Categories > TV > Angel

The Princess, the Vampire and the Artificially Constructed Reality

by Flurblewig 0 reviews

What do you do when you want to save something you love from the fire? You put it somewhere safe... Action/Adventure

Category: Angel - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama - Characters: Connor, Fred Burkle, Lilah Morgan, Spike - Published: 2006-04-07 - Updated: 2006-04-07 - 5039 words - Complete

The Princess, the Vampire and the Artificially Constructed Reality The Princess, the Vampire and the Artificially Constructed Reality Author: Flurblewig
Pairing: None. Fred, Spike, Connor & Lilah
Rating/Warnings: PG13 - mild swearing
Timeline/Spoilers: Goes off-canon at A Hole In The World
Length: 4,985 words
Disclaimer: They're not mine. I just like to take them out and play with them sometimes.

The doctor makes a noise that sounds like it's trying to be the word 'no'. He attempts to clarify it by shaking his head, but that just serves to bash his teeth against the barrel of the gun in his mouth. Slowly, Wesley removes the gun and rests it just under the doctor's chin instead.

"Continue," he says softly.

Sparrow swallows and runs his tongue over those abused teeth. For the moment, they're all still in place inside his head. Although, given the array of instruments laid out on the doctor's table, Wesley will have ample opportunity to change that if the need arises.

"It can't be stopped," Sparrow says, with what sounds like relish. Wesley pushes the gun further into the soft flesh under his jaw, and his tone becomes more suitably neutral. "Once the process has begun, there's no way of reversing it. Illyria will be reborn inside that body."

"And what happens to Fred?"

When Sparrow doesn't answer, Wesley raises the gun higher. It lifts the man's chin along with it, the muscles of his neck straining. "You do understand that I will kill you?"

That just earns him a smile. "To die in the service of Illyria is an honour."

Wesley nods. "One I hope to have the pleasure of granting you. Now tell me what happens to Fred. Or is being tortured in the name of Illyria also an honour?"

There's another long second of silence then Sparrow begins to speak. "A human and an Old One cannot exist in the same body. She will be consumed by the fires of resurrection."

Wesley closes his eyes as Sparrow's voice grows stronger. "Her body is sworn to Illyria now. The fires are coming, and nothing you can do will prevent it."

/The fires are coming/. Wesley's eyes suddenly fly open. What do you do in the face of fire? You try to put it out. But if that fails, you save your most treasured possessions and you take them out of danger. You put them somewhere safe.

Without another word, Wesley turns and runs


"It's just not that easy," squeaks the guy in the dirty lab coat, his eyes never leaving the gun in Wesley's hand.

"Make it that easy."

"These things take time to set up. I can't simply - "

"Time," says Wesley, taking a step forward, "is unfortunately in very short supply. Fred doesn't have very much at all. And that means neither do you."

"Okay, okay. I'll do what I can. But it'll be a very basic construct, and that means the gaps - and it's pretty much going to be all gaps - get filled in by the subconscious. And I've got to tell you, your subconscious isn't always your friend. It tends to like digging about in places you wouldn't necessarily choose to go. And there's going to be psychic connection and residual transference and all kinds of funky shit because we're not going to have time to - "

Wesley raises the gun, and his mouth snaps shut. "I'm on it," he says, gathering books and vials together. "I'm on it."


Her skin is grey and her hair plastered to her face with sweat, but she's still beautiful. She's still Fred.

He leans over and puts one hand behind her head, raising her up a little. "Drink this," he says, holding the little blue bottle to her lips.

She does as she's told, pulling a face as she swallows. "Sour," she says weakly.

"I know. But you need to drink it all."

She finishes it, then wipes her mouth with the back of her hand and sags back on the pillows. "Are you going to fix me?" she asks with a wan smile.

He tries his best to return the smile. "I'm going to keep you safe."

Her eyes close and she sighs. "Read to me," she whispers. "You said you would."

"Of course. Whatever you want."

"A Little Princess. I love that story."

He clasps her hand gently, and opens the book with the other. As he reads, her breathing becomes shallow and uneven and her eyes stir restlessly under the closed lids. She cries out, white teeth biting down on cracked lips.

