Strange, Stranger and Downright Unsettling – Part 4 (Repost)
Monday, November 12, 2007

After a fall, Mal's world changes dramatically.


A/N: This is the last 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 Four

Mal woke up in the infirmary again. This time both his arms and legs were restrained. He remembered what had transpired in the galley and tried to jerk his arms free. He felt his heart racing. Then he looked up to see River looking through the infirmary window. His eyes pleaded with her to help him. She smiled, came inside the room and started removing the ankle restraints.

“What in the sphincter of hell is going on here? What is going on with everyone?” he asked wide-eyed, still trying to jerk the wrist restraints off. “Where is Zoe? Have you seen Zoe? Is she OK? I mean, you seem OK. Is she OK? What’s going on?”

River finished removing the restraints around his ankles, but before she started to move on to his wrist restraints, she leaned over and whispered into his ear.

“Panicking. Need to calm down,” she said softly. “Going to hyperventilate.”

“Calm down? I should calm down? Have you seen Zoe?” Mal rambled, terrified. Then, just like River had said, he couldn’t breathe. He was hyperventilating. His chest was heaving to get air, but it just wasn’t coming. His head started to tingle and the room started to spin. River went and got a paper bag from one of the cupboards and helped Mal breathe easier.

“Told you,” she stated flatly.

Once he could breathe again, she removed his wrist restraints. He jumped up off the bed and backed up until he hit the counter.

“What is going on?” he asked. “Is Zoe OK?”

“She’s satisfactory,” River said as she walked towards him. She cocked her head as if she was listening to something. “Won’t find her here though.”

“She’s not on the ship?”

“She is, but…” River tapped his head. “Not in there yet. Too much to process.”

“What?” Mal asked, furrowing his brow. What was she saying? “You mean that Zoe is here, but she’s not?”

“Processing too fast,” River sang. “Be calm. She’ll be there when you need her.”

Out the door she went. Mal tried to follow her but she was gone.

“Where’d she go…?” Mal whispered.

That’s when he heard Book and Jayne’s voices.

“Scans read normal. I don’t get it. He should be doing better,” Jayne was saying.

“He seems so disoriented,” Book replied. “And he knows things that he shouldn’t.”

“Like what?”

“He knew details about me from during the war. I didn’t even know him then.”

“Has H been telling him stories?”

“Said he wasn’t.”

“Well, let’s go check on him. See if he’s feeling better.”

Mal quietly slipped out the door and down the opposite hallway before they could see him.

Book and Jayne arrived at the infirmary and saw the open door. They both looked inside and saw that the restraints were unbuckled.

“How in the world…?” Jayne whispered. “I know I put those on. And tightly too.”

“Someone must be helping him,” Book mused. “Otherwise, the Shepherd has a bit of storytelling to do.”

“But who would help him?”

“Don’t know. Maybe there’s a special class at the abbey called Houdini 101,” Book said. “You should load up with another dose of smoother. We may have to use it again.”

Jayne nodded as he went about preparing the medication. It took him only a minute.

“What should we do, Captain?”

“Spread out and find him. I don’t want to do a general announcement over the com,” Book ordered. “Don’t want to spook him any more than he already is. May be more dangerous if he feels cornered. If you do come across other crew, tell them quiet like and have them go to their quarters. Need to make sure everyone will be outta the way.” He turned to Jayne with a small smile. “And tell Simon not to shoot him. Know how excited he gets.”

Jayne nodded and they both set off in different directions.

Meanwhile, Mal had made his way to the bridge and it was empty. He decided he would rather like it to stay that way for a while. He could think easier when alone and looking into the black. Zoe is here, but she’s not. What does that mean? How can someone be here but not? That’s not possible. He felt his heart rate quicken and his stomach drop in apprehension. River said to stay calm. Don’t want to hyperventilate again. Be calm. Be calm. Be calm. I hope Zoe is OK. River is fine, so Zoe could be fine. River even said Zoe was fine.

He took a couple of deep calming breaths and his mind continued to race. What the heck is going on here? Mal looked pensively out the window, trying to focus. It never ceased to amaze him how beautiful the black was. He stared for a few seconds, mesmerized, before his mind started again. I need you Zoe. You can come out now. River said that you’d be there when I needed you and I gorram need you now. He could feel his heart thumping beneath his chest. OK. Be calm. Be calm. Be calm.

A noise behind him caught his attention. He spun wildly to find himself facing Wash. His demeanor was quite unsettling, dressed in soldier-like attire. It seemed to be the male version of what Zoe would wear. Mal liked the Hawaiian shirts better. Wash sat down in the pilot’s chair and eyed him cautiously as Mal stood uneasily between the two consoles. That looks right. Wash in the pilot’s seat. And why not? He’s the pilot. Right? Mal re-examined the clothes Wash was currently wearing. They were out of place. They had called him H. H is for Hoban. Is he first mate? That can’t be right. That’s Zoe’s job. But where is Zoe? Be calm. Be calm. Be calm.

“Mornin’ Shepherd,” Wash said cautiously.

“H?” Mal said hesitantly. Wash nodded. I have to ask. I have to know. Be calm. “You first mate here?”

“Since the Captain’s had Serenity.”

“OK,” Mal simply answered. Where is Zoe? Where is Zoe? Be calm. If he is first mate, then who is Zoe? Am I going insane? Be calm. Be calm.

