Summary: From hell to Sunnydale; lives torn apart, lives renewed.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but my imagination.
Word Count: 4,204
Author’s Note: I know this has been done at least a hundred times, but I’m a new writer with my own interpretation.
So indulge me. Thanks!
His world was screams and pain, howling and cries, torture and torment.
Every moment a cacophony of ghastly sounds, all repulsive and terrifying. He wasn’t allowed contact with the others he could hear crying and screaming. The kept him isolated, deprived of contact with anyone or anything. That wasn’t what bothered him. He was used to being alone. What tore at his soul was the deliberate eradication of his life’s memories.
Angel tried to remember pleasant sounds…voices, laughter, music, anything to drown out the horror, but he couldn’t. They wouldn’t allow it. The good things he knew, things he held dear, were slowly being taken away.
In the beginning he retained some moments of happiness, but those, and the remnants of blurred faces, melded together, eventually obliterated as though they’d never existed. In some part of his fractured mind he knew they did. He’d had a lover, a home, and a purpose, but he’d forgotten what it was.
The memory fragments he cherished the most were what sustained him at first. Her face, her smile, her beautiful eyes. How much he’d loved her. But he also the remembered the shock when his lover’s sword pierced his body. The rest was a disjointed blur until he’d found himself in hell’s clutches. He knew he must have done something bad to be here, regretted whatever he’d done that led to this. But he didn’t blame Buffy. If she thought her actions were justified, what she believed to be the only thing she could do, he knew it must be so.
It wasn’t long before hell ripped these loving memories apart. They were waning faster now, disintegrating before his mind’s eye as he desperately clung to them. He tried in vain to keep some small treasured moment in time. It was getting harder to do. They made sure of it.
Then the torture began. Defiantly he fought them off like a caged wild animal, struggling against the relentless assaults ravaging his body and mind, but bit by bit they wore him down. His futile attempts to retain his sense of self, all the things that made him who he had been, only gave them reason to torment him that much more. You get to keep nothing, they told him. You deserve nothing you once knew.
Leathery claw-like hands came for him again and again, dragging him out to tear at his flesh and break his bones, even before they’d healed from the last time. Forced to visualize his sins, they filled his head with the strangled cries of his victims, their faces twisted in agony. The guilt ate at him. To relieve the shame, bury it deep down, he hurt himself, desperate to feel something besides the guilt. He gnawed on his arm, tore away the flesh, biting down to the bone. Then he’d watch the blood drip rhythmically, slowly pooling on the filthy, blood-red floor. It helped sometimes. But when that didn’t work he threw back his head, over and over, slamming it against the stone wall, nearly blacking out. But nothing eased his suffering for more than a fleeting moment.
Growling and roaring as they tortured him, his guttural utterances eventually grew weak and faint; his own voice becoming unrecognizable, reduced to raspy grunts and whimpers. Then he shut down his voice altogether, his throat raw and bloody. Yet sometimes when the agony was excruciating, the stifled howls bubbled up in his throat, bursting forth unwilled.
Nothing touched him but pain.
Many times when he was huddled in his solitary corner, they offered him an odorous liquid, telling him it was blood. It tasted like blood, and he gulped it ravenously. He’d forgotten it would make him violently ill. Within moments he was doubled over, his arms hugging his body, agonizing spasms washing over him, until he was forced to spew the foul substance all over himself. Afterwards, when he’d expelled every drop possible, he was weak, his chest heaving, as the waves of pain subsided until the next time. They erased this memory, too, leaving him incapable of resisting when they offered it again.
Endless darkness prevailed here. Deprivation of light a torture in itself. Even his keen sense of sight was nearly useless in the presence of this blackness. Frequently they used light as torture, shining shockingly brilliant flashes inches from his eyes to watch him cringe. He vainly covered his sensitive eyes to shield them from the painful light. When it was withdrawn, the darkness was even darker.
