I Was Lost

I Was Lost

By a2zmom
Author's Notes

Angel awakened suddenly, his entire body tense. He didn't understand where he was or what had happened, but every instinct screamed danger. Every instinct told him the dawn was coming.

The ground was hard, small rocks and bit of debris embedded in his palms. He scuttled backwards, deeper into the shade. He could feel his body calming down. A moment later he collapsed, huddled in an alleyway, the two buildings on either side casting a safe haven of shade.

When he next woke up, the sun had gone down. He didn't move, trying to first determine why he was here and what had happened. Slowly he stood up and stumbled toward the opening of the alley. Watch out for that homeless guy. They were referring to him, Angel realized as the footsteps receded.

Trying to take a step, he stumbled instead, falling against the wall of one of the buildings and finding he needed it for support. “What city is this?” he asked the couple rushing by.

“Damn dug addict,” the man spat out.

“Los Angeles,” said his companion, disgust and pity evident in her voice.

Los Angeles. There should be something recognizable about that, he was sure of it. He couldn't remember. He looked up and down the street and then looked up. The building that he was standing in front of was called The Hyperion. It seemed familiar somehow, a sense of deja vu flitting through him. He was positive that somehow he knew this place. The front door was chained up and he looked around to ensure he was alone. It took him longer than it should have to break in, but a few minutes later he stepped in through the front door.

It was obviously a hotel or at least had been at one time. He didn't get any further than a few feet into the lobby. It didn't take a detective to know that no one had been here for a long time. A thick layer of dust covered everything.

He sat down on the round red couch as a gray cloud rose into the air. He sat quietly, gathering his thoughts. He remembered his human life, a drunken wastrel interested in little besides bedding his next conquest. He remembered Darla and her promise that she would show him the world. He supposed she had. She had also lovingly shown him the darkest depths of his nature as they murdered and tortured their way across Europe for one hundred and fifty years. He remembered a beautiful gypsy girl and the agony of reacquiring his soul. And after that?

He remembered history as it pressed onward. The invention of trains and cars and planes. The rise of the factory as people migrated from small farms to large cities. Movies and radios and television. Wars. So many wars.

But his own personal history was lost to him except for vague impressions. He knew he had lived in this place. But more than that he currently couldn't say. What had he been doing for the past hundred fifty years?

An image came to him, hazy as if he were watching an out of focus movie. Three huge vampires were attacking someone., a tiny female from the looks of it. He watched as he jumped in, savagely kicking one of the vampires.

Huh. So I help people, protect them from the dark forces of the night. I'm a superhero.He grinned at the thought, then looked down at himself, suddenly worried. Please don't let me wear tights. He huffed a sigh of relief that he wasn't, even as he grimaced at what he actually was wearing. Clothes that so ripped and full of dried blood that they were actually stiff. He was going to need to do something about that.

He looked around the lobby again. Had he lived here alone? It was a large place for a single vampire but he always had liked space. And where had he been recently? Not here, obviously.

He crept up the stairs, dreading what he would find.

As soon as he went up the stairs, muscle memory kicked in and he unerringly turned into one of the rooms. His bedroom was both completely familiar and utterly foreign. A cursory investigation revealed that his clothing and personal belongings were gone. Although he had been sleeping all day, he felt exhausted again. He toed off his boots and fell onto his bed, not caring that the sheets were grimy. He'd sort things out later.

When he woke up for the third time, he knew without giving it much thought that it was around 2 AM. The hunger that sluiced through him, sharp and bright, made him think that he had lain in his bed for over 24 hours. Now that he was fully awake, his clothing was too uncomfortable to keep wearing. The only thing it had going for it for that the blood was so dried that he couldn't smell it. He decided on a shower first, then he would attend to his thirst.

He stood under the spray, water turned as hot as possible. He stared down at his feet and watched as the water went from dark red to rusty colored to pink to clear. He closed his eyes not bothering to take inventory of his body. There was no current wounds or broken bones and that was truly his only concern. He had lived in this skin for a quarter of a century; he was familiar with ever dip, every hollow. There was no soap, but even this was better than nothing.

