Conclusion

A/N Just want to thank all my readers and reviews. There is a character death in this final part. Please don't hate me for it :)

Sebastian awoke to sounds of movement, coming from his study. He listened for a seconds, still not quite awake. The sound of movement came again, followed by a crash, and muttered oath, followed by more sounds, of searching.

He rose quickly from the bed, and grabbed his bathrobe. Before reaching automatically for the pistol, he kept on the beside locker. It was only when he's hand fell on empty space, did he realise that he'd left the weapon in the study.

Remembering that the desk in the living room, held a spare revolver, he stealthily left his bedroom, and grabbed the gun from the desk. Priming the hammer, he headed towards his study.

His eyes widened in surprise, in finding that his "intruder" was Matthew, frantically searching every nook and cranny. The study was littered with overturned drawers, papers and books. As he watched, more were discarded on the growing pile, as Matt went about his task, unaware that he had an observer.

"Just what do you hope to find?" asked Sebastian, actually succeeding in making Matthew jump; not an easy task.

Matt swallowed guiltily, and then continued with his search. "I know you have them here, some place," he said, distractedly.

"It would help knowing exactly what you were looking for? Wouldn't it have been easier to simply ask me for what you want?"

Matt straightened up, and faced the Watcher. "You've told me about the Council and the Slayer's heritage, but there must be records of some kind. Files or papers? I want to see the file on my parents and mine."

"They're private and confidential. I can't give them to you," said Sebastian, shaking his head.

"Come on, Sebastian! Since when has that ever stopped you from sharing stuff!" he complained. "I need to know, if he..." he stopped and looked down at his hands.

Sebastian studied him a moment. "You doubt if his love for her was genuine? I can assure you, Matthew, it was. They were devoted to each other, long before they married. And when you came along, they were devoted parents too. I wish I'd gotten to know Julia better than I did, and not just through what Intel and books had told me."

"I have to know, Sebastian, please," he begged. "If he can say he loved Angelique in one breath, and my mother in another..."

"I can't give you access to the dossiers on you, or your parents, but I can give you this." He picked his way, through the book strewn floor, and after glancing at a row of books, Matt had yet to search, pulled out the third volume, and handed it to the teenager.

Matt frowned. "1995?" he asked, puzzled.

"Read it," encouraged Sebastian, and the cast a disapproving eye around the rubble that was his study. "And when you've finished reading that, I'd like my study back in one piece."

/

Matt sat curled up on the sofa, in the study, engrossed in the book Sebastian had given him. He was almost done reading when he paused in turning the page over. His eyes narrowed, and though he was alone in the room, he began to read aloud.

"Barnabas faced Julia, though she remained standing with her back to him, unable to face him, after her betrayal, "look at me, Julia," he said, in a commanding voice. "Look at me! You can hear me; you will do as I say! Now look at me!" he ordered, forcefully.

As he exerted his powers over her, making her bend to his will, Julia slowly turned to face the man she betrayed. He continued to exert his power over her, and finally in a quite voice, she nodded her head, and said, "You can escape."

Still looking at her, his eyes hypnotic, he said, in a gentle voice, compared to his authoritatively tones only moments before, "Not without you."

Julia looked away briefly, shaking her head, but Barnabas still held the greater power over her, as she looked back at him. "You, you can't take me with you," she said her voice just above a whisper.

Barnabas took at step towards her, their faces only inches apart. "Never without you," said Barnabas softly, shaking his head."

Matt looked up from his reading, as he closed the book. Then, he slowly rose to his feet, and carefully put the book back from where Sebastian had gotten it, and as though in a daze, he began cleaning the study.

/

Darkness had fallen when Matthew entered the Old House. The house seem deserted, more so, since there were no candles lit. He glanced towards the basement door; his sharp hearing attuned to the slightest sound. Hearing nothing, nor sensing his father's presence he walked over to the basement door, and opened, descending a few of the steps. Still nothing.

