by Scy

He was always better at the public functions; people took 'blank and rather confused,' as 'attentive and interested.' They thought that he cared; he had never excelled at playing along with them, but he was a master of twisting the truth around so that it did back bends and clicked its heels.

And the older he got, the more he understood that things could not remain unchanged for long, and sometimes he disliked that about his life.

Especially the people; he loved it when they were young, so unspoiled, that was why he went to the playgrounds. Now that there wasn't any reason for any of the others to try and find him, demanding that he help, or care about a greater cause, he could sightsee. He liked to sit on one of the obscenely bright red/orange painted benches and just enjoy the laughter, the personalities being forged, identities coming out in swings and falls and pure laughter. Such beginnings that parts 'two and three' were not any kind of worry.

Doesn't think that he should have to keep up the pretense, of distance, or affection, or understanding, if they are being so very deadly honest in what they think should be done with his child. But he is supposed to be more deep than they, even though they are the humans, and he is only playing very gently at the pages of the volumes he has accumulated on the role. Not very good at it, but better than they suspect. They think that what he gives them is genuine, the trembles of insecurity, the sweet grins, and the bumbling that is what they are ready to deal with. He keeps the reality from them. Just so as to avoid most of the annoying buzzes that they will let him hear- what he should be thinking, focusing on- he managed to survive for years without them looking after his every step, but he does not say that, and picks up after them instead.

Fred huddled or gazed out of doorways, her spine becoming a line rather than an ellipse, ever observing and taking notes on the others.

He believed that she would be even more tangible as an Elemental way- in mountains, like she was in Pylea, but without the slavery or terrorization of being hunted. Here, in a city, she encases herself in an acceptable montage of neuroses so that she will be left to her own ways, and carefully organized stumblings. And they never saw the way she smiled when Cordelia's longing for Connor to be hers, borne of her and Angel is evident and agonizing to those who are not sensitive enough to glance away. It is a canny smile, a good dribbling of sadness in the twist of pink glossed lips, but also unmistakable is the understanding of so basic a desire.

She melted free, fully formed in the snows of his mind, a furnace of timeless knowledge. They both wanted a passing of the the whiteness of earth, dead and freeze-dried for thaw, and none of the others wanted to hear such thoughts.

Sometimes he compared the way she crawled out of her role inside the hotel to the way he fought out of a grave. The constriction of soil, wood, and opinions and impressions that were keeping her from what she wanted so dearly to be.

At her insisting, he took her to bargain fairs, and the coats she found, were all out of several decades past. It made him consider trying to find his Children, if just so that he could ask Dru where she preferred to shop, explain that he had a 'precious girl,' who liked dresses, and 'would Daddy's Princess like to help him out? ' A ludicrous exchange of letters in his mind, but it was a hilarity that he held close to himself, if just for the maybe of pursuing it.

Dear Fred gave him enough fodder to imagine exquisite debasements. Nothing stupidly innocent about the way she watched him from behind that tangle of morning-time hair. He put out a hand to free her face from its bars of riotous curls, and she pulled back, doing it herself. She was able to see without messing up what she liked to have done her way.

Concluded that she would like the bells of the churches in Europe, pictured her standing outside a chapel and staring upwards, moon smiling and stars' approval on her cheeks. Then she would demand that they clamor up into the tower and see how the ropes and supports hold the bells into their melodies at the appointed times.

And he doesn't actually have to do anything with the baby, act delighted, smile, fumble around the duties of being a Father, human and all that such entails, until someone says that he is doing it 'wrong,' though they have no experience with it themselves, and then they will take the responsibility from him. It would make him laugh if he wasn't supposed to be feeling ashamed and at fault. That he does well, the brief shuffle of large feet, head down, 'will do better,' and then he slips out.

He could list for them, these mortals, the mistakes that will have to be made before something like 'forever' is an option acceptable to those Higher Powers. How often they will have to quarrel, or not, the steps into trust, that they have ventured through, and how wounds of the body can be moderately healed by words and the way emotions shines in the eyes of a lover.

But they are not so keen on having him give them such a manual; better that they tremble and err, he can watch them grow that way. More sedate, for even though mortals have less time, they can develop their relationships with such care and thought that there is doubt that anything untoward will ever happen.

What they never comprehended, for it was beyond what their minds were willing to envision was that nothing ever changed, it simply became more trendy and sleek. For instance, it didn't ever occur to them that Angelus could be back, no, too stupid, brash, evil. But Angel had been that way to fit in, and they might not know the difference. After all, the humans were his, and that would not change with the presence of a soul. Or its absence. And they thought that him having a soul made him good, harmless, and he wanted to smile and point out, very gently, with age in his voice, that the lawyers, and killers and scum off the street were supposed to have souls as well so why might he not have a bit of their evil?

Because he was Angel, so obedient to whomever was capable of telling him the needs of every being. For that was how he was understood: meant to do, to take what they suffered from and keep it. Inside, held. His own. No one else could say what he will do with it all. All of that love and caring, and where did go once it was his?

He'd realized that the reality most people lived in wasn't complete, that they were denying a whole different set of rules, that said 'humans are food,' and so when they asked him why he smiled, bright, empty, so falsely reassuring, he would say ' it's not true.' or something else that a New Ager on organic rainbow dreams might toss out to non-believers, and then he would wish he was expected to go out and get drunk or something worse.

And they'd missed it, the way that his smile got emptier with each passing day, until all it was amounted to a black hole spilling over with false love and anger that no one expected.

They never asked why he smelled of perfume. Different scents, always exotic, and Fred would hiss after he came in late. Then, he began to take her out, and her protests ceased. In fact, she often returned with flowers and an expression that threatened all knowledge that he had about the curse and that perfect happiness couldn't be achieved in a moment, that it was all building to a culmination of peace that would obliterate their family. That was the source of it; when he found pleasure in something which could yield blood and not ruin his clothing with demonic fluids.

