Love Like Knives


Summary: "He thinks he loves her for the little things." Spike and Fred, sometime in the future past Chosen. Not two champions, just two people trying to figure it all out.
Rating: NC-17
Story Notes: Spoilers through Chosen and Home.
Author Notes: For bub, because she has convinced me that a Spike/Fred pairing could actually somehow work. She's crafty like that.
Disclaimer: Joss owns all. I have accepted that I am ME's faithful bitch.
Author's Site:

Something fell from the sky. Something with hair so pale it appeared almost white, skin so light it was almost translucent and a pair of lungs packed tight with air. This aerial spectacle would never be seen by anyone. It sliced through the silvery twilight clouds and eventually landed in reality; right, in fact, in the middle of the Wolfram & Hart Physical Chemistry Lab of the Scientifical Studies Department Wing.

The department that one Miss Winifred Burkle was the head of.

It happened in the middle of her meeting with the experimental physical chemistry group; they were using two-dimensional ultrafast laser spectroscopy techniques to study chemical dynamics of liquids and electronic properties of new materials. They were on the brink of making a discovery that would completely reform the heterodyne-detected transient grating technique, and she was about to launch into an explanation of her inferences from the latest lab results, when then they heard it.

It was a loud boom, a muffled thump of solidness hitting the ground, and it was so out of the blue that one of the assistants dropped a beaker and sent a graduated cylinder crashing to the floor. Whirling around, and there they saw it. Unmoving, unconscious body, sprawled out before them, stark naked.

Fred is the first to approach.

She leans down, tentatively reaches out and touches his shoulder. The skin is hot, almost searing, and she slowly turns him over to see that there's an amulet dangling around his neck. Chest moves in and out steadily; he's breathing. Alive. Black eyelashes rest against his cheeks like coal on snow, and her eyes travel across his body. For a moment she looks appreciatively at his lower regions, but the thought makes her blush like mad, and she quickly stands again.

She doesn't know what happened, or who this is, but she gets the distinct feeling that nothing is ever going to be as it was.


The amulet caused it, Lilah explains. Angel was meant to wear it. When Buffy handed it off to Spike...well, it wasn't expected. When it burned him from the inside out, it didn't kill him all of the way. It only destroyed the demon in him. Left nothing but the soul, and that was when the prophecy stepped in. Brought him back to life. Human.

When Angel hears this, he stays locked in his room for two days.

Fred is upset on his behalf, but she can't help but have a strange fascination with Spike himself. He always looks uncomfortable in his own skin, always fidgeting as if it itches him, and he doesn't say much. Listens to the explanations that Lilah offers him, and surprisingly doesn't even ask many questions.

Gunn doesn't like him right off the bat. Resents Spike for stealing what was supposed to be Angel's, and he talks down to him. Talks to him like he's stupid, or an alien. Wesley is too busy to take much notice, and keeps his distance, acting cool and detached. The same way he seems to act about everything nowadays. As for Cordy—well, she's still all Coma Girl, so who knows what she would think of him.

Fred finds that she doesn't really care much what the others think. These days, Gunn doesn't even seem much like the same person anymore; he's connected to something bigger now, to a power far bigger than her. As for Wes—well, ever since finding out about his rendezvous with Lilah, Fred found out the hard way that he was never who she thought he was.

Not like it matters anyway. Sure, she's intrigued, but what scientific mind wouldn't be? Her interest in him is purely scientifical. Nothing more than that at all.

At least, that's what she keeps telling herself.

She finds him in the library. Hidden back in the stacks, tucked in a corner. Sitting on the floor with his silver-rimmed glasses perched on the edge of his nose while he reads intently. So absorbed he doesn't even notice her presence.

"Whatcha reading?" she finally asks, breaking the silence.

He scrambles to his feet, looking like he's been caught in the act of doing something wrong. "Oh, just, um...nothing, really..."

She glances at the cover before he can conceal it. "'The Collected Works of Lord Byron,'" she reads, then looks back up at him with a delighted smile. "Wow, I've read some Byron in my time. Have you read 'Darkness' before? One of my favorites."

His head tilts to the side, studying her, and something about the look he sends her way makes her heart do a little flip. "'I had a dream which was not all a dream,'" he recites in a low voice.

She beams enthusiastically. "'The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars, did wander darkling in the eternal space...'"

"'Darkness had no need of aid from them— She was the Universe,'" he finishes.

They stand across from one another, smiling.

