DISCLAIMER: Both Firefly and SCC are the property of 20th Century Fox. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A big thanks to zennie for the beta. Thank you for all your encouragement. I probably wouldn't have tried to tackle this without you, hon.
SPOILERS: Up through the movie Serenity. If you haven't seen Serenity, be warned. Character deaths are mentioned here.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
No Rest for the Wicked
By Inspector Boxer
Tendrils of golden fire twirled and licked at the blackness of space as Serenity soldiered on toward her cold destination.
The former operative could see her if he strained his eyes to do so. He'd fitted the little firefly with a homing beacon, carefully concealed in one of the many engine parts Connor and Jayne had acquired on the planet, so there was no risk of losing his prey, but there was something welcoming about the tiny, warm pinprick of light in this particular patch of black. Comforting, in fact.
He kept his distance, just outside the ship's radar range. He'd reveal himself to the crew in due time. For now, he was content to browse whatever information he could unearth on Serenity's new pilot. The rest of the crew he knew backwards and forwards. No surprises to be found there. But Connor Connor intrigued him. He'd been studying her all night, slowly and methodically building a profile of the woman who could either help or hinder his plans.
Sarah Connor's life was a sad and tragic one, no doubt, but he admired the resilience he could see in her. Whatever life threw at her, no matter how many times the 'Verse beat her down, Connor always got her feet under her and came back up swinging.
Not that her spirit hadn't been cowed somewhat by loss and war. She'd been weakened time and again, but still she fought and no doubt would to her dying day. Sometimes Connor battled in full view, warring against the Alliance, and sometimes she used stealth to stick the proverbial knife in the backs of her enemies. The former operative used a forefinger to trace the shape of Connor's face. "You're trouble," he murmured, but their was a hint of delight in his voice.
"I very much look forward to meeting you, Sarah Connor," he told the image. "It won't be long now."
The passenger quarters were quiet as Simon stepped off the stairs on his way to the infirmary. He was treading lightly, careful not to make much noise in the early morning hour. Most of the crew was asleep but would be stirring soon, including His gaze darted toward River's closed door as he passed and he frowned, not wanting to think about what he'd find if he were to peek inside right now.
His mind conjured the images anyway and he winced. Comforting himself with the knowledge that Connor seemed to have some semblance of honor, Simon almost convinced himself that nothing had happened last night between River and the pilot but some small talk and sleeping.
He'd given his sister and the pilot their privacy for the night while he'd kept a close eye on the scans of River's brain. After a spell of upset, River had settled down for the night, sleeping soundly if not peacefully. It was more than he'd hoped for, though, and he took last night as a victory. He knew he owed Connor a word of thanks for that.
Entering the infirmary, Simon set his supplies wearily on the counter. The examination chair looked comfortable enough to sleep in after being up all night in the galley. He gave it some serious thought before deciding against it, figuring he would wait until River was awake before getting some sleep of his own.
He turned and leapt completely off the floor when he came face to face with his sister.
"I remember what you did," River said seriously. "Don't do that again."
Simon laid a hand over his slamming heart. "Mei-mei, you scared the hell out of me."
"No more drugs," River insisted, completely unconcerned and unapologetic for frightening him out of his wits.
"No more drugs," Simon agreed. His sister merely gave him a long, scathing look before spinning on her bare feet and padding back silently the way she'd come. He followed at a safe distance, watching as River quietly opened the door to her quarters and stealthily slipped inside before shutting it.
The doctor ran a shaking hand through his hair. "I hate it when she does that," he murmured.
River paused in the doorway and took a moment to simply watch Sarah sleep. The pilot had curled around River's pillow in the younger woman's absence, her beautiful features relaxed beneath a tumble of brown hair. The sight did something funny to River's heart, making it feel like a fist was squeezing the breath out of her, but the sensation was pleasant rather than painful. She padded closer before easing to her knees so she could see Sarah's features up close. The pilot was breathing slow and deep, and River felt strangely jealous of her own pillow where it was snuggled so securely in Sarah's arms.
