Disclaimer: Joss is my sadistic god; I am but a cowering sub that pretends to write and owns nothing.

Trust, Layer By Layer
by JustHuman (JustHuman111 at hotmail.com)

Summary: Gunn needs his best friend back.

Spoilers/Timeline: Everything through "Tomorrow"

Rated: NC-17

Notes: If for some strange reason you want to post this, go ahead, but let me know where. Feedback is welcome.

Dedication: Dedicated to the Betas; Kath who made me rewrite it and Merzibelle for her constant encouragement.

Betas have great appeal,
Their opinions are made out of iron,
Their claws are made out of steel,
They rip and shred, punctuate and spell,
Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun,
Despite all of their good efforts,
The mistakes all belong to one,
Yes, I'm the only one

*****


~Layer 1~

Life was not looking any better through the brown glass of his beer bottle. Gunn pushed the long neck down the bar next to a pair empties. The laughter of rough voices and the smack of racked pool balls breaking filled the air. Funny, he thought. This place used to seem familiar, friendly, and now its just another dive. Tossing some cash on the bar he made his way back to the truck parked on the street.

The old neighborhood was just not looking the same. Of course, he hadn't been back since that night at Caritas. It wasn't exactly like he was welcome. Still, when you've got girl troubles, you turn to your friends. Resting his head against the steering wheel, he briefly wondered what Rondell would have said anyway. 'What'd you expect? You think that the nice white girl was gonna stick it out with a brother from the streets?' On cue, Fred's face swam before him.

Nope. None of that. Drive the truck; get away from it. You'll think of someone to talk to. But then, maybe this was another place best not to go. They'd been denying it for over a week, but Angel, Cordelia, and for that matter Connor were missing. Hell, it wasn't like Angel was going to be any help anyway. Cordelia would have said something, but she was still a woman and women never saw things the same way a guy did. He just kept driving.

Running low on gas, Gunn looked at his surroundings for the first time in hours. The neighborhood was familiar even if the street names weren't coming right up. Shit, there was Caritas or what used to be Caritas. . Man, he would have been even willing to sing tonight. Suddenly Vegas sounded like a good idea. That's where folks went to get over heartbreak, right? But he had no idea how to find Lorne, so that was pointless too. Keep driving.

He knew where he was going now, his subconscious evidently aware of what he needed, no matter how badly Gunn tried to deny it out loud. A few more blocks, and the familiar building came into sight. Counting the windows, yeah, the lights were on. Wonder what Wes is doing tonight, he thought. While he really didn't want to be thinking about Wesley, somehow it seemed like a better idea than thinking of Fred. No point in running the motor, he parked on the street and just looked at the building. Kinda pathetic that he only came over now when he was desperate or feeling low. A few months ago, he had practically lived there. There was a dent in the couch shaped like his ass from playing video games and watching DVD's. Knew all the important facts about the place, beer in the fridge, pizza was speed dial six. There was a nasty pothole near the curb a block away that you had to avoid when you and your drunken friend were carrying each other back from a night of hard drinking.

There was a time, not long ago, when he and Wesley had known everything going on in each other's heads, without saying a word. Gunn still wasn't sure what had happened to make all that change, but he did know one thing. He was tired of it, tired of missing his friend. Someone had to make the first move. If he needed to be the bigger man, then so be it.

What the hell! Gunn slammed the door as he got out of the truck. Worst that could happen was that Wesley would throw him out. That still sounded better than being alone, moping over Fred.

***

Insistent knocking echoed though the apartment. When it became increasingly apparent that whomever was at the door was not going to go away, Wesley stumbled into some sweat pants and made his way to the front door. Throwing open the door, he gaped at Charles Gunn standing in front of him looking as if his dog died.

"Wesley, I know you told me not to darken your door, but I've got nowhere else to turn."

Wesley recovered and remembered that he was angry with the man who was pushing past him and slumping onto his couch. "What is the exact part of, 'your troubles are not my concern,' that is confusing you? I could take a moment to explain it before I toss you out.

"She dumped me."

Wesley blinked and squinted for a moment considering this. He had lost out in the race for the girl and was now immensely pleased that he wasn't alone among the losers; however, none of this explained what Gunn was doing in his apartment. "Yes, well, I can come up with a list of at least half-a-dozen reasons you'd make an awful boyfriend. None of which would explain why you decided to come here. Why are you here?"

Gunn stared at his hands for a while. The truth sucked, but what the hell. "You're the only one left. Angel, Cordy, and Lorne aren't around, and I can't go back to the old gang. And..." He hesitated, not wanting to say it. "... and I was in the neighborhood."

A hot flush of anger swept through Wesley's body. He opened his mouth to speak, to let out an angry recrimination, but nothing came out. Lonliness was a feeling that he understood far too well. Would it really break all of his resolve to listen? Sitting on the arm of the couch, he asked, "So what were Fred's reasons for leaving you?"

"She didn't list 'em out." Gunn stopped and took a deep breath, fighting with himself, "All I know is there was another guy."

"What?" Any cool Wes had wanted to use while gloating over Gunn's defeat was now gone. Hell, he could understand why Gunn had been competition for him, but what other man did Fred even have contact with? In a more modulated tone, he continued, "What guy?"

Gunn looked like he was going to choke on the words as he gestured at nothing in front of him. Finally, he spit it out, "Groo."

Wesley's face screwed up in confusion. Had they fallen through a portal to another dimension? What on earth would break Cordy and Groo up and bring Fred and Groo together? "As you should know, my former friends are shunning me, so I am unaware of all the detailed goings on - "

"Cordy's been spending a lot of time helping Angel get over his hurt," Gunn paused looking pointedly at Wesley. "Groo didn't like it and broke up with her. Cordy and Angel took off celebrating...we hope." Gunn shrugged as if he wasn't convinced.

"Groo showed up a the hotel telling us all about it and saying he wanted to head home, but he had this little problem about not knowing how to open up a portal. He's moping around the hotel looking all hurt puppy faced and a little too much like Angel's double - and you know how Fred used to follow Angel around. The morning after he gets there, she's all 'poor baby' stroking his arm. I tried tellin' her I was uncomfortable with her crawlin' all over him. She said it was nothing, that they've been *talking* like that for weeks." Gunn's voice was taking on a sarcastic quality, "I'm told that Groo is a man of depth and great compassion." Wesley let out a disgusted little noise and Gunn saw some sympathy in his eyes.

