At long last I have my real computer back. Acer failed to repair it yet again – they replaced the motherboard for a second time, completely ignoring the shop’s information that they had discovered that the fault was in the processor – and so the shop replaced the processor at their own expense, and with a more powerful one as some compensation for all the delays. I now have 2 Gb of RAM, an awesome graphics card, and should be able to play “Rome: Total War” with the detail levels turned up to the max. I’ll try not to let it cut into my writing too much!
I’ve finished my story for enigmatic_blue’s Holiday ficathon, and here it is. It’s fluffy. Too fluffy, probably, and I have a horrible feeling that it might not be up to my usual standard. Here it is anyway. PG-13 at most, Harmony/Fred friendship, 11,250 words, set during Angel Season 5. I’ve taken a slight liberty with the timeline. Christmas/New Year fell between the broadcast dates of “Destiny” and “Harm’s Way”, and probably was meant to take place between those episodes, but there is no hard evidence for that and so I’ve written this story on the basis of “Harm’s Way” taking place slightly before Christmas 2003.
I’d rather not reveal the pairings as I think the story works better if they come as a surprise. There are no pairings in Part One.
Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot?
“Hey,” Harmony greeted Fred nervously. “I kinda gave you the brush-off in the lab, I guess, huh? I’m really sorry, it was just I’d woken up with this dead guy in my bed, and I was all scared and that, and if you still want to hang out some time and drink some wine I’d really like that, although, the Dixie Chicks aren’t really my thing. But hey, I could give it a try. And, well, I’m totally sorry that I hit you and stuffed you in the closet. Um, maybe you won’t want to hang with me any more.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that,” Fred said. She wasn’t being entirely truthful, but she felt sorry for Harmony, and didn’t want to hurt the young vampire’s feelings. “It wasn’t your fault that things went wrong. And you did pretty good fixing the whole framed for murder thing.”
“I’m sorry I hit you, Fred,” Harmony repeated. Her lip trembled slightly. “Only, I was just so scared, I didn’t know what else I could do. I totally would never bite you.”
“I guess not. You’re okay, Harmony.”
“Great!” A huge beaming smile suddenly lit up Harmony’s face. “Wanna go see a movie after work?”
“Um,” Fred hesitated, wondering how best to turn Harmony down, and then she rethought. A movie was pretty safe. There shouldn’t be any scope for Harmony to become boring, or get distracted by some guy and leave Fred stranded, or, worse, drag Fred into a double date with some loser. “Uh, okay. What’s showing?”
“I thought maybe ‘Return of the King’,” Harmony suggested.
Fred was impressed. That was a much better choice than she would have expected. There was a snag, however. “’Fraid not. I never got to see ‘The Two Towers’.”
“You didn’t? I would have thought you’d have seen it for sure.”
“There were things going on,” Fred said vaguely. Somehow she couldn’t quite remember what had come up to stop her from seeing the second part of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. Some case or other, no doubt.
“Oh, well, I’ll have to –” Harmony began, and then chopped herself off short. “Uh, yeah, what else is on? ‘The Girl with the Pearl Earring’? No, maybe not. Hey, I know! ‘School of Rock’ is still showing in a few places.”
“Yeah, okay,” Fred agreed. “I hear that’s pretty good.” Funny and devoid of violence; Fred could live with that. Not the sort of movie that she would have expected a vampire to choose; Harmony was definitely a very exceptional specimen of the breed. Maybe it might even turn out to be a fun evening.
“So,” Harmony said, passing Fred a drink, “You going back to Texas for Christmas?”
“Thanks.” Fred took the drink and smiled at Harmony. The movie had indeed been fun, Harmony hadn’t spoiled it by talking, and she’d enjoyed the evening so far enough to have accepted Harmony’s invitation to go for a drink afterwards. “No, I just can’t fit it in this year. My folks are gonna come over to LA sometime in the spring. How about you?” Fred sipped her drink and suddenly gulped, almost choking herself, as she remembered that Harmony was a vampire and realized all the pitfalls implicit in her innocent question.
“I’m not gonna be seeing my folks these Holidays either,” Harmony replied. “They left Sunnydale before everything got real bad there, but they still lost out on the house sale, and they’re not fixed up with a proper home yet. The place they’re staying now, well, there isn’t any room for me, not with my, you know, special requirements. And my place is just this little apartment, no room to have them come stay, so this year it’s cards and presents through the mail and that’s all.”
