Constants by Rhi
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Author's Notes:
Disclaimers: Not mine. Rysher: Panzer/Davis claims the one, and Joss Whedon created the world she here inhabits. No monies made, no infringement intended.
Rated: PG, maybe. This one's meant for adults.
Written for: Killa, (late) for her birthday, and for Ali, in grateful thanks for the holiday cheer.

Her name has always been Amanda, and no Companion would ever betray her.

She is always beautiful, even woken in the middle of the night, always graceful, even burdened with a Companion-Initiate who's fainted from too little food or too sharp a shock, and always dangerous, whether armed with her sword or her wits. She is everything they wish to be, everything they aspire to be... and at least one thing they will never be: immortal.

It's not something discussed outside the chapterhouses; it's rarely mentioned even there. Amanda -- always Amanda; she only smiles lightly and says she's used so many names and none but Amanda was hers, and the subject drifts easily away to other things -- entered the first Companion school on Earth-That-Was in answer to a subtly disseminated query about a mistress of arms, one who could teach the Companions-to-be how to use sword, and knife, and bow. Weapons suited to the highest courts, the most elite leisure pursuits... and the smallest spaces inside ceremonial cheongsams, elaborate hairstyles, and formal ball gowns. Amanda has come and gone from the chapterhouses ever since.

She's the one teacher with whom every Companion trains, and not only for skill at arms. She teaches the Companions sword and knife, lock and pick, question and evasion. She teaches other things, too: How to smile and smile and miss nothing; how to distinguish between a client who's ignoring one and a client who's only pretending not to notice; how not to get caught, and what to do if one is. How to run, and when to run, and why it's best to walk if one must run in public. Why killing is sometimes the only choice, but the ability to hide the body is a necessary ancillary skill.

She teaches them how to stay human behind carefully-crafted facades, how to staunch wounds that must never bleed visibly, how to eat words, and rage, and despair. How to laugh amongst themselves, and to cry on each other... and turn a calm, skillfully arranged face to the world afterwards. Usually, she teaches by example.

And sometimes -- not often, but sometimes -- over the smoky tea she so loves and the smallest of chocolates laced with a wickedly deceptive whisky, Amanda will tell stories of Earth-That-Was. Of cities she loved and art now long gone, of men and women she knew (never the famous, always the outrageous) and deeds they did or recorded, of music and styles and names now foreign. Of Rebecca, who taught her everything she knew, and Darius, who taught her gradations of grey. Of Fitz, who made her laugh (and every other woman, she insists, smiling), and Duncan, who made her smile (and still does). Of Adam, who exasperated her, and Marcus, who never hesitated to yell, and Gina, who should have been competition but was always a friend and whose description is circulated among every chapterhouse in case she should ever need a place to stay and women to teach.

Amanda never says they're also immortal, but she doesn't have to. Her listeners are Companions and Companion-Initiates. They know how to listen, how to hear the nuances and the volumes between words, how to infer the pattern from the lines. They know that Amanda is always young, always beautiful, always sleek, graceful and deadly as her blade, and they have learned the tone of name that indicates a friend who's also immortal and equally unchanging... if the Alliance hasn't found them, or the outer worlds destroyed them.

They also know no woman learns such skills without reason, and that no one hones a blade daily who doesn't expect to need it.

They are Companions who know how to kill, thanks to her, and how to live, thanks to her, and how to endure when they'd rather die, and how to die if they must *not* live... all thanks to her. They never speak her name outside the chapterhouses, even amongst themselves. They never speak of where they learnt such skill with a blade, or such timing with explosives, or the fine art of knowing silence.

In the old tongues of Earth-That-Was, 'Amanda' means 'worthy of love,' 'beloved,' even 'she who must be loved.' If there is one thing every Companion knows to the precise price and the finest shade of its honed double-edge, it's the value of love, and of themselves, and of their traditions and teachers.

Her name has always been Amanda, and no Companion would ever betray her.

~ ~ ~ finis ~ ~ ~

Comments, Commentary, & Miscellanea:

This one sprang, almost fully formed, from my mind and I don't quite know why, other than an idle musing on 'So where did Inara learn sword and bow?' Somehow, it turned into an Amanda story. I always thought I'd write Book if I wrote any Firefly fic. What a pleasant surprise to be wrong.