Chapter 09

Gunn sagged against his bonds, head dropping so that his chin rested on his chest. He’d exhausted himself trying to get out of the bonds that kept him immobile. The first night hadn’t been that bad, even though he had woken up with a pounding head. Hangovers do that to you, he thought wryly, amused in spite of the situation. Or perhaps because of it—if he focused on the mundane, maybe he could forget about what was going to happen when his captor came back.

He sighed, desperately wishing his mind hadn’t turned down that path. He really didn’t want to know what his captor was going to do to him, because it was sure to be unpleasant. And he’d really had enough of unpleasantness. That thought sapped him of the little strength he had left. Ever since Doyle died, Angel hadn’t been the same. There was a new level of distance between him and Gunn that the hunter just didn’t understand. Some part of him was convinced that Angel blamed him for the half-demon’s death, which was a completely moronic belief. But something inside him said that he could never measure up to the camaraderie Angel and Doyle had shared. And that was what had driven him to drink.

Gunn had spent his entire life being told he would never measure up; that he could never be good enough. And he was sick of it. Sick of being told that everything he did to benefit the people around him wasn’t enough to prove that he was a worthwhile human being. He was the one that was always there, wasn’t he, when there was some kind of trouble? He’d been there for Cordelia when they’d learned the visions were killing her. And he’d been the one to suggest rescuing Fred from that place. It didn’t even deserve to be called a world. And Wesley—well, he didn’t know where to start with that. Because every time the watcher had a problem, he turned to Gunn. The hunter never turned away from a friend in need. Ever. And yet.
If he’d had a hand free, Gunn would’ve been pounding the floor. Anger and bitterness welled up inside him. He hated feeling like this. Feeling worthless. And worst of all, he felt that he deserved it. Because he hadn’t been there for Doyle. It was the only time in his life he hadn’t made it in time. And it was his fault. If only he hadn’t stopped by the gas station. If only he had hurried home that night, because he’d known going out that there was a good chance it would go down that night. But no; he’d chosen the selfish route. For the first time in his life, he’d let his own desires lead him. And the last, he swore solemnly. Never again.

Gunn flexed his leg muscles, trying to keep them from cramping. He was disgusted with the state he was in, but there was nothing he could do about it. Being tied to a chair for over twenty-four hours with no sign of his captor meant there’d been no choice. His pants were soaked through and chafed miserably at his thighs. A new thought chanced upon him. What if his captor’s plan was to keep him here, like this, until he died? Gunn eyed the tables and the torture implements with anxiety. But if that was the case, why would his captor have gone through the trouble of setting up such an elaborate interrogation room? It didn’t make sense. No, his captor was probably letting him stew for awhile to try to make him nervous, to frighten him.

A part of him longed to say with false bravado that nothing could frighten him, that he was too tough to be tortured. But he knew that wasn’t true and couldn’t bring himself to believe it, even half-heartedly. The truth of the matter was, quite simply, that his captor had read him well. And that—that thought there—was what terrified him. Because if his captor could get inside his head, the game was already over before it’d begun.

He shook his head, dispelling the conclusions he was drawing about a person he’d never met. Looking at things logically, the room was set up in such a way to scare him, sure, but it would’ve been set up the same way if his captor’s victim had been anyone else. It was an excellent interrogation technique.

Gunn tugged at his bonds a few more times, but his efforts were half-hearted. He really wished he had a beer. At least then things would seem bearable. His thoughts wondered back to Angel on their own volition.

Ever since Doyle’s death, Angel had grown cold towards Gunn, only talking to him when necessary for the cases they worked. And Gunn couldn’t cope with that. Not when Angel had been the first man to ever see the worth inherent in his person and give him a chance to live up to it. It was too painful to find that kind of belief and have it taken away due to circumstances beyond his control. Drinking had been the only thing that numbed the pain.

