Notes and disclaimers: Owned by Mutant Enemy, Kuzui, etc, not me. No profit garnered here ever. Thanks to Dine and Smartlikejustin. Title from the poem "En Route" by James Merrill.




BY NOW SELFLESS POWER



They ended up in New England. It was a settlement with Wolfram and Hart in return for the Senior Partners giving up on this dimension all together. "Do your apocalypse somewhere else," Gunn had said. He even got to handle most of the negotiations. And all the weak little punk-asses wanted in return was the break-up of Angel, Inc. and by then, Gunn was okay with that.

He was pretty sure Wesley was, too. He wasn't so sure right now, but that was tomorrow's problem. Today they had three demons working together to pull the classic Faust'll get you A's bargain on some seriously stupid college students. Gunn reviewed the contracts and said, "Well, there're some loopholes here I could work, but it'd be easier to just kill 'em."

"Three dead Yale students would attract a fair amount of attention," Wes said.

"I know it's tempting, Wes," Gunn said, nearly laughing. "But I was thinking we'd take Heckle, Jeckle and Clyde."

Wes smiled. "They're not terribly difficult to kill. The usual violence."

"I wish we still had that flamethrower, though. Nothing super about us but our brains and good looks. Some real firepower would be nice."

"Literally," Wes said. "We might be able to handle it. I have some tricks left up my sleeves."

Their sleeves were both looking pretty battered these days, but Gunn didn't mind. He didn't think Wes did either. Mostly. Gunn mostly missed the cars. They'd had some really nice rides back in the Wolfram and Hart days. And before that, Angel's car was nothing to sneeze at. For one minute, Gunn let himself remember his truck, and the fine Escalade he'd indulged in for Christmas that year at Wolfram and Hart.

"We should act soon. I suggest tomorrow during the day, these demons are weak in the sunlight."

"Demons besides vamps who hate the sun, I like that." Gunn smiled and looked over at his new and improved axe.

"So it will only be extremely difficult to kill them, not nearly impossible." Wes sighed. "Perhaps we should go with your loopholes."

"That works, too, I guess. You think?"

"We can't be sure there are only three of them. If there's even one more, we'll be overwhelmed." Wes took off his glasses and stretched. His back cracked in a way Gunn didn't like the sound of but he didn't say anything. Wesley was probably right that their aching bones couldn't take more than three of these guys. "I'm going to get some coffee down the street, would you like some?"

By the time Wes got back with their lattes and one of the super-sweet lemon cake slices Gunn liked and hadn't asked for, he'd found three loopholes he could use. "The problem is, Wes, we go to these guys and we weasel out, that doesn't guarantee they'll take it lying down."

"And we're back to our lack of firepower," Wes said. "We could call Enid, for back-up."

Gunn sighed. He hated having to use the Slayer up in Hartford for this kind of shit. Enid was nice enough and she never minded, but he hated how weak it was. They should have been able to do this without help. But Wes's back sounded like he was eighty-years-old and Gunn wasn't the best muscle in town anymore. Wes hadn't said anything more, like he was waiting for Gunn to decide. He probably was and that was going to be tomorrow's problem. Gunn said, "Yeah, let's call her. Have her come down tomorrow during the day, and we'll get this settled. Charge those idiots for her gas and expenses. And add that lemon slice to the tally."

Wes smiled and started dialing.

*

Gunn had gotten out of the habit of being in charge. He'd been working for Angel for the last six years, in one way or another, no matter how much he told himself he wasn't. He definitely wasn't used to being in charge of Wesley.

Gunn had picked out the storefront and he'd picked out their apartment. Wesley had given advice and consent. It wasn't about being brought back from the dead because Wesley had been plenty assertive and in charge that last year in LA. He'd fought Angel more than Gunn had. But then everything was over, as over as it was going to get, and when Gunn said, "let's go somewhere and have our own agency," Wesley had just said, "All right." Maybe if Gunn said, "let's go somewhere and smoke crack until we have heart attacks and die," Wesley would have said the same thing.

"You all right?" Gunn stared at Wesley across their stupid dinner table. "With all this?"

"I would have used more salt in this, but otherwise, I'm satisfied." Wes took another bite of the ravioli. "I'm fine, Charles."

"You seem a little off."

"It's been a very tiring few years," Wes said. He sounded tired, that's for sure.

"That makes sense. So you're resting." Resting from dying and losing Fred and having his brain re-arranged, resting from Lilah and all that shit. "But we have things we're doing here."

