Title: Finding Serenity
Author: Gaeriel Mallory
Disclaimer: Joss owns all.
It had been hard to adjust to life on a spaceship. Even harder to accept that the life he had known, the world he had known, was one he could not go back to. And to all think that it was due to Andrew buying a cursed toy, of all things, from a yard sale.
The boy had barged into his office, eager to show off his find. "Look, Giles!" He brandished the model spaceship in the air. "Look what I found for you! You can use it as a paperweight."
Giles looked over his glasses at him and put down the papers he was reading. "And why would I want something like that on my desk?"
"You're always saying you wanted some peace and quiet, right?"
"Yes. In fact, I would like some right now." The Watcher stared at Andrew, hoping he would get the hint.
Sadly, it didn't work. Andrew carefully placed the model on Giles's desk. "I give you Serenity!"
Giles stared dubiously at the ship.
"The guy who I bought it from, he said he named it 'Serenity' so I thought, you know, it would bring you some..." Andrew's voice trailed off and he sighed dejectedly. "Stupid idea, right, Mr. Giles?"
Giles jumped up from his seat. "No, of course not. I'm rather... touched by it. Thank you."
Andrew beamed. "Really? You really like it?"
"Really." Giles nodded and kept the smile on his face until Andrew bounded out of the room. He then sighed and dropped back into his chair. Picking up the tiny ship, he studied it briefly before putting it back on the desk. "Serenity," he muttered, hand still on the model. "If only I could truly find it."
There was a flash and the next thing he knew, he was sitting in the galley of a much larger version of the model that Andrew had given him. Around him, surprised people leapt up from their meal and pointed weapons at him.
Giles sighed and resisted the urge to take off his glasses. His fingers clenched around the toy ship that had traveled with him and he let his fall with a clunk onto the table. He ignored the shouted questions directed towards him and cursed fluently in a number of languages under his breath.
Inara walked out of her shuttled into the cargo bay and frowned when she saw the newest addition to the Firefly transport's crew. Rupert Giles, the mysterious man who had appeared in the middle of lunch the other day, was sitting towards the bottom of the stairs and staring into space. She made her way across the catwalk and then down, finally taking a seat next to him. "It must be hard," she said softly, "being ripped from your home like that."
He looked at her and smiled sadly. "Yes, it is." He fingered the model of Serenity in his hands. "I wonder if they'll figure out what happened to me. They'll try to bring me back; it's only a matter of time until they figure out how."
She reached out her hand and placed it on top of his. The Firefly was trapped in the middle of their three hands. "What will happen if they can't?"
"Then I suppose I shall just have to make the best of an unfortunate situation." He stood abruptly, causing her to look up at him with surprise. "If you'll excuse me, I think I'll go to my room. I feel the need to be alone right now."
Inara nodded with understanding and watched him as he climbed the stairs and disappeared through the doorway.
Giles entered his room in the passenger area with a sigh. He placed the model Firefly down on the bed and sat down next to it. "Why me?" he asked.
"Because you need this."
Giles jumped in shock. He stared at the girl standing in the doorway. "River?"
She walked further into the room and kneeling, trailed a finger along the top of the Firefly. "Serenity." She looked up at Giles and grinned. "He gave you serenity."
"That he did." Giles took off his glasses and squeezed the bridge of his nose. "But I didn't want this." Involuntarily, he let out a small sob. "I just want to go home."
"You miss them."
"They're my family. They're hard to deal with sometimes, and impossible to understand most of the time, but they're still my family."
Giles looked at River and nodded. "Yes. They're my children."
She climbed onto the bed and curled up against his side. Giles placed an arm around her shoulders. She murmured something in Chinese.
Giles laughed softly, glad that he was able to understand her Mandarin as he had not been able to understand Chao-Ahn's Cantonese. "If you want, I suppose I can consider you one of my children too." His hand stroked her hair softly. "I wish you could meet them, River. They're all so full of life; it would do you a world of good to spend some time with them."
"They miss you too and they're working to bring you back. They'll eventually succeed but it won't be for a good long time."
