Characters: Fred & Spike (friendship)
Rating: PG-13 for angst, imagery, mild language
Written for: mydeira for the Fredficathon
Challenge: Fred & Spike friendship, Post-Destiny, No Fred/Wes.
Spoilers: through AtS 5.16 "Shells". Story is set immediately after AtS 5.8 "Destiny".
Thanks: to janedavitt for the beta and my rl peeps for comments.
Disclaimer: ME, not me.
"Hey, how'd you see me under here?" he slurred. "I'm lurking. Creature of the night, here. Hiding in the shadows against the -- the unwary and all." He frowned. "And caves aren't cozy. They're full of beetles and bad finger-paintings and all manner of unpleasantness."
"Well, you realize you are kinda in plain sight?" She noticed the bottle next to his head. "Ugh, Spike. You're drinking straight whiskey?" Fred was struck by a sudden thought. "Hey, my cave didn't have finger-paintings. I kept track of important information on the walls, but in a meticulous fashion."
"I'll have you know that my good friend Jack here is a decent sort," Spike sputtered, grasping at the bottle with an unsteady hand. "And since when do you have a cave? Or do you mean that lab they keep you boxed up in?"
Spike succeeded in sending the mostly-empty whiskey bottle wobbling out into the lobby, leaving a dark arc of fluid behind on the light grey carpet.
Fred regarded the mess with a modicum of amusement playing across her lips.
"It's a long story -- I lived in a cave for years, until Angel rescued me. So what are you doing passing out at Wolfram and Hart anyway?"
Spike sighed. "Don't have anywhere to stay. Figured I'd haunt this place -- been doing it long enough. And it'll do as a place to crash between bar times."
"Angel didn't give you anywhere to sleep?" Fred was surprised. Angel extended a hand to those in need. Well, he used to help people. She sometimes wondered, these days.
Spike scoffed, "After I beat the tar out of him? Not likely. No, he's probably headed for an industrial-strength brood. I'd just get in his way."
"I didn't mean with him, silly," Fred laughed, amused by Spike's matter-of-fact assumption of the possibility.
Spike's eyes flickered but his expression was unwavering. "Right, course not."
"You poor sweetheart. You can't stay here." Fred rose and extended a hand to the still-prone Spike. "The night cleaning staff are scary. I mean, you're all "grr", but they talk fantasy football. In Spanish, mind you, but still."
"Oh, I've heard'm. 'S not football at all. Bloody colonials. Ok, where should old Spike rest his -- oww -- sitting up is not an improvement from the head's point of view."
"Come back to my place. We just have to wait for the limo service to--"
Fred paused and laughed as Spike rummaged in his duster and dropped a key on an ornate key-chain into her hand. "Uh, I don't think Angel wants me driving his Viper. He was pretty cranky about you taking it in the first place."
Spike grinned widely, flicking out his tongue. "I'll drive if you like, luv."
"You're way too drunk, silly. Granted, back in Texas drunk driving may have been the state sport, but I'm not letting you get more smashed than you already are from the booze and what did Angel call it? Oh yeah, falling down stairs." She snickered as she helped him to his feet.
With a goodly amount of reeling and staggering they made it to the elevators and the parking garage. Fred found that she remembered how to drive stick, though it had been years since she'd last seen her trusty station wagon parked outside the public library. She navigated homeward to a counterpoint of commentary provided by the unsurprisingly loquacious vampire in the passenger seat.
"No, Spike, red lights are *not* optional after a certain time of night." Fred unlocked her door and stepped inside, almost sending Spike careening to the floor since he had been leaning on her shoulder. "Oops. Come in, Spike."
Her apartment was dimly lit in shades of red, with billowy curtains blocking the urban lights outside, an intentional contrast to the sterile lab that comprised so much of her day-to-day environment. Spike looked around and smirked. "Nice digs, luv. Not all lab-coats and serious-girl glasses after all, eh?"
Fred smiled. "Let's get that coat and those boots off and get you cleaned up." Spike nodded in acquiescence, complying. "You're still all bloody and boozy. Actually..." She retrieved some clothes from her closet, and said, "Go shower, and throw those filthy clothes out the door. I'll wash them."
