R: Some profanity, eventually violence and intense moments
Summary: Doyle learns about his family history
Content: Little bit of D/C, Wes/H. And I'm still being mean to Doyle. You have been warned.
Disclaimers: They belong to Mutant Enemy, et al. You know the drill.
Feedback: Go ahead. I can take it.
Distribution: If you have the earlier ones, go for it. Others please ask.
Spoilers: Mild ones everywhere.
Notes: Another exciting episode of 'Pigs In Space'. Please excuse the acid flashbacks, but those Muppets were so cute. This is a follow up to 'Secrets', happening a couple of weeks later. Since we know so little of Brachens, might as well make 'em evil! And my apologies to a certain NHL team which shall go nameless...well, not really. And considering their recent playoff non-performance they don't deserve the apology, but anyway...
"When I was born, they looked at me and said
What a good boy, what a smart boy, what a strong boy.
And when you were born, they looked at you and said
What a good girl, what a smart girl, what a pretty girl.
We've got these chains that hang around our necks
People want to strangle us with, before we take our first breath."
- Barenaked Ladies, 'What a Good Boy'
"Funny thing is, I thought bein' friends again meant you might be nice to me."
"I am being nice. I'm making breakfast for you and all you have to do is show up in the kitchen."
"You make it sound so easy," Doyle complained. Staying with Angel was never a free ride, but Angel's latest incentive to keep Doyle's rehabilitation program going was not amusing, at least not for Doyle. Angel had decided Doyle would have to walk to the kitchen if he wanted something to eat. And as far as Doyle was concerned, that was just not fair.
"I'm gonna fall down an' break my neck any second now, an' I can't just snap it back every time," he griped.
"You're not going to fall and you know it," Angel had a grin on his face as he tightened his grip on the collar of Doyle's shirt. He would never have allowed Doyle to fall, and Doyle did know that, but otherwise Angel found no need to give any help.
"You're a very pale imitation of me mum," grumbled Doyle.
"Just consider yourself a weeble," Angel told him.
"A what?" Doyle had no idea what Angel was talking about.
"A weeble. You wobble, but you don't fall down." Angel had also decided Doyle could not use the wheelchair in the apartment, at least not when Angel was there to make sure Doyle didn't fall and injure himself. As of a few days ago, Doyle had braces on his legs--which he despised--and if he used them in combination with crutches he could manage some semblance of walking. It simply took far too much time and effort by Doyle's estimation.
Eventually, after nearly half an hour of struggling, Doyle made it into the kitchen and collapsed into a chair with his face down on the table, exhausted. "An' I thought walkin' again would be great," he whined.
"One of these days, it will be," Angel had started breakfast. "I didn't have to catch you this time. That qualifies as improvement."
Doyle merely grunted. He defined improvement differently than Angel did, and under his definition, there was none. He still couldn't feel or move any more than he could weeks ago. And no amount of encouragement from Angel could do anything to improve his mood. Not that Angel wasn't trying; it just wasn't helping.
"Wesley called last night."
"Yippee." Wesley and Harry had just returned from their honeymoon, but Doyle really did not want to hear about how wonderful it had been. Not right away, at least, and definitely not from Wesley.
"He said they found some interesting things about Brachens on their trip," Angel continued, ignoring Doyle's explicit non-interest. "And they brought back a few things. Specifically something for you."
"They coulda found out somethin' interestin' about Brachens without leavin'," Doyle commented as he finally summoned the effort to sit upright. He didn't want to hear what a good time Wesley and Harry had, but he wouldn't mind knowing a bit more about his demon side. Especially if they could tell him anything about why it was he was (sort of) walking again. Even with Angel's help, he still had found nothing in the books that would even begin to explain. "Ya didn't happen to tell him what we learned?"
"No. They have a surprise for you, and you have one for them," Angel said matter-of-factly as he handed Doyle his breakfast.
"Thanks," Doyle said quickly and dove into the food.
"Cordelia called too," Angel added.
"She did?" Doyle inquired, his interest suddenly piqued. Cordelia hadn't been back to the office since the warehouse, and Doyle genuinely missed her. He had tried calling her apartment but apparently hadn't caught her at home. That, or he was now in the same category where Cordelia used to keep Aura.
Angel looked amused. "She said she'd try to make it in this morning. Thought you'd want to know."
"You kiddin'? That's the best news I've heard in...a couple years?" For the first time in weeks, in fact, Doyle had something to look forward to.
Cordelia took a couple weeks off after the nearly disastrous encounter with Santiago. Officially, she told Angel her throat really hurt and she could barely talk. This was true, but it wasn't why she wanted the time off. For the first time in her life, she felt like she needed mental time off. She had never told anyone, but she was totally and completely terrified of fire. A fully engulfed warehouse, not to mention burning things falling on her head and nearly losing Doyle to the flames--that was a terror she needed time alone to work through.
It took her a few days before she even told Dennis why she was so upset.. He was very understanding, fortunately. He'd been feeding her cough drops around the clock in the first place, and for a non-corporeal being he was very easy to talk to. 'That's probably why he's so easy to talk to,' she thought. But she felt ready to go back to work now.
Doyle was her other reason for not going back at first. She was having some trouble coming to terms with what she'd seen at the warehouse. One of the few things in her life she'd ever been able to fully comprehend was that Doyle was never going to walk again. And now, knowing that he was healing, and might soon walk again, actually scared her.
She had wondered for nearly a year about the kiss he had given her before he 'died'. Wondered what might have been, what could have been, whether she ever could have learned to love that face. 'Doubt it,' had been her first thought. But sometimes she thought she might be able to. And when Doyle returned, she discovered thinking about whether she could learn to love him was no longer rhetorical--it was imperative. She would have to decide if it was in her to love this, this, well, whatever it was that Doyle was. In her heart she knew this would be the most important decision of her life, and she was terrified she would make the wrong decision.
Dammit, why do I even have to make up my mind? Why can't some rich guy sweep me off my feet before I have to think about what I really want? Because even when he was dead,' she reminded herself, you never stopped thinking about Doyle.'
The office was empty when she arrived, but it was early. They were probably downstairs. Cordelia sucked up her nerve and went down to the apartment.
Doyle was on the couch, reading. At her first sight of Doyle, Cordelia had to fight off a bit of panic. He looked different to her even though she knew nothing had actually changed. Well, one thing had. The ugly metal things on his legs were downright repulsive.
"Cordy, girl! I missed ya," Doyle perked up and lost interest in his book immediately. He swung his legs off the couch and reached for a pair of crutches. "You're a sight to see, too. New outfit?"
Cordelia was briefly, surprisingly without words as she watched Doyle struggle to his feet. "Uh, yeah, it is, you like?" She realized she didn't really sound like herself and resolved to speak in her normal fashion. "And what are those hideous things? I think I saw something like that at a store you had to be eighteen to go in."
For a moment Doyle looked a little deflated. She hadn't meant to hurt his feelings that much. "Darlin', I was gonna give you the biggest hug of your life, but now....I dunno," Doyle started to back off. "Nah. I'm gonna do it anyway."
Doyle half-wobbled, half-staggered the remaining steps to her, then nearly fell on her in his urgent attempt to get at least one arm around her. "Now wait, I think we need a rule around here. No falling on people," she informed him.
Doyle didn't answer her; instead he held her tightly for what seemed like an hour. His strong arms around her and his warm breath on her neck felt wonderful, and for a moment she hugged him back. Then she remembered she wasn't sure what she felt about him..
"OK, enough. No crushing people either," she started to push him off, then wondered if he might fall down if she did. She settled for squirming out of his arms. Doyle almost fell down anyway, but Angel appeared just in time to catch Doyle and set him upright again.
"Third rule. No lurking around watching people," she glared at Angel. She really did hate it when he eavesdropped.
"We're gonna have our own Ten Commandments here in a minute," Doyle grinned.
"Command this, demon-boy--I'm back and it's a good thing because obviously you two have let this place fall apart without me."
"We missed you, too," Angel said with amusement. "You ready to work?"
"Like you have any?" she shot back.
Angel shrugged. "A couple little things last week, I handled them no problem."
"Probably no charge too."
Angel winced a little. "Well, I charged one of them."
"Thank your bank account I'm back then." She rolled her eyes. "Not that we're broke, but how bad would it be if I wasn't there to make sure you charge people? Don't wanna think about it."
"Great. Don't." Angel had supervised Doyle's excruciatingly awkward attempt to get back to the couch, and pulled up a chair for Cordelia. "I don't suppose you want to know what's happened while you were gone."
"Not particularly. I especially don't want to hear it if it's icky demon stuff or bad news."
"Icky, check. Demon--well, half-demon, check," Doyle ticked off on his fingers.
"Good news though," Angel added.
"All right. Spill."
Angel grandly gestured in Doyle's direction. "I took that one back to his doctor and they ran some tests on him."
Doyle made a face and threw his arms wide in demonstration. "Really big needles. Could stake somebody--oh, I dunno, a vampire?-- with one of those, but no, they picked me."
"You're right. Icky--check," she agreed.
Angel ignored both of them. "The doctors can't believe it, but his spinal cord's growing back."
"One damn cell at a time, apparently. I'll be an old man," Doyle grumbled.
"A little faster than that. But you just saw, he can walk with some help. And if he would bother working on it more he might not need the help." Angel glared at Doyle..
"I got things I could say t' you right now but this is a family program so I won't," Doyle returned.
"Would these be roommate issues or demon issues? Not that I have the slightest interest in finding out," Cordelia inquired.
"Both. I can tell ya I'm ready for some human companionship," Doyle told her, a little too hopefully for her comfort.
"Too bad. I was looking for a human, too."
"Could ya settle for half? Please?"
She wondered if she should tell Doyle how silly he looked when he begged. "I'll think about it." As if she wasn't thinking about it enough already.
"Knowin' how much thinkin' ya do, I'll be walkin' first," Doyle grumbled
Cordelia summoned her most imperious glare and Doyle mock-surrendered. "Not that I care, but did you two find out what happened to creepy boat guy? I so do not like people who try to kill me," she asked.
"Totally gone," Doyle advised. "The guy's a master of laying low. Probably under the carpet somewhere."
"More likely opted for invisibility, literal and otherwise," sighed Angel. "The ship was gone when the police went back to look for him. He'll be back for certain though. He wants a piece of me."
"Swell. You should collect on your bills half as well as you collect nasty demon grudges," Cordelia scolded. Bringing up the subject of demons reminded her of the Brachen she had seen in the warehouse, and it occurred to her she'd never asked about him. "So what about the demon who didn't have a grudge?"
"Huh?" Angel and Doyle said it at the same time.
"The demon in the warehouse, what was that all about anyway?" She shot a look at Doyle. "Or do you have relatives in strangest places?"
Doyle was speechless. Angel was struggling for something to say as well.. "There was...a demon...in the warehouse? You mean that night?"
"No, I mean today."
"Cordy, darlin'...we were in there alone. I'm pretty sure of that." Doyle was utterly baffled.
"Well, I saw a demon in there who looked like he was a friend of yours, all spikey-greeny and totally red-eyed like you wouldn't want in photos. He pulled you over to me which was a good thing since I totally could not breathe much less see anything."
"There was a Brachen in there?" Angel tried to confirm.
Angel looked at Doyle. He shrugged helplessly. "I don't remember nothin' after I pushed her up t' the window," Doyle told him. They both looked at Cordelia.
Now she was irritated. She might not always get the full picture, but she knew what she saw. "I am NOT nuts. He was there."
But neither of them looked like they believed her. Thankfully she heard the elevator coming downstairs at that point.
Wesley and Harry had a truly wonderful honeymoon. Not only were they crazy for each other, but they had decided to go to the less fashionable end of Europe and do some demonology research and they had turned up gold mines of information. Between Harry and the texts and artifacts they found, Wesley wasn't sure if he'd ever been happier.
Harry, naturally, had a particular interest in Brachens. Wesley still felt tremendous guilt regarding Doyle and was quite willing to concentrate his interests on them as well. And they had found some rare items of particular note that Wesley hoped Doyle and Angel might appreciate. And in turn, perhaps their appreciation might allay some of the guilt he felt. He could only hope. Of course, he had also learned some new things about Brachens that gave him considerable pause. He decided Angel should determine the destiny of this information.
They weren't surprised to find the office empty--Angel had given Wesley the short version of events since he'd been gone and Wesley didn't expect anyone upstairs. So, almost bursting at the seams with information, they hopped into the elevator.
"Good morning!" they announced together before the elevator had even come to a complete stop.
"Oh terrific," muttered Cordelia. "Shiny happy people, yuck."
"Cordelia! I didn't think you'd be here!" Harry virtually sang. "But we brought you a present."
That raised Cordelia's interest level. And to the surprise of Angel and Doyle, she actually seemed to like what Harry gave her--a pendant necklace, simple but elegant with a fabulous stone set in silver. Cordelia put it on immediately, and just as quickly the stone changed its color.
"Princess, that looks amazin' on you," Doyle told her breathlessly. Cordelia couldn't help beaming.
"It's made by the Kolol clan of demons," Harry told Cordelia. "It's a protection necklace. The stone senses the presence of demons, and changes color according to what the demon is intending."
"Like my own early warning system. Neat," Cordelia purred. "What color is this for?"
"The stone is sensing Francis right now," Harry grinned at her ex-husband. "Like it could miss him. And I think we all know what he's thinking." Doyle turned beet red..
"Angel, I found a Jocalle dagger for you. I seem to recall you telling me there were none in existence," Wesley handed the prize to Angel triumphantly.
Angel examined the small but perfectly crafted knife. The Jocalle were expert at creating weapons of personal defense, and their daggers were known for being able to cut through nearly anything, even stone, provided the user intended them for defensive purpose. Otherwise, they were useless. "You're right, I'm wrong. Does that make your day?"
"Nearly so!" Wesley answered gleefully. "But the best is for Doyle."
"I think that necklace on Cordy is present enough, thanks," Doyle told Wesley absentmindedly. There was something almost magnetic about the jewel to Doyle, and he hadn't taken his eyes off of it yet. Probably the demon sensing thing, Wesley supposed.
"Oh, Francis!" Harry bubbled. "You don't even know what it is yet."
"Okay, okay, what'd ya get me?"
Wesley gave him a polished wood box. Inside were two oddly shaped pieces of stone that shimmered and changed color and texture as Doyle turned them over in the light. Doyle set the pieces alongside each other; the pieces drew themselves together and formed a single piece. "Nice trick," he commented. "Do they come--"
Before he could finish the question the object broke itself into two new pieces, differently shaped than the originals. "That is so cool!" Cordelia said in spite of herself.
Doyle was also impressed. "What is this thing anyway?"
"It's a Chargonse stone, it's made by Brachens," Harry told him. "Apparently there used to be warring factions of Brachens and they made these to protect themselves from each other. When it's in one piece, whoever has it can't be harmed. At least not by Brachens. And if it's in a place, like a home, unwanted Brachens can't enter. And when it's in two pieces, the pieces seek each other out. So if one person has one piece--"
"--the person with the other can find them. Quite a trick," Doyle said in wonderment. Then without warning he grabbed Harry and kissed her. "It's fabulous."
"Glad you like it," she said laughing.
"We have something else for you too," Wesley added, his tone a bit more serious. "Something you should know about Brachens."
Doyle matched Wesley's tone. "Shoot then."
Doyle's choice of words was not one that Wesley particularly appreciated, and for a moment he forgot what he had intended to say. "In studying some more ancient texts, we found references to Brachens losing spikes, whether in battle or to accident, what have you, and then growing them back," Wesley related.
Doyle sat up straight and leaned forward. "Keep goin'."
Angel had also increased his level of attention, Wesley noted. "So we researched it. It seems Brachen demons have at least some level of regenerative abilities. We found evidence of them not only growing back spikes but also fingers, ears and the like. The books refer to it as Brachen magic.'"
It appeared to Wesley that Doyle briefly left the room mentally, but he wasn't gone long. "Anythin' in there about large nerves in the back?" Doyle asked.
"Well, no," Wesley looked a tad less happy. He hadn't really found anything that indicated Doyle would have that much luck. "But it would seem possible, wouldn't it?"
Doyle and Angel looked at each other. "Go ahead," Angel instructed.
Doyle cheerfully swung his legs back off the couch again and grabbed the crutches. "I feel like I just did this," he grinned at Cordelia. In a completely ungraceful manner, Doyle struggled to his feet and slowly, waveringly walked the few steps to Harry. As he had minutes earlier with Cordelia, Doyle leaned over to kiss Harry and he nearly fell on her. Angel had to catch him again.
Harry stood in wide-eyed shock throughout Doyle's demonstration. Wesley was flabbergasted himself. He had utterly failed to notice the braces on Doyle's legs, much less wonder why they were there. "You--you already knew?" he asked in disbelief.
"Sorta, yeah," Doyle answered in embarrassment, as both Angel and Harry were now helping him remaining upright.
"Sort of? Francis, you better tell me right now or I'll drop you!" Harry seemed to have no idea whether to hug Doyle or slap him.
"Maybe I ought sit down again," Doyle suggested and Angel obliged him by dropping him back on the couch. "When I was in the hospital, I noticed if I went demon for a bit I could start feelin' stuff in my legs. So I kept goin' demon when I could an' I kept gettin' better, or at least I used to. An' now I can get around a bit." Doyle looked a little sheepish, and shrank back a bit from Harry's direction. "I guess I shoulda said somethin' before, huh?"
Harry looked like she was ready to give Doyle what for but Angel interrupted. "I already gave him the full treatment and I can assure you, he's sufficiently contrite now," Angel informed Harry with a wry smile.
"I can assure you he hasn't had the full treatment until I get through with him," Harry informed Angel just as wryly. Doyle's face fell further.
"You know, I haven't had a chance to discuss this with him either," Cordelia nudged Harry. Now Doyle gulped and looked for an escape route which didn't exist.
"Angel, why don't you and I let these two explain to Doyle the errors of his ways and we could talk amongst ourselves?" Wesley thought this would be the perfect opportunity to have the private discussion with Angel he wanted.
"Sounds like an idea," Angel grinned at Doyle.
"Come on, Angel, ya gotta help me out here," Doyle pleaded.
"Nope. Your problem," Angel told Doyle and ducked into the kitchen.
Wesley followed him. "You really think he'll be all right out there? With them?"