"And then I caught them kissing."

"But one kiss is hardly -"

"Wes," Gunn looked up at him. "I know that this is gonna sound stupid, but you ever see two people kiss and know that to them the rest of the universe doesn't exist?"

Wesley shifted uncomfortably. A moment like that had etched itself permanently into Wesley's brain the night of the ballet. He was going to share his sympathy when there was the click of heels against the wooden floor. Both men started and looked toward the sound. Lilah, who had just emerged from the bedroom still buttoning her blouse closed, joined the conversation. "So sweet little Miss Texas is a bit fickle is she?"

"What the -" Gunn jumped up, looking at Lilah, and then at Wesley where the lack of shirt, bare feet and tousled hair suddenly registered. His mouth fell open.

"Lilah, get out." There was nothing friendly or hesitant in Wesley's voice.

"Yeah, you've said that the last three times too. I want the gossip."

Wesley strode across the room, grabbed her wrist and twisted her arm behind her back. Lilah wasn't done talking though. "So, did you catch them naked to-" Wesley cut her off by placing his other hand across her mouth as he ushered her towards the door.

"Don't you dare bite- Ow!" Wesley pulled his hand free from her teeth and used it to open the door.

"Serves you right for using foreplay while throwing me out. Besides which, I got something out of tonight, but we were interrupted before you -" He slammed the door in her face.

"If there is a God in heaven, tell me that I'm wrong, and you did not have sex with her."

Wesley marched to the other end of the apartment and pulled out a bottle of scotch. When he waved it as an invitation, Gunn shrugged. Wesley took that as a yes and poured two glasses. Gunn took a swig of his and looked back appreciatively. "You broke out the good stuff for me?"

"Last of the single malt and I did it for me. And in regards to your other question, I hardly think who I spend my time with is any of your business."

"So, I'll take that as an affirmative, you are sleeping with Lilah."

"Well, there's no sleeping, cuddling, or tender kisses, just honest, raw, hard fucking."

Gunn raise an eyebrow, "Look at you cursing, and the earth didn't even open up and swallow you."

"I don't like to use it casually, but I think in this situation it is the most accurate term." Taking a long hard swallow, "It's probably bad we're having this conversation."

Awkward silence permeated the room and Wesley wondered what the hell he felt guilty about. Using Lilah? Not hardly - especially since she made no bones about the fact she was using him too. There was a beautiful sort of honesty in their mutual distrust and dislike. So what was it? 'Because before, I could justify my loneliness, because I was -*am*- mad at them for failing to see the logic of my plan - for leaving me to die. Now, all I can think of is how pathetic it is that I turn to Lilah because she makes me feel something other than alone.'

Gunn stared long and hard at Wesley who had become hard as granite, but was crumbling at the edges. "It was a good idea to take the baby away." There he said it. It had been nagging at the back of his head since all of this started, but there were more thoughts churning. "But I can't apologize for being pissed at you. You were the one who told me if I put any member in the team in danger-"

"-You were gone." Wesley cut him off harshly, but after a moment continued in a whisper, "But I was taking him away from danger."

"I know you believe that and so do I. Heck, even Angel believes it. Your choice of methods just plain sucked." Gunn was holding his glass hard, too hard he thought. 'It was almost tempting to shatter it against the wall, but instead, he carefully placed it on the table and looked again at Wesley who was staring at the amber liquid in the glass dangling from his own long fingers. "Look at me, Wesley." Some part of Wesley knew what was coming and he continued to stare at the floor. Gunn got up and stormed across the room yanking Wes' head up so that he could look the other man in the eye. Wesley didn't resist, although he did have to fight the urge to flee.

"You didn't trust me. You and me, we're best friend and you didn't trust me. The truth is that's what I don't want to forgive." He pushed Wesley's head to one side and traced a finger down the angry scar. "I can't prove anything, but somehow I know that if I was watching your back, this wouldn't have happened." Wesley's head gently swung upright as the hand holding it withdrew. Warm fingers kept tracing the scar. At first the movements were hard and mechanical but now they were soft and felt more like a caress. He tried to see what was happening in Gunn's eyes but they were too fascinated by the thin red line.

"You and Fred were together. It didn't seem like there was a good time to tell you. The two of you were always so busy with each other. You are my best friend, and I've been missing you for more than the last few weeks. You've been gone for months. I knew Angel would be infuriated, and I didn't want him going after you, any of you. I wanted - wanted you to be happy even if I wasn't there to share it." Wesley looked up into Gunn's warm brown eyes.

Gunn allowed his fingers to slide over and grip Wes' shoulder. Damn-it, why did Wesley have to put it like that? Gunn could see it, them sniping at each other about the girl. Why was that enough to make them stop talking? Yeah, hanging with Fred was nice, better than nice - until tonight. He felt like he had been walking around like a zombie the last few weeks, missing something important that he had previously just taken for granted. He made a decision.

"I want... Fuck! I want you to be a part of my life the way it was before. But It can't ever be that, can it?" He paused, hunting for the words that matched his feelings. "Fuck Angel and his drama. You and me, Wes, a fresh start. Learn the trust thing all over again if that's what it takes. Yeah, we got shit to get past, but there's something more important down deep. Something more important than the hurt we're feeling. Angel can fire me if he wants - if he can. Who the hell knows who's in charge these days? I need you're uptight idiocy in my life."

Neither one of them had really apologized, but that didn't seem to matter. It would take a long time, maybe years to get past everything that had happened. In Wesley's eyes, the opportunity to try felt like an unexpected gift.

"I think I could do that. Do you have any idea how much I've missed you?"

Gunn looked around, worrying that this might get a little mushy. "Yeah, I got a damn good idea. I know someone else who's been missin' his best friend, too." Gunn stuck out his hand. Wesley's hand met it half way. All it took was a quick look and they were shaking hands, not just an ordinary gesture. It was the special one from the days when they were on their own with Cordy, when Angel was just a name.

Wesley spoke up before any awkward silence could form. "Hey, are you hungry?"

"When am I not?" Gunn was grinning from ear to ear.

"Well there's nothing to eat." Tossing the phone to Gunn, Wesley headed toward the bathroom. "Order a pizza. I'm unemployed, so you're paying. I'll be out in a few minutes. There's beer in the refrigerator."