She'd lit another candle before leaving since the others had burned out, and the flickering flame did interesting things with light and shadow across Sarah's exposed cheek and shoulder. River bit her lip, trying to discern a strategy for trading places with her pillow. She wanted to be in Sarah's arms, surrounded by her heat and scent. Craving the contact, River leaned forward to better study the situation.
As River watched, Sarah stirred slowly from sleep, her grip tightening briefly on the pillow before relaxing. Green eyes blinked lazily open only to discover her co-pilot hovering over her. Connor jerked in alarm, her hand shooting out from under the covers for the gun belt she kept close. Her fingers tightened over the familiar wood and metal butt and she slid the weapon free of its leather confines, whipping the gun around and bringing the barrel to bear on River.
"It's okay," River hastily promised, sitting back and holding up her hands, realizing too late that she'd made a tactical error with the former soldier.
Connor closed her eyes and swore, the gun wavering in a suddenly unsteady hand before the pilot lowered the weapon and left it in a jumble of blankets. River clutched Sarah's wrists and pulled them to her chest as she murmured soothing words. Connor could feel the younger woman's thumbs stroking up and down the backs of her cold hands as River settled on the bed next to her, willing her to calm. The touch was both welcome and strangely agitating after the way she'd woken up. The pilot had to resist the urge to jerk away. "I almost shot you," she snapped, opening her eyes at last.
"You wouldn't have," River answered instantly.
"My finger was on the trigger " Connor's voice was rough and held a hint of anger.
"You wouldn't have," River repeated. "I'm sorry I startled you."
Dropping her head back onto the pillow, Connor let her body relax, the tension fleeing her muscles almost as suddenly as it had infused them. Adrenaline still made her heart hammer, however, and she took a moment to let it settle before looking at River once more. "Not a good way to wake me," she murmured.
"I figured that out," River replied in a sheepish tone. She let one of Sarah's hands go so she could ease her own through the pilot's dark hair. "I'm sorry," she said again. "I should have known better."
Blowing out a harsh breath, Connor shook her head. "Not your fault I have a hair-trigger."
River ached for her, for what Sarah's life must have been like before. "I don't mind it. It's kept you alive this long."
Connor's green eyes tracked from the gun resting on her stomach to the co-pilot's face. She wrapped her grip around the weapon and rolled over, forcing River to sit back as she slid the gun into the holster. She sighed, taking a moment to collect her thoughts and emotions as her fingers toyed with the edge of the leather belt. "I didn't feel you get up."
"I'm sneaky," River reminded her in a gently teasing tone, watching the tense set of Sarah's shoulders and wondering what she could do to relax the muscles she'd inadvertently tightened. "I was sitting here plotting, in fact, when I scared you."
Connor blinked and took in a breath, about to argue River's description of recent events. Instead her mouth thinned into a tight line as she swallowed whatever she was about to say. She turned and slumped down onto the bed before facing the younger woman again. "Plotting?" she asked simply.
"How to get you to turn loose of my pillow and hold me instead," River said innocently.
Connor's breath hitched in surprise at River's words. It was nothing short of amazing how River could take her emotions and make them run the gamut from anger to the stirrings of arousal in one short conversation. She sat up on her elbow and regarded the younger woman. "Do you do that on purpose?" she asked suspiciously.
It was River's turn to blink. "Do what on purpose?"
"Say things like that to me."
River didn't understand. "Did I say something bad?"
Smirking a little, the pilot reached out and let her fingertips slowly glide down River's cheek, savoring both the touch and River's captivated reaction to it. She felt the tables turn in the moment, and she smiled "Tell me something."
The pads of Sarah's fingertips felt both rough and seductive on her skin, and River would swear she could feel the contact all the way down in her guts. She swallowed and suddenly felt hot all over. "Anything."
"What if I told you that you're beautiful?" Sarah watched River swallow again and the copilot's eyelids fluttered. "Does hearing me say that make you feel funny?"
