by Gonzai

Title: Secrets
PG-13: Some profanity and violence.
Summary: Angel and friends are back to the usual business of catching bad guys
Disclaimers: Same old. The good guys belong to Mutant Enemy. I made up the bad guys.
Feedback: A sound inside Matt Holloway's head. Please provide more.
Spoilers: A little here, a little there.
Notes: Another episode in the continuing story of a quack who's gone to the dogs...oh, sorry, wrong show. This is a follow up to 'The Best Laid Plans', 'Contingency Plans' and 'Poor Little Rich Boy', set about three months after the last story. And I apologize in advance to anyone who may be from New Jersey.

"I wake up scared, I wake up strange
I wake up wondering if anything in my life is ever going to change.
I wake up scared, I wake up strange
And everything around me stays the same."

- Barenaked Ladies, What A Good Boy'

No lights were on anywhere near the old warehouse not far from the docks, and the driver of the truck approaching it turned off his lights before he turned off the road. Had he left the lights on a moment longer, he might have seen the black convertible parked several feet off the road. But he didn't.

The truck pulled up alongside the warehouse and stopped. The driver picked up several bags of fast food and went inside.

There were no lights on inside the warehouse either, except in an interior room that could not be seen from anywhere outside the warehouse. The driver went into that room and distributed the bags of food among his compatriots, who eagerly downed it with somewhat less than table manners. The driver sat down and started eating his own meal.

A small child about five years old was also in the room, bound and gagged and staring hungrily at the food.

"You want some fries?" the driver asked the little girl. She shook her head up and down so vigorously her ponytail flew straight up. "All right, you can have some. But don't even think about trying to scream or nothin'."

The driver pulled the gag out of her mouth and the girl immediately started to scream. "I told you not to do that!" the driver barked at her and slapped her face. She stopped screaming and started crying. "Just for that, you're gettin' nothin'." He stuffed the gag back in her mouth. He was unaware it really didn't matter if she screamed or not. Someone already knew she was there.

Angel had been there for a few hours, in fact. It had taken him a while to find a way into the warehouse that wouldn't create any noise and announce his presence. The warehouse was full of all manner of boxes, crates and whatnot and Angel had to step lightly to find the central room without knocking anything over. Angel was grateful that the ever ungraceful Wesley wasn't available for this job; Wesley and Harry were on their honeymoon. Had Wesley joined him in this caper, he would have completely blown their cover by now.

It was more important than usual that he be quiet; the last thing Angel wanted was for the kidnappers to harm the girl. Besides, his assignment this time was simply to find her, alert the police and keep watch until the police got there. And to make sure the police didn't have any idea who tipped them off. The girl's father had been firm on that point. He was convinced the men who had taken his daughter were somehow connected to the police and might do further damage not only to his family, but to whomever the kidnappers suspected of involving the cops.

In keeping with his usual habits, Angel checked out a lot of the items that were being stored in the warehouse. He suspected the police would be very interested to know what else was in here. Large amounts of cocaine always caught police interest.

And for his own interests, Angel thought, I'd love to know what kind of demons they're keeping in that large crate. There were at least two of something in there that Angel couldn't get a very good look at, but he could hear them and oh boy, could he smell them.

Once Angel had fully assessed the situation, he carefully backtracked out of the warehouse and far enough away from it that he didn't think he could be heard. He pulled out his cell phone and called the office. Angel had given Cordelia the night off, largely because he didn't entirely trust her to make a subtle phone call to the police but partly because Doyle wanted some additional responsibility around the office. The physical limitations on Doyle's participation were making him almost too anxious to help out when he could. Something Doyle demonstrated immediately.

"Hello, Angel?" Doyle's greeting sounded like a mixture of eagerness, surprise and sleepiness and was promptly compounded by loud thump, a crash and a series of expletives from Doyle.

Angel rolled his eyes. "Did I leave you or Wesley there? Try not to destroy the place, would you?"

Doyle didn't answer right away. When he did, he sounded breathless. "Sorry, man, I had some trouble gettin' to the phone. An' then I fell on it. Did ya find the kid?"

"Yeah, I found her." Angel was having some trouble suppressing a grin. "Take down this address and call Kate. And be an anonymous tip, okay?"

"Gotcha," Doyle agreed.

"I'll be back soon. And Doyle?"


"Don't break anything until I get there," Angel told him affectionately.

Angel returned to the warehouse and kept watch until the police arrived, which was barely a half hour later. He had some trouble scampering back out without being noticed by the police storming the place but thought he'd pulled it off until he got back to his car. Kate was perched on the hood.

"Hello there, anonymous tipper."

"How'd you know it was me?"

"There are a finite number of klutzy Irish demons in my circle of acquaintance."

"Great. I asked Doyle to keep it anonymous."

Kate grinned. "He thought he was. I didn't have the heart to tell him otherwise." She sighed and stood up. "So how is that going anyway? Sounds like he's trying."

"Sometimes very trying. Neither of us are roommate material. We're managing though." Angel decided that was enough of the pleasantries. Talking with Kate was awkward enough. "There are a lot of drugs in that warehouse."

"I figured as much. We've raided here a few times but they always seem to have the place back in order by the time we get here."

"You've got them this time. think there's a leak?"

"Maybe." Kate stared at her feet briefly. "You know these guys aren't very nice, right?"

"Nice guys don't kidnap little girls."

"Well, her father, Jacobs, he isn't very nice either. He used to run drugs for this outfit until we caught him. He was paroled just a few weeks ago. I'm sure this has something to do with him."

Angel said nothing since it was the girl's father who had hired him to find her. Angel didn't think the guy seemed all that bad, and besides, Angel was far more concerned about the child. And Doyle seemed to believe Jacobs was being straight with them too.

"It might even have something to do with Doyle."

That brought Angel up short. "Say what?"

"You told me once, I'd probably arrested Doyle at some point? You were right, I had. I picked him up in a raid on a book joint a few years back. Picked up Jacobs in the same one, that's the one we were able to bust him on. But we couldn't find anything on Doyle other than him being there and I let him go. Didn't hear from him again until you came into the picture."

"I think I may need to chat with him."

"I may need to as well. I'll let you have first crack at it though."


"Not a problem. Let me know if you find out anything." A uniformed cop was clearly and rather uncomfortably waiting for her, so Kate left to rejoin the other officers while Angel cautiously left the scene.

While Angel doubted Doyle really had much, if anything, to do with this Jacobs fellow, he figured he had best check on that when he got back to the office. He changed his mind when he came in to find Doyle half in his wheelchair, half on the desk and totally asleep. "You snore," Angel informed Doyle as he carried him downstairs and put him to bed.

"Are you getting up or not?"

Angel's voice reverberated throughout his apartment without losing any of its volume--or its undercurrent of annoyance--and it had the desired effect on its intended recipient.

"Aaarrghh..." Doyle muttered and pulled the covers further over his head. He had been hoping for a few more minutes of sleep, but he'd already found Angel's lesser side today, and he would have hell to pay, maybe literally, if he didn't answer.

"I'm comin' already," he hollered back. "What is this, boot camp?" 'Actually,' Doyle thought, 'it kinda is, isn't it?' He'd spent several months going through physical therapy with a woman he thought would have made one helluva drill sergeant, and then he rudely discovered she was a real pussycat compared to Angel.

The deal as it stood between Doyle and Angel was simple enough--Doyle stayed in Angel's apartment, officially under Angel's care and protection, but he had to work for it, both in the office and in rehabilitation. The office part he didn't mind; his gratitude for having a place to stay and the guilt he felt for taking up Angel's time was more than enough motivation to keep him looking for ways to help out upstairs. But he really hated rehab and he wouldn't have bothered with it at all without Angel's, uh, reminders.

Resigned, Doyle pushed off the covers and grabbed hold of the bar over the bed. That was a pretty good idea Angel had there, Doyle admitted to himself as he did nearly every morning. He was able to pull himself upright and over to the edge of the bed without any difficulty at all. Dragging himself into the wheelchair was a little trickier, but still simpler when he had something to hang onto.

