|Tides of Time
Author: Spectral Serenade PM
Alternate BtVS S6/AtS S3: Buffy is killed during an apocalyptic battle, and Angel is forced to wander the devastated earth alone. 100 years into the future he is sent back in time by the PTB to ensure Buffy isn't killed, and history doesn't repeat itself. Can he prevent Buffy's death, or will their complicated relationship get in the way? Angel's P.O.V.Rated: Fiction M - English - Tragedy/Romance - Angel & Buffy S. - Chapters: 23 - Words: 102,798 - Reviews: 89 - Favs: 21 - Follows: 49 - Updated: 05-20-13 - Published: 12-03-12 - id: 8761604
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: I do not own BtVS, AtS, or any of the characters portrayed therein. They belong to Joss, Mutant Enemy, etc... of which I have zero affiliation. I'm just borrowing them to entertain myself for a little while.
Author's Note: As always, a big thanks to everyone who took the time to review.
So as I'm sure some of you may have noticed I've gone and changed the rating of this story to M (if anyone had trouble finding it, sorry!). Maybe I'm being overly cautious, but I feel like this story is sort of straddling the line between T and M, and I figured it would be safer to bump up the rating than end up with it removed. I'm fully aware teenagers are probably way more desensitized than I was way back when, but that doesn't mean I have to contribute to it, hahaha. At any rate, I doubt anyone in the 13-14 year old age range is reading this (feel free to prove me wrong). Okay, I'll stop rambling now and let you get to the story.
Chapter 9: Reflections
The bell chimed over my head as I stepped through the door into the Magic Box, and a middle aged woman breezed past me as I stepped away from the door. She seemed to be the last customer in the shop, as I moved deeper into the small store, to find only Anya standing behind the register, and Xander lounging at the large conference table in the centre of the room.
"Buffy called a few minutes ago," Anya said, "She's running late."
Xander didn't say a word, he only glared at me silently as I drew closer.
I nodded to the former demon, "Thanks."
Much to my discomfort, she disappeared into the back of the shop, leaving me alone with the young man who hadn't made even the slightest effort over the past six years to hide his disdain for me. I could feel his eyes burning holes in the back of my head as I sauntered around the shop, glancing at a few book titles, or studying a few vials of strange ingredients. I thought perhaps he'd matured enough to simply indulge me with some uncomfortable silence until either Anya reemerged from the backstore, or Buffy arrived; it seemed however, that I was mistaken.
"So!" he began, his tone was chipper, but I knew it was forced, "How much longer are you planning on hanging around Sunnydale?"
I shrugged, and glanced briefly towards him before turning my attention back to the bookshelf in front of me, "I'm not sure. I thought I'd at least stay until this business with the scroll is sorted out."
"Right! The scary apocalyptic scroll... that just happens to surface the same time you show up in town."
This time I did turn to glare at the boy, I wasn't sure what he was insinuating, but I was certain that I didn't like it, "What's that supposed to mean?" I questioned.
"Nothing. I just find it ironic how everything is quiet, then suddenly a few short weeks after you turn up something uber scary is hanging over our heads again." Xander scoffed.
"You think I had something to do with this?" I barked.
"No, I just think you're bad luck." he seethed, narrowing his eyes at me.
We glared at each other silently for a few moments. Though normally Xander was all talk and no action, he didn't break his gaze. As insolent and immature as he still was, it seemed like he'd finally grown a pair.
"Face it Angel," he spat my name with such venom that I had to bite back a growl, "You've never done anything other than complicate Buffy's life, and from the looks of it, things aren't about to change now."
"You know what Xander?" I sighed, "If it'll make things easier on you, just pretend that I'm not here." I wasn't about to fuel his jealous rage, or whatever it had metamorphosed into.
He scoffed, "You know what would be easier than trying to pretend you weren't here? If you actually weren't here!"
I made no effort to suppress the growl that rumbled in my chest as I stalked towards the table. Stopping behind the chair across from where Xander sat, I gripped the backrest with white knuckles and leaned towards him menacingly, "Listen; You don't like me. I know, I get it. But I care about Buffy as much as the rest of you do, and I'm just trying to make sure she's doing alright."
Xander's lip curled in a sneer, and he leaned closer to me, with his elbows resting on the tabletop, "She was doing just fine until you showed up."
I chuckled humourlessly, "Really? That's not exactly how Giles tells things."
