If Willow was surprised to find Wesley waiting for them both, she didn’t say anything. At least not to Rupert. They were both exhausted— Rupert from two rounds of teleporting and having his life essence nearly sucked dry; Willow from the aftermath of extreme emotion and a serious run at apocalypse. Rupert thought she’d received the better end of that bargain. It would be weeks before he felt truly himself again, he suspected.
Though that was likely true of her as well. As it was true of Wesley, in yet another way. Rupert might have to revise his opinion about which one of them was best off. At least he knew he would feel better in time, once his body recovered from the beating. Those two had no such guarantees.
Wesley opened the door that opened onto the back garden to admit them, and in his turn said nothing to see Willow. He’d likely expected her, though Rupert hadn’t had much time to relay his plans before the coven had sent him over. Wesley took one look at the pair, and stepped out to get his arms around Willow and guide her inside. Rupert followed slowly. His ankle was bad, and his ribs worse.
Wesley got Willow into the guest room and onto the bed, then turned back to embrace Rupert. He winced, but leaned into Wesley anyway. There had been a patch where he’d been convinced he’d seen Wesley for the last time, and had cursed himself for failing to say goodbye properly. Maudlin, and he was glad to be past it, and glad to feel Wesley’s lips on his again. Though only for a moment, mindful of the woman just beyond them.
Wesley cleared his throat. “What—”
Rupert shook his head and mouthed, “Later.”
Wesley nodded. “I’ll brew tea. Valerian?”
Wesley nodded again, and slipped out of the room. Rupert turned to the woman on the bed. Her eyes were closed. Her face was almost unrecognizable to him, puffy, stained with tears and dust. Rupert lay with her on the narrow guest bed, holding her, stroking her hair. Soothing her. She moved into his arms without hesitation. That was a good sign. It had taken him longer to allow any comfort at all. Xander had already broken through, he guessed. May all the Powers bless Xander.
“Wesley’s here.” Her voice was muffled. She pulled back from him a little and looked up at him.
“Why’s he here?”
“He’s my lover.”
“Oh. You never said.”
Willow buried her face in his shoulder again. She’d run out of tears eventually. Rupert knew that from experience as well. Then her work would begin. Her amends.
A creak behind him, and the clink of china on the night-stand. Rupert turned and saw Wesley with a steaming cup on a saucer. The smell was bitter and spiced at once. Rupert sat up and eased Willow up onto the pillows next to him. He wrapped her hands around the cup and helped her drink.
“What is it?”
“It’ll help you sleep. You need sleep right now. Dreamless.”
“Good,” Willow said. She drained it, and lay back on the bed. Rupert pulled a blanket over her shoulders.
“You’re not going to kill me?”
“I’ve just gone to a great deal of trouble to keep you alive, Willow. I intend to see you stay that way.”
“Shouldn’t,” she said. “I killed Warren.”
Her voice trailed off into a mumble, and she was asleep. Rupert watched her sleep, stroking her hair. He understood her rather better than she suspected, and almost envied her. She’d achieved her revenge, and he was ashamed to know he admired its achievement. He wished he’d achieved his. If he had, then his lover, the man whose footsteps he heard moving down the hall, would not have that scar on his throat. Would not have been nearly smothered to death by the same being that had murdered Jenny.
Some beings wanted killing.
But the thought was unworthy, and he knew it. Some people would think Willow was one of those who wanted killing. Had thought so. Had argued persuasively for it, until he’d put his foot down and announced his plan. And if they observed that the plan piled all the risk upon his own head, they said nothing. The risk was his by rights. She’d grown under his watch. She’d pilfered grimoires under his nose, grown unwary and arrogant before him.
A touch on his shoulder. Wesley. Rupert eased his arm from under Willow’s head. She was in deep sleep now, and would be for many hours. Time enough to patch himself up, sleep, and discuss next steps with the coven.
“Bar the repairs.”
Wesley helped him up, and Rupert swallowed an oath. More than one cracked rib, if he was any judge, and it was a wonder they weren’t broken. Being pinned to the ceiling and contemplating the fall that would follow had been— nearly as bad as being in that chair.
Rupert set aside that thought uneasily, and allowed Wesley to kiss him again, more deeply. He drank it in, leaned close, and let Wesley stroke his head. Until his fingers tangled in hair stiff with dried blood, and Wesley hissed in dismay.
“You’re hurt worse than I thought.”
Wesley drew him down the hall to their bedroom. He’d already set out first aid gear, a bowl of hot water, pajamas. Rupert realized he had no idea what time it was, how long he’d been in Sunnydale. He looked at his watch. The crystal was starred, and the hands were motionless. He began to unbuckle it, but Wesley was pushing him down onto the bed. He got to work on the back of Rupert’s head.
“They charged me with pure essence, life magic. She swallowed the bait, and Xander was able to—”
“Swallowed the bait?”
“Sucked me dry. Allowed purity inside.”
“Yes. It was a near thing. She nearly didn’t leave me enough. Particularly as she’d just spent a half-hour knocking me through walls.”
Wesley dabbed a hot cloth at his forehead. Wiping away dried blood, then coating it with something that stung. He said nothing, but his movements were sharp and uneasy.
At last he spoke. “You knew. When you left here, you knew.”
“It’s the same—”
“No, it’s not. A calculated risk. One I’ve sworn to take when I must. One I owed her.”
Wesley was silent again. He knelt by the bedside and unlaced Rupert’s boots, which were deeply scored and caked with dust. Brick dust, concrete dust, the dust of his business. Left boot pulled off. Right boot. Rupert bit back a groan. His right ankle had swollen inside the boot as far as it was able.
“I understand,” Wesley said, finally. “I understand. You don’t need to justify it to me.”
It was almost the longest speech he’d made since he’d come to live here. Rupert felt Wesley’s cool hands on his ankle in the next moment, peeling his sock away, probing. Then a firm grip and an elastic bandage, wrapped around and hooked into place.
“Ribs.” But there was little to do about those. Another cup of bitter herbal tea, a different sort this time, and chased with the sort of painkiller that came from a prescription bottle. Rupert drank obediently, as Willow had, and handed the cup to Wesley afterward.
“I’m sorry there wasn’t time to tell you. I had to make my best guess and go.”
“Your calculated risks have always turned out rather better than mine.”
Wesley’s voice was a little bitter. Rupert shook his head. Wesley had come to him with that prophecy; the mistake had been his as well. Though it had been Wesley’s decision to act upon it. And had it been easier for Wesley to imagine Angel killing his own son, when his hands nightly explored the traces Angel had left on his lover’s body? As they did now, stroking over his bruised back as Wesley helped him undress. Perhaps it had.
Angel had attempted revenge upon Wesley. And according to the letters Wesley had received from his former colleagues, his son had perhaps succeeded in taking revenge upon him.
Rupert shook his head again. “The risk didn’t matter. I owed it to her.”
Wesley made a thoughtful sound, from where he had bent over an open drawer. He returned with pajamas in hand.
“I need to go back,” Wesley said. “Once you’re better. I owe it to him.”
Rupert studied his face, then nodded. Arguing Wesley out of that plan was just as pointless as arguing Rupert out of his would have been. He yawned, and was drifting off before Wesley had finished bundling him into the pajama shirt, finished helping him lie comfortably on their bed, foot elevated. They all made amends when they must.