Title: Deconstructing Demons
Author: Kath firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: These characters aren't mine. The credit/blame belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy and Fox.
Summary: Gunn and Wes do some cleaning up around the hotel.
Spoilers: This is a 'missing scene' from Shiny Happy People so, yeah, spoilers for that ep and all the ones before it.
Distribution: http://www.yeswes.com Anyone else, just let me know.
Feedback: Please! Constructive criticism, praise and helpful hints always welcome.
Notes: Thanks to DubDub for the beta and the title. This is my first finished fic in a year, so I really want to know what you think. Thanks!
"So," Gunn panted, leaning forward and pressing his hands against his thighs as he caught his breath. "Any ideas on how we're gonna get rid of the Tin Man here?" He eyed the hulking remains of Skip the demon, which now lay at his feet in the Hyperion basement, then looked up at Wesley. The two men had just spent the better part of a half hour dragging the demon into the hotel elevator, only to discover that the many earthquakes that had recently shaken Los Angeles had rendered the equipment non-functional. Well, that's how Wesley'd worded it. Gunn had simply let loose a string of colorful curses, declared it "fucking dead" and begun to drag Skip back out and towards the basement stairs. He had to admit there was something oddly satisfying about the thunking noise the demon's head made on its way down.
Wesley swiped a shirt sleeve across his sweaty brow and pushed himself away from the wall he'd been leaning against. He wiped his palms on his jeans then rubbed them together as if eager to reveal his plan. "Right, well, we know Skip came from another dimension and that conventional weapons were of no use against his natural armor. Even Angel, with his vampirical strength, was only able to render the creature unconscious, and judging from his cuts and bruises, it was after quite a battle. Therefore, I would say..." Gunn found himself leaning forward a little, nodding his encouragement. Wes held the dramatic pause a moment longer, then sighed and let his shoulders slump. "I have no idea," he finished lamely.
"*What*?" Gunn cried out indignantly. "You had me draggin' ten tons of demon all over the hotel, and you didn't even have a *plan*?!
"There is no need to exaggerate," Wes huffed. "And besides, I thought you no longer had any interest in anything *I* might have to say."
Ouch. Gunn grimaced and was a little surprised to see Wesley do the same. They stared at each other for a moment, then Wesley continued, in a much softer tone. "I-I'm sorry. That was uncalled for."
Gunn's eyebrows raised at Wes' apology, and he felt a sudden surge of guilt himself. "No, you were -" he began, then shook his head. "Look, Angel's out there searching for Cordy, *our friend* who's suddenly turned evil and is about to give birth to Rosemary's baby, and he may have to kill them both. There's probably another apocalypse around the corner, and we've just been told everything we've done in the last however many years has been controlled by the Evil Powers That Fuck Us, or whoever. We're two smart guys. We should be able to figure out how to dismantle one slightly indestructible demon...if
we work together." He watched as a grin slowly spread across Wesley's face, and he found himself smiling back.
"All right, then..." Wesley turned to look around and stopped when he caught sight of the large cabinets lining the far wall. "I suggest we make use of some of the larger weapons at our disposal. Surely one of those will do the trick."
Gunn followed him over and opened the nearest cabinet. "Sounds like a plan, only don't call me Shirley." He pulled out a heavy axe with a thick oak handle, testing its weight in his hand. He laughed when he saw the puzzled expression on Wes's face. "Never mind. Dumb movie joke."
* * * * *
Thirty minutes - and several failed tools and weapons - later, Gunn was sawing away at Skip's elbow with a hack saw, with some small success, only he was beginning to wonder whose arm was going to give out first, his or the demon's. Hearing a noise on the stairs, he paused in his labors and turned to watch Wesley returning with a cold bottle of beer in each hand. Wes pulled a nearby chair closer and flopped down onto it wearily. He then peered down to examine his colleague's progress.
"Slow going then?"
Gunn snorted in reply and stood up to retrieve a chair of his own from a haphazard stack near the furnace. Dropping it down next to Wesley's he straddled it backwards and quickly accepted the proffered beer. "At this rate my grandkids will be finishing the job."
