|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: 48 - 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: Welcome to the story! Again, sorry for the long wait, this has been a doozy to write. I hope you read the preface to get a bit of a background on this, and I hope you'll review despite me being a jerk who has been promising to have this finished for about a year now.
Tides of Time
"The night has a thousand eyes,
And the day but one;
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun.
The mind has a thousand eyes,
And the heart but one:
Yet the light of a whole life dies
When love is done."
- Francis William Bourdillon
Chapter 1: One Hundred Years of Solitude
Sunnydale had become a wasteland.
What was I saying; the whole world had become a wasteland. For the past one hundred years, I watched as humanity crumbled around me, as creatures more terrible than the human mind should even be capable of dreaming up spread destruction; toppled governments, decimated cities, tore apart lives...
Lives I couldn't save.
The guilt ate away at whatever shred of a soul I had left, and part of me wished to walk into the sun, to end it all, but that would require for the sun to actually rise... I can't remember the last time I had to take shelter during the day.
It was as if the sun knew she was gone, as if it went into mourning and never came out. It abandoned its duty as I did.
No, I couldn't walk into the sunlight, I couldn't wash away my pain as the flames engulfed me; I don't deserve the sweet release of death. I should suffer - I do suffer, every day.
I marvelled as I approached what remained of Restfield Cemetery. While the rest of the town had been reduced almost entirely to rubble, a portion of the entry gates still remained, and although most of them had been destroyed, stumps of marble and stone protruded from the barren ground where graves were once marked.
I closed my eyes as I continued deeper into the cemetery, I tried to imagine how it used to look; the lush grass beneath my feet, the dark canopy of trees above my head...
Her walking at my side.
I opened my eyes, and the sight caused another wave of guilt to wash over me. Every year that I returned I thought it couldn't possibly get worse, but it does. It always does. I drowned in remorse, it filled my dead lungs, crushed my cold heart, and dragged me deeper and deeper into its dark abyss. The weight of it had been unbearable for years, but still I continued on, I tormented myself, it's what I deserved.
As I neared the centre of the cemetery, I saw one tombstone still standing, chipped and weathered by time. A growl rumbled deep in my chest as I approached it, as I saw the graffiti that has marred its sleek surface for ages;
Die Bitch Die
Victory at Last!
Rot in Hell Slayer
I fell to my knees in front of the headstone, and remained still and silent for a moment. Every year I willed myself to shed a tear, but I think I'd forgotten how to cry. My existence had become a hollow one, reduced to hiding in the shadows, lurking to avoid the wrath of the demon inhabitants of the world, watching the destruction that I caused. That is how I punished myself for her death. How I tortured myself for not being able to protect those she loved. I lived this Hell first hand.
I raised my arm slowly, and lightly traced my finger over her name carved in the stone. If I focused on the grooves that spell her name, that etch out the exact moment she was taken from my life, I could ignore the cruel words that defaced her final resting place.
"Buffy..." I whisper.
It was the only word I'd spoken in ages, I had no one else to speak to, and to make too much noise could spell your demise those days. Yet, despite this fact, the word still did not feel foreign as it slid over my tongue, I don't think I could ever detach myself from her name.
How long I remained crouched there, silently, staring hazily at her headstone I do not know. I always lost track of time when I visited her. My pain-staking efforts to track hours, days, months, years, in this desolate world lost their meaning when I'm faced with what I lost. It's only once I pulled myself out of my fog that I ever remembered why I do it; so that if I'm ever so lucky as to be face-to-face with her again I can tell her how long I suffered for her, so she'll know how hard I tried to repent.
The grinding of gravel broke me out of my reverie. Something was nearby. I remained frozen in place and listened; some of these creatures are large and slow; their vision is poor, and if you're still enough they will pass you right by.
After a few minutes of silence, I'm convinced that if there was something there, it's now gone. I rose slowly anyway, and swept my gaze over my surroundings. The coast was clear, but I felt as though I should find cover just in case.
Heading deeper into the cemetery, I remembered that the facade of the Crawford Mansion was still standing last year. A testament to classic architecture: that all the modern buildings crumbled, while many of the older ones still stood. Humanity's addiction to new technology, speed, change, had ultimately been its undoing. If only someone could have warned them.
