"Why do you hate him?"
It took Angel a moment to realize that someone had spoken, and yet another to realize that they had spoken to him. Looking up from his desk at Wolfram and Hart to see who had said something, he saw Dawn Summers standing in his doorway. Her expression was unusual, a strange blend of anger, disgust, caring and curiosity. "What did you ask Dawn?"
"I asked you why you hate him."
"Him, who" Angel replied, A feeling of apprehension was working its way through his guts, but he couldn't figure out why he should be scared of the teenager.
Dawn's only reply was a withering glare that came straight from the Cordelia Chase collection. Idly Angel wondered if she had learned if from Cordy, despite the fact that the two of them had never actually met.
"I honestly have no idea what you're talking about" Angel said. He was surprised to find that his tone was a bit defensive and whiny.
Dawn held her glare for a moment longer and then said one word "Xander".
Angel kept standing for a moment, then he simply dropped unceremoniously back into his chair. It was safe to say he had never expected to have this conversation. "I don't hate Xander" he replied, but his response sounded like BS, even to him.
"Sure you do" Dawn fired back "that's not even a question, my question is why."
"What makes you think I hate him" Angel asked, wondering just how much she had put together.
"Because you take away any chance he has at happiness" was her cold response. "I never really thought about it before" she continued "I mean no one ever thinks about Xander like that. He's just this happy go lucky guy that does everything he can to make the lives of everyone around him better. Yeah, every now and again someone will mention Xander's bad luck with women; or something like that, but everyone just shrugs it off and life goes on. Then yesterday I saw something and it got me thinking about Xander's past and his relationship to you and suddenly the domino's started falling, and now I'm here."
"So because of something you saw in the building I work at, you've come to this conclusion" Angel asked with a bit of incredulity. "That's one hell of a leap."
"What, you don't think I can back up my claim?"
"Something like that" Angel said with a smirk.
"Fine, we'll start with my sister and work from there" Dawn said as the smirk left Angel's face.
"Buffy made up her own mind" Angel said.
"Sure she did" Dawn said sarcastically "with a little help from you".
"What are you saying?"
"That she had feelings for the guy and you hung around long enough, and did just enough to make sure that nothing ever came of them."
"And just how could I have known that she had any feelings for him?"
"Your senses, Nosferatu; you could tell if her heart rate increased around him, you could smell the pheromones, read the body language. There is no way that after 250 years you would miss something like that. Tell me Angel, did you ever tell her about the hospital, when you were Angelus, or about how Xander had to force you to take him to the Master's cave?" Dawn gave a harsh laugh "of course not, that would mean admitting to someone else that he's a better man than you, something you would never do. It could also have possibly stirred her interest in him, something else you'd never do. You did come back twice, and saw her in LA once the year after you left, and I'd be willing to bet that you dropped Xander's name in conversation each time to gauge her response. And once you realized that your mission was complete, and she would never see him as he saw her, you left her alone. You know, Drusilla could do all that hypnosis crap, I wonder if you can do the same. Most vampires are supposed to be able to do that. Tell me Angel, did you ever do that to Buffy."
"If that's all you've got, then you're grasping at straws" Angel said, not answering the question.
"More then" Dawn said "let's move on to Faith. You didn't really see her at first, but he did, and after the sisterhood incident, he saw her even better. That's when you took notice. You could tell Xander's feelings for Buffy had faded and he had broken up with Cordelia, so suddenly Faith was a potential source of happiness. Xander realized that her biggest problem was her feelings of low self worth; she thought she was trash, human debris; so he came up with a way to prove to her beyond any doubt that she was a good person. He went to see her and pushed her buttons to the point she would attack him. He knew that she wouldn't kill him, but he knew that she needed to realize this. So in the middle of this, you come in to 'save' him and knock Faith out. In doing so you re-enforced her belief that she is just a killer, and at the same time, placed Xander in the category of someone who was just out for another roll in the sack. Hey, it also made you and not him the go-to-guy for redemption. Do you know she's never apologized to him, I asked her about it once and she said she didn't think it was necessary. So, you've removed both slayers as a possible source of happiness, well done Angel" Dawn finished in a sarcastic tone.