“You keep in touch with your parents?” Fred asked. Her eyebrows rose in surprise and she fought them back down.
“Well, yeah,” Harmony replied, frowning at the surprise apparent in Fred’s tone. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“Um, no reason, I guess,” Fred began, and then decided that her evasion was stupidly transparent and that honesty would be a much better policy. “I mean, vampires usually eat their folks, don’t they?”
“Eat their folks?” Harmony repeated blankly. “Why would I have done that? Eat my Mom and Dad and Sis? That’s just wrong.”
“Uh, sorry. It’s just, well, Angel did it, and I have an idea something like that happened with Spike, and Charles’ sister, and, well, I kinda thought that it was what always happened.” Fred remembered Harmony’s insistence that she had been ‘clean for eight months’ after showing positive on the test for human blood; that pre-dated Angel’s take-over of Wolfram and Hart and his ‘no killing humans’ regime, and implied that Harmony had been making some kind of effort to reform of her own accord. “Um. Were they, you know, okay about you being a vampire?”
“It was kinda hard for a while,” Harmony admitted. “They had a problem with me eating people and, hey, seeing as how they’re people too I can’t argue with that. It’s much better now that I can say that I’m clean, and in a good job, and these days they’re pretty proud of me. Hey, maybe you could meet them some time?”
“Some time, okay,” Fred agreed, inwardly hoping that the ‘some time’ would be a long way off.
“So, we’re both gonna be kind of alone this Christmas,” Harmony mused. “Well, there’s the people at the office, but no family-type people.”
“I guess,” Fred admitted. She thought she could tell where Harmony was going with this, and she really didn’t want to end up spending Christmas with the vampire, but she couldn’t see how she could avoid it.
“Wolfram and Hart doesn’t go in much for Christmas and Hanukkah and things,” Harmony went on. “I guess ‘goodwill to all men’ isn’t really in the company mission statement. Maybe we should have a Christmas party of our own? I mean us, and Wesley, and Charles, and Lorne, and, uh, Angel, if he does Christmas. And, what about Nina the Werewolf, ‘cause, can I say, there’s some serious crushing on the boss-man going on there? And maybe Knox, ‘cause he’s kinda cute, not like most of the guys who were here before Angel took over, ‘cept that I don’t know if he does Christmas. He might be too evil. Maybe the party should be New Year?”
“Uh, yeah, maybe,” Fred agreed. Suddenly they were committed to a party, and Fred wasn’t sure how it had happened, but it really wasn’t a bad idea. “You haven’t included Spike.”
Harmony bit her lip. “Uh, well, of course I’d like Spike to be there, only there is that thing with him always trying to get a rise out of Angel, and there was that thing with me trying to bite him and some of the things I said to him, and …” Her voice trailed off and she bit her lip again. “I really love him, but he’s always made me so unhappy.”
At a nearby table a pretty dark-haired woman broke off from her conversation and pricked up her ears. “Excuse me a moment,” she told her companion, who was in the middle of a rant about how badly her boyfriend had treated her. “I’ll be back in a second, okay?” She stood up and headed for the bar, making sure that her course took her near to Fred and Harmony.
“I wish I could get over him, and find someone else to love, someone who’d treat me right, and I wish that Spike could meet up with the Slayer again and work things out one way or the other, you get me? ‘Cause I’d kinda like Spike to be happy too. I just think I deserve at least a little payback first. Maybe the Slayer could punch him in the nose, yeah, I wish I could be around when that happens.” Harmony smiled briefly, and then slumped again and gazed glumly into her drink.
Drakaina Poine, oldest of D’Hoffryn’s Vengeance Demons, who had been granting the wishes of wronged women in Ancient Greece fifteen hundred years before anyone had heard of Anyanka, pouted. When she’d heard the mention of Spike – William the Bloody – she’d hoped that there’d be a vengeance wish in the offing, and that it would offer the chance for something truly spectacular. Alas, the result fell far short of her expectations. No exploding viscera, no hideous mutilations, and not even any painful boils; just a punch on the nose.
“Spike does seem to take you pretty much for granted,” Fred agreed. “Maybe you’re right that it won’t work out between you, which is a shame, but I’m not really the right person to give you advice, ‘cause things haven’t gone that smooth for me either. Charles and me had a thing, but he was over-protective, kinda smothering me, and, you know, I got a kinda feeling that Wesley would be the same way. And Knox, well, he’s cute, but I don’t know if I can trust him. I wish I could find someone who’d love me enough to just let me be myself.”
