Disclaimer: Characters and Premise are borrowed from the show "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer."
"It was supposed to be more fun from this side," Xander thought as the green scaled demon charged toward him, murder in its eyes.
"I'm free!" Buffy's ex-soldier boyfriend Riley yelled waving his arm dementedly.
With a sigh of relief Xander tossed him the softly glowing bauble and watched the lizard-like demon turn away to chase after its toy.
Xander had always assumed his dislike of keep-away stemmed from the fact that he usually played it with a bunch of high school jocks for possession of his backpack. The jocks had always looked like they were having a good time, but then they had never chosen a nine-foot tall, flesh eating lizard-demon as their victim either. Also the fate of the world had never depended on them keeping a magical what's-it away from the fiend until Giles, Willow and Tara completed their spell, which would render the creature vulnerable to Buffy's stake. Until then all they could do was keep the demon from getting his claws on the glowing charm so that he couldn't complete his own spell.
Xander watched as Riley tossed the bauble to Buffy upon being cornered. Buffy danced back, dodging the demon's claws, while taunting it for being too slow. Energetic and graceful, Buffy looked like she lived for just these moments.
Xander angled around trying to give Buffy a clear shot, should the demon appear to be getting too close. Behind him he could hear Giles and the two wiccas chanting.
Buffy somersaulted over the demon. "Showing off," Xander thought to himself, then his heart froze as Buffy landed her feet skidding out from under her on the wet grass. Still the Slayer retained the presence of mind to throw the charm toward Xander even as she fell.
The throw was wild and Xander found himself back peddling, hand out stretched to capture the glowing object.
"Xander, No!" Willow yelled a second before his foot came down on the design she and Tara had painstakingly carved into the ground.
"I got it!" Xander cheered triumphantly as the charm fell into his hand at the exact moment that his foot hit the ground. Xander felt a charge pass through his body as the magic from the amulet and that of Willow's spell raced toward one another through the conduit he had created, interacting wildly as they met.
Xander gasped as the tingling spread through him. In a blink of the eye Sunnydale was gone, replaced by a cold dreary city. Xander shivered, a chill wind cutting through his light clothing as dozens of people dressed in old fashion cloths paused to stare at him.
"I don't think we're in Kansas any more," Xander muttered, shivering.
Xander hurried into an alleyway, hoping to escape all the staring eyes and people who, just by their style of dress, told him how far from home he actually was.
"He… he just disappeared," Willow cried.
"We should hope for the best," Giles said soothingly. "We don't know that the spell harmed Xander in any way. We mustn't panic, magical interactions are frequently difficult to predict, we need to ascertain exactly what the spell did."
"Lizard-boy is headed for the hills," Buffy exclaimed, jogging back to the little group, Riley followed, panting. "Did you get Xander back?"
"No," Anya said. "He just talks about not panicking, I think now is an excellent time for panic. I want my boyfriend back!"
"And so do we," Giles said. "But panic won't help Xander."
"I kn...kn...know a tracking s…spell," Tara stammered. "B…but I need other spell components."
"An excellent idea," Giles said. "Thank you Tara, that would be most helpful."
Xander had been wandering about the city, Chicago according to the newspaper he'd found, for hours. He was cold and alone and he couldn't even begin to think of how to get home.
Oh he could probably get back to Sunnydale if he really worked at it, but what good would it do him. Even if he got back it would still be 1920 and Sunnydale wouldn't be home for another sixty years or so.
No one he knew was even born yet. Well his grandparents were, but they wouldn't know him or be able to help.
Xander sighed forlornly and sank to the ground, drawing his knees to his chest, a picture of dejection and misery. He sat there watching night fall.
Vacantly Xander watched a few people walk past, most looked as bad as he felt, this wasn't a good part of town.
The sound of raised voices drew Xander's attention to two men standing at the mouth of the alley.
"Angie, let me help you," the first man demanded. He was a hulking individual with a full beard and shaggy ash blond hair. His clothing was rough but well made and looked warm to the boy shivering in the alley.
"Why won't you leave me alone?" the second man asked, to Xander's shock he looked familiar. Looking more closely Xander noted the man wore what looked like a WWI uniform with a medic's patch sewn on the arm of his bulky wool coat. The uniform looked ragged, as did the man's dark hair.