"Hush," he says gently, smoothing her hair away from her face. "No more pain, now. No more fear. You're going to have a real fairy tale, and you're going to be happy. You're going to be safe. I promise."

He whispers to the book, and the words on the page run together as the text changes. He reads quietly, his voice rising and falling in a chanting rhythm.

As her body begins to go rigid he leans across the bed and kisses her. "Go to sleep," he says.


She woke up to the warmth of sunlight on her face and she smiled, stretching languidly on the soft sheets. She threw back the covers and sat up, then swung her feet over the edge of the bed. She stood up slowly, yawning and pulling her silk robe around her.

A flash of colour caught her eye, and she turned to see a pair of embroidered slippers by the door. They were a bright sky blue, and she clapped her hands in delight. She'd only mentioned late the previous evening how much she loved that colour. Harmony must have sat up all night sewing them.

She slid her feet into the slippers, relishing the cool feel of the satin against her skin. "Harmony?" she called. "Are you there?"

She heard the outer door open, then saw a blonde head appear. "Your Highness? Did you call?"

Fred gestured for her to come closer. "I did. I wanted to say thank you for my slippers. They're beautiful."

Harmony beamed happily, dropping into a low, graceful curtsy. "Not as beautiful as you, my lady."

Fred blushed and ducked her head. "You're so sweet to me. Everyone is always so sweet."

Harmony straightened up again, still smiling. "We all want you to be happy, your Highness. Now, what would you like to do today? I could have some more books sent up, or your easel and paints? Or - oh, oh, I know!" She broke off, bouncing slightly on the balls of her feet and clapping her hands. "Did you know the Court Minstrel is returned?"

Fred hugged herself with joy. "Lorne's home?"

"He is. And he has lots of new songs about Angel and the battles in the Dark Forest. Shall I send him up to you?"

"Yes, yes. Thank you. I should like that very much."

Harmony nodded and curtsied again, then disappeared back through the door. Fred hurried to her wardrobe and selected a satin gown in blue, to match her new slippers. She dressed quickly, pulling her hair back into a long braid, and then arranged a chair near the left side of her room. She could see the Dark Forest from that side of the tower, and she liked to imagine walking its scary depths as she listened to the songs and stories.

She had many singers and jugglers to entertain her, but Lorne outshone them all. She loved to hear him sing, to lose herself in his tales of champions and monsters. Stories of the legendary warrior Angel and his evil twin were always her favourite. A new song was a treat indeed.

Fred sighed and watched the sunlight glinting on the glass as she waited. She was so happy here - loved, protected, cared for. She wanted for nothing.

Except - maybe -

The one thing she didn't have was a past. Had there been more, once, than the tower? Had she truly once had a kingdom - one that she had actually walked in?

In her secret heart she hoped that one day Lorne might sing her a song about herself. She so loved the stories, and it was her dearest wish that maybe, just maybe, she might get to hear her own.


Angel nods towards Illyria, who stands motionless by the lab window. "Has she moved yet? Said anything?"

Wesley shakes his head. "Not since we came back from her temple." He glances at his watch. "It's coming up on forty eight hours, now."

"Is she - " Angel pauses. "Dying?"

Wesley doesn't take his eyes off the blue-tinged figure. "I hope so."


Fred sat on her bed, her sketchbook on her knees and her pencils spread all around her. She added some shading to the portrait of the Prince she'd been working on, and looked at it critically.

She shook her head. It wasn't right. Oh, Harmony would praise it well enough, but she wasn't satisfied. It was his likeness and yet - it wasn't. It was missing something, something she couldn't even describe to herself.

It's the glass, a voice in her mind said. You can't see him properly from behind the glass. You can't see anything properly.

She ran her finger down the cheek. "Wesley," she said, but even the name sounded hollow and unreal. She rubbed harder, and the drawing began to smudge. She laid her hand flat and wiped at it savagely, until it was just a mess of unrecognisable grey swirls. A rough sound tore itself from her throat.

Harmony looked up from her sewing. "Your Highness?" she said uncertainly.

Fred held up the sketchbook. "Self-portrait," she said, with a brittle smile.


Wesley watches Illyria collapse to the training room floor. She convulses weakly then rolls onto her back, her eyes wide and empty. He lets go of the weapon and steps cautiously closer. When she doesn't move, he drops to one knee beside her.

