Author: babies stole my dingo (agilebrit)
Fandom: Buffy/Firefly crossover
Rating: PG-13 for a couple of naughty words
Length: Short story (about 4400 words)
Disclaimer: Joss is the genius behind these characters; I am but a lowly follower. I make no money from any of this, so please don't sue me.
Feedback: Concrit adored! If you see something that can be improved upon, please let me know.
Written for: inlovewithnight's Valentine's Day Fluffython. Request was from echo_of_my_soul and was for Faith/Mal. Wants: Faith captivating/mystifying Mal. No: graphic smut, mention of Mal/Inara as a 'ship. Prompt: The crew picks up a new passenger, and, for once, Mal actually likes this one...
Notes: Takes place between the comics and the movie. Inara and Book have left the ship. Thanks to Aeneas for the beta-read and making sure this didn't suck before I posted it.
Faith sat at the kitchen table, chin in hand, glumly contemplating a picture of Robin. He'd surprised her, all right. He'd stayed with her a whole eight months after they'd turned Sunnydale into a crater.
Then the dumbass had gotten himself killed tonight. Watching her back, instead of staying in the library like a proper Watcher. She wouldn't cry. Dammit, she would not. She banged her fist on the table, her nails cutting into her palm. Pain was good. Pain was distracting. She should go down to the basement to train. Maybe if she trained more she'd be good enough. Wouldn't have anyone else die on her.
The door opened before she could put her plan into action. "Faith? Robin? Can I talk to you?" Oh, fantastic. Willow's voice. This was all she needed. Willow burst into the room, but stopped when she saw Faith's expression. "What's the matter?"
Faith took a deep breath. She hadn't said it out loud yet. Hadn't needed to; she and Robin didn't share their Cleveland apartment with anyone, so she'd come back to empty rooms. "Robin...Robin got killed tonight."
Willow's face crumpled, and she sat down across from her. "Aw! Aw, Faith, I'm so sorry! Are you okay? Well, that's a stupid question, of course you're not okay, how could you possibly be okay, no one would be okay after that." She clapped her hand over her mouth. "Sorry. Willow-babble strikes again."
It was comforting, in an odd way. Willow might be the most powerful witch on Earth, but some things never changed. "He went out like he would've wanted to," Faith said tightly. "Something you needed to talk to us about?"
"Well, yeah, but under the circumstances, I think it can wait, I mean, if you want it to, or not--"
"Will!" Faith interrupted. "Just tell me, okay?"
"Well, it's weird..."
Faith rolled her eyes. "When is it not? Spill."
Yeah, it was weird all right. Going forward in time five hundred years, to a whole new solar system, definitely pegged the red in the weird-o-meter. But the future of humanity was at stake, the Slayers had been lost somehow, blah blah blah, she was their only hope because she had the most experience and Buffy didn't want to go, blah-dy blah blah...
"Why doesn't Buffy want to go?"
Willow looked away. "Because we don't have a way of getting you back. You, um, have to stay there."
"Always a catch. You know what?" Faith stared at Robin's picture, then took it out of its frame and put it in her pocket. "I got nothin' to come back for. I need to pack anything?"
Faith stumbled to her hands and knees onto the grass of the Southdown Abbey grounds and vomited quietly onto the manicured lawn. "Never again..." she muttered. She stayed there for a moment, but her stomach seemed to have settled down after its initial rebellion.
"I don't think you'll have to worry about that," a voice above her head said.
"Oh, you'd be surprised." Faith heaved herself to her feet and found she was looking down at a smiling, gray-haired Oriental man, wearing a simple tunic, breeches, and boots.
"You must be Faith. I am Fan Jing Shi. Welcome to Southdown Abbey." He picked up her gym bag, filled with weapons and clothing, which had actually managed to make the trip into the future with her, and he led her toward the sandstone building. "We very much appreciate your aid."
"So, what's the what?"
They walked through the door and into a kitchen area. She sat down at a rough wooden table, while he puttered around making tea. "A dark power is rising on Haven."
"Of course it is. What about the Slayers? I'd think you people would have a whole posse of them out here, five hundred years after we activated them all." She took the teacup with a nod of thanks and sipped the soothing liquid.
He seated himself across from her. "The Slayers have been lost in the mists of time. We have records at this Abbey, and other places, and we strive to keep the memory alive, but something wiped them out long ago. We search, actively, but haven't found one for at least two centuries."
"Well, that's a bad. Guess that's why you need me." She idly spun her cup around in a spiral without sloshing the remaining tea out. "Any idea what this 'dark power' is?"
