Wesley's Indian name would be Brings Her Tacos; Charles is Brings Her Soda; she is Cow. Someday she'll have another name again but right now she just eats and eats, swallows without chewing, sweet, savor, meat, cow meat and pig meat and the flesh of birds, mouth burning with spices and savors and salt. She craves salt. French fries and nachos and buttery popcorn, preservatives covering every morsel, so the food will keep, will fill her belly and render fat, so her thighs and hips and breasts will expand to fill every cubic centimeter of her cave, so she will be Giant Cow, nutrients coiled in her gut, double helices unwrapping themselves, finally, to process amino acids into the protein strands that will make her neither cow nor giant but a girl. Her name is Fred.
Her name is Fred her name is Fred she's Fred Burkle aged twenty-eight she's Fred she is she's Fred she likes tacos and weed, she prefers Macs and she likes to have sex when she's stoned.
Someone — aliens, the government? — dictates formulae into her brain and she obediently spools them into alphanumeric truths, splashed in lead and ink on the wall, permanent, concave, the bubble of her brain expanding to encompass new stimuli. Someone — she, Fred — is alive inside her, waking at the scent of the feeding trough, instincts older than the urge to hide rising to conscious thought and becoming sentences, demands.
"Wesley, please. I'm hungry."
"You've eaten enough," he says. His voice whistles through his teeth. He doesn't meet her eyes. Has she got eyes? Can she see without her glasses, can she see anything? Has she gone blind? Her fingers touch her eyelids, her eyeballs, dry and tender and real. It's hard to deceive eyes, real eyes, though demons can do it, can make you think you're seeing sunrise when it's nighttime, but Wesley's no deception. Wesley. Wesley. "Fred." Now his voice has stilled to a breeze. He's angry. She's eaten too much, will be fat and slow for the race, but he's too tender too tell her. So he smiles. He touches her. She flinches but lets his hand remain on her shoulder. X marks the spot. This is the place where human touch met cow flesh and some creature sprang unbidden from the depths, freshly made from slime and spice. The creature takes control of Fred's instincts, makes her heart beat wildly, makes her breath shallow (but deep enough to drown in). She can't look up. His eyes, hidden behind glasses, will devour her. She knows he is only a mirage. She knows she will wake up and discover he's gone. She shuts her eyes against the morning.
Wesley kisses her forehead.
Leaving the world behind (it's a romance) leaving the town that stole his heart (it's a tragedy) leaving behind every memory of glutted, happy nights with a faraway girl with crazy eyes, Angel's girl, and his (and it's history), Spike arrives in Los Angeles, hair slicked back and slouching into Angel's hotel with a smirk and, "All right, where've you stashed him?"
"He's busy grieving," Wesley says, clipping the words' wings before flinging them into the air. "Why aren't you?"
"Maybe I am." Spike tosses his head. He meets Fred's eyes, sees her though she's hiding, finds her though she's missing. Sees through the wooden slats that hide her, sees through the layers of shimmering clothing Cordy brought her, sees past the piles of junk food wrappers and the layer of salt that's masking her own scent and says, "Who's the chit?"
Wesley is a hurricane now, a flurry of movement too fast for Fred to watch (she shuts her eyes), and Spike's pinned against a pillar, hands in the air, struggling a little in a jacket that's too loose on a body that's starving for blood. "Give it a rest. I've gone kosher," Spike says.
"Blood's not kosher," Fred meant not to say.
Spike's face narrows, wrinkles, burns. "How did you know?"
That part she knew from guessing, probabilities aligning, a similarity to Angel in the brow, in the paleness. The rest she knows from stories, Spike sitting on a cot, eyes on the ceiling, telling her, in a vomit of words, what he misses. Spike's missing is bottomless. He drowns in his missing, dies in his missing. Spike spends his hours watching Fred as she stands on a stool and tries to remember the first step of a proof she learned in middle school. Fred forgot all the things before she learned to miss them. Spike remembers. "Prague," he says. "Bloody Prague where it all went wrong but Dru was a sight, she was devastating, deadly. She could kill men with her eyes, you know. Look them dead-on and grin and they were gone. Like a heart attack, my Dru."
Spike looks at Fred like she, too, may be a heart attack behind her glasses, where she's hiding. She tries a smile on. It doesn't fit right; she tries again.
"Better, pet," Spike tells her. She doesn't think his old girlfriend was very nice. That's why he's remembering so hard. The brain can make things better, cure them. The brain can fix the past. They'll work on this together. In the nighttime, they'll become brain surgeons. A vampire, and a cow. She laughs. It starts in her toes and reaches to the ceiling, to the stars. Everything will be alive again.
Spike frowns, and kisses her. To shut her up. It works.
This time Wesley is a quiet gale. He says Spike's name. He tries to say Fred's but can't get the word out, chokes on her, drowns in her, struggles to the surface and kisses Spike with a back-handed slap to his cheek. Not smart, Wesley, Spike's cheeks are so sharp you may cut yourself. But better than otherwise. Better than Wesley quietly not caring, letting her be kissed, and watching from a corner. She tilts her head, experimentally, and decides to be sane.
"You boys don't have to fight, you know," she says, hands on hips. "I may be scrawny but there's plenty of me for both of you."
"Not for him," Wesley says, and his voice trembles, not like the wind at all, just like a scared man. "He's a vampire. He will — he will devour you." His eyes are on Fred's neck, though. Who would do the devouring? She feels her hips, slides her fingers up her dress and over her thighs, who cares that there are men present. She is not a lady. She's not a whore, even, but a cow. Her thighs are starting to be meaty. She's starting to be edible.
"I might like to be devoured." She smiles, this time broadly, mouth wide enough for either of them, wide enough that she, too, could be a devouring beast.
"I won't allow it."
"You're not in charge."
"That's right," says Spike, offhand. She doesn't think he cares. She hopes he doesn't care. She hopes that when her arms like licorice whips encircle Wesley's waist, when her skirt like powdered sugar melts to reveal the real skin beneath, that Spike will smirk the same dispassionate smirk, press himself against her, tell her, "Yes, luv. That's how you do it, proper-like."
Living is never quite like dreams (so you can tell them apart), but this time, it's close enough, Wesley hard in her hand, true flesh, human flesh, and when she wraps her mouth around its girth and drinks, Spike's nails scratch her shoulders lightly. He runs his fingers over her lips as she licks at Wesley's cock and Wesley shudders, pushes deeper into her throat (more to eat, and something to chew on — is he aroused from her, or Spike, or have they merged, for the moment of the blowjob, into one dark, hungry creature?), kneads in one hand the roundness of her buttocks, before sliding a finger around, under, in, so that she swallows hard at the cock in her mouth and they all shudder with the absurdity of sex, and cows who are people who are food, delicious.