Title: Spending Time
Pairing: Spike/Xander eventually
Summary: The envelope with the amulet in it didn't get to Angel after the fall os Sunnydale. In fact, no one opened it for a very long time. [SLASH]
Spoilers: All of Buffy, all of Firefly, and the movie Serenity are up for grabs.
Disclaimers: I own nothing. They aren't my characters, it's not my 'verse. I'm just grateful to get to play there.
Author’s Notes: I realize I already have a WIP going, but I was digging around on my computer and found this story mouldering away. I thought I should air it out and let it see the light of day.
Feedback: Makes me get all smiley.
Three figures crept quietly down the darkened hallway, weapons drawn, eyes wary. The carpet under their feet was plush and muffled their footsteps. They moved in a staggered formation. Zoe came first, sidling along close to the wall, her dark eyes counting the doorways that they passed. Mal followed behind her, but on the opposite side of the hall. Jayne brought up the rear, watching behind them and keeping one hand near his belt at all times. He never went into a job without grenades anymore, just in case.
After several minutes of this stealthy approach, Zoe paused. She cocked her curly head at the door to her right, then took up a guard position on one side. Mal waited while Jayne caught up and took the other side of the door. Opening the door carefully, Mal slipped inside and looked around. 'Just as advertised. One desk, one sofa, one rug uglier than the deck after transporting cattle. And bingo - one fireplace.'
He stepped up to the fireplace and ran his hands along the mantle. Finding a seam with his fingertips, Mal slid open a small panel, revealing a key pad. "Here goes," he muttered quietly. Holding his breath, he punched in the code he'd been given. For a moment nothing happened. Disappointment pushed at him, and he raised a hand to slam against the go-se piece of equipment when the wall above the mantle opened with a hiss. "Shiny!" he smiled, reaching in to retrieve the contents.
Then he stopped. He'd been hired to lift two metal cases from the safe. Inside staring right at him, were three cases. They appeared to have characters painted on the lids, but the light was too dim for him to read them. "Of all the ruttin' luck," he grumbled. Mal sighed and grabbed all three cases, stowing them in the satchel at his hip. "Can't never have a caper go the way I plan it," he grumbled. He'd figure it out on the ship. Right now, it was time to grab his crew and go home.
Back on Serenity, the crew gathered around the dining table to look at their haul. In the light, the three cases were still almost identical. Plain smooth metal, they were all marked with the same wolf, ram, and deer characters across the lids. Two of them also bore a family glyph on one corner. Those were the ones their client had sent them for. The third had no glyph, only a number.
"Ain't you gonna open it?" Jayne had all the patience of a puppy. After restraining himself for a stealthy burgle with no violence, he was all tensed up and was using his curiosity about the box as an outlet. Plus, if the contents were worth anything, he'd get a cut. 'Wonder if I get a bigger cut now that Wash is gone? Wonder if Zoe'd rip off my man parts if I ask that out loud?'
"I don't know, Sir. Maybe we should hold onto it as a bargaining chip. Seems like the clients might pay to get it, or we could offer to sell it back to the former owners," Zoe said cautiously. Her large brown eyes were wary as they measured the mystery case, weighing possible gains against possible catastrophic risks.
"You're no fun, Zoe. I say go we for it, Cap'n. Whatever's inside, we can handle it." Kaylee smiled in anticipation. River smirked at the mechanic's words. "Simon might not like you handling it," the girl said softly, eyeing the way her brother stood with his arms around Kaylee's waist.
"Only way to find out is to jump right in," Mal said, rubbing his hands together. He took a deep breath and triggered the catch. The crew froze as they watched the captain lift the lid off the case. Inside was a large paper envelope. Mal picked it up carefully. "Somethin' inside here. Like a gorram nesting doll," Mal muttered as he slit the envelope open.
When the object inside slid out onto the table, Mal smiled in triumph. "That is one hell of a gewgaw," he said, studying the large necklace. He mentally reviewed a list of fences he could take it to. The facets of the center stone caught the light in the room and reflected it back, painting wild patterns on the walls. Suddenly, the stone flashed brighter and brighter, till a dazzling burst blinded the crew. When they could see again, the necklace wasn't all that lay on the table.
The sprawling form of a body took up most of the space. The crew gawked openly at the man who lay there, taking in clunky boots, a long black coat, and unnaturally pale hair. Kaylee breathed, "Wo de ma he ta de feng-kuang de wai-sheng dou!" The man on the table lifted his head and fixed bright blue eyes on the mechanic. "Sorry, luv. I don't speak Chinese," he said clearly before his eyes rolled back. His head thumped the table as he passed out again.
Spike came to slowly. When he found himself on an examining table, he was almost overwhelmed by memories of the Initiative. He fought down his panic and opened his eyes. He found himself in a small infirmary. It was nothing like the huge, cold laboratory his memory had conjured, and he began to relax a bit.
