Note: Oz doesn't belong to me. If he did, none of you would ever see him again. Ever. Fred doesn't belong to me either ... I think she is me. Aside from the physics stuff, of course. I'm just a musician. *S*
You can only travel around the world for so long. No matter how many cool things you see, or how many interesting people you meet, eventually you have to go home. Or at least someplace where badly spoken English is the predominant language and you can find a Chinese restaurant right next door to a Taco Bell. Not to get all "Cheers" on you, but sometimes it's nice to go where everybody knows your name.
And so when the travel-lust wore off my first thought was to head to Sunnydale. But the idea of living in the same city as Willow and Tara was just a little bit too much, at least for right now. So that's how I ended up here in L.A.
Of course, nothing is as I left it. When the cabby dropped me off at what I thought was Angel Investigations, all I found was a burnt out shell of a building. Things can change when you're gone for two years. Of course some things never change; the ad that eventually led me to the hotel was clearly Cordelia's work. Always trying to drum up business.
It's a nice place, great actually. It occurred to me that it was a little big for just Angel, Cordelia and Doyle, but nice. I was so busy admiring the architecture that I didn't notice the brunette behind the counter when I entered.
"Um ... hi?" she seemed a little nervous. "This is uh ... I mean welcome to Angel Investigations. Are you ... can I do something to ... help you?"
I smiled, trying to set her at ease. "Hey. Actually I was looking for Angel. Or Cordelia?"
"Oh! Well, nobody's here." She had a soft southern accent, which became more pronounced as she started to backtrack. "I mean well, obviously there's someone here because I'm here and you're here and I didn't mean to imply that you're a nobody. You're obviously a client and that's important because we like to help people, and I hope I didn't insult you or anything by ..."
"Whoa, whoa," I started to worry that the poor girl's head was going to explode. "It's okay. Actually, I'm just a friend. I was passing though, thought I'd say hi."
Her face showed obvious signs of relief. "Oh. Oh good. Because they left me to hold down the fort for the afternoon, and I've never done that by myself. And I wouldn't want to mess it up."
"You're doing fine," I assured her. She was actually quite cute. Her long brown hair was pulled into pigtails, and her glasses kept slipping down off the bridges of her nose. Those factors combined with the fact that her face was so animated when she spoke would lead most people to believe that she's younger than she really is. But one glance at the book she had been reading when I walked in told me differently. Some kind of complex astrophysics or something. Definitely not for the layman.
Realizing that she wasn't exactly sure what to say next, I took the initiative. "I'm Oz," I offered, extending my hand.
She smiled, and shook my hand vigorously. "Fred."
Then it was my turn to smile. "I'm in love with a girl named Fred." Fred gave me a slightly alarmed look. "It's a song, from a musical. See, there's Prince Dauntless the Drab and he falls in love with Princess Winifred the Woebegone, so he sings this song ‘I'm In love with a girl named Fred.'"
"It's a long story. See, I play the guitar, and when I was in high school I let someone talk me into playing pit for the spring musical. Bad idea. Men dancing in tights is never pretty."
Fred giggled at that. She has a little girl's laugh, where she kind of ducks her head and lets her hair fall into her face. It's endearing. Actually, it reminded me of another girl I once knew, one to whom I had said "You have the sweetest smile I've ever seen."
So I quickly changed the subject.
"Any idea when they'll be back?"
Fred furrowed her brow in thought. "Well Cordelia had to run home for something, and Wesley and Gunn are out looking for some kind of broadsword or something." Wesley, as in former watcher Wesley? Odd, but I didn't have a chance to ask about it. "Actually Angel is here, but he's sleeping. Not that he usually sleeps all day, I mean, it's almost three o'clock in the afternoon and no good detective would be sleeping this late. It's just that ... we had a ... stakeout, late last night, and he ..."
I leaned over the counter. "It's okay, Fred. I know about Angel."
Once again, visible relief. "You do? Oh good, because I've never been a very good liar."
"Well I like honest people, so we're okay then."
She lowered her voice to a whisper, leaning in close to me so I could hear. "So what do you suppose it's like, having a monster like that inside of you? ‘Cause looking at him you'd never know, you know?"
It was an interesting question, one I had to think about for a moment before I answered. "Actually," I said carefully, "It's pretty hard." She gave me a quizzical look. "I'm a werewolf."
For a moment she looked like she didn't know if she was supposed to laugh or not. "Was that a joke? I never can tell anymore."
"No joke." What was I doing? Telling someone who's basically a complete stranger all the details of my life? But I felt as if I could trust her for some reason.
"Oh, well I have a secret too." Fred paused to take a deep breath. "I spent the last five years trapped in a demon dimension where humans are used as slaves."
Not what I was expecting, but after two years in Sunnydale and two more traveling to some of the strangest places in the world, I could believe it. "Wow. That kinda sucks."
"Yeah, it did. But then Angel showed up and ... well, everything's better now."
I wasn't really sure what to say next. I mean, after you share some of your most intimate secrets you can't really go back to "how's the weather?" Luckily, I didn't have to think long.
"Oz?" Angel was sleepily descending the stairs, rubbing his eyes as if he wasn't sure he was seeing clearly.
"Hey," I answered. "Passing through, thought I should stop by."
He reached the bottom and extended a hand. "Of course. How are you?"
We started into the usual pleasantries, but my mind and eyes kept drifting back to the girl behind the counter. She had already buried herself in her calculations. But once, just once, she looked up and her eyes met mine.
And she smiled.