Turn Back Time

Turn Back Time

Angel blinked his eyes trying to clear his vision.  There'd been a flash of magic as his ax bit into the demon seconds before it could grab Cordelia and then this…

He looked around to see, quiet rolling hills, a cobble stone road and peaceful pastures.  No sign of the demon he'd been fighting, or Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn.  No warehouse, no ever-present hum of traffic and general city noise, no electric street lights or power lines even.

Hearing a low groan from the other side of the stone fence Angel hurried to his feet and looked over it to see that he'd been wrong earlier, at least Cordelia was still there, laying on the ground stirring weakly.

Angel jumped over the fence and knelt beside her.  "Cordy, are you all right?" he asked.

"No, I'm laying in a mud puddle and these pants were brand new.  What weirdness happened this time?" she asked.

Angel gave her a helpless look.  "Something happened when I killed that demon, now we're here.  Here isn't LA."

"That's just peachy," Cordelia exclaimed.  "I've got an audition in the morning."

"Let's figure out where we are," Angel suggested, offering Cordelia a hand up.  "Then we'll go from there.

After helping Cordelia over the fence Angel selected a direction on a whim and they started walking.  As they followed the road Angel felt a confusing sense of familiarity about the place, it's sounds, it's smells, the lay of the land around him, he was certain he knew it, but couldn't begin to place where he knew it from.

Eventually the road led them to a rustic looking inn.  Cordelia followed Angel through the narrow entryway.

"And what ken I do for ya?" the Innkeeper, an older woman with sharp dark eyes asked upon seeing the door open.  Angel froze, blocking Cordelia's way, even after centuries the cadence of the woman's speech still spoke of home to him. 

Angel gave the woman a look of helpless confusion.  "Could you tell me where we are?" he asked.  "We were hiking.  I got turned around and we've been wandering for hours, night fell.  I was relieved to see your lights."

"This is the Wayfarer's Inn, Galway proper is a quarter of a mile further down the road," The woman told him. 

"Move Angel!" Cordelia exclaimed.  "I'm cold, I'm wet and there's a fire in there.  Only you're blocking the heat!  Which you don't even need!"

"Galway?" Angel asked unsteadily, moving out of the door to let Cordelia pass.  As she stepped into the light the Innkeeper stared at her in scandalized horror.  "What in Heaven's name are ye wearing?" the woman asked.

Angel stumbled into the Inn's common room and sank into a chair.

"Look I know it's not designer, but at least I'm trying," Cordelia snapped.

"It's indecent!" the woman cried.  "I'll not have a… a… harlot like yerself in my establishment!"

"I may not be wearing a sack like you," Cordelia shot back. "But this is not 'indecent'!"

"Get out!"

"No!  I'm lost.  I fell in a puddle.  It's the middle of the night and I'm not going back out there!"

"Ye'l change into something proper first," the woman said reluctantly.  "It wouldna be Christen to send ya out into the night."

Angel never noticed as the woman led Cordelia off to change.  He was too deeply stunned by the news he had somehow been dumped in the place where he'd spent his entire human life.

While he sat there staring into the distance Angel overheard two men discussing the ships that had been in and out of port during the last few weeks.  As he listened Angel remembered years of watching the ships that brought his father's wares and wasted time spent dreaming about the places they went to.  And this listing of ships seemed too familiar, too easily remembered.

"The Merrymeet is to leave with the tide in the morrow," one of the men commented, and Angel's mouth dropped open in surprise, he'd have been on that ship if it hadn't been for the decision to say farewell to Galway with one last night's revelry.

"What day is it?" he asked the men urgently.

"The sixth," one replied.

Angel grabbed the man's arm with a strength that would leave bruises.  "June sixth, of 1753?" he demanded.

"Yes!" the man exclaimed, fear and anger warring in his eyes, but before either could win out Angel was gone, heading toward the town at a dead run.

How he'd come to be here, now, didn't matter anymore or why, all that mattered was the possibility that everything could be different.  That all the evil he'd done could be erased.  He had a chance to live and die as a mortal, never knowing the depth of evil he was capable of.

"Not that you'll make good use of that chance," Angel thought with a feeling of disgust for the person he'd been.   Still what he'd been was infinitely preferable to what he was about to become.

Angel rushed through the sleeping town without hesitation.  Some things weren't hard to remember despite the passage of time and this night, the place where he'd died were both one of those things.

Angel turned into the alley then just stood there staring down at the crumpled body that lay at his feet.

The laughter that he couldn't suppress was a bitter, ugly thing.  To come so close and still to be helpless to change what had happened…  Sometimes, most of the time really, Angel was certain that the Universe hated him, not that he hadn't earned that hatred.