A more recent addition to Doyle's morning routine though, was considering when--and if-- he should tell Angel about his legs. Doyle now had feeling throughout both legs, and he could move them, at least to some extent. But Doyle had never told anyone about that and as far as he knew, no one else did. He had decided to keep the secret to himself, at least until he was certain he could walk, primarily because he was afraid he might not continue getting better. And lately it seemed to Doyle that was the right decision because he hadn't improved in nearly a month. He feared if he said something, and then never was able to walk again--that would be far worse than never mentioning it. But more than that, he feared he wasn't going to get better.

Doyle maneuvered the chair into the kitchen. Angel already had some breakfast ready for him but Doyle knew better than to think he would be getting off easy.

"How many pullups did you do?" Angel asked.

"None," Doyle replied with some exasperation. "Didn't have time what with you hollerin' like that."

"Then you should have gotten up sooner."

"Don't keep me up all night an' maybe I will."

"Oh, shut up and eat," Angel shrugged in mock defeat.

Doyle did as instructed. Sometimes the only thing harder than working with Angel was living with him, Doyle reflected. Not that he had any other options at this point. Well, not except for--

"Morning!" Cordelia blew into the kitchen. She was worse than Angel. Although Angel could be hard to live with, at least Angel was trying to treat him as normally as the circumstances allowed, and Doyle understood that. If Cordelia had gotten her way, which pretty much involved spoiling him--well, Doyle figured, I'd probably be a wailing baby by now.

"Haven't you two even gotten dressed yet?"

"You're in fine form this morning," Doyle quipped. Mostly because he wouldn't have minded having her put on his clothes, or better yet, take them off. He mentally slapped himself.

"It's a bright sunshiny day--well, not for you," Cordelia tossed off Angel casually, "but you--" she wrapped an arm around Doyle's neck to his delight "--should go out shopping with me today."

"Not a chance," muttered Angel. "We still have to finish up a few cases."

"Well, you don't really need Doyle for that, do you?" Cordelia tried buttering Angel up a bit. No sale.

"Yes, as a matter of fact all three of us have some work to do."

"Aren't you just a mean old vampire," Cordelia complained while fussing with Doyle's hair. "I still think Doyle should stay with me. Dennis and I would be so much nicer to him."

"You and Dennis would spoil him rotten. Not gonna happen."

"Excuse me, I'm still in the room!" Doyle was a little tired of this particular routine. Angel and Cordelia had picked up a bad habit of discussing him in the third person in his presence. He found that more than a little aggravating. "And I'm still a mature adult. The only one here, apparently."

"Sorry." Angel grimaced in embarrassment.

"I'm going to start coffee. You two show up sometime before Daylight Savings ends, okay?" Cordelia went back upstairs as only she could.

At least Angel apologized for treating him in that manner. Usually, Angel simply forgot Doyle was there, which didn't make him feel any better but at least an apology would be forthcoming. Sometimes Doyle wasn't sure, but he thought it possible Cordelia knew full well what she saying and how it made him feel. That had a lot to do with why he was staying with Angel instead of her. Angel was uncomfortable about Doyle's physical incapacity, but Cordelia liked to wield it over him. All the same, his feelings for Cordelia were stronger than ever and from time to time he thought there were signs they might be reciprocated.

Angel watched Doyle finish his breakfast. "We need to chat a bit," he mentioned casually, "about your pal Jacobs."

Doyle stopped dead. He had deliberately neglected to mention to Angel that he was acquainted with Jacobs prior to the fellow showing up at the office yesterday and fortunately Jacobs had caught on and hadn't mentioned that fact either. Doyle had hoped to duck the issue entirely. "Well, we're not pals, really, just, you know, we've met an' spoken but it's not like we know each other or anythin'." Doyle hoped he wasn't babbling too much.

"How did you meet?" Angel asked.

"Umm...I was gamblin' a bit, you remember how that went. He had the same problem, and we hung around the same book joint."

"Did you know he ran drugs?"

'If you know so much about it already, why ask me?,' Doyle thought. "Yeah, I knew. He lost a ton of money on the books and needed cash for his kid. I thought he was an okay guy 'cept for the drugs." Doyle paused, then decided to let the whole thing out. "The bookie got raided by the cops, they nabbed both of us. Jacobs, he had some stuff on him an' that was it for him for five years. I was just wrong place, wrong time, they let me go. Put the fear in me though, I kept a really low profile after that."

Angel thought about this for a moment. "Sounds good enough to me. I'll let Kate know you weren't involved. But you should have told me before Kate tells me she arrested you. I didn't have a good story for her."

"I'm--I'm sorry. I thought this was all history by now."

Angel gave Doyle his most serious look. "Please, don't keep any more secrets from me. I like to think I can trust you. And I would definitely prefer hearing it from you instead of someone else. Deal?"

Don't keep any secrets...Doyle thought of telling Angel about his legs. Later today, Doyle decided, I'll tell him. "Deal."

Angel helped him get dressed. Doyle thought he would probably be able to take care of himself by now if it weren't for that pesky societal requirement of wearing pants. That was easily the toughest part of his day--well, except maybe for getting them back off again. The only thing trickier than getting himself dressed was pretending he couldn't move his legs at all for Angel's benefit. Doyle's mother had forced him to learn to swim, because, she said, once you know how to swim you can't make yourself drown. Doyle now knew not using your legs when you can is like drowning if you know how to swim.

"You set?" Angel asked when Doyle finished the fairly arduous task of putting on his shoes.

"Yeah," he answered. "What've we got goin' today?"

"I need you to look up a couple of demons I saw in the warehouse last night," Angel said. "Could take you a while, I've never seen--well, smelled--anything like them."

"Sounds good to me. 'Specially if I don't have to smell 'em. Bring 'er on." For fairly evident reasons, Doyle's role at Angel Investigations had become primarily that of research, much to Wesley's annoyance. However, Doyle had surprised all of them with the diligence he brought to the task. After all the times he'd whined about getting stuck with the books, suddenly he found himself taking great interest in reading. And often became so wrapped up in it he forgot what he was supposed to be looking for in the first place.

Although Angel had a few things he needed to do himself on this day, he allowed himself the pleasure of watching Doyle and Cordelia 'work' first. Cordelia's work habits hadn't improved one bit, but the dialogue between the two had picked up a lot and was quite entertaining as a spectator sport.

All in all, Angel was more than satisfied with Doyle's progress. Doyle was rebuilding his life from scratch and Angel was impressed. Doyle and Harry had become close again; meanwhile, Doyle accepted her recent marriage to Wesley and had settled into a tolerable if uncomfortable working relationship with Wesley. Despite the constant heckling and Cordelia's typically clueless but biting remarks, Doyle and Cordelia were far more open and affectionate towards each other. Cordelia had even insisted on picking out new clothes for Doyle, clothes which looked--unbelievable though it was--even worse than what he had used to wear. And for all of Doyle's complaints and plenty of roommate bickering, he and Angel had become far greater friends than Angel had ever thought they could be.

On top of that, Doyle had managed to drop a lot of his lesser habits, the kind that had inspired unwanted visitors and surprise attacks, not to mention hangovers. As far as Angel could tell, Doyle was limiting the gambling to penny ante poker with Angel and Wesley--and, from time to time, Jimmy. And he knew Doyle's drinking was down to an occasional beer. Angel had deliberately left some scotch where he knew Doyle would find it and was thrilled when Doyle announced it ought to be saved for closing a big case for someone with a lot of cash.

The only new bad habit Doyle had appeared to acquire was a recent tendency towards chewing on his fingers, but aside from the occasional need for a bandage Angel didn't really see that as a problem. And while it seemed to Angel that Doyle slept more than usual, he chalked it up to physical exhaustion and didn't concern himself over it.

