Title: A Place Called Home

Author: Rachel

Email:

Pairings:Wes/Fred

Disclaimer: Joss owns everyone, I own nothing. I'm simply taking them out to play with. The Lyrics are Sometimes In Winter by Blood, Sweat and Tears and A Place Called Home by Kim Richey.

Distribution: Ask first, I'll probably say yes.

Rating: PG:13 Spoilers: Post- NFA, but Wes is alive... breathe in the denial with me. )

Notes: Written for CyA "Chose Your Own Author" ficathon.

Summary: Wes finds home during his trip to Texas Feedback: Is loved and much appreciated )

Soundtrack: The two songs mentioned above, also American Baby by Dave Matthews Band isn't bad either.

Now you're gone girl, and the lamp posts call your name, I can hear them in the spring of frozen rain.
Now your gone girl, and the times slow down til dawn.
It's a cold room and the walls ask where you've gone

The road was long and cold as some mindless country tune blared over the sound system in his car. The music was there to keep him awake through the long night drive, although the monotony of the rhythms and sounds nearly put him to sleep on their own. He didn't look back at the dusty boxes piled window high in the back of his car, he didn't look back at all. It would remind him of her and he'd either end up crying, or driving himself off the road, neither of which could be an option until he'd finished his task.

He pulled up in front the Burkle's home just after dawn welcomed the day with warmth and promise. But today wasn't happy or warm, today was the day he had to her let go. Her soul had been burned up months ago and now her body was ash as well, the only thing left of Winifred Burkle was sitting in his back seat.

He had been the one to deliver the news, to tell her parents that she had passed on in the war against evil. He told them pretty lies about Heaven and moving on to a better place and spared them stories of Hellgods, heartbreak and how their daughter's body had been set ablaze by an other worldly dragon. How her soul didn't even exist anymore. He did tell them their beautiful baby girl helped save the world, that without her, they wouldn't even have been alive to tell them. He told them that because of her, he and Gunn had been saved, and Angel found his way back to his heart, back to a little blonde with power of a goddess and the world on her shoulders.

He told them, she made a difference.

He also informed them he was leaving LA, saying it was time to move on, when in reality it was about her. He couldn't stand the city anymore: it all reminded him of her. The wind in the mornings, the rain in the winter, the sun in the afternoon all triggered memories in him, of her touch, her taste: her silhouette in his life.

He had to move on, move out, mostly likely back to England or maybe he'd just wander. She had been his compass in the world, and now he was lost for a direction. He could tell her mother had sensed something in him, the deep sorrow that melted him to his bones, despite his better efforts to hide it.

That's when he made the offer to return her things.

He didn't deserve to keep them, he'd failed to protect her and feeling the loss was not enough of a price to pay. He couldn't help but keep a few things for himself: her CDs, a few of her books, the necklace he'd given her after their first kiss. But the rest all went back to where it belonged, back to her roots.

Getting out of the car, he walked up to the front door and before he could knock, he was greeted by Mrs. Burkle, a cup of coffee and a hug. Surprise ran through him at the gesture; she hugged him like a mother, something he'd only felt once before in his life. And he remembered how undeserving he was of such kindness.

He was going to burn in Hell for this.

Taking the offered coffee, he let the hot liquid burn down his throat, warming his insides, but having no effect on his heart, which was broken and cold. Except when the mother of the woman he loved welcomed him into her home and treated him like family.

Like he belonged.

It had been so long since he felt like he belonged to anyone, anywhere. It was before Wolfram and Hart, before Jasmine, back when Connor was baby. Before he ruined everyone's lives by thinking he knew best. Back when they had all been a family.

Before he killed Fred.

Maybe he hadn't done it directly, but if he hadn't taken Connor from Angel, they would've never ended up at Wolfram and Hart. Cordy would still be around, loud and tactless. Angel would be raising Connor; he would've seen his first steps and heard his first words instead of having him raised in a Hell dimension. Fred would still be alive and they'd still be working out of the Hyperion.

But all that was gone, because of him.

He found himself seated on the Burkle's couch without much memory of how he got there. He supposed he got lost in thought, it happened more these days than before. He'd often wondered of times that had been or what could have been, rather than what is or what will be. There was no 'will be' for him, he'd lost his reason.

Sipping his coffee, he listened as the Burkles talked, telling him stories about Fred, the kind only your parents would remember with such pride. He listened with rapt attention as they told him how she nearly blew up the science fair when she was eleven. Mrs. Burkle stopped every now and then as she recalled with painful clarity that the memories were all she had, that her Fred was never coming back.

They sat in the living room for what seemed to be hours, exchanging stories, of Fred, of LA, of everyone else's welfare. He told them about Angel's true love and how she helped them save the day. "It's about time he found a nice girl," Mrs Burkle said with a smile. He nodded and smiled back.

After everything Angel had been through, he deserved to find some happiness; they all did. They'd lingered on the subject a little longer, after a promise that they would get to meet Angel's "nice young lady," they moved on to the subject at hand.
By the time he walked back outside, the sun was bright in the clear, blue sky. The weather smiled on him, even though the Fates did not. He dropped his jacket on the ground, opening the back of his car and started moving the boxes up to Fred's old room.

She'd told him countless times of the beauties of Texas, and how one day she'd take him there. She insisted that true beauty lay in fresh green grass and clean country, something that a stuffy Brit wouldn't know anything about. To which he replied, "True beauty lies in you, and even a 'stuffy Brit' can see that." She'd smack him on the arm laughing and smiling, saying he was just trying to sweet talk her. Later, that response earned him a giggle and a kiss from the sweetest lips God ever made.

