Title: Marked In Permanent Ink
Characters: Angel, tattooist Sutherland Macdonald.
Word Count: 1109
Spoilers: A bit of Angel’s canon history, plus some speculation.
Summary: A few years after his soul is first restored, Angel is given an unusual reward for saving a man’s life.
Content Notes: None needed.
Written For: Challenge #150: Ink at fan_flashworks.
Disclaimer: I don’t own BTVS, or the characters. They belong to Joss Whedon.
A vampire with a soul was unnatural and pathetic. For weeks after the people of Clan Kalderash restored his soul, Angel hid himself away, almost catatonic with guilt over all the evil his demon-inhabited body had done in the century and a half since he’d been turned. He’d caused so much suffering; he could recall the faces of every single human he’d tortured and killed for his own pleasure, every innocent person who’d been nothing more to him than a meal or a plaything.
The memories disgusted him, he was unclean, contaminated from within, and it had been his own fault. He’d been an easy target for Darla, a dissolute human already partway over to the dark side, consumed with the pleasures of the flesh. His days had been spent sleeping and avoiding honest work, while his nights revolved around hard liquor and debauchery, always greedy for money to gamble with, endlessly seeking warm female bodies to share his bed.
He huddled in the dark, dank refuge he’d found for himself, tortured by his crimes, drowning in regret and self-loathing. More than once he considered just going out into the sunlight, ending his existence for good, death by purifying flame, but it seemed too much like taking the easy way out and anyway, it wouldn’t cleanse the ink-black stain from his soul. Death wasn’t enough. If he was ever to find redemption then he needed to make amends somehow, and there was one obvious way to do that. He’d take up arms against vampires and demons everywhere; perhaps if he killed enough of them, saved enough innocent souls from being tormented or turned, then one day it might be sufficient to earn him the peace of death.
The demon remained within him, sharing space with his soul, its constant presence a reminder, if he needed one, of everything he’d been and everything he was now fighting against. It would serve to keep him focussed on his goal, but in the back of his mind he couldn’t help thinking that he needed something else, something tangible, not for himself but for others; an identifying mark of some kind to set him apart as the only souled vampire in existence.
Then in 1903, Angel, as he’d now decided to call himself, was passing through London when he encountered a very particular man. The back streets of the city were poorly lit and overcrowded, the perfect environment for a vampire, and Angel had tracked one there, fighting and slaying it before it could sink its fangs into its intended victim. In the wake of the battle, as he’d helped the unfortunate gentleman back to his feet, Angel had found himself the unwilling recipient of the man’s gratitude.
“Thank you, my good man, I do believe you have saved my life! What happened to that filthy miscreant?”
“He fled,” Angel lied. “Cowards like that run when someone is wiling to fight back.”
“Then it is my good fortune that you came along. How can I repay you?”
“That really isn’t necessary…”
“Nonsense. The least I can do is offer you refreshments. You look like you are down on your luck. My name is Sutherland Macdonald. Walk with me, please, I would feel safer in your company. My home is just a few streets away, in a somewhat better neighbourhood than this. In future I will make sure to take a hansom cab home,” he added ruefully. “Walking the streets at night is more perilous than I had anticipated.”
Unable to think of a suitable excuse, Angel did as requested, accompanying Mr. Macdonald back to his residence, which was also, it seemed, his place of business. A smart sign was fixed to a railing outside, declaring Sutherland Macdonald to be an Inscriber of Tattoos to the gentry.
“I’ve been thinking of getting a tattoo; how much does it cost?” Angel asked, running his fingers lightly over the wording on the sign.
“The price varies, according to size and complexity,” Macdonald explained, “but since I owe you for saving my life, I would be happy to waive my fee on this occasion.” He led the way up the steps and inside, gesturing at a door to his right. “Step inside my office, I’ll show you some designs.”
“I don’t want to take up your time, sir.”
“Not at all. I enjoy my work, and I have the very latest advances in tattooing technology at my disposal. Please.”
To refuse would have been unforgivably rude. What could Angel do but agree?
The design he selected was at once simple and complex, a griffin with the letter ‘A’ beneath, very detailed but since it was to be done only in black ink, relatively straightforward. Face down on the worn leather couch, head pillowed on his folded arms, Angel relaxed, letting the pain from the ink-laden needle piercing the skin over his shoulder blade wash over him. He didn’t so much as twitch throughout the long procedure, the slight pain insignificant compared to the torment he carried inside himself at all times.
“There, it is done. You will find a mirror on the far wall if you would care to view the result.”
To avoid awkward questions, Angel made a show of looking at his new tattoo in the mirror, even though no reflection was visible, but he moved away from it again before Macdonald, busy clearing away his equipment, could notice.
“It’s perfect, thank you.”
“My pleasure, I assure you. You really are an excellent subject for my art; few people are able to remain quite so still.”
“I barely felt the needle.” That was true enough.
“The site will remain sore for a while, but you should have no problems. I assure you, I keep my equipment scrupulously clean. Will you join me for a nightcap?”
“Thank you, no, I’ve taken up enough of your time and I should be going. I must be onboard before my ship sails in the morning.”
“Ah, you are a sailor, I should have guessed. By all means then, my friend, morning is not far off and it would not do for me to delay you further. Look me up next time you’re docked in London, and once again you have my gratitude for saving my life.”
“It was nothing, really.” They shook hands at the door and Angel headed out onto the pre-dawn streets. If he moved fast he could reach the docks before sunrise, hide out in the hold of a ship and feed on rats during the voyage. He’d heard tell that America was teeming with vampires and other demons; he’d continue his quest for redemption there.