Disclaimer: Characters and situations owned by Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy Productions.

Thanks to: HonorH, for betareading.


WORD MADE FLESH

In the beginning, there is the word. Her name, the first of many. In truth, each of her names holds and describes a shard of her existence; but the first one holds that power that binds every single creature to her will if she is made flesh.

None of her names is inaccurate. When her faithless apostates hear one of her earlier faithful call her "The Devourer", they assume it refers to the way she has to nourish herself while on the physical plane. But that is the least of it. Vampires, poor hybrids that they are, only take the physical, and nothing remains in them once their nourishment is gone. She, on the other hand, takes everything - the love and grief and hope and loneliness and every single desire of those she consumes - and it becomes an adornment that stays with her. It becomes a part of herself, and makes her even more determined to bring salvation to the species that has given her this.

Incarnating herself on the physical plane is painful each time, and so it is fitting that the plane suffers as well in preparation for her birth. They are, after all, destined for each other. Her choice of those who bring her to bodily life and connect her to their world is guided by their capacity for pain, too, and by their hunger. Cordelia Chase has a zest for life and desires such a lot of things, but she has to test her through visions again and again, making them more of a torture each time, before she is sure of Cordelia. Cordelia is like a sword created of mixed material; every impurity is hammered away until nothing but the weapon remains. When Cordelia agrees to her destiny and the physical infusion begins, she is sure. She has chosen perfectly. Cordelia is to be her mother, and anything not suitable for her mother, any attachments, any qualities that are not worthy, will be purged from her.

Her other link, her father, needs even more careful preparation through pain, for Cordelia will be gone once her purpose is fulfilled, her wish for release and peace finally granted. Connor, on the other hand, will remain and be the champion she needs in a world populated by hybrids and demonic creatures which sadly will never be able to experience her love, and thus have to be dispensed with. In order to be fit for this hard task, he cannot have what even Cordelia can be granted. There must not be calm and peace and happiness before her birth is accomplished unless it is mingled with horror or guilt.

Sahjahn is a petty creature, much like Skip. But they both do what they must, and thus justify their existence.

Her time of gestation is a fearsome period. She is bound to the linearity of the human world then, and no longer able to see everything. Though she has infused every single cell of Cordelia Chase with herself, there is still some essence of Cordelia's former, immature self remaining, and it takes time to purify this as well. And of course there is the constant awareness that as long as she is with Cordelia, as long as she has no shape of her own, mortal death can come at any moment. This must not be allowed to happen.

On the other hand, she is intoxicated by all the sensations available to her now, even though they are filtered through Cordelia. Everything from the smell of flowers to the brushing of hair has its charm. Seeing her future faithful through Cordelia's eyes does as well. They, too, need to be hurt before she can save them, of course, but that doesn't mean she cannot treasure the joy they will bring her once they are all united in advance. The joy she will give them. To none more than to the boy, her other link, her future father.

It is easy to make him fall in love with Cordelia, to play off the rivalry with his father. More difficult than she thought to keep withdrawing. She loves being needed. Naturally, every being on this planet needs her, but there is something here that transcends the general. She has to break him more than any of the others, that has always been a given; now she finds herself thinking of how she will elevate him about the others as a reward, which is new. In her previous incarnations, all the faithful have held equal rank. She also finds herself possessive. The attempt by those cowards who have turned their backs on mortals and deem her determination to save them wrong, that attempt clad in the form of his dead mother who has done only one useful thing in her life – it makes her furious. As ever, pain serves to purify. In the pangs of birth, feeling Cordelia tear herself apart, she becomes herself again. Serene. Whole.

Born anew.

They finally settle on calling her Jasmine, and she is delighted. It is as accurate as any of her names, and she amuses herself with wondering which shard of her will be contained in it; it usually takes a while for these things to settle. For a few days, everything is perfect, just as she has planned. She heals all the wounds, and the peace she brings begins to spread from her first chosen to everyone. Interacting with them directly brings joy to her. She will never understand the other powers, content to stay remote, she thinks, and drinks it all in: the need, the warmth in Wesley's and Gunn's smiles as they dispense with their rivalry; the eagerness to please in Lorne's every move as he decorates and redecorates her suite; Fred's awed, believing brown eyes. Most of all, she drinks in the ease with which she can finally permit what was not allowed to happen before: Angel and Connor finding each other.

