Natural Law by WesLess
Disclaimer: 'Angel' and associated characters do not belong to me. I make no profit.
Summary: Companion piece to 'In Comparison'. The flip side of the coin. An attempt to reconcile Wesley's behaviour after Gunn's betrayal, in light of previous events.
Author's notes: Again, sorry for the delay on 'Walking A Knife Edge', this demanded to come out first. You don't have to have read the sister fic to read this, but they complement each other nicely. This is a prequel of sorts.
St. Thomas Aquinas had said that an action cannot be judged good or bad by its consequences. No one can see into the future, (or so he claimed, though Wesley knows better), and the ultimate repercussions may be beyond the control of mortal man (and if what Wesley's read about The Fates is true, he may have been onto something).
All that is demanded in the name of ethics is that the best be done with knowledge at one's disposal, and that the right choice be made according to the circumstances. Then one can truly be at peace, devoid of responsibility and guilt.
Wesley thinks morality is over-simplified.
He also thinks Aquinas was naïve.
Wesley understands the concept of God's will. He recognises the inherent safety net. But as a non-religious man, he finds he needs something more to weigh himself against, and however he does it, he always comes up wanting.
Perhaps he was simply born this way. He's made self-depreciation into an art form. But then again, there's nature and there's nurture, and Father always did like a well formed sculpture. Shaping and crafting in his own image, or at least trying. It seems they both appreciate the arts.
He thinks, or in fact, he knows, that in the end, they'd have concurred with his conclusion. They were all cut of the same stuff. If it had been someone else in his position, they'd have all agreed. Taking the baby away was the only choice. Angel himself would have given his blessing. Anything to keep the precious child safe.
But that's just the thing, isn't it? If it had been someone else, it wouldn't have happened like it did. Call it sods law. Call it just-his-luck. Wesley calls it 'I should have told them'.
It was his punishment then. Maybe. Regardless, Wesley knows that anyone else would have gone straight to the nearest help. They'd have shared the problem, solved it, and Connor wouldn't be who he is. The fault was his, no one else's.
Of course, it's all very well to speculate now. Anything could have happened differently. The truth was that he was desperate. Without options, frightened for Connor's safety. He'd needed more time.
He's gone over this in his head far more times than he cares to remember and it doesn't change a thing. And he's not the only one familiar with philosophy.
Maybe Gunn had rationalised it all the same way. Maybe not. He had to have known what had led to it all. He'd probably been deliberately obtuse. By breaking the trust, by hurting him, he'd ensured that Gunn had needed a way to propagate the anger. To justify it further and keep it strong. To keep him together when it all went to hell.
He'd conveniently ignored the truth.
That Wesley knew this didn't stop the pain. It's taken a while, but he thinks now he can finally accept it without too much indignation. After all, there were transgressions on both sides.
Destroying the window had been a mistake. They were all entitled to their right minds, but Wesley had not gone so far as to release the others from its hold. He knew only too well after that. Breaking out the truth can break a person.
He only wishes he could have known. Listening to Gunn's unwitting confession, whispered in the ear of the enemy, he'd needed something to put it in context. To weigh it up in light of experience. Maybe if he had remembered his own foray into sin, he'd have restrained himself at the last. But then again, his morals never have been fickle like that.
He's never wavered in his ruthlessness or remained in indecision. Agonised over it, yes, fought against all odds to find hope. But never shied away from doing what needed to be done. Certainly never hesitated in cruelty when he allowed such a thing to surface.
You're a good man.
Wesley is no longer sure.
He wasn't then, but he'd deluded himself for a while. He'd reopened it himself, and allowed Lilah to stoke it. And so very good she'd been at it, too. Until there'd been nothing left to burn, and he'd hardened against her like coal to diamond. Told himself he could be better if he wanted, if only just to spite them.
Then Vail and his magic had taken it all away again, and for a while, he could see light.
All the more to take away from him. Further to let him fall as the light was ripped away and extinguished, so beautiful and narrowing as it finally constricted out. So much to hate Gunn for as he'd turned pleading eyes on the shotgun.
As a connoisseur, Wesley always did think guns were vulgar. Something more delicate for a deserving crime.
He shouldn't have needed a remembered experience to stop him. Gunn had only ever wanted to do good. The knowledge they gave him. At the root it was a desire to help people. Maybe he'd thought keeping it was the only way to do that. God knows they've all been finding some tiny, insignificant straws to clutch at when it's come to convincing themselves to stay. That they're not bad people for wanting this.
Wesley should have behaved differently, and he knows it. That scares him a little bit, more than it usually does. Fear of oneself seems to be the theme of their lives. 'Actions of an irrational mind' is an excuse, but one he thinks Gunn has accepted. He wishes he could do the same.
When that scalpel had slid home, a small part of him had rejoiced. The rest of him had moaned its anguish and has been trying to close off completely ever since.
Wesley can wax biblical if he sees fit, and an eye for an eye had always intrigued him. Not for Fred, because that's not something anyone can ever repay. And of course, he knows that was not Gunn's intention. No, to be as unforgiving for having his world ripped apart as others had been for him, that was fair.
For something committed on impulse, the act now seems far too considered for Wesley's tastes. He's not even sure he'd take it all back, if he could. He disgusts himself and languishes in it, tells himself he deserves all he gets. It's the only way the pain can be tolerated.
And besides, if he doesn't think about it too much, the full and terrible implications don't quite kill him.
He doesn't know why he doesn't let them.