FEEDBACK: God, yes please. Constructive criticism
received with gratitude. Praise received with dance of
SUMMARY: Gunn waits. Wes wakes. (AtS S2, set just
after 'The Thin Dead Line'.)
RATING: PG 13 - nothing but a dash of immoderate
language to get your knickers in a twist about. Yet.
DISCLAIMER: The characters are the property of Joss
Whedon, Mutant Enemy, Kuzui, Sandollar, and David
Greenwalt Productions, 20th Century Fox, and whoever
else may have a hold upon them. I do not mean to
infringe upon any copyrights. Not mine. Just playing.
ARCHIVE: Fanfiction.net, List Archives. If you want
it, ask. (I'm still polishing it up, though.)
NOTES: Thanks to the Bitches & to everyone who asked
about a sequel to 'Games'.
Gunn really fucking hated hospitals.
Watercooler half-full. Big fake plant in the corner of
the waiting room that needed dusting. Pile of
dog-eared old magazines with smiling white women on
the covers, banal headlines in bold, primary colours
offering "101 Ways To A Slimmer Summer!" "How To Get
That Guy!" and "The Secret Of Giving A Perfect
Remembered his Mom lying in a bed in a place like
this, way too late. Alonna, that time she broke her
arm when she was little. Derek. Marion, her pretty
face all torn up. Wayne. Jasmin. Veronica. And now
Wesley Wyndham Price, skinny-ass English guy, who
really had no business bein' in LA in the first place,
let alone bleeding to death from a zombie-inflicted
bullet wound there. But at least Wes had medical
insurance, which meant one less set of hoops to jump
And God, God, he'd thought for sure it was too late by
the time they got to the hospital. Heart in his mouth
when the weird simplicity of frantically kicking
zombie ass gave way to staring confusedly at the
suddenly-crumbling corpses; when the flood of relief
dried up as he remembered his boy was *dying* there.
Ol' Wes was a resilient little bastard, give him that;
Gunn had more than half expected him to be dead before
they left Annie's place, but he'd hung in there.
Needed medical attention like, *yesterday*, but
somehow he was still breathing, his precious prissy
face growing greyer and older by the second. Gunn had
hovered protectively around him like a mother hen with
one chick left, swinging between fury and fear,
useless adrenaline zinging through his veins. He
wanted to kick the shit out of the person who did this
- but since the zombie was technically already dead
when the shooting occurred, and since it was a whole
damn heap deader now, there was nobody to take it out
on but himself.
Gunn had failed again. Someone was dying because Gunn
had failed again.
"Sorry sir, only next of kin allowed," the orderly
said as Wesley disappeared through the swing doors in
a flurry of medics. The look Gunn turned on him made
the guy flinch automatically and raise his hands palm-
outwards in a gesture of appeasement. "Hey, man, I'm
sorry - but it's the rules."
"He's my brother. My *twin* brother," Gunn had said in
a dangerous tone, daring the guy to contradict him,
ready for a fight; but he was disarmed by the
compassion of other man's smile and by the light touch
of Cordelia's hand on his arm. He'd half-way forgotten
Cordy was even there, but her hand was shaking and
when he glanced down he could see that she was just
barely holding it all together herself.
//Jesus, poor Cordy.//
"I am really sorry - I know you're frightened for your
friend, but the rules are the rules. He's in good
hands, now - the best. Just let them get on with it.
You can wait through there and I'll come tell you as
soon as there's any news, I promise."
* * *
The waiting was the worst part. And God knows he
should be used to waiting by now - vampire hunting
involved plenty of waiting around patiently between
stakings. But then you had some measure of control. A
purpose. This hospital waiting drove him insane -
nothing to do but replay everything in your head,
think about all the things you'd done wrong. Think
about what the doctors were going to say. Think about
things you should have said yourself, back when there
was still time to say things.
It wouldn't be the first time he'd had one of his
people die on him ("No! No. We don't talk about that.
