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Penance
by Mary Ellen (emmy2 at salsgiver.com) and Jodi (jodia at intergate.ca)

Series: Confession

Spoilers: Season Two, through Reprise

Rated: PG-13 for slash, language

Summary: Gunn feels some guilt.


Gunn was just getting back into his stride. The sun was starting to tease at the edges of the horizon, night and the danger it brought drawing ever closer. For these few minutes, though, he admitted his comfort, surrounded by his old crew, the familiarity strangely comforting after the past few hectic weeks.

Quick on the heels of that thought was a jerk, a sense of panic, as he realized that he really did think of these people with whom he'd eaten, slept and trained for months, almost years, as his old crew.

Still riding the the adrenaline of that realization, he jumped as his newly purchased cell phone rang. Yanking it out of his pocket, he glared at it in disgust, snapping it off and putting it in one of his jacket pockets and pushing Angel Investigations... in *all* its incarnations, out of his mind.

Hours later, sinking into a couch that used to be comfortable, he remembered the ignored phone call and snapped his cell phone open, dialing into his voice mail with the slightest feeling of trepidation. His unease turned out to be right on target. He only had one message, but as he heard Cordelia's voice, his stomach clenched into a hard ball.

"Gunn?"

He heard a faint, unascertainable voice in the background and Cordy's shushing response. "Of course I'm telling him. If he'd been here..."

Cordy spoke directly into the phone. "Yeah. Gunn. We're at the hospital. A certain ex-boss paid us a *not* so welcome visit and Wesley ended up reopening his stitches. So, yeah, we thought you might be concerned." He could *feel* the snippiness in her tone.

"You're apparently off sniffing butts with the big dogs, so we'll just see you whenever you decide to grace us with your presence."

Gunn didn't remember punching the power button, leaving the flophouse, or even making his way to Wesley's apartment.

The time stamp on the call was hours earlier, and he wasn't thinking clearly, and Wesley wasn't answering his telephone and he found himself, as if by magic, in front of Wesley's door, fist poised to knock.

___________________________________________________

Wesley had been lying on the couch since Virginia had left, mourning over the sorry state that was his life. It seemed to him that absolutely everything that could go wrong lately had indeed done so. Under normal circumstances he would try to put on a brave face, but the constant burning and throbbing of the hole in his torso wouldn't allow anything even close.

At least he had stood up to Angel. He had been quite chuffed with himself for that. Except that he really wished that he hadn't *had* to stand up to Angel. He didn't know what to think of the vampire anymore. The truth was, though he had tried to act excited about the new agency, he hadn't felt quite so desperate and alone since the Watcher's council had fired him. The question "what now?" was constantly ringing through his head.

What Cordelia had said to him on the phone hours earlier had struck him deeper than anything Virginia had said or done. "You don't count..." The phrase echoed through his mind. He knew that Cordelia, in her own blunt way, had not meant anything by it, but it was still there, and it hurt, since all that he had to hold onto now was her and Gunn and their fragile little agency.

Gunn...he hadn't seen the younger man since he had walked out this morning. It seemed that Gunn felt he could do more good on his own...with his "crew" or "posse" or whatever odd term he used to refer to them.

That hurt too. In some strange way Gunn's opinion meant a lot to him, and he knew it did to Cordelia too. And they'd been getting along so well lately... A knock on the door interupted his thoughts. He briefly thought of not answering it, but who knew? Things couldn't get much worse, perhaps it was something to make it better.

He was groaning in pain and moving off the couch, praying his wound wouldn't start bleeding again, as he called, "Just a moment, who is it?"

Gunn stopped his knocking abruptly, thrown by the pain that filtered through Wesley's voice.

Wesley limped over to the door, defiantly ignoring the wheelchair in the corner of the room. With one hand holding his side, he looked through the peephole, Gunn's face looming up from the other side. He opened the door.

"Gunn... Is everything alright? Did Cordelia have a vision?"

Gunn slumped against the doorjamb, abruptly confronted with a pale, messy, and obviously distraught Wesley. It *was* in fact, better than what he'd been torturing himself with on the long trip over, but Wesley looked fragile and so close to broken that it made him feel even worse. Squaring his shoulders, he moved past Wesley into his apartment.

"No vision that I've heard of." He plopped down on the couch, waiting for Wesley to move away from the doorway, shocked when he realized that Wes was mustering up enough strength to travel the twenty feet back to the living area. Hopping back to his feet, Gunn walked back over to the older man, grabbing him gently in a no nonsense manner and hustling him to one end of the couch before taking a seat at the opposite end.

