TITLE: Hindsight

AUTHOR: Erin Giles

RATING: PG

SUMMARY: Set after "Not Fade Away" Angel goes tto Vale's mansion and finds the broken body of Wesley Wyndham-Pryce there.

Angel had little trouble getting into Vale's mansion. Every member of the black thorn was dead now, and nearly every member of his team was as well, including the dead body that lay before him now in the middle of one of the large marble floored rooms. The familiar scent of blood tingled at the edge of his senses as he took a couple of stumbling steps forward towards a man whom had once been a family member. A part of Angel felt guilty as he knelt down beside the deceased Wesley, his crystal blue eyes staring blankly at him, a look of death within them that was too distressingly familiar. He's seen it too often recently. Since the tragedy of Fred, Wesley wasn't the man he used to be, not after he found about the truth of his past. Since bad things come in three's this must be the icing on the cake really, although Wesley may not have seen it that way.

There's a look of grime satisfaction and acceptance on his face, like he died happily, but Illyria wouldn't tell Angel what had happened between them. He'll keep asking her but he doubt's that that secret will ever be revealed. Illyria has gone back to Wesley apartment, she wants to grieve some more, does not wish to see Wesley again, and Angel is confused by this, the display of human emotions she is showing. Yet Angel realises now that Illyria loved Wesley, just as much as Wesley loved Fred, and he smiles a little because he wants to believe that is where Wesley is now, with Fred and Cordelia, and Doyle; all of them looking down on him and thinking… he's not sure what they're thinking about, or what they think of him but he hopes he can join them one day.

He kneels beside Wesley's broken body now, his own body aching from the fight that almost seemed to never end but they had won, if this is what you call winning. Angel's lost everything he ever loved, and winning now oddly seems like losing and he hates it. He's never hated anything so much. He gave up his shanshu for this moment, gave up everything just to beat back the forces of evil, and now he has nothing to show for it. There's just him now. He has no one to celebrate their victory with. He has no one at all, because he feels he can hardly count Spike and Illyria. They remind him too much of everything he had and everything he sacrificed, he can't be with them.

He picks up the pale bloody hand and cradles it in his own large blood-spattered hand that is no more alive that the one he holds and it still feels warm to touch, which scares him. He wonders what happened in the few minutes before Wesley surrendered to death, and he wishes desperately he had been there. He wishes many things had happened between him and Wesley, and he wishes many things hadn't.

He lets out a long low sigh as he sits back on his heels, just watching the still form before him, because he can't think what else to do. He soon finds himself talking though,

"You know I loved you Wes." A statement, not a question, because he will not get an answer if he asks, instead he presumes, as he did for a long time, "I loved you more than I loved Cordelia." He doesn't know why he's saying this, he has never had these feelings before, only hints of them that he has pushed to the side, pushed far out of sight, "I really really loved you."

He shakes his head. He didn't love Wesley, he envied him, he cared for him, he pitied him, he hurt for him, cried for him… he loved him.

Angel couldn't stand these conflicting thoughts that spun round his head. It was grief. He had lost his best friend, it was nothing but overwhelming grief that boiled up inside him like a thousand volcanoes, and yet… Angel was drawn to the ex-watcher's rugged jaw line of day old stubble, the pale lips that were still moist. The word necrophilia wrung loudly in his head as he bent to kiss Wesley's tender lips, and he stopped short.

This was wrong. It was wrong on so many levels. He was a friend. He was dead. He was gone.

Angel brushed angrily at a few stray tears, sliding numb limbs under Wesley's fragile frame, and picking it up with surprising ease. The only thing he could do for Wesley now was give him a funeral and love his memory, because hindsight was a beautiful thing.