Story: The Awaited One
Chapter 2: Sky-plex
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.
It was late when Inara finally sought out the young genius. She tapped quietly on the door to her passenger room. “River?”
She appeared after a moment looking pale and drawn. “Yes, Inara?”
“I was wondering if you might like a late cup of tea with me,” she offered. “I wanted to speak with you.”
River nodded and followed the Companion to her shuttle.
Inara poured two cups of tea. “This is a natural relaxant. I often have it before bed. It may help with any residual pain in your shoulder.”
A small nod was followed by a small sip.
“You sent Mal and Simon into another argument.”
River frowned, “not a fair assessment. They are prone to argument without my interference.”
Inara indulged in a smile. “They do tend to raise their voices when near each other.”
“Avoid it,” she grimaced, “hurts my head.”
“Mine too, and I’m not a Reader.” Inara waited a moment before asking, “what if they do not allow you your life?”
“I will leave,” she met Inara’s eyes. “I am not a Companion. I want no signs that declare I am only to be admired. Left untouched, I will scatter to the winds and be lost.”
“What put this at the forefront of your mind?”
River set the teacup down and shrugged, grimacing slightly. “I waited for them to agree to the rules they have for everyone else. Didn’t. Captain locked up my weapons, but let me pilot. Simon forced drugged sleep.”
“That was over a month ago,” Inara reminded her.
“A sting is a sting, cannot resuscitate the bee,” she said wisely.
“River, I understand why you do not want the medication anymore, but why didn’t you let Simon wean you from them?”
“There was not enough time,” River shifted her shoulder, wanting to scratch it. “His sting almost foiled the whole mission.”
“The one I am currently on,” she placed a hand on her stomach, scratching softly.
“Can you tell me about it?” Inara watched her over the teacup.
River shook her head, her voice eerily disconnected as her eyes unfocused, “do not know all the directives as it is. Am simply letting it happen.” She Read Inara’s slight panic, “is not Blue Hands doing. Older than that, what they wanted, now I protect it and they will never get it.”
“Why is it your mission?”
“They made the girl part of something older than the terraformed planets and moons. Something connected to Earth-that-was. They wanted something only she could receive. Now they cannot have it, because they do not have the girl. It still must be protected.”
Inara nodded slowly. “Is there anything I can do to help? Anything the crew can do?”
“No yelling,” she finally said, “when the mission is revealed Captain and Simon will get streaky and talk of trash… Will blame the blameless, including themselves. I will not abandon my mission. I will not let anyone take it from me either.” She looked up, “I do not know the details, but it must be endured.”
“I need underthings,” River said, suddenly back in the moment, “I have the monetary means necessary but no practical experience with such purchases.”
“I’d be happy to help, but what about Kaylee?”
“Sunshine wants alone time with brother boob to the point of oozing her needs on everything,” River made a face of disgust.
“They have been rather… blatant about it lately.”
“Thinks he will leave her,” she shrugged, “knows he can, no longer a fugitive, no longer needs to protect me. She hopes to bind him to her skin.”
Inara pushed the image from her mind, “you and Zoe seem to be closer…”
River nodded, “She demands little of everyone. She is deep with sorrow, but keeps it quiet…”
“She seems to like helping you,” she watched the young woman carefully, “Defends you quite adamantly.”
“If he died for the sanity of something that could never be fixed…” River whispered, “It’s all in vain. If she can be more, be whole, maybe solace can be found there.”
Inara swallowed thickly before clearing her throat. “I would be happy to take you shopping the next time we are in a proper port.”
“Three days, nine hours, forty-seven minutes, to Sky-plex,” she rattled off. “Would they have the appropriate facilities?”
“Yes, it would actually be a perfect time to assert your independence.”
The Sky-plex was a midway planet’s bazaar. It was known for the most exotic things a nice blend of Core and Rim culture.
“Thank you,” River smiled over her teacup.
