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the big damn crossover, part four/?

Title:  you can't take the sky from me (4/?)
Rating: PG
Characters/Pairings:  Ensemble from both Firefly and A:tLA.  Zuko/Katara, Sokka/Suki, Suki/Kaylee, Wash/Sokka, some Toph/Jayne, and a little bit of Simon/Sokka, because I can.
Summary:  The Gaang find themselves in an unfamiliar place, with unfamiliar technology, and must rely on the only kindness they can find.  Unfortunately, kindness seems to be an endangered creature in this new place.  x-over with Firefly/Serenity.
Chapter Summary:  In which Zuko and Katara have a meaningful interaction (read: fight), River plays a prank on Simon via Sokka, Zoe attempts to break up the burgeoning Toph/Jayne, and Aang finally finds a friend.

one. two. three. four. five.

episode one:
strangers in a strange land

chapter four:
(dinosaurs)


"Zuko!" Katara cried, running toward where he was lingering on the catwalk, waiting for Aang and Toph to return (hopefully with all extremities) from Mal's job.  "Just the person I was looking for!"

"Oh?" he replied, raising an eyebrow.  From somewhere vaguely behind him, he heard whispering that sounded suspiciously like Suki and Kaylee spying on him.  "What do you need?"

"I've got a mission, and you're going to help me with it," she said firmly, crossing her arms.  She was, he noticed, clutching that encyclopedia thing in her left hand.  Deciding that this couldn't possibly be good -- and also that he didn't want Suki or Kaylee to have any further "proof" that he was yearning desperately for Katara's body -- he nodded.

"All right.  Let's talk in the dining room.  This place echoes," he added pointedly, glancing behind him.  He heard a sharp gasp, but unfortunately, Katara didn't.

"Um, okay..." she said, looking at him strangely.  "You're talking to the walls now?"

He considered telling her that Suki had joined up with Kaylee and were now pushing for him to jump her bones, but that would involve explaining to her that, well, Suki and Kaylee thought he wanted to jump her bones.  He rubbed the back of his neck.  "This, um... People like to listen in to conversations," he offered, wincing at his complete lack of grace.

Katara nodded, "I know," she replied fervently.  "River attacked me earlier with first aid information, it was really weird."

He blinked.  "What?"

She waved a hand, "I was asking Simon if he would teach me some first aid tricks, and then River showed up out of nowhere and started teaching me.  When I asked her why she was listening, she just gave me this strange look."  She shrugged.  "I guess she thinks that if she teaches me first aid, I'll teach her waterbending."

Zuko started toward the dining room, thinking.  "Well, it won't hurt to try, will it?" he asked.  "I mean, either she can bend or she can't, so you may as well give her a lesson to see if she's even capable of it.  And if she is, well...  Having another waterbender on the team would be good, right?"

"Yeah," she said slowly, as though she still didn't really want to do it but realized that she didn't have any excuse not to.  "Anyway," she continued, changing the subject sharply and ducking through a doorway, "back to our mission."

He decided not to comment on the fact that she was assuming he would help her -- mainly because he knew he would -- and simply settled down into one of the comfortable little chairs right off the dining area.  "All right," he said, "what mission is this?"

"We are going to find out information," she replied with a flourish and a grin, and he stared at her blankly, waiting for the rest.

When it didn't come, he prompted her.  "Information?"

"Yes."

There was a long pause.  Finally, he sighed, and decided to bite, "What kind of information?"

Her grin widened, and she flopped dramatically into the chair beside him.  "I'm glad you asked!  We need to know everything we can about the Independents and the Alliance.  You and Mal are friends, right?"

"Kind of?"

"Right," she confirmed, as though he hadn't said anything.  "So you're going to ask him all about his role in the war.  He probably won't kill you, but I don't think he likes me very much, so I won't ask.  Meanwhile, I'll talk to River and Simon about the Alliance.  We'll figure out everything we can, and then decide what to do with this information."

