Author's Note: This chapter is slightly longer than the other two, because some things just can't be rushed. I hope I kept everyone in character.
As Tim pulled into the parking lot at the funeral home, a man approached with an orange magnetic flag that said "funeral" on it, and said, "You're here for the Wilson funeral, right?"
After a moment's consideration of what Tim thought was a stupid question, he answered patronizingly, "Uh-huh."
"All right," said the man, putting the flag on the roof of the car, where it adhered with a muted 'thump'. "After the funeral, if you'll just follow the procession to the cemetary, we-"
"I know, I know, I've been to these things before." Tim cut the man off, removing his seat belt and ignoring Wilson's reproachful frown.
"Hey..." the man blinked, then pointed, "You're that Tool Time guy, aren't you? You work with Al!"
Tim sighed. "Yeah, that's me. Excuse us, we wanna..." he pointed towards the funeral home, and grunted.
"Oh, yeah. Sure."
Tim saw that Wilson was already ambling towards the building, and he jogged to catch up with him. The interior of the funeral home was neat and clean, as such places are, and the walls of the foyer were lined with all sorts of paintings. Some chairs and a couch stood against one wall, and they could hear people milling around in the next room. The pervading scent of chrysanthemums nearly made Tim gag, and there were enough lillies to cover a Buick. Wilson stopped to look at the flowers, seeming more interested in telling Tim their scientific names than he was in proceeding to the next room.
"The Rubrum Lily, 'Lilium Speciosum'; my mother grows these." Wilson said in conversational tones.
"Does she?" asked Tim, not really interested in discussing flowers while two young people lay dead nearby.
"Oh yes. You know, I was thinking about getting some bulbs to put in this year." said Wilson.
"Uh-huh." Tim moved towards the door to the next room, and walked through it. He said hello to the few people he recognized, ended up shaking several hands, and slowly made his way to the caskets in the front of the room. Vince's casket was closed, but a good photo of him was blown up and propped on a nearby easel. Willow's casket, however, was open. Tim stared down at the young, pale face, and he felt the unwelcome sensation of tears pricking his eyes. Willow could have been asleep but for the fact that her chest didn't rise and fall in the act of breathing. Tim turned away, and scanned the room for Wilson. He wasn't there.
"Where in the Hell..." Tim frowned, and went back to the foyer where Wilson was still staring at the same bouquet of flowers. "Wilson, aren't you coming?"
But Wilson didn't move. He didn't want to see his neice in that coffin, he didn't want to see her dead. He didn't want it to be real, and he knew that it would only be as real as concrete to him if he saw her. Wilson was very wise in many matters, and he had enough 'useless' knowledge inside his head to fill a library, but he was afraid; he was holding on to the belief that if he didn't see her face she wouldn't truly be dead.
"Wilson?" Tim prodded after two minutes had passed and the older man hadn't moved.
"Hmm?" Wilson looked back at him over his shoulder.
"You're stalling." said Tim, not unkindly. "She...um...looks real good."
Wilson's eyebrows scrunched a bit; he had never been able to say that kind of thing. At other funerals he'd had to bite his tongue to refrain from saying 'he doesn't look good, he looks dead', or 'she' if it was a woman. And he didn't want to see his neice that way. But then again, why else had he come here but to pay his final respects to the young woman he had loved so dearly? He nodded, and walked past Tim to do what he had to do. Tim waited in the foyer, sensing that this was something private.
Wilson slowly approached the caskets, ignoring his family and friends as they greeted him, and put his hands on the edge of Willow's casket. He forced himself to look down at her dear face, forced himself to believe it. He would never see her again. "Oh...Willow."
Tim waited for several minutes until he thought Wilson should be done before he re-entered the room. He saw that Wilson was still at Willow's side, and that everyone else in the room was either talking or staring at the paintings, but no one was talking to Wilson himself. And Tim saw why.
Wilson was standing with his head bowed, his shoulders shaking silently. This was something Tim never thought he would see, something he never wanted to see. Wilson was crying. Tim wondered why none of his relatives was going over to see if he was all right; no one was looking at him or attempting to talk to him. While Tim wanted to escape this situation entirely, he didn't feel it was right for them to ignore his grief while they dealt with their own. Perhaps they didn't know how to deal with it, but as his family they should at least be trying. But they were giving him a wide berth, as if the sight of him in tears unnerved them; and perhaps it did. Maybe they weren't trying to comfort him because they didn't know how to do that with someone like Wilson. Wilson always had all the answers, and wasn't given to despair or anything like it. Tim could understand that; he was rather put off at the moment as well.
But this man was his friend. Tim sucked it up, and walked over to where Wilson stood in silent tears at his neice's side. Reaching into his pocket, Tim pulled out a clean red hankie and tapped Wilson on the shoulder, silently offering it. Wilson hardly glanced over as he took it, nodding his thanks and burying his face in its depths. Tim had to admit it, Wilson was actually doing very well; only the occasional soft gasp was heard from him, while some people could be heard sobbing from across the room. Tim gave him a brief pat on the back, keeping his hand there and staying silent for a while. Neither man was really the hugging type.
Finally Wilson seemed to calm down a little, and he wiped his eyes with the hankie and blew his nose. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be." Tim replied, not looking at him. "It happens. Happened to me at Mr. Binford's funeral."
"Mr. Binford wasn't my neice..." Wilson said a little dryly.
"Well, I know that, I was just sayin'..." Tim nodded and made a hand gesture, as if to say 'you know'.
"Yes..." Wilson sighed, finally looking up. His eyes were rather red, but he was in control of his emotions now. "Tim, I hope she didn't suffer...I really do."
"I know that..." Tim nodded, looking back at him. "Look, I'm sure she didn't."
Wilson nodded, though he looked like he wasn't so sure. He reached out as if to touch Willow's red hair, but he couldn't seem to bring himself to do it. "Tim, she had so much to live for...She and Vince were going to be married next year, did you know that?"
Tim didn't want to talk about this, but he said, "No, I didn't."
"Oh yes...He was a good young man. A little arrogant, perhaps..." Wilson shrugged his shoulders and sighed. "Mm-mm-mm-mm-mm...It's...such a waste."
"Well..." Tim cleared his throat; he wasn't good at this at all. He wished Jill was there; she was good with words. "I'm not saying this is a good thing, or anything, but...neither will have to lose the other. They're together..."
"Small comfort, Tim..." Wilson replied, heading for the chairs as Tim followed him.
While Tim was out of things to say, it didn't seem to matter. Wilson seemed perfectly content to sit there in silence, and Tim wasn't about to interrupt that. The two of them sat looking in opposite directions, watching family members exchanging hellos and greetings, watching them hug or shake hands. Occasionally they would look at Wilson, and they seemed to want to approach him, but Wilson seemed to give off a 'don't bother me' vibe.
"Talked to Willow's parents yet?" Tim finally asked.
Wilson blinked, and looked a little surprised. "Why, no I didn't..."
"Why don't ya?" Tim urged. "They're your family; shouldn't you be dealin' with this together?"
Wilson finally cracked a small smile. "Why, yes indeedy, I suppose we should. Would you excuse me?"
Tim nodded, making a shooing motion with his hands. "Sure, sure, go on."
Tim watched as Wilson approached Willow's parents, and he gave a satisfied nod as Wilson shook her father's hand and hugged her crying mother. Tim was only there as a friend, and he could only do so much. This was how it should be.
Author's Note: Nearly there! An epilogue is soon to come.