Ask and ye shall receive! Thanks to everyone who reviewed. Oh, and for those of you who pointed out my mistakes in various eye colors, thank you – I did listen and it’s all different from here on out, but I’m too lazy to go back and change the first chapter right now.Disclaimer:
Really, really, not mine.
“How is she, Doctor?” Rupert asked as Simon came out of the infirmary, wiping his just-washed hands.
“Well,” Simon said, “she’s lucky. The bullet only grazed a rib and hit her right lung near the bottom; I was able to get it out and close the hole in her lung. She’ll have a little pain when she breathes, but her ribs should heal fairly quickly, and she should be completely back to normal in a month or two. Even the scar will be pretty small.”
Rupert and Buffy let out sighs of relief.
“Can we see her?” Buffy asked. Simon nodded.
“Sure. But she’s sleeping now. We shouldn’t wake her for at least a day; she lost a lot of blood.”
Buffy shrugged and got up. Rupert also stood, catching her hand.
“I’m going to check on the others, maybe spell Willow so she can come see our girl.”
Buffy nodded to him and went in to see her sister.
She was lying on the infirmary table, covered with a blanket, her face pale and drawn, her long brown hair swept to the side and trailing off the table. The aura of green energy that always surrounded her, at least in her sister’s eyes, was pale and flickering, telling Buffy just how close her only blood relative had come to death. She laid a hand on her sister’s forehead, bringing herself in easier contact with the younger girl’s mind.How you feelin’, Dawnie?
she asked silently.I got shot, Buff. How’d you think I would be feeling?
her sister snarked back, her mental voice still weak and shaky. Buffy grinned.Obviously not too bad, if you can snipe at me. You think too loud.
This inner voice was one neither recognized, and Buffy looked up sharply.
Sitting on the counter on the other side of Dawn’s bed, her legs drawn up under her, was a thin, ragged looking girl. She was dressed in a flowing chocolate-colored summer dress, and her wavy, stringy brown hair hung in her face. Buffy regarded her quizzically.You’re a reader.Not like you,
the girl replied. I see, I hear, I know. I don’t control. Why is she green?
Buffy’s mouth twitched. This was getting interesting. She’s always been green. No one but me has ever seen it.They’re blind.
The girl looked up from Dawn, brown eyes meeting green. I’m River.
I’m Buffy. This is Dawn.
The girl cocked her head. Your real names. But you trick them into thinking they’re not.
Buffy said. She opened herself a little more to this strange girl, allowing both of them better access into the other’s mind. You’re on the run.
So are you.
They did things to you.
Like you. But you had an angel. I had only a brother.
You’re all jumbled up in here. You need some serious cabinetry to put your thoughts in.
For the first time, River’s mouth quirked into the shadow of a smile. They’ll just jump out again.
Not if you lock them. I’ll show you.
Buffy stood, coming over to the younger girl and folding herself cross-legged onto the counter. River turned to face her. Gently, Buffy positioned her so the two were knee-to-knee and forehead-to-forehead. She placed River’s right hand on the juncture of their knees, then set her own on the opposite side, her left hand settled onto River’s right. River automatically placed her left onto Buffy’s right.
Both girls closed their eyes.
Mal escorted the redheaded pilot and her dark-haired crewmate to the infirmary. He didn’t like having the entire crew of the Slayer, small though it was, aboard his boat; however Doc had said she couldn’t be moved and far be it for him to come between a hurt girl and her crew. He knew, if it was Kaylee hurt in the infirmary of an unknown ship, he wouldn’t feel right till he saw she was safe.
He noticed, as their made their way through the ship, that the two young people seemed to know exactly where they were going, and made a comment to that effect.
“Oh, we used to fly a Firefly.” the girl, Willow, said. “She was our first boat. We salvaged her from a junkyard when we were 14. Took a couple years to make her work, but we did.” The pride in her voice was tangible, as was the sorrow. The man, Xander, gave her a soft smile and squeezed her shoulder.
“What happened?” Mal asked, knowing he shouldn’t and not being able to stop himself.
“Reavers.” Xander said. “We were 18, been flying her for almost two years. Just short trade runs and such; but our hometown was pretty cut off and every little bit helped. They came in while we were away, burned the place to the ground, and caught us coming back in.”
Mal looked at the innocent faces of these two young people, finding it hard to believe they had survived a Reaver attack. The soulful look they gave each other was familiar, though – it was the look Zoë gave him when someone brought up the war.
“How’d you survive?” He really, really shouldn’t keep them talking about it. Really.
“We split up. The two of us took one shuttle and our other two crew members took the other. We both tried to lay low in the wreckage, hoping they wouldn’t find us. We got lucky. They didn’t.”
The matter-of-fact way Willow talked about the death of her crew and destruction of her ship made Mal’s skin crawl, but he didn’t have time to think about it before they reached the infirmary.
Xander and Willow made straight for the prone girl’s side. Mal looked around and was surprised to see River and Buffy, sitting on the counter in the corner, apparently asleep, their foreheads resting together.
“Ai ya,” Mal swore, ducking out of the room quietly.
Simon was across the way, deep in conversation with Kaylee on the couch in the lounge. Mal wasted no time in striding over there, grabbing the smaller man by the arm and bodily lifting him off the couch.
“I thought I told you to keep your gorram sister hidden away?” Mal hissed. Simon’s eyes widened, and he instinctively turned towards the infirmary, but Mal tightened his grip.
“Don’t you try to fix it now – you move her now and you bring attention to her. I just hope she doesn’t go attacking our guests with a butcher knife.”
Willow and Xander came out of the infirmary at that moment, causing Mal to drop the doctor’s arm and quickly clasp his hands behind his back.
“Are you Doctor Tam?” Willow asked.
Simon’s eyes grew a little wider, but to his credit, he gave no other adverse reaction to hearing her speak his name. He nodded, once, almost imperceptibly, then jumped as she lunged at him.
Simon blinked, his brain still processing that she was not attacking him, but in fact hugging him tightly. Xander threw him a sympathetic look.
“Wil, the man needs to breathe.”
“Oh! Yes. Sorry.” She let him go, pulling away and twisting her fingers together nervously, a shy smile still on her lips. “I was just so relieved, you see. She’s, well, she’s very important to us.”
“Um, yes, well,” Simon stammered as Mal and Kaylee covered their amusement. “It was my pleasure,” he finished. “She’s far too young to die.”
“She says thank you as well.”
Everyone turned to look as Buffy and River, hand in hand, strolled out of the infirmary. River had a serene smile on her face, the one Simon hadn’t seen since before she’d left for the Academy. His features softened and he was at her side in an instant.
“River? You alright?”
Her head drifted around to face him, and a slow smile crept over her features.
“I put it away, Simon. I made it and then I put it away, and I locked it and it won’t bounce out anymore.”
Normally Simon would have ignored this as more crazy talk, but River seemed more lucid than she had in a while, so he decided to ask.
“What, meimei? What’d you...put away?”
It was Buffy that answered him.