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"You wouldn't dare. - You were just going to toss in a Prothgarian broadsword with a third-century ceremonial Sancteus dagger?"

From your spot on the floor you continue to focus on your own project, fingers playing over metal and rood. But you're listening too, taking in each and every word and memorizing it for later. For maybe when your walls are ready for something different. For a new story.

Wesley likes stories too, you can tell. Oh, he might wrap it up in columns and corners and the proper place to hang a thing on the wall? But it's just to keep it safe -- the story that makes it special. To make sure it doesn't get mixed up with the others.

"Hmm. Let's see. Long, metal, pointy. - Yup."

And Cordy sees their strength. Of course she sees their strength. It's because she's so...

"Cordy! The purpose of an inventory..."

He's back to his checks and his columns and all those careful calculations again, and you can't help but wonder why. Someone should tell Wesley it's all right, just loving a thing. Wanting to make sure it has a place.

"Yes, give us that 'purpose of an inventory speech' - again." Charles now and the words wash over you like music. You think right then there's a very good chance they take it all for granted, that when you say something someone's right there to answer you right back. Even Wesley, defensively. "This wasn't my idea."

"No. Angel - keeps complaining that the weapons cabinet is all different. But, Wesley, who's the boss around here? You - or the guy with the pancreas dagger."

Sancteus dagger, you mentally correct. She hadn't been listening to the story. But it'd hurt a pancreas just as well as anything else might, so maybe this time ---

"What time is it?"

It's your turn to enter the fray again. Or to at last try. Sometimes the words you're thinking aren't always the ones that make it to the outside. They get all turned around along the way. Wesley extends his wrist and Cordy checks the time in a practiced tandem, one that just might be a little bit your fault.

"Six twenty four, and for those of you who are playing the home game: that's exactly three minutes from the last time you asked."

Your head drops slightly as the fear that you're a bother sits one again heavy and hard somewhere in the center of your chest. The same one that keeps you from sleeping at night. You swallow it down and try and breath and not think about thinks like what'd happen if they were done with you too. Because it's not like you can go...

"I'm sorry. I just - I have this theory that the more you are aware of time the more slowly it moves, which *could* make light speed travel possible, but only if you were to concentrate really..."

Cordy interrupts you, something different in her voice. It's more than you can pick apart yet.

"He'll be back when he's back."

You ask the question then. The one that started all the way back your first night in the hotel. With the girl with the red hair, and voices that suddenly got so hushed even when there wasn't anything to hide from. Someone pressed some tacos into your hand, still warm and wrapped in bits of paper made up into colors you'd never find in nature. They wanted to distract you, maybe even to take care of you.

It just reminded you how different everything was. How pale you were against those beautiful, brilliant, red bits of paper. How small you were compared to them, even in their grief. Especially because of it.

"So - now that she's alive again, are they gonna get back together? Angel and that girl with the goofy name?"

Buffy. In your head she's somehow all of them, together and all at once.

"Well - Fred - that's a difficult question. I think it's fair to say - no. Not a chance, never, no way, not in a million years, and also 'nuh-uh.'"

Welsey's wrong, you think then. Because it's Angel. He pulled you out of a cave and gave you back your name and didn't leave you when it hadn't been you he came to save at all. He could do almost anything.

And he's picked her.

"But you said he loved her. And of course she's gonna love him back, because he's so strong and handsome and he really listens when you talk. I-I mean, if you go for that sort of thing, why wouldn't it work?"

All your words that don't maybe sense. All the thoughts you still haven't sorted out for yourself. The you you don't even know yet, he's ok with her. Heck, some days you think he might even like her. And it's the only thing that brings you out of your room most days, that gets you down the stairs. Because if Angel likes her?

Maybe, just maybe? You could too.

That thought, fresh and small, is shattered by the sound of Cordy's voice again.

"Let me break it down for you Fred..."


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Fred Burkle

May 2015

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