But Angel had a feeling there was something else going on with Doyle, something he was hiding from him. He had hoped he might elicit that information when he quizzed Doyle about Jacobs, hence the reminder to Doyle of the trust Angel had in him. Angel trusted Doyle completely and was disappointed that Doyle didn't seem to trust him the same way.

Cordelia still thought Angel was being mean to Doyle. Not knowing the vampire was listening in, she listed for Doyle all the reasons she thought he should be staying with her and Dennis and totally failed to notice Doyle was finding her list amusing rather than convincing. Fortunately for her, he still hadn't caught on to why she really wanted him living somewhere other than the office.

She was more than a little irritated that Angel had given a lot of the office assignments that had been hers to Doyle. She didn't like staying in the office all night, but she didn't see where that automatically meant Doyle should have the job, just because he lived there now. Cordelia wasn't able to think of Doyle as anything but helpless, much less consider he might have something to offer.

And it didn't help that Doyle had reclaimed the visions, which in her eyes limited her own usefulness around the office. She didn't like the visions a bit, but she would have gladly taken them back if it meant she would get half the attention from Angel that Doyle was getting. For this reason, despite being fond of the little half-demon, she was often borderline cruel to Doyle and rarely missed a chance to remind him of what he couldn't do. But being jealous of Doyle was something she would never admit to. Besides, she couldn't help feeling sorry for Doyle whenever he was actually having a vision. He had enough problems to deal with without them.

Her litany of complaints against Angel was interrupted by a knock on the door. As she got up to answer it, she saw Angel standing in the doorway. "See? There are still some things I can do around here that Doyle can't!" she pouted before opening the front door.

"Thanks a ton, I feel so much better now," Doyle grunted.

Cordelia opened the door to find Jacobs, with his daughter in his arms. He promptly set down the little girl, who just as promptly set off tearing about the office with an amazing degree of energy before leaping into Cordelia's unsuspecting arms. It was all she could do not to drop the child. Jacobs acknowledged Cordelia and Doyle before sprinting across the room and clenching Angel's hand in an energetic handshake.

"I had to come by and thank you," said Jacobs, beaming. "You have no idea how worried I was about her."

Angel was taken aback by the handshake as well as the intensity of the entrance. "Ah, um, you're welcome. She's uh, she's a cute one--ooph!" The little girl ran smack into Angel's legs, bounced off and headed right back to Cordelia again.

"Wait a second, I am not a cat tree," Cordelia complained.

"Isn't she though? I missed her so much when I was, uh..." Jacobs wasn't sure if he should mention where he was.

"He knows." Doyle told Jacobs.

"Yeah, well, thank you so, so much. You too, Doyle," Jacobs added, reaching over the desk to offer Doyle his hand. The little girl hadn't appeared to have noticed Doyle was there prior to that moment and raced around the desk to see the new person. As soon as she rounded the desk and saw the wheelchair, she started screaming her lungs out.

"Honey?" Jacobs couldn't imagine what had upset his daughter.

Doyle knew exactly what the child was afraid of, though. "It's all right, darlin'. It's just a chair with big wheels on it. I won't hurt you or nothin'."

The girl charged back into her father's arms, crying uncontrollably. "A monster, Daddy! A monster!"

Jacobs was totally embarrassed. "I'm--I'm sorry Doyle, she's just a kid, she doesn't understand..."

Doyle had a look of utter dejection on his face. "S'okay. Maybe you should take her home."

"Yeah. Okay." Jacobs looked back to Angel. "Thanks again."

"You're welcome again," Angel said, closing the door as Jacobs left with his daughter.

No one in Angel's office saw the men who attacked Jacobs and his daughter outside the building as they left.

After Jacobs left, Doyle remained sitting silently and looking at the floor, with a morose expression on his face. He had one knuckle in his mouth and was biting down on it, hard, hoping the physical pain would distract him from his equally painful thoughts. The incident with the girl had cut him, deeply. Doyle suddenly felt no need for human company. Or vampire company.

"Doyle..." Angel started.

"I'm fine," Doyle announced, but utterly failing to hide the tone that implied he was anything but. "I gotta look for your demon guy."

Angel appeared to be trying unsuccessfully to find the right words to say, then he opted to give up and went down to his apartment.

Cordelia was still standing by the door, watching Doyle. "You've looked worse, especially when you still dressed yourself, but you don't look fine. Not at all."

"Thanks a hell of a lot." Doyle raised his head and looked at her impatiently. For once in his life, he didn't want her company either. He wanted to be left alone in his misery. "I got work to do. You?"

"Well aren't we Mr. Rudeness? I try to show a little concern--"

"I don't need your concern." For once, he made a dent in Cordelia and he didn't even notice.

"Doyle...she's too young to get it, not your fault. You shouldn't take it personally--"

"Well, I do. I scare kids. Excuse me if I don't think that'll make me any more popular than I already wasn't."

"But, Doyle--"

"Leave me alone, all right? Just leave." Doyle snapped at her. He could feel himself about to start crying and that was the last thing he wanted Cordelia to see. He had thought he would never want to hurt her feelings, but now he decided it was even more important to him that she not see him cry.

Cordelia decided this argument was more than she cared to take on. She left without another word and headed downstairs.

As soon as she left the room Doyle slammed his fist into the desk as hard as he could, but that didn't help. He buried his face in his hands and sobbed.

Angel was sitting at his kitchen table with a book. Cordelia walked straight over to him and started in. It was occasions such as this when she wasn't at all envious of Doyle and in her own odd manner, she was very worried about him. She hadn't seen him nearly this upset in a long time, and he'd never taken it out on her before, ever. She just didn't want to be the one who had to deal with the problem head on. Therefore, it was Angel's problem whether he wanted it or not.

"You know, if someone had told me we could get someone here who was moodier than you..."

"Don't start, Cordelia."

"Too late. Doyle just ran me out of the office. Nobody makes me leave the room--well except for that one time--never mind. And you're letting him!"

"He doesn't want my help with this one."

"Since when does what we want count? I wanted new filing cabinets. I don't see those, so why does Doyle get what he wants?"

"Five minutes alone is cheaper than filing cabinets."

"This one's a lot bigger than five minutes alone. This one's up right up there with miraculous return from the dead." She paused to ponder her own statement. For someone who died, Doyle hadn't been too unhappy about it. "Maybe worse, I thought Doyle took being dead pretty well."

Angel considered this. "You think this is that bad?"

"Well, maybe it isn't as bad as you used to be, but yeah, pretty bad." Cordelia took another uncharacteristic pause. "I think he's up there crying now. I know I've never seen him do that. Have you?"

Angel riffled the pages of the book pensively. "Okay, I'll talk to him. But you leave him alone for now."

"That will not be a problem." She wondered if she sounded as relieved as she felt.

Over Cordelia's protests, Angel gave it an hour before visiting Doyle. He considered himself somewhat of an expert on needing time alone and wasn't about to disturb Doyle a second sooner than that. Angel knocked lightly on the door frame before going in the room. "Are you having any luck with that demon?"

Doyle cocked his head to one side then shrugged in the direction of an old book lying open next to the computer. "Found somethin'. Don't know if it's the right one," he said disinterestedly.

Angel strode over to the table, ostensibly to take a look at the drawing accompanying the description, but also to get a better look at Doyle, who may have been acting nonchalant but his face revealed otherwise. One of Doyle's fingers was bloodied, and Angel quickly turned back to the book before the blood caught too much of his attention. Angel hadn't seen enough of the demon to really be sure, but it did resemble what he'd seen. "Might have been the one."

"It's somethin' called a Billcra. Kind of a guard dog sorta thing. Protects other demons from intruders. The book says the things smell worse than New Jersey."

"Nothing smells worse than New Jersey," Angel corrected. Angel had lived in New York long enough to know. "But this thing was close. That's probably it then. I guess it's supposed to guard whoever's running this particular show."

