The Best Laid Plans
The Best Laid Plans
Email Address: LCSTrish@aol.com
Rating: PG-13 for mild profanity and some violence
Summary: Doyle's back and needs Angel's help
Spoiler Warnings: Pretty much everything up to 'Somnambulist', but esp. 'Hero' and 'Parting Gifts'
Disclaimer: Characters from the show belong to Mutant Enemy, etc.; characters not from the show belong to me; the dog belongs to you-know-who if you know your Buffy bios; and Gonzai belongs to Sergei Gonchar, not that he'll take the nickname back or anything...
Distribution: As long as you ask nice first.
Feedback: A high-pitched sound created by electronic interference. I actually like it.
"And now I see I'm all alone
And that's the only way to be.
You'll have your chance again
Then you can do the work for me."
- Fairport Convention, 'Meet On The Ledge'
It was entirely too cold outside, even for December, she thought. Not that she would have been any happier with a warmer temperature; now well into her seventies, Elsa found very little to be happy about. The world wasn't the place she remembered from her youth, and while some of her complaints were standard older folks complaints, she was also quite right in others. Particularly when it came to her neighborhood.
Mostly it was the drugs, and mostly heroin, what with all the musicians and other post-hippie types that had moved to the area. What had been a nice place to live was rapidly becoming overrun with drug dealers and the human waste that resulted. Rarely did a night pass that she didn't hear gunshots, and walking her dog, Bertha, was often bordering on a suicide mission.
Bertha was the only thing she particularly cared about in this world though, so when the dog wanted a walk - she got a walk. Always. Wherever. In all manner of weather too, although Elsa couldn't begin to think of a reason Bertha would want an extended trip in this chilly air.
The dog was insistent though. She had started barking in the wee hours at who knows what and had begged for a walk for several hours before Elsa finally gave up and got the leash. Bertha apparently had a destination in mind as well, because she picked a direction immediately and pulled and yanked Elsa for several blocks. As if the weather weren't bad enough for her health, she thought.
Furthermore, the dog was headed straight for an alley next to one of the tenements Elsa always tried hard to avoid. While there were nice office buildings just a block or two away, this particular spot had accumulated more than its share of crime and was by no means a good place to be.
Once at the alley, Bertha gave one more pull on the leash and Elsa had to either let go or lose her arm. Bertha tore off down the alley to a pile of trash against the wall, barking the whole way, and began enthusiastically digging through the trash. She found what she was looking for in the trash well before Elsa was able to catch up to her.
When Elsa saw what Bertha had found in the trash, she screamed like she never had in her entire life.
Gloria had been working as an admitting clerk at Soundview Hospital for twenty-eight years, and that was at least twenty years too long for anyone who required her to actually provide assistance. She'd seen everything and lost patience with it years ago. And on this day, a day when the hospital was finally able to discharge the patient who had been so much trouble (and, frankly, scared the daylights out of them) over the past several months that she felt palpable relief when he walked out the door, the last thing she was going to have patience with was the wet-behind-the-ears shyster in the expensive suit.
"Excuse me?" he asked her for the umpteenth time.
She wasn't about to pay attention to him until she heard a sufficient degree of begging in his tone. Life was too short to put up with some over-educated brownnosing social climber, at least not until he found his proper place.
Now, he was begging. She thought he might be on the verge of a temper tantrum or better yet, tears. NOW she would acknowledge him.
"Fine. What do you want? And start talking now because I don't got all day!" she snapped at him.
The young man had been teetering on the brink of rage as the nurse repeatedly, intentionally failed to notice him but now he recollected himself for the task at hand. "I'm here to pick up a patient who is to be discharged today," he stated evenly.
"Name?" Gloria was unimpressed, although the sort of patients this hospital generally had were not the sort who had well-dressed young men sent to retrieve them.
"Alexander J. Williams, III," he responded.
Great. An overeducated moron. "The patient's name, you overdressed little twit!" She snapped at him.
"Oh...um...he's a John Doe," Williams scrambled to compose himself again. "He's been here since December."
Oh god. Not THAT John Doe. "He's gone," Gloria snapped again.
The last eleven months were almost worth it for the look on the kid's face.
"Wh-wh-WHAT?!?" Williams could barely squeak the word out as his whole being visibly sank into his feet. "Are you sure?"
"Hell, yes," she responded, "and good riddance to the freak."
The look on Williams' face indicated he never thought something this bad could ever possibly happen to him. "Uh...when?" Williams tried to salvage something from this discussion.
"A couple hours ago," Gloria was barely containing her disgust now, and she had no intention of continuing the conversation further. "We put him on a bus to Los Angeles. Now get lost."
Williams took off without further debate. He needed to find that bus.
Gloria didn't even watch him leave. John Doe hadn't been a pleasant patient in any sense, at any time, and had been an even bigger pain of late. When the police first dropped him off last December, she had briefly felt sorry for the man. Third degree burns were about the only thing that elicited sympathy from her. But having to take care of the guy for eleven months and through dozens of surgeries wasn't exactly pleasant. Especially not when he turned green and grew spikes without warning. The hospital had attempted to send him somewhere, anywhere else; but someone had been paying his bills and that someone apparently had the legal and financial wherewithal to keep John Doe right where he was.
Then in the past month or two Doe started having seizures and screaming bloody murder at random intervals that unnerved the whole staff and that constituted the last straw. He wasn't going to be missed, not at all.
Cordelia was sitting at her desk, reading a script and making a half-hearted attempt to practice it. She was sufficiently occupied that she didn't notice Angel had been watching her, intently, for the past hour.
There was nothing else for either of them do. Angel Investigations had never done much walk-up business, and now that Cordelia wasn't having visions, Angel didn't have any kind of direction. He could only hang around the lesser areas of town hoping for trouble to appear just so often. He'd already asked Kate if she needed any help so many times she'd finally kicked him out of the police station and told him not to come back until he actually had a problem.
And Wesley had left. After a couple months of inactivity, he had announced he felt his proper place was as the 'rogue demon hunter' and he took off. Angel didn't blame him at all. The only thing worse than nothing to do - and, he supposed, being paid nothing for it - was the resulting prickliness of the interoffice relationships. Wesley and Cordelia had completely lost patience with each other and frankly Angel had started to wonder how Wesley might taste. And if Cordelia had known he was watching her, she'd likely have been wondering how she was going to taste.
But that wasn't what concerned Angel about Cordelia. What bothered him was her apparent lack of concern over the disappearance of the visions. Granted, they weren't a pleasant experience, but hadn't she accepted them as the only gift Doyle had to give her? The only reminder they had of Doyle was gone, and it didn't appear to be bothering her. But it bothered him, greatly.
And it wasn't just worry over Cordelia's mental and emotional state. The Oracles had said, however circuitously, that Cordelia would be his doorway - and now the door had shut without warning. For the second time in less than a year, he thought drily. Given his track record with the Oracles, the sudden change of circumstances made him suspicious that something was up and he wasn't in on it. All in all, Angel was broodier than ever.
But he was sick of watching Cordelia's appallingly awful attempts at this script and he finally went in and interrupted her.
"Why don't you go home?"
Cordelia stared at him like he'd told her she was a demon. "And what, exactly, is that supposed to mean?"
Angel was taken aback. He should be used to this by now, but Cordelia's reading of his intentions was getting worse daily. "Umm...I just meant, there's nothing to do here, maybe you'd like to do something else?"
"So, you want me to find another job? I'm not good enough at sitting?"
"No, no, no. You're fine here, I mean, look, maybe you want to go out or something," Angel was digging himself in deeper and couldn't figure out how he was managing to do that.
"A date with a vampire, oh goody," complained Cordelia. "You're so bored you want to make yourself evil?"
"I give up. Just, please, go home," Angel was almost pleading. "Uh...you want me to walk you to your car?"
Cordelia put the script into her bag and put on her jacket. "So desperate for action you hope something attacks me on the way out? No, thanks. I'm a big little girl now and I can make it out the door."
"I'm sorry." Angel followed her to the door but Cordelia wouldn't even look at him as she left the office and headed onto the street. Angel watched her go, then locked the door and turned off the lights. He would finish contemplating what could possibly go wrong next from his apartment.
Cordelia wasn't actually all that angry at Angel. As she thought about it, maybe she wasn't really mad at him at all, maybe she was mad at herself. She really was distraught at the disappearance of the visions, because the only thing that had made Doyle's death bearable for her was the thought that, through the visions, he was still with her. Besides, painful as the visions were, they meant that she was useful. She'd never been useful before and she rather liked having some measure of importance in the world. Now she didn't even have that.
