Mommes--a unit of weight traditionally used to measure the density of silk
It took three trips to bring all the salvageable crates from the junked ship to Serenity. Jayne and Zoë worked together to clear a space in the cargo bay. After watching River maneuver away from the larger vessel, Mal catalogued the contents of each crate.
"Seed," he announced. He let the first lid drop and kicked its seal closed before moving to the others. "Seed. Seed. Silk. Medicines--Doc, come see what exactly we've got." Simon, seated on a stairway landing with Kaylee after carrying the crates, made his way over and peered inside. "Ammo."
Jayne moved to examine the ammunition and held a bullet to the light, while Simon did the same with a vial.
"Immunizations." He titled the vial and read the label. Milky liquid sloshed inside. "Pretty fundamental, really. Only people on the rim would need these. Anyone closer will have access pretty readily."
"Still worth hanging onto," Mal said as Simon replaced the medicine. "I'll get word out on the seed 'fore we reach Whitefall. We can likely drop the medicine there, too. Anyone willing to buy, they'll find us."
"We sellin' this, or keepin'?" Jayne was deeper into the crate by now. A box rattled noisily when he shook it next to his ear.
"There anything'd fetch a good price?"
Jayne shook his head, already sorting out a pile for himself. "Nothin' folk can't get on their own, legal-like. It's all basic."
"Keepin', then. Least we won't need to stock up for a while."
"The silk?" Zoë asked. "The top few bolts have some water damage. We wouldn't get much for 'em."
"How's the rest?" Mal crossed to the crate, lifted the damaged silk, and inspected the others. "Moneyed women always want new clothes, no matter how far out they are." He rubbed the fabric between his fingers and nodded slowly, then replaced the lid over the sellable goods. "I'll send out on this too, but we'll likely do better to wait until Beaumonde with it."
"And the messed silk, Cap'n?" Kaylee wrapped her arms around her knees, and her feet bounced in poorly concealed excitement. The fabric, deep blue, shimmered conservatively where it caught the light. Ideas flitted through her mind: a skirt, perhaps, that swept the ground as she walked; or a jacket, cut from the top of an old pair of coveralls, lined in elegance against the chill of the black; or sheets, dark enough to camouflage Simon's hair and throw his skin into sharp contrast. "I ain't never had real silk before, to use however I wanted."
Mal glanced up to the upper level, where Inara stood behind the railing. "You need any o'this?" He laid two bolts on the lid of the crate and unwound the third, studying the fabric. "The water's mostly on the outer bits, but the inside looks to be fine. Enough for something, I figure."
"It's not a shade I'd usually choose for myself," Inara said. She adjusted her wrap slowly, pulling the edge further down one shoulder and smoothing it across her chest. She flicked her eyes from the silk up to Mal's face and held his gaze, then smiled softly and thankfully. "But something new would be pleasant. I'll see what I can make of it."
Mal's face gradually softened, and he turned to Zoë to keep from doing anything unseemly, like smiling. She raised an eyebrow sharply when he extended the fabric towards her, and he nodded without ever voicing the question.
"Your sister have any need of this?" he asked Simon. "I imagine she can pick up sewin' like anything else she tries."
Simon shrugged. "You'd have to ask her. She might, but it's very possible she won't care at all."
"Alright. Get the crates stowed, then." Mal wrapped the silk back around the bolt and picked up the other two on his way towards the stairs. He handed one to Kaylee, who squealed quietly and ran her hands over its surface, and continued towards Inara. Jayne pushed his bullets into a large pile, and Simon helped him move the crates out of the way.
Gauze - 3 to 5 mm
Kaylee brought the roll to her mouth and began to tear a bandage with her teeth. Simon cleared his throat. She raised her eyebrows at him for a moment, then reached for a pair of scissors instead.
"Told you I ain't the best one for patchin' you up," she muttered, wrapping a strip of gauze around Simon's wrist. "We can't have a doctor and only one hand works. Cap'n or Zoë'd've more experience at this."