"Well at least she wasn't all closed-off and brooding! All you ever do is hurt her, so if you really cared about her, you'd leave before you do any more damage!"
"Right, cause you guys did her a world of good by leaving her to claw her way out of a grave!" I roared.
I could see Xander's jaw tense as he slowly sat back in his chair. He averted his eyes to the ground, and I could tell he was searching for words.
"Did it ever cross your mind that maybe all her strange behaviour was from the spell you cast?" I hissed. I knew they had Buffy's best intentions at heart when they'd made the decision to try and resurrect her, and I had no desire to reveal something that Buffy had been trying so hard to conceal, but I couldn't help the tiny amount of rage that had surfaced towards her friends. As quickly as Willow had picked up magic, I knew toying with life and death was something an amateur should never attempt. It was hard not to believe that Buffy was back in one piece partly due to sheer luck.
"Willow knew what she was doing..." Xander mumbled.
"Did she?!" I asked, he gave no response, "Because I can't help thinking that if you were all as prepared as you seem to think you were, Buffy wouldn't have woken up scared, and alone, and in a box six feet underground."
Again, I was answered only with silence.
"I have hurt her," I continued, "I know I have, but I think right now we're about on par... I guess we're lucky that Buffy's a forgiving person."
The chair scraped against the floor as Xander pushed himself away from the table and rose to his feet, "I think I'll go see if Anya needs any help in the back." he said quietly, and stalked away, disappearing behind the register.
I watched him go, in slight dismay, before pulling out the chair that I still clutched in my hands and sinking into it. It was hard to believe after a conversation such as this one, that Xander had been one to extend the olive branch at Buffy's funeral.
"Needed to escape too?"
I turned back towards the house to discover Xander sauntering towards me, his feet dragging over the grass of Buffy's back yard as though he didn't have the will to lift them completely.
"Felt like getting some air." I replied. In truth, I simply felt out of place. There were people here who had no idea what Buffy did, Willow had explained that they were from some place called the DoubleMeat Palace... a fast food restaurant where Buffy had taken a job. I couldn't decide what was worse; having her gone or thinking of her stuck in such a miserable place for eight hours a day. Regardless, I'd grown tired of strangers approaching me, asking how I'd known her, and saying it was 'such a shame' she was gone; because I couldn't tell them the truth.
I couldn't tell these strangers that for the past six years she'd been the most important thing in my world, that I'd loved her with every fibre of my being, that I had to restrain myself every day from running out into the sunlight and ending my miserable Buffy-less existence. No, instead I was telling them I was an old friend, or an old colleague... the lies had left a bitter taste in my mouth.
"Ironic considering you don't breathe." Xander chuckled.
I glanced towards him, but didn't find his humour amusing.
He frowned, and stuffed his hands into his pockets with a sigh, "Man, I can't wait for these DoubleMeat Jerks to leave... I mean, it's nice they came I guess... but I wish it was just us close friends, you know?"
"Yeah..." I muttered.
"I'm having trouble keeping my lies straight... it's too much to think about on top of..." he trailed off with another sigh, and I could've sworn I saw his lower lip tremble slightly.
"I know what you mean," I groaned, "And if I hear one more person tell me that 'she was such a nice girl' I might rip someone's head off"
Xander eyed me uneasily.
"Not yours, don't worry."
"Well, I am the closest in proximity, just thought I would make sure." he joked.
We fell into an awkward silence. As far as people I wanted to have a heart-to-heart conversation with, Xander ranked pretty low on the list. I'd say he was sandwiched somewhere between Lindsey MacDonald and Spike, but I'd always tried to be civil for her sake.
"Listen, Angel," Xander began finally, "I've been doing a lot of thinking... in light of what happened..."
I braced myself as I waited for him to continue. I knew it was only a matter of time before her friends started berating me, cursing me for being the reason she'd been in Los Angeles fighting.
"... and I wanted to say I'm sorry."
My head snapped towards him, shock written clearly on my features.
"I know we never got along, and it was mostly my fault... I was a stupid jealous teenager, and the girl of my dreams chose you over me... then there was that whole turning-evil thing – which I've come to realize wasn't your fault – then the fact that even after the whole evil episode Buffy was still willing to trust you. I'll blame it on raging hormones, but it pissed me off. I never really gave you a chance, and I'm sorry."
I simply stared at him blankly. I was almost convinced I was imagining this conversation, that perhaps the grief had finally caused me to lose my mind.