He stepped out into the bathroom, grateful that the change in temperature didn't bother him since there wasn't a towel to be found. It occurred to him that he hadn't seen any clothing which could pose a problem. He poked his head into his closet and there in the corner was an overlooked pair of black sweatpants. They were now a bit damp since his skin was still wet, but even so, it was a huge improvement over the tattered and bloodied rags he had been wearing.

He searched through the dresser drawers looking for a shirt. In the bottom drawer, a royal blue sweater lay folded, tags still attached.

He picked it up and stopped, eyes wide and, unseeing. Cordelia had bought him this in a futile effort to get him to expand his wardrobe color palette. Cordelia. God, Cordelia. Memories exploded – Cordelia talking, Cordelia laughing, Cordelia angry. How could he have forgotten her? He tried to remember the nature of their relationship, but his mind conjured up nothing. Obviously she was important to him, but he had no context at all. He sat back down on the bed, frustrated.

Staying in this room was telling him nothing. He strode out through the door, opening up the doors of each room. They meant nothing to him. He went to each floor in turn, hoping for a spark to ignite. In one of the rooms, he shivered. Something had happened here. He briefly thought of a woman. In some kind of pain. But then it was gone and no matter how hard he tried, the thought had vanished.

He kept going. It was on the top floor, in one of the last rooms he visited. The crib had been in some sort of fire. A tremendous melancholy overtook him. Had the baby survived the blaze? Whose child was it? It seemed ridiculous to be this affected, but he was. Maybe the child had been Cordelia's? He sighed. He needed answers and none were forthcoming.

He heeded back downstairs and spied an answering machine. He pushed play, hoping against hope.

You have reached the former home of Angel Investigations. Please contact the main switchboard at Wolfram and Hart, 555-1697 for any inquiries.

Wolfram and Hart? They were a law firm, weren't they? He had no idea what he'd be doing with a law firm, but that was his voice on the answering machine. Well, at least he knew his next stop.

It took him longer than he would have liked to go from the hotel to the impressive looking office building. He wound up re-wearing his ruined socks and boots, but at least the sweats and sweater were clean.

He got there with only a half hour left before the sun would rise. As he walked up to the main door, it dawned on him that he had absolutely no plan and no idea who he would talk to or what he'd exactly ask about. But this was the only clue he had and that was enough to go on for now.

He walked into the lobby, more impressed than he wanted to admit by the polished marble floor, dark wood walls and tasteful fountain in the corner.

“Mr. Angel!”

He turned, surprised and realized that it was the security guard at the desk.

“Coming in from a late night?” the man asked jovially.

“Ah, yes?” Angel finally managed.

“Well, your private elevator is waiting, just like always.”

What the hell? He managed to keep his expression neutral. Walking toward the elevator, he looked at it puzzled. There wasn't a button to press. Leaning in closer, his hand skimmed the side. The doors opened making Angel jump. He looked around, glad the guard hadn't seen his cluelessness.

He stepped in to the elevator, noting dispassionately that the highly polished stainless walls reflect nothing. He's used to the physical world taking no notice of him.

There are four buttons embedded in the elevator wall, marked G, L, O and P. L is currently lit up and he surmises that it stands for lobby. He doesn't have a guess as to the others and after a seconds hesitation, he presses P.

Thirty seconds later he was deposited in a large modern penthouse apartment. His apartment based on what the guard had send. Which made absolutely no sense. Once again he had the unsettled feeling of knowing yet not knowing. Closing his eyes, he mapped out a layout of the apartment in his imnd, even though he swore he'd never seen the place. He headed over to the kitchen and opened the fridge. Stocked with blood. Apparently it was indeed where he lived.

Hunger washed over him reminding him that it had been quite a while since he had eaten. He heated up a mug of blood and downed it.

He wandered around the apartment. It was expensively furnished, none of it to his taste. Modern, all sharp edges, leather and chrome without a single hint of personality or warmth. He wondered why he hadn't changed the furnishings.

He opened every drawer, pawed through every closet hoping to find a hint. On the desk in the den, an appointment book lay open. “Staff Meeting” in his own handwriting was entered neatly next to the 9 AM slot. June 9, 2003. Well, at least he now knew the date.

