As Fletch informed the congregation of Essie's passing, Ange found that she couldn't take her eyes off her boyfriend, as she willed him to hold it together while all eyes were on him. In the edges of her awareness, she could hear Dom's devastated sobs, and in her peripheral vision she was aware of his shoulders shaking as he succumbed to his grief, but she felt that her responsibilities at that moment were with Fletch. She knew that his closest friends were Sacha and Jac, and Jac had to take care of Sacha, so that just left herself. Dom had a support system in place; okay, so she wasn't completely sure who, but he was popular in this hospital. Donna, for example, helped him and Lofty out when they were having issues.
This is how she justified her actions when, as she reached out to place a comforting hand on Dom's knee, he bolted, and Ange stayed put.
It was about half an hour later, when the chapel had emptied, with only Fletch, Ange, Hanssen and the rabbi remaining, that Ange realised that she may have made a mistake.
"Does anyone know where Dom is?" she asked, concerned when Fletch and Hanssen shook their heads.
"Someone will have checked on him by now, right?"
"Probably," Fletch replied distantly.
Ange was not reassured by that in the slightest.
"Who normally goes to him when he's upset?" she asked, starting to get frustrated when Fletch shrugged silently, and Hanssen looked down at the floor.
"Well, where does he go?" she asked again, now feeling frustrated with herself for, once again, putting somebody else before her own son. She could almost justify it when she prioritised Chloe, but choosing her boyfriend over her son was unacceptable.
"I don't know," Fletch said flatly. "He runs. He did the same when Arthur died. Sacha or Essie usually finds him."
As Fletch started sobbing again at the mention of Essie's name, Ange stood up, running a hand through her hair.
"I need to find him," she explained, looking at Hanssen, who nodded his understanding. "Will you stay with Fletch?"
As Hanssen agreed, Ange headed to the main entrance of the hospital. She had found him once at Arthur's memorial in the peace garden. With history near enough repeating itself, maybe he would seek solace there.
As she approached the bench where she had found him last time, Ange felt her heart sink when she realised that Dom wasn't there.
Where could he be?
Dejectedly, she started walking back to the hospital. It was as she pulled her phone out of her pocket to text Chloe, in the hope that she might have an idea of Dom's location, that she heard a howling like a wounded animal. As she turned her head to the source of the sound, she started to run.
It was Dom.
On the roof.
Dom didn't know what to do. When Ange had put her hand on his knee in the chapel, he knew that he needed to get out of there. The roof seemed the logical place to go. He and Essie used to go there when they needed to rant. But, when he got there, it just made everything so much more real. Another of his best friends had gone. He was gradually being left more and more alone.
He had paced up and down for a while before he started shouting. Screaming. Howling. He didn't know what to call the sound that was coming out of him, but he knew it needed to come out. After a few minutes of shouting to the universe, eyes squeezed closed, he finally succumbed to the exhaustion and devastation. As he let out one more shout, he vaguely heard the door to the roof opening, and he dropped to his knees, clinging to the person who had suddenly appeared, wrapping their arms around him as his body gave out on him.
Ange felt her heart in her throat as she ran forward to catch Dom as he fell to his knees. She felt him cling to her, and she just sat, wrapping her son in her arms as he wept for yet another friend who had left him.
She loosened her hold slightly as she tried to change her position to sit cross legged, but Dom immediately tightened his grip on her, as if scared that she was going to leave him.
"It's okay Dom, I'm here," Ange reassured him softly as she pressed kisses into his hairline.
As she spoke, Dom opened his eyes slightly, only now registering who was there.
"Ange?" he asked softly.
"It's okay son, you let it out," Ange said, placing a hand on the back of his head, guiding it into the crook of her neck.
The Sun was starting to set when Dom started to get control again. As he pulled away, wiping his eyes, he spun round so he sat next to Ange, back against the wall.
"Is Fletch okay?" he asked quietly, as if hinting that Ange should be with him.
"Hanssen is with him," Ange replied, holding Dom's hand in hers. "I realised I should be with you. I'm sorry I didn't come to you straight away."
"It's fine," Dom replied softly, "That's normally Essie's job."
As Dom started crying again, Ange pulled him close so that he could hold on to her.
"Who will look out for me now?" Dom sobbed, distraught. "Essie always knew. She always came after me, even if I didn't want it."
"I'm here," Ange promised him, devastated that he thought Essie was the only one who would come after him, yet also understanding that she hadn't exactly proven herself.
"Fletch is going to need you," Dom protested.
"Hey," Ange said, encouraging Dom to look at her. "You're my son. You come first. If you need me, I'll be there. Hell, if you don't think you need me, I'll still be hovering around. I promise, you are not alone. I know Essie was one of your best friends, and to lose her in a similar way to how you lost Arthur is devastating, but you are not alone. Okay?"
Dom nodded, and reached out to hold on to her hand, as if scared that she would disappear.
"Could I stay with you tonight?" he asked nervously. "I'm really sorry, I don't want to impose, but I don't think I can be on my own tonight." Backpedalling before Ange could even answer, he added, "I'll manage if you need to be with Fletch though."
"Do you really think that I was planning to let you be on your own tonight?" Ange asked softly. "I knew it wasn't going to be long before Essie died; I've had the spare room ready for you since she said it was terminal. Any time you needed company, I was ready. You can stay as long as you want."
Dom couldn't find the words to express how he felt. When he opened his mouth, he just started crying again, and Ange didn't hesitated in pulling him into another embrace.
It was completely dark when Ange and Dom left the roof, and as Ange opened the door to her home, Dom started crying all over again, when he saw Chloe stood in the doorway, holding a tray with three mugs of hot chocolate.
His family were there for him.
A/N: When Essie died, was anyone else shouting, "Ange! Hug your son!" at the TV screen? I was, so I thought I'd write something to ease the need I feel for some mother/son interation.