Disclaimer: I own nothing but the plot.

Summary: BtVS/Firefly. Serenity's crew faces danger from within.

Author's notes: This is just a one shot that's been playing in my mind since I saw the movie! Enjoy!


"You could have told me."

She was outwardly defiant but something in her eyes showed some hurt, some weakness, however slight, in the hard shell that surrounded her. "What did you expect me to do?" she said coolly, "Telling you the truth from the first would have been like you walking up to the Alliance and announcing that you're a renegade smuggler. Do give me some credit."

"She's only a girl, gorram it!" Mal said, advancing a couple of steps, "Now you've got the Alliance chasing after her – our - tail and blood on her hands. Not to mention trying to put holes in my ship!"

Buffy's nonplussed expression never wavered, "First of all, the Alliance was already chasing her. Chasing her for what she was. And they're not going to stop. You know that she's not a normal girl. She doesn't have that luxury. I didn't have that luxury. No slayer does. You think that I wanted this to happen! I. Had. No. Choice." Her voice darkened, hidden steel evident, "Was I supposed to let her die? 'Cos she would have you know. The Alliance would have taken her and broken her and then she wouldn't be River anymore. She'd be a shell, nothing more; going through the motions but never feeling a thing. It could take years but in the end they'd have her. Do you think you could have stopped them? Oh, you might have tried. You'd still have died. You can't run from them, they're everywhere. Don't play the victim, Mal, I did what I could."

"We trusted you."

"That was your first mistake then," Buffy replied, keeping a close eye on him as he circled her. A quick glance to the deck above showed Zoë, concealed in the shadows, armed and obviously not meant for her eyes. She raised an eyebrow, "You're not really going to try to fight me are you?"

"You are a lying, sneaking gorram bitch," Mal said, "You think I'm just going to let you walk off this ship and tell the Alliance everything?"

"Do you actually think you can stop me?" Moving faster than he could follow, she had a blade pressed against his throat before he could do anything about it. "I admire your courage but listen close; you are not going to be able to kill me. And it wouldn't do you any good if you could either. It's not me you should fear, it's Them. They come two by two, with hands of blue, and if they get their hands on you, you are dead before you know it." Her voice was a silky whisper, the cold steel of her blade dug into his throat but he never lifted his eyes from her face and those oddly intent hazel eyes. She looked deadly but there was something strangely childlike in her tone, "You wouldn't have won and River would have been theirs. But I like Serenity; I didn't want it to be torn apart."

Carelessly, she withdrew the knife and moved about fifteen feet away, idly playing with the blade before putting it away.

"Two by two with hands of blue?"

Mal's voice made her pause for a moment and she saw the unexpected compassion on the captain's face. She stood motionless as he came closer and laid a hand on her arm, looking at her with some sort of comprehension that Buffy couldn't fathom. Disliking the unfamiliar touch, she jerked back and he let her go.

She backed up a couple of steps, one hand going instinctively for one of the hidden blades on her person but he held up his hands in a gesture of peace. "No, Buffy," he said, voice strangely soft, "I ain't going to fight you. You can walk out of here free as a bird. You have my word on that. None of us is going to be stopping you."

Her answering smile was cold and cynical, "There's always a catch," she said, "As you said, I've put the Alliance onto you, why would you let me go?"

"Because I've seen a woman who can kill me and you're it for definite," Mal replied, "I've no doubt you that if you can beat River, you can riddle me full of holes if you please. I have no fancy to die as much as the next man does. I have a strange hankering to live seeing as it would serve no purpose to fight you. You'd get away anyway and where'd that leave my crew?"

"Life." Buffy said, as if testing out the word, "It always comes down to that, doesn't it?" She paused for a moment, thinking, "Fine. I walk and none of your crew will be harmed. I've got a whole wide world to kill after all."

Sheathing her blade, she turned to go, conscious of his stare and the sound of her boot heels clacking on the steel. She had just reached the hatch door when she heard his voice behind her and it made her pause for a moment.

Mal was looking at her, with no weapons in his hands at all though she had more than half expected him to go for his gun when her back was turned. "Buffy?" he called, "How long did it take to break you?"

Blank eyes looked at him, that predatory grace reflected in their depths, and a bitter, bloodless little smile crept to her lips, the words slipping from her lips.

Mal could only watch as the broken slayer turned assassin walked out of the door and out of his life.

From behind him, River entered soundlessly. The dark-haired girl stared at the door where Buffy had been, "She fought you know," she said conversationally. Mal looked at her and candid, knowing eyes met his, "She fought and fought and got nowhere. Two by two with hands of blue broke her into little pieces and now no one can put her together again."

"You're takin' this awfully calm for someone she tried to kill." He replied.

"She didn't try to kill me," River said seriously, "She saved me. They wanted to take me and make me like her but she couldn't let them. She showed me how to fight them, how to stay real, stay alive…. She's dying to save me…. because no one tried to save her…"

Disturbed by River's eerie words, by the now evident grace in every movement – the same grace that Buffy had shown even when she was betraying them, Mal remained behind long after River left and thought of the difference between the two slayers; new and old. River was still alive but only pieces remained of what once had been Buffy. And River had said that Buffy was dying now. For her. As he turned to leave, to tell Wash to get Serenity back into the air, he remembered the events of the last few days and both dreaded and hoped that that was the last time he would see Buffy. As his blood chilled, he thought of Book's god. He had long ceased to believe in any sort of god but now he sent up a prayer for the broken woman who had turned his life upside down.

But he couldn't get the memory out of his head.

He watched her walk away, ignoring the cold ache in his breast. He saw the shattered fragments of a woman walk out of his life – possibly for forever, - understood what the assassin had been sent to do, but still he remembered the glimpses of who she had once been; the sparkling laughter, the wit, the easy acceptance and it made it all the harder to reconcile that Buffy was an Alliance assassin.

He thought of the pained, almost dead, look she had given him when he asked how long it had taken them to make her theirs. That one look spoke of horrors he had yet to see and the answer to his own question.

- "How long did it take to break you?"

Her hand froze on the handle and her lips twisted into that eerie smile; no one had guessed before. She looked at him blandly, no hint of anything besides disillusionment in her hazel eyes, "Five years."


A/N: The End! Please READ and REVIEW!