Characters: Angel, Spike, Simon (if there's a pairing, would prefer Angel/Spike)
Want: Pre-series. Simon enlists some underworld help to rescue River.
Don't Want: Non-con.
I don't know much about this 'verse, so I hope that all my research paid off! Also - some Chinese, I did my best, feel free to correct me!
feng = insane
jiu jing = alcohol
ai ya = damn
bao bei = treasured object
hao chi tang - tasty candy
xiao gui - (affectionate) little demon
yin jing - penis
sanxian - Long-necked, three-stringed Chinese lute.
Simon fiddled nervously with his cuffs - with the smudged glass of questionable alcohol that he'd barely sipped at. Waiting, and he hated waiting. Waiting for two gorram years, and he was about to crack to pieces. *I'll just sit here and go feng and when these - these mercenaries get here they'll probably steal all my money and sell me to the highest bidder...or just slit my throat...* He picked up the glass and took a swig - grimaced and swallowed and wished he hadn't as his stomach roiled uneasily in him.
The bar was constructed inside the burned-out hulk of an old transport ship, and the rusting superstructure was overlaid with dense layers of graffiti - years and years worth. Probably decades - probably more. Hanover was one of the first outlaying planets to rebel against the Alliance and the transport had probably been downed in the first of the war years. It didn't make Simon feel secure - it made him more nervous. What he was - this was the last place he should be.
Most of the graffiti was indecipherable - some of it so old that Simon had no reference for puzzling it out. Like the crooked 'A' inside a circle, done in red paint that had bled down the wall. That wasn't an Alliance symbol, that was for sure. Simon stared at the symbol - it was near the top of the layers, and fairly clear. It was where he'd been told to wait and now he was feeling nervous about that.
*Makes me a target - makes me...gorram stupid - got to get out of here...* He started to stand, the rickety chair catching on the sticky floor. He twisted a little, grabbing the back and giving it a jerk. Then a cool hand was on his shoulder and he flinched and jerked around, sending his glass flying. Another hand caught it neatly out of the air and put it back on the table with a small crack.
"You leavin'?" a voice purred - low and rumbling and twisted with an accent Simon couldn't decipher. He yielded to the hand's pressure and sat back down hard in his chair - looked up, finally, into blue, blue eyes and a sardonic smirk.
"I - I was just -"
"Just tryin' to run out on me." Blue eyes blinked slowly - went half-lidded and sultry and Simon recoiled even as something warm and honey-sweet seemed to coat his stomach. The other slid into the seat opposite him, hand going from Simon's shoulder to his hand - picking it up and bringing it to his lips. Simon watched in a sort of detached fascination as blue-eyes brought Simon's knuckles to his mouth and...nibbled.
*His lips are cool and...what is he doing?* "Look, I think you've made -"
"Made a mistake, love? Oh, no," The blue gaze flickered - up, around - came back to rest on his and Simon felt that little burn again - warm and somehow...soothing. "You're sittin' right where I told you - right under the big red 'A', yeah? Just like I asked, lover." The man's voice dropped an octave and Simon's hand involuntarily clenched tight around the long, cool fingers twined with his. "Said if you were here, we could...work this out. I wanna work this out...Simon."
There was a long moment of relative silence. The tinny speakers roped with caulk and safety webbing to the ceiling were blaring out some sort of opera that Simon didn't recognize, all wailing voice and plucked sanxian. Simon tried to gather his wits enough to say...something. Anything. The other picked up his glass and drained it - made a moue of distaste.
"That's gorram bad jiu jing. Listen - I've got a bottle of the good stuff back at my room. Let's go back, yeah? Let's go have a real drink and talk, love. We can fix this. Cried you a river, love," the man added, and there was an odd, manic sparkle to the too-blue eyes and Simon suddenly breathed - hadn't realized he'd been holding it.
*Ah - ai ya - river...River...* "I - I guess I... Yeah, let's go and talk, let's - fix this," he stuttered, and the other smiled a slow smile at him - all smoldering promise and devotion and Simon's stomach did another slow loop.
"That's the way, love. C'mon." Another look, up and around, and he was standing - tugging Simon to his feet and wrapping an arm around him. "This place is too crowded. And all this cheap smoke stinks. Need someplace clean, bao bei." Simon nodded and they threaded their way through the crowd, the man's hand in the small of Simon's back, guiding him. He wasn't much taller than Simon - was slim in worn grey fatigues, a sleeveless undershirt and a ragged vest of ancient leather criss-crossed with boleros of what looked like ammunition and at least one knife.