With only the slightest of protests, Spike disappeared into the shower, after a time emerging barefoot, wearing the faded Johnny Cash t-shirt and equally faded-to-grey yoga pants. He grimaced. "I look like a damn fool."
Fred tried without much success to stifle a giggle. "But at least you're a clean one. And your clothes are in the dryer, so you'll have them back soon. Meanwhile, you should get some rest."
"Alright, I'll just doss down on the sofa." Spike regarded it with skepticism.
"That futon sofa is really uncomfortable. Knox keeps trying to talk me into replacing it with this inflatable leopard-print couch but that's a bit too geek guy for me."
"Knox is giving you home decor advice now? Do I sense love for lab-girl amidst the beakers?"
Fred rolled her eyes and flopped into her bed in the adjoining room. "We're not, really -- I mean, we've gone on a couple of dates since that crazy party, you know? Here, come nap on the bed with me. Plenty of room."
Spike stretched out on the bed. Even in a grey more muted than his habitual black, he made a harsh contrast to the soft pastels of her quilted coverlet. "Ah yes, All Hallows Eve. Right euphoric, I was. Unnatural."
Fred continued, "And he's sweet, and all, but I don't know. Love is more epic than that, right? You would know, I guess. Lorne keeps going on about your great doomed -- Oh, sorry."
Spike looked wistful. "Right. And I'm going to find her. Europe is pretty vague as far as addresses go, but I've got time."
Fred looked intently at Spike, trying to see past the bravado. "You gave everything for her. A girl's gotta be impressed by that. But I don't know. Ever since Wesley killed his father-bot for me, Knox has been really -- I dunno -- clingy. And Wesley's been on sabbatical, and I kinda miss him. And what did you mean, sex with robots is common?"
"Well, had a bit of slap and tickle with a robot myself once." Spike raised his scarred eyebrow quizzically. "Wait, why am I telling you this? Shouldn't you be telling me all about the adventures of Girl Geek and Watcher Boy?"
Fred sighed and laid her head on Spike's shoulder. "Cause you're drunk and I'm here? And I don't know what those adventures would be, or if I even want to have them."
Spike stroked her hair. "I thought Wes shot that robot cause it was taking a pointy stick to the Dark Avenger's self-control or some-such. And we can't have that."
Fred said, "No, it was when his father threatened me. That scared me, kinda. I think Wes really loves me. He has for years, with this intense smoldering passion. And I don't know what to do with that."
"And you don't love him?" Spike swallowed. The silence after he spoke seemed weighty, fraught with portent.
Fred buried her face in Spike's shoulder again. "It's just hard, you know? Love? You know, Charles and I used to date. We hardly talk to each another now. He... got violent with someone on account of me, and everything went wrong between us after that. And now Wes is unloading a clip into his father for me? I think loving me made Charles kinda crazy. And now Wes -- hello, not exactly stable to begin with."
"Love makes a man mad. Do things he wouldn't. Hurt the ones..." Spike stopped as if pained, sat up and gazed at her intently, holding her shoulders. "Love may burn, but it's always worth reaching for."
Fred's heart pounded and the rushing in her ears drowned out her thoughts. She regarded Spike steadily. "And what if it burns down to ash and there's nothing left?
"Came back from that, didn't I?" But he looked bleak and lost, suddenly a small figure in her incongruous clothes.
The dryer buzzed, stark and harsh in the sudden silence.
Spike shifted his jaw, looking pained. "Thanks for cleaning me up and the place to rest, luv. But I think I need to drink a bit more, and that's not something you can help me with."
He vaulted over the chest at the foot of her bed and then paused for a moment, facing the mirror opposite. He turned his head, affording her a view of his profile and him biting his lower lip, and then he left the bedroom in a loping stride.
When he was gone Fred could see the contents of the mirror that had given him pause, looking just as they must have while he stood before it. She saw herself, a small figure in the distance on the bed, emptiness surrounding her.