"What would I have saved you for anyway?" Angel asked the corpse angrily.  "I'd just have given you the chance to die of syphilis, remember?  It's not you that mattered; you've never been anything but useless.  Cordelia, Wesley, Gunn, they were doing fine without you.  They only took you back because you begged them to.  Buffy and Riley probably would have made a great couple if you hadn't been around to make him insecure.  You don't matter at all, the ones that mattered were the people you killed.  Who really cares that I didn't save your life as long as I stop you from rising?"

Roughly Angel rolled the body, his body, over.  There were ways to prevent a vampire from rising, pretty much the same things that would kill one.  Still he didn't have anything to behead it with.  Fire would work, but his family deserved the closure of burying the body and he wanted Kathy to know that he hadn't meant to break his promise to her; he didn't want her to wait for him to come back.  Angel looked around for a stake but there was nothing that could be used in the alley, he didn't want to leave and risk the body being found and moved while it could still rise.

Looking distinctly queasy Angel shut his eyes then drove his hand into the corpse's chest, pulling the heart from it.  For a few minutes he just knelt there, staring at the thing in his hand.  It wasn't even cold yet, that's how close he'd been.

Angel waited, expecting that he would simply disappear now that there was no way that the thing lying on the ground could become him.

The sound of voices approaching brought him back to the present.  The idea of being arrested for essentially committing suicide struck Angel as humorous, but then he remembered abandoning Cordelia back at the inn and vanished into the shadows.

Still half expecting to stop existing at any moment he wandered back to the Inn.  Cordelia, now dressed in attire appropriate for the time, slumped in a chair by the fire, fast asleep.  Angel sat beside her in the disserted room, noticing for the first time that he still held his heart in his hands.

A log broke in the fireplace with a crack, waking Cordelia.  She saw Angel and immediately demanded, "What was that all about?  They said you practically broke that guy's arm then ran out of here like the place was on fire.  I had to tell them you were mental...  Actually that was kinda fun."

"I thought I could stop it from happening," Angel said.  "But I didn't get there in time." 

He sat the object he'd been holding on the table and Cordelia gasped in horrified recognition. "What did you do Angel?" she demanded.

"When someone's turned you can stop them from rising by taking the heart out of the corpse," Angel explained.

"What I'm thinking you did, you didn't do that right?" Cordelia asked, she knew there were only two ways that Angel could have know about someone being turned here and now, either he'd turned the person into a vampire or he'd been the vampire and she had a feeling that it wasn't the former. 

Angel met Cordelia's eyes and she knew she'd been right.  "I thought I'd just disappear afterwards," Angel said. 

"Well you know Star Trek," Cordelia said.  "Sometimes you go back in time and it turns out that you were destined to go back so nothing changes, sometimes everything changes but you still don't disappear because outside the time stream or something like that."

"After what I did, I won't become a vampire," Angel said.

Cordelia swallowed softly.  "I guess that makes this the second case.  Do you think it will be really different when we get back?" she asked.

"That was sort of the idea," Angel said.  "I wonder if Jenny gets to have those grandchildren she wanted."

Cordelia gave him a confused look but didn't ask.

Angel got up to wander around the room restlessly, when he opened the door to leave again Cordelia asked awkwardly, "Umm, should you leave that here?"  Angel turned back to see her pointing at the heart.

He slowly walked back to the table, picked it up and went outside and buried it.  Afterward he just walked around wondering what you were supposed to do after you killed yourself.  Thoughts flickered through his mind and spun away before he could grasp them.  The dawn forced him inside but he couldn't stay still for more than a few minutes, couldn't concentrate on anything. 

He was aware that Cordelia had gone back to the spot where they'd appeared hoping to find some clue as to how they could return to 2001, but he couldn't seem to get past the impossibility of planning for the future after having killed himself. 

The second night he spent much like the first, just moving, not really thinking.  But as dawn approached again he realized he didn't want to be trapped inside for another day.  He managed to acquire a heavy cloak before the sun rose and continued his random wandering as night progressed into morning. 

Angel stopped abruptly upon finding himself at in the shadow of a small wood at the edge of the town cemetery.  Even before he recognized the people gathered there Angel knew he was watching his own funeral.  Angel shuttered, this was the last place he wanted to be but his body didn't seem to understand that.  It just stood there and watched.

"Angel!" Cordelia exclaimed breathlessly, hurrying to his side.  "When you weren't back at dawn I freaked, I've been looking everywhere for you.  Would you quit disappearing on me?"

When he didn't say anything Cordelia looked around them and noticed the group of people gathered inside the cemetery.  "Hey that's your funeral isn't it?" she asked.  "Doesn't being here totally creep you out?"

"Considering what I did the other night… no," Angel replied.

"Okay, you're right, by comparison this is normal," Cordelia replied. "Not many people came did they?"