Both men stared somberly at Skip's body and drank their beer in silence, until Gunn couldn't keep his thoughts to himself any longer. "Do you think he was telling the truth?"
Without a beat, Wes answered him, confirming Gunn's suspicions that they'd both been thinking the same thing. "That all of our actions these past three years or more have been manipulated by a greater power for its own gain? That we've no free will or ability to shape our own destinies?" His face took on the familiar thoughtful frown that told Gunn Wes was in full analyze mode. "I - I just can't see how that's possible...to predict the actions of so many people, with such accuracy. I *can* believe Cordelia was manipulated into becoming part demon and agreeing to become a higher being, but what about the rest of us? Angel's chance encounter with you and your gang, for instance, or my getting shot in the gut by a zombie policeman. Who could have predicted I..." He trailed off and turned towards Gunn, his expression a strange combination of guilt and hope. "Still, it would be almost a relief if it were true, wouldn't it?"
Gunn felt his jaw drop open in surprise and quickly snapped it shut. He didn't know what to say.
"I mean," Wes continued, his fingers tracing random patterns in the sweat on his beer bottle. "We've all said things, done things..."
It didn't take much for Gunn to figure out what Wesley was probably referring to, nor did it take long for his own laundry list of regrets to begin marching through his head: Alonna; George, Rondell and the rest of the gang; Fred's professor. He scowled at the floor and shook his head. "Nah, man. I hear what you're sayin', but our mistakes make us who we are. Besides, blaming them on someone - or some*thing* - else ain't gonna make the bad stuff go away."
Wesley nodded thoughtfully. "You're right, of course. Free will is part of what makes us human...and, despite everything that's happened, there are some things I wouldn't change, even given the consequences."
When Wesley didn't immediately continue, Gunn studied him, trying to figure out what the man *wasn't* saying. He wondered if Wes was talking about Fred, then quickly clamped down on those thoughts. He didn't have the right to be jealous anymore. Probably never did, if he were truly honest with himself. He told himself it wasn't any of his business anyway, then found himself asking "Like what?" despite his best intentions.
There was a pause, then a softly spoken "Lilah."
Okay, not the answer Gunn was expecting. "Uhm. Chopping her head off? 'Cause I know she was the Evil Bitch Queen and all, but I didn't think you hated her that mu-" Wesley's glare cut him off. He raised both hands in a sign of surrender. "Okay, I'm guessin' that's not it."
Wes stared at Gunn, the angry lines creasing his face slowly relaxing into a expression of surprised understanding. "You didn't...Fred never told you?"
He and Fred hadn't done a whole lot of productive talking towards the end there. Thankfully, it was getting a little easier again, but Wesley wasn't exactly a topic either of them was comfortable with yet. Gunn set his half empty bottle on the floor and folded his arms across his chest. "Nope."
"We slept together."
Gunn jumped up out of his seat, nearly knocking it over in his haste. "You and Fred?!"
Wes rolled his eyes. "No, idiot. Me and *Li-lah*." He pronounced her name slowly, as if speaking to a small child.
"Oh." Gunn hung his head sheepishly and sat back down. Then it sunk in. "Say *what*?!"
"I slept with -"
"Okay, okay," he waved him off. "I heard you the first time and I'm hopin' you meant it was a long time ago, in a using-her-to-get-information kinda way."
The corners of Wes's mouth curled up slightly into the briefest of smiles. "Not exactly. We had... well, I suppose calling it a torrid affair wouldn't be that far off."
"Uh. Huh." Gunn tried to picture Wesley having torrid anything with anyone, then wished he hadn't.
"She first approached me not long after I was released from the hospital, after this." Wes gestured vaguely towards the his neck. "And you don't really want to be hearing any of this, do you?"
Gunn decided to give in to his curiosity. He angled his chair more towards Wesley's and shrugged. "Nah. I mean, sure. If you want to talk about her, it's okay."
"Okay," Wes said slowly. He stood up and paced over to what had until recently been Angelus's cage, running a finger along one of the bars before turning to face Gunn again. "Well, she chased me shamelessly, no doubt eager to take advantage of my newfound bitterness and isolation, to recruit me for Wolfram & Hart. I, of course refused, but she was relentless. She followed me when I went out, brought me gifts; she even arranged to have Justine killed by vampires while I watched, partially as a test of what she perceived to be my new moral ambiguity."
