Summary: Faith is sent into the future on a mission to track down a wayward girl who could be the answer to, well, something.
Faith stared back at the group of people in front of her, come to say goodbye and see her off. Not that she'd call most of them friends. There was at least one person in that line that couldn't wait to see the back of her and probably hoped she got her ass space-burned-to-death before she ever made it back home. The rest were either here for technical reasons or just 'cause they were curious.
She couldn't believe she'd signed up for this. Not that she had. Coerced might have been a better way of saying it. Buffy-freakin'-Summers leaving voicemail after voicemail, reminding her over and over that this was her job. That Faith had wanted this gig, saving the girls too far gone for anyone else to reach them.
This was in no way what she had meant by that but Buffy kept spouting the words back to her until even Faith couldn't reliably argue her meaning any more and just gave in because she was sick to death of her hearing her ring tone every five minutes.
It must have nearly killed the blonde, but she - they - were so desperate to track this wayward chick down that Buffy had been forced to admit that Faith was good at it too; the only one they could count on to get the job done. . .
Yeah, the only they didn't mind risking five hundred years in the freakin' future more like.
"So do I at least get a spacesuit or something?"
Buffy's arms were folded as tight as her smirk. "No."
"And you don't think that's a little risky?"
"Willow isn't going to shoot you out into open space, Faith." Andrew moved the whiteboard a little closer to her and pointed at it with his long metal pointer thing. "That would be stupid - and messy. She's going to set you down on a planet called..."
When he hesitated, Dawn helpfully filled in the blank, "Persephone. It's what the ripples tell us is terraformed."
"Okay, first off, what the hell is terraformed?"
"It means you can live there. Breathe and stuff," Buffy said with a little shrug, like she didn't much care if Faith could breathe there or not.
"Okay, I like the sound of that. Just two more questions..." "I need to do this in ninety seconds, Faith," Willow called over from behind the teleportation pod. "Do you have the information pack I compiled for you?"
"Yeah, but hang on." Purple tendrils were already beginning to zig-zag from the magical ring she was standing in. She eyed them warily, noticing everyone else taking a healthy step back. She started to talk quicker. "Why exactly are we listening to information from a bunch of ripples? It seems kinda... stupid."
"It's Willow's source. She's been reliable in the past," Dawn promised.
"And sometimes not so much," Buffy added. She was having way too good a time with this.
The purple threads were reaching her now. From the demo Willow had given yesterday with the potato, she only had seconds left until the ring went pop and she disappeared a hell of a lot further into the future than the potato had had to go.
"Last question. Can I change my freakin' mind?"
Buffy waved cheerily goodbye and the last thing Faith did in 2009 was flip her the bird.
Faith shot out of an invisible portal and hit the grit rolling.
The first thing that she checked was that she could breathe. She could, though the cloud of dust she'd kicked up with her tumble didn't make it the most pleasant experience. Coughing it up from her lungs, she stayed where she was for a while, getting her breath back, smiling at the bright blue sky and listening to a chicken cluck just a few feet from her head.
That last one might have bothered her more if she wasn't just so damn happy to have made it through the portal alive and the right way around. She'd read stories, or okay, seen movies where time-travel scrambled your genetic whatjamaflip all to hell, and her face and her ass might both be fine, but she didn't really want them switched if it was all the same to the universe.
It took the chicken pecking at her eyebrow to finally make her move. Swatting at it with one hand, she sent it flapping and squawking away, and then she sat up.
She'd landed on the outskirts of a town square. It was noisy and chaotic and no one - but a bunch of little kids who were laughing and pointing at her battle with the curious chicken - had taken the blindest bit of notice of her stylish entrance. A roaring sprung out of nowhere, making her cringe back in the dust, eyes wide with the fear of the unknown, as just a dozen feet or so above her a freakin' spaceship (okay, a small one, but still!) flew across the square.
Sitting up again after that little fright, she looked around with an unimpressed eye and drawled, "Aw, hell!"
