The Karma Downs
by CherryIce

Chapter Twelve

It was amazing how much the world could change and still stay exactly the same. It was something the same with identical twins. Once you learned to tell them apart, there was no way to confuse them, though they bore the same features.

Like Kyle and Eddie. They should have looked a great deal more alike than they did, but they wore their features differently.

Like Grace and Emma. Emma and the Queen.

Sam’s mind stuttered. Grace Emma. Emma Grace. Gracemma. He could feel the lines between them now, as the living room dipped and faded. It was Kyle’s living room and it was the ice plane and it was the astral plane, lines humming violet around him. Layers upon layers. The thin, tentative chords stretched between Gracemma and him, the Queen, thinner feelers leading off to the team. A twisted spider web, and they were all caught. The Queen sang insanity along each strand she touched.

Gracemma and the Queen, circling each other. He was trapped in the middle and he couldn’t move, their thoughts testing each other’s above his head as the web bound him still. The Queen and Gracemma

[Just Grace for now. Deal with that. Deal with Gracemma latter. Later. Survive now.]

so much the same, but so different. There was insanity in the Queen’s eyes and smile, cruelty in the flick of her fingers and the set of her face. A boneless, seductive languidity in her movements.

Grace, Grace was cold at times. And she was distant and sometimes vindictive, but the anger burning in her eyes was honest, and she wasn’t cruel. She was fiercely protective of the few people who managed to worm their way inside her defences, and so much of her distance was due to her distrust of herself.

Gracemma. Gracemma. Gracemma. It circled in his head. He needed it not to be true, even as he knew it was. He wanted to reach out to her but he couldn’t move, because the ice in the living room floor was sapping his will. “Grace,” he managed to croak.

Her eyes on him were bright and he could see them pulling back from him. Getting ready for when he lashed out, he thought. She was carefully distancing herself from him so that this wouldn’t hurt, and some part of him realized that she’d been trying to do it all along. That lack of something real in her eyes had been her attempt to protect herself from starting to care, because she *had*, he saw. She had started to care and that had scared her, and that cut him to the core.

“Emmmma,” corrected the Queen. “She’s Emmmma.”

And her eyes were gone again, distant and he could only read her conviction, her desperation in the swing of her hair and the coiled violence of her movement. “Grace,” he said again. Grace. Gracemma.

“What’s my phone number, Sam?” she asked, taking his call of Grace as a lack of belief instead of a plea, a need to know how this would all work out. “What’s my number?”

“It’s...” Only he couldn’t remember. He knew it, but he couldn’t remember. He’d called her plenty of times.

“You’ve called me. But what’s my phone number?” Her voice was bitter and foreboding, and some part of him realized that she was shoving it home like a slap in the face, trying to get him to disassociate. “Where do I live, Sam? What’s my last name?”

He knew these things, he knew them, only he didn’t, because he never had.

“What colour are my eyes?” she asked him, and there was something desperate in her voice because she was really asking him that one, she needed to know, only he didn’t know either. They were bright eyes. Bright and shining. They were blue-grey grey-green green-and-brown hazel and violet and they were nothing at all. “What colour are my eyes?”

He could only shake his head, because he didn’t know, had never known.

“What colour are my eyes?” she asked once more, voice low and broken and desperate, and then the screaming started. It swung between them, scampered along the lines of the web that bound him and her and the Queen and Bobby and Jean and Scott and Kyle and all the others. It was angry and searching and it followed easily on the trails left by the anger that had flowed between them for what Sam now saw was some time now.

It hit Grace like a fist and she rocked back on her heels. Her hair flew and stood out bright against the mixed reality they found themselves in. She closed her eyes and bowed her head, rocking slightly as she stood against the barrage of screaming. It was loud and it was voiceless and Sam thought it would shake his very bones apart.

Grace shook her bowed head, shook it hard and her head snapped up and her eyes blazed. Something shot between her and the Queen and the screaming cut off with a final, soul-rending wail.

The Queen smiled that beautiful, mad smile again and laughed, a sound that was worse in its delicacy than the screaming had been. “You think you can beat me. You think that you stand a chance.”

The world altered and shifted again, losing some of its cohesion, losing the carpet beneath their feet and the walls around them until it was the astral plane lain through the ice and white was black and black was white and the ice and the lines humming beneath their feet threatened of the abyss below.

