Title: Self-Flagellation

Author: Mel

Spoilers: Some for First Impressions and A Hole in The World and Shells

Rating:G

Teaser: Gunn beats himself up over Fred's death while in his hospital bed post-Shells

Feedback: This fic hasn't been washed, folded or beta'd. Send any and all comments and constructive criticism, as well as wooden stakes, slayers and sexy vampires to . All flames will be promptly used to light Spike's cigarettes.

Disclaimer: I don't own them, I just play with them and then return them to the toybox unharmed. They belong to Whedon, though I wish they were mine

Notes: Just another short fic character piece that's been kicking around my head for quite some time. It's getting inside Gunn's mind in the aftermath of Fred's death.

This has gotta be a nightmare…it can't really be happening, but I know it is. Fred's dead, and it's all because of something I did. And now, I can't fix it or take it back or anything like that. I even told the conduit I'd give up my life for hers, but he said they already had my life. I said I would never do anything to hurt her. Even though our relationship's long over by now, I still cared about her. I still loved her even though she probably didn't see me the same way. And I still told myself I'd look out for her.

It's the same thing Cordy was telling me four years ago. I'm my own worst enemy and I'm still making bad decisions that people I care about are paying for. Alonna will always be the worst one, but this thing with Fred is almost as bad. I let my guard down yet again and got to doing what I wanted to get what I wanted, regardless of the consequences and now it's Fred who's paid the price.

All I wanted was to be useful, to have something that would make me more to the group than just the street muscle. And the bigshots at Wolfram and Hart probably did it the way they did on purpose. They made my smarts temporary so that when I lost them, I'd come crawling back to them begging for them to give them back and I'd do things I might not have normally to get what I wanted. They corrupted me, pure and simple. And I fell for it.

I know that all I did was sign that paper, that it was Knox and Sparrow who were pulling all the strings. I know I was just an unwitting player in their game and had no idea what was going to happen after I made that deal. But still, just knowing it was a Wolfram and Hart deal should have tipped me off right there. And since I'm the one who took the deal even knowing it wouldn't be free, I'm still to blame, at least partly I'm not inclined to believe the bad guy right away, but, now Sparrow has said that Fred's soul is gone now, burned up. I hope to god he's lying, but if not, it's like she never even existed and she won't even get any kind of afterlife.

I should have learned my lesson after my run-in with Jenoff, the Soul-sucker. I sold my soul for that truck and it almost cost Fred her life when the time came to collect. But now I did the same thing again, only it wasn't just my soul I sold, it was Fred's too. I wonder if these are the demons Cordy said she saw me fighting, the inside ones that I can't whack up with my axe. She said I was scared and at the end of my rope and that's about where I'm at now.

It was a shock when Wesley stabbed me, but I can't help feeling I deserved it. He had every right to be angry at me. I robbed him of the most important thing in his life and now I'm paying the price. He let me live, but truthfully; I wouldn't have held it against him if he had just killed me. That look in his eyes still haunts me. It was a cold, empty sort of look that people get when nothing matters and they don't care about anything anymore. This thing has destroyed him, devastated him and now I wonder if he'll ever come back from it. I want to make things right with him, but there's nothing I can do, no way I ever could. He may hate me for the rest of his life, and I can't say I blame him.

Lying here, I have a lot of time to think about Fred and what we had together I wish it could be like that again, like the good times when she and I were dating and we were both so madly in love with each other. I wonder what her reaction would be. Would she be able to forgive me or would she hate me too? She was so special, so smart….and had more inner strength than anyone I've ever seen. She didn't deserve to die like this after everything she'd already been through in her life. I can only hope now that maybe we will find a way to bring her back, or that at least Sparrow was lying and she's at least in some peaceful afterlife somewhere.

Fred, if we ever do see each other again, I only hope you'll forgive me and that you won't have me for what I did. I wouldn't ever have done anything to hurt you willingly, and I'm so sorry I let myself get drawn into this and that what I did took so much from you without my even knowing it. Even though we stopped dating a long time ago, you still meant the world to me and I would do anything if it meant you could come back. I still loved you, and I never stopped loving you. Nothing I can do can make this right or undo what's done, but if you are out there, somewhere, I just want you to know how sorry I am. It's arbitrary now and doesn't really mean much in the light of what happened, but it's the best I can do. If there is a way to fix this, we'll find it….I'll find it. And if it turns out there isn't, I just hope I'll see you again, someday, whenever I finally make my exit from this life.

Oh, god, Fred…..what have I done? What have I done? I'm sorry….I'm so, so sorry…