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The City Rises

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She starts at the ground, moving up with her eyes: wet earth, grainy and soft, pressed between her toes; the spray of green ferns around her ankles, tickling; her light cotton skirt brushing her knees; her fingertips reaching out towards the dragonfly fluttering past her, catching it in her palm, closing her fingers around it. River feels the insect's wings frantically beating inside her hand, smiles and raises her eyes.

Kaylee is watching her, the dark metallic grey of the city in the distance a stark backdrop to the deep red of her shirt, the brown coveralls rolled at the hips, her brilliant smile.

"They sent you to baby-sit me." It is not a question, but River's tone is soft.

"They don't mean nothing by it," Kaylee responds, moving towards River with her hand outstretched, beckoning.

River lifts her hand, opens it, and the dragonfly quivers on her palm for a moment before its wings whir to life and it flies toward the city.

Kaylee watches its course, turning her head to follow its translucent flight, and River takes that moment to break away at a run.

She hears Kaylee calling after her, laughter warring with concern in her voice, hears the engineer's feet beating against the ground as she gives chase.

River runs toward the city; the buildings seem to rush at her, growing larger with each step like fairytale monsters rising from the verdant plain.

She stops abruptly, and Kaylee, not far behind, crashes into her. They tumble to the ground, and lie panting amidst the ferns. Kaylee's breathless laughter bubbles up from her throat, ringing in River's ears as the dew seeps rapidly through her clothes and dampens her skin.

Another dragonfly mistakes Kaylee for part of the scenery, landing on her nose. River turns her head to watch as Kaylee holds her breath, eyes wide. Then she rolls toward her, one hand brushing Kaylee's shoulder as the other sweeps over her hair to rest on the ground beside her head.

River leans over Kaylee's face and gently blows, her breath warm. The dragonfly takes off.

Kaylee stares at River for a long moment, faces inches apart, breaths shallow, and then River jumps up like a shot and runs towards the city again, laughter peeling out behind her and Kaylee close on her heels.