Title: Confusing Conclusions
Author: babies stole my dingo (agilebrit)
Fandom: Angel
Rating: PG-13 for language
Length: Short story (over 1000 words)
Disclaimer: Joss is the genius behind these characters; I am but a lowly follower. I make no money from any of this, so please don't sue me.
Written for: A BunnyFactory request, delineated at the end.
Notes: Post-Origin, pre-Time Bomb.
"That sodding bloody bint," I muttered into my shot of whiskey. "Pet, my ass. I'll show her who needs to rest next time." I took a swallow of the drink, enjoying the burn as it went down. "Fred wouldn't have done me that way."

"Fred wouldn't have done you at all." Wesley slid onto the barstool next to me, holding his own glass of amber liquid.

"No need to rub it in." I turned my stool to face him. "She never wanted me anyway."

"Had you glanced in her direction, I'd have staked you so fast your head wouldn't have had time to spin."

I noticed that Wes had apparently had a head start on the drinking. "No worries there, mate. I cared too much for her to even think about a move in that direction. She didn't need my problems and baggage. Was bad enough her almost getting killed trying to make me corporeal again." I sighed. "She's one of the few people around here who thought I was worth anything."

"And yet, you don't seem to have any problem sparring with Illyria," Wes pointed out sourly, downing the rest of his scotch.

"Yeah, hitting the thing that killed our Fred? Not a problem. At least I'm not following her around being her Qua-ha-whatsit." I regretted the words as soon as they left my mouth. Not like Wes had much of a choice in the matter, after all. I signaled the bartender for another round, indicating he should leave the bottle. "I did love Fred, you know," I said diffidently, pouring a generous shot into Wesley's glass as a sort of apology.

"Did you? That's something, I suppose. I think we all did. Even Lorne." Wes took a long swallow. "We found her in Pylea." A thought seemed to strike him. "I thought you loved Buffy."

"Oh. Buffy." I lit a cigarette. "It's...complicated. I don't think she and I were ever meant to be, you know? I'll always love her. Got the soul for her, after all. It's just, Fred saw me, yeah? And Buffy never did. I was always a symbol to her, never a person. Well," I amended, drinking, "maybe at the end. And I'm not saying I wouldn't do it all over again if I could, because of course I bloody well would. A crumb from the Slayer's plate is better than a feast from anyone else's."

Wes twirled his glass around on the bar, owlishly watching it spin. "Knowing what I know now, I'm not sure I would have taken the plunge with Fred. I don't think I'm strong enough to take it."

I grabbed his glass before it spun off and hit the floor, and poured him another. "Bollocks, Wes; you're the strongest person I know."

"Am I?" He snorted into his drink. "That's very bloody sad, then." He sighed and knocked the shot back. "I suppose I should get back to my apartment and see how she's doing. Or what she's doing, at any rate. Last time I left her alone, when I got home, my fern had grown eight feet tall and was sprouting flowers." He slid off the barstool, weaving a little.

"Whoa, there, mate," I said, steadying him. "I think you've had a bit much." I looked at Wes critically. "You're in no shape to babysit Big Blue tonight. I'll take you home, and she can crash at my place."

Wes jumped on the offer as if it were a lifering and he was drowning in an ocean with no land for a hundred miles in any direction. "Oh, God, thank you..."

"Now, now. No need to get all emotional about it." I felt a little uncomfortable, because Wes was hitting the maudlin stage of drunkenness, so I covered it by being brisk. "Let's get you back to your place, and I'll take Illyria off your hands. Just for the night, mind."

:-:

Illyria gave my basement apartment a haughty stare. "This dwelling is not so richly appointed as Wesley's."

"Wes gets paid more than I do. Not paid enough to tend you twenty-four hours a day, though." I rummaged in the fridge. "Want a beer?"

"I do not require your sad excuse for a mind-altering substance."

"Suit yourself." I popped the cap on a bottle, came back into the living room, and slouched down onto the couch, while she prowled around. "Don't like what you see much?"

"There is nothing of you in this place. You will leave no trace of yourself when you depart. Wesley, at least, has growing green things. This--" She made a sweeping gesture. "--is empty."

"Everything I owned is in a crater over a Hellmouth. Sorry to disappoint." I took a swallow of beer.

She eyed the bottle with distaste. "Are you going to poison yourself as Wesley does?"

"Naw, pet. I've got vampire constitution. Takes a lot more than this to get me drunk. Although I've got a nice glow from earlier. Almost lets me forget what you are...and what you were." I watched her pace, a caged cheetah. "Sit down; you're driving me nutters stalking around like that."

She folded herself into the chair opposite me. "You all wish for what cannot be. Even if I desired to bring back the shell, I could not. My power does not extend so far. You waste time weeping for what can never be, while refusing to deal with what is."

I lifted a cynical eyebrow. "Feelin' neglected?"

