The truth shall make ye fret
AN: Again this is coming straight from Chp 11. Title again is taken from Terry Pratchett, but he took it from elsewhere, as usual. Enjoy!
AN2: This is the third version of this chp. Thats why when I said it would be two days it turned into a week!
AN3: Love Snag! Review!
“Sounds like gui shi
to me,” Jayne declared, studiously ignoring Mal’s warning, eyeing Faith like she was on day leave from a nut-house. “Mal, why do we keep pickin’ up these sāng xīn bìng kuáng
people? And keepin’ ‘em?”
“Haven’t dropped you yet, have I?”
“Ya, well, I ain’t ever claimed to be over five hundred years old,” he groused.
“With your looks? I wouldn’t say a day over three hundred.”
The jokes were helping - though he wasn’t sure Jayne was joking - it was stopping him from going crazy, leastways. He caught Faith’s eyes across the table. She held his gaze, almost willing him to believe her. He sighed and pulled up a chair, deciding he might as well be comfortable. Zoe followed suit, though she used Wash’s lap instead of pulling up another chair. He noticed that she made sure she was at least partially blocking Wash with her one body.
He found he couldn’t exactly blame her. They had both lost a lot in the War and Zoe was only beginning to regain some of that.
“So? Earth-that-was? What was that like?” Wash asked Faith conversation-ly.
“Wash,” Zoe said warningly.
“What? I just want to know!” He exclaimed quickly before turning back to Faith. “Was it like, all green and mountain-y and lots of reindeer?”
“Reindeer?” Faith laughed.
“Ya, ya know, like actual deer but rain-er,” he smiled. “Com’on, share!”
“Well, for the most part- um, dirty, smoggy, with too many buildings.”
“Ahh,” Wash sighed happily, “sounds like home.” He turned his face to Zoe’s with a look on it as if asking her ‘didn’t that sound like home?’ She couldn’t help but smile back.
“You’re in pretty good shape for someone over five hundred years old,” Book said carefully. He’d stepped closer to the table and was carefully scrutinising Faith’s face looking for-
Well, Mal wasn’t sure wasn’t sure what the shepherd was looking for but he didn’t think he’d find it, Faith’s face was carefully closed off and Mal was wondering if he actually knew the girl sitting opposite.
“Gee thanks.” She rushed on before Book could apologise like it looked like he was about to. “I’m not.” Now even Wash looked confused. “Not five hundred years old.”
They all paused again, wondering how she could believe the first but deny the second.
“Then,” Book asked slowly, as if afraid of scaring her off, “would you care to tell us how you came here from Earth-that-was?”
Faith bit her lip, glancing between Mal and Book. Eventually she shrugged. She seemed to do that a lot.
“Try me,” he said.
There was a pause as the crew seemed to add this into their calculations. Then the place seemed to erupt with questionss.
“Is Earth-that-was still there?”
“How’s that even possible?”
“Can you do magic?”
And a million and one other questions Faith didn’t catch and didn’t quite care to. She was caught again. Blue eyes caught hers and held them, quietly searching for the truth and not at all certain that they wanted to know the truth. Eventually the noise died down and the crew seemed to be waiting for Mal to say something.
“I think I’m gonna need to whole story on this one,” he said eventually, with something in his tone that Faith couldn’t discern.
She bit her lip, not knowing where to start. Again it was River that supplied the answer.
“A long, long time ago…” the girl sing-songed, “… in a galaxy far, far away.” she continued. Faith sniggered. More than one of the crew were giving the two funny looks. River gave Faith an encouraging smile. Faith just nodded back.
She spoke then, quietly drawing them into the story she wove. Of a young girl from the wrong side of the track drawn into the ultimate battle, good versus evil, and bad that she did. And of the good too. Told them of the warriors that fought together for the safety of earth and how sometimes they died.
“Sometimes they come back too.” River added at that with a small smile. Faith nodded.
She told them of the magics that could be used and the demons that roamed the earth. How the girl was going to die and how she wanted to face her death as a warrior. How she had almost done that. Almost, but not quite. Some ancient magic was unleashed and the warrior woke up in a place she didn’t recognise. Five hundred years into the future with everything changed and no place to belong to. How she moved a lot, searching, and eventually found a new place to belong, or so she hoped.
And then she landed the kicker that broke the daze the crew were in from listening to such an outlandish story.
“And it’s all true.” Her eyes caught Rivers. “That girl is me and that’s my story.”
Mal’s jaw was tight, so tight Faith could nearly see it breaking under the strain.
“You’re telling’ me that a fifteen year old girl and some of her friends went up against- tiansha de emo
and that nobody knew about it?” He finally managed to spit out.
“They never noticed. Too busy playing happy families and sticking their heads in the sand to see the real world around them,” she said bitterly.
Mal looked between her and River, who was quietly watching Faith, then to Zoe who wasn’t looking at anybody.
“Zoe, I’d like your thoughts on this,” he finally said softly.
Zoe seemed to have something on her mind.
“I heard the story before.”
Mal stared at her, jaw hanging.
“Not like that, but-” She paused. “Bunch of government men came to my family. Told them the story. Young girl, born with such power. They wanted to train me up. Make me their soldier. My father told them no. They didn’t like that answer. That was when we took to the skies. I was seven at the time I recall.” She stared at Faith with an intensity the Slayer had never seen before. “Never thought on it since. Put it down as a folktale, or some luh suh
they were spinning. Never thought it might have been true.” She seemed to be waiting for something from Faith.
“They say there hasn’t been a Slayer called in nearly two hundred years.”
