Disclaimer: I don’t own Joss Whedon’s Firefly or Tim Burton’s version of Willy Wonka. I only own the DVDs of them.
“Two by two, hands of blue.” Those were the first words he ever heard her say. She looked scared, like she’d die of fright very soon.
“It’s ok, mèimèi,” her brother had tried to calm her, placing a hand on her arm and pulling her gently towards him.
“Two by two, hands of blue. Two by two, hands of blue,” River said again, and Willy had been afraid at the time that it was all she could say.
“You’ll have to excuse my sister. She has these episodes sometimes,” the young man started saying.
“Hands of blue, Simon, hands of blue,” she told her brother, grabbing his hand, and pointing towards Willy’s where they sat on the top of his cane.
The fear came back to Simon in a flood of memories, starting with and existing primarily in the image of River sitting next to Kaylee’s body, holding the dead woman’s hand and telling him how the blood flowed like a river, a river started by the hands of blue looking for the river of serenity.
“River, are—are these the blue hands?” he asked her, faltering and trying again, as he pulled her back another step.
Instead of following in backwards, she took a step forwards, staring intensely at the blue hands. Then, she stared not at the blue hands, but at the eyes above the cracking dark smile, the eyes that yielded to her confusion and wonderment. The eyes met hers, violet, or maybe blue, they seemed to change so quick she couldn’t keep up with them. They stared back at her with the same intensity that she stared at them, and she was not afraid. Finally, resolutely, she answered her worried older brother, “No.”
“Oh, that’s good,” he seemed relieved, but still not so sure about things and definitely not liking the man standing between them and the dark muddied looking river, which, by the way, he also wasn’t liking too much. “Now, River, lets leave this nice man alone, and get back to the ship.”
“We’ve lost Serenity
,” she told him cryptically, but he got it, the ship was gone without them.
“Now that’s just silly, my factory is one of the most serene places on this crazy planet, especially right here,” eye contact wasn’t broken, that intense stare, he hadn’t thought someone could out stare him, and wasn’t about to let the young woman do it.
, our ship,” Simon informed him.
“We’ve just found serenity,” River added helpfully.
“River, you just said we lost it,” Simon pointed out, the ramblings of his insane little sister were starting to bug him again.
“The ship, it’s left without us, but now we’ve found serenity, and they will too, the crew, better off without us they are,” explanations, at least she wasn’t in the middle of an episode, he wouldn’t be able to dose her with sedatives were she to go into a real episode here. “No more medicine, Simon, they haven’t been created yet.”
That was the first bit of news he was given as to their position in space with regards to time rather than distance from planets. When she finally explained what happened, how they’d actually jumped though a rip in time, at which point in the explanation he reminded her that she pushed him, he thought his brain was going to explode and ooze out his eyeballs like another victim of the blue handed men.
“No more hands of blue, the hands that go everywhere, can’t reach us here,” she reminded him at the thought of dying as one of their victims, but she wasn’t looking at him, hadn’t been looking at him since she’d decided the man with the blue gloves wasn’t one of the men with hands of blue.
“Where is here, River?”
“Up here,” she pointed between those blue-violet eyes, taking those final steps and going onto her toes so that she could lightly touch the middle of his forehead. “Every blade of grass placed with care. What’s mint?”
“Try some,” those eyes never blinked, always met hers, and she, in return, was just as unflinching, unblinking, and unwavering.
Then, after silent agreement, they mutually broke the unwavering stare. He turned towards her brother. She seemed alright, and he’d abide by her brother’s presence, but only because he’d heard their explanation for being there. She crouched down as though she were a very young child, yet did so with marvelous grace. Simon looked at the man staring at him, uncomfortable for a very brief moment, and then turned his gaze back to his sister.
“River, don’t eat that, that’s grass, people walk on it,” he told her, once he realized her purpose for couching down and picking a blade of grass.
“Nonsense, that blade of grass is clean as can be, every bit of grass in here is cleaned every day,” the man told him, seeming quite proud of himself, as River tasted the blade.
“We don’t have mint back home,” she stood up, several more long blades tucked with her hair behind her ear and one exceptionally long one held in front of her face while she stared at it curiously.
