Story: The Awaited One
Chapter 1: Solid Bits
Crossover: Firefly/Buffy – if you squint and look sideways
Timeline: Firefly-post BDM seven months after, Buffy – takes into account all of television series of both Angel and Buffy but no the comic books.
Summary: Five hundred years later there is a new light approaching. Rayne—S/K
Disclaimer: I own nothing. Buffy/Angel mythos and Firefly/Serenity are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Inc., etc.
River flicked the necessary switches before she unbuckled herself from the pilot’s seat. Once free of the restraint she rubbed her forehead trying to will away the images burning up her brain. She focused on the plastic dinosaurs decorating the console. Taking what she needed, she pushed the rest of the images away.
She stepped down the stairs to the crew quarters. She kneeled and rapped on the hatch. Her braid slid over her shoulder
“Gorramit Mal,” a growl emitted from below, “I don’ said I was comin’!” The hatch opened to reveal Jayne’s angry face.
“I am not him,” she said.
“Oh,” he frowned, “I’m getting’ ready for the job. Like ya should be.”
“I need a secondary cutting implement,” she held out a slim hand, “Binky would be sufficient, but if you are unwilling to part with it I will take the closest comparison.”
“Ya have a bow and the axe-thing you made,” he griped.
She rolled her eyes, emphasizing her waiting hand. “Do you want your hide intact?”
He dropped down into his bunk mumbling, “gorram feng li girl… just ‘cuz she’s smart…”
“My auditory sense works very well,” she called down into the bunk.
There was more grumbling before his head popped up again. Just as Mal’s voice yelled, “Jayne!”
“Gorramit,” he hissed and hefted his large muscular body out of the bunk before locking the door. “Git your gear,” he handed her the key to the weapons’ locker.
River huffed a little and headed to the storage locker. Unlike Jayne, Zoe, and Mal’s weapons, hers were to be locked up at all times unless one of them gave her the key. Most of the time Jayne had it; he liked to service the community guns on long hauls in the black when his were shiny.
Something dark snapped at the idea. She pushed it away. This was not the first time she had felt it. It had gotten stronger, like it had been set free by the events of Miranda, and even more so by the night in the mess when she had weathered the storm and found herself – for the mean time – not lacking.
Since that night she had regularly tried to compare the darkness to those around her. There was little in Kaylee that was dark except the nightmares that came about Miranda or Mr. Universe’s moon or Jubal Early. It wasn’t tar, like Simon’s guilt. It was as deep as Zoe’s sorrow, buried deep and unable to be removed, only partly filled, partly satisfied. It was as violent as Mal’s Serenity Valley, often lashing out in a way that made one feel hopeless for control or understanding. It dealt with death and violence and hurt much like Jayne did. The darkness’s only point: survival, made all that happened acceptable.
But there was also a light there. River couldn’t say it was hers specifically, but it was within her as surely as the darkness. Brighter than Kaylee’s at times. Intellect close to Simon’s, but with River’s imaginative touch. It reminded her of the taste of Book and Mal’s once-faith. It twinkled like Wash and Zoe’s hopes. The light was steadfast, Zoe at Mal’s side. Soft like what lay beneath Jayne’s armor.
She pushed open to the locker and extracted her axe and bow. She quickly disregarded the bow. She needed to get more materials for arrows. The blood on two of them skewed their balance. Instead she left the key in the lock and headed to the cargo bay. The double-sided axe was her weapon of choice. The pistol she was require to carry was a formality to satisfy Mal and Zoe.
The first mate was checking her Mare’s Leg while discussing something with Kaylee. The mechanic was bouncing on her toes waiting for Simon to enter the bay.
“You need to be back inside of three hours,” Zoe told the hyper younger woman.
“Is the cap’n goin’ to git himself shot?” Kaylee questioned worriedly.
“Chance is sixty-three point seven good he will be,” River said absently.
“Based on what?” Mal asked as he came up the ramp.
“Your charming personality,” River deadpanned.
Kaylee let out a giggle.
“That really what you think of me, Albatross?” Mal crossed his arms over his chest.
“Git over here,” Jayne snapped as he finished loading himself with weapons.
River leveled a glare at the merc.
“Don’t talk to my sister like that,” Simon said from where he stood at the bottom of the stairs.
“Talk at her ‘owever I please,” he met River’s glare evenly.
