TITLE: Assistance Required
AUTHOR: Katta (head_overheels@hotmail.com)
SEQUEL/SERIES: Ninth in my Birthdayverse series. The others can be found at http://www.geocities.com/katta_hj/fanfic/Angel - as can a html version of this story.
DISCLAIMER: The main characters of this story come from the TV series "Angel". They belong to their creaotrs, not to me. The events are in part taken from the episodes "Birthday" and "Sanctuary".
ARCHIVE: Yes to everyone who has the previous parts. If not, ask first.
PAIRING: Gunn/Wesley
RATING: R for a sexual situation.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Sorry this took so long... I hope the next part won't, but you never know.
SUMMARY: Buffy comes over to deal with the Faith situation. Gunn has no idea how to deal with the Wesley situation.

"Do you have anyone to look after you?" the doctor asked. She was an elderly woman who reminded Wesley in an uncomfortable way of his mother, but her accent and general chattiness reduced the effect a little. The photographer and the policemen had left, and now she was free to bandage all the places she had stitched up before.

"I'm fully capable of looking after myself," Wesley said stiffly. A rising suspicion that she might be onto something only added to his stiffness.

"Mmm." The doctor sounded as doubtful as he felt. "You'll have a hell of a time washing yourself if you don't have anyone to help out with the bandages. And that's even assuming that you have everything else figured out."

Wesley looked down on his bandaged chest and arm. He had no idea how many stitches she had put in, but there were more than enough of them. His shirt was lying next to him on the bunk, and he reached out for it, making a deal with himself that if he couldn't manage to put it on, he'd agree to having someone around.

The splinted finger and the sore shoulder *were* troublesome, but not as bad as he had feared. Doing up the buttons took more concentration than he was used to, but he still had enough left to listen to what the doctor had to say.

"You could ask those two outside. Considering how patiently they've waited for you, I'd say they're no strangers to doing you a favour."

He wondered how it could have escaped her attention that the girl Alonna had stabbed was still in surgery. If he'd been the one in danger of being arrested for manslaughter, he'd wait around the hospital too. Then it struck him that she had said "two". Alonna must have called Gunn. And he was willing to believe that Gunn would be waiting for news about him as well as about Faith, even if Alonna wouldn't be.

But there was no way he'd ever ask Gunn to look after him for a couple of weeks. He'd been pitied enough to last a lifetime, and although Gunn still had an unfortunate tendency in that direction, he wasn't about to add any fuel to the fire. It was a love affair he wanted, not protection.

"I'll get by," he said, doing up the last button.

"It might be a support for you emotionally as well," the doctor pointed out.

"There's nothing wrong with my emotions, thank you."

Her voice softened, which brought chills up his spine. "We do have a trauma support group, if you'd prefer that. And a wonderful team of counsellors..."

"I don't need counselling." He jumped off the trolley bed and gave her a forced smile. "Thank you."

"All right, I can't make you. But I do think you should have someone over. You don't want those wounds to get infected, do you?"

The memory of rotting flesh gave him pause, and at last he nodded. "I'll call someone."


He thought about that, and Angel's name came to mind. The vampire might be half mad, but he could wrap a few bandages. It might even be good for him to help out and leave that apartment for a while.

"A friend named Angel."

He stepped out of the examination room as he said the words, and doing so he saw a leather-clad back down the corridor. As the man it belonged to turned around, Wesley recognized his former colleague Weatherby, who gave him a stare that indicated he had heard every word. Now Wesley knew what Alonna must have felt when she found herself having accidentally confessed attempted murder to a telephone operator. All he could hope was that Weatherby didn't remember Angel – and judging from his expression, that was very unlikely.

Gunn and Alonna rose from their seats by the wall, but he shook his head slightly at them. Before he had spoken to Weatherby, he didn't consider himself done here.

"Hello, Wesley."

"Hello, Weatherby."

The greeting summed up their relationship pretty well, he thought wryly. In theory, the only reason he had gone by his first name among his Watcher colleagues was to distinguish him from his father, but in practice it also served to show him his place at the bottom of the hierarchy. Junior member, no special skills, was to shut up when better people were speaking.

This time, however, he had one advantage: Weatherby's face held a familiar touch of discomfort. He'd never been very good at socializing, Wesley remembered, and not knowing where to look could spoil a conversation even for the most self-assured of people.

"I assume you are here for Faith?" he asked, knowing very well that it was so. The Council might have given up hope about Faith a long time ago, but they'd never cease to be her Watchers as long as she was still alive.

Wesley suddenly wondered how long that would be.

