He's roaming the corridors aimlessly, hoping vaguely that he might find some trouble to get into, when he hears her call his name. It's a funny thing, but it doesn't seem to matter where he is, or what else is going on - when she calls, he always hears her.
He turns around immediately, and heads back to the science division. He walks through the door of her lab without opening it, generating a mildly gratifying gasp from a passing technician who was obviously a bit out of the 'latest developments' loop.
"You still here, pet? Thought you'd have been off by now, doing the whole 'gathered into the bosom of the loving family' thing."
She's scribbling on two different pieces of paper with both hands, writing equations with her left and adding long wavy lines to a diagram that looks remarkably like a spider's web with her right. It freaks him out when she does that.
She doesn't look up. "What? Oh, yes. I am. I'm halfway to Texas already. You're talking to a robot that's been left behind to look after Hagrid." She nods towards a large chrome container sitting on the corner of the table.
When he doesn't answer, she finally raises her head to look at him. "That was a joke. You got that, right?"
"Right," he says, and resists the urge to walk around behind her and check the back of her head for wires or bits of plastic. He's learned the hard way that it was safest not to assume anything at Wolfram & Hart. The more unbelievable it sounded, the more likely it was to be true. Just take Harmony the Executive PA, for example.
"I can't believe you gave that thing a name," he says, indicating the container. "It's a bucket of artificially-grown demon spawn, Fred. Not a puppy."
"I know, I know. But I still think it's cute," she says firmly. "And anyway, it's grown fur. Anything that has fur deserves to have a name."
"Well, just you make sure he's house trained before you leave. I can't be changing his nappies for him."
"Oh, I don't think he'll ever develop a digestive system the way we understand it, so there won't be any question of actual physical excretion. Although I do think he's starting to be able to metabolise ultraviolet so if I hook up the emitter on a regular basis there could be a certain overspill of a kind of psychic effluvia and you were joking as well, then, weren't you?"
He grins, and shrugs. He likes hearing her talk. Doesn't understand more than one word in twenty, half the time, but that doesn't matter. She still gets excited by what she's doing, she still believes - and that's more than you can say for most people round here. Himself included.
"So what are you still doing hanging around, pet? And what did you want me for?"
"Oh, oh. Yes." She reaches under the table and pulls out a strangely shaped object, wrapped in shiny silver paper. She puts it down, then looks at him with that shy, sweet smile that turns his insides to jelly every time. Or would do, if he still had insides.
"I wanted to give you your present."
Suddenly there seems to be a large non-existent lump in his non-existent throat. He rubs the back of his neck and busies himself with bending down and examining the parcel. "Um," he says awkwardly, waving his useless hands through it.
Fred ducks her head. "Oh, yeah, of course - uh, I'll open it for you, shall I?"
He nods, and she pulls at the wrapping until it reveals something that looks like the bastard offspring of a meccano set and a batch of bad LSD; a squat little box with various protruding arms and spines. Some of them appear to be dripping a bluish slimy substance that he decides he doesn't want to examine any closer.
He straightens up, staring at it. "Wow. Thanks. Its, um, it's wonderful, I love it. What is it?"
Fred adjusts one of the little purple doodads at the back and it squeaks. She pats it proudly. "It's - well, actually it's something that would take me the rest of the night to explain properly, so it's probably best if I don't bother. I'll tell you what it'll do, instead."
"Okay, sounds good to me. So what's that, then?"
She moves slowly around the lab table and stands close to him, raising her hand until the palm hovers a millimetre away from what should have been the skin of his cheek. He closes his eyes for a second, imagining that he can feel the warmth of her hand.
"It'll make you solid," she says. "Oh, not for good - I'm still working on that one. To re-corporealise you permanently would take a level of source power that I just don't have access to. I can do it, but only for a real short space of time."
He stands still, not wanting to give up on the idea that both her closeness and her words are implying. The idea that he could touch her.
"How short are we talking about?"
She runs her finger over the little switch on the front of the misshapen box. "I don't know for sure. Not long. Probably only a couple of minutes or so. I know it's not much, but at least it should be enough for me to give you the present I really wanted to."
"Another present? What's that, then?"
She gives him that smile again, and pulls out a little green twig from the pocket of her lab coat. He eyes it, and laughs.
She holds it above them, then tilts her head close to him, angling her mouth so that her lips are poised an inch away from his. "Are you ready?" she asks.
He nods, no words left, and she grins. "Merry Christmas, Spike," she says, and flicks the switch.