Convents, he still had pictures of the bloodied innocents embossed on his eyelids. When he shut his eyes, they looked at him; dead orbs, the first orgasm with a mortal wound. He didn't tell anyone about the habits. Or that he saved Dru's shawl, the one she wore when he first listened to her confession. In a metal trunk, that and a few other things made it to the Hyperion and Wes was never told how pale hands trembled when they were thought lost.

What will ease you Daddy?

Always hear the youthful whisper behind his ears. She would free him if she knew how, though to her men only demanded and abused, and then chose others before her. She wanted her father, he wanted to have all piece assembled into a sort of whole.

Yet, if a harmful wholeness was forthcoming, it was possible for him to observe the more acceptable parts of his life and appreciate their jaggedness.

She lived in his home, played, hid and absorbed, and he heard it all. When she bathed, she liked to turn the water to scalding and then slide in, a limb at a time. Listening to her gasp, he wondered if the peeling of skin confirmed her existence in a reality with commercially distributed Mexican cuisine.

Each word to her was a treasure she held and cuddled up to when he was elsewhere. With her, an effort was unnecessary, occupying space in her vicinity satisfied him and all that was required was that he look. At her, through or away. Eyes open, face immobile, sincerity he might not have, and she adored him for it.

She remembered things with acronyms, HONCIBIF was the way she recalled the diatomic elements. Told him such while he sat on her floor, watching her shave her legs. Cordelia thought that she shouldn't even know about razor blades, but Fred implored her, a female plea and Cordy told him that he should watch her, make sure that there wasn't a problem.

Fred had little trouble, though she wanted him to scrape the blade over her skin. He wanted to, would have liked to, bring the flesh to smooth newness and when she was in the bath, one leg hanging out of the tub, let her tremble enough to need his assistance. Then he was able to imagine what she'd hidden by foam and cloudy water as he removed the stubble from her legs. She often blushed as though she was a true virgin, in all senses of the word and he the first man to see any of her body that could not be hidden with clothing. Untrue, he was not a normal male, and she not the shy lass that she appeared to be- the redness of flesh was more an exercise in blood flow than anything else, she was aware of what she was after and how to obtain it quickly. Clearly though, she had learned a lesson that certain of his offspring had never been able to: the wait could be nearly as delightful as the event itself. Both he and Fred had done the prelude to excess and knew it was time to move forward with the main feature.

Cordy worried about the relationship, and he reassured her, saying that it was nothing to be concerned about. But she was smarter than she let others think, and began to have more doubts. Yet, he good at pretending and she no longer could tell if he meant what he said.

Yes, he was now increasingly comforted by Fred's soft prettiness, not loud and insistent like Cordelia, or the volatile temptation that was Innocent Death Bringer, but new. He liked Fred. She was feathery, drifting beside him, adjusting her glasses on her nose and pulling the jacket he lent her close.

He wanted to lift her, up against a wall, hands secured in one of his and rub the sharpest pieces of her madness against his chest. If he pushed her hard enough, maybe they wouldn't heal at once. There was not want in him for another thing that had already dried out and Fred carried so much bulging under her skin. He only wanted to put lips on her belly and feel that life that bubbled for so brief a period in her organs.

A vampire never had that whisper-song of cells dividing, dying, and being separated from living tissue. He knew that, had lain in a muddle of limbs, dead flesh by choice and rotting flesh by design on the floor nearby.

Preserved, held by the blood, and all that would be altered by the world was the mind and physical coverings, the individual had to be comfortable with themselves in eternity.

Both of the human males were intrigued, a woman available, confused, perhaps needing, and she wondered if rubbing mercury rouge on their cheeks would increase their understanding of her. Wes, with a bit of color, maybe he wouldn't look so much like Amazing Scarecrow Man.

She knew that the other ‘cows’ chased her, thought she was insane, and she knew things, how to travel, in ways and vehicles that they had forgotten or never seen. She twirled quite a bit, and loved skittering down the hallways, bouncing off doorways, giggling as lights flickered and she could hear footsteps, rembrances of steps, sometimes the demon followed her, she didn’t care about his presence, he listened to her ramblings and gave back some of his own. Wouldn’t tell the others that he’d managed to let himself go, she’d seen him unfettered once before, held raw meat in her fist, squeezing out the juices for him, and he’d come to her.

Fred, only she, had coaxed the wild animal into her home, to lie down, not to touch, but to be there. She’d tried to feed him her cuisine and now he gave her much tastier fare. She liked the feeling of the tacos he brought her, the fresh ingredients in comparison to what she’d grown accustomed to. And when he cooked. Sometime more often during the bad times, he would cook for her. He ate some of the things and she ate even less. When eating with him, she never felt as if she was anorexic. He didn’t prod her to eat anything but meat and milk. She figured that he must be trying to fatten her up, but it didn’t seem like that good of an idea, given that she would be missed by the others in the company. And besides, he wanted to eat her more slowly. Dribbles of sentences, her opinions, life and a myriad of other subjects.

It wasn't foreign to her that Angel shouldn’t be hers’, that in some universe he and a blond warrior were setting up house and having children by the whatever-load, but here and now, he could not have his Goddess, maybe not ever, and the other never wanted to fully understand the ways that his demon and he twined, but this girl did. She was most times the best at working out such seemingly similar patterns to find the tiniest difference, or vice versa.

She was good at the kneeling and the crawling, and yanking his composure apart, so beautiful when he came, little sob, teeth and her pride at making him more hers again, reiterating without verbalization how much they need each other, and having him return the favor whenever he rubbed his teeth over her skin. He never damaged her where the others might chance to see, the most damning of hickies hidden under sleeves and cotton and the swish of her skirts. But she had the satisfaction of looking at the others and knowing that they were nowhere near as complete as they would like to think, nor that they really had it all together in other parts of their lives.

