A/N: Well, I am a little sad, but extremely proud nonetheless, to present the finale of Rekindle the Lost. I have to say that this is definitely my favourite of the chapters, and it was also the hardest to write, but undeniably the most rewarding. I hope you enjoy it.
I'm going to say my thank-you's here, so I they don't take away from the ending of the story.
Thank you to all the people who are currently hosting my stories: , Blue Moon Rising, WNW and (hopefully) a new Illyria site soon. You guys rock, and I'm glad to be part of your sites.
Thank you to Lily DeSilva, my editor, who steals my CDs when I'm late with a chapter.
A special thank you to Lara, who probably got this story going in the first place.
Most of all, thank you to my reviewers, who are true inspiration in my times of need, who keep me from getting lazy, and who are flattering and wonderful to me for no reason at all. I love you guys.
Wesley opened his eyes slowly and turned over, groaning quietly as his bruises protested his movement; hitting a wall hurt a lot more than he imagined. Wes sighed silently and wiped his face with the back of his hand. Why the devil am I covered in plaster?
" Oh my god, Wesley, you're awake!"
Fred's voice from above his head. Oh, ecstasy.
Wes forced his eyes to focus and saw that Fred was sitting on the floor beside him, tears welling in her eyes. Alive, sweet, practically glowing. His Fred.
Wesley reached up to touch her face, hardly daring to believe it. " Fred," he barely whispered. " You're alive. You're here."
She leaned into his touch, smiling. " Wesley…oh, god, I was so scared…"
Wes shook his head. " Don't be," he replied softly. " It's over. It's over."
And then, he heard the voice, the familiar voice that scared him beyond all reasoning:
" Oh, it's far from over."
Wes looked past Fred to see something he had hoped never to have to witness: another Fred, identical to the one who was holding him now, standing in the hall, her sword by her side. The two Freds were perfect replicas of one another, wearing the same torn and bloody clothes, wielding the same swords, bleeding from the same wounds, the same eyes boring into his soul.
Oh dear god, Wesley realized. One of them is Illyria in disguise.
He rolled away from the Fred beside him and picked up her discarded sword, automatically falling into the defensive position.
" Which one of you is Illyria?" Wes whispered, realizing how terrified he was; he was scared out of his mind that he would kill the wrong Fred. Neither girl answered him.
Okay, Wesley said to himself. Okay. I can figure this out—it's a logic puzzle. First things first: don't assume either one to be Illyria. Let's just call both girls Fred. Fred One is the is the one who was holding me. Fred Two is the dangerous-looking one with the sword. Now—
Before Wes could think any further, Fred Two suddenly charged, bearing her sword down to kill her look-alike. Fred One screamed and cowered, but Wesley quickly intercepted Fred Two—She must be Illyria—knocking her sword away. In the brief moment that their faces were close, Wes snarled, " Who are you?"
Fred Two stepped back. " Don't you know me, Wesley? I'm Fred."
Wesley felt dread rise again, quickening his heartbeat and making his head pound. This game was getting very deadly very quickly, and Wes had a decision to make that would decide not only Fred's fate, but his own as well.
Why are people always putting me in charge of things?
Fred One pulled herself to her feet. " Wesley, listen to me…you have to believe that it's me. I'm Fred…I can even prove it to you. Do you remember when you were infected by Billy's blood? You kissed me in that hotel room, our first kiss, do you remember it?"
Wesley swallowed hard as the painful memories came back to him, still excruciating after all this time. " Yes," he admitted softly. " I remember."
Fred Two scoffed, folding her arms in front of her chest. " That proves absolutely nothing," she said. " I can 'prove' that I'm Fred, too: Wesley, you shot your father for me, without knowing that he was an android."
" The song I sang," Fred One cried desperately. " The day that I was infected by Illyria. It was 'You Are My Sunshine.'"
" You kissed me after confronting Angelus, while we were still in the Hyperion Hotel," Fred Two shot back.
