Death By Any Other Name-Part 1
Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Firefly/Highlander X-over. River won't keep the secrets she hears.


Disclaimer: Firefly and characters belong to Joss and Mutant Enemy. Highlander belongs to Davis/Panzer Productions, Inc.

This is the first crossover I've ever written. Normally, I only read them, but well, a scene from this woke me up in the middle of the night and after I typed it up it still wouldn't go away. In order to be able to finish anything else, I gave in.

Feedback appreciated. Not beta-ed so all mistakes are mine.

Set after Objects in Space, but for convenience I ask you to assume that Inara's wish to leave has been resolved. Also, I have never seen the last season of the Highlander series so I'm ignoring it and I prefer to maintain that Highlander: Endgame exists in some alternate reality because I can't stand that they manage to mangle the myth yet again in the movies.

Death By Any Other Name . . . by Jebbypal -- Part 1

Inara smiled pleasantly at the lanky youth. He had been one of her first clients after her arrival on Serenity. Although surprised that he was able to pay her fees at his age without any apparent family, she had been drawn by his mysterious mixture of youth and wisdom that had been apparent even in his screening tape. Although Serenity had not been in range of Bellapharon for a few months, she had kept up a correspondence with him. She felt a connection to this man who seemed to have few, if any, ties connecting him to the galaxy or the Alliance. And more than any of her other customers, Charles Pierce had an enchanting ability to make a woman feel as if she was the only one he ever thought of while she was with him. She had even gone so far as to ask during one of their sessions if he had ever had any training at the Academy. He had only laughed and then proceeded to keep her from thinking very much at all for the rest of their time together.

"Charles, it has been too long." The man on the screen smiled at her as he lounged in front of the camera.

"Inara, you know I feel it's been too long as soon as you leave my side. When do you estimate that your ship will arrive?"

"If all goes 'smooth' as Captain Reynolds would say, we should dock by midday."

"Good, I'll be expecting you." Pierce paused as gazed at the Companion over the cortex. Pursing his lips, he continued. "I wonder if it would be too much trouble to ask a favor from you?"

"Not at all Charles, I am at your service."

"Well this is not a service, but rather a favor for a friend, I would hope. Could you arrange for your captain to accompany you to my home? I have a business proposition and the fact that you trust him speaks well of his character." Inara carefully hid her surprise at the request. She knew that Charles was well aware of her wish to maintain a separation of her business affairs from the captain of Serenity. And yet, she knew that things had been tight for the crew of late, and one thing Charles had in excess was money and business contacts. Hopefully, Mal would not manage to get himself into any duels or other trouble if she did consent to this favor.

"I will mention it to him, but I can not promise anything."

Charles Pierce smiled engagingly. "Of course, I thank you in advance and anticipate your arrival Ms. Serra."

"Your client what?!"

"Mal, be reasonable. Charles knows that I am aboard a transport ship, it makes sense that if he wishes to engage in certain activities that he might wish to hire your services." Inara smoothed her dress before looking at Mal again. "Besides, despite his wealth, Charles Pierce is very young and has relatively few connections outside of antiquities trade. I am not surprised that he would ask this favor of me." Mal rubbed his neck thoughtfully and attempted to pace the small shuttle.

"So this is about my ship and not, uhh, anything. . ." Inara didn't know whether to laugh or yell at the man's implication.

"I assure you, it is only about your ship." Mal sighed.

"Fine, Zoe and I will go with you to meet your client. But I have to say, this makes me all sorts of uneasy."

Mal and Zoe had gotten the directions to the Pierce household from Inara so they could take the mule while she arrived in her shuttle. The house or mansion, as Mal felt it should be accurately described as, was located quite a distance from the space docks. Although not as extravagant or gaudy as the estates of say the Persephone elite, the three story mansion managed to give the impression of money. There was not much land attatched to the house that Mal could see which was only to be expected give the rapidly growing size of the settlements and cities on the planet. Inara was waiting for them on a small porch that extended off the side of the house and was shaded by the lone tree on the property. Next to her lounged a young man who appeared to consist only of lanky height, coal-black hair and very little of anything else. His face was all angles and then ears. It would be interesting to see if he actually had to deal with five-o'clock shadow. Mal was almost surprised that the man was old enough to contract with a Companion, but there were some poor souls who were doomed to look forever teen until the day they suddenly turned gray and old.