She stirs, turning her head slightly to look at him. Her face is expressionless but he still thinks he can read pain there. He smiles.

She flexes one hand slowly. "You have drained me," she says. "I am - less."

He nods. "Yes. You are diminished. Weak."

"No." A flash of her old arrogance flares in her eyes and she moves as if to sit up. He leans over and punches her full in the face, then kneels across her body, pinning her arms with his knees.

"Yes. I am a pathetic human and yet I can keep you down. Imagine what sport the vampires will have with you."

She glares up at him, but stops struggling.

"This isn't your world any more, Illyria. You cannot rule, you can only follow. Is that what you want? To follow Angel, to be his minion?"

She snarls. "I want to crush his bones."

Wesley smiles. "Yes. But you can't. He could crush you, now. Whenever he chooses. Is that really how you want to live?"

She drops her gaze from his. "No," she says softly.

He pulls back, freeing her arms, but she makes no further effort to get up.

"I tire of this," she says eventually. "I tire of all of this."

"Then go home," he says.


Fred paced her room, pausing every now and then to rest her forehead against the glass. The colours outside were so bright: the green of the castle grounds, the blue of the moat, the reds and yellows of the flags and the Prince's hunting parties.

She pulled her hand into a fist and slammed it against the wall. The glass seemed to flex ever so slightly, but stayed as solid as ever.

The outer door flew open and Harmony came running. "Your Highness," she called breathlessly. "What is it? I heard a noise - are you hurt?"

Fred examined the skin of her hand. It was smooth and unmarked. "Not that you can see," she said.

"It's okay, Harmony," said another voice, and Fred watched Charles step forward out of the shadows. "You can go. I'll assist the Princess."

Harmony bobbed her head and gave him a grateful smile, then fled. Fred raised her head, looking at Charles defiantly.

"You know what I want," she said.

He nodded gravely. "I do, your Highness."

She ran her hands down the glass. "Then you'll unlock this door."

"I can't do that. You know I can't do that."

She sagged, the imperious anger to hard to maintain. "I just want to go outside, Charles. Just for a little while. To walk on the grass, that's all. You can come with me."

"I'm sorry," he said softly, so softly she had to strain to hear. "I'm charged with guarding you, and I can't keep you safe if you're outside. It's the Prince's orders. You have to be protected."

"You could call in Angel," she said, her voice beginning to tremble. "Angel could protect me. Please, Charles. Please let me out. I want - I want to go home"

"It's not safe," he said, his head bowed, as he melted back into the shadows. "And you have to be safe. Prince's orders."

Fred watched him go, then sank slowly to her knees and began to cry.


The fireball blows Vail across the room, but it also breaks his hold on the field that had been suspending Wesley in the air. He drops to the floor with spine-jarring force. He thinks the field might have been suspending the knife somehow too, because suddenly it hurts. Hurts very, very badly.

He tries to get himself up onto his knees and crawl, but his legs don't want to obey him any more. He manages to roll onto his side, but quickly realises that's as far as he's going to get. As far as he's ever going to get.

A hand suddenly lifts his head, and he struggles to look up. It's too late; his vision is dimming too fast.

"Wes," says Spike. "Fuck, Wes."

Wesley uses the last of his strength to grip Spike's hand. "Fred," he gasps out, and can just make out Spike leaning down towards his face, straining to catch his words.

"I sent - " he pauses, and swallows the saliva filling his mouth. It tastes like blood. "I sent her away. To be safe. The book - fairy tale - I made it real. I hid her there."

His eyes close, and he can't hear whether Spike responds or not.

"Find her," he says, and dies.


There was no sunlight to warm her when she woke, and Fred frowned groggily. She got out of bed and moved to the glass walls, but she could see nothing. It was full dark outside, and not even the stars were shining.

She felt suddenly cold, and pulled her robe tighter. "Harmony?" she called softly.

There was no answer.

She moved towards the door, and gasped to see someone standing there, arms folded. Watching her.

Not Harmony. Not Charles. She peered through the glass, squinting to make out the face in the dim light.

"Who's there?" she asked, trying for royal confidence but painfully aware she was wasn't making it.

