Title: Home Is Where The Heart Is
Author: Kath vze25s65@verizon.net
Disclaimer: Joss and David just don't write in enough kitties.
Rating: PG, despite m/ slashy undertones
Summary: Gunn tries to cheer up Wes. Revelations occur.
Distribution: List archives; anyone else just ask.
Feedback: Yep!
Spoilers: Everything from 'Reunion' on, but the events from 'Epiphany' have not happened.
Notes: This is for Dae, who is having a crappy week. I was sorta rushed, and had to make it short so I could get it done tonight, so I hope its not too terrible. Title taken from the movie I was watching while I wrote it. Challenge requirements listed at end of fic.

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Darkness. Deception. Denial. Depressed. Desolation. Despair. Disappointed. Discouraged. Disillusioned. Downtrodden.

"Yo, English, what *are* you reading?"

"Hmmm, what?" Distracted...another good 'D' word.

Charles grabbed the thick book out from under Wesley's elbows and shot his friend an exasperated look. "Let me guess. You're looking up all the unhappy words in the dictionary again."

"Leave me alone, Charles. I'm not in the mood."

"No, that's right. Since 'he who shall remain senseless' fired us, you've taken over *all* his duties, including the brooding, haven't you?" Gunn hadn't come here to fight with Wesley. He'd actually wanted to cheer him up, but that was easier said than done these days. Wesley stood, still needing to lean on his cane a bit, and limped across the office, to the bookcase.

"Excuse me, Gunn, but I think I have the right to be a little...."

"Malingering...maudlin...melodramatic...miserable...morbid...morose..." From where he was standing, Gunn could see Wesley's cheek muscle twitch briefly, and wondered if that was an almost-smile.

"Thank you, but I've already done the 'm's." Yeah, he was pretty sure there was a smile hiding just beneath that dour expression.

"C'mon, let's go out somewhere, just you and me, two demon hunters out on the prowl." Gunn struck with a well-aimed elbow to those way-too-skinny-ass ribs. Wesley turned and regarded the taller man thoughtfully for a moment, his fingers fiddling absently with a crystal he'd picked up off the shelf. A sharp beam of light from the reading lamp on the desk had become captured by the clear glass and was spraying a beautiful rainbow across the former Watcher's white shirt.

"I appreciate what you're trying to do, Charles, but if you don't mind, I think I'd rather you just gave me a ride home, if that's alright." Gunn forced his eyes away from Wes' chest, shrugging as if it were no big deal.

"Sure, if that's what you want. You ready to go?" He grabbed Wesley's books out of his hands and carried them to the door, holding it open and waiting for his friend to pass by, only then allowing his shoulders to sag slightly and a wistful expression to cross is face.

*****

Wesley's keys jingled softly as he searched through them for the one to his apartment. Gunn leaned casually up against the wall next to him, his total focus on the long, thin fingers nimbly sorting through the jigsawed pieces of metal. It was no surprise then, that he didn't hear what Wes was saying until he had repeated it a second time.

"Charles? Are you listening to me? I said you didn't have to walk me in. I'm not an invalid, you know. I'm a big boy and can take care of myself." The door was open and Wesley was standing there, obviously waiting.

"Er...yeah, I know it. Just thought you might change your mind and want a little company. I could come in for a drink or somethin'."

"Thanks, but I think I'm going to turn in early. You go ahead out and have a good time. I'll see you in the morning."

"Oh, yeah...okay. G'night." The door shut, and Charles heard the sound of deadbolts sliding into place. He stood still quietly for another moment, his hands digging deep into the pockets of his pants, before silently heading back to his truck, and home.

*****

"CHARLES!" Wesley tore down the alleyway as fast as he could, ignoring the immediate stitch in his side. That blow to the head had looked far too serious from where he'd been standing, and the amount of blood pooling around his fallen comrade did nothing to ease the ex-watcher's mind. Relief flooded him, as he realized the younger man was unconscious, but still breathing. The rogue demon hunter looked around uneasily, but saw no sign of the large Fureal Demon that had attacked them both unexpectedly. If Gunn hadn't lured it away from him, it might very well be Wesley lying there now, bleeding...again.

Wes fumbled in his coat pocket for his cell phone and quickly punched out '911', then ripped off his coat, pressing it against the head wound, trying to stop the bleeding. Flashbacks to another alley, another coat being pressed to another wound, one month before, darted jaggedly back and forth behind his eyes. Now he knew what it was like to be in Gunn's shoes. Now he knew what it was like to fear for the life...or death, of a close friend. As he sat back on his heels, cradling the renegade's smooth head in his lap, he raised his head to the sky and prayed to whatever gods might be listening. In the distance, he could hear the sound of sirens, getting closer and closer.

"They're coming, Charles. Just hang on. You're going to be fine." He stroked the slightly stubbled cheek softly, not even realizing he was rocking them both back and forth. When the paramedics arrived, they had to pry him away, only succeeding after promising Wesley could ride in the back of the ambulance with his fallen friend. He was not about to let Charles be left alone. It was only right....Gunn had done the same for him.

*****

Clean, white sheets....clean, white walls...clean, white nurses uniforms, complete with clean, white, rubber-soled shoes that made no sound as they floated in and out of the room, monitoring vital signs, reading charts, replacing IV bags. If there were whispers about the haggard looking man, wearing blood-stained clothing, who refused to leave the ICU, neither man heard any of them. Delicate, white fingers - made all the more pale by their proximity to the darkened skin of the one they were touching - alternated between softly caressing Gunn's cheek again, and tightly gripping his large, meaty hand.