"My friends probably decided to have an informal wake last night," Angel said sounding quietly disgusted.  "It's what I would have done if it were one of them, any excuse to get drunk generally worked.  Father probably had the burial in the morning to ensure they'd be too hung over to bother attending and thus spare the family one last embarrassment on my account."

"Oh… so you were like a complete loser in this time and so were all your friends," Cordelia commented, then immediately looked guilty.

"Basically," Angel agreed.  "A drunk, whoring, lay-about and a terrible disappointment."

"So… um, why are we here?" Cordelia asked.

Angel ignored the question, turning back to the cemetery. 

They watched as the various mourners left, all but one stern looking older man who stared off into the distance as the grave was filled.  Angel was shocked, he couldn't imagine why his father would stay so long, didn't he have other, more important, things to do rather than watch over the grave a child who'd brought him nothing but shame?  And yet he stayed.  Hours after the cemetery was otherwise deserted the man finally turned and walked away.

As he left the cemetery Angel moved to intercept him.

"Why do ye tarry so long, Sir?" he asked trying to recall his long forgotten brogue so as to sound less foreign at least.

"Tis no business of yours," the man replied abruptly moving to step around Angel.

Angel shifted the hood of his cloak back slightly to show his face more clearly and the man froze his eyes widening with disbelief.  "Please Father?" Angel asked.

The man, Angel's father, sank toward the ground in a near faint.  Both Cordelia and Angel leapt to catch him.

"Geeze Angel, just give him a heart attack why don't you," Cordelia said with a roll of her eyes.

"An angel.  I hardly thought that possible," the man muttered.

"It's just a name," Angel said angrily.  "A stupid, sick joke I once thought funny.  Truth is I couldn't get much farther from that."

"I don't think you're helping," Cordelia hissed.

"But you are my Liam?" he asked reaching for Angel's hood intending to remove it entirely.

"Don't," Angel said pulling away.  "Even with the shade I can't take this much sunlight."

"What are you?" his father demanded.

Angel sighed.  "What Liam became after a very long and very ugly road.  It's truly better that he stays in that grave, better for the world and he'll have so many fewer regrets."

"I don't understand," Angel's father said.

"It's not important," Angel said.  "I was Liam once, and I just wanted to know why you stood there so long."

Angel's father stared at him with sad, tired eyes.  "Because I wished that I could change how we parted that night, wished that I'd have found the words to keep you from leaving so none of this would have happened.  Because you are my child and I hated the thought of leaving you alone there.  Because I loved you."

"You did?" Angel asked in a strained voice.

The older man seemed to pull himself together, standing straight and looking directly into Angel's eyes.  "You asked before you left if I could find anything in my heart for you besides fear," he said.  "I should have answered.  I loved you.  Nothing could ever change that.  No matter how angry I was with you."

Angel opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out.  He had no idea what he should say or even what he wanted to say. 

"Come on Angel," Cordelia said.  "Snap out of it, he's the one who just met a dead person, not you."

"Liam, will ye be coming home with me," Angel's father asked quietly.

"I shouldn't have even talked to you," Angel said suddenly nervous. 

"I can't make sense of this," Angel's father said.  "But yer back, I won't lose ye again Liam.  Please, come home, yer mother and yer sister miss ye."

Angel looked uncertain, undecided.

"Ye did promise Kathy that ye would," his father added.

"Do you think I should?" Angel asked Cordelia.

"Sure, why not," Cordelia replied.

Their arrival had been greeted with chaos.  First Angel's mother had taken one look at him then promptly fainted.

Angel and his father moved her to a couch in the parlor.  Then his father had left, looking for smelling salts or the serving girl, Anna, who'd know where they were kept.

When they returned Anna shrieked and ran out of the room upon recognizing Angel.  She took the smelling salts with her so Angel's father ended up going after her.

The only thing that kept Cordelia from giving up altogether on the women in this time period was Angel's younger sister. 

From her first glimpse of the fourteen-year-old, Cordelia had known who she had to be.  Kathy's intense, dark eyes were exactly like Angel's.

Through all the commotion she just stood there watching Angel patiently.  Once things had calmed down a little, at least in the parlor, seeing as how Anna was elsewhere and Angel's mother was still in a dead faint, Kathy asked, "Are you an angel?"  And Cordelia suddenly understood why Angel had called his name a sick joke.

"No," Angel relied seriously.

"A ghost?" Kathy asked.

"No," Angel said.

Cordelia could see Kathy stretching for other possibilities.  "He's a vampire cursed with a soul who came from about two-hundred and fifty years in the future," she explained helpfully.

Angel glared at Cordelia for a moment the turned back to his sister and said, "I'm still your older brother."

Kathy considered that for a moment then smiled brightly and reached up to hug him.

Angel returned the hug enthusiastically, lifting her off the floor.  "I missed you terribly Kat," he said softly.

"I missed you too," she replied.