"Hello, Fred," said a voice. A low, pleasant female voice. A familiar voice.

She took a step closer. "Lilah?"

The other woman smiled - a lazy, confident smile. "Surprise."

"Um. Yes. It is. A surprise, I mean. What are you -"

Lilah held up her hand, and Fred could see a large golden key dangling from her fingers. "What am I doing here? Well now, that's a very good question. And if I'm honest - " she smiled and shrugged, "which I try not to make a habit of, I'd have to say I really don't have the answer to that. But it seems that our dear old friend Wesley started a game, and now he's not around to run it any more. And knowing how much our other dear old friends the Senior Partners love a good game, I guess I'm just here to have some fun on their behalf."

She reached down and slotted the key into the lock. "Hey, it's a job, right? And you can't afford to be too picky when you're as otherwise unemployable as I am."

The door slowly swung open. Lilah stepped to the side, holding out her arm to Fred in a welcoming gesture. "The Prince is dead," she said, smiling. "Long live the Princess."

As Fred stepped out, Lilah lit one of the large torches that lined the wall. "Oh, and by the way - if you hadn't figured it out, that Princess would be me." She grinned, and smoothed down her long satin dress. "I think it's a role I can grow into."

The Prince is dead.

Fred shook her head defiantly. No. That wasn't possible. That was ridiculous.

She drew herself up and faced Lilah. "I'm the Princess, and there's nothing you can do about it. You can't hurt me. Charles won't let you. Angel won't let you."

The torch flared, illuminating the row of burly guards standing behind Lilah. "They can't stop me," she said, and there was almost a note of sadness in her voice. "They're dead."

She turned her back and waved a hand. Take her away," she said.


Spike carefully picks his way through the ruins of the Wolfram & Hart building. He keeps one eye on the ceiling, which looks likes it's going to collapse on them any minute, and one on his companion - who is striding around like he doesn't understand just how dangerous this place really is. Which, to be fair, he probably doesn't.

"Connor," Spike calls out, "will you be /careful/."

The boy flips a large concrete beam out his way, and grins. "I'm always careful."

Spike mutters something obscene under his breath, and steps a little gingerly over the pile of rubble at the doorway of what used to be Wesley's office.

Connor follows, a lot less gingerly. "So what exactly is it we're looking for here, anyway?"

"A body, and a book."

Connor wrinkles his nose. "Right. Well, I vote that I search for the book."

"Fair enough. It's big, bound in expensive-looking leather and looks like the kind of thing people put in private libraries to make them look intelligent. Only the pages are blank."

Connor raises his eyebrows. "A book with blank pages? Well, that sounds useful."

"Oh, it will be. Trust me. Just look for it."

"Okay, you're the boss."

Spike flinches slightly. "Don't say that."

Connor shrugs. "Sorry," he says, looking anything but. "Hey," he calls, turning back. "Just in case I accidentally find it first - what does the body look like?"

Spike doesn't look at him. "Fred," he says.


The dungeon was cold, especially the stone floor. Fred found that she really, really missed her satin slippers.

She'd tried calling for Harmony a few times, and Charles, but it had just resulted in a beating from one of the new castle guards. She kept her mouth shut, now.

She was a good prisoner, doing what she was told and not making a fuss. She didn't want any more visits from the guards. It actually wasn't the beatings so much as the guards themselves - she never knew who - what - was going to walk into her cell. Sometimes it looked like Professor Seidel, sometimes Jasmine, sometimes Angelus. It was far, far better to simply not draw attention to herself.

She became used to hearing screams, but one day it seemed so much worse than usual. Screams and yells and distant crashing sounds. Violent sounds.

"What's happening?" she whispered. There was a hole in the stone just to the left of her cot, and sometimes, if he wasn't chained up, the prisoner in the cell behind could hear her.

"The castle is under attack," he hissed back. "Again. Haven't you heard? They say it's a sign. They say the Destroyer is coming."

Fred shivered, wrapping her arms around her. "What? Who?"

She waited, but she heard no more.


Spike's eyes open, and he stares - sightlessly, for a long second - at Connor. Eventually, the sounds of battle fade and he begins to hear the boy's voice.

