Rupert Giles set the phone down with a frown. That had been a call he hadn’t expected to get. Poor Wesley. The younger man had been trying to do the right thing, for Angel and for Connor. Now Connor was missing, taken into another dimension by Daniel Holtz, and Wesley was nowhere to be found. This girl—Fred, he could hear the worry in her voice but also something else. He knew Angel well enough to know that things would not bode well for Wes if the vampire found him first. He needed to go there, needed to be there for Wesley, and possibly Fred since he wasn’t sure what the others would do to her when they found out she had called them.
He wasn’t looking forward to facing the vampire again, but at least it was better than the mockery his life had become now. Watcher to a bloody bot that had not a shred of the life and vitality of the girl whose face she wore.
Grabbing the cordless, he went upstairs into the loft and began to pack. He packed light – a bag of clothes and a small bag of weapons. Going to his bookshelves, he removed the yearbook from the kid’s graduation. He flipped through the pages until his eyes fell on the section reserved for prom pictures. He smiled sadly, seeing the picture of himself and Wesley, standing by the refreshment table. Tearing the picture out, he pocketed it.
Now...who to call? He knew Dawn and Willow might not understand his need to leave for a bit. They didn’t realize how miserable he was with the way things were at the moment. Tara,
he thought with a smile. Dialing the number to Buffy’s, he waited.
“H—hello?” the shy voice answered. He thought she might. She had been carrying most of the load, looking after all of them as best she could. The girl had such a giving heart, putting her own pain aside to help them through theirs.
“Tara? Listen. I didn’t want to alarm anyone by my disappearance, but I need to go to L.A. for a bit. A friend is in a spot of trouble and needs my help. I wanted to let someone know, in case of emergency. Dawn still has the keys to my flat, so if you need any books that you can’t find at the Magic Box, you can most likely find them here,” he explained.
“Okay,” the girl replied softly. “How long will you be gone?”
“I’m not entirely certain. It seems to be a rather sizable mess. I’ll take my mobile. As soon as I find out where I’ll be staying, I’ll call you and give you the information.” He smiled when she made a noise of surprise. She knew he despised that cell phone, so if he was taking it, it must be bad.
“Is...is your friend all right?” She asked.
“Honestly, I don’t know. He’s missing, and I need to find him before someone else does. I expect I’ll be gone a few weeks minimally. Have Spike and that blasted bucket of bolts keep patrolling. Tell Dawn that I still expect her to do her homework without me standing over her shoulder. If she lets her marks fall, I will
know about it. And I’ll need you and Willow to be there for her. If you have any questions, you can call me. I’ll be a bit busy, so if I don’t answer, leave a message, and I’ll call you back.” He picked up his bags from the bed, and took them downstairs. “I have to get going, Tara. Time is of the essence. I’ll keep in touch.” He smiled. “Bye.”
Hanging up the receiver, he grabbed his leather jacket and slid it on. He tucked a few stakes inside, as well as a large dagger. Giles eyed his katana, debating on taking it or not, then mentally shrugged, knowing he didn’t really have the time. Picking it up, he grabbed both of his bags and deposited them in the boot of his car. Behind the wheel, he calculated his route and speed, knowing he could be in LA in just under three hours. Then he started the car and backed out of his spot while sending a silent prayer up for Wesley’s safety.*****
Fred felt like she was going lose it soon. Justine thought Wesley was dead. The bitch had done something to him and thought he was dead, and if she had killed him, Fred was going to track her down and do much more than give her a bloody nose because she knew how to build things – things that could cut a person in half – and even though she didn’t like the idea of killing people, she would definitely make an exception for Justine, the bitch who had hurt Wesley, possibly even killed him.
“We already checked around his apartment,” Gunn complained as he pulled out in front of Wesley’s building again. “Even went dumpster diving. He’s not here.”
“She did something to him. He’s gotta be around here.” Before the truck had even come to a stop, she jumped out and looked around. Then, not even caring that it was late at night, she started yelling, “Wesley! Wesley, can you hear me?”
Without waiting for an answer, she ran into the park, suddenly realizing that she and Charles hadn’t bothered to check it before and ready to kick herself for it. She continued to yell his name as she moved further into the park, circling around a tree, praying to find—suddenly, her eyes fell upon a dark shape slumped behind a group of bushes, and her heart fell into her stomach.
“Wesley!” she screamed again, running over and dropping to the ground next to him. Please be alive. Please be alive. Pleasepleasepleaseplease,
she repeated to herself silently as she rolled him over. As she did, she looked down at her hand and saw it was covered in blood – he was completely covered in blood. Oh, god, the bitch had slit his throat. Justine had slit his throat and left him to die, and she had gotten there too late. “Oh, God, no.”
She didn’t answer Charles. Instead, she pressed her blood-covered hand to Wesley’s throat and practically cried in relief when she felt a weak but still there
pulse. He was alive.
“Call an ambulance!” she yelled. Oh, thank god, he’s still alive.
It seemed to take forever for the ambulance to arrive as she sat with Wesley on the ground, holding her hands to his neck, trying to staunch the flow of blood, knowing it probably was useless but having to try anyway. Gunn tried to pull her away several times, telling her there was nothing they could do, that she was endangering herself and making herself a vampire beacon, but she didn’t care
. She wasn’t going to let him go. She wasn’t going to let him die alone if he was going to die, and she wasn’t going to let him die.
When the ambulance finally did show up, she finally allowed Gunn to pull her away. They watched as the paramedics loaded him into the rig, working on him to stop the bleeding.
“We have to go to the hospital,” Fred said, in a tone that told Gunn she wouldn’t take no for an answer. So they got back into the pick-up and followed the ambulance all the way. Shaking, she reached into her pocket and pulled out her cell phone, punching up the number she had just programmed in that night.
Giles was just entering the city limits when his cell phone rang. Keeping one hand on the wheel, he reached into his pocket and withdrew the tiny item. He grumbled, having a hard time getting it opened with one hand but, after a few rings, managing it. “Hello?”
“Giles, it’s Fred. We’ve found him. And it’s bad. Really, really bad.”
His brow furrowed in concern at the sound of her voice, more than her words. “I’ve just passed the city limits. Tell me what hospital they’ve taken him to, and I’ll meet you there in roughly thirty minutes. Possibly less.” He debated on whether to call on a spell to shield him from the police and really test the limits of the BMW’s engine.
