Title: Fairy Tales
Summary: It wasn’t home, but she seemed to fit here. Fred thought of herself as a part of the family, even though none of the others knew her name. These days, she went by Serenity. One-shot.
Prompt/Prompter: Using the prompt by Smolder: “It wasn’t home, but she seemed to fit here.” Smolder is optimistic about our Ms. Burkle and believes Fred isn’t lost to us, simply lost in space. This probably isn’t what she had in mind, but I hope she enjoys it. For Wishlist 2011.
Warnings: Spoilers for Angel S5
Disclaimer: I do not own any rights to Firefly or Angel, nor am I making any money off this story.
Wordcount: ~1600“Fairy Tales”
“If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.” –Orson Welles
“Dumb old fairy tales and their "happily ever afters".” –Fred Burkle
“I guess we could begin where all these types of stories begin, with the “Once upon a time” part, but this fairy tale is a long one, and I don’t think ya’ll really want to settle in for the whole thing. There was this girl, you see, who was lost, so lost, and she was saved, by a handsome man. And they went on oh-so many adventures, and she fell in love, not just once, either. Only later down the road, she got lost again. Well, this is that part, the again
part, and like the first time around, she got saved by a handsome man… So should I start with “Twice upon a time”? That sounds silly, I know, but it’s true.
“I got it. Staring me in the face—if it was a snake, it woulda bit me. Let’s start over:
“Once, long ago
, there was girl who was told she was a hero, and as everyone knows, heroes don’t just up and die. Not without a fight. Only, this girl didn’t have much of a choice. There was this thing inside her, an Old One, named Illyria, and it hollowed me…I mean, her…It hollowed the girl out, took up so much space that the girl had to leave her own skin behind. She knew that if she stayed inside, the Old One would just gobble her up, like it did the rest of her remains.
“As it turns out, souls don’t much travel the way people do. They don’t have feet, and they don’t really have minds. And it’s really, really confusing being a soul… So, the girl was lost before she ever began. Then she saw it, the hole in the world. The hole in everything.” ~*~
“How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” Fred asked, but the universe didn’t answer.
Probably because she didn’t have a mouth or a voice and the question didn’t really exist outside of her, but it seemed oddly relevant, the metaphor, and she felt herself bubbling with laughter. Hysterics. Here she was, balanced on the edge of everything, and feeling like she might topple over into nothingness, and she just couldn’t stop laughing at how sad it was. And irrelevant. It was that, too. Because dead was dead, with or without the sadness.
When she finally fell, it was more like she was being sucked through a pin-sized gap than dancing with feathered friends, and she didn’t have to contemplate how she could contract her very being into one point in space. The theory and the physics and the speculation left her behind.
For a long time, she didn’t think she was.
When the welders threw up their sparks of invention, she felt like she’d just woken up and realized she’d been a half-awake the whole morning anyway. She remembered, bits and pieces. Like she knew time had passed. Lots of time. And that the place where she was born wasn’t close by. Earth was, but now wasn’t. But what she didn’t understand was why she was suddenly conscious. Why she was suddenly aware. Why she could hear herself asking silly questions again… Then it hit her, it was because she’d found a body, one that had just been made, with a spirit inside, only it wasn’t quite like the body she’d left behind.
Fred thought Lorne would have liked what they called her, a Firefly. He would have said it fit her perfectly. ~*~
“Lots of fairy tales go like this. The hero or heroine gets turned into an animal or a thing and taught a lesson. Only, the girl wasn’t sure who was supposed to be doing the teaching or if a fairy godmother would ever appear to give her back her own funny shape. Of course, she figured it out, eventually.” ~*~
Fred didn’t like it, the letting people use her thing, but what she did like, what she loved more than anything she’d ever done before, was flying. It was scary at first, floating through the black, so much open around her, like she was swimming in the middle of the ocean, a mile below the surface, so many humans whispering inside about secrets and wars and how she wasn’t worth the money for new parts.