"...What would we do with this information?" he asked, feeling slightly stupid.

"That depends," she replied ominously, "on what we find out.  If it turns out that we're on a... well, a pirate ship or something like that, we'll need to do something about it, won't we?"

"Like what?" he countered, suddenly desperate to convince of her of just how bad an idea this was.  "Katara, these people have been nothing but kind to us.  We're not... I don't know, turning them in to the authorities or something just because they've stolen before."

She scowled, obviously not liking the way this conversation had turned, "What if the Alliance is some kind of huge peacekeeping organization and they're trying to stir up war?"

"Then we get away," he replied, like it was obvious.  "Or we find out why they would want war.  My gut says these people aren't bad."

"Well, my gut says they are."

He bit back a scream of frustration.  "Why do you think that?"

"Where did they get the cargo that they're selling now?" she asked, standing up, and then went on without giving him a chance to answer.  "And what is Jayne's job here?  All he seems to do is clean his weapons and make innuendos, but he went with Zoe and Mal and Toph and Aang on that job.  Why did Simon say that it was only a matter of time before someone got shot?"  He tried to cut into her rambling at this -- when did he say that? -- but she kept going, agitated, "Why did they fight against the Alliance?  Why were they in such a rush to get off that planet?  How did all of these people end up on this ship?  Why did -- "

"All right!" he cried, grabbing her by the shoulders.  "I get it!  There are a lot of unanswered questions.  But you're missing the point."

Her eyes narrowed dangerously.  "What point would that be?"

"That just because someone is a thief doesn't make them evil!" he answered, suppressing the urge to shake sense into her.  "So, they're bandits.  They fly around space stealing things and selling them off to other people.  There are worse things a person can do.  They could be, I don't know, raping and eating innocent civilians."  She made a face.

"That's a bit much, don't you think?"

He glared.  "Look, all I'm saying is, just because they're smugglers doesn't mean they're evil.  They've been nice to us.  They took us in and gave us a place to stay, and if you've got some huge evil secret to protect, you don't take passengers."

She didn't look convinced, but she also didn't look like she was about to cram an ice-sickle into any of his orifices, so he considered it a win.

"And anyway," he continued, in a softer voice, "we don't even know all the details yet."

"Right," she said, sounding slightly disappointed, and then walked away.

--

"Hello."

Sokka let out a magnificently undignified shriek, and narrowly avoided crashing down the stairs.  Wash had left him to his own devices in the shuttle after showing him around (and after getting a wave from Mal that they would probably need to leave the vicinity "post haste").  Unfortunately, due to the impending need to flee the planet, he hadn't been able to actually get up in the air and fly around, but he was reasonably confident that he'd have the chance on their next stop.  So he was just leaving the shuttle, hoping to make for the bridge and absorb more knowledge from the pilot when a voice -- from above! -- had startled him.

Heart racing, gasping for breath, and hoping against hope that no one had seen his reaction, he looked up, straight into the wide, brown eyes of River Tam.  She was smiling.  And also hanging from the ceiling.

"Hi," he replied, in as strong a voice as he could.  "What are you doing up there?"

"Waiting for you," she answered simply, and didn't elaborate, instead choosing to peer intently into his face.

He stared.  She was rather pretty, if deeply unnerving.  "Um.  Why is that?"

"Simon was talking about you," she said matter-of-factly.  "I want to know why."

"I... didn't know that," he said uncertainly.  She nodded.

"I guess you are attractive..." she muttered, and continued to smile.  "I approve."

"Approve of what?!" he asked, alarmed.  Her grin widened, and she twisted around so she was hanging with her back to him, and landed -- without a sound -- on the catwalk in front of him.  "Approve of your brother thinking I'm -- Hey!"   But she was already gliding away serenely, leaving Sokka disturbed and unsettled behind her.

"Oh," a voice said from behind him, and Sokka (again) jumped.  It was Simon.  "There you are.  Have you seen River?"