Inara stood as the pair approached and introduced them as they stepped on the porch. "Charles, this is Captain Reynolds and his first officer, Zoe Warren. Captain, Charles Pierce."

Pierce stood and shook their hands. Kissing Inara chastely on the cheek, he greeted them. "Welcome, please help yourselves to refreshment. Inara, if you'll excuse us?" Inara nodded and shot Mal a glance before leaving the deck. She truly hoped he behaved himself because Charles was truly one client she hoped she never lost.

Sitting in the wooden rocking chairs after taking some refreshments, Mal tried to get a measure of Inara's client. He was surprised at how difficult it was to read the young man, although he could tell that what little body language there was to be interpreted was being carefully sent by the other. "Mr. Pierce, Inara led me to believe that you may have some work for my ship."

Pierce only returned his gaze for several minutes before speaking. "Yes, sir. I have a number of items I need discreetly shipped as well as wishing for a passage on your ship at the same time," he finally replied. Zoe raised an eyebrow and Mal was more than a tad surprised himself. He'd expected a few things from this meeting, but deferential respect from the man hadn't been one of them.

"Well, now, discreet shipping is our specialty, although I've become less than fond of the idea of passengers, I must say. But now, I'm confused, Inara as well as the cortex led me to believe that you'd be more than capable of owning your own boat."

Pierce sighed and Mal thought his eyes appeared to be going through a list of explanations. "Captain, I tend to be rather solitary and those that I do know have very little desire to leave the comforts of the core. In all honesty, I detest most anything that requires me to deal with Alliance bureaucrats and I'm sure you know that ownership of an inter-planetary space craft brings with it a whole host of Alliance laws and officials. My business is well run and I have very little tying me to this place, so it makes sense that I might as well travel on the same ship as the cargo. I assure you, this does not indicate a lack of trust, merely convenience."

"Be that as it may, the owner of cargo traveling on the same ship does tend to raise the brow of the Alliance now and again."

"If it makes you feel better, I can arrange to have it listed as owned by someone else for the departure. After that, I rather doubt the Alliance should have to know of it. As for myself, I wish to go to another destination than the majority of the shipment, so you can easily explain to the officials that I'm a rich prat who wishes to tour the rim and was comforted by the presence of a companion aboard an otherwise disreputable vessel."

Mal caught Zoe's gaze and communicated silently with her. Pierce could certainly pay and pay up front, the only question would be whether he was more trouble than he was worth. There were the Tams to consider, although the fact that he had money and didn't like bureaucracy made Mal feel that might be a non-issue. The girl had been doing a bit better since the bounty hunter, not quite sane but not as creepifying either. They should be able to pass her off as the niece of one of the crew or something. The next question would be as to how much they could charge. Zoe nodded her approval, although Mal could tell that she also picked up on the slight oddness about the man as well. Nothing indicated danger per-say, but Mal hoped it was just the eccentricities of the rich which had his danger signal on alert.

"I think we can do business Mr. Pierce. We plan to ship out in two days, will that be enough time?"

"That is fine Captain. It has been a pleasure meeting you." --

The dock inspector eyed the ten boxes and one Charles Pierce doubtfully. "Cargo from a John Smith and one passenger," he stated disdainfully. Tianna, he should have known better than to let a rich greenhorn see to the shipping papers Mal thought to himself. Forcing a smile, he just nodded at the official while he imagined thrashing his young passenger once he got off this rock for picking a name that screamed 'smuggled goods'.

"I need to open these crates, random inspections and all that, you understand." The official directed his apology for the delay to the passenger rather than the captain. It was after all unlikely that the young man was involved in the obvious attempt at smuggling. His assistant cheerfully began to pry the wooden crates open to reveal box after box of random supplies. Nails, bolts, horseshoes, MANURE!!! Stepping back at the mature smell, the dock inspector covered his nose. "Well it all seems to be in order, have a good trip," he said quickly as he backed away quickly.

