Author: Mad Poetess (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rating: R for language
Spoilers: Through "Forgiving" (last US broadcast episode)
Feedback: Bitte. Danke. Please. Thank you. Merci.
Archive: List archives, my site. Otherwise, please ask.
Find it here: http://www.hawksong.com/users/mpoetess/stakes
Disclaimer: Joss owns them, but man...
Warnings: Er. Not Happy?
Summary: Gunn. Wes. What's left.
Gunn stood in the doorway, watching. Remembering how he'd played this game before. Wesley's still form, always thin, frailer than ever in a hospital gown, eaten alive by wires and tubes. Sinking into the pillows as if he'd fade away, disappear into the bed and be gone if Gunn shut his eyes for a second, to get some rest.
So he hadn't, back then. He'd sat and watched unblinking by the side of the bed, to make sure Wes stayed there, right where he was. Stayed real, stayed alive, and woke up from the bullet in his gut that had only been there because the stupid son of a bitch had opened his mouth to speak up for Gunn.
Gunn's eyes had gotten tired, gotten red, gotten sore, and Cordelia had offered to take his place, to watch, but he'd sent her for coffee every time she did, like maybe she'd forget the offer by the time she got back. After the third or fourth time, he had the feeling she'd caught on, but she never called him on it. He couldn't leave, couldn't sleep, because if he did, he'd wake up, come back, to find that giant bed and those wires and all those pillows had swallowed Wes whole.
When Wesley's eyes had finally opened, it was like he'd never seen anything that cool, that blue, before in his life. Better than Visine, for a guy who'd kept his eyes propped open with his fingers for hours. Didn't matter that Gunn was dead on his feet, or in his chair, anyway. Didn't matter that he ached all over. Sound of Wesley's voice, laughing, doped up, sight of those eyes, loopy and dilated but *there*, damn, there, was enough to keep Gunn awake until he was sure, positive, Wes wasn't gonna fade away if he shut his own.
Now, he watched again. From the doorway, this time. Afraid to go in, afraid if he did, he'd wake Wesley up. That he'd have to look into those same eyes, and he didn't wanna know what he'd see. Couldn't sit out in the hallway again -- couldn't, not after he'd let Angel walk in with a smile and a nod, thinking... Thinking what? That Angel would just forget everything, if he saw Wes open his eyes? That cool blue *there* ness would wash away crazy vampire you-took-my-son hatred, in a second?
Maybe he hadn't been thinking at all, too easy in his chair with Fred beside him, her cool little hand in his. So easy in so many ways, with her there. Easy laughter, didn't have to work for it, didn't have to get past cold words in an alley behind Caritas, about him risking them all. Wes, cold voice, cold eyes, face in stone, telling him if he ever pulled this shit again, he was gone. Bag and baggage. With Fred, he couldn't see cool blue eyes turn cold. Hers could only ever be huge and warm and brown. Fearful or trusting, one of the two, and somehow he was lucky enough to get the second, and it was just so *easy*. Easy enough to let him not watch, as Angel walked through the door, and picked up a pillow, and--
So now he was watching. And Fred was getting coffee. He had the feeling she'd pick up on the coffee trick, maybe not as quick as Cordy had, but sooner or later. Offer to stay so he could go home and get some rest. Then he'd have to tell her he didn't want her watching alone, play big man, in case Angel made past it hospital security again and tried to move her out of the way. True enough. And there was only room for one person to stand in the doorway.
Something beeped a little louder, as Gunn watched, and he wondered if he should call somebody, but there was shifting in the bedclothes, and Wes was pushing himself up a bit against the pillows. Opening his eyes, staring at the ceiling, not quite realizing he was there, yet. Gunn closed his own eyes, for a second, almost wishing that when he opened them, he'd just see a bed. Bare pillows. Nothing to worry about, nothing he'd lost track of, nothing that was so hard that when something easier had come along, he'd let it go, let it slip out of his sight, after all those hours awake watching. Nothing cool and blue that he'd have to meet, wondering what he'd find there.
It panicked him, that thought, and he opened his eyes. Reassured himself. Bed, wires, pillows, and skinny white boy all wrapped up in them, with a deep red necklace against the dead white skin of his throat. And blue eyes, watching him. Seeing him trying not to see. Not cool, comforting presence soothing the dry dust of Gunn's stare. Not cold, no stiff-assed British anger at him for fucking up yet again, for trusting Angel when he damn well should've known better. Just open, Wesley's eyes, blue sunk deep behind reddened skin, blue the same faded color as the sheets, the hospital gown, the pillows. Like holes in his head.
He ought to go in. Should go in, sit by the side of the bed. Take Wesley's hand and tease him about this habit he had of sneaking into ICU just so he could get the good drugs. Something held Gunn there, though, in the doorway. Afraid to walk closer. Afraid of what it would mean. What would be there. What wouldn't. Scared that walking through that door would mean walking away from the warm-eyed girl with the hot coffee, towards he wasn't sure what. Faded eyes against blue pillows. Somebody so lost, so gone, that even with his eyes open, Gunn wasn't quite sure he was there.
Wes cleared his throat, the sound as painful to Gunn as -- well, no, couldn't be as bad as it was for Wes.