He turned and looked at Simon distrustingly.  If River was to be believed -- and he had no reason why she shouldn't be -- Simon found him "attractive".  He glanced over the doctor, and decided that it wasn't all that surprising, really.  The man was, after all, dressed in a sweater-vest and was, despite their living conditions, impeccably groomed.

"Yes..." he said slowly, and Simon looked confused and -- although Sokka might have been imagining it -- hurt.  "She went that way," he continued, pointing toward the dining room.

"All right," Simon replied, and stood still for a long, awkward moment.  "Can I get past you?" he asked finally, and Sokka stepped aside, still peering at the doctor.

--

Zuko was sitting at the dining room, still frustrated over Katara's... Katara-ness, when River glided into the room and began calmly throwing ingredients into a pot.

"It's River, right?" he asked, joining her at the stove.  She nodded serenely, adding cinnamon and chile powder to the... whatever she was making.  He watched her uncertainly, trying to decide if there was any method to the spices she was adding -- which now included dried parsley and some powdery white stuff that could have been flour -- before continuing.  "Um, Katara wanted to talk to you about -- "

"Water," she said sharply, interrupting him.  He blinked.

"Uh, no, she actually -- "

"Water," she said more firmly, and glared at him.  Finally, he got it.

"Oh, you need water for the... Right," he muttered, looking around for a sink or well or something -- ah!  He reached out to take the pot from her, but she held onto it, fighting him for control with an angry look on her face.  After a moment of intense struggle, he gave up and decided to just use a cup or a jar to hold the water.  "Anyway," he continued conversationally, "she wanted to know about the Alliance."

River shook her head violently.  "No."

He turned to her, staring blankly, and it wasn't until he felt his hands get wet that he realized the jar had overflown.  He cursed under his breath and turned off the water, going back to River and pouring it in the pot.  "All right, then," he said softly.  "What are you making?"

"Dinner," she replied happily.  It didn't look like much to him -- in fact, it looked completely inedible -- but her grin was so luminous that he couldn't comment on that.  He was sharply reminded of the first time Katara had tried to cook at the Palace's kitchen, and the utter failure that she managed to concoct, although she had insisted throughout the entire thing that she knew exactly what she was doing.  Everyone had just smiled and nodded and pretended that it was delicious, and then promptly raided the kitchens for something edible.

"Oh," he started, looking at the milky substance in the pot.  Occasionally, as she stirred it languidly, dark specks would rise to the surface and swirl around.  He tried to come up with something complimentary to say, but nothing came up that wouldn't anger her or possibly make her cry, and Zuko hated seeing girls cry.  (He also hated it when they were angry with him, but due to how often this happened to him, he was more used to it.)  Suddenly, though, she started giggling.

He was about to ask, when Simon walked in, looking behind him curiously.  "Why was Sokka staring at -- River, what are you doing?"

"Cooking dinner," she replied simply.  A flash of panic crossed over his face and he broke into a run, nearly crashing into Zuko in his haste to pull River away from the stove.  She did not go easily, looking agitated, and finally turned her huge eyes onto Zuko pleadingly.

"Uh," Zuko said, unsure of what was happening, "I was right here, she's not -- "

"River," Simon said in a long-suffering voice, "you know you shouldn't be around the stove."

"Not gonna burn myself," she replied, sulking.

"You said that last time."  Simon sighed, and then looked into the pot, his fear turning to bemusement.  "What were you cooking, anyway?"  She huffed and looked away, refusing to answer, so he turned to Zuko, who shrugged.  River slipped out of her brother's arms and slunk away to the little alcove where he and Katara had been earlier, pouting.  Simon shook his head and took the pot off the stove, giving it the same confused look he'd been wearing for the past day or so.

"So," Zuko started, thinking that he might have more luck with Simon, "Katara spoke to me earlier..."

"Is this about her brother?" he asked, looking up.  Zuko hesitated; that, he had to admit, was probably the last thing he expected Simon to say.

