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Gabriel sat in a transport vehicle, watching as the smelly, hot streets of Persephone moved all around him, like something with a life all its own.

 

“All right, Tam, what do you say?” Gabriel said quietly to his traveling companion. “The fun ship? Or the one with the pervy dude eyeing us up?” Gabriel glanced over at said perv. The guy winked, and Gabe had to choke down a bit of vomit.

 

Simon shuddered as well, and conceded, “Okay, let’s go with the Firefly. That girl standing out front looks nice.” Gabe smirked inwardly. The girl wasn’t bad-looking. Not really his type, though. “Gabriel! Ugh, not like that!” Oh, yeah. Gabe had been smirking outwardly too. Oops.

 

“Hey, you could do a lot worse. She could probably do waaaayyyy better than you, though.” Simon elbowed him.

 

“I just meant she looked friendly!” he protested. Gabriel chuckled.

 

“Yeah, I’m just messing with ya, kid. Right, shall we?” He started towards the ship, but Simon grabbed his arm.

 

“Gabriel! We can’t just walk up there randomly. We have to act our parts.” Gabriel rolled his eyes. They had their backstories planned out, as well as lies about what was in their boxes. What more did they need?

 

“Relaax, I’m the Trickster, remember?” Gabe sure did. Back in school, he’d pulled pranks left and right. There weren’t any teachers in the place who hadn’t had a dick drawn on their board, a powerpoint slide hijacked, glitter exploding from various places in the room, or Gabriel lying his and five other students’ ways out of class.

 

 Simon sighed. “Okay, let’s go,” he said.

 

With that, Gabriel started the rented vehicle containing their precious cargo, and drove over to the Firefly. The girl standing in front of the ship smiled at them as they jumped out of the transport.

 

“Hi there! You wouldn’t be lookin’ to book passage, would you?” Gabe grinned at her and whipped out a pouch of money.

 

“Actually, we would! What’s your name, sweetheart?” Okay, that came off as a little pervy, but whatever. Gabriel was a natural flirt!

 

“Sorry about him, he tends to flirt with anything that moves,” Simon apologized to the girl. She laughed.

 

“Oh, it’s fine, I’ve dealt with much worse sorts than him! Captain once drew a gun on a man who was making too many unwanted advances on me. I don’t mind a bit of flirting. Especially when it means someone so polite will apologize to me for something that ain’t even their fault.” Welp, the attraction between the girl and Simon was palpable. Which was uncomfortable for Gabriel, because it was usually him, the friendly flirt, getting attention, not the awkward doctor. But oh well. He wasn’t interested anyway. The girl was just so… bubbly. Seemed nice, though. “My name’s Kaylee, by the way, and this here is Serenity.” She gestured at the ship behind her proudly.

 

“It’s nice to meet you, Kaylee. My name is Simon, I’m a doctor, and this is a friend of mine, Gabriel.” Kaylee grinned.

 

“So, where might you two gentlemen be goin’?” Gabriel jumped in quickly, saying,

 

“Well, a family friend of mine died recently. I didn’t know him too well, but I have to go to the funeral. Decided to take an ally with me. Family reunions can get pretty messy.” He lowered his voice conspiratorially. “I’m not even sure that all the cousins know one another. Let me tell you, it gets weird really fast when you’re staying in one mansion with a hundred people, of whom you only know around twenty.” Kaylee laughed. So did Gabe and Simon. This lie wasn’t actually too far from the truth. A family friend had died recently, and Gabriel would be heading to the funeral and a few days stuck in a huge house full of a hundred near-strangers, had he not directly disobeyed his brother’s order (his father had been MIA since Gabriel had been very young) and gone to save his brother from unimaginable torture. Gabe was scarred just from being in that place, and seeing a fraction of what they’d done to the… well, they sure as hell weren’t students, like the people had claimed they would be. ‘Prisoners’ would probably be the most accurate word.

 

“Well, we’re headin’ straight to Boros, and then to—”

 

“Wow, is that kismet or what! That’s right where the funeral’s gonna be!” Gabe chimed in. He thought he might be overselling it, but they needed to get out of here fast. Apparently, his partner-in-crime was thinking something similar, because Simon shot him a look that said something like, ‘cool it, but good job’. Ah, the girl already thought he was weird. Better to let Simon chat her up. She definitely liked him better.  

 

“Well, how about that!” Simon said. “Shall we discuss price?”

 

~~

 

Badger didn’t much care that the crew of Serenity had gotten off scot-free. They did still have the marked cargo. Besides, he had bigger concerns. He idly perused through some of his new contracts. One of the lower-level informants came into the room.

 

“Sir, we’ve found them,” it said. Badger lifted his gaze slowly. The demon shrank back nervously, but Crowley only smiled as his eyes flicked red.

 

~~

 

“Whitefall is the safest and the closest. Been a long time since Patience shot me and that was due to a perfectly legitimate conflict of interest. I got no grudge. She owns half that damn moon now. She can afford what we need and she might just need it.” Zoe sighed. Clearly there would be no changing the Captain’s mind.

 

“I still don’t think the old lady’s the way,” she said, watching her husband loading cargo. They’d found passengers, then. A couple of tall, handsome young men wearing too much flannel carried duffel bags onto the ship.

 

“I’m not saying it won’t be tricky, but we got no kind of choice,” Mal said. Zoe had to concede that point. They were between a rock and a hard place and no mistake. Kaylee welcomed a man by the name of Dobson onto the ship, as a couple of clearly well-off young men stood to the side. Wash began loading two very large boxes onto the ship, and the shorter young man went to help him. Zoe didn’t pay much attention to Mal’s next words of, “We just gotta keep our heads down, do the job, pray there ain’t no more surprises.”

 

“Please be careful with that,” the dark-haired man told Wash and the short man. The shorter one, whose hair was golden-brown and who didn’t seem half as stuck-up as the one with black hair, smiled reassuringly.

 

“Relax, bud! Wash and I’ve got this. We ain’t gonna drop any of your precious equipment.” Zoe tore her gaze from that spectacle when Kaylee stepped over to where she, Mal, and Jayne were standing at the bottom of the ramp. As Zoe walked up the ramp, Kaylee motioned the stuck-up man over.

 

“Mal, this is Simon. Simon, this is our captain. That guy over there is his friend, Gabriel…”

 

Their voices faded as Zoe walked into the cargo bay, observing the hubbub. Two tall men, one with long hair and one with short, were discussing something in quiet tones. She smiled at them, and the taller one awkwardly smiled and waved back. Right near the hidden compartment, Wash and the short guy who must’ve been Gabriel were carefully unloading a couple of huge boxes. Yeah, this was going to be real fun.

 

~~

 

“Meals are taken up here in the dining area. Kitchen’s pretty much self-explanatory. You’re welcome to eat what there is any time. What there is is pretty standard fare, I guess – protein in all the colors of the rainbow. We do have sit-down meals, next one being at about 1800,” the Captain said. Sam tried to pay attention, he really did, but the short guy – Gabriel, he thought his name was – kept trying to wink at him whenever he happened to glance over.

 

“I believe Shepherd Book has offered to help me prepare something,” the cheerful girl said.

 

“You’re a Shepherd?” asked the Captain, something akin to hostility lurking in his tone. The older man smiled.

 

“Thought the outfit gave it away,” he said. Sam wasn’t sure if he was trying to make a joke or not, but either way, Dean still rolled his eyes. Sam stepped on his foot sharply, hoping that he wouldn’t say anything rude. “Is it a problem?”