Fred thought for a moment, trying to remember the hospital that the paramedics had yelled to them before taking off. “St. Patricia’s. It’s not far from where Wesley lives.” She took a deep breath, wanting the ambulance to just get
there, so they could help him. He couldn’t die. This was Wesley. He couldn’t die. He had been trying to help – he had been trying to save Connor and Angel. He couldn’t let that bitch win.
“I know where it is.” He glanced down at his watch. “I should be there in about fifteen minutes.” Then he heard the shakiness in her breathing and felt obligated to try to help her. This was the woman his friend loved with every fiber of his being. “Don’t worry, Fred, Wesley’s strong...and I happen to know, from personal experience, stubborn as a mule,” he added in a slightly lighter tone. “He’ll make it. He won’t give up without one hell of a fight.”
He sighed, wondering if he should keep her on the phone to try and take her mind off of her worry, but then decided against it. Wesley deserved to have people worry about him. And everything he had heard from the younger man regarding Fred was turning out to be true.
“I’ll see you there. Thank you, for calling me,” he told her sincerely.
“Thank you for coming down,” she whispered back. “I’ll see you there. Wesley needs all the friends he can get.” Without bothering to explain further, she said goodbye to Giles and hung up the phone, noticing Charles’ eyes flicking her direction even though he was trying to concentrate on keeping up with the ambulance.
“Who was that?”
“A friend of Wesley’s from Sunnydale. I found his number at the apartment in with his notes and called him while you were down checking the garage.
“A friend of English’s? You called a complete stranger and told him what was going on?”
She nodded. “Yeah, I did. Figured he might have known what had happened. And he’s on his way now and is gonna meet us at the hospital.”
Before they could say discuss the situation any further, they finally reached St. Patricia’s. While Gunn went to park the truck, Fred jumped out and followed the paramedics as they wheeled Wesley into the emergency room. They took him back into one of the trauma rooms. One of the nurses kept her outside, trying to talk to her and asking her for information. She could barely keep track of what she was saying – his name, his age, what she knew about what had happened – because she kept looking into the room, trying to see what was going on. Charles appeared at some point though she wasn’t sure when.
Suddenly, she saw something happening. They were pushing the gurney Wesley was on toward the door, which swung open.
“What’s going on?!” she asked.
“We’re taking him to surgery,” someone answered before they disappeared down the corridor.
Fred looked back helplessly toward the nurse, who told her, “The operating rooms are on the second floor. I’ll have someone show you the way.”
Suddenly, Gunn grabbed her arm. “You’re not seriously thinking of staying are you?”
“This is Wesley, of course, I am!” she said.
“But Fred, he’s—.”
“Hurt! And that’s all I care about right now. He needs us here!”*****
Giles’ car came to a screeching halt in the handicap space closest to the door. He knew he shouldn’t condone Willow’s habit of hacking official organizations’ websites to get them easier access, but in this case, it allowed him to park fast and get inside. After slapping the handicap decal on the edge of his window, he jumped out of the car and ran into the hospital. He was about to ask at the desk where Wesley was but came to a stop dead in his tracks. At the end of the hall, a large dark man had his hand around a petite woman’s arm and was holding on tight despite her attempts to pull away. Must be Gunn,
he thought, recognizing him from Wesley’s description. He already didn’t like the pillock.
He walked toward them, his green eyes flashing dangerously. “Is there a problem here?” he asked with only a slight edge in his voice.
Gunn glanced over at the man who had intruded. “Just a private conversation between me and my girl here. I’d thank you not to get involved.”
Definitely Gunn. Wanker needed to be taken down a rung – or ten. So this was the man Wesley had given a lot for. “A man of roughly six-four decides to manhandle a woman a quarter of his size? Consider me involved,” Giles warned. “And last I checked, human beings belonged to themselves first. If she wants to stay, she stays. Touch her again the way you are now, and...well, let’s just say it’s a good thing we’re in a hospital.”
Fred was hugely surprised when the man stepped in and got involved in her fight with Charles. Then, as soon as he began speaking, she had realized who he was. The accent was a tip-off, of course, but his manner more than anything else told her that this man was a Watcher and someone who dealt with the same evils they did. In any event, his interference allowed her to pull herself away from Gunn’s grip. She decided to deal with him before introducing herself to the new arrival and thanking him for what he had done. “I’m going upstairs. You can go home if you want, but I’m staying until he’s out of surgery and wakes up.”
“You’re not even the least bit upset at what he did? He took Connor! He believed in a fake prophecy and decked Lorne and took Connor! You think Angel is gonna forgive him after that? You think any of us should? He lied to us!”
Giles felt a growl work up from his chest at the younger man’s tone when he talked about Wesley. “You’re a bloody fool,” he told him, shaking his head in annoyance. Turning his attention to Fred momentarily, he still kept his body coiled, ready for an attack from Gunn. Bullies were all the same. “Hello, Fred. What do you say we go up together,” he smiled warmly, making sure to keep the other man in his peripheral vision.
She smiled at him, stepping over to him and away from Charles. “Nice to finally meet you, Giles,” she said, holding out her hand to shake his. She almost had to laugh when she saw Gunn’s face at her knowing the other man’s name. “I’m not sure how long he’s going to be in surgery, but I want to be up there when he gets out.”
“Fred!” Gunn balked.
“Look, Charles, I’m not going to say this again – you can come up with us or go home. Either way, I’m staying here.”
Giles smiled at that. Wesley was right, she had a big heart. In many ways, she reminded him of Willow – both were women who by all outward appearances seemed a bit on the mousey side, but the power and depth of caring which lay underneath was phenomenal. He wasn’t a fool, and he’d be willing to bet that she wasn’t either. She undoubtedly knew her determination to stay here for Wesley would have repercussions with the others. And still she wanted to stay. He wanted to shake her hand, but when she extended it, it was coated in dried blood. His eyes filled with concern.
“Is that Wesley’s blood?” he asked worriedly. He could tell by the look in her eyes that she had forgotten it was there. “Come on. Once we figure out where we can wait, we’ll get that cleaned off.”
His voice had been gentle and soothing when directed at Fred, but when Charles Gunn opened his mouth to protest once again, it took that same hard edge. “You heard the lady, Charles. Now either come upstairs or sod off. Personally, I don’t care what you choose.”
“You’re making a mistake,” Gunn pointed out. “When Angel finds out...”
“Angel can go to hell,” he growled.
Fred shook her head, knowing that they weren’t going to get anywhere with him. “Let’s just go,” she said to Giles quietly.
