If Only He Knew
Title: If Only He Knew
Fandoms: Buffy the Vampire Slayer/Anita Blake
Disclaimer: Fred (and everything Angel) belongs to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
Jason and the crew from Anita Blake's universe belongs to Laurell K. Hamilton.
Author's Note: For the AB-verse, after Cerulean Sins. For Angel, after the fourth season finale, "Home."
Spoilers for: Angel 4-22, "Home," and for Cerulean Sins.
Fred stepped off the plane, clutching her carryon bag to her side. She looked around hesitantly. So, this was St. Louis... didn't look too scary. Not at all like the vampire-and-werepeople-filled city she knew it really was. Lots of supernatural stuff here, but at least there weren't demons. There weren't supposed to be demons here, anyway... something about the power of the Master of the City keeping them away. Must be nice...not like L.A., though the latter was where she'd rather be.
She could do this, she thought, feeling the comforting weight of the book in her bag. Jean-Claude, the Master of St. Louis had contacted Angel Investigations, looking for help in sealing a portal to a hell-dimension that had cropped up somewhere in one of his businesses.
She hated portals.
Still, only she and Wesley had the knowledge necessary to close the portal, and he was in England, looking for the hidden storage site where the Watcher's Council had kept their most important books. They weren't using it, since they'd been blown up and all.
Which left her, alone, in St. Louis. On her own for the first time since Pylea - well, second time if you counted when she had been the only one to know what Jasmine was, but that had been involuntary, and temporary and...
Focus, she told herself. She had to focus on the task at hand. The portal needed to close, and she was just the girl to do it. But first, she had to find her driver. Jean-Claude was supposed to send one of his employees to escort her around the city -- and to protect her. Not that she needed protecting, mind you. She didn't care how illegal it was in Missouri - she was fully equipped with her own stake. Forget diamonds... in her line of work, weapons were a girl's best friend.
She found her suitcase, which was good. Now, all she had to do is find the guy who was supposed to be meeting her. She saw several people milling around the airport lobby, but no one who looked driver-ish. He should have a uniform, right? Like a chauffeur or something. And a sign with her name on it. She wondered if he'd have a limo; she hadn't ridden in one since the day they first went to Wolfram and Hart. Limos were nice.
She looked around again. She was surrounded by lots of people. She just had to find the right one.
Jason scanned the airport. This was the last place he wanted to be, but Jean-Claude was his master, and if he said jump, it was Jason's job to say "how high." Even if he'd rather be enjoying his night off from Guilty Pleasures dancing the night away at Danse Macabre with the club's sexy new bartender. Instead, he was chauffeuring some scientist around town and breaking his date via telephone. "Yeah, I wish I could make it tonight," he reassured her. "But I've got to work. I'd rather be with you, babe, but I've got to find this geeky scientist guy named Fred and take him around St. Louis. Trust me, this is not my idea of a good time."
Geeky scientist guy? Watching him from behind a post, Fred didn't know what to do. Hurt, she turned away. She didn't want to impose on someone who obviously had better things to do than be with her. She sniffled. She could find her own way around St. Louis.
Then she stopped, straightening up as she realized what she was doing. One insult -- from someone who didn't even know her, no less - and she was ready to turn tail and run. That was the old Fred, the girl who hid out in her bedroom writing frantically on the walls because it was her only contact to reality. But that wasn't her anymore.
She fumed. Who did he think he was? Sure, he was all cute and blonde and built - not the point, she reminded herself - but she wasn't a chore to be endured. Would serve him right if she walked out of her on her own and he had to tell Jean-Claude he lost her -- the master vamp did not sound like a forgiving man.
But no. She was going to march right over to Mr. Short-blonde-and-handsome and give him a piece of her mind. She was Winifred Burkle. She had survived five years on her own in Pylea, helped bring down the reign of a man-eating-dictator-demon-person named Jasmine. She was the head of the science department of the L.A. branch of Wolfram and Hart. She was strong, she was confident, and she was going to let him know exactly what she thought of his careless, hurtful words.
Before she could change her mind, she marched over to him and tapped him on the shoulder. "Excuse me?" she said firmly. "I'm Fred Burkle. I think you're looking for me."
His eyes widened. Jason fumbled the phone, almost dropping it as he stared. *This* was Fred Burkle? Far from the glasses-and-pocket-protector guy he'd been expecting, the woman before him was beautiful. Her wavy chestnut hair cascaded around her shoulders, pulled back from her face in a loose clip, and her big brown eyes shone with intelligence and emotion. If he'd known Jean-Claude's portal-closing scientist was a sexy California girl, he'd have been waiting eagerly for her appearance.
Belatedly he realized that her words meant that she'd overheard him. He gulped. Yep, while she looked a bit nervous, but more than anything she was pissed, and rightfully so. He'd completely misjudged and insulted her before he'd ever met her. She probably wanted to get back on the next plane to Los Angeles.
Jean-Claude was going to kill him.