 

“Of course not! It’s not a problem, ‘cause it’s…. it’s not,” the cheerful girl smiled.

 

Now Sam really had a bad feeling about this.

 

“No. as I said, you’re welcome to visit the dining area anytime. Apart from that, I have to ask you to stay in the passenger dorm while we’re in the air. The bridge, engine room, cargo bay – they’re all off-limits without an escort.”

 

“Some of my personal effects are in the cargo bay,” the one named Simon said.

 

“Our stuff’s in there, too,” Dean spoke up.

 

“I figure you’ve all got luggage you’re gonna need to get into. Soon as we’re done here, we’ll be happy to fetch ‘em with you. “

 

“Now, I have to tell you all one more thing, and I apologize in advance for the inconvenience. We’ve been ordered by the Alliance to drop some medical supplies off on Whitefall. It’s the fourth moon on Athens. It’s a little out of our way, but we should have you on Boros no more than a day off schedule.”

 

“What medical supplies?” Simon asked again. Sam supposed it made sense, he was pretty sure the man was a doctor.

 

“I honestly didn’t ask,” the Captain replied. His first mate, Sam was pretty sure her name was Zoe, stepped up.

 

“Probably plasma, insulin, whatever they ain’t got enough of on the border moons.” She was lying. She was lying well, but she was lying. That save was too smooth, too… something. It sounded off. Sam decided not to push, though. They were probably smugglers or something. Dean had been – although he would deny it – raving about how great Firefly ships were, from the smuggling compartments to the engine’s capabilities.

 

 “Alliance says jump…” the Captain bullshitted. Because it was complete and utter bullshit. Sam resisted rolling his eyes only by glancing over at Gabriel, who caught his eye immediately. Sam quickly looked back at the ship’s crew.

 

“All right,” Simon said.

 

“Zoe, you wanna take ‘em to the cargo bay?”

 

“Yes sir.”  

 

~~

 

Simon had told Gabriel what to look for when checking the cryo-box. Thankfully, as Gabriel crouched down after “accidentally” dropping an armful of books, nothing seemed amiss. He quickly gathered everything he’d dropped and looked around. The tall moose-man who seemed unhealthily fond of plaid flannel was standing awkwardly by the staircase, which Shepherd Book had just climbed. Gabe smirked as he watched the Companion being introduced. He almost felt bad for her. The Captain could be a crass man, though Gabe thought that his reasons for being rude were tending more towards jealousy.  

 

Either way, it wasn’t Gabriel’s business. He’d much rather spend his time flirting with a moose. Coincidentally, that was exactly what he was going to do. He sidled up to the guy.

 

“Hiya! What’s your name, moose-man?” The guy startled. “Oh, jeez, you aren’t one of those wild moose, are you? ‘Cause if you are, that might put a hitch in my plans.”

 

The guy chuckled. Score! “What plans?” he asked lightly.

 

Gabriel grinned. “Wouldn’t you like to know.” He held out a hand. “Gabriel.”

 

“Sam.”

 

“Nice to meet you, Sam.” Gabe winked. Sam laughed.

 

“You kept doing that earlier. Why?”

 

Gabriel shrugged. “How else was I supposed to catch the attention of a cute moose like you?” Hey, outright flirting had worked in the past. He might as well try it now.

 

“Sammy, quit flirting with that short-stack and grab your bag!” Dammit. Gabe glanced over to see another tall guy with piercing green eyes.

 

“I think your husband wants you,” he quipped.

 

“N-no, no, that’s my brother,” Sam laughed. Gabe grinned at him.

 

“Catch you later, Sammoose.” With a parting wink, Gabe walked out of the cargo bay. Yeah, he was smooth.

 

~~

 

Once Sam and Dean had dropped off their stuff in their respective rooms, they met in Sam’s room.

 

“Okay, so they were definitely lying about bringing medical supplies to Whitefall,” Dean said quietly.

 

“Yeah, no shit,” Sam agreed. “The question is, do we even care? I mean, our line of work isn’t exactly the most legal, and as long as they don’t cause any trouble for us because of this, I don’t see why we need to get involved.”

 

“I dunno Sammy. I mean, if they get caught smuggling… or if they’re doing something worse, like human trafficking…”

 

“Dean. Do you really think these people would be doing human trafficking?” Dean’s expression said everything Sam needed. “Yeah, exactly. And if they get caught, we’ve got a cover story. Plus, we’re just passengers. The Alliance would probably just interrogate us and send us on our way, and that’s only if they’re caught. So, relax. Not like we can do anything in the middle of space anyway.”

 

“Yeah, okay,” Dean conceded. “But any sign of trouble, we both know where our weapons are.”

 

“Yeah, yeah. We better make sure nobody comes in here, though. If they go through that bag….”

 

“I know, Sam. But hopefully Bobby’s book is a good enough disguise for it, even if some dickwad does decide to go through our stuff. Let’s just try not to arouse too much interest in ourselves. Or suspicion,” Dean said. Sam ran a hand over his face and nodded.

 

~~

 

Dinner was a loud and boisterous affair. Everyone was crammed around the dining table, talking, passing food, laughing. It reminded Gabriel of home. He had a lot of brothers, and a lot of cousins. They often had a lot of family over, and as a result, some pretty crazy dinners. But this atmosphere lasted for all of about five minutes. Shepherd Book asked the Captain if he minded him saying grace.

 

“Only if you say it out loud.” An awkward silence descended after that. Most people around the table bowed their heads, out of respect for Book if nothing else. However, Gabriel, Sam’s brother, and of course, the Captain, didn’t. Gabe didn’t keep eating, though. He wasn’t that rude. Once everyone lifted their heads and continued eating, he decided to break the silence.

 

“So, does it happen a lot?” he asked.

 

The Captain looked up from his food. “Does what happen a lot?”

 

Gabriel gestured around. “The government, commandeering your ship, sending you out of your way. All that jazz.” This earned him a stare.

 

“Well, that’s what governments are for – get in a man’s way,” the Captain said. Sam’s brother – Gabe really needed to learn the guy’s name, he knew everyone else’s – chuckled dryly.  

 

“Yeah, you can say that again,” the man grumbled.

 

Dobson looked up. “Well, it’s good if the supplies are needed.”

 

“We’re just happy to be doing good works,” Jayne – Gabe still had to suppress a giggle at that name – said.

 

“I hear a lot of the border moons are in bad shape,” Dobson pressed. “Plagues, and famine…”

 

Zoe glanced up. “Well, some of that’s exaggerated, and some of it ain’t. All those moons, just like the central planets, they’re as close to Earth-that-was as we can make ‘em. Gravity, atmosphere, and such,” she explained. “But—”

 

“Once they’re terraformed,” the Captain cut in, “they’ll dump settlers on there with nothing but blankets, hatchets, maybe a herd. Some of them make it. Some of them….” Yeah, no one at the table needed to stretch their imagination to figure out what happened to the less fortunate settlers.

 

“Then I guess it’s good we’re helping,” Sam said. 

 

There was an awkward pause. Finally, the cheerful mechanic, Kaylee, broke the silence to talk to Simon.

 

“You’re a doctor, right?” Simon patted his mouth daintily with his napkin, and Gabriel suppressed a snort.

 

“Yes, uh, I was a trauma surgeon on Osiris.”

 

“You seem so young, to be a… doctor.”

 

“Yes, well, you’re pretty young to be a ship’s mechanic,” Simon deflected. Jayne, who was sitting across from Gabriel, watched their interactions with a smirk. Gabriel didn’t particularly appreciate it. The guy looked like he wanted trouble.

