Bedlam Part Six: A Part of the Strange Bedfellows Series
Sunday, December 4, 2005

The usual pairings. In the wake of the BDM, Mal and Inara find themselves kidnapped by a familiar foe. Mal channels an old friend, and Inara’s sad past begins to take shape. Serenity *spoilers*


Bedlam: Part Six By Kaynara

It’s Joss’s verse--I just borrow it. Leave me feedback!

*** River shook with the convulsions, seeing it all, feeling everything. Simon carried her to the infirmary, laid her on the table. “River?” He held her shoulders, trying to make the shaking stop. “Oh, God,” Kaylee whispered, near tears. “Poor sweetie.” “What in the gorram hell’s goin’ on in here?” Jayne demanded from the hallway. “Girl’s hollerin’ loud enough to wake the--” He stopped short in the doorway, seeing River’s slim, shuddering body writhe around on the table. A strange sensation twitched in his chest. Suddenly, she sat straight up, smacking her head on the hanging lamp. “You’re the one he needs. Go to him, go to Daddy now. Go!” Jayne scrutinized the little witch, cheeks wet, eyes blazing, hair in disarray with damp strands plastered to her forehead. He looked at Simon who shrugged helplessly, already using gauze to dab at the spot where River had hit her head. “Something’s wrong with the cap’n?” Kaylee asked. “Oh, and Nara! Jayne!” “I’m takin’ Inara’s shuttle,” he muttered. “Stay on the gorram ship.” He went to find Vera. “What about Zoe?” Kaylee murmured, holding River’s hand as Simon bandaged her temple. “Zoe don’t go,” River said firmly. Then, whimpering, she lay back down on the table, curling her knees up to her chest in preparation for the next wave of pain.

*** A bullet, tearing through flesh, muscle. Mal let Zoe wrap his arm with a strand of fabric torn from her shirt. And suddenly it didn’t hurt anymore. Actually, felt like nothin’ more ‘n a pinprick. And then he was slipping away again. The Valley faded into the background, the sky going gray, then white. In place of star light and gun blasts, he saw the warm glow of Chinese lanterns. The smell of death became incense, maybe vanilla. He sucked in air, so clean after the filth of the valley. Then he remembered. “Just a few drops of the antidote, Mr. Reynolds.” A small, bespectacled face loomed before his eyes. “I have to know, wherever did you go?” “Hell.” The sweat dripped into his eyes, stinging. “Nice an’ toasty this time of year. Hear they’re savin’ you a spot.” “Next to Mr. Hitler, I imagine,” Niska said with a low cackle. Mal raised a brow, the movement hurting his swollen eyes. “Who?” ***