Finding it hard to speak, River simply nodded. "A nice kind of funny," she finally managed to say breathlessly as her head tilted against Sarah's fingers and her eyes closed.
"Now you know how I feel when you say things like that to me," Sarah whispered. Her gaze slipped from River's closed eyes to her slightly parted lips. Almost of their own volition, Sarah's fingers eased through River's hair before her hand curved around the back of the younger woman's head, urging River closer.
The door opened just as Connor's mouth brushed with a hint of heat over River's. They both leaned back abruptly as Kaylee greeted them with a beaming smile.
"Mornin'," the mechanic said cheerily. "Thought you both might still be cold. Brought you some mint tea." She handed River and Connor steaming mugs. "I always like mint in the mornin'," Kaylee continued when both women simply looked at her. "Freshens the breath and all."
Connor snorted when she discerned Kaylee's intent. "Remember what Zoe said about you and subtlety?"
Kaylee merely grinned. "Drink up, ladies," she said with a wink before spinning on a booted heel and almost hopping away.
Sniffing the contents of the cup curiously, River frowned. "Is Kaylee feeling all right?"
"I think what Kaylee is feeling is meddlesome," Connor muttered with a minute headshake at the departed mechanic. Kaylee's heart was in the right damn place, but her timing left something to be desired. Connor looked at River then, her green eyes immediately straying to the soft lips she'd been so close to sampling. She was going to have to blow up some part of Kaylee's engine again as payback.
Something about River's response made Connor chuckle. She blew on the tea and took a tentative sip. Too bad the mechanic couldn't have been five minutes sooner or later. She watched as River took a sip from her own mug. There was no awkwardness between them after the near kiss or the sharing of their demons the night before. Connor wasn't sure what to make of that. The pilot studied River over the rim of her cup.
River licked her lips, clearly liking the hint of mint. "Oh," she breathed, apparently understanding Kaylee's intent with sudden enlightenment. She looked up at Sarah and her cheeks reddened. "I she " River cleared her throat and stared into the depths of her cup. "She should have come earlier."
Taking another sip of her tea, Connor felt herself relax. "She should have, huh?" Connor asked teasingly.
Doe eyes lifted and captured Connor whole. The pilot felt her breath hitch again and her amusement evaporate, caught in the coils of heat that snaked low in her belly. She ran a hand through her hair; knew it was shaking. It was her turn to clear her throat and drop her gaze. "River "
"Connor? You up?" Mal's voice floated down the steps and a half second later his boots clamored down after it.
River smiled as Sarah groaned theatrically at the second interruption. She watched as the pilot raked a hand through her tousled brown hair again, her gaze following the path of Sarah's fingers before shifting to the curve of her cheek and eventually trailing down her neck to stare at Sarah's collarbone. A seductive thought flittered through River's mind, making her choke on her tea, nearly spraying a mouthful of it all over the floor. Connor merely gave her an arched eyebrow in response, as if she knew exactly what River had been thinking.
Mal appeared in the doorway. "You ladies decent?"
River nodded quickly as she wiped at her bottom lip. She noticed Sarah's gaze strayed to the action.
Connor wrenched her eyes off River and focused on Mal as the younger woman scrambled to her feet. "Never," she replied deadpan. "But we're dressed."
Mal smirked, amused with the pilot's response. "Need you up on the bridge. Got to get a proper move on, but we need to be keepin' a close eye out for Alliance patrols."
"I'll be right there," Connor promised.
Mal's gaze shifted onto River, noting that she wouldn't look at him or Connor. "The voices?"
"Quiet for now," River replied.
"Just the way we like 'em." The captain paused. "They ain't telling you to do things are they?"
"Things?" River looked at him blankly.
Mal heard Connor shift and he could feel her green eyes on his profile. "Things that convicts might suggest " he continued.
River looked like she wanted to roll her eyes at him. "Of course they are. They're convicts."
The captain blinked, finally looking at Connor who was frowning now. "And are you interested in "
"I'm ignoring them, Captain," River cut him off. "They leave me alone as long as S " River hesitated. "As long as Connor is around." She shot the pilot an apologetic look for her near slip, but Sarah didn't seem to notice.