"In my day, I would have ripped your insolent tongue from your mouth," she said matter-of-factly.

"Good thing it's not your day, then," I replied, toasting her with my bottle. "I'm rather fond of my tongue."

"Your leader often laments that you have it. He says your 'nonstop yammering gets on his nerves.' And yet he does not punish you."

I snorted. "I'd like to see him bloody try. Time was he could make me do what he wanted. Not anymore."

"You dislike him. And yet you stay. Your dimension is small, but you still could put many miles between yourself and him--never have contact with him again. You are an outsider among them. They will never completely trust you." She cocked her head.

"It's...complicated." I took another drink. "I've done my bit to save the world, but I just can't help sticking around to save it again, if I have to. This is where the action is. Plus there's you."

"I? I killed your friend. Without malice, it is true, but the shell is dead and I am the cause. Do you wish vengeance; is that why you remain?"

I frowned, looking at my beer rather than at Illyria. What I'd told Wes earlier that evening hadn't exactly been the entire truth. "I like you. I know you killed Freddi, but you didn't mean to, not really. How can I hold that against you when I've done my own share of killing?"

"You feel remorse for your past actions. I have no such feeling. What is, is, and cannot be changed. Wesley learned that when he tried to kill me and bring back the shell. The past is immutable."

I gave her a look. "The shell had a name, you know. You'd do well to remember that."

"Your emotions regarding her are confused and confusing. You say you loved her, which in my court would be the same as worship. And yet you strike at me with unseemly glee."

"We've been over this," I said, abruptly tired of the conversation. "You're not her, so it's not the same as if I'm hitting her. Not like it hurts you anyway."

"I can be her," Illyria said...and transformed. She gazed at me with brown eyes and hair, a diaphanous dress replacing her red leather armor. The accent was even more jarring. "Would you still hit me if I looked like this?"

I felt as though I'd been punched in the gut. "Oh, bloody hell! Change back. Right the hell now. Or I'm not responsible for what I do." I took several deep breaths as she reverted to herself. "Have you done that to Wesley? No wonder he wanted to get drunk tonight." I took a deep pull from my beer, wishing I could join him in blissful oblivion.

"He is unaware of my ability to change my form. You did not like it when I did that. Why?" she demanded. "I would have thought you would want her, rather than me."

I pinched the bridge of my nose between my fingers and closed my eyes. "It's not the same. I know it's not her. You doing that just brings back bad memories."

"Bad memories? But she has fond memories of you. I know this, for I can access them."

"Bad memories of my failure to save her. Of my failure to save another girl. Look, luv, against all common sense, I do like you, okay? But for God's sake, don't do that again." Of course Wes was at the end of his rope, if she sprung surprises like that on him all the time.

Her steady blue stare was unnerving. "Why do you like me?"

"Gah!" My turn to leap to my feet and pace around the room, running my hand through my hair and waving the bottle around. "I just do, all right?" A thought struck me. "Oh my God, you're like some horrible amalgamation of Buffy and Dru." I ticked the points off on my fingers. "You're arrogant, pushy, and lost. You're stuck in a world that has no idea what to do with you, and you're arguably crazy as a bedbug."

"We are alike, then."

I was taking a swallow of beer when she said that, and nearly choked. This whole line of conversation suddenly struck me as quite funny, and I collapsed back onto the sofa, dissolving in laughter, while she watched me curiously. When I calmed down, she frowned. "I do not understand."

"No, you don't, luv. And you know what? That's all right. Because half the time, I don't understand either. Funny old world, innit?"

"If by 'funny,' you mean frustrating and perplexing, I must agree."

"Well, I know one way to work out frustration..." I raised my eyebrow and smirked a bit.

"I will not copulate with you, half-breed," she huffed.

"Nice conclusion to jump to. Fine. Let's go find something to hit, then." I tossed my empty bottle into a trash can and stood up.

"That would be acceptable."

"Right then. Let's saddle up."

"Your idioms are bizarre," she informed me as we walked out the door.

"No more bizarre than you, pet." Or my feelings about her, for that matter. I missed Freddi, terribly. But the Bluebird was right. Dwelling on the past wouldn't and couldn't change it. Facing the future was the way to go. And that, for now, was enough.

The End

A/N: The Request:
Characters/Pairings you want the story to focus on: Spike, Fred/Illyria
Characters/Pairings you want in the story too: anything canon in S5 AtS
Things you want: I'd like it to be a fic based around Spike's confused feelings regarding Illyria/Fred...doesn't matter if it's romantic or friendship or whatever.
Things you don't want: If it's gonna be a relationship/romance fic, Buffy cannot be ignored, cuz that's just rude, lol. Resolving or including his feelings for Buffy is essential.
Extras: Spike and Wes getting drunk and ranting about Fred/Illyria would be hilarious.