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Strange, Stranger and Downright Unsettling
Topic Started: Apr 3 2010, 10:05 AM (225 Views)
abbey

This is from a long while back, so excuse its possible suckiness. :'(

Disclaimer: All things belong to Joss.




Part One of Four

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 Jayne was leaning over him, but something wasn’t right. Jayne was not right. He was wearing a neatly pressed shirt and vest. He was clean-shaven and his hair was trimmed neatly. He was the one that was holding the penlight. “Pupils are equal and reactive. He definitely has a concussion though. This cut will need some attention.”

“Like you would know, Jayne,” Mal mumbled back as he touched his wounded head. He looked at his hand. It was bloody. “Where’s Simon? Let a real doc look at me.”

Someone snickered loudly in the background.

“Shut up, Simon,” Jayne admonished. He looked at Mal with concern. “Also, seems to be a bit disoriented.”

“A bit disoriented? Hell, I think he cracked his gorramed brainpan,” Simon said as he peered over Jayne’s shoulder at Mal. “Has a sense of humor though after he done fell off a catwalk on his head. Imagine him thinkin’ me a doctor. That’s Hi-larious.”

“Shut up, Simon,” Jayne said with a little more authority.

Mal’s confusion was getting worse. Was that Simon dressed up in a T-shirt and cargo pants? Mal shook his head a little, but that made his head hurt worse. He looked up at Simon again who looked like he hadn’t shaved in days. Mal tried to make sense of the happenings around him, but nothing was making sense. One thing he was certain of was that he definitely had a concussion. He had experience with that before. But why would they be playing a game at a time like this? Simon walked around to the other side of Mal.

“Help me get him up and to the infirmary,” Jayne said to Simon. They both lifted him to his feet, which made the room spin, as well as making his head feeling like it was going to explode.

“Whoa…”

He looked up and Book was just reaching them. Mal looked at him and his eyes widened. Book was wearing a brown coat with a gun holstered on his side.

“Wo de tian…” Mal murmured. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

“Is he alright?” Book asked Jayne. “Because he don’t seem right.”

“He’s got a concussion. He’s disoriented and confused. That worries me,” Jayne said. “Let’s go, Simon. We need to get him to the infirmary, ma shong. I need to check him out more thoroughly.”

“He thought I was the doc,” smirked Simon as he helped Mal into the infirmary and up onto the exam table. “Could you imagine me core-bred with manners and such? I could get me some of them pretty fits and-”

“Shut up, Simon,” Book, Jayne and Mal shouted in unison. Simon grunted and disappeared from the room.

Mal groaned again as Jayne got out the penlight once more. It sent waves of searing pain through Mal’s head.

“Get that gorram thing away from me,” Mal protested as he batted the light away with his hand. Jayne and Book blanched and took a step back in surprise. “I don’t know what kind of game you’re all playing, but permaybehaps you all better stop this fèi huà and get Simon back in here. Need my top three percent to go about fixin’ me. And I certainly don’t be needin’ any prayers to be said over me.”

“What… Simon… three?” Jayne stammered. He turned to Book with a puzzled look and then looked back at Mal with heightened concern. “Who do you think I am?”

Simon had come back into the room and realized from Book and Jayne’s faces that something was terribly wrong.

“You must have dropped this during your fall,” Simon said as he placed something in Mal’s hand. Mal looked down at it. It was a Bible. “Didn’t mean nothing by what I said earlier, Shepherd.”

Mal whipped his head from Simon to Jayne to Book and back to Simon. The pain was excruciating, but he had to figure out what was going on. He knew something wasn’t right. He had to do something to get away so he could think about the things that have happened. He started to try get up from the exam table, but Simon and Book held him down. He didn’t see where Jayne had gone. Then he felt a prick on his neck and the room started to get fuzzy. He knew that Jayne had doped him.

“I’m no rutting shepherd!” Mal whispered as the room went dark.

Book looked down at the unconscious Mal.

“Huh.”
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abbey

Part Two of Four

When he awoke, the glare from the lights above made him squint his eyes. Suddenly someone leaned over him. With the light now being blocked by his visitor, he opened his eyes so he could see. It was River.

