Disclaimer: Wesley, Xander, Anya, Fred, Alonna, Buffy, Giles, and all of the other Jossverse characters starring or mentioned in this fanfic belong to Joss Whedon and company. Plot and original characters are mine. Vallhalla, Idavoll, and Asgard belong to the Norse Gods and copyrights are held by Odin and protected by Thor. ;P Notes: This isn't an alternative universe story as it starts up after the end of the episode, Not Fade Away. There are spoilers for that episode and for the Buffy episode, Chosen. Slight spoilers for War Zone, if anyone is really that anal. The descriptions of Vallhalla are a mixture of what I could find out about it and the pieces that I filled in.
The hall rose in his vision; huge, stone, and old. As he walked up the hill even more of the building was uncovered. It was as long as the horizon and red paint made the grey stone hall stripy. Wesley looked over at his guide, Hlökk, but the dark haired woman was silent as she marched forward. Hlökk was a buxom, muscled woman with a long nose. A beaked metal helmet made her look like some sort of bird of prey. Her chain mail, over her leather mini-dress, was a dark gray but it didn't conceal the intricate black tattoo that covered her pale skin. There was no pattern to the thin lines but Wesley could have sworn they were feathers. He took a deep breath and heard his insides squish. The wound on his stomach glimmered wetly. He had been wounded and lying in the ruins of Vail's home. Now, he was walking around in some meadow with a gaping wound in his torso. That was impossible but as he looked over at the woman on one side and the panting black wolf on the other; he felt he was in no position to pass judgments.
The long hall was only getting longer as they got closer. It dominated the meadow and made the surrounding peaks look thin. The meadow was rolling with flowers and shaggy grasses. A mild chill in the wind softened the hot sun. There was no peace in the meadow, however, screams and yells ripped through the sunshine and breeze. Wesley's eyes darted back and forth between the hall and the noise.
"Hlökk, what is that? A battle or are you taking me to hell?"
"We are in Asgard, warrior." Hlökk smiled and looked to the noise. "The music you hear are the Einherjar fighting their merry battle."
"Vallhalla." Wesley said. "Ah, so you must be a Valkyrie."
Angel was the champion not him. This was unexpected, especially as Wesley didn't believe in any of this. That didn't stop it from happening. Staring at his guide, he tripped a bit and would have fallen if not for her hand on his arm.
"You looked surprised. That is common now. In the old days men would fall at my feet and weep for joy. This is a paradise for warriors that has no match. Sessrúmnir? Ha. My sisters and I roam the land searching for fighting souls."
"Not champions?" Wesley asked.
"Every man becomes a champion here as everyman could in life. Ragnarok approaches. All must be ready."
They were at the long hall, Vallhalla; the legendary Vallhalla. When Wesley had graduated from the Watchers Academy, he had been sent up to Helsinki to study demons of the north. Ragnarok cultists had been common among both humans and demons. It was like a extreme version of Fight Club. Odin needed an army to fight the last battle and they were determined to join the ranks. A group of the soldiers in Odin's army were called the Einherjar of Vallhalla and it seemed as if he had just been Shanghaied.
"Will I start fighting today or tomorrow?"
"Today you drink and be merry for tomorrow you'll be hacked to pieces by your fellows in their bloodlust." Hlökk inhaled sharply and her smile was wolfish. Her eyes crinkled at the corners from pleasure.
"Charming," Wesley said.
Hlökk grabbed a loop of rope attached to the red wood. He only now realized that the long, huge, red rectangles were doors. How many men could fit though that door? Wesley backed up to get out of the way of the door. He looked behind him and he saw that other doors were being opened, too. The Einherjar must be coming home. He followed Hlökk into Vallhalla. The rough stone walls were thicker than two men were wide, he saw as she walked through the door frame. Looking across the hall he could see some doors that were regular sized but the colossal ones stared up again after a few doors. It was like there wasn't a end to the hall. It was simply too long. Smells of fragrant brews, hay, and man was like smog in the air. It was dim but brightening as more doors were opened. Looking up he saw oval holes in the roof over the fires pits that lay between the long, heavy wooden tables. Vallhalla was like pornography, Wesley thought, you knew it when you saw it.
Hlökk clasped him on the shoulder and said. "Vallhalla is your home now. I'll leave you to bring mead."
