title: A Nice Girl
disclaimer: Wesley belongs to Joss Whedon. Richard and the AB characters belong to Laurell K Hamilton.
summary: You can't start a new life when you're still half living in your last one.
notes: My mini AB fic-a-thon fic. Takes place at some vague point in the future after Cerulean Sins. I say vague because it's been a while since I read the AB books.
shout: Oh, Vicky, I could have danced at getting you for this.... because I know how you like your Richard. Medium rare with a side of humor. You know I don't do angst so well, so I hope this is all right.
Characters: Anyone. Some Wesley would be nice...
One Thing You Want To See: A nice lady for Wesley. Maybe some Richard bonding...
One Thing You Don't Want To See: Richard as a pansy whiner.
Wesley looked up from his desk in his office under the Circus of the Damned, knowing without even looking who would be standing there. He'd been here for four years now. He was Jean-Claude's magic man. He was the prophecy guy. J.C.'s spellcaster, his researcher. Not much different from what he'd been before. Only this time he played 'watcher' to a vampire not a slayer. He'd thought he'd died. The last thing he remembered was Illyria lying to him. Then cold. He should have been dead. Instead he'd toppled out of some sort of portal in a world he didn't recognize but wasn't all that dissimilar from his own. It was a bit like visiting a foreign country for the first time. There were little differences. He'd had to adapt. Working for a vampire was different here than in his former world. Former. This was his place now.
And currently, the girl who wouldn't take no for an answer was standing in his doorway looking like he had NEVER seen her.
"You didn't steal that, did you?"
She made a pouty face at him. "Well you did tell me that you didn't know how I... what was it again.... oh yes, pranced about half naked all the time without catching cold."
He would not smile. It would be wrong to encourage her. She was not his type. No matter how non-revealing the dress she had on was. He'd never seen her in anything like it. He didn't even know she owned anything like it. Most of her clothing didn't cover her. In the whole time he'd known Cherry she'd been all vinyl micro-mini skirts, fishnet hose, boots, and see-through tops with no bra under them.
Now she was wearing a black dress with a white lacy collar that hit her mid-calf and a pair of ballet slipper type shoes. It was a bit disconcerting to see that she was still in her typical smear of black eye makeup and black lipstick with this though. Still, he had never seen so much of her body covered. It made you notice her face more... and all the black makeup on it.
"Does Anita know you are here, Cherry?"
"I didn't steal the dress." She huffed. "Sylvie and Gwen took me shopping."
"Anita allowed that?" Wesley asked cautiously.
Anita was a bit huffy these days about anyone having to do with Richard.... which was why Wesley had asked if Anita knew Cherry was there. Wesley had become good friends with Richard. They had like pains. They'd shared their misery. Eventually the two of them had become real people again. He would even go so far as to call Richard his best friend. Naturally, that did not endear him to Anita. She and Richard had this... thing. Wes didn't even like to think about it. It was devastating, and Richard was just now starting to act like a human being, so to speak, about things and not a wilting tragic flower.
There was also the fact that the first time Wesley had met Anita, she'd done what he later learned was a semi-typical greeting for her when she was unsure or felt threatened and shoved a gun in his face. He'd been fairly rude and frosty to her in every encounter after that. He'd give Anita her due though. She could be just as cold and nasty. She reminded him of Faith... when she had joined the dark side of the force.
"Anita doesn't know." Cherry whispered.
"I also find it rather interesting that Sylvie took you on an outing given her distaste for wereleopards."
"Well, I told her it was for you."
"It is, you know. This is for you." She did a little pirouette. "They'd do anything for you because of what you did for Richard."
Wesley smiled a sad smile. She did look rather nice like that, despite the fact that her blonde hair was sticking up wildly as if she'd just come from a tryst.... which knowing Cherry might not be too far from the truth. He knew better, but this aura of innocence she was projecting in that dress with her thin frame was reminding him of a brunette Texan he was trying very hard to forget. Cherry was nothing like Winifred though. She was night to Fred's day. She was not innocent or sweet. She was also not entirely human.
