Requiem For A Hero

By Shakespeare's Girl

A/N: Canon character death. Be warned, I cried when I read this aloud to check for mistakes. See also: Longer A/N at the bottom.

"Oh God, I've sinned."

I have to have sinned. No one who hasn't sinned should ever feel this much pain.

"I've sinned and I'm being punished."

I can feel Wesley over me, shaking his head, denying what I know must be true.

"I don't know what's wrong. I never got a B minus before."

I can feel myself crying, and I know that I'm frightening my poor Wesley, I can sense his fear. To be honest, I'm scaring myself. It hurts too much, too much, and I want to scream, but I don't think I can.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Make it stop!"

It's too much, and Wesley is beyond scared now, and I wish I could make my body work, I wish I could reach up and touch him, and make him understand that I'm scared too, I'm so scared.

But it hurts too much. It hurts too much and all I can do is just let myself fall back on the pillows and keep trying not to die.

I don't know how long I stay that way, with Wesley over me, hovering, comforting, and I love him for it. Oh god, how I love my Wesley.

It hurts, that's all I really remember. It hurts so bad. And Wesley, poor, sweet Wesley, he doesn't know how to make it stop, he doesn't know that he can't make it stop. He looks so helpless, so alone, and I have to be brave, I have to, for his sake. I have to keep him from knowing how absolutely horrifying this is. I can barely think straight, can barely remember names and faces, but he is here, and I can see him, and touch him, and he's still with me, long after I thought he'd have run away.

"Why did we go there?" I ask, and I'm not sure what I mean, I just know I have to know the answer. "Why did we think we could beat it?" And now I know what I mean, and it's scaring me to death. Well, technically, I think I'm being eaten alive, consumed from the inside out. I shudder, I don't want to think about it, I don't want to know I'm right. "It's evil, Wesley," and I know in that moment that I'm not going to win this fight. "It's bigger than anything."

"I don't believe that," he says, and I can see the despair and the hope in his eyes, and I can't bear to break his heart.

I love him. It's strange, because I thought I was in love with Charles, once upon a time, but this is so different. If Charles were here, I couldn't be as strong as I know I must be. Charles would be all physical comfort and "don't worry" and "I'll protect you," but Wesley isn't like that. I think it's because he needs protecting himself. And I find some reserve of strength I didn't know I had and manage to keep myself back from the brink, keep myself grounded in reality, and not in the monstrosity that's consuming me.

I don't know what it is, but oh god, it hurts. It's past the point where I even know how to express the pain. The pain just is. And Wesley is there, his eyes all concerned, and I know he wants to touch me, but he doesn't know how to do that without making it worse. He doesn't know that if he'd just hold me, it would all be so much better.

God, I love him so much. It's like my entire life was practice, and now in these past few days, I've finally started to live. With him I could finally live. The air seemed sweeter, and nothing was ever going to be wrong again, because I finally had him, and he loved me completely, and I could tell, just from looking at him, that he would never, ever desert me, that he would kill for me, die for me. He made me so happy.

I want to cry, because it's almost too much, knowing I'm dying. Knowing that no matter what he said to me, Angel isn't going to rescue the damsel this time. The handsome man isn't going to find me in time.

But no, that's wrong, because the handsome man is here, he's sitting at the end of my bed, and I must have been crying after all, because he looks so sad, so lost, and I hold out my hand to him.

But he's not the only one in the room. There are so many people here, it looks like a convention, and I have a quick flash of that time my roommate in college dragged me to the local Comic-Con equivalent, only this time there are no signed posters or happy crowds of Star Trek fans gathering around Sulu or Kirk. This time it's just too many people in strange clothes, some of them with frightening faces, and some looking frighteningly human, and I realize that they're here for me. They're here to take me. They don't look nice, or happy, or any of the things that angels are supposed to look like. They scare me, and then they start moving toward me.

"No! I'm with him!" I shout, pointing at my Wesley, and he startles at my voice, and I think maybe I haven't said anything with words to him for a really long time.