"I can't," the first man replied. "I owe you my life, I can't let you live like this."
"You repaid that debt when you got me passage on that ship," the oddly familiar individual said, his voice was soft and so distinctive. Xander felt his mouth drop open in shocked recognition.
"Angie, getting you to America was no favor as far as I can see," the other man said.
"I have the spruce bark," Willow declared hurrying into Giles' living room.
"All that's left is the personal item," Giles said. "Which Anya is retrieving."
"I h…hope this works," Tara said, only to be interrupted by the strident ringing of the telephone.
"Yes?" Giles answered.
"Giles, it's Angel. Xander disappeared due to a spell gone wrong tonight, correct?" Angel said.
"Yes, how did you know?" Giles asked. "Is he in LA? Is he alright?"
"He's in Chicago," Angel answered. "He's fine, a little shook-up, but uninjured. He should be back in thirty-three days, he'll show-up around 11:30 at night in the same spot he disappeared from if we did everything right."
"What? How? Wouldn't it be safer if we just wired him money for an airline ticket?" Giles asked.
Angel sighed, "He isn't there now, he was there about eight decades ago, right after World War I ended. I met him there… then. And if we did everything right I should have sent him back to this time, but not for another thirty-three days."
Xander continued to stare in shock as the two men concluded their argument and parted ways.
As the dark haired man faded into the shadows Xander scrambled to his feet, unwilling to loose the only tie to home in this unfamiliar place. He ran after the other man, just catching sight of him as he rounded a corner, disappearing into another alleyway.
"Angel!" Xander yelled running after him. "Wait up!"
The dark haired vampire paused, frowning at the disheveled twenty-year-old in confusion, then turned and continued on his way.
Xander fell into step beside the vampire. "Angel… boy am I glad to see you! Bet you never thought you'd hear me say that, huh?"
Angel's confused gaze found the younger man again. "What?" he asked.
"Well, maybe not, cause you don't know me, do you?" Xander continued less exuberantly. "Yet anyway. Cause you're not you yet… you're past you. This time's you. So maybe you've been waiting for me to be glad to see you ever since I met you. Or maybe not, I mean this is a long time ago, maybe you forgot helping me now by the time we met in Sunnydale, cause you never mentioned it or anything. But you will, won't you? Help me I mean. Helping people is kinda your thing, what with the soul and all. You do have your soul right? Well you haven't killed anybody, so I'll take that as a yes," Xander chattered nervously. Angel simply kept walking.
Xander curled up in the small patch of sunlight invading Angel's lair, an abandoned building along the riverfront. The thin, winter sun didn't provide much heat, but he'd take what he could get. Chicago was cold! Especially to the California born young man.
Xander knew Angel was sleeping somewhere deeper in the building. When evening approached he'd seek out the vampire for another fun filled night of following Angel's aimless wanderings around the city while wondering if it might be more useful to talk to the cold brick walls, which loomed over them. For the last week, Xander had tried, with a frustrating lack of success to enlist the souled vampire's help in returning to his own time. Mostly, Xander couldn't even be sure that the vampire was listening to him, and when Angel did respond his questions were repetitive and certainly not the sort of things that were going to help Xander resolve this mess. He mostly seemed to want Xander to go away. Actually Xander was surprised Angel hadn't managed to ditch him yet. Still this person was a far cry from the Angel Xander knew in his own time, not nearly so self-assured or confident. "And a lot less irritating," Xander thought. At least this Angel didn't make him feel inferior. Still the future Angel would have been a lot more help Xander had to admit.
The man Xander had seen talking to Angel the first night confronted them again that evening as they left Angel's lair.
He dismissed Xander with a glance, placing himself solidly in Angel's path. "Angie, I could get you work if you'll come with me," He said. "This isn't a handout, just one friend helping another."
"Donnely…" Angel said after a pause, to Xander it looked like he hadn't remember the other man's name for a few moments despite the fact that they obviously knew one another. "Please Angelus," Donnely continued. "I brought you here, you have to let me make sure you'll be alright. I know how hard it can be for a new immigrant, especially when you don't have family here. My grandparents came over from Ireland themselves, they told me what it was like at first. I owe you this Angelus, remember?"
