Warning: (skip) Implied child abuse.
Summary: Gunn has three photographs.
Word count: 581
Written for: likeadeuce, whose prompt was "school days."
There are three photos, ragged at the edges. The first shows a small, beaming girl in a blue and white dress, and a taller, solemn boy. "Alonna's first day of school," Gunn says. "She loved it. She used to bring all her books home at night, even if she didn't have homework, just to sit and read them." He sounds fond, and sad. His sister, like the rest of his family, is dead; that's all Wesley knows. "You would've liked her."
Next, a Christmas scene. The same girl and boy a few years older, with Gunn now looking more recognizably himself, sit on a sofa flanking a thin-faced woman who must be their mother. There's a tiny artificial tree on the coffee table, and two wrapped presents. One apiece for the children; a hard year, then. "My aunt Clarisse took that one," Gunn says. "She wasn't really my aunt. My mom and her were friends since they were little."
Wondering what their Christmas was like, Wesley can't help picturing something out of Dickens. A poor but devoted family, singing carols; the mirror image of Wesley's memories. It's appalling, what sentimentality the middle-class mind can conjure up about the poor. His own desperate months before Angel hired him should have taught him better.
"My mom and dad," Gunn says, handing him the last picture. It's their wedding day. Gunn's mother is plumper and happier-looking than she would be ten years later. Gunn's father wears a uniform and heavy-framed spectacles. "I don't remember him real well."
There's a silence, which eventually, hesitant about intruding, Wesley fills. "What happened?"
"Training accident." Gunn shrugs. "Night assault something-or-other, and he got shot. The army didn't know for sure how it happened. Or they never said."
"You look like him," Wesley says. "Here, at the jawline." He runs his knuckles softly along Gunn's face. "And the mouth."
Gunn kisses his finger and smiles. "Okay, let's see yours."
"Hmm? My what?"
"Your family, innuendo boy."
He should've expected this, but he still can't wrap his head round the fact that Gunn finds him interesting. "I haven't got any photos. I expect my mother does, somewhere."
"Okay," Gunn says with cautious surprise, as though Wesley has just announced that he's running off to Brazil to become a rubber tree. "So tell me about them. Do you have any brothers and sisters?"
"No. And there's nothing to tell." He edges away a little, but Gunn hauls him back.
"That's a lot of years of nothing, Wes."
"I had a mother and father. I went to boarding school. I was head boy. I trained to be a Watcher. I got lots of presents at Christmas." Since he can't pull away from Gunn, he pushes, rubbing his forehead against the barely-there bristles on Gunn's scalp. "There's nothing I want to remember."
"Uh huh." Gunn's hand is on his neck, doing something lovely. "In that case, you really better tell me."
It's nothing. It's nothing. Petty little miseries, secrets not worth keeping but not worth revealing either. How can he explain his childhood to a man whose father loved him, and is dead?
"C'mon, Wes. Trust me." And there it is, the Rubicon he's got to cross. This isn't a test--Gunn's not like that--but it's still possible to fail. By cowardice, by hanging back, which has always been the sin he's most inclined to.
Nothing will come of nothing.
He closes his eyes and tries to find the words to begin.
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