Wesley looked up and down the hall. Some Valkyries were clustered around a long table. One was petting a pony-sized pig. The floor crunched underfoot and he realized that it was covered in rushes. He had a moment then when that the rational part of his brain rebelled and said that this was a dream brought on by long hours slumped over his desk with only the grief and madness of Fred's death for company. Then his father's voice strode through the chaos in his mind to proclaim him dead from incompetence and a fool's mission. Yes, he remembered it all so much clearer now. Illyria had given him Fred and a lie as he died; it was all he had wanted. To die in his beloved's arms, even if it was all a glamour taken from the memories of her cells, was better than he had thought he'd get. There was times when he figured he'd go with Angel's fangs in his throat.
Hlökk was back. She held two heavy pewter tankards with dragons shaped handles. Wesley looked behind her at the doors in front of him. He thought he had heard a pig squeal.
"Drink. Dusk approaches and our brothers and sisters will return." Wesley took one and brought it to his lips. He sipped. It was warm and strong. Vaguely it reminded him of stew. A very alcoholic stew. "Good, no? I see your hesitation. All are like that. Ha. The first man who boldly walks forth in the minutes I take to bring the mead will be the one I take back."
Hlökk slammed back the tankard yet nothing spilled around her red mouth. Raising his drink to her, he slammed one back himself. He had read of this as he had studied the Ragnarok cultists. This was mead milked from Heiðrún, the goat that ate the leaves of the Yggdrasil, the tree that connected all the worlds. Wesley had never drank anything so delicious and bracing.
"Andhrímnir has already finished preparing Sæhrímnir and other meats for the feast. Let us sit. Soon, you will meet your fellows." She took off her helmet and yelled. "Bring food!"
Wesley looked where she was yelling and saw a black girl with the same sort of outfit, sans chain mail, as Hlökk's walking out of a small red door carrying a large plate stacked with thick slices of various meats and breads. Hlökk sat on a rough wooden slab of a bench at the long table and he soon followed. The Valkyrie laid the platter down.
"Alonna, sit. Here is a warrior from your village."
"Village?" Wesley asked.
Hlökk waved a hand. "City, town, village; all the same." Alonna sat and grabbed a hunk of rye bread. "He is from California."
Alonna peered at him and her brow furrowed from concentration. She looked like someone, someone he know but he couldn't place who. "Yeah, I think I've seen you but a white boy, a English white boy, ain't normal in my neighborhood."
"So, you were human?" Wesley asked.
"Yup, I only died a few years ago. My sympathies for your death all." Wesley nodded as she continued. "It was a vamp that got me and then I woke up here. Skuld brought me."
He frowned. Something clicked in his mind. Her eyes were wide and crinkled at the corners; they were familiar. "You're Gunn's sister."
"What? You knew Charlie? I've been waiting for him. I hope I don't see him in awhile, of course, but he is that sort of dumb ass. Is he doing good?"
Wesley smiled, hoping she wouldn't see the lie. "Yes, he's a lawyer now at a large law firm."
Alonna's toothy smile was so bright and happy. He could see traces of Gunn in her face. They had the same smile. "Oh, that is so good to hear. I keep asking all the demon hunters or Californians that come on in here if they know my brother. I got my hopes up a month ago when a Californian demon hunter came in and nope, was from some little town called Sunnyvale."
"Sunnydale?" Wesley asked. Had Giles or any of Buffy's band of helpers died…?
"Yep, Xander's cool. Sings a lot with Alejo though." Alonna looked back at the other Valkyries. "Did you know him? I'm sorry. Well, I got to go back to the kitchens. Bye!"
It was strange to think of Xander as dead. It was strange to think of Xander at all, actually. He still thought of Xander as an obnoxious, fresh-faced, gregarious teenager. How the years must have changed him as they had changed himself. Still, the thought of the joking and breezy young man as a hardened warrior of the Einherjar was laughable. Then again they had chosen him. It seemed that the bar for being worthy of Vallhalla was shockingly low.
Hlökk slammed her tankard down and belched. "Dusk is now. The Einherjar will soon be here. I must see to whom my sisters have chosen. Drink. Eat. You are in Vallhalla."