"You know when you look at a container of vitamins and it lists ingredients and there is tri-sodium phosphate? Well that's wrong because sodium never changes its valences. So why are there so many stupid people labeling mass marketed products?" He doesn't answer, shaking his head, bemused with her thoughts. Though he doesn't interject supporting facts, she likes having him around to spout off to. She thinks that they fit together, him being an outcast, her not remembering how to be anything else.

So neither told about the slips in 'behavior'. She insisted that he return to her after a fight, grabbing at a sleeve, feeling the energy that he rarely completely dispelled from his body. Occasionally he did Tai Chi in front of her, or she talked and thought aloud until he stopped staring around longingly for slaughters.

Forever boundaries, and she knew why, liked all of that cool skin on top, pressing into her body, hurt and ouch and covering up what should not be fixed. useless conventions of decorum and aside from observing rules she mocked, she uses compact discs as coasters.

She ran about in a nightgown, one that Cordelia had sent Angel to to buy after Fred had refused to touch flannels. Silk caressed her body in ways that she wished elegant hands would.

Finally she stopped worrying about a housecoat when roaming the Hyperion. if Angel wanted to avoid embarrassing himself, he could sit in his rooms, she would wander about in what she liked, and if he happened to see her, she would not be bothered. She sometimes forgot to control speech as well as dress.

'There are 212 ways to beat a solider,' she said while watching television one evening. Cordelia frowned and corrected her.

'Fred, it's a commercial, 212 ways to be a soldier.'

'Ad campaign?' Fred queried and as Wes confirmed her guess, he and Cordelia passed a worried look between them.

Seeing their concern, she rolled neatly to her feet and left the room. No need to stay where she was going to be analyzed. When they would not admit that they needed their own doctors, she was unwilling to be the one sent to the offices.

Watched Cordelia drink her Methanol and wishes that she could see through tummy/flesh. She'd done the equations, conversion of Equal, or Nutrisweet through a biological oxidation to formaldehyde form that did not please the liver. More silent chuckles. Trying to be so healthy, that one, and she only ingested something worse.

Liked touching him; it wasn't appropriate around the others, but she was fond enough of making them stare at her with the thought that she might be doing bad things to the way that things were balanced enough that she did it every several days. If Angel smiled a tiny bit at her, she would approach and mention something that they had spoken about the evening previous, very unsuitable for Wes or Gunn to hear, and he would give her a very mild version of his 'naughty girl,' look, not enough to make Wes automatically connect 'leather and slaughter,' to his expression, but definitely more of the soulless demon than the man he tried to be for others' sakes.

It was a good thing, in the 'Oh if I were a movie heroine without a spine, I might decide that a good swoon was in order, and what a monster he is!' But she was more like that woman in 'Carry On Screaming,' frightened, and then she realized that, hey, there were benefits to being a large, strong creature of the night- and she appreciates that every time that he covers her in the night.

She brought a sack with her each time. He blinked, and she thought that he might be smelling her, or the bag that she was carrying. It was one of those things that he normally didn't do around the others, they seemed to find reminders that he was a vampire worth a joke, a movement towards a vial of Holy Water or a stake that had been placed where it could be reached without much movement or disruption. He was fast enough to avoid their attempts to kill him, that she knew- he had stopped her from dropping countless sets of beakers and chemicals that would not have done anything good for the carpets in the Hyperion. And since she had only thanked him, never mocked or made him feel uncomfortable about his nature, she hoped that he would continue to feel at ease so much that he could let himself act more like the creature he was.

"More beef?" he asked mildly, and she grinned.

"I like them," she returned, and hopped up onto the pile of blankets that she always insisted were used whenever they had one of their 'sleepovers.' One room to the other, better to do it in hers because the rest of the group seemed to think that bothering her might disrupt some delicate balance that she had only recently gotten to stand exactly the way that it had to so that she wouldn't descend into madness that would make her a danger to everyone, or just herself.

It was a nice gesture, and since it allowed her to have time when she and Angel were together, without having to play around the fact that they were the least adjusted, she never made mention of it.

She thought of herself as radiation. Tiny gamma child, without mass or charge, able to go through things, a radiant form of energy that none of the others expected to harm. She sparkled and shimmered like the illusion of an oasis of knowledge that deflected the assumptions of the others.

Often she mused on how voices were described as water or wind, but rarely fire. Yet, how would fire sound? An inhalation before speech, and then a crackling of tinder and newspapers as it ate up what was in its path.

His voice had changed into a heated sound one evening, after a particularly comfortable moment where she isolated another chemical in happiness, and explained a theory of hers to him.

'Any object held in cold temperatures and then exposed to an amount of change will be altered. It will sublime, giving off vapor and shrinking, being diminished over time.

What no one has considered is that regret can be a freezer, and the periods during which there is no chill, the object in question is being defrosted. And with all the warm air, or emotions that it's been subjected to, the quantity within the container is greatly decreased. At last, the entire thing disappears altogether

And when that happens, the thing which held sadness and ice will be much lighter, carefree, and not as cold anymore.'

Then, he'd ducked his head, and the expression when he raised up to her level-

It wasn't a 'yeah and we're all of us glad that you caught on,' but more of a 'yes, so pleased that you think so too.' Absolutely solar laughter followed their eyes meeting, from both of them.


Many assumed that the most evil creatures smelled equally unpleasant. But that wasn't always so, she reflected, leaning closer to the vampire. In fact, a great many of the most dangerous plants had very arousing and enticing odors, so that they might lure their prey in to be devoured.

