Title: Fortune Cookie
Author: Sandy S.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. All belongs to Joss.
Summary: Set between "Smile Time" and "A Hole in the World." Fred/Wesley. Fred receives a note at work.
A/N: Written for the Fred Ficathon and especially for lj user"alixtii" . Hope you like it, dear! Her requests are listed at the end of the fic.
Also, special thanks to lj user"thomasina75" for organizing the ficathon! I had fun! I'm kinda partial to Fred because I'm from Texas, too...
This is the first time I've ever written a ship fic that hasn't had Buffy in it, so please be gentle...
Fred is bored.
She's hardly ever bored. In fact, her mother told her never to say that she's bored because there is always something interesting in which to get involved.
Her mother doesn't have to listen to Knox's lectures on basic quantum mechanics.
Fred isn't sure why she agreed to sit in on the lectures for the local college students. Maybe when Knox asked her several months ago, she had been half-flirting with him and half-unsure of her exact role at Wolfram and Hart even though Knox was merely her assistant.
After hearing the same information presented at least once a week in the lab, Fred has taken to doodling on scraps of paper, writing to-do lists, and playing with equations that she's been struggling with all week while pretending to care about local university students in undergraduate physics.
She has better things to do like return an urgent phone call to an expert in demon biochemistry in Ireland and meet with a group of clients regarding unexplained inter-dimensional shifts in the sewers beneath a local shopping mall.
But even these agenda items don't sound very appealing to Fred. She can easily assign each task to someone in her department who could handle the challenge without problem.
Sighing, she scribbles on the spiral bound notepad in front of her without really paying attention to what she's writing. Ever since the kiss she and Wesley shared, she hasn't found much of anything that holds her attention, and the more distracted she's become, the more the work in the high tech laboratory has seemed to pile up. She doesn't want to be irresponsible.
But she also wants to be out in the open with her newfound romance. However, there are too many barriers. She isn't sure how anyone else will take the changed status of her relationship with Wesley. . . especially Charles.
She still loves Charles. . . always will, but they can't ever be together after. . .
She just can't look at him anymore without envisioning his expression as he pushed her physics professor into the portal for sending her to a hell dimension for five years. Charles had only murdered the professor because he didn't want her to live with the guilt of killing someone.
Those kinds of things tend to put a permanent strain on a relationship.
Of course, then, if she and Wesley do come clean, Angel might try and have a "talk" with her about in-office dating.
She chews her bottom lip.
She isn't exactly sure how she'd explain her tendency to date men from work. First, there was Charles, then Knox, and now Wesley. She doesn't want to look like a slut, but she also can't help that she doesn't have time to go out on the town to meet other men.
Fred jolts out of her daydream, eyes focusing on her paper. Her eyes widen in alarm.
She's doodled Wesley's name with a little heart next to it like some silly schoolgirl!
Hastily covering up her design, she offers up an uncertain smile. "Harmony," she whispers, trying to get the blonde vampires to lower her volume in light of the ongoing lecture, "what do you need?"
Jutting out her pink-covered hip, Harmony plugs along without taking note of the social cues, "Well, I just found these on my desk this morning." She sets an apple and a folded piece of paper in front of Fred.
"Why are you givin' them to me?"
Harmony cocks her head to one side in a self-conscious gesture. "I don't eat apples. . . cause, well, vampire." She giggles and raises her hands a bit. "And you always seem like you just eat fruit and veggies. . . you know, you're so skinny. Or maybe you're just naturally thin." She cocks her head thoughtfully. "Mr. Gunn, you know, your ex, says you eat a lot." She gives Fred a once over with both eyebrows raised as if she's never seen her before. "I'm not sure I believe him. One of these days, you'll have to tell me your secret." She gives her an exaggerated wink.
Fred blushes. "I-I don't know about. . ."
"And the note has your name on it." Harmony leans over to poke a finger at the script, giving Fred a whiff of her musky perfume. "See?"
"Um, ladies?" Knox interrupts, curls and clothing disheveled in their usual manner. "Something you'd like to share with the class?"
Even more flustered, Fred stands up, knocking her notepad, the apple, and the note to the floor. She smiles and gives the staring undergraduates a little wave. "Sorry to disturb y'all. I'm. . ." She bends over to pick up the dropped items, clutching them to her chest. "Just leavin'."
Fred avoids looking back at Knox or his students and hustles out of the lab with Harmony hot on her tail.
Fred leans against the wall, ignoring the Wolfram and Hart employees staring at her as they passed.
Harmony remains close. . . too close. "Who's it from? I've been curious about this mystery all morning!"
"What mystery?" Fred frowns at her and leans away in attempt to regain some of her personal space.
"Who wrote you the note! Duh!" Harmony almost shouts, throwing her arms up.
Fred knows very well who wrote her the note. She unfolds it, reads the message, and smiles to herself. "He's so sweet."
