TITLE: A World Without Hope


A/N: It's strange what people decide to PM you about…I understand that some people don't like Rayne, or disagree with Post-BDM fics where Book and Wash had been miraculously kept alive. But isn't that sort of the point of fanfic? To let us play in pre-created worlds, walk down one well laid out path we all know and take little offshoots into our own playgrounds with the characters we love?

Ah well, this came about as a little response to that sort of thing. I'm going to give all those people what they crave most in the 'verse – I'm going to give them a world without fanfic.

River watched.

She watched as her brother and Kaylee tried to forge a life for themselves, to carve out an existence as a couple. And she watched them fail, again and again. Kaylee couldn't find light in a world where her family had been taken from her, so the light she had inside began to fade under the pressure. That light had illuminated Kaylee for 23 years, now there was nothing. Simon was still forced to struggle to heal his broken sister, the purging of Miranda's dark secret still failing to replace destroyed portions of a young brain. The constant struggle to help River, even whilst knowing in his heart there was nothing that could be done, was enough to lead the doctor and mechanic down separate paths. Now they both existed, and barely that.

She watched the Captain and the Companion execute the same dance as they had a million times before, step forward, step back, parry, thrust. Again and again, until one day the banter and snark became malicious and defensive. Until one day Inara left, unable to stay on a boat that had managed to throw the water of reality on a little spark of love one too many times, eventually leaving nothing but cold. Without her the Captain stopped seeing what little beauty the 'verse still held, and what the Valley of Serenity had failed to destroy, the exit of Inara had killed.

She watched Jayne struggle with the unwanted sense of obligation that had been created as a result of Miranda, watched as the chains of responsibility began to chafe his roughened skin. When he left nobody was surprised, all too aware that whilst Miranda may have created an initial sense of loyalty, survival of hell was not enough to keep him leashed to this dark place. She knew he would find his solace in women, whisky and weapons. She knew a combination of the last two, coupled with a fight over the first one, would be his undoing.

She watched the warrior woman prepare to lay down her sword, watched the bereaved wife struggle to continue down the dark and lonely path she was now walking. For a while she looked like she may be healing, but the day of the miscarriage had ended that notion. She watched her crewmate's attempt to console and comfort, to give warmth they truly didn't have to give. She watched Zoe's eyes change from calm and stoic to dead and hollow, each passing day giving a little less of herself, until the shell was all that was left.

She watched herself in the mirror sometimes, studying the blank and lost eyes that stared back out at her, wondering when her soul had slipped away with her sanity. She watched the fear creep into her crewmate's eyes as they began to realize what they had on board. An unstable girl who could kill every person on the ship before she snapped out of whatever moment of madness gripped her. She watched her almost extinct snippets of reality float away into nothingness, the weight of her knowledge, the dense and heavy burden of her Sight forbidding any advancement.

River watched as their world slowly but surely crumbled away, aware that one day it would simply disappear entirely, one day the urge to survive would pale, providing no drive. She knew the day would come when the suffering, the pain, the misery would prove too much, when one by one they would begin to fade into the darkness like whispers on the wind.

And River, the tiny sliver of her who could still form coherent thoughts, wondered what it would be like if there existed a way to believe in something other than loneliness, in madness, in hopelessness. A place where they could see what life at its very best and shiniest could have been like. A place of happy families, sweeping romances, of laughter and comfort and joy.

As soon as it had come the thought passed, fading into the darkness.