A/N: Thank you ChetUnGwan, MissDigikitty, and Molly Bergstrom for reviewing this short fun piece of mine. CailinRua, I hope you give it a try! This chapter is a bit longer than the previous ones, and is mostly the Firefly crew.
This story will occasionally take quotes from Buffy/Angel, and Firefly/Serenity. Enjoy and please review!
Chapter 3: Likeness
Meanwhile, back in the cargo bay...
"What?" demands Mal as the angry young doctor stomps toward him.
"Shaw?" Simon blurts out frustratedly. "I have to pretend my name is Shaw?"
"What's wrong with it? Decent name!"
"Knew a fellar named Shaw one time," recalls Jayne, curling a dumbbell and only partially paying attention. "I think I shot him."
"You shoot everybody, Jayne," Zoe points out.
"Ain't never shot you!"
"Threatened to a'plenty."
"Captain," interrupts Simon desperately. "I must speak with you, preferably in private."
"What is it now, Doc?" Mal demands as Kaylee reenters the cargo hold, her face flushed ruby red. "You got something to say, say it."
Simon glances up at River, who's tiptoeing around on one of the raised walkways, choreographing some kind of graceful dance. She's the strongest motivation in the 'verse, one that could drive a loving brother to do the unthinkable – break into a high-security Alliance detention facility, rescue her from psychotic researchers, and smuggle her on board a ship headed for who knew where. Every since the run-in with Jubal Early, Simon has watched his sister with particular care, and she seems the most lucid she's been in recent memory... until today, when the sight of the newest residents of Serenity somehow set her off, made her retreat into her own head.
Setting his gaze back on the captain, Simon shrugs and labors to put his unease into words. "It's... about our guests. They... I don't know... I've got this feeling, and so does River. I can just tell."
"Seem alright to me," shrugs Kaylee shyly. "And they ain't so fixated on what's appropriate as some folk 'round here."
Simon heaves a sigh, but before he can speak, Jayne stands up and hustles over, nodding vigorously.
"Hate to admit it, Capt'n, but I have to stand with Doc here. He's right. Something don't sit right with them folk. Too purty."
"Jealous?" Inara teases.
"Darn right, I'm jealous! But that ain't the point. Did'ya hear the gibberish that woman was spoutin'? We already got one whirly-brained wisp of a girl on board. I say, any more and we'll all go sideways."
Mal leans back against a crate, arms crossed over his chest. A captain couldn't ask for better guests than the two pale strangers he'd permitted on board – two quiet, low-maintenance civilians who pay cold hard cash up front, like their privacy, and are so busy being head-over-heels smitten with each other that they won't do anything to break up his little family. Already enough trouble on that front, with Inara barely speaking to him, the tense question of baby-making between Zoe and Wash, and then little Kaylee and the Doc stuck in this puppy-love gridlock that's bound to make the rest of the crew go all kinds of crazy until those two finally admit their attraction to each other. But the problems of Serenity's rag-tag core crew aren't the present issue. He let William Pratt and Drusilla on board, and so now he had to back up his decision.
"Well," Mal finally addresses the group, "I'm not denying that those two are a little hair-raisin', but I've a hefty amount of cred in my pocket tellin' me I don't mind so much. In my ledger, a payin' passenger is a good passenger."
"N'less they turn out to be wanted fugitives, on the run from the gorram Alliance," remarks Jayne with a pointed glare at Simon.
"Captain," the doctor sighs, running a hand over his chocolate hair, "there's... there's more. Maybe I'm wrong, but... I think I recognize that man."
The atmosphere in the cargo bay sobers considerably. Mal and Zoe's right hands drop instinctively to their hips, checking the status of their pistols, while Inara and Kaylee give identical gasps of surprise. Book sits up from the workout bench, brow narrowed and clearly listening intently. Jayne, however, chuckles with derision.
"What, med school dropout or sum'mit? The boy looks like he'd faint clear away at the sight of a little blood, then again I'd a' never figured you for a tough-stomached doctor, an' hell, you've surprised me a number a' times. Now don't let that go to your head," he reprimands. "Already swelled up enough as is, what with little Kaylee flirtin' all over ya."
"Hey!" Kaylee protests, her face finally on its way back to its usual color. "Simon's head ain't swollen. Don't be such a húndàn."
"I'm still strugglin' over the idea that you think you've seen those folks before, in a galaxy this size," Zoe tries to shift the attention back to Simon's surprising comment. "Don't seem like the type of folk you would have shared company with in the Core. They looked real soft, and greener than any labor-roughened settlers, but definitely not your echelon, Doc."
"I never said they were," Simon clarifies. "And it's only the man I remember, William Pratt. My father commissioned him to paint a portrait of my mother for a charity fundraiser he held. The cause was a mockery of course – just a boasting contest, plastering the title of generosity on whoever would dig deepest into their infinite purses – but I remember the finished portrait. It was her exact likeness, down to her freckles and the smile lines around her eyes. Father hated it, of course, wanted something to play up Mother's beauty, glamorize her."
Jayne clears his throat in boredom, cutting in on Simon's reflection.