"And we're getting them done," Wes said. He didn't even sound testy.

"But it'd be easier if you were all the way rested and back to full strength."

"If I could go toe to toe with four Celiachen demons? I don't think I was ever at the strength where that would happen."

"That's not what I'm saying." Gunn put down his fork. "I don't know what I'm saying. I just feel like you're not even there sometimes." Apparently tomorrow's problem had become tonight's problem but Gunn was shitty at sitting on things and letting them stew these days. And definitely not with Wesley.

"Perhaps I'm not," Wesley said, quietly.

"And I guess that'll have to do," Gunn said.

Wes went back to eating and after a minute, Gunn did, too.

*

"That was fun," Enid said. She wiped her hands off on her jeans and slapped Gunn's arm. It hurt, but Gunn refused to wince. "I love when you guys call."

"You were very helpful," Wes said. He was smiling, too.

"I liked when you slapped that one horn's straight off," Gunn said.

"I liked when you threatened to sue them in that demonic court thing," Enid said. "Is that for real?"

"Absolutely," Gunn said. "I'm not sure we would have gotten the kind of enforcement I was describing, but it's for real."

Wes said, "We still have to prepare our bill for our clients. Is there anything you'd like?"

"New coat, maybe." Enid shrugged. "I'm good. Council pays me pretty good."

"They even pay Watchers well, nowadays." That sounded like some prime Wes cynicism. Gunn found it reassuring. "You should stay for lunch, at least. On us."

"Not that nasty Thai place, right? That one waiter is totally a demon, I'm not kidding."

"He is a demon," Wes said. "But the food is wonderful."

"Let's do Indian, instead. None of those waiters are demons," Gunn said and got in the car.

Enid was twenty-five, a little Chinese orphan girl adopted when she was two by a nice couple from what she called Smack Hollow, somewhere west. It was a tv joke Gunn and Wesley didn't get. They missed a lot of tv with all the apocalypses. "So," Enid said, "your clients cute?"

"They're all younger than you by about seven years," Gunn said. "And stupid. You shouldn't date anyone stupid."

"I didn't say I wanted to date them," Enid said, grinning. "If the check clears and you two think they're cute enough, pass on my number, okay?"

Enid had already left to get back to Hartford before Gunn thought to say that he wasn't the best judge of cute boys. Lots of people assumed that, about him and Wes. It wasn't untrue about them separately, Gunn knew, but they'd never been that together.

Gunn looked over their three dumb Chemistry majors and decided none of them were worth Enid's time. Even after they paid in cash.

*

When Gunn walked into the living room, Wes clicked his cell phone closed. Gunn said, "Don't stop on my account."

"We were done," Wes said.

Gunn got a bowl of cereal and took a spoon out of the dishwasher. "Must have been one engrossing call, because you're watching College Gameday, English. You really want to see how USC's gonna do today?"

"Not at all," Wes said and changed the channel. Now it was a movie or something. "It was Angel."

"I figured," Gunn said. He thought for a minute while he finished his Cheerios. "How's the old gang?"

"Very much the same," Wes said. "What is this movie?"

Gunn looked up. "That's not a movie, man, you switched to SoapNet. That's General Hospital."

"Which you recognized immediately," Wes said. There was a little bit of a laugh in there.

"Nancy Lee Grahn is a fine looking lady." Gunn washed out his bowl. "My grandmother loved that show. I keep up a little. On her behalf."

"Should I keep the channel here then? For your grandmother?"

"Nah, go ahead." Gunn plopped down next to Wes on the couch and put his feet on the table. "If you can't find anything, I got some DVDs last night after I finished talking to that record store guy." Wes couldn't be talked into watching Batman, so they spent the morning watching a marathon on medical mysteries. Wes insisted half of them were from demonic blood and Gunn thought it was just that people were deeply weird.

After five episodes, Gunn pushed himself up from the couch. "You want to come running with me?"

"You're going running?"

"Gotta stay in shape."

"When did you decide to do this?"

"Last week when I started running," Gunn said. "You missed that part of the day when I left wearing my sneaks and came back an hour later sweating and wheezing?"

"I suppose I did," Wes said. "Where was I?"

"On that couch, I think." Gunn shrugged. "It's not important, man. We used to get all our exercise kicking demon butt but now --"

"We have Enid," Wes said. He rubbed his chin. "Not today, I think. But I will walk down to the farmer's market and do our grocery shopping."

"Works for me. I'll be the one running right by you," Gunn said as he slapped the couch and headed out.