Doyle shrugged again half-heartedly and looked away. Angel knew Cordelia was right; he had taken the incident with the little girl pretty hard. This wasn't Angel's area of expertise, but he knew Doyle was hurting at least as badly as when Harry had shown up to ask for a divorce. He sat on the desk across from Doyle.

"That...with the girl...that really got to you, didn't it?" Angel asked cautiously. Doyle didn't respond. "She's just a kid, you know, she wouldn't understand--"

"Yeah, well, there's plenty of adults who won't either," Doyle snapped, turning towards Angel. As soon as their eyes met Doyle backed down again. "I--I'm sorry."

"You're not mad at me. I understand that part."

"You wouldn't understand the rest."

Angel shrugged. Doyle was probably right, but it wouldn't help to tell him that. "You never know. Try me."

Doyle stared at the floor and picked mindlessly at a splinter on the desktop. "I guess you do know it isn't any fun suddenly findin' out you're a demon an' pretty much the whole the world's afraid of ya. All these years I spent tryin' to get used to the idea I'm half a monster, an' you know I'm still not gettin' the hang of that. But then at least I was only a monster some of the time, an' I could pretty much control when I was one. But now I'm gonna be a monster all the time, probably forever. An' I don't know that--that I can ever change that."

"No. You can't." Angel agreed. "And I do understand, especially the demon part. I just don't know what to tell you." Angel started to reach out and put a hand on Doyle's shoulder, reconsidered, then decided to go ahead. But Doyle moved away from him before he could.

"Maybe...maybe I can change it. Someday." Doyle said suddenly.

"I don't follow you."

"What you said today, about not hidin' things from ya...," Doyle looked up at Angel. "All that stuff I been readin', I been tryin' to find out about my demon half an' I still haven't found it in there. I'm havin' more luck findin' Jimmy Hoffa. But I keep hopin' I will."

Angel was now quite confused. "Found what?"

"Why it...what's been happenin' to me when I'm a demon."

"There's something happe--"

Doyle doubled over so sharply he fell out of the chair and Angel barely caught him before Doyle would have struck his head on the table. Not that Doyle would have noticed, Angel realized. He was having a vision.

Angel scooped up Doyle, set him back in his chair and held him in it until he stopped the jerking and twitching that tended to come with his visions. Angel failed to notice Doyle's legs twitched too, although even if he had he probably would have written it off as involuntary. "Are you gonna be okay?" Angel asked.

Doyle nodded a little. Then he opened his eyes. "They got 'em," Doyle said shakily.


"The bad guys...they got him. They got the girl too."

Angel realized Doyle meant Jacobs. "Where? I'll get them back."

"Doesn't matter. They're dead."

It wasn't too much later that Kate stopped in to tell Angel what he already knew. Jacobs and his daughter had been found dumped by the side of a highway with their throats slashed. "You don't seem surprised," Kate commented.

"I'm not," Angel answered. "Doyle already saw it." Doyle was also downstairs having a hopefully cathartic session with Angel's punching bag. He was convinced he should have had the vision soon enough that Angel could have done something. Cordelia appeared to be about as upset as she ever got as well. As for Angel, Jacobs didn't bother him much. But the little girl grated on him. He would be more than glad to find out who did this.

"How does he do that?"

"He doesn't know. None of us do."

"Could be handy to have one of him around the police station. I wouldn't mind knowing where the bad guys were an hour ahead of time."

"You would if you knew the price you'd pay for it." Angel paced around the office in agitation. "Look, Kate, I'm sure it was the same gang that took the girl the first time that did this. Someone told them where my office is, they definitely knew where to find this guy. You sure there isn't a leak at the station?"

"We're looking into it. No luck yet...but..." Kate was clearly trying to stir his interests.

Angel humored her. "But..."

"The dope in the warehouse came from a ship docked just offshore. Far enough to be out of my jurisdiction. The ship is registered to a Colombian named Santiago. Ring any bells?"


"One of the biggest drug runners on the planet. No one has ever seen him, no one who's admitted to it anyway, but he runs a huge operation. These guys are lower tier in the organization, but the volume they're moving makes me think they're moving up in his world. Maybe enough for him to stop in and check things out."

"You think he's on the ship?"

"I'd love to find out."

"I'll see what I can do. And for the record?"

Kate stopped at the door. "What?"

"Doyle didn't have anything to do with this. He told me. I believe him."

Kate nodded and left.

Now Angel was disappointed Wesley wasn't available. There was no way for Angel to get to the ship in broad daylight, Doyle wasn't capable of getting there and Angel would never dream of sending Cordelia out there. They would have to wait for nightfall. And Angel was impatient to get to the task of taking out Santiago and anyone else responsible for the death of the little girl.

But in the meantime, Angel and Doyle started doing some research on Santiago. Doyle was more than glad to get started on the assignment; his grief had passed and been replaced by a healthy dose of anger. Doyle found a sizable cache of news reports which confirmed that Santiago was not someone to be taken lightly. "Hey Angel, ya wanna guess how many people they think this bastard's killed?"

"Not really."

"A couple a' thousand. Even a rumor he killed his own family. This fella never met anyone he liked." Doyle's enthusiasm for finding this information dwindled as he read further. "An' apparently he never met anyone he killed easy. Most of 'em were tortured or somethin' else nasty first, at least the ones they know he did himself. Even the people killed on his orders, it's not a bit pretty."

Angel was thinking too much to really listen. "Why would Santiago, a guy no one's ever actually seen, suddenly take the time to turn up in LA to check out one of lower ends of his organization? Seems like he'd have lackeys to do that sort of thing."

Doyle didn't seem to have the foggiest idea. "He likes surfin'? I know some places. With sharks."

"Maybe he just pulled over to patch a hole in his boat," commented Cordelia, who had come in for more coffee.

"That's it," Angel said sharply.

"Now wait, I didn't say anything to him--" Cordelia started to protest.

"Not you. Kate thought there was a leak in the department since these guys are always ahead of her. Maybe she's not the only one whose organization has a leak."

"Ya think he's here to tighten things up a bit? 'Cause you know," Doyle said slowly, "Jacobs is exactly the sort of guy the cops would use for a snitch."

"For the police, yeah, I can believe it. I wouldn't be surprised if he was working for the police, and that might explain why they went after the girl. Try to shut him up first," agreed Angel. "And if they were sure he's working for the cops, that's the end of him."

"But then who else is blabbermouthing?" asked Cordelia.

"Has to be a cop, since they always know when a raid's coming." Angel was certain.

"The LAPD really ought to review its hiring practices," offered Cordelia.

"I'll pass your suggestion to Kate." Angel was still thinking. "But if he's still hanging around here, he probably isn't done killing yet."

"He could still be lookin' to dump his own guy too, if he hasn't done it already," thought Doyle.

"Exactly. But we don't know who that guy is. And that's not even what really bothers me. I don't know what the Billcra are for. Why does a drug dealer need demons to guard him? And the cops didn't find them, someone got them out of the warehouse first."

"Betcha they're on the ship." Doyle suggested.

"Or on their way." Angel got up. "I'm getting on mine. You two stay here tonight in case I need you."

"Do I have to?" Cordelia whined.

"No problem," said Doyle.

"Of course it's not a problem. You live here."

"Ya could always live with me, Princess."

"You have clearly confused yourself with Ben Affleck."

What with their bickering, Doyle and Cordelia didn't notice Angel forgot the cell phone until he was gone.

Santiago was a true believer only in himself. All others, he believed, would eventually fail. Quite a few of the people he had killed, either personally or through his men, had been in his employ to some extent or another. No one who worked for him ever got a second chance, and often he didn't wait for the first mistake to eliminate anyone he thought might in time become a problem. His patience was even shorter with those outside his organization.

"So," he said slowly to the youngish and quite terrified man bound to the chair in front of him. "You work for the LAPD? And you work for me? Not a very tenable combination."

