Title: A dark place
Author: Angel Jade
Warnings: Pre-slash, angst
Spoilers: Season 7/4 up to Chosen
Summary: Fred talks for the first time about the dark place she’s been since trying to kill her own professor. And Willow’s the one she can confide in.
Distribution: If you’ve had my permission before, you have it now. Anyone else, ask first please.
Disclaimer: I do not claim to own the characters in the fic, nor do I make money from borrowing them.
Author’s notes: I haven’t actually seen the end of seasons 7/4 so I’m going on what I’ve heard. Sorry if anything’s wrong. The Kennedy issue is addressed in the fic, though if it isn’t clear enough for you, they broke up.
“You okay out here?” Willow asked, stepping outside to find Fred sprawled out on the grass, looking up at the stars that you couldn’t quite see through the smog.
“Just thinkin’.” Fred sighed, her eyes trying to locate Willow without having to move her head.
Willow walked over and sat next to her. “See anything interesting up there?”
“Not really looking.” Fred replied, sitting up until her arm rested against Willow’s.
“I can’t stay much longer. I’m needed in so many places.” Willow told her, looking down at the grass.
“It’s alright. I knew you’d go sooner or later. Just surprised you came here rather than going to all those places that need you.” Fred mused.
Willow smiled. “You know why. And after the big mess with Kennedy, I needed a good friend.”
“We’re pretty good friends, right?” Fred asked, suddenly.
“You’re one of the best I have right now.” Willow answered, her voice trailing slightly.
“I’ve kinda been needing to talk to somebody about something…but I’m not sure anyone can understand.” Fred explained.
Fred glanced at the worried look on Willow’s face and laughed. “Sorry, I shouldn’t laugh. I just get nervous when I have to talk about really serious and…well, horrible things. I’m not making any sense…”
“It’s okay, just take your time.” Willow said, softly.
“I found out who sent me to Pylea a while back.”
Willow said, nothing, but realised immediately where the conversation would head.
“I was so angry…a man I’d trusted and laughed and joked with…he’d done this to me because I was a threat to him. He sent me to hell for five years because I was smarter than him. No one understands what Pylea did to me. What I went through…the parts of myself I lost…”
Willow moved her arm round Fred’s shoulders and continued to watch in supportive silence.
“I wanted him dead so badly. I wanted him to suffer…” Even then Fred’s voice became bitter and thick with hatred. Willow hadn’t seen this emotion on Fred before and it almost surprised her that it was possible for Fred to hate anyone.
“What happened?” Willow was almost afraid to ask. The last thing she wanted to be was someone’s post-murder guidance councillor. She was no expert on how to live with it. She had scars no one could imagine, and the idea of Fred having the same made her feel sick.
“I went to kill him. I wanted him sucked into a portal where he could suffer. I was in a blind fury of pain and betrayal…I didn’t care about me, I just wanted to make him hurt.” Fred’s voice broke and tears rolled down her cheeks.
“Did you?” Willow’s voice remained calm.
“Gunn killed him before I could, then threw him into the portal. He took away my chance of revenge to save me. He actually thinks he did save me.” Fred wiped her eyes and sniffed, risking a glace at Willow to see the other girl’s reaction.
“You’re angry at him for killing a man for you?” Willow asked.
Fred shook her head. “It’s not like that. I just…I didn’t want him to do it; I didn’t want him to take away my chance. And to take away the guilt I was supposed to feel afterwards. He doesn’t say it, but I know he’s haunted by what he did.”
“Gunn’s not like most people though. He’s tough. Or from what I can tell.” Willow assured her.
“You don’t know him like I do. It’s killing him to think he’s a murderer.” Fred explained.
“And you’d rather have that? Because, believe me, it’s the worse feeling in the world.” Willow told her.
“I didn’t want Gunn to suffer for my problems. And I needed the closure that now I know I’ll never have.” Fred said, quietly. “But this isn’t all that’s bothering me. It’s more than that.”
Willow frowned and waited for Fred to continue.
“I went to this dark place, worse than anything I saw in Pylea. It was like I wasn’t me anymore.” Fred explained.
“And you’re scared you can’t undo the feeling it’s left inside you.” Willow added, softly.
“How can I go back the way I was now I know what I’m capable of?” Fred asked, tears back in her eyes.
“You can’t go back. You can never go back.” Willow stated, solemnly. “It’s the going forward that’s hard.”
“I’ve lost so much.” Fred whispered into Willow’s shoulder as she leaned in for a hug.
Willow closed her eyes. “Some of it’s replaceable, some of it’s retrievable…some of it will leave an empty hole in you forever. But time changes things. Believe me, I know.”
“You know.” Fred repeated the words, finding real comfort in them. “You probably think I’m so stupid…”
Willow pulled Fred from her shoulder to look her in the eyes. “I don’t think you’re stupid. I think you’re lucky in a way. And I think you’re brave for getting through this and I think you’re human for having this problem in the first place. But never stupid.”
“But I only came close…you…really did it. And you must think my problems are tiny compared to how you feel.” Fred suddenly felt very uncomfortable talking about it and looked away. She didn’t want to offend Willow by her selfish ranting.
“We’re not here to talk about me. You need to realise that what’s changed has changed. But it doesn’t mean there isn’t hope for a bright and happy future for you.” Willow reminded her.
“I’ve lost Charles.” Fred said, holding more tears back with great effort.
“Maybe it was supposed to be that way.” Willow said, her own pain leaking into the tone of her voice. “Oz, Tara, Kennedy…maybe none of it’s supposed to work out.”
Fred looked up sympathetically. “Maybe that’s because there’s someone else out there for you.”
“I don’t know what to believe anymore.” Willow said, resting her hands on her lap. “I just want to be with someone and not have to be scared they’ll walk away from me. Or die. I just want to feel safe for *one* day.”
Fred leaned forward and kissed Willow softly on the lips before quickly pulling away. “I’m sorry. I just thought…I wanted to…that was probably a bad thing to do.”
“It’s okay. A little surprising, but…okay.” Willow looked away awkwardly.
“I want you to feel safe and loved while you’re here. I want us to be friends.”
“We are friends, Fred.” Willow smiled.
“Is it wrong for me to like you? Because I can stop if you want me to.” Fred said, quietly.
Willow wasn’t too shocked by that. Fred had been flirting with her through out her stay. She just wasn’t sure she was ready to have her heart broken again. “I can’t, Fred. I can’t be with someone again just to have it all taken away from me. Not after Kennedy. I don’t think I can take it.”
Fred looked down. “I know, I’m sorry. It was a stupid thing to say.”
“No, it wasn’t. I’m flattered, and under normal circumstances I’d want nothing more than to be able to kiss you back. But we’d both get hurt. And I want our friendship to be the more important thing to us right now. I need a good friend. All mine are across the globe.”
Fred nodded. “This’ll probably sound really weird, but can I sleep in your room tonight? I mean, not…sleep with you, but…sleep next to you? I’d feel uncomfortable asking anyone else and I just miss having a body next to mine. Ya know?”
Willow knew all too well. “I’d really like that.”
With a little smile, Fred sighed and looked up at the night sky. “You think fate brought us all together?”
Willow smiled to herself. “Yeah, I do.”
“You think we can ever be happy?”
“I know we will.” Willow answered, taking Fred’s hand and leading her back inside.