Disclaimer: Joss, Owns em’. I’m just playing. No money being made.
I Choose You
“So, B... what do you want to do tonight?”
Buffy rolled her eyes. After five hundred years, you would think Faith would have come up with an original line. However the senior slayer decided to play along, “The same thing we do every night, Faith... we dust Vamps.”
Faith snickered and took a sip of her coffee, wincing at it's poor quality, “You would have thought that Startbucks would have survived the exodus...”
Buffy nodded, “It's all Blue Sun now.”
“Hwoon-dahns,” Faith swore.
Buffy smiled, “The coffee does suck. So does that protein crap.”
“Anyway... you heard from Red?”
Buffy shook her head, “Not for a while. Frankly I'm a little worried.”
“Hey. We lived this long because the Scythe supercharged our healing,” Faith began, “But Red does it with magic. She's not going to live forever... unlike us.”
“It helped her being frozen Periodically,” Buffy added.
Faith snorted, “Willowsicicle...”
Buffy matched her sister slayer's grin, “She thought it was cool.”
“In more ways than one,” Faith grinned at the not so obvious pun.
“So... any intel on Vamp nests here on Persephone?” Buffy asked, getting back to business.
Faith nodded, “Found a good sized one down near Eavesdown docks. Lots of homeless and transient folks down there. Easy picking for the Vamps.”
“Sounds like fun.”
“You up for this, old lady?” Faith asked, a cocky grin on her still young face.
Buffy once again roller her eyes, “I'm only a couple of years older than you. After five centuries, it's not much of a difference.”
Faith's face lost some of its cocky assurance, “I know, B...”
Buffy put her arm around her sister slayer's shoulder, “Who else besides us, Will and Dawn can say they remember Earth-That-Was?”
Dressed in their 'Slayer' garb of leather pants, tank tops and leather jackets, Buffy and Faith wandered through the throngs of the Eavesdown docks. The sun had just set and it was a bit early for the Vamps to be out. Buffy's eyes wandered over the crowds. As her mind drifted back as it often did.
The spell Willow had cast using the Slayer Scythe had not only activated all the latent Slayers, it had also enhanced Buffy and Faith's own powers. Since they were the only two 'natural' Slayers alive, they had received the bulk of the power.
They both were stronger, faster and their healing virtually stopped the aging process. After over five hundred years of life, both Buffy and Faith looked to be only in their mid twenties.
Not wanting to leave her friends, the Witch known as Willow Rosenberg had used her considerable power to slow her own aging process. It was no where as effective as what had benefited Buffy and Faith. Despite her best efforts and spending two hundred years in cryogenic suspension (in thirty to forty year increments), Willow had still aged a bit. She now appeared to be a woman in her early thirties.
Buffy's mystically created sister, Dawn was a conundrum herself. Dawn had aged normally until her twenty first birthday. From that day forward, she didn't age at all. While Buffy and Faith had millennia to live (if no one killed them first) Dawn, theoretically could literally live until the end of time itself. At least that's what they thought.
At the time, Buffy and Faith hadn't known about their own extended lives. They just knew that that they healed faster than the slayers created by the Scythe. In fact, that now supercharged healing had been what had allowed Buffy to escape the Hellmouth and the implosion of Sunnydale.
Willow had done what she could to see what had caused Dawn to stop aging. All to no avail. After about ten years, Buffy and Faith had realized that they were also no longer aging at a noticeable rate. Dawn had been ecstatic, upon realizing that instead of being alone, she and her sister would be together forever.
However, that led to the inevitable falling outs and reconciliations over the decades and centuries. Currently, Buffy and Dawn were in a cool period of their relationship. Hence, Dawn not being on Persephone with Buffy and Faith.
Willow had gone missing just before the Unification War. That was part of why Buffy and Dawn were estranged at the moment. Dawn had joined the military on the side of the Independents. Buffy, Dawn and Willow had tried to keep a low profile over the centuries. Changing their names every couple of decades and moving around a lot.
