pairing: W/F, with some C/D, C/A, and other tidbit pairings from the Buffyverse
summary: After Wesley's death, he learns that there is still a chance to save Fred's soul. It's all about closure, baby.
category: romance, angst, action/adventure
author's note: There's no denying that Joss Whedon is a genius, but I need a little more closure. So here it is.
Disclaimer: none of this is mine. Sadly.
Chapter One: Afterlife
It was all rather disconcerting. Wesley's family had never been staunchly religious, but there had been those occasional visits to church where he heard tales of the afterlife. There was supposed to be a blinding white light and harps and choirs of angels. Instead, he found himself in a retro-style diner, complete with formica countertops and a jukebox in the corner.
Truth be told, he wouldn't be all that surprised if he was in Hell. He had started out with good intentions, but all of his past indiscretions came flooding back to him now, reminding him of how far he had stumbled. Kidnapping Conner. Dallying with Lilah. Killing Knox. Stabbing Gunn...
But there had been good moments, hadn't there? He had been a hero once. Fred called him a hero before she died. She'd also called him a good man. And coming from her, that was everything. But she had been kind, perhaps blind to his faults. Or perhaps indulgent of them. He wasn't certain whether a higher power could afford to be so indulgent.
At the thought of Fred, he felt the now-familiar grief surge through him. It was more painful than anything he'd ever experienced, torture session with Faith included. But he clung to the memories, because even the excruciating pain of remembering was far less terrifying than forgetting.
Breaking from his dark thoughts, he looked up to see a waitress approaching his table. She was a pretty girl, with blondish hair and a rigid but cheery smile. For some reason, she looked vaguely familiar, though he couldn't quite place her. He hadn't ordered anything, but she was carrying a plate of food nonetheless.
She set the plate down in front of him, watching him expectantly. Wesley let out a resolute sigh, realizing intuitively that the type of sandwich he had received would prety much determine whether he was in Heaven or Hell. Bracing himself, he picked up the sandwich and took a bite.
It was a BLT.
So he was in Heaven then.
Giving a sigh of relief, Wesley glanced up to see the waitress still standing over him, glaring impatiently. "Yes?" he asked.
"You're supposed to tip me," the waitress informed him bluntly, "you know, money. Cash. Dinero. It's what makes this place paradise– the piles and piles of money."
Wesley felt his cheeks flush. "I'm sorry, I don't have any..." But even as he spoke the words, he felt his pocket bulge. Wonderingly, he reached inside and pulled out his wallet, which was now brimming with cash. Uncertain of how much to give her, he handed her the entire lot. "There you go, um..."
"Anya." the girl replied. She was suddenly eying Wesley in an entirely new light. "You gave me lots of money," she explained, "that makes you extremely attractive."
Wesley cleared his throat. "Well, I...that is..."
Anya smiled at him expectantly. "What's there to think about, British man? I'm attractive, I find you attractive...let's make with the wild monkey dance."
"Down girl," came a voice from behind. "He's with me."
The voice was instantly recognizable, of course. Cordelia. How he had missed her. He wondered how different life would have been had Cordelia remained part of the group. He had a hard time imagining that she would have allowed them to join ranks with Wolfram and Hart, unless the lawfirm had a vested interest in the world of fashion. Perhaps they would have remained at the hotel, and Wesley would still be alive. And so would Fred.
As Wesley met Cordelia's gaze, she squealed and pulled him to his feet, embracing him tightly. "You don't know how good it is to see you."
"The feeling's mutual," Wesley returned, and meant it. She was the closest thing to a sister he had ever known, excluding those brief and embarrassing snogging sessions. "This is all a little... overwhelming."
Cordelia smiled sympathetically. "It was kind of weird at first for me, too, but you get used to it. I'm an old pro now."
"Emphasis on the old," Anya spoke up from behind, still smiling at Wesley, "whereas I am young and limber."
Sighing, Anya obediently walked away, muttering something about the lack of social life in the afterlife. Wesley watched her leave, and then turned back to smile at Cordelia. "It really is good to see you. You look wonderful."
"You do, too," Cordy informed him as they took their seats. "I didn't know you had it in you to look so studly, Wes. Takes me back to the days when we used to make googly eyes at each other."
Wesley smiled at the memory. "My eyes do not...google. Although you did look quite ravishing at that dance all those years ago..."
"Stop it, Wes, or I may try to initiate the world's most awkward kiss again." Cordelia teased. She looked up as a waiter approached and handed her a huge dish of brownie fudge ice cream. "Thanks, Jonathan."
She took a spoon and dug in, devouring a huge bite in just one gulp. Seeing the surprise on Wesley's face, she merely grinned. "Ain't it great? I can eat whatever I want and never gain weight. One of the perks of being dead."
Wesley shrugged, unimpressed. "I could never seen to gain weight, no mater how hard I tried."
The smile had faded from Cordelia's face. "I hate you." she said finally.
Wesley chuckled, and a companionable silence fell between them as they ate their meals. As good as it was to see Cordelia, he wondered what else lied in store for him. Was this just a resting place? Or was there something more?
After a moment, Wesley cleared his throat. "So is this all that Heaven is, then? A diner where you eat to your heart's content?"
Cordy looked at him in surprise. "Check out limited imagination boy. Of course not. There are libraries and stores and schools just like on earth, only everything's perfect. So, you know, no leaky faucets, and there's a Tiffany's on every corner."
