We all love the caterpillar, Joss.
TRAUMA MEDICINE: Chapter 2
Making embarassingly large stacks of money.
2515 - THEN
"Ah, Doctor Tam!"
The professor's voice always had the same effect on Simon. First came the little tremor of awe, then the holding himself more erect, trying to present his very best self to the man who had become his mentor - albeit a demanding, challenging one who seemed to revel in making things hard for him. "Good day, Professor Sharpe. Did you ..?"
"We need a little talk, Doctor Tam," John Sharpe cut him off unceremoniously. "Which I think would be best conducted in private. If you're not busy?"
Simon shook his head and fervently hoped his face betrayed nothing of the sudden fluttering sensation he felt in his stomach. For some reason he always dreaded being summoned to the professor's office - as if at any moment his inadequacy as a doctor would be laid bare. Academic success had come easily to Simon Tam - too easily, he feared. Ofcourse he had studied hard and, all modesty aside, he knew he was very smart. But deep down he wondered if that was enough, if he really was all that people said. He worried that there was still so much he didn't know. That someday he would have no idea how to treat the patient before him. If he wasn't the brilliant doctor his father had demanded he become, then what was he? Was he worth anything at all?
He followed Sharpe into his office and stood in front of the large oak desk, waiting.
Sharpe closed the door behind him and sat down in the big leather chair. For a moment, he said nothing, staring intently at Simon with his piercing ice blue eyes as if seeing him for the very first time. Then he looked down at the paperwork in front of him. "I see you've chosen your speciality." There was an edge of disappointment in his voice. No, not disappointment. Something harder. Distaste.
"It's a very interesting area," Simon attempted to defend his decision. "There have been a lot of developments...." Sharpe leaned back, eyes narrowed and unimpressed. Simon swallowed hard and continued. "Autologous transplant therapy has made immense strides since Jackson and Shank's work on telomere rejuvenation..."
"Jabber, jabber, jabber," Sharpe snapped, rising from his chair and walking round the desk to stand eye to eye with his student. "Autologous transplant therapy! Pah! You know what that is? The delusion of old men who've wasted their lives and think they can buy another one. Oh, it's a lucrative enough field, I'll grant you that...." He paused, realization dawning. "It was your father's suggestion, wasn't it? What did he do? Tell you to go where the money is? I thought better of you than that."
The flush on Simon's cheek confirmed Sharpe's assumption.
"What do you want on your tombstone, Tam? 'He made lot of money'? There's more to life than money. More to you, anyway. In here." And to Simon's utter astonishment, Sharpe lay his hand momentarily on the centre of his chest. Shocked, Simon found himself wondering if a defibrilator delivered such a charge. Then Sharpe was walking away before either of them had to think about the moment too hard. "Always at my back I hear ..." he mused. "We're none of us here forever, son. Make the best use of the time you have. Choose a career you won't regret when you're old and grey. A career that makes you feel alive."
"Trauma surgery?" Regan Tam repeated as if she had to hear the words spoken out loud again before they would make any sense at all. "I thought you had already been accepted for ..." she fluttered a hand, unable to recall the name of the speciality she and her husband had thought best for their son.
Simon tensed. "Yes. But I've changed my mind."
"Had it changed for you, more like!" Gabriel Tam's eyes were cold and hard as he spat out the words. Simon tried to remember a time when they had ever been anything else. Oh yes - bored. They'd often been bored. "It seems to me Sharpe has been exercising undue influence. I have half a mind to bring this up with the hospital's directors."
"If you feel you must, I can't stop you," Simon replied with quiet defiance. "But it won't make any difference. I'm going to become a trauma surgeon, with or without your blessing."
Gabriel Tam snorted angrily and clenched his jaw. He glared at his son in impotent rage before finally finding words hurtful enough to fling at him. "Thankfully this family's future lies with your sister, not you."