That's done."), but ever since Alonna, Gunn had lost
some sort of protective shell he'd never even known
was there. Since Alonna, Gunn was finding that he
couldn't be ruthless about risking other lives anymore
- not like he had been up until then. Giving the
necessary orders left him feeling raw and drained and
empty with the knowledge that any one of the familiar
faces could vanish if their trust was misplaced. If he
made a mistake. He knew they needed a decisive leader,
knew he wouldn't help his people by going easy on
them; but it ate away at him every time he sent them
out into the darkness with nothing but a bit of wood
and their reflexes between them and all the bad thing
that waited in the shadows. ("Everybody dies. I'm just
trying to make sure that when we die, we stay dead.")
It was a relief to be out of the neighbourhood, to be
fighting demons alongside people who didn't matter so
much - people who weren't *his* people, people who
weren't his responsibility. People who were Angel's
After Angel up and left, wild horses wouldn't have
made Gunn desert them; and of course, inevitably, now
he felt like these middle class white folks were his
people too. Should have seen that one coming, but it
still took him by surprise. And Wesley was special -
he would be astonished to hear it, he'd blush and say
something self-deprecating, but the white boy was
special just the same. He'd somehow sneaked in under
Gunn's radar while his attention was elsewhere and
turned out that Wes dying would matter a whole lot,
would matter maybe more than Gunn could handle.
("You're the one that's falling now. Let me catch
you") It had taken Gunn a while to realise it, but
Wesley Wyndham Price deserved a helluvalot more than
he thought he did, a helluvalot more than he would
ever dream of asking for. Wesley might be a pansy-ass
momma's boy with some spectacularly ugly clothes to
his name, but he was *all right* and Gunn was proud to
have him as a friend. Embarrassed by him some of the
time, yes, but painfully protective and proud of him
just the same.
And he was bleeding to death right now because of
Gunn. Because he was a well-meaning English guy who
didn't understand how rough things could get in the
real world. Who thought that people were basically
fair and reasonable - that *the cops* were basically
fair and reasonable - and that everything could be
worked out if a person just talked in a fair and
reasonable voice. Who didn't understand you could be
in a world of pain and trouble with the law just for
walking while black.
Wesley Wyndham Price didn't know jack shit about the
And OK, gotta admit that Gunn hadn't been expecting
things to go down the way they did. He hadn't expected
white, middle class, Masterpiece Theatre- soundin' Wes
to get shot on sight; and he sure as *hell* hadn't
expected the cop to get up and walk around after
Rondell shot him dead.
So maybe Gunn didn't know shit about the real world
either; 'cause he *still* didn't know what made those
fuckers stop moving, what made them fall down like
puppets with their strings cut and start looking and
smelling like the long-dead meat they really were. If
they hadn't all just committed mass zombiecide or
whatever the hell that was, Gunn and Cordy and Ray and
Annie and the rest of those kids would be toast. And
so would Wesley Wyndham Price. They all owed their
lives to some whacked out freak of chance - because G
had been fresh out of ideas when the zombies started
coming through the walls.
He had failed again; and if Wes lived through this it
was going to be no damn thanks to Charles Gunn.
("...Is anyone else cold?")
He started to his feet when the doors opened, but it
was only Cordelia back from the coffee machine. She
looked haggard, seemed to be at a loss for words as
she passed him a plastic cup of nasty-smelling liquid.
It scalded his tongue. Tasted like shit.
"What kinda ugly-ass dead demon you squeeze this
from?" Gunn asked her, feeling a sudden rush of
tenderness at the desolate look on her face. Waited
for Cordy to bitch back at him, needing some sort of
normality to hold onto just now, something to occupy
the front of his mind for a little while. Sure didn't
expect to see her cheerleader face slowly crumple in a
way that wasn't pretty at all.
Just when Gunn thought it wasn't possible to feel any
guiltier, suddenly he went and made Cordy cry and
found himself feeling a whole new flavour of guilty.
"Shit, girl!" he said, wrapping long arms around her
and holding her tight. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry, baby.
