Circle in the Sand

AUTHOR: SCORCHY (aka JUDI)
SUMMARY: A challenge by Psychofilly (#1): Angel experiences humanity.
RATING: PG13
POSTED: 24 Aug 2003
CATEGORY: AU / ANGST / ROMANCE / BtVS&AtS CROSSOVER
CONTENT/PAIRING: C/A eventually, B/A, C/D implied
WARNINGS: None Listed
FICPIC CREDIT: N/A
AUTHOR NOTES:
1) Dedicated to Psychofilly who posted the challenge and gave me some cool advice and Lilyana, my pardner-in-crime. Hope you all enjoy.
2) So sorry this part has taken so long but I severely suck at emotional scenes so I took my time and tried my best! Thanks to Lysa for helping me out so much on this part, I owe you one!! Psychofilly, hope this doesn’t disappoint! Enjoy.
STATUS: Incomplete


Part 1:
“So” Buffy started as she poured the hot water into her cup as she sat opposite Angel, “You’re human now” she stated the obvious as she didn’t have a clue where to begin. One minute she had been standing at the beach, the next a human Angel had her in his arms and was kissing her passionately.

The kiss had shaken her, it had been passionate, full of want and need but it hadn’t felt to her like the ones they had previously shared. His lips had been strangely warm which was a big difference to his cool ones when he had been a vampire.

“So it seems,” Angel responded just as awkwardly as he fidgeted, the rise and fall of chest feeling weird after 250 odd years of living without it. He couldn’t hear Buffy’s heart beating or her blood flowing beneath her skin, things seemed quiet without his extra hearing. Having no sound like that made him feel like he was in a soundproof room. He didn’t feel scared or strange without it but he missed hearing those sounds.

“Do you have any idea on what you’re going to do now that you’re human?” Buffy asked, keeping the polite tone they seemed to have agreed on. She took a sip of her tea, keeping her blue eyes on Angel across from her. Even though he was no longer a vampire, his face and eyes were as unreadable to her as ever.

Angel shook his head slightly, “I don’t know how long this is going to last. I keep expecting to wake up and this to be a dream” he told her honestly. “I don’t know”

“What about us?” Buffy asked, risking looking directly into his eyes, hoping to see what she wanted him to say reflecting in his.

A deep breath was inhaled, “I think we should take this cautiously, see how things work out. I mean I still don’t know if this is permanent” Angel replied truthfully.

“The mature plan” Buffy agreed softly, wondering how she was going to make it of the kitchen without falling into his arms. “Sounds good to me. I call you, you call me we stay in touch just not literally”

Angel nodded at her words, “I think that’s for the best, just until we know if this is real”

Buffy nodded in understanding, but the problem was she didn’t understand how could she? She had never lived without the sun, without a heartbeat or any of those things only to suddenly have them again. “Would you give any thought to returning to Sunnydale?” she asked, keeping hope purposely out of her voice and her expression neutral. Inside, her head was screaming for him to say yes and come home with her.

Angel looked at her, did she want him to go back to Sunnydale with her? Did he want to go back to Sunnydale with her? What else could he do now that he was human? It wasn’t like he had any living family or relatives and it wasn’t as if he could live with Doyle or Cordelia and take up room in their lives was it? “Do you want me to go back to Sunnydale?” he asked in a quiet voice that was filled with hope. He would give up everything he had to be with the girl he loved.

***

“Good luck to ya man” Doyle told Angel sincerely with a lewd but playful wink at Buffy as he shook Angel’s hand in congratulations on his new life.

“Yeah, go have fun in the Sun-nydale” Cordelia teased as she stood next to Doyle, blinking against the bright afternoon sun.

“I can do that now” Angel looked up at the sun pointedly, “Thanks both of you. I couldn’t have done this without you”

“We know” Cordelia sighed with a lop-sided smile, she linked arms with Doyle and squeezed his arm slightly and got a squeeze in return.

“Are you ready?” Buffy asked from her position at Angel’s car. “I want to get back in time to do some patrolling.” Angel was coming home with her and life would be good again.

Angel gave an apologetic look to both Cordelia and Doyle, “I guess this is it huh?” he asked, though he was smiling his tone and eyes were sad. “Don’t drink too much” he said to Doyle, “Stay out of trouble” he said to Cordelia firmly.

“Will do boss only you’re not the boss anymore so I’ll get in as much trouble as I want. So there” Cordelia stuck her tongue out at him in a show of childish defiance.

Angel stilled as he took her words to heart, “Angel don’t worry man” Doyle told him with a shake of his head, “I’ll take care of Princess just fine”

“That’s the part I’m worried about” Angel deadpanned.

“Angel, that was just crude” Cordelia said in mild disgust, “He’s way too short and poor”

“Angel” Buffy called again impatiently as she crossed her arms over her chest smiling happily at Cordelia and Doyle who stood just behind Angel.

“The mistress has spoken” Cordelia muttered to Doyle and earned a chastising look from Angel in response. “Sorry, geez. Go, shoo go play in some graveyards with little miss slay happy” she waved him away.

Angel gave a manly pat on Doyle’s back and gave Cordelia a quick hug goodbye. “Take care Angel,” she whispered softly in his ear.

“You too Cordy. Keep Doyle out of trouble” he whispered back as he squeezed her a little tighter and a little longer than boss and secretary or friends should. Angel pulled back and Cordelia gave him a dazzling smile, taking his breath away and putting the sun to shame. “I better go before it gets late,” he said.

Angel walked backwards for a few steps, taking a long last look at his surroundings and the two people who had helped get this far. Doyle, the Irishman who had a strong fondness for a single malt and the brunette handful next to him Cordelia, said brunette, standing with both hands behind her back and her shoulders swinging back and forth as she chewed her lower lip. Her long hair flowing loose around face, catching the sun’s rays making it shine, her hazel eyes glinting with gold…

“Angel, we have to go now so I can patrol before I go to bed, I have an early start at college tomorrow and I don’t want to be late” Buffy’s voice interrupted his study of his friends.

“Sorry” Angel replied as he turned away from Doyle and Cordelia to face Buffy and his new life in Sunnydale.

“Bye Angel” Cordelia called out with a wave, “Bye Buffy keep in touch” she said with forced sweetness, doing her best not to make any comments.

“See ya man, don’t do anything I wouldn’t,” Doyle advised, and there wasn’t all that much he wouldn’t do.

“I won’t” Angel called back as he started the engine on his car, he gave them a wave before driving off back to Sunnydale.

***

“Maybe now he won’t be Broody Boy” Cordelia said to herself, “Well it’s just you and me Doyle, we’re all we have now”

“Aye Princess. An we got our own business to run” Doyle replied as the turned back to their office.

Cordelia gave him a little surprised look, “You still want to run Angel Investigations?” she asked, hoping against hope that she would still have a job.

Doyle returned her look, “Ya didn’t think I’d run out on ya, did ya Princess?” he asked with a little smile. God, she was beautiful when she smiled like that, it was like her whole face lit up and that smile was contagious so Doyle found himself smiling back at her. “People need people like us, we can fight the good fight ourselves”

“And no vampire He-Man to do the fighting. Not that I’m totally helpless, but there’s only so much I can do with a book while screaming for help” Cordelia told him.

“I’ll have you know I’ve been known to knock a few heads together in my time” Doyle exaggerated a little bit.

“That was probably your head getting knocked off somebody else’s” Cordelia replied as she watched him automatically open the door for her and stepped inside. He could be so sweet sometimes and a complete bonehead at others.

“That hurt Princess” Doyle feigned a pained expression as he placed his hand over his heart. “That crackin sound is my heart breakin”

Cordelia gave him a look, “You are such a… I don’t know what you are” she brushed past him into Angel’s office and sat in the chair behind the desk. “Hello promotion” she said in an excited, breathy tone “You do realise that this means I have to have a raise?”

“How do you work that one out?”

“Easy” she replied simply, “If I’m going to be in charge of Angel Investigations now, then I need to look the part. And looking the part means I need new boss type clothes which takes money. In order to make money, you need to have a vision so get to it”

Doyle looked at a loss for a second, “I can’t just blink my eyes and have a vision”

“What about if I hit you over the head really hard, would you have a vision then?”

He was about to answer but the familiar tingle lanced through his brain as a vision hit. Cordelia immediately got out of her seat to fetch his usual glass of single malt to relieve his headache. Doyle shook a little as the vision subsided and he saw the mug placed on the desk in front of him, he raised his blue eyes gratefully to Cordelia who only smiled in response.

“Or I could just talk about you having visions and voila” she said with a beaming smile, “So, what have we got?”

***

Angel stood awkwardly in Buffy’s living room, shuffling under the weight of everybody’s intense study of him. Xander was just plain staring at him with ‘What did you ever do to deserve this?’ clearly written on his face, Willow was just sat still, her eyes flickering back and forth between Buffy and Angel.

“So” Xander was the first to speak, breaking the uncomfortable silence in the room, “I, uh, guess I can’t call you Deadboy anymore can I?”

“Xander!” Willow scolded before turning back to Buffy and Angel, “Well you look, uh, the same as you did the last time I saw you”

Angel only nodded in reply with a tiny, tight smile to the red head.

Giles rubbed his head and removed his glasses, “Well this has come as quite a shock I can tell you,” he told Angel. “I suspect it must be rather strange for yourself”

“You could say that” Angel replied curtly.

An awkward silence descended on the room until Buffy spoke up, “Angel, I have to go on patrol now. Will you be okay until I get back?” she asked lightly.

“I’ll go with you” he replied, wondering why she didn’t ask him if he wanted to go with her.

Buffy shared a look with the others, “Are you sure? I don’t mean to sound uppity or anything like that, but you’re human now. Do you think you could manage it?”

Angel frowned, but realised she was only being concerned about him, he nodded, “I’ll be fine, no problem” he replied.

Buffy nodded, “Okay let’s go. It’ll be just like old times”

“Oh the romance of smooching between vamp dusting” Xander blurted out, “Oww!” he said when Willow stood on his foot.

Willow smiled encouragingly at the Slayer and Angel, “Okay, we won’t wait up have fun” she said.

“Right, bye guys” Buffy replied as she led Angel out of her front door, eager to leave the stares and unspoken thoughts behind as she shut the door after Angel.

After they left, the conversation immediately began. “Whoa, can I just say that I so did not expect that” Xander breathed out.

“It’s a shocker all right,” Willow agreed as she turned her wide eyes to Giles, “What do you think?” she asked.

“What do I think about what?” Giles asked in return, determined not to share his thoughts about Angel with any of them.

“The Fonze” Xander replied as he rolled his eyes, “About not-so-dead-Deadboy and his remarkable return to the human race”

“I am not at liberty to say at this particular moment” Giles replied, “Suffice to say I only want what is best for Buffy and if Angel is best for her then I shall support her”

“But you don’t, do you?” Willow asked.

“Again, I am not at liberty to say Willow, I have to know what Angel’s intentions are before I go jumping to any rash conclusions” Giles replied in the same none-judgemental, even tone.

“I thought he was Cordelia’s boss on some kind of soul-saving mission in L.A” Xander pointed out. “If he’s here and she’s not, wouldn’t that make Cordy by herself in L.A?”

Willow shook her head, “From what Buffy told me, there’s a man working for him too called Doyle who’s stayed in L.A with Cordy”

“Poor guy” Xander commented with a chuckle.

“That’s not very nice Xander” Willow chastised, “You weren’t exactly the world’s greatest boyfriend you know”

Xander’s face went from laughing one minute to guilty the next as he remembered Cordelia falling through the stairs and being impaled on a rebar. “Thanks for reminding me Will, one massive guilt trip coming up”

“I was there too,” Willow reminded him lightly as her own face became a little guilt-ridden. “She may have changed Xander, we have changed why couldn’t Cordy?”

“I know Cordy changed better than anyone here Will,” Xander replied, “But charging people for saving their lives just seems a little…” he shook a hand from side to side. “You know?”

“We all have to make money to survive in some way Xander, it wasn’t just the helpless who got charged you know. It is-was-is a fully working detective agency,” Willow told him.

“All I’m saying is Cordy can’t be that much different from senior year at high school. It took her three years to stop calling us losers, how much could half a year change her?”

“Maybe, but I doubt we’ll ever find out because I’m sure the words ‘I would rather have my skin peeled off by a potato peeler than come back here again’ came from her mouth” Willow told him.

“We can be thankful for small mercies then” Xander responded, not wanting to admit he still had leftover feelings for Cordelia Chase, his first real girlfriend.

***

Buffy slammed her stake through the heart of the last vampire before hurrying to help Angel off the ground where he was lying breathlessly. She held her hand out to help him up, “You okay?” she asked with a frown on her face as she looked at his bruised face.

Angel dusted down his coat and ran a hand through his hair, wincing when he felt a lump forming on his hairline. He nodded, “Yeah, just wasn’t really expecting to, you know, get beaten to a bloody pulp”

Biting her lip Buffy looked up at him, “We should get home, get you patched up”

“What about you? Are you hurt?”

Buffy shook her head, “Slayer here, super strength remember?”

“Yeah” Angel replied as they started walking, or rather Buffy walked while Angel kind of hobbled after her. He looked around the graveyard, it hadn’t changed from the last time he saw it before he left Sunnydale for L.A.

L.A.

A soft smile tugged at his lips as he thought of Cordelia and Doyle still there, wondering if they were going to keep the business open or close it. “What are you smiling about?” Buffy asked as she awkwardly laced her fingers through his and felt him squeeze her hand back.

“Doyle and Cordy” Angel replied, “I was just wondering if they were going to keep the business open or close it”

Buffy shrugged, not really caring what would happen to his old business. “Oh. Don’t get me wrong Angel, but why would they keep it open? You’re not there to fight anymore”

He wasn’t a vampire anymore and if he was breathless from a fight with a few dimwitted vampires, then Buffy doubted he would be able to hold his own with some of the demons on the Hellmouth. Granted he had fought better than Riley or the others who worked at the Initiative, but that was only due to the fact of his experience in martial arts.

“Doyle gets visions from the Powers, I doubt Cordy or Doyle would let the hopeless save their own lives” Angel told her. He had only been in Sunnydale for a short amount of time but he already missed the noise of the traffic and people, Sunnydale seemed too… quiet without it. The familiar feeling of guilt crept in as he thought about leaving Doyle and Cordelia by themselves, fighting what was his fight.

But it wasn’t his fight anymore was it? He was human now and with Buffy so how could it be his fight?


Part 2:
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP

Cordelia’s alarm sounded loudly, almost, but not quite, rousing her from her wonderful demon-free sleep.

BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP

The brunette forced one eye open, groaning as her entire body complained as her every muscle stirred in contradiction when Cordelia rolled gently onto her side to reach the offending item.

TINKLE

SPLASH

THUD

The rude alarm clock swiftly followed her water glass crashing to the floor, that one open eye glared as the other eye opened in companionship. “Rude!” Cordelia snapped in a sleepy, husky voice as she fumbled her arm out of her quilt to rub her eyes of sleep.