Three weeks later
The first thing Faith was aware of when she started coming round was a dull, heavy thump thump thump going on in her head. Just how much had she drunk last night? Weird thing was, she didn't remember drinking anything.
She remembered ordering a beer, remembered asking the barman who the chick on the wanted poster behind the bar was and she remembered thinking 'bingo' when he said the exact name she'd been looking for the past three weeks. She had finally caught a damn break. Before she could do anything with it, some douche had started hassling a woman on the other side of the bar and Faith had stepped in to lend her some backup. There had been a messy brawl after that - real messy, but hella fun and just what she needed after weeks of hunting alone and keeping herself to herself.
Fun right up until the big-ass bar stool had been swung at her face anyway.
She shifted a little, her bruised cheek coming to rest on the cool metal floor beneath her. It was vibrating just enough to make her face tingle. Frowning, she took a moment to connect the dots between vibrations, thumping and sheet metal. She was in the back of a pick up truck!
Oh hell no! She'd heard tales of slavers working some of the outer moons and there was no way one of them was kidnapping her.
She groaned as she fought against her body's worth of aches and pains, trying to force herself into a sitting position.
"Think she's waking up, Cap'n."
That was the voice of the chick she had saved. Faith's frown deepened. Fucking great. Knowing her luck she had unwittingly helped a bunch of evil kidnappers escape from whatever passed as the law around here. When would she just learn to look the other way when a pretty girl was in trouble? She never used to have such a problem with ignoring damsels in distress.
Faith's arms were bound behind her, that explained why she was having such a hard time getting upright. It also pointed to her being in even more trouble than she'd figured.
There was the thud of footsteps that made the metal ring sharper than the engine sounds. Just how the hell big was this Pick-up? She finally forced her eyes open, hoping to get a sense of what she was dealing with, but all she could see was several pairs of boots and the bed of the truck stretching as far as she could see.
"Dunno why we brought her with us anyway," a gruff voice complained.
Faith frowned. What, they didn't think she was good enough to dig mud or whatever?
"She mentioned River."
Faith barely registered the mild, polite if way anxious tone this speaker was using, she was too busy focusing on that name. The ghost she was chasing, maybe they knew where she was. Maybe she could tie them up and torture them for information. If she ever managed to sit up again that was.
She struggled on the floor, trying to use her shoulders to push herself up. There was a crowd of feet around her now but none of them seemed inclined to lend a hand.
"And more importantly," said a new voice, "she saved Kaylee."
"Thank you, Cap'n."
"But if she is Alliance," began that cultured voice in a serious way that made Faith think her future was about to be decided. "Bringing her with us might not have been the smartest move. What if they've placed a tracker inside her? They might be following us right now."
"For once I agree with the Doc. We should find that tracker and drop it into deep space to confuse the gorram Feds."
"And how exactly do you propose to find this tracker?"
"Gutting her like a catfish should do it."
"Jayne!" Faith's rescuee cried out.
Faith was already through with taking this asshole's attitude. She spun on the floor, using the side of her head to pivot like a balance-challenged break dancer, boots finding grip on the metal to gain momentum as she went around. She saw feet jump out of the way, but the asshole wasn't quick enough or just not smart enough to see the threat.
Either way, both of Faith's heavy boots caught the backs of his ankles hard enough to drop him on his ass. He gave an undignified yell of surprise as his impact made the flooring clang. Flipping herself onto him, Faith used his body as leverage to shimmy to her knees.
"Hey," he said it in a leering way, with what he probably thought was a sexy smile. That mood ended the second her knee found his groin. "Hey!" He went to grab her.
"Uh uh uh. You lay just one of those filthy fingers on me I'm gonna get ticklish, and when I get ticklish I start getting uncontrollable knee spasms, you get me?" She applied a little more pressure to make sure he did,
His hands went up in the air. "Sure, sure, no tickling."
Faith looked around at everyone else. There were three people gathered around her, not including the goon she was kneeling on. One was the girl she had saved from the bastards back on Persephone. Out of the other three guys, it didn't take a genius to work out which one was the doctor and which one was the captain.
