AUTHOR: Scarlet Rose
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Fred and Wesley, nor any of the other characters in this
fic, no matter how much I desperately wish I did.
DISTRIBUTION: If you’d like it, all ya gotta do is ask!
FEEDBACK: I love friendly feedback! Send it on over to firstname.lastname@example.org
Fred knocked hesitantly on the door, and was slightly startled when it opened.
She’d expected him to put up a fight- asking her to leave, as he had all
the other times. Locking her out once again. But as the door swung open, she found
herself facing a man she didn’t know. A man who was so lost, she could barely
recognize him at all. Wesley’s neck still wore a bandage, a grim reminder
of the events that had taken place only a short while ago. But instead of the
tall, brave man she last saw him as, she now saw a broken, gaunt figure staring
out at her with eyes as dull as the lighting in the apartment.
She instinctively moved towards him, hand reaching up to land on his shoulder.
“Wesley?” she asked brokenly. But he shifted away quickly, moving
back from her touch. She stepped back slightly, startled, almost backing away
herself. Reminded briefly of when she’d come to see him after the whole
incident with Billy. But she brought herself back to the present, and watched
as he turned from her. Putting up the invisible wall again. Her back straightened,
and her chin went up. She wouldn’t let him dismiss her again so easily.
“Wesley,” she said, and this time it wasn’t a question. It was
an order. An order to turn around and face her. The time had come, and she wouldn’t
let him back away again. She heard what sounded like a soft sigh emit from the
forlorn figure, then he turned back to her. Fred felt all her words congeal in
her throat at the tired and drawn look in his eyes. Instead of berating him, or
placating him, or whatever she’d planned to do if she got this far, she
came closer and took hold of his hand. She led him over to the couch, and watched
as he sank down onto it. Moving away only to grab a chair, she moved next to him
and sat down. Silence stretched out for long intervals, until finally he lay down
and closed his eyes. She sensed the moment when he fell asleep, and let out a
breath she hadn’t know she was holding.
He slept on, alone in his nightmarish world of dreams. But Fred never left his
side, a faithful guardian watching over him. Wishing that she could stop the demons
in his mind as well as she could fight the demons in their world. But knowing
she could not. She stayed up the entire night, not allowing her eyelids to close
even for a moment. When dawn’s light crept through the drapes, she felt
a hollow fill her chest. She knew she had to leave. Charles and the rest of the
gang would be worried if she didn’t come down for breakfast from her room
at the hotel. Resignedly, she gathered herself together and moved to leave. Reaching
the door, she watched as Wesley’s face contorted in a grimace as he slept.
Checking her instinct to run over and hold him, she moved quietly into the hall
and left his apartment.
Fred quickly packed as many clothes as she could into the bag, wondering how on
earth she’d ever managed to obtain so many. She remembered Cordy dragging
her along on many impromptu shopping trips, but had forgotten how much stuff the
other woman had bought for her. She hesitated briefly before leaving the hotel,
placing her suitcases into the cab’s backseat. It had been so hard for her
to do this. Charles had been the hardest to convince. She’d told him that
she wanted to strike out on her own for a bit, get her own place to live. She’d
argued that Angel didn’t need a burden like her living at the hotel right
now, not when he had his own worries to think about. Charles, of course, had tried
to reason with her. She had almost crumbled when he said that the last thing that
Angel needed was to lose another person. But then she thought of a lonely, desperate
man and became resolute. She told Charles that Angel wasn’t losing her;
she’d still be around. She just needed her own space, was all. He’d
reluctantly agreed, and had offered to help her move. He hadn’t liked it
one bit when she’d asked that she do this alone. He wanted to know where
she’d be. She liked his protectiveness, but she couldn’t afford to
tell him where she was really going. He was too upset still with Wesley to understand.
Finally, she’d cajoled Charles into letting her move on her own, with promises
to call him later that evening to let him know she’d settled in alright.
When she’d arrived at Wesley’s apartment, she’d found the door
locked as usual. When he didn’t answer after her repetitive knocks, she
could have screamed. There was no way she’d come this far, betrayed Charles’
trust, for her to be rejected like this. Briefly, she tried to remember the tricks
Cordelia had taught her about how to open doors with credit cards or bobby pins.