The thick cover of trees that had once hidden the Mansion from view was gone, and the giant stone structure loomed ominously over the barren land. I pressed forward, past the debris of the fountain, and into the dark remains, praying that there weren't any demons that had taken up residence within. I was in no shape to fight, any living creature, human or animal, had been extinct for some time, I hadn't had a meal in ages. The interior of the mansion was empty as far as I could tell, I wasn't sure it was stable, but it would do for one night's rest. The walls and ceilings that still stood were terribly cracked, weeds and vines growing through them, threatening its structural integrity. Then again, I mused, if the building collapsed around me, and I was crushed, it wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen to me.
I turned the corner, and entered the room I had once used as a bedroom. There was no longer any furniture inside, cobwebs hung in every corner, and a thick layer of dirt and dust coated the floor. I lay down in it against the far wall, I'd long since stopped caring about my appearance, there was no reason to these days.
I curled myself into a fetal position and closed my eyes. If I was lucky, I could get a bit of sleep before the nightmares kicked in, as they always did. When I woke, it would be time to move on... that was the only way to stay alive anymore, to keep moving, constantly.
As sleep took over me, I swore I heard the wind rustle through the trees outside
Odd, aside from the fact that there were no trees, there was never any wind anymore.
My eyes shot open at the sound of someone shouting my name. Fear gripped my heart, who – or what – had found me? Who knew what I was called?
I scrambled to my hands and knees, and began to crawl along the edge of the room, when I ran head first into a large wooden object. Looking up, I realized it was a bed frame – my bed frame to be exact, the one that had furnished the Mansion when I lived there over a hundred years ago. Looking more closely, I realized that the bed was also made with my sheets.
Confusion washed over me, and it was then that I realized that the floor no longer felt grimy and caked with dirt underneath my fingers as it had the night before. Ripping my eyes from the bed, I scanned the room, to find it completely furnished with the belongings I had abandoned when I left Sunnydale in the year 2000. I rose to my feet, and it dawned on me that I no longer felt weak or drained from starvation... not only that, but I could see a tiny sliver of sunlight creeping through a crack in the heavy curtains that hadn't been closed tightly enough.
I didn't have any more time to dwell on the bizarre change of my surroundings, for the voice called my name again, a voice which, through the haze of time, I was beginning to remember. It was female, and I heard her mutter something unintelligible to human ears under her breath. Her tone was sarcastic, and in the confusion all I managed to catch was the word "immature".
"Angel! I know you're here!" she called once more.
It was then that it hit me like a tidal wave. The sweet melody of her voice crashed down around me, despite the irritation that coloured her speech, it was the most beautiful sound I'd heard in a hundred years.
Apprehensively, I stepped slowly out of the bedroom and into the main room of the Mansion. Alarm bells went off inside my head as I surveyed the state of the room. The crumbling walls were completely intact, all signs of destruction or decay were absent. The fireplace still stood, the remains of a charred log lay inside, as though someone had lit a fire recently. A few more of my discarded knick-knacks were strewn about, and a book sat at the edge of the fireplace, where I'd often left one on nights when I stayed in reading.
My attention was pulled back from marveling at the room by the voice once more. Turning, I finally saw her; the door was flung open behind her, the sunlight spilling into the dark room, causing her hair to glow like a golden halo. I marveled at the sight; this had to be a dream.
"Buffy..." I said, my own voice startling me. It was no longer hoarse, like it was never used, the sound was rich, it filled the room.
Her arms were folded over her chest, and she regarded me with a rather scornful expression, "What are you doing here?" she asked.
"What?" I replied. I was lost, I felt too lucid to be dreaming, besides, the only dreams I'd had in the last hundred years had been nightmares, never had I been in such a comforting location, never had Buffy looked so beautiful, so healthy... so angry, now that I looked more closely.
I crossed my arms to mirror her stance, I was shocked even more, as I pinched my own arm to see if I was dreaming, that I was no longer a wraith; there was muscle on my bones. I ran a hand over my face, through my hair, it was short, somewhat coiffed despite the fact that I'd just woken up. Something wasn't right, where had I woken up?
"I thought we decided last time we saw each other to stay apart unless something end-of-the-worldly was happening." she snapped.
