Choices - Part 11 B
Thursday, February 9, 2006

Mal attempts an escape, and Inara learns some disturbing information about her captors.


A/N: I'm rating this one R for violence and implied sexual threats to be safe. I'm pretty desensitized to violence and such, but others may not be, so, I'm giving you fair warning, there is some violence ahead. This part takes a look at Mal and Inara's situations. They are both in bad places, and bad things happen. I hope you'll read anyway and share in the journey... Many, many thanks to those who've stuck with me so far, even through the big empty spaces between posts. I would never have gotten this far without your support, or even conceived of getting this close to a conclusion (I'm estimating three, maybe four more parts before this particular tale is done... phew!) So anyway, thank-you all so much.

Go back and read the Other Parts: 1 2 3A 3B 4 5 6 7 8A 8B 8C 9 10 11A

Choices – Part 11B by 2x2

The plan was to jump up and start swinging, force his way past his captors and be out the door before they knew what hit ‘em. ‘Maybe not the best Mal had ever come up with, but he had few options and at the moment he was unrestrained and had the element of surprise. He had only seconds to act; if he waited much longer they’d be trying to get those chains on him and the prospect of being forced into a slaver’s yoke was more than enough to spur him into action.

Gathering his strength, he drew a deep breath and, opening his eyes to get a good look at his surroundings, he shoved himself to his feet and let fly with a fist that connected very satisfyingly with Mr. Shiny Boots’s face. The man let out a surprised grunt before sprawling backwards onto the floor. Mal didn’t waste a second on the downed man, springing towards the next in line between him and the door.

“What in th—” Mal’s fist interrupted the man’s exclamation of surprise as knuckles met teeth and then he shouldered the man aside, only two more blocking his path to freedom. He ducked a swing from Number Three, sidestepping to the left and driving his fist into the man’s unprotected soft bits with grim enthusiasm. The man dropped with a squeak as all the air left him and he rolled on the floor, hands clutching at his nethers, oblivious as Mal stepped over him to face the last barrier to escape.

Number Four stood in shocked surprise, the ponderous slaver’s yoke across his shoulders, eyes wide as Mal, who was still supposed to be unconscious, advanced toward him. He shook himself and with forbidding determination took one end of the yoke and swung it off his shoulder towards the Captain, the chains flailing along after it.

Mal dodged the end of the heavy wooden yoke and charged the man, staggering as a manacled end of one of the chains caught him in the side of the head painfully. His shoulder fell into Number Four’s gut, and that, combined with the overbalancing weight of the yoke caused the man to lose his footing and he fell hard against the wall, sliding limply to the floor.

Clapping a hand to the side of his head, feeling wetness, Mal stumbled to the door, his other hand fumbling with the latch until he finally worked it free. Shoving it open with his shoulder, he burst from the room only to be suddenly shocked to a dead stop, breath leaving his lungs in a whoosh as he collided face first into the chest of a massive man standing on the other side. Mal stared up at the giant in numb confusion, blinking as he tried to regain his breath, his legs going out from under him.

Then they were on him in a fury of fists and booted feet as blows rained on him from all sides. Powerless against their onslaught, he was forced face first onto the ground and the slaver’s yoke was slammed over his neck; a knee was driven into the center of his back as his arms were yanked behind and over the ends of the yoke’s limbs, his wrists forced into the manacles at each extremity.

Panic raced through Mal and he arched against them, his body spasming in pain as his head was yanked back, the yoke’s collar secured around his neck, pressing tightly against his adam’s apple. They shackled his ankles to the chains that ran from his wrists through a loop on the collar and down to his feet, connecting between his legs with barely more than a foot’s length. Finally, they left him lying on the ground, his face pressed against the stones and dirt, shoulder’s burning, choking and gasping for air.