A few grazes on her elbow were the only scars visible from last night’s battle with three vampires. “Owwww!” she complained as she woke up a little more and sat up slowly and frowned.

They had sort of coped with the fighting but without a champion, without Angel, they hadn’t coped as well as what they would have obviously. Cordelia had given up her couch to a bruised Doyle as he was too beaten senseless to walk back to his own apartment. And judging from her body’s reaction to only waking and sitting up, she wasn’t in much better shape either.

Not that she had done much fighting last night, more along the lines of grabbing the woman and getting the hell outta dodge as Doyle laid as much as he could into the fight. He had surprised her last night, she hadn’t thought he would be able to hold his own as good as he did. Even though he had received a far worse beating than she had, the first thing Doyle had asked was if she was okay, not even thinking of himself.

Thinking about the Irishman made a smile cross Cordelia’s face and his words yesterday floated through her mind.

“Ya didn’t think I’d run out on ya did ya Princess?” he asked with that quirky little grin of his. Maybe she could count on Doyle not to abandon her.

n though they had tried their best last night it still hadn’t been good enough. Only one of the vampires had gotten killed, the other two had simply ran away and Cordelia had no doubt that word about Angel would be out by now. That left a Northern Hemisphere-sized problem for them.

A knock on her bedroom door caused Cordelia glare at the noise that intruded her staring-into-space-while-waiting-to-wake up time. “Go away, I’m still asleep,” she answered with a yawn.

“Princess?” came Doyle’s equally sleepy response through the door, “Whiskey?”

She shuddered at his request; “I have diet sodas in my fridge or a bottle Chianti in my way-too-empty wine rack but no whiskey”

He pushed her door open slowly, secretly hoping to spy on her getting changed, “Are ya decent?” he asked as he peeked round her door.

Cordelia rolled her eyes, “What are you hoping to hear? That I have clothes on or that I’m naked?”

Doyle gave her a sheepish grin as he pushed her door open wider, “You okay this mornin’?”

“Fine but we need somebody who can fight” Cordelia said bluntly.

“I thought I did pretty well considerin’” Doyle responded as he stood in her bedroom doorway, leaning against the wooden frame.

“You did, well, until you got the ever holy crap beaten out of you. We need another vampire with a soul who won’t just up and leave with the first blonde he sees” Cordelia snarked. Yes, she hoped that Angel was happy, yes she hoped that he was enjoying his new humanity and yes she was bitter that he had decided to leave them.

Doyle nodded in agreement, “No problem, I’ll just nip down to the local Soul Vamps R Us store and pick up one”

Cordelia glared, “There’s no need for sarcasm, I was only stating a fact. We need another vampire, preferably one that doesn’t want us for a midnight snack. I’m sure it wouldn’t be too hard to find some local gypsies that could curse some poor, unsuspecting vampire right?”

Doyle shook his head hopelessly, “C’mon Princess, get outta that bed, I got an idea”

“Is that what the burning smell is?”

***

Angel walked through his mansion in Sunnydale, his body still feeling the after effects of helping Buffy patrol last night. He stretched his body, uncurling his muscles and popping his back. It seemed so quiet, there was no little sounds penetrating his ears, there was no scents teasing his nose and there were no small, little movements catching the corner of his eyes.

The ex-vampire stood still half-way to his bathroom contemplating the silence and stillness around him, half expecting Doyle to pop out of the woodwork trying to coax him into going to the sports bar he mentioned. Angel shook his head, Doyle without a doubt liked the ladies that’s for sure. His thoughts moved from the half demon seer to Cordelia, he knew if she was here, the silence would be completely shattered. Noises would be heard, smells would be smelt and movements would catch his eyes.

His mental reverie was interrupted by the sound of people downstairs; they were loud enough for his human senses to pick up. Angel tugged his shirt into place, smoothed down his pants and made his way downstairs, passing memories randomly floating through his brain as he walked past rooms that belonged to Spike and Drusilla.

Buffy stood in the large living room observing the fact that her boyfriend hadn’t had time to tidy up properly or unpack the single suitcase he had brought with him. The burgundy curtains that had been present since Angelus were still decorating the windows, although they were now drawn back. The antique oak furniture still dotted about the room and each piece had a hefty layer of dust on the top.

She glanced up when she heard Angel clear his throat and winced when she saw his black eye and bruised cheekbone. “I brought breakfast,” Buffy explained as she took a few steps towards him, “I figured you hadn’t had time to go shopping for groceries yet”

He nodded in response, “Thanks, I appreciate it” he told her as he took a few steps towards her. Angel watched as Buffy pursed her lips and waited for him to make the first move, he leaned down and placed a chaste kiss on her lips before pulling away and taking the bag from her.

The little kiss brought a dreamy smile to Buffy’s face as she followed him through the living room and into the kitchen. “We can get Willow to perform a healing spell on you if you’re hurt”

He didn’t really want to be reminded of last night’s patrol which ended up as a beating of a lifetime for him. “No, I’m good” Angel replied trying not to let his stiff posture show as he walked to the table to deposit the bag of groceries.

“You don’t look like you’re fine Angel” Buffy pointed out, “If you were fine why are you holding your back?”

“Slept in the wrong position” Angel replied as he took his hand away from his aching lower back. He had received a vicious kick to his coccyx from one of the vampires and now he hurt like hell, but his pride wouldn’t let her know that.

“Oh” Buffy responded as she leaned against the table, an awkward silence filled the air as Angel unpacked the grocery bag and she shifted on her feet. She looked at him, her blue eyes drinking him in, his dark hair ruffled up from sleep, his still pale skin standing out against the bruises spotted around his handsome face and his eyes as dark as ever.

She cleared her throat, “Have you given any thought about what you’re going to do?” she asked lightly as she tried to keep going with their mature plan and take things slowly.

Angel shrugged, “I’m not really sure to be honest, maybe I could have another detective agency here”

“That’s one option” Buffy supplied supportively, “I still can’t believe Cordy made you charge for saving people’s lives”

“We all have to make a living” Angel replied, “It was a good idea”

“Sorry” Buffy told him as she pursed her lips, “Do you have a license or anything?”

He shook his head, “I think that would be an obstacle in opening up an agency here now that I think about it”

“I guess it would be” she looked at her watch and sighed, “I hate to love you and leave you but I have to get to college in half hour”

“Right, you coming here after?” Angel asked hopefully as he looked at her pretty face, “That is if you don’t have anything else planned”

Buffy smiled shyly up at him, relieved that the awkward silence was being broken at last and he was asking if she was coming to see him. “There’s no place I’d rather be. You’re back home and we’re together again, I couldn’t be happier”

Angel gave her a tight smile, “Good, I couldn’t be either. Happier I mean”

“Great, so I’ll see you tonight after college?”

“Sure, I’ll be waiting”

Buffy walked up to him, leaned up and gave him a kiss which quickly deepened before she pulled away. “Tonight” she told him with a meaningful smile and nod.

“Looking forward to it” Angel replied with a lopsided smile.

She waved before skipping out of the kitchen and mansion leaving Angel alone inside as she ventured off into the daylight. Somewhere not off limits to him now that he was human.

Angel ruffled his hair a little more and winced when he caught a bruise close to his hairline and sighed, “This is gonna be tougher than I thought” he said. The flooring felt cold to his feet as he pitter-pattered upstairs to get ready for his first day in the sunshine and his first taste of life after 200 plus years. He would start by calling Doyle and saying a general hi before thinking of something to actually do.

***

“I beseech access to the knowing ones” Doyle sprinkled the dust at the gateway underneath the post office.

Cordelia watched, unimpressed, as the dust flew around the air, “That dust is a health hazard, I’m choking here” she complained as she looked around in disgust. “If I was a higher being, I would demand a suite at the Ritz or the Hilton at least. Or a luxury condo with built in spa”

The Irishman turned an exasperated gaze to her, “Princess will ya keep it down, you don’t wanna seem disrespectful to the Oracles”

“Oracles Schmoracles” she waved away his warning, “I know a fortune teller who could give us this information without making us splutter on dust”

“The Oracles are a little bit more then fortune tellers” Doyle told her, “It isn’t info we need like ya said, we need another vamp to do the fightin”

“I know, you started off pretty good before you used your head as a way to break your fall” Cordelia agreed bluntly. “I still can’t believe Angel just up and left like that. Buffy blows into town and whoosh! Off he goes all for what’s under her fake designer skirt. I hope she wears clean underwear, I’d hate to think he went all that way only to find musty vamp dust lodged up there”

Doyle shook his head, for a girl who other people saw as being very snobbish and uppity, Cordelia could be crude when she wanted to be. The funny thing about it was she did it so innocently, like she didn’t really understand what she was saying and implying. He turned back to the gateway and threw more dust at it, “I demand to see the Oracles, I beseech access to the knowing ones”

She opened her mouth to make another retort, but her words were stopped as they both got sucked into a white room with a male and female dressed in gold togas standing in front of them.

“Come forth lower beings” the female spoke.

“What do you bring us?” the male asked directly after.

Cordelia slowly turned to look at Doyle expectantly, “You never said anything about any presents so I never brought anything. What are they expecting? Matching His n Hers mugs or something nice to wear? Because those weird dressy things so don’t do anything for their complexion”

Doyle ignored her as he removed an ancient coin from his pocket and tossed to the male, “We need another champion” he told them. “Angel, the vampire with a soul, is human and has gone to live his li…”

“With the blonde Slayer by the name of Buffy Summers” Cordelia interjected, “You might have heard of her actually. Steals the souls of all those who dare sleep with her…”

“Silence” the woman told her, cutting off the rest of Cordelia’s comment that threatened to spill from her lips. The Oracle looked back to Doyle, expecting him to continue.

“As I was sayin” Doyle began again, “We can’t fight your cause without a champion, we need another vampire”

The male glanced at him, “Another vampire with a soul? I am unaware another exists”

“Me either” Cordelia spoke up ruefully, “I can safely say the world would be a much safer place if all vampires had souls. Why can’t you do that?”

“It is not our place to interfere with the way things are” the woman replied, her tone implying she agreed with Cordelia’s words.

“I thought you were all big and powerful. The Powers That Be and all that mojo”

“We are merely guides lower being, we do not grant life or death, we do not have the power to give the power of free will to those who do not deserve it”

“I don’t care if you can or can’t grant whatever to whoever, we need another vampire and we need one now” Cordelia told her determinedly. “If you won’t give us one then I’ll go and curse as many vampires as I want and you can’t stop me”

Doyle covered his face, he knew it was a bad idea to bring her along to meet the Oracles, but when she turned those eyes of hers on him, no seemed to escape his vocabulary. “With Angel human, you don’t have a champion in L.A. We can’t fight on our own”

“All will be revealed in time” the male responded.

“Life comes and life goes. That is how it works,” the female added.

“What is that supposed to mean?” Cordelia asked then gasped, “You mean Angel’s gonna have a heart attack or a stroke and become a phantom champion? If that’s the case then Phantom Dennis could be a champion, the enemy wouldn’t see him and he could whack the bad guy over the head with a big heavy book while Doyle and I roll them over a cliff”

“We shall speak no more” the female told them as she looked at Cordelia.

A few seconds later, Doyle and Cordelia found themselves back under the post office with a thud. She got off the floor, “You couldn’t have transported us a little harder could you?” she yelled at the wall. “Now my bones are rattling and I have dust in my hair and you told us nothing. Give me that coin back, you didn’t deserve it!”

Doyle raised his eyebrows in amusement as he got off the floor himself and dusted his clothes down. “How about some lunch?” he asked, hoping to stop her tirade.

It did. Well, stopped her tirade at the Oracles anyway, Cordelia turned on him, “With what exactly? We didn’t get paid last night, I used up all my savings on a new I-am-boss outfit. I’m pretty sure you don’t have a secret stash hiding under that horrendously lame Hawaiian shirt you seem so fond of. God knows why you wear those things, whatever happened to men wearing suits I’ll never know”

***

Doyle pushed the door open and hurried to the ringing phone, “Angel Investigations, we home the helpless… No we don’t, we help the homeless… We hope you’re help…”

“Doyle it’s me, Angel” Angel spoke down the phone, stopping his friend’s hopeless greeting.

“Angel man, how’s life been treatin ya for the last day?” Doyle asked as Cordelia shut the door he left open in his hurry to answer the phone.

“Born a barn were you?” Cordelia asked as she pushed past him.

“Princess, it’s Angel on the phone” Doyle told her.

“Wow, we haven’t seen him for almost 24 hours and already he’s calling. Then again if I was in Sunnyhell I’d be doing a lot more than calling after spending 24 hours there” Cordelia replied with disinterest as she plopped down on a chair.

“How’s the little lady?” Doyle asked as he looked at Cordelia’s crossed legs appreciatively hoping he wouldn’t get caught.

“Buffy’s fine, at college at the minute, but she’s fine” Angel replied, “Are you and Cordy doing all right?”

“We’re fine man, don’t sweat it”

Cordelia scrunched up her face and performed a childish imitation of Doyle’s words to Angel earning her a look from Doyle.

“Ya decided what ya gonna do now that yer outta the fightin gig?”

Angel shook his head, frowned and then spoke, “I don’t know, I was thinking of opening up another agency”

“I copyright the name,” Cordelia yelled when Doyle repeated Angel’s words to her.

“Why don’t ya open a sports bar?” Doyle suggested.

“Why don’t you join a perverts anonymous group?” Cordelia shot back. “And don’t think I haven’t noticed you staring at my legs for the past five minutes” she told Doyle knowingly.

“You checking Cordy out?” Angel asked in humour but felt a little concerned about a young woman being alone with an older man. Just look at him and Buffy, not that there were any similarities between Doyle and Cordelia and his relationship with Buffy.

Doyle and Cordelia hadn’t been and were not involved in an intense relationship like he was with Buffy and Angel was pretty sure that they weren’t even in love. He doubted anyone felt anything like what he felt for Buffy.

“I was before I got busted” Doyle confessed with a disappointed sigh.

“Do you have any ideas about what I should do?” Angel asked hopefully because he didn’t have a clue. He had often thought about what he would do if he ever became human but now that he was human, he didn’t know where to start.

“A walk in the sunshine, hang ten off the coast of Malibu, go have a cappuccino at an outdoor café, stay away from vampires…” Doyle left that one hanging sensing Angel glaring at the other end of the phone. “Get a sense of humour”

Cordelia rolled her eyes, got out of the chair and headed into her office, “How is Cordy doing?” she asked sarcastically. “She’s fine man, she’s says hi” she mimicked, “Tell her I miss her company” “Will do Angel, she says have a nice day” as she imitated Doyle and Angel, her voice alternated between a high and a low pitch.

“That woman” Doyle sighed down the phone to Angel, “Not a dull moment with Cordy around I can tell ya”

“I don’t doubt it” Angel replied, “Listen I’m gonna go so I think of something to do. Take care of her okay” it wasn’t a question. “I’ll call soon yeah?”