Wesley held up his right hand. " Stop it, both of you," he ordered, feeling the memories try to tear his soul apart. " This will not work; Illyria—" he looked to Fred Two unconsciously, "—has all of Fred's memories, including those about Conner. This bantering doesn't prove anything."
Fred One was crying slightly. " Wesley," she whispered. " My dear, sweet Wesley…when I was in your soul's house, I asked you a question…you told me that I was your paradise. That there was nothing for you if I wasn't there. That was your answer."
Wes felt the colour drain from his face. He looked at Fred Two, but she gave no response; her face was blank and neutral.
Wesley turned back to Fred One—no, Fred, glorious, wonderful, beautiful Fred.
" Fred," he murmured. " It is you."
She nodded, running into his arms. As Wes held her tightly, breathing in the scent of her hair, he saw Illyria-Fred's sword fall back by her side realized that the ancient demon was standing there, watching them, a strangely shocked and saddened look on her face. The farmhouse began to shake violently now, and objects around the room exploded into tiny pieces, almost as if there was an invisible pressure squeezing them until they burst.
Wesley pulled out of the embrace and looked into Fred's eyes. He picked up her sword and put it into her hands.
" Fred…you have to finish this. It's the only way out of here."
Fred took the blade and smiled a little uncharacteristically. " My pleasure," she replied, and then turned and charged at Illyria-Fred, her sword aimed for the heart, her intent to kill.
Wesley wanted to close his eyes, didn't want to watch Fred kill Illyria, but he couldn't tear his gaze away. It was almost over. Almost over.
Illyria-Fred stood passively, her sword loosely gripped, unmoving as Fred charged. She looked up and caught Wesley's eyes an instant before Fred got to her.
" All is not lost," she whispered, and Wesley felt horror grip him as he realized that he had made the wrong choice. " All is not lost."
Then, just as Fred reached Illyria, time slowed and then stopped; Wesley was thrown back into a memory that was not his own.
He opened his eyes to find himself being forced up against a wall by Illyria, their swords crossed at the hilt.
Looking beyond the ancient goddess, Wes saw his own body lying limply across the room, and he realized that he was seeing through Fred's eyes, watching firsthand what had happened.
Wes felt himself smile weakly against his will. " Not so weak anymore, am I?" Fred's voice emanated softly from his lips. " You won't kill me yet."
Illyria tilted her head a little, and then her smile widened. " No," she said. She looked upwards and transformed herself into Fred's mirror image, identical in every way. " No, Fred. I won't kill you; Wesley will."
Fred pushed Illyria away, and Wesley pushed too, trying to lend his strength to her but knowing that he was only a spectator. Fred was terrified, but refused to let it show.
" You wouldn't," Wes felt her whisper. " You couldn't do it. He'd never believe you."
In the corner of the room, Wesley heard himself begin to stir. Much to his horror—and Fred's—Illyria ran to the body and knelt down, trying to help Wesley wake. Wes felt in his heart the utter despair that Fred felt, and she allowed her blade to fall by her side, giving up. She just gave up, and, watching helplessly through her eyes, Wes cried out in shame and horror at what he had done.
The pieces of the logic puzzle suddenly came together. All is not lost…the one thing that Illyria couldn't know. The demon has access to all of Fred's memories, but she couldn't know what Fred had learned subconsciously: the information given during their kiss in Wesley's soul's house.
All is not lost.
They had unknowingly given each other the same message.
I chose the wrong one.
" Fred!" Wesley's eyes snapped open just in time to see Illyria—the real Illyria—ram her sword into Fred's stomach.
Wes was frozen to the spot, watching helplessly. The blade wasn't in very far, a sign that Fred had deflected it away from her heart, but she had gone completely white and was trembling slightly. All around them, the house began to disintegrate faster, erratically, dying more rapidly.
