Chapter 1: Looking For An Escape
Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to Buffy or Firefly
A/N: This is set early in Season 5 Buffy, with a major difference being that Faith and Buffy got counselling for the friendly fire incident that caused Deputy Mayor Finch's death. To deal with the inherent problems arising from two Slayers in close proximity, Sunnydale was split between them, with clearly defined territories for them to patrol. It was a close-run thing, but Faith didn't go bad, but, instead, assisted the Scoobies during Graduation, and onwards. As for Firefly/Serenity: this is set post-series, pre-movie.
A/N: Warnings for occasional language and violence. When it happens, though, it happens! And Mandarin. It's a Firefly crossover, people. Mandarin happens.
Dawn, Faith, and Xander looked around themselves. Just moments ago, they were inside a house, watching as Willow cast her spell. Now all they could see were rolling grasslands.
"Well, that went well," Faith muttered sourly.
"No, Buffy, I know you really want to be here, but Willow says you can't be." Dawn sighed as she heard her sister go over the same argument they'd had since Willow had found the spell, and they'd started to make their plans. "Willow told you, and Tara told you, and Giles darn well told you, and I'm sure he'll tell you again right now, that you can't be here, because two people with the same blood will confuse the spell, and we really don't want spells being confused around me, now do we?"
As she watched, Willow removed a ribbon from a bowl of potion, and tied it around one of her bags. She made a face, and hoped that the potion wouldn't seep through and stain anything. She, Faith and Xander each were allowed two large bags, and both of hers were at least half-filled with clothes. The remaining space contained a laptop, a games console with games, and books, just in case they found themselves facing anything out of the ordinary. Faith and Xander, on the other hand, probably had half a bag each of clothes, and had filled the rest of their space with weapons. She snorted. Xander had almost as much of a weapons fetish as Faith. Oh, and Twinkies. She was pretty sure Xan had packed a couple of boxes of his favourite pastry.
"Yeah, Buff, I'm still here. Look, Will's nearly ready to do this. She's just mojo-ing our bags to shrink them half-size and quarter-weight." She listened a moment longer, then replied, "Yes, we'll have the mojo-phones on us at all times, so you can call us home when She-Who-Should-Not-Perm is finito. Yes, Buffy, I love you, and I miss you already. Take care of everyone, okay? Love you. Bye." With that, she finished the call, and walked over to the cleared space. She looked at her friends, who already had a different potion daubed on their foreheads, eyelids, and lips. "Got to love the warpaint," she muttered. "Okay, Willow. Gunk me up."
Willow quickly anointed the girl, then positioned the three and their bags within the circle. "Okay, so everyone's clear about what we're doing here today? We're hiding your auras from Glory, so that she can't track you, right?" When she got dutiful nods from each of the participants, she continued. "You still need to leave town straight away, but we'll contact you as soon as we've figured out how to get rid of her. And done it, of course. Or, like, the time's up on her going-home dealie. 'Cause then you won't be in any danger, 'cause she can't use you except at the particular time. So we'll call you, and you can come straight home."
"Don't we need to do something about the car?" Xander asked, concerned.
"Oh, no," Willow shook her head vigorously. "Giles did that when he left, so you're all right to go as soon as we're done here."
Faith, Xander and Dawn exchanged glances. "Okay, Red," the older girl nodded. "Do your thing."
Willow put down her bowl of potion, and picked up another bowl of crushed herbs. "Here we go," she smiled brightly, then began to walk around the circle, sprinkling herbs, and chanting the carefully approved spell.
Xander grimaced as he felt the power build, but said nothing. Ten minutes, he'd been assured. Ten minutes, stinky herbs and weird words, followed by a bright flash. Then it was out to the car, and on their merry way. He hated the thought of leaving town while there was a fight to be had, but Dawn's safety (and the world's) was too important, and he was the one tasked with her mundane care and safety, while Faith served as her protection against things other than human. They hadn't even discussed where they were going, just in case someone overheard. Xander had a simple plan of heading North, and then maybe East. They'd talk about it sometime after they had left the town limits. He was pretty sure they had as much planned as they possibly could: they even had not one, but several false identities, each making Faith and Dawn his sisters. Both he and Faith had Federal carry-concealed licences, and he wasn't going to ask how Willow had swung that one. That kind of protection was far too useful to argue. They had money, phones, identities, weapons, clothes, and transport. Now they just had to survive to get back home.
Willow's voice … augmented, and her hair began to glow and whip about in the mystical whirlwind that sprang up outside the circle. Her voice grew in volume, and suddenly Dawn's eyes began to glow green. Xander clenched his jaw – this hadn't been mentioned, nor had Faith's now glowing-white eyes. All he needed was for his eyes to... He jerked, and threw his head back, mouth open in a soundless snarl. There was a sudden flash of greenish light, and then nothing.
"What the hell happened?"
"Language, Dawnie," Xander chided automatically as he searched the area. The area was empty, with no significant cover other than the surrounding hills. There was, however, a wide trail passing not far from them, and he could see smoke drifting up to the North of their position, indicating a settlement not too far down the track. He flinched, then turned back to the girls. "Are my eyes green, by any chance?"
Dawn's eyes went wide, but she shook her head. "How are you feeling, Xan?" she asked nervously.
"Okay," he frowned. "Not like last time, actually. More..."
"There something I should know?" Faith demanded.
"Green eyes on Xander equals Hyena-Xan," Dawn explained, biting her lip.
"I need more than that, Little D," Faith shook her head.
"Sophomore year, not long after Buffy arrived," Xander began, "I was possessed by a Primal hyena spirit. The pack matriarch, the alpha. I don't actually feel the same as that, but I don't feel normal, either. My senses feel … hyped. Like they were when she was in control. But I can't feel her. I also feel... I kind of feel like Halloween, when I was Private Harris. Except, again, not. I'm me, but with improved senses and, I don't know, more Soldier-Guy than normal. How about you two?" he added. "Both of you did the glowing-eye thing."
Faith frowned, then rolled her shoulders. "I feel … good. Not, I don't know, itching. Calm. Don't know I've ever felt this calm," she mused.
Dawn shrugged. "I feel normal. Nothing different here. Not that I ever felt especially Key-y," she added.
"Okay. Faith, could you do something Slayer-y? 'Cause if you feel different, I don't want to find out you are different sometime critical. You know, like right in the middle of a fight."
Faith raised an eyebrow, then smiled, and hefted Xander easily in her arms. "Yep," she grinned. "Still Slayer-strong."
"Okay," Xander rolled his eyes. "Putting down the Xan-man is good, now." Once he was firmly back on the ground, he smiled. "Well, at least we know you're still strong. It means you can still look after Dawn and yourself. Now to figure out where we are," he sighed as he pulled out his cell. "And, of course, we have no signal. Fine. Okay, there looks like there's a settlement that way," he indicated in the direction of the smoke, "so we should start walking."
"Walking?" Dawn whined.
"Sad to say, Will didn't see fit to transport my car with us. And I can't wait to here her explanation about what went wrong," he muttered.
"Okay, Little-D," Faith said as she grabbed her bags, "you stay with me or X, you hear? At all times."
Dawn picked up her bags, silently thanking Willow for the spells. "So what identities are we using?"
"Xander, Faith and Dawn Joyce," Xander grinned.
"Joyce?" Faith frowned. "That's a surname?"
"Yep," the man nodded. "James Joyce, author of 'Ulysses'. We just did that book in school," he grinned. "I thought it was perfect."
Faith thought about it, then nodded decisively. "Your mom was a good woman, kiddo," she smiled to Dawn.
The younger girl gave a sad smile. "Yeah, she was. I miss her."
"We all miss her. We might just have to pick up some stones to put on her grave when we get home."
"Like Willow does?"
"Like Willow does."
Faith could feel the tension rising as they walked through the town. Things were not looking so good at the moment. "Fuck, Xan," she muttered softly, hoping his hyped senses included enhanced hearing. "We go back in time as well?"
"Don't think so," he murmured, just as quietly. "They're looking at you two, sure, but it's not as bad as it would be if this were the Wild West. There they'd be just about lynching someone for what you're wearing. Here, they don't approve, sure, but they're … almost accepting."
"Guys," Dawn whimpered, "what are we going to do for money? I'm not sure they're going to take Amex here."
"Thought of that," Xander nodded. "Brought some stuff to sell, just in case we had to stop using cards."
"So can we do it soon?" Faith asked. "I don't like being stuck without some green."
Xander nodded. "Money, accommodation, food, transport. Any problems with my priorities?"
"Might want to ask about transport once you got the folding stuff," Faith considered. "Save organising a room only to find out the train is weekly, and left half an hour ago."
"Good point," Xander agreed as he looked around for somewhere that might be appropriate.
"Oh, my god," Dawn grinned. "Is that what I think it is?" she asked, pointing.
Xander and Faith turned to see a spaceship approaching. "Damn," the man muttered. "Well, that settles it. We're definitely not in the past."
"Yo, X, should that thing be smoking like that?" Faith asked, worried.
Xander frowned. "Seriously doubt it."
"And should everyone be running, screaming?" Dawn wanted to know.
"Hell, no," Xander muttered. "This'll be some kind of raiding party. We need to find somewhere defensible, and treat all attackers as vamps unless I say otherwise. Got it?"
Faith looked around. "Defensible being?"
"High. And clear. I don't want anyone dropping off a roof at us."
Faith nodded, then pointed out a nearby building. It was separate from the other buildings, and had no easy access to the flat, walled roof. They ran to the building, and Faith gave Dawn a hard boost up, followed by Xander. Faith then tossed up the bags, then jumped up to join the others. Meanwhile, Xander had opened the bags, and started going through the weapons. Grinning, he pulled out a kind of large gun, and flipped out the stand before setting it down.
The two girls stared at him "Fucking hell, X!" Faith cried. "What the hell have you been doing?"
"Raiding the Sunnydale Armoury again," he grinned. "This, ladies, is the M249 SAW. Dawn will be operating it, since she's the weakest of the three of us. It's set to semi-automatic fire so you don't accidentally go through all the ammo," he added. "Sit down on the ground, and just point and fire only when you need to. And try not to hit us, okay?" He quickly set the younger girl up with the weapon and ammunition belts before quickly getting his own weapons ready.
"We got incoming," Faith called from her position at the corner of the building closest to the now-landed ship. "And they are shit-ugly," she grimaced. She twitched. "Want to be down there, Xan. They're killing people already."
"We stay together, and we protect Dawn. She is our mission. If we save some lives at the same time, good."
"You got something I can use, then?"
Xander dropped down beside her, and handed over another rifle before dropping a bag between them. "M16 Assault Rifle, set to semi-automatic fire. Let's get some fuglies."
They fired on the attackers, taking out any they could see, quickly drawing the raiders' attention. The raiders all seemed to be armed for melee fighting only, and neither Faith nor Xander allowed them to get close enough to engage. Some of them threw weapons, but Xander and Faith were able to duck behind the wall to stay safe. Xander moved around the roof, making sure they weren't out-flanked, and keeping Dawn between the two of them as much as possible. Eventually they ran out of targets, but continued to walk along the rooftop, waiting for the next wave to arrive. Nearly an hour passed, but still no more raiders appeared.
A man appeared through a doorway opposite their position, drawing Faith's immediate attention. "X?" she called. "Think the locals are coming out now."
Xander joined her at the front of the building, and looked at the man standing in the road, arms raised. He turned to Faith. "Dawn," he called, "You reposition here, back to the wall. Faith, you stay here and guard Dawn and cover me." As soon as he had Dawn positioned so that she could cover Faith's back, he slung the gun's strap across his shoulder, and jumped down to the street. He brought his rifle back up to where he could easily fire it, and walked over to the other man. He nodded to the local. "Name's Xander," he greeted.
"Cyrus," the local introduced. "Cyrus Lo. I'm one of the town elders."
Xander waited a moment, then shrugged. "You can put your hands down," he said, smiling slightly.
"Thank you. Um, I, we, would like to thank you for saving us. The Reavers," he shuddered. "Wuh de ma, the Reavers. And you killed them all," he wondered. "How can we repay you?"
Xander looked at the other man. "We're kind of stuck," he admitted. "We were kind of dumped here, without anything but our clothes and our weapons, and we don't even know where here is, or how to get home."
"Oh, well, I can help you with some of that," Cyrus smiled happily. "Here is Newtown, on Silverhold."
Xander rubbed his head. "Silverhold. I'm sorry – how far out is that?"
Cyrus nodded and made a sympathetic face. "We're a long way from the Central Planets. This here's a Rim World."
"And how often do ships come by, if we want to head back in?"
"Oh, they come by regular," Cyrus assured him. "Maybe a month wait?" he suggested.
"A month, huh? Okay, we're going to have to dig in for a while, then. So I'm going to need to arrange somewhere to stay for me and my sisters, and maybe see someone to sell some stuff so we can live."
"Oh, I'm sure we can arrange something for you. You saved us from the Reavers," he added in an awed tone.
"Anything to help," Xander nodded, then turned to go back to Faith and Dawn.
Faith jumped down to join him. "So what's the what?"
Xander shook his head, smiling slightly. "We're on a planet called Silverhold. It's a Rim World, far from the Central Planets. The things we killed are called Reavers, and they are very happy we did so."
