Title: That Chill Resonant Heart
Fandom: Firefly/Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Pairing: River Tam/Buffy Summers
Summary: Forget the heart that loves, though in my body beat its blade, and its fang.
Notes: Set after Serenity the movie.
The moon was silent as they circled it, the terraformed patches a pale green struggling against the cold, dead gray. An incomplete process, and River calculated the spin of the sun, the too-slow rotation of the moon. "Their calculations were wrong," she noted. "They should have run the orbital sequence before starting the process."
The captain grunted, a sound that she knew meant he'd heard, but not listened to her. "Chatter's missing," he muttered, adjusting two dials on the communications panel. "I'd expect a hail by now."
River touched the throttle, a kiss of her palm against metal, and the ship idled, drifted in the black. "This moon isn't charted," she realized. She looked at the captain, and stifled her questing thoughts.
"It's not." He looked at her, his thoughts blessedly hidden from her. "The terraform didn't set, and the Alliance abandoned her. Didn't mean people hadn't landed."
River leaned forward and watched a broken satellite drift by. "What's her name?"
"Chosen," the captain said. "Those who settled her had a touch of poetry, it seems." He fiddled with the dials again, and there was static, and there were screams.
"Reavers," River said, and she flooded the engine as the ship twisted to the shadow side of the moon.
River descended in a shuttle, Simon's terror echoing in the back of her mind as she set down. The town was isolated, and the Reaver ship nigh-crashed into the center of it. It was a small one, though, and River cast her mind outward, towards her prey.
She passed a few bodies as she ran. She didn't stop to examine them; heartbeats didn't snag her at the hem of her dress. Her footsteps stuttered, however, when she realized most of the bodies were Reavers.
A spire rose in the middle of the town, a communications tower, broken. A girl was clambering up its side, and River had to squint to recognize she held a crossbow. There was more shouting than screaming, and River crashed into what, in the history books, translated as "a pitched battle." Before the communications tower was a line of humans, armed like vikings and knights errant. Not a one of them looked like settlers, because not a one of them looked afraid.
The Reavers seemed more terrifying en masse, chaos churning, and they stank of burned flesh and blood. One of them turned, saw River, and she ducked under its swing, yanked its knife away and slit its throat with ease. A second spun on her, then a third, and she gave herself to the dance yet again.
The humans were an anomaly, their thoughts bright rags of turquoise and purple in River's landscape. And there was one other, her mind an old, old green, spearing towards River with intent.
River blinked, swept the legs from a Reaver, and the green mind leapt towards her. River blinked again, and it was a small woman, blond, a scythe clutched in one hand and a sword in the other, dripping blood.
"You look like you could use this," the woman shouted, and flung the scythe in River's direction.
River caught it with her left hand, and then the woman was behind her, and they fought, back-to-back, until the snarling mass was silenced.
In the aftermath, Serenity landed. The crew helped the settlers bury their dead and burn the Reavers, and Simon sewed and patched and tended as best he could. The captain scolded River for hijacking his ship, and she listened to him, because his frustration and fear throbbed in the back of his mouth, choking him. She surprised him with a hug, and then the blond woman, Buffy, was striding up to them, wearing new clothes, clean of blood and viscera.
"Thanks for helping out," she said, looking from River to the captain. "Most ships would run. Or bomb." She settled her gaze on River, and her smile twisted warm. "You kicked ass."
River blinked, and the captain laughed.
"Stick around," Buffy offered. "We've got food. We've got music."
"That'd be kind of you," the captain replied. "Hospitality's a lot, after a Reaver attack." He frowned, looking a giant next to Buffy. "Truth told, I expected we'd only find River here, at the end."
"We do okay," Buffy said.
There was a shout from the spire, and the captain cursed as he saw Kaylee climbing up. He sketched a nod at Buffy, and as he jogged off, he started his next round of loving lecture.
"Is he always like that?" Buffy asked.
River tilted her head. "He can't help but yell. It spills out of him like water."
"Or vomit," Buffy noted. She was still watching River. "Are you always like that?"
A splash of bronze within the green, unsettling, low in River's belly. "I'm what they made me," she said.
"I know the feeling," Buffy replied.
Night fell, and the darkness hid the scars. River wandered away from the celebration, Simon's concern a mild spike she put aside. The stars flickered in the sky, and River found Buffy standing in a field of wildflowers.
The grass was soft under River's bare feet, and petals brushed against her ankles. Everything smelled like dew and daisies. Buffy twitched as River came up beside her.
"Hey," Buffy said. "You're sneaky."
River nodded. "You're homesick," she observed, "but you can't go back, can you?"
"I've survived so far," Buffy finally said. "I can as long as I have to." She smiled at River, like a blanket wrapping around River's naked shoulders. "Thank you for helping us."
"I had to," River responded.
"You didn't," Buffy said. She touched River's shoulder with the tips of her fingers, then her collarbone, then her throat. River caught her breath, and then Buffy stood on her tiptoes and pulled River down until their lips met.
Bright gold, and a green that could drown. River shuddered and clutched Buffy's arm for ballast.
A/N: Title and summary adapted from Louise Bogan's Fifteenth Farewell.