River (Firefly) and Lilah (Angel) and Dawn (Buffy) fic by hermionesviolin for fox1013 for femslash05, rated R
Main pairing is River/Lilah. Other combinations exist in my head but haven’t been written (yet), so consider them implied.
Warning for dark themes, and of course for sexuality between same-sex partners with an age differential and power dynamics.
Includes references and allusions to umpteen things, which to thank individually would spoil it a bit, so i’ll just thank Google and sigrun. (And thanks to lilithchilde and Tegan and Sara for the title.)
Standard Disclaimer: Joss Whedon and company own these characters; i’m just playing with them. If you want to archive this anywhere, just ask. Feedback (positive and/or negative) much appreciated.
Tell Me What My Hands Were Made For
“Two by two, hands of blue.”
“Actually, if my hands are of any color, they’re the After Hours Red of my nail polish.”
“Red. Blue. Complementary colors. Complement. Something that completes. To make whole.”
“Very good. I’m glad--”
River looked up at her, stared her straight in the eyes. “Blue wolf. Moonlight scars. The wolf had lost its teeth. Blue hands lost their fingernails. Together, perfection is cruelty.
Lilac meadows bathed in blood. No western winds to save you now. No more West. No more wind. Spinning in space. Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing, world without end. World without end.”
That might have been sadness that flitted across Lilah’s eyes during the solemn pronouncement of those last few words. Her lips might have begun to twist for a fraction of a second on a sarcastic “Amen.” But she kept herself composed, waited for River to run out her craziness.
River looked down at her gown, pulled at the fabric with her fingers. “White. All of the colors, swirling in a prism so fast you can’t even see them; all you see is the blinding light. All the minds, floating through the black, searing across your eyeballs until you can’t see anything except white--. White.” For a moment, she seemed to have come back to herself. She stroked the fabric. “White. Smells new. Last time it was old. More colors, too.” Her voice was almost childish, petulant.
“Last time what?” Lilah probed gently.
River’s stare was colder this time. “Angelus,” and here Lilah did flinch, but River seemed not to notice, continued the recitation in a voice cold to match her gaze, “Domini nuntiavit Mariae,” but the inflection broke on this last word, and she grinned.
“Little sis coming. So much to do before she gets here.”
“Who?” Lilah asked gently.
“Who who?” River cocked her head. “Hoo-hoo.” She grinned. “Dirty words. Don’t talk like that. Naughty.” She popped her cheeks with her fingers, and her eyes glazed over in that way that told Lilah it was hopeless to try to get anything else out of her.
She groaned. They had told her the girl was lucid. Of course, they hadn’t necessarily been lying. Destroying the only family she had in the universe wasn’t unlikely to trigger catatonia in people who weren’t already crazy. It had been a calculated risk, she still maintained that she had made the right call. No risk of rescue attempts, nor hope for such on the part of the girl. Hard to be somebody’s savior when they think their Messiah just got a little sidetracked in the desert. Damn she hoped she wouldn’t have to get maternal. Surely they wouldn’t have picked her for this job if they thought that would be required, though.
The next morning, Lilah went to River’s cabin to rouse her for breakfast. She found the girl already awake, staring blankly up at the ceiling, her arms parallel with her body, stiff on top of the crisp bedsheet.
“Clean sheets. Like summer,” she said dully when Lilah entered, not turning to look at her. “I miss summer,” she addedd, still without emotion.
“After we go to Ramshead, if you give us what we need, I’ll take you to a nice beach resort.”
“Don’t lie. I could kill you with my brain.” River smiled.
Lilah smiled back, darkly. “ ‘Fraid ya couldn’t, hun. Your ammunition garage is all gone to pieces.”
She was trying so hard to be strong. Lilah could see the tears form in her eyes, the lines tighten in her face.
“Don’t say such things; it’s not nice.”
“What would you like me to say?” Lilah asked kindly, sitting down on the edge of the bed.
It was quiet for a long while. Then River sat up, leaned over, and kissed Lilah on the lips. “Oh, this is why they picked me,” Lilah thought. She kissed back gently and wrapped one arm around River. When she could feel River’s breathing quicken, she slowly pulled away. “I can see we’re going to get along quite well. You’re going--”
River frowned. “I do not wish to cooperate with you. You requested an expression of my personal desires.”