The people in my room back up a little, making placating gestures, but I know they'll take me with them when they leave. I look at Wesley, and he's so frightened, so concerned, and my heart breaks clean in two, because even though I can barely remember what happened before the pain, I love him so much, and he's so perfect, so good to me. He's my Wesley. My sunshine. He makes me happy. All the time.

"You won't leave me now?" He shakes his head, and I feel my heart break further, and I wish I could show him that it would be all right. "We're so close."

"I will never leave you."

He means it. He means it. Oh god. I don't want to die. I don't want to die.

I can hear myself panting and moaning and sighing and whimpering as my fear overwhelms me and I feel myself drowning. I hold on with my fingernails, and I manage once more to pull back from the brink.

"That was bad," I whisper. "But it's better now." I think of something, and try to reach for him. "You won't leave me?"

"I won't," he promises, and my heart breaks all over again. I don't think I can talk around the lump in my throat. Or maybe whatever this is has finally hollowed out the parts I need to speak. I think I'm going to break, I think I'm going to die, I think I'm going to--

I feel tears threatening and pain again, so I must be getting worse.

"My boys," I say, and I smile. I love him so much. I love them all. I love my Angel, my Charles, my Lorne. They saved me from Pylea. They saved me from myself. I love my Spike. I saved him...well, I tried anyway. I think I saved him. And my Wesley. My poor, sweet, darling Wesley. I love him so much. I can't begin to understand how much I love him, it just goes beyond my comprehension. He means everything to me. They mean everything to me. I don't want to lose them. I don't want to lose him. Not my boys. Not my Wesley. Not my heros. "I walk with heros. Think about that."

"You are one." Wesley looks like he's about to lose it, and I wonder when he'll finally cry.

I can't help but smile. "A superhero." I wish it was true. "And this is my power. To not let them take me. Not me."

"That's right." He's going to cry, and that's almost worse than me dying, because oh god, if he cries then it's real, and I'm going to die, and it hits me all over again, and I have to take a deep breath as I watch his eyes fill with tears.

"That's right," I echo. "I'm with him..." I take the hand that I've been holding, and I wonder when that happened, because I can't remember, but I know I'm holding it now, and I link our fingers, and then pull his hand and place it over my heart.

It suddenly feels like a weight has lifted, and I remember falling into Lorne's arms, remember that Wesley's voice screaming for someone to get some medical help is the last thing I heard before the pain started. I remember the feel of coughing up blood, feel it thick and vile in my throat, coating my mouth with it's sickly taste, making me need to throw up with it's texture as it forces itself out of my lungs, or my stomach, or maybe just my throat.

I nearly throw up with the memory, and I launch myself across the bed at my Wesley. He tries to catch me, but he doesn't want to touch me for fear of hurting me, and I catch myself.

I see tears in his eyes. His beautiful eyes. I think maybe this is the last time I'm going to see them. I bite back a sob and wish I could hear what he was saying, because the sound of his voice is so comforting, but a pair of figures is stepping forward out of the crowd. I recognize Cordelia, and for some reason, I'm not scared anymore, not of the dying, anyway, because if Cordy's here, then it'll be okay. I trust her. The other one is her height, wearing caramel colored leather, blue jeans and a fedora. His eyes are such a piercing blue, and he smiles at me and nods, like he knows exactly who I am.

I still feel so sick that I might throw up at any second, might wind up just retching out my insides.

Cordy moves forward, glides, and she smiles at me. "Fred? It's okay. You don't have much time. Doyle and I will be right here when you're finished. You're a hero. You're going to be okay." She's crying, and I can't remember seeing her cry before.

And what she says sinks in, and I realize that I am dying, now. It's too soon, it's too soon, I need more time, I need more Wesley, I need Angel to be here, and I have to say goodbye to Lorne, and Spike will go crazy if I can't say goodbye to him, and what about--what about Charles? What about everyone? I have to see them again, I have to, I can't leave them like this.

