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Wesley had always known about Ethan Rayne. When he'd learned that his predecessor would still be in Sunnydale, Wesley had read through the Council's file on him, and there was one section of it in which Rayne's name figured prominently. At the time, he'd been privately appalled that a man with Rupert Giles' history had been entrusted with the Slayer. At the time, he thought now, he'd been wrong about that, but it wasn't as though it'd been the first or the last thing he'd been wrong about.

He hadn't mentioned the Council files, even a few months ago when they'd somehow spent an evening on the subject of "monumental mistakes we have made," and Rayne's name was mentioned in more than one context. The files had been burnt to ashes nearly three years ago, and there was no reason to bring them up. These days, after all, Wesley never thought of them, or of Rayne, either. He was part of Rupert's past, and Wesley had decided when he walked away from Los Angeles that the past was something best not dwelt upon. It was only logical to apply the same reasoning to his relationship with Rupert.

Of course, everyone from his past was too busy taking over an evil law firm to turn up unexpectedly in the middle of the night, which was something he hadn't thought to be grateful for before tonight. No one he'd known in Los Angeles would have pounded on their door, shouting for him, and then, when the door was opened, sauntered into the flat as though they'd been an invited guest. No one he'd known would have eyed Rupert with barely-veiled jealousy the way Rayne had looked at Wesley, then pretended to ignore him the rest of the time, while silently cataloguing every look, every casual touch, that passed between the two of them.

He couldn't say that no one he'd known in Los Angeles would ask him for help these days, because they'd come to him even after they'd all turned their backs on him, to varying degrees, for getting involved with Lilah. They probably wouldn't need him, not with all the resources of Wolfram and Hart at their disposal, but Wesley had no doubt they'd do it if they needed him. They just wouldn't have done it that way.

He'd liked Rayne far better as a note in Rupert's Council file.

It wasn't jealousy. Well, perhaps it was, a bit; envy of a shared history that he and Rupert didn't yet have. He was starting to believe that they might, one day, but for now, this was too new. Eighteen months since the disastrous business trip to Kyoto that had turned into their first night together; only five since Wesley had given up his own flat to move in here. It wasn't the same as having known someone for thirty years. But he wasn't honestly jealous, didn't fear that Rupert preferred Rayne to him. He simply didn't like the man.

And neither did Rupert; that much had been obvious from the tension in Rupert's stance as he'd spoken to Rayne, from the way his hands were curled into fists at his side.

No, Wesley hadn't liked Rayne. But for a few minutes, before Rupert had given Rayne some of what he wanted--a chance to look through some of their books; there was something Rayne had apparently agreed to do for someone it was a bad idea to cross, without actually knowing how to achieve it, and Wesley had decided that knowing any more details would probably be a mistake--and then sent him on his way, Wesley hadn't liked Rupert all that much, either.

He'd never made the mistake of underestimating Rupert. He'd known since Sunnydale that Rupert was capable of ruthlessness and violence when he thought it was necessary. Then, and since he'd come back to work for the Council, Wesley had seen it often enough that he wasn't surprised when, after a few minutes in which Rayne had repeatedly said exactly the right thing to set off Rupert's temper, Rupert had hit him.

That hadn't bothered Wesley; if Rayne hadn't been so very obviously Rupert's problem, Wesley would have--well, no, he wouldn't have hit the man, but only because he never would have allowed him into the flat in the first place, never would have listened to him for long enough to lose his temper. Wesley couldn't blame Rupert for that, though; a shared history complicated matters. If Angel had come to their door, if Gunn had, or Fred-- No matter how reasonable would be to turn them away, Wesley would have found it difficult. Even Lilah, and there was nothing Lilah could be now except an agent for evil.

No, Wesley couldn't blame Rupert for hearing Rayne out, or for losing his temper. He couldn't blame Rupert for anything that had happened tonight. It was just that he'd seen a new side of Rupert tonight, a side that had--for a moment, at least--apparently enjoyed hurting someone who wasn't fighting back.

It wasn't even that Wesley was in any position to stand in judgment of anyone. This was simply... something new to consider, something to fill in between the stark typewritten lines of Rupert's Council files. This was, Wesley thought, who he'd been thirty years ago, and Rayne still brought it out of him.

It was, if he were honest with himself--and he did try to be--simply that he'd seen who Rupert had been, and he knew who he'd been, who he still was underneath the hard-earned confidence and competence and cynicism, and it made him wonder whether the two of them would last, could last long enough to have that shared history he'd been looking forward to building.

But then he'd gone upstairs, and Rupert had been sitting on the edge of the bed, glasses off and head in his hands, and he hadn't looked gleeful or violent or anything but very, very tired, and what had felt strange and awkward as he'd climbed the stairs went back to feeling familiar and comfortable.

If he didn't believe that who they'd been wasn't the same as who they were--not really, not barring momentary aberrations; Rupert's reaction to Rayne was akin, he thought, to his own behavior on the rare occasions when he spoke with his parents--then he'd left Los Angeles for nothing, because accepting the deal with Wolfram and Hart wouldn't change Angel. Or perhaps he'd stayed in Los Angeles for nothing, because that would make Angel nothing more than Angelus, and himself nothing more than the ineffectual prat he'd been when he'd first come to California.

None of that was true, and it was also true that he wasn't even the same man he'd been when he'd come back to England. Who he was now was not the same as who he'd been in the past, and he had to believe the same thing was true of Rupert.

And so, Wesley thought, if they were very lucky, there'd be a time when this night was just part of their shared history.