 

“Know how,” Kaylee replied, blushing a bit. “Machines just got workings, and they… talk to me.”

 

“That’s a rare gift,” said the Shepherd.

 

“Yeah,” Sam’s brother agreed. “Bein’ able to work mechanics like that…”

 

“Not like being a doctor,” Kaylee said. Ohh man, she had a crush. “Helping fix people, that’s… important.”

 

“Little Kaylee here just wishes you was a gynecologist,” Jayne cackled. Gabriel dropped his fork with a clatter, and glanced over at a crestfallen Kaylee, who was staring at the table. Yeah, Gabe wasn’t tolerating that.

 

“Hey, unless you want to wake up with your clothes cemented to your body, I’d leave them alone,” Gabriel snapped. Jayne pushed his chair back and started to stand up.

 

“Jayne,” said the Captain. “You will keep a civil tongue in that mouth or I will sew it shut. And Gabriel, you threaten my crew again and I’m sticking you in the hold until we get to Whitefall. Is there an understanding between us?”

 

“I was defending your crew!” Gabe protested.

 

“You don’t pay me to talk pretty,” Jayne said at the same time. “Just because Kaylee gets all lubed up over some big-city dandy—”

 

“Jayne, walk away from this table. Right now.” The room was dead-silent as Jayne grabbed more food and stomped out.

 

“What do you pay him for?” asked Sam.

 

“What?”

 

“I was just wondering what his job is, on the ship,” he elaborated.

 

The Captain stared at him. “Public relations.”

 

The room was silent for a while, aside from the sounds of silverware hitting plates and people chewing. Then Sam’s brother broke the silence.

 

“So Gabriel, what do you do?” Gabriel looked up, startled.

 

“Me?”

 

The man rolled his eyes. “No, the other Gabriel on the ship. Yeah, you.”

 

Gabriel shrugged. “Not much. My family’s pretty well-off, so my main job is to be the black sheep of it. I’ve pranked literally everyone in the family. And there’s a lot of us. I get odd jobs now and then, when I’m bored or when I run away. Mostly the latter.”

 

“You’re a runaway?” Sam’s brother had to jump on that little tidbit, of course.

 

“Dean, leave him be.”

 

“Nah, it’s fine.” So, Gabriel had a name now. Dean. At least he didn’t have to keep thinking of the guy as ‘Sam’s brother’. “Yeah, I would run away a lot, especially in my teens. Not running away right now, though. Heading to a funeral on Boros. Simon here’s actually tagging along as my ally against my literal hundreds of relatives.”

 

Yeah, okay, so that was bull. He was totally running away right now. But everyone was running from something.

 

~~

 

After dinner, Gabriel and Simon snuck down to the cargo bay. Simon wanted to check on the cryo-containers more thoroughly, since they hadn’t been able to get anything but the basics while there had been people. Simon had checked River’s box, and he’d just finished looking at Castiel’s when Gabriel, who was on lookout duty, heard someone coming. He dragged Simon behind the box, out of view of the staircase.

 

“We’ve got incoming,” he whispered in explanation to Simon’s confused look. His friend’s eyes went wide, and he nodded. They pressed their backs to the cryo-container and held their breath as footsteps approached. There was the loud sound of a gun cocking, right next to Gabriel’s ear. “Fuck.”

 

“Forget your toothpaste?” Mal asked. He gestured for Gabe and Simon to stand up. They did so, reluctantly, and came out from behind the container. As soon as they did, he punched Gabe, and then Simon, in their respective faces, and sent them to the floor.

 

“What the fuck, dude?” Gabe exclaimed, while Simon cried,

 

“Are you out of your mind?!”

 

“Yeah, just about,” the Captain replied. “What’d you tell them?”

 

“Tell who?” asked Simon as he got to his feet.

 

The Captain pulled his gun out. “I got exactly no time for games. What do they know?”

 

Gabriel pulled Simon back. Gabe stuck his hands in the air, and grabbed Simon’s arm to put it in the air too. He’d learned the hard way never to screw around when there was a gun in play.

 

“You’re a lunatic,” said Simon.

 

“And you’re a gorram fed,” the Captain said evenly. Gabriel nearly choked on air. What?

 

“I’m sorry, what now?!” he exclaimed.

 

“Hate to say it Captain, but you’ve got the wrong man.” That was the shepherd. What was the shepherd doing in here? Was he a fed? No, wait… Book looked up, and everyone followed his gaze to see Dobson. With a gun. Shit.

 

“Son of a bitch,” Mal sighed. He lowered his weapon from Gabriel and Simon, not that it mattered much to them. They still had a gun on them. 

 

“Drop that firearm, Captain Reynolds,” Dobson told him. Mal did, and put his hands up.

 

“This is not my best day ever,” he deadpanned.

 

“Simon Tam, Gabriel Novak, you are bound by law to stand down,” Dobson said.

 

The Captain did a double take. “What? The runaway and the doctor? Oh. Uh, hey, is there – is there a reward?” Gabriel glared at him.

 

Dobson ignored him. “Get on the ground,” he ordered Gabe and Simon. “Get on the ground!”

“Lawman,” Simon said calmly, “you are making a mistake.”

 

“You best get on the ground, son. The man seems a mite twitchy,” Mal told him.

 

“I think everybody could stand to calm down a bit,” said Book, walking closer. Crap. Gabe did not want him to get caught in the crossfire.

 

“This isn’t your business, Shepherd,” Dobson said.

 

“The boys aren’t going anywhere, lawman. As I understand it, it’s pretty cold outside,” the Shepherd said calmly. He nodded at the bay door. Dobson glared at him suspiciously.

 

“Not to worry,” the Captain said. “Put Lord Fauntleroy and the runaway bride here into one of the passenger cells.” He reached for his gun. “He won’t make a peep—”

 

“Get the hell away from that weapon!” Dobson shouted. Mal backed up and put his hands up. “You think I’m a complete backbirth? You’re carrying fugitives across interplanetary borders, and you think I actually believe you’re bringing medical supplies to Whitefall? As far as I care, everyone on this ship is culpable!”

 

“Well now, that has an effect on the landscape,” Mal said.

 

“Please,” the Shepherd broke in. “We’re very close to true stupidity here.”

 

“I got a cruiser en route for intercept, so talk all you want. You got about twenty minutes.”

 

“You might have less than that,” the Captain threatened.

 

“Yeah, threaten me,” Dobson mocked. Book moved in closer, and Gabriel tensed.

 

“For God’s sake—”

 

“You think I wouldn’t shoot a shepherd? Back off!”

 

“Hey man, you got us! Piss—hey!” Gabriel shouted when Mal grabbed Simon. “Let him go!”

 

“Just take the kids—” Mal tried to say.

 

“Get your hands off of me!”

 

“Stand the hell down—”

 

“Everybody just stop it! Stop!”

 

“Why’s everybody—” that was Kaylee.

 

“What the hell’s going on—” and that was Sam.

 

And the lawman was spinning around, and those were gunshots, and then there were two people clutching their stomachs. Kaylee fell to the floor, hand over her wound. Sam staggered backwards into his brother.

 

“Sammy! Son of a bitch! Drop your fucking weapon or I shoot your hand off!” Dean shouted, pulling out a gun of his own.