“You’re all bloody hypocrites,” he added, nodding when Fred started moving.
Leaving Charles behind to decide what he wanted to do, they headed in the direction the nurses and doctors had taken Wesley’s gurney earlier. A nurse pointed them to the elevators that would take them to the second floor, and while they waited, Fred finally looked down at herself. Now she understood why Giles had looked at her the way he did – she had hadn’t realized how much blood was on her hands and her shirt.
“Oh, God,” she whispered.
He could see the shock building in her eyes as she stared down at herself. “Fred, hang on.”
He jogged over to the Nurse’s station and got her a hospital scrub top to change into. Tucking it under his arm, he then returned and gently touched her elbow, leading her to the elevator.
“He’s gonna be okay, isn’t he? He lost so much blood, Giles. There was so much of it on the ground when I found him, and all I could think about was holding it in and keeping him from losing anymore because I couldn’t let him die. I don’t want him to die.”
His heart went out to her. She was definitely in shock now. He couldn’t help Wesley until he was out of surgery, but he could help Fred. It would be what his friend wanted. “Fred, I’ve known Wesley for about four years. He’s stubborn. If he was hanging on when you found him, he’ll pull through. I’ll be in L.A. for a while to get him back on his feet. I would welcome your help if you wish to give it, but I also understand if you can’t.”
She wanted to believe him – after all, she had heard stories from the others about how much Wesley had been through and survived. Getting hit, getting shot, getting kidnapped. She knew he was strong. But she had seen the blood. He was unbelievably lucky that a vampire hadn’t smelled it and come to turn him into a feast.
When they stepped out of the elevator, he stopped when they neared the restroom. Opening the door, he put the scrub top on a hook. “Fred, here. Why don’t you wash your hands and change your top? I’ll wait for you.”
“Thank you,” she said before going into the bathroom.
Giles waved off her thanks with a sad smile. He was concerned for her, knowing that what she was feeling now, it would come on fast, and she wouldn’t be able to stop it. He sighed when she closed the door. Wesley might be the one fighting for his life, physically...but Fred was fighting for hers, emotionally. Both of them would need him in one way or another.
After locking the door, she stared at herself in the mirror for a moment – her hair was everywhere in wild curls and she looked like a raccoon with the circles underneath her eyes – then tugged her shirt off over her head and dropped it to the floor, forcing herself not to look at it again. Instead, she set to work cleaning the blood of her hands and arms. The red water washed down the drain, swirling like it was any other type of water and not Wesley’s blood.
Suddenly feeling her stomach revolt and unable to stop it, she quickly twisted and dropped to her knees to grab the toilet, tears running down her face as she threw up.
Outside, Giles tilted his head to the side, hearing the sounds of retching. Looking both ways, he removed two picks from his pocket, sliding them into the lock. At least there was some advantage to his deviant teenage years. He smiled when he heard the lock click easily. He silently moved into the bathroom, taking care not to be seen, then closed the door behind him and locked it. His brow furrowing in concern, he squatted down next to the helpless girl on the floor. “Easy, just let it come... don’t fight it,” he murmured, placing a hand on her back to offer some sort of comfort.
Fred jumped a bit when the hand fell on her back and looked up at Giles in surprise. “God, look at me. Wesley’s in the operating room fighting for his life, and I’m in here crying like...like I don’t know what.”
“You’re crying like someone terrified for their friend. It’s not a crime, Fred,” he explained, reaching into his pocket for a handkerchief and passing it to her.
She held up her hands, which were now streaked just a bit with red. “I just—when I saw it going down the drain...I couldn’t...Wesley was the one that took care of me when I—when we came back...when Angel left. I just realized that. He was the one that took care of me, and now I feel so helpless ‘cause I can’t help him or take care of him. We have to wait and—I don’t like it.”
He put a finger under her chin and lifted her eyes to meet his. “You did
help him, you found him. You weren’t willing to stop looking despite what that wanker downstairs said. Now, at least, he has a good chance...because of you
.” He sighed, knowing that he should explain in some part what he knew. “I knew about the prophecy. He wanted me to double check his translation, no doubt praying I would tell him he had got it wrong.”
“Oh God, Giles, why didn’t he tell us
what was going on? I would’ve helped him. He should’ve told us, but he didn’t, and now he could die because of that bitch.”
He looked to the side when she asked that. “Would you have? Would Charles have even let you? Wesley has told me about all of you...you in particular. He said he tried to get you involved, but any time he would give Charles an assignment, the pillock would insist on taking you along, twisting the knife even deeper in his gut. A dog only has to be kicked so many times before they stop trying.”
“You’re saying that Charles...?” she whispered, feeling like she was going to be sick again. “He was trying to keep me away from Wesley? From helping him?” Thinking back on everything that had happened the last few weeks, the whirl of emotions, being in a new relationship, working on all the cases that Charles had taken her with him on, keeping her too busy and distracted to actually talk to Wesley—Oh, God, how could she have been so stupid?
“I didn’t know.” Her mouth felt dry, not to mention disgusting from the aftertaste of the bile. “I didn’t know. After everything that happened, I didn’t...I wasn’t sure he...and Charles was...” Freed from slavery, and she was still letting people—letting Charles treat her like something to boss around and control. “I made a horrible mistake, Giles. I should never have...” Kissed Charles...
“Let it get this far. I should have realized. God, I hope Wesley can forgive me.”
“We always forgive those we love.” He reached up and tucked a stray curl behind her ear. “He loves you enough to want you to be happy, even if that wasn’t with him,” he explained.
He didn’t want to tell her anymore. The rest should be Wesley’s to tell, but it was clear that this Charles Gunn had been looking for some sort of trophy in his relationship with the thin woman in front of him. And he was angry not only for Fred but also for Wesley. That was one situation he couldn’t allow to stand. Standing, he extended a hand to her, helping her to her feet slowly.
“I hope he will,” she replied softly. The revelation that Wesley loved her was both surprising and not. She couldn’t explain it – somehow she had convinced herself that he wasn’t interested in her in that way and had ignored her own feelings. Why? She wasn’t sure. Maybe because she wanted to convince herself that being with Gunn was all right because he actually wanted
Apparently, he wasn’t the only one. She and Wesley would have a lot to talk about once he recovered.
“Come on,” he said, gently. “Why don’t you finish getting cleaned up, and we’ll go check on him.”