Wesley grabbed a piece of bread and gnawed on it as he looked around. More Valkyries were placing platters heaped with meats, breads, and bowls on the table. He noticed that they lacked the tattoos that Hlökk had. He saw Alonna set a pot down on the table and she put her hand up to her ear like a phone and mouthed 'we'll talk.' Wesley smiled and nodded. There were other men in the hall and they looked suspiciously at their surroundings but were gobbling down the food all the same. He remember how he dead he really was. He glanced down at the wound. The blood was gone. He lifted up his shirt, the wound was gone. There was still a hole in his shirt though. Wesley sighed and reached for a piece of steak. He just realized how famished he was. He choked on his steak when the shouts and sounds became louder. The mob of voices was loud, boisterous, and in many different languages and tones. He turned around. Up and down the hall men and a few Valkyries were marching in. The men were as diverse as the weapons they carried. They were all human though. Then the bench shook when the men started to sit down and eat.
"Hola!" A swarthy, lean man said sitting down next to Wesley. He had a mustache and thick brows that made him look fierce. His voice was quite squeaky so the effect was ruined. "Dar la bienvenida Vallhalla!"
"Gracias." Wesley said shaking the fellow's hand.
He turned his head and saw Alonna leading Xander to him. The years had changed Xander. There was a patch over his eye and his skin was darkly tanned; the dry kind earned outside. He looked older than his years. Wasn't he only twenty-one or twenty-two? He looked around thirty. He was wearing a rough green tunic and leather pants. Wesley looked around and saw that it was the norm.
"Xander, how are you?" Wesley asked. "When did you die?"
"Alejo, could ya scoot down a bit?" Xander asked as he sat down between Wesley and Alejo, the man who had shaken Wesley's hand. "Alonna, can they spare you or is it back to the salt mines?"
Alonna rolled her eyes. "I got a few decades before they can spare me. They won't even let me fight on the Idavoll until I'm here fifty years!" She sighed dramatically. "I got to bring out more cabbage. See you boys!"
Xander picked up an apple from the most recent platter and took a bite before he said, "I got an axe in the back while I was picking up a slayer in Nigeria. I was using a follower of Eshu as a guide and he sold me out to some shamans. You?"
"Angel had a plan-" Wesley started.
"That's never a good thing. The Evil Undead was never the real brain. Those still waters were shallow." Xander interrupted.
"Well, yes, but Angel had a plan to taken down Wolfram & Hart and I ended up gutted."
"Yeah, huh, you guys were treading on the dark side." Xander scratched his ear. "How is the rest of Angel's merry band?"
"I don't know." Wesley said quietly. He was wondering about them. The contracts with Wolfram & Hart were iron clad. Did he only escape because of Hlökk? Were the others in some sort of W&H hell?
"Don't worry about it. Buffy was never able to let Angel go. She'll rustle up some slayers and kick demon booty." Xander clomped on his apple as the lights started to dim and the torches and fire pits lit up.
"Why didn't they come to save Fred?" Wesley asked. His voice was low. In one of his darkest moments he had send off one of the most foul of hexes to Willow. It was rebuffed and he had to take on the demon and pay a blood price. The price was higher than he was comfortable to speak of.
"When did Fred die?" Xander asked looking intently into Wesley's eyes. There was something in Xander's brown eye that reflected some emotions that were more than familiar. Pity, pain, sympathy, madness, understanding; yes, the years have changed the both of them so much.
"November. The 25th. Everything had been going so well. I thought that we had…" Wesley looked away from Xander's understanding.
"I died the 23rd," Xander said. "My last moments all I felt was the hot sand on my face as the shamans dragged me away while my team was trying to sedate Willow. The shamans had given her a amulet early when we had believed them to be peaceful. It warped her magic so it flowed back against her. She couldn't have done anything for Fred." Xander paused. "You ought to just think about the eating and the fighting."
"Don't you even-" Wesley said as he clenched his fist.
"When we fought the First for the last time, Anya died. She was my… I loved her. I know what you feel. Alejo knows how you feel. He lost his wife, Ximena before Columbus, man. Eat you meat, drink your mead, and in the morning fight until you're only pieces. Do it over again. Again and again until Ragnarok." Xander said, his eye was intense and dark as he reached for a tankard.
"Would you like me to sing of her, your Fred?" Alejo asked, his voice squeaky and slow as he said the words foreign to his tongue. "I entertained the four kings of Iberia as we pushed the Moors out of the peninsula."