Thank you for the coffee, it's the best coffee I ever
had." It was too long since Gunn had held anybody;
surprisingly he found himself powerfully reminded of
holding Alonna. Not that he wanted a new kid sister to
look out for, not that some spoilt-brat, whiney, white
Prom Queen would ever have been his choice of family;
but deep down Cordelia had some of the same ballsy
courage his little sister had always had, was almost
as smart. Maybe he needed that to keep him grounded.
And sure, Cordelia was a fine looking girl - but for
some reason Gunn would no more think of her like
*that* than he would have thought of Alonna like that.
Shit, he hadn't meant to make her cry. "I'm sorry,
baby. I'm sorry. It's gonna be OK, you'll see."
"It wasn't OK before," she said eventually, her
rich-girl voice sounding frayed around the edges.
"Doyle didn't deserve to die, but he died anyway. I
don't think I can take it again, Gunn." Which was so
damn close to his own thoughts that there was nothing
he could say at all, so he just stood there and held
her and prayed silently that this time things would be
* * *
When they finally got to see Wesley he was unconscious
and looking very much like someone who'd been shot in
the gut by a zombie cop and then left to bleed all
over a sofa for a while. Morphine drip plugged into
one frail- looking arm. Dark shadows under lidded eyes
that looked oddly vulnerable without their customary
armour of glass. Face ashen and slightly translucent;
the vivid tracery of veins visible under his
paper-thin skin reminding Gunn of that old
blue-painted white china you sometimes saw in junk
shops. Too fragile. Pitiful.
("I was never gonna let anything happen to you. I was
supposed to protect you")
* * *
Gunn watched the gentle rise and fall of Wesley's
skinny chest and felt awkward, like he was some kinda
Peeping Tom. Remembered the first time he'd ever set
eyes on Wes, lying scarred and unconscious in a
hospital bed just like this because of Angel.
Remembered how irresistibly simple it always was to
wind Wesley Wyndham Price up, right from the start.
Remembered the unlikely bravado with which Wes would
fling himself into battle like he was trying to prove
something. Remembered the way he would defer to Angel
all the time; the unquestioning loyalty with which he
followed the vampire's orders; the self-doubt under
his pompous bickering; and the incredulous look of
wholly unexpected pain on his sweet, dumb face when
Angel fired them.
Gunn hadn't cottoned on for the longest time to the
fact that the whole hero-worship thing Wes had going
on with his employer maybe had another dimension to
it. It wasn't until they'd met that guy Fletcher at a
post- slaying venue one night that Gunn had realised
that ol' Wes was - well, that he wasn't exclusively
into girls. Sure hadn't seen *that* one coming either;
although he really, *really* should have done, 'cause
when you thought about it, Wesley was just So. Damned.
Obvious. But Gunn had thought maybe that was just the
whole English thing.
But *Angel* knew. Gunn had given it some thought and
he was quite sure of that. Angel had been around the
block a good few times in the past couple of centuries
- no *way* he was going to misinterpret Wesley's
adoration. Looking back, Gunn realised that Wes had
been walking around with his heart on his sleeve the
whole damn time. Cold-blooded sonofabitch was happy to
just use the guy's hopeless crush and then throw the
poor slob out on his skinny English ass once this
skanky peroxide-Elvira Sire showed up again.
He realised belatedly that he was already thinking
about Wes in the past tense and that would never do.
It was all gonna be OK - English was gonna be playin'
darts again and huddlin' over his dusty books again in
no time flat.
//This time. What about next time? 'Cause we all know
there's gonna be a next time.//
No point in thinking about that now. Gunn found that
he really, really wanted to touch Wesley - just wanted
to reach across and squeeze his pale hand so English
knew that he wasn't alone. Wondered if Wes guessed on
some level that Gunn was watching over him again - but
watching for himself this time, not as a favour to
Angel. ("These people mean a lot to me," Angel had
said, back before they meant anything to Gunn. Maybe
that was true then, but where the hell was he now?
Where the hell had Angel been all these past weeks,
when they had been staying alive by the skin of their
teeth? Bastard.) He sure hoped Wes would somehow just
know he was there, but kinda doubted it.
