Author's Notes: This story is AU from "Epiphany" on AtS and "The Gift" on BtVS. In the story Lindsey didn't catch up with Angel until after Cordy had been rescued.
Part 1: Calling out the Dead
"So, um, in your reality, I'm like this bad-ass vampire, huh? People afraid of me?
…Oh, yeah. I'm bad." - Xander, "Dopplegangland"
Anya carefully examined the sigils drawn on the floor then took a deep breath.
The first time she'd sought power through magic it was because of love scorned, it lead her to become a vengeance demon. Once she'd adapted to her second time as a human she'd sworn off magic.
The second time around all she'd wanted was a normal life with the man she loved, unfortunately that man was friends with the Slayer.
He fought demons and saved the world even after the Slayer was gone. And less than a month after they'd become engaged, a month after Buffy had died saving Dawn and the world, Xander died. He was killed while trying to fill in for the girl who sacrificed herself for the world even though the world still needed her to fight for it.
In her first life Anya turned to magic to avenge a love scorned, in her second she turned to magic to recover a love lost.
It had taken five years of studying and planning and waiting. Five lonely years, but it was all going to be worth it.
Anya kissed the engagement ring she still wore for luck and began chanting.
A few minutes later the candles all blew out and two bodies appeared on the floor. Anya frowned but finished the spell.
Once it was done she stared down at the pair in consternation. "I was only aiming for Xander," she said then shrugged. It could have turned out worse. At least she had Xander or his body anyway.
Anya picked up a crystalline orb in preparation for the next spell she needed to cast.
"Spirits of the interregnum…" she began.
Cordelia stared blankly at the ceiling as she lay in bed trying not to think. Today she wouldn't go in to the office, didn't want to hear Wesley or Gunn's voices, didn't want to see their eyes, didn't want to be reminded.
"Cordy are you all right?" a soft uncertain voice echoed through her memories and Cordelia groaned, she couldn't escape it.
"No…" her own voice replied across the barrier of year. Paused just long enough to alarm him then added. "You hurt my feelings."
Hurt feelings, it had been such a stupid, infantile thing to bring up. Cordelia supposed she should be grateful she hadn't thought of something worse.
Then the three of them had walked out, left him behind. Bruised, battered and defeated even though, technically he'd won... against the demons anyway.
The after they got back to her place they'd had a conference, decided that even though he'd saved their lives earlier that night, they weren't going back to him. They wouldn't forgive him.
After that they'd gone home for some much needed sleep. When they opened the office the next evening they'd waited for him to come so they could tell him that he'd gone too far and that too much had happened for things to go back to the way they'd been. They waited and time passed, they got impatient, angry even, how dare he not come and beg them to take him back?
Finally the door opened, only it wasn't Angel. Lindsey strode in, dressed like a first class redneck and looking unbearably smug.
"I just had to tell someone," he'd said. "What's the fun in winning if you can't gloat?"
"What do you want Lindsey?" Wesley had asked impatiently.
"Angel's dust," The lawyer had said grinning widely. "God how I love saying that."
Whistling cheerfully, Lindsey had turned and walked out, leaving three stunned individuals behind him.
That had been five years ago today. They had told themselves that they didn't care; whatever epiphany Angel had had, it had come too late. They didn't need him, they didn't want him and it just didn't matter that he was gone.
They tried to forget him. Cordy didn't know how successful the others had been, but she had almost done it. Too bad this wasn't one of the two times where almost counted. When Angel surfaced in her mind it was always the same memory, the one she couldn't get rid of.
The anger she'd felt when he abandoned them was in ashes. The good times that had come before had no more substance than a dream but the memory of concerned brown eyes set in a bruised and battered face, slowly filling with pain as her rejection sunk in was as crystal clear today as it had been that night.
They'd left him alone, walked out after he'd been hurt saving their lives and later that night he'd died… Alone.
Cordelia buried her face in her pillow, stifling sobs for a broken friendship that might have mended if she'd given it a chance.
In the background the phone rang, Cordelia ignored it. Eventually the answering machine picked it up.
"Cordelia," Anya's strident voice began. "You have to come to Sunnydale. You have to take Angel away."
Cordelia sat up and stared at the phone. After Anya had hung-up she cautiously approached it. After a brief internal struggle she pushed play, the message hadn't changed.