He smiled. "And since everything is so perfect, I'm guessing there aren't any firemen or police officers."
Cordy shook her head. "No, there are. But they don't really have to do anything. Mostly they're there for the girls to drool over."
"Did I hear someone mention the word drool?"
Wesley looked up to see a dark-haired man approaching the table. There was an Irish lilt to his voice and a boyishly handsome quality to his face. He slid into the booth next to Cordelia and kissed her on the cheek.
Cordelia rolled her eyes, though she seemed amused. "Hello, Doyle. Am I hallucinating, or didn't we discuss that you were gonna give me some alone time with Wesley?"
Doyle nodded good-naturedly. "Well, yeah, we did. But I couldn't wait to meet the guy who replaced me as Angel's right-hand man." He looked at Cordelia pointedly. "And I wanted to make sure that I didn't get replaced elsewhere."
She snorted. "Oh, please. Wesley isn't remotely attractive to me. He's completely sexless, like a fire hydrant or Weird Al Yankovich."
Wesley blinked. "Thank you, Cordelia. You do have a way with self-esteem."
Doyle, on the other hand, seemed rather pleased. He clapped Wesley on the shoulder. "Don't feel bad, mate. Fire hydrants are often quite erotic." He sized Wesley over. "Besides, I've been keeping track of you, and you aren't exactly the prissy nancy boy you were when you started out. You've got moxy and stubble now...and few women can resist that combination."
"Hence the unfounded paranoia and jealousy," Cordelia finished for him.
Wesley frowned at this. "You said you were watching me? But how?"
Doyle leaned back in his seat. "Each person gets their own huge tv here," he explained, "we're talking the Moby Dick of televisions. Only instead of the crap they're promoting on the WB, we get to watch the world. Past, present, future. Whoever and whenever we want."
Wesley was silent, pondering this. So they had been watching? They'd seen everything? His tryst with Lilah, the murder of the man he had believed was his father, his last moments with Fred...
So absorbed was he in this that he scarcely even noticed the withering glance that Cordelia shot in Doyle's direction. Doyle cleared his throat. "But it's sort of overrated, truth be told," he amended lamely.
"Yeah," Cordelia said, a bit too brightly, "I mean, who wants to watch TV all the time? It's paradise here, Wes. There are tons of things to do. They've got a kick-butt library, karaoke, bowling..." Seeing that she had lost Wesley's attention, she half-heartedly added, "Water polo..."
It was sweet of her, really, but there was no point in delaying the inevitable question. Cordelia surely understood that his thoughts were never far from Fred. In life, as well as death, she haunted him.
Wesley focused his attention on the table-top, unable to meet their gazes. "Just tell me one thing," he said quietly. "Was the doctor telling the truth? Was Fred's soul really destroyed when Illyria took possession of her body?"
A beat, and then, "She's gone, Wes. I'm sorry."
"I see." Wesley rose to his feet, smiling awkwardly. "I'd like to be alone now, if you don't mind."
"Of course." Cordelia said softly.
Wesley turned and left the diner. As soon as he was gone, Doyle turned to Cordy. "Why didn't you tell him the truth? He deserves to know."
Cordelia sighed, pushing away her sundae. "Because I don't want to lose him, too..."
Scarcely had Wesley stepped out of the diner when he found the street transformed into a dark, empty apartment, presumably his own. "Well," he said aloud, "that's convenient..."
He stepped further inside, really examining the place. It was Spartan in decor, with only the most basic furniture, save be the giant television of which Doyle had spoken. A comfy recliner was positioned in front of the tv for his viewing pleasure.
Wesley hesitated only momentarily before walking closer to the set. "Show me Fred." he said.
Instantly, her face filled the screen, beautiful, shining, alive. Ignoring the chair, Wesley kneeled down directly in front of the screen, absorbing every detail of her almost reverently. He remembered this moment; it was the night they'd gone to the ballet. She was wearing the burgandy dress with her hair pulled back, and she was glowing. He had never seen anything so beautiful in his life.
The memory was playing out; Fred was marveling at the sight of Gunn in a tux. Wesley saw himself come up and wrap a shawl around her shoulders. He saw Fred again, saw the smile that she had offered him.
His hand trailed up to the screen, touching the plastic sheath that separated him from Fred. For a moment, he had half-expected to actually touch her face.
"I miss you," he murmured aloud.
Oblivious to him, the Fred onscreen walked to the door of the Hyperion and out into the night.
She had turned the heater up as far as it would go, but it was still very cold. Overwhelmingly so. Her hands were so numb that it was difficult to grip the steering will, but through sheer will she kept the car mostly steady. She had progressed so far down the road that there were no longer street lamps, only inky darkness that seemed to stretch on forever. The headlights provided the only light in the night, and they were beginning to flicker.
Fred took in a deep breath, willing herself to remain calm. "You'll be fine," she assured herself aloud, "you'll be warm again. You just took a wrong turn somewhere, but soon you'll be back on the main road."
But despite the bravery of the words, she heard the quiver in her own voice and felt a hollow, aching fear begin somewhere in her chest. She was alone, all alone. And it was so very dark.
She had promised herself that she wouldn't think about him, wouldn't call his face to memory, because the waves of emotion connected to him were so strong that they nearly overwhelmed her, forced her off the road. But pushing logic aside, she clung to him, because he was the only thing that could bring warmth in the ever-increasing cold.
"Wesley," she murmured, "where are you?"
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