"Alejo! Sing of my Nephele!" Some olive-toned man called from down the table. Wesley smiled tightly and shook his head.
"Say the word and I will compose such a song that the Virgin will weep from its beauty." Alejo got up and walked down the table shouting for his instruments.
Wesley turned back to his tankard and let the warmth of the hall wash over him. The fire pits made interesting shadows on the walls and the noise of the Einherjar was comforting. When he had died, it was a relief. Life had began to swirl together into a blur while the only real things seemed to be Fred's and his father's voices. He had tried his hardest to stay together but the cracks were showing. He splintered and only needed one last hurrah. He knew that he was nothing to a sorcerer like Vail. But he might have kept Vail occupied while the others did their work. Illyria was a godsend. He smiled ruefully at the pun. She hadn't have turned into Fred at the end. There were bad times when he, while she was blue, thought she was Fred. He gulped down some mead. The warmth spread through his body.
"Smells like locker room full of cabbage doesn't it? I smelled peat once. This reminds me of it. Have you been to Ireland? I always figured that it smelled like cabbage. My dad was Irish and his parent's house was like cabbage hut." Xander said in a rambling way.
Wesley looked over and blinked at him. The chuckle started in the back of his throat until he was face down on the table shaking from laughter. "That isn't very funny, you know." He said once he calmed.
Xander shrugged. "I never thought you had much of a sense of humor. Now, you're depressing. I feel like the time Willow made me watch The English Patient and then, as the worse chaser ever, Schindler's List. I cried like a baby and only Bollywood could help. Now, since I confessed that, I want to get drunk. I want you to get drunk because maybe your accent will get funny. Good?"
Wesley raised his tankard to him and then drained it. "How do we get refills?"
"Good man! There are thirsty men here who need more mead!" Xander yelled.
Wesley woke up curled around Alejo on the floor. A stick was pressing into his cheek and Alejo's knees were knobby against his thigh. His mouth was dry like he had licked ash-tray sand. Lifting his head, he looked around the room. He wasn't the only one on the floor. Men were snoring everywhere; floor, table, benches; where ever they landed. One man fell in the door frame with his pants around his ankles. Wesley ran a hand through his hair and something nagged at him. His head should hurt for how drunk he was last night. Wesley had woken up spooning a Medieval Spanish troubadour, the alcohol he drank to get to that point, logically, should have him wishing to be put out of his misery. No. He was fresh as a mead and sweat smelling daisy.
Grunting, he got to his feet and grabbed a slice of ham from a battered platter. It was cold and the fistful of bread he munched after was hard but he felt strong. He stretched and scratched his side. The sun was peeking over the hills and he noticed that he wasn't the only one awake.
"Wes!" He heard Xander yell. "Got you a official Einherjar uniform." Wesley turned around and raised an eyebrow. Xander did a little shake as he held up a blue tunic to his chest. "Now, are you a winter or a summer because I can get you brown if the blue doesn't color you beautiful." He threw the tunic at Wesley and then the leather pants that he had slung over his shoulder.
"You got grass and a dandelion stuck in your hair." Wesley said as he took off his shirt and pulled on the tunic. "Pass out while taking a piss?"
"I sleep outside. I didn't like locker room funk in High School and it doesn't smell any better in Vallhalla. This is Viking Animal House, the floor is nasty."
"Girl." Wesley muttered before asking, "Is that why you started singing Twist and Shout?" He laced up his pants.
Xander scratched the grass out of his hair when he said, "You sang verse after slurred verse of 'The Ode to Winifred the Pretty.' Xander reached over to the table and pushed off an Asian, who Wesley vaguely remembered explaining vampires too, off. He grabbed some slightly brown apple hunks. "I like the part about skinny legs and physic books. Alejo is going to make a master out of you."
Wesley frowned. He had forgotten and hadn't been thinking. How could he just ignore Fred? "Thanks."
He walked out of the hall. Fred was with him. The madness that had plagued him had abetted with his death. Even while drinking the mythical mead, he had felt the soft warmth of Fred's hair on his cheek. He heard her giggle when him and Alonna tried to mimic the jig that Cass was dancing. He didn't want to forget his pain and love of Fred but he knew how easy it would be to drown in blood and mead so it wouldn't be a jab in the gut. Since he died whenever he stopped thinking of Fred and then realized what he had done it was like his chest was being compressed. He would never see Fred again. How could he stop thinking of the woman he loved? But not seeing Fred meant he wouldn't see Illyria. He smiled.