Pain erupted in his side as Shiny Boots laid into him with a sudden, solid kick to the ribs. “Get up!” yelled the man, driving his boot into Mal’s unprotected side again. Mal panted in the dirt, tasting blood, unable to move. “I said, get up!” Shiny screamed again, yanking on the lead chain, jerking the yoke and collar viciously, currents of pain ripping through Mal with the movement, causing him to groan pitifully.

“Enough,” said the giant man suddenly, taking the chain from Boots.

“He broke m’a gorram nose!” Shiny protested hotly.

“And I break the rest of you, you don’t back the gui off,” warned the giant. “Not get paid to deliver a dead man, nor a man beat near enough it make no difference.” The man hauled Mal to his feet and he stood shakily, steadied by the giant’s hand on the yoke. “How difficult this has to be ‘s’up to you,” he said to Mal. “You cooperate, things go a lot easier on you. I’s not my desire to damage you, but try somethin’ like this again, it be the last day you ever walk. Dong ma?”

Mal blinked at the blood and dirt in his eyes, focusing on the larger man with difficulty. His face was beginning to swell, clumps of sand and small stones stuck to him in a sticky morass of blood and sweat. He swallowed convulsively against the pressure of the collar on his throat, trying to spit out the blood-tinged saliva that was pooled in his mouth. It dribbled down his chin as he panted, each breath an effort.

“’You hear what I’m sayin’?” asked the giant again.

Gathering his wits, Mal nodded, knowing he was better off on this hun dan’s good side than not. The giant nodded, satisfied.

“Behave and I give my word you will be damaged no more than necessary while in my care,” he said sincerely.

“Well, that’s… downright… mag…magn…nanimous…of you,” Mal gasped.

“It is,” said the man in agreement. Mal had no answer to that. After giving him a long, hard stare, the man seemed to be satisfied with what he saw. “Clean him up,” he ordered and, turning to Shiny Boots who still held a hand to his bloodied nose, added, “Anything happen to him, you suffer the same fate. Now move. We don’t have all day.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Please the thought formed silently in Inara’s mind, but she bit back the plea ruthlessly. No amount of begging would deter this man. In fact, she was certain it would have the opposite effect. She knew his type. He’d want her cowering and afraid, begging for his mercy. On the other hand, she couldn’t play the coy temptress with him either; she was afraid he’d be all too willing to take her up on it.

No, her only recourse was to bury her fear and present him with a façade of scorn and disdain. Belittle him until he became angry. He would still likely exact a price from her body, but she was more willing to pay in bruises and even broken bones than the other. She cursed herself for her weakness when she’d backed away from him, losing the initiative already.

She needed to be in control of this encounter.

Very deliberately she turned her back on him and moved to the chair in the far corner, affecting an air of disinterest as she sat, masking her discomfort with a bored sigh. “Very well, Mr.—Whelt is it?” she asked, her voice dripping with contempt before she turned it to hard steel. “You’ve obviously gone to some effort to fetch me here. What is it you want?”

Momentarily thrown, Whelt moved further into the room, staring at her warily before his eyes narrowed shrewdly. He grinned. “Conjure you got a pretty good idea of what I want,” he leered.

Inara snorted derisively. “Please,” she sneered, looking him up and down with disdain. “I hardly think you could afford me.”

Whelt’s look darkened, the grin fading from his face. “I wasn’t talkin’ ‘bout payin’.”

Clamping an iron will on her terror at the prospect of what the man was implying, she raised an eyebrow and gave him look that was half amused, half disbelieving. “And risk the Guild’s wrath? Be serious. I am a Companion of the First Rank, not some common whore, the likes of which I’m sure you’re used to dealing with,” she said haughtily, giving her head a dismissive shake.

The dark look was still on Whelt’s face. “Pretty clothes and fancy talk don’t make a mule a horse. Whore’s a whore, whatever you call her.”

“Just as a lǘ zi, sha gua, bèn dàn, is still you!” she spat, thankful for the anger that surged up and pushed her fear aside temporarily. “Tell me you’re not the brains behind this operation?”

