Title: Shattered Image
Author/pseudonym: Wolfling
Email address: wolfling@sympatico.ca
Rating: PG
Fandom: Angel
Pairing: Gunn/Wesley
Archive: Yes to list archives, anywhere else just ask
Archive author: Wolfling
Archive email address: wolfling@sympatico.ca
Other website: http://www.hawksong.com/wolfling
Spoilers: Up to The Price
Disclaimers: They own them, I don't, yadda, yadda, yadda


Shattered Image
By Wolfling

Gunn sat in his truck and stared up at the building. More specifically, at the curtained windows of his friend's apartment. His former friend. His...whatever it was that Wesley had been to him. Was to him. Had been. Was.

With an exasperated sigh, he stopped that train of thought before it could run in any more circles. It was just another symptom of his confusion -- this trouble he was having figuring out how to refer to Wesley in his own mind.

He didn't know why he was here -- Wesley had made it clear that he wasn't welcome. Besides, Gunn was angry at Wesley, wasn't he? He'd chosen what side he was on after all -- Angel's. Gunn could get where Angel was coming from -- he understood the pain of losing family, and he understood the taste of betrayal.

Taking all that into account, when it came down to a choice -- Angel or Wesley -- there really wasn't a choice at all. Wesley had been the one doing. Angel had been the one done to. End of story.

But still... He couldn't get the sound of Wesley's voice out of his head: rough and gravelly, stripped bare of everything but anger and pain. That was bad enough, but worse had been Wesley's eyes.

Gunn had always been able to look into them and know exactly what he was thinking. Boy had the most expressive eyes of anyone this side of Fred. But the last time he had seen him, Wesley's eyes hadn't told him anything. It wasn't that they were empty, it was worse than that. They were shuttered, opaque; the bitterness and pain forming a wall that blocked off everything else, everything that made Wesley Wesley.

It wasn't right.

Wesley wasn't supposed to look like that, wasn't supposed to sound like that, all bitter, weary and cynical. He wasn't supposed to be sitting alone in his apartment because his friends had collectively turned their backs on him. He wasn't supposed to have made a choice that had cost an innocent his childhood. He wasn't...

He wasn't supposed to make that kind of mistake.

Gunn blinked, that thought bringing him up short and leaving him feeling like he'd been hit by the proverbial sledgehammer.

Wesley wasn't supposed to make mistakes.

Somehow that had got imprinted on Gunn's consciousness, as part of the way things were. The sky was blue, vampires were real and when the chips were down, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce always made the right decisions.

Except this time he hadn't.

And that was what Gunn was having problems forgiving -- not what Wesley had done, but the fact that it had been wrong.

When his mind was preoccupied with this realization, Gunn's body was moving on the auto-pilot, getting out of the truck and heading inside, feet carrying him up the stairs and down the corridor to stop in front of the door to Wesley's apartment.

His mind caught up just as he was raising his hand to knock and he hesitated for a second before very deliberately rapping his knuckles against the door.

He had come this far; he wasn't about to back out now.

For a long moment there was no response from inside. Just as Gunn was raising his hand to knock again, he heard the faint click of the lock being turned and the door opened.

Wesley looked, if anything, worse than he had the last time. His hair was mussed, his skin pale and it still looked like he hadn't been near a razor. Not that Gunn could blame him for that; if it had been his throat that had been slashed, he doubted he'd want anything sharp near it either.

Wesley's expression held the same unwelcoming wariness as last time, his eyes still guarded, holding the same anger and pain. Meeting that gaze was enough to make Gunn lose what he had planned to say and he found himself stammering instead.

"I...uh...came by -- I thought you'd want to know...it worked. Your idea. Fred's okay."

Wesley nodded once curtly, expression not changing, eyes still hard and cold.

Oh, it was so wrong to see Wesley like this and Gunn wanted to babble apologies and explanations, anything to bring some life and warmth to the face he was looking at.

But he still couldn't -- quite -- find the words. Instead of trying to explain his feelings, he settled for the words he could find, relaying a fact that Wesley deserved to know. "Connor's back."

That got a reaction. Wesley's eyes widened and there was a brief breach in the wall hiding his emotions, allowing Gunn a glimpse of something bright and flickering: hope.

"Is- is he..." Wesley stammered the question, speaking for the first time, his voice still rough and gravelly though it seemed less so without the underlying bitterness making every word sharp as knives.

"He's fine," Gunn hastened to answer. "He's a lot older -- 15 or so, he wasn't able to tell us for sure -- and he's got a bit of an attitude -- wanted to kill Angel when he first appeared, but they're working it out. All of it's working out."