Suddenly, she realized that she standing there in a front of a man she had known a scant few minutes in nothing but her bra and jeans. Somehow, though, she didn’t feel embarrassed or exposed. Turning back to the sink, she finished cleaning up while Giles waited, washing away the last of the blood then splashing her face and rinsing out her mouth. When she turned to get the scrub top, Giles handed it to her, having taken it down from the hook. She quickly pulled it on over her head before picking up her discarded blouse and dumping it in the biohazard bin. “Okay...I’m ready...I think.”
“Come on, then. Let’s go check on our boy.”
He placed his hand on her back and led her out of the bathroom. It took them about five minutes of following the signs to find the waiting area for the operating rooms. He escorted Fred to a seat and was about to take the one next to her but looked up as he saw the door open. Someone he could only assume was a doctor approached the waiting area.
“Fred.” He nodded with his head as the doctor moved toward them.
“Are you here for Mister Wyndam-Pryce?” the woman asked.
“Yes, how is he?” Giles asked, frowning when the woman sighed.
“He’ll make it. We had to go in and repair his vocal cords. And he’ll be weak for a day or two from the blood loss. But he’ll live. He’s not to talk for at least a week.” She broke off when she saw a ghost of a smile pass the man’s lips.
“I’m sorry, but you’d have to know Wesley to know why I find that amusing. He’s going to hate it,” Giles explained.
“Hate it or not, he must comply, or he could bust the stitches and begin bleeding. Once he’s home, he’ll have to stick to soft foods for at least a month, nothing that can scratch his throat. He needs someone there to keep an eye on him,” the doctor insisted.
“He’ll have me. I’ll be staying with him until he’s back at full health.”
“Good, we’re moving him to a private room, in about fifteen minutes. He should come out of the anesthetic soon. If the two of you wait here, you can walk down with us,” she offered. “Are you family?”
Giles didn’t miss a beat. “Yes. Wesley is my half-brother, and Miss Burkle is his fiancée,” he lied, having been in hospitals enough to know why the doctor was asking.
Fred was surprised when he referred to her as Wesley’s fiancée but knew well enough to let it go. Charles was going to hate it; however, if it was the only way they’d be allowed to stay with Wesley past visiting hours, she didn’t care. In fact, she definitely didn’t care what Charles thought about anything anymore. All she cared about was that fact that Wesley was going to survive and that he was going to need them. She wasn’t planning on going anywhere until he was better. And possibly not even then. It was going to be a long hard recovery – especially if he couldn’t talk – but at least he was going all right.
“All right, the two of you may stay. I’ll arrange for a cot to be moved into his room. One of you will have to take the couch. Any friends will be restricted to visiting hours.” She looked at the man and woman, giving them a nod before turning and heading back through the doors she had just come from.
Once they were alone, Fred turned to Giles and impulsively threw her arms around him, giving him a hug. “He’s going to be okay. Oh, thank god.” She found herself crying again. “I’m so glad he’s gonna be all right.”
Giles hadn’t expected her to hug him, but when she did, he wrapped his arms around her, tamping down on the instinct to curl himself around her. He smiled, now understanding what Wesley felt when they had first brought her home. There was something about Fred that made you want to protect her. He began rubbing soothing circles on her back.
“Shhhhh, it’s all right. We’ll take care of him, and he’ll be right as rain in no time.” He had been used to dealing with crying women. Dawn, Willow—his heart constricted when he thought about his beloved Buffy. He needed something to distract him from the pain, the loneliness. But was that why he was really here? He told himself no. He genuinely cared what happened to Wesley. The friendship they had developed over the last two years was strong and important to him.
“Hey,” he rested his chin on Fred’s head. “I only brought one handkerchief, and at this rate we’ll have to wring it out,” he teased. “He’s going to be all right; that’s no cause for tears, is it?”
She found herself laughing – even though it was a bit watery – at that. “I know. Can’t help it sometimes. I think I kept it in for so long, for so many years, that now sometimes I just switch on like a water faucet.”
The way he was rubbing her back was doing wonders to relax her, and for the first time in weeks, she realized how tense she had been about everything. It felt nice being held like this – no strings and no pushing. Resting her head against Giles’ chest, she sighed softly, glad she had called him. She didn’t think either she or Wesley would have been able to get through this without his help. Not if they had to deal with the others.
“I’ll have to remember that. And to pocket an extra handkerchief.”
He chuckled, partially at his attempt to tease her but mostly in relief. His friend would live to fight another day. Giles had no illusions that Wesley would just spring back. After the physical healing would come the emotional. He knew the other man would be harboring a lot of guilt and pain for what he would believe was failing – failing Angel, failing his friends...but most of all, failing young Connor. He knew a bit more about Wesley’s past than the others. The younger man could stand up to any demon in the world, except the ones within himself, the ones put there by his father.
He was drawn from his thoughts by a voice, causing him to instantly relax his hold around Fred. “Um...excuse me,” the female doctor said from behind them. Fred turned around in his arms. “We’re moving Mister Wyndam-Pryce now if you’d like to come with us.”
“Yes,” he replied, leaving his arm over Fred’s shoulders as they followed the bed being wheeled down the hall.
Wesley was hooked up to all kinds of tubing, an IV in each arm. Giles could clearly see that one was infusing blood. He mentally kicked himself. Of course it was infusing blood. With the amount Fred had had on her, he could only imagine how much had been lost on the ground. Hopefully, that one could be removed soon.
“Is he...?” Giles shook his head, trying to gather his thoughts. He didn’t want to say the wrong thing and set Fred off again. “How much more?” he asked the doctor, nodding to the blood bag.
“Oh,” the doctor replied, catching his meaning. “We gave him two pints during surgery. This is his last one. We should be able to disconnect it in about 40 minutes.”
As the orderlies turned into a room, Giles could feel the tension in Fred’s shoulders and felt guilty that he had to hold her back while the orderlies made Wesley comfortable. When they were finished, they left immediately, so only the doctor remained.
“Thank you, doctor. He’s...he’s important to us,” Giles replied, letting go of Fred so she could move to Wesley’s side.
“It was my pleasure. It’ll take some time, but he’ll be okay,” the doctor reassured him with a smile. Giles shook her hand and waited for her to exit.
“Fred? Will you stay here with him? It’s been a bit of a drive. I thought since we were going to be here for awhile, I might go get us some coffee,” he suggested softly.
She nodded at that, realizing that she couldn’t remember now how long she had been awake. “That sounds good, thanks.”