“To be fair, I asked what you wanted me to say.”
“I did not want you to speak.”
“But the kissing, that’s what you wanted?”
“So I guess this means you don’t hate me after all.”
“You are not unattractive physically. Neither your personality nor your goals are attractive to me. It is a common human error to conflate these distinct aspects.”
“She sounds like a fucking robot,” Lilah thought, and restrained a smile at the mental image of a sexbot. “Well maybe we can reach some sort of compromise,” she said. “We land at Ramshead tomorrow. If you cooperate with the nice people there, maybe we can continue this.”
River laid back down and stared resolutely up at the ceiling.
“Don’t you want any breakfast, River?”
River clenched her lips together.
River refused to speak for the next five days.
She was fed conscientiously, three meals a day, and she ate like a well-trained adult, but she didn’t say so much as “Thank you.”
Every day it was the same.
Lilah would accompany the nutritionists to River’s room, where they would serve breakfast for two. Lilah and River would sit across from each other, each well-dressed. (River’s room had been stocked with a variety of clothes, and each morning she woke with the planet’s dawn and dressed in loose-fitting shirt and slacks, the dull earth tones contrasting markedly with the lush purples and whites of the room.) Lilah would make small talk and River would eat silently, smiling all the while. After River finished eating, she would get up from the table, having folded her napkin and placed it on her cleaned plate, and stand at the window, looking out. Once Lilah finished her own meal, people would come and take away the dishes, soon followed by more people who would take away River. She walked with them complacently, and Lilah was told that she was quiet and well-behaved during all of the tests, doing whatever was asked of her in terms of manipulating her body or other physical objects, but she refused to speak or to do any sort of art play. Lunch and dinner were the same as breakfast.
After five days, Lilah had had enough.
She knew River’s room was constantly monitored with surveillance cameras (knew, in fact, that every room was) but she didn’t care. This was why she had been assigned to the case, after all, wasn’t it?
She had done all of the day’s paperwork, and it actually wasn’t all that late. She changed into a pale blue silk robe. River’s room locked from the outside, and she had authorization access. The room was dark when she entered it.
“I see you.” River’s voice was sing-song. “Two by two. Hands of blue. Told you.” Lilah could hear the triumphant smile.
“I see I’ve got you talking again.” Lilah slipped out of the robe and strode over to the bed.
She slipped under the covers and kissed River before she had a chance to say anything else. River’s body arched expectantly beneath hers, and she was unsurprised to find that River wasn’t wearing anything. Lilah had the uncomfortable feeling that River was just playing her and that this wouldn’t help matters any, but she had decided on a plan of action and intended to follow through on it. Besides, there were worse ways to spend a night.
When they were finished, River clung to her, but Lilah pulled away and walked back to her own room, silently.
At breakfast the next morning, River seemed unchanged.
“Feeling more cooperative this morning?” Lilah asked cheerily.
“Feeling more like a rapist this morning?” River replied flatly, not looking up from her food.
“My dear Miss Tam. Certainly you can’t expect me to believe that accusation.”
“You’re going to keep me here until I tell you what you need. All the words running around my head. Can’t keep quiet for long.”
River’s voice had that crazed tone to it, but Lilah couldn’t help thinking that River actually understood more when she was crazy than when she was lucid. She intended to sit quietly for the remainder of the meal, but a voice interrupted. “She’s right, of course. Somebody has to put a stop to it.”
“Out of time. Out of place. Out of synch. You don’t belong here.”
River still hadn’t turned her face, but Lilah did. “Dawn Marie Summers...” She drew out the words in a mocking tone of authority and familiarity. “How have you been?”
“Cut the crap, Lilah.”
Lilah feigned hurt. “You cut me to the quick, Miss Summers.”
“Oh if only I could.”
Lilah mentally filed away that fact.
“I wouldn’t want to overstay my welcome, so I’ll just take what I came for and leave you to your breakfast.”
“And how do you plan to get out of here?”
“The same way I got in, of course. And don’t think you’re going to trick me into dawdling around to tell you everything.” Dawn reached over and took River by the shoulder, and in a blink they were gone.