Zoe nodded and that seemed to be enough for her.
“Any notion why?” Mal asked.
“I’m not usually one to go to for answers but…” she hesitated. “I’ve only been here a few months but I’ve yet to come across a vampire. Maybe the reason the Slayers were no longer called is because they were no longer needed.”
“Why?” Kaylee sounded scared and Faith couldn’t blame the girl. “Why you?”
“Why anybody,” Faith countered. “One Slayer dies and the next one is called.”
“How long?” Mal asked and she didn’t need to ask what he was referring to.
“A few months, maybe a year if she’s lucky.”
That seemed to hit him hard. It hit them all hard.
“Wuh de tyen
,” Simon was the first to break the silence.
“Oh, God!” Kaylee looked on the verge of tears.
“Eighteen months, six days, three hours and twenty minutes,” River said. They looked at her. “Average life expectancy of a Slayer,” she explained.
“Liou coe shway duh biao-tze huh hoe-tze duh bun ur-tze
.” Mal stood quickly, knocking the chair to the floor as he did. He took a few quick steps away the table, turned his back to them, then stopped and turned back just as quickly.
“What age were you?” He asked, voice tight with anger.
“It doesn’t matter-”
“The hell it doesn’t matter,” He roared, even Zoe was beginning to look a little anxious at how worked up he was. “What-”
“Oh, God!” Kaylee exclaimed again.
Faith just shrugged.
“Makes sense I suppose,” Simon said in his best doctors voice, “at sixteen the female body is at the height of its athletic ability.”
“Don’t you dare try and rationalise this.” Mal ground out.
“I’m just saying-”
A thick silence descended on the room and Faith didn’t know how to break it without the backlash cutting her to pieces.
Mal sat eventually. Faith watched him carefully, uncertain what was coming next. Mal didn’t look like he knew either.
“The way you fought back there- how?”
“We’re fast. Much faster than any normal person.”
Simon stared at her in amazement. Then transferred that stare to River who was carefully looking everywhere but at him.
.” She shook her head, tears spilling down her cheeks. “Is River-” He turned to Faith with frightened eyes.
“I don’t know. I think so, but-”
“But?” Book prompted. River was the one who answered.
“Not right.” She stared at the preacher with shiny eyes. “I’m not right. The call never came but they made me do it anyway.” She cried now. She raised her shaking fists and Simon stared at them incredulously. The scrapes and bruises from the fight earlier were already beginning to heal. Mal saw it too and turned quickly to Faith. She had her hands tucked under the table away from his sight. He clenched his fists, eyes flickering between her and Rivers hands.
“We heal much faster too.” Faith added, unnecessarily. She lifted one hand from under the table and Mal could see that it had nearly healed, tight red skin glistening where it covered over scrapes and cuts.
“The monsters must be very strong for you to need such-” Book didn’t know how to put it delicately.
“Upgrades?” She laughed, bitterly. “Ya, they are.”
“It must have been difficult. Facing such things.”
“You get used to it. It was fun… sometimes.” She shrugged. But she couldn’t shrug off the strange looks they were giving her after her last pronouncement.
“You found fighting for your life fun?” Simon asked cautiously and Faith could see the analysing look come back into his eyes. Boy’s a doctor, he can’t help it, she thought almost reminding herself not to get angry at him.
“It’s better than the other way. Hating every minute of it until you want to give up.” She paused, trying to push back memories. “Trust me, it’s better the other way.”
“Must be hard.” They were the first words Inara had said all night, though she had listened carefully to everything that had been said. “To lose everything like that.”
Faith nodded, eyes never leaving the Companion. Inara for her part seemed to be contemplating something.
“How long have you been… here?” she said finally.
“About eight months.”
Inara just nodded, filing this away in her head. Faith looked away, not liking the look on her face. The look on Mal’s face was worse though.
His jaw clenched and unclenched as he thought something through. Faith froze, her eyes flickered from Inara, who looked smugly pleased, back to Mal, who looked ready to explode.
“And when were you going to tell me all this?”
Faith stared, a million different answers going through her head.
“And if you hadn’t seen what you had tonight, would you have believed me? Would you have even listened?”
“Ya, cos we believe you now! Ha!” he laughed, then took in the look on the Captain’s face. “Mal! You can’t saw you believe this horse crap?” he asked quickly and furiously. Mal leaned back in his chair, one hand gripping the table so hard his knuckles were white.
“Wash, how long ‘til we reach Mont Cleafert?” Mal said suddenly, startling them all.
“Uh, few hours at least. Won’t know ‘til I check the nav-”
“Check it, get me an ETA.” He interrupted. “It’s getting early. Might as well get some sleep while we still can.”
He kept his eyes down, waiting until the noise of people heading off had dies down. When it finally did he glanced up. Faith was still sitting there. Waiting.
“You’re not from Triumph.” She shook her head. “Not from this ‘verse.” She shook her head again, refusing to look away from his eyes. Refusing to take blame for this when she was trying to do right.. “Gorram it, Faith, how’m I meant to take that.” He rubbed at his face and ran his hands through his hair. Then he sighed. She waited for judgement to fall.
“Way I see it, we’ve got two options.” She held her breath, eyes clear but bright. “We can continue on, pretend nothing happened.” She grew very still.
“Or?” she asked, quietly, chest tight.
“Hell, if I know, I’m still trying to get my head around you having been born on Earth-that-was! Really? Just smog and buildings?”
She relaxed, letting out s silent breath and feeling the tension in her chest dissipate.
“The Mississippi were in there somewhere too, I guess.”
He had to laugh at that one.