“Yeah, catch ya later man, an tell that blonde piece ya have to make sure ya get a tan, you’ll be beatin the females off with a stick. I guarantee it”

Angel rolled his eyes at the typical Doyle comment before saying good bye and hanging up his cell phone. What did he want to do?

***

“How’s Angel?” Willow asked Buffy as they walked across the grass at the college campus.

Buffy gave her friend a wince, “Bruised but good. I still can’t believe he’s human Will, words can’t describe how good it felt when I saw him in the sun” she replied with a smile. “It was like something out of a fairytale, he just…walked right up to me and took me in his arms”

“Uh” Willow squeaked romantically, “I’m really happy for you Buff, I’ve always known you and Angel were meant to be together”

The Slayer nodded happily, “I know we are, none so true as a love between a vampire and a slayer”

“I remember how he used to look at you like you were the centre of his universe and no one else existed. He was the tall, dark handsome stranger and you were the cute, little blonde girl who captured his heart” Willow got caught up in the romance of Buffy and Angel. “I was always a little bit jealous because I don’t think I’ll ever have what you two have”

Buffy beamed happily, “It is pretty intense isn’t it?” she shrugged, “Even still, I can’t help but feel there’s something missing between us” she sighed. “I’m happy he’s back and we’re together again but last night on patrol, he got really beat up Will and I didn’t know how to handle that”

“He isn’t a vampire anymore Buffy, he doesn’t have his super strength anymore” Willow reminded her. “You can’t expect him to be able to fight like he used to now he’s mortal”

“I know, it’s just going to take some getting used to. When we were with each other before he left, we fought side by side and now he can’t fight like that anymore and I’m going to have to get used to it” Buffy responded. “I know he can’t go on patrol now”

“Why not?”

“He’d be too much of a liability, I’d be too distracted because I’d be worried about him getting hurt and I can’t take that chance” Buffy replied as she bit her lip.

“We help you with patrol” Willow pointed out meekly, “Are you saying you don’t get distracted when Xander and I are there?”

“It’s different, you and Xander aren’t used to having extra strength then having it taken away. If you’d have seen Angel last night Will, he was fighting as if he were still a vampire and it got him hurt”

“How are you going to tell him he can’t patrol with you anymore?” Willow asked as she held back from saying what she was thinking because she didn’t want Buffy to think she wasn’t on her side.

“That I don’t know” Buffy replied with a grimace.


Part 3:
“I had a great time tonight,” Cordelia fibbed to her date, Hank, as she got herself out of the passenger side of his car. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back, she had to open her own door, geez, was this guy a naturally born caveman? Were there any gentlemen left?

“I’m glad” Hank replied with a cocky smile that Cordelia wanted to see wiped off, “Maybe we could do it again sometime? Like say tomorrow night?”

“I don’t think so,” Cordelia denied, like she wanted to date Captain Caveman again. First, he didn’t tell her looked nice then came his struggle with the champagne bottle and the car door. She’d rather go back to dating Xander Harris.

“Why not? I thought we were getting on alright” Hank replied with a frown as he searched her face for any plausible reason why she might be turning him down.

Cordelia’s face was priceless, “Oh we were, well up until you started boring me to death with the story of your life” she told him honestly. The last thing she wanted was this loser thinking that she was just suffering from first date jitters and calling her up for another date. At times like this, blunt honesty was the only thing that worked.

Hank frowned more as he took hold of Cordelia’s arm, “Hey!” she yelled at him as her face took on the expression of disbelief. How dare he touch her? “Who the hell do you think you are?”

“Somebody should really talk to you about your manners Cordelia, you could hurt somebody’s feelings” Hank replied as he glared at her. “I think you owe me something for the expensive dinner you cost me, don’t you?”

“The only thing I owe you for is having the ability to stop time,” Cordelia barked as she wrenched her arm free of his tight grasp. “You need to leave now”

“I am not leaving without a little payback,” Hank told her firmly as he took another hold of her arm.

“I think the lady just told you to get lost pal” Doyle spoke up as he exited the office. He had been waiting for Cordelia to come back from her dinner date, after the vampire had attacked her on her last date he had made her promise to always get dropped off outside the office.

“Doyle, it’s fine” Cordelia said through gritted teeth as she wrenched her arm once again out of Hank’s hand. “Hank, just go home” she told him.

Hank looked from the young woman to the man who had just come out of the office, “What? You’re ditching me for this guy?” he asked incredulously.

“That guy has more personality in his little finger than you could ever hope to get in your pathetic little life” Cordelia spoke up in insult. She was the only one who had Doyle insult privileges.

Doyle looked at Cordelia in a little bit of surprise when she came to his defence, “And believe me when I say that isn’t much” she added, his surprise left and he shook his head at her.

“Look I think it would be best if you left now” he said to Cordelia’s date.

Hank smirked at both Doyle and Cordelia, “Don’t worry, I’m going” he sneered, “I’m not sure why I even bothered in the first place. I knew she was a frigid one”

Doyle and Cordelia watched him, one through relieved eyes and the other through disgust-filled eyes. The brunette turned to face her friend and looked up at him, expecting to see disappointment in his face at her but she didn’t see anything of the sort. “Come on Princess, I’ll let you have a glass of scotch” he said to her as he guided her into the office.

He knew her well enough now to read between the lines of her sarcastic exterior and knew she had been genuinely afraid of her date. As he held the door open for Cordelia, “Thank you” she told him ssoftly and he nodded in understanding.

***

“Please Giles” Buffy begged as she followed her Watcher into her kitchen, “Just this one time”

“Buffy, I will not lie for you” Giles replied as he walked back out of the kitchen with the Slayer directly behind him. “Why you don’t just explain this to him I’ll never know. Angel knows your duties and he does respect what you have to do”

“I know he does Giles but I don’t really know how to tell him he’s more of a distraction than a helper” Buffy told him pleadingly as she placed her hands in a prayer grip. “It’s not a total lie, you do need help on translating languages in your new book. All you have to do is ask him to help you while I do patrol tonight”

He looked at her pleading face, pouting lip and begging eyes, she was too much like the daughter he never had and could never say no too. Giles sighed with defeat as he shook his head at Buffy, “I will do it just this once but you must talk to Angel about this Buffy, he will understand”

“Thanks Giles, I owe you big”

***

Angel went over the items he had placed in the picnic basket he had bought the previous day when he had wandered around Sunnydale enjoying the sun on his face, warming his skin. Last night he had actually gotten cold when he was in bed, it had made him smile thinking of the things he could feel and taste now he wasn’t a vampire any more.

Like yesterday.

The early afternoon sun had been blazing hot, his eyes had hurt so much he had to go and buy sunglasses to keep from squinting. The small amount of exposed skin was red and a little sore, and he had gotten the life scared out of him by a cat. Trivial things to most humans he guessed, but when you had extra senses and a sun allergy those things never happened.

Now, he was planning on surprising Buffy at college with an impromptu picnic made up of sandwiches, which he thought she would like. Peanut butter and jelly, ham, beef and salad were the savoury selections that Cordelia always told him and Doyle were the best. He had a few pieces of cake in there, fruit and soda to wash it down with.

Angel checked the grandfather clock over to his right and saw it was time for him to go and surprise Buffy at college. He picked up the basket made of woven Wicca that contained the food he had made for them and departed for the college and Buffy.

***

Cordelia blew a strand of hair out of her face as she dumped the mail on her desk in her office before plonking down in her chair. The nice, big comfortable leather chair that you could sink right into and never care about getting out of. She wiggled around and sighed happily as she began shifting through the white envelopes signalling bills.

“Bill” she said in an unimpressed voice as she chucked the envelope carelessly to one side. “Bill” she repeated as she performed the same careless action, “And more bills”

Doyle felt his mouth quirk up at the sides as he watched the expressions on her face switch rapidly from hope, to angry disappointment and back to hope again. “You expectin something?” he asked as he nodded towards the mail Cordelia was rummaging through.

“My confirmation of the Cosmo subscription I sent for” Cordelia replied as she looked up at him with a demanding expression on her face. “How long does it take to write ‘Hello Miss. Chase, your subscription has been confirmed?’ it’s not like I’m asking for a resume or anything that takes more than five minutes to write”

Doyle opened his mouth to reply to her statement when pictures raced through his head, making him lean against the wall to stop from falling on his ass. The pictures were familiar, the fear in them was familiar and the demons were familiar. When the vision had passed, he turned fear-filled blue eyes to a pair of concerned and questioning hazel eyes.

“Whoever you just saw right now” Cordelia couldn’t help but remark, “Did they look like they could afford to pay?”

***

Angel stepped out of his car, picnic basket in one hand and closing the door with the other, he turned to face the large building of Sunnydale college. People rushing, walking and sprinting in all directions, cars pulling up and driving off, “Feeding time at the zoo” Angel commented to himself, thinking it was definitely a good thing vampires couldn’t go out in daylight. Then it really would be feeding time at the zoo.

The building itself was about four to five stories high, painted a brilliant white with shadings of other colours around the edges and window frames, making it nice to look at. He didn’t have a clue where to start so he turned to the nearest person he could find. Which happened to be a tall, well-built kid with some equally well-built friends.

‘Who is this guy?’ Angel thought wryly, “Excuse me?” he asked, keeping any and all sarcasm out of his voice, “Can you tell me where I can find the, uh, outdoor lunch part?”

The blonde guy looked the dark haired man over, ‘who did this guy think he was?’ he thought to himself as he kept his sarcasm hidden. “No problem, just follow the path to your right, turn at the first left you come too and it can’t be missed” he replied.

“Thanks, will the classes be on lunch now?” Angel thought it best to ask just in case he was early or late.

“Most are, you looking for somebody in particular?” he asked curiously, maybe he knew the girl he was looking for.

“My girlfriend Buffy” Angel replied, “Buffy Summers, petite, blonde with blue eyes” he described vaguely.

“Oh yeah, I know her” the other guy replied with a little grin, “I’m Riley Finn, I’m a T.A in one of her classes”

“I’m Angel” Angel replied just as easily though he didn’t take the hand held out to him and Riley shrugged and shoved his hands in his pockets.

“Yeah Buffy should be out on lunch by now and you’ll probably find her with that friend of hers, you know the red headed girl?” Riley asked as if trying to make sure Angel really did know Buffy and he wasn’t some maniac off the streets.

“Willow and yeah I do know her friends. We go back a long way as a matter of fact” Angel told him briskly. “If you’ll excuse me, I gotta go. Picnic” he held up the basket to make a point.

“Yeah, later man. Tell Buffy I said hi” Riley replied before walking off with his friends, sending a curious look at Angel over his shoulder as he walked. That guy was just plain weird and Riley couldn’t shake the feeling he had about him.

“What an idiot” Angel muttered as he followed the directions the blonde guy had given him. The main path led him onto some grassy areas with tables covered in wrappers, soda cans and other bits of rubbish that gave him the sudden urge to clean up. A few minutes of walking, Buffy, Xander and Willow came into view; she looked so carefree as she sat there laughing with Willow.

Her blonde hair shone like spun gold in the sunlight, the cream of her top seemed to have an ethereal glow against her lightly tanned skin. She turned her head as if sensing him standing there watching her. For just a split second, Angel thought she had brown hair but quickly shook his head of the thought. He felt like he was intruding as he saw her carefree posture tense up slightly as he approached their table.

Not that he was relaxed himself, Angel just figured it was because he had been away for a while and needed time to adjust too both being human and being back in Sunnydale. “Angel, what are you doing here?” Buffy asked in surprise as he reached her table, “Not that I’m not glad to see you, because I am. It’s just…”

“A surprise?” Angel offered as the corners of his mouth quirked up slightly, he held up the woven Wicca basket. “I thought you might like a picnic,” he told her as he stood awkwardly under the gazes of Xander and Willow.

“Uh, that is sooo sweet” Willow sighed romantically as she looked too Buffy, why did Oz have to just pack up and leave? She asked silently.

“Any more sweetness and Buff will need a dentis…OW!” Xander’s reply was cut short when he felt Willow kick him really hard in his shin. “That was just wrong,” he told her with a pet lip.

Buffy smiled at his thoughtfulness, “That would be really nice, thank you Angel. Sit” she offered as she prodded Willow, signalling the red head to move up so he could sit next to her. “Anything has to be better than cafeteria food”

Angel smiled at her as he began removing the sandwiches, fruit and soda out of the picnic basket. “If you’re good I’ll let you have the cake,” he told Buffy with a half smile.

Where was the response made of laughing?

He looked at the three people who were looking back at him as though he had turned back into a vampire. “Lame joke” Angel quickly retracted as the smile left his face, “Would you like a sandwich?” he offered Willow.

The uncomfortable red head shook her head, “No thank you Angel” Willow graciously declined with a smile at him. “I have to get back to class and Xander has to get back to work”

“You sure? There’s plenty here?” Angel replied as he held up some sandwiches.

“Thanks De…uh, you. I’ll be taking one of those!” Xander commented, if he could eat Sunnydale high food then a sandwich made by Angel wouldn’t kill him either. He grabbed a sandwich out of Angel’s hand, “Thanks”

“You’re welcome” Angel replied tightly as he handed Buffy a sandwich, “That one’s beef” he told her apologetically. “I didn’t know what you liked to eat so I went by what Cordy likes”

“Beef is fine, thanks” Buffy replied as she unwrapped the plastic covering and took a bite and trying to hide her distaste at the onions on the meat. Angel looked at her with an apologetic look, “Onions” she explained as she scrunched her face up and shuddered. “I don’t like them, sorry” she told him, “What else do you have?”

“Uh, peanut butter and jelly, salad and ham” Angel replied as he tried not to look disappointed that she didn’t like the beef and onion sandwich he had offered her. “I didn’t know you didn’t like…”

Buffy waved his apology off, “It’s okay, you haven’t been human for very long so you’re out of practice and we didn’t exactly talk about my likes and dislikes of food when you were a vampire”

“Listen” Willow spoke up, “I really do have to get to class now. I’ll see you later?” she asked as she stood up.

Buffy nodded with a mouthful of salad sandwich, “Okay, outside the library at three right?”

“As always” Willow replied with a you-can-count-on-me smile, “Bye Angel, thanks for the offer of the sandwich”

“No problem, enjoy your day” he told her as she walked away, leaving him with Buffy and Xander who was now delving into the fruit. “Enjoying that?” he asked pointedly.

“Didn’t you say you had cake in here?” Xander asked as he rummaged around the basket with an over-excited exploring hand.

“What kind?” Buffy asked as she peered into where Xander’s hand was roaming, Angel had to crack a smile, it didn’t matter if it was Buffy or Cordelia, one mention of cake had their mouths watering and eyes bigger than their stomachs.

“What would you say if I told you it was strawberry cheesecake?” Angel asked teasingly.

“With real strawberries and not those horrid glace ones?”

“Real ones”

“I love cheesecake” Xander’s breathy reply made Buffy and Angel turn to him, he had cream on the corners of his mouth and remains of an eaten strawberry on his lips. “So you” he said to Angel, “What are your plans?”