He gazed into his own mug, uncomfortable. "No. Only that it is dark..."
"And a power. Gotcha," she said, standing up. "How do I get to this Haven place?"
"We've booked you passage on a Firefly transport."
"What a piece of junk," Faith whispered, staring in consternation at this...thing that was supposed to take her across the solar system. The brothers had packed a bag of local clothing and weaponry for her, which augmented her own, and Jing had escorted her to the Eavesdown Docks where her ship was waiting. She watched while he greeted a smiling girl holding a parasol, who then turned to her.
"I hear you're going out to Haven to see our Shepherd Book," she chattered, leading Faith up the ramp and into the cargo hold. "Faith, that's a right pretty name. I'm Kaylee, Serenity's mechanic. It'll be so nice to have passengers again, they're always so interestin'..."
Faith's misgivings grew. This little girl was the mechanic? "Wait, what? You keep this--" She almost said "hunk of crap," but stopped herself in time. "--ship flying? But you're..." Not even as old as I am, she thought.
"Oh, we had a boy mechanic, 'fore I signed on," Kaylee said blithely, apparently used to this reaction. "He didn't know nothin'. Couldn't even fix a little thing like a reg couple. I know she don't look like much, but she's a good boat. She'll get us where we're goin'."
"Our new passenger insulting my ship already?" A tall, good-looking man came down the stairs and hit a button that closed the ramp.
"No, no!" Faith backpedaled hastily. "I'm just surprised, is all." She tilted her head. "I know you from somewhere?"
"Don't believe so. I'd remember meetin' someone dressed as outlandishly as you," he said, taking in her regulation leather pants and low-cut blouse.
He was one to talk. He looked like a reject from a spaghetti western, gun strapped to his leg and all. She decided to keep her mouth shut about that until she got the lay of the land better. Kaylee stepped forward and introduced them. "Faith, this is the Cap'n, Malcolm Reynolds. Cap'n, we're takin' Faith here to see Shepherd Book. You know."
"I do that." He nodded. "We're happy to have you, girl--and the coin the brothers paid us to take you to Haven. Should be a smooth flight. Kaylee here'll show you to your quarters and get you acquainted with everyone. We'll be taking off in just a few minutes, so stow your gear and make yourself comfortable-like."
He talked like a reject from a spaghetti western too. What in the world--or out of it--had she gotten herself into?
She listened to the crew swapping stories over dinner ("Real food!" Kaylee had chirped; she was starting to get on Faith's nerves) that night. Faith didn't have any stories she could tell civilians like these people, so she stayed silent and watched them interact with each other instead.
Two of them pinged her Slayer-sense right off. The girl, River, would have been a Slayer if she'd lived five hundred years before. She was real damaged, though, and Faith wondered if they would have had another Dana on their hands. Oh, yeah, she'd heard about that fiasco. River's brother--Simon, his name was--hovered over her protectively. Faith hoped his doctor-y knowledge could help her out, because she sure as hell didn't know what else would. The girl had taken one look at her and babbled out something about inner demons being harder to defeat than real ones, which creeped her out plenty.
The First Mate unbent considerably when her husband came into the room to share the meal. Zoe had been very stiff and formal when Kaylee had introduced them, and Faith was glad to see that she wasn't like that all the time, because, ugh. Wash, the pilot, reminded her a lot of Xander, right down to his shirts. Come to that, even Xander might have been ashamed of the particular one he wore tonight.
But Zoe would have been a Slayer as well. Her husband had no idea how right he was when he playfully called her his "warrior woman." She would have been a good one, too, with the sort of no-nonsense, get-the-job-done attitude that kept you alive in the business--that had kept her alive through a pretty bloody war, apparently.
Very interesting that the Captain had managed to get two Potentials aboard his ship, without even realizing it. And what had happened to the Potentials, that they never got activated anymore? She wondered if she'd ever get the answer to that particular question. Mal had that look around his eyes and mouth, the one that said he was on the raggedy edge of losing it completely, but was holding himself together for the sake of the mission. Whatever he thought that was, at this point. They all seemed tired and thin, and she wondered how long it had been since their last job.
The big mercenary with the girl's name kept eyeballing her in a too-friendly fashion. He was handsome enough, she supposed, and if it hadn't been so soon after Robin, she might have considered giving him a tumble. He looked like he could handle it. But...no. That was a bad idea, and it might be best to stop any thoughts like that, on her part or his, before they got started.