Spike moves in with her on the second week.

It was Angel's idea, actually. Was sick and tired of putting up with him in the penthouse. Spike apparently pissed him off one too many times. Too much snarking about selling out to an evil law firm, he grumbled, he didn't have time for it and would Fred please take him in at least for a short while? She'd agreed. She'll never say anything to him about it, but she gets the feeling that Angel is still upset and jealous about the whole Shanshu thing. Can't really blame him for that. Prophecies are tricky things.

It's later that same week when she's laying in bed, closing her eyes and trying to lull herself into sleep, going over the times tables in her head. She's up to the elevens when she hears it—a loud, stifled thud, the sound of feet pacing. Sits upright and tiptoes out of bed, worried. Cracks open Spike's door to see him, striding back and forth frantically.

"Is something wrong?" she asks in a whispered tone.

He whips around to face her. Eyes wild, breathing heavily. "It's my heart," he says softly. "It's loud. Everything—it's all loud."

Hands over his ears, closing his eyes and pacing again. He can hear his heart beating, so loud and incessant, and the sound of blood rushing in his head is deafening. He just wants it to stop, to go away, longs for the silence. It's driving him insane.

She comes toward him, tentatively sets a hand on his bare shoulder. The contact stops him from moving. He watches as she gently rubs his arms, up and down, and the motion is soothing, calming. His heart begins to slow, the blood not rushing quite so fast now.

"It's okay," she says, continuing to massage his shoulders. Works her way down his arms, back up again. "It's okay. It'll get easier, if you give it time. Soon you'll just get used to it, and you won't even notice. I promise." She blinks up at him, sincere. "Trust me."

And even though he has no reason to, even though he hardly knows this girl, he does. He trusts her.

When he lays back down again, everything seems quieter.

For the record, he doesn't freckle.

Finds this out one afternoon, when Fred takes him to the beach. A deserted, bare strip of sand, and when he sees the ocean for the first time in daylight, it steals his breath away. He stands for a moment, frozen, just gazing out into the horizon.

"Something wrong?" she asks from beside him.

"No, I just—" He's still staring out at the water. "Never seen something"

She giggles at this. "When's the last time you've looked in a mirror?"

Now he meets her gaze, frowns in bemusement. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Your eyes," she tells him. "They're just as blue as that water out there, y'know."

It's true. Fred's never seen eyes like his; they're so blue that they define the sky, so deep they seem bottomless, like she could lose herself if she gazed into them for long enough.

"Let's swim," he suddenly suggests.

"What?" She glances down at her fully-dressed self. "But I'm in my clothes—"

"Take them off then."

There's no way to respond to that, and she feels herself blushing, and she can only hope that her face appears red from the heat. But he realizes, and he laughs at her reaction.

"Not all of the way. But surely there's something under that top of yours?"

Oh. Right. She strips off her shirt, revealing the camisole beneath. Quickly removes the tortoise-shell comb from her hair, and it cascades down her shoulders in wild, loose curls. Spike finds himself watching her, so graceful and lissom as she steps out of her sandals. She quirks her mouth at him in an expectant smile, and he pulls off his shirt, revealing his sinuous torso underneath.

Together they go running into the surf, crashing through the waves and diving under. Shrieking and laughing and swimming. Dipping in and out of the water, until they're both completely drenched. Finally they head back, collapse on the beach and lay out, side-by-side. There's nothing but silence and the far-off call of seagulls, and finally she says something.

"You were in love with Buffy, weren't you?"

The question blurts out, and it takes both of them by surprise. Fred's not even sure why she is asking. She knows that Buffy is a Slayer, a girl chosen to protect the world, and last time she talked to Willow she'd found out that they'd changed it so now there are Slayers everywhere. But Fred knows that this particular Slayer, this Buffy girl, must be even more special in some way. She'd had Angel's heart, possibly still did, and she can tell that she'd taken Spike's, too. Two vampires wrapped around her finger, and somehow, she hadn't even ended up with either of them. She must have something extraordinary about her, to make two men fall so hard, so powerfully in love.

Spike is flat on his back, staring up at the sky. Water's still dripping off his face. He traces listless patterns in the sand with his fingers and doesn't look at her. "Yes, I was in love with her," he finally answers quietly. "Painfully so."

Fred doesn't understand that. Some people say that they're in love so much it hurts, but really, doesn't that defeat the purpose? Love isn't supposed to hurt, is it? She thinks that love shouldn't make you feel so much pain. It should be something you want to feel, something that heals, something that's worth it.

