02 - Mirrorheart

32 – First Dance

Most people were woefully unaware of how many minds they had real estate in.

Most people understood that parts of them lived in the hearts of their families, friends and partners. They would know that co-workers and acquaintances thought of them but probably didn’t think of it much further than that.

Celebrities and public figures of note had to recognise their presence in the minds of people they would never meet.

But the same was true for every person who didn’t live strictly as a lonely hermit in the deep forest.

To a dozen dozen people, you were nothing more than a flash of clothing that got in their way as they ran to catch a train.

To a hundred, you were someone they’d seen scratching their ass in public.

To a thousand, you were a smiling face they still thought of sometimes – a love lived and died in an instant.

Stef was more than aware that she existed so far beyond the people she’d ever meet – for worse, as the “better” part of “better or worse” didn’t really exist in this equation.

For worse, she was a tabloid article. A vapid, royal-fucker obviously after fame, titles or both.

The memories of Leonardo – of the one-night Snake to her Otacon, settled in her mind as curls of green joined her world.

A prince. He’d been on campus to see his girlfriend, and after a bad break-up – and the subsequent “open season” that had been declared by the single girls of her school – he’d gone running.

He’d found the open door to her private dorm room – and after a moment of stammered apology and explanation, she’d invited him to stay.

And they’d done nothing more or less than play Metal Gear, but the tabloids had been able to spin it into so much more.

Sometime deep into the night, before the paparazzi had ruined things, he’d made an offer: to become his princess and his beard. In exchange for some chaste public affection and an heir, she could sit in a mansion all day and play games on the best rig that the royal purse could buy.

She’d declined the offer but offered him friendship, which he’d gladly accepted.

And they’d stayed friends. She was one of few people privy to the drama he had managing trying to find a suitable princess that would accept her role in a marriage without romantic love.

And on occasion, a photo or two of them at a cafe had helped to keep his private life private.

In return, she’d only asked for one thing – to go to a dance, and for one night, pretend she was someone else, that she was just a girl approaching the end of her school life and not some outcast freak.

And for one night, in between discussing bits of lore, she’d had her princess moment and seen into a world where she was normal.

Midnight had come, the spell had broken, and it was the last time – at least according to the memories that had slotted into place – that she’d seen Snake.

His boyfriend’s cousin had agreed to become his princess, and their weird little friendship had run its course. He had a kingdom to look after, and she had… whatever came after school.

It wasn’t a sad ending, and she had a royal heirloom to remember the dance.

With a thought – and the more things she pulled into existence, the easier it was to do – a green-tinted replica of the necklace slipped onto her neck.


The green in the sky proved that her theory had been into something. Three more memories until the end.

Violet surely had to be the memory of how she ended up in this place. Her death, her birth, the end of the universe – whatever had taken her from an everyday life to one that existed in this empty, beautiful bubble.

Whatever the stages of grief were, whatever the stages of awakening as an amnesiac in a land of magic swirls were, she’d gone through them all.

Fear, denial, acceptance. All done. All dealt with.

Days, minutes, eons, whatever the time scale in this place was…the time that passed here was so banal if you excluded the extraordinary factors – that it became impossible to be afraid.

She’d well and truly grown used to sleeping and waking without cause. The whispers that had been loud in the beginning were less than background noise now. She had her body back, and a thought could summon a sandwich from the fabric of the universe.

Fear had gone, and that felt right.

Acceptance…as much as she could argue with herself, she knew she wasn’t there yet. She knew she had very little power – drawing together a conspiracy board couldn’t compare with the power, person or intent that had locked her in the bubble.

Her fate probably wasn’t up to her, as much as that would disappoint Sarah Connor. She had no agency to make her own choices – at least not yet.

When the last colour slid into place at the end of ROYGBIV and the world breathed in true colour… it was probably death that waited for her.

This, after all, could be the weirdly drawn out truth behind the saying that your life flashed before your eyes.

And… that would be okay.

Dying wasn’t great, but until B, I or V could change her mind, there seemed to be very little worth fighting for.

The memories were full of loneliness and-

And there was the flower pinned to the conspiracy board.

Someone loved her enough to try and break through into this place and give her a message.

Something had happened after green, after a life of little love and little happiness.

Memories worth fighting for were waiting on the other side of the rainbow.

And maybe acceptance wouldn’t be good enough.

Maybe she’d have a reason to fight.

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I like this. And I’m definitely past where I’d read before.

I know you're thinking something, Recruit...x