Disclaimer: I don't own 'Heroes', 'Firefly', or any of their respective characters; the plot is mine, and that's it

Feedback: Much appreciated

AN: For those who want to know, this is a Firefly/Heroes crossover fic, set about a year after Serenity for the 'Firefly' cast; for the Heroes participants, this is set in the distant future, in an AU branching off from the currently-aired episodes of the series ("The Kindness of Strangers" onwards"). Elements from subsequent episodes may be mentioned as the story goes on, but otherwise only spoilers for the first season will definitely be put up here

AN 2: Just to establish in advance, this fic will have Mal/River and Peter/Claire pairings; if you don't like those pairings, don't feel that you have to read this story

From the Ashes

In a small transport ship, still a good few thousand miles away from the nearest inhabitable planet, its crew consisting solely of around six or seven people, its single passenger sat in her quarters, staring up at the ceiling as she reflected on what awaited her at the end of her journey.

It hadn't been an easy trip to make by any means- her traditional discomfort when forced to spend too much time among the company of a single group of people was a long-standing habit that it was hard to overcome-, but, in general, she liked to think that she'd managed to ignore her old fears fairly well and concentrate on the mission at hand.

She was fine on ships when she had something to keep herself occupied in either body or mind; it was only when she had nothing to do that she found herself reliving her memories of all those travels on the generational ships to come to this system from Earth all those years ago. Trying to remain an active role in the ship's life without actually making her… unique condition… obvious to everybody, unable to form any lasting friendships without running the risk of her secret being exposed, forced to move from section to section as best she could without making it obvious to everyone on board that she wasn't normal…

It hadn't been easy.

She liked to think she'd made a better life for herself since those days- setting up a decent enough life for herself on an Outer Rim world, eventually rising to the position of a commanding officer on the side of the Browncoats during the War for Independence. It hadn't been easy to win the respect of her troops given her apparent age, of course- she'd had to resort to disguises on more than a few occasions when speaking in public to ensure she'd at least look like she deserved their respect-, but overall she liked to think that she'd won a few decent victories in the War before things had all come crashing down with the Battle of Serenity Valley.

Even after all this time, that loss still felt like a physical wound to her. She hadn't been involved in planning the battle, of course, but she still felt as though she could have convinced her superiors to divert more troops to that battle before it had become a lost cause.

If nothing else had motivated her to go on this mission, it was the desire to meet the man who'd held the line in Serenity Valley as long as he could, even when it had seemed nearly hopeless; indeed, even when it had been hopeless. She wouldn't tell him who she was, of course- she doubted Captain Malcolm Reynolds would be interested in talking to one of the commanders who'd been involved in the decision to abandon the valley, even if she'd been against it from the beginning-, but that didn't change the fact that she was looking forward to seeing what he was like. From what reports she'd heard of him, she'd gathered that he was a man of contradictions, simultaneously acting like a callous criminal, but nevertheless willing to stand by his principles, refusing to take on jobs like slave-trading regardless of how much the clients were willing to pay him to do them, and standing up for those who needed it even if it meant he lost out on a job.

He wasn't a perfect hero, but then again, in her entire life, she'd only really known one man who came even close to being considered a real hero, and he'd…

NO! she sharply berated herself, trying to halt that traitorous train of thought before it could go any further, even as she knew it would automatically result in her mind going to places that she really wished it wouldn't go.

It had been over five hundred years since that terrible day had happened, and she still remembered it as clearly as if it had been yesterday.

The day that the first man she'd loved- in many ways the only man she'd ever loved- had died a horrible death, locked in mortal combat with his most powerful, most ruthless adversary.

She could never be certain why it was that he, of all the lovers- hell, of all the husbands- she'd had over the centuries, remained clear in her head regardless of how short a time he'd had in her life, to say nothing of the fact that their relationship had never been what she wished it could have been.

She knew all the reasons why it had been doomed from the very beginning, of course; he'd been older than her, he'd lived hundred of miles away from where she'd lived, they had drastically different lives, and, of course…

As her ship advanced onwards through space towards its next destination, she sighed in frustration as she reached into her pocket and pulled out a worn but still clear photograph, featuring the two of them standing side-by-side after his triumphant return to them following the first time she'd thought he was dead.

No matter how many times she looked at the picture, she continually failed to find something in their appearances that would remind her that what she'd felt for him had been totally sick; even after so many years, it was still hard to think of the last detail about their relationship without wanting to scream and/or hit something.

She'd been his niece.

He'd never known she'd even existed prior to their fateful first meeting, just as she'd had no idea who he really was, but there it was; his brother was her father, and they'd found out about it too late to do anything about their feelings.

Sometimes, she wondered if things would have turned out differently if she'd met him knowing who he was and what his relationship to her had been; would she have been so focused on the 'Uncle' aspect of him that she would never have registered him as a person, or would it not have made any difference in the end? Would she still have fallen for him with knowledge of what he was from the beginning?

In the end, though, she always came back to the same conclusion; she would have felt the same way about him regardless. There was nothing about his appearance to suggest 'Uncle' to her- it had been remarked more than once, back when they'd spent time together, that they didn't look like they were related-, so she wouldn't have had any kind of constant reminder that he was her father's brother, she had no memories of him being there for her growing up, he had no memories of her as a baby…

No matter how she looked at it, she couldn't come up with a single reason why, if she'd been introduced to him knowing who he was, she wouldn't have ended up feeling the same way about him as she did now. Even if he'd told her that he was her uncle as soon as he could- the whole thing with him trying to save her from Sylar didn't exactly provide either of them with a good opportunity to introduce themselves at the time-, the fact remained that he'd come all that way, with all available information suggesting that he was going to die, just because he'd been told that he had to 'Save the Cheerleader'.