"You already helped," Angel replied slowly. "You brought me here."
"To starve or freeze if you aren't careful," Donnely argued. "That isn't the way of a friend."
"It's better here," Angel said. "Fewer memories, it's easier to survive here, I don't need anymore help."
"All right Angie," Donnely conceded with sad eyes. "I'll leave you be, for now anyways."
As he walked through the alleyways of Chicago Angel's attention was captured by the quick patter of a small animal's heartbeat. Listening carefully Angel zeroed in on the largish rat scurrying along the wall of the alley. It had been over a week since he'd been able to feed, thanks to the presence of the boy following him. Angel couldn't continue this way, if he didn't feed soon the demon would force him take nourishment. If that happened, if he lost his control, even momentarily, the boy or some other unfortunate mortal would most likely die. Angel made the only decision possible and pounced on the rodent, ripping open with a suddenly fang-filled mouth.
"Eeeew gross!" Xander exclaimed. "That is utterly, completely disgusting. Buffy let you kiss her after doing that?!"
The vampire ignored Xander, biting the rodent again, fighting to extract every last drop of blood from its small carcass.
"Uggh," Xander wretched, watching in horrified fascination as Angel meticulously licked the blood from his fingers, dropping the drained rat to the ground. "How can you stand to do that?" Xander continued. "Rats carry diseases, even I know that."
Angel stared at the younger man, still confused but seemingly more focused. "Do I know you?" He asked.
It was raining, Xander noticed miserably. Ever since he arrived in this God-forsaken time he'd been cold, now he'd be wet as well.
Miserably he trailed after the souled vampire. He was reasonably certain Angel wasn't going to help him, but he couldn't bring himself to risk being unable to find Angel again should he leave the vampire behind to seek other help. Angel wasn't even himself, let alone a friend, but he was familiar and Xander clung to that desperately.
The cold rain penetrated Xander's thin shirt in seconds leaving him shaking uncontrollably, stumbling after the unaffected vampire.
Angel watched the boy huddle in the inadequate shelter of a doorway for several moments, confused by the antics of his normally noisy shadow of the last week or so. Everything the boy did and said confused him when Angel could spare the energy to notice the boy, but this time a buried memory told him that he should recognize this particular reaction and that it was something he should attend to.
"You're cold?" Angel asked.
Xander simply glared at him. Angel couldn't remember being cold himself, but in the war the doctors had told him he had to keep the men he brought to them warm if he wanted to save them.
"We'll go back," Angel said offering Xander his heavy wool coat.
Xander hurriedly donned the coat, starting back toward the lair, shooting quick confused glances at Angel. This was the first time the vampire had noticed him in a non-why-are-you-still-here way. The first time Angel had show anything resembling concern for his well-being. Xander hadn't even been able to get food in their nightly wanderings, instead he'd been forced to slip out during the day-light hours, when he could be certain that the vampire wouldn't leave, to buy food.
Xander loved how far his modern month's wages could be stretched in this pre-inflation era, but never once had Angel concerned himself about Xander's plight. Xander took this new concern as a sign that Angel's care-for-not attitude was giving way to something more helpful.
As they walked Xander's glances at the vampire grew longer, hopefulness giving way to a stunned realization.
Xander clearly remembered the first word he'd used to describe Buffy's weird, older, cryptic guy: buff. Over the intervening years he'd added other descriptions: evil and vampire being his favorites, but to his annoyance, buff had continued to apply as well.
Strangely enough it was that word that caused him to dislike Angel the most. When Buffy had first described Angel to him and Willow she had used words like annoying and older, Xander had assumed she meant Giles-older, not college guy-older. One glimpse of Angel had changed Xander's perception of him from a non-entity to competition, unfair competition at that. Angel was tall, muscular, handsome with a dangerous edge, enough older to be experienced but not too much older. At least not in appearance, the whole centuries old vampire thing didn't come up until a few months after that first sighting and by then Xander already disliked him.