I want Angel to come and tell me that it's all a mistake, and I need Spike to make me laugh and Lorne to sing me a song and discuss Cavemen versus Astronauts and Charles to give me that megawatt smile that always brightens your day, and Wesley, I can't leave him, I can't, I can't. He's my Wesley now, and I won't leave him, not until we're both old and grey and need walkers and wheelchairs to get around and our children have put us in a nursing home and I really, really, really don't want to die.

It's starting to hurt again, and I can feel myself starting to thrash again, and it hurts, it hurts. I manage to pull myself together and I can feel his arms around me, my Wesley's arms. I moan, and open my eyes and look up at him, and he's still beautiful, handsome, perfect, lovely Wesley. I want nothing more than to stay in his arms forever. And I realize that forever may come a lot sooner than I thought it would. "Will you kiss me?"

He doesn't even say anything, I don't think he can, he just leans down and kisses me, and it's so hard to move enough to accept his kiss, and I can feel our tears mixing as they run down my cheeks. I wish I was stronger. I can feel myself deteriorating, and I know that Cordy's right, even as she looks away from us, even as she leans her head on the man's shoulder.

Wesley pulls back, and I wish he hadn't, because I don't think I can keep myself upright much longer, not without him there to anchor me.

"Would you have loved me?" I have to know, and he lets the tears that have been threatening finally fall.

"I've loved you since I've known you." Wesley gasps back a sob and looks up at the ceiling. "No, that's not--I think maybe even before."

I hear the broken sobs, and I wonder which of us is crying.

The man is watching sadly, his eyes unreadable as he comforts Cordy, who still hasn't looked back at me. When she does, I know I'll have to go. When they both look at me, then it will be time. I ache to leave, I need to stay. I can't take the pain much longer, and I realize that I will do just about anything to make it stop.

"I'm so sorry," I whisper, and whether I'm apologizing for what's happening to me, or for not trying harder, or for knowing that I'm going to die, even as he still clings to hope that I won't, I can't tell.

"No, no, no," he scolds, sounding just like a mother about to lecture her children on something trivial, and homey, and I think of another thing I'll never know. I'll never know motherhood.

I realize that I'm the one making those horrible gasping sobs, and that he's barely keeping his own in, and Cordy's turning toward us, and I don't have much time left, I don't have much time, and I have so much I need to say.

"I--I need you--" I have to get this out, but I'm coughing too hard, sobbing too hard, and it takes me a minute to get my breathing under control. "I need you to talk to my parents," I beg him. "They have to know I wasn't scared." It's terribly important that they know this, that they hear it from him, from the man whose arms will hold me close as I die. "That it was quick, that I wasn't scared--" I'm gasping for air to keep speaking, to finish what I have to tell him. I can feel the tears, but I can't shed them, I've cried enough, I have, I have, and I won't cry anymore. Not while I still have things that I have to say. "Oh god--"

"You have to fight," he commands me, his voice breaking as he fights back his own tears. "You don't have to talk, just concentrate on fighting. Just hold on."

And he still believes. He still thinks Angel will save me. He doesn't realize that Angel already got his chance to save me. He rescued me in Pylea, he saved me from my craziness, he helped me stop writing on walls, got me back out in the world.

Now it's my turn to return the favor, and I have to save Wesley. I have to let him know. I have to make it all right. But I don't know how. Saving people is harder than it looks.

"I'm not scared," I gasp out. He looks at me, and he knows. He sees it in my eyes.

"I'm not scared." It's true. Cordy's here, she'll help me. It's not scary to die, what's making me like this is the disease, the thing inside me, and the pain, and the need to help Wesley. I'm not afraid to die, but that doesn't mean I want to die. I don't. I don't want to die. I want to stay here.

"I'm not scared," I repeat, and I can feel my strength, the final reserves of my strength collapsing. "Please, Wesley," I whisper. "Why can't I stay?"

