Characters/Relationships: Willow Rosenberg/Inara Serra
Summary: Being practically immortal isn't all that it's cracked up to be.
Word count: 709
Notes: Written for femslash_minis, for brutti_ma_buoni, who wanted the pairing, into the black, greenery, and incense. Sorry this is late.
After a moment of indecision, Willow pulled a pink daisy print T-shirt over her head. Boredom was the second worst part of being practically immortal. There were some things (like the ritual she was about to perform) that couldn’t change, but clothing and hair were harmless variations. Maybe tomorrow she’d wear long flowing silk robes, or that hoodie with cat ears that always made Inara laugh.
She pushed away distracting thoughts as she walked out to the clearing. Inara was already there, lighting the incense sticks.
Willow sat cross-legged in the center of the stones and made her usual inventory of her surroundings. A cold breeze was brushing against her skin, carrying the honey-sweet scent of wisteria. The fountain with all the insipid cherub figurines was gurgling softly. She took three deep breaths, and stretched tendrils of magic into the ground, touching every molecule until she found a seed about fifteen feet away. Her magic coaxed the natural processes into speeding up, and a tiny maple sapling sprang up. Pulling up a bit of greenery had started as a self-soothing exercise back on Earth-That-Was. Later, she’d realized that the ritual was a two-fer: it helped to release excess magic and it kept her connected to her surroundings. That had pleased her; she’d always been a fan of efficiency.
But now, five hundred-something years later, this ritual was just another maintenance task she’d completed tens of thousands of times, about as thrilling as brushing her teeth. She’d have to repeat it every day, with no end in sight until the world ended, or the last in the Slayer line was called, whichever came first.
Inara pinched the tip of the incense, and then yelped in pain. She knelt on the ground, staring at her hand.
Willow jumped up and dumped the incense sticks in the fountain. She crouched down by Inara and lightly touched her shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
Willow rolled her eyes at that. As if Inara would risk grass stains on her favorite silk gown if everything were ok. She grabbed Inara’s hand. There were small burns on the index finger and thumb. “Do you want me to fix that? Or should we have Simon take a look?”
Inara made a face like she’d swallowed some spoiled sake. “Fine. You do it.”
One small flare of magic, and Inara’s fingers were good as new. If only she could heal neurological diseases so easily.
Inara’s thoughts might have been going down those tracks, too. She buried her face in her hands and started to sob.
Willow wrapped her arms around her, and tried to think of the right words to say. Inara would eviscerate platitudes or outright lies.
Inara shuddered, and wiped away her tears. Her jaw was set in such a way that Willow suspected that she was clenching her teeth. In a ragged voice, she muttered, “I had the nimblest fingers in my class at the Academy. Now this stupid tremor is taking that away. I’m old enough to accept my condition with grace--but I just fell apart the first time my hands couldn’t do what I wanted them to.”
Willow kissed her forehead. “I used to think that getting older would make me serene and accepting. But it turns out I’m never too old to chafe at the workings of the ‘verse.”
“How utterly depressing.” Despite the words, Inara’s voice had taken on that controlled, just-this-short-of-haughty tone that Willow loved.
“On the brighter side, Simon’s working hard on this, and he’s got an extra dose of motivation.”
Inara gave a small smile at that. “Right. Someone’s got to keep Kaylee out of trouble.”
“Plus, River. Don’t forget River.”
“Don’t be absurd.” The corners of Inara’s mouth twitched slightly upwards. “The entire Alliance fleet couldn’t manage that, let alone one person.”
Willow smiled back and sternly told herself to think about only the present and the near-future.
Simon might find a miracle cure that would add decades to Inara’s life. But even if that happened, it would still feel like a blink of an eye before Inara followed all of Willow’s previous lovers into the black.
That was the worst part about being practically immortal. The trick to staying cheerful was not looking too far ahead.