He stepped into the bathroom and noted the large shower was stocked with all of his favorite hair products. He stripped and this time took a proper shower, closing his eyes and letting himself luxuriate for a moment. This he certainly could get used to.

He grabbed a body wash, and was about to lather up when he looked at his body. And gasped in horror. He was covered in scars. Angry red puckered lines, blade thin scars, skin that was permanently twisted. How could this be? It wasn't easy for a vampire to scar. A magically enspelled item could leave a permanent mark, but this? This was the work of a multitude of blades, knives, daggers, swords and it must have happened over a period of weeks.

How could he not remember any of this. He felt ill looking at his body. He hadn't seen his own face in nearly forever and reached up to gently probe the skin. His fingers stroked along his jaw, cheeks, nose, eyelids, foreheads. He breathed a sigh of relief. His face didn't appear to be mutilated.

How could he not have noticed this up to this point? Someone or something obviously was clouding his mind. It explained his lack of memories and not even noticing something as obvious as his prior injuries. It seemed that until he specifically focused on something, his mind was happy just to ignore the obvious.

He turned off the water and stepped out, still agitated. Wrapping a towel around his waist, he pulled himself up short. There were no coverings on any of the windows and the sun was up. He stared at himself, at the windows and the laughed in relief. No smoke was rising from his skin. Some kind of magic was at work here. He walked up to a window and stared out, awe overwhelming him at the sight of the sun.

Finally, he padded into his bedroom, opening the clothes closet. An array of expensively tailored suits and shirts greeted him.

He couldn't recall much but he was pretty sure that suits were not his thing. He reached out and touched the material. Silk. He harrumphed and told himself he'd wear it just because he didn't have a choice. But no way was he putting on a tie.

Dressed, he headed back into the elevator, this time nonchalantly touching the side of the frame. Which button to press? G was the basement level, so O it was. He pushed it and get off seconds later in a large well appointed office.

A wet bar fully stocked with top shelf booze and blood, a large flat screen TV, a leather coach, an imposing desk, a conference table. How had he gotten into this situation? This was a law firm and he most certainly wasn't a lawyer.

“Have a nice vacation, Boss?”

He stared at the woman manning the desk outside his office. Not a woman, a vampire. What the hell?. “Here's your blood, warmed up just how you like it.”

“Thanks...Harmony.” He had stolen a quick glance at her name plate. Once again, he had that annoying sense that he did in fact know her. He was getting majorly tired of his swiss cheese brain. He took a swig of the blood and almost spat it out.

Harmony obviously had seen his distress because she gave him a sympathetic smile. “I know it's a bit off, but what are you going to do? Blood drive isn't for another two weeks.”

“Blood drive,” he mumbled weakly. He stared at the mug in horror, even while his senses supplied data he would rather have pretended he didn't know. A pos, female, stressed. “Is there something else you can get me?”

Harmony took the mug and left. Angel could hear her mumbling about how some vampires were never satisfied.

He stepped back into his office and almost immediately a small gang of people followed in behind him. The 9 AM meeting he had written down. Seated around the conference table, he let his gaze flit from one to the next. He didn't know any of these people. And he would have lay high odds that he never had, memory problems or not.

They were discussing a contract with a demon tribe that was coming up for renewal. His attention wondered. “Wes,” he whispered, wondering exactly what he meant by that.

The man to his right turned to him. “Vespa? That's a good point. Their contract isn't that dissimilar to what we want to offer the Gor'lachs. Let me consult a few law books and I'll let you know.”

Angel clasped his hands, trying to appear in control. He cleared his throat. “Why doesn't everyone write up a list of pros and cons on the approach and e-mail it to me.” He worried that they would see through his bull, but instead they were nodding as if he just preached the sermon on the mount.

As the last of his staff headed out, Harmony sauntered back in, mug in hand. He took a sip relieved that it wasn't human. It also wasn't pig, but he decided maybe there were some things he'd rather not know. He took a large gulp and then set the mug down. “Clear my schedule. I'll be gone the rest of the day.”

