They made love that night, of course; he owed her an apology, and they both knew that he was very good at apologizing,
as it were, undercover. His humble request for forgiveness was creative and thorough, and by the time he was finished it
was generally accepted that there were no remaining bad feelings between them whatsoever.
Fred lay very still under the sheets until she was sure he was asleep, then slipped out of the bed and walked to the cramped
kitchenette that housed Charles' microwave, minifridge, and a hot plate of dubious electrical safety. She got a glass of
water and looked out the window at the tiny parking lot.
They'd come back to his apartment because she had an absolute horror of having sex in her room at the hotel. At first it
was because she couldn't bear the thought of Wesley's face if they came downstairs together in the morning- easier if they
came in together from the street; anyone so inclined could pretend she'd bumped into him on the sidewalk on her way back from
getting bagels or doughnuts. She always made Charles stop at the bakery on the way back in the mornings, so she could play
her proper role in that illusion if anyone was indulging it. Better safe than sorry.
Obviously there wasn't any need to worry about Wesley's feelings at the hotel anymore. Still, it would feel like sacrilege
to make love there now. The Hyperion was a place of mourning, Angel's grief filling all the empty floors like the faint musty
odor that would never come out of the carpets, no matter how much you vacuumed.
She emptied the rest of her glass down the sink and headed for the door, slipping Charles' sneakers onto her feet without
having to undo the laces. "It's ridiculous," she muttered to herself, closing the door extra-carefully so it wouldn't click,
"but I just have to."
She took the stairs, because Charles had warned her about the elevator, and marched across the little parking lot to where
the truck was parked, serene and still in the moonlight. She glared at it. "Oh, don't you sit there smirking at me," she
said, opening the passenger-side door and putting her foot up on the running board. Jutting her tongue out between her teeth,
she hesitated, then jumped down and stalked around the hood to get into the driver's seat. She put her hands on the steering
wheel and glared down at it.
The Ford logo smiled up at her, smug and cool.
"We need to talk," she said.
She paused to collect her thoughts. The truck was silent.
"Woman to woman," she said finally, "I just want to make sure we're clear on a few things. I know you were very important
to him back in the day, and I respect that, and I'm very grateful to you for keeping him alive all these years. Don't
misunderstand me." She flexed her fingers on the wheel, running them over the lightly textured plastic. "But I'm
the woman in his life now, and I don't want you getting any ideas. I mean, I'm wearing his t-shirt right now--" she plucked
at the material for emphasis "--and his shoes--" she swung her foot so the loose shoe thumped dully against the door.
"We've been dating for a couple of weeks now, and..." She hesitated. "And I guess I've been kinda rude, haven't I, making
out with him in here right in front of you? I'm sorry, I didn't know you were his ex...sort of." She patted the dashboard
gently. "Well, I never was a girl who did much parking. I'll just tell Charles we're not going to do that anymore. Sorry
if we made you uncomfortable." They sat in companionable silence for a little while, until Fred sighed.
"I've gotta say, I'm a little intimidated now...I mean, he sold his soul for you! You were that important to him!
What am I, just the goofy girl from work..." She leaned her head back against the seat and frowned, then suddenly grinned
and wiggled a little deeper into the cushions, as if the upholstery had made itself more welcoming. "But I'm the goofy girl
from work he fell in love with."
She ran an affectionate hand over the dashboard. "I'm glad we had this little chat. And I promise I'll quit changing your
radio presets to country stations, because I guess the way they never come in clearly must mean you don't like them." She
glanced up at Charles' window. "I'd better get back before he rolls over and misses me...at least I know now how much he
loved you...I mean, still loves you...and I know you love him back, because how could anyone not love Charles back?"
She closed her eyes for a minute and smiled wider, just thinking about him and the look in his eyes when he said he loved
"So I know you'll always take care of him, and never break down and leave him on the side of the road or anything. Now if
you could just convince him to drive past the fast food and eat somewhere healthier once in a while..." She paused, then
laughed and opened the door. "Of course, you're right, who am I to talk?"
She took a few steps across the lot and then stopped, smiling shyly back over her shoulder at the silent hulk of metal in
the moonlight. "Goodnight, hon. Sweet dreams- but not of Charles, since like I said, he's mine now." She waved a finger
at the truck and clomped back to the building in her oversized shoes, and the streetlights glittered on the windshield like