But those thoughts became useless when the door finally opened, and Wesley stood
blinking into the light of the hallway. She pushed her way into the apartment,
and blithely told him that she was moving in. He had stood in shock for a moment,
but hadn’t argued. Which was a good thing, because she was so keyed up that
she probably would have flipped out had he argued.
After long, awkward moments of just standing and staring at each other, he went
back to his couch and sat down. After long minutes of watching him, Fred realized
he wasn’t going to move. She took a look around the apartment. The couch
he sat on was old and worn- in stark contrast to the sterile bed in the bedroom
that looked like it had never been slept on. She nearly smiled at that. She had
always pictured Wes coming back to his apartment, studying with his tomes and
notes until he finally fell asleep with his head on a book either on the desk
or the couch. There wasn’t much light in the apartment- it appeared he’d
tried to banish all forms of it. Overhead lights were burned out; the curtains
were heavy and dark. She sat down hard on the bed, and tried to plan. What on
earth should she do next?
For the first week, Fred had done some shopping. She’d first gone out to
get groceries. After seeing the sorry state of Wesley’s refrigerator, she
had no doubt as to why he seemed to be so thin. He rarely ever got up off the
couch, preferring to sit there and just think or sleep or read. But his mind always
seemed to be on another planet, and she left him that way for the while. She’d
also gone out and gotten linens for the bed. She picked soft lilacs, and blues,
and wheat colored pillowcases. Things that reminded her of warmth, and comfort
and home- things she wanted to bring back to Wesley. When she’d come home
after one trip, she’d found the last lamp shattered on the ground, the only
indication that Wesley was still upset over what had happened with Connor. He’d
finally attempted to banish all light from his life, and she concluded that he
possibly was trying to get rid of her as well. Showing her there was no way light
could live with someone like him.
But she wasn’t buying it. She’d simply swept up the broken and shattered
remains of the lamp, and gone out again. She’d contemplated buying another
lamp, but when she passed a candle shop, she got another idea. She bought quite
a bit of candles, a weighty purchase but well worth it. While she worried about
fire and Wesley mixing, she figured that since he hadn’t really attempted
to harm himself, it should be alright. And candles would bring a warmer, softer
glow to the apartment- opposed to the harsh, cold fluorescent lamps. And after
all, it was better to see in shades of gray- shadows of gray, perhaps- than in
staunch black and white.
The second week had been harder. She and Wesley had developed a routine. He almost
always avoided direct contact with her, which hurt but was okay by her. She was
staying here as a guardian- watching to make sure he was okay, and trying to figure
out a way to reach him. But she’d never taken those psychology classes she’d
wanted to take in college, and she’d figured that starting out slow was
best. She figured she’d take it day by day. She’d gotten Wesley to
shower more, eat more, though he did so mechanically. She figured the only reason
he ate or bathed was because she cajoled, reasoned, or forced him to. But he was
starting to look a bit better, and his nightmares seemed to diminish a bit when
she was around. She’d made sure to call Charles every night from the cell
phone he’d bought her. He and the others had needed her help on several
occasions, but he’d never bugged her about where she was living. Though
he questioned her time and again, he’d drop it as soon as she asked him
Fred had thought she was possibly getting a bit closer to Wesley, as his eyes
seemed to meet hers more and more as the days went by. As she sat next to him,
making sure he ate all she gave him, his gaze often became a bit less clouded
by pain, a bit less sorrowful. But then she’d come home, exhausted from
fighting a demon with Cordy and Charles, and found Wesley with several bottles,
and pills scattered at his feet. She’d run to him, grasped his arms and
silently prayed he hadn’t taken more than his frail, weak body could handle.
She looked up and saw more desolation in his eyes than she could ever remember.
“Why?” she asked, on a sob. She’d failed him. Somehow, she’d
failed him and he’d hurt himself.
He looked at her sadly, uncomprehendingly. Then, realizing where she was placing
her blame, he shook his head slowly. “No, Fred. Not your fault,” he
whispered hoarsely, then pulled away.
She followed him to the couch, and sat next to him, wiping her tears away. She
put her hand on his chin, then pulled his face to hers. “Why?” she
asked again, this time more firmly.
He looked down at the couch. “Because,” he started, then his breath
hitched and he stopped for a moment. “Because it makes the pain go away,”
he finished simply.
She inhaled sharply, and felt her insides pull with hurt for him at his words.
