Tea: Chamomile Ginger
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

When Kaylee came back with spare parts, she also came back with a sniffle. The crew finds some comfort amidst the cold.


Pairing: canon pairings; Mal/Inara, with some River/Jayne if you squint hard enough Rating: PG Word Count: 1660 Genre: general fluff Spoilers: set before “Serenity” the movie Disclaimer: Firefly and Serenity belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. No copyright infringement is intended, and no profit is being made. Comments: The inspiration came after my own bout of flu, and a particularly harrowing eighteen hours of being bed-ridden. Thanks to my beta-readers Enkanowen and Sorsha, who made sure that it wasn’t entirely feverish dribble.


When Kaylee came back from the scrapyard, she brought back spare parts that could be jury-rigged to outfit other parts of the ship. She also brought back a sniffle. It was hardly noticeable at first, then it came with a dry cough. Then River started to sniffle.

The cold spread rapidly through the ship. As Serenity really was a small ship, it was hardly surprising. Simon used what he had in the infirmary to treat the growing number of patients, but his supplies were short, and they were already a week away from a planet where they could replenish. Between Kaylee and River, he was worried about keeping their temperatures down, and their nutrient stores up. Kaylee was the sweeter of the patients: quiet, still, and accepting of Simon's treatment with a weak smile. River was another matter, as she always is.

“Ring around the rosey, a pocket full of posies...” River sing-songed, as Simon tried to corral her to her bunk. She continued to evade him, spinning out around the kitchen table and into the crash room in a feverish haze.

“River, please go lie down. Your fever is rising – ”

“They all fall down,” she finished. “A nursery rhyme from Earth-That-Was, rumoured to be about the Bubonic Plague. A misconception.” She slumped onto the couch, limbs sprawled and loose.

Simon knelt in front of her, his hand already reaching up to her forehead. “Have you finally worn yourself out?” he chided. “You don't have the plague. It's a standard virus, and it will only pass if you go lie down.”

River clutched at his hand and pulled it away from her face. “Geese cannot travel back in time,” she said earnestly, her wide eyes staring into the middle ground. “Not even the Mother.”

Jayne clomped into the room, scowling. “She done singing yet, doc? 'Cause I've got my dose of crazy for today.”

River looked up at Jayne, and smiled the same weak smile that Kaylee had been displaying. “The knight is here to take the girl to her chambers.” She stretched out her arms to him. “Sleeping Beauty needs to rest.”

Simon and Jayne exchanged a confused glance. “I'm not sure she'd go by herself, so if you don't mind – ”

“You askin' me to take your meìmeì to her bunk?” Jayne answered with a sideways grin that always managed to look dirty. At the doctor's widened eyes and horrorstruck expression, Jayne rolled his eyes. “I'll put her to bed proper, doc. Don't get your knickers twisted about it.” He leaned over the couch, where a gleeful River wrapped her arms around Jayne's neck, and he picked her up the rest of the way. “I'll act every bit the gorram gentleman,” he muttered as he carried her out of the room. Simon took a moment to marvel at the gentleness he had just witnessed, then shook his head to rid himself of thoughts of his sister and that great ape of a man.

It wasn’t long before Jayne came into the infirmary muttering about “Crazy sharing this hundan cold, gorram it to hell,” and a mixture of English and Chinese cussing that made Simon blush. He gave him what vitamins he could, and wished him well. Jayne’s parting words weren’t as friendly.

Next to catch the cold was Wash. He still insisted on piloting the ship for a while, until Zoe caught him babbling about meteors, and realized he wasn't making his dinosaurs talk. She bundled her husband off to bed, where he made hopeful but somewhat plaintive requests for ‘wife soup.’ With Wash out of commission, and River beyond her usual delirium, Mal went to pilot his ship.

Book had also been administering to the crew, with stories and fetching cool cloths to place on their foreheads. He soon took ill himself, and came knocking on Inara’s shuttle door. “Do you have anything in your stores for the common cold?” he asked, his voice resonating in the cozy shuttle.

Inara smiled, and waved him in. “I was just about to make some tea,” she said, picking up her teapot and bringing it over to the small wooden case that held various herbs and spices. “I think maybe I should make enough for the crew.” She selected some tiny dried white flowers and a bit of ginger, and put a handful in the pot. They walked out of the shuttle together, and made for the kitchen.

The kettle boiled, the water was poured, and the tea steeped. Inara and Book had settled into a comfortable silence, as she waited for the brew to reach the right colour, and he gathered cups and placed them on the table. Book then went to rouse the patients from their bunks. It wasn’t long before the aroma of the chamomile-ginger blend filled the kitchen, and River and Kaylee shuffled in. Jayne dragged his feet, sleep lines softly etched in his face as he swiped a hand across his eyes. The four cold-ridden crew members gathered around the table, and were soon clutching a cup of soothing tea.