A part of Xander was still certain that it had been Angel's presence that had kept Buffy from ever seeing him as more than a friend.
But now, without the coat's bulk, Xander could see that buff certainly didn't describe this Angel. Gaunt came closer to accurate, but still didn't quite capture the whole picture.
The rain had plastered Angel's shirt to his thin frame, and Xander could see his ribs through the material as well as the harsh angles of his shoulder blades. Xander found himself remembering the desperate intensity Angel threw into feeding with a shiver. The word he didn't want to think of was rising inescapably through his thoughts.
Angel was starving. It even explained his confused mental state and inability to focus. For the last two weeks he'd been living with a starving vampire Xander realized with a shutter.
"Why aren't you eating more?" Xander asked.
"I feed when I can," Angel answered defensively.
"Yeah disgusting little rats when you manage to catch them. How much blood is in a rat any way?"
"Would you rather I took humans?" Angel asked.
"Hell no!" Xander exclaimed. "I just don't like the idea of spending so much time with a hungry vampire."
"I never asked you to hang around," Angel said.
"When I knew you, you usually used butcher shops," Xander commented.
"I know you?" Angel asked.
"I'm going to the butcher," Xander said. "I've explained this a hundred times. I'm not trying again until you've fed well enough to understand."
"After the rain," Angel said. "It's not good for humans to be wet and cold. I lost a lot of patients because of that."
"You were a doctor, right," Xander said sarcastically.
Angel tugged on the sleeve of the coat Xander now wore, drawing attention to the patch on the sleeve. "A medic, not a doctor. I wanted to help. There were so many dying, and the gas and bullets didn't really bother me. I started taking the injured back to their people. I couldn't stand to listen to their screams and do nothing. The screams brought back too many memories."
Xander sighed with relief as they entered the abandon building they'd been calling home. "Why didn't you just go somewhere else?" he asked curiously.
"Where? It was a world war. All of Europe was in flames and people were suspicious of any one strange. I didn't want to hurt anyone," Angel looked at the ground as he added. "And it was easy to feed."
"What!" Xander yelped. "I thought you didn't kill."
"I didn't have to, the battle fields were littered with the freshly dead," Angel explained. "But I couldn't ignore the injured. They thought I was death come for them, some begged me to end their pain, others screamed and shot at me to keep me away." As he talked Angel's eyes took on a far away look.
"I started bringing them back to their own people. After awhile the doctors taught me how to help. They gave me supplies and told me how to tend the common injuries. I wasn't afraid to wander out on the battlefields between the trenches, I had to feed and bullets can't kill my kind, they hurt like hell though. At least the gas couldn't affect me, I don't breathe. I saw the others though, the mortals coughing up pieces of their lungs, it was a horrible way to die. Them I killed, it was the only kindness I could offer them."
"After several months they all knew me, how bullets couldn't kill me, how I didn't care which side a person was on, I just took them home."
"I told a few of the ones I spent the day with my name. Pretty soon they all called me their Angel. The ones that want me to save them, they always call me Angel, even Dru. But she called me her dark Angel, her fallen Angel, and I never understood what she wanted saving from."
Xander stared, he'd never heard Angel use so many words in the whole four years he'd know the vampire, let alone at one time. Angel's voice was soft and distant, almost as if he were talking to himself, unaware of his audience but occasionally he'd glance at Xander.
When he noticed Xander was still shivering, he collected bits of broken wood and started a fire. Xander sighed at the warmth and settled closer to the fire until his tennis shoes were in danger of being scorched.
Angel sat back from the fire, cautious of the flames, but smiling happily at Xander's obvious enjoyment of the warmth. Together they watched the flames and the rain and Xander listened as Angel talked about the last twenty years since the gypsy had given him his soul back.
"Ta-da!" Xander announced, presenting Angel with a bottle of pigs blood from a local butcher shop.
The scent of so much blood caused the souled vampire to loose control of his features, shifting from human to demon in a heartbeat. He snatched the bottle from Xander's hand, draining it in a gulp.
"Wow," Xander said. "It never occurred to me how useful not breathing would be in a chugging contest till just now."
He handed Angel a second bottle, watching in amazement as Angel went through it as quickly as he had the first.
