Rescue My Heart
By Yasashii Tsubasa
Summary: When Fred's soul begins to inexplicably disintegrate, Wes races to save her only to find that the cure lies within Fred herself, where an old enemy suddenly and mysteriously wants to help…Sequel to Rekindle the Lost. Surprise!
Disclaimer: Still not mine.
Distribution: The usual haunts; I believe you know who you are. Anyone else, please ask first, as usual.
Rating: PG-13, but very close to R for violence and adult content. Nothing huge, but just to be safe.
A/N: I hate to turn a reader away, but if you're here and haven't read 'Rekindle the Lost', you should definitely go read it first (and review). In fact, it's assumed that you've read RtL. This will make no sense whatsoever if you haven't.
It was the uncomfortable transition period between the days and the nights, a time when some creatures went off to bed while others—all-too familiar others—came out to play. In Los Angeles, some people liked to go for an evening swim or surf in the ocean; some enjoyed the boardwalk or the docks with their carnivals and stores; others were just coming home from work, going to their children or lovers or roommates, or perhaps to an empty, cold apartment and a microwave dinner.
Fred was sitting on the railing of her balcony, watching the sun set.
She had taken up the habit of making a cup of tea and sipping it slowly as she watched the rays of the sun fall below the water, perched on the wide railing of the balcony with her back against the wall and one foot resting on a chair to anchor herself. From her balcony, Fred could see the entire ocean, a luxury that she'd only noticed after Illyria.
Before then, Fred hadn't noticed a lot of things. Now, she did.
She smiled softly as the colours of the sky began to shift from yellow to orange, with purple showing very slightly near the surface of the water, and took a sip of the tea, feeling the warmth flow through her bones. Wesley had given Fred this tea, explaining that his grandmother had given him the recipe for the homemade brew as a boy, so he could make it himself. It was a mixture of roses, lavender, ginger and a hint of cinnamon, and, Wes explained, it was excellent for keeping away nightmares.
Fred drank it every night nowadays. She needed some insurance.
The sounds of the city melted into silence as Fred meditated on her own thoughts. It had been months since Wesley had rescued her from Illyria, and sometimes those months seemed like years, but sometimes—on bad days, on days when things were off and not quite right from the moment Fred awoke—it seemed like minutes ago that she had swung her sword around to slice off the head of the ancient goddess, the day that she had cheated all kinds of fate and had died a second time only to come back again.
Fred felt a painful twinge in her stomach where she'd been stabbed on that day, even though she showed no trace whatsoever of any scar or any indication that such a thing had happened to her. She often wondered how many days she had left before death came to reclaim its rightful property and took her away from Wesley and from life. It was an unsettling thought, to be sure, but Fred found it less frightening than some of the things that her mind cooked up in her dreams.
The sky was now a deep and shining red colour, the shade of fine wine, with streaks of pink and blue and cream-coloured clouds crossing it. Red sky at night, sailor's delight, Fred thought with a small smile, draining the last of the tea. Maybe it was a good omen for a peaceful night to come, devoid of the nightmares that Fred could never really remember but knew had happened.
"Fred?" Wesley's voice pierced through to reach Fred's ears and blossom in her mind like a flower. "Are you in here, love?"
"Out on the balcony," she answered, setting down the mug and turning her head to see him step onto the porch and close the sliding door behind him. Wesley smiled softly, lifting Fred's chin with a finger and kissing her hello.
"Lovely evening," he commented casually with a smile. "I thought I might find you out here."
Fred grinned back. "You know I'm always here, Wesley," she replied. "Don't play stupid with me."
Wes pouted jokingly. "And I was having so much fun with it, too." His lips captured hers again, more seriously now; Fred surrendered gratefully, glad to be warm in his arms. She broke off the kiss and rested her head on Wesley's shoulder with a sigh. She was so glad that their love was still as innocent and wonderful as it had been before all of Illyria's mess, that they had picked up the pieces and started over from scratch.
"Are you cold?" Fred asked sleepily into Wesley's shirt, and felt him shake his head.
"You're always cold," he said with a chuckle. "It's one of those things you do nowadays, haven't you noticed? I have the feeling that you'd be chilled if we suddenly picked up and moved to Australia."
Fred looked at him, jokingly serious. "I didn't know that was an option. When do we leave?"
Wesley laughed and kissed her again, his arms surrounding her, and never before had Fred been so grateful for his love to keep her soul from freezing again.
The goddess stood before the void of black evil that was the Soul Stealer, her feet sturdy on the hard marble floor, eyes blazing in anger. Her form was shimmering, incorporeal in the temple, but the goddess stood ready to fight anyway. It was in her nature to do so.
The miniature black hole that stood between two pillars of the temple crackled and sucked at the air around the goddess' body, trying to intimidate her to no avail.
"Old One," it hissed softly, its voice dripping with hate. "You come, but you know that you cannot stop anything."
Her anger grew, hands curling into fists. "You know nothing," she spat. "I have made entire universes bow to me. You think I can't stop you? That I can't stop one soul?"
The thing laughed, the sound very much like gears grinding against one another. "Well, well, I see that you are still making idle threats. Even I couldn't possibly imagine it…the Old One, God-King of all worlds…reduced to a prisoner in a fragile human soul, forced to look after it like a housewife. You're not even able to completely be here, Old One, just a ghost of you," one tendril of pure darkness stretched out to caress goddess' cheek; she flinched and swatted it away, her eyes burning like fire.
"Don't dare to touch me," she whispered, and the tendril retracted.
"The disintegration has already begun," the black hole's voice whispered. "You cannot stop it, Old One, and you should not even try. It would be like trying to stop the world."
The goddess blinked and found that she had disappeared, rematerializing in the science lab of the soul house, shaking with barely controlled anger. In her mind she knew that the being was right; the deterioration was already happening, and it was only a matter of time before the effects began to show. The goddess knew that she had to stop it.
