Disclaimer: Heroes is the creation of Tim Kring and NBC Television, it is not mine.

Firefly is the creation of Joss Whedon and the WB network. Set post events in the movie : "Serenity."

Again, neither of the two universes or characters belong to me; they are only borrowed for the purposes of the story.

Notes: Written for limmenel's request in the Heroes Summer Hiatus Crossover Ficathon.

"Stubborn Like Shrapnel" by Karen

The space he occupied at this moment did not feel much like a place, more a waiting time. Peter Petrelli kept his eyes tightly shut, his breathing even and regular, wondering if dying felt like this.

It was funny, really, he had studied to be a hospice nurse, so when his number came up he should have anticipated that it would feel different for everyone.

The explosion that would have taken out .07 of the population of New York City, when he, for lack of a better description, spontaneously combusted,. He knew it would hurt, and he had long ago resigned himself to that, instead, he felt nothing.

In the back of his mind, Peter thought, "Could someone tell whatever powers that be that might be listening, that they've got this dying stuff all wrong!'

It suddenly crossed his mind to think of his brother, Nathan. Here he was, floating in the blank white nothingness, if his brother, Nathan, who had flown him above the city, high enough to keep the fall out from the explosion to a minimum.

"I hope Nathan managed to get away at the last second." Peter muttered under his breath..

"Nathan," he tried to say, but it came out as only as an unspoken thought in the silence of his own mind.

Peter's drifting conscious mind suddenly sustained a jolt of cold air, and he could at last feel his body. Reassured at last, that he was not dead, Peter Petrelli heaved a sigh and figured that it would do little good for him to fight against the tide, and let it take him where it would.

"What the hell?" was his last spoken thought before the calm, white noise gave way to heat, and light. Peter suddenly blinked and when he could open his eyes, he very much wished to have remained ignorant. He was floating high above what appeared to be nub lea, one only found in the inky blackness of outer space. 'Someone, anyone, tell me that I'm dreaming all of this.' Peter thought before his mind gave way to the pressure of too much stimuli and shut down.

Meanwhile

At the far side of a stellar cluster a much battered and jurry-rigged cargo ship had been

cruising along, just a few parsecs from a stellar cluster, off the more frequently traveled

space lanes nearest the planet Persephone. At the helm, was the girl that several months ago the Alliance would have done anything to get their hands on, River Tam.

River had considered inputting a course correction and taking the time to investigate the stellar cluster.

If nothing else, it was oddly shaped, a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns that did not

occur often in this part of the 'verse, and somehow, either by its very nature, it felt right, it felt like this particular cloud of gas, microscopic dust, light and heat; belonged there.

She had one finger of her right hand hovering over the button on the console of the helm ready to press down and change course, when the ship was rocked by a solid thud. It felt much like something small but solid struck the hull.

River reached up and pulled down the communication system to speak to her captain, "Mal, Sir, did you feel that?"

"Yeah," Captain Mal Ryenolds replied via the established communication link.

"Tell me, do we experience turbulence in outer space now, or is this something new?"

"I do not know," River replied, "but if you hum a few bars maybe I will pick up the tune."

"Well, we're running mighty low on fuel reserves," Mal suggested, "and we've got a powerful need to be picking up more in the way of jobs."

"Captain," River added. "I would like to change course to check a stellar cluster, might I have your permission?"

"Huh?" Mal replied. "Sure, why the hell not. Go ahead. I'll be going down to the engine room and have a pow-wow with Kaylee, and see what's what. In the meantime, it's all shiny."

"Aye, Aye, Captain. I shall, then." River thumbed the communication link closed and replacing it back in its cradle.

Meanwhile, inside of the small infirmary that Simon Tam had set up on one of the decks, had not seen use in recent weeks, not since Hoban "Wash" Washburne's tragic death.

The infirmary was still something about being in a place that orderly and clean, and a small reminder of the home and the career that he had enjoyed while still working as a doctor in one of the most prestigious clinics within the Alliance-affiliated worlds, gave Simon Tam something to occupy his time.

When a prone , comatose and nearly asphyxiated body of an adult male suddenly appeared on one of his examination tables, Simon Tam could not have been more astonished.