The utter boredom at the office wasn't helping things. Nor could she bring herself to go on a date, or even an audition - the fake scripts were the only thing she could think of to keep herself from screaming while sitting at her desk with nothing to look forward to. Dennis was highly concerned about her - and she knew that Angel was too, however he tried to hide it - but she was being pretty bitchy to both of them. Dennis had given up; he hadn't made his presence known to her for over a week, and now it seemed Angel had lost his patience with her too. She was considering going back to Sunnydale, as horrible a proposition as that was. Going home with her tail between her legs just was not her style.
As she walked, a feeling passed over her that she was being watched. She looked back to the office, expecting to see Angel watching her, but he was turning off the lights and no longer looking toward the street. All the same, she could feel eyes on her and wished she had allowed Angel to walk her to her car. She briefly considered going back to the office, but she wasn't going to let Angel think she was some scared mouse. She picked up her pace and was relieved to make it to her car unmolested. She still felt the presence of someone else though, and she got out of there in a hurry. She briefly wondered if she was losing her mind, then wondered if she should even come back tomorrow.
Cordelia wasn't losing her mind. In the shadows by the corner of the building, there was a dark figure watching her walk to her car.
Safely hidden in the shadows alongside the office building, he watched Cordelia walk to her car. He thought about approaching her but decided against it - as much as he wanted to speak to her, he didn't want to frighten her. Also, he muttered to himself, "Ya wouldn't want to fall at her feet, literally. Need a better entrance than that."
Once Cordelia was gone, he stood silently for a few moments, thinking, then looked up toward the office. All the lights were out now, and when he concentrated he could hear the service elevator going down to the basement. The office was empty.
Slowly, painfully, he pushed himself away from the wall and willed himself to walk toward the door, keeping one hand to the wall along the way. Much as he didn't want to acknowledge how utterly weak he was, he desperately needed the support of the wall to keep him upright. Officially and on paper, he thought to himself, you're fine. Weird definition of fine he'd never heard of, obviously.
The door was locked, but he'd expected that. He wasn't deterred either, as he couldn't begin to count the number of locks he'd picked in his time. It had been a while, and his scarred and painful hands weren't what they had once been, but they were good enough to get the door open. The door to Angel Investigations was easier still. He'd never understood why Angel didn't particularly pay attention to his own security. It made a bad impression on walk up clients. Then again, they'd never thought they'd need many walk ups, he thought to himself sourly.
The office was more or less unchanged since he'd last been there. Unknown to him, Wesley had kept a desk briefly but cleaned it out when he'd left, and otherwise nothing much was different. Fortunately, Wesley had failed to clean out the cupboard Angel and Cordelia had agreed to let him use. Angel obviously didn't eat, and Cordelia didn't eat much, so all they'd ever kept in the office was coffee. Wesley was a muncher though and had stocked the office with cookies and crackers.
Afraid there would be nothing edible, he was very pleasantly surprised to find Wesley's cache of food. It was the first pleasant surprise he'd had in a long time, and well timed - he hadn't eaten in days. He stuffed himself, so happy to finally eat he almost didn't realize just how utterly exhausted he was. There was still a couch in the office and he gladly crawled onto it and fell very soundly asleep.
After a night of soul-searching, Cordelia had decided to go back to the office. To quit. The situation wasn't getting any better, and she'd concluded it would be best for both her and Angel if she concentrated on her acting career. She decided she did owe it to Angel to at least tell him in person.
With an actual plan and thoughts in her head, Cordelia failed to notice things that were even more obvious than usual. Things like not having to unlock the front door to the building, since it was standing open. Things like not having to unlock the office door for the same reason. Things like totally failing to notice the sleeping figure curled up asleep on the office couch. She never paid attention to Wesley's snack cabinet in the first place, so she didn't notice that it was standing open and largely empty.
Given her chronic lack of interest in housekeeping, oddly enough she did notice the trash. There were wrappers and cellophane all over the floor and she slipped on one piece. She decided that prior to quitting, she would first give Angel a piece of her mind for being such a slob, and started toward the elevator. It was at that point she finally noticed she wasn't alone in the room - and she started screaming like a banshee.
Angel rarely slept, but he had managed to accomplish some dozing toward the early morning hours. Thus he was pretty startled when Cordelia started screaming. And since she kept screaming - Cordelia often screamed, but usually briefly and roach-inspired - Angel ran up the stairs instead of waiting for the elevator. When he arrived in the office and saw what inspired Cordelia's howls, he surprised himself with a yelp of his own.
Doyle was every bit as startled as Angel when Cordelia started screaming. He'd actually gotten some sleep for the first time in long time and he didn't expect the rude awakening. Once he recovered from the initial shock, he staggered to his feet and tried to calm down Cordelia but without any success. She was so terrified of him she backed into a corner and screamed louder. His back to the stairs, Doyle was surprised again when he heard Angel behind him and even more surprised when Angel screamed.
"I always wanted to make a beautiful woman scream. But I never really figured on makin' a beautiful man scream," Doyle croaked. Doyle's voice had been reduced to a weak rasp, but he had managed to retain his ability to wisecrack.
Angel hadn't been sure what he was seeing, but he knew what he was hearing and he was having a lot of trouble believing that too. Still, the stranger's attitude was quite familiar. "Doyle?" he asked incredulously.
"Yah," said Doyle, who found himself worn out already and dropped back onto the couch. "The one and only."
Cordelia had stopped screaming when Angel showed up, convinced he would save her from this...thing...that was in the office. She was terrified of the stranger even though there was something vaguely familiar about the man - if it was a man. If it was human, it was so scarred, fleshless and horrifying ugly she would still have thought it was a demon of some sort. But Angel wasn't particularly doing anything to rescue her. And for him to call this thing Doyle, well that was just a little too much.
"You're not Doyle!" she screamed. "Doyle is dead!"
"Sorry Princess," Doyle advised her with a hint of amusement. "I never died."
"Yes, yes, you did!" she managed a couple more words.
"Well, now that you admit it's me could you maybe get me something to eat?" Doyle asked her. He had missed Cordelia tremendously but didn't realize until this moment how much he'd missed getting the girl's goat. "I'm so hungry I could even eat your cooking."
That sent Cordelia over the edge. Gross ugly thing or not, he needed to be slapped and she did precisely that. But whatever it was, the slap apparently hurt him far more than she'd even intended and she was immediately sorry she'd done it.
Doyle was pretty much used to any degree of touch being painful, but then he hadn't been slapped lately. Fortunately Cordelia had only struck him on his side; there really wasn't any flesh to speak of remaining on his face and he didn't care to think about how much it would have hurt if she'd slapped him there. All the same, it was more than enough to set him howling in agony; this was at least as bad as the visions.
Angel, meanwhile, had continued to stand there open-mouthed and staring. Between seeing Doyle die and remembering what the Oracles had told him, he was still stuck back on the 'I never died' statement. Cordelia, frustrated with his inaction, grabbed at his arm. "Aren't you going to at least say something?" she insisted.
Angel didn't have the time for Cordelia just now. "Your boyfriend's back?" he snipped.
Cordelia slapped Angel. With far less dramatic results than slapping Doyle.
Angel concluded getting Cordelia out of the room wasn't a half bad idea. "Look Cordelia, why don't you go get him some breakfast? He looks pretty hungry to me."
"He shouldn't be. Whatever he is, he already ate everything Wesley left," she pouted.
"Who's Wesley?" Doyle inquired. He was just getting his breath back as the pain took its sweet time backing off.
"Long story," said Angel, still staring at Doyle, "but not as long as yours. And I want to hear yours."
"If there's a story, I'm hearing it too," Cordelia planted herself inside the doorway.
"Fine. We'll wait until we get some food in him," Angel gestured towards Doyle. "And until we both calm down," he thought to himself.
Doyle needed help getting to the elevator, and once down to the apartment he needed further assistance from Angel just to get to the sofa. Doyle never liked being touched, and he'd always had too much pride to let Angel help him unless the circumstances were dire, so requesting help from Angel was a very profound statement to Angel and Cordelia of how bad his present condition must be.
Angel was only too glad to help but leery of touching Doyle, mindful of how painful Cordelia's slap had been. Cordelia, meanwhile, was still leery of being in the same room with Doyle and demonstrated her discomfort by sulking in another room. Angel made some breakfast for Doyle, and was surprised to see how fast Doyle gulped it down.
"How long has it been since you ate? Not counting last night," Angel added.
Doyle thought about it. "At least three days. Maybe make that four. Haven't slept since then either."
"You know any place that's gonna let me in? For free, no less? I could use some recommendations."
Good point, Angel thought. While the clothes Doyle was wearing weren't exactly classy, they weren't Doyle's either. They looked like they'd been pulled from a Goodwill bag, and hadn't had the benefit of laundering in quite some time. His shoes didn't fit and were full of holes. Much of Doyle's hair was missing or patchy, and his skin was in a similar condition. There were places on Doyle's face where bone was nearly visible, and what flesh he had was clearly a result of patchwork skin grafts. His arms didn't look much better than his face and his hands were raw and bloody, not much more than bone and leaving streaks of blood on anything he touched. He was painfully thin too, and clearly very weak.
