Disclaimer: I am not, nor will I ever be, Joss Whedon, Universal, Fox Network, the WB, or anyone else with a stake (tee hee… stake…) in either Firefly or BtvS. I do, however, own Melissa, the pseudonym Daniel Reynolds, and twenty-six cents in pennies.
Melissa was craving fresh apples, and didn’t really want to meet the government men anyway. Neither did Spike, for that matter, or rather Daniel Reynolds as he was calling himself for the moment. Besides which, it was finally dark outside and he had been cooped up all day, so he offered to escort Melissa into town, despite Xander’s joking about how the neighbours would talk. Xander waved goodbye, then returned inside to finish the surprise gift he’d been making for Melissa and their soon-to-be-born child.
The knock at the door came not five minutes after the final touches were complete. Xander grabbed the cross they kept by the door before greeting his guests. “You’ll forgive me if I don’t invite you inside,” he said. “One can never be too careful.”
“Of course,” said the government man, stepping inside anyway.
“Can I offer you something to eat or drink?”
“No, thank you, Mr. Harris; we don’t expect to be here too long.”
“Well, what does the Alliance government wish to know from their resident wise man of the wild lands? And don’t ask me politics. I’ve told them again and again that I don’t have the patience for politics.”
“Nor do I, Mr. Harris. I am here on matters of war.”
Xander nodded in resignation. “And of course we’re talking about winning a war, not preventing one, aren’t we?”
“Actually, we are attempting to prevent wars. In fact, we are hoping to prevent war from ever occurring again,” the government man said.
“We are attempting a technique used back on Earth-That-Was in the nineteen-hundreds: peace through superior firepower.” The hope that had started to rise in Xander’s eyes very quickly faded away, to be replaced with anger at the government man’s next words: “However, weapons can be stolen, so instead we are instituting a super-soldier program-”
“Stop. No, I will not help you. Please get off my property before I make you leave, and tell your bosses that my offer for consultation has expired.”
The government man’s smile never wavered. “Jamal, Derrial, make Mr. Harris see things our way.” The two young men, who had been standing quietly until now, exploded into motion. While Xander was still strong from working as a rancher, and still alert from centuries of practice, these two men were faster and more used to combat than him. Despite all of his training, wisdom and experience, Xander didn’t stand a chance. An instant later, Xander was flying across the room, landing on his just finished gift and breaking it. But that was okay, he thought as they injected him with something and his vision started to fade. They would know he hadn’t meant to leave them. Because they had broken the cradle.
“Whoa, now, where are you off to, Albatross?” Malcolm Reynolds said as his pilot tried to rush around him and get out of the cockpit. “I didn’t even tell you our heading yet.”
“Yes, you did,” she said, still trying to squeeze past him. “You thought it at me. That still works. And I’m off to your bunk,” she said with a triumphant smile as she ducked under his arm and ran to the bunk in question.
“My what?” he said. “River, what do you want with my bunk?”
“Picture. It was in your head and my head but I need to see it with my eyes, so I can know for sure,” she said.
“Picture? What… I don’t got no pictures in my bunk.”
“Then where do you keep them?” she said in distress. “I need to see pictures!”
“It might help if you’d tell me what kind of pictures you need to see,” Mal said.
“Pictures of home, before you came along. Not my home, and not this home. Your home. The home that got broken.”
“You need to see pictures… of my family’s ranch on Shadow?” River nodded solemnly. “Why?” River just gave him a look – the one that said, you’re being stubborn when you don’t need to be, dummy. “All right, I’ll get my pictures of home.”
It turned out he kept them in a small secret compartment that even River hadn’t known about, most likely because Mal avoided thinking of home like a medieval nobleman avoided the plague. He handed them over without looking at them and she started flipping through them.
“What’s going on, sir?” Zoë asked as she walked in on the scene. Mal was standing with his back to River, who was dropping photographs and drawings on the floor after a cursory glance at each.
“She needed to see pictures,” Mal said, and that was enough of an explanation for the both of them.
“Mal?” said River, and he turned to look at her. Most of the pictures were on the floor, except for one heavily creased photograph that she still held in her hand. “Simon picked the right ship,” River said, looking at Mal in that eerie manner she had. “If we hadn’t been here when Miranda stopped screaming, I would never have known who he was.”
“Who’s this he, little Albatross?”
“Grandfather. Project Deathless. Harris.” She turned the photograph of the one-eyed man and his young wife around so that Mal and Zoë could see it. “Your Pa.”