"Yes we are."

The plural caught Wesley's attention, and looking over Weatherby's shoulder he could see two men he recognized as Watchers Smith and Collins, standing some distance away. Collins was staring intently at him while Smith was clearly more of a glancer, looking and looking away. Neither one of them seemed about to come up and say hello. Well, good. One Watcher at a time was really all he felt he could handle right now.

"What do you plan on doing with her?" he asked. There was nothing he could think of that would contain a Slayer against her will, unless they tried killing her or using magic darker than he thought they could access. Right now part of him wanted them to kill her, so he could have this over with and never have to think of her again.

But the one very good reason why that mustn't happen was right in this corridor, and although he couldn't see her from where he was standing he was well aware of her presence.

"I can't tell you that," Weatherby said. "It's classified information… and you're not a Watcher." He sounded vaguely apologetic saying the last part, which gave Wesley some hope that he might be convinced to reveal something.

"I dare say I'm more affected by this than you are."

Weatherby averted his gaze, and Wesley had to hold back a grin. The victory might be small, but it was definite, and many such small victories might get him the information he wanted.

"It wasn't Faith who...?"

The answer to that question should have been obvious, but then anatomy had never been Weatherby's strong suit.

"If it had been, I'd hardly be standing up right now."


There was an uncomfortable silence, and Wesley let it last longer than strictly necessary before he asked, "So, what *are* the plans?"

Weatherby gave a deep sigh. "I can't tell any details, but we'll bring her back to England for rehabilitation."

"Rehabilitation," Wesley said flatly. He wasn't sure if Weatherby was lying or not. Considering what he knew of Watcher procedures when Slayers weren't satisfactory, it sounded like a lie, but the circumstances in this case were quite unusual. Perhaps rehabilitation – whatever meaning people like Weatherby could put into that word – actually struck the Council as the least bothersome option.

"That's right."

And the way Weatherby looked him straight into the eye told him with absolute certainty that it was a lie. He couldn't bring himself to care, but he did look across his shoulder at Alonna. "See that girl over there?"

Weatherby looked in the direction Wesley indicated and asked, "What, the black one?"

There was a hint of appreciation in his voice that surprised Wesley. He'd seen Alonna as a lot of things, mostly a rival or reluctant ally, but until now, he'd never seen her as a *girl* to find attractive or unattractive.

"That's the one," he said when his surprise had faded. "If it wasn't for her you'd currently be chasing Faith halfway across the country. She also saved my life, which means a lot to me if not to you. So whatever happens, I want her kept out of trouble."

"Who's the guy?"

"That's her brother." Of all the ways to introduce Gunn... "He's to be kept out of trouble too."

Weatherby gave the two of them a long glance and then shrugged. "I'll try."

"No, you will not try." Wesley's voice was cold. He knew Weatherby had the authority to handle this any way he wanted, and he wasn't about to let himself be bullied. "They will be kept safe. That's the only way I'll guarantee my cooperation."

"What makes you think we'll *need* your cooperation?"

"Oh, I dare say you won't, if all goes well." He was still looking at Gunn and Alonna and could see how they tensed up as they became aware that they were being watched. "But those two belong to a group of vampire hunters. Fantastic allies, really the sort of people you want around. Incredibly loyal, too. If they somehow got under the mistaken impression that you were responsible for their friends getting into trouble..."

"Are you threatening me?"

"Of course not." And in any case it seemed to be working, so that was all right. "You asked what sort of situation might arise that would make my cooperation needed, and I answered. That's all."

Weatherby looked about to choke on his own indignation, but he nodded. "I'll keep them safe."

With that, he strutted off, and Wesley grinned at Gunn and Alonna to indicate that they could come over.

"Could you give me a ride home?" he asked when they did. He was still smiling. At any other time, he would have put talking to Weatherby on the very bottom of his to do list, but right now, it had been just what he needed.


Wesley was waked by a large hand shaking his arm. The touch pulled at his stitches, and he rolled over on his side. Big mistake. He moaned out loud as he was reminded of his cuts and bruises.

The hand instantly disappeared. "I'm sorry."

"Not your fault, Angel," Wesley mumbled. Angel sometimes needed to be reminded of that fact, since many of the things he saw these days *were* his fault.

He sat up and tried rubbing his eyes clear. Gah. Nothing quite like gauze in his eyes to make a morning perfect.

Angel was now standing by the foot of his bed. "She's in the kitchen."

