In The Ether 2: Flimsy Coverings
Thursday, March 23, 2006

Zoe trades in the pilot for the doctor. Inara and Zoe share a moment, and Kaylee has way too much fun building Simon a cover story.


A/N: I still don't own them.

This is getting odder by the day here. I keep trying to write more descriptive text, but the characters won't shut up. Oh well. Eventually all my fic will be gigantic blocks of dialogue with no narration at all.

I think I need medication.

For those of you who read Part 1, please re-read the last section of it again, as I made some small changes that come up towars the end of this one.


"Attention assorted crew, passengers and probable stowaways, this is your pilot speaking. We are currently traveling at a ludicrous rate of speed while approaching our arrival on Verbena. Given that our last landing on a Core world involved an unacceptable amount of gunfire, I feel it necessary to inform you of our emergency procedures."

"Just land the ship, Wash."

"No, wait. This is important. While we expect to have the usual rough touchdown followed by heavy cursing from our mechanic, it is possible things will not go smooth."

"Well, won't that be a surprise?"

"Mal, this is my speech. Butt out. Do I tell you how to captain?"

"All the gorram time."

"Ahem. In the event of a water landing, please note that your crewmates may be used as a flotation device. There will be no beverage service, as the Captain is a cheap bastard who won't spring for beer. At this time it is customary to turn on the fasten-seatbelt light and have our passengers return to their assigned seats, but since we have neither a light nor seats, please grab something large and dense - like Jayne - and hang on for dear life."

"Hey! You ain't funny, little man!"

"We know you have many choices when looking to die horribly in a freak accident, so we appreciate your business, and thank you for flying Serenity Airways."

"You done yet?"


"Good. Now go get your wife into her slinky dress and marry her off to the doctor."

"Hmph. You don't appreciate high-brow humor. Next time I'll just crash us into a cliff."

"Fine by me. Least you'll be too busy for announcements."


Zoe and Inara were sequestered in Inara's shuttle, where the Companion had altered a dress to fit the larger first mate. There had been a brief meeting with Wash, Kaylee, and Simon, where Simon and Zoe had received the basics of their new identities and had a brief discussion of etiquette and what could be expected at the dog and pony show Simon was so keen on. Now they were approaching Verbena, and Zoe couldn't put off the inevitable any longer.

"I really gotta wear this dress, Inara?" Zoe held the slinky dress up to the lamp, frowning when she realized she could see a rather large amount of light shining through the material. Not much would be left to the imagination in this getup. "Don't think I can hide a gun in here."

"Hopefully not. Of course, the idea is not to need one." Inara smiled wryly as she tried to arrange Zoe's hair while Zoe kept moving around. "Most high-powered wives wear things like this. The idea is to enhance their husband's image, not defend them to the death. You'll have to depend on your wits and Simon's charm should a problem arise."

"Might as well save the Feds the trouble and shoot us now, then. Doc's got all the finesse of Jayne in a whorehouse." Zoe shook her head, causing one of the braids Inara was working on to fall out. "I thought this was some type of academic lecture or somethin'. Why am I dressin' like it's a fancy dinner party? Most dressy thing I been to was Wash's bachelor party, an' that was to haul him outta there before the cops showed up. But this? Surprised you ain't tried to fit me into Kaylee's pink thing yet."

"Lecture or no, large corporations will usually hold a reception before or after the event. It attracts more people when there's free food. And receptions require dresses."

Zoe rolled her eyes. "No wonder Core folk never get anything done. Too busy eatin' and starin’ at their clothes. Tsai gao, I can't believe I actually volunteered for this one. I'm gettin' soft in my old age."

Inara laughed. "You're hardly old, Zoe." Inara lowered her voice. "But since you brought it up, I am curious. Why were you so willing to go along with this? You didn't need to; we both know Kaylee was about ready to dive over the table and put a ring on Simon's finger right there. You could have let it go."

Zoe shrugged. "Job looked good, an' I'll do what needs be done to support the crew."

"Yes, I agree with that, but I also noticed that you volunteered even before Mal gave his OK. You were willing, crew or not."

"Oh. Noticed that, did you?" Zoe could feel Inara nod behind her and was silent a few moments. Inara was quiet as well, waiting for Zoe to speak first. "You remember Tracey?"

"The young man who mailed himself to us and managed to get himself killed not ten feet from my door while holding Kaylee hostage?"

"That would be him. You know I spent the better part of six months keepin' that boy from doin' something stupid and getting himself sent home in a bag?"

"You and Mal did seem to have some history with him, other than just moustaches."

Zoe's voice softened as she remembered, something Inara had only seen once before, the previous time they'd been discussing Tracey, when he was feigning death in a coffin down in Serenity's cargo bay. "Lots more than that. Boy was the closest thing I ever had to a kid. I saved him more times than I can count, an' he'd just run right back out there, without a lick of sense, and I'd have to go chasin' after him so he'd make it back for one more day. Last time I went out to fetch him, he was sittin' behind a wall eatin' a can of beans. Wasn't even armed. Boy should have died ten times over in that war."

