Around/after "Serenity" the episode.

The fuss has died down when Inara finally goes to the infirmary. Simon was very adamant that Kaylee was fine, even after being rushed to the engine room for their little adventure, and Mal backed him on that with a wry smirk that didn't warrant interpretation. Little River has been cozied up in one of the passenger berths and when he sees Inara coming, Simon ducks out to check on her, a "call for me if necessary" trailing behind him. She can see it's out of politeness as much as concern for River, and finds that somehow sweet.

Kaylee's sleeping lightly when Inara walks in, and it seems – especially after so hectic a day – a shame to wake her. Seeing her mèimei all right, her chest rising and falling steadily, a hint of a smile dancing across her lips that suggests she's pleasantly dreaming, almost brings Inara to tears. A tiny droplet threatens to spill down her cheek, but she delicately, subtly brushes it away when Kaylee's eyes flutter open and her smile, though drowsy, fixes itself on wide as it can. Even shot and stitched up, hazy on painkillers and no doubt with a hint, however subconscious, of anxiety, Kaylee is sunshine in the blackest black.

"Hey, 'Nara," she murmurs.

"Are you feeling all right, băobèi?" Inara asks.

"Jus' shiny," Kaylee confirms, her voice quiet. "Don' think I'll be feelin' much f'a l'il while, regardin' pain anyway." A giggle, then. "Good drugs."

Even if what she'd given hadn't helped specifically, Inara feels happy that she could try. "I imagine the doctor did what was needed adeptly, too," she thinks aloud.

"Couldn' say I've much memory of it," Kaylee rolls her eyes playfully. "But I'm breathin' an' I ain't bleedin', so t'would make sense."

It's so like Kaylee to make light of the whole trauma and it makes Inara smile. Giving the younger woman's hand a gentle squeeze and brushing her hair from her eyes, Inara near-whispers, "I'm very glad that you'll be all right."

Cheeks pink, Kaylee says, "Means a lot."

If this isn't the time for sentimentality, what is? Meeting Kaylee's soft green eyes, Inara tells her, "It would have been devastating to lose you. It's important you know that."

She loves feeling loved, but Kaylee can't help but feel the tiniest bit embarrassed. She knows that's silly, and that Inara wouldn't lie to her, but she doesn't always give herself enough credit. "Xièxiè," she murmurs.

"You're what keeps us together," Inara continues. "What makes us a family."

"You're just sayin' so 'cause of I almost died," Kaylee says, chewing her lip. It's less of an accusation and more of a voicing of her own worries and fears.

But Inara just shakes her head. "No, tiànxīn, I'm saying that because it's true. Because, though I suspect Mal and Jayne and the others would never utter it, we all feel it."

Kaylee begins to tear up. "Sweet thought," she says, choking on her words.

"Deserving of a mention," Inara restates. "We're lucky to have you with us."

"An' lucky the fugitive I unknowingly booked passage for so happens t'be a doctor," Kaylee giggles. "Fancy one, at that." She was face-to-face with death less than half a day ago, and she can still be silly and lighthearted; Inara can see that her mèimei is clearly a bit smitten with the doctor, and seeing too that she's happy makes Inara happy, too.

"He seems quite noble," she says, "Looking to his sister as he is."

Kaylee's face crumbles just thinking about the whole thing. "Poor thing," she says in a whisper. "No tellin' what she's been through." A pause, and she glances down to the bandage on her belly. "Can' even 'magine it."

"Needless to say, they'll be staying," Inara continues, and watching Kaylee's frown quite literally turn upside down, she's glad she did.

"Be nice, havin' new folk 'round," Kaylee says. "Gettin' t'know 'em, givin' what help we can."

Inara nods, smiling mischievously. "I'm sure they're quite interesting.

Wryly, Kaylee admits, "An' that doc's handsome, too."

"I think you'd make a lovely pair," Inara says. And not just to say it, either. That he's making Kaylee light up so after all of this is a reassuring sign, and she smoothes Kaylee's hair, smiling, "I'm sure he can see that you're special already."

"Y'say the prettiest things, 'Nara," Kaylee announces, her eyes beginning to flutter closed.

Inara notices this and affectionately says, "You ought to rest, mèimei."

Kaylee knows this. But Inara's presence, her warm words and care, is a balm. "Talkin' t'you like it's any ol' day helps me," she confesses.

"Would you like it if I stayed until you fell asleep?" Inara asks. When Kaylee nods, she declares simply, "Then I will. You've all of us nearby if you need anything, you know."

"Xièxiè," Kaylee says again, falling asleep with a smile.

băobèi; "darling"
tiànxīn; "sweetheart"
mèimei; "little sister"
xièxiè; "thank you"