Hands of Blue
Title: Hands of Blue
Disclaimer: Joss Whedon owns all the stuff you recognize as his. I’m not making any money off of this. No copyright infringement is intended.
Spoilers: Everything for Buffy and Firefly.
Prompt 26: Money
“You think I’d turn you in for money?”
“You said that River was worth, what was it, assloads of money?” Simon answered from her right, leaning against the counter with his arms crossed. Kaylee had barely set Buffy’s tray of food down before Mal and the doctor had stormed in and brought the Spanish Inquisition.
“First off, I said core doctors make assloads of money,” Buffy retorted hotly, swallowing the pain in her throat, and trying to keep the hoarseness out of her voice, “and secondly, just because I said she was worth that much to the Alliance doesn’t mean I’d turn her in to those bastards, and did ever occur to you,” Buffy continued her diatribe swiftly, “that maybe, just maybe, I only recognize your faces because I keep up with the Most Wanted list, just so I know if I ever pop up on it?!”
She finished her rant with a glare at Simon’s profile.
“Then why’d you bring it up in the first place?” Malcolm asked from the doorway.
She rewarded him with an eye roll as she turned her attention to him, “Because I’m bored, and the reason why a sixteen-year old girl and her fancy-pants doctor brother are at the top of the Alliance’s hit-list without a reason listed has to have a story behind it.”
“Seriously,” Buffy added as she turned back to Simon, “Either you have a tape of your sister being in a compromising sexual position with the Prime Minister, or she’s a professional spy who stole state secrets for an insurgent movement you’re the leader of. I’m currently leaning towards option one.”
“What! No!” Simon exclaimed, as the Captain tried to hide his smirk and Jayne openly leered.
“Then you’re the head of an insurgency?”
“No! Gah, where do you get this?” Simon asked, pushing himself off the counter.
“Some people monitor and speculate about the personal lives of politicians and celebrities. I speculate about the lives of the criminal and infamous,” she said with a shrug. “And you still haven’t answered my question.”
“What question?” Simon asked as he tried to wrap his head around Buffy’s thought process.
“What, did, your, sister, do?” Buffy enunciated, lolling her head around to face Mal. “I’m not gonna rat you out, whatever it was,” she directed at Mal.
“She didn’t do anything,” the captain answered after a thoughtful moment, “it’s what the Alliance did her is why they’re so keen to get her back.”
“Captain!” Simon said shocked and looking to get angry.
“She knows you’re on the run and what the reward is. Knowing why ain’t gonna make a damn bit a difference, except letting her know how much trouble she’d be in should she ever let slip she ever met you. Besides,” Mal added, “so long as you’re on my boat, I decide who I tell what about you two. You don’t like it, you’re welcome to leave.”
“You have no right to tell strangers our personal business –” Simon argued but was interrupted.
“It ain’t personal business if it’s splattered all over the gorram cortex. Either you tell her or I will,” Mal said forcibly, and Buffy had to admit, watching these two guys fight was about the most entertaining thing she’d seen in months.
“Why are you so determined to tell someone who you don’t even know, and who is probably a psychotic killer –”
“–and who won’t even be on the boat in a few weeks secrets that could get us caught!”
“Because if there’s one gorram person in this verse who knows anything about Alliance secrets, and might be in a position to make your sister less crazy it’d be her!” Mal shouted, pointing at Buffy, as he got right in Simon’s face.
What the hell were they talking about?
Mal continued, “because if there’s people that know about whatever the hell it was the Alliance was trying to do, and if what you said about the ones who helped you break her out the Academy is true, then there is, odds are she’d know who they were or people who could find them.” Mal took a breath, even as moved in closer, making Simon step back.
“Ain’t no one in this verse that stole more classified Alliance documents during the war, and I’d lay odds there’s something she knows that might help you and your sister out. And the next time I do something that you don’t understand, you will not stay in the way until you get an explanation. So long as you’re on my boat, you do as I say, when I say it. Dong ma?” Mal finished stepping back.
Simon waited a moment and then nodded.
“Good,” Mal said, and then they turned to Buffy.
Who was looking at them with a face so blank and still, Simon had a moment’s panic that she was dead, and then –
“Did you say The Academy?” Buffy asked, her expression devoid of emotion, but her eyes intense on Simon.
Simon got a sinking feeling in his stomach, even as hope shot through his heart.
Mal just smirked, “Told ya.”
“Her food’s gonna get all cold,” Kaylee said worriedly from the kitchen doorway as she stood staring down the hallway that led to the infirmary where Jayne and the Cap’n were interrogating Buffy. Again.
“It can be warmed up,” Zoe said pragmatically from her seat at the table where the rest of the crew were eating.
“It ain’t as good leftovers, and they could have damn well waited until Buffy got a hot meal in her. The poor girl’s skinny as a rail, and hasn’t eaten in days. They’re being cruel for no reason,” Kaylee protested angrily, not budging from her position at the door.
“She knows about Simon and River, Kaylee. And considering her past…” Inara began gently, but was interrupted by Kaylee whirling around on all of them.
“Of COURSE she knows about Simon and River. Their warrants are splattered all over the cortex, and anyone who even glances at the most wanted would remember ‘em. Buffy’s on the run from the Alliance! Don’t you think she’d keep up with that in case her face ever popped up?” Kaylee scolded them stridently.
Zoe frowned. Kaylee was getting awfully protective of the Slayer. That wasn’t good. “Kaylee, it doesn’t matter how she knows. What matters is what she’ll do with that information. For all we know, she’d turn them in to secure her own freedom from the Alliance. Or use them as bait to get back at them. The Slayer’s motives for doing what she did were never clear. We need to make sure she won’t go to the feds once we drop her off. The captain’s just trying to protect this crew,” Zoe admonished her quietly.