All Wesley's residual sleepiness disappeared. "Faith?" But if Faith were in the kitchen, even Angel would think of better things to do than wait for Wesley to get out of bed. And in any case, Faith was at the hospital. So far Weatherby and his goons had neither killed her nor taken her away, and *nobody* walked out of the hospital this soon after having her lung punctured. Not even a Slayer.

Angel looked even gloomier than usual. "Buffy."

"Buffy's in the kitchen?" Well, it was better than Faith, although why Angel thought his presence was needed was beyond him. "Does she wish to speak to me?"

"I don't think so. I just... I think she's real, but I can't tell for sure. Is she?"

"I'll go have a look," Wesley said. He wasn't very keen on the idea of getting out of bed, but he owed Angel that much. Because the vampire wanted it so much, Wesley hoped that Buffy was indeed real, even though it would be much easier for him personally if she wasn't.

The bathrobe only covered part of his injuries, and knowing how unintentionally merciless Buffy could be, he raised his chin a little before entering the kitchen.

Even prepared, it was a bit of a shock to see the Slayer sitting in his kitchen. He was proud that his voice revealed no emotion when he said, "Hello, Buffy."

She hurried to rise from her seat. "Wesley."

Considering the disaster that had been his time as her Watcher, it was a remarkably civil greeting. No little quips or eye-rolling. Yet the way she pursed her lips – and he knew it wasn't aimed at him, she'd always used to do that – was enough to make him want to go back to bed again. The last thing he needed was more moody Slayers.

"She's real."

Angel's voice was weak and barely noticeable, but the rest of him wasn't as he pushed past Wesley and caught Buffy in a bear hug. She squirmed a bit in his arms and her lips pursed further, but she didn't pull loose.

"So," Wesley said, "if that's settled perhaps I should leave you alone."

"No, don't," Buffy said, and Angel must have been as surprised as Wesley was, because he frowned at his ex and let his arms fall down.

"I'm sorry," he said, sounding very old and tired all of a sudden. "I forgot. You're not here to..."

"I have someone, remember?" she said, but she let her hand touch his cheek very briefly.

The admission surprised Wesley, although he wasn't sure why it should. It was only natural that Buffy would get a new boyfriend, for her to move on with her life, try to attain some form of normality.

Angel didn't seem surprised, and he handled himself with remarkable dignity. He just nodded briefly and sat down at the table. "So this is about Faith?"

"Yeah," she said, sitting down as well. "I know she's at the hospital, but nobody there will tell me anything. Least of all the so-called FBI agents watching her door." For the first time since she'd asked him to stay, she was looking straight at Wesley. "Strangely familiar, *British* FBI agents."

It annoyed him to no end. He wasn't a Watcher anymore, and he wasn't willing to play scapegoat for whatever gripe she had with the Council. "If they wouldn't tell you anything at the hospital, how did you find us?"

"Angel's landlord."

Angel nodded upon hearing this and told Wesley, "I gave him the new address when we were there collecting my things."

That meant Wesley had to hurry up with the false address spell he had bought. Even if the people at Wolfram and Hart thought they had frightened him off, they'd hardly object to catching two birds with one stone.

But most of his displeasure was because Buffy had found her way there, and it was really quite unreasonable. As a Slayer, she had every right to be concerned about the Faith situation, and this was without a doubt a good place for it. He sat down, sighing.

"Weatherby told me they're taking her to England... for rehabilitation."

"Rehabilitation!?" Buffy made an incredulous grimace. "I wouldn't trust them to rehabilitate a *hamster*, much less a Slayer."

"I don't think they will," Wesley said simply.

"Of course they won't! They'll just lose her halfways and...." She frowned. "Or do you mean you think they lied to you?"

"I know they lied to me. I just don't know how much."

"They're killing her." Angel's voice was low, and it was a statement, not a question.

"They might," Wesley admitted. "But there's Buffy to consider."

Buffy gave him a sharp glance. "What do you mean?"

"I mean it's not a normal situation to have two Slayers. Common procedures hardly apply."

"And common procedures would be to kill her, is that it?"

"Yes." Her shocked expression told him just how much he'd been affected by his upbringing – to him it seemed obvious and something she should have figured out on her own if she had given it a moment's thought. "A Slayer needs to be able to perform her duties at all times, after all."

"What? No sick leave?"

She was mocking him, but these were serious matters, and he answered as if it had been a serious question.

"Considering Slayer healing, it'd take considerably longer to train someone new, so yes. I suppose a certain sick leave is accounted for."

Her face was pale with rage. "So, basically, what you're saying is that if I got cancer or was maimed..."