“You OK?” Wash asked him.

Mal nodded his head slowly. His mouth dried out and he felt his throat constrict. He knew he had to ask the next question and he was afraid of the answer.

“Where is Zoe?”

“My wife?”

“Yes,” Mal answered. He could hear nothing but his chest pounding. Be calm. Be calm. Be calm.

“She’s gone down to see Inara. Something about the wiring here in the cockpit,” Wash revealed.

Mal was deeply grateful to know that she was actually here on the ship. Be calm. Calm is good. It was still unsettling to think of Inara in the engine room. He knew he had to press on.

“Is… Is she OK?”

“She’s great. Just frazzled a couple of wires while you were out. Quick getaway.”

Mal nodded again. A quick getaway is normal. They had done it many times.

“She’s OK,” Mal whispered again. He felt a little better. Be calm. I can do calm. See? Doing it now.

“No one flies like my missus,” Wash finished.

Mal’s eyes whipped back around to Wash. She’s the pilot? OK. Not doing so well with the calm now. If she’s the pilot, then is she wearing silly Hawaiian shirts? And making jokes? Zoe doesn’t do that. What’s going on? Be calm. Be calm. Be calm.

Mal looked past Wash to see Book come onto the bridge. He saw him whisper into a com. Probably calling the doc. What do I do? All this ain’t right. This can’t be right. Am I going insane? Be calm. Be calm. Be calm.

“Shepherd? How are you feeling?” Book asked in a hushed tone.

Mal didn’t answer. He didn’t know what to say. His eyes darted about. He started looking for a way to escape. Be calm. Hell with calm. Way past calm. He saw Jayne come in behind Book. I am not getting doped again. Wash slowly began to stand up, looking like he was moving into position to assist the others in whatever they had planned.

“You sit down or I will make you sit down,” Mal hissed at him, all the while keeping tabs on the rest of the crew.

Wash froze as he looked back at Book. Book nodded and Wash slowly sat back down as Mal asked.

“How did you get out of your restraints?” Book asked as he and Jayne walked slowly towards Mal. “Did someone help you?”

“Help me?” Mal said. “River helped me. Came and let me out.”

Book and Jayne stopped abruptly. The bridge was suddenly silent. Jayne paled visibly.

“River?” Jayne asked softly, with pain in his eyes.

“Yes. River. Your sister,” Mal said. “She seems to be the only other person on this boat that hasn’t changed.”

“Don’t you remember?” Jayne said, just above a whisper. “River died right after we came on Serenity. Shot by the lawman. She couldn’t have helped you.”

Jayne’s words hit Mal like a ton of bricks.

“River’s dead?” Mal asked in a whisper. His throat tightened until he could barely breathe. Got to get out. Got to get out. This isn’t right. This is so not right. I saw her. She helped me. I know she helped me.

That’s when he made his move. Mal didn’t remember how he got past them all, but he did. He ran towards the cargo bay, acutely aware that they weren’t far behind. He ran down the catwalks as fast as he could, turning every once in awhile to see them just a few feet behind him. He vaguely saw a glimpse of someone in front of him. He heard her speak first.


Zoe! He turned to see her standing there, dressed like she should be. Normal clothes. No Hawaiian shirts. But he had too much momentum. He was careening towards her. She spoke again.

“It’s time to wake up, Sir.”

Somehow he managed to miss her, but in doing so, he fell from the catwalk. He felt himself falling. He heard the sickening clunk of his own head hitting the floor. Then he didn’t feel anything at all.

When Mal opened his eyes, all he knew for sure was that his head was pounding and it was too bright. He groaned.

“He’s coming around,” he heard someone say. The penlight that had been shining in his eyes was turned off. He realized he was in the cargo bay and Simon was over him. Zoe and Jayne were standing behind Simon.

“Welcome back, Sir,” Zoe said.

“Pupils are equal and reactive. He definitely has a concussion though. This cut will need stitches,” Simon said as he put the pen light in his pocket.

“Are you the doctor?” Mal asked groggily.

“Of course I am,” Simon said as he looked at Mal with concern.

“S’long as Jayne ain’t…”

Simon’s frown deepened. “Let’s get him to the infirmary. Ma shong,” he ordered.

Zoe and Jayne picked him up and started moving him towards the infirmary. Mal turned his head towards Jayne.

“You still like guns, right?”

“Cracked his brainpan,” Jayne grunted under his breath.

Mal caught a glimpse of River standing in the shadows as they helped him through the infirmary doors. They laid him on the table. Mal suddenly grabbed Zoe by the arm.

“Wash is flying the ship, right?” he slurred. “He better be flying the ship.”

“He’s plotting the course to our next job, just as you asked,” Zoe told him as his hand slid off her arm. “Are you alright Sir?”

Mal nodded slowly as he smiled weakly. He knew he was going to be okay, no matter how he felt right now. No matter how hurt he was. He was good. Things were right.

Thanks for reading, please comment.


Saturday, February 23, 2008 9:20 AM


I loved this! Soooo- was he dreaming or did he land in a parallel universe?


Tuesday, April 1, 2008 7:06 AM


I really enjoyed this. I wish they had made this during the series. It would of been hilarious.

Friday, May 23, 2008 12:09 PM


That... was SO AWESOME!! lol ^_^


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.