He heard the foot steps behind him.
"I feel like your maid." Xander said. "Nah. I'd rather be a butler like Alfred. Benson wouldn't be bad though. Your sword, sir!" He handed Wesley the crude leather sheath. Wesley accepted it and cinched the belt around himself. "Are you ready?" There were men beginning their march to Idavoll, the battleground of the Einherjar. Xander gave him a light shove forward. They started to walk. "You'll be healed at dusk. Somebody could smush you into the ground but once it gets dark - poof - guzzling mead with Cass egging you on." Wesley grunted and Xander sighed. "When Fred died, did Angel try to talk to you or did he just beat his chest looking for Fay Wray?"
"Tried. It wasn't very comforting. Learned that he massacred a whole Norwegian village."
"Listen. I don't like to confront feelings without a joke but you're just going to make yourself miserable." Xander sighed and ran his hand though his hair. "I never could shake Anya's death off. I couldn't deal with it. She was the woman who made me a man, you know? I only lived twenty-two years and in those years I had three people that I loved enough to die for; Willow, Buffy and Anya. Anya was the great romantic love of my lifetime. It was real. But then the whole hell mouth opened up and she died. I ended up running to Africa and getting killed because I couldn't get myself back together. It didn't matter what Willow said or what Buffy ordered. I died everyday after she did because I wanted to. I acted like everything was all right and there was moments when it was true but I kicked my ass for those moments. If I had another year, I might have been able to move on but I didn't. Dying teaches you that you just got moments. And until Ragnarok, all we got are moments. If you look up and down the long table you'll see all the guys who can't let their life be a good memory and be glad that they had it. They're Captain Killjoys."
"Thank you for the advice." Wesley said in a chipped tone. "Now, tell me about the battle."
It was several minutes of strained silence before Xander spoke.
"Weeeeelll, everyone fights everyone. This isn't our team against their team. This is a melee. If Cass knocks your skull in with that huge-ass war hammer or Alejo stabs you or Xiong snaps your neck, it isn't personal. Don't worry, it doesn't take too long to get there." Xander said before turning around and waving. They walked faster in silence and Wesley did his best to only think about the upcoming battle. "Hey. We're here!"
Wesley studied the ground. There were rocks, tall grasses, small ridges, and rabbit holes. This was the worst place to have a battle. It was a wonder that the Einherjar didn't spend every moment tripping over their boots.
"So, when does the fighting-" He asked before Xander jabbed him hard in the stomach with his sheath.
"Any time really," Xander said conversationally as he ducked the punch Wesley threw with his right.
"Fucker." Wesley said through gritted teeth as he pulled out his sword and tried to slash at Xander.
"Sorry, Grasshopper, but time ain't the same here and I've been doing this for awhile." Xander's sword was out and he was lunging forward thrusting the blade at Wesley's chest and shoulder; never mortally wounding but letting the blood flow. "Now, this is a good time to get something through your head. You are dead." Xander feinted to the top left but sliced through Wesley's right thigh. The sword wasn't Wesley's weapon of choice. The obnoxious brat would have been down already if he had a gun. "Fred isn't here. You are dead. Fred isn't here and really, if she was as great and special as you warbled last night, do you think she'd want you to fall apart over her? You are dead."
Xander quickly turned spun and stabbed a dark skinned man through the throat. His blade was just as fast at blocking Wesley's furious attack. Wesley had taken fencing for a year but all the terms, moves, and footwork? Gone from his mind. Fighting demons hadn't been about fancy moves. It was about trying to stick the demon with the sharp end before he got stuck first. Wesley tried to throw Xander off balance by cutting into his side but he barely grazed him.
"You are dead. So is she. Nothing with change that for either of you. Life was for your regrets and death is to rest. Rest, Wesley! Hold on to her memory and cherish it forever but don't let it stop you from resting in peace." Xander said shoving the tip of his broad sword into Wesley's belly. He reach forward and punched the side of Wesley's head. Wesley stumbled back into a rocky ridge. Rough hands grabbed his hair and tried to pull his head up. Grimacing at the memories and snarling from the pain, Wesley reached up and jerked the unfamiliar man down. Wesley turned and slammed his sword into the shoulder of the man who's drink reddened face paled and his eyes grew dim.