"Shouldn't you be in a hospital?" asked Angel.
"Where do you think I have been?" Doyle asked back. "They kicked me out. Said you're fine, now get out."
"What kind of hospital would let someone in your condition leave?" Angel asked in disbelief.
"The kind where they've been waitin' to get rid of you for weeks on end and finally got an excuse. It's not like I could pay the bills or anything. And when I started havin' visions again, well, they couldn't get me out of there fast enough," Doyle explained.
"I think it's time we heard this from the beginning," Angel said, and Doyle nodded in agreement. "Cordelia! We're all going to talk."
"Yippee," she muttered as she came in to join them. "I always wanted to have a heart-to-heart with roadkill."
"Cordelia..." Angel warned her.
"Fine. I'm listening."
Doyle started his story.
He decided to start on the Quintessa. "When I jumped over to the Beacon, that damn thing started burnin' me. At least, I thought that's what it was doin', I felt it all over, even inside me. I was scared it was going to burn my hands off before I could get the plug apart. But when I got the plug taken care of - that's when I figured out it wasn't burnin' me, it was suckin' me away from the outside in."
"Is that when you were screaming?" asked Cordelia and Angel kicked her.
"S'Okay, man. She can ask. Yeah, that's when. And then it just sort of made one really strong pull on me and things went all black and I thought I was dead. The more I think about it, the more I wish I had been. And, I guess it was seconds later, couldn't have been much more than that, whatever was pullin' on me spit me back out. Like I tasted rotten or somethin'."
"You look rotten," commented Cordelia.
"THAT you can kick her for," grumbled Doyle. Angel obliged.
"And then I was somewhere cold and dark and I was thinkin' again, I must be dead. Except that for bein' dead, it really hurt a lot. It was like every cell in me was havin' its own personal visions. And then the lights went on. There were three, maybe four people in the room with me. One guy, he was dressed real sharp, real expensive suit, looked like one of Cordelia's dates, ya know? The others, they were just ordinary. Kinda big and ugly. Probably muscle. Not like they needed it, I hurt so bad I couldn't move and it hurt to breathe. I found out, in the hospital, my lungs and throat were all burned up or somethin' like that. It still hurts to talk."
"Do you want to stop?" asked Angel.
"Uh-uh. I stop, I might never get to tell you the rest. The sharp cat, he looks at me real funny and he gets this look on his face. And he starts yellin', somethin' about a wrong guy, and he says to me, 'you were at the police station.' Which I don't get. He gets mad again and kicks me and you wouldn't believe how that hurt. And he says it again, except this time he says 'you were helpin' the vampire'. I thought of that time we saved Kate from Little Tony. He tells me, 'I'm going help you, and then someday you're going to help me'. Like I'm gonna help anythin'. And then he tells the muscle guys to take me to some alley where they sell smack and dump me. And they did. I think I blacked out a few minutes later."
"How was dumping you in the trash supposed to help?" asked Cordelia.
"I guess he wanted me to be found. I musta been, 'cause the next thing I know about is I'm in a hospital. And I stayed there, until about a week ago, maybe. They were always operatin' on somethin', slappin' pieces of skin from some dead person here or there, I think the students were usin' me for their own little Frankenstein project. Except for siccin' the students on me, after a while they didn't much like me bein' there. A little too spiky for 'em, I think."
"They knew you were a demon?" That caught Angel's attention.
"I don't think they knew what I was, and they didn't wanna know. They didn't know any of it at first, but once I got a little better, wasn't drugged outa my mind all the time and could feel the stuff they were doin' to me, it hurt like hell, and the pain, well, I went spike-faced on 'em, you know how that is. So they wanted me gone, but for some reason they couldn't do that. So I stayed there. And nobody wanted to go near me really. They patched me up when they had to, and other than that stayed away. And then I started havin' the visions again, which was the last for them..."
"When?" Angel interrupted.
"What?" Doyle was confused.
"He means when did the visions start again," Cordelia said urgently, suddenly extremely interested.
"A couple months ago, I guess. Not sure exactly. Why?" Doyle was curious too now.
Angel and Cordelia looked at each other and Angel gave her the go-ahead.
"You gave your visions to me, you little creep," Cordelia announced, startling Angel who hadn't expected her to word it in quite that manner.
"I did?" Now Doyle was totally confused.
"Yes! When you kissed me you gave me those stupid visions and then I was the one whose head cracked open all the time and I didn't enjoy it at all!" she blurted out.
"Well, I never enjoyed 'em either. We even? I'm sorry Princess, I wouldn't never have done that to you on purpose," Doyle apologized with genuine remorse.
"Um, okay, apology accepted," she fumbled. "But the visions went away anyway. On their own, a couple months ago."
"About the time you started getting them again," added Angel.
"Wow," said Doyle, stunned. "I guess I missed a lot while I was gone."
"More than you know," agreed Angel.
"Not to mention Wesley -" Cordelia started.
"You ate his food. I mean, he left it here and all, but it was his and -"
"Later Cordelia," Angel cut her off. He turned to Doyle. "I'll explain about Wesley later, but I want you to finish the story."
"Okay," Doyle agreed, still confused."Where'd we leave off?"
"The visions came back," offered Cordelia.
"Right. Well, when I started gettin' those again, they thought it was seizures or I was possessed or somethin' and they all started lobbyin' to get me gone. And it must've worked, 'cause the other day I got tossed on my can. Or rather, on a bus, they asked where I wanted to go and I said LA and they put me on the bus back here with some clothes they got off a dead guy. No money or food or anything, just a bus ticket. Course I wasn't real popular on the bus either, but it got me to San Francisco anyway."
"Where were you before?" Cordelia asked.
"Seattle, or somewhere around there."
"But you only got to San Francisco. Why?" Angel asked.
"The bus stopped, and I got off, I was hopin' I could bum some food or somethin'. And there was some leather guy on a bike, he pulled a gun on me. Tellin' me he'd been sent 'to bring me to justice' or some other wacko thing like that. He sounded English and he was most definitely stupid. I tried to duck him and get back to the bus but it'd left without me. And I was thinkin' nothin' else could possibly go wrong, an' it'd be an improvement anyway, so I told 'im to go ahead and shoot me. He couldn't do it. About then a bus totaled his bike and he forgot me, so I took off. Busted into a freight truck and hid in the back. Then I got kicked out of there, and I've been walkin' and sneakin' rides and whatever tryin' to get here. I was scared that guy would catch up to me again and I'm pretty good at scarin' everyone else so, well, I just tried to stay low and there isn't much by way of food or sleep when you travel like that. So I broke into the building last night and you know from there."
Angel and Cordelia really hadn't been listening to the last parts of Doyle's story. When Doyle mentioned the 'English and stupid' they'd simply stared at each other. Finally, Doyle noticed they weren't listening to him. "Am I that boring?" he inquired.
"Nnnoooo..." Cordelia was still elsewhere mentally.
"Doyle, the man with the gun, the English one - did he wear glasses?" Angel asked urgently.
"Uh, yeah. He did."
"Did he say anything about, 'rogue demon hunting' or anything like that?"
"Yeah, yeah he did. That he was the demon hunter, somethin' like that. You know this guy?" Doyle asked incredulously.
"Boy howdy, yes," said Cordelia. "That's Wesley."
Doyle didn't like that at all. He decided coming back here might have been a very bad idea and started to get up to leave. If this Wesley guy was working for Angel, there must be some sort of a trap involved here and he wanted no parts of any of it. Problem was, the rest had turned what remained of his legs to rubber and he nearly fell before Angel caught him. Doyle tried to get away from Angel but he couldn't find the strength to do it.
"Calm down Doyle. I don't know what Wesley's up to, but we don't know anything about it. He quit over a month ago and we haven't heard from him since," Angel tried to reassure Doyle when Angel was pretty worried now himself.
Doyle wasn't entirely confident his situation was secure. "He worked for you? And now he's trying to kill me? And doin' a real bad job of it, I might add."
"Wesley showed up here chasing down a renegade demon almost a year ago. He said he was a 'rogue demon hunter', but we let him stay since we needed the help. When Cordelia stopped having visions, we didn't have any work for him so he went back to his demon hunting," Angel explained. He paused, then continued. "I'm not at all surprised he couldn't shoot you, he's really harmless."
"Not to mention helpless and hopeless," complained Cordelia.
"But if he's not working for you, then...," Doyle let the sentence trail off. He was too tired to finish it.
"Then I'll have to find him and find out what's going on," announced Angel.
Doyle brightened slightly. "Well, that's what I came here for. To find out what's going on. You're the one to find out." Doyle's volume dropped and his face darkened a bit. "Because that fellow with the Beacon...I want to kill him. I want him to feel every bit of what I've been feelin' and then I'm gonna kill him."
