The Fairness of Dark Alleys
by Jessie

Summary: Gunn and Fred wait for vampires.

Spoilers: Up to, pretty much, the first few episodes of season three, though before "Fredless" since I haven't seen it yet. If you know about Fred, then you're safe.

Disclaimer: 'Angel' and all of its characters are the sole property of some one who is not me. Hope Joss finds it in his heart to forgive me for loving his shows so much.

Authors Note: Well, this is my first ever 'Angel' fic, and I'm a little nervous about it 'cause - well - it's my first. So, please be kind, and please leave me some feedback- I love that stuff.

***

He tilted his head to the side and listened for sounds that a vampire might make when stalking its prey. This, more or less, meant he was listening for sounds completely normal for midnight in a dark alley in Los Angeles, making it difficult to really *hear* a vampire coming up from behind him.

It was more about instinct. Just knowing.

He supposed - though hell if he was about to start waxing poetic - that there wasn't really a sound or a smell that alerted him to the presence of a deadly vamp about to pounce. But there was this feeling that he got in his gut. Something like that feeling a person got when they were being watched. He'd get that feeling, and he'd know.

So, if he was to actually think about it, it wasn't that he was really *listening* per se. He was waiting for that feeling.

"Is it out there?" Startled out of his silent reverie, he turned his head down to look at the source of the sudden noise and made a 'shushing' sound while putting a finger to his lips.

"Sorry." Fred mumbled apologetically, and he sighed, watching her wrap her thin arms around her legs, and bring them up closer to her chest.

"It's all right." He spoke softly and gave her an encouraging smile, tilting his head to the side once again to listen for beasties that- if he was lucky- would, very loudly, go 'bump' in the night.

Fred smiled back at him hesitantly. "I was just wondering if it was here yet." She whispered - her own, unique drawl accenting the words. Gunn shook his head in reply, setting his features into what, she assumed, amounted to his 'game face.'

They sat there for another moment in silence, Gunn doing his job as best he could - meaning being as patient as was possible for him while waiting for something that he could kill to show up - and Fred doing her best not to fidget or annoy him.

Which was turning out to be a lot easier than she would have thought. Out of all of them, it was Gunn who she naturally felt comfortable with, not sure as to why. If she had to guess she would have said it was because Gunn was the only one of them who didn't treat her like a child.

Well... sometimes he did. But most of the time, he treated her like she was any ordinary girl. Like she was normal. Even when she acted... well... somewhat less than sane, he never said a thing about it. Not like the others.

Though she appreciated their concern, it was sometimes hard to deal with all of their attention after so many years of solitude.

Gunn knew how to be quiet. How to be alone, even if he was with other people. She appreciated that.

Charles Gunn shifted his weight and kept his ears open, though his mind wandered elsewhere. Random thoughts came to him: his old gang, his sister, Wesley, Cordelia. Even Angel came up once or twice, though his thoughts surrounding that particular vampire were somewhat complicated and tended to give him a headache that he really didn't want to deal with at the moment.

So, as a way to distract himself, he turned his thoughts over to his current situation and how he had found himself there. As he remembered it: it wasn't so much that he had volunteered for the job he was now performing, as he had - well - begged to be the one who got to go out and kick demon ass only to be shouted down by the others.

Sometimes life just wasn't fair.

And it was always the small things that made it that way. Sure, the big things - like losing his sister to the very force he had been fighting - were what gave him nightmares nine times out of ten. But it was the little things - things like cold coffee in the morning and not getting his say about how the workloads were divvied up - that got under his skin.

So, as it had turned out that night, it was Angel and Wesley who got to go demon hunting, while Cordelia chased down a rather vague lead across town, and he sat around waiting to interrogate a vampire who may, or may not, exist.

Not that he didn't appreciate the lengthy amount of peace and quiet this task gave him. Even with Fred crouching next to him, this was definitely 'deep reflection' time if ever he'd seen it.

Ah, yes. Fred.

Her presence had, surprisingly, been his idea.