He looked at her again, then looked away, unable to face the anguish he’d
put in her eyes. “Every time I close my eyes Fred, I hear…I hear Connor’s
cries, I see him being pulled away, I…” He stopped at this, not able
to go on any further.
Fred placed her arms around him. He stiffened for a moment, then leaned his head
against her shoulder. Turning towards her, he let himself go, tears spilling hotly
onto her shirt. And after a while, she couldn’t tell which tears on her
shirt were his and which were hers.
After that incident, she’d never strayed far from his side. Though he hadn’t
opened up to her that much again, he had started responding a bit to her greetings
in the morning, and her goodnights before they went to bed. She’d starting
coming up with inane things to talk about- the weather, what was in the newspaper,
anything to make him talk. There had been some slight cutting, though he didn’t
realize she knew about it. She’d work through the issues about Connor and
Angel and the others in due time. But since she herself couldn’t find the
words to say at the moment, she figured she’d best take it slow once again.
She found herself torn between two worlds, between two men. The world she’d
created with Wesley, secluded in his apartment, and the world where she was dating
Charles Gunn and was a member of Angel Investigations. She no longer went on dates
with Charles, and rarely met up with him and the gang. She felt bad for isolating
herself from them, yet she found herself reluctant to leave Wesley’s side,
even to just get groceries. She knew she couldn’t keep this indiscretion
a secret forever. But she found herself surprised at the fact that she wanted
to keep this going for as long as she could. As long as it took to heal the broken
shards of her relationship with Wesley- whatever that relationship may be.
But three weeks after she’d first moved in, as she sat down next to Wesley
with a book to watch over him as he slept, as was their custom, he took her hand.
She dropped her book, but attentively turned to him, then felt her heart freeze
at the look in his eyes. The look that was saying goodbye.
“Fred,” he started softly, even as she was shaking her head in denial.
“Winifred, you must go. Please,” he said, when she started to argue,
tears welling in her eyes. “Fred, what you’ve done for the past few
weeks…how you’ve…you’ve been more kind to me than I could
ever wish for. Ever deserve,” he said, gripping her hand tightly. “But
I cannot drag you further into this. This, Fred, is my home. My darkness, my demons,
my worthless life. You needn’t be pulled any further into it.”
He stopped for a moment, trying to ignore the pain in his chest caused by her
hitching sobs. “You don’t want me?” she asked in a broken voice,
interrupting his next sentence.
He looked at her in shock. “No, Fred, I…I just don’t feel you
should be punished for my mistakes. You deserve to live in the sun, to go out
with others. I…am monopolizing your time, your energy, and it simply isn’t
right. Not when I cannot offer you anything but pain and misery in return,”
he replied, begging her with his eyes to understand.
Her tears had started to dry, and in place he found himself staring into eyes
filled with defiance. “That’s not true,” she stated, voice only
slightly trembling. “I chose this for myself Wesley. I’m here, for
as long as I can be. I’m helping you, whether you like it or not,”
she said, then closed her eyes waiting for the rejection.
His own eyes filled with unshed tears. “Fred, I need you so much. But the
others need you too. I cannot possibly ask you to stay with someone like me…”
Her eyes opened, and she held up her hand to stop his sentence.
“You’re not asking me. I’m ordering myself,” she corrected
calmly. “All I ask for is friendship in return,” she said, with hope
evident in her voice. Not entirely sure what she wanted anymore from him, but
willing to take only friendship as a beginning.
“You have Gunn…” he started to say, and then stopped. She took
a deep breath, and then squeezed his hand, which still held her own.
“Yes, I have Gunn,” she agreed. “But I need you,” she
said, emphasizing the last two words.
His hand clutched hers more tightly at her words. He looked at her with wonder,
sadness and a bit of longing in his eyes. Both had no idea what to make of her
words, and neither could comprehend their full meaning at this time. So they silently
decided to take it Fred’s way- go slowly. Wesley nodded hesitantly, nervously.
“Okay,” he agreed.
She nodded as well, then squeezed his hand, smiling softly. Watching as he pulled
his hand from hers, and laid down to rest. Picking up her book from its location
on the floor, she settled into the chair as Wesley fell asleep. Wondering how
long the routine would go before it changed. And wondering how it would change.
But she knew no matter what happened, she wouldn’t desert Wesley. She’d
always be here for him, his own radiant Guardian Angel.