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Title:I Walk With Heroes
Rating: PG/Teen
Summary: This is my power, to not let them take me. The PTB step in to give Fred one final choice as Illyria begins to consume her.
Disclaimer: I'm not Joss, therefore I have no power and am just a lowly mortal trying to get by, afraid at any moment the big guy might shockingly kill me off. ME and such own Fred and the others that crop up in this story, but the words are all mine because they would never be this nice to her. Some lines taken directly from "A Hole in The World."
Artwork: Fabulous banner by the amazingly talented mwrgana_muse
Distribution: Yay!

Originally posted on FFN and LJ






She's being consumed. There's this thing inside of her and it's cooking her alive. She can feel it, and worse, she knows she's going to die. And she hates it and it hurts and this isn't right. It's not fair.

People in love don't get to die.

And she is in love, with Wesley, beautiful, brave, goofy Wesley. One day, they only had one day. And the thing taking over her from the inside out is making her leave and all she wants is to stay. After everything, she shouldn't get to fall like this, she is better than some monster flu. There's no way that her will isn't stronger. That her love isn't stronger. So close, they were so close.

But it's getting harder and harder to fight with each strangled breath. Things are slipping away, thoughts and places and memories. Control. She shakes, small vibrations shudder through her without consent. Tears spill over her eyelids and flood her sight and her cheeks are wet. Wesley's arms are around her but so loose. He knows as well as she that she's so close to breaking. He's with her. He'll never leave her. She asks for a kiss, and they touch so close to what they should have been.

"Would you have loved me?" She needs to know, she can't hold on if he doesn't. She doesn't think she can if he does, but she needs to know.

"I've loved you since I've known you," there are tears in his eyes, wails stuck in his throat, making the words jagged, but no less sore, "no, that's not..", then he smiles slightly, "I think maybe even before." And he can't hold back the crying much longer, even though she's in his arms she feels so far away.

"I'm sorry—" she wants to say more but the words splinter in her throat.

"No, no."

And they're both sobbing and gripping so tight. Her head rests on his shoulder because she's too weak to hold it up.

That's when she knows. "I need you to talk to my parents. They have to know I wasn't scared. And that I went quick", the light burns so hot, so hard. Words keep tumbling from dry, parched lips and veins are visible through tightly stretched skin. It's so much pain, never before had the world felt so much pain. She keeps repeating it, "I wasn't scared, oh God." And he grounds her, and he talks and he tries so hard to save her. "I'm not scared, I'm not scared." His arms fold around her, needing her closer, needing her to make it. "Please, Wesley", her voice shatters his heart. "Why can't I stay?"

Then Fred was gone.

She doesn't know where she is, but it doesn't hurt. For the first time in what feels like eternity it doesn't hurt. Everything is gone. Her room, her man, her memory...

"Wesley?" A name spills from her mouth. She doesn't know why. Everything is dark, so dark.

"Sorry Fred, wrong team member." A familiar voice says from behind her. The voice breaks through the fog, but darkness remains.

She turns around and meets a face that makes everything disappear, all the pain and the hurt and the heartbreak of the last day washed off by a smile. "Cordy?" Then arms are wrapped around each other in a hug. "Wait, Cordy, no offense but aren't you dead?" The women part slightly arms dropping to their sides but remaining close.

Cordelia's eyes shift from left to right before landing on Fred again. "Um, Fred, honey, where do you think you are?"

Then everything rushes back. The pain, the parasite. She remembers dying. "I always thought this place would be all white light and stuff. It's weirdly dark."

Cordy sighs, this won't be fun. "Fred, this isn't afterlife, well, actually it is, just not the afterlife. You've done a lot of good Fred, trust me, the PTB only send me to get recruits." She pauses, watching the confusion swimming in the smaller woman's eyes. "You're a hero, Bubbo. And you've got a decision to make."