The was a knock on the door frame before Richard walked in talking away. He didn't talk to much of anyone save Wesley still, but many of the wolves in Richard's pack were thankful to Wesley for bringing Richard out of his 'funk'. What they didn't realize what that Richard and Wesley were like two alcoholics after an AA meeting who went off for coffee and commiserated on how much they missed the taste of whiskey.
"Oh. Sorry, Wes. I didn't realize you had..." Richard stopped when he recognized her. "Cherry?"
"Er, hi, Richard. Wow, you're looking good these days. Nice to see your hair's grown back in nicely."
"Does Anita know you're here, Cherry?"
"Why is that question so popular? Anita is not my mother." Cherry snapped childishly, stomping her foot for emphasis.
"But she is your Nimir-ra, and I was under the impression that she had forbid you to seek Wesley out. Do you know what I'd do to a pack member who disobeyed a direct order?"
"Look at them real mean?" She quipped.
Richard just glared at her in a disapproving way. She was right though, and everybody knew it. He was handling himself much better these days, but he still had not quite gotten down the doling out the punishment part of being Ulfric.
Cherry's hands were fisted at her sides. "But..." Then she decided on a different course of action and just stormed out.
Richard was looking at Wesley with one eyebrow raised.
Wes waved a hand at him. "Don't."
"I think someone has a crush on you."
Wesley rolled his eyes. "Well, she'll just have to get over it. Anita will never approve of me for one of her wereleopards."
"I could always bite you."
Wesley stopped abruptly. "Did you just make a lycanthropy joke? You?"
Richard thought for a moment. "I guess I did."
"By leaps and bounds. Fairly soon you won't need me to commiserate with. You'll be perfectly at ease with yourself and the beast within. You won't feel the need to bounce your ridiculous questions about your worth off of me."
"Then maybe we can do other more typically guy things like smoke cigars and play poker."
"I do not smoke, and I prefer chess."
"You would, stuffed shirt."
"Sixth grade science teacher."
"Seventh grade, thank you."
"Oh well, I beg your pardon."
The both of them dissolved into amused chuckles. Richard made things easy for Wesley. It was easier to be in a foreign place when someone would listen to you bemoan your existence and not tell you to buck up and get on over it. But eventually he had, and so had Richard. Richard's biggest problem was strangely similar to Angel's. He brooded because he didn't like what he was. In Angel's case, it was compounded by the fact that he'd been a vicious killer while without the benefit of his soul. Wesley had offered some profound otherworldly perspective to Richard though. It was something that he'd learned in his dealings with Angel Investigations and those he'd run across in his years there.
Lack of humanity biologically did not mean a lack of humanity spiritually.
Wesley had shared some of his less than human experiences in his former life. His main example had been Lorne... a demon who was not human in the least but showed more humanity than any of them. Wesley missed Lorne. It was easy to pull Richard from his 'funk' when the two of them had started to compete on who was more miserable. Wesley was comfortable with Richard, and he was comfortable with very little since landing here and being not dead.
"Cherry actually is a nice girl." Richard said casually.
Wesley didn't even look up from the work he was trying to finish. He had old books and dusty scrolls and his laptop all spread on the desk before him.
"I said Cherry actually is a nice girl."
"I heard you the first time."
"She certainly seems to like you."
"She's bloody well obsessed is what she is. The woman is a menace and a stalker, and she will just have to cease with it."
"Why? What do you mean why? Because I so want Anita Blake, psycho-ess extraordinaire gunning for me... literally in all likeliness... for daring to make any sort of moves on one of her 'children'."
"Cherry's a grown woman."
"Is she now? I must admit I hadn't noticed through all that subterfuge, bizarre stalking, and petulant child behavior."
"She's just trying to get your attention."
"If she thinks wearing a dress and not flaunting her bosoms to anyone who'll look will make me think her changed, she's sorely mistaken."
"You could give her a chance."
"If I didn't know better, Mr. Zeeman, I'd swear you were trying to get me to ask Cherry out on a date."