"I needed the money," gasped the frightened cop. The cop had been in Santiago's employ for some time, and his most recent task had been at the warehouse, ensuring the Billcra weren't found by the non-crooked police.

"Don't we all? Particularly, people seem to need mine." Santiago loved to scare people before he killed them. Of course, the young man didn't know he was going to die. Not for certain, anyway. "Who else has been taking money? Other than you, and the late snitch, that is."

"I--I don't know if there's anyone else."

"Pity, I think you do know." Santiago waved his assistants out of the room. "I'll let you know when I need you again. I doubt I'll be long," he told them.

Santiago turned back to the cop--and changed into a demon of horrible visage. His face was actually indefinite. It appeared to be different colors and shapes, depending on the angle at which it was viewed, but it was horrific from any standpoint. The cop started screaming in terror.

"I'll ask you one more time," Santiago said in a voice that was also indefinite and echoed itself as though Santiago were speaking over a stadium loudspeaker. "Who else? Is there anyone else in the police who knows about me?"

"Maybe, this guy, Angel. He knew about Jacobs and the girl and I saw him at the warehouse that night. Maybe him."

"Now that wasn't so hard, was it?" Santiago laughed and became human again. He called his men back in. "If I recall my history, don't Billcra need to feed before becoming useful? I believe I've found their dinner."

His men didn't have to be told twice.

Kate called shortly after Angel had left. "Hi, anonymous," she told Doyle.

"Nuts," complained Doyle. "I guess 'What's My Line' is out of the question now, huh?"

"Completely. You'll have to find some other way to make yourself useful," Kate told him. "Where's Angel?"

"He headed out to that ship you told 'im about."

"Oh, crap."

"Somethin' wrong? Not that it ain't always."

"I have a dead cop. Washed up on the beach, not far from the docks, probably tossed off that ship."

"That would be the guy then," remarked Doyle.



"The guy was eaten. By dogs I would think, except they were awfully big dogs."

"Billcra," Doyle said.

"Bill--what?" As much as she was learning from Angel about the otherworld, Kate hated how casually Angel and the others talked about it.

"They're demonic guard dogs. Kinda like Cujo but without the sweet disposition. Angel saw--he smelled 'em, actually. We figured Santiago might be comin' to pick them up. He's cleanin' his house too, Angel thinks."

"Well, I'm calling because it may be Angel's house getting cleaned. This dead cop saw me talking with Angel at the warehouse earlier. If he said anything before he was killed, Santiago might be thinking about Angel now. And me, for that matter."

Doyle whistled low. "Not to mention me an' Cordy. Oh man, that could be a problem."

Angel had long since discovered he'd forgotten the cell phone, but he wasn't particularly concerned about that. He was slightly concerned about the unusual number of police not far from the docks, but Angel only considered that an extra hazard; he never thought to wonder why they were there.

Angel figured there must be a smaller boat Santiago's men were using to run things to and from the ship. The trick would be finding the right one. The first one was definitely wrong; Angel walked in on a couple en flagrante delicto. And Angel had never been good at exiting gracefully, at least not when violence wasn't called for.

The next few boats were evidently abandoned or at least not in frequent use. But further down, Angel found one where the smell was very familiar. "Billcra definitely give New Jersey a run for its money," he muttered to himself.

There were only two men on the boat, both under the deck. Angel made short work of them, but not before he 'encouraged' one of them to radio Santiago's ship that they were bringing something in. Angel started up the boat and headed out to the ship.

Angel made an equally emphatic entrance on the ship, easily dispensing with the two men who were waiting for whatever the boat was supposedly bringing. "What happened to the other guys?" one of them asked Angel.

"Why don't you ask them?" Angel asked back, throwing the man back onto the boat. One chop was sufficient to take down the other. So far, Angel was not impressed with the people Santiago had hired. No wonder he needs Billcra, he decided.

But he could also hear more men coming--a lot more. Angel disappeared into the bowels of the ship quietly and set out to look for Santiago.

The ship was remarkably quiet and didn't appear to have a security system. Angel was now getting suspicious, because this was a little too easy. Maybe Santiago had known he was coming. But only Doyle, Cordelia and Kate knew he was coming. Angel began to wonder if Kate was Santiago's connection.

Angel found his way down the ship's cargo hold. And the cargo was impressive. Angel had never seen anywhere near that volume of cocaine. He would not have been at all surprised if the street value were in vicinity of eight figures. There were also a lot of other crates there full of equally illegal items--firearms, other drugs, just about anything imaginable. "The underworld answer to Wal-Mart," Angel said to himself.

"I prefer to think of myself as being a little higher-end than Wal-Mart," Santiago remarked casually.

Angel wheeled around to find Santiago just a few yards behind him, apparently alone and unarmed. "Try some of your own product and you might be," Angel retorted.

"Prickly, aren't we?" Santiago said sarcastically, although he seemed to have at least some respect for Angel. Not a bad idea for dealing with a vampire. "You seem to be a man of many talents. Particularly strength. I considered the possibility of offering you a position." Santiago drew in a long, deliberate breath. "But you're not a man, are you?"

Angel had already realized the same about Santiago. "Speak for yourself. How did you know I was coming? Who told you?"

"You silly thing. I saw you. You don't rise to the top if you don't see the bottom as well--and everything in between." Santiago seemed to shimmer even as he said it. Angel understood immediately why no one had ever 'seen' Santiago--he could make himself invisible, at least to humans. He couldn't quite pull it off before Angel's sharper vision.

They regarded each other, Angel warily and Santiago confidently. "I've never had the honor of destroying a vampire before," he commented. "I'd like to, though." Santiago changed to his demon version.

Angel knew a challenge when he heard it, and demons didn't intimidate him. Even ones he wasn't familiar with and, whatever Santiago was, Angel hadn't encountered anything quite like him before. He changed to vamp form. "Take your best shot."

Santiago clearly had no intentions of making the first move, and Angel didn't want to make it either. So he faked one. Santiago didn't buy it. Angel tried another fake and this time Santiago not only didn't buy it, he dropped and dove for Angel's legs. Angel toppled over onto the ground, but grabbed Santiago's legs as he did. Angel planted his feet on the ground and threw the demon against the wall before scrambling back up.

Now Santiago was angry and forgot about caution. He charged at Angel, much quicker than Angel was expecting him to move. Angel could not quite execute the dodge and chop move he had planned to use and not only did Santiago get a partial hold on Angel, but he slammed Angel to the ground, stunning him. Then Santiago grabbed a pole from against the wall and rammed it downwards with the intention of spearing Angel through the heart.

Angel wasn't that stunned. He rolled at the last possible moment and kicked Santiago's legs out from under him in the process. Leaping back to his feet, Angel grabbed the pole and held it against Santiago's throat, choking him. "It's a real honor, isn't it?" Angel snarled. "I wouldn't mind destroying a demon."

"You would not have a made a good employee," Santiago hissed back. "You don't see the whole picture."

Suddenly Angel was struck on the head, hard, and he blacked out immediately.

Santiago tossed the unconscious vampire to one side as one of his henchmen stood over Angel, ready to take another shot with the baseball bat should it be necessary. The man's timing was excellent, Santiago thought to himself. Too bad I'll have to kill him. Santiago eliminated all employees who saw his true form. He had also learned long ago it was also good business for him to take care of anyone who witnessed him coming out on the wrong end of a battle.

But first he wanted the vampire taken care of, as painfully as possible given the humiliation Santiago had just taken from him, not to mention that the vampire had also seen his real face.

"Put him in with the Billcra," Santiago instructed. "I want him dead." The henchman nodded and dragged Angel away. Santiago made himself invisible and followed them.

When the Billcra's holding cell was reached, the henchman opened the door and tossed Angel in, intending to shut the door again quickly before the Billcra discovered it was open. Instead, the man was quite astonished to see Santiago standing behind him, and even more shocked when Santiago shoved him into the room and locked the door.