Suddenly River felt her mouth twitch and she walked straight up to Jayne, the axe balanced on her slim shoulder. She waited for him to move. He finally lifted the bottom of her shirt.
“What are you-!” Simon sputtered.
River paid her brother no mind as she felt the leather of a strap slip around the bare skin of her tummy. For a moment his arms encircled her and the world went oddly blank. Jayne concentrated on positioning the strap and the knife before looking back up. The yelling then registered in his hearing.
“What?” he thundered.
Mal’s gun was pointed at him, as was Zoe’s. “Git your hands off her,” Mal said slowly.
Jayne frowned and looked at where his hands were. One resided on the knife he was lending River, the other on her buckle of the strap on her hip.
River shifted her axe. And stomped to where Zoe was. She looked deep into the first mate’s eyes. “If I wanted him dead… read any ill-intentions from him… I would have the satisfaction of cutting off his hands.” She muttered darkly, “and anything else that ‘touched’ me.”
She walked out of the cargo bay, seething.
Zoe shifted and finally placed her gun in her holster.
“Zoe?” Mal asked never taking his eyes from Jayne.
“If you shoot Jayne,” she told him, “River is going to be the one to shoot ya.”
“I put a gorram knife on her,” Jayne growled, a slightly wounded note to his voice.
“And you had to lift her shirt?” Simon snapped.
Jayne lifted the end of his shirt revealing a thin leather strap. It circled around to his bellybutton. The left side had a thin sheath that ran against the top of his pants. He tucked his shirt back in and grabbed his pistol, completely disregarding Mal’s gun still pointed at him.
“What the hell just happened here?” Mal asked as his gun went slack.
“Ya shouldn’t have done that Cap’n,” Kaylee said quietly. “Jayne’s just doing what ya told him.”
“You told him to put his hands on my sister?” Simon demanded.
“No,” Mal denied, trying to recall if any of his orders to his merc could have been interpreted as invitation to the young genius.
“You told him to keep her necessarily outfitted for jobs,” Zoe supplied.
“That don’t mean putting his hands on her!” he yelled.
Zoe raised an eyebrow before grabbing three long thin boxes of cargo. “Have a good time on your outing, mei mei.”
“I will,” Kaylee smiled up at Simon causing the young man to momentarily forget his anger. “We got to git.” She pulled him out the bay door.
Mal looked around the empty bay as he holstered his pistol. He smiled faintly at the entire thing. River didn’t notice boys; she was too smart for that. Jayne didn’t touch crew unless he wanted to be blown out the airlock. Satisfied that his world was still spinning on its proper axis he headed down the ramp.
River felt itchy as they met with the end of the line for the cargo. The boxes of seeds. The Alliance restricted certain harvest foods that were considered high commodity. The ones in the box were mostly grains which would get a portion of Aldos off to a good start. River imagined shiny, waving fields of wheat.
The contact, Cerberus, was a decent kind of fellow. His two associates were not going to start anything. But his gun hand was greedy; the long greasy hair hid his eyes. River felt them like sludge on her skin.
The darkness stirred within her and she fought to not send her axe into his head. She listened to Mal making the exchange. The money changed hands without incident. Each party walked away.
Zoe and Mal relaxed when they could no longer see the buyers. However, Jayne didn’t. He was on edge.
“Went too easy, Mal,” he said when they were halfway to the port.
“Was my gorram charmin’ personality,” the captain replied with a look at River.
No sooner had the words left his mouth than a shot rang out and the captain cursed in Mandarin as he struggled to regain his feet. There was nothing around, they had no cover.
“Run!” Jayne yelled as Zoe pulled Mal up.
River grabbed Jayne’s arm and pulled him in the opposite direction.
“We’re goin’ the wrong way, girl,” he told her as gunfire whizzed past them.
“Buying time,” she assured him. “Captain is injured.”
“We are goin’ to get dead,” he yelled running beside her.
“He wants me alive,” she told him after the gunfire had ceased.
Jayne frowned as they came to a crop of trees. “What do ya mean?”
“The greasy one from the deal,” she shivered coming to a stop in the covered area. “His mind shouts painful desires. Knows the faces of the highest wanted, memorized mine. Planned out what he would do if he ever found me… before handing me over for bounty.”
Jayne nodded after a long moment. He had not been blind to the gun hand that had stared at the genius during the meet. “How do you wanna do this?”