Angel shrugged. "They can't be worse than me, can they?" Angel thought about it for a second. "Okay, they could, but I'm sure we'll hear something if it gets out of hand."
"As long as they give us a few minutes."
"You have something you want to tell me, don't you?" Angel wasn't always quick on the uptake, but Wesley wasn't very subtle. For that matter, Wesley's manner had become dead serious and Angel realized something was up--if not outright wrong. Which really wasn't what Angel needed to hear, since today was the first time in a while Doyle had been in a good mood.
"For better or worse, yes," Wesley sighed. "And it's more than likely for the best if Doyle doesn't hear about this."
"You tell me and I'll decide. Is it about the regeneration thing? It's apparently slowed down--a lot--and Doyle's scared to death it's going to stop completely before he's healed," Angel was hesitant about revealing Doyle's fears, but he had a feeling they were about to be very relevant.
"That's a distinct possibility," Wesley admitted. "What I found--one of the things I don't think Doyle should learn about--Brachen regenerative abilities are limited. But in combination with human genes, those abilities are spectacular."
That caught Angel off-guard. "Say what?"
"The research indicates there's some chemical reaction created by the combining of Brachen and human genomes that creates a chemical compound. In turn, that gives mixed-breed offspring a tremendous amount of capacity for regrowth. Not that anyone's tried it, of course, but it's speculated they might be able to regrow their heads if need be."
Angel whistled. "But then shouldn't Doyle have been fine within a few days? This has been a pretty slow process for him and it's got a long way to go yet. If it does at all."
Wesley's face grew darker. "I've come to discover, contrary to what I'd been told previously, that the Brachens are not an especially benign race, particularly when it concerns benefit to them, financial or otherwise. They know quite well what happens when they cross-breed and in fact that's the primary reason why they do it--to produce offspring with a significant supply of that chemical compound, which they then drain from the child and sell on the black market to each other."
Angel could feel his stomach start to turn. The idea that Doyle's own species considered him...created him...as a commodity to be bought and sold was incredibly repulsive. "So in all likelihood most of this compound was drained out of him a long time ago. And he probably doesn't have enough left to...oh, damn."
Wesley nodded unhappily. "And it's likely the compound is the only reason he exists at all. It seems Brachens would select human women for breeding...force them...and steal the child upon its birth. What is particularly odd though, is that he still exists--the technique the Brachens used generally killed the child in the process. Otherwise there would be quite a remarkable number of Brachen/human hybrids about, rather than the occasional survivor. But for some reason, the procedure was never completed and Doyle lived."
"I suppose the question should be why is he alive in the first place," Angel said slowly. "But I'm more interested in keeping him that way. This information...it'll probably kill him."
"I wouldn't be surprised."
"Does Harry know this?"
Wesley shook his head. "I found it first. I hid it from her--I hated doing it but I thought you should know and we'd decide from there."
Occasionally, Angel thought, Wesley can really be on top of things. Too bad it's not all the time. "I'll tell him, when I think he can handle it." Angel reflected on recent events and Doyle's present mental state. "But I don't think now's the time."
"Agreed." Wesley paused. "I brought the book with most of this information back with me, if you want it."
"I would like a look."
Aside from the revelatory conversation with Wesley, Angel thought the day had gone very well. Cordelia and Harry left Doyle with most of his skin intact, and it was a relief to have all of them together at the same time and enjoying each other's company without a crisis to contend with. But was also an exhausting day for Doyle, who spent much of the day in a rare upright position, and when Doyle dozed off on the couch Angel shooed the others out.
Doyle was more than a little astonished when Angel picked him up and carried him back to bed. "Not that I'm complainin', of course, but I thought I was 'sposed to drag myself back here," he told Angel sleepily.
"You had a long day. Just don't get used to it," Angel responded as he removed the braces from Doyle's legs.
"What's wrong, Angel?" Doyle asked quietly.
Angel froze. He thought he had done a good job acting normally after his conversation with Wesley. Maybe he hadn't. "I thought today was pretty good."
"No, there's somethin' been botherin' you since you talked to Wesley. You're not much of an actor."
'Leave it to Doyle to tell it to me straight,' Angel thought. "I don't think we should talk about it right now."
"It's about me, right? You haven't looked me in the eye since then. Neither did Wes. An' all a' sudden you're bein' a little too nice. Ya know, people do get antsy when vampires start playin' nice."
Angel sat on the edge of the bed. Doyle was hard to fool under any circumstance, and he'd gotten especially good at reading other people in the last several months. He wondered how he could possibly dance around this one, or even if he should. Doyle had a right to know, but he also deserved--needed--a respite from bad news. Maybe he could change the subject, at least in part. "How...How much do you know about your father?" he asked cautiously.
Doyle closed his eyes and leaned back on his pillow. "Not much," he answered. "I asked my mother when I first spiked out--all she told me was she found out what he was after I was born, an' that he was a Brachen. She said she didn't know any more than that.. 411 she isn't."
"Oh." Neither of them spoke for a long time and finally Angel decided to finish getting Doyle ready for bed. He got as far as the shoes.
"I saw him when I was dead," Doyle whispered.
Angel turned back to face Doyle. "You what?"
"I died, an' he talked to me. He told me you were goin' t' make sure I lived. He said he died when I was small, an' that he was watchin' over me. An' what Wesley said about Brachen magic, my father told me that too. I didn't know what he meant then."
"Did he tell you anything else?"
Doyle shook his head slightly. Angel could see he was nearly asleep again. "Why you suddenly wanna know about him?" Doyle murmured.
"No reason," Angel tried to lie.
"That's crap," Doyle told him. "We don't have secrets any more, right?"
"Right," Angel sighed. "Tomorrow. I'll explain tomorrow."
"Okay. I'll remember." Doyle was immediately asleep. Angel finished undressing him and pulled the covers up. How am I going to tell him?' Angel wondered.
Any doubts Doyle may still have had that Angel was hiding something bad from him were erased the next morning when Angel didn't wake him up, much less hassle him into working out. This was more than a little frightening to Doyle--he still distinctly remembered a cousin that had been treated like this by the family after a visit to the doctor. That cousin had died of cancer a few months later. 'Is that what Wesley found out?' Doyle wondered. 'Am I dyin'?'
However distressed he was feeling though, Doyle was smart enough to stay in bed if Angel was going to let him. He lay awake with his thoughts, wondering what horrible thing Angel wouldn't tell him about for what seemed like hours before Angel finally peered in the door.
"You want some breakfast? I could fix something."
"Not hungry. Thanks anyway."
"Are you sure? It'll only take a--"
"Angel." The name left Doyle's throat even more flatly than he'd meant it to and stopped the vampire cold. "Tell me what's wrong already. An' if I'm goin' to die or somethin' like that, just tell me. I gotta know."
"You're not dying," Angel told him quickly.
"Then what other bad thin' is happenin' that's so hard to tell me?"
Angel swallowed hard. He sat in the chair next to the bed and didn't speak at first. When he did speak, it was haltingly and painfully. "I don't think you really want to hear this."
"Ya get on me t' tell ya everythin' when I don't wanna. Whatever it is, I wanna hear it. I can take it," Doyle added, even though he was increasingly unsure if he could. Angel was usually blunt and forthright to a fault, so if he was that reluctant to tell him it must be something dreadful.
Angel studied the floor. "I just don't think...you have enough to deal with right now and I don't think you need this, too."
"Angel..." now Doyle was getting irritated.
"Wesley found out exactly how Brachens regenerate. That, and some other things about Brachens that aren't good. Really unpleasant things. And based on what he learned...we think you aren't going to get any better than you are now."
Doyle wasn't quite sure how to process this information. He had lived in fear every morning for the last several weeks that he wouldn't get at least a little better and now, apparently, he wouldn't. His back ached where it had been broken almost as if to taunt him. 'Get used to it,' it was telling him, 'it'll always hurt like this.' The pain travelled upwards through his body and along his throat, tightening it so much he could barely breathe. Maybe Angel was wrong. He would have to hope that Angel was wrong. "You're sure? You haven't even explained....couldn't you be wrong?" His voice broke as he said it.
"Maybe we're wrong..." Angel looked at Doyle with both caring and helplessness. "I want to be wrong. I never wanted that so much in my life."
Angel reluctantly told Doyle the remainder of the story Wesley had provided. He wasn't sure if Doyle actually heard anything that he said; if he had, he didn't react to it. Instead Doyle curled himself into a ball and chewed on one finger, biting it nearly to the bone in short order. After a considerable time of non-responsiveness from Doyle, Angel finally left the apartment and went to brood in his office. It was far too difficult for him to hide anything from Doyle, he realized. Maybe dangerously difficult.
The knock on the door startled Angel. "Sorry," Wesley said. "I thought we should talk further."
"We better," Angel said hoarsely. "I told him."
Wesley was taken aback. "I thought you said it was too soon."
"I know. I did. But he knew we were hiding something from him, and I can't lie to him. I never could."
"How much did you tell him then?"
"I told him everything you told me."
"Oh dear. And left him alone? Suppose he does something rash?" Wesley was now quite worried.
"He won't." That much Angel was certain of. "Not yet, at least."
"Not until I know why I was born, and why I'm still alive," Doyle interrupted, pushing the elevator door open with the wheelchair. Angel and Wesley had been too preoccupied with their discussion to hear the elevator come up. Doyle looked terrible, paler than usual and obviously distraught. He hadn't bothered to get dressed and his finger was bleeding freely. He looked up at Wesley. "You could have told me to my face, ya know. I'm not some kid ya gotta spell out words for."
"I'm sorry..." Wesley flailed about.
"Whatever." Doyle stopped talking to choke back a sob that was rising in his throat before continuing, his voice down to a whisper. "I'm goin' home. Today."
"Home?" Wesley asked in confusion.
Angel understood. "You mean Ireland," Angel said softly and Doyle nodded.
"I gotta. I gotta talk with me mum. I have to know what happened...why...." Doyle's voice cracked and he turned his face away from both of them. For once Angel didn't feel any reluctance or embarrassment; he dropped to his knees beside Doyle and put one arm around his shoulders.
"I don't want you going alone," Angel told Doyle kindly.
"I'll--" Wesley changed his mind based on the glare received from Angel.. "Right. Someone else. But not you either, I doubt flying is in your best interests."
"Who's not doing what?" Cordelia started to breeze in but stopped dead when she saw what was going on. "Doyle! What happened?"
"S'nothin' ya should worry about, Princess, I'll be fine," Doyle told her, but his face still told otherwise. Cordelia unceremoniously shoved Angel out of her way, produced a tissue from her bag and started cleaning the blood from Doyle's finger.
"Well, what should I worry about? My non-existent social life? I'd rather worry about my friends," she informed Doyle with what Angel thought was an uncharacteristic level of affection.
"Ya mean that?" Doyle whispered softly.
"Of course I mean that." she informed him as she continued her ministrations with the tissue. She turned back to Angel and Wesley. "Do we have Band-Aids here? Or was I supposed to get those?"
Angel smiled a little and Wesley recognized this as an incipient idea. "Angel, are you certain?"
"Oh yes," Angel said. "Cordy, how would you like to go to Ireland?"
Cordelia was caught more than a little off-guard by her assignment and the result was an unusually light packing job. Of course, she wouldn't have gotten anything packed in time if Dennis hadn't found her passport for her. Angel assured her he thought Doyle would only want to go long enough to visit his mother and talk, and Cordelia sincerely hoped he was right. Imagining herself as an international star didn't mean she actually wanted to leave the country.
And while she thought Angel was right about someone needing to go with Doyle, it wasn't long before she knew why--and knew this wasn't going to be a fun trip. Quiet, yes. Entertaining--not in the slightest. Doyle was as morose as she'd ever seen him, and he had nothing to say. Qualities she had always associated with Angel and would never have connected with Doyle, she considered. To Cordelia, 'silent' and 'Doyle' were two words that would never be included in the same sentence. On top of that, he had already thrown up twice just on the flight from Los Angeles to New York. Still, if she couldn't at least get Doyle to talk to her she was going to go crazy.
"Does your mother know we're coming?" she inquired at the first opportune moment, while they waited at the airport for the flight to Ireland. Opportune because it was the first time she knew for certain Doyle was even awake.
"No," he said dully.
"Oh. A surprise visit. How not fun. Don't you think you should at least make sure she's there first? Mothers are not people you should just drop in on when you haven't been there forever, they get really weird about stuff like that."
Doyle shrugged slightly.
Cordelia decided to try it another way. "Does she know about--" she drummed her fingers lightly on the arm of the wheelchair "--or have you even talked to her about that?"
"I wrote her a letter. She knows I was shot." Doyle scrunched himself into the chair and away from Cordelia.
"But does she--"
"No, she doesn't. I don't want to talk."
Now she was annoyed with him. "Look, I don't even know what this trip is about. You're all sobby and Angel's all concerned and I all I get is here's your airline ticket, go babysit Doyle'--in another country even! If I have to fly halfway around the planet without a decent dress to wear, the least I should know is why am I doing this?"
Doyle remained turned away from her but at least he spoke. "I'm sorry, Cordy. I know this isn't what ya had in mind for today."
"Or just about any day."
Doyle finally faced her. "I found out some things, maybe, about my parents. An' me. I have to know the rest an' I have to hear it from my mother. It's really, really important to me, Princess. You understand?" The expression in his eyes was pained and his voice begged for understanding. This time, she didn't think the begging was silly.
"I think I do. But you guys have got to start telling me what's going on before you tell me what to do, okay? I like having a clue." She felt sorry for him and put her hand on top of his.
"Okay. Thank you," he told her softly. Neither of them said anything for a minute.
"I'm gonna puke again."
Keeping food down was about the least of Doyle's worries, which was probably why he was having so much trouble doing it, he thought drearily as he and Cordelia wordlessly sat in the back of a cab driving through Dublin. For the most part, Doyle just plain felt physically sick all over, and nauseated in particular each time he pondered the new information regarding his apparent reason for existence. He had often wondered, and not just about his own parents, why demons and humans would crossbreed in the first place. And his own particular circumstances had always seemed especially odd to him.
His mother was a remarkably strong woman--she had to be, to raise an illegitimate child alone and in a country where such things were frowned upon more than in others. Doyle had assumed she had always been of such resolve, although now when he considered it he supposed he might have been the source of her determination to carry on. 'Tough to quit when you've got a little one', he reflected. But he found it hard to believe she would ever have willingly complied with what the Brachens apparently intended. Willingly, he dreaded, was the operative word.
Hence he would need to vomit again before he would get back to the other difficult question--why was he still living at all? What had occurred to change the demons' plans for him--or had they been changed at all? He pensively rubbed on the Chargonse, which he had, inexplicably even to himself, decided to bring with him. Yet another of the darker thoughts in his mind was how a species as evil as Brachens evidently were could have produced such a beautiful and useful thing. It would have surprised Angel greatly to know that the least of Doyle's concerns was his physical condition, but Doyle hadn't applied much thought to whether his recovery would continue or if it had already run its course. His other questions needed answering first.
Under other circumstances--nearly any other possible circumstance--Doyle would have been more than glad, if not enthusiastic, to show Cordelia his home country. His love and pride for Ireland hadn't diminished in the slightest despite his years away. But this was not the time for sightseeing and fortunately Cordelia was understanding. Cordelia had been unusually cooperative given that he'd thrown up a half a dozen times in the last twelve hours, he thought, and silently he thanked Angel for insisting she come on the trip.
"What if she's not home?" Cordelia's question startled Doyle out of his numerous thoughts much more than either of them expected. "Uh, Earth to Doyle? Still with us?"
"I'd be a mite happier if ya didn't wake yer young man quite like that. Wouldn't wan' t' have t' pull o'er agin," the cab driver informed Cordelia, but with a smile on his face.
"Thanks, but I don't think I'm gonna be sick. Not this time," Doyle told him.
"I was wondrin' a bit if ya might though, the road's leavin' somethin' t' be desired," the cabbie answered, even as the cab had another unscheduled meeting with a pothole. The jolt was nearly enough to cause Doyle to at least consider asking him to pull over again.
"A lot to be desired. Paving doesn't seem to be strong point here," Cordelia contributed. "Are we there yet?"
"Jus' about, I'd say."
"Uh-huh, it's right over there," Doyle agreed. He hadn't been home in at least six years, had he? Maybe more than that. And he hadn't spoken to his mother more than once or twice during that time, and he hadn't written much more than that. Cordelia was right about the showing up unannounced part too. He started to wonder if this wasn't somewhat less imperative than he'd thought that morning.
"Kind of cute in a totally small and rundown sort of way," Cordelia pronounced as the cab rolled to a stop and she jumped out almost immediately.
"Ya mean the house or Ireland?" asked the cabbie, as he went to fetch their bags for them.
Cordelia blushed. "The house."
"I think your young man quite forgot to hop out," the cabbie noted. He leaned in the window to whisper to Doyle conspiratorially. "If'n I were you, lad, I'd be payin' quite a sight more attention t' the young lady. Ya wouldn't want her t' fin' herself a more chatty fella na would ya?"
Doyle smiled weakly. If the man only knew how much attention he had already given to Cordelia. "I'll give it a try."
"Good fella." The cabbie assisted Cordelia in helping Doyle out of the cab and into his chair and carried their bags to the door for them. Doyle tipped him generously. He missed the people of his home country more than he had remembered.
"Are you going to knock or should I?" Cordelia asked and was immediately startled when the door opened anyway.
"If ya can't even make up your min's who's gonna knock I suppose I'll have t' open it myself," announced the woman who had opened the door.
Doyle was suddenly unable to breathe. His mother had aged considerably since he'd last seen her--much more than six years. Was she worrying about me?' he wondered.. Or was it me dying?' In any event, he was certain he was the cause of her rapid advancement in years.
"Francis." His mother's eyes filled with tears and she hugged him tightly. Doyle felt ashamed of all the hurt and worry he had caused her.
"I'm sorry," he told her.
Elizabeth Doyle had dealt with far more than her fair share of hard luck and hurt in her life. Her father had died young, passing away when she was barely twelve, and she, her mother and her siblings were forced to move to the city when they were no longer able to keep the farm running. The resourcefulness she learned then came in handy when she found herself with young Francis to raise alone, and it had kept her well when he learned of his heritage and abandoned all he had known before. But it hadn't prepared her for the news of her son's death.