Gunn let out a low whistle. "But didn't Justine -"
Wesley held up a hand to silence him. "Angel swept in to save her." There was no denying a hint of bitterness in Wes's voice, even now. "He came in with... That's how I learned Connor had returned from Quartoth." He closed his eyes and paused for a moment before continuing. "I was drinking quite heavily most days by then and frankly was close to hitting rock bottom when Lilah finally pushed me too far. In a moment of anger I physically threatened her life. This turned out to be an incredible turn on for her, and, well, one thing led to another..." He shrugged, mimicking Gunn's earlier one. "It made a kind of twisted sense at the time." He thought about it, then added "Actually, it was quite liberating."
Gunn's mind continued to boggle. The slight leer now on Wes's face was just so *wrong*. This was the guy who'd declared his 'arse' was 'not pansy' a mere two years ago? "Uh," was all he could think of to say. He grabbed up his beer and drained the rest of it.
"The thing about Lilah," Wes leaned back casually against the cage and continued, obviously warming to his topic. "She's..." He winced and caught himself. "She *was* devious and determined, and ambitious, and fearless. She was also beautiful, and sexy, and honest in her own way..."
"And hot?" Gunn heard himself ask.
Wesley had his eyes closed again and was idly tracing the scar on his neck with an index finger. Gunn wondered if he was even aware of the action. Shit, the guy had it bad, even now. "She was also evil," Gunn felt obligated to reminded him.
Wes opened his eyes and looked down at Gunn sadly. "Yes, there was always that. It's not like I could ever forget, at least not for long. Still, when we were together, it didn't matter what she'd done in the past, what I'd done. She accepted - I suppose you could say she preferred - my 'darker' side, for lack of a better term. Even at my very worst she accepted me just as I was. You have no idea how..." He seemed to be searching for the right word. "*freeing* that was. How much I needed that."
Gunn studied the empty beer bottle in his hand, avoiding Wesley's gaze. He wanted to tell him that he *did* have an idea. That, after he'd killed Professor Sidel, Gunn had felt completely alone. That it had broken his heart when he realized Fred couldn't accept what he'd done, what he'd become. He thought back to a few weeks earlier. Lilah lying dead on the carpet. Wesley kneeling beside her, silent and staring. Grieving, Gunn now realized. He should have known then, and maybe he did. Maybe he just hadn't wanted to admit he'd been wrong about so many things. About Wesley. He wanted to tell his friend he understood, but the words were stuck in his throat and all he could do was nod as Wesley continued.
"In point of fact, I treated Lilah horribly, and she-" Wes swallowed hard. "She kept coming back for more. I broke it off, told her to leave town, but of course she refused. She always was such a fucking, stubborn bitch." He smiled weakly at Gunn and bent down to retrieve his beer. "Sorry, didn't mean to turn all morose on you. Perhaps it would be better if we changed the subject."
Gunn shifted uncomfortably in his chair and cleared his throat. "Uh, yeah, sure. Ain't like we don't have other shit to deal with." He gave Skip's body a quick kick with his boot and the demon's head lolled to one side, revealing the hole Wesley had shot the bullet through. Gunn got up and moved over to kneel next to the body and examine the hole closer. Curious, Wes came and leaned over his shoulder to see too.
"My, that was an impressive shot, wasn't it?"
"Word." Gunn nodded in agreement then turned to look over his shoulder. "Not like you're bragging or anything." Wes wasn't even trying to hide his smug expression, so Gunn chose to ignore it. "So, I was thinkin'." Gunn went back to looking at Skip. "What if we got some tiny sticks of dynamite, stuck them in this hole and blew him up from the inside?"
Wesley came around so that he was now facing Gunn. "Why yes, what a marvelous idea. Flying shrapnel aside, an explosion in the basement of a building that has already sustained a great deal of structural damage due to earthquakes should be just the thing. Any suspicious demon remains would surely be buried under the rubble, when the hotel came crashing down on our heads."