River frowned at the big man. “You are giving me a choice?”
He shrugged, “figure ya know what you’re doing.”
Something in her took notice of this… freedom, the chance to choose. She straightened her shoulders, extending to her full height, though compared to Jayne it wasn’t much. She tilted her head calculating the odds.
It took a second for her senses to register the itch. By then it was too late. She shoved Jayne, hard. At the unexpected movement he grabbed her arm to try and retaliate. Inadvertently bringing her into the path of the bullet she had saved him from.
Simon paused in his exploration of Kaylee’s curves.
The mechanic’s eyes popped open, “Simon?”
“It sounded like someone opened the bay doors,” he whispered, straining his ears.
“You’re really paranoid about gittin’ caught, bao bei,” she teased resuming her hand’s path along his chest.
He stilled her hands. As something faintly came to him.
“It’s Zoe,” he finally said.
Kaylee reluctantly let him up. “I still say you’re…”
“Doc!” she could hear Zoe barely from their position in her bunk.
Simon pulled his shirt on and scrambled up the ladder. Kaylee took a little more time to get herself arranged vowing to lock Simon in with her next time they were alone on the boat.
When she entered the infirmary Zoe was standing with her arms crossed. Simon was busy with Mal’s side, blood staining the immaculate infirmary.
“Where’s Jayne and River?” Kaylee asked the first mate.
“Don’t know. River pulled Jayne away. The gunfire stopped after that.”
“I’m sure they got whoever shot the cap’n,” Kaylee announced cheerfully.
“There,” Simon said. “It was a through and through. It didn’t nick any organs. You’ll be fine.”
“Thanks doc,” Mal slid himself off the table.
“DOC!” a roar caught their attention.
Zoe ran towards the bay.
Simon took off his gloves and washed his hands before following Mal out of the infirmary.
The first mate stopped at the picture in the bay. Jayne was trying to man-handle River.
“I said to git to that brother of yours,” the merc snapped.
“I am fine,” River protested.
“Ya got shot!” he yelled in reply. “DOC!”
River’s hands covered the big man’s mouth, “cease with the ruckus that is your voice.”
“River?” Zoe called the girl as she came to the arguing pair.
“I am fine!” she snapped.
“You is bleedin’,” Jayne pointed at her shoulder.
“River,” Simon heard the last sentence and ran to her side. He immediately started inspecting the area.
River grabbed both his wrists in one hand and stepped back from him. “Stop.”
“You’re bleeding,” the doctor said slowly as though speaking to a small child.
She squeezed his wrists a bit to get him to focus on her, “I am fine.” When he wasn’t convince she continued, “projectile entered and exited through the ligaments of the clavicle, the muscles subscapularis, deltoid, and trapezius. The epidermis is lacerated. All will heal.”
“River I really should-” Simon started.
She let go of his wrists and ignored him as she headed away from all of them. She had a handkerchief pressed to the wound. Zoe followed.
River stood in the infirmary muttering darkly as she opened and slammed drawers shut.
“Takin’ it, you’re messing up his infirmary in retaliation?” Zoe said as she leaned against the doorway.
“Do not want to hear them buzz like angry bees,” she said as she tried to one-handedly open a gauze pack.
“Let me,” Zoe stepped over and took the gauze from the agitated young woman. She opened it while River pulled her flowing shirt over her head, leaving her clad only in black leggings and combat boots. Modestly she covered her breasts, slightly embarrassed. The first mate raised an eyebrow as she started cleaning the wound.
“Have no fitting underthings,” she supplied. “Simon was too stuffy to think about his sister needing them.”
Zoe’s lips twitched. “You have your cut from the last six jobs.”
“Yes,” she shrugged, “have not been to a decent planet where I could get such things.” Her eyebrows drew together as she tried to decipher something that had been eluding her.
She hissed as a disinfectant was applied. Zoe placed antibiotics on the gauze and wrapped it.
“Girl, tell them I di’n’t shoot ya,” Jayne yelled from the door of the infirmary. He paused as he saw her bare back. His mouth went dry.
“I’m not done with ya yet, Jayne!” Mal yelled as he came up behind him. He stopped short as his line of sight followed the merc’s. He yelped and turned around, a hand over his eyes.
Simon peeked around Mal to blush and step back.