The hardest part had been during the Exodus. It took all of their skills to remain hidden among the civilian population on the journey.
Despite her magical prowess, Willow looked in to be her early forties by the time they had arrived at their destination. During her nearly one hundred years in space, the red headed witch's power had waned. But, as soon as humanity had set foot upon what was now, Londinium. Willow's power had come back in a rush. Reversing some of her visible aging.
Very few demons had followed Mankind from the planet of their birth. Only the ones who could pass as human, Vampires and the lesser demons Like the Brachans. All the really nasty ones had been left behind. Especially the ones who had forced mankind's migration
It hadn't been something the slayers could fight. Even with the help of the military. The would have been overwhelmed. So Mankind ran for the hills.
In the end, only the US, China and a few of the more prosperous European nations that had formed the necessary alliances to allow the migration.
The Slayers had been something else. The potentials that had been turned into Slayers by Willow's spell had aged normally. Unfortunately, new potentials became rare. Over the years, fewer and fewer were born. Within one hundred years of the exodus, the only two Slayers still alive were Buffy and Faith.
They hadn't seen a new potential in over one hundred fifty years.
Willow had theorized that they had 'burnt out' the genetic trigger with the spell that had made girls into potentials.
They had saved the world, but in the process, removed one of the ways to protect the 'Verse in the future.
“Hey, B? You awake?” Faith asked as the threaded their way through the crowds.
“Yeah...” Buffy replied, “Just thinking.”
Faith looked over at the woman who was not only her oldest friend, but someone who had become her sister, “I hear ya'. Been a long road, ain't it?”
“Sometimes too long, Faith.”
Faith nodded, “Sometimes wonder what it's be like... you know. To just let go...”
“I've been dead before,” Buffy replied with a smirk, “Even after all this time, I think I'd rather stay living...”
“Amen to that, B...”
Mal smirked slightly as he watched River pilot Serenity into Persephone's atmosphere. The deck plates began their crescendo of vibration. With the occasional sharper buck as the ship began to plow deeper into the air.
The reason for his smirk was the determined look on his young pilot's face. Broken by the chocolate chip cookie sticking out of her mouth.
“You gonna eat that, Albatross?” Mal commented from where he stood in the center of the bridge
River reached up with one hand, took a bite and chewed contentedly before answering, “Too good to waste,” she replied simply.
“I swear that woman is gonna make us all fat,” Mal remarked, “I don't know how she can make what looks like real food outta protein and a little rice...”
“Magic,” River grinned before taking another bite out of the cookie before turning her attention back to her flying.
Mal shook his head and turned on his heel. He then headed for the galley, hoping to grab one of Willow's batch of cookies before Jayne ate them all. He still didn't know how the hell she could make what looked like and tasted like real chocolate chip cookies from plain protein base. But he wasn't about to complain about it either.
He stepped into the galley and the now familiar face of his cook appeared as she stood up with another batch of cookies fresh from the oven. The smell was nearly mouth watering.
Mal was once again struck by the dichotomy that was the cook he hired two months ago. Willow Rosenberg was an attractive redhead who refused to spill her age. She looked about the same age as Zoë. Early to mid thirties, just a few years younger than himself. But her eyes...
Willow's eyes looked old. Smiling, most of the time but they looked like they belonged to someone who had seen and done more in her lifetime than anyone her age should have done.
Damn fine cook though.
“Hey, Captain,” Willow smiled, “Glad I'm not making a souffle...”
Mal nodded as he scarfed a cookie from the cooling rack on the counter, Willow frowned at him slightly before smiling again, “I reckon so, might make a nice pancake.”
Willow nodded, “So what's the job this time?”
Mal took a seat at the table while Willow slid him a cup of coffee. Grabbing a cookie and and a cup herself. Taking a seat, the redhead looked at her Captain.
“Resupply. Might have a job waiting from Sir Warrick Harrow. Done a little business with him in the past.”
Willow nodded, “No hacking then...”
