Summary: While Angel is away, Gunn and Wesley train and shoot the breeze.

Disclaimer: These characters are all the property of their owners/creators (not me).

Rating: PG-13, for themes.

Time Frame: Second season "Angel", some time after "Epiphany." (spoilers!)

Archiving: Please do. . .but e-mail me at eilandesq@aol.com to let me know. . .I like to know where my stuff ends up. . .and I might want to see what else you have got.


Author's Dedication: To Moon, because I missed her last birthday, and because she asked me to write a Wesley/Gunn story. . . : - ).


TALKING POINTS


Wesley hefted the longsword, then stared straight ahead at a nonexistent opponent. He was wearing a light T-shirt and sweats, and the rather excessive heat in the basement of the hotel already had sweat beading on his brow. He ignored the annoyance and began practicing one handed cuts with the three and a half foot long blade, occasionally drawing back and feigning parries as he continued to move around the training area that Angel had set up. After five minutes, he was sweating freely and his T-shirt was getting soaked. He stopped his motions, then leaned over a bit and began panting.

"Damn, English. . .you sure take your training seriously. . .but aren't you still a bit banged up for this?"

Wesley glanced over and saw Gunn watching him from the stairs, the cool look on his face belied by the genuine concern in his eyes. The former Watcher frowned, then replied, "I've felt fine for the past few days now. . .and I need to get my form back. A bit of sword work seemed perfect."

Gunn nodded, and Wesley saw the look in his eyes change from concern to friendly mockery as he commented, "Don't know why you're bothering with that. . .swords may be nice for 'Highlander' re-runs, but nothing beats a nice solid axe for putting the hurt on some nasty vamp or demon."

Wesley raised an eyebrow, and rose to the challenge: "My young friend, the axe is certainly a venerable and respected weapon, but the sword is the most versatile class of melee weapon ever created. . .depending on which kind the swordsman uses, it can be a lightning fast precision weapon, or an instrument of brute force only rivaled by the most massive axes and bludgeoning weapons. . .my training as a Watcher strongly emphasized the sword, and Angel has been kind enough to train me further to deal with. . .inadequacies that remained."

Gunn saw the pained look that flickered across his friend's face, and decided to minutely change the subject: "Angel's a sword man too? He always seems to be carrying around one of those big-ass axes, when he isn't just staking vamps or beating them down with his bare hands."

Wesley frowned, then nodded and replied, "Angel's got a few advantages we don't. . .his strength and speed allow him to compensate for the inherent drawbacks of axes, and against certain particularly dangerous demons a heavy axe is the best way to cleave through thick armor. . .however, against an equal foe with light armor, Angel would tend to prefer a sword, and has done so in the past."

Gunn sensed that another sensitive topic had arisen, and changed course again: "So. . .how about giving me a few pointers, then? If swords really are better for putting down demons, I'm not going to stick with axes just because they look cool."

Wesley gave Gunn a hard look, then replied, "All right, then. . .for training purposes we should probably use fencing sabers, since Angel would undoubtedly frown on an inadvertent decapitation down here." Both men chuckled, and Wesley walked over to the wall and put down the longsword and picked up the two sabers sitting nearby. He extended both grip-first to Gunn, and the younger man chose one at random and hefted it, then nodded. Wesley nodded back, then began, "First, we-"


* * * * *


Wesley raised an eyebrow. Gunn had absorbed his quick-and-dirty instruction in the proper use of the saber, and he was already proving to be a formidable opponent. The sounds of their blades clashing and their loud breathing filled the basement, and sweat poured down their faces and soaked their clothing. Wesley was somewhat comforted to see that Gunn, in spite of the advantages of youth, was clearly feeling the effects of their exertions. After a few more seconds, Gunn held up his free hand, and Wesley halted. Gunn leaned over, putting his hands on his knees, and wheezed out, "Damn. . .this room is like an oven. . .can't Angel swing for some air conditioning down here?"

Wesley smiled sympathetically and replied, "The furnace is down here, after all, and I've gotten the impression that the authorities would frown on ripping this place apart to add air conditioning. . .as welcome as it would be. We could always use one of the upstairs rooms to train in. . .I suppose Angel simply didn't consider the effect it would have on humans training here."