They got through the crowd with a minimum of fuss - pushed through the doors to the street and Simon took a deep, deep breath. Garbage and cooking smells, uncertain plumbing and the oddly sweet exhaust of organic petrol. It didn't help - he still felt like throwing up. The man's arm around his waist tightened - towed him at an ambling walk down and across the street and into an alley so pitch-black that Simon instinctively put out his hand - faltered.
"I've got you," the voice murmured in his ear - cool breath tinged with cheap whiskey and smoke. He was swung around - pushed up against a wall. "Hush now - let me listen," the voice whispered, and Simon shivered. Waited, while the man - his contact - stood utterly still and silent. Line of his body pressed to Simon's - shoulder to hip to thigh.
"Right." The voice was suddenly brisk and Simon heard a rustling noise - a click - and a wand of thin blue flame shot up, illuminating the man's cut-glass cheekbones and space-pale skin. The blue eyes seemed to flame as well, and then Simon was left with an afterimage of black eyebrows and dark hair twisted into narrow, past-the-shoulder dreadlocks. The glowing cherry of a cigarette was all that marked the man and Simon could smell real tobacco, thick and sharp.
"Fancy a ride?" the man asked, and Simon heard the creak of suspension and then an engine coughed to life. Small running lights illuminated a little flit - cross between a motorcycle and a hover-craft - and Simon scrambled on board, barely getting his feet on the braces and his arms around the man's ribs before it kicked into gear and darted away, out of the alley and down the street. Whine and shake like a sick dog, almond-sweet petrol smell and the cracked leather seat hard between his thighs. A hard left and Simon clutched reflexively at the lean body - leaned closer - and the man laughed. He smelled of leather and smoke and oranges, and drove like the devil himself. Simon closed his eyes and just hung on.
It took nearly twenty minutes for them to get where they were going - and at speeds that made Simon actually bite through his lip once as they spun on a dime around a corner, fishtailing and skidding on the cushion of electrified air under the slender frame. They were far out in the fringes of the city when the flit finally slowed and stopped, pulling with a rattle of the air-intake into a listing shed. Simon just lay, exhausted on the narrow back of his contact, taking in great, shaky breaths and trying desperately to make his legs work - to make his hands unclench from the man's waist.
"Didn't really mean it about bein' your boyfriend, love," the man said, laughter in his voice. He pried at Simon's hands and got them open - swung his leg forward over the tank and stood up, hauling Simon up and off with deceptively strong arms. "Though you are hao chi tang." The long, appraising look, head to toe, made Simon gape at the man, and he laughed out loud this time - slung an arm over Simon's shoulder and steered him out of the shed. "Don't worry. You're safe, xiao gui. I only bite if you ask me to." This seemed to amuse the man, and he chuckled to himself as he locked the shed and led Simon to a house as crooked and derelict as the outbuilding.
*But he's got that flit, that costs more than this house did... More than ten houses like this.* The vertigo from the wild ride cleared abruptly and Simon remembered what he was doing - what he was here for, and he straightened away from the man with a frown, pushing his hands back through his hair and straightening his shirt and jacket.
The door looked like warped old wood, but when it opened Simon saw that it was as thick as his palm was wide and swung ponderously, obviously made of steel. The nearly inaudible whir of some device - probably a camera - made him take a long breath. Mentally gearing himself. This man - and his partner - were serious. Deadly serious.
They went down a flight of wide, shallow steps - the foundation had been excavated - and walked into what seemed to be a bunker. It was crowded with things - parts and half-built or half-torn down machines, weapons, piles of manuals and computer parts and at least three working computers. A bowlful of thumbnail-sized music chips sat next to an expensive, compact player that was balanced atop what looked like body armor. And...there were other things.
"You stay here, yeah? Be right back," the man said, shedding a long knife and a two-way radio onto a table and striding off down a dim hallway. Simon nodded, watching him - drifted over to a shelf and stared. There were stones and shells - crumbling books bound in cracked leather, feathers and an unopened bottle of wine. Keepsakes, Simon was sure. He reached hesitantly for a book, intrigued - trying to puzzle out the fragments of gold leaf that had once spelled out the title.
"Don't touch that." Simon flinched and jerked around, heart thumping. The first man was back, smoking another cigarette, and beside him was the second mercenary - the one who had spoken. He had a deeper voice and was taller - broader - with a rich fall of dark-brown hair just brushing his shoulders. Dark eyes and the remnants of an Independent's officer's uniform on - regulation breeches and tan shirt open over a pale, muscled chest.
"I - I'm sorry. I've just never seen -" Simon stopped himself - stepped forward, holding himself upright - doing his utmost not to let his nerves get the best of him. "Let's get down to business, shall we? I want to know what you can do for me. Actually - the first thing you can do for me is tell me your names, since you already know mine."
