Absolve
By Angelfirenze

Disclaimer: No one belongs to me.

Summary: I figured I'd write a sequel to 'Resolution' since I just felt that it was unfinished somehow. This one is from Malachy's point of view later on that night/morning. He's thinking about how much Liam has changed and how he wasn't there to see it. Then there's the fact that he's noticed just how haunted his son is and how different he's become. Lyrics from Switchfoot, Pennywise, and Thursday. *Quote from 'Life is Funny' by E.R. Frank. Reviews are always encouraged and deeply appreciated.

***

Fumbling his confidence
And wond'ring why the world has passed him by
Hoping that he's meant for more than arguments
And failed attempts to fly, fly

***

I lie here in this dark room, unable to sleep. How can I? I cannot cease thinking of Liam and how changed he is now. I never thought I would be in this position. This situation. Liam has become someone I know nothing about. I do not even know my own son. I do not understand him, of course, but I never did, so that is nothing new. But now I do not know him. If I were to ask him what his favorite activities are, I doubt I would know what he would say. He looks the same, with the exception of a different wardrobe. All this black and darkness. I shudder to think of how this choice-or lack thereof-of color mirrors that of his soul. And now, not only has he grown up and become a man, he has become a HUSBAND and a FATHER, as well. To a tiny little boy nearly a mirror image of him. Except for the eyes. He obviously has his mother's eyes.

But I feel so lost. My boy left that horrible night, now proven to be so very long ago, and never returned. Until now. And the whole debacle is entirely my fault. If only I had not sent him away. If only I had made him stay. Sit down. Listen to REASON. Wait until we had both calmed down and not let ourselves be fueled by our anger. Grief washes over me as I remember the day, not even a week afterward, when Liam's body was found behind the pub. The despair that tore through my heart was not eased by the fact that my daughter now hated me, I am sure. She blamed me for her big brother's death. I was the one who let him walk out that door, only to die. I am sure she was not wrong.

***

Dreaming about Providence
And whether mice or men have second tries
Maybe we've been living with our eyes half open
Maybe we're bent and broken, broken

***

Out in the hall, I hear the door open, and voices. Three of them. A young man around Liam's age, and two young women, as well. The boy is eating something, for his voice is muffled and halted by chewing and swallowing. Their speech is strange, full of references I cannot place. Places and things I cannot name. I hear objects being dropped heavily to the floor, their thuds muffled. A beautiful young blonde woman walks by ruffling her hair. I feel a strange need to hide.

"Angel!" her voice calls as she ducks her head into the room he went into earlier to sleep. Moments later I hear Liam stumble blindly from bed, muttering thickly, and I shove down the urge to chuckle. At least something about my son has not changed. He goes to stand in the doorway of the room I am in and I can see his hair stands in all directions, practically stacked upon his head. I can picture his face and the irritability I seconds later hear in his voice.

"What?" He growls sleepily and the young blonde goes to stand before him. Again I feel the strange sensation of needing to conceal myself. Not to let her find me. I have not the slightest clue why. The young woman frowns.

"Well, hello to you, too. Gee, Angel, were we interrupting something?" "Yeah," Liam mumbles, rubbing his eyes. "The perfunctory act of sleep. I never want to hear you complain that I get up too early ever again." "Oh shut up. If it's really that important to you, then go back to sleep. I just thought smoochies were in order since I've been gone for a week-"

I can see Liam instantly perk up. Good Lord.

"But you obviously have better things to do than kiss your own fiancée." She begins to move away, but Liam catches her arm, now definitely awake. My son. A complete slave to his nature and inhibitions. *sigh*

"I didn't say that-" "No, but you need your rest." Her voice is melodic, teasing. The look upon Liam's face is a mixture of skepticism and annoyance.

He sighs, running a pale hand through his already disheveled hair. "Hey, um, Buffy, Dawn, Xander. I've gotta tell you something." "What?" the other boy mutters sarcastically. "You pregnant, Dead Boy?"

I hear a loud slap and then the boy yelps, "Ow! Buff!" "If you don't quit calling my husband DEAD!" Another slap. "BOY!" Yet another slap. OW! Alright, jeez! What is it, anyway? You have an accident?"

Two more loud slaps and a very loud yelp, followed by my son's anguished and aggravated grumblings. He comes to my doorway and looks at me, highly disgruntled.