She stormed off, muttering, “Mr. Bossy strikes again. What does he care if people get angry at me for canceling meetings? I'm just the secretary. No one cares how I feel.”

Angel spent the rest of the day stalking the halls and offices of Wolfram and Hart. He was surprised and dismayed that not only did most of the employees recognize him, but the majority were plainly terrified of him. Was he that terrible a boss? It's not like he went around snapping the necks of his staff, was it?

He wandered into a large, well lit modern lab. A host of white jacketed scientists were roaming around, mixing up various colored liquids. He narrowed his eyes, trying to name the emotion that was swelling within him. A nameless grief filled him. Something had happened here, in this very room.

A Korean woman began to make her way over to him. She had been in his staff meeting that morning and he was able to put two and two together. She ran the science division of Wolfram and Hart. He still didn't know much, but at least he had quickly figured out that W&H did a lot more than law and were a firm that had business interests in quite a few areas, most of them supernatural in nature. That might have explained why he was somehow I charge. After all, a souled vampire was about as supernatural as it got.

“Hi, Jin,” he said, grateful he recalled her name from this morning. “I'm just wondering, what's the safety record of the lab?”

She smiled, obviously pleased in his interest. “We have one of the best records in the entire country. No major incidents for over a decade. As you know, every employee is required to take safety training once a quarter, not only regarding basic lab procedures but also special precautions to take when dealing with various supernatural elements.

We've recently made some headway on cures for certain autoimmune diseases. Would you like to see?”

Fifteen minutes later, Angel was more than a bit impressed that this was research that he was facilitating. He didn't understand any of the jargon, but it was obvious that this could have amazing benefits.

He still needed to know what was going on, but maybe the more important thing was that Wolfram and Hart was obviously making a difference.

He spent the rest of the day trying to find some trace of Cordelia. She wasn't one of the employees and when he wandered into the IT section and had one of the techs do a search, none of the Cordelias were his. Maybe she hadn't ever existed and his memory was conjuring people up? He doubted that, but it was also true that he couldn't find any trace of her.

“Here's your blood, everybody's already here for the 9 AM, you've got a 10:30 with the Querblech tribe, You've got a lunch date with that new client and you've got the charity award thing tonight.”

Angel nodded as Harmony chattered a mile a minute, striding into his office.

It had been over three months and he wasn't any closer to getting his memories restored. Although, if he was perfectly honest with himself he was no longer looking that hard. There were things he enjoyed about this job. Every day, he woke up early to see the sun rise. He would never get tired of that particular miracle. He liked the underground garage full of classic, expensive sports cars, all of them installed with necro-tempered glass. The various heads of his department were intelligent, thoughtful people. But most importantly, the cases and papers that crossed his desk were making a difference. He had negotiated one peace treaty between warring demon tribes, the lab had come up with a medicine to help stop the progression of a rare disease and the entertainment division was this close to getting the Dirty Harry franchise revived. His days were long. In the office by seven in order to review the agenda for the day and re-familarize himself with the salient points. Meetings, always meetings. He wished that particular evel wasn't necessary, but he always had at least three to attend on any given day and sometimes as many as eight or nine. Contracts and projects and a hundred other details to review. He realized that he was a bit of a micro-manager, but that's how he liked things. He rarely left the office before eight pm and usually there was some sort of function to attend. It didn't afford him time for anything else, but that was all right. He was pleased with what he was accomplishing.

Today was shaping up to be no different than usual. In twenty minutes he and his staff had discussed current initiatives, plans for acquiring a new client and Angel had made some suggestions regarding a currently stalled project. As always, he ended with, “Is there any other business I should know about?”

Burt, head of Magic and Spells, cleared his throat. The Budnacia are having a plagnart this weekend so we should probably have someone on call just in case, although I don't anticipate that we'd be called for anything.

During one hundred fifty years of terror, Angel had come across a lot of demon species and had a passing familiarity with even more. He concentrated, dredging up facts and discarding them, searching for the knowledge he needed.

“Isn't the plagnart ritual a sacrifice?” he finally asked, a bit confused.

“Yes. It happens every ten years and we're coming up to the end of the cycle.” Min, head of legal, was normally unflappable, but she seemed a bit discomfited.