After milliseconds that felt like hours, Wesley found his voice again. " Fred!" he yelled desperately. " All is not lost! Finish it!"
Fred gritted her teeth, raising her sword. In a move too quick for Wesley to follow and before Illyria could react, Fred swept her blade sideways and sliced Illyria's head off.
The body of the ancient goddess swayed slowly, then fell; it dissipated into billions of black bugs as it hit the floor. The bugs dissolved into the air, invisible dust.
Fred turned to face Wesley, pulling the sword from her body and letting it clatter to the floor. She took a step towards him and stumbled, swaying drunkenly. Wes jumped forward and caught her, cradling Fred against his chest as he sank down to the floor.
" Fred," he whispered, realizing that he was crying. " Oh, Fred, I'm so sorry…I love you so much…I'm sorry…"
She shook her head and tried to smile weakly as the furniture in the room began to dissolve. " No, Wesley…no…it's finally over. L-let's go home."
Wes nodded and stood up, carrying Fred's tiny little body up the stairs to the locked door. With each step he took, Wesley felt the floor behind him crumble and fall, revealing black nothingness. The house cracked apart and dissolved as Fred grew weaker.
The door was filled with cracks by the time Wes and Fred reached it. Fred, holding one hand to her stomach, took the key out of her pocket and fumbled with it, unable to find the lock with her trembling hand. She began to cry as her blood dotted the carpet.
" Wesley…Wesley, am I dying?"
Wes shook his head firmly, refusing to believe it. The ceiling broke apart and fell around them.
" Hold on, Fred; you must hold on. Just put the key in the lock when I say, all right? It's over…we'll make it, I promise. True love survives everything."
Fred swallowed. " True love…survives everything," she repeated, and smiled weakly, a smile full of blood. " That's us, right? True love?"
Wes nodded. " Yes. That's us."
" Okay," Fred whispered.
Wesley stepped back and held out his left hand, with the Eye of Animus—nearly forgotten in all the action—ready. " Reperire præter amare," he whispered, and nodded to Fred as a signal. There was an audible, distinct click as the tumblers of the lock fell into place, and Wesley began to trace the numbers in the air: 7, 7…
Fred gasped suddenly and fell to her knees, letting go of the key. She looked up at Wesley desperately, holding her stomach, and then died without a word. The door cracked and fell into pieces, revealing blinding white light on the other side.
As the light began to spread through the hall, Wesley knelt and took Fred's already cold body into his arms, the spell unfinished and all hope gone. Wes closed his eyes and held Fred's corpse tightly, bringing his lips to her ear.
" True love survives everything," he whispered as the light filled his reality and swallowed him up forever. " True love survives everything… true love survives everything…oh, god, everything…"
Wesley awoke in the darkness of Fred's bedroom, awake and alive. Alone.
He rolled over slowly, fighting the urge to cry but losing the battle. He had failed the one chance he'd had to save Fred, and now both she and Illyria were dead. It was the second time that Wes had watched Fred die.
There was nothing left, now.
Then, Wesley saw her.
Oh. Oh god in heaven, if you do exist, which I sometimes doubt. Oh, lord.
Fred's body lying a few feet away from him, colour in her cheeks. Breathing.
Alive. Fred was alive.
Wesley, too exhausted to stand, crawled over to Fred and gently turned her over onto her back, hardly daring to believe it. Wes was nearly on top of her, his torso pressed against hers, feeling her heartbeat flutter in time with his own. Wes brushed a lock of hair away from her face.
" True love survives everything," Wesley whispered. " We won. It's over."
Fred stirred softly, and her eyes fluttered before opening. A radiant smile spread over her face as she recognized Wesley, and the tears in her eyes began to fall as she reached up and gently cupped his cheek in her hand.
No words needed to be spoken; nothing needed to be conveyed. As their beating hearts sang out in perfect, silent, harmony, Wesley lowered his lips to meet Fred's and softly kissed her.