Notes and disclaimers: Characters property of large corporate entities, not me. No profit garnered ever. For Anna, in lieu of being able to get Chase Utley his MVP award. Thanks to Dine for beta and Mosca for suggestions. Title from the Mountain Goats.



WITH ALL HIS AVAILABLE ENERGIES



and someone may notice, or it may all slide right by.
and you may love me, or you may not love me at all anymore.
but the sun will shine on holland in the spring.
and god will watch over the members of the orchestra for me
with all his available energies - mountain goats




Gunn's very careful when he skulks. He's finally recovered enough to leave his crew and get out of the hood but he's read enough comics to know careful, quiet, and hidden is the way to go. No sleeping with your grandmother no matter how hot she looks, no meeting someone before you actually ever met them and if someone asks you if you're a god, you say yes.

He keeps his eyes on the window like every good stalker should. Cordelia is waving her arms and her hair is down to her very fine ass. If he thought it would work, he'd warn her. Maybe he would try if he'd been sent back for a reason. Maybe he'd ignore everything he thinks he knows about time travel and just act the complete fool. He doesn't even know how to warn her, if he thinks about it too hard. Which is another reason to keep his mouth shut.

Then there's Wesley and Angel, the three of them talking and Wesley laughs, with his back to the other two. This is the Wesley Gunn hasn't met yet.

Sometimes they argue about fate. "I don't believe in prophecies and scrolls and all that," the kid says.

"I used to think that," Gunn says, laughing. "I remember how much fucking easier it was to just say I don't believe in that. None of that will ever touch me. You keep thinking that."

"It doesn't work like that. We're in charge of ourselves and what we choose and no one cares and no one is watching over us."

"You're right about the last part, kid," Gunn says.

There was the alley, Gunn remembers, and then he was pretty sure he was going to die and he thought, once, "Alonna" and then there was a bright light. And Gunn felt he was being blown in a tornado like it was the beginning of Wizard of Oz, movie, not book. When he woke up, heaven looked like a backroom in the building Gunn used to live in, right after he met Angel. And it wasn't any kind of sleeping in the arms of the baby Jesus.

"You're not a vampire, you're not a demon, and you look like me. Now that you're well enough to talk, tell me who you are."

Gunn said, "You aren't even St. Peter, are you?"

Now Gunn is up and about and very tired of hiding from everyone. He agrees with his younger self, he can't contaminate the time stream. He hopes he didn't say anything when he was delirious and being patched back together to fuck up the future but his younger self swears he didn't listen. "You know I'm not stupid."

It's weird to look at that kid. He's only four years younger, but looking at him, Gunn feels like a bitter old-timer. He's Numero Cinco or something. He feels Angel old, especially looking at Wesley through the window of Cordelia's apartment.

Gunn crouches down behind a bush as Cordelia opens a window. Hopefully Angel doesn't do his vamp thing. He'd recognize Gunn's scent. And Gunn doesn't know how to get to Cordelia's apartment at this particular point in time. But he wants to watch and pour some salt on his wounds. Doesn't have much else to do right now.

Wesley's voice carries out. "Really, Cordelia, we didn't have time to stop for a wash and fluff."

He's skulking to watch Wesley, he realizes, more than the rest of them, and he feels a stupid thrill being able to hear him complain.

"Don't you dare try to take one in my shower, mister. No washing and absolutely -definitely no fluffing. Phantom Dennis, you bar that bathroom door. You two need to leave now."

Gunn grins at the sound of her voice. The next summer, a year from now, three years ago, that was a really good one and he remembers Cordelia screeching away and possibly in exactly those words. He misses the sound of getting thrown out because of demon stank. He misses where he and Wesley would always go.

He stays crouched as Angel and Wesley walk by but he doesn't need to. Cordelia was not kidding about the smell.

Gunn hears a bit of what Wesley's saying to Angel, "One time, Mr. Giles even --"

Sunnydale, Gunn thinks. He's never been to Sunnydale. Speaking of being a complete damn fool to not think of that sooner.

*

"You must be Giles," Gunn says, thrusting his hand forward and pushing through the door. "I'm Charles Gunn."

Giles takes a step back and his hand hovers near a desk drawer.