Fred was used to getting talked down to, so she just lifted her metaphoric chin and went on with it. They didn’t know, they didn’t understand that she was more. A hero. Her Wesley had called her one.“Superhero. And this is my power. To not let them take me.”
Only, she hadn’t been able to stop it the first time, and she wasn’t able to stop it now. Her heart, if she had one, broke the day they parked her in the shipyard. It was open, and bright here, and the sounds of people moving about, doing business, were all around her. But, for some reason, it felt like she’d been left in a cave. Cold and dark, and home.
She could feel it again, that sleep calling her. It would be easy, to shut off, to be this thing she wore. So easy to forget she had a voice and a laugh and tears.
Then he came, the handsome man. ~*~
“The girl thought about her last fairy tale, and how her new savior hadn’t rode up to her on a horse or slayed any monsters to rescue her. But he knew, this man, that he was saving her when he handed over his money. For a split second, the girl panicked, because she also knew how this scenario had worked out the first time. He’d take her to his castle and forget her, only…She was the castle now, and he’d never leave his home, not this man.
“He even gave her a new name. Serenity.
“When he called her, there was grief in his voice, and the girl thought that maybe her knight in suspenders knew that she was a person, after all.” ~*~
This wasn’t home, but she liked to think she fit. Fred couldn’t control everything, but she kept going past her parts’ expiration, kept running despite the will the stop. And her walls filled with men and women, a small group, a family. She was one of them, even if they called her by the wrong name. They relied upon her, and cursed her, and always returned to her—and that’s what a family did, wasn’t it?
There was even a little girl now, one who talked to Fred when she was alone and pressed a cheek again her metal in a hug.
“Prove yourself,” River said. “Stay.”
Fred wasn’t sure what the girl meant, but the whisper was a constant echo bouncing off her insides. Fred did her best. She wasn’t sure why. This family had its own talented members. They didn’t need her to be more than a ship, but Fred tried, nevertheless, to hold them together.
Sometimes she lost, and sometimes the pain was too much, but she held on to wakefulness, because her family didn’t deserve just another ship. They deserved a home.
Then one day, she must have tried hard enough. They opened the bay doors for a sell and found themselves being propositioned by a new passenger. And Fred finally understood her little River’s words.
“Illyria.” She had no voice, none at all but the grind of metal on metal, but the being looked up at her through stolen eyes, ignoring the draw of Mal Reynolds’ gun and the circling of his crew. It was of no concern to such a creature.
“You remain,” the Old One said, and there was no question.Serenity
“The girl realized right then and there that this fairy tale was different than the first one. In this tale, it was never up to the handsome man to save her. She had to save herself. Had to be brave and unselfish. And true.
“And the girl knew all this, because the woman who arrived was no woman at all. She was the blue fairy, come to grant the girl her wish.”
Fred paused, a small smile on her lips and her eyes wet. She held up her hand and stared, just stared, at it. There was a tug at her pants leg, and she remembered the young woman curled up on the bed beside her.
“That’s not how stories end,” River said, her voice soft, knowing.
“Nope, they never end there,” Fred agreed, grinning. She patted the girl’s shoulder, a tilt to her head. “But maybe they should.”
River nodded against the crook of her arm, the spill of her hair, and let her eyes close a little. There were footsteps Fred hadn’t noticed, and Simon stood in the entryway, arms crossed, but his eyes calm. “It’s time for bed, River,” he noted, then shot Fred a look. It was an expression of caution, but acceptance, the same one he’d wore since the day Illyria had arrived on the ship. “Thanks for staying with her,” he said.
“It’s no problem,” Fred said, and hoped her smile wasn’t too big or too awkward. She wasn’t quite used to having her flesh again, and her family wasn’t quite used to her smile yet. She stood up quickly, ready to relinquish the spot.
“The end,” River insisted.
Fred looked over one shoulder, knowing River wasn’t looking back. “So the girl,” Fred said, “she stayed with her family.”
“And they lived happily ever after.”