TITLE: By the Rivers Dark
AUTHOR WEBSITE: http://mywebpages.comcast.net/godawfulstories/
DISCLAIMER: Characters from "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" are the property of Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui, Warner Brothers, UPN, FOX, and TPTB. This story is for entertainment purposes only.
SPOILERS: "Linage" Season 5
SYNOPSIS: Gunn offers Wesley some comfort after the events in "Linage".
By the Rivers Dark
Wesley hung up the phone, still feeling cold inside. Speaking with his father helped marginally, but didn't ease the pain he felt. He'd killed his father in cold blood. Without thought or regret. Nine deadly shots into the chest. Each one feeling as satisfying as the last. God, he was going to be sick again.
"Hey," Gunn poked his head into Wesley's office. "I heard what happened on the roof," he walked in, his tie hanging loose and his suit jacket missing. "Thought you might want to talk."
Wesley choked down the acid feeling in the back of his throat, "If you wish to tell me how you murdered your parents, this is not the best time."
"No, sorry," Gunn was almost cheerful when he sat down in the chair facing Wesley's desk. "Vamps took care of that. I could tell you that story if it'd help."
And suddenly Wesley discovered he could feel worse than he already did. He knew what happened to Gunn's parents and it was a very callous thing for him to have said. "I'm so sorry," he apologized. "It's just...Angel and Spike tried to be consoling earlier."
"Ah," Gunn understood. He'd seen Angel trying to be comforting. Very scary. "Not very consoling, I take it?"
"No, having my actions likened to acts committed by soulless evil creatures tends to have the opposite effect."
"Yeah, I can see that." Gunn shifted further back into the chair, "So how are you doing?"
Wesley nodded, looking down at his desk. "I'm fine."
"Uh huh," Gunn's sarcastic remark got Wesley's attention. "When you believe that," Gunn continued, "let me know."
Wesley left his chair and stood staring out the windows. "I know," he said, looking at the downtown lights. "He wasn't my father. He was just a machine, a creature wearing my father's face. I shouldn't be feeling guilty over...what I did," Wesley's voice grew soft.
Gunn's mind replayed events from just a few years ago, when he had to shove a stake through his sister's heart. "But it doesn't make it any easier," Gunn whispered.
"No." Delicately, he touched the blinds with the tips of his fingers. "How do you live with it?" he turned his head to ask.
Gunn leaned forward in the chair, resting his elbows on his knees. "By reminding myself Alonna was already dead. She wasn't my sister anymore." His gaze lowered, "But it doesn't stop the nightmares."
A silence fell between them. Not even the hum of the ventilation system filled the void. Suddenly, Gunn slapped his knees and stood, "Wanna get a beer?"
A fleeting smile crossed Wesley's face, "Can't think of a better way to end this day."
They went to their bar, the one not far from the Hyperion, with wobbly stools and slightly sticky woodwork. "Is this the same aunt who was allergic to shellfish?" Wesley asked.
Gunn gulped down his beer, "No, that was Auntie Claire. So," Gunn asked still in casual conversation mode, "has anyone died gruesomely in your family?"
Wesley shook his head, "Strangely no, considering I come from a long line of Watchers."
"Why is that odd? Do you guys normally die from paper cuts and heavy books clunking you on the head?"
He chuckled, "No, a Watcher's lifespan is reduced significantly when they are assigned to a Slayer. Many vampires will kill the Watcher to demoralize her."
"And you knew this? Before you accepted the Sunnydale job?"
Wesley nodded, sipping at his cocktail. "But I was young and na´ve and thought I knew Karate. I was invincible," the melancholy crept over him again. "I sometimes miss those days, being innocent and blissfully ignorant."
Gunn was about to say something supportive when the bartender cut him off. "Last call!" she shouted out at the handful of patrons.
Wesley looked at his watch, "I guess it is late. And I was just starting to be a morose drunk."
"Everything will be all right," Gunn placed his hand on Wesley's forearm where it rested on the bar.
It was warm and comforting and real and everything Wesley needed. A knot worked its way into his throat and Wesley couldn't talk past it. It hurt to breathe. Forcing down the rest of his cocktail, Wesley nodded. "Thank you," he whispered.
Gunn smiled and patted his arm, "C'mon, lets go."
Once outside, Wesley shivered from an unfelt breeze. "You don't have to go home," Wesley whispered to himself, "But you can't stay here." He shoved his hands deeper into his trouser pockets.
Clasping his hand on Wesley's shoulder, Gunn led him over to his truck, "You haven't seen my new apartment yet."
Wesley cringed when Gunn handed him an ice cold American beer.
"Hey," Gunn joked, "You should be glad it's not in a can."
He unscrewed the cap in silence. "Nice apartment," he commented standing in the stark living room. It was obviously furnished by a decorator who knew nothing about Gunn. The walls where white, the carpet cream and the furniture black leather. Very generic.
"Yeah," Gunn said picking up on Wesley's thoughts. "I'm going to hang some weapons on the walls and other stuff when I have time." They sat down on the surprisingly comfortable sofa. "I finally have a nice place, but no time to spend in it."