"...What about Sokka?"

"He was acting... strange," Simon said, rubbing the back of his head.  "And staring at me.  Do you know why?"

"I... No," Zuko replied, just as confused as the doctor.  Why would Sokka being staring at Simon?  "What kind of strange?"

Simon shuffled uncomfortably, and poured out the mixture that River had been cooking, "Strange," was all he said.

--

Sokka had expected something more from Suki when he explained his suspicions to her, and he'd even expected more from Kaylee, who in spite of being attached to Suki's hip, seemed reasonable enough.  Instead, they were both laughing so hard they couldn't breathe.

--

"All right," Mal said, closing the doors behind them.  Toph, her arm firmly in Zoe's ungentle grip, scowled.  "We're not doing that again."

"Didn't you say that last time, sir?" Zoe asked dryly.  Mal glared.

"I meant -- Oh, forget it.  Aang, get the doc to check on that wound."  The boy in question was pale and shaken from his first encounter with bullets and Toph-with-bullets, even though he'd really only been grazed on the leg (by the aforementioned Toph-with-bullets).  Aang nodded and limped away to the infirmary, glancing darkly behind him at his best friend.

"I'm sorry, okay!" she cried.  "Jeez, you accidentally shoot one person just one time..."

"Jayne -- " Mal said sharply, and then caught himself, "No, actually, Zoe, when we get to Sihnon, would you teach our little blind maniac to shoot proper-like?"

"Of course, sir."

"Hey!" Jayne protested, "I could teach 'er to shoot!"

"I do not trust you with an eighteen-year-old girl," Mal replied coolly, and hit the intercom.  "Wash, take us out of the world, quickly."

"It'll be a while before Patience can get here!" Toph pouted.  "You've gotta admit, I was helpful!"

Mal rolled his eyes, and muttered, "I knew taking them along was a bad idea," while he stomped off toward the Infirmary to make sure that Aang wasn't sobbing into Simon's shoulder or anything of the sort.

"Eh, it was fine," Jayne said, shrugging, and clapped Toph on the back.  "We got us a new gun-arm outta the deal, di'n't we?  C'mon," he said jovially, pulling out a cigar, "let's celebrate!"

Zoe, however, still clutching Toph's arm, glared at Jayne until he backed down.  "I'm not leaving her alone with you," she said bluntly.  "You're a bad influence."

"Bad influence?  Aw, c'mon -- "

"No," she replied sharply, pulling Toph along.  "You and me," she said to the young girl, "are going to have gun-handling lessons, starting now."

"But Jayne already taught me -- "

"That's why you're learning from me," she countered blandly, glaring at Jayne.  "Up to the bridge, go," she said, releasing Toph and nudging her forward.  "There are plenty of guns in the locker up there."

"And your husband," Toph mumbled petulantly.  Zoe glared, before remembering that Toph couldn't see it, and so compensated by pushing her forward again.  "I get it, I get it," she growled, stomping away in the same direction Mal had gone.  "First, can we check on Aang?"

"Want to make sure he's not scared to death of you now?"

"No!" she replied, offended, and when Zoe didn't say anything else, she sighed.  "Yeah."

"All right," Zoe conceded, feeling strangely motherly.  Against all odds, she liked Toph.  Sure, she was as stubborn as Mal and as crazy as Jayne, but she had a way about her that was just lovable, and even though Zoe should have wanted to throw the little girl out of the airlock, she found herself amused by her antics and strangely affectionate toward her.  Somehow, the blind girl had wormed her way into Zoe's -- and if she knew anything about the captain, Mal's -- heart.  She suspected that this was why Aang put up with her, even going so far as to put his morals aside to protect her.

Toph, oddly enough, inspired that kind of devotion.