And she thinks you should be able to fall out of love when you need to.

"Do you still love her?" she asks, not sure she wants to know the answer.

He's silent for a long moment, then replies, "I don't know. It's been awhile since... I just don't know."

But Fred also knows by now that love like that, love that makes you sacrifice and change and die for the whole world, you can't control it. And that kind of love doesn't fade fast.

She thinks she gets what his problem is. He loves too much, too openly, no-holds-barred. Loves like a child, really. His craving for requited love is insatiable, and he looks for it in all of the wrong places.

Well, she thinks. Maybe he'll find it, eventually.

After all, she is standing right here.

"Sylvia Plath."

Spike looks up at her, a little startled. "What did you say?"

"Sylvia Plath," Fred repeats, searching through the poetry anthologies. Once again in the library, and it feels nice to be out of the lab, even if only for a little while. Been a long time since she's let herself get lost in the stacks, drown in books and encyclopedias. "You have to read her. She's my favorite. Here, let me find it for you."

Climbing the ladder, she looks for the right book. Finally finds it, the cover a little musty and binding slightly battered, but still whole. Starts to descend back down the ladder, but in her excitement, her foot gets caught and she almost stumbles. He's there in a flash though, steadying her from behind and keeping her from tripping.

She turns, hands him the book, smiling sheepishly. Hands brush, and suddenly there's...a spark. Connection. Eyes fixed on one another, and then all she can think of is kissing him. It's a wild, foolish thought, and she knows she shouldn't think it, but oh, his mouth is so close, and if she could just touch it—

And then it's real. His mouth is sliding over hers, gentle and warm and whispery, so light and fragile. She closes her eyes, responds, hands hovering for a moment before setting on his shoulders. His own flutter and fumble until finding her waist. Neither of them stop.

There's something wrong about this. She's vaguely aware of it, but then there's his lips, his tongue, and the lack of anything resembling a brain. Oh, he tastes so good, tastes like sunsets and heaven and sweet, sweet things.

He pulls away after a moment. Ducks his head, cheeks reddening. "I'm sorry. Shouldn't have done that."

"Yeah." Mind still spinning, and her eyes, still glued to his mouth. A mouth that she knows could send her a grin as wicked as the devil's, but she never thought it would be so soft under hers. No, bad thoughts. Bad, bad thoughts. Can't let herself think like that. "Yeah. We...we shouldn't."

"Right." He breathes a little shakily, turns to go. Starts to walk off.

"Spike." She calls his name, and he turns around, eyes expectant.

This time, she kisses him like she means it.

Hooks her arm up around his neck, kisses him deeply. How clever his mouth is. Knows the exact right way to make her shiver, that blissful feeling of floating on air. Steals her breath away with the best kiss she's ever had. She doesn't want him to stop, never wants him to stop touching her. God, he's got a talented mouth.

Spike breaks away, foreheads touching, both of them gasping and pulling back, even though their arms are still clutching to one another.

"I—I'm sorry," he says again.

"Don't be."

He goes out one night, and doesn't come back.

Hours pass, and finally she calls Angel. He promises to find him.

Two hours later, there's a knock at the door. She opens it to find Angel standing there, Spike's arm slung around his shoulder, eyes shut and feet dragging, face marred with bruises and blood.

"I found him at one of the local demon bars," Angel explains, hefting Spike up and setting him down on the couch. "Passed out in the parking lot. Got to him right in the nick of time, some vamps were gonna beat him to a pulp." He steps back, studies his laying form on the sofa. "Almost had already before I stopped them."

"What was he doing there?" she exclaims, kneeling down to examine his wounds.

"No idea," he says. "Good thing I found him though. Those guys would've killed him if I hadn't been there."

"Is he going to be be okay?"

"Should be. A few bandages, some rest. I don't think anything's broken. 'Cept maybe his pride."

"Thanks for bringing him back." Fred looks up at him gratefully.

"No problem." Angel heads for the door. "When he wakes up, can you tell him to keep away the demon bars from now on? Next time, I might not be there."

"I'll let him know."

Angel leaves, and Fred stands over the couch. Gazes down on Spike's unconscious body. His stomach rises and falls with steady breaths, eyes closed and mouth hanging open, slack. He's got a bloody lip, and his face is already swelling with dark purple bruises, hair rumpled and askew. She sighs, hurries off and comes back armed with some bandages, peroxide, and a damp cloth.