"No, no need to worry. You know I'm not a vampire since I just walked in from the bright sunshine. I need your help. And I've heard you're very helpful." Gunn keeps his best golfing with demons smile on his face and leans against the door.

"How do you know me?"

"I know Wesley. Your once fellow Watcher? You don't think much of him, he calls you names behind your back. But I bet Wesley read you wrong," Gunn says, still smiling. He's already inside the house. "I'm sure you're a very smart man who can help me with what I need to do."

"And what would that be?" Giles is looking very casual, but Gunn can tell it would be a fight to bring him down.

"I know this'll sound funny, but I need to go back to the future."

Giles laughs and still hasn't reached for a weapon or moved out of a combat ready but casual pose. So he's a smart guy. "Really," Giles says. "That sounds like the start of an inventive story."

"Now, give me a legal brief in any court you need to deal with, and I can invent all you want within the confines of the law. This, though, is the real true story. What I need is, I need to get back to the future I came from when I was blown back in time by a probably exploding Old One in an epic battle against the demonic hordes conjured by Wolfram & Hart to take out Angel." Gunn stops before he says "and Spike." At this point, Spike doesn't have a soul, Spike is the enemy to this man. He can't give away any of Giles's future. Also, he suspects it would be even less believable to Giles than his current Marty McFly story. So he says, "And me. In 2004. Which is where I need to get back to."

"Why don't you ask Angel?"

"I don't want to change history. No matter what some of the movies say, I bet it wouldn't turn out better. I knew Angel now, back, well, now, and I hadn't met Wesley when he's up and talking, just saw him in a hospital bed. But I never met you. And you know things and have access to magic. I need someone who can work the mojo to get me home."

Giles pulls out a chair and sits down. "At the very least, you're entertaining. I'm not sure what to ask for proof."

"I'm a stranger to you, but I know you're a Watcher, your Slayer is Buffy. At this point, Buffy's fired the Council, right?" Giles nods. Gunn says, "And Willow, the redhead, she's doing a little magic and working with computers. And gay. I hope you knew that."

"I, actually, we just found out. A few months ago. How do you know so much about us if you never met me, even in your future?"

"I knew Wesley. I know Wesley." Illyria said he was dead. Gunn shakes his head and sits on the edge of Giles's desk. "Knew. And Cordelia. I will know Cordelia. And some other, uh, people I can't tell you about. The future. Anyway, I've heard the stories. And Willow I do meet, so I shouldn't now."

"I'll remember." Giles gets up and goes to his books. "I accept that you are who you think you are. But this will hardly be easy. Time travel, it's the realm of extremely powerful demons, not humanity."

"Don't you, you know a once very powerful ex-demon." Gunn blesses Spike's late night rambles back in his Caspar phase, every single time he used the john. He heard a lot about Sunnydale. "Anya, right?"

Giles looks up from his books. "Anya? She's, yes, an ex-vengeance demon and she used to command some power, but even she could hardly move in time with ease. And if she could, it was part of her demon power, nothing we can call up here."

"But she knows all that stuff. She remembers it. If we're sitting down to some serious research, I think she'd be pretty helpful. Call her up, tell her you've got a project and swear her to secrecy." Gunn stands up and remembers he doesn't command an entire division of lawyers anymore. He doesn't even lead a crew of kids begging for food every night. "I think that would be a good idea."

"Yes, but Anya," Giles says. He sighs. "I suppose if we get this done fast enough, I won't have to worry about you ending up sleeping on my couch tonight. Though you would be a better flatmate than Spike."

"I'll admit, I've met Spike, Mr. Giles, and I don't think that'd be very hard."

*

Anya is a little abrasive. But he looks at her and thinks, she won't get married and she'll die, in the end. Everyone dies in the end, but she dies young, sort of, and in Sunnydale. He tries to remember how he knows that. Spike didn't know how anyone ended up. Andrew maybe said something when he visited, Gunn decides. But that doesn't make sense and he thinks he must have read a report. Something very clinical from his people back at Wolfram & Hart. Like Cordelia, he can't tell her. Or Wesley. Just a long list of Alonnas who won't be saved from the jaws of fate.

Anya says, "I think you're wrong about those demons, Giles. They only pretended to be time travelers."

