Summary: "Consider this the slip that brought me to my knees." With his shattered beliefs, his entire world falls around him. Yet all he can do is tell himself he wasn't always an atheist, devoid of all faith in God and goodness. Season 5, post "Shells." Gunn-fic.

Author's Notes: This story assumes that Gunn never got his real memories back - Wesley never kidnapped Connor because there was no Connor. Hence, he and Wes were actually on good terms, except that they still fought over the affections of Fred.

Distribution: Characters belong to someone I like to call our savior, Joss Whedon (now if only he'd stop messing around and give us that long-awaited Spike movie … oh, and his return to television, thereby killing all reality TV would be a huge plus, too!) Also, the amazing song Losing My Religion belongs to R.E.M.

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Gunn wasn't always an atheist. No, in fact he remembers the golden years where he was still an active Christian – a child of the Lord, Jesus Christ, as his church had always put it.

With great detail, Gunn recalls every Sunday morning, dressing in his best attire, and happily skipping off to the weekly masses with his sister and grandparents. For twelve years, this was his epoch of ignorance and joy. That all changed, though, when he first rammed a wooden stick through the heart of a vampire when it attacked his best friend. It was then when naïve Charles first began questioning the Lord's good intentions. If the Lord was a loving god, then why did he create such loathsome, destructive, creatures to roam the earth and treat humans as nothing but a meal? And when Alonna died only years later, Charles Gunn was sure that God was non-existent – the beginning traces of his atheism.

Still… it's hard to quit your honored religion in the blink of an eye. And after stopping Apocalypse after Apocalypse with Angel and the gang, Gunn had even starting believing in God again. Things were good, you know. He had friends – great, strange, odd-ball friends. Angel, the ensouled vampire who had befriended Gunn time after time, despite Charles' refusals. He guesses the vamp grew on him because pretty soon he had a spot reserved for him at Angel Investigations – helping the hopeless. Cordelia, the clairvoyant with a caustic tongue, but a golden heart. Wesley, the British intellect that Gunn had become so accustomed to that he began calling him merely 'English' with an ease in his heart. Fred, the smallest girl with the biggest brains and purest heart to whom Gunn had learned to open his heart and mind to. And finally, Lorne, the ever-chipper demon whose spirit and sarcasm was never beaten, no matter how many catastrophes they faced.

It was these people that were his main religion. After losing his old gang and friends, these people were his world. They were his faith. He believed in them. He knew that they were a family, watching out for the other. Because he had promised himself he would not let anything happen to his family after Alonna was killed, and, damn it, he had every intention of carrying out that promise for the rest of his life. They were his hope. Whenever he was unsure of himself or whenever he was frightened (although, he'd never show it), it'd be these people that would help him get through his fears. He still feels Fred's soft skin against him at night, holding each other so they would be able to fend off the nightmares. They were his salvation. Through these individuals, he found religion.

He remembers trying to find Angel, when he had mysteriously gone missing that one summer. He recalls trying to ascertain Cordelia's whereabouts that same summer. And only a year before they had all raced into Pylea, needing to rescue their precious companion. He knows that he and gang and gone to Vegas that one fun time to save Lorne, and had returned home to find an amnesiac Cordy in the Hyperion's lobby. He knows he stayed by Wes's side in the hospital when he was shot by that zombie cop. He remembers how the neck of Fred's professor snapped like a twig when Gunn killed him to exact revenge, upon discovering that it was that same professor that trapped Fred in Pylea. That was a mistake, he realizes now, as it cost him his girl. But sweet Fred never deserved the torments of Pylea and he just wanted vengeance. It's ironic, he notices, so very ironic that it is he now that put Fred through Hell – except she can never return now.

It was his year at Wolfram and Hart that put daggers through Gunn's heart. It was his year at Wolfram and Hart that shattered Gunn's belief in God or anyone else. There was just … too much to handle there. Too many people left him when he was there. And, yet … and, yet, he swears that it had all happened over night.

Because it just had to. Because he distinctly knows that his Cordelia Chase had at long last woken up from her coma. He still hears the echo of her laugh in his head when she had glanced at him for the first time in a year and, just shouting, Oh, my God. Gunn? You have hair. And he remembers specifically how he had laughed in return, ecstatic she was back. But she wasn't. Because overnight, apparently, she had been lost again. He walked into work the next morning, smiling, wondering what Angel and Cordelia had done the previous night that they were unable to meet the gang at the bar. He, unfortunately, found his answer. His smile dissipated by glancing at Angel's features – even before Angel had even mentioned anything about her death. And all Gunn can do now is relive the day when Cordelia had literally followed him around, predicting danger in his future. He still bears in mind how he had thought she was most irritating person he had ever encountered. And, yet, she had saved his life, then.

