Title: Sinew and Intellect
Summary: Sequel/Companion piece to ‘Upshot.’ Gunn learns his fate after the events of Upshot.
Spoilers: All of AtS (including the Season 5 Finale); All of BtVS; AB up to Cerulean Sins
Rating: R (Mostly for Gunn, Doyle, and Lily)
Disclaimers: I don’t own any of the characters, situations or dialogue found in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel the Series, the Anita Blake books, the Harry Potter series of books and/or movies, or anything remotely related to Happy Bunny.
A/N: Thank you very much to my reviewers! You made me feel like Sally Field at the Oscars. Since Upshot was my first fic, I really wasn’t planning on it having a sequel or companion piece. Then, thanks to the four of you and a weekend with nothing to do, I suddenly have three potential ‘verses and multi-part stories in progress at the same time. It’s more than a little daunting.
“SIRIUS BLACK! If you don’t do something about that creature immediately I’m going to yank out your tongue, wrap it around your head, and tie it into a big loopy bow!”
“You’re the ex-vengeance demon, you do something about it.”
Gunn opened his eyes and groaned. “Ungh.” Then he tried to stretch. “Ow! Damn!” His abdomen pulled and he felt a sharp pain. He lifted the sheet and blanket covering him and stared down at his chest, which was bare except for the large square of surgical gauze and tape that was strapped to his torso on the right side, just under his ribs. Right. He’d been stabbed while taking out the vamps at the senator’s campaign headquarters.
On top of his apparently still-healing injury, Gunn also realized that he had no idea where he was or who was arguing in the other room. He was in a bed, covered with a white sheet and a navy and white patterned comforter. There was a chair next to the bed with a brightly-colored afghan draped over one of the arms and a night stand to his right with a small lamp. Light streamed in from the window behind the night stand and shined onto the right side of his face. He didn’t feel any burning–good, he hadn’t been turned into a vampire. He lifted the sheet again. He was also apparently nude.
The last thing he remembered was passing out in the alley behind the Hyperion from pain and blood loss while Angel, Spike, and Illyria continued to fight the demons that the Senior Partners had sent after them. Angel had managed to climb onto one of the dragons and had launched an ariel assault from its back while Spike enthusiastically beat the hell out of anything that came within five feet of him with his bare hands and the occasional weapon. But mostly with his bare hands. Illyria had preferred to use multiple weapons, discarding them as they became dulled by extensive use and demon gore.
“Now, Anya...dear sweet understanding Anya...I’m sure you don’t want to do that...and when did you learn to use a wand anyway?”
“Lily taught me in exchange for me teaching her some of my more interesting wand-free curses. Now, tell me again, Sirius, what were you saying about that talking monstrosity currently residing in my unmentionables drawer?”
“That I was just on my way to make it disappear.”
“That’s what I thought you said.”
“Since when is anything you own unmentionable?”
“Since that hoppy rodent took up residence among my silk, lace and satin. Do you have any idea how much it will cost to replace those items? I’m charging you for the entire replacement amount, including sales tax and a reasonable amount to compensate me for my emotional distress.”
Gunn didn’t recognize either of the voices coming from the other room. They sounded vaguely hostile, but more like when Cordelia and Wesley used to bicker than a signal for a potentially dangerous situation. He winced when he remembered that both of his friends were gone for good and would never bicker again. “Uh, hey...is anyone out there?”
A redheaded woman he didn’t recognize poked her head into his room. “Oh, good. You’re awake. We were beginning to worry.” She left again before Gunn could ask any questions. Where the hell was he, anyway?
“Hey there, stranger.” Cordelia walked into the room and sat on the edge of the bed. “I’d hug you, but you’re still pretty banged up. Stay still and I’ll catch you up.”
“Cordelia.” Her presence meant either that he was dead or on some truly amazing pharmaceuticals. He accepted the likelihood of his death more easily than he expected to, but it had been a tough year full of adjustments, so that wasn’t completely surprising. “Where are my pants?” Okay, so it wasn’t his most pressing concern at the moment, but he knew the answer wouldn’t make his head hurt.