At first, it was only one or two beers a night. But when Angel found him with a beer in hand, he’d given Gunn his most disapproving look. That had made things worse and Gunn wallowed in misery. He was drinking and Angel disapproved and his disapproval was largely contingent on the fact that alcohol impaired reflexes which were vital in a fight. But Gunn had chosen to view it as much more than that and so he’d started drinking more and more every night, as if daring Angel to say something about it.

And the truth was, if Angel had spoken up, if he’d told Gunn that he was worried the man was drinking too much, Gunn would’ve stopped. He’d have washed all the beer in his room down the sink, felt miserable for a couple of days as he got all the alcohol flushed from his system, and that would’ve been the end of it. But Angel hadn’t said anything. Just gave him that look that said I know what you’re doing and I don’t care for it.

He’d never expected to end up like this, though. Being captured by anyone, for whatever reason, was shameful. He felt ashamed. Gunn couldn’t remember the last time he’d actually felt ashamed of his own actions, but he did now. It wasn’t the first time someone had gotten the better of him and tied him up, but at least the other times he could honestly say that he’d been jumped or overpowered. This…this was just sickening. And sad. Because, his captor, whoever that was, had been able to take him out of his own home and he hadn’t been able to lift a hand in protest. In essence, he’d aided his captor, because he hadn’t fought back.

He groaned. Was the man never going to come to him? He wished his captor would just get it over with already. He was heartily tired of being alone with his own thoughts. Gunn sighed and collapsed against the back of the chair. All he could do now was wait.

Spike pushed the button for the basement on the elevator with a small sigh. While his mood had certainly been lifted by the restored link between him and his Sire, it created some obstacles as well. The biggest one being that he couldn’t hide anything from Angel ever again. Sure, he could try, but it wasn’t going to really be possible.

He shook his head, doing his best to clear his head of those thoughts. He didn’t want to start dwelling on Buffy and the problems he’d had in Sunnydale when there was something more important at hand. Talking to Gunn was going to take all of his concentration. Not because the human was dangerous—the bonds the man was in prevented him from doing any harm to Spike—but because he had to get through to him. There was no way he could face Angel, especially after last night, if he failed.

So he wouldn’t fail. Jaw set with determination, he strode forward into the basement with all the confidence he could muster. Spike wasn’t just a persona he’d created—it was who he was. Spike wasn’t just a mask; he’d had to become rough and tough in order to survive and developed a certain set of skills that went along with that. Boisterous confidence was part of that, but it wasn’t a boastful confidence—everything he claimed to be able to do, he could do. Being honest about his abilities didn’t seem boastful, just honest, but he’d been told by quite a few people that he was a bit of a braggart.

Whatever. He shrugged to himself. If it worked and it helped him survive, what right did he have to complain?

He stood behind Gunn for a moment, debating with himself. He knew the man hadn’t realized he was present yet, since he had moved with all the stealth of his kind, so he had time to think. Spike sighed silently. There were two choices here. He could use the ski mask he’d stashed in the corner of the room and hide his identity from Gunn or he could be up front and honest with the man. It was a tough decision.

On one hand, if he hid his identity, Gunn would never know that it was Spike that had kidnapped him. Spike planned to use a fake accent if he went down that road, so his voice wouldn’t give him away. And that was a bonus in a lot of ways, because then Spike could get to know the man without a barrier of fear between them. But there would always be the barrier of Spike’s knowledge that he’d put Gunn through this. And he might be a vampire and he might love blood and torture, but this human was one of Angel’s pets. Something about that just didn’t sit right with him. If there had been no emotional attachment on Angel’s part, maybe he could’ve stomached it. But this would be like having to torture Drusilla. And that was something Spike never could have done.

Spike reached a decision. He wouldn’t hide his identity from Gunn. Sure, there would be a barrier in their relationship with one another because of this incident, but it wouldn’t be insurmountable. And it wouldn’t cause him unnecessary guilt. If anything, it could help the two of them to forge a deeper relationship with each other. Spike dismissed that as ridiculous and took the last few steps towards Gunn, grinning wickedly.

