Huh. Whaddya know, I actually have an idea of where this is going. Way to go, me.
Bet I’m just driving you crazy wondering how the Buffyverse people ended up in the future, huh? Don’t worry, it will be explained – just not for a long, long ass time. Sorry.Disclaimer:
Not mine, don’t sue.
“So you’re saying memories are like, what, files?” Simon asked, his arms tightening around his sister.
“Sort of. Well, no. Memories are memories, they’re different for everyone.” Buffy said, sitting on the couch on River’s other side.
“I don’t understand.”
“Here. Let me show you.” She placed one hand on Simon’s and the other on River’s shoulder.
With a flash, the scene around them changed. They were in a large, white space. All around them were datascreens, suspended in midair. Displayed on each was a different image.
“Where are we?” Simon asked. River cocked her head, looking up at him.
“We’re in your mind, Simon. I always wanted to come in here.”
“How – ”
“She’s strong. Stronger than I can be.”
Buffy smiled a little and shook her head. “That’s not true at all. With training you could be the strongest reader in the ‘verse.”
His mouth hanging open, Simon began walking slowly through the maze of viewscreens. Reaching out and touching one triggered it to play – a memory of the day his mother brought River home from the hospital.
“So this is how my mind works?”
Buffy nodded, coming to his side. “Everyone is different, like I said. You’re organized and minimalist, and you like having everything at your fingertips. My uncle Rupert, his mind is like an old library from Earth-That-Was – comfortable and warm, with his memories in the thousands of books around him.”
She beckoned River over and took their hands. The next instant they were in a dimly-lit, circular room, with filing cabinets stacked floor to ceiling as far up as Simon could see.
“This is my mind.” Buffy said. “When I was young it was the home I grew up in, with memories just lying around, on the tables, on the floor... But now everything has to be tightly contained.” She ran a hand over the lowermost cabinets. “These are the memories I need every day. How to talk, read, write, fight. People, places, things I need.” She backed up a few steps, tilting her head back to look at the higher cabinets. “The higher up, the less I access them. The ones at the top are the ones I’d rather forget.” Her mouth twitched. “I have to really work to get to those.”
“Your mind....changed?” Simon asked. Buffy nodded.
“It had to.” She pointed a slender finger at one of the higher drawers, and it opened. A plain filing folder floated down to her, and she handed it to Simon.
He opened it. Immediately he saw men in white coats and blue rubber gloves, smiling at him predatorily. He slammed the folder shut.
“You were in the Academy.”
“For two years.” she said, nodding. “This place had to be built so I could function in society.”
“And...River could build a place like this?”
“If she doesn’t, she’ll never get better.”
“They ripped down my walls.” River put in, trailing her fingers down the black metal cabinets almost lovingly, not looking at him. “They ripped them down and stirred everything up.” She looked up, holding out her hands. As one, Buffy and Simon put their hands in hers.
Suddenly wind was whipping around them, and with it images and sounds. Things brushed past them, pushing, stinging; smells and tastes of all sorts assaulted their senses. Simon whipped his head around, trying to keep up with what he was seeing, but all he could catch was the sounds of someone crying and a few fleeting images of blood and flesh. He screamed.
Then they were back on Serenity, alone in the lounge, sitting on the couch with their hands all intertwined.
“What the go se
was that?” Simon breathed.
“My mind.” River said softly, her face buried in his shoulder.
Buffy disentangled herself as brother and sister fell into sobbing against each other. Simon finally understood exactly what had happened to his meimei
, and he would be able to be there for her while she sorted that mess out.
Letting one corner of her mouth quirk into a sad half-smile, Buffy left the room.
As soon as she closed the door to the lounge Mal was there, looming over her.
“The hell did you do to them?” he growled. Buffy looked up at him, quirking an eyebrow innocently.
“What do you mean?”
Mal’s light blue eyes narrowed. “I hear Doc scream, and I come runnin’. I get here and they’re sobbin’ away and you’re leaving with that damned little smile on your face. I seen many things but I ain’t never seen the Doc cry, so you musta done somethin’.”
Buffy cocked her head. “You’re awfully protective of them. Something you’re not telling me?” Mal’s eyes widened and he moved lightning fast, darting his big hands out to wrap around her upper arms. He hauled her up on her toes and gave her a little shake.
“What the go se
is that supposed to mean?” he hissed.
She only regarded him carefully, and Mal got the uneasy feeling she was looking right through him.
“You care about them. Huh. Would never have thought a battle-hardened renegade captain like yourself would have taken them in.”
Mal blinked in shock. Her estimation of him was a bit too close for comfort.
“River and I are a lot alike.” Buffy said conversationally, as if nothing had happened. “Ripped away from our homes at a young age, pain, torture, mental instability...” Her gaze moved from his face to a point over his shoulder. “...a very overprotective family,” she finished.
Mal turned to see the elder Giles leaning against the wall in the shadows at the other end of the corridor, his arms crossed over his chest. His air of mild gentlemanness was gone, replaced with something far darker.
“Oh, do go on.” Giles said. “I so enjoy watching my niece be harassed by strapping young men twice her size.” His voice was mild, non-committal, and Mal couldn’t tell whether he was serious or not, something which put him much more off-balance than a simple threat.
“Giles, it’s all right.” Buffy said. A little part of Mal’s brain thought it odd that she called her uncle by their shared last name, but the rest was too preoccupied with wondering why she was defending Mal against him.
The little blonde looked up at him, hazel eyes soft under thick lashes, and he suddenly was very aware that his hands were still wrapped around her upper arms in what must have been a bruising grip. He quickly dropped them to his sides, flushing a little at the amused half-smile that twisted her lips. Not since Saffron had a women kept him so completely off-balance.
“I’m a Reader,” Buffy said by way of explanation. “Dawn is too. River was attracted to us. It’s not her fault, and it’s not Simon’s.”
Mal narrowed his eyes. “Don’t recall ever telling you his name.”
“Oh, for God’s sake.” Giles said, rolling his own hazel eyes. “It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who they are. The man saved my niece’s life. You have nothing to fear from us.” His posture, which had relaxed when Mal had dropped his hands, somehow managed to become threatening again, even though the man didn’t move. Zoë could do that. Mal had never learned how. “Unless we have a reason to make you fear us, of course.”
How had he ever thought this man was mild-mannered? Times like this he wished Book or Inara were back on the ship. It was hard to be threatening in their presence.
“I spent two years at the Academy.” Buffy said quietly. Mal almost felt his heart stop. “I know what River went through. I conquered it. I can help her.”
Mal searched her gaze for a moment, unable to find any sign of falsehood.
“Sounds like you folks got quite a tale,” he said finally. “Get yer crew and come down to the galley. I think I hear Kaylee making dinner. We’ll have ourselves a good old-fashioned storytellin’.”