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
The air was sticky and hot as Kaylee crept along the outside of Serenity's hull. Her legs itched from insect bites and the residue of the local plants that dampened the knees and shins of her coveralls. The mechanic winced as she stumbled over a dead body and only barely held back the very girly scream that wanted to escape her throat. The flies were already swarming around his oozing wounds, and she tried not to be sick as the insects made a meal of him. His uniform was Alliance, and as Kaylee lifted her gaze and looked through the trees and brush, she noted other fallen men in the same clothes. There seemed to be a lot of them, and Kaylee felt a moment of odd pride that her crewmates had taken out so many of those who'd been behind their ambush. With a final visual sweep of the area, she noted that there were no blue-handed men among the dead. Kaylee wasn't sure if that was a good thing or bad.
With a grimace that would have made Jayne roll his eyes, Kaylee stepped over the body and kept moving forward. She could smell the pigs before she saw them. They were still in the pen, shuffling anxiously and scraping up against the metal bars that contained them. They looked about as nervous as she felt, and Kaylee experienced a strange feeling of kinship with the creatures in that moment. If only River had been there to tell her what they were thinking
And Kaylee would have paid some serious coin for the younger Tam to be armed as well.
The mechanic eased along the side of the ship and hesitated, hidden from view, next to the open cargo bay door. She could hear footsteps, deliberate and slow, crossing the hold. Kaylee adjusted her sweaty grip on the pistol in her hand and prayed she wouldn't have to use the weapon. She'd be lucky if she hit what she was aiming at and not one of her own crew.
"Where is River Tam?"
Kaylee was suddenly cold even blanketed in humid heat. She swallowed and risked a peek around the corner. A contractor was standing before an awake Jayne and Connor, both of who were trussed up and sitting on the floor. The other members of the crew were either dead or unconscious around them. As Kaylee watched, the blue-handed man turned his attention exclusively on the pilot, kneeling next to her.
Connor was glaring at him defiantly, her very posture seeming to dare the man to do her harm. Kaylee sincerely hoped he wouldn't take Connor up on the challenge, but she suspected they might be about to lose another pilot.
"Where is River Tam?" The contractor asked as if he weren't really concerned with the answer.
"Who?" Connor asked blankly. His hand lashed out, striking her face and whipping her head back. Connor tasted blood, and she spat a mouthful out before her gaze lifted and met her captor's eyes once more.
"Try again," he ordered her.
Connor merely glared as Jayne watched uneasily.
"You will tell me where the girl is," the contractor promised her as he withdrew a thin, metal cylinder from inside his jacket pocket. The silver stood out in sharp relief against the blue of his gloves. His dark eyes pinned Connor with a look and their gazes held, neither looking away.
Jayne eyed the device warily, wondering how in the hell Connor wasn't freaking out having the damn thing nearly in her face. "Aw, man," he muttered. "He's gonna make us start screamin'."
The contractor moved closer, inside Connor's space, nearly going nose to nose with her. "You're new to the crew. Your face and name are unknown to us."
"Lucky me," Connor replied insolently.
"Who you are is unimportant," the contractor continued. "But your allegiance to this crew is too fresh if it exists at all. Tell me where River Tam is hiding, and I will let you live."
Connor snorted. "Go to hell." He slapped her again, harder this time, sending Connor crashing to the deck and making her arm throb where it impacted metal. The pilot struggled to roll onto her back, glaring up at her captor with contempt.
Two metal rods extended from the cylinder and Jayne flinched. "They ain't here!" the mercenary told him, a faint edge of desperation in his voice.
"Tell me where they are." The man turned his focus on Jayne.
"Jayne," Connor warned only to yelp when the contractor got to his feet and kicked the pilot's midsection.
Jayne winced in sympathy. "You ain't gonna find them. They were supposed to take off if they didn't hear from us in time."
Connor rolled onto her side, trying to suck in air and battle back pain. She saw a flash of grey against green outside and she blinked, wondering if she'd just seen what she thought she did. A blonde head peeked around the open cargo bay door once more, and Sarah took a deep breath as Kaylee offered her a simple nod of acknowledgement before blending back into the scenery. The pilot turned her head and realized the contractor's back was to the open door. She needed to keep it that way.