"One of you untie me," she said, calmly given the circumstances. "Or I squash your buddy's berries hard enough to make juice."
The captain settled his ass comfortably on the edge of the crate and answered her genially. "Well, I'm not seeing that as being much as a threat considering as there's likely many women in the verse who'd pay us handsomely for Jayne's castration."
"Hey, hey, let's not be hasty," her cushion, Jayne, said, waving his hands around but taking care not to let them too close to her.
"Hasty?" Faith asked him, cocking an eyebrow. "Sorry, weren't you the one who was gonna gut me like a... what was it... Catfish before even learning my name?"
"Well, yeah, but..."
She ignored him, focusing on the captain again. "Look, you can untie me now and we'll all play nice, or I'll get myself out of this and I'll be... less nice."
"Yeah, I think we'll run the risk of you doing nothing but sitting right there and griping while we talk on this awhile," he said.
"Uh, can we put that to a vote or something," the guy under her asked. "Like, maybe you'd be more comfortable in a chair, Miss?"
"I'm comfy enough, thanks."
She couldn't move, they'd see she was straining against whatever the hell was bonding her wrists together. She could feel that she was making a little progress with it. She just had to keep them distracted with her mouth long enough for her to loosen them enough to make a difference.
"So what did you wanna talk about?" she asked. "You know, seeing as you kidnapped me and all, I figure it must be pretty important."
"Oh, we didn't kidnap you," Kaylee promised. "You was just unconscious on account of being hit by that stool and we didn't want to leave you to get, you know, got by anyone."
"Oh, right," Faith said, deadpan. "So you were rescuing me?" Kaylee smiled eagerly. "Goody, that makes me feel better about the ropes and the almost-being-gutted and the being carried off to God knows where by a bunch of strangers in the back of a fuckin' trailer!"
"Oh, this ain't no old trailer," Kaylee said proudly. "She's a real good ship."
"Ship, huh?" Faith looked around and gave a sideways nod of the head. She'd deal with the problem with being on open water once her hands were free. Maybe they had a lifeboat or something. "Okay, makes more sense of the captain over there I guess. So why am I tied up again?"
"Actually, I think until we know a little more about you, I'll do the question-asking," the Captain said amiably enough but in take-no-bullshit way.
"Are you Alliance?" the doctor blurted out.
"What did I just say about who was asking the questions?" The doctor looked suitably chastised and the Captain crossed his arms, composing himself. "Are you in any way associated with the Alliance?"
"What's the Alliance?"
They all looked at her a little more closely. Great, her ignorance had made them suspicious and there wasn't a whole lot she could do about that. It wasn't like Willow had packed a Future book for her to study on the way here.
"You don't know who the Alliance is?" The captain checked.
"Never heard of them."
"Now them I've heard of," Faith nodded.
"Is she simple or something?" Jayne asked, and Faith pressed down with her knee. "Hey, not that simple ain't nice. We already got plenty of simple on this boat."
"So, you're a bounty hunter?" It was phrased as a question but the captain sounded pretty sure he'd got it right this time. "Looking to make some honest cash by dragging a poor, innocent girl away from her family, is that it?"
"What?" Faith frowned again as she drew the word out. "No, nobody's paying me for it."
She was almost there. Just another minute and her hands would be free.
The clean cut doctor guy stepped up, looking at her intently. "How do you know my sister?"
Faith gave a one shouldered shrug, trying not to let the battle going on behind her back show on her face. "Pretty sure I never met your sister."
"Then why were you asking about her, back at the bar?"
"Huh?" Faith was concentrating too hard on her bonds to be really listening. "No idea what you're talking about, dude."
"Well you better start engaging the brain in that pretty little head of yours 'cause something about this don't smell right," the captain said, pushing himself off the crate so he could crowd her too.
"That's because she's lying," Jayne said. "Has to be. I don't care what rutting backwater moon she's from, ain't no way she's never heard of Alliance."