As she presses the wet cloth to the corner of his mouth, Spike stirs, eyes cracking open. He tries to sit up, but Fred pushes his shoulders back down. Gently wipes the dried blood off of his face. He watches her, doesn't say anything for awhile. When he speaks, his voice is thick, speech slightly slurred.

"What happened?" he asks.

"Angel found you," she explains to him. "Dropped you off."

"Oh." He's quiet again. She dabs the rag with a spot of peroxide, brushes it across a cut on his forehead. He squirms, hisses between clenched teeth at the sharp, burning pain, but she doesn't stop, just keeps it there, persistent.

"Hold still," she chastises, batting his hands down.

Spike stops fussing, and finally she draws the cloth away, leans forward and blows gently on the open cut. It's a low, relaxing sound, and his eyes drift close, breath hitching in his throat, savoring the feeling. Fred looks at him. The bruises blooming all over his face, swollen, puffy mouth, split lip. Cuts and scrapes, specks of blood dotting the collar of his shirt. So thrashed and beaten. But even with a face so discolored, he's still beautiful. Blonde hair falling into natural curls, tumbled and disheveled. Heavy-lidded eyes shut close, black eyelashes resting against his cheeks, so long and fine.

And oh, she wants to kiss every single one of them. Pepper kisses across his eyelids, run her lips across his forehead, kiss each of his dark, purpled bruises. Wants to trace the sharpness of his cheekbones with the smoothness of her tongue. Take him into her arms and make all of his pain dissapear, ease it away with the serenity of her words.

Fred sighs and looks at him dejectedly. "What did you do, Spike?"

He shrugs, a small gesture, but it's enough to make him wince. "Just went out patrolling. Not a big thing. Didn't expect..."

"You went to a demon bar," she reminds him. "What, you didn't expect to run into anything stronger than you?"

"I didn't think that—"

"They could've killed you." Her voice is stronger, more emotional now. Stressed with worry. "They almost did. If Angel hadn't been there—"

"Nothing would've happened," he tells her calmly. "I would've found a way out."

"No, you wouldn't!" Fred stands, voice shaking with anger and distress. "You don't get it, Spike, do you? You can't just run off and try to take on a nest of vampires on your own! You're not indestructable!"

"I know that!" He drags himself into a sitting position, pain and anger flashing in his eyes. "Not like I can forget it, now, can I? I'm useless like this! I'm not worth anything. Can't even take on a vamp anymore." Now he glances away. Shameful, miserable. "No reason for me to even be here."

"What about me?" Oh, she hates how desperate, how banal it sounds coming from her. The words fall from her mouth, sounding so broken and childlike. But she has to make him see. Make him see how really worth it he is. "Did you ever think about that? I almost lost you. I'm tired of losing everything, Spike. I really am."

"Shh," he hushes, a soothing voice. "It's all right, pet. I'm still here."

Her resolves weakens, and she comes forward and presses herself into his arms, losing herself in the solidity of him. And she knows it shouldn't be like this. She shouldn't be finding her own solace in the comfort of his warmth, when he's the one who is so lost.

She doesn't know what to think anymore.

What she has with him isn't made of pancake kisses and going to ballgames and sharing shakes. Even if that's what she wanted, that isn't who she is anymore. She's still the princess of physics and on command can recite up to the first twenty-six decimals of pi. But that's not what she's made up of. She's not so fragile and delicate, the frothy loveliness she once possessed has long since faded. There are other things, pieces of her soul that Charles never could—never wanted— to see. And when he finally caught a glimpse of it, everything between them had crumbled.

Spike could hurt her. He probably will, yet.

Fred knows this. But she also knows that she doesn't want to stop feeling this way. His touch is softer than clouds, lips like pure silk, and when he speaks...oh, his voice is as mellifluous and warm as honey dripping through her fingers. Words lacing together, snippets of poetry and Shakespeare, woven into such wonderful declarations of devotion. He knows how to love so unconditionally, no reserves or holding back, and it's like nothing she's ever experienced before.

How does he do that? How does he make her feel that way?

She guesses that's how she knows she loves him.

There's so many things that she wants to do with him. Wants to take him to so many places, show him everything there is. Show him that there is a world outside of darkness, a world that's not just full of sharp edges and heartache, show him that not all love ends in pain. Kiss him in the daylight and lay under the sun. Show him that he can trust her. And she knows that he has so much to show her, too.

