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Being Ground Under The Wheel

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This story is No. 2 in the series "The Wheel Turns". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: A companion piece to my story, 'Another Turn On The Wheel – Ultimate Chapter.' VERY Dark. And make sure you read the notes completely before reading the story.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
BtVS/AtS Non-Crossover > Dark > Angel-CenteredGreywizardFR1813,697093,10616 Mar 1216 Mar 12Yes
Rating: FR18 for violence and some language.

Disclaimer: The Buffy and Angel characters all belong to Joss and ME. Deal with it. I have.

Time frame: Immediately follows my story, 'Another Turn On The Wheel – Ultimate Chapter,' which you can find here: http://www.tthfanfic.org/Story-27137/Greywizard+Another+Turn+On+The+Wheel+Ultimate+Chapter.htm.

Spoilers: Nope. None at all, since this is completely AU from the Joss-verse.

Character Bashing: Some people may think that Buffy and Cordelia are being maligned, but then does anyone seriously expect the First Evil to ever say *good* things about them? Angel doesn't come off as any sort of hero here either, due to his actions in the referenced story, but my personal opinion is that this shouldn't be considered bashing. Keep in mind before you start criticizing, that in canon (which is what the original story is based on), he really did murder Drogyn, the Guardian of the Deeper Well, in order to infiltrate the Circle of the Black Thorn, rather than make any attempt to save his old friend. That is not the sort of behavior that I would ascribe to a self-declared 'Champion of the Light.'

Feedback: Of course!

Archiving: Talk to me first, please.

Author's Note 1: Many thanks to Bill Haden and Theo (Starway_Man) for beta-ing this story.

