Author: Sullen Siren (adena(at)direcway(dot)com
Summary: "She wasn't Fred."
Disclaimer: Nope, don't own a thing.
Feedback: It'd make my day
Notes: Spoilers through "Shells". I find the Illyria/Wesley dynamic to be rather fascinating, and somewhat disturbing, hence this little fic. Not beta read, because I have no betas save random family members, and I tend to dislike showing them stuff they'll say is overly weird. Which is most stuff.
"What was it like to see
The face of your own stability
Suddenly look away
Leaving you with the dead and hopeless?"
-- Tool, "Jimmy"
She wasn't Fred.
It was a mantra, a prayer, a lament, a curse; and it ran through his head in a constant streaming cycle of loss and despair.
When she tilts her head in thought he forgets. He reaches for her and falters when too-blue eyes fix on him with emotionless curiosity. Illyria wants to know, to understand, to comprehend. He wonders if that desire belongs to the demon or the dead woman who wanted the same thing for different reasons.
When he taught her to smile he kissed her. Her hair hadn't smelled of citrus and her lips had been hard and unyielding beneath his. She'd smiled still when he pulled away, and he'd gone to find a glass of scotch to erase the taste on his tongue that was and wasn't hers.
She likes clothes, or so they had learned once he'd persuaded her to let the red body suit dissolve. She'd spun in place in front of the mirrors at the expensive store he'd taken her to. (He'd only shopped with Cordelia and Fred, and Cordelia had shopped at places where designer was a way of life. Fred had never gone on her own - only when Cordelia had taken her, so her things were as stylish as Cordelia's, much of the time.) She'd smiled as the skirt he'd picked out flared around her legs. He'd remembered the next day that Fred had the same skirt in blue. Illyria's slim calves showed through the slits at the sides, and he remembered crossed legs in a blue skirt as a dark head bent over a too-large book.
She killed with a quiet efficiency and no emotion. She took no joy in the blood she shed at his command, but seemed entranced with the grace of movement. Her reptilian awareness gave way to the fluidity of a predator. The sensations of human touch - so different from the nerves and sensations of her past form - were new to her. When she ran slender fingers over the hilt of a blade he remembered them tracing the lines of his chest, the length of his thighs. Her utter attention, her focus on the pleasure of touch - it quickened his pulse and brought images of her face as his mouth licked and nipped its way across her neck. But she wasn't Fred.
He taught her to laugh, but she never felt it. She learned to act, to play the part, and he could see how often the others forgot that she wasn't human, that she wasn't anything but a relic of a dead age. Angel called her Fred, sometimes. She never corrected him. Her laugh was alien and if she didn't always smile - crooked and awkward, a shadow of another woman - he might have killed her for pushing the foreign sound past Fred's lips.
She never slept. He went through his nightly bottle of ritual mourning as she prowled the city. He never asked what she did, and she never offered. He taught her to use the cell phone he gave her, and she would call him in the middle of the night, letting it ring on and on until he roused himself enough to rise. She asked about the cars that pulsed with bass, the women who sold themselves on corners, the restaurants that smelled of curry, the men who turned a blind eye as a vampire pulled someone from the street beside them. She asked about life, and he answered as he watched the minutes tick by on the clock by his bedside.
She asked about the couples she saw pressed up against alley walls or sprawled in backseats rutting like the beasts her kind had considered them. He taught her about sex. He said nothing of love, and she never thought to ask.
She never ate, she never drank. When she stood naked in front of him there was no trace of shy pride, of trembling desire. But there was a curiosity, a need to know. Her skin felt wrong beneath his fingertips, but the curve of her belly was a memory made flesh. She experienced pleasure without joy, and sighed as she came. It was too cold inside of her, he felt the absence of her nails grazing his back, and he missed the mewling noises the woman she had been could never keep herself from making as he moved within her.
She came to him some nights, others she didn't. She never stayed in bed, or put her clothes back on. He taught her to work the cable, and she would watch whatever was on the small television in silence, and without expression, the light of the TV casting an eerie sheen on her naked skin. She laughed when the laugh tracks sounded because she assumed it was appropriate. When he came inside of her for the fifth time she said he could call her Fred if he wanted to. She caught his hand and broke his wrist when he moved to hit her. The next night he taught her to deep throat him, her tongue sliding thick and too-cool around his length as she looked up at him with unblinking eyes. She saw no purpose in it because it made her feel nothing of pleasure. He didn't ask why she did it anyway.
They worried, his friends. They told him he spent too much time with her, that it wasn't healthy. He taught her to smile at them, too look as if she were happy, as if she were trying. Spike saw him have her against the sterile walls of the lab that had been Fred's home while she wore one of Fred's old lab coats, her name printed neatly across the breast. He said nothing - but Wesley had known he wouldn't.
He dyed her hair red, because the brown amidst the blue looked too much of Fred, and the blue amidst the brown too much of what she had become.
He taught her to live as a human. She taught him that you needn't live to be alive. He was a shell - they both were. She smiled without feeling and he did good without purpose. He didn't know if it was better to have known joy and wallow in its loss, or to be like her and known nothing of it.
She wasn't Fred. But he wasn't the man he'd been when he loved her, either. All that remained were the shells of their lives, and it wasn't enough. But he took it anyway. Wesley knew how to adapt, how to survive.
He just wished that he didn't.