Title: The Lost Age (2/??)
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.
Buffy had to give the Lost Age points for color and variety. The banners and stalls were almost overwhelming, if a little rough hewn and dirty. Wooden shacks and brick warehouses competed for space with the occasional steel tower. “What’s that smell?”
The Doctor hooked his elbow with hers and pulled her along. “Best not to think about it.”
“I still think you should have let me bring a gun,” muttered Jack. A fight in a nearby bar fell out into the street, but all the same Buffy and the Doctor glared at him. “What? It’s the Lost Age. If the legends are true, then everyone in this entire settlement is armed.”
“We don’t have to be armed to be dangerous, you know that Jack.” Buffy pulled two of the combatants apart. “Enough.” She then pushed them back with enough force to push them into walls on opposite sides of the street. They looked stunned for a moment, then ran off. “See?” She wiped her hands in satisfaction.
“Y’know, I never get tired of watching that,” said Jack.
“Thanks. So what’s so lost about this age anyway?” Their little party continued on through the market, which reminded Buffy of a slightly stinkier-than-normal Chinatown.
“Oh, everything.” The Doctor waved a hand around. “The bulk of humanity disappears for more than three hundred years, except for a few enclaves left on Earth. They isolated themselves from the rest of the universe in this obscure corner of the galaxy. Terraformed nearly every moon and planet in the system, rutted in a complete lack of scientific progress, with lots of wars and rebellions and general lawlessness. They finally abandon the Malakasat system about a hundred years from now, return to Earth, very hush-hush, no one ever talks about it again. Even the Time Lords respected the isolation.” The Doctor smirked. “Well, up to now, anyway.”
Jack cut in. “There’s hardly any information available anywhere. Just a few journals, the occasional picture, a couple of folksongs. It’s like humanity went through puberty and locked itself in its room for a three century sulk.” Jack spun, watching all the colors go by. “And now we’re in the market on Beaumonde, just taking a stroll.” He grabbed them both and kissed their cheeks. In the wake of the men’s excitement, Buffy couldn’t help but share, reveling in the joy of being someplace completely new with people she truly loved.
After a few hours of shopping and exploring, Buffy convinced the guys to join her at a bar/dance club she thought looked promising. Even more promising, there was a weapons check at the door. “See, nobody else will have a gun here either.”
The Doctor and Jack exchanged a glance. “Looks pretty shady to me,” said Jack.
“Could be scoundrels and thieves about,” agreed the Doctor. With a nod, they marched down to the bar ahead of Buffy, who bounced down after them. They toasted a day well spent, and watched the bizarre television feeds and the people around them.
A slight girl stopped behind them. “You’re coloring outside the lines. Not supposed to do that.”
“I know, always got yelled at for that in school. Color inside the lines, eat your pears, don’t disrupt the laws of causality, it was always one thing or the other,” replied the Doctor who had perhaps underestimated the potency of the local spirits. He leaned into Buffy while the girl continued to stare at them.
“Three impossible things. But I’ve already eaten breakfast.”
Jack winked at the girl. “If you need a few more impossible things, my name is-“
“JACK!” shouted the other two.
“Like they said,” he smiled. This proved too much for the fey child, and she turned around and walked away. Buffy could feel the wrongness now, pushing through the airy drunken cheerfulness that had wrapped around her. She felt cold needles of sobriety pierce her blood, but not fast enough, there was something she hadn’t figured out yet.
When the girl brought down the first man, she bolted off her stool. “What the hell?” asked Jack.
“Slayer, crazy, get behind the bar, both of you!” Buffy shouted back. The girl had already broken another man’s back. Buffy caught her wrist. “Hey there, play nice.” The girl tried to pull her arm back and nearly pulled Buffy’s shoulder out of its socket. Instead, Buffy rolled them both backwards. She pushed back onto her feet and had only just regained balance when the other girl charged her.
Jack and the Doctor peeked up over the bar. “What should we do to help?” wondered the Doctor aloud.
“Sell tickets,” replied Jack. “Wonder what triggered this? Was it us? How can there be a Slayer in our universe in the Lost Age?”