He found his long fingers twitching involuntarily with
the sudden urge to enfold the hand that lay there
helplessly in front of him. He wanted the contact more
than he could explain - wanted to feel the first spark
of stirring consciousness when Wes tentatively
squeezed his hand in return, the muscles contracting
slightly in his grasp before the naked blue eyes
peered myopically out from between slowly-parting lids
and Wes was Wes again, instead of this vulnerable
Wes-shaped shell stretched out neatly between hospital
He balled his hand into a fist and bit his lip,
staring intently at Wesley's defenceless face. He
wouldn't touch him. Didn't want ol' Wes getting the
wrong idea there, waking up with Gunn holding his hand
like some lovesick pansy. Nothin' wrong with Wes
liking guys - Hell, life was too damn short to worry
about that stuff - but Gunn was a regular guy. A man's
man. Wrapping his warm fingers around Wesley's poor
sleeping hand would just be leading him on, like Angel
had been doing all that time. Besides, he could just
imagine Cordy's raised eyebrow when she returned with
another undrinkable coffee and found him all snuggled
up with Wes. That was *so* not going to happen.
Flashed on 'Sleeping Beauty' for no good reason and
wondered with a grin whether he could wake Wesley with
a kiss. A beat later he couldn't believe he'd even
thought of such a thing. Found himself remembering how
warm and vulnerable and human Wesley had felt in his
arms as Gunn helped load him into the ambulance.
("Come on, man. I got you.")
He wasn't prepared for the surge of sheer delight that
rushed through his weary limbs when Wesley finally
stirred. Hadn't realised how damned tense he'd gotten
until he saw Wes peering drowsily back at him and Gunn
felt the knots in his muscles start to dissolve, felt
the urge to get up and dance or punch the air, or make
some other stupid *stupid* expression of exultation
and relief that his boy was back. That this time it
had all ended differently.
//Thank you, Baby Jesus.//
Leaning in closer, suddenly tongue-tied and
irrationally shy, Gunn said "Hey." Heard the
undisguised pleasure in his voice and felt like
blushing. Wesley looked over at him very slowly and
answered: "Hey." And, God, Gunn wanted to just hug him
- weak as a kitten but still just *Wes* looking back
at him, drugged to the eyeballs but blessedly,
beautifully alive. His heart was about ready to burst
with the joy of it.
"How you doin'?"
Wesley considered the answer."Oh...I feel I should be
in a great deal of pain," he said cheerfully. Gunn
felt like a school kid.
"Getting gut-shot will do that to you," he pointed
"And yet..." said Wes, musing upon the IV that
sprouted from his left hand "Is this morphine?" Gunn
nodded. "Well it's bloody lovely!" Wesley said simply,
giggling as his blue eyes met Gunn's.
Gunn couldn't help himself then, had to grab hold of
Wesley's hand and squeeze it tenderly for just a
moment before sitting back with a little sigh. And it
felt so normal and unremarkable and *good* that he
wondered what on earth he'd been waiting for. Found
that he wanted to pick the guy up and just cradle him
in his arms, press his face into the soft hair behind
his ears and promise him that it wouldn't ever happen
again; that Gunn wouldn't *ever* let it happen again.
"Where's Virginia?" asked Wesley after a moment, his
eyes unguarded and his mouth still curved into that
irresistible little dopey grin.
Hadn't been expecting the pure burst of jealousy that
the question provoked - hadn't been expecting it one
little bit. Fact was they hadn't even thought to ring
her - which was really bad, when you thought about it.
Gunn wondered just how to explain this without
sounding like a complete idiot and found himself
unable to frame the words as Wesley peered guilelessly
over at him, smiling. Such a trusting little
expression, such a relaxed and affectionate and above
all innocent expression. Gunn found himself feeling
vaguely ashamed, but didn't want to think about quite
And then Cordelia was back with some more of the
evil-tasting coffee and the air was suddenly filled
with affectionate Cordy-babble, leaving Gunn oddly
adrift and probing his own emotions like a kid with a