"I knew it! It's from a guy, huh? Now let's see." Harmony taps her finger on her chin and studies the ceiling. "Who could it be? Let's think if there were any clues. Someone from the office obviously because they'd have to get here awfully early for me not to run into them, and then, they'd have to bypass security. . . ."
Fred marvels at how long Harmony can go without taking in air for more speech. "Harmony?"
"Could you, I mean, do you mind. . . heck with it! Reschedule my meetings for me? I'm taking the rest of the day off."
Before Harmony has a chance to answer, Fred begins to walk away. Her smile broadens.
"But what about. . . ?"
"It'll wait!" Fred calls back, lifting her hand to dismiss Harmony.
Harmony crosses her arms and glares at Fred's back. "Hmph! She didn't even want to figure out who wrote her that note!" A bereft feeling overtakes her annoyance. "And I won't ever know either. She should have at least tried to figure it out for me. After all, it was on my desk."
"Talking to yourself again, Harm?"
Harmony whirls to face her ex-boyfriend. "No, Spike, I am not talking to myself, and I'm not talking to you either!"
With that, she stomps off.
Spike shakes his head at Harmony's retreating form. At least, she's a sight to look at. "Stupid bint. Doesn't she know that getting into the middle of everyone's business around an evil law firm is bound to draw some trouble?"
Stuffing the mysterious message in her jeans' pocket, Fred cracks the front door to the Hyperion Hotel. The lobby is dark, but indirect afternoon sunlight lights her path, and her eyes detect a faint glow from the base of the closed office door. Her heart is pounding a little too hard, and her stomach is doing flip-flops partially because she hasn't been back to the hotel in months and partially because the thing she and Wesley share is so new.
She giggles to herself.
She and Wesley have a thing.
In contrast to the chemical-clean scent of the lab at Wolfram and Hart, the hotel smells musty like a room that's been shut off from the world too long.
It smells like home.
"Fred?" He appears in the office doorway, dark hair tousled and blue eyes shining. "What took you so long?"
Fred does a little hop and skip and runs to greet him, throwing her arms around his neck. He smells of soap and old books. She loves that about him. . . that he's a reader. . . that he immerses himself in research. She gets that. Even though their backgrounds are so very different, she's driven to find the answers to whatever problems she encounters in a systematic and persistent way.
He just needs to loosen up a little.
Fred draws back from their embrace so that his hands settle on her hips. Taking his face in both hands, she brings her mouth to his. Immediately, Wesley draws her close and parts her lips with his tongue to deepen the kiss. She makes a small surprised sound that quickly turns into a groan of pleasure as he proves how loose he can be when given the green light.
Finally in need of air, she nuzzles his nose and smiles at him through the haze of desire and infatuation. "I had to go home and change."
"What?" Wesley is genuinely confused.
"Answerin' your question. Why I took so long to get here. Had to go home and change."
Amusement softens his features. He almost can't believe she's here in his arms. "Why?"
She shrugs and rolls her eyes up to the ceiling. "Because I couldn't decide how I should dress for our 'secret rendezvous.' It's not everyday that a girl gets to sneak away from the office." She leans in as if there is some conspiracy. "'Sides, I'm kinda tired of hearin' Knox's lecture on basic quantum mechanics."
"Well, you'd look beautiful wearing anything." He steps back from her, giving her a half-bow and sweeping his arm in a grand gesture into the office. "Welcome, m'lady."
"Thank you, kind sir." She curtsies and enters the office.
Lamps cast a warm radiance over the familiar space. A laptop is set up at the dusty old desk, and the screen glows invitingly. Several large volumes are stacked next to the computer, and two chairs are arranged side by side.
"What's this?" she asks, running a hand over the edge of the laptop monitor.
Wesley rests against the doorframe, watching her. He could watch her forever if she allowed it. She expresses so much through simple everyday movements, and she isn't even aware of how beaut. . . no, absolutely exquisite she is.
She gives him a quizzical look when he doesn't reply, so he hastily explains, forgetting that he doesn't have to be quite so secretive about staring at her in private, "Well, we can't exactly be ourselves at work, and I've been missing this old place. Sometimes I can't think in that huge office. Got used to being here, I suppose. It's like home."
"I totally agree."
"I decided it might be fun to come back for a bit. Get some work done. I thought you might like to join me."
"I'm glad you asked me." Unable to resist the lure of the computer, Fred rounds the corner of the desk. "What are we gonna work on?"
Wesley hurries to join her in peering at the computer screen. "Well, I needed your help with a project. . . something a little off base from what Angel's been having me focus on."
"Orphans?" Fred asks, intentionally stepping back so that her arm brushes over Wesley's.
Wesley takes a deep breath and slides his hand into hers. When she doesn't move away, he relaxes and answers, "Orphans due to demon activity and vampire attacks. There have been more attacks than normal on families and more deaths as a result. . . deaths that typically involve only the parents."
"And you think there may be some reason or pattern to the attacks?"
She clicks the mouse button to continue reading the articles from the newspaper and the files from the morgue. "And Angel's not investigating this?"
"No. No one is."