“My plans?” Angel asked as he crossed his arms over his chest and looked at the boy who was eating the cake meant for Buffy who was also watching Xander, or glaring rather.

“You know, work, hobbies, intentions towards Buffy” Xander asked in an attempted fatherly tone.

“Xander!” Buffy yelped, “Give Angel a break, he’s only been human for two days, let him enjoy it”

Angel found words on the tip of his tongue that he never thought he would say. Ever. He heard them in his head, rolled the silently on his tongue and he still couldn’t believe that he was going to say them. He took a deep breath and ignored the screaming voice making him rethink his ideas to say them. “Xander’s right”

Both Buffy and Xander’s heads snapped to him, “What?”

“Of course I’m right, how could I not be right?” Xander asked as he gave Buffy a how-long-did-it-take-him-to-realise-that-fact look.

Angel ignored that rhetorical question, “About work I mean. I do need a job and not one that includes masquerading as a Catholic priest”

“When could ‘you’ ever pose as a priest?” Xander asked in a disbelieving voice.

“I had a thing for convents” Angel replied as he took an orange out of them basket and studied it intently. Rolling it around in his hand, why was it that he never noticed the little dents in the skin before?

Xander, not getting his morbid joke, thought deeply about what Angel could do now that he was human. “You could be a coroner, all that maiming experience is bound to come in handy”

“I think we should let Angel decide what he wants to do” Buffy spoke up curtly as she wiped the crumbs of her sandwich off her skirt and blouse. She didn’t want to think about why or how Angel had posed as a priest, knowing his history as she did it was guaranteed to give you nightmares. And to be honest, it wasn’t something she didn’t want an answer to.

Buffy’s watch alarm sounded, indicating it was time for her next class, she gave Angel an apologetic look. “I have to…” she nudged her head in the general direction of the building behind her.

Angel replied with a nod, “What time do you finish today?” he asked, planning to pick her up and maybe go for a drive somewhere.

“Around three but I’m meeting Will at the library after class”

“Oh, I could pick you both up if you need a ride home” Angel offered as he looked at the food that had gone relatively untouched. He should have asked what time her lunch break started then they could have had more time together.

“That would be good since nobody will let me drive”

“Never get in a car with her” Xander told Angel doubting he would want to be in a fatal accident so soon after becoming human.

“Say around 3:15?” Angel asked as he started to make a point of ignoring Xander’s remarks. “I could help with your work if you need to get some studying done”

Buffy’s face showed great amounts of relief as she smiled at him gratefully, “You are a lifesaver Angel, sometimes it gets hard combining slaying and studying I get a little behind”

“How come you’ve never asked me for help?” Xander demanded hotly and feeling insulted. “I’m help guy, I can be helpful. I helped at graduation”

“Yeah but you’re not exactly that brainy when it comes to World War Two” Buffy pointed out with a knowing smile. One of her friend’s mottos was ‘Let sleeping dogs lye’ and she was inclined to agree but it was what she needed to catch up on.

“I fought in that,” Angel confessed as horrid memories invaded his mind. He had seen and done some despicable things in his life. There was one thing he would never understand, humans killing in each other in the name of religion, something that none of them knew for absolutely certain existed.

“Oh” Buffy replied quietly, once again she was reminded that he hadn’t always been human and had a past that she’d rather forget about and pretend that it didn’t happen.

“You better get to class before you’re late” Angel broke the few moments of uncomfortable silence that always came when he spoke about his past. “I’ll stop by at 3:15 then?” he confirmed.

“That’d be great, thanks” Buffy replied in relief that he had changed the subject from his past to something more comfortable to talk about. “Thanks for lunch, maybe we could do it again sometime soon?”

“Sure, this time you might actually get to eat your cake” Angel commented wryly as he gave Xander, who was still there, a look.

“No maybe about it, that cake is mine and if I have to pull slayer rank to get it I will” Buffy playfully growled at Xander as she picked up her book bag easily. “I’ll see you later, thanks for bringing my assignment in Xan”

“Anytime Buffy, come on Angel I’ll walk you to your car” Xander said meaningfully as he stood up.

“Actually I was thinking I might take a look around” Angel replied as he put the plastic sandwich wrappers back into the basket. “Never been around a college campus before”

“Why on Earth would you want to spend voluntary time in a place that only serves to spurn out mindless automatons?” Xander asked as he jaw dropped. “Not that Buff and Willow are, uh, mindless of course because they, uh, got high…” he cleared his throat. “So you were wanting to take a look around UC Sunnydale?”

***

Cordelia watched Doyle as he told her about the first vision he received of the Scourge, his voice was shaky and his blue eyes were more shiny than usual. “It wasn’t your fault,” she told him honestly “You didn’t know if it was for real or not, hell if I had one of those mind control things I wouldn’t know if it was real”

Doyle shook his head as the images of half-breed demons that had been brutally murdered made his chest hurt. “We need to get them out of here, get them away from the Scourge”

“This Scourge, they’re bad aren’t they?” she asked as the full weight of the situation dropped in on her like a ten ton pile of bricks.

He looked at her, his more serious than she had ever known him to be “They’re death Princess”

“Okay, so what do we do?”

“I need you to go down the docks, look for a boat called the Quintessa” Doyle told her, “The captain owes me a favour, tell him Doyle’s cashin in on that favour. I’ll get a hold of a truck and meet you there”

Cordelia nodded as she stored the name of the boat to memory, “What about if that angry kid doesn’t come back?” she asked worriedly.

He thought for a minute, “Go down to 75 West Avenue, look for a guy named Lenny. Tell him Doyle needs a truck…”

“Just a question here, how many ‘guys’ owe you one?” Cordelia asked in confusion, she thought only Angel made dodgy dealings but it looked like she was wrong.

“It’s a system, checks and balances, Princess” Doyle replied not actually answering her question, they didn’t have time to discuss what he delved in.

“Right, I don’t suppose any of those cheques are literal are they?”

He rolled his eyes at her, “Tell Lenny that Doyle needs a truck pronto, come back here pick up these guys an I’ll take care of that kid. Okay?” he asked her to make sure she got all that.

Again Cordelia nodded, now committing the name Lenny to make sure she didn’t forget it. “Lenny, truck, pick up people and Quintessa. Got it. What if you don’t get there in time?”

“I’ll be there Princess, just go”

“I’m on it”

***

Doyle and the young half demon ran as fast as they could towards the boat where Cordelia was waiting. “The Scourge are comin, the Scourge are comin” Doyle yelled as he ran up to her, “They need to get off now”

He stopped at the look on the brunette’s face, “Where were you?” she demanded with a frown.

“I had to find the boy” he replied, “But we’re here now Princess and they gotta be makin tracks”

“We were worried” Cordelia told him in a half whine half accusing voice. Before he could reply to that, her hand swiftly came across his face in a stinging slap, sending his face over to the side.

“What was that fer?” Doyle asked as he held his stinging cheek and glared at her.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were half demon?” she demanded as she searched his face for answers.

“I was afraid you’d reject me,” Doyle replied truthfully as he regretted not having faith in the person her knew Cordelia really was. It added to his many regrets about his life but this was one regret that could turn out good.

“I’ve rejected you way before now” she told him, “I can’t believe you thought it would matter to me. I mean hello, I worked for a vampire what do you think I am? Superficial?”

“Well ac…” Doyle began but he got cut off by Cordelia.

“So you’re half demon big whoop!” she exclaimed, “That is so far down the list, way below short and poor. Is there anything else you need to tell me?”

He shook his head, “No, half demon is pretty much my big secret”

“Good. That’s out” Cordelia said with a small pout, “Would you ask me out to dinner already?”

Taken aback by her questioned demand for a few seconds he quickly recovered and gathered the courage he had been gathering since he’d met her. “Cordelia would you…” Doyle started to ask and she gave him a rare megawatt Cordelia Chase smile.

“They’re here” one of the half demons shouted, interrupting their conversation, “We have to leave. Now”

One of the pure-blood demons managed to grab a hold of Cordelia, she tried in vain to fight him off. Her hand curled up into a fist as she lamely punched the demon in his face, her panic and fear made her hand shake so the force of her punch was weak and none-effective against her attacker. “Doyle!” she screamed as the demon threatened to squeeze the life out of her, “Help!”

Doyle fought off his own attacker and ran to help Cordelia, he saw a loose, metal pipe lying around and picked it up. The lead piping made solid contact with the back of the demon’s head, immediately taking him out of the picture as he slumped lifelessly to the ground. He rolled the dead demon off Cordelia and helped her off the floor, “Princess?” he asked, concern for her written across his face and displayed openly in his blue eyes.

“I’m okay” Cordelia replied as she clung to his shoulders, “Thank you, you saved me again. But time for thanking later, we have to get these people off now”

Doyle nodded in agreement and they turned from each other to go help secure the half-demons who desperately needed their help. The next few minutes saw a flurry of hyper, panicked activity as Doyle and Cordelia got everybody below deck. The children were crying, the adults were trying to be strong for their children and Doyle and Cordelia were doing their best to keep the danger out. They turned the handle on the wheel, locking the Scourge outside and them inside.

The captain was the one who noticed the light hanging in the cargo area glowing stronger and brighter. “What the hell is that?” he yelled to Cordelia and Doyle.

“Oh shit, it’s trap” Doyle ground out as he started to turn the wheel in the other direction but it wasn’t budging.

“What does it do?” Cordelia asked as her heart pounded through her ribcage, frightened hazel eyes going back and forth between Doyle and the bright light.

“It burns up everything human,” he replied as he gave up on the wheel. “By the looks of it, that thing’s fully armed and about to detonate”

“What are we gonna do?” Cordelia asked, not wanting to think about what Doyle would reply.

“I need to shut it off Princess” he answered, not taking his eyes off the light. “You never know you’re strength till you’ve been tested. I get that now,” he told her. Doyle took hold of Cordelia’s shoulders, drinking in everything about her.

“Doyle its suicide” she pleaded with him, “No, I won’t…”

“Too the good fight yeah?” Doyle cut her off and watched, his heart breaking when he saw her eyes fill with tears. Everything happened in slow motion for Cordelia as he gave her the most loving, tender and bittersweet kiss of her young life. She knew right then he was going to leave her and she was going to have to let him.

“Too bad we’ll never know” Doyle let his demon face show to her for the first time, “If this is a face you could learn to love”

Cordelia looked into his demon face and saw only the man who was slowly but surely inching his way deep into her heart. He turned from her, ran and climbed up the ladder to the platform and jumped. She watched and listened in horror as her only friend disintegrated before her. The last thing she remembered before sinking to the floor was Doyle’s pained scream as the light burned him from the outside in.


Part 4:
Angel woke up bright and early the next day, smiling as the sun stung his sleepy eyes until he adjusted to the brightness. He had purposely left his curtains open so he could wake up to feel the morning sun grace his face. Last night he had gotten a little chilly but was too tired to get up and fetch an extra blanket from his closet so he had cocooned himself in his blankets and now he was sweating.

“For God’s sake!” he grumbled as he tried to disentangle his body from the sheets holding him in place. He tugged at an edge but only succeeded in tightening another section round his thighs, he growled or what might have passed as a growl, and expected the sheets to untangle themselves. “Ah, they we go” Angel said happily as he rolled around a little and felt the sheets loosen around him. He plonked his feet to the floor, hissing as his warm skin made contact with the cold wood flooring.

“Coldcoldcold” he gasped as he stood up in a hurry. The experience of having a freezing cold wooden floor on hot skin wasn’t very nice but Angel also it felt kind of soothing at the same time. It had been a long time since he had been able to feel differences in temperatures, although going from warm to freezing didn’t seem as nice as Cordelia had made it out to be. There had been a really hot day last week and she had sighed dreamily when she managed to cool down. What was dreamy about it? “God damn” Angel hopped from one foot to the other.

His impatience was heightened by a tingle in his groin area, Angel made a maniac dash for his bathroom and sighed in relief as his feet touched the bathroom carpeted mat. He rubbed his hands together as he eyed the toilet and looked down at his tingling groin. That was a feeling he didn’t think he could ever get used to, it felt weird and strangely painful at the same time. “Don’t think about it Angel” he said to himself as he grimaced and prepared to go. It wasn’t the first time since he became human that he had to take a pee and nor would it be the last.

He couldn’t help but feel a little disturbed at having to hold his thing while he went but it had to be done. At least men got to stand up and not squat like women had to do. It wasn’t just the holding it was drying it after that held a cringing factor for him.

“Ahhh!” he sighed with relief, the slightly painful tingling dissipated to leave a pleasant sensation. Angel couldn’t stop the little rush of pride flow through him as he turned to wash his hands. Desperately. “Check me out, I have a morning ritual” he commented to his reflection.

“Hello?” he asked as he prodded the glass mirror with a finger, he waved at his reflection and turned his face this way and that way. “I need a shave” he commented as he closely scrutinised his face.

He ran a hand through his messy, bed hair not being able to help smiling as the man in the mirror did the same thing. Angel set about a morning ritual, washing his face followed by brushing his teeth and now he was about to style his hair. The water came first, he watched the mirror carefully as he combed the water through the brown mop. “Now the gel” Angel muttered to himself.

A generous dollop of gel was squeezed into the palm of his hand before rubbing them together and combing his hair upwards. Angel eyed his art work continuously as he lifted and separated chunks of hair.

Finally, he was done. The ex-vampire looked long and hard at his reflection; yes he could finally say his hair was perfect. He sauntered out of the bathroom and noticed that the sun had moved quite a bit and his internal clock told him it was almost noon. Angel’s jaw dropped as he realised he had spent just over two hours styling his hair and looking at his reflection. That was almost as long as Cordelia took to put her make-up on. “I’ll just keep that little fact to myself” he said as he hurried to get his clothes on.

***

“Is that it?” Doyle’s image on the screen asked the camera, “Am I done?”

Cordelia reached out to touch the screen with shaking fingertips, her lips turned inward as she fought to keep her tears from falling. She hugged her knees to her chest as she leaned her chin on her kneecaps. “Doyle” she bit her lower lip, scrunching her face up and rocking her body for comfort.

When she had walked into the office that morning, Cordelia had opened and closed the door twice but as she expected, nobody answered her arrival. The resounding silence had destroyed her hopes and brought the all too real memory of Doyle’s heroic death flashing before her very eyes.

Those haunted, sad eyes roamed the room she stood in; Angel’s office was silent and empty. His apartment was bare all bar the few things he had left that weren’t necessary to take to Sunnydale. Doyle’s usual seat, now cold with a day of un-use was what caused Cordelia to choke back her strangled whimper and her weak legs to stumble.

He never even had a special coffee mug, he should have had one but he didn’t. It seemed to Cordelia that there wasn’t any proof of Doyle’s existence, that he was just a figment of her imagination. “No, he was here and he did exist” she said suddenly in defence of her sanity.

The sound of the phone ringing disturbed the silence that followed her weak defensive outburst.