"Where are you going?"

Wesley looked around trying to find the right way to put it. "I'm suddenly feeling a little grimy. I'm going to take a quick shower."

Gunn looked at him sagely, "Evil-lawyer cooties."

Wesley started to protest but decided that he really couldn't fight Gunn's reasoning. "Look, I think we've both had enough of women for right now. All discussion of the female gender is off limits for the rest of tonight, except -"

"-except the leather clad babes in the video games?"

Smiling and nodding, Wesley ducked into the bathroom. Gunn smiled at the phone and hit speed dial 6.

~Layer 2~

Climbing into the shower before the water was really even hot, Wesley allowed himself a few minutes of simple, quiet, happiness as the water washed over him. Life had always taught him that when you were down, there was someone always there to kick you. It was undoubtedly rare when you could find someone to help pick you up again. Best friends, comrades in arms, warrior brothers, and a dozen other fanciful cliches skipped through his brain. It was the handshake, did it everytime...and the way, Gunn smiled at him...

Wesley shook himself out of it. 'Don't go there Wes. He's never noticed, doesn't want it. Hell, his girl just left him. Push it down; push it away. Suck it up and just bite back the things you really want to say to him. Don't say what you really feel when he claps you on the shoulder. Just the polite lies, don't mention the thrill that ran up and down your body when he stroked your neck just now. He's your best friend and you want it to stay that way.'

***

Popping open a beer, Gunn settled onto the couch. Listening to make sure the water was still running, he wiggled his ass really hard into *his* spot on the couch; thus verifying that his dent didn't go anywhere. God, this feels so good being back here.

'Talking to Wesley. How did I live without it? Yeah, yeah, it wasn't all going to be easy, but he was betting that it would be easier than either of them thought. Fighting was just how they communicated. This wasn't the first time that they'd agreed to disagree, either. Gunn's attitude towards Angel had mellowed a lot in the last year, a lot more in the last few weeks, but he and Wes both knew that they would never completely see eye to eye on being friends with a vampire. But that was cool. That was what made their friendship work; just enough space so you didn't kill each other but tight enough to be covering each other's backs.

Unbidden, the scar on Wesley's throat came to mind. Gunn knew where all the scars on Wesley's body were. The two of them had cataloged them in the hospital after the gunshot. This one was different, red, angry sticking out for the world to see. He had tried to wipe the hurt away, had wanted to rub the edges until they were smooth again. Hell, he had even felt an urge to kiss it and make it better. But that wouldn't be right. There were just some things you didn't do with another man, even if he was your best friend.

***

Pizza, beer and video games were the only concerns for the next hour and a half when Gunn yawned. "Sorry, it's not the company."

"Do you want to call it a night? The couch, as usual, is yours if you want it."

Gunn crossed his arms and looked disapprovingly at Wesley. "You think I'm leaving here with you winning three-ta-two?" Relaxing, he continued, " Don't worry about; it's not like I was planning on getting to work early tomorrow. Hey, maybe I will take you up on the couch offer. That way we could go to the hotel together tomorrow." He hoped that sounded casual enough.

Wesley put down the game controller before he dropped it. "I don't know if that's a good idea."

Laying aside his own controller, Gunn leaned over. "What's up? I thought we were going to work at it together."

Wesley turned towards him, "Yes, you and me. I mean, I didn't think much beyond that. You know I won't apologize to them and then there's the part where Angel tries to finish the job he started in the hospital.

Right now it's just me and Fred ya gotta worry about. We'll deal with Angel and Cordy together, when they get back. You know I always got your back." Gunn let the sentence hang there until Wesley was looking at him. "Yeah, it's not going to be easy. There's hurt feelings all around that you're gonna hafta work out with each person. But you're not going to end up dead. Wesley, I know you, you're not just missing me or the others, you're missing the work too."

"Yes, I'm not happy without the work, but I could still do that without working for Angel Investigations. I'm employable. It's not like I can't find another position. Hell, even Lilah offered me a job."

Incredulous. Wesley knew it wasn't a word that Gunn would normally use, but it was the look on his face. Immediately followed by anger. "Are you out of your god damned mind? Scratch that, I know you are. Apparently being away from my calm, sane influence has been extremely detrimental to you. You are not even going to consider working for the evil bitch, and might I suggest that having sex with her is not a good idea either? As your fucking best friend, I am not letting you slide into hell. Got it?"

It wasn't hard to read the sincerity in Gunn's eyes. Wesley wondered if he needed someone to actually say that Lilah was bad for him. No, he knew that. What he needed was someone to give a shit about it. Lost in his own inner turmoil, he didn't respond to Gunn right away. The pleasant little fantasy he had in the shower about him and Gunn picking up where they left off was falling apart. Everything was different now. If he was even going to think about making this friendship work again than nothing less than total honesty was going to do.

"I wasn't considering working for Lilah. But, I think I needed to hear someone else say it was a bad idea." Wesley fidgeted with the pizza box for a moment. "I'll try going back to the hotel."

"That's cool." Gunn was looking relieved. "I can't say what it's going to be like. Shit, I don't know what it's going to be like for me, but I'm there with you." He reached up and gave a reassuring squeeze to Wesley's shoulder.

All the promises Wesley made in the shower evaporated. Better to find out now if true honesty would destroy their relationship forever. "That means a lot, but at the risk of mindlessly throwing all that way, I have to say something." Gunn nodded but didn't move his hand away; they were in this together.

"I've always seen you as more than merely my best friend. I wanted to tell you for quite some time, but I just didn't think it was appropriate, that is to say, that you'd want...enjoy..."

Wesley wasn't surprised that Gunn looked confused, as he tried to process Wesley's bumbling. Giving up on words, Wesley decided to make his point more clear, even if this was the last conversation they ever had. Reaching across, he kissed Gunn. It was something short and simple, nothing earth shattering. When Gunn didn't immediately haul off and hit him, Wesley grew braver and opted to do it again.

There wasn't a thought in Gunn's head when the first kiss happened. To say he hadn't expected it was an understatement, but then it was happening again. Gunn could feel his mind kicking into operation somewhere in the back of his head, but decided to ignore it for a minute and just enjoy the moment.

