Title: Gift for Cimorene  2006

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: Angel: the series, early season 3

Pairing: a tame Wes/Fred

Rating: G

Disclaimer: I don't own these characters or their world. This is fanfiction and I'm just playing for fun, not making any money.

Summary: Wes is feeling a little sick and Fred's still a little jumpy.

Notes: Written for Cimorene as a holiday gift. Enjoy!


Gift for Cimorene 2006

"I realize we sacrifice a great deal of our social lives,
but we have to. Work demands it." ~Wesley

"True. I mean, who's got time for love when you're

out there doing it with the demons?" ~Gunn

in episode 3x01: Heartthrob


            It wasn't as though they had never functioned at Angel Investigations without Angel around. But this time it was under better circumstances. And this time Fred wasn't quite as afraid to leave her room.


            Fred was still skittish, but eager to find her place there. So far, however, all she had really figured out was what she shouldn't be doing. She wasn't cut out for a normal life. She wasn't really the load 'em up and kick some butt type, either. Not that she wasn't strong, because she was a hell of a lot stronger than even she knew. But that wasn't her place. Which is why she found herself trying to help out with the research.


            "Now you're sure these books aren't evil, right?" Fred asked, plopping down on the floor, leaning against the grey, circular sofa. Wesley was sitting on it, with a book on his lap and piles of books to the right and left of him.  


            Wesley leaned forward, elbows on the book in front of him. "None of them contain portals to demon dimensions, I guarantee it." He passed a book to her, making sure it was the type with few illustrations.


            "Well, that's good," she said, taking the book. She stretched her legs out in front of her and set the book down on it. It was an old, thick volume, and she ran her fingers over the intricate symbols on the cover. "Cuz I'm sort of just getting used to things here."


            "Used to things?" Wesley gave a small smile. They both remembered those moments in Caritas, on the wrong end of guns, when Wesley had held her and told her she was safe. Neither of them felt safe, naturally, and they barely knew each other past a few conversations and glimpses in the hotel. But she had clung to him and he would rather have died than let her come to harm. "I grew up in this world," Wesley told her. "And I'm not entirely used to it yet."


            She laughed at what seemed to be a joke, but noticed he only joined in by smiling. He looked nervous, worried, and bent over to examine his book more carefully. She quickly took his lead and did the same with her own.


            What they were looking for was a small medallion associated with a sect of demon worshipers. The problem was, the species and type of demon worshiped varied throughout the centuries and no scholar seemed to have a very clear idea of what the medallion actually looked like, despite there being about fifty in existence. They knew it was small enough to fit in a hand, and had markings on the rim about the downfall of humanity, but that was just about all as far as appearance. What they did know for sure was that the medallions, when combined, could be used to control any given demon, if the proper binding spells were performed by twenty-five or more medallion-wearing worshipers at a time. Even though the group was sizeable, there were still far too many places to look. Gunn was out patrolling and Cordy was resting after her vision and the crude sketches she'd done of the medallion and the demon. That left Wesley, and now Fred, to hit the books and see what they could come up with to help them narrow down the possibilities.


            "Please excuse me," Wesley said after a few minutes, and promptly stood and headed over to the bathroom. He returned not long after, and then repeated the process another five or six times during the next hour.


            "You know, you don't gotta say that every time," Fred said, with a laugh, as Wesley excused himself again. This time she got up to walk with him. "You're taking a lot of breaks. Is there something wrong?" Nervously, "I mean, something wronger than usual. Something wrong that doesn't have to do with this big bad case. Something with you, maybe?"


            "No, nothing's the matter," said Wesley quickly, in what sounded quite a lot like a blatant lie. Fred noticed the pitch of his voice was much higher than usual.


            In fact, Fred noticed a lot of things. During her first few months back on Earth, she relied on her instincts and her senses as heavily as she had back in Pylea. Everything seemed important then, and everything she noticed she filed away in her head or on her walls or both. Her walls had since been repainted in the beautiful color of normal, but she hadn't stopped noticing things. Fred was quiet, and often overlooked, so it was easy to see things, even when others didn't. Things about cases, things about demons, things about people.


            She could tell now when Angel needed quiet, alone time. She knew that Cordy's visions hurt her a lot more than she claimed. And she was sure, now, that something was very wrong with Wesley. He looked tired, but that wasn't the end of it. "You're working so hard because you're worried about us, aren't you?" she asked, cutting him off in his path to the bathroom.


            He teetered for a moment in front of her, uncertain. Then his shoulders sagged a bit and he nodded. "Yes, I do worry. With Angel gone, especially." Immediately, he added, "We can handle ourselves without him, don't worry, Fred. But I will sleep much easier when we've identified this evil and put a stop to it. Now, if you'll just..." He tried to sidestep his way around her. "Excuse me for a moment..." She took a few steps back, but she still blocked his way. He sighed.


            She was certain that this was not the whole story. There was something more there, something more he was hiding. And just before she could say something to him about keeping secrets and how he shouldn't be doing that if he didn't want others to, she figured out precisely what his secret was.


            "aht'chihh! hahChihh!" He caught both in the long sleeve of his corduroy shirt while he dug a handkerchief out of his pocket to tidy himself up. "Excuse b'me," he said through its folds. He gave his nose one last rub, then lowered the handkerchief.  


            "Are you sick? Or maybe... you're not allergic to me, are you? I mean, you've never been before and I'm not wearing any perfume or anything. So you're probably not allergic. Which means you're sick, right? That's what it means?" she asked in her usual roundabout way, still standing in his way.