By the time Serenity set down on the Sky-plex tensions were running high. River had spent the two hours prior to touch down locked in the cockpit humming over the yelling Simon was doing. Not to mention what everyone was throwing around mentally. Except Jayne, he had no opinion, as long as he wasn’t suddenly on ‘crazy watch.’
At breakfast Mal had handed out assignments. Jayne, Zoe, and he were meeting for a deal at the local bar. Simon was staying with the ship, Kaylee was to get fuel cells and then the rest of the six hours was hers. He had then inquired if Inara had ‘business’ to attend. The Companion had told him she was going shopping with a friend and left it at that. When his gaze shifted to River she was staring at him, daring him to even ask. After a long moment her finally just reminded her, “six hours.”
Simon had demanded to know what she was going to do with that time. He attempted to follow River onto the bridge and got the door shut in his face.
She unlocked the door and headed down the hall when she was hit with an image of her nearly naked backside. Like she had been in the infirmary after she got shot. There was lust, desire. Frowning she tracked the images to Jayne’s bunk. She hit the hatch until she felt the desire turn to annoyance as the image faded.
A sleep-addled Jayne popped up, “what?”
“We are docked on the Sky-plex,” she told him. “And I need your help with something before we disembark.”
“What do ya need help with?” he asked as he returned to his bunk to grab a knife, gun, and money.
She pointed to her injured shoulder.
He frowned but followed her to the empty infirmary. She debated a moment then stretched the neck of her dress to expose the bandage.
“Why ain’t your brother doing this?” he asked.
“Punishment,” she told him, “must worry from afar.”
Jayne chuckled. He shifted the bandages, “who’s been doin’ this for ya?”
“No one,” she shifted her head to watch his hands peel the tape and gauze away.
“Ya ain’t changed this?” he made a face.
“No need to,” she shrugged her other shoulder. “Nearly healed.”
“You was shot,” he stated, “takes weeks, not days to heal. Had ‘nough bullet and knife wounds to know that.”
She raised an eyebrow as he revealed the skin of her shoulder. It was healed, completely unblemished where there had previously had been a bullet wound.
Jayne peeled the back away as well, his mouth pursed as his brows puckered. He ran his thumb over the area, then over the same spot on the other shoulder. Just to assure himself she wasn’t playing a switch.
“There ain’t no way,” he told her. “What did ya do?”
“Nothing,” she slipped her strap back into place.
“People don’t heal that quick,” he told her.
She slipped off the table examining her shoulder in the mirror. “Did nothing,” she retorted.
Jayne grabbed her wrist and hauled her behind him as he went to the bay. Before she could have the satisfaction of snapping his wrist, he threw her bodily into Mal.
“She’s done healed,” the merc announced.
The captain frowned, “come ‘gain?”
River’s eyes were locked on Jayne, daring him to try manhandling her again.
“Her shoulder,” he explained. “Where she was shot. It’s healed, not even a scar!”
“That’s not possible,” Simon told the man slowly. “Her wound, if taken care of, will fully heal in three weeks.”
She twisted from Mal’s grip exposing her shoulder to the crew. “Jayne speaks the truth. All muscular and dermas layers have been repaired.” She rotated her shoulder in thought, “limited pain, will not affect maneuverability.”
She held her hand to Mal, “the key to my weapons, please.” She had waited the three and a half days to see if he would offer her them, or finally remove the locks from the community guns. He hadn’t, and she was not going to wait any longer.
There was a long pause as they locked eyes. The crew waited with baited breath. This was a test between the captain and the pilot.
“We don’t need weapons here,” Mal spoke through clenched teeth.
River stepped back, a sad expression on her face. She turned and walked directly to the weapons’ locker. She stared at the door for a long time. Giving the captain one last chance, she tried the door mechanism. It was locked. She placed her thumb on the lock. It resisted.
The sound of bending metal was followed by the *SNAP* of the lock giving way. And some part of her was satisfied by it. A bigger part though was hurt. She removed an arrow from the quiver before strapping her gun to her hip. She calmly walked out into the crowd on the Sky-plex dock. And disappeared into the streaming masses.
