TITLE: End Game
DISCLAIMER: Not mine.
Peter Freeman, law man of the newly formed Independent Government looked at the slim girl standing in front of the remains of the house. The recorded cortex footage had shown him enough – Gabriel and Regan Tam had sought to imprison their son for the purposes of rebuilding the Alliance. The Core planets around Osiris had been tipped off to the growing desire on the planet for a return to the 'old days' and their reaction had been swift and vicious. The raid on the destroyed Tam estate (and damn if Freeman didn't want to even know how that had happened) had revealed hundreds of documents regarding Alliance reformation activity.
Gabriel and Reagan Tam were immediately bound by law under the charge of treason against the 'verse, and were now cuffed and seated in the back of the cruiser. Freeman found some amusement in the way the two Core bred dandies looked against the dirty divvy glider – all fancy clothes and expressions of distaste.
The girl looked at him and he nodded, cautiously watching the wall of muscle who stood threateningly behind her. He could recognise the heroes of Miranda, but he'd had family on that planet, and their secret was safe with him.
Besides, somehow of the two people in front of him he didn't think the large man with the tattoos was the most dangerous.
The girl slipped over to where her parents were bound, and leant down. Their eyes widened as they took her in, and they began to try to speak. Suddenly they stopped, struggling to open their mouths as the girl smiled. She didn't touch them, but somehow their voices were silenced.
Her voice was barely a whisper. "Could have been a part, been family. Could have met tiny offspring, cuddled and kissed and danced and laughed. Chose status, chose class. Now you have nothing."
Reagan Tam cried out silently when she realised what the girl meant. They had grandchildren, and the girl was saying they would never get to meet them. If the list of charges Freeman was holding was any indication it was unlikely they'd ever see daylight.
The girl was speaking again, uncaring as tears streamed down Reagan's face. Her voice was a crooning whisper, stunning in its plain honesty. "It will be dark, blackness will envelope you, and your days will be lost, lonely, nothingness. Worry not, the clock keeps ticking, and you have so few numbers left."
Her eyes seemed to flare in the darkness before narrowing. The man suddenly found his voice, though Freeman had to wonder if it was more that he'd been permitted to speak once more.
He sounded terrified. "What are you?"
The girl straightened as her wall of muscle and brother stood behind her. She gave them a strange, pitying smile, her eyes flashing with something dark, something dangerous.
"I am the Slayer."
As she disappeared into the night Freeman had no doubt she spoke the truth. She was the Slayer.
Whatever that meant.
As soon as they rounded the bend Jayne turned to keep watch, allowing the siblings privacy. River clung to Simon, who was clinging back just as hard. After everything they'd been through, everything they'd shared, this was the final cutting of ties, the results of their parent's final betrayal.
Neither cried, they couldn't bring themselves to. Both knew that without the evil their parents had attempted to commit they would never have found the people they now called family, would never have found their true place in the 'verse. The adults they were now understood entirely that this was just another necessary step in maintaining their freedom.
But the children inside? The ones who had loved their parents despite the affection only given with conditions, despite the demands for more, despite the parading and preening, despite the view that their children were simply another enhancement to their status and class?
Their hearts were bleeding.
And so each clung to the wall of comfort that had been there the longest. River buried her face in Simon's shirt, and he held her tightly as both their hearts broke. As they finally let go of what once was, of what could have been, they felt the sharp pain of loss.
Followed by peace.
Jayne turned and watched as his wife and brother-in-law clung to one another. Through everything those two had stayed loyal, stayed loving, hadn't waivered in their belief and adoration of the other. And it made him think of the five men he called brother.
Five men who loved him wholly, completely, for exactly what he was. Five men who laughed with him, fought with him, played with his daughter and delighted in his every triumph. Those five men had helped him become the man he had been before Miranda, and had then stepped in once again to help him become the man he was now. A man good enough for the greatest Slayer the 'verse had ever known.
As he looked at River and saw her heart break and heal he knew that so much of who she was didn't come from ancient magicks or lineage, it didn't come from power and strength. It came from the love Simon had always given her, the love that had freed her from the Academy, the love that had worked to heal her, the love that had embraced her true heritage and told her he was proud.
Jayne had never felt more grateful to Simon in his whole life.
The rest of the crew were filtering around them, the ship parked elsewhere, and Jayne saw Kaylee thinking the same thing her was. If either Tam had been without their sibling they wouldn't be the person they were today.
In fact…he looked around at their crew. The Captain who had taken him on despite a less than positive beginning. The first mate who had fought on his side more times than he could count. The pilot who made him laugh. The mechanic who taught him about sunlight in space. The Watcher who had felt his pain and offered the hand of friendship. The Companion who viewed him as more than a demon, more than Rim trash, as family. The business man with a soft spot for their finest creations. The brothers who now stood beside him. The children they had produced.
The family they had created.
The past was the past. It was bloody and joyful, it was difficult and hopeful, it was dark and light. And it had shaped them all. It had taken a group of misfits, people who didn't truly know their place in the 'verse, and had given them something to believe in, something with which they could forge the bonds of family. Not a person surrounding him was without their own scars, inside and out, but like the thick black ink that shouted out the name of their ship, those scars were permanent, and worth embracing.