"And if I was?"
"Richard, I have no desire to date anyone, let alone Cherry, and I especially have no desire to incur Anita's wrath."
Richard snorted. "Jean-Claude wouldn't let her do anything to you."
"Oh? If she were pissed off enough, could he really stop her? Anita's as much of a cat as her leopards. The bloody woman has nine lives."
Richard chuckled. He couldn't laugh about Anita with anyone but Wesley. The other man knew what it was like to lose the woman you loved to supernatural forces beyond the realm of your control. The two of them were a bit kindred because of it. That's why they spoke so easily to one another.
"Anita doesn't change the fact that Cherry does happen to be fully grown, and pard or not, I do believe that Anita is not such a monster as to allow Cherry to be miserable when she might be happy with you."
"I think you're giving Anita too much credit, Richard. She'd keep Cherry from me on principle alone... even if it made Cherry utterly sick with misery."
"I have to believe that's not true."
"Besides... Cherry's not the sort of woman I fancy."
"You barely know her."
"I know enough. As if I could be with that perverted lunatic."
"Is this about her feeling you up? Still?" Richard shook his head. "I know nuns less prim and prudish than you, Wes. That was how many years ago, and you're still dwelling?"
"Look who's talking about dwelling, hypocrite. Pot calling the kettle black, much? And I refuse to believe you know any nuns."
"Just tell me this isn't about her being too friendly."
Wesley sighed. He couldn't. Because it WAS partly about that.
When he'd first landed here, he'd known very little of the cultural differences. He'd known very little of the difference in these vampires and those in his own world. He'd certainly been clueless about how shifters liked touch. Upon meeting him, Cherry had sniffed his crotch and topped it off with some very familiar and invasive groping of his behind before she could be stopped. Wesley had been very embarrassed by it... but mostly because he'd felt a pang of attraction to her for it. He felt he was betraying Fred's memory within him for even seeing another woman.
She liked to be lower than him. Cherry was only a few inches shorter, and it was never enough. She would sit on the floor when he was in a chair. He got the feeling she was looking for a 'top' to her 'bottom', and he wasn't going to step up. She just wouldn't take the hint. For a submissive she was remarkably stubborn. She refused to take no for an answer. She said she liked the way he smelled too well to just let it go. Anita had stepped in before it got completely out of control though. She'd told Wesley he was not to return any advances by Cherry because he was too human. Anita had also forbidden Cherry to seek Wesley out any more.
Obviously Cherry wasn't heeding that directive.
The problem was Wesley knew Richard was right. Cherry actually was a nice girl... albeit a bit promiscuous at times and not much of a dresser in his opinion, but she was awfully upbeat. She didn't seem to get discouraged by his continuing dismissal of her as anything other than an acquaintance either.
"Like I said, I could bite you, and take care of that pesky overabundance humanity within you that Anita seems to object to."
"You know, that's the second time tonight you've offered to bite me. If you're hungry, Richard, we could always order a pizza."
Richard rolled his eyes.
"Or get some take out. I hear the new Italian place is quite good."
"How much longer are you gonna be? I am a little hungry." Richard's admission of hunger was punctuated by a loud growl from his stomach.
Wesley gave him a look. "I dare say I better make it soon or else I just might suffer the biting. If the hunger becomes unbearable, I recommend going for my arse as the rest of me is fairly bony and without meat."
Richard snorted. "Like I'd eat you anyway. You probably taste all self-righteous and dusty from disuse."
"Dusty from disuse? What's that supposed to mean?"
"Not to be crude, Wes, but you ARE wound awfully tight. When was the last time you got any?"
"That's none of your affair." Wesley snapped, his eyes going to the screen of his laptop.
"It was before you came here. In your other life."
"I believe I told you that it was none of your affair, Zeeman."
Richard regarded him. "Wes, I consider you a good friend. You've put up with me when few others would have, so I'm going to be just as good a friend in return. You gave me some excellent advice once. Now I am going to throw it back your way. You can not start a new life if you're still dwelling on the could haves and might have beens of the last one."