They'd all had their jobs for this particular case - jobs Wesley had assigned and took a slight offense to if protested against - when Fred had, in that nervous and somewhat neurotic way of hers, taken a small step forward and said, "I wanna help."

The other four had frozen in mid step, sentence, and thought to look at her and contemplate the surprise of this simple declaration.

Of course, it made sense that she'd want to help out a little. They all, now that she'd said it out loud, felt a little guilty for not thinking of it sooner. They'd just gone on and done their jobs, not really taking into account that poor Fred didn't have a clue what to do with herself or how she could feel useful at all since they weren't telling her.

Wesley had cleared his throat like he used to do when he was a watcher, though this wasn't something that Gunn knew first hand. He just remembered Cordelia teasing Wesley about it - about how he only cleared his throat when he was nervous, and how he looked like he was right back in Sunnydale when he did.

"Of course." He had spoken clearly, and all at once the others were agreeing with him and Fred was smiling at the encouragement. But, when it came right down to it, no one had really had any idea what she could do.

Taking her along with Angel and Wesley was out of the question, since she'd most likely only get in the way, though the excuse they gave her was that putting her in harms way just wasn't an option. Fred had then looked at Cordelia with those big, innocent eyes, and Cordy had given her an equally big - though not quite as innocent - false smile, when Gunn shrugged and spoke up, "why doesn't she just come with me?"

This won a very grateful look from just about every one in the room, Cordelia in particular.

Gunn had taken that moment to smile encouragingly at Fred, feeling rather sorry for her, though hell if he was gonna disrespect her enough to let that pity show. Sure, she was a bit annoying at times, and somewhat helpless, but she was a good person, and did her best to fit in. Which had to be hard for her, considering the circumstances.

The others did their best to accommodate her and her nervous, semi-psychotic habits. But most of the time none of them really knew what to do with her. Gunn figured letting her find her own way back to this reality was a step in the right direction, so that's what he was doing.

And - besides the whole 'feeling sorry for her' bit - the truth was he didn't really mind having her around. Sure, some of the things that came out of her mouth were cause to sit up and let out a firm "huh?" And, more often than not, if you asked her even the simplest of questions, you wouldn't be able to shut her up for a good five minutes afterward.

But she was quiet enough when it counted. And sweet. And cute. And... He decided he'd stop there, worried that if he kept up that train of thought, he'd soon live to regret it.

He glanced down at Fred again, who, noticing his glance, smiled up at him wordlessly. He rested his stake on his knee and smiled back at her.

"Slow night, huh?" She grinned at the fact that he was talking to her. It was so rare that any one intentionally started up a conversation with her.

"I guess." She shrugged anxiously, as if trying to hide the fact that she was anxious and not succeeding in the slightest.

Gunn just smiled softly and nodded his head. "I don't know about you, but if this vamp doesn't show up sometime soon, I plan on splitting."

"O-okay." Her voice quivered a bit. "But didn't Angel say that... I mean... Isn't this kinda important?" He gave her a shrug and pursed his lips.

"Nah. Wes and them'll find the bad guy whether we bag this vampire tonight or not. We'd just be making it easier for 'em if we managed to catch it."

"Oh." Her mouth formed a soft, round copy of the word, before being replaced by a thin, pale line that meant she was thinking about something. He watched her for a moment, waiting for her to say whatever it was that she was going to say. "Well... if that's the case - and I'm sure it is since I know you wouldn't say so unless it was - than why are we sticking around for so long? I mean - we could always just say that we waited for a few hours but he - the vampire I mean - never showed. Couldn't we?"

Somewhere in that mess of words she suddenly realized exactly what she was saying, and, before Gunn could get a word in edgewise, she quickly backtracked. "Except, of course this is important. I mean - of course it is, right? And I wanted to help, so that's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna sit here and help." She nodded her head purposefully, then looked up at Gunn nervously to see if she had convinced him that her intentions were good and that she wasn't trying to over-ride Wesley's authority by lying to the others about the stake-out.