She got her opportunity when she stood up to put her dishes in the sink. Oh, no, he didn't-- Her reaction was pure instinct; she snatched his wrist, yanked him to his feet, and slammed him face-first against the pantry door with his arm twisted behind his back.
Mal and Zoe half-rose from their seats. "Miss?" Mal said carefully, his hand hovering over his gun. He'd never seen anyone move like she just had in all his soldiering around the 'verse, and Jayne weren't moving. Not for lack of trying, neither. "We gonna have a problem?"
"You might want to tell this meathead--" She twisted his arm just a little tighter, causing a slight yelp. "--that grabbing my ass? Isn't on the free list."
Mal's mouth quirked, and he sank back down into his chair. Passengers always made him twitchy, 'specially lately with their fugitives aboard and the Blue Hands sniffing about, and he hadn't been too sure about this girl...but he was starting to like her. Anyone who could manhandle Jayne this way was all right in his book. Hell, looked like she weren't even trying. "Jayne, what have I told you about messin' around with the paying passengers?"
"Won't happen again," Jayne managed to gasp out.
"Good," she said. She released him, giving him a little shove and then patting his back. "Sorry about that, Captain. I come from a place where, if a girl doesn't learn to take care of herself, she winds up sort of dead." She fixed Jayne with a glare, but Mal could see a twinkle in her eye. "We five by five?"
"Shiny," Jayne mumbled, rubbing his shoulder and sitting back down. "Sorry for the misunderstandin'."
"No prob." She nodded at Mal. "Been a long day for me. Think I'll turn in."
"You do that. See you at breakfast."
Zoe lifted her eyebrow after their passenger exited the room. "Sir?"
Mal reached for his water glass. "I like her."
"Slays the monsters, turns them to dust," River said. Simon looked disturbed and ushered her out, while the rest of them turned back to the food.
Faith sprawled on her back in the bed, fingers clasped behind her head. Well, that could have gone better. Could have gone worse, too, she supposed. Getting shot wasn't on her to-do list. Wonder how close I came to that, she thought.
She flipped over to her stomach and rummaged in her bag on the floor, coming out with Robin's picture. Setting it on the pillow, she rested her chin in her hands and sighed. Angsting about him wouldn't bring him back.
Get some and get gone had always been her motto. He'd hung around, though. She had no idea why. And after awhile, it was just...comfortable, having him there. She hadn't realized how much she'd miss him, now that he'd left for good. Now that she'd left for good. Not having someone to fall back on, if things went bad, made her itch. This whole mission rested on her unprepared shoulders. The fact that the others had actually trusted her with it, alone, was exhilarating and humbling all at the same time.
She hoped she wouldn't make an absolute hash out of it. Wrapping her arms around the pillow, she lay down. Sleep was a long time coming.
Faith had noticed workout equipment in the cargo hold when she'd come aboard, and she decided that a little training might work off some of her tension after breakfast. The barbells suited her just fine, and she piled on the weights until she couldn't find any more.
Jayne found her there a few minutes later. His eyes widened when he saw what she was doing. "Don't you need a spotter? Liftin' by yourself ain't safe, you know." He moved behind her, apparently afraid she was going to drop it.
"What, this?" Faith didn't miss a beat. "Low weight and lots of reps, man. No offense, but I really don't want my arms to look like yours."
Jayne nearly choked. "Low weight? I, uh--" He stuttered to a stop, and Faith realized belatedly that she'd probably just challenged his manhood or some-damn-thing. Sure enough... "Let me have a go, girl."
This couldn't end well, but she didn't have much choice. She got up and positioned herself so that she'd catch the bar if it was too much for him. However, she didn't have to worry. He couldn't even lift it off the rests, although he strained with all his might, which was considerable. He was spouting a funny language she didn't understand, too. This had been such a bad idea...
She made some excuse or other and fled up the stairs, passing the Captain and Zoe on the catwalk on her way back to the passenger dorm. Mal's voice floated behind her. "Yep, I'm likin' her more and more." Faith heard Zoe laugh before she passed out of earshot, face flaming.
Faith kept her eyes turned toward her plate at lunchtime while the conversation carried on around her. She felt her cheeks go red again as Mal recounted the story of "our passenger handing Jayne's ass to him at the weight bench" and mumbled something about having worked out since she was young.
River spoke up suddenly. "Haven isn't a sanctuary. Dark power stalks the valley, terror turns your blood to water. But fidelity stays strong, doesn't give in to depravity. Finds a home in the calm. Good in the bad."