Covering fear and realization with sarcasm, Gunn snapped "Man, the chair's there for a reason. Get it?"

Wesley only shrugged. "By the time I made it to the chair and then opened the door you would have been long gone." He wasn't about to admit how much he hated that thing. It just added to the whole miserable experience.

"Well, what can I do for you, Gunn? Some problem we need to discuss?"

Gunn sat, words not flowing with the ease that they usually did. Weighing options - guilt, concern, sifting through and choosing none of the above. "I got the message. She didn't tell me if you were okay. I just wanted... to see..." He trailed off, aware of how feeble his excuses sounded.

Wesley studied Gunn's face carefully. He had rarely, if ever, seen him look this uncomfortable or unsure and it puzzled him. He was also genuinely touched that Gunn had taken the time to come and see him. They didn't exactly live in the same neighbourhood.

"Thank you..."

Gunn was slouched into the cushions of the couch, and at the oddly wistful tone of Wesley's thanks he sat upright in shock. "Thank you? Man, you should be kickin my sorry ass out the door. If I hadn't gotten pissed and left, I woulda been there to stand up to Angel and you wouldn't be in even more pain."

So that was it. "Gunn, you were only doing what you felt you had to. If you feel you can do more good out on the streets as you used to, there's nothing Cordelia or I would do or say to stop you."

Wesley took another deep breath. "I'm sorry I look so terrible. There have been so many things lately, they all just seem to mesh together. The latest blow came only several hours before you showed up."

Gunn opened his mouth to counter the first part, when he noticed how Wesley's face darkened as he finished speaking. "You okay? I mean, me and you haven't always seen eye to eye or anything, but you look like someone just beat the shit out of you, and that's not *even* taking into consideration the big ass hole in your gut."

Wesley allowed bitterness to take over. "Well, let's see, shall we? Where to start? I could start with Angel turning into a complete monster and firing all of us. It's rare for someone who works so hard to lose *two* very important jobs over the course of 18 months. Or we could mention how our newest client decided not to pay us today. Or how a friend can say something, just one little sentence, that can crush your entire being."

He took a deep breath before continuing. "And then we can top it all of with the woman who supposedly loves you not being able to handle my choice of lifestyle and breaking it off with me." The anger left him as swiftly as it came.

"I'm sorry...I seem to be slightly tense don't I? Perhaps they should give me more morphine..."

Gunn snapped quickly, remembering the dopey disconnection that morphine had induced in Wesley. "Nah, don't think that's a good thing."

Heaving a sigh, "Thinkin' you probably got reason to be tense." Gunn scooted closer to drop a comforting hand on Wesley's arm.

"And if she couldn't take it, you're better off without her. The rest... it'll work out. It just does, right?"

Wesley sighed, looking down at Gunn's hand. "Thank you, I suppose. It's just... we're good people, it shouldn't be so damn hard." Wes shrugged. "As for Virginia, guess I should have seen it coming long before it actually did. I just feel... I suppose lost is the only word, and that feeling just makes me so angry."

Gunn moved a little bit closer, the emotions playing over Wesley's face making him feel sad and a little bit lost himself. Dropping an arm around Wesley's shoulder, Gunn tried to reassure him without the words that never wound up saying what he wanted them to.

Wes moved blindly toward the first human contact he'd had since Cordelia had dropped him off and made him comfortable. Without even thinking about it, he wrapped his arms around Gunn, unconcerned with the pain in his side and the fact that he was practically snuggling the other man.

Words were suddenly beyond Gunn's reach as he registered the fact that Wesley appeared to be hanging onto him for dear life. As one minute ticked away after another, he relaxed and started to notice things. Things like the scent of Wesley's shampoo, mingled with hospital antiseptic and the tang of sleep sweat.

Running a careful hand up and down Wes's arm, and Wes was suddenly looked up and without warning, without his brain even snapping into focus long enough to discuss what was going on, Gunn was lost himself, drowning in the pain and sadness and somehow oddly, comfort in Wesley's eyes.

And he realized that this was part of the reason he'd run here, so completely worried that something was wrong with Wesley, and then he was bending down and their lips were pressed together in an awkward approximation of a kiss before he smashed his eyes shut and Wesley angled his head and, *oh yeah*, opened his mouth.

Gunn was beyond the weirdness, existing only on the slick smooth pefection of the moment, until he felt Wesley tense and had no choice but to open his eyes, hesitantly and quite unwillingly.

Wesley pulled back, his eyes widening in shock. He couldn't think of a single coherent thing to say. "I... uh...well.."

End of fic.


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