"We did?" I asked. I thought back to the last time I saw her... I shuddered and pushed the memory out of my mind.
"Did you forget already?" she asked.
I didn't respond, I didn't know what to do... I wanted to move closer to her, to touch her, to see if she was real, but she still stood bathed in the sunlight; part of me felt like she was doing it on purpose so I couldn't approach her.
"Just tell me why you're here Angel." she sighed.
"I... I came to see you." I answered. It was true, to some extent.
"You came to see me?"
"Yes," I replied.
"You came to see me... but not actually see me?" she chuckled sardonically.
I blinked, I searched her face, I searched the room; I had no idea what she was talking about, "What?" I asked.
She sighed again, "I thought we were past you lurking around town behind my back."
I was happy to not have a heartbeat, I was sure it would be pounding a mile a minute, I was disoriented, frightened, I thought perhaps I'd finally lost my mind.
"Do you think it's fair that I hear from Spike, that you're back in town?" she asked harshly.
"I... I don't know."
Spike... it had been ages since I thought of my Protegé. He'd been one of the first to go, before the sun had disappeared. The demons had dragged him into the daylight, executed him for being a traitor, for fighting with the Slayer and her team.
"You don't know?" she scoffed.
"No." I swallowed.
She peered at me, her brow furrowed and her mouth pulled into a frown, "Are you alright?" she asked.
"I don't know." I answered again.
She looked away from me, and took a deep breath, as though to calm herself.
"Angel, I can't have you skulking around, not on top of everything else I'm dealing with."
"Right." I said. Was it right? I wasn't even sure what was happening.
"I'm just... I'm trying to put my life back together." she whispered.
I looked her in the eyes again, she looked tortured, her eyes pleaded with me to understand. I wondered if my eyes looked as tortured to her.
"You understand, don't you?" she asked.
"I... I don't know." I replied. From the rage that suddenly flashed in her eyes, I knew I probably should have agreed, but I didn't even know what it was I was supposed to be understanding.
"You don't know much today, do you?" she seethed.
"I'm sorry." I answered, "I-"
"Don't, Angel." she interrupted, "Just please leave. Please." she begged, her eyes were haunted, exhausted, I wondered what was torturing her so.
Before I had a chance to ask, she spun on her heel, and swiftly stalked out of the mansion without as much as a glance over her shoulder, slamming the door in her wake. I rushed to the door, and pressed my hands to the heavy wooden surface. It was solid, and warm to my touch, heated from the sun's rays. I began to walk around the room, my hand slid along the door, the wall, over light sconces, along the mantle of the fireplace. All solid, all inarguably real.
This was not a dream.
Panic took hold of me finally, what was happening? I rushed back into the bedroom, and was about to fling open the curtains when a new voice stopped me in my actions.
"Hey now Big Guy, the Powers will be mighty peeved if they went through all this trouble for ye to end up a pile of soot."
The chipper Irish brogue made a shiver run up my spine. Still clutching the edge of the curtains tightly, I turned to glance behind me. There, with a wry grin on his face stood a dark haired man with light eyes. He had his hands stuffed into the pockets of a brown leather jacket, a bright red collared shirt underneath.
"Doyle?" I stammered.
"Long time, no see, Boss." he chuckled, "Now how about ye step away from the window?"
Without even realizing what I was doing, my hands dropped to my sides, and I turned to face my former friend, my mind still reeling. First Buffy, now Doyle? "Wh-what... how-"
"I know, I know," Doyle replied, his hands held up to me in a gesture of surrender, "I told those blasted Powers that they should send me first, then take care of the temporal fold after ye knew what was going on... but who am I to tell The Powers That Be what's best?"
I stared at him unblinking for a moment, "Temporal fold?"
Doyle sighed, "Maybe ye should sit down for this."
I remained rooted in spot. Where the Powers were involved, bad news usually followed... at least in my case it seemed. If it was them that was messing with me, I wasn't too happy about it.
"Right then..." Doyle muttered.
"Just tell me why you're here." I stated calmly. The panic had slowly faded, I knew now that I wasn't losing my mind, I was just probably being forced to fight another battle for Higher Beings who left me to suffer for a century. "Actually, you might want to start with why Buffy was just standing in the other room."