"Much less gross than rats," Xander commented. "Yet another thing I never thought I'd be saying. Me, comparing chugging a bottle of blood to something and finding the something to have a greater ick factor."
The third bottle went more slowly and Xander could almost see Angel's mind slowly entering the here and now.
"You said you know me, but not yet?" Angel asked finally processing some of Xander's ramblings.
"Yes!" Xander exclaimed. "Progress! I'm from the future, we know each other then, not now, cause I haven't been born yet."
"But you're here?"
"Spell, two spells actually, they went screwy and here I am. I was hoping you could figure out a way to get me home, cause you know more about magic and, hey, you're here. You're the only one I know here. Well, okay, Spike's around somewhere, and I did let him stay with me so he owes me, but he's an evil bloodsucking fiend so I doubt he'd help. Now you're a bloodsucking fiend, technically, but you're a friend."
"We're friends?" Angel asked his voice strained with an emotion Xander could identify.
"Well, a friend of a friend anyway," Xander continued.
"Oh," Angel's voice fell, and Xander did recognize disappointment.
"Well, um, we've um, we had a bad start, liking the same girl and all. We're much closer now," Xander stammered. He wasn't sure if he felt guilty for lying or for needing to lie.
"I don't hate Angel… Just the guts part." Xander had said it just four months ago, and now Angel was his only hope.
And well, he didn't exactly hate this Angel. Here and now there was no Buffy, no one to loose to Angel, no one for Angel to loose his soul to. No reason for jealous, no reason for fear, and no one else to turn to… for anything.
Donnely stood awkwardly in the doorway to Angel's lair.
"Go home, Lt. Donnely," Angel said. "Your debt to me is more than paid."
"Angie, please, it's not just a debt. We were friends, remember? If you'd just carried me back to my line, that'd be a debt, but you didn't. You came back, talked to me for while I healed, didn't let me feel alone."
"Did it ever occur to you that I was as lonely as you were?"
"Why isn't important, just that you did. And friendship is supposed to cure loneliness in more than one person."
"I'm not your friend," Angel said softly. "I'm not your hero."
"Why do you hate yourself so much Angie?" Donnely asked sadly.
"Because I'm a monster," Angel said, his demon face emerging with a startling rapidity. Donnely's eyes widened and his mouth fell open as he backed away from Angel. "This is what I am," Angel growled. "I was out on there to feed from your dead. Saving you was just an afterthought."
"Angie?" Donnely's voice wavered with uncertainty.
"GO HOME! I'm nothing deserving of you concern," Angel ordered.
Xander watched as Donnely slowly retreated from the lair. From his perch in the window Xander saw the big man pause at the corner and look back toward the lair, only sadness was reflected in his face.
"You know for someone who was so happy to have me as a friend you sure were determined to get rid of that guy," Xander said.
"Donnely thinks he's responsible for me," Angel said. "After the War I got him to smuggle me aboard one of the returning ships. I wasn't actually an American soldier, the uniform was just something the doctors gave me after bullet holes left my clothing practically un-wearable. Donnely pulled a few strings and got people to look the other way for me. It wasn't hard, like I said people there knew me, a lot felt they owed me something. Donnely works on the docks, he spotted me on the way home from unloading a late shipment just before you showed up. He doesn't know what I am, he thinks I can be helped. He thinks it's his fault I live like I do. Because of that he tracks me down once a week or so to try to save me. I should have moved on to another town, but I like that he cares, even if it's just for an illusion."
"You know what I am and you still called me a friend. Donnely's friend exists only in his mind. His Angie is an Irish medic he met in the trenches scaring France. Donnely has never even heard of a vampire outside of his parent's tales. It would never occur to him that I might be the truth behind those legends. It would surprise me if I were the exact vampire his parents stories were about. I spent my first decade as a vampire in Ireland. During those years I was eager to prove how horrific a monster I could be. How could Donnely call the creature behind those stories a friend?"
Xander squirmed uncomfortably. "Maybe you should give him the chance. There are people who know and still think of you as a friend."
"Yeah," Xander sighed. "Like me."
An awkward silence settled over the pair.