            Wesley smiled, somewhat amazed at the way her mind worked. Then he nodded, holding up his hand with thumb and forefinger positioned just a little ways apart. "Just a trifle of a sniffle. I assure you I'm well enough for... for-hahh-" Up came the handkerchief again. "h'Chihh! hehShihh!" He paused, waiting for just one more. "ahHichhh!"


            "You should be in bed," she told him. "There's no cure for a cold, but bed rest always hits the spot."


            He nodded and looked apologetic. "I wish I could. But I don't have the time."


            "You can't rest, can you? Not after this vision Cordy had."


            He nodded again and again his nose found his handkerchief. "hah-Chihh! k'Chihh!"


            Feeling sorry for him, as he stood in front of her, sneezing, she stepped aside and finally let him pass. He walked straight for the bathroom and Fred heard him blowing his nose within. She felt awkward standing there, not exactly waiting for him but not doing anything else either. So she went back to the sofa and sat down on the floor again with the book. But she couldn't really concentrate with the sound of Wesley sneezing and coughing in the other room. She considered waking Cordelia up but if Wesley hadn't wanted to admit he was sick to Fred, he certainly did not want Cordy to know about it. Probably he just wanted to be left alone about it. Except that he probably wasn't feeling very well when he was left alone.


            Wesley came back and settled down on the sofa, leaning back against the center and closing his eyes. Then he picked up the book, flipped to where he'd left off, and sneezed again before he could even resume reading. "hit'Chihh! hiyihshhh! ehhChihhh!" Wesley rubbed his nose with his handkerchief, then kept it pressed beneath his nose as he made his way through the foreign text.


            He excused himself every time he needed to blow his nose, but now that Fred knew he was sick, he stayed put when it came to sneezes or coughs. After a particularly bad bout of sneezes, he gave a quiet, instinctive groan. And, instinctively, Fred reached out and petted Wesley's lower legs. He adjusted his glasses and smiled down at her. "Thank you, Fred."


            "Can I--" she began, but he shook his head.


            "No, no. I'm all right." He coughed and cleared his throat, shaking his head all the while.


            Fred didn't believe him. In fact, she didn't believe him so much that she immediately rose to her feet and went upstairs. There were more than enough spare blankets in the hotel which housed only a few people. So she came back down with what looked like two especially thick blankets. And before he could object, she had draped them over his shoulders and pulled them around in the front. "There you are," she said, nodding approvingly towards him.


            Then Fred took the book, cleared a spot beside him, and sat down there. She slipped an arm around him and the blankets and guided him closer. He leaned into her and even rested his head on her shoulders. She jumped nervously a little when he suddenly coughed, but then he relaxed and she did likewise. She dragged the book he'd been reading back onto Wesley's lap and turned to the page where he'd left off.


            "Thank you," he said around sniffles, and only lowered the handkerchief to quickly refold it. He kept his cheek on her shoulder but angled his head so he could see the pages. "I, ah, appreciate the kindness. Only..." He lifted his head and looked her in the eyes. "If the others should walk in..."


            "Oh," she said quickly. "I thought maybe you could just be kinda tired. Not too much of a stretch, I'm sure 'cause you look pretty tired already n'all. And if you need me to cover for you if you need to go blow your nose again or something, I'd be happy to." She laughed. "If it's one thing I'm good at, it's hiding, right?"


            Wesley nodded. "I suppose you're right." He coughed a few times and closed his eyes for longer than he should have. Even as he fell asleep, Fred stayed and continued on through the books, reading and searching. He had been snoring for a good fifteen minutes when she came across mention of a medallion in the book. It was a more recent mention than most and something she was sure Wesley needed to see.


            She understood that, that need. But he looked so sweet asleep, with his glasses slipping down his face. And he also looked like he could use the sleep. Yet, "Wes?" He didn't move. "Wesley, I think I've found something." Fred looked from the page back up to the man, who wasn't awake. In the fairy tales, the sleeping are always awakened by kisses. She knew he was sick, but she did not mind. If he needed a kiss, then she would kiss him, certainly. She cocked her head and wet her lips, looking straight at his mouth. She leaned forward and-


            "hah-IhChihh!" There was guilt on his face as he opened his eyes.


            Fred had pulled back, but not in enough time. "Sorry, I was..." She pulled her hand into her sleeve and wiped her cheek off with it. "I was trying to wake you and..." She blushed furiously, snorted through a laugh, and pointed down at the book. "I think I found something. Here." She passed the book over, setting it heavily on top of Wesley's book.


            He sniffed and looked carefully down at the page. "Yes... yes..." He lifted the book and looked closer. "Fred, I think you might just have found exactly what I was looking for." He looked back at her, with genuine gratitude shining from behind his glasses. "Thank you."


            With a laugh and shrug, she got up. Nervously, she stepped back a few feet. "All right then. Um, maybe I should just... go and--"


            "Fred?" he looked up. "I could still use your help in identifying the demon. And all that aside..." He smiled. "I would be delighted to have your company for a little bit longer."


            Her nervous laughter died as he held an arm out to welcome her back. She jumped on the balls of her feet and sat back down in an instant, under the blanket with him this time to keep him warm. She went through another book while he read from the one she'd been using. As she flipped through pages, however, her mind was half on her task and half on trying to come up with an excuse for Wesley should anyone walk in and see them sitting like that. Although, a small part of her was also just basking in how good this felt. "Nice work if you can get it," she whispered to herself, startled to hear the words had actually been uttered out loud.


            "I'm sorry, did you say something?" Wesley said, distracted by his sniffles when he was not completely absorbed in the text.


            She grinned and shook her head. "Sorry. Nothing." They both went back to their books.