Faith grimaced. "Ugly fuckers," she muttered. "Someone's going to have to clean this mess up, too. So what's happening otherwise."
"Cyrus, the guy I was talking to, said they can help us find somewhere to stay until we can get a flight off-planet."
"Just so long as we don't become National Treasures they don't want to let go of. Think I want to be somewhere a little more … flash than here."
"What?" Xander teased. "Don't you like the Wild West theme they've got going here?"
Faith snorted. "'Kay. I'll go back up and toss our bags down to you."
Xander put his hand to her shoulder. "No, I'll give you a boost, and you'll get Dawn's help to pull yourself up onto the roof. Before was an emergency, and I don't think anyone was looking at us. I sure as hell hope not, anyway."
Faith glanced around. "Yeah. Forgot about that. Okay, big bro, how about a lift?"
Grinning, Xander laced his fingers together to make a footstep for her, then tossed her up as hard as he could. It turned out that his best was better than he'd expected, or Faith had put some extra spring in her jump, because she simply had to swing her leg over the edge to get onto the roof. The two girls then quickly repacked the bags and dropped them, one at a time, over the edge. Once that was done, Dawn sat on the edge of the roof, then jumped down to Xander, followed neatly by Faith.
"Faith says we've got a wait before we can fly to somewhere more civilised," Dawn commented.
"Yeah," Xander agreed. "The guy I was talking to, town elder, whatever that means, said there should be someone here sometime in the next month. Hopefully."
"You know," Dawn began, nibbling on her lip, "if they don't have power here, I won't be able to do any school work. Everything's on my laptop."
Xander looked at the younger girl. "Dawn," he began, "we're on a planet, far from the Sunnydale School District, and I don't know when we'll be getting home. Right now school work is the least of our worries."
Dawn grinned. "Cool."
"'Sides," Faith added, "I'm sure you can do some reading of the big, heavy books Giles gave us. You know," she smirked, "get started on your Watcher training."
Dawn narrowed her eyes. "You're evil, you know that? Pure evil."
"Oh, come one, Dawnie," Xander argued. "You like the mouldy old books."
"Yeah, but she's making it like work," Dawn pouted before walking ahead of them.
"So, Xan," Faith began quietly. "You got any ideas about what we're going to do? We're a long way from home, and I doubt Willow's fancy ID's are going to be any use out here."
"I'd like to get somewhere safer, which probably means somewhere closer to the Central Planets. At the same time, we will need new identities, like you said. We both have marketable skills – I've done construction, and we both can fight. We might be able to work our way inward. We might have to end up selling our toys."
"The laptop and the games?" Faith confirmed.
"Yep. Won't be much use, anyway, if we can't recharge them. Who knows? They might be valuable to collectors," he smiled.
"Woo hoo," Faith smirked. "We're rich."
"So long as we can stay alive, in one piece, and together."
Faith nodded. "Working on it."
Chapter 2: Looking For An Escape
Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to Buffy or Firefly/Serenity
Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to Buffy or Firefly/Serenity
Mal looked at the goods now loaded along the side of the cargo bay. Everything was neat, and they were just about ready to lift off from the sleepy little town, and he was pleased to finally have a decent job. He turned back to close the hatch to see a young dark-haired man walking up the ramp. "Can I help you?" he asked politely.
"I hope so," the stranger sighed. "You're the third ship we weren't told about in the last two months. We want to get off-planet. Can you help?"
Mal folded his arms, and frowned at the newcomer. "Why are you so all-fired impatient to get away?" he demanded.
"'Cause we don't belong here, and we don't want to stay here. And we don't really feel like being kept somewhere against our will."
Mal nodded. "Fair thought," he considered. "So who's 'we'?"
The boy grinned, and walked forward, hand outstretched. "Name's Xander Joyce, and my sisters are outside. Faith and Dawn."
"Where're you lookin' to go?" Mal asked.
Xander shrugged. "Somewhere less … out … than here? A nice Border Planet, maybe?"
"We'll be headin' in to Persephone soon enough," Mal nodded. "But passage for three ain't cheap."
"We have some money, and we're willing to work for passage."
"What can you do, then?"
"Well, I trained a little in construction, not that that's too useful on a ship," Xander admitted. He chewed his lip. "Faith and I can fight, too. If you need security, or anything like that. We have some weapons, and even Dawn can shoot. I don't like her to fight up close and personal – she's only a kid – but life hasn't been the safest, so I taught her to shoot."
Mal nodded. "Ain't you a mite young for that? And I already got me a merc. Don't see the need for such as you to fight for me."
Xander shrugged. "Been fighting since I was fifteen, Faith too. We're still here."
"Truly, now?" Mal asked. "And where was that?"
"A little hellhole called 'Sunnydale'," Xander offered with a grimace. "I sincerely doubt you would have heard of it."
"I've heard of most places in this 'verse," Mal nodded sagely, "but you'd be right in that I ain't heard of that one. So where would that be now?"
"A long way from here, that's for sure," Xander explained.
Mal frowned. "Well, you surely don't sound local. And this ain't no cozy Central Planet." He looked out the hatch to the open sky as he thought. Decision made, he nodded. "Well, can't leave you here, I guess. Or, I could, but certain people have got to thinking they're my conscience, and would be a mite put out if they ever found I left you here. And you will be paying your way, one way or another," he warned, "but passage you've got. So let's see your girls then, shall we?"
The young man, Xander, grinned and led him outside to meet two girls. The first to be introduced, Faith, was about Xander's own age, a girl about his own Kaylee's height, buxom and lusty, by the looks of the smirk on her face, and the (ai ya!) tight clothes she was wearing. Her sister looked to be a fair bit younger, though just as tall, and looking to grow taller. Slim to her sister's well-built frame, she looked about River's own age, or mayhap younger. Xander introduced this one as Dawn, and Mal frowned, and pulled the man aside.
"You should know my crew my crew ain't all nice," Mal warned.
Xander squared his shoulders. "Do I have the right to correct any, uh, inappropriate behaviour?"
Mal nodded. "If me or Zoë ain't there to do it, and you think you can, you have my permission to look to your sisters."
"Cool," Xander smiled. "You should know, though, that Faith can look after herself. I said she's been fighting since she was fifteen, and I don't mean little slap fights."
Mal frowned. "She ain't but a bitty thing," he disagreed.
Xander laughed, and looked over at Faith, who looked at them, and rolled her eyes. "Yeah. I'll take your whoever, and raise my Faith. If I'm ever worried about someone's behaviour, then I'll do something about it, but I doubt she'd appreciate my interfering too much in her, um, privacy," the boy finished, blushing. Mal raised his eyebrows at that, but Xander shrugged and gave a half-smile. "Who Faith has sex with is her choice. I don't get a say in it at all."
Mal gave him a long look, then looked at the girls. "Well, we'd best be gettin' on, then. I'll show you to the passenger dorms – there's room there so you can have a room each. Once we're in the black, you can meet the crew." With that, he ushered the three youngsters inside, closed up the ship, and gave the order to lift off. He made his way forward to the cockpit, where he was fairly certain his First Mate would be waiting. He'd seen her on the catwalk as he'd shown the newcomers to the passenger dorms, and knew she'd want something of an explanation.
Sure enough, when he reached the cockpit, Zoë was leaning against her husband's chair. "Anything I should know, sir?" she asked calmly.
Wash looked up quickly. "There's something to know? Should I know something? We are leaving atmo, aren't we? 'Cause I was sure we were leaving atmo," he frowned.
"Set course as you should," Mal nodded as he dropped into the co-pilot's chair. "We took on passengers," he explained. "Young man lookin' to get his sisters somewhere a mite safer than a Rim Planet. He's offered to work for passage, says he and his sister can fight. Even the young'n can shoot, so he says."
"How old are we talking?" Wash asked, concerned. "Kaylee young?"
"River young, mayhap younger," Mal thought.
"Qing wa cao de liu mang," Wash muttered. "You don't hand a gun to a girl child."
"You do if you want her to live," Zoë argued. "You give it to her, and you teach her how to use it properly.
"Ain't a happy 'verse out there," Mal nodded.
"So when do we meet the new people?" Wash asked.
"Once we're clear in the black, you can come down. I'll be makin' introductions to them as are in the Dining Room." With that, Mal rose and left the cockpit.
Faith heard the knock at the glass panel as she fiddled with the strap. "Just a sec," she muttered as she pushed a finger under the strap to test its fit. "Now remember: you don't go anywhere without at least this on you, okay, Little D?" she warned.
Dawn pulled her cropped tank top down over the sheath strapped to her back. "Okay. I just don't get why we have to keep this up," she frowned.
"Captain warned X about his people. Until we know what's the what, we all go armed all the time. Anything happens, you pull your knife and scream."
"I'd complain about you and Xan being paranoid, but..." she sighed.
"We just did too good a job back on on Silverhold," Faith explained, "though, hell if I can tell how we could have done anything else. Now on we stay armed, and keep things on the down low." She looked at the younger girl, and noted that the straps couldn't be seen under her clothing. "Time to face the music."
The two girls left Dawn's room, and joined Xander standing in the hall. Having been given the option, they had chosen three rooms together, and away from the other passengers. This way they had at least the pretence of privacy, though on a ship so small, that's all it was.
Xander lead the way to the Dining Room, followed by Dawn, then Faith. When they arrived, they found three men already sitting at the table. The largest looked up and scowled. "Juh shi suh mo go dohng shee?" he demanded. "We got passengers?" He slapped his hands on the table, stood up, and stalked out of the room, shouting, "Mal! You got us some gorram passengers?"
The younger of the remaining men, an elegant, fair skinned man who reminded Xander a little of Wesley, grimaced. "Please excuse him," he begged in cultured tones. "He's ..."
"Difficult?" Xander asked with a small smile.
The elder man smiled in return. "I don't think he's done well with passengers being brought on board.
The younger snorted. "Jayne just doesn't like River. Or me. He likes you, though. I think that's because you'll do weights with him."
The Sunnydale natives exchanged quick glances. "Jayne?" Faith asked.
The younger man cleared his throat, and tried to hide a smile. "My sister has already had that conversation. It was … enlightening. But forgive us, we've been rude. My name is Simon, and this is Shepherd Book."
"Shepherd," Faith asked suspiciously. "That like a preacher?"
"Yes. But fear not: I do not generally preach sermons on board the ship," Book soothed.
"Five by five with me," Faith shrugged. "So who else is here?"
"Well," Simon began, "as I mentioned, the other man who was here is Jayne. He's, er, ships security."
Xander nodded. "Mal said he had a merc already." He turned to Faith, and grimaced. "Looks like we've already pissed him off. This is going to be fun," he commented. "We offered to pay our way doing just that," he explained to the others.
"Oh," Simon murmured. "Well, I'm sure Mal will find something for you to do," he offered with a shrug. By then, they could hear Jayne's loud complaints heading back down the passage-way, followed by Mal's voice, as well as another male voice in counterpoint. "And this will be the rest of them," he smiled.
Jayne stormed back into the dining area, followed by Mal, a genial-looking sandy-haired man, and an elegantly dangerous looking woman. "And I say we don't need no new ruttin' passengers."
"And I keep sayin' as this is my ship," Mal frowned, "and I'll take on board them as I like. And since they're here now, I won't be puttin' them off until I see fit, dong ma?" He looked around at the assembled group. "So, I guess introductions will be needed. This here is Xander Joyce and his sisters Faith and Dawn," he gestured to each one. " And this is Zoë, my First Mate, her husband Wash, my pilot, and Jayne, our merc. Simon and Book I dare say you've already introduced yourselves to," he finished, nodding to each in turn.
Xander smiled at the group, then looked at Mal. "Yep, all up to date on that. So are you going to be needing us to do what I suggested, seeing as you have your own burly merc?"
"No problem," Mal shook his head. "Can always use more help."
"Well, that's feng le," Jayne protested. "We already got enough fighters. We don't need no babes in arms as apt to kill us as help us."
"Well, Xander and Faith are young," Mal acknowledged, "but they've been fighting since they were younger, and they are going to help out on any fightin' we might need to do. What with their nice, shiny weapons, and all."
Zoë smiled tightly. "You accepted passengers you knew were carrying arms, sir?"
"Tools of the trade, Zo'," Mal nodded. "'Sides, a man's got a right to protect his girl kin."
Jayne snorted. "I'm lookin', Mal, but I don't see no man."
Xander's eyes flew to the larger man, and his lips twitched, but he kept silent. Dawn, on the other hand scoffed, and muttered to Faith, "And people complain about Buffy's name."
Jayne scowled. "You sayin' something about my name? 'Cause I ain't no girl. I got man parts!"
"Wuh de ma," Simon groaned. "Haven't we already had this conversation?"
"Bi jweh," Mal bit out. "You," he pointed at Jayne, "keep it in your pants. And you," he glared at a wide-eyed, and determinedly not grinning Dawn, "quit tauntin' my merc. Right. Now Xander and Faith will be helpin' out with any fightin' that needs to be done, along with any other chores, just like everyone else. Is that clear?"
"I ain't losin' none of my cut," Jayne warned.
"No, Jayne," Mal sighed. "They're working for their passage."
"Who's workin' for their passage?" asked a sweet-faced brunette.