Once he had left, she looked down at Wesley, picking up his limp hand and holding it in hers. He felt cold, but at least he was alive. “I’m here, Wesley,” she told him, hoping that he could hear her even though he had woken up yet. “I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere, and you’re gonna be fine. Giles and I are going to make sure of that.”
Leaning down, she kissed him on his forehead and then crossed over to the cot, intending just to sit down and watch over him. She found herself suddenly exhausted, however, and before long, her eyes fell close as she sat, leaning against the wall.
On the bed, eyelids fluttered before blue eyes opened, accompanied by a whisper of a groan, and looked up at the white ceiling. Wesley suspected he was in hospital but didn’t understand how he got there. Looking around the room only brought more confusion until his eyes fell on the slight form asleep on a cot. What was Fred doing there? Had she been the one that found him? His insides twisted, preparing for her to wake up and tell him how much she hated him, how much he had screwed up. He closed his eyes against the pain, a pain that had nothing to do with the wound on his neck. When he finally opened them again, his heart nearly stopped upon seeing Angel in the doorway. His breath caught in his chest, waiting to see what the vampire would do.
“Hey Wes,” Angel began, moving a little closer to the bed.
Gunn slipped into the room behind Angel and crossed his arms, his eyes narrowing when he saw Fred dozing on the cot in the corner. He considered going over and waking her up but decided to leave it. She’d probably wake up soon anyway. He’d told her this wasn’t going to be good, and now she was going find out how much. When he had called Angel to let him know what had happened, he had practically growled into the phone before slamming the receiver down.
“Wesley,” Angel drew out his name, smiling gently at the look of fear in the other man’s eyes. “We found your notes, by the way. ‘The Father will kill the son,’ I mean...come on.” The vampire’s smile grew slightly when he noticed Wesley clutch the blanket with one of his hands. “You know this is me, right? Angel.” He nodded when the other man did. “You took my son, Wes, and now, he’s with Holtz in some hell dimension because you stole him from me.”
His dark eyes narrowed when he saw Wesley look away in shame. He walked closer to the bed, drawing the other man’s attention back to him.
“I just wanted you to know that it’s me. Because...” With lighting quick reflexes, he yanked the pillow out from under Wesley’s head and pressed it over his face. “I’m going to kill you! You take my son and think for one second I would forgive you for that?! Never!” he shouted, holding the pillow down harder.
Fred woke up with a gasp upon hearing the commotion across the room. She was disoriented for a moment but then realized that Angel was standing there, yelling at Wesley. And holding a pillow over his face! He was trying to smother Wesley! He was trying to kill him!
“What the hell are you doing!” she screamed, jumping up and running over to the bed. “Stop, Angel! You’re gonna kill him! Someone help! Help us!”
She tried to grab his hands and pulled them away, but Angel was too strong. Continuing to scream for help, she looked over and noticed Gunn standing there. Just watching.
“Charles, get help! He’s going to kill him! Help me! Angel! Stop!”
Giles heard the screams coming from down the hall and dropped the coffee, taking off on a run. Just as he rounded the corner into the room, an orderly came flying out the door, skidding onto his back. It took all of half a second to realize what was happening. He knew he wouldn’t be strong enough to remove an enraged vampire. He needed to cut through the rage. And the easiest way he could think of to do that was with pain. Sliding the knife out of his pocket, he wrapped one arm around Angel’s neck from behind and plunged the knife into his back. When Angel instinctively recoiled, he used all of his strength, fueled by his own anger, to spin the vampire away, throwing him out into the hall. Quickly taking up a stand in the doorway, he concealed the knife, glaring down at the vampire on the floor.
“You come near him again, I’ll kill you.” Giles growled. “Take your lackey and get out of here. Wesley is under my
“Giles?!” Angel gasped, looking up into the face that still haunted his dreams. He was no fool. Wesley might have been a joke of a Watcher, but the man in front of him certainly was not. “You don’t understand. He...”
“I know what he did. And I mean what I said. You touch a hair on his head again, I’ll bring him your head.” Giles was breathing hard, his fists clenched at his sides, waiting to see what Angel would do.
Fred watched in amazement as Giles quickly got Angel away from Wesley and out of the room, but then her attention was on the gasping man in the bed. She didn’t care at that moment whether Giles dusted Angel or not. Instead, she leaned over Wesley, laying a hand on his chest and another on his forehead, her fingers gently stroking over him.
“It’s okay,” she whispered to him. “He’s gone. You’re going to be all right. We won’t let him hurt you. Just calm down. I know it’s hard to breath, so you need to calm down, okay?”
Suddenly, she became aware that someone was watching her from the back of the room. Turning her head, she saw Charles watching them.
“Get the hell out of here,” she hissed. “You almost let him kill Wesley. I never want to see you again.”
“Fred...” he said, stepping forward.
“Get. Out!” With that, she turned back to Wesley, continuing to stroke his head and face.
“You heard her, get out. And take this thing
with you.” Giles stepped back to glare at Charles Gunn without taking his attention off of the vampire. “If either of you comes back, I’ll assume you’re here to finish the job, and I’ll end both of you,” he warned, feeling his magic coiling in his body. This always happened when he got this angry. He tended to strike out physically to feed the power’s need for carnage.
He spared a glance toward the bed to see Fred trying her best to calm Wesley, the other man’s gasps pulling at his heart. “Is he all right?” he asked, returning his attention to the two threats in the area. If Fred said anything in the negative, he would strike fast and hard.
“He should be. As soon as they
leave,” she told him. She could see that he was about ready to pounce on both of them if they made a move, so she hoped they would just take the hint and leave.
“I’m not leaving here without you, Fred!” Gunn announced, starting to move forward toward her.
Fred immediately tensed and backed toward the wall, never taking her hand away from Wesley. “I’m not going anywhere with you.”
The second the man took another step toward the bed, Giles’ hand clamped around his wrist. In the blink of an eye, he swept Gunn’s feet out from underneath him and restrained his arm so that he would feel the full impact of the floor hitting him in the face. Once they were on the floor, he pressed his knee to the back of the other man’s neck.
“You heard the lady – she wants to stay. Now, you can leave under your own power, or you can be transferred to another room. It’s your choice,” he informed him, letting Ripper off his leash a bit.
