Going Gentle Into That Good Night
The cemetery was silent, shortly before dusk properly fell. The breeze was gentle, stirring the clouds as if unable to decide exactly when and where to drop a little rain. Wesley didn't mind a bit of rain; it would have been appropriate.
The newly dug grave was covered with packed soil, the headstone above it tall and clean, its fresh marble proclaiming proudly to the world who lay beneath. There was an emblem carved below the name, date, and "Beloved Husband", an emblem which told those who knew that the grave was for a member of an ancient order.
That emblem would never be on his gravestone, Wesley knew. He was glad, for he'd quit the Watchers with great relief and a firm commitment to what *he* thought right, rather than what he'd been taught throughout his entire childhood never to question. But it would not be on his gravestone, just as his name had been stricken from the rolls and left out of today's proceedings – the handful of dignitaries and close friends who spoke a few words for the man who'd finally died of age and heart failure had not included the man's son. It was just as well – Wesley would not have spoken, even had they asked him.
Again, Wesley did not particularly mind. Rather, he had expected it when he'd been informed of his father's death through a phone call by a third cousin, rather than one of the aunts or uncles who had gone to be at his mother's side. He'd flown to England to attend the funeral mostly out of respect for distant, infrequent memories of kindness. He'd also hoped to see his grandfather, perhaps even speak to him now that the determined obstacle of the man between them was gone. But he'd not been able to catch his grandfather's eye, and had simply watched him from the back of the crowd. Wesley would drop by his grandfather's home later, and see if he were receiving visitors.
For now, he was taking a moment to stare at his father's grave. He was half-waiting for some reaction, some feeling of grief, or comfort, or triumph. There was nothing, though, and Wesley briefly considered walking to another, random gravestone and seeing if *that* elicited any response.
He said nothing when Rupert Giles stepped up beside him. They remained in silence for a moment, both watching the grave.
"I'm sorry," Rupert said quietly.
Wesley didn't respond, but dropped his head slightly lower. He hadn't been offered much by way of condolence. Most of those in attendance today had sided with his father, out of agreement or lack of courage, or simple lack of information about why exactly Wesley had done whatever he'd done to make his father stop speaking of him for years.
Wesley," Rupert began, in a questioning tone. Wesley glanced at him, waiting for the question, but not speaking. The other man was looking at him, sympathy and curiousity in his eyes. The curiousity grew, eyes widening as his expression invited Wesley to answer whatever question he hadn't been asked, then it faded into sorrowful understanding. He nodded, then said nothing, himself.
He wanted to respond. He felt the words, knew exactly what he might say. Any of a hundred questions he could respond to, quiet conversations most suited for the fresh grave of his disapproving father. But he didn't. He couldn't.
He felt Rupert's hand on his shoulder – tentative at the very first touch, then bolder and much more familiar than he and Rupert had ever been. Wesley didn't shrink from it, nor even tense. He felt his body wanting to lean into the touch and surround itself, so long had he gone without so much that it was willing to take liberties with a man who should have cared little for him.
His mouth opened in reflex, to say something thankful, to acknowledge the man's presence at his father's funeral, and now, here at Wesley's side. He caught himself and closed his mouth again and tried to hold back the sudden surge of feeling.
The hand on his shoulder moved slightly, then slid unexpectedly around his shoulders. Without meaning to, Wesley leaned into the half-embrace. He felt tears erupt in the corners of his eyes and blinked them back, furiously. But that only seemed to encourage them, and they flowed, filling his eyes until they slipped free, down his cheeks. If anyone saw him now he would be mortified – he hoped Rupert would remain facing forward, understanding without asking, the facade of dignity Wesley needed to retain.
"I'm so sorry," Rupert whispered again, and Wesley's tenuous hold trembled. He concentrated on holding himself still, holding everything in. "I understand—" Rupert broke off, and Wesley allowed himself to focus on those words. Understood what? The moment of questioning were all he had to grab onto, to force the tears aside. There was a soft sigh, and he felt Rupert shift slightly, felt his gaze rest on Wesley. "I know what it's like to feel mutilated."
Wesley froze, and fingertips touched him lightly on the throat. Four fingers, following the line of the scar forward, to Wesley's throat. Four fingers, and Wesley suddenly remembered what Rupert had gone through, the permanent scars he'd obtained that would never let him forget things.
He glanced over, wanting to deny it, but he found his mouth open and shut it hastily before he could humiliate himself despite Rupert's words of comfort. Were they supposed to be comfort, he wondered idly, or were they just meant to tell him to get his chin up and deal, because he wasn't the only one to suffer?
He didn't know, and he found he didn't care. He *wanted* comfort, and he would take it even like this, from a man he barely knew and hardly expected to visit him, much less act as though they'd ever been friendly. He felt his eyes stinging, again, and looked away quickly before he lost the last inch of control.
The arm tightened on his shoulders, and Wesley had no idea how he managed not to break down completely. Then he heard something else, a footstep behind him so silent that even an ex-Watcher wouldn't notice. He looked around even as he felt the arm slip away from his shoulders, even as Rupert stepped away in silence, exchanging only a nod with Angel.
Angel returned Rupert's nod with something deep in his eyes – pain, regret, gratitude. Then he looked at Wesley, and Wesley found his last thread of control spin free. He could not see, crying harder now, and only felt it when Angel moved into the space Rupert had left, and wrapped his arms around him.
Wesley buried his face on Angel's shoulder, not asking how he'd come to be here or why – even if he'd been able to form the words, he could not have chocked them out through the sobs that shook his body.
Angel simply held him, tightly, and let him grieve.