Note and disclaimer: It’s a Heroes/Firefly one-shot! As you might guess, I don’t own Heroes (T. Kring) or Firefly (J. Whedon). The title comes from a song that also belongs to J. Whedon. Author’s note and translations at end.
All the passengers, those from both first class and steerage alike, sit on the observation deck, crowded around the large picture windows, trying to catch a last glimpse of the home they’ll never see again. All around them, boats rise into the darkness of space and start their exodus.
This newest wave of immigrants, the haves and have-nots, mingle and sit shoulder-to-shoulder and hip-to-hip chattering at each other in a variety of languages. English and Mandarin are the most common of the mother-tongues, but ever so often a woman’s lilting voice rises above the crowd and the rest hear the oddly exotic pronunciations associated with the dying French language or a man’s deep bass drowns out those around him, and those educated few listening closely can identify the guttural German tongue. Children cry out to their mothers, scared of the pressing crowd and of the black that threatens to surround them all and the stench of sulfur and smoke arising from the giant turbines of the engines. Families try to cling together, making sure that they won’t be separated by accident – where they’re going, they can’t afford to be apart.
The old woman sits in her seat, crying, as the ship loosens its moorings and slowly pulls away from the dock. The man next to her wraps his arm around her, and lets her cry against his strong shoulder as they leave all they’d ever known behind them. She’ll never again see the sites that mean the most to her – her home, the familiar locations and haunts of her favorite cities, the graves of her past lovers and long-lost children and grandchildren. Of course, no one finds this an odd occurrence; all over the ship, women weep for the lives and memories they were leaving behind.
At first glance, the other passengers will never be able to guess her true age. What little skin her kimono reveals is unmarred by wrinkles or age spots; instead, the golden skin of her wrists and décolletage, as smooth and elastic as that of an infant, indicates the woman is incredibly young, a mere teenager. Neither gray nor white hairs mark the passage of time upon her head; instead, if she’d remove the chopsticks from her upswept hairdo, golden blonde curls will cascade down her perfectly straight back. No sloop of her shoulders or twist of her spine reveals her age; she walks with no cane as might be expected of a woman of advanced years.
No, the others will only realize her age if they look her in the eyes. Her eyes are the discrepancy, the only part of her body that will ever betray her secrets. The green orbs reflect the years of pain and suffering and a long life well-lived. They are the eyes of a woman who has seen and done too much, the eyes of a soldier, and a lover, and a wife, and a mother, a woman who’s seen the long stretch of the centuries and lived to tell the tale. No matter how young the rest of her looks, those eyes do not belong to a sixteen-year old.
Tears continue to fall on her companion’s shoulder until he lowers his lips to her ear and whispers words of encouragement and love. “Shh, shh, it’s going to be okay.” The other passengers can be excused for thinking that she stops crying due to his words lifting her above the burden of her grief. Instead, the words arouse her temper, and she is unable to multitask between sorrow and anger – the anger will always win out.
“Okay?” she sounds incredulous. “Okay? Are you insane? What about this is possibly okay, Sylar?” Her voice rises above the crowd, and he glances about nervously.
“Why don’t we take this to our room, instead of hashing it out here with an audience?” he whispers lowly, thanking his lucky stars that he’d been able to duplicate enough credits to buy them a private first-class cabin. He’d seen the steerage area during boarding, feeling a wave of sympathy for the poor bastards who had to stay there. He stands, and then offers her his hand.
She gratefully takes the proffered hand, rising gracefully. Still holding her hand, he starts towards the stairs, and she tries to stay close to him as he pushes his way through the crowd. One of the men comes too close to her, though, and tries to pull her away from Sylar. She cries out, and Sylar immediately turns around.
“Take your filthy hands off of my wife right now, you mei yong ma duh tse gu yong, before I kill you. Dong ma?” He looks every bit as threatening as he had as a young man, some three or four hundred years earlier.
“Wife?” The man laughs, and then looks her over, taking in the way the silk of her crimson kimono clings to her figure and how young she looks. “Jien hwo, the way I see it. How else would a girl like that be able to pay for a trip like this?”
The man never sees Sylar move, just feels the immediate effect of a fist in his face and a knee in his crotch. When he falls to the floor, moaning, Sylar grabs Claire’s hand again and walks away calmly. No one stops him or gets in his way, and it’s not long before they’re in the cabin.
“Now. Whatever you wanted to say, say it.” Sylar settles himself of their bed, waiting for the diatribe to start. He’s heard it all before, and he knows that she needs the fire and passion of her anger to get her through this difficult passage. If he can, he’s got to keep her distracted and mad so that she won’t start sobbing again.
“I just… god, why did we have to leave? Why are you doing this to me?” She quietly asks, desperation and heartbreak combining into a form of graceful poise. “I wanted to stay.”
“Oh, babydoll, not this again - you know we can’t stay. The Earth’s dying, and there’s nothing that can be done. Everyone’s going to have to leave – we might as well leave early, and claim our spots in the new world now.” He stands up, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her into a hug.