"I should have realized that if Buffy loved you that much, you couldn't have been that bad of a guy." Xander continued.
"It's alright Xander, really." I finally managed to stammer.
He shrugged, "I figured you'd say that, but I just wanted you to know anyway."
I nodded, "Well... thank you. Really."
"Anyway, like I was saying... I was just thinking in light of everything that happened – in light of everything that is happening, that maybe we could let bygones be bygones?"
I looked down, to see Xander's hand extended towards me, and despite the shock, I reached out to shake it. As surreal as the situation felt, it was slightly uplifting to have yet another person to lean on, someone who could understand the loss I felt.
With a sad smile, Xander finally dropped my hand, "Man, I hope Buffy can see us now!"
I returned the forlorn smile, "Me too,"
"You want to go back inside?" he asked, taking a couple of steps back towards the house.
"Sure... just give me a minute." I replied.
With a nod, Xander turned, crossed the lawn, and after hopping up the porch steps disappeared inside once more.
I watched him go, shaking my head in disbelief. After he was gone, I looked back up to the sky, and wondered if Buffy had seen the exchange.
It eased my hurt a little to think that if she had, she would be proud of us.
Being so deeply engrossed in thought, I hadn't even noticed Buffy had arrived until she was standing practically in front of me. Her head was cocked to one side, and her hands on her hips as she surveyed me with her face scrunched in confusion.
"You look a lot more mopey than usual, what gives?" she quipped.
"Nothing!" I answered hastily, shooting out of the chair, and attempting to mask the frustration on my face.
She narrowed her eyes at me, "Really?"
I could tell from her expression that she didn't believe me, but she let it slide anyway, "If you say so," she sighed, "Anyway, we should get going. Giles said the Valkesch like to live in damp environments, so I think we've got a lot of sewer to canvas tonight."
"Sure, lets get going then," I agreed, hoping perhaps we could sneak out of the Magic Box before Xander and Anya returned.
It seemed I would not be so lucky however, as the faint sounds of bickering began to float from the back room.
"Your bad mood better not affect us having sex later!" I could hear Anya exclaim.
"An! Shhh!" Xander chidded.
"What?!" Anya appeared suddenly in the doorway to the backstore, and looked out to us, a look of slight shock on her face, "Oh! You're still here." she turned to Xander, "Is that why you wanted me to be quiet? Because Buffy knows we have sex, and I'm sure Angel can put two and two together."
I would've found Anya's bluntness more amusing, if it hadn't been for the murderous glare Xander was shooting in my direction. "We were just about to leave." I replied, turning back to Buffy who was shaking her head in what seemed to be exasperation.
"That's good, because I was just about to lock up!"Anya announced.
"Be careful, Buff." Xander called, as Buffy and I turned towards the door. His tone was gruff, and the words sounded more like a warning than encouragement, but Buffy didn't seem to notice.
"Have a good night you two," she called over her shoulder.
As she pulled open the door, I cast one last look behind me at Xander and Anya. He was helping her put her coat on, as she muttered something under her breath that made him chuckle. As she turned back around to face him I could see all the tension he'd been holding during our heated exchange melt from his body. He grinned, and lightly brushed his knuckles over her cheek.
I slipped out the door after Buffy, leaving Xander and Anya behind in the quiet of the Magic Box, and wishing that seeing such a tender exchange could have brought back something other than painful memories for me.
I dove around a corner, pulling Cordelia and Dawn with me, as a deafening roar echoed through the cave and flames suddenly shot through the passageway we'd been standing in moments ago, singeing the stone walls black.
"Tempestas!" I heard Willow shout, and suddenly heavy rain began to fall in sheets inside the cave, and as the roar sounded again, it was accompanied only by hissing and steam.
"Come on!" I commanded, stepping ahead of Cordelia and Dawn, out into the cavern we'd ducked out of just moments ago.
Once we'd emerged again, I could see our latest roadblock gnashing its teeth dangerously as it slowly stalked closer and closer to Willow. She stood facing it, her hand raised above her head, a giant ball of crackling energy swirling between them. Wesley, Giles, Xander, and Anya stood beside her, throwing large rocks at our newest foe.