 

“All these people bringing guns onto my ship!” Mal shouted, diving for his own weapon. Gabriel rushed over to Sam and Kaylee with Simon on his heels, as Jayne pulled out a gun. Gabe couldn’t help but look behind him as Dobson swung around and aimed at Mal, but then Book of all people was there, jabbing him in the throat and hitting him in the face. Dobson fell to the ground, unconscious. Gabriel whipped back around and helped Dean ease Sam to the ground, putting pressure on his wound.

 

“Dean, Gabriel, I’m fine, I’m fine, it just grazed me, see?” Sam peeled his hands away from his side to reveal that the bullet had indeed only grazed him. Gabe thanked whatever gods might be watching over them that it hadn’t done more. But then he thought of Kaylee, and all three of them turned their heads to see the hubbub happening around her.

 

Inara had run downstairs, and she was pillowing Kaylee’s head on her robe. Gabriel whipped his head around at the sound of a gun cocking, only to see Zoe pointing a shotgun at Jayne, telling him to tie the lawman up and nothing more. He heard Simon ask about the infirmary, and then Wash came onto the intercom.

 

“Captain, we’ve been hailed by a cruiser. We’re to stay on course and dock for prisoner transfer.” Gabriel’s eyes widened. If they were caught…. They’d be thrown in jail, or killed. And their siblings….

 

Simon stood up. “Change course.” Gabriel gasped. He was…. Holy shit. Simon was going to let that girl die unless they changed course. At least, he would threaten to. Holy shit. “Run.”

 

“The hell with you,” the Captain said. “You brought this down on us, I’m dumping you with the law.”

 

“Mal—” Inara tried.

 

“She’s dying,” Simon said.

 

“You’re not gonna let her,” Mal replied.

 

“Yes, I am.”

 

“Simon…” Gabe tried.

 

“No, you can’t.”

 

“No way the Feds’ll let us walk,” Zoe tried to reason.

 

“Then we dump them in the shuttle and leave ‘em for them,” Mal snapped.

 

“Everybody’s so mad…” Kaylee murmured.

 

Inara tried to reassure her. “It’s okay, baby.”

 

“You can’t just leave them for the Alliance!” Dean shouted. “Even I can say that, and they got my gorram brother shot!”

 

“Do you know what a stomach wound does to a person?” Simon asked the Captain.

 

“I surely do.”

 

“Then you know how crucial the next few minutes are.”

 

Zoe glared at him. “You let her die, you’ll never make it to the feds.”

 

“We’re dead either way, and so is she!” Gabriel shouted. “Please, just run!”

 

“You rich kids, you think your lives are the only thing that matters. What’d you do? Kill your folks for the family fortune?” Mal sneered.

 

“We don’t kill people!” Simon shouted.

 

“Then do your job!” Mal shouted back.

 

“Turn the ship around!”

 

“Enough! Mal, do it,” Inara told him. He glared at her.

 

“Don’t ever tell me what to do on my –”

 

Kaylee cried out in pain. Everyone winced. Mal and Simon stared each other down.

 

“Zoe,” Mal said. “Change course.”

 

Simon immediately shifted into doctor mode. “Help me get her up.”

 

“Wash, change course and go for hard burn. We’re running.”

 

Dean caught Gabe’s eye. “Go help. I can fix Sam up, this ain’t life-threatening.” Gabe nodded.

 

“Look, I’m… I’m sorry,” he said. Dean nodded.

 

“Yeah, I know you are. Go.” Gabe went. He helped carry Kaylee into the infirmary, the chatter mostly passing him over until Simon said his name.

 

“Gabriel, red bag, my room. You know the one.” Gabe nodded and ran off. The big red bag, the one with all the doctor things that Simon could grab before they left. He grabbed it and ran back. He became Simon’s gofer, running around and grabbing things. Being a med-school dropout had a few advantages, namely that he knew what everything was and its basic function. Finally, they couldn’t do any more.

 

“I want to know what’s going on here,” Inara declared.

 

“Well then why don’t we find out?” The words took a second to fully sink in, and then Gabe and Simon were running after Mal.

 

“No! Hey, no, don’t!”

 

“Wait! No!”

 

They ran into the cargo bay behind Mal.

 

“Stay away from those!” Simon yelled. Then Jayne grabbed him. Gabe ducked around Jayne but was promptly grabbed by Dean.

 

“Dean! What the hell!”

 

“Sorry man, I might not want to hand you over, but I do wanna see what exactly got my brother shot.” Gabriel struggled in his grip.

 

“Where’s the fed?” Mal asked as he walked over to the cryo-containers.

 

“Secure,” Jayne answered, walking forward with Simon. Dean did the same, presumably wanting to see the boxes when they were opened. “Shepherd’s with him. Seems to think he’s not safe alone with me.”

 

“I wonder why,” Dean muttered.

 

Gabriel struggled even more as Mal pulled the boxes out into the open floor and unlatched both of the lids.

 

“No, don’t!” Simon yelled.

 

Zoe and Wash came down the stairs and stopped when they saw what was going on.

 

“Well, let’s see what men like you would kill for,” Mal said.

 

“No!” Gabe snapped his head back and kicked Dean in the shin, but it was too late. He got loose just as Mal shoved the lids off of the cryo-containers. Gabe froze in place, and Jayne loosened his grip on Simon, while Mal just stared, moving his gaze from one to the other.

 

“Huh.”

 

~~

 

For a few moments, the room was silent, then Jayne grabbed Simon as he tried to move forward.

 

“I need to check their vitals,” Simon protested.

 

“Oh, is that what they call it?” Mal asked.

 

“They’re not supposed to wake up for another week. The shock—”

 

“The shock of what? Waking up? Finding out they’ve been sold to a couple of borderworld barons—”

 

“Screw you, asshat,” Gabe growled. “You don’t know shit.”

 

“Oh, I’m sorry, were these the ones for you two? Is it true love?” the Captain mocked. “Because you do seem a little—”

 

He was cut off by a scream. River’s head popped out of the near box. She screamed and gasped as she looked around and climbed out of the box. Simon pulled himself free from Jayne, which jolted Gabriel out of his haze. He went to help, but then he realized that it would probably be best if she wasn’t overwhelmed. And then he realized… what about Castiel? He ran over to the other box, ignoring River’s screaming and babbling and Simon’s attempts at calming her. He peered in and, to his relief, saw his little brother beginning to stir.

 

“Castiel? Hey, it’s me, it’s Gabe.” Cas’s eyelids fluttered, but his eyes didn’t open. “Tam! He won’t wake up!”

 

“Okay, give him a minute! He might wake up on his own. It’s okay, River, I’m here, it’s okay.”

 

“What the hell is this?” Mal interrupted. Gabriel and Simon glared at him.

 

“This is my sister,” Simon said defiantly.

 

“And this is my brother,” Gabe added. As if on cue, Castiel sat up like a shot. He looked wildly around, gasping for air. Gabe got into his line of vision, trying to get him calmer. He was afraid Cas might hyperventilate and pass out again, at this rate. “Hey! Castiel! Cassie. Hey, little bro. It’s okay, it’s okay. Someone get me a gorram blanket or jacket or something! Hey, Cassie, it’s okay. Okay, you gotta breathe, little brother. Breathe. Not like that, okay, breathe with me. All right, just calm down, you’re okay.” Cas’s breathing started to slow a bit, but Gabriel was struggling to keep his own breathing steady at this point. If he lost it now, Cas would definitely lose it too. Then Cas’s eyes focused on something behind him, and Gabriel whipped around, ready to defend his brother.

 

Dean stood behind him, a jacket in his hands. “Here,” he said. “Zoe went to get a blanket.” Gabe nodded his thanks.

