punch_kicker15: (Fred)
[personal profile] punch_kicker15
Title: If You Want to Cross the Bridge, My Sweet, You've Got to Pay the Toll
Author: punch_kicker15
Rating: PG-13
Characters/Relationships: Fred Burkle/Gwen the Records Robot
Summary: AU AtS Season 5: Illyria took over Wesley's body instead of Fred's. The quest for vengeance gets interrupted by a surprising proposition.
Word count: 888
Notes: Written for [livejournal.com profile] femslash_minis, for [livejournal.com profile] brutti_ma_buoni, who wanted the pairing,butterflies, trapped, and knowledge is power. Apologies that this is so late! Title is from "Poor Unfortunate Souls" by Howard Ashman.

Technically, Fred’s not trapped up here in Files and Records. She can leave any time, so long as she’s ok with running into that thing that is occupying Wesley’s body. It’s wandering the halls at Wolfram and Hart tonight. Fortunately, it always stays out of Files and Records, probably out of sneering arrogance. It would be beneath a god-king to admit that there was anything it didn’t know.

Fred turns the page of the list of questions. Gwen has vast amounts of knowledge, but she’s not one for devising strategies. You have to know the right questions to ask her, and so far, Fred hasn’t found a way to kill Illyria. She adjusts her glasses, and reads the question. “Has the firm ever tried detonating a tactical nuke against an enemy held by a binding spell?”

“Yes, Special Projects manager Gustavo Pereira detonated a 0.3 kiloton nuclear weapon in the Mojave Desert in 1977 in an attempt to terminate an experimental project that produced suboptimal results. The reaction of the binding spell to the radiation nearly caused the destruction of our own universe. The Firm lost 25 million dollars and 50 employees in the process of containing the damage.”

Gwen delivers this bad news with a wide smile and a twangy tone of voice that Fred instinctively likes. Fred wonders if that’s how she looks to Angel and Spike and Gunn: someone cute and unthreatening who they can control with just the right sequence of words.

It’s a good thing that they underestimate her, because it means that they think her lust for vengeance ended when she shot Knox. They think that Angel’s sanctimonious speech about the sanctity of human life sunk in after Knox drew his last breath. They think that holing up in here is some temporary grief-induced madness, like her graphomania after she returned from Pylea.

They think of power as fangs and swords and guns. They don’t understand that knowledge is power. Gwen knows the locations of the other Illyria worshippers who aided or encouraged Knox. Gwen has also located a highly competent assassin who specializes in murders that look like accidents. It’s just a matter of sending an encrypted text message.

Fred checks Tactical nuke/binding spell? off her list, and moves on to the next question. “Is there a way to extract enough energy from supernatural beings to kill them?”

Gwen’s eyes flicker, and something in her internal mechanics makes a slight clicking noise. “A Mutari generator will create a 0.5 micron perforation between this universe and a negatively charged pocket universe. That has the potential to draw in 900 yottajoules of supernatural energy.”

Fred gets that butterflies in the stomach feeling that usually precedes a breakthrough. Her back-of-the-envelope estimate of Illyria’s energy is 700 yottajoules. “Does the firm have access to a Mutari generator?”

Gwen answers, “There are three available for use in the San Diego office.”

“I could kiss you!” Fred blurts out. She cringes a little internally, but at least it’s not in front of anyone who’s going to tease her about it.

Gwen tilts her head slightly. “Why don’t you?”

“What?” Is this a malfunction? Or a No-Doz-induced hallucination?

Gwen repeats the question in exactly the same tone.

Fred just kind of gawps at her for a minute, until Gwen says, “I’ve answered 811 questions from you, plus 135 follow-up questions. I think I’m allowed to ask one.”

A god-king is walking the halls, and the Files and Records robot is displaying signs of sentience. Just another day at Wolfram and Hart.

Fred looks into Gwen’s light blue eyes. Her mother used to say that eyes are the windows of the soul. Which isn’t helpful, because Gwen doesn’t have a soul.

But these last few weeks have Fred wondering how much a soul matters. Wesley’s soul was obliterated, and everyone collectively shrugged. His father hasn’t responded to the news at all. Wesley’s friends from Sunnydale refused Fred’s desperate call for help. And worst of all, Angel and Spike and Gunn are keeping Illyria around for pragmatic reasons.

Gwen keeps looking at her expectantly.

Maybe this is some programming error. She asks, “Do you want me to kiss you?”

“Sure!” Gwen answers, chipper as ever.

“Why?” Fred asks. If Gwen answers with some flattery, that’ll mean some geek with a robot fetish programmed this in, and probably stuck a hidden camera somewhere.

Gwen tilts her head with a soft click. “I want to know what it’s like.”

This could still be some weird “Teach Me How to Kiss” fantasy programmed by a Star Trek fanboy. Fred presses, “Why do you want to know that?”

“I upload thousands of facts every day, and I see the facts arrange themselves in patterns. Sexual attraction is a huge disruptor. It ruins plans for world domination, and takes out otherwise invincible champions. Why wouldn’t I want first-hand knowledge of something so powerful?” She looks up at Fred, and her gaze is direct; it seems sincere, not flirtatious.

Curiosity is a motivation Fred can understand. It makes a lot more sense than whatever is motivating everyone else she knows. She glances at Gwen’s full lips, wondering if they feel rubbery or real.

Only one way to find out.

She tilts Gwen’s chin up.  “What the hell. I’ve always been a little robo-curious.”
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