She adored Harry, and the two of them had remained in contact even after Harry had left Francis. It was Harry who had told her that Francis had died, although later his friend Angel had called her as well. For months her grief was so intense she had been unable to make herself leave her house, go to work, or see her friends. But in time Elizabeth had come to terms with Francis' death; after all, he had been near death the first time she had ever held him, and she had known then the child wasn't meant to survive. That it took nearly thirty years for him to die, though...
So it came as another shock when Harry called to tell her Angel had found Francis alive. Elizabeth had deliberately learned as little as possible of 'the others' as she referred to them, and had always been a little aghast at Harry's full-throttle embrace of their lives and culture. So she found it hard to comprehend what Harry had told her about Francis' return, and she chose to understand only that he was alive, and that he was injured. She had received a letter from him a few weeks later, at Harry's insistence she was certain, but that was all she had heard from him in the last two years.
So her son's sudden and unannounced appearance at her front door with a lovely, brash young woman in tow was more than a little shocking. To Francis' surprise, she wasn't shocked about the wheelchair--Harry had told her. But she truly never expected to see him again.
While she knew Francis would dislike her making a fuss over him--and his young lady--she did anyway. She had waited years for an opportunity to spoil him and she wasn't about to waste it. After settling them into her cottage and making a light meal which Francis seemed to be having some difficulty with, she insisted they tell her everything starting with Francis' return from death. But the young woman wound up telling far more of the story.
"So Harry and Wesley just came back from their honeymoon yesterday, and brought us these really cool presents." Cordelia showed off her necklace, which was vibrating with color and very lovely on her. Francis seemed smitten with the jewel himself. "And then Angel tells me, 'you have to take Doyle to visit his mother' and here we are."
"But why now, Francis?" The suddenness of Francis' appearance and its late timing, considering when he ought to have come to see her, had her extremely concerned for him. Her concern grew when Francis promptly excused himself to the bathroom.
"He's been throwing up all day. It's getting pretty old," chirped Cordelia. "Mostly he pukes whenever I ask him why we're coming here."
"Or when I do," Elizabeth noted. "Do you have any idea--"
"None," Cordelia grumbled. "The only thing worse than trying to get Doyle to tell me what's going on, is trying to get Angel to tell me what's going on. I'm in the dark more than Angel is, and he's the one that's a vampire."
"Cordy!" Francis exclaimed in dismay as he returned to the room.
"Now, Francis, Harry told me all about Angel. You always did seem to like odd company," Elizabeth assured him. "Although a vampire, isn't that a wee bit extreme?"
"It's weird, I'll allow you that," Francis agreed, "But he's my best friend now. An' I know I'd never 'ave gotten through the last months without 'im."
"Angel has his moments," Cordelia added.
"He hired you in one of 'em," Francis pointed out.
"Francis, are you goin' t' be sick again?" Elizabeth interrupted.
"No," he hung his head sheepishly. "I missed your cookin', really I did, I'm just not real well right now."
"Well if you're through w' bein' ill, I'd like to know why you're here."
Despite his words, Francis looked green again anyway. "I guess I'd best be gettin' t' the point."
"Do I stay here for that or not?" Cordelia interjected.
Elizabeth already began to suspect what Francis had come for. It was in his face, however he tried to hide it. "Perhaps she should--"
Francis had already decided. "Cordy, maybe ya oughta take a walk."
"Uh, Doyle? Never been here, remember?"
"It's not like LA. You can walk around alone here."
"Then it's not like Sunnydale either. But I'm going to get lost, I can see that one coming."
Francis hesitated, then seemed to think of something. He pulled a glistening, metallic object from his pocket and when he touched it, the object split itself in half. He put one half back in his pocket and handed the other to Cordelia. The object looked very, very familiar to Elizabeth and it immediately worried her, but Francis didn't notice. "Wanna see if it works?" he asked Cordelia.
"Sure, I love being a guinea pig for weird demon stuff. But the necklace works, so..." Cordelia dropped the object into her handbag. "I'll try to be back in an hour."
Elizabeth saw her to the door, then went to the tiny kitchen for fresh coffee. "She's lovely, Francis. A little harsh, maybe, but--"
"She reminds me a bit a' you, I think. She can really take charge when she gets her mind set to it."
"You're quite taken w' her, I see." She was pleased to see Francis redden considerably.
"Well, yeah, I am. Don't know that she's quite so enthralled w' me though. I think she's still lookin' higher on the food chain," he said, the disappointment clear in his voice.
"Nonsense. She's quite fond of you. You hadn't noticed?" Francis turned redder. Even his ears were scarlet now. She remembered the first time he'd had a crush on a girl in the neighborhood--his ears had stayed red for months. She smiled to herself at the thought.
"No, I guess I hadn't. Hard to tell with all the insults she's been hurlin' at me since we met." Francis paused, then reddened still more. "Oh. I get it."
"High time you did too." She brought Francis' coffee to him and sat across from him. "There's somethin' quite wrong w' you Francis. It's time you had out w' it and told me."
Francis stirred his coffee dejectedly. "It's gonna hurt us both."
"Of that, I'm certain."
Francis sighed and sank back into the couch. "Harry an' Wesley, they spent their honeymoon lookin' for thin's about demons. An' they picked Brachens."
Elizabeth shuddered at the word. She always did and wished she wouldn't, at least not in front of Francis. Francis saw her shudder and winced himself.
"Maybe I shouldn't--"
"Francis." She used her most motherly tone.
He gulped. "Okay. Wesley...he told Angel, an' Angel told me...about...what they do, an' why they do it. I have to know...if that's why I'm...why I was..." he couldn't finish as his voice started breaking.
She knew. She had told him as little as possible, and not a moment before she absolutely had to, because she was afraid of this particular moment, of having to tell Francis the truth and all that it meant. Their relationship would never be the same again, and she knew it. But they didn't have much of a relationship anymore, as a direct result of the little she had explained to him. It wasn't fair. Not to her, and certainly not to Francis. He had a right to know.
"I was nineteen," she told him slowly. "I had a little flat on the other end of the town. Mum couldn't afford to have any but the youngest livin' at home then, so I was livin' away, workin' small jobs waitressin' and such forth. I had to walk t' work, at night. I used t' hear things in the dark, but I never believed in monster tales.
"One night I was walkin' back home, alone because the girl I worked w' was ill. I thought I heard someone followin' me, an' I knocked on a few doors, hopin' someone might let me in. But no one answered. I came to the end of the street, and it was dark. An' I couldn't see 'im there, but I could feel 'im. Watchin' me. Then somethin' grabbed me, across my mouth an' I saw the hand was green and there was--things--comin' out of it. I never saw his face real well, but I saw the eyes...the red eyes. He dragged me off out of the town an' no one heard me screamin' out there. I never told anyone exactly what happened that night.
"I was sick for weeks after that. I lost my job, and the flat because I couldn't pay the rent. I went home and my mum made me see a doctor. When I found out I was pregnant, she kicked me out. I told 'er I had been raped but she didn't believe me. My sister did though, she took me in. She talked me into givin' you up for adoption. I was never so scared as I was when you were bein' born, I was so afraid of what might be comin' out of me. An' then they told me I had a healthy little boy and took you away."
Francis had barely moved throughout her story, and he hadn't looked at her. He sat motionless and chewing on one of his fingers as he did when he was very upset or under great stress. He started that habit as a child, and had often bitten himself badly enough she had to take him to the doctor. Nothing she tried ever broke that habit and clearly nothing in the intervening years had either, especially since another finger was already bandaged and she could see recent scars on others. 'He must be upset quite a bit recently, and not just about this,' she thought. His finger was bleeding badly now and he was still biting it.
"Francis, please stop doin' that."
He didn't look up but he finally spoke in a shaky voice. "If you gave me away, then what?"
"I changed my mind." She remembered vividly the brief glimpse she had seen of her newborn son. "I knew, the second I saw you, I had to keep you. An' I told them I'd changed my mind, an' they looked at me oddly. Finally they told me you had been stolen from the hospital, just an hour or two after you were born, and they didn't know where you were. They sent me home, and I cried for days because I lost you.
"But a few weeks later, I was home alone and there was a knock. I didn't want to answer it, but I did. He was standin' right outside the door. The eyes--they were the same. I wanted to scream but I was so afraid I couldn't. He held somethin' out to me, a blanket. I was so afraid but I took it from him and you were wrapped up inside it. He said he changed his mind. He said he named you Allan 'cause it was a good human name and nothin' like a Brachen name. An' then he disappeared. I never saw or heard nothin' about him again, I didn't want to. You were so sick an' so small, I took you to the doctor an' he said you were malnourished an' that you wouldn't live more 'n another day or so. But you did. I named you Francis for myself, I don't know why I added Allan but I did. The rest you know yourself."
Francis had bitten his finger to the degree it was bleeding badly and Elizabeth went to get a bandage for it. Francis was mumbling, to himself she thought. "Shouldna happened. It shouldna..."
"I shouldn' be here," he whispered.
"No, it's time you knew."
He shook his head slowly. "I shoudna been born at all. Ya shouldna had all this hell."
"It's not your fault, Francis. It's not yours, an' it's not mine, though I needed a lot of years before I really understood that. But I don't want you blamin' yourself for somethin' you didn't have nothin' to do with."
"He--he used you. An' they used me too. That's not right."
"No, it isn't. But you are the only good thin' I've ever had in my life, Francis, an' I don't ever want to hear you faultin' yourself for it." Elizabeth had never forgiven the demon that had fathered Francis or his species as a whole, but she had forgiven Francis. At the moment he was born, she had forgiven him for how he came to be. But she feared once he learned, he would never forgive himself, ever.
"I can't just not--" Whatever Francis was about to say, he forgot as quickly as if he'd been struck by lightning. He suddenly sat bolt upright and stared towards the door as though he were listening for something. His hand darted into his pocket and came back with the piece of stone he had placed there earlier.
Cordelia walked through the neighborhood slowly, not so much to sightsee as out of caution for the cobblestoned streets and her heels. Walking was a little treacherous and spraining an ankle was not something she wanted to do at all, much less away from home..
Offhand, she failed to see the charm of the place. It was drizzling and quickly getting chilly, and she wasn't dressed for it. It was also far too quiet and lacking in people. She thought of Sunnydale, when the vampires were out. Maybe Doyle was wrong and this wasn't a good place to be walking alone.
The necklace around her neck had changed colors again and while she didn't know what this particular color meant, she found herself feeling rather uneasy. I'm definitely going back now and not a minute later,' she decided, and even as she turned to go back she felt someone watching and knew what she would see.
A little behind her and to the side, in the shadows of the nearest cottage, stood the same Brachen demon she had seen in the warehouse. Anyone else would have screamed or panicked, but Cordelia was a Sunnydale girl--demon, big whoop. Not enough to get excited about yet. Come to think of it, no need to get excited at all. The Kolol medallion gave her no indication whatsoever the demon meant any harm to her.
"Do you always tailgate?" she demanded from the demon.
He didn't respond immediately.
"You are in danger," he informed her.
"Not from you." The stone continued to hum but with worry, not actual threat.
"The others would like to take you. And, much more so, Allan. It would be best for you to return to Allan immediately," he told her.
"You know him as Doyle. I named him Allan."
"You named h--you're his father?" Cordelia was appropriately shocked.
He didn't give an answer. "You should return, now. You will both be in danger soon."
Cordelia decided the demon was serious. "Right. Going now."
"Tell Allan his Brachen name is Halje." The demon vanished in a mist of rain and Cordelia felt much, much colder. Not to mention wet.
"That was just a little weird," she said out loud. She pulled out her half of the Chargonse and held it in front of her. "Okay, where am I going? I hope you know."
The stone glowed a little and almost instinctively she turned to her left. She walked a block or two and had a feeling she should turn again. As she turned she heard footsteps behind her and the Kolol stone began glowing again.
"Oh, crap," she breathed as she tried to walk quicker. The Kolol glowed brighter, and this time she knew whatever was following her didn't have pleasant thoughts in mind. How far was she from the house now? The Chargonse told her to turn again, but she didn't think she had taken quite that many turns in the first place. What if it was misdirecting her?
She looked behind her and could see two tall, green creatures about a block behind her. They were Brachens, she knew immediately, and started to panic. Then she tripped on a cobblestone and fell, hard. In her haste to stand she fell again, and the two demons closed in quickly. She yanked off her shoes and started running.
The cottage was in view now, as she clutched the Chargonse in her hand tightly. She had no idea if it would serve as a weapon or not, but she was sure she was about to find out. She reached the door and started pounding. Doyle's mother opened the door and Cordelia dashed in even as one of the demons reached out to grab her.
"Doyle!" Cordelia screeched as she fell into the living room and nearly at his feet. The piece of the Chargonse she was holding suddenly jerked free from her hand and flew towards the piece in Doyle's hand, instantly joining itself with the other half. Once in a single piece, it began glowing red with heat.
Elizabeth slammed the door shut and threw the chain. The demons pounded on the door once or twice before they heard one of the demons scream in pain. There was another growl from outside, then silence.
Inside, none of them moved for a long time.
"I think they're gone now," Doyle said shakily. "This place is hexed for em."
"You think? Now would be a really bad time to be wrong," Cordelia barked.
"I feel it. The stone's tellin' me they can't come here no more," Doyle said with a little less than conviction and a lot of staring at the restored Chargonse.
"Fine. Talk to the rock. If I'm going to talk to a stone it better be Mick Jagger," grumbled Cordelia. Just her luck if Doyle was going to start conversing with inanimate objects. This trip couldn't get any worse anyway. She was completely soaked and her shoes were ruined.
"I think he's right." Elizabeth left the room for a moment and returned holding another Chargonse. "I found this on the doorstep years ago, when Francis was still in diapers. I didn't know what it was for or who left it, but it I had a funny feelin' an' I kept it all this time."
"Harry said these thin's protect ya from Brachens--" Doyle started.
"Obviously, they work. Oh yeah, the thing told me how to get back here," Cordelia interjected, still panting from her unexpected sprint.
"But she said they keep Brachens out of yer house, too." Doyle reached out to touch the stone his mother held. "Someone wanted to keep 'em away from here a long time ago."
"Probably your father," Cordelia remarked casually. She was surprised to see the look of shock on their faces. "What? He showed up while I was out there, told me the bad guys were after me and that I should come back here. He must have known this was a safe place."
"But he wouldn't have known unless...and he's dead, besides," Doyle sagged down into a heap. "I can't take much more of this."
"You think he left it here to protect Francis?" Elizabeth asked Cordelia incredulously.
"And you," Doyle added weakly.
"Me? Why would--"
Doyle straightened up enough to face his mother. "I died. For--" he paused, partly because of the look of horror on his mother's face but partly to look inquiringly at Cordelia.
It took her a moment to realize what he wanted to know. "About fifteen minutes," she provided.
"Fifteen minutes. An' while I was dead he came to me an' told me some things...he said he was watchin' out for me, an' for you. That's what he meant. I get it now."
"He's still watching out for you, too. He was the one in the warehouse," Cordelia added.
Doyle collapsed again. "You--you're sure?"
"Positive. I recognized him. Same demon guy."
"But he's dead. He told me he died years ago," Doyle protested weakly.
"So then he's a ghost. Like we've never seen one before." Cordelia paused as something else occurred to her. "He's watching out for me too now. This--" she patted the Kolol jewel "--said he was worried about me."
She looked up to discover Elizabeth wasn't paying any attention and then she saw why. Doyle had passed out.
Angel had been anxious for Doyle and Cordelia's return from the moment they had left and he had been a nearly intolerable wreck after Cordelia called from the airport to say they'd be there soon. Wesley was also impatient for their return, but in his case it was because he didn't think he could stand Angel being like this for much longer. Staking the vampire was beginning to appeal to him.
"Where are they?" Angel paced around the office, and from time to time he looked out the window to see if they had arrived yet--of course, he was scorched by the sunlight each time he did so, but he managed to forget and repeat the process minutes later.
"You'd think they were gone for months," remarked Wesley. "Have you considered switching to decaf? It couldn't hurt."
"It could hurt you."
"Point well taken," Wesley noted. 'They can't possibly come back soon enough', he thought in exasperation.
Finally the cab pulled up. Wesley took advantage of the opportunity to escape Angel for a few moments and hurried out to help Doyle and Cordelia. Or rather, to help Doyle. Cordelia grabbed her bag, and made a beeline for the office while Wesley and Doyle bumbled along behind.
"Well? How did it go? How's Doyle?" Angel didn't even give Cordelia a chance to set down her bag. It wasn't a good move on his part.
"Let's see--I went halfway around the world with no decent clothes or makeup, babysat a depressed half-demon who barfed every hour, discovered I really should learn to appreciate my local highway administration and stood in the middle of a dozen Kodak moments that didn't actually involve me. Oh yeah, I was visited by a ghostie demon, nearly got killed by some really nasty live ones and ruined a perfectly good pair of shoes. Gee, Angel, it was such a wonderful trip if you weren't already dead I would kill you."
Angel, as per usual, wasn't sure what he'd said wrong or if he even had said something wrong. "So it was...interesting? I guess?"
"It was better than Disneyland." Cordelia's sarcasm was scorching enough that even Angel took the hint.
"Right." Angel took a deep breath and started over. "You were attacked by demons? Any idea what kind?"
"Brachens," Doyle interjected without enthusiasm.
"What would they want with Cordelia?" Wesley asked.
"Must be somethin' t' do w' me, is all I can think," Doyle answered helplessly. "I think they were wantin' to grab me too though."
"Mostly you. Well, that's what your father told me," Cordelia reminded him.
"His--father? You said he was dead," Angel stammered as he turned his attention to Doyle.
"He is. That would be the ghostie demon," Cordelia explained. "And he was the one I saw at the warehouse too. NOT nuts, like I said."
"Maybe we should hear this from the beginning," Angel suggested desperately.
"Sounds like a brilliant idea," remarked Wesley.
Cordelia wound up telling most of the tale of the trip as Doyle, mentally and emotionally exhausted, dozed off during the telling. "So it turns out this thing you and Harry found works like it's supposed to--obviously not American-made--and the nasty demons took off.. And then we find out Doyle's Mom had one all along. We think his father left it to protect them."
"But Doyle told me his father was dead," Angel was still confused on that point.
