He should know better by now.
Every time he has dared hope for something, dared to actually reach out and believe he could grab it, the universe has laughed in his face and yanked it away.
You would think the lesson would have sunk in by now: never believe, never trust that you will get what you want.
He had assumed he would be a good Watcher, that he was as born to it as the Slayer, that he would research and guide, and she would listen and fight, and together they would save the world.
He had pictured how it was going to be many times, not as a wish, but a certainty, and he had known when he had boarded that flight to Sunnydale that he was going to his destiny.
That made his failure -- the pain and deaths that had resulted from it -- all the harder to endure. His eventual dismissal had been almost a relief when it came.
He hadn't allowed himself to believe in anything for quite some time after that. And when he did, he hadn't even realized it until that belief was shattered once again.
He had believed that he and Angel had understood each other, that the vampire trusted him enough to listen and, even if they didn't agree, that Angel wouldn't cast him out.
That his place was secure.
Angel firing him had been more devastating than his dismissal from the Watcher Council. This time he hadn't even seen it coming. This time it was from a place he had felt he belonged.
That incident should have made him more wary of trusting, believing, hoping. But there were some hopes that he couldn't stop, some dreams that refused to die no matter how many times they are knocked down.
Like every child who had grown up with a stern and disapproving father, he couldn't quite shake the belief, the hope, that someday he'd be able to make his father actually proud of him, no matter how much evidence there was to the contrary.
So when he had told his father about being put in charge of Angel Investigations he had hoped for some kind of pleased reaction, even if it was a grudging one.
What he got was disdain, dismissal and almost gleeful predictions of failure.
Knowing he was a fool to have hoped for anything else only made it hurt worse.
But despite the lesson that life seemed intent on repeatedly hammering home, he still keeps slipping up. No matter how wary he tries to be, how guarded he tries to keep his heart, he still keeps believing.
He still trusts his friends and himself, still believes in their mission. He has to, to continue to be who he is, who he wants to be.
If...when...the inevitable betrayal comes, he will endure the pain and disillusion. He'll berate himself for not seeing it coming, and tell himself that he'll change so that it won't happen again.
But it will.
Because he should know better by now.
But he doesn't.