Author's Note 2: This story resulted from a suggestion made by one of my beta readers, Theo (Starway_Man) , and I thank him gratefully for it.

~~~

A place many people prefer not to contemplate for too long
May, 2004


Angel awoke, and almost instantly he knew that something was wrong. Well, even more wrong than it had been before, as the memories of the recent past came to the forefront of his mind.

It had all started when Cordelia Chase, his seer, his friend and his at-one-time beloved, had given him a farewell vision from the PTB of the Circle of the Black Thorn – the members of which were the direct instruments of the Senior Partners of Wolfram & Hart on Earth, second only in power to that trio of very old and very evil pure demons. Unfortunately, the Vision Girl hadn't given him a glimpse of any faces or names – so, Angel had been forced to try to infiltrate the Circle and determine that part for himself.

After much effort, he had finally succeeded, but the problem was, he had done so, at a cost.

Namely, the life of an annoying little pest named Xander Harris.

Granted, Angel knew that Harris had been doomed from the moment the Circle members had abducted him for their newest recruit to feed upon and kill, to demonstrate his loyalty to the Black Thorn. Whether he had killed Harris or not, the irritating fool was never going to get out of the Circle's stronghold alive.

So, in order to ensure his admittance to this malevolent coalition, Angel had done what had been necessary to get all the Circle members – Cyvus Vail, Marcus Hamilton, the Archduke Sebassis, Senator Helen Brucker (D-CA: Politics you can trust, since 1992) and Izzerial the Devil, to name but a few – to reveal themselves.

But then, the Circle had revealed a diabolical plan to use Xander's corpse as a weapon to destroy the new Council and all the newly activated Slayers that had been activated since last year. To infiltrate and work from within, to slaughter *everyone* it could reach. Angel hadn't been expecting that, but what other choice did he have but to go along with it, once the milk had been spilled?

Somewhere in the back of his mind, Angel's conscience had been screaming at him not to be party to this terrible act – but he had ignored it and rationalized his actions as being part of the greater good. He'd justified his actions by telling himself that sacrifices – such as Xander's life, or any of the watchers and slayers LA – were necessary, however unpleasant they might seem. Maybe later he would be able to have the *thing* that had once been Xander Harris put down before it could embark on its mission to Scotland, but for now – Angel knew he had to keep up appearances.

Except, it hadn't exactly worked out that way.

The memories came back with sudden crystal clarity – instead of the appearance of a remorseless, demonically animated corpse, Angel had been astounded to witness the original inhabitant of the body still in the driver's seat after the resurrection was complete. Unfortunately, he knew too well Xander’s personality. Amazement had quickly turned into terror, though, as Buffy’s White Knight had started on his rampage against Vail and all the others – killing them all as easily stomping on an offensive-looking bug, as the Circle members' combined powers proved to be completely ineffective against their would-be Frankenstein's monster.

After vaporizing and/or slaughtering all the Circle of the Black Thorn, the blood-drenched Xander had approached his murderer. Angel had tried to talk to Harris, to reason with him, to justify why he had done what he did...

Before Angel's entire world had turned into agonizing orange flames, and he'd known nothing more – until now.

Angel yelled in horror, as he found himself partially impaled on a bed of nails. He couldn't pull away, thanks to the nails being embedded into his back, but that wasn't the real reason why he'd started yelling; it was because Angel had suddenly realized that he was pinned, spread-eagle, against the wall, and that his arms and legs were stretched to their limits by massive lengths of heavy steel chains.

{ What the hell...?! }

"This is your own fault, you know. Seriously, Rat Breath, it wasn't originally supposed to be like this!" the ensouled vampire heard someone saying from off to one side.

Twisting his head around, Angel pseudo-sighed in relief as he recognized his old sponsor, the balance demon named Whistler.

"What are you talking about, Whistler?" he demanded, frowning as he noticed that the guy was making no effort to free him "And do you know where I am? I need to know where I am, if I'm going to figure out how to get out of here."

Whistler abruptly morphed into the ancient vampire known as the Master – Angel's grandsire, who smiled at the prisoner with an exceedingly malicious expression on his deformed features. "What am I talking about, he asks. And as for getting out of here, callow youth, forget about any possibility of that happening. You’re no Ash…

"You, Angelus, are stuck here – 'til the end of time," the now long-dead and dusted demon informed him.

"Who are you?" Angel fought to keep any indication of fear off of his face, even if he wasn't sure how well he succeeded.

The Master then morphed into Angel's first ever seer, the dead half-Brachen demon named Doyle. "You don't know who I am, mate? I'm insulted. How quickly they forget! To think, after all that effort I expended to get you to kill yourself that Christmas..."

"You're the First," Angel realized, as he stared at the original Evil before looking around at the room. It was bare, empty of everything except the wall of nails he was trapped against. "What do you want with me now?"

"You? Well, try to guess," Doyle/the First said, before it morphed into the also, now-long dead gypsy woman known as Jenny Calendar or Janna Kalderash. "You're here, wherever 'here' is. Where do you think you are, Angel? Or would you prefer me to use your real name, Liam?"

"That's not who I am anymore," Angel growled, cursing his helplessness.

"Liam it is, then," Jenny/the First said with an evil smile, before she/it morphed into someone else – the wicked fallen preacher Angel had briefly encountered last year named Caleb. "Looks to me you got yourself into a real mess, boy. Shoot, I seen turkeys trussed up for Thanksgiving dinner who looked in better condition than you!"

"You're dead. Buffy killed you," Angel said to him, before reminding himself that it was actually the First he was currently talking to. "I repeat – what do you want with me? Whatever it is, you're not gonna get it."

"Oh, now, don't be too sure about that," Caleb/the First said with an evil smile. "Pshaw, aren't you interested in learnin' what happened after that Harris fella turned you into a pile of dust?"