How could she not have fallen in love with something who'd risk so much for someone he'd never met? If it hadn't been for the fact that they'd had her father just outside the door- coupled with the fact that he'd been in jail and looking remarkably poorly for someone with access to her power, of course-, she'd have kissed him as soon as she'd been left alone in a room with him.

Even after the truth had been revealed, and she'd been left feeling like she was totally sick for even continuing to think about him in that sense, she'd still wanted nothing more than to pin him to a bed and do… things… to him that she'd only ever read about. The six months during which she'd initially believed him dead had been some of the hardest she'd ever experienced, the pain of those memories only relieved by the knowledge that he'd come back in the end.

He'd taken a while to return to normal from the trauma of his last fight- his total lack of memory had been one of the main problems they'd needed to overcome, but it had been far from the only one-, but eventually he'd been the same as he'd been before.

After they'd found him in Ireland and his memory had started to come back following that terrible night in Kirby Plaza, the two of them had grown increasingly close, sharing with each other things that they'd never really had the courage or desire to share with anyone else before. He'd told her all about his ever-strained relationship with the rest of his family, his own fears about his powers, his time under Claude's tutelage; she'd told him all about the 'incident' with Brody Mitchum and the autopsy table, her 'suicide attempts' as she tested what she was capable of, her almost-romance with West…

Indeed, about the only thing they'd never talked about was the fact that they were related. It wasn't a case of 'If we don't talk about it, it isn't real'; they both acknowledged that the relationship was there…

They just didn't talk about it.

She'd shared everything else with him, but she just couldn't dare to talk about that with him, and he'd never brought it up himself. It had almost been an unspoken agreement with them; don't talk about what they couldn't have and why they couldn't do it, and focus on what they did have.

Then she'd lost him again, and this time, even after waiting for the rest of the natural lives of almost all their friends, he still hadn't come back.

Every last detail of that terrible day was forever etched in her mind, as well as all the events that had led up to it after their tearful reunion.

Then he'd… died (Or whatever had happened to him; even now she still wasn't very certain about what had happened back then)… in a desperate attempt to save her life, their old enemy coming back determined to claim the lives of the only people who'd ever effectively managed to stop him, and she'd lost even that little relationship with him in a single brilliant flash.

It had happened in moments, but even now, she could still see every last second of the day when any hopes and dreams she might have harboured about him had ended so abruptly, with his last heroic action in the defence of her and all their friends and colleagues.

From the moment he'd saved her life, all she'd ever wanted was to be with him, and even now, centuries later, she still treasured the brief time she'd had with him, even if it wasn't what she'd wanted.

"Colonel Parkman?" a voice said from outside her door. Glancing up, she saw the familiar form of the ship's captain, an ex-Browncoat who'd only introduced himself to her as 'Micah'- the name prompting a brief smile from her as she remembered the young boy who'd been more like a little brother to her than her biological and adopted brother back when she'd been young-, standing uncertainly at the door to her room.

"Yes?" she asked, putting the picture back into her coat pocket as she turned around, hoping that he wouldn't ask about it.

"We're coming up on Beaumont now; we'll be setting down in a few minutes," Micah replied, as he looked uncertainly at her. "You're sure you want to do this? I respect Captain Reynolds' reputation as much as any Independent, but the fact remains that he is… well…"

"A bit of a rogue element?" she smiled back at him, standing up and stretching slightly as she looked at the man before her. "Your concern's appreciated, Micah, but trust me; he's the man I want for this job. I don't want somebody who'll just do what I tell him because of my rep; I want somebody who'll let me come along, who'll voice his own opinions on what he thinks of my plan, and who's proven himself in a fight situation on more than one occasion where it really counted. If he's willing to help me out, I'll be waiting for him; if he can't…"

She shrugged. "Well, I'll cross that bridge when I come to it."

With that said, the seemingly young woman stood up, picked up her bag, and walked out of her cabin, heading for the main door that would soon open up to allow her to walk on to Beaumont once again.

If all went well, in a matter of days, she'd be on Serenity and heading off on her next mission.

Who knows? she mused to herself as she walked, her small bag with her few long-term personal possessions carried at her side. Maybe it'll give me something else to think about other than… than…

She stopped herself right there; she was not going to finish that sentence.

If she finished it, she'd just end up naming him, she'd feel depressed all over again for a not-insignificant amount of time, and in the end nothing would have actually been gained from the whole experience…

But, even with all that in mind, she was still powerless to stop herself remembering the name of the young man who'd crossed an entire country- back when such a feat had been as far as you could go, rather than travelling from planet to planet like you were capable of these days- for no other reason than to save a girl he'd never even met, based on nothing more than a hunch, when all available information seemed to confirm that he was going to die as a result.

Peter Petrelli

As she strode towards the cargo hold, the woman once known as Claire Bennet couldn't stop the tears trickling down her face.

He may have been her uncle, but for her, that was merely a biological joke played by a cruel twist of fate.

For her, Peter would always be the man she'd loved above all else, her hero second, and her uncle third.

That may not be right, but it was the way it was, and she couldn't change it any more than she could change the nature of her power.