“None of us are thrilled with it, “ Burt explained, “but in this business you learn to make compromises. The alternative is having them run through the streets killing dozens if not hundreds of people.”

Seconds clicked by as Angel tried to formulate a response. “Why don't we just kill the Budnacia and solve the problem?”

There was a brief silence and then the room erupted into raucous laughter.

“Good one,” says Edward, still chuckling as they all filed out of Angel's office.

He almost cracked the edge of the conference table before he realized how tightly he was gripping it. He stared disdainfully at the computer in the corner. He still wasn't very proficient with them and even if he was, he suddenly wanted to keep his motivations to himself. Search for something on a computer and everyone knew what you were looking for. It seemed vital to keep this to himself.

He spent the rest of the day pretending nothing was wrong, that nothing was different. At the charity dinner he was presented with a humanitarian award for doing so much for the city. Yesterday, he would have been proud, today he wondered if he deserved it.

He told himself he was overreacting. He had been here for three months and he had seen nothing that would make him suspicious. For the first time he wondered if he had been played for a fool.

He had barely closed his apartment door behind him before he stripped off his tux. Slipping on a dark pair of pants and a dark sweater, he quickly found what he wanted in the phone book, He just hoped it held what he was seeking. Once again he cursed his lack of memory. He no longer knew where things were located in LA.

Psychic Eye bookstore was a small store front located in Burbank. Angel hoped that it would have what he wanted. He walked in, expecting incense and candles, the proprietor to be wearing one of those long flowing gauzy dresses and new age music playing in the background. Instead the place looked like every other bookstore with the woman at the counter wearing jeans and a purple sweater with her hair in a messy ponytail.

“I'm looking for..., he began to explain when she held up her hand and walked to the back. Two minutes later she returned, carrying Crampett's Demon Compendium.” Maybe not exactly like every book store after all.

He flipped through the pages, stopping when he got to the entry on Budnacia demons. It confirmed what he had already found out this morning. A sacrifice every decade and then they would be peaceable until the plagnart ritual rolled around again. What hadn't been mentioned was that the sacrifice was of a child.

He picked up his head, anger coursing through him and realized that the clerk was standing directly opposite him with only the counter in between. Her eyes were so pale as to be almost colorless, a bit unnerving as she stared directly into his eyes.

“You've had a long journey,” she said softly.

“I don't see it ending any time soon,” he said gruffly as he walked back to his car.

Over the next few days, Angel spent his days at the office attempting to appear like nothing was on his mind. Harmony complained that he was even crankier than usual, but since Harmony and complaining went together like bread and butter, he felt he was doing a fairly good job of hiding his current feelings. It was true that he was leaving the office promptly at five and he had had Harmony cancel all of his after work engagements, but he hoped that wouldn't set off too many alarm bells. It didn't matter, he had no other choice.

At soon as the sun set, he went out, storming various demon bars and clubs trying to get some information as to where the Budnacia had holed up. It was frustrating because he was fairly sure that Wolfram and Hart had the information, but since there was absolutely no reason for the CEO to be looking for that, he was afraid of tipping his hand.

He had reluctantly come to the conclusion that his staff had been right. He couldn't just order the strike team to take out the demons. Every other contract with the demon community would immediately become invalidated and there would be chaos in the streets. He would have to deal with this in secret, on his own.

The last two nights had turned up no information at all. That afternoon, the lead story on every news station was the kidnapping of a nine year old boy named Michael Hutchins. Angel watched the tearful parents pleading with the unknown kidnappers that they would pay anything to get the child back. Time was running out. He had to find them and stop the ritual tonight.

The first three demon hangouts were useless. In the fourth one, a dive bar, he got lucky. A demon was boasting about the large amount of cash he had earned for a pick up and delivery job. Two broken limbs and one busted nose later, Angel was rushing toward his car, an address in hand.

The home was high up in the hills, setback from the street and large and imposing. Angel easily jumped the fence. Walking around to a side window, he didn't hear anything. Breaking the window, he didn't bother turning on any lights. Toward the back of the house, a set of stairs led down. He quickly started down. Halfway there, he already knew but he just picked up speed.

