Bedlam: Part 10
Saturday, December 10, 2005

The evening after. Mal and Inara are still at it, those crazy kids. Meanwhile, our BDHs try to figure out how they were tracked. Serenity *spoilers.* Rated R-ish.


Bedlam Part 10: A Strange Bedfellows Story By Kaynara

*** It’s Joss’s verse--I just borrow it.

*** At the kitchen table, Simon sipped his tea, feeling the steaming herbal liquid slide down his throat. It did nothing to warm his chilled body. He didn’t notice River until she was right beside him, jumped when he felt her hand on his shoulder. “You startled me.” He smiled, pulling out a chair for her to sit beside him. “You used to do that back on Osiris. As a girl, you’d pad around in bare feet, sneaking up on me like a ghost.” River smiled knowingly. “She remembers.” “Of course you do. Brat.” He poked her in the ribs, making her giggle. “It’s my job as your sister,” she said with a long-suffering sigh. “Where’s Kaylee?” “Probably with Inara. The two of them have been whispering and giggling to each other ever since dinner.” He raised an eyebrow at River. “I don’t suppose you know what they’re talking about?” “Girl talk.” She stretched out a long, slender arm along the table, rested her head there. “No boys allowed.” “I’m your brother. You’re supposed to tell me things.” River smiled slyly. “Didn’t tell me ‘bout you and Kaylee.” “That’s...that’s not the same thing.” Simon blushed, looked uncomfortably into his tea. “Didn’t tell me what our father did. Caught the prodigal son in a blackout zone and cast him out of Eden. Brother and sister had to face the elements, face the wrath.” “River--” “You’re sad now. Thought one day we’d be allowed back. Thought he’d understand what you did, give forgiveness.” River shook her head. “Can’t ever go back to the Garden, Simon.” Simon slid his hand through hers, lowered his head so their foreheads almost touched. “I don’t want to go back home, mei mei. It wasn’t Paradise. It was all lies.” “Can’t you see, Simon? We’re already home.” *** Malcom Reynolds was not a happy ship captain. Someone had bugged his baby, planted a sneaky little tracking device that submitted signals to Ye su knows where. That someone had sat at his supper table every night for a week, and he hadn’t been all the wiser. He ever saw that someone again, there’d be hell to pay. But first he’d find out where that someone learned his trade. Kid had the makins’ of a halfway decent criminal. “Kaylee! Kaylee! Kay-hello, ladies.” Mal nodded at the girls, seated together in the hammock. They’d been laughing, but stopped when he stepped into the engine room. “Hi, Mal,” Inara said. “What’s up, Cap’n?” Kaylee moved guiltily back toward the engine, reaching for her wrench. “Crew meeting in the kitchen. Someone bugged us, and I aim to uncover how.” *** “So the long and short of it is, this boy humped us but good.” “Who’s that, sir?” The others looked up as Zoe entered the kitchen, leaned back against the counter, arms crossed. “Gideon.” Mal nodded at her, saw the circles beneath her eyes and made a mental note to harangue her into gettin’ some shuteye. “Missus Tam was kind enough to finger the lad as our mole.” “Who’d Simon’s ma finger? Hey.” Jayne looked up from his drink, wicked grin fading. “How come she didn’t say nothin’ whole time the kid was on board?” He jerked his head in River’s direction. “What the hell use is a psychic can’t sense nothin’?” Mal nodded, frowning at River. “Yeah, what he said--only a might nicer. Gotta give me a heads up on these things, Albatross.” “He shut me out, couldn’t gain entry.” River seemed perturbed. “Only saw bits. Bits weren't relevant.” “Uh huh.” Mal laid a hand on River’s shoulder. “’Haps from now on though, you let me decide which, uh, bits are relevant.” “Don’t blame River, sir.” Zoe cleared her throat. “I spent some time with Gideon and didn’t see it my own self. And I’ve considerably more experience with spies.” “You, uh...” Mal didn’t quite follow. “You talked to the boy some?” “Didn’t talk exactly, no sir.” “Oh. Ohhh.” Mal broke eye contact. “Oh,” Simon said, getting it. Inara met Zoe’s eyes, her own reflecting pure empathy. Jayne looked confused for a moment before recognition dawned in his eyes. “Ruttin’ hell....” he