Even if Wesley hadn't been smiling, Gunn could recognize sarcasm when it bit him on the ass. "You couldn'ta just said 'That's a bad idea, Gunn.'?"
"That's a *very* bad idea, Gunn." Wesley promptly repeated.
Gunn thought some more. "Light him on fire?"
"Poor ventilation, plus the possibility of toxic fumes."
Gunn threw up his hands. "Okay, that's all I got. Guess it's back to using old fashioned muscle again." He sighed and reached for the saw.
Wes reached out and put a staying hand on Gunn's shoulder. "No, you're right. It will take far longer than we have at the moment to dispose of Skip that way." He scratched thoughtfully at his beard and looked around the room again. "What we need is something with more power."
Gunn shook his head to get rid of the image of Wes as the host of 'Tool Time' and mentally vowed to stop watching so much television. Pointing at a door partially obscured by a stack of dusty cardboard boxes marked 'Linens', he asked "What's in there?"
Wesley joined him in examining the door. "I have no idea. I never really felt the need to do much exploring down here past the training area. The basement was always more Angel's domain."
The two men shoved the boxes aside, revealing the faded word 'Maintenance' painted on the door. One blow with the blunt side of an axe broke open its rusted padlock, Wesley reached in and found the light switch, and they were now apparently standing in some sort of workshop. A tall, wooden work bench took up space along one wall, and was cluttered with nails, screws and an assortment of small hand tools. Behind it, more tools hung from hooks on a peg wall. Further back, a push lawn mower could be seen, partially obscured by a green tarp.
"This looks promising." Wesley clapped his hands together and moved further into the dank room.
Gunn wrinkled his nose and swiped at some cobwebs hanging down from, well, everywhere, and scowled. "Promising for mold and mildew, you mean. This place got a funky smell. You notice that?"
Wesley's only answer was a triumphant "Aha!" From beneath the green tarp he was dragging a heavy, metal buzzsaw.
Gunn grinned and moved to take it from him. "Cool!"
Wes stepped back. "I found it. I feel it only right that I get to be the first to try it out."
Gunn raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms. "Yeah, but *I* found the door." Wes tried to stare him down, then reluctantly allowed Gunn to take it from him. "Ha!" Gunn carried his prize back over to Skip's body and began looking for a place to plug it in. Wes didn't immediately follow him out and Gunn was just about to wonder if he was still in there sulking, when Wes emerged wearing..."English, what the hell have you got on?"
Wes looked down, then back at Gunn, giving him a look that suggested it was bloody obvious. "Coveralls. I found them hanging on a hook in there. I didn't see the need to ruin my clothing if there was another option available."
"You look ridiculous, just so you know."
"Which is why," Wesley pulled something blue from behind his back."I made sure there was a pair for you as well." He also produced two sets of safety goggles.
Gunn stared at Wes, and Wes stared back, barely hiding his amusement. Finally, Gunn gave in and snatched the items from Wesley's hands. "Fine. Whatever." He was just about to step into the coveralls when Wesley coughed politely. "What now?"
"You might want to shake them out first."
Gunn eyed him suspiciously, then turned away to shake out the clothing. A slew of beetles, spiders and other creepy crawlies flew from its sleeves and legs. Pretending he couldn't care less, Gunn quickly pulled the coveralls on over his clothes and slipped on the goggles. Waving Wesley back to what he guessed might be a safe distance, he pulled at the cord on the saw, it
sputtered once, then roared to life. Gingerly, he pressed the whirling blade to the joint at Skip's shoulder. Sparks flew, followed by something yellow and gooey. Shutting the buzzsaw down, Gunn removed his goggles and bent to examine his work. Wesley quickly joined him. Where the arm had once been attached to the rest of Skip's body, the cut was now halfway through and what passed for the demon's blood was oozing from it.
"We did it!" They both crowed in unison. They were grinning at each other like idiots and were halfway through their old special handshake before Gunn even realized they were doing it. He watched as recognition hit Wesley too, and was warmed by the shy smile it created. Things might not be back to the way they were, they might never be, but it was a start.
~~~ the end ~~~