His training as a doctor had not completely deserted him, after all for the year or more that he had lived and worked aboard the Serenity, with the disparate and oddly loyal group of friends that Captain Mal Reynolds had often referred to as 'family' he had seen been the one to patch up their injuries; and they had sustained plenty of them.

His first task was get the young man, male, Caucasian human, and in either in his late twenties or early thirties, lungs to remember how to function properly once more.

"One crisis at a time," Simon Tam muttered under his breath, walking over to counter where he had placed his black medical kit, and then over to where his patient lay.

The dark brown hair had been matted down, leaving only one stray strand to flop over and down across the bridge of the young man's nose.

In the back of his mind, Simon wondered if he should have informed the Mal of the possible intruder, but then dismissed the thought. After all, if the stranger had intended harm to any member of the crew, he certainly was in no condition to do anything about it.

"I know you can't hear me right now, Mr. John Doe," Simon said soothingly and quietly to his new patient, but I'm going to help you."

Simon approached the bed, checked for vital signs, pulse, blood pressure, and then immediately began hooking up the patient to a respirator, the priority at the moment was to get the young man's lungs remembering how to breath properly again.

"And how did you get here, I wonder," Simon asked, knowing better than to accept a response to his question.

Peter stirred on the bed, realizing that for the moment he was out of danger, the noise and the feeling that he was going to suffocate at any moment had paused, and he could actually breathe. He just was afraid that if he opened his eyes again, he was going to be swallowed up by that terrible pitch blackness once again.

Encounter

"Welcome back," Simon greeted the groggy, disoriented but very much alive young man who had suddenly sat bolt upright on the examination table.

"Where the hell am I?" the young man demanded.

"Here." Simon waved his arms in a broad sweep across the confines of the infirmary.

"Yeah, could you be more specific," Peter griped.

"You're in the infirmary, more specifically, since you asked so nicely, you're aboard the Serenity," Simon replied.

"Serenity, huh. That's nice. Who the hell are you?" Peter demanded.

"I'm the doctor, or at least I fill that capacity," Simon said.

Peter shook his head. "Am I dead? Somehow this is not exactly how I imagined the afterlife."

"Funny, very funny," Simon replied. "You know, I've been in this profession a long time, long enough to know that if it has a face of a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, stop me if you've heard this one before."

"It most likely is a duck," Peter dully responded. "Just what are you driving at?"

"I read about this particular phenomena, and in a few rare instances I've even witnessed it with my own eyes. Simon remarked as he set down his medical kit and his bio-scanner and then turned back to face the man on the bed.

"Let's just say, Mr. John Doe, that in all my years of practicing medicine, I have never seen a performance quite like yours."

"Why do you keep calling me, John Doe?" Peter asked, a little hazily as he tried to concentrate on what the older man was saying and not sure he could given the cobwebs in his head that kept getting in the way.

"Would you prefer to settle for 'Hey You, or perhaps Patient Zero instead?" Simon asked.

"Peter Petrelli."

"Fair enough," Simon nodded. "Simon Tam."

The face that appeared on the monitor screen was one Malcolm Reynolds would either very much like to never have seen again, or if had come to a matter of choice, would have dearly loved to punch a few times and then shove into the mud of some out-of the way planet in the fringe worlds and leave him there.

It was rather satisfying, and considering that their previous encounter had nearly gotten both himself and his crew killed, it was an urge that was almost but not quite overwhelming in its intensity. Mal shook his head and calmed down long enough to focus in on what the other man was saying:

"Captain Reynolds, always a pleasure," the Operative greeted. "I must say, you are looking well. As much I wish that I could say that this was a social call, urgent matters have come to my attention. I must speak with Dr. Tam. And, please, let's not waste anyone's valuable time by playing idle cat and mouse games, or in denying that both brother and sister are still aboard your ship, hmm?"

Mal grunted, an inarticulate sound that could have been interpreted as neither assent or disagreement with that previous statement. "It grates on my every last nerve, the utter arrogance of that man,," he muttered under his breath to Zoe. Turning back to face the screen, Mal, said, "As you've said, we could dart around the main issue until we both too old and grey to worry about it anymore, so, old bean, why don't we cut to the chase, and find out what you're really after, how about it."

"The verse, as you and yours so quaintly put it," the Operative replied. "Is a strange place, and often a dangerous one. I understand that you have recently suffered a loss in your, shall we say, quirky little family, and you have my condolences. Mr. Wasburn was a fine pilot and a good man."

