Strange, Stranger and Downright Unsettling – Part 3 (Repost)
Monday, November 12, 2007

After a fall, Mal's world changes dramatically.


A/N: This is the third of a four part fic. Any feedback will be appreciated. Hope you all enjoy it. Also, a big THANKS to my beta, Chazzer.

Disclaimer: All things belong to Joss.

Strange, Stranger and Downright Unsettling

By abbeygirl

Part Three

Mal awoke in the infirmary again.

“This is so getting old,” he muttered. He tried to get up, but soft restraints on his wrists kept him from doing so. He struggled with them, trying to see if he could get them off. “You have got to be kidding…”

That’s when he noticed River sitting on the counter.

“You weren’t fluid. Didn’t go with it. Fought too hard,” she stated simply.

“What the hell is going on here?” asked Mal, still struggling with the restraints.

“Now look at you.”

“River, get over here and…”

“Not captain here, Captain. Can’t give orders,” she sang as she started towards the door.

“River! Don’t you dare leave. Get these things off me!” Mal shouted at her, sounding a little too authoritative. River shot him one of her looks and kept her distance. Sensing that he wasn’t getting far by barking orders, he attempted to relax a bit. “Please?”

She smiled and bounced gracefully to his side and removed the restraints. Mal sat up and rubbed his wrists. He looked down and saw he was still wearing the Shepherd’s clothes. He winced inwardly. Suddenly, River put both of her hands on his shoulders, looking like she was going to shake him. She looked him straight in the eyes.

“Use your head,” she said firmly. “No guts allowed here.”

And with that, she left the room. Mal sat perfectly still trying to process what she had said to him. He tried to remember each thing she said to him. What did she mean? Then one phrase caught him. She had called him Captain.

“Well that’s a step in the right direction,” he noted, smiling as he got up. He swayed a bit, but steadied himself on the bed. His stomach growled a little and he noticed his mouth was as dry as a desert. He gingerly left the infirmary and headed for the galley. No one was there when he arrived and he was relieved. He didn’t know whom he might come in contact with and frankly didn’t think he could handle one more surprise at that time. He knew he still had to find Zoe. He hoped that she was herself and not some alternate rendition like the others. He got himself some tea and a protein bar and sat down at the table. He never thought a protein bar would taste so good.

“Good morning, Shepherd.”

Mal looked up to see Book leaning up against the doorframe. He still wore his gun and belt, along with the same kinds of clothes Mal would be more comfortable in. The gun thing just caught him funny and he let out a slight chuckle. Book looked at him more intensely.

“I’m sorry,” Mal started. “Just thought of something a mite funny.”

“Care to share?”

“Nope,” Mal answered. His smile faded as he looked down at his food and finished it off. Book looked at him suspiciously and moved to sit across from him. Mal was tense, waiting for anything that happened. That’s when River’s words came back to him. Use your head. He knew he had to start thinking more before he acted.

“Do you understand who is in charge here?” Book asked him.

“Captain always is,” Mal said hiding a smirk. It was a non-committal answer. He still knew it was his ship, no matter what anyone thought differently. He just couldn’t wrap his head around the events unfolding to him.

“Just so you know. That captain would be me. This is my boat.”

“Yes sir, Captain sir,” Mal stated as he saluted. That was a bit too over the top. Use your head.

Wondering what his next move should be, he started looking around the room. Use your head. Yep, this time he was going to listen to her. I hope I am understanding her right. ‘Course, I could be way off too. Never can tell. Wouldn’t be the first time. Hell, he didn’t ever know if he understood regular people, let alone River. Mal tried to relax a little, but his stomach started doing flip-flops again. He was all manner of nervous. This whole situation was bewildering ad he wasn’t sure he could handle it yet. Use your head. Use your head. Use your head. He looked down and saw a small burn mark on the cuff of Book’s shirt.

“Know where that came from?” Mal asked pointing to the burn. Book followed his finger and looked at him, even more suspicious.

“Know that already. It’s my shirt.”

“Yep, a private in the war tried to start a fire and before you knew, there were cinders flying. One of them burned clean through the cuff of my shirt there. Didn’t know what he was doing. You’d think they woulda’ taught that in basic ‘fore he was let loose on a battlefield.”

“Gorram kid. Got himself killed not two days later,” Book continued and then stopped, “Your shirt?”

“That shirt right there,” Mal said pointing at the shirt again, trying to cover his mistake. Got to use your head. Use your head.

“How’d you know that?” asked Book eyeing him very intensely.

“Just knew,” Mal said. He looked at Book trying to find another detail that would not be general knowledge, but couldn’t. He sighed. Stomach was still going flip-flop. The room was eerily silent. He felt the need to run before he continued on. Looking around the room, he saw something else. Use your head. Use your head.

“Oh! Kayl…” he stopped himself quickly, “Inara painted this galley.”

“Everyone knows that.”

“But, do they know that I...” Mal started and stumbled on his own words. Use your head, Mal. Use your rutting head.You used a contact that Badger gave you and ended up having a dinner date with a land baron’s daughter for payment. She was one bù yang (ugly looking) woman.”

“Had a hard time keeping down my food,” smiled Book reminiscing. They both laughed softly together at the memory, then Book returned to his suspicious ways, “How did you know that?”