"Yeah, but he's a very active dead demon," noted Cordelia. "He really gets around."
"Clearly he's not satisfied his business on Earth is complete," Wesley added. "And his business seems to be keeping an eye on his son."
"I still don't get why they would come after you and Doyle though." Angel had thought through every possible angle and still had no answer for that.
"Maybe there's something in the books I missed?" Wesley offered.
Angel nodded. "We'll go over it tomorrow, when Doyle can help. But I'm thinking Cordelia should stay here, if there's demons chasing her."
"She could take the Chargonse," Doyle mumbled as he woke slightly. "They can't touch her if she has it."
"Fine with me. I'm liking this thing a lot right now anyway." Cordelia took the stone as Doyle weakly handed it to her.
"Be careful anyway," Angel told her. Wesley walked Cordelia out as Angel put Doyle to bed. "I hope the stone works for her," Angel told Doyle.
"It will," Doyle said sleepily. "Now ya have to worry about me."
"No demons are getting in here," Angel informed Doyle, but he was already snoring.
There were, in fact, some Brachen demons waiting in the sewers beneath the apartment for the vampire to go to sleep. But their smell was in part masked by that of the sewers, and so the vampire didn't notice.
The orders given to the leader of these Brachens, Zedri, were to bring back preferably both the human girl and half-breed but at worst to bring back the half-breed known as Halje. "Business before pleasure," Zedri was told. He knew his commander, Yakte, had taken a liking to the human girl for his own purposes, but was far more concerned with completing the long-ago task involving the half-breed which Yakte had refused to discuss further.
Zedri had expected to be able to abduct the girl without difficulty, but was first surprised when she seemed to know trouble was approaching, and then again when she found a protected home. He was unaware there even were protected human homes and was quite aggravated by the discovery, not to mention the burns he acquired when he pounded on the door. It was fortunate for him that Halje and the girl had returned to California, minimizing the effort of finding them again; but then he was quite disappointed to find the girl now possessed the Chargonse and that it was whole, preventing him from even getting near her.
That meant he would have to try to pluck the half-breed out from under the vampire's nose, literally. It wasn't a task he relished. Even more frustrating was the fact that Yakte had assigned his nephew, Buja, to assist in the undertaking. Buja was barely of age and accordingly stupid by Zedri's calculations, with his tremendous size as the only positive aspect Zedri could find. Furthermore, the youngster appeared to have taken his own liking to the human girl. Zedri could hardly wait for Yakte to find out about that.
"It stinks down here," Buja complained in Brachen almost the moment they set foot in the sewers.
"Quiet!" Zedri scolded. "It will be difficult enough if the vampire smells us. He doesn't need to hear us." Buja had given him an idea though. "All of you--swim," he gestured to a side pipe overflowing with garbage and other less than pleasant smelling things.
He jumped in himself. Disgusting though it was, perhaps the vampire would sense only the sewers and not the presence of demons. Fighting the vampire was definitely a task to be avoided. Once Zedri believed they were sufficiently malodorous, they resumed the trek to the vampire's building. Zedri could hear the voices in the apartment but the half-breed's was clearly weak and tired. It would not put up a fight. In time he no longer heard the vampire, and he hoped the monster slept.
Slowly, cautiously, Zedri opened the hatchway from the sewers to the apartment. The vampire was asleep on the couch, only a few feet away from the hatchway. He carefully set the hatch open and crept into the apartment, his men following with equivalent caution. The floors creaked under their weight, and so they had to pause for several seconds with each step to make sure the vampire had not stirred.
Zedri made his way to the bedroom and found the half-breed. He motioned for one of his men to assist him in capturing the creature and reached out to cover its mouth. But the half-breed woke and screamed loudly. Swearing to himself, Zedri clamped his hand over its mouth and grabbed the half-breed by the arms with his other hand. His assistant grabbed for the legs and together they dragged it back to the hatchway.
The vampire had awakened immediately upon hearing the half-breed's cries and was fighting with the other three Brachens. Zedri dragged the half-breed into the sewers and left it there, yelling and struggling against the other Brachen who still held it. Zedri returned to the apartment and found the vampire had already killed one of the three he fought with. Buja was in line to be the vampire's next kill but the remaining demon struck the vampire over the head with a spectacular blow and the vampire dropped. Zedri dragged Buja into the sewers and the last of the Brachens followed.
"Idiot!" Zedri snapped at Buja. "You could have gotten all of us killed.." Buja appeared more than a little contrite and dejected at the scolding, but Zedri had no patience. "You carry the half-breed. You're good for nothing else."
Zedri had been somewhat surprised at the amount of fight remaining in the half-breed but the little creature had no more left, and it now lay on the sewer floor gasping for breath. Buja hesitantly picked up the smaller being and began walking back the way they had come. The half-breed started yelling. Zedri grabbed one of Buja's hands and slammed it down over the prisoner's mouth, splitting its lips. "And keep him quiet!"
Buja trudged after the other three demons, moving fast enough to keep up but not enough to be in Zedri's direct view. He didn't understand why his commander was so mean to him. He assumed, correctly as it turned out, it had something to do with his uncle's position. But he'd never done anything himself to deserve this treatment.
Nor could Buja think of anything the half-breed could have done to deserve such a rude and painful attack. He could feel the half-breed's blood trickling through his fingers, and he could hear the tiny thing struggling to breathe through the giant hand across its face. He would have liked to have moved his hand but couldn't imagine what Zedri would say. Nothing good, he was certain of that.
He peered down at his captive and found the half-breed looking right back at him. Buja expected to see hate or anger but only saw pleading in its eyes--and that the creature was looking a little on the bluish side. Dimly he realized it was choking. While Buja was quite uninformed about the overall nature of their mission, he did know the half-breed was supposed to be brought back alive.
"Sir?" he asked sheepishly.
"Now what?" Zedri demanded in irritation.
"I think it's dying. Choking. We're supposed to bring it back alive, aren't we?"
Zedri rolled his eyes. "What do you want me to do about it?"
"I was thinking maybe I could move my hand. I don't think anybody'll hear it now..."
"I don't care as long as it's alive when I bring it to your uncle."
Buja took his hand off the half-breed's mouth, and was rather amazed at all the coughing, gagging and sputtering sounds the creature made in its struggle for air. But it made no effort to yell, fight or escape. Buja continued to watch in curiosity. "Are you all right?" he inquired in Brachen. The half-breed looked at him blankly. Buja did not remember much of the human languages he had been taught, but he watched human television sometimes. "Okay?" he asked again haltingly, in English.
"Okay," the half-breed answered reluctantly.
Buja grinned in spite of himself and paid for same when the half-breed unexpectedly sneezed, and his own spines burst out briefly. Buja caught himself before he yelped and stared at the half-breed, who had already turned human again. He seemed embarrassed and upset by his changing.
"Okay?" the half-breed asked him.
"Okay," Buja answered.
Doyle had found sleeping much easier when the others were there and awake. After Angel went to sleep, Doyle hadn't been able to rest much. In addition to his exhaustion and his emotional state, his nerves were on edge, nearly on fire, and the only possible explanation he could think of was danger. But any danger there might have been, Doyle assumed, would come during the day. No one would ever dare enter Angel's lair, certainly not at night.
But the Brachens had come in anyway. Doyle heard a squeak in the floor and awoke just enough to smell the demons standing by him. Mostly they smelled of sewer trash, but he smelled enough Brachen that he knew without opening his eyes who they were and what they wanted. And that he needed Angel, now. He started to scream, but the Brachens grabbed him and ran for the sewers. He could see Angel fighting with the demons and he fought himself, vainly, against the demons that dragged him out of the apartment and pinned him to the sewer floor.
Doyle could hear the fighting in the apartment, and after a few minutes the rest of Brachens jumped back into the sewers. There was no sign of Angel, and only silence from the apartment. Had they killed Angel? Doyle could only assume they had. Angel must be gone, if he were alive he would never allow Doyle to be taken. 'The best friend I ever had, and I got him killed,' Doyle thought despairingly. And now he was alone and defenseless.
The apparent leader was now browbeating the largest and evidently youngest of the demons. Unfortunately he did so in Brachen, which Doyle had refused to learn despite Harry's encouragement. After the dressing down, the younger demon approached Doyle and picked him up, not roughly but not gently either. Realizing they were going to take him away now, Doyle screamed once more for Angel, hoping beyond hope he would come charging to the rescue. But there was no sign of life from the apartment.
The leader barked another annoyed instruction at the youngster and slammed the youngster's hand across Doyle's mouth, hard. He felt his lips split and thought he might have lost a tooth as well, but it was impossible to cry out with the gigantic hand covering his face. And his nose, he quickly discovered.
The blood flowed back into his mouth and down his throat. And with both his mouth and nose covered, Doyle couldn't breathe at all. He tried to move his head but the hand was too strong and heavy. He was desperate for air and starting to feel dizzy when he saw the Brachen looking at him in what seemed to be curiosity. 'Please let me breathe. Please,' Doyle wanted to tell him, and oddly enough the demon appeared to understand.
He called to the leader and they exchanged words in Brachen. Then the young demon removed his hand. The inital rush of air was so deliriously wonderful Doyle didn't at first comprehend how much of an ungodly stink came with it, not to mention how much blood was in his mouth. He choked and spat and coughed, succeeding in ridding himself of the blood that choked him but not the smell. The young demon continued watching him as if he were a new pet. The demon said something in Brachen, which while it meant nothing to Doyle did not sound unkind. The youngster seemed to think, then spoke again, in English this time.
About the last thing Doyle expected from his captors was concern. Clearly the youngster didn't know or didn't much care about his assignment, and regarded him more like a toy. It occurred to Doyle if he were going to have any chance at all at escape, he would need help. And the young demon was likely his best chance. "Okay," he told the demon hoarsely and was relieved the creature seemed cheered by the news.
Then another blast of air from the sewers struck him in the face and he sneezed without warning. He was unable to contain his demon side, something he had made a point of doing the last few days now that his Brachen heritage humiliated him even more. And his spikes poked the young demon. 'So much for that plan', Doyle thought. But he saw the youngster was still looking at him with curiosity, not anger. "Okay?" Doyle asked cautiously.
"Okay!" the demon agreed. At least it wasn't upset with him. 'But we have got to learn a few more words here,' Doyle decided.
By this time the group of demons had decided to quit the sewers and climbed out in an deserted area. There was a truck waiting, and the leader yanked Doyle from the younger demon's hands and dumped him inside without ceremony before locking it up.
Doyle supposed he should try to sleep but the truck rocked and bumped far too often for that. They drove for what seemed to be hours before stopping. When the door finally opened and the Brachens dragged Doyle back out, they were in the mountains, outside a doorway that opened into the side of a sizeable mountain. They dragged him down a corridor and into a room where another large, uniformed Brachen had clearly been waiting for them.
The leader of the group that captured Doyle dropped to one knee before the uniformed Brachen, and spoke to him at length. Doyle understood none of it, except for a few words that sounded like names. The uniformed Brachen was apparently Yakte or something like that, and Doyle also heard them mention someone called 'Halje' frequently and once they pointed to him when it was said. He wondered why they would call him that. v Eventually Yakte stood, pointed at Doyle, and began speaking with an imperious tone. Doyle could do nothing but stare back at him blankly. There was a whisper from somewhere in the room and Yakte gave another order with an irritated tone. A minute or so later another demon entered the room and regarded Doyle in a resigned manner.
"I am Sajo," he said slowly. "I know some your language."
"Great," Doyle muttered. 'Some' was clearly the operative term. "What the hell is this?" The Brachen holding Doyle shook him hard and threw him on the floor; the message was clear.
Sajo seemed taken aback by Doyle's attitude. He looked to Yakte, who gave another angry order. "You prisoner are, not ask questions. Yakte judge you he will."
'Judge me? For what?' Doyle wondered. He was now more confused than he had been a minute earlier. He wanted to ask, but he had a feeling that wasn't a bright idea.
Yakte resumed his imperious speech, frequently gesturing angrily at Doyle. Sajo's English was poor and he had difficulty keeping up with Yakte, much less making much sense in English. But he made enough sense.
"Criminal Halje you are, treason and traitor against species...plot destroy Brachen with Nikan...evil half-breed you are...tomorrow execute you be. Honor Yakte restored."
Doyle understood the essentials of what was transpiring, but the why part had him utterly baffled. He knew none of these creatures and had spent much of life trying to avoid them, so how on Earth had he 'dishonored' Yakte? The only possible thought he had was his failure to assist Lucas, but it was clear from Yakte's rants that he didn't think much of half-breeds, and so Doyle doubted he would have cared much about Lucas' clan. As Yakte's speech went on, Doyle's frustration grew and finally he no longer cared about retribution.
"Who the hell are ya? I don' know nothin' about none o' this an' ya ain't killin' me for it!"
Sajo didn't bother translating. Yakte's blue skin turned purple with anger and he belted Doyle across the mouth with his spikes. Doyle's lips had finally stopped bleeding but now those wounds reopened, joined by an assortment of new ones. Yakte stalked off muttering what Doyle presumed to be Brachen curses, and Doyle was dragged off roughly once again.
This time he was thrown, hard, against a cold stone wall. He heard the sounds of a door or gate being locked but it was still several more minutes before Doyle opened his eyes. He was in a cell, as he had guessed, solid stone but for the iron-gated doorway. There was nothing in the room but himself, and it was very cold in there. The stone floor was colder still. Silently Doyle thanked Angel for not bothering to fully undress him last night, although he wished he had shoes. His feet were icy cold.
Thinking of Angel wasn't the best thing Doyle could have done though. Angel was dead, he was certain, and it was his fault. Angel had died trying to save him, and in a matter of hours he would be dead anyway. And without Angel to protect her, how long would it be before something happened to Cordelia? He would never see his friends again, and they would never know what had become of him. He was frozen, hungry, extremely thirsty and exhausted. His lips were bloody and swollen, and his face stung from the wounds. On top of the stress of learning his own history, it was all far too much. Doyle laid his face on his arm and wept uncontrollably.
Between the Kolol medallion and the Chargonse stone, Cordelia was borderline brazen as she went home. The medallion once indicated briefly there were nasty demons nearby, but the stone had glowed as well, and she never saw or heard any sign of a demon. "Great stuff, Wesley. About time you did something right," she announced to no one in particular.
The night was just as uneventful, and when she returned to the office the next day she was feeling almost chipper. Neither Angel nor Doyle had put in an appearance, but it was early yet. She wouldn't want to wake Doyle anyway, the last two days had been terribly rough on him. She liked his mother though, and was glad to have been of help to Doyle--although not being attacked would have been much better.
There was still no sign of the office's less human occupants when Wesley showed a few hours later, with Harry in tow. "Aren't they up yet?" he inquired upon realizing Cordelia was still alone.
"Absolute, total and complete nothing," Cordelia responded. "Although I would have thought at least Angel would be up by now."
"So would I," Wesley remarked with trepidation.
Harry was a little baffled. "Why stand around discussing it when you can go downstairs and check? I'd feel better."
The three of them stood in uncomfortable silence for a minute. "Fine, I'll check on them," Cordelia sighed in exasperation and hopped into the elevator. She hadn't even touched down before she knew something wasn't right down there. She couldn't see or hear Angel or Doyle, and the apartment was a wreck.
"What was going on in here, WCW Wrestling?" she asked out loud. Silence.. "Hello? Angel? Doyle? You guys?" Still nothing.
Cordelia stepped out of the elevator, and then she saw the dead Brachen.. She screamed, believing for a second it was Doyle before realizing the corpse was far too large to have been him. Still, she knew immediately that Doyle was gone. "Oh my god oh my god oh my god," she babbled as Harry and Wesley rushed down the stairs.
Harry also squealed when she saw the dead demon, and Wesley started. "Doyle's gone. They took him," Cordelia told them. "I had the stone, so they took him."
"Angel?" Wesley asked. Cordelia shrugged.
"He's over here," Harry called them.
Angel was still lying where he had fallen after the Brachen had struck him with a blow that would have killed any mortal creature. The only reason it hadn't killed Angel was because he was a vampire, but he was still badly injured and unconscious. Wesley dragged Angel onto the couch and tried to wake him. It was obvious to Cordelia that wasn't going to work; she opted for a more direct route and dumped ice water on Angel's face. That worked.
"Rrrmmph," Angel groaned and tried to move without any success. "Whaaa...."
"Where's Doyle?" Cordelia demanded.
"The demon guys, where did they take him?"
"Doyle..." Angel was slowly coming to his senses but not quick enough for Cordelia.
"That was two questions ago," she snapped.
"A lot of 'em..." Angel moaned and tried to sit up. "Five, six. Did I get any?"
"You killed one," Wesley advised him. "I presume the others escaped?"
"Well, duh, they're not here," Cordelia was getting very irritated.
"They took Doyle into the sewers," Angel had finally succeeded in sitting up but clearly he was not feeling good.
"Did they say anything? Anything at all?" Harry asked hopefully.
Angel tried to shrug and nearly fell over.
"I think that's a no," Cordelia observed. She was feeling more frustrated than anything else. She had no clue where they might have taken Doyle, or why, or--or--suddenly her head was ripped apart from the inside out so fast she almost didn't understand at first it was a vision.
Wesley caught Cordelia as her legs gave way and set her on the couch while she was blinded with the pain and splintered images. It was a few minutes before she sufficiently caught her breath to speak again. "I was hoping those were gone," she complained.
"A vision? I thought those went back to Doyle," Wesley said in confusion.
"They did, except I think I got this one because it wouldn't help anybody if Doyle got it," Cordelia advised him. "I saw him. I think I know where he is--well, not where actually, but I think I could find it."
"Anything else?" Angel asked her.
"They're going to kill him. The spiky guys have him, and they're going to kill him."
From the doorway, Buja watched the half-breed crying to himself in the corner of his cell. He now understood the creature's name was Halje, and that his uncle meant to have him killed tomorrow. He wished somebody would have mentioned this before they sent him on the mission. He didn't like not knowing what he was supposed to be doing, and if he had known they were going to kill Halje, he probably would have tried to get himself assigned elsewhere. He hated killing anything.
