge in a few hours if she agreed to maintain strict bedrest under the supervision of her regular doctor. She advised them she would agree to paint herself blue and sing naked in front of the night shift at the docks if it meant not spending another minute under that roof. Simon assured his fellow physician he would go buy the paint directly to ensure her good behavior. Meanwhile everyone had been informed by the trauma surgeon that Inara was alive and in stable condition, though still sedated to the point of unconsciousness. They were allowed to peek through the glass walls of the unit at the form on the bed. Her head was swathed in bandaging, and the tubing that helped her stay alive looked like some kind of demented macramé, but she was breathing visibly. It was all the reassurance they could have, but it was enough for now. It would have to be.


Jayne broke the silence around the table. “Her whorin’ days are over, that’s for sure.” They had just seen Inara during a dressing change. The damage from head to shoulder was...impressive. Simon paused, then cleared his throat. ”Not...necessarily.” Jayne stared at him in disbelief. “ Who’s gonna want her missin’ half her face? Looks like a gorram reaver.” Simon directed his next comments to the room. “The damage can be repaired. Possibly fully. There are some amazing plastic surgeons practicing in the hub. Some more legitimately than others. One of the doctors here can refer her to on of the truly talented physicians there. I can give them a few names to try. I’d wave myself, but that would draw undesired attention. Mal stopped pacing and gave him a level stare. “You’re for serious here?” Simon nodded and spoke slowly. “It would take months for her recovery. Tissue cultured for autologous grafts, synthetic matrices to be replaced by the slow process of ossification, soft tissue to be regenerated then toned, and new skin to be integrated. The innervation would be the real challenge: sensation and control. One wrong connection and she could be left with a very bad twitch, or an extremely limited repertoire of expression..either would be devastating to her career.” Jayne looked around the room, then asked “Was that a yes?” Simon gave him an impassive glance “Next time I’ll grunt twice for no”. He returned his attention to the crew. “Time is an issue. If she waits too long the healing will start without benefit of medical guidance. The surgeons would have to undo whatever repairs her body makes on its own. It could greatly reduce the level of achievable success.” Mal asked “How much time are we talking here, Doc, weeks wise?” Simon shook his head “More like days. She’ll need to leave as soon as she’s stable enough to move. That should be by week’s end, from what I’m hearing.” Mal paused a moment. “We should still be able to make Larry’s run if we leave now. Hard burn to Haven and back in four, maybe five days.” River looked startled, closed her eyes, then opened them and nodded. “Hard burn indeed, better start plotting.” and she was off to the charts. Kaylee spoke up. “You sure Cap’n?” Mal turned to her “Can she handle it?” “Should do.” she said. He turned away “Then I’m sure. Shanty, you’re staying with Zoe. Everybody else make ready.” The crew moved to make haste. Jazmine paused to place a hand on his back “I’ll just grab a few things, then be on my way. Ma Frye will be thrilled at another pair of hands, and Zoe will appreciate the distraction. Of attention away from her, that is. I’ll let Inara know the plan when they take her off sedation.” Mal turned to her. “I need someone to be there to..” She interrupted him with a finger to his lips. “It’s the logical decision. I’m the most expendable crew member right now and you need all your worries in one place. You’ll just appreciate my cooking all the more by trip’s end.” He gave a wry smile. “Good chance to see what kind of mileage River gets on that noggin walking of hers.” Jaz looked at him playfully. “We could just wave, you know”. “My way’s more fun.” He nodded, then kissed her forehead. “Got all manner of important Captainy stuff to do in a hurry.” She smiled at him and started for her cabin “You can make it up to me later, go. Shoo.” He started for the bridge. “Now if I can just keep Simon out of the engine room so’s Kaylee minds her work we might not explode”.