"But he didn't. You looked after him."

"Just like his momma would have." Zoe lowered her head a touch, trusting Inara with a confidence. "Even called him 'Little One' when Mal wasn't listenin'. Up until we got on Serenity, Tracey and Mal were my family. Tracey was stubborn, hadn't a bit of common sense in his head, was so brave and loyal it was almost stupid, and usually got away with things no one else would even dream of - so long as I was there to bail him out when it went south." She paused. "Sound like anyone we know?"

"I can think of both a captain and a doctor who fit that description." Inara fell quiet as she put this new information together. She'd never really pegged Zoe for the maternal type. Her loyalty to Mal was immediately obvious, but once looked at in the right light, her loyalty to the rest of the crew was just as fierce. She would always back Mal in whatever he needed, but in the absence of his command, Zoe would naturally defend the people she cared about - and with the addition of the doctor and his sister to the crew, she'd simply included them in that group. "So you volunteered to help Simon - and by extension, to help River - because he needs it and doesn't even realize it."

"Guess I just like protectin' my people. You're pretty smart there, Inara."

"You're no slouch yourself, Zoe."

"I have my moments." Zoe considered the items left on the dresser in front of her. It might have been a fastener for the dress. Or maybe a hair clip. Or maybe a random piece of the shuttle Kaylee never got around to fixing. She held it up for Inara to see. "But this ain't one of them. What do I do with this thing?"


Well. Getting to play along as Mrs. Dr. Tam would have been all kinds of fun. But since that was a bust, Kaylee decided that getting to build Simon's new identity was the next best thing. A few hours and a couple of flirty giggles later, Kaylee and Wash had a pair of ident cards made out for Dr. Robert Livingston and his wife Emily. Night was beginning to fall, and the meeting would be starting soon. Wash and Kaylee headed off to brief Zoe and Simon on their new personalities. Kaylee found her target in the cargo bay, getting his coat ready to go.

"Dr. Livingston, I presume?" Simon grinned and looked surprised as Kaylee handed over his new ident card.

"You know who David Livingston was?"

"Nope. But River said you'd think it was funny." She shrugged. "Anyway, ready for your new identity?"


"'K. You're now Dr. Robert Livingston, an' Zoe is your lovely wife, Emily. Emily's the daughter of a rich muckety-muck from Boros, an' y'all have been married for two years. No kids, though you've been tryin' for a few months now. Wash says that's most like to be your fault an' not hers."

"I'm sure he does."

"Ya got two cats, but they're Emily's, an' you don't like 'em on account of the furniture they keep chewin' up. You're both 'mildly wealthy', which from what I can see means you can buy a small moon all for your lonesome. You're from Ariel, an' work for a little place called Mercy Hospital. Your area of expertise is paranoid schito - schitzomen - "


"Yeah, that. You're at the lecture 'cause your boss, Dr. Liu, couldn't make it. River says he's got a rash of some sort, which I told her is all manner of gross an' I didn't need to know that. You enjoy readin', research, an' shuffleboard. Emily's the love of your life, but your friends in school know you got a thing for brunettes that're good with their hands an' ain't afraid to get dirty. You speak English, Chinese, Latin, and French. Do you really speak French?"

"Not that I know of. I think River does, though."

"Damn. French gets me all hot and bothered. Anyhow, ident is good 'til Friday. Zoe's already got hers."

Simon nodded, hoping he didn't have to remember all of that off the top of his head. "Wow. That's an excellent background."

Kaylee managed to look bashful and proud at the same time. "Well, ain't gonna get you hurt on account of me not doin' all I could, Simon. Oh, I mean Robert."

"I appreciate that." He plugged the ident card into his encyclopedia, reading the details of Dr. Robert Livingston. "Wash's contact is quite thorough. You two talked him into all of this stuff?"

"Well, not just talked. Flashed him a little skin, too."

Simon's eyes widened and his mouth dropped open, but he was saved from making a reply by a whistle from the back of the room. Jayne, sitting on the mule with his feet propped up on a crate, was clapping enthusiastically as Zoe came down the steps from Inara's shuttle, Wash at her heels. "Damn, little man. Woman cleans up right nice. Too bad it's for another guy." Jayne leered appreciatively until Kaylee reached over and slapped him on the back of the head. "Ow. Don't hurt to look!"

"Jayne! Stop oglin' Zoe. Kaylee! Stop flashin' creepy men on the Cortex. Simon!" Mal strode in from the common area, all business, brown coat on and gun strapped to his hip. "You ain't doin' nothin', but consider yourself warned. Wash! Hand over your wife an' let's get this rollin'."

"Yes, captain. My Zoe - err, Emily - is quite the social butterfly when the doctors come calling." Wash turned on Simon, mock serious. "Now, Dr. Livingston, I expect you to have her home by midnight. Don't let her outside without her coat, and make sure she eats properly. Oh, and slap her ass if she gets too frisky."