Mal dropped to his knees in the trench. He’d just spend fifteen minutes giving CPR to some poor bastard with half a lung blown out of his chest. Kid couldn’t been nineteen. He collapsed in the dirt, somewhat shielded from the bullets raining down outside. Breathing heavy, he lowered his chin to his chest, wishing for death, wishing for whatever came after death. Then he saw the glimmer of gold, gleaming around his neck. He ripped off the empty symbol and held it away from his face, eyeing the broken man who’d betrayed him. He hurled the cross in the direction of the gun blasts and closed his weary eyes. “Mal! Wake up, you lazy bastard.” “Wash? They’re hurting her,” he groaned. “I can’t help her.” “No, Mal. She’s safe.” “Yeah?” He could have wept. “I’m sure, Mal. Except for the part where she’s gone crazy enough to consider humping you, she’s right as rain. Right as rain. What the hell’s that mean anyway? Alas, I always secretly thought she was the wisest of us all. Don’t tell Zoe I said that. But, hell, Mal, shows what I know. Anybody goes to bed with you gotta be missin’ more than a few brain cells.” “Yeah.” He had to grit his teeth, block out the images tearing through his brain. He wanted to sleep, wanted it with every fiber of his being. “I guess she...guess she....” “Nice comback, Captain! I do miss that dizzying verbal wit of yours. Captain? Mal!” “Ai ya! Quit yellin’ in my head, Wash.” “You’re just afraid, a gorram cowarad. Afraid she’s had better--real men who satisfied her. Ones who made her writhe--you ever make a woman writhe, Captain? Bet lots of ‘em gave it to her, and good.” “Bi zui. Shut up.” “You know, there’s a spot just behind the knees, and if you work it with your lips...well--” He chuckled. “Don’t believe I’m needin’ sex tips from you, Wash.” “Just a quick refresher course, make sure you still remember where all the parts go. Not like you’ve got anything better to do.” “Not so. I’ve got all the emotional torture. And then there’s the dyin’ to get to.” “Nobody’s dyin’ tonight, Mal. Think of me as your very own blond-haired, blue-eyed guardian angel. We’re in this together, buddy.” “What do you want, a thank you card? Why don’t you get the hell outta my head?” “You die here and I’ll be with you forever, Mal. Two aging ghosts, tellin’ dirty jokes and playing canasta in the cargo bay?” “God help me.” *** He’d stopped screaming, and for that she thanked God, Buddha, whomever in the immense, infinite ‘verse might be listening. Now he just moaned ocasionally, choked as though breathing was a struggle. Inara lay motionless, petrified, in the hiding space that once held precious trinkets: baubles and antique pistols and family portaits. She’d hid at the bottom of the closet that day, a small girl of eight or nine, easily concealed in the folds of her mother’s gowns. Her father poured the other woman a drink, sat back on the sofa. “Mr. Serra, I’m very grateful you agreed to see me this afternoon.” Inara had never seen anyone so...flawless. Her own mother was a beauty, or had been before she discovered wine. By noon, she was often finishing her first bottle. But this woman was exquisite, composed. Her hair fell in shining curls from a complicated knot atop her head. Inara would have loved to touch her dress, the fabric a vibrant, shimmering blue-green the same shade as her eyes. One day, Inara vowed to own one like it. “Please. I’m a powerful man in certain circles, but it isn’t very often I’m waved by a registered companion,” Inara’s father protested. “And to meet one of your considerable fame and stature...well, the honor is mine.” “You’re very gracious. I’ll be direct, Mr. Serra. Forgive me for bringing up such an ugly matter on such a lovely day. But word of your recent--and I’m sure, temporary--financial difficulties has reached my sisters and I at the Guild.” Inara’s father shot a glance at the door, as though reassuring himself of his wife’s absence. “You’re not wrong, though I do expect to have the matter resolved by the end of the year. Two at most.” “Let me help you.” The woman’s voice was inviting, easy. He looked baffled. “What do you want from me?” “Mr. Serra, I once saw your wife dance at the Osiris theatre in Capital City.” “Uh, yes. She used to be a ballerina. She was the best, the absolute pinnacle. But that was years ago, before she...well, it was a long while ago.” The beautiful woman reached out her hand, stroked it gently over Inara’s father’s. “I’m told the daughter resembles the mother quite remarkably.”

*** Since the war ended, one thought and one thought alone had kept Mal Reynolds going. Sure he and his crew got shot at more ‘n a little, got cheated outta what they’d rightfully stolen, got chased to the ass end of the solar system and back. But even when the goin’ got gray, which was most of the time, Mal kept his head for one reason. No matter how bad it got, he knew he’d never have to go back to that gorram war. He hadn’t counted on his talent for making friends. “Mr. Reynolds?” Niska pulled him out of the valley again. Mal felt his head spin as he landed with a jolt in the middle of the bed. “We gonna get started with the real torture soon?” he muttered through gritted teeth. ‘Cuz I’m a little bored.” Niska chuckled. “I’m very sorry you aren’t feeling more entertained, Mr. Reynolds. I’m enjoying myself rather immensely.” “You don’t get out a lot, do you. Can’t imagine the ladies go much for that shriveled-psychotic-bad-guy look. So last year, ya know?” Mal bit back a groan as Niska’s thug plunged a needle in his arm, searched without much skill for a vein. Inara, stay hidden, he pleaded silently, just before he went under again. Don’t let the bastard lure you out. Stay safe, bao bei, stay.... And then he was back in a trench, choking on dirt and dry, searing air.

