Cleanse by Niamh
Nowish, Season Four.
I stare at him, awed
at the youthfulness that comes with slumber. At least
one of us can sleep;
he's injured - he needs all the rest he can get.
It suddenly occurs
to me how ridiculous this is - fire is falling from the
something out there that won't stop until we're all killed. Connor
will be lucky if he lives long enough to heal.
I'll be lucky if I
live long enough to heal.
God, I feel so
dirty. There aren't words for how completely filthy I feel.
It's an internal
filth, and while I know that it's not something water can wash
away, I feel the most undeniable need for a shower. I need to feel hot
water scalding me.
It won't wash everything away, but I crave the sensation nonetheless.
I push myself off of
the mattress where I haven't been sleeping and pad
silently to the tiny
bathroom. It's almost as filthy as I feel. Not a comforting thought. I turn the water on and note that while
it's more of a trickle
than a stream, it's hot enough. The water here seems to know only
extremes - showers
are either skin-peeling steam-baths or teeth-clenchingly
cold. It's a bit
late for the cold shower, not that it would have helped. Cold
showers are only any good when we're so far gone with passion and lust that
only something physically jarring will help.
So what's supposed
to help when there's *no* passion and *no* lust? What
washes away despair?
I step under the
showerhead and feel the air hiss between my teeth. It's
hot; it's nearly hot
enough to pierce through the fog that feels like its overrun
my mind lately.
God, what in the
hell have I done?
I can still feel him
on me, the clumsy, fumbling hands indigenous to all
eighteen year old
boys. I can still feel him inside of me, our joining nothing more than a pantomime. There was no heat, no passion,
no desire. There
was nothing but Angel's son and me.
Did I mention how
filthy I feel?
I scrub at my skin,
glad to feel the scratchy washcloth against my skin,
even if the soap is
so strong it's taking off the first layer of skin. Doesn't matter.
I feel sick
suddenly, unable to wipe from my memory the look in his eyes the
last time I saw him.
unhinged chuckle reverberates off the walls and comes back to
me once I realize
what I just thought. It wasn't too long ago that I had no
forgetting. I wonder what made me want to remember in the first place; remembering isn't all it's cracked up to be.
It all came back so
fast - like a sucker punch or a tidal wave. It hit me
and smothered me,
the memories taking up so much space in my head that they all
meshed and melded into each other.
Then I saw those
eyes - they *knew* me. Anyone with an ounce of sense or
would have run. Angel doesn't know what I saw. If he's lucky
he won't ever know. Right now he doesn't understand. Hell, I don't blame him. I barely understand it.
ascending. I remember being up there, and there was this...
sensation, like I'd
been imbued with divine knowledge. There was no line between past and present, like I'd been everywhere at once,
I felt first-hand
the terror of every single one of Angelus' victims.
Considering the guy
had a pretty extensive career, that's a lot of victims - one
hundred and forty some-odd years of them. I felt the terror in every nameless face and it was contrasted with Angelus' pure
enjoyment in that
terror. I felt the
way Miss Calendar's heart pounded in her chest as she
tried running from
him the night she was killed. And I felt the satisfaction that welled up in Angelus' chest as he set her
body out on Giles'
bed before uncorking the wine and scattering the rose petals.
I was *there*,
inside of them, around them - all of them.
I know what he did
to Buffy and what he dreamed of doing to her. I've never
been president, or
even a dues-paying member of the We Love Buffy Fan Club,
but knowing beyond a
shadow of a doubt the things that Angelus had wanted to do
to her... I'm glad she sent him to Hell when she had the chance.
Speaking of Buffy: I
know what she went through. And I don't mean that in
pseudo-sympathetic "I know what you're going through" kind of way. I
mean it in the
"I was under your skin, inside your head, heart, and soul"
kind of way. I know
exactly how he made her felt. And you know what? Not even *he* knows how he made her feel. Angelus had no idea how
close he had pushed
her to the edge. Knowing it would have satisfied him far too much.
Knowing it would
have given him the advantage.
I had to tell him. I
had to let him know what I saw and felt. I owed it to
Wow. I'm amazed at
how completely hollow that sounds, even inside my own
What he doesn't know
is that I was also there the night he got his soul
back. Both times,
actually. I felt his disorientation, the sudden flood of memories.
It was like waking up from your worst nightmare, only to find out it
was all true.
I was there the
first time the realization hit him: he was a monster. He
was everything his
father believed him to be, and worse. Yes, I am now better acquainted with Liam's father than I ever really
thought I wanted to be
- and, just to keep things clear, I didn't really want to be. I felt
Angel's shock, his
disbelief, his disgust. Oh, I felt the disgust in spades.
I also know how very
close he came to insanity during the years he'd
collapsing under the weight of his guilt-ridden soul.
And then he came to
Then, hey, lost the
soul again. And was brought back. Again. And again I
felt the confusion,
And then, the
profound love, right before the one-hundred demon years of
torture and anguish.
It's a miracle this
guy still speaks in complete sentences.
I was there, and I
felt it all, and while I'm haunted by nightmares about it
all (and more
besides), I know Angel, inside and out. I know the cracks in the
fašade. I know why he broods. I never understood before. I know what he is and what he has the potential to be - good and bad. I
also know, without
a shadow of a doubt that I still love him. Unfortunately, I also
know what that love
will bring, and I know that I *can't* act on that love. Not
yet. Maybe not ever.
What Angel doesn't
realize is that it's all too much to process right now.
The Powers of
Poorly-Timed-Irony knew that. I remember now - Skip accompanying me to the surface, like any good PTB guide
would. He told me that
things would be fuzzy at first, and that - slowly - details would come
back to me.
I'm not sure he had
any idea things would have gone this badly.
those headaches you used to have?"
well forget them, no matter how much I'd like."
they're cake compared to what your mortal body would go through
if you kept all of
your memories intact. Madness. Complete madness. Even with
your half-demon status, you would not be able to withstand the --"
"Well, yeah. Essentially."
"Wipe the slate
I don't know why it
didn't occur to me to write a note or something - tell
them that it was all
part of the plan. I was just so damned relieved to be home,
I guess I wasn't thinking clearly. Wow, that's a first.
I also don't know
why the PTB thought keeping me in amnesialand was a good
idea. I'd say it was
because they have a hell of a sense of humor, but I know
better. The higher-higher beings' aren't really much into the ha-has.
I was left here,
stranded, not knowing who my friends were, not trusting
anyone except for
Connor. Go me - trust the person who, in his short time back
to this dimension, has managed to betray everyone who had ever cared about him.
And now I'm back.
I'm back, and trying to figure out exactly what the
*fuck* I'm supposed
to be doing now, because there's something out there that isn't going to stop until we're all annihilated. I know
I'm supposed to
be doing something, but I can't, for the life of me, remember what that
is. Though I'm
pretty sure that what I just did isn't what I'm supposed to be doing. Ah yes, couldn't forget about that, could I? The
urge to bang my head
against the tile wall is growing by the second.
I need to move
beyond this. I can move beyond this.
I can almost feel
something - it could be resolve - strengthening inside of
me. I have to move
I am Cordelia Chase.
I am a Champion.
It's time I started
acting like it again.