She wants to taste his soul. Wants to breathe him in, hear him speak of twilights and roses and the moon. Feel his lush, moist lips beneath hers again. Fred draws back, cups his face between her palms, and pulls his face up to hers. Kisses his bruised, swollen mouth, making sure to be perfectly fragile. Knows that anything more could break this tenuous connection between them.

"Never leave me," she whispers into his mouth. "Please, never leave me."

"I won't," he murmurs, pulling her closer. "I won't, I just...not worth..."

"Listen to me." She grabs his fingers, sneaks both of their hands underneath his shirt, scaling up the smoothness of his belly until they linger above his chest. Presses both of their hands directly over his heart. She feels it there, pulse racing, the delicate, muted sound of his heartbeat, rapid rhythm beneath her palm. "Do you feel this?"

He nods, and she presses against him more, taking his other hand and letting it slip under her own blouse. Doesn't stop until his hand is over her chest, and he feels her heartbeat, too. Hers and his, both of them, pounding at the same time. His eyes close, listening intently to the cadence. Thud, thump, pause. Thud, thump, pause.

"This is life," she tells him, leaning in again. "It's blood." Lips brush across his. "And veins." Another kiss. "And warmth." Mouths meet, so hot and ripe and beating, deep and urgent. "You're worth everything, Spike. Everything."

Oh, and that's enough for him.

It's on mornings like these that Fred remembers how beautiful Texas in autumn used to be. How the trees would be laced with brilliant, vivid shades of reds, yellows and browns. The gentle breeze was always so pleasantly cool, so refreshing after a summer of hot, bitter winds and unbearable heat, and every afternoon after school she'd go and meet up with the neighborhood kids on the front lawn. They'd all gather the fallen leaves, and she'd make herself a crown fit for a queen. Lazy evenings spent sitting on the porch with her father, who used to explain the meaning of life with a couple of pebbles and twigs while drinking lemonade and eating warm oatmeal cookies her mother made.

She feels that same sense of security, same lovely warmth now. Waking up between the sheets that smell like sunshine, and she hears Spike singing in the kitchen. The sound of it makes her laugh, and she turns her head and catches sight of the curtains that hang over the windows, covered with bright yellow daises. She remembers how she'd searched for hours for just the right material, and she fell in love with the flowered cloth. That same night she sat in her empty living room that was yet to be furnished, and while seated on cardboard boxes, she carefully stitched the first addition to her new apartment, curtains.

She remembers hanging them up for the first time, and feeling such a sense of completion. Of independence. On her own now, with an apartment and a car and a job. Yes, she's definitely successful. All grown up and ready to take on the world.

There's a knock on the door, and Spike's head peeps in.

"Are you still asleep?" He comes all of the way inside now. "Bugger that! It's too nice out to be wasting it away inside napping. 'Sides, I made breakfast and everything. Come on, wake up, sleeping beauty!"

She laughs. "I'll be right there, Prince Charming. Hold your horses!"

They gorge themselves on bacon and french toast, and in the kitchen he grabs her, and they dance to some old eighties ballad blasting from the crackling little radio.

And everything feels perfect.

The prophecy was wrong.

A visit from the Oracles, Angel explains to them. They told him. The prophecy happened before it was supposed to; the Shanshu hasn't been earned, by either of them. Neither man is redeemed, not yet.

Fred doesn't understand what this means at first, until Lilah lays it out, in simple, clear terms: It's going to be reversed.

"He's been like this for this long, and they've just realized now?" she exclaims, jumping to her feet.

"I'm sorry." Angel looks away.

Spike just sits, no reaction. Finally he asks, "When is it going to happen?"

"Tonight. Midnight."

"Oh." Still, no movement.

Fred and him go back to the apartment. She sets the paper bag that Angel gave her on the counter, full of containers of pig's blood. Preparations have to be made; small things. Spike doesn't say anything to her, just goes into her room and leaves her to take care of it. Puts up thick, strong blinds over the windows. Blocking out the sun.

When she takes down the flimsy, yellow daisy curtains, folding them up and tucking them away in a cardboard box, she realizes that she's crying.

At midnight, alone in his room, he feels it. The change.

The demon is in him once again, familiar as always. Feels his skin buzzing and singing, heart suddenly becoming still in his chest. His pulse is as silent as the grave. The heat is fading quickly, but even though his skin becomes cool once more, he doesn't feel the cold. Not in his bones.

