The Karma Downs
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.
Sams mind stuttered. Grace Emma. Emma Grace. Gracemma. He
could feel the lines between them now, as the living room dipped and
faded. It was Kyles 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 couldnt move, their thoughts testing each others
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 Queens
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
wasnt 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 couldnt 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 wouldnt hurt, and some
part of him realized that shed 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. Shes 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.
Whats 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. Whats my number?
Its... Only he couldnt remember. He knew
it, but he couldnt remember. Hed called her plenty of
Youve called me. But whats 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? Whats my last
He knew these things, he knew them, only he didnt, 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 didnt 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 didnt know, had never
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. Youve 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 couldnt, be the things you
couldnt be. Im the only reason youre 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. [Im learning to. Im
learning to be who I am, and who I need to be.]
[Theres not enough time between life and death for that. Me,
you, all the others - Were the same. Were one. Without
each other the pattern breaks down. White isnt white.]
[Im not like you. Im never like you, because if I could
have been, then I wouldnt have needed you. And you dont
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 cant care.
She has to be able to care, but she cant let herself. Cant
be that person.
::Know the insanity around them. Knew the press of minds of the
asylum. Shes not crazy, not yet. Neither of them are. The balance
keeps them sane. She takes over when Emma cant. Cant do
it, cant see, cant deal. But they know the insanity around
them. It sinks to them, cradles them. Cant be a buffer. Cant
Need to be someone else. Someone who can handle the voices.
Be. Become. Need to live through this.
::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
hell hear you, because hes coming, hes always coming.
He always comes.
Live through this. Just live through this. The second can, because
shes hard, but she hates it. Hates it hates it hates it.
Shes starting to take the white as her own, so it doesnt
The sound of a key in the lock. Fight back a whimper. You cant
you cant you cant 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 cant see him he cant see you. Its
all thats left because theres 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. Itll
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 cant hurt you. If you control things then they
cant 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 doesnt
sleep in the bed. Knees drawn to her chest, she doesnt even
know who she is anymore. Where she ends and the others begin, and
she doesnt think she likes them, but it doesnt matter.
All that matters is to live through this.
Key in the door. She knows he was coming because he always comes.
Hes always coming.
No more. Live through this isnt enough. This has to end. Eight
years nine years ten, they all blur. She wasnt crazy before.
She doesnt know anymore. She may be. Some of the others are,
or are dancing that line.
Door swings open silently because hed 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 isnt enough.
This isnt this isnt this wont 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 Ill kill you,// she thinks, and
he stops. Stops dead and stares because the voice was in his head
and he knows that its true. //You touch me and Ill
fucking kill you.// She thinks at him and he stops and his body
wont obey his commands any more.
She feels a grin split her face. Its 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 Ill kill you, shed said.
She might kill him anyway.
She might just make him wish shed 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. Shes still the first, and she needs
something else, something more. Her entire life has been Live Through
This. Dont let her go away. Show her something more. Please.
//I promise,// he thought.
The Queen and Grace, they were still and shaken because somehow
he knew that it hadnt been the doing of either of them. Maybe
hed 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 youre 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. [Youre insane,] she whispered. [You have to know
The Queen shrugged, and elegant, boneless roll of her shoulders.
[Were all a bit crazy, little girl. Who can say whos more
or less? Who can say whos right? You think youre 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 wouldnt have got it?]
[No,] Sam struggled to say. [NO.] They looked at him then, as if
theyd forgotten his presence and he struggled against the weakness
and nausea that still held them. [Grace....] [Emma, just because arent
offered help doesn't mean you dont need it. It doesnt
mean you dont 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
[SAM!] Grace cried as he crumpled. This half world, this construct
of ice and astral plane wobbled around him and he couldnt 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 spiders 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 wasnt the place for a non-telepath to be. Graces
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 shed been essentially
unconscious, her mind tied up with keeping her unaware. The Queen
was glowing with the light of insanity and she didnt care where
her power came from, yanking it from along the web and everyone who
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 wasnt enough, though, because the Queen
was still stronger, still so much stronger and Grace was losing. Sam
rose unsteadily to his feet. He didnt 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 couldnt let the Queen go
Something stirred and responded sleepily to him. A weak mind, a
partial mind brushed at his. /thiswanttheplan,/ it said
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 Graces. 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 Queens eyes, swollen and
broken and fractured, dancing with every colour like water on an oil
//Pocket full of posies//
Graces eyes, gold now. Gold like her hair, because she was
the first, and thats the only way she could hold onto the memory.
What colour are my eyes? shed asked. Gold,
he whispered, and he knew she heard him. Your eyes are gold.
Her concentration flickered and divided. The Queen took full advantage
of that, plucking away at the edges of Graces 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.
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 couldnt help. Couldnt 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 Queens 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 Queens 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 Queens 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 Emmas,
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 brothers side, taking his pulse. Sam
looked at Kyle and Sascha, lying ever so still on the floor.
Theyll be all right, Angela reassured him.
He didnt ask how she knew. Probably disabled so the Queen
could have played with them later. Angela didnt bother kneeling
by the Queens side to check on her.
We need to call the police, Eddie said, rising from
Saschas side. Theyre okay, but they need a...
He stopped as he took a good look at the body on the floor, then at
Grace, cradled in Sams arms. Let me guess. This is another
of those no cops things.
Sam nodded tiredly. Ahm so sorry about this.
Angela smiled weakly. Its not your fault.
If they hadnt known him, it would never have happened. But
he hadnt split Emma and the Queen, and if he had the choice,
even knowing how it would all end, he wouldnt 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. Theres...
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 were sworn to secrecy? Eddie asked, his face
No. Youre mah friends, too. Ah trust you.
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