" - me? Spike, can you hear me? Do you know where you are?"

He swallows, his tongue feeling sluggish and thick. The taste of blood is in his mouth. Human blood. Somehow, it never seems to matter that he knows it isn't real. "Yeah. I hear you, kid. I'm back."

He sits up, and regrets it as his head swims. Connor reaches out and steadies him. He allows it for a second, trying not to look grateful, then shrugs the kid's hand off.

Connor folds his arms and steps back. "Well? Did you get anywhere?"

Spike shakes his head. "No good. I still can't find her. It's -" he stops, at a loss for words to describe the experience. "Freaky. It's like I get there, and I know who I am and what I'm doing, but it just - it fades. I get to fighting, and after a while I forget about everything else. And then you pull me out."

"You should let me come with you next time. I think I could help."

Spike looks at him sceptically. "What makes you think you'd have it any easier?"

"Maybe I wouldn't." He breaks off, and taps his temple. "But I'm used to having two sets of memories, you know? Two realities. I know what it's like to handle that sort of stuff."

Spike considers this. The kid has a point.

"But if we both go in - there's going to be no-one here to get us out again. Or look after you know what" He nods towards Illyria's stiff, motionless body.

Connor looks around at the ruined apartment they're currently crashing in. The windows are all smashed, and Spike realises the sounds of battle he heard weren't just echoes after all.

Connor shrugs, and for a second his eyes look flat. "Is that really such a bad thing?"


Fred screamed as another ringing blow shook all the walls of her cell. Puffs of dust and debris rained down on her head, covering her in grey powder and cobwebs. The section of wall her chains were attached to had begun to split apart, and she grabbed them and pulled them easily away. She held them tightly in one hand, trying to face all directions at once.

With a huge noise the door blew inwards - in fact, the door and the whole wall blew inwards. Fred covered her head with her hands, coughing violently as the cell filled with dust.

Then hands were gripping her shoulder, and she screamed and lashed out. More by luck than aim, her fist connected with something softer than the stone wall.

"Fuck, ow," said a voice, and she stopped short. She groped for the name, and for a long moment came up with nothing. But then the voice said, "Fred?" and it seemed that some old, old part of her brain awoke and latched on to it joyfully.

She gaped into the dust. "Spike? Spike, is that you?"

"Yeah. It's me, pet. Where are you?"

She stepped forward, her hands groping blindly, and found them suddenly burying themselves in leather.

"Spike," she said, sobbing, and he drew her into his arms.

"We should get out of here," said another voice, and with another thrill of recognition she realised she knew that voice too.

"Connor?" she said slowly, wonderingly.

He stepped forward, and smiled. "Hey Fred. Long time no see."

She boggled at him. "Well, yeah. Wow. How are you?"

Beside her, Spike began to laugh. "Not to come over all spoilsport or anything, but d'you think we could save the big sloppy-kiss reunion for some time when the roof isn't trying to fall in on us?"

Connor flashed him a grin. "Yeah, okay. See, I told you. Told you I could make this work."

"Yeah, you're a regular David Copperfield. Now what say we get the fuck out of Dodge, huh?"

Fred suddenly found herself scooped up in Spike's arms, and carried out of the crumbling cell.

"Handsome man saved me from the monsters," she whispered under her breath.

Spike looked down at her. "What's that, pet?"

She smiled and shook her head. "Long story. One I think I need to start rewriting. Spike, could you put me down, please?"

He dropped her to her feet, and grinned as she grabbed a sword from a fallen guard. "That's my girl."

She matched his smile. "New role model. Cinderella, you're history. I think Xena is much more inspirational."

She stood shoulder to shoulder with Spike and Connor as a wave of guards appeared around the corner, and heard them both draw in a sharp breath. This time, all the guards looked like Angelus.

"Oh yeah," said Spike softly. "I guess that's just perfect."

Connor shot him a look and readied his own sword "Now what?"

"What, you thought we came here for a nice picnic in the sun? Now we fight."

The wave of guards was joined by another - and another, and another. They lined up in rows, torchlight glinting on blade and fang.

"Hold on a minute," said Connor. "Can't we do something about this? I mean, we've all seen /The Matrix/, right? There is no spoon?"