Zoe came in next, grabbing a cup from the shelf and giving a small smile to Inara before pouring some tea for Wash. “He’s still feverish, and shouldn’t be wandering about yet,” she explained, trying her best to remain stoic, though no one was fooled.

Inara sneezed. This startled the sleepy crew members, as it did her. She had been vaccinated against every known illness in the ‘Verse. She shouldn’t be sick. She can’t be sick. She had an appointment in a week, and she needed to be absolutely free of illness for her appointments. It would not do for a Companion to infect a client, especially a new one. Her rising panic had her excuse herself hurriedly to the crew as she rushed to her shuttle. She searched through her vitamin stash, and could only find two multitabs left. Of course. The moment she forgot to stock up last time they were planetside, and it’s the moment she really needed them.

Inara secluded herself in her shuttle for the next two days. The cold got worse, and Simon came to visit once before she insisted he leave before he gets ill as well. Her fever spiked and she had been in a cycle of fitful sleep and wakefulness for at least ten hours, when a knock sounded at the door. She opened her eyes blearily as she saw Mal poke his head in. “‘Nara? You awake?”

“In a manner of speaking,” she managed, her throat raw from coughing and disuse. “You almost have that ‘knocking before entering’ thing down pat,” she added, a corner of her mouth turning up.

“Well, near as I figure, if you got the same thing the rest of my crew does, your voice ain’t ready to be singing out.” He entered the room, and she saw he was carrying a steaming bowl. “‘Sides, if you’re still cracking jokes, I reckon you’re not on the edge of your deathbed.” He placed the bowl on her bedside table, and stood beside it. He crossed his arms, then uncrossed them and settled for placing his hands on his hips. “Are you, you know, feeling better?”

Inara shrugged, and pushed herself up to lean on her pillows. “I’m better than I was about two hours ago, which isn’t much.” She glanced over at the bowl. “Did you bring me soup?”

“I did,” he replied, gingerly sitting on the edge of the bed. “Zoe made some for Wash. I guess his constant moaning about ‘wife soup’ is what did it. Now eat, afore it gets cold.” He held up the bowl to her, and she took it gratefully. The soup was mostly protein bits floating in an unrecognizable broth, but it was hot and tasted decent, and Inara hadn’t had much to eat in the last day. She sighed contentedly and placed the half-empty bowl on the table.

“Thank you Mal, that was very kind of you,” she ran her hands over the bedclothes, and had a worrying thought. “I must look a fright. I haven’t looked in a mirror in two days– ”

“You look beautiful,” he murmured, reaching a hand up to her hair and smoothing a few strands away from her face. He stopped, and pulled his hand back quickly. “You know it weren’t nothing. Soup was already made and all.” Mal stood, and strode the few steps to the tea case in the corner. “Now, how do you make that tea you fed the crew the other day?”

He may have been speaking all business, but Inara knew better. As much as she had been trained to read people, Malcolm Reynolds often left her at a loss. He was an enigma for sure, and his mood tended to change around her more frequently than around anyone else on the ship. Sometimes he liked to goad her into an argument; sometimes she welcomed it. Inara was still at war about her feelings for him, but she did know his kindness and sincerity here were genuine. She smiled and began to get out of bed. “I can make my own tea, Mal.”

“‘Course you can. Any other time but this one.” He fixed her with a look that clearly said ‘stay put.’ “I only ask one thing in return.”

“And what’s that?”

“That you make the tea for me when I come down with the cold.” He smiled at her over his shoulder as he opened the tea case, and Inara smiled at him in return. It was the little things like these that made her wonder about Mal, and about how much of him was bluster and show. It was also nice to be the one being nurtured for once. Inara leaned back on her pillows, and thought about the man in front of her, cussing over the measurement of the herbs in the teapot. Maybe being sick isn’t as bad as she thought it could be.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008 4:14 PM


How sweet - who would have expected wonderful Mal/Inara fluff during the heighth of cold and flu season? Loved how everybody dealt with the bug in true character. Loved your description of Mal's mercurial temperament. Nice work!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008 10:48 PM


So a sequel? Come on, you have to have Mal coming down with the cold, and being a worse patient than anyone, until Inara comes calling with the tea, and she manages to calm him down. Please?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008 10:52 PM


Damn fine M/I fluff.Thank you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008 11:37 PM


Mal with a cold would be pathetic. Definitely a man-flu sufferer, if he thought he could get away with it. Actually, though, I think the worst would be Simon. Ever tried to convince a doctor that they are sick and need to slow down?

Friday, March 28, 2008 4:22 AM


Wonderfully written


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Tea: Darjeeling
River’s tap on the shuttle door was unexpected, as was her request.Continuation of the Tea series.

Tea: Chamomile Ginger
When Kaylee came back with spare parts, she also came back with a sniffle. The crew finds some comfort amidst the cold.