"I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
Chapter 1: I'm sorry, I'm sorry
As Angel's body crashed to the ground, the memories of the months he had been without a soul crashed through his consciousness. He saw himself torturing the girl he loved, killing her friends and tormenting her for his own pleasure. He saw the pain he caused Buffy reflected on her face every time they faced each other, and remembered how he had reveled in it. Finally he remembered the plan to draw the world into the hell of Acathla. Better to reign in hell, he had reasoned, as he drew Buffy to the mansion to watch his final triumph.
Buffy had thwarted him, as she had thwarted every other scheme he had come up with. He had fought her, and she had beaten him. Then she had mustered the strength to seal the portal, even though he could see the hurt on her face as he had been pulled away.
Angel wished he could have reassured Buffy that being dragged to hell was everything that he deserved for the pain he had caused. Hopefully her friends would be there to reassure her that she had done nothing wrong, she had simply saved the world from another villain who had tried to end it.
Angel wasn't sure how long he lay there as the memories and regrets washed over him. He made no effort to remove the sword Buffy had used to defeat him. The fight, the ensouling spell, the journey through the portal and the blood loss had exhausted him. The niggling sensation that he knew signaled an impending sunrise was beginning to grow stronger. Despite the fact his instincts were beginning to shout at him to take cover, he stayed in the spot he had landed. If the denizens of this dimension didn't find him soon, then perhaps his first sunrise in hell would allow him to finally end his own life.
As the level of light on the other side of his closed lids grew more intense, Angel continued to lie in wait. However, as the warmth which signaled the first rays of the rising sun touched his skin, the burning pain didn't come with it. Instead there was a different kind of heat, as Angel kept lying there in the light of the rising sun. The brighter it got, the warmer it got, but not in the way he expected. Finally, confusion won over apathy and regret, and Angel pried his eyes open to look around.
The sunlight Angel was bathed in was nearly blinding, but Angel squinted into it, trying to see his surroundings. From what he could tell from his prone position, he was in the middle of a circular clearing. He could make out some sort of buildings surrounding him, but details remained hazy.
Slowly Angel pushed himself up, being careful of the sword which was still piercing his torso. The fall had pushed the blade all the way to the hilt, but the wound was only bleeding sluggishly. Judging from the amount of blood staining the stones below him, this was probably because he had very little blood left in him. Despite his earlier willingness to let the sun take him, the survival instincts he had been trying to repress were beginning to kick in. He would have to get the sword out, then he would have to find something to eat.
Angel used the hole in his shirt the sword had made as a start to tear away a strip of cloth. He wrapped the strip of cloth around one of his hands, braced himself, then began to pull on the hilt of the sword. He was a careful as he could to pull the blade straight back. When the hilt was at the end of his reach, he used the cloth wrapped hand to continue pulling on the blade. Finally he got the whole length removed, and a gush of blood let him know there was still some blood left in him. Groaning, he slumped back down to the ground where he lay panting.
Angel lay still for a few minutes before finally pushing himself up again. He looked around the clearing again. He saw that the buildings were crumbling, plants encroaching on the walls. If there were plants, there would probably be creatures that could eat plants around. So there was at least some sort of food available. Now he just had to figure out how to capture that food, because he was in no shape to be chasing down prey.
Slowly Angel used the sword to push himself to his feet. The glare of the sun was still making him squint, and was beginning to hurt his eyes. However, his hearing was working just fine. He could hear rustling in one of the buildings nearby. He staggered over to investigate, leaning heavily on the sword to stand.
The interior of the building was mostly dark, which was a relief. As his eyes adjusted to the more comfortable level of light, he was able to see the interior clearly. The room was mostly bare, save for a few piles of dessicated wood which may have once been furniture. Half way through the room was a low wall which divided the room in half. The rustling was coming from the other side of the wall, and Angel hobbled over to take a look.
He was relieved to see it wasn't a large animal hiding behind the wall. Instead there was what looked like a rabbit tending to its young. Angel made his way towards the nest, as the mother kept a wary eye on him, until it finally darted away to try and draw him off. He didn't bother to try chase it, and instead made his way towards the babies tucked into the corner of the room. There were four of them, so young they could fit in the palm of his hand. He collapsed to the ground and had them drained in under a minute. It was barely more than a couple mouthfuls each.
After Angel finished draining the last of them, he leaned against one of the walls to rest. The short walk he had made to get here seemed to aggravate his sword wound, and the small amount of blood he had just consumed wasn't going to do much to heal him. He was still exhausted from the fight, and the portal as well. If he wanted to recover he would have to close the wound and rest so that his preternatural healing would kick in. As he lay there trying to figure out how he was going to stitch the gash shut and still be able to hunt, he heard what sounded like footsteps in the distance.