Jayne walked over to the locker and studied it. “She broke it,” he took the loose mechanism out and lifted it up to examine it.
Kaylee plucked it from his fingers, her eyes wide. “It ain’t damaged,” at Mal’s look she continued, “I checked these locks two months ago when we took on them settlers.”
Zoe examined it, “Jayne? Could you do that?”
“Prolly, it would take time though,” he shrugged, “I ain’t surprised.”
“Why?” Mal asked.
Jayne stared hard at Mal, then headed in the direction River had, muttering under his breath about axes and Reavers.
Inara found River at there arranged meeting place. The young genius looked a sight. Her long hair was braided tightly down her back. Her dress had been shortened to act as a shirt that was free-flowing and ill-suited. A small pair of shorts peeked out from beneath. A holster sat on her right thigh, too wide to sit properly on her hip. Large combat boots decorated dainty feet. In her hand was an arrow.
“Wings need to spread or they will atrophy and the bird will be bound to the earth.” She looked up at Inara, “Is a bird still a bird if it cannot fly?”
“We have much to do in the time we have,” Inara smiled gently.
“Should start from the inside and work outwards,” River nodded.
“There is a nice shop I passed on my way here. I should have everything except shoes, hair things, and weapon materials.” Inara led the way through the people until they came to a store Inara would never, normally, step foot in. She watched as River’s sadness slipped away in the light of shopping.
River and Inara were the last back, fifteen minutes earlier than Mal had specified. The captain however was in a foul mood and they were the quickest targets.
“Where ya two been?” he started when they were halfway across the cargo bay. “This boat needs to be in the air!”
The young pilot looked up at him. She forgot the bags bogging her down.
“Ya best get to it before you don’t have a job here,” he thundered.
River looked down, shielding her face with the curtain of her newly cut hair. She continued straight to her room to drop her purchases.
Inara looked up at Mal. “What is wrong with you?” she demanded making her way to the cats walks.
“Girl wants to be treated like crew,” he replied, “wants to break things like Jayne, she’ll be treated as such.”
She shook her head. “And when you start acting like Jayne? When you yell and make young women cry?”
Mal crossed his arms, “we’re headin’ to Shiva.”
“Why are you doing this, Mal?”
“This is my ship,” he told her, “runnin’ it as such.”
Inara shook her head and went to her shuttle.
All the crew was in bed. Inara was meditating to help her calm enough to sleep. Simon and Kaylee were wrapped in each other, talking quietly. Zoe was away in dreams of a life that would never be. Mal was taking a strategic military approach to the recent demands. Jayne was chasing painted faces through his mind.
River shivered in her bed. She hated when things poured into her mind. Carefully she slipped from bed checking that her shorts and long-sleeve shirt were still covering her. She grabbed her axe and headed out to the cargo bay. The emotions were now right above her, but she knew she needed to learn to work through them not just run in the opposite direction.
She swung the axe around to a bit to loosen up. Once she was sure she wouldn’t injure herself she started a series of two-handed maneuvers. Swinging the blade in slow arcs; concentrating more on the muscle control and angle than the strength behind it. She eventually lost sight of everything else. The crews’ minds abandoned for math, physics, and muscle memory. Towards the end, as she had performed the routine three times she added steps. On the fifth cycle she was moving at full speed, completely oblivious to everything else.
Including a restless Jayne who had decided to lift weights to help him go back to sleep after his women had turned to Reavers… He watched as she twirled and struck. Dancing with enemies only she could see. He wondered if this was what had gone on behind the blast door. On the heels on that thought was guilt. He’d never liked her… but she had saved his life more times since Mr. Universe’s moon than he had saved hers.
But watching her dance of death he knew he couldn’t repay that debt. Maybe there’s somethin’ else… he thought. She wants to be treated like an adult…
River’s dance ended with a thunk as the axe hit the deck. Both hands still on the handle she breathed deeply through her nose as she tried to regulate her breathing.
Then she gracelessly fell to the deck…
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