Mal shook his head, “Don't think we'll need your particular skill set on this job... other then the food that is.”
With a slight jolt, Serenity settled to the ground. River's voice sounded from the intercom, “Attention travelers. We have arrived on beautiful moonlit Persephone. Home to a certain Weasel who just waved, Captain. The local time is 7:53 PM. Kaylee, you can shut us down.”
Mal finished his cookie and took a swig of his coffee before standing again, “Better see what the hwoon-dahn wants...”
“Tell him, I said hi,” Willow grinned.
Mal glared at his cook before shaking his head and heading back to the bridge.
As he walked , Mal reminisced about how, Miss Willow Rosenberg had become a member of his crew.
Two months earlier, They had run into a pickle out on Jiangyin... again.
The crew had just done a run of agricultural machinery from Dyton. After the drop off and with warnings to his crew to not get snatched like Simon and River had last time they had been on planet, it happened anyway.
This time it had been Kaylee. Simon had been beside himself with fear and anger. Even arming up with the rest of the crew and heading out on the rescue mission.
The kidnappers hadn't gotten far thanks to River sensing the mechanic's distress. They had just reached the village when two things had caught the crew's eye.
First, was a dirty and tired Kaylee being dragged off to a ramshackle house by two burly men.
The second was the unconscious and severely beaten woman tied to a stake in the center of the town.
For a split second, Mal had thought it was Yo-Saf-Bridge, his ex-sorta wife. Thanks to the woman's vibrant red hair.
Instead, it was another woman he vaguely recognized. She looked like a woman he had known from the war. An independent forces intelligence officer he had bumped into from time to time.
It was a different village than last time but still held the same kind of religious fanaticism that the townspeople that had kidnapped River and Simon held.
In a short, rather one sided firefight, Kaylee had been freed and Mal held his pistol in the face of the town elder.
“Cut her down, now!” Mal snarled.
“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live!” the gray haired man yelled back.
The ominous click of Mal cocking his pistol didn't phase the old man.
River's booted right foot to his temple did though.
Jayne cut the beaten woman down and carried her back to the shuttle they had used. Inara waiting impatiently at the controls.
With a crying Kaylee nearly carried by Simon and with River and Mal covering their escape, the shuttle headed back to Serenity.
Zoë had been pissed that she had been ordered to remain back on the ship. But being eight months pregnant, had made Mal insist she stay behind.
An hour later, deep in the black, Mal had walked into the infirmary, where Simon was both tending the scuffed up Kaylee and the still unconscious and beaten woman.
“How you doing, Lil' Kaylee?” Mal asked as he checked on her first.
“Shiny, Cap'n,” Kaylee replied, her usually sunny disposition only a little dimmed by her misadventure.
Mal turned his attention to the young doctor, “Report,” he said simply.
“Kaylee only has a few bruises.”
Mal nodded slightly, “And her?”
Simon sighed, “Two broken ribs and a minor skull fracture. Looks like she was clubbed from behind. The bruises on her face are both from the skull fracture and the rest of the beating she took.”
Mal nodded, “I think I know her. Hard to tell through the bruises. Looks like an officer I knew in the war. Intelligence branch. Some kinda computer expert.”
“That Lieutenant Rosenberg?” Zoë asked as she waddled into the infirmary.
“Who she looks like,” Mal agreed.
Mal turned his attention to his First Mate and best friend, “You okay, Zoë?”
“Fine, Sir. Other than Elizabeth is kicking up a storm right now.”
Mal grinned slightly. He had thought that he was going to loose Zoë to her grief after Wash had been killed. A month after they had gotten Serenity back up and running, Zoë had thrown up her breakfast. That combined with her late menses that month made her go to Simon.
Now, eight months after Miranda, Zoë was carrying Wash's child. A girl who Zoë had already named Elizabeth after Wash's mother.
Just when Mal thought he was going to loose his best friend, Zoë picked herself up by the bootstraps and forged ahead. She still cried at night in her bunk, but blamed it on the pregnancy hormones and mood swings.