Gunn nodded in acknowledgment, then suggested, "Well, we can think about that for next time. . .but I'm taking my shirt off. . .I'm feeling a bit soggy right now." He pulled off his shirt, and Wesley noted that Gunn clearly took physical conditioning seriously. He sighed, conceding to Gunn's logic, and pulled off his own T-shirt, tossing it over onto a nearby chair.

Gunn looked over and saw the scar that the bullet had left in Wesley's abdomen, and was pleased to see that it was apparently rapidly fading. He was turning away, then blinked and stared at the at least ten visible scars scattered about Wesley's torso. He whistled, then asked, "Damn, Wesley. . .where did you get those?"

Wesley frowned, then understood the question and closed his eyes as he whispered, "A very angry young woman."

Gunn cursed inwardly, as he remembered something that Cordelia had told him. "The other Slayer. . .Faith, right?" The death of Buffy's mother had resulted in Gunn being briefed about more of Angel's-not to mention Cordelia's and Wesley's-past, and Gunn remembered vividly about just how uncomfortable Cordelia had been about revealing this particular part of their history. He frowned and commented, "I didn't know she had messed you up that badly."

"She was trying to get Angel's attention. . .and she was rather bitter about my own dealings with her." Wesley's voice was subdued, and Gunn looked at him with concern as the former Watcher concluded, "In any event, she's trying to reform and get her life together, and I'm pleased to see that."

"English. . .she tied you to a chair and tortured you. . .even if you want her to find herself again, it's all right to be pissed off about that." Gunn's tone was blunt, but Wesley didn't react, and the younger man frowned again before he took a step forward and accused, "You're down on yourself for what went down with you two, aren't you? That's messed up, Wesley. . .she's the one who tortured you, not the other way around."

Wesley nodded absently, then sank into a nearby chair. Gunn walked over and sat in another chair nearby, then waited for Wesley to say something. The former Watcher frowned, then turned to his friend and began, "Gunn. . .you know I have the utmost respect for you and the efforts you have put forth for the cause we work for. . .if I bungle the words in trying to explain this to you, I would like to extend my genuine apologies in advance."

Gunn snorted and retorted, "Wesley. . .you saved my ass out on the street not so long back, and you've done a damned good job of watching my back even with a healing gut wound to deal with. . .so lay it on me. . .if you piss me off I can always beat the crap out of you to even things up."

Wesley saw the restrained affection in the younger man's eyes and laughed, then continued, "I've listened to you talk about the events that brought you to where you are today enough to know that you are somewhat bitter about the way that many people have looked at you based solely on the circumstances you were born and raised in, particularly the fact that they mentally consigned you to limited choices, and therefore limited expectations." Gunn nodded curtly, and Wesley continued, "You decided not to accept those limited choices, and rose above those expectations to use your genuine gifts to fight the good fight. . .for which all of us are quite grateful."

Gunn grinned, trying to break Wesley's somber recitation, but the former Watcher ignored the overture as he continued, "In my case, I also was saddled with expectations for rather limited horizons from a young age. . .but in my case, the expectations for me were immense. Gunn, the office of Watcher is largely a hereditary one, passed on from generation to generation in a relatively small group of families. When my gifts for scholarly work became evident at a young age, my father brought it to the attention of the Council, and from that day on I was considered the great future hope of the Council. . .the Watcher who would outshine all of the Field Watchers who came before him. By the time I was sent to Sunnydale, I was convinced that failure was impossible, and that no one could tell me a damned thing about the way things really were."

"And then you found out things weren't that easy." Gunn's voice was sympathetic.

"Yes." Wesley looked down, then continued, "I spent most of my first hours in Sunnydale lecturing a Field Watcher--who had helped keep an extraordinary Slayer alive for almost two years--about how he was obsolete. . .then found myself cravenly offering to surrender an artifact of power to a vicious demon rather than to submit to physical discomfort. . .I still wake up occasionally in a cold sweat remembering that moment, and the depths of the shame it has caused me for the last two years."