Because without them, not a person standing would have ever found what they needed the most in the 'verse.
Peace. Love. Joy.
Inara was moving comfortably about the dining room of Serenity, laughing as the Cobb boys rearranged new seats around the table. With the crew, their children, the Cobb's, and Badger the number of people on the ship was now twenty. Although they were dropping their passenger's off on Persephone soon, it was still a slightly uncomfortable fit.
Nonetheless the crew was happy. Truly, properly happy. Jack and Derrial were tormenting Kale and Lucius, while Lily was sitting on Marcus' lap on the couch, smiling happily as he read her a story. Jason was perched on Wash's knee, eyes flicking over to Lily occasionally as Wash and Badger debated flight plans. River was nuzzled against Jayne, talking quietly to Kaylee and Zoe while Thomas brought over a new bottle of 'shine. Mal grinned at Lucas as the other man recounted a tale of a heist on Juniper.
Inara's recovery had led to some interesting discussions between the crew, one of which was going on now.
Book was watching her carefully. "Have you felt any…side effects of the treatment?"
Inara shrugged. "Honestly, not really. No cravings for blood, although I did notice I'm healing faster. I burned myself on the kettle just this morning and you can't even tell."
Mal ran one hand over her black curls possessively, liking the way her wedding band glinted. "So Doc, what does that make her? She a vampire?"
River shook her head. "Not undead, not a demon. Just altered, enhanced...darker."
Inara flashed River a smile. "I hope you don't mean you think I'm evil now, mei mei."
River leaned back in Jayne's arms, and Inara noted the way his eyes would glint red in the dim light of the galley. The Cobb boys all had those same piercing blue eyes, but when the lights grew dimmer they seemed to adjust automatically. Inara watched Marcus play with Lily, who was now bouncing happily on her uncles' lap. Kale and Lucius were still being sat on by Jack and Derrial, who poked at their cheeks until their eyes flashed red and their teeth grew, at which point the little boys would fall about laughing.
River shrugged, gesturing to her family and herself. "Are we evil? Dark, yes. But evil?"
Inara thought for a moment. "Not evil, just darker, different." She scooped up Jack, nuzzling him into her neck as Mal tickled his little stomach, eliciting a wild trill of giggles. "I think I can live with that."
Book nodded. "It seems our Dr Tam has discovered something…truly spectacular. And something terrifyingly dangerous in the wrong hands."
Simon was leaning against the far door jam with Marina tucked against his chest. He smelt his daughter's hair, baby powder and soap. He looked around at the crew and their extended family. Kale's arm was healing well, but something about the break had made Simon go quiet. He'd spent the last few days thinking very hard, and Kaylee had been kind enough to give him the space he needed.
Zoe had a scar on her back from a Reaver axe on Miranda. Wash's chest still tingled with phantom pains, a memory of what could have happened if the sharpened battering ram had hit its target. Book had a jagged scar under his left shoulder blade, a sneak attack from an overzealous mugger on Persephone a few months ago. Kaylee was still occasionally prone to vertigo, a remnant of the poisoned darts she'd been hit with. Mal had more bullet wounds than Simon had ever seen. Jayne and his brothers healed fast but still bore scars from knives, axes, bullets and barstools. Even Badger had a small scar on his head from where Angelus had knocked him out, sending him into a coma.
Simon had thought about all of these injuries for a long time. River's only scar was a bite mark on her neck, one Simon knew the origin of, though he'd made his sister promise to never, ever talk about her sex life with him. Other than that she was unmarked, the track marks of Niskatech's Crymeth faded, the neurosurgery scars on her head fully healed.
They'd been lucky so many times, Simon couldn't help wonder if they would be the next time, or the time after that. What would happen when they couldn't save someone? A spouse, a friend, a child? They had something no one else in the 'verse had. They'd saved the 'verse multiple times – had they earned this?
The doctor was staring at Inara intently, and finally he flicked a glance at River. His sister gave him a nod.
He cleared his throat for attention. "I do not know of immortality. What I do know is that Slayer healing is a strange and brilliant thing. I know that we get in enough scrapes and battles, that we've all come close enough to losing everything, that perhaps a little reinforcement wouldn't hurt. I don't know what this would mean for us in the long run…all I know is I can't stand to see another family member hurt. Vampires can be killed, so can Slayers. But perhaps it could be our choice, rather than the 'verses'. Perhaps we could break the ethics, break the rules, just this once. So the choice is yours. I have enough serum for every person on this boat."
The crew was silent as they reflected on Simon's words. The concept was terrifying and wonderful, confusing and brilliant. There was much discussion to be had, many things to debate, many concepts that would require thought.
But after months of deliberation, detailed discussion, experimentation, the end result was still the same.
50 years later Mal and Wash would tease Simon about his little speech. None of them had aged a day.
The crew lived happily ever after.
And when they say ever after, they gorram meant it.
A/N: And so ends the Chosen-verse. I can't even begin to describe how much I've enjoyed writing these stories, and even more how wonderful it has been to get your feedback. Truly, you've made me feel very lucky to have such wonderful people to share these ideas with. So much suspension of disbelief, and so much lovely feedback.
I hope you've enjoyed reading this series as much as I've enjoyed writing it :)
Until next time Browncoats,
The Frisky Firelily