"I don't believe you," the contractor told Jayne. He looked back at Connor as she rolled back and then up, managing to get to her knees. He put the device at eyelevel as his thumb hovered over the button in the middle. "Tell me. Or I will make you bleed," he stated blandly.
Fear coursed through her cold and strong, but Connor's gaze held her captor's unrelentingly. "What are you waiting for then?" she spat.
"Don't encourage him!" Jayne yelled.
Connor tensed. Agony was coming. She knew it in her bones as she braced herself for the onslaught of pain, wondering what the device would do to her. Was the damn thing full of poison? Would she die gasping? Or did the tiny cylinder hold an end too unimaginable for her to fathom? Just as the contractor was about to press a button that would cause her all manner of unpleasantness, he stopped.
A soft sound of impact made the moment still as they all looked at each other in confusion. The noise had sounded wet and thick, and Connor's gaze dropped to take in the contractor's chest. There was a short, metal rod protruding from his upper right shoulder. As Sarah watched, the rod curved in the blink of an eye, arcing into a hook that yanked the contractor backwards with sudden violence.
"Aw hell!" Jayne shouted when he saw three members of the Silver River law enforcement riding up on well-groomed horses as four others emerged from the jungle on foot.
The horses shied and reared as a noise came from the sky outside. Connor cursed when she recognized the sound of the shuttle returning. She rocked back on her heels and felt around for the dagger she kept in her boot. "Jayne!" she shouted as the officers outside roped the contractor in while others took shots at the landing shuttle.
Jayne realized what Connor was searching for and he scrambled to help. The mercenary yelped when she passed him the blade and the tip nicked his fingers.
"Hold still," Jayne demanded as he started cutting, doing his best not to slice up the pilot in the process.
Connor winced with each slight cut, feeling the blade part her skin in shallow grooves. Her eyes stayed on the law, though. If they got inside they were all going to be strung up in the town square.
The hogs were in a frenzy over the commotion. They began throwing themselves against the pen with violent, frantic force. Connor caught another flash of grey, and she mentally cheered Kaylee on, realizing the mechanic's intent. Suddenly the hogs were loose, streaming out of the pen and running right for the sheriff and his men. The pilot would have laughed at the sight if she hadn't been so busy trying not to die.
Horses went wild, toppling their riders onto the damp ground below as pigs squealed and went all manner of ways, running over the men who were there to save them from someone's dinner plate.
Connor felt the tie on her wrists snap at last, and she jerked into motion, running for the pile of guns sitting atop a nearby crate as she spied Kaylee heading for Serenity's ramp. The mechanic was being pursued by one of Silver River's deputies who was sighting down a weapon that looked like a harpoon. Connor aimed for his forehead and was about to fire when a large black and pink sow plowed into the man, sending him face first into the mud. The pig then proceeded to actually sit on him, driving him further into the ground and, in all likelihood, suffocating him in two inches of muck.
The pilot blinked, recognizing the creature as River's adventurous pig. "I'll be damned," Connor muttered as Kaylee scrambled inside and hit the button to seal the door.
There was a loud clang as the shuttle docked and the sound spurred Connor back into action. River was obviously not a woman accustomed to doing what she was told. Connor didn't know whether to yell at her for that or admire her. "Help the others!" she yelled to the mechanic as she bolted for the stairs, heading for Serenity's bridge.
Zoe groaned as she began to come around. Kaylee dropped to her knees next to Jayne, fetching the knife from his bleeding fingers.
"Not bad," Jayne told the mechanic with a raunchy smile.
Kaylee ignored him and started sawing Zoe loose, but inwardly she was right proud of herself.
River raced from the shuttle, barely letting the engines wind down before she was up and out of her seat. She ignored Simon's shouts as she ran to the door, throwing open the latch, and running for the bridge. River knew she had to get to Sarah, had to warn her about what was waiting for them among the stars.
She stepped out onto the catwalk just as Sarah's familiar form disappeared through the doorway leading toward the bridge. River felt relief at the sight of her and almost yelled out the pilot's first name. Biting back the urge before the words could trip off her tongue, River clambered down the steps with Simon following clumsily behind.
"Help Kaylee!" River shouted at him.
Simon drew up at the sound of his lover's name and looked below, swearing when he saw the condition of the crew. Jayne was moving toward them, his hands bloody. Serenity's engines fired and Simon lost his balance as the ship lifted up hard and unexpectedly. "River!"
