Can't Be Undone
Disclaimer: Characters and Premise are borrowed from the show "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer."
Is the worst sin
Once there's one done
Can't be undone
"Murder", from Jekyl and Hyde
"Hey Dead-Boy, bet you're surprised to see me!" Xander said. "Damn, sorry, you always hated to be called that. This is hard for me Angel, but I want to put things to right between us. This isn't getting off to a great start... Well how could it? I'm thirteen years too late to ever really fix anything aren't I?"
Xander paused as if waiting for a reply. None came, the Sunnydale cemetery remained silent and empty. Xander sighed then brushed a gentle hand over the headstone he stood before.
The grave was empty of course, vampires didn't leave bodies, but Buffy had wanted something. Some kind of memorial to set Angel apart from the rest of his race.
The headstone was simply engraved "Angel". Xander stood there for awhile, trying to think what else he might have added; Dates? But which ones? Birth and Death didn't begin to cover it for Angel. There was also the night he'd risen as a vampire, the night he'd been cursed, the night he'd lost his soul again, the night he'd regained it and been sent to hell, the night he'd returned and finally the day he'd been destroyed. Each one was, in a way, either a birth or a death.
Maybe his full name? Xander was certain Giles could have found it in the Watchers Journals, but why? It meant nothing to those who had erected this marker.
That only left an inscription, yet Angel's effect on their lives had been so complex it could never have been reduced to a single sentence. He had been both a friend and an enemy, and never an easy person to know. Buffy had loved him but even with her Angel had kept himself mostly a mystery.
Nothing Xander could think of seemed appropriate for the dark enigmatic individual he'd known. Again Xander sighed, perhaps Buffy had been right to leave the stone as it was: polished black granite, relieved only by the silver script of the name they'd known him by.
Reluctantly Xander's mind turned to the reason he was here after so many years. "I told you once that I'd be there to see it when you died," he said uncomfortably, "but I never dreamed that it would be my doing, or that I'd regret it for the rest of my life."
"Angel, I'm so sorry."
"All an act," Xander muttered. "He's one hell of an actor. Either that or our great, wonderful, *forgiven*, ally Angel has a lot more in common with a certain soulless murder of the same name than Buffy wants to admit."
"Xander please quit mumbling," Giles said irritably.
"We're sure Angel still has a soul?" Xander asked.
"Yes," Giles replied in exasperation. "The supposed soul removal spell was nothing more than a light show for Faith's benefit."
"That assumes he had a soul before the spell was cast," Xander replied.
"What are you trying to say?" Giles demanded.
Xander shook his head, "Last year I ended up face to face with Angelus a couple of times and I'm telling you, that was the same person who smashed in my nose last night."
"You know the restoration spell was Willow's first attempt at serious magic," Xander rushed on without pausing for breath. "It would have been a miracle if she got it right, right? And you said there was no way Angel, the good version anyway, could have been in hell that long and come out sane. You said that. So what if he fooled everyone, what if the whole 'my soul is back' thing were a game. I mean he realizes Buffy's gonna slay him if he doesn't do something dramatic so he says 'What have I got to loose'. And we all buy it."
"Xander have a little faith in Buffy's judgement. She knows Angel, and Angelus for that matter, better than any of us," Giles said angrily. "She would know the difference."
"Buffy wants Angel back. When it comes to Dead-boy her judgement takes a back seat to wishful thinking," Xander said.
"Angel is back, with his soul and we're not having this conversation," Giles snapped.
"Defensive much?" Xander asked. "Could it be we've hit a nerve?"
"Interesting," a voice hissed. "We can use this one, he will give us what we need."
"All that anger... All that hatred... A small push is all he'll need. Then we can feed."
"I just have to find proof," Xander said to himself. "Angel's a soulless monster, he's setting us up and I'm the only one that sees it."
"Which is why I'm here... outside the mansion, spying on an undead fiend who terrorized most of Europe, and who could kill me without mussing his hair."
"So I just won't get caught."
On tip-toes Xander worked his way through the Mansion's overgrow garden.
Cautiously he raised his head to peer through a crack in the boarded up window. Angel sat in front of the huge empty fire place, a book in his hands. He wasn't reading though, wasn't even looking at the book, he was just staring off into the distance.