"What?" Angel said blankly, not sure if he had heard that correctly.

"Vampire plus fire equals dust. I thought I taught you that," the First Evil said after it morphed into Darla. "Then again, it *did* take a while for some things to percolate through into that thick Irish head of yours. You're *dead* and *gone*. Remember? Alexander killed you. Not long after you murdered him, as brutally as you could, with barely even a trace of regret in your heart. So tell me, dear boy – where do you think you are *now*?!"

Angel began to sweat. "I don't..."

"Answer me this, darling. Do you believe your soul is worthy of Heaven?" Darla/the First asked with a sneer. "Have you been a good man? Have you been following the Ten Commandments lately? Hmm, how does that fifth one go...something or other about 'Thou shalt not commit murder,' wasn't it?" the incarnation of Evil asked with a cruel smirk.

"I did what I was ordered to do, what I had to do," Angel answered defiantly, even if that bad feeling in the pit of his stomach was growing worse.

The First then assumed the image of Winifred Burkle, one of Angel's deceased friends. "Who gave you the right to decide who lives and who dies, Liam? Especially one of the good guys?"

The original Evil abruptly morphed into the man known as Riley Finn, a one-time rival for Buffy's heart. "You could have tried to get Xander out of there, or teamed up to take out The Circle. But that never even occurred to you as a possible course of action."

The First subsequently became Drusilla. "Naughty, naughty, Not-Daddy. The stars are saying you've been ever so badly behaved..."

"You're starting to make me dizzy. Could you please pick one particular dead person's face, and just stick with it?" Angel demanded, as the First quickly became his beloved Buffy. "NOT that one!"

"Sorry, honey, but you asked for it, so now – you got it," Buffy/the First smirked evilly. "Now, where was I? Oh yeah! I was just about to tell you what your *idiocy* has resulted in. Not only for you, but your little band of misfit followers as well.

"See, once Xander slaughtered you and the rest of the Black Thorn, then he went straight to your evil law firm and torched it," Buffy/the First informed him with a smile.

"Seriously, in thirty seconds the whole place was gone, up in flames!" she/it went on. "Anyone who stood against him ended up the same way. Poor old Spike, Xander dusted him on general principles as soon as he saw him; likewise Harmony. That Illyria thing, he tore her head off as soon as she started attacking him, while ranting about how he should bow down before her and all that crap. Wes and your buddy Gunn were the only ones who got away, and they're probably heading for Mexico right now."

"You're lying," Angel said forcefully, refusing to believe it.

"Yeah, you'd think that, but just this once? No. There's no point in telling lies, when the truth can hurt you a lot more," Buffy/the First laughed evilly. "Anyway, that idiot Andrew tried to talk to Xander about what the hell had happened to him – well, before that geek ran off screaming after Xander almost charbroiled him, which was thanks to what he'd let happen to Anya and Dana. Then I showed up, along with Willow –"

"You're NOT Buffy!" Angel shouted angrily, his temper getting the best of him.

"Yeah, fine, whatever," Buffy/the First shrugged indifferently. "Geez, you're such a grumpy-pants, spoiling the story! Anyway, the Xand-man told them both what had happened. Your little Slayer bitch naturally refused to believe it, since she was *sure* that it was all some kind of mistake – that you would *never* do something like torture and kill her best friend in cold blood! Took Will's truth spell to convince the bottle-blonde menace that everything Xand had told her was the real deal – and boy, was she *pissed* after that! Not only for what the Donut Boy did to you, but to my poor li'l Spike-y as well. Took a swing at him – she just couldn't help herself – and that's all it took for the Circle's programming to kick in."

"What are you saying?" Angel asked with huge, horrified eyes.

Buffy/the First laughed. "What am I saying? You know damn well what I'm saying, Liam! Your precious Slayer was burned alive, the moment her fist connected with Xander's face. Wasn't exactly his fault – that girl just picked the wrong opponent to vent against. Had to be a closed casket ceremony afterwards, because what was left after the flames went out – not even the best morticians could fix *that* mess, ya know what I'm saying?"

"No. You're lying, Buffy's still alive," Angel insisted desperately.

Buffy/The First laughed again. "Denial? Doesn't look good on you, hero. But you wanna hear the best part? After she croaked – good ol' Buffy the Vampire Layer didn't make into back into Heaven! After all, willingly doing the beast with two backs with a soulless vampire, a demon in human form? And not regretting it, either?

"Uh-uh, they don't allow souls like that into Heaven. I swear, your ex-girlfriend couldn't believe it how the moment she showed her face at the Pearly Gates, St. Peter – that sanctimonious, self-righteous little prick – told her to take a hike! Maybe it'd been so long since anyone had told her otherwise, Slutty figured the rules didn't apply to her; but either way, thanks to her attitude, she ended up – somewhere else. Wanna guess where?"

"That's not gonna work. Buffy's not in Hell, and your mind games are pointless," Angel told the First determinedly. "So why don't you just leave? You're starting to bore me."

The First quickly morphed into the physical form of Cordelia Chase. "I'm boring you, am I? Guess I'll have to switch tactics, then. Wanna know a secret about your seer slut that went and got knocked up by your son? She may be dead, but she's not in Heaven either."

"That's a LIE!" Angel roared, simply unable to help himself.

"Is it? Think about it; the sin of pride, Liam. When did Queen C *ever* do the humility thing? All throughout high school, that girl was the nastiest bitch to ever walk the halls of Sunnydale High. Sure, she talked a good game about having changed after she started working with you – but did she ever so much as ring up all the people she'd wronged, and apologize over the phone? Nope, Cordelia could never be bothered to make the effort. So tell me, what does that say about her as a person? Hey, forget Wilson Christopher and how she willingly fucked a guy who impregnated her with demon spawn, she went and screwed the pooch with the visions – something you know all too well."

"What are you blathering on about?" Angel asked, recalling what Buffy had once said about how the First loved the sound of its own voice far too much.

