Circle in the Sand 4

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 to 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

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