Come on, do something incriminating, Xander though at the silent figure. Gradually Angel's eyes focused, he looked around the room apparently searching for something. Okay this is more like it, Xander thought.
Angel got up and walked out of the room. Impatiently Xander waited for his return, straining to see more of the hallway Angel had exited through.
"You know it's customary to let the host know when you're visiting," a calm voice behind Xander said.
Xander jumped, turning to see Angel perched casually on a broken stone fountain behind him.
"I mean, I assume this is a social visit, not just you spying on me," Angel continued with a half-grin.
Xander smiled weakly, annoyance at being caught and fear of his capture vying for dominance in his mind. "How ya been Dead-boy?" he asked.
"I've been better. Pretending to loose my soul did the trick with getting information out of Faith, but it's something of a set back in the regaining the trust I lost." Angel's smile was quietly self-depricating. "You're spying on me, Buffy's uncomfortable around me and I'd bet the others can't stand to be in the same room with me."
"By the way, I'm mostly sorry about hitting you, but Faith would have gotten suspicious if I hadn't done anything," Angel added.
"Mostly sorry?" Xander asked irritably.
"Come on Xander, if anyone gave you as much grief as you give me, wouldn't you get some pleasure out of being forced to punch them?" Angel was staying purposely casual and friendly.
Xander wasn't buying it for a moment. "Well if that's all you wanted to say I'll be going now."
Angel almost laughed, "You're the one that came to see me, not the other way around. Don't you want to interrogate me or search the place before you head home for the evening?"
Xander winced, "No that's not necessary."
"Oh Xander, the next time you want to sneak up on a vampire, remember you have a heartbeat, they don't," Angel said.
"You mean you don't," Xander stated.
"That too, but I won't rip out your throat for getting caught, any other vampire would," Angel warned.
"I guess you want thanks for that," Xander said as he took his leave.
Oz's limp body lay under the yellow glow of the streetlight. Two ragged punctures in his throat wept tears of blood. His eyes were open, the look of shock and betrayal forever etched on his face.
A tall dark haired vampire walked away from the discarded body without a backward glance.
Xander woke from the nightmare sweating heavily and shaking.
"Will, just listen to me, there's something wrong with the guy," Xander argued.
"He saved my life, remember? I'm pro-Angel since the whole Glove of Myhnegon thing," Willow replied.
"But you and I have been friends forever, you're more pro-Xander right?" Xander's voice was plaintive.
Willow smiled patting Xander's shoulder reassuringly, "Of course I'm pro-Xander, but you've got to admit that you're notoriously anti-Angel. Even Giles is convinced he'd good again and Giles has more reason to hold a grudge than any of us."
"Willow, it's not like I'm asking you to stake him or anything, just whip up a spell to make sure his soul is there," Xander plead.
Willow sighed, "Giles and I did check, months ago. Angel insisted, he wanted us to be sure."
"Then what's the big deal about doing the spell again so *I* can be sure?" Xander asked.
"I did the spell, I'm sure. Angel's soul is back," Willow replied.
"Come, once more. This is something we can't afford to be wrong about," Xander coaxed.
"Xander the spell used holy water, it hurt him! I won't do it again just because you can't trust me."
Cordelia's body dropped bonelessly to the floor of the Bronze. The people around her were too self-absorbed to notice either her plight or the vampire who had killed her.
As the vampire disappeared into the shadows he raised a blood stained hand to his lips. The light caught briefly on the silver ring he wore.
"No!" Xander woke with a scream.
"So nice of you to rejoin us Mr. Harris," Mrs. Cameron said.
"Sorry," Xander mumbled.
A few minutes later a slip of paper landed on his desk. "Some dream Xand. I've been flipping pieces of paper at you for almost five minutes, trying to wake you up. Buffy."
Xander smiled over at his friend.
"You okay?" Buffy mouthed.
Xander made a face. "Tell ya later," he mouthed back.
"Okay spill," Buffy demanded as they left the class.
"Nightmare," Xander replied shortly.
"I noticed," Buffy said. "I was hoping for more in the way of details."
"Buffy, have you ever thought, even for a minute, that Angel might still be Angelus?" Xander asked.
