Title: Out of Barbarity, a Renaissance*
Summary: Ignorance has always been the weapon of tyrants; enlightenment the salvation of the free. Bill Richardson
Notes: Written for Snag
as a belated prize for 2009 August Fic-a-Day Challenge completion.
Notes2: Set pre-Firefly
Word Count: ~1,500
Betas: Kayla Shay
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and/or Angel the Series, they belong to Fox, the WB/UPN, Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, etc. The characters of Firefly belong to Mutant Enemy, Inc., Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. The ideas and concepts in this story are mine entirely. Please do not copy or take this story without my permission.
It was a crisp morning, the sun still rising into the sky, and the frost from the night before clung to the plants along the trail. A cool gust of wind caught the collar of Xander’s jacket, pushing it open, and cold raced down his neck and chest causing him to shiver. He pulled one hand off the controls and pulled the zipper up higher and ducked his chin to further block the wind.
“Please tell me it gets warmer,” one of the girls asked and he thought it might have been Gabrielle.
“Just coming through the winter. When summer gets here you’ll be wishing for this,” Nixie answered for him. She had been with him the longest. He’d rescued her when she was just a scrawny, seven year old, doe-eyed brunette from being sold into slavery. Now twenty years later, she’d grown into a beautiful and dangerous woman, she was his second in command, and the best friend that he’d had in over a century.
Even over the wind of the mule cutting through the valley, Xander was able to hear the unhappy sighs of the newest arrivals. ~*~*~*~*~
Xander slowed the mule to a stop, hovering just in front of the gate. He raised his hand to shield against the sun and looked up at Rebecca manning the gate. He gave her a wave and she gave him a brief nod back before she got to work at pulling the gate back far enough let the mule in.
Xander slowly maneuvered the mule and its cargo cart through and onto the farm. It was a short drive past the barns before he pulled up in front of the girls’ house. He dropped the anchor to secure the mule and cut the engine.
Nixie hopped off the seat next to him and immediately started to help the younger girls out of the cart. Xander slowly climbed out himself, raising his arms above his head and twisting from side to side to crack his back.
“Get them settled in. I’ll work on putting together some breakfast,” Xander stated as he turned his attention to Nixie.
She paused in hauling supplies out of the cart and gave him a brief nod. “Give us thirty to get settled in.”
Xander left the girls to settle in and walked across the dirt courtyard and to the main building, where the farm’s occupants all gathered for meals and where Xander resided.
He climbed the four steps up to the porch. The door creaked as he pushed it in and stepped inside. He turned to shut the door behind him, took a deep breath and walked into the kitchen. He grabbed the large coffee pot from stove and moved over to the sink. He turned on the water and started to fill it up.
“I don’t suppose you’re here for a cup of joe?” Xander spoke. The hairs on the back of his neck rose as he heard the soft rustle of clothes behind him.
“No, I can’t say I am,” a smooth, male voice replied from behind him, on the other side of the kitchen.
“Didn’t think so,” Xander replied and shut off the water. He placed the pot back on the stove and turned around to face his intruder.
He was Xander’s height, took care of his body but dressed to hide it, and his hair, a few shades darker than his skin, was starting to gray at the temples. He was well armed, but Xander’s eye focused on the gun that was pointed at him.
“What’re you here for?” Xander asked as the man took a few steps forward, closing the distance.
“Me?” Xander couldn’t help the laugh. His girls he would believe. The rest of the residents of this farm – maybe. But it had been a long while since anyone’d come for him.
“You are to be retrieved, dead or alive is of no consequence.”
“I’ve found it best not to ask questions in my line of work.”
“As the answers could pose problematic,” Xander replied let out a slow breath. His girls could come in that door at any moment and, as he held the man’s gaze, he knew they’d die without little more than a blink and no thought of their lives. He needed to get the man away, away where he could handle him on his own.
“Well then let’s take a walk. I’ll go peaceful-like and –“
“I am not a fool Xander Harris,” the man abruptly cut him off. “While it would be easier to walk you off this property under your own power, it will not be the case.”