But now, months later, the ship was making decent money thanks to the now retired, Inara's business contacts. A fact that made things a great deal safer for a crew that had lost so much in the last year.
Mal looked back at the redhead on the bed, “Glad we could get her outta there...”
“Indeed,” Simon agreed, “Having nearly gone through the same thing myself...”
“Wonder what they though she did to make em' think she was a witch?” Mal asked.
“Cause I am...” groaned out a tired voice from the woman on the bed.
Simon went immediately into doctor mode, “How do you feel?”
“Like go-se,” the redhead groaned.
The woman looked closely at the man standing next to whom she assumed was a doctor. Then the tall dark haired man next to him. A slight frown on her bruised face, “Sargent Reynolds?”
Mal smiled slightly, “Lieutenant Rosenberg...”
The woman relaxed slightly but reached out a hand and touched Mal's sleeve. Almost as if she wanted to know he was real.
“Surprised you remembered me,” Mal continued.
Her voice stronger, the redhead smiled, “You look remarkably like a very bad man I had to deal with when I was younger. Your face kinda sticks with a girl.”
Mal nodded, “Well I'll leave you in the Doc's good hands.”
“Where Am I?” the redhead asked.
“On my ship... Serenity.”
She relaxed, “Thank you.”
“No problem, LT,” Mal replied.
“That it is,” Mal agreed.
“Then you better call me Willow.”
Mal nodded and left Willow in Simon and Kaylee's capable hands.
The Captain stopped his musing as soon as he saw Badger's face on the wave screen.
“Bout bloody time,” Badger snarled.
The captain sighed while River giggled slightly. Mal thought some days weren't worth getting out of bed for. Particularly now that Inara shared his. With that happy thought in his head, Mal took a seat and proceeded to find out what the weasel wanted.
“Willow and I are going out,” River stated to her Brother, Kaylee and the Captain who had just returned from the bridge.
“Now wait a minute...” Mal began.
River puffed air through her lips, “Captain...”
“They'll be fine, Mal,” Inara said as she flowed into the room.
Mal looked at his Pilot and Cook and sighed, “Well I reckon since Jayne already took off, I suppose I could...”
“Thank you,” River beamed as she kissed Mal on the cheek. Kaylee giggled.
“Just... be careful Mei-mei,” Simon said as River also kissed him on the cheek
“Remember who you are talking to,” River huffed, “River the Reaver slayer...”
At River's remarks, Willow's eyes flew wide for a moment. She thought for just a second that the younger woman would spill the beans about their outing. River just winked at her.
“Keep a com handy... And I wish you would carry a gun, Willow,” Mal added.
“I hate guns,” Willow said with a grimace, “Besides, River has at least two on her along with her sword...”
Mal nodded as he eyed the hilt of the Katana that River had recently purchased. It was slung over her shoulder, within easy reach if she needed it. Not to mention the matching automatic pistols hanging from either hip. Mal had to admit, his Albatross was no pushover.
“Come on, Tree,” River grinned as she took the older woman's hand and led her towards the cargo bay.
Exiting the ship into the brightly lit neon light of the Eavesdown docks, River and Willow made quite the pair.
River, dressed in black skintight pants, a loose fitted teal top, combat boots and a black leather jacket. Willow wore bluejeans and a v-necked red shirt. Her old and worn in independent officers boots and had a small backpack slung over one shoulder.
As soon as they entered the large crowds, River began to pant slightly, “River?” Willow inquired.
“Noisy,” was all she said.
Willow nodded. River had known exactly who and what she was the second they had met. River had kept her mouth shut until they were alone. Then the logical scientist in River began to question Willow's belief in Magic.
After a quick practical demonstration, River had been thoroughly impressed and a little bit frightened when she realized that the scientific principles she had known all her life were now torn asunder by Willow's abilities. Now they were best friends. And River wanted a bit more than that.
As they threaded deeper into the crowds, with a whispered word and a slight movement of her fingers, Willow's magic flowed and she saw River relax, “Thanks,” the younger woman replied.
