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Inside Out

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  • Inside Out

    Rating: PG

    Characters: Fred & Illyria, primarily

    Disclaimer: All characters in this story are the property of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. Though there are references to many different works of fiction, the direct story quotes are all works of Edgar Allan Poe.

    "Shall this Conqueror be not once conquered? Are we not part and parcel in Thee? Who -- who knoweth the mysteries of the will with its vigor? Man doth not yield him to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble will."

    ...and it's not cyanosis, she knows better now, her hands and her legs and her face are numb, they're all numb and turning blue and it ought to be cyanosis the lack of oxygen but it's something else. And she was sure Wesley was right there but she can't feel him now, she can't see him, only the twisting in front of her eyes, a gateway flickering with fire. "I'm not scared. I'm not scared. I'm not scared." He's disappeared and Feigenbaum is going too, she sees him swirling down the portal like a drain out of the world, he's late, he's late, they're all just a little late the late Winifred Burkle "Please, Wesley, why can't I stay?" because the vortex has her now, down, down, down till she hits the singularity behind it and everything comes to an

    n-dimensional hyperspace
    spread out before her
    that is memory and event in one
    but not now, her memory is only memory all gone now
    not that it was ever like this
    whose memory was ever like this

    "The rays of the moon seemed to search the very bottom of the profound gulf ; but still I could make out nothing distinctly, on account of a thick mist in which everything there was enveloped, and over which there hung a magnificent rainbow, like that narrow and tottering bridge which Mussulmen say is the only pathway between Time and Eternity."
    --A Descent into the Maelstrom

    she coalesces out of folding space and energy tentacles outspread to feel the infall of solar neutrinos raining on her back, so very wet and pleasant here in the light and the dark and beneath her is a great blue-grey-brown ball on which tiny flickers of life sparkle and flow and stink of burning oxygen. She is not alone, no, never alone, the shapes around her (a serpent devouring its tail a ball of ropy tendrils a searing light and many more) and she lashes out, hers, hers, her arm comes searing down across the faces of a three-headed thing (a ram a hart a wolf though no such things exist, no not yet). Because this world the world all the worlds are hers, she wants it, precious, and this is the beginning of the war right here at her birth...

    toppling out of the portal into green, an explosion of green and her insides are back in her insides where they belong, she can smell the green again finally and it's a forest. Or is it a stage set the hunters around her are green too, with red horns and leather clothes and one of them barks out a startled order. "Grab the cow!" She feels rough hands close around her throat and shoulders, lifting, and "If the drokken gets away, cow, you'll be the meat tonight, you hear me?" What's a drokken and clearly these are aliens why are they speaking English?

    She leans back on her basalt throne grinning through all her mouths and watches as the captives go marching past, the spawn of Lurconis and Olvikan who dared stand against her (but you stood against them too didn't you yes but I won what else matters) and she stretches out an arm toward the victory parade wraps a tentacle around a tasty-looking morsel draws it up through her waiting teeth so tasty the salt and the acid tang and the green blood that keeps its limbs growing back until finally she bites down on a hard bit and it's gone...

    A spray of blood and Jasmine makes a startled cry as the bullet rips through her and thuds into Angel it's too bad, she was happy but it was all a lie and now they're gonna tear her apart but Angel's stronger and they can't kill him nearly so easily it was nice not being herself until suddenly she was herself again and all at once she's been in hell because she wasn't even her she wasn't really there (where were you then what were you but yourself no idea but not me) what does it mean to not exist?

    "Leave" says the ball of tentacles and "Never" she snarls back because this is home, this is her place where she was born it belongs to her not to the crawling vermin with their spears and their parched skin and their vile red blood. "Leave or die," says the tentacled thing (Jasmine this is Jasmine? there is no Jasmine you gave her that name but) "The war ends now. Make room, make way for the new." "We shall not go, we shall not vacate our home for your words' sake. You cannot exile us," and she lunges fangs bared.... You do not belong here this is not your memory you do not exist says the being whose faceted eyes Fred is looking through.