The instantly terrified man pounded on the door, screaming to be set free as the Billcra advanced on him, curious and hungry. Realizing the door would not be opening, he tried to run and find another escape route. The Billcra found him amusing and loped after him easily, chasing him about the room until he was too tired to run any further. Then they set upon him.

Outside, Santiago watched the fun on the monitors. He was interrupted by two of his men.


Santiago hated being interrupted while watching death. "What?"

"We got this Angel guy's friends. What you want done with 'em?"

Santiago just smiled. While he would have to settle for watching only Angel's death, he had a lovely idea of how to take care of Angel's friends--slowly.

Doyle was doing some reading in the office while trying not to be worried about Angel, and Cordelia was downstairs doing who knows what when there was a knock at the door. As much as the truth hurt, Cordelia was right about one thing--answering the door was not something Doyle could do around the office, at least not quickly enough to be useful. He tended to leave the office door unlocked for that reason.

"Ya can come in," Doyle said with somewhat less than interest. His interest suddenly picked up when three rather sizable and unpleasant looking men pushed their way inside.

"Now just a minute, I don't remember saying nothin' about smashin' in." Doyle tried to find a gun in the desk drawers but he wasn't fast enough.

"Where's the girl?" one of the men demanded as another grabbed Doyle's arms and pinned them behind him.

Doyle had already conceded he wasn't going anywhere voluntarily, but he still thought maybe he could spring Cordelia. "A girl? I'm the only one workin' here, ya think I'd stay at work this late if I had myself a girl?"

It was too late though. Cordelia came up the stairs at that moment. "Doyle? Did something fall or was that just you? And who are these guys?"

"Alone, huh? I wouldn't mind being alone with her," one of the men said smugly as he grabbed Cordelia.

Doyle felt his temper boiling up. "Don't you touch her, you--" he didn't get to finish as the man nearest him clubbed him in the jaw with the handle of a gun.

"Shut up or I'll use the other end on you," he growled. He gestured with the gun towards Cordelia. "Same rules for you, babe."

The men quickly dragged them to a waiting van and drove off. Doyle opted against speaking, at least for now. Cordelia didn't.

"Who are you guys anyway? I'll guess not the Backstreet Boys."

"Girlie, I told you to shut up."

"And you're totally rude too. You're even ruder than the guy at the--"

The leader nodded to the guy nearest Cordelia and he clubbed her over the head hard enough to knock her out cold. Doyle started to protest but the leader gestured with the gun again.

The van stopped outside a warehouse. Doyle didn't recognize the place, but it wouldn't have surprised him to find out which one it was. It was the same place Santiago's men had been keeping the little girl. The men dragged Doyle and carried Cordelia into a back room of the warehouse, far from any doors. They dropped Cordelia in the middle of the floor and were about to dump Doyle there as well when the leader spoke up again. "Put Romeo against the back wall," he said with amusement. "He can watch his girlfriend die before he does."

Doyle was thrown against the wall, hard enough to stun him. The men left the room and Doyle could hear them doing something outside the room. Something involving a liquid of some sort. Then he heard a whoosh and saw everything outside the room go up in flame.

"Oh, crap," was all he could think to say.

Angel had neglected to consider Santiago wouldn't have tackled him alone and he was paying for it with a colossal headache. Although, Angel had learned through Doyle and Cordelia that no headache was as bad as a vision. Once he learned that, he'd gotten pretty good at shaking off a hurting head.

As he shook this one off, he had no problem at all smelling the Billcra. Or hearing them. They had something to play with, from what he could hear. He hoped it wasn't him. Then he heard an assortment of screams and yelps of the human variety. Nope, not me, Angel felt relieved. Then he looked around and realized the Billcra weren't very far away--and he was locked in with them. "All right, I'm guess I'm next then," he said to no one in particular.

Speaking, it turned out, wasn't such a great idea. The Billcra forgot about what remained of Santiago's man and switched their attention to Angel. Each of the demons was more than twice Angel's size and powerfully built. Any resemblance to dogs was purely coincidental though. The two creatures were clearly in sync with each other, as they split up and advanced on Angel from different directions. Angel hoped they were as synchronized in their timing when they attacked.

Fortunately, they were. Both leaped at him in the same instant and Angel dropped and rolled away at the last possible second. The Billcra collided with each other in mid-air and crashed to the ground, stunned. Angel quickly ducked in, grabbed one of the Billcra by the head and, using all his vampire strength, snapped its neck. Had the creature not been stunned, Angel knew, he would never have gotten away with it. It also took him long enough that the other Billcra was no longer stunned.

"One down, one to go," he said to himself.

The remaining Billcra charged at him in rage and Angel was barely able to dodge it, using the dead Billcra's body as a shield to deflect the live demon's attack. But the creature was more agile than he thought it might be and it stopped quickly and turned back towards him. This was going to be tough, Angel thought. But then, Billcra wouldn't have much value if they went down easy. Then the idea clicked into the back of his mind.

There was a window which appeared to open to the outside of the ship. Angel hoped it was made of regular glass. He backed towards the window and kept himself lined up between the Billcra and the window. When the Billcra charged him again, Angel fell to the ground beneath the demon too quickly for the Billcra to get its teeth into him but quick enough that he was able to grab its clawed forefeet. Ignoring the claws slicing and tearing through his hands, Angel fell onto his back, planted his feet on the creature's stomach and using his arms and legs threw the Billcra as hard as he could against the window.

The window shattered and the Billcra went most of the way out along with the glass. One clawed limb still clung to the edge of the window and the demon tried desperately to pull itself back in. "Forget about it," Angel told the struggling demon. "You need a bath anyway." He kicked the creature's claws off the edge and watched it plummet into the ocean below.

Once satisfied the Billcra was gone, Angel turned his attention to the door. Through the corner of his eye, he had seen Santiago on the other side, watching him fight with the Billcra. But now Angel didn't see Santiago there.

Angel smashed down the door with minimal effort and threw one of the two men remaining on the other side back into the room with the dead Billcra. The second man tried to run but Angel caught him by his collar and debated whether to vent the rest of his anger or save it for Santiago when the man started begging.

"Please, please don't kill me! I can tell ya something, but please don't kill me!"

Angel held him, dangling from one hand. "I have a feeling Santiago already got away. What else could you possibly have to tell me that would make me want to let you live?"

"I know what they did with your friends."

For once, Angel hadn't even thought of Doyle and Cordelia. He didn't think Santiago knew about them...but he probably could have found out. "Start talking quick, I don't like what you tell me and the deal's off."

"Santiago sent some other guys to your place to grab your friends, a girl and a cripple he said. He told em to take them to the warehouse, the one where he kept the kid before."

"Are they there now?"

"Yeah, the other guys, they called in. They locked your people in there. Santiago told them to burn the place down."

Angel dropped the man on the floor and ran.

Doyle tried to find a solution to the situation. He and Cordelia were in a room with only one doorway and that doorway was filled with raging flames. The room was already filling rapidly with smoke and Doyle figured they didn't have much time before either the smoke would overcome them or the flames would. Cordelia had also taken a good blow to the head, Doyle realized, and she wasn't in a condition to help much. It was up to him to get them out of there. "This isn't good," he announced to no one in particular.

The only other entry to the room was a smallish window against the wall farthest from the door. It was also at least eight feet off the ground, but he could see the night sky outside it. "That's the way out," he yelled to Cordelia, who was very gradually coming to. "We gotta get out through there!" 'And the hell how am I gonna reach it,' he thought.

Cordelia tried to stand, unsuccessfully, and fell against some packing crates. They didn't budge. "Ow!" Cordelia howled. Doyle wasn't listening to her--he had an idea. But he needed to get one of those crates over to the wall, and he guessed they were heavy. It was also getting pretty hot in there.

"Cordy! We gotta get one of these to the wall. Help me," Doyle yelled.

"Wha..." Cordelia wasn't getting it.

Doyle dragged himself to the crate that was closest to the wall to start with and tried to push it. It barely moved. He wasn't going to be able to get it over there, unless...