She silenced and got some colour back in her face as she realised what she'd said. Suddenly Wesley saw some of what Angel might love in that girl. It had taken her this long to start guarding her words, and that showed a certain self-absorbed innocence that was quite endearing. For a Slayer, it was a rare character trait, and he briefly wondered what she might have been like before her calling, before that innocence was partly destroyed.

"Then they would have had you killed, yes. So perhaps it is fortunate that technically, you have already died."

"How can you just sit there and..." She interrupted herself, turning to Angel. "And you! Don't you have anything to say? Did you know about this?"

"I didn't know." Angel's eyes were very sad. "But it makes sense."

"*Nothing* about this makes sense."

"It does. Slayers have to slay. Watchers have to watch them..."

"Giles said something similar once," Buffy sighed.

"...vampires have to kill and maim and drink of blood..."

"That doesn't follow from the previous sentence," Buffy said lightly, but there was pain in her face as she took Angel's hand in hers. "If we just go by the name, vampires might as well help and save..." She stroked his hand softly. "Give me a fair fight and I'll take her down, but there's nothing fair about this. I'm not going to let them kill her. And they're not fit to handle her either."

"So what's your suggestion?" Wesley asked. He felt like grabbing Buffy by the shoulders and shaking her, but that sadly wasn't an option. After the frail understanding he'd come to with his former colleague, the last thing he wanted was an impulsive, undisciplined Slayer charging in. Would she even care who got caught in the middle? "Just run inside and snatch her away?"

"I bet I could pull it off," she said, raising her chin.

Oh, God, the foolish girl really meant it. "This isn't Sunnydale. Crimes are actually investigated here." Or rather, they were if Wolfram and Hart didn't get involved – and if they did in this case, it would be on the wrong side.

"Well, they're not gonna catch me. And I wouldn't ask *you* to go there, if you're too wimpy to even help..."

He interrupted her: "Did it ever occur to you that other people are involved in this?"

"The girl is still crying," Angel said.

At first Wesley wondered if Angel was referring to Alonna or Faith, but then he realised that the vampire's comment most likely didn't have any relevance to the situation. But it gave him pause, and clearly Buffy as well.

"Okay," she said finally. "Who's involved?"

"The girl who stabbed her, for one." Odd that Buffy hadn't figured that out. Did she even realise that Faith had been stabbed twice, or did she think that the other Slayer's current hospitalisation was some sort of relapse from her earlier injury. "The police know she did it." He saw no need to mention that she had accidentally confessed to the 911 telephone operator. "So far they're writing it off as self-defence, but if anything happens, she'll be the primary suspect. I'm not willing to risk that."

"*Was* it self-defence?"

"In a manner of speaking. She saved my life." It wasn't a subject he liked to dwell on. "She's part of a gang of vampire hunting street kids. They don't need the kind of exposure this could bring them."

Angel gave him a pensive glance that caused his face to heat. The vampire might be confused and half-crazed, but he was evidently still listening to the conversation – and understanding a whole lot more than Wesley would have wished.

"Vampire hunters, huh?" Buffy said. "Well, maybe it'd help if we took Faith from the Watchers when they're already on their way." She grimaced. "Let's just hope Faith will be ill enough not to put up a fight and escape."

"The Watchers' poison takes her power away," said Angel.

Buffy stared at him, and an incredulous smile spread over her face. "The stuff Giles used on me?"

"Good Lord, yes!" said Wesley once he understood what they meant.

"Will they use it?" Buffy asked, turning to him.

He shrugged. "How should I know? But perhaps Giles..."

"I'll call him right away."

She rose from her seat, but halted a moment before reaching the door. Her eyes sought out Angel's.

"We'll talk more later, okay?" she said, face and voice both very soft. Seeing her like this, it was hard to imagine her the forceful fighter he knew her to be. It occurred to him that he'd only ever seen her from her worst sides before.


Gunn glanced from the black shoes on the floor to Wesley's face, seeking an explanation.

"Those are Angel's. He's staying here for a while."

Gunn frowned at that. He didn't like the thought of Wesley's apartment being occupied by anyone else, and especially not that vampire. "Why?"

A slight blush tinged Wesley's face. "To help out."

Gunn looked down for a moment. He still didn't know exactly what that girl had done to Wesley, and much less why. Alonna wouldn't tell him a damn thing, and that alone told him that it had to be pretty bad. It confused and sickened him. He couldn't think of anything about Wesley – *Wesley*, for fuck's sake – that might make some girl want to beat him up.

It hurt to see those bruises and bandages, to know that he hadn't been able to do a damn thing to prevent Wesley from being injured. But it hurt more to know that now that he could help, Wesley wouldn't let him.

