Illyria

AU. I don't own any of the characters from Angel. I do own the plot and a pack of trident gum. It's minty fresh, the tooth-whitening kind...but I digress. On with the show.

She was in her room, surrounded on all sides by the things she loved and wrapped in the arms of the one she loved best. And he loved her, she could feel it. It was constant, like the cold, hollow feeling that was slowly stealing her away from him. And she didn't want to go. Her face was wet with his tears; he was weeping, howling in rage and helplessness. She was glad that his choking sobs filled the silence, so she wouldn't have to listen to his heart shrieking in pain. Agony. She felt herself slipping. She was falling away from him, but also away from herself. She wasn't sure of which she was more afraid. Fred didn't want to die.

She clung to him as best she could, but her body was broken. Her skin was so hard, like steel, but not strong enough to protect her from the thing that attacked from within. What good was it anyway? It let in this thing but it kept out the man she loved. She wanted to cry, but she couldn't quite manage it. Was even this to be denied her? Such a small thing, but strangely enough it was that small loss that truly infuriated her. She had expected the rest of it, losing Wesley, slipping away from the world, and even the dying wasn't so alien an idea. After all, we all expect to die someday. But to not be allowed to cry? That was too much for even the Powers That Be to demand. Or whoever ran the big evil side of the universe. Or anyone for that matter. She needed that and by all that was, she would not go without at least that much.

She pulled herself inward, entering her own mind and shrinking into the part of herself where she kept her most precious possession. Herself. Her friends were there, as was her mathematics, lining the walls of her haven in bright colors. Wesley was there, smiling at her, her parents, her childhood, her stuffed rabbit, her life. She would make it her stronghold and she would fight the thing inside her.

"You can't have me," she said. "I'm not the damsel anymore. I never really was."

Fred peered out of her haven, watching the rest of her slowly being destroyed by the encroaching darkness. She felt a sudden urge to just let it happen. It was so big, so much bigger than her. Why should she bother fighting it anyway, death was a natural process, right? Wesley walked up behind her, wrapping his strong arms around her waist. "There isn't anything natural about this," he whispered.

It all came back then. She remembered what she had to go back to and all the reasons why she shouldn't let this thing win. She would fight for herself, for Wesley, and for the tears she couldn't shed. She glared up at the darkness that beckoned to her and she laughed. Because it didn't know who it was messing with.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The darkness was steady, and in it's steadiness was a pattern. Predictability was always a weakness; she could exploit that. Her haven hummed with her thoughts, the math brightening as she put it to use. She mapped out her coming death and she found the ten thousandth of a second in which the pattern paused to repeat. Between one breath and another she reached out her hand and placed it between the darkness and the start of the next pattern. It took all that was in her not to pull it back out again.

Pain. There was so much pain. One does not tap into the lifeblood of the universe without consequence. With the clarity of a mortal suddenly given divinity she saw what she was holding in her insignificant hands. Death was neither good nor evil, it served no master. It existed before chaos, before matter, before a concept like spiritual alignment was ever split into two opposites. It transcended opposites. It was not really death of course, because death wasn't always the end. What was here, the driving force behind the darkness was the ending. An irrevocable, finality. The End. And now it was Fred's.

She was filled with the power of it all. Drunk on wisdom, intoxicated by her new understanding. With a thought much too fast to really be classified by such a limited, human word she pulled herself to Illyria. In her infinite knowledge she knew who and what she faced and was not afraid. She simply stood and watched.

Illyria was blue. Or to be more precise, blue was Illyria. She had invented the color herself and scattered it through the world as a sort of self-tribute. She reminded Fred of nothing so much as a giant, crystal clear Barbie doll filled with electricity.

"What is this distressing mortal tendency to classify things?" Illyria asked in a voice that could cut diamond like butter or melt a mans heart...literally.

"Perhaps it is a way to try and understand the things around us. We want to know what they are." To Fred, her own voice sounded hopelessly small but she clutched tighter her invisible link to The End and persevered.

"Foolishness. I am Illyria; that is enough."

"You cannot have my body," Fred said, cutting past the inane chatter.

"I do not want it," Illyria replied just as bluntly.

Fred was not fooled. "That doesn't mean you won't take it. You do not care that you want what you take, as long as you take what others want."

Illyria seemed startled for a nanosecond. "You know me well, mortal."

"You are not so hard to understand," Fred replied. The power made her brave.

Illyria's rage was easy to sense. "You tire me mortal, I think I will kill you now."

Fred had one word. "Try."