“Total disaster, even before all the blood. I submerged them in holy water to kill the evil fashion karma. I can’t believe you were walking around in public dressed like that. You had designer suits, Gunn. I saw them. I saw you in them. You looked hot. I understand that you felt guilty about the whole lawyer chip brain-y thing, but why did your fashion sense have to run back to the nineties to brood? It’s just as easy to seek repentance in Armani, you know.”
Gunn looked around the room for some aspirin and a glass of water. At least death hadn’t changed Cordelia.
“What the hell am I doing here?”
“You’re dead.” Cordelia sighed. Hadn’t she already given this speech once today? She really hoped it wasn’t as depressing talking to Gunn as it had been talking to Wes.
“I got that. Why aren’t I wearing white and strumming a harp?”
“Because the Powers That Be need you to be somewhere else.”
“Fuck the Powers! Isn’t dying once enough? Now I gotta do it again?” Gunn tried to sit up straighter, pulled the muscles in his abdomen again and winced from the pain. Cordelia gave him a wry grin and shrugged her shoulders, making her curls bounce.
“Apparently not. The Powers decided that using their warriors even after they died was both the most fitting epitaph for them and the most efficient use of their resources or some other stupid bureaucratic reason. Plus, you’re still feeling so guilty over Fred that they figure they’ll get another two or three tours of duty out of you, easy.”
Gunn glared at her and crossed his arms over his chest. Cordelia continued, “We’ve got a job all ready and waiting for you. I’ll tell you about it when you’re better. For now, think you’re up to meeting some people?”
“Cool.” Cordelia turned towards the open doorway and shouted. “HEY GUYS!!!! HE’S AWAKE AND FEELING SOCIABLE!”
The next thing Gunn knew, he was being introduced to five people–most of whom were British and whose accents gave him another brief pang of grief about Wesley’s death. The redheaded woman from earlier kissed his cheek in welcome while the long-haired brunette kept exchanging dirty looks with one of the British men who was covered from wrist to elbow in soft white rabbit fur.
“Geez, man...what the hell happened to you?”
“Small misunderstanding with a talking bunny.” James Potter was obviously biting his lips in an effort to hold back his grin at his best friend’s predicament. Sirius Black had finally met his match and was less than thrilled about it, even if James and Lily were enjoying the hell out of their best friend’s torment. Sirius and Anya had been going at it since she arrived on their particular plane of existence the year before. The talking bunny was just the latest in his adolescent attempts at foreplay.
Sirius glared at Anya and then at Lily, who promptly started giggling. “Apparently my best friend’s wife felt the need to teach a whole load of new hexes to someone who spent over a thousand years as a sodding vengeance demon and was known far and wide for her creativity in smiting the male population.”
Anya stuck her tongue out at Sirius. Lily’s giggles had by this time turned into full-fledged laughter. “I never smote anybody, Dogboy. That’s the angels. Demons cause enduring pain and suffering to people who deserve it–not in the name of redemption, but just because we enjoy laughing at them while they’re in agony.” She raised her chin slightly and looked at Gunn. “I was very good at my job.”
“‘til she ran inta th’ princess, here, anyway.” Doyle grinned at Cordelia, who blushed. “Then she had a rather abrupt return to humanity.”
“Stupid amulet. I couldn’t even buy beer.” Anya pouted in remembrance, flounced over to the chair next to Gunn’s bed, threw herself down and started playing with the fringes on the afghan.
“I said I was sorry about that. Didn’t I say I was sorry about that?”
“Sure you did, Cordelia. Then, to make matters even worse, you leave town so Xander’s all accessible and nicely shaped and Faith lathers him up and turns evil so he’s all used to sex and not getting any and...”
“Anya. I beg ya. Please stop.” Doyle looked slightly green. “I saw most of it in technicolor. Gave me nightmares fer weeks. Least you broke up by the time the screens went digital.”
Gunn grimaced as he shifted position and stifled a yawn. Listening to all the banter had tired him out. Lily noticed first. “We’ll be on our way and let you get some rest, Charles. When you’re well enough to be up and around, just give a holler and someone will come to show you around the place.”
“Not that yer stayin’ or anythin’.” Cordelia hushed Doyle by putting her hand over his mouth. Lily pulled James out of the room. Anya was bickering with Sirius as she followed him out the door. Doyle walked out next, leaving only Cordelia, his erstwhile guardian angel.
