Title: Appearances, Preconceptions, and Other Such Lies

Author: Harper

Email: Xfjnky2@yahoo.com

Rating: PG-13-ish

Fandom: Angel

Pairing: Cordelia/Fred

Archiving: Itíll be at http://www.realmoftheshadow.com/harper.htm with the rest of my drivel. If youíd like it, other than the lists that auto-archive, just drop me a note and ask. I promise Iím niceÖ

Disclaimer: I donít own these characters. I donít make any money off of them. I really donít want to get sued either, so just humor me and donít do it.

A/N: This is something Iíd been thinking aboutÖ about how Fred would be, because Iím sure that her time spent in Pylea wasnít full of Martha Stewart home fashions goodness. Anyway, its not that graphic but maybe vaguely hints at things you donít want to think about, so consider yourself warned. Its un-betaíd, so all mistakes are mine. Ignore then, if you please. If youíd like to send feedback, Iíd love to get it. Iíll be at Xfjnky2@yahoo.com.

Iím not completely sure what they did to Fred in Pylea. She wonít tell me outright, but I have a feeling that I know.

Sheís a paradoxÖ you know, one of those things that makes no sense but that just is nonetheless. I know, itís a big fancy word for me, isnít it. Donít worry, I looked it up in the dictionary before I whipped it out.

At first I found her to be little more than an annoyance. I know thatís not a nice thing for me to say, but itís the truth. She was jumpy and shy and obviously in need of some fairly intensive psychological help. Oh, and the boys liked her. I could tell that the boys liked her, that they doted on her and that they babied her and that they were all half-way in love with her, and I didnít like that. Iíd been master of my domain for so long that having to share it made me feel a bit ugly and possessive-like toward her, but it didnít stick.

I couldnít be mad at her. For one thing, she was so completely and utterly clueless about it. She didnít know that sheíd enchanted them all and she quite clearly didnít mean to do it. Iím not sure that the PTSD, severely emotionally scarred persona usually works to reel the men in, but for her it did. Drew them to her like flies to honeyÖ drew me too, but I didnít realize it.

At first I got overprotective, like some misguided big sister gene had suddenly spouted itself a new home on my DNA chain and taken over my brain. I felt compelled to shield her, though what I was going to shield her from wasnít quite clear. Of course, it didnít really matter that I didnít know what I was doing because there was an ample variety of things out there just waiting to snatch up an innocent little bit like her, and I liked to pretend to myself that I was helping fight them off. Of course, back then I wasnít good for fighting off much more than a fashion disaster waiting to happen, but my self-esteem insisted that I think differently. Iím not completely opposed to self-delusion, but Iím proud to say that the attitude is warranted now. Or, at least I think so.

So anyway, there I was, all ready to protect the poor defenseless Fred from the bogeyman or the monsters under her bed or whatever it was that Iíd convinced myself I was doing, when all of a sudden things changed. Actually I think we changed, as people, and things followed right on along behind us. She grew out of the shyness. Not by much, mind you, but by a little and it was that little bit that acted as a catalyst. Granted, I wouldnít want her to lose all of her bumbling, otherworldly charm, of course, because then she wouldnít be who she was and she most definitely wouldnít be the girl I fell for.

Uh-huh, you heard that right. I fell for her. Does that shock you? Which partÖ the fact that I fell for Fred or the fact that I fell for a girl at all. Iím guessing that the ďfell for a girl at allĒ part is whatís got you in its crosshairs right now, so let me go ahead and put your minds to rest. It wasnít the first time, and if this thing with Fred doesnít work out, it wonít be the last. You remember Buffy? Liked to pretend that she was the All-American girl next door Iím a blonde so I can do no wrong Slayer. Not like Faith, who was all wrong, all the time. Faith came first, well, with me that is. Seduced me before I even knew what real seduction was, then left me just as quickly. Not that Iíd developed any grand illusions, of course, because anyone could tell just by looking at Faith that she wasnít relationship material. She was more like cheap tawdry affair material, and thatís what we had. Well actually, not technically an affair per se. Iím not sure that one night stands count as affairs, and anyway, sheís just a side note in this little tale, so Iíll be moving on now.