"Kaylee," Mal smiled. "This here's Xander, Faith and Dawn Joyce. They're working their way with us. Got stuck on Silverhold, and wanted off."
"Hey," Kaylee grinned and waved. "So where're you going?"
"Anywhere but Silverhold?" Xander offered. "No real plans. Just wanted to get away."
"And why didn't anyone tell you ships were comin'?" Mal asked. "I assume you were askin'?"
Faith snorted. "Yeah. We kept telling them we wanted off the planet, but I think they just wanted us there in case they got any more raiders hitting the town."
"There were bandits?" Kaylee asked wide-eyed.
Xander nodded. "They hit town the same day we did. They rode in, guns blazing, and we were caught out in the open, so we had to … deal with it. I think the locals appointed us their guardian angels."
Simon nodded. "Sometimes people … latch onto whatever they perceive they need. Or actually need. Personal freedom is sublimated to group need," he shrugged.
Faith shoulder-bumped Xander, and grinned. "Dress him in tweed, tweak the accent, and we've got our very own Giles Junior."
Xander grinned. They had one cranky, if huge, person (mental note: leave him to Faith) one professionally suspicious person (mental note: leave her alone) and a group of nice, if diverse yet accepting, people. "Anyone else we need to meet?" He was instantly on his guard by the guilty shift in most of the group.
"Well," Simon began tentatively, "there's my sister, River."
"What do you mean they're gone?" Buffy asked angrily.
"Well," Willow began nervously, "everything was going fine. Then there was … glowy eyes, and, and the flash was kind of greenish, instead of just white, like it was supposed to be, and then they were gone," she explained.
"'Glowy eyes?'" Buffy enunciated carefully.
"Uh huh," Willow breathed, keeping a weather eye on Mount Saint Buffy. "First Dawnie's eyes glowed green, which I guess is right, since The Key is all glowing-green-energy, then Faith's eyes glowed white, which is what your eyes did during the Joining Spell, apparently, and then, um, well, Xander's eyes kind-of maybe started glowing kind-of green," she finished in a rush.
Buffy stared at her friend wide-eyed. "Giles!" she yelled, stalking to the other room. "I thought you said the Hyena was gone."
Giles looked up from his book. "It is. She was exorcised along with the others. Otherwise Xander would have been driven mad years ago."
"Are you absolutely, positively, nope-no-way-is-it-ever-going-to-happen sure She's gone?" Buffy demanded.
"I'm quite sure she's gone. Why do you ask?"
"'Cause Will said Xander's eyes glowed green just before they all disappeared."
Giles closed his book, and stared off into the distance in thought. "Well," he began, "I am certain the spirit is gone, but she would have left a mark on Xander's spirit." He tapped his fingers on the table. "It is possible – possible, mind you, not definite – that the Slayer essence in Faith and the Primal mark on Xander somehow combined with the spell. This is disturbing," he frowned.
"You think?" Buffy squealed. "You approved the spell which has sent my sister somewhere, and we don't know where she is, and, and Xander's gone, too, and Faith is gone, and now I have to patrol the whole town all by myself, and we've got Glory to find and get rid of, and my sister is God only knows where, and we don't even know if Xander and Faith are with her, and, and... And!" she finished desperately.
Willow, Giles and Tara stared at her in shock for a long moment. "Wow," Willow murmured. "I think you have been spending way too much time with Xan and me," the redhead shook her head.
Buffy's head whipped around, and she pinned her friend with a glare. "This. Is. Not. Funny," she growled. "Find them," she ordered, then stalked out of the house. Half the Slayers meant double the territory, even with Spike to help.
Ai ya - Damn
Qing wa cao de liu mang – Frog-humping son of a bitch
Juh shi suh mo go dohng shee – What the hell is this crap
Dong ma - Do you understand
Feng le - Crazy
Wuh de ma – Mother of God
Bi jweh – Shut up
Translations from firefly [dot] wikia [dot] com/wiki/Dictionary
Chapter 3: Danger, Will Robinson
Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to Buffy or Firefly
Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to Buffy or Firefly
"So what are we doing about getting my sister home?" Buffy demanded.
"Until Glory is defeated," Giles decided, "we are doing nothing about Dawn, Xander and Faith. We are going to hope that they are safe, and we are going to see about making sure they have a safe place to return to. Once Glory is dealt with, then we will look at getting them back."
"Do we even know where they are?"
"We hid their auras," Willow offered gently. "We can't find them right now. Once Glory's out of the way, then we'll have some time to look for them."
Buffy crumpled in her seat, head in hands. "She's all I have left," she whispered.
"Well, we must trust Xander and Faith to keep her safe," Giles comforted.
Xander threw a powerful right cross at the untidy lout. "Did I not tell you to stay on the ship?" he roared at a currently repentant Dawn. "I really remember telling you specifically to stay on the ship," he continued as he dragged another man into a hard knee strike to the belly.
"I remember you saying that, too, Xan," Faith growled as she launched into a spinning kick. "So why the hell are you at a dive like this? 'Cause I really want to know," she added with an elbow to a large man's jaw.
Dawn peeked out from behind an overturned table. "We just wanted to see the puppet show," she whined.
Xander looked around, and decided that all possible interested parties were now dealt with. He turned to his younger 'sister'. "Puppet show?" he asked in a deceptively calm voice. "You left the ship, and came here to find a puppet show? I'm looking, but I'm not seeing any puppet show."
"We should have turned left at Albuquerque," River explained, nodding.
"Don't you talk to me about Albuquerque," Xander warned. "I am too mad at the both of you right now. So we are going back to Serenity, and you are going to explain to your brother, young girl, just how you ended up in a place like this, needing to be rescued."
River whined. Xander and Faith glared at the two girls, who crawled out from behind their erstwhile shelter, and sidled up to the older pair. Together, the four young people walked out of the now-wrecked bar. River bumped her friend. "I'm blaming you," she whispered.
"Me?" Dawn squeaked. "How can you blame me?"
"You should have known to turn left. It was Albuquerque," River explained.
Dawn rolled her eyes, but said nothing. There was going to be enough to say when they got back to the ship. And there was never any getting around River's explanations. They never made any sense, especially since they involved things from their lives she could have no possible way of knowing. Still, it had been fun to get out for a while.
"Mei mei," Simon began civilly, "why did you leave the ship?"
"We wanted to go to the puppet show," River explained, "but Albuquerque turned up, and we went right when we should have gone left, and the men at the bar didn't want to talk about the puppet show, so the White Knight and the Black Queen had to rescue us."
"Apart from the fact that you seem to be getting your chess pieces confused, I'm not sure I understand any of this conversation."
River rolled her eyes. "An optometrist should never write their own prescription," she moaned.
Simon sagged back in his seat briefly, then stood. "Well, since Dawn's been confined to her cabin for the rest of the day, I can hardly do less, especially since you're the elder of the two of you. I just wish I knew what you meant sometimes," he sighed. He made his way out to the common area where he knew Xander and Faith would be lounging, and sat down. "I hope you got a better explanation than I did," he frowned.
"Oh well," Xander shrugged. "It was all 'puppet show' this, and 'never go anywhere' that, and a pout-pout here, and a sulk-sulk there. I vaguely remember doing something like that, yea these many years ago," he offered with a slight smile.
Simon raised a sardonic eyebrow. "Shi ma? Because you're so very old and decrepit now," he nodded.
Xander grinned. "Kids of today, no respect!"
"Do you know who or what Albuquerque is?" Simon asked. "River said that … it turned up, and they went right when they should have gone left."
Xander and Faith exchanged glances. "It was a thing back home. A joke, kind of. 'I knew I should have turned left at Albuquerque,'" Xander shrugged.
Simon sighed. "I'm sorry. She picks up things like that. One of the strangest things I saw was when she suddenly pretended to be someone from Dyton Colony to distract a minor villain. We've never been there in our lives," he added pensively.
"Did it work?" Faith asked, grinning.
"Oh, yes," Simon smiled in memory. "Badger was convinced she was from back home. Unfortunately, we were all too stunned by her performance to use the distraction she caused."
"As I recall," Mal began as he walked into the dining room, "we had only one crazy girl on board. Am I now to believe there are two?"
"She's fourteen, she wanted to go to a puppet show, and we got them back," Xander argued, unconsciously standing at parade rest.
"And we had to hold up lift off while you did," Mal shot back. "What if we'd had to leave atmo in a hurry?"
"Then you would have been down a reader and two fighters until you came back for us," Xander replied.
"And what say I didn't come back?" Mal demanded.
Xander gave him a look that could have got him court-martialled if they'd been in service together. "Do I really need to answer that?"
Mal scowled, but didn't push it. "So what are you doing about them girls?"
"Dawn is grounded – confined to her room for the rest of the day. When we get to the next port, she's going to be just about tied to one of us for the whole time."
"How. Doc? What about River?"
"Same thing," Simon answered as Xander and Faith glanced at one another, startled.
Jayne watched from his vantage point, and noted the strangers' be-puzzlement. It was just another thing on his list of what was wrong with the kids.
Jayne looked through the common area to the hold, where the three newcomers were sparring with River. Well, the boy and his older sister were sparring, while the two younger girls were playing cards, with an odd deck of cards that he'd never seen before. Some fishing game. Well, while he was sure they were all occupied, he was going to do some investigating. 'Cause these people just weren't right.
He slipped into Xander's room (and what kind of name was that?) and pulled a bag out from under the bed. It wasn't too heavy, but he could hear metal clinking inside. He pulled the zip down and opened the bag up, and felt his jaw drop. He reverently pulled out the first weapon, a rifle, the like of which he'd not seen before. It was finely made, and well balanced. He sniffed, and nodded approvingly at the smell of gun oil. He set it, and it's mate aside, then pulled out another, larger rifle. This one had a pull-down bipod so that it could be rested on something. He grinned, and wondered how long before he could get this baby off the boy. He flicked the bipod back up, and set it aside with the other rifles.
Jayne poked around inside the bag and found a wide variety of other weapons. There were a number of pistols, with boxes of bullets and spare magazines. Then there were the blades. Jayne had a fine appreciation for a sharp blade, and it appeared the Xander shared it. There were boot daggers, throwing daggers, hunting knives, and knives with sheaths that could be strapped to arms. There were swords of various sizes and styles, and even a couple of axes, including a large double-headed axe at the bottom of the bag. Jayne was in lust. He reverently replaced all of the weapons (except for a pretty little dagger in an arm sheath) and tidied the bag away, before pulling out the second bag.
This bag looked (at first glance) to be full of clothes, but Jayne decided that the boy wasn't such a fancy-boy as to have that many clothes, so he carefully removed the clothes to find out what was beneath. This led to a treasure trove even more bewildering than the weapons bag. Starting at one end of the bag, he found wrapped blocks of … putty? He picked one up and sniffed it, but it didn't smell like any putty he knew. He shrugged, and put it back down. Next were vacuum-packed coils of cord. He shrugged again, and tossed those aside as well. Next came a box, which he opened. Inside were a whole pile of very carefully packed silver rods. He picked one up, and looked at it, then put it back, and set the box aside. He poked around in the bag, but couldn't see much of anything he could recognise. There were a great many things scattered around the bottom of the bag, including what looked like large, thin, floppy books. Picture books. He flicked through one, and frowned. Not a word of Mandarin in the whole things. He glanced around, and considered the time, then quickly re-packed the bag, and shoved it back under the bed. He'd try for Faith's bags next time, he thought with a leer.
Mal wandered into the kitchen and began to fix himself a cup of tea. He glanced into the dining room to where Xander and Faith were playing a game of cards, while Jayne was watching them. They had offered to teach him their game, but he had refused. Mal was worried. Jayne had been insistent that bringing them on board, and then keeping them on board was a very bad thing, but couldn't explain why. He had to admit that the merc did have reasonable instincts, even if he was generally ruled by something other than intellect. And in the last few days, he'd been watching the boy with something akin to awe, though he was blowed if he knew what that was about. He was brought back to the present by the sound of Jayne speaking.
"Piow liang de shao ji, nee gu wuo hu nee shang hao. wuh hwai rong nee shung kai roo hua," Jayne nodded conversationally at Xander.
Mal held his breath, eyes wide, but neither Xander nor Faith did anything but shrug and smile back, before returning to their game. Mal looked at Jayne, who was now smirking, and nodded towards the hold. He followed the larger man out there, then hit his shoulder. "Ta ma duh," he hissed. "What in the name of all heavens do you think you are doing, sayin' that to him?"
"Fang xin," Jayne smirked. "They don't understand not a word of Chinese. You can tell them their grandmother's a whore, and they'll smile and nod at you. I told you before, and I'm tellin' you again: they ain't right."
Mal frowned. "They came from somewhere different, that's for sure. They tell of jokes ain't none of us heard before." He shook his head. "They do good work, Jayne, and ain't been no trouble. 'Cept when that sister of theirs gets to playing with River a mite too strange. Still, the girl's doing well with them." He pondered a bit more, before shaking a finger at the other man. "And you stay out of their things, dong ma?"
Mal was about to return to his tea when he saw River on the upper walkway. He climbed the stairs, and walked up to her. "So what are you seein', little one?" he asked.
"Danger, Will Robinson," River declared.
"You know that don't mean nothin' to me," Mal sighed.