Wesley couldn't count the times he had dreamed of this, imagining his mouth where it was now. Opening his mouth slightly so his tongue could glide over the firm softness next to his mouth, he felt Gunn kiss him back.

When they broke apart a few moments later, Gunn leaned back and stared at the floor, the bookcases, anything but Wesley. "Well, that's definitely not a repeat of how our friendship originally started." Gunn trailed off. Completely lost in a sea of wild conflicting emotion. The phrase 'guys don't do these things with other guys,' came up first, but there was another thought pushing its way in as well. There was something very comfortable about being anywhere near Wesley; it was one of the reasons Gunn had always spent so much time in this apartment.

Finally having done it, Wesley couldn't believe that he had. "I'm sorry if I upset you, but I couldn't keep politely lying about my feelings. If we're going to start over again, I just couldn't keep it all buried inside. I understand that you probably don't feel the same."

Gunn turned toward Wesley. "I never expected my life to be easy. I've been fighting for almost all of it. The complications...I never expected things to be so complicated. So the only thing I can think to do is to keep it honest, keep it simple."

Wesley nodded, disappointment beginning to etch its way across his face. Gunn caught that and said, "I think I liked that." Did he just admit that out loud? They were being honest; he wasn't going to lie, no matter how much shit was spinning in his brain at the same time. After a few minutes, he decided to go with whatever felt right. Leaning over, he tentatively started kissing Wesley and it all started feeling natural. Gunn's arm snaked around, so he could stroke Wesley's back.

Becoming completely lost in the moment, Wesley returned the gesture and rested his other hand on Gunn's thigh. Startled, Gunn jumped back putting some space between them. Spotting his mistake, Wesley simply said, "Sorry."

It occurred to Gunn that he had actually liked the feel of Wesley's hand where it had been. His mind wouldn't sit still as he was rapidly becoming more excited and scared at the same time. This was going way too fast and at the same time not fast enough. Fred was rapidly becoming a bad decision somewhere in his head. What was Wesley thinking? 'Shit, apparently he's been thinking a whole lotta things I wasn't aware before,' Gunn realized.

"No, it's cool. I just...you startled me." Gunn needed a minute, or maybe a year to sort out his feelings. He realized a little friendly insight might not be a bad thing either. "Ah, Wesley, when exactly did you figure out that you liked guys? I mean, I'm figuring you must like guys...I mean, since you..." He was embarrassed, but it was a burning question in his own mind, might as well ask.

Wesley had some immediate flash backs to bullies at school and groping in broom closets and behind bushes, but none of that was what had made him decide that he liked men. He wasn't sure how comfortable he was, sharing such things with Gunn, especially at a time like this, but they had agreed to be completely honest with each other, especially if it might help Gunn feel more at ease. "When I was away at school, there were things that happened with the other boys. Honestly, not a lot of it was pleasant, but it did make me curious. I guess the first time I knew I liked men was during the summer between prep school and university. He was an older gent who picked me up in a used book store."

Suddenly, Gunn felt some of the tension easing. "Oh, I am so surprised that you would look for a date in a book store."

Wesley chose to ignore his obvious sarcasm. "I wasn't looking for a date. He was there and we were talking about different qualities of printing from various centuries. One thing led to another and he invited me back to his place to see his library."

"Are you going to tell me that you fell for a line like that?"

Gunn's grin was contagious, and Wesley found himself smiling back. "No. I didn't fall for it. I knew what he wanted, and he had gotten me interested." Wesley became a little lost in the memory. "He took me into the library and told the butler he didn't want to be disturbed. The butler knew the routine. He showed me the books and kept touching me, casually on the arms and shoulders as he led me around the room. Then his hand was on my ass, and he was kissing me. The kiss took me off guard. It was nice, but not like kissing a woman. There was a...I don't know, a directness about it that was intoxicating. We managed to keep busy most of the afternoon."

There was something about the hot flush that rose to Wesley's face that was making Gunn warm as well. "Did you date him for a long time?"

"No, the only person I've ever come close to a long term relationship with is Virginia. It was different being with him verses the women I had dated, not better or worse, but different. It may sound trite, but to me, who you're with has much more to do with the person than the body parts he or she possesses." Gunn sat and thought about that.

Wesley noticed that there was an uncomfortable silence brewing and reached for a slice of pizza to occupy his hands. Further along the couch, Gunn was sitting back, looking like he was working on a complicated math problem.

The internal fight was tearing Gunn up inside. Everything he was taught, was raised to believe, was telling him this was wrong. Keep it simple; it was his new motto. Guys and girls should date and guys should just play video games or go get drunk together - simple. When he was looking for a shoulder to cry on earlier, there was only one shoulder he really wanted, Wesley's. If he had the choice of spending time with any human or demon on the planet, it was simple: Wesley. He liked what had just happened, wasn't that simple enough?

"Wesley, how long have you been feeling this way?"

"I noticed you right away, it's just that I never thought I had a chance with you." Wesley contemplated the pineapple on his pizza slice, while he spoke. "It was the day that I woke in the morphine-induced haze and saw you sitting there that I knew I felt something more." Smiling a little, Wesley took a side long glance at Gunn.

The talk of the gunshot made all of the feelings of warmth, affection and brotherhood come tumbling out, breaking down the barriers that had forced themselves into Gunn's mind. As all the emotion started to make his heart pound, he began to see that there was something more. It really was simple.

Wesley leaned forward to dig around the boxes on the coffee table for a napkin to wipe some tomato sauce from his mouth. Gunn took care of it for him. His left hand reached across and gently turned Wesley's head so that they could look at each other's eyes. As Gunn lost himself in the blue depths, he closed the distance between them and kissed the sauce from the corner of Wesley's mouth.

~Layer 3~

Wesley understood that Gunn was feeling uncertain, so he remained fairly still allowing his best friend to explore new territory. The kiss was tentative at first, but then Wesley was welcoming the invasion of his mouth by the gentle probing tongue. Two strong hands cradled his head as fingers threaded their way into his hair. He couldn't hold still any longer. Reaching out with his right hand, he rubbed the back of Gunn's neck while the other hand stroked the cotton-covered ribs.

Gunn was beginning to understand what Wesley had said about how kissin' guys and kissin' girls was a different thing. With women, there was always something sweet, vanilla or cinnamon or flowers, hanging around in the background. Wesley smelled clean, like the soap he had just finished using. And that lower lip, yeah, that was Canadian bacon and pineapple just like the pizza. Not sounding romantic at all, but that was what was so attractive. Kissing Wesley was *not* fragile, *not* careful, *not* tentative and *not* the least bit intimidating.