Slowly she dialed Wesley's home number, knowing without ever having asked, that he wouldn't have opened the agency on this date.
"Wes, it's Cordy," she said in a choked voice. "Pick up the phone, I need to talk to you."
"You're here, finally," Anya greeted them at the door. "Angel's hiding in the basement; please take him away. I have enough problems without him."
"Anya, you do know that Angel is dead?" Wesley asked.
"Anh's good at fixing little details like that," Xander said bitterly stepping into the room.
"Xander…" Cordelia said faintly. "I went to your funeral."
"Yeah, well welcome to Sunnydale, where everyone gets to die at least twice." Xander replied with a harsh laugh. "I told you, Anh fixed that, only she got two vampires for the price of one."
"Two vampires?" Cordelia questioned stepping back nervously.
"Don't worry, I put his soul back," Anya assured her. "I even took out the clause because no sex would just be unpleasant."
"How?" Cordelia asked.
"Remember the vampire-Willow from senior year?" Xander asked. "Anya brought the other me from that dimension here, stuck in a soul and called it good."
"But you know Anya?" Wesley asked.
"Oh that's the fun part," Xander said. "My body was in this dimension when the restoration was performed, that's the version of my soul that's in here, along with the demon. The soul that originally came with this body is still happily dead."
"And Angel?" Cordelia asked, uncomfortable with this new, dark version of Xander.
"I told you he's hiding in the basement," Anya interjected.
"Why, what from?" Cordelia demanded.
"Anh didn't need to resoul him," Xander said sadly. "All he remembers is the other place. He's hiding from me."
"Which is why you should take him away. He makes Xander uncomfortable," Anya said. "Now, please."
Bewildered Cordelia and Wesley cautiously entered the basement.
"Angel?" Cordelia called hopefully.
A rustling sounded in the darkness and Angel appeared, his pale skin and ragged faded clothes making him look ghostly. "You're human," he said in a voice rough from disuse.
"Angel!" Cordelia cried ecstatically, running to him and throwing her arms around his neck before he'd fully registered her intent.
As her weight crashed into him, Angel cried out in pain and fell.
"I'm sorry," Cordelia exclaimed as Angel scuttled back into the shadows. "I just never thought I'd see you again."
"I don't know you," Angel said suspiciously.
"If things had happened differently we would have been friends," Wesley said sorrowfully.
"What do you want from me?" Angel demanded, eyes darting from Wesley to Cordelia fearfully.
"Nothing, you need a place to stay, somewhere safe. Time to collect yourself. We can give you that." Wesley answered.
"Why?" Angel asked.
"We lost someone very like you. In remembrance of him we'd like to help you." Wesley answered.
"Or you could just stay here with Xander," Cordelia added.
Xander stood at the side of the window watching as Wesley's car vanished into the night.
"Okay, he's gone, everything's good now, right?" Anya asked.
"Why'd you do this to me?" he asked.
"I love you," she said. "And I missed you."
"So you show it by cursing me?" Xander asked angrily.
"You can't lose your soul," Anya reassured him. "So it's okay."
Xander choked on his laughter. "You know I used to think that, but the torture isn't the clause. That's just an added bit of nastiness. The real torture is the curse."
"What do you mean?" Anya asked.
"Memories Anh, that's what it's all about. Do you know what I remember? I remember dying Anh. I remember going home the next night. I went up to my old room. I didn't have to wait long. Mom came up, crying like always, telling me how I wrecked her life and I told her what I thought of her. She just stared at me in shock. Then I reached out and I snapped her neck. Around mid-morning Dad came home. He was hung-over of course, tried to hit me, I caught his fist in mid-swing; crushed it. I made him scream, I made him beg, I made him cry. Then, when I got bored I drained what little blood was left in his body."
"The next night I went to Willow's house. She wouldn't invite me in; it was against her parent's rules to have boys in her room. Willow was always such a good girl, but not good enough. She came outside to talk to me. I changed her from my sweet, innocent, best friend into a monster. I took her body down into the tunnels. When she rose, she smiled up at me, her expression was exactly the same, but her eyes were so cold. She reached up and pulled me down on top of her. I ripped off her clothing and we did it right there on the ground."
"Neither of us had ever even had a romantic kiss before that night."