***** Jazmine was sitting at Zoe’s bedside. She’d brought a few things from the ship to keep the other woman occupied during her period of bedrest. Ma Frye had insisted that Zoe stay under her roof until she was deemed out of the woods. Jazmine was doing her best to refrain from untangling the balls (more wodges really) of yarn. It was almost painful for her. Zoe would need all the distractions she could find. Zoe looked up from the bag of sundries. “So that’s the plan?” “That’s the plan.” Jazmine affirmed. “How is Inara?” “Doctors are hopeful. She’ll live, no doubt. Not sure how much can be fixed. It wasn’t just her head took a beating.. neck, shoulder, part of her chest and arm. Neural scans look good. No signs of damage to her brain, which is astonishing really. There were bone fragments everywhere. If she’d been just a little closer or hadn’t been turned just so we’d have lost her for sure. If ever a surgeon wanted a challenge, restoring Inara to full function would be it. Make or break a career, that one. Good enough job and they’ll net the whole Guild for clients. More luck to the Docs tough, nothing less than a complete success will do.” Zoe snorted. “I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to hear that when she wakes up.” Jazmine nodded. “Mmmph”. She paused for a moment, as if deliberating “Have I thanked you?” “For?” “Saving her. I’m not sure how many more people under his care he can lose before it crushes him. Crew or no, he feels a weighty responsibility for anyone on board.” Zoe looked her in the eyes for a moment, then away. “He does at that. I might say the same to you. Wasn’t thinking of him when I reacted.” It was Jazmine’s turn to snort. “Neither was I, but everything ripples out.” “Just so.” There was a moment of quiet, and Zoe continued. “Heard about the girl?” Jazmine nodded. “Locked up for her own safety. Ma Frye’s fit to kill her for putting a damper on the festivities. Thinks it’s a shame about Inara, too. Don’t think anything would have saved that girl if it had happened under Ma’s roof. Hospitality is taken very seriously here.” Zoe gave a rueful smile. “I’ve noticed. Bad enough I’m stuck in bed, but our hostess tries to stuff me with one more plate of food, I’m like to explode. Almost died of shock when I got three hours at a stretch alone last night.” The other woman laughed. “Enjoy the fussing now, your turn’s coming soon enough.” Zoe shook her head. “Six weeks to safety”. Jazmine held up a finger in correction. “Minimum. Simon says to push it as long as we can. You’re the best cooker for those dumplings.” Zoe rolled her eyes and groaned mockingly. “Six weeks of Ma Frye’s cooking? I’ll BE a dumpling by then.” Jazmine patted her hand. “I’ll tell her HerSonInLawTheDoctor says you need peace and quiet, minimal stimulation.” Zoe raised an eyebrow. “Don’t overdo it. I’ll die of boredom.” Jazmine looked pointedly at the shifting mass under the covers. “Now how can you be bored with your own private kickboxing tournament?” Zoe put a hand to the entertainment in question and sighed. “Bored, no. Uncomfortable, yes.” “It’s bittersweet to have your body all to yourself again.” Jazmine said, patting her own bulge. Zoe looked her in the eye and said with a wry grin “I’ll be sure to remind you of that.” Jazmine chuckled. They sat quietly for a few moments lost in thought. Then Jazmine broke the silence. “They should be breaking atmo in a few minutes. We’ll probably hear it from here. River takes off like gravity is a personal insult.” Zoe shook her head. “Better her than the captain. There’s nothing like a good pilot.” Jazmine joined in with her on ”and he’s nothing like a good pilot.” The ship’s cook stood up with a creak and a groan. ”Well, I’d better go see if Inara’s awake yet. She should have someone familiar around until she gets used to the situation. Better me than Jayne. I’ll let her know that people have been making decisions for her in her absence.” Zoe eased back into the pillows and picked up a book. “She’ll be furious. Probably jump clear out of bed and storm out”. Jazmine turned towards the door. “ We encourage patients to get up and move around as soon as they’re able. I’ll toss her an intern, they’re high in fiber.” Zoe smiled. “Not very filling though. I didn’t know they were disposable”. Jazmine winked at her. “ Le se, really. One step above nursing students. Survival of the fittest. If they live, they’ve probably found their niche.” She paused in closing the door and leaned on the frame. “What in twenty hells was that thing, anyway?” Zoe looked out the window. “Not sure. Looked home made, whatever it was. Girl was sloppy.” “Lucky for Inara.” “Lucky for us all.


Mal sat on the bridge, lost in thought, watching as the world fell away beneath him. He turned as it registered that River had spoken to him. “Mwha?” River gave him a look. “Very articulate.” He gave her a lopsided grin. “Well, I’m not known for my speeches”. River shook her head. “That’s for sure. I said they’ll be fine”. He returned to looking out the window. “Mm.” She finished the flight sequence and set Serenity on auto pilot, then turned to face him. “Your concerns are valid, and not entirely unfounded, but they are needless. Gather your wits. They’ll be fine.” Mal looked at her carefully. Her face was wide open, smiling. She sounded so certain of herself. He desperately hoped she was right. The captain stood up, shaking off his worries for the moment. Time to get focused on matters at hand. Time to do the job. River turned from watching him as he moved to exit. “That’s much better.” She recieved a loud raspberry in reply.


Wednesday, November 8, 2006 1:57 PM


Scandalous lack of Mandarin!

Wednesday, November 8, 2006 2:55 PM


I enjoyed that. There are so many different story lines going out here (mine included) it's tough to keep up with all the different characters :-)

That said, what I liked was a lot of dialogue. As important as narrative is (and it is) dialogue enables you to show-don't-tell.

Thursday, November 9, 2006 10:29 AM


Very good but what a shock for that to happen to Inara, the one person whose whole living depends upon her faultless beauty and companion training. And Jayne, could he be more tactless, though I don't think he meant anything unkind by it, just speaking first without engaging thought. I sure hope they find a gifted plastic surgeon and hope that the job goes well. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, November 10, 2006 4:41 PM


Ya know....Joss would have done this, given half a chance. Started Mal and Inara down a seemingly happy road, then had some jealous spouse or girlfriend take an antique hunting shotgun to Inara's upper torso, before the recovery arc and Inara's withdrawal emotionally. That would have led into some cracking episodes exploring Inara's options and future if she couldn't be an active Companion. Oh...and the unexpected death of Mal when things looked good again;)

A-1 stuff, stinkingrose! While it's a narative step back (since you covered Inara's recovery somewhat in a previous chpater), it definitely helps flesh out (bad pun, I know) what the hell happened:)



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Flying The Coop
The landscape's changing. Serenity's moving on. They'll all be fine.

Garden, With Cakes
Integrating Inara's storyline with other stuff going on. Still sticking to my own little corner of the 'Verse.

Child's Play
Moving the plot along.

Cold Sweat
Short installment in the biggish darned series.

Road Trip
Getting antsy. Jayne hits a house of ill repute and several people. Neither of these events is described in detail.

Imbalance of Power
This is a setup.

Lonesome Albatross
Sniff sniff...sob. Teenage angst. Also flying bullets.

Love Nuns
Serenity returns to Copia. Mal faces the music. Half naked men wrestling.

Big Rosie
Back story for the 76th.

Come The Ressurrection
Fairly short (for me). He's baack!