And she did. First with the merest flicker of her power, to show that this one being that she sought to inhabit was really no large thing at all. Then, when that failed, with all the mighty powers of her near-infinite mind. But Fred was a part of something bigger than godlings and their petty squabbles. She endured until Illyria had used so much energy against her that she could no longer maintain her focus. Her blue faded from electric to powder.

"I see I underestimated you," Illyria said. She pushed herself to a darker shade of blue, the human equivalent of straightening one's shoulders. "And now I suppose you will banish me back to my eternal slumber." She seemed to flicker then, as if in inhuman fear, but stabilized herself. "I will not beg you for mercy, but neither will I go quietly. I will vent my rage on every hapless creature from here to there."

Fred smiled then. It was chilling, full of the promise of death. "I will not banish you, Illyria. You were a beloved demon with a peculiar type of honor. You do not deserve the torment eternal rest would bring." Fred held out her hand. "I'm just going to bring you to an end."

It was really quite easy. Too easy. A thought and the demon was gone. Ended. The temptation was nearly more than she could bear. She wanted to know what else she could do. She didn't think there were any limits, but wouldn't it be fun to find out? She was about to leave the earthly body that she wore. It was nothing but a sack of flesh that hid her power and perfection from the cosmos. She certainly didn't need it, but for some reason she couldn't make herself go.

"Perhaps if I take something with me?" she asked tentatively, posing the question to the part of her that stubbornly clung to the this mortal life. With a thought Fred was outside of her haven, approaching the doorway to her innermost sanctuary. She could see Wesley in the doorway and a smile lit her face. This all of her could understand, for love had been around as long as there had been an End. You might say love was the beginning...of the End.

"Wesley," she said, beaming at him. "I did it; Illyria is gone." She expected him to smile or laugh, or maybe hug her again but there was nothing. Blankness, confusion perhaps?

"Who are you?" he asked, staring at her.

"It's me," she said, her smile fading. "I'm Fred."

Wesley looked at her. Judge, jury, and executioner. "You are not Fred."

Fred stood for the eternity of a human second. She was unused to this feeling, a complete lack of comprehension. Then slowly it came, familiar understanding, but not from the power of The End. That other part figured it out, pulling the rest of her along without consent or even knowledge of what was happening.

"I'm not Fred," the part whispered.

"What am I if I'm not Fred?" the other responded sarcastically.

"Fred isn't that powerful," the part paused. "I'm not that powerful. I have to stop."

"Stop?" the other said incredulously. "It's what Fred has always wanted, I can't give it up."

"You could give it up for him," the part said, directing the attention towards the figure of Wesley. "There is power there, of a different sort."

"But it's not like this," the other said, the part that was still drunk with wisdom and liked the feeling.

"No, not like this," the part agreed. "Better than this because I want it."

"I want it?" the other asked.

"Yes."

The other sighed. "I guess I know what I'm doing," it said resignedly. And within a thousandth of a second she pulled her hand from the pattern.

Pain she didn't know she was feeling stopped abruptly. A kind of giddy euphoria filled her with the sudden absence of hurt. She felt better, the way you feel when you've made a huge decision that turned out to be all right. She turned, already feeling herself being pulled back to consciousness. The last thing she saw was her haven's Wesley smiling in welcome.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Fred," a voice called from far away.

"Wes?" she muttered, swimming upwards through the comforting gray.

"I think she said something," his voice said excitedly.

"Yeah, she said get the hell of my back, I just woke up after having a super-demon try to take control of me." Charles voice was sarcastic but not unkind. She was closer.

"No, I heard her say something," Wes insisted. "She's waking up."

"The Doc said it'd be another hour," Gunn replied.

"Doc was wrong," Fred said, louder this time. She opened her eyes as the room slowly faded from bright white to a comforting deep red.

"Fred!" Wesley said, swooping down to kiss her with all his relief and love. "I missed you."

"I missed you too," she whispered. "But you were there all the time."

"Sounds like a scene from the Wizard of Oz," Charles said happily. Fred noticed that a spattering of blood made a thin arch across his suit. She would wait until later to ask.

"Where are the others?" she whispered.

"Lorne's at the firm trying to keep everything together; Angel and Spike are probably just getting back from saving you," Wesley said.

"Yeah, looks like they came through," Charles replied. He sounded so relieved.

Fred smiled; she couldn't stop smiling. "It wasn't them, you know," she said quietly.

"What wasn't them?" Wes asked.

"The saving," Fred replied. She gave him a comforting glance, seeing the worry in his eyes. "They were too late, so I saved myself. I hope they won't mind." Wesley and Charles exchanged glances. She knew they didn't understand, but she'd explain later. She reached up and pulled Wesley down into her arms. "Let me know when the others get here and hit the lights on your way out." Her eyes closed to her friends smiling at each other.