Angel reached for the sword, but he couldn't do more than grip it loosely. As the footsteps got louder, he lay there, unable to get the energy to defend himself from whatever denizen of this dimension he was about to meet. He felt his consciousness slipping away, as he saw a figure silhouetted against the sunlight outside.
The last words he heard before passing out were a surprisingly worried sounding, "Oh, dear."
Angel let out a ragged groan as he came floated back into consciousness.
He heard the same voice he had heard before speak, but he couldn't make out all the words. He thought he heard the word awake, but his head was still muddled. He opened his eyes and saw the world bathed in firelight rather than sunlight. He was laying on a pallet of some kind of plant fronds, and there was a man moving towards him. The man was still speaking, and a few more of the words were starting to become clear.
"Heal...wound...knowledge...medicine...alchemy," the man prattled on, a look of concern on his face.
"Alchemy?" Angel repeated, confused.
The man blinked and stared at Angel for a minute before giving a bashful smile and rubbing the back of his neck with one arm.
"Ah, yes, sorry....here...memories...speak...understand?" the man had switched to an entirely different language.
Angel finally realized that neither this language, nor the one before it were English. Now that his brain was beginning to function, Angel realized that the first language seemed to be some kind of derivative of Latin. Which would explain why he was only making out a few random words, his Latin was a little rusty. As for the second language, Angel was pretty sure some deity somewhere was getting a good laugh at his expense. The words the man spoke sounded extremely similar to Romanian, and the fresh sting of his restored soul was reminding him exactly how he knew that language.
For now, Angel decided he would rather stick with the pseudo-Latin.
"Sorry, I'm still kind of groggy, but I understood you," Angel said, and he saw the man's eyes widen slightly. "Could you please repeat what you had said earlier?"
"You speak Xerxian?" the man seemed surprised. "Although your accent is strange."
"Yes, where I am from it was taught to children in schools, and used by the Church," the man's eyebrows rose into his hairline at Angel's answer. "Please, what were you saying earlier?"
"Ah yes, I am sorry for going off on a tangent. I had told you that I was able to heal your wound, but I was unable to do much about the blood loss. I have a fair knowledge of medicine, but medicinal alchemy can only go so far. So you should rest, and also try and drink some of this."
The man held out a canteen, and Angel propped himself up on an elbow and drank eagerly. The water wouldn't do much for him, but even vampires could get dehydrated, although it affected them differently. The man moved the canteen away, and Angel lay back down.
"How did you close my wound? What did you mean 'medicinal alchemy?'"
"Alchemy is a science we have in my country. Perhaps it is called something different where you are from."
"Perhaps," Angel replied noncommittally.
The man gave him another odd look, and Angel looked right back, taking in his appearance. He appeared to be tall, with pale hair which would probably be blond in the light. He had pale skin, and a beard that matched his hair. His eyes were hard to make out behind his glasses, but they seemed to be a light color. He wore a simple white shirt with the sleeves rolled up and a dark pair of trousers. He kept up his staring for several moments before lapsing back into the bashful smile again, complete with the neck rubbing gesture.
"Eh, look at me being a rude old man. I haven't even given you my name. Van Hohenheim, pleased to meet you," the man, Hohenheim, smiled as he reached a hand out towards Angel to shake.
Angel pushed himself up on his elbow again to shake it, while introducing himself.
"Ah, Angelus," Hohenheim replied, and Angel winced.
"No," he replied firmly. "Just Angel."
Hohenheim's brow furrowed in confusion.
"Yes," he said slowly. "Angelus."
Obviously there was some quirk in the language which made his name sound like Angelus regardless of how he tried to pronounce it. As he was unwilling to be addressed as Angelus, he decided to take the lesser of two evils.
"Yes, Angel is my surname. My first name is Liam. I would rather you call me that."
"Ah, Liam, yes, I had wondered. I prefer Hohenheim please."
Angel nodded acquiescence, then collapsed back to the pallet. Hohenheim grimaced.
"You are still very weak from your injury and blood loss. Rest for a while so that you can begin to recover."
"Yeah," Angel agreed, "That's probably a good idea."
Angel closed his eyes, and was asleep in a matter of minutes.
When Angel awoke, the sun was up. He still a moment before slowly trying to sit up. He made it to an upright position with little difficulty and sat there looking around. Whatever Hohenheim had done to heal his wound had helped his vampiric recovery to kick in, but he could still feel hunger gnawing away in his belly. He would need to find some kind of blood soon, or he would never recover.