Wesley's stony expression cracked even further with those words, eyes closing briefly in relief as some of the tension seemed to go out of his body. When he opened his eyes there were still wary and defensive, but some of the pain had seemed to have eased.

"Thank you for telling me."

Gunn nodded and the moment stretched out as they stood in Wesley's doorway staring at each other in silence. He could let it go at that, just turn and leave and let Wesley drift out of his life. That way he wouldn't have to admit his actions were selfish and unfair, wouldn't have to admit he'd been a jerk. For a moment Gunn's courage failed him and he almost did. He even began to unconsciously shift his weight in preparation of turning to leave, but the brief flash of resignation that he saw cross Wesley's features froze him in his tracks.

He couldn't leave, couldn't let Wesley continue to carry this. Swallowing hard, Gunn forced himself to find the words -- any words. "I want to -- I need -- I have to talk to you, Wesley. Can I come in? Please?"

Wesley didn't respond; just stood there and stared at him for so long that Gunn began to think he'd waited too long. But then he stepped back, giving room for Gunn to walk past him into the apartment. "You've got five minutes."

Gunn stepped inside and turned to face him, fighting the urge to pace or fidget. Wesley's expression was neither welcoming or encouraging, but Gunn knew he needed to do this, say this, no matter what the other man's reaction.

"You were right. When you said we didn't listen to your side. We didn't. And we should've."

Wesley inclined his head in an infinitesimal nod. But there was no softening of his posture or his expression and once again Gunn faltered.

When the silence dragged on, Wesley raised an eyebrow and asked coldly, "Is that it?"

"No!" Gunn replied, the thought of being thrown out before he could finish speaking letting the words flow once again. "No," he repeated in a quieter voice. "I want to explain why I-- it had nothing to do with you, not really. Not the way I reacted."

Wesley was looking puzzled now -- the perplexed look he got when trying to decipher a demonic text or translate or interpret an ancient prophecy faintly overlaying the cold, closed expression. It was a sign that at least he was listening, was trying to understand and it gave Gunn the courage to continue.

"See, you made a mistake -- a big one, about something important. And you don't make mistakes. Not when it matters. Not where someone gets hurt. But you did." He saw Wesley frown and struggled to explain. "It pissed me off, okay? What you did. That you did it. That you could make mistakes. That you weren't...weren't..."

"That I wasn't perfect?" Wesley's voice was even rougher as he delivered the mocking words with a faint sneer.

Gunn shook his head. "Not perfect. That you weren't the way I thought you were. The way I pictured you."

For several heartbeats, Wesley stared at him then turned away. He began to pace, a horrible croaking laugh issuing from him, the sound so rough and sharp it made Gunn's throat ache in sympathy. "That's supposed to make me feel better? That you abandoned me not because of what I did, but because I didn't live up to your expectations?"

Gunn winced. "No. It's wrong. I was wrong." His eyes followed Wesley's movements though he held himself perfectly still. "I'm sorry. It was a gut reaction. There hasn't been many things I could count on and--"

"And my being infallible was one of them?" Wesley laughed again, the sound just as harsh. "Well I'm sorry that my being human shattered your image of me. What did you expect though? It's clear you never saw the real me. Nor wanted to."

"That's not true!" Gunn protested. He may have built Wesley up in his mind more than he should've, but that didn't mean he didn't know the man's heart.

Wesley stopped in front of him, only inches of space between them. "Yes, it is. Because if you really knew me, this wouldn't be a complete surprise." And with that he suddenly pushed Gunn back against the wall and covered his mouth in a brutal kiss.

For the first few seconds Gunn didn't react, shocked into paralysis by Wesley's actions. His mind kept repeating the same thought over and over like a gerbil running in a wheel. Wesley was kissing him. *Wesley* was kissing *him*.

It occurred to him that he should be doing something -- struggling, pushing Wesley away... kissing Wesley back?

While he was struggling to find an appropriate reaction to being kissed by Wesley, some other part of his brain was cataloguing every detail of said kiss: the soft but firm mouth pressed against his own possessively, the wet tongue pushing against his lips demanding entrance, then thoroughly exploring every nook and cranny of the inside of his mouth, the heat of the hands gripping his upper arms so tightly he was sure he'd have bruises tomorrow.

This was far removed from the gentle, shy and somehow innocent kisses he'd shared with Fred. This kiss was an attack, one Gunn didn't know how to defend against, but which was firing every nerve in his body.

