Summary: "And there you go, tossing the f-word around. Do any of them consider you a friend? You're human. Illyria has more respect for the insects of this world than humans."
Word Count: 2,180
Fandom:Angel the Series
Spoilers and/or Warnings: No reference to the comics, but the whole series is fair game many bits of dialogue from the original story.
Title, Author and URL of original story: Displaced by SullenSiren Original Story
A/N: I had a lot of fun with this one, Gunn being one of my fav AtS characters. Many thanks to both sevendeadlyfun and spiralleds for betaing!
"Pull over by the red sports car," Gunn told the cab driver, shaking his head. Must have been Spike's choice as the Boss had always favored black. Well, that was the color of his land-yacht of a convertible. Gunn figured the Wolfram and Hart's motor pool didn't count.
The fanged duo had been at it all night. He wondered, but didn't ask, where they'd got the casket and headstone. The earth was already resettled in front of the granite. It simply stated English's full name, including a middle name Gunn had never known, year of birth and death. Not much to mark the sum of a man.
"And what would they have put on yours, Gangsta boy?" At first he'd thought it was fallout from a concussion. He'd taken more than a few hard knocks in the fight, but he'd been healed by Willow with a casual wave of her hand. Apparently transporting the Slayer army drained even her massive mojo, as the healing wasn't a hundred percent. However, fifty percent healthy over fifteen? He'd take that action.
On the physical side at least. The fact that he had an Armani-suited doppelganger taunting him didn't bode well for his mental health.
Illyria approached the grave with barely a glance at the two vamps hiding under an adjacent shade tree. Trust Angel to know the best in cemetery real estate. It was a calm spot, manicured, and bright. Well, except for the aforementioned tree a few feet away.
"See, it's still all there: multi-syllabics, strategy, book learning. Why waste it?" Gunn ignored it as he walked towards the GodKing. "It's not like you haven't already paid the price."
He looked away. Not a new thought. But hearing it coming out of his mirror image's mouth, man, that stung.
Illyria, all blue and leather, was pontificating. "It is foolish and pointless, this grieving and ritual. You erect a monument to a decaying rotting form that crawls with the insects beneath its skin, feeding on its dead flesh."
He flashed on Wes as a Romero extra. She finally stopped and he had to say something, just to clear that image. "We miss him too, you know." He tugged on the draw stings of his hoodie, letting the worn warmth of cotton ease his fingers' itch for the smoothness of silk ties. That wasn't him anymore.
"Do you?" He ignored his doppelganger. "Miss him? What was Mr. Wyndam-Pryce to you? Team mate with all his secrets and betrayals? It's not like he ever considered you an equal, let alone a friend. You were just the muscle, and he could fight without assistance."
Sure, at first English had been aloof. Then a rival, but the upgrade had erased the inequality between them, hadn't it? They'd been working together well enough.
"Working together?" The image snorted: the sound a lot like Spike. "Different departments. And how quickly did he rally to defend the first upgrade? Suspicious bastards, Watchers."
Gunn's hand went unthinkingly to his stomach, where the scar tissue was a reminder. Wes had shot both the doctor and Knox, so stabbing--
"A mark of friendship?" It smoothed the lapels of its suit as it stood between the tree and Illyria, where the others were talking. "Did he even like you? Would Fred have forgiven you this?" Its hand passed through Illyria as she circled the grave, every one of her comments ponderous as if an address to Congress. Or, given the Congresswoman he'd killed, somewhere more dignified.
She was staring at him; guess he was now the focus of her monologue."Even you, who once rutted beneath her thighs and fed her foods to make her fat."
Another gut twist; this time mostly metaphorical. Those memories were private between him and Fred. Their thing, whatever they'd had, it had been a light, a ray of hope and normality. A what-might-have-been. But really, Cave Girl and Ghetto Boy? Fighting the powers of darkness with pancakes and kisses? No studio would pick up that project. She kept yammering, but he'd been on god-sitting duty last night as the others prepared the grave. He'd heard more than enough.
"There was no spoken service. No priest. No prayers to a god who does not exist. Why?" That harsh question broke through Gunn's distraction.
"We didn't think he'd want that. Thought he'd rather have quiet, friends, something simple." He looked at the vampires trapped nearby. When was anything simple? "Sunlight."
Sunlight was something Gunn hadn't seen enough of, ever. First working the night shift with hunts, and more recently working lawyer hours at Evil Inc. Daytime was more theory than experience. His legs ached, so he leaned against a nearby tombstone, letting the sun try to warm him as he rested. Not that his copy let him rest.
Of course, his personal haunting picked up on the one word he'd hesitated over. "And there you go, tossing the f-word around. Do any of them consider you a friend? You're human. Illyria has more respect for the plants of this world than humans." It tilted its head, as if listening to Illyria's babble.
Illyria was nattering about how unnatural Broody and Broodier were, vamps with a soul and all. Another snort, it definitely wasn't using its uploaded courtroom manners. "As if you're pure human stock."
Gunn had never needed the upgrade to fight faulty logic. "Can't have it both ways: either I'm the weakling human, or I'm supernatural. I've tussled with the Conduit and came out on top, not many humans can say that," he thought. As he figured, the thing didn't need him to speak aloud.
"And talking to invisible people is coming out on top?" It leaned against Wes's grave, disrespect dripping off it like sweat on a summer's day. "Why are you still here? Do you think you're wanted?"
Gunn turned his attention back to Illyria's unrelenting diatribe; as if she believed her words could still control her environment. Sorry GodKing, that was the first power to go.