"I could have done that," he said, looking up again.

"I know." Wesley's face was impossible to read. "But I wanted Angel to do it."

Gunn nearly lost his breath at this bold admission. Fuck, what was he supposed to say to that? "Maybe I should just leave, then?"

He grabbed his jacket and as he did so noticed for the first time the tan suede jacket hanging next to it. That definitely wasn't the vampire's, unless he liked to wear women's clothes half his size. "Who else is here?"

"What? There's no one else... ah. That's Buffy's. She must have forgotten it here."

"Buffy? Who's Buffy, a hooker?"

"Of course not. She's the Slayer." Wesley didn't seem as perturbed by the idea that he could be entertaining hookers as Gunn would have expected. That was part of the reason he'd done it, to embarrass Wesley and make him forget about all the other stuff.

That and the fact that "Buffy" really did sound like a hooker – or in any case, didn't sound like anything potentially harmful, which "Slayer" without a doubt did.

"What's a Slayer?"

Wesley didn't answer at first, and there was a moment when Gunn thought he'd refuse to answer, but finally he said, "A vampire slayer. There's a girl chosen in every generation..." He waved away the rest of the explanation. "Never mind."

Gunn stared at the jacket. No way was it more than a size six. "She's here to kill the vamp?"

For some reason, that caused Wesley's mouth to twist. The idea of a girl that size killing any vampire at all was dumb, of course, but Gunn had a feeling that wasn't what that half-smile was all about.

"Not at all. She's here because of Faith."

Gunn blinked – whose faith? – but then he remembered. That was her name. "The girl who..."

"Yeah." Wesley reached out for the jacket and then let his hand fall down, instead retreating further into the apartment. "Do you want to... stay... for a while?" he asked awkwardly.

The polite phrase revealed no emotions, but Gunn knew better than to think there was nothing more to it. And for once his nervousness at what Wes probably meant was overshadowed by irritated confusion: why the *fuck* would Wes want to be suggesting things when it wasn't five minutes since he said he'd rather have an undead creature in the house than him?

"Yeah," he said, because it was all he *could* say.

It was a weird feeling, to go into Wesley's bedroom and know that whatever happened in there, it was likely to be something he hadn't tried before. The whole vampire in the kitchen situation didn't exactly calm him down either.

It had been years since he was last this nervous in someone's bedroom, and even then he'd always known that nothing could happen unless he wanted it to. Not that he didn't trust Wes or actually thought Wes was strong enough to overpower him, but just having to come to that conclusion was much too strange.

"Come on in," Wesley said. "And do sit down, you're making me nervous."

"Glad to hear I'm not the only one," Gunn muttered.

But he sat down, only to scoot closer to Wes and kiss him. If he made sure to initiate every move, he couldn't ever be taken by surprise.

Wesley moaned. And it wasn't an "oh, yes, that's amazing!" moan. It was an "ow, that hurts" moan. Gunn immediately pulled away.

"What's wrong?"

"I'm just bruised, that's all."

That wasn't all, judging from what he could see of Wesley's injuries, and beyond that, what he had seen in his sister's face when he tried to pry information from her.

"Maybe we shouldn't..."

Wesley rolled his eyes. "Don't be ridiculous," he said, leaning in for another kiss.

He did no more moaning, but Gunn could feel the little flinches when he accidentally touched a sore spot. Though he was sure Wesley would let him know if anything was too painful, he still felt a bit guilty. That he was there at all with sex on his mind at a time like this, after dancing around the issue at so many better times. That he hadn't been there to help, and Alonna had to be the one to do so. And maybe most of all that he *still* wasn't helping, because Wes had asked that goddamned vampire instead.

Since he didn't want to think of that, he went on with the kissing, unbuttoning Wesley's shirt so he could trail his way down there. It was hard to avoid the cuts and bruises, and he could tell from each of Wesley's breaths if he had failed or not. Funny, he'd been playing Indiana Jones a lot as a kid, but this was a scene he'd never have expected to mimic – especially not as Marion.

There was a definite limit of things he could do with Wesley hurting like this. Gunn kept kissing his way down and unzipped Wesley's pants, but then he paused. Theoretically he knew just how to continue – he'd seen several girls do it, not to mention Wesley just a few days ago – but how the hell did you *do* it? Wesley didn't look any different from other guys he'd seen naked, and yet he panicked at the thought of taking that dick into his mouth. It wasn't like the guy was a fucking *hamburger*; you couldn't *chew* him if the bite was too big.

A hand stroked his scalp softly. "Just do what you want to do."