"Yeah, I was hopin' I would get here before she showed up... but I'm still new with this whole time-travel thing..." he trailed off, I suppose the unamused look on my face was a little more intimidating than I thought. Perhaps a hundred years of solitude had set me back when it came to human-interaction.
"You keep talking about time-travel, the Powers... if you don't tell me what's going on soon, I'm throwing open those curtains... I've been ready to die for a century now, it really won't bother me." I snarled.
"Okay! Okay! Don't kill the messenger!" Doyle stammered, "Which is what I am!" he chuckled, it was hollow, unamused, "Those bastards up there won't even leave me alone in death... I'm still runnin' around delivering their messages."
"So you're a ghost?" I asked.
"To put it plainly." he confirmed.
"And Buffy is too?" I asked apprehensively. It would destroy me if the Powers had her in their grasp even in the afterlife. She deserved to rest in Peace.
"No!" Doyle replied quickly, he heard the horror in my voice, "Buffy is very, very much real."
I studied his face, then looked around the room, the room that only hours ago had been decaying around me, "I don't understand."
"There was a mistake." Doyle explained cautiously.
Doyle rubbed his hands together nervously, he looked uneasy as he continued, "Buffy... Buffy wasn't supposed to die when she did."
The revelation came as a harsh blow. I didn't understand what he meant, were the Powers That Be supposed to have intervened? Was she supposed to have survived? I felt the beginnings of rage boiling inside of me as I thought of how Earth had crumbled in the past century, of the horrors I'd seen, of the people Buffy had loved, and I'd tried to protect, dying gruesome deaths in front of me; was none of it supposed to have happened? "What does that have to do with me?" I asked, almost dreading the answer.
"They – the Powers – they've decided that ye need to save her." he explained, "You need to change the course of human history, and stop her from dying when she did."
In a different lifetime, I probably would have laughed at the injustice. Instead, I crossed to the bed, and sunk down to sit on the edge of it.
"I told ye you'd need to sit down." Doyle said gravely.
I felt numb. Buffy's passing had haunted me for the past hundred years, even now, as I replayed the most horrible moment I'd experienced in over three-hundred years in my mind, I couldn't figure out what I could possibly to do change it. "How am I supposed to do this?" I whispered, I felt as though I was lost a sea, with not a shred of land in sight.
"They didn't exactly give me any details." Doyle replied morosely.
"Of course they didn't," I sighed, "How much time do I have?"
"Well, right now, you're back in Sunnydale spying on her because Rupert Giles called ye sayin' he was worried about her... so..."
I remembered now, the confrontation that had occurred with Buffy mere moments ago. It had only been a couple of months since Willow brought her back to life. Giles had called, at his wits end, saying Buffy had been acting strangely, and he didn't know where else to turn to. He wondered if maybe I could help pull her out of the funk she seemed to be in. I'd been apprehensive, but Giles had pleaded with me, almost reducing to tears, and I had agreed to come to town. I'd stayed hidden for about a few days, before running into Spike one evening... obviously the other vampire had blabbed to Buffy that I was back in town, and she'd come by the very next day to scold me. I tried to think back that far, to how much longer after that I'd had to watch my love be slaughtered.
"Five months?" I growled, "I have five months to completely change the course of history?"
"Apparently these Temporal Fold things are tricky, it was the best they could do." Doyle offered.
I snorted, "I thought 'Temporal Folds were not to indulge at the whims of lower beings'" I mocked, recalling the words The Oracles had spoken to me very long ago.
"They're not. Neither you, nor Buffy are lower beings... ye know that." Doyle replied sombrely, "The both of ye cannot let the future unfold the way it did... it wasn't supposed to end this way."
"What happens if I fail?" I asked.
"Nothin'." Doyle answered, he fidgeted uncomfortably before continuing, "The future will unfold as it already has."
I watched his body language silently, I could feel there was something he wasn't telling me; "Maybe I should rephrase that: what happens to me if I fail?"
Again, Doyle fidgeted uncomfortably, and averted his eyes to the floor before he spoke, "The same as what happened before."
I felt the cold icy fingers of dread begin to close around my heart, "What do you mean 'the same as before'?" I breathed.
