Miscast in the Role of Destiny
When he was first chained, he dreamed that she would come. But she was different in his dreams.
He still remembered seeing her for the first time.
She’s tough. Scar on her face pink and old, as if she’s had it for longer than she’s been alive. She carries the weight of being a Slayer as if it’s nothing, or at least nothing she can’t handle. How long has she known? Too long. Her whole life, perhaps, though that’s not a long time at all. Not to him, anyway. Fifteen years.
Something about her was wrong, though, or at least that was the feeling that spider-webbed through his senses, because he felt something – something, not for this girl, but for someone… someone like her. No, not like her, that wasn’t it. Because this girl… no one could feel anything for this girl. She was colder than he was – colder than the grave.
This wasn’t the way things were supposed to be.
She fights automatically. Every move programmed, robotically lethal. Her expression never changes. If he could look deep into her eyes… he wouldn’t see anything, anything at all. She’s one hundred percent pure Slayer, humanity trained or burned out of her… if she had ever been human in the first place. He closes his eyes and sees her – no, not her, but someone… someone – smiling in the sunshine, a lollipop in one hand, the other gesturing as she prattles happily. He opens them again and he’s back here, hidden, watching the Slayer talk to a tall man in a hat. A recap of the fight she’s just won. She’s bored and blank, nothing like the girl he imagined a second ago. Who is that girl?
Aiding Buffy Summers was his destiny. Whistler had told him. So he came to Sunnydale, and he waited. And he waited. As the town fell and the White Hats refused his aid, he waited. Then came the day when leaving was no longer an option. He wondered what had gone wrong. Why wasn’t she here?
It had started then, this new life of being whipped and burned and mounted, torment after torment visited upon him, cheerfully sibilant whispers in his ear of all the lives lost, the depredations he hadn’t prevented, the carnage to come that was all his fault – but when he was alone, curled up on the stone floor which served as a mockery of a bed, worse even than the alleys from which Whistler had pulled him, filthy and stinking, but still free, he dreamt of her. Not, not her, but someone… someone.
She smiles – wide and bright as the first time she appeared behind his closed eyelids. She is dressed in bright colours and he wants to warn her of the dangers, but the words don’t come. He’s entranced. She is so beautiful, just like the sun he’ll never see again. Strong. Brave. Those words come unbidden and he realizes there’s some resemblance to the Slayer, the one who isn’t here. But this girl is nothing like her – nothing. If she could come to him, save him, save the world, she would. He knows this.
All she can give him, though, are visions of tanned limbs and a smile lovelier than sunrise. He takes them, holds them fast. They are all the comfort he has.
Once, early on, when Willow was riding him, nails scoring his flesh as she taunted him while pursuing her own pleasure, he’d closed his eyes, pictured that smile above him, imagined that musical voice saying his name… “Angel.”
That had been a mistake; disengaging from his torment was not allowed. Of course his captor had noticed; she was meticulous and vigilant and she never lost herself in ecstasy no matter how much she enjoyed her work. She’d made him pay for those brief moments of respite he’d found in ways that still echoed along his nerves and made his limbs jerk in remembered agony.
It’s been a long time, but now, after endless dreamless nights, here she is again. It’s different now, though, because she’s in his cell, crouched beside him. “Shhh,” she whispers, gentle hands caressing bruises and scars. “I’m here.” She isn’t, and he knows that, even as he’s dreaming, but he can still feel a tear escape his sleeping eyes. She’s so beautiful. The living embodiment of the name that’s been burned away through his flesh. She’s an angel.
Her hands are soft and her touch a balm.
Just before he is roused by the sound of footsteps on the stairs signaling the start of another endless day of torture, he feels her lips against his forehead.
“I love you.”
Flames, holy water, being forced to serve Willow’s insatiable needs - at least he’d been spared the pain of Xander’s use. In a world of agony, every small comfort was unusually precious. Today, though? Today his miserable little bit of bodily relief was a mockery, serving only to heighten an even greater pain in his soul. The plant was starting operations – the factory where an assembly line would drain human after human of blood with relentless mechanical efficiency.
Everything he’d suffered, everything Whistler had told him to do… it was all…
Was he dreaming again? No, this wasn’t her. This was… “Buffy.” His voice was quieted by hours of screaming. With effort he called her name again, his eyes never leaving that ancient scar on a mouth which never in its few short, bitter years had curved upward toward the heavens. “Buffy Summers.”
She didn’t know him. Which made sense. Logical sense. She’d never seen him.
But when he called her his destiny, why did it feel like he was saying it to the wrong girl? This was Buffy Summers; this was the Slayer.
There was no time for questions. He had to give his all to the battle to convince her that he was an ally, just as he’d done so fruitlessly with the White Hats.
The White Hats who were certain to die along with everyone else; if not tonight, then soon. Would they think of him as the last of their lives was drawn from them in moments made eternally long by agony? Would they be caught up in visions of what might have been had they listened to him?
This time, though, he won. Hope glimmered with the dream of sunlight. Maybe… maybe…
She’s face down in water – Ophelia, fair and dead – and his heart, dead as she is though it may be, breaks – no, it shatters with a shrill and terrible sound, like millions of screams, high and keening.
“I love you!” he cries, but it’s a silent thing, drowned out by pain.
Is there any point in going on?
They freed the White Hats and the battle exploded, frantic chaos and panic, untrained warriors and demons torn between loyalty and craven cowardice, but all Angel could see was that girl he didn’t know, the one who held his heart in her hands as she drowned, the one who was nothing like the ruthless automaton staking her way through the hordes of vampires.
She was so beautiful. The vision of her – he had clung to it through all the pain and desolation, and it had sustained him more than blood ever could. Why was she gone now? Why…? There were so many questions. So many answers he didn’t have.
He never would. Just then, Xander – that bastard - staked him, the feel of wood entering his heart nowhere near as painful as was that vision of blonde hair floating. Whether this battle was won or lost, whether good would triumph… all these things he was never going to know as he tumbled into dust.
It was his last word.
And he finally knew who he was saying it to.
She’s face up in that glistening pool, smiling, not dead at all. The Lady of the Lake extending her love, shining like steel.
This is how it was supposed to be.