began. “Jayne,” Mal warned. For a moment, everyone was silent. “Cap’n?” Kaylee raised a hand, eyes big and remorseful. “Really, this is my fault. I’m one gave Gideon leave to use the cortex. Only left him alone for a second, but if he contacted guess is that’s when it happened.” “When was this, Lil Kaylee?” “Oh, just before he and Cora got off on Beumonde.” “Well, not ‘xactly keen on strangers usin’ the cortex, but that don’t explain the Tams trackin’ us to Silverhold. Didn’t even know we was headed that way our own selves ‘till after the passengers left. No, my guess is we’ve been bugged. Which is why we’re gonna turn Serenity inside out till we find the tracker.” “Mal.” Simon folded his hands on the table before him. “If it’s any comfort, I don’t believe my parents will attempt to find River and I again.” “Believe it or not, son, there’s folk in this ‘verse worse ‘n your parents. And I don’t intend to broadcast our exact location to ‘em. Now, no sense in castin’ the blame about. Figure it’s mostly my fault for lettin’ the lot of ya play with the product. A toasted crew ain’t much good at spottin’ trouble, otherwise we likely woulda found the bug awhile back. There’s a lesson in this--drugs rot your brains. From now on, gonna have sober ship, ya hear?” “Aw, Mal, you gonna away take Kaylee’s engine brew too?” Mal hesitated, seemed to reconsider. “No call for overreactin’, Jayne. Engine brew stays.” Mal clapped his hands. “Now, Kaylee. Gonna look to your expertise on this matter. Seems to me most likely spot’s the engine room, or maybe the kitchen, as we all tend to gather here. ‘Haps you and Jayne can start with those. Doc, why don’t you and your sister take the infirmary. Try Gideon’s dorm as well, though i don’t see it bein’ easy as all that. Zoe, you’ve got the cargo bay and the bridge. Any questions?” “Mal?” Inara stepped forward. “I’m able to help as well.” “Right, sure you are. Didn’t mean to imply...anyway, ‘magine we oughta check your shuttle. Prolly best if I go with you, just so you don’t miss nothin’ accidentally.” Simon made a sound halfway between laughing and choking, spit a mouthful of tea into his hand. Mal raised a brow. “Somethin’ funny, Doctor?” Simon was still coughing. “N-no, Captain. Nothing at all.” He looked helplessly at Kaylee who shook her head, eyes wide and adamant. “Good.” Mal slapped Simon, none too softly, on the back. “Wouldn’t want you hurtin’ yourself, Doc.” “Hey.” Jayne was grinning wickedly. “Maybe Kaylee can teach him how to swallow.” He ducked automatically as Kaylee’s hand swung for the back of his head, slid out of his chair and ran around the other side of the table. Mal pressed his eyelids shut once, exasperated. “Oh, you’re sooo humped, Jayne Cobb.” Kaylee looked around for a weapon, grabbed for the wooden spoon in the center of the table. She started swinging. “Ah!” Jayne ran behind Mal, trying to escape. “C’mon, Doc, she’s your wench. You gotta help me!” Simon looked at Mal and Inara. “Surely he’s jesting.” “Doubtful.” Inara smiled. “It’s unlikely he knows the meaning of the word.” She took a deliberate step back as Kaylee tore past, spoon waving wildly. Jayne feigned right, went left and headed for the door, Kaylee close on his heels. Mal started to speak several times, then closed his mouth, as though realizing the futility of the situation. “River, help!” Kaylee shrieked over her shoulder. “You’re on my team.” Cheerily, River bounced out of her chair. “She means search team,” River informed Mal, straight-faced. Then she gave an ear-piercing war cry and bounded after Kaylee and Jayne. “River.” Simon stood. “Ta ma de.” Shooting Mal a look of apology, Simon chased after his sister and the others, leaving Zoe, Mal and Inara alone in the kitchen. “Well.” Mal shook his head. “Which one of ‘em you ‘spect will be first to fall and break a limb?” “Dibs on the Doctor,” Zoe said mildly. “I might as well start here. Don’t the two of you have some business in Nara’s bedroom?” “What? Zoe, I, um, not really sure what you’re talkin’ bout. I--” “Mal.” Inara hid a smile. “The search?” “Right! The search.” Mal met Zoe’s eyes, saw the knowing gleam. They’d known each other too long, too well, gorramit, for secrets. “Best be gettin’ to that.”