Especially something as helpless and pathetic as Halje. Buja had gathered from his uncle's ranting that Halje himself hadn't actually done anything; it had been Halje's father who had broken the tribal rules and was later convicted of treason and executed, by Yakte in fact. But it had taken all these years to find Halje, and his uncle had taken not finding the half-breed who had been the root cause of all the trouble very personally.
None of it really made sense to Buja. He hadn't been born yet when the trouble began, and Halje had been an infant. Why the previous generation wanted revenge on the present was far beyond his comprehension. What he did understand was that Halje was cold, bloodied and probably hungry by now. Buja thought perhaps he should do something about it..
Halje was unable to stand or walk for reasons Buja didn't understand; but because he couldn't even stand up, Yakte and the others were convinced he could not possibly escape and had left him unguarded. Buja quietly opened the gate and closed it behind him, then crouched down cautiously beside Halje.
"Okay?" he asked.
Halje was startled and shrank back from him. But then he recognized Buja and appeared a little less frightened. "No," Halje whispered.
Buja got out the wet cloth he had brought with him and tried to clean the blood from Halje's face. Halje winced and twitched in pain and after a few minutes Buja gave up. They regarded each other silently for a minute or two before Buja decided to give one more shot at talking to Halje.
He pointed at himself. "Buja," he told Halje, who appeared to understand.
"Buja," he said weakly, half-heartedly pointing. Then Halje pointed at himself and looked questioningly at Buja.
At first Buja didn't understand what he was asking, but then it occurred to him the half-breed was really more human than Brachen and probably didn't know his own name. He pointed back. "Halje," he told him.
"Halje," the half-breed mumbled to itself, then looked back at Buja and pointed to himself. "Doyle," Halje said in a trembling voice.
Buja didn't understand and his confusion was clear to Halje.
"Human," Halje said softly. "Doyle."
Now Buja understood. Halje was trying to tell him his human name. "Doyle," he repeated. Halje nodded. Something else occurred to Buja as he remembered Doyle's embarrassment at revealing his Brachen side. "No Halje?" he asked.
"No Halje," answered Doyle, and shivered with cold.
"Okay. Okay, Doyle," Buja had decided what he was going to do now and suddenly jumped to his feet, startling Doyle again. Buja checked to make sure no one was watching and let himself back out of the cell.
He returned a few minutes later to find Doyle clearly confused, but not unhappy to see Buja again. Buja handed Doyle a glass of water but he had to help Doyle hold it as the half-breed eagerly gulped it down. Doyle pointed at the glass.
"More?" he asked.
Buja wasn't sure what the word meant, but he thought he might. "Later," he told Doyle in Brachen. He thought Doyle might have understood that. Buja had also brought a blanket with him and carefully pulled it over Doyle. The half-breed quickly curled himself up under the blanket and smiled at Buja slightly.
"Thank you," he said. Buja didn't know those words either, but he knew what Doyle meant and smiled himself.
"I don't understand how we can possibly do this," fretted Wesley. "Three Brachens were too much for Angel to handle, and now the four of us are going into their headquarters? To rescue someone we'll have to carry out? I don't see how this can possibly work."
Angel wasn't feeling too positive about this expedition either but Wesley's complaining was getting very annoying. Angel believed it was his own fault the Brachens had taken Doyle and he was going to get his friend back, even if he had to die trying. Cordelia and Harry seemed to be in agreement with him on this, but Wesley wasn't.
"This isn't the first time we've bucked the odds and you went then," Angel growled at him. "And we have more at stake this time."
"I don't recall the odds being quite this long before."
"Fine. Go back and we'll do this without you."
Wesley reddened. He wasn't going anywhere without Harry and all four of them knew that. "I'm not quitting, you understand, I just don't think it's going to work."
"Wesley? Shut up," Harry informed him. Harry was at the present time infuriated with Wesley for not telling her what he'd found out about Brachens. Harry had found out, however inadvertently, from Cordelia and had given Wesley a thorough talking to.
'At least one of them still had some sense,' Angel thought. Because it probably wasn't him. His head was still throbbing. The Brachen had really clocked him and he still wasn't thinking as clearly as he usually did. And riding in the back on the floor under a blanket was not his idea of a first class ride. He fingered the Jocalle dagger he now kept in his belt. He wasn't sure why he brought it, but maybe there would be a use for it. Maybe he could use it on himself if his head didn't stop aching.
Fortunately Cordelia seemed to be doing fine; she had been able to give a good enough description of what she'd seen that Harry recognized it. Although Harry had never been there, and wasn't sure of the exact location, she had heard the Brachens did have a lair in the mountains a few hours drive from Los Angeles. And Cordelia was sure she could figure out how to get there. That would be the easy part. Getting Doyle back out, well, that was going to be tougher.
Harry was equally convinced they would have a better chance of rescuing Doyle if they knew why he was taken in the first place. Angel didn't especially agree but he didn't disagree either, and searching through the records kept Harry and Wesley occupied on the trip into the mountains. Harry was particularly studious with the book Wesley had found on their trip but wasn't having any success.
"Brachens usually don't bother humans, outside of the kidnapping and raping women for the offspring business," she noted with disdain. "The only other record of them capturing a human was the husband of a woman who had a half-breed baby. He kidnapped the baby before the Brachens did, and when the Brachens found him they killed him."
"What happened to the baby?" Wesley inquired carefully.
"Doesn't say. Doesn't look like the Brachens ever found it. Not for lack of trying, apparently they were pretty interested in finding it."
Angel wondered to himself about that. Doyle wasn't supposed to have escaped the Brachens and lived either. Maybe..."Any record in there of other missing half-breed children?" he asked.
Harry shrugged. "I could look. But Francis wasn't missing."
"To us, no. But maybe he was to them." Angel's mind was starting to race and frankly, it hurt. He hoped someone else could take over the thinking part.
"Worth a shot. I'll look," Harry agreed.
None of them spoke again for almost an hour, when Harry finally found something of interest. "There was an incident recorded in the history almost thirty years ago, around when Francis was born, " she announced. "A half-breed child was stolen away from the Brachens after they'd stolen it from the mother. Apparently during or right after the draining process. The child was never found but eventually the Brachens convicted one of their own of taking the child and executed him."
"Nice guys," Cordelia mumbled.
"That sounds close though," Wesley suggested. "Anything else on that one?"
"The Brachen they executed was named Nikan and the Brachens considered him the worst kind of race traitor," Harry read on. "The prosecutor was a Brachen named Yakte and he swore to destroy both Nikan and the stolen child, which was Nikan's son Halje."
"What!" Cordelia hadn't been talking much for a change because she'd been driving, but now she nearly ran off the road. When she finally regained control of the car she pulled over and parked. "Somebody else drive, I'm freaked," she announced, unnecessarily Angel thought.
"That seems a little extreme," Wesley remarked. "It's close, but that doesn't mean--"
"Yes, it does," Cordelia barked. "The ghost demon that keeps popping up everywhere and might be Doyle's father is Nikan. Because he told me Doyle's Brachen name is Halje."
They all sat in stunned silence for a moment, except for Wesley, who let out a low whistle.
"Why would the Brachens want to kill Doyle if their complaint is with his father?" Angel wondered out loud.
"You don't know much about Brachens," Harry snorted. "They make a real point of visiting the sins of the father onto the children. They pretty much believe the child is its father in all ways and treat them accordingly."
"So if Doyle's father was a traitor, Doyle is too no matter what," Angel said slowly.
"Right. And they would have wanted to kill him before he was old enough that he might do something to damage them. It just took them a long time to find him." Harry had to marvel briefly. "Boy, it took them a long time."
"Then they aren't all that bright. We shouldn't have a problem then," Cordelia declared.
"Uh, Cordelia? Big, strong and mean, remember?" Angel interjected.
"Okay, less of a problem."
Buja had to scrape up a lot of nerve before he was able to knock on the door to his uncle's office. Even though Yakte had agreed to allow Buja to serve under his command, he had done so only as a favor to his brother and he really didn't seem to like Buja much. Buja didn't care for not being liked. He didn't even want to be in the military unit; he would have preferred to have kept the histories of his people. He liked reading them, and so thought he would like to write them as well. But in his family, the military was the expected future for male offspring and here he was.
Yakte was willing to see him, as it turned out, because he was greatly annoyed at the report he had received from Zedri. "I'm told you nearly ruined the mission to capture the half-breed. True?" he asked Buja icily.
Buja shrank back and his spines wilted slightly. "I didn't know vampires were so strong," he offered apologetically.
"You should have learned that in training!" Yakte snapped. "Always know your enemy. First thing they taught me. Don't they teach you anything in school?"
"Well, yes. I was just--" the look on Yakte's face told Buja maybe he better not try to explain himself. "It won't happen again, sir. I promise."
"It better not. What do you want?"
Buja shifted his weight nervously. "I was wondering...why...what happened that you want Halje executed. He seems kind of...harmless."
"It's none of your business."
"You're right, sir. Sorry to bother you," Buja turned away sheepishly and started towards the door.
"But you may better understand our purpose and the importance of destroying those such as Halje if you know the story. Maybe you'll be more useful then."
"You'll tell me?" Buja asked hopefully.
"When I was not much older than you, a half-breed child was stolen from the draining facility before the process was complete. As you know, the compound is useless unless whole and the compound already taken from the child had no value until the process was finished. The child's disappearance cost us a great deal of money and threatened to expose us and our dealings to the humans. My commander deemed the child's vanishing a crime of treason and ordered me to find the child and whomever had taken it.
"In my investigation it came to my attention the child had been fathered by a member of my unit, Nikan, and that he had frequently been seen at the facility looking at the child, which had been called Halje. He was also missing for several days after the child disappeared. It was clear to me he took Halje and I was able to convict him of the crime. He was executed shortly afterward, but he refused to say what he had done with the child.
"The commander ordered us to find Halje, both to complete the draining and to destroy this child which clearly came from bad stock. The longer Halje lives, the greater the danger he is to our people and our ways. If we do not destroy him, someday he will destroy us. You understand now?"
'Not really,' Buja thought to himself. But he wasn't telling Yakte that.. "Yes, sir. This is important to the survival of our species."
"You may yet turn out well. But learn to fight," Yakte informed him.
"I will, sir. Thank you," Buja answered and left.
Unfortunately for Yakte, Buja had been convinced by his story and argument. Convinced that Halje--Doyle, Buja corrected himself--didn't deserve death. Buja supposed Nikan may have deserved his punishment, but Doyle wasn't at fault and he certainly wasn't a threat to anything. Buja resolved he would find a way to let Doyle go free. How was going to be difficult though. Especially since they were going to finish the draining soon.
Even with the blanket, Doyle was still too cold and frightened to sleep much. Fortunately Buja brought him more water and some bread later. His mouth almost hurt too much for him to eat or drink, and Buja had fetched some ice for him as well. It had occurred to Doyle that Buja probably hadn't had any more idea of why Doyle had been brought here than Doyle had until the display with that Yakte character. Somehow Doyle couldn't picture Buja harming anything.
The problem was Doyle couldn't picture Buja understanding enough English to really be of much help either. There was no way he could crawl out of this place, much less go somewhere once outside. As a result, Doyle had already given up any hope or intent of escape, and had decided he should be spending his remaining time making peace with himself....and hoping the Brachens would kill him quickly.
But it became apparent to Doyle he wasn't going to have much time to himself when two Brachens appeared at the gate and dragged him out. They took him to a room that reminded Doyle of a laboratory crossed with a hospital room, and chained him to a table over his protests. He wasn't strong enough to even make them think twice, he noted in irritation.
Other demons came in later, one carrying a tray with Brachen writing on the outside which he set on another table. The one without the tray jabbed a needle into Doyle's arm without warning. Doyle cursed him but otherwise had no recourse. The demon ignored Doyle's complaints and left the room with a sizeable amount of Doyle's blood. He came back a few minutes later and spoke angrily with the demon who had stayed there. They both pointed at Doyle and said things he doubted were pleasant. Then they called back the first two demons and Doyle was dragged back to his cell.
'What the hell was that all about?' Doyle wondered. He hoped Buja would come back. He needed some more water. Instead, Yakte and Sajo appeared later. Yakte berated him again and Sajo half-translated Yakte's ranting. Something about how much money he had cost them because he didn't have any of the chemical left. Doyle no longer cared what might happen to him, and he told Yakte exactly how much he didn't care. Sajo didn't know how to translate that, but Yakte got the idea; he viciously kicked Doyle in the ribs. Then they left him alone again.
The kick knocked the air out of Doyle and left him gasping for several minutes. The pain finally eased enough to let him breathe but was sharp each time he did draw a breath. He figured he probably broke a rib. Not that it mattered. He knew for certain he would never walk again, but that didn't matter either. He wasn't going to be alive long enough for it to matter.
"Turn left up here," Cordelia instructed Wesley.
"Where? There's no road anywhere--"
"Yes, there is. I don't know how we're going to get anything done if you can't even trust me with simple directions," Cordelia bristled. She was right about the directions, she knew that. She didn't know how she knew, but it had been a long time since she had questioned the information she received in visions. It was better to just flow with it. And while she would never have thought it of herself, she was glad she had gotten the vision instead of Doyle. Doyle had too much pain in the rest of his life to be having the visions, and if she could take them back from him permanently she would do it gladly.
And sure enough, there was a dirt road on the left nearly hidden by shrubbery. "It doesn't look particularly passable really," Wesley declared.
"Shut up and turn already," Cordelia snapped. It was noon now, and she knew Doyle would be dead by sunset if Wesley wouldn't get off of it. If they tried and failed to rescue Doyle, she felt she would be able to live with herself--assuming she survived the rescue attempt. But she wouldn't be able to live with herself if they didn't get there on time to try.
"Maybe I should drive," Harry suggested.
"We're close now, it won't really matter," Cordelia sighed.
The road was in fact rather poor, and the car struggled with it, but they were close to the Brachens' cavern. And it looked abandoned, at least on the exterior. There were a pair of trucks parked nearby and otherwise no indications of life. More importantly, there didn't appear to be any signs of security or anything else to tip off the Brachens. Most important for Angel, the entrance was far enough back in the woods to eliminate daylight as a problem..
"Is this place guarded at all?" Wesley asked.
"Doesn't look like it," Angel agreed. "But it would help if we could get the door open. There would have to be at least one guard on the other side of it."
"If we could get him out here, we could get in then," Cordelia thought. "We can tackle one of these creepies--we can, right?" She shot a look at Angel.
They had long since agreed Cordelia was going to be first one in, as she still had the Chargonse. With any luck she would be safe. Cordelia found herself oddly trusting the stone as fully as she trusted Angel to protect her, but then the stone had a good record so far. "Here goes," she announced, walked up to the entrance and knocked.
Nothing happened. She knocked again. "Hey, open up! Open sesame street! Whatever!"
The door opened and a lone Brachen came out. The Kolol told Cordelia he was annoyed at the disturbance, and while she couldn't understand a word he was shouting at her, she gathered he was telling her she was lost and should go away. Not that it mattered. She backed up just enough to draw the Brachen past the doorway and Angel knocked the demon senseless.
"One down, lots to go," she piped.
"They won't all be this easy," griped Wesley, who had the unenviable task of tying up the unconscious demon without cutting himself on the spikes.
"Ready, set?" Cordelia asked Harry.
"Let's go," Harry started to go in ahead of Cordelia and Wesley yanked her back.
"Stay with the stone, for God's sakes, Harry, you're only supposed to find out where they're keeping him," he scolded her.
"I know," she snipped. She was still irritated with Wesley.
Harry's knowledge of Brachens indicated to her that she and Cordelia were unlikely to be killed by them. Obviously the new information they had regarding Brachens and human women wasn't pleasant, but Harry thought that between the attraction Brachen males had for human women and their usefulness for Brachen commerce, the two of them would at least survive this experience. And the Chargonse was certainly a nice backup to have.
Angel still didn't entirely trust the stone, and he and Wesley were both worried about Harry going in since she didn't have one herself, but Harry felt it was more important to have someone who could read and speak Brachen inside. 'And speak sanely,' she thought to herself. Harry thought Cordelia would be more likely to annoy the Brachens further than to talk her way out of a bad situation.
"Where are we going?" she asked Cordelia.
Cordelia didn't answer.
'Oh, no,' thought Harry. "You don't have any idea, do you?"
"As a matter of fact, no. The powers give road maps, not blueprints," Cordelia grumbled.
"Terrific." They both stepped back into an alcove as they heard footsteps. It occurred to Harry for the first time the Brachens would probably be able to smell them, at least if they were fairly close, but the demons kept going along another corridor and didn't turn into the one where they were hidden.
"Close call number one," Cordelia noted. "Would be nice if they could have a 'You are Here' sign somewhere."
"But then this would be easy," Harry responded. "Right or left?"
Cordelia shrugged. "Right? That's the side of the car I woke up on."
"Good enough," Harry turned right even as she questioned Cordelia's sanity.
The corridor was empty and quiet and they were able to proceed to its end before they had to choose a new direction. Harry picked left this time. They had gone only a few steps when they heard someone coming and ducked into the nearest open doorway--and right smack into a gigantic Brachen.
Harry started to scream but the Brachen put a hand over each of their mouths, then ushered them back from the doorway and out of immediate sight. One of the Brachens who had been coming down the hallway poked his head in the doorway, apparently looking for the Brachen who had just caught them. Harry was able to understand most of their conversation.
"What, you're still sleeping? You missed half the day?"
The Brachen holding them answered back. "I haven't missed the good half yet! I'll be up in a minute."
The Brachens in the hallway chuckled and continued on their way. The Brachen holding them looked first at Cordelia, then at Harry, then back at Cordelia. "Shhhh!" he told them, and took his hands off their mouths.
Harry debated whether to scream anyway, but decided against it because Cordelia seemed perfectly happy to stay quiet. And she was the one with the stones--literally, Harry thought to herself.
The three of them stood staring at each other--well, mostly the demon seemed to be staring at Cordelia, Harry noticed. Then she noticed the Kolol medallion was glowing in much the same fashion as it did when Francis was around Cordelia.
Cordelia knew what Harry was looking at. "He likes me!" she chirped.
The Brachen's interest in them seemed to be increasing, and Harry realized his interest was more or less curiosity. He wasn't at all dangerous. In fact, he seemed very young. And huge, she added to herself, he was more than seven feet tall, probably larger than that. He also seemed to be at a loss for words.
"Okay?" he finally asked them.