"They're also on world right now." With his free hand, Simon gestured towards the far wall of the infirmary. "Tape's over there, in the middle drawer." He held down the loose end of the bandage while Kaylee rummaged. "One of the smaller rolls will work."
She tore a strip, just the right length. Simon nodded approvingly as she pressed it over the gauze, then took her hands away. Kaylee toyed with the cloth of his trousers where it folded around his knees. The wide weave had softened and faded with wear and age. Precise stitches bound a patch of luxurious and shiningly new fabric over his thigh.
Simon waved his hand through the air a few times, and the tape stayed in place. He nodded again. Kaylee stayed silent, following his arm with her eyes. He turned his hand, watching how the bandage moved with his wrist, and then covered her hands with his own. He took care with his right hand. Though Kaylee smiled, she didn't move her fingers beneath his.
"You know, I've seen you working on Serenity," he said, looking at their hands on his leg. He stroked her wrist with his good thumb, and then glanced up at her face. "You have good, steady hands. There's none I'd rather have."
The ship was quiet around them, and Kaylee only had to lean in a little to kiss him.
Habutai - 5 to 16 mm
River sat crossed-legged in the center of the table, sewing, when Jayne carried in the first armload of knives. Without glancing up, or missing a stitch, she rose to her feet, kicked a pile of masculine clothes towards the far corner of the table, and perched on a chair. Jayne spread his weapons, still sheathed, out across the table, then pulled a whetstone from his pocket and stepped towards the lockers.
"Can I trust ya with my back turned to all these knives, crazy, or should I call your brother already?" Jayne's voice was relaxed, though, and he didn't turn to watch River as he spoke. Bottles bumped against each other as he rifled through them; Book had wrapped them in quilt scraps long ago, and the glass didn't clink. The room was quiet, but Jayne figured she could move silent enough, if needed.
"A needle would be an efficient weapon, if I required such." River drew one leg precisely up, then the other. She leaned forward, moving her center of gravity, then settled into the position. By the time Jayne found his oil, she had crossed her legs again and was working smoothly, as if never moved.
"Point of entry is difficult to find," she continued. "If thread is still attached, weapon is easily removed from victim. Afterwards, extreme ease of weapon disposal."
"Shiny." Jayne stretched out at the head of the table, legs sprawling underneath, and unstrapped the knife at his belt.
"Also, it is not my needle. There would be little evidence against me." River ripped the thread with her teeth, tied it off, and tossed her project back to the table. It was one of Simon's money-shirts, Jayne saw, now with some blue fabric peeking evenly from the cuffs. He made a noncommittal noise at River and picked something from between his teeth before adding the knife to the line-up.
"Wouldn't you like these disposed of, instead of patched?" When Jayne glanced at her, River was holding a pair of his own pants between two fingers, far away from her body.
Disposed of! They were perfectly fine. There was a gash down most of the left leg, true, and the belt loops were worn to hell, and only one of the pockets still held ammo reliably, but they were still warm enough (so long as they were worn over something). Besides, he couldn't exactly replace them until work picked up again.
"Patched, but--gorram, girl, you been in my bunk? When'd you get those?"
"I found it while I was looking for a needle." River withdrew behind her hair again, and balanced a fold of the same fabric she'd used on Simon's shirt across her knees. "I didn't ask because you were sleeping."
Raw - 35 to 40 mm
There was a pile of dirty things, clothes and linens, weapons, on their bed. Dust had begun to settle in the corners, and the ladder hinges squawked in protest as Zoë pushed the door open. Life support kept the air circulating throughout the boat, though, and the bunk wasn't stale when she climbed down. The left sleeve of her blouse glistened red as she went, a memento of the day's work gone sour.