There was no longer anyone present except the mutilated body of the child. He slammed his hand into the cinder block wall, furious that he hadn't prevented this. His own naivte had caused this. He stared at the face of the child to ensure that he would never forget the look of terror. Then he left, ashamed that the smell of blood was making him salivate. Several miles away, he pulled into a gas station and used the pay phone. Calling the police, he carefully enunciated the address and then hung up before anyone could ask questions.

He spent the daylight hours pacing in his apartment, ignoring the incessantly ringing phone. How could he have been so blind, so trusting? A child's death now lay upon his head. At one point, he looked out his window, seeing the sunlight colors of the city. He wondered how he had never noticed before that the warmth of the sun remained trapped on the other side of the glass.

He spent the rest of the day researching the more obscure corners of Wolfram and Hart. Over and over again, he found that lives had been lost, deal made with demons at the expense of innocents, that Wolfram and Hart was first and foremost about power. He had believed every lie that had crossed his desk, never bothering to look deeper.

As soon as the sun set, Angel left. He didn't bother showering or changing his clothes from the prior day, his appearance was no longer any concern.

It didn't take him too long to discover the information he was looking for. He was a bit disappointed as he was in the mood to break bones. But this was more important and he was well aware that afterwards the demon underbelly of LA would still be waiting for him.

The address he had uncovered was on the poorer side of town. The building's glory days were behind it. The brick facade needed repointing, the steps leading up to the front door were cracked and the entire area had a run down feel to it. But there was a garden planted on the side of the steps and the area was clean. The people who lived here were struggling but hadn't given up.

Walking in through the lobby, and down a hallway, he quickly found the apartment he was looking for. He didn't bother trying to hide his surprise when the opened door revealed the clerk from the bookstore.

“Come in, Angel.”

His expression switched to impressed, but she simply rolled her eyes. “Your picture was on the cover of Los Angeles Monthly last month. One of the top businessmen in town.”

“Oh, right,” he said, suddenly chagrined.

“Are you coming in or are you just going to stay in the hall? I'm Annie, by the way.”

He followed her into the comfortable but cluttered apartment. Every available surface was covered with books or knickknacks or sometimes, books on top of knickknacks. She motioned to a couch and the two of them sat on opposite ends. Angel leaned forward, hands on his knees, after a moment.

“I'm sure you know why I'm here.”

Annie held up a hand, interrupting him. “I'm not a mind reader, although I do know some things. You're a vampire. You have a soul. Other than that, I don't really know why you're here.”

“I was told you're a psychic,” Angel said, frowning.

“More of an aura reader. Which is more useful when dealing with a vampire anyway. Your minds can't normally be looked into. So, tell me why you're here.”

She had her hair down today and it moved about her shoulders with every gesture Amy made. Her expression was animated and the kindness in her eyes made Angel feel safe. He could trust her.

“Wolfram and Hart, they're not what they appear to be. That poorboy who was found murdered happened with their blessing. You would think I would have known but I didn't.” A fleeting grimace illuminated his face. “But I think I did know at one point. I don't really remember anything about the last hundred years.” He stopped, knowing how insane that statement seemed even with her knowing what he was. He began to speak more slowly, carefully enunciating each word.. “I think I was about to bring them down. Destroy the whole company. So they took my memories so it wouldn't happen. I need them back.”

She listened intently and nodded. “I can do that.” She got up and lit a few candles. The room filled with the resiny scent of rosemary. “It will go in reverse. Your newest memories first.” She got up and moved closer to him on the couch, angling her body a bit so her knee nudged against his thigh. She clasped his wrists with her hands and began to chant, the words almost sung rather than spoken.

The room shimmered around him,as if he was looking at it through a Vaseline covered lens, then slowly faded completely away. The room he now found himself in was nondescript, except for the overpowering smell of fresh blood. He pulled up short when he saw the man, crumpled in the corner, bleeding profusely from a gut wound.

Angel had seen his own face exactly twice over the last two hundred fifty years. It didn;t matter. The man in the corner was himself. He was rapidly bleeding out, his heartbeat weakening with every surge of blood. He was alive. How was this even possible.

