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Author's Note: Again, this is part of the Ruiner Series - a collection of White-centric vignettes that stand alone, but are linked together. Can be read in no particular order. Originally this particular one was a part of 'Ruiner: A Necessary Evil' (and still is at other archives). I decied to split it up when posting it here, as it didn't fit in with A Necessary Evil. This can be read as a standalone, but is set after A Necessary Evil. (First published: 5-12-03)

Ruiner: A Family Portrait
by Sorrow

maybe it's a part of me you took to a place I hoped it would never go
and maybe that fucked me up so much more than you'll ever know

It took Ames a long time to return to the house he had shared with his wife and son. The mansion was once his home - their home. But now it had become little more than a cold forbidding prison, holding hostage the ghosts of his family within it's elegantly decorated walls. Trapped souls that screamed inside his head as he lay awake at night, accusing him of sins he swore he had never committed.

Not according to his system of belief anyway.

For weeks he had holed himself up in motel rooms, unable to face the spacious living room where once he would sit with his wife and exchange the day's pleasantries. Carefully constructed lies on his part of course. He would never admit that the idea of returning to his home filled him with unease. But it was the truth, though he hid it even from himself. He ran from the family portrait which hung across one wall of his home. Rather then face it, he would lean back upon whatever unfamiliar bed he happened to be paying for, and stare at walls which were comforting with their lack of decoration.

Even so, his mind's eye would see the imprint of that damn portrait. Like the spots that appear upon staring at the sun too long - he would close his eyes and see the smiling face of his wife splashed out across the inside of his eyelids. His son's impish smile, so filled with the innocent of the young, would beckon him with the promise of a life he could never again be privy to. Ames knew that no matter how far he ran, the memories would always follow him like flies upon a corpse. Swarming around him as he lay alone in the dark, blinding him as he tried to see the truth in his convictions. Feasting on his conscience, laying their spawn within the gaping sores of his very soul. He could never hide from the human within himself.

Life went on. At least on the surface. Each day he would arrive at work at precisely ten minutes to eight. Giving himself enough time to switch into the appropriate cool, collected mode, before going about his job as hunter of a species that didn't exist, for a company that likewise, was so far off the records even he had to pinch himself. Each week he would please the Conclave with his offerings of transgenic flesh. Their engineered blood spilt upon the invisible altar of Evolution.

It was a necessary evil.

On the inside, he withered. His soul lay stagnant within him - dragging behind like an unwilling shadow. Always he had served his people well. The acts of atrocity that he committed in the name of progression, at first horrified him - back in the days of his youth, before his heart became nothing more than a lump of coal. A heart so darkened by the greed and arrogance of his race, that the blood ran like black ink through his veins.

Of course, in time he had learnt to enjoy the thrill of the chase, and the exquisite pain of creatures capable of feeling such a thing. Perhaps he enjoyed it too much? Maybe it was wrong to smile while bearing witness to the weakness of others - as they begged uselessly for their lives? Should he have never felt envy at their tortured cries as he forced them to suffer a pain he would never know? Was it wrong to strike at them in anger, frustrated by how they refused to appreciate the fact that they at least had the ability to feel - when he could only experience it through the misery of others? Was that the reason his family were taken from him by the hands of fate? To remind him of his own humility?

After all, not all of his race were cruel. Vain and arrogant - yes. Such traits came with the superior breeding. The cruelty was simply an added bonus that Ames had acquired along the way. And now he had that which he had always yearned for - the ability to feel pain. Not the physical hurt he inflicted upon the unfortunates who crossed his path, but an agony which reached into the deepest recess of his blackened soul.

Such torment was a feeling he knew all too well now.

It is human nature to want what you cannot have. And to always want more, even when you have it all. Selective breeding couldn't stamp out the fact that familiars were inherently human - as much as they tried to deny it. Therefore, Ames had always longed to experience the various sensations denied to him by his kind. Pain... love... fear... The fact that he was detached from such things left him wanting to taste them all the more. He wanted to experience these feelings so that he could control them - and gloat over the power of such possession. But it was only now that he knew they possessed him.

Through his wife and son he had experienced love - but he knew it only too late. Through their loss he felt pain - and he knew now that it was a feeling he would never again fully master. And as he dwelt within these bleak motel rooms, he now knew fear. He feared that he would never escape the ghosts of his old life. He feared that the gaping hole within him left by the absence of his family, would never close over and heal. And finally he feared that the guilt that gnawed away at him as he struggled each night with the nightmares peppered though his fitful sleeps, would one day consume him. And then he would awaken to find himself a weakened shadow of his former self, clinging tenaciously to a fragile existence - one of the Meek. Or worse. Too human to be familiar - too familiar to be human. Just an empty shell of a man with nothing but darkness within himself.

And hate.

He would always have his hate.

The Abrupt End