A Cool, Dry Place
(The Snakes on the Brain Remix)

by globalfruitbat

Summary: My eyes on the yellow dust, that was lifting in the wind/And does not float away
Rating: G
Spoilers: Vaguely through the end of “The Gift”
A/N: Original story is Hell Hath No Fury, by Aadler. Thank you to Lia for the beta.

Her world is quiet, now. There isn’t much to see, or hear. Lots of air, lots of cool, clean spaces.

She can take her time with things. She can rise when she wants, dress herself as she wishes, spend her hours wherever she would like amongst the rooms of her quarters.

She has her freedoms, small ones, true, but freedoms nonetheless. If she wants to wander from room to room, never ceasing, never pausing in her constant pacing, she can. There isn’t anything to hunt for, nothing is going to try to kill her, or hurt her. Not here.

If she wants to sit in the corner, eyes staring at the door, ensuring that no one comes in to find her, for hours upon hours, she can do that. No one is going to come to her, trying to take things from her, or ask things of her.

She is safe. Everyone she’s ever loved is safe — it’s not a long list, but it’s an important one. Whatever strengths she has, she doesn’t have to worry about them here. Her ‘gift’ is useless, less than, in these quiet, dry rooms.

She has no visitors. She sits alone, when she sits. She walks alone, when she walks.

She could ask for company, she supposes, but it would be more trouble than it’s worth. She thinks of her life with others, with her others, often.

She can remember the good times, brief though they were, but what comes to mind most are the sounds.

The sounds she made, the sounds she made others make. The screams, the cries of pain, the silence.

She remembers all the silence she caused the most.


One day, there is a visitor. Another girl, like herself. She looks into the eyes of the new arrival and sees the same things looking back at her.

An undeniable strength. A will of stone.

“You’re very strong”, she says to the stranger. All this time alone has stripped her of nuances and pretense.

“I know. You are too.” The stranger is getting to her feet, looking around with the wary eyes of a warrior. She’s looking for danger, for exit routes.

“You don’t need to worry about any of that here. That life is all over now. You’re safe, you’re finished. It’s all over.”

The strange girl looked relieved. “I think it worked. I think they’re going to be fine.”

“If they aren’t, there really isn’t anything you can do.” She watched the truth of it settle over the new girl’s face. There wasn’t any point in fighting against it, not here.

If there was anything that needed to be done, this wasn’t the place it would happen. This place was solitude, and emptiness, and endless quiet.

“If you want to rest, you can do that. You can go wherever you’d like, as long as you don’t leave these rooms.”

The stranger nodded. “What if I want to be alone? I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but —”

“I understand.” She did. She had lived through enough pain and torment in her own life to know that a little rest and solitude was the most important thing.

“You won’t see me if you don’t want to. You can have anything you want within these walls, except a way out.”

“I don’t want that. It’s…calm here.” And then the stranger was gone.


The days pass, or they don’t. Time doesn’t move. Nothing inside these walls needs time anymore.

She isn’t surprised when the young man comes knocking on the door. They always comes, they always fall. This one will be no different.

No one ever came for her, but she never grew bitter. There isn’t room for that here. All her fear, all her anger, it was all swallowed up thousands of years ago.

The other girl never stayed close enough to her to be told any of this. But when this young man makes it past the second gate keeper, she walks through the door.

“Why are you bothering with the mirror? I don’t need it, you can’t hurt me, and wouldn’t that be the easiest way to stop him? Isn’t he supposed to fail?”

She smiles. “That’s not the test he has to pass. You know I can’t tell you what it is.”

“I know. I don’t want to go with him.”

She adjusts her head dress. “Why do you think he’d be successful? No one ever is, you know. Once you’re here, these boys can’t pull you back.”

“Oh, I know. But I’m going to be leaving soon, and it’s just so embarrassing to be leaving with him.”

“No one leaves. You know this.” She can feel something tugging at her mind — it’s the shadow of anger, the whisper of loss. She’s felt the presence of this other girl, her wanderings sending echoes through the soft dry sands of the rooms. If she leaves, the rooms will be even emptier.

But she won’t leave. The boys always fail.

“It’s not him. He’s not going to win, not really. It’s my friends. I can feel them. They’re going to pull me back.”

Of course — this boy will fail. These men, these boys, with their twisted love and minimal power — they can’t penetrate here, no matter how they’d wish to. And now that this other girl has said it, she can see the path opening up.

There isn’t anything she can do to stop this from happening. She is given a companion and now she loses her.

“I can’t help you, you know that. He’s going to have to show you the way out.”

The other girl just looks away. She won’t hear the truth. She thinks, even now, that she can take a stand and fight for her choices.

It’s not possible, of course. The time here should have made that clear. This is where endings are, where time ceases to be. But even here, where there is no dominion, there can be change. These floors of dust can be stirred by the winds from the world.

“He doesn’t understand how to pass the final test. He’ll fail here, in these rooms, but he’ll be given another chance, and he’ll take it. That’s when you have to go.”

The other girl reaches out, tries to touch her face.


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