"And the others" Angel asked, his voice a bit shaky.
"Cordelia was almost too easy for you, as blunt and open as she was. You knew that she could be interested in you from the way she acted around you that one Halloween. But then you got distracted by the need to keep Xander and Buffy apart and before you knew it, Cordy and Xander were a couple. Now you knew that they were pretty volatile, with the fighting and making up that they did; so you created a situation that would hurt Cordy and then count on her pride to keep them apart."
"Exactly how did I do that" Angel asked with a bit of a smirk.
"Do you have any idea how easy lust spells are" Dawn asked parenthetically. "They're way easier than love spells and don't require very much power at all; heck, I'm sure that someone with a bit of demonic energy to tap could manage it" Dawn finished with a piercing look. "It always surprised me that Xander and Willow were all over each other for six weeks and then never looked at each other that way before or since; any ideas as to why that is Angel?"
When no comment was forthcoming from the vampire, Dawn continued. "After that it was just a word here, an observation there and you were keeping them apart; just little reminders when either one seemed to be considering reconciliation. Then after graduation you moved here, and lo and behold, so did Cordy. Any idea as to why she picked LA Angel" Dawn asked rhetorically. "So once she's here, you can keep a closer eye on her because you realized that the two of them were practically soul mates. Shocking isn't it how just when Cordy is at her lowest, and really thinking about going back to Sunnydale, you step into her life again; what a coincidence. All those things that happened to her, and you never once told Xander what was going on, the coma, the visions, the times she was in the hospital; you never once told him what was happening. And why; because you were afraid of course; afraid that they'd start seeing each other again, and that Xander might just be happy."
"So I cast a lust spell and kept an eye on Cordy, just to be sure that she never saw that clown again; that's what you're saying?"
"Oh, you did more than that Angel" Dawn replied.
"What else did I do then, Sherlock" Angel asked with a bit of a growl.
"Xander waited six months" Dawn began "just to let her get settled in; and then he wrote her letters, one a day for a month. He wanted to try again with her, or baring that, just clear the air and be friends again. But she never replied, and later they were all returned, unopened. Xander still kept them; I found them when I was helping him clean his apartment once. He said that he supposed that she just didn't want anything to do with him for the rest of her life, so he stopped trying. But do you know what was funny about the whole thing" Dawn asked.
"That when I had them tested, Xander's finger prints were there and mine and even Anya's, but Cordy's weren't and yours were. She never knew that he had written to her, because you wouldn't let her know. Because she might realize just how sorry he was and consider taking him back. And that was something you wouldn't allow, so you intercepted them all to make sure they never spoke again. You took her choice away from her, and if she had known she would have dusted your sorry ass in a second."
"Is that all" Angel asked, paler than usual.
"No" Dawn replied "Cordy was your lowest, but what you did to separate Xander and Willow, that was your masterpiece."
"Oh, and what exactly am I supposed to have done?"
Dawn just smirked for a second and said "Tara".
"You know I always wondered how an abused girl from New Mexico with no money or family support ended up getting a full scholarship to a school that she didn't even apply to. So I did some checking. Imagine my surprise when I discovered exactly where Tara's scholarship came from" Dawn said, with heavy sarcasm.
"Even if I did that, so what" Angel replied.
"You trapped her" Dawn replied "Willow I mean, you set a trap for her. You knew that she was gay or at least bi from that vampire double of hers, so you set out the bait and let her walk right in. A very cute, very shy, wiccan lesbian; put her in danger and there's no way Willow would walk away from her. All you had to do was break up Willow and Oz, and having the Bronze invite a band with a female werewolf as the lead singer took care of that." At Angel's jerk of surprise she smiled and said "I did manage to find a former member of Shy and he told me that the call from the Bronze came out of the blue, one week before the full moon; imagine that. You checked on Willow that Thanksgiving and saw how poorly she was coping with Oz leaving and dropped a message to Tara to make her move. The rest, as they say, is history. I've got to tell you Angel, that whole sequence was just pure genius. Subtle, indirect and with a minimum of involvement; I wonder if Buffy realizes what a calculating dirtbag you are?"