Despite years of bitter experience, Simon still found himself turning to his mother for support. But she wasn't looking at him. Instead she was tapping at a keyboard, bringing up figures on the Cortex link. "It may not be as bad as you think, Gabriel," she said, scanning the rows of numbers. "Some trauma surgeons are extremely well paid."
2516 - NOW
"Gorramit - these boxes are ruttin' heavy," Jayne complains, as he and Mal carry yet another case into Shuttle #1. "What in diyu d'ya reckon she's got in here?"
Mal gives him a look that would shut anyone else up in a heartbeat, but the mercenary's boundless enthusiam for anything to do with sex is running away with him.
"You think it's equipment? Cuffs an' stuff? Some fellas get off on that kind of thing ..."
They took her ... made him watch. He tried to turn away but they wouldn't let him. Made him stare right into the face of that darkness, kind of darkness he'd never even imagined ...They held her down and ignored the way she sobbed and pleaded.
"Jayne." A single word, spoken in a low even tone. And yet somehow enough to ensure the other man falls silent for a while. Seated at the shuttle controls where she is receiving instruction as to their use from Wash, Inara raises an eyebrow. Surprised at how quickly the big man fell into line.
"This is the forward thrust..." Wash tells her, pointing to a knob on the control panel ... "and this" ... pointing to another ... "is the reverse thrust. You know how they work, I suppose?" he asks with a quick smile that he hopes isn't too much like a leer. Wo de ma, but this woman is beautiful.
Jayne sniggers and nudges Mal as they go to fetch the last of Inara's belongings from the cargo bay. "Shou'n't think there's much about thrustin' she don't know!"
Inara hears the thud of something heavy hitting metal and a startled "Hey!" followed by a voice growling too low for her to make out the words.
Wash rolls his eyes at her. "Nothing to worry about," he assures her. "Just Mal reminding Jayne of his manners."
Inara smiles sweetly. "How very gallant of him."
Inara has dressed down for dinner but she's still the most glamourous person Kaylee has ever seen. Her eyes go as wide as saucers as the Companion steps down into the mess, gracefully lifting the hem of her pale blue silk dress and revealing a glimpse of ornate golden slippers. Mal watches the expression on his mechanic's face change from fascination to warm welcome as the women's eyes meet and feels distinctly uncomfortable. As if one more element of control is slipping away from him.
"Hi," Kaylee says with a shy smile. "I saved a seat for you." And she pats the empty chair beside her.
There is real warmth in the smile Inara gives her in return. She slips gracefully into her seat and inclines her head by way of hello to each crew member in turn. Mal is the only one to avoid eye contact. Which means he notices the way Jayne is all but salivating. He shrugs. Whores must be used to that kind of thing.
At first conversation is a little stilted as, despite themselves, Serenity's crew are on their best behaviour. Then Kaylee starts bombarding Inara with questions and everyone begins to relax.
"They real?" Kaylee asks, pointing to the glittering string of stones around Inara's neck. The Companion nods. "Tian shao! They're so beautiful. If'n you don't mind me askin' - where d'ya get them?"
"They were a gift," Inara tells her. "From a client."
Mal's mouth twists into a sneer, but Kaylee is looking wistfully at the jewels, suddenly saddened by the knowledge she will never own anything as lovely.
"Looks like you shoulda gone into a diff'rent line o' work, Kaylee," Jayne grins. "You been polishin' up the wrong kind o' parts!"
Kaylee blushes, more for Inara than for herself. Ain't right, Jayne speakin' like that in front of a real lady.
It seems that Mal agrees. "Jayne - best you go check everything's secure for when we break atmo," he says quietly. "Ma shang."
Jayne looks like he might argue, but then thinks better of it. Grumbling to himself, he picks up his plate and stomps out of the room.
Inara ventures a look at Malcolm Reynolds. "I appreciate the gesture, Captain, but I assure you I wasn't offended in the least."