[Poor Emma,] the Queen said, launching a psychic blow. [Poor, poor Emma. You need me. You’ve always needed me.]

[I only thought I did.] Grace deflected the blow to the distance.

Blue bolts flew, jagged like lightning. [You created me. You created me to deal with the things that you couldn’t, be the things you couldn’t be. I’m the only reason you’re alive now. You think you can survive without me?]

A swirling field absorbed the bolts, the colours equalising and becoming white as the blue was absorbed. [I’m learning to. I’m learning to be who I am, and who I need to be.]

[There’s not enough time between life and death for that. Me, you, all the others - We’re the same. We’re one. Without each other the pattern breaks down. White isn’t white.]

[I’m not like you. I’m never like you, because if I could have been, then I wouldn’t have needed you. And you don’t want me, except dead.]

Rage whirled between them again and Sam was caught in the middle. Images and thoughts dashed against each other like waves upon the shore, broken by the rocks and pieced back together by the whole.

::Eight years old. Know father. Know him. Have to be something he could approve of. Have to be something that can survive the world out there because the world is out to get you. Father says so, and the minds around her confirm it. No one cares. You can’t care. She has to be able to care, but she can’t let herself. Can’t be that person.

Can’t be.


Become. Two.

Two now.::

::Know the insanity around them. Knew the press of minds of the asylum. She’s not crazy, not yet. Neither of them are. The balance keeps them sane. She takes over when Emma can’t. Can’t do it, can’t see, can’t deal. But they know the insanity around them. It sinks to them, cradles them. Can’t be a buffer. Can’t deal.

Need to be someone else. Someone who can handle the voices.

Be. Become. Need to live through this.

Three now::

::White. White everywhere. Keep your breath low and even, despite the hitch in your throat. Pressed back in the corner, under the bed. No shadows even there. The white chases them away. White floors, cold beneath small fingers. White walls, glowing. White bed, white hair, white skin, white robe. Robe is thin. Too thin.

Keep your breathing quite. Heart beat still. Push it low because he’ll hear you, because he’s coming, he’s always coming. He always comes.

Live through this. Just live through this. The second can, because she’s hard, but she hates it. Hates it hates it hates it.

She’s starting to take the white as her own, so it doesn’t hurt her.

The sound of a key in the lock. Fight back a whimper. You can’t you can’t you can’t deal. The door screams open, rust on the hinges announcing his presence even more than knowledge, or the sound of his breath and his heavy, ugly steps. Face buried into white nightgown. If you can’t see him he can’t see you. It’s all that’s left because there’s no place to hide, curled in the corner under the bed.

His breathing is broken and angry. Can almost feel him tearing the room apart with his eyes. “Come out. Come out, little one. It’ll only be worse...” the heavy ugly steps start again.

Face pressed tighter to the thin, thin white robe. Live through this. Steps come closer. Bitch, he mutters, bitch.


::White now. White again. White is camouflage. If you control white it means that it can’t hurt you. If you control things then they can’t hurt you. You have to have something to survive.

White walls are dull. The floor shines, but white is black and black is white. She sits in the corner with her back to the wall. She doesn’t sleep in the bed. Knees drawn to her chest, she doesn’t even know who she is anymore. Where she ends and the others begin, and she doesn’t think she likes them, but it doesn’t matter.

All that matters is to live through this.

Key in the door. She knows he was coming because he always comes. He’s always coming.

No more. Live through this isn’t enough. This has to end. Eight years nine years ten, they all blur. She wasn’t crazy before. She doesn’t know anymore. She may be. Some of the others are, or are dancing that line.

Door swings open silently because he’d oiled the hinges. Shuffle and glide across the tiled floor, and that ugly ugly grin splits his face. Big meaty hands reaching for her and this isn’t enough. This isn’t this isn’t this won’t happen anymore.

Need to be. Be something more.

Shudder rips through her, a wave in her mind that spins the world upside down and sideways and back.

//You touch me and I’ll kill you,// she thinks, and he stops. Stops dead and stares because the voice was in his head and he knows that it’s true. //You touch me and I’ll fucking kill you.// She thinks at him and he stops and his body won’t obey his commands any more.

She feels a grin split her face. It’s ugly and insane and she can feel the horror that rises up in him She revels in it because she needs to make him hurt, make someone hurt for all of the Live Through This. Touch me and I’ll kill you, she’d said.