"Hey Angel," Xander said with a forced cheerfulness. "What were your parents thinking when they named you, all your nick-names are girly."
"My parents named me Liam," Angel replied.
"And yet you keep introducing yourself as Angelus or Angel."
"It's the name I took upon becoming a vampire," Angel explained.
"Okay, not seeing it. You're a vampire set on gaining a reputation and you name yourself after a symbol of goodness?" Xander said.
"My sister named me," Angel whispered.
"Still not understanding."
"I'd died," Angel explained, his voice almost inaudible. "When I came back Kathy thought… Even after what I'd already done she couldn't imagine that I could be evil… She invited me in…"
Xander just sat there, shocked that Angel, Angel who hadn't even explained what Spike meant by calling him Sire, would tell him this. "He thinks you're his friend," Xander reminded himself viciously.
"She called me an angel and invited me in…" Angel continued brokenly. "And I killed them all… The name appealed to my sense of irony, so I kept it… Now what else would I call myself? Whatever else Liam might have been, he wasn't a demon, nor a murder. That name died with my humanity, I'll not resurrect it now."
"So that's the whole story," Xander said. "Will you help me get back?"
Angel stared at the younger man and Xander couldn't help but note how much more he looked like the Angel he was used to now. Okay, he was still dressed in an authentic WWI uniform, that had seen battle and looked more than half-starved but the eyes had changed. Four days ago Angel's eyes had a vague, lost look to them, now that he had fed the dark eyes were clear, filled with the vampire's ever present guilt, but also with intelligence and even purpose.
"I haven't done magic in years, not since before the curse, and the type of magic you're talking about… time travel isn't for playing around with," Angel said.
"But you'll help?" Xander could hear the desperation in his voice and hated it.
"I'll help," Angel promised. "You're my friend after all."
Xander felt a lead weight fill his stomach, every time he heard the warmth, the need, in Angel's voice when he said that word Xander felt like scum, like he was taking advantage of Angel's loneliness and his self-hatred, of his ignorance. Xander wondered if Sunnydale would be the same when he returned, if he returned, or if his actions in the past would have done something "Back to the Future"-ish.
Hopefully something like the first movie, not the second. "Maybe I should tell Angel about the curse breaking," Xander thought for the hundredth time. "And maybe telling would really screw-up something." How did he know what changes would hurt or help. Maybe if he told Angel, there would come a time somewhere in the next eighty years that he would become so miserable he'd purposely break the curse just to escape, or maybe Angel would just decide not to come to Sunnydale at all.
Then the curse wouldn't break and Jenny Calender would still be alive. But who would warn Buffy about the Harvest, who would come to the school one night with a book of prophesies, showing up just in time to prevent Willow, Giles and himself from suffocating. Who would lead him to the Master's lair so he could give Buffy CPR, and save her life? Would Jenny's life even been saved, or would she have simply died two months earlier when Eyghon had possessed her?
Would Jenny have even come to Sunnydale without Angel? She had been there to watch him. Without Jenny's Techno-Pagan expertise how would they defeat Morloch? Without Jenny's influence Willow would never have become a witch. They wouldn't have been able to destroy Adam without Willow's witchy powers, or save Buffy from Lowell House.
The more Xander thought about it the more complicated everything became. Everything was tied together, both the good and the bad. Cut the wrong string and it would all fall apart, assuming it hadn't already.
Even the most innocent of acts could prove devastating… and yet not acting, not taking the chance to make things better, but would it be better? Was this the first or second "Back to the Future", or was it more like that Star Trek episode Jesse had liked so much? The one where McCoy saves the nice lady's life and the Nazis end up winning the Second World War. One little change that ends up having a completely unpredictable ripple effect. Maybe one of those random people Angelus had killed would have gone on to be another Hitler. What if Spike and Dru had stayed together and become the "Very dark power," Kendra's watcher had predicted.
The what-if list stretched into infinity and so Xander said nothing. He just wanted to go home, he didn't want the responsibility for maintaining or improving eight decades of history.
Saying nothing was easiest, procrastination wasn't a decision, wasn't taking responsibility. He could tell Angel later, or not, when he was more sure. But once it was said it couldn't ever be unsaid.