"The visions, Champ!" Cordelia/the First laughed evilly. "She was never supposed to hang onto 'em for as long as she did, remember? That prophecy everyone learned about in Pylea – she was supposed to pass them onto that hunk o' salty goodness, Groo! He was supposed to become your Vision Boy, and in that scenario, that whole Jasmine mess would never have been able to take place. That was her one and only chance for a happily ever after...

"But no, not Miss I'm-so-much-better-than-the-rest-of-you Chase. She didn't sleep with the guy in Demon World, but she also willingly became half-demon to prevent the visions from killing her on her birthday. And then, after Groo showed up at your hotel? She came up with the idea of that mystical prophylactic to keep her so-called gift to herself! That dumb piece of ass not only willingly allowed her soul to be polluted by Jasmine’s evil demon mercenary, but she was also indirectly responsible for all those people getting killed after Rocky the Beast showed up last year. You tell me, buddy boy – does all that sound like the actions of a person who would be allowed to enter into Heaven?"

"Stop it. Just – knock it off!" Angel shouted angrily. "You're trying to twist things around, but it won't work! If there's one thing I'm sure of, it's that good people go to Heaven after they die, and both Buffy and Cordelia are there waiting for me when the time comes for my soul to join them!"

Then the First underwent its final transformation – into Xander Harris, the man Angel had cold-bloodedly murdered only a short while before he, himself, died.

"You actually think *you* qualify for something like that? I guess Cordy isn't the only one suffering from an overinflated ego, after all," Xander/the First smirked evilly. "And have you forgotten what we were discussing, like barely a minute ago? Your bastard creation incinerated you with the powers you helped give it, Liam. Remember what the Zeppo here said to Angelus, once upon a time? That you were going to die, and he was going to be there? Well, news flash, Liam – Angelus is gone now. Plus, your soul, not his, has been judged and sent to its final destination. This isn't Heaven, and it's not Purgatory, either. So you tell me, Captain Hair-gel – just where do you think we are?"

"I've been to Hell, remember? This isn't even close to the real deal," Angel shot back, cursing his inability to get loose and escape from here – wherever here was.

"You mean this?" Xander/the First snapped its fingers, and for a few moments Angel was lost in a mad torrent of unearthly screams, fire and brimstone. It was enough to bring back terrible memories of his century-long trip to Acathla's hell dimension, before the Irishman suddenly found himself back in that bare hospital room with his tormentor.

Ignoring the shocked look on Angel's face, the Source of All Evil said to the imprisoned soul stuck against the wall, "Well, we'll get to that, eventually. But first thing's first, you know? Gotta go with the classics – 'Hell is being stuck in a room with your friends for all eternity', so to speak."

"Jean-Paul Sartre," Angel said hollowly, his eyes wide and fearful after those few moments of being subjected to Hell's torments.

{ Oh dear God, what if it's true? What if I really am damned because of everything I did in the name of the greater good? } he asked himself.

"It is true. And you've seen too many Harry Potter movies lately, Liam, what with that so-called 'greater good' thing," Xander/the First chuckled malignantly, easily able to read Angel's mind in this realm. "Hmm, who was it that said the road to Hell is paved with good intentions? No, never mind, it's time to get this show on the road! Just relax, you're gonna have a great thousand years' worth of entertainment here..."

Confused, Angel could only watch as four more figures suddenly appeared in the center of the room, materializing out of nowhere. The former vampire's confusion very quickly turned to outrage and horror as he witnessed the two women who meant everything to him – Buffy and Cordelia – appear before him, naked and encumbered by manacles and bulky, heavy lengths of chain, the mass of their restraints causing each of the women to almost collapse under the weight.

The women were accompanied by two demons, with each demon holding a chain leash attached to one of the women's slave collar in one hand, while a vicious-looking cat o' nine tails was held in the other, and both fiends were smiling with vindictive pleasure as they expertly wielded the barbed whip on their helpless, screaming victims.

Angel's eyes widened with horrified recognition since both demons had a history with both him and his evil alter ego, Angelus. The closest fiend, who held Buffy's leash, had the blue face of the unkillable, would-be apocalypse-bringer known as the Judge, while the second demon, who held Cordelia's leash, looked like the silver demon mercenary known as Skip.

"NO! NO! DON'T! STOP!" Angel screamed as he found himself unable to look away, his head held in place so that he was *forced* to witness the whole gory show – compelled to see and hear the women he cared for being brutally beaten and mistreated while begging him to save them, and to be helpless to do anything about it was unbearable agony to him.

The worst part was being forced to wonder whether the First Evil's story was true – whether this was the *real* Buffy and Cordelia, who were being tormented and assaulted after being denied entrance into the safety of Heaven.

Angel sincerely didn't want to believe it, but the seeds of doubt had effectively been sown – and thus, his anguish was all the worse for all the groundwork prepared by the bad guy.

{ This is simply delightful, } the First decided as it watched its captive fruitlessly thrash against his restraints in a futile struggle to free himself and rescue the women in front of him. { I can hardly wait to see what he does when those two begin to sexually molest the women's simulacrums! }

{ And the fact that, despite his protests, the fool really can't make himself *not* believe that there's no chance at all that those two bitches could actually be sent to Hell with him is what makes everything so much more enjoyable, } the First Evil thought with malevolent glee.

"Oh, one last thing – after meeting Jasmine, why would you think the other PTB's were the good guys?" the being currently wearing Xander Harris' appearance asked its powerless prisoner.

"Welcome to Hell, Liam," Xander/the First then laughed darkly, before it vanished out of the room and left Angel there to suffer, helpless and alone – for the next millennium, anyway, before the fun *really* got started.

FIN

The End

You have reached the end of "Being Ground Under The Wheel". This story is complete.

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