Outside the door, he saw a small crowd of people all talking at once. Well, he wasn't one to lie about, all silent and helpless. "Oi! Who are you lot, then?" he called. As one, the people turned to face him. A tall man with dark hair stepped to the front of the group. He walked toward the table, his jaw set stubbornly.
"I think the real question here if how you came to be on my boat." Mal hated surprises. And it was pretty safe to say that a man popping out of a necklace was the biggest surprise the 'verse had yet to throw at him. He wanted some answers right quick.
"That is the $10,000 question, isn't it? One minute I'm under the Hellmouth, fighting the baddies. I made sure the girls were safe, and then...foom. I'm dusted, dead. That's all I know." Spike hadn't had time to process the fact that he wasn't dead. He'd expected to be dust, made his sacrifice, played the Champion. And now here he was. What the hell had happened?
Mal looked skeptical. "You're mighty articulate for a dead man," he pointed out. For some reason, that made the man on the table smile.
"Ta, mate," Spike replied. "I've always thought I was wittier than your average corpse." Movement from another member of the group caught his eye. For just a moment, he saw the long brown hair and the graceful, dancer's movements and he thought she was his Dawn. Then he looked into eyes that were brown instead of blue and shook his head to clear the confusion.
"You're alive," the girl said simply, coming to stand beside him. "I think we just established that," Spike snarked at her.
River stared intently at Spike, willing him to understand the truth. "No," she said, "you're alive." She stressed the second word heavily. Spike drew a breath to reply and suddenly stopped. He'd been breathing all along. He splayed one hand along his chest and pressed the fingers of another to his throat, seeking a heartbeat or pulse. He found both.
"Bloody hell! I'm alive," he whispered in disbelief. How could this have happened? What was he going to do? He was not only not dead, he was human. This had to be some major mojo. Red wouldn't have done this to him. Not since she'd started being so careful with her magic. Spike couldn't think of anyone else with the power and the motive to work a spell like this.
River looked at the man on the examining table in sympathy. He looked shocked - part disbelieving and part terrified. It was the tiny glimmer of hope she saw that made her speak more. She wanted that hope to grow. "Demon's burnt all away. You made the sacrifice and it was accepted. Now you can be the good man you wanted to be. You're not a monster anymore."
"Touching as all this is, I gotta ask what the HELL is going on?" Mal turned to Simon. "I thought we got all the crazy out of her, Doc. Why's she babbling on about demons now?"
"Captain, we are never going to get 'all the crazy out.' Her amygdale has been stripped and she sees a lot more than the rest of us. River is never going to think or react quite the way most rational people do. But she is an intelligent and caring person, so I will thank you not to talk about my sister like she's a broken machine!" Simon ran a frustrated hand through his hair. "That said, I have no idea what she's talking about."
Spike glared at the two men. "Oi! The bird ain't crazy. Trust me, I know crazy. I've seen crazy, I've loved crazy, I've been crazy. She ain't it."
"It's alright," River touched Spike's arm, trying to sooth him. "I'm not...normal. They can't help that. They've seen me do things, say things. They have reasons to call me crazy."
Spike felt an instantaneous connection to this strange girl, and wanted to help her. "Maybe if you tell me about it, I can help, Pet," he suggested.
"I hardly think that's likely. Alliance doctors cut into her brain. They subjected her to behavior modification experiments and conditioned her so that they can trigger her to become a weapon. On top of all that, she is a psychic, and is forced to carry memories of violence she never committed. Now, I seriously doubt that you can help her overcome that kind of trauma." Simon was breathing hard, both at the thought of all that his sister had been through and at the presumption of this stranger. 'Who does he think he is, anyway?'
"Actually," Spike said, his voice calm even after that tirade, "I've been in her shoes. I've been captured and had my brain experimented on. I've had behavior modification forced on me with negative reinforcement. I've been implanted with a trigger that caused me to kill people against my will. And after I got my soul back, I've had to carry around the memories of what my demon did. I've been there, mate. And I'd like to help the chit if she'll have me." He turned to look at River. "But I won't do anything you don't want, Pet. It's your choice."
"You've just gone through a da bien-hua. Are you sure you want to help me?" River's eyes were wide as she watched the newcomer's face.
"I died, Imp. That cleared my schedule right up. I don't really have anything else on my dance card at the moment."
"You can stay for now. I got nowhere to drop you but out the airlock, anyhow. But if you cause problems for my crew, believe that I will not hesitate to send you out that airlock, no matter what jewelry you popped out of." Behind Mal's back, Jayne nodded vigorously at this statement. "If you're gonna be here a spell, we need to know what to call you."
River reached out and touched Spike's shoulder. "You're a man again, through and through. Could be William, like you were when you were clean."
"Thanks, luv, but I haven't been William for a very long time, and a pulse isn't going to change that." He patted her hand and looked around at the waiting crew. "My name is Spike. And where the hell am I, anyway?"
go-se - crap
Wo de ma he ta de feng-kuang de wai-sheng dou - Holy mother of god and all her wacky nephews
da bien-hua - big change, transformation