He smelled like turned over thoughts, sweet and something that seems to belong in her mouth, but that she has to consider in preparation for a part of her to say 'yes, I know this.'

And he smiled some kind of secret- the kind that came smoky out of a building as it collapsed, the screech and whine of braces and timbers that had overexerted themselves, at last giving way and falling to the ground.

The music played louder now, all anarchy: disorder, chaos, there had to be bright tunes, all of them with terribly bouncy beats.

There was not much that one could do with nothing besides add to it. Which was how she had come up with her hypothesis in the first place.

What they didn't understand was that they were breathing in the soul. What was left of it. Inhaling remorse and suffering, then letting out the particles of reckless abandonment that, having knocked loose cuffs, now could be used by nature to build another being.

The abandoned child, misunderstood by even the Seers and Scholars, sits in her corner, picking resolutely at the skin puckering around the newly formed protrusion of Awareness sitting inside her skull. Feels like her head is reworking itself around things that are confirmed.

There is an itch that she can't shake off. Nails are ragged, cracked edges score skin that should, realistically be weathered like old, stretched leather on the frame of a sofa in a landfill. Instead, it is soft, something that could be used. Imagines for a moment taking squares of it and mounting them, maybe promoting a line of lotions, large companies would likely jump to accept her offer, after all, most of the suits don't consider abnormal humans to be worth anything. Not anything of worth not in their eyes, they would rather see such throwbacks exploited, dashed to the rocks at the base of Public Opinion- the race teeters on the edge and if they fall, good work might be found in research.

But she scratches, under her jaw, Edmund the dragon lurks at her elbow, watching scornfully for several minutes, then teases her with his smooth, fresh skin, shucked with Aslan’s claws. Her lion doesn't reek of forest, nor does he purr or growl for the most obvious reasons. He is more cautious; liable to be clever in speech and action, and then strike a blow no less fatal for being hidden by sweetness. Perspiration made of liquid sugar.

She has this wanting to know about his Children. The ones that the others will mention in tones that are fearful and disgusted. Nothing that old should be so wrongly spoken of, terror or horror, but never such a disregard for the years that have gone into shaping someone. After all, Angel is older than they are, he lived the same things that his family did, it's just that he is a bit more restrained now. And she has seen his clothes after he goes off alone, on a bad night when Cordy cannot move and the others are recovering from their wounds. He is less in control of the demon than they would like- or, he has more of it under his hands than they could ever bear to imagine. But she lifts the ragged cloth to her nose and inhales, waiting for him to return, and she smiles, blood across one cheek in the light of a crescent moon.

Though, after a fight where she got covered in blood and the inner plumbing of a demon with anatomy that she had come too close for enjoyable recollection, there had to be a great quantity of water afterwards.

She liked baths, hot water around that lapped at her skin and buffeted her from deep thought to skin tender

He accommodated her and there was always hot water.

She lay in the tub, body submerged, scissoring her arms and legs and imagines floating like the steam around her, up to the ceiling, dispersing and flooding the pipes as liquid again.

And she knew that of them all, he was the most harassed after the laundry bill came back, Gun had the best system, he and Wes were often together, on jaunts where the purpose never needed to be outlined, and Angel, the oldest one, had to give a destination when he wanted to leave. The more dangerous one was bothered, and the menace that they never really considered got all the privacy that fumes and mumbled formulas could get her. She thought it was all a wonderful joke, and laughed about it whenever it became a bit too much to keep inside. Angel did not seem to mind that she was giggling about nothing, or he might think that the Infomercial was particularly obnoxious, and rather than make the effort to move and change the channel, she decided that hilarity was much more fun.

Her fit seemed to be entertaining him, so there was no need for her to keep herself in any kind of check. He had dealt with insanity and women both at the same time in the past, it must be familiar enough that it didn't rattle him. Not even when she put her hands over her face and snorted something she couldn't remember later about stars and water pumps in Asia. He could have said something, but instead he leaned over and gently removed the remote from her lap and changed the station.

Next a cartoon appeared, something about small, perfectly androgynous people going on an expedition into a jungle where they were pursued by some villain that was invisible until the last few minutes. Fred's attention drifted, but she did add small observations when the characters walked through a wooded area.

" Well, the trees don't eat you."

"That's a plus."

She'd determined that it was better to view programs in his room for many reasons, but when her television was possessed, it was settled.

Something disturbing in the fact that the only channel coming into her small television was the evangelical channel, the woman with her enormous hairdo that trembled and rocked like a ship in a storm as she tried to suck money out of the devoted.

She has no religious preference, and wonders if she had one before Pylea. No use going back to her university and demanding that they give her a faith, here her only focal point seems to be a tall, dead man.

Fred doesn't believe in many of the idols here on Earth, but she likes Bowie in a very calm, serious 'glittery goodness' way. So Angel buys her tubes of glitter paint and she smears it over her ankles and then the walls sparkle in the lights that will never quite burn out and allow them to buy better bulbs.

Hums 'China girl,' and Angel must like the sound, because he will stop whatever he's doing if she happens to slip by him, head tilted to a pleased angle, and then he will let the tiniest bit of a smile flit across his lips.

There exists an urge to make them remember that she is Fred, not the inventor, but the girl of the cave. And at dinner, when Wes asks Gunn something that she doesn't want to hear and thinks is so utterly unimportant as to be ridiculous, and then asks her opinion after Gunn tells him so- she puts her hands on her head, and says, quite firmly, "Absolutely muffin." They stare at her, and she adds, "Trigun," before leaving the room. It's not as though she hasn't learned how to find her cartoons, or the ones that make some Alternate Universe sense to her, and that is one of her favorites. Long coats and people assembled and broken, fighting with what is and should or should not be.