She glances at Wesley. "You think he's making a mistake."
Wesley meets her gaze and nods. "Thought I'd make it a pet project of my own."
"And you want me to help you." She's not asking a question, and Wesley says nothing in response, giving her time to think. She bites her lip and then pulls out one of the chairs. "Count me in. I always did enjoy a good mystery."
Wesley takes the seat next to her and pulls up a book. Fred settles in to read the articles on the computer. Companionable silence grows between the two. The hours tick by rather rapidly as they work. Every so often, the two share a quiet kiss, and once when the laptop freezes up, Wesley's fingers work magic on the tension in Fred's neck.
Around five in the evening, a beeping noise resounds in the tiny office. Fred's head pops up from her work.
Wesley smiles tenderly at her and presses a button on his watch. "My alarm." Flipping open his cell phone, he dials a number.
Fred raises both eyebrows. "What're you doing?"
"You're hungry, aren't you?"
"I. . ." Her stomach growls of its own accord. She laughs. "Guess I am."
Wesley holds a finger to his lips and proceeds to order Chinese food from her favorite hole-in-the-wall place. He even knows exactly what to order her.
The food arrives at the front door within thirty minutes, and when Wesley returns with the bag, he finds that Fred has turned off the computer and removed it and the books from the desk.
She grins. "Thought we could have a picnic. Well, we don't exactly have a blanket, and it isn't exactly in a romantic park with the sun shin. . ."
Wesley cuts her off by leaning over the desk and kissing her gently on the lips. "It's perfect."
They open tiny boxes together and take turns clumsily feeding each other with chopsticks and laughing like teenagers.
Toward the end of the meal, Wesley asks, "How do you do it?"
"What?" Fred returns with the chopsticks and a bite in her mouth.
"How do you stay so positive and upbeat when you've been through so much?"
Leaning forward onto the desk, she chews thoughtfully and takes a swig from her water bottle before answering. "I've always been that way I guess." She pauses. "But I think that when I was in Pylea and even after when I was here. . . I lost part of myself."
Wesley sets aside his box of food and takes off his glasses, inclining against the desk as well. "How did you find it again. . . that part of yourself that was missing?"
Fred takes one of his hands, playing with his fingers. "Angel." She kisses one of his knuckles. "He kept after me until I came out of my shell. I'd been locked away from humanity for so long that I forgot how to be me. . . how to interact with the world. When I came back here. . . it was like comin' into a whole new world, and I didn't know what to do with myself or how to be around others. And when Angel started bringin' me out, the rest of you did, too. I'll never forget that. Thank you for being there for me. I just hope that one day I can repay you all for what you did for me."
Her eyes shine with unexpected tears, and Wesley covers her hand with his larger one. "You already have."
Her face brightens. "I have?"
He nods and strokes her fingers with his thumb. "And you know what?"
"You don't ever have to worry about being alone again. I'll always be there for you. . . we all will."
Tears spill over Fred's cheeks.
Wesley reaches for something in the bag. "Fortune cookie?"
She laughs and plucks the tiny package from his grasp. "My favorite part!"
"Why is that?" He finds his own cookie and fiddles with the plastic wrapper.
Fred splits her cookie open. "Well, in the college dorms, we used to do this silly little thing where we'd read our fortune out loud and add something to the end."
"Add something to the end? What, pray tell, did you add?" Wesley loves stories about her past. He intends to hear a lot more of them now.
"In bed." She pulls the slip of paper from the cookie husk. "It was hilarious! We'd laugh until our ribs ached."
"And how drunk were you when you did this?"
"We weren't drunk!" she protests. "Well, maybe we'd had a few glasses of wine. . . or shots of tequila."
"So, do you want to hear my fortune?"
"Read it to me."
Fred focuses on the tiny print and reads, "You will soon undergo great changes."
"In bed," Wesley adds.
"I will soon undergo great changes in bed." She laughs and kisses his nose. "Wonder what that means?"
Her laughter is infectious, and Wesley finds himself laughing along with her. "Well, there are plenty of beds here. We are, after all, in a hotel."
She gives his shoulder a little push. "And what does that mean, Mr. Wyndham-Pryce?"
"Why don't we find out?" he murmurs, cupping her chin.
As he shows her just what he means, Fred realizes that she's not bored anymore.
Her mother would be proud.
How the story fulfilled the requirements:
1. Fred/Wesley – check.
2. Quantum mechanics – check. I tried studying quantum mechanics but had trouble thinking of a short story that integrated an understanding of it. So, Knox is teaching a course in it! lol
3. Fruit – the apple. . .sort of a symbol of forbidden fruit. . . Wesley and Fred's secret relationship.
4. Mystery – three mysteries in the fic; the note is a mystery to Harmony; the parent deaths are a mystery to Wesley and Fred; Wesley and Fred's relationship is a mystery to the rest of the Fang Gang.
5. Harmony or Eve – check.
6. A smidgeon of snarky Spike – bonus. ;o)
7. References to Illyria's imminent coming – extra too.