*** Mal waited until the shuttle door closed behind them. Then he grabbed her. “I’m sorry, darlin'. But I can’t go another gorram minute without havin’ you.” He caught her under the knees and swooped her up, pleased when she gasped in surprise, even more pleased when she reached out a hand to curl around his neck, pulling his head down to kiss her. He pressed her down on the bed, pinning her to the mattress. Gorramit, her bed felt good, soft and rich just like her. Realizing he was essentially taking her like some kind o’ animal, Mal took a breath, forced himself to withdraw his hands from beneath the skirt of her dress, where he’d been trying to tug down her silky underwear thingies. “Listen, Nara. I’m first to admit I ain’t much at the signal-reading. So if this is startin’ to weary you, best you be up front about it.” Inara smiled. “Mal.” “Yeah?” She grabbed the sides of his face with both hands. “Shut up and kiss me.” “Right. Shuttin’ up.” For several moments, they just explored each other’s mouths. She loved the way he kissed her, loved the way his eyes drifted shut against her face, his lashes brushing her cheeks. She loved how he encircled her bottom lip with his, tugging gently. She loved the way his tongue teased hers ever-so-lightly, how he cradled her face when he did it. She loved him. The thought was enough to jar her to her senses. Damn him, this sweet, almost innocent make out session wasn’t helping anything. She dragged her lips away from his, started pressing cool, quick kisses to his neck. She unbuttoned his shirt, spreading her fingers over the muscles of his chest, feeling the scars beneath her fingers. She traced the one from Atherton, felt Mal’s eyes on her. “That was good times, huh? Shame we wasted that shiny lodging Ath supplied.” “As I recall, we had other things on our minds that night. Like you not dying the next day.” “Hell, Nara. Not a night since you came on my ship, you weren’t on my mind some way or ‘nother.” She smiled, started unhooking his belt buckle, but he reached for her hands. “I wanna see the look in your eyes when I’m inside you,” he said, bringing her back up by the pillows. It shocked him how much he wanted that, wanted to kiss her as he buried himself deep inside, wanted to watch her eyes change color as she shuddered with release. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d felt that way ‘bout somebody he was bedding. Hell, he’d never felt that way. The realization was enough to have him freezing, her dress halfway lowered in his hands. “Cap’n!” They heard a shriek, a thud, followed by laughter outside the shuttle door. “Cap’n! You gotta help us. Simon and Jayne gots water pistols!” Mal turned toward the door. “Find the gorram bug and quit foolin’ around out there!” he yelled. He returned his attention to Inara, who raised an eyebrow. “Hey. I’m just bein’ thorough. We check my pants yet? ‘Cuz I’m thinkin’ we should look there next.” He reached for his belt buckle. Inara’s hand reached up to cup his neck, pulling his mouth down to the bodice of her satin undergarment. Then they heard a sound like someone sliding on wet floors, another crash and a stream of Chinese curse words. “ ‘Haps you could excuse me half a second whilst I go kill some folk.” He groaned, kissing her once more. “Wo de ma, woman, you’ll be the end of me.” Mal stood tugging up his pants. He took a few breaths, giving his body time to cool down, before wandering into the hall. Kaylee skidded to a stop in front of him, hair soaked, pink t-shirt plastered to her chest. “Cap’n!” She lowered her water gun, guiltily. “You and Nara wanna play?” “Kaylee.” He tried fiercely not to think of the double meaning on that one. “Quit tryin’ to kill Jayne and start combin’ the ship like I asked.” Kaylee giggled, clapping a hand over her mouth. “Somethin’ funny?” “Comb the dessert! And then they go out in the sand with actual combs, the movie. You know, Spaceballs? Member Wash showed it once on the vid screen....” Her voice trailed off at the end, realizing he wasn’t all that amused. “We made popcorn.” “Kaylee. Does this feel like a gorram sci-fi flick to you?” Kaylee rolled her eyes, but tucked her weapon into the waist of her coveralls. “No, Cap’n.” “So you gonna be my star mechanic and find that tracking device? “Yes, Cap’n. Cap’n? Mal turned back, assuming his best ‘I’m-trying-to-be-patient’ smile without baring too many teeth. “’Haps you should button your pants, ‘fore you go lecturin’ the others. Just a word of advice.” She beamed at him and skipped cheerily away. Mal took a long slow breath and went back inside to tell Inara he had captainy things needing his attention. A part of him was more ‘n a little relieved. He couldn’t trust himself to make love to her just now. He didn’t know what he’d say. *** Didn’t make no gorram sense. They’d been all over Serenity, every inch of her. They’d even checked the cargo holds, River crawling inside on her hands and knees. Kaylee went over the engine room twice, assured him it was clean as a newborn babe. They even tore apart the bunks, searching under the mattresses, the tops of closest. How in the big black ‘verse was this little son of a bitch trackin’ him? Mal sat at the table, inhaling coffee to keep his eyes open. He glanced around at his crew. Kaylee sat in Simon’s lap, her head resting on his shoulder while he rubbed circles over her back through her t-shirt. Behind them, Inara sat on the floor, her back to the wall. Doc’s sis lay with her head in Inara’s lap. Inara stroked the girl’s hair absently. Zoe stood a few feet down, legs spaced military-style, arms folded across her chest. One thing ‘bout Zoe, she was always prepared. Even Jayne was still there, head resting on one arm, drooling into his coffee mug at the table. They’d all stayed awake. They’d stayed by his side the whole night, searching, rackin’ their sleep-deprived brains. He had a good crew. Mal cleared his throat. “Be time for breakfast soon.” He glanced at his watch--guay, it was closin’ in on three in the AM. “All y’all did real good, but ‘magine we’ll each one think better on a few hours rest.” Kaylee sat stick-straight all of a sudden, reached across the table and snagged Mal’s wrist. “Time,” she murmured. “Zao gao, I’m such a dolt! It all makes sense now.” Mal raised a brow. The others, considerably perked, leaned forward with interest. “Mind explainin’ it to me, Kaylee? Cuz I’m still feelin’ a bit...doltish.” “Ain’t no bug, it’s a program. Hun dan hacked into our system, and I bet I know what he latched his beacon on to.” She brightened, flashed Mal a huge smile. “You gonna tell the rest of us?” Jayne muttered grouchily. “Time.” Kaylee held up Mal’s hand with its wide silver wristwatch. “Every day, Serenity synchronizes her clocks with Osiris standard time, set by the Alliance in Capital City.” “But we’ve always done that,” Inara protested. “Everyone in the system uses Osiris time as a point of reference.” “No way of arrangin’ rendezvous times if everyone’s on his own schedule,” Mal agreed. “Right, and Serenity always checks in with the satellite in Capital City, twice a day, in the mornin’ and at night. But if someone designed a program to use our own signal against us, latch on to it and broadcast our location every time we sent out for a time check....” “Then we’d be fairly-well humped,” Mal said, understanding dawning. “Every time Serenity tried to set her clocks she sent out a honing beacon.” Kaylee shook her head, as the weight of the situation set in. “That’s how the Tams tracked us to Silverhold even after Gideon was gone.” “And that’s how anybody else interested can find us,” Mal finished. “Which is why you and me, Kaylee--well, mostly you--are gonna kill that program.” *** Kaylee typed in a few more commands, pressed a series of switches. “Have to shut her down and start her up again, no other way. There, that should do it.” “So we’re not sending out a honing beacon no more?” Mal asked, trying to follow. “Nope. But no tellin’ how long this thing’s been broadcastin’.” She handed him a sheet of paper. “He used a disc to override our controls, hacked into the main computer. Shiny little program and not cheap neither.” Mal folded his arms, studied the print out though he couldn’t make much sense of it. “No way o’ knowin’ who received the signal, Kaylee? “I’m sorry, Cap’n. Wash mighta been able to figure something, but...I’m only good with movin’ parts. Alls I know is it sent our exact location twice a day. Plenty of info for whoever’d be wantin’ to find us.” She looked down. Mal squeezed her shoulder. “Hadn’t been for you, we might not o’ found the program at all.You did real shiny, Lil’ Kaylee.” “Not shiny enough,” she murmured. “You just let me worry about that.” He kissed her forehead lightly, sat down in the co-pilot’s chair. “It’s late; you best be gettin’ on to bed. ‘Haps Zoe and I can make some sense of this thing.” Kaylee gave a sad little smile and left the bridge. Mal hovered over the print out, staring determinedly at what seemed an inscrutable mess of ones and zeros.