His sister ignored him, her small feet practically gliding over the metal catwalks and her balance never wavering as she headed for the bridge. Simon cursed again and moved to intercept Jayne.
"What happened?" the doctor called out only to be shoved aside as Jayne barreled into him.
"Not now, doc," Jayne shouted. "We still got an unwelcome guest on-board."
River spied Sarah's familiar form at the helm as she ran past the crew quarters and up the steps. "Sarah "
The pilot cut her off. "Sit down, shut up, and hold on."
River complied, settling into the co-pilot's chair and harnessing herself in. Connor glanced over her shoulder, relieved that no one else had been around to hear how River had addressed her. Then her attention was back on their situation as she gripped the shaking helm and pulled back harder, feeling resistance from Silver River's atmosphere pushing against the hull.
"Come on, baby," Connor whispered to Serenity. "Climb."
"Sarah," River tried again.
"Not now," the pilot replied. "We're definitely gonna talk about you not following orders, but not now."
"I came back to warn you," River said with a hint of testiness to her voice.
"About the contractors or the law? Either way, you're a little late, girlie." Connor saw the darkening sky just beyond the last layer of clouds. In another few seconds they would see stars.
"Not about them," River said. "About that." The younger woman pointed to the right of the viewport.
Connor followed the path of River's finger only to do a double take when she saw what the co-pilot was pointing at. Connor looked down at the short-range sensors and released a string of obscenities that actually made River blush.
The pilot shoved her anger down and ignored the pain in her wrists, dismissing the blood that dripped from the gashes in her skin and dripped onto the floor below the helm. Short-range sensors showed her exactly what she didn't want to see. An Alliance battle cruiser coming up on them, fast.
"Connor?" Jayne's voice yelled up from the corridor below. "What should we do with this other blue-handed fella?" He kicked the unconscious man he'd found propped up in the galley of all places.
"Bigger things to worry about," the pilot shouted back as the cruiser moved to block their path, the ship's nose now visible out of the viewport.
"Aww, hell," Jayne said when he saw it.
"Tell the others to strap in," River yelled back to him.
Jayne didn't hesitate, hefting the contractor over his shoulder before moving off to secure the rest of the crew.
"They would have picked up on our location and yours if we used the radio," River said almost too quietly to hear.
Connor knew River was right, but she wasn't ready to let go of her anger at the woman yet. River could have walked right into the hands of the Alliance. Thoughts of what could have happened, how River could have been hurt, nearly distracted the pilot just as the cruiser fired a warning shot across Serenity's bow. Connor swore, snapping back into the moment and prepping the ship for a full burn.
Unsteady footsteps sounded behind them. River glanced back to see Mal barely on his feet, his eyes unfocused as they tried to take in the cruiser. He clung to the wall just at the top of the stairs.
"Am I dreaming or is that what I think it is?" Mal asked groggily.
Connor didn't give him a glance as she punched in coordinates that she hoped would take them just past the cruiser and not into it. "You should really strap in," she warned him.
Another shot came across their bow, this one closer. Everyone had to close their eyes against the brilliance as the shot lit up the bridge like lightning. Lights were blinking to Connor's right, but she ignored the request for an incoming wave. She had nothing to say to the Alliance, and they had nothing to say that she wanted to hear.
"I thought they wanted you, little albatross," Mal said more seriously. "But if they shoot any closer "
"Hold on to something," Connor warned as she commenced a full burn. Serenity shot forward and Mal tumbled backward, nearly falling down the steps. The pilot schooled herself not to smirk as Serenity streaked toward the cruiser. She could imagine all kinds of proximity alarms going off on the other ship, and Connor fervently hoped she was making the bastards sweat a little.
Serenity practically scraped the cruiser's underbelly before blazing a trail of fire across the blackness of space. It was the one thing the tiny ship had going for it against an Alliance battle cruiser. It's size. There was no way the other ship could adjust course and give chase fast enough. By the time they did, Serenity would already be off their radar.
The infirmary was quiet. Simon was off treating the contractor's broken leg. Mal had insisted the man be locked away and not allowed anywhere near the infirmary or the rest of the ship. It was a decision Connor privately agreed with. The pilot assumed the captain was with their unwanted visitor now, probably trying to get what little information he could out of him. Connor knew she'd have thrown the contractor out an airlock and been done with him. She didn't like having him on her ship, especially with River back on-board.
