BEFORE YOUR EYES
by Vampire Fever
For a split second he wonders if it’s a dream. Then blinding hot pain rips though him, reminding him that this is very real indeed. He sinks to the floor waiting for everything to fade to black, waiting for the end; not expecting the images that flood his mind…
It all seemed so easy then. He finds it hard to believe that he’s still the same man. Recalling how excited he’d been when he first arrived in California and had driven past the ‘Welcome to Sunnydale’ sign, he has to remind himself that this memory of his younger self is genuine and not part of the tampering Wolfram & Hart had done to his mind. He’d been so certain of his own abilities and ridiculously eager to put all his Academy lessons into practice. Life was simple, everything was black and white and the rules were to be obeyed.
Was it weeks or months before Buffy and Giles knocked that arrogance out of him? The fact that it wasn’t moments still had the power to embarrass him. It never failed to amaze him; he’d really believed that, armed with a few books and the weight of the Council, he was capable of taking over from the best Watcher those idiots back in London never knew they had.
Immediately out of his depth but completely unaware of the chaos he was causing, he’d contributed to the self-destruction of one of the Slayers and endangered the life of the other. The fact that everyone in Sunnydale had survived him and continued to save the world on countless occasions was a testament to their bravery, skill and complete disregard of the world he came from. A lesson he himself learnt far too slowly and at too great a cost.
Being abandoned by the Council, for doing exactly as they instructed, had left him alone and floundering. With hindsight he knew it was the best thing that could have happened. He’d been saved, given a purpose and he’d found love. It was the happiest time of his life. Angel had made him a valued member of his team and he’d flourished; he’d used his Watcher skills to help the helpless and he’d been patiently taught to handle himself in a fight.
But the greatest thing his new colleagues did for him was just to accept him into their family, to make him one of their own and allow him to belong. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for them.
Stupidly, he’d failed to realise that the teachings of the Council were so deeply ingrained within him that he unconsciously allowed academic dogma to overrule his own judgement. An error that spawned consequences so far reaching that everyone was still paying for them - many with their lives.
The destruction of so much now rested on his shoulders. He didn’t flinch from his responsibility or his role in the decisions that were made, but in his heart he damned the Council. He damned his father and all the generations of old fools that preceded him. He was bred to think in a certain way; it was almost as though he was destined to be the trigger to the apocalypse. Only it was thinking like that that had caused this mess in the first place. Would he never learn?
They never forgave him. Not ever, not really. He was abandoned again but this time it was different; he was different. He’d lost everything that was dear to him and found that nothing filled the hole.
He became a shadow, a dark entity that lurked on the sidelines, watching events unfold. When he saw that help was needed, he let nothing get in his way to achieve the desired ends. It was hard to care or worry about ethics when nothing seemed to matter.
Of course, there was always a damsel in distress or another apocalypse waiting to end the world. Gradually he started to acknowledge that some things were worth saving and he could still make a difference. His life might be worth nothing, but the mission went on regardless.
They let him back in because they needed him, but it wasn’t the same. The trust had gone; he was useful - not loved. He shrugged it off, he wasn’t important. Not when the fallout from his mistake kept on rolling over them, reducing their numbers little by little, forcing them to make one bad choice after another.
Then, pushed to the edge, the hardest choice of all was made. The players were now lined up, the scene was set and their fate was sealed. It was only a matter of time.
He kept asking himself, if he’d had all his memories from the start, would events have unfolded in the same way? Could he have saved Fred? Could they have had a life together? Would she have even looked at him if her own memories hadn’t been altered? He wanted to blame Angel, but again, it all came back to him and his goddamn mistake. Angel did what Angel had to do for the sake of his son; you couldn’t condemn him for paying the price the devil demanded.
For all his bluster, the devil was a terrible poker player. He got lazy and failed to see the bluff. So now if they were all going down, they were going to bring the whole stinking edifice down around them.
He knew that they weren’t all going to climb out of the rubble. He knew that this was one battle he wasn’t going to survive. He didn’t care; he hadn’t in a long time. It was time he finally made amends for his terrible decision. It was time he put something back. It was actually long past time, he was tired and he was ready.
The images fade as the agony returns.
Illyria’s voice penetrates the pain clouding his mind.
“Would you like me to lie to you now?”
“Yes” he says.
But his life has already flashed before his eyes and he knows it’s way too late.