Unthreading his fingers from the wavy brown hair, Gunn reached down and laid a hand on Wesley's chest. Different. Not soft and round, but hard and muscular. Wesley breath hitched as fingers roughly caressed his chest through the shirt and danced across a nipple.

Wesley decided that Gunn's exploration was a sign to be a little bolder. Breaking away from the demanding kiss, he tasted and licked his way to a vulnerable ear lobe. Taking it between his teeth, he nibbled and sucked, occasionally stopping to dart his tongue out and trace the swirls of the delicate shell. His warm breath eliciting a needy groan.

"Wesley?"

"Mmmm?"

"I like this."

"Well, that's good, me too."

"More?"

And oh my, Wesley didn't waste any time. There was a hand massaging it's way up his left thigh, but the thumb was doing all the tantalizing work as it lightly stroked it's way up the more delicate inner thigh. He held his breath as the thumb followed the path of the zipper on his jeans with only enough pressure to let you know it was there.

Wesley looked into Gunn's eyes trying to judge the impression he was making, trying to see how much permission he had. Gunn let out a breath, gave a barely perceptible nod that became Wesley's cue to slide both hands under the yellow t-shirt. Suddenly touching those hard abs was not enough. Normally Wesley could be very patient lover. He enjoyed foreplay to the point of driving most partners insane with his slowness. But Wesley had restrained himself on more than enough occasions bandaging the chocolate skin beneath his fingers. More than one lonely night had been spent stroking himself to blinding pleasure wishing that this skin was pressed up against his.

Gunn hadn't planned on taking off his shirt, but he wasn't objecting to the fact that Wes had done it for him. In fact, he was objecting very little to anything Wesley was doing at the moment. They had been kissing forever, nothing wrong with that. He kinda missed sharp little nails on his skin, the way Fred would scratch his neck. Wes' hands were twice the size of the ones he was used to, and stronger. They knew how to knead deep into the muscles in all the right ways. Different. Fred's hands were more subtle but too tentative. There was nothing subtle about what Wesley's hands were doing and it was all making him feel good. He missed those hands for the fifteen seconds it took to remove Wesley's shirt.

Oh, God, thought Wesley, Gunn's undressing me. It was only his shirt, but it was very encouraging and so were the hands exploring his chest. Burying his face in strong neck in front of him, Wesley used his tongue to burn a path to a distended nipple. It became rock hard as he sucked it between his teeth. He vibrated from the moan ripping through Gunn's chest. He couldn't help himself as a hand dived to the jeans clad bulge, and he sought to pleasure his friend through the stiff cloth.

Between Wesley's mouth on his chest and that hand on his cock, Gunn was becoming rock hard. A wave of panic washed through him. He stopped breathing and moving for a minute. That was all it took. It let him focus on the way his body was trembling every place that Wesley was touching. God, he wanted to do the same thing to the man in front of him.

"Wes, I want to drive you crazy, like your doing to me."

"Oh, allow me to say your doing fine." Looking into Gunn's eyes, Wesley pause a moment to appreciate the heavy lidded passion brewing there. "If you like, I could give you some suggestions for what might drive me even crazier."

Leaning in close, Gunn gently nibbled on Wesley's lower lip. He paused and rested his forehead against Wesley's. "I've had a few thoughts on the matter, but..."

It took a second for Wesley to understand Gunn's dilemma. Looking up so he could see Gunn's face, "You like this..." Gunn bucked forward as Wesley squeezed him through the denim.

"It's good."

"But not sure about returning the favor?"

Guilt, embarrassment, worry, all crossed Gunn's face. He tried to answer and failed at actually creating speech.

"You don't have to do anything. I'd be more than happy to take care of things. Or, instead of that, we could just keep kissing and take care of ourselves." Wesley watched Gunn's face until he was sure that the mental picture was there.

"Uhm, working on our own doesn't sound like it's as much fun and the other option doesn't sound real fair."

Reaching up, Wesley pulled one of Gunn's hands into his, "Then sometimes, you have to try something new." Gunn didn't resist as Wesley guided their hands to the front of his sweats that were doing nothing to hide Wesley's arousal. Gunn cooperated as his fingers were wrapped around his friend's cotton covered erection. Wesley's long sure fingers wrapped around his friends guiding it up and down.

This was a huge risk and Wesley knew it. He never stopped watching Gunn's eyes through the process. At first there was nervousness, but slowly it was replaced by curiosity. The next thing Wesley knew, he almost lost it when a thumb teased the head through the cloth. Grabbing a shoulder to steady himself, Wesley fought for control and finally caved in and stopped Gunn's hand.

Gunn was a little surprised, "You don't want..."

Taking a deep breath, Wesley laughed at himself a little. "Oh, I want. In my humble and over stimulated opinion, you could keep doing that well into tomorrow. I just, I just want this to go on for a while longer." They could see the unspoken concern in the other's eyes. This needed to last because it might be the one and only time it happened. This was one of those moments that required an exchange of tender endearments and gentle caresses.

A beefy hand grabbed Wesley by the neck and pulled him into a rough and deep kiss, "Man, this does not suck."

"I could learn not to hate this," Wesley replied. Gunn nodded his understanding, as Wesley continued, "You know though, you may want to consider rephrasing. In point of fact, I do suck and very well I might add. If you are going to insist on believing otherwise, then I feel that I'm going to have to prove you wrong."

"Talk is cheap, bro. Think you can take me?"

Taking Gunn's advice, he didn't answer with words. Wesley leaned in for an impassioned kiss as he pushed the other man flat on his back. Gunn didn't seem to resist the hand opening his jeans. He may have even lifted his hips so as to assist in the removal of his own pants and the merciful freeing of his cock.

Without warning, Wesley's tongue began stroking Gunn from balls to tip. Gunn thought that was good, really good until Wesley's hand had him by the base and then it became great. That gorgeous fucking mouth was swallowing him whole. Sweet merciful God! The head bobbing up and down on him had a beautiful fast rhythm that was dragging all sorts of groans out of Gunn's body.