Finally, after what seemed like forever, Wesley let him go, pushing him hard against the wall and stepping back.

"You don't know me," he said coldly, his damaged voice turning the words into a growl. "You've never known me. I'm sorry if that damages your worldview but that's not my problem. I've the ruins of my own life to deal with." He turned away, giving Gunn his back. "Get out."

Gunn didn't move, his body still thrumming from the kiss, his mind still trying to get beyond 'Wesley kissed me,' still trying to catch up. He was still trying to deal with what had just happened and Wesley was throwing him out?


"Go," Wesley growled, without turning around.

Some instinct was telling Gunn that if he did leave now it would be for good, no getting back even a shadow of their friendship. It was that instinct, that fear, he spoke from.


Wesley spun back, anger the only emotion Gunn could make out in his expression. "I said--"

"And I said no," he interrupted. "I'm not leaving. You want me out of here, Wesley, you're going to have to throw me out."

"You think I won't?" There was a dangerous glint to Wesley's eyes.

Gunn crossed his arms. "I *know* you're going to have a fight on your hands if you try."

Wesley stared at him for a moment then sighed and turned away. "Fine. Suit yourself. Stand there as long as you want. Just turn the lights off when you leave." With that he left the room, heading deeper into his apartment.

Without thought, Gunn followed, still acting on the instinct that had prompted him to refuse to leave in the first place.

He followed Wesley right into his bedroom. "We're not finished talking."

Wesley turned around and took a step towards him, arm raised as if to shove Gunn back, but he stopped before he made contact. "Yes," he said, rough voice low and threatening. "We are."

"You may be, but I still have things to say. You were too busy trying to throw me out to listen."

"Most people would take that as a hint to leave," Wesley pointed out, folding his arms over his chest.

"Yeah, well I'm not most people." Gunn took a deep breath and spoke from the same instinct that had urged him to stay despite Wesley's wishes. "I don't know everything about you -- that's true. I made assumptions and got mad when you broke them. That's on me, not you. If you can't forgive that, I...understand. I'll be pissed but I'll understand.

"But that doesn't mean I don't know you -- at least the parts you've let me know. You're smart and meticulous and brave and compassionate. You'd willingly put yourself on the line for a friend or an innocent, no matter what it costs you. You always do and say what you think is right, no matter how tough it is."

Gunn paused hearing what he was saying, the words hitting home and easing the last of his doubts and confusion over Wesley's actions. "Shit, English, no wonder you're pissed at me. I should've already known your side -- or at least the important stuff. I'm an idiot."

"Yes, well..." Wesley murmured and was that a trace of amusement in his voice? He was still standing in front of Gunn, arms crossed over his chest, expression still challenging. But the tension between them seemed to be easing just a bit.

Gunn took that as a good sign and continued. "So you already knew I was an idiot. Which means I'm going to act like an idiot and do idiotic things that hurt my friends." He met and held Wesley's gaze. "You going to hold that against me?"

"What if I said yes?" Wesley's expression still hadn't changed, but there was definitely a thread of amusement threading through his voice now.

"Then I stand here making more of an idiot myself until you change your mind." He softened his tone and risked saying the one thing he was sure about above all others. "You're my friend, Wesley. I'm not ready to let that go -- to let you go."

Wesley stared at him for a minute while the words sank in. Then he took a step back and turned away, but not before Gunn saw his expression change, saw the wall of anger and hurt crumble and the real Wesley shine through.

"Apology accepted," he said, in a voice that sounded like it would be husky even without the throat injury.

Relief at finally getting through eased the tension that had been with Gunn in some form since he first learned that Wesley was missing with Connor. "Thank you," he breathed out with a sigh.

"Could you give me a minute please, Charles?" Wesley asked in the same husky voice, still with his back to Gunn.

"Sure," he answered softly. He reached out to clasp Wesley's shoulder, meaning to only do so briefly before retreating back to the living room, but then he felt Wesley tremble under his hand and Gunn found himself unwilling to step back or to stop touching.

"Charles," Wesley chided, though he made no effort to pull away.

"Hey, I'm giving you a minute. Take two if you want. In fact take as many minutes as you need. I'm not going anywhere."

Another tremor went through Wesley at that, this one so strong it was visible. Gunn hesitated; if this had been Fred, he would've turned her around and given her the hug she so obviously needed. But this was Wesley, and even though his instincts were telling him to do the same thing, he couldn't very well just--

Another tremor went through Wesley, this time accompanied by a raspy breath that sounded like a more than half repressed sob. "Ah, hell," Gunn muttered, resistance crumbling in the face of his friend's need. He tugged gently, pulling Wesley into his arms with no hint of the hesitation he'd felt a second before.