I had told them that the yawning cave we'd happened across as we continued up the coast had been too good to be true, but they had begged and pleaded to stop and rest. We hadn't stopped moving since losing Gunn in the sewers, and even without the sun to help me keep track, I knew it had already been three days. I forgot sometimes that they were all human, that though I could go for days without sleep, they could not, and so I indulged them. At first, the cave had seemed ideal, it had been empty when we first ventured into it, but mere hours later, its usual inhabitant had returned, and the monstrous, scaly, fire-breathing dragon had not been thrilled about having uninvited guests in its nest.
Having the only remaining weapon, I charged forward, my sword raised to attack, when Willow stopped me.
"Wait!" she shouted, and I turned back to her just in time to duck a rogue hunk of stone thrown by Anya.
"Sorry!" she shouted, before dashing behind Xander to pick up another.
Willow's eyes were glowing brightly as she focused up at the orb spinning between her hands, it was both impressive and terrifying, "I can stun it with this long enough for us to run past it to the entrance of the cave!" she explained, "Just help them to keep it from attacking me!"
Still clutching the sword in my hand out of precaution, I bent to pick up a boulder, and hurled it towards the dragons head, it snapped at the rock as it flew past its head, and screeched again. Turning to retrieve another, I saw the Cordelia and Dawn had joined the fight.
The annoyance of being pelted with stones, on top of the rain preventing it from using any flame against us had halted the dragon in its tracks. It simply puffed its chest and flapped its wings menacingly as it continued to shriek in frustration.
Finally, Willow lowered her hands towards the dragon, and the sphere shot towards the beast, hitting him dead between the eyes. It shrieked even louder, and thrashed back and forth as what looked like long, crackling electrical currents began to incase its body.
"Now!" Willow shouted, but Xander had jumped the gun, and had already pushed Anya underneath the creature's twitching wing.
As the dragon went limp, the rest of us rushed past it, to discover Xander cradling Anya in his arms, his hand pressed against the middle of her chest, as blood oozed through his fingers. She wasn't moving, and I could tell from the dull glassy look in her eyes that she was no longer with us. Her death had been instantaneous.
"An? An? Anya?" Xander whispered, "Wake up! Honey, wake up?!" he shook her gently, but she didn't move.
Wesley slowly approached the couple, and took Anya's wrist in his hand checking for a pulse that I already knew he wouldn't find, "What happened?" he asked quietly.
"The-the tail..." Xander stammered, "It swung out, and it... it got her..."
I looked behind us where the dragon still lay unconscious. At the end of its long tail were four large spikes, the one closest to the end was covered in blood. It was then that I noticed the reddish hue of the puddle Xander was crouched in, he removed his shaking hand from Anya's chest to reveal a large gaping hole. With a sob he wrapped his arms around her tighter and began to rock her back and forth. I could see there was blood covering the arm of his sleeve, the spike had gone right through her.
"I'm so sorry Xander," Wesley whispered, but Xander didn't hear as he continued to cry, his face buried in her hair. He stood, and turned to me with a pleading look on his face.
I was frozen in place, a sick feeling had risen in my gut as I watched Xander cling to his dead girlfriend as though it could somehow bring her back. There was something frighteningly familiar about the scene in front of me, and I was afraid it would break my determination. I suddenly felt small hands grab at my jacket, and a face bury itself in my back. Dawn hid behind me, her body trembling, and I knew she was trying not to let anyone see her cry.
In my lack of action, Willow had taken it upon herself to slowly move to Xander's side. She knelt next to him with a hand laid gently on his shoulder. "Xander?" she murmured.
He didn't even turn to her, he just continued to rock Anya back and forth.
"Xander..." Willow repeated, I couldn't see her face, but I could tell from her tone that she was close to tears as well, "Xander my spell won't last much longer, we need to get out of here before it wakes up again,"
"Then go." he replied flatly.
There was a moment of silence, and we all visibly stiffened. As if to punctuate the moment, one of Willow's spells wore off and the rain stopped.
"Wh-what?" she whispered.
"Go. Leave me here." he muttered.
Giles stepped forward, fear clearly etched on his face, "We'll take her with us Xander," he said softly, "We'll put her to rest properly." he offered.
"No." he sobbed, "I'm done. This is it for me, I don't want to keep going!"
"Xander!" Willow cried.
"We can't win!" he shouted, "How many people have we lost already?!" he looked to each of us, but no one dared to speak, "This will only get worse, and worse, and you know what? I don't want to be around to see it."
"You don't mean that Xander... we'll be out of California soon enough, and then we can catch a flight out of North America, regroup, maybe find something to stop all-" Willow rambled until Xander cut her off.