He couldn't move for a moment, he was too shocked to lift his eyes from his dying body. When he did, he was even more surprised. Wes was standing behind him, guilt writ large on his features. Angel tried to speak, to scream but he quickly realized that he was only a specter here and could not impact the scene that was unfolding. There was a vampire next to Wes, holding the sword that had impaled him. Gunn, he realized with a sickening feeling. Gunn was now a vampire. And Wes was dead. He hadn't noticed at first but Wes was dead – not a vampire or a zombie, but definitely not alive. How could this possibly be his final memory?

Something in the air shifted. His eyes widened as Cordelia appeared, talking to...himself? She was also not alive, but it was different than Wes. There was something about her that told him she was more than Cordelia at this point. And considering he was still dying in the corner, somehow he was looking at his own soul.

“Cordelia, I'm ready to go.” He could hear desperation, fear and anguish in his voice. What was going on that he was so willing to die?

“You can't yet.” There was a calmness in her voice, and yet, Angel was sure he detected a note of regret. “You're still needed as champion. All this will be undone.”

Wes nodded, looking over at Cordy. “The Partners have come to the conclusion that this has just taken too may resources. That perhaps this wasn't the proper approach. We are wiling to agree to the Power's plan.

“Except for the contracts you signed. They will be enforced.” Wes seemed defeated, worn out. Angel couldn't begin to comprehend what he was seeing, but he wanted explanations. And then he heard a distant scream.

Cordelia smiled at him. Well, his soul. “Don't worry, Angel. It will all be fine.”

This time, there wasn't a slow shift to a different reality. One moment he was looking at his own mortal death, the next he was back on the couch. Annie was no longer holding him, instead her eyes were wild and unfocused. “You sent Los Angeles to hell. So many dead, so many dead. They ripped me into pieces, I felt it, I saw it.” Her voice had steadily risen and now an almost inhuman wail was released. Angel tried to reach for her, but instead she scrambled away from him to the far corner of the couch. Pressed into a ball, she screamed, “Get out. Get out. You murdered me. You murdered all of us.”

He bolted back into the night, trembling with horror. What had he done? What was going on?

He made it back to his penthouse suite, a thousand unanswered questions gyrating inside of him. He had destroyed Los Angeles. Why had he been brought back? No matter what Cordelia claimed, he wasn't a champion. He had turned a blind eye to Wolfram and Hart and who knows how many innocents had died.

He could feel the darkness slithering inside of him. Always present, the part of him that had rejoiced at that child's blood, the part that craved corruption and degradation, the part that wanted to see the fall of man.

He understood now. The demon would always win in the end and the only solution was to end his existence. Cordelia was wrong about the good she thought he would accomplish.

Angel, you have the power to do real good, to make amends. But if you die now, then all that you ever were was a monster.

The words bubbled up from some secret place inside him. Someone believed in him. The thought warmed him. Maybe there were things going on that he didn't understand.

He shook his head violently. He had already seen how things play out. He didn't need to live through it again.

“That wasn't me. But she was right.”

“Cordelia.” He took a step towards her and then stopped. His voice was anguished. “You're dead. It was my fault.”

“Not really,” her voice soft and musical. “I should have trusted in you more. It's not so bad. Don't have to watch what I eat anymore.

“I'm a messenger for The Powers That Be. ' She clarified upon seeing Angel's look. “The good guys, the white hats, the ying to Wolfram and Hart's evil yang. You've been chosen to be their avenging angel, so to speak.”

He saw again the blood of the sacrificed child, a dark stain against the floor. Annie's terror as she relived being rent to pieces. Why had Wolfram and Hart allowed him to be brought back if they hadn't known that his failure this time would be even greater?

“No.” He was surprised at the forcefulness in his voice. “Tell The Powers to find someone else. I'm not who they think I am.”

Cordelia looked at him, eyes brimming with compassion. “I'm sorry,” she whispered.

Angel's vision went white as he feel to his knees. The pain was intense, beyond anything he could recall but something was familiar about it. His soul. He was losing his soul. A name tried to rise to his lips. He had to warn her, save her from himself. The blinding pain ended as abruptly as it had started.

