Thanks to Wendy for betaing.

Gunn obviously thought he was mourning for the Slayer. It was perfectly plain from the casual but determined way he'd stood waiting for him outside the hotel, said to him, "Thought you could use some company," and held up a videotape of Double Indemnity and a six-pack. Wesley didn't know how to tell him that he was wrong, that he was grieving for something else altogether, and that it didn't help at all to have Gunn so near, slouching on his couch with loose-limbed confidence, one arm stretched out almost to his own shoulder. So he concentrated instead on eating the dreadful chocolate bar on his lap, carefully breaking off square after square and putting it in his mouth. It was a little gummy from the heat, and each piece clung to his teeth as he chewed. But it gave him an excuse for silence, and he was grateful for that.

About halfway through the film, Gunn glanced over at him and said, "Hey, English, I thought you didn't like American chocolate. Didn't you say it was too sweet?"

He had to sweep the roof of his mouth with his tongue before he could speak, the soft candy almost clogging his throat on the way down. "It is."

"So what happened?"

He shrugged. There was no way he could admit that he was trying to surfeit himself so that he wouldn't yearn for the taste of Gunn's skin. "Sometimes...one simply wants something sweet."

"Uh-huh. We're breaking down your resistance, man. Few more months, you'll be eating Flaming Hot Cheetos with the rest of us." Gunn's eyes twinkled at him, and Wesley knew with absolute certainty that he would eat a hundred of those wretched bars to get that approving look again, the one he'd been starving for all his life.

But since that was the problem, after all, he made himself look away, back at the screen. "I didn't know you liked old movies. Didn't you tell us that you didn't watch movies at all anymore?"

"The guy at the counter told me it was about a detective in LA. Thought maybe you could steal a few moves."

He managed a weak grin and put another square of chocolate in his mouth.

After a while, Gunn took a long pull from his bottle and asked casually, "So, why didn't you go to Sunnydale with Cordy and Angel?"

"I didn't think it was my place."

"Weren't you her Watcher, too?"

He shook his head. "In name only. Rupert Giles was the one who truly cared for her. I was an interloper, imposed from outside."

"So you weren't actually close."

"No, not really. Of course, she was a remarkable girl..." Far stronger than he was. And yet she had fed herself to Angel, heedless of the fate of Sunnydale. "...and she will be missed, but...No."

"Huh." Another silence. Barbara Stanwyck smiled and flashed her ankle bracelet on the screen. "You having problems with Virginia?"

Was it possible that he hadn't told anyone yet? Yes, he realized, it was. It had been easiest that way. "What...makes you say that?"

"You've been folded up in on yourself since we got back, Wes. If it isn't the Slayer..."

"Virginia and I broke up almost a month ago," Wesley blurted.

Gunn looked almost comically startled, his mouth hanging open. "Damn, English! Why didn't you tell me?"

He fussed with his bottle, immediately regretting his confession. "It was...we had more important things on our minds."

Gunn rubbed a hand over his head, then looked at him sympathetically. "What happened, man? You guys seemed tight."

"She couldn't bear to see me exposed to so much danger." Wesley paused. Gunn was shaking his head, so he hastily continued on, despite the twinge of pain. "I don't blame her. It must be very difficult, loving someone you could lose any night--"

"Bullshit," Gunn interrupted. "Nice try, but bullshit."

"No, she was very upset when I was injured--"

"Uh-huh. It's still bullshit. I used to believe that crap too, you know. Thought I'd be a sucker to fall in love with anybody when people were dying around me all the time. Thought I could just love Alonna, 'cause at least I could keep her safe. But I couldn't." A brief, bitter smile passed over Gunn's face. "Nobody's ever safe. Not Alonna, not the Slayer, not me, not you. So you either got to go on living anyway, or just hide away from the whole world." He leaned in close. "Well, I ain't hiding anymore."

"Yes, well," Wesley stammered, suddenly very uneasy to have those eyes so near, so warm, so... "Not everyone is as brave as you, Gunn."

Gunn didn't move. "But you are."

Either brave or stupid, he couldn't vouch for which. Wesley carefully leaned away, setting his bottle on a coaster. "I...there are worse things to fear than getting hurt."

"Like what?"

"Like not being able to do your duty."

Gunn frowned, settling back a little. "You mean, like not being able to send people you love off to die."

His way of cutting straight to the heart of the matter could still catch Wesley off-guard. "Or...like not being able to disagree with them about sending others off to die."

"Uh. Huh." Gunn dropped back completely. "So, let me see if I got this straight. You can't be with people like Virginia, people who aren't in the evil-fighting business, 'cause they get scared and run. And you can't be with people who are, 'cause you get scared and run."

"Gunn, it's not--"

"No, man, it's cool." He got up, turning away, and Wesley didn't know what to think. "Think I'll do a couple of sweeps of the hood before bed. See you tomorrow."

"The agency is closed," Wesley reminded him, voice catching in his throat.

Gunn looked back at him and gave him a half-smile. "Might see you anyway." And he left.

Wesley pushed the remainder of the bar into his mouth all at once. He was going to be needing a great many more of them.

Feedback, positive or negative, to Sarah T.