Wesley considered that this was something he enjoyed as opposed to something he just did because it was expected. He liked the feel, the taste, the power and the control. While his tongue luxuriated in the velvet texture, he tasted the first few drops of salt. Glancing up, Wes could see the sweat glittering against the black skin, hear the ragged breaths coming faster and faster. Gunn's hips began to buck harder, but Wesley put a tighter hold on them to kept his partner steady. Adjusting his position so that he'd have a better view of Gunn's face, Wesley opened the back of his throat and took the other man in as far as he could.

Gunn wasn't thinking at all when the humming started that sent tremors and vibrations through his whole body leaving him hanging on the edge.

Nothing coherent was occurring in Gunn's brain. Phrases like 'good' and 'more' bounced around of their own accord translating the pleasure coursing through his skin. There was no worry or recriminations about how or by whom these feelings were being generated. It was good, all good. Hands, seeking any purchase, grabbed at the cushions. And then it was too much - dynamic tension snapped and unfurled, wave after wave of energy unleashed, so bright that for an endless moment he could not see.

Wesley saw it all, and to him, it was beautiful. Hands massaged the places they had held, while he kissed the salt away and released Gunn into that wave of peace and bliss that follows the storm. Sliding forward, Wesley rested his head a moment against the bare chest to hear the pounding rhythm beneath. Taking care of Gunn had allowed a few moments to steady himself so that he wouldn't go over the edge at the first touch. Wesley settled more comfortably on Gunn's stomach and pressed his cock into naked thigh. A large hand rubbed Wes' back possessively as fingers stroked his face.

"Wes?"

"Hmm?"

"You're- I mean... What you...that was fucking amazing." Gunn could feel the smile spread across the skin of his chest. "Sorry about not warning you that I was..."

"Oh, don't worry. I wouldn't have done anything different."

Gunn felt the heat rise to his face. The intimacy of the moment was becoming a little more than he was ready for. "Uhm, that uhm, bulge in my thigh, belongs to you, huh?" Gunn felt Wesley's smile become a little bigger.

"What? You mean this?" He moved his hips rubbing the length of Gunn's thigh through the sweat pants.

"Yeah, that's what I thought." Taking a deep breath or two as his fingers absently smoothed the brown waves in Wesley's hair, Gunn asked, "I, ah... should be doing something about that, huh?

The hesitancy in Gunn's voice was clear. Wesley was determined, no matter how uncomfortable he was, not to push. "I wouldn't object if you wanted to do something. If you- well, if you don't want to, I can go and take care of it."

"The couch is kinda crowded, maybe we can go where there's some more space?"

Wesley was fairly sure that there must be a completely stupid grin on his face that was making him look like a complete idiot. Thank God his head was buried in Gunn's chest. "Of course, we can go to the bed-"

A very large black hand laid itself across Wesley's mouth muffling his response. Rather helplessly, Gunn looked around the room, hoping the words would be written on the walls. Finally he just caved in and said his peace, " Wes, that confused part of me is still in a state of denial, a little. So, if we could not say certain things, like the name of the place where we both know there's more room, then I think I can avoid the panicking."

All that took a few moments for Wesley to process. Gently taking Gunn's hand, he stood up and pulled the man to the place with more room, which was also the place where the comfortable and roomy bed was stored. The limited amount of blood circulating to Wesley's brain suddenly reminded him of the last activities that had been conducted on the rumpled sheets they were now facing. Sending up a fervent prayer, he hoped that Gunn had forgotten his objection to -"

"Evil lawyer cooties. I'm right about that, huh?"

Wesley tried valiantly and failed to withhold his whimper. He had been hard for what seemed like hours - wait, it had been hours. After Lilah had left, things had calmed down but immediately came back once the kissing had started. For the last twenty minutes, he had been on the edge of exploding and had now reached the point where he was ready to beg. It took only few seconds for this all to register, but instead of saying any of it, Wesley responded, "You strip the...the....the thing that isn't a couch but has more room than a couch and I'll find some clean...cloth things."

Gunn smiled, "You really do give a crap about my feelings, don't cha?"

Wesley smiled somewhat weakly back, "Yes, and if you care anything for mine, you'll hurry," Gunn didn't comprehend at first, but then caught sight of the bulge in Wesley's pant and that made everything suddenly clear. The bed was stripped in nothing flat. Wesley was turned away rooting through a dresser drawer.

"Damn-it, I need to do laundry. Not a full set, just a flat sheet." Gunn was perched on the edge of he mattress making use of his time to fully appreciate Wesley's naked back. The sweat pants were way too loose and did nothing to enhance Wes's backside - which Gunn was not necessarily interested in seeing except as an exercise in appreciating the beauty of how the human body was constructed. Shit, he wanted to look at Wesley's ass. "Wes? It's awful hot in here, aren't you over dressed?"

Wesley glanced over his shoulder about to explain the sheet situation, when he was struck speechless by the idea that Gunn wanted him naked. Untying the knot in the drawstring, he slid the pants over his erection and let them drop to the floor. Looking over his shoulder, he watched Gunn checking out his ass, watched Gunn get up, watched Gunn walk toward him and slide his hands across the smooth cheeks and around to Wesley's stomach. Leaning back, their bodies were pressed together, back to chest.

Gunn looked a little expectantly at Wesley and licked his lips. Wes accepted the invitation and started kissing despite the awkward angle. Someone was looking for something in one of the dresser drawers, but Gunn didn't care much about that, because he was busy - busy, kissing Wesley. One of Gunn's hands was lifted off of Wesley's skin and something cool and wet filled the palm. Then his hand was guided somewhere lower, somewhere hot and hard. Wesley began to breath harder as Gunn's hand began to move.

For Gunn, it was a moment of truth. He had to face up to the idea that he was holding, stroking another man's naked cock. Even though he had been doing this earlier, the sweatpants allowed him to feel somewhat distanced from what he had been doing to Wesley. This time he watched Wesley's face, reacting to every movement of his fingers. Gunn tried scratching the spot under the head that he liked touched. Oh, Wesley liked that too. It suddenly occurred to him that with all those things that he had noticed were different, there were some things that were the same. Gunn was into it, showing Wesley all the little things he loved and learning a little about Wesley's favorite things.