“Jayne,” Zoe’s tone was enough to make the big man snap his gaze to another part of the infirmary.
River sighed, “Jayne is at fault, but he did not pull the trigger.”
“See,” Jayne growled at the two men. “I di’n’t – what do you mean it’s my fault?!”
“I pushed you out of the way,” River stated as Zoe nodded that she was done, “you pulled me into the bullet’s trajectory. It was unintentional but the fault of my injury lies with you.”
“At least I shot him,” Jayne argued, her lack of clothes flying out the window in the face of his annoyance.
“You injured him,” she replied also no longer aware of her state of undress as she turned around and walked up to confront him. Though, her hand stayed across her chest. “My knife ended his life! Your shot went only through his leg. I saved your life and killed him myself.”
She made her way through the three men.
“River,” Mal choked on his tongue, “I have rules about nakedness on this boat.”
River paused, looking over her shoulder at the captain whose hand lay across his eyes. “The only rules you’ve ever given me involve guns and my weapons.” She gingerly used her injured arm to pull hers out of its holster, dropping it to the table, “and I am in compliance with them, if Jayne will lock my broad axe and gun away.”
She continued on, passing Inara who only registered momentary shock before her Companion mask erased it.
The Companion stopped to see the rest of the crew, sans Kaylee who was on the bridge. “River seems to be taking a page from your book, Captain.”
Mal only sent her a withering look.
The crew sat at dinner that night; once again Serenity was floating through the black. River and Jayne had told them about the gun for hire who had planned to take River to the Alliance. This had only succeeded to send Simon and Mal into an argument.
“River cannot go on jobs with you anymore,” Simon told the captain. “It’s too dangerous.”
“Your sister can take care of herself,” Mal argued. “And I done told you ‘bout givin’ orders on my boat.”
“She is a little girl who you have shooting men.”
“And she does it quite well.”
“She got shot.”
“She don’t seem to be puttin’ up a fuss about it.”
“She is unstable and now that she is no longer taking her medicine–”
River stood suddenly, slamming her good hand into the table; her other in a sling. “She is right here!”
“Mei mei,” Simon said slowly reaching into his pocket.
“No!” she shouted again. “She wants to speak without interruption.” She dared anyone to try. “I admit to having stopped Simon’s blend of medicines. For the last thirty-nine day, seventeen hours, and six minutes I have been without them. I am stripped of my regulator; I feel all my feelings and being psychic I feel your strong ones. I am odd – a little cracked. I am sometimes lost in the spaces between things. My brain burning up so fast steam should pour from my ears.”
“If you go back on–” Simon started.
River leaned down pulling Jayne’s throwing dagger from his boot. And before anyone registered that, she had thrown it in an arc to land perfectly between Simon’s thumb and forefinger on the table.
“I am a nineteen year old genius,” she continued. “I have not done anything normal in my entire life. You all have given too much to for my escape,” she looked at Simon, “my life,” her gaze turned to Mal, “and my sanity,” she briefly met Zoe’s dark eyes. “It was all in vain if I am to stay confined, blanketed by medicine. Your sticky worry binds me to the point of immobility.
“No more. I will be me. I will have the same rules as the rest of the crew. I will not have my weapons kept from me. I will be pilot and gun hand and mei mei and albatross. But they will not be separate, they will be one, solid, singular. I will leave the ship when I choose, I will date who I choose, and I will spend my money how I choose.” She paused to look at all of them, “any questions?”
“Date?” Simon managed.
“Kaylee,” River looked at the mechanic, “how old were you when you started dating and having sex?”
“Sex?!” Simon squeaked.
Kaylee blushed, “sixteen.”
“Zoe?” the pilot demanded.
“Seventeen,” she shrugged. “Inara?”
“Nineteen,” the Companion admitted, “as is Guild Law.”
“Jayne?” River asked.
“Fifteen,” he smirked proudly.
“And you were seventeen, Simon.” River looked around the table, “I have suffered enough. I have been locked so far away… lost years to nightmares. No more. I will not be a pet bird to be locked up when its keeper is away, and taken out only long enough to look longingly at the light.”
She turned then and fled the mess.
“Tams,” Mal muttered, “always tellin’ me what to do on my gorram boat…”
Jayne took her plate, adding it to his. He paused as he set it down. In the wood was a dent, the perfect size of River Tam’s little hand.