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Survival Instincts

by Jennifer-Oksana

Subject: [glass_onion] Fic: Survival Instincts (1/1, AtS) Date: Tuesday, July 02, 2002 2:29 AM

Survival Instincts
by Jennifer-Oksana ( website: rating: R
pairing: Gunn/Fred with much subtext

summary: Upon the one month anniversary, Gunn and Fred have a rather long discussion on living, their pasts, and their relationship. Distinctly not fluffy with mentions of sex work and rape.

archive: list archives, standing orders, others by permission.

notes: this story is rather distinctly based with a conversation I had with Roz K about Gunn and Fred.

disclaimer: The characters and universe belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, FOX, et cetera. The story belongs to me.

The one month anniversary was a big thing for us. Not real big, cuz all we could afford on our new, Angel-free budget was two cupcakes, a star garland for her hair I found for 98 cents, and a copy of Princess Bride from Two Dollar Video.

Still, we were good. We were happy. We had cupcakes and she had a crown and I was going to be her farmboy if we went to Texas (not that I would set foot in a redneck shithole like that, but I wasn't gonna argue with her on our one month anniversary) and we could get a job fighting evil in Houston, starting with Enron.

"You think they're demons?" I asked, between putting kisses all over her neck. "Cuz I don't kill humans."

"They've got to be getting some demon help," Fred reasoned. "That's the only way anyone in this dimension gets rich, it looks like."

"Why'd they go bankrupt, then?" I said. "And what do you mean, only demons get rich here?"

"Well," she said. "It seems like good people here--more than used to be--are working awful jobs and making only a little money, but people with demons are rolling in it. Like those awful lawyers at Wolfram and Hart. So if they are, why not Enron? Why not Xerox? Why not Worldnet? Why not Microsoft?"

I thought about it. "You got a point," I said. "Though I think maybe the demons are more people like Gavin and Lilah and less the types with horns and fangs. Hell, Lorne's got a day job."

"Well, I'm not against working or anything," Fred replied. "But how do people survive? How do they stop being dirt poor? Like when you were takin' care of all your people, what did you do?"

I blinked. We'd talked about what my life had been like as a street kid, but somehow the part where I had to have money had slipped under her radar. I should have known I couldn't keep it from her forever. I wanted to, because I wasn't proud of what I'd done, but I'd promised not to lie to her.

"We did--stuff. Mostly didn't need to. We'd make deals with folks, provisions for protection. We'd get the thrown-out shit, but it was better than nothing," I said. Fred let that digest, and shook her head.

"But you had to have money sometimes," Fred said. "What'd you do when you had to have cash? Was it drugs?"

She wasn't gonna leave it alone. But that's my girl. Fred seems sweet and nave, but she knows all about the dark side, and it killed me to have to share mine with her. I didn't want to tell her. It wasn't something any woman should know about her man, but it was something she had to know, hell, something anyone I was with had to know.

"I hustled," I said quickly. "Did what I had to do."

Fred took the idea in, the little wheels in her head doing cartwheels. Ultimately, she didn't like what the computer inside popped out.

"What does that mean, Charles?"

"It means--" and I did not want to finish the sentence. Not then, probably not ever, but I respected my girl. I had to tell her the truth now. "It means I was on the street. Doing things. For cash."

Her eyes widened. "Sex things?" she whispered.

"Yeah," I said. "I wouldn't deal. It ain't easy to make money when you're poor, black, and homeless if you're not dealing. I wouldn't deal. So I hustled."

"With girls or with guys?" she asked, holding my hand very, very tight. It took both of her hands to surround one of mine and I could still see the skin through the gaps in her fingers. It was beautiful. Not like anything I could give her. The acid lump in my throat swallowed itself and dissolved into my stomach.

"Mostly guys," I said. "Women, they don't go lookin' for street thugs most of the time. Not in my part of the hood."

She nodded, her eyes a billion miles away. I was sure she was going to say something about it being a bad idea. Not that I blamed her. How could Fred understand what it was like, having to get your hand around some sick fool's cock just so you and your sister can eat another week? Especially so your sister don't have to do the shit you're doing to keep it going? How could she understand the ways you make it not matter?

"The type who'd fuck a cow, they were mostly big perverts already," Fred said quietly, almost dreamily. "They thought they were into bestiality, no many how often I explained I was sentient and mostly like them. I had a place next to a sheep. It was--"

Oh. God. No. Not my girl. I heard that wrong, sweet Lord Jesus, please let me have heard that wrong. The thing I didn't expect--the thing I should have expected--was that Fred could see my story and raise me a million.

