Fred Is Dead
While Spike, Gunn, Lindsey and Lorne, and Wesley and Illyria killed off the members of the Circle of the Black Thorn, Angel, abetted somewhat by Connor, killed Marcus Hamilton, the liaison to the Senior Partners.
Unfortunately, Wesley was killed by Cyrus Vail, a demon sorcerer, who, in turn, was killed by Illyria.
The survivors were to meet in an alley near the Hyperion Hotel. Spike was first, followed by Angel, then a severely wounded Gunn, and finally Illyria. Lorne, who killed Lindsey for Angel, disappeared to parts unknown.
As they four of them waited in the alley, an army of demons, possibly numbering in the hundreds, a giant and a flying dragon were sent by the Senior Partners to kill then. Angel said he wanted to slay the dragon. Then the demons attacked.
It took but seconds for the demons of the Senior Partners and 'Angel's Avengers' to meet in battle. With blades flashing, fists flying, and blood being spilled on both sides, it was hard to tell who had the advantage.
As the bodies of the demons fell, they became an unstable platform for Angel and company to fight upon. Unfortunately, Gunn was one of those bodies. However, despite being repeatedly wounded, Angel, Spike and Illyria proved to be close to a match against the demon horde. But eventually they were driven back and back until they were fighting with a ten-foot chain link fence against their backs, unable to retreat to find a favorable vantage.
But just before they were overwhelmed, a white light appeared in the sky that gradually took on human form, the form of the white-haired, witch-goddess Willow.
Accompanying her appearance, was the sound of war cries behind the demon army coming from dozens of young women wielding swords, battle axes, and maces – a small army of Slayers! And leading the charge, carrying a scythe with a silver and red blade with a pointed wooden handle, was Faith. And from behind Angel, Spike and Illyria another dozen Slayers charged, making short work of the fence, to stand and fight beside them.
For almost an hour the two warring groups battled it out. There seemed to be an unlimited supply of demons and vampires coming from somewhere. But the Slayers proved to be resilient and unflagging as they fought with a ferocity and skill Angel could only marvel at.
On and on they fought, until the demons were but a mere handful, but still they fought to the death. The giant and the dragon had been rendered unconscious by Willow, allowing Angel to kill both of them by decapitation.
And then it was over, the battle was done, with Angel, Spike, and most of the Slayers standing wounded and bloody but victorious. But Illyria also had fallen with a severe neck wound. After battling furiously against the deadly onslaught for the entire time, eventuality several vampires had overpowered her, allowing one to feed.
Willow descended to the ground and slowly reverted to her more human form, looking exactly like the Willow Angel remembered. She knelt down to Illyria and placed her hand over the neck wound, closing it. She then looked up at Angel and shook her head sadly – there was nothing she could do; Illyria had lost too much blood; it would only be a matter of moments before she died.
Illyria put one hand over Willow's and whispered, “You are a witch of incredible strength. You would have been a formidable and a worthy foe if I still possessed my full powers.”
Then for the space of several heartbeats, the slender, delicate body of Winifred Burkle, the Fred that was so loved by so many, lay on the rain drenched and blood-soaked pavement. Her eyes closed for a moment then she opened them, and to no one she said, “Wesley and I will soon be together.” And as she died, Illyria returned. Angel knelt down and gently closed her eyes then stood up.
“Will you, can you do something, take her somewhere, away from all this carnage and death?” he asked Willow.
“Of course. Charles as well?”
Angel nodded his assent. Then with little fanfare, some of the Slayers picked up their fallen sisters, while others took the bodies of Charles Gunn and Illyria, to disappear into the night. Except for Faith, who stood waiting for Willow.
There was an uneasy silence among them. Then Faith went to Angel with a short but affectionate hug.
“How did you know?” Angel asked Willow.
“We know everything,” Willow replied. “Well, almost everything. We have Seers and Oracles and Clairvoyants in our employ. You should know that we were somewhat reluctant to interfere in this battle, considering where you all spent this past year. But it was the Immortal who convinced Buffy to send us here.”
“The sodding Immortal!” Spike exclaimed. “Again?”
“Spike!” Angel said sharply, silencing him, then said to Willow, “Then tell him we said thanks. And thank you, and the Slayers. To tell you the truth, I wasn't expecting any of us to come out of this alive.”
“Well,” Willow replied, “After Spike cleaning up the Hellmouth, it was the least we could do, even if it was the Powers That Be that provided the amulet.”
“So Spike was supposed to have it all along?”
“We don't know. You, Spike, you're both champions. It could have been either. But it was Buffy's decision, knowing you would be there if we had failed to cripple the First.”
“Does Buffy know I . . . came back?” Spike asked.
“She knew almost from the beginning, but she was so busy rounding up the new Slayers all over the world and setting up places for them to live and to train, she just never got around to saying . . . welcome back.”
“What about when we were in Rome? We saw her in that dance club, with HIM!”
“She knew you were there. But seeing that you two were working for the wrong side, or so it seemed, she decided it was better not to have any contact with either of you.”
After a few moments of another uneasy silence, Faith spoke up, “Willow, don't we have that - thing in Romania?”
For a second, Willow was confused, then said, “Yes. You're right. We do have that Thing; Slayer business. You understand.”
“Sure,” Angel answered, understanding. “Tell Buffy I said hello and I hope she's doing well.”
“Yes,” Spike chimed in, “tell her WE said hello and WE hope to see her real soon.” Then he said in a much lower voice, “If the bloody Immortal will allow it.”
Willow smiled an indulgent smile, hugged Angel, nodded to Spike, took Faith's hand, and they simply disappeared.