"Stuff your condolences out of the nearest airlock," Mal growled.

"Charming as ever," the other replied. "Getting back to the matter at hand. I am here, to present to Dr. Tam an unique proposition."

"What kind of proposition?" Mal asked, curious in spite of his natural and well-honed distrust of anything agents of the Alliance or their people said or did. "I'm all ears, like an old-Earth jackrabbit."

"Cute. Where do you come up with these little sayings?" the Operative waved his hands in front of him. "Never mind, I do not wish to know. The point is, I wish to offer Dr . Tam and his sister, safe haven on any planet of their choosing, he will then be offered a chance to resume his interrupted medical profession."

"Sounds too good to be true," Zoe muttered.

There was a brief lull in the conversation when Simon Tam came running in, his face flushed and his normally immaculately combed hair in disarray; that disheveled state was one that the rest of the crew only saw when Simon's sister, River was in danger, or otherwise threatened. "How dare you make any decisions regarding River and myself!"

"Sounds too damn gorram good to be true," Mal said.

"That means it usually is," Peter whispered, having caught the tail end of the conversation.

"What's the catch?" demanded Zoe.

"Regardless of what you might believe of the Alliance and their methods, Captain Reynolds, River Tam's condition is not something that her brother can handle on his own, and given the limited resources of your ship, it's only a matter of time before he condition destabilizes to the point where it will become uncontrollable."

"So? Sounds to me like a polite and sleazy way of saying that the Alliance wants its little experiment returned to them. Well, I've got news for you, sport, with Wash gone, she's the only pilot I've got."

The Operative leaned back in his cockpit of his ship, lacing his the fingers of both hands together. "How you and your crew have managed to stay alive as long as you have, is a mystery that I feel I shall never unravel." The Operative smiled, confident that he had the situation well under control, that all possible contingencies had been accounted for, when he suddenly noticed, standing in the far back corner, the lower left quarter of his screen was a face he did not recognized.

He had always considered a consummate agent, always under control, always aware of his surroundings, with a razor-sharp awareness for the minutest of details, and instincts to match.

He initiated a sub-vocalized command to his ship's computers to zoom on the lower left quarter of his screen, to focus on the face of the human male, dark-haired and dark eyes, ranging in age from the late twenties to early thirties, medium build and height.

Under other circumstances the Operative would have dismissed the stranger as 'not a threat' and moved on to other business.

However, there was something indefinable and arresting about this brown eyes, a look that he had only seen once in another, and that other had been River Tam. Those eyes had seen and experienced far more than it revealed.

Meanwhile, aboard the Serenity. Mal and Simon stood opposite each other and engaged in a glaring match, with Zoe standing by to act as both referee and should the occasion arise, to knock them both back to their senses with a well-placed fist to the jaw.

Shaking off the uncomfortable resemblance to River Tam, he briefly toyed with the idea of demanding that both the Tams and the stranger be included in his list of demands, but then discarded it. In the back of his mind, the Operative considered, 'Really, how much of threat could he possibly be? Although, when I return to Alliance headquarters I must remember to check the Central Archives database, just be to certain.'

Aloud he said, "Dr. Tam, whatever attachments you have to Captain Reynolds and his crew, consider for the moment, the welfare of your sister. I realize that you have more than a few perseverations about the Alliance, and that is quite understandable, but really, the offer is quite legitimate."

"I don't know," Simon muttered. "I don't know if I can trust you."

"Several billion light years away from everything and everyone I ever knew, and I still can't get people to leave me alone," griped Peter staring into the face on the monitor screen.

"You know this guy?" Zoë Warren suspiciously asked, turning to Peter.

"Uh, we're not acquainted, but I…" Peter sighed and reached up to brush away the lock of dark hair that dipped down to get into his eyes. "Oh, Damn it, what the hell, I don't know anything."

"But nothing, sport," Mal interrupted. "He ain't here for you, and speaking for my single and singular self. This feller has some nerve coming back and pestering and harassing me and mine."

"Is he always like this?" Peter asked Simon who stood beside him.

Zoe nodded and stuffed her hands into the pockets of her slacks. "This is a slow day."

