The Better Man
Sunday, November 20, 2005

Zoe & Mal, set during the infamous Torture Scene from War Stories. -Warning: INTENSE; Torture & Grimy Sex


Rated NC-17! This story contains TORTURE and a slightly Non-con sexual situation. You have been warned.

Disclaimer: This is Joss's universe, I just play in it. Set During "War Stories”

The Better Man

"AAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" The jerking, trembling voltage ripped through their muscles, stripping away coherent thought and Mal felt his teeth clenching as his body struggled impotently in the restraints.

The electric jolts faded from his body and Mal forced himself to hold on to what sanity was left between his ears. Wash... had to keep Wash thinking...had to keep him fighting. He relaxed his arms against the restraints and tossed careless words, meant to sting, "Zoe and I got history, and I figure you gotta be askin yourself some fundamental questions about that history."

"You never slept with my wife?" It wasn't a question, in spite of how it sounded over the anguish in his voice. It was a certainty. A declaration.

Oh holy hell. Don't let him go there. Please don't let him go there. Mal tried desperately to listen to Wash's words, to hear what he was saying without crashing it all down both around them. Wash's jealousy, his anger, his frustration...

And he never knew. Never guessed. It wasn't Wash who was jealous of Mal. Never. Not half as jealous as Mal. Mal who had HAD her. Held her. Tried to keep her and lost her as though she was a ghost in his arms. Dammit, Wash. Don't go there. Don't make me tell you the gorram truth. He prevaricated, fought back, did everything he could to just fight without letting Wash know. Without the truth.

"This whole Captain thing isn't Zoe's trouble. It's the guy she never slept with thing." Wash's voice broke, choking on his own saliva, "Hell, Mal, I wish you had slept with her. Then at least she'd be over it."

Over it? Oh, she was long over it. Never really been into it.

I humped her, Wash! I fucked her and I used her and I lost her. And now she's yours. And you're the better man. Does THAT make you feel better? Mal forced the words past his lips. "Oh you want me to sleep with her? Would that make you feel better?"

"It might."

Damn you, Wash. Damn you to hell. Mal knew what he had to do, fought past his own resistance and slammed his words hard in Wash's direction. "Heh! Imagine it'd do wonders for her too."

It hadn't. It had nearly broken her. Him too.

"Screw you!" Wash's anger rolled forward, and Mal allowed a bitter triumph to sluice through him.

"Get in line."

The electricity rode hard through their bodies, and Wash's holler of pain shredded through Mal's ears along with the buzzing, the tearing sounds that shredded through his body as he gasped to pull air into his burning lungs.

Pain does things to the mind, to the spirit. It makes time move slower, all the while racing it towards the final ending. Mal tried to ignore it, to focus on the air he desperately needed to fill his lungs, feel it pumped through his blood, to his desperate muscles, keeping them strong and resisting.

Resisting as Zoe had been that day, so long ago. So gorram filthy long ago. He wrenched back a sob, the flashing behind his eyes becoming the flashing of the anti-aircraft strobes outside of their bivouac and the roaring of the electricity mingling with Wash's scream of pain to take him back to that night during the war, the night they both tried so hard to forget.

When he'd seen her, kicking back for a quiet moment, her looking at him, soft and tender through the smokey haze, he hadn't stopped to think, just reached out for her.

"Sarge?" She'd pulled back from him, dismay in her beautiful brown eyes. He was breaking, he knew it. He was weaker than he'd ever felt. They were in the tightest spot they'd ever been in, would ever be in up until Serenity Valley, and she was there, and they were so close, listening to the world tear itself apart and he'd rolled her into his arms, pinning her, finding her full, rich lips with his. They hadn't bathed in days, were covered with dust and sweat, and yet her mouth had opened to his, the taste of the cheap beer they'd just shared flowering over his tongue.

"Zoe..." A thousand words in that one syllable. Ranking officer. Taking advantage. Breaking ranks. Why wasn't she tellin' him no? Pushin' him away? Sanity erupted into a haze of frantic gasps as he opened his pants, pulled hers down. She wasn't wearing underwear. A lot of the women soldiers didn't and now he thought he might understand a bit better why.

"Sarge." She'd said it again, more urgent, her hands pushing him back a little, but he'd pushed his face into the crook of her neck, gasped into her ear, feeling her slim, tight body squirm a little against his. Everything about her was sexy, beautiful, strong; so strong it was frightening in it's hard power. He wrapped his arms under her body and clung to her as he pushed between her legs.