"Manure??" Mal inquired as he gestured for Jayne and Wash to proceed with the loading. Pierce just smiled.

"I hear that fertilizer can go for quite a price on some worlds, Captain."

"Just as long as we ain't taken it there." Pierce just laughed as he grabbed his personal effects and boarded Serenity. Mal turned to follow and directed him out of the cargo bay into the rest of the ship. "The bridge, cargo bay, and engine room are off limits. If you need to send a wave, ask me or Zoe – we prefer to fly silent most times. We have another passenger you'll meet, a Shepherd. Also, in addition to the crew, I have a young cousin that ain't quite all there, but she stays to herself mostly. But she's in the passenger dorm, so I apologize ahead of time if she disturbs you. Feel free to let me or the doc know if she's a bother." In the passenger dorm, Mal gestured to indicate the man's room. "It's not much, but the beds here are better than the crew's. Feel free to wander here, the common room, and the kitchen. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to see that we're set to fly."

Pierce nodded, but Mal's exit was impeded by the figure of River standing at the entrance to the dorm. Mal smiled tightly and tipped his head. "Speak of the devil, this is my cousin. Name's Sarah, but she goes by her nickname River that her pa gave her. River, you're supposed to be with 'Nara."

River tilted her head as she stared between the two men. "No devils or angels. Death and stories, legends not about men." Pierce raised his eyebrows at that, but Mal didn't intend to let him puzzle over the girl too long.

"Come on River, let's find the Doc or Inara so I can work." Mal took the girl by the shoulders and led her away from the new passenger. --

After two days, Charles Pierce found himself wanting to climb the walls of the small ship. The Captain's edict to stay out of the cargo bay and the engine room cut down on the space available to roam on an otherwise spacious ship. It had been so long since he had taken an interstellar voyage of any length and he had forgotten how much it reminded him of being trapped at sea. Nothing to do, very little to see, and the same faces around every corner you turned. They still had four more days of travel until the ship reached the planet of Boros where he planned to deliver his less sentimental collectibles in exchange for a large tract of land on an as yet un-terraformed moon. Then, a week or so more of coasting before they reached his final destination of Dyton. He definitely should have thought through his travel arrangements more carefully.

What was worse, he could not shake the shadow of the Captain's young cousin. If the man had been more paternal, Pierce was certain he would have been asked what his intentions were or what he thought he was doing leading on a young girl. Probably the only reason he hadn't been assaulted by the crew about the child was that they were just as disturbed at the fragments of speech that came out when the two were together as he was. If he had been a religious man, he would have asked the Shepherd to perform an exorcism because he was really starting to feel like Cassandra had possessed the poor girl.

The rest of the crew was somewhat entertaining though. Zoe and Wash made an interesting couple, it felt like he was seeing a mirror image of Duncan and Amanda. Kaylee, not much to say about her other than the fact that the mechanic was just too damn cheerful! Fortunately Jayne balanced out the environment so he was not too tempted to try and put a damper on Kaylee's joy. The doctor though, he swore the doctor was the most nervous person he'd ever met. Pierce was more than a little glad that he'd never have to worry about the boy operating on him. And the Shepherd, one day soon he hoped the man would tire of philosophical discussions designed to bring him to religion. He could tell the preacher enjoyed having another intellectual around, but he was really beginning to make it difficult to stay in character. Inara had so far managed to have many timely entrances that had prevented him from completely losing his temper thus far, but he was truly getting close to the end of his rope. Inara had been right, he definitely should have spent more time getting reacquainted with groups of people before embarking on this trip. Ah, well, nothing to do but try to take heart in the fact that by the time he arrived on the frontier, he would be so glad to return to his hermit ways that he wouldn't even care if there were any people or facilities around.

"Having trouble sleeping Charles?" Inara's quiet entrance into the kitchen startled him out of his thoughts.