The antiseptic was cold on her skin, the liquid seeping down into the wounds and burning enough to make Connor hiss softly in pain. River glanced up sharply, but Sarah just shook her head. "Stings a little," the pilot explained.
"Sorry," River almost whispered. Her gaze returned to the slashes on Sarah's wrists as she continued to clean them with the utmost care. None of the gashes were terribly deep, but they looked like they hurt, and River wanted to make the pain go away as quickly as possible.
Connor studied the bent head of her caregiver, musing on the dichotomy that was River Tam. The younger woman looked so innocent and naïve, it was hard to process at times that River was programmed to be an assassin. The girl could kill and had, and she'd done so with brutal efficiency. But those hands that had slit Reavers' throats and pulled the trigger on countless men were gentle as they treated Connor's wounds. It was almost disconcerting being cared for with such reverence. Kindness and caring were two things Connor hadn't experienced much of the last ten years. Having both directed at her now was nice, but she didn't dare get used to it or expect it.
"Where are the others?" Connor asked to break the silence between them.
"In the lockup." Satisfied Sarah's wounds were clean; River set the cloth aside and began to gently massage a salve over the wounds.
The touch felt nice. A little too nice. Connor cleared her throat. "Kaylee okay?"
River nodded as a tiny smile appeared. "She did good."
Connor nodded. "She did damn good. Your adventure pig wasn't so bad, either."
River glanced up, humor dancing in the brown depths of her eyes. "I'm sorry I missed it."
The pilot found herself swallowed whole by River's gaze. "I'm not," she answered honestly. "I'm glad you were as far from those men as possible." She tore her gaze away and focused on her wrists, watching sleepily as River set the salve aside and began to wrap the damaged skin. Fatigue was starting to wash over her, brought on by the day's events and River's gentle ministrations.
"I can't always run from everything," River said seriously.
"Fighting is overrated," Connor told her. She looked up as River finished and the two of them stared at each other for a moment.
"It's all you've ever known," River guessed, resisting the urge to touch the purpling skin on Sarah's cheek where the contractor had struck her.
Connor shrugged and glanced toward the door of the infirmary, wishing someone would walk through it. Something in her guts told her the conversation was going to veer into territory she'd rather avoid. "I suppose it is."
"I wish it had been different for you," River said quietly. "That you'd known more beauty more of the wonder of life."
Connor blinked a few times before sliding off the table and getting to her feet. She picked up her jacket and slipped it over her shoulders. "What about you? Have you known beauty and the wonder of life?" Her tone was harsher than intended, but River had put her off balance. Connor didn't like that, and the woman's words had stirred both sweet and painful memories. "You've seen the worst life has to offer. Don't tell me it doesn't taint everything else."
River tilted her head before gently laying her hand over the locket at Sarah's throat. The pilot went still at the touch, and River could feel the tension coiling in Connor's muscles. "Has the worst of life tainted what you felt for him?"
The locket had already warmed from River's touch when Connor jerked back and covered it with her own hand. "You been getting inside my head, girlie?" she demanded defensively.
"I didn't mean to offend you," River said. "And no, I only sense from you what you're willing to share. You're more closed off to me than anyone I've ever met." River glanced at the hand that covered the locket. "Who is he?" she asked innocently.
"None of your business." Connor felt rattled, even more so by how much she wanted to share the truth with the girl. The pilot brushed past River. "Thanks for the patch up," she almost snarled, knowing she would hate herself for her anger later.
"Don't call me that," Connor snapped from the doorway. "Sarah died with the person in this locket."
River stood alone in the infirmary once Connor was gone. Tears stung the corner of her eyes. Having Connor upset with her tied River's stomach into knots and made her chest hurt so hard she could barely breathe. She hadn't meant to upset Connor, but as usual, River had said more than she should. Her tongue had simply spoken before her head could catch up and warn it not to. It was just that she just wanted to know more, needed to know more. The temptation to chase after Sarah, to try to explain had River's feet taking a half step until she saw Zoe standing there in doorway. River had been so distracted she hadn't even detected the other woman's presence.
"Give her a spell," Zoe said with sympathy.
"I made her mad."
"She knows it wasn't deliberate," Zoe promised. "Give her time to cool off. She's hurting, and you accidentally poked at some old wounds."