Giles tightened his arm around her. "I'm... sorry to hear that." He gazed down at her. "You're a seer?"
She shook her head. "I'm a River."
He chuckled. "Yes, I suppose you are."
The crew looked up with varied levels of amusement at the sight of River leading Giles into the dining area. "Seems like you've been adopted, Mr. Giles," Shepard Book observed with a smile.
River shook her head as she pushed Giles towards an open spot at the table. "Other way." Grabbing a slice of bread, she sat next to the older man and handed it to him. "He adopt me."
Simon looked at his sister in shock. "What?"
Giles cleared his throat. "Um... well, because those who I consider my children aren't here, River kindly offered to take their place."
Kaylee grinned at River. "Aw. That's so sweet."
"Careful we all don't get tooth rot." Jayne grunted and shoved a spoonful of food into his mouth.
"So, Mr. Giles," the captain spoke up, "Have you given any thought of what you're going to do in this strange new land?"
"I had rather thought that was up to you," Giles answered softly. "After all, it is only by your mercy that I wasn't shot on sight when I first showed up, or shoved out an airlock."
"You mentioned that you know how to fight."
"Well, I was trained in various fighting styles and weapons as part of my schooling." Giles studied Mal. "Just what did you have in mind for me to do, Captain?"
River shook her head. "No!" She shot up from her seat. "He doesn't belong. He's soft."
Simon grabbed hold of her arm. "Sit down, mei mei," he said gently.
On her other side, Giles placed a hand on her shoulder. "It's all right, River. I'm tougher than I look."
She pouted but allowed herself to be steered back into her chair. "May be tough before but too soft for this world." She looked imploringly at him. "I don't want to lose another father."
"You won't. I promise."
"Don't make promises you can't keep." River shoved back from the table and fled the room.
When Simon moved to follow, Giles shook his head and got up instead. "Let me," he said softly. "I've had rather a lot of experience with emotional teenage girls, believe it or not." His lips twisted wryly. He left the galley and walked down the stairs to the passenger quarters. River was curled up on the couch in the common area outside of the medical bay.
"Don't fight," she said abruptly. "You're not a fighter. You're a reader, a scholar. Read books like Book."
He chucked softly and sat down next to the girl. She leaned into him, laying her head on his shoulder. "You're wrong, River. I am a fighter—I've been fighting all my life. I fought my father and the path he wanted me to take. I then had to fight the darkness that I discovered inside me—fighting the darkness outside of me was much easier, unfortunately."
"The darkness will swallow you up," she whispered. "Black all around and then you'll leave me."
Giles stroked her hair. "I can't promise I won't leave you, but I can promise you that I won't leave you of my own accord."
She looked up at him, her eyes dark. "You will leave," she said firmly. Her hand cupped his cheek. "Your home's elsewhere. You're needed there."
"I'm glad that you're so sure of that. In the meantime, do you mind if I stick around?"
River grinned and jumped up from the couch, pulling him up by the hand. She ran back up to the galley, Giles struggling to keep up. The two burst through the doorway and Mal looked up from his meal. "Everything worked out all nice and proper 'tween you two?" he asked.
River dropped Giles's hand and stalked towards Mal. "He'll stay and fight, but you'll take care of him."
Mal's eyebrows drew down. "'Course I will. He's part of my crew, ain't he?"
Giles knew something significant had happened when Zoe and Kaylee both looked at him with surprise and speculation. He cleared his throat. "Thank you," he felt compelled to tell the captain.
Mal waved his hand dismissively and returned his attention to his meal. "Sit down now before Jayne eats all the food."
And just like that, everyone lost notice of him. Giles stood there gaping at the sheer volume of food disappearing into Jayne's mouth when River poked him in the side. "Sit," she ordered him, pointing to the empty chair. He sat and picked up his spoon. Before digging into the less-than-appetizing protein meal, he glanced around at everyone and smiled slightly.
He had no doubt that Willow would find him eventually. But until then, he might as well enjoy this impromptu vacation.