If the girl was younger, Zoe might have thought about talking to Wash about adopting her.  Hell, even now she might talk to Wash about it, or at least about taking her under their wings.  God knew they would be better for her than leaving her to Jayne's tutelage.  She resolved to discuss the matter with her husband, and in the mean time, to watch her like a hawk.

--

Aang was laying on the infirmary bed while Simon stitched up his leg, glaring at the ceiling.  Everyone else seemed perfectly happy in this new, strange world, but Aang felt alone.  He didn't know how to get home, he didn't know where he fit in here, and he didn't know why no one else had a problem with these things.  At least, he had thought, Katara or Zuko might take issue with being stuck in a foreign universe where no one they knew existed.

"You're awfully quiet," Simon said gently, not looking up.

"I'm just..." he started, and then sighed.  "I want to go home, you know?"

The doctor nodded in a way that was a little too understanding.  "I know," he replied fervently.

Aang glanced over to him.  "Where's your home?" he asked, trying to sit up some without interrupting the doctor's work.  Simon made an odd sound from the back of his throat and then took a deep breath.

"Osiris, originally.  It's... a planet in the core," he explained, as though that meant anything to Aang either.  "I...  Well, River went to this government-sponsored Academy and..." he trailed off, like he didn't want to dredge up those memories.  Aang caught something in his voice, though, and moved on it.

"Is that why she's..." he indicated with his hands, although he wasn't sure what, exactly, he was indicating.  "They... hurt her?"

"Did experiments on her," Simon whispered, eyes blank like he was seeing a memory rather than what was in front of him.  "Played with her brain.  She's actually doing much better now than she was before," he said, and tried to smile.  Aang stared in horror, understanding something of the magnitude of what had happened to River from the way Simon was talking and the look on his face.  "Anyway," Simon continued, giving up the attempt to smile, "I... got her out.  It took a lot of time, and money, and...  Well, I can't go home.  Ever.  But," he said suddenly, on a brighter note, "she's safe now.  They can't hurt her anymore.  That's the important thing."

"That must have been..."  Aang tried to make sense of it, but he couldn't.  It was admirable, that Simon had given up everything he had to save his baby sister, and it made Aang's heart ache for the siblings.  And, he thought, if Simon and River could survive out here after going through so much and leaving all they knew behind, then so could he.  At least he had a chance of going home.  "I'm sorry," he said sincerely.  Simon shook his head.

"It's not your fault."

"No, but," he sighed, "in our world, it's my job to help people, to... keep the balance between the nations.  I..." he rubbed his now-fuzzy head, "I wish I could have been here, or that you had someone here to do that, so that... those people wouldn't be able to..."

"It's all right," Simon said, although it was clear from his voice that it absolutely wasn't all right, "it's in the past now.  River is safe, and she loves it here, so..."

"But what about you?"

Simon blinked.  "I... I've gotten used to it.  There are... positives," he said with a strained smile.  "I didn't think much of it at first, but Serenity grows on you."

"At least the people are good.  Well, most of them, anyway," he added, thinking of Jayne.

Simon finally smiled genuinely.  "Yes, they are.  Except Jayne."

Aang laughed.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
jdphoenix
Aug. 20th, 2010 10:55 pm (UTC)
Is it weird that I want to hug a story? Because I really do. This just keeps getting more fun.

Can Zoe and Wash adopt Toph? They'd be the best family ever! :D
andromeda3116
Aug. 22nd, 2010 07:55 pm (UTC)
D'aww. I'm glad that it's as fun to read as it is to write!

Maybe they won't adopt her, since she is eighteen now, but they'll definitely keep a close eye on her from now on, since Zoe is deeply unwilling to let Jayne corrupt her more. :D

(Sorry for the delay in replying, I got caught up in real life and then I got waylaid by a totally different fic idea and, yeah. <3)
marybwolf
Aug. 21st, 2010 04:42 pm (UTC)
Oh River, you brilliant, diabolical girl. How we love you. And Simon, the boob, falls for it every time.