"I created life from the brown worms of the earth, raising it to new life forms, some beautiful beyond speaking, some more horrible than your frail mind can comprehend." Her gestures were large, yet angular; foreign to Fred's less certain movements.
"You were the fruity artist of the bunch then?" Spike summed up. Gunn joined his grin. Spike had never met a sacred cow he didn't try to tip and, before Fred, that was never a metaphor Gunn would have considered.
Illyria paused, as if to weigh Spike's remarks. "I was the Creator, the GodKing of all the worlds. Lesser gods..."
Gunn's attention wandered at the listing. He'd gotten the run-down of other lesser gods the night before as Illyria had focused on what she called the Quest of Bandicoot.
"I was a God to gods. Above all." Her poise suddenly left her and Gunn watched her shrink into herself. "What am I now?" Uncertainty did not become her.
Again, Spike took lead. "You're just what you are, love. All of us are. We don't fit into a box anymore," Spike focused his gaze on Gunn. "None of us."
Armani-Gunn laughed. "Boxes are others' expectations and you always walled yourself in much more tightly than they did. Harder to fail with the bar so low, isn't it?"
With that, Gunn reached his limit. Using his good arm, he pushed off the tombstone that had served as a support. He limped, enjoying the sun, towards the car. All flash, how were the four of them supposed to fit in this thing? Spike and Illyria might not be that tall, but try and get a GodKing to sit in the back.
"If you'd played your cards differently, it would have been six people, not four." Armani-Gunn occupied the passenger side.
Great, now he had to walk around the car. Easy enough, if his legs agreed. "Not in the driver's seat?"
"All your choices, buddy boy. I was never the one driving." It slouched down in the bucket seat, stretching in a way that would be agony for him right now. Bruised ribs did that.
"So, how's that being the muscle working out for you?"
He concentrated on easing himself under the steering wheel. Maybe if he ignored it.
"I'm not going anywhere. I'm you."
"Me and my shadow? That's more up Lorne's alley."
"Wonder what happened to old Red Eyes. Since, speaking of alleys, he never did show."
"He's fine." He had to be fine. One of them had to be, although Spike seemed to have come out least scathed. Maybe burning up to close a hellmouth put apocalypses into perspective.
"You never did answer me." It reached out to fiddle with the silent radio.
"Don't think about ignoring me."
"Oh yeah? Just watch." Gunn noticed that the keys were hanging from the ignition. He could just--
"That's the spirit. It's not like they have need of you. We could set up a little one man shop, make use of that legal eagle brain you got yourself. Find a town with picket fences."
Gunn felt his brow furrow. "Town? I'm a city kind of guy. This city." Sure he'd had fantasies of running away, but in reality, he usual found himself running towards.
"Alonna thought you ran towards death. If you couldn't find it in that battle--"
Gunn tried to swat its hands away from the radio. He wasn't willing to hear news or music right now. Didn't matter, his hands passed through the other's.
"So close to losing it, aren't you Chucky?" It pulled its arms back to cross them behind its head, the image of relaxation. "'Course you've already lost so much, Alonna, Cordy, Fred, Wes, the team's respect, if you'd ever had it. Really, it's a surprise you were close to sane to begin with." It turned to face him. "Seeing any commonalities there, Counselor? Use that big imprinted brain to find the pattern."
Gunn couldn't twist around. Not yet. Not when the answer had slammed into him like a sucker punch. "Human, all human."
"Gosh, I did want that in the form of a question, but the judges have overruled me. You're still alive. But running with this company that's not guaranteed. Really, vamps caught under a tree? Not sure if they even have survival instincts."
"I'm part of the team." It was his only touchstone now. He'd sold off his suits and robot toys. Annie had been pleased by the size of the anonymous donation. Angel had said Champions lived as though the world was as it should be, to show it what it can be. What could an ex-street kid show anyone? Annie held a different, more practical point of view: Do what could be done and don't worry about the big picture. Helping one person was victory by inches, but victory nonetheless. Maybe the shelter needed a lawyer?
"See even you can't picture yourself with the team. Two vamps and a GodKing walk into a bar." Another derisive smirk. "Where are you in all that? Do you even qualify as the bartender?"
He just glared at his double. What did it know?
"I know everything you think, everything you ever knew. I know that you know you've been displaced."
"Not just me, we all have." That one was out loud, and, given Angel's questioning look, audible to the vamps. "Hell, we fought the biggest of the bads on this plane of existence. Maybe going old school, one soul at a time is the right approach." Or maybe he'd wander down the wrong alley one night and not come out. There was a symmetry to that which appealed to a small black part of his mind.
"Still running towards death, Chucky? Don't think that they'd stop you, even if Illyria there thinks you're pretty. Or maybe that's another holdover from Fred. Were you her pretty boy? Definitely not the brains of that operation."
"So, is it a satisfying existence, reading out my insecurities like a grocery list?" Gunn tried to lean back, but his muscles vetoed that idea, so he did a mock yawn. "I've beaten them before."
"Beaten them back, but there's a reason I'm here. You're lost, Chucky boy. Not street kid, not Champion; neither lawyer, nor high flyer."
He looked past the suit, his favorite, damn it, and into the image's eyes. "I'm alive. That means I can still define myself. More than you can do." Its eyes went white then, abruptly, the image shrunk into itself and vanished.
Gunn let his head fall back. Too much time in the White Room if the meta had become physical-ish. As he sat there, mind blank, his door burst open.
"I wish to learn to drive," Illyria stated flatly. "You will assist me."
As she stalked away, Gunn nodded thoughtfully. It wasn't divine intervention or even a life plan, but it was almost an answer. Guess learning to live in the details would have to do.