He frowns, faking incomprehension. "Never thought you was. Jus' remembered there was a job needed doin' is all." He catches Zoe's eye but can't read her expression. Jus' gets the feelin' she's watchin'. Waitin'. An' it's all manner of irritatin'. It was her damn idea to rent out the shuttle in the first place an' now she's all tetchy cos he found them a tenant. Gotta feel sorry for that husband of hers sometimes.
They all continue eating in silence for a while, then Inara asks, "Do you have a course set, Captain? Because I thought I'd start screening clients once you have a schedule."
Kaylee has to stuff a large spoonful of mashed protein into her mouth to stop herself from squealing with excitement. Even so, she starts picturing handsome face after handsome face smiling invitingly at the Companion, pressing expensive gifts on her, offering flowers.
Similar thoughts are occupying Mal's mind, only he's seeing the smug, oily, self-satisfied faces of the Alliance elite an' their graspin' claws. The stare he gives Inara is as blank as he can make it, but he can't prevent disdain from tweaking at the corners of his mouth, nor contempt from burning in his eyes. "Headin' for Whitefall," he says curtly, "Touch down in about a week."
Inara nods. Every movement she makes is graceful. "A happy coincidence, Captain," she replies. "A former client of mine now resides at the garrison on Athens."
Garrison? Mal starts, something like concern in his eyes blinked quickly away. "A soldier who can afford a Companion?" He pauses, calculating. "Must be a gorram general at least."
"A Companion does not disclose information about her clients, Captain Reynolds," Inara replies haughtily.
Mal grunts. "Well, jus' you try not to kill the old fella with your ... Companionin'. Get enough trouble from the Alliance as it is."
Wash glances at Zoe and is surprised to see the ghost of a smile on her face.
"Allow me to put your mind at rest on that score, Captain," Inara says through a deliberately false smile. "The gentleman in question saw active service in the war and emerged physically unscathed. He is both younger and fitter than you are yourself." She rises from her seat and sweeps out of the room.
Zoe hides her mouth behind a hand and Kaylee tuts under her breath. Why'd the Cap'n have to go an insult Inara right away?
Mal folds his arms across his chest. Active service. Tamade! ... No. Ain't nothin' to worry about. She said he was an 'old client'. Musta serviced him before. Know wha's comin'.
Not that it's got anything to do with Mal.
Having engaged the autopilot, Inara returns to the shuttle's main room. It bears little resemblance to the cold metal cell it was a week ago. Now it's draped with silks and velvets - red, gold and black. A couch has replaced the steel bench and an immense bed dominates the room. Inara needs space in which to work. A Companion must be prepared to satisfy all requirements.
She crosses to the bedside cabinet and opens the drawer. The syringe is preloaded, as tradition dictates. Nothing should interrupt the flow, the path from emptiness to fulfilment. She tightens a leather strap around her upper arm and squeezes her hand into a ball. Unlike most other Companions, Inara always uses the serum. It means she can go further, accommodate more ... It keeps her whole. Whatever service she is called on to perform, she will be safe - her body insensate and her mind still.
And ofcourse anahaemofluxine also prevents bruising and reduces bleeding.
The winding gear stands black against the grey sky, its skeleton the only remnant of a once-properous mining venture. A sorry sight somehow, Mal thinks, as he surveys the location from his hillside vantage point. Alliance moved in, gouged what they wanted from the unwilling earth and left nothin' but scars and dry bones behind. Di'n't oughta be surprised by it no more.
"You sure we got the rights for this job, Sir?" Zoe asks, scanning the hills and valley for signs of movement. "This rock's a long way out of Badger's usual range."
Mal pats his coat pocket. "Got the papers right here. Offical stamp an' all."
Jayne sniffs, like he's got wind of somethin'. "Best we be gettin' on with it. 'fore anyone decides them papers ain't worth a damn. Whitefall's got a bad rep."
"Ain't gonna argue with that. Let's get goin'."
Zoe twists the accelerator and the mule starts its descent into the valley trailing clouds of dust in its wake.
