Title: The Lost Age (10/??)
Timeline: This story takes place during that sixty year block that I glossed over between chapters three and four of "Another Side of the Sky". Buffy's thirty here. In the Firefly universe, it's at the beginning of the movie.
Disclaimer: If it's a character or a place, I don't own it. Some dialogue is recycled from the film.
Archive: Here, TtH. If you'd like it, let me know.
Betas: Depending on the chapter: MissJulie and/or Mishka,
Summary: Buffy, Jack, and the Doctor accidentally land in a system where aliens fear to tread.
Jack leaned back in the kitchen chair, watching Jayne clean his weapons at the table. It was an impressive collection, and Jack had the feeling he was only seeing a small selection. “That’s the one you got me with, isn’t it?”
Jayne jumped in his seat, but then grunted. “Yeah. The Le Mat.”
Jack smiled broadly. “Fine piece. No hard feelings.”
The hairy eyeball he received would have been intimidating had Jack been any other man. “You look to still be breathing, can’t see as why there would be.” He finished reassembling the pistol, and Jack stood, the fun of taunting Jayne losing its novelty. Poor mercenary was put out enough just by his existence, needling him seemed like overkill. Though he did have a nice, rugged jaw line, Jack suspected that would have been a hard sell even before he’d established himself as a freak of nature. This Lost Age was almost as bad as Victorian Wales. Simon had gone with Buffy and the Doctor, unwilling to leave his sister’s side. The rest of the crew, while also pretty, was also uniformly terrified of him. That left Jack no one to flirt with, and he felt the loss. Even Kaylee blushed and clammed up when he went to visit her down in the engine room. It just wouldn’t do.
He was stuck here on the slow path, still several hours out from this Inara woman and the fun of rescuing her. Jack wandered back to the cockpit, where Wash snored softly in the pilot’s seat. Stars shifted imperceptibly in the view screen, distant enough that Serenity’s speed was rendered as insignificant as it felt. Jack had become spoiled by the TARDIS, he’d forgotten how much of space adventuring was just sitting around waiting to get to the next place. He was never bored traveling with the Doctor and Buffy.
“It’s a nice view.”
He didn’t give Zoë the satisfaction of a flinch. “Sure is. Some others might not see it, but that twinkle in his eye, and his smile, oh, I get it.” Jack turned to face her in the corner, and she was smiling. “Awful late though. Why don’t you take the hubby off to bed, I can watch the controls while you get in a kip before the fight coming up?”
Zoë snorted. “I’m not sure I’m quite ready to leave you at the helm, even if it is in auto-pilot. Anyway, Wash sleeps better in that chair than near about any other place on the whole boat.” She adjusted in her seat. “One of these jobs could eventually pay for new upholstery and then my lower back might not bug me so much anymore.”
“Shrapnel. Some of us don’t magically stitch back together in a few seconds. Neat trick that.”
Jack leaned on the console. “Still stings. And sometimes, being the only one left alive after a firefight, well, that takes its own toll.”
That remark hit true. “Doesn’t do, pondering too much on them who’s never gonna get up again.” Her eyes took on a faraway look.
“Sometimes you just can’t help it. I’ve buried my share. Imagine that you have too.” Jack sighed. “I know how the war keeps going on inside. I know the dead places it leaves. And I respect the hell out of your strength in the face of that.”
She straightened. “Thank you for the pep talk, sir.”
Jack spat back. “Not a pep talk. I know I’m not your friend, know you’d just as soon shoot me out the airlock as look at me. But you need to know, Zoë Washburne, that I am no fool. I’m here to watch your back, protect you and your crew, and your husband.” Her eyes flashed towards Wash’s face. “That’s right. But in order to do it, you and the crew are going to have to trust me.”
“Two captains is just too many for one boat, sir.”
Jack rubbed his eyes. “I know.” Clenching his fists, he turned away. “I’m not challenging anyone’s authority. I will be there, though, like it or not. Because, Zoë, you are just too pretty for me to let you get killed.” He tilted his head. “Him too.” He dropped down the stairs, but halted when he heard her reply.
“What about Jayne?”
“Oh, with that rear end, I couldn’t possibly let him get any worse than a minor graze.” He peeked back, and for once saw honest, unrestrained mirth on Zoë’s face. “And with that, I’ll bid you good night.” Her laughter, low and throaty, put a lilt in Jack’s step.