Life's Too Short- Part Sixteen
Monday, May 8, 2006

Mal and Inara have a showdown with Lorry.


Life’s Too Short- Part Sixteen Author's Note: Sorry there's no Simon/Kaylee here, but there will be in the next one. Action scene, and a little Wash...

“Tsao gao,” Zoe spat, her knuckles going whitish-yellow on the controls. Jayne swallowed hard, beating back any other reaction. River’s question reverberated in the air, slow and deadly. Images from his past filled Jayne’s head, images of women. A woman. Dead. Cuts all over her like a gorram piece of paper. Images he’d tried to forget. “They never found who did it,” River whispered sadly. “She was just a whore. No reason to look into it.” Jayne looked at her, eyes wide with fear and worry. “Ain’t nobody talkin’ on that subject, Crazy.” “So someone’s got ‘em, and they’re usin’ flechettes,” Zoe said flatly. “River, you know where?” “Darkness. A room. On the ground. Like little bugs, they watch and wait. Always busy. It’s sad.” “So they’re still on Diogenes? Where?” Zoe wasn’t looking at the girl, all her attention focused on planning a rescue. “Aah!” River cried out and clawed at her waist. Jayne stared at her, searching for a problem. “What? What is it?” She brought her hand away, eyes fixed on slender fingers. The tips were covered with blood, her nails red. She’d clawed through the thin material of her shirt, and Jayne could make out four deep scratches in her side. “Blood spilled. Too much. I’ll give it, I’ll give it all, because they fight and they don’t see but I see, oh God, and I know! I know!” As she spoke, her voice rose and her words came faster and faster, her eyes widening until the whites showed all the way around the irises. Jayne grabbed her hands and held them tightly, making shushing noises. River didn’t relax, but let him hold her. As he did, one word echoed in Jayne’s mind: ‘I’ll’. She’d said ‘I’ll’. Did that mean she was fixin’ on spillin’ her blood? Or was it just… what was the word? Figurative-speaking-like? “They’re here. In town,” River said softly. And was that resignation in her voice? Or was he imagining? “When I find those bastards, they’ll pay,” Zoe said coldly. “No,” River whispered so quietly that no one else heard. “You all will.” * * * * It was all he could do to keep his eyes open. Mal was tired. So tired. He hurt so much that the hurting was surreal, numb, a physical thing beside him. He hurt so much that he almost didn’t hurt. Like when water was so hot it felt cold. Across from him, he could see with hazy eyes that Inara was breathing, eyes closed, and that made him stay awake. If he lost consciousness, the bitch would go after the woman he- aw, ruttin’ hell. If he couldn’t admit it now, would he ever be able to? The woman he gorram loved. And Mal would not stand for that. Actually, he would stand for it. He would stand for anything, seeing as he couldn’t exactly move. But it was the thought that- “Aaah!” She was burnin’ him again. He could smell flesh scorching, and knew it was his own. Didn’t seem real. “Mal, you old bastard, don’t go thinking this isn’t real.” For a moment, Mal thought it had been Lorry who’d spoken. Then, he realized foggily that the voice had belonged to a man. “Wash,” he said. When the words didn’t echo in his ears, he knew he’d only thought the word. “Yeah, I’m here.” “You know, when I said that earlier, I was jus’ kiddin’,” Mal slurred. Man, even in his head, he was barely in control. “Well, you know me. No sense of humor.” “None to speak of,” Mal replied. “Go ‘way, Wash. You’re dead.” “What? I’m dead? No! How can this be? What’s going on?!” Mal could hear the familiar sarcastic, overblown tone in Wash’s voice. Seemed that death hadn’t changed him. “You know, you ain’t comfortin’ me. I’m so hurt I’m hearin’ voices. Not only that, I’m hearin’ * your * voice.” “Ah, stop whining. Could be worse. You could be dead, and then you’d have nothing to do but hang out with me all day! Book stops by for a visit every once in a while, but I’m here all the time!” “Ya think if she tortures me s’more, you’ll go away? Like I’ll faint or somethin’?” “But Mal, you’re the captain. Captains don’t faint!” “You’re a real hun dan of a ghost, you know.” “Yes, well, I try. But you’ll have me beat without even trying if you let her kill you.” “Nothin’ I can do. She’s gonna kill Nara, Wash,” Mal told him. “Bitch’s gonna kill ‘er.” “Yeah, but she’ll kill her first. Nara’s a real pretty lady, Mal. I’m kind of lonely up here, waiting for my honey. I hear Nara’s real good with her hands-” “That ain’t fair,” Mal thought-shouted. “Wasn’t fair when you did it to me in Niska’s torture chamber, but it brought me through. You’re damn well gonna accept the return-favor.” Mal was quiet, contemplating. He noticed that the things Lorry was doing to him were fading into the distance as he concentrated on his discussion with a dead man. “Uh, you may be right.” “Don’t agree with me! Then you’ll get all complacent and such, and she’ll end up killing you by accident. Can you see us? Two ornery ghosts, watching over Serenity…” “God help me.” “No,” Wash said, his voice suddenly fierce, “* you * help you!” “I’m bolted to the gorram table, Wash!” “But Inara’s only tied to the wall.” “Then why the hell are you talkin’ to me?!” “You were fading.” “Go bug