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All the Children I've had to Say "Good Bye" to

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"She's dead” the elder Mr. Giles confirmed grimly. Those were the last words young Rupert remembered hearing for a long while.  His father gave another two dozen or so words of explanation and possibly condolence, to which Rupert was sure he responded more or less appropriately. That seemed to be all that was expected of him.

He did not weep. Not in that moment as he stood before the granite face of his stoic, blitz-orphaned Watcher of a father. Not minutes later as he sat on the roof, practicing the guitar that he was not allowed to play in the house. Nor hours later as he lay awake in his bed, staring up at the ceiling, feeling nothing and thinking less than nothing. Certainly not days later as he bore his mother's coffin upon his shoulders along side his father and other male relatives before watching it descend into the earth. 

Rupert was a mere six months from turning sixteen, far too near manhood to be seen blubbering like a baby, whatever the cause. Men did not do that sort of thing. Especially men who were meant to be Watchers.

Years passed before he ever did shed a tear for her, and that amid a torrent of half-drunken lamentations for what were by then far more recent losses. Losses and mistakes. And sins. And crimes. His mother's was the last loss he could remember in which he had absolutely no share of guilt or shame.

He may not have been the one who'd literally bashed Randall's skull in with that prybar, but the blood on his hands had been more than merely literal. They'd all felt it as they had stuffed his remains in the boot of Sutcliffe's car and silently driven up into the hills, under cover of night and fog, to lay his bones if not his soul to rest.

Rupert hadn't cried then either, despite Eygon's later taunts to the contrary. Deirdre had a bit, back at the house. As a woman, of course, she was allowed. If Ethan and Philip's eyes had become a bit red during the long journey, Rupert and Thomas had had the decency not to notice. The two working class boys couldn't help that they hadn't been to the right sort of schools. The sort that had spent centuries tearing down wealthy, coddled children and rebuilding what was left of them into fierce yet honorable warriors.

Once he'd become a Watcher at last, the frequency with which Rupert was called upon to help lay the dead to rest (both openly and in secret) had only increased. And the trend that he had most usually contributed to the events that cut their lives short had only intensified. As with Randall, these were not people whom he had stabbed or shot or set aflame. But he had participated. He had set events in motion. Or failed to stop them.

The dead were children mostly, just as in any other war. The young potentials who would never be Slayers, the sometimes even younger Watcher Candidates who would not live to be enrolled; these had always been the hardest to lay to rest.

Had been. Until Jenny.

That's what starts it, what opens the floodgates. The night of her death, and of his thwarted vengeance, he weeps more in the space of a few hours than in his prior forty-six years, infancy excluded. These are no stray drunken tears of self pity either. Buffy holds him in her arms, half rocking him, while he bawls like a bitty baby.

By the time her body is committed to the earth, her name carved in stone, Rupert's eyes are dry once again. He has exorcised as many of the ghosts from his past as he can manage to let go of and stuffed the rest back down into the depths of his soul where they belong.

As he stands over her grave, Buffy by his side, he tries to explain. Or maybe just to understand. The words seem inadequate to either. “In my years as Watcher, I've buried too many people; but Jenny was the first I've loved.” He's not sure that's exactly the truth. Love can mean a lot of things, but he can see in her eyes that Buffy knows what he means by it.

To his mingled comfort and regret, he sees something further. She has that look. The one he has worn so often. The look of one who morns a loss that is also a personal failure.

She is precious to him in this moment. More so than ever, as he is overcome by the realization that, even if Jenny is the first person he has loved and had to bury in the fight against the darkness, however narrowly you have to define love to make that statement valid, she will not be the last.