Willow smiled at River, once again trying to figure out their relationship. She and River were not lovers... yet. But they were more then just friends. The age difference was kind of a moot point since there was no one alive anywhere close to Willow's age except for Faith, Buffy and Dawn.
Buffy was too much like a sister and still mostly into men. Faith was Bi, or Slight as they called it now and Dawn... well Dawn was still still her Mei-mei. Besides, Willow hadn't seen any of them except Dawn since before the War. It happened from time to time. They would loose track of each other for a decade or two, then suddenly run into each other again.
Willow knew that Dawn and Buffy had a falling out because of Dawn joining the Independents. Willow had as well but not in a combat role. She had spent her time hacking into Alliance computer systems. Dawn had become a pilot and flew Angels. Becoming a multiple ace.
“You're thinking too much,” River said as she and Willow walked along.
“Sorry,” Willow replied.
“You think there will be Vampires here?” River asked.
Willow nodded, “Always plenty on Persephone. The light frequencies from Lux allow them to come out in the twilight hours.”
Another thing that attracted Willow to River was that she was almost certain that River Tam was a potential Slayer. The first she had seen in a long time. Thanks to the go-se, River had gone through at to the Academy, she would never be quite right, but a little magic from Willow, and River could function almost normally.
She could already fight as well as any Slayer. River just needed the enhanced speed, strength and healing. That was why Willow needed to find Buffy. Buffy still had the Scythe. With it, Willow hoped to activate River. And she prayed that the enhanced healing would fix River permanently.
Once that happened, Willow would probably give into both her own desires and River's advances. River wanted more from their relationship. Willow was hesitant. Her experiences with Tara and her misuse of Magic to bend Tara's mind to avoid arguments still clouded Willow's mind. She wanted River to want her for Willow. Not because her Magic cleared the young Psychic's mind.
As the two women entered the nearly deserted warehouse district, they heard the distinctive sounds of a fight.
Rounding a corner, Willow and River saw the cause of the noise. Nearly one hundred Vamps with their game faces on, surrounding a blonde and a brunette. The blonde held a large axe like weapon and the brunette, a wooden stake in one hand and a sword in the other.
The other thing they noticed was that the women looked like they were in trouble. Both were bleeding from various wounds and were breathing hard. There were numerous piles of dust around the space that denoted destroyed Vampires.
But the odds were just not in their favor.
Willow quickly glanced at River and immediately noticed the younger woman had drawn her sword into her right hand and a stake was in her left.
River winked once and with a battle cry, jumped into the crowd of Vampires. Her sword decapitating and dusting four in just one swipe.
The Vampires froze at the sudden flanking attack. Allowing River to fell nearly ten more before they began to react.
With the Vampire's attention drawn to the new threat, the Blonde and Brunette we able to regain some initiative and began dusting vamps as well.
Willow was amazed. With her psychic abilities, River was able to blend in with the two other women's fighting. The three women turned and struck with grace. The redheaded witch was so enthralled, she was almost snuck up upon by a Vampire.
But Willow had been around for a long time. She heard the vamp coming behind her and she smirked slightly as the Vamp turned to dust from the stake she had whipped out of her sleeve and buried in it's chest.
Flipping the stake around in her hand, Willow muttered something under her breath and then hurled the stake overhand.
The sharpened piece of wood flew through the air at great speed. Dodged around River and embedded itself in the chest of a female Vampire that had been trying to escape.
Then it happened. A vamp got in a lucky hit on the blonde and she flew through the air. Slamming against the warehouse wall. Stunning her. Her petite body actually embedded in the brickwork slightly. A blow that would have killed a normal woman. and critically injured a normal slayer. Considering who the blonde was, she was injured but so much as to truly endanger her life.
With a few Chinese curses on her lips, the brunette took out two Vamps with the axe like weapon that the blonde had dropped and then rushed to her side.
“B!” the dark haired woman called out.
