The Serenity was taking shape more and more each passing day. Kara, oddly enough, turned out to have more than a basic grasp of shipboard engineering, and a very thorough grasp of what it took to keep salvage operators honest. Mal had a strict policy on bloodstained clothing; so long as it wasn't his blood, he didn't ask. He'd made himself useful, looming behind Kara as needed for the first couple of days, and the workers had got the idea they were a unit pretty damn quick.
Unfortunately, that left him with a mite less too do since they'd gotten that idea. So Mal had been forced to improvise. Kara weren't doing much more than sleeping, eating and working, which meant he had free run of the ship, outside the areas she was working on. Well, Kara was building him a ship... And given that she was building the ship, he felt he ought to do his part to at least make it a little homier. Point of fact, he was feeling positively domestic as he wandered up to the bridge ... right up to the point where he heard cussing and swearing in terms he'd never even heard before.
"Gods damned motherfrakking sonofabitch." Kara slipped out from beneath the console, dusty, dirty and smudged with grease, rubbing her knuckles. The sensor relay should have been a simple refit, but so far it had cost her several hours, one faulty relay, scraped knuckles and she was pretty sure she just broke her little finger.
He strode up on the short flight of stairs to the bridge with a deliberately cheerful expression. "Why darlin', you're sounding just a mite out of sorts." Springing onto the bridge, he tried to keep a smile off his face as he took in the sight of her, dirty, smeared, smudged, bruised, tangled, and all together too fine-looking for words.
"Frakkin relay... thing was jammed in so tight it wouldn't budge so I had to give up on the friendly persuasion." She carefully cradled her injured hand in the palm of the other, very carefully, yet discretely probing along the finger to see if it was indeed broken.
He made a show of looking around the bridge, even going so far as to poke his head under the console. "Well, I don't see a great big hammer lyin' around anywhere ... so what'd you hit it with?" Knowing her, sheer force of personality...
"The wrench..." She commented casually. "Though I did slip once..."
"And decided to hit your finger instead of our expensive mechanical components? See, that's why I'm glad you're the engineer and I'm just the pretty face, I ain't up to makin' difficult decisions like that." He smiled, and gestured towards her injured finger. "If you've broken that, it'll make it harder for you to eat the delicious meal I just cooked up for us ... assumin' you don't want to put off eatin' in favour of beating some more of the ship..."
"You cooked dinner? I'm impressed. Given that I‚Äôve not eaten since I started on the relay... it sounds pretty good right about now."
"Well, everyone has a skill..." Well, to say he'd cooked dinner was an exaggeration. In fact, he was probably having about as easy a time with the food heating unit and the pre-packed meals as she was with the sensor relays. That didn't matter, though; he was more interested in seeing what she thought of the changes he'd made down in the galley.
She smiled, nearly chuckling thinking how many times she'd used that exact same line. "Come on, lets get us some food then... that relay’s not going anywhere and I don't have to worry about it getting cold."
"See, that's what I love about you, you're not choosy when it comes to eatin'". He spoke over his shoulder as he headed back down the stairs to the main corridor ... and tried hard not to kick himself for his slip. Last thing he wanted was Kara feeling pressured when they were about to head off into space. Just friends, he reminded himself. That's all; just friends.
She lightly bit her lip to stop the smile that threatened to split her face in two. Just hearing him say that; even if it wasn’t in the context she wanted to hear it... made her heart race. She wouldn’t jeopardize things with him by telling him how she felt. She would far rather take the casual, comfortable relationship they had now rather than go spouting off her feelings for him and driving him away. A mistake she'd made too often in the past. She followed him into the galley, eyes going wide as they stepped inside. "Gods, someone's been busy."