"Yes, I know, Anya, but the pretending was very effective which makes me wonder if they knew something more." Giles spends a lot of time speaking through gritted teeth around Anya. Gunn almost wants to laugh, it's a little like Cordelia and Wesley.

He could make just one phone call, he thinks.

"You can't," Anya says, flatly. "You had that look on your face," she says. "The one where you're thinking about your future and people you've known who've died or had horrible things happen to them and you want to change everything. You can't contact them because it would probably all happen the same anyway."

"That's not a reason to not contact them," Gunn says. "That's a reason to do it if it's all gonna happen anyway."

"Of course there is. You'll change the details but not the outcome. Your friends will still be dead or turned into vampires or whatever evil fate you're concerned about. I wouldn't worry so much, you're hardly going to have live through it twice. Either we send you back to the future or you hide out somewhere away from the action until you get thrown back in time the first time." Anya turns a page in her book. "Sahjahn. This says they or him, whichever is correct, could travel in time."

"I don't think they or him can take anyone with them," Gunn says. He remembers it all clearly, just like watching a movie when Sahjahn and Holtz were working together. They were after Angel. But Holtz had to wait for 200 years in stasis, Sahjahn couldn't carry him.

"We're on day five of your tedious quest. I think it's time to move on. To some other sort of research," Anya says. "I think maybe you need a wish."

"That sounds very dangerous," Giles says. He does close the book in front of him.

"Wishes always are," Anya says. "You have to be very careful with them. But there are a number of cursed objects and talismans and the like that will basically do anything you desire if you do some sort of hocus pocus with them. Blood, sacrifices, the usual."

"I don't mind if it's my blood but I'm not sacrificing anything else," Gunn says.

"You'd mind if it was a lot of your blood," Anya says.

"All those objects you're talking about are apocryphal," Giles says, "and if they do exist, heavily guarded."

"Yeah, but we're a great team," Gunn says. He smiles. "I have faith in us."

"You're insane," Anya says. "But I'm getting used to that among you humans. It would be fun to watch you try."

"Sunnydale does seem to accrue apocryphal and dangerous objects," Giles says. "It might as well be you benefiting."

*

Anya takes a deep breath and pats Gunn very firmly on the shoulder. "I'm breathing very fast and I have numerous cuts and bruises. The rush of adrenaline isn't unpleasant but I am very happy that the Scoobies never call me for the killing and maiming of demons. What were those repulsive things, Giles?"

"Guardians of the book," Giles says. "I thought there would be more."

"I have a really big axe," Gunn says, smiling. It's not as good as the one he used to have, smashed by the Beast, but it's really big. "Thanks, by the way."

"I'm glad it was helpful," Giles says. "That should be the book, I think. According to the legends, if you write what you want in blood, it will grant your wish."

"Though it is capricious," Anya says.

"What do you mean?" Gunn looks at the dull brown book sitting on the floor of the cave.

"Capricious means --"

"I know what the word means, explain how you mean it," Gunn says. "Does it like a good story, or a good wish or evil stories or what?"

"The book was mentioned in my Watchers' chronicles – a 13th century Slayer used it to go back to the 8th century to retrieve the only sword that could kill a particular demon and come back again. It's also performed the wishes of certain demons who wanted castles or particular poisons. There's really no rhyme or reason," Giles says.

"It does help to write in blood," Anya says. "Well, get to it. Prick your finger. Write out your heart. Head home."

"You're pretty eager to get rid of me," Gunn says, squatting in front of the book. "What's the price? No way it just does and there's no price, right? What happened to that Slayer?"

"She slew the demon. She died a few years later, actually, longer than … most Slayers." Giles takes off his glasses and rubs at them. "Anya's right, it's capricious. It's appeared out of nowhere at various junctures in history and legends and disappeared just as quickly. I'd say we were lucky to find it, but it most likely wanted to be found and used."

"And the other things on our list to get you back to 2004 are much more dangerous to track down. So let's make this one work," Anya says. She claps and offers up a ball point pen. "It's empty. I found that quite annoying until I recalled your need to write in your own blood. You could jab it in any old vein and get to work."

Gunn frowns and takes the pen. At Wolfram and Hart they had pens that did it for you. That was cool.

The book opens easily. It looks like nothing much. It isn't bound in leather or some weird demon skin, it isn't encrusted with blood or gold or jewels.