“Same here,” Harmony agreed. “I know I’m not clever like you, and maybe that’s why Spikey never takes me seriously, but with the right guy that wouldn’t matter, would it?” She finished her drink. “Maybe we’d better get on home. It’s been great, Fred. We’ll have to get together tomorrow and make plans for the party, ‘kay?”
Drakaina Poine rolled her eyes. These pathetic wishes were hardly worthy of the name. Still, there was a modicum of violence, and something more might result from the Slayer punching the Slayer of Slayers in the nose, and the girls had used the ‘W’ word. She couldn’t really ignore the wishes. They were worth at least a few points towards her quota, and at least the magic expenditure would be almost nil. “Wishes granted.”
“I want to invite Buffy,” Harmony announced, “and her super-friends.”
“The Slayer?” Fred’s eyebrows climbed towards a new altitude record. “I thought you hated her.”
“I do,” Harmony nodded. “I was totally her arch-nemesis. I kidnapped her sister, and there’s the whole Spike thing, and hey, I wasn’t even friends with her at school.” She sucked in her lower lip and chewed on it. “It’s just, well, there were plenty of times she could have dusted me and she didn’t, and I don’t hate her all that much and I kinda like Willow, and, well, Spikey doesn’t look like he’s ever gonna get around to going to her, so I thought we could bring her here. You think she’d come?”
“There’s no harm in asking, I guess,” Fred said. A trace of a frown showed on her forehead. “It could be kinda, well, interesting, putting Buffy and Angel and Spike all together. Oh, what the hell, let’s go for it.”
“Oh, Fred, there’s a problem come up with the party catering,” Harmony moaned.
“Don’t worry about it, we’ll sort it out,” Fred soothed her. “What’s wrong?”
“Well,” Harmony explained, “I was kinda wanting us vampires to have something more, like, seasonal than otter blood. I asked the supplier if he had anything kinda Arctic. Arctic Fox, Wolverine, Polar Bear, hey, even Reindeer.”
Fred fought to control her natural impulse to screw up her mouth and instead merely raised an eyebrow.
“Well, all he’s sent are these stupid suicidal Arctic rodents!” Harmony complained.
Fred smiled. “Don’t worry about it, Harmony. You know what they say? ‘If life gives you lemmings, make lemmingade’.”
Fred stared at herself in the mirror. She ran her hands over the leather pants that clung to her hips and licked her lips nervously. “Uh, are you sure this is right for me? I’ve never thought of myself as a leather kind of girl.”
“Are you kidding? You are so drop dead gorgeous it’s not true,” Harmony assured her. “That outfit just screams ‘strong independent woman’.”
“You’re sure it doesn’t scream ‘great big ho’?”
Harmony shook her head. “No way, Fred. Definitely ‘strong independent woman’. It will sort the sheep out from the goats, or whatever. If Wesley and Knox aren’t all over you in that it will prove that they can’t deal with the real you. Also, that they have defective eyesight, ‘cause, you look just so totally tasty. Uh, I don’t mean that in a vampire way, you know?”
Fred laughed. “I know, Harmony. Thanks. And thanks for helping me shop, ‘cause I would never have picked this for myself, but you’re right, I do look kinda good, don’t I?”
“You sure do, yeah. Do I look okay? It just sucks not being able to see myself in the mirror.”
“You look just fine, Harmony. More than fine. I never did see Buffy but the once, and that was just in passing, but I don’t recall her looking half as good as you. Maybe Spike’s the one with defective eyesight, or maybe he’ll realize tonight that he’s chasing the wrong blonde.”
Harmony frowned. “Funny, I hadn’t even thought about Spike. I think maybe I’m kinda getting over him at last. Sure, I want to look better than the Slayer, but just for me, not for Spike.” She tossed her head. “I hope the guys are gonna take some notice of me. Which they probably won’t, ‘cause they’re all gonna be too busy noticing you.”
“I don’t know about that, you have a couple of assets that I don’t,” Fred pointed out. “I think you’ll get plenty of attention.” She scrutinized herself in the mirror again. “And, yeah, me too. I just hope that it’s the right kind of attention.”
“It will be, no question,” Harmony said. “You’re sure that I look okay?”
“Way more than just okay, Harmony.”
“Faboo! We are so gonna rock tonight, right?”
“You bet. ‘Tonight’s assignment’,” Fred began a quote from ‘School of Rock’. Harmony grinned and joined in with her to complete the line in chorus. ‘“Kick some ass!’”