Sweet Tooth
by Tigerlady

Sugar is bad for you, Fred knows this. She remembers visits to the dentist when she was a child, warnings against lollipops and films on flossing. There was always a nasty toothpaste that made her gag and her mouth feel full of sand for hours. At the end she could pick a toy from the bottom drawer - stickers in rainbow colors, little toy soldiers, strange pieces of plastic that didn't do anything. But never any lollipops.

She remembers the first time, when the world was big and strange and much too grey. She was free but lost and Angel was her rock and it was all so loud. And then it wasn't. She didn't understand it then, but she remembers tension and the sweet sweet smell of cinnamon.

Sugar is bad for you, Fred knows this. She remembers her Nanny carefully pricking her finger every day, painting the little strips of paper with bright red dots. The pink packets of Sweet-n-Low that Nanny always put in the sugar dish fascinated her, but Fred didn't have to use them. For Fred there were always cookies in the jar on the counter. Sometimes they were homemade - chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, peanut butter, or simply sparkling sugar. Other times they came from the store - sandwhich cookies in a myriad variety, pink and brown confections in waffle shapes, Christmas cookies with red and green sprinkles. As she got older, the cookies were store-bought more and more often, and she ate them less and less.

The second time, the world was still crazy, but in a different way. Charles was her rock, and then he wasn't. Angel was Angelus, Wesley was...unthinkable, and Cordelia was just damn strange. And then there was a flash of candy-apple red hair and a bright white smile, and the world felt a little safer. There was still the sweet smell of cinnamon, but it had undertones of vanilla and musk. Behind it all was a mind that could meet her own, and a power that could bury the earth.

Sugar is bad for you, Fred knows this. She remembers her physiology course in undergrad, plotting insulin and glucagon curves against each other, watching to see which would win the blood sugar war. The mind functions in a very narrow range. Too much, you die. Too little, you die. Fred remembers her roommate experimenting with little white rats, feeding them sugar water and then dissecting their adrenal glands.

The third time, the world was still crazy, but in a way she could handle. It ws still full of demons and lawyers and ex- history, but there was also her lab. She had imagined herself in a place like this since she had seen her first mad scientist on TV. The idea of bringing precision to chaos, of creating something from practically nothing, of just knowing, was what made her tick. The world might be crazy, but she was in her element now. Fred was her own rock. She was in the middle of trying to untangle the enigma of Spike, of all things, when a flash of candy-apple red hair and the sweet smell of cinnamon walked in her door. There was an enthusiastic hug against a sweater as soft and fuzzy as cotton candy. Their high-tech babble flew as quick and easy as before, and the meeting of the minds was seemless. There was a problem to be solved, dire and world-ending as usual, but it dissolved under the lens of their intellect over the course of hazelnut coffee and several Pepsi ones.

Sugar is bad for you, Fred knows this. It is empty calories, and will add inches to your waistline. But Fred's metabolism is high, and it is a struggle just to keep up with what her body needs. She remembers sitting in the all-night diner with Charles, wolfing down the pancake special, smothered in butter and blackberry syrup. He always laughed at her, as if her body was a joke she just didn't get. But she didn't mind, because he loved her, and he always passed the last of his own plate. Even though it was covered in maple.

The forth time was hardly any time after the third. She was sitting in a quiet little jazz bar down the street from the office, twirling an apple martini and thinking the world might not be so crazy after all. The dull clop of sandals behind her made her look up into a smiling face with cherry red lips. And then Fred just had to know, because, after all, that's what she did. Fred had to know if that cinnamon smell came from that shiny lip gloss, or if those perky little lips tasted like cherries. So she found out. And then she found herself babbling an apology, groping for her purse to make a quick getaway. But then the world was crazy again, because a hand reached out and stopped her words, and then skipped down her arm to grasp her hand. There was that meeting of the minds again, and with a few sheepish glances and suppressed giggles they were racing back to Fred's apartment. A quick fumbling of the key in the lock, a light switch thrown, and they were in her bedroom. No lights, but Fred could still see the creamy skin with strawberry highlights. And then she was tasting again, cinnamon lips and sorbet soft skin. And when she at last ventured down to the pink petal folds and tasted honey, Fred thought she'd found heaven.

Sugar is bad for you, Fred knows this. She remembers reading in one of Cordelia's many magazines that it has addictive properties. Many people get sucked into the cycle of sugar high, sugar low. Fred knows this, but she has never experienced withdrawal until now.


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