"After that we went out and won our places as the Master's new favorites. It was hard coming up with something horrific enough to impress that jaded, old bastard, but we managed, repeatedly."
"But it wasn't you," Anya protested.
"It was these hands, this body, this mind. I could tell you how their blood tasted, about the days that went into planning each new infamy. The smell of my victims' terror, the sound of their screams, the way I enjoyed it all so very much. If not me then who was it? That's what you gave me when you brought me back. I was better off dead."
"Welcome home," Cordelia said nervously as she escorted Angel into her apartment. "Don't worry about the ghost, Dennis likes you."
Angel stepped tentatively into the apartment. "Where do you want me?" he asked, his voice soft and submissive, his eyes never leaving the floor.
"You can have the spare bedroom," Cordelia said gesturing off-handedly in its direction. "Some of your old stuff is in the closet."
Cordelia missed the puzzled frown that appeared briefly on Angel's face only to be replaced with blank acceptance.
"I didn't save any of your clothes though," Cordelia rattled on. "We'll have to go shopping; the refugee thing is so very wrong for you."
"I'm sorry," Angel said.
"For that? Geese Angel, loosen up, it's no big," Cordelia replied awkwardly. "Look you're probably all mixed up from the dimensional shift and everything. Why don't you go lie down? You'll be more yourself after a nice rest."
With a relieved sigh Angel hurried to the room Cordelia had indicated earlier. He picked a corner that wasn't visible from the door and sank to the ground. Resting his head on his knees he fell asleep.
Cordelia crept into the darkened room and froze, staring at the empty, unslept in bed; tears welled up in her eyes.
As she turned to leave, she saw Angel curled up in the corner. A slightly hysterical giggle crept up in Cordelia's throat; she put her hand over her mouth to muffle the sound. For several long minutes she simply stood there, watching Angel. Then she pulled a blanket off the bed and gently draped it over him. For a second her hand hovered indecisively near his cheek. Then very softly, she brushed the back of her hand against it.
Cordelia smiled at the tangible proof of his presence, then quietly retreated back to her own room.
Angel remained totally motionless until he heard her breathing even out as she fell asleep, then he pulled his knees closer to his chest and began to shake.
"It's sunset," Cordelia proclaimed sticking her head in Angel's room. She frowned when she saw he was still in the exact same corner she'd found him in the day before. "Time to go shopping," she finished her cheer sounding slightly forced.
Angel rose to his feet, watching Cordelia, clearly waiting for her next instruction.
"The car's out front, I'll drive," Cordelia continued. "I got blood while you were sleeping, it's in the fridge. You should probably eat before we go. I mean you look half-starved. I don't want any accidents and there are going to be tons of people, all of them blood having, at the mall."
Angel walked into the kitchen, a mug of blood floated across the room toward him. He stared at it in confusion.
"You'd better take it quick," Cordelia said. "Dennis loves being helpful, but it's hard for him to hold things steady and I really don't want cow's blood all over the kitchen floor."
Angel took the mug and quickly downed it's contents then turned to watch Cordelia half-fearfully, half-expectantly.
"Just set it in the sink, we'll worry about it later," Cordelia said grabbing up keys and heading toward the door. Angel did as she asked then followed her to the car. "There are only three hours till the stores close and I really want to get you back into normal clothes."
At the mall the dark haired vampire hovered near Cordelia, flinching nervously every time someone looked at him or got too close.
Cordelia watched him sadly. After a few minutes she laced her arm through his and clasped his hand reassuringly. "Nothing to worry about Angel," she said blinking back tears as she smiled up at him. "I'm the queen of shopping, this is like my home territory, nothing gets the better of me here."
Cordelia quickly walked them to one of the quieter clothing stores. When the salesman started toward them she decisively waved him way, "We're completely fine," she assured the man, "Don't worry about us."
The salesman frowned unhappily as he took in Angel's ragged appearance, but left them alone.
Cordelia wandered through the store selecting a number of black slacks and shirts and handing them to Angel. "We'll have you looking like your old self in no time," she reassured him. "We'll get clothes tonight. We should probably get them a little on the loose side, because with you eating right, you should put on twenty pounds or so. Which will be way more healthy, plus I'll be much happier living with you once I can't see your ribs anymore. Oh, and I know, we'll get some of that hair gel you used to like so much. I can't remember the brand exactly, but I know my hair products, I'll find you something as good if not better."