*** It was nearly six by the time Mal stumbled down the hall to Inara’s shuttle. He raised his hand to knock, hesitated. Prolly she’d been sleepin’ a good many hours by now. ‘Haps he should just go back to his bunk, let her rest. The door opened. “I thought I heard your graceful footsteps.” She leaned against the doorframe, wearing a formfitting robe in cool, aquamarine satin. Her hair waved around her face like clouds in the night sky. “Some of us didn’t have the benefits of higher education. Never did learn to walk pretty.” “Maybe I’ll teach you to dance one day.” “Me and you danced once.” “Mm, my feet still remember.” “Hey, I didn’t step on you more ‘n twice!” In her bare feet, she stepped up on to his shoes, wrapped her arms around his neck. She kissed him long and slow, feeling his hands fist in her hair as his body went hard against her. He lifted her up until her legs locked around his waist, carried her to the bed. They undressed each other in a leisurely fashion, taking time neither was really sure they had. He entered her slowly, savoring. For a second they held eye contact, both projecting something like relief, something like fear. Then he swallowed her lips with his and began to move faster, move higher, as she arched against him. He watched her expression change from wide-eyed, almost little-girl innocence to cat-like pleasure, amber flecking in her deep brown irises before her lashes drifted shut. When he came, he buried his face in her hair so his tongue wouldn’t say the words his lips were forming. After, she lay with her head on his chest. He played with a strand of her hair, spinning the glossy black curl around his finger. “Mal?” “Hmm?” “There’s something we need to discuss.” “Well, I’m like to be able to form a coherent sentence any time now.” She must have smiled; he felt her lips curve against his ribs. “Mal, I’m afraid my rent check may be a little late this month.” “Hell, that all? I’m sure you’re good for it.” He didn’t want to talk about this now, didn’t want to think about her work when she was still naked in his arms, when he could still taste her on his lips. “It’s a little more complicated than that, Mal.” “How’s that?” She knew she was a coward for doing it this way, saying it with his arms around her, without having to meet his eyes. “The House Priestess of Madrassa waved me earlier today.” “Gonna have to dumb that down a little, darlin’.” “Sihnon. The Guild.” “The Guild, huh?” He held his breath, prepared himself for it. Nandi had told him what Inara’s work meant to her, how focused she was, how dedicated and naturally gifted. If they asked her to choose...well, he knew he couldn’t ever ask her. How could he ask her to give up anything for him? Dead men didn’t have the right to petition the living. And Mal knew the part of him Inara wanted had been dead since the War. “What’d they want?” “They’ve suspended me, Mal.” *** TBC in Part 11. Let me know what you think!


