Disclaimer: Standard. I no own, you no sue.

Author's Note: Amy is tough for me. Something insubstantial about her character has always irritated me -- I didn't like her and I wasn't sure why. So I finally decided to study her a bit and see if I could pin down what was wrong. Turns out that Hannibal puts his finger right on it in the first episode. "You are a princess," He tells Amy, "In a world full of dragons."

That was it, of course. Amy is a princess, when she ought to be a knight. After I had that in mind, the following fic just came to me. Amy-lovers are probably going to hate it (particularly 'shippers of Amy/Team member pairings); and I figure that's okay. If a princess is someone you wanna admire, so be it.

But I'd rather look up to a fellowship of knights any day of the week.

Skybright Daye

In a World Full of Dragons
Murdock is screaming.

I know it's him as soon as I wake up, although I don't open my eyes or change position. I know because I recognize the voice, and the nightmare -- though usually I hear them from at least a room away. Tonight I'm not so lucky; tonight we're bunking in a house with one spare room for all of us. Tonight I have less of an excuse for not waking up – since the others already have. Tonight there's only a blanket between me and the dragons.

Ironic -- it was Murdock, earlier today, who helped me put up the fragile barrier that now keeps me safe from his nightmares. The blanket-and-clothesline partition isn't much -- but it's a shield. That and my closed eyelids keep me from having to see and be seen. I'm like Rapunzel, high above the dragons of the world.

That's the first thing Hannibal ever said to me -- "You are a princess in a world full of dragons."

Sometimes I wonder if he knows how right he was.

When I was a kid my grandmother would scare me into submission by telling me there were dragons outside my bedroom door, that I shouldn't get up during the night or the dragons would get me. Even when my little sister had nightmares in her bedroom next door, I wouldn't budge. She could come to me, if she wanted -- and often she did, braving the terrors of the dragon-hall to creep into my bedroom.

But I never went to her. There were knights who were brave enough to slay dragons and rescue damsels -- but I wasn't one of them. I was a princess, safe in my tower. The fair maiden's rescue was farther than I wanted to go.

Tonight, all these years later, it still is.

Quiet now in the room, except breathing -- Face's soothing and Murdock's ragged, Hannibal's measured and mine the fake-even breathing a kid uses to fool the babysitter. Yeah, of course I'm asleep.

Lighter clicking, the sweet cigar-smell and Hannibal's voice, very quiet. "Amy?"

Breathe. In, out, in . . .

BA's voice, the rattle of chains. "She's asleep, Hannibal. Amy always been a sound sleeper."

Yeah. Of course.

BA knows. I'm not sure about Hannibal and the others don't suspect, but BA knows. Knows that I lie here faking sleep because I'm scared, too scared to face whatever demon comes clawing at night.

"She cain't do it, Hannibal. She's too scared. We gonna have to help her."

BA knows, has known since Jamestown that I'm too scared to ever do this right, has known and has carried me ever since. It was he who quietly helped me learn to face death, to put up a front of bravery no matter how frightened I feel. BA has held me up.

But even when it's BA dreaming, even then I can't do it. Men with guns, explosions, death -- those I learned to face. But the raw horror and emotion that boils out on these nights I hate -- no. That is a dragon I still can't face. That still scares me too bad.

If they wanted to, they could come to me -- I'd be here. But they've never come to me. And I have never had the courage to go to them, to face what I'll find beyond the tower.

That's why I'll never really be what they are. Because to be what they are you have to have faced those things, have beaten them back in the dead of night, have slain dragons in both daylight and dark. You have to be unafraid of seeing a man's soul stripped naked and of having yours laid bare.

And despite all I've done, the one thing I can't do is let myself be that bare, or stand seeing them that way. This is why I don't wake up, why I don't even try to leave the blanket-bounded tower of my own fears.

Leaving the tower means finally acknowledging that there are no angels here, only men; that these heroes of mine are just frail, broken, burdened men who have gone through Hell together and alone. It means facing those painful, treacherous things, emotions and memories -- those things I have avoided all my life. It means venturing out where words have no meaning, where nothing said can make it all right; and that is farther than I have desire or courage to go.

This is why tomorrow, as always, I'll pretend I didn't hear a thing.

This is why I will go to Jakarta, and not tell them until the last moment I am going.

And this is why, in the end, I'll never be anything but a princess in a world full of dragons.

The End