Two days later Xander still hadn't resolved the issue of what to say to Angel about his curse, nor were they any closer to finding a resolution to his problem.
Today they were at a library, not a public one, it was an occult library. The curator thought they were demon hunters, like himself. Angel had said the man was an operative of the Watchers council, his duty was to be on the look out for any references that might help the Slayer.
Xander had volunteered to come here alone, he doubted that a Watcher type would appreciate a vampire using his books, even if it was for a good cause and Xander didn't want to place Angel in danger.
Unfortunately Xander didn't read Latin, Angel did, and Latin wasn't only the language of the Church it was also the one most spell casters worked in.
So Angel came, to help a friend who wasn't really, and outside Donnely waited for them.
He'd been standing outside of the lair when they left that night. He looked like he wanted to talk, but didn't know how to approach Angel anymore. So he waited, stood there watching Angel, willing the souled-vampire to give him the opening he needed.
Xander could see that Donnely still wanted to be a friend to Angel, a real friend, not just someone like Xander who needed him.
Every time he saw the other man Xander felt like a fraud.
"I think I found something," Angel said.
"So why are we all trailing back to Sunnydale?" Cordelia whined.
"I cast the spell," Angel said. "If anything goes wrong they'll need me to figure out what happened."
"Yes, time travel magic is notoriously tricky," Wesley commented.
"We had a way around that," Angel said. "The spell wasn't technically a time travel spell, it was more of a put things to right spell. Xander didn't belong in that time. We believed that the spell would return him to his proper time."
"Hence the delay in his return," Wesley said. "It took you roughly a month to find the spell, Xander is now a month older, so he no longer belonged in the time he departed from either."
"So why do we have to come?" Cordelia asked.
"Would you believe me if I said moral support?" Angel asked.
"Buffy and her new boyfriend?" Cordelia asked sympathetically.
"Surely she wouldn't invite him along knowing Angel will be present?" Wesley said.
"It's not Buffy, it's Xander," Angel said.
"What?" Cordelia demanded.
"It took you a month to find the spell," Wesley speculated. "Something happened during that time, something you're not comfortable with Xander knowing."
"Something like that," Angel replied. "I was different then, I needed someone to talk to, Xander was there. I told him things about myself that not even Buffy knows. Xander is the last person I would have chosen to confide in, he hates me."
"And I took his advice about some things, made human friends, lived like a human, and watched everyone I cared about die. I swore I'd never get involved with mortals again, obviously I didn't hold to that. You know I got involved in the fifties, with Judy and the people at the Hyperion Hotel. They hung me, after that I dropped back out of society. That time I was determined that I'd never even talk to another human. Then I saw Buffy."
"I don't understand," Cordelia said. "Are you worried Xander's going to use what you told him back then to hurt you or something? Or are you mad he got you involved with humanity and you got burned a few times? If it's the second, well it seems stupid to be mad now, you would have gotten involved anyway, with Buffy at least."
"I don't know," Angel admitted. "Until I saw the date, I'd all but forgotten the whole thing, it was so long ago and I'd given up on the future he told me about. Now it's all I can think about. A little bit of both I guess. I'm worried, I let Xander get past my defenses, I trusted him, he wishes I were dust. He used me then, to get back. He lied to me to make me help him, but I shouldn't blame him for that. He didn't have many options."
"I won't be back for a month?" Xander exclaimed. "Everyone is going to be frantic."
"I'll tell them what's going on," Angel said.
"You'll remember all this?" Xander asked.
"Why wouldn't I?"
"No, it's just weird, you'll know me before I ever met you. It'll change everything," Xander said.
"I don't think it will. I mean this already happened then, didn't it?" Angel asked.
"No, you couldn't have known this when we first met," Xander argued. "We… you'll just have to see."
"Let's cast the spell," Angel said.
The park again, the place were it started a month ago, but with more players and no demon, well at least no hostile demon. The tension should have been less.
Wesley stuttered his way through the small talk. Cordelia glared at her former classmates and their new friends. Riley hovered possessively over Buffy. Anya glowered at Cordelia.
"When will the spell take effect?" Giles asked, yet again.