“No. I think it was something on one of these television feeds, not us, and I don’t know.” He pulled the bar’s register down to them and pointed the sonic screwdriver at it. “Oh good, all linked up to the rest of the feeds. How’s Buffy getting along?”
Jack peeked again. “Well, the girl’s half her age.”
“She’s bigger, faster and maybe a little stronger, but Buffy’s been fighting a lot longer than she has. Slight edge to Buffy, I’d say.” Jack looked around. “Uh oh.”
“Should’ve sold tickets. One of our fellow patrons doesn’t share your beliefs about guns.” Jack leapt over the bar and ran to the firearms locker, slamming it shut on the man’s wrist. “You really don’t want to do that.” Catching the man’s clear blue eyes, Jack decided to give him a charming smile.
He withdrew his hand from the locker. “Those two gorram girls are liable to kill each other and all the rest of us ‘less someone puts a stop to this.”
“Buffy isn’t going to kill anyone, and trust me, she’s your best hope against the other one.”
“River,” supplied the other man. Together they watched the ballet of violence as the other patrons poured out past them, fleeing the flying furniture. “There’s apt to be Feds here soon, this sort of ruckus. Me and mine will have to be stepping out, can’t bear that kind of attention.”
Jack gave him a sideways glance. “‘You and yours’ being?”
“Me, Jayne, he’s the big fella watching from under the stairs, and River.” Jack caught the hesitation before the last addition, but also the moment of conviction when the man had decided it was true. “Any way we could wrap this up but quick?”
“You want to step between those two, be my guest.” River threw Buffy into a wall, cracking it.
The Doctor shouted from behind the bar. “It was in the feed! Fruity Oaty Bars!”
“What was in the feed?” asked the blue-eyed man.
“Whatever it was that set your little friend off the deep end,” said Jack. “Did you know what she is?”
The man watched the fighting. “No. Still can’t say as I do.”
Jack clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Slayers. They never get less impressive.” Buffy landed a solid punch on River’s jaw, knocking her on her side. “Oooh,” said both men, flinching.
“Whose jaw was that?” demanded the Doctor.
“Not Buffy’s don’t worry, you old mother hen.” Jack shook his head, then offered the man his hand. “I’m Captain Jack Harness.”
The man looked at his hand without understanding for a moment. “Captain Mal Reynolds.”
“Pleasure. Oh hel-lo.” A young, handsome man ran down the stairs, catching Jack’s attention, but all of his on the girls below. He shouted “This is for hens to laugh at,” and suddenly River dropped into sleep in mid-roundhouse.
Buffy lowered her arms from the guard position, breathing heavily. The young man moved to approach the girl, but Buffy stood between them. “No, no. You either don’t know what she is, and you can’t help, or you know what she is and you’ve seriously messed with her. Either way, you’re going to have to go through me.” Buffy hefted the girl in her arms. “We need to get out of here before the authorities find her.”
“Couldn’t agree more if I tried.” Mal clambered down the stairs. “But River comes with us. We know how to keep her safe.” The younger man reached for her, but Buffy pushed him back, scowling.
“Yeah. Me and the bruises I’m gonna have all over can really tell. Doctor, we’ve got to get her to the TARDIS, she needs to be kept safe, from herself and everyone else.”
The Doctor had crept over next to Mal, holding up his hands. “Honestly, we can help her, I swear. We mean no harm.”
Mal shook his head. “Wish I could believe that.”
“Cap’n, just let ‘em take the moony runt and let’s go!” Jayne, the fourth member of Mal’s crew, now emerged.
“You’re not taking her from me,” said both the younger man and Buffy at the same time.
Mal took a deep breath. “Fine. You three can come along. But if’n I find out you’re Feds, or mean harm to my crew, I won’t hesitate to space you.”
Buffy and the Doctor exchanged looks. The Doctor nodded. “You two go with them, I’ll meet up with you on their ship.” He ran off up the stairs.
“What’s he-“ began Mal, but Buffy was already moving towards the stairs.
“Don’t worry, just get us moving.” The sound of sirens approached at an alarming rate.
“Right. Whatever the lady likes.”
Jack took advantage of his position at the end of the queue to admire the lines of the local attire on his new friends. “Oh Mal, you’ve got no idea.”