Disclaimer: Characters and Premise are borrowed from the show "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel".

"We don't need you!" The words echo through the dead stillness filling the old hotel. Three more ghosts to keep me company. Not real ghosts, they'd be better company, look at Dennis, just regrets.

I thought I was doing the right thing by sending them away. I thought they'd be better off without me in their lives. I didn't think they'd hate me for it. I thought I was doing what I had to by going to war with Wolfram and Hart. The Catalis' Host made me question that decision. Merle made me worry about my former employees and friends.

So I lurked, saw what they were up to. I knew they wouldn't walk away from the demon police problem, so I helped, but I kept my distance too, and Wesley got shot, my fault. Yet another of my bad decisions. Sometimes I think I've done nothing but make the wrong choice for the last 247 years… No, that's letting myself off easy, there were twenty-six more years of mistakes while I was still human.

I used to like to delude myself about that, tried to blame it all on the demon. The First showed me the truth; Liam wasn't the mass murder that I became, but he was nothing to be proud of either. As far as humans go he probably would have done more good if he'd been drowned at birth. It would have spared the world his mistakes. It would have spared the world Angelus' presence.

I know I'll never begin to make up for what I did as Angelus, but trying is the only right thing to do, and the possibility I'm doing something worthwhile for the first time in my life is the only thing that keeps me from greeting the sun on too many mornings to count. That's what I was trying to tell Faith. You can't ever go back, your victims will always haunt your memories, the taint of darkness never goes away, but in trying to make amends it is possible to find a little comfort.

I forgot that for a time, I saw Wesley's prophecy and I hoped, for the first time in so long, that I could make up for my past. That some how it was possible to do enough to erase all the evil that I'd done. I forgot what I'd always known, and I forgot that hope is the most destructive emotion of all. It makes you fly without wings, and inevitably you crash.

Afterwards the pain of reality is that much worse, and sometimes it hurts so bad you'll do anything to end it. Even take comfort from what you know is a lie. Darla... those dreams... it felt good to have someone touch me, to have her praise. I've always craved praise like a drug. I knew it wasn't real, but it was so much easier than reality.

Reality was Darla was alive and human and going to have to face exactly what I faced when the Rom returned my soul. I thought I could be there for her, like she wasn't there for me. I almost saved her, except almost doesn't count.

Failing hurts, watching the good you tried to do go up in smoke, it kills you little by little. Each failure brings more regrets, yet another voice added to the full chorus already screaming in my head. In my line of work, failure usually means bodies, more deaths on my conscious, just what I always needed. I know I go a little over the edge trying to atone for failures that can never be corrected, but what other choice do I have? Killing the killers of those I've failed to protect seems to appease their ghosts at least to a degree. I wish they'd leave me in peace, but I've earned them, each and every one. My choices made them and once made a choice can never be unmade.

I chose to ignore my father's warnings that if I went looking for trouble I'd find it. As Angelus, I chose to strive to be the most vicious vampire to ever walk this earth. I chose to ignore all common sense and allowed Buffy and I's feelings to develop into a relationship. I chose to make love to her. I chose to encourage Doyle to fight with me. I chose to avenge Darla. I chose to shut my friends out of my life. I can't undo a single one of my choices. All I, and the world, can do is live with the consequences of them.

I thought, maybe this once, that the choice wasn't irrevocable. Wesley hadn't died because I chose to stay in the shadows. I had that at least.

Standing in that hospital corridor, watching Gunn and Wesley talk, I felt better than I have since Darla was turned… No, since Darla came back into my life. Even as I dreaded walking into that room and facing the possibility of rejection, the knowledge that my misjudgment hadn't cost any of my friends their lives was a balm to my soul.

I don't know if I ever would have managed to find the courage to walk into that room and face the people I let down, but it turned out I didn't have to. Cordelia saw me and I didn't even have to ask, I didn't have to say a single thing, she answered every question I had. Even though Wesley hadn't died I was still too late to save the friendships I'd once had. Once more my choice was set in stone, I can never go back to what I had.

They don't need me. They don't want me.

I've stripped my life of everything that ever gave it meaning to seek the chance for vengeance. It's time I took it. It hardly matters whether I'm ready or not. I've got nothing else left. I'll go and I'll fight, I'll try to kill the demon that reclaimed Darla just when she'd finally renounced it. And afterwards…

Oh God… I hope there's no afterwards.



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