Angel couldn't recall ever having heard Doyle speak like that. Hate wasn't a word he'd ever associated with his friend and it disturbed him. But now was not the time to confront Doyle about it. "I will find out what this is about. Meanwhile, you're staying put. And getting some rest," Angel added.
Angel picked Doyle up as carefully as he could, carried him into the bedroom and set him down on the bed, the whole procedure taking place against Doyle's protests. By the time Cordelia arrived in the bedroom, Angel was already pulling up the covers and Doyle was just about asleep.
"Cordelia, look after him, will you?" Angel asked. "Stay here, unless you need to get more food. When he wakes up, he going to eat everything that's left."
Cordelia nodded wordlessly and pulled up a chair to the bed as Angel went back up to the office. She wasn't sure if Doyle was awake or not.
"Hey, Doyle?" she said quietly.
He didn't answer, but he opened his eyes and looked right at her. Cordelia had finally gotten her mind around the idea this really was Doyle, but seeing his eyes up close clinched it for her. It was really him.
"I'm sorry I didn't think it was you," she finally told him.
"S'Okay Princess," he breathed. "I don't think my mum would know me now."
Doyle slept the sleep of the dead for the rest of the day.
Angel did anything but sleep. Mostly, he was on the computer, searching databases without much luck. He didn't have much to go on other than Seattle. But he did find a hospital in the Seattle area that had admitted a John Doe (suffering from third degree burns over almost the entire body, the record noted) dropped off by the police the day after Doyle had 'died', and the same John Doe had been discharged last week about the time Doyle said he'd been kicked out. But the police department's records were inaccessible and without them he had no idea where they'd found Doyle, or how. He was going to have to ask Kate.
She was not at all amused to see him. "Look, I told you I can't use you. I like my job too much."
"I'm not looking for work. I already have a case. I'm looking for information, of the police kind," he pleaded with her.
"I shouldn't be doing that for you either if I want to keep working here and we both know that," Kate told him flatly.
Great. "All right, I'm using a lifeline. Kate, Doyle showed up last night."
That stopped her in her tracks. "Doyle, the guy who worked for you? The one who died?"
"That's the one. Except he isn't dead. He turned up in Seattle and came back here wanting my help. I was hoping you could check the police records up there and find out exactly where and when he turned up. Maybe how."
Kate mulled this one over in her mind. She shouldn't do it, but...the return of the dead was pretty serious business. Particularly given how hard Angel and Cordelia had taken their friend's death, they would have an awfully big stake in finding out why he was alive.
"Last time. Make it good." She turned on the computer and accessed the Seattle Police Department. "Any idea when we're looking for?"
"Start the day he disappeared. December first, last year."
She typed it in. "We're looking for John Doe reports, I did find hospital records and that's the name they had," Angel added.
A list of reports came up on the screen. A few of them noted John Does, but mostly arrests. But the sixth one was a little different. "This what you're looking for?"
The report detailed a 911 call from an elderly woman in a downtown area. Seems her dog had found the body of a horribly burned but still alive man in a pile of trash in an alley in one of the city's worst drug areas. The police checked and found the guy, naked and just barely alive, and burned to the bone. The cops had dropped him off at the hospital, but given the area he was found in, they'd written it off as a drug deal gone bad. It wasn't the first instance of drug dealers in the area torching someone who'd ripped them off, so they assumed it was more of the same and didn't particularly investigate. The report did, however, give the name of the alley.
"Does this help?" Kate asked.
"Maybe. I think I'm going to Seattle," remarked Angel.
Kate considered everything in a moment. This might be the final, ignominious end to her career, but - in the brief time she'd known him, she found had herself liking Doyle too. "Hang on. I'm going with you."
Leaving Angel Investigations was actually one of the most difficult decisions of Wesley's life. For the first time in years he had felt like he belonged somewhere, like he was useful to someone. But after weeks of having nothing to be useful for - and bearing the wrath of Cordelia's own feelings of uselessness - he couldn't take it anymore. It was time to resume his task as the demon hunter, well, assuming anyone would want to hire him for the job.
And, quite naturally, no one did. Not for the first few weeks after he left. But one day Wesley was surprised to receive a visit from a well-scrubbed young man who claimed to be an attorney. The young gentleman, who called himself Williams, had been exceedingly polite and offered significant pay for what seemed a reasonably simple task - find and bring in the half-demon rogue who had perpetrated a major swindle upon one of Williams' better-heeled clients. He warned that the scoundrel was half Brachen, and quite powerful in that form, but preferred to remain in his human appearance most of the time. Why the demon preferred his human aspect was very questionable to Wesley - the demon had suffered a bit of an accident, according to Williams, and was not exactly pleasant to the eye. All the same, Wesley was too happy to have work to seriously question the story.
He was advised the demon was going Greyhound, from Seattle to Los Angeles, and given the bus's number. Wesley figured his best opportunity to catch up to the demon would be in San Francisco, where the bus had an extended stop planned. He barely arrived at the terminal in time - the bus in question was already loading to leave. Wesley had no difficulty picking out the demon as he was, as Williams had indicated, in a very unpleasant looking human form. The demon limped terribly and moved very slowly. Like shooting a fish in a barrel then', he thought to himself.
Wesley hopped off his bike and walked directly towards the demon, with his gun drawn. Precautions, he thought to himself. He demanded the demon surrender himself. The demon seemed extremely surprised by Wesley's demands, as well as confused. It briefly passed Wesley's mind that perhaps this wasn't quite the situation he had been advised about. He shook off the thought as it also occurred to him he was being paid well for a very easy job.
The demon made a slight move towards the bus, but it was already pulling out. With a look in his eyes that appeared to be despair, the demon challenged him to shoot him. Well come on already, what's keepin' ya', the demon had cried hoarsely. Wesley had raised the gun but...he couldn't fire it. He simply could not injure or kill this pathetic looking creature who quite honestly didn't appear capable of harming anyone.
The two of them stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity until there was a horrid crunching sound. Wesley turned just in time to see a bus flatten his beloved motorcycle - and completely forgot about the demon in favor of berating the offending driver. While it was only a moment before he recalled the business at hand, the demon had already fled.
It was a few days before Wesley had been able to obtain alternate transportation, and meanwhile there were few sightings of the demon. He was able to determine the fugitive was still moving towards Los Angeles, had no further success.
After five days of searching, Wesley was ready to concede - he needed Angel's help. He returned to LA and proceeded directly to the office.
Doyle didn't move for hours after he fell asleep. Had it not been for his difficult and loud breathing, Cordelia wouldn't have been sure he was still breathing. Angel called not long after he'd gone to the police station - Kate had found some information in the computers and Angel had decided to go to Seattle to investigate. He told Cordelia to stay with Doyle until he got back, and without even offering to apologize for extending his absence. She did have some semblance of a life outside the office yet. Angel also told her not to tell anyone about Doyle. As if she would just announce to the world, hey, my dead friend is back.
She still felt badly about not believing Doyle and it seemed to her maybe she could make it up to him by sitting with him until he woke. She just didn't think it would be that long before he did. She sat with him for hours, carefully cleaning out several of his wounds and taking great care not to wake him, but Doyle slept so soundly he didn't even wake when she bandaged his hands. Meanwhile, Cordelia found herself remembering each and every time Doyle had rescued her from some evil creature or obnoxious date and wondered how she could have ever questioned who he was with all that he had meant to her.
Finally finished, she stood up, stretched a bit and walked into the kitchen. Just in time to meet Wesley.
When he found the office empty, Wesley had hoped maybe Angel was in his apartment and went downstairs. He hadn't expected to find Cordelia down there alone.
Cordelia, for her part, hadn't expected to see Wesley again, maybe not ever. Certainly not in Angel's apartment when she was in there alone. No, not alone, with Doyle, she corrected herself - and then realized she had a major problem developing here. Oh, please don't wake up, she tried to will the message to Doyle. Not that he'd budged for hours, but now would be a really, really bad time.
"Wesley!" she chirped as brightly as she could manage. "What a nice surprise! Good to see you! You can leave now."
"No, no, I need to see Angel first," Wesley said nervously. Cordelia was being just a little too friendly for his comfort. "It's really important that I speak with him."
"Oh!" Cordelia frantically searched for an excuse. "He's not here. Bad guys, you know, they don't take time off, he's out, he'll be back later, why don't we go upstairs and I'll write up one of those little pink notes that you came to see him and then you can leave and go away?"
She really wanted him out of there, thought Wesley. He must have caught her doing something wrong."If Angel's not here...then why are you in his apartment?" he inquired in his most self-satisfied manner.
