I know this feeling. I've had it before.
Takes me a while to place it, though. But once I understand, I'm afraid. If I had eyes, I would weep.
At first I wonder why. Why *again.* So I try to recall.
There was such peace a moment ago, that it's hard to shake off and get back to where I am. My mind travels back to the beginning, to the green place that was my home. I remember my mother, her beautiful face and lovely dark eyes laughing at my boyish pranks. My father, too, and his bulwark of strength, his warm silence that were the things I loved best about him. My family... ah, yes.
Now I remember. The young artist who begged the last of the ready cash from a poor family, promising to make them proud. I was going away to study, I said. We all knew artists never made much money, but Da was a teacher, and teachers didn't either. All Da expected of me was to be the best, and to be happy.
Instead, I became lost. I went to the city, and there in the darkness I met the One who changed me forever. What was her name? I can barely remember now. Perhaps I should think on it again. It might be important one day.
I did not know how long I had been sleeping, or what I did in the nightmares that followed. When I awoke in this place the first time, I didn't understand what had happened to me. I longed for whaerever I had been with a pain that can never be described in mere words, or even with the limitations of thought. But as I rested briefly here, preparing for what came next, the pain lessened, became tolerable, and I looked back over the dream time.
And then it was done.
I thought over the years that I had paid my debt... though that is never really possible. It took a long time, living with the demon at my back, fighting me every moment for freedom, or at least a shread of control. In time the thing was quiet, keeping to the dark places and waiting with the patience of a saint. I should have been ready. I should have known. Where there's a way in, there's a way out. That's how it works.
But I was so consumed by the wonder of love that I didn't think about it. Perhaps that was the demon's influence, making me look away from the brick wall I was headed toward, just watching the bright candle flame dancing before me. It was beautiful, and part of me clings to the belief that I would do it all again, just for the selfish pleasure of its magnificence, just for that single perfect moment.
From here I can see what the demon has done in my absence, and I know I'd take it all back in an instant. I watch over them, see through their eyes and feel the loss they share, intensified a thousand fold. I wait for the spell to be cast again to return me to the everlasting battle for penance. And I know that, this time, there will be no penance for me. No forgiveness. No peace, not ever again. This time, I will fight the good fight forever, and never let my guard down.
But time passes, and I begin to wonder if they know. I look out the transparent walls of my prison, and watch the sparkle of copper light as a tendril of hair is flipped out of the way when she walks by. She doesn't look at me, and I wonder if she knows. She is young, and so often unaware, and I begin to feel a different sort of pain as I wait here. I begin to wonder if, perhaps *this* is my penance, held here watching, unable to help or hinder, only to feel the anguish of their loss in passing days, mounting within them, within me.
I begin to understand. She didn't know what magic the sphere possessed when she bought. She didn't know as she held it and grieved for her friend, what her honest heart and potent wish did in my name. The Orb of Thessala was just a pretty thing, cool and smooth, that took away some of the heat from her tears.
Willow didn't know that her prayers and grief called my soul back from Heaven, and imprisoned it in the orb.
So I wait here in Purgatory, watching Angelus terrorize them with my body, until Buffy destroys him, the rites are performed, or the Orb is shattered. Now it's my turn to be patient. But if I do return...
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