Of her feelings the others rarely know; that she envies the hollowed out gourd of bubbling exhilaration that all the happy people are feeling, the absolute bliss that they, by definition, adore, yet do not truly share with anyone.

Except for Angel. He's bought her nearly every flavor of ice cream the little 'family-size' parlors have, and she's decided that ingredients mixed are good, it's the tree parts that make food difficult to enjoy properly.

Doesn't worry about being normal; that is not one of the shades that she dreams in. Her nights are adventures in happenstance and if such did not proceed each evening, she might think that there was a switch broken in her brain, one that she would have to have repaired with crooked pliers. That's the way she moves.

There was the possibility that she might resent Cordelia if she ever made any true overtures to Angel, but since she thinks such is too dangerous and maybe even a bit stupid, Fred is content. She doesn't want to have to rip the Lady into bits simply because she wants the Father of the child that is not hers, but that she will own in all the ways that a new Mother can hope to. And Fred does not want the child, it is male, mortal, and not hers, and the father is what talks to her as though she understands the intelligence of a pyramid at midnight and the arches of ancient bridges.

And she likes the dancing, the jigs- which he has described to her, but will never dance. Well, that once that she insisted that she had to learn how to ballroom dance properly, as it took just that amount of movement and cadence of steps to set off a trap that she was thinking of setting up for Lilah Morgan. He must have known what she was on about, yet he obliged, and he was able to dance, though she knows that he will never try the modern steps- he would not know how to let himself go- his entire life is about holding onto and inwards, and the older steps are familiar and do not require him to be free enough for danger to step further into the room.

That was a simple thing to empathize with; the want for times when things would be arranged in ways that could be counted on for their general properties, even when the rest of the world was somewhat out of whack.

So, he never 'moshed' with her, but he might sway behind, drawing her in an 's' of depravity exemplified.

Those times he took her down to the floor, and she fought with wriggles all the way.

Always the tearing of her blouse, or the dress was gone to some rag heap, and she retaliated against shirts that were worth several small restaurants in the good part of town.

Could stand straighter now; but she did not tell the others that it was not so hard to look them in the eye, better that they think they still were stronger, they needed to feel something in the slushpile of pain that was their existence.

Countless things that they were not aware of, and they didn't plan when he was going to let the others in on the difference in things. She understood that he had an agenda, and that timing was part of its shapeliness.

Always when the others were out; at night, or during the day as they saved people, they were refining another menace.

As with each other time, there was the struggle and bending of bodies, but this time she knew that there was a different ending waiting. His voice made a sensual melody out of her name, intimate enough that it raised hairs on her arms even as her knees disdained her commands.

He felt her back, fingers plucking at the cotton of her shirt, and a soft chuckle floated through her hair. Fred wore no underwear on bad days. she refused to even take it out of the package when Cordy delivered it to her. he understood her reasoning, she was covered and no one knew besides him. Her warmth pulsed through the few layers she did wear and he stared at her knowing but never saying that such was the case. A few needless breathes were all the words required.

She never bent without noise. Once her head went backwards, hair brushing the floor, mumblings and sighs became her communication.

They did not use furniture; half the time she was disdainful of things that did not have stretched hide stretched over their beams. And, with pants or coats that pleased her brain with smells, there was no conflict in location.

His experience was most graphically apparent in the wrenching open f her blouse. Learning here was easy, mimic his actions, then add her own method of aggression.

Shoes were flung into the sun-glazed courtyard, as a large hand slid over her ankle, without the perspiration that caused a shiver then flight.

No hope of course, and his fingers tickled along her calves and then pressed behind her knees.

He was learning her skin, finding sensitive places, and likely determining the best course of seduction from there.

Those hands went under the shreds of her top, unerringly moving to her breasts, spanning the mounds with each hand. He kissed her and his mouth was cool. His saliva coated her lips like syrup, and she gnawed at him, biting down to open a flow. He breathed deliberately, and she felt no anger from him. When her blunt human teeth failed to complete the task, he offered his tongue and that yielded blood easily en the wound's closing annoyed her, and she dug nails into his spine, wanting more as he moved away around behind.

Teeth on her back, nips of sharpness that made her jerk upwards and gasp out a small moan. Quick moving predator, no waiting for the Reaper.

Death didn't just whisk people away, it gave time and ripped tiny shards of their minds off at a time. There were drums, bongos and the tom-tum-tom of hearts arrested and reignited. Fred could hear the wham-thunk-bam in her head as Angelus, her drummer without sticky remorse- needle pointed soul, slid inside. A beat for two and notes changing with each thrust. A cacophony that untied her former life and re-knotted it as teeth went through her flesh. As he drank, she pulled him closer arm over head, tiles kissing her groin. Into the reverberation she wanted to go, and if she yanked the vampire down he would understand.

All of those other people that had been in the same position, without the goals that she had. The need to survive, in some form was sort of like prize fighting, though it made sense that if people were fighting to their deaths, they could make a better show of it.

Unbroken string going on- favorite gladiator, wins ten matches, gets Meg Ryan, or whoever was the damsel of the movement.

A vampire drinking the last few pints of blood was much like a child after the dribbles of ice cream. Fred could feel Angel's teeth working the torn flesh to get as much as he could. Greedy fiend, she sang in her mind, There must have been an internal timer stop drinking and share! for he released his hold on her throat and

Thought about blankets. Their irrepressible warmth and the personality that they could acquire while lying on a rumpled bed, or even one painstakingly ironed down. And how they wanted company, not enough to actually go out and look for it or pay, but wanted just the same.

And she wanted to fly; even though it was unrealistic to want to pilot a small plane through the skyscrapers of Los Angeles, she still thought it might be a great deal of fun.

They could all use the up-time, see what was out beneath them, that they were not squatting in the mess, but sweeping it out from below them.


