By Angelfirenze

Summary: It doesn't hurt so much to go on day to day, knowing all the pain I caused, all the destruction I wrought with my bare hands.

Disclaimer: This is oner, or a stand alone, or whatever. Anyway, this is based on a fic called 'Traditions of Pain, Traditions of Friendship' by Kizmet, as well as another of hers called 'Turn Back Time.' Yes, I spend quite a lot of time reading her stuff. You should, too. Lyrics by Linkin Park, AFI, and Thursday.

Notes: Anyway, this is assuming the new reality without Angel didn't fall into place just yet. Any more would be spoilerish. Reviews are always encouraged and appreciated.

When I pretend everything is what I want it to be
I look exactly like what you had always wanted to see
When I pretend, I can forget about the criminal I am
Stealing second after second just 'cause I know I can
But I can't pretend this is the way it will stay
I'm just trying to bend the truth
I can't pretend I'm who you want me to be
So I'm lying my way from you...

I can't sleep.

The entire house is dark, but I can see everything clear as day. That's why I can tell that Father is sitting in the chair at the end of my bed. He's asleep, snoring softly. I have no idea what time it is. It's useless to look at my watch because that only matters in the future. I'm not there anymore. I don't want to be here, either. I can't stand it. I want to save my family, save hundreds of thousands of lives, but I can't. Because the past always affects the future. All that bullshit. While I ponder, weak and weary--can't get enough Edgar Allan Poe, he's my bloody role model--my father gives a little snort and snaps awake.

Damn. He's looking at me like that again. Like I might break. Like I'm a piece of fucking crystal. Sure as hell didn't think that way before, when he was forever slapping the shit out of me. But I ignore that right now. He's staring at me, his eyes sad. I don't think he really believes I'm me. It's probably the fact that my hair is shorter. And I'm married, with children, and my own business, etc. etc. Plus, I'm a vampire. Not that they know that. I sit up and watch him watching me.

"Liam," Father says, his grey eyes sad. "I never thought I'd--I never thought I'd see you again. Why are you back?" Then his brow furrows. "How did you come back?"

I sigh heavily, wishing I wasn't having this conversation but knowing full-well I'll never get another chance. "I told you, Father, it's a long, ugly road complete with a long, ugly story to go with it. Plus, I should think you would want to get some sleep. I don't even know what time it is. It's gotta be past midnight. I mean, you DO have a business, and all."

Father locks eyes with me in that oh-so-familiar fashion that I remember even after two-and-a-half centuries. He's not going to take 'I can't tell you' for an answer. Damn.

"Look, Father, if I tell you something, do you promise to let me finish explaining before you say anything?"

"Finish explainin'?"

"Yes, Father, I told you it's a long story."

"Well, alrigh'. What's happened ter you, lad? And what happened ter Aidan? Why was he taken to the future, if what you said was true?"

I find myself staring at my hands on the stiff blanket that covers me. "Two nights ago, after I left, I was going to leave for the Colonies in New England, seek my fortune there, but I decided on a last night here in the village. My biggest mistake. I was murdered that night. My sire, Darla, she told me she could show me a world I'd never seen before."

"You took me places, showed me things, huh? You blew the top off my head. But you never made me happy."

"For one hundred and fifty years we slaughtered, maimed, tortured. Whatever we wanted no matter the toll it took on anyone. But I was the worst. By far. I'm known as 'The Scourge of Europe.' 'The Terror of Mongolia.' As of the year 1997, I became the Master. The one vampire in all the world with the power to destroy it. I won't, of course, but my alter ego, Angelus, would do so in a heartbeat. He really goes for that sort of thing. But, anyway, in 1898 I fed upon a gypsy girl. Beautiful. Dumb as a post, but a favorite among her clan--believe it or not, I told my wife the very same story when I met her--and the elders of her tribe decided on the perfect punishment for me. They restored my soul. Until recently, if I experienced a moment of true happiness, I would lose my soul and become a monster again. Needless to say, I couldn't risk that. But the interesting part in all this is that even after everything Darla saw me go through, all the turmoil and pain, she still thought what she did for me was a favor. She thought she was my savior. Never mind the fact that I didn't ask to become a vampire. Never mind that I was only a young man and barely out of school. Never mind the fact that I didn't want to die. Never mind anything that happened from the year 1898 to 2001. She always thought I would be grateful to her. She thought she did me a favor."