Ulp. Thinking, thinking... "Out of coffee!" She said breathlessly. Cordelia saw the coffeemaker out of the corner of her eye and thought she might have an escape route. "Totally out! None at all! Zip and zero. I thought there might be some more down here. Oh look! Angel has lots of coffee! I'll just take a can and we'll go upstairs and have some, wouldn't that be just great?" She hoped he was buying this.
He was. Or at least, he was starting to when he heard a rasping sort of sound emanating from the bedroom. Now he was suspicious of Cordelia again, especially since she was walking out of the bedroom when he came in.
"I see. Do you always look for coffee in Angel's bedroom first? And what is that awful sound?"
Cordelia came about as close as she ever did to giving up hope when she realized Wesley could hear Doyle's tortured version of breathing. Wesley was already starting towards the bedroom. Thinking, thinking...
She coughed. Wesley stopped to look at her. She coughed again. "Stupid cold," she said, trying to make her own voice raspy. "Got over it but I can't stop coughing. Throat hurts, you know, all that."
Wesley looked at her skeptically. "I was hoping maybe Angel had some cough drops? I seriously need some mentho-lyptus, like, right now, hey, go to the store with me?" She tried to smile her prettiest of smiles. It worked. Wesley melted.
"I-I-I would love to," he stammered.
"Great," said Cordelia, her voice suddenly perfect. "Let's go." She grabbed Wesley's arm and dragged him upstairs.
Getting a commuter flight to Seattle wasn't difficult. Getting two words out of Angel on the way was. Kate was gradually realizing she'd probably thrown away her job on a wild-goose chase and Angel hadn't even explained it to her. Desperate to get something out of the silent vampire, she tried a different approach.
"I never did get to talk to Doyle much," she said hesitantly. "What was he like?"
Angel was caught off guard by the question. After briefly considering it, he decided it couldn't hurt to tell her. Not as much as it hurt not to talk about Doyle, at least.
"He...he had a lot of personal problems. You probably arrested him at some point, with all the illegal stuff he got into. But he was only like that because he was afraid he couldn't be a good person. I think...I think I was the first real chance he had to make himself a good person. And he was my best chance to make up for my own past. And then he died to save me." Angel paused but was finally able to get out the words that he had held in since before Doyle 'died'. "He was the best friend I ever had."
Kate was surprised by the candidness of Angel's answer. "I can't imagine what that's like."
"Losing your best friend?"
"No," she said. "Having one."
Neither of them spoke for long time. But one thing Angel had said was still sticking with Kate and bothering her. "Angel, you said just now, that Doyle died. But when you came in earlier, you said he was alive."
Angel didn't answer for a while. "I saw him die. I thought I did. But...he didn't. Something else happened to him, something bad, and it happened in Seattle. But until this morning, I thought he was dead."
"What happened to him in Seattle?"
"That's why we're going."
Angel and Kate were able to find the alley with a minimum of lost time. To Kate, there was nothing special about it and no trace of evidence. Angel didn't have much more luck; he was able to smell a faint trace of Doyle in one spot, enough to convince him he was in the right place, but nothing else.
"Any ideas on what to do next?" Kate asked him.
"Okay, because I have an idea."
"I'm a cop, remember? This is a drug haven. There are drug addicts all over the place. And they'll do just about anything for another hit. We should be able to find someone who saw something - unless they've OD'd since then."
It hadn't occurred to Angel that there might have been witnesses. He let Kate take charge.
She expertly sized up the buildings in the immediate area and decided on one two blocks away as likely to be housing addicts. She picked the right building.
Kate entered the roomful of addicts swiftly and flashed her badge quickly so none of them noticed she wasn't actually Seattle police. Not that any of them were sober enough to comprehend the difference. "Okay, kids, party time is on hold. We need information. You give it, we leave, party on. Got it?"
There were a few assorted mumbles of agreement, or possibly mild protest. Kate turned to the floor over to Angel. "Anyone you'd like to start with?"
Angel looked over the human refuse scattered about the room. Half of them had needles either in their arms or shortly destined for the same location. One fellow seemed to be having a little trouble getting the sleeve of his jacket up high enough for the purpose. Served him right for wearing some half burnt tacky seventies vinyl thing...
Angel stopped dead. That jacket looked really familiar. "This guy, I'm starting with," he announced - and scared the daylights out of Kate by vamping on her. She didn't think this was going to be a feeding expedition. "What the hell are you -"
Angel grabbed the addict by his jacket. "We're going into the next room and you're going to tell me where you got this lovely jacket," he snarled at the addict, who was very slowly beginning to understand he was not in a positive situation.
Once in the next room, Angel slung the addict against the wall, hard. Kate was getting very concerned. "A little help here? Have I missed something?"
"That's Doyle's jacket. I can still smell him on it," Angel slammed the addict up against the wall. "How did you get this jacket? Tell me now or I don't leave you enough blood to shoot up again."
He picked the right threat. "Th-th-the kid, he gave it to me," howled the terrified man. "He said I could have it, if I didn't tell nobody."
"Didn't tell nobody what?"
"I saw guys dump a body. The kid was with them. He saw me, he says you keep your mouth shut, you can have the guy's jacket. You talk, you're dead. I still know a good deal, okay?"
"Fine," Angel reverted to normal form and let go. "What did this 'kid' look like?"
"He had money, real expensive stuff, Rolex, you know," the addict was freely babbling now. "He was a lawyer, he dressed like my lawyer did, when I went to court, they get me out all the time you know, and he talked like my lawyer too -"
"Wonderful," Angel growled. "Where did you see this kid?"
"Where I used to shoot up, I was going there for a fix but there was only him and these other guys there and I never went back, you want me to take you there I will just don't hurt me or nothing Okay?"
"Okay." Angel gave the addict a shove towards the door. He glanced at Kate. "Great concept. Ask an Addict. Could get a toll free number and make serious cash."
The addict led them to a particularly ugly tenement not too far from the alley but closer to the more respectable buildings of downtown. The junkie had hoped to take off as soon as they got there, but Angel relieved him of Doyle's jacket first, over the addict's protestations.
The tenement was, surprisingly, locked. While it was clearly unused, there weren't any signs of the building having been used for drug activity of late and thus locking it seemed to be overkill. Angel easily broke the lock and he and Kate slipped inside. Most of the building was empty and abandoned, but there was another locked door inside - a steel one.
"I think what I want might be on the other side," Angel remarked sarcastically and broke down this door as well, only to be met with the stench of decomposing flesh.
The stench originated from the skeletal remains of a human who appeared to have been flung into a corner. Kate sized up the corpse. "I'd guess he's been dead close to a year," she advised Angel. "He's dressed kinda like a dockworker, or something to that effect."
Angel was more interested in the other side of the room, where an all-too-familiar looking contraption was collecting dust. It was the Beacon.
Or something like the Beacon. On closer inspection it wasn't exactly the same as the deadly machine the Scourge had used. But it smelled faintly of Doyle, and the dark spots on the floor in front of it smelled rather strongly of him, especially given the length of time passed since he was there. Bloodstains, Angel thought. He could smell another human on the machine too, and realized it was the same person whose skeleton Kate was inspecting.
"Maybe a shipworker..."
Bingo. "The first mate," Angel said to himself out loud.
"The Scourge used the Beacon on the Quintessa's first mate for a demonstration. And that's him over there. And Doyle was here - he bled here," Angel was thinking rapidly now. "The Beacon was never a killing machine. It was a transference machine."
"You mean it took people from the ship and put them here? Like 'Star Trek'?"
"Exactly. This thing must have put them back from wherever they were in between." Angel considered the remains of the first mate, and what Doyle looked like now. "I don't think it was working really well though."
Angel had another thought. "Any way we could find out who owns this place? It's locked up, somebody has the keys."
"Maybe there's something somewhere else in here..." Kate was already out of the room looking for some clue. Knowing where to look, it didn't take her long. "There's a notice by the fuse box, to contact this number in case of emergency."
The two of them spent more time searching for a pay phone than they had for the number. It wasn't a good place to be looking for something as easily destroyed as a phone. They finally found one in the lobby of the better buildings a few blocks away. Angel made the call while Kate perused the tenant list. Kate saw the name on the tenant list at the same time Angel heard the voice mail.
"Good evening, you have reached the law offices of Wolfram & Hart, Seattle branch. No one is here to take your call right now..."
Angel and Kate went back to LA in a hurry. Kate agreed to run a check on Wolfram & Hart's dealings in Seattle, and Angel rushed back to the office.
Doyle was still asleep, and Cordelia was still there. So far, so good, he thought. Not so fast, he found out.
"Wesley was here," Cordelia announced the moment he stepped into the apartment.
"He says he needs your help with something. He left a number for you to call him."
"He didn't find out Doyle's here, did he?"
"No, and it wasn't easy keeping him from finding out so you had just better start appreciating me for the fine actress that I am!" Cordelia had been waiting for Angel to return just so she could be triumphant for a change.
