AUTHOR: Roseveare, firstname.lastname@example.org
SPOILERS: to 'Supersymmetry'
SUMMARY: Five things that didn't happen to Fred.
NOTES: A late arrival at the 'five things that aren't' challenge (posted with permission).
DISCLAIMER: Not mine, just borrowing, no profit, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Fred lives in a multitude of worlds, but never this one.
Like the split of an atom, the explosion into thousands of different universes; multiverses, far too big for her head. She could never hold them inside. No, they dribble out of her brain in torrents of words. Worlds of words. Worlds and the kaleidoscopic space of the chasms between them.
But she is/was not here. A dream, not real, only ever a dream. All this whiteness and padded space couldn't be any reality of hers. Her home, so distant now in memory, was not so crazy white and claustrophobic closedness, soft walls and door and no windows, and the people all in white, too, except--
The woman comes periodically to the dream bearing a gift of a black marker. Tapping a perfect, expensive shoe at the end of a perfect leg, she watches Fred seize even the imaginary pen for the chance to force her thoughts to order. To order, to paper, to equation and mathematics and a world that makes sense. Even if it is just dream paper, dream figures - and maybe, she thinks sometimes, maybe it's not the place that's the crazy one.
They are cruel dreams. The woman always takes her work away, even when she bites and scratches, fighting to keep her thoughts, a world in paper and ink so close to making sense. She tears the pages once; a fist hits her face.
It hurts like reality, and then there is swearing about manicure. When the woman leaves she sends back the white people to shock Fred and tie her down.
They're talkative dreams, too. Strange talk she'll sometimes catch in snatches-
"-in her brain-"
"-brain, damn it, nothing there-"
"-pointless. We should-"
"-in her brain-"
"-brain, damn it, nothing there-"
"-pointless. We should-"
But there are other worlds, so many others, and this one - this one is not even a real one.
She had another dream once. Two dreams, really. He brought her back from the other, and then... and it was a dream, has to be. He was nice, he and the others, and so he can't be real. Not after what happened to him. To them all. That isn't how it works.
He was her Knight, and that isn't where the storybook ends.
She wonders sometimes if she should feel guilt, that she bagged herself a happy ending, when nobody else did - except Charles, of course, but then most happy endings are necessarily intertwined.
There's grey in her hair, although not yet in his, and there never will be in any of theirs. She can hardly remember what they looked like through the barrier of years that have passed on that Anniversary morning. He brings her breakfast in bed and crouches worriedly atop of the covers, squashing her toes, to watch her eat.
"Twenty years is a long time," Charles says, his eyes intent. "We gonna keep doing this every year? Doesn't help. You said last year this would be the last time. Twenty years, Fred - past and dead and buried. I don't like seeing you get all torn up like this every year. If it was just the one day... but it's never just the one day. It's not good for you, baby."
Angel. Cordelia. Wesley. It's not about remembering the dead. She is not naive. She knows herself better, these days. She knows this.
She looks at Charles, the breakfast chilling untouched on her knees, the smell of syrup wafting up from it making her want only, on this morning, to be able to shut her nose.
"I won't forget," she says.
Twenty years is a long time.
There's a card on the dressing table that says 'Happy (Special) Anniversary'. Pink roses and ribbons, because they never did tell Kelly and George everything, and they think this is about something entirely else.
Fred has scars on her wrist, high up on her back, low down on her belly. Scars that saved her life and his that day, when he rushed her out of the action as she bled that life into his arms, taking them away for that crucial moment Angel used the Sceptre. They weren't caught in the backlash.
It's been twenty years but Fred won't forget, not consciously, though her traitor subconscious might try. They had twenty years, marriage, happiness, saw their children grown - saw the world, in the hands of other Champions, keep on turning all the same.
They had their happy ending. Nobody else did.
She will not survive another winter. Here in this cave, with her skin withering, her bones shrinking and brittle, the cold seeming colder each year, the hunters outside more keen and more persistent.
She will not survive, and she is almost glad. No more of here, the cold, the hunters. No more scavenging and hiding. She will die and her bones will lie here. A foreign field, indeed, though her part of it not England.
And, oh, England would do, if she could get there. England, China, India, Espana. Narnia, Texas. Somewhere it would matter that she can't remember if she ever had a name. Anywhere, anywhere but here, her hopes scrawled all around her cave in symbols on the wall. Useless, old and chipped like they've been there for centuries: those early ones in a neat, precise hand and later, clearer but shaky, rewriting the others, criss-crossing and merging until even she can't read them now.
There could be the key to a thousand worlds in those scribbles, and she never know it.
None of those symbols - the stick figure on the horse (her Prince Charming who never came), the 892-digit calculation of pi where she ran out of wall (she laughed at the thought of bringing science to this world, even if no other ever knew), the swirly spiral that's the maw of another world (a horror story, that one), the scratched signs that first created it but never worked again for her - none of them will help her now. She will not survive another winter, and her bones will rot to leave here still, forever, a defiant piece of another world.
Her world, any world. So long as it is not this one.
Everything is very quiet once his portal has closed, and Fred sits on the floor with her legs curled up, the body curled into her, rested across her knees.
There is blood on her hands. They aren't here yet, but they will be, and then they'll know. She wants them to know.
-see, the red gloves, the stain. No victim, here. Not any more-
She smiles fondly down at the cooling body. The wrinkled face, its own smile the one she used to crave to see, all the approval she ever sought. It's not there now, of course. Only fear, and faint surprise, that she was the one to kill him. She thinks she likes that better.
-the world's victims aren't meant to turn and strike back-
There aren't worlds enough and time for her to sit here, to properly appreciate the perfect symmetry of her revenge. How he of all people would have been able to appreciate that equation.
-see me. See me now-
The corpse shifts as she rocks on her heels, his head lolling, nestling against her thigh.
His staring eyes will never see anything again. Against her expectations, she is unnerved by the nothing in them. That startling, staring void.
Suddenly it's not so fascinating any more, and she doesn't want to be hugging a corpse to her, even if it's hers to hold (she made it, she made it, and she's proud, isn't she?). The pressure of her clutch draws more blood from it, just like squeezing a bladder.
And she can't clutch breath into a dead man, can't reverse what she made. She pushes the corpse away. Blood. On her hands, red rubbing off on everything she touches. She must have touched her face without realising, can feel dampness there too. Red, red, red. She rubs red streaks down her sides, and-
She wishes for another portal, now. Another portal, to take her to a world where she isn't a murderer.
Winifred watches the thousands of worlds of possibilities spark and die within the generator; a brief glow, then nothing. Each a chance passed over, lost within the multitudes.
"But can we really manipulate these worlds? Really affect them?" she wonders aloud. "Can we step into another reality?"
Laurie shifts uneasily at her side. They both know there's only one way to find out. Winifred's heart picks up its pace.
She wishes Professor Seidel could have been here. It was his project before hers, and none of this would have been possible without him. All the calculations she's done over the years and she still can't imagine how the raw theory first sparked to life within his brain. The stuff of genius.
Her nerves are alive and fizzy, and she doesn't care what her assistant thinks, even if she can't quite quell the old tension that flickers through her - without those early dropouts, if the Professor hadn't chosen her as his successor in this project, would she still be where Laurie is now?
His the theory, hers the calculations, theirs the achievement. All those scornful voices, telling him he was crazy, that they both were, their years of work for nothing. He'll never know.
"I never thought it, Professor," she says aloud, earning a startled glance from Laurie. "I never thought it."
She can almost imagine she hears him answer her--
"I know you didn't, Professor."
--as she reaches for the generator.