And all of a sudden, that night in the lobby of the hotel flashes back into my mind.

"It's a gift. - To feel that heart beat - to know, really and for once, that you're alive. - You're human again, Darla. You know what that means?"

"Of course I do. It means pain and suffering - and disease and death. - Look, I released you from this world once, I gave you eternal life. Now it's time for you to return the favor."

"Favor - is that what you think? - You think you did me a favor? - You damned me."

"Fine. Fine then, if it's such a punishment, take out your revenge, pay me back! Please."

"I can't."

"She thought that what she'd done to me was so -- insignificant. So meaningless. That my life was meaningless. That being a demon was so much more. She didn't understand that, in reality, humans are so much stronger than demons will ever be, because soulless demons have the luxury of feeling nothing. Emotion doesn't factor in for them and it makes it all so much easier. That's why she couldn't understand. She thought she'd been in the right. That I wanted to be a monster. That I was thankful for what she did to me. But, of course, in the beginning, and in the end, before I understood -- that's exactly what I was. Thankful. Because Angelus doesn't have to feel anything. That part of me doesn't have to worry about the emotions involved in anything because that part of me doesn't have emotions. It was one of the few things I wished I could have, too, because -- " Unexpectedly, my voice cracks and I finally look up at my father, who's staring at me with eyes filled with a pain I didn't think he'd ever feel. For me.

"Because then it doesn't hurt so much, being what I am, having done what I've done. It doesn't hurt so much to go on day to day, knowing all the pain I caused, all the destruction I wrought with my bare hands. Men, women, children, husbands, wives, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, families. I killed them all. Hundreds upon thousands. A century and a half of murdering and mayhem. And I thought it was funny. Darla, she told me that God didn't want me--" My father's face contorts in pain at that sentence. "And I would believe she's right. I would, except do you have any idea how many times I've attempted suicide? I've tried to kill myself at least four times, 'cause by now I've lost count, but I've not yet managed it. Not even that first time, in 1952, when I went into a church in New York and took communion to burn myself from the inside out. For some reason, I survived."

My father's mouth falls open slightly at those words and unconsciously he blesses himself, murmuring the words of a prayer under his breath. I don't know which. I observe Catholic customs when it feels significant, such as my sister's or mother's or father's birthdays--yes, him, too--or maybe a holiday or something, but mostly it's just rote. My father was always a much better Catholic than I. He believed. I can't always say the same for myself. Not really. But I've always thought, ever since that first attempt, that maybe I do have a purpose here, if not a personal reason to live. That I needed to live for others. That especially became true the night my son was born. And then I look up again. My father is watching me, waiting for more.

"Connor," I say, looking out of my open doorway toward the room across the hall where he sleeps.

"He was the one good thing Darla and I ever did together. She wanted me to tell him that. I haven't had a chance to yet. But the night he was born, or rather the night after Darla came back to the vacant hotel where we used to live--"

Sensing his perplexed expression, I look back up at him and say hastily, "Uh, we used to live in a hotel called the Hyperion. It had been vacant for years and we leased it for use as headquarters of our detective agency. Er, t-that's what I am now. That's my job, I'm a paranormal private investigator."

"A what?"

"A paranormal private investigator... I handle mostly cases involving the 'otherwordly'." Then I do the double flick thing with my fingers. "Things that go bump in the night, like I do. Demons, vampires, exorcisms, that sort of thing." I laughed under my breath.

"I basically get paid to be myself. To be a freak of nature and all that."

"Freak of nature?"

"I'm a vampire with a soul, Father, there's literally no one like me."

Then I hesitate somewhat. That's not exactly true.

