Circle in the Sand 3

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 she 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 softly 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 to 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 a 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

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