GSW? The abbreviation is familiar but not in common usage on a Core planet like Osiris so Simon Tam has to concentrate on remembering what it means. Gunshot wound! He stares at his med student in amazement. "A gun shot wound? How? What ..?"
The young man gives him a wide grin. "Petty criminal, Doctor Tam, trying to escape justice. First reports say he fought for the Independents. The pursuing federal officers had to open fire."
Simon's heart is beating a little faster than usual. He's never treated a gunshot wound - sorry, GSW before. It's exciting. A challenge. "Is the injury serious?"
The student grins again. "Probably. They got him in the back!" he adds, eyes shining."I can't wait to see what kind of damage it did."
The boy is young, Simon reminds himself. Young, inexperienced and stupid. "You aren't here to revel in other people's misery, boy," he snaps, surprising himself with his impatient tone. When did he turn into John Sharpe? "You're a doctor. Try to act like one."
Chastened, Tony Yi drops his gaze to the floor. Just as well. Simon can't work with those adoring eyes fixed so unblinkingly on him. Ha! Another of life's bitter ironies. A month ago Simon might have been tempted, might have tried for a life outside of work. But now he can't. He has more pressing matters on his mind. At long last he's deciphered the code: "They're hurting us. Get me out." His sister - his beautiful, gifted brat of a sister - needs him. It's as simple as that. He has no time for complications right now.
The doors crash open. Three paramedics. A fed. A man groaning and bleeding. Intravenous drip bag swaying. Trolley wheels. The smell of sweat. Voices. Questions. Crowding.
Simon takes a deep breath. "Everyone just stand back." A space forms around the trolley, allowing Simon room to examine his patient. Already condemned as an outlaw, no-one has bothered to put him in a brace to prevent further injury. He's lying on his side, so the bullet entry point is easy to locate. A quick wipe with a swab shows the bullet is lodged against the L2 vertebra.
"Laser extractor, angiogenesis driver and neural bonder!" Simon barks. Yi hesitates. "Now!"
Lee scurries about, assisted by the senior surgical nurse. "Here," he says, handing them over.
"Hold him steady," Simon orders, firing up the extractor.
"But - Doctor Tam! You could paralyze him. This'll go on my record! Don't ask me ..."
"I'm not asking. I'm telling. Now just do your job."
The restraints are Inara's own. It was the last thing she insisted on before allowing him full rein. They look convincing enough, will rattle and not break if she strains against them but they will fall open in an instant if she twists her wrists outwards. A Companion's work is all about illusion, after all.
"Looks to be the last of it," Mal decides, as Jayne drops a final length of worked iron onto the back of the mule. "Let's get back to the ship."
Jayne ain't complainin'. There's somethin' about this xi niu rock that gives him the heebies. He jumps up beside Zoe.
"Now, hold on there one gorram moment, pretty boy!"
Mal spins round to see a middle-aged woman, her face obscured by the brim of a large brown hat, flanked by a coupla lackeys and followed by a few more, bearin' down on them. Guns drawn already, so goin' for his own'd be plain stupid.
"Been a long time since I was a boy, ma'am," he shouts back, "though I like to think I'm still pretty."
The woman shakes her head, unamused by his attempt at a joke. "Who are ya? An' what ya got there?" she demands, indicating the scrap piled up on the mule with a jut of her chin.
"Name's Malcolm Reynolds, ma'am and this here's Zoe and Jayne. And that there's a bit o' salvage," Mal tells her, keeping up the affable tone. No point gettin' tetchy.
"You ain't got no right to be goin' after salvage on this rock. Now, you hand that stuff over all gentle like an' my boys here won't have to be wasting lead on ya."
Don't look like the boys'd consider it much of a waste if the sound of guns cockin's anythin' to go by.
"Got all the proper paperwork right here," Mal tells her, still hopin' to smooth this over. "If you'd care to examine it?" he asks, moving his hand slowly to his pocket so that none of them gun-totin' boys gets the wrong impression an' thinks he goin' for his pistol.