'English?' Harry thought. Not many Brachens spoke it. "You speak English?" she asked in English. He looked blank. "You speak English?" she asked again, in Brachen this time.
He shook his head in disappointment. "I really don't know English. But you know Brachen?" he added hopefully.
"Yes, I know some Brachen. Who are you?"
The youngster started babbling. "I am Buja. My uncle is in charge of the installation--he's really uptight. I know she is Cordelia. My commander tried to catch her before but he couldn't because she has a Chargonse stone. She's pretty. You're pretty too. Who are you?"
"Excuse me, out of the loop?" Cordelia interjected.
"His name's Buja, and he knows the demons who tried to catch you before.. And yes, he likes you."
"Are you looking for Doyle?" Buja asked.
At the sound of the name, Cordelia whipped her head around so fast Harry thought her head was going to fly off. Then again, Harry was just as surprised. "How did you know?"
Buja shrugged. "She was with Doyle before. I thought she must be looking for him. Are you looking for him too?"
"Yes. He's my...he was my husband."
Buja appeared to be impressed. "He's nice. My uncle is going to kill him in a few hours."
Harry gulped. "Kill him?"
"He's mad at Doyle's father, so he wants to kill Doyle. It sounds really stupid to me. I like Doyle. I don't want him killed."
"Neither do we." Harry paused, then figured it was worth the shot. "Do you think you could help us free him?"
"I've been thinking about doing that. But now is not a good time to try it. He has guards now." Buja walked to doorway and looked out. "You shouldn't stay in here. You'll get caught. Are there others? Maybe we can make a plan?"
"There are others," Harry told him.
"The vampire?" Buja asked. Harry nodded. "He's strong. I will take you back out so no one sees you. Then we can make a plan."
Cordelia, meanwhile, was getting impatient. "What's going on?"
"He's going to get us out of here. And then we're going to figure out how to spring Doyle."
Angel and Wesley both waited impatiently for Harry and Cordelia to come back--if they came back, Angel corrected himself. He wasn't sure they would. But they did. With a giant Brachen in tow. Angel's first instinct was to attack but Cordelia anticipated that and grabbed Angel's arm. "We found somebody to help us. So don't kill him," she chirped.
"This is Buja," Harry added hurriedly. "He knows where Francis is, and he knows his way around in there."
Angel could only stare in shock. The last thing he expected was inside help.
"As I think about it, Angel, I think the odds just shortened up a bit, don't you think?" Wesley observed.
Buja had some ideas on his own about getting Doyle out, but they had all required him having assistance from his fellow Brachens that he was certain he wouldn't get. And he had no idea what he would have done if he had gotten Doyle out. Finding Doyle's friends, however accidentally, thrilled him no end. And Doyle's wife was as pretty as Cordelia too. Good company, he had to admit.
His plan was to volunteer to take Doyle to the execution chamber. There would be at least one other Brachen assigned to this duty, but Buja was sure that Angel could take care of the other guard. Then, he thought, we try to get out of here quickly and hope no one catches us. Wesley was insistent Harry remain outside to drive the car, but Buja didn't think all of them would need to be there anyway. He and Angel could fight, and Cordelia and Wesley could take Doyle.
Buja guided them to a corridor at the midpoint between Doyle's cell and the execution chamber. The Kolol medallion, he thought, would let them know when he was approaching with Doyle. Then Buja left them hiding in a side room while he went to Doyle's cell. When he arrived there, he was horrified to find Doyle was already gone.
Panicked, Buja dashed down the hall and found the sentry. "Where's the prisoner?" he demanded.
"Don't worry, if you hurry you won't miss it. The half-breed had nothing left to drain, so your uncle had a fit. Decided to do the execution early. Wish I could watch," the sentry answered.
Buja raced back to Angel and the others and tried frantically to explain, but only Wesley understood him, and then only a little.
Doyle spent several hours biting back the pain that ripped through him with each breath, and wondering where Buja was. Instead it was two foot soldiers that appeared and dragged him off for whatever plans the Brachens had for him this time. This time they took him into a large cavern that smelled strongly of blood, and other, even less pleasant things. Dozens of Brachens were gathered, and seated as if in an audience behind a wall with a window. Doyle had a pretty good idea what the room was for and why they came to watch.
"Bloodthirsty then are ya?" he growled. It earned him a cuff across the side of the head. Doyle spit at the demon that had struck him and the demon hit him again, this time striking him in the side and further damaging his ribs. Doyle yelped and didn't protest further.
The Brachens holding him tried to make him stand, which didn't work too well since his legs weren't quite able to hold him up to begin with, and Doyle wasn't about to give them any help. Finally, the two Brachens settled for holding him up by his arms. Yakte then came in, trailed by another Brachen. They wore what must have been ceremonial clothing, and Doyle noted the last Brachen carried a huge broadsword. "Gee, I wonder what that's for?" he snarled sarcastically. The demons didn't bother hitting him this time. Doyle sighed. At least he would die quicker than he had the last time.
Yakte, as seemed to be his usual habit, had started reciting yet another speech that sounded much like the first one. And at the end of the speech, the executioner jabbed Doyle in the stomach with the sword and the two Brachens that held him shoved him onto his knees. The executioner took the sword in both hands and laid the sword across the back of Doyle's neck. Yakte said something else in irritation and the executioner put the sword across Doyle's throat.
'Lovely', Doyle thought. 'I get to see it.' He had hoped he wouldn't be afraid, or at least would be able to put on a sufficient act to keep the Brachens from knowing he was afraid, but he found himself beginning to shake anyway. He looked Yakte in the eye. "Go to hell," he informed Yakte. Yakte only smiled.
The executioner pulled the sword back like he was going to hit a golf ball, then swung it forward. Doyle couldn't take his eyes off the blade; it seemed to him like each fraction of a second took hours and he would be watching the sword forever.
"Seems to be something about they changed plans and already took him to be executed," Wesley told the others. The young Brachen was nearly in a panic, Wesley thought. And we ought to be, he added to himself.
Fortunately Angel had his own idea of what to do next. "Cordelia, stay here. If we aren't back in ten minutes, try to get out of here on your own because we probably aren't coming back," he instructed her, much to her annoyance.
"And how exactly were you planning to get back out?" she demanded. She pulled out the Chargonse stone and split it. She started to give half to Angel, then reconsidered and handed it to Wesley. "You're carrying Doyle, you carry this too. If you're not back, I'll leave and the stone will tell you how to get back to me."
"I hope I'll need it," Wesley told her. To tell the truth, he doubted he was going to have occasion to need it, but on the off chance they succeeded he would like to find his way out.
Buja was still frantically waving to them to follow him. Fortunately they didn't encounter any other Brachens along the way, and it occurred to Wesley they likely had all gone to watch the execution. Demons were even worse than humans when it came to bloodthirsty entertainment. But for their cause, this unpleasant quality would be of benefit.
Buja led them to a large, steel door, which was locked tight. "How do we get in?" Angel demanded, changing into his vamp form even as he asked.
"Tell him I'll get the guard to come out," Buja told Wesley. Then Buja knocked on the door, hard. The guard opened the door and leaned out, intending to tell Buja he was too late and should know better than to interrupt. Instead Angel slammed the guard's head against the door. Buja grabbed the guard's keys and began fumbling with them, trying to open the right-hand door inside the small anteroom.
"They will be in here," Buja told Wesley, who then told Angel.
"Wes, we'll take on the demons. You grab Doyle and run like hell, got it?" Angel ordered.
"Right." Wesley wasn't listening to Angel, actually. He was wondering about the other, left-hand door in the anteroom. If all the demons were on the other side of the left door, here to watch, wouldn't they all come out after them? Maybe he would regret this, but Wesley picked up a steel bar and slid it through the door handle in the hopes that if there were some angry Brachens on the other side, they wouldn't be able to open the door.
Wesley wasn't even looking when Angel flung open the right-hand door and charged into the main room. He turned just in time to see the executioner was about to swing a giant broadsword, much in the manner of a baseball bat, through Doyle's neck.
Cordelia had been pacing the small storage room where she had been left and she was sure at least ten minutes had passed by now. As much as she wanted to help Doyle, she wasn't sure she wanted to be a Brachen plaything either, and decided she'd better head for the entrance.
The place seemed deserted, but Cordelia thought from time to time she heard footsteps behind her, and each time she did she ducked into the nearest side room and hid until she was certain no one was out there. One of the rooms she hid in briefly looked like her high school chemistry lab, with all the tubes and trays and such forth. She couldn't hear anything outside and was about to leave the room when she noticed one tray that was sitting out on a shelf, apparently forgotten. She didn't have time for this, but something instinctive told her to take a closer look at the contents of the tray.
The tray contained a couple of capped glass test tubes, one of which appeared to have blood in it and the other, larger tube held a clearer, less specific liquid. Gross, she thought. She started to leave but out of the corner of her eye noticed the label on the tray. The label was in Brachen, but she understood one of the words written on it. Halje. Cordelia emptied the contents of the tray into her belt pack, then resumed her trek to the entrance.
Angel really didn't know what he expected to find on the other side of the door, but he was shocked to find himself arriving precisely at the critical moment. So shocked that he nearly failed to act in time. He knew he didn't have time to cross the room, and the only thing he could think of was the dagger in his belt. Angel pulled out the Jocalle and threw it, hard, at the sword. He knew the dagger was supposed to be able to cut through anything and he could only hope steel was included in that list. And that the dagger found his intent acceptable.
As it turned out, not only was steel on the Jocalle's list, but the dagger accepted both Angel's reasoning and his aim. The dagger sliced through the base of the sword's blade as the sword was only a couple inches from Doyle's throat. Without the executioner's strength behind it, the blade lost its momentum and the flat side struck Doyle harmlessly across the chest before the blade fell to the floor. The handle continued in its arc as the executioner was too surprised to stop it, and the stump of the blade tore through the side of one of the Brachens that held Doyle, wounding it. The dagger fell to the floor next to Doyle, who snatched it up immediately and stabbed the injured demon, killing it.
Angel sprinted across the room and tackled the Brachen that still held Doyle. He ignored the spines piercing his hands as he hurled the offending demon headfirst against the wall. By this time the executioner had realized what was happening and leapt onto Angel's back, wrapping its hands around Angel's throat with the intention of ripping off his head. Angel was losing the battle and beginning to think of the ignominy of it all ending in this manner when the Brachen was jerked away suddenly.
Regaining his feet, Angel saw that Wesley was half-carrying, half-dragging Doyle out of the room, and the executioner was being pounded into a pulp by Buja. Angel had thought the executioner to be one of the strongest demons he'd ever encountered, but Buja was clearly even stronger. All the same, Angel could see the 'audience' trying to rush out to attack, and he thought escaping might be a great idea. "Let's get out of here," he yelled at Buja, and took off after Wesley and Doyle.
Wesley hadn't gotten far with Doyle; he was barely able to carry Doyle to begin with and when Angel got a better look he discovered Wesley was bleeding from a dozen wounds in his back--Brachen spikes, it certainly looked like. Angel snatched Doyle from Wesley and shoved Wesley ahead. "Run," he told him, "I'll be right behind you."
Angel paused to get a better handle on Doyle, who had grabbed hold of Angel's neck and was hanging on tight, his face buried in Angel's chest. "I'm getting you out of here, Doyle. If it's the last thing I do." Doyle didn't answer, but tightened his grip on Angel's neck. Angel ran.
Buja had caught up to them by then; he ran past them and gestured to them to follow him. Angel could hear the remaining Brachens pounding on the door and wondered why they hadn't simply run after them. Wesley, who was clearly struggling for breath as he ran as best he could, answered that question. "I barricaded the door...to keep them in. I don't know how long...it'll hold though."
Every once in a while, Angel thought, Wesley really amazes me. "Nice job, Wes."
"Thank...you..." Wesley was out of breath and unable to run anymore. He stumbled and fell. Buja halted and stepped back, intending to pick up Wesley, but instead received a sword through his back as he bent down. A Brachen, dressed ceremonially, stepped out of the shadows and pulled the sword back out of Buja. Angel stopped so suddenly he lost his footing and fell, dropping Doyle in the process.
There was blood on the Brachen's hands and Angel realized he must have been the one who had wounded Wesley. Yakte lunged at Doyle with the bloody sword, but Buja reached out and pulled one of Yakte's feet out from under him, toppling him to the ground. Yakte swung his sword wildly as he fell and nearly caught Angel, who had scrambled back up and was ready to face off. Muttering what Angel assumed were Brachen curses, Yakte regained his footing and charged at Angel. Once more Angel ignored the spikes tearing at his own skin and flipped Yakte to the ground.
Angel tried to land an additional blow, but Yakte swung his sword and Angel leapt awkwardly into the air to avoid it, lost his balance and fell to the ground. Yakte was about to drive the sword through Angel when the Jocalle dagger came flying through the air and sliced through Yakte's armor and his chest before falling to the floor next to Angel. Angel realized Doyle had kept the dagger, and he had thrown it. Twice in five minutes, he thought. Handy item.
Screeching in pain, Yakte dropped the sword and Angel kicked it away. Yakte scrambled back for the sword, but Buja, rapidly weakening, was still able to knock the sword further away. In anger and pain, Yakte retrieved the sword and drove it into Buja repeatedly, killing him. Angel didn't understand the things Yakte screamed at Buja as he killed him and wished he did. Probably very interesting.
Suddenly Yakte stopped his assault on Buja's corpse and raised the sword above his head. Angel climbed back to his feet and stood between Yakte and Doyle, waiting for Yakte to make a move as Angel expected him to try to bring the sword down on Doyle. Instead Yakte turned and fell on his own sword, killing himself and falling dead across Buja's body.
Angel stared in amazement, as did Wesley, but then Angel remembered Doyle. Doyle looked ashen, almost stricken, and Angel wondered what had happened between him and Buja. Certainly it was odd the Brachen would have wanted to help Doyle, what could possibly...But then Angel heard a smash and a roar as the remaining Brachens finally destroyed the door. "Here comes the cavalry," he muttered.
"And we're the Indians this time," agreed Wesley. "Leave me here. You'll have a better chance of getting out."
"No. I ain't gettin' anyone else killed." Doyle spoke for the first time. He was still staring at Buja's corpse and seemingly seeing nothing else. Doyle finally tore his gaze away from the dead Brachens, picked up the dagger again and turned his attention to Angel. "Can ya carry me on your back? I think I can hang on."
Angel dropped down on his knees beside Doyle, mindful of the sounds of the angry Brachens getting closer. "We'll have to try it. But I don't know where we're going."
"I have the stone, Angel. Keep going the way we were going," Wesley told him.
Angel had forgotten the Chargonse until Wesley mentioned it. "I hope the that thing works."
"It does. It worked for Cordy." Doyle grabbed Angel's neck and pulled himself onto his back. Doyle was much lighter than Angel had expected, and he was able to stand up without too much difficulty.
"Hang on Wes, here we go," Angel announced as he pulled Wesley to his feet. Angel started to run, half-supporting and half-dragging Wesley as he went.
The Chargonse did seem to know where it was going and it told Wesley almost in an instinctive manner which way they should go. Wesley then told Angel which way to run. Angel hoped Cordelia had found her way out, or it wasn't going to help them at all.. Furthermore, they weren't able to run fast and he was getting tired, quickly. The Brachens were catching up.
"What if Harry and Cordelia aren't ready?" Wesley asked with worry.
"If Cordy has the stone, she already knows," Doyle told him.
"But even if we get to the door, we can't close it from the outside. They can still follow us out," Angel thought out loud. Neither Doyle nor Wesley responded and Angel was sure they, like himself, were trying not to think about that.
Angel rounded a corner and was initially relieved to see the main entrance ahead. He was just as quickly upset to see a Brachen waiting at the doorway for them. He would have to fight.
"He wants to help," Doyle gasped.
"What?" Angel panted.
"He's gonna help us. Just go," Doyle answered.
Angel decided to trust Doyle on this one and kept running for the door. The Brachens were less than a hundred feet behind them now. As he approached the entrance, the Brachen standing by the door pressed some buttons on a control panel and the door opened. Cordelia was waiting for them on the other side, and Harry already had the car running.
"Hurry up already!" Cordelia squealed. "Bad guys coming!"
'No kidding', thought Angel. He dashed through the doorway, and out of the corner of his eye he saw the lone Brachen step back to the panel and press some more buttons. The door slammed shut behind Angel, onto the outstretched arms of a few Brachens who were inches away from grabbing Doyle's feet.
Angel dropped Wesley on the front seat, and crawled into the back seat with Doyle still hanging onto him. Cordelia climbed in after them and slammed the door closed..
"They'll get that door back open in a minute," Harry announced. "We're burning rubber." And she floored it.
"But they can still follow--" Wesley started.
"On foot maybe. But I slashed all their tires," Harry declared cheerfully.
"Harry, you're fantastic," Angel informed her. Then the car emerged from the woods. "And I'm on fire!" he yelped as the sun scorched him.
Fortunately for Angel, Cordelia had thought of that and had a blanket ready to cover him up, just as soon as she could shove him onto the floor of the car. The sun went down only a few minutes later and Angel was able to sit back up. But Cordelia was more concerned with patching up Doyle than she was with Angel.
"You can wait," she informed him. "You heal by yourself anyway." Angel threw up his sliced hands in defeat.
It was evident that Doyle and Wesley were going to need medical attention anyway. Now that the danger was past Wesley had commenced whining about how much pain he was in, although upon closer inspection his wounds were strictly of the flesh variety and a visit to a small hospital confirmed that. Although Cordelia and Harry had to come up with a good explanation for the doctors.
"A totally humongous porcupine," Cordelia declared. "Bigger than a dog."
Angel, meanwhile, would have been far happier if Doyle had been complaining about how much pain he was in. In fact, Doyle completely failed to say anything about the pain in his side, and it was only by accident the doctors found his broken rib. Doyle declined to provide any details as to how his rib was broken, and for that matter he said very little on their journey home.
Doyle still wasn't talking after Wesley and Harry had been dropped off at their home, and Angel had driven Doyle and Cordelia back to the office. Cordelia had refused to go home, insisting on staying to ensure Doyle was really going to be all right, and Angel was too tired to argue. Besides, Doyle's silence was bothering him tremendously.
"You haven't said much," he told Doyle as he put him to bed.
"Nothing to say," Doyle answered back.