Angel knelt to set Kathy back on her feet but she kept one arm twined around his neck holding him close even as she turned to ask Cordelia, "Who are you?"

"Cordelia Chase, future superstar and current private detective and seer.  I'm just along for the ride, which by the way I haven't liked.  You have no idea how much I miss indoor plumbing.  These clothes are going to suffocate me, plus I'm wearing a corset.  An honest to God corset, it isn't even mildly comfortable!"

"Think of it as research for a period piece," Angel suggested.

At that point Angel's mother woke. "Are ye a spirit?" she asked. 

"I'm just Liam," Angel answered and Cordelia decided not to help this time, she didn't want the woman to pass out again.

Angel's father returned and an uncomfortable silence descended.

After awhile Cordelia asked, "So has anyone seen any good movies lately?"

Everyone looked at her with confused expressions.  "It's 1753," Angel said quietly.

"Right.  Has anyone read a good book lately?" she corrected herself.

When that conversational gambit failed as well Cordelia fell back on the old standby.  "So how's the weather?"

"There was a storm in the channel." Angel father replied.  "A ship was lost."

"Which one?" Angel asked.

"The Chelsea, she was carrying primarily flax."

"Sean sailed with her didn't he?" Angel asked.

"The Connelly boy?  I don't believe so."

After that conversation faltered again.  Another awkward silence descended.

"I'm sorry," Angel blurted out.  "About how I was, how I always acted.  I'm really sorry."

"It's in the past.  Let it stay there," his father replied.

"It's late," Angel's father said after another silence.  "I had Anna make up the guest room for your friend.  Goodnight Liam."

"Goodnight Father, Mother," Angel replied.

"Kathy, it's time for bed," Angel's mother reminded the young girl firmly.

"Wait for me," Kathy whispered to her brother.  Then more loudly she announced, "Goodnight everyone."

After the others left Cordelia said.  "Well that was uncomfortable."

"You thought so?"  Angel asked.  "My father and I didn't even fight and we were together for hours.

"Oh.  Well, if you look at that way, everything went great," Cordelia said.  "Of course you barely spoke to each other."

"I thought it was safer that way," Angel admitted.  "Me saying something started about thirty percent of our fights."

"What about the other seventy percent?" Cordelia asked curiously.

"Some were because of the stuff Li did," Kathy said rejoining them.  "The rest were about stuff he didna to do."

"I thought you didn't know about those things," Angel muttered, clearly mortified.

Kathy curled beside Angel on the settee, leaning her head against his shoulder.  "Mum and Da don't know what ta make of ye Li.  Yer different, sad not angry."

"It's been a long time for me Kat," Angel said.  "And being angry led to me doing much I regret."

"I'm glad ye kept yer promise," Kathy said sounding sleepy.  "I'd be lonely without ya."

"I love you Kat," Angel told the girl.  "Whatever happens please remember that."

Cordelia waited until Kathy was clearly asleep then asked, "You still think you're going to stop existing?"

"I don't know what I think," Angel said.  "But I feel like I don't belong anywhere."

As Angel spoke the room flickered around them and, for a second, the neat quiet parlor was replaced with an ugly concrete room, it looked like a broom closet made over into Spartan living quarters.  Precise, orderly and barren, it stank of hopelessness but not surrender.

Then the parlor was back along with the living warmth of Kathy's sleeping form resting trustingly against Angel's shoulder.

Only Cordelia was different, where she had been wearing a plain cotton dress sufficiently modest for the 17th century a second ago, now she was in a utilitarian tank top and worn jeans.  She had a choker composed of crosses around her neck and it almost hid the scar from a vampire bite that also adorned her throat.  Her eyes were cold and her face was set in a hard expression that left her looking years older.

"What the Hell!" she exclaimed and then they were back in the other place.

Cordelia sat on the edge of a Spartan cot, she blinked several times then her expression softened and despite the scar and the cloths she was the person Angel knew again.

"What was that?  Where are we?  And why can I see through you?" Cordelia asked.

Startled Angel looked down at himself and realized she was correct.  It was like he'd become some sort of ghost.

"Cor!  Get off your butt and help us out here!" a familiar voice yelled.

 Both Cordelia and Angel turned to see Gunn standing in the doorway.  "Faith managed to take down one of the Hybrids.  Kate thinks we can recycle its mech weapons."

Cordelia and Angel, who Gunn hadn't noticed, followed the demon hunter into the main room of the compound.  The place and people didn't look too different from those present at Angel's original meeting with Gunn, but the pair leaning over the demon corpse didn't belong with the others, or even one another.  Not in Angel and Cordelia's version of reality.  They were dressed like the others but they were still Kate Lockley and Rupert Giles.