"No. Sarge. No." She was sayin' it. Was he hearin' it? What was she saying? Maybe she didn't mean it. Couldn't really mean it.

"Zoe." He said her name again, desperately, begging, and she'd fallen back, relaxing her thighs and letting him press his body against hers, seeking her heat, her comfort, and finding it.

She was dry, and tight and he'd rocked himself against her, waiting for her to respond, to relax. She'd turned her face away, and lifted her long, lean legs around him, put her hands on his hips to guide him, helping him force his way into her taught body, let him bury all of his doubt and his desperation in her.

The buttons on her uniform shirt were digging into his chest, and her fingers were clenched on his hips hard enough to bruise, bruise as he knew he must be bruising her with every fierce thrust, and he curled his head against her neck, smelling the dry dust and sulphur residue in her hair. Then she was gasping, her fingers shifting on his hips, pulling him closer, finding her own rhythm, and he let her take the control. She didn't speak again, but as he closed his eyes to the violence around them, to the closed expression on her face pressed away from him into the burlap sandbags, she mewled softly.

Mal gave in, felt his body rush towards completion, and clung to her, nearly weeping as she bucked once against him and then arched backwards with her own quick shudder of an orgasm.

Then she'd fallen back into the sandbags, her fingers sliding under his hipbones and prying him from her. He'd rolled to his side, wanting to hold her. Wanting to apologize. Wanting.. hell, not knowing what he was wanting. She'd just shifted away, pulled her trousers back on and grabbed her rifle, automatically checking how many rounds she had left.

Things had changed after that. For a few days, she wouldn't look at him. Just followed his orders, and kept their unit as together as it could be. When they got out of that scrape and into all new ones, things had gotten easier between them, but they'd never spoken on it. He'd let it go, buried it in a box full of painful, embarrassing memories that he never looked at. She hadn't touched him again, handing him ammo at arms reach, sitting just a bit further away at mess.

It wasn't until the Battle of Serenity Valley that she'd touched him again, grabbing his shoulder in silent thank-you after he'd knocked her to the ground with his body, protecting her from the flying debris of the aircraft he'd just brought down. Their eyes had met, Zoe flashing a grateful half-smile, and that bond that Wash saw, the bond he fought against, struggled against, resented with all his In-Love-With-His-Wife heart; that bond was rebuilt twice as strong, stronger than blood, stronger than the bond of any desperate humping in some filthy bivouac trench.

She would never love Mal. He knew that. In his weakness, he'd lost her, if he ever had a chance of having her. He'd lost that precious thing that separated the comrade in arms from the lover, from the wife. Wash had found it. And now, Mal knew only one thing. Zoe deserved Wash, deserved him like Mal would never deserve her. He had to bring Wash through this, whole, complete, and as unbroken as possible. He had to find the strength for them both.

"Wash? WASH!" He hollered as the jolts faded, looking around the restraint frame at Wash, ignoring Niska's gleefully smiling face. "When we get back, I'm gonna do it. I'm gonna take Zoe in on my bed and I'm gonna get me some..."

It had worked, made Wash rally, made him look up and pull himself together, even while it tore Mal apart.

Then she was there, bag in hand, telling Niska she was buying them back. Both of them. But he knew, knew looking at her then, over Niska's shoulder, what he had known all along. Her choice had to be Wash. It had to be Wash for both of them. The knife ripped through his ear, and he screamed, his eyes closed to Zoe's face, but knowing what he would see; her cold, hard glare as Niska put a piece of him into her hand. The only piece of him she would ever have again.

The door shut. Niska turned back, and Mal glared at him through the pain. So, this was where it ended. Zoe and Wash, safe. Mal turned to his anger at Wash, his jealousy, his rage and found the strength to turn it towards Niska and his men. He would survive this, and Niska and Wash could go to hell, go straight to hell. And maybe if they went there, he just might end up in Heaven, where Zoe might be. Not that he believed in heaven, and hell was right here where he was.

And when he looked up later, ducking under the brutal fist that was pummeling him, and saw them; the three avenging angels, with the Archangel Zoe in the middle, holding out her hand to stop Jayne from killing the man he was fighting, offering dignity that he really didn't need right then; he'd never seen something more amazing, more pure. Wash and Zoe, side by side, with Jayne, all aiming and firing. Saving him. Bringing him home.

He found it in himself to joke later, to tease Wash, restraining his joy when Zoe played along.