her! She’s fadin’ more’n I was!” “Nice talking to you, Captain.” “Yeah, yeah. Wash?” “Mm?” “If this is all a dream, then I guess it don’t matter. But if it’s real, then… thanks.” “No problem, Mal.” And there was silence in his head. What the ruttin’ hell was that, Mal thought. And he realized that his eyes had cleared up. And through those cleared-up eyes, over Lorry’s shoulder, he saw Inara’s eyes open. She was twisting her wrists around, face twisted with pain. Mal closed his eyes and prayed. Inara didn’t know what had woken her from her stupor. A feeling, a nudge, a faint, earnest sound in her ear. Something. And then, she saw Mal’s eyes meet hers. Those blue, blue eyes that saw into her soul. She started twisting her wrists, wincing as the rope chaffed against the cuts. Blood made her hands slicker, but also had dried onto the rope, making it stiff and hard to move. She clenched her teeth and gave two sharp jerks with both arms, reopening the wounds on her wrists and causing fresh blood to flow over the ropes. In the moment before the blood became sticky and hampering, rather than helping, she pressed her thumbs to her palms and slid her hands through the tight loops of rope. Inara grabbed the loops to keep from falling, her numb fingers shooting bolts of pain up her arms with the sudden movement. She saw that Mal had his eyes closed, and hoped he’d keep them that way. She didn’t want to chance any surprise in his face to alert Ellen Lorry of anything. Lorry’s back was turned to Inara, and she was focused on her work. Inara could hear Mal’s loud, rasping breath, the small grunts he made every few seconds. She hardened herself, made herself cold and angry and filled with righteous hate. Drawing every ounce of strength she had, Inara took the single step forward and grabbed Lorry’s head. She jerked the other woman’s head to the side, meaning to break her neck, but lacked the strength. Before she lost her moment, Inara managed to slam Lorry’s head against the side of the table that Mal was bound to. The torturer fell to the ground, blood pouring from a cut in her temple. Inara scrabbled at the latches on Mal’s wrists and neck, and got them undone just as Lorry rose up, clawing for her. She’d been holding a scalpel that had fallen with her, and was now lying between Inara and the wall. Inara dove for it, but blood loss and fatigue sent her down too hard and she lay helpless. One hand closed on the scalpel, but Lorry was already reaching for it. The older woman’s face was white and furious, her dark eyes fixed on Inara’s face. She tore the scalpel from the Companion’s hand and climbed to her knees, bringing her arm up and preparing to swing down in a deadly arc. Inara screamed. Just as Lorry was about to strike, Mal’s bloody hand closed on her wrist. Inara saw that Mal was on his knees, ankles painfully twisted because of the steel bands still closed over them. Lorry swung around, a terrifying rage contorting her features. “Mal!” Inara screamed, because he’d grabbed the wrong wrist and now Lorry was slashing at his throat! Mal jerked back just in time, the blade whistling past. He ducked another swipe and clawed at the counter by the door, managing to knock it over. Flechettes slid across the floor. He grabbed one, coughing red, but was forced back against the table as Lorry continued to slash at him. Inara climbed unsteadily to her hands and knees and grabbed Lorry’s ankle, dragging her backwards. She caught the torturer’s hand as Lorry stabbed at her with the scalpel, years of training against assault taking over her weakened body as she twisted. This time, her strength didn’t fail her. Lorry’s wrist snapped. Ellen Lorry shrieked a string of Chinese curses, and clawed at Inara’s hand that still gripped her broken wrist. She dropped the scalpel, but lunged at Inara and landed on top of her. Seeming to ignore her broken wrist, Lorry pummeled Inara’s torn abdomen. Inara groped for the fallen scalpel, but couldn’t find it. She was screaming, her voice too hoarse to make much sound, unable to see anything but red. Lorry was yelling too, her broken wrist making an awful cracking sound every time she hit Inara. Suddenly, Lorry fell back. Mal knelt behind her, holding a bloody flechette in his hand. Lorry gasped with pain, and clawed herself away from both of them to huddle near the door. She was crying, tears of rage and agony that drew trails down her cheeks. Mal stared at Inara, and she crawled towards him. “Oh god,” she was saying again and again. “Oh god.” Suddenly, Mal’s face twisted in horror and Inara heard a dreadful shriek from behind her. She turned to see Lorry rearing towards her, regained knife in hand, face drawn and inhuman as she closed for the fatal stab. Then, before Inara could move, Lorry collapsed on her back to the floor, eyes still open, face still frozen in that horrible mask of murder and mayhem. The handle of Mal’s flechette quivered slightly, but only slightly: it was too deeply buried in her left breast to move much. Inara looked towards Mal, and saw that his hand was still up from throwing the knife. He looked from the dead woman to her, and smiled. Inara scrambled up and undid the bands on his ankles. “Much obliged,” Mal murmured. Then, with a moan, he fell forward onto the red, wet floor.