"Fred?" I said. "Baby?"

"You know that's what they did to me, didn't you?" she asked, kind of matter-of-fact. "I thought you just knew. It hurt. They didn't have the right sort of--parts. They didn't want to make it not hurt. I was a cow, how would I know what it was supposed to feel like?"

"No," I whispered, everything frozen in me. Suddenly, the memories of the worst hustling job I ever had seemed like a walk in the park on Sunday compared to what Fred had seen. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. "I didn't know. If I'd have known--"

"It's all right," she soothed, petting my arms almost superstitiously. "I got away. They were mostly getting tired of me. I was a cow with a big canyon by then. The one who ran--that place, he was going to poison my food. Maybe sell me to the one sick bastard who still wanted me around. But I heard him. I heard him and I broke the collar and ran."

Her hand squeezed tight against mine and my stomach was churning out bile. I was gonna kill someone. I wanted to go back to Pylea and kill all those motherfuckers after making them squeal for a week solid. My girl--they did that to my girl, some sick kinked up demons who didn't care what she said to them about it hurting. I choked it back for her, cuz Fred didn't need that. She didn't need me being big macho guy. She needed me to love her no matter what.

"You're amazing, baby," I said. "You showed those assholes."

"How'd I do that?" she asked, putting her head against my shoulder. "They never had to face up to what they did. They never even thought about saying they were sorry."

"They thought you were a dumb animal," I said. "But you lived. You showed them that you were smarter and better. Fuck, girl, you're my hero. Besides, we ever go back there, I'm gonna kick all their asses until it's not funny anymore."

Her smile was sunshine on an overcast morning. I pulled her close, feeling her shivering in the hug. I didn't want to feel her shivering. I wanted to make the shivers go away.

"That would be good," she said. "I think--well, I think a lot of things with what you had to do."

"Fred--" I began, but she cut me off.

"I don't think it was bad, Charles," she said. "I know you did the best you could. And you never hurt anyone by dealing. That's not what I'm thinking about."

I didn't get what she was thinking. Usually, people get very quiet and scared when I tell 'em what I had to do to stay alive. Wesley, who was the only one I told here, he didn't know how to take it. I thought maybe he got an image of me getting my dick sucked by some pasty little white guy and it freaked his shit out.

"What is it?"

"It's hard to explain without hurting your feelings, Charles," she said. "But I'm sort of curious, about what it was like. What you felt when you were touchin' those men."

"I didn't feel anything," I said. "It was nasty, I didn't like it, and I tried to take a shower after I was done at the nearest shelter without getting ripped off."

Fred blinked. "You've never felt--attracted--to a guy? Any guy? Ever?"

She was going somewhere. "You think that I have?" I asked. "Cuz I don't know what you're talking about."

Her eyes narrowed. "Wesley," she said. "Don't tell me you didn't ever think about sleeping with Wesley."

She was serious. I didn't know what to say to her. Wesley! Why would she think--and fuck. Fred was observant. More observant than me. All of the reasons why Fred might think I wanted Wesley hit me in the back of the head like a fucking truck and I realized--

"I think I did," I said. "But I thought it was just my pimpin' instincts coming back into play. I could see him givin' me a blow job in my head, or me giving him what he wanted, and I'd get nervous and--I mean, I don't know if I ever really meant--"

"Charles," she said sharply. "What would Wesley look like if he were a girl?"

I stared at her. Dark hair, big eyes, skinny white girl who looked good in glasses and needed to eat more. That was Fred. I tried to pretend she looked like her. Only her. But I knew exactly what she was saying. Wesley as a girl. With the accent. With the big blue eyes. Skinny white boy who looked good in glasses.

"Charles," she said.

"You," I answered. "Maybe not as pretty, but he would look like you. But, Fred--"

"I always knew, you know," she said, stroking my arm. "It's another reason I didn't ever want to sleep with Wesley. Why would he want to sleep with himself? What sort of person's that self-centered? It's like that Jerry Seinfeld episode."

I was getting beyond freaked out. Fred knew? Fuck, Wes and me, we didn't even realize, half the time. Maybe we did, but not enough that anyone else knew. Not that we were ever going to talk about it. Fuck, maybe that was why the idea of me hustling streets gave Wes the big quiet. Couldn't bring home a hustler like me home to his proper British family or nothing.