Xander lunged, pushing forward at the man. While he was clearly surprised at the move, he hesitated only a moment before pulling the trigger. The gunshot exploded in the kitchen, ringing in Xander’s ears as the bullet punched him in the chest. His lunge was cut off and he staggered back, hand immediately going to his chest as blood started to soak his shirt. The intense pain made it impossible to remain standing and Xander crumpled to the floor. The man came around the table, gun still trained on him, and Xander held his gaze as his vision darkened and finally went black.~*~*~*~*~Awareness washed over him and he fought hard to refrain from moving his limbs. His head throbbed and his stomach roiled and he bit his lip, drawing blood, to keep from throwing up. He remembered standing over the young man, watched as the light in his lone eye disappeared and his lifeblood soaked his shirt. He had moved, slid his gun into his holster, and stooped to pick up the body of his assignment. He didn’t see or hear what hit him.
“There’s tea ready, should help calm your stomach,” a female voice spoke directly in front of him. Her voice was harsh, anger laid over the words or perhaps in having to say them.
He flinched at the close contact, angry at himself that he hadn’t picked up her presence when he’d come to.
“You don’t need to go on pretendin’ anymore, assassin. We already know you’re awake,” a younger female voice called out, further away from the first.
He opened his eyes, cringing at the harsh light flooded directly in his eyes. He blinked several times and focused on the beautiful brunette that had left with Xander Harris and returned on the mule beside him. He wondered what she had planned for him now that he’d carried out part of his assignment.
She held out a cup of steaming liquid, eyes watching him careful, expectedly. “Do ya want it or not?” she asked, shaking the cup a little, and the liquid sloshed around, almost spilling out to burn her fingers.
He was about to comment about being restrained when he realized his hands were loose, hanging numb at his sides.
Stupid, stupid. The thought gave him hope, and he felt that tiny glimmer start to blossom at his survival and completion of his assignment. Slowly, he raised his hands, ignoring the pain it created in his shoulders, and the pins and needles sensation that crawled along his fingers.
The young woman backed away, putting more distance between them, and his eyes widened in shock as he spotted the body of Xander Harris had been moved from the floor to a seat at the kitchen table. Odd didn’t even begin to cover the choice of places to move a body. And then Xander blinked.
Fear cut through him and he came to his feet in a rush. The chair spilled backwards and the mug full of tea shattered at his feet, the hot tea splashed up and soaked into his pants, burning him where it soaked through.
“I shot you,” he heard himself say. “I killed you,” he added, though his voice was less certain in that comment.
“Both, I assure you, were quite painful,” Xander replied and looked over at the brunette standing between them. “Would you get him another cup of tea, Nix?”
He watched as
Nix gave a slight nod and turned her attention on fixing another cup of tea. She handed the mug to Xander though and he set it down on the table at the seat opposite him.
Xander looked back up at him, grim determination set into his features, and he swallowed heavily. He knew that look, knew it because he’d seen it on his own face too often. Xander Harris was a man that would do what needed to be done. Not because he enjoyed it, but because there was no other choice. “Would you have a seat?” Xander asked and gestured to the empty chair. It was phrased as a question, politely even, but he knew better than to decline.
He gave a quick but thorough glance around the room and was surprised by the amount of girls surrounding them. Some had weapons drawn on him, others stood, hands empty but clearly ready for a fight. He moved forward, stepped over the broken shards of his first mug, and took a seat across from Xander Harris.
Minutes quickly turned to hours as Xander Harris spoke. The girls moved around them, prepared a meal, served him his own plate, and ate their own while he listened to words honestly delivered yet impossible to believe.
It was as the sun started its descent from the sky, that Derrial Book began to finally question.
*Title taken from the following quote by Pierre Schaeffer: “The only hope is that our civilization will collapse at a certain point, as always happens in history. Then, out of barbarity, a renaissance.”