*** Inara had told a lie. She wasn’t going to live. Who could live after this? Who would wish to? She smelled his hair soap on the collar of his coat. Grateful, she dug her hands deep into the pockets as though the familiar brown fabric could hug her, as though Mal could. And then she felt the switchblade, nestled deep in the lining. Wondering whether she was going crazy--already gone?--she slid the knife from the pocket, flicked it open. And smiled. One thing about Malcom Reynolds--he always came prepared. And just like that, she’d made her decision. She would keep her promise to Mal. She would live. But someone else wouldn’t. Soundlessly, she slid the wood paneling out of the way, began to lower herself to the closet floor.

*** “Aw, hell, Mal. You didn’t kill me. You didn’t drive that harpoon into my rutting chest.” “No. I just put you in the chair.” “Yeah, Mal, okay, you stubborn wang ba dan? You gave me a job, let me fly that piece of gou shi around the sky. And don’t forget the part where you introduced me to my beloved.” “Okay, that part was all her. Sure as hell wasn’t me told her to get in your bed.” “So, what, you shoulda tossed me off your boat that day? Found someone else to fly you from crime to crime?” “Coulda woulda shoulda.” “Ha. You’d be humped. Reaver meat.” “Oh, you’re not that good.” “I’m amazing, admit it. You hired me cuz I was the best...and, well, pretty gorram cute, gosh darn it.” Mal snorted a laugh. “I shoulda booted you and that yu ben de mustache the hell off my ship.” Mal was fading fast, losing himself. He watched Zoe realize the truth, that the angels weren’t coming. She never cried that day, but he did, later, alone in a hole in the ground. “Give me a little credit, Mal. You think it was your winning charm that kept me around all these years? Your rugged good looks? I made my own choices, you son of a bitch--Mal! Gorramit, listen to me.” “I’m listenin’. Ren si Fo zu, you’re annoying even dead.” “You didn’t kill me, Mal. But you die here, leave my wife and the little girl she’s carrying...well, that’ll be all you, buddy.” “Think about this, Wash. You really want me to have a hand in raisin’ your kid? You want her to grow up to be like her Uncle Mal? Which part in particular you hopin’ she takes after? The thievin? The gorram runnin’, never stoppin’? That what you want, Wash?” “Hell, Mal, I didn’t want any of this. I wanted to take a holiday with my gorgeous amazon of a wife, watch her bathe in a tub of pink rose petals, make wicked love to her in a big bed you don’t need a ladder to get to. You got any idea how hard it is to climb down a ladder when you’re all drunk and lusty?” “Ain’t the torture enough, Wash? I really need to be hearin’ this just now?” “I wanted to keep stealin’ from the rich and selling to the poor. Get a couple big pay-offs, buy my girl a slinky dress, some decent wine. Someday, I wanted to watch Zoe grow fat with my kid, hold him in my lap and play carnivore strikes back in the cockpit. I wanted to teach him to fly, show him the ruttin’ stars. I didn’t want any of this, Mal. Can’t say that was how I planned to go out, staked through the chest with my baby watchin’. But, hey, stuff happens, you know? Fate’s a bitch. But what can you do? We all make choices, sacrifices. I made mine, and I’m a man enough to say it. Hell, Mal, you didn’t kill me. But you lose yourself here, if you let that ta ma de hun dan drive you insane and leave my Zoe alone--well, that’ll be all you, Mal.”

