By Indri

SUMMARY: Afterwards, Illyria. Set after "Not Fade Away". PG. Written September 2004, for Marieki. My thanks to Peasant.

After the carnage, Illyria went for a walk. Adrenaline still coursed through her limbs but her mind was clear. The night was only half gone and the rain was easing.

She passed places which Fred had once known: the late-night minimarts and taco stands, the boarded-up buildings and automobile repair places. The streets were lined with newspaper vending machines, mailboxes and trashcans. Rain slid from windowframes and fire-escapes onto littered sidewalks. She could hear the freeways like the sound of distant bees.

Twenty-eight hours prior, she had left Wolfram and Hart for the first time in weeks. Spike had taken her, thinking that the death of a single demon would quicken her spirit, when once she had slain armies. He had tried to be sympathetic: "Empires come and go," he had said. "The sun always sets."

Illyria walked upwind, through overlapping circles of streetlights and squares of fluorescent light. She passed clothing stores and laundromats, offices and cafes, benches and parking meters and mural-covered walls. She strode through plazas, between vast towers that aspired to the sky. The rain thinned and stopped.

She passed hotels, banks and parks. She walked past churches and synagogues, temples and cinemas, museums and galleries. Her feet touched concrete, bitumen, gravels, grasses and mud.

And then she reached the sea.

She walked in, feeling the salt seep into a thousand smarting wounds. She bent to submerge herself and wash the blood from her matted hair. She moved her hands over her chin and jawline to scrape off the gore. Then she lifted her head from the water.

Her kingdom was gone. Her followers were dead. Her only allies were dust and meat. But for the first time since her return, she felt joy.

The sea washed over her as it always had. The same sky arched overhead. And bone had shattered beneath her hands very much as it had before.

A hundred metres south was the Santa Monica pier. Illyria remembered when Fred had stood there, not long after the start of graduate school. She had looked out over the water, thinking that perhaps California was not so very different from home after all, feeling ready to take on the world.

Out on the ocean, the first glimmerings of light appeared on the waves. As the sun rose slowly behind her, Illyria watched as the sea and sky turned an ever clearer shade of blue.

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