He wondered the entire way to the office if they were making love. If they'd seen Buffy at all or if they were ensconced up in that bedroom of theirs just shagging the day away. Not that he really hated them for it. It wasn't their fault. It wasn't their fault that the first girl since Harry to pay him any mind at all had fled in sheer terror after sex. His ex-wife Harry. The one that nobody knew he'd had. 'Cause Allan Francis Doyle wasn't the marrying kind. No. He was the betting kind. . .the snitching kind. . .now the sidekick kind and the fucking kind, too. But they were downstairs when he opened the door. . . actually working for once, not fighting or brooding or kissing--Delia typing up something with her long-arsed nails and Angel reading over some kind of report.
And before he was even halfway over the threshhold, Cordelia was up, reaching for his arm. "Doyle! You look like Hell!" she gasped, flinching.
"Thanks, Princess." He winced as she dragged him out of the waning sunlight over to the couch and forcibly sat him down.
"Angel, come over here!" Cordelia directed without looking. . .but her lover was all ready out of his chair. "Are you sick?" she demanded.
In a manner of speaking. . ."Uh uh," he assured, as the partial reasons for his despair hunkered down in front of him, looking, for all the world, like worried parents. "I'm okay, Guys. Really. Too many drinks last night, that's all."
Two sets of impossibly dark brown eyes told him he hadn't lied very well. And Angel's cool palm was pressed briefly against his forehead. "He's not hot," the vampire murmured.
"Yeah, but look at that shirt. . .and the lack of shaving. . .he's definitely not the Kodak of health, you know?"
"Stop talkin' about me like I'm not here, ye feckin' tossers," he muttered, jerking away from the hands and rubbing his still throbbing temples.
He knew they were sharing another concerned look over his head. It made him want to retch. Sure, they'd been oblivious to everything but their own pain for weeks. . .and now they noticed him. Of all times to start. . .
"Has Buffy been here today?" he asked, looking up at them.
They said it at the same time. With the same amount of panic. Although the tortured guilt on Angel's face was much different. Which gave him his answer. He wanted to be relieved. And instead all he could think about was what he'd thought about for the last several hours. Her eyes. Her lips. Diving into her body and drowning in the deep end. He stared at his hands. . . noticing that his thumb nail was blackened. . .where had he stubbed it?
"We made love last night." As soon as he said it, he knew it was wrong and he laughed. An uglier sound had never come out of his mouth. "Correction. I made love to her. . .an' she fucked me."
He couldn't look at them. But he heard both of them gasp. And then the hands grabbed his shoulders, jerked him up. "Doyle? You. . .you were supposed to. . .to explain to her. . .not. . .not. . ." He was fairly certain that his last moments on earth were happening. . .that he was about to be broken in half by a hulking, angry, bloodsucker.
"Angel. Put him down." Delia saved his life, and her hand was comforting on his arm. "What happened?" she asked softly. . .sitting down on the couch beside him.
"We got drunk. We were lonely. She wanted revenge and I wanted laid. Ev'ry cliched thing ye can think of, I guess." He stared down at the tops of Angel's shoes. He could see himself in them. And Cordelia was right. He did look like Hell. Not like he'd had a piece of never ending purgatory last night in the sack. "She left me this mornin'. Said she was comin' over here to talk to you."
Angel's face was expressionless. Not as furious as he'd sounded. Just blank. And he sat down on the other end of the couch. "We didn't see her," he murmured. There were loads of self-flagellation in his tone. Like a sodding fallen friar. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry." But then his eyes snapped back to sense. "She got to you, didn't she? Her little fist just squeezed your heart up the minute you saw her?" He chuckled, hiding his face in his hands for an instant before looking over at Delia. "Buffy's easy to love."
The lovers shared yet another long, private look. Doyle could only nod as they worked out whatever the sentence had brought up. "Yeah," he admitted, gasping. "Yeah, mate. She is. And that's the pits of it."
He slowly stood up and stumbled back towards the door. A few more at the pub wouldn't hurt at this point. Not when he was all ready quite mucked up. Angel scooted across the space he'd vacated, taking Cordelia's hands in his and pressing them to his mouth. "I didn't want to hurt her. . .I never wanted that," the vampire said, softly. "I just wanted her to be happy. And instead I hurt her more and she hurt you."
Doyle shrugged. Harry. Buffy. Double letters and 'y's. His lot in life. Flush away the pain in a bottle and move on. He grabbed onto the edge of the door. "It's all right, Angel. I made me bed. . .I'm going to go lie in it alone. You two lovebirds have fun in yours, eh?"
There was something oddly grateful in Delia's voice when she whispered "Have a scotch for us, okay?"
And something knowing in Angel's as he sighed, "Be careful."
Buffy curled into a tight little ball, sitting against the wall outside the apartment door. She knew he would come home eventually. He would come home and find her here and let her in. Or would he wonder why she hadn't just gone home to Sunnydale? Would he wonder if she was coming back because she hadn't been able to do better? To make Angel come back to her? Because she'd freaked outside the office?
She was wondering that herself.
But all she could make sense of was the fact that Doyle had wanted her to stay. Even as she'd put her clothes on and ran for the door, he'd wanted her. He'd pleaded with her. After just one night. After one night Angel had turned into Angelus and mocked her. After one night, Parker Abrams had never called again. But Allan Doyle, with his bloodshot eyes and broken voice. . .
"Oh, cut it out, Buffy!" She choked, dashing the tears from her eyes with the base of her palm. Typical of her, wasn't it? Making the Great American soap opera out of everything?
The clothes she'd changed into at her dad's place felt like sackcloth. She felt tired and gross and hungover even though she'd scrubbed clean and smiled pretty for Hank and his new girlfriend at lunch. She wanted to go inside Doyle's roach infested, messy, little room and climb into bed again. She wanted to bury her face in his chest and pretend nothing else existed. Not Angel. Not slaying. Not L.A. or home.
But she'd told him he wasn't enough. She'd said "sorry" like some stupid greeting card. She'd thrown all his advice and his kindness and the memory of his lean body back in his face. Because it hadn't supposed to feel good. It had supposed to feel drunk and hazy and angry. But he'd kissed her through the alcohol. He'd touched her through the fog. He'd made her feel and then he'd been noble enough to push her off and turn her down when she'd pounced on him. And then honest enough to ask her not to leave him.
That was why she was sitting in front of the door. On the threadbare carpet, watching ants crawl over her shoes to get to their destination at the crack in the wall. She couldn't leave Doyle just yet.
Keys jingled and fell on top of one of her sneakers. "Damn an' blast!" Then. . ."B-Buffy?"
She picked up the tangled keys by their chain, stood slowly. "Hi." He hadn't shaved. And his eyes were still watery. Scotch fumes came off his tan leather jacket and his ripped black jeans. But he made her forget to breathe.
"Hi." He reached out. . .his hand was shaking as it brushed her hair. "Are you all right?"
She searched his face for some sign. . .some sign that he was mad. That he was going to swear at her in Gaelic or something. And she couldn't find one. "Are you?"
"I will be." Doyle moved closer, taking the keys from her fingers. And then he did swear. In English. "Fuck. Fuckin' damn me to purgatory."
No more words. No more self-questioning. Buffy lifted her mouth up for his taking. And he took. He took and he gave.
They moved inside. . .and, for a while, nothing else existed.
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