He slowly stood up, pulling unneeded air deep into his chest in an effort to calm his racing mind. The few memories he had recovered seemed distant to him, as if they had happened to someone else. His emotions had been smoothed out, removed. He felt hollowed out.

“Why?”

“It's to protect you.” As she spoke the last words, she faded away, leaving him alone.

He tried to summon up anger, but he just didn't care enough. She had turned him into the dead thing he actually was. He mouth compressed into a thin line. It didn't mean that The Powers had any kind of hold on him.

He reached into his walk-in closet and pulled down a suitcase. He quickly packed it with all the casual clothes he owned. He showered and changed, feeling in control of himself for the first time in days. Stepping into his private elevator, he went straight down to the garage. He sighed, a bit wistfully. He would miss his fleet. Choosing the Viper, he threw his suitcase into the trunk, grateful that the necro-tempered glass would allow him to make his escape long before sunset.

He drove with no destination in mind, his sole purpose was to put distance between his current situation and his future. As soon as the sun went down, he stopped at the first bank he found and emptied his entire account. He had never paid that much attention before, but it was a considerable amount of money. He wondered if Wolfram and Hart would be after him. He wasn't sure what he'd do if they caught up with him. He was no longer bent on suicide, but he wasn't sure he'd put up much of a fight. He decided not to worry about it for that moment.

The next five weeks passed by in a blur of endless repetition. He never stayed more than a day. He would find a place to hole up for the day and once night fell, he would visit the local butcher for blood. If that didn't work out, he would find a wild animal to drink down. Twice he had to resort to rats, but he hoped that would be a rare occurrence.

He was walking back to the room he had rented, carrying back a container of cow blood when he heard the scream. For a second he didn't move and then he heard it again, a woman's voice laced with fear. He was there in under a minute, a young woman being held in the death grip of a vampire. Angel punched the demon hard in the face, causing him to lose him hold. The woman fell to the ground. The other vampire was no match for Angel's experience. Even though he couldn't actually remember doing this sort of thing, it appeared his body had a mind of its own. After several minutes of punches and kicks, he grabbed the vampire by the head and twisted, until he felt a pop. Half a second later, he was showered with dust.

He bent down until he was at eye level with the young woman. Her pulse was racing, but she hadn't lost that much blood. Physically, she was fine. Emotionally was a different story. She just sat there, staring out into space, her face frozen in terror. Angel quickly ran through his options, He couldn't leave her there, that much was obvious. He couldn't take her home, she was unresponsive when he tried to question her. He thought about driving her to the nearest hospital but he was worried that they would ask a lot of questions that he just couldn't answer. In the end, he slow and carefully walked her back to his room because there actually wasn't another option.

Once she was seated on one of the two chairs that the room contained, he now had a different problem. What next? Fortunately he remembered there was a can of instant coffee in the closet. He only had his own mug but it's not like he didn't wash it and he decided if she had no idea what he drank out of it there would be no harm done.

Five minutes later, he was pressing the mug into her hands while apologizing for the lack of milk and sugar. He wasn't sure if it was just that time had passed or the vileness of the coffee, but after taking a sip she seemed to come back to herself.

“What was that,” she whispered hoarsely.

“A vampire.”

For a moment Angel though she was going back into shock but finally she raised her head and shuddered. “That's not real.”

“It is, along with a lot of scary things. If you stick to well lit streets where there are other people, you should be fine.” He didn't want her spending her life cowering.

“You saved me. I don't know how to thank you.”

He shrugged, embarrassed. He didn't deserve her praise.

“Is that what you do? Save people?”

Strong is fighting! It's hard, and it's painful, and it's every day.

The words floated up from somewhere inside of him.

“Yes,” he stated, surprising himself a little. “Yes, it is.”

TBC

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Author's Notes:
Rating: PG
Summary: Angel wakes up in alley with no memory of anything that happened once he was resouled. Somehow, he needs to make sense of his life. Uses some elements of the AtS comic After the Fall, although knowledge of that story is completely unnecessary.

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