"It's because she's old." The clear, mellifluous voice had everyone turning to the stairs. "Older than time."
"Doc, I thought I told you to keep her out of harms way until we established exactly what was going here."
"Yeah, Sweetie, maybe you'd be happier upstairs for a little while," Kaylee tried. "Look, I'll come with you."
"No, wait a minute." Jayne looked from Faith to the girl and back again. "Both dumb as posts, like kindred spirits or something. I wanna see how they act together."
Faith put a little extra weight on his balls for the 'dumb as posts' comment, but he wasn't far wrong. This girl might not be a Slayer in the same way she was, but Faith felt a definite pull coming from her. This girl was something alright, and if Willow had it accurate, she was really something.
"River Tam, right?"
The girl didn't answer the question but Faith had no doubt she was. As the waif-like chick - what was she, sixteen, seventeen at a push? - began to wander from one side of the hold to the other and back again, drawing closer only a few inches at a time, she kept her eyes locked on Faith.
"You don't belong here."
"Your home is too far down. It shouldn't be possible. Serious anomaly. Time skips, and skips, then skips again and here you are, purple and green. The gravitational wave came and washed you up the ladder, just for me, but you're too high."
"You think I'm the one that's high?"
Faith flexed her wrists. The bonds were loose; she was as good as free. Now she just had to sneak her hand into her pocket and grab the Time. . . Recaller. . . Sonic. . . thing and grab the girl as she pressed the button. Providing the technology worked as Willow had promised, she'd be home and this mission would be finally over inside five minutes.
"You don't need me," River promised her.
"Not what my higher-ups say."
"Who are your higher-ups?" The doctor asked.
Faith ignored him. He wouldn't be more than a waste of memory in a minute. The girl was close enough to grab. Everyone was so focused on her that they hadn't noticed that Faith's hands were free, one of them sliding into her pocket.
"You don't want to do that."
She sucked at the innocent look. Over-compensating, she lunged forward while trying to press the button inside her pocket and fluffed it, her thumb sliding off the plastic casing instead. Her hand closed around River's wrist but her timing was screwed now and the girl might have been small and skinny but she was whippet-quick and hella feisty and before she knew it they were struggling for the upper hand.
Faith was pushed off of Jayne and then they were rolling over and over on the metal floor while the rest of the crew were shouting and panicking, new voices joining them all the time. The whole time River just laughed, high-pitched and carefree like a girl in elementary school.
Faith finally managed to stay on top, straddling the girl and breathing hard as she tried to fumble the recall device from her pocket. "Got you."
At the all too familiar sound of a hand gun being cocked, Faith slowly looked down. Uh huh, that was a handgun alright. The weapon looked too big for the girl's small hands but she held it straight out, pointing at Faith's chest, with ease.
River giggled again. "Got you."
"Hey, how'd she get my gun?" Jayne asked, still sitting a few feet away as he tenderly cradled his balls with one hand and checked his holster with the other.
Yep, Faith slowly held her hands up and backed off, gradually rising to her feet. This girl was really something.
Still holding her hands in the air, Faith took her first proper look around from a decent vantage point. There were places she could dive for cover if need be; the ship's hold was littered with crates, but she still needed to literally get her hands on River and she couldn't do that when she had a gun trained on her and all her friends were standing around.
No, the best thing she could do was try to avoid getting shot, or gutted, until they hit dry land. Maybe then, with the crowd thinned out a little, she'd get a chance to sneak up and put a hand on the girl's shoulder.
"Okay, you win, I give up. No harm no foul, right? I didn't hurt anybody, in fact I saved your chick's life," Faith waved a hand at Kaylee. "Kinda. So how about I just sit quietly down and then when we dock, I'll get the hell out of here."
Everyone just looked at her for a moment.
Jayne broke the silence. "I say we don't trust her."
"But she's right," Kaylee countered. "She hasn't actually done us any harm and there is the whole saving my life thing."
The captain seemed to be trying to decide whether to trust her or tie her up again. "I don't know. What's to say you won't just turn around and try and do whatever it is you're trying to do with our River here soon as we turn our backs?"