Gunn broke into a wide grin, and started to chuckle. Fred, uncertain, laughed a little too, though she wasn't sure what was funny.

"Nah, it's all right." He said casually.

"It is?" She didn't seem convinced, but then her eyebrows furrowed and she asked: "What is?"

He grinned again. "You're helping out just fine. Hell, better than fine. You're great at this whole stake-out thing." She smiled broadly. "You're right: we've been waiting around long enough, and there really isn't much of a point now is there?" She shook her head, though she still looked uncertain.

Gunn put his stake in a well-placed pocket in his cargo-pants, and looked around one last time, just to make sure there wasn't any trouble afoot that he'd somehow missed. "You hungry?"

Fred looked at him for a second, as if waiting for his words to make sense in her head, and then smiled, showing him a row of straight, white teeth that few had gotten the chance to see like this since her return to this dimension.

"Sure." She replied happily, managing to restrict her answer to only one word.

"I know a place 'round here with some of the best tacos in LA." Gunn stood up, brushed himself off, and offered a hand to Fred, which she accepted.

"Sounds like fun." She dusted herself off as well and was about to say more, when that gut feeling Gunn had, earlier, been pondering, hit him a little too late.

The vampire came running out of the shadows with all the ferociousness of a ticked off mountain lion, attacking Gunn from the side just as he retrieved the stake from his pocket, only to drop it at the sheer force that had knocked into him. The two struggled for a frozen moment, Fred standing back and looking even more frightened than usual.

The vamp, his supernatural strength reminding Gunn of why he had always gone out in large groups when hunting, threw the human against the concrete wall of a building, and shot forward in a very successful attempt to both stun and knock the wind out of Gunn, before readying to puncture whatever artery had caught his attention.

"Fred..." Gunn managed to hoarsely call out her name as he fought against the vamp, who was now pressing heavily into his throat, making it hard to speak or, for that matter, breathe.

Fred, wide eyed and afraid, looked up to Gunn at the sound of her name. Gunn, having lost almost all ability to speak, his energy taken up by trying not to let the vampire sink his teeth into flesh, motioned frantically with his head to the stake on the ground.

Fred looked about, wildly, for some clue as to what he was trying to tell her, wishing, not for the first time, that she had just stayed in her room at the hotel instead of trying to fit back into society.

Gunn, his lungs straining to breathe but not having much luck, used all of his strength to try to push the vampire away, but the thing was too strong. He labored fruitlessly as the vampire's sharp teeth came closer and closer to the sensitive area on his neck that a creature like it preferred.

And then he got a mouthful of dust.

Coughing and sputtering as his lungs gratefully accepted air once again, Gunn tried to shake off the encounter as best he could, his eyes meeting those of a quivering Fred, who still held a stake in her hand, positioned for the kill.

After a moment, Gunn stopped coughing and rubbed his throat coolly. "Guess we found him." He joked.

Fred smiled. "Yeah, I guess we did. But I don't think he's in any state to answer questions." At this Gunn smiled as well, unable to resist a small chuckle, which the girl timidly mimicked.

"Now," he cleared his throat and gently took the stake from her hands. "How 'bout those tacos?" Fred smiled and nodded her head.

She really did mean well, he thought idly, lowering her arm for her with a gentle hand, since it had remained frozen in mid air, even without the stake.

She let him do so, but then held fast to his hand before he could pull away. He hadn't been expecting that, but shrugged it off, figuring she was a little more scared than usual on account of what had just happened.

He gave her a small smile - one of those 'don't worry, I'll protect you' kinds - and led her down the alley. He didn't so much feel sorry for her any more. Not since that stake action she'd just pulled off, saving his life in the process.

No, he was more inclined to just like her, rather than pity her.

And a man couldn't have too many friends, right? He smiled again, squeezing the girl's hand reassuringly.

Sometimes life just wasn't fair.

But then... sometimes it wasn't fair in his favor.


End.