"I think that's enough," Cordelia decided once they'd made a complete circuit of the store, "Why don't you start trying things on?"
Angel lay the armful of clothing Cordelia had selected over a rack and started unbuttoning his shirt.
Cordelia stared at him in shock and stunned mortification that quickly changed to horror as she saw the burn marks and other scars cris-crossing his chest. "Oh my god," she whispered, looking away from him, only to see the salesman walking toward them. "We're good!" She yelled at the man grabbing up the clothes and pulling Angel toward the dressing rooms. "Leave us alone!"
"You're sure you don't want to come?" Anya asked. "Willow, Dawn and Spike will all be there."
"What happened to Tara?" Xander asked tensely.
"She broke up with Willow then left," Anya replied, her tone indicating that even the former vengeance demon didn't want to talk about the subject. "You should come," she reiterated instead.
"I don't want them to see me," Xander replied.
"Why not? Willow will be ecstatic; you're really you even if you're a vampire, not at all like… That isn't important, nothing you need to know about. Anyway Dawn missed you too and anything that makes Dawn happy makes Spike happy."
"It's because I'm a vampire," Xander explained impatiently. "I don't want them to see me like this. I don't want to see Willow and remember what I made her into."
"Well you can't hide in the house forever," Anya said.
"I don't," Xander replied. "When you sleep I go out to patrol. I figure someday I'll get lucky and something will kill me again. But even that won't make things right. Just by being in this body I feel like my soul's being contaminated by what it's done."
"Is that why you won't have sex with me?" Anya asked hesitantly.
"Yes! Goddamnit! There's blood on my hands. I don't even want to touch you with them!" Xander shouted.
"I want you to," Anya said tearfully. "I want you back. It's not like I'm Miss. Innocent, 1100-year-old vengeance demon remember? I've done bad things too so why does it matter? Why can't you be with me? Did I make you dirty by loving you?"
Xander threw up his hands in disgust then disappeared into the night leaving Anya watching after him miserably.
Gunn couldn't help it; his eyes just kept drifting to the dusted vampire sitting in the corner of their office.
He knew he was staring and worse yet, Angel knew it and flinched every time he felt the weight of Gunn's gaze on him, but Gunn couldn't make himself stop; Angel had been dust for years and now he was sitting across the room from Gunn, only he wasn't.
At first glance the dark-haired man in the traditional black on black clothing was undeniably Angel, but when you looked past the familiar face that was when the doubts started.
The clothes were the right color, but they hung loosely on this man's gaunt frame. The sleeves of his shirt didn't quiet cover the bands of shiny, white scar tissue around his wrists or his even whiter knuckles. Angel had never clung to the furniture as if his hold on it were the only thing keeping him from fleeing the room. Angel hadn't sat with his feet braced against the floor, ready to catapult himself out of harm's way at a moment's notice. And Angel's eyes might have been equally dark with regrets, but they'd also been steady and receptive, where this man's eyes flickered nervously about the room, watching and waiting for the next blow.
Cordelia was constantly finding excuses to touch him, to reassure herself he was real. Gunn was surprised that this Angel didn't cringe every time she did it, he couldn't believe that a person with Angel's mannerisms liked being touched and yet he made no effort to avoid Cordelia.
"Pretty soon we'll get a case. You can help. It'll be like old times," Cordelia was chattering with forced cheerfulness, patting Angel on the shoulder. "Of course we've had to learn to be a lot more careful since you've been gone. Wes, Gunn and I don't heal like you did… But that's a good thing, we'll teach you to be more careful too, then you won't get hurt so often. I forgot how often you used to get hurt. Careful is good, not getting hurt is better."
"Leave him alone Cordy," Gunn said abruptly. "If you'd take off those damn rose-colored glasses you'd see he doesn't like you hangin' on him. Further, we ain't taking him on any cases. I've seen people like him before now. He won't fight. He can't. He's forgotten how to do anything but endure a long time ago."
"No," Cordelia said. "He's Angel."
"He isn't, not your Angel anyway, not your champion. The only way someone could make things more clear is if they stamped the word victim across his forehead," Gunn replied. "You gotta face it, Angel died the same night that Darla chick got vamped. This is just another ghost."
"Xander, you're really back," Willow squealed happily wrapping him in a bear hug the instant he walked into the door.