A fleeting look of incredulous rage passed over Whelt’s face before it was replaced by a dangerous smile, his eyes hard and glittering. He took a step closer to Inara. “You got a smart mouth on you, whore,” he said, his voice low.

Inara swallowed and forced a retort, knowing she was bringing him close to striking out at her. “Compared to you, how could I not—”

The backhand came before she fully expected it, snapping her head back, agony blossoming in her lips and nose again, stunning in it’s intensity as she sagged from the chair to the floor. A tide of nausea welled up in her gut, her vision swimming in blackness as blood began to ooze from her nose and she half coughed, half sobbed against the wall.

“Reckon that ought’re fix it some,” Whelt said, grabbing a handful of her hair and yanking her head up, causing her to cry out. “’Think I don’t know what you’re tryin’ to do?” he said, his lips grazing her ear as he spoke. Inara shivered in revulsion, unable to conceal her disgust at his touch, realizing she’d severely underestimated the man, much to her misfortune. He ran his tongue over the seashell intricacies of her ear and she choked out a pitiful moan, shuddering as she tried to turn her head away.

He laughed again and released her, standing, satisfied with the game. “You can save us the trouble, me and you both. I ain’t here to qiáng jiān you,” he sneered, echoing her earlier derisiveness. “Got plenty enough yīn dào to satisfy me, Companion of the First Class or otherwise,” he smirked.

She stared up at him at that, trembling, unsure if she should believe him or not. “Why are you here?” she asked tentatively, raising a hand to her nose in an attempt to slow her bleeding when blood ran over her lips.

“Tilt your head back,” he said, crouching beside her. She flinched as he reached for her, but he only pushed her head back and directed her fingers to pinch the bridge of her nose which introduced her to a whole new cascade of miserable sensations. She closed her eyes and swallowed hard, fighting the churning of her stomach.

Whelt let her go and went on, answering her as if he hadn’t just performed a seemingly completely uncharacteristic act of kindness. “Because I’m being paid good money to deliver you to my employer,” he said and Inara felt her breath catch, her eyes opening in shock as she realized that someone else, not just this small time hood and his gang, was ultimately behind her kidnapping, for reasons she had yet to fathom. “And deliver you I will,” Whelt went on, meeting her appalled stare. “But I don’t think this is quite the look he had in mind,” he indicated her bloodied clothes and face. “You’re a mess. You need to clean yourself up.”

“Who?” she asked through trembling lips.

“Hired me? Don’t rightly know my own self. Never seen his face. Had me sittin’ on this piss-pot of a moon for four months though, just waitin’ for you to show up.”

Dread filled her at his words as her mind supplied its own answer. Niska. It had to be. Who else had the resources to hire a man to wait for them for four months out here? Ren ci do Fo zu, she was going to be the bait to lure Mal!

“You’ll meet him soon enough, I’m sure. Just waitin’ for your Captain to get here.”

That confirmed it, she was certain. Yet hope still surged in her at the thought that Mal was coming. They weren’t dead yet, perhaps there was a chance. “He’ll kill you,” she promised grimly.

Whelt shrugged. “Every man’s gotta die sometime. May be he’s the one’ll bring my death, but I ain’t too worried. Conjure he won’t be in much shape to look to much more than his own life, ‘time my boys get him here,” he said, his words cutting into her like knives, slicing her budding hope to shreds. If he was already their prisoner…

“No,” she whispered, fear clutching its icy fingers around her heart.

“Took him this morning, right before you,” Whelt said almost apologetically. “More difficult, gettin’ him outta town n’ all. Should be here within the hour, though. So, you’ll see your boyfriend again,” he said, wiping his hands on his pants and standing. He shook his head ruefully. “Would’a missed him too, you hadn’t come into the whorehouse last night.”

“What?” she asked, not sure she wanted to know how cruelly fate had played her.

