Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. No copyright infringement is intended and I make no money from this story. Kripke owns John Winchester and Whedon owns Illyria.Prologue
He is strong - for a human.
He still bruises and cuts and bleeds…as they all do. His blood is just as red and salty, his skin so easily torn – but he has an intensity that is rarely seen down here in the regions born of agony and torment.
Even when they strip the flesh from his bones with strands of razor wire, still
he tries to fight – fists clenched and teeth bared, like a cornered animal.
But his eyes are sharp, calculating – he is a trapped creature seeking a tactical advantage, a way to use what he has on hand to escape, to cause as much pain in return as he can before falling, and fall he will….
knows that much.
Scenarios and procedures flash behind his shuttered gaze, keep him distracted from the hurt as he works his way through what plans he has concocted, trying to determine a way out, a way to be free - if only for a moment.
At least, that is what he is like in the beginning.
His agony is delicious to those who dwell here. Few have tasted such a vintage – flavored with the sweetness of love and regret, as well as the tartness of guilt and jealousy. He is an intriguing well of despair and ineffective rage – it is compelling to see the subtle shift in his stance that indicates how he plans to face the day’s onslaught.
On the edges of sight, hidden in the darkest shadows, creatures feed on his misery; they grow fat and sated as he attempts to silently withstand their ministrations. Others lap tiny reptile tongues at the gathering pools of pain and blood, shreds of his discarded human flesh caught in their claws and teeth.
It takes so very long
to break him. Waiting with the growing hordes of spectators, it is difficult for some to ensure a front row seat. Word of the encroaching breach brings even the lowest denizens up for a breath of the chamber’s fetid air.
It is mesmerizing when it happens – to see the embers of hope dying in the depths of his eyes. His body goes slack as the life
leaves him – not the physical thing of pounding heart and beating pulse, but that which defines mortals by their pure will to merely exist
- such a magnificent, broken
He wears his suffering like the fabled crown of thorns, shoulders held back and spine stiff – for he will not bow to anything - but head hanging low, as if the weight of his remorse is too much for even him to bear.
When he looks at me through his haze of pain and anguish, he does not see the sweet human girl he loves. He does not see the Demon-God tainted and brought low by her useless husk.
That is something new.
It is a relief from the burden of being Illyria the Old One…of being Illyria the shell.
Of not being her
He is burdened just the same. Nearly every night for those first few months, into the gathering shadows as the flames die down and he is left to bleed out slowly, he names it – the sound sinking into the blood pooled at his feet as his skin goes slack and gray.
His burden is blonde and beautiful and perfect – that is what his endless rhythmic murmuring reveals. Its name is Mary.
A woman burdens us both.
The shell’s polluting essence is my burden. Existence without its weight is impossible. It is the cost of resurrection.
His lies somewhere inside, coiling around his heart like a strangling weed intent on killing its host – a parasitical construct of emotion and memory – a useless human constraint.
They tear out his heart looking for signs of it, yelping like eager dogs as the blood spurts from his chest, and lap noisily at the splatters that spray across their faces. They shred that small sac of muscle until there is nothing - less than a handful of bloody paste that spreads so thinly over the stone table. Ordering them to go deeper, to pull out more does nothing to reveal it – it remains ever elusive as the blood soaks into the cracks of my armor, his innards tenaciously tangling into useless heaps upon the floor.
Showing him its absence does not help, his eyes gone empty and dull; he is lost somewhere inside, following the slimy, incandescent trails of his own memory, too far gone to transmit the images of that barren cavity devoid of any affliction – of the proof he has nothing left to carry. Proof that it is time to let go.
He proves stubbornly resistant to any attempts to guide his learning.
His burden lies entrenched where no one can reach, while mine is literally only skin deep.
How many decades of ripping him apart will it take to find where it might be hidden? How many centuries to show him there is nothing there at all?
How many millennia until he understands
Watching, waiting…curious to see when it might happen – such a puzzle, this mortal – that is when Lucifer’s call comes. It is difficult to leave, wondering if this
might be the day.
And it is – for us both
. Author's Note: Thanks to my betas hakirby and tigriswolf. I know this is written in first person, which I hate to do, but I tried my best to keep the "I"s to a minimum. Technically, this takes place before a.k.a., Just Another Way to Say I Love You, but I would recommend reading JAWtSILY to understand what is going on.