"My point is, Captain, I don't think that man can be trusted."
"An' this is just 'cuz he singled out your dear ol' mother's age spots, is it?" jeers Jayne.
"I just don't think he is who he says," shrugs Simon. "An artist with talent like his, if recognized by someone less vain than my father, could have had a position in the highest circles on Ariel or another central planet, not skirting the outer rim with no idea where he'll spend the next month or the next night."
"In all seriousness, Doc, do you think he might recognize you two?" Mal demands. The only concerning point he's gleaned from Simon's story is the potential threat to himself, his crew – including the Tam siblings – and his ship. The warrants on Simon and River, dead or alive, are still heavily circulated over the waves.
"I doubt it," replies Simon pointedly. "I was eight at the time. River wasn't even walking yet."
"Poor boy must've had to work for a living from a mighty young age, then," Zoe remarks sympathetically, glancing back toward the passenger cabins. "That man can't be more than twenty-eight... maybe thirty, if he's aging well."
"I should certainly say he's aging well... because he looked exactly the same fifteen years ago when he worked for my father," says Simon, finally reaching the crux of his hesitancy in sharing room and board with William.
After a beat of heavy silence, Jayne breaks it with a laugh. "Aw, now you're just foolin'. Ain't no way that's the same man you 'member."
"And just how many young men have you ever met with blond hair like that?" queries Simon, almost daring Jayne to refute him. "A little hard to forget."
"His hair is white. He is very old," River hums down to them, still prancing delicately and gracefully across the walkway between the two shuttles.
Simon turns back to Mal, eyes placating. "Captain, I know what I remember. William Pratt, a humble artist just looking for work... or so it seemed. We can't trust him."
"What do you expect us to do, Doc? Set a guard on our passengers?" demands Zoe.
"For a start."
"Whatever happened to 'innocent before proven guilty'?" Inara asks sharply.
"I'd rather live by the sayin', 'shoot 'em before they shoot you'," mumbles Jayne. He flips out his hefty buck knife and hawks up some spit onto the blade, rubbing it with a small leather cloth so that it shines.
"That eye-for-an-eye mentality leads to a whole 'verse full of blind people," Shepherd Book comments.
"Enough!" Mal orders. "So far as I'm concerned, them folk ain't done nothin' wrong 'cept look like somebody you saw fifteen years ago, an' that ain't enough for me to refuse them the same welcome I extended to you when you came aboard."
"You punched me in the face and threatened to hand my sister over to the Alliance, after insinuating that I was a pedophile," replies Simon, eyebrows raised.
"Good times," mutters Jayne, still cleaning his blade and letting out audible spitting sounds.
"Well... be that as it may," Mal continues, a bit apologetic, "Will and Drusilla are under my care as Captain, an' I don't want no harm comin' to them. You all hear me clear, now?"
"Crystal clear," Kaylee answers emphatically, while Jayne just harrumphs in response.
"Just tell me where we're dropping them off, so I can make contact with some clients while we're planet-side," Inara mutters, heading up the stairs to her shuttle. She casts a smile at River as she passes the dancing girl.
"Preacher, you on K.P. duty with me?" asks Zoe after a nod to Mal. Shepherd nods and joins her, heading up to the dining area, and Kaylee follows with Simon, his arms crossed and a hint of a disappointed scowl on his face.
"You should listen to him," says River softly, glancing down at Jayne and Mal at a pause in her dance. "People should age. Time... time makes lines, laugh lines and frown lines. Maybe they never laugh or frown. Maybe they're bored with life and have forgotten how."
"Aw, you're not takin' 'im seriously, are you, Capt'n?" scoffs Jayne, watching River wander away towards the dining room. "Never heard such nonsense. Man lookin' the same after fifteen years of hard livin' on the rim? Ain't possible."
"No. No, it's ain't," Mal whispers, lips tight in a frustrated frown, creating plenty of lines on his own face. "But I'm gonna keep a sharp eye on 'em, just in case."
Spike rolls over, panting heavily. Shouldn't feel the need to keep gaspin' like this, don't even need the air, and she'll laugh if she notices. Thinks it's petty of me, breathin' like a human...
Beside him on the bed, Drusilla smiles in her sleep, her thirst quenched and her lust satisfied. She had drunk deeply tonight, siphoning his life-force until her appetite was sated, leaving him almost too weak to pleasure her.
His breaths finally slowing, Spike presses a gentle kiss to her forehead before dropping his head back on the pillow and running his fingertips over the bite on his neck. His blood is potent enough to keep his lover from wasting away, but the drain to his own strength is building up. Too much more, and he'll start getting clumsy, perhaps to the point where his capricious partner gets out of hand, like at Whitefall...
Well, he just won't let that happen. It's a simple solution, after all. Tomorrow night... they'll both drink.
To be continued...
A/N: In case you were curious, Kaylee called Jayne a "húndàn", meaning 'bastard' or 'asshole'. Jayne uses it in Ep 1 "Serenity" and in Ep 3 "Bushwhacked". Maybe it's a little harsh for Kaylee, but I used what I could find. The next chapter will hopefully be hi-larious, so stay tuned!