"Well, there is another, but he's an idiot. Plus, if Wesley's right, he's not even meant to have one. I mean, according to his logic, the Powers -- uh, God went through all this trouble to bring my soul across the dimensions and have it placed in my body. Then Spike just goes off to somewhere and comes back with a soul. He only wanted it because he thought it would make Buffy -- my soulmate -- love him. She even told him to his face that it was simply him being selfish. He wanted her, he couldn't have her because she's mine, and as punishment he decides he's going to screw with my destiny. But it doesn't work like that."

"How does it work?" He asks quietly.

"Come on, Father, I know you. You've read Revelations forwards and backwards. You know how it works. It's almost exactly like that. I'm supposed to save the world from the apocalypse. The problem with that, the part that gets me and makes me not want to believe, is they never actually specified which apocalypse they were referring to. Which bites because I want to become human again, but I can't do that until my destiny is realized."

I say all this with a snort.

"Well, how do you know it's abou' you? It could be about someone else. It could be about--"

"Aidan isn't a vampire, only a mage and human Immortal, and Connor isn't full-blooded demon. Buffy isn't either, she's only part demon due to her Slayerness, and I'm the only Champion left besides them. And anyway, the Nyazian prophecies and Prophecies of Aberjian specifically said 'the vampire with a soul.' Me. But, anyway, Darla told me to tell him that before she died. She sacrificed herself to save him because he was dying. She died so that he could live. And I need to tell him that because, despite the fact that he's not really her son, I promised her. And she did love him. More than she ever loved me, which doesn't actually say much because she never loved me...Not that it bothers me, because I never loved her either. It wasn't about that."

Father seems to understand this and, if he doesn't, hides it very well. He sighs and confirms my suspicions.

"Liam. I suppose you understand that I'm havin' a very hard time with all of this..." Then he laughs bitterly, which unnerves me. "But I guess it's what I deserve isn' it? I told yeh that you would never amount ter anythin'."

At the look on my face he adds, "You never would've died if I hadn't let you leave..." Then, he looks at me and I'm astonished to see traces of actual tears on my father's face. "If I hadn' driven you away."

My eyes wide, I attempt to tell him differently, but he holds up a hand to silence me.

"You died believin' that I did not love you." And that one sentence floors me. And I cannot say anything to counter it, because it was true.

Twenty-six years end, still speaking in these tongues
Such revelations while understood by no one
When the new actor stole the show, who questioned his grace?
Please clear the house of ill-acquired taste

When I awaken the next evening, my father is gone. To a business meeting I suppose. I look out the window to see it pouring rain. It was raining the night I was born. My mother told me all about it. It was raining the night Connor was born. It was raining the night I lost my soul the first time. It was raining my last night with Darla. No one I have so many mixed feelings about it. On my nightstand is a handwritten letter with my name on it. My birth name twice in both my mother and father's handwriting. It's dated January 1737, when I was almost three months old.

My Dearest Little Liam

My New Little Lad

I love you.

You are everything I ever hoped a son.

Your eyes, your ears, your soft little fingers, your manner, so quiet, yet so fiery...

Already, I look at you and see brilliance. So odd... a small child with the expressions of an adult. You are destined for great things, my little wonder. My son.

I love you, Liam.

I love you, Liam.

A spot of water hits the page and I realize I am crying. I lie back, gently refolding the parchment and placing it on my chest, over my heart. I lie there for hours, not moving. Staring, not seeing. And I realize I never saw anything.

Not until now.

"I love you, Mum. I love you, Papa." My oath fades away with the faint breeze that plays through the curtains covering my window. Some part of me, the buried optimistic part that relentlessly believes in the intrinsic good of human beings despite the many times I've been shown otherwise, hopes my parents both heard me, wherever they are at the moment. I think I hear my mother's voice but, as she died when I was nine and my little brother was born and stolen, I must be hearing things.

Cross out the eyes
Blur all the lines
Tearing this canvas from the wall
We crossed out the eyes
Put lines through these cries
We pulled all the leaves from the trees that fall

*I love you, Liam*

I must be hearing things.