Gunn blinked: he had seen Wesley charge at overwhelmingly superior opponents with little apparent thought to his own safety, and the actions he described seemed totally inconsistent with what he had seen. He waited for a moment, his expression neutral, then Wesley coughed self-consciously and continued, "During that time, Faith was on the razor's-edge. . .she had suffered an appalling sequence of betrayals and simple bad luck during the past few months, and my arrival in Sunnydale displaced someone she trusted implicitly with someone she held in contempt. . .once my own further missteps were added to the mix, Faith ran straight to the Mayor. . .and, while she remains responsible for her own misdeeds both before and after her coma, I hold myself responsible for being the straw that broke the camel's back. . .it is something I will have to live with, no matter what good I do in the future."

Gunn saw the desolate look on Wesley's face and scowled, then retorted, "Wesley. . .Cordelia gave me a pretty good rundown on what happened, and it was the higher-ups on the Council who decided to fire Giles. . .you didn't make the call on that. You weren't ready to take over on short notice, but who would have been? They sent someone who had never been on the front lines before to run the whole show. . .how stupid was that? Yeah, the first time things got rough you choked. . .but you've certainly made up for it since then, and from what I've been able to figure out, Buffy and Faith are feeling rather forgiving towards you about that now. . .and you know how the rest of us feel about it." Wesley looked up, and Gunn concluded, "Wesley. . .Angel's finally shaken himself out of the whole annoying broody thing. . .don't make us deal with you going broody on us now."

Wesley chuckled, then looked up and commented, "Yes. . .I certainly shouldn't perpetrate another brooding mess upon the world." Gunn smiled, and Wesley stood up and concluded, "I believe we had a training session to finish?"

Gunn nodded gravely, and he stood up and walked a few paces away before raising his saber and calling out, "En garde!"


* * * * *


Long experience enabled Cordelia to hear the light footsteps, and she looked up as Angel walked up to her and smiled gently. She smiled back and asked, "So, what's the scoop?"

Angel frowned and replied, "I managed to track down some informants, but the information was rather vaguely worded. . .we'll need to do some serious research." He glanced around and asked, "Where's Wesley?"

"He's feeling pretty pain-free, so he decided to go down to the basement and do some training." Cordelia's reply was matter-of-fact, and she added, "Gunn went down there about half an hour ago. . .maybe they decided to work out together."

Angel nodded, then commented, "Guess I'd better get them, then." He headed towards the stairs down, and Cordelia followed him on an impulse. They walked down the dimly lit stairs, and before long they began hearing the sound of metal clashing against metal. Curious, they picked up their pace, and when they reached the basement they spotted the occupants and watched their activities.

Gunn and Wesley were stripped to the waist, and sweat glistened over their well-muscled bodies as they fenced energetically with sabers. Angel raised an eyebrow, noting that Wesley's skill had certainly not been hurt by his recovery, and was impressed to see how quickly Gunn had picked up a new weapon skill. As he watched, Wesley feinted, then struck through an opening in Gunn's defenses, tapping Gunn lightly on the shoulder and stepping back. Gunn frowned in annoyance, then grinned and extended his free hand. Wesley reached out and slapped hands with his younger friend, and they were preparing to begin again when they heard a low gasp coming from the stairs and turned to see what was going on.

Cordelia was leaning against the wall, visibly sweating and staring at her two friends as they stood there looking at her. Wesley blinked in concern, then stepped forward and asked, "Cordelia. . .are you all right. . .are you having a vision?"

Cordelia blinked, then replied curtly, "No. . .no vision this time." She turned to Angel, who was visibly smirking at her, and gave him a glare that promised painful death if he hassled her about this matter before she visibly gathered her dignity and stalked back up the stairs.

Wesley looked puzzled, and Angel decided to spare him any grief: "Get cleaned up and meet us up in the office. . .I've got some new information that we all need to look over." He nodded at both of them, then headed back up the stairs.

Wesley nodded and reached for a towel as he wondered out loud, "What could have been bothering Cordelia that much if it wasn't another vision?"

Gunn grinned wickedly, then suggested, "Why don't you ask her about it, Wesley? Cordelia's pretty up-front. . .she'll fill you in if you bug her about it." Wesley nodded absently, and Gunn grinned again: Wesley was his friend, and he'd walk through fire to save his ass. . .but that didn't exclude setting him on the path to having Cordelia seriously tear into him rather than admit seeing him all hot and sweaty was making her hot and bothered. He chuckled and reached for a towel: fun was fun, but it was time to get back to work.



As always, comments are welcome and desired.