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Title: This is Our Grace
Author: Dana Woods
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: Angel/Gunn
Summary: Angel's finally close enough to see Gunn.
Timeline: S5 between Shells and Underneath.
Disclaimer: Characters/Concepts of Angel belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, et al.

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I

Gunn's face is a blankness that's subtly twisted in a way that has nothing to do with a pattern of skin or muscle and all to do with a something that's burrowed beneath his soul, beneath who he's always thought himself to be.

Angel knows that look from the inside, knows how it feels too empty for the achingly cold numbness that burns.

Gunn curls around himself on the hospital bed; Angel remembers desperately trying to trap the icy deadness in the fold of his own body to avoid what would come next.

He lets Gunn keep it for now.

II

Gunn was prepared to give up his soul to keep Fred safe and the irony isn't lost on Angel.

Gunn's literally choking on it, struggling, fighting to force it out so he can breathe easily. But if it were easy then it would mean nothing--what happened to Fred would mean nothing, and that's not the case. Gunn arches his back, kicks his arms and legs out, but still only gasps silently, airlessly.

Angel's holding Gunn's head still with one hand and he brings his mouth to Gunn's ear. Whispers, as soft and tempting as a lover, "Stop fighting it."

III

The sobs make Gunn's entire body shake, are so violent that blood starts to seep through the bandage on his side. Angel scents it, nostrils flaring. A hint of Gunn, something Angel's only ever been able to vaguely identify as plum-like; tart and sweet and fleshy all at once. Almost smothering that is a thick whorl of cloying almond; cyanide taint on a once unsoiled soul.

He takes it in, lets the hues entangle, redefines Gunn in his sense-memory, and studies the wretched lines of Gunn's face. He wraps one of Gunn's hands in both of his own, squeezes tight.

IV

Gunn always forced distance between them and Angel always implied he was grateful for it because someone had to see him without blinders. But Angel's always known the difference is made by those foolish enough to love what he tries to be, not hate what he is.

That distance, Angel's demon, was an immutable line for Gunn to cling to after he learned there was no such thing. Letting Gunn have it was as much a show of affection as hugging Cordy, letting Wes see behind his eyes.

Angel mourns the loss of distance as much as he mourns Fred.

V

The lines on Gunn's face deepen when he sleeps, skin dragged down to bone and pinched in place. Angel reaches out and traces each one with a single finger. Across his brow, down the sides of his face, to the corners of his mouth, ghosting over full lips before coming to rest on the bottom one.

Gunn's eyes slide open; they're soft and sleepy. Awareness and memory slam into him so hard that he jerks back against the pillows. Angel moves with Gunn, keeps his finger in place, and Gunn whimpers.

Comfort hurts. Another thing Angel will let Gunn have.

VI

It's like a forest fire that has to burn itself out, Angel thinks. It has to decimate the terrain with blistering flames, fade to lingering embers that never dissipate. Pleasure feeds it, makes the regrethorrorpain flare that much brighter and stronger after.

But when Angel presses his lips to Gunn's, it's the first thing since this mess started that isn't about letting Gunn have something. It's not about fanning flames, even though that will happen.

It's about long, thin limbs, thick, plush lips, eyes a lighter brown than Angel realized and everything Gunn that Angel's finally close enough to see.

VII

It's the middle of the night when Gunn comes up to the penthouse. Angel's been expecting him, knew he'd show up at some point. He steps up to Angel, closes his eyes, exhales deeply, and then presses his forehead to Angel's collarbone.

The skin of his skull is bare once again. Angel cups it with both hands, feels the soft silkiness of it and then lets go, moves away.

This isn't about decimating Gunn's terrain. Angel refuses to let it be. Not letting Gunn have it is more of a show of affection than being agreeable to distance ever was.

VIII

Gunn staggers, almost falls over, and the tightness of his features denotes exhaustion, physical pain and too many emotional tangles to contemplate. Angel leads him through the penthouse, puts him to bed. Sits with his back against the headboard and watches the measured rise and fall of Gunn's chest because he can't not; traces circles at the edge of one of Gunn's eyes because the touch can't be turned into a necessary destructive force disguised as succor.

Gunn's eyes open suddenly and he reaches out. Sets a hand on Angel's thigh and falls back to sleep without awareness having returned.

IX

In his sleep, Gunn flinches and winces, but doesn't make a sound. His hand skitters along Angel's thigh, but doesn't leave. Angel stares at his face; everything flashes across in a dizzying cycle of repetition. Eventually the pauses between shifts will get longer and longer until they stretch out over years.

Under Gunn's hand, below restless fingers, Angel's thigh is tense and taut, prickling up against the material of his pants to feel every twitch, his lips parting at every slow, subconsciously deliberate motion.

Gunn wakes again, tugs weakly at Angel, and Angel lets himself be pulled down the bed.

X

Gunn kisses with a wide, slow tongue that retreats with a sinuous undulation and eases back in gently but firmly. Angel knows because he goes passive and memorizes the feel of it. Gunn doesn't kiss with demand or challenge or dominance; pleas or concessions or submission; love or tenderness or longing.

Gunn just...kisses, and it's so goddamn intense that Angel could do it for a decade.