"Whatever you're going to do, do it bloody fast," Giles was saying to Kate.  "I recognized the torso, it's from a Telus demon, they have regenerative powers.  We need to burn the corpse."

"Not until it's stripped down," Kate argued.  "These things are walking arsenals.  I'm not loosing that much ammo." 

Kate turned and saw Gunn and Cordelia approaching.  "Cor, get started on its right arm.  This one had a machine gun, we could use that and Ripper says we need to finish this fast."

"I stowed the last of the weapons," Faith announced coming in from another room.  She strode up to Gunn and ran her hands suggestively down his chest.  "I guess that means I'm done working for the day."

"Damn girl, you're insatiable," Gunn said with a smirk.

"That's what you love best about me," Faith replied pulling him into a hard kiss.

"Naw," Gunn replied coming up for air.  "What I love best about you is having you at my back in a fight.

"So does that mean I'm going to have to fine someone else for tonight?" Faith pouted.

"Hell no, Minx," Gunn replied scooping Faith up in his arms and carrying her out of the room.

"What was that?" Cordelia asked.

Kate gave her an odd look.  "Are you on something Cor?  They fight demons then they fuck.  Everybody knows that."

"Oh right," Cordelia said accepting a bone saw and kneeling by the corpse of the demon/human/machine hybrid.

"I know him," Angel said staring down at the corpse in shock.  Except for Cordelia, everyone ignored him.  "It's Riley."

"Buffy's boyfriend Riley?" Cordelia asked.

Angel nodded as Giles asked.  "What did you say?"

"This guy, he used to date Buffy," Cordelia repeated.  "Before he was a Frankenstein thing.  Well I assume it was before.  It was before, wasn't it Angel."

Giles looked tired suddenly.  "She managed to find a boyfriend during her time in Sunnydale," he muttered.  "If she'd been half that aggressive when it came to slaying maybe none of this would have happened."

"What do you mean?" Cordelia asked.

"I suppose you never knew Buffy Summers was a Slayer," Giles explained.  "She was Kendra's predecessor.  She died the night before the Master opened the Hellmouth."

"That's not what happened!" Angel exclaimed.

Cordelia cut up the body in a daze, vaguely glad that she seemed to be the only one who could see or hear Angel, because the dark haired vampire was loosing it.

For a long time he ranted at Giles, furious that the man who had been Buffy's father in all but name could mention her death with so little grief.  That came after the pleading with everyone to stop lying and tell him where Buffy really was because she wasn't dead.  She couldn't be dead.  He didn't notice no one noticing him.

When Cordelia finished her task she trudged back to the room where she'd first arrived in this place.  As she slumped on the cot she noticed a tattered book tucked into a crevice in the wall at the head of her bed.

She pulled out the book and was surprised to realize it was her old diary.

Cordelia poked her head back into the main room and waited for Angel to notice her then jerked her head toward the room behind her.  Angel quickly joined her.

"I still keep a diary in this nutso world," Cordelia told him waving the book in his face.

"Maybe that will tell us what's happening here," Angel said taking a seat beside Cordelia where he could read over her shoulder.

She promptly scooted away.  "It's my diary," she protested.  "I'll tell you the relevant stuff."

She opened the worn book to the beginning and started flipping through.  "Who's dating who, what's in and out… Okay here's something, Buffy attacking me with a stake at the Bronze.  I remember writing that, I thought she was a total freak."  Cordelia turned the page and read for a few minutes in silence then stopped and looked up at Angel.  "The next entry is about how bad I felt for saying mean stuff about Buffy the night before.  Her body was found in a crypt with the throat torn out the next day.  It was all over school because Xander, Willow and Jesse all disappeared that night."

"Jesse?" Angel asked surprised by the natural way she said the three names together even though the last was unfamiliar to him.

Cordelia gave him a sad look.  "Before your time.  Jesse was the third Musketeer before Buffy came.  He got vamped, I saw him go all 'grr' at that Harvest thing… I guess if Willow and Xander disappeared that night too they must have been turned as well."

Cordelia continued flipping through the book.  "There's more high school stuff.  Mentions of monsters… getting more of those the further I go.  It's like the Sunnydale denial syndrome was getting overwhelmed.  Things were too wrong even for Sunnydale to pretend that they weren't."

"I run away to LA to become an actress and escape the awfulness that was Sunnydale… That happened a year before I really came to LA… Things don't go any better for me in this place… Neat, Doyle still helps rescue me from Russell Winters… with Gunn instead of you though."

"They show me how things really are in LA.  It wasn't as obvious here as it was in Sunnydale but it's almost as bad if you knew where to look… I decide I'm sick of running and join their group… Oh look, I have a crush on Doyle.  I go on about his eyes for almost a whole page… he did have the most beautiful blue eyes didn't he?"

"Giles and Faith hit town.  There's some initial conflict between us and them, but eventually we all join forces."