Cordelia stared at the phone as her breathing grew deep and heavy, anger bubbled inside her aching chest. She grabbed the phone, ripping the wire out of the socket and hurled it at the wall, watching as it smashed and plastic pieces scattered to the floor below. “Much better” she said as she scrunched her face up in another effort to not cry anymore. She was Cordelia Chase, yes a crappy thing had happened and yes she hurt like hell but she would deal with it and move on.

Shaking hands smoothed down last night’s clothes, hair got swept back from her face and tucked behind her ears. Her hazel eyes shone brightly with tears and the will to survive. She had things to do, places to go and people to see. Starting with Harriet, Doyle’s ex-wife and then she would have to go too Sunnyhell and break the news to Angel.

“At least he’ll have sweet, pint-sized Buffy to help him deal” Cordelia said bitterly but that was just another she had to deal with. She couldn’t, and wouldn’t, blame Angel for Doyle’s death just because he was off living, in the literal sense. Even if he had been there, Angel wouldn’t have been able to shut off that light because he was human. But if he had been here then she wouldn’t have to go through this alone like she was.

“Come on Cordelia, for God’s sake” she hissed to herself angrily, “Doyle’s dead, stop pretending he’s going to walk in any moment now. Pull yourself together and quit being a CryBuffy”

Spinning on her heels, Cordelia marched numbly out of the office to go home, get cleaned up and show this world what she was made of.

***

Angel handed the translated text over to Giles. “I translated most of it last night” the new human explained as he put his hands in his pockets.

“Thank you Angel” Giles responded graciously, “I didn’t expect it right away you know”

“I know” Angel told him, “I kinda had nothing to do with Buffy out on patrol so I finished it” he still couldn’t figure out why Buffy kept evading his questions about patrolling with her.

“I see, thank you again” Giles repeated as he took the translated version of the text to the back room of the Magic Shop to put it aside ready to be typed up and catalogued. The Englishman walked back to Angel and noticed that the other man hadn’t moved a single inch. “Was there something you needed?” Giles asked as he walked round the counter.

“No, well, I was hoping I could talk about Buffy” he had tried countless times, over the course of the day, to get in touch with Doyle but there was no answer from either the half-demon or Cordelia.

Giles looked at Angel with a guarded expression on his face, “Is there a problem with Buffy I should know about?” he asked, watching Angel intently for a reaction.

“No, no problem with Buffy I think” Angel replied as he shifted, “I don’t know to tell you the truth, every time I bring up patrolling with her, it’s like she avoids me”

“Isn’t this something you ought to take up with her?” Giles asked pointedly, insinuating that their relationship was none of his business.

“I tried last night and she all but ignored my questions” Angel told him as he turned questioning eyes to Giles. He also had the feeling that being asked to translate the text had been a diversion to stop him from going out on patrol with her. They couldn’t build a relationship based on mistrust and paranoia over what the other was really thinking.

“Forgive me but this is something you need to speak of with Buffy, I am in no position to give advice one way or other” Giles responded kindly but firmly. He refused to lie for Buffy, even if his opinion wasn’t in favour of their relationship. In an attempt to steer the subject away from slaying and Buffy’s diversion tactics, Giles asked a question he genuinely wanted an answer to.

“What are you planning to do now that you’re human?”

Angel’s lips curled down at the edges as he took a seat around the table in the front of the shop. “I don’t know to be honest” he replied, allowing Giles to change the subject, honestly not wanting to put him in the middle of a lovers’ quarrel. They had only been back together for barely the length of a working week and they were already starting on the not trusting issue. Wasn’t that supposed to come after twenty years of marriage?

“Well, what are you good at doing?” Giles asked as he joined Angel at the table, suddenly feeling as though he had acquired another kid and fatherly advice now came second nature to him.

“Besides my past hundred years or so of questionable skills?” Angel asked ruefully.

Giles chose not to dwell on the words that made him think of how those skills were used against Buffy and Jenny a few years ago. “You are obviously an expert martial artist Angel, I’m sure you could do more than coach a class in that area”

“I don’t really like the thought of teaching kids how to fight” Angel replied, “I was thinking of opening up another detective agency but there wouldn’t be much point since there’s already a Slayer here. Cordy said that she copyrighted the name”

The Englishman gave a wry chuckle at the mention of Cordelia Chase, “How is Cordelia? She was working for you at the time you became human wasn’t she?”

“If you can call professional procrastination as working then yeah, she was” Angel replied

“Are we talking about Cordelia Chase? Xander’s ex-girlfriend?” Anya asked as she breezed past them and headed straight towards the cash register. “She can’t have him back, he’s mine, Xander said so”

“I don’t think Cordelia wants to be Xander’s girlfriend again Anya” Giles commented lightly as he silently agreed with Angel to let the subject they were talking about drop until later.

“Good” Anya replied with a beaming smile, “If she knew how great he was at giving orgasms she would”

“Anya…” Giles began while Angel’s eyebrows rose in amusement, he barely knew Xander’s new girlfriend and yet here she was talking about their sex life.

“Oh sorry, I forget how humans don’t like to talk about sex and orgasms when they’re not getting any” Anya somewhat apologised then turned to Angel with an unimpressed look on her face. “So this is Angelus, hmm I thought you’d be taller from what Darla told me”

Angel’s mouth opened and closed a few times, “I was Angelus yes, but I’m human now”

“That’s nice” Anya replied, not really listening anymore as she began counting the money in the cash register. The ex vengeance demon turned to Giles, holding up two handfuls of money pointedly. “We should advertise, we can make more money”

***

Buffy stood up as the bell sounded, signalling the end of her class, assignment in one hand and bag in the other. “Are you seeing Angel tonight?” Willow asked as she followed her friend towards the door.

“I was going to surprise him at the mansion,” the Slayer replied with a smile, “Between slaying and college, we’ve hardly spent any time together. I was going to rent a movie and introduce him to the wonder of home cooked food”

“Buffy?” Riley came up to Buffy and interrupted the girls’ conversation and holding his hand out expectantly. “The two weeks is up”

“I know and I have it right here” Buffy replied smugly as she waved her assignment in Riley’s face. “See? All written with the correct word count”

“Yay you!” Willow congratulated her friend with a pat on the back, “I’ll see you later okay? I want to get a quick soda before I suffer with Professor Filly’s Psychology class”

“Okay, I’ll meet you back at our dorm later?” Buffy asked for confirmation, “We can go over today’s notes and get some studying done”

“I’m sure you’ll be studying” Riley commented disbelievingly as he crossed his muscular arms over his chest and gave her a look.

“Studying will be done” Willow spoke up innocently, “For about five minutes before she gets distracted and decides to hit the town on a party spree. You do know about Buffy’s alcohol problem right?”

“Willow!” Buffy punched her arm and rolled her eyes, “I don’t have an alcohol problem” she said seriously to the T.A in front of them.

“I’m sure you don’t” Riley agreed with a teasing tone and a quirky smile. The little blonde girl was kinda weird in the cute sense of weird. Her blue eyes seemed to shine prettily as she joked with her meek red headed friend about a none-existent alcohol problem. Her blonde, wavy hair moved lightly around her shoulders, yes she was pretty.

“Well, here you go Mr. Finn” Buffy jolted Riley out of his general guy thoughts by handing him her assignment. “All signed, sealed and delivered as promised”

Willow smiled at Buffy’s subtle flirting with the good-looking blonde guy, inside she couldn’t help but still feel bitter about how nobody seemed to care that Oz had left her. All her friends were going about their little lives while not caring if she was hurting or not. She wanted to shout “Hello, heart-broken girl here” but she doubted if any of them would listen.

“I’ll see you later okay Buffy?” Willow asked quickly, not being able to stand around to watch their coy flirtation. It was too sickening. Without waiting for Buffy’s responding answer, she turned and headed for the door.

Both Riley and Buffy watched her sudden exit, “She okay?” he asked in friendly concern of Willow’s sudden change in attitude.

“She will be, I think she just needs time to get over Oz, her boyfriend, they broke up not long ago. Big high school sweetheart thing” Buffy explained with a sympathetic sigh as she looked up at Riley. She couldn’t help but notice how his blonde hair seemed to compliment his lightly tanned face, making his liquid-like green eyes stand out.

“Thanks for this, even if it is two weeks late” Riley broke her trail of thought, “I need to get prepared for the next lot of hellhounds”

“Oh, I’ll see you on Friday then, bright and early” Buffy exclaimed enthusiastically, “The early bird catches the worm is what I always say!”

“Unless you’ve been on a drinking binge” Riley deadpanned easily with a smile that created dimples at the corners of his mouth.

“Of course,” she joked right back. “I’ve done things with Tequila that would make your hair curl…” Buffy wanted to take her Slayer strength and use it on herself. Maybe there was a spell or something that would stop her foot-in-mouth syndrome from getting worse. “SeeyaFriday!” she ran for cover.

***

Cordelia rubbed her tired eyes as she searched through the books Angel had left in his apartment for work use, looking for a way to make Phantom Dennis able to leave her apartment. If she had to go too Sunnydale, then she wanted at least one person on her side. Telling Harriet about Doyle’s death had been hard for her, having to relive one of the worst moments of her life but the other woman had been so kind.

Dennis floated a cup of hot chocolate over to Cordelia as he gave comfort anyway he could. He had tried to stroke her hair but only ended up in making it look like she had been caught in a hurricane. “Thanks Dennis” she told him gratefully as she took the mug offered to her.

“I can’t find anything, I don’t even know what to look for” Cordelia sighed in frustrated as she put the mug carefully on the coffee table. “I’m not going anywhere without you Dennis, friends are supposed to stick together not go rushing off with the first blonde, small chested femme fatale that springs their pants. Or die”

The helpless ghost could only flutter the air around her, careful not to disturb her hair again, not when she had meticulously styled it. “I don’t know what I’m going to do, what can I do?” Cordelia asked her phantom roommate. “My parents are in jail, Doyle is dead and Angel is off playing Life with CryBuffy. You’re all I have now and where you go, I go”

The sad brunette tucked her hair behind her ears as she began researching for ways to move a ghost. She went through three more books before she found what she was looking for. “Okay, I need an urn made of solid oak, a rock and something that belonged to the ghost” Cordelia looked up at Dennis’ wall. “Do you have anything still here? I have a solid oak jewellery box that might work and I’m sure I can find a rock outside. I don’t feel right putting you in an urn even though you are dead” she added as she got up.

Grateful she had something to occupy her mind; Cordelia went rummaging around her bedroom for the oak jewellery box so Dennis could go with her. She couldn’t afford to take time to think about Doyle or how she was going to break the news to Angel. It wasn’t like she could just waltz into his life and announce “Hi Angel, great to see ya, you’re looking well. I’m fine and dandy thanks for asking. Doyle died last night, so how was your week?” was it?

“I don’t know where we’re going to live, but I’m sure Angel will have room if he’s staying at the mansion. If he’s living at Buffy’s then he’ll have lots of room, because hello! Mansion!”

Dennis watched through invisible eyes as Cordelia pushed her grief to an inaccessible part of her mind and began to invent the spell to her liking. He wished he could give her hug and be the real, live friend she said he was. Unfortunately, thanks to Mother Vorhees as Cordelia called his mother, he could do no more than take her mugs of chocolate and wrap blankets around her.

But those little gestures, Dennis knew for a fact, made all the difference in her world of pain.


Part 5:
Buffy placed the rented videos on the ground for a moment so she could knock on Angel’s front door. Her attempt at home cooking had failed rather miserably forcing the Slayer to retreat to the local Chinese take away for their dinner. She knocked a few times and waited for her boyfriend to answer. “Hello in there” Buffy called through the door after waiting patiently.

She got no answer.

Knocking again, only louder this time when Buffy realised that Angel might not have heard her knocking since he no longer had vampire hearing. Her eyes rolled when she heard him call out for her to wait a minute, “Sure, I don’t mind waiting a few more minutes. After all, I’ve waited almost a year” she muttered as she picked up the videos.

Angel finally, and breathlessly, answered the door and smiled when he saw the blonde standing there, looking at him with curious eyes. “Buffy” his voice denoted the surprised delight he felt when he saw her standing there. Quickly, he kicked the cleaning apron behind the door thankful he had taken the time to take it off before he answered the door.

“Angel” at the sight of his little pleased smile, Buffy’s curious eyes tried to see what he appeared to be hiding behind the door.

“I brought food” Buffy held up the bag of Chinese take-out, “I figured since we haven’t spent much time together since you came back that you might like dinner and a movie” she explained hurriedly. “But if you have plans I can…”

“Dinner and movies sound good” Angel stopped her nervous chatter mid-sentence as he stood in the doorway, blocking her entrance.

“Great, can I come in?” Buffy asked, pointedly looking at him blocking the doorway indicating she couldn’t get in unless he moved.

“Sure” he moved away from the door to allow her into his home, not that it yet resembled a home of course but decorating wasn’t really a priority right now. Getting his life together and getting his relationship with Buffy on track was at the top of his list before anything else. “What did you rent?”

Buffy followed his lead into the kitchen where she set the videos and food down on the table. “Um, I got Devil’s Advocate and The Craft, Willow recommended it”

“Oh, what are they about?” Angel asked as he got his newly-bought plates and cutlery out for use with the food. He glanced over his shoulder as he spoke to her, trying to think up ways he could entice her into talking about patrolling with her without Buffy changing the conversation.

“Devil’s Advocate is about some evil lawyers or something and The Craft is about witches” Buffy explained as she sat down at the heavy table, watching his movements. He was beautifully sculpted, the broad shoulders in perfect proportion to the rest of his muscular body while his chest seemed to be set in marble. His hair was nicely styled, if a little messier than what it normally was.

“Evil lawyers” Angel mumbled with a petty frown, even in Sunnydale he couldn’t escape evil lawyers. He placed the plates and cutlery on the table as a little problem arose for their night, “Um, I have no T.V”

Buffy cocked her head to one side and looked at him, “You have no T.V?”

Angel shook his head sheepishly in a silent answer.

“Oh, well we can eat the take out and maybe go to my place… Scratch that, no privacy there” she countered her own suggestion.

“How about we just eat dinner and talk?” he asked with a small smile. “I’m sure we can think of something to talk about” like slaying, patrolling and finding out why she had been avoiding that specific conversation.

Buffy smiled at him, “Sure, talk is good” she agreed. They ate in a slightly awkward silence before Angel broke it.

“Did you have a good day at college?”

She nodded, “I did, got good marks for my assignment, Riley said…”

“Riley?” Angel asked curiously, he looked at Buffy and watched her face closely, ignoring the jealousy ebbing away at him. Who was Riley? What was he to her? How did she know him?

Buffy paused eating for a second, “He’s a teacher’s assistant in one of my classes, he’s just a friend” an extremely cute and hunky friend but still just a friend.

“Blonde hair, big built?” Angel questioned when a feeling of déjà vu crept up on him, the image of the kid he met at Buffy’s college entered his mind. As did twinges of jealousy at the thought of her spending more time with Riley than him.

“Yeah, how do you know?”

