Could Be Purgatory
by Twinkledru J.

"So what is this?" Buffy asks at IHOP one day.

Gunn looks up, his mouth full of hash browns, and raises his eyebrows. "What's what?" he asks around the potato bits.

Buffy wrinkles her nose and laughs. "Gross," she says, and Gunn bugs his eyes out at her and pulls his lips back a little, making an "ahhhh" sound and revealing more potato bits. Buffy retaliates quickly, shoving some of her waffles (Belgian waffles, strawberry topping, hold the whipped cream 'cuz she doesn't like it) into her mouth and chewing like mad, then sticking her tongue out at him.

The game escalates, but finally stops when Gunn's laughter makes him suck a piece of sausage down the wrong pipe and he starts coughing. Buffy gives him her water, biting back giggles once it's clear that he's not choking and the only thing really injured is his pride.

"Shut up," he says, his voice a little strained. He gives another cough before glaring at her over the rim of the glass and adding, "And eat your cheese sandwich."

To which Buffy points at him and begins moaning in her best mummy voice, "Curse! Cuuuuurse!" Gunn rolls his eyes, and she says that she doesn't have a cheese sandwich anyway, she's got waffles, and he rolls his eyes again.

"Hug!" Gunn moans in a similar mummy voice after they pay, as they walk outside. Except his impression is much better than hers. "Hug! Curse!"

So now it's Buffy's turn to roll her eyes, but she hugs him anyway. He kisses her forehead, and they turn and start walking back to the house.

"What's what?" Gunn asks suddenly, as if to distract her while he takes her hand in his.

Buffy frowns. "What what's what?" she asks, looking at him, confused, and squeezing his hand a little, letting him know that he didn't need to distract her, she would've let him anyway.

"Before you said 'gross', baby. You asked me what something was. What's what?"

"Oh, yeah." Buffy frowns, trying to remember exactly what she'd meant. "This," she says, with a shrug. She reaches out and indicates their surroundings. "This... world, or dimension, or whatever the hell it is. What is it? I mean, it's not heaven, 'cuz that's where I was when Lilah came to talk to me, but I'm pretty sure it's not Hell, either, because that's where she and Wesley are, right? I mean," she continues, tilting her head thoughtfully, "apart from the fact that it's just us, no Dawn or Angel or anyone else who's still alive, this is pretty much the same as the world we came from."

Gunn frowns a little, too, swinging her hand in his. "I don't know," he admits. "Maybe kind of a holding pattern. I think mostly Wes and Lilah want to make sure they've got people in all different universes. Ready to ride and spread the alarm, you know?"

"Oh, my god, you did not just quote Longfellow at me," Buffy says, looking at Gunn with her eyebrow raised. "You big dork."

Gunn glares at her a little, then a mischievous smile starts to spread across his face and light up his warm brown eyes. "Hug!" he moans again, extending his arms, rolling his eyes back, and starting to lurch after Buffy like a mummy. "Hug! Slayer hug!" Buffy shrieks with laughter and runs, and he follows after her. "Curse!" he shouts, chasing her. "Curse! Hug!"

Buffy lets him catch her when they're in front of the house. It's a cloudy day, coolish, and he tackles her, throwing them both onto the soft grass. When she finally stops giggling, he sits up again, and she leans against him. She's Indian-style, her legs crossed underneath her, and his are splayed out on either side of hers, and his hands are clasped in her lap.

Wesley and Lilah set them up with the house. It's nice -- smallish, but, then, they don't need much room -- and the neighborhood is just like the one she lived in in Sunnydale.

Her Sunnydale, that is. This one is -- different. They're the only ones, for one thing. The only ones who stay, anyway. Other people come and go, which, now that she thinks about it, could support the whole holding-pattern theory of Gunn's.

"Could be purgatory," Gunn muses, resting his chin on top of her head. Buffy can feel his throat buzzing as he speaks, against her scalp and the back of her head, can feel when he swallows.

She nods a little. "Yeah, maybe," she says. "That'd explain why people keep coming and going. Holding pattern and all." She frowns a little. "I dunno, though," she says. "I'm not Catholic."

"Me neither," Gunn agrees. "Why're you suddenly Ms. Curious?"

Buffy shrugs. "Dunno. Like you said, just curious."

"You wanna be in the loop more?" Gunn asks, moving his head and craning his neck so that he's looking at her. "We can call them up and see. Lilah respects you, she might give you some answers."

'Respects', not 'likes'. The feeling's mutual, really, but that's probably the best possible arrangement, 'cuz Buffy knows that just being liked by Lilah wouldn't be enough to get answers when she wanted them. Being respected might not always be enough, either, but it gives her a much better shot at it.

"And if she don't tell you enough," Gunn adds, and she can tell he's smiling by the timbre of his voice, and by the fact that he's stopped looking at her, the way he does when one of them is upset, and put his chin back on the top of her head, "we'll see if my man Wes can tell us something. If he ain't so lawyer-whipped he needs Lilah's permission," he adds.

"They are pretty head-over-heels, aren't they?" Buffy asks with a soft laugh.

"Way my former boss told it, you and he -- " Gunn begins, and Buffy pulls her head out from under his and turns to glare at him.

"I was never whipped," is all she says, though, as she settles back against him again.

"I know," Gunn says softly, sneaking a hand under her t-shirt and scratching her belly lightly. Short nails, fingertips, and she smiles. It tickles a little. He kisses the top of her head, and she figures this is something along the lines of an apology, and feels a little bit guilty.

"Maybe I was, just a little," she admits sheepishly. "But only a little."

She can feel Gunn's skin shift a little, and knows it's because he's smiling. "So," he continues, "d'ja want to play Mulder and Scully a little, or is 'when I give the signal, unleash hell' enough for now?"

Buffy frowns. "Is mixing pop culture references like mixing metaphors?" she asks. "'Cuz, I mean, you've got X-Files and Gladiator in one sentence. That seems like there should be grammar rules about it, you know? And... I dunno," she says, and closes her eyes. "Ugh, why does my brain have to think about this stuff? I'm all full and it's a nice day, I don't wanna worry about their little rebellion. Ask me later."

Gunn kisses the top of her head again. After a few quiet moments, he tugs on her hand. "C'mon," he says. "Let's go inside, watch a movie or something. I think it's gonna rain."

Buffy opens her eyes and stands, brushing herself off. "Is he really whipped?" she asks. "Wes? I mean, the Wes I knew would totally be whipped. But you know him better than I do, now, don't you? Is he?" As she speaks, and they head for the house, she slips her hand into his.

Gunn shrugs this time. "Probably not so much. They're working most of the time, the whole rebellion thing keeps 'em busy. And they've both got issues. Probably havin' lots of the sex, though."

He smiles, not quite looking right at her, and squeezes her hand a little, letting her know that she didn't need to distract him, he would've let her anyway.

"Duty gets in the way of True Love, huh?" Buffy asks.

"Mostly the issues, probably," Gunn says. "But hey, they might be on opposite sides of Hell working, or something. That'd keep 'em separate a lot of time, too. So, yeah, maybe duty." He begins to hum something quietly as they walked into the house. It takes her a few moments to realize that it's the Marseillaise, and she laughs as she shuts the door behind them.


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