"Hey." He managed to open his own mouth at least, still standing in the doorway.
Wes blinked at him, and for a second, he had a little peace, seeing closed eyes, but then they were watching him again. Savaged throat straining to make noise, muscles moving behind that awful red band. "Wh..."
"Hey, don't try to talk, man. You'll hurt yourself." And I'll have to listen to whatever you have to say to me. About fucking up again. About believing the vampire before I believed you.
Hell, maybe Wes would fire him for it. That would almost be funny.
Wesley shook his head, hard, and Gunn could see his eyes sink away for a second, like that really wasn't such a smart move, right now. Then his lips formed words again, throat struggled to push them out. "Why..." he rasped.
Gunn didn't answer. Not because he didn't want to, though he didn't. Just because there were so *many* whys that he didn't want to answer, didn't know how to. Which one? Just pick one at random? Throw a dart and see which why it hits?
Wesley watched his confusion for a second, then shook his head again, this time more gently. Then he reached behind him, and pulled out one of the pillows. Not the one Angel had pressed to his face -- Gunn had at least made sure they took that one away. But they all looked alike, faded blue cotton, and as Wes held this one up, Gunn got the message. Saw in his head what he hadn't seen with his eyes. Angel, bent over the bed, pressing down, spitting and screaming. Angel, whose kid Wes had taken only to save him from himself. Angel, whose necklace Wes was wearing around his throat, just as sure as he was wearing Gunn's bullet-wound on his stomach.
"He's... he's out of his head, Wes. He lost his kid, and he's not seeing straight. Only thing is, he's so damn *good* at being out of his head and faking that he ain't, that he got past us." Got past Gunn, who should've fucking known better. Fred, she'd figured out the man was still in there, even behind the monster-face, but she'd never clued in that the man was just as crazy as the beast. Gunn, though, he'd known, like Wes. Seen it when Angel lost his head over Darla, seen it when he'd walked away from them all. And he'd forgotten. Had let himself forget.
Wes watched him again, and the lack of anything in those eyes, anger, regret, loopy drug-fucked smile, nothing, made Gunn want to cover them up, just so he didn't have to look. Blue pillow holes in Wesley's face, and for one irrational second, he wanted to take that pillow from Wesley's hand and just finish what Angel had started. Make it go away.
That ripped something in him, sent an old bullet through his gut. Sliced into his throat and let him feel the blood on his fingers, so real that he had to put his hand there to make sure it wasn't. "Wes... God, I'm sorry." Ache in his throat, ache in his gut, ache in his eyes to look, and he never wanted to see a blue hospital pillow again, as long as he lived. Wondered if he could get Fred to bring Wesley's from his apartment, or one of Gunn's. Something. "I'm sorry. Never should have let him in here. Never should have let anybody get to you." Not Angel, not the bitch who put a knife to Wesley's throat. Nobody.
Still frozen in the doorway, watching Wesley's eyes. Waiting for something there, something that made it okay, or made it awful. Hatred or forgiveness. Something that made it *Gunn*, standing there, instead of just a dark body in a doorway, for Wes to focus on because his eyes were open and he had to look at something.
A flicker. He wasn't sure what, wasn't close enough. Had to take a step in, try to see. Wes shaking his head again, pointing to the pillow. Fix it, maybe? Couldn't be that simple, couldn't be just Wes wanting him to come in and put it back behind his head, prop his neck so he was comfortable, as comfortable as a man with his head half cut off could get.
He had to know. Had to know what was there, had to be standing next to that bed, to see if there was a chance. That he could sit down and watch again, and find that cool blue place whre Wesley just being alive was enough to make everything else not matter. Gunn walked in. Moved to the bed and listened to the beeping an the harsh rasp of Wesley's breath, and took the pillow from Wesley's hand.
Wes mouthed again, no sound this time, and a little frustration because of that, but not anger. Nothing big. Nothing at all."Why?"
Gunn recognized the shape of the word, now. But which question, this time? Why did you think I'd hurt the baby? Why did you let Angel hurt me? Why did you lose me, when I've been right here all along?
Wes pointed to the pillow, and Gunn started to slip it back behind Wesley's head, fix it right, but Wes gave a short, sharp cut with his hand. Pointed again. Why, again.
Gunn looked at the pillow. Looked at Wes. "Why what, Wes? If I know, I'll tell you."
Wesley frowned, and pointed this time to the bedside. Yellow legal pad, black Bic pen, generic hospital issue just like blue gowns and pillows, for a patient who couldn't quite talk yet. Gunn held the pillow in one hand, grabbed pad and pen with the other, and handed them to Wes.
Painfully slow, like it was hard to focus on moving his hand that carefully, like he'd rather just go back to sleep, Wes scratched at the paper, and Gunn held the pillow. Waiting for an answer. Waiting for something. Looking at the chair by the bed and wondering if it would be okay to sit down, just for a minute. If he sat there and waited, maybe when Wes looked up, there'd be Wes in his eyes, Gunn in his eyes, not just pillow-holes.
Wes shoved the legal pad at him. Pointed at the pillow again, and Gunn looked down, still holding the pillow in his hands, to read what Wesley had written.
~Why did you stop him?~
Gunn closed his eyes.