Title: Rough Heals
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Summary: I peeled away when you weren't looking.
Notes: Post-BtVS, pre-Firefly, no spoilers
It could have ended in a thousand different ways, Dawn thinks.
Vampire. Human sacrifice. Brain cancer. Demon. Drunk driver.
Trust fate to play the cruelest trick of all.
She never dies.
She never even grows old.
She stands at the graveside of everyone she ever loved.
She watches the whole damn world go up in flames.
Her freighter, one of the last to leave Earth as it was, takes her as far as the outer worlds before it begins to break down.
Dawn pawns a pair of earrings, uses the cash to hire a wagon. She directs the driver to bring her to the closest forest. One near a river, if possible.
The driver looks askance, but money is money, and in the end, he takes her where she wants to go.
When they arrive at the outskirts of a ragged stand of trees, she asks him to wait for her.
Wringing her hands together, she walks to the center of the scant forest.
She raises her eyes to the sky, digs her fingers into the dirt, and whispers in Latin.
Then Greek. Then Aramaic. Then Sumerian.
She tries every language she's known or half-known.
None of them work.
There is no magic here.
Dawn spends a hundred-odd years in the void, hopping from planet to planet.
She has no plans. She has no ambitions.
She keeps moving because she has nowhere to go.
She earns coin by tutoring spoiled children in Mandarin, flipping tarot cards for settlers. Selling her heritage, bit by precious bit.
And she tells stories.
At first, it's just her way of whistling in the dark. Assuring herself that Earth was real, that she was real. Tall tales woven over the fire or by a fireplace. Fables to amuse children, histories to impress their parents.
Time moves on, and she is constantly amazed by humankind's ability to forget.
She's the only one to remember Earth That Was, truly.
Then again, she's barely human, herself.
She smells the war coming, forty years before it starts.
It's in the small, subtle things. The way politicians bandy about phrases like, "for the betterment of all," and, "a unified league." The extra two weeks fringe planets have to wait for goods from the central planets. The resentment in folks' eyes, and the words "us" and "them." And the slaves, chained to their planets by debt.
Centuries-old beings know how to recognize these sorts of things.
Dawn sees both sides of the conflict, and wants no part in the battle.
She doesn't have any special powers, aside from living forever, and she doesn't like pain any more than the next person.
She does what she can, for whoever she can.
On Sihnon, she teaches a class of fifteen-year-olds how to filter news from propaganda.
On Persephone, she slips her lunch into a beggar's hands, goes hungry in the afternoon.
On Verbena, she works at a hospital after a bombing, cleans wounds and holds a factory worker's hand as he cries.
Then the war ends.
She takes a first freighter to Hera, wades among the wounded of Serenity Valley.
Some of the others cringe at what they find there, the stench and the screams and the absolute despair.
Dawn looks over the carnage, and it's like she's fifteen again.
This is the one thing she hadn't missed, but she steps forward anyway.
She spots a huddle of survivors, directs a med team their way.
The rest of them begin to count the dead.
She stops to say a prayer, almost an incantation.
There's no one left to hear her, but it doesn't matter.
Words are all she has to give.
A/N: Title and summary adapted from Katy Domaingue's Barefoot. Link courtesy of breathe_poetry.
Originally linked here. Linked on scoobiesinspace.