Exposing his neck to questing lips, Wesley threw his head back on Gunn's shoulder. Fingers glided across his length taunting the dripping head. Taking a tighter hold, the hand began to pump faster and faster. Wesley found the strength leaving his legs as the arm now wrapped around his chest steadied his body. Warm lips took hold of an earlobe causing Wesley's hips to buck out of control as his knees finally gave way.

Gunn held him tighter and held him up, marveling at the ecstasy flashing through Wesley's entire body. It was hot, arousing, and all for him. Placing a kiss in Wesley's sweaty hair, Gunn wrapped his arms tighter around the warm body in his care. They stood there a few minutes enjoying the quiet and the comfort of each other's arms.

After using the discarded bedding to clean up, the fresh sheet was tossed haphazardly onto the bed where the two men collapsed a few minutes later. Tangled in carelessly thrown blankets and each other's arms, Gunn heard Wesley's breathing change to the deep even rhythm of sleep. Barely able to keep his own eyes open, he thought, this is good; this is all good.

~Layer 4~

Wesley woke up lying on his right side noticing that part of him was cold and the other part was overheated. Maybe if he just closed his eyes tightly, he could fall back to sleep. No. It wasn't happening, and in fact, he was waking up more. As he tried to move, he realized that the overheated part of his body had quite a bit to do with the hand on his chest attached to the large black arm wrapped around him and the proportionally large leg thrown completely over both of his. Gunn was a snuggler.

Waking up a bit more, Wesley became glad that Gunn was effectively pinning him to the bed. He was only a few centimeters from the edge. That side of his body was also the cold side because not only was Gunn a bed hog, he was apparently a blanket thief as well. Normally, these observations could lead to a lengthy internal debate about whether one should wake one's bed partner under these circumstances, but Wesley was spared the angst. Gunn was awake and looking down at Wesley with his head propped up in his hand.

"I don't suppose you considered that I might like more than six inches of the bed and that I might be cold since *someone* took all the blankets?"

"You accusing me of something?"

"Certainly not, bed hog, blanket thief and serious snuggler."

"There must be a more manly word than 'snuggler.'"

"Cuddler?"

"Okay, we can go back to snuggler until we think of something better. Are, uhm, you objecting?"

Stroking the arm holding him, Wesley replied contentedly, "No, but it could be better if I had my half of the blanket."

Gunn snuggled closer, "What, I'm not keeping you warm enough?

"Well, it's more about the distribution of the heat. You see..." Gunn placed a finger on Wesley's lips and pulled the blanket so it covered both of them.

Looking down, Gunn tried to decide which he liked better, sleeping Wes or half-awake Wes. He'd been awake watching Wesley for a while, trying to make sense out of how his life had changed the previous night. The longer he waited for Wesley to wake up, the more confused everything was becoming. There were piles of new questions and problems.

"Wes, last night...it was good, great, but I'm looking at us this morning and thinking that this simple man's life has suddenly become too complicated. Let's start with the fact that I've been laying here for the last half hour with my naked body pressed up against yours, and I don't want to let go. I mean does that make me gay? I was thinking about Janet Jackson before and it was doing all the right things. What are we going to say to Fred and Groo?"

Wesley knew last night that this conversation was going to have to take place. However, he was rather hoping not to have it at 5am. "Slow down, one at a time. I could quote you scientific studies, but the point is that most people aren't 100% gay or straight. It's okay for you to think about Janet Jackson and me. I mean, not at the same time-well, that's not such a bad thought I suppose-"

"Wes!" Gunn interrupted. Wesley quieted down and smiled up at him in the dim light. Gunn continued, "I've never thought of guys that way."

"I bet you have. You just didn't realize that the thoughts could be sexual. I've watched you drool over men before."

"Oh, I don't think so."

"The Lakers." In Gunn's mind, a scene flashed of sweaty men, taller than he was, smacking him good naturedly as they chased the ball down the court. Suddenly there was the image of his ass being palmed like the ball, and he got a little excited.

"Oh, shit. Who else have I been looking at?"

"Don't worry, it's mostly been athletes on television."

"Mostly?"

"You were eyeing up some the men in tights at the ballet, which is why you and Fred floored me so much."

"Well, those guys are like athletes too, right? Right?"

Wesley laughed at him, "Well since they have more leg muscle than you and I combined, they're athletes. So no, you're not necessarily gay, but not strictly straight either - not that I care one way or another."

"Sorry, I didn't mean to be spending so much time thinking about other people when we're all...you know, together."

With a dismissive noise, "So, any regrets?" It was a question that needed to be asked.

"No, not exactly. I mean, I'm glad we did what we did last night, and I'm hoping we do some more of it." In the dim light of the room, Wesley could see Gunn glance away, "It's just that I don't want to lie to folks, and I'm afraid of what they'll think."

"Do you think, I could have a little more of the bed?" Gunn looked embarrassed and rolled off Wesley, which allowed them to both settle more comfortably, side by side. "Gunn, I don't like lying either, and one day I'd like it if I could just as casually mention that I had a date with a man the same way I would about a woman. For over ten years, I've mostly omitted the truth, but yes; there have been times that I've lied. I've lied to you about this before."

"Kinda figured that out last night. I mean I don't blame you. Thinking about it, I'm glad you did. Where I grew up, guys who did things with other guys didn't get a lot of respect. I'd have treated you bad and that probably woulda stopped us from being friends."

"So how do you feel about it now?"

That was the million-dollar question that Gunn had been trying to work out for the last half-hour. Complicated scenarios of who knew what about whom swam through his head. It was too confusing to make sense out of so he didn't really get anywhere with it.

"I could say allota things about what I want and who I'd like to know and who I wouldn't care if I fibbed to. Truth is, I've been changing my mind and rearranging my thoughts every five minutes. Wesley, you *are* my best friend. I don't want that to change. I know our friendship won't be exactly the same after last night, but I wasn't lying when I said I needed you around. We spent some time talking about trust last night. No matter what ultimately comes of our time alone like this, I trust that you are going to do right by me. It's a part of the whole big picture, but only a small part. When we get up and go to the hotel, there's still a lot of ground to cover to get back what we had. I'm going to ride your ass worse than you did to Angel's last year, because you should have known better. But, I still don't know what I'm going to say to Fred and Groo."

"Card table, huh?" Wesley decided that they really needed to talk about their friendship and not necessarily who knew the details of it.

"You only get a flat surface and a chair because I don't want to slow down your efficiency with the books. But hey, the library, formally known as your office, is at your full disposal."