"Not really, just enjoying the blessed quiet."

Inara laughed. "I always thought you were more of a people person." Pierce just shrugged and drank his tea. --

Mal stormed in the passenger dorms looking for the doctor. "Now what in the nine hell's was so important you had to wake me up?" he demanded. Simon gestured towards Pierce's room.

"I thought you should see this."

Mal glanced into the room and then entered it. He was greeted with the sight of River cradling a long, heavy and presumably sharp sword to her chest while she flipped through ancient leather journals containing lines of nonsense symbols. "A tad more creepifying than usual, I agree Doctor."

Simon just rolled his eyes from where he stood behind the Captain. "She refuses to let go of the sword, and I'm a tad hesitant to ask the assistance of the owner."

Mal took a few steps and knelt in front of River. "And why would that be?" River raised her head and locked eyes with him. Reaching behind her, she pulled out a specific book and opened it. The page she turned too was covered in a flaky black substance.

"All he has ever been is bathed in blood," she told Mal quietly. Mal repressed a shudder as he took the blade she suddenly pressed into his hands. "The blade is bathed in lightning, reborn each time. Tombstones multiply but his forever lost."

"Diyu," Mal muttered as he forced himself to breathe normally again. "Simon, does it sound to you like she's saying that we've brought a psychotic murderer on board?"

"I … don't know Captain."

Mal stood and brought River with him. "Doctor, go to the infirmary and lock yourselves in. Then contact Zoe and tell her to get Wash and Kaylee to the bridge for the same. If you can get Jayne or Book up, do the same."

Simon gathered his sister into his arms and turned to go. Pausing, he looked back. "And Inara?"

"I heard her in the kitchen with Pierce. I'll take care of it. Now get!" Turning, Mal bent and retrieved the sword from the floor. There was no blood on it that he could see, but after hearing River, he could only try to imagine the things it must have been used for in the past. Steeling himself, he un-holstered his gun and cocked it. If need be, he'd introduce one Charles Pierce to a different kind of baptism.

Inara looked up from the tea she was brewing when Charles fell silent. Mal stood in the doorway that led to the infirmary with a gun pointed at her friend and a . . . sword! "Mal, what do you think. . ."

"Shut up 'Nara. Go to your shuttle now and seal it."

"Mal be serious!"

"I'm as serious as a grave. Go." The Companion stared at him dumbfounded. Although in control, she thought the man actually looked scared. "Stop standing 'Nara. Go now." Praying that Charles could talk himself out of whatever had happened; she turned and left the kitchen.

Mal tilted his head and held up the sword. "Now, how 'bout you start 'splaining why this was in your room when I told you all weapons should be left in cargo?" Pierce opened his mouth, but before he could answer, Mal continued. "Also, might make interesting story if you tried to explain those books covered in blood."

Simon struggled with his sister as he tried to shut the door to the infirmary. "Shhh, mei mei. Everything is fine, the Captain has it under control." His grip loosened as she violently shook her head.

"NOO! He didn't understand. He tempts death, destroy us all. Secrets must be secret or we all fall down." Simon gave up on the door and started trying to get across the room to the hypo gun he kept loaded with a smoother. River stilled suddenly as she realized her brother's intent. "Sorry ge ge," she whispered as she swung her head back as hard as she could. The crown of her head connected with Simon's chin and he stumbled stunned from the blow. River quickly pushed him down and grabbed a metal object from a drawer by the hypo gun. Concealing it in her shift, she hurriedly exited the room, pausing only long enough to lock the doors from the outside.

Upon being confronted by Mal about River's discoveries, Pierce is speechless and desperate. His attempt to take control of the situation is interrupted by the appearance of River sliding in front of Mal.

