"Trust, Layer by Layer"
by Just Human
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Rating: NC-17(m/m slash, implied hetero sex as well)
Summary: Gunn needs his best friend back.
Disclaimer: Joss is my sadistic god; I am but a cowering sub that claims to write and owns nothing.
Spoilers: Everything through "Tomorrow"
Author's Coments: This was my entry into the Second Annual Wesley Wyndam-Pryce Slash Contest. I hope you enjoy.
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
"Trust, Layer by Layer"
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.
Onto Layer 2
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