"What are you saying?"
"You know, for being so smart, you certainly can be dumb. In plain terms... I think you should ask Cherry out."
"What?! Have you lost your bloody senses?!"
Richard went on as if Wesley had not said a thing. "I think you should take her to dinner or a movie or dinner and a movie or just for some coffee. I think you should talk to her. I think you should find out if there's something more waiting for you in this life. I think you might be surprised."
"What about Anita?"
Wesley blinked at that. Richard rarely swore. If he was cursing, then this was a serious matter. Not that damn was that bad of a swear, but normally Richard's idea of cursing was more along the lines of 'oh phooey, I burned the darn muffins!'.
"Why do I have a feeling I am going to regret this?"
Richard nodded his head at the door. "Go on."
"Well, where would she have gone?"
"She's just down the hall."
"I can smell her."
Wesley gave him a look. "You lycanthrops and your freakishly keen sense of smell."
"I'm the freak? You're the one who tumbled out of a hole in the sky. From a place where a bunch of tweed-wearing tea sippers watch one teenage girl fight vampires. Have I mentioned how ridiculous that is?"
Wesley glared. "Only every couple of days since I first told you about it almost three years ago."
"Well, it is. A teenage girl should be gossiping about kissing boys and buying as many pairs of shoes she can get her hands on or something else utterly nonviolent. She should not be trolling cemeteries looking for things to poke in the chest with a stick."
"So you have said. Repeatedly."
"Just pointing out that you are not any less freakish, falling from the sky guy."
Wesley glared at him again. "Yes, thank you for reminding me of the oh-so-pleasant experience."
"You know, I do believe Anita wouldn't dislike me so much if I hadn't landed on her that night."
"You could be right. Anita's funny that way." Richard said with a wry smile. It was nice to be able to talk of Anita and not feel that horrible clench in his chest that used to be attached to even hearing another say her name.
Wesley was grinning. It was good to see Richard talking about Anita without that slight flinch of pain that would flicker across his face when the two of them had first started commiserating.
"Assuming the lady in question accepts, I presume you can show yourself out."
"Showed myself in, didn't I? And what do you mean assuming she accepts? Cherry's been after you for going on four years now. This is the moment she's been waiting for. She'll pounce on it. No pun intended."
Wesley made a face. "Yes. Do let's remind me that my virtue isn't safe with her."
"Will you quit stalling and just go."
"There is no guarantee-"
"Just go. She's waiting."
Wesley scowled once more at Richard before stepping into the hall. It was good that they were friends. They each made the other face up to things that they would not have done on their own.
As soon as he looked down the hall, Wesley's scowl doubled. Sure enough, Cherry was leaned against the wall at the end of the hallway. She looked up and smiled. She wouldn't be so bad, he supposed, if she didn't have all that black crap hiding her face. The dress was rather lovely on her. It made you look at HER and not what parts of her were semi-exposed.
"I think I forgot to mention earlier..." He paused carefully. "That your dress looks very nice."
She cocked her head to the side and smiled a little wider. In that moment, Wesley stopped seeing an untouchable member of Anita's pard. He saw Cherry. He saw a young woman with an absolutely lovely smile.
"I was going to get some coffee or dinner perhaps, would you care to join me?"
Cherry blinked and appeared a bit shell-shocked. "Wh-what?"
"I was asking if you'd like to go out somewhere with me."
"You wouldn't mind?"
"I did ask, didn't I?"
"Sure. That'd be great."
He offered her his arm at her acceptance. She smiled again. It was nice to have a woman smile at him. Working for Jean-Claude, Anita was the woman Wesley saw the most. She was usually full of scowls for him. He knew he was provoking more scowls and perhaps some physical violence, but Richard was right. Wesley needed to start living this life and quit thinking about the last one. Getting to know Miss Cherry the wereleopard seemed to be an excellent start.
AN: "Oh phooey, I burned the darn muffins!" Is from "The Long Kiss Goodnight".