"Good," Angel was so relieved he nearly collapsed on the couch. "And I'm not calling Wesley."
"You really, really should. It's very interesting," Cordelia practically sang the last part.
"Fine. I'll bite."
"Very funny." Cordelia glided her way to a chair, giddy with what she knew and Angel didn't. "Wesley was hired to find a rogue demon."
"So? That's his job, isn't it?"
"He was hired to find a rogue Brachen demon, travelling in human form, from Seattle to Los Angeles. Does this sound familiar?"
Oh yes, it did. "So someone actually sicced Wesley on Doyle?"
"Not just someone. A lawyer."
"From Wolfram and Hart."
Cordelia was very upset to be so upstaged in her moment of glory. "How did you know that?"
"I found the place where Doyle was taken after the Quintessa. An old tenement building, owned by our favorite law firm. Kate's checking it out now."
"Great." Cordelia sulked. "So much for my surprise."
Angel found himself feeling oddly sympathetic for her. "It's okay. The news about Wesley is helpful. I might have to call him after all."
The moment was disturbed by a cough from the bedroom. Angel beat Cordelia there but not by much.
"And I thought you were sleeping 'til noon," Cordelia told Doyle fondly.
"What time is it?" Doyle asked as he tried to shake off the sleep.
Angel checked the clock. "It's almost eleven."
Doyle couldn't believe it. "I only slept two hours?"
"You only slept twenty-six hours!" snapped Cordelia.
Doyle wasn't awake enough to sufficiently respond to that.
"You want breakfast?" Angel inquired.
"As much as you've got."
"Coming right up. Cordelia?"
"No thanks. I ate. And I have got to go home and change, you have no idea how gross it is to wear the same thing two days in a row." Cordelia picked up her bag. "I'll be back in a couple hours, okay?"
"Sure." Angel already had started cooking.
"I'll see you Doyle. Soon," Cordelia added.
Angel had to help Doyle to the table. Doyle's legs were still rubbery from overuse and overrest. He didn't need any help eating though. Angel made two more breakfasts before Doyle had finally had enough. The food helped a lot - Doyle was able to get back to the couch under his own power.
"I slept more than a day, then. I hope you found somethin' out in all that time?" Doyle asked Angel hopefully.
"Plenty. And I have something for you." Angel went to retrieve Doyle's jacket.
"Well. You never brought me presents before. Do I get flowers too?" But Doyle's eyes widened when Angel handed the jacket to him.
"I thought you might want this back," Angel remarked as Doyle slowly ran his fingers over the jacket. It was filthy from whatever the addict had been sleeping in, but at least it was Doyle's. Angel saw a full array of emotions passing on Doyle's face as he held the jacket, and some of them were frightening.
"It's good to have something of my own again," Doyle sounded close to crying. "How did you get this?"
Angel leaned forward and looked Doyle in the eyes. "How much of it do you really want to hear?"
"The whole thing."
Angel told Doyle in detail about what he'd found in the records, and about the trip to Seattle. He also told him what Cordelia had found out from Wesley.
"He was here? When I was?" That thought scared Doyle more than anything else Angel told him.
"He doesn't know you were here. Cordelia kept him from finding out. But...I think the lawyer who hired him to catch you was the same guy who in the room with you and the Beacon. And I'm positive he works for Wolfram & Hart, and that can't be good. There's only one part I can't figure out."
"Which w- " Doyle suddenly doubled over and screamed and both of them forgot the discussion at hand completely. At first Angel was ready to panic, but then he remembered - Doyle was having visions again. He fervently hoped this was one, they needed the extra assistance.
Angel fetched Doyle some water while he recovered from the vision. The visions were never pleasant for Doyle or Cordelia, but Doyle seemed to be having much more trouble than usual shaking this one, both physically and mentally. Even after the vision had passed, Doyle remained lying down and moaning in pain. After a time, he was quiet, but he still didn't move. After several more minutes of silence from the still-trembling Doyle, Angel finally jumpstarted the conversation again.
Doyle only nodded slightly.
"You know what you saw?"
Doyle didn't budge.
"I saw Cordelia," Doyle spoke suddenly. "She's screaming. She's covered in blood."
Neither of them spoke for a long time.
"Is she hurt?" Angel finally asked.
"I think so. I think she's dying. I don't know what though, I didn't see anything else."
Angel had an odd feeling that Doyle was holding something back, something he really didn't want to tell him. This, like some of the uglier emotions he'd been witnessing, was unlike the Doyle he knew. "I think we don't have a lot of time left to figure this out." Angel reached for the phone. "I'm going to call Wesley. Maybe we can arrange a 'meeting' with his lawyer pal."
Wesley wasn't thrilled with the idea. Angel didn't tell Wesley about Doyle, he simply told him he'd heard about the Brachen job from Cordelia and he might be willing to help out - IF he could meet with the young attorney who'd arranged the whole thing. But Wesley was reluctant to let Angel meet with Williams - mostly because he was afraid Angel would get the job instead. After all, Wesley was failing completely at a simple contract.
But Wesley did still feel some level of gratitude to Angel for employing him and so he gave Angel Williams' cell phone number, and informed Angel he intended to be part of this meeting. 'Not a chance', Angel told Wesley and hung up.
Oh, splendid. Wesley decided he'd better find out where this meeting was and show up anyway. He wasn't giving up his first assignment in weeks without a fight.
Angel called the cell phone number immediately, but didn't get an answer. He tried the number mentioned on the cell voice mail and found himself speaking to the assistant for one Alexander J. Williams III, Wolfram & Hart, but Mr. Williams was busy. Angel told the assistant to tell Williams he heard he was looking for a Brachen and he just might have one. The assistant assumed a Brachen was some kind of imported car, which was fine with Angel.
By the time Angel was finished on the phone, Cordelia had come back. Angel and Doyle had agreed not to mention anything to her about Doyle's vision. But when Cordelia walked into the room and greeted Doyle, he nearly choked. The look on his face was about as pale as possible given the lack of skin available to turn that color.
"Hey Cordelia, did someone just knock on the office door?" Angel queried.
"No, I don't hear anything, are you -"
"I'm sure I heard something. Check for me?"
Cordelia was getting a little irritated with Angel, but she went back upstairs. It was easier than arguing with him.
Angel turned to Doyle. "What's wrong?"
Doyle still looked shocked and very much upset. "She's wearing the same clothes she was in the vision."
Angel still had the feeling Doyle was leaving something out. "What haven't you told me?"
"I told you what I saw."
"You're not telling me everything. I need to know."
Doyle squirmed. "I can't tell you. I won't. Can I go to my room now?"
Angel was speechless. But Cordelia wasn't.
"I told you there was nothing up there," as she swept back downstairs. "Now would you mind telling me why you want me out of the room? What are you two talking about?"
"Nothing," they answered simultaneously.
"That's crap," Cordelia announced. "Start talking."
Angel decided to give her the simpler half of the story - his plan for finding the attorney who started this whole thing. He left out the visions. Doyle wasn't about to contribute those either. Angel also revised the plan as he went to conveniently leave Cordelia out of it. If there was any chance at all of her getting hurt, he didn't want her anywhere near this meeting. Cordelia didn't exactly see it that way.
Fortunately for Angel and Doyle, they were saved by the bell - or more specifically, the telephone.
Angel grabbed the phone swiftly, not wanting to take a chance on Cordelia picking up first. "Hello?"
"This is Alexander Williams. I received a message asking if I would be interested in a Brachen. I may be...if this is the one I'm looking for." Williams was clearly calling from his car and his voice crackled as he moved into a different cell.
"I believe it is," Angel replied. "I heard about your interest from the demon hunter."
"That idiot? He was supposed to find the Brachen."
"Well, he didn't and I did. Do you want him or not? I expect to be paid what you offered before."
There was silence for a moment. "Yes, I want him. And I will pay you ten thousand to bring him to me alive."
"You offered the hunter twenty."
"Good enough. Where do you want him?"
Williams named another older tenement building, but fortunately one in LA this time. Angel agreed to Williams' terms - no police, bring only the demon - and Angel's plan was in business.
Alexander Williams had long planned to demonstrate his worth to Wolfram & Hart by destroying the one irritant to their business that the firm had never quite been able to eliminate - that damned vampire with a twisted sense of moral direction. Since when do vampires save the helpless instead of having them for lunch, he often thought to himself. So he had come up with what he thought was a brilliant, foolproof plan to capture the vampire who called himself Angel and deliver him to the firm for their disposal.
Williams' original plan had been extremely elaborate, not to mention dangerous. He underestimated the power and hatred of the demon military group and survived his encounter with them only because he correctly estimated their greed. A briefcase full of bills and a promise to bankroll their maneuvers in Los Angeles saved his skin at the last possible moment. And from there, the plan had fallen into place perfectly - the targeting of the Listers, the Quintessa, the Beacon - everything worked as he had intended. Well, almost.