After my less than gracious introduction to the world of girl/girl love, I went looking for someone else. I needed to see if this was what I wanted, if this was where my future was headed, and lo and behold Buffy Summers walked right into my plan. Literally, actually, into a failed seduction attempt on Willow, who was obviously in her pre-Sapphic days at the time because otherwise I sincerely doubt that I would have failed. Anyway, the redhead didnít pick up on what I was doing but apparently Buffy did because next thing you know Iíve got my hands full of overly outraged best friend. Didnít want me messing with her pure and precious little Willow, for reasons that Iím quite sure she never fully admitted to herself. I guess it was something about the fire that I saw in those normally somewhat placid hazel eyes as she bitched me out, but before I even planned on it happening, I was kissing her.

So, Buffy and IÖ that must have increased your surprise level by ten-fold, I suppose. I know I was shocked. I mean, Iíd never even contemplated the possibility that I might hook up with the Queen of Pastels, but apparently my hormone doused brain didnít stop to think about things like rejection or ramifications because it took the initiative and landed me squarely in her bed. Not a bad place to be, by the wayÖ

But anyway, it was nice and she was a great lover, but she had a thing for Angel and I had a thing for my reputation, so it eventually went the way of a mid-season replacement sitcom. It was probably for the best though because that girl had major issues and I was so not ready to deal with anything like that at the time. It was still me living in shallow Cordelia-land back before the world saw fit to humble me, and I doubt that a relationship between myself and the blonde one would have ended in anything other than a debacle.

Post-Buffy I was partnerless for a little while. It was okay though, because I was still recovering from that whole rebar through the stomach incident and not quite in the best of shape for action, which is why I choose to think of that time in my life not as a dry spell but as a period of rejuvenation.

The move to LA opened up a whole big wide world of possibilities, though. Tons of pretty girls with sadly so little brains to go around, and I went through my wild finally away from home and can do whatever I want phase. It was a short phase, really, because getting together with Angel and starting down this whole path for the betterment of mankind put a major crimp in my love-life, but I never had been looking to be a raving slut anyway. So, I found this heretofore hidden altruistic streak, slowed things down, and contented myself with the occasional fling as I moved head first into this new chapter of my life.

Things were always odd in my life, but you already know that, and Iím thinking that history lesson time is nearing an end. I tend to lose my focus and ramble if you donít remind me, and someone clearly let me go on a bit too long. Perhaps it was simply because that someone was a bit too interested in my past sexual history, but I digress. Anyway, we were at me falling for Fred, right?

FredÖ she was beautiful. Well, when you got past the look of wide-eyed innocence and the apparent lack of fashion sense she was. Classically beautiful in that ďGlass Menagerie unicorn collectionĒ kind of way, and I wanted her bad. But, taking another small deviation, for those of you who donít know where I was going with that, letís see if I can explain. She had a certain fragility to her if you will, a sense that she was real but not, like she was a collection of finely spun translucent and ephemeral threads of the most delicate of glass, and you could stare at her for hours until the need to touch her became overwhelming, but you didnít want to touch for fear that you might break her. Still donít get it? Nothing I can do to help you then, Iím afraid.

By this time, Iíd moved from the protective phase to the covetous phase, but there was something about Fred that made me back off, that made me want to leave her in her naÔve little bubble, untouched and untouchable. I guess Iím trying to say that I didnít want to ruin her, didnít want to somehow sully the goodness that was Winifred Burkle. Of course, I didnít know then what I know now, though I canít say that even if I had it would have changed things.

Actually, to be quite honest, I donít really know how things did change. I say that and you laugh like Iím kidding you, but I donít know. This tension developed between us, and I thought that I was the only one who knew, that I was the only one who recognized it. After all, Fred was, in my opinion, clearly too innocent to grasp what was going on and the boys, as always, were clueless. So, I decided to suffer in silence like the martyr that Iím so clearly not. I took her under my wing, became her bestest of buddies, and thought that Iíd be happy with that, thought that prolonged exposure to the object of my affections would do something to decrease the fervor of my crush, my lust, my semi-obsession.

