Jack had never liked hospitals.


Her useless appendix -good for nothing but exploding- decided to explode in the middle of her birthday party; Sweet sixteen her ass. The very briefest moment of chaos had taken place before Imam rushed her to the New Mecca Women's Hospital. Too bright, too clean, too full of the citizens of New Mecca and Alliance officers.

At least they let her keep her coat. Imam's old brown coat from his days in the war. There were a few bullet holes around the bottom of the coat, marring the soft leather, and there was one in the lower stomach. Right where the appendix was located. Jack never would have guessed Imam to be a browncoat, but when he gave Jack the coat for her birthday, she'd never seen him so passionate about something. Until she had to go into the hospital and he'd nearly cuffed Jack to get her into the car.

The doctors weren't letting her out for another couple days, they wanted to make sure she didn't tear any stitches or end up with an infection. Jack understood, really she did, but it didn't make it any less annoying. At least she had a decent view of the city. The hospital was set high on a hill, overlooking the red roofed buildings that surrounded the golden dome of the mosque. She could hear music drifting up ever so faintly and in the dark of the night, the city lights melded with the stars and Jack could pretend she was out in the Black.

A nurse walked into the room, smiling wide and handing Jack a plascreen. Nurse Callie was probably Jack's favorite of the medical staff. She often ignored Jack's sour mood and occasionally brought Jack up to her own level of cheer. Callie sometimes brought Jack an extra pudding or a magazine from the waiting room.

"What?" Not the friendliest greeting but the nurse took it in stride, obviously whatever news she had was far too exciting.

"The doctors ran your DNA through the database and you wouldn't believe it, they found a sister," the nurse spoke in an excited tone. "A bonafide Companion for a sister." The nurse sighed and looked at the ceiling while Jack looked at the screen in front of her. "How glamorous."

Inara Serra of House Madera. She looked familiar, Jack would admit that. Her eyes were very similar to Jack's own, as were the curls. The skin tone was off. Inara was darker skinned from time in the sun. She was shapely where Jack was still boyish and she had high marks in her studies.

"Does she know?" Jack was nervous about the answer she might receive. She had a sister. Would the companion leave her on New Mecca or take her into the guild to become a companion? Or would she take Jack in to her own home? If she did, Jck might become a servant or she could become an actual citizen. There were too many variables.

"They called her right away. Lucky for you she was in the area," the nurse stood, leaving Jack with the plascreen. "She should be here sometime tomorrow. I'll go fetch you some tea, alright?"

Jack nodded and the clock on the wall ticked slowly away.

Darkness fell and lifted with a single golden sun. Nurse Elsa came and went. She brought breakfast and went. Nurse Beth came and took the tray. Nurse Beth took her vitals and left. Nurse Liam brought her lunch and left. Then Nurse Callie came in, beaming as she led someone into the room.

"Miss Jack?" Callie walked further into the room while the other woman stood by the door. "You have a visitor. Would you like me to send her in?"

Jack nodded, swallowing thickly.

Callie went back to the door, nodding the companion in before she left the room.

Inara Serra was beautiful. The image she'd seen on the plascreen did her no justice. Graceful and ladylike in her fine silks and jewels but she looked just as nervous as Jack did. She moved over to the chair beside Jack's bed, asking with her eyes if she could sit. A simple nod.

The clock on the wall ticked.

"I don't remember you." Best to get that out of the way.

Inara gave a sad laugh. "I don't suppose you would. I was seven when the guild came. You were barely ten months." The woman poured them both a glass of water. "I did look for you. I haven't stopped."

She was being honest. There was a raw truth in her voice that even Jack couldn't ignore.

"Not what you expected, am I?" A minor stint in juvenile hall, bad grades, and not nearly as pretty. Jack's hair wasn't a waterfall of curls like Inara's, after two years of living on New Mecca it barely reached her chin.

"Actually, I'm rather happy."

"You live in a shuttle on a ship?" Jack was on her last day in the hospital and Inara was hinting that Jack might come and live with her in the Black. Imam supported her decision no matter what she chose; Jack had a feeling he wanted her to go. Not because he disliked her, and certainly not because she got into trouble -very nearly her middle name-, but because Jack deserved a life she wanted.

"It allows me to reach clients the guild might overlook." Inara was mending Jack's coat as best she could with patches of soft red and green leather. "I think you might like it. The ship, the crew. The captain is a bit pigheaded and demanding, and he's been shot more times than I know, but he's a good man with a sense of honor and loyalty."

"How do you know he'll let me on?"

"He will," Inara smiled. "I'm his only steady source of income. Having my sister join me shouldn't bother him too much. Not that I care if it does." Inara looked down at the coat in her arms. "I do believe he will like you very much."