"The White Knight and the Black Queen are keeping the Key safe from the Glory of Hell. But they're here for a reason," she stated emphatically. "They..." River frowned. "I don't see why," she added plaintively. "It is all muddied with white and green. It used to be all screams and death, and I couldn't hold it, but now there's clouds, and they're green like hail, and things are not what they used to be."
"Well, now," Mal frowned. "That makes a whole lick of sense. Or at least it would, if I had your brain."
River shook her head. "You don't want my brain. It's far too big to fit inside your thick skull," she sniffed. "Besides, it bends and shifts, and little bits leak out to make friends with other people's brains, then come back to tell stories." She frowned pensively. "Should I listen to the stars sing about kittens?" she asked. "I need to ask Xander," she decided as she wandered off.
Mal shook his head. "I keep listen' to her, I'm like to get addle-pated."
"Now, the job we've got coming up is a bank job on a little place called Lilac," Mal announced to the crew. "Won't be no trouble. Folk there are a righteous sort, and we'll hit during Sunday service. Just a simple bank job, easy in, easy out. I will be taking River with us. Good to have a reader," he added. "Now, mule only takes four, so Xander and Faith will be staying back to guard the ship. Yes, Simon," he sighed, exasperated, "what is you're wantin' to say?"
"You can't take River," Simon protested. "She's just a child."
"She ain't the baby of the ship, now, and I need her. She's goin'."
"Mal," Simon began.
"No," Mal returned forcefully. "I ain't havin' this conversation. The girl is going, and that is final."
Simon looked about to argue, but Xander bumped him, and shook his head. So he sighed, and walked out.
Mal looked at the newer members of his crew. "You fine with lookin' after the ship?"
"It's a strenuous job," Xander considered, "but I think we can manage it."
"Good," Mal nodded. "We'll be landin' in a few hours. Best get anything ready as you need."
Mei mei – Little sister
Shi ma – Is that so
How – Good or okay
Piow liang de shao ji, nee gu wuo hu nee shang hao. wuh hwai rong nee shung kai roo hua – Pretty lady, hire me for the night and I'll open you like a flower
Ta ma duh – Damn it
Fang xin – Don't worry
Dong ma – Do you understand
Translations from firefly[dot]wikia[dot]com/wiki/Dictionary
Chapter 4: Lilac to Beaumonde
Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to Buffy or Firefly
Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to Buffy or Firefly
A/N: We have entered the time-frame of the movie, Serenity. Basically, Dawn, Faith and Xander are pretty much just inserted into the movie. You may wish to see the movie to get the other stuff that isn't mentioned here.
Xander and Faith sat perched on a container, watching Zoë and Jayne ready themselves. Xander turned his head, suddenly, to see Simon following Mal out into the cargo hold.
"They still arguing?" Faith asked, smirking.
"Did they stop?" Xander shrugged.
"Would you?" Faith asked. "If it was Dawn he wanted?"
"I'd get ready to put a bullet through his head if he tried," Xander frowned. He turned to his 'sister'. "Have I been spending too much time with them?" he asked.
"We live on a dinky little boat – and if you tell Kaylee I called Serenity that, I'll deny it to my dying day – so I'm not exactly sure how you could avoid spending too much time with them," Faith shrugged.
"Hide in my room, like Jayne does?" Xander considered.
"Oh, Xan, he ain't hiding there," Faith smirked.
Xander snorted. "Well, duh!" He watched Simon bring River down to the mule, and buckle her in, then his final attempt at talking to Mal. The older man caught Xander's eye just as he was about to leave, and Xander nodded. The ship was theirs now, to guard. He turned to Faith. "You want to go hang with Wash, or will I?"
"You go hang with Wash," Faith decided. "I'll watch the hold."
Xander nodded, and quickly scaled the steps to where Dawn was lying on the catwalk. She and River had lain there, head to head, watching the others in the hold, but now River was off with Mal, robbing the Trading Station. Xander squatted beside her, and cocked his head. "You okay?" he asked.
"Buffy was River's age when she was mooning over Angel," Dawn murmured.
"That she was. And I was River's age when I found out about vampires, and staked Jesse," Xander nodded.
"So it's not really a hard thing that he's asking, is it?" Dawn frowned.
Xander sighed. "If Mal wanted you, and you were River's age, I would fight at least as hard to keep you back," he admitted. "Of course," he added, "I actually know how to fight, so I'd have a better chance of winning."
Dawn smiled. "I'm just a little worried about her, is all."
"You and me both," Xander nodded. "How about you go sit with Kaylee?" he suggested. "I'll be up with Wash, and Faith will be watching the Hold, okay?"
Dawn curled up off the floor. "Okay."
Faith was lounging in the co-pilot's chair, grinning at Wash's latest dinosaur story when the comm lit up, and Zoë's voice came over asking if he could hear her. She sat up, ready to run and do something.
Wash began prepping for flight, and responded to his wife. "We're moments from air. You got somebody behind you?"
Zoë responded with a single word. "Reavers."
Faith was out the door to the cockpit even as she heard Wash rattling off some (they had decided) Chinese. She flew down the stairs straight outside the cockpit, reaching the cargo bay in the minimum of time. Xander's head was already up and he was tensed to move, having heard her on the steps. "Reavers!" she yelled, then flew across the cargo bay, past the infirmary, and turned right to their rooms, Xander right after her.
Xander ran into his room, and dragged his bag out from under his bed. He pulled out the weapons they had used their first day on Silverhold, and tossed an M16 and the M249 with a couple of belts of ammo to Faith. "Get that to Dawn, and tell her to lock them into the engine room. They are not to open the door again until they get you or me giving them a code-word 'all clear.'" He didn't wait for his friend to go, but went back to the bag to pull his own weapon out, gather the loaded magazines, and raced back to the cargo bay.
Simon was running to the hatch controls even as Xander was running back to the cargo bay. Xander could see the Reaver's larger skiff belching smoke as it chased Serenity's mule. He jumped up on a container at the edge of the hatch, and wedged himself in as best possible. By that time, Faith had arrived in the hatch, also, and found her position on the other side of the hatch. They were both now fairly well placed to guard the entrance to the cargo bay while minimising their own vulnerability.
Right on time, Zoë swung the mule around, and headed back to Serenity. Xander felt the floor push up against him as Wash pulled up to gain height the moment the mule was in the bay, but he wasn't quick enough to totally avoid the skiff, and a part of the roof followed the mule into the cargo bay. Simon acted quickly to quench the fires that sparked up, and then Xander sat back to enjoy the little comedy enacted in front of him, as Kaylee checked on Simon, who checked on River, neither of whom were at all injured. Of course, a stowaway Reaver chose that moment to pop up, an utterly foolish act considering where he was. Within seconds, he was down again, falling under a hail of fire from Mal, Zoë, Jayne, Faith and Xander.
There was a brief lull, then Wash's voice was heard over the comm asking if everyone was okay. Zoë quickly reassured him, and things seemed to be about to return to normal when Simon got decked Mal with a fine, if misguided, hit to the jaw. This, of course, started a fight between the two men, despite Zoë's attempt to placate the doctor, and ended with Simon's announcement that he and River were leaving once they reached Beaumonde.
Xander and Faith dropped down from their perches either side of the hatch. Faith glanced at Xander, knowing things were about to change, and she wasn't sure how she felt about that. Xander strode up to Mal and stopped. Staring the older man in the eye, he spoke to Faith. "Go and pack. We're getting off at Beaumonde." Without another word, he slid past the Captain and stalked off to his cabin.
Simon found the young man in his cabin, packing. "You don't have to do this, you know," he offered. "This is my decision, to keep my sister safe. You will be fine here without us," he assured.
"Actually," Xander thought, "I think we kind of do. There's something about your sister, and I have a feeling we're supposed to stick by her. So we are."
Simon smiled slightly. "A … feeling?"
Xander looked up at him, and offered a lopsided smile. "Where we come from, we don't discount feelings. Probably a big reason we're still alive. I had a feeling about the girls when they were off looking for that puppet show, after all," he added.
The older man shrugged, and looked away. "I'm sorry. It's just that I was raised to be very … scientific."
"Science doesn't always have the answers," Xander shook his head. "Trust me on that one."
"I must admit I would feel a lot better if you were coming with us," Simon nodded. "You have that … ability to fit in. So much better than I do, anyway," he smiled. "And you've been so good with River."
"Not a prob, Simon," Xander nodded. "But you should go pack. It's only a few hours to Beaumonde."
Simon nodded, and left. Xander sighed, and returned to his packing.
Xander stood with Faith in the hold, and glanced over to where Kaylee was talking to Simon, who was holding River's hand. He could hear snatches of their conversation, where Kaylee was instructing Simon about getting a berth. She knew they were going with Simon and River, which helped, but she was still clearly worried. He turned back to his 'sister'. "You make sure the two of you are ready to go, okay? I don't want Mal going on about how we delayed his departure again."
"You sure about this?" Faith asked. "We know the crew here, and all."
"You think we should leave them to drift?" Xander asked.
Faith sighed. "No. There's something about that girl, and I don't think he'd last long out here without us," she added. "But they ain't out problem. Dawnie is."
"What if River is our key to keeping Dawn safe? Or what if she's the reason we're here?" Xander asked. He watched the girl for a moment, eyes narrowed. "Is there something you're not telling me?"
Faith folded her arms and hunched her shoulders.
Xander stepped closer, and dropped his voice lower. "Have you been having Slayer dreams?"
"No," Faith frowned. "Well... Not really. Just..." She sighed. "I have had dreams, but I can't really say for sure they're Slayer dreams. Thing is, it's us, River, and Serenity, all tied together. Like we ain't supposed to leave here."
Xander frowned. "Okay. Well, we follow through what we're doing for now. I'll go with Simon and River, and you two stay on the ship and get ready to leave." With that, he dropped a hand on Faith's shoulder for a moment, then left to join Simon and River. He smiled at the older man. "Kaylee give you precise instructions?"
Simon rolled his eyes. "I'm to let you conduct all negotiations. You are suitably grubby, and have an appropriate air of menace. And that rifle you're wearing won't hurt."
Xander slapped Simon on the shoulder. "That's why I'm wearing it," he grinned. "And you just need to find your inner 'Ripper' is all."
Simon looked at the younger man sideways. "Do I even want to know what that means?"
Xander laughed. "Probably not. Let's go talk to some captains."
Simon looked around. They'd been busy negotiating with a captain, and now he couldn't find his sister. "Where's River?" he asked absently.
Xander tensed, and looked around quickly. "Where's Mal?" he asked in return.
"Shuh muh? Why do you ask?"
"That's where she'll be. You're her brother, he's her father. Even though he's rejected her, that's where she'll be."
Simon bit his lip, and led the way to the bar where he knew Mal would be making his drop.
They made good time, but they were still too late. Xander ground his teeth as he watched the girl dance around the floor of the bar. He could count two dead already, and she hadn't even broken a sweat. With a glance at her horrified brother, he yanked his rifle from its sheath. At this distance, with his accuracy, he could go for a relatively safe shot, and put her down, but not out. Provided she didn't zig when he was expecting her to zag. He just wished for once that he had a tranq gun instead.
Through the scope, he saw her drop the large merc, and smirked. Then she spotted Mal attempting to retrieve his gun, and raced for the stairs. Xander muttered under his breath as he followed her, but the shot was getting harder all the time. All of a sudden, he heard Simon shout something, and she dropped to the floor, unconscious. Xander pulled away from the scope, and looked at her. He saw Mal look around, then pick her up and carry her up the stairs. He then looked at Simon, frowning. "What the hell?" he demanded grimly.
Jinx watched his gloriously ravishing God fearfully as she paced around the apartment. "We have failed you, oh wondrous embodiment of light and beauty."
"You certainly have," she scowled, before she stopped, and delicately pressed out any frown lines. She tossed her head. "I want my Key," she began in a reasonable tone. "I need my Key," she went on, gathering volume. "Go out and find my Key!" she screeched. She looked around the apartment once they'd left, and sighed. "Good help is so hard to find."
Shuh muh – What
Chapter 5: No Safe Haven
Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to Buffy or Firefly
Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to Buffy or Firefly
A/N: We are now fully in the movie portion of the story, and there will be a lot of actual movie dialogue. (Not something I really like to do, but...) I'm adapting it to include the Scoobies, and there will be changes to actual canon, 'cause, frankly, we have a Slayer and a gun-happy Scooby on board.
A/N2: The dialogue is taken from the movie subtitles.
Faith looked around the dining room and tried to calm herself. A tense Slayer, she told herself, was a dangerous Slayer. Beside her sat Dawn, upset. Xander, the far side of Dawn, was scowling, but she could see the signs of nervous tension on her friend/brother.
Simon looked up when Mal walked back into the dining room. "May I see her?" he asked, worried.
"I believe you've got some storytellin' to do," Mal frowned. "What in hell happened back there?"
Wash perked up. "Start with the part where Jayne gets knocked out by a ninety pound girl," he grinned. "'Cause I don't think that's ever gettin' old."
Faith glanced at Xander, startled. Xander grimaced in response, and shook his head. "Later," he mouthed.
"Do we know if anyone was killed?" Zoë asked, frowning slightly.
"It's likely," Mal nodded, glancing at Xander.
"Pretty sure I saw two fully down," Xander murmured.