Faith's head came up at that. "What did you say?"
"Fear must be faced and conquered, otherwise you'll never be whole." River smiled and turned back to her food as if she hadn't said anything at all.
"Well, that was certainly, um, random and cryptic," Mal commented.
"I may need to adjust her meds again," Simon said. "I thought she was getting better."
"She is," River said to her plate. "Racial memories awakened, sharp teeth and blood and wood and pain. Living for the fight. Dying in it too, to be reborn to battle again in a cycle of destruction that never stops. Only it did." She blinked. "What did I just say?"
"Nothin' that made a lick of sense to me." Mal seemed puzzled and a little disturbed.
"It's okay, River. You're not crazy," Faith said.
River snorted indelicately. "Oh, yes, I am. Ask anyone."
"Okay, maybe you are. But you're not as crazy as everyone thinks." Faith looked around the table at the crew. "I've been crazy, okay? A long time ago, and you don't have to worry about me going Manson on you, but I remember it. She doesn't think the way other people do, but she might actually be saner than the rest of us." She stood up. "It's something to think about."
She strode down to the passenger dorm. After a conversation like that, Faith really wanted to train. She grabbed a sword from her weapons bag and headed down to the cargo hold for some quality time with it.
Mal found her there awhile later, whirling around and slashing the sword every which way. He waited until she came to a stop before he said anything. "You've got some skill with that shiny weapon."
"Practice makes perfect."
He wondered why she'd need to practice a lot with a sword and decided she probably wouldn't tell him. Everyone had secrets, it seemed. "Mind if I have a go?"
She flipped it around and handed it to him, hilt-first. "You ever use one?"
"Once." He thrust and parried with it. "Didn't go well."
"That's because you're doing it wrong. Hang on a tick."
She disappeared up the stairs and came back a couple of minutes later with another sword. They were going to have to start searching passengers a little better, he thought. Next thing he knew, someone would bring a gorram bazooka aboard.
Over the space of nearly an hour, she showed him things with a sword that he never would have thought possible. He'd considered it an archaic weapon, but he developed an appreciation and healthy respect for it during their lesson. Be awkward as all hell to carry one around too awful much, but he could see where it might come in handy for work where silence was at a premium.
Finally, panting with exertion, he stopped her. She hadn't even broke a sweat. He wouldn'ta thought that swordfighting lessons would be all that hard, but this girl sure didn't stint none when it came to physical activity.
He thought he might actually be sorry to drop her off at Haven.
Wash landed Serenity on Haven with his usual aplomb, and they all disembarked into the twilight of the dried-up little planet. Faith hung back while the others were greeted by the Havenites, noticing that Jayne and Mal both seemed to have a close relationship with the man she assumed was Shepherd Book, and that a little boy practically glued himself to Kaylee.
The Shepherd finally noticed her and smiled. "You must be Faith. I'm glad you're here, child. We need to set for a spell and talk after I've got these folk settled in." Ordinarily, she would have bridled at the "child" designation, but he didn't seem to mean anything condescending by it--it was just his way of talking. So she let it go. For now. She'd been around enough Watchers to be wary.
Once the others had arranged themselves around a firepit with drinks and food, Book led Faith into a house some distance away and took her upstairs. "It's such a blessing to have you come, Faith; you've no idea. The Slayers have been long lost to us, somehow. Having one here is...well. Quite an honor."
"Happy to help, I guess." She dumped her weapons bag onto the floor. "What's this 'dark power' everyone seems so concerned about?"
"Something seems to be throwing my people into nearly catatonic panic states, and it started right before I found this symbol here." He pointed at an odd drawing chalked onto the floor in red, white, and black, with the requisite pentagram in the center. "I was wondering if you could tell me what it is?"
She peered at it in puzzlement. "Never seen one of those before. Giles's books sure would be handy about now. Don't suppose you guys have any ancient, musty texts in languages no one remembers anymore?" He shook his head. "Shame." Walking around the mark, she asked, "Seen anything unusual besides folks going all fraidy-cat? Anything weird in the shadows, hiding out in the dark? Odd animals, your livestock disappearing?"
"No, nothing like that." He frowned. "Do you think somebody called this thing up, whatever it is?"
"Marks like this don't get there by themselves. Could be one of your people got mad at someone, decided to get a little vengeance on, and bit off more than they could chew." She knelt down and touched one of the marks. "Could I talk to, like, the first person that seemed affected?"