"And Anya" Angel asked through gritted teeth, ignoring the girl's observations.
"I have no doubt that Anya threw you for a loop at first. I mean what are the odds that a thousand year old demon that specializes in scorned women would fall for Xander. But I'm willing to bet that once you found out about it, you went looking for a way to cross it; and with a thousand years of vengeance in her wake, I bet it didn't take long. Once Willow told you about the engagement, which she probably dropped when she was here in the aftermath of Glory, you got your play together and just waited for the wedding. Actually that was the first domino that fell. After 1000 years of vengeance, there must have been hundreds of beings out there just baying for Anya's blood, but the only one that does anything about it goes after Xander and not her. That just wasn't logical; I realized that something was off then, but I just shuttled it to the back of my mind at the time. It wasn't until the other day that I started putting everything together, but that was definitely the first piece of the puzzle."
"So what was it that started this particular train to nowhere" Angel asked.
"When I saw the same demon that gave Xander those visions leave your office" Dawn replied. "And don't try to deny it either, maybe it's a Key thing, but I can see auras and powers just by looking at someone, and I have a perfect memory for that kind of thing. So I know it was the same demon."
Angel slumped back in his chair "so is there anything else"?
"Yeah, my original question, why do you hate him?"
"You mean you don't want me to validate this pack of coincidence and hallucinations you've put together?"
"I don't need you to do that, I know I'm right. No all I need you to do is answer the question."
"Why are you pressing, why do you need to know now" Angel asked resignedly.
"Because I know you, and you know that I care about Xander. I wouldn't be surprised if you haven't already started something in motion that will separate the two of us. My best guess is that you'll convince Buffy to put me in a private school somewhere that she would want to be, Paris or Sydney or somewhere like that. So I don't have the luxury of waiting. So are you going to tell me, or do I spill the whole thing to Giles while I'm under a truth spell" the girl asked.
Angel looked down at his desk for a moment, a memo about an upcoming hearing was that partially obscured a list of private schools in Rome that allowed English speaking students was in the center, but he paid no attention to it. "What exactly is it that you want to know" he asked without looking up.
"Why do you hate Xander" Dawn yelled, her anger overcoming her fear of the vampire.
Eyes blazing, Angel looked up and roared "I DON'T HATE XANDER." He expected the girl to flinch, or run at his display of anger; what he didn't expect was what occurred. Dawn wore a puzzled look for a moment or two, but then a knowing smile blossomed on her face; it was a smile that didn't reach her eyes.
"I see, yes that does make sense doesn't it" she muttered to herself. Then looking at Angel she said more firmly "so that's your master plan, keep removing anyone that cares for him in the hopes that he'll finally turn to you. Despite the fact that you're a creature that he loathes above all others, despite the pain and humiliation that you've put him through, you still hope that one day it will be you that he looks at with that selfless love he gives." Dawn gave a harsh laugh "I guess Xander was right all those years ago."
"About what" Angel asked tiredly, his secret now revealed.
"That in the end you're just a vampire, just a parasite living off of someone else's life." Her question now answered and not wanting to spend any more time in the presence of such an evil creature the brunette teen turned and walked away without a backwards glance. She only hoped that she would have a week or two with Xander before Angel's plans for her were put in motion.
As for Angel, he just sat in his chair and gazed out the window at the bright June afternoon and wondered how long it would take for the sun to kill him, and whether or not it would hurt more than he did now.
A/N This was just a plot bunny that refused to go away. It bugged me that Angel always seemed to get the girl, and Xander always seemed to get the shaft. I just decided to run with the why and came up with this. Thanks to Cathode for her suggestions on this. Feedback is always appreciated, but please; no mindless rants, they hurt my brain. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope you enjoyed it.