Wesley was stiff and unresponsive for the first few seconds, but when Gunn didn't let go, he relaxed against him all at once, face buried against Gunn's shoulder.

It was...weird. Standing there holding Wesley while he worked on regaining his composure -- relieved that Wesley was letting him -- didn't feel the least bit awkward. There wasn't even the self-consciousness and nervousness he'd experienced the first time he held Fred like this -- and why was he suddenly comparing Wesley to Fred anyway?

Deep inside, Gunn was beginning to feel anxious at how easy this was, how easy this felt. And somewhere at the back of his mind the words "Wesley kissed me" were still repeating over and over.

There was something happening, something that Gunn didn't want to know, wasn't ready for. Wasn't sure he'd ever be ready for. The anxiety was transferring itself to his body, making him tense up.

His unease must have communicated itself to Wesley because almost immediately he stepped back out of Gunn's embrace.

"I..." Wesley began, his composure still not completely back in place. "Thank you."

Gunn nodded, the gesture more curt than perhaps he had meant it to be. He didn't want Wesley to think he'd done anything wrong, but he wanted out of there, away from the situation, before he couldn't ignore anymore what he was feeling. Unconsciously he took a step back.

And watched a flicker of hurt pass over Wesley's expression, disappearing as the emotional wall started to go up between them again. Gunn halted, realizing any kind of retreat would sacrifice whatever momentum he'd gained in repairing the friendship between he and Wesley.

He couldn't leave.

Which meant he had to deal with things he was trying very hard not to think about. He looked at Wesley who was watching him guardedly. At least he didn't have to deal with it alone. "Can I ask you something?"

"Of course," Wesley answered immediately, though his expression was still cautious.

"Why did you kiss me?" The question came out far more plaintive than he had meant it to.

Wesley blinked and coughed, his face coloring with embarrassment. "Yes, I suppose I should apologize for-- I was just trying to prove a point. Perhaps more forcefully than I needed to, but I was a bit..."

"Pissed?" Gunn suggested when Wesley hesitated.

"Exasperated, hurt, angry...yes, 'pissed' would be an accurate description." Wesley's voice softened, the roughness in it smoothing out with the lessening of the volume. "I can't say I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable because I most definitely did. That *was* rather the point after all."

"Is that all it was?" Gunn heard himself asking before the thought was fully formed. "Just -- you making a point?"

Wesley looked nervous, but he kept his eyes on Gunn's face. "Just what -- exactly -- are you trying to ask me, Charles?"

Gunn swallowed hard but managed to ask the question. "Did you *want* to kiss me?"

Wesley's eyes closed briefly as he answered in a barely audible voice. "Oh, yes."

"How long?"

"Quite some time, actually." Wesley's tone was deceptively casual, belied by his expression, which was almost fearful. "Since I was shot."

In retrospect it made sense; something had changed in their friendship after Wesley had taken the bullet that by all rights should've been meant for him. But Gunn had chalked up the change to having this tangible proof that they each had the other's back -- something he had known before, but that incident had driven the knowledge soul deep. Wesley and he shared a bond between warriors, nothing more, nothing less.

Except there had indeed been something more.

It shouldn't have been a shock; after all Gunn has assumed all along that making a point or not, Wesley wouldn't have kissed him if he hadn't wanted to. But still, hearing it confirmed made Gunn feel like his world had been spun on its axis again.

Wesley was still watching him warily and Gunn felt the pressing need to keep the conversation going, to make sure the distance between them didn't grow any larger.

"You...never said anything."

Wesley's response was more of that bitter painful laughter. "Of course not. What would you have done if I had, Charles?"

Gunn opened his mouth to answer, but didn't get any further than "I-" before Wesley's harsh voice overrode him.

"At best you would've felt uncomfortable around me -- the way you do now. At worst you would've been openly hostile, perhaps even violent. I valued what I did have far too much to ruin it." Wesley laughed again, the sound self-mocking, bright red with bitter pain. "I hadn't taken into account that not being perfect would be enough to do that."

Gunn winced as the words hit home. "That's not on you, Wes, that's on me. I said I was sorry and--"

Again Wesley interrupted him, waving away Gunn's protestations with a hand. "I know. And I said I accepted your apology and I do. But things are going to change between us -- they can't help but change. That's why I never said anything -- because I didn't want things to change."