If Barnabas had left the Old House, where would the likeliest place be? Then suddenly he knew. Turning quickly he climbed back up the steps, and hurried from the house.

/

As he approached the grave, he knew that he had guessed right, as he saw the caped outline of his father, standing with his head bowed, at the graveside. He watched and waited for a few moments, before continuing towards the grave.

"I thought I'd find you here, when you weren't at the Old House," he said, coming up behind his father, who whirled, his cape flying as he did so.

"M-Matthew!" he gasped. He looked from his son, to the grave and back to his son, alarm, and a trace of fear on his face, as he recalled the last time, Matthew had found him here. "I-I-I had t-to come," he stammered, in explanation.

He gazed at his son, warily, wondering if he had ruined the uneasy truce between them. He was torn between the urge to stand his ground, and the urge to flee. He didn't want to fight with him any more. He bowed his head; his hands gripping the sliver head of his cane, tightly.

"I-I'll go," he said quietly, not bothering to even argue with him, "I'll be at the Old House, if you decide you want to talk." he turned to leave before it came to blows.

He'd only taken a few steps, when Matthew, said, "Wait."

Barnabas paused in mid step, thinking that this would be the start of the inevitable fight between them. Wariness descended over him, as he waited silently, for whatever was about to happen.

"You grieve, for her too," Matt replied, surprising him, completely.

Barnabas turned his surprise still on his face. Matt, staring after him, turned slowly, to face the grave, stepping to one side, as he did so.

The gesture was obvious. Barnabas returned to the grave and his son's side, surprise still registered on his pallid face. Matthew winced slightly, but remained where he was.

"My presence causes you pain," said Barnabas, quietly, seeing the quickly concealed grimace.

"I can live with it," Matt stated.

For twenty minutes father and son, remained by the graveside, mourning together, for the first time in ten years.

/

They walked back to the Old House, together, in silence. As Matt went about lighting the various candles, Barnabas pulled up two chairs, he'd brought down from one of the rooms that had been relatively unscathed from the fire, or ransacked. Then he lit a fire, in the long disused fireplace.

Once the fire was going, Matt seated in the chair, nearest the bay window, asked, "What happened after, you asked mother to marry you?"

Barnabas gazed into the fire, his fingers laced together across his stomach. "I wanted to wait until a cure was found, before we married. She deserved more than I could give her, as I was. But, as she pointed out, it didn't matter, the same amount of time would pass between dawn and dusk, whether we were married or not. She'd done so much for the family without any thanks from me, so I quickly agreed to marry quickly. Dawn was approaching, and I asked to go with me to the...coffin room. I asked her to wait for me at dusk, and she agreed."

"An honour, indeed," said Matt, dryly, knowing how his father was, about being observed anywhere near the coffin.

Barnabas gazed into the fire, silently, memories flooding back. Finally he looked down, twisting the wedding ring, nervously. "The following night, she was waiting for me, as she promised, filled with doubts that I had changed my mind. I assured her I hadn't. It had been three nights, since I'd been ill, and the first one since I'd any need..."

"What happened?" asked Matt, interrupting, knowing what he had been about to say.

"She understood," he said with a sigh, " and left me alone, in the basement. I won't lie to you, Matthew. It was hard, not to climb those steps, and seek her out. I cannot always...control the urges...I vowed that I would not hurt her, and went deeper into the basement, trying to put as much distance between us. I found a rat...and..." Once more, Barnabas stopped, and Matthew thought the expression of revulsion and disgust on his father's face, would have been funny under other circumstances.

/

Barnabas continued, explaining of how he had changed his mind, about marrying while he was still a vampire. But once more, he allowed her to talk him into it. Of telling the family, and Dane overhearing. Later finding out that Dane had intended to ruin the wedding, only to allow it to continue, promising to return in the future.

Finally the discussion came to the night of Julia's death. For the most part, Barnabas' voice had been steady, wavering only on the argument, and her subsequent disappearance. Matthew leaned forward in his chair, watching his father, closely.