But it was that same year at Wolfram and Hart that a tragedy happened in a day's time. This time the other woman he cared for had abandoned them. But it wasn't Fred's fault. It was his. The night before her death, Fred was finally getting her life together with Gunn's other best friend, Wesley. And the night before her death, Gunn was inadvertently planning out the sudden end of Fred's life.

It only took a day. By the end of it, Fred's soul had vanished. And, no, she didn't go to heaven. Because there was no heaven. Because there was no God. Gunn was now absolutely positive that God had deserted him. If He hadn't, He would have warned Gunn. He wasn't asking was flashing, neon signs that screamed, Don't sign those papers, Charles! He was just asking for a feeling, for a lucid mind where he could think over his decision. But the second they joined Wolfram and Hart, the good Lord wanted nothing to do with Charles. And Gunn can't really blame him. Charles Gunn knew, to some extent, he was already a lost cause, when he first walked into that courtroom.

Still, he misses Fred so much. He recollects her vivacious voice as he had passed by the hallways of Wolfram and Hart. She was singing "You are my Sunshine" to Wes. At least, he thinks she was singing. Because in the far-off distance, only minutes later, he thought he heard Wesley screaming for help. He found out why not too long afterwards. And he knew right then he would long for and grieve for Fred's sweet smile, her helping hand, her wise words, her … everything. She never deserved it. He can never forgive himself for what he did to her.

Wolfram and Hart. It was Wolfram and Hart that served as Charles Gunn's final downfall. Wolfram and Hart … and their offer to him. What the hell was he thinking, taking Eve's advice! Everything comes with repercussions. He should've known that. And, suddenly, the Bible's words jump through his head. He's Judas. He was a betrayer. A follower and yet a traitor. Thirty pieces of silver for one single life. Except it wasn't riches Gunn was after, it was lawyer degrees. It was knowledge he wanted. Like Adam and Eve. And look what had happened to them. Funny. Gunn convinces himself religion does not exist anymore, but all he thinks about are the stories that his preacher had orated to the crowded pews of his chapel. If Father Williams could only see him now … Gunn's sure it would crush the little man's heart.

An abrupt knock at the door disrupts Gunn from his over-whelming. He wonders who would be visiting him. And he wonders if the mystery person's eyes would hold compassion, casualty, pity, or ire. If it was another knife wound that was expecting him, he doesn't even know if he would try to refute it. "Ahem … Come in," Gunn speaks, quietly. He's had no one to talk to and he's forgotten and astounded by the sound of his own voice.

"Hey, Charlie."

"Anne," Gunn is surprised, "What are you doing here?"
"I heard about your injury. I wanted to make sure you were during okay," Anne takes a seat at the edge of Gunn's hospital bed.

"Depends on your definition of 'okay,'" he explains.

"How'd it happen?" she inquired.

"Rather not talk about it."

"Sure. I understand," Anne nods. "I just wanted to check -" Just then, Anne's cell phone rings, playing a cheerful tune that Gunn wished he'd never hear again. One of Beethoven's melodies. He can't remember the name of it at the instant, but it was one of Fred's favorites. He remembers she even hummed it while undressing before bed. Gunn's heart cracks just a little more at the sound of the music.

Hanging up on the conversation over the phone, Anne looks at Gunn, apologetically, and says, "Oh, God, Charles. I got to go. They really need me down at the center. You can't imagine how much trouble those kids get into on a day-to-day basis," she rises from her seat, but still keeps her eyes on Gunn. "Listen, I will definitely come visit you some time tomorrow, okay. And I'll bring flowers and 'get-well-soon' cards and everything, okay? Oh, and I will pray for you, too. Just in case, the cards don't completely work," she adds, smiling and rolling her eyes.

"Nah," Gunn stares down at the cotton bed sheets, "Don't bother prayin', girl. God is dead."

Anne's humorous facial features disappear. "For you or just in general?"

"For all us."

"Well, that's not very encouraging … Maybe if you can detect when you starting feeling this way, you can help yourself. Do you know when God died?"

A sad grunt escapes Gunn, "Wish I knew, Anne. Wish I knew."

Losing My Religion by R.E.M.

Life is bigger
It's bigger than you
And you are not me
The lengths that I will go to
The distance in your eyes
Oh no I've said too much
I set it up

That's me in the corner
That's me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don't know if I can do it
Oh no I've said too much
I haven't said enough

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

Every whisper
Of every waking hour I'm
Choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool
Oh no I've said too much
I set it up

Consider this
The hint of the century
Consider this
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I've said too much

I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

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