"Approximately 11:30," Angel answered.
"It's 11:45," Anya said accusingly.
"Xander wasn't wearing a watch the night he got sent back, we didn't have a precise time to start our calculations from," Angel explained.
"You said 11:30," Anya reiterated. "I want my boyfriend back. Now."
"Possessive much?" Cordelia asked innocently.
"Why is she here?" Anya demanded. "Xander is my boyfriend, not hers."
"Like I would take him back if he came to me on his knees?" Cordelia said rolling her eyes.
"Well you haven't gotten another," Anya pointed out.
"I don't need a boyfriend," Cordelia said sharply. "After Xander, I learned to be more selective."
"Xander is a good boyfriend," Anya snapped.
"Remember why you came here in the first place, demon-girl?" Cordelia snarled.
"Enough!" Giles exclaimed. "Angel it really is getting quite late, perhaps we should begin going over your spell."
"Ready?" Angel asked.
"Good to go," Xander replied, stepping into the circle Angel had lain out on the floor.
Angel closed the circle behind Xander, lighting the last of the candles they'd scrounged.
Walking around the circle chanting softly in Latin, Angel dropped pinches of herbs into the candle's flames. Slowly a haze of sweet smelling smoke filled the air, the smoke stayed in a ring at the edge of the circle, swirling and obscuring the air between Xander and Angel.
"You ought to sell this to restaurants," Xander commented nervously. "It would be great for the whole smoking/non-smoking issue."
Angel tossed the last portion of herbs into the candle directly in front of Xander offering the younger man a confused look. "Let the magic ties be unbound," he commanded in English, completely the first part of the spell. Now Xander's ties to this time were cut, all that remained was to send him back.
Xander felt odd, ghost like and drifting. He watched as Angel retrieved the components for the second part of the spell.
"Goodbye," Angel said sadly.
"Take care of yourself," Xander replied.
"It's good to know that I'll find friends eventually," Angel said. "Eighty years though, it's a long time to wait, even for one of my kind."
"Let Donnely be your friend," Xander advised.
"Why would he want to?"
"Ask him, not me."
"Maybe." Angel resumed the Latin chanting. Xander could feel something tugging him away.
"Wait!" Xander yelled.
Angel's look said it all, there could be no waiting now, the spell had to be completed.
"It's about your curse," Xander said hurriedly, just as the spell took him.
"Angel, did you take time zones into account?" Willow asked.
"It couldn't be that simple," Giles said.
"Time zones?" Angel said hesitantly. "As in it's not 11:30 in Chicago yet?"
"Um-hum," Willow replied.
"Actually it is now," Tara said.
"We've got to get back to the park," Willow exclaimed.
"You know, I was expecting a better welcome," Xander commented walking through Giles' front door.
Anya jumped up from the couch, twining her arms around Xander's neck and kissing him firmly.
"Better," Xander said with a grin when they came up for air.
"You need to shave," Anya commented. "Your face scratches."
"Not to mention taking a shower," Cordelia said. "I can smell you from here."
"Same old Cordy," Xander said.
"Is it a sign of the apocalypse if I agree with Cordelia?" Willow asked, pulling back from a quick hug. "I'm so glad you're safe."
Buffy laughed, grinning madly, it was good to have her whole group back and safe. "And the coat, Xander did you get that from the Salvation Army?"
"Ask Deadboy," Xander said, getting into the spirit of the good natured teasing, but wanting to spread it around a bit.
"Xander," Angel said gravely.
"You let them know I was okay?" Xander asked.
"Yeah, I remembered," Angel said. "You know Harris, you're a lot nicer when you need something."
Xander winced, "I guess I am. I'm sorry."
"What for?" Angel asked, gathering Cordelia and Wesley with a glance, then heading for the door.
"I really am, Angel."
Angel opened the door.
"Liam! Listen to me, please," Xander said.
Angel froze at the sound of his human name. "Never use the name," he said icily. "In fact forget everything I told you, I didn't know who I was talking to back then."
"I'm sorry I lied to you. I'm sorry I was a jerk here. I'm sorry I didn't warn you about the curse. What do you want?" Xander exclaimed.
Angel walked out into the night without replying.