Welcome to the Hellmouth
Earth that was what?
Disclaimer: Both Buffy and Firefly are owned by Joss Whedon. I take no credit for them or their fabulous scripts and make no money…seriously don’t, it’s kinda sad.
A/N: Hi! This is my first response to a challenge, so I’m not exactly sure on how to go about this besides sticking to the parameters laid out in the challenge, “Earth that was what?” by CambriaRass. Since it wasn’t specified, this story will take place after the Buffy series finale. Please ignore all of the comics as I haven’t read them and won’t be using them. Firefly will take place right after the events of ‘Safe’ where Simon and River were kidnapped. Any questions or comments sent via review will be addressed. Hope you enjoy!
Chapter 1: Welcome to the Hellmouth
Simon sighed and his grip on River’s narrow shoulders relaxed a little for the first time since they’d been rescued from nearly being burnt at the stake. They were alive, and safe. More than he’d thought possible a few short weeks ago. The Captain was a strange man, but he seemed to have a moral code. Now all Simon had to do was learn to understand that code.
Serenity must be set on autopilot, he thought as he and his sister rounded the dark corner and stepped over the door hatch into the sunny kitchen area, because there sat Wash, happily listening to some story Mal was telling from his usual spot at the head of the table. Zoe was busy holding Wash’s hand, the grin on her face assuring Simon that she’d probably already heard this one before.
“So then Shepherd says to a Companion, ‘Well, a good goat would do that.’” Mal was saying and all the crew laughed.
River glided away from Simon’s side and delicately seated herself at the table. Simon saw Kaylee coming to sit down as well after helping herself to some of the leftover protein mush they’d been having for the past couple of days and remembered the debacle back on Jiangyin. He needed to work on his sensitivity… among other things.
Deciding that it might be prudent to smooth things over with the very sweet and very upset mechanic, who probably thought by now that he was the biggest snob in the Galaxy, Simon quickly went over to her seat and pulled out the chair for her.
He knew he was forgiven by the brilliant smile she sent his way and then things were easy. Rolls were passed around and laughter was present again and he felt he was accepted…one of the crew. And he knew as he saw them talk with River and pass her food and made jokes that they made sure to include her in and laughed when she stole a roll from Jayne’s plate that River was not just a liability to them anymore, she was becoming everyone’s little sister and everyone’s responsibility to protect.
It was a warm, almost alien feeling to Simon. He couldn’t remember the last time his own family had been so happy, so inviting. Well, they’d never be inviting exactly, but it didn’t negate the feeling that he and River had finally found a place they could belong…
A thunderous BOOM!!! shattered Simon’s brief moment of contentment and he gripped the large table reflexively out of panic.
“Now little Kaylee, you told me that compression coil had a good nother’ couple of months on it.” Mal asked as he rose, “So what is my ship doing fallin apart!?”
“Not sure Cap, but I’ll go check her out!” Kaylee shouted behind her, already on her way out the kitchen and bounding toward the engine room.
From his seat, Jayne finished off a few more forkfuls before he asked, food still in his mouth, “Couldn’t it just be them darn cows we had on here? Might of gunked up some inner workings er such.”
Wash and Zoe rose, Zoe not even bothering to dignify Jayne’s question with a response before she marched off to follow the Captain. Wash, all smiles vanished, told Jayne, “Yes, Jayne. The cows were of an evil race that sabotages ships with their cloven hooves when they’re not too busy chewing their cud,” and then he was out of the kitchen and away too, running in the opposite direction toward the cockpit.
“Ruttin cows… Wash don’t know what he’s talking about,” Jayne said, finally finished with his plate.
“Are you going to join them anytime soon?” Simon couldn’t help but asking the big man pointedly.
“When I please, Doctor man,” Jayne grumbled, glaring at Simon. But then he seemed to realize that he was left alone with only the Doctor, Inara, and River, all of whom were staring very acutely at him. “…which I suppose, would be now. Ya’ll best get to your rooms. Don’t want Mal blamin me fer one of you bangin up your pretty little heads.” And then he finally left.
