Wesley's Liberal Guilt
by Jessica Harris
Disclaimers: Ave Joss.
Summary: See title.
Ratings Note: PG-13.
Spoilers: None, really.
OK, this came out of a discussion on Remember Us, and a
with Te about the terrible writer's block that can be
produced by liberal
guilt, and, well, this is what resulted from it...
Feedback of all kinds welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wesley has come to take a certain pride in having grown into
a far more
tolerant and open-minded man than the uptight Watcher's
Council type he'd
once been. Here he is now, after all, working side-by-side
with demons and
vampires and actresses and all sorts of other creatures of
watcher's council would never have approved. He
congratulates himself at
having transcended the Council's prejudices and learned to
see people for
who they really are, not just for their gender or the colour
of their skin
(or ridges or scales) or whether they are, strictly
speaking, human or not.
He'd even said as much one slightly drunken night at
Caritas, holding forth
grandly about how much the Council could learn from the way
team functioned. And Gunn had raised his eyebrows and said,
'Well, I hate to
mess with your newly-opened mind, English, but who I really
am *is* a black
man. Look-" he'd licked his thumb, rubbed it across the
bridge of his nose,
"See? Doesn't rub off!" He'd grinned at him then, that wide
grin that Wesley
finds more and more unreadable, and Wesley had felt his
whole face go
burning red and had spent most of the rest of the evening
staring down in to
He still squirms every time he thinks about it. It's all
complicated than he had ever imagined. And he's not sure why
who's brought this home to him, when he's dealt with it one
way or another
with everyone else. Maybe because he doesn't want to sleep
with the others.
And he'd rather like to sleep with Gunn. Sleep with Gunn,
and wake up with
Gunn, and go out for breakfast at the diner and read the
paper and bicker
with Gunn about whose turn it was to do the laundry and...
And now he's beginning to suspect himself of the basest of
motivations in these desires. He doesn't *think* that he's a
racist. But he
feels now like he can't be sure. Is he behaving in ways so
automatic to his
imperialist english forebears that he doesn't even notice
He's started monitoring his own thoughts and actions with
suspicion that he finds himself almost paralysed at times...
Is he just exoticising Gunn when he imagines what Gunn's
skin would look
like by candle-light in his bedroom? Or when he fantasises
about what his
lips would feel like against Wesley's own? To test himself
pictured himself in white linen and a pith helmet, Gunn in
full regalia as a
African chieftain, and he found the image ridiculous and
than arousing, which for about two minutes he thought was a
good sign. Then
he was swamped by crushing guilt that he could even imagine
such an image,
and for weeks he hadn't been able to look Gunn in the eye.
Or anywhere else,
for that matter. He thinks he can safely say that he
harbours no overblown
fantasies about the size of Gunn's equipment, but what
body-parts are safe
to be aroused by, uncolonised by his oppressor's gaze?
Though he has to
admit that Gunn doesn't seem exactly *oppressed* by his
And he worries about lecturing at Gunn when they're doing
Gunn think he's being patronising, Wesley with all his
opportunities and his
ivy-covered degree? *Is* he being patronising? And he starts
to wonder if he
should be explaining more, or explaining less, or explaining
until he ends up stumbling over his words, back-tracking and
until Gunn cuffs him lightly on the back of the head and
says, "Come on,
English, just spit it out!" Not even Cordelia rolling her
eyes and telling
him that he lectures at *everyone*, not just Gunn, is enough
And all the self-monitoring and second-guessing is making
him twitchy and
uncomfortable. And he's worried that Gunn will notice, and
reason, and the thought of *seeming* uncomfortable around
him is enough to
make him even more uncomfortable in itself, and he can hear
more and more prim and white and *english* all the time.
He doesn't know what to do...
Books have always held answers for him, so he
surreptitiously downloaded the
reading list from UCLA's first year African American studies
picked up a couple of the texts. Then he worried that Gunn
would think he
was attempting to appropriate his culture if he found him
reading them, and
he hid them away in his apartment as if they were the most
shameful of porn.