“Cheers, mate,” he said, reaching up and pulling the gag out of Gunn’s mouth.

“Spike!” Gunn hissed. “What the hell are you doing here?”

Spike felt a moment of disorientation. Gunn seemed to expect to be rescued. And, if Spike was honest with himself, that was a fact that he found rather amusing. “Oy. I’m not here to rescue you, Charlie-boy.”

Gunn frowned at him. “What the fuck are you talking about, Spike? Of course you’re here to…” he trailed off, eyes going wide as he fell silent. After he took a moment to digest that information, he spoke up, voice nearly a whisper. “If you’re not here to rescue me…

“Aye, mate. I’m the one who brought you here.”

“Why?” Gunn’s voice was low, so low Spike had to strain to hear him, and it was laced with resignation and betrayal.

“Oy! I’m a vampire. It’s what I do, you know. Taking people and whatnot.” Spike frowned as he scrutinized the man in front of him. From what he remembered, Gunn wasn’t the kind of man to give up so easily. The hunter who’d pulled him off of Angel a couple months back contained much more spark than the man in front of him. His brow furrowed as he considered what could’ve happened to bleed the life and confidence out of Gunn.

“Don’t play with me, Spike. If you’re going to kill me, just get it over with.”

Spike gestured widely to the tables and the tools arranged throughout the room. “Does it look like I have any intention of killing you, Charlie-boy?”

“Don’t call me that,” Gunn said, his protest a token one.

“I think I’ll call you whatever I like.”

“Whatever. Do what you like to me, Spike. Torture me. Maim me. Kill me. I’m too tired to care anymore.”

Spike frowned. “This isn’t like you, Charles.”

Gunn laughed bitterly. “What’s not?” He looked pointedly down at the ropes securing him to the chair. “I’ve got nothing left to lose.”

The vampire reached his second decision of the night. Nodding sharply to himself, he crossed the room and grabbed a chair he’d set aside just in case things went this way. Spike set the chair down in front of Gunn, turning it so that the back faced the human, and straddled it as he sat down. He folded his arms over the back of it, rested his chin on his hands, and stared at Gunn intently. “You really believe that, don’t you?” he asked softly, all the hard edges gone from his voice.

Gunn didn’t trust himself to speak. Out of all the possibilities, he’d never in a million years suspected Spike of being his captor. He nodded, then looked away. This was his true weakness. Any person he cared for or respected…he couldn’t lie to them. Not when confronted directly. And any man who had dared to take Angel down a peg or two when it’d been sorely needed deserved his respect.

Spike watched the thoughts flash through Gunn’s head. This was his special ability, the talent he had as a vampire. Angelus had his ritual magic that only he ever seemed to work correctly. Drusilla had her visions. Darla had her uncanny ability to manipulate humans and vampires alike to do her bidding. And seeing to the heart of the matter, seeing the thoughts that crossed others’ minds when it mattered most—well, that was Spike’s gift.

“Why’d you start drinking, Charles?” Spike asked, keeping his voice low.

Gunn snorted, somehow making even that come out bitter. “Angel,” he said.

When no further explanation seemed forthcoming, Spike prodded gently, “Angel?”

And all of a sudden, Gunn just relented. All the tension just fled his body and he opened up. Here was his chance to get it all off his chest. It was such a relief that his captor was a familiar face he almost felt like crying. Maybe he should worry more, be more concerned about getting himself out of the situation, but all that was in his mind was that finally—finally—someone was going to listen to him. And it didn’t matter that he was tied up. It didn’t matter that the person he was going to be talking to was Spike. All that mattered was that he could finally talk about it. Just get it all out in the open.

“I started drinking about the same time Doyle died,” Gunn said. “Angel and I were close; we shared everything. Well, the three of us did. Me, Doyle, and Angel. And when he died, Angel just closed up. Stopped talking to me. And I started drinking.”