Angel and Spike looked at each other, at the pile of demon bodies, then back at each other.
“What do we do now?” Spike asked. “Where do we go?”
“Good question,” Angel said.
“Well wherever it is, I could use a couple of bottles of strong rotgut and a good night's sleep,” Spike said.
“The Hyperion is right here, and it is still empty,” Angel suggested. “Plenty of rooms to choose from. But first there is something I have to do. I'll be gone a couple of days.”
“And just where would that be? We wouldn't be running off to find Buffy, now would we?”
“No. I need to go to Texas, to see Fred's parents.”
“Don't suppose you want some company.” Spike said.
“I don't know, it's about a 20 hour drive, just stopping for gas. Think we could stand each other for that long?”
“One way to find out.”
“All right. But first I want to go to Wesley's apartment to get the things of Fred's he boxed up.”
The ride to Wesley's apartment was mostly in silence. It was easy to break the door open. And while Angel gathered a few more items to put in the box, Spiked gave the apartment a once over.
“I wonder how far up the rent is paid?” Spike asked. “A fellow could live pretty comfortable here.”
“If you want it, stay. At least until the rent comes due. He probably signed a lease, so as long as the rent is paid . . . .“
“So, we meet again,” said a voice from the open door of the apartment.
Angel and Spike looked to see Faith standing there, holding a dark blue, metallic urn.
“Buffy said that since you are going to see Fred's parents, you might want to take this, so they will have something besides a box of her junk.”
“How did she – never mind,” Angel said. “Yes, thanks. I should have thought of that.”
“Are Illyria's, Fred's, ashes really in there?” Spike asked.
“Does it matter?”
“I suppose not.”
“What are you going to tell them about how she died?” Faith asked Angel.
“I really don't know,” he confessed. “I guess I'll think of something.”
“Well this sounds kind of grisly, but Dawn suggested an apartment fire, and her remains were so badly burned, cremation was the only practical thing to do.”
“Dawn!” Angel said. “How is she? Doing okay I hope.”
“Dawn is doing great,” Faith told him. “Buffy and Xander have been traveling the world, rounding up the new Slayers and Dawn's been training them. And that girl, excuse me, that young woman, is hell on wheels. Even without Slayer strength, I think she could give either one of you a run for your money!”
“Well, I'm glad to hear it. If you see her, tell her I said hello.”
Handing the urn to Angel she replied, “I'll do that. But – places to go, things to see, people to do. You know how it is.”
“I do. You take care of yourself. Stay safe.”
“Five by five,” Faith said smiling, then nodded to Spike, but when she got to the door, she stopped and turned around.
“Since you didn't bother to ask,” she said to Angel, “we took Gunn's body back to his old neighborhood where his real friends are, and gave them enough money to give him the proper burial he deserves. We told them it was from you. You're welcome.”
But before Angel could say anything she was gone. After a few seconds, Spike said, “We finished here?”
“Yeah, we are,” Angel replied, handing Spike the urn and picking up the box with Fred's treasures.
“So, road trip it is,” Spike said as they left the apartment.
The two of them walked down the stairs to the parking garage attached to the apartment building. Before going to Wesley's they found a few of Wolfram & Hart's cars still intact in their parking garage. They chose a nondescript, dark gray sedan, fitted, as all of them were, with Necro-tempered glass, allowing them to drive around during the day without bursting into flame.
During the 22 hour drive to San Antonio, to the home of Roger and Trish Burkle, there was not much of a two-way conversation between Angel and Spike. Mostly it was Spike delivering an almost nonstop monologue about nothing. Even when Angel threatened to throw him out of the car, Spike only shut up for 10 or 15 minutes.
Eventually they arrived, parking several houses away to wait for the sun to dip below the horizon. They didn't want to pull into the driveway, not wanting to risk either of Fred's parents to come out to the car before Angel could think of a story.
“So, going with the apartment fire lie?” Spike asked.
“I guess so. I can't think of anything else.”
After the sun had gone down behind the houses, Angel pulled his car into the Burkle's driveway. He could hear Roger inside, talking to Trish, “There's a car pulling up in the driveway.”
When Angel got out, carrying the box, he could hear, “It's Angel, from Los Angeles. There's someone else with him.”
“Is it Fred?” Trish asked, hope in her voice.
“No, I don' think so.”
When they came out on the front porch, they both could see Feigenbaum's head and one ear sticking out of the top of the box. And it wasn't Fred with him, but Spike, carrying the urn. Trish, realizing what it meant, slumped against Roger, who had to hold her to keep her from dropping to the porch floor.
When Angel got to the foot of the stairs, he said, “I'm so sorry. There was nothing we could do but bring her things to you. I know Fred would have wanted you to have them.”
When neither one reached out to take the box, Angel set it on the porch. Spike hesitated, the did the same with the urn.
“What happened to her,” Trish said angrily, her strength coming back. “Did some monster or … or demon kill her?”
“No, nothing like that,” Angel explained. “There was a fire in her apartment while she was sleeping. She didn't have a chance to even wake up before the smoke overwhelmed her, according to the medical examiner.”
“There was no . . . body?” Roger could barely get out.
“There was. But the fire was so intense, there wasn't enough . . . we thought it was better to have her . . . remains cremated.”
Trish started to bend down for the urn when Spike picked it up and handed it to her. She stared at it for a few moments, then said, “This can't be her. Not in – this thing.” Then looking Angel straight in the eye, she said, “You'll have to say it before I'll believe it. You have to tell me.”
Angel looked away, then back at Trish.
“I am so sorry to have to tell you, but Fred is dead.”