Spike looked at him, then shrugged. "There are no hundreds of psycho vampires," he said firmly.

When the ones at the front simply raised their swords, he did the same. "Oh well. It was a crap movie, anyway."

"Wait," said a voice behind them, and Lilah stepped forward. She held up her hands to the guards, who lowered their swords again.

"Who's this bint?" said Spike, looking her up and down.

"This is Lilah Morgan," said Fred. "Or should I say Princess Lilah."

Lilah smiled. "Oh, I don't think we need to stand on ceremony here."

"Glad to hear it," said Spike. "So if we're updating our cultural references, is this the Bond-villain you're-all-going-to-die-horribly gloating scene? 'Cos I hate to burst anyone's bubble but we'd kind of worked that out for ourselves."

"No," said Lilah smoothly. "This is the last-minute-unexpected rescue scene."

They all looked at her. "What?" said Fred. "Why?"

Lilah examined her fingernails. "Oh, come on. I don't want you to actually die. Where's the fun in a story when all the main characters are dead?"

Spike frowned at her suspiciously, not lowering his sword. "I guess it does kind of limit the scope for artistic expression."

"Exactly." She stepped forward, laying a hand lightly on Spike's arm. "And you'll find I can be very expressive when I want to be."

He glared at her hand until she moved it. "So what kind of a deal are you offering, here? I take it there is a deal on the table?"

"Of course. Now, this whole place was originally cooked up - rather incompetently, although to be fair he was working on a deadline - by Wesley. It's supposed to respond to Fred's fantasies."

Spike looked from Fred to the hordes of Angelus-guards. Fred shook her head. "So not my fantasy," she said vehemently.

"It wasn't perfect to begin with, but when he died it started really breaking down," Lilah continued. "As I'm sure you can see."

"Yeah. We got the memo."

Fred stared at Spike. "Wesley's - he's really dead?"

Spike glanced at her briefly, then dropped his eyes. He reached out and squeezed her hand. "I'm sorry, pet."

Fred swallowed. "And - and Charles? Angel...?"

Spike nodded, and Fred buried her face in her hands. "I'm sorry," he said again. "But it got - it got bad out there."

"Which leads me back to my point," said Lilah. "It got bad - and it still is bad."

"Yeah. And?"

"And here you are, stuck in a constructed reality, facing a fight of impossible odds - and if you win, and actually manage to get out, then your reward is to get back to the real world and face another fight of impossible odds."

Spike glared at her. "This point of yours. We likely to be arriving at it any time soon?"

"Stay here," she said. "You know, the boy actually had a point about The Matrix. If we work together I think we can stabilise this place. Get it back on track. Or rather, a new, more suitable track."

Spike shook his head. "Don't think so, pet. We've got bodies waiting for us out there," he said. "Fred, too." He leant across and patted her shoulder. "It's a bit of an image change, but trust me. It works."

He turned back to Lilah. "And I can't say I fancy my chances of creating some sort of paradise in here if there's a big old demon snacking on my head in the real world. So thanks for the offer, pet, but no thanks."

Lilah looked questioningly at Connor, who shrugged and pointed his sword at the rows of vampires. "I just want to do some damage to these guys. Guess I never totally got that out of my system."

Spike grinned at her. "You raise 'em on these violent video games, what do you expect?"

"You sure? Because we could make anything, you know. Any/one/. A certain - Slayer, perhaps? A Slayer you could make into anything you ever wanted her to be."

Spike hesitated, looking down at the rough stone floor of the corridor. Eventually he shook his head. "If I learned anything from Angel, it's that it's not about getting what you want. It's about fighting."

Lilah turned to Fred. "And what about you? There's got to be something you want."

Fred held up a hand. "Don't even bother. You can keep your satin slippers. What I want is to have my life back."

Lilah folded her arms and looked at the guards. "Even if there's oh, say three minutes of it left?"

Fred nodded, her face set. "Even if."

Lilah shrugged. "Your choice. Enjoy."

She walked away, seeming to disappear into the stone. Spike grinned at Fred and Connor and they took up defensive positions as the guards began to charge.

"Hey," he called, raising his sword. "Haven't you got any dragons round here? It's definitely my turn for a dragon..."


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