TBC: Simon and Kaylee have a scene, and River and the others find Mal and Inara- but first, they have to get out of the building… alive….


Monday, May 8, 2006 5:12 PM


glad to be the first to read. Have you ever thought of writing sci-fi or action novels?

Monday, May 8, 2006 7:07 PM


Solid visual impressions

This may be your best written chapter yet.

Enjoyed the Wash turn about

Yea! Inara, you go girl!

Tuesday, May 9, 2006 12:30 AM


This story just keeps getting better. Thanks for not falling into the fanfic trap of having Inara helpless.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006 9:07 PM


This is the shiny shizzney, wingedraksha;)

Loved how you got Wash to repay Mal's efforts during "War Stories" by keeping Mal aware long enough to encourage Inara once she was roused by Wash.

Though I am curious why Lorry was so gorram moonbrained. You had acting like Mal had personally slaughtered her family or something;) Meh...creepiness was excellent so I am not gonna bitch:)


Thursday, May 11, 2006 5:55 AM


In one of the next chapters, there's a flashback that explains some of why Lorry's so, well, nutso. Don't worry, it wasn't just Mal's charming personality that got her so pissed!

Thursday, May 11, 2006 11:15 AM


I too have really enjoyed this series, because again I am a closeted Mal/Inara shipper, although I do love Simon and Kaylee more so I am waiting very impatiently for the next chapter.

I envy your ability to write torture - and admire it as well. That is always the hardest for me.


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