Liz hoped the baby would save their marriage; Bill hoped the baby would save his soul.
It wasn't fair to Liz, but then again, he'd never been fair to Liz. He loved her, truly he did, but not in the way she loved him, not in the way she should be loved by a man. And he'd believed he could overcome his desires, keep them hidden with discipline and hard work and self-denial, be a good husband. After all, it was a perfect match: he'd never have to hide his vampire hunting activities, not from her. Together, they could fight the darkness, inside and out.
But cracks began to form. For the first time in his life, sheer force of will wasn't enough. He pretended she was enough, performing his husbandly duties with grim obligation; she pretended not to see how his eyes lingered on her coworkers at the Sheriff's Department. They both pretended to be excited when Liz told him they were going to have a baby.
Bill always struggled with the idea of bringing a baby into this world. It wasn't safe, not for any of them, so long as vampires continued to roam and breed like vermin. But at the same time, was there any clearer repudiation of an unnatural species that thrived on death than to create new life, innocent and perfect and so vitally alive? And Liz gave him so many promises, that a baby was what they needed to refocus their marriage, continue the Forbes line, and create a stronger team. Together, they could raise a child that would one day take up arms and continue the fight. Bill doubted.
But the instant they'd put that tiny pink bundle in his arms, with her wispy hair golden as sunlight and eyes blue as the sky, he knew this baby was worth all the lies. And he knew he could never let this sunshine girl stand against the darkness. She would always need to be a daughter of the light.
They muddled on together for a few more years, bound together by duty and by Caroline. But one day, Bill awoke to a simple realization: No amount of discipline would change who he was. "This is a lie, Liz," he said. "I love you, but we both need to be free to be with someone who loves us as we are, not who we hope we could be."
She'd cried and raged, begged and promised that she could change, that their love could last, that he needed to stay for Caroline, but Bill knew he needed to leave for her, too. It wasn't safe for her to live with a vampire hunter, not when he did everything he could to draw their fire. Yes, Liz was a warrior too, but she was a reactionary, cleaning up their messes after the fact. Bill brought the fight to the monsters' doorstep, and one day, they'd bring it to his. And his blue-sky daughter couldn't be allowed to walk into those shadows.
He'd picked her up after school that day, all pigtails and pink, and they'd walked by the river. "You have to be who you are, Care," he said. "And I haven't been doing that. And that's not fair to any of us—not to me, not to your mom, and not to you, either. You deserve better."
"But why can't you be who you are here? Why do you have to go?" She asked, tears glistening. "I love you no matter who you are. Don't leave me, Daddy."
His will nearly crumbled. Surely they could make it work—he could stay in town, visit her on the weekends, still be there to help with her science fair projects, to see her off on the first day of school, to help her choose a prom dress. But it wasn't that simple.
"I can't, Care Bear. You'll understand why when you're older. I hope you'll understand. But remember: no matter what happens, I love you very much, just the way you are."
The years of absentee fatherhood began. Every photograph, every letter, every excited phone call full of news about cheerleading try-outs and boys and school made his resolve weaken, made him think that now he could go back, be a part of her life again. The wounds with Liz weren't as raw anymore, maybe they could be a team again. But then he spent another night prowling for vampire nests, killing monsters with bloody eyes, and he knew he couldn't risk living with his sunshine girl.
He fought for her. He trained his mind to resist compulsion for her. He slipped out of Steven's bed every night to hunt for creatures that would make his partner's blood run cold for her, all in the hopes that one day they'd all be gone, that they could be a family again.
That day never came, only a phone call that made his carefully built walls of control and discipline crash to the ground. She was dead. Worse than dead—a monster masqueraded behind her sweet smile. All these years he'd fought to draw them away from her, fought to keep her safe with his absence, and it had all amounted to the same thing anyway: a mouthful of poison, a cruel death, a brutal murder that birthed a terrible half-life.
He should destroy her; he knew that. All those creatures deserved to be sent to a peaceful true death. But he couldn't bring himself to do it, knew he'd never be able to dim the blue skies in her eyes. But he could fix her. Deep down inside, behind the silliness and frivolity of a child, he knew that Caroline had the strength it took to fight and conquer her weakness. She was his daughter, after all.
When the first ray of sunlight burned her skin, he wanted to weep. He wanted to stop and take her in his arms and tell her it was all right, give her back her abominable ring and let her continue to live a life of horror. But he loved her too much to let her take that easy road, to be completely corrupted by the blood. So he let the sun do its work, purging the unnaturalness of the vampire with its pure light, turning her body into a smoking ruin. But though she bent, she would not break. His Care Bear was too strong for even him to change. Even in death, she was utterly herself.
The meddling doctor raped his body, stealing his choice and dosing him with poison. Never for a moment did he consider completing the transformation, letting blood cross his lips and defile his body. Oh, he wanted to. In the hospital, the smell had been intoxicating, overwhelming his senses with temptation. But he knew that wasn't the path for him. He would always choose to die with honor and with his soul than to take the expedient route. Those were his beliefs, and they were all he had.
"Don't leave me, Daddy," she said. He wanted to stay for her, but that wasn't the way of the world. She was the one who was meant to live; he was the one who was meant to die. Such was life, such was death.
"This is life," he said. "This is what it means to be human."
And in the end, he was glad. He was glad he had time to say all the things he never got the chance to say: How proud he was of her unwavering intelligence and beauty and goodness, how she'd clung so tightly to her humanity that sometimes he even managed to forget what she was. He didn't begrudge her choice, but he couldn't make it for himself.
The last thing he saw, before darkness yawned and took him home, was his beautiful sunshine girl, shining through her tears. He'd never loved her more.