Fred snorts a little. "Excuse the language but Cordy what in the hell are you talking about?" This is weird; she feels all floaty, like there's no ground beneath her feet. And maybe there's not, everything is so dark she can barely tell.

"Well, Miss Burkle, you owe the powers a favour. You see, when Illyria" Cordy scoffs the world like it isn't something you say in polite company, ironic coming from Miss Chase, "took your body", she watches sympathetically as Fred shudders and tears well in her friend's eye. Cordelia understands better than most, she knows what it's like to be helpless, to be completely consumed, "the flames of resurrection or whatever the hell it was, was supposed to burn up your soul."

Fred squeaks as the tears finally spill over. She's dead, really, really dead. Not like in Pylea where she was just lost and a little bit crazy, even if she was dead to the outside world. Now she was heart-stopped-breath-stopped-actually-properly-dead dead. And gone.

Cordy's arms wrap around her, "no, Honey, it's okay, let me finish." She cradles the smaller woman, watching her fall apart. One hand pats her back as the other wipes away tears. "The Powers got pissed because their warriors seem to always get the ass-end of the deal, so they sent me to save your soul and give you some options."

Fred sniffs, trying not to wipe her leaking face on Cordy. She pulls away from her friend's chest to meet chocolate eyes, "but I'm still dead."

"Not quite, you held on pretty tight back there." This is my power, to not let them take me.

Something inside Fred snaps. She pushes Cordy away and backs up, movements jerky and erratic, "no, this makes no sense," she sinks down, finds herself huddled on the floor, "this doesn't… I don't… I'm not…"

"Fred, Honey—" Cordy's eyes widen, "LOOK OUT!"

A hand wraps around Fred's throat, lifting the small girl from the ground. Fred pulls hard at the small hands that feel like they're choking her, she kicks and flails at the evil-whatever-it-is trying to kill her. How can you kill what's already dead? A snarls snakes into her ear and buries it's self in her brain, deep animalistic breaths follow, but the hand is human. Only much, much stronger.

"I'd think it was Christmas if it wasn't you handing out the gifts." A female voice decidedly not animal or demon-y sounds from behind Fred as she struggles to breathe, the hand nearing her bones to breaking point. The voice gets closer behind her, "down girl." She doesn't think the voice is talking to her, rather the thing wanting her broken. More broken.

A hiss sounds in her ear, but she is dropped to the ground. She turns to see what the hell is going on and is greeted by a blonde girl holding up a Cavewoman by her dreadlocks. Caveman wins. Not this time.

"Buffy?" Cordy shrieks from behind her. "It's always you isn't it?"

"Not entirely, Cor, just a little bit." The blonde girl smiles down at Fred. "Hi I'm—"

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Angel's ex, right?" Fred smiles at the girl, feels like she knows her, like somehow they're connected. Without warning she springs to her feet and hugs the blonde Slayer, trying to avoid the Cavegirl.

"Kinda. I'm a bit of Buffy. The powers broke a piece off when I was in heaven to give them a hand. Alive-girl just doesn't know it." She smirks a little, ignoring the snarls from the Cavewoman as she drops her to the floor. "Now, isn't anyone gonna ask me why I'm here or should I just let Primal here do the talking?"

"I vote the first option", Cordy calls from behind, the blonde slayer's eyes sparkling a little greener at her old friend.

"Okie dokey then, Winifred Burkle, me and Primal-girl here have a proposition for you. In fact, we have a gift." Buffy stops, waiting to see a reaction in the girl's face. None comes, Fred stands dumbfounded, unaware of what's happening. She's confused and still can't accept that she's dead. Wesley. I don't want to be here. I didn't mean to leave. "Fred?"

She's thrown back into the black abyss and away from her remorse. "What?"

Cordy stands and wraps her arms around Fred's shoulders. Now it is time to explain. It's time to give Fred her choice. "we have two things to offer you. Buffy can give you power, and I can give you rest. Both come with a price."