Cordy looks at me, and she holds out her hand, and I take it, and we're looking down at my old room. Wesley's sobbing into my neck. I can feel his tears. I start to cry too.

Cordelia's behind me now, and she puts her hands on my shoulders and whispers in my ear, "Say your final goodbyes, and then I'll take you home."

Home. Texas. I'm there, instantly, in my room, watching my mother and father and I pack me up to come to LA. I remember the finality of that day.

The memory melts away and I see Momma, sitting at the kitchen table, reading a book and drinking her coffee before heading out to drive the school bus. I bend over to kiss her on the cheek and she looks up. She blinks a moment, and Daddy walks in. I take his hand and squeeze.

"I wonder how Winifred's doing?" my mom asks, her eyes far away.

"Well, we got that trip to Hawaii coming up. Let's take a lay-over in LA and go surprise her."

The kitchen fades away, and I need to see Lorne.

At first I'm confused, because I'm in his Vegas dressing room, but then I walk in the door, made up to be green and oh god, I looked like a little slut in that outfit. I can't hear what we say to each other, but he looks so happy to see me, to see anyone he trusts, and I realize I'm seeing a memory of me that's important to him. I rescued him.

I'm in his office. He's with a client, someone I don't recognize because of the whole science nerd thing, and I look at Lorne. He has a sea breeze in hand, and he's rubbing his forehead between his horns, like there's a giant migrane coming on. I walk over to him, and lay my hand on his head, sliding it over the slightly scaly skin. If I had to be green, I think I'd like to be Lorne-green.

I don't realize I said it aloud to him until his head snaps up and he looks around frantically. He quickly ushers his client out and slams the door behind him, slumping to the floor and sobbing. He knows. He knows I'm dead.

"It's all right, Lorne," I say. "I'll miss you, but don't worry. I'm gonna be all right."

"Fredikins," he murmurs, and his sea breeze spills onto the carpet. He's fading away, and I know he'll be all right, eventually.

Charles, I think, as Lorne's office dissolves.

Charles' memory is of the night at the ballet. I see him look at me, and see him love me. I see him wounded on the floor, hear us quoting at each other, and I wish that I could give him one last kiss before dying, but it's far too late for that now.

He's in the lab, with Knox, and the instant I see Knox, I know what he's done. And I look at Charles, and I see what's he's done too, and I see his heartfelt remorse.

I touch his arm, even as it's raised over his head, poised to bring down a cannister on Knox's head. "It's all right, Charles," I say, hardly knowing what I mean. "It's all right. Everything's going to be all right."

It must be all he needs because I'm fading away again.

Angel, I think. I need to see Angel and Spike.

Spike's memory comes first, and it's really just a rush of images of him and me while he was still a ghost, annoying me while I try to do lab work and figure out how to make him solid again. I feel the gratefulness in these memories, and I realized that I rescued Spike, too. I made him feel wanted.

Angel's memory is from back in Pylea. And there I am in burlap and dirt, leading him back to the cave, saving him from himself, not shying away from him when he returns to his human form, but completely accepting that which he is. I never realized how much that had meant to him. Maybe I saved Angel just as much as he saved me.

I know I'm in the Deeper Well the instant I see it. Angel's staring at Spike, who is staring into the well. He's just said something profound, I can tell in the way both men's shoulders slump in acceptance death.

I go to Spike first. "He's going to need you," I whisper. I lay my hand on his shoulder and bend down closer to his ear. "Don't waste the chance you were given. Be a champion. Be Angel's champion."

Spike straightens up at my words, and I see a decision I didn't know was looming ahead get made. He gives a little nod. He got my message.

I turn to Angel. He looks so lost. He looks so afraid. He looks so hopeless.

"Angel Investigations," I murmur, standing so close our noses are almost touching. "We help the hopeless. And the helpless. Help them Angel. Love them." He's still staring at where Spike was standing a few moments ago, and something dawns on me. I wrap my arms around his neck. "It's okay to love him, Angel. It's okay to love again. Not everything you touch will turn out broken, but you don't know until you try."