Mal looked from one woman to the other. "Guess you should stick close then," he told Connor.
"That was the plan," the pilot admitted, disturbed by River's revelation and wondering why she hadn't thought to ask River all of this earlier.
Leaning forward into the small space, Mal sniffed at River's cup. "That mint?" he asked in surprise.
"Kaylee," Connor supplied, figuring it would tell Mal all he needed to know.
"Ah." A smirk flickered across the captain's features and he had to wipe a hand across his mouth to hide it. "How thoughtful." He glanced at River, wondering if the younger woman understood what had driven Kaylee's gesture. When he saw River blush adorably, he had his answer, and he felt his heart lighten just a bit. "I'll see you on the bridge," he told Connor, his voice unexpectedly gentle.
Connor pretended not to notice, dipping her head in agreement as Mal walked back the way he'd come. When the sound of his boots faded into the distance, Connor risked glancing up at River. The younger woman was back to studying the contents of her cup. "You okay?"
River reluctantly faced her. "Feels sort of funny."
"That everyone suddenly seems to know what I'm thinking and feeling without me telling them. I thought I was the only one who could do that."
The pilot swung her legs over the side of the bed and sat up, setting her mug on the table next to the bed. She watched River for a long moment. "Not exactly the same thing," Connor promised her.
"I know." River met Sarah's gaze briefly before glancing back down at her mug. "I just I'm used to keeping secrets. Mine and everyone else's." She took a shallow breath and smelled the pleasing scent of mint coupled with candle wax now hanging in the air. "I know everyone thinks I'm this this open book because they think I say everything that comes to mind everything I feel."
"You don't?" Connor's voice was gently teasing as she picked up her pants and slipped them on.
River finally met Sarah's gaze again and held it. Emotion welled up in her, so sweet and overwhelming she could barely think. She had to look away to breathe. "Not everything," she finally admitted.
The air charged once more between them. River felt like something was physically pulling her toward the other woman and it almost hurt to deny the need to get closer. That need, though, was almost terrifying in its intensity. River had never wanted anything this much, and yet she didn't really understand exactly what it was she was craving let alone what to do to sate it.
Feeling the tension between them rise to an almost painful level, Connor decided it was best to retreat for now. River clearly needed some more time to process all of this. "Finish your tea," she instructed. "I'll see you on the bridge."
River nodded, watching in disappointment as Connor grabbed her remaining clothes and gun belt and started to leave. "Sarah?"
The pilot paused in the doorway and looked back at River expectantly as she buckled her belt.
Having recaptured the pilot's attention, River didn't know what to do with it. Words tangled on her tongue. "I just you I I'll see you in a few minutes," River finally said in a rush, frowning at herself for not having the courage to say what she wanted to say. She wasn't even sure what that was, only that things felt unfinished between them.
Connor nodded and turned, getting as far as the stairs.
"Sarah," River called, setting down her mug and chasing after Connor to try again.
Grinning lightly to herself, Connor turned on the first step as River darted out of her room. "Yeah?" Her voice held a hint of humor.
"Um " River motioned back at her quarters. "Did you want your tea?"
The pilot's grin got a little wider. "I'm good, thanks."
River nodded, flustered by her inability to speak her mind. She knew what she wanted to do but her nerves were paralyzing her, tying her stomach and tongue up in knots.
"We'll talk more later," Connor promised her seriously.
"Okay," River answered shyly. She watched as Sarah gave her one last lazy smile that made her heart jerk in her chest before the pilot turned and started up the steps. Later, River would wonder what came over her. She only knew she couldn't let Sarah walk away that morning. Not yet.
"River," Connor laughed the younger woman's name as she was grabbed by her elbow and spun around on the stairs. She nearly lost her balance and stumbled down a step. "I need to "
The rest of the pilot's words caught in her throat as River stood up on tiptoe and soft lips covered Connor's own. Shock and something sweeter rippled through her, and Connor's hand came up to cradle River's face only to find empty air as the younger woman staggered back, River's normal grace suddenly absent.
