An: Bad words below.
The first bit had been as easy as pie. The captain had been drunk enough to enjoy the simple peasant girl attending him, who put a wreath on his head and gave him some wine from a small bowl she’d found. They’d danced then. But Faith had been too nervous to put any real energy into it. Which was just as well since she was playing a simple peasant girl and the moves she knew would not
fit into that persona. But she’d smiled and laughed and encouraged him to do the same and he’d been happy with that. He just seemed happy to have a reason to relax.
She’d escaped then as he fell asleep by the fire, one of his more sober crew members pulling a blanket over his slumbering form. Her first thought was to check on Saffron but the blonde was still unconscious. She sat then, leaning back against the timber-constructed house as she thought about what she had just done. It was the first time she’d allowed herself to consider what she was even doing out here on the rim, or to consider what she had been doing with Saffron in the beginning.
She’d been weak. She’d gone the easier route just like always. The pretty blonde had offered good money for an easy job and Faith had never thought to ask what the job was before she’d agreed. And when she’d found out the gist of the plan she still hadn’t objected. Not out loud anyway, not in any way that counted. She’d just nodded and followed like a meek little lamb. If she was truthful she’d just been happy to have someone to follow. She’d been tired of making all the hard decisions and screwing up.
That’s what had gotten her where she was. She went into that demon dive looking for a fight, THE fight, the one that would end her. And as usual she had thrown herself headlong into the situation before even thinking it through. And look where that had gotten her. Thrown five hundred years into the future with no clue what was going on anymore. But she’d just found it was easier to not think. To just follow orders. She’d done it before. She’d do it again. Allow the stronger character lead her around like a puppy, like the Mayor had, like she’d wanted Buffy to do but she hadn’t.
But she had to be strong now. For herself. For the other Slayer. She was needed now. She was the older one now, the more experienced one.
She stayed awake, listening to the soft sounds of the night pass away as the sun rose and warmed the air. The camp began to stir but the woman beside her stayed still and Faith began to wonder just what kind of damage she’d done. Saffron was still breathing, which was a good sign, but she hadn’t stirred, which Faith knew to be a sign of concussion.
Too late to think of that now. She’d be found before long and someone else would take care of her. Faith had other things to worry about.
She found it easy enough to sneak on board, there had been so many going in and out with gifts for the “big strong men who saved our village” and these people were just a tad too trusting, though it had been a close one with the dark haired dancer. She had stood so close Faith was sure she’d hear her heartbeat, which had been going a mile a minute, but apart from a weird comment to a nearby passenger about flights of angels, she hadn’t done anything else.
Faith listened as the captain chatted to Elder Gomman and the crew as they chatted while they loading up their cargo. She learned that her ‘husbands’ name was Mal Reynolds and his first mate was a stoic dark-skinned woman, named Zoe.
Mal, she reflected. If she remembered her Latin correctly it meant ‘bad’. But then names were often counterintuitive considering hers was Faith and she’d never had much.
The ship took off then and Faith was left hiding in the cargo bay, waiting to be discovered. She was a few hours into the flight when she heard foot steps above and took a few calming breaths. She heard the footsteps come closer, male, tall, she could tell from the slight scent he gave off and the heavy tread of his footsteps, until-
“Ahh!” She almost jumped out of her skin. It was the captain of the ship, looking as freaked as she felt. She just hoped it didn’t show. “Who the hell are you?”Play dumb
, she decided.
“What do you mean?”
“I think I was pretty clear. What are you doing on my boat?” He looked confused.Play extremely dumb!
“But you know… you don’t remember?” She ducked her head and shuffled her feet, the picture of embarrassment. Now Mal froze. Hehe, Faith thought. It was entirely possible he wouldn’t remember much considering how drunk he’d been last night.
“Uh… Lets go with no.”
“Did Elder Gommen not tell you?” Mal looked, if possible, more freaked. She stepped out to face him properly. “Captain Reynolds, I am your wife.” At that moment Faith wished she had whatever the future equivalent of a camera was , the look on his face was just priceless.
“Could you repeat that please?” He asked stupidly. She had to think fast.
“It was part of your agreement with Elder Gommen since he had not enough livestock or goods-”
“I’m sorry, go back to the part where you’re my wife!” Mal interrupted.
Faith allowed all the anger and frustration she’d felt since awaking to this God-awful nightmare to come to the front.
“As part of the contract you agreed with Elder Gommen, you took me as your wife.” She let a tear run down her face. “You accepted my offering, you drank my wine. You took me as yours!”
It was probably that last sentence that through him off.
Mal stood there shocked as her emotions ran riot. Faith was kind of surprised herself. But she’d been on tenterhooks since she’d arrived that often the simplest thing would set her off, as many of her co-workers had found, though she’d usually gotten angry rather than upset. A noise made her look behind her. Mal turned to his first mate as she entered.
“Zoe, why do I have a wife?”
“You got a wife?” Jayne asked.
“What's she doing here?” Zoe sounded perplexed.