*** Inara slid the knife between her cleavage. Half-amused, half-insane now, she realized that Mal would likely appreciate that. He’d commend her for using her “assets” before he strangled her for what she was about to do. Inara had been on Serenity for some time now. She’d never worried about enraging Mal before and had no intention of starting just because their relationship had...evolved. Realizing in some part of her brain that everything was about to change, that she was changing forever and irrevokably, Inara whispered a prayer to Buddha and pushed open the closet doors. They were trying to bring him out of it. One of the men slid a needle in Mal’s arm and Niska was calling to him, slapping lightly at his face. “Mr. Rey-nolds....” Her footsteps creaked on the old wood floors, and the men turned. The expression of surprise on the hun dan’s face was nearly reward enough. “Oh, my,” he said slowly. Then the smile spread, warping his features. “Wake up, Mr. Reynolds. It would appear you have a visitor. And a very lovely one at that.” He motioned for his associate to bring Inara to him. Mal stirred, struggling to wake up. Something was wrong...well, wronger. Then he saw her. And he felt something break deep inside him. “No.” He blinked, trying hard to focus. “Get out of here. Run away,” he said weakly. “Inara, run.” “You’re a bit early for the funeral, my dear. Maybe a day or two more. Still, I’m sure we can find something to keep you occupied till then, yes?” There was a noise by the outside door. It sounded like metal cracking wood. Niska jerked his head, and the associate who was clutching Inara’s arm in his giant fist released her, went to check the door. “Niska.” Mal fought to hang on to whatever sanity he had left. “Let her go, and I’ll give you what you want. You want me to break, you bastard? I’ll ruttin’ break. Just let her...please....” “Are you begging, Mr. Reynolds?” Inara trembled, feeling Niska’s hand close around her wrist, pull her in so Mal could see better. “I’m very disappointed, you know.” Niska turned to Mal sadly, shook his head. “I expected more from you, Mr. Reynolds. Giving up and for a little girl, a common whore, no less.” Inara slid her free hand between her breasts, lifted the switchblade. Without hesitating, without thinking really, she drove the knife between Niska’s ribs. “She doesn’t like being called a whore,” Inara said, not stopping to wonder why she was referring to herself in the third-person. She felt like River, powerful. She withdrew the knife, plunging the blade deeper, where she knew the heart to be. Only when the old man was staring up at her from the ground, eyes open and dead, did she let the knife fall from her fingers, slip wetly to the rug. She looked at her hands, saw red. She hardly heard the sound of gunfire in the hallway. A second later the bedroom door splintered open. Jayne stood in the entrance, rounds of ammo slung over his neck, Vera outstretched in his hands. He took in the sight of Mal, still tied to the bedpost, Inara crouched on the floor over Niska’s prone form. “Huh. So you guys are good here, then.”

*** River gave a soft sigh and ceased that sad, silent weeping as suddenly as it had begun. A ghost of a smile flickered over her lips. “Mei mei?” Simon stroked back her hair. “Are you alright?” “Need to sleep now.” She looked up at him gratefully, put a hand to the side of his face. “Love you, Simon. Go be with Kaylee.” “Are you sure? I can stay if you need me.” She huffed out a sigh, squeezed his hand once, before tucking her own under her head. “Go do your girlfriend, Simon. Be alive, hard, virile.” Her smile remained in place as her eyes drifted closed. He found Kaylee waiting outside the door, watching them through the glass. “River really okay?” she asked shakily. “My sister is very strong. Perhaps stronger than I ever gave her credit.” “Jayne just waved us.” Kaylee stepped into Simon’s arms, felt his skillfull surgeon’s fingers kneed into her back. “They’re coming home. It was Niska.” Her voice broke on the last word. Simon felt something inside him go cold as a damp clammyness arose in his chest. He recalled very clearly the way Mal looked last time Niska got ahold of him. “What are they?” “Alls Jayne said was theys all walkin’ and talkin’. So they gotta be good, right? Fine, I mean?” Simon just snuggled her close against his chest, feeling her warm, curvy figure curl trustingly against him. He bent his head to kiss the top of her head. “Right, fine. I’m sure they’re fine, bao bei.”