"Hi honey, you're home... I made dinner!" He made a mock bow, fluttering his eyelashes and gesturing towards the meal he'd laid out, on the new table he'd acquired from Lofty, surrounded by some eight-odd new chairs. Rough and ready, it belonged in a farmhouse rather than a starship, but it felt right to him. Of course, that's assuming that she actually didn't mind him going around buying such things out of their communal funds; well, her funds, really, she being the one who won the game in the first place. And she'd not tried the food yet...
Well, so much for stifling the smile. "It looks incredible. Like a real home..." She bit her lip a little, she remembered a friend of hers when she was just a kid. They'd had a big table just like this one... and Kara could still imagine the wonder of the whole family eatin together... she just got her meals on a TV tray in the corner of the room... they didn’t even have a kitchen table. Now staring at the wooden beauty, she finally felt like she had a home.
"Well, I'd sit you at the head of the table, but I don't want you gettin' no ideas about who the man in this family is..." He gave her a huge grin. She'd called it a home. Not a ship, not a boat ... a home. He walked over to the nearest chair at the top end of the long edge of the table, and hiked it out for her to sit on. Before she could give him an evil look, he had to add "Only because I don't want that finger of yours gettin' any worse before you fix my ship, of course..."
She smirked a little, giving him a wink. "OUR ship..." she corrected teasingly as she brushed past him, taking the offered chair. once seated she pulled out a roll of electrical tape from her tool belt and tore off a couple of strips, using them to bind her now purple and slightly swollen baby finger to the one next to it, effectively immobilizing it for the time being.
He busied himself some in the galley, hiking out various bowls to serve up in, before giving her a considering look, and filling another with hot water. He started ferrying them back and forth from the galley stove to the table, right up until she made to reach for one, at which point he slapped her lightly on her good hand. "Now now - no eatin' til you wash your hands." He gave her his best imitation of a prim look, fighting the urge to grin.
"Yes dad” she teased, getting up to go over to the small sink, nudging the tap on, which spluttered to life slowly. "Better add check plumbing to the to do list..." s he called over her shoulder as she washed, very careful of her damaged hand. She grabbed a towel and dried her hands, walking back over to the table. Free of the dozen layers of dirt, grease and general grunge, she could get a good look at her hand, which was several mottled shades of purple.
As soon as he got a good look at her hand, he stopped serving and instead took hold of her hand gently at the wrist, bringing it up to where he could see. "That looks broken to me - we'd better get you to see the station sawbones. I don't want you off work, given you're the one who claims to understand how this ship works." He realised he was keeping hold of her wrist longer than he needed to, and let go; she'd got funny about the idea of seeing a doctor before, and if it came down to it ... he'd need both hands to block her swing at him, as she had a fearsome hook when riled up.
"It'll heal, not much a doc can do I haven't already done." She tried to make it seem as light as possible. but truth was her hand was hurting like hell... not so much from the break, she'd done that before, but it felt like her knuckle might just be dislocated as well.
"Kara..." he fought to keep the irritation out of his voice. Damn, but she could be stubborn. "That knuckle looks like it's dislocated to me, and it's gonna hurt like hell to fix. We've got enough foldin' money that we can afford to get a sawbones to do it..."
She looked up, locking eyes with him, prepared to fight tooth and nail on the matter, but the genuine concern in his eyes made her falter. "You know I don't like doctors..."
"The alternative is I try and fix it myself, and it's been a while since I had to do that... and we're not on a battlefield. I've heard you talk about flyin', remember ... do you really want to risk your hands?" He'd do it if he had too, but the idea of causing her that much hurt ... well, it didn't sit right with him.
"Alright... but you have to come with me... I know its crazy but I'll just feel better if you're there..."
"That's a given. Ain't lettin' you out of my sight." He started to pack the food away; that could wait. Main thing was getting her fit and whole again.
She just nodded, fighting the nauseated feeling... She wasn’t sure if it was from the pain in her hand, or from the thought of going to see a doctor about it. Lords she'd known Doc Cottle back on the G for years and she STILL had trouble going to see him... never mind a complete stranger...