“All I got was that dumb-ass stick that sounds like it's raining. How come you got a wife?” Jayne complained.
“I didn't.” He turned to Faith. “We're not married.”
But Faith would not be put off by a simple matter of the groomsman forgetting the wedding to ruin her plans.
“Well you’re mistaken!”
“Mistak-” He swallowed. “Zoe, get Wash down here!”
Zoe grinned as she pressed the intercom button.
“This is Zoe. We need all personnel in the cargo bay.” Zoe turned with a mischievous smirk on her face.
“All- I said Wash!” Mal said, outraged.
“Captain, everyone should have a chance to congratulate you on your day of bliss.” Zoe countered.
“There's no bliss! I don't know this girl!” Mal exclaimed.
“Then can I know her?” Jayne asked, reaching out to touch the peasant dress Faith still wore. She slapped his hand away.
“Ouch!” He yelped, she’d put quite a bit of a sting into it. She noticed Mal glare at Jayne and hoped that was a good sign.
“Jayne…” Zoe said, reproachfully. “Don't sully this.” She added in a lighter tone. Wait, this guys name is Jayne!
Faith thought. She fought to keep her face straight, luckily for her they just took it that she was trying to stop crying.
“Zoe, you are gonna be cleaning the latrine with your face, you don't cut that out.” Mal warned but Zoe just grinned even harder. They looked round as the rest of the crew joined them.
“Who's the new recruit?” Book asked, voicing the question that was on all their lips.
“Everybody, I want you to meet Mrs. Reynolds.” Zoe’s statement was followed by a gasp of surprise from the other crew members and a groan of dismay on the part of Mal.
Faiths, for her part, found her gaze drawn to a striking woman standing on the edge of the group. Her face had gone white at Zoe’s statement, for a fleeting second Faith could see the anguish in her eyes before it was gone and she was glaring daggers at Mal.
Faith felt guilty for a moment, until she remembered the dancer girl she’d seen last night and her resolve strengthened, she had to be strong. She wasn’t the only one who thought the Slayer line had died out long ago and she’d be damned if she was going to let the girl go through the ‘verse on her own.
“You got married?” The excited question came from a pretty brunette in overalls. She had smudges of grease on her face which, against all reason, made her look cuter. Faith assumed she was a mechanic or something.
“Well that’s… Congratulations?” One of the more proper dressed of the crew offered, sincerely, but puzzled.
“We always hoped you kids would get together!” The man standing beside Zoe professed happily, before adding in a more confused tone, “who is she?”
“She’s no one!” Mal protested.
Faith allowed her face to fall as she looked silently at the floor.
“Captain!” The mechanic protested.
“Stop that!” Mal looked uncomfortable.
“I’m sorry.” Faith offered pitifully. She was beginning to get a feel for this character. It didn’t hurt that the Captain was essentially a good man, despite his protestations to the contrary.
“You brute.” Wash told Mal.
Kaylee went to comfort Faith.
“Oh, sweetie, don't feel bad. He makes everybody cry. He's like a monster.” She said patting Faith on the back.
“I’m not a monster!” He turned to the man with Zoe, who Faith was beginning to think was her husband. “Wash, turn the ship around!”
Meanwhile Faith could see some kind of interaction between the proper-looking guy and the old guy who’d originally asked about her. She wondered briefly if they would make trouble. And what she could do if they did. Not a hell of a lot, she reasoned, the basic premise of the plan was for them to trust her, and she wouldn’t be able to manage that if she attempted to disable the crew members.
“Can't.” Wash was telling Mal.
“That's an order.” Mal said in no uncertain terms.
“Yeah, but can't.”
“What the hell is wrong w-”
“Alliance touched down the second we left.” Wash told him. “And there's already a bulletin on the cortex as to the murder of a prefect's nephew. That's right,” He said off Mal’s look. “One of our bandits had some family ties. So unless you feel like walking into a gallows, I suggest we continue on to Beaumonde and you enjoy your honeymoon.”
“This isn’t happening.” Then to Faith. “Stop crying!”
“Oh, for God's sake, Mal, can you be a human being for thirty seconds?” Inara said angrily. Faith felt even more guilty now. This woman was clearly in love with the captain but was willing to put those feelings aside for a woman she didn’t even know.Yeesh!
thought Faith, talk about self-sacrificing!
“Speaking as one married man to a another…” Wash started.
“I am not married!” Mal interjected. “I'm sorry.” he said to Faith. “I‘m sure you‘re a very nice girl and you have very nice qualities, but I didn't ever marry you.”
“I believe you did. Last night.” Faith breathed a sigh of relief, those two in the corner were some help, looks like she wouldn’t have to hurt them. That was lucky. Mr-Straight-And-Proper was throwing her mechanic the kind of looks that would turn her head, if she wasn‘t already married. Unfortunately for her mechanic she was too busy glaring at her Captain to notice.
Faith watched as everybody seemed to pause at this announcement. Mal leaned in to Jayne.
“How drunk was I last night?” Faith heard him ask quietly. Jayne shrugged.
“I don’t know. I passed out.”