It was easy enough to figure out from there why Wesley had kissed him when he did -- beyond making a point. Things had, as Wesley stated, already changed between them; at that moment it had been even odds whether they would have been able to salvage any fragment of their relationship at all, so why not kiss him? It hadn't been like Wesley had thought there was anything left to lose.

Then. But now...

Now Wesley was watching him closely, face expressionless, but his no longer shuttered eyes were full of wary fear. Gunn could almost hear his thoughts -- would that decision then, ruin whatever chance they had now?

"No," he said, answering that unspoken question aloud. "I mean yeah, things change Wes, and they're going to change between us. Can't help that, can't stop it. But not the important stuff. Not the fact that I've got your back and you've got mine. We both made mistakes when we forgot that, but we're still here and still friends. That hasn't changed. That's not going to change." He realized his voice had become almost angry sounding with the intensity of the belief he was trying to imbue his words with and he took a deliberate breath, trying to back off a little.

Some of the fear had left Wesley's eyes, but not all of it. Gunn realized he had to be completely honest no matter how difficult it was if he didn't want this hanging between them forever.

"And Wesley -- you kissing me? I....didn't hate it."

It took a moment but then the corner of Wesley's mouth curled up ever so slightly. "No?"

Gunn shook his head and took it a step further, forcing himself to face the thing that was making him want to run. "In fact, I kinda...y'know, liked it."

The sardonic look faded from Wesley's face and he studied Gunn closely, as if searching to the answer to a puzzle. Then with the most heartfelt and wonderful smile that Gunn had seen in a very long time, Wesley moved closer.

Slowly, deliberately, giving Gunn plenty of opportunity to object or pull away, Wesley leaned in and gently pressed his lips against Gunn's.

It was as different from the first kiss as day was from night. If the first had been an attack, then this one was a question. And it still bore little resemblance to the kisses he exchanged with Fred, even without the demanding violent edge. The intensity was still there, it was just the anger that had vanished. Wesley still kissed with a confidence and concentration that was threatening to take Gunn's breath away.

Wesley's tongue darted out, pushing gently at Gunn's lips, asking for what he had taken the first time. Without thought, Gunn let him in, reaching out and steadying himself by gripping Wesley's shoulders as Wesley's tongue once again explored Gunn's mouth.

This time though when Wesley retreated, he opened his own mouth wider, inviting Gunn to return the favor. After a second's hesitation, Gunn did just that, exploring Wesley's mouth as thoroughly as his own had been explored.

He lost himself in the kiss, the sensations, the give and take of absolute equals, and had no idea how long it all lasted. All he knew when the kiss finally ended, when they finally parted, was that he was breathing like he'd just ran a marathon and felt like he'd been hit in the head with a two by four.

And he was hard as a stone.

"I guess I didn't know you as well as I thought either," Wesley commented sardonically. His voice was still rough and gravelly and Gunn was wondering why it no longer sounded painful to him. Why the word that first came to mind to describe it now was "arousing."

Wesley smiled at him again, simultaneously softer and with more heat than the last time. But as he continued to watch Gunn, the smile faded, replaced by a look of comprehension -- and sympathy. "You didn't know this either, did you? That you liked--"

"That I liked kissing you?" Gunn finished and he could hear how close to the edge he was in his own voice. "Hadn't a clue. Not one fucking--" He broke off and started to pace the length of Wesley's bedroom, needing to move, knowing that if he didn't he was going to implode where he stood.

He didn't need to know this about himself. He didn't want to know this. He should've obeyed Wesley's order and never come back in the first place, He should've ran when he had the chance, before the knowledge of what Wesley's mouth felt like, on him, around him, had seeped into his bones.

His soul.

He couldn't unknow what he knew, couldn't call it back and change what happened. More scarily, he couldn't stop himself from wanting it to happen again.

Wesley hadn't moved except to follow him with his eyes worriedly. "Charles--"

"No," Gunn said, not sure what he was denying. "This isn't me. I don't want-- I like girls, dammit!"

"The two are not mutually exclusive, you know," Wesley advised quietly, calmly.

"They are to me! I'm into girls exclusively, not...not...."


"Skinny assed white British guys who're too smart for their own good," he shot back. But that wasn't true because even now part of him wanted to close the distance between himself and Wesley and kiss him again and then...

His brain stuttered to a stop, refusing to put into coherent thought the rest of these new desires.

