|draw down the stars
Coming back to this city, that I never quite leave
If you live somewhere long enough, the place itself will leave fingerprints on your soul. There are cities, too, that leave those prints no matter how brief your stay. In 200 years and a lifetime of global traveling, Angel has encountered more than a few of the latter; his soul is smeared with other cities' marks, like the windows of bus shelters on the corners in Los Angeles are smeared with fingerprints.
Angel is drawn to cities, states, countries. It's why he goes to Sunnydale in the first place, for example - because Buffy is there, because something in his gut tells him that he's got a part to play in how that Hellmouth plays out. And Sunnydale marks him, smudged traces of love and loss and grief clinging to him when he turns in the smoke and fire of the high school and walks away. He can feel those things heavy on his skin as he goes, feels the bruises and welts of his three years in Sunnydale, healing but scarring deeply, the further he moves from Buffy.
Angel goes to Los Angeles because the scars are thickest from his time there; he remembers the smell of the night-blooming jasmine at the hotel and drinking from rats in the dank alleys behind the Hollywood front. He remembers hanging from the ceiling of the Hyperion, an angry lynch mob on his heels. But the scars are thick, they've toughened over the years, and the sight of L.A.'s freeways and skyscrapers doesn't ache as badly as the sight of the Now Entering Sunnydale sign that Spike ran over so many times in the past.
Los Angeles is a place where he can do some good, heal some wounds, stay free of everything emotional that was his three years in Sunnydale. He could go to Prague, where guilt is still heavy over his view of the whole city, but he doesn't speak Czech. He could go to New York, where he's never been happy, and try to change the lives of strangers. He comes to L.A. instead; the strangers are still strangers, but the streets are less faceless than New York's.
When he comes back, he does not expect to lose Doyle, or gain Cordelia, or nearly forfeit everything when Wolfram and Hart steps in his path. When he first stepsback into the city, he does not go stand in front of the Hyperion. He does not recall a time where he was, for the most part, left alone, but not lonely. The scars of the Hyperion are buried deep below the scars of all the years in between. He's happy to leave them there.
Until, of course, things threaten the tentative happiness he's built in Los Angeles. He has a business, and some people who aren't yet friends, but who haven't staked him yet, and every flash of blonde hair on every corner isn't Buffy. Not happiness, not really, but as close as Angel can ever bring himself to being happy. Happiness is dangerous, not just the perfect variety that will cost him his soul, but the regular run of the mill wow-this-is-good-coffee variety, too. Get happy, and you get lazy, and when you get lazy, things explode and Wolfram and Hart bring back your ex-Sire and then everything goes all to hell.
When he hands Wesley and Cordelia the photograph, his palms feel raw where they have touched it. When he says, "Find out who owns this place," he can feel a hundred thousand tiny scars pull open and begin to bleed. Happiness leads to this place: a place where bad things come back to haunt you, bad things do not leave the places that you have left.
Angel comes back to the Hyperion because happiness, or at least something resembling productive contentment, brings him there. He was doing something good and he got lazy - his space with no memories, the one he picked in Los Angeles this time around, is only so much rubble underneath Wolfram and Hart's fist. This is how he is back in this hotel, staring down literal demons that he could have handled years ago.
The trouble with scars is that they heal and they fade but the deepest ones are never gone.
Angel stands in the lobby of the Hyperion and when he closes his eyes, it is years earlier, the lobby is full, and there are desperate whispers floating on the air. He made a choice here, and he left, and the scars closed over and there wasn't anything here for him to believe in, anyway. He has things to believe in now, and he would make another decision if faced with it again.
It's dusty, now, the lobby, but the light is the same, filtering in through cloudy glass, and night-blooming jasmine is still blooming outside the walls, trailing up the façade in thicker coils than there were before.
Angel stands in the lobby of the Hyperion and he makes another choice.
He comes back to Los Angeles because there were some good memories here, things that didn't burn when he touched the moments in his mind. After 200 years, you are sometimes offered the chance to put right events that you turned sour years before.
Night-blooming jasmine mingles with the smell of burning demon flesh. It's his life - demon blood and ancient scars and wounds that don't quite heal, and the scent of jasmine underneath it all.
The Hyperion is a place in Los Angeles where he knows without research how to make it right, and that is what the Powers That Be have charged him with: make it right. He cannot fix everything, and he cannot always save Buffy, and he can never shake the scars from the secret places in his soul, but he can see clearly how not to scar himself deeper.
Angel returns to Los Angeles because the Hyperion hasn't finished with him, and he stays because this time there are people who will stand beside him in the battle.
Angel returns to the Hyperion because he can do better than swing from a noose of his own making.
He comes back because L.A. is in his blood, and on his skin, and no matter how hard he tries, there are places he can never quite leave.
He thinks he'll go back to Eastern Europe some day. Maybe thank someone for the soul. For now, there's enough work here that scars will heal and souls will stay and on the roof of the Hyperion, the sky's nearly clear enough for him to draw down the stars.