Reflection – Angel
When I started writing this I planned to have Cordy be forced to kill Angel (an ending that was very much inspired by "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck), but the story just didn't seem to justify killing him, especially since I'd stated in Lindsey's part that Angel hadn't killed anyone, no matter what they did to him. So I started figuring out a new ending, and having just finished rereading Mark Twain's "The Mysterious Stranger" (the other story Xander refers to) I was somewhat influenced by it. I'd forgotten just how bitter that story really was.
So if you want a happy ending I'd advise you to consider Cordy's part the end.
Dana holds my hand, Emily and Drift both hover over me. Sometimes I have trouble believing in their reality. I can hear their heartbeats and feel the heat radiating off their bodies but sometimes they still seem like figments of my imagination.
Oh I know that they're real, Cordy told me so, I just don't feel it. Still I'm glad of their presence today, even if they do treat me like I'm five years old. It should feel strange, before no one would ever have dreamed of holding my hand like Dana's doing, like I might wander off and get lost if left to my own devices. I think it should bother me more than it does, but the part of me that stayed behind when I left is reassured by it.
Everything is strange to me now, disjointed. I can't believe that the century is three quarters gone; I barely remember it turning. I haven't actually forgotten, but it's different. Time meant nothing. Words meant nothing. It's so strange, not to remember clearly. I remembered everything that happened between the night I rose and the night of Buffy's seventeenth birthday with perfect clarity. Now everything is so jumbled. I remember things in fragments. Impressions and sensory input, brief scenes separated and disjointed, with nothing to tell me which are real.
Cordy tells me that my memories of the latter part of my final year in Sunnydale and the first year in LA are complete. That time, between the snowfall and moving into the Hyperion stands out by virtue of being almost normal. I'm glad I have my own memories of becoming friends with Cordelia, Doyle and Wesley. I only have Cordy's stories to tell me that Kate and I eventually made peace.
I remember Gunn, in a way, not a human way. I remember the warrior/protector. I remember him by scent and presence, by the cadence of his voice and the rhythm of his heartbeat. Cordy had to tell me his name, his history, and that she dated him for almost five years, along with all the other things a human would have noted.
Some things I wish I could forget more thoroughly. Buffy's death for example. Cordy assured me that she lived longer than any Slayer in history and that she was happy. I wish I could believe that Cordy was right. I'm certain Cordy believed Buffy was happy, she wouldn't lie to me, not even in the name of comforting me, but I remember Buffy. I remember her as my beautiful goddess. She was kind and gentle, but always distant and so sad. Her sadness was the only reason I dared to touch her, somehow I knew I was the reason for her sadness and I wanted to comfort her.
In Hell I learned to separate mind from instinct and to bury my real self deep inside where I couldn't be reached. In the beginning I'd try to just retreat from what was happening to me, but my tortures would drag me back to the surface once they'd realized what I'd done. So I learned to divide myself, to leave something behind to scream and cringe when they hurt me, while the rest of me escaped.
Once you turn your back on reality though it's hard to find your way back. I couldn't trust my memories, my senses, anything. The first time Buffy's presence was enough to bring me back, but not the second time. It was so much harder to want to come back a second time. I couldn't help but wonder if I'd ever really made it back that first time.
When I had to come back, when there was nothing left of the refuge I'd found, I still couldn't believe I was truly here. This time, this place, it could be just another fantasy. I didn't know what to believe. In the end I did the only thing that felt natural, even if it made no sense, I trusted Cordelia. I trust her in blood and bone not reason. It feels right when nothing else does.
I trusted her to separate my true memories from the hallucinations. I remember everyone I cared for dying… in dozens of different ways each, mostly at my hands and I know that couldn't all have happen, a person can only die once.
I remembered Darla as a human and I remembered her death, but I couldn't put it into any context and dismissed it as imagination, but Cordy told me how it happened.
I remembered Faith bound in dozens of chains, being slowly tortured to death as I plead with Lindsey to leave her alone. No one can tell me if that really happened or not. I tried to figure it out, but all I could find was that Faith disappeared from prison during the second year after I went missing.
I remember a hundred variations of Lindsey demanding my attention. "You taught me torture is an art form, my mentor," he'd say. "But if that is so, it's a performance art and I won't play to an empty house. So pay attention Angel."
I remember, once he drew my attention without chaining me, when I wasn't crippled with pain.
I remember biting him, but he didn't taste of madness and hatred, she tasted of tears and a loss that I shared in part. I can't understand that. Cordy won't explain it; she says it's not important. I have to believe that, if I loose my faith in her I've nothing left.
I remember Lindsey screaming in fury as he burned, aware but unable to move. A vampire, but not yet ready to rise. But that can't be real because I was aware of his final death as if he were a fledgling of my making. Even if I did bite him I wouldn't have turned him.
I remember Giles, remember knowing I'd hurt him, being unable to express the remorse I felt. The only apology I could offer was my life and he forgave me. I don't know how he forgave what I had done to him but he did, I treasure that memory.
I remember fighting my desire to either be far away from Xander or to attack him because Cordy wanted me to accept him. I remember that his presence was too like the others, like the ones that watched as Lindsey tore me apart, for me to ever relax around him. To them I was always less a person than a problem to be solved. I would have rather they hated me like Lindsey did.
I remember Spike with affection, it overlays my old memories of him, softens them. Not an enemy, but a friend, a playmate. That might be the strangest thing of all because even before I was cursed Spike and I despised each other. Cordy explained about the chip and I guess I understand. Spike was always the most social of demons, isolation would have been torture to him and he would have changed to find companionship.
I remember coming home to Cordelia and Wesley, to family, not of blood but of heart, to acceptance and belonging, but didn't seem real. The part of me that I'd left behind to interact with the world couldn't ask for the reassurances I needed and the rest of me was buried to deep, all I could do was watch. It was like one of those dreams where you know you're dreaming, but you still can't control anything. If you were to wake up just a little more you know you could control the dream, but then you run the risk of waking up completely. The last thing I wanted to do was wake-up and find myself still in Hell, so I just watched the dream unfold. I drifted and let the warmth of the dream comfort me. I felt safe and loved, I can't ever remember feeling that before except for a brief moment with Buffy, in part that was why I was so sure it couldn't be real. I didn't care though; I happily traded reality for the dream.
Only the dream didn't stay good, everyone died and I couldn't stop them. Finally there was only Cordy left and I couldn't loose her too. So I reached out and tried to take control of the dream, tried to make it so she wouldn't die. And I woke up to find my dream wasn't a dream at all.
Cordelia lived for another two years after that night; her doctors could only explain it as an act of will on her part. Her determination to live overriding her body's infirmities. She told me she hadn't waited that long to see me get better, only to die of old age just when I was getting around to it.
The truth was I couldn't have survived her death, not then. We both knew that. I needed someone I could trust, someone who knew, to tell me what reality was for those first few years. Cordy was the only one left, maybe the only one ever. Even now I'm paralyzed at the thought of going on without her, but I don't have a choice and I won't disappoint her by failing.
On the good days I even look forward to the future, the rest of the time I wish I could go back to dreaming.
"Are you so unobservant as not to have found out that sanity and happiness are an impossible combination? No sane man can be happy, for to him life is real, and he sees what a fearful thing it is. Only the mad can be happy, and not many of those. The few that imagine themselves kings or gods are happy, the rest are no happier than the sane." – Mark Twain "The Mysterious Stranger.