He let his hand touch the tip of Wesley's dick. It felt perfectly normal, with a hard-on not unlike what he faced every morning. It felt a lot different, of course, touching someone else's. It was a pretty awesome sensation, though, seeing Wesley close his eyes and take a deep breath that had nothing to do with pain and everything with delight.

He continued moving his hand, leaving his mouth free to kiss Wesley's chest. Now *he* was getting hard too, and he was relieved when Wesley started tugging at his pants.

"Watch the bandage," he warned.

"I'll get a new one."

And maybe he should argue that, but he didn't feel like it, not with Wesley's head bowed down over his own and the two of them working their hands in rhythm until it was very hard to tell his own hand from Wesley's. Compared to this, doing girls was like going in blind, never knowing what would make them feel good until afterwards.

Beyond that, this just felt *right* in a way he couldn't explain even to himself. It wasn't that he cared more for Wes than any of the others. Some of them had meant a lot to him.

Whatever the reason, he liked the result. He leaned his face upwards, catching Wesley's mouth with his own. Though their hands were working softly, Wesley was surprisingly rough meeting the kiss, and Gunn followed his lead.

Someone knocked on the front door.

Wesley pulled back and gave a doubtful glance in the direction of the bedroom door, but Gunn reached out for him again.

"Fuck 'em."

Wesley smiled a little, which caused Gunn to continue, "And spare me any lame-ass jokes, Pryce," before he caught that teasing mouth again.

He could hear Wes mumble, "Oh, well, I suppose Angel can handle it," but didn't reply. What was it about that crazy bloodsucker that made Wesley trust him so much? Yeah, okay, he grasped the concept of a soul, not evil, all of that, but hey, *he* wasn't evil either. He also had the advantage of a pulse and his full marbles, so he really didn't get what made the *vampire* a better choice for help.

But he wasn't about to let that bother him. Not now.


Wesley had expected Buffy to return. He hadn't expected her to bring Giles. He wasn't sure why the presence of his former colleague should bother him so much, but the look of shock and pity he was given as he entered the living room was somehow worse than the many similar looks he received daily.

It almost made him wish that Buffy would say something unsuitable. She looked very much about to, and he knew that she, Angel and Giles all had grasped at least some of what had been going on in the other room, even though both he and Gunn had been fairly quiet. If she brought that up, it would be awkward, naturally, but it wouldn't make him feel so small.

Then again, Gunn would probably feel very different about such matters becoming topic of conversation.

He'd have to introduce Gunn somehow. Part of him rather hoped Angel would do it, but of course that was a ludicrous idea. He just wasn't sure what to say. "Friend" felt wrong after what had just happened – particularly since they knew about it. "Boyfriend", on the other hand, was out of the question. So when he opened his mouth, what he found himself saying was:

"Did you find the drug?"

Everyone was already looking at him, but at his casual question there was a vague shift in those looks that indicated they were turning into stares.

"Uh... yeah," Buffy said. "Giles still had the recipe."

"The formula," Giles mumbled, and he was quite right. 'Recipe' just didn't sound dignified. Words were important.

And just then, Wesley found the right word after all.

"This is Charles Gunn, my partner," he said. "Gunn, these two are Buffy Summers and Rupert Giles."

"Nice to meet you."

Wesley watched Gunn watching the newcomers, and he could see a slight wrinkle between Gunn's eyebrows that implied he still hadn't quite grasped the concept of a Slayer. Wesley found it rather amusing, and in any case it was a break from everyone looking at him.

But Gunn's words hung unanswered in the air for so long Wesley started to wonder if he was the one who'd have to initiate every brief conversation, and if so, what would happen if he didn't. Would they just stand there silently the whole night?

At long last, Giles was the one to break the silence.

"I have some good friends at a coven in England. That's where we will be taking Faith."

Wesley nodded. He had tried to figure out what to do with Faith, since he very much doubted that drugs could hold her down for very long, but no solution had come to mind. A coven sounded reassuring, and an English coven even more so. He couldn't think of a better place for Faith to be than in the last country on earth he intended to return to.

Gunn reacted very differently. "A coven? With... what, witches? Wouldn't a prison be better?"

"I don't think there's a prison that will hold her," Buffy said, and for the first time since Angel had hugged her in the kitchen, her expression softened a little. It was immensely troublesome to see, and Wesley scowled, but he wasn't really surprised. Buffy's attitude towards Faith had never been particularly logical.

"But you two would?" Gunn's disdain came with a half grin and a friendly voice, but that didn't make it any less obvious.