“I think he was the guy who told me where I could find you at the picnic tables” Angel answered. He took another bite of the Chinese food, “He told me to tell you hi”

“I’m surprised he didn’t ask about my assignment. He’s a good guy even if he is a slave driver” Buffy commented with a light smile, trying to draw some humor into the awkward situation. A pink tinge coated the apples of her cheeks as she remembered the cheeky wink her T.A had given her earlier.

“Which class does Riley help teach?” Angel asked after he swallowed a not-very-nice bean sprout. He watched her expressions closely and saw the little hue of color that coated her face. He couldn’t help but be jealous, this guy was making her blush. Making his girlfriend blush and he didn’t like it.

“Chemistry, he has a way with hydrochloric acid” Buffy replied ruefully as she began to toy with her food when her appetite left. She wasn’t sure what she had expected of their dinner together, but dealing with Angel’s jealousy wasn’t one of her expectations.

In another attempt to lighten the mood the slayer changed the subject “So, did you enjoy your Chop Suey?” she asked teasingly, knowing full well he hadn’t. His expressions had clearly told her he had found the dinner rather horrible.

”Yeah I did,” Angel fibbed with an unconvincing smile as the subject of Riley was mutually forgotten, he didn’t want her to think he wasn’t grateful. “Thanks”

Buffy nodded, totally unconvinced, “You’re welcome. I knew you would love it,” she told him innocently. “We can go to a restaurant and get it made properly next time if you like it so much”

He tried not to recoil from the thought of eating it again, “It was crunchy but not, I did like it because you bought it. I don’t want you thinking that I’m not grateful…”

“Relax Angel, I’m just kidding. I know you didn’t like it very much and I take no offence, you can’t be expected to know what you like to eat this quickly” she reassured him, letting her teasing show with a grin.

“I’m sorry” he apologized unnecessarily, “I know you were being thoughtful and…”

Buffy treated him to a big smile. “Don’t apologise” she told him, “I can see how you might find it difficult to adjust being human again. But all that matters is that you are, and we’re together now.” She wanted her and Angel to work out and knew they could if they tried, really tried this time and not run from each other like last time. He was the one thing, the one person, she would have given anything to have.

“Right” he smiled back at her, he stood and walked round to where she sat, “We are, here together” Angel repeated her words, wrapping his arms around her, trying to ignore the way they both stiffened slightly at the contact. He tilted her face up and placed his lips gently across hers in a tender kiss. They would work out, like all things it would just take time.

Buffy pulled away from his lips, her eyes showing how shy she felt at this turn of events. She smiled again as Angel leaned down for a deeper kiss, silently wondering if she would have time for a quick patrol and tried to think of a good reason why he couldn’t go with her.

***

It was early afternoon when Cordelia reached Sunnydale, the sunglasses hiding her red eyes and the concealer hiding the shadows under those red eyes. The oak jewellery box containing Dennis sat on the passenger seat, rattling in frustration of being kept in something similar to a hamster cage. “We’re almost there Dennis and you’ll be out soon, do you think I should have called first? Of course I shouldn’t, that would make Angel ask why I was coming and I can’t tell him over the phone can I? Of course not”

The oak box rattled quieter as Dennis tried to give her what comfort as much as he could. “How am I going to tell him?” her voice going from sarcastic to soft, unsure and noticeably sad. “I’ve never had to tell somebody anything like this before; I don’t know what to do or say”

The box became still as he listened.

She turned on a familiar corner, trying to remember the way to the mansion, having only dropped Buffy there once before, it was a little difficult to remember which side road to take. “Do you think I could write a letter or a note maybe? That way I won’t have to look at his face when he finds out and I won’t have to deal with his sorrow and guilt. Mine’s already enough to handle without me having to comfort him too” Cordelia’s lip began to wobble and tears threatened to spill down her cheeks.

Dennis gave an unfelt cuddle to the grieving, young woman and in turn felt his own none-existent heart break for her. He couldn’t help but damn the ex-vampire to hell for leaving Cordelia even though he knew it wasn’t Angel’s fault Doyle had died.

“Once I tell Angel, I can start making plans to get on with my life” Cordelia stated after clearing her throat for the millionth time. “I won’t go back to L.A, maybe New York or someplace exotic like Europe maybe” she allowed a grin to cross her face. “Scratch Europe, knowing my luck I’ll probably bump into one of Angelus childer that he turned during his Scourging days”

It came to something when she would rather talk about Angel’s past then discuss her future. “I know what we could do” Cordelia exclaimed as she pulled her car to the side of the road and killed the engine. Dennis braced himself when he heard the word ‘we’ come from her. “We could open up a haunted house, you could get in touch with some of your little, ghost pals. We’d make a killing on Halloween!”

Dennis sent an invisible look of disbelief through his box.

“You don’t have to decide just yet” Cordelia told him matter-of-factly, “Just think about how much fun you could have rattling chains and flinging sheets around. Hey, we could even make a small T.V movie. Angel’s mansion would be the perfect setting, oooh!” she said as waves of ideas hit her.

There was a lot to be said about bathing in denial, he thought, and Cordelia was happily sinking in that river. He let her stall, once again quietly listening to her meaningless words waiting for her to finish getting herself together. And once again, Dennis found himself hating the fact he was physically unable to do anything but listen quietly.

Cordelia’s brain finally caught up with reality after a few more moments of rambling on about their future. She took a deep breath, held it, and exhaled slowly. “Come on Chase, this is a get-in get-out situation. Just go in, tell him the news, get out and never come back” all the while secretly praying Angel wouldn’t let her be by herself again.

Clutching the oak box closer to her chest, she climbed out of the car and made her way up to the front door of the mansion. “Okay, here I come ready or not” she uttered, trying to gather her courage and get rid of her panic. Knocking on the door loudly, she waited for Angel to answer.


Part 6:
She wasn’t sure if she could do this, her heart was racing and her hands felt clammy as she clung onto Dennis’ jewelry box. Cordelia shifted her weight from one foot to the other and knocked again, “Please be in” she uttered under her breath, “Don’t be in” she contradicted quickly. “Don’t be in so I don’t have to do this. I can’t do this; I don’t know what to say”

“No” she knew she had to pull herself together for this but she couldn’t seem to, she’d never had to tell someone that their friend had died. It was hard enough coping with the knowledge herself but she didn’t know what to do if Angel started to get all guilty and stuff. “I have to do this” Cordelia stated, her voice shaky but stronger, “It’s happened, Angel has to know it’s as simple as that. Nothing I can do about it”

“Cordelia?” Buffy asked whoever she was expecting to be there it certainly wasn’t Cordelia. The surprise she felt was showing clearly on her face as she looked the brunette over and watching the brunette mutter to the box she held and fidget on the spot. It wasn’t hard to spot a nervous person, and from what Buffy could tell either Cordelia was highly nervous or she had lost the plot.

The last person she ever expected to show up in Sunnydale had showed up, so she asked her thoughts. “What are you doing here?”

Cordelia looked at Buffy standing in the doorway wearing a robe and her hair mussed up, the obvious came straight to mind and she decided she didn’t want anymore information so she pushed it aside. Like she said in her car, this was a get-it-done situation, so she got directly to the point. “Buffy, is he here?” much to Cordelia’s surprise, her voice came out less shaky and much stronger than before. She didn’t mean to sound bitchy but politeness and ‘how-do-you-do’s’ could come later.

“Angel?” Buffy questioned for confirmation that Angel was who Cordelia asked for. The slayer didn’t miss the fact that the other girl had evaded her original question that left her still wondering what Cordelia was doing in Sunnydale and not in L.A. with that other man. For the most part, the brunette looked good, but then she always had, but there was something not right with her. The other girl was fidgeting nervously, shifting her weight from one foot to the other and then Buffy noticed the tears Cordelia was trying to blink back.

A familiar feeling of dread began in Buffy’s stomach; whatever her friend-come-nemesis had to tell Angel, wasn’t good in the least. “Yeah he’s here, please come in” she urged and stood aside, frowning as the brunette edged past her and watched her fidget in the living room. “I’ll just get him for you”

Clutching tightly to Dennis’ box, Cordelia fought against the tears gathering in her eyes knowing that she needed to do this. To see this through. Glancing at the door behind her, she simultaneously considered bailing on the idea. If only she could get Buffy to give Angel the news. Then she wouldn’t have to look him in the eye. “If he’s busy just tell me. This can’t wait, Buffy.”

Buffy’s initial reaction was to tell her that she might have to wait, but she swallowed back her words once again noticing the glistening eyes and white-knuckled grip on the oak jewelry box. The urgent strain in Cordelia’s voice suggested that something was very wrong. Whatever little comment Buffy was about to make got swallowed back when she noticed the other girl blinking back tears and the white-knuckled grip she had on the oak jewelry box. Nodding, “I’ll just get him for you, sit down” she gestured to the sofa before making a move to get Angel.

She didn’t want comfort. Not here. Not now. She wanted to say what needed saying and get the hell out. “No thanks, I’ll stand because I’m not staying long. If you could just get Angel” her voice was now desperate and shaky as she continued to think about what the hell she was going to say. What was she going to say? Her thoughts were getting all jumbled up in the rapidly rising panic caused her breath to choke up in her throat, she used her free hand to waft air onto her face in an effort to cool down some.

Buffy frowned in concern and hurried upstairs towards Angel’s bedroom; keeping her voice as quiet as possible she rushed into the room, calling for Angel. “Angel, are you finished in the shower? Cordelia’s here and I think something’s wrong”

Angel came out of the shower completely naked and toweling his hair dry, “What? I missed that”

“Cordelia’s downstairs, I think something’s wrong with her” the Slayer repeated.

“Cordy’s here?” he stated in surprise, he knew that she’d rather have her teeth pulled out by an amateur dentist then come back to Sunnydale. The fact that Buffy had said something was wrong had deep concern showing in the form of a frown. “Did she say what was wrong?” he asked.

Buffy shook her head, “No, she just said that this couldn’t wait, but she looks really upset”

That made Angel’s frown and concern go deeper, had Doyle done something wrong? Had something happened? Then his stomach started to churn, had something happened to Doyle? “Can you tell her I’m just getting dressed and I’ll be right down?”

“Sure, I’ll try to find out what’s wrong” Buffy gave him a quick kiss on the lips and headed back downstairs only to see Cordelia talking to the box she held. Concern for the other girl increasing and offhanded thoughts questioning her sanity began to form. “Why are you talking to a box?” she asked, not knowing who Dennis was or the fact that he was in the box made her inquiry sound like she had voiced her concerns for Cordelia’s sanity.

Startled, Cordelia turned to look at Buffy “Dennis is inside so I’m not going crazy”

“I wasn’t implying that you were” she insisted calmly, if it hadn’t been for Cordelia’s obvious panicked state, Buffy would have been a little more firm with her.

“Where’s Angel?” Cordelia demanded, while Buffy had been gone she had a small chance to get her scattered thoughts together and decided it was best to get this over and done with. So she had sucked up her grief and thoughts as best she could with full intentions of telling her ex-employee straight. Though she had just done that, panic was still making her nerves rattle and she shook slightly.

“He’s getting dressed and he told me to tell you he won’t be long” Buffy replied tightening the belt on her robe. “Just a wild shot in the dark here, but is there something wrong?” trying to get whatever it was out of Cordelia might help to calm her down somewhat.

“I just need to talk to Angel” Cordelia replied defensively, her eyes and tone of voice telling the blonde that it was clearly not something she wanted to talk about with her. Sneaking a glance of anticipation at the stairs, she waited for Angel to come down and wished he would hurry up because she didn’t know how much longer she could hold it together.

“Alright, I was only asking” Buffy held up her hands before giving Cordelia a look that said she wasn’t being nosey, the slayer then disappeared into the kitchen to make some coffee. Seeing by now that she wasn’t going to get anything out of her, Buffy decided to let Angel handle her and let the matter go.

Hurriedly buckling his belt as he walked to the stairs, Angel had been going over and over in his head what it was that had brought Cordelia back to Sunnydale and hoping it wasn’t what he thought it was. Even without his vampire senses, he could see the tear stains on her face, he could see the way her lithe body trembled slightly and saw the way she held herself. Shoulders squared, head held high and her chest rising and falling with forced ease, she looked like she was going into battle.

“Cordy?” the old nickname came with ease, although his voice was laced with concern as he waited for her to actually focus on him. Angel knew just as soon as Cordelia locked her gaze onto his.

A choked whimper bubbled up and spilled from her throat, Cordelia’s lower lip wobbled as she tried to hold it back. But the care, friendship and concern in Angel’s brown eyes were all it took for her world to crumble and fall around her. One minute she had been standing tall, the next she was crying into his safe embrace and clutching his shirt with her free hand.

Buffy watched as Angel had enclosed the other girl into a deep, swallowing hug and let her cry. The feeling of dread turned to sadness at the heartbreaking tears that fell from Cordelia’s eyes. She had a feeling it was something to do with the man who had worked for Angel. It wasn’t right that things happened to the good guys, it wasn’t right at all. Though she had never known him, it didn’t make it any easier that a fighter had been lost.

Catching her boyfriend’s gaze, Buffy gave a quick, acknowledging nod and left them alone by quietly slipping out of the back door.

***

Handing Cordelia a cup of hot coffee, Angel sat opposite her at the kitchen table and waited patiently for her to tell him what happened. Not that he didn’t already know the outcome but he thought it would be better for both of them if she talked. Guilt was ever present, feeling as though Doyle’s death was his fault for leaving the fight though he realistically knew he couldn’t have done anything. But even if he couldn’t, Cordelia wouldn’t have been alone to deal with this tragedy.

The hot, hazelnut colored liquid burned her throat but it also soothed her panic somewhat. A humorless smile flirted at her lips, “Nice coffee, maybe you should have given me lessons”

“I doubt it would make any difference, for me to give you lessons that would mean you have to listen to me” Angel gave her a tight smile back at her little attempt to make this easier on both of them.

“For me to listen, you would have to talk with some sense” Cordelia gave back, it amazed Angel how she could be so lost and still give a good comeback. Then it really shouldn’t surprise him, he’d always known that she was stronger than she looked.

“Do you feel…”

“I should prob…”

After a few moments silence, they had both spoke at the same time leaving them both a little tongue tied. Angel conceded, “You go first”

“Okay” Cordelia took a deep, encouraging breath and told him what had happened. “There was a group of pure blood demons that had plans to kill everything with humanity inside. Half-breed demons especially. They had this light that burned the humanity from the outside in and Doyle had to shut it off.” As she told him how it happened, her voice became distant as recent, tormenting memories escaped that place at the back of her mind. The place where things she didn’t want to immediately deal with were put safely.

The horrors of what she saw flashed past her eyes, the sound of Doyle screaming out in pain stung her ears and the deafening silence that had followed haunted her.

Not even trying to imagine it, Angel simply nodded and placed his hand on top of hers, gripping lightly. He knew she would be alone if she went back to L.A and he doubted she had anyplace else to go or anybody else to turn to. “I’m sorr…” he began to say but was instantly cut off when Cordelia held up her hand.

