Disclaimer: Not mine or anyone's I know.
Wash was the first to answer the summons. Buffy watched him as he walked in the door. His eyes flitted almost imperceptibly between Zoe and Mal, before alighting on the four people who were new. The furrow in his brow communicated his confusion.
“Hey, cap'n, um, you know I hate to ask the obvious questions but, who are they?” Both his shipmates and the strangers ignored the question. Buffy stood and walked over to him.
“So,” she pulled herself up to her admittedly unsubstantial full height and leaned towards him, “Got any weapons? Guns, knives, weird Star Wars-like instruments of doom and destruction?” Wash bent backwards away from her and rolled his eyes toward Zoe.
“Well, Zoe's really more the weapon wielding half of this marriage. Say, Zoe, wife of mine, why is this very small person invading my personal space?”
Zoe opened her mouth and took a deep breath to respond when Mal cut her off, “Everything'll be explained later. I'm hopin'. Just work with her.” Buffy took this as tacit permission to pat Wash down for weapons. Wash did not look happy about this but he stood still.
Finally, Buffy was satisfied. “Ok, he's good. Next.” Wash strolled over to stand behind Zoe's right shoulder, appearing still puzzled, but not more than a little miffed. Mal, however, looked downright aggravated by Buffy's commanding tone.
“All right, that's enough. I've been damn near as patient with you as I'm gonna be. You all are standin' on my ship, or had you forgotten? Now, I swear to you, none of my crew will be doing violence to your persons 'less I tell 'em to, and I won't tell 'em to if you keep your hands to your own selves. How abouts we speed this along?” Buffy softened a little. For some reason, she trusted this man, even though he had just finished yelling at her. He had a solidness and steadiness about him that made her feel safe. Xander helped her finally make up her mind.
“Buff, come on. The sooner we talk this out, the sooner we can go...wherever. Someplace that isn't this place.” Buffy sighed and after an extended pause in which everyone started to squirm, she nodded her reluctant agreement. Mal went to the door and pressed a button on the keypad. The door whooshed open and Buffy saw a small group of people gathered in the doorway. Mal stepped out and issued his instructions in hushed tones that were barely discernible over the breathing of everyone in the room and the gentle, steady rumble of an engine in another room. In the interim, Buffy spoke to her friends.
“You know, after umpteen-hundred of these little incidents, you'd think we'd stop being surprised.”
“Well, I don't know, time travel is something new, isn't it?” Buffy could see a gleam of curiosity and excitement in Giles' eyes, “As far as I know, there is no recorded incidence of an interruption in the space time continuum actually being achieved.” Willow was intrigued in spite of herself as well.
“I think it's kinda interes-” At twin glares from Buffy and Xander, Willow quickly amended, “-bad! Awful, horrible, have to get out of here.” She looked down at her fingers, twining them together in her lap.
Buffy glanced at Wash and Zoe and realized they had been following the entire exchange. Wash tilted his head. “So,” his voice sounded deliberately and exaggeratedly calm, “you guys do this a lot?” Xander snorted.
“You name it, we've seen it.” He pointed at his lack of a left eye, “Crazy preacher following the orders of the ultimate evil. And this one time-” He stopped abruptly as Mal walked back into the room, trailed by the rest of his shipmates. They all appeared confused, but apparently Mal had partially explained the situation so they formed a semi-circle around those already seated without speaking. Mal indicated each person in turn as he introduced them.
“Inara, Kaylee, Simon, River, Shepherd Book, Jayne, Buffy, Willow, Xander, Rupert. You've met Wash and Zoe. Now that that's taken care of, there're some tales need tellin'. Buffy-”
“Yeah, I know, I got some 'splainin' to do.” Buffy and Willow proceeded to give the entire crew the same explanation they'd given Mal and Zoe, including where and when they'd come from, how they'd come, and, much to Xander's chagrin, the same demonstration of Willow's powers.
Simon's bottom lip dropped, leaving his mouth hanging open. He leaned forward as if he was about to speak, but simply put a hand to the side of his face and sat back again. Kaylee shook her head. “I guess I'm a little confused, cap'n. Or, a lot confused. They done got on Serenity by a 'portal'?” Mal nodded. “Ok,” Kaylee's voice was faint. Mal jumped in.
“Now, if y'all were listenin', you probably caught that these nice folks said they came from London, England, in the year 2000 and six. Don't specifically know where London, England is, or was. But we all know it ain't 2006.” With this, Buffy's fears were confirmed.
“Oh, crap. We really are in the future? Which I guess is now the present. We're in the present future?”
“No scientist or philosopher has been able to prove that time moves linearly,” River maundered. She tilted her head to the right and looked at Buffy. “Your strength. It's not yours. Came from someone else. You're only borrowing it.” Buffy crinkled her eyes and nose up.
Mal bobbed his head knowingly. “You'll have to excuse River. She suffers from a mild case of bein' crazy.” Xander laughed.
“You think that's crazy? Please. I've been almost killed by a crazy vampire and a mildly insane hell goddess. As far as I'm concerned, River here is just a little quirky.”
“Oh, and Faith,” Willow added helpfully, “She was not exactly one of sanest people of our time. And that zombie guy who tried to-” Xander grimaced.
“Yeah, thanks, Will.”
“Guys?” Buffy snapped her fingers in their direction impatiently. Willow quickly erased the grin from her face and sat up straighter in her chair.