Baroque had been called flamboyant, bizarre, and overly ornamented, but never, ever natural. He thought that he shared some of that, though few would dare to tell him so.

He'd known Innocence, the pure wildness of limbs and kisses before there was pain and words that shredded her pride.

Years later, when frail and lively, trying to be reasonable, he saw wounded toughened with scar tissue, still wobbling hurts delivered by his gender, all healed with ice cream lips and heartbeats, Now only he has the memories, can see her beautifully happy, more unburdened than ever since before he left her alone in his bed.

Remembered the first time Will had thought to try something besides the higher classes of people; how he had chosen the most fascinating specimen of a woman, and that the disease inside her had made him ill for days.

His Dru, he'd sent her books, to a mailbox somewhere, and knew only that they are not returned.

"Don't wait for the Prince," he wrote in the jacket, and he imagined that he knew what she'd say.

Though she would be measures more exquisite in her ramblings than anyone ever was when lolling in pain and the tightest binding pleasures.

He had taken his time with Drusilla, and that had given him a daughter who did as she was told and adored him for all that he did. Except leaving her. That had left her with a need to fill bottles with Holy Water and practice with less painful acids on those humans who she played with before having a bite, or several.

There was nothing good in the world that hadn't been perverted somehow. He knew that as an example of 'well, that didn't go quite as planned.' No, and the mislaid plans always became the most interesting, and the universe might then lever itself up to take notice. For once in a great while, there came a New Thing, and that rare originality glimmered brighter in a jagged future.

The human organs were mostly red. Plumped flesh, flushed with blood and so may people were unaware that about themselves, so much squishable matter inside them. But if one had been up to their elbows in it, then it was an entirely different story. Angelus knew, with a soul, he didn't tell Cordelia that he'd seen children opened up by knives and guns and even by the hands of those who gave birth to them. He wouldn't have because of her love for his son. And the belief that he shared the feeling.

Cordelia, or any of those who thought they knew him, thought that it made her special, that she loved. He'd known that emotion, the bindings of it, and all all he could say is that it made him want to take a long bath, with a steel wool loofah in hand.

He'd never claimed to understand love, that was the lot of those with time to be rent by the illogical demands of reciprocating affection which might vanish with dispute.

Having was a much simpler relationship. Fred, dear girl, understood that- love wasn't going to give Cordelia any more power over him. Didn't need that again, it made his skin itchy.

Fred was all he can find of Family, and the cuddle of blankets bought memories that he can share without being told that he is dangerously reminiscing. He had the eyes to note all things, and whenever she forgot bra or shoes, he gazed at her; not lecturing, but giving her the benefit of gender. It could be that she felt like it, or had too much on her mind, but never once did he suggest that she could be so absent-minded that she mightn't remember her interior clothing.

And, it was also that she had such a thirst, even before there was ever the thought, finely imagined, of making her one of his Line. Of his life, she wanted more, and always had inquiry that was fresh.

Had set her out on a bed, not so that she was overwhelmed by the antique, but that they set one another off. The scene had to be precisely done, without that sort of overdone look that his Sire had favored, but his own dramatic flair.

He favored stupendously expensive and well-stitched garments- most of which Angel had the decency to put away, since most of his clothes were ruined by saving lives.

The Soul had known that he would not be able to save everyone, a small number was amazing, and even more was being pretentious, but it amused the gods that he should try, struggle through so many times of duress, and then fail, with flair and perhaps a pyrotechnic display befitting one who had been so thoroughly over-worked.

It was always that way with any sort of employer and workers or locations that labored for a purpose. The cemeteries did not get enough credit. If all the ghosts were to hold a meeting about the number of disruptions and acts of vandalism, and then determined that it was their right to strike back, the number of dead in Sunnydale would include the vampires as well as humans. That wasn't not so much a problem in Los Angeles because all of the town had death in it and the spirits weren't confined to places of marble and wilted blooms.

Not too hard to be of those that he saved, but it was harder to be fully one of the family. With their sojourn in a cave, she had begun to belong to him. He needed that comfort, for others that he thought his were finding new people to make them happy. And he knew that he could not do that without following chocolate truffles with homicide, so it rankled, and did not any good to his temper.

If one wished to have children, they needed first to attempt to raise penguins. If the birds abruptly marched en mass over the nearest cliff and plummeted onto a rocky outcropping, it was safe to assume that small ones were not a good idea.

Never asked him how he treated Drusilla, surely they had noticed how they moved together when they brought the Judge to the shopping center, no rage, but anticipation and looks between them that were made out of years of nights and dawns, curled around one another in beds and wherever else they decided to lay down.

Such memories had been a special misery when he was forced to have a soul again. A place that had been secret and cool, a cavern of not-caring was ripped open, skin torn for some perverse invasion, And, even as his mind recoiled, he tried to work through what was happening- he had always been good at seeing more than one side of a situation. Later on, when he actually analyzed the event in more detail, eh envisioned his soul, or the thing that was returned to him as some glowing sphere, tendrils hanging off it like a deranged intangible jellyfish, adhering to him and taking control. It sank into him with the force of a locomotive at full steam, dropping him to his knees as his senses moved into remembering.

See these faces? You remember them, always the artist, weren't you boy? Father wants a word with you son, best hurry along now. Blood like a slap of red rain across his eyelids. He presses his hands against his eyes, it won't go away. Mouth is full of that girls' life, and while seconds ago it was a delirious joy, now the nausea is pounding through his body, pulling him ever downwards. It had all been so hard to understand, and there had been no one willing to explain it to him. That he was special was never mentioned, only that he had to pay for his crimes with his tears and gaunt form.

Angel had been limited because he did not dream of the future. He had the past in his bed, and that was a projection which could bring many thing, but to one who regretted, torment was in the kisses of slumber time. So to help the living seemed like a good use of his time, what with the desperate crush on the Slayer and all.