"You have my word." The captain started laughing cynically and Faith smirked. "Okay, that was weak, but it's all I've got to offer 'til we're back on dry land. How long's that going to be anyway? Where are we exactly?"
"Somewhere just outside Ariel's atmo."
"Atmo? What the. . .?" For the first time Faith looked out of one of the little round windows near the ceiling of the hold. It was wicked black out there. "Is it night time?" she asked hopefully.
"It's always night time in space, silly," Kaylee told her cheerfully.
"In. . .space?" Shit, she was going dizzy. "This is a spaceship? We're actually in outerfuckingspace?"
Someone answered her but she missed it, what with the clanging her body made as she hit the metal floor in a dead faint.
Faith came around, again. Tied up, again.
"Crap." She sighed as she looked around at her new predicament.
It wasn't as bad as before. She was on a chair rather than the cold floor and at least there was no one gawping at her. She was alone in a small room with a strong futurist metallic theme. Not really a surprise there.
Nothing much else was in the room with her, but the very best part about it was there were no windows. She felt like a total wuss for fainting, but she was pretty sure if she got a look out of another window she was damn well going to faint again. No one should be space-napped without warning. It wasn't right. Spaceships weren't right! They were make believe! And shouldn't she at least be wearing a special suit or something? Didn't space have. . .hell, she didn't know, bad rays and stuff?
God, she had to stop thinking about it or she'd pass out without even needing to see a freaking star right outside a window. She had to concentrate on something else.
Well, they hadn't killed her. . . yet. That was something positive to think about.
She didn't know how long she had been out, so she had no idea how long she had been tied up for this time. For all she knew they had docked already and were back down on solid ground again. She could be missing her chance to grab River.
The thought of missing what might be a narrow window had her on the edge of panic. Or it could have been her intense desire to get the job done and the hell back to the past where the food was familiar, the clothes more her style and, more importantly, people didn't fly around in damn spaceships all day like they were the fucking Jetsons!
She'd also be glad to palm the weird chick off on the people who seemed so sure she was the answer to all their prayers. Faith might have felt an undeniable pull towards the mystery girl but she also knew crazy when she saw it, and something about River Tam definitely wasn't right. It was probably that same something that made her so valuable to Willow and the coven, but all Faith knew was she didn't want to be around when the kid blew a gasket.
The thought of getting home and kicking Buffy's ass for talking her into this mission didn't suck either.
Her arms were tied to the chair. She tried to pull them away but they were stuck fast with some kind of heavy duty intergalactic duct tape. It pulled the fine hairs on her forearms without giving so much as an inch and Faith gave up, annoyed. It looked like she was at their mercy then. Freaking great! This mission was just going better and better.
Slumping back in the chair to get as comfortable as she could, she tried to look on the bright side. At least she was alone in here, and after the past couple of weeks of one strange crowd after another, the peace and quiet didn't suck.
Almost as soon as she'd thought that the door slid open a crack. Faith looked up to see an alert eye pressed to it.
"Locked up again. Just like you should be. Everyone's safer if the tiger is caged," came a whisper through the gap.
All of the hairs on the back of Faith's neck stood up and her skin felt cold and prickly but she did her best not to show it. Instead she feigned looking around the room with disinterest.
"Not much of a cage."
"They want to put me back in a cage. So they can poke my brain through the bars."
Faith got the impression she was supposed to comment. "I hear a jar's better for brains. Easier to keep the squishy parts moist."
Giggling, River opened the door enough to slide through the gap and then, looking both ways down the corridor, pulled the door shut behind her. She danced into the room; half singing half reciting something that sounded a lot like Little Bo Peep except the words were different.
"Ah, Jeez!" Faith groaned irritably as she averted her eyes. River was only wearing a slinky light blue slip. It made her look even more waif-like, and even hotter too. "Don't tell me, they sent the jailbait in to try and torment me into doing something worth killing me for?"