“Don’t” she said a little too sharply, “There’s no point in being sorry, I don’t need or want it because it won’t do any good. It’s happened, nothing can be done about it and no amount of sorry can make it any different so please don’t”

Lowering his eyes, Angel felt guilty for being sorry but she was right what was the point in being sorry? What good would it do now? “I just wish I could have been there for you” he rephrased gently and kindly.

“Well you weren’t” she snapped without meaning too. Taking another deep breath, Cordelia apologized for the way that must have sounded. “I’m sorry but I’m just a little bit stressed right now. I have a lot going on what with Doyle’s death and moving to…”

“Moving where?” Angel asked curious concern filtered through his grief he wondered if Cordelia had any family anywhere besides Sunnydale. He carefully gauged her reaction; feminine, well manicured hands started to fidget with the oak box again, her eyes diverted from his and hair got flipped over her shoulder.

“Since the acting gig didn’t turn out, I started looking to break into modeling” Cordelia embellished a little. “I found an agent in New York who’s more than interested so that’s where I’m headed. The Big Apple”

“Who are you staying with?” he asked next, already knowing she would fib some more. Angel wasn’t sure whether he should be angry at her for lying to him or admire her for her independence. She might not like it but Sunnydale was her home, she had friends and people who cared about her here. She wouldn’t be alone in a place like New York where anything could happen to her and he wouldn’t know about it.

“I have enough money for a hotel until I get settled in my own apartment” Cordelia continued to fib. She wanted to stay in Sunnydale with Angel; he was all she had now well, apart from Dennis. She wanted to stay where she wouldn’t be alone but at the same time she didn’t want to admit that she couldn’t be by herself. “And I’d get another job obviously, that would help”

“What would you do?” Angel inquired next, he didn’t like the fact she didn’t feel as though she could come to him. He could feel the loneliness coming from her, could see the sad acceptance in her tear-glazed eyes and witnessed who she was behind the hair, make-up and clothes.

Underneath the womanly guise she created, Cordelia was lost, alone and scared of being that way. He’d never really gave much thought to her when he became human, sitting here now and seeing her like this he wished he’d kept better care of her. Angel might not know her all that well, but he knew better than to show her pity or sympathy because those were things she didn’t need right now. What she needed was a friend and if she’d give him the chance, he could be that friend.

The more Cordelia spoke the more she realized how silly she sounded, biting her lip to keep from crying again she tried to fathom in her own head exactly what she would do. “I have retail experience so I could easily start a career in retail management. I have secretarial experience so I could go into administration if I wanted” she answered too brightly.

“Cordelia, please just stop okay” Angel halted her next words before they had begun, “You can’t just pack off and leave, not yet”

“I’ll be fine Angel, really I will” she turned pleading eyes on him, even if she didn’t realize it the plea was for him to help her not be alone. She just didn’t want to be alone anymore, once over it would have been fine but not now. Not after she knew what it was like to be accepted for who she was and liked because of who she was. Doyle had given her that; he had given her acceptance and she was sure he would have given her love.

“Do you really want to leave?” not beating around the bush, Angel asked her directly since he figured that was the way he’d get more than fibs out of her.

Lower lip wobbling, tears making the hazel irises shine like jewels and hand grasping his strongly. Cordelia shook her head softly. “What do I have here? I don’t have any real friends…”

“Thanks” Angel commented wryly, clasping her soft hand back and subconsciously taking note of just how soft her skin was and how neatly her nails were manicured. Short, practical and still feminine; even in a crisis she could carry off still looking her best.

“I didn’t mean you” she sniffled through a laugh, “But I don’t have anything of my own, my parents are in jail for tax fraud and my…”

“You have me” he told her firmly and cutting her off again “Until you get yourself back on your feet you can stay with me.” He didn’t want to see her go it alone and in a sense, he owed her.

Shaking her head in denial, Cordelia declined his invitation to stay with him “No, I can’t do that Angel, I have to learn to depend on myself sometime and I may as well start learning now”

“You can learn while you stay here, just for the time being” he tried to make her see that she would be better here with him than going things alone.

To Cordelia, staying with someone she trusted and counted as a friend sounded like heaven but still, she would lose what independence she had gained. “You could come and go as you please, no rules and you could keep a pet beagle if you wanted too” Angel didn’t know if she was a pet person but she could have one if she wanted.

“I wouldn’t be any trouble?” it wasn’t so much a question as it was a statement. Cordelia’s eyes started to fill with hope when Angel denied she would be any trouble. “I wouldn’t get a pet beagle, so don’t worry about that”

“That’s a relief” he replied dryly making another sniffled laugh escape from her, a little more seriously now Angel, still holding her hand, asked her if she was going to stay. “Does that mean you’re staying?”

Nodding her answer, she felt as if a weight had been lifted off her chest and immediately, her world became better as hope shone through the dark cloud. Then Cordelia realized she hadn’t mentioned she had Dennis with her, she was sure that wouldn’t make a difference but he might not want his home haunted.

“You know what I said about not getting a pet beagle?” Cordelia inquired her once-teary eyes now full of innocence, sweetness and light. Although he was glad he had taken away a part of the sadness, Angel found himself grow cautious at that look.

“Yeah…” he said slowly, watching her carefully.

“What about a pet ghost?”

***

Later that evening, Cordelia found herself stood outside of Giles’ apartment, half hidden behind Angel. She wasn’t sure if she could face any of the others just yet, she could just hear their questions, thoughts and little comments behind her back. Well, if they didn’t like the fact she was back then that was their problem because until she got herself back on her feet, she was staying right here in Sunnyhell.

Once again sucking up her guts, Cordelia pushed so she stood in front of Angel and found herself knocking on the door. Refusing to let her nervousness or sorrow show, she pasted the biggest, brightest welcome-me-home smile on her face. The door opened revealing Anya who looked her over once or twice.

“You can’t have him back” was the first thing said to Cordelia who blinked once or twice before recognition set in.

“You’re wish girl” Cordelia said loudly and pointed at her, “You’re dating the guy I wished revenge on?”

“Yes and you can’t have him back” Anya stated again not even moving aside to let Cordelia and Angel into Giles’ apartment until Cordelia firmly said she wasn’t there to get Xander back. “You can’t come in unless you tell me you don’t want Xander” she said as much.

Angel moved his eyes from Anya to see how Cordelia would react to the ex vengeance demon. He didn’t really know what had happened between her and Xander, all he knew was that she had ended up in hospital the same night he and Buffy broke up.

“Believe me when I say I really, really don’t want Xander back” the brunette stated very firmly. “You’re more than welcome to him. Can we come in now? I don’t want to spend all night on the doorstep, known my luck somebody would throw quarters at me”

Why had he thought she would be any less than who she was? Angel shook his head lightly, greeted Anya and followed Cordelia into the apartment. If it wasn’t enough that he was still getting the stares from the group, it seemed Cordelia was subjected to the stares now.

“Cordelia, you’re here” Willow exclaimed with wide eyes though Buffy had informed them she had come back she wasn’t expecting her so soon. “You’re in Sunnydale”

“Not really, I’m just a figment of your imagination” Cordelia replied her tone just a little sarcastic. After the last few days the last thing she need was the Scooby gang form of the Spanish Inquisition. “It’s good to see you too Willow”

“I didn’t mean it wasn’t good to um, see you but it’s just, well…” Willow found herself just getting in deeper the more she talked and was relieved when Xander spoke up.

“What Will means is it’s a surprise to see you here again, after all wasn’t it you who said she would rather suffer a thousand fiery deaths than come back to Sunnyhell?” Xander pointed out with a welcoming smile on his face. Though it hadn’t been quite a year since he had last seen her, she hadn’t lost her presence and was as beautiful as ever.

Looking at her first steady boyfriend, Cordelia could see the changes in him; his face showed a little more maturity, he had filled out and developed shoulders, and he held a kind smile on his face. “It’s good to see you too, Xander” she replied with an amused smile on her face.

“But not too good though right?” Anya immediately questioned, looking suspiciously back and forth between them.

“Not that good trust me. He still has the awkward limb thing going on” Cordelia assured her with a grin at Xander that showed him Queen C was still in there.

“Yeah and her brains haven’t yet migrated to her head yet” Xander commented, “So no, not that good”

“Well, it’s good that it’s that good to see each other” Anya nodded with a beaming, friendly smile in Cordelia’s direction now that she was satisfied she wasn’t after her Xander. “If you need more vengeance I can recommend…”

“No!” Cordelia quickly exclaimed, holding up her hands to stop Anya there and then, “No, I had enough of vengeance in high school”

“Well better late than never” Giles calm voice floated into the living room, with Spike closely behind him. “How are you Cordelia?” Buffy had warned him the brunette was in somewhat of a bad way when she arrived at Angel’s mansion earlier.

“I’m fine, it’s nice to see you again Giles” she greeted back a little shyly, she had always thought him a handsome man for his age. Well educated, good natured and very well spoken, and although he dressed in tweed it suited his persona. “Still wearing tweed I see”

“Never bloody changes” the blonde muttered, looking the brunette girl up and down. “Hello pet, still looking smashing I see”

“Thanks…Hey! You did this before” Cordelia half yelled, looking around in question. “Why isn’t anybody killing him? He’s Spike! Evil vampire! Why isn’t he dead? Angel?” turning frightened eyes up to the silent ex-vampire next her, she asked silent questions.

“I’ve asked myself that very same thing” Xander spoke up in glee, “Well, that’s an extra vote on my side”

“Spike’s harmless Cordy” Angel reassured her, “He can’t hurt humans anymore” he gave a smug grin in Spike’s direction. “He can’t perform”

“Steady on mate, don’t go telling the little lady about my performance” Spike glared at Angel before addressing Cordelia. “I perform just fine pet, better than that bloke next to you”

“Ew and will you stop talking to me as though we’re friends?” Cordelia demanded hotly with an equally hot glare. “Last time I saw you, you had Angel chained up and had him tortured. Give me one good reason why you think you have the right to talk to me” she challenged the blonde.

“You know what?” Xander spoke up happily, “I’ve missed her. Welcome back Cordy” the old nickname slipping in easily which earned him a stern glare from Anya.

“Yeah, welcome back” Willow piped up at last after berating herself for her earlier comment. “I didn’t mean to sound weird before, it’s just…” she shrugged helplessly with a small smile.

“That’s okay, I know you didn’t. Believe me, I didn’t want to come back here because hello! Hell hole” Cordelia remarked. Looking around now, she saw everyone apart from Buffy and Oz; she guessed the blonde was off fighting something and she didn’t know where Oz was, but she hadn’t noticed a full moon tonight. “Where’s Oz?” she inquired after a moment or two.

“He left” Willow answered, not looking at the brunette or anyone else; none of them really seemed to care that he had left her. So she figured why tell them anything.

“Oh, wow. Um, sorry things didn’t work out” Cordelia responded a little softly, she could sympathize with the red head. After all, in a way Doyle had left her but it wasn’t as if they had ever been high school sweethearts or even a couple.

“Thanks. Buffy should be back soon, I think Riley’s coming with her” Willow told the group before flinching when she remembered Angel was still in the room. Risking a sideways glance at the man standing silently observing them, she saw him look at her with familiar eyes. The witch recognized those as questioning eyes and waited for the interrogation to follow.

“Riley? That’s the T.A right?” Angel looked at Willow and waited for her response with crossed arms. The timid witch gave a small nod in confirmation and explained in more detail than what Buffy had.

“He’s also part of the Initiative, they’re like this secret government facility that…” Willow began the explanation before being cut off by Spike.

“They’re a bunch of little boys with toys that go around ruining vampire’s lives is what they are” the blonde vampire voiced with undisguised hatred.

“Let me guess” Cordelia asked in an amused manner, “They’re the ones who made you fangless. How’d they do that anyway? Did they hand you over to a vampy dentist to have your fangs removed?” this elicited a chortle of laughter from Angel.

Spike just glared at her, his piercing blue eyes showing how much he wanted to hurt her right then but as usual, as soon as the violent thoughts entered his head the warning bells went off. “No, they put a damned behavioral chip in my head” he growled “Can’t even think of hurting you bloody humans, much less anything else”

“Well, that’s a good thing right? Not for you of course but for the rest of man and womankind it’s a good thing” Cordelia replied with a humored smile. She had expected things to be awkward but she had been pleasantly surprised. In a way, she had Anya and her bluntness to thank for that. “Also good for the ex-vampires of the world” she turned her attention back to Angel. “Can you imagine the carnage if Spike had been able to play get-your-own-back on Angel?” Cordelia stated ruefully. “You’d be in serious trouble mister”

“I can handle Spike, vampire extras or no vampire extras” Angel told her, a little put out by her wording.

“Sure you could” Cordelia relented, patting his shoulder soothingly in an aid to pacify his childish outburst of I’m-tougher-than-he-is malarkey. “So Buffy’s with G.I Joe and Oz is off in the blue yonder somewhere. Wow, here’s me thinking things would never change”

As if to realize she might have unknowingly hurt Willow’s feelings, the brunette turned apologizing hazel eyes on her. “Sorry, I got a little carried away there”

“S’okay” Willow replied meekly, why should she expect anything else? If her best friends didn’t care about her torn and broken heart, how could she expect someone who had only come back to be sympathetic? One day, they would all have broken hearts and they would turn to her for advice but she would be darned before she gave it to em.

“Now that we’re all reacquainted” Giles commanded their attention with a cough and a statement. The Englishman shuffled a few sheets of paper, pushed his glasses up on the bridge of his nose and looked at them all, Cordelia’s smiling face in particular. “We all have research to be getting on with…”

“Not me mate, I got to get me some violence” Spike made his excuse, giving Cordelia a quick wink that unnerved both her and Angel. His blue eyes twinkled and the little smirk that flitted his lips gave him a devilish, almost irresistible charm that Cordelia refused to find likeable.

Sauntering past Angel Spike paused, raised an eyebrow before whacking his ex-grandsire across the back of the head.

“Oww!” the yelped at the same time, Angel curled his hand into a fist, ready to hit back but when he saw the vampire holding his head he stopped before his fist made contact. Cordelia stepped forward, whacking Spike on the back of his head, adding to the pain he was already feeling. In turn, Spike snapped his head up, growling at the brunette who was smirking at him and looking at him as if to say nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah.

“That’s what you get” Angel stated smugly instead of hitting him.

Shaking the vestiges of pain away, Spike rubbed his chiseled jaw and grinned, “Bloody worth it though. See you folks later, don’t fancy wading through musty books and waiting for G.I Jane to show up”

“Bye Spike, happy growling people to death” Cordelia said in a sickly sweet voice that had the vampire giving her a tight, sarcastic smile in reply. Sighing to herself, she found herself smiling from ear to ear, “I never thought I’d say this but I’m glad to be back” and she got smiles in return.

Unfortunately, Angel was the only one not really smiling. He was too busy thinking about the reasons why Buffy had never given him details about the Initiative and her involvement with them. Or how deep her involvement with Riley actually was. He would have a chance to talk to her when they went out on patrol later that evening and they could talk. That was another thing, why did Buffy keep insisting that she patrol alone?