"Here goes nothing," Gunn says and dips the pen in his blood.

"It was a pleasure meeting you," Giles says. "You were an excellent houseguest for these ten days."

"I enjoyed nearly getting killed for you," Anya says.

Gunn writes 'I want to go back to 2004.' Nothing happens.

"Maybe some more detail," Anya says. "A hook of some sort. That's the phrase, right?"

"Okay," Gunn says. So he writes more about finishing the fight and making up for what he did and using his knowledge of the law and maybe Wesley isn't dead like Illyria said since weirder things have happened and hell, Darla died four times, and it could be, it all could be. He's surprised he hasn't run out of blood.

He closes the book and looks over his shoulder to say it didn't seem to be working when he realizes he's in the alley again.

What's left of it. The Hyperion is half-demolished and so is the building next to it. The book's in his hands.

*

"Mr. Giles, I don't know if you remember, but this is Charles Gunn calling."

There's a pause and then Giles says, "I do, Mr. Gunn. The memories were actually quite vague, even the next day, until a week or so ago. I assume that's when you arrived back from 2001."

"You assume right. And you sound a little testy there. Sorry you helped me?"

Giles pauses again. "You said you were blown back in time fighting against Wolfram & Hart. You failed to mention you were working for them at the time, as was Angel."

"I think when you take down all the firm's favorite clients and they send an army of demons to kill you, your employment is considered terminated. I wasn't lying to you, Giles." There's nothing surprising about this conversation.

"No, not technically. I had to wonder, though, given that Willow tells me she and Faith both had their memories altered by your firm."

Still not surprised, Gunn says, "I know about that now. I didn't when I left and I wasn't asked about it either. You want to keep back and forthing on this?"

"Do you need something from me, then?"

"I wanted to let you know I made it back and say thanks because that's the kind of guy I am. And Anya, I just wanted to know," Gunn says, without much hope.

"Ah," Giles says. "You knew back then, didn't you?"

"I was hoping I had heard wrong. So thanks," Gunn says and hangs up before he has to hear more about being stupid enough to think they could get something done at Wolfram & Hart.

He walks back from the payphone to Anne's new shelter. He could stay somewhere a lot nicer. He has all that money he made, still sitting in his checking account. He even has an apartment with a lease that isn't up for one more month. But he likes the shelter better. It feels more like a place he should be.

After all the kids are tucked in, he and Anne sit on the stairs. She says, "You could do a lot of good around here with that law degree."

"It's not a real law degree," Gunn says. He has one ear to all the rooms, listening for trouble. Anne does, too, but for once, things are quiet. For a few minutes, at least.

"It's real enough," Anne says. "What do you think happened to Wesley and Angel?"

Those're the ones she'd met. Anne took the time to come to Cordelia's funeral but she didn't stay for chit chat. She took the time to say goodbye.

Gunn says, "I think they're dead. Wesley, he wasn't even in the alley. What I heard from the people I talked to was, after that first wave of demons, there was another demon wave from the back that took out the first wave. Like Wolfram and Hart got outflanked and not by Angel. But I don't think anyone made it out. No signs of the bodies and no signs of anyone up and walking. And no apocalypse, just another weird outbreak in a corner of Los Angeles. I bet Angel's pissed wherever he is. Or maybe not, he did bring down Wolfram and Hart in Los Angeles, at least."

Anne looks at the empty bathroom and then back at Gunn. "Where's your family from?"

"Here. And here. You think I should leave town."

"I think you want to leave town." She smiles. "Los Angeles isn't the only city in the world. I hear there's people needing help almost everywhere."

"I've never been anywhere else," Gunn says.

"Sounds like a reason to move on. You get a new history." She nudges him and says, "You're staying here with me instead of your very nice apartment?" She gets up. "Spin a globe and pick. I think about it all the time."

"And you don't."

"I've got more here than you," Anne says. "I've got all this." She doesn't even laugh.

He goes back to his apartment to pack all his things and decides while he stands at the open window. "Washington, DC," he says to Anne. He's handed over half his clothes and wrote a fat check. It leaves him with half his money and a few good suits. "I'm thinking about moving to the capital."

He has the book with him in his carryon. He wrapped a belt around it so it's hard to open, but he doesn't like to have it far away. He doesn't want it to fall into the wrong hands. He worries he's the wrong hands, but so far, he's been good about resisting. He's got a scar on his gut that reminds him of the importance of that.