The softness in Buffy's expression disappeared. "For the time we need, yeah! But if you'd like to come with... make sure we're doing things right... you're very welcome to do so."

Wesley stiffened, hoping Gunn wouldn't take the offer. It had never occurred to him that Buffy would want their help on that part of the plan, although it surely would be just as tricky to get Faith out of the country as out of the hospital. And Gunn had practically challenged her.

"To England?" Gunn asked, a disbelieving wrinkle forming on his upper lip.

"That's the place."

"The more people the better, obviously," Giles said rather hurriedly while Buffy was still speaking.

He was trying to smooth things over, but by doing so he'd suddenly included Wesley in the invitation.

"I can't go, I'm afraid," he said, glad to have a good excuse. "My green card has expired. If I left, I wouldn't be able to come back."

"And I don't even have a passport," Gunn said, frowning.

"Neither does Faith," Buffy pointed out. "We're getting her a fake - I'm sure we could get more."

Giles was ignoring those comments, looking steadily at Wesley, but the gaze was different from before and somewhat easier to take. "Expired? How could it have expired already?"

"Long story." He suspected Giles thought the Council was responsible, but didn't bother to explain.

"Well, as Buffy said, we could get you a fake passport..."

"I'd really rather not." He'd said that a bit too quickly, but it was too late to remedy that now. "Anyway, we do need people here too, in order to delay Weatherby and the others. Unless you have a plan for that?"

Giles frowned slightly. "Not really, no. Having a second team here might be a good idea. We could always ask our friends in Sunnydale to help out."

Oh, wonderful. All he needed was more of Buffy's friends hanging around.

"What about you?" Buffy was still talking to Gunn, her arms crossed over her chest. "Are you staying here or do you want that false passport?"

His eyes narrowed. Oh, Lord, he was taking the bait.

"Maybe I do."

Damn him.

"Good!" Giles said with unnecessary enthusiasm, probably in another attempt of damage control. Wesley could understand his dilemma, but wanted to hit him over the head anyway. "Angel? Do you want to go as well?"

Buffy gave him a glance and shook her head slightly, but Angel answered with perfect clarity, "Yeah... I think I'd better not. I mean, there's the vampire thing and -" he grimaced "-everything else, but I did also promise Wesley to stick around for a while."

Wesley smiled, touched by the vampire's concern, but Gunn finally took his eyes off Buffy, his jaw set tighter than before as he looked at Angel.

"Maybe I should be in the home team after all," he said. "Make sure things work out all right. And besides, there's the agency to think of."

He wasn't *actually* thinking of the agency, Wesley knew, it was just an excuse. And he didn't mind that excuse, knew far too well that sometimes honesty wasn't an option. That part was all right, it wasn't what made his throat thicken.

But the reason Gunn spoke of staying was because he couldn't stand Angel, and Wesley didn't know what to do about that. It was hardly surprising; Gunn was predisposed to hating vampires. At least he'd stopped calling Angel "it", and Wesley had started hoping Gunn might actually make an exception from his ethical stanza of "vampires are bad". But judging from his current behaviour that wasn't going to happen.

He wondered what Gunn would do if he found out Buffy's relation to Angel. Vomit, probably. Be relieved, possibly. The thought of jealousy, no matter how poorly justified, being behind Gunn's reactions was at least some sort of comfort. But also the last thing he needed right now.

"Quite," he said, trying to clear his thoughts. If Buffy and Giles took Faith to an English coven, that took care of part of the problem. If the rest of them efficiently delayed the Watchers in some yet to be discovered way, that took care of another part. But that didn't mean the problem was solved. "What about Alonna?"

Gunn's head whipped around. "What about her?"

His voice was harsh and hostile, clearly showing his worry. Fabulous. Now Wesley was the one to feel jealous. What a strange dance this was.

"Weatherby promised to make sure she was safe." He turned his eyes to Buffy. "Even if we do take Faith after they have left the hospital, she's still at risk. Perhaps she should be the one to come with you – it'd certainly keep her out of sight." Alonna could never afford a trip to England on her own, and the police would know that.

"You want her to go to *England*?" Gunn's expression would have been funny, except it wasn't.

"It's an option, at least."

"I don't know..." That was Buffy, pursing her lips a little. "We could get her the passport and tickets, sure, but can she hold her own? Otherwise it'd be safer to keep her here."

That caused Gunn to flare up. "Were *you* the one to take that Faith girl down or was she? Huh?"

Buffy's mouth opened in surprise, but she quickly closed it instead and nodded. "Fine. She can come with us."

"If we can arrange it," Giles pointed out.