Suddenly, Barnabas rose to his feet, and head bowed, crossed to the bay window. His voice was unsteady, and filled with a deep pain.

"...as I walked through the woods, I could hear Petofi's mocking laughter. From the clearing the Old House didn't look too badly damaged, so I went in. The house was a shambles, furniture had been overturned, and it was obvious that it had been ransacked. I walked through the house, seeing evidence of the fire, and what the angry villagers had done, searching for me.

The pain consumed me; it was all I could think about. I heard someone following me, and I thought it may have been the villagers, trying to their luck in hunting me down. I never for one moment thought it would be Julia.

Later, Sebastian told me, that he had managed to persuade her to stay at the cottage with you. When she realised that you were missing..."

Barnabas whirled to face his son; his face anguished, his voice tortured, wracked with grief, and horror. "I begged her to go! But she wouldn't leave me! The next thing I remember...was her lying in...in my arms...dead!"

Despair contorted his features, desperate to make his son understand. "I couldn't let her be like me...I couldn't let her go through what she must night after night! I loved her too much to allow that to happen. I always thought I wanted a bride to share eternity...but when I had the chance...I couldn't do it...I loved her too much...Matthew I did it to save her life!"

Matthew stared at his father's grief-stricken, expression. Then suddenly turned away.

"Sebastian was right," he said quietly. He turned to face his father, his cheeks wet with tears.

"It was my fault after all."

Barnabas was at his son's side, immediately. "No, Matthew. Petofi is the one. Until that night, you had never disobeyed us. Petofi lured you out into the night, so that Julia would come here. I don't blame you, and neither must you." Then he did the only thing he could think of, he hugged his son.

Matthew allowed the contact for only a few moments, before the close proximity, made the pain in his head too much to bear. With a slight grimace still on his face, he pulled away.

"I've told you everything," said Barnabas, watching him carefully. "It's a lot to ask you, but..."

"I don't know...there's a lot to think about."

"I see," said Barnabas looking down, once more, his jaw clenching. "You still doubt everything," he added, his voice catching. He had done everything he could to make him understand, and nothing had worked. There was no hope, after all.

"I need more time - a few nights," continued Matt.

Bleakly, Barnabas simply nodded, and then vanished.

It wasn't until three nights later, that Barnabas saw Matthew again.

/

Awkwardness between them, talk was strained, as they both skirted around the real issue between them. Finally, Barnabas could stand it no longer, and said, "You said you need time - and I understand that this wasn't what you expected to hear…but.. I miss her," he said simply.

Matthew stared at his father - a man he had denied for ten years – and suddenly understood. It was in his bearing, his voice, his expression, but mostly it was his eyes. In the welter of his emotions and longing, it was in his eyes, it shone the brightest. It was a hunger, a need far more powerful than any craving for blood to be with her again.

Finally Matt looked down, from that despairing gaze. When he looked up again, his own eyes were bright with unshed tears, his throat worked, but he could utter no sound. He stared at his father, for a second or two, and had to look away as he felt the tears fall. But as he turned away he nodded slightly.

Barnabas raised his eyebrows in surprise, at the gesture, still not certain if he had really seen it. "You'll...forgive me?" he asked, almost inaudibly.

Again, the slight nod of the head, and Barnabas knew that he had not been mistaken the first time. The familiar perfume permeated the air, and Barnabas felt something warm touch his cheek and then Matthew felt the same warmth touch his.

"Mother," he whispered. A soft sigh, was his answer, and he knew that she was pleased.

"And you will do what you must?" asked Barnabas, with an air of disbelief.

Matthew nodded, not able to trust himself to speak. His eyes bright with tears.

Barnabas closed the gap between them, looking at his son seriously. "I don' t envy you your task, Matthew. But I have lived too long, and I'm tired. A father shouldn't ask a son, to do what I'm asking you..."

Matt's face crumbled. "Father...!" he suddenly blurted out, as his tears suddenly started to fall. "I'm so sorry!"