“I know what’s happening to the planet – it’s dying, and I wanted to die with it. Maybe that would be something I wouldn’t regenerate from.” Her voice is low, a tone that wouldn’t be audible to anyone without his hearing. “Don’t you get it? I’ve lived longer, far far longer, than I ever wanted. That’s my home, Sylar, please understand – my entire family’s there, my children were born there, are buried there. I can’t leave that. Why didn’t you just let me die?”
“Because it’s not your time yet, not this quickly. You can’t leave me, Claire, surely you know that by now. We’ve been so intertwined that I don’t know where you stop and I begin anymore, and we’ve been that way for centuries. I could no more leave you there to die than I could kill you myself.” He holds her tighter against him. “Besides, those are my children too. Do you think it’s easy for me to leave them there, that it’s something I did without a second thought? God, Claire, I would have done anything in my power to stop this from happening – but we can’t stop it. It’s the natural progression of things. We’ve seen countries rise and fall, did you never realize that planets and stars and everything else around us follows that same pattern?”
He doesn’t realize that the sudden blurring of his vision is due to the salty tears filling his eyes, but Claire immediately understands when one drops down his face to fall upon her neck. She turns within the circle of his arms so that she can wrap her arms around him. “Oh, baby, I’m sorry. It’s just… that’s all I’ve ever known. I’m too old to start over. Don’t cry, please, you’re supposed to the strong one of the two of us.”
Neither says anything more, content to just stand there holding each other.
- - - - - - - - - -
After the months spent out in the darkness of space, their only light source the flickering fluorescent lights on the ship, stepping out into the harsh sunlight of Osiris is a painful experience. Children tightly close their eyes, while their elders hold hands up to their faces, trying to block the light.
The feel of grass and dirt and steady solidness beneath their feet is another feeling that they’ve forgotten in favor of the soft quaking of the starship’s metal grate floors, and the immigrants find themselves swaying as they take tentative steps trying to regain their land-legs.
Breathing deeply as they take those tentative steps, they find that the smells are different, the air’s different – everything’s somehow cleaner, fresher, healthier than what they’re accustomed to. The scent of early morning and the flowers planted along the sidewalks are a marked difference to the stale, stuffy recycled oxygen on the boat, and a completely novel experience when compared to the smog and pollution of Earth-that-was, as they’d started to call their home planet during the trip.
The immigration official hides a smile as he watches the newest boatload of people come in. They’re always like this, like shell-shocked animals, when they get off the ship. He straightens the badge of his authority, this blue, white, and red emblem that bestows upon him the power of the Anglo-Sino Alliance, and addresses them. “You lot! Passengers of the ‘QE-300’,” he pauses, wondering again about the oddity of the ship names, “over here! Single file, please, and be ready to give me your names and addresses, assuming you have a place to stay already lined up.”
Everyone neatly falls into queues, separating by ethnicity and country of origin as if it still mattered. The official laughs again – the newbies always made that mistake. He faces the first man in the line, a dark man who’s holding the hand of a young blonde woman.
“Names?” He barks at the couple, realizing that they’re trying to stay together to avoid losing each other in the madness that is the main spaceport of Capital City.
The man hesitates, looking at his partner, before slowly drawling out “Gabriel.” It’s time for a fresh start, or maybe just a return to the beginning, the start of his entire journey. It feels like he’s coming home again, a little bit of the familiar in the middle of this entirely new and unsettling universe.
“And Claire.” The blonde adds quickly. “Gabriel and Claire Tam.”
The official types the information into his computer, and reaches to the odd looking printer behind him. He turns back to them, handing them two cards. “Here are your Ident-cards. Keep them with you at all times – you’re going to need them. The exit’s to your left.” He points them in the right direction, and then motions for the next immigrant. “Next!”
As they walk out of the dock, into their new lives, the newly christened Gabriel Tam turns to his wife. “Where did that come from?”
“I’ve been thinking about it on the trip. I like the name. You may have made me leave my entire life behind, but you can’t make me forget it. I’ll always carry Texas and Manhattan with me, my family with me, no matter how far we wander.” Her hands ghosts over her stomach before she smiles at him. “This little one will never be able to fully escape Earth-that-was.”
He’d suspected for a few days, but he’d had no clue that she already knew. He isn’t wild about bringing a child into this new world, but figures it’s his own fault for not leaving her alone on the long trip. While he knows that he should be mourning his loses and wondering how he’s going to support his wife and this newest child, he can only see a bright future for the Tams of Osiris. Chinese phrasesmei yong ma duh tse gu yong
= motherless goat of all motherless goatsdong ma
= understandjien hwo
= cheap floozyAuthor’s note
This idea just popped up out of nowhere, and I had to write it and post immediately - it was originally posted on Livejournal last night. Because of my inability to exercise patience, this fic is un-beta’d. Inspiration is partly due to the BNL song “It’s All Been Done” and to the fact that in the Firefly ‘verse, Simon and River’s dad is Gabriel Tam – maybe it’s a family name? I think this might explain some of River’s powers that aren’t attributable to what The Academy did to her – they're her inheritance from her many-times over grandparents.