“River…” he started to say. “Are you, well, you?”

“Shhhh…” she interrupted. Her eyes locked with his. “It’s all fluid. Go with it.” With that, she turned and was gone.

How odd, Mal thought. But then again, he seldom understood what she meant. At least things seemed back to normal. River was River. He felt a huge weight being lifted from his chest. He breathed a sigh of relief. Mal sat up ever so slowly. His head still hurt, but dulled by the meds he had received. He looked around. Everything else seemed OK.

“Must have whacked my head pretty hard,” he said to himself, trying to allay the nagging feeling that things were not what they seemed. “Everything seems fine. Everything’s OK.”

Then he went to straighten his clothes. He looked down and noticed he was wearing Shepherd Book’s gray shirt and collar.

“Or not…” he braced himself up against the table for a minute, thinking. He started rationalizing the events from yesterday. “Just a prank. Has to be a big prank. Not very funny one though”

He decided that it was time to end the joke. He knew he had to find Zoe. Zoe would help him get these hooligans back to work. Slowly, he left the infirmary and went towards the bridge. As he got near to Shuttle one, he saw someone dart quickly towards him. He tried to avoid them, but still managed to collide with them and they both ended up on their asses. Something clanked as it hit the grate.

“Oh my God, Shepherd! I am so sorry!” she said as she picked up the dropped engine part and stood up. He looked up and saw that it was Inara. She helped him up. “I didn’t make you bump your head again, did I? Are you hurt? I could go get Jayne…”

“Jayne?” he repeated, as if in a daze. He looked at her closely and like the others, she looked wrong too. She was wearing coveralls, hair tied up into pigtails and a grease smudge on her chin. She was carrying an engine part. He knew this wasn’t right, but he couldn’t stop thinking that she looked so damn sexy. Instinctively, he reached up and started to wipe the engine grease off her chin with his hand. “You look so…”

With a confused look on her face, Inara backed up a little.

“Are ya’ okay?” she looked at him.

In the back of his mind was a small voice. It’s a prank. You know it’s a prank. It HAS to be a prank. Just get through this until you get to Zoe.

“Shiny…” he murmured. That’s when he noticed that she had cut her hand. “You’re bleeding.”

She looked down and saw the small cut.

“Aw, it’ll be good as gold. It’s just a bitty one. Ain’t nothing.”

Ain’t? He didn’t think he had ever heard that word come out of Inara’s mouth before. His stomach was doing flip-flops now. He had to focus. So he focused on Inara’s cut. Mal cradled her hand in his and started to guide her gently towards the shuttle.

“Let’s go in the shuttle. We’ll get some water to clean it.” He said.

“Ain’t no need, Shepherd.”

There it was again. Ain’t. It’s a prank. It’s a prank. He repeated over and over in his mind. But they seemed so into the characters that they played. This must have taken a long while to plan out and practice, especially Jayne and his bit with being the doc and all. Jayne barely remembered what he had to say when they did the hospital heist on Ariel. But what if it’s real? Mal didn’t want to think about that again, so he returned his focus back on this one tiny little cut. The shuttle door was open and Kaylee stood in the shadow of the doorway. She had observed the whole incident. As Mal and Inara passed by her, Inara shot Kaylee a confused look. Kaylee shrugged. Mal didn’t see her there. She stayed in the background and looked on in concern. Mal went and got a small basin and a soft cloth. He filled the basin with warm water. Slowly, he cleaned the cut. It had actually stopped bleeding by now, but he went on and finished it like it was major surgery. Then he used a clean part of the cloth to finish wiping her chin clean of the grease. It’s a prank. It’s a prank. The mantra started in his head again. He decided to call them out on it. Stop it from going any further.

“Why are you running about so much? You helpin’ Kaylee in the engine room?”

Inara looked past him at Kaylee. Mal turned around to see Kaylee standing there. Her hair was perfectly coiffed and she was wearing a stunning green dress. Mal looked from her and back to Inara and then back to Kaylee. Kaylee took a step towards him.