Now, he sat alone on the floor of her old room, having moved all of the boxes in, going through her things. Yearbooks full of signatures, photos albums, her grades from kindergarten all the way through college. Things they haven't had time to look at while she was alive and were too painful after she died, he was now looking at for the first time. He found her old diaries from high school and read them, laughing and crying at the same time. This silly, beautiful, smart, wonderful woman was gone from the world forever. He had pieces of her, little chunks and moments from her life, all without context. He needed her, but this was better than nothing at all.

Someday I'll go where there ain't no rain or snow 'Til then, I travel alone And I make my bed with the stars above my head And dream of a place called home

He set her diaries down in a corner and moved on to another box, on top was a ratty stuffed bunny. He smiled as he pulled out the tattered animal and took a good look at it. He remembered packing him up from Fred's office, as well as he could remember anything from that day. Even then he knew that the bunny was important to her; she had obviously kept it for years, she'd even told him about it. His brow furrowed slightly as he study the stuffed animal more thoroughly, trying to remember the name she had given it.

"Feigenbaum: master of chaos." The voice that had spoken wasn't his and he turned to the doorway to find its source, the bunny fell lax from his hands. There she was, leaning against the doorway, in a white top and blues jeans, the afternoon causing her to glow, looking like she had never left.

"I must have fallen asleep again," he muttered to himself. He enjoyed these dreams, but the loneliness when he woke up was too much to bear.

"Sorry Wesley, not a dream," Fred told him softly, but he shook his head.

"Of course it's a dream, it always is. You're here and then when I wake up, you'll be gone. It's some perverted form of purgatory I've invented to punish myself," he said with a sigh, wondering why he needed to explain his delusions to his delusion.

A frown formed on her pretty pink lips, marring her otherwise perfect face. "Oh baby," she whispered, pushing of the door frame and kneeling down in front of him. "I'm not going anywhere." She touched his cheek with her fingertips, trailing them over his beard stubble. "I'm staying, I'm real." She leaned forward and pressed her lips against his. He closed his eyes and sighed openly at her touch; it felt so real that he allowed himself to believe that it was, even if it was only for this moment.

The kiss was light and teasing, it wasn't long before she pulled away, leaving her taste on his lips. He kept his eyes closed, savoring the flavor of her kiss for as long as possible because he knew when he opened his eyes, she'd be gone.

Slowly, he opened his eyes and blinked: once, twice, three times.

"You're still here." he said, his voice full of wonderment.

She couldn't help the small giggle that left her lips: he was just so cute when he was confused. "Of course I am, silly, you don't trust me?"

"No, no, it's not... but you... you were.. I mean I watched... how?" he asked, finally settling on something.

She sighed deeply, sitting back on her heels. "The Powers needed for you guys to have a warrior for the battle, Cordy said—"

"Cordelia knew?" he asked, shocked and angry. "She knew what was going to happen to you and she didn't tell us?"

"No, she didn't know, well not exactly and even if she had, she couldn't have told you anyway or it wouldn't have worked." she explained, placing her hands on his shoulder to calm him. She felt him immediately relax under his touch and smiled. "Apparently, I wasn't supposed to die, or actually wasn't dead, they just moved me to a new location for a while. I don't remember any of it, I wasn't sure where I was... I just knew that Cordy told me what was happening and that it would all be okay in the end."

'B-but your soul, it's gone, it burned up," he tried to reason, refusing to believe he had a second chance with her.

"That's what They wanted you to think. If you had known, you would've tried to get me back and then we'd all be dead by now." He nodded, knowing what she said was the truth. "Once the big fight was over, they put me back, organs and all," she said with a smile.

"So, if I understand this correctly. The Powers That Be hollowed out your body, took your soul out, and stuck in a hellgod all for the greatest good of the world."

"Pretty much." "...and you're okay with all this."

"Hell no!" she answered, "They put you through Hell. They put Angel, Gunn and Spike through Hell. I've missed whole parts of my life and being put back in your body makes you a little queasy." She frowned at the last part, wrinkling her nose. "But I got what I wanted out of the whole deal."

"What was that?" he asked.

"You," she said simply, leaning over to kiss him again, deeper this time. He threaded his fingers into her hair, pulled her closer and wrapped an arm around her waist. She squealed, moving her hands to balance herself, placing one on his thigh and the other on the diaries stacked up next to him.

When he finally pulled away to let her breathe, she looked down to what was under her hand and glared up at him. "You didn't read these, did you?" she said in a dangerous tone.

He swallowed deeply and looked sheepish, "No," he answered quietly.

"Oh my god, you did!" She smacked his chest with the back of her hand and then started scrambling through the books. "You didn't read the last half of Junior year, did you? Because what Tommy and I did was for my eyes only!" Before he could defend himself, a voice called up from downstairs.

"Are you okay Wes? I thought I heard screaming," Mrs. Burkle's traveled down the hall.

Fred looked up from her scattered books, "I guess we have to tell her,"

"We?" Wes looked at her quizzically.

"There's no way I'm telling my Mom I'm back from the... not-quite-dead without you." She stood up, taking his hand to help him up at well. "Walk me down?"

He kissed her forehead and smiled his first honest smile since she'd gone. "I'll walk with you anywhere, anytime," he promised. "Just one thing."

"Anything," she said, as she rested her head on his chest.

"Marry me,"

"Okay,"

"Really?" he asked, surprised. He was sure she was going to say no, or at least tell him to wait.

She looked up into his eyes, "I came back for you, and it only makes sense that I spend the rest of my life with you."

"Can we start now?"

She smirked. "Just as soon as you explain to my parents you're taking their only child."

He felt the heat of her skin against his spread through him like life and blood. It was breath, it was fire, it was a warm blanket on a cool winter night, it was shelter from a storm and hot chocolate in winter. It was love and kisses, and a soft place to land, all at once and for the first time...

He felt whole, complete, loved.

He was home.