Angel looked around and saw that Hohenheim had left the makeshift campsite. The fire had been carefully banked, and what Angel assumed was the other man's bag was sealed up and looped over a pole nearby. Angel guessed there was some sort of food inside that he wanted to keep away from animals. Dismissing the bag, Angel continued to look around, and noticed a canteen sitting near his pillow with a note on top of it.
While the language that Hohenheim was speaking may have sounded like Latin, the letters seemed more calligraphic than the Roman alphabet he was used to. Angel puzzled over the note for a few minutes before shrugging and casting it aside in favor of the contents of the canteen. Angel gulped down about half of the water, and although it did nothing to assuage his hunger. It did help to clear the last vestiges of sleep out of his head.
Angel tried to push himself to his feet and was surprised at how easy it was. Whatever healing technique Hohenheim had used was a hell of a lot more effective than Angel had expected. He was still weak, but he was able to walk without staggering about, and the pain from his landing and the wound was gone. Hopefully that meant he would be able to find something to eat with relatively little trouble.
Spotting a set of footprints, Angel set off in their direction. He kept his ears open for the sounds of small animals in the ruins surrounding the path. He wasn't quite sure what to make of this place he had landed in. The ruins didn't seem like any hell dimension he had ever heard about. Hohenheim seemed to be about as human as they came, and he didn't harbor any of the wariness one would expect from a man living in a demons world. Even more confusing was the fact that he was walking around in the sunlight, and had yet to catch on fire. Angel figured he should be more excited about that fact, but he was too wary of his surroundings to celebrate just yet.
He hadn't gotten far from the camp when he heard a frantic scratching. Angel followed the sound and saw a rabbit caught up in a snare, its forepaws desperately clawing at the pole securing the rope it was caught up in.
Angel made for the trap as quickly as possible, feeling slightly guilty over the fact that he would be denying Hohenheim his meal. There was no way the meat would keep in the heat of the day. However, Angel knew the longer he went without blood, the more dangerous he would become, especially to the other man. He was just going to grab the rope to secure the rabbit when he heard a loud crash in the distance, and a startled shout that was abruptly cut off.
Angel left the rabbit for later and took off down the path delineated by Hohenheim's footprints. His sense of smell told him that the trail was old, and he hoped this was because the other man had been gone for a while, not because he was too far away. As he scanned the sky he saw a haze of dirt drifting in the air a fair distance away. His face became grim as he sped his pace up as much as he could in his weakened state. He just hoped the other man was okay.
When Angel finally made it to the site of the noise, he saw that his hopes were worth just as little as he had expected. One of the larger buildings had been reduced to a pile of rubble. Angel picked his way through the debris, trying to catch sight of the man, but he caught scent of him first. Blood, in large quantities filled the air, and following its smell led him right to his new friend.
The man was laying beneath several large chunks of what used to be a building. It looked like one of his arms and both of his legs were crushed by a couple chunks, but the telling wound was the one to his head. A bright spray of blood decorated the area around his head and neck, where a deep wound was still sluggishly seeping blood.
Angel stared at the sea of crimson and licked at lips that had become dry. He felt his demon come out, drawn by the scent of blood and the overwhelming hunger that clawed at him. He desperately wanted to turn away and flee, but the sight of so much blood, so much human
blood, had his eyes nailed to the corpse of his new friend. He had knelt down next to the body before he even realized it.
Angel reared back, disgusted by himself. It was just like that time all those years ago in the diner, and he knew if he indulged in this he would be just as overcome by guilt. Yet, he couldn't seem to shake his demon face away. He just stared at the blood, almost drooling at the sight and scent. Survival instincts were screaming at him to drink, and finally he gave in. What was one more sin piled on top of his many others? However he had only managed a few desperate gulps before he wretched himself away and scrabbled away from the body.
"God," he said, burying his head in his hands, as his demon receded. "What kind of monster am I? That man helped me, and this is how I repaid him."
Just then, Angel heard a strange sound. He looked up and saw the rubble covering Hohenheim begin to roll away from the man accompanied by a strange arcing light. Slowly the other man sat up, brushing dirt off of his clothes. Angel just gaped as the man began to speak as if nothing had happened.
"I need to be more careful. These buildings are not as sturdy as they used to be."
Hohenheim turned, but instead of anger or hate at Angel's actions, the vampire only saw sadness and compassion in the man's golden eyes.
"You called yourself a monster? Do not worry yourself on my behalf. You see, I'm a monster, too."