"Please come out here, Father." His voice is quiet, exhausted. Softer than I have ever heard it before. His eyes have a strange glare in them that has obviously been there for days. I wonder how I missed it in the bright light earlier. The look upon his face leads me to remember times when he was small. His temper was great even then. Out in his parlour-at least I believe it is his parlour-I hear snatches of whispering. Liam rolls his dark eyes and tells me, "Follow me, Father," in a voice I can barely hear. Then he steps back out and I find myself reluctant to comply. However, having spent seventeen years raising this man, I can tell that not everything has changed about my son. Breathing an inward sigh of relief, I follow Liam out of this room. In the outer part of wherever and whatever my son lives in, there are indeed two young women and one young man with dark hair, although unlike Liam's it is black rather than brown. His eyes, shooting dirty looks at my son, are nearly the same as his. The young woman besides Liam's wife has light brown hair and hazel eyes that match the other one's. I suppose they are sisters or at least related.

Liam turns to me, still extremely agitated, and says in a voice no longer thick with sleep, "*sigh* Buffy, Dawn, Xander. This is my father. His name is Malachy O'Reilly. The Powers That Be said that I could have someone back from my past. I chose my dad."

His voice is very flat and matter-of-fact. The three people he acknowledges all turn to gawk at me as though I have grown a second head. Liam turns to me and says, in a somewhat less perturbed tone, "Father, this is my fiancée, Buffy Summers, her sister, Dawn-" Ah! That makes sense. "- And, of course, as every village must have an idiot, this is Alexander Harris."

The girls snicker and Liam smirks at Alexander Harris, who protests, "Village Idiot, huh? Oh DEAD BOY gets to call ME names, but-" "Angel's never repeatedly mocked you or ANYTHING that you do to HIM," Dawn says, scowling at Alexander, who looks aghast. "Dawnie! You take HIS side?!" "When he's right and you're wrong, yeah." "But-" He begins to retort, but Buffy interrupts, and speaks in a way very much like Liam's.

"Xander. Dawn. Shut up. Mr. O'Reilly doesn't need to hear us all arguing and insulting each other all night. And neither do I. I need a shower."

She turns and starts to walk away, but then she returns and grabs my son by his upper arm and drags him away into his bedroom. Some moments later, Liam stumbles out again with a ridiculous smile on his face and a dazed look in his eyes. Dawn giggles and rolls her eyes. Alexander snorts and heads into the room opposite my grandson. Dawn looks at me, smiles, and asks if I would like something to eat. Meanwhile, Liam falls heavily onto the long bench we sat upon earlier and smiles himself. He is practically naked, with strange black very short pants made of silk being the only thing preserving his dignity, but seems not to care. Neither does anyone else. This strikes me as odd. As to Dawn's gracious question, I decline as politely as I can manage. She smiles again.

She is my son's friend, I suppose, because she goes to the bench and begins to poke Liam in the back of his head, ducking every time his hand comes up to grab her. The way she giggles reminds me a little of my daughter, Katherine. Which instantly reminds me that she is dead. And that my son is, for all intents and purposes, dead as well. My heart clenches.

***

It was the first time face to face
I'm crossing the line
Talking to the other side of death
Hearing the words that choke memories into flatlines
I'm calling your name hoping for something To wash these dreams of you away

***

All of a sudden, my knees give out and, faster than seems possible, Liam is gripping my shoulders. He keeps me from falling as he leads me to safety. Why, dear Lord, could not I do the same for him? My whole self feels empty as Liam crouches before me asking what is wrong. I cannot answer. I cannot speak. It hurts, this knowledge that both my children, as well as my wife, died because I could not believe in the natural goodness my son possessed. I could not believe in him.

"Katherine," I whisper hoarsely and Liam's eyes widen almost impossibly. They look almost exactly as Katherine's did when I told her that her big brother, her darling Liam, had been murdered. Then Liam's ebony eyes fill with tears of anguish and immense sadness. Now, they look exactly as Katherine's did.

"Kathy?" he whispers, sounding no more than ten years of age, although he was little over seventeen years when-*sigh*

Dawn has slipped away unnoticed. Liam bites his bottom lip and shuts his eyes. Then he speaks, under his breath, something I cannot decipher. I make out the tail end of it, though.

"-And the wisdom to know the difference. Amen." Then he proceeds to bless himself. When his eyes open once more, the tears there fall. "Amen," he says again, staring at his large, pale hands on the bench.

"What was that?" I whisper, watching him, the prayer lifting my spirits somewhat. My son found religion, once again.

"The Serenity Prayer," he whispers quietly, his dark, impossibly deep eyes staring at his pale hands. Eyes filled with a pain I could not even begin to comprehend contemplating hands that probably performed unspeakable deeds. Hands that once held my daughter, his sister, with unending gentleness. I have no idea what he sees on them. Blood? Tears? I know not. All I do know is my son is broken and I am the hammer that smashed him. However, the heavy weight around my heart has loosened some. But then a question I have wanted to ask for years tumbles out heedlessly.

"Liam, do you hate me, lad?"

