Also Comes in Strange
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Title: Just as Soon
Summary: Season Five Angel, post Shells. I'm out of pep talks.

So this is whatís it come to. One. Two. Three. Everyone dies but me. Iíve been here so long I think Iíve gone insane. What does happen when both the victim and the attacker have lost their minds. Of course I havenít really lost mine. All the memories are still locked up tight, no one knows but me. Itís enough to make anyone go insane, right? Itís not simply because I know and they donít. Maybe part of them knows what Iíve done, sees through the lies, reads between the slip ups. I imagine Wesley knows. Iím certain Spike does. They know that all is not well, that these walls hold back the truth as surely as I do.

I hadnít cried since weíve come here. No tears since the night I lost Connor for good.

Tonight I cried. I cried when I learned the full extent of Gunnís conversion. Heíll be the first to find out, the ironic twist. Knowing me made him exactly the sort of man he never would have become, I made him better, stronger, nothing. Thatís my gift. Iíll take you in, build you up, send you a contract that says if you ever breathe a word of any of this Iíll have you drained and made into freezer pops. Donít go looking for the truth because if you find it Iíll have to pay the price again.

I never looked to see what the real cost was. I knew that Connor would be safe and happy, I knew that I would never be again. I never checked the box marked consequences, I should have looked. I should have known that they would all find out eventually, should have cut my losses, let him die, no price too great. Should have died. Me. I. Vampire.

None of it makes sense anymore, and those around me that I have fought for and protected no longer know why I do it. They donít remember ever being apart so how could they know what it means to be together? Learn your lessons well Liam, youíll need to know it all some day.

It will all end soon, one way or the other. The boys club has been infiltrated, eaten from within. Corrupted soul exposed to all the world. Lovers and friends and former torture victims united against me. Us. No allies anywhere in the world. No allies in this building. No escape. Not for me. My home is here, a short elevator ride could never be far enough away. I want to run out the front door and never look back. Leave them all to pick up the pieces and scatter them in the sun where they can turn to ash.

I never want to wake up to sunshine on my face anymore. I pull the shades closed tight, remind myself of what I am. Why I had to make the choices I made. Try to convince myself there was a reason worth sharing. Something that doesnít sound as hollow as "I had no choice."

I had a choice. I made the wrong one, and itís only months later, with dead women laying at my feet that I can see that. How many more hospital beds will I visit before I am strong enough to admit out loud that this was a mistake from the beginning. A gift horse full of powers I cannot wield. Powers I had no right taking.

Iím out of pep talks. Iíve no more encouraging words to say, no more illusions to cast. No more tricks up my sleeve. When the only comfort I get comes in the form of Spike and Harmony and knowing that I donít have it so rough as those who have conviction to do good for goods sake, or to belong, or whatever reason they choose to stay. I am here because I am paying the price. I donít even know that I am fighting on the side of good anymore. Nothing is clear when the lights are so bright it hurts your eyes.

I think Spike is right, something big is coming. The thing is, they donít know itís me. When it all comes down to that final battle Iím the wildcard. I always thought it would be me or Angelus, two spirits fighting from within. I see much clearer now. Angelus is dead and gone, buried deep within, merged, massacred, sealed, I donít know what to call it. Heís not there anymore, the whispering voice that always wanted to call the shots is silent now. I have no one to contend with but Liam. Is the man in me strong enough to chose the side of right or is he the one that always knew that the evil would come out?

When the sky burns again as it surely will, which side will I turn to? Who will follow me? When the leader is blind and no longer has the will to try and see can he still be called the leader? Will the questions that fill my addled mind ever find answers that donít lead back to a split-second decision and a contract signed in blood, filed away in a room marked ĎDonítí?

Will there ever be a time that I donít go there?

I think I might be doomed to repeat this pattern until four, five, and six fall down at my feet as well. So few of the inner circle left standing and none left unchanged. I signed the check but they all paid the price. I forgot to ask where the key was. There must be a drawer that opens, little jars inside, clearly marked Ďraped memoriesí. I just need to wander the halls until I find that room, find the right hiding place and smash the jars.

I need to smash things more often. Time to leave the pinstripes behind and remember what I am and where I came from. As soon as this pile of papers is off my desk and this last damsel saved and the last apocalypse averted Iím going to leave.

Just as soon as my desk is clean.