"I'm not sure you'll get anything out of him. He isn't very coherent. Keeps talking about snakes."
"Mmm. Obviously something came up out of bizarro-land, then." She rose to her feet. "Why don't you go back to your guests, and I'll hang out here and see if I can suss out what's the what." No sense getting another Watcher killed.
"Are you sure?" he asked, all concerned-like. Which was nice, if impractical.
"It's what I do."
"All right. If you need anything, just holler. We're not that far off." He squeezed her arm. "Thank you so much. It must have been very difficult, leaving everything you've ever known to come and help a bunch of strangers."
"Not as hard as you'd think." Her hand went to her pocket, where Robin's picture resided, and one side of her mouth turned down. "Not hard at all, in fact."
Book felt bad about leaving her alone, but she seemed confident that she knew what she was doing, and she'd as much as kicked him out. Interesting girl. He wondered if all Slayers were so distant and standoffish.
He glanced over his shoulder at the building just in time to see the doors and windows become blank walls. Sputtering a Chinese phrase that would have had him doing some serious penance at the Abbey, he ran toward the fire and help.
Faith heard the whispering start as soon as the Shepherd left. She snatched a K-Bar knife out of her weapons bag and stood ready, but nothing leaped out of the shadows at her. All that threatened was that damnable whispering. She strained to listen, and the words gradually became more clear.
Evil, Faith. You're evil. Leopard can't change its spots, Slayer can't change her nature...Crazy, evil bitch...
"I am not!" she shouted. "I did change. I chose to change."
Would have cracked sooner or later. Good thing you're here, among strangers. Good that Robin's dead, that he wouldn't see what you'd eventually do. The voice paused. You're going to kill them all.
She tightened her grip on the knife hilt. "No, but I'm beginning to take a pretty strong dislike to you. How 'bout you show yourself and we'll have a little mano a mano?"
Can't fight it. Can't fight me. I'm a part of you, the part you won't admit, even to yourself, that still lives inside your gut and eats away at it like a big, black cancer. Maybe you should just kill yourself so you don't hurt anyone else...
Her gaze shot down to the gigantic blade in her hand. Lamplight gleamed a little too dramatically off it, and she curled her lip and shook her head. "Okay, that was just a bit much. How about we stop this right here, right now. Starting with your funky symbol." She smashed her foot through the floor, right in the middle of the pentagram.
Evil maniacal laughter greeted this gesture, and the floor rumbled as the mark began to glow. "You have called me forth! I am the dark lord of nightmares!"
Faith backed up a step. "Oh, sh--" Then she saw what was manifesting.
And snorted out a laugh.
"Tremble before me!"
"How about not?" She reached down and scooped the (admittedly very ugly) demon up, wrapping her fingers around its ribcage. It fit quite well in her hand. "I came five hundred years into the future for this? Crap. What's your name, little demon?"
"Tremble before Gachnar! Fear me!" It shoved ineffectively at her fingers.
"Dude, you're six inches tall. Ain't nothin' but a field mouse gonna be scared of you. However..." Slaying was slaying, and she had the feeling that Gachnar would make a very bad pet. She popped its head off with her thumb, just as the door burst open and Book, Mal, and Jayne jumped into the room, weapons drawn.
"Everything's fine, guys," she informed them. "Your problem's taken care of, Shepherd. It wasn't anything--" She glanced down at the mess that Gachnar had left on her hand. "--very big."
Faith joined the others at the fire. Kaylee had saved her something to eat, and she dug in with a will. Slaying made her hungry and horny, she'd always said, and even Slaying something that small had given her an appetite. Taking care of the horny part would probably not happen during this particular job. Oh well.
Mal sat beside her. "Got any plans?"
"Not beyond getting a good night's sleep." She cocked her head. "Why? You offering something?"
"You've got you some unique abilities. Know how to handle yourself in a fight. I might have a spot for you on my crew, were you interested, and if you weren't overly concerned about tweaking the Alliance's nose every once in awhile."
"Legalities, schmegalities." She took an enormous bite of...whatever this was, and made a face. "From what I've picked up, your government needs its nose tweaked. Seems kinda big for its britches, you ask me."
"Preacher might have places for you to go and jobs for you to do on your own, he says. We'd get you there, o' course." He lifted an eyebrow. "Whattaya say?"
The Shepherd had sat on her other side, and she gave him a questioning look. "They're good people, Faith. I think you should go with them."
It would never be boring, that was for sure. And the Captain was hella cute. "When do we leave, and where are we going?"