deird1: Illyria looking like Fred, with text "Fred doesn't live here anymore" (Illyria not anymore)
[personal profile] deird1 posting in [community profile] buffyversemeta
This is a repost of something I wrote back on LJ, 9 years ago.




Definitely time for some meta.
Right now, I thought I’d write about the relationship between Fred and Illyria, and how I think it works.

And to start with, we’re going to need a metaphor. Involving a vase, and a piece of paper.

Let’s start with the paper.
If you pick it up, and rip it in half, it’s damaged. It’s not actually destroyed. You could, if necessary, stick the two pieces back together again.
If, however, you shred the paper, or burn it, or something like that, it’s going to be pretty thoroughly destroyed.
Destruction, in paper terms, involves basically making the piece of paper not exist anymore.

On the other hand, suppose you have a vase. Let’s say it’s a gorgeous, porcelain vase, which is extremely intricately painted, and very delicate.
And let’s say you drop this vase on a concrete floor.
It will shatter, into several hundred pieces. That’s pretty thorough destruction, really.

But – the vase isn’t actually gone. It’s destroyed, sure, but it’s still right there, in pieces, on the floor.

“Fred's soul... Her soul was destroyed resurrecting Illyria.”

So the question is, is Fred’s soul gone? Or is it just in pieces?

Suppose you sweep up all the fragments of vase left on the floor, and start gluing them back together.
You’d get the vase back, eventually.
And sure, it wouldn’t be the same as it was. It’d never be exactly the way it started. But it’d still be basically the same vase it was to begin with – just with a hell of a lot of glue in between each piece.
And, once you’d finished, you could basically say you had your vase back.

What you couldn’t do is take away the glue. Do that, and the whole thing would collapse.

“You can't look at her without seeing... her body's previous owner.”

On the other hand, think about it from the glue’s perspective.

The thing is, if you tried to make a vase out of glue, you’d probably fail.
Glue is great, but it’s really not made for creating big solid objects. Without the bits of porcelain, the Vase Of Glue just wouldn’t stay together.
You’d end up with a big puddle… and nothing else.

If you really want to form the glue into something basically vase-shaped, you’d need some pieces of vase.

“Odd. It doesn't exist until it cracks apart.”
“What's that?”


In fact, the reconstructed vase is sort of a half-porcelain, half-glue hybrid. The porcelain can’t stay together without the glue, and the glue can’t hold its shape without the porcelain.

Two substances, forming one object.

And neither is exactly what they were before.

“Your kingdom! I am Illyria, God-King of the Primordium, shaper of things!”

The thing is, we’re kind of biased.
We’re used to Fred being Fred – so when Illyria enters the picture, we take one look at the blue-haired chick running amok round the building, and conclude that this is Illyria.

I don’t think it’s quite that simple.

What we are seeing is not Illyria in her natural form – but Illyria in the wrong body, with the wrong voice… and possibly with the wrong personality.

“There's not enough space to open my jaws. My face is not my face. I don't know what it will say.”

And Illyria sees it too.
It takes her a while to adjust to her new form. She spends the first couple of weeks being mildly worried – and occasionally starting to panic.

And it’s not just because of her outer appearance.
Although she’s not terribly keen on that, she’s slightly more freaked out by the fact that “I don’t know what this face will say”.

Plus, there’s the fact that suddenly Illyria – monumentally self possessed Illyria – is doing things, and not being quite sure why.
Near the beginning of her time at Wolfram & Hart, she shows up at the lab, and when Wesley asks her why, her only response is: “I'm uncertain.”
Which she quickly corrects by saying: “This place was part of the shell.”

“Yet there are fragments. When her brain collapsed, electrical spasms channeled into my function system... memories.”

Notice, that while everyone hears that Fred’s soul was destroyed, and concludes that clearly, Fred’s soul is gone, Illyria never says that.

What she says is that there are “fragments”.

And she clearly doesn’t mean that there are tiny little pieces of Fred – maybe just an insignificant fraction, like say 2% - floating around at random in a mind that is entirely composed of Illyria.
Because there aren’t just little bits left. There’s enough of Fred left to fool her parents into thinking she’s standing right in front of them.

There’s enough of Fred left that Illyria can make herself into a perfect copy of Fred, once she decides to try.

So what is meant by “fragments”?
I’d say it’s something a bit like a shattered vase.

“Does it sting you – my betrayal?”
“Betrayal was a neutral word in my day, as unjudged a word as water or breeze. No. Or perhaps... I am only bothered because I am bothered.”


The fact is, Illyria isn’t just Illyria anymore. She doesn’t look like she used to, and she doesn’t react like she used to.
Her entire being – body and soul – is being shaped, into vase-form, by the shell. By Fred.