For a moment, Gunn wasn’t sure how the hell he had ended up where he was, his nose impacting with floor. Then he realized that Giles had knocked him down, and part of him wanted to immediately fight back, but then the knee – at least he thought it was a knee – dug into his neck, pushing him down closer to the floor, and he knew he wasn’t going to get out of this in one piece if he tried anything. Damn, but the old guy had some moves.
“All right, all right,” he said. “I give. We’re out of here.”
Giles got up slowly, positioning himself between Gunn and Wesley and Fred. He was still seething, but putting this cocky bastard down on his face had calmed him somewhat. He could feel his magicks receding. He could also hear that Wesley’s breath was starting to even out, which served to calm him even further.
“I don’t want to see either of you here again. If I catch you lurking around Wesley’s flat once he’s home, I’ll assume the same,” he managed through clenched teeth.
Gunn glanced over at Angel, who was standing out in the hall, a bit hunched over. Then he looked over at Fred and shook his head. “You made the wrong choice, babe.”
“Don’t think so,” she responded, watching as he shrugged and then walked out of the room. Neither she nor Giles said anything until Angel and Gunn had disappeared down the hall. “I think we’d better make sure neither of them can get back in here.” She then looked down at Wesley and saw that he had finally calmed down and was breathing normally again. “Hey, there. I bet that wasn’t the greatest thing to wake up to, huh? Doctor said you’re going to be okay, but you shouldn’t try to talk for at least a week.”
“Pillock!” Giles grumbled before his face softened when he turned toward the pair on the bed. Taking a few steps forward, he smiled down at the younger man. “Hello Wesley,” he greeted, chuckling at the surprised look on his face. Wesley tried to speak, but he placed his finger over the younger man’s lips. “You heard her, no talking for at least a week. You bust a stitch, and you’ll be in here longer.” He couldn’t help but smile at the younger man’s clear frustration. “I’ll get you a note pad from the hospital gift shop later.”
Wesley was shocked to see Giles there. But in a way, he wasn’t. The men had become close friends over the last two years. For a moment, he wondered how Giles knew to come. But then it occurred to him that Fred had stayed. She must have called him. He glanced over at the woman still touching his face, love and thankfulness shining in his blue eyes. Reaching out both hands, he placed one over Giles’ and one over Fred’s and gave them a gentle squeeze.
Fred smiled at Wesley’s hand tightened around hers – hers and Giles’. “You gave us such a scare there. You may want to know, though – I decked the bitch who did this to you.” She saw the looks of surprise on both Wesley’s and Giles’ faces and suddenly felt herself flushing what must have been a very bright red. “It was the best I could do. I didn’t have my crossbow with me.”
“Good thing for her, I suppose,” Giles laughed. It was good to see Wesley smile as well. He didn’t do that nearly enough. “Silly me, and here I was thinking you were the meek one,” he teased, before turning his attention back to the man on the bed. He pushed a few stray curls of hair back off his forehead before speaking. “Now, I’ll be here until you get yourself back on your feet. I would assume the doctors will want to keep you a few days for observation. I’ll be here the entire time.” He smirked. “The hospital staff thinks I’m your half brother and Fred is your fiancée. It was the only way they would allow us to stay. The one advantage it also affords is we have the authority to keep Angel and Gunn from getting in here again.”
Wesley looked over at Fred, shocked that she had agreed with the charade. ‘You’re staying?’
“Of course, I am,” she told him. “I know why you did what you did – you thought Connor was in danger from Angel, and you were trying to save them both. Giles told me you contacted him about the prophecy. I wish you could have told me about it. I’m sorry you weren’t able to. I would have helped if I had known – no matter what Charles would have done.” She sighed, looking over at Giles for a moment, remembering what he had told her in the bathroom, about why Wesley hadn’t. “But we’ll talk more about that later. In the meantime, I’m not going anywhere. I’m afraid you’re stuck with me ‘cause I don’t think I’m going to be welcome back at the Hyperion any time soon either.”
Wesley nodded slightly, finding himself looking away in shame once more. The intention might have been to save Angel and Connor, but the result was disastrous. And now the boy was lost. He looked up when Giles sat on the edge of the bed, and touched his chin. Blue eyes met green as the older man spoke.
“Listen to me, Wesley, because I’m only going to say this once. Your father is a git, and you are not him,” he told the younger man sternly. When Wes tried to look away, he gripped his chin tighter, holding his gaze. Giles arched an eyebrow at him as if he were daring him to contradict. He smiled when he saw Wesley acquiesce, but what pleased him most was Fred’s determination to stand by him. “I don’t think Wesley will mind a lodger. Especially when it’s you.”
As Giles gave him a smirk, Wesley looked up at Fred, lifting his hand to press and hold hers to his cheek. He then closed his eyes, reveling in the feeling. He didn’t understand how something so fantastic could come out of such a tragedy. Finally opening his eyes again, he met her dark gaze and nodded his agreement with Giles.
“Good,” she said, relieved by Wesley’s response because she honestly wouldn’t have known what to do if for some reason, he had decided to turn her away. She found herself moving closer to him. Part of her was just glad that he was alive, but another part of her – the part of her that had been distraught when he had pulled away from her after the incident with Billy’s blood – simply delighted at touching him like this. Giles had said he loved her and now she knew for certain that he was right. She wanted to wrap herself around him and hold him close and never let him go. “You should rest now. You’ve been through a lot.”
Wesley tried to play it off as a shrug at her last statement and gave an exasperated sigh when Giles called him on it. He watched the other man stand to dump his leather jacket off the couch. Parts of him that he had long thought buried flared to life. His eyes moved over the strong body, broad shoulders, and trim stomach. And without his jacket, Wesley could see exactly how well the jeans hugged his legs. He snorted at his own foolish behavior, knowing that it was the painkillers knocking down all of his resolve. He had no defenses against either of the people in this room, and for the first time in his life, he didn’t care. They were here, with him...for
him. That made the embarrassment that colored his cheeks worth it.
Fred suddenly felt Wesley’s cheek warming under her hand and narrowed her eyes, looking at him in the dim light. “Wes, are you all right? You look like you’re turning red. Is everything okay?” She glanced from him over to Giles in confusion.
Wesley’s eyes widened in shock, and the resulting gasp hurt his throat. He winced but forced himself to look back at Fred. ‘Fine,’
he mouthed, but his next breath sounded raspy. He felt Giles return to the edge of the bed, placing a hand in the middle of his chest, trying to soothe. He had to resist the urge to glare at the older man. His touch was making his current problem worse.