 

“I think you two have some explaining to do,” said Mal.

 

~~

 

After they’d managed to get Cas and River settled on cots in the infirmary, with some makeshift clothes and blankets, everyone convened in the dining area. Gabe stood next to Simon in front of the table.

 

“I am very smart,” Simon began. “I went to the best Medacad on Osiris, top three percent of my class, finished my internship in eight months. ‘Gifted’ is the term. So when I tell you that my little sister – and Gabe’s little brother -- make me look like an idiot child, I want you to understand my full meaning. River was more than gifted. She… she was a gift. Everything she did, music, math, theoretical physics, even – even dance, there was nothing that didn’t come as naturally to her as breathing does to us. She could be a real… brat about it, too. I mean, she used to…” he trailed off, obviously remembering something. Jayne grunted and started to get up.

 

“Sit the fuck down and listen,” Gabriel told him calmly. Jayne blinked and obeyed. Simon began talking again.

 

“There was a… a school… a, uh, a government-sponsored academy. Gabriel’s family and mine were pretty good friends, and they’d told us about when they sent Castiel when he was fourteen, a few years before. They said the program looked exceptional, and River…. Well, we could’ve sent her anywhere, but she wanted to go there. She wanted to learn. She was fourteen, just like…”

 

“Just like Castiel. Yeah. Who, by the way, didn’t even want to go there. Said he had a bad feeling about the place.” Gabe scoffed. “Yeah, our oldest brother, Michael, sent him. I tried to convince him not to, but… well. That was around the time when I started running away,” Gabriel said bitterly.

 

“I got a few letters at first,” Simon continued, “and then I didn’t hear for months. Finally, I got a letter that made no sense. She – she talked about things that never happened, jokes we never…. It was a code. It just said… ‘They’re hurting us. Get me out.’ I immediately met up with Gabriel and told him, and together… we started trying to get our siblings out of there.”

 

“How’d you do it?” Zoe asked.

 

“Money,” Gabe said. “And luck. For two years, we couldn’t get near them. Then, I heard through some of my contacts from my street days. They told me about an underground movement. We found them, and they said that… that our siblings were in trouble, that the government was… they were playing with their brains.” He clenched his fist. “They said that if we funded them, that they could help us get them out, sneak them out in cryo. They’d get them to Persephone, and from there, we could run away, take them wherever.”

 

“Will they be all right?” asked Inara.

 

It was Simon who answered. “I don’t know if they’ll be alright. I don’t know what they did to them, or why. But… we need to keep them safe.” There was a moment of silence, which Gabriel was grateful for.

 

“That’s…. wow. I mean, wow,” Sam tried to say. Gabriel had been glad to see that he was feeling all right after the bullet grazed him.

 

“That’s quite a story,” Book commented.

 

The Captain frowned. “Yeah, it’s a tale of woe. Very stirring, but in the meantime, you’ve heaped a world of trouble on me and mine.” Gabe sighed.

 

“Look, we didn’t think—” he began.

 

“No, I don’t imagine you thought,” snapped Mal. “In consequence of which we got a kidnapped federal officer on board, we go the Alliance hard on our trail, and Kaylee…”

 

“Look, man, cut them a break. It’s their siblings, for God’s sake,” Dean snapped. “You got a sibling? ‘Cause lemme tell you, I do. He got shot thanks to those two. But I can understand exactly where they’re coming from, and I don’t blame them. I’d do the same for him. I blame the fucking Alliance for all of this. They might claim they bring peace, but no. They torture children. They burn houses to the ground. All they do is bring death and destruction to anyone who disagrees with them. If you wanna play the blame game, blame the folks who think they can play with kids’ minds.”

 

“Speaking of the Alliance, how much do they know?” Zoe tactfully asked her husband. Gabe sighed in relief at the change of subject. He was a little curious as to why Dean’s opinion of the Alliance was so low. He knew it wasn’t just because of what they did to Cas and River.

 

“I can’t say,” Wash said. “I killed the message pretty quick, so they might just have had our position.

 

“Or they might have personal profiles on each and every one of us. Till that Fed wakes up, we won’t know,” Mal said.

 

“So what do we do?” Jayne asked. Mal looked around thoughtfully.

 

“The job,” he decided. “We finish the job. I got word from Patience, she’s waiting for us. We circle ‘round to Whitefall, make the deal, get out. Keep flying.”

 

“What about us?” Simon asked.

 

“Kaylee comes through, you two and your siblings’ll get off at Whitefall.” Oh. That was how it would be, then.

 

“If she doesn’t come through?”

 

“He’ll throw us and our siblings out the airlock,” Gabe said flatly. “Thanks for that, great to know we’ve got some support here. But really, we’re dead either way. Dropping us on Whitefall with nothing but the clothes on our back? Yeah, that’s a death sentence too. Just an indirect one. Cool. Well, at least Castiel will die of starvation, or dehydration, or getting shot by someone, instead of getting vivisected or some shit like that.”

 

Book looked horrified. “That’d be murder.”

 

“They made a decision,” Mal replied. 

 

“They didn’t shoot her,” Inara protested.

 

“No, but somebody on this boat did, and I’m scratching my head as to why we ain’t dealt with him,” Jayne said.

 

“Kill a Fed?” Zoe asked incredulously. “Can you think of a stupider thing to do?”

 

“He can I.D. us all!” Jayne reasoned.

 

“Now wait, if you wanna throw me out the airlock, fine, but leave River out of this,” said Simon.

 

“Uh, could we maybe vote on the whole murdering people issue?” Wash asked.

 

“We don’t vote on my ship because my ship is not the rutting town hall!” shouted Mal.

 

“Whoa, guys, this is crazy!” Sam put in.

 

“He’s right, this is insanity,” agreed Inara. “Mal…”

 

“I happen to think we’re a ways beyond that, sir,” Wash snapped. “Come on Zoe, we’re gonna talk this through, yeah?”

 

“I’ll not sit by while there’s killing here.”

 

“Shepherd’s got a mean streak. We’d best walk soft.” Jayne smirked.

 

“Nimen de bizui!” Everyone did as Mal said, and shut the hell up. “Way it is is the way it is. We gotta deal with what’s in front of us.”

 

“Mal, Gabriel was telling the truth. You know they wouldn’t survive a day in Whitefall anyway. You throw them out, I’m leaving too,” Inara threatened.

 

Mal stared at her for a moment, and Gabriel prayed to the heavens that his crush would overrule his anger.

 

“It might be best you do,” he said, and walked away. Apparently, Gabe’s luck had run out. Inara stared after Mal for a moment, then turned away. Simon hurried after Mal. Gabriel watched uninterestedly. He was going to die, he found that there wasn’t much point to being interested in things anymore. He heard Simon say something about Mal being afraid of the Alliance, how Mal should be working for them… uh oh. Gabe jolted back to himself just in time to clearly see Mal deck Simon in the face. Jayne turned away from the door.

 

“Saw that comin’.”

 

After Mal walked away, Gabriel went and helped Simon to his feet.

 

“You’re a dumbass,” he told his friend. Simon shrugged.

 

“Hey, we aren’t going to have much longer to get punched in the face. We should make the most of it. I’m sure Jayne would be willing to hit you if you asked.” Gabe laughed.

 

“Yeah, yeah. What do you say we go spend our last few hours watching over our siblings?” Simon nodded, and they set off down the corridor together.