She might kill him anyway.

She might just make him wish she’d killed him. ::

And the flow of thoughts was gone. They were gone with the moment frozen in time as it shattered and the memories spit Sam out to the ice and the astral plane like waves throwing someone out of the sky. He wanted to throw up, or cry for her, cry for all of them. //Caring is a weakness// a small voice tells him and he thinks it may be one of the smaller personalities, the ones whose lives are hanging in the balance but cannot change anything. //Caring is a weakness because it makes you vulnerable. But with the vulnerability comes healing. She was the first. She’s still the first, and she needs something else, something more. Her entire life has been Live Through This. Don’t let her go away. Show her something more. Please. Promise.//

//I promise,// he thought.

The Queen and Grace, they were still and shaken because somehow he knew that it hadn’t been the doing of either of them. Maybe he’d been wrong in thinking that the others had no voice in this.

The Queen shook her head, covering the moment of weakness quickly. [You needed me. You still need me. You think you’re the only one who lived through this? This is how it has to be.]

Grace shook her head then, shook it because she let herself care and it made her weak and she was still recovering from the shock of the memories. [You’re insane,] she whispered. [You have to know that.]

The Queen shrugged, and elegant, boneless roll of her shoulders. [We’re all a bit crazy, little girl. Who can say who’s more or less? Who can say who’s right? You think you’re the only one who had to Live Through This? You think anyone cares what you think? They had all the chances. They had every opportunity. Sean, Monet, any of your students... They should have known. They should have seen. Not even Xavier did. They did nothing. You think that if you deserved help, you wouldn’t have got it?]

[No,] Sam struggled to say. [NO.] They looked at him then, as if they’d forgotten his presence and he struggled against the weakness and nausea that still held them. [Grace....] [Emma, just because aren’t offered help doesn't mean you don’t need it. It doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it.]

She smiled at him then, and though it was weak it was true, and in the instant her attention was diverted, the Queen launched an attack. Not at her. No, not at her because she would have been able to counter it.

[SAM!] Grace cried as he crumpled. This half world, this construct of ice and astral plane wobbled around him and he couldn’t breathe. The ice sucked the strength from his bones and the grid lashed at him like fire. His mind was being torn to pieces and all he could do was try to breath because the pain was everywhere and everything and it was all he could feel until he thought that he was numb with it, then it worsened.

There was a thud, and the ice sapping the strength from his veins disappeared and it was carpet pressed against his face, carpet rough beneath his fingers as Grace tackled the Queen to the ground. From the corner of his eye, he saw that Kyle and Sascha were still lying unconscious on the floor. The pain was gone with the ice and the sudden absence left him light-headed.

The web was around them again, that tangled spider’s web that bound them all up and Grace and the Queen were back on their feet, mental blows flickering back and forth between them faster and faster and all Sam could do was scramble backwards out of the way, because that wasn’t the place for a non-telepath to be. Grace’s eyes were burning bright and he thought that they were gold. She was furious, he saw. Her hesitation was gone and all that she knew was the drive to win.

He could feel some of the blows between them, could feel the fight, and Grace was weakening. For the past few months she’d been essentially unconscious, her mind tied up with keeping her unaware. The Queen was glowing with the light of insanity and she didn’t care where her power came from, yanking it from along the web and everyone who it joined.

Grace stumbled, a blow knocking her backwards, and this time she was slow to rise. The Queen towered over her, eyes shattered and spinning colours and she drew back for the final blow.


She paused and it was enough for Grace to throw herself at the Queen and knock her back. It wasn’t enough, though, because the Queen was still stronger, still so much stronger and Grace was losing. Sam rose unsteadily to his feet. He didn’t know what he could do but he needed to do something.

Amber caught at him, the same amber that had trapped him as he was drawn towards the apartment and as Grace fell again (For the last time, something whispered to him) there was a great pounding. The amber stretched and shifted, grew larger, but that stretched it thin and he could almost move. ‘No!’ he tried to call. Tried to throw himself towards them, give Grace some time, if only the few seconds that it would take the Queen to dispose of him.

//Help me!// He cried with his mind, reaching for something, anything, because he knew that they couldn’t let the Queen go free.

Something stirred and responded sleepily to him. A weak mind, a partial mind brushed at his. /thiswan’ttheplan,/ it said sadly. /thiswasn’ttheplanandwedon’tknowhowtostopit./

“Help us,” he said.