River looked down at herself, gliding a palm over her stomach, making the loose material slide up and down.
"It's Inara's. I borrowed. . . I stole it from her shuttle. I shouldn't be ashamed. It's what we do. We're a ship of thieves." She tilted her head to regard Faith curiously. "Every last one of us."
Faith stared back openly. "I get it. You can read my mind. You're a special girl! Now fuckin' stop it."
River Tam smiled like she had a secret but thankfully looked away. She walked in slow, graceful spirals around Faith, running a fancy brush through her long, dark hair and gazing around in wonder like the small, nearly empty room was FenwayPark.
"I was preparing myself," she said randomly.
Faith played along, not like she had anything better to do. "Okay, for what?"
"To fit in. Isn't this what regular girls wear on Earth That Was?"
Faith looked the slip up and down, her eyes lingering here and there a little longer than they should have maybe, but hey, the crazy chick was the one flaunting herself around. She was tied up quietly over here, just trying to mind her own.
"Dunno about normal girls, but yeah, I'd probably go clubbing in it."
"But the blood stains would ruin it."
"Clubbing requires a blunt instrument. It smashes, makes a mess. It can't be cleared up, splashes, runs, seeps into everything. Until it is everything." River suddenly snapped her head away, face contorted like she was in some kind of heavy mental distress. "I don't want to be a blunt instrument!"
Faith watched her warily for a minute, only too aware she was a sitting duck taped here if the girl turned violent on her. When nothing happened but more face pulling and the low murmur of River talking to herself, she tried to get her attention.
"Hey, genius, I didn't mean that kinda clubbing. I'm from the twenty-first century, not a fuckin' caveman."
River turned to look at her, hair hanging over her eyes. Faith shivered at their intensity and tried to ignore the sudden stirring of lust. Now was not the time. And, besides, who the hell got turned on by batshit chicks?
Faith cleared her throat. "I meant the other kind of clubbing. Yunno, dancing and shit."
"Dancing?" River smiled and began to twirl around the room like a hidden orchestra was playing a symphony only she could hear. Her elegant spinning stopped when she was in front of Faith and she looked at her expectantly. "We can go when we get there?"
"To Earth That Was. That's why you're here, isn't it? You want me to come back with you. So you can use me to save your world. Only it's not the world that really needs saving. It's you that you need me to save. Fifteen hundred girls are relying on you to get this right. You can't let them down. If you do you'll never be more than you've always been."
Faith sneered. "Think you got me all figured out, huh?"
The simple answer surprised a chuckle from Faith. "And what, you're just going to come along quietly so I can save my reputation?"
"No, so you can change your reputation. Everyone wants to use me," she said quietly. "Someday someone will. Why shouldn't I choose who?"
"Fair enough, but what about your brother? Ain't he gonna mind you disappearing?"
"Simon is safe with Serenity but Serenity's not safe with me."
Faith felt like she was losing control of the situation. Looking down at her bound wrists, she smirked. Okay, so maybe she'd already kinda lost control of it, but either way the girl seemed to be making less sense now than when she had been babbling nonsense five minutes ago.
"I'm a wanted fugitive."
Faith looked up at her, still smirking. "Join the club. Okay, you wanna fresh start, I get that. So untape me then and we'll get going."
"I have to be presentable first." She whipped the hair brush out from behind her back and Faith flinched, hard, in her chair. The girl giggled. "It's only a thing. It can't hurt you." Then she grew serious, compassion obvious in her eyes. "But it did, didn't it? You thought the diamonds were pretty and she found it on the floor of your room."
"No idea what you're talking about," Faith said flatly but her brain felt like it was ringing with some kind of intruder alarm.
"You weren't supposed to take what wasn't yours. The brush had to teach you a lesson." River leaned down, close enough to inspect the bridge of her nose. She ran a delicate finger down the length of it. "For primitives they did a shiny job of resetting your nasal. . ."
Faith turned her head away. "So the bitch went psycho over a hairbrush. Not like it was the only time."
"But it was the first. It changed things. You knew Mommy didn't love..."