They’d stripped him of clothes, thrown him to the bare stone floor, with nothing to ward off the bone-chilling coldness. Hell dimensions were supposed to be an inferno, a blaze of scorching heat, but not this one. This hell was freezing cold, jarring and constant. He tried to remember what it was like to be warm. Once they allowed him a glimpse, a memory, of what it was like and he’d nearly cried; a short-lived reverie jerked out of his mind, leaving him craving more.
Often he thought about going mad. He wondered how long it would take before his mind stopped functioning rationally, eroded into insanity. Would madness ease his suffering? If he was out of his mind, then hell couldn’t hurt him, could it?
They laughed. It wasn’t that simple.
When his will to survive ceased to support him, he begged them to end his existence, strip out his soul and set it free. It’s not my soul you want, it’s the monster, he cried. They snickered. It amused them that an evil creature believed he could be released from suffering. Your soul serves a purpose, they told him. It enhances your torment, which is, of course, the point here. You exist to suffer never-ending misery. There is no hope for you, vile thing.
Relentless hell took its toll, reducing Angel to a mute, trembling mass of scarred flesh and bone, devoid of all he had ever been. He’d fought harder than anyone, but their victory over him was inevitable. Such a fool, they said, to believe you can survive our world without losing all you know, all that you were. They beamed with pride at their accomplishment.
Angel gave them no further resistance, too weak to fend off their incessant persecution. Damned and defeated, he numbly bore his punishment, retreated to his corner and waited for it to start all over again.
But then it happened. Unexpectedly, without warning.
Something new and different came for him. Gentler hands held him, forcing him to stand while cold water was sprayed over his body, washing away the blood from his wounds. Angel shivered. They were taunting him, no doubt conjuring a new torment. Any second the ruse would be exposed, new wounds inflicted. He waited. Nothing happened.
He didn’t remember ever hearing so much silence.
It unnerved him.
Silence wasn’t part of his existence here.
Left alone, trembling from the icy cold water dripping off his body, he knew there would be a price for this peaceful lull. But what was happening? Where were they? They always came.
Still, he waited in the dark.
So it was shocking when the faint light began sifting down over his body. He screwed his eyes shut, tried to block out its jarring presence. Confusion clouded his mind. This wasn’t the bright light they used for torment, but a soft, filtered light emanating from the rocky ceiling, its origin impossible to pinpoint.
Instantaneously, the light grew in intensity, enveloping him completely. Miraculously, he felt his body being lifted effortlessly from the floor, slowly, suspended in the light, part of the light, captured in its pulsating journey out of hell.
Impossible speed and velocity dragging him downward.
The immeasurable force tore at him, nearly wrenching him apart. He almost blacked out from the tremendous tug and pull on his body as he descended into the emptiness of space.
The beam of light increased ten-fold, blinding his eyes. He felt his body slowing down. Sensing his ordeal was nearly over he knew the fate awaiting him was bound to be horrific. Bracing for hell’s wrath, he steeled himself for the blows that would follow. But he kept falling, decreasing in speed, floating toward a new death.
Abruptly, his body made contact with a hard, cold surface and he briefly lost consciousness.
When he came to with no sense of time’s passage, he listened for them, waited to be snatched away. But no claws grabbed at him. Everything around him was disturbingly calm and quiet.
The silence had returned.
Glorious, peaceful silence.
Angel lay on his side, grateful for the interlude, however fleeting. The torture would come. It was only a matter of time.
When it didn’t return and the quiet remained, it scared him to think what they were planning next. It must be worse than anything they’d thrown at him before. But how could that be? They’d done everything possible. They’d won. What more did they want from him?
He waited, but nothing touched him.
Eventually, he risked lifting his head and opened his eyes, struggling to focus on his surroundings.
There was light. Dim, faint light. Pleasant and soothing.
And there were walls, a spacious room. So much bigger than his corner of hell.
He moaned, imagining this was just another torturous site in the guise of his earthly home; one that feigned welcome, but offered nothing more than a new form of hellish and unspeakable things.
In the shroud of silence, his mind began to clear little by little. Thoughts he’d long ago given up remembering came back; thoughts of his world before hell flooded his head.
