Absent Friends
by Aadler
Copyright December 2019


Disclaimer: Characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel: the Series are property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui Enterprises, Sandollar Television, the WB, and UPN.

Setting: Angel, Season 4
Spoilers: none


 
– i –

Fred hates to bother Angel — she owes him so much — but she pushes anyway. And Angel doesn’t want to talk about Chas, but he’s reluctant to hurt Fred, so he admits, “I didn’t like being around him.”

Fred nods; she’d suspected as much. “Why?”

Angel’s eyes go inward. “It was like he … understood me.”

She frowns. “That’s bad?”

“You don’t know me,” Angel says flatly. “Not really. If you did, you’d run screaming. Anybody would — except Chas.” His mouth thins. “When you’ve done the things I have … being understood isn’t comfortable.”

She needs more, but that’s all he’ll tell her.

 
– ii –

“Man was a helluva storyteller,” Gunn says when she asks. “Knew his way around some raunchy jokes, too.”

“And his combat technique was superb,” Wesley adds. “You seldom see someone who can blend personal athleticism so beautifully with classical forms.”

Fred stares at them both, dismayed. “That’s what you remember about him?”

Gunn shrugs. “Damn fine singing voice.”

Wesley smiles. “With marvelous taste in quality liquor.”

Fred struggles for words. She could make them remember, she could, but that might upset something fragile, and she can’t risk it. She turns, runs from the lobby. They look after her, concerned.

Uncomprehending.

 
– iii –

“Chas?” Cordelia smiles, warm and reminiscent. “Hunka hunka burnin’ omiGOD.”

Fred is surprised. “Really? You never showed it.”

“Girl’s gotta keep her dignity,” Cordelia says. “It was either hang back and act snarky, or rip off all my clothes and throw myself on him in front of the whole crew.” Another smile. “Closer call than you’d expect.”

“Oh.” Fred considers. “Did he … remind you of anybody?”

“Not really,” Cordelia says. “Well … if Giles had been thirty and mondo extroverted, maybe. But basically, they don’t make ’em like that anymore.”

No, they don’t. Except ‘make’ isn’t the right word.

‘Mix’, maybe.

 
– iv –

Lorne sits back, alarmed. “No, pumpkin. You don’t ask about Cyvus Vail. He might notice.”

“So?” Fred says.

An unfeigned shudder. “People think he rearranges memories, and he does. Within a limited range, though, he reshapes reality.”

Fred’s eyes narrow. “How limited?”

“Nobody knows,” Lorne answers. “Just, inside that range, he’s practically omnipotent.”

Reality … “So, if somebody wanted to combine two different people into one person —?”

“Vail probably could. Something like that wouldn’t last too long, but …” He frowns. “Say, wasn’t that the plot on an episode of Star Trek: Voyager?”

Fred doesn’t answer, nor is she thinking of television.

 
– v –

They all accept their memories of Chas, disregard inconsistencies that would shake those memories. Fred remembers both realities (delusions?), but she’s helpless.

Gathering data, developing hypotheses, can take her only so far. To accomplish anything, she’d have to act. That … would be too dangerous.

So, she has to let go of Chas. Gunn’s fundamental masculinity, Wesley’s cultured intellect: one man made of two, both of whom adored her. They remember him, forget that they were him. And she must leave it so, lest challenging those memories cause them damage.

She’ll live with that.

She has to.

But she’ll miss him horribly.
 

end
 

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