*

"Mr. Giles, I presume." Gunn doesn't look up from his computer screen when he hears the man enter.

"It turns out I know your assistant," Giles said. He sits down in the chair that faces Gunn's desk.

"I know. We met at the ex-demon-killer's meet up right off Dupont. Funny, we were the only ones who showed up alive and in mostly 100% possession of our souls." Gunn finishes reading over the contract and closes the file. He has notes but he wants this meeting done.

"Did you really?"

Gunn finally looks up. Giles looks rested and casual. Possibly even a little tan. Someone's living the high life with that new Council of Watchers, Gunn thinks. "Of course not. We were both at a sports bar and ran into each other trying to take out the same vamp out in the alley."

"I almost pity the vampire."

Gunn says. "He's in law school, too. Loves that post-graduate work. You didn't come all this way to talk about who answers my phones."

"I came because you still have the book. And because I've heard some things you might be interested in. Which do you want to hear about first?"

Gunn leans back in his chair. "Start wherever you want."

"There are a number of stories from Los Angeles about two vampires and a human man who apparently uses a shotgun. I've no idea if any of these are more than stories, but if anyone would care, it would be you." Giles crosses his legs and his hands are calm in his lap. He's cool as a cucumber, even sitting across from someone he thinks is the enemy. Maybe he's not so sure Gunn is the enemy at last. Not like Gunn's gonna sing a Hallelujah chorus for him.

Giles is waiting for Gunn to speak, so he says, "You think they're just stories. And you know a few people who care about Angel and Spike. Even if it's just two."

"I think they're apocryphal, yes. The kind of things demons tell other demons to scare each other. But sometimes they are true. You survived, after all."

Gunn shrugs. "Angel and Spike are the original bad pennies, that's the damn truth. If they're out there, they'll find me when they need me."

"Maybe they think you're dead."

"Maybe even Angel knows how to run a Google search." This is not technically true. But Angel does have a knack for finding people to do for him. "And we have a mutual friend who knows I'm here and Angel knows she would know. End of story." Gunn leans forward and tries to decide if getting himself a cup of coffee will upset their little power play of being calm and sitting pretty. He's not that thirsty. "Why do you care about the book?"

"I care because it's an instrument of power. Power channeled through a vessel. And because I did some research into your time at Wolfram and Hart. This is the not first time a vessel of power chose you as its conduit."

"Who was telling you about the Big Cat?" Gunn smiles. He'd almost forgotten his favorite tabby. Evil, sure, but mostly just powerful and uncaring.

"We spoke to a few survivors of that year. It chose you, Mr. Gunn. Much like the book. I wonder if it would have worked for Anya or myself." Giles shrugs, like he's imitating Gunn.

"I'd say feel free to try but no one gets to use that book. When I die, I have a place for it, and it can sit tight until then."

"It intrigues me. There's something special about you, Charles, whether you wish to acknowledge it or not."

Gunn shakes his head. "I don't need you to tell me I'm special. And I don't give a damn. I've done my time with fate and destiny and Higher Powers manipulating the whole world and scrolls and prophecies." He thinks it might work to make Giles go away. "I know enough about all this to lock that book away and not use it again."

"I'm not the only one who might come looking for it, you understand."

"Are you looking for it? Or just figuring out if I'm using it to get rich clients?"

Giles stands up. "You don't have any rich clients. But it was very nice to see you again."

"I bet," Gunn says. He stands up and shakes the man's hand anyway and stays standing until he leaves. He waits five minutes and walks out to Riley's desk. "You have a nice talk with Giles?"

Finn shrugs. "Sure. Nice man," he says. "What did he want, specifically?"

"The usual. See if Angel and Spike are alive. Or up and walking, at least."

"He thinks you'd know," Finn says.

"If they are, I don't. And unlike you, I hope they are. Somewhere out there."

Finn smiles and gets up to grab himself some coffee. Someday Gunn will get an assistant who actually wants to get him coffee, someone like Harmony. It's like a little game for Finn, how often he can bring himself to say no to the nearest authority or not even offer up like a good little soldier.

"Do you think they're out there?"