“Uh, sorry. Go ahead.”
Buffy addressed Mal. “So, we need to find somebody that can help us. Do you know of anyone?” Mal looked mockingly nonchalant.
“Well, no one comes to the front of my mind but no doubt if we just get on the Cortex and ask for an expert in time travel and magic we'll get this all straightened out in no time.” Buffy rolled her eyes.
“I'll take that as a no, then. Come on, in this entire universe there's got to be someone who can help us.” Giles raised his eyes to Mal's.
“Just how many inhabited planets are in existence today?”
“Enough to make goin' to each and every one of them and askin' about portals a task both inconvenient and impractical.”
“But,”Giles reasoned, “You have a ship. It shouldn't be too difficult to travel to nearby planets, make some inquiries.”
“And I'll be dragging four strangers 'round the gorram 'verse out of the goodness of my heart and love for my brother man?”
“Mal, be reasonable.” Inara had stepped forward. “You can't keep them on the ship, and they have to go somewhere.” Mal tilted his head at her.
“Well, you're movin' out any day now. They could have your shuttle.” She sighed, looking to the Shepherd for support. Book obliged.
“Mal, it is our duty to help these people.”
“Why? 'Cause they happened to pop themselves out onto my ship? Don't see how that makes it a trouble of mine.”
“Mal's right. We ain't got the time or the means to be helpin' out nobody but ourselves.” Jayne spoke up in Mal's defense. Mal held up a hand.
Buffy.” He turned to face her. “Jayne and Inara both ain't wrong. I got places to fly and jobs to do and I don't got the time to be goin' visiting to find out what in the di yu
is going on here and how to fix it. So here's my picture of how this could go. You all can stay on my ship. You help with the odd job, cooking, cleaning, the like. We fly all over the 'verse. I figure, you can ask around-discreet like-whenever we're planetside.” Willow looked pleased.
“Hey, Buff, that doesn't sound so bad.”
“It's not as though we have myriad other options to pick and choose,” Giles agreed with her.
“Ok, ok, ok. We'll try it.” Buffy's voice got firmer. “For a while.” She again spoke to Mal, “Anything else we should know?”
“Let's see.” He ticked things off on his fingers as he said them, “We don't hurt you if you don't hurt us, don't talk to anyone Alliance, and I'm the captain, so I give the orders. It's one of the perks. Oh, and, some of our jobs can get...thrilling.” Here, Wash interrupted his captain.
“If you think near death experiences are a thrill ride. Which, who doesn't?”
“Well, actually,” Buffy muttered wryly under her breath, “This might work out just fine.” She raised her voice so they could all hear her. “Trust me, we can take care of ourselves.”
“Well alright then,” Mal clapped his hands together, “Let's make you folks up a bunk. You'll have to share rooms, we weren't expectin' guests, but there's ample places to sleep for all.” He stood up and headed towards the door. “I believe some of us have jobs that were interrupted for this little conference,” he added pointedly, “I think it would be a fine and noble thing if we got back to doing them.”
There was a chorus of murmured 'Yessir's as everyone scattered to their job-appropriate parts of the ship. Buffy, Xander, Willow, and Giles trailed behind Mal as he led them past the infirmary to two rooms near a staircase. He pointed to the first door.
“Rupert, Xander, this should hold the both of you.” He pointed to the second. “Willow, Buffy, this'll be your quarters. Ok, comfy-cozy? Because I got my ship to tend to. I'll leave y'all to settle in.” He walked away, leaving the scoobies standing alone in the hallway. Buffy peered into the room that Mal had indicated was to be hers and Willow's. She saw a small room, with one bed and a few drawers. The walls were bare except for something hanging on one that she supposed was a bed that folded from the wall. Willow looked around her shoulder.
“How spartan.” Willow didn't look entirely pleased with the arrangements.
“Well, it beats being dead.” Buffy gave a small smile, “And I happen to have tested that empirically.”
Xander and Giles had already wandered into their room. It did not appear to have a fold out bed and the two men had begun the negotiations regarding the single cot. Giles claimed seniority, while Xander pointed at his left eye socket, loudly exclaiming, “Invalid here! Have the handicapped car badge to prove it.” They finally agreed on a rotating schedule. Buffy and Willow watched the debate with affectionately exasperated smiles on their faces. All at once, Buffy felt her earlier exhaustion returning. She yawned.
“I'm sleepy. Need a good long catnap.”
Willow looked at her with empathy. “It's been a long day. Like, thousands of years long. We should all probably catch a few winks.” She yawned too. “Or lots of winks.”
Buffy popped her head into Xander and Giles' room. “Guys, we're going to sleep.” Xander looked up from where he was arranging extra blankets on the floor. “Stellar plan. Us too. See you later.” Giles smiled at her.
“Yes, get some rest. Sleep well.”
Buffy walked back to her room where Willow had already pulled down the wall bed and was well on her way to R.E.M. As Buffy lay down, she realized she had no pajamas, or any other clothes, but was too tired to worry about it. She drifted to sleep, lulled by the already familiar sound of the engine turning as they traveled through space. *******
Reviews anyone? Come on, hit me. Thanks for all the feedback for the last chapter, I appreciate it!
Coming next chapter: Actual plot developments!(*gasp*)Bi zui
means "shut up" and di yu
means hell. I did research!