 

~~

 

Simon went to the bathroom on the way to the infirmary, but told Gabe to go on ahead. He did. When he got to the infirmary, he was surprised to find Sam waiting for him.

 

“Hiya, Moose. What’s up?” Gabriel was a little surprised at how resigned he sounded. But hey, he was about to die, sue him.

 

“Hey, Gabriel. I, uh, I just wanted to say sorry. And… well, I could get off with you, at Whitefall. I know a bit about surviving in the wilderness. Dean would be pissed, but he’d get it. And you’d probably have better chances if more than half of you were… erm.”

 

“Not screwy in the head? Yeah, probably. But let’s get real. We don’t stand a chance either way. At least you’d have a chance, if you stayed with your brother,” Gabriel said. Sam scoffed.

 

“Yeah, we live a pretty dangerous life, believe it or not. Why is it that space seems even more dangerous when we can use it?” Sam wondered. “Anyway, if you don’t want to accept my help, could I at least stay in here with you now? Keep you company? Unless you wanted time alone with your brother. Um.” Gabe smiled.

 

“Yeah, it’d be cool if you stayed.”

 

~~

 

Jayne grinned as Mal ripped the duct tape off of Dobson’s mouth. The fed glared at them.

 

“Now, I’m in a tricky position,” Mal said. “I guess you know. Got me a boatload of terribly strange folk, making my life a little more interesting than I generally like.” Jayne agreed with that. He was here for the pay, not for a bunch of weirdos smuggling their siblings and shepherds and brothers with a lot of guns and a grudge against the Alliance. “Chief among them, an Alliance mole, likes to shoot at girls when he’s nervous.” And Jayne definitely wasn’t here for that, either. “Now, I gotta know exactly how close the Alliance is, and exactly how much you told them before Wash scrambled your call. So … I’ve given Jayne here the job of finding out.”

 

Mal walked towards the door and Jayne smiled grimly as he pulled out his knife. “He was non-specific as to how.”

 

“Now, I just want you to scare him,” Mal whispered. Dammit.

 

“Pain is scary,” Jayne tried.

 

“Just do it right,” Mal told him and left. Okaaay, well that wasn’t a direct order not to cut on the guy a bit. Jayne walked over and sat down in front of Dobson, brandishing his knife.

 

“You have any idea how much trouble you’re in?” the lawman asked him.

 

“Oh gee, I never been in trouble with the law before,” Jayne said sarcastically. This fed really was dumb if he thought that would be scary.

 

“Not like this you haven’t,” Dobson replied. He was nervous, Jayne could tell. “You think this is just a smuggling rap? You’ve got hunters on board! Not to mention, the packages those boys are carrying –”

 

“Yeah, it’s a girl. And a boy. The girl’s cute, too. Though I don’t think she’s all there, ya know?” he pointed at his head and waved the knife around a bit. Just some intimidation tactics. He ignored the bit about the hunters. Everyone knew that hunters were urban legends. “Of course, not all of her has to be.”

 

“That girl is a precious commodity. They both are,” Dobson snapped. “They’ll come after them, long after you bury me. They’ll be coming.”

 

“I’m not gonna kill ya, Dobson,” Jayne chuckled and smacked the guy’s leg with the flat edge of the knife. “What’s your first name?”

 

“Lawrence,” he said. 

 

“Lawrence. No, I’m just gonna cut on ya, till you tell me how much they know,” Jayne told him.

 

“They know everything!”  Lawrence burst out. “They know every name, every record, they know how many… nose hairs you’ve got!” What a bunch of blustering bullshit.

 

“Aww, see now, they don’t know a damn thing! It’s all over your face, I mean… I was gonna get me an ear, too. Aren’t you an officer of the law? Well, don’t they teach you how to withstand interrogation? Can’t even tell a damn lie!”

 

“Okay…” Dobson said, “I can see you’re not an idiot.”

 

“Wish I could say the same, Lawrence, but… but this is disappointing as hell.”

 

“Let me speak a language you will understand – money. Those two are worth a lot of money. I mean a lot. Now, you kill me, there’s nothing. But… if you help me out, you’ll have enough to buy your own ship. Better one than this piece of crap.” Lawrence really was dumb, if he thought that the promise alone of money would turn Jayne.

 

“Does helping you out mean turning on the captain?”

 

“Yes, it does.” Jayne smirked. He walked closer to Dobson. He’d lull the guy into a false sense of security.

 

“Well, then…” Jayne said, “I suppose I’ll just—” he clocked the guy. “Don’t think Mal’ll notice just one more bruise.” With that, he walked out.

 

~~

 

Gabriel and Sam had stayed in the infirmary for a while. Simon had joined them. But then Simon had decided to go to his room to pack, and Gabe and Sam went up to the dining area to chat quietly with Dean. That was where they were when the intercom came on.

 

“This is the Captain speaking. We’re passing another ship. Looks to be Reavers. From the size, it’s probably a raiding party. Could be they’re headed somewhere particular. Could be they already hit someone and they’re full up. So, everyone stay calm. We try to run, they’ll have to chase us. It’s their way. We’re holding course. We should be passing them in a minute. So we’ll see what they do. Zoe, you come on up to the bridge.” The intercom cut out.

 

“Sonofabitch!” Dean swore. “Gabe, come with us. Make sure Sam doesn’t pull his stitches.” He stood

 

“Wait, what? Dude, what the hell? Are Reavers common in this part of space? I thought they stuck to the very edges,” Gabriel hissed.

 

“Yeah, well, they push further in every year. We gotta grab something to fight ‘em, and we gotta hide something, so come on.”

 

“Who the hell are you guys?” Gabe asked. Sam and Dean exchanged glances. Sam sighed.

 

“We’re hunters. Yes, those hunters. The ones fighting the Alliance. Well, we’re two of them, anyway.” Gabe stared. “Look, we’re on the same side, man. No one here likes the Alliance. We’re just part of a secret organization that fights it.” Gabe kept staring. “Um. Gabriel?”

 

“Holy shit. You’re working under the Men of Letters. You’re…. why are you here? Are you on a mission or something?” Gabriel babbled.

 

“Uh, it’s a hunt,” Sam corrected. “We call it a hunt. But yeah. Listen, please don’t… if we make it out of this alive, that is, please don’t tell anyone.”

 

“Holy shit.” The intercom buzzed to life again.

 

“This is the captain speaking. We are in the clear, I repeat, we are in the clear.”

 

Sam and Dean sighed with relief. Gabriel was too busy staring.

 

“Uh, Gabe? Gabriel!” Dean snapped his fingers in front of his face. Gabe looked at him.

 

“Dude, your brother just got ten times hotter.”

 

~~

 

Gabe headed back down to the infirmary after that (although Sam and Dean had made him promise not to tell anyone who they were). He looked in and saw Kaylee, awake and talking to Book. Well, that was a small blessing. It didn’t explain why Simon came careening through the doorway and down the stairs, though. Gabe was nearly knocked over when his friend pulled up short and stared at Kaylee and Book.

 

“Uhh, what’s up?” Simon ignored him, turning around to stare up at the doorway he’d just run through.

 

“The man’s psychotic,” he said.

 

~~

 

Simon and Gabriel were both feeling exceptionally nervous when they touched down on Whitefall. They weren’t supposed to be getting kicked out until after the job was done, but that still wasn’t a lot of time. They were mostly packed, so they decided to say goodbye to Wash.

 

“Might wanna think about asking the Captain to drop you off somewhere else,” he advised. “Whitefall ain’t exactly civilization in the strictest sense.”

 

“You don’t have to worry about us,” Simon said quietly.

