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[Fred] Just so tired

onlywantstostay in aamuses

Step One

"If you are brave too often, people will come to expect it of you."

I guess just about every time I've been brave, it was 'cause I had to be, to protect someone I loved. Except when I got infected. I was only brave that first day, not because I wanted to be or because I thought it would help me beat it, but because I knew that if I gave up - and it was real hard not to, believe me - the boys would break, and I couldn't do that to them. Until Wesley took me home, and I knew he'd love me no matter what, and I was so grateful because I was just so tired. I stopped being brave, I gave in, I gave up, I let him see how scared I really was.

But then I got better and he got worse, and I knew that if I didn't act brave again, it would kill him. Of course, he died anyway, so a whole lotta good being brave did me, or him, or anyone, and I decided then that I was done being strong, done being brave, done being a hero or even trying to be. You don't have to be any of those things in a lab where you control everything, so that's where I stayed.

Of course, there was still the world outside, trying to draw me out, put me back in the fight. I think that's why I started smoking again. When you're high - well, when I'm high - nothing really matters, you don't have to care. And I didn't want to. If I didn't care, then I wouldn't have to fight or be brave. I could just be, on my own, plain little Fred walking her own path without anything else being dependent on me. Except that wasn't true, I still had responsibilities, but the more I smoked the more I forgot that. It was comforting to just float and finally forget the pain that comes with losing everything you held dear, to not feel obligated to protect anyone.

But I forgot that I hadn't lost everything. There were still people who cared about me, and as much as I wanted to hate them for bringing all of this down on me, for trying to bring me back to a world I wasn't ready to return to, I couldn't hurt them. And when I almost did, well...

I guess that's why we're all here, isn't it. To remind ourselves and each other that we don't have to feel obligated to brave for them. It's enough to know that we can be, if necessary.

Fred Burkle
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