Kaylee crossed her arms, and adopted the stubborn look on her face that everyone knew meant she wouldn’t budge, “Cap’n coulda waited til after she’d eaten. I saw the way she was eyeing the tray ‘fore the cap’n made me take it out. Girl woulda wolfed down the whole thing in less’n five minutes. He coulda waited five minutes.”
Zoe simply went back to her meal. Arguing with Kaylee wasn’t going to get her anywhere, and she already had one too many arguments on her hand. She looked at Wash next to her who was concentrating on his meal.
Wash, sensing the attention of an arguing woman turn toward him, spoke up quickly, “Hey, I just fly the ship,” he said looking at Kaylee, “I have no opinion on this matter, I think everyone is entitled to food and interrogations equally, and I know nothing of motives, pasts, or food preparation. I’m in the dark on this whole matter,” he said exaggeratingly as he turned to Zoe, “And apparently a lot of other things. Who knows what I might not know!” He proclaimed before turning his attention back to his food, ignoring everyone’s stares at his outburst.
Zoe’s eyes narrowed at him. Oh yeah, bedtime was gonna be real fun tonight.
Book, as always, moved in to defuse the situation before things escalated, “I’m sure the Captain and Jayne won’t be long, Kaylee,” he said placatingly. “You know Jayne won’t stand for missing out on a meal.”
Kaylee just turned her back on them and went back to staring down the hallway.
“What do you know about the Academy?” Simon asked warily.
Buffy just kept looking at him with that intense, blank expression.
Then she turned to Mal, “That depends.”
Ching-wah TSAO duh liou mahng!
“Depends on what?” Simon asked getting riled up, not noticing Mal’s mirrored expression of anger.
“On what we’re planning on giving her in exchange for the information,” Mal answered for her.
Simon looked from Mal to Buffy, “You’re going to extort us!”
Buffy’s expression went back to bored and contemptuous. “Why is it that all doctors are either evil or stupid?”
She turned back to Mal, “I want two weeks to heal up, safe passage to Persephone or Alder, whichever one you’re heading takes you close to, and all my belongings. Then I’ll tell you everything you could ever want to know about the Academy.”
“What belongings?” Jayne answered gruffly from Mal’s right.
Buffy smiled, “You know. All the stuff the Tripon settlers put on board.”
“Tsway niou, that ain’t yours!” Jayne argued, tightening his hold on his gun.
Buffy ignored him, and kept her focus on Mal who was staring at her assessingly, even as Simon spoke up beside her, “How do we know you’re not bluffing. You’ve been off the radar for years. Any information you might have on the Academy would be out of date. If you have any information at all,” Simon ended accusingly.
Buffy rolled her eyes over to glare at him before turning her head toward River, who had been sitting quietly on the bed in the wall on Buffy’s left. She was still staring at Buffy, though Buffy was starting to get used to it, and had been calm and complacent throughout the argument. Buffy stared back intently, until River broke her gaze and looked down at her hands that she was bringing up to examine in the blue light over her head.
Mal and Jayne who could see Buffy’s profile, saw recognition flare before she quickly turned back to Simon.
“Has she ever mention men wearing blue gloves to you?” Buffy asked stridently.
“What?” Jayne asked, mirroring Mal’s thoughts.
“Blue gloves?” Simon answered, puzzled. “No, she hasn’t. What do blue gloves have to do with anything?”
Buffy looked surprised for a moment. “Are you sure? She’s never brought it up? A pair of men wearing blue gloves. Maybe after waking up from a nightmare, or –”
“I’d think I’d remember a conversation where men’s glove fashion was the topic,” Simon answered testily, and Mal said, “Darling, that girl’s said a lot of crazy talk, but I don’t reckon I recall her ever – ”
“Two, by, two. Hands. Of. Blue.”
Every head turned to River, still staring intently at her hands, her brow furrowing.
“Two, by two. Hand. Of blue.”
Simon spoke up, looking dazed, “Except for that.”
“Two by two. Hands of Blue,” River was starting to look decidedly upset by then, and Simon went over to calm her down.
Mal’s response was as eloquent as ever, “Huh.”
“What the gorram hell does that mean?” Jayne asked looking spooked.
Buffy rolled her eyes, “Idiots.”
She turned back to Mal. “It means that the Alliance has sent a very special type of agent after River,” Buffy answered, “They wear blue gloves,” Buffy held up two fingers, “and they only ever come in groups of two.”
“Two by two…” River was still muttering from the corner, although Simon had calmed her down some, while still listening intently to Buffy.
“They’re not something you’ve ever faced before, and they have more than one trick up their sleeves. The fact that River knows about them would be enough to have such a large bounty on her head, though if she came from the Academy, they have even more reason to want her back. If they’re tracking her, they will find her. And when they do, they’ll kill all of you before you even know they’re there. Unless you know what you’re up against.”
Buffy looked pointedly at Mal, “Which you won’t, unless I tell you.”
“We could force it outta ya,” Jayne said, his trigger finger itching.
Buffy gave him a smile that Jayne found positively creepifying, “Try.”
“Doc,” Mal said, “get your sister on up to the mess. Then help Kaylee bring Buffy her dinner,” Mal turned and walked out the door, “Jayne, keep an eye on our guest.”
“Hey, I gotta eat too!” Jayne hollered after Mal. He kept walking.
Buffy sighed tiredly as she closed her eyes and laid her head back. Mal would give her what she wanted, and she could move on without having to kill anyone here. She breathed in deeply, ignoring Jayne’s loud grumbling. It was always a good thing in her book when she could move on to another world or ship without having to leave massive amounts of dead people behind her.
She’d done enough of that to last her lifetimes.