"Do you know whose picture is in the locket?" River asked hesitantly.
"It's her secret to share, River," Zoe said gently but firmly.
"Then you do," River correctly guessed. "I'm not asking you to tell me. But mentioning him hurts her. Maybe you could talk to her, since you understand."
"Connor likes her privacy."
"Only because she's been alone too long."
Zoe hesitated, wondering if there wasn't a truth to that. "I'll swing by in an hour. See how she's doing," she promised.
River nodded as she put away the medical supplies. "She needs a friend. Been too long without one."
Zoe watched River's back, aching a little for the girl. "We're all more than her friends now, River. We're her family."
River gave Zoe a look over her shoulder. "She doesn't see it that way."
Serenity's second-in-command chuckled. "No. I reckon she don't. But she'll come around. Especially with you in her corner."
"She doesn't want me in her corner," River said sadly.
"It's just a misunderstanding," Zoe soothed. "If I know Connor, she'll be back in no time and acting like nothing happened."
"I should apologize."
"No." Zoe firmly shook her head. "That will just make her mad all over again because you'll remind her of how badly she just behaved."
River frowned. "That makes no sense."
"There's something I never thought I'd hear you say to me." Zoe chuckled when River hesitantly smiled. It was such a blessing that the girl had come so much into her own, that her sanity had returned with the release of Miranda's weighty secret. Over the last few years, River had turned into a charming young woman. An eccentric one, yes, but still sweet and kind. Zoe wished, not for the first time, that Wash could have seen the woman that scared and unbalanced teenager had grown into.
"There are so many things I want to know about her," River confessed. "But I sense she doesn't want me to ask."
"She probably don't," Zoe agreed. "Connor Connor keeps to herself. Always has. She's got her reasons, River."
River studied the supplies on the counter for a quiet moment before looking at Zoe hopefully. "Could you tell me what she was like? In the war?"
"That was a long time ago," Zoe replied hesitantly, mildly startled by the request. "I imagine she's changed some since then."
"But that time shaped her. I'd like to know to understand, but I don't want to upset her by asking."
Zoe crossed her arms and leaned against the doorway. She cocked her head and narrowed her eyes. "And why all this sudden interest in our pilot?" she teased.
River paused, feeling like she was about to walk into a trap but unsure why. Zoe's tone sounded amused, but River couldn't fathom what was funny about her wanting to know everything there was to know about Sarah Connor. "I'm curious," she answered honestly.
"Uh-huh," Zoe drawled, beginning to suspect the source of River's curiosity.
River tucked her hair behind her ears. "The captain is coming," she declared, a hint of relief in her voice.
Zoe turned her head and was unsurprised when Mal appeared on the stairs. Vaguely, she wondered if River had mentally seen him coming or if the girl just had ears like a bat. Either way, it was quietly impressive.
Mal poked his head in the infirmary. "Where's Connor?"
"I made her mad," River announced.
Mal looked at her. "Okay then. Didn't really answer the question, but it's an interesting tidbit to know." He looked at Zoe.
"I'd guess her quarters," Zoe answered the unspoken question.
"Well go get her. We need to move up the rendezvous with Inara."
"Why?" River asked.
"Your blue handed friends have friends," Mal explained, his humor vanishing. "The Alliance has put out fresh warrants."
Zoe swore. "Why now? What has the Alliance so hot to find River again after all this time?"
"Not just River," Mal told them. "The warrants are for all of us, including Inara, hence why we need to find her posthaste."
"Connor too?" Zoe asked.
Mal shook his head. "So far she's not on their radar. Maybe we can use that to our advantage." He looked at River. "Go get her and get up to the bridge."
"But she's mad at me," River reminded him.
The captain blinked. "And I well and truly don't care. Connor can just get over it."
"But I don't like it when she's mad at me," River almost pouted.
Mal smirked. "You can get used to it. Trust me on this."
"Not like you haven't had years of practice," Zoe deadpanned. "Relax, River. I'll get Connor. You get on up to the bridge."
River sighed but complied, leaving Mal and Zoe alone in the infirmary.
"So what's our next move?" Zoe asked when the girl was gone.
"We pick up Inara and hide."
"Sounds like a plan, sir."
Return to Firefly & Serenity Fiction
Return to The Sarah Connor Chronicles Fiction
Return to Main Page