"And if she wants to," Wesley said. He knew what it was like to travel half across the world and suspected it would be an even stranger notion to Alonna, who most likely had never been abroad and never thought to.

"And if she wants to. Of course."


"So, you're sending my baby sister to England, huh?"

They were walking down the pavement outside Wesley's house, which hardly seemed like a suitable place for a quarrel. Wesley had to wonder why Gunn chose now to bring this up, instead of inside the apartment, sometime in the past quarter of an hour.

"I'm not sending her anywhere. It's up to her. She's fully capable of making her own decisions."

"But you'd be glad to get rid of her."

Wesley didn't answer, because he wasn't quite sure what the answer was. It wasn't "of course not" as it should have been, but it wasn't "yes" either – not anymore.

They walked in silence until they reached a public bulletin board. Wesley put down his bag and pulled out a poster, which Gunn thumbtacked to the board.

"Why'd you rather have that vampire around than me?"

Ah, so that was why they couldn't talk inside. Perhaps it was to be seen as an improvement that Gunn didn't want to discuss Angel around Angel, but right now, Wesley couldn't muster any enthusiasm for that progress.

"I... there are many reasons," he said, trying to shape those reasons into understandable words. "Angel knows Faith. Her history, what she's capable off. And apart from that, he knows what's it's like to be..." Wesley thought of what Faith had done, thought of the word Amnesty International would use for it, and silenced for a second. "I needed someone who could understand."

"Oh, yeah, the deep understanding of a crazy vampire," Gunn said bitterly. He shoved the pack of thumbtacks into his pocket and his hands in after them, before he started walking down the street again. "How the fuck do you expect me to understand if you don't *tell* me anything?"

Wesley fell into step. "Some things can't be told."

"You could try. " Gunn was now walking backwards, his eyes riveted on Wesley. "Fuck it, Wes, maybe I *don't* understand, but you haven't even given me a chance in that department, have you? I would have helped, you got to know that, so why couldn't you ask me?"

"Because I still have some dignity left!" Wesley hadn't meant it to come out quite so loud – there were a few people across the street, and he could see them staring. Well, nothing new there. "I won't be your charity case! This is hard enough without you there to despise me."

Gunn's mouth opened, and there was a pause while his mouth worked silently before he managed to splutter, "What's going on in your head, English? Since when do I *despise* you?"

Wesley hurried his steps, trying to avoid that gaze. "Fine. Pick your word. Condescension. Superiority. Pity. What's the difference?"

"So you're saying that if I feel sorry for you, it's gotta be because I despise you?"

He shook his head slowly. "No. But it is."

"That is such a load of *bullshit*!" Gunn exploded. "Do you think I'd *be* here if I despised you? I *care* about you. I'm allowed to do that. It's not a fucking insult, so why do you treat it like one? Do you think I'm lying to you? That I'd rather be with someone else?"

"That's not the point!" Wesley dropped the bag and stopped in his tracks. "This isn't about *us*! It's about me, and if I have to ask for help I want it from someone who's *been* there, and you *haven't*. It's all about strength to you. You've never found a battle you couldn't win, and you've never woken up to a world that wasn't made for you..."

"One more word and I'll swear to God I'll punch you," Gunn said, stepping closer. He'd taken his hands out of his pockets and closed them into fists. "You don't know shit about what I have or haven't. The world is made for me, is it? I'll think about that, the next time I go into a Seven-Eleven on a late Saturday night and the clerk starts looking for the alarm button."

Wesley's anger faded a little. He hadn't thought of that before, but Gunn had a point. "Sorry. I didn't mean to imply..." His voice trailed off.

"I know you didn't," Gunn said, letting his shoulders sink down. "It's just, sometimes you're so... What is it you want me to do? Find some psycho bitch to beat me up? A vampire to turn me so I can go broody in the night like your souled fangboy up there? Cut off my arm?" He gave a breathy half-laugher. "Not gonna happen, Wes. No more than you can get rid of that white face and fancy upbringing of yours. You can't wait for us to stop being different. We *are*, and we got to be able to work with that."

Wesley nodded silently, blinking a couple of times to clear his eyes. Looking up again, he said as calmly as he could, "Gunn, I am not ready to have you help me."

"Yeah, I know," Gunn said, his voice barely audible. He glanced down the now empty street and then in the other direction as well, before he moved closer still, brushing Wesley's lips with his own while his hand stroked the back of Wesley's head. When he pulled away again, his eyes were shining with unshed tears.

"Come on, English," he said, picking up the bag of posters. "We've got plenty of these to put up yet."



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