Zoe glared at her husband and Simon simultaneously. "Not if you want to keep your fingers, Doctor."

"Of course, Mr. Washburne. I'll have her home on the stroke of twelve." Simon rolled his eyes, but played along. "Emily, dear, you really must call me Robert. Ready?"

"Let's do it, Doc. Simon. Robert." Zoe shook her head. "This is going to take some work."

"Indeed. We'll discuss our new personalities on the way." Wash kissed Zoe goodbye while River - and, to Simon's surprise, Kaylee - ran up to give him a hug and wish him luck. Simon tipped his hat to the assembled crew, offered Zoe his arm, and strolled out into the world.

"All right, then. Jayne, go get your gun. We got work to do."

"We goin' to resuce Zoe and the Doc already?"

Mal stopped and cocked his head, considering. "Well, I was gonna say we got some thievin' to do, but you make a good point." He turned back towards his bunk. "Better bring two guns. And Vera." He thought some more. "Oh, hell. And grenades."


Thursday, March 23, 2006 10:04 PM

SQUISH --We know you have many choices when looking to die horribly in a freak accident, so we appreciate your business, and thank you for flying Serenity Airways." --Excellent!

Oh, and I second the request for the dinos! I'm sure Wash will need something to do while he's worrying about Zoe.

Thursday, March 23, 2006 11:45 PM


Excellent job! I love Wash's speech! I seriously just about fell out of my seat because of that one. Whew, you have to do that more often. Keep it up!

Friday, March 24, 2006 12:44 AM


Love the last few lines they are so Jayne & Mal. The background Kaylee gives simon and Zoe is a hoot too.

Next chapter please!

Friday, March 24, 2006 1:56 AM


I have to agree with everyone else, I absolutely adore your Wash! Had me laughing my head off!! (Not a pretty sight!)

Friday, March 24, 2006 3:11 AM


'And oh hell a few grenades.' I'm still laughing at Wash's announcements.

Friday, March 24, 2006 5:58 AM


OMG! I was laughing so hard at the beginning scene that I almost couldn't finish reading the story!

Loved Zoe & Inara's interaction. I can so see Zoe being all protective of Tracey. And of the crew.

"Dr. Livingston, I presume?" Yeah, River would find that amusing. *g*

Loved the background Kaylee & Wash dreamed up for Simon & Zoe. "Two cats but they're Emily's..." *giggle*

And Mal & Jayne were just hysterical. "Oh hell. And grenades." LOL

Looking forward to the next chapter!

"I love my captain."

Friday, March 24, 2006 7:03 AM


I liked Zoe's explanation about her and Tracey's relationship and how that maternal nature now extends to Simon and the rest of the crew. And, of course, Wash was hilarious!!!! Great Job, and I can't wait for your next post!

Saturday, March 25, 2006 5:19 AM


Love it... keep more coming. I too like Zoe's maternal side showing. Love Wash's verbal byplay... that's so him.

Sunday, March 26, 2006 9:17 PM


How did I miss this? I'm a boob.

This was all kinds of awesome. I laughed so hard. And your Zoe is great, I love your Zoe.

Your crew interaction is flawless, really. I love it.

*scurries off to part three*

Friday, April 14, 2006 6:38 PM


I honestly love you, please marry me? Write me love fanfiction on our honeymoon, whisper funny things Wash would say into my ear *sigh*

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 1:44 AM


MG... you're a genius!

ROTFLMAO... constantly!

"Not if you want to keep your fingers, Doctor."


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In The Ether 13: Secret Agent Man
Simon takes a turn at super spy as the crew tracks him down.

In The Ether 12: Motivations
A brief history of Simon Tam

In The Ether 11: Telling
Simon and Regan tell each other off, Jayne tells Kaylee a little story, and Wash tells everybody about basic chemistry. Bonus: Jayne actually quotes Shakespeare! Kind of.

In The Ether 10: Technical Difficulties
Jayne goes trophy hunting, Kaylee and Wash attempt to explain technical things to Mal, and eventually everyone realizes that they left something at the last stop.

Generic S/K Plot Outline
Inspired by a story posted at, I present the outline of pretty much every S/K fic out there (including my own, so no one take it personal-like).

Dino Tales: Loss
The dino army mourns the loss of one of their own.

The Old Switcheroo
Jayne and Simon wake up with unique perspectives on life.

In The Ether 9: Minor Complications
Jake and Jasper check out Serenity, River secures some backup, Jayne discovers his protective side, Simon gets physical, and Kaylee meets an old flame.

In The Ether 8: Lady's Choice
Zoe fixes the plan. Kaylee shows Simon how to turn up the heat.

In The Ether 7: Shore Leave
Mal gives everyone a day on Belix to calm the nerves. Wash gets suspicious. A plan is hatched.