Death

Death

By Queen of Cups

Rating: R
Summary: Part 3 of the Major Arcana series. Angel is sent to Hell (Becoming: II) What happened to him then...?
Notes: I was watching 'Amends' recently and wondered why it was that the phantoms of Angelus' victims were so terrifying to Angel. Surely he'd thought about them before? It got me wondering... Define Hell. Please note for those who have not read the previous parts, the thoughts of Angelus run side-by-side with Angel and are shown with []
Acknowledgements: Lar for late-night feedback and handholding
Disclaimer: Angel and Angelus belong to Joss Whedon, David Greenwalt etc. Wish I was half as lucky.

***

Turn the card - Death. The reaper signifies not only physical death but the end of the cycle - the wheel has turned full circle and returned to the place where it began.

[NO,NOT AGAIN!]

((close your eyes))

What..? Why..?
HELP ME!

Falling - Spinning - Swirling -
Hit the ground
It's soft and damp.
Grass?
Where am I?
Where's Buffy? She was right there - then....
[She killed you, you moron. Remember?]
Then why aren't I dead?
Why am I- It was you wasn't it? I remember now - something about a portal to...
[Yes - tell me weasel, what else do you remember...?]
Jesus - NO [Oh, yes]
You killed her. You...
[yeah, and you know what? It was fun]

Open my eyes again
It's dark.
Stand up. Nearly fall into the hole in the ground.
Not a hole.
A grave
I have no control over the movements as I walk from that place over hills that I remember as though I were here yesterday.
247 years
Gone in the blink of an eye
I'm home
I don't understand
Knock on the door
((Kathy - my beloved - You're alive. Thank God))
But the words won't come.
Her eyes, shining with childlike innocence
"You've returned to me - an angel"
Oh no...
"Come inside, angel Liam"
Oh no- please....
Her scream
Please God, NO
[Yes - You're back - and so am I]

***

Angel cannot remember when he was anywhere else. If he was able to count them, he would know that he has now relived the death of his beloved sister some 350 times. For the first hundred or so, he tried to fight - tried to warn her, tried to change something - anything - to make the outcome different. Now he is past that.

This time it is different.

When he rises from the grave a figure is before him. A mirror image if one were possible. He looks into eyes that are his own save for a flash of red at their centre.

"Time for a change. Time to visit some others who hold you dear."

((why are you doing this to me?))

((it wasn't my fault))

"Do you think that matters?"

He is a puppet. Dragged along to participate in horrors that appal him - unable to resist. Each kill hurts him more. His hands, his teeth, his laughter - and yet not his. His soul staring out from behind pitiless eyes. Trapped, tortured. Sometimes, after the kill, the victims open their eyes and tell him in frank voices of the children they had who would freeze to death begging on the streets that winter, or of the young bride so stricken with grief at the loss that she leaps from the bridge at midnight to a watery grave. That's if he's lucky. Sometimes those passive victims come to tell their own tale. He always shies away from the desperate eyes and hollow cheeks of the blue-skinned children, but far worse is the bloated, mottled complexion and silt-clogged hair of the young woman. When she speaks, she sprays his face with the brown and tainted water of the river and though her words make little sense, the pain and grief is so strong that he can almost feel it in his own unbeating heart. Hour after hour is spent stalking old hunting grounds, until they blur and merge. Spotting long-forgotten meals standing under the blue/orange light of gas lamps, surrounded by ancient fog and the smell of horses. Sometimes they are walking across fields, the smell of fear and garlic rolling from their superstitious hides. Sometimes - to his redoubled shame and horror - they are clutching their mother's hand and smiling with the joy of innocent childhood. Worse than these nameless phantoms are the few who bring with them sparks of name and memory. While re-enacting their brutal deaths, he can remember how they came to be here, how he made them trust him, the sweet words whispered into the ears of trusting maidens, the silky promises purred to those with more experience. Most of the time he is filled with silent screams.

((RUN. GET AWAY FROM ME))

They don't help. He watches the parade of death and misery until each face is scored on his memory. His senses are filled with the sights, sounds, scents and tastes of each and every one of the people he kills. And kills. And kills. Time lost its meaning long before now. Days and weeks and months mean nothing. He stopped asking "how long?" for fear of the answer. Sometimes it's been forever. Sometimes he's just arrived. Knowledge of self begins to evaporate. He becomes not the beast that commits the crimes, but each of its victims. He knows how it is to be a terrified child torn from the arms of a screaming mother. He feels how it is to be a dockworker hurrying home to hearth and family, suddenly set upon from the shadows. He is in them all, seeing with their eyes. Each one has him at their final vision. A terrifying shade. Then the pain. For the lucky ones, it's followed by death. Others are less fortunate.

She looks at him, her head on one side.

Not through choice. Her neck was savagely broken and her head now rests in this unnatural position for eternity.

"I was trying to help you. I had the orb. I had the words. I could have saved you. I could have spared them all so much pain. Then you came.

Now everything is messed up. You did this. No-one else."

Of all the things he has seen and heard, for some reason this resonates. He alone. No-one else is to blame. For all his blanket denial and guilt-laden pleading, he knows it too. How? Simple. Deep within his mind is the voice that he tries to suppress. The one that has watched each depraved and bloody murder with increasing pleasure. Try as he might to deny it, he knows now that the demon is as much a part of him as the soul that contains it. He killed. No-one else. Just him.

Reasons were given for Angel's return to the mortal plane. The First. The Powers That Be.

In the end though, the reason is simple. The lesson was learned, and learned well. Guilt is only half of penance. The other half must be freely given. Reparation. Even if it takes an eternity, he has the time.

The End

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