“I don’t care for staying in my cabin as the ship is possibly being rendered to shreds,” Simon told Inara. “If you don’t mind, how about we see if Wash has any news?”
“I agree. Kaylee will have enough on her plate with Mal and Jayne breathing down her neck.”
When they made it to the cockpit, they found Wash in his usual seat, his dinosaurs spread asunder as he frantically toggled and jarred numerous buttons. It didn’t seem to be going well.
“Anything we can do?” Simon asked tentatively.
Wash didn’t look up. “No…uh… well, actually,” he saw River was with them. “River, if you could go get the others. I think they need to be here for this.”
River nodded. “You don’t want me here. It’s alright, I’ll fetch them. The mouth will swallow us all anyway, down, down, down. From beneath us, it will devour. But don’t worry, the mouth of hell is nice all year round.”
“Uh…yea.” Wash stuttered, dumbstruck. And then River left, gracefully running down the stairs and back toward the engine room.
“So what did you want to tell us, Wash?” Inara asked, recapturing the pilot’s attention.
“I think anything I say after devouring mouth of hells are imminent is a pretty moot point, but we’re heading right toward an energy field. Its energy levels are fluctuating with that of the ship’s so I believe it’s being formed by our own energy emissions.”
“But Serenity doesn’t emit energy, except when she’s going for hard burn…” Inara trailed off, her beautiful face one of confusion.
“That’s normally true, but that explosion must have jarred something loose. We’re leaking bad and it’s doing something funny out there, and not of the ha ha variety.”
“What will this energy field do to us?” Simon asked, his heart pounding.
“Nothing good…” Wash said grimly as he tried yet another useless toggle. Simon looked out the windshield at Serenity’s bow and glimpsed rays of light concentrated in a small area of nothingness directly in their path. The rays of light were forming different colors and shooting back and forth like falling stars. They were making their very own blackhole…
Spike was gone… and for the first time since she’d met him, Buffy had acknowledged that she’d loved him. She knew they’d probably never have that fire back, the heat that had consumed her upon her re-entry to life following her resurrection- the destructive web of need, lust and satisfaction that had engulfed them both in the wake of her numbness at being ripped from Heaven and cast back to the Hellmouth like a used rag doll- but the past couple of months spent with Spike had meant something to her. She’d been meeting the aged and matured version of his human side, William, and she felt that they’d gotten to re-know each other, to become friends, battle buddies, and even share in the occasional flare of affection toward one another. But it wasn’t the ‘I can’t wait to rip your cloths off’ sort of flare, more the ‘I want to squeeze the sadness out of you until you’re happy again and then hold onto you forever and ever’ sort of affection. Like most of her relationships, Buffy found it strange and oddly comforting.
Standing over the crater that used to be Sunnyhell- as Spike had lovingly denoted the town- Buffy couldn’t help but smile as she thought of how their latest, and possibly greatest, apocalypse had just been averted by William the Bloody going out in an angelic halo of self-sacrificing glory. This crater was a testament to the fact that Spike never did anything half-heartedly.
“Where we going now, B?” Faith asked.
“Where ever we’re needed,” Buffy replied at last. And it was true- the world was open to them now. Sure, there was another Hellmouth in Cleveland, but there were hundreds, if not thousands of new potentials out there, just waiting for someone to show them the way. The possibilities were endless.
Spike’s final gift had been to set her free.
“Wait,” Dawn said, gazing intently down at the belly of the smoldering crater. Just for a second, Buffy’s heart skipped a beat and she thought that maybe Spike might have somehow rematerialized in some miraculous last act, but then Dawn pointed and exclaimed, “There’s some movement down there! Quite a few by the looks of it!”
“But I thought the Ubers were done for? Plus, not like they’re ready to open their own tanning salon, even if some of them did manage- highly unlikely by the by- to escape Spike’s last act of mayhem and destruction.” Xander said, his voice slightly pinched. And Buffy realized for the first time that Anya wasn’t with them. Her heart found new reasons to ache, this time being Xander-shaped.
“Will?” Buffy asked her best friend. She didn’t need to say anything else, Willow and her were long past the reading each other’s minds, and that had been before she’d gone all witchy-woman.