Cordelia was there, had been there since an almost hysterical phone call from Wesley had interrupted her sleep. At the moment, she was dozing in a chair in the waiting room, too exhausted from having to deal with yet another of her friends being here. She was too young to be so familiar with the inside of so many hospitals.

Wesley rocked gently in his chair, watching for any sign that Gunn was waking up. How had they done it? How had they held it together, when it was *he* who was lying in this bed (or one nearly identical to it)? How could he have been so stupid, not to see...not to realize what this young man meant to him. The teasing, the insults, the shared smiles, the shared terror, the secret 'brotherly' handshake that they looked so ridiculous doing - the one that made Wesley feel like he belonged somewhere - all pointed to a bond he hadn't even realized existed, until now.

Charles must have felt it, when the roles were reversed. It explained so much: the reluctance to leave Wesley alone, the worry about whether he was eating or not, the attempts to cheer him up, the lingering looks.

"I'm sorry I didn't see it, Charles. It just took me longer to realize. Wake up, so I can tell you all about it. Then you can complain how much I'm boring you to..." He closed his eyes and forced a deep breath out, before standing up to place a light kiss on Gunn's forehead.

"Mmmmm?" Wesley's eyes shot open, to find chocolate brown ones staring up at him. "W-Wes?"

"Good morning, Charles." He swiped at the tears in his eyes.

"You okay?" Gunn reached up, concerned, and couldn't quite figure out why he had tubes attached to his arm.

"Isn't that supposed to be *my* line?" The young man tried to turn his head, to look around, but it felt like he had a cannonball resting on top of his shoulders.

"Uh, what the hell happened? And did you know that you *really* look like shit?" Wes flashed a dopey grin at him and repeated the kiss to the forehead.

"Did you know you look bloody wonderful?"

*****

"How long I gotta lay here, slowly dyin' of boredom?" Gunn protested loudly, from Wesley's sofa. He was actually lucky, considering this was the first day the elder man had let him out of the bedroom, where he'd been recuperating for the last week. Cordelia stuck her head out of the kitchen door, making sure her patient was staying put, more than anything else.

"You know the doctors told you not to do anything strenuous for two weeks. Getting your brain knocked halfway out your ears is a pretty serious thing, apparently. Don't you dare get off that couch, Charles, or Wesley will never let either of us hear the end of it....and I *know* you don't want to hear that lecture a third time, any more than I do.

"So where is Mr. Overreaction, anyway?"

"He said he was going to get you something to occupy your time. That's all I know. I consider it a good sign he actually left the apartment." Gunn had to smile. Things had definitely changed between him and Wesley. The other man rarely left his side, and Gunn had finally had to tell him to shut the hell up, just to get him to stop apologizing...for what, he wasn't sure, although it had something to do with feelings and not realizing things sooner. Gunn didn't care, as long as it meant he got to feel the back of Wesley's hand on his forehead, checking for a fever, or his fingers brushing along the nape of his neck, as he helped Gunn change shirts. His brain hadn't even begun to process all that was involved in making sure other personal needs were attended to, not the least of which was bathing. One joke about it being Wesley's turn to get naked, and the man had turned such a bright red, that Charles was sure he was having a stroke. When he was feeling better - when he could stand on his own feet long enough to go to the bathroom by himself - the two of them were going to sit down and have a serious talk about things.

The sound of the front door opening, woke Gunn from his thoughts, watching curiously, as Wes entered, obviously hiding something behind his back. The guy was practically beaming from ear to ear, obviously pleased with himself about something.

"I know you've been pretty stir crazy this past week, and you really have been good about it all, so....I saw an ad in the paper the other day, and just thought..."

"What? That you were going to chat me into another coma? C'mon, gimme." Wesley came over and carefully brought his arm around, finally plopping a small object into Gunn's lap....a small, furry object that moved. Gunn's eyes widened, as they met the grey eyes of the small black and grey tabby cat. He had white paws, a white splotch on his chest and a white star on his forehead - just the sort of thing you would imagine a mystic guy like Wes would pick out. Charles reached out and wiped at the splash of cinnamon on the kitten's nose, as if to make sure it wasn't going to rub off.

"How did you...?" Raw emotion scraped at his throat, making the words sound strange and thick as they came out.

"I remembered you telling us once about how you'd always wanted a pet, but your sister was allergic, so you could only have a goldfish. I saw the ad in the paper, and I don't know..." Wes shrugged, helpless to explain his impulses any further. Clearly touched by the kind gesture, Charles reached out his hand, which Wesley took and squeezed.

"Thanks, man. This means alot to me."

"Yes, well...I guess I wanted you to know...that you mean alot to me too." No discomfort, no embarrassment, only two sets of eyes meeting...unspoken communication...understanding. Yep, things were definitely going to be different from now on. And it was about time too.

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~~~The End~~~

The Request: It must have:

1) Someone feeling incredibly guilty about NOT seeing the truth of something that had been right in front of them

2) Someone getting hurt. . .Gee, like that ones going to be a stretch!

3) A mention of a cat, an appearance of cat, something pertaining to a cat. Hell, even a cat metaphor would work. . . though Id be especially happy if there was an actual cat in the fic and the cat looked like Toby (his coloring mentioned above)

 

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