The test use of the Beacon had demonstrated that while the machine performed its purpose as a primitive matter transference system, it also demonstrated a negative tendency to strip the flesh from the creatures it transferred. Not much of the Quintessa's first mate had shown up in the abandoned, drug-infested tenement Williams had secured for the occasion. While the Scourge and Williams' technicians had made a few last minute adjustments to the gadget in the hope of delivering the vampire alive, the Beacon still hadn't quite operated as planned at the moment of truth.
Alex recalled one of his litigation professors who regularly advised his classes that the only thing guaranteed about the best laid plans is that they would, in fact, go awry. And the Beacon's not completely perfect operation wasn't what had really gone wrong. The real problem had been that while Williams had correctly guessed the vampire's willingness to sacrifice himself to save the others, he simply hadn't given any thought to the idea that someone else in the Quintessa's hold would be willing to do the same.
However, he had managed to save face in the disaster by obtaining the demon seer, however inadvertently. He might not have destroyed Angel, but he had the vampire's guide - and, he suspected, the vampire's friend, if vampires could be said to have friends. Then again, vampires weren't said to have souls either, and apparently this one did.
In any event, Williams was certain that either the demon seer's visions would lead Williams to Angel, or the demon seer would serve as very effective bait to bring the vampire to him. He had arranged for the seer to be restored to a reasonable facsimile of his original self while Williams worked on his next great elaborate conspiracy to capture the vampire. Williams was already envisioning his name on the company letterhead when the latest flaw in his plan presented itself. He had successfully thwarted most of the hospital's attempts to discharge the seer, hoping to keep the pathetic thing there until he was healthy enough to be useful. But somehow the seer had managed to get himself discharged just a few hours before Williams arrived to claim him.
An occasional employee of the firm who was known to have dealings with demons suggested to Williams a 'rogue demon hunter', who had successfully captured fugitive demons in the past, might be useful for returning the demon seer, but the hunter had failed miserably so far. The seer had been missing for several days and Williams was getting jumpy. Especially when he learned the vampire had been seen in the Seattle office. Things were falling apart.
So the message about the Brachen was interesting indeed. Williams was by this point a good candidate for getting himself fired from the firm, and Wolfram & Hart didn't exactly send off former employees with a golden parachute - cement was more accurate. Thus he didn't particularly consider who else might have obtained the demon seer, or how; he just wanted the slippery creature back under his control. Thus he arranged to have some muscle present, just in case money wasn't enough to produce the seer. It never occurred to him that his intended target, the vampire, was the one who would show up with the demon.
Wesley, as it turned out, was more than perturbed by Angel's refusal to include him in the plan. In fact, he was sufficiently upset that he took steps to intercept Williams' cell phone. Wesley heard the whole call - and now, he was enraged, or at least as close to that point as he ever was. Angel had the Brachen, and most certainly had had him for some time. It dawned on him, however slowly, that might have been the reason Cordelia wouldn't let him into Angel's bedroom. Well, he wasn't going to let Angel collect the finder's fee that rightfully belonged to him. Oh no. Wesley packed his bag and loaded his gun.
Angel was still trying to convince Cordelia that she was not going with him and Doyle to this meeting. He wasn't getting far.
"How are you even going to get Doyle there? He can't even walk!" Cordelia whined.
"Yes I can," Doyle said quietly.
Doyle shook his head and took on his demon form. He'd discovered very early on in his journey to LA that he was only capable of moving at any kind of pace in his demon form, although even that became a chore after several days. With the rest and food, he figured he had at least one more fights left in him - although he didn't think it was going to be with Cordelia, of all people.
He stood up and walked straight and quickly to Cordelia, picked her up and set her down again.
"Satisfied?" he asked her. Cordelia finally acknowledged defeat.
"All right, I'll stay here." Cordelia leaned over Doyle, who had changed back to human form and promptly dropped back on the couch. "I'm scared for you," she whispered to him.
"Me too," he whispered back. He wanted to add that he was scared for her as well, but then she would want to know why.
Angel was ready to leave. Much to Doyle's dismay, Angel picked him up and carried him up the stairs and out to Angel's car. Cordelia followed them as far as the office. Neither Angel nor Doyle saw Cordelia go to her own car and follow them.
Angel and Doyle didn't talk for a while as Angel drove to the agreed upon address. But not knowing what Doyle knew was eating at Angel.
"Doyle, you absolutely have to tell me what else you saw. It's important," Angel insisted.
"I really don't wanna discuss it." Doyle really didn't. He had a lot on his mind, what with worry for Cordelia, wondering what was going to happen next - and worrying about Angel.
Oddly, he didn't really feel any worry about himself. He hadn't at any point really. Maybe it was because the only thing he had been living for the last several months was to know why. Once he knew why, Doyle didn't have any plans for living beyond that point. At least, he hadn't until he had the vision. Now, he had something else to consider. "Look, I'm in hell, okay? You have no idea what it's like to be in pain every second of every day, or what it's like for everyone to be afraid of you. I can't even take care of myself anymore. And I'm not gonna drag you down in it."
"You can't drag me anywhere I don't want to go. And if you're there, I'm going. You saved my life, and that's the only part that matters to me, or ever will." Angel drew in a deep breath and played his last card."You never refused to tell me what you'd seen before. Why now? I've trusted you every time before."
Doyle was scared for Angel, more scared than he was for himself. But Angel was right - Angel had trusted him far too often for Doyle to back out now. Doyle collected himself and blurted it out. "You were in it too, okay? And you had blood all over you too. And you were vamped out. That's it."
Angel was so stunned he nearly ran a red light. "You sure? Was I with Cordelia?"
"I don't know, I didn't see you together. But it was the same place."
"Do you know where it was?"
Now Doyle felt really bad for telling Angel about the vision. "I saw the Post Office."
The Oracles. Great. That was about the last thing Angel needed to hear about.
Williams was quite early for the little get-together. The knock on the door came a few minutes earlier than scheduled, but Williams was ready. Just not for seeing the vampire, in human form, walk in the door dragging the Brachen by the collar of his jacket - the same jacket Williams recalled having given to the indigent for his silence. So the vampire likely already knew everything. And all he had were three men and guns, utterly insufficient for catching or killing vampires. Williams quickly decided his only chance of getting out there alive was some serious bluffing.
"How do I know this is the same Brachen I'm looking for?" he declared loudly and with as much confidence as he could.
The vampire, still in his human form, shook the Brachen until the demon turned human. "This good enough for you?"
"Umm...yes. Quite. I brought cash, if you'll turn him over to my men."
"Not yet, you little lying bag of trash." Now the vampire showed his true form, tossing the human/demon seer to the floor in the process."You're going to tell me why exactly you want him. Inquiring minds want to know."
Williams fished for an answer. "The visions. I understand he's a seer, such a thing could be very valuable in my line of work."
"Try again," growled the vampire. "Why the Beacon? Why the Scourge?"
Oh, the hell with it. He was toast anyway. "He wasn't supposed to be involved, that's why. I hired the Scourge and paid them to build the Beacon all to catch you and serve you to the partners on a platter. After all the trouble you've given my bosses, I figured that was the best way to get a promotion."
The vampire was clearly, paralyzingly shocked. Maybe he hadn't known everything. Maybe Williams could get out of this, he thought. He didn't notice the anger that was building in the vampire. And certainly not the rage building in the demon.
"It's his own fault for being here. He wasn't supposed to sacrifice himself, you were."
Wrong move. The vampire flew into a rage and charged towards him. Williams could think of only one more possible way of getting out. The demon seer had collapsed to the floor when the vampire dropped him there. He had been listening throughout, but he had made no attempt to move. Williams pulled out a gun, grabbed the seer and put the gun to the seer's head.
"I'll be leaving now," Williams spat out. "With your demon pal. Come after me, and I will kill him this time."
The vampire backed off. He genuinely cared about the fate of the demon seer. Odd behavior for a vampire, but he'd worry about that another time. Williams' men pulled their own guns and trained them on the vampire. Bullets wouldn't kill him, but they would buy seconds. Williams started to drag the seer out of the room.
Without warning, the seer changed back into a Brachen. The spikes sank into deeply into Williams' flesh and yelling in pain, he let go of the demon. The Brachen wheeled and twisted, digging his spikes in deeper and tearing at Williams' skin. The demon grabbed for the gun while Williams' men jumped on the vampire. The vampire easily disarmed the men and it was clear that physical battle was going to be brief and one-sided.