And she’s not particularly happy about it.

“But then, what comes out of her mouth, pure unadulterated vertigo. We look so tiny to her.”

So, if this “Illyria” is actually half-Illyria, half-Fred, why on earth don’t we see that? Why does she seem to be just Illyria?

Well, for one, that is actually her in the driver’s seat.
The method used to return her from the Deeper Well was done specifically to give her a body – not to make her share it. Fred might be forming the shape, but Illyria is holding it together.

And the thing about Illyria? She is, as Wesley says, monumentally self possessed. She’s got astonishing willpower and force of mind – and we look so tiny to her.
Why on earth would she pay attention to the shell of an insignificant human?

It’s not until she loses most of her power that she starts really exploring what it means to be Fred.

“This fate is worse than death. Condemned to live out existence in a vessel incapable of sustaining my true glory. How am I to function with such limitation?”

The loss of her powers – or most of them, at least – comes as a horrible blow to Illyria. She can no longer conquer who she chooses, without thought. She can no longer remain certain of anything she is.
She is suddenly far less able to deal with the world on her own terms.

It’s in this new uncertainty that Fred first reappears.

“Did you get what you needed from that experience?”
“Yes. It was most informative.”
“Good. Don't ever do it again.”


Illyria spends an afternoon being Fred, talking to her parents, showing off her lab, and laughing at Wesley.
She claims that this is done because she doesn’t want the Burkles to feel grief – doesn’t want to have to deal with yet more grief from yet more people.

Passing over the question of why on earth Illyria, God-King of the Primordium, would care about people she’s never met grieving for someone she sees purely as a vessel… I’d like to suggest that she doesn’t pretend to be Fred just to stop the Burkles grieving.
She does, after all, call the whole thing “informative”.

Illyria’s been able to examine Fred’s mind any time she chooses. She was able to inform Wesley, without the slightest hesitation, that Fred’s memory had once been altered – clearly, Fred’s mind was right there ready to be looked at.

But Illyria now is having to learn how to live in a world with a whole lot more limitations. And so now she has started to actually examine who Fred is, how she works, and what people think of her.

“You loved this. And part of you still does. I can feel it in you. I... wish to explore it further.”

Wesley, of course, isn’t terribly thrilled at Illyria’s new game.

It’s hardly surprising. When you’ve been so close to having the real thing, with the real just-Fred-and-nobody-else, an imposter isn’t going to be welcome.

But Illyria doesn’t entirely get it. She asks, rather naively, “Isn’t it what you desire?”, and then goes to Spike to complain that Wesley’s stopped talking to her, and she doesn’t know why.

“I could assume her shape, make her come alive again this once for you. But you would never ask me to.”

Let’s go back to that earlier question I glossed over: Why would Illyria care about the Burkles feeling grief?

It’s quite simple, really – she cares because Fred does.
Like it or not, her mind is shaped by Fred’s. Her reactions are modified by Fred’s reactions. And Fred would care, deeply, about her parents grieving for her.

This, I think, also goes a long way towards explaining Illyria’s attachment to Wesley. Fred was in love with him – and so Illyria is partly in love with him too.
While “love” might be a bit strong for describing Illyria, she certainly cares a hell of a lot for him.

The first attempt to “be” Fred is because she wants to see what it’s like. The second offer is very definitely supposed to be for Wesley’s benefit, rather than hers. Illyria wants to be Fred because it’s what Wesley would want for his Perfect Day.

“Would you like me to lie to you now?”

And then, of course, there’s that final conversation.

Illyria, as Fred, holds Wesley in her arms, and tells him, over and over, that she loves him, she misses him, and they will soon be together.
With tears streaming down her cheeks, she holds him until he dies… and then proceeds to beat the everliving crap out of the man who killed him.

And there’s one moment, just one moment, where Illyria is looking at Wesley’s murderer – out of Fred’s face.

I think, in that moment, we get closer than we’ve ever been to seeing just how much this person is both Fred, and Illyria.
The two of them, right then, are exactly the same person, feeling the same emotions.

Two souls, fused into one.

“Change back. Be blue. Be anything. Don't be her. Don't ever be her.”
“As you wish.”


The thing is, I don’t think “Illyria”, as Illyria, exists at all. Not anymore.
Nor does Fred. Not as pure, unadulterated Fred Mark I, anyway.

Fred’s soul, shattered by sarcophagus dust, was pulled back together to lend form to Illyria’s. And as much as Illyria would have liked to deny it at first, she was changed by Fred just as much as Fred was changed by her.

Two substances have formed one object. And neither is exactly what they were before.

Nowadays, they’re one beautifully repaired porcelain vase.


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