Title: "Life and Death"
Author: Mala
Spoilers: AU "Angel" S1 and "BtVS" S4.
Rating/Classification: 'R'. A/C, D/B stuff. Angst, conversation.
Disclaimer: Joss, not me.
Summary: Doyle tries to comfort a shellshocked Buffy while Cordelia realizes just how important Angel is to her.

Doyle was 50% demon, 50% man. And 0% lucky when it came to women--which was why he found himself pounding down a flight of stairs after a vampire slayer who would probably rip him apart when he caught her. But, oddly enough, that was the last thing he was afraid of.

"Buffy, wait!" he cried, bursting into the office and grabbing her elbow before she could round Angel's desk. She shook him off, whirling around, and he was once again faced by the golden loveliness that had met him when he'd opened the door to her ten minutes ago.

The color was fading back into her face, anger flushing her cheeks, and her dark eyes were brimming with tears. "Why?" she hissed, crossing her arms tightly against her chest. And what she had seen upstairs seemed to be flashing before her all over again because her slim form was racked with shudders.

"'Cause you've got it all wrong." He slid his hands into the pockets of his olive cargo pants, leaning against the edge of the desk. "Don't run outta here playin' the betrayed lover."

"I *am* the betrayed lover." Her voice shook. "Didn't you *see* what *I* saw?" She dragged a hand through her long, wheat blond hair. . .and then it paused mid-stroke, lowered slowly. "No, you probably *knew* all along, didn't you?" she demanded, eyes an icy green. "How long have they been--? Since they moved here? *Before*?" She choked harshly. "God! Cordy just couldn't wait to get her claws in him, could she? I should've known. . ."

"Enough!" Doyle reached out, catching her arm again, and ever so coldly shook his head. "Stop it," he murmured, remembering the night Angel had brought Cordelia in. The bruises on her face and arms. .. her ripped blouse. . . how she'd muffled a cry against Angel's shoulder when she'd heard an unknown male voice greet them. For weeks after that, she'd moved about like a zombie. And Angelus had never been a barrel of laughs himself. Since they'd begun this whatever of theirs, this place had gotten so much brighter. Even happy.

"You're on their side," the Slayer accused, lower lip trembling.

He patted his jacket pockets, pulling out his flask. Uncapping the flat, silver container, he took a swig. As he swirled the fiery whiskey around on his tongue, he watched her shift from foot to foot. . .her fists clenched and unclenched. . .her chest heaved under her tight, black tank top. What did she see when she looked at him? The hideous, spiny, creature under his mortal mask? Or a casually dressed, dark-haired, gent who was siding with her ex' out of male solidarity?

"I'm not on a 'side'," he murmured, just before the silence could lull her into a state of comfort. "But they're me friends, Slayer. An' I've seen what they've been through. Ye can't know what that's like."

"Can't I? Angel was supposed to love me forever! What part of 'always' did he not get?"

"Who says that's changed?" Doyle could see what had attracted the vampire in the apartment above them. Buffy's innocence. Her passion. Her legs. He took another draught of whiskey. "Who'd ye see up there, Lass? *Angel* and Delia. Not *Angelus*."

"And that's supposed to make it okay? That he'd rather have meaningless sex with *her* than love me?" Buffy stalked over to the lumpy, striped, couch against the facing wall, kicking it. Once. Twice. Three times. Until it moved a full foot to the right and made a file cabinet shake.

Doyle tried not to grin. A tantrum meant that the worst was over. . .and his head was not in danger of leaving his body tonight. "I didn't say it were meanin'less," he corrected. "It has a lot o' meanin' for both of them." He cocked his head, sniffing. The faintest trace of cologne clung to her clothes. . . or was it her skin? A masculine scent separate from her own vanilla perfume. "Can ye say the same about the boy you're bangin'?" he wondered.

"What?!!?!?" She stopped abusing the couch, facing him. Sparks lit her eyes. "What are you talking about?"

"Ye've got a steady," he said matter-of-factly. "Probably goes to your local uni, doesn't he? A nice, stable, human."

The telltale blush of mortification told him he was right. "So?" she tossed out, defensively.

He recapped his flask and put it back in his coat pocket, moving towards her. "So, its okay for you but not for Angel? He's jus' supposed to brood an' worship yuir mem'ry while *you* move on? Is that how ye'd been seein' it? How liberated of ye."

Her fist flew out and he sidestepped it just as it brushed the air where his face had been. "I-I don't love Riley Finn!" she argued, sniffling brokenly. "He's just safe. . .and nice."

"And that's supposed to make it okay?" He mimicked her earlier words and tone.

Her eyes widened, as if she couldn't believe he'd turned them around on her. And then she laughed, half-sob and half-chuckle, as she sank down onto the couch. "I get it," she whispered after some minutes had stretched along. "I get, Doyle. Lesson learned."

"Do you?" He looked down at her, unable to keep from aching for this tiny girl with so much weighing on her soul.

"Yeah, Doyle," she assured, wetly, wiping at tears that leaked out and spilled down her cheeks. "I do."

"Allan," he corrected gently. "The name's Allan. An' that was the best of me moralizing. The rest is horseshit."

"Somehow, I doubt that." Irony filled a weak smile. "Angel's really lucky to have you as a friend."

"I tell him that every day." Doyle carefully sat down next to her, knotting his hands in front of him. "Don't judge them too harshly, Buffy," he said, quietly.

All the fight seemed to drain out of her, and her tired head dropped to rest on his shoulder. As if it belonged there. "I'm sorry, Allan. Don't judge *me* too harshly either."

He pulled her more securely against his side, numbly stroked her hair. Judging Buffy Summers was suddenly the last thing on his mind. Falling in love with her was the first.


She curled into Angel's arms, rubbing her cheek against his chest as their legs interlocked. He was so quiet. . .he'd been quiet since he'd carried her to bed. He had to be thinking about Buffy. It made sense. And she understood it. She'd been in Buffy's place last year. . .stumbling in on the love of her life and another girl. . .horrified and eviscerated. She had the scars to prove it.

But empathy didn't mean she was sorry. She *couldn't* be sorry. Angel meant too much. He meant everything now. And the Bitch Queen in her would fight for him. . .couldn't give him up. She kissed his shoulder, kissed his collarbone, kissed his throat. A sob threatened its way to her lips and she choked it back, kissing his jaw.

"Delia?" He wound his fingers in her hair, stopping her from reaching his lips, making her look up into his damp, secretive eyes.

"Y-yeah?" She didn't want to hear. . .didn't want to have her suspicions confirmed. . .but if that was what he needed, she would listen.

His thumb brushed across her cheekbone, making her shudder. "Don't," he pronounced slowly. "Don't worry."

Tears she hadn't wanted to shed sprang forth and he drank them up as they fell. "Okay. . .okay, Angel. I won't," she promised.

A lie. Because she suddenly had something worse to worry about than Buffy. The realization was as insidious and seductive as his mouth on her skin.

She was in love with him. Damn it, she'd fallen in love with him.


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