“Wes?” Giles asked, watching the younger man’s face. For some reason Wesley couldn’t meet his eyes. The Watcher’s own eyes widened in surprise when he realized that Wesley seemed to be embarrassed. Allowing his eyes to travel the length of the bed, he chuckled when he saw the confirmation and decided to tease Wes a little more. “Do you need a time out, young man?”
Fred was confused for a moment as to what was going on, looking from Wesley to Giles and back. Then she followed Giles’ gaze and felt her eyes widen in astonishment. Was he...? He was
! She didn’t know what to say or how to react. The thing was, she didn’t know – was she causing this or was...Giles? “Um, Wesley, I thought I told you that you needed to rest,” she told him lightly.
Wesley lifted his hand to cover his eyes, uttering a groan that came out more like a whisper. Now that he had thoroughly humiliated himself and disgusted the only two people that were there for him, they would probably leave. And truthfully, he wouldn’t blame them if they did.
“Wes...” Giles frowned when Wesley brushed his hand away. “Wesley.” He grabbed both wrists and held his hands down at his side. “It doesn’t matter,” he told him seriously, part of him wondering who Wesley’s reaction had been for. For some reason, when Wesley still wouldn’t look at him, he had his answer. “It’s all right. I’m not offended, and neither is Fred. We’re not going anywhere.”
“Of course we’re not,” she agreed, wondering why he would think either of them would be offended by something like that. It was biological reaction. It wasn't awful or disgusting or offensive. Just a biological reaction. Although a part of her still wondered who it was for, considering the way he was reacting...
Did Wesley have a crush on Giles? Had something once happened between them? She found her mind running away with the possibilities, and she wasn’t sure whether she found that unsettling or...intriguing. And what did that mean about his feelings for her? Did she have a right to even be wondering about that, considering that she had officially been dating Gunn up until about an hour before?
She suddenly realized that it was way too late for her to be having this kind of discussion with herself, especially after what they had all been through.
“It really is all right, Wesley,” she assured him with a smile and leaned down to kiss his forehead again. “Neither of us will leave just because you’re human.”
Wesley took a deep breath, his embarrassment beginning to subside at their reassurances. He glared down at his own body as if it were some sort of traitor. Fred wouldn’t understand, though. It wasn’t just a biological reaction. His reaction was tied to feelings that ran deep. But for now, they seemed to be letting him off the hook, so he decided to let it go. His brow furrowed when another thought flitted through his brain. He still couldn’t understand why Fred was here...not that he was complaining. ‘You don’t hate me?’
he mouthed, looking up at her. He knew Giles didn’t; they had made their peace a long time ago. But he didn’t think he could bear it if Fred did.
“Hate you?” she repeated in astonishment, uncertain that she had read his lips correctly. He actually thought that she could hate him for what happened? “Of course I don’t hate you. I could never hate you. Even if I were to get mad at you, I couldn’t hate you.” She smiled at him and moved her hand up to run through his hair. “And before you ask, I’m not mad at you either. Now, how are we going to make you rest?”
“I’m pretty sure I know how,” a voice said from the doorway. Giles glanced over and laughed at the nurse standing there with a loaded syringe. “Sorry, Mr. Wyndam-Pryce, doctor’s orders. You need your sleep.”
She stepped next to the bed, removing the tubing from his right arm, leaving the left IV in.
“Especially given the excitement,” she added before moving to the other side of the bed. She injected the contents of the syringe slowly, smiling as Wesley’s eyelids started to get heavier. “Give him about two minutes, he’ll be out like a light,” she told the brunette in the room, before leaving.
Fred stood with Wesley, watching as his eyes drooped lower and lower. “Don’t worry. We’ll be here when you wake up, honest. You sleep.”
Finally, his eyes fell completely closed and his breathing evened out even though it sounded a bit labored because of the tube. She stayed where she was for a few more moments until she was sure he definitely asleep and then gently extricated herself from him, crossing back over to the cot and dropping down with a heavy sigh.
Giles moved to stand once he was certain Wesley was asleep. He cast a concerned glance at Fred. Poor thing was exhausted.
She rubbed her neck for a moment. “I...almost don’t know what do with myself now. I feel like I want to close my eyes and just sleep for a week or something, but I don’t know if I could because I almost feel like I’d be leaving him alone if I were to do that even though I’m here.” She sighed for a moment. “By the way, you’ll notice I tend to ramble when I’m tired or scared or happy or angry... actually, any time really. I’m just going to apologize now if I manage to irritate you with that, okay?”
She knew of course why she was rambling now, but then again, she didn’t exactly know how to bring up some of the questions she did have. And of course, she was pretty sure this wasn’t the place to be asking anyway.
“I know. But he’ll be out for a few hours. He won’t begrudge you getting some rest,” Giles told her, his voice soothing. When she began rambling, she reminded him very much of Willow in her early days especially, which caused him to smile. “And it’s all right, I assure you. I think I’ve developed an immunity. One of my young friends in Sunnydale has a tendency to babble under stress. She’s been doing it for five years, and I’m none the worse for wear.” He moved to the couch in the room, sitting down on the edge so that Fred was still fairly close. “I...I would imagine you have some questions.”
Fred’s eyes widened as she glanced at him then looked down at her feet. Not answering for a moment, she curled herself up on the cot, grabbing the blanket that the nurse had provided and wrapping it around her shoulders. “I—I don’t even know how to ask the questions that are going through my mind at the moment, which would probably amuse my former professors to no end after the question hell I used to put them through in class.” She bit her bottom lip and tried to decide how to phrase it. She liked Giles – felt really comfortable around him – but this was a bit weird in a way because she was about to ask him something really pretty personal after having only known him a short time. “You said...in the bathroom...that Wesley loved me, but his—his reaction...that wasn’t because of me, was it?”
“Fred,” Giles sighed, trying to work out his answer in his head before he uttered a word to her. “Honestly, I don’t know. I suppose I should ask if Cordelia and the others told you about Buffy?” He smiled at her nod. “Until she...until she died...”
He took a deep breath, pushing past the pain.
“I was her Watcher. I guided her and did everything I could to try and protect her. About four years ago, the Watcher’s council sacked me. Said I cared for her too much. A ‘Father’s Love’ was what they called it. Wesley was sent as my replacement. He was so green and inexperienced, it was almost laughable. The children, still loyal to me, gave him hell. They went out of their way to laugh at his mistakes and were the first to call him on when he was wrong. It wasn’t until he came to L.A. that it occurred to me that he had been used by the Council just like I was. I think they were hoping he would get both Slayers killed – and probably himself – and then they could start over fresh with a Slayer they could control.