*** Mal actually knocked. “Inara? Can I, uh, have permission to enter my own shuttle?” Ai ya, this was tougher than expected. “This is a first,” she said when he approached the bed. She sat back against the headboard, knees drawn to her chest. She’d bathed away the evil of that hotel room, washed the blood from her hands. Mal breathed her in, all lavender and cleanliness. “Gorrammit, if this shuttle don’t smell like Jayne now.” Mal sniffed, sat a little awkwardly on the edge of her bed. “The aroma of sweat and questionable morals.” A faint smile touched her lips, didn’t quite reach her eyes. “I suppose we should excuse it on account of his having saved our lives back there.” “Yeah, ‘spect we should.” He lifted one of her hands, examining the delicate fingers with their perfect, rounded nails, painted a warm peachy gold just shades apart from her skin tone. Those hands were for soothing, brushing Kaylee’s hair, applying a light squeeze to Zoe’s shoulder in passing, quieting River when she was in one of her states. He’d thought maybe they could be for him as well, recalled the way they’d felt stroking his face, following her mouth down his chest and abdomen. He thought about the parts of his body that had yet to feel those exquisite hands. “I didn’t ever want that to touch you,” he said, feeling oddly truthsome. Feeling broken. “You sacrificed yourself to make sure it didn’t.” “You shouldn’t o’ been anywhere near it. Shouldn’t o’ had to do what you did. Was for me to kill the hun dan.” God, it wasn’t for her. “He deserved to die. I don’t regret being the one to do it.” He might have believed her, had her voice not been shaking. “Come here.” She bit her lip. She was about to cry. Wo de ma, please don’t let her cry. “Mal, it’s not that I don’t want to. I just...tonight may not be....” “Shut up and come here.” He pulled her close to settle the matter. “I wanna hold you.” She met his eyes with a look of gratitude Mal found harder to bear than the tears. She lay down with her head on his chest, let him hold her, rub her back, stay until she slept.

*** TBC in Part 7. Leave some feedback. ~April


Sunday, December 4, 2005 9:39 AM


You have Wash's voice down. The way he talked Mal through the torture was such a beautiful mirror to War Stories. Pushing him and needling, sex and guilt, and althewhile he managed to make Mal forgive himself.

That was absolutely lovely. And hilarious!! You have a great hand for dialogue! Bwaha!

Equally lovely was Inara killing Niska, and her backstory. That's downright fascinating! It's a very plausible scenario, Inara coming from a problematic family and being so awed by the alternative in female role model when her own mother didn't provide much care. Can't wait to hear more about that.

Not to mention, after the beautiful hotness of Mal and Inara in the last chapter, he we get gut-wrenching desperation and warm sweetness. Mal would hate to see her touched by this part of his life, that's true.

An excellent part. Absolutely great! And the best was how soon you posted it, whee!

Looking forward to more!

Sunday, December 4, 2005 9:54 AM


yee-haw inara, always knew that the girl had it in her ;)

fantastico, I love your Wash as well.

can't wait for more as always!

Sunday, December 4, 2005 11:28 AM


Gotta follow the trend here and say this was a right shiny pic of fic:)

Loved how Wash was paying Mal back for all he did for him during "War Stories." Definite Whedonesque moment, though I have to say that I thought the whole "Mal gets tortured by Niska, with Wash taunting him constantly" scene was gonna go on longer...get some more special moments out for our enjoyment. However, Inara knifing the hundan for calling her a whore seems rather right for gets the twisted idea that only Mal can call Inara the W word and not suffer her wrath cuz only he seems to use it with concealed love.

Definite series material, though probably something for a later season or a hypothetical full first season finale ending.

Sunday, December 4, 2005 11:57 AM


I know we all want another season on TV or another movie at least, but this is exactly the kind of story that could slide the 'verse into literary realms. Several other science fiction series and film have more canon in books than on film. I can't wait to read more!

Sunday, December 4, 2005 4:20 PM


Absolutely brillo pads! I was hanging on by my fingernails when Inara found the switchblade and decided to send that twisted creep Niska to his eternal unrest. That'll teach the morally bankrupt *hundan* for hurting Mal. So many lovely touches and Wash's dialogue touched so deep with him wanting to keep Mal going the way the Captain did for him when Niska tortured them last time. Gave a cheer when Inara killed Niska then laughed at Jayne's reaction when he burst into the room only to find all the excitement already over. Loved River too. And Mal and Inara holding each other close at the end? Ah, perfect! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, December 5, 2005 6:41 AM


*punches air* WHOOP!!! GO INARA!!!! etc etc


Monday, December 5, 2005 11:34 AM


This just keeps getting better. Hurry up with part 7!

Monday, July 10, 2006 11:10 AM


Love him telling her to shut up so he can hold her. Just perfect.

I'm here late, but catching up.

Incredible story.


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