“Are you feeling well, Shepherd? Should you be out of bed?” she asked. “We could help you back to the infirmary.”

“You guys are really going above and beyond aren’t you?”

“Above and beyond?”

“Yeah. You all thought it was my turn for a joke, but as much as I know, I didn’t give permission to hold a ‘let’s switch jobs with your friend’ day? Doesn’t the title of Captain mean anything to you all?”

“Captain?” Kaylee and Inara said in shocked unison. Kaylee smiled weakly at Mal. “I’ll be right back. You both stay here.”

“Sure. We’ll hang out here in Inara’s shuttle. No need to hurry. You might want to change out those clothes though. The gig is up.”

“The gig?” Inara started.

“I’ll be sure to do that,” Kaylee said as she quickly walked out of the shuttle.

Mal turned back to a stunned Inara.

“You didn’t think I knew, did you? You can’t fool me. Well, maybe at the start. But I caught on after a bit,” Mal said with a smile. He was feeling better since it seemed like Kaylee was going back to change her clothes to normal. After all, she did say she’d be sure to do that. It was all just a prank. He was starting to feel better. “I do have to say the coveralls and the smudged face almost threw me. You should get changed too. Don’t you have a client sometime soon?”

“A client?” stammered Inara.

Inara didn’t know what to say. Luckily, Kaylee returned.

“How are we doing?”

“Just shiny,“ Mal smirked. He turned back at Inara and looked at her hand. His voice softened. “You do need to be careful running about like that. You could have really gotten hurt.”

Then he heard a ruckus by the shuttle door. Jayne and Book were there. Jayne was holding a doctor’s bag.

“Whoa,” Mal said as he stood up.

“He thinks he is the Captain,” Kaylee said.

“Reeaaaally…” Book said with a smile. Kaylee and Inara shot him an annoyed look. “Sorry. Just thought it was a mite amusing.”

“You guys are taking this prank just a little too far. Now stop it and get back to work!” Mal yelled at them. The voice inside started again. It’s just a prank. It’s just a prank. It’s just a prank. But is it? Am I nuts?

Jayne slowly walked towards Mal. He had his hand behind his back. It didn’t fool Mal though.

“Get that gorram thing away from me. You will not be doping me again. This prank has gone on long enough!”

“It’s all going to be all right, Shepherd,” Jayne said steadily. Mal was getting desperate and desperate situations caused desperate actions.

“Jayne, you stop now or I will drop you,” Mal said gruffly as he reached for his sidearm. His hand found nothing. He looked down quickly to see that he wore no gun belt because Shepherds don’t wear guns. It was enough of a distraction that Jayne pounced on him and injected him with the hypo. Mal’s world started to go blurry.

“It will be fine, Shepherd. Just get some rest.”

“Again, I’m no rutting shepherd,” Mal slurred. “This is my ship and I say…”

And he was out. Book and Jayne carried Mal back to the infirmary. Inara and Kaylee sat down on the bed. Kaylee looked towards the door deep in thought.

“Oh. Here is the indicator for your console. Only take a moment to put it in,” Inara said. Then she burst into giggles. “Can you believe he thought I was a companion? Me. A Companion.”

Kaylee was still looking towards the door. She turned slowly to Inara.

“And if I didn’t know better, I would have thought he was sweet on you.”
Edited by abbey, Apr 7 2010, 05:19 AM.
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abbey

Mal awoke in the infirmary again.

“This is so getting old,” he muttered. He tried to get up, but soft restraints on his wrists kept him from doing so. He struggled with them, trying to see if he could get them off. “You have got to be kidding…”

That’s when he noticed River sitting on the counter.

“You weren’t fluid. Didn’t go with it. Fought too hard,” she stated simply.

“What the hell is going on here?” asked Mal, still struggling with the restraints.

“Now look at you.”

“River, get over here and…”

“Not captain here, Captain. Can’t give orders,” she sang as she started towards the door.

“River! Don’t you dare leave. Get these things off me!” Mal shouted at her, sounding a little too authoritative. River shot him one of her looks and kept her distance. Sensing that he wasn’t getting far by barking orders, he attempted to relax a bit. “Please?”

