He stared up at the familiar face above him, a smile on his face. "I love you. My love. Oh, my love." Fred's voice, and though it wasn't really her holding him in her arms, though he knew it was a lie, right now, Wesley didn't care. He would soon be gone and so would the pain. He would be able to rest.
He accepted Illyria's lie, not because the illusion would comfort him, but because he wanted to memorize Fred's face – even if it was not truly hers – before he fell into eternal slumber. He wanted her face be the last thing he saw, because he knew he would never see it again.
Dizzily, he felt Illyria, still wearing the guise of her shell, stand up to confront Vail. Wesley tuned out the conversation and he barely noticed Vail's dead body slump to the floor, once Illyria shattered his skull with her fist. The Old One left, and Wesley was grateful for the silence in the now empty room. He waited for death: Eagerly, he wished for darkness to embrace him at last.
When he confronted Vail himself, just minutes previous, he hadn't been trying, not really. He had known a fireball and a knife was a cheap attempt at taking down the powerful warlock, but he hadn't cared. This endless fight between good and evil, right and wrong, even life itself, was meaningless without Fred's presence there to brighten his shadows. He was tired, and he had wanted it over.
He knew there would be no Fred waiting for him on the other side; he knew that her soul had been obliterated with Illyria's emergence. All that was left of the bright, happy, wonderful woman could be summed up in the memories from the people who'd known her, and in the memory fragments still resting in Illyria's mind. But even oblivion and a lonely afterlife was surely better than staying alive, forced to watch the mocking shell of the woman Fred had been, a constant reminder that there was no way to recover the true Winifred Burkle from behind Illyria's glacier eyes.
But it seemed even death would leave him, just like Fred had left him. Though it was becoming harder to breathe, and though the edges of his vision were turning black, he wasn't dying fast enough.
Voices, and loud thundering footsteps that made even the floor shake, reached his ears. Someone was calling his name. "Wesley!"
Wesley recognized the voice, and as someone slapped his face, he could see the faint outlines of a dark haired woman through his half-closed eyelids. Faith. "Don't you dare die on me! Willow!"
A flash of red appeared in his field of vision, and then, someone – Willow – was chanting. He could feel his sweater be pulled up and someone pressing a hand against his wound. He wanted to scream, yell, cry out for them to stop, to let him go, but his voice failed him and he could only manage to force up a gurgle. His mind was clearing, as was his vision, and the pleasant numbness he had just felt was slowly disappearing.
He felt a sharp pain in his gut, but that was nothing against the pain in his heart: Hadn't he been punished enough? Why couldn't they leave him be? "No…" He managed to whisper, but they clearly misunderstood his protest, or ignored it, because the chanting grew even more insistent.
"It's alright, Wes," Faith said. "Willow is fixing you. It won't hurt much longer."
She was wrong, Wesley thought, it would always hurt, as long as he was alive, he would always be in pain. The only thing that could possibly comfort him was death and even that was stolen from him.
The chanting stopped and Wesley inhaled deeply, sharply, blinking up at the two women now smiling down at him. A few feet away, either guarding or not looking to intrude, stood a couple of other females he didn't recognize. Slayers, Wesley presumed. "What are you doing here?" Wesley asked as Faith and Willow slowly helped him to his feet.
Faith snorted. "Well, you're facing one hell of a battle – one of apocalyptic proportions, so where else would we be?"
"I wasn't aware there was such a battle going on inside this mansion," Wesley said mildly. "How did you find me?"
"Fred told us," Willow said, not noticing Wesley's suddenly tense shoulders. "Though she seemed to think you were dead already. I have no idea what's happened to her, but the extreme makeover is quite an upgrade: I mean, she ripped the head of a demon with her bare hands!"
Wesley's eyes darkened. "That wasn't Fred. That was Illyria."
Faith blinked. "Illyria who? And where's Fred, then?"
"It doesn't matter," Wesley said, and even the words hurt to say: Fred would always matter. She was the only thing that did. But he had no wish to explain. "Look, I'm certain you two are eager to get out there and join the actual fight. I'll follow soon enough, I just need to catch my breath."
"Are you sure you're alright?" Faith asked, looking concerned. No, Wesley wanted to say, he would never be alright.
If Faith had asked about his welfare a few months ago, before Fred wasn't Fred anymore, he was certain he would have felt proud that the Slayer had become so selfless and caring. But now, he couldn't muster up any such feelings. All he could feel was despair.
"Yes. Willow fixed me up," Wesley said. "I'm as good as new."
"Alright." Faith and Willow left his side, and then they, and the other Slayers by the door, were racing towards the exit. Soon, they were out of the former Watcher's sight and Wesley couldn't have been more grateful.
He was alone in the mansion again, only Vail's corpse for company. It was ironic, in a way, that he was surrounded by death, and yet, death refused to take him. After breathing in deeply – one, two, three – Wesley slowly walked out of the building, heading towards the sound of battle.
It would never be over, Wesley thought, while catching a stake someone – he had no idea who – threw him, and thrusting it deeply into the heart of a vampire. Not for him. It seemed he was doomed to keep on fighting, to keep on breathing, even though all he wanted was to sleep forever. Happy endings weren't for him. The Powers That Be wanted him miserable and alive which had clearly been proven, when, a cruel twist of fate had sent Willow to heal him. He would go on.