He twisted to the side. Xander cursed and his grin faded when his sword hit the rock. Wesley cut deep into Xander's arm. He smiled at the other man's hiss of pain.
"You are dead. You are dead." Xander said pressing forward with the sword held up for easy blocking and attacking. "You are dead. It is time to rest. How can you survive all the years before Ragnarok with ghosts on your shoulder?" He stabbed Wesley's shoulder hard. The squish of the tissue giving away drowned out the sounds of the battle around them. Pain. His mind focused in on his wound. "This is eternity. Can you make it or will you be like those we don't talk about? Those that the Valkyries take back to put out of their eternal misery? You are dead. Can you handle it? YOU ARE DEAD!"
Wesley thrust forward with all the force he could muster and carved a hunk out of Xander's torso. He was flush up against Xander. Xander's eye was intense and he looked away to his lips.
"You are dead." Xander whispered as he brought his broad sword down and stabbed Wesley through before backing up and jerking up the blade fast.
Wesley fell when Xander pulled his sword out. His own sword landed somewhere. He knew he wasn't holding it anymore. Looking up, the sky was blue shot through with white tendrils. Fred was with him. Wesley died.
He opened his eyes. Xander was standing above him holding out his hand. Wesley took it. Getting to his feet he reached down for his sword. It was only inches away. Xander waited for him and they marched together.
Wesley was the first to break the silence. "It was like I wasn't there. I don't remember anything else going on."
Xander smiled. "Idavoll sees battles with millions of dudes just getting down into the dirt trying to rip each other faces off. World War One? Pussies. Vietnam? Granny and friends playing bridge. Gulf War? Not even compatible, in fact, I scoff. If the Superfriends battled the X-Men with the Jedi and their clones everywhere; it would be a match. Maybe. If they tried. It could take forever just to meet all the guys in Vallhalla."
"Who killed you?"
"Xiong. Quick little fucker. Didn't realize that I was being attacked until I fell and my organs felt less than whole. I think he got my kidney. I was still around long enough to see The Red Russian slice his head off though." Xander said with a chuckle.
"What is going on tonight?" Wesley asked. Idavoll was clear of debris and looked peaceful in the dimming light. The sunset made the mountains look like flames licking the sky. Taking a deep breath he looked up at the sky. His eyes widened when he saw a pale green phantom of a chariot race across the clouds.
"I'm going to get drunk." Xander said, his body was relaxed. "Flirt with Hlökk and watch Xiong try to sing with Alejo. It should be nice."
"How long have you been here?"
"I know that I only died a few months ago but... Time is different here. You okay?"
"I remember you being funnier."
"I used to have both eyes. Things change." Xander slapped him on the back and they marched back to Vallhalla in silence.
Wesley fell to his knees. His sword arm felt numb and his left? A random axe had taken care of it. The days since his death blurred together and the nights were quickly forgotten in a drunken haze. How many battles had he fought? He had hoped he would finally kill Xander today. Kill him and not have to listen to his words. The blood flowed into his left eye from the slash across his forehead. Fred wasn't with him really. She hadn't been with him for days. She was silent and always watching but he could hardly feel her. He was losing her and he couldn't stop. The sight of her last breath had faded from his memory. He had known where everyone of the dark splotches were on her face and neck. Now? All he remembered was that she had them. She was lingering and stretching out his agony. Xander was staring down at him, sweaty strands of shaggy black hair stuck to his face.
"You are dead." Xander whispered as he pulled his arm back to cut Wesley's throat. Wesley screamed and lunged for his middle. He hit Xander with the top of his head and had to throw himself into a sitting position on Xander's thighs. His sword arm flopped uselessly and his other one was something he wasn't thinking about. The pain was horrible but after how many days of it, one got used to intense, throbbing, agonizing pain that flooded the body and radiated to every cell. Slamming his head down, he hit Xander in the mouth with his forehead. Inching forward, he smashed his forehead into the other man's nose. He felt it give way. Grinning against Xander's bloody chin, he tried to get up but he couldn't. He had thought that today was his day. Xander's sword pierced his side and Wesley fell on the ground.
"You are dead."