Doyle hesitated, whether out of pity or fear I couldn't tell, as he pushed his hands back into his coat pockets, and dug the toe of his shoe into my rug, "You'll just keep on livin'... you'll go through time as it runs its course." he muttered.
A growl erupted from my chest before I could stop it, and before I was aware what I was doing I was on my feet, grabbing hold of a large, decorative copper bowl sitting on the nightstand and flinging it across the room. It flew just a little to close to Doyle's head, before slamming into the opposite wall with a tinny clang, and clattering to the floor.
"Angel... Mate... easy there pal..." Doyle stammered, backing away from me slowly.
I began to pace back and forth, like a ferocious caged beast, "You're telling me..." I snarled, "That not only will I have to watch the only person I've ever truly loved unconditionally die for a second time, but I'll have to re-live the one hundred years of war, death, and destruction that followed all over again?!"
"This wasn't my choice Angel, trust me, I tried to get ye a better deal but..." he sputtered to a halt upon meeting my eyes. Whether it was the rage or the horror filling them that caused him to stop I wasn't sure, but he finished his sentence in almost a whisper: "I'm just the messenger."
The anger seeped from my bones as I stood helplessly in front of the man who at one point I'd considered a close friend and confidant, my shoulders slumped in defeat. I could rage against him as much as I wanted to, it wouldn't change the situation, I had but one choice; to do everything in my power to make sure Buffy survived.
"Got any pointers for me?" I asked, a defeated grimace playing on my lips.
Doyle returned the sad grin, "Sorry mate, you know how hopeless I was in battle... and with the ladies."
I smiled slightly, the first genuine one I had attempted in over a century.
"Hey, say hello to 'Delia for me." he chuckled. His face fell a moment later, "On second thought, don't. I'm sure she's still blazin' mad at me for givin' 'er those awful visions."
"Actually, she did pretty well with those, you would've been proud of her." I recalled, fondly remembering the strong, caring woman Cordelia Chase had grown in to.
"That should be doing, Angel man. She's doing well with those..." Doyle corrected, "You'd best get used to speaking in present tense, they're all alive now, ye know."
I suddenly felt my chest swell with excitement and anxiety, I was so caught up with the daunting task ahead of me that it hadn't even occurred to me that all the people I'd lost would now, once more, be amongst the living. It frightened me, the thought of seeing them all again; what if I was different somehow? What if they noticed?
Doyle could see I had lost myself in nostalgic thoughts and grinned, "Good luck Angel, and be careful, ye hear? I'm rootin' for ye on the other side."
Before I had time to thank him, he had vanished, and I was left standing alone in my bedroom once more. The silence of the empty mansion hung thick around me, and put me back on edge, I had lived too many tortured years in seclusion and silence, hiding from demons and narrowly escaping death.
Suddenly feeling claustrophobic, I hurried into the larger entry room, and sat down on the hearth of the fireplace, my elbows resting on my knees. It was still daylight, I had no choice but to remain indoors for at least a few more hours... but even when the sun did set, what would I do? I needed to come up with a game plan of sorts. I tried to recall what had happened after Buffy had sought me out to berate me for not honouring our decision; if my memory served, I had simply left town as she had asked. She'd been through so much, I couldn't bear to cause her more pain. All I'd ever wanted was for her to be happy, and so returned to L.A. without as much as a goodbye. I scowled at that thought, why did I never say goodbye?
Perhaps it was the disorientation of being thrust back in time, coupled with the thrill of knowing that a few mere miles from where I currently sat, Buffy was living and breathing, as I'd longed for her to be; but I decided that perhaps this time I should stay in town... If the events that had unfolded the first time around had brought about her death, than clearly doing the opposite should keep her alive, should they not? I was perplexed, quantum physics was not one of my strong suits. Who was to say which of the events that had come to pass was the catalyst for that which followed? Perhaps it was something that I was not even aware of, it could be something that I had absolutely no control over.
Feeling suddenly overwhelmed, I decided it would be best to relax until nightfall, maybe do some reading, or some Tai-Chi until I could venture back out into Sunnydale.
One thing I knew for sure, was that if all else failed, I had to make sure I remained at Buffy's side as much as possible – if I was there to protect her, then maybe, just maybe, I could save her this time.