"Gunn and Faith start sleeping together."

"We make an attempt to close the Hellmouth, nearly half our people get killed before we even reach the town limits.  I said Sunnydale looks like it's Hell now."

"There's some stuff about how the vampire situation is getting way bad in LA.  The Master moved his court here because they ran out of people in Sunnydale.  Gunn's sister gets turned; he had to kill her here too.  She was my friend here… I was right about Willow and Xander getting turned, they're the Master's Lieutenants."

"Here's some good stuff, Doyle and I start going out and… oh… oh wow… that stuff's personal."

"Back to the awfulness that is this place.  Kate joins us.  She's really a fanatic even in this group.  I guess her dad must have gotten killed by demons again."

Cordelia flipped ahead several pages then dropped the book to the bed and stared at it with horror and shock.  Her eyes filled with tears and she pressed her hands to her mouth.  "No, no, that couldn't happen.  It didn't happen.  That would never happen!" she insisted.

Angel moved so that he could read the entry for himself.

"Doyle was a demon," it read.  "I can't believe it's real.  We were up on the roof, watching the stars and talking.  I was so happy; everything was perfect.  That should have warned me, nothing is perfect in this world."

"Doyle sneezed, such a stupid little thing, but his whole face erupted into blue quills, his skin turned green and his eyes went red.  I just stood there staring.  He shook it off and then he was my Doyle again, only I knew."

"I stared backing away from him, looking for a weapon."

" 'It's not how it looks Princess,' Doyle pled. 'You've gotta believe me.'"

"I should have stayed and listened to him," was written next but it had been crossed out, multiple times; Angel could barely decipher the words.

"I ran downstairs, right into Kate," the entry continued. "I told her.  She pulled her gun and started back to the roof.  We met Doyle halfway up the stairs, he looked scared when he saw Kate and the gun."

" 'Ye know me, Cordy, ye know I'd never hurt you!' he yelled and Kate fired.  Then next thing I knew I was holding him and sobbing."

" 'He was a demon Cor,' Kate said coldly. 'They're all evil, you know that.'  I keep telling myself that Kate's right.  That Doyle was just another demon, maybe some day I'll believe it."

Angel tried to comfort Cordelia.  "It didn't really happen.  He didn't die like that," he said.  "Just like Buffy isn't really dead."

"I want to go home," Cordelia sobbed.  "I don't like it here."

A commotion in the main room drew them and almost everyone else there, even a very tousled looking Faith and Gunn.

Wesley, dressed as he had when he arrived in Sunnydale, was being hustled into the room by two of Gunn's sentries.  "Let go of me you ruffians!" he demanded, outraged.

"We found him snooping around the compound," one of Wesley's captures reported.

"I'll have you know I'm here on official Council business!" Wesley declared self-importantly.  "Until you ill mannered cretins interfered, but what else can I expect from Americans."

"Ripper!" You've got a guest!" Kate yelled out a window.

A few minutes later Giles appeared, the ashes on his close hinted that he'd been in the middle of disposing of Riley's remains, he looked Wesley over distastefully then asked, "Has the Council finally decided to take this to take this seriously and help us?"

"I'm here to replace you," Wesley declared.  "You've refused to do your duty so I'll do it for you."

Giles glared at Wesley.  "We're fighting a war, we don't have time for the Council's foolishness.  And if you try to began the Cruciamentum I'll kill you," he said conversationally.

Wesley made a few offended noises then recovered his powers of speech.  "You can't simply ignore the Council," he said.

"Look around you!" Giles snapped.  "We're one hundred and twenty miles from an open Hellmouth!  Most of the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico are ruled by various demon sects.  Things would be worse except that the forces of darkness are concentrating a large part of their energies on wiping out this resistance group.  So you think it's a good idea to render the Slayer helpless for the sake of some archaic tradition?  Are you a complete idiot?"

"Well I never!" Wesley exclaimed turning to leave.  Gunn gestured for the sentries to let him out, but he stopped at the door to ask, "I was also suppose to get an update on the key situation for the Council."

Faith made a choked noise then hurried away.  Gunn jogged to her side and wrapped a comforting arm around her.  "It had to be done," he said as Faith buried her face against his chest, her shoulders shaking with silent sobs.

"The Key was destroyed," Giles said, his voice heavy with regret.

Shortly after the commotion caused by Wesley's arrival died down a new, happier, commotion began, initiated by the arrival of three kids and a teacher-type.  Cordelia wasn't quite sure how she saw the teacher in the man in jeans and an often-washed shirt, but it was there.  Maybe it was the way he watched his students.

The youngest of the three, a pretty little girl about four years old, made a beeline for Cordelia.  "Cory, I got to use the colors," the little girl exclaimed, showing Cordelia a child's masterpiece.

