Title: Tradition
Author: DangerMouse
Email: dangermouse42@yahoo.com
Website: http://www.rose-tinted.net/dangermouse
Archive: List archive, anyone else wants it, let me know.
Feedback: Makes me so happy, I could lose my soul. Constructive criticism welcome, but no flames, please.
Summary: Gunn and Wesley meet together again to celebrate a small tradition.
Pairing: G/W
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: The boys don't belong to me. They belong to Joss, Mutant Enemy, the WB, and probably a few other people. The story, such that it is, is mine.
Warnings: Angst
Spoilers: A little season four, but nothing specific.
Thank you: Jess, for the quick beta. Any mistakes still in the fic belong to me and only me.
Author Notes: This is... late. Very, very late. Almost a month late. My response to the Gunn/Wes Anniversary challenge. Sorry. *sheepish grin* But, at least I got it done at all, right?

The bar was crowded, but quiet. All of the tables were filled with small groups, talking in hushed tones, while a rickety jukebox played a scratchy version of an old Bob Dylan song. Wesley sat at the counter, his hand cradling a cracked glass filled with potent whiskey, his hand casually tilting the glass to roll the liquid around. The bar tender had long stopped bothering him, aware of the fact that he was just going to continue to sit there and stare at his drink, as he had been for the past twenty minutes.

The glass was set loudly on the table and Wesley sat back on his stool. His eyes never lifted from the glass. The Bob Dylan song skipped.

"You made it."

Wesley glanced up and nodded at the familiar figure of Charles Gunn as he approached the counter, taking his place next to the former watcher. Gunn motioned to the bartender, who brought over another drink just like Wesley's, setting it in front of the younger man without a word. It, too, remained untouched.

"Sorry I was late," Gunn continued, pushing the glass around on the table with his finger. "It was tough getting over here."

"I appreciate it," Wesley told him, staring impassively at his friend. "I know how it can be." Words failed them and they both sat quietly, staring at anything but each other.

"How you been?" Gunn asked, breaking the silence. Wesley shrugged.

"The same," he said, giving Gunn a rueful smile. "Fighting the good fight, trying not to get killed, you know how it is. You?"

"Yeah, same." He was turning his glass around in circles, not meeting Wesley's eyes. "Why do we keep doing this?" he asked suddenly.

"Tradition?" Wesley offered. At that, Gunn finally looked at his friend, giving him an even, unimpressed look. "Because we need it?" Wesley tried again. Gunn sighed, looking back down at the scarred wood of the bar.

"I do need it," he agreed. "So much... so much has changed. If I didn't have this..."

"I'd lose myself," Wesley finished, running his fingers along the rough lip of the glass.

Gunn nodded. "Sometimes, I can't remember, you know? I can't remember what happened. And when I do, it seems really stupid."

"It was stupid," Wesley agreed. "All of it. The petty fighting, the rivalry, the distance... useless." He reached over a tentative hand and covered Gunn's with it. "I missed you."

"Me, too," Gunn said, intertwining his fingers with his friend's. He started to look over his shoulder towards the window, but Wesley shook his head.

"Don't," he warned. Gunn sighed and looked back at Wesley.

"Sorry," Gunn said. "I was just thinking how crazy it was that this is what it took for us get over our problems."

Wesley sighed. "I wish there could have been another way, before..."

Gunn stared down at the bar, chewing his lip for a moment, indecisive. Suddenly, he looked sharply back at Wesley. "Stay here," he pleaded. Wesley closed his eyes, looking torn, and Gunn interrupted him before he could voice his opposition. "You don't have to go back to Sunnydale," Gunn said.

"They need me there," Wesley returned.

"I need you here."

The two men stared at each other, Gunn's eyes hopeful, but resigned. After a moment of silence, Wesley gave his head the tiniest shake of 'no,' his own eyes showing deep regret.

"I can't," Wesley whispered.

"I know," Gunn replied in kind. He looked out the window, this time Wesley not even trying to stop him. "I should go," he said.

Wesley nodded, following his gaze. The two men unclasped their hands then reached out for their drinks, both downing the burning liquid simultaneously. Clearing his throat a little, Gunn met Wesley's eyes for one last time. With just the barest hesitation, Wesley leaned forward, capturing Gunn's lips with his own. It was short and sweet, conveying so much more than could ever be said, filled with hope and love, regret and loss.

They both sat back, Wesley's eyes blinking a bit too fast, Gunn swallowing heavily. They stood up, Wesley carelessly tossing some cash on the bar, nodding at the man behind it, who inclined his head just slightly in acknowledgement. Together, they made their way to the door, hovering just at the exit.

"Be careful," Wesley told Gunn, who flashed him a familiar, cocky grin.

"Always am," he said with some enthusiasm and Wesley smiled. "You watch your back, too, alright?"

"I will," Wesley promised.

"Good," Gunn said seriously. The both glanced outside, preparing themselves to part ways. The air was thick with smoke, the sky burning an unnatural color. All around them, the cries of things screaming filled the air as the demons rampaged on the street, as they had been for the six years since the world ended.

"See you next year?" Wesley asked him, hefting his battle-axe high on his shoulder. Gunn nodded reaching out a finger to trace the long scar along Wesley's cheek.

"Without a doubt," he said with conviction. With one last lingering glance, the two men rushed off in opposite directions, into the hell that was the streets of Los Angeles.

The End!


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