Wesley had walked back with Xander. He had been more than ready to drink. Night had fallen and Wesley was finishing off his second tankard. Watching at Xiong and Cas place bets and play drinking games with Alejo, Wesley noticed Xander walked out of the hall. He set down his tankard and followed him. There was something he had to do. He had been putting it away, further and further from his mind so all he would have to think of was mead and blood.
He was lonely. Fred was with him but she had stopped speaking. Wesley tried not to get sucked into the camaraderie. It was hard. Alonna was so like Gunn but without the shared history. He never realized what he had lost when he lost his friendship with Gunn. Alonna made him realize that. When he wasn't drinking he was trying to reconcile the real memories with the ones that Wolfram and Hart had raped his mind with. Everyday Xander killed him; understanding burning in his eyes, and every night he would have a few drinks waiting for them all to get pissed before stepping out. He hated his emotions concerning Xander. They were too similar to the feelings Wesley had felt towards Angel. Mysterious and dark; all they did was draw Wesley to Xander. Only it was different. They had a deep connection and a melancholy common ground: love lost and the subsequent downward spiral. He had understood Xander's Idavoll mania, he was fighting his demons as he helped fight Wesley's Wesley had begun to hate him before he figured it out. Every dusk when they walked back to Vallhalla Wesley had wanted to unsheathe his sword and slam it into Xander's throat so the blood would bubble on his lips. He couldn't talk then. Wesley hated his understanding, keen observations, and being absolutely right.
Wesley had a belly full of mead and the night was warm. He had been too cowardly before to speak to Xander and face his honesty. There was a figure sitting an a distant hill dark against the lush blue of the mountains and sky. His feet moved onward. He thought he felt a hand holding his. The hand was cold. Xander looked over at him when he had started up the hill but he turned back away. Wesley sat down next to him with a sigh. There were stars out but they seemed brighter and harsh. There seemed to be less of them as well.
"Do you have a song for her?"
"Anya?" Xander asked leaning forward to pick up a half empty mug. He took a swig. "Yes."
"What is it called?"
"My Girl With Her Golden Hair. Alejo helped me a lot on it. It was like musical Shake and Bake."
"Will you ever sing it?" Wesley asked squinting down at the grass.
Xander shook his head and he looked so young. His hair was in his eyes and if Wesley ignored the patch, he could imagine they were back at the Sunnydale High Library researching, or in his case talking to the wall that was Giles. He felt the ghostly memories float over him. Wesley's heart and mind had broken into so many pieces when Fred had died. Everything had been built on Fred and hoping that one day they would be together. For the first time in weeks, he heard Fred; she was far away. Looking up to the sky, the stars were twinkling.
"How do you… Live? With it all." Wesley asked.
"I don't. Then again, neither does she. You have to let Fred stop being the thing that blocks you from being okay."
"Fred was destroyed! Her soul was broken into particles!" Wesley said. He didn't know why he had come out here anymore. Xander was a sadistic prick. He was becoming some sort of masochist; flogging himself on any available whip. "She isn't anywhere."
Xander twisted around and for the first time, Wesley saw him angry. His cheeks were flushed and his eyes narrow. "Lucky duck. Anya was a vengeance demon before I met her. For a thousand years she was the patron saint of scorned women. Where do you think she is, asshole? Fred is beyond everything in the literal sense. You should be glad that nothing can touch her."
Wesley swallowed. His throat was tight and he looked down. "Well, then how do you do it? If that is how it went, how do you survive?"
He laughed. His husky and desperate sounding laugh pierced the air. The crickets went silent. Wesley watched Xander double over, shaking from laughter. Xander soon calmed, looking over at him, he smiled sadly.
"I can't do anything for Anya. But I can help you. I can, you know, help me. Its this whole Dr. Phil healing thing."
Wesley closed his eyes. He thought he felt soft lips brush his temple but they were gone and he was soon cold. Fred wasn't with him. Fred was dead. He was dead. He didn't feel any better but the ghost of Fred that he hugged close to him was gone.
"I need a drink." Wesley said. He had an empty ache inside him but, at the very least, the emptiness wasn't filled with a madness and ghosts.
Xander got to his feet and put out his hand. Wesley took it and stood up. Throwing a friendly arm over Wesley's shoulders, he spoke.
"Let the healing begin."