***

Do you remember when
You were way back then
You held the world inside your hands
When you told me love
Was the strongest stuff Your strength was innocence

***

Liam stares at me, his eyes unblinking. I cannot help but feel uncomfortable. His gaze his always been fiery and somewhat unsettling, but now the discomfort is almost unbearable. I suppose it has mostly to do with the fact that his eyes flashed briefly to a golden hue when I asked my question. He stands up to his full and considerable height that is taller than I, his gaze never wavering, and backs up to what is obviously a chair across the room. It is made of the same material that this bench is and as Liam's weight-he is wider and has broader shoulders than myself-sinks into it, it creaks. All the while, he stares at me, completely silent. I do not want to admit this, but I honestly am quite frightened of him. And of his answer.

"No," he answers, and I breathe again. "But I used to."

My stomach explodes and the horror I felt before slams back into me. I shudder as memories of horrid arguments, so fresh in my memory, resurface. "You hated me?" I whisper, not able to meet Liam's eyes any longer. He shrugs, still staring at me. But I do notice his eyes harden slightly.

"You used to make me feel like shit."

I wince at the swear word, but feel compelled to ignore it this once.

"You believed that I couldn't do anything worthwhile. Ever. That I was a waste of space and, basically, a pain in the ass not worth having." He pauses, finally watching the ceiling, then continued, "I believe your exact words were 'You're a scoundrel and a layabout, and you'll never amount to anything more than that. I wanted more than anything to prove you right- and wrong. I wanted to live up to your expectations."

His voice is still soft. Calm. Matter of fact. But I can hear pain buried in that quiet tone. Pain that I caused, which is now rebounded back upon my soul tenfold.

I killed my son.

Perhaps not physically, but mentally. Spiritually. I killed him with my harsh words and my berating. I did not believe in him and, in turn, he stopped believing in himself. Did not try to save himself. My father did not do this to me. I began to realize my mistakes with Liam only after his deadened body was discovered behind the village pub. I began to realize that with Katherine-his little Kathy-Liam was vastly different from the way he was with me. In fact, he always got along with her beautifully. His mother and sister both loved him and only saw the best in him. So why couldn't I? He and I fought and did not agree upon anything at all. Not even his habit of drawing those around him. I told him it was childish. After he left, after he died, I went into his bedroom. It was exactly as he had left it the night I let him leave our home. His home. I found beautiful pictures of Katherine, of his mother, of Anna, our maid. But none of myself except one crumpled on the floor. I was angry. Yelling. Liam had procured a paintbrush and drawn a heavy, dark halo of red around my head. It was sharp and jagged. It bled down over me. I cried for the first time since I had been a small boy. I could not help myself.

***

Where do we draw the line, nobody seems to have a clue
We're at each other's throats, 'cause we don't share a point of view

***

Now I sit before my son, who looks very much the same boy who to incense me so. The same boy who, at the age of five years, set our barn ablaze. But I know he is not. He is not that boy any longer. I threw that boy away like rubbish. He says he does not hate me any longer, but how could he not? I killed him.

My son is dead.

***

We want more than this world's got to offer
We want more than this world's got to offer
We want more than the wars of our fathers

***

I watched him with my grandson, Connor, earlier and I was filled with pride. He is a better father, a better man than I. He will not push his son away. He will not belittle, isolate, and slowly destroy him. He will not tell his son that he is nothing. He will not be me. He will be different.

***

You're throwing your love across
My impossible space
You've created me
Take me out of me into --

***

I lay here now, in this room, in this darkness. I stare at the ceiling though I cannot see a thing. There are no windows anywhere in the house. Presumably because the sunlight of the daytime would kill Liam. I hear subtle activity on all sides. Low volume because it is time for sleep, despite the fact that it is daylight. Strange, fast paced, angry sounding music on one side, upbeat perky music on another. Silence from my grandson's bedroom, and quiet, murmured conversation punctuated with lapses of silence from my son's bedroom that he apparently shares with Buffy.

I feel like an intruder. I feel like a houseguest. It is strange, not being in control. Having to defer to Liam instead of the other way round. I feel like I am the child and he is the parent. But, then again, Liam is no longer a child. It took me too long to realize that. It cost me his life and those of everyone around me. Sleep falls steadily over me. I did not realize I was tired until I lay down, but now the exhaustion I feel bears down on me like an enormous weight. Although the tiredness isn't half as burdening as the guilt I feel over the obvious deterioration of mine and Liam's relationship. I feel like a failure. I feel too much. It is all eating steadily away at me. I wish I could go without feeling for just a little while. Just so that I could discern exactly how I am going to fix this mess with Liam. After all, it is entirely my fault.

***

I've got my hands at redemption's side
Whose scars are bigger than-these doubts of mine.
I'll fit all of these monstrosities inside
It'll come alive.
Come to life.

***