Saturday, December 10, 2005 10:44 AM


Kaylee to the rescue, that's great stuff! I love your idea of the beacon and Central Osiris Time, so to speak. Plot makes a fangirl happy!

There's, of course, other things I love, too. Zoe and Gideon... didn't that go down smooth. Oh, Zoe...

And then Mal and Inara. Their habit of hiding and obfuscating obviously (and deliciously!) did not go away with the addition of (hot, sweet, squee-worthy) sex.

They're both guilty of omission, big time, but for both it's still a thing of valid reasoning. It's not just "Oh my God, it's unrequited!" angst. We have a professional Companion (up until now...) and a broken man (or so he thinks) and that's problematic, no matter how wonderful things are in the bedroom. Or the hotel room. Or the cockpit. The kitchen, the bridge.

I'm very excited about this whole story. When is there to be more?? *g*

Saturday, December 10, 2005 11:01 AM


simply lovely. No, funny and lovely and witty and tense all at the same time. Nice way of words you have.
Fave bit was the nice mechanism where Mal says crew is to meet, then you started him talking to them after using just a dividing ---. Felt like I was watching a good FF ep.

I'm going to previous part now, see if I can see Zoe and this Gideon wrapped up and thrusting.

Saturday, December 10, 2005 11:23 AM


Wow i cant wait to find out what happens next its so good!!

Saturday, December 10, 2005 1:05 PM


Just so loving this and especially Mal and Inara being together, that is super shiny! Loved your idea of using the time synchronisation with Osiris as the way that *wangba dan* Gideon was able to track them and pass the information on. Kaylee is just *so* good. Also loved the water pistol fight and all the dialogue for everyone made me so happy I wanted to dance. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, December 10, 2005 5:33 PM


fantatabulous. love the set the taunting of jayne ;)

Sunday, December 11, 2005 10:09 AM


The idea about the becon and clock synchronisation with Osiris was ingenious!

Shame about Zoe...

Love the update - would love it more if you updated it aga soon!

Monday, December 12, 2005 4:58 AM


I can't figure out why this isn't scoring a 10. Excellent piece of work. Smart, sexy, and funny - with plot, even!

Please, please keep writing.

Monday, December 12, 2005 7:34 AM


yay! MORE! iwant to know if Mal is alowed to be happy about this! i love the way it writin keep it up!

Friday, December 16, 2005 11:37 AM


there are so many funny and sexy and genius-y bits in this its hard to believe you're not joss masquerading as a mere mortal...



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