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Et Tu

by Minim Calibre

He sometimes felt as though none of them had ever bothered to look at him. At first, when it was only Angel and Cordelia, their fresh mission and fresher grief weighing heavy on them both, Wesley was just someone who occupied the Doyle-shaped space in the office, trying to live up to a dead man's shade.

He'd done his best to make himself useful, translating and researching, fighting when the need had arisen. Once he'd gotten over his initial nervousness, he'd remembered that, in spite of everything he'd ever been told, he had a rather good set of reflexes and no small ability with weapons.

Gunn had come along, but so had Darla. Angel abandoned the fight and left them in the lurch but they'd somehow held together. Ill-matched with their leader gone and no resources and they'd held together. By all rights they should have been killed the first time they ran into trouble, but they'd made it out alive. And somehow, even after Angel's return to the fold, he'd ended up in charge of the ragged lot of them. It was not a responsibility that rested lightly on his shoulders. They meant everything to him, and he was willing to give everything he had to protect them.

But of course, it hadn't been enough. It seemed that on some basic level, he still didn't count. Cordelia had once informed him of that in so many words. It had been a gut-punch he hadn't expected at the time. He understood. He was there. He was a friend, but he wasn't that sort of friend.

Nor the sort of friend where one had any particular urge to make amends in the event of a falling-out. More the sort where a bullet to his stomach was somewhat further down on the Great Chain of Being than someone else's missing wardrobe, although perhaps that was the bitterness talking. He had been a friend, just one in a secondary role. Advisor rather than confidant, brother rather than lover.

It was easy enough in hindsight to see the error of his ways. Somehow, in trying to fill the empty space where first Doyle and then Angel had been, he'd tried to fill something empty inside himself as well. To be the man he'd wanted to be, told himself he'd be, whenever he'd been told he'd never amount to anything.

He'd abandoned sleep, dignity, and nearly his life for them on more than on occasion. It hadn't mattered in the end. All that had mattered was that he'd failed. He'd taken something on himself, and he'd failed.

Failed spectacularly, really. He'd done a wonderful job of living up to his father's expectations. He'd been given a second chance and he'd botched it so badly that all his previous failures seemed no more than dress rehearsals for this main event. He didn't think he could handle an encore.

Not that there would be an audience. He'd made certain of that. The old barriers of ice and petty sarcasm were back, and woe betide any who dare approach them. Friends, family, mission, all lost to him, but he'd be damned before he'd beg forgiveness for doing what he thought was right.

All that was left was the overly-tidy apartment, an empty space where his breath echoed and his phone mocked him with its silence. And, of course, the book that Lilah had given him, still where he'd tossed it with such deliberate carelessness, mocking him with its presence.

"For Brutus is an honourable man," he murmured as he lifted it from the floor. "So are they all, all honourable men."


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