Unfortunately they're not mine. Joss, dmit, owns it all.

OK, here it is. My first ever ff. I'd read so many other excellent stories, I just had to finally break down and post one. Just rewatched "Loyalty" from season three, so the reference to talking hamburgers. I just hope to get the voices of these characters right eventually. I know, people screaming about no Fred in heaven. I really don't believe she's gone. Just one more lie. She'll live another day if the rest of them live past the big battle. Still can't decide on whether they belong together. I'll keep writing other stories, if all of you great fans review please. Thanks!!

Parting by Emily Dickinson

My life closed twice before its close;

It yet remains to see

If Immortality unveil

A third event to me,

So huge, so hopeless to conceive,

As these that twice befell.

Parting is all we know of heaven,

And all we need of hell.

Wes shook his head at the scene below him. Twice before he'd barely avoided death. Being shot in the stomach had given him a great appreciation of the using of weapons. The gun was such a damaging instrument. He'd actually elected to use it more and more frequently. Did more damage than any of his punches or sword thrusts had ever done. Having his throat slashed by that bitch Justine was a bit annoying to him now, although he had gotten some retribution for that wound.

Bloody hell, the bugger had a bigger knife this time. Third times a charm, as they say. Wes knew coming into this the demon had the upper hand. Just because the demon Vail had more tubes hooked up to his decaying body didn't mean that he didn't have any mojo left. Wes just didn't have enough in his arsenal.

What he hadn't counted on was Illyria showing up when she did. That Illyria. She'd shared more than just the shell of his Fred. Life on this Earth was hell for her. No army, no followers. Just little old Wes to show her the way. And now he was gone.

She'd cried. Actually cried. Not as Fred, but as the great goddess Illyria. Maybe she'd learned something. Grief. Something he knew firsthand. Practically his whole life had been full of grief. His parents indifference and abuse, his lack of confidence in himself, his ever-brief stint as Watcher, his former slayer torturing him, getting shot, stabbed, blown up, losing his friends not once, but twice.

Somewhere in there he'd been happy. For just brief moments. Angel and Cordy's acceptance of him when he'd arrived in Los Angeles. Gunn's friendship. The gang's trust in him. Fred's final words of love to him before Illyria took over.

But he'd utterly failed each and every time. Angel couldn't fully trust him any more. Cordy died a hero's death trying to get them back to the mission. Gunn's betrayal just so he could be the uber-lawyer. And Fred. His greatest failure of all. He'd wasted so much time telling her of his feelings, just to make so many mistakes. Every time he'd showed her his love, she threw it back at him. She was frightened of him in a way. Not as a friend. She sensed his all consuming love for her, he knew now. And she'd only come around after her memories of Connor had totally been erased.

The real Fred would never have fallen for him. But for just one brief instant, Fred was his. His only. The perfect woman. Sweet, charming, smart, outgoing. All the things he felt he was not. She complimented him, rounded him out. Or so he thought.

But did he really know her when she was alive. He knew her favorite food was tacos, but not what her favorite color was. She'd even asked about some person named Faganbaum right before she'd died and he had no clue who that was. The unattainable princess in the tower.

Handsome man saved me from the monsters, she'd once told Angel. He wanted to be that handsome man that came riding in on the white horse to save the day. He couldn't even save himself right now. Illyria was the one who finished this battle.

He'd let her down, let himself down. He'd withdrawn into himself in the last couple of months. Angel, Gunn, Spike, they'd all moved on, realized that Fred would never come back. And he'd locked himself up with his books. Just at the edge of insanity, everyone had been whispering.

And now looking down at his body, floating above the scene, everything had become crystal clear. He'd fought the good fight, against the forces of evil, against his father, against all the naysayers, against his own inadequacies, even sacrificing his own sanity in the process. In the end sacrificing the only other thing he had, his own life.

Vail had been taken out. That was the mission. Now Angel and the rest of them that had survived their assignments were probably taking on even more evil. It never ended. Angel knew that. He knew Wes would probably not make it. Had given him the hardest assignment next to Hamilton. Because he trusted that Wesley would go down fighting the good fight. He finally trusted Wes that one last time. It made him feel good. That one last time.

"You coming?" Cordy asked him from up above. Now he and Cordy could still do some good.

"Not here, is she?" He knew the answer before Cordy spoke.

"Nope. Down there still. What makes you think that she would give up that easily? Hello, five years in an alternate dimension. She and Illyria will eventually have to duke it out, don't you worry."

"Like to see that."

"So would I, Wes. Now let's go. We've got work to do. There are so many people I need to introduce you to. "

Wes looked down one last time as Illyria started to walk out. Tears streamed down her blue face. His work was done. Someday Fred would live. She was in there somewhere. His sacrifice hadn't been for nothing.

"Thanks. Let's go." Wes took Cordy's hand as she led him away from the scene below.

"Oh, and you are so going to like it here. All the tacos you could eat. And no talking hamburgers, unless you want them to."

Wes chuckled softly. No talking hamburgers indeed.