"Maybe," Gunn says. "I have no idea." He tries not to wish when he's anywhere near the book and he's got the thing locked in the safe in his office.

*

Six months after Giles comes to visit, Gunn gets his second unexpected visitor: Wesley.

Just walks in the door early in the morning before Finn even comes in, just a few minutes after Gunn himself comes into the office.

After a minute or two of staring from both of them, Wesley says, "Hello, Charles."

"Is that really you?"

"I think so," Wesley says. "All my fingers and toes, heartbeat and soul as present as it ever was."

"How? Illyria said you were dead."

"Illyria was wrong. Well, not at the time. I did die, though I don't remember it. Then I was revived."

Gunn smiles. "By whom were you revived? And how exactly did they pull it off?"

"'They' were paramedics. They revived me with CPR and a defribillator. I believe they were called by an elderly lady who lived next door to Vail. I know it sounds ridiculous."

"Ambulance coming that fast to that part of town? That's not ridiculous."

Wesley smiles back. "They came in the wrong door. They were supposed to be helping the elderly lady who had called them after falling down. Sadly, it was a full hour later until she got the care she needed."

"And you were at the hospital while we were all in that alley," Gunn says.

"And I waited for six months before anyone came to find me."

"Took you six months to recover from dying? That doesn't sound like the Wesley I knew." Gunn gets up and takes the time to make himself a cappuccino on the fancy machine he bought eight months ago. Better than jumping on Wesley and hugging him back to dead.

Wesley talks over the grinding. "I was out of the hospital in two weeks, I'll have you know. And then I waited. I did some odd jobs for former clients, investigated Wolfram and Hart's obliteration as best as I could, looked for you and the others. Spike and Angel were thrown forward in time, six months. I take it you had a similar experience."

"Thrown back. When Big Blue went Hiroshima. Except I went back in time."

Wesley waits until the machine is done percolating and Gunn is sipping his cappuccino to say, "You used the Book of Obek."

"Is that the name?" Gunn walks back to his desk and sits down at his chair. Of course Wesley knows the name of the book. "Is that why you're here?"

"No," Wesley says quickly. "I came to see you because I was happy to hear you weren't dead. It finally occurred to us to ask Anne if she knew anything. I feel quite idiotic."

"But you know I used the book."

"Once Anne told us you came back, I researched what had happened to you. I wanted to make sure you weren't a zombie, for example."

"Anne could have told you I wasn't no zombie."

Wesley looks over at the machine. It's really been a while, Gunn thinks. He concentrates on Wesley's mouth, which doesn't help at all.

Wesley says, "I was using zombie to stand in for a number of other, ah, post-life conditions."

"Unlike you, I didn't die. So what traces did you find of me, then?"

He shrugs. "Mostly, I found the traces of the people and demons looking for you. The Book of Obek is sought after by a number of people. And they have their ways of discovering the current guardian."

"I'm not a guardian, except for the part where I'm guarding it. Okay, fine, I'm guarding it. But no one's come to my door or the nearest alley."

"I think," Wesley says, "they're just waiting for you to die. Most guardians of the book of Obek die within five years of using it."

"If you count the four years of time travel, I've already lasted longer than that."

"Four years, really?" Wesley stops looking longingly at the coffee machine. "You were thrown back in time four years?"

"Yeah," Gunn says. "Big Blue had some big ripples in that final blow out."

"Yes," Wesley says. "Though it wasn't final. Illyria survived and went forward six months with Spike and Angel. In fact, I don't think Illyria was responsible for any of the time travel that occurred. I believe it was the second wave of demons, sent by –"

"I don´t care," Gunn says. He's not getting bogged down in this again. "Are they coming for me?" Wesley shakes his head. "Great. I'm out of this now."

"You thought I was dead, didn't you? I assumed that's why you didn't look for me," Wesley says. He finally looks a little concerned.

"Okay, you, yes. Spike and Angel, well, I'm done with that. I hope. We did good work but I like this now." Gunn sits back in his chair. His foot is resting on the door to his safe, the one he had built into the less obvious place under his desk and not on the wall, behind some boring painting he didn't give a damn about. He is trying very hard not to be happy that Wesley gives a damn that Gunn would want to find him. He feels like a teenager.

Wesley says, "Which is understandable. You don't have some antipathy for them, I presume."