Xander went rigid in her arms, his mind flashing back to this same lithe body clad in skintight leather, smelling of arousal and blood as she rubbed herself against Puppy's body while he screamed in agony as her actions caused broken bones to shift under his skin, grating against each other, tearing soft tissues, exacerbating open wounds of all sorts.
The memory of the oft repeated scene was so clear Xander could almost see it.
Willow's blood red hair would hang forward, obscuring her face as she unlaced the leather corset she favored. Xander would have even been able to hear her unneeded breath coming in ragged gasps. He would watch her squirm out of her clothes, using the captive vampire's body as a sex toy as she moved, the pain she inflicted on her unwilling partner would only heightened her arousal.
Xander remembered how he would wait until Willow was naked then he would grab her and slam her to the floor on her back next to Puppy. Willow would lay there staring up at him her lips parted, her eyes filled with lust as he pulled down his fly…
Swallowing back bile Xander returned to the present, he pushed Willow's warm, welcoming form away from him and retreated to the bedroom.
"Xander?" Willow asked in hurt confusion.
Angel lay on the bed his body tense, despite his best efforts. After a few hours he heard a mortal heartbeat approaching the door. He closed his eyes and feigned sleep as Cordelia slipped into the room to check on him.
The mattress shifted slightly as she sat on the edge of the bed and Angel finally felt himself relaxing.
After a few seconds Cordelia began cautiously fussing with the blanket, then tentatively, she brushed his hair back away from his forehead. "Sleep well Angel," she whisper, and Angel smiled very slightly, feeling himself beginning to drift into a true sleep.
Cordelia stuck the tub of blood from the butcher's into the refrigerator. Then, frowning pulled out an older container. She stared irritably at the lumpy, congealing liquid then dumped it down the sink with a distasteful wrinkle of her nose at the smell.
"I told him there was blood in the fridge," She grumbled out loud. "How is he ever supposed to get better if he doesn't eat?"
"Angel," she called and the dark haired vampire appeared immediately in the open doorway to his room. "Aren't you hungry?" she asked.
"Yes," Angel whispered.
"Well the blood I got for you is going bad in the 'fridge. What do you want? For me to serve it to you?" Cordelia asked sarcastically.
Angel opened his mouth as if to answer, but he didn't say anything. After a few seconds he began to tremble, breathing harshly.
Horrified Cordelia rushed to his side. She pushed him into a chair and knelt before him stroking the back of his hand soothingly. "What's wrong?" she asked.
"I don't know what you want me to say," Angel whispered. "I don't want to make you mad, but I just don't know what I'm supposed to do. Please don't give me back."
Cordelia stared at the thick rings of scar tissue encircling his wrists. Years of wearing manacles had defeated even a vampire's regenerative abilities, permanently marring his flesh. Cordelia had to wonder if Gunn were right, if the damage to his soul was equally irreparable. "I'm not mad at you, I promise," she said. "It's just there's blood in the 'fridge, like I said, and if you're hungry you should eat, okay?"
"Can't believe she's making me do this," Spike said rolling his eyes as he walked into Anya's apartment. He didn't even bother with knocking on the door of the room Xander had locked himself in; he simply kicked it in and stormed into the room. He grabbed Xander by the shirtfront and shoved him against the wall.
"Get over yourself Harris!" Spike snarled. "So you're a vampire, you've seen what you can be, big bloody deal."
"Poor little you, you have it so hard. What Willow brought back I had to help kill cause the witch couldn't do it herself. At least I managed to do it before Dawn saw what her sister had become. You've got nothing to complain about."
"You've got some bad memories, oh boo hoo. So you turned Willow and tortured Angel, I killed Buffy and there's no other Buffy sitting at home crying not five minutes drive from here, but Willow's there and she's upsettin' Dawn. I've had Angel tortured too… " Spike paused. "Okay, I really enjoy that memory, except the end part where my hair caught on fire. But that's not the point, point is everyone's got things they wish they hadn't done, and in our little group of acquaintances those things are uglier than for most folks. Learn to live with it."
With that Spike dropped Xander and stalked back out of the apartment, muttering under his breath, "Damn woman, can't leave well enough alone, says I understand him, I can empathize with him. Bloody hell, I don't empathize. I'm a vampire, I torture, I kill, I maim, I don't do guilt counseling!"