"That's great," Cordelia said enthusiastically, covering the confusion she felt.

The teacher took Cordelia by the elbow and led her back to her room.  He shut the door behind them as soon as the girl entered.

"Alex almost slipped today," the teacher said seriously.

"What do you mean?" Cordelia asked.

"She almost let her demon face show with the other kids there!" he snapped.  "What else would I mean?  You can't keep her here Cor."

"W… what do you think I should do?" Cordelia stammered.  This wasn't a twist she'd expected.

"Take her to one of the demon communities," he replied instantly.  "It's where she belongs, where Doyle belonged, but he wanted to be here, where he could make a difference.  I know why you want to keep her, but even though the groups with good fighters get targeted by the Hybrids and the other communities of good demons are everyone's victims, Alex will still be better with them." 

"Because the others will kill her if they find out, like Doyle…" Cordelia whispered with a shutter.

"Yeah, like your stupidity got Doyle killed.  Demons aren't all evil, we know that, but try convincing Kate or any of the others of that.  Doyle didn't even know he was part demon until he was twenty-one and trust me, finding out didn't make him a different person.  You had to get Doyle killed to figure that out.  I know you think rescuing Alex and taking care of her somehow excuses what you did to Doyle, it doesn't.  You're just going to get her killed too."

Then the teacher-type, who's name Cordelia had yet to learn, turned and walked out, leaving Cordelia with a four-year-old child she'd never seen before who seemed to be her ward.

"You won't send me away?" Alex asked fearfully.  "I didn't mean to be bad.

Without a second's thought Cordelia embraced the child tightly. "You weren't bad," she said fiercely.  "You were just being you."

"I'm a demon, I'm bad."

"No, you're not bad, some demons are very good," Cordelia said.

"Then why'd Giles kill Dawn?" Alex asked.

"I don't know," Cordelia said.

Alex's face screwed up into a childish frown, an expression that's meaning wasn't obscured by the suddenly golden hue of her skin and the small horns sprouting from her temples.  "Liar!" she accused.  "Dawn was a demon thing!  Demons are bad!  So he killed her, dead!" With that the girl burst into violent sobs.  "I don't wanna be bad."

Cordelia held Alex until she'd cried herself to sleep, and then laid her down on the second cot cramped into the small room and covered her with a blanket.

When Cordelia realized Alex's human mask wasn't returning without the girl consciously putting it on, she checked the door.  Sure enough, her other self had fixed a way to lock the door, a way to protect Alex's secret.  Cordelia wondered how the her that belonged here could stand living like this; unable to trust her friends, raising Alex to believe that there was something wrong with her…

A hand, raised as if to knock on the door, passed through it, into the room.  "Can I come in?" Angel asked stepping through the door, looking uncomfortable.  "I tried to knock.  Wesley got back to the place where he's staying safely.  He called in back up from the Council.  They're planning to assassinate Faith and Giles.  I'd guess they're hoping the next Slayer called will be more controllable.  I don't understand why Wesley's still with them.  I can see how much he hates what they're doing, but he won't stand up to them.  He's more under their thumb now than he was when he first showed up in Sunnydale."

"We've got to find someway to put things back like they were," Cordelia said.  "We've got to find away to undo what you changed.

"That can't be what happened," Angel protested.  "I made it so there's no Angelus, that had to have made things better.  How could it cause this?"

"We changed the past, now the present is all post-apocalyptic," Cordelia replied angrily.  "Doesn't that scream cause and effect to you?"

"It doesn't make sense," Angel snarled back.  "There's something else that we're missing.  This isn't my fault!  I did the right thing!"

"So why is everything so horrible?" Cordelia demanded.

"I don't know.  Maybe the oracles didn't get killed here.  I'll ask them what happened," Angel suggested reluctantly.

"Warrior, you were expected," The male oracle said as Angel and Cordelia entered their domain. 

"Do you not appreciate the world you created?" the female asked.

"See, I told you it was your fault," Cordelia said.

"How is that possible?" Angel demanded.  "I didn't do anything here. I haven't even existed here for two-hundred and forty-eight years."

"Precisely," the male said sharply.

"It is your absence that forms this circumstance," the female clarified.

"No, I don't matter," Angel insisted, "It's people like Buffy that matter."

"Where is your Slayer without you?" the male asked.

"It's my fault Buffy was killed?" Angel asked uncertainly.

"In your former world the gift of a cross gave your Slayer a small respite in a battle she was not ready for.  That reprieve turned utter defeat to a momentary falling back," the female explained.

"In this world the gift was un-given, its barer having rotted long ago," the male added.

"You're the PTB," Cordelia exclaimed.  "Couldn't you have found someone else to give her the stupid cross?"

"To what end?" the male asked.

"So that Buffy would live," Angel said.

"To be killed by the Three?" the female asked.