"I know she meant to kill me 'fore the Doc put her out," Mal went on grimly, "which how exactly does that work, anyhow?"
"It's a safe word," Simon murmured, and only Mal and Zoë saw Xander's hand clench. "The people who helped me break River out, they had intel that River and the other subjects were being embedded with behavioural conditioning. They taught me a safeword, in case something happened."
Faith looked over, and saw Xander sink into something like a trance. She tapped Dawn, and signalled for them to change seats, then leaned close to her friend. "You okay there?"
"SSDD," he muttered sourly. "AKA, BOHICA," he added with a twisted smile.
"Just so's you don't say that in front of the brat," Faith smirked back at him, listening to the others 'discuss' the matter in the background.
"You know I don't talk like that in front of Dawnie."
Faith nodded. "The Initiative, Mark II?" she suggested.
"Mark whatever-the-fuck," Xander ground out. "We just can't leave things the fuck alone, can we?"
"Wouldn't be a Slayer if we could," Faith argued. "Wouldn't be two Slayers if you could," she added with a slight smile.
Xander snorted. "I do the smart dabbling. This is stupid dabbling," he countered, then jerked his head up when the argument grew … heated. His eyes narrowed as Mal first slammed Simon onto the table, then yelling at the smaller man.
"I thought she was getting better," Simon murmured.
"And I thought they was getting' off," Jayne observed. "Didn't we have a intricate plan how they was gonna be not here any more? Not as I mind Xander and his girls so much, but moon-girl is crazy."
"We couldn't just leave them now," Kaylee protested softly.
"No," Jayne snarked back, "now she's a killer woman, we ought be bringin' 'em tea and dumplings." He turned to Mal. "In earnest, Mal: why'd you bring her back on?"
There was no answer from Mal, so Simon asked if he could see his sister. Mal stepped aside, and Simon entered the locker where River was shackled.
"She goes wooly again, we're gonna have to put a bullet to her," Jayne warned Mal.
Mal nodded. "It's crossed my mind. Other's, too, I'm thinkin'," he added, glancing at Xander.
Wash looked up, tense look on his face. "Can I make a suggestion that doesn't involve violence, or is this the wrong crowd?" Zoë began to warn him off, but he went on. " We're flying a lot blinder than usual here. We need to get our bearings," he urged. "I think we need to talk to Mr Universe."
Faith and Xander looked up when Mal and the others walked back into the dining area. "So what's the what?" she asked.
"Well," Mal began, dropping down onto a chair, "there ain't no lawforce flags on us, so that's good. Didn't make the news, neither."
Xander and Faith exchanged glances, and nodded. "I can hear a 'but,'" Xander commented.
"Her … episode was triggered," Mal frowned. "Subliminal message in the oaty bar ad. Mr Universe says it's Alliance, high military, and they've found her now."
"And we're carrying the ruttin' girl," Jayne grumbled, glaring at Mal.
"River says to ask Miranda," Simon offered as he walked in from the locker, "but she can't say who or what Miranda is. She says the memories aren't hers, and that Miranda will show us death. Everyone's death," he added, frowning, lost.
Xander felt Faith shudder beside him. "So what now?" he asked. "Apart from Haven. Do we have any plans?"
Mal shrugged. "We hide? I honestly do not know at this time. I'll talk to Book, we'll take some rest, and see if we can find a path in all of this."
Xander looked over to where Faith was sitting up in her bed, panting. As nervous as they were, Dawn felt more comfortable on Haven with both of them sleeping in the same room as her. "You okay?" he whispered, concerned.
"Dream," Faith grunted. "Slayer dream."
Xander sat up and faced her. "Talk to me," he urged.
She seemed to collect herself, squared her shoulders and glanced at Dawn before facing him. She grinned. "Think we got our very own Ripper here on Haven, Xan," Faith began.
Xander tilted his head in thought. "Book?" he asked.
"That's the one. Think he and Mal talked last night. Got some of it in my dream." she frowned. "Hate these things. They're all muddled. Bits and pieces everywhere. Seems to be even worse than normal though," Faith considered.
"Because we're so far from home?" Xander offered.
"Maybe. Or it could be because it concerns River. She's so jumbled in her head, she could be jumbling my dreams up."
"Is she a Slayer?" Xander asked. "Or, you know, pre-Slayer?"
"Don't know," Faith frowned. "I never met any but B, and she was already a Slayer when I met her, so I don't know how a Potential is supposed to feel. Plus she's a telepath. Or empath. Not quite sure. Reader," she shrugged, reverting to the local term. "And that mucks up any readings I might get off her, too."
"So... The dream?" Xander prompted.
"Yeah. So, like I said: muddled. Starts off with Book and Mal, talking about someone coming after River, an operative, and he's coming sideways. He has faith," she frowned.
"So do we," Xander smirked. When the girl rolled her eyes at him, he went on. "Not just you, though. We have faith in something bigger. In the need to do what's Right," he added emphatically.
Faith thought about that for a moment, and nodded. She went on. "I saw blood. Lots and lots of blood. This place burning. 'Nara. Reavers. And a place so white and bright and clean, and it stunk of death so foul," she went on, her voice dropping to a whisper. She shuddered. "Peace and violent death. It's what we're headed for," she warned, staring through the walls to her mystic dream. "She's carrying memories too foul for anyone to carry, and won't be clean until they're passed on. Too many for one. All will have to bear the burden. Then she'll… River'll never be sane again. Not really. But she'll get a lot closer than anyone might expect."
"That's why we're here, isn't it?" Xander asked. He dropped his head in thought. "Is there anything we can do? To maybe cut the amount of blood that's going to be spilled?"
Faith shrugged. "Warn Book? Let Ripper know we won't be back in time?"
"We got anything we can give him? Weapons he's got," Xander decided. "Did Will give you any mojo-y type stuff we could leave him?"
"Not me," Faith shook her head. "Dawn, maybe. And even then, it might not work, 'cause we're so far from home. We've never had to use anything but the bags, and they were spelled at home."
Xander nodded. "Okay. We'll talk to Dawnie in the morning, and talk to Book, too. You okay to get back to sleep?"
Faith stretched and twisted, working out the last of her tension. "Yeah. I can sleep. 'Night, Xan," she murmured, before lying back down, and making herself comfortable.
"'Night, Faith," Xander smiled, and he, too, worked on getting back to sleep.
Book looked up to see the three children who'd joined Mal not so very long ago. "May I help you?" his serene smile tacked firmly in place.
Xander and Faith exchanged glances before he man slipped closer and sat in front of Book. "Okay, here's the deal," Xander began. "We get the feeling that there's way more to you than you let on. That you know things you shouldn't. Not if you were the ordinary preacher, Shepherd, that you present yourself as. Not that we have a problem with that," he added quickly. "We're not all that we seem to be, either." Xander glanced back at the girls before going on. "Um... What do you know about … monsters?" he asked.
"You mean Reavers?" Book asked mildly.
Faith snorted. "We know you know about Reavers," she shook her head. "No. We're talking about things that don't go down with a bullet to the head. Things you need … special weapons to kill."
Book leaned back and shook his head. "Only from campfire stories. Tales to scare children with," he added.
"If only," Xander muttered.
"Yeah, well, here's the deal," Faith went on. "If you heard the scary story, chances are they're real. Or they were. We're not so sure what the deal is now that people have left Earth. But back home we get all kinds."
"Not leprechauns," Dawn objected. "Giles said they really were a story."
"But the sidhe exist," Xander encountered. "Same country, different type."
"What are you saying?" Book asked, leaning forward.
"Monsters exist," Faith explained. "Or did. And we fight them. With help," she went on. "Which is what we're trying to get to. I'm … different. Stronger. Hell, I could bench-press Jayne, if you wanted proof. I'm not normal. And there's more."
Book looked from one to another. "But … how? How did this happen?"
"It happened a long time ago," Xander explained, "and it's not really important now. What is important is one of Faith's extras. She has dreams. Special dreams."
"She dreams about the future?" Book asked.
"Kind of," Faith nodded. "Real cryptic, usually, but this last one was worse than usual. What I did get, though, was that something's going to happen here before we get back. You're going to get hit, hard. I saw fire and blood. I'm not sure you survived."
"You're not sure I survived something that has yet to happen."
"In my dream, if things happen the way I saw, then, no, you didn't survive."
"So what do you want me to do?"
Faith and Xander exchanged glances again. "We're not sure. We've warned you," she frowned, "so you've got the chance to, I don't know, up your defences or something. Maybe get the civilians out of the way? And we've got something for you," she added, looking to Dawn.
Dawn stepped forward, holding out a polished stone ring on a leather thong. "We're not sure if this will work for you, but it's worth a chance. It was spelled for me, back in Sunnydale, but it's a protection amulet. It can't hurt for you to wear it."
"A protection amulet," Book repeated doubtfully, taking the pendant.
"It's magic," Xander explained. "Magic's real. Or, it is in Sunnydale. And our stuff has continued to work here, so we're pretty sure magic's real here, too. That's why we're taking a chance on this. So the way it works is like this: what would kill you, won't; what would seriously hurt you will be only minor; and minor injuries will just … well, they won't."
"We're pretty sure that without this, you're dead," Dawn murmured. "With this, who knows. Maybe you're just as dead. Maybe you last long enough to help your people before kicking it. Maybe you come through without a scratch. But we want you to try."
Book looked at the stone dangling from the leather thong. He stroked his fingertips over the smooth surface, but couldn't feel anything unusual about it. One side was perfectly smooth, the other side, while polished, was etched with strange characters. Neither English nor Chinese writing. The Bible spoke about not allowing a witch to live, but what, specifically was that referring to? Someone who cursed people, causing death? Someone who wrought protective amulets, to help people? He put the amulet on, and tucked it under his shirt. "Thank you," he smiled. "I don't know if this will do anything, but I do appreciate the thought that went into this gift. And I will take your warning to heart," he added, frowning. "You have a very dangerous man after you, now. And I wouldn't put it past him to strike out at those who help Mal. I will work on our defences."
Faith , Xander and Dawn smiled, relieved. "Well, we'll be seeing you, old man," Faith grinned.
"Go in peace, children," Book blessed them. "Whatever peace you can carve out for yourselves, anyway."
Xander looked up from his card game with Dawn and Faith to see Mal, Kaylee and Jayne walk in from the crew quarters. They'd left Haven, trying not to stay too long in any one place. It looked like they now had something like a plan. He raised an eyebrow at Kaylee, and grinned when she rolled her eyes.
"Trap," she explained.
Xander looked at Mal, and frowned. "We're springing a trap?" he asked the Captain.
Mal scowled at the young mechanic, and shook his head. "No. We ain't springin' a trap," clarified. "I'm springin' a trap. 'Nara's already caught in it, and I figure I might get a look at the one as is behind it all."
"And we know it's a trap because..." Xander prompted.
"They didn't fight," Kaylee explained, grinning.
"Ah," Xander nodded. "And you don't need help?"
"Figure one can get in, but mayhap not more," Mal decided. "Zoë's in charge while I'm on the surface, and she will be comin' to get me if I find myself in need of it," he called back to the cockpit. "You keep an eye to your girls," he instructed. "River, too, if you have an eye to spare."
Xander nodded, and returned to his game. He glanced up as Mal headed out to the shuttle. "Break a leg," he called out.
Mal stopped, and turned back to the boy. "That Sunnydale is a gorram strange place."
"It's called 'ducking'," Xander chirped as he jumped up onto the spare table, making sure to stay out of Simon's way.
"I'm not entirely sure that it is physically possible for the Captain to do so," Simon murmured as he smoothed a bandage across Mal's ribs.
"Eh," Xander grunted. "Old dogs occasionally learn new tricks."
"I am here, you know," Mal complained. "I can hear you."
"That's what makes it so fun," Xander admitted, tilting his head and grinning. He watched as Simon finished off, then followed the two men out to where the others were waiting.
Inara looked at the group. "We have every reason to be afraid," she began.
"Why?" Jayne asked. "'Cause this guy beat up Mal? That ain't so hard."
"He didn't beat me up," Mal objected. "Nobody said that."
"Because he's a believer," Inara continued. "He's intelligent, methodical, and devout in his belief that killing River is the right thing to do.
"So no hope of a reward, huh?" Jayne grunted.
Simon looked at Inara. "Did he say anything about a 'Miranda'?" he asked.
Inara shook her head. "What is that?"
"Don't know who or what," Zoë frowned, "but it's on River's mind."
"Conjure it might be the reason he's after her," Mal added.
"You think maybe it poses some kind of threat to the Alliance?" Inara proposed.
"Do we care?" Wash wanted to know. "Are we carin' about that?"
"You dumb-ass hogs," Jayne growled as he slammed a hand on the table. "The only people she's a threat to is us on this boat!"
"Look, we get back to Haven in a few hours time," Mal began.
"Oh, yeah," Jayne sneered. "Hidin' under the Shepherd's skirts, that's a manful scheme."
"You wanna run this ship?" Mal demanded.
"Yes!" Jayne snarled.
Mal looked at him, startled. "Well, you can't."
"Do a damn sight better job than you," Jayne began.
Xander rolled his eyes, and tuned out for a while. This was not helping. Fighting amongst themselves was one of the worst things they could do, yet here they were. Oh, and look! There goes Jayne, pissed at something that had been said, and Mal and Zoë not looking any happier. Someone must have said something about the war – two guesses who that was. He bumped Faith. "I miss anything?"