 

“Zoe’s out on a deal, I always worry. So, it’s not out of my way.”

 

Static buzzed.

 

“He took them.” It was Kaylee. “He took both of them.” Simon and Gabriel exchanged glances, then ran off the bridge.

 

Gabriel spotted Dobson opening up the bay doors, holding a gun and dragging River and Cas by their wrists, and he didn’t think. He jumped, right on top of the man. He lay, stunned, on the floor. He knew the gun was somewhere out of Dobson’s hands, at least. River backed away, whimpering. Gabriel’s brother just stood next to the red button that opened the doors, only a few feet from the gun, looking confused. What was Cas doing? Why wasn’t he backing away?

 

Gabe heard the clatter as Simon ran down the stairs. Gabe heard Dobson move, and he managed to flip himself over and throw himself on top of the man again. Dobson shrugged him off, but then Gabe heard the cocking of not one, but two guns. Gabe looked over to the staircase to see Simon, holding a gun, standing next a very pissed-off looking Dean Winchester, also holding a gun. Dobson froze and looked over as well.

 

“Don’t move a fucking inch,” Dean threatened. “I am not afraid to shoot you.”

 

“Reavers! Reavers, incoming and headed straight for us. We are in the air in one minute,” Wash said over the intercom. Dean swore without looking away. Then River launched herself at Simon, throwing him off-balance and making him stumble into Dean. The confusion gave Dobson all the opportunity he needed to grab the gun off the floor and leap to his feet, shoving Castiel in front of him and putting the gun to his head. Cas struggled, but he was still weak, and probably underfed from his time in the academy. Dean pointed the gun at Dobson, but the man didn’t back down.

 

“You shoot, he dies,” Dobson said. “Okay, don’t – don’t even move. Nobody move!” Gabe could only stare from the floor as the man started to back out of the doors… and then Cas moved. He snapped his head back and cracked Dobson in the head, causing the man to loosen his grip. Gabe jumped onto his feet and raced forward, but then Dobson fired the gun.

 

Cas flinched and stumbled, River just screamed, and Dobson grabbed Cas’s arm again. A second gun went off. Dobson fell face-first onto the ground, revealing Mal, Jayne, and Zoe walking up the ramp.

 

“Jayne!” called Mal. Jayne grinned when he saw the lawman on the ground. He helped Mal toss the man out of the bay doors as Zoe closed them. Gabriel grabbed his brother and checked him over for injuries. He didn’t see any blood, so he just pulled a rather confused Castiel into a hug.

 

~~

 

They took off right away. It didn’t take a genius to tell that the Reavers were right on their tail. Dean helped get Cas and River to the infirmary, where Sam had been seeing to the Shepherd’s head, which Dobson had apparently taken a blunt object to. But almost immediately, Inara came in and told them to come to her shuttle. If they were boarded, they would take off in the shuttle and fly to town. Simon and Gabe reluctantly gave in – they had their siblings to look after, after all. Sam and Dean didn’t agree so easily.

 

“We can fight Reavers,” Sam insisted.

 

“Not all of them!” Inara shot back. She began guiding Cas and River out of the infirmary. Then, Jayne came in and enlisted Shepherd Book’s help in taking Kaylee to the engine room. They needed some help getting away from the Reavers, apparently. Dean immediately volunteered.

 

“I can help, I know my way around an engine,” he said, and made to follow Jayne, Kaylee, and Book.

 

“No!” Cas shot an arm out and grabbed his shoulder. Bright blue eyes stared into emerald green ones. “Bad, bad things… I keep remembering, but then I forget…. You don’t belong here.”

 

“What? Listen, we don’t have time for this, I’m sorry,” Dean told him, but Cas shook his head.

 

“Yes. No. Time is the problem. You’re out of time,” Cas said.

 

“Cassie, leave him alone, we gotta go,” Gabriel tried. Castiel shook his head again.

 

“Hey, listen, I’m not out of time, or whatever. Okay? Just… go with Inara,” Dean told him. With that, he ran off, leaving an unhappy Castiel and a struggling Gabe behind him.

 

~~

 

The engine room was controlled chaos. No, wait, probably just regular chaos. Book manned the press regulator, and Dean was trying to determine which of the port jack hydraulics needed to be cut. Kaylee was trying to help, but the pressure from Wash over the intercom, Jayne’s shouting to hurry, and the knowledge of the Reavers right behind them was getting to be a bit much. But he finally cut the last one, and Kaylee told the bridge they were ready. Everyone braced themselves. The ship jerked around a few times, and then they were speeding off into space, with the Reavers unable to follow.

 

Everyone cheered.

 

~~

 

Gabriel waited unhappily in his room, watching his brother sleep. Simon had given him some sort of sedative. Cas had accepted it without much fuss, though he had protested that he didn’t sleep. Then he’d looked off into the distance, said something about falling, and how he did need to sleep, because he was falling. He’d said he was a falling soldier. He’d looked so sad. Gabe was still on edge. Which might’ve been why he jumped in his seat a bit when someone knocked on the door.

 

 

“Gabriel, it’s Simon. Can I come in?”

 

“Yeah,” Gabe said. The door slid open and Simon walked in.

 

“How is he?”

 

Gabe sighed. “Asleep. He was so sad, man. Said he was a falling soldier, so he needed to sleep. What the hell? Are we even equipped to deal with whatever trauma they’ve been through?” Simon sat down next to him.

 

“We don’t even know what happened,” he said. “And we don’t know why, or why they’re after them. We don’t even know if the Alliance are the only ones looking for them.”

 

“I don’t like any of this,” Gabriel said. “I… I need to talk to someone.” Sam. He needed to talk to Sam. Why were there hunters on board? Why were Sam and Dean hunters? Why didn’t they want anyone to know? Were they after Cassie or River? Would hunters be after them in the future?

 

“I suppose I’ll go ask Mal where he plans on kicking us out.” Simon got up and left. Gabriel stared at his brother for a moment. Cas didn’t even look peaceful, right now. People were supposed to look peaceful when they were sleeping. But no, he just looked… emotionless. Gabriel wasn’t sure if that was better or worse than how sad he’d been earlier. Gabe shook his head and left the room, closing the door quietly behind him.

 

~~

 

Jayne rather rudely bumped into Simon as he came onto the bridge. Simon glared after him for a second, then looked around. He noticed that Mal’s arm was bloody. He must’ve gotten shot on the job.

 

“You need me to look at that?” he asked.

 

“Just a graze,” Mal replied. So it was a gunshot wound, then. Not that it mattered much.

 

“So… where do you plan on dumping us?” Simon asked, taking the other chair. It’d be nice to know, at least, to plan ahead a bit.

 

“There’s places you might be safe. You want the truth, though, you’re probably safer on the move.” Mal turned to look at him. “And we never stop moving.” What?

 

What was he trying to say? “I’m confused. No, wait – I think maybe you’re confused.”

 

“It may have become apparent to you that the ship could use a medic. And your friend Gabriel wouldn’t be too bad in a fight. You two ain’t weak. I dunno how bright you are, to three percent, but you ain’t weak and that’s not nothing. You live by my rule, you keep your sister and your friend keeps his brother from doing anything crazy, you could maybe find a place here. ‘Till you find a better.” Was Mal really suggesting this?

 

“Uh, I’m trying to put this as delicately as I can…. How do I know you won’t kill me in my sleep?” What? How else was he supposed to ask it? These people didn’t seem like the most trustworthy bunch.