He winced. They were letting him see and feel things he’d been forced to forget. But he knew any second they’d only take them away again. He’d be left with nothing.
Yet, strangely, the memories lingered and new ones formed. Images appeared. More recollections of his life were shown to him.
He almost laughed, thinking how crazy it was to believe he’d get to keep these memories. They’d come and rip them out of his mind. But why didn’t they just get it over with so he could go back to his corner of hell? What was taking so long?
Soon the tension began to wear him down and he gave in, too exhausted to care anymore. Whatever they were going to do, he would endure as he always endured. Final death always near but never rewarded.
Suddenly, movement broke the serenity. Footsteps echoing faintly in the dark.
Angel shut his eyes. Whatever was approaching, he didn’t want to see. He pretended to sleep, hoping against all odds it would pass him by, yet knowing his thoughts were foolish. It amazed him that even after all this time, he still held out a tiny measure of hope that, just once, they’d let him be. Hope wasn’t something they flaunted in his face. Where had that thought come from?
The footsteps grew closer.
A familiarity bombarded his senses. A reassuring and soothing tingle snaked up his spine. He didn’t understand why, but his fear lessened as the approaching steps grew louder and closer.
Unexpectedly, shivers ran through his body as someone touched him, but then quickly withdrew, leaving him bewildered.
A gentle touch with heavenly warmth.
Had he dreamed it?
His hopes dashed when he heard the footsteps leaving hurriedly, fading. Whatever had touched him was gone and his despair returned.
Moments later, the footsteps came back. His heart leapt to his throat and a whimper formed in his mouth. Would there be warmth again? He begged to feel it one more time before hell came back.
Abruptly, he felt something placed carefully over his body. It felt like a soft blanket and smelled like the sun. A tear slipped from his eye. He remembered that smell. But it was the warmth he coveted, so incredibly comforting. Another tear stained his sunken cheek as he gave thanks for this blessed moment, thankful not to be so shivering cold.
He waited for the cover to be cast aside and their laughter to follow. This was all a setup. What else could it be? But no one took the cover and it kept him warm.
Whoever had touched him was still here. He didn’t know why, but he trusted this person; felt in his heart this was someone good, with no intentions of harming him. His mind eased.
With nervous trepidation, Angel opened his eyes. He caught a glimpse of his benevolent benefactor. Big, soft, endearing eyes stared back at him. He blinked several times to clear his foggy mind. The figure took on defined shape and form.
He remembered. He smelled her heavenly sweet essence. He knew who she was!
He tried to speak, but his neglected voice murmured nothing more than a faint, raspy moan as he felt loving arms wrap around him, hugging him tightly. Frustrated, Angel tried again to clear his throat, willing it to say her name, even if he never uttered another sound.
He gazed into the tearful eyes of his beloved and whispered…
So much quiet here.
Nothing but ear-shattering, cover-your-ears silence.
She remembered when it was different.
So very different.
Countless times she came here to be comforted, to be kissed, to feel love.
All of it gone now.
No arms to hold her, no hands to touch her.
She was left with nothing but heart-wrenching sadness and guilt.
The ever-present guilt.
It was her duty, what she was chosen for. To rid the world of evil was her destiny written in the winds of the ages. She accepted her calling, slaying as no other before her. But she hadn’t expected the twist; the love that swept her off her feet, unbidden and forbidden.
The unforeseen blindsided her, caught her up in a whirlwind romance, like those in fairy tales. Dreamy stories of the beautiful young lady who meets the handsome young man, and they live happily ever after. It was the fantasy of every young girl.
But Buffy knew fairy tales didn’t exist. Not anymore. Once she’d believed them. When she was younger and innocent she would lay awake imagining what her prince charming would look like, how he would kiss her and love her forever. She thought she’d found her shining knight; the dark, handsome prince with sweet kisses and words that melted her heart. But he’d turned into a monster.
Disbelief wracked her mind, how something so wonderful could go so wrong; how the man she loved and who loved her could transform into something evil, someone she didn’t recognize.
Damn those fairy tales and their happy endings.