*

They had separate bedrooms and separate desks at work. Whenever a client came in, they used whichever desk the client sat down in front of. Usually Wes's, but once in a while, Gunn won. Today he sat back in his chair and looked at his desk while the old man who'd wandered in droned on about his neighbors. They were loud and annoying and were probably demons since they were so loud and annoying. Gunn realized he hadn't been paying any attention at all. He hoped Wes had.

Wes said, "And it's only during the new moon that they stop?"

Gunn pretended to be interested since that sounded like the question of someone who'd been paying attention. He nodded and looked serious. He should straighten his desk. Two whole pictures: Alonna at twelve with his grandmother, something he'd salvaged from the Hyperion; and one from the good old days with Cordelia and Fred smiling. That one barely fit in the frame and Angel's face was cut in half. Gunn didn't run his hands over it but he was tempted. He should fix that. Somewhere in this state there was a frame that would fit them all. He looked up again and Wes was saying, "We can certainly help you, Mr. Latterly." Wes stood up and Gunn stood up a second later.

"Did you pay attention to any of that?" Wes leaned back in his own chair and smiled.

"Could Mr. Lately-I-Talk-In-A-Very-Soothing-Monotone tell?"

"No," Wes said. "Mr. Latterly seems like the kind of fellow who pays attention to very few people outside himself. And I was. Paying attention, that is. Very helpful for you, I might add."

"And you did add," Gunn said. "What do we gotta do?"

It was a boring case with boring demons who were nothing more than a social nuisance. Not exactly the mission, Gunn thought. But if they hadn't been there, maybe the old man would have got a gun, provoked something that would have been more than social nuisance. It was a little good deed, and fuck it, Gunn thought, that wasn't so bad after all these years.

"You enjoyed that," Gunn said, laughing. "Yelling at those smelly neon faced things."

"I did," Wes said, looking a little surprised. "It was a good day's work. With bonus yelling."

"It wasn't much good, but yeah, it was still good."

Wes kept smiling. "Not much good is better than nothing. And it's better than not much evil."

"I know," Gunn said, waving his hand. They were home, the tv on Adult Swim and dinner warming the microwave. "I get that. I even agree. Better to light a candle and all that jazz. I feel like we had this argument with Angel a million fucking times."

"There wasn't an argument," Wes said. "Angel hasn't, he hasn't had many opportunities to deal with the small things."

"Cause with Angel, it's always an apocalypse. Funny how that stopped when we left. For us, I mean."

"Are we arguing?" Wes stood up and looked confused. "We left, we're here now. We lecture Lonethzzzet demons on social etiquette in crowded duplexes."

"Maybe I wish we were doing more. Maybe I wish I wished we were doing more."

Wes smiled. "Maybe you're realizing we won't both die any time soon. Probably," he said. He had that little smile on his face like he was so smart. "Imminent death has been a factor in our lives for a very long time."

"We could still die. Walk in front of a bus. Eat at that really bad Thai place that doesn't have the demon waiters. Piss off Enid."

"We could," Wes said. "And I think at this point, we've both used up all the get out of death cards either of us will get. We're not on that sort of scale anymore."

"And that's a good thing," Gunn said. He got up and stood in front of the microwave, waiting for their food. It would be nice to get out this conversation, he thought. It felt like things were slipping under his feet.

Wes walked up close, standing right in front of Gunn. "We're overusing the word 'good,' I suspect."

"Probably," Gunn said. "Are we done talking about this?"

"I think so," Wes said. He took another step forward, crowding Gunn against the counter. Then Wes was pulling at Gunn's belt and kissing him, mouth open like it was already the end of the first date. Not that Gunn usually waited that long. And then he stopped thinking about dating and focused on this thing happening. He liked it. Wes kissed hard, even more than Faith that one time. Wes was pushing and grinding against him and he already had his hand on Gunn's dick before either of them came up for air. He really liked that.

"I'm not tired now," Wes said.

Neither was Gunn. He felt really fucking alive with Wes touching him, pulling and back to the kissing which was even rougher. Gunn reached out and worked his hand between the two of them to get to Wes's dick. It was a little bit of work and the zipper bit at his hand, but he felt like singing or stabbing something.

Gunn said, "That's fucking good." He was laughing when he came. Wes grunted as he came and stepped back, brushing his hand on his shirt.

Wes said, "Dinner will keep." He grabbed Gunn's shirt and held his waist, kissing him again. "My room or yours?"

"Yours," Gunn said.

THE END


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