Title: The Voice Within

Author: filmFreak1

Summary: After the events of Not Fade Away, Illyria has taken a trip down to Dallas, Texas, to inform Fred's parents about what really happened to their daughter.

Disclaimer: Illyria and everyone else in the Buffyverse are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, WB, UPN, etc. I don't own any of them (but, oooooooohhhhhh, how I wish I did). I'm not making money on this, so please don't sue me (for one thing, the money I'd be able to pay you would be less than the money you'd be spending on lawyers and court costs).

You certainly have come a long ways. She hears the shell (she mentally slaps herself; it's "Fred", not "the shell") say this in her mind. She knows that it is not really Fred that is speaking, but rather Fred's memories.

I only carry out my duty, Illyria replies to Fred. I have no love for these lower beings that you call Mommy and Daddy.

Your duty? Illyria can hear Fred giggling in her head. What duty? Wesley never asked you to tell them.

Wesley tried to tell them when they came to visit you, replies Illyria.

And yet it was you who stopped him, even though you had no reason to.

I wanted to spare him the pain.

Fred giggles again. No, you didn't.

Then why did I stop him?

Sure, you developed a bit of a crush on him, but it wasn't his pain you wished to spare.

A pause. Illyria doesn't reply.

It was theirs.

Again, Illyria has no response to this. Fred continues.

True, you really hadn't met Mommy and Daddy yet, but you knew them already, because my memories knew them; and my memories, every darn ounce of them, loved them like pancakes, which meant that, somewhere inside, you did, too.

Illyria remains quiet. She wants to do nothing more than argue, but she knows that Fred is right.

Fred doesn't say another word as Illyria assumes the form of her shell's previous owner (she doesn't want to scare them away as soon as they see her) and knocks on the door of a certain house in Dallas, Texas.

An hour later, Illyria sits on a dining chair, staring across the table at Roger and Trish Burkle. She has now changed out of her Fred-form and revealed her real form: the blue, straight hair, the leather bodysuit, everything (the whole shebang, Fred would have called it). Trish is weeping uncontrollably into Roger's shoulder. Roger is hugging her with one arm, while the other rests on the table next to his glasses.

When they had answered the door, Illyria could tell that they were both surprised and overjoyed to see their daughter. Or so they thought.

Illyria had jumped to the chase. She told them that Fred had died. At first they had chuckled; they thought it was a joke. She wasn't laughing. They started getting upset, telling her that it wasn't funny anymore. Eventually Illyria switched to the form of the Blue Meanie (as the blonde half-breed had called her) to prove it to them.

Trish had started sobbing uncontrollably, and Roger cursed while tears formed in his eyes.

Eventually, they had calmed down enough that Illyria summarized what had happened: who Illyria was, how she (she thought of herself as female now) had infected Fred with Knox's assistance (she wisely decided to leave out the part about Fred's soul being destroyed), her losing her powers, Wesley's death and her grief (they were saddened further by the news about the former watcher), and the huge battle in LA, which by this point had occurred three months ago.

And thus it happens that she now sits here, staring across the table at them.

Roger slips his glasses on.

"So you—I mean, Fred was already gone when we visited her."

Illyria nods in her usual robotic fashion.

"So why the hell weren't we told?"

Normally, Illyria does not lie. However, her Fred half takes over in answering this question.

"Wesley wished to not ruin your vacation."

Roger lowers his face. A moment later he looks up again.

"What happened to the others in the alley?"

"The dark one died. He was already mortally wounded before the battle began. I could not find the two half-breeds."

"So, after all this, why did you come down here to tell us all of this shit? Why do you even care?" Illyria feels Fred flinching inside at the bad word; Fred is not used to Daddy being this angry.

"Wesley would have wanted me to do it. He believed that you deserved to know the truth."

Trish finally says something.

"You really loved him, didn't you?"

Illyria does not respond for a moment. Then, slowly, she nods.

"Yes."

They sit there staring at each other across the table for what seems like an eternity. Finally Roger slowly speaks.

"To tell you the truth, we already knew that she was gone."

Illyria cocks her head, gazing at him questioningly with her cold, blue eyes.

"I do not understand."

"The battle was all over the news, although the networks reported it as a race riot. We knew that it had occurred in the area that Fred worked in; for one thing, it was reported that the rioters had completely destroyed the Wolfram and Hart building. We kept trying to call her, but never got through. We feared that she had been murdered, and even raped, after we waited a long time and she never called. We have been worrying and mourning ever since."

Illyria does not respond. She continues staring at him.

Eventually Trish leans forward. "Did she go peacefully?"

Illyria thinks about this for a moment. She decides to be truthful.

"She was in pain, but Wesley did what he could to make her comfortable. He kept her warm, and read to her. She died knowing that she was loved. I know this because I have memories left over by her."

Trish swallows hard and nods.

Rogers speaks again. "We want you to know that we are grateful for what you have done for us today. You have put our minds at ease, letting us know that our little girl's in heaven, and that she died as peaceful a death as anyone could ask for." Illyria dares not tell him the truth about Fred's final destination, or lack thereof.

Illyria nods. "It was my duty."

Trish wipes another tear from her eye. "Where are you heading to after this?"

Illyria cocks her head again, meditating on the question. "I don't know yet."

"Would you like to stay here for a while?" Both Illyria and Fred are surprised at this question. For a moment, she says nothing. Finally…

"Yes. I would like that very much."

Roger nods slowly. "I'll go prepare Fred's room for you." He stands and then walks up the stairs.

Illyria and Trish are left alone in the dining room. Eventually, Trish stands and walks over to where Illyria is sitting.

"Can I ask you a favor?" Illyria stands and faces Trish, and nods.

"Can you change back to Fred's form for just a minute?"

"Yes. I can do that." And she does. Blue, straight hair becomes brown and wavy; pale, blue skin turns tan; and the tight leather bodysuit transforms into a white summer dress.

Trish steps forward and hugs the Fred-form. After recovering from the initial shock, the Fred-form hugs her back. A full minute later, Trish breaks the embrace and heads up the stairs to assist Roger in preparing the room.

Illyria changes out of Fred-form, and wipes the beginnings of tears from her blue eyes.

Welcome home, Fred giggles inside.

In response, Illyria nods. Then she turns and heads up the stairs.