"Are you okay?" Angel asked, and was surprised to see Doyle flinch and turn away at the sound of the last word.
Doyle was silent long enough for Angel to give up hopes of talking out the problem tonight, and he had gotten up to leave when Doyle finally answered him. "I think I'm beginnin' to understand what it's like for you," he said quietly.
"I'm not following you."
Doyle sighed. "I'm gettin' to know what it's like to see everyone ya know get hurt or killed because of what you are. Everythin' that's happened the last couple days, that's my fault."
"No, it's not," Angel tried to tell him. He knew that feeling all too well, but he also knew Doyle wasn't responsible for recent events. Others set this plan in motion, and few participated in it unwillingly. But Doyle wasn't willing to hear about it.
"It is," he said bluntly, and turned over with his back to Angel.
Angel decided to save further arguments until tomorrow.
Cordelia had been the first to fall asleep, and she was the first to wake up the next morning. Angel was still asleep in his chair, and Cordelia decided to leave him that way. Her worry about Doyle in the last few days had answered a lot of her own questions. She knew now that she did care about Doyle, very much so, and while she didn't have enough experience in the area to be absolutely certain, she was pretty sure she loved him. And she was ready to tell him that.
Doyle was still lying facing the wall and keeping his back to the doorway. Cordelia assumed he was asleep and entered the bedroom quietly. She was very startled when Doyle spoke.
"I know you're here. Ya don't have to be quiet."
"I--I thought you were asleep."
"I'm not." Doyle rolled over, and Cordelia's first thought was that he hadn't slept at all. There were dark circles under his eyes, and he looked like he was still exhausted. And something about the look in his eyes frightened her.
"Did you sleep at all? 'Cause you look like--you don't look good," Cordelia caught herself in the midst of delivering an insult, and changed it at the last moment. She was in here to tell him how she felt, hurting his feelings probably wouldn't be the best way to start that conversation.
"I didn' sleep. An' it don't matter what I look like 'cause I wanna be alone," he said flatly.
Cordelia opened her mouth to say something, then closed it again. She wasn't sure what she should say.
"Cordelia, I'm askin' you to leave. Ya get that?" Doyle asked her with irritation. "Go away. I don' want ya here. I don't want ya around me at all no more."
She was so shocked she almost didn't move. The only reason she did move was that she was afraid he would get angrier with her. She backed out of the room, trying not to cry. For all the times she had hurt his feelings, Doyle had always gone out of his way not to hurt her. Until this morning. Cordelia was so distressed she backed right into Angel.
"Watch it!" Angel caught her as she tripped over him. "Is something wrong? Something..."
For once, Cordelia didn't feel like complaining about him sneaking up on her, or not understanding what was going on. She wanted to cry, but not in front of Angel. "He told me to go away," she said in a small voice.
Angel appeared lost in thought, and for a moment she thought he didn't hear her. "I'll talk to him."
Cordelia nodded and went to the living room quickly, before the tears came. She was crying by the time she reached the couch as the agonizing irony set into her mind. Now that she finally wanted Doyle, he didn't want her. And she couldn't begin to imagine why or what happened to him to change his mind. She dug through her bag looking for tissues while she sobbed--and found the tubes she had taken from the Brachen lair. She'd completely forgotten about them. And now she forgot to cry as she wondered what they were--and if they might help Doyle.
Doyle didn't feel good about driving Cordelia away from him. He cared about her too much for it not to hurt, but in his mind it had to be done. In the many hours he had to think, he already knew that was going to be the hardest thing for him to do, but it would be for her own good. She would only get hurt, or killed, if she stayed with him.
Doyle had spent the night, and much of the day before, contemplating all the people in his acquaintance who had been hurt or had died because of him and who he was, starting with his mother and continuing through yesterday's death of Buja and the injuries to Angel and Wesley. He had concluded that Angel and Cordelia were wrong; the demon in him was evil. Doyle hadn't seen much to redeem Brachens in the last few days, but he knew he was one and now more than ever he didn't want to be.
And, at least in part, what little he understood from the Brachens was that his father had betrayed his own species, and they believed that he would too. And Doyle was willing to believe them right. Someday, he would betray Angel and Cordelia, and it would likely cost them their lives. He would have to leave here, as soon as possible, and never see or have anything to do with either of them again. He hoped he would have the strength to do away with himself soon after that; Doyle didn't fear Hell, despite what Angel had told him of it, nearly so much as he feared bringing harm to his friends.
But first, he would have to get past Angel. And he really didn't think the vampire was going to just let him leave.
Angel came into the bedroom, sat in the chair and said nothing. Doyle turned his back on Angel again. "I don't wanna talk to you. An' I'd prefer ya leave now."
"Not going anywhere. Whether you like it or not." Angel leaned forward. "Any particular reason for what just happened here?"
Doyle shrugged. "It won't hurt her as bad now as it would later."
"As what would?"
Doyle turned back to face Angel. "I'm leavin' here. The sooner the better. An' it's better for her if she don't care 'bout me so much," he tried to say with as much resolution as he could.
Angel furrowed his eyebrows. "You can't just leave."
"I can't stay. I'm only gonna bring ya more trouble. My...relatives," he said the last word bitterly, "are gonna be comin' after me until they get me. An' I'm not hangin around here to watch you an' Cordy get killed 'cause of me. I already thought I got ya killed once an' I don't wanna see the real thin'."
"You don't know that they'll come back. They might not. And even if they do it doesn't mean--"
"I'm not takin' that chance." Doyle summoned up his nerve to continue. "Don't you think every day 'bout what might happen to me an' Cordy just because we work w' you? Or about all the people you know got killed because of you? That's all I been thinkin' about, is all the people I've gotten killed, an' I'm tired of it. I don't want any more people on that list and I'm gettin' out before there are."
Angel leaned back. "Running away doesn't work. I've tried it--that's the whole reason I'm in LA--and I know it doesn't work. Leaving didn't make things any better for Buffy. You won't make things any better for me and Cordy by leaving. It'll be just as bad for us, and just as bad for you, and we won't have each other to help us through."
"But you'll still be alive." Doyle turned away from Angel again. "I don't wanna talk 'bout it any more. I made my decision. I'll live w' it."
Doyle thought Angel was going to keep arguing anyway but instead Angel got up and left. He found it hard to believe he'd won the argument that easily.
Angel was more than willing to continue except that he had noticed Wesley standing outside the doorway and gesturing frantically for Angel to come out. Angel doubted Doyle was going anywhere immediately, and so left the room.
"What, Wesley? It had better be good."
"It is. Important, anyway." Wesley darted back to the elevator. "In the office."
Angel resigned himself and followed Wesley to the office. Cordelia was there, and clearly she had been crying, but now she was restless and looked worried. There was an assortment of tubes and similar items scattered on her desk.
"What's going on that's so important?" he asked Wesley in exasperation.
Wesley intimated to Cordelia for her to begin. Reluctantly, she did. "When I was trying to find my way out of that place, I hid for a minute in this one room that looked like a lab or something, and I found a bunch of things in a tray that had Doyle's Brachen name written on it so I brought it all back with me."
Wesley grabbed a tube of what Angel knew was blood and uncapped it. "You're the one who would know for certain," he said, thrusting the opened tube towards Angel.
He needed only a small whiff of the tube's contents to know. "That's Doyle's blood," Angel confirmed. "The rest of it?"
"I'm reasonably certain it's the compound that was drained out of him when he first taken by the Brachens," Wesley declared. "If so, perhaps it might restore him to his old self."
Cordelia jumped back in. "And if it is then if we give it to him he'll be fine again and he can walk and maybe he might even stop feeling sorry for himself and be happy--for a minute, anyway, until he finds the next thing to get upset about."
"Cordelia, he's not really feeling sorry for himself, it's--" Angel stopped himself. He should finish arguing with Doyle, and then let him tell her. Besides, that wasn't the point at the moment. And Cordelia might be right. If Doyle was healthy again it might change his outlook on things. "I'll let him explain it."
"But he might get better, right? This would be a good thing?"
"You're right, it might be. I just don't know if he would want to try it." Angel had his doubts Doyle would even consider it, particularly given his present attitude..
"Without it, though, he'll remain in the same condition. We ought to at least ask him to give it some thought," Wesley suggested.
"Okay, okay, we'll give it a shot," Angel conceded, and started to reach for the tube.
"I want to ask him," Cordelia interjected.
"I found him, I found this stuff, I--I want to ask him," she answered, a little nervously by her standards.
It had taken him this long, but now Angel understood why Cordelia had been so hurt by Doyle earlier. She had finally figured out how much she cared about Doyle. Angel tried, unsuccessfully, to suppress a bit of a smile. "Okay." He handed the tube to her. "All yours."
Cordelia returned the small smile, albeit nervously, and headed downstairs in the elevator.
"Are you sure that's a good idea?" Wesley inquired.
"No," Angel answered honestly. "Those two have more to talk about than just that. I owe her a chance, but I am going to keep an eye on this," he added, and quietly went down the stairs.
Doyle had made it as far as the kitchen while they had been upstairs, and Cordelia had already cornered him there. Angel hung back out of sight to listen.
"I already told ya I don't wanna talk to ya," he heard Doyle snap.
"Too late. We're going to talk. Or did you already forget I nearly got myself killed yesterday trying to help you? Not to mention I'm getting the visions again, not something I missed at all. The least you owe me is listening for a minute," Cordelia snapped back.
Doyle was silent for a moment. "You're gettin' the visions again?" he asked slowly.
"Duh, yes! Unless the splitting headache and wacky pictures was MTV, that was a vision. How do you think we found you anyway?"
No answer from Doyle on that one.
"I hate to tell you this, but the Powers That Be must like having you around or they wouldn't have handed me a roadmap to Doyle. And I must like having you around because I went all the way out there and almost got caught by those creeps because I had some crazy idea that I cared about you. Not that you could bother noticing," Cordelia was bringing herself up to full huffiness.
"I noticed," Doyle whispered. He sighed. "Doesn't matter though, 'cause I'm leavin' here before you do get killed tryin' to save me or help me or whatever. An' if you're gettin' the visions, great. I'm not needed."
"You are needed. I need you!" Cordelia tried to put a hand on Doyle's shoulder but he shrugged it off. "I--when I was in the Brachen place, I found something. I found this." She pulled the tube out and set it on the table. "You know what's in that, right?"
Doyle cringed. He could smell what was in it and he knew. "It...it's what they took out of me."
"Exactly." Cordelia dropped down on her knees in front of him. "You could be the same old annoying Doyle that you used to be. The one that saved me from vampires and other creepy things and kept bothering me to go out with him all the time. It would be like nothing since then ever happened."
"Except that it all did happen, an' none of it is gonna change," Doyle answered angrily. "I don't want nothin' to do w' the stuff."
"You could walk again and--"
"Doesn't matter. I still won't touch it."
"But Doyle, Wesley thinks you won't get better without it," Cordelia pleaded.
"I don't give a damn about Wesley or what he thinks," Doyle snapped back. "All his fancy education and he never learned from right and wrong. Well, I did. I won't do this."
"But if you use it maybe you'll be normal again," Cordelia was getting a little desperate. v "Normal? What the hell's that?" Doyle was burning with rage now. "I spent twenty years knowin' who I was and not what I was. I spent the last ten not knowin' who I am an' bein' scared to death of what I am. Allan Francis Doyle is gone and I don't know who Doyle is either. The only two things I know is, I'm half an evil monster and I am not who I used to be. You're tryin' to get back someone who don't exist. Maybe he never did."
"No! Doyle did exist. Just--just a few days ago, he did," she matched him in anger for a moment. "I thought I loved Doyle. I know I cared about him. And I thought he loved me," Cordelia was on the verge of tears.
Angel thought Doyle seemed to be calming down, at least a little. "He did. He did love you and he did care about you and maybe--maybe he still does. But if you cared about him you wouldn't ask him to do this."
"I do care about him and that's exactly why I'm asking him," Cordelia was furious at the mere suggestion she didn't care.
"You don't get it all," Doyle told her coldly. "It's wrong, don't you see that? What happened years ago so that tube was sittin' there when you walked by? Some poor lonely girl...was..." Doyle stopped long enough to slam his fist into the table. "This isn't about bein' 'normal' again. That thing is immoral and it's wrong, that's what it is, an' I won't ever, ever use it, no matter what you try to tell me. An' if you keep tryin' to make me, then you don't really care about me. You only care about Cordelia Chase and what she wants for herself, not about what's right. You want Doyle back for yourself, not for me."
He was right and she knew that. She wanted the old Doyle back so she could love him. But she still believed she wanted this for him as well. "It is right for you.. You're the one who doesn't get it," Cordelia snapped back. "It was yours in the first place, it shouldn't have been taken away from you then and you can get back what's yours now. You went through the hell it took to make it, you deserve any good that can come from it. How it came to be here doesn't matter, only what you do with it."
"Who the hell are you? There used to be this girl..." Doyle was getting close to breaking down completely. "...this girl I thought was amazin'. I don't know where she went. You're not her."
Angel decided it was high time he interfered in this argument, while there was still any chance at all that Doyle and Cordelia might remain on at least speaking terms. He agreed with Cordelia; he wanted Doyle to be normal again, he wanted the same fellow who once broke into his apartment to be the one living there now. But unlike Cordelia, Angel respected Doyle's wishes and thought it was at least possible Doyle might be right, even if his judgment was presently clouded.
"Doyle, Cordelia, please stop this. Please," Angel asked them quietly as he walked into the room. He wondered if either of them knew he had been outside listening the whole time. From the bitter look on Doyle's face, Angel knew he had at least suspected. Cordelia, as always, Angel really couldn't tell one way or the other.
"Angel, he won't, he, he...can't you...can't..." she was close to crying again. Angel had never seen Cordelia so close to completely losing control, and he doubted he wanted to see that.
"I...Cordelia, I think you're right about this," Angel swallowed hard. He didn't want to see the look he already knew Doyle was giving him. He could feel the daggers in his back without seeing. "But I'm not making Doyle, or anyone, do anything they don't want to.. It's his choice, right or wrong, and the consequences are his to take, not ours."
Angel could no longer feel Doyle's anger stabbing into his back now, so he cautiously turned to face him. Doyle was still burning with anger and seemed to Angel to be on the brink; of what, Angel wasn't sure. "I hope you'll reconsider this, but it's your decision. I'll keep it in case you ever change--"
"I won't change my mind. Not ever."
Doyle reached out and grabbed the tube with a lightning quick move and smashed it to pieces on the table. Cordelia let out a strangled cry; Angel tried to retrieve the tube but wasn't fast enough.
"Doyle, no," Angel said painfully. "That was your only chance."
"I don't need a chance," Doyle drew in a shaky breath. "I need this nightmare to end." He was still holding what remained of the tube, a fairly sizeable piece of glass, against the table. Many of the shards of glass had cut into his hand and the blood ran freely into the pool of liquid on the table.
Angel could see Doyle's eyes were burning with rage and hatred. Angel understood, a moment too late, it was self-hatred. Before he could even move Doyle was holding the largest piece of the glass to his own throat, over the spot the vampire knew excruciatingly well. He could see Doyle's pulse pounding beneath the glass and knew if Doyle went ahead there was nothing to be done to save him.
"Please don't." Angel asked softly.
"I shouldn't have been born. I wish I hadn't been." The words sounded like Doyle was forcing them from his throat, almost like he was choking on them. His eyes were beginning to look glazed, and the anger in them had been replaced by anguish.
Angel realized Doyle was acting out of fear now. He moved very slowly towards Doyle, holding out his hand. "I know you don't really want to do this. You can give it to me. Please give it to me." Angel forced himself to speak calmly even though he was afraid he might panic himself. "Please. For us if not for you."
Doyle stared back at Angel. Angel could feel Doyle's pain and fear burning into him but he managed to keep eye contact, not losing Doyle's gaze for even a second. And, gradually, Doyle's gasping breaths quieted and he began to shake. His hand dropped weakly to his side, and the glass fell from it onto the floor. Cordelia had been holding her own breath and let it out in a tremendous sigh of relief.
Angel stooped beside Doyle and wrapped his arms around the trembling figure. Doyle did not speak, or move, or even cry; he only shook. "It's okay, Doyle," Angel murmured. "We want to help you."
Many hours had passed, nearly a day in fact, since Doyle had snapped and he still wasn't moving or speaking. He remained in the same trembling, glass-eyed state he had fallen into after Angel talked him out of destroying himself. Cordelia had been watching him for the past two hours, and she was convinced Doyle hadn't even blinked in that time. The pain his words had inflicted on her still hurt, but was already beginning to fade as she gradually came to understand Doyle was not and had not been himself; not for some time, it also occurred to her.
Angel, fearing what else Doyle might try to do to himself, had reluctantly tied Doyle's hands and feet to the bed. Doyle had offered no resistance whatsoever, and didn't react in any way to physical contact or to their voices. He hadn't even flinched when Cordelia cleaned out and bandaged his bleeding hand. The only signs of life from him were the grating sounds of his breathing.
"He's completely catatonic," Wesley offered after observing Doyle for some time.
"Catch a what?" asked Cordelia. Wesley was very irritating when he used words he knew she didn't know.
"Catatonic," Wesley told her impatiently.
"Whatever. I can't get him to drink anything," she fretted. A thought occurred to her. "Couldn't we try to maybe mop up some of that stuff and--"
"I'm not going to force feed it to him," Angel sighed. "There's nothing there anyway."
"But I saw it all over the table."
"And there's almost nothing there now," Angel noted, "Only glass." Angel turned back to Doyle. "I think he's lost his mind," Angel said sadly, stroking Doyle's hair as he said it.
"I regret to say I have to agree," Wesley added.
Cordelia knew something was very, very wrong with Doyle, but she found it hard to believe he was that far gone. Something distant in his eyes told her he was still in there somewhere. It hurt to think that he had known what he was saying to her, but it hurt more to think that Doyle was really gone. An idea struck her.
"Maybe he just needs to sleep," she said out loud.
"I doubt that would make any difference," Wesley tried to tell her.
"But what if it did? Maybe he just needs to rest, and then he'll be better," Cordelia had no idea if that would help or not, but it was worth trying, wasn't it?
"We could give it a shot," Angel agreed.
"But how are we going to get him to sleep?" Wesley argued. "We'd have to drug him somehow."
