The Summer of Your Distance

*The summer of Buffy's (second) death*

He imagines how it might have gone.

Wesley does not go to Sunnydale, does not presume there is anyone there who would be comforted by his presence. No one who would care that he needed anything worth visiting a grave.

Assuming he could find it. He knows they'll not have put her in a graveyard. But would they tell him where she lies?

He doubts it. At least not until after they've asked disbelieving questions of why did he want to know and why did he think her ghost would want him there. Thankfully, what he needs from her does not require standing beside her final resting place where he can look at the headstone, and the grass finally growing over where they'd dug.

For a moment he is distracted, images of them burying her. It would have been her friends digging the grave. Rupert, perhaps, and Xander, taking turns. If he'd been there he--

He has other reasons for thinking of her, and it is not to dwell on her death. He imagines, rather, if he had met her one more time, in life.

Sometimes he thinks back to meeting her again, two years before: the gawky, frightened man he was when Angel took him under his wing. She would have seen the same man he'd been in Sunnydale, and her dismissal of him, and any use he could be, would be couched the same.

She would have done, even if he could have shown her the trophies of his year. The dead monsters at his hand -- few enough, in those months of traveling. But there all the same, to prove he was not utterly incapable of being a warrior. And during those weeks that followed, serving under Angel's quiet confidence when he first began to come into himself, she would have seen -- what?

He tells himself she might have seen more, then. Seen the way his hands held steady. Seen the way his friends surrounded him and gave him a place to belong. She might have seen that *someone* valued him, and that would have been enough for her to look again.

Or possibly it would not have. He knows that she would have changed as little, by then, as he had. Still a child, still the Slayer, still focused on her own world and her own problems as any eighteen-year-old before her. Pardoned by the severity of her responsibilities, but blinded all the same.

Would she have raised her head out of herself and seen anything she did not expect to see? He doesn't know. He cannot answer if, back then, anything would have changed.

So what of now? When blood and fire and steel have forged him into someone unrecognizable as the man -- over-grown boy -- he'd been. When the trust of yet another friend closer to his heart than any warms him, and the pain of injuries and leadership have bent him into something...which he knows, now, was what she herself had suffered at a much younger age than he.

She might have seen something. She could not have doubted that he has changed. Would she have liked what she saw? Would she have recognised someone who knew, intimately, the things she was?

All he lacks, to compare with her, are the supernatural gifts of the Slayer. But the rest of it -- the awareness of what it all meant, the duties of leading your friends into battle, the necessities of the good fight above all else....

He knows he is building himself up higher than he truly is. Perhaps she would laugh at him for daring. Laugh, instead of accepting him as an equal -- or at least one worthy of respect.

Or would she sit and talk with him about the things that warriors discuss? Battles of the past, the futilities in fighting. Compare the edges of their weapons and head off, in good cheer, to compete at the dartsboard.

Would she accept him as a companion at arms, now that he is finally ready for it? Would she have, had she lived long enough to see him? Or was he already gone from her life, long before she gave up hers?

Did he lose any chance he had of knowing her as a friend, by growing up too late?

He thinks about how it might have gone. Imagines that she looks past his mistakes and sees him. Imagines that she does not, and dismisses him. Imagines that they fight, imagines that they fall in love. He imagines a thousand scenarios as he lies in the quiet of his bedroom and tries desperately to imagine that she was his only mistake.

It's easy, now, because she is dead. He is free to imagine that he might have done anything.

He does not think of the one who might still be waiting for him.