He keeps thinking of the terrible crush he'd had at school
on the son of an
Indian diplomat in his year at school. Ajit had had large
brown eyes and
gorgeous hair and a body that had stayed lithe and athletic
even on the
unrelieved stodge of the school's meals, and Wesley had
mooned after him for
most of the year. They'd eventually had a brief affair,
conducted mainly in
the closet in the chapel where the choir-boy robes were
kept, but it hadn't
lasted for long. He'd kept trying to ask him about his
eastern mysticism, and Ajit had just wanted to talk about
pop music and the
school's cricket team, and it wasn't until years later that
just how big an ass he'd been.
He knows he's being an ass now too - Gunn has started giving
funny looks at
the way he now dissolves into a heap of tics and stutters
in the same room now - but Wesley can't quite seem to find
his way out of
Then one night they were on a stakeout, in another seedy LA
bar where, it
was rumoured, some serious demon business was going on
transdimensional portal that opened up beside the Lotto
Wednesday night. They were at a table in the corner, Angel
watching the back
door and bathrooms, Gunn the front door, and Wesley himself
the bar. A small
knot of people had gathered at the end of the bar, and as
Wesley watched a
young black man with close-cropped hair surreptitiously
handed a package
wrapped in paper marked with various charms to an older man
who stood near
Wes jerked his head to get the others' attention. "Someone
just handed over
a package", he said quietly.
They glanced over, then back at him. "Who?" asked Gunn, and
"The, um, the one closer to the right."
They looked over again. "Whose right?" said Angel, looking
at the tight knot
Wesley tried again. "The... the young one. The *tall* one.
The one in the
blue jacket, with the - "
Gunn raised his eyebrows at him, and said, "You mean the
*black* guy, Wes?"
Luckily at that moment the portal opened with a greenish
flash, the guy who
now held the package made as if to toss it in, and all three
of them leapt
across the table at him, triggering a brawl that went on for
some time, so
Wesley didn't have time to actually *die* of embarrassment.
But eventually the fighting had to end, and as they limped
back to the hotel
with the battle-adrenaline wearing off, Wesley became aware
of Gunn looking
at him in a very peculiar way.
"Come on, English," he said quietly as Angel vanished
downstairs to change
his torn clothing, "I think it's time for us to have a
little talk." He
herded Wes into the office and shut the office door behind
them, and once it
was shut reached out and cuffed the side of Wesley's head.
"Come on," he
said, "say it, english - Charles Gunn is a Black Man. It's
not a bad word,
"I'm sorry, Gunn, I -" started Wesley and Gunn moved in
"So *that's* what's been making you act so much weirder than
said. "I wondered. Now I want you to say it. Say 'Charles
Gunn is a Black
Man whose black ass I've been watching like it was the
year's hottest new
release'. What are you afraid of?"
To his own humiliation, Wesley felt himself blush like a
school-girl, and he
tried to back away. "I'm truly sorry, Gunn, if I've caused
you any sort of
insult or discomfort, or made any kind of assumption out of
He was backed up against the desk now, nowhere else to go,
and Gunn was
standing right in front of him, looking at him intensely.
"Nope, that's not
what I asked you to say now, was it. What I *want* you to
say is, 'Charles
Gunn is a black man, and I, Wesley, am a very very white
man, and Gunn's
been watching my ass right back.' Is that so hard? Or maybe
less complicated, like, 'Charles Gunn is a black man whose
clothes I better
start removing any second now before he's forced to hit me
upside the head
Then he stepped forward again, up tight against Wesley's
front now, and
leaned in and pressed his lips, very gently, to the corner
mouth. And Wesley, once the realisation penetrated his
grabbed his head and kissed him back.
When the kiss finally ended, they were both panting. "All
murmured, "maybe I can do it now... Charles Gunn is a black
man to whom I
would very much like to make love."
Gunn laughed and made a face. "You make it sound so... so
*english*. Like it
involves crumpets and going to the library."
"I *am* English," said Wesley. "I am an English Man."
Gunn laughed again. "See? he said, "it's just a fact. I'm
black, and you're
english, just like I am incredibly fine, and you are
incredibly weird, which
for some reason I find pretty hot. There's always facts. You
just gotta work
with them. Can you work with this?"
"Yes," said Wesley, and kissed him again.