I need his help, she realized silently. I need him. I need them both. I can't allow this to happen.
No matter the consequences, this must not happen.
Despite Wesley's jokes, Fred was still cold.
Even after months, she was still freezing in her dreams, still bombarded with the bone-numbing iciness that could only come from the deepest recesses of her soul.
She unconsciously murmured softly in her sleep, gathering the comforter closer to her body. Fred was only warm when she dreamed of Wesley; this was not that kind of vision. This was the coldest of all.
This dream was about Illyria.
She'd been having the dream almost every night for weeks now; it was always the same. In her mind, Fred saw the ancient goddess sitting in a chair in the library of her soul's house, reading one of Fred's favourite books; no matter how many times Fred saw the image, it always struck her as odd, to see Illyria reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Fred approached her carefully, her footsteps echoing on the marble as they always had and always would. Her soul was whole, the house complete as if untouched, but Fred was still cold. Some things had changed.
Fred stopped a few feet from Illyria's chair, wondering, as she had before, why the goddess was there.
"Hello, Fred," Illyria said without looking up.
"Illyria," Fred replied. "What are you doing here? I…I killed you."
There was a long pause; Fred knew, down to the last atom of the last cell of her body, what came next. Illyria continued reading for a few minutes, turning exactly two pages, letting the silence choke the room; then she closed the book and looked up to meet Fred's gaze for the first time in the dream. The deep blue eyes narrowed slightly, a sign of the tiniest bit of contempt, and her head tilted to the side.
"You killed me," the goddess echoed. "But you did not let me go."
Fred's eyes widened. "I'm not keeping you prisoner, Illyria! You can go anytime you want!"
Illyria shook her head. "You are still so ignorant," she said softly. "Do you think that matters of the soul are that easy? You keep me, yes, but you cannot set me free. That is not your decree to make." Her gaze dropped back to the book in her lap.
"Whose decree is it, then, Illyria?" Fred wanted to know. "Who makes you stay here? I don't want you."
When Illyria looked up again, her face was horribly mutilated, the skin burned until it had melted and slashed with a knife, her eyes blown from their sockets and hanging loose on her cheeks.
"It is coming, Fred," Illyria whispered in a voice straight from the depths of Hell; Fred put her hands over her ears to block it out, but to no avail. "Are you ready to die?"
"No!" Fred cried, backing away, desperately trying to reach the door of the library. "Just leave me alone! Please, please, leave me alone!"
The hellish thing that had taken over Illyria laughed, sending chills down Fred's spine. She turned and ran for the exit, but the marble floor was suddenly coated with blood and Fred slipped and fell, hitting her head on the ground and blacking out with the laughter resounding in her ears.
She never remembered the nightmare, never even knew that she'd had it. Fred always spent the rest of the night in black emptiness, dreamless, always freezing cold, nearly shivering.
Tonight, however, Fred heard Wesley laugh softly through the darkness like a sun coming to life in the emptiness of space; she felt his smile, and the warmth began to spread from her heart down her limbs. She was always warm when she dreamt of Wesley; Fred supposed it was his power as her soul mate.
In the dream Fred felt Wesley's embrace surround her like the softest of blankets, sensed his heartbeat next to hers, but still her world was black.
Why can't I see you? she wondered. I still can't—
He was speaking, interrupting her thoughts, repeating her name: Fred. Fred. Fred. Fred.
"Fred. Fred, love, wake up."
She opened her eyes to find the dream to be real, that Wesley was sitting there beside her on the edge of her bed, his hand resting beside her other hip, his weight on the mattress comfortingly real. The summer sun shone through the gossamer curtains behind him to fall on the quilt in lazy patterns.
Wes' smile was bright as he leaned over and kissed the top of her head, the scent of his cologne enticing in Fred's nostrils.
"Good afternoon, sunshine," he said softly, and Fred couldn't help but smile back.
"Hello," she replied pleasantly, still sleepy. "What do you mean by 'afternoon?'"
"Well, it's several minutes past noon," Wes replied, a tiny thread of worry appearing in his voice. "I've been trying to wake you for over four hours now."
Fred's brow furrowed. "You're kidding," she said, sitting up in bed and glancing at the clock, which confirmed Wesley's statement. "What…how did I not wake up? What happened?"
Wesley bravely kept his smile; she could tell that he was worried. "I was hoping you could tell me, but it doesn't really matter, I suppose. You're fine."
Fred sighed, her mind on something else. "She was here," she murmured, resting her head on Wesley's shoulder. "It was her. I could have sworn…"
"Who was here?"
Fred met his eyes. "I don't know," she replied, absently tracing the pattern of her quilt with the tip of her finger. "I…I can't remember. But she was here with me. We talked, I think, and then…" an involuntary shudder laced Fred's veins like acid. She closed her eyes, suddenly tired again.
Wesley gently ran his hand through her hair. "And then…"
Fred didn't respond.
" Fred?" Wesley pulled her back to look at her and discovered that she was limp, her eyes closed in sleep or unconsciousness. "Fred!"
Staring at her with panic coursing through his veins, Wes hoped he was imagining the tiny flash of blue in Fred's hair that quickly faded. No matter how he tried, she wouldn't wake.
Wesley closed his eyes, praying that he was just having a very bad nightmare. Fred's sleepy words came back to him.
She was here. It was her.
A moment later, Fred's eyes opened and she smiled as if nothing had happened.
"Wesley? Are you going to let me get ready for work?"
Wes swallowed his fear and nodded, releasing Fred from his arms and watching her disappear into the bathroom for a shower as if nothing had happened.
Her hair was brown once more.
Something is wrong with Fred, Wesley realized. And dear god, I have no idea what to do.