A tear rolls down his cheek, and I have to swallow around the lump in my throat. I kiss the tearstain, my lips gentle against his skin. "The handsome man saved me," I whisper to him, as I step back, and the world dissolves again.


It's barely a thought before I'm back in the room with him, and he's still crying into my neck, and I realize that no time has passed since I left.

"Please?" he begs. "Please?" And then he's sobbing in earnest.

I don't know what to do, what to say, to give this one that I love more than anything else the closure he needs.

I kneel down behind him, and wrap my arms around us. He's shaking. I kiss the back of his neck, and feel the shuddering sobs, and whisper the only thing I can think of. "I love you."

I'm fading away again, or he is, and I say it again, louder. "I love you!"

He's almost gone now, and I can see my body stiffening. "I LOVE YOU!" I shout, and the last of him fades away.

Cordy and the man she was with earlier fade into existence, and they look at me, and I must look horrible, tearstained, and pale and sick and sweaty and blotchy.

"Fred?" It's Cordelia, and she's holding out one hand, her friend holding out one of his. "It's okay. Take our hands. It's time to go home, now."

I look up. There are stars above us. It's warm, and there's no humidity, so I know that there won't be any rain. It feels like that spring I spent up north, when it barely reached seventy five every day, and there was green everywhere, and everything looked so crystal clear and beautiful. It occurs to me to wonder how the sun is shining and we can still see the stars.

I look back at the pair of them, standing there. They still have their hands outstretched. I reach out and take them, Cordy on my left, the other--Doyle, I realize--on my right. They're both smiling, and it's bittersweet, because everything I love is back the way I came, but I know that this is home now. With this awkwardly perfect pair of heros.

I walk with heros. Think about that.

You are one.

I start to cry. I think I'll like it here.

A/N 2: Okay, deep breaths, deep breaths, think happy, cheerful, thoughts, and keep taking deep breaths.

So, I wanted to explain a few things.

First off, I'm not saying that this is what happens when you die. I've never died, (duh) so I don't know what it's like. But this is what I imagine, sort of. Basically, the general idea was to answer the question "If I was dying like that/died like that, what would I want to say to my friends/family." And I have to admit, it was partially inspired by an experience I had when my grandma died. The whole family was gathered around the bedside, and one by one she called us over and told us something special. She died really early the next morning, and since I left (I couldn't stand to stay and watch her die) I never saw her again. I thought Fred should have that chance to say something to each of her boys again, because no one knew she was for sure dying forever when they have that last meeting in her room. So that would be my explanation for why I described dying like I do.

The other thing I wanted to explain that I didn't want to do at the beginning for tonal purposes is that when I was watching "A Hole In The World" and I saw Fred shout that she was with Wesley, I immediately wanted to know why she was yelling that, why she had to defend herself. I know it was probably intended that it be Illyria she was talking to, but I liked the idea (albeit very obscurely written on my part) of the hordes of hell come to take her away, before Cordy and Doyle come to take her to the place where heros go.

As to Cordy and Doyle, well, why wouldn't they hook up in the afterlife? They were friends on earth, and I really liked them together. I'm not trying to imply any afterlife romance with that, I just really think they work well together. And they were two comforting figures that Fred could look to for help while she tried to be strong for Wesley, particularly Cordelia.

Okay, final thing. Fred's Requiem. The music I listened to while writing this is as follows:

Joy Enriquez: How Can I Not Love You?

Natalie Cole: Every Time We Say Goodbye

Gomez: See The World

P!nk: Who Knew

Avril: I'm With You

Charlotte Church: All Love Can Be

Linda Ronstadt: Long, Long Time

Kim Richey: A Place Called Home

So, thanks for putting up with my silly long author's notes, and I think I've just given new meaning to katharsis, but anyway...I needed to write this.