"Oh, the hell with it," Doyle said to himself more than anything. He pulled his legs underneath him and, using them for leverage, pushed on the crate as hard as he could. This time it moved a few inches. Doyle pulled himself up closer to it. "Cordelia!"

Cordelia was dazed from the blow, choking on the smoke and shocked at seeing Doyle move his legs. "You moved!" she squeaked.

"Another time, help me here!" he yelled.

Cordelia might not have moved except that a burning timber fell from the ceiling and landed just behind her. With a holler, she bolted to Doyle's side. Together they gave the crate two more shoves and got it close enough to the wall, by Doyle's estimation.

"You think we can get out?" she asked.

"Yeah," coughed Doyle. "At least I hope. Can you reach the window?"

Cordelia climbed onto the crate, but the window was just beyond her reach. "No!"

Well then, thought Doyle, here goes nothing. He shook himself into demon form, with more difficulty than he expected. He realized the smoke was getting to him, and the fire was pretty darn close too, but this was their last shot. He planted his hands on the crate, gathered his legs under him and forced himself upright--and promptly belly-flopped onto the crate. Doyle knew now he had miscalculated; he wasn't ready to stand up, much less walk yet. But,' he thought, I can still get Cordy out.'

Doyle crawled across the crate and pushed his back up alongside the wall until he was sitting on his knees, then balanced himself. "Cordy, climb up on my shoulders, I'll give ya a lift," he gasped.


"What?" Doyle had never known Cordelia to refuse a rescue.

"I'm not picking up the pieces after you again. I'm staying."

"Maybe I won't die, Princess. Maybe you can pull me up after you."

"Doubt it. Either we get a miraculous rescue or I'm going with you this time." And with that, Cordelia grabbed him and kissed him, hard and passionately albeit with some caution for his spikes.

Doyle couldn't believe he was doing this, but he pushed her away. "No Princess. You're gettin' out. Now." He grabbed her by her legs and with every ounce of strength he could find thrust her up to the window. Now that the window was within reach, basic survival instincts overtook any noble thoughts Cordelia might have had earlier. Cordelia grasped the window sill and pulled herself the rest of the way up. Fortunately, the window had been left open for some reason and Cordelia had little trouble getting out through it. Dangling her legs on the safe side of the wall, she turned back towards the room.

"Doyle!" she called to him. "Maybe I can reach you! DOYLE!"

There was no answer.

Angel drove to the warehouse as fast he could, hoping he wasn't too late. But when he arrived, he realized immediately he probably was. The building was fully engulfed in flames. If Cordelia and Doyle were still in there...


Angel heard Cordelia and looked for her. He found her dangling half in and half out of a window. "Cordelia! Drop down, I'll catch you!"

"No! Doyle's still in there!"

With a sick feeling in his stomach, Angel saw no possibility Doyle was still living. Smoke was pouring from the window around Cordelia's face and he could feel the heat from the flames inside the building. "Cordy, no."

"He's right below the window! I just can't reach him!" she coughed out.

All right, thought Angel, the absolute least I owe Doyle is to try. There were a number of crates outside the warehouse and Angel shoved the nearest one against the wall and climbed up on it. He reached Cordelia and took hold of her by the ankles. "I'll lower you in, one time. If you can get a hold of him, hang on and I'll pull you both out," Angel instructed.

"Okay already!" Cordelia squealed, and Angel lowered her back in.

Pushing Cordelia out had taken what Doyle assumed was the last of his strength. He reverted to human form without trying to and slumped down against the wall weakly. The flames were inches away now. Doyle pondered the fire briefly; then he started gulping down smoke, hoping he would be dead before the flames could take him. He had been burned enough for one lifetime.

Distantly he heard Cordelia calling to him. He thought he heard Angel too, but then, he thought he could be hallucinating as well. 'Sorry Princess', he mouthed as his mind sank into darkness. But as he blacked out, he thought he felt someone grasp his arms and pull them upwards. Then he felt Cordelia's hands close around his own and felt nothing else.

Cordelia was exhausted and could barely breathe. Her throat had never hurt so much in her life and she was amazed she could still speak. And while she would never, ever admit to it, the fire terrified her. But she trusted Angel not to let go of her and she would not let Doyle die again. Of this, she was certain...until she realized she couldn't see or hear him and the flames were nearly to the wall. Had they taken him already? She didn't want to consider the idea.

"Doyle!" the word nearly stuck in her parched and burned throat. No answer. Maybe she should give up.

It was then she saw--or thought she saw--a demon in the room. It looked to her like a very large Brachen and he looked at her with burning red eyes, redder even than Doyle's when was in his demon form. He stood in the flames but they didn't burn him. He glanced at her only briefly, then he bent down. He rose up again almost immediately, gripping Doyle's arms in his hands. He offered Doyle's hands to her and she grasped them as strongly as she could.

"Angel! I've got him!" She looked back. The Brachen was gone.

Angel pulled on her legs as she struggled to keep hold of Doyle's arms. When Angel had gotten her out of the window, he reached over and grabbed hold of one of Doyle's arms and together they pulled him free of the building.

Angel laid Doyle's limp body on the ground and shook him a little, but he didn't move at all. Angel called to him but Doyle didn't respond. Frantically Angel searched for a pulse and found one, faint and fading rapidly. He held a hand to Doyle's mouth but could feel no breath. Angel could feel himself begin to panic.

"He's not breathing!" Angel felt utterly helpless. He couldn't breathe himself; he couldn't do anything to help Doyle. "Cordelia..." The girl sat on the ground coughing and choking. She wasn't in a condition to help Doyle.

Angel turned away from both of them. Not a third time. No.

Kate was about to call it good and go home for the evening when the call came in. The warehouse on 82nd Street was burning. 'That was the same one where Santiago had hidden the girl,' she thought. Kate couldn't help wondering if there was something else in the warehouse Santiago didn't want found. She decided to stop by the scene and see what was up.

When she pulled up to the warehouse, it was in full flame. It was almost beautiful with the flames reaching for the sky and she stood and watched for a minute. For a moment, she didn't see Angel's car. When she did see it, her first thoughts were that Angel was inside the warehouse and her heart sank. Then Angel grabbed her arm from behind.

"Help me!" He looked frantic and heartsick at the same time.


"It's Doyle," Angel pulled her after him. "He's not breathing."

Angel fell to his knees beside Doyle and dragged Kate down beside him. Doyle wasn't moving and he didn't appear to be alive. Kate understood Angel's anguish, and was a little surprised to feel some herself. But she was certain it was already too late. "Angel," she said softly, "I don't think I can help."

"He still has a pulse. Please try. Please," Angel begged and his voice broke.

Kate decided to try, if only so Angel knew she had. She struggled to remember her First Aid training from years ago. Kate was sure she was doing this wrong, but she pressed her lips against Doyle's and blew in as hard as she could.

For forever it seemed to her, there was no sign of life from Doyle. Angel watched helplessly as Kate breathed for Doyle, and he looked more and more despondent as the seconds passed. Finally he tugged on Kate's arm.

"Kate, stop. I was too late. Stop," he asked her, his voice barely above a whisper.

But now Kate didn't want to stop. If there was one thing she hated to do, it was to lose and she knew she did not want to lose Doyle, not now. She had put too much effort into trying to save him. She blew another breath into him. Angel put his hands on her shoulders and tried to pull her away. Kate shook loose from him. "I don't quit," she informed Angel bluntly.

She turned back to Doyle and for a moment the frustration boiled over in her and she punched Doyle in the chest. "You don't quit either, you hear me?" As quickly as the anger had come over her it passed again and Kate felt ashamed. What the hell was she doing?

Then Doyle's hand twitched. Kate hesitated--had she seen what she thought she had? Angel also looked completely surprised, so he must have seen it too. Then Doyle's hand moved again, and so did his foot. Angel stared, but Kate shook off her amazement and blew one more breath into Doyle. He started coughing, and his entire body jerked as the coughs racked through him. Then, sputtering, Doyle tried weakly to push Kate away.