"We've got to do something to fix him," Cordelia said shutting the door behind her as she entered the agency's inner office.
Wesley glanced through the window to the lobby; he wasn't surprised to see Angel sitting in a corner staring stead-fastly into space. "We're doing everything for him that we can," he said. "But it's going to take time. He was tortured for years, the effects won't just go away overnight."
"I know that!" Cordelia exclaimed. "But what if he never gets better? What if he's always like this and never like he was?"
"All we can do is hope for the best, and not get our hopes up too high," Wesley sighed. "From what I've managed to piece together, Angel tried to stop the Harvest when Buffy didn't show up in Sunnydale, that was quite probably the first time he'd tried to make amends for his past, and he failed. The price for that failure was horrific, from what I can glean from Xander's refusal to discuss what was done to him. It's going to be very difficult for Angel to move past that, he doesn't have our Angel's memory of successes to fall back on."
"Then we've got to give that to him," Cordelia said. "If that's what he needs."
"What are you suggesting we do?" Wesley asked.
"Well he's Angel. He can be our Angel, he just doesn't know it," Cordelia reasoned. "Xander knows who he was here…"
"Angel, could you come here?" Cordy asked nervously. "Just, sit on the bed. We need to check how your cuts are healing."
Obediently Angel did as he was asked, Cordy wondered why she'd bothered to think up a reason, Angel always did exactly what he was told, he rarely moved without instruction; trying to avoid the possibility of ever doing something he wasn't supposed to . That was why they had to do this. It was unspeakably wrong for Angel to act like this; like he was someone's pet, barely even that, a pet with a broken spirit.
Gunn stood in the corner, arms crossed over his chest, he'd made his feelings on this plan very clear: "Great plan; chain him, dope him up on happy pills till his soul takes a walk, recurse him before the drugs wear off and hope you get the soul you want. Oh yeah, this is one beaut of a plan, wish I'd thought of it," he'd said sarcastically when they'd explained it to him.
Gunn had been out voted thought, not that his vote counted much on matters pertaining to Angel. He'd never really been that close to the souled vampire, not like Cordy and Wesley had been. It didn't kill him to see Angel like this the way it did them. And so the plan went forward.
Cordelia and Wesley made eye contact over Angel's head then they simultaneously drew Angel's wrists back and snapped the manacles around them. The instant the cold metal touched his skin; Angel began taking shallow, panicky breaths.
"We're going to make you better," Cordy promised quickly. "But to do it there's a part where you could hurt us so we have to lock you up, it's just for a little, okay?"
Angel turned to her and in his dark eyes Cordy saw stark terror. "I trusted you," Angel said in a small voice.
"This may seem cruel, but Angel, I swear, it's for the best in the long run," Wesley said, placing a comforting hand on Angel's arm, the souled vampire tried to pull away from him only to be stopped by the chains binding him to the bed frame, unable to escape Angel curled up in fetal position on the bed.
"I'm sorry Angel," Wesley said softly, unbuttoning the cuff of Angel's shirtsleeve and baring his arm. Angel bit his lip, mentally preparing himself for the pain. When someone paid attention to him there was always pain, how could he have been so stupid as to forget that simple fact?
The prick of a needle sliding into his arm was so minor Angel almost didn't notice it, but the flush of drugs entering his system registered and with it came the special dread Angel reserved for this torture alone.
Xander had been the one to hit upon this particular game, it had taken him several tries to find a drug that achieved the desired result, but Xander was always the persistent one. The drugs stripped away Angel's control, and when they wore off there were always bodies waiting, staring at him with empty accusing eyes.
He'd trusted them and they did this too him... Distantly Angel heard himself being to scream, anger mixing in with terror as the drugs took hold of his mind and set the darkness free.
Tears trickled down Cordy's cheeks as Gunn exclaimed, "I told you this was a stupid idea!"
Wesley bit down on his lip until he tasted blood in his mouth, the sound of Angel's screams twisted his gut, and he felt like vomiting, Gunn was right; this was a mistake, a terrible mistake. And now it was too late for anything except pressing forward. If it worked all would be well and Angel would forgive them, at least he hoped Angel would forgive them, if not… Wesley sighed, if not they may very well have put the finishing touch on the destruction of Angel's mind and soul.