In the end, it was Fred who solved everything. We were sitting there one day, out in the little courtyard with the tacos that sheíd convinced me to buy us for lunch, when she looked at me, those wide brown eyes seemingly suddenly full of a knowledge that I didnít know she possessed.

ďI know you want me,Ē she said, and I nearly choked. As it was, I made an idiot of myself, coughing and drinking down half of my Dasani in one gulp in an effort to recover from that little revelation. I know that I must have looked like a cornered rat, eyes wide, knowing that I was trapped but still searching in vain for some way out of my predicament.

I muttered something, some inane reply, but she didnít even pay attention to it. Those hypnotic eyes were still focused on me despite all of the sputtering and the half-hearted denials, and when I finally finished trying to rebut what sheíd just said, she sent me into paroxysms of disbelief and, well, okayÖ fearÖ again.

ďI want you, too.Ē

And there it was, as simple as anything ever could be, yet probably more complex than any other encounter that Iíd ever had in my life up until that point. Where do you go from there, from this calm acceptance of what Fred clearly thought was an acceptable fact? I didnít know what to do, so I sat in silence, my normally quick thinking brain apparently having deserted me completely in my time of need.

And then she giggled. Giggled like she was a little girl who had just shared a secret, and I was so relieved that I giggled too. She kept on giggling and then covered her mouth with her hand like she was ashamed of being so happy without a reason, and before I knew it, Iíd leaned over and kissed her.

I know, youíre thinking about my apparent impetuosity again. Thinking that maybe those hormones hadnít died down yet despite the age and wisdom that I should have acquired over the recent past few years, but I think you should ask yourself if you could have resisted if you were in my shoes. Resisted Fred sitting there with her slim shoulders shaking with laughter and her eyes so enchanting behind the thick frames of her glasses, and the declaration of her attraction to me still hanging heavily in the air. Think you could have? Well, youíre a stronger woman that me.

When I kissed her, she tasted spicy yet cool, like guacamole and sour cream and the exotic hotness of whatever theyíd used in the tacos weíd been eating, and I thought it was wonderful. We were sitting there, the warm sun on our shoulders and her lips burning into mine. I was surprised to feel her fingers winding into the hair at my nape, shocked when her tongue flicked out and brushed against mineÖ Iíd always figured myself as the aggressor in the scenes my mind had concocted about that moment, our first kiss. I mean, Fred just didnít seem like the kind of girl who would be big into taking the initiative, but I was wrong about that apparently. So very wrong because sheíd quickly kissed me into a steaming pile of nerves and when she pulled away I seriously considered begging for more.

I didnít beg though, because I was still clinging to the misguided belief that I was in charge somehow. I wasnít, and I know that now, know that I lost out on that battle before it even thought about happening.

We didnít jump right into bed following our kiss in the courtyard though Iíll admit that I probably wouldnít have minded too much if weíd walked right up that staircase to her room. It was fun to be clandestine though, to learn those things about one another that you donít find out when youíre simply just friends. I even courted her, I think. Well, looking back on it, I most definitely courted her. We went out, to dinner and to the movies and to anywhere she wanted to go, even if spending my Friday night listening to one of the greatest mathematicians that the world had ever known give a speech wasnít quite my idea of excitement. But, I got to hold her hand for the whole excruciatingly boring hour and a half and the mind-numbing topic gave me plenty of time to covertly check out her form in the new dress that Iíd convinced her she had to have, so it wasnít a complete waste. And later that night she promised me that sheíd make it up to me somehow, and I left her at the hotel on shaky legs that barely managed to get me all the way back to my apartment.

We were progressing with what I considered to be infinite slowness toward the ultimate consummation of our relationship, but I figured that I needed to give Fred time. After all, sheíd been out of the dating scene for quite some time and I wasnít at all convinced that sheíd really been a part of it before the whole Pylea thing, so I was going to take it slow. It was the right thing to do, in my opinion, and Fred seemed to be comfortable with our pace so that was all that mattered.

Finally though, after what seemed like a lifetime but was probably a lot closer to about two months, we took that step. Oh, and I know youíre laughing at me now, saying that two months isnít anywhere near close to a lifetime, but when you spend every single day with the object of your attraction, it seems like a lot longer.