"Only me wanting to classify Jayne as non-human." She thought for a moment. "Again," she added conscientiously.
And the group was breaking up. Mal and Inara were heading out to the hold, Jayne was somewhere, and Simon was talking.
"We'll get off," Simon decided. "River and I'll get off at Haven -"
"Nobody's sayin' that," Kaylee assured him.
"Nobody besides Jayne is sayin' that," Wash qualified.
Suddenly, they heard shots fired from somewhere near the kitchen. They all ran in to find Jayne sprawled on the floor.
"The other way!" Mal called out. "Find her and do not engage!"
Xander followed the group, but had a sudden flashback to Angelus in the school hallway, and stopped. He turned around to see River drop her brother to the ground. He relaxed. He knew what to do, now.
Mal pushed the floor panel out the way, and quietly pulled himself up into the hallway at the crew dorms. He entered the cockpit, and moved into position behind River, and raised his gun. Without hesitation, River picked up Jayne's gun, and aimed it at him, not even bothering to look at him. For some reason (that being that it was pointed right at him) he didn't bother to assume he could dodge the bullet. "The government's man, he says you're a danger to us," he began calmly. "Not worth helpin'," he went on. "Is he right? Are you anything but a weapon? I've staked my crew's life on the theory that you're a person, actual and whole, and if I'm wrong, you'd best shoot me now," he declared.
River cocked the gun, and Mal's eyes widened.
"Or we could talk more," he offered.
River pointed to the screen in front of her. "Miranda," she murmured, and Mal leaned forward. He cocked his head in surprise, then leaned back. He turned around to let the others in, and spotted an unwelcome surprise. Xander, standing in the corner, gun out and ready to use. Mal's lips thinned in anger, but he simply moved to open the door.
SSDD – Same shit, different day
BOHICA – Bend over, here it comes again
A/N: Not where I had originally intended to end the chapter, but converting movies to crossover fanfics is more complicated than I had previously thought, so here we are. I'm working on the next two chapters, 'cause they really need to be both ready to go, though they won't be posted at the same time.
Chapter 6: Miranda
Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to Buffy or Firefly
Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to Buffy or Firefly
A/N: This was originally going to be a part of the previous chapter, but it grew too large, so I split it. Also, the next chapter is written, so you won't be kept waiting too long.
A/N2: I was unhappy with the transcript, and have updated the previous chapter to reflect the actual movie. It is generally the same, though, and you won't miss anything by not re-reading it. Dialogue now reflects the movie rather than the transcript. Except, of course, where I've altered it to suit the story ;)
Xander looked out over the planet they were approaching. They were in Haven's atmosphere, and the nervous tension squirming in his gut was making it hard to listen to the others discussing River's find. He looked over to Faith and Dawn, and saw that they were in not much better condition. All too soon they would find out just how effective their warning had been. He sighed, and turned back to the crew.
"How can it be that there's a whole planet called 'Miranda', and none of us knowed that?" Kaylee asked, lost.
"Because there isn't one," Mal frowned. "It's a blackrock. Uninhabitable. Terraformin' didn't hold, or some such. Few settlers died."
"Was it right before the war?" Zoë asked.
"I had to show them," River murmured to Simon. "I didn't know if you were going to make me sleep," she added in apology.
"You could have asked," Simon returned, voice hoarse.
Kaylee perked up, looking at the screen. "Wait a tick," she muttered, "yeah! Some years back, there was call for workers to settle on Miranda. Daddy talked it..."" she trailed off, frowning.
Wash looked up, uncertain. "But there's nothin' about it on the Cortex. History, Astronomy, it's not in there."
Mal shook his head. "Half of writin' history is hidin' the truth," he declared. "There's somethin' on that rock the Alliance doesn't want known."
Inara approached the pilot's station. "That's right on the edge of the Burnham Quadrant, right?" she clarified. "Furthest planet out," she added, glancing at Mal. "It's not that far from here..."
"Whoah," Wash protested, straightening in his seat. "No, no..."
"That's a bad notion," Zoe added as Wash added a plea. She walked to the co-pilot's station. "I got it, baby," she murmured.
"Show them the bad," Wash urged.
Zoë tapped in some commands, and expanded the view to put the planet in context. "This is us, at Haven," she indicated on the screen, "and here's Miranda. All along here, that empty space in between," she indicated, "that's Reaver territory."
"They just float out there," Wash went on, "sending out raiding parties."
"Nobody ventures there. Not even the Alliance," Zoë assured them. "You go through that, you're signing up to be a banquet," she finished in grim warning.
"I'm on board with our standard 'run and hide' scenario," Wash averred. "And we are just about..." he trailed off as he checked their position and the view. "Wait..."
Xander felt his stomach clench as Serenity glided around a mountain, bringing Book's settlement into sight.
Faith looked around, remembering her dream, of fire and blood. She turned her head, and saw Kaylee, looking at the body on the ground in front of her, Mal, stopping near the cannon, Jayne not far behind. She saw Mal's head come up as he called for Simon, and the medic rushing over. She turned her head further.
Dawn ran down the ramp, and called to Faith who was standing there, stunned. With a smooth, underhand movement, she tossed a bag to the older girl.
Faith caught the bag, and recognised it. It was the bag that Dawn had retrieved Book's amulet from, and she remembered that the girl had said Willow had packed some other little gifts in the bag. She looked up, and saw Simon running forward, urged by Jayne, Xander standing near the other two men, looking back at her, urging her to throw the bag. She grinned, and repeated Dawn's throw, though faster and stronger. She watched as Xander caught the bag with an unheard grunt, grin, and turn to run to join the other men.
"Don't do anything," Xander called out as he dropped in beside Simon.
"I'm trying to save him, Xander," Simon protested. "Let me do my job."
"Trust me," Xander shook his head. "This will be much quicker. Book, man, can you hear me?"
The preacher grabbed at him with a bloodied hand. "I'd hate to think how I'd be if this is with the amulet," he grunted.
"Only the living feel pain," Xander grinned as he sorted through the bag. "Well, you know, in general, anyway."
"The dead feel pain?" Book asked, distracted.
"Only the annoying, sucky ones," Xander nodded, working the cork out of a small vial. He positioned it over Book's mouth. "Bottoms up," he murmured.
Book grimaced as he swallowed the thick, bitter, green liquid. He sighed, and dropped back against Mal. After a moment, he opened his eyes again. "Perhaps if someone could get me somewhere … less uncomfortable? There's much I need to say, much to do. Most of the men are dead, and I think the women and children will need to be resettled." He pushed up, but was restrained by Mal's arm swiftly snaking around him.
"Ah, no there, preacher," Mal warned. "We just got you back from the dead, by means I like to know more about," he added in an aside to Xander, "and I don't mean to let you go kill yourself by walking just now."
A little more than an hour later, Book was resting quietly in the infirmary, having given the all clear to the hidden settlers. Mal looked at the older man, and noticed the signs of someone descending into a brood. "Shouldn't have been you," he frowned. "Alliance should've hit us. Should've hit me," he declared.
"That crossed my mind," Book retorted. He looked away. "I shot him down..."
"Yeah. I saw," Mal offered.
"I killed the ship … that tried to kill us. Not very Christian of me," Book mourned.
"You did what's right," Mal consoled.
Book gave him a sardonic look. "Coming from you, that means … almost nothing." He stared into space for a moment, then went on. "I nearly died today. We nearly lost everything."
"And how did that not happen?" Mal asked. "You can't have known he was coming."
"Seems River isn't the only one to know things she has no right to know," Book frowned. "But more than that I really can't say."
"Them kids is very different," Mal considered. "They gave you a amulet?"
"That they did," Book nodded. "Said they weren't even sure it would work, but if it did, it could save my life, which it did. More than that, they gave us the chance to hide our people. Sure, we lost men today, but we would have lost everything. Simply for being decent, charitable people."
"And this is the government we got. You said they would come at me sideways. Did you stop to think you would be 'sideways'?"
"No. To be honest, I did not consider that. Just like I never considered magic could be real, and yet here we are."
"Here we are," Mal agreed, frowning.
Xander sat back and stared into space. "It's Spring," he announced to no one. "Somewhere in this place it's Spring time."
Wash looked at him oddly. So much had happened in the last few days, from River's fit at Maidenhead, to rescuing Inara, River having another fit and showing them Miranda – and hadn't Mal been furious at Xander for helping her in that – and arriving at Haven to that bloodied mess of an assault that left none of the attackers alive, bar a single dying man (handily dispatched by Mal.) "Well, yeah," he agreed. "There's bound to be some place where's it's Spring. Why do you say it like that?"
"That's when this shit always happens," the younger man shrugged. "It's always during the Spring. I figure evil hates the Spring, so that's when they do their worst."
Wash blinked. They were flying a wounded vessel (Kaylee had wept at that necessity) covered with paint, an old cannon lashed down, and (wo de tian a!) bodies tied to Serenity's hull. They were headed into Reaver space to a blackrock that had been abandoned years previously, all because of a little girl who didn't even weigh one hundred pounds soaking wet, yet could drop their biggest fighter without breaking a sweat (and thereby breaking the hundred pound mark.) "Spring time, huh?"
"Yeah." Xander murmured, and looked down at his hands.
Wash watched old and terrible memories flit across the boy's face. The pain on his face made Wash feel both old and useless. It was one thing for seasoned veterans like Mal or his wife to look like that, but this boy was barely older than River, herself. Maybe twenty years old. Too young to look like that. "So how many Spring-times have you faced?"
Xander looked up, and smiled tiredly. "The first was the one where Buffy died. Just for a few moments," he added. "CPR's a wonderful thing. We were sixteen. The next Spring," he shuddered. "She left us for a while. It was bad. She had to..." He shook himself, and went on. "Uh. Then there was Graduation. Then last year was Adam. That was … freaky," he mused, smiling slightly. "Bad dreams," he added. "And this year was Glory's turn. Which is why we're here. Dawn was in danger, so Faith and I were taking her away so she could be safe." He looked around, and laughed mirthlessly. "'Cause flying through Reaver space is safe," he added.
"So you're, what?" Wash frowned, calculating, "Twenty-one?"
"Yep. Me and Faith are twenty-one, and Dawnie's fifteen."
Wash shook his head. "Too young," he objected.
Xander shrugged. "Evil doesn't wait for you to grow up."
They were all gathered in the cockpit as they passed by the Reaver fleet. Jayne was hugging his gun, and Xander could see the sense of that. He and Faith had taken to wearing their M16s slung across their bodies, just in case they needed them immediately, not to mention all the other weapons they had tucked away on their bodies. Conspicuous (and hidden) weapons seemed to be expected in this reality (or time, whichever) and he and Faith had taken to being constantly armed like ducks to water. Going home was going to take some getting used to. If they ever got there. Even Dawn had a pistol in a holster at the back of her belt. Currently, he was considering naming his rifle. Anything to keep his mind of the horrors he could see on the other ships, the screams Wash had silenced.
Finally, they were through, and heading towards Miranda. Faith, Xander and Dawn wandered forward to watch the pristine-looking planet grow in the cockpit windows. None of them had seen a planet from this distance before, not having been allowed up here any time they'd landed.
Dawn reached out to the window, awestruck. "Beautiful," she whispered.
They landed in a small city, having passed at least ten other cities, but even they could see the place was abandoned. Once Mal, Zoë and Jayne had ascertained it was safe, they joined them outside. The group of them walked slowly through the empty city, those used to fighting guarding the rest of the group. Xander and Faith stayed closer to Dawn, while Mal, Zoë and Jayne ranged further.
They came across the first body, old, skeletonised, but it hadn't been scavenged by anything larger than an insect, a fact that seriously disturbed Xander. Jayne found another one in a small vehicle that was just lying on the ground. It hadn't crashed, and it looked as though it should be functional, but the body was just lying there. Someone moved close enough to a sensor, and some advertising started up automatically. Xander huffed in grim laughter. Some things never changed.
"This the place?" he murmured to Faith.
"From my dream?" she asked. "Yeah. This place gives me the serious wiggins," she added.
"You and me, too," Xander grunted. He heard a scream, then, and spun to see Kaylee backing away from a window. The other side, pressed up against a glass, was a body. This one was mummified, and Mal was explaining that the room must have sealed itself hermetically when the power had gone. Simon began to diagnose, but couldn't figure it out. Mal offered the answer of painless poisons. Inara, perhaps in argument, observed that no one had fallen, but rather lain down.
Not unexpectedly, River began talking. She started off in their undecipherable (to the Sunnydale trio) Chinese, then went on. "Make them stop. They're everywhere. Every city, every... Every house, every room, they're all inside me. I can hear them all, and they're saying nothing!" Falling to her knees, she urged them to get up, and Simon reached her, trying to comfort her. "Please, God, make me a stone," she begged, face raised.
Oddly enough, it was Jayne that came out in agreement. The planet was dead, and there was no sane reason for it to be so.
They found the beacon. Or rather, where it was emanating from. A Research and Rescue vehicle had crashed into the side of a building, and Wash assured them it was the source of the beacon. They all filed in, and River headed straight for a position at the centre station. She twisted something into place, which triggered a hologram. A woman, infinitely sad, giving what turned out to be her final report. River moved to face the woman, and Xander could see the similarities and differences. Similar height, different dress, but both, it seemed, with the same memories.
