The corridor is long, fluorescent lights flickering as Angel's shoes clap against the cement as he reaches his destination. Rows upon rows of file cabinets fill the room, cold metal staring back at him, unmoving. He casts no reflection in their brushed steel drawers, and he finds it angers him. After all, they contain his life, it only seems right that they should smile back at him.
There is a drawer for nearly every year. Angel doesn't have time to count and be sure, or maybe he has all the time in the world. He's never sure anymore. He knows only one thing; he can't remember most of what this room holds documented for all posterity, and for that he is grateful.
His strides are steady, he knows that somewhere in the building there is a man in front of a monitor watching his every move, or maybe a seer on another plane, he isn't sure where the ever-gawking eyes are, but he makes a concerted effort to remain calm. Looking at the neatly typed dates as he passes each column of his life he is careful to give no one date more pause than the next. He isn't sure why he feels so compelled to wander circles around the room or why the sight of so many hours, years, of paperwork should make him feel like someone has split an ax down his back exposing tender nerves and affecting his ability to stand, but it does.
He takes another pass around the room, Minotaur in the Labyrinth, waiting for one final enemy to end the compulsion to walk the maze.
The feeling of eyes watching makes him dizzy. His skin crawls and at last he can take it no more. He stops in front of one of the cabinets, not bothering to look at the date he pulls the handle nearest him until the drawer slides off its tracks, hitting the cement floor with an echoing clang. A few of the folders rise out of their hangers. Red files.
Angel kneels to the ground, lifting the handle until he can see the date. 1784. Red files filled with death and half-truths. The papers within seem shockingly white. He expects them to be faded yellow, brittle in his hands like the memories are in his mind. The stiffness of the paper, lack of blood or other evidence of their contents unsettles him.
He never has the strength to read them. He glances over the pages seeing names he recognizes here and there, a few he had long forgotten. Stuffing the pages back into their sheath, treating the thin edges like the daggers they are, he flips through the wire hangers. Several flicks of the wrist later Angel finds what he's been looking for; the drawings.
If the math he refuses to do is right there are thousands of folders, hundreds of drawers. And each one, near to the back, cataloged so neatly next to the freshly printed transcripts and retellings, are the images he left behind.
These are tattered, some charred by fire, others by time alone. The pages are aged and hard, scarred and blood splattered. Here in his hands are the memories he's never been able to whitewash. Even Wolfram and Hart's full-time horde of clean sweepers couldn't wipe the markings of death that he himself had worked so hard to capture from these pages.
He can only glance at the penciled lines for seconds before he must shove the leaves back into their final resting-place. It only takes moments to straighten the files enough to lift the drawer back into place. The lightness of the act does nothing to resemble the weight of the burden contained in that one small drawer. Sliding it shut Angel almost allows himself a sigh. He wants to feel relief, but in truth he's found what he was looking for.
He doesn't deserve to survive the fight, and somehow that makes the certainty
that he won't a little easier to bear as he ascends the cold cement stairs
and waits for the sun to go down.