There's frustration building up inside of him. He wants to scream, wants to cry, wants to tear the room apart. And it hurts because he knows that she can't help him. That once she sees him this way...everything will change.

He'll be left alone, again. With nothing. As always.

Fred finds him, just down the road. Standing over the bridge, doing nothing but gazing into the water. When she steps up beside him, she notices how he has no reflection now. It's a painful reminder to both of them.

"This doesn't change anything," she says, quietly.

He doesn't look at her. "It changes everything."

"I still love you."

"That doesn't mean anything. Not anymore."

"It doesn't mean anything? Why wouldn't it?"

"It just—it doesn't."

"Give me one reason, Spike," she whispers, tugging his arm to turn him around. Both of their cheeks are stained with wetness, and she's breathing ice against his words, teasing tears against his skin.

There is nothing to say. So much he wants to explain, so many words that are on the cusp of his tongue. He's tearing apart at the seams, and he doesn't want to break her too.

"It's wrong."

"Wrong to who? Wrong to our friends? Wrong to us?"

Spike glances up at her, daring to catch the gaze that's pulling at his seams. Fred is biting at her lip, biting at the words she looks like she wishes she hadn't said. Something inside of him is collapsing. It feels strange, and there is this feeling in the pit of his stomach, as if he's tumbling downwards. Falling head over heels.

"Tell me it feels wrong, Spike. I want you to tell me." She pauses, stares at him, hard. "I want you to say it."

"It's not you. It's me. I'm wrong." His eyelids sigh shut

"Does it feel wrong when I touch you, Spike?"

She touches him again, soft fingertips tracing eternity over his jaw. He can barely move, barely see, she's pressing her lips against his and fuck, he's falling again and suddenly he knows, he's not falling, he's...

"Fred," he groans against her lips, begging, pleading blindly against the aching inside of him. Tears mixing on the curve of their mouths, and she's parting her lips to touch him sadly.

"Say it," she murmurs against his mouth now, breath staggering, broken against his tears. He's afraid to touch her, knowing what this first touch means. It shimmers in front of him, illuminated against time, waiting for him to follow.


"I can't. Not like this." He pushes her away. Shifts into vamp face, the demon appearing, eyes flashing gold. It's ugly, and it's dangerous, and she has to see it. Has to realize. His love is like knives, sharp and deadly, and no good can ever come of it. "Look at me. At what I am."

"It doesn't matter," she says, grabs his cheekbones, pulls his face down to hers. Fingers tracing over the bumpy ridges. "It doesn't matter. Not to me. You're still you."

He imagines telling her how he feels. Letting it spill out, all right now. Telling her that no one has ever cared about him, valued him, not the way she does, telling her how she makes him feel real, really real, how much it terrifies him to having this aching inside filled, how she's adorable when she babbles and even her pain is beautiful. Imagines telling her how he loves her more than he can even breathe to say.

"No, I'm not." Instead of saying it, he shakes his head, human face emerging once again. "You don't have any idea. You don't know. I'm no good for you like this."

"You're still the man I love, Spike." A kiss pressed to his forehead. Love shining in her eyes, brilliant, dazzling and true. "You look perfect to me."

Another second and he knows he'll tear apart completely; he catches her mouth with his own, breathing her in desperately to stop himself from falling. He feels her smiling against his lips, gasping against his tears, sighing and laughing and sobbing all at once.

Spike smiles with her, her tears mixing with his, fingers catching with hers and squeezing tight. Time's ebbing away, catching on the edge of him as he caves into the only thing that can ever be this right.

It's not perfect.

There are times when it hurts. Times when they make each other scream and cry and bleed. Times when they both sometimes feel that getting involved was nothing but a mistake. Times when they have absolutely no idea of what they're doing.

But then there are times like these. Making love on the beach, the moonlight spilling across their naked bodies, dappling their skin. Soft kisses and a sweet embrace. And they don't ever need anything but each other, confusion and barriers melting away.

"I love you," he whispers, right into her ear. Echo of waves lapping the shore behind him.

Fred looks up at him, the rough ocean breeze sweeping her hair into a wild torrent. Shoots him a coy grin. "Always?"

"Always," he promises.

"Maybe I should get that in writing," she teases, rolling him over again.

Yes, it's definitely not always easy. But there are times like this when she makes him laugh, and he makes her smile. And he knows that all he wants to do with the rest of his existence is make her smile again, and again, and again. Because she's so beautiful when she's happy.

Times like this make everything worth it.