Cries of the Dead II

By PaBurke

Cross: BtVS/Firefly

Disclaimer: Not mine, especially not the poem. That's Emily Dickenson's.

Spoiler: Just after the movie. Sequel to 'Cries of the Dead.' This was one of the last stories that I thought I'd be continuing.

Word Count: 1300

"Mal," Simon caught up with the captain just outside of the kitchen and then led them both away.

Mal worried a bit. Simon wanted to talk to him privately. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing. I hope." At Mal's glare, Simon corrected himself. "I think. I… just want to be prepared. I was wondering if we could do another hospital job."

"Why?" They had kept to the safer jobs since everyone had found out about the new baby, but they sure could use the cash of a med-vault job. Was it worth the risk?

"St. Gabriel's is on the nearest Core planet and they have the best neo-natal facility in the 'Verse. We could stop, get some meds to sell and stock up on OB/GYN meds and I could download all of their research." Simon looked flustered. "I want to be prepared for anything."

Simon was exhibiting more fear and uncertainty now than when someone was bleeding. "I'll talk to Zoë about it."

Simon's eyes bulged. "Don't tell her that I'm worried."

Mal snorted. "You also want to restock on River's meds."

"Of course. That was going to be on the list. Some day, I'd like to rescan River's brain to see if my theories of healing are true, but now is not that time."

"'Sides, I need my pilot driving the ambulance."

Wash watched River do his job. She was a genius, but he wanted to help. He noticed little things that could be improved. Then River fixed the timing coil and the paint job of the junkyard ambulance and Wash was feeling useless. Kaylee put together the engines with her normal faultless instinct. He watched as Simon coached Zoë and Mal on the medical terms that they might or might not need. Wash had missed this entertainment last time. Oh, he had known that Zoë had been beyond frustrated, but she was determined. He loved watching the lessons. She wasn't about to let a little morning sickness slow her down for the last job she'd pull before the baby was born.

Wash had a little talk with the unborn baby. He asked his Lit'l Lamb to be gentle on her momma. Anything to make Zoë's life easier. Wash wasn't sure if the Lit'l Lamb understood, but the morning sickness eased.

Buffy wasn't around much. She seemed to be following Jayne around, whispering in his ear. It was then that Wash found out that Jayne had betrayed them last time. He hoped that Mal knew. He listened as Jayne practically begged to be the one put under, to be one of the ones unconscious, vulnerable. Jayne felt guilty and he didn't want anyone and especially not Mal to not trust him.

River said that Jayne should be put under and then he could protect Simon when they woke up. River knew and with the way that Simon nodded in agreement, the doctor knew too. They had forgiven Jayne. Was Wash the only one who was just now finding out about Jayne's involvement in the Ariel debacle? No. Zoë and Kaylee were looking confused.

Buffy insisted that they ride the ambulance with the crew doing the job. Wash really didn't want to distract River from piloting, but Buffy said that it would be good. When they landed, Zoë and Mal pulled the gurneys of Jayne and Simon into the hospital. They pushed right next to an older man that reminded Wash of Shepherd Book. It was more than his coloring and stature that was similar, it was the way that he held his body and the knowing look in his eyes. Wash wondered why Mal and Zoë ignored him.

Then Buffy walked up to the man. "Hey Gabe."

"Slayer. It's been a while." They clasped forearms like warrior-allies. Gabe looked at Wash. "Who's this?"

"Wash. He's married to one of the crew. Wash, this is a friend and the resident ghost of the hospital, Gabe."

Wash shook hands with the man. He wondered how many ghosts were there and did Buffy know all of them?

"We've got work to do," Buffy reminded them.

Gabe nodded. "I'll show you where Wash can stand to disrupt the computers as your doc hacks the system. A ghost would cause enough problems that would be a priority and an obvious problem for those monitoring the system."

Wash followed the two other ghosts to a computer interface.

"Just stick your hand in there and move it around every once in a while," Gabe instructed.

Wash obeyed. Then Gabe and Buffy started walking away. "Where are you going?" he called after them.

Buffy walked backwards as she answered. "We're going to cause problems to protect the others. I'll be back for you when it's time to go."

Mal had no idea why this job seemed to be charmed when every other job fell apart at the seams. They were in and no one had questioned them beyond what they had prepared for. This time they did have to use some of the vocabulary that Simon had drilled into their heads again. Mal knew then that this was a higher class of hospital than the one in Ariel. River had been muttering about Simon belonging here and Mal couldn't argue. Simon offered the same excellent quality of care whether in a hospital, a whorehouse, or on Serenity. Mal had done the smart thing in giving the Tam siblings a refuge, way back when.

Another door malfunctioned behind them, blocking them from anyone who gave them a second look.

Seriously, this job was going too smoothly.

He and Zoë turned right and then made two lefts. The med-vault was right in front of them. This time their ID cards scanned right in. No need for the ID that Mal had lifted off some doctor on their way. The empty gurneys were quickly filled of all the medicines Mal and Zoë had written down. Two short minutes later, they were steering the gurneys out of the hospital and to the waiting ambulance. River was there, which was even better.

She was sad, but she speaking to Kaylee waiting back at the ship. River had promised to do so when she agreed to the job. They couldn't afford for River to go off the rails when she was alone… and their ride out.

It seemed like River was quoting something. "We passed the School, where Children strove At Recess – in the Ring – We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain – We passed the Setting Sun – Since then – 'tis Centuries – and yet Feels shorter than the Day I first surmised the Horses' Heads Were toward Eternity -"

"River?" Mal asked.

She wasn't done. "We slowly drove – He knew no haste And I had put away My Labor and my leisure too, For His Civility."

Zoë glanced at him. "Simon and Jayne are on their way," she reported.

River started up the engine, murmuring all the while. "Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me -"

Mal grabbed the crazy girl's shoulder. "River, you need to concentrate. You need to fly all of us out of here."

Simon and Jayne jumped aboard. No one was following. Still River waited. Mal was milliseconds from pushing the girl out of the pilot's seat.

"River," Simon pleaded. His voice jolted her.

The girl lifted off. Her serious disposition blurred with a smile. "The Carriage held but just Ourselves – And Immortality." She didn't quote anymore and she flew back to Serenity as smoothly as if it were Wash driving.

Mal figured that she had finished her poem.

River patted his arm when they landed. "All aboard, capt'n."

"Then get us into atmo."

She nodded, still muttering softly.

Mal and the rest of the crew breathed a sigh of relief when the Black surrounded them once again.