A look of mixed guilt and fear flitted over Buffy's face as she exclaimed, "No! Never!"
"Why did you hesitate?" Xander asked.
"I can't believe you're asking this," Buffy hissed.
"I see him killing people in my dreams," Xander said. "They're so real, I can't ignore them."
"Look Xander, you don't have prophetic dreams, you're not the chosen one. They're just dreams!" Buffy snapped.
"He's stronger than we though," a gravely voice whispered. "He won't act on his feelings, he seeks proof."
"His hate is growing with his fear. Give him time, he will do what is needed."
Xander walked into the library. It looked like a battle had been fought there.
"Buffy? Giles?" Xander called. "Don't cha think this is carrying training too far?"
He walked to Giles' office as he spoke, peering into the stacks, hoping to catch sight of one of his friends. "Ya know if you guys keep trashing the library Snyder's gonna get suspicious."
Xander poked his head through the door to Giles' office. "Oh God," Xander whispered.
The wall above Giles' slumped form was spattered with blood, apparently he had been thrown against the wall with sufficient force to fracture his skull.
"Giles!?" Xander plead, stumbling to the older man's side. He lifted Giles' wrist intending to take his pulse, then froze as the cold, stiff feel of his arm sank into Xander's conscienceness. "No, this can't be happening, Giles?!"
Xander noticed Giles' fingertips were smeared with blood. Apprehensively Xander looked at the floor where Giles' hand had rested. Scrawled on the smooth hardwood in bright red blood was a single word, "Angel".
Xander blinked several times staring at the pristine floor in Giles' office.
"Xander!" Giles' voice rose, filled with concern.
"Giles?" Xander asked, "You're okay? Angel didn't kill you?"
Giles flinched, "Yes, I'm fine. Are you? You walked in here as if you were in a trance."
"I'm having visions," Xander confided. "Of Angel, murdering you, Oz and Cordy."
"Xander, you've been under quite a bit of stress regarding Angel lately. It's only natural that he would become the subject of your nightmares. That doesn't make them visions," Giles said cautiously.
"There not just nightmares," Xander exclaimed. "I don't go wandering around the school having nightmares!"
"Perhaps you should speak with the school councilor," Giles suggested. "Of course you'll have to find a away to explain the sources of your distress without mentioning demons, vampires or the Slayer... Forget I ever said that."
Xander watched in horror from the bus window as Buffy turned trustingly into Angel's embrace.
"He's evil Buffy!" Xander screamed. "Don't trust him! He's the one killing them. Jenny, Oz, Cordy and Giles, Angel killed all of them!"
Buffy didn't hear him, instead of breaking free of the vampire, she turned her face up to him and leaned into his kiss.
"Stop the bus!" Xander screamed.
"Sir, you have to sit down," the driver replied.
Xander ran to the front of the bus. "I have to stop him. You have to let me off!" he cried.
With a shrug the driver stopped the bus and watched in bemusement as his hysterical passenger disappeared into the night.
Xander raced back toward Buffy and Angel. He could see her head lolling to the side, her limp body completely supported by Angel's hands.
Angel looked up from Buffy's neck at the enraged teenager rushing toward them. Deliberately he licked the last of her blood from his lips, then kissed her gently on the forehead before allowing her body to fall, like a rag doll, at his feet.
Xander screamed in outrage and horror, "She loved you! Trusted you!"
Angel smiled, his human visage replacing the demonic one, "Delicious isn't it," he replied. "I never could have beaten her in a fair fight, but she was willing to give herself to me for nothing more than a few words and a kiss."
Furious Xander searched the area for something to use as a stake, when he looked up Angel had pulled his disappearing act.
"Come back!" Xander yelled running into the night. "We're not finished!"
"No we're not," Angel's voice echoed back from he surrounding darkness.
Xander glared around himself wildly, hoping to catch sight of the vampire.
"Still, I thought I'd take care of the little red-head first." Angel's voice was mocking. "Don't worry Harris, I'll get around to you, eventually."
Xander was in the park, around him the night was filled with peaceful sounds of insects and other nocturnal life.
There was no sign of either Angel or Buffy.
Must have chased him further than I thought, Xander decided. A moment later Angel's parting taunt surfaced in his memories.
"I've got to kill him before he gets Willow," Xander exclaimed.