She smiled and bounced gracefully to his side and removed the restraints. Mal sat up and rubbed his wrists. He looked down and saw he was still wearing the Shepherd’s clothes. He winced inwardly. Suddenly, River put both of her hands on his shoulders, looking like she was going to shake him. She looked him straight in the eyes.

“Use your head,” she said firmly. “No guts allowed here.”

And with that, she left the room. Mal sat perfectly still trying to process what she had said to him. He tried to remember each thing she said to him. What did she mean? Then one phrase caught him. She had called him Captain.

“Well that’s a step in the right direction,” he noted, smiling as he got up. He swayed a bit, but steadied himself on the bed. His stomach growled a little and he noticed his mouth was as dry as a desert. He gingerly left the infirmary and headed for the galley. No one was there when he arrived and he was relieved. He didn’t know whom he might come in contact with and frankly didn’t think he could handle one more surprise at that time. He knew he still had to find Zoe. He hoped that she was herself and not some alternate rendition like the others. He got himself some tea and a protein bar and sat down at the table. He never thought a protein bar would taste so good.

“Good morning, Shepherd.”

Mal looked up to see Book leaning up against the doorframe. He still wore his gun and belt, along with the same kinds of clothes Mal would be more comfortable in. The gun thing just caught him funny and he let out a slight chuckle. Book looked at him more intensely.

“I’m sorry,” Mal started. “Just thought of something a mite funny.”

“Care to share?”

“Nope,” Mal answered. His smile faded as he looked down at his food and finished it off. Book looked at him suspiciously and moved to sit across from him. Mal was tense, waiting for anything that happened. That’s when River’s words came back to him. Use your head. He knew he had to start thinking more before he acted.

“Do you understand who is in charge here?” Book asked him.

“Captain always is,” Mal said hiding a smirk. It was a non-committal answer. He still knew it was his ship, no matter what anyone thought differently. He just couldn’t wrap his head around the events unfolding to him.

“Just so you know. That captain would be me. This is my boat.”

“Yes sir, Captain sir,” Mal stated as he saluted. That was a bit too over the top. Use your head.

Wondering what his next move should be, he started looking around the room. Use your head. Yep, this time he was going to listen to her. I hope I am understanding her right. ‘Course, I could be way off too. Never can tell. Wouldn’t be the first time. Hell, he didn’t ever know if he understood regular people, let alone River. Mal tried to relax a little, but his stomach started doing flip-flops again. He was all manner of nervous. This whole situation was bewildering ad he wasn’t sure he could handle it yet. Use your head. Use your head. Use your head. He looked down and saw a small burn mark on the cuff of Book’s shirt.

“Know where that came from?” Mal asked pointing to the burn. Book followed his finger and looked at him, even more suspicious.

“Know that already. It’s my shirt.”

“Yep, a private in the war tried to start a fire and before you knew, there were cinders flying. One of them burned clean through the cuff of my shirt there. Didn’t know what he was doing. You’d think they woulda’ taught that in basic ‘fore he was let loose on a battlefield.”

“Gorram kid. Got himself killed not two days later,” Book continued and then stopped, Your shirt?”

“That shirt right there,” Mal said pointing at the shirt again, trying to cover his mistake. Got to use your head. Use your head.

“How’d you know that?” asked Book eyeing him very intensely.

“Just knew,” Mal said. He looked at Book trying to find another detail that would not be general knowledge, but couldn’t. He sighed. Stomach was still going flip-flop. The room was eerily silent. He felt the need to run before he continued on. Looking around the room, he saw something else. Use your head. Use your head.

“Oh! Kayl…” he stopped himself quickly, Inara painted this galley.”

“Everyone knows that.”

“But, do they know that I...” Mal started and stumbled on his own words. Use your head, Mal. Use your rutting head. You used a contact that Badger gave you and ended up having a dinner date with a land baron’s daughter for payment. She was one bù yang (ugly looking) woman.”

“Had a hard time keeping down my food,” smiled Book reminiscing. They both laughed softly together at the memory, then Book returned to his suspicious ways. “How did you know that?”