"Don't back him into a corner, cap'n. Although he tells himself he's not death anymore, his answer is still the same when no other option's found." Walking closer to the cornered man, River continues to mumble to herself before addressing the others. "So alone, all the others gone. Brothers dead, friends hiding, always hiding. Not safe together. No where to go, no gathering since earth that was was. No foundlings left on the steps and no one wakes from death anymore except the old ones." Walking closer and finally reaching out to touch the immortal, she began to cry silently. "So much death, so much loss. Many lives, many loves, few families, secrets aplenty. Lost and running, must stay always ahead of the technology and avoid becoming the rats." Methos caught the girl as she collapsed sobbing beside the table.

As soon as she felt his hands, she struck. The scalpel was in his neck almost before he realized it. His eyes widened as he dropped to his knees. River continued to sob beside his body as Mal gathered her into his arms. She grabbed his hand before he could remove the blade from the body. "No, death remains. Always returns."

"You're talking crazy, girl. A dead body stays dead." River struggled with him as he again reached out, but he fell back suddenly as he saw a blue spark encompass the scalpel. "Wo de tien ah!"

"Told you!" River said sticking her tongue out. "Can put him in a corner now, share the secret, decide while keeping death at bay." Mal stared at the girl for a few minutes before contacting Zoe over the com.


Pierce gasped shortly after the scalpel was removed. He remained quiet with his eyes closed, testing the bonds on his wrists and feet, until a boot prodded his side. "The monitors showed your heart beat. We know you're back." He opened his eyes to locate the voice.

They were in the cargo bay and he was surrounded by Jayne, Zoe, and Mal while River and Simon sat farther away intent on the medical equipment. The crew was all armed and Mal still held his sword. Pierce closed his eyes and laid his head down again, swearing silently in many languages. He stopped when he heard the girl repeat everything he was thinking. Not right my ass, he thought. I haven't heard anyone say those words with the correct pronunciation in centuries.

He opened his eyes again when he felt the hands. He found the captain repositioning him so he was sitting up. Glaring at the others, he waited.

Mal squatted in front of him. "Here's how this is going to work mister. You're going to explain things to us and we're going to decide whether we feel reassured enough to not dump your sorry self out an airlock. Dong ma?" Pierce remained silent as he evaluated his limited options. He smirked to himself as the captain began grinding his teeth at the silence. "You're trick is fancy enough, but I still wonder whether it works in a vacuum or not. Jayne!"

Cursing, Pierce gave in. "Fine! What exactly do you wish me to explain Captain? You have already seen I can't die."

"How 'bout all of it? I feel I need a lot of reassurance that you won't kill us all in our sleep to feed on our blood." Mal paused as he stood to rejoin Zoe and Jayne. "And don't forget, our girl will let us know if you fib." Pierce glanced over to see River leave her brother's side and approach the rest.

Pierce leaned his head against the crate he was sitting against. He was more convinced than ever that Cassandra was haunting him through the child. That was the only plausible explanation as to why he suddenly found himself having to explain about immortals and the Game to a group of mortals for the first time in three hundred and fifty years.

After the lengthy explanation, some discussion about his various lives, and many hours, Pierce finally fell silent. "So you still carry a sword even though this Game ended when everyone left Earth that was?" Zoe asked.

"It's that or feel naked," he replied tiredly.

"So how old are you then?" Jayne asked from where he sat playing with his knife Binky.

"I don't see how that matters."

Mal glared at the immortal. "Airlock," he reminded.

Before he could answer, River spoke from where she had laid down on the floor some time ago. "Methos thinks he is five thousand six hundred years old. That's all he can remember. There is a fog of time before the memories begin though. The estimate is shaky at best given the changes in the calendar over time."

Mal stared at the immortal. "Huh!"

"That's all of it. Or at least as much as I intend to tell a group of mortals that is keeping me tied with the threat of vacuum held over me." **** TBC in Part Two


Tuesday, March 16, 2004 6:27 AM


I used to love Highlander. Great idea jebbypal

Tuesday, March 16, 2004 1:36 PM


Now this is shiny! Love the way you have written River and can't wait to see where you take this story. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, March 18, 2004 3:28 AM


Good job, I expecially liked the use of Methos as the main character. Also I like the Cassandra reference, nice history lesson.
Very nice work. I await the balance of the story, please continue.


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