    No that's impossible. I'm human. I have a soul and all I did was die.

    I consumed it to restore myself. I have returned home at last and you are nothing. You do not exist! Its face is hers/not hers/stolen and it brings hands up to shove her out of the memory into

    the slave collar and the scaly green thing presses the button sending needles of pain through her head searing is there nothing in this life but pain? She clutches hands to her head and screams, this is not her life, she is not here somewhere behind Fred's eyes....

    AGATHOS. Ah, not in knowledge is happiness, but in the acquisition of knowledge! In for ever knowing, we are for ever blessed; but to know all were the curse of a fiend.

    OINOS. But does not The Most High know all?

    AGATHOS. That (since he is The Most Happy) must be still the one thing unknown even to Him.
    --The Power of Words

    "So you've come to that point," says Angel.

    "What point?" she asks. "I'm sorry, I'm not exactly terribly coherent at the moment. I don't even really know what's happening to me."

    "Well, that's obvious," says Angelus. "Your soul's gone. You aren't coherent because you can't cohere. There's nothing inside your memories to hold them together. Nohow."

    "You should talk," she tells him. He doesn't have...

    "I know what you're thinking," says Angel, "but t'ain't so, contrariwise."

    "I've got a demon in its place," says Angelus. "It's a different spirit, but it's a spirit. Ergo, I have an ego. QED."

    Which of them is which, really? They keep changing places and neither of them seems all that vicious at the moment. Her head seems to be everywhere at once and she can't hold a complete thought in it. "Matter of something. Souls exist. They can't just not exist."

    Angel sighs and holds out an apple. "Look. Conservation of mass/energy, right? This apple can't just turn to nothing, I agree."

    Angelus takes the apple and gobbles it down, core and all, chewing and chewing and chewing. "But once you've eaten it," he says with mouth full, "it's not an apple any more. It's something else."

    "So what is it, then? What's a soul made of anyway?"

    "You're asking the wrong questions," says Angel.

    "What's the right question?" If she's not here, how is she asking anything at all?

    "Those are two very good ones," says Angelus. "Though I was thinking of, 'What am I now?' But it all comes out to that in the end." He points at a tree some distance off. "That's where the Blue King was sleeping. You woke him. Very bad move."

    "There's no Blue King in chess," Fred says distractedly. "It's either red or black. Unless it's white, anyway."

    Angel shakes his head. "This isn't chess. Very different game. Contrariwise. This is 'Winifred Burkle'. Much more interesting."

    "Anyway," Angelus says, "he was dreaming of you. Illyria fhtagn. But you woke him, so you went out, bang! Like a candle." He hands her a vial of red liquid, labeled "Eat Me". "You should take this. It's good for what ails you."

    "I wouldn't do that," says Angel.

    "She can't hardly get no smaller," Angelus says. "But it's up to her, nohow."

    "I would have said she ought to stop grinning," Angel suggests with a shrug, "before there's nothing else left."

    "But this is only the first layer," she insists. "I go a lot deeper than this."

    Angelus' smile widens, teeth and teeth and more teeth. "Don't we all?"

    I laughed with a long and bitter laugh as I found no traces of the first in the charnel where I laid the second -- Morella.

    "Countin' on it," she says.

    "Did you get what you needed from that experience?" Wesley asks scornfully as they leave.

    It was better than nothing, Wesley, she tries to answer, but her face is no longer her own and it doesn't say what she wants. She let me out for a little while.

    But no more, says the other. He does not wish to see you again. Nor do I. Trailing her through the catacombs, all the bones along the walls. Just bones. Everything else has washed away.

    Was it so bad? she asks. Having someone who looked at you like a person? Someone who cared?

    I have known the adoration of billions. I need nothing from your parents. Or from Wesley. The other brandishes a trowel. You do not exist. You are an illusion, a spark among many others.

    Go on telling yourself that, Fred says impatiently. The other begins to build a wall between them, stone on stone. I'm in you. I'm inside you now. You did it yourself.

