In Comparison by WesLess
Disclaimer: 'Angel' and its characters are not mine and I make no profit from this.
Summary: A 1000 word drabble concerning Gunn's thoughts of Wes as he hears of his death. The similarity is painful.
Gunn thinks maybe he understands Wesley better now. It's all about perspective.
The memories don't slam into him, harsh and real. Not like he'd have thought they would. They simply permeate softly into the weave of his mind, trickling to fill all the gaps. Strange how he only notices them now that they're filled again.
Magic has no hold over the dead man, it seems.
Wesley is dead, and it hurts him more with this knowledge. Every single way they let each other down stands out, and he can't bear it but for the mortal fatigue eating away his strength. If he wasn't already like this, the awful truth would be killing him.
When it comes down to it, they're the same man inside, caught and tangled and hopelessly ruined. Waiting for the death strike on gentle legs.
Gunn had never meant for Fred to die. He wouldn't have wanted any of this. In the end, it was all about trust, and that was an issue they were all notoriously stupid about. He just hadn't trusted them enough to tell them.
They were suspicious. Of course they were. Wolfram and Hart had put something in his head and it'd had them on guard from the instant he'd opened his mouth.
He hadn't wanted to understand their reactions. If he'd examined them too closely for too long, maybe he'd have realised that their concerns should have been his. Maybe he'd have lost it all. He'd just wanted them to be happy for him.
But Gunn doesn't get to be special, to know things. That's for the real heroes, and he'd resented them for it.
So he'd done it by himself. Gunn looked out for Gunn, and he'd fix the problem without even telling them there was one. No need to show them he was weak. No need to prove for them what they no doubt already thought. One piece of paper, that's all it took. It wasn't so bad really.
When he had heard, when he had realised what he had done, all he could think was 'this is exactly what had happened to Wesley'. And oh God, it was terrible.
He'd lied then. Kept lying. Avoided. Taken it all out on that snivelling little rat that they should have known about. Why didn't anyone guess? They were blind.
To have his worst fears confirmed with a smile had snapped him. An act of desperation, then, to probe him for more information. The flurry of blows a catharsis he shouldn't have indulged in. It was too late, and any comfort was not his to seek.
He hadn't needed to be told, by Knox or anyone, after that. He knew exactly how far he had fallen and how sweet it would be to finally hit that bottom. He was informed again and again anyway; had it ground into the wound.
Angel had even told him to his face how badly he had fucked up. Sitting in that hospital bed. Helpless. How ironic that it had been Wesley who had sent him there, if only to feel the full implications of this reflected reality. He couldn't be angry.
But Angel was nothing like he'd expected. No outright rage. Blame, yes, but no malice. Sympathy, in places, and actual encouragement. Fucking vampire actually had the nerve to appeal to his sense of redemption.
And all the time, he had wanted to scream. To make Angel shut the hell up, because he was only making it worse. Didn't really know why, just felt it. He knows now that this wasn't what had happened before. All Gunn can think is that Fred didn't mean that much to Angel, 'cause otherwise he'd have had a pillow stuck over his face.
Then again, maybe Angel's come to this same realisation a lot sooner, in which case he's the better man.
Wesley hadn't deserved what he had got.
He'd never meant to give the baby away. And why do they keep saying it like that, anyway? The baby was taken. There wasn't really even any mistake on his part. He couldn't have known he'd been tricked, and hell, even they didn't know until they were told. He couldn't have known he'd have his compassion abused.
They'd both lost nonetheless. Intentions and all that.
What had happened after is old history, but it's painful for Gunn to remember. Wesley did not possess all the information he'd needed, and only now does Gunn have the benefits of experience to colour his own decisions.
Gunn had not acted in full knowledge of the facts either, because if he'd had known then what he knows now, he'd have treated Wesley differently. A hell of a lot differently. He would have understood.
He's tired of being told he killed Fred. Tired like he knows Wesley must have been. He knows he didn't. Doesn't stop it from feeling that way sometimes, but it's the truth. It was destined to happen one way or the other, and again, in hindsight, of course he would have done everything differently.
Fucking noble Englishman. So quick to take on guilt that he just took what they gave him and convinced himself of its worth. Never mind if it wasn't justified. Gunn thinks maybe Wesley was too proud in his suffering to even try to explain to them their mistake. It gave him a way to fuel his bitterness.
Gunn can't blame him for it. He knows it was probably about the only thing keeping him alive. He'd felt the same. Needed something to buffer the all-encompassing anguish that threatened to smother him at every moment. He knew then what it was like to have no one to lean on and half expected Lilah to pop out of the wall.
Those last few weeks, walking around like he was dead inside, dressing down and speaking to no one, he knew he was still mirroring Wes. It was easy to forget the bad blood. Every time he looked at the man, he saw himself in a few years time. When it's in context like that, he has no right to be bitter.
Dying now, his blood pouring through his hands in this filthy alleyway, watching as the Senior Partners spew their army forth, all he can do is think of the poetic justice.
Wesley had died, and he'd had Illyria by his side. Gunn is dying in the same way, and he doesn't even have that. His actions had helped bring her into the world. He'd had Fred for longer than Wesley ever did, poor bastard. He'd even been on the side of the self-righteous all those months ago, certain that he was still doing good. He'd been in Angel's good graces.
But right now, all that counts for shit. He's bleeding out alone, soaked to the skin and pathetic, watching the others blaze gloriously in battle. And as he sinks from it in a haze of death he knows why. He knows why he deserves this.
'Cause in the end, there's one reason he and Wesley are different, one reason why he is truly the traitor.
Wesley had done what he'd done out of love, convinced he was doing the right thing.
When Gunn had signed that form, he'd known without a doubt that it was wrong.