Dead Man's Eyes

Angel has many thoughts.

Of course, this is Hell and there is time – so very much time – to think.

His thoughts change – not just what he thinks, but how he thinks. His mind becomes fractured and disjointed. Years pass, centuries pass, and memory becomes by turns brittle and pliable, shattering and stretching and turning in on itself… and on him.

When you kiss me I want to die.

Buffy kissed him, but she wasn't the one to die. He thinks he understood and forgave once, but every moment of torment strips those feelings away and all he can think about is how much he doesn't want to be here. It hurts – oh God (who would never listen to the prayers of a vampire) it hurts.

It wasn't his fault; none of it was his fault. Not the murders, not Acathla, not the fish he remembers stringing on a line (and why does he remember that when so many other things fade?). But none of it matters. Here he landed and here he stays and the pain keeps coming.

Sure thing, Bossy the Cow.

Are the whips leather? Are there whips? He can't see them, but he can feel… he thinks he feels whips. Something – there is something that tears into his flesh. Whips. Even if that's not what they are, it's what he calls them. Some voice inside tells him to hang onto what he knows. Don't let go. Who he is is bound up in those words and images he brought with him. Hold tight.

He is flesh, isn't he? Something is wrong though. Feeding. He never feeds. He should be ash, dust…his kind, they turn to dust. So why is he still here? He licks the blood that has run down one arm onto his hand. Copper. It tastes of copper (a penny for his thoughts).

My Angel.

He wishes she was here: Drusilla. She would have brought the stars with her in the folds of her gown. He wishes he could see them, see anything, anything but red and the scarred body parts that make up pieces of him – Angel. Dru's voice is a blessing in his mind, reminding him of his name when it threatens to shatter into pieces and be lost.

Something tells him he's not supposed to miss her, but that was there and before. This is here and it is so very different. What he misses and what he feels – it's all changing. He focuses only on keeping what he brought with him, not on sorting it into the places it used to occupy.

It's not like I need the oxygen.

Why does he inhale then? Take in scent? Brimstone, pain, and blood. A part of him would once have reveled in the stench, but now… and it's all his own. He wonders why he can't just stop – shut down. The voice inside again: Predator. Remember. So he remembers. But the reek of his own torment defeats him some days. For awhile he realizes those days are when things shatter. That knowledge itself is consumed in time.

Other fear. Think of someone else's fear. And he does – gypsies and Slayers and Watchers. He remembers what they are for awhile after the names fade, but then they too leave, or do they slip like sand through the fingers that should have followed years and years and years ago? Jenny becomes teacher becomes gypsy becomes nothing. Rupert becomes Watcher becomes nothing. Buffy becomes Slayer becomes a fleeting memory of sun-tasting flesh and heat and a sword forged in betrayal.

And you! I mean, you're gonna live forever! You don't have time for a cup of coffee?

Forever… forever. The word echoes in his mind and he never forgets what it means. Endless, unceasing, eternal. This is where he will always be and it will never, ever stop. There will always be pain. There will always be this place both small and infinite, empty and tight and confining. He will always be all alone in this red void.

Red. Red hair. He remembers her face, though her name faded (shattered?) with those of others whose faces were swept away with their names. He thinks she's the reason it's so very terrible here. Fish. He still remembers the fish on a line. Was it the fish? Were they special somehow? Important fish. They must have been very important. He spends improbable hours trying to remember what is so special about fish.

You were my sire!

He had power once. He was feared the way he fears the pain now, the pain he no longer tries to ascribe to a source, the pain he just feels, the pain to which (try as he might, and oh how he tries) he never grows accustomed. Pain – demon – scourge. That was his name once: scourge. He had many names, he thinks. Maybe that's why he can't remember. Too many names and no place to put them.

Almost-a-memory comes – something with cold skin and fangs and blood that was rich and full of passion. No tepid copper coins, too few of them to buy all the thoughts he wants to save. Blue and white. Is it the sea? The cold sea? He wishes he could remember what cold means. The voice cries out for it. It would be better than here.

Close your eyes.

It happens then – cold. He is shivering against… stone? Is that what it's called? He's confused now, more than ever. The absence of pain is fear. Fear – so much fear. Where is he? Not-here is now-here and he's terrified of what it might mean. Is this some new torment? Just because it doesn't hurt doesn't mean it won't and it does hurt. It just takes him a moment to become aware.

Aware. Sounds come, but he doesn't know what they mean. He used to know. They mean something in now-here. He was supposed to hang onto them for this. Maybe he did, maybe he still knows what they mean.

Time passes and now-here turns into here. Just here. He is staying.

It's cold here. It's better here. He lets the sounds and pictures keep playing over and over in his mind. He will remember.

The End.