“Go to sleep, Gunn. I’ll explain everything when you’ve got your strength back.” She walked out, closing the door softly behind her.
“Hey, Wes!” Gunn waved furiously at the viewing screen, forgetting for a moment that Wes couldn’t see him. Doyle waved back at Gunn, ruining any hope he might have had about momentary invisibility and being able to retain his remaining cool points. Damn it, now he was back to being on par with Wes. At least he could take some comfort that they both still beat the hell out of Angel on the cool-o-meter, even if they were both dead.
“That WANKER! I can’t believe he didn’t tell us!”
“If he ever comes back here, I’m going to hex him back to the dark ages!”
Cordelia looked up from her magazine. Crap. She’d been hoping it would take longer for James, Sirius, and Lily to notice that Wesley was now wandering around Hogwarts. Like a decade or so.
This was the problem with sending someone to their son’s school, even if it was necessary–the Potters were dying to talk to Harry in person now that he could hold a semi-intelligent conversation and Sirius wanted desperately to tell the kid that his godfather’s demise wasn’t his fault. Unfortunately, they were dead. They couldn’t just drop in for a chat and a cup of tea.
She put the magazine aside and walked over to where the Brits and Gunn were watching the story of Harry’s sixth year at Hogwarts begin to unfold. “You rang?”
Sirius stood and yelled in Cordelia’s face. She didn’t step back, having gotten used to large males taking out their frustration by yelling at her at the top of their lungs from close range. “Why didn’t you tell us you were sending Wyndam-Price there?”
“Because we knew you would react like this.”
“Doyle and I. Of course, it wasn’t an issue until Wesley made his final decision. He almost went to the Zoo.”
“I don’t understand why one of us couldn’t do whatever needed to be done.”
Cordelia glanced at Lily, who had surreptitiously pulled a handkerchief out of James’s pocket and begun wiping her eyes with it. Unfortunately, Lily understood all too well. Cordelia glared back at Sirius and poked him in the chest with one perfectly manicured index finger. “Because you’re dead, dumbass. You can’t send messages to the living or fulfill missions in your universe. You know the rules.”
James removed his glasses and began to clean them in a distinctly Giles-like manner. Cordelia made a mental note not to let the man watch quite so much of her home verse’s screen. He’d been picking up some bad habits. “He’s our son, Cordelia. All we want to do is tell him we love him.”
“And that Severus isn’t such a bad guy, and that he needs to trust people more, and that he should start giving Ginny Weasley the time of day or he’s going to be really sorry in a couple of years, and...” Lily paused for a breath.
Sirius began muttering about how Snape was most definitely a bad guy and how death had obviously melted Lily’s brain. She promptly smacked him upside the back of the head. Gunn interrupted.
“What’s English doin’ there, Cordy?”
“He’s trying to make up for what he sees as his worst failure–his betrayal of his slayer. Y’know, as opposed to his betrayal of a whole bunch of other people, which I guess doesn’t bother him as much. But Faith’s back to being a mostly good guy and he still hasn’t let things go. I think he’s looking at this job as a do-over.”
“Which means what?”
“He’s going to try and help someone whose destiny is currently up in the air and get him to fight for the good guys.”
“Who?” James was still noticeably upset that he wouldn’t be talking to his son, but the new situation had peaked his interest.
“No way!” “Bugger all!” “That git?” Lily, James, and Sirius spoke simultaneously. Cordelia nodded.
“Sodding hell! There goes the drinking game.”
Sirius, James, and Lily calmed down once Cordelia fully explained Wesley’s history with Faith, Angel, and Connor and related it all to his current mission with Draco Malfoy. Once they understood all the ramifications and grudgingly accepted Wesley’s presence in Harry’s life, James and Sirius began debating the new rules of their drinking game.
“Okay, so we’re still at one drink if someone calls Severus Snape a greasy git.”
“Gotta add one drink if Wesley trips over something.” Gunn nudged Cordelia. “You gotta double it if he knocks himself out.” Cordelia grinned.
“You’ve also got to drink once if there’s an interested woman and he’s completely oblivious. Three if he wears his leather pants to impress her and it turns into an episode of ‘Friends.’”