"I think you're stuck with him a little longer," Kate observed with relief and more than a little satisfaction.

Angel was still staring. "Did he...move? His leg?"

"Yeah," Cordelia croaked. "He stood up too."

"What?!" Angel and Kate asked in unison. Kate had thought maybe Doyle had moved his foot as a reflex, but maybe she was wrong.

"He tried to stand up, fell right down on his face again," Cordelia said in disgust.

All three of them stared down at Doyle. He was still coughing and hacking, trying to catch some semblance of breath. Angel leaned into Doyle's face.

"You have some explaining to do."

The doctors felt Cordelia and Doyle would be fine with some rest and clean air, but they opted to keep both of them in the hospital overnight, which was fine with Angel. It gave him plenty of time to contemplate Doyle's apparent deception, and he wasn't the least bit happy about it. And as a result, he found he didn't much care to be pleasant with Doyle.

Angel didn't speak to Doyle at all in the hospital, when he brought him back to the apartment, or during the rest of the day. Nor did he make any effort to help Doyle, despite his weakness and chronic coughing. At first it was easy to ignore Doyle's struggles, but as the day passed Angel found it harder and harder to leave Doyle alone, and began feeling a strong dose of guilt. He had already decided he wouldn't be able to keep up this behavior by the next day, but Doyle didn't last that long.

Doyle stoically put up with nearly twenty-four hours of being more or less ignored, but when yet another coughing fit landed him on the floor and it took him over an hour of painful attempts to climb back in the chair, Doyle caved in. He went straight upstairs to the office and cornered Angel.

"How much longer do I get the silent treatment?" Doyle demanded angrily.

Angel didn't even bother to look at Doyle.

"Do I even get to find out what it's for? If I'm gonna--" Doyle couldn't finish as he was wracked by still more coughs. Angel regarded him briefly, then went to the cooler, brought back a cup of water and handed it to Doyle.

It took the whole cup and several minutes before Doyle caught enough breath to speak again. "Thanks," he wheezed.

Doyle was right, Angel knew; refusing to speak to him wouldn't do either of them any good longterm. It was time to get this in the open. "How long have you been able to move? How long did you keep your little secret?" Angel demanded and he didn't bother trying to mask his anger.

Doyle nearly choked again and squirmed uncomfortably. "Well, ya mean literally or just when I--"

"How long have you known? Is that specific enough?"

"Yeah. Yeah, it is. The day after I was--after you got caught. I could feel a little bit a' my toes," Doyle hung his head. "I'm really, really sorry, Angel, please, believe--"

"Look me in the eye, and tell me you were going to tell me about this." Doyle had broken his trust and it hurt Angel. It hurt him a lot. "Do you have any idea what it's like to know after all we've been through that you don't even trust me?"

"I was...gonna tell you. I was. I tried...the other morning."

"Why didn't you?"

Doyle looked at Angel like he was an idiot, but only for an instant. "Vision, remember?"

"Before," the word rolled out of Angel in a low growl and Doyle shaped up.

"I wanted to make sure first. I didn't want to say somethin'...and then have it stop."

"Have what stop?"

"Whenever I go gets a little bit better each time. I can feel a little more. I can move a bit more. I keep hopin' maybe it'll all come back someday," Doyle added, a touch of sadness evident in his voice. He started to chew on a finger again, but was having too much trouble not coughing to try it for more than a moment.

Angel couldn't begin to imagine why Doyle would be unhappy about regaining the feeling in his legs, certainly not enough to keep it a secret. "Funny, that sounds to me like it's a good thing."

"If it keeps happenin', yeah. But lately it's not happenin' much at all, 'bout as much as Brando makes a film now. An' I just didn't wanna say, hey, maybe I can walk again and find out the next day I'm wrong an' I can't. So I didn't tell ya. It was never about trust. It was never about you at all, it was only about me."

"It was only about you, all right. And you strung me along for over six months," Angel snapped. "Playing as if you were helpless and letting me believe it when the whole damn time you were pretending."

"I didn't mean to!" Doyle shot back. "An' I wasn't playin' helpless. Cordelia's right. I am helpless. It's not as if I can walk, I can't even stand up. Or do much of anythin' without help. Ya have any idea what it's like wakin' up in the mornin' an' knowin' ya can't get through a day--hell, even an hour--without someone helpin' ya?"

Angel, taken aback, could do nothing but agree. "No, I don't," he said softly.

"It's bad enough I'm sittin' here thinkin' nothin's ever gonna change for me. I don't need you t' be thinkin' an' expectin' that it will. If I'd told ya, an' then I never got any better after'd just resent me still bein' here an' still needin' you. An' then I lose the only thing I got left to hold onto."

"I would not resent you..." Angel gave a little extra thought to that and cut himself off. He already did resent Doyle at times. "All right, maybe I would. Maybe I'd set my expectations for you higher than you ever set them for yourself. And maybe I'd get tired of it, but I would never blame you for something you don't control."

"You already do," Doyle started, but wound up coughing again.

Angel went for more water and hesitated outside the office door, listening to Doyle's painful attempts to clear his lungs and pondering some of the things Doyle had said. He really didn't think his occasional annoyance had been that apparent to Doyle. And he hadn't noticed in all this time that Doyle was depressed. That was what was really wrong with Doyle the other day, wasn't it? It wasn't the girl being afraid of him; it was Doyle being afraid because his hopes of recovering were being crushed. Angel realized he wasn't angry with Doyle any more.

Angel finally went back in the office, gave Doyle the water and waited patiently for him to regain his breath. When he thought Doyle might be able to speak again, Angel continued. "I don't blame you for this, Doyle. I blame me. Maybe I take it out on you sometimes, but I don't mean to. It's me I'm angry with. Going all the way back to the Beacon, all I can see are the things I did wrong that brought us where we are now. All the mistakes I've made that hurt you."

"Ya didn't do any of those thin's. It was always--"

"But I could have stopped them, or done things differently."

"But ya didn't know. I don't blame ya at all for how I am now. Just...sometimes I wish I didn't always feel like I'm a burden on ya," Doyle said quietly.

"You're not," Angel responded quickly. "Don't ever think that."

"No, I am, at least sometimes, we both know that. That's why I want so much to get' now I don't even have that."

"You don't know that you won't get better. Maybe you will. And if you don't, we'll deal with it," Angel added.

"No, you'll deal with it. I'll live with it." Doyle slumped down and it was now broadly evident what was really wrong with him. "Even when I was drinkin' an' all, I still believed someday thin's would work out for me. I don't believe that any more."

Angel again thought of trying to reassure Doyle that he understood, and this time he did put a hand on Doyle's shoulder. Doyle didn't react. "Listen, Doyle," Angel said slowly. "We'll find out how, and why, you were getting better. And then we'll figure out how to keep making it better. And it's we, all right? You're my best friend, Doyle. Better or worse, I'll be here."

Doyle finally looked up again. "Ya know, you were wrong earlier," he said softly.

"About what?"

"About me not trustin' ya. I do. W' my life."

Angel found himself feeling relieved. "We're friends again, aren't we?"

Doyle thought for a moment, then nodded. "Yeah, I think so. Maybe we can do a better job with it this time."

"I think I'd like that."

"Me too."

They looked at each for a minute. Then Angel gave Doyle's shoulder a small squeeze and sat back, thinking. "Well, how much better have you gotten? Can you stand up yet or...

Santiago sat in a chartered plane somewhere over the Pacific, fuming about the events on the boat. He'd never had an ambush fail quite so completely before, but then he'd never directly dealt with a vampire before either. Worse, the vampire had seen his real face and survived. Angel had to be destroyed, immediately.

Santiago picked up his phone and dialed.

"Hello, Wolfram and Hart?"

"This is Santiago. I need to speak with Mr. Hart."



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