Suddenly, he realized that he'd never hung up his cell phone. He put the phone up to his ear, wincing at the harsh words that were coming through the receiver. Candy. Now there was a girl who didn't like to be ignored. Never taking his eyes off Fred, he spoke. "I've got to go," he said, hanging up without even saying goodbye.
"You're Fred?" he asked incredulously. "But you're..." his voice trailed off.
He nodded. "I thought that 'Fred'..." he stammered.
"Short for Winifred," she explained, crossing her arms over her chest and staring at him, enjoying his discomfort.
Jason groaned. He was just getting himself in deeper with every word. If he had a silver bullet, he'd shoot himself. He took a deep breath, and faced her guiltily. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said what I said. I was wrong. I was just..."
"Trying to impress your bimbo Barbie girlfriend?" she finished sarcastically. Inwardly, she was cheering herself. All she had to do is imagine herself like Cordelia - a pre-possessed-by-her-evil-baby Cordelia - and the insults just rolled off her tongue. She had to force herself not to smile. That would ruin the tough-chick front she was putting on. Little did he know that she really was a big geeky scientist.
"I'll find someone else to take you around St. Louis." He sighed, reaching for his cell phone.
Fred groaned. She hadn't meant to make him feel that badly. She just wanted him to have a taste of his own medicine. She reached out, closing her hand over his before he had a chance to dial.
"You don't have to do that. Really."
"I've only known you for a few minutes, but I've already insulted you more than I've ever insulted anyone -- well, anyone that I didn't want to be totally pissed at me," he confessed.
Fred smiled. "Let's just forget all about it, okay?"
Jason sighed in relief, flashing her his trademark flirty grin. "That's fine by me." He lifted her suitcase from where it sat at her feet and gestured ahead of him. "You ready to go?"
"Yep." She nodded as they walked out to the parking lot.
"I'll take you by the Circus to meet Jean-Claude, then we can head out to see the hell-portal," he suggested.
"Circus?" She asked. The city's head vampire was at the circus? St. Louis was definitely a strange place...but not a bad place. "I love the circus. My parents used to take me all the time when I was little and living in Texas. It was much better than the rodeo, which is a strange attitude considering that my neighbors were cowboys, but I never really like it how they made the bulls and broncs so cranky so they'd be all bucky, and I just loved the circus, with the lions and tigers and the spangly people on the trapeze."
Jason stared at her, trying to follow her convoluted train of thought.
"Is there a trapeze?" she asked hopefully.
Jason blinked. "A trapeze? At the circus?"
She nodded. She was going to the circus. Maybe this assignment would be more fun than she'd originally thought.
Jason shook his head. "Sorry, no trapeze. It's not that kind of circus."
She looked at him quizzically. What did he mean, 'not that kind of circus?' What other kind of circus was there?
"It's a...supernatural circus," he explained. "Vampires and zombies and werewolves, oh my."
"What?" she asked in dismay. "No trapeze? No tigers? No human cannonball? Okay, I could live without the clowns, 'cause quite frankly I find them really creepy...but vampires, zombies and werewolves? That's not a circus, that's just another night at work." She pouted. He'd gotten her hopes up for nothing.
"Sorry." He smiled. She was so cute when she pouted. Cute, and smart, and funny... he knew that he was with her tonight for the job, but he wanted more. They'd finally reached the car, and he put her suitcase in the trunk before turning back to her.
"Fred," he began. "I know we really got started off on the wrong foot, and I appreciate you forgiving my careless stupidity..." He took a deep breath. "Here goes nothing," he murmured under his breath. "After you close the portal, would you like to go out? Get dinner, or coffee, or something?"
Fred laughed. "You're unbelievable. Five minutes ago you were grumbling because you had to cancel a date, and now you want me to go out with you? What about the bimbo?"
He gently grabbed her arm, turning her until she was facing him head on. "You're right. Candy's a bimbo; she'll never be more than that. In the end, she doesn't matter."
"And I matter?" Fred stared incredulously. Did he expect her to fall for his lines? Sure, she was a sucker for romance, but she was smarter than that.
He thought of what he'd told Anita, about wanting to find that someone to consume him, to make him burn. He'd never find that with someone like Candy, but someone like Fred? "I don't know." He said truthfully, looking deep into her brown eyes. "Right now I barely know you, so no, you don't matter. But someday? You might."
She stared into his pale blue eyes. He looked really sincere, though she suspected he'd had practice making him look sincere when he really didn't feel that way. Still, they were two single adults... it couldn't hurt to get a cup of coffee, could it?
"Coffee," she said. "Coffee would be good." She broke off eye contact before it got even more intense. "Now," she continued, trying to be businesslike. "I've got a portal to close."
He smiled, walking around her to open her door. "My lady, your chariot awaits."
Fred giggled, getting into the car.
He leaned in before closing the door. "Next stop, Circus of the Damned."
She smiled. This was turning out to be a pretty good trip after all.