"It's the Pax," she said, and Xander jerked his head around to look at Faith. 'Peace and violent death,' Faith had said. The woman went on. The Pax … the chemical they had used … had worked. The population had calmed, become so calm they had calmly lain down and died. Thirty million people, gone. Except, not all gone. Some thirty thousand became Reavers. They had made the Reavers.
She never finished the report. One of their very own, home-grown Reavers appeared, too quick for her to kill herself. Faith grabbed Dawn, and spun her around, hiding the scene, while Jayne urged someone to turn it off. Wash stepped forward, and the image was gone, but River was already on her knees, purging herself. Simon dropped to her side to comfort her, but she looked up, eyes clear. "I'm all right," she murmured, as if surprised.
They were gathered in the dining room again, Mal pacing as he laid out his thoughts about what had happened on Miranda, and what the Parliament had done, and would do. About his own intentions.
They sat in silence until Jayne dragged his bottle closer. Raising it, he began, "Shepherd, I recall you saying, 'If you can't do somethin' smart,'" he took a swig, "'do somethin' right.'" He glanced at Book, but slid the bottle to Simon.
Without hesitation, Simon took the bottle. "Do we have a plan?" he asked, and Xander nodded at his overt acceptance of the other man.
"Mr Universe," Mal nodded. "We haven't the equipment to broadwave this code, but he can put it on every screen for thirty worlds. He's pretty damn close, too."
"We've still got the Reavers, and probably the Alliance, between us and him," Wash warned.
"That's two armies against our one bitty cannon," Janye groused.
"It's a fair bet the Alliance knows about Mr Universe," Zoë frowned. "They're gonna see this comin'."
"No," Mal shook his head. "They're not gonna see this comin'."
They caught the attention of one of the Reaver ships, then all the Reaver ships. They led the Reaver fleet into the ion cloud surrounding Mr Universe's moon, and when they came out, led them into the Alliance fleet. Xander spared a moment of pity for the Alliance crews. They had no way of knowing what was about to hit, and it wasn't their fault. Not truly. They were pawns of their masters, and that was all. Then Wash started jinking Serenity, and the moment was over. They had survived Graduation. Now they had a new battle to survive.
Xander cocked his head when Mal's voice came over the comm, instructing everyone to strap in. Simon dashed past, heading for the engine room and Kaylee, while Xander pushed Dawn toward the sitting area off the kitchen, then turned to Faith. "Go up to the cockpit. If all else fails, punch out through the windows. If anyone can do it, you can."
Faith nodded, and headed up to the cockpit while Xander stayed with Dawn to ensure she was buckled in correctly. When she got there, Mal was already seated in the co-pilot's seat, working the controls to try and give Wash the extra control he needed.
"Where's the back-up?" Mal demanded. "Where's the back-up?"
Faith took a quick look around the cockpit, then positioned herself between the pilot and co-pilot positions, jamming her feet hard against the workspaces. She hung on for grim life as the ship spun violently. She looked over to see Wash struggling to reach a switch. Snarling, she hooked a foot around the base of the station, and leaned forward. "This it?" she asked. When Wash nodded desperately, she flicked the switches, and leaned back to give him some room.
Lights started flicking back on. Zoë checked the readout. "Back-up reads at twenty percent," she advised the men. She glanced at her husband. "Can you get us down?"
"I'm going to have to glide her in?" Wash frowned.
"Will that work?" Zoë asked, worried, and Faith shook her head in disbelief as they all stared at the too-quickly-approaching landing strip.
Faith gritted her teeth, and jammed her feet harder into the desks. She put her hands on the corners of the desks, and flexed before gripping hard, and grimaced. They were going to hit hard. They did. Faith felt the moment when the landing gear snapped off, and hung on for grim life as they bounced and slid down the landing strip, eventually spinning around to face the way they came. Finally, they stopped, and there was silence for a moment as everyone took a breath, and the red emergency lights came on.
Wash grinned. He'd gotten them down when, by all rights, they should be nothing more than a thin smear on the pavement. He turned to the others. "I am a leaf in the wind. Watch how -"
Wo de tian a - Dear God in heaven
Chapter 7: Going To See Mr Universe
Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to Buffy or Firefly
Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to Buffy or Firefly
A/N: Again, a lot of dialogue direct from the movie. It's very difficult to do this without drawing so heavily from canon dialogue. Also, the only scenes that will be shown, pretty much, are ones that Xander, Faith or Dawn would have witnessed directly.
"I'm a leaf on the wind. Watch how-"
'I fall?' Wash watched, distantly, as he fell sideways, and how he could fall sideways, while strapped into his seat, he had no idea. He looked up, owlishly, as Faith reached down and grabbed his harness. Past her, he could see...
"Is there a tree in my cockpit?" Wash asked. "Why is there a tree suddenly growing out of my cockpit?" He felt himself being hoisted by his shirt, and set on his feet, while his daydream continued with a hysterical Zoë touching his chest, and Faith screaming at them, and she and Mal pushing him and Zoë out of the cockpit. He turned, and led the followers past the crew accommodations towards the dining area, where the others where unstrapping themselves.
Xander looked up from where he was unstrapping Dawn. "Everything cool?"
"No!" Faith bellowed. "We got fucking Reavers throwing fucking harpoons through the fucking cockpit windows while they dream up ways to fucking kill us. So move your fucking ass!"
A part of Wash's brain decided that he was in shock, and not daydreaming. Another part of his brain decided that Faith really needed to learn how to curse properly, 'cause obviously it was a lost art in Sunnydale, or wherever it was they came from. Seemed she only really knew one word, and there was a whole wonderful world of curses out there. He decided he was going to have to sit her down and give her lessons. Not right now, of course. Later. "Wait," he stopped. "That was a harpoon?"
Xander tossed Faith her weapons bag as they headed down the ship's ramp, then handed her the M249. "You've got that one," he advised. "We may want it in use before we can stop, and you're the best bet for controlling it. Dawnie, you get Faith's M16," he announced.
"Cool," Dawn gushed.
"Remember the SOE," Xander went on, shaking his head, but smiling at the girl. "All Reavers are dead men walking, okay?" He looked warily across to the enemy ship further down the landing strip.
"We got it, X," Faith nodded, also eyeing the ship. "We know the drill."
"And the first rule?" Xander demanded.
"Don't die," the girls chorused.
"Head inside," Mal called to the group, and they followed him.
They followed Zoë into an antechamber. Mal opened the blast doors, and ran down the tunnel to summon the elevator before coming back out to make their plans. Mal wanted the group to stay together, but Xander agreed with Zoë about holding up and thinning out the Reavers, giving Mal time to get the message out. He hated this. They'd gone into hiding to protect Dawn, and now here they were, looking forward to one of the worst battles they'd seen. He looked over to Faith, and saw her grim expression, and knew she felt the same way.
"We get pushed back, there's the blast doors," Zoë continued.
"I can rig 'em so the won't reopen once they close," Kaylee offered.
Mal turned to the mechanic. "Then shut 'em and hide until I get -"
"We need to draw them till it's done," Zoë objected. "This is the place," she went on quietly. "We'll buy you the time."
Mal eyed his First Mate for a moment, then nodded. Taking that as a signal, Jayne began to organise their defence, and Xander and Faith tossed their bags towards the blast doors, and slung their weapons across their backs before grabbing crates to move into position.
Howling could be heard down the way they had come, and Mal and Jayne ran to the doorway. "Tell me you brought 'em this time," Mal begged, and Jayne presented him with a grenade before getting one of his own. They both armed their grenades before tossing them down the hallway. Mal slammed the door shut, and Faith shoved a large crate into position, blocking the door.
"Hey, Xan," Faith called, "how come we don't have grenades."
"Well, sue me if I didn't think we needed grenades. I didn't bring any claymores, either," he complained as they dropped back into position. "Hells, I don't even have all the stuff for a pipe bomb, or Molotovs."
"Well, that's just great," Faith huffed. "All that plastique, and nothing to do with it."
"We got plastique?" Dawn squeaked, pulling back from Xander's weapons bag.
"Of course not," Xander denied, then smirked. "It's C4."
"Oh, yeah," Dawn retorted. "'Cause there's so much of a difference where I'm concerned." She thought for a moment, then went on. "Wait. Is this left over from Graduation?" she asked.
"Nah. Just a standard diesel-ammonia dealie for that," Xander made a face.
"Gods, yeah," Faith made a matching face. "That stuff stunk!"
Jayne spared a quick look over at the little family. "You blew somethin' up for Graduation?" he demanded.
"Yeah," Xander grinned. "Always said school was hell, so we blew it up."
"That's fuhn pi," Wash complained. "You did not do that."
"Could we have a little less talking about blowing up schools," Simon interrupted, "and a little more … uh..."
"Blowing Reavers up?" Dawn suggested.
Simon looked at the girl. "Well, I guess, yes," he agreed, frowning slightly, and wondering how he ever got into a conversation like this.
"Ain't much cause to be censoring their conversation at a time like this, Doctor," Zoë offered, although she had to agree it was surreal. This whole thing was surreal. Less than thirty minutes ago, she had nearly lost her husband to a Reaver's harpoon, and even she recognised that pilot's chair supports don't bend like that. Especially not when tugged on by little girls like Faith. Not that she was complaining. There had to be some superstition she could appease in thanks, but she couldn't think of it just yet.
The Reavers were right outside, now, banging on the grills, on the doors. River stood, weapon in one hand, head in the other. "The Reavers," she moaned. "They are all made up of rage."
Simon ran to her, trying to soothe her, but she continued. "I can't shut them up," she cried, dropping to her knees, and the former-humans continued to bang at the door.
Jayne ran over and picked up Simon's weapon, dropped as he stooped to comfort his sister. "She picked a sweet bung of a time to go helpless on us," he snarled.
Zoë readied herself. "Jayne, Faith and I take the first wave," she instructed. "Nobody shoots unless they get past our fire."
Kaylee passed behind Xander to join Simon. "I didn't plan on going out like this," she whimpered. "I think we did right, but..."
"No," Simon murmured. "I never planned … anything. I just wanted to keep River safe. Spent so much time on Serenity ignoring anything that I wanted for myself. My one regret in all of this is never being with you," he added.
"With me?" Kaylee asked, wondering. "You mean to say, as … sex?"
Simon gave a half-smile. "I mean to say."
"Hell with this," Kaylee decided, cocking her weapon, and grabbing Xander's brief attention. "I'm gonna live." Xander grinned, realising the pair had finally had a breakthrough, and while some might consider the timing inappropriate, he couldn't think of a better incentive for living.
It seemed like they'd been waiting for ever, but the first Reaver made it through the door. The three assigned carefully picked off the first few, but the trickle grew to a flood, and Jayne and Faith both opened up their weapons to block the doorway with bodies. Soon enough there were more and more Reavers piling into the room. Jayne called out to shoot at one of the grills, so Kaylee popped up to fire in that direction. Jayne turned to reload his gun, and was caught by a couple of shots. Kaylee was caught by a string of tranquilliser darts to the neck, and dropped back. A Reaver got through their barrier, and tackled Inara, but Faith grabbed him by his shirt and tossed him back out over the barriers, and Dawn caught him with a couple of shots. They continued to fire at pretty much anything moving, but one of the grills gave way, and Zoë gave the order to fall back to the tunnel.
Once in the tunnel, Zoë hit the controls, and the blast doors began to close. Something malfunctioned, however, and the doors refused to close fully. Zoë looked at the opening, and gave the order for Jayne to toss a grenade through the opening.
"Very last one," Jayne advised as he lobbed it out.
"They're gonna get in," Zoë muttered, glancing at Wash.
"I can close it from the outside," Kaylee offered as Simon set her down.
"No one's comin' back from that," Zoë argued. "How much ammo do we have?" she called out.
"Three, four max," Jayne replied, "and my swingin' cod. That's all."
Faith set her weapon down, and flipped out the bipod. "I got a few feet of ammo for this one," she advised. "Maybe half a dozen mags in my bag for Dawnie's rifle?"
"I've got another four, five mags in my bag, plus assorted pistols. We've also both got melee weapons. Faith's especially good at that, but I'm passable."
"Melee?" Wash whispered to his wife.
"Up close fightin'," Zoë explained.
"The lift isn't moving," Inara added, desperate.
"When they come," Zoë decided, "try to plug the hole with it."
"I'm startin' to lose some feeling here," Kaylee whimpered.
"Lie still," Simon instructed. "I'm going to give you something," he went on, reaching for his bag. He turned, and realised something. "My bag," he frowned as he stood up, making a fine target of himself. One of the Reavers took the chance, and Simon staggered back, hit.
Inara ran over to the sound of Jayne and Faith's weapons chattering, and put Simon's hand to the wound. "Keep pressure here," she ordered.
"My bag," Simon went on. "I need … adrenaline, and a shot of … of calaphar for Kaylee. I … I can't..." He tried, but he couldn't make the pain submit. "River," he called. "River, I'm sorry," he began, looking at the girl.
"No," she whined, and shook her head. "No."
"I hate… I hate to leave," Simon continued.
