Title: Of the Wolf, Ram and Hart

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: T

Summary: Firefly/A:tS. Mal woke up slowly, blinking as he recognized the familiar ceiling of Serenity's med bay floating above him. 1150 words.

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.

Spoilers: Firefly; "Serenity" (2005); the last seasons of Buffy & Angel.

Notes: Challenge fic. Another riff on the re-use of Firefly actors as evil characters in the Buffyverse.

Mal woke up slowly, blinking as he recognized the familiar ceiling of Serenity's med bay floating above him. He'd seen that sight too many times to mistake it for anything else- that, and he could feel the hum of his lady's engines in the marrow of his bones. He'd missed that sorely over the last several days, at least as much as he'd missed his crew and the Black spreading wide and free all around him.

"How?" he muttered hoarsely, stirring slightly on the bed, then winced as sliced skin and broken bones pulled against new stitches and bandaging.

"Cap'n?" Kaylee's voice, full of worry and painfully welcome, piped up at his side. She leaned over the bed, laying a warm hand on a patch of unmarred, uncovered skin on his right arm, and stared down at him, searching his face with her eyes. "You're awake. How're you feelin'?"

"How you think I'm feelin'?" he rasped, then made a face and tried to swallow. His throat was dry as a desert, dry enough to tell him it had been longer than he thought since the last time Niska's torturer had allowed him anything to drink. He had no idea how long it had taken the crew to fetch him after he'd passed out that last time, or how long he'd been lying here waiting to wake up since.

Kaylee made a sympathetic face and reached out of his field of vision, then brought her hand back clasped around a large cup of something wet with a straw sticking out of it. He made a face but drank from it gratefully.

"That's it, Cap'n," Kaylee encouraged him as he sipped. "You'll be up and around again in no time."

When he felt equal to talking again, he let the straw slip from his mouth and tried his question again. "How'd you find me?" he asked. "Thought for sure when I saw Jayne there it meant he'd done somethin' to the ship to keep y'all from following."

Kaylee's cheer dimmed a little at that. "That weren't Jayne," she said, shaking her head.

"The Hell it wasn't," Mal said, surprised at her reply. He struggled a little, trying to sit up despite the pain that throbbed in his ribs, then winced and settled again. He could still picture the mercenary's smirking face hovering over him as he made new, interesting patterns on Mal's skin with his knife. "I gotta tell ya," he'd said, "I'm a little disappointed. Didn't think a big, scary Independent war vet like you bled this easy."

Mal hadn't known Jayne had that kind of- creativity- in him, and it had sickened him to know he'd let a man as could do that sort of thing live in close proximity with so many people he cared about for so long without nary a clue. He'd seen Jayne hungry for battle, but never thirsty for pain; the man had even said, once upon a job gone wrong, that men as lusted after the thrill of killing were as good as Reavers. If Mal hadn't known better, he would have thought his torturer an evil twin instead- but Jayne only had one sibling, a younger sister who took ill at the drop of a hat and scrawled barely-literate messages that her brother was always loudly delighted to receive.

"It weren't," Kaylee repeated again, sounding distressed. "It weren't him, Captain. I know what it musta looked like, but Jayne was here with us the whole time."

Mal gaped incredulously at her, unable to reconcile what she was telling him with what his own eyes had seen. "You tellin' me there's two men in the 'verse looks that identical, and they ain't twins? I ain't buyin' it, Kaylee. I don't know what he's told you, what kinda sneakin' around he did to keep y'all from figurin' out what was going on-"

"Told us, nothing," Kaylee frowned. "I done seen 'em with my own two eyes, and you can too; we got him locked up down to the cargo bay. Zoë thought you might like to see him 'fore we flushed him out the airlock, just so you could be sure."

"You-" Mal swallowed. "You captured that tama de hundan?"

"Killed him, sir," Zoë said, face grim and hard as she slid the doors of the med bay open and stepped into the small space. "Shot and staked, not that it'll slow him for long. You feelin' up to payin' him a visit?"

Mal shifted a little on the bed, assessing the state of his injuries, and grimaced as his nerve endings reported in. Now he'd had a little water and some time to clear his head, he still felt like he'd woke up after being on the wrong end of a stampede, but workable. He wouldn't be moving at a very good clip, but with an arm or two as support, he'd do just fine. If it were necessary.

"Some reason I ought to be in a hurry on this one, Zoë? Somethin' about this guy I don't know about?"

Her nostrils flared, and her expression grew even grimmer, which he hadn't known to be possible. "Took eight shots to bring him down, sir, all of them center mass. And he has a tattoo, middle of his back. He's of the Wolf, Ram and Hart."

Mal took a deep breath at that, then flinched and closed his eyes as the pain subsided. "That's a fairy tale, Zoë. Story made up to frighten children."

"So were Reavers, sir," Zoë said flatly, staring him down as he opened his eyes again. "River's skittish of him, too; girl keeps talkin' about fangs and armies of evil lawyers, or some such."

Mal swallowed. Immortal, evil assassins who worked for some kinda hidden authority? Sounded like feihua- but then, he'd seen the men tasked after River. Two by two, hands of blue. Was Zoë's suggestion really that far-fetched by comparison with all else he'd seen the last two years? Who knew what other kind of experiments had been done on people?

"If he's one of them, then what'd he want me for?" Mal asked "Man kept calling me Caleb, but I know it weren't mistaken identity; he knew all about my war record, and our part in the Miranda broadwave. Kept tauntin' me about helpin' the girl, 'stead of killin' her."

"Couldn't say, sir." Zoë shook her head as she said it, but something in the lines around her eyes said different; she'd rarely lied to Mal in all their years working together, but he'd caught her out every time. And she knew it. If she were lying to him now, it had to be for Kaylee's sake, or anyone else listening- which meant he'd have to pry it out of her in private later.

"Huh," he said. "Well, then. Gimme a hand up, why don't you?"