“Didn’t even realize who he was till I saw you,” Whelt answered. “Don’t get many of your like out here, so, knew right off who you was. And that made the feller in the bar yer Captain Reynolds. Just dumb luck I happened to be there. Wasn’t really thinkin’ clearly when I tried to take you then. Stupid. Coulda ended real fast if he’d pulled that trigger on me an’ Ulf.”

“Forgive me for wishing he had,” said Inara scathingly, promising herself she’d never judge Mal for wanting to kill a man again.

Whelt grinned. “You are full a’ piss n’ fire, ain’tcha? Tougher’n you look.” His smile faded and he crouched down in front of her again, dropping his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. “But don’ forget. I know what you’re afraid of, an’ there’s still lots a’ time afore I’m to turn you over to my employer.”

Inara shook her head. “This man you’re taking us to… He will torture us for days on end, for no reason other than to take pleasure in our suffering. And then, long after we’ll wish we were dead, he will finally kill us,” she said harshly. “Do you really think anything you could do could frighten me anymore?”

“We could test that theory…” he threatened but paused as the latch was lifted and the door opened.

“Whelt,” called the newcomer, who Inara recognized as the other man from The Love Chapel last night, presumably ‘Ulf’. “Got a wave,” the big man said suggestively.

Whelt cursed under his breath and stood, walking to the door. He glanced back at Inara, still slumped against the wall next to the chair and end table. “Get her cleaned up. And nothin’ else,” he told Ulf, taking hold of the man’s shirt meaningfully. Ulf nodded and Whelt stormed from the room unhappily.

For the moment, Inara let herself breathe.

* * * * *

Chinese Translations

gui = hell dong ma = understand hun dan = bastard lǘ zi = ass sha gua = idiot bèn dàn = fool qiáng jiān = rape yīn dào = cunt

Go to Part 11C


Thursday, February 9, 2006 6:42 PM


Oh, Mal. He's just adoreable, giving his captures nicknames like Mr. Shiny Boots when he is... well, captured. And Inara, showin some 'tude. Whelt gets a shiny prize from some of the most scary use of chinese interjections ever (when he said, "don't worry I won't *chinese* you" my heart was in my throat even though I knew what was going on; it was cool). I await the next installment.

Thursday, February 9, 2006 11:45 PM


Gha! My god if this were any other fandom rape as a thret would not fit, only firefly can go to those extreams and still be ok, cause its just wild that way. Oh ans 2x2 i know i don't really ever comment but i have been reading since you first started this fic and i am still reading and if you continue to post as well as you have i will continue to read... just thought you should know. any how i love how grave you are make'n inara, how even in this tough spot she trys to play her cards calculating and controling her moves as best as she can. And you mal in adorable i agree with Arcadia, it is a cute thing for him to nick name his captors but its not so cute or silly that i could not see the captain doind it, so it fits well. I am also happy to see that inara will think twice about judging mal for killing someone, its good to know, cause i think that is a part of mal that kinda frightens inara. that he can sometimes end a life with out even blinking.

Friday, February 10, 2006 12:29 AM


Loving this story but am worried for Mal and Inara. The news that the man behind this is probably Niska is not so good but boy does Niska make the ultimate baddie! Horrible to see Mal constrained like that, loved his doomed but inevitable bid for freedom and I liked that the huge giant of a guard stopped the others hurting the Captain even worse after getting him in that yoke. At least he will make sure Mal isn't hurt any worse but I am really anxious about what will happen to them next. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, February 10, 2006 2:14 PM


Am I the only one that doesn't think it's Niska. Personally my money's on Atherton... you can all laugh at me later when i'm wrong.

Very impressed that you turned this little Mal/Nara fic into a gorram series. It's working really well. You have a gift for language.

Looking forward to the next part!