As he got more at ease with those humans with whom he was obliged to interact, his manners not only improved, smoothed over by necessity, but changed. Since he'd only had the most basic etiquette pounded into him by his father, he'd fallen back on what he remembered of formal social necessities as dictated by Darla, with the addition of what Whistler's company had given him. Not that he had taken much from the small demon in the way of verbalization or clothing, but the lessons in how some things had been altered most drastically by time had been enlightening.

They didn't realize that he'd become frighteningly adept at the kind of expression that allowed the humans to laugh at him, appearing that he agreed with their amusement. But a demon was good at pretending a lot of things, it had to be decently versed in camouflage in order to survive a world where it was not welcome and definitely diluted by the animals around it.

He was bound to them, had been for such a long time that none, even he, thought to check the warranty on the chains. The last time he made an effort to protect his family, the new one, it was too much, and the side of him that they saw was not to their ease.

So he let his Children live; assured by a visceral sense that they'd get along alright, after all, he trained them well.

The women in his life always demanded that he bow, until Fred. She had watched and tempted the others with her intelligence, but she had not yet to begged that he lower himself for her delight.

He enjoyed her for that, the fits of public indecency hearkened back to those of Dru, and he was always a bit too fond of his dark daughter.

Cordelia had her own consort, one that was strong and noble, much like she would have liked him to be, yet they both knew it to be all a lie. She took Groo, and he let her think that he was complacent, father with his son, unlikely to explode in violent movement that would end life's long-awaited happiness.

If his time imprisoned had lent him a cleared insight into the humans around him, they had owned up to no like revelation of abrupt comprehension. Of them all, it was Cordelia, who regrettably, now had eyes which saw danger as well as truth. Though she was still woefully unschooled in the proper way to go about approaching dilemmas which pertained to the ills of the heart, she was learning.

Fred whispered 'Angel' like she was giving thought to each letter, making it a production beautiful in its originality each time. Knowing in wetting of lips that his thoughts and wants were anything but those of the Heavenly bodies, unless they happened on the road towards dismemberment most carnal.

The fluid poured movement that was her first experience of life undead could have been aquatic, but instead, it was earthen, the brain recalled what was most appropriate for the body and it was employed while memory still lagged behind. He could see how well she would move, and it had just been the turn of her head.

There was no reality other than the one she makes for herself in her mind. Otherwise, she might have to realize that things were cold, and there was nothing in the background like a heater working slowly to lend some heat to her room in the Hyperion. Or, that she couldn't hear the same way she would have in the morning, but that the machine sounded cranky, and in memory it wasn't so personalized a sound before. Add to that the fact that there was no blood rushing in her ears with her heartbeat as it normally did, and she knew that there had been a bit of a change in the status quo.

Woke up and it was a place she knew, but things had gone up. The volume, scent, feel. Nowhere she looked was anything the way that her sleepy brain thought should be.

She was much less heavy as though her concerns didn't matter so much, and even her body was less attached to the earth's grip than it was before. Also knew that she wasn't alone, there was someone there, a presence that filled her body without contact of skin, so full of dread and wonder and want, though she was unable to recall the emotions being so intertwined before, and her head hurt trying to think around the imperative to worship this presence that moved closer, and touch. Then she was awake, eyes open, staring upwards out of a mound of blankets.

And everything had become so bright, though lights that made themselves out as kin to the sun were too painful to be endured. She could smell emotion, the very age of the building and everything in it. Even the fabric told her things about its owner and where it had come from before it was ever donned.

Wide eyed she pawed at the air, lungs heaving instinctively as she tried to reconcile the fact that she moved but needed no more oxygen. Quietly freaking out when she couldn't feel herself- then, adjusting the way that seemed correct in such a time- reaching out and pulling on that thread, until a face that she was not altogether shocked to see appeared. Angelus walked to the side of the bed and looked at her.

"Feeling a bit confused?" he asked, and she thought that a nod was just icing on whatever dessert was being served.

A quick study, and she rapidly shook off the confusing, setting her attention on disembarking from the bed.

Her legs were as responsive as sickly weeds, and she ended up on the floor, surprised at the failure of her limbs to obey.

Not offering to help, he stood a small distance way, waiting for her to figure out the proper sequence of movements necessary to regain her footing. The problem was overestimating necessary force, she was so much stronger, and to use her body, she had to adjust.

Without making certain adorable comparisons to equine young, Fred was a sigh to disarm the wary. Concentration wrinkled her forehead, and she performed a series of quivering trials in motion. The sight would have inspired all manner of aide; provided that one was blind to the demon that altered her face to a monstrous cuteness.

At last, her estimates perfected, Fred rose to her feet.

Smart lass, he thought, and waited for the steps forward.

Tried a step and her body seemed a thing apart from her mind, and she had to grope for a support. Looking down confirmed what she had guessed, he'd garbed her in one of the most 'royal' dresses she had ever seen.

Meeting Angelus' eyes, he returned the stare with an expectant silence.

Moved to expression, she spun around, finding a center that had not existed in mortality.

"It's.." another word eluded her until she performed a second leisurely turn. "Wonderful."

"It was more for looks than anything else," he told her, and if that wasn't telepathy, she was going to be without an explanation, and that would mean that she was going be a bit worried about what was going on instead of enjoying the unbelievably of the whole situation.

For the first time in her life, she could run like she'd always long to, and there was nobody to give her reasons why she shouldn't obey her blood and the tingling need in her legs. So she leapt forward, and he followed.

Very pleased with herself that she'd managed to figure out the whole 'face on, face off,' thing, though there was a problem with thinking of her demon in that way, some niggling indignation that she was thinking of video games or John Travolta while blood was being offered.