Meanwhile Mal rambled on, pausing now and then for responses from the pilot of the other ship. "We've got unfinished business, but the Alliance made us a deal, they'd leave the Tams alone, and it seems to me, that my crew would also be included as part of that deal."

Interlude (Flashback) earth-that was, Present Day

Nathan Petrelli stood alone at the entrance to his campaign headquarters, arms folded across his chest, frowning. The frown had a little to do with the recent article in the paper announcing that he was a least six points behind in the polls with the election less than three weeks away.

While Nathan could take situations like that in stride, no, the frown was caused more from both mingled anger and worry for his missing and headstrong younger brother.

Nathan was a realist, he had to be, from a very young age, and taking care of his brother had simply been a responsibility that he took seriously and felt right, regardless of what anyone else thought of it.

Dropping everything and rushing off to Odessa, Texas the moment that he got the call that Peter had been injured and possibly dying, had jolted him out of an inertia of purposed that Nathan had never even realized had been there. It was as if Peter's need has become his need.

The only problem, of course, was the fact the Peter's latest obsession, ;save the cheerleader, save the world, was well, to put it mildly, just too screwball crazy, to be taken seriously, Peter believed it, believed it to the point where he would risk his own life for a stranger.

The way things were going of late, that random stranger just turned out to be his own daughter from a woman Nathan had met almost fifteen years ago,. His mother called Claire, Nathan's folly in Texas. He was still coming to terms with that, when his brother Peter, had quite literally vanished from the face of the Earth.

Nathan heaved a sigh and shuffled his feet on the pavement, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his dress slacks. "Peter, he muttered, "where the hell are you? IN the back of his mind, Nathan knew that Peter was an adult and could do as he please, within reason.

Peter, of late, believed in all manner of wild things, from believing that he could fly, that he could absorb other people's abilities. Nathan, shook his head, uncertain, even at this late date, which to believe.

It was only at that precise moment that Nathan realized with a shocked feeling like someone had sucker-punched him in the stomach in the midst of drunken bar-room brawl, that Peter's absence had affected more than he had realized.

Peter's absence was a void in his own life and a piece of his soul had been hollowed out. It hurt like hell, and he wondered, not for the first time, if there something more that he should be doing to solve the numerous pestering and confounding questions that confronted both himself and his family.

Back aboard the Serenity.

"The answer, is no, Simon said. "I'm the only one who cares for her enough to know what's best for her."

"That arrogance mixed with how much you care for River Tam, just might get you both killed one of these fine days," the Operative replied, giving away by neither tone nor voice inflection whether he was angry, disappointed, or relieved by the rejection of his offer. Instead he leaned forward and thumbed a button on his console, "You have a ten minute head start before I open fire. I suggest you take advantage of it." Good evening." And with that he terminated his end of the two-way ship-to-ship communication.

"This guy is nuts," Peter whispered.

'Nuts, or not, "Zoe replied. "we need to get out of here and find a safe place to land. His ship is state of the art, faster and has better weapons systems than others. "Go, tell Kaylee,' Mal nodded at her.

"You got it." And with that Zoe was off at a run for the engine room.

"Simon, take our friend, here, and later you can explain to me how he ended up on my ship. And please don't tell me that Kaylee is stowing away boyfriends on my boat, find yourself and our 'guest' a place to buckle up and sit out a spell," Mal ordered.

"All right, all right, I get it already,' Simon muttered, "Come on, Peter, let's do as the captain asks."

"Okay, but just for a nanosecond, " Peter said and paused to brush a stray lock of hair out of his eyes, and then continued. "I could have sworn that the guy recognized me, that he knew who I was and was coming for me."

Simon looked at him, dark brows arching in both curiosity and askance, "You must be paranoid, I know, I know the signs, hell, I've lived with them almost every day of my life, even before I rescued my sister from the Alliance, but let's discuss someplace where we won't have to do over the sound of laser fire, okay?"

"Okay?" Peter nodded. In the back of his mind, he thought, "Wheat the hell have I gotten myself into?"

It was quite possibly that he had managed to accidentally teleport himself to some wacky future where they kept crazy mental people aboard space ships.

'If that's the case," Peter realized with a start, 'he would fit right in amongst all the others, given the way my powers have been acting up of late.' Aloud he said. "This is going to be some ride.. Let's go."