"He can't differentiate between the waking and the dream worlds," A low voice hissed in satisfaction.
"Soon, his betrayal will feed us," the rough voice sighed.
"Please stay home tonight, don't let Angel near you," Xander begged.
"What? Why?" Willow mumbled sleepily.
"I'll explain everything tomorrow," Xander offered. "Just promise me."
"Okay, will you let me get back to sleep now?" Willow replied groggily.
"Thanks Will," Xander sighed hanging up the phone. Resolutely he turned to the weapons cage. He had had to break a window to get into the school. Fortunately he knew where Giles kept the keys to the cage.
From the weapons locker Xander selected the crossbow, and several crosses. He already had a supply of gasoline and matches stashed near the deserted Sunset Club.
Xander remembered Giles' fire bombing of the factory, it had almost worked. Of course if Giles had been thinking straight he would have done it during the day after blocking all underground escape routes. Xander didn't plan on leaving Angel any escape.
Xander surveyed the wreck of Ford's Gothic club with satisfaction, the cult of vampire wannabes had done a good job making it escape proof. It had only taken Xander a few hours to fix the door again and turn the place into a fire trap. The difficult part of his plan had been the note. Thinking of a way to lure Angelus into his trap. In the end he'd forged a message from Willow asking for Angel's assistance. Xander figured it would be too good of an opportunity for Angelus to pass up. Even if it did request Angel's presence at the club just before dawn.
Now all that remained was to see if Angelus would take the bait. Xander waited in another abandoned building across the street from the Sunset Club, watching for his nemesis.
Xander watched with immense satisfaction as the tall, darkly hansom vampire approached the club at the appointed hour.
Angel looked both concerned and confused. He paused at the club's door, cautiously scanning the interior.
"Willow?" he called questioningly, still not entering the trap.
He knows it's a set up, Xander worried. He's not gonna fall for it. This calls for drastic measures.
Carefully Xander aimed the crossbow at the vampire wavering in the doorway of the club. When everything seemed perfect Xander pulled the trigger.
The bolt embedded itself in Angel's calf.
"Damn!" Xander swore hurriedly triggering another shot.
Under attack and in pain, Angel dove for the nearest cover, into the Sunset Club, pulling the door shut behind him.
Xander couldn't believe his good luck. True his shots had missed, but Angel was right where Xander wanted him. He'd even been courteous enough to lock himself in.
Xander started down to get the fire going then paused, why get Angel worried about escape until after dawn?
Smiling grimly, Xander settled in to wait. Fifteen minutes after sunrise Xander lit a torch, opened the door slightly, gagging on the gasoline fumes that escaped, tossed the torch in, and slammed the door shut again.
Ten minutes later the door to the Sunset Club began to shutter under repeated heavy blows.
"Buffy, Cordy, Giles, Oz, Jenny this is for you, your murderer's going to pay," Xander whispered.
Gradually he became aware of a pair of dark shadowy creatures watching his every move.
Xander pointed the crossbow at his two stalkers.
"No harm," the first said in a gravely voice, raising it's hands.
"Why don't I believe you?" Xander snarled. "We get so many friendly monsters in Sunnydale."
The second creature smiled revealing a mouthful of rotted teeth. "We are not friendly, but we offer *you* no harm."
The "What?" in Xander's expression couldn't be missed.
"Not all demons are like your vampire friend," the creature explained smiling evilly. His gesture drew Xander's attention back to Angel's increasingly frantic pounding on the door of the Sunset Club.
"We don't all feed on things as tangible as blood," the creature continued, its dark skin glistened in the morning sun like spilt oil.
"So what do you feed on?" Xander asked rolling his eyes.
"Betrayal," The second creature hissed. Angel's tortured screams punctuated the demon's declaration.
Xander's face went pale as he realized who the creature meant. "It wasn't," he stuttered. "It was vengeance, he was Angelus, he killed my friends."
"In your nightmares," the first creature laughed. "Angel *did* nothing, yet he burns, because of you. You murdered your ally. This is betrayal, you fed us well."
"No!" Xander screamed, running to the door of the Sunset Club.
The two creatures retreated back into the deserted buildings surrounding the club.