"Okay, shut the fuck up." Faith turned back to glare at her furiously. "You don't know me, alright? Now either untie me so I can get the fuck back home, or call your trained ape in here to kill me. Either way, stop fuckin' talking!"
"Why are you so scared?"
"I'm not scared."
River slowly brought the hairbrush closer to her face and Faith fought against the instinct to lean back away from it. The smooth back was cool against her angry red cheek and the girl slid it over her skin gently.
Faith scoffed, "I'm not scared of fuckin' hairbrushes if that's what you're thinking."
"That's because you're about a dozen sandwiches short of a picnic. Thought you were gonna brain me."
River giggled but spoke quietly. "I'm scared of everything."
The girl gave her a 'duh' look. "Everything."
Faith rolled her eyes. "Give me an example."
"Never being a normal girl."
"No, it's not. That's just what you say. You want to fit in. You want them to like you. You want her to love you."
"Hey!" Faith snapped, her tone even sharper than before.
River moved in close again, studying her intently, although what she was reading from her eyes right now Faith didn't want to know.
"I want to feel love like that."
Faith scoffed again. "Trust me, that one is definitely over-rated."
"You say that, but you wouldn't be here now if it wasn't for love."
Faith shrugged. "Say you're right. I'm God knows how many years away from home, on a spaceship, in space, tied up and at the mercy of a crazy kid with a hairbrush fetish. You really think 'love' is doing me any favors?" Faith sighed as how stupid she had been to accept this mission hit her again. "It's not like I'm even gonna get freakin' laid for it. And can we lose the damn brush please? There's hair stuck in it, and it tickles, which is kinda gross."
River smiled sadly and dropped the brush to the floor. "But you've grappled, felt it, felt people feel you." She sighed. "Kaylee only has eyes for my boob of a brother."
One of Faith's eyebrows rose. "Kaylee. The chick?"
River looked at her curiously again. "Was it illegal to be sly on Earth That Was? Some of the core planets frown upon it but anyone with half a brain knows that it's just a non-linear branch of the innerspectrual relativity of the brain's fundamental sexual cortex."
Faith blinked at her. "So . . . gay good?"
River smirked. "A kiss is a thousand words but all you do is talk, harsh, not nice, no room for kissing when your mouth is full of bitterness."
Jeez, when would this chick stop trying to delve into her personal life! Faith didn't even talk about that shit with people she knew. There had to be some way to shut her the hell up.
Faith sat forward and River was still leaning eerily close enough that it was all it took to cover her lips with her own. It was probably the sweetest kiss she had ever given anyone and that was only because River had gone slack-jawed the second she made contact. She pressed their lips together for a second or two longer before sitting back again.
"See? Not full of bitterness."
River nodded slowly. "Never been kissed. Hard to when you're alone. It wasn't allowed but people kissed. Never me. It wasn't allowed but I saw them. I wanted to break them too. To kiss is to. . . lips, your lips are very pleasant."
"I want to. . . we learn by experimenting. Take the pieces out one by one to touch them. See how they happen."
"What?" Faith drawled warily. Fuck, she'd made her even more crazy than before.
River rolled her eyes. "I want to kiss you again."
"Oh." The way this girl was going from bugshit to lucid and back again was making her head spin. "Why didn't you just say so?"
She sat forward again and River leaned even closer until their lips met. The girl was as passive as before for the first few seconds but Faith could see and feel her concentration. She was studying, adapting, collecting data maybe - who the hell knew how she worked - but soon enough she was kissing back and it turned out she was a quick learner.
Faith felt that tiny sliver of lust from earlier return and grow as River put her hands on her shoulders to lean in more, one hand sliding under her hair to the back of her neck. Faith tried to lift her arms to respond and pull her even closer but they were still taped down firmly and she growled in frustration, pushing her tongue forcefully into River's mouth to make up for it.
With muffled giggling, River reciprocated, learning by doing and their tongues circled and played with each others in a way that soon had Faith mentally groaning in pleasure.
