Author's Note: The Psychonauts fandom is like herpes. You have clear days, but it always comes back. Anyway, enjoy this Inception inspired thing. I have no idea whether this is a one shot or will continue but this fandom needs more love, so here it is.
Dignity is unrealistic. - Marble Hornets creator Joseph DeLarge
The utter silence is deafening.
There's some music, normally, to mental worlds. Some sounds. Birds chirp, the bull runs, the shots of men at war fill the air, something makes a recognizable noise to break the quiet. His own footsteps don't even resound here. His Psi-blasts don't keep bouncing, and they don't break what they hit. If he closes his eyes he can't even hear the energy fade. There's nothing left to remind him of the person who once inhabited this mind. Even when Boyd went insane there were still remnants of reality and stability left. This is just dead air. There aren't even censors flooding him. They only did that once, one last effort before everything grew blank. The quiet engulfs him like a fog.
There is a smell, oddly. Not something rotten like he'd feared at first, but shifting pieces of memories of hers fill the air. Subconscious energy, left over, supplies the information for psychics to read, but without an actual subconscious or functioning mind to run it things drift. He walks through a wild smoke smell for the first twenty feet and then hits the weak smell of clean laundry. Standing still, overlooking the landscape that had lost its backdrop and most of its color, he gets hit with a bitter leafy scent that hurts slightly to breath in. There is no rhyme or reason to it. There is no pattern. Sometimes there's just random shifts, and he has to accept that that's how this place works, even if it can be disconcerting.
Everything is ever so slightly off, and it extends to the colors. What isn't gray or graying is left in patches of color like pieces of real life stuck to an old monohrome photograph. There's been a decided problem in lighting. It's not that the areas of the mind are gone, as he feared, but they turn darker and so does their background, black on black that he can only wade through with the light from his levitation ball leading the way. He's not sure how far the darkness extends. Right now he's making his way through the faded plaid trees and dull unremovable cobwebs that have lost their shimmer, towards a white and faded crimson shack. The white has a patch of brightness left in one spot. Everything else is diluted, dirty gray.
It's possible, if he wants to, to hike back up the flat, unyielding rocky terrain - there is no dirt, just a sea of rocks like poorly done cobblestones - to go back to the top of the grassy hill. There a Teleporter Bug awaits, kept alive only by Raz's steady supply of Dream Fluffs and attention. If he goes past the Bug and to the Collective Unconscious there's a broken door. It's new and sleek and wine red and has deep gouges in it, and the crimson paint flecks away each day to reveal more gray. It is out of reach for people even if he leads them directly to it. That's a mistake he hasn't repeated. This is their place now, no one else's. No one else belongs in here where they could hurt her. He can protect her here, even though he failed out there.
Silence as he slams the door of the shack, moving to the meager furniture inside. The lightbulb doesn't work very well, so he's brought in his backpack some of the glowing plants from his own mind, which retain their luminescence here in the darkness of her mind. No light comes in from the windows as he checks to make sure everything is still here inside. Lately it's been hard to keep track of whether or not this place is in tact. The darkness isn't spreading at an accelerated pace and there isn't anything missing from the rooms hidden in the landscape, but yesterday he found shattered glass spread out in a perfectly imperfect circle in the pitch black darkness, an eerie recreation of her body's impact zone. The day before that the wind howled and screamed without any air moving for nearly ten minutes. A week ago there'd been a dead bird on the table.
So clearly he's been negligent about the upkeep of this place. He sweeps the room with a glance - TV with three channels, old game systems and junk that doesn't work, stuffy old armchair, round lawn table, two flimsy plastic gray chairs retrieved from somewhere. There's lots of stuff in the corners and sides, boxes he hasn't gone through yet. It doesn't matter because the most precious thing is here, trapped away like a treasure wrapped in plastic here in this little house that blends into a quiet landscape. No one would be able to find this if they did wander in. Sasha tried once to get in, drag Raz out, something about this not being healthy, but Raz was sixteen by then and under different jurisdiction, different superiors. They believed the lies he told. The lies he had to tell to stay with her.
"Hey Lili," he says softly.
She turns her head, looking sleepy. Her body is a mishmash; the single ponytail she'd worn that fateful day, the bright green fake flower in her hair he'd given her the last Christmas they'd spent together, her checkered sweatervest, black gloves and stompy boots from when she was ten and the red satin pants she'd oggled that day as they passed by a store. She'd never owned them alive. They weren't hard to reproduce on the mental plane. Her physical body is subject to her own little whims now; she just has to look down and it changes.
Lately she's been more lethargic, not like those first few years where she explored the mental realm with him and talked constantly. She's getting more quiet with time. He's not sure if something's wrong or not, but he gives her a rose from Edgar's mind to make her smile and sits down beside her, watching the way she turns it over in her hands. She can't smell it. There's certain things that are just gone for her. Feathers don't tickle, stray blasts don't hurt, fire doesn't burn. The most important for her is that she can't enjoy flowers anymore, one of the few things she really liked that had stayed the same. Lili was - isn't now, but used to be - a changing person, with different bands and hobbies and ideas. Only a few things were consistant. That was what he loved about her, her unexpected qualities.
Now he loves her existance, and he's satisfied with that. "I thought maybe we could put the lights up here in case the lightbulb stops working again."
"Okay, Raz," she says, placing the rose on the center of the table. "What day is it?"
"How did work go?" she asks, sounding nothing like the Lili he'd fallen in love with but everything like the girl he'd talked to yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that.
He tastes blood in his mouth, oddly. Chalk it up to the dysfunction of the mental world. "Paperwork's a pain in the ass, but that's not new. We stopped the psitanium from getting into Azerbaijan's water supplies, though, and that's the important thing. No population could take that sudden influx and turn out alright... Lili?"
"Yeah?" she asks, looking back at him. Her expression was interested but off. He wasn't connecting properly. She looks into his eyes and it doesn't feel like someone's looking at him at all.
"Sasha called," he blurts out unexpectedly. "He said he's worried about me. That I'm spending too much time operating abroad. Avoiding people." He watches as her khol-rimmed eyes narrow. "If I don't take missions out of the red zones, if I don't do reality testing and stuff, they're going to put me out of commission."
Her fists slam noiselessly onto the table. The disconnect from what he sees and the audio he expects is something he's gotten used to after all the years. "I told you to stay away from them. They're going to take you away and-" her angry morphs into pure terror. "Then I'll be alone in this place forever. I don't want to fade away, Raz."
Something about her voice brings the gravity of everything crashing down around him. "Lili, if I retire, we'll be apart no matter what. The Psychonauts are the only reason I have access to Brain Tumblers and things like that. I... I have to do this. And I need you to know I can do this. Okay?" He tries to smile reassuringly. "It's just routine testing. We'll get through it and we'll do a case in the green and then everything will be okay."
"Raz," she says, getting up and coming close so she can wrap her arms around him. "Be careful. I don't want to lose you, or any more of me. I love you."
"I love you too, Lili."
But when he closes his eyes he can't feel her there.