“To cope with Doyle’s death?” Spike asked gently.

Gunn looked genuinely startled at the question. “No,” he said, shaking his head impatiently. “It had nothing to do with Doyle. I mean, yeah, I missed him. Hell, I still do some days. But the drinking…I started drinking because it was my fault.”

Spike blinked, trying to follow what Gunn was saying. The blonde wasn’t sure the man in front of him even knew the train of his own thoughts, but he certainly wasn’t going to disrupt him when it’d been so easy to get him talking. “What was your fault?” So far, keeping his voice soft and low seemed to inspire Gunn to talk. And if that was all it was going to take, Spike had no problem lending a sympathetic ear. Part of him hated that he wasn’t going to get to torture Gunn…another part was glad, because it would’ve been like torturing Drusilla.

“Doyle’s death,” Gunn said.

Spike fought the urge to recoil physically. Doing so would seem judgmental; would cause Gunn to retreat into his shell. That was one thing he didn’t want to happen. “How was that your fault?”

“That night, the night he died, I stopped at the store to grab a blunt. I knew—I knew—that things were probably going to go down that night, but I stopped anyway. And when I got back, I was too late.”

Frowning thoughtfully, Spike said, “If you hadn’t stopped by the store, would you have made it back on time?”

Gunn looked at him in shock. “I…I never thought of it like that.” He was silent for a moment as he considered the question. The reason he’d been out of the hotel that day was because he’d taken a part-time job in order to help pay the bills in times when there was no business. He’d gotten to the incident thirty minutes after it happened. His stop at the gas station only took him five minutes, give or take a couple minutes. “No,” he whispered and felt relief course through him. “It wasn’t my fault,” he said in stunned disbelief. “It wasn’t my fault!”

Spike grinned at him. “Aye, mate. It wasn’t.”

Gunn grinned back.

“What made you think it was?”

Gunn sobered at that. “I…think I thought Angel blamed me for it. So I blamed myself. I thought he believed me responsible for killing his best friend.”

“Oy! Peaches may be a bit of a blockhead sometimes, but he ain’t never gonna be as much of a blockhead to accuse one best friend of killing another, ‘specially when it ain’t so.”

“Then why did he stop talking to me? He just shut himself up completely. Didn’t let anyone in.”

Spike rolled his eyes and untied the man. “You’re an idiot, Charlie-boy. And you stink.”

Gunn scowled. “Well, that’s your fault. If you wanted to talk to me, you could’ve just asked me.”

Spike snorted. “Oh yeah, that would’ve gone over real well with you, as pissed as you were.”

Sheepishly, Gunn said, “Yeah, well…”

“Angel gets like that when he loses someone or something close to him. He doesn’t usually see how it affects the people around him, cuz it’s how he deals with loss. It’s just his version of grieving. But I can see how, since of everything that happened and all, that you would think he’d blame you when you blamed yourself.”

Gunn scowled. “I’m not retarded, Spike. I know that people grieve in different ways.” Still, it was nice to have that confirmed. He’d never tell that to the blonde, but he was sure the man understood.

Spike scowled back, then his expression softened. “Listen, mate. I’m only gonna tell you this once. Angel cares about you. He was the one who asked me to get you away from the beer because he saw how hurt you were. He’s not good with emotions. He can’t say sorry. He’s socially awkward and a bit eccentric. But he doesn’t keep people around he doesn’t trust. And he sure as hell wouldn’t keep someone around if he thought that person killed one of his friends.”

Gunn sighed, rubbing his wrists. He caught Spike’s eye and nodded once, letting the blonde know he’d gotten the message. Then he looked around the room. “Spike, is this the hotel basement?”

Spike laughed at the incredulity in Gunn’s voice. “Yeah, mate. Seemed appropriate.”

Gunn rolled his eyes. Trust Spike to turn his home into his prison.

Chapter 8     Chapter Index     Chapter 10

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