She was aware of the door sliding open but really didn't give a shit about it until she heard the doctor shout. "Get your hands off of her!"
River kept kissing her until Faith pulled her face away and grinned at the small crowd at the door.
"My hands ain't on her, see?" She nodded her head down at her bound arms.
He came more into the room. "I was talking to my sister."
"Oh, sorry, force of habit." Faith was still grinning. She couldn't help it. The look on their faces right now almost made them treating her like this worth it. "Guess I'm used to being the handsy one. Your little sis is pretty good at it too though."
River, flushed and also looking pretty happy, turned to her brother. "Don't be mad. Okay? This isn't what you think."
The captain regarded her for a long moment. "So this isn't you seducing our prisoner with your crazy little sexy ways, then?" As Simon and Kaylee both turned to him he held his hands up. "Hey, now, I don't think they're sexy but she obviously does," he added, pointing at Faith.
"Could be sexy," Jayne said, nodding his head. "If she weren't so bugshit with it."
Faith just sat there, soaking up the amusement - this was the best fun she'd had in three weeks - as Kaylee shook her head at Jayne and turned to River.
"Hey, sweetie. Wash is landing in a minute. Why don't you come and wait at the bay with me? We can be first to the market. There might be strawberries."
River gave her a longing look, that probably only Faith read correctly, but said, "I can't, I have to stay here so I can go."
"Go where, River?" Simon asked carefully.
Faith's eyebrow rose. She didn't remember ever giving her name, but then again that was hardly the freakiest part of this situation.
"Yeah, I don't think that's a very good idea," the captain said. He beckoned her forward. "Why don't you come on over here and you can see her later. When things are more, yunno, not now."
"I can't leave her." River said adamantly and sat down on her lap. "I love her."
Faith's other eyebrow shot up to meet its pal. "What?"
Oh, crap, what had she started here?
River twisted on her lap to look at her, and there was yet another 'duh' look. "I have to be with you."
"Oh, yeah, right. We're in. . . " Faith struggled getting the word out. ". . . love. Sure. It's a love at first sight, soul mate thing. . . I guess."
"No, River. Come away from her," Simon sounded really concerned.
"I'm sorry. I can't. I wish I could."
"The remote recall thingy's in my pocket," Faith whispered. She couldn't exactly reach it herself. "Just gotta grab it and press the button."
River's hand snuck its way in there, feeling for it. "Simon, I'll always love you. You're my favorite big brother. But I can't look after you anymore."
"You can't keep living in my shadow. You're old enough to make your own life now." River had the device out now and was holding it in her hand, her thumb poised over the red button. "I'll be happy, I promise. And you can be happy too."
"River, why don't you come on over here, right now?"
The captain had his gun out now, pointing, surprise surprise, straight at Faith. Even though she hadn't done anything or said anything for the past couple of minutes. Seeing it, Jayne grabbed his gun and soon enough that was pointing at her too.
"I understand this is difficult for you," River said to the captain. "Your love is strangled. It tightens, every day, like a skin-burn noose, but all you have to do is clear your mouth of bitterness. Take care of Serenity for me."
"This chair ain't bolted to the floor is it?" Faith muttered. "'Cause that could be bad."
"Then press the button whenever you're ready for take-off, baby."
River turned back to her family. "I'll be okay. I have to do this so you'll be okay. I love you."
She twisted on Faith's lap again to kiss her as she pressed the button.
They docked hard; castle floors didn't make for soft landings, and the chair toppled over onto its side with Faith still taped into it. They were still kissing.
"Um." That was Dawn.
"Uh, Faith, this is kinda outside of your parameters." That was Willow.
"Just typical." Faith rolled her eyes, that was Buffy.
Faith slowly broke away from the kiss and awkwardly turned her head to look up at them, grinning like a fool.
"Hey, guys, I'm back. Mission-fucking-accomplished. I'd like you all to meet River Tam."
They all stared at the two of them in surprise, none more so than Buffy.
Faith smirked, asking innocently, "What?"
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