Then the gaze in Fred's eyes turns to horror, and the careful, exquisite web she has woven began to unravel. When Angel, too, gets infected by the insidious hate, she is forced to acknowledge for the first time that giving them paradise might take a little longer than planned. It also shows her that she has been right all along, no matter what the other Powers claim; the gift of free will only led to loss.

If the rejection by her formerly faithful bewilders and hurts her, her very own champion confuses her, too. Connor remains devoted to her, but even as she can sense his love, it tastes different from the bliss she takes and gives to everyone else. It is full of the darkness she can otherwise sense only in those who have left her, and he is still full of the pain he should have discarded by now. It was only ever meant to be the tool to form him. She is not cruel, she thinks; she does not wish him to suffer any longer. Demonstrating this to him seems to have the desired effect. At least, she feels his pain entering her, and joining the pattern that forms her ever anew, just as everyone else's pain does when she brings them joy. And still, she does not feel the same joy reflected back on her. If she didn't sense a continued fierce love, she would have thought the others had infected him as well, and her heart would truly have broken, for whom does she treasure more on this plane of existence?

It troubles her somewhat that he begins to search for Cordelia against her explicit wishes. Of course, Cordelia must be kept safe; that is why she had her mother removed from those who would dare to use her against their salvation. Of course, Connor is right to love Cordelia; Jasmine herself has arranged it this way. Yet all her other faithful love her first and foremost. Before they were infected, Wesley and Gunn had been ready to kill Fred for her, whom they had adored and bitterly fought over. Therefore, Connor's actions are bewildering in the extreme.

Then Angel returns from one of her old homes, and everything breaks down around her as the first of her names gets spoken out loud. She is still connected to all of them, every being to whom she brought joy, and suddenly they reflect nothing but horror and hate back on her. It is unbearable.

Wandering through the streets that once more descend into chaos and bloodshed, she finds she can come up with a rage of her own. Maybe it is fed by those who have rejected her, and maybe by the fires of creation that formed her before any atom of this world existed, but it burns and demands victims, just as the horrible loneliness she feels demands soothing. In all the untold millennia, she has never been alone. There have always been those who gave love and joy, those from whom she took it back along with her nourishment. But she is physical and bound to this plane, and here there isn't any love left for her.

Except for one. She cries out for her father, her champion. She made him, just as he made her. Everything he is, she somehow created in one fashion or another. Surely, he will be true to the last.

Meanwhile, there is his father to deal with, the ungrateful apostate. A creature whom she sought to save, a vampire who killed hundreds for his own pleasure and now dares to lecture her on the deaths she caused to ensure the world's salvation. Well, he who brought her first name to the open shall know the truth of a later one. She is the Devourer, after all. He will understand just what this means, he first of all, and she starts by accessing what demonic force keeps him alive when she hears Connor's voice. Connor, of course, probably does not understand what he is seeing and thinks it is a kiss.

As she turns towards him, she realizes that it does not matter what he understands. Like ripples through water, the thought goes through her, shattering her to her very core: Connor never had been held by the power of her first name. He among all the creatures of this world loved her because he chose to do so. That was why his love felt so different from anyone else's. That was why she could not give him the same joy.

"You still love me?" she asks, torn between amazement, triumph and the oddly humiliating sensation that this is a gift better than all the temples built over all the millennia in her name. Maybe, just maybe, the other Powers were not completely wrong after all. There is something rare and precious in such a gift when it comes uncompelled.

He looks at her, and she can sense the absolute truth in his words even as she can sense the utter defeat exuding from the vampire.

"Yes," he says.

In the end, there is only one word, this word, and the word is made joy. She feels it completely when his fist smashes her skull.