"Kara?" He managed to move up next to her again without her noticing. She must be seriously distracted, and given the way she'd ignored broken ribs, it wasn't pain likely to be doing it. He took her hand carefully in his again, avoiding her injured finger. "Would you rather the two of us tried to fix it here?"
She nodded. "Yeah.... I would... ‚” She looked at him, eyes almost pleading.
"OK darlin', you ever had a dislocated finger before?" He moved her down to the far end of the table, gently pushing her down into one of the chairs. If she didn't want the doctor that badly, then he'd do his best. One of the things they'd agreed on was not to answer any questions they didn't want too; she didn't want to talk about doctors, he wouldn't ask.
She nodded "A couple of times..." Well more than a couple... but she wasn't ready to talk about that, nor about the questions that would come if a doctor x-rayed her hands...
"OK. First things first ... if you're finger is goin' blue anywhere, or if any part of it's numb, we're goin' to the Doc. No arguments, ok?" He moved into the galley, collecting some odds and ends that'd be useful for a splint and bandage.
"Alright..." She set her hand up on the table, carefully unwrapping the tape she’d used to steady the injured finger.
Setting everything out on the table, he took her injured hand in both of his. "This is goin' to hurt, Kara. I don't have anything to give you for it, unless you want some cheap booze..." He kept his finger gentle as it probed at her finger and knuckle. No sign of it going blue, at least...
She drew in a sharp breath, steeling her expression. "I'll be ok... just do it..."
He made sure that she was in front of him, and moved her finger so that it was slightly flexed, trying to ignore her hiss of pain. He moved one hand so that it was holding the tip of her finer, and the other he rested below the base of her finger. Then, in a sharp motion, he drew the finger forward as if trying to pull it into a straight line, other hand pushing the joint back into place.
"FRAK!" She yelped, but kept her hand steady. Ok, now she was pretty sure she was going to be sick..... But thankfully the pain passed quickly. She could feel the sweat trailing down the back of her neck, her heart still racing. "How's it look?"
He ran his fingers over her injured one slowly. There didn't seem to be any fluid swelling the joint, so maybe the blood vessels were ok. "Not too bad, considerin' ... how's it feel? Any numbness?"
"Right about now... I only wish, hurts like a sonofabitch
"Well, it don't look to bad at all. It swells up or starts changin', you're going to see the doc, though." He improvised up a padded bandage, and taped her little finger to the finger next to it.
"Thank you...‚Äù she said softly. It was a think you for not only understanding her, but for not forcing her to the doc as well
He nodded, not trusting himself to answer with her looking at him like that, all vulnerable. Kara didn't do vulnerable; she was pretty much the strongest woman he'd met ... maybe even more than Zo√´. "Don't thank me ... until you've tried the food. I ain't exactly no gourmet chef, you know."
"Anything beats dried ration packs... and my cooking‚Äù she added... she was ahorrible cook, mostly from lack of trying, living i the military one didnt have muc opportunity to cook more than instant noodles once in a while
"Well, come try some. It should still be mostly hot... the bits that are supposed to be." He made a point of holding her chair out again, but when she went for the eating irons, he batted her hands away. "Nope. Not having you strain that finger none." Picking up his own, he offered her a forkful of food from one of the still steaming bowls. "Besides... I want to make sure it's safe to eat first, and I ain't got no pigeons to try it on..."
She gave him an almost flirty smile. "Talk about service... careful I might get used to being waited on..." She teased.
He grinned back at her. "Well, only so long as you go on breaking bones and suchlike."
She bit her lip a little. "Don't get used to it..."
"You still haven't tried the food yet... I'm gettin' worried..." Lords, but she looked pretty when she bit her lower lip like that. Even more so, because it was so obviously natural.
She leaned in and snagged the forkful "Mmm gods, that’s pretty good...
He helped himself to a forkful, and loaded up another for her. Not too bad. Not great, but not too bad. Of course, he really shouldn't tease her with the next forkful...