"You won't," River assured him, smiling now. "You take care of me, Simon. You've always taken care of me." She stood, and headed forward, past Jayne and Zoë, past Faith.
"Fuck this," Faith cried, and dove into her bag, dragging out two swords before following River out through the blast doors. River started fighting the Reavers, making her way to the blast door controls. She hit the switch, and grabbed Simon's bag, tossing it back through the closing doors before the Reavers grabbed her and dragged her back.
The last thing Xander saw was the flash of swinging steel, and then the doors were closed.
Xander tossed the bag to Inara, deciding that she had the best chance of understanding the contents. He then turned to Dawn, folding her into his arms.
"How..." Dawn began. "Why... Xander," she keened, her breath hitching.
Xander began to rock the girl, shushing her. "Faith's a Slayer," he murmured. "If anyone can come through this, it's her. And she'll do her best to keep River alive, also."
"We ain't got long," Jayne decided, as they listened to the noises from outside. "You suppose he got through? Do you think Mal got the word out?"
"He got through," Zoë decided. "I know he got through."
Again, it seemed like they'd been sitting there forever. The elevator finally made it's way down to their level, and Mal walked (limped) out.
"Sir?" Zoë prompted.
"It's done," Mal assured them. He looked around at the wounded and depleted group. "Report," he ordered. None of them could speak. "River?" he asked. "Faith?"
As if waiting for him to appear, the blast doors slid open to reveal River and Faith, back to back, panting, blood-spattered. The wall opposite the blast doors was dragged out by what turned out to be an Alliance grappling hook, and the space was filled with troops. Immediately, orders were given to drop their weapons and surrender, but neither Faith nor River complied, so Xander continued to hold his rifle at ready.
"Targets are acquired," one called into a comm. "Do we have a kill order?" There was silence from whoever was in charge, so the man called again. "Do we have an order?"
Mal could see River winding up to take the soldiers on, and he knew that once she took the initiative, Faith and Xander, at the very least, would follow her lead. Thankfully, he heard the Operative's voice come over the comms.
"Stand down," came the hollow voice. "Stand down. It's finished." Weapons were lowered, and River and Faith relaxed.
"We're finished," the Operative murmured through the comm.
Xander stood at the back of the group, his arms around his girls' shoulders, as they watched the funeral for Mr Universe. It was different, he decided. A little cairn, topped by a short-cycle hologram of the man and his love-bot. Various people tagged a little rocket with notes, and then the rocket was fired off. Zoë kept tight hold of her man, unable to stop touching him, reassuring herself that he was with her, and they weren't holding an additional funeral for him. Mal looked over at Book, finally able to move about freely, and thought how close they'd come to losing him, also. As it was, they'd had to lock him into a shuttle as he simply wasn't able to move well enough to travel with them through Mr Universe's complex. They'd left him with his Bible, and one of Xander's pistols and a few clips. The Reavers had all taken the bait, though, and left the ship, and therefore the Shepherd, alone.
The transport was leaving in a few hours, and Serenity was already tucked away in its capacious hold, ready to be dropped at a nearby moon for repairs. Xander guessed they would be learning something about spaceship care and maintenance, since it was going to be a huge job. Still, they were all alive, all well, and that was nothing to sneeze at. Now they just had to figure out how to get home. If they could. Otherwise, they were stuck here, and had to make lives for themselves. Which they could do. They'd survived so far. Helped, even. Made a difference. They could keep going here.
It just wasn't home.
But it possibly could be.
A/N: Well, all that's left is the epilogue. Hope you've enjoyed the ride so far.
Chapter 8: Home Again, Home Again
Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to Buffy or Firefly
Disclaimer: Don't own or claim rights to Buffy or Firefly
A/N: All good things must come to an end. Many thanks for those who read, and those who recommended my fic. At the time of publishing this final chapter, they are: annararen, bucksavage, Catherine, Condatis, Jorrie, mistressarts, Rosette, Runewolf, ScottWanderer, and Shatterstar.
Xander leapt and piked the ball through the large hoop suspended from the hold ceiling by a chain. He had no idea what the game was called, or if it even had a name, but it was clean, innocent fun, and they'd had little enough of that lately. Besides which, he was tall enough to get it in, which made up for Faith's ability to both jump and throw. Of course, if they'd let them stay on the same team, it wouldn't be so bad, but no! They had to put him on the other team to Faith and Dawn. Something about it not being fair on the others if the three of them ganged up on everybody else. Fair, schmair! They were his girls.
The game was interrupted by River running up to him, holding his cell phone. He looked at her, surprised, since the phone had long since run out of battery, what with no way of recharging it on Serenity. Then he realised something. "How'd you get this," Xander asked.
River shrugged, smiled, and held it out.
Xander took the phone, and shook his head. The others had gathered around, curious about the piece of unknown technology in his hand.
"What is that?" Jayne demanded, leaning over to get a good look at it.
"Home phoning ET," River explained cheerily.
Xander looked up at her, then back down at the phone when it suddenly powered up, and began to ring. Startled, he dropped the phone, but Faith caught it, and answered.
"Hey," she greeted simply, before flicking on the speaker-phone function.
"Faith?" Willow squealed. "Is that you? Goddess, we weren't sure if we'd even be able to call you. We can't find you anywhere," she babbled. "You're, like, totally off the grid. The location spell just went kablooey, but we weren't sure if that was because you were too far away, of if it was just because I'd hidden your auras, and even though I did a reversal there was no way of knowing if it worked, 'cause you guys weren't there, and it was total guess-work, though Giles did say that it had a good chance of working, and he went over everything with me, and Tara was there, helping, 'cause she's much with the helpfulness, and -"
Xander laughed at the sound of his best friend's voice. "Merciful Zeus!" he cried, interrupting her flow. "Breathe, Will. You need to breathe."
"You sure about that?" Mal mumbled.
"Will," Dawn gushed, "is everyone okay? How is Buffy? How are Giles, and Spike, and Tara? Is Glory gone? Can we come home, now?"
"Everyone's fine," Willow assured the girl. "Glory got to Tara and scrambled her mind, but we got her essence back, and she's fine, now. She also got Spike, she hurt him really bad, but he's all good now. Missing his Niblet," she added, and they heard a faint snarl in the background. "Oh, shush, Spike," Willow admonished. "We all know you are. Anyway, we just need to figure out where you are, and we can open a portal to get you home. Are you okay to come?"
Xander looked around, and cleared his throat nervously. "Uh, yeah. We've kind of got an audience," he offered. "Who've kind of heard every word you've just said."
There was a pause, then a very quiet, "Oh."
"We're also kind of a long way from home, Will," Xander added. "That would be why you couldn't find us."
"Huh," Willow grunted. "Okay. Oh, okay. I see now. Well, what I'm going to have to do is, um, oh! I'm going to have to join with Giles and Tara, then call you back. The three of us should have enough power to get you home," she decided.
"Okay," Xander grinned. "That's great. We're really looking forward to going home. So, uh, we'll go pack? You'll have to call us, 'cause we weren't able to recharge the phones. Looks like you're powering the phone yourself."
"Okay. Well, you go and pack, and try to get somewhere clear. I'll try to call back in, say, thirty minutes?" Willow suggested.
Xander grinned at the others. "Sounds good to me. See you then." He waited for Willow to end the call, then pocketed the phone. "Time to go." With that, the three raced back to their rooms, and quickly packed their bags, while the crew remained in the hold, wondering what was going on.
Mal turned to the reader. "River? You understand what's going on here?"
"They can't stay," River explained mournfully. "They were only here for Miranda, and now it's time for them to go."
"Where to?" Mal asked. "Where are they from?"
"Earth-That-Was," River nodded.
"You gone moon-brain on us again, girl?" Jayne demanded. "People ain't been there in five hundred years."
"Not Earth-That-Is," River frowned. "Earth-That-Was. Not this time," she went on, "but that time."
Simon frowned, and shifted slightly. "Are you talking about time travel? That they are from the past, and came forward to help us?"
River nodded enthusiastically. "That, too. I think. Or they may have just slipped sideways between dimensions. There are other forces at work," she considered, "and I don't fully grasp the physics of magic. If there are any. And the red tree is too far away for me to talk to."
Jayne sidled up to Simon. "She ain't havin' no relapse, is she, Doc?"
Simon frowned at his sister, and noticed a slight twitch to her lips. He rolled his eyes. "No, Jayne, I don't think she is. I think she's just playing with us."
"Don't mean she ain't right about the magic, though," Faith nodded as she returned with her bags. "Magic is how we got here, and magic's how we're getting back."
"Magic," Simon offered doubtfully.
"Magic, demons and vampires," Faith nodded. "Of course, I could just bench-press Jayne here, if you wanted some proof. Magic made me what I am."
"Magic made me, too," Dawn added. "Although, a bit more directly than with Faith."
"So your friend back home is just going to wave her hands, and you'll just disappear?" Mal frowned.
"Pretty much," Dawn nodded. "Although it might be more that they but some stinky herbs, say some words, and tear a hole in the time-space continuum. Which we will then just walk through."
"Uh huh," Mal grunted. "Anyone else a little … fazed by this?" As he looked around, Mal saw each one of them raise a hand. "Good to know I'm not alone." He nodded to Xander as the younger man walked back into the hold, carrying his two bags.
"I'm missing some stuff, Jayne," he began. "Not that I'm accusing anyone of anything, Jayne," he went on, "but there are a few things I couldn't find." He smirked as the other man shifted uncomfortably. "So... I guess this is where we say goodbye?" he asked.
"That it would be, I guess," Mal nodded. "So. You came here for us, then, did you?"
Xander looked at the other two. "No. We came for Dawn. We were sent for you. There's a subtle difference, but it's there." Mal nodded, and Xander went on. "We're going to miss you. You took us on, and kept us when you didn't need to. You put up with us. We wanted to thank you for that."
"Ain't no cause to thank us," Mal objected. "You done pulled your weight, more than, even. Without you, I'd be down a pilot, and my First Mate her husband, not to mention what would have happened at Haven. That's a debt no man can repay," he nodded.
Faith shrugged. "It's what we do. And it's been nice," she went on. "Quiet," she explained, and Xander and Dawn nodded.
Wash frowned. "The way you talk, Earth-That-Was weren't that nice a place."
Xander looked at his friends, and shrugged. "It was okay. No Reavers, of course. And no spaceships. Except the Shuttles and things like that, and they barely go to the Moon. But Sunnydale can be pretty bad at times." Dawn snorted, so Xander went on, "Okay, a lot of the time. There's always something going on, and we try to keep things from blowing up too much. So this was nice. Apart from … well, you know."
They all nodded solemnly, and were quiet for a while.
Xander jumped suddenly, and pulled the cell from his pocket. He grinned, and took the call, activating the speaker-phone. "Hey," he chirped.
"Hey, there," Buffy called. "You all ready to go, now?"
"Ready, willing and able," Dawn called.
"Coolness. Okay, make sure you're together with your stuff, and away from everything else. Will's going to try and pull you back, just like you went there in the first place."
"Okay, Buff," Xander grinned. "Talk to you soon." He looked up, then, and faced the people who'd been family to him for the last few months. "So this is goodbye." He felt the magic stir, and shivered. He looked at Faith and Dawn, both of whom were beginning to glow. "Thanks," he said to the others in the hold. "For everything."
Mal looked at the three youngsters now shining bright in his hold. Dawn's hair had begun to float and wave about in a non-existant wind, while Xander's eyes were glowing green. He was going to miss the three of them, though he understood about the need to go home, to be with family. He looked around the hold at his family, gathered and teary now to see friends parting. "You stay safe, now, you hear?" he demanded.
Xander waved at him, even as he faded from view. There was a sudden flash, and Mal saw something flying towards him. He grabbed at it reflexively, and blinked his eyes. He looked, and saw that the three visitors were gone. He looked down at his hand, and saw the phone they had been using to talk to their friends.
Simon drew close, and peered at it. "That is Earth-That-Was technology," he observed. "That would be incredibly valuable, if you ever decided to sell it."
Mal looked at him, and nodded. A last gift. He wondered if he could part from it, or if he should keep it, just in case they wanted to talk to him. Then there was another flash, and something dropped to the floor in front of them.
Kaylee picked it up, and looked at it. It was a cable of some sort, tied to a note. She glanced at Mal, then opened the note. "'Hey, all,'" she read. "'Just to let you know that we're not going to be able to call you on the phone. I thought we might be able to, but Willow says it'd take too much power. So I sent you the charger for the phone, and thought that maybe you could sell it. I figure an antique like this should be valuable. Old, Earth-That-Was technology, and all that. So this is going to have to be our final goodbye,'" she went on, tears forming in her eyes. "'Good luck, and God bless, and all that. Live long and prosper, as Spock would say. May your jobs be profitable, as many as you want, and all Reaver-free. Lots of love, Xander, Faith, and Dawn,'" she finished, sad smile on her face.
Inara moved in, and slipped an arm around the younger woman's shoulders.
Mal took the letter, and read it, before folding it and tucking it into a pocket. "Well, that sorts that, then," he nodded. "I guess we should set course for Beaumonde. Time to find some work, maybe a dealer for this phone." With that, he nodded, and took the phone and charger back to his room.
Simon looked around at the group. "Tea?" he asked.
A/N: Good night, fare well, and thank you for coming.