Gunn smiles. "I'm not a hater, no. I'm just done with it. I've moved on. It's not just that I think it will lengthen my lifespan, it's that I am doing good. Right here, in this place. Some of the good we thought we were doing at Wolfram and Hart, some help for the little guy who never has a good lawyer. All of that. I can help people and just bust heads extracurricularly."

"It sounds very fulfilling," Wesley says. "But I can pass on your card to Angel and Spike if they need a lawyer?"

"If those two get arrested, even I'm not good enough to get them out of trouble. But I'd try. You know I'd try," Gunn says.

"I do know," Wesley says. "I won't ask if you're hiring."

"I spent all that time working for you, that'd be pretty funny, wouldn´t it?" Gunn says. "How long are you in town?"

"I don't exactly have a schedule," Wesley says.

*

"So I've beaten you at darts and let you try to drink me under the table, listened to you and my secretary compare guns which I frankly found a little scary and now we're in my apartment," Gunn says. "Do you finally plan to say whatever it is you came all the way from Los Angeles to say?"

"I've said everything," Wesley says. "And I beat you at darts."

"We're tied, two games to me, two games to you. Considering I haven't gotten near a dartboard since we moved out of the hotel, I think that counts as me winning." Gunn sits down on his bed. It's a smaller apartment than he had that last year in Los Angeles, but he spends more time in it. It's the most lived in place he's had since he was ten years old. Gunn says, "You have something to say. You weren't just checking to see if I was alive and try to get me home."

"The Book of Obek," Wesley says.

"You can't have it," Gunn says.

"I don't want it. I swear." Wesley looks up and waits until Gunn is staring right back at him. "I don't want it, Charles." Then Wesley looks away. "But you're not done being entangled with mystical forces since you have it."

Gunn says, "You think I don't fucking know that? I look stupid to you suddenly?"

*

Wesley is patient and it's almost five o'clock before he comes back into Gunn's office. "You have an interesting array of clients," he says. He walks straight to the fancy machine and starts to make himself a coffee. "And you skipped lunch, so I ordered take out. Which should be here in about fifteen minutes."

"Don't try and take Finn's job, Wes, he can beat both of us down without breaking a sweat."

Wesley is silent until his coffee is done percolating and in one of Gunn's nicer novelty mugs. "So," he says, "You and Mr. Finn, you're … friends?"

Gunn laughs. "Yeah, just friends. How many friends you got, Wesley?"

"As always, not many," Wesley says. "I was just wondering, given how often you and he were consulting in quiet voices and your obvious rapport."

Gunn says, "Confidentiality is why we talk very quietly. And we get along, yeah, he knows about a mission. But not like that."

"Explain your mission again," Wesley says.

Gunn leans back in his chair. "You ever hear of the followers of Anatole?"

"The word of Anatole, you mean? From the shanshu prophecy, yes. Of course I have."

"No, his followers. They keep it very down low. Because, according to them, Anatole had a little codicil on that Shanshu one. He said his followers should go out and work for evil. And every once in a while, fuck up. Make an honest mistake so evil doesn't triumph. Particularly, Anatole said, when it involved children. And then one of those mistakes, over a thousand years, all those thousand mistakes and saved children, some will be really important. That's all he told them. And out they went, fucking up for a greater good."

Wesley says, "How many of them were working at Wolfram and Hart? I presume that's how you know."

"I found out after and I can't tell you how, but yeah. More than one. You ever think sometimes we were like the anti-followers of Anatole? Making honest mistakes for evil?"

Wesley sighs. "No, we were something else entirely."

Gunn says, "My point being that there are forces and things happenings and prophecies and it goes deep, so deep, it's subterranean. As low as the core of the Earth. So I've got this book and who knows why that happened. My plan, Wesley, is to sit tight. I know everything will catch up with me eventually. That's how it happens. Hell, didn't Angel spend 100 years eating rats before he finally started getting to work on all his champion acts? So instead of rats, I'm going to work here. With my not evil clients and whatever evil drifts past my window, I'll smash."

"There is some advantage to being forewarned," Wesley says.

"Sure," Gunn says. "Forewarn me."

Wesley shrugs. "Maybe I will stick around to do just that."

Gunn leans forward and says, "I don't think I'd complain if you tried."

THE END


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