She couldn't believe it. She could not believe it. She knew that Wesley was capable of many things -- he'd performed a few spells before -- but nothing like this. He didn't kill vampires like that, burning them to ashes, hunting them down like a madman. Wesley wasn't like that ... he was never cruel. Until now...
"Wesley," Fred whispered as her eyes took in his changed appearance.
He looked frightening. There was a hardness to his eyes that made Fred wary, and he was dishevelled; his hair was longer and he looked as if he had not shaven in days. His voice had changed too -- no doubt from the attack. It had grown deeper and coarser, so unlike the gentle tones they were used to. No wonder they did not recognise his voice. But it was his eyes that frightened her. They were dark; dark with hatred and anger -- all directed at them. She felt her heart clench with a mixture of guilt, fear and confusion at his gaze.
"You," she heard Gunn say. His lips curved into a scowl. "Oh, just great. Great!" he flung his arms and turned away, pacing.
Wesley merely lifted an eyebrow. "Disappointed to see me?" he asked, amused.
"You think?" Gunn shot back.
"Charles!" Fred said firmly. He shot her a frustrated look before returning to his pacing. She turned her gaze to Wesley, who regarded her with an unreadable expression.
"We need your help," she said softly. It was difficult to say it after everything that had happened between them and she realised that it was probably more difficult for Wesley to listen to it. His eyes narrowed with anger at her words.
"Forget it, Fred!" Gunn snapped.
Wesley's expression turned darker as he shifted his gaze to Gunn's angry countenance.
"I don't want help from someone who betrayed us," Gunn muttered, returning Wesley's glare with a glare of his own.
Wesley pushed himself off the wall and took a few steps towards them. His eyes flashed a brilliant green.
Fred stumbled back in fear. Gunn only paused, but he steeled his resolve and refused to show any emotion. For a moment, Gunn thought that the guy was going to lose his cool again and do some damage. Instead, Wesley merely ignored Gunn's attempt at bravado.
"How's your thirst?" Wesley asked Fred casually.
Fred flinched in surprise. She immediately knew what he meant -- one of the demon slugs that invaded the Hyperion had gone into her and it nearly killed her because it tried to drink her alive. Then Gunn made her well again. Only it wasn't just Gunn, was it? She shot Gunn an accusing look. He looked away guiltily.
"It's fine ... thank you for your help," she meant it sincerely, but it didn't seem to affect Wesley, who continued to look at her with an unreadable expression.
"Wesley. Angel has disappeared. Cordelia too. Everyone is gone. There is just the two of us now. It has been hard-"
"We handle things fine," Gunn interjected.
Wesley spared him a disinterested look, then smiled. "I'm sure you have. Which is why you need my help," he said, amused. The news that Angel and Cordelia was missing did not seem to disturb him.
"We don't need your help!" Gunn retorted. "You showed me how helpful you were the last time I went to you for help!"
"Charles-" Fred tried to stop him, but he went on.
"Putting on that attitude of yours and telling me that we should've listened to your side of the story -- hah! We know that side, alright. You gave Connor to Holtz! You-"
Gunn didn't finish his sentence because the windows of the building behind him suddenly burst into splinters of glass. Fred shrieked and covered her head while Gunn covered her protectively with his body as shards of glass showered around them.
"Is that what you believed?" Wesley's low voice was deep with hurt and anger. "After all that we've been through ... you believed that..." he trailed off. He looked at Fred. "Did you believe the same?" he narrowed his eyes.
Gunn stepped into his line of vision, shoving Fred protectively behind him. "Lorne told us that you went to see Holtz behind our back," he growled.
"But he didn't tell you why, did he? What a useless tattle tale," he mocked.
"Shut your yap!" Gunn said, furious that he could insult Lorne like that. "You hit him. What the hell were we supposed to think? Then Holtz came in and tried to put a stake through Angel's heart. Didn't care if he had to put it through ours first to get to him! Both of you made a deal didn't you? What did he promise you, huh? Money? A sacred text? What?"
Gunn stopped, breathing hard, staring at Wesley with blazing eyes. Wesley let him stew a little before replying.
"Gunn, you pitiful fool. You still don't know anything," he said scornfully.
"Stop it both of you!" Fred cried out, stepping between them. "What happened these past few months was hard on all of us. But we need to put this behind us! We need to work together and remember our mission again!" she pleaded with Wesley.
"How convenient," Wesley retorted, his voice dripping with venom. "Put everything behind us? Shake hands on that, roll up our sleeves, put on big smiley faces and maybe have tea together? Grow up, Fred," he snapped.
Fred winced at his sharp words.
"We can never be together again," Wesley snapped. "Your boyfriend made it clear. Angel made it clear when he tried to kill me. Cordelia made it clear when she turned her back on me. Hell, my dear, even you told me the same."
Fred looked down, clenching her fists. *Don't come back to the hotel -- ever.* her words echoed in her head. She blinked away tears, and she hastily tried to wipe them away with the back of her hand. If she had observed his eyes then, she would have seen the sudden flare of concern in them. But it disappeared as quickly as it came.
"Don't go back on your word, Winnifred. At least Gunn did not. He always keeps his word, don't you Gunn?"
Gunn refused to take his bait and he sure as hell wasn't about to let Wesley get away from making Fred cry like that. "You son of a bitch! You leave her out of this. Don't you dare diss my girl in front of me!"
Strangely, this seem to soften Wesley's hard expression. He gave Gunn a small smile and for a moment, he looked like the Wesley they remembered; the capable leader of Angel Investigations, the man they knew would always do the right thing.
"I'm glad you kept your word, Gunn," Wesley said softly, his voice suddenly gentle. "I knew you would take care of her." He met Gunn's eyes briefly before he turned and walked away.
However, Wesley stopped after a few paces and turned his head slightly towards their direction.
"Return to the hotel, Gunn. Anne needs you," he said. At that, he returned to the dark streets of Avarice, not sparing them another glance.
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