Willow had know it was her two oldest friends fighting but Faith's nearly desperate scream when Buffy had been hurt began to well up the anger in the Witch's core.
As Faith tried to check on Buffy, another vamp got lucky and struck Faith in the side with a vicious kick. Lifting her off the ground with it's impact. Twenty feet away, Willow could hear ribs break. That vampire disappeared in a puff of dust as River severed his head.
With a grunt, Faith tried to regain her feet. Buffy was just coming around and River was now fighting alone.
River had killed over forty Reavers once but Vampires are different. For one. They are cunning and intelligent where Reavers are just insanely violent. Vampires are also immensely strong.
This was only the second time Willow had taken River out Vamp hunting and the previous times it had only been three or four to one odds.
Right now it was closer to sixty to one...
Realizing River was in serious trouble, caused a surge in Willow's power. Powered not by hate and fear, but by love and affection. Love and affection for the slightly crazy barely eighteen year old girl that was River Tam.
Willow's hair turned white as the power began to build. Her eyes began to glow with a white fire as well. Willow's hair and clothing began to whip around like she was standing in the center of a gale. But there was no wind.
River had killed nearly fifteen more vampires but had steadily been forced back towards the two injured women.
“Iluminatos!” Willow cried as she thrust out her hands. Beams of incredibly white light shot from her palms. The first Vamp struck by the light instantly exploded into dust.
Willow scythed the beams through the crowd of Vampires like a laser. River, Faith and the still groggy Buffy had to shield their eyes from the light.
In seconds it was over. Dust piles littered the ally and there wasn't a Vamp in sight.
With the threat eliminated, Willow's hair began to fade back to red and she dropped to her knees in exhaustion.
Blinking her eyes to clear them, Buffy tried to sit up but cried out in pain, “Wills?” she croaked out.
River was at Willow's side in an instant, “Are you alright?”
The redhead nodded, “I'll... be fine. That sure takes a lot... outta a girl...”
Faith had struggled to her feet but was clutching her chest on the left side, “Red? That you?”
“Hey, Faith,” Willow grinned as River helped her back to her feet. As soon as Willow was standing almost steadily, River sprinted to the still prone Buffy.
“How do you feel?” River asked the blonde Slayer.
“Not so good... Are there supposed to be three of you?”
River smirked, “There's only one me.”
“Oky-dokey.. not so great then...”
River looked over her shoulder to Willow, “Need to get them to Ge-ge.”
Willow nodded as she regained her strength, “I'm still pretty wiped out but I think I can port us back to Serenity.”
“Whoa there, Red,” Faith winced as her obviously broken ribs protested, “Who the hell is she and where are we going?”
“Serenity... the ship Willow and I are on,” River began, “My brother is a Doctor.”
“And you are?” Faith asked.
River took Willow's hand in her own, “I'm her's. My name is River.”
Faith took an appreciative and long look at River and smiled slightly, “She's cute, Red. But ain't she a little young for you?”
Willow rolled her eyes, “Everyone's a little young for me...” she began, “And we're not together...”
“Umm, little help here...” Buffy said from her spot on the ground, “Things are still a bit spinny...”
Willow and River moved to help Buffy to her feet. As soon as the blonde was on her wobbly feet, River looked down the alley.
“Feds on the way. Made too much of a ruckus...”
Faith looked a little concerned, “Feds? Can you walk, B?”
“With some help, Maybe.”
River's eyes went a little distant, “Cargo bay is clear...”
Willow nodded, “Everyone hold hands.”
Buffy and Faith complied. River smiled as her hands slid into both Willow and Faith's.
“Crap... the Scythe...,” Faith blurted out.
“I got it,” Willow said as her eyes began to glow softly. The ancient weapon floated over their heads and then hovered in the center of the circle the four women had made.
Willow began to chant something quietly and then with force said, “Take nos domus!”
In a flash of light, the four women disappeared. The only trace that showed they had been there were footprints in the dust and ash from the fallen Vampires.