“It says here,” The white haired man went on. “The woman lays the wreath upon her intended - which I do recall - which represents his sovereignty. And then he drinks of her wine.” He closed the book. “The marriage ceremony of the Triumph settlers, been so over eighty years. You, sir, are a newlywed.”
The silence rang for a beat.
“So what does it say in there about a divorce.” Mal asked.
Now was as good a time as any to bail. She let out a mock sob and took off for the upper levels of the boat.
She heard some arguing behind her in Chinese before she was out of range. She kept running forwards and up till she was stopped by the small problem of being out of room to run. She’d ended up in what passed for the cockpit. The run was short but even still she was panting. Too much adrenaline,
she thought. She almost collapsed down onto the steps by the control panel and folded in on her self. She was surprised, then, to find actual tears running down her cheeks. Too much adrenaline and too much excitement
, she told herself.
It hadn’t anything to do with the fact that he didn’t want her. That nobody had wanted her. Buffy had turned her away just like that
, she thought ignoring the fact that perhaps Buffy had had a good reason back then. Her own mother hadn’t even wanted her.
But she didn’t care about his reaction.
She didn’t care that he had looked with her with something akin to fear. And not fear in the way she normally understood. It wasn’t the please-God-don’t-kill-me
kind of fear but the dear-God-please-no
kind of fear that can be seen in the eyes of men the morning after the night before when they realise who or what they woke up next to.
She didn’t want to think about the fact that when he had held her last night as they danced it had made the hairs on her neck stand up and stirred up the warmth between her legs that hadn‘t been aroused in a long time, making her heart beat faster and her breath come faster.
Which, frankly, was kind of surprising. He wasn’t her type after all. He was tall, which was a good point for him, the only good point really. But his hair was that dirty-blonde colour people call fair and his face wasn’t exactly pleasing to the eye, and really she liked her men more down and dirty than he so obviously was, so why was she reacting this way to him?Oh, God! The whole situation is fucked up,
That was the most obvious reason for her strange reaction. That and her obvious lack of control in this whole situation. Could the Powers have made it more obvious?
They way it looked to her, the Powers had made her fall ill, go to Lagos, almost die and end up right where she was just so she could find the dancer girl.
And that was where he found her. Curled up on the steps of the cockpit staring out at the stars as if they could provide all the answers she was looking for.
“You alright?” he asked, sitting on the step beside her.
She looked up at him through a haze of unshed tears. She shook her head. She searched her mind for a reasonable excuse.
“You were so happy last night.” She said through her tears. It was lame but it would do.
“Well, yeah, last night I was,” he said, uncomfortably. “I had some mulled wine, pretty girl gave me a hat made out of a tree, nobody said I was signing up to have and to hold…”
Faith sighed. It wasn’t going to work, she knew that. What sane man would willingly marry her, let along stay married to her. He’d have her shipped off at the next planet they reached, divorce or no divorce.
Faith smiled a little at his nervousness though. He was scared of making her cry again and that endeared him to her a little. Mal smiled back.
“What are you going to do with me? I just… If you can’t get a divorce? I mean. I know you don’t really want to be married to me.” She looked back at the stars and sighed. “Who would?”
“Now that’s a dumb question! Any sane minded man would give his right arm to have a woman like you. I just… I didn’t plan on being married right now. Or, you know, ever.” He shrugged. “Kinda gave up on that after the war. Just felt it weren’t right a man like me bring up little ones and isn’t that the whole point of marriage?”
“Is it?” She stared him hard in the eye. “I thought it was for companion-ship. To have one person who really loves you, for better and worse. For richer and poorer. Someone who will care for you and you for them. To share your heart, mind, body and soul and to live only for that person and none else.”
He stared back unblinking. Faith was surprised herself at the assurance she said it.
“Uh?” He gaped.
“Was I wrong?” she pressed.
“No… no, you’re right. But I just quit figuring myself for a marrying man.” His eyes didn’t move from hers.
She picked up his hand and laced her fingers through his.
“Maybe you figured wrong.” She murmured as she rubbed her thumb over his knuckles.
“Well,” he coughed. “We have five days to figure out which, now don’t we.”
“We?” She smiled winsomely at him. “We’ll be together?”
“We’ll be together on the ship,” he said, almost jumping to his feet. He ran his hand through his hair and Faith wondered if he was trying to think of a way to take back what he’d just said.
She stood more slowly, hoping he wouldn’t. They stood on the same step. The space was too small for the two of them and their bodies were millimetres apart on the stairs.
“Ok.” She nodded slowly and smiled.
“Well, shiny,” he said, happy to see her happy. Faith was almost touched that he cared in any way. Even before she’d ‘died’ it had been a while since any man had shown her much affection. “You hungry? Kitchen's just this way.”
She followed him through watching their route as they walked, an old habit.
“You got a name?” he asked as they entered the kitchen.
“Faith,” she told him.
He smiled, a twisted ironic smile.
“Faith,” he repeated, still smiling. “Shepherd Book’s gonna a field day with that one.”