Wesley nodded, "It's one of the reasons why I haven't moved. Plus it's a comfort to stay in a place you know you can afford no matter what."
"Sometimes," Gunn reached forward and rested his beer on the glass coffee table. "I wonder about Dennis. How he's doing."
"He's fine," Wesley assured. "I visit whenever I'm in the area. The apartment is still vacant. It seems they've been having a hard time keeping tenants since Cordelia left."
"Dennis is still waiting for Cordy to come back."
"Yes," Wesley got up and started restlessly pacing around the room. "I promised him if Cordelia doesn't...return, I would help him move on."
"Man, we just cannot have a conversation without it turning morbid."
"It's the nature of the business we're in."
"Well, it makes it hard to cheer a guy up."
Wesley smiled, "Thank you for the effort." He checked his watch, "I should be going. We have to be back at the office in a few hours."
Gunn got up and stood next to him. "Stay, I've got an extra bedroom." Gunn took his elbow and led him further into the apartment to a large, but equally spartan bedroom.
"Why do I have a feeling you don't want me to be alone?" Wesley asked Gunn.
"Do you want to be alone?" he asked.
Closing his eyes, Wesley shook his head. "Not really."
Gunn left his bed after a few hours in search of the heating pad. Getting thrown onto a set of stairs is really as painful as it looks. As he opened the hall closet door, he noticed a shadow moving on his balcony. His first reaction was to grab the baseball bat lying right inside of the closet, but then he recognized the figure.
At the soft whoosh of the glass door opening, Wesley turned and roughly wiped his eyes.
"Are you okay?" Gunn asked, stepping out onto the cold concrete in his bare feet.
Wesley sniffled and cleared his throat. "I'm fine," he looked out over the city. The view from Gunn's balcony was stunning.
"Do I have to say 'Uh huh' again, because man, I just caught you crying out here in middle of the night." He took Wesley's shoulder and turned him until they faced each other. "It's okay to cry. You've seen your father die. Don't hold it back, especially because of me. I'm your friend, you shouldn't need to hide." He pulled him into an embrace. "It's okay."
Wesley was quiet as he rested his forehead against Gunn's shoulder. The pressure of everything bore down on him and he didn't know if he could control it. Wesley's hands balled up into fists as he tried to keep everything inside. Wesley knew if he broke now, his soul would never be whole again.
"It's okay," Gunn repeated, not really knowing what to say, but he did believe that. "Everything is okay. No one was hurt. Remember that."
Wesley's heart ached, a pain far beyond anything physical. Gunn was wrong. Someone was injured. He was the one hurt. He was the one they wanted to destroy. Whoever they were. Regardless what Angel said, he was the weak one. He was the one standing on Gunn's balcony sobbing like a child. He was everything the dark shadows of him self whispered. He wasn't the man he thought he was. If he was a man at all. Disgusted, he forcefully pushed himself away.
Gunn tightened his hold when Wesley tried to pull from him. "It's okay, Wes." Wesley's face flinched away from the words, worse than any strike. Taking Wesley's head in his hands, he forced Wesley to look at him. "Everything will be all right." Wesley's eyes were wide and lost, almost milky white and unseeing.
Gunn had to do something or he'd lose Wesley. He would fall into a world where nothing matters. A world which almost had him. "Everything will be all right," he repeated softer. Slightly turning his head, Gunn kissed him. Soft and tender and more loving than anything either of them had experienced in a long time. "Everything will be all right," his breath danced over Wesley's lips.
"Gunn," Wesley pleaded, closing his eyes. He couldn't deal with this. Not now. Why did Gunn pick this moment to kiss him? To acknowledge the feelings they both shared but had, until tonight, sensibly repressed. This was too much for him to bear.
"Shh," Gunn kissed him again. "Let's stop avoiding this. You need me."
Tears slipped passed Wesley's eyelashes. His lips moved tenderly over Wesley's cheek, kissing them away. "It's okay," he wrapped Wesley in his arms. "You'll be all right. I'll make everything better."
Gunn laid in bed, watching the sky lighten into a soft dull gray. Wesley rested against him, his head heavy and warm on his shoulder. Asleep beyond simple rest, Wesley had fallen into an exhausted unconsciousness beyond the reach of dreams.
Reaching out to the bedside table, Gunn picked up his cell phone and called his assistant, having him reschedule all of his appointments for the day. The poor boy wasn't happy, but Gunn didn't care.
He then called Angel. "Wesley won't be in today," Gunn told him, whispering just in case Wesley did suddenly wake.
"Yeah, I figured as much. He with you?"
Gunn gazed down at the top of Wesley's head. "Yeah. He spent the night."
Some shuffling was heard over the line, "How is he?"
"He's going to need some time. Lots of time."
"How much time?" Angel sounded more alert.
"We're talking Sri Lanka."
Angel was quiet for a moment. "Okay. If there is anything he needs. Money, a plane, cars, his own private island, have him call me."
"I will." Gunn hung up and stared back down at Wesley. "Everything will be okay," he promised.