She nods. "Best I cast an eye over that." she holds out a hand and Mal steps carefully forwards to show her the licence. "Hmmm. Yeah. This is the genuine article, all right. Now son, why don't you unload that mule o' yours and get gone."
Lao tian Ye! Shoulda seen that comin'. Never goes ruttin' smooth.
"Can't we be reasonable....?" Mal makes one last attempt to hang onto the goods.
The woman nods to the lanky, bald man to her left. He takes aim and Mal is rooted to the spot as he watches a gnarled finger squeeze the trigger.
Heat slides into flesh and ignites it. A shudder. A low moan. A spurt of blood.
... "Wo de ma, Simon! I mean, Dr Tam."...
... "Oh my God, Inara!"...
... "Zao cao! Mal!"
When Mal opens his eyes, the first thing he sees is Kaylee staring down at him, brows crinkled with worry, nervously fingering some twinkly bit of pretty round her neck he's sure he's seen before though not on her. The first thing he feels is the warmth of her hand, wrapped tightly around his. Tears of relief wet her lashes when he speaks.
"What the hell happened?"
"Woman called Patience shot you, Sir," Zoe says calmly, opening her fist to reveal a small, silver bullet. "Managed to get it out. No sign of infection yet, neither."
Mal gives her a half-smile. "Thanks. I'm grateful. You're turnin' out to be quite the doctor."
"No I ain't. You jus' got lucky this time."
"Yeah. Lucky." The word has a hollow sound to it.
"Thought you said she was due back at fourteen hundred?" Mal asks, pacing around the bridge behind Wash in a way that ain't exactly conducive to good flying.
"I said between fourteen hundred and sixteen hundred," the pilot replies. "It's only fourteen fifteen now."
"Yeah," Mal grunts. "Well, jus' don't wanna be orbitin' this fancy rock any longer than we have to..."
"There!" Wash interrupts him as a light on the console blinks red. "She's waving us now."
Mal lets out a long breath. "Right."
"Captain," Inara smiles politely from the doorway between her shuttle and the walkway. "Kaylee." A nod. "Is this a welcomin' committee?"
Mal huffs, on the verge of denying it, but Kaylee pipes up, "Well, 'tis your first time away from us. Did you have a good time? Was he....?"
Mal turns a wide-eyed shut-up-now glare on her but Inara simply smiles. "It went as expected." No, actually it went better than she expected. He seemed less desperate, less possessed. "I'm afraid I can't tell you any more. It's Guild Law."
Mal snorts. "Guild Law! Fancy way of sayin' ..." His voice trails off. There's a cut on her lip, a suggestion of discomfort in the way she descends the stairs. For the first time he sees how young she is. How slight her body is.
Little more than a kid ... They held her down and ignored the way she sobbed and pleaded. One of them brought the back of his hand down hard across her mouth to silence her, but he could still hear the muffled whimpering.
"You all right?" he asks, closing the space between them, reaching out instinctively to touch her face before he can stop himself.
She pulls away. "I am perfectly well thank you Captain." Her tone is more frosty than she'd intended. "There's no need for you to concern yourself ..." The words were supposed to be placatory. Instead they sound condescending.
He blinks as though she just slapped him. "Ain't concerned at all. Sure your business is none of mine."
Gou shi! Inara thinks to herself as he stalks away. Zoe Warren was right. All manner of irritating. And there's nothing like being irritated by someone for making you notice other qualities in them too.
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Title: Making embarassingly large stacks of money
Series Name: Trauma Medicine
Author: Kispexi2 [email]
Details: Work-In-Progress | PG-13 | gen | 20k | 10/03/04
Characters: Malcolm, Zoe, Wash, Kaylee, Inara, Jayne, Simon
Summary: Simon makes a career choice, Mal gets shot and Inara joins the gang.
Notes: Tiny spoiler for Serenity (TV not film)
Nothing graphic, but not-so-gentle sex alluded to.
Sequel to: So like - never?
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