“I was impressed the first night he called me. I didn’t think he had it in him, but he’d mustered up enough courage to call a man he believed despised him. I thought I at least owed it to him to hear him out. Over the last two years, we’ve become friends. Good
friends. So to answer your question, I suppose Wesley and I do have a history, but it’s not that
kind of history. For myself, you could say I’m bisexual although I prefer women. I don’t know if Wesley ever felt the same, but I was never willing to risk the friendship we had built to find out. Never doubt, he loves you.”
Nodding slowly, she tried to take all that in. So the images that had been appearing in her head had obviously never happened – and suddenly, she wasn’t sure whether she was relieved or disappointed by that. It was a strange feeling, something she had never really thought of before.
“Guess it’s something we have to ask Wesley when he’s more up to answering those kind of questions – if he ever does, of course.” She looked across to the bed where Wesley slept, the heart monitor beeping rhythmically, then back at Giles. “I—I’m sorry about your—about Buffy, what happened to her, I mean. We were told what happened right after they—the others, Wesley and the others, brought me back from Pylea. I know Wesley was upset to hear what had happened even though he stayed with me while Cordy and Angel...while they went to Sunnydale for the...funeral.”
“Thank you,” he replied softly, his voice thickening with emotion a bit before he cleared his throat. “I don’t think I would have got through that with my sanity intact if it hadn’t been for Wesley’s phone calls. All of our friends – ‘The Scooby Gang’ as Xander has dubbed us—they were all leaning on me to help them through. And I think I was more lost than they were.” He looked at the man sleeping on the bed, the fondness in his eyes. “He called every night, sometimes twice a day, making sure I was all right. I think without those calls, the grief would have just built up and swallowed me whole. That’s why it was so important to be here for him now.” He turned his attention back to Fred. “I realize that Charles and Angel are you friends as well. But I meant what I said, if they come for him again, they will die.”
The edge in his voice caused Fred to swallow hard. After what she had seen earlier, she knew he would do it, too. But was really surprised her was the fact that she didn’t blame him one bit for it. “I have a feeling that they’re no longer my friends – not after what happened. I made my choice tonight, Giles, when I decided to stay here with both of you. My relationship with Charles is definitely through, and Angel...” She found tears collecting in her eyes. “Angel was my hero once – the handsome man come to save me from the demons that made my life hell. But tonight, I watched him try to kill a friend, and I realized...my hero wasn’t who I thought it was.”
“Yes,” Giles snorted. “Angel has that effect on people. I’ve always thought it doesn’t take a hero to swing a sword or get into a fight. I’ve always tried to teach the kids that real heroes are the ones that watch your back, both physically and emotionally. Those of us in Sunnydale, we’ve been through hell and back, sometimes literally. But through it all, we’ve been there for each other. And until I draw my last breath, I’ll believe every one of those kids is a hero.”
He suddenly scowled a bit as he continued, “Angel is a git. If he was doing what he does by choice, I might actually respect him more, but he’s not. He’s selfish, and he’s just trying to make the best out of this curse so he doesn’t have a few thousand more lives on his bloody conscience. If I had to go into battle tomorrow, I’d take any of my kids or Wesley to watch my back before I took Angel. They’re worth a thousand of him.”
“I’m beginning to see that,” she murmured, suddenly understanding Wesley a lot more.
Wesley, always the quiet one working his butt off day and night to figure out what was going on, always standing back while Angel got the accolades. Wesley, who was the one she helped so they could return from Pylea and was the one who came up with the plan so they could free all the slaves and stop the Priests in order for them to have the opportunity to get out of there in first place. And Wesley, the one who patiently watched over her while she traded one cave for another and waited for her flashy hero to return from wherever he had gone, who never uttered one word of complaint at all her questions and funny little requests and who brought her an endless supply of tacos.
Reaching out, she found Giles’ hand and squeezed it gently with a soft smile, her eyes starting to feel gritty and heavy. “I’m really glad you came down. It’s nice to have someone who knows Wesley so well here.”
Smiling sheepishly, he ducked his head to hide his embarrassment. “He needs someone who can see both sides of this argument and still do the right thing. Do I think it’s fair Connor ended up in a demon hell? No. And I’m sure Wesley will try to take all of the blame for it himself. But we have to make sure he realizes that his fault ended when that woman cut his throat. The rest wasn’t his responsibility.” He looked up at her, still holding her hand. “He needs you too. I can see why he would get so frustrated seeing the others treat you like spun glass. You have a fire in you, Fred, and I think you proved that tonight.”
Standing up, he released her hand, to take her shoulders, and gently lay her back on the cot. “You, my dear, need to get some sleep. It will be easier for you to sleep when he does. I’ll stay up for a bit. I have to talk to the hospital staff about barring Angel and Charles.”
She knew he was right and let him push her back so her head was resting on the pillow at the end of the cot. “‘Kay...but you promise to rest too later. You did drive all the way down here from Sunnydale after all.” A huge yawn broke out across her face, and she closed her eyes. “Wake me up if anything...happens...”
“All right,” he told her, resisting the urge to tease her. Poor dear was falling asleep where she lay. He knew this kind of exhaustion. The physical strain wasn’t what exhausted you – it was the emotions, not knowing if the person you cared for was safe or not. He would turn in after he banned the other two.
In almost less time that it had taken for the sedative to work on Wesley, Fred had fallen asleep again, curled up under the blanket on the cot. Heading out into the hall, he stopped at the nurse’s station.
“Excuse me, is there some kind of report I can fill out to have those two men banned from the hospital? The one in black threatened my brother’s life.”
“Of course, sir, here you go.” She passed Giles the form, and he immediately took the pen and began filling it out.
“If security can manage it, they can pull the men’s images from the security cameras on this floor, so they have pictures to go with the report.” He smiled at the nurse’s surprised look. “I saw the camera in Wesley’s room. Here you are.” He passed the completed form back to her.
“We’ll take care of it, sir.”
He returned to the room and stopped at Wesley’s bed, brushing the hair back of the younger man’s forehead. Going over to the couch, he cast one last glance at the sleeping Fred. Two people, so hurt by their surroundings. It felt good to be needed here. He would protect them both – with his life if he had to.
Lying back on the couch, he pulled his leather coat over himself. If either of them woke, he would be ready. He was a light sleeper anyway.*****