Keep flyin,

Friday, February 10, 2006 3:55 PM


lol, I love Mal's nicknames for captors :-P

Oo, the tension rises...dun dun dun

Friday, February 10, 2006 11:07 PM


Ah, thank you so much everyone for your comments once again! It's so nice to see the familiar names, and some new ones too! I'm so happy you've stuck with me through this part, I know this story's been getting darker and darker as it comes along... started out as a bit of fluff, and turned into something I totally wasn't expecting, all because of one shady character. I can't believe I'm on the verge of 30,000 words! This is the longest thing I've ever written in my life... I owe it all to you guys!
Everytime I post a new part and I see comments from you faithful readers, the names I recognize, and then new ones too, I get so giddy... you truely are the best!
Okay, enough babbling... it's 4 am my time, and I need to get to bed!!!
thanks again!

Saturday, February 11, 2006 2:36 AM


You're doing so well with this. The anticipation is rising all the time. I hope you give us the next installment soon, but please don't rush anything...

Sunday, February 12, 2006 3:06 AM


Oh, great part!!

I love the parallel of their predicaments, both trying to actively manipulate the situation and failing, in their own way. Brave people, Mal and Inara. I love how you bring out their similarities here!

And creepy as he is, Whelt makes for a compelling character. If it happens that you really did kill my adored Gab'relle, then he's a good replacement as far as 'interesting' goes. :) Shifty but intelligent!

Very much looking forward to more!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006 1:33 AM


niska's a cabby? sorry!!! *slaps self*


Tuesday, February 21, 2006 11:45 AM


LMAO @ Bellona!

Thanks everyone for your continued support... I can sorta see the end of this story in the distance, so hang in with me!!!

Thursday, June 21, 2007 9:56 PM


Oh, I was so hopeful for Mal. And Inara really is tougher than she looks. Another great chapter!


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History of an Object
There’s no reason to keep it, damaged as it is. Save one. Doesn’t matter that it’s finer than any other cup on the ship, even with the crack. Doesn’t matter that it would never hold liquid again without some of it seeping through. Burning your fingers. Was only one reason he still has the cup.

Five Years' War
The night was warm. Clouds, low on the horizon, blue black in the last light of the setting sun. Nothing but the breeze and the buzz of the cicadas breaking the stillness. A perfect evening.

The Close Shore, At the End, Untenable
“Dead ’re in my head tonight,” he said finally. “Can’t get ‘em out. Don’t got the booze or the bar to distract me. Don’t know why I’m here ‘cept I don’t think I can go through it alone.”

The Slower Path: All the Difference - Part 15 - Sequel to The One Less Traveled By
She let out a breath, saying nothing for a long moment before she raised her eyes again. “There are some things I want you to know,” she said softly. “Things I want you to understand.”

Much as he wished he could ignore it, he could see it was important to her that he know whatever it was she wanted to tell him. He knew he wouldn't have let himself see it in the past, but that weren't where they were anymore, or at least, not where they wanted to be, either of them. Their relationship had changed, was changing, and he weren’t so stupid he didn’t recognize that. He didn't know that he wanted to know it, much less understand it, but she was reluctant enough to talk about any aspect of her life as it was; could be he might ought not stop her when she wanted to.

Unlucky at Cards...
“I… You can’t be that lucky!” Mal moaned as Inara beat him again, laying out her cards with a flourish.

The Slower Path: The One Less Traveled By - Part 14 - Sequel to Regrets
They fell silent again, struggling to find the ease that they had found, before; before the argument that had almost ended things.

"I feel like-," she started.

"This is-," he said at the same time.

They looked at each other. "Awkward," they both said, laughing lightly.

Always Had Faith
Faith in a higher power? That was always Mal's thing, the Captain, back in the war.

Loved and Lost
Love’s the biggest kind of hurt there is.

And I wouldn't trade that love for nothin'.

The Mood That Passes Through
He felt the first trembling shudder go through her, heard her breath hitch and felt her fingers grip his skin; knew it was comin', the wave that was cresting the walls she'd built to hold it back, whatever it was. Knew they were about to come crashing down around her. The first sob still hurt though, still lanced through his heart like a searing hot blade to hear her make that sound.