Disclaimer: I own nothing! I just like to borrow them all once in a while and rearrange the pieces.
Author’s note: This takes place after Firefly and Pre-Serenity and Far in the BTVS future. Reviews are desired above all else in the world, they set my little heart a-flutter and make my world a better place.
Chapter 1 – Waking Up
In The Black
There was something in the air. A sort of longing that nagged her consciousness, a distant, faint memory that should mean something. But nothing came. She had long stopped being bothered by this.
In the black, surrounded by the quiet noise of her machines, time was irrelevant.
Sometimes on days such as today, a memory would float up, something distant and delicious. She’d always smell it first and the anticipation would well up deep in her. Remembering the particulars of scent had become her amusement. She could discern the individual notes of gardenia and cardamom in her mother’s perfume and how the scent had stayed on that silk scarf, and even now, when all that was left of it were tattered threads held in a hermetic box, the gentle sweetness would draw her into its embrace whenever she glanced at it. She remembers the scent of her sister’s hair. This scent has colour and mood and is comforting to her whenever she remembers it.
Remembering is painful, but she forces herself to do just that, to go back and to dig through her vast memory. This is her one claim to humanity. And it is precious.
Recently, she has been dreaming of them all. They come to her to visit, it’s comforting. When she wakes she studies herself in the mirror, minutely examines the face that has not altered in lifetimes and looks for the signs of madness. And even though she often goes with no human contact for very long periods of time, she knows that the reprieve of madness is not hers to have.
It is the mirror that draws her again. This is a ritual, a double edged sword of vanity and self-hate. The face is the same as it has always been. Smooth and pale. Golden freckles crest the bridge of her nose. Long honey-brown hair falls heavy around her. Her generous mouth is as always slightly pale and curved in a half smile that has gone from being a touch sardonic to one of infinite patience. Or perhaps it is indifference. She can no longer tell them apart.
It is in her eyes that she finds some comfort. Yes, they are still as always that particular cerulean-bright of youth, but her life is written there. The eyes are bit distant and slightly too blank for comfort. This is her disguise.
How could she let her life show in her eyes? Who would ever be able to meet them? The sudden cold, ageless glint makes her flinch away from her reflection. Her gaze lands on her hands. Her mother used to say that you could tell what kind of life a woman had by how her hands age. She examines hers now with infinite patience, noting the little scars and marks long faded, but still there, underneath it all. And their pale smoothness chokes her.
Her hands do not tell of her life, or her age. He hands tell nothing.
A sigh escapes her as she stands up, and the sound of it is like a bird startled from its perch. Fluttering, rushed, fleeting it dissipates into the whirring of the machines.
Her eyes land on the far wall, on the display case lit from within. In that case is her life. She is tied to the contents of that case not only by her duty and by her promise, but by her very blood.
It’s always the blood.
And that startles a memory in her, of winds and towers and skies lit by portals.
She approaches the case carefully, almost reverently. It holds within it a weapon cleaved into black rock. This weapon is not hers to wield, but it is hers to guard throughout time immemorial and forever more.
It has been untouched for over two hundred years. And yet, the blade stays sharp and it continues to sing its song of power.
As she looks at this weapon the nagging memory, that longing that overwhelmed her when she awoke takes her over again. And she sees it clearly now, somewhere deep in the black is a small soul, drifting through this huge world, earning for the unnamed comfort and not knowing how to find it.
The nagging memory, the quiet longing becomes defined, it takes shape and she hears the voice, so dear and precious: “You are the Guardian, bound to the line of the chosen by blood. Do you accept your stewardship for as long as you live?” And there is herself, a child really, facing the glow of a being whose vastness is still incomprehensible. Already aware that the length of her days is innumerable she makes her choice. And knows too that it is her destiny to do this. To guard and to watch and to remember... She looks up, the defiant look of a willful child. “Yes”
And so her die is cast. For all time, she will guard and watch the line.
Through many battles, the line survived and there came a day when there were no more enemies to fight and the line ceased.
And the Guardian faded into fable as she soared into the black where she could rest.
And she knew, knew as surely as she knew her name and knew her blood; she knew that one of the chosen was here. Why, she did not know. How, she would find out. But out there was a girl, scared and lost, dreaming blood dreams and it was her vow to find that girl and tell her all there was. To teach her and to watch and to guard.
The dreams have become stronger, more insistent and more frightening. She whimpers, shivering and clawing at her sheets. “Hush, River. Mei-mei, hush” He tries to lay his hand on her head, like he used to when she was a baby, to calm her, but she throws it off with a growl that is more wild beast than human. She screams, low and thundering and he tries to shake her awake. She will not open her eyes, the dream has her. So he settles for petting her back and she seems to settle a bit better.
There was blood. A lot of blood and slime and dust that choked you. They fought so fierce, these bright beings flitting with speed that was almost too fast for the eye to register. But not her eye. She had known it the first time she saw this dream. She knew them. Every single one of them…sisters. And no matter what she dreamed, she always recognised the women. Felt their link, their kinship. But this dream was different. The sounds and sights of the battle fell away to a house with a porch and a small blond woman sitting on the steps, smiling at the sunshine. River felt the heartache lift in her, a song of longing, a melody of joy and sadness so mixed up that they were undistinguishable from one another. River came to sit beside the blond woman, knowing that she was her sister, the most important one. The blond turned and River was swallowed by the bright, knowing green eyes. The eyes directed River’s gaze into the sunshine where another young woman stood under the awning of a small, but beautiful ship. She was slender and tall and her long honey brown hair flew on the wind. She looked familiar too, one of the faces River had dreamed thousands of times, but she did not feel like the others. It was the glow that caught her eye. The fine, shimmering pale emerald glow that suffused the woman in the ship and seemed to comfort River.
The words float from behind her and she tries to hold on to them, but knows the attempt is futile, for as she struggles, she is forced into wakefulness.
River sits up, cradled in Simon’s arms, mumbling something under her breath. His voice reaches her as if through a fog “What is it, mei-mei?”
Her great dark eyes frantically search his and the tears roll down her cheeks and as she speaks, her voice cracking and a gentle smile curves her mouth.
“The light has come to keep the promise: no girl shall ever be alone.”