“On it,” Willow said, and though still exhausted from what could quite possibly be described as one of the most powerful spells ever cast, Willow muttered a quick incantation under her breath, allowing her binocular vision, in Buffy’s estimation at least. Because that’s what Will was doing- scoping out through her magical sights the figures Dawn’s pristine 20/20 vision had spotted. “Yep,” Willow informed them, her magical sight dispelling, “Looks like maybe nine or ten people. They look normal enough, but they’re just standing there, completely dazed, like they don’t know why they’re standing in the middle of a big pile of rubble all of the sudden.”
“And no blood or soot or obvious injuries apparent?” Giles asked.
“None that I could see.”
“Well,” Buffy said, once again finding her general’s voice, “let’s go see who’s knocking this time.”
“Sir?” Zoe asked, standing like the rest of the crew of Serenity in the middle of a very large, very recently made crater, “What the wuo de ma just happened?”
Mal looked left and right, scanning the area so quickly that Simon thought his head might spin off, before replying, “I don’t rightly know…”
And none of them did really. They had all been in the cockpit, Wash retelling the others what had transpired, and then they’d hit the energy field. And now found themselves at the bottom of a big large bowl in seemingly the middle of nowhere. It figured.
“Jen dao mei,” Simon said, voicing his thoughts. “Just when we’re finally getting out of one scrape, it figures we’d wind up in a hole of another.”
“Uh, I don’t mean to out alarm any of you, but where exactly’s my girl?” Kaylee asked, the fresh grease from the engine she’d just been frantically searching still smeared across her face. Only there was no engine anywhere, nor any sign of Serenity for that matter.
“Girl’s got a point…where is that gorramit ship, Mal?” Jayne asked, his burly figure tense as he too scoured the rim.
“The scent of strawberries is strong- this is where they were first born,” River said breezily, her eyes closed and a soft grin lighting her pale face.
While everyone else ignored her odd comment as usual, Simon turned to his little sister and asked quietly, “Where are we, River?”
She grinned up at him and it was like the government had never tortured her brilliant young mind into insanity. She was perfectly cognizant and frighteningly lucid. “Earth that was.”
“Huh?” Mal asked, turning sharply to her at that, all other questions forsaken for the moment. “And just what does she mean by that?”
“I’m not sure…” Simon said, dreading the way River had spoken, as though for one instance she were completely aware of herself and her surroundings. What had she meant by that? Earth that was what?
“Our mother.” River said to the gaping lot of them. She bent down and picked up a handful of the freshly unearthed soil and let it drop onto her feet, which were- as always, no matter how many times Simon told her not to- bare.
“River, honey,” Inara spoke gently, “Whose mother?”
“Everything and everyone’s.”
“Well I’m glad she cleared that up,” Wash said with a roll of his eyes, “Cause let me tell you, I was getting downright confu…”
“Hi, um…sorry to interrupt,” a red haired young woman said… hovering in the air fifteen feet above them! They stared in amazement- well, all except River, who only glanced up as if it were a common occurrence. “Any of you happen to be privy with the what and the why you’re down here at this juncture?”
“Uh…” was the most common response generated.
Mal, his captainy character forcing him to speak, said, “Well…miss…the truth of it is, we don’t much know where we are. I’d kindly ask you, but I reckon you got your own business to attend to, what with that mighty fine flying of yours…” Inside, Simon knew the Captain was just fishing around to assess the level of threat the diminutive red-head posed.
“Can we skip to the part with the how!?” Wash asked shrilly. “Because I personally am still at a loss as to how there’s a woman FLYING in front of us!”
“Sweetheart,” Zoe whispered to her husband, “Let’s not piss off the nice flying woman just yet, okay?”
Unnoticed by anyone, River tapped her brother’s shoulder and said, “Ask her what you asked me.”
Still in awe of the spectacle before them, Simon sought out his voice and asked loudly enough to ensure the flying woman heard him, “Can you tell us where exactly we might be?”
She looked down at them oddly for a moment and then replied as she touched down lightly on her heels, “What’s left of Sunnydale, California. Welcome to the Hellmouth.”