She grinned at Gunn, unrepentant. “Hey, if they drink twice every time he’s oblivious, they’ll never be sober. And have you seen him in those pants? Think ‘Easy Rider’ meets ‘The Matrix’ meets ‘Masterpiece Theatre.’”
“Ooh, Wes has leather pants?” Lily got a beatific look on her face as she imagined the visual Cordelia had just described.
“I’m dead, James. Not blind.”
For once, Sirius decided to help change the subject before James and Lily could get rolling. He was surprised that the Gryffindor ghosts at Hogwarts weren’t still gossiping about their rows. “I guess drinking every time someone hexes Malfoy is out now...” He pouted. That rule had been good for a lot of shots.
“Oh, quit yer pouting. Just drink twice if the little sod does something Anti-Voldemort.”
“Ooh, three drinks if he does it by accident and has to go off to brood about it!”
“One drink every time Wes has a ‘Eureka’ moment.” Doyle grinned at Gunn’s newest suggestion. At the rate they were going, they’d be drinking any time Wesley did anything. Definitely a sentiment he could get behind.
“I still can’t believe the man actually says ‘Eureka’.”
“Oh, hush, James.”
“One drink every time Harry has an unsuccessful romantic conversation with any girl.”
“Didn’t we already talk about this, Lil? Kid’s just shy. I can’t believe his own mum’s making fun of him for it...”
“You stop picking on Severus and we’ll negotiate.” Sirius looked at James. They shook their heads in unison. That was one rule they’d never give up. Besides, it’s not like Harry would ever know.
Anya walked up to the group and sat on the arm of the sofa next to Sirius. “What are you doing?”
“Revamping the rules to the Harry Potter ‘verse drinking game.”
“I think you should add a rule about having a drink every time Harry feels misunderstood, gets into an argument with one of his friends, and goes stomping off because his life is so difficult.”
Lily interceded before Sirius’s head exploded. Maybe literally. “We can’t do that, Anya.”
“We simply don’t have the resources to do that kind of drinking. We’d have to open a sodding distillery to meet the demand.”
“Lily Potter!” Lily squeezed her husband’s knee in response to his yell. He was fiercely protective of their son, even if that protectiveness sometimes blinded him to some of Harry’s less endearing character traits.
As the conversation continued, Cordelia made a head signal to Doyle, then took Gunn’s arm. “C’mon. It’s time to explain your new job.” They walked over to a viewing screen. Cordelia sat down on a loveseat across from it and Doyle straddled a backwards kitchen chair. Gunn took a seat next to Cordelia and looked at the viewing screen. His mouth fell open.
“You guys get free porn up here?” Cordelia rolled her eyes. Yeah, probably a real good thing Wesley had chosen to go to Hogwarts. He’d probably still be blushing.
Doyle grinned. “Nah.”
“Not porn.” Doyle’s grin turned into a guy-smirk that made Cordelia roll her eyes again. “That’s actually some incredibly powerful and delicate mystical mojo type stuff goin’ on right there.”
Gunn smirked back at Doyle. “Oh, is that what that is? I must have missed it in all the black leather and moaning.”
Cordelia interrupted before it became a discussion worthy only of a locker room. If they had locker rooms, of course. “This is where we want to send you...”
“Oh, hell no!”
“Shut up and let me finish. You won’t be involved in any of that mystical stuff.”
“Damn straight! No black leather!”
“Well, of course not. You’d look much better in whi...”
“Cordelia, you better not finish that sentence.” Gunn crossed his arms over his chest again and glared at her. He now understood how steak at the grocery store felt. Doyle grinned at the two of them and took over the explanation.
“See, here’s the thing. In this ‘verse, vampires are legal citizens, with rights an’ ev’rythin’, there’s more than one type of were-animal, and the mystical leaders down there don’t know fuck-all about what they’re getting into.”
“What do you want me to do about it? I don’t do any of that hocus pocus shit.”
Cordelia took up the explanation again now that it had become a little more PG-13. “That’s exactly why we want you for the job, Gunn.”
“Look, it’s a cluster-fuck down there. They’ve got a woman down there who is a borderline sociopath with delusions of Slayerdom and metaphysical links to the Master of the City, the Ulfric of the local Werewolf pack, and the Nimir-Raj of the local Wereleopard pard.”
“Wereleopards?” Gunn was looking more than a little confused.