The Queen snapped her head around and in that second Grace drew back her mind for one final volley. Sam could feel it, feel the intent and he knew that the Queen could too.

[Silly girl,] she said, her mind rushing to meet Grace’s. They locked and struggled, flowing in and out of each other until once again neither knew where they started and the others began. Grace was weakening fast and she grasped out, reached for something.

//RingaRingaRinga Ring-around the rosies//

Something slipped in the Queen and weakened. Something chipped from behind as a small voice followed the singing one in a small attack. All he could see was eyes. Eyes. The Queen’s eyes, swollen and broken and fractured, dancing with every colour like water on an oil slick.

//Pocket full of posies//

Grace’s eyes, gold now. Gold like her hair, because she was the first, and that’s the only way she could hold onto the memory. ‘What colour are my eyes?’ she’d asked. “Gold,” he whispered, and he knew she heard him. “Your eyes are gold.”

//Husha, Husha//

Her concentration flickered and divided. The Queen took full advantage of that, plucking away at the edges of Grace’s mind, until Grace slammed her mind back at her, stronger this time, and the voices from behind chipped away a bit more at the Queen. The banging came again.

//We ALL//

Grace was Emma and Emma was Grace and they had always been the same, and she drew back her mind for one final blow because it was all the strength she had left. Sam couldn’t help. Couldn’t do anything but watch as the amber trapped him, tried to strangle him like a fly.


Impact. Gracemma and the Queen, minds locked one last time and the Queen wavered. Sunk somewhat inside herself.


Shattered. Shattered like the white, the strings holding the personalities and the Queen’s mind together snapped and broke. Explosion of thoughts and minds as they all streamed out around her and the Queen stood there, eyes wide. Eyes that were every colour that were the white that was black widened as it all shattered and exploded from her. A hint of denial in those eyes, a refusal to believe. White that was black became white. A pinprick at first, a dot of white that spread and grew, reaching and searching through the black like ice forming, only it was diamond, diamond that spread over the Queen’s eyes as she slowly toppled down into the abyss. The spread of the white sped up, spread until it covered the entirety of her eyes and Sam realized that the amber had broken and he was standing above her body, her wide open eyes glazed with diamond.

Grace (Emma, that voice reminded him) crouched at her side as the hammering came again and he realized that it was the door even as it burst open, Angela and Eddie spilling in. Grace shook her head and gently closed the Queen’s eyelids.

She stood and looked at Sam, waiting for him to say something. Her eyes, glowing gold, slowly faded until they were green, blue swimming up from beneath because of course her eyes were blue, blue like Emma’s, because she was Emma, she was always Emma. She stood as if waiting for a blow, and as the last of the glow left her eyes green, she wavered on her feet and her knees buckled. He caught her as she fell, pulling her into his arms. “Sam?” she asked weakly, eyes fluttering.

“Shhh,” he said, and kissed her forehead as the last traces of consciousness slipped from her body.

He turned to see Angela slowly making her way across the apartment. Her eyes were cool. “I had a bad feeling,” she said plainly. Eddie was crouched at his brother’s side, taking his pulse. Sam looked at Kyle and Sascha, lying ever so still on the floor.

“They’ll be all right,” Angela reassured him.

He didn’t ask how she knew. Probably disabled so the Queen could have played with them later. Angela didn’t bother kneeling by the Queen’s side to check on her.

“We need to call the police,” Eddie said, rising from Sascha’s side. “They’re okay, but they need a...” He stopped as he took a good look at the body on the floor, then at Grace, cradled in Sam’s arms. “Let me guess. This is another of those ‘no cops’ things.”

Sam nodded tiredly. “Ah’m so sorry about this.”

Angela smiled weakly. “It’s not your fault.”

If they hadn’t known him, it would never have happened. But he hadn’t split Emma and the Queen, and if he had the choice, even knowing how it would all end, he wouldn’t give up the past few months, give up his friends and Grace. No matter how it would all shake down.

“Ah have some friends,” he started, then stopped. “There’s... Ah know where we have tah go. They can all get better treatment for this sort of thing than they would in a hospital.”

“But we’re sworn to secrecy?” Eddie asked, his face impassive.

“No. You’re mah friends, too. Ah trust you.”


concluded >>

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