His dad grinned, humour glowing in his eyes and making them light up like embers. "Damien did not touch a single drop of drink last night. Isn't that weird? I thought that with him being Irish and all he'd be drinking with me, drinking against me even, but he wasn't. In fact, he told me he hasn't touched a drink in years! Isn't that strange?"

Mark shrugged, knowing better than to answer the comment. His dad was just starting to play nice; he wasn't going to push his luck. The dark haired boy knew his father meant nothing by it, and that at least was something. "What changed your mind about Jack, Dad?" He finally asked, more curious than anything else.

Allan had looked at his son carefully before speaking softly, an almost thoughtful tone to his voice. "I saw the way you looked at him, I suppose. Only when he wasn't looking, you looked at him like you could trust him with the world. I'm your father, Mark, and I can't remember a single time in your life you've ever looked at me with the same respect as you do that boy. I just thought, how could he possibly be the monster I believed he was, if my son looks at him like that?"

***

Mark wasn't sure at what exact point Jack had grabbed his hand and started to hold on for dear life, but he found he really didn't care.

Samantha Marie McLoughlin's grave had been dug under the twisting branches of a beautiful hawthorn tree, the amber leaves raining down on the funeral party as they silently watched her coffin disappear into the ground. The elderly priest stood a little hunched over the grave spouting words of God, but Mark got the feeling no one was truly listening; the priest was more for show than anything else.

Sporadic shafts of sunlight fought through the tall tree's branches and glinted against the pale green of Jack's hair as he moved himself closer to his friend. The Irishman refused to allow himself the luxury of crying, but Mark could see the tremor of his upper lip as he fought to keep control, the way his entire body shook like a leaf in the wind.

Mark wanted to tell him it would be okay. That it's okay to cry if he needed to. That if he could, he would take all of Jack's pain away and just keep him safe.

But of course he didn't, he couldn't, no matter how much he wanted to; and instead just stood beside the other boy in a silent display of support. There was nothing else he could do.

A total of six people, including Mark himself, had attended the funeral, perhaps that's the saddest part of all. Everyone who dies wants to be remembered, they want their little spark of life to live on in those they've left behind. And now Mark understood why Jack had called upon him to come here, just to be one of the few who would remember.

Even the weather didn't have the decency to provide a shower of rain to hide the fact that not a single tear had been shed for Samantha McLoughlin at her own funeral. Honestly, that saddened Mark more than anything else.

As well as the McLoughlin family and Mark himself, there were two more people who attended the funeral that Mark hadn't really expected to bother, still he felt grateful that they did. Those two people were Felix, Sam's carer Mark remembered, and a young woman Mark had never seen before who said nothing but stayed close to the blonde, their fingers intertwined for comfort.

The whole ceremony didn't last longer than half an hour, the priest seeming to leave out large chunks of text as he realised how little he was wanted. It didn't really matter; the general gist stayed the same. If anyone else noticed they didn't mention it; there seemed to be a silent understanding between the group to just get it over and done with as fast as possible, and the thought crossed Mark's mind that he should probably feel guilty about that.

After the priest left with a silent bow of his head it was like a sign of dismissal; everyone else began to trickle out of the graveyard, talking of some kind of after-dinner to commemorate Samantha's memory properly. But Jack himself didn't move a muscle, just stood staring blankly at his mother's grave and Mark stood silently with him, waiting patiently for his friend to leave.

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