Connor took in a deep breath and shivered. Fighting for control over her impulses, she set her desire aside to comfort the clearly rattled River. Connor climbed back down the stairs and approached the visibly shaking woman who was leaning against the wall with her arms wrapped around her waist.
"I " River blinked and stared at the pilot, never having suspected her body would feel the way it did from such innocent contact. As much as she'd been yearning to kiss Sarah, she never thought it would feel different than kissing anyone else. "I just wanted to " she tried to explain, finding it oddly hard to breathe as Sarah looked at her in a way that made her body feel like it was burning. "I just wanted to thank you "
Reaching up, Connor finally made contact with River's warm cheek and she shushed the co-pilot gently. "You did. It's okay."
"That was not okay " River whispered, her eyes pinning Sarah with a look. She felt Sarah's touch still on her cheek.
"It wasn't?" Connor asked, her voice sounding worried.
"That was a lot better than okay," River informed the pilot before tilting her head and claiming Sarah's mouth once more. Her hands bunched in the material of Sarah's top, dragging the pilot in hard and close. She could smell Sarah's skin, the scent of her hair, the mint on her breath. Sarah's heat felt so good River wanted to melt into her.
The kiss intensified, making Connor's legs go weak. She leaned into River, feeling the explosion of sensation as their bodies came in contact all down their length, the thin material of their clothing barely masking the softness of warm skin. Her hands went flat against the wall, before balling into fists, her knuckles scraping against the metal as she fought to keep her hands off the younger woman. It would be so easy to go too far too fast. River apparently had no such reservations as her right hand eased over Connor's hip and tightened, pulling her impossibly closer as the co-pilot's other hand curled behind Connor's neck. When Connor felt the first curious brush of River's tongue across her lower lip, her control began to unravel. River gasped against her mouth as the pilot finally surrendered to the inevitable, her fingers feathering soft caresses over River's ribs.
A throat cleared and the two women snapped apart, turning to look up at a bemused Zoe.
"Morning," the second-in-command greeted them both blithely from the top of the stairs. Her gaze flicked to the shell-shocked River who was reaching for Connor's waist again. As she watched, Connor grabbed the younger Tam's hand and held it, forcing River to behave. Zoe sternly told herself not to laugh at the blush heating the pilot's cheeks. "Captain wants you on the bridge," she told Connor.
Connor tossed her head back a little to clear a lock of hair from her eyes. She nodded. "He said as much."
"Then you best get a move on," Zoe said, feeling the urge to laugh get worse at the husky quality of Connor's voice. Connor was going to kill her later for interrupting, but that was okay. It was worth it. Zoe made a mental note to chat with the pilot later. Connor was an old friend, but River was family and Zoe wanted to make sure that Connor didn't push too hard.
Connor turned and looked at River. "I " She closed her eyes and shook her head a little to clear it. Her body was barely controlled chaos, all heat, need and emotion clouding her brain and making her tremble with the rawness of it all. Finally she tugged on River's hand, still firmly held in her own, bringing the younger woman closer and kissing her quickly and gently on the mouth. No point in pretending that Zoe hadn't seen what she'd seen. "I'll see you on the bridge," she murmured in a quiet voice.
River could only nod and watch Sarah walk away.
Zoe waited until Connor was gone before hopping off the last step and sauntering closer to River. "You okay?"
River nodded again, more rapidly this time. Her doe eyes were wider than normal and her breathing sounded shallow.
"You seem a little " Zoe searched for the word as she tilted her head and took in River's dreamy expression. Had she ever looked like that with Wash? She sure as hell hoped not. She consoled herself with the knowledge that Mal would have teased her to no end if she had. "Come on. Let's get a bite to eat."
"Okay," River replied distantly. They got two steps before River swooned and dropped like a sack of hammers.
Zoe caught her and didn't bother to smother her laugh this time. "Yeah," she drawled. "I thought that looked like a hell of a kiss."
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