With no choice but to destroy the demon who stole her lover, she vowed his demise, urged by friends to put him down for the sake of all. For a while she held out hope that by some miracle her true love would return and vanquish the demon. But it wasn’t to be. His killing and taunting only reinforced her decision. He had to die.
Fueled by grim determination and the cruelty of fate, she carried out her duty, but it tore her heart to shreds. But she’d saved humanity again, and that was all anyone would remember. Her friends told her to be proud; encouraged her to forget she’d sent her lover-turned-evil to hell. It wasn’t that easy.
Because of her everyone was still going about their day, leading their normal lives. They were completely unaware their fate had rested in the hands of one brave young woman who’d destroyed her hope of ever being happy with one swift blow. Her sacrifice was their salvation.
To save the world she gave up her fairy-tale dream.
The days and weeks that followed were a massive blur of emotions. She shoved the gut-wrenching memories deep in her heart and mind, afraid to let them out in the open. They would devour her whole if allowed to escape and roam free.
She hid them from the world, the thoughts that kept her awake at night; the scenes she replayed over and over as she lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, tears streaming down her face. How could anyone know how she felt? They didn’t know what she’d done; the horror forced upon her at the last moment as she drove the sword through Angel, not Angelus. All they saw was an evil thing. No one but her saw the last loving gaze from his eyes. They didn’t hear his whisper I love you he so devotedly gave to her as she gripped the sword tighter and kissed him, knowing in a moment he would be gone forever. How could they understand what it was like to be a hero and a murderer in one terrible, agonizing moment?
She’d been ready to kill Angelus, but she wasn’t prepared to look in Angel’s eyes and lie to him.
Every morning she would dry her tears and start her day, fulfill her obligations, pretending she was untouched by tragedy. She got away with it. People passed her on the street, never looking twice, not seeing the debilitating loneliness in her hollow eyes.
One Saturday afternoon she slipped away from her friends and found herself standing inside the mansion. She didn’t understand why she was drawn to it, but she’d had to come. It was the second, most difficult thing she’d ever done.
The deafening stillness and emptiness tugged at her fragile heart as she wandered through the rooms. She touched his clothes, his books, swiping the dust away here and there with a soft brush of her hand. Absently, she tidied up, made the bed, hung up shirts, and folded unused towels; busyness to keep from bursting into tears. When she finished, nothing else to do, she stepped back and admired the neatness. It was eerie how the rooms seemed to anticipate, as always, the return of their owner. They would wait forever with her.
The tears finally came, unabashed, when she eyed his sword lying in the dust, knocked out of Angelus’ hand during the fight. With trembling hands she picked it up, ran her hand down the blade, disturbed dust fluttering to the floor as sobs wracked her body. Her fight against Angelus fresh in her mind, the moment she realized he was Angel, all came rushing back in a frenzy of memories more vivid and frightening than ever. She cried out and flung the sword across the room, running out as fast as she could.
She tried to get over him, faked smiles and feigned laughs at friends’ jokes, small-talked and flirted with boys at school. She led the life everyone wanted her to have. They thought she was getting better. It was what she wanted them to believe.
More empty weeks passed.
Nothing touched her.
She’d killed Angel.
Sometimes she dreaded sleeping, knowing the nightmarish dream waited to haunt her.
He came to her with an adoring smile and a kiss, expressing his unwavering love, absolving her from guilt. Always forgiving. Grasping her hand he would slide the ring off her finger. You’re free now, he whispered, walking away. She looked down at her naked finger, watching blood oozing from where the ring had been.
Her anguished cries always woke her up.
As the weeks turned into months, she tried not to think of him; the only way to protect herself from madness. Torturous thoughts of an unfulfilled love were pushed down deeper where they could linger untouched and safe. And the tick-tick of time stole her heartache and memories, one by one. Eventually, the tears dried. Disconnecting from those memories gave her some peace of mind. She practiced every day.
The time came when she knew, for her sake and sanity, she had to move on, focus on the future. With renewed determination, she shook off the tattered threads of guilt and remorse, threw herself into slaying with a vengeance, proving to herself she wasn’t a weak-kneed, sniveling mass of heartache. She reminded herself of that every day.