“Just knew,” Mal repeated. Use your head, Mal. Use your head. I hope this is gorram working.

Book was starting to catch on to the game and decided to ask a question of his own.

“What happened right before the Alliance picked us up in Serenity Valley?”

“How much time before?” Mal asked. He needed a time frame so he could answer the question correctly. The memories of that time were still as fresh today as they were back then. The flip-flopping in his stomach increased. Flip-flop. Flip-flop. Flip-Flop. Use your head. Use your head. Use your head.


“I threw my cross over the rocks in front of me,” Mal said softly. There was no pretense left. He didn’t try to cover his answer. It was what it was. It was Serenity Valley. He looked down at the table and fiddled with the wrapper left over from the protein bar.

“You still think you are me,” Book said flatly.

“Not you. Just captain.” Mal stated, just above a whisper. He didn’t notice Book moving to the com and using it softly.

“Well, H about killed me when I ran back to retrieve it,” Book went on. He wanted to keep Mal calm until Jayne could get there.

Mal’s head flew up and his eyes snapped to Book’s.

“H?” Mal asked quickly. His stomach started churning. Flip-Flop. Flip-Flop. Flip-Flop. He felt the panic rising. He stood up so quickly that the chair he was sitting in fell over. Flip-Flop. Flip-Flop. Flip-Flop. “Who is H?”

Someone came into the room from the bridge. Mal looked over. It was Wash. There was no Hawaiian shirt. No wacky smile or jokes. He was dressed as a soldier. He wore a gun. He wore Zoe’s gun. FLIP-FLOP. FLIP-FLOP. FLIP-FLOP. A full fledge panic went into effect. His mind was racing as he backed up against the meal lockers. What was going on? Where is Zoe? FLIP-FLOP. FLIP-FLOP. FLIP-FLOP.

“Where is Zoe?” he asked, eyes darting about. He had to find an exit. He had to retreat to get his bearings. He turned to head towards the door and ran right into Jayne. He threw a punch at Jayne, connecting solidly with his jaw. Jayne stumbled back as Wash and Book grabbed him from behind, holding him still enough for Jayne to inject another dose of smoother. Mal lost his balance and fell to the floor all the while trying to scramble away. The edges of his vision were going dark. He tried to speak again, but his lips didn’t want to cooperate. “Where’s Zo…”

Mal fell limp onto the floor. Jayne knelt next to him, rubbing his chin from the punch.

“He’s out, Captain,” Jayne said. “For a shepherd, he does pack a punch though.”

“What’s going on, sir?” Wash asked Book. Book shrugged his shoulders.

“Have you been telling the Shepherd stories from the war?”

“No, sir.”

“How is he?” Book asked Jayne with concern in his voice. “I thought he was on the mend. It’s been a couple of days since his accident.”

Jayne checked Mal’s vitals.

“Everything looks OK. I am going to do a more thorough scan when I get him downstairs. Make sure there isn’t something else going on.”

“How did he get out of the restraints?” Wash asked.

“I don’t know,” Jayne replied as he motioned for Wash to help him carry Mal back down to the infirmary. They pulled Mal up enough to get a firm hold of him. “Maybe I didn’t put them on tight enough.”

“Could someone have helped him?” Wash asked as he draped Mal’s arm over his neck to help him support Mal’s weight.

“Who would do that?” Jayne asked as he grabbed Mal’s other side.

“Well, make sure they are on good this time. He can’t be left to move around on his own like this. He could hurt someone,” Book said. “Lock the door to the infirmary if you have to.”

Jayne nodded as he and Wash started down toward the infirmary. Book was deep in thought as he sat back down at the table.

“How did he know those things?”

Thanks for reading, please comment.


Friday, May 23, 2008 12:05 PM


Yep. You most assuredly have me hooked. I wish this wasn't just a four-part fic...

Here's guessing the Zoe is the Hawaiian pilot ;)


You must log in to post comments.



Not Forgiving - Chapter 13
This is what happens when the Alliance strikes back. The scenes in this chapter happen about three months later. How is Inara? What is happening to River? Hope you like it.

Not Forgiving - Chapter 12
This is what happens when the Alliance strikes back. This chapter, Simon goes out on his own and finds a surprise.

Not Forgiving - Chapter 11
This is what happens when the Alliance strikes back. This chapter: an old friend arrives to help Simon and Zoe and River’s condition takes a turn.

Not Forgiving - Chapter 10
This is what happens when the Alliance strikes back. In this chapter, Simon and Zoe patiently wait on Serenity and Inara is a mess.

Not Forgiving - Chapter 09
This is what happens when the Alliance strikes back. This chapter: the crew splits up, but at what price?

Not Forgiving - Chapter 08
This is what happens when the Alliance strikes back. This chapter: What else could possibly go wrong to make their lives even <b>more</b> interesting?

Not Forgiving - Chapter 07
This is what happens when the Alliance strikes back. This chapter: how does the Plan start?

Not Forgiving - Chapter 06
This is what happens when the Alliance strikes back. This chapter: What happened to Inara once her shuttle landed? What is Simon’s plan?

Not Forgiving - Chapter 05
This is what happens when the Alliance strikes back. Chapter 5: What happened when Zoe and Simon got Mal back to Serenity?

Not Forgiving - Chapter 04
This is what happens when the Alliance strikes back.