They'd been lying on the floor for a time before he moved to touch her, and then it was a swift pin of her body. She grinned up at him, snapping at his jaw and neck, not beaten, only held immobile.

Cuffing her about the head, he smiled, an indulgent expression; he expected nothing else from her.

To him, she looked better unmade up, the lack of paints brought out her skin tone, the cool blotch less beauty of it. Clean, not always a bad thing to be and he liked being able to taste skin. Young, mortal and springing with the sort of taste that came in carts of fruit form the tropics, out of season and rare.

She didn't really have a lot of experience in kissing people, and not in kissing vampires who'd just taken your life and given you an entirely new one. So she set out to be thankful, barely inquisitive, and perhaps a bit annoyed that she was wearing a gown that went down past her feet however was she supposed to walk around in this thing?

The others returned, superior in their minds for stopping the atrocities of a man who thought himself a professional collector, and his fluids had led to the draining of live individuals. Incredible that they could not see that his effort was not so unusual. It was not not just the dead that wanted the blood of those who live upground- she could have told them that, but they would not want to listen to her- broken child, with her angles pinching seams.

But, they would listen, though they stared at her when she and Angelus continued speaking as they attempted to report the kill.

"I like Shakespeare", she confessed. "So impressive with all of those immense words and the pages of explanations."

Only sarcasm from the wishing-to-be-royalty, and Fred stared at her. Something to be done about that soon. If a fingernail split right to the quick, it was likely the location of the hurt was known.

After the conference, she sat cross-legged at the bottom of the stairs. Smiling at Cordelia, she yanked on a dangling snarl of hair. The tall, stately Seer. Perception was important and Fred saw that Cordelia was a Mother, a Guardian, but still with fun left to share. Wanted to dance, waits for the three to leave. Glared at Scholar, longed to spin, leap and, glissade. Through the hallways and skidding towards the elevator. Roll of her head, laughing without letting the lamps have the sound. She would gift them with her perspiration later, but now this was a prayer to entice and convince a dark prince to take her down to show the others more recent developments in blood ties.

In other instances, an assault had to be made before the other side had a chance to harm. Angelus had put it in context.

"Once upon a time, there was a state called Rome, and this was a big 'once upon a time.' Roman expansion was 'defensive imperialism,' attacking neighbors, claiming that they were forced to conquer those people." And that was what they would have to do with the staff of Angel Investigations. He seemed to be waiting for her to be fully seated in her power for the grand moment, and she waited, using the time to explore.

He had antiques in his drawers. She knew because she snooped through furniture, and thought 'how fortunate' because she would never have seen the beautiful things that he kept. None of the others wanted to acknowledge the other parts of life as a vampire, not just that he took many lives, in ways that were unspeakably ingenious and brutal, but that he saw more of the world and then observed its changes, which they can never do. Unless they change their principles and innocence for a liberty of impulse that terrifies them. After her life up till her fresh state, she thought that she would like to take a try at what he has had, the other places- he might just take her, if they both played along with the forms of this game long enough. He knows what she was on the way to being, and she wanted to be that which he could see, as the others did not.

She'd read about vampires and she often wants to know things that only Wes has speculated about. Before Angelus Giles wondered every so often, but afterwards, weaknesses were the only concern he wished to express interest in.

But Fred, in her laboratory coats, stared at him while mumbling, bursting out with a hypothetical every other minute.

He gave her vague answers, then the scientist wants detail and he offered the diaries of the Watchers, to learn that she only wanted his voice.

'We'd choose one person and then follow them, and the Watchers never really understood how carefully it was planned out. Weeks of stalking, he had notebooks of drawings of all those people, and Giles told me that the Watchers had recovered a number of them , never asked to see them though, remembered each smile, frown and tear. Each of his employees had a sketchbook, Doyle's face I could draw from the droplets in my memory.

Dru was always very careless with regards to cleaning up her leavings and it was often left to the rest of us to sweep the bodies out of the bed.

She always insisted on staring at the corpses in her early years, prodding at them and watching what she called 'twinkling lights' ascend and whirl briefly about the ceiling before vanishing. She insisted that she'd seen a soul and Darla scoffed. She had no use for the mystic, it was always essential that there be the excitement of the hunt, her everlasting youth and someone beside her who know how to find a decent challenge to be overcome.'

Angelus had a thing about ripping cloth off her body, and she had her own issues with garments that held her down. So, they compromised with tailored clothing and all-over-the-hotel-chases-then-sex.

'See, it's like a chemical equation. The reactants are the body and the vampire blood, and they react, leading to the products, which are the new form, which has different properties than before. Still, one has to remember that the reactant arrow does not signify an equals sigh, for that means things are finished. In a chemical reaction, the arrow says that things are just beginning.'

Her lectures were delivered to anyone and anything, as the details came to her.

Called her ‘sweet’, but never around his princess/queen/goddess/bitch would-be girlfriend. Hard to be so pure without the cleanliness, but apparently Cordy managed it, keeping all of the men and a number of women wanting, what that they could never have, and mocking them by trying to suffer for them. Yet, Cordelia, her Majesty, had been good to Fred, trying to save her from the pain of not-having. Still, she had acquired what they thought was impossible, and they only opened their mouths to express nothing. Teeth bared, they call them smiles. Ugly clash of bleached molars. Too many bulbs, and the ones bouncing out of eyes falsely ricocheted off everything and cut. Plates flew only a moderate distance covered with food, and then fall, break, and ended in a a most pleasing crash against their point of impact. At meals, she conducted such tests, and the others went down the runway of oblivious doom. The Girl With Eyes didn't See the signs that she was posting at screaming level.

It was clear that Cordelia just didn't belong. The others weren't yet parts without the correct edges, but she was just a decayed salad dressing that no one had wanted when they realized how much harm it could cause.


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