“That’s just weird,” he commented with a small furrow of the brow.
“How rude of us, I’m River Tam,” she said suddenly, seeming to the man to be reading his mind, which was of course what had suddenly led her to speak and drop into a graceful curtsey, before standing with the attitude of both a teenager and one burdened on an intellectual level by the one they were introducing, and added, “That’s my brother, Simon.”
“I am Willy Wonka,” the man replied, removing his hat and bowing just as quickly and gracefully as she had curtseyed. Once he’d stood up again, his hand twitched, as though he’d offer it to Simon for a handshake, but he seemed to think better of it and grimaced slightly as the blue glove returned to the top of his cane and he continued, “Welcome to my chocolate factory.”
A chocolate factory, Simon wanted to laugh, he was sure he was going insane. Chocolate was only available on core planets, where it were also made. Well-to-do people bought them, he and River had enjoyed them on occasion as children. They had to be on a core planet, which meant River and he were felons right in the hands of the Alliance. Then again, according to River, there weren’t
any core planets. There was only Earth-that-was, correction Earth-that-currently-is.
“They don’t call it Earth-that-is, just Earth,” River supplied helpfully.
“Thanks,” he answered, not in the least bit thankful, receiving River’s stuck out tongue in response to his own wrinkled nose.
“You should get some rest, Simon. You’re brain’s running much to fast, it’s going to crash. Night, night dragonfly,” she mumbled quickly.
, what—” Simon started to ask, before promptly passing out.
“He gets too stressed out sometimes,” River said simply.
The clock had barely clicked over to quarter past three, when the doors to the inventing room burst open and a seventeen-year-old boy appeared, moving quickly, yet surprisingly quiet. It took him several minutes to move between all of the machines in the room and find his mentor. When he found Willy, he also found a young woman in a dress and combat boots following silently and paying very close attention. Willy looked up at him briefly, silently telling him it was alright, and then returned to his work at a relatively new machine.
“Don’t,” the strange woman said suddenly, as Willy was about to drop something into the machine.
He looked at her. Charlie looked back and forth between the two, wondering what Willy would do. Charlie knew how Willy worked, and telling the older man what to do was a very bad idea.
“You doubt it, not sure of it,” she said simply, letting her hair fall in front of her face in a river of curls.
Willy nodded in agreement and handed her the bottle, which she immediately disappeared with, presumably to put it away.
“How was school today, Charlie?” Willy asked, pouring something else in instead of the contents of the bottle he’d just given to the young woman.
“Good, bit of trouble in Chemistry, but it’s not too bad,” he replied, before asking the question that was nagging at him, “Who is…?”
“Oh, that’s River,” Willy told him, as though he should’ve known. Then, as an afterthought, he added, “She’s from the future.”
“Willy, time travel?” Charlie asked, but didn’t question too much, knowing his mentor.
“Yeah,” Charlie didn’t believe it.
“Simon doesn’t either,” she said, seeming to appear out of nowhere directly beside him.
He knew then that she moved just as quietly as Willy often did. He’d have to keep an eye out for her now as well.
“It’s true, though the math just hasn’t lined up yet, almost there. Doesn’t matter, won’t happen again, even if the math lines up, once in forever, never going home,” she murmured, and even by Wonka standards, Charlie found her nearly rambling explanation crazy in both tone and meaning.
“They appeared in the Chocolate Room this morning.”
“Simon, my brother the doctor,” and she didn’t sound weird for that moment, just like a young woman with an irritating sibling.
Charlie wasn’t sure what to think, much less what to say. Time travel was impossible, didn’t happen, yet he was unsurprised one end of it took place in the factory. If the impossible was going to happen, this was definitely the place, and Willy was always part of the source.
“You weren’t testing anything new today, were you, Willy?” Charlie asked, wondering if his mentor really did have something to do with this odd predicament.
“Why yes, I was,” he’d remembered, just hadn’t thought of it as the source of strangeness, not that it would’ve mattered much to him in the long run, time travel, teleportation, and other such amazing scientific discoveries weren’t nearly as important as the candy.