She walked to the sink without glancing around, and searched through a cabinet. Zoë frowned as she looked. There were a few mismatched bottles, a comb, a collapsible cup, a leather band she occasionally tied around her hair, but no bandages. She closed the cabinet and placed her hands on the edge of the sink, leaning over it. Her reflection stared her down, tight around the eyes and mouth. She closed her eyes and touched her forehead to the mirror. When she sighed, her breath fogged the polished metal.
"Baby, I ain't ready to do this," she murmured, but she straightened anyway, and pushed away from the sink. Her mouth was set in a thin, fine line as she headed to the bed.
In the pile of fabric, she could find nothing without meaning. Everything evoked its own set of memories: a smell or a glance, a conversation. Zoë knew about sacrifice. She knew that, during war, you use everything in order to survive, and hoard treasures in your mind instead of in your hands.
In peace, though, it was near impossible to poke at one wound in order to stem the flow of another.
She was ready to go after Simon, and sterile wrappings, or Kaylee, and handmade soakers, when she saw the silk, folded on the floor by the bed. Gorram Mal and his gorram interferin', she thought, but stooped to pick it up. Under her fingers, the damaged fabric felt raised and bumpy. She ran her thumb over it, then nodded slightly and looked for a knife.
She wound a strip over the gash on her upper arm. It had already scabbed over, but the surrounding skin was still red and tender. It still needed to be covered. She held one end of the silk between her teeth when she tied it.
She folded another strip back onto itself until it was the size of her hand, and the thickness of her smallest finger. She unfastened her pants and tucked the silk into her drawers. Its bloody predecessor soaked in the sink, in cold water. Zoë lay down on the bed, on the pile. She smelled old sweat and her own blood, and very carefully though of nothing, until she slept.
crêpe de Chine - 12 to 16 mm
Inara cradled a mug of tea in her hands and walked silently along the boat's catwalk. They'd broken atmo and left Whitefall almost eleven hours ago. The crew, who'd put in a full day of trading and transporting goods, all went to their own bunks shortly after dinner. Inara had stayed onboard Serenity, though, and her internal clock still matched the time they'd kept on their way to the planet. She'd slept while everyone else worked, and now found the tables turned.
She moved aimlessly through the ship, trailing down from the kitchen to the cargo hold, then through the common room and up again. When she walked through the dining area a second time, she walked past the quiet bunks to the bridge. Mal sat slouched in the pilot's chair. Inara paused briefly outside the open door, and then stepped inside.
Mal turned slightly and met her gaze. She held it for a count of three, then looked out to the stars. The lights hung precisely, sharply, against the black. She felt Mal watching her for a while longer before he turned back as well.
"You're mighty restless," he said eventually.
"I'm not very tired," Inara said. She gestured to the seat next to him. "Do you mind?"
He shook his head and waved his hand towards the chair, and she sat. She leaned back, carefully matching Mal's posture, and crossed her legs. Her top foot peeked from under the hem of her skirt.
"You're up late as well," Inara said, and glanced at him. She studied the lines around his eyes and the rounded slump of his shoulders, and nodded to herself. When he looked her way again, she smiled slightly.
"Couldn't sleep." Mal shrugged. "Spent all day being tired, but I'm still up."
"Well." Inara took a final sip of her cold tea and leaned over to put the mug on the floor. "Do you want to be asleep, or to be awake? There are things you can do to make either easier."
Mal stretched and shook his head. "No," he said, "neither." Inara arched an eyebrow and he continued. "It's sorta nice like this. Quiet." He pointed to his head and then around him, behind him, at the sleeping boat and crew. "Good thinkin' time."
"There is much to say for solitude," Inara agreed, speaking slowly, "in moderation." She twisted her legs and pulled her feet beneath her, onto the seat. She toyed with the silk of her skirt absent-mindedly as she stared into the black.
"Much more to say about excess." Mal grinned to himself. Inara watched his face relax out of the corner of her eyes.
"I suppose," she said.
Mal nodded, and they watched the stars inch closer in silence.