Carving Out a Future

By: Dreamfall

Summary: Her crew doesn't know that Serenity's new passenger, a carpenter with an 'unusual upbringing', is a relic from the past. Xander says he's not looking for trouble. But, then, neither are they. Not usually, leastways. It just always comes calling anyway. Gen. Canon couples mentioned, but definitely not the focus of the story.

Written for: NaNoWriMo and TTH100: Xander/Firefly

TTH100 prompt: 071-River

Rating: FR13/PG13/T

Disclaimer: I own neither Firefly nor BtVS.

Spoilers: Takes place post Season 7 for Buffy, and post-Objects in Space (and post the comic books, for that matter), but pre-Serenity for Firefly.

Author's Note: This is the story I started in November for NaNoWriMo. I'm thirty or so chapters into it, but since there's going to be at least one hundred chapters (since it's for tth100), they're mostly pretty short. If you're coming from this from my HP fanfics-- it's very different. Way less dark. It's also an incredibly fun story to write, and I do intend to continue with it to its conclusion. And no, it's not taking any real time away from Cat, now that I'm not working obsessively on it, like I was in November. I'll be posting every couple/few days at least till I'm caught up with my livejournal (username dreamfall(underscore)nnwm). Hope you enjoy!

Review Response: Responses to any reviews will be posted in the same livejournal as my other review responses-- username dreamfall(underscore)ff.

Chapter One
A Couple Drinks

Kaylee stepped out of the bar and staggered as she released the heavy door. She caught herself quickly; she'd only had a couple drinks after all. Or maybe it was a couple too many, she admitted to herself as she looked around, trying to remember the best way back to the ship. Not that she was really drunk, but she'd been celebrating a great deal she'd found on a water purifier/pump just as theirs was getting to the point of being dangerous. So far they'd just lost pressure, but they were going to start having real water quality problems if it didn't get replaced soon. She'd had it delivered and would install it while they were in the air tomorrow, but had stayed to have a couple drinks with the seller. And then a couple more with the cute farmer with his big blue eyes who kept offering to buy her top offs. Seemed awful rude to refuse. But Mal would start worrying if she wasn't back soon, and it didn't do to worry the captain. 'Specially not when he'd already wanted her to take Jayne with her as a bodyguard, and she'd barely convinced him she could take care of herself.

Three men with grubby coveralls were laughing loudly as they walked down the street towards her, and Kaylee edged to one side so they could pass without changing formation. Instead, they drifted with her, neatly blocking her path.

"Hey, pretty lady, lookin' fer a bit o' fun?" the middle one asked, his voice too clear to have had very many drinks.

"'Fraid not, boys," she answered, keeping her voice cheerful despite the unease that was fast dissipating her pleasant haze of alcohol. "Can't keep the cap'n waiting."

"Aww, c'mon, honey," he whined. "Captain's got ya every night, if'n yer on the ship -- we just got this one shot." His hand shot out, grabbing for her breast, and she shrank back, drawing in a breath to scream. But the fist in her stomach from the one on the left made the breath leave again with no more sound than a soft whuff, and the big one on the right grabbed her, pinning her arms to her sides with one long arm and covering her mouth with the other hand.

Fear blossomed into terror, and she began struggling wildly. She kicked out, catching the speaker between the legs. He whimpered in pain but recovered more quickly than she expected, hissing, "You're going to regret that, little girl."

"You know," a strangely accented voice murmured from outside their little ring, "I don't think she will. I think it's one of those actions she'll always look back on with satisfaction and even -- dare I say it? -- a measure of glee. Let her go," he added, voice suddenly cold.

They'd all turned to stare at the speaker during this speech, even Kaylee, as much as he could with her head pinned by the foul-smelling hand. He was of medium height with dark hair. In the dim light, she couldn't really make out his eyes too well, but she was pretty sure one was quite a bit lighter than the other. He was dressed in loose pants with a ton of pockets in them and a Hawaiian shirt that could easily have been swiped from Wash's closet. If it wasn't for his expression of calm certainty unmixed with any sign of fear, he would have looked completely innocuous.

"You gonna make us?" the man who'd been talking all along sneered, straightening to stand about three inches taller than her rescuer.

A hint of a smile touched the stranger's lips. "Only if you don't let her go without me making you."

"Not plannin' on lettin' her go till we had some fun, are we boys?" Grunts of agreement from the other two.

"No? Then by all means-- let's have some fun."

And then they were fighting, rescuer, speaker, and puncher, while the last one kept his grip on her, watching. Even to Kaylee's inexperienced eyes, it looked like her attackers were over-matched. And, she realized, she wasn't even helping -- just sitting still like a fancy girl who didn't grow up with three brothers! She bit down as hard as she could on the flesh of the hand over her mouth, and was rewarded with the taste of blood, a loud curse, and the hand jerking away. "Mal!" she screamed, hoping some of the crew was still around and nearby. She bent her knees and pushed off hard against the ground, throwing herself and her attacker back against the wall. His grip slackened slightly, and she lifted her knees to her chest, the sudden dead-weight tearing her from his arms. She fell hard, but scrambled up and away from him. "Zoƫ!"

The man stalked towards her, then stumbled as her rescuer leapt on his back, one arm pressing back on his windpipe, the other fist bashing into his temple. The other two were already down, she realized, but still she yelled, "Jayne!" as she kicked her attacker in the stomach. The pair fell together, and she kept kicking as her rescuer drew clear, weight balanced, looking for the next most immediate danger. He relaxed slightly as he realized they were all down, and then spun at the sound of running footsteps behind them.

Kaylee finally stopped kicking her unconscious victim as she saw Jayne barreling up the road towards them. Never in her life had she felt happier to see the big merc, and she threw herself forward at him. He caught her in one comforting arm, the other hand holding one of his smaller guns. He looked over the scene, then growled, "You tellin' me I ran out here and still missed the gorram fight?"

"'Fraid so," Kaylee said with a watery giggle before turning back to her rescuer. "Thank you so much -- er -- I don't even know your name!"

"Xander," he replied with a grin. "Glad I could -- fuck!"

Even as he released the ancient curse, before Kaylee even had time to be surprised by it, he threw himself at one of the downed attackers, there was a bark of a gun discharging, and Xander changed direction, spinning and crumpling, a dull crack sounding as skull hit pavement. Another gunshot, and the attacker was dead, Jayne's weapon trained on him.