"I swear, I will never lie to you again about my feelings. I'm not a Watcher anymore, but I made promises and vows about protecting the world that still mean something, everything to me. I won't let that go; it's what I was doing when I took the baby."

"I know, and I wouldn't ask you to ever give that up. Hell Wesley, it's one of the things I admire most about you. What I want is for you to stop being so pigheaded about the idea that you have to save the world alone. The part that hurts is that you didn't trust us to help you. That you didn't trust me."

It was Wesley who turned away this time. The walls of self- righteous pride were falling down into a pile of doubt and indecision. He had second-guessed himself for days before he took the baby, but once he had made the decision there was no looking back. Even now, he could hear the tactician in him screaming that he had done the right thing, that protecting Gunn, Fred and Cordelia from Angel's wrath was right. But now, he could also look past that and see the knife he stuck in Gunn's back to do it.

"I'm sorry I hurt you, all of you. Most days, I don't give two figs about the people who raised me. You, Cordelia, Angel, Fred, you're the family I care about, that I want to protect. I don't know if you can understand this, but the only way I could protect you was to hurt you."

Fred's face in the food court swam largely in Gunn's mind. The day he had hurt her so she wouldn't have to watch him die at the hands of the loan shark. "Damn-it! I did the same thing less than a month ago. I broke up with Fred, really nasty. I sold my soul to a loan shark when I was a teenager. He came to collect, and I didn't want her to get hurt trying to protect me. I promised her I'd never lie like that again, that we'd face whatever it was together."

Wesley leaned over to see if he was joking. "Okay, let's put aside the loan shark for a moment, which we will get back to later. When you told her you wouldn't lie again, it felt like the honest to God truth, didn't it? I could mean every word of it if I said the same thing to you right now, but I know that when push comes to shove, I'd do it again."

"It's true. I didn't lie to her that night, but I'd break that promise in a heartbeat if I thought I could spare her. I'd do the same for any of you. But you know what, the guilt for planning to break that promise is going to weigh on my mind and on my decisions. So, promise me what you can. Next time we have to go through this - I'd say God forbid, but we know that's not gonna work. Next time, I want that promise making you feel like shit when you have to make the call. Then maybe you think twice and remember that I'm willing to die to help save the world at your side."

Wesley was shaking from the emotions racing through him. No one. No one, not his mother, not the Council, not Angel or Cordelia had ever cared about him like the man lying next to him. It was at that moment he knew that he loved Charles Gunn more than as his best friend. He also knew that he wasn't going to say it out loud and embarrass them both. Reaching out, he entwined his long fingers with Gunn's calloused ones.

"You know, this is what I like so much about you. You are the most loyal and devoted person on the face of the earth, and I don't deserve you as my friend. I promise you that I won't try and save the world without you and when I'm going to do something stupid and life threatening, I'll ask you to join me. Gunn, Charles, I...I...I think your a complete wanker."

Gunn wasn't sure of the exact definition of wanker, but he got what Wesley was saying. "Ditto on the promise and, and you just suck too."

They rolled toward each other and kissed as if they might never have the chance to do it again. After a few moments they separated and turned away. Gunn spoke first. "Man, you got some seriously funky morning breath."

"Yeah, nice to know I'm not alone. Come on get up." Wesley smacked Gunn's thigh.

"It's five-thirty in the morning! Is breakfast part of this plan?"

"Oh, I suppose we could fit it in. I was thinking of just heating up a slice of leftover pizza."

"You call that breakfast? What about some eggs and pancakes? I bet your mouth tastes real good with a little maple syrup."

"I don't mind maple syrup, but I don't usually eat my pancakes American style. I prefer mine with raspberry jam." A little wave of nostalgia washed through Gunn, different again.

"Actually," Wesley looked away smiling, becoming a little shy. " I've always had this little fantasy of covering you in raspberry jam and spending an entire morning licking it off."

Gunn looked at Wesley like he couldn't believe what he just heard. Different. Different was good. "So, any jam in the house?"

"We don't have time to do that properly, maybe Sunday. Come on get up."

"Okay, if you're not planning breakfast, why do we have to get up now? I know you haven't been back to the hotel in weeks, but how long do you think it takes to drive there? And, we still haven't talked about talking to Fred and Groo."

Wesley sat back on the bed. "Okay, here's my proposal. For now, all they need to know is that we've decided to be friends again and hang out. It's the truth; it's what we're doing. A month from now, one or both us could decide that this was a mistake. You may decide that being with a man was a nice experiment, but not something you're want to do long term. In which case, they don't have to know anything."

"But a month, three months from now, if we're still together?"

"Hey, we're going to rebuild the trust one day at a time, what about this? I'm not blowing off your question. We can't keep a keep this from them forever, but I think we should give ourselves some room to decide what we want first."

"Okay, it is the truth, so I can live with that. So tell me why we have to get up now?

"Well, someone woke me up by rubbing his naked cock against my naked backside. After we both get to brush our teeth, I'm going to show you some of the fun and games that two men can have in the shower. That's what's going to take us a while."

"Wesley, let me ask you something."

"What?" Wesley's voice was beginning to take on that pleading quality again.

"If we were walking through some dark alley alone, and I asked you to drop your pants and have sex right there, would you do it?"

"Well, it would depend. Are we stalking something that might interrupt us and kill us? What's the chance of getting caught? Mind you, not that either of those might stop me, sometimes the danger aspect, well it adds a little excitement. I mean, if the alley was really filthy, it would give me pause..."

Gunn wasn't really listening to Wesley's full explanation. He was just lying there thinking that life was so much simpler with someone who thought Saturday night was meant for beer and pizza while sitting in front of the TV in just your boxers. Getting out of bed, he grabbed Wesley's hand. Wesley was still expounding on the philosophy of sex in an alley.

"...the fact that I've done it in an alley is, of course, playing into my response. Oh, where are we going?"

Stopping, Gunn turned back to him. "Huh, it was your plan. Am I responsible for remembering everything? Brushing our teeth followed by fun and games in the shower."

"Oh, you don't have to remember everything." Wesley gave Gunn's hand what he hoped was a manly squeeze. "I've got your back."

That hot flush that makes a man want to say mushy stuff went up and down Gunn's spine, but all he said was, "Cool."

 

The End


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