Wonderful chapter. Is this longer than the previous ones?
andromeda3116
Aug. 22nd, 2010 07:58 pm (UTC)
Well, of course. I was totally thinking of that deleted scene where she tries to get Book to marry her and Simon, and then stuffs the pillow up her shirt, claiming that they have to get married because they're "in the family way". And just that look on Simon's face when he realizes that, no, this isn't crazy!River, this is River playing a prank on him. I just love them so much.

It might be? I haven't really been setting any length for the chapters, just kind of guessing at a good length. It's entirely possible, though.
marybwolf
Aug. 23rd, 2010 12:30 am (UTC)
That scene makes me laugh lots. I wasn't asking if there was a set length, it just seemed like it took me longer to read this one. Not that that's a bad thing. I completely enjoyed reading every word.
tinmiss1939
Aug. 22nd, 2010 06:52 pm (UTC)
"...They could be, I don't know, raping and eating innocent civilians."
She made a face. "That's a bit much, don't you think?"

Well THAT is going to be a rude awakening, whenever the Reavers show up.

Really, though--the discussion b/w Katara and Zuko was spot on. From his Blue Spirit days, we know that Zuko is very willing skirt the law when he thinks its necessary (actually, most of his character growth was learning independently define right/wrong). On the other hand, it's just like Katara to get obsessed over rules and who's morally right; if she decides these are "bad people," she'll need to do something about it. The girl couldn't lay low if her life depended on it.

Crazy!River cooking was fun, and so was Zuko's reaction. The psychologically damaged are REALLY far outside Zuko's comfort zone.

Simon delivers as well, which is impressive. Half the time he's stiff and bewildered and the other half he is a tragic woobie--that has to be hard to write.
andromeda3116
Aug. 22nd, 2010 08:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I really like Zuko and Katara's antagonism, because even though they're on the same side and even really good friends now, they're still going to argue and annoy each other -- but, in the end, they're each better for it. And there's my Zutara Manifesto!

(And yessss, the Reavers are going to be a very nasty awakening for, well, everyone, but mostly Katara.)
bladegryphon
Aug. 23rd, 2010 10:12 pm (UTC)
I'm a terrible, terrible person for laughing hysterically when Zuko unwittingly mentioned the reavers.

andromeda3116
Aug. 29th, 2010 10:08 pm (UTC)
*cough*

I couldn't help but throw that in there. :D
jade_sabre_301
Aug. 29th, 2010 09:03 pm (UTC)
need moar firefly icons
I'M BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAACK

lolololol bones jumping. OMG Kaylee/Suki I love you.

ADDING MY VOICE TO THE CHORUS OF LAUGHTER AT THE UNWITTING REAVERS REFERENCE. And Katara's overwhelming feelings that the people on Serenity are evil. And her thoughts on Jayne.

HI RIVER I LOVE YOU
OHADF;JADFL;AJKDF AHAHAHAHAHA
HAHAHAHAHAHA

YES OH SOKKA oh poor Simon it is cruel to laugh so hard omg. River you naughty thing.

and now she is cooking and I still love it. and Simon is confused and I love it. And Zuko is Zuko and I might just have to drag him off to a secluded corner and do unspeakable things to him.

YES SUKI/KAYLEE STRIKES AGAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAIN

TOPH-WITH-BULLETSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS

jayne/toph jayne/toph jayne/toph I just keep laughing through this whole thing just so you know

OMG ZOE ♥

aaaaaaaaaaaw Aang (also Tam siblings are <3)

AND THERE'S ANOTHER CHAPTER TO READ *investigates*
andromeda3116
Aug. 29th, 2010 10:12 pm (UTC)
Re: need moar firefly icons
One can never have enough Firefly icons. :D

I was totally thinking of that deleted scene where she steals Book's pillow and shoves it up her shirt, and then insists that it's Simon's baby and that they have to get married, when I wrote her pranking Simon. I just love that she does crazy things like that to him. It's so... sibling-y.

<3
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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