Xander threw open the door of the club, the fire responded to the sudden influx of oxygen by exploding in his face. Xander staggered back from the door sobbing from the pain of his scorched face and arms.
As the fire died down again Xander forced himself back to the open door.
"Angel!" Xander screamed, remembering how quickly vampires burned, knowing there was little hope that Angel was still alive.
Even if he was alive what good would it do, Xander wondered. The sun held him prisoner in the burning building as surely as the door had, just as he had planned.
"They were lying," Xander sobbed, "He was evil, he was."
Two weeks later Xander stood before the library doors gathering his resolve.
Unable to face the possibility the demons had told the truth Xander had followed Buffy's example and fled Sunnydale after the fire.
Now he knew uncertainty was the only thing worse than knowing. Either his friends were dead or he was a murderer, there were no good options. Still he had to know which was the truth, wondering would drive him insane.
Taking a deep breath Xander pushed open the doors.
For a heartbeat Xander and the Scooby Gang just stared at each other, then Buffy, Willow and Cordelia all but knocked him off his feet in their rush to greet him.
"Where have you been..."
"We were so worried..."
"Xander you're alive..."
The girls' greetings bubbled over one another in a cacophony of relief, happiness and anger.
In the background Oz offered a friendly wave and a smile. Giles risked reaching into the tangle of girls around Xander to grip the boy's shoulder briefly, reassuring himself that one of the lost pair had returned safely.
Through it all Xander remained silent and distant.
Eventually a measure of calm descended on the library.
"Where have you been?" Giles asked. "We all feared the worst when you and Angel disappeared.
Angel's name fractured Xander's numb detachment, he collapsed on the library steps, torn between hysterical sobs and equally unbalanced laughter.
"Giles tried to take some of the blame," Xander said quietly. "He said he should have recognized my 'visions' as the work of a Satoleen demon. None of us bought it, Giles wasn't the one who carefully planned and carried out your execution."
"You know the funny thing was I think Willow hated me more than Buffy did after the whole story came out. She really took it hard that I'd signed her name to that note."
"Neither of them have spoken to me since that day. I betrayed them as much as I betrayed you, maybe more. They expected better from me, especially Willow."
"Buffy died stopping the Mayor's Ascension, if you'd been there to back her up she might have survived, I'll always wonder about that."
"Willow's okay though. She and Oz are still dating, I guess they're engaged now. Cordy and Giles keep me updated."
"Obviously Cordy still talks to me. She was the one who talked me out of suicide the week after I came back. Called me a coward and selfish, challenged me to do something to make amends. Cordy's never been exactly tactful, but then I needed a kick to the teeth a lot more than I needed sympathy anyway. Deserved it more too."
"Well after that Cordy took it into her head that I needed a guardian. She still calls every week from L.A., she's modeling and going to college there. She's real busy, but she never forgets my weekly dose of insults and sarcasm, call it inspirational speaking Cordy style."
"Strange thing is, it works. The parts about redemption especially stuck with me."
"I'm a demon hunter now, Giles trained me. Maybe he was expunging the guilt he felt about not realizing what was happening between you and I. Maybe it was just a way for him to stay in the game after Buffy died. It doesn't really matter why I guess."
"I keep an eye on Katlin, she's the current Slayer. I give her warnings, disrupt ambushes, generally watch her back. You know the routine."
"I figure it's what you would have done if I hadn't killed you. Giles says it will kill me one of these days, I don't mind."
"I would have protected Buffy too, if she would have let me, but she could hardly stand being in the same town as I was. She never could have trusted me to help her."
"Katlin probably wouldn't trust me either, if she knew. Her watcher certainly knows our story, but he never connects it with me. They only know me as Alex, and time, with the help of a few scars has changed my face enough that I couldn't be recognized from the yearbook pictures."
"In the last three years I've helped to save the world more times than I care to count. I guess that means I've helped to save billions of lives... they don't even start to make up for taking yours."
"Nothing makes up for murder. I suppose if anyone understands that it would be you."
"You know, it's ironic... I never liked you. I was jealous of you and I couldn't trust you or give you the benefit of the doubt, so I destroyed you. Now look at me... I've become you."
"Funny, huh Angel?" Xander knelt before the dark headstone, tears running down his cheeks.