"He's tied up. What can he do?" asked Angel.
"Other than get spiky-faced, nothing, so we just watch out for the spikes," suggested Cordelia. Wesley, exasperated, opted against further argument.
Doyle did indeed turn demonic when Angel forced the pills down his throat. He fought briefly but Angel had tied the ropes tightly and Doyle couldn't free himself.. They watched as he slowly drifted into sleep, and his spikes faded away as he returned to human form.
Cordelia was nearly asleep herself and it must have shown. "Go home, Cordelia," Angel instructed. "We'll watch him tonight."
"Angel? Angel, Doyle's awake," Wesley informed the still-tired vampire.
Angel hadn't slept much at all during the past day but at Wesley's urgency he shook himself awake. "He is? How is he--he's not--"
"Actually, he seems to be rather touchy," Wesley noted with some surprise. "Not unlike his normal attitude, at least where I'm concerned."
Now it was Angel's turn to be surprised. "He's normal?"
Wesley nodded. "And quite irritated at being tied up."
Angel hurried into the bedroom only to find Doyle glaring at him. "What the hell's this?" Doyle demanded, pulling on his tethered hands.
"You--you don't remember?" Angel asked slowly. Doyle appeared fairly alert and as Wesley noted, cranky. Nothing at all like yesterday. Certainly Doyle had needed some rest, but this was an incredible turnabout from one night's sleep. And there was something else odd that Angel couldn't quite put a finger on immediately.
"Remember what? If I remembered I wouldn't be askin' you." Doyle made an effort to free his left hand without success. "Would you please get this off of me?"
"In a minute," Angel answered. "What's the last thing you do remember?"
Doyle stopped fighting with the tethers and laid back on the pillow. "You rescued me at the Brachen place. We were tryin' to get out...I guess we must've...that's the best I can come up with." He looked at Angel, and thought for another moment. "Why do I get the feelin' that happened a long time ago?"
"Because it was more than two days ago," Angel said in disbelief.
Doyle pondered this. "I've been out of it a while then, huh?"
"You weren't out much at all. Only last night."
"Then why don't I remember it? If we were havin' enough fun to tie me up I'd like to think I'd remember that. You still haven't explained these either." Doyle was very confused now.
Angel wasn't feeling much less confused. "I had to do that. I was afraid you'd harm yourself."
"Why would I do somethin' like that?"
"You did do something like that."
"Ya gotta be kiddin' me. That's not...I didn't think I could do..." Doyle now appeared upset.
"You haven't been yourself the last few days."
"I guess not." Doyle was no longer making any effort to free himself, instead lost in attempting to understand what might have happened. Angel decided Doyle wasn't going to be a danger to anyone and started removing the ropes from Doyle's legs.
"I didn't hurt anybody, did I?" Doyle asked softly.
"Only yourself, and not too bad," Angel responded. "I think you have a lot of apologizing to do with Cordelia though."
Doyle looked stung. "What--what'd I do to her?" he asked fearfully.
"Only words," Angel told him reassuringly. "I think she understands you weren't in your right mind. I know I didn't take any of it personally," he added.
"Great. On top of all the other things I'm 'sposed to atone for, I gotta apologize for things I don't even remember doin'," muttered Doyle as Angel untied Doyle's right hand. As Doyle pulled his arm back in front of him he saw the bandages on his hand. He looked at Angel questioningly.
"You broke a glass and some pieces got into your hand. A lot of cuts, but it should heal."
"That's all I did? An' you thought I should be tied up? I shoulda tried to slash my wrists for that kinda treatment."
"You tried to slash your throat."
That information shocked Doyle into silence. Angel didn't feel like talking much himself. They both sat silently for several minutes.
"Angel? I really need some water," Doyle broke the silence with the chagrined request. Angel complied without speaking, but was surprised when he came back to find Doyle sitting on the edge of the bed.
"How'd you get yourself up that quick?" Angel asked as Doyle downed the water in nearly one gulp.
"I was thinkin' that was slow." Doyle tried standing up--without assistance or even crutches. He managed to stay up for a moment before his knees buckled and he landed back on the bed. The thought seemed to dawn on him at the same time it hit Angel.
"I'm--I'm a lot better than a couple days ago aren't I?" Doyle said quietly.
"Considerably better." Angel wondered just how much. "What--where did you have the least feeling? Before, I mean."
Doyle blushed. "I couldn't feel nothin' in my backside."
Angel was embarrassed as well. "I'm not trying that." He thought a moment, then planted a hand on Doyle's hip. "You feel that?"
"Oh, yeah," Doyle answered. "Don't get fresh." He drew in a deep breath.. "I can feel all of it. Everywhere. Although...you sure I cut my hand? 'Cause it doesn't hurt."
Doyle held out his right hand as he said it. Angel removed the bandages and was shocked to find the cuts were gone. Where they had been were only a few pink lines of new, healing skin.
"You sure I did that two days ago? Looks more like two weeks," Doyle commented.
Now Angel knew what else was missing--as with his hand, the cuts on Doyle's face were nearly healed, far more than they should have been.
"Wesley!" he yelled.
"What the hell do we need him for?" Doyle grumbled as Wesley came in. Wesley opted not to provide a response.
"Is something wrong?" he inquired carefully. Frankly, he was almost dying to know what had gone on in the last few minutes. He was particularly interested in why Doyle appeared to have regained his senses.
"Apparently, yes," Angel answered. "Everything's right."
That contradiction confused Wesley to no end. "That doesn't make sense."
"I think that's 'sposed to be the point," Doyle added.
"It's not supposed to make sense?" Now Wesley was completely at a loss. Evidently they'd both lost their minds, although at least he expected as much of Doyle.
Angel grabbed Doyle's hand, and thrust it up into Wesley's field of vision. "Look at this. He's fine."
Wesley looked, thought he must not have cleaned his glasses this morning and gave them a quick wipedown. He looked again and saw the same thing. Doyle's hand was almost completely healed. In fact, the remaining scars seemed to be disappearing nearly as he watched. And it dawned on him Doyle's face had healed as well. This, he had never seen before. And he had no immediate comment to make, so he stalled. "That's...incredible."
"And he stood up, without help."
"Without really thinkin' 'bout it neither, I kinda forgot I can't do that. But I can feel everythin' now," Doyle remarked, touching his legs almost as if they were new. He looked directly at Wesley. "Any ideas, smart guy? Time to earn your keep."
At first, Wesley didn't have any ideas. But one was slowly beginning to creep into his mind, something about Cordelia's suggestion to mop up what remained of the compound, and Angel saying it was gone. "Where did it go?" he asked himself out loud.
"Where'd what go?" Doyle asked.
"He doesn't remember the last couple days," Angel informed Wesley. "Although I don't know what you mean either."
"The compound, that was spilled on the table," Wesley addressed Angel directly. "You said it disappeared."
"Right. It was there and then it wasn't when I looked later."
"Callin' time out here. What the hell are ya talkin' 'bout?" asked Doyle, befuddled.
Wesley passed in favor of Angel. He was the one who was there, after all, and certainly Wesley didn't want the responsibility for explaining.
"At the Brachen place, Cordelia found a tube of something we thought might have been the same compound the Brachens drained out of you. You smashed it and that's how you cut your hand. But the contents..." Angel paused.
"I was just beginning to think if somehow, through contact with the open cuts on your hand, the compound did return to your body, it would have started the regeneration and healed most if not all of your injuries," Wesley postulated.
Doyle weakly flopped back on the bed. Angel thought for a moment he had passed out and tried to catch him, but Doyle waved him off. Doyle groaned. "I don't like thinkin' 'bout this. 'Specially since I was wishin' I wasn't gettin' better, after ya told me how it worked an' my mum told me her story."
Angel was cringing and Wesley shifted from foot to foot. He hoped Doyle wasn't going to do anything damaging again. But instead Doyle sat up again, and after a moment's deliberation he tried to stand up. This attempt didn't last long either, but Doyle seemed reasonably pleased. "I think it's just not bein' used to standin'. I bet in a few days I could do this fine."
But, then again, Wesley thought, he's been acting much more like his normal aggravating self and he's behaving appropriately and...the answer hit him hard.
"It healed your mind, too," he blurted.
"Now what the hell?" Doyle asked.
"You haven't been well in your mind these last days either--" Wesley started.
Angel had slowly soaked in Wesley's idea and picked up on it. "--you were depressed. And suicidal. And now you're not."
"I was that far gone?"
"Well...yes. I think the other night has been coming for a long time, I just never saw it. And I'm sorry I didn't, I should have seen, I should have stopped it sooner," Angel apologized.
"For cryin' out loud, Angel, would ya knock off the blamin' already? I do remember tellin' ya that before," Doyle informed the vampire with irritation.
"He's right, Angel," Wesley added. "You carry far too much...you can't be responsible for everyone all the time, you know." 'Especially since we all missed this one,' he considered to himself. Now Faith wasn't his only failing; in hindsight, he should have anticipated Doyle's suicide attempt. No wonder he didn't make much of a Watcher.
"An' none o' that matters now, does it? I'm pretty sure, after ya tell me the whole story, that I'm not gonna I like the how, but I am like I used t' be. An' I guess we all better get used t' that now, right?" Doyle looked at Angel, then Wesley, then back to Angel.
"We should," Angel nodded.
Wesley had never met the 'old' Doyle, but Cordelia had told him quite a bit about what Doyle used to be like and as far he could tell, this was the fellow. He couldn't help but wonder, hopefully, if he might now be completely forgiven. "Doyle, if you're as you were, then are we, um, perhaps I'm, uh..."
Doyle rolled his eyes back and threw up his hands. "How many times I gotta tell ya I forgive ya? I just don't like ya. I wouldna liked ya even if ya hadn't shot me."
Wesley felt very embarrassed, not in the least because Angel found the exchange worthy of a rare chuckle. Then Angel paused before giving Doyle a wicked smile. "Want to knock some demons silly?"
"Man, those words are more beautiful than Cordy," Doyle started to answer. "Oh, boy. I forgot all about her."
"I'll alert the newspapers," Angel grinned.
Cordelia almost didn't come in that morning. She was terrified that if she did, she would find out that either nothing would have changed, or that Doyle had died. Both options were very unappealing. After the last few days, the possibility of things turning out fairly well never even occurred to her. "Am I not trying hard enough?" she asked Dennis. "I keep thinking someday something good has to happen. And it gets worse instead."
Dennis' lone response was to bring her an umbrella. It was raining out, so clearly he felt she should go back to the office. "You're not subtle, Dennis. All right, I'll go. But it's your fault if I don't like what I find out."
The office was quiet when she came in and for a moment she thought no one was there. She should have known better, of course; Angel was waiting for her in his office.
"Normal people say hello when someone comes in, you know, that's not against vampire rules is it?" she demanded.
Angel had no idea what he'd done. Big surprise there. "Uhhh...hello?"
"When I come in? So I don't walk in and say, yikes, there's a vampire on my desk?"
He shrugged. "I just wanted to catch you when you came in."
Cordelia gave him a look.
"I should phrase that better, shouldn't I?"
She dropped her things on her desk in response. "Just tell me."
"What's with Doyle? Whatever it is, even if he turned into a Teletubbie, just, tell me now, so I can...well, whatever I have to do," she insisted. To her surprise, she almost started crying in the midst of her demand.
Angel examined his hands silently for several moments. At first she started to panic, then she realized he was trying not to smile at her. "What the hell happened?" she shrieked.
"I think, what you should do, is go talk to him. He was on the couch the last I saw of him," Angel told her, the grin starting to spread on his face.
"Whatever it is, I'm sure it's not that funny," she snapped, and went straight to the elevator.
As with the other day, Doyle was sitting on the couch. But this time, he was slowly picking up his legs from the floor, one at a time, watching in fascination almost as though he wasn't sure if they would move. Which, it occurred to her, they probably shouldn't.
"Cordelia?" Doyle had been so involved he hadn't heard her come in, obviously. She immediately commanded his full attention, but Doyle appeared worried and didn't try to get up.
Cordelia was too shocked to really think of what she wanted to say. "Are you...I mean, what...I don't know what I mean."
"I can feel everythin', an' move it too, although the standin' part is a little hinky yet. Is that what ya were gonna ask?"
"Um. Yeah. That was it." Cordelia couldn't believe it. She had hoped Doyle's mind would be better this morning, but she had never expected his body would be, too.
"I'm pretty much okay, I think. I don't get it at all, but it is." Doyle turned away from her and sucked in a breath. "Listen, what I said, the other night--"
That was the last thing she wanted to think about. "Forget it."
"This is not funny time, Doyle. We need to be serious."
"I am serious, Princess. I don't remember a thing from the last couple o' days. I don't know what I said or what I did, 'cept for the little bit Angel told me. I remembered more after a drunk than I'm rememberin' of this."
This, she found even harder to believe than the miraculous healing part.. "You don't remember any of that?"
"None. An' I'm told I wouldn't wanna." Doyle was squirming nervously. "But, if I said anythin' really bad t' ya, please believe I didn't mean none of it."
Doyle was scared, she finally figured out. He was scared she wouldn't want anything more to do with him based on the events from the other day. "Actually? You did. You did mean it, at least, I think you meant most of it, and you were totally right too." She paused. "Boy, I never thought I'd say that."
"I was right 'bout somethin'?" Doyle so was utterly confused he ignored her last comment. "Gimme a clue here, should I be apologizin' or not? Or should I be celebratin'?"
"Neither." Cordelia sat down on the couch beside him. "You were right, that I have some perfect memory of Doyle from before you died--the first time, I mean, on the boat--and that memory I have isn't really you and it never was, kinda like you remember things when you were little and when you grow up you figure out things were never the way you thought they were then, like I was scared of Mickey Mouse when I was little but now I know he's just some high schooler in a weird getup--"
Doyle was trying to slow her down. "Whatever your point was, please get back to it, preferably today."
Cordelia had to stop to remember what her point had been. "I think my point was I loved my memory of the old Doyle so much I never really gave a lot of thought to the Doyle who's actually here--does that make any sense?" Suddenly it didn't sound to her like it did.
"I think I'm followin' ya," Doyle answered cautiously.
"And the other thing you were right about--I really haven't cared about you. I mean, I did but only for me, most of the time I wasn't really thinking about you."
Doyle nodded. "I've known that. Ever since I was shot, you've been treatin' me like I was a your pet or somethin'. Not always that bad, mind ya, I don't mind gettin' spoiled a bit, but..."
"You knew?" 'Once again, everyone knows but me,' she thought in frustration.
"Darlin', I'm older n' wiser than you. An' I've been married before. Just 'cause I screwed it up doesn't mean I didn't learn anythin' from it." Doyle sighed. "But have you learned anythin'?"
"I think I did. I'm trying to think about--and care about--the Doyle who's here now, anyway," she answered, a little sheepishly.
"What do ya think of him?" Doyle asked her quietly.
"I..." Cordelia found herself staring directly into Doyle's eyes, those lovely blue eyes and all she could see in them was how much he adored her. Well, she thought, I guess I've finally decided. "...I love him." She kissed him.
Doyle woke up in the middle of the night, needing to use the bathroom. Angel wasn't there, but for the first time in months that wasn't a problem.
Another trip to the doctor had confirmed Doyle had no remaining physical injuries, and the flabbergasted physician figured all Doyle needed was some exercise and a little time before he would be perfectly healthy. So far, the doctor was right, too. Doyle had already graduated from crutches to a cane, and he was sure he wouldn't need that either in a few more days. The strength had returned to the lower half of his body quickly, and Doyle was now anxious to join Angel on a fighting assignment.
But Angel didn't want Doyle attempting to fight until he was certain Doyle could hold his own. After much spirited discussion over what would constitute a reasonable demonstration of Doyle's ability to fight again, they had decided once Doyle was able to take down Wesley, he would be good to go. Of course, they failed to consult Wesley first. The very irritated Briton had also taken down Doyle without really trying hard, much to Doyle's extreme aggravation and disappointment. And so Doyle was once again spending the night in the apartment while Angel and Wesley tracked down some demon.
At least being alone didn't mean he had to hold it all night any more. 'I can get there myself now,' Doyle thought, 'and I never thought I'd appreciate that so much.' It wasn't until he was on his way back to the bedroom that he realized he wasn't alone in the apartment after all.
The feeling of being watched rolled over him as he hobbled through the living room and followed him back to the bedroom. He didn't see anyone in the living room, but when he reached the bedroom and turned around he was extremely startled to find the Brachen standing behind him, and he yelped in fright.
"You know I won't harm you," Nikan told him.
"I guess I know that," Doyle gasped as his breath came back to him. "But ya shouldn't sneak up on me like that neither." Doyle hesitated as a less than pleasant thought occurred to him. "I'm not dead again, am I?"
"Then what are ya doin' here?" As Doyle stared at the creature that was his father, he remembered what his mother had told him and anger washed over him. "I hate ya for what ya did to her," he growled.
"I know. As do I."
That was not the response Doyle anticipated. "You...what?"
"A young soldier obeys his commander. But perhaps he learns later his orders are wrong. I was ordered to do as I did, but I learned better. You learn from the vampire, do you not? For all the evil he has done, he is not now. He has a soul. I found a soul when I saw my son and I am evil no more. Do you understand, Allan?"
Doyle realized that for every ounce of hate he had for what Nikan had done to his mother, there was an equal measure of gratitude for giving him his life, several times over now. And Cordelia's, and the others. "I guess...I guess I do." Dozens of questions he wanted to ask flooded his mind and finally he picked one. "Why? Why are you here now?"
Nikan looked vaguely amused. "You didn't need me until now. You will not need me again."
"I won't? What about the Brachens? Ain't they still wantin' a piece of me?"
Nikan shook his head. "Only Yakte remembered. With his death, you are not important to them. And your magic is gone now. Your friends will be enough to protect you until you find the fate the powers have chosen for you."
Doyle understood the first part well enough, but the second--had he really used all of the compound? Or maybe most of it had been lost when he tried to destroy it, more likely. He supposed that part made sense too. But the last... "What fate? How can the powers choose--"
"Someday you may understand you were meant to live because you are meant to die. I can tell no more. I must go now."
"But...I don't even know you," Doyle begged plaintively.
"Don't you know enough?" Nikan asked. Then he vanished.
Doyle did not sleep the rest of the night.