"You go then, I believe in you Will, but I've gone far enough."
"No! No, no, no! Xander..." she whimpered, "You're my best friend!"
"Then let me do this, please Will? I'm tired." he begged.
I detached myself from Dawn and pushed her gently towards Cordelia who was watching the entire exchange with a hand pressed over her mouth. She reached out her other arm and slid it protectively around Dawn's shoulder as I approached the two friends. I knew a broken man when I saw one, and I knew it would take a lot of convincing to get him to change his mind. As I stopped a few paces in front of him he looked up at me with haunted eyes. The sick feeling in my gut grew as I noticed the hint of understanding and recognition in his expression. "Don't give up Xander, you know that Anya, and everyone else we've lost wouldn't want you to do that."
"Angel..." Cordelia whispered.
I looked behind Xander to see the end of the dragon's tail twitching.
A sense of urgency began to fill my being as I turned my attention back to Xander, "Until we know for sure that this has spread across the rest of the world we have no reason to give up."
As tears continued to pour down Xander's face, he just kept staring at me quietly.
I heard a snort come from the dragon's still motionless form.
"Xander, we don't have much more time, let me help you." I begged.
He finally shook his head, "I can't." he whispered quietly.
"You can. It hurts like hell, I know, but you can."
"I can't. I'm not as strong as you are. I'm sorry."
I stared at the younger man in complete shock, there was no malice or sarcasm in his voice. His statement was completely genuine, "Yes you are."
He shook his head, "Just let me do what you won't let yourself."
I didn't have time to respond as a low growl rumbled through the cave.
"It's waking up! Xander please!" Willow begged.
He didn't answer, he simply turned his attention back to cradling Anya.
"Don't ignore me Alexander Harris! I'm not leaving you here!" she screamed.
A wing flapped slightly.
"Talk to me!" she begged.
Knowing if we stayed any longer we would all be dead, I pulled Willow to her feet as she wailed in protest, and began to drag her towards the entrance. The others sprinted ahead of me as I grappled Willow out of the cave. Once we emerged back out into the barren outdoors I continued to wrestle with her until I thought we were a safe enough distance that the dragon wouldn't try to chase us. Not that I thought it would, it had two intruders to keep it occupied.
Suddenly , as a shriek echoed from the mouth of the cave behind us, Cordelia crumpled to the ground again, her head in her hands. Dawn knelt by her side, a hand on her back until the vision passed. As she straightened and looked to me, I knew what she had seen simply from the expression on her face – Xander was gone.
Too caught up with Cordelia's vision, I hadn't even noticed Willow pounding furiously on my chest, or the sounds of her heartbroken sobs.
"We need to go back! We have to go back!" she wailed, "How dare you leave him there! He needs us!" she dropped to her knees as I caught her wrists, willing her to stop hitting me.
"Willow!" I said forcefully.
"Take me back there!" she merely continued to try and wrestle her hands away from me, her sobbing not lessening in intensity.
"Willow!" I repeated.
Her cries continued, but her attempts to break free grew weaker and weaker.
"Willow, look at me." I said firmly but quietly.
She finally managed to silence her cries and look to me, there was a fury and desperation in her eyes that I had only seen on rare occasions, it almost frightened me.
"He wasn't coming, Willow, there was nothing we could've done." I whispered.
She stared at me quietly, searching for a sign that I was lying to her, that I had really just had enough of Xander Harris and wanted him gone, but it wasn't the case.
I saw it in his eyes when he looked at me, that hollow broken expression that I was sure he found mirrored in my own. He'd lost everything; the hope that he could find a way out of this with Anya and start a new life had been the only thing keeping him going, and without her he didn't want it anymore. I understood how all consuming that feeling was, I would have easily given into it if I thought I deserved the sweet release of death.
I saw Willow's expression crumble, and her lower lip begin to tremble before she fell into my arms and began sobbing again. It tore at my heart as I thought to how many times I'd held her while she wept recently.
Looking around, I saw Wesley standing alone, his head bowed in mourning, Cordelia clutched her head in one hand, and wiped at a tear with her other as Dawn sat by her side, valiantly trying to bite back her tears. Giles stood closest to me, staring into nothingness, I hadn't seen him cry since Buffy had died.
I wondered how many more of them might I lose before we got to where we were heading.
Please review! (And not hate me for killing off characters...)
(And not hate me for killing off characters...)