The Duel


Bounce. Bounce, squeak.

"That's not fair! You're about a yard taller than me, I can't reach!"

"Course it's not fair, girl, it's basketball." Gunn grinned down at Fred, basketball held above him
as she tried to jump up and knock it out of his hands, bracing herself on his chest as she jumped.
Finally she settled on her feet and pouted. "Dumb game. You're not supposed to be playing
inside anyway."

Gunn began dribbling the ball around her, shoes squeaking on the polished floor of the
Hyperion's lobby. "Cordy and Angel are off reminding those Shoshone spirit guides that paying
the people you hire is a good thing, who else is around to care?"

An elegant green-skinned figure in a maroon robe came down the stairs. "No one at all, Charles,
no one at all." Lorne pressed an ice pack to his head. "Numfar, please stop doing the dance of
the migraine."

Gunn caught the ball and held it. "Sorry, man."

Lorne waved a forgiving hand. "I thought Wesley was here. Isn't the tall, well-dressed one
annoyed with you for bothering him while he's working?"

"Nah, he doesn't seem to notice." Gunn looked towards the offices, unaware that he was close to
pouting and that two former residents of Pylea were looking at each other knowingly.

Back in the office, Wesley was bent over yet another volume of quaint and curious lore, tracking
yet another prophecy through two human languages, six demon languages, and one language
that might be ancient Minoan, might be a collection of random scratches on a wall. Perfectly
dressed as always for the office in button-down shirt and tie, with good slacks and shoes, he
looked more like a university librarian than a rogue demon hunter.

Gunn moved to a place where he could see into the office and watch Wes work, Fred and Lorne
drifting along after him. He knew that figuring out the prophecies was important, but, dammit,
Wes had been buried in books for three days straight. Wes had only gone home for quick sleeps
and to change his clothes. Sex hadn't even been on the menu of choices. Gunn had obviously
been far too subtle when he suggested ordering a pizza and hanging out together, because Wes
had been all for it--so long as the pizza was delivered to the Hyperion and he could continue
working while they ate. It had been four days since Gunn and Wes had had any naked time
together, and Gunn was running out of local demons to take his frustrations out on.

In the office, Wesley looked up from the book, staring off as he thought. Slowly he took off his
glasses, then put the end of one earpiece into his mouth, sucking on it absently. Gunn hugged his
basketball and whimpered.

Fred leaned towards Lorne. "Ten dollars says Charles cracks first."

"Ten bucks Wesley caves first," Lorne answered. They shook on it.

Wesley closed the book, stood, and took it back to its bookcase. Gunn bounced hopefully on
his toes. Then Wesley pulled out another book and returned to his desk, opened the book, and
picked up his pen to continue work. Gunn growled, then turned away. He began tossing the
basketball into the air, catching it and trying to spin it on one finger.

Lorne and Fred sighed.

In the office, Wesley watched all this from the corner of his eye. How long was Charles prepared
to wait before storming into the office and demanding at least a kiss when no one else was
looking? Granted, Fred and Lorne were right there, but Charles could at least come in the office
and let Wesley gaze at him. But no, Charles was content to hang around in the lobby, flexing his
muscles in that LA Lakers tank top he was so fond of as he showed off basketball moves for
Fred. And darn Lorne for coming downstairs, he was supposed to be stuck up in his room
nursing that migraine. It had taken Wes hours to convince Angel and Cordelia to leave the hotel
at the same time. Fred could easily amuse herself with her computer, there was no reason for
Charles to be still out there in the lobby showing off.

Wesley glared at the book. He'd finished the prophecy hours ago--and a complete waste of time
that had been. As if anyone cared that King Asherbaniphal of Babylon had been plagued by
visions that his mighty empire would someday fall. Rather old news, that. All Wesley was doing
now was trying to find ways to lure Charles into his office so he could close the doors and do
naughty things on the office furniture. He thought he'd had the man with the nibbling on the
glasses, but no.

Obviously the thrill was gone.

Oh, god, now Charles was taking off his shirt. Sadist!

Lorne nudged Fred and nodded towards Wesley's office. "He's not even pretending not to
watch," the demon whispered.

"How can you tell?"

"The pen he's holding stopped tapping."

"Well," Fred said, blushing, "Charles is starting to take off his clothes. That's worth watching."

"Granted, granted." They moved to the staircase to sit down and watch.

Gunn stretched his arms above his head, then bent over to pick up the basketball off the floor. It
always worked with the girls hanging around the playground basketball courts, it was bound to
work on one skinny-assed Englishman with a demonstrated lack of willpower on keeping his
hands off a particular someone's fine body. He casually turned towards the office, bouncing the
ball on the floor.

Wesley slowly closed his book, stood up and went to the bookcase again. He took his time about
choosing a small volume, then turned and leaned easily back against the bookcase as he flipped
through the book. He absently reached up and loosened his tie, then unbuttoned the collar
button.

Lorne and Fred blinked. Gunn lost control of the basketball, which skittered off across the floor.
Gunn hesitated, then took a step towards the opening in the long counter between the lobby and
the offices.

"Who's up for Italian!" Cordelia caroled as she came through the front door with bags in her
hands. "There's this new take-out place up the street, their lasagna smells exquisite." She sailed
through the lobby and put the bags on the counter. "And yes, this means we got paid." She
turned to smile at everyone in the room, then frowned. "Gunn, are you playing basketball in the
lobby again? You know how hard it is to get the marks off the floor."

Gunn only blinked at her, wondering how pissed the Powers That Be would get if he murdered
their chosen seer.

"Hey, guys," Angel said, coming through the doors that led to the sewer access. "Wes, did you
get that prophecy figured out?" He hesitated at the grim stare he got. "It's bad, huh?"

Wesley counted to a hundred by threes in Aramaic. "I don't think so, but I need to check a
couple of other references at home to be sure. If I go now, I should have it all finished in a
couple of hours."

"Hey, great. I really appreciate you knocking yourself out like this."

"Not at all." Wesley picked up his briefcase and headed out, then paused. "I just remembered,
those books have an odd spell on them. It takes two people to control them, or else they tend to
crawl away. Charles, would you mind coming along and helping?"

Gunn didn't even hesitate. "No prob, man." He grabbed his tank top and prepared to follow.

Cordelia paused in pulling out food. "You have books that crawl? Can I just say, euw?"

Wesley shrugged. "One must put up with these inconveniences. I thought it best to keep them at
home, away from the baby."

"Good idea," Angel said. "Speaking of which ..." He paused to listen a moment at the baby
monitor on Cordelia's desk, then headed upstairs.

"Shall we?" Wesley said to Gunn. His lips twitched faintly at the muffled grin he got in return,
then the two headed out.

"I'll save you some bread sticks!" Cordelia called after them. She held up a plastic fork and tsked.
"I am not eating with plastic utensils, I still have some standards."

Fred waited till Cordelia was out of the room. "I win," she grinned at Lorne.

"Oh, you most certainly do not. Wesley gave in with that invitation."

"Nuh uh, you saw the way Charles was headed over there. If Cordelia hadn't come in just then
though maybe it's a good thing she did," she added, blushing.

Lorne nodded reluctantly. "Though who could blame him with Gypsy Rose Lee starting in on
his routine. That should count."

"Maybe they both gave in." Fred shrugged and got up to investigate the food. "We can give each
other the ten dollars and call it good."

"Unless you care to double it on how long it takes them to get caught making out here in the
hotel." Lorne dug in the bags till he found a small container of fettuccine alfredo. "Two more
days."

"A week. Wes is sneaky."

They shook on it.