Barnabas gathered his distraught son in his arms. "It's alright, Matthew. I understand. A father was never more proud of his son, than I am of you. You and Julia, have been my salvation. I want you to be happy with Megan. Love her, and treat her, as she should be. Always remember Matt that I love you, and always have. It won't be easy, and I won't blame you, if you'd rather Sebastian -."

"No, I'll do it," said Matt, wiping his eyes. "I will keep the vow, my grandfather could not," he continued, bravely.

They both glanced towards the window, knowing that dawn would not be far off. "When?" asked Matt.

"The sooner for you," began Barnabas. Seeing the distress on his son's face, he continued more gently. "As hard as it is, don't grieve for me." He glanced towards the window. "It's almost time."

"Father, I..." Matt began, but words failed him. Barnabas clasped him on the shoulder, giving him a squeeze of encouragement, before heading towards the basement door. He turned, and gazed at his son, for the very last time.

/

Matthew waited until he saw the first rays of the sun break the gloom of the drawing room of the Old House, before he headed to the secret room where the coffin was hidden. As he approached, he realised that his father hadn't closed the lid. He gazed down at the prone form; this was the first time he had ever seen his father like this and it give him an odd feeling.

He recalled Sebastian's words the night before, asking him if he could go through with this if he had too. He knew Sebastian would be waiting at the cottage with Megan, ready to do what must be done if he could not.

He knew Barnabas would not think any less of him if he couldn't. So many had promised him release over the centuries, he would not fail him now. He owed it to him.

He placed the stake over his father's heart, his hand trembling. Sweat began to form on his forehead, dampening his hair. He raised the mallet, high, as a trickle of sweat ran into his eye, making it sting.

With a muffled cry, he used it as an excuse not to carry out, what he had promised. He rubbed frantically at his stinging eye, anything to delay what lay ahead.

He looked down at the sleeping form of his father, and realised that he couldn't' t go through with it. This wasn't an ordinary vampire; it was his father!

He realised that he barely knew him, and if he went ahead, he would never have the opportunity.

He felt his tears threaten once more, and understood that if he didn't go ahead with it now, he never would. It was what his father wanted; to be reunited with his mother.

He plucked the courage from somewhere, and replaced the stake over his father's heart. His arm shook, as he raised the mallet once more, sweat blinding him, as he quickly brought the mallet crashing down. Tears mixed with sweat as his father cried out in agony, as the stake pierced his heart. Again, he raised the mallet, driving the stake deeper.

Barnabas screamed his fangs extended, as the stake drove deeper into his body, blood trickled from his lips, at the same time, his body, crumpled, turning first to a skeleton, then dust, and then...nothing.

Matthew watched in fascinated horror, as his father disintegrated before his eyes. The euphoria that had come with the other slayings was strangely absent, and he was grateful. He stumbled from the cellar, somehow, making his way blindly up to the first floor.

/

It seemed incredible to him, that after the horror of what he done, in the basement cellar of the place he had once called home, that the dawning day should seem so peaceful. He felt an inner peace settle within him, something he hadn't felt since he'd been a child.

As he made his way into the bright sunshine that was beginning to warm the air around him, he felt lightness in his heart. The birds sang in the tress, and a slight breeze brought with it a scent he hadn't smelt in years.

He turned to where it seemed the strongest. Tears sprang to his eyes as he saw the ghost of his mother, looking as she had when he'd been a child. She smiled, and he felt a stab at his heart. She wasn't alone. His father was with her. As he watched, they both smiled at him.

Julia offered her hand to his father's ghost, smiling, and a look passed between them. Barnabas smiled tenderly, taking the offered hand, and they both turned to Matthew. They were together again. He felt warmth of their love for him, and for each other wash over him as they faded from sight.

He stared at the place where they had been, to say their goodbyes, and wiped savagely at his eyes. Megan and Sebastian would be waiting for him.

He turned his steps towards the village, the lightness in his heart growing. His parents were finally at peace, and he found himself, looking eagerly towards a brighter future.

A Collins was back in Collinsport.

The End