The blue-eyed one snorted - took a long drag on his cigarette and ground it out in an overflowing saucer. "Got some knackers then, bao bei? Call me Spike."
"I'm Angel. And we can do what we said. Get your sister."
"How." Simon whispered - demand more than question - and thought he saw something like sympathy in Spike's gaze.
"The usual way - go in, guns blazing, kill 'em all." Spike grinned - suffered a glare from Angel and flung himself down onto a chair that seemed to be made of bones and old hides. He propped his feet on a low table, his tall, scarred boots creaking a little.
"Ignore him," Angel said, and gestured to a similarly constructed couch. Simon walked to it and then hesitated, wondering where to sit. Clothing, more weapons - at least five guns, one of them something that looked big enough to take out a small ship - and assorted rags, papers, and a sleeping cat. Angel seemed nonplused for a moment and then hastily cleared a space, dumping the cat on Spike. It rurred sleepily and burrowed its head under the leather vest, tail-tip twitching.
Simon sat down carefully, trying to avoid what appeared to be bones sticking out from under a ragged cushion. "Just - tell me. Marco said -"
"Marco doesn't know his ass from his yin jing -"
"Shut up, Spike - no one's impressed that you can speak Chinese -"
"After six hundred bloody years I think it's -"
"Excuse me? Can we - six hundred years? What - oh god." *They're insane. They're both gorram insane. I've killed her.* Simon shot to his feet, only to encounter Angel's hand, flat on his chest - pushing him back down with a thump, his teeth clacking shut.
"Look - just - ignore him, okay?" Angel shot another of those looks at Spike that Spike utterly ignored, involved as he was in rolling a cigarette. The cat seemed irritated by the motions and was watching Spike's long, white fingers with a flat-eared, malevolent glare. "Marco gave us the basics, we found out more. We know where River's being held."
The air seemed to go out of the room - everything was suddenly blotted out by a white-spangled blackness and Simon found himself with his head somewhere between his knees and a cool hand on the back of his neck.
"Take a breath, now - you're all right." Low, calm voice and Simon put his elbows on his knees and hung there a moment - breathed slowly, in and out, until his vision cleared and he could see again. Angel was standing and looking at him, his face calm but his fingers ticking onetwothree onetwothree on his thigh. Spike was crouched next to him, peering up with a little smile on his face, the cigarette held out to one side.
"All right, then, bao bei?"
"I'm - I'm all right. Where - is she? What did - they do to her?" Something - dark - flickered through Spike's expression and Simon flinched back just a little.
"She's got something they want. They're...not picky about how they get it. Doesn't matter. We can get her out."
*God, oh - god, they...I knew she was being hurt, I knew...* Simon felt sick - felt so gorram helpless and so angry. "Do - whatever you have to do. I've got money - I don't care. Anything, please."
"Don't worry," Angel said, and his voice was surprisingly soft - surprisingly comforting. "We'll get her. This sort of thing -" he grimaced and made a gesture with his hands, meaning what, exactly, Simon didn't know. "It's - not acceptable. You've got our word, we'll get her out." Simon just sat there for a moment - absently watched Spike stand up and move around the room, lighting the cigarette and finding a bottle and glasses; pouring out amber liquid for the three of them and nudging Simon's hand with the glass until he shakily took it - took a long drink. It burned, heat and honey-mellow and it was good stuff - the best whiskey he'd ever tasted. He got up and wandered over to the crowded shelf again - stared unseeingly at something made of tarnished brass. Long cylinder of metal with a three-lobed, ornate head and a sort of tooth-looking bit on the other end.
"What's that?" He asked, still a little dazed, and Spike was next to him, lifting the object up and holding it, finger stroking lightly over the mottled-black surface.
"It's a key - how you used to lock doors, yeah?" He turned the key in his hand, miming a twisting motion and Simon had to smile faintly.
"It's - really beautiful." He drained his glass and looked around at the two men - took a deep breath.
"Okay. Tell me - everything. Tell me what you're going to do and what I need to do. Let's just...get it done." Spike grinned, and poured more whiskey into Simon's glass.
Nearly two months later, standing in the cargo hold of the Serenity, Simon stared with sick anticipation at the stasis-box that the Captain was kicking open. Remembering in a brief flash the two mercenaries - remembering walking out of their strange little house and seeing Spike stop and pull Angel close by the back of his neck - kiss him lingeringly and smile at him, and then take Simon on another terrifying ride on his flit.
When the box was open - when he was cradling his sister in his arms - he saw something clutched in her hand. He pried it gently out, shushing her, and saw the long, tarnished key.
*Thank you. Thank you, thank you. So much.*