“Just knew,” Mal repeated. Use your head, Mal. Use your head. I hope this is gorram working.

Book was starting to catch on to the game and decided to ask a question of his own.

“What happened right before the Alliance picked us up in Serenity Valley?”

“How much time before?” Mal asked. He needed a time frame so he could answer the question correctly. The memories of that time were still as fresh today as they were back then. The flip-flopping in his stomach increased. Flip-flop. Flip-flop. Flip-Flop. Use your head. Use your head. Use your head.

“Seconds.”

“I threw my cross over the rocks in front of me,” Mal said softly. There was no pretense left. He didn’t try to cover his answer. It was what it was. It was Serenity Valley. He looked down at the table and fiddled with the wrapper left over from the protein bar.

“You still think you are me,” Book said flatly.

“Not you. Just captain.” Mal stated, just above a whisper. He didn’t notice Book moving to the com and using it softly.

“Well, H about killed me when I ran back to retrieve it,” Book went on. He wanted to keep Mal calm until Jayne could get there.

Mal’s head flew up and his eyes snapped to Book’s.

“H?” Mal asked quickly. His stomach started churning. Flip-Flop. Flip-Flop. Flip-Flop. He felt the panic rising. He stood up so quickly that the chair he was sitting in fell over. Flip-Flop. Flip-Flop. Flip-Flop. “Who is H?”

Someone came into the room from the bridge. Mal looked over. It was Wash. There was no Hawaiian shirt. No wacky smile or jokes. He was dressed as a soldier. He wore a gun. He wore Zoe’s gun. FLIP-FLOP. FLIP-FLOP. FLIP-FLOP. A full fledge panic went into effect. His mind was racing as he backed up against the meal lockers. What was going on? Where is Zoe? FLIP-FLOP. FLIP-FLOP. FLIP-FLOP.

“Where is Zoe?” he asked, eyes darting about. He had to find an exit. He had to retreat to get his bearings. He turned to head towards the door and ran right into Jayne. He threw a punch at Jayne, connecting solidly with his jaw. Jayne stumbled back as Wash and Book grabbed him from behind, holding him still enough for Jayne to inject another dose of smoother. Mal lost his balance and fell to the floor all the while trying to scramble away. The edges of his vision were going dark. He tried to speak again, but his lips didn’t want to cooperate. “Where’s Zo…”

Mal fell limp onto the floor. Jayne knelt next to him, rubbing his chin from the punch.

“He’s out, Captain,” Jayne said. “For a shepherd, he does pack a punch though.”

“What’s going on, sir?” Wash asked Book. Book shrugged his shoulders.

“Have you been telling the Shepherd stories from the war?”

“No, sir.”

“How is he?” Book asked Jayne with concern in his voice. “I thought he was on the mend. It’s been a couple of days since his accident.”

Jayne checked Mal’s vitals.

“Everything looks OK. I am going to do a more thorough scan when I get him downstairs. Make sure there isn’t something else going on.”

“How did he get out of the restraints?” Wash asked.

“I don’t know,” Jayne replied as he motioned for Wash to help him carry Mal back down to the infirmary. They pulled Mal up enough to get a firm hold of him. “Maybe I didn’t put them on tight enough.”

“Could someone have helped him?” Wash asked as he draped Mal’s arm over his neck to help him support Mal’s weight.

“Who would do that?” Jayne asked as he grabbed Mal’s other side.

“Well, make sure they are on good this time. He can’t be left to move around on his own like this. He could hurt someone,” Book said. “Lock the door to the infirmary if you have to.”

Jayne nodded as he and Wash started down toward the infirmary. Book was deep in thought as he sat back down at the table.

“How did he know those things?”
Edited by abbey, Apr 12 2010, 10:16 PM.
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abbey

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.

“Sir?”

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.

The End!
Edited by abbey, Apr 12 2010, 10:45 PM.
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Ertia
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This is an awesome take on the characters! Making Mal the Shepherd... Brill. And you captured everyones voices exactly. Nice work!
Edited by Ertia, May 3 2010, 07:45 AM.
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