He tangles his tongue with Gunn's and the kiss shifts but doesn't become any of the things it's not. It just makes room for both of them, and they make room for it.

XI

The contrast of their skin--unnatural flat white and natural layered brown--entrances Angel. He flattens his hand against one of Gunn's and holds them up to see the juxtaposition of life and death, good and evil, black and white. Drags his eyes away and finds Gunn, brow furrowed lightly, also caught up in the polarity of opposites that Angel understands as the extremes of relativity now that he's looking elsewhere.

Gunn reaches for Angel's shirt, and Angel whispers, "Gunn." The hand falters and Gunn looks at Angel's face. Blinks, understands, and reaches again. This time Angel doesn't stop him.


XII

When Angel trails his mouth along Gunn's chest he tastes salt, smells musk, feels Gunn's life counting down, one reverberated thump at a time. Gunn's tongue is throbbing an echoing pulse against Angel's neck, his breath a humid heat that Angel moves away from.

In the crease up high on Gunn's side, under his arm, Angel breathes in raw scent with his mouth open before shifting back to Gunn's torso. He learns where scent and taste are stronger, weaker, different. Comes within inches of the bandaged wound and there's no righteously voiced expectation of evil. Angel's soul aches for him.

XIII

Teeth drag up the inside of Angel's thigh before Gunn pushes slightly at the raised knee, making it fall to the side. A quick lick, then a closed-mouth glide down to the junction at inner thigh. Lips part and teeth come to rest gently against skin and stay there for long moments. Angel nudges Gunn's head up, drifts fingers, soft and light, across Gunn's mouth, his hips jerking when Gunn's eyes deepen and darken, pupil overtaking iris.

Angel's nails tear through the sheet when Gunn's mouth closes around his cock. It's too much of everything: pleasure, anticipation, heat, suction, Gunn.

XIV

It shouldn't be surprising that Gunn gives head the same way he kisses, but it is anyway, and at the first touch of Gunn's tongue, Angel curls his hands into fists just before he shreds the mattress. His neck arches and he chokes on nothing, feels his eyes roll back, and he'lldieifitendsdieifitdoesn'tend. And then his back bows, painfully stretched, because it becomes more than too much when Gunn brings Angel deeper in, further back, all the way down until there's nothing more to take.

"Oh, God," Angel grinds out, two, four, a dozen times in the space of a second.

XV

Neither of them is steady when Angel desperately hauls Gunn away from his cock and up the bed. There isn't anywhere in Gunn's mouth that Angel can't taste himself and it hardens his hands on Gunn, turns things a shade of urgent that's brighter and sharper.

He swallows Gunn's groans and they scrape down his throat, hot, thick and sweet. Finds Gunn's legs with his hands and follows them up, pressure firm enough to burn with friction. Gunn's cock is a velvet hard heavy weight, wet at the tip. Angel wraps his fingers around it, drinks in Gunn's raspy cries.

XVI

Angel brushes slick fingers at Gunn's entrance, pauses when he inhales jerkily, pushes when he settles again. Resistance like forced distance, and Angel licks the underside of Gunn's cock, feels Gunn open around his fingers, pull him inside.

"Angel," Gunn moans, then "Angel" with everything else laced through the word, through the name. Angel looks up, meets his eyes, and sees the faint smile crinkle the corners, feels his own lips curling up.

"Never thought we'd be here," Gunn says, the words quiet and somewhat breathless.

"Mm," Angel murmurs against the head of his cock, smiles fully when he gasps.

XVII

The headboard digs into Angel's back but he doesn't much care because Gunn is sliding one leg across Angel's thighs, holding onto Angel's shoulders and staring down. Angel cups the side of Gunn's face, thumbs the underside of his bottom lip, and Gunn parts his mouth and brings it inside when he starts to lower himself on Angel's cock.

Gunn's eyes fall closed, the lines disappearing from his face, and Angel's cock aches from the tighthottightness around it. Angel thinks in half-formed abstract images about closeness and warmth versus distance and coolness. Understands relativity versus polarity again and thrusts up.

XVIII

With hands on Gunn's hips, Angel guides him up and down, lets Gunn grind and twist along the way and send sharp needles of pleasure into every nerve they have. Their foreheads press together, Gunn's rolling as his body does. Angel digs his fingers into Gunn's skin harder, knows there will be blue on black bruises when he lets go.

He wants to bend Gunn over, push hard and long, and would wish Gunn's wound away but they wouldn't be here without it. Instead he pulls Gunn down hard, jerks his hips up harder, meets Gunn's grunt with his own.

XIX

It's gone on for a minute, hour, forever, and it's coiling in them, muscles tensing in need, desperation, plea and offering. Angel strokes Gunn's cock in time with their thrusts, as tight as Gunn feels around him. Parts his mouth so Gunn's shaky, frantic exhales touch his tongue. Twists wrist and hips, catches Gunn's strangled cry.

Gunn comes without warning, hard and long, surprised eyes rolling back. Angel comes while Gunn's still pulsing around him, growls at the wave of painpleasurerelease.

They fall against each other, skin on skin, distanceless, sated, lips touching chastely. Angel thinks: This is our grace.

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