Once in a while she entertained the thought of having someone in her life; someone to fill the empty space by her side, the fathomless void that followed her everywhere. Boys asked her out and she obliged, but none moved her, touched her heart. She gave up the notion of filling that space, left it empty.
That space would always be Angel’s.
It was finally clear to Buffy she had to put an end to that part of her life; the haunting past that cried for resolution, once and for all. Mustering all her courage, she went to the mansion for a last farewell, to unburden her heart and lay to rest with undying devotion, that which she would never have or behold again.
Stepping inside, she fantasized she would find him waiting for her. Even after all this time, she pictured him grinning as she entered, standing up, his fingers holding his place in the book he’d been reading by the fire. It made her smile the way it always had.
The soothing memory faded as she glanced around the empty, silent room. But if she listened carefully, she could hear the echoes of his voice imprisoned in the stone walls, smell his lingering scent, and they strangely comforted her. His ghostly presence was everywhere.
Shaking her thoughts back to the moment, she nervously fingered the Claddagh ring in her sweaty hand as a tear paused in her eye. She’d wanted to keep the ring he so lovingly gave her, his heartfelt gesture of devotion that meant the world to her. But its presence tied her to him, bound her to his love that was never more. To truly begin her new life she had to let go of him and everything he’d touched.
With hesitating steps she walked slowly to the center of the room and gently placed the ring on the stone floor, whispering her goodbye, and turned to leave for the last time.
She’d barely made it past the garden when a tingly spider sense overcame her, rattling her resolve. A feeling long since gone but so eerily familiar. She stopped walking and cocked her head to the side, listening to her heart. It vibrated wildly with every heartbeat, grasped at her mind for attention. She shook it off as wishful thinking and tried to make her feet move towards home, but they resisted. A few more steps and the sensation magnified, whirled through her body like a turbulent wind, beckoning her back to the mansion.
And then she saw it out of the corner of her eye. Its brilliance lit up the night sky; every window in the mansion coming to life, bathed in pure white. Wincing, she turned her head away and shut her eyes against the blinding glow, until the light faded and was no more.
She’d half expected the mansion to erupt in flames, but when the silent darkness returned and all was unscathed, she relaxed. For several long, torturous moments, she stood debating with herself what to do. Did she dare walk back in there? And if she did, what did she expect to see? Whatever had caused that mysterious light was bugging her. Finally, her curiosity won over fear, and she headed back inside.
Nothing could have prepared her for what she bore witness to, what her eyes beheld. Frozen in disbelief, she stared at him, holding her breath, emotions running wild, consumed by astonishment and awe. Her knees nearly buckled as her eyes drank in his form, just a few feet in front of her. A profound and shocking vision of Angel.
She thought there would be wounds, scars from torture, but he was surprisingly as handsome as ever, lying on his side with his head cradled on his outstretched arm. His eyes were closed. His naked body glistened in the dark, fresh from hell.
Blinking rapidly to clear the hallucination, she couldn’t make him go away, no matter what she did.
No, it couldn’t possibly be!
Buffy’s heart pounded so hard it frightened her. Torn between rushing over and holding back, she was uncertain what to do. The sight of Angel overwhelmed her. Yet she had to know if he was real or her imagination gone awry.
Apprehensively, she approached him. Slowly bending down, she extended her shaky hand to gingerly touch him. She gasped at how ice cold he felt, pulling her hand back quickly in shock.
Jumping up she ran to the bedroom, grabbed a blanket from his bed, and lovingly covered his body. She stood back, nervous anticipation screaming in her head.
She waited for him to move, terrified that hell had sent back his corpse to torment her.
Her fears dissolved when Angel’s eyes fluttered open, staring at her with forgiveness and love. She smiled her first real smile in months. Immediately all the sadness and pain ebbed, giving birth to a joy she never expected to feel again.
Buffy flung her body over his and hugged him, tears spilling from her eyes, as he moaned in her arms, and she whispered...