Identity In Motion
by Jennifer-Oksana

It has gone badly so far. Very badly. They treat her like a teenaged girl in big sister's clothes, pretending to be the late, the great, the one and only. If she doesn't improve, she's gone. Set on fire, erased from memory, never to be spoken of again.

Eve is working out on the elliptical machine in her inherited apartment, feverishly sweating as she pushes her heart to its limit, and trying not to hear the voices in her head reinforce her insecurities.

Did you learn anything from those two weeks of intensive training? You're not me, little girl, no matter how much you try.

Eve pedals faster, sweat dripping down her forehead, trying to let the music soak into her head. The Matrix soundtrack has always been good for taking away thinking while she's exercising. And she will not listen to Her. Not this time. Not when Her advice made things go so badly so far.

Not MY advice, little girl. I told you that you couldn't do me.

Technically true, though Eve can't see there was much else she could do to fulfill her mission besides try to imitate the Mistress. She'd spent two days in front of the mirror, though, attempting all of the things that she was supposed to be, according to Her. Mysterious. Sexy. Naughty. Always corrupting even when she's being honest.

They'd chosen the name Eve together; back before the procedure, her name had been...something else. Maybe Linda, or is that her mother's name? Christine. Jennifer. Ashley. None of them sound right, but that's inevitably part of the procedure. You become someone else. Your new name becomes your old name has always been her name as far as she can remember. Eve is her name now, because the old name is gone.

Just like that. Like your immortal soul, your sense of individuality, your sense of decency...

"Shut up," Eve says, pedaling harder, letting her lungs fill with air until they ache. "I'm not your puppet."

No, I'm your teacher. She always sounds like She's standing right behind Eve, but whenever Eve actually turns to look, there's no one there. You need a lot of teaching, sweet thing.

Sometimes, like now, Eve really hates Her. Most of the time, it's fun to have Her as the secret advantage lurking in the shadows of her multi-part brain. They are two-in-one, and Eve's never had a better shopping buddy.

They have secrets. Such as: the Senior Partners don't get Angel; never have, never will, never could. Most of the time, Wolfram and Hart has failed because they didn't understand Angel's weak points and pressed their advantage incorrectly. But She, She of respected and ancient memory that now rents space in Eve's skull, learned the lessons that made the game interesting.

She might have even won if it hadn't been for that pesky ex-Power wearing a Cordelia Chase suit.

Maybe She has won on some level beyond comprehension. After all, this is only a secondary part of Her. Duplicated memories. Simulated soul. The real soul, Eve's heard whispered, was forcibly removed from Wolfram and Hart's Hell office because of extraordinary circumstances.

Eve closes her eyes, feels her muscles moving and straining as she works her elliptical like some sort of route to salvation.

That's what I had vibrators for, you know.

"That's because you're a total perv."

Please. Focus. If you're going to be about the exercise anorexia, you should at least put it to good use. Are you listening to this music?

Eve hates being schooled by the voice in her head, but if she doesn't listen, She starts speaking with Eve's mouth and then it gets hard to tell the difference between them, not that there really is one. She's in Eve's head, when Eve looks at Angel and his people, she hears thoughts that aren't hers, and when Eve looks at Wesley, her heart starts to speed up.

She's not supposed to look at him, according to everyone who talks in Eve's head. The Senior Partners have targeted him as the weak link in the plan. In fact, Wesley is the reason She isn't playing go-between. Too many smoldering looks and the whole plan would go kerplooey. The destiny thing, the chemistry thing, it made it too dicey.

Eve gets that like she gets almost nothing else; the first time she laid her very own eyes on Wesley, it took all her willpower not to say, "that thing you do with your tongue is the sexiest thing in four dimensions" or something equally forbidden.

Gunn is the target this time. Gunn is playing ball. Gunn is sexy and smart and wants to be seduced. Charles Gunn is the man. Eve is supposed to let Wesley try and try and try for the Burkle woman like the pathetic puppy-dog he is without Her...

Are you still trying not to think about me? Eve. Pay attention.

"I'm listening," Eve says. "I'm trying to keep my heart rate up. Please stop talking to me."

How do you know I'm talking? How do you know there's even an I? This could be your inner monologue trying to save you from an embarrassing moment or six. Possibly even death. Or do you want to die?

Eve closes her eyes and considers dying. There is nothing good about dying. Not even the silence.

"I used to dance," Her voice says matter-of-factly, coming out of Eve's mouth, and there's nothing Eve can do except feel that her skin is a thin container for all that's held within so uneasily. "Actually, strike that. I danced until the Beast put a hole in me. Kept limber. Practiced being the me that met the day."

The music becomes palpable and shimmering to Eve, and it hurts, the way that She's moving their body hurts. This shouldn't be attempted on an elliptical trainer. Hips shouldn't be moved like that, and the arm is moving to a beat that Eve can't quite...

"You're thinking it should be easy if you're just one person."

Eve isn't thinking. She's trapped and her arm is circling to a rhythm she doesn't hear. Like a butterfly in honey, and the memories that aren't hers, never supposed to taste like hers, they keep overwhelming her and she might drown.

The boy on the motorcycle. Long hair, dark eyes, clove cigarettes. The boy who took us into the hills of Iowa, there are hills of Iowa that never made her want to have lesbian sex, and he growled his approval with those long, long ballet dancer legs wrapped around him when he fucked her.

These are things that do not belong to Eve.

Nothing belongs to Eve; she is all-hollow and full of power for her masters.

"It's never easy. It's the hardest game you'll ever play."

Gamine. Waif. There's a different kind of sexy to master for Eve, not the kind that hides the hard muscles of hours of dancing every night to keep in practice. That was Her type of sexy; Eve can't play.

Eve, who is drowning. Please, let this stop, because it has to. The music like raindrops made of shards of glass, pounding into her skull. The muscles that burn like fire. Is this Hell for someone who danced? Someone who Eve was not, even before she was Eve?

"But that's the important thing. It's a game, Eve. It'll kill you; it kills everyone. That's the point. But it's just a game. Something that can be learned, something that can be mastered, if you just pay attention."

Eve pushes back now. It's her body. Not theirs. The breathing is her lungs' breath. In and out and in and out and in and out. Her legs striding along; her arms resting on the sensors that measure heartbeat. Her body. She is not the one trapped in honey, all memory and no reality.

Eve gets it. "Thanks for the lesson," she says in her own voice, enjoying the feel of her body slowing down, the drop in her pulse. "I'll call if I need you again."



Eve smiles. She is paying attention.


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