"No!" Angel exclaimed.

"To drown in the Master's lair?" the male asked.

"That wasn't even me," Angel snarled.  "I couldn't give her CPR."

"Neither could have he if you hadn't led him to her," the female oracle pointed out.

"Even if she doesn't die she wouldn't be the person she must be," the male declared.

"The love you shared, and the pain, is part of who you both are," the female said.  "Our experiences are that which make us."

"Liam cannot become Angel without first being Angelus," the male oracle stated.

"Angel isn't worth Angelus' existence," Angel said.  "Find another warrior; someone worthy of her love."

"The First was correct," the female commented.  "You do tend toward self-pity."

"It is not just about the Slayer," the male snapped.  "For your lack the ranks of light are badly thinned."

"And those of darkness reinforced," the female finished.

" 'Cause Willow and Xander got turned?" Cordelia asked.

"But that's because of Buffy dying again," Angel argued.

"In that you are correct.  Certain events are linked.  If the Slayer Buffy does not stand against the Harvest those two are turned.  But there are others who become or remain dark without your intervention; the telekinetic, the lawyer, among others," The female said.  "And those are only the past losses, the future still remains."

"For now," the male said, his tone dire.

"The end of days will come," the female continued.  "In this time your friend's death was without purpose and his visions were irrevocably lost."

"The one who found his confidence in fighting along side you, has not.  He will be an unsuitable vessel when he is called on," the male said.

"The Key is lost to both light and dark and in losing her darkness infects those of light who chose to take an innocent life." The female said sadly.  "As you have recently learned, darkness cannot be fought by lowering yourself to its level."

"But it must be opposed," the male said.  "And you, Warrior of the Powers that Be, will not exist to oppose it."

"As we have done before, we may swallow this time," the female said.

"Allow you to choose anew," the male replied.

"But what about all the people I killed?" Angel demanded.  "What about my family?"

"You cannot erase the evil without erasing the good," the female oracle said.

Angel stared at her.  "I can't standby and let it happen.  You can't mean for me to do that!"

"Either choice brings death," the male stated.

"One choice also brings apocalypse," the female added.

Angel looked ill.  "I can't," he repeated.

"You know the movie was a lot nicer than this," Cordelia said glaring at the oracles, furious on Angel's behalf.

"Act, do not act, either is a choice," the male oracle said.

And then they were back in the beginning.  Angel's ax bit into the demon's back, killing it before it could harm Cordelia.  A flash of magical energy burst from its body and when it cleared Angel was lying on the ground beside a cobblestone road a mile from Galway again.

"Cordelia?" he asked looking over the stone fence.

"Couldn't they have moved the puddle?" she muttered.  Then she looked up at Angel, her eyes filled with sympathy.  "What are you going to do?" she asked.

"Talk to Kathy," he replied.  "I'll meet you back at the Inn."

Angel stood at the foot of the tree beneath Kathy's window.  He couldn't let the future he'd seen come into existence.  According to the oracles that meant letting his human self become Angelus.

"You can become someone, a person, someone to be counted," Whistler had told him.  Why the PTB couldn't have found someone better to count on Angel didn't know, but they hadn't and so he had to let this happen.  Even so he couldn't let this chance to make things better disappear completely.  Surely it wouldn't hurt anything just to save these three, to not have killed the little sister who had trusted him without question or hesitation.

He climbed the tree easily, it was practically a staircase, and tapped on the glass.

Kathy opened the window then sleepily stumbled back toward her bed without comment.

"Kat!" Angel called.  "Kathy, wake-up."

Slowly the girl returned to the window.  "What did ye do to yer hair Li?" she asked peering at him in confusion.

"Kathy, I need you to promise me something," Angel requested.


"Promise you'll never let me into this house again," Angel demanded.

"What's happenin' Liam?" Kathy asked frowning.

"Please Kat.  If you love me, swear you'll never invite me in to the house or even talk to me again.  I need you to swear it.  Please Kathy."

Angel returned to the Inn and for three endless days he and Cordelia waited:  Waited for the magic to wear off.  Waited to be returned to their own time.  Waited to see if their world still existed.

On the third night the body of the man who tended the cemetery was found, drained of blood.  Cordelia hadn't needed to ask, one look at Angel's face and she knew it had started. 

Less than an hour later Galway, 1753 flickered, faded and was replaced with a warehouse in LA, 2001.  The body of the demon slowly collapsed between Angel and Cordelia, Angel's ax still embedded in it.

Cordelia looked around, noting Wesley and Gunn standing together, teammates again.  "It's good to be back," she sighed happily.

"Cordelia, Angel, are you alright?" Wesley asked.

At the sound of his name Angel stiffened.  "She still named me," Cordelia heard him say under his breath.  "I still killed her.  I couldn't undo even that one act of evil."