Angel made a vow to himself to find all this out when they went on patrol.


Part 7:
“I’ll be over after college, okay?” Buffy stated to Angel as she tried to juggle her book bag, a jacket, a double ring binder and a paper bag filled with donuts. Angel watched the things wobble as she attempted to keep them from falling to the floor, it was the Slayer’s expression that made it funny. Her mouth was curled up in an annoyed smile and her eyebrows kept burrowing into a frown.

“Can you manage all that?” he asked and wisely kept the grin off his face so her fist didn’t have something to wipe off!

Buffy nodded as if holding a million things at once wasn’t a problem, “Yeah I can manage, no problem” even her voice was strained as she tried her damndest not to drop anything. “So after college?”

“Yeah, see you then. Have a good day” Angel watched her as she wobbled away from the front door. Too stubborn for her own good, a bit like another female he knew. Shaking his head, he closed the door and wondered if stubbornness was a trait all females had. Maybe it was in their genes or maybe they just liked to make life hard for the men.

“Buffy gone to college?” a voice made him jump a mile.

Cordelia watched as Angel visibly flinched and spun round clutching his chest, glaring her into the ground. “Scared ya did I? Good. Now you know how it feels stealth guy!” she told him. “Coffee?” she held up her cup and smiled sweetly, confirming to Angel that she wanted him to make it.

“We’re gonna talk about those lessons” Angel replied as he took the cup off her as he walked past her through to the kitchen. Flicking the switch, he set about making the coffee with efficiency that scared Cordelia! Her eyes took in the way Angel carefully measured out an exact level teaspoon amount of the granules, followed by an exact level teaspoon amount of sugar and then setting the open carton of milk between the two cups.

“You need to get out more” she stated seriously when she clicked on to the fact he was indeed watching the kettle boil. That was something. “So what have you been doing now that you’re sun capable?” Cordelia asked.

Turning to her, Angel shrugged half heartedly, “Nothing much to be honest, I don’t really know what there is to do”

“Angel, there’s tons of stuff you can do” she urged, her eyes wide with disbelief that he hadn’t yet hit a beach or gone surfing. That was an image she wasn’t likey to forget in a while, Angel in a pair of Bermuda shorts holding a surf board calling people ‘Dude.’ Cordelia shook her head to get rid of the image before she made it a reality! “There’s arcades, malls, beaches, little outdoor cafes on the promenade. Are you saying you haven’t done any of that?”

Angel nodded and lowered his eyes from her wide shocked ones, it was true he hadn’t done anything since becoming human and he suddenly felt like the layabout he had been before he was turned. Shame passed over his face, making him bite his lip; he would never change he thought.

Cordelia frowned deeply, that wasn’t right at all. Here Buffy had an amazing gift and she hadn’t took advantage of it? She hadn’t experienced any of these things with Angel? That seemed really sad to her.

“Gimme a half hour to ger dressed” she stated firmly, bringing Angel’s attention back to her. “Then you and I, Sun Boy, are gonna have some serious fun time Cordy-Style. Forget the coffee or keep waiting for the kettle to boil whichever you prefer. I won’t be long”

A little stunned that she hadn’t thought him lazy or anything like that, Angel watched her literally race out of the kitchen and bounding footsteps pummel the staircase. He wasn’t sure what fun Cordy-Style meant but he knew for sure it was bound to be anything but boring.

*~*~*~*~*

An hour and a half later, Cordelia rushed down the stairs to find him reading. “What are you doing? I said we were going out”

Angel glanced up, eyebrow raised pointedly and peeked at his watch in an exaggerated movement. “And you said you’d be half hour” keeping his hair styling time to himself.

“Well, I had to shower you know, it wouldn’t be much fun for you to be stuck with smell-o-girl all day would it?” she demanded defensively. A short purple denim skirt grazed her knees, a simple cotton t-shirt clung to the swell of her breasts and her feet were encased in kitten heeled mules. The thick chestnit of her hair tied up in a ponytail, allowing her face to be viewed without obstructions.

Angel silently appraised her, he’d always thought she suited her hair tied back like that and she looked positively beaming then he realised she was still waiting for an answer!

“No” he responded having forgot what she asked, he’d been too busy checking her out!

“Well are you ready yet?” Cordelia asked and tapped her foot impatiently.

Was he ready? “I’ve been ready for the last hour and a half Cordy, I’ve been waiting for you” Angel replied dryly. Tossing his book somewhat carelessly to one side, he stood up and stretched his arms, “So what does fun Cordy-Style entail?” he asked.

Cordelia grinned.

*~*~*~*~*

Buffy walked through the halls of college, weaving her way through the throng of students with one goal in mind. Getting to class without dropping any of her stuff, yes she had Slayer strength but having to lug half your life around just for one class could weigh a girl down. Her fingers had little red marks where the large binder was cutting into her skin and her shoulder was aching from the strap of her bag. Why didn’t she let Angel her?!

“Buffy” Willow scuttled up alongside her friend, holding nothing Buffy thought bitchily. The red head really needed someone to talk to, she had just walked through the cafeteria only to hear her and Oz’s song playing on a radio. She needed a shoulder to cry one.

Why was Willow holding nothing and she was holding everything?! That wasn’t fair at all. “I don’t suppose you could give me a hand here Will?” she asked hopefully, missing the look of heart break on her best friend’s face.

“Sure” Willow immediately went to unload some of the things from the Slayer’s precarious grasp.

“Allow me to help the little lady” Riley had watched the red head go to help her friend and decided that if he was going to get noticed by Buffy then he should do something sweet like carry her books. He easily took the large binder and book bag from her, being inwardly pleased when she turned grateful eyes on him. “Hey Buffy, Willow” he greeted.

Willow scowled slightly, what about her? She needed help too you know, Oz had gone and no-one cared. Why was it whenever Xander or Buffy needed her she was there for them but when it came to her, she was alone? That wasn’t fair. “Buffy, I really need…” she got cut off.

“Are you going to history?” Riley asked as he and Buffy started a slow and casual walk down the hall. His toned muscles caused the material of his shirt to curl up, drawing the Slayer’s gaze there appreciatively and her eyes tracked a path down to his stomach.

“Uh, I’m sorry what?” Buffy asked, shaking her head of her thoughts and refusing point blank to look anymore. Bad Buffy she scolded herself, bad.

“History?” the handsome young man repeated his question.

“Yeah, gotta love history right? I mean, where would we be without history?” could she get any lamer? Sometimes being her really sucked!

Willow pouted as she watched her so-called best friend walk away after barely acknowledging she was there. Xander was the same. Last night, he’d told her she had to let go of Oz. How could she let go of the only person who had ever truly loved her? She turned away, shoulders slumped in defeat and trudged back the way she came.

*~*~*~*~*

Angel peered up at the sign above the door of the baker’s Cordelia had dragged him too. A baker’s was her idea of fun? And she told him he needed to get out more.

“I love doing this” Cordelia breathed excitedly, pushing the door open and inhaled deeply. The aromatic scent of freshly baked bread whirled around her as she got pulled to the counter by a magnetic force. Light, salty and plain old yummy; the scent made her mouth water as she feasted her eyes on the selection through the glass counter.

The shop was warm, well lit and cosy; the women working there were dressed in white coats, matching hats and their hair tied back with nets. There were three large ovens, obviously in full use cooking fresh food and keeping the room at a nice temperature. Behind the glass counter lay all kinds of bread, cakes, buns and biscuits of varying shapes and sizes, each one looked delicious.

Angel cocked his head to one side curiosly, what was so appealing about bread? He joined Cordelia’s side and looked at the different types of bread, he knew about donuts and cakes but what was all this uncut, lightly salted with sesame seeds stuff all about?

“Angel” she nudged him, “Vampires have no taste right?” she asked in a whisper.

“No”

“You’re gonna love this. Excuse me” Cordelia called for attention.

“How can I help you?” the lady asked with a warm smile as she approached the young woman and handsome man.

“Um…” Cordelia popped a fingertip in her mouth thoughtfully, drawing Angel’s gaze there for a single second before he forced himself to look away. “Could we try some stuff please? My friend hasn’t tried any of this stuff before”

The lady thought for a few seconds, wondering if she was lying but the hopeless look on the man’s face was enough to quench that thought. “Of course dear” she agreed kindly with a smile, “We make the best bread for ten miles you know”

“I know, I used to buy all my sandwiches here before I moved to L.A. Could we start with some… uncut, lightly salted bread please? And do you have any butter cus dry bread give me hiccups”

The lady beamed in approval of her choice, she went one better and took a newly baked loaf of bread from one of the ovens. Aromatic and rich, Angel’s mouth began to water in anticipation of tasting that. He could remember days when his mother used to bake things like this and he used to love it. He tried to describe how the bread smelled but he couldn’t, all he knew was that it looked divine.

“Angel?” Cordelia held out a slice that had been cut, it had a thin layer of butter on top, white in colour so it was real butter and not margerine. “Try it, it’s not gonna bite!”

He took the slice offered to him, it was very warm to the touch but not hot and the bread was soft. Angel wrinkled his nose and nibbled at the corner before taking a huge bite!

“Mmmm!” he moaned appreciatively, it seemed to melt in his mouth, the heat of the bread literally made the butter turn to liquid on his tongue. Soft and chewy, it was absolutely delicious. “Wow” Angel said after he swallowed, “That’s really good. I’ll take two thanks… Could I try some of that weird looking cream cake please?”

Oh God, she’d created a monster!

*~*~*~*~*

“You cheated” Cordelia pouted petulantly and crossed her arms over her chest, “You so cheated” she reapted when he shook his head, grinning victoriously at her.

“How in the world could I cheat?” Angel asked pointedly, making his stance a carbon copy of hers. Both people stood in a stare-out, one had accusing hazel eyes and the other had smug chocolate eyes.

“You used some of your left over vampy skills, that’s how” she replied as she now blatantly refused to look at him.

“I don’t have any left over vampy skills Cordy, if I did then I doubt I’d be sitting in the sun” he pointed out, trying to get the smile back on her face by twisting her words round a little.

“No, that would mean you’re still a vampire” she snarked back, totally aware she was being childish but she couldn’t help it. He was being childish by not admitting to the fact he cheated. “And you still cheated”

“I did not cheat, there is no possible way I could cheat” Angel exasperated with an exaggerated eye roll.

“Chea-ter Chea-ter Chea-ter!”

“Would you stop acting like a baby?”

“I am not acting like a baby”

“Oh and saying Chea-ter Chea-ter Chea-ter is being adult is it?” Angel copied her little singing, causing Cordelia to snap her head back round to look at him. Her lips tightened into a thin line and his lips curled inwards; her eyes blinked and his eyes sparkled; her cheeks inflated and his cheeks puffed out.

Cordelia’s shoulders began to shake and she covered her mouth with a hand, Angel tongue made a shape on the inside of his cheek while his lips pursed out. Suddenly, their with-held laughter exploded in unladylike snorts from her and a deep, rich and very male sound from him.

“Oh… God!” she gasped, “I’ve never heard you do anything like that. That was so funny Angel, God! Who knew you had a sense of humor?”

“Good question” Angel joked back as he settled back in the comfortable chair parked outside the quaint little cafe on the promenade. The warmth of the sun poured down on him and he could feel decades of horror slowly drift away in the waves that he could see crashing on the beach just in view. Colors were so vibrant and alive during the daytime, flowers, the sky everything seemed so rich.

He could taste the salt in the coastal air, he could feel how the sun made normal humans relax and he could see life in its simplest form. Angel opened his eyes to find Cordelia no longer laughing but looking at him wistfully with her chin in her palm. The hazel hues of her irises gleamed spun gold against the sun’s rays and the skin that had seemed deeply sun kissed to him before now looked as gold as her eyes.

Her chestnut hair literally reflected every ray of light that bore down on her, it was shining like dark, polished mahogany and she honestly looked beautiful right then. Her heart-shaped face captured her very essence, youthful maturity held perfectly by soft feminine features that lit up when she smiled like that.

“What?” Cordelia asked as she tilted her head to one side questioningly.

“I was thinking how pretty you looked in the sunlight”

Instead of the vain comment he expected, Angel was more than pleasantly surprised by the shy but beaming smile turned his way.

*~*~*~*~*

Later that night, Buffy trampled into her house followed by Spike who was making his usual sarcastic comments well known. By the look on her face, it was clear she almost at her wits end with the blonde vampire. All night it had been “The poof this, the poof that and the poof the other!

“Spike” Buffy spun round with a growl, “If you don’t shut up, I’m going to kill you”

“Don’t you like me no more Slayer?” Spike retorted, happy he was still able to something evil even if it was make comments that grated on her. The smirk he gave pushed her over the edge and she pulled out her stake threateningly. He backed off, still smirking openly at her, “Aww pet, you wouldn’t kill a harmless vamp like little old me would ya?!”

“AARRGGHH!” Buffy screamed through her teeth, threw her stake to the floor and stomped to where she knew the others would be waiting for her. At everyone’s questioning and concerned looks, she just simply shook her head telling them not to ask.

“By that silent response I take the Fangless Wonder still wanders the Earth?” Xander asked, his face showing he hoped Buffy would answer negatively.

“Unfortunately”

“Uhh!” Xander groaned as his hopes were once again crushed under Spike’s weight. He glanced at Cordelia who was flicking through a book and obviously not paying any attention to any of them or the book. He smiled fondly, remembering the good times they shared before he went behind her back and mentally smacked himself. Not that he’d trade Anya of course, but she was Cordy and how could he not have regrets?

When Spike sauntered into the living room, he caught the odd way his ex-grandsire kept looking at the brunette on the couch and smirked a little more. The blonde made the decision and dropped his lethal body down next to her. “Cheerleader” he greeted chirpily.

“Ew!” Cordelia shuffled along a little and went back to pretending to read.

“Spike!” both Buffy and Angel stated warningly.

“What?” he answered innocently, “She smells nicer than the Whelp!”

“Hey!” Xander snapped and glared at the thorn in his and everyone else’s side.

As the insults, barbs and comments got hurtled around the room, Willow’s lip popped out in a tiny pout when she realized everyone had forgotten about her again. She was here too, she silently told them, while they were too busy playing Pass-The-Insult, she was having to deal with her broken heart all alone.

Unseen, she slipped out of the room and into Buffy’s backyard where Oz had once chased her through during his monthly werewolf cycle. Willow’s pout grew into an angry frown as she started talking to herself.

“Oh Willow!” she mimicked Cordelia’s conversation from earlier, “Angel and I had the best time today, he cheated at the arcade by the way, we went to the beach and a little to-die-for café on the promenade!” her anger grew into fury.

“Oh Willow!” she now mimicked Buffy’s conversation from yesterday, “Spike may an evil soulless vampire but he still helps and I can’t stake him when he’s helpless can I? Oh no, we can’t have you staking a vampire who tried to kill you can we?” Willow snarked.

“Well if Angel and Spike are so good then why don’t you both just marry them?”


…TO BE CONTINUED…

THIS STORY APPEARS TO BE UNFINISHED


 

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