Buffy smiles almost mournfully, like she doesn't want to say what she must. "I can give you life, I can give you strength and I can give you power, lots of power. But Fred, it means you'll forever be fighting, forever dying and it's gonna feel like the whole damn world is on your shoulders. I can make you a Slayer." She pauses, seeing the joy bubbling in Fred's eyes and not understanding, "but it's not even that simple. To come back, you'll have to fight off Illyria and win. She's not fully formed yet, not wholly a God so you have a chance, but it'll be hard. I'm sorry I couldn't give you a better option."

Cordy's hug tightens as she rests her head on Fred's shoulder. "But you don't have to fight. You can come with me and you can rest. You can find peace and you can sleep. Never have to worry about evil or good or fighting ever again." She pauses and her voice shrinks, "but you'll be dead and you won't get to go back."

For Fred, there isn't even a choice. Wesley. "I'll fight. I'll keep fighting." God, how can she still be crying, how has she not run out of tears? "I need to go back."

The Cavegirl rises to her feet, body hunched over in the stance of a hunter. She hovers, searching Fred's face, sniffing at her like an animal tracking prey. "Done."

Fred is on the ground.

Blackness is now white.

Power and pain and life run through her.

She is alone.

Not alone.

"You are the shell." A voice so familiar and so wrong sneers from nowhere.

Footsteps approach.

"Answer me!" She is thrown across the floor. "You are my vessel?"

Fred stands. She faces herself. She's blue.

A woman wears her face. Blue eyes burn her and her mouth twists into a sneer. "You will do."

Fred can feel the power begin to swell inside her. She can feel herself becoming a slayer. She likes it. "You're damn right I'll do. I want my body back!" Fred launches herself at the God, newly strong hands strangling the blue-thing's throat. She flips them over and throws Illyria over her head. "You made me leave Wesley. You made me die." Winifred Burkle is now strong. She's not the weakest player anymore. She's the strongest and it feels good, it feels right. Fred punches and she kicks and she fights. She fights so hard.

Breathless, energy sucked from her body, she collapses beside the God that just lay down and let her hit it. "You think you are so strong when you reek of weakness." Illyria stands and places a foot on Fred's leg. She stands on the leg, letting her weight bend and snap the bone beneath her. Nothing is as satisfying as the sound of a bone breaking. Fred cries out, a hoarse scream ripped from her throat. Almost nothing.

Fred grabs Illyria's arm and tries to pull her down. She's not quite strong enough for that, but she can break it. The bone snaps like a branch beneath her hands. "I'm not weak."

Illyria slaps Fred across the room. "How dare you touch me."

Fred cradles her leg but attempts to stand. "It's my body, I'll touch it if I like."

"You stupid ape. You think this belongs to you? This coat of skin and flesh? Nothing belongs to you. This is my universe, I am king. Everything is mine." She raises her arms towards Fred, consuming the girl in time. She imagines the girl ageing, skin and bones giving up on her and turning to dust. But when she looks up the girl is fine. Nothing has changed. "What have you done to me?" She demands, stomping indignantly towards the ape who has cursed her.

Fred looks through her lashes into the blue eyes of the parasite that had consumed her. She smiles. "Ever heard the phrase half-baked?" Ignoring the pain that shoots through her shattered leg she brings her knee up to the God's gut. Illyria begins to fall and instinct consumes Fred. Uncontrollably, her hands move around the God's neck and in a single, swift movement snaps it.

Fred doesn't even see the God fall.

She's gone again.

Earthquake? Fred's body is wracked with shaking, like she's having a seizure. On the floor, her body vibrates, smashing painfully against the ground. Finally the earth stills.

"Fred?" Wesley.

She doesn't even answer. She leaps across the room into Wesley's lap. Newfound strength knocks him to the ground. "How?" He's crying. Joy-filled tears wetting his cheeks.

"Shut up." His face is cradled in her hands as she pulls him into a searing kiss.

Never has Fred been so happy to be alive.

Fin.

Just kidding, part 2 here
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