“Don’t forget that she’s the Nimir-Ra of the pard, Cordelia.”
“Right, thanks. And she’s also the head of the were-animal collective.”
“And all of that means what?”
“She’s either the head guy or sleeping with the head guy of most of the powerful preternatural groups in town.”
“Good for her. What do you need me for?”
“There’s a lot of big nasties that like to challenge her to see who’s got the bigger balls. People get hurt. There are a lot of people and problems that are getting lost or overlooked while they fight bigger and bigger bad guys.”
“And where do I come in?”
“We need you to step in and deal with the were-animals–mostly the ones who don’t have large groups of their own to protect them when the crap starts to fly. Were-bears, were-tigers, were-cobras, etc. They’re so species conscious that they’re not really used to talking to each other, which means they’re not as aware of threats as they should be. It also means they’re not used to working together to find solutions. They need to learn. You need to teach them.”
Gunn swallowed. “Me? When did I become an ambassador? I thought I was your ‘break ‘em, smash ‘em’ guy.”
“Yeah, then you got a brain implant and went to insta-law school. Now you’re an intellectual.”
“You want me to be a lawyer?” Cordelia smirked. It would probably be better if he looked a little less like he’d been eating unripe kumquats when he said that.
Doyle spoke up. “Only if that’ll get you the respect ya need to run tha Zoo. They’re people most of the time. Ya just need ta keep control and make ‘em a team.”
Cordelia took the reins of the conversation again. “You won’t have credentials, even though you have the knowledge, Gunn. If you want to be a lawyer, you’re going to have to go to college and then to law school. If you want to understand the people you’re going to be dealing with, I’d recommend either getting a degree in preternatural biology and specializing in were-animals or spending your days at the library. The information won’t be handed to you–you have to earn it.”
Gunn grimaced. “I guess it’s better than having it all magically given to me, only to have one of my best friends die ‘cuz I’ve screwed up.” Cordelia socked him on the arm.
“Yeah, isn’t it? Oh, one more thing...”
“Yeah?” Cordelia pointed to the writhing figures in leather on the viewing screen.
“If you become a part of that in any way–if you get involved with a were-animal, if you hook up with a vamp, if you have sex with Anita Blake–your objectivity will be considered to be trashed. You’ll be yanked from the job immediately, no appeals, no questions asked. The Powers need someone to watch out for the innocents that are getting lost, not add another man to Anita Blake’s stable. Got it?”
“Want the job?”
“No brute force, just my brains and whatever I can put in them to get me through this?”
“Ya won’t lose yer ability ta fight. Tha just won’t be what they need ya fer.”
“What am I going to do to pay the rent? I assume I’ll be working for the Powers on a strictly volunteer basis?”
Cordelia grinned. “You know that the good guys always live in the run-down apartment and look like they’ve crawled out of a hole while the bad guys get the designer wardrobe and the snazzy offices. Why do you think evil’s got such a full roster?”
Gunn rolled his eyes.
“Anyway, if you’re not going to school on student loans, you might want to look into becoming a licensed Vampire Executioner. They’re Federal Marshals now. They get paid for killing rogue vamps.”
“Getting paid for dusting vamps? Cool. Sign me up.”
“For all of it?” Cordelia and Doyle both studied Gunn closely.
“Good.” Cordelia hugged Gunn while Doyle shook his hand vigorously. Then Cordelia shouted to the other room, “GUYS, COME SAY GOODBYE! GUNN’S LEAVING!”
After Gunn had hugged Lily and Anya, told Sirius that he wouldn’t take pictures of the naked were-leopards, and shaken James’s hand goodbye, Cordelia kissed him on the cheek as she had Wesley weeks before. “Good luck. I’ll still be your guardian angel. But don’t think you don’t still have to watch your own ass.”
A/N #2: If anyone has any bright ideas about pairings for Gunn in his new life (if his story continues), could you please e-mail them to me? It occurs to me that if he can’t date a were, won’t date a vamp, doesn’t date men and can’t/won’t date Anita, he’s kind of SOL. I’m hoping for a full human here (I know, how novel...), but I’ll take what I can get. I’d prefer not to create an OC if I don’t absolutely have to. Wes is already taken care of if his story moves on.