 

Mal leaned forward. “You don’t know me, son. So let me explain this to you once. I ever kill you, you’ll be awake, you’ll be facing me, and you’ll be armed.” Simon frowned.

 

“Dobson wasn’t facing you.” Mal shrugged.

 

“Two outta three ain’t bad when someone’s got a gun on an innocent kid. Well, not exactly a kid, but you get the gist.” Mal sat back in the chair.

 

Simon smiled. “Are you always this sentimental?”

 

“Had a good day.”

 

Good? “You had the Alliance on you, criminals and savages. Half the people on the ship have been shot or wounded, including yourself, and you’re harboring known fugitives,” Simon countered.

 

“We’re still flying,” Mal pointed out.

 

“That’s not much.”

 

“It’s enough.” Simon got the feeling that there was a lesson here. He stared out at the black sky for a moment, then retreated from the room.

 

~~

 

Gabe knocked on Sam’s door. There was a muffled ‘Come in’, so he did. Sam was sitting on the bed, reading a book. He glanced up.  

 

“Oh, hey Gabe. What’s up?” He scooted over on the bed in invitation. Gabriel sat down next to him.

 

“Why are you here? As a hunter, I mean?” he asked quietly. “Why are you on the ship?”

 

“Your brother isn’t in danger from us, Gabe, I promise,” Sam told him.

 

“That obvious, huh?” Sam nodded, giving him a sad smile.

 

“A bit. But I don’t exactly blame you. Some hunters… they’re so focused on getting rid of the monsters, they become exactly what they hunt,” Sam said sadly. Gabe frowned. It sounded like Sam’d had some experience with that sort of hunter.

 

“How’d you become a hunter, Sam? What happened?” Something had to have happened. You didn’t just up and join a secret rebellion. Getting Cas and River out, Gabriel had gotten help from one of those organizations, and he’d discovered that people usually had a reason for fighting something as powerful and dangerous as the Alliance.

 

Sam tensed up, and for a second, Gabe was afraid he’d made a mistake. He was suddenly all too aware that a reason to risk it all fighting the Alliance might not be something that someone would want to share. And it definitely probably wouldn’t be a very nice reason. It also struck Gabriel that Sam had an awful lot of weapons in his room, and he didn’t seem like the sort of guy who would have a weapon around just for decoration. But then Sam spoke.

 

“I… my life was pretty much all planned out. I did well in school, went to college. Dean followed in Dad’s footsteps, became a mechanic in our hometown. My mom was just… amazing. I got a girlfriend at college. We were both going to become lawyers.” Gabriel blinked. Sam’s life sounded so… normal. He dreaded what was coming next, whatever had changed his life so drastically.

 

“I went home for a visit, brought Jess – my girlfriend – with me. We were going to spend a few days there. But, uh, second night, a bunch of Alliance soldiers came into town. Celebrating Unification day, actually. They hit up the local bars, broke a lot of glasses and refused to pay anything. Not exactly unusual behavior for Alliance soldiers. Me, Jess, Dean, Dad, Mom, we went out, too, but we didn’t stay out long. Spent most of the night trying to avoid drunk soldiers showing off their guns – literal guns, don’t take that as an innuendo. Eventually we just decided to stay in for the night. Went to bed early. I got woken up by yelling, that night. I looked out the window, and I saw Dad yelling at some soldiers. They were holding a ton of alcohol. I went out to help, and by the time I got out there, Dean was up too. By the sound of it, the guys wanted to stay at the house overnight. They were getting pushy, too. And then they started throwin’ stuff. The alcohol they were carrying, throwing the bottles and the like. Like I said, though, they were really drunk. So they had terrible aim, kept hitting the house. Then… well, one of ‘em took out a thing of matches. ‘Course, Dean, Dad, and I all went for him right away. But then he tossed the matches to one of the other guys. And… well. You can guess.” Sam stopped, choking on the next words. Gabe put a tentative hand on his shoulder.

 

“Sam, you… I can guess the rest,” Gabe tried. He didn’t want Sam to have to delve into painful memories.

 

“No, it’d probably be better to talk about it. Healthy,” Sam scoffed. “Um, yeah. The guy… lit a match, and, um, he…” Sam wiped at his face. Gabriel stayed quiet. “He threw it at the house. Right where all those bottles had shattered. It was… horrible. The flames spread as fast as those soldiers ran off. Dad ran back into the house. I tried to go after him, to get to Jess, but Dean held me back. God, I’m so afraid that her last thought was to wonder where I was. Or if I was going to leave her there. Dad and Mom, they almost got out. We could see them through the door, we could see them through the gorram door, and then the roof collapsed.” Sam slammed a hand onto the bedspread. “Dean and I, we tried to get justice, at first. We couldn’t touch those soldiers. They claimed we had instigated the whole thing, that the matches were an accident, claimed anything that would get ‘em out of that mess scot-free. And, well, the Alliance was much more inclined to black-mark a couple of country kids than a squad of their own soldiers. And, well, here we are.” Sam gestured around him vaguely. “We were lucky, really, coming from the country. Everyone knows how to shoot and use a knife out there. Anyway, uh, that’s how we got here. Took us a few years to work up the ranks, but we’re… pretty well-known, as hunters, now. I don’t know why I’m telling you all this. You do swear not to tell anyone, right?”

 

Gabe nodded immediately. “Yeah, I… thank you for trusting me with this. I know it won’t mean much, but…. I’m sorry. And, I mean, if you ever want to talk…. I do know what it feels like to get suddenly torn away from your family.” His thoughts wandered back home. Back to his brothers, and his cousins. To Michael, and Lucifer. To Raphael, even, dick that he was. The brothers who had refused to rescue one of their own. The cousins, like Uriel, who didn’t care. The one brother who did care, Balthazar, but who had been injured in an accident and put into a coma. Gabe wondered if he’d ever wake up.

 

Sam smiled sadly. “Yeah, our lives suck.” Gabe chuckled sadly.

 

“Yeah…” A thought occurred to him. “But it ain’t all bad. We’ve both got our brothers.”

 

“Yeah, we’ve got our brothers,” Sam agreed quietly.

 

“Though, most of mine hate me, and the only one who doesn’t is traumatized. And yours doesn’t exactly like me either, not to mention he’s a little trigger-happy,” Gabriel observed. That got him a quiet laugh.

 

“Yeah, well…. they’re alive, we’re alive. I’d say that’s a win,” Sam countered.

 

Gabriel had to give him that. Castiel was… well, not how he used to be. He’d been stuck in that place for eight years, having God-knows-what done to him. He’d probably never be the same. But he was alive. So was Gabriel. And that meant Gabe could help him. That meant that there was still hope. As long as they were alive, and together, there was hope.

 

~~

 

Epilogue:

 

“And you’re sure they’re on Serenity?” Crowley asked again. The demon nodded.

 

“Yes sir, I’m certain. All of them.” Crowley pondered on this. What were the chances that they’d all end up on the same ship? The universe had gotten huge since their time. What were the chances that they would all be on Persephone, and choose that exact ship?

 

“How interesting…” Crowley was seriously considering going after them. After all, Badger was a fun part to play sometimes, but he was a little lonely. It’d been ages since he’d gotten to antagonize the Winchesters and co. Plus, it would be ever so fun to watch them squirm without their memories, and even more fun to watch them squirm when they got them back again. Not to mention, confusing the crew of Serenity would be rather entertaining. That was the thing about reincarnation. Such a mucky business. Confused everyone involved.

 

He couldn’t wait to see what happened next.