"He seems to think it would get all this burning sexual tension out in the open." See, I never told him. I'll never tell him. "Ya know, make a fair fight for your womanly affections."

Fair fight? There was never a fair fight. He'd laid down arms and surrendered long, long ago. "I know it's a difficult mission, but you and I have to get it on."

It was all there between the words, in how he put her hand awkwardly on his hip while she glanced back at Wash; said in the way he brushed her hair off of her shoulder. And in the depths of her eyes as they made her declaration all over again. stating her choice, saying once again who, in the end, was the better man.

"I understand, sir." She did understand. She had never told Wash, and she had long ago made the decision that he could never know. Mal could read past her words, into the woman beneath, even as she teased, "We have no choice."

We never did. I took it away from us. Mal just looked at her, not quite smiling, as she grimaced.

"Take me, sir, take me hard."

"Oh, now somethin’ about that is just downright unsettlin'." Jayne said from the doorway.

Mal almost grinned in the midst of pretending to try to kiss Zoe. Simple good old Jayne, seeing the surface of everything, and never looking underneath.

As Wash grabbed Zoe and turned her towards their bunk with a slap on her rear, Mal allowed himself to smile. Yes, he'd lost the woman, but he'd gained the friend. In time, perhaps he could gain the same friendship with Wash. But for now, no more reading between the lines, no more looking too deep into the murky spaces of the past and hoping to find clarity. It was a smile of relief, of letting go.

"Hey, free soup!" Jayne slapped him lightly on his bruised chest, and Mal gasped in against the pain as he lowered himself to the table, but other things didn't hurt as much as they had only a very short time ago.

He looked at Jayne, happily digging into Wash's bowl of soup. What was that? Split pea? Well, Wash had Zoe in his bunk. Least he could have was some soup. "Hey, Jayne? There any of that left on the stove?"

-------------- The End


Sunday, November 20, 2005 6:41 PM


I really enjoyed it. The way you incorporated the episode into the fic was very well done. Mal/Zoe fic is always groovy, keep up the good work!!

Monday, November 21, 2005 1:08 AM


Wow....I never in a million years would have thought that this story would work, or that I could possibly feel worse for Mal during that scene than I already did. Mal:(

This was seriously good writing; it held me for every word, as few fanfics do. This was actually believable and moving, to my suprise. A job very well done.

Monday, November 21, 2005 5:28 AM


Excellent. All kind of sad but also an heroic quality in Mal trying to put right his own weakness and save Wash for Zoe. That you made it all so believable is the icing on top. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, November 21, 2005 6:02 AM


This felt so real. Very intense. I hope you're going to write some more.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005 7:41 PM


Tightly woven tale and a good read.

I like this little declaration: "Yes, he'd lost the woman, but he'd gained the friend. In time, perhaps he could gain the same friendship with Wash. But for now, no more reading between the lines, no more looking too deep into the murky spaces of the past and hoping to find clarity. It was a smile of relief, of letting go."

Well done.

Sunday, February 19, 2006 7:56 AM



I...I don't wanna but...I can almost beleave this happened. Wow.

Love how it's Mal's thoughts through the eposode. Wow.


You must log in to post comments.



Mal/Simon - Actually Part 1 in my Collection of every pairing on Serenity; previously posted at AFF. Simon needs help picking up the pieces. AdultFanfiction.Net is still down, sooo....

Hold Me
Another in my Collection, in which I'm collecting every pairing Serenity has to offer. Mal/Kaylee - Mal realizes he has something to lose.

Collection; Part 3- Finding Strength
Part 3 of my AFF Collection Series- Zoe finds strength in Jayne; With AdultFanFiction.Net unable to add stories for a while, I thought I should share it here.

When River Cries
What happens to Serenity's crew when River cries? Mal tells us in his own words.

A Promise Lives
Post BDM - A short little one-off describing the movies end from one characters point of view.

Missing, Presumed Dead
Who did Dobson leave behind? Short little one-off inspired by Carlos Jacott's wedding ring in Firefly: Serenity.

Christmas With Jayne
Just a little Christmas/December Festival onboard Serenity. Sometimes the Christmas spirit comes from unexpected places.

The Better Man
Zoe & Mal, set during the infamous Torture Scene from War Stories. -Warning: INTENSE; Torture & Grimy Sex

Not Afraid of Having
Inara and Mal try to come to an understanding. Based on something Zoe said in "Heart of Gold".
Post-Serenity! Contains Spoilers!