"You shouldn't blame Wes," she said, like she could read my mind. "You two were pretty clueless. But when I first saw you, I knew. You were perfect. Like Lancelot and Arthur."

"Uh, Fred?"

"Oh, come on, Charles," she said with a slight exasperated smile. "You've read Mists of Avalon, haven't you?"

"No," I said. "Sorry."

"Oh, but now you'll have to," she said, getting that crazy book girl look on her face and playing with her tank top so that I could see that little belly of hers. I smiled for the pot belly Fred was starting to get from pancakes and tacos. We were keeping the tiny belly, no matter what. "It's good. I wished Pylea was more like that, but you know, reality's not ever as good as books."

I kissed the top of her head, sniffing the herbs and sweet smell of her hair. "We can make it good," I promised, wanting to kiss away all of her doubts. "You and me, we love each other. We trust each other. We'll make the world good."

"Have you ever thought about why we don't have sex, Charles?" Fred asked, those dark storm clouds in her eyes again. "We're actin' like scared fifteen-year-olds."

"We're taking it slow."

"We're afraid of sex," Fred said flatly. "I. I'm afraid. I think there might be some damage. They hurt me. And you. You had to do things you didn't like. You were so afraid you can't even imagine loving a man. Even though you did. That's why it hurt so much when things fell apart between you and Wesley."

"We'll get doctors," I said. "We'll go to therapy. We'll make things happy."

"How are we going to pay for a psychiatrist with Angel and Cordelia gone? We're going to have to leave the hotel this month if they don't come back," Fred replied. "We can't afford it. How are we going to explain, anyway? I'm damaged cuz I was raped when I was a slave in an alternate dimension? Charles, I didn't even tell my mom. I didn't tell anyone but Cordelia and I don't know if she understood."

She teared up and I almost melted. But I was pissed. I wasn't thinking. I wasn't ready to let it go. Frustration was running through my bones like the feelings I got when I saw her move, when I saw her smile. I wasn't going to give her up just because she thought we were fucked.

"So what are you saying?" I said, pulling away from her body onto my side of the bed. "We should break up cuz we're never gonna have sex? Are you saying I should go sleep with Wes already? You saying I shouldn't care that you were hurt? That this is some sort of fairy tale romance that's not gonna work out?"

"No," she said. "I'm saying we're going to just have to keep going on. We're going to survive. That's part of why I like you so much. You know how to survive. You and me, we'll keep each other safe. Also I'm saying, don't sleep with Wesley. Not unless you break up with me first. But don't break up with me to sleep with him."

"I wouldn't," I said. "Never."

She smiled through the almost-tears.

"Good," she said. "I love you."

"I love you," I replied, putting my arms around her. "We're gonna be okay, Fred. Angel's gonna come back. So will Cordy and Connor."

"You think so?" she asked, snuggling in even though her voice sounded like she didn't buy it.

"Maybe," I said. "But right now, we're dreaming. Tomorrow we'll wake up and we'll walk downstairs to go get breakfast--"

"And Angel and Cordelia will be kissing on the couch," Fred said. "We'll find out they went to the Bay Area for the rest of the month and they're sorry but there are no phones there anymore because of radiation. But Cordelia won the lottery and they're going to give us each a million dollars--"

"Five million dollars--"

"And a month vacation, give or take a year. Cordelia's going to tell us to try Mexico," Fred said.

"I'd rather go to Jamaica," I replied. "You in a bikini and a sarong, Red Stripe, rum--"

"We'll go to Jamaica. And go swimming," Fred said. "Everyone will think we just got married or something, because we won't be able to keep our hands off each other."

In a million years, it could never happen, no matter how much we wanted it to happen, no matter if all the impossible things happened to make it possible. We knew that this was all wanting what we'd never get.

But just wanting it made things easier. Dreaming about Fred in that bikini with a smile that said "come here" and me not thinking about Wes, not thinking about the ways men and slime and death smelled every time I thought about sex, it was easier. Like it could happen even if it never did.

"We'll be good," I said.

"We'll be good," she agreed. We got quiet then, holding each other tight and thinking about the world that didn't like us but that we were going to beat anyway.


"No ordinary sin/This perfect working order I'd rather sink than swim/If I can't walk on water" --Sneaker Pimps My Home:

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