It started out like any other date-type night between us, except this time she told me that she wanted to stay in, that she didnít want to have to get dressed up and face the world at large. I capitulated immediately because I wasnít exactly adverse to the thought of spending the evening holed up with Fred. Thatís how we found ourselves at my place watching movies, a bowl full of decadently buttery popcorn resting between my thighs. I put it there on purpose so that sheíd have to lean over to grab the sticky treatÖ mind out of the gutter you pervs. The popcorn, remember. I even know what we were watching. Iíd rentedÖ well, okay, I owned Bring It On and had convinced her that she was missing a film classic. It had cute girls and lots of cheerleading, both things that I fully appreciated, so you fine artsy types can just back down right now. Besides, itís a lot funnier than youíd think, especially if youíre not opposed to getting your comedy on the low brow end of the spectrum and anyway, Fred liked it.

Of course, by the end weíd denigrated into groping teenagers, so it didnít really matter that it fell into the abyss of happy feel good cookie cutter brainless movie endings. Fred was obviously feeling frisky because Iíd lost my tee-shirt before they even reached the National Championships, and the popcorn had long ago been sacrificed to the need for closeness. Luckily Dennis cleaned it all up before the butter could stain the carpet because I certainly wasnít overly concerned with the welfare of my home furnishings at that particular moment.

By the time weíd made it to the bedroom I think Iíd asked her if she was sure about two hundred times. Sheíd answered me with a combination of kisses and yesís, and Iíd decided that Iíd done my duty as far as the whole thing went. I mean, you canít take advantage of someone who stripped off your pants of their own volition really, but even despite that Iíd made sure that Iíd gotten the verbal okay as well. It was all an exercise in futility though, but I didnít know that at the time so youíll have to forgive me.

To say that Fred changed when we became more intimately involved would be to make a gross understatement. I didnít realize in those first few seconds, when I was looking at the beauty of her lithe form as highlighted by the shafts of moonlight sneaking past my blinds, that anything was different. Sure, she seemed a bit more sure of herself, but I attributed that to the fact that she was horny. It seemed, at the time, as good of an explanation as any.

And then she joined me on the bed. I was lost, a victim to her sensual assault, and when she wrapped my hands around the headboard and commanded me not to move, I obeyed. After all, it was really, really hot and my libido had clearly taken over my higher brain functions. But then, she started doing things to my body that I had no idea had even occurred to Fred. There was her voice, warm breath passing through her lush lips burning against the shell of my ear as she said things and used words that I didnít even know Fred knew. It was erotic yet disconcerting at the same time, but I didnít have enough of my normal intelligence left at the moment to consider the phenomenon.

I was hers, from the writhing of my hips to the thoughts sheíd implanted in my brain, and it was only later, when weíd finally sated our passion and she lay beside me sleeping the sleep of the innocent that she so clearly was not that I was able to think about it all. This Fred, the one that Iíd just discovered that very night, had sides to her that I didnít understand. Sheíd been in command, had twisted me to her every whim, had used those delicate looking hands to mold me into someone that I didnít even recognize. It was as if she were a different person in that realm, and it wasnít for quite some time that I figured out that she wasÖ a different person, that is.

You see, Fred had been crafted herself, shaped into what she became with me by hands that sheíd left in another world. I didnít want to think about it, didnít want to think about where sheíd learned to do the things she did, didnít want to think about what had so obviously been done to her before, but there wasnít any way around it. Not when my body bore the evidence, the bruises from a touch that was just a little bit too rough, the marks of teeth that had bitten just a little bit too deep, the fulfilling soreness left by having her fold her thumb up into her hand just before she slipped it inside me. And the way she spoke to me, those words of possession, the crude terms that seemed to just flow out of her mouthÖ yes, this Fred had been taught to be who she was.

I guess I should have protested, but I didnít. Part of me fully admits that I didnít say a thing about it because I enjoyed it perhaps a bit too much more than I should have. Part of me knows that I just didnít want to dredge up memories that neither of us could handle. The rest of meÖ well, the rest of me is probably just a coward.

So anyway, like I said, I donít really know what they did to Fred in Pylea.

I have my suspicions, though, that every night, she shows me.


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