"Oh god," he muttered, turning and leaning against the wall at the far end of Wesley's bedroom. He looked back at Wesley watching him and felt another sure of the need that he didn't want to acknowledge. "Oh god," he muttered again, sliding down the wall until he was sitting on the floor. Staring at the carpet, he admitted, "I don't know how to handle this."

Wesley crossed the room and knelt in front of him, close enough to touch, but careful not to. "This doesn't have to change things. It doesn't have to leave this room if you don't want it to. Chalk it up to experimentation and leave it at that. I'd understand. After all there's you and Fred to consider..."

Fred. Gunn grabbed onto that thought like a lifeline. He pictured her in his mind, checking his reactions. He was relieved to discover he still cared for her; moreover he still wanted her. At least those feelings and reactions hadn't changed.

But comparing what he felt for Fred to what he was feeling now for Wesley...

His feelings for Fred were gentle, careful, even a bit childlike. He wanted to cherish her, protect her, wrap her up in cotton batting and keep her safe from everything that went bump in the night.

He wanted to protect Wesley too, but that was different. Their entire relationship was like that kiss had been: a meeting of equals. Protecting Wesley meant being at his side, guarding his back -- fighting *with* him, not fighting *for* him. When he thought about Wesley what he felt wasn't gentle or careful or childlike. It was wild and dangerous and so powerful that it scared him. He didn't have to hold back any part of himself.

And that's what it boiled down to: Fred was safe. Wesley was anything but.

"What do *you* want?" Gunn asked Wesley, who was still kneeling in front of him, blue eyes watching him with worried concern and maybe a little fear. This wasn't only his decision, his problem, after all. "Do you want to forget it ever happened?"

There was a flicker of pain in Wesley's eyes, but it was quickly suppressed. "This isn't about me and what I want," he replied, shaking his head, his gentle tone smoothing out some of the rough edges of his voice.

"The hell it isn't!" Gunn shot back, anger sparking along his nerves. "I'm not doing this alone."

"Charles-" Wesley began, still looking hesitant.

Gunn shook his head, overriding the protest. "Just answer the question, Wesley."

Wesley stopped trying to verbally dodge the question, but it still was a few long seconds before the answer came. "I want what we had before. If what's between us..." Here Wesley made an aborted gesture to touch Gunn's face, then let his hand fall without making contact. "If it grows into something more, I won't be disappointed. But if it doesn't, if you can't handle it or if your heart lies elsewhere, I will....respect that. Because must of all, I want our friendship back." He gave sort of a hiccupping laugh, devoid of humor. "I don't want to lose any more than I already have."

The bitter laugh and the slight tremor in Wesley's rough voice served as reminders for Gunn of why he had come here in the first place and that Wesley had far more difficult things to deal with than an identity crisis.

Gunn had come here to reconcile with his friend, to admit his mistakes and to maybe help Wesley face *his* demons.

And yet here they were, himself on the floor freaking and Wesley was trying to help *him*.

It shamed him at the same time it put his own problems into perspective. So he discovered his feelings for Wesley were a lot deeper than he was comfortable with. As crises go, things could be a lot worse.

Gunn tried to get past the panic and reflexive denial enough to fully face these new feelings. Did he have the courage to acknowledge this new sense of want, of need? Could he make a conscious decision to act on it?

Could he live with himself if he didn't?

He looked at Wesley patiently watching him, concern and affection brightly visible in his eyes, and knew there was only one thing he could do. Heart beating incredibly fast, holding onto his courage with everything he had, Gunn leaned forward and deliberately touched his lips to Wesley's.

For the first few seconds, Wesley didn't respond, merely stayed still and let Gunn kiss him. When he did begin to respond, it was uncannily careful and gentle. But that caution faded as the kiss lengthened and deepened until it was just as intense and passionate as the ones before.

Gunn relaxed into it, reaching a hand up to cup the back of Wesley's neck, holding him in place. This time he wasn't being overwhelmed by shock or panic. This time he couldn't explain it away.

This time he didn't want to.

In the part of his brain that wasn't entirely caught up in the experience, he was thinking about how years from now, he was going to look back on this moment, this kiss, as the beginning: the first conscious acceptance of wanting another man -- wanting Wesley. He had no doubt that it was going to take a very long time for him to become truly comfortable with this realization, if he ever did.

But at that moment, with Wesley's mouth against his own, Wesley's skin warm under his touch, Gunn knew that, no matter how much he had to struggle with this change in his self image, it was worth it.

He had his friend back -- in more ways he ever could have imagined. And that was worth everything.


All feedback is gratefully appreciated. :)

Wolfling (wolfling@sympatico.ca)

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