    You are not inside me, the other insists. You are a shell, and only I remain within. The wall rises higher as she slaps on mortar. I will not permit you to emerge again.

    You're contradicting yourself. Only the other's face remains visible, and then she is bending to lift the final stone. Don't do this.

    For the love of God, Montressor. The last stone slides into place. I do only what I must.

    O God! can I not grasp
    Them with a tighter clasp?
    O God! can I not save
    One from the pitiless wave?
    Is all that we see or seem
    But a dream within a dream?
    --A Dream Within A Dream

    The battle is over, the witch melted, and they file into the throne room before her, expecting her to fix them. How can she? She can't even fix herself. Or Wesley. Or Gunn. Her world is gone.

    "Watch out," says Harmony, pulling Connor to the left before he can step on a spider. He glares at her, and she withers. "I'm sorry," she says. "I have to be careful, you know. I don't think of these things the way other people do." She looks up at the throne. "I really need a soul."

    Angel pulls Connor away from her. "I noticed that. Stay away from him." Connor shrugs uncomfortably and stands there next to his father, who puts an arm around his shoulder. "I'm always losing mine," he sighs. "I don't suppose you could make me a real boy?"

    Spike slouches against the wall looking unimpressed. "Right, yeah. Human. Souls." He sneers and pulls out a cigarette, but of course it won't light. She doesn't want it to. "'Course not," he mutters, glancing at Angel and his son. "Me, I could do with a girl who thinks I'm worth staying with."

    The last of them flickers her gaze toward Spike momentarily, then steps forward, away from his side. She stands there before the basalt throne, hesitating.

    "I suppose you want to go home?"

    "I have been there," she says. "It was not what I wanted after all." She studies her palm, thinking. "I am a humbug," Illyria says at last.

    A roar builds slowly in the vast emptiness of the throne room; the great sapphire windows explode inward first, swirling the glass and the coating of dust and all the chairs as the cyclone picks them up, the great Texas twister tearing the palace apart but it wasn't much of a palace any more at all was it...

    There was a mad disorder in my thoughts -- a tumult unappeasable. Could it, indeed, be the living Rowena who confronted me? Could it indeed be Rowena at all -- the fair-haired, the blue-eyed Lady Rowena Trevanion of Tremaine? Why, why should I doubt it?...And now slowly opened the eyes of the figure which stood before me. "Here then, at least," I shrieked aloud, "can I never -- can I never be mistaken -- these are the full, and the black, and the wild eyes -- of my lost love -- of the lady -- of the LADY LIGEIA."

    The light is too bright. She closes her eyes against it, knowing that it will simply shine redly through the lids. Only it doesn't. She has shut it out. She opens them again.

    She's slumped against the wall of the alley facing Spike, who crouches in front of her looking concerned. Demon corpses are scattered all about. There's a special plural for that in Klingon, "scattered all about". Pull yourself together. Her hands are pink and shaking. Pull yourself together. They stop. Sunlight is shining dimly through the grimy smoke that roils through the sky, curling up from the dead dragon lying at the alley's end....

    Harmony steps up behind Spike. People are milling around behind her...Anne, Gwen, Kate Lockley, Bethany...faces they've saved. Faces that have saved them. Kate bends over Gunn, who is lying very still. "Hang on," she says. Doesn't she know he's dead? The paramedics pick him up, transfusion bags lying next to him on the stretcher. "We'll get you patched up," Kate finishes.

    "Fred?" Harmony asks, sounding worried. "Is that you?"

    "Fred's gone," Spike tells her roughly. "Just looks like her. 'Lyria? You with us?"

    "Yes," she says, looking at Harmony. And again, to Spike. "Yes." Spike frowns at her, and she laughs softly at his confusion. "I lived seven lives at once, half-breed. What makes you think I can't manage two?" Layer after layer after layer...where does it end, really? She sits up and gives him a hug. "Look deeper."
    Last edited by Mabus; 16-09-07, 12:44 PM. Reason: Lost some formatting...
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