The battle between Williams and the Brachen for the gun was much more even. They both had hold of the gun and struggled for it. The Brachen managed to back Williams against a wall and began pounding his hand against the wall, trying to dislodge the gun without success. Williams was a little surprised to realize he was stronger than the demon and was on the verge of getting the gun back when he stepped on something. Startled and off-balance, he let go of the gun for a brief instant and the demon took advantage, grabbing the gun and pointing it at Williams' head. "This is it," Williams thought numbly to himself - but the demon didn't fire. He wanted to but seemingly couldn't. Suddenly Williams heard the gunshot and felt a bullet rip through him. The last thing he saw before he died was the demon also falling to the floor.
Wesley got lost on the way to the building and arrived a few minutes late. Worried he was too late to participate in what he was sure would be a very interesting conversation, he rushed into the building.
Wesley could hear a fight in progress as soon as he entered the building. He pulled out his gun and ran towards the noise. When he got to the room, he could see Angel in vampire form disposing of three large men with a minimum of difficulty. He also saw the young attorney who had hired him to catch the Brachen, and he was battling with the Brachen for the gun.
Just as Wesley began to grasp the situation, the Brachen got the gun free and held it to Williams' head. Wesley was crestfallen - the Brachen really was evil, and here he'd allowed the demon to escape. Wesley decided he had one final chance to make up for his earlier weakness. He raised his gun, and shot the Brachen squarely in the back. The demon fell to the ground, changing into human form as he fell. Williams was also falling to the floor with a gunshot wound and Wesley realized his shot had gone through both of them. As he watched the demon fall, Wesley heard Angel roar in anguish and rush to the side of the fallen creature. Wesley realized he had just made a very terrible mistake.
Angel and Doyle had agreed to make an entrance which, while they didn't like to think about it, was eerily reminiscent of the entrance they had made to the Scourge. They had decided Angel would drag in a demon-faced Doyle. Then they'd play it like Angel was really interested only in the payoff until they had an opening. Angel offered to let Doyle take care of Williams himself and Doyle appeared more than glad for the opportunity. His only disappointment, Doyle told Angel, was that he couldn't inflict eleven months worth of pain on Williams in eleven minutes.
But from the moment they walked in, it was clear to Angel that Williams knew who Angel was, but hadn't expected him to show up in this forum. That pretty much shot the script right there. Angel decided cutting to the chase and finding out just what Williams was up to was far more to the point. And threatening with his vampire form always had a knack for bringing out the truth in people.
Since learning what the Beacon really was, Angel had never considered that Doyle hadn't been the intended target. After all, eleven months was a long time to string along a guy who wasn't even the one they wanted. But then, until yesterday he had fully believed the Beacon destroyed everything in its beam and he hadn't thought its purpose might actually be moving things from point A to point B. As the idea sank in, Angel's rage grew. Doyle had spent almost a year in hell - and was still there - because he tried to save his friends. And there had been no purpose to his sacrifice, since no one would have died anyway; the whole thing was only to bring Angel into the open. Angel decided quickly and easily that he was going to kill Williams, and for the first time in ages, he didn't feel the slightest bit of remorse.
But Williams moved quicker than Angel had thought he might. He wasn't about to take any more chances on Doyle getting hurt, and besides, he remembered he'd promised Doyle first crack at the bastard. And at first opportunity, Doyle had surprised Williams and two went at it while Williams's men attacked Angel. They weren't exactly the best fighters Angel had ever tackled - he chopped the guns from their hands first try and had a minimum of difficulty slamming them into the floor. Once they stayed down, Angel figured on taking down Williams. He didn't get the chance.
Angel turned just as Doyle got the gun away from Williams. Angel hadn't believed Doyle had the capacity for hate until the day before and now he paused to see if Doyle could, in fact, kill Williams. Angel hadn't seen Wesley appear at the door and didn't know he was there until Wesley fired the shot. Blood appeared on Doyle's back as he fell to the ground and turned human. Angel could do nothing but scream.
Angel ran to Doyle and knew he didn't have a lot of time. Doyle was completely white, and had a shocked expression on his face - not pain, just surprise. He wasn't moving at all. Angel noted subconsciously that the hatred Doyle had taken such pains to hide was gone now.
"Doyle? Can you move?"
Doyle only looked at him with what actually looked like the slightest bit of a smile.
"I am so, so sorry, I didn't know who he was, oh no -" Wesley started babbling and that was the first Angel realized it was Wesley who had shot Doyle. Angel vamped out and turned his rage on Wesley, grabbing the sniveling coward and throwing him against the wall. Angel was ready to kill Wesley for harming Doyle when he heard Doyle trying to speak and he forgot about the incompetent idiot. Wesley didn't wait for Angel to grab him again; he fled.
Angel turned his attention back to Doyle. "Can you talk? I'm taking you to the hospital."
Doyle struggled to speak, but the only understandable thing he said was 'I'm cold'. Angel wrapped his coat around Doyle and picked him up, but felt sick when he saw how much blood was on the floor - and how much he could feel running across his hands.
Although Doyle had never considered himself a being capable of evil thought, much less action, he had wanted to destroy Williams more than he wanted to live. Really, the only reasons Doyle wanted to live were to destroy Williams - and more recently, to ensure Angel and Cordelia would be all right. And these pieces of information he had kept from Angel. With the vampire's track record for sadism, Doyle was sure Angel would understand - but with his present soul status, he wasn't too sure Angel would permit Doyle to go through with it, even though he had offered to allow it.
As for the meeting itself, Doyle thought the whole thing was going rather well - other than being slammed on the floor - up until Williams actually told them what the whole thing was about. He felt incredibly cold all over as he realized all he'd ever been in this was a pawn who wandered into the wrong place. This is an awful lot of hell for trying to save people, he thought, and the whole situation froze him up so badly that seeing Angel freak out and being grabbed by Williams seemed almost like a movie.
But once Williams grabbed him, the movie was over. At first chance, Doyle switched back to his demon form. He could see the spikes dig into Williams's flesh and found himself feeling something oddly akin to pleasure. He turned quickly, making sure the spikes ripped out of Williams the process. That felt pretty darn good too. Then he reached for the gun.
Williams was a tougher fight than Doyle had anticipated. Even in his demon form, the pain was still bad and he wasn't in the best of condition to fight a guy with a gun. Doyle figured his best bet was simply to keep the game going until Angel could finish off the goons and help him. Williams was about to get the better of him in this fight when suddenly he went off-balance and let go of the gun. Doyle was almost surprised to have a chance to point the gun at Williams - but more surprised to find he couldn't fire it. He tried to pull the trigger but something inside him even deeper than his hate would not allow him.
Doyle didn't have an opportunity to contemplate all of this and he didn't hear the gunshot; he only felt his back explode and the pain ripping through his chest.
The pain wasn't so bad after the first instant - he dealt with worse every day with every motion. He wasn't even sure he'd been shot. But he couldn't feel his body any longer and he felt numb as he turned human again. And he felt very, very cold by the time he hit the floor, never even feeling the floor.
Doyle saw Wesley in the doorway as he was falling to the floor and dimly realized that was who had shot him. He didn't feel angry at all, just a little annoyed that the twit couldn't have done this several days ago and saved them all the trouble. It seemed to Doyle, from the look on Wesley's face, that Wesley knew he'd done something very wrong. Doyle wanted to tell him not to worry about it, but his jaw seemed to weigh a ton.
He tried to speak to Angel, to tell him this wasn't so bad and he shouldn't worry about it, but speaking was difficult. He saw Angel attack Wesley and tried to tell Angel to let it go; this time he was able to produce a sound, if not words, and Angel forgot Wesley. Doyle wanted Angel sit with him for the few minutes remaining, but the vampire was in a near panic. The only words Doyle was able to force from his mouth weren't even what he'd intended to say; he was freezing cold, but there was nothing Angel could do about it. Still, the big guy was trying. Doyle had to give him credit for that.
There still wasn't any pain, even when Angel picked him up and carried him downstairs. The coldness though, was getting worse.
Cordelia was more than a little upset at being left out of the plan. So much so that she followed Doyle and Angel all the way to the building and watched them go in. She intended to follow them in too, but by the time she got close to the building, she had seen Wesley go in. This was enough to make her reconsider the whole idea of coming with. She could hear the shouts coming from the building, some of which sounded like Angelus. That settled her on staying outside.
The gunshot startled her. She saw Wesley take the gun in, but it never occurred to her anyone else would have one and surely Wesley didn't have the nerve to fire. She heard one more bellow that could have been Angelus; then a holler that was definitely Wesley. She wondered what was going on in there. A moment later Wesley ran out the door and nearly right into her. He looked at her for only a moment with an expression of utter shame, then he ran.
A moment later, Angel, still in vamp form, came charging out of the building carrying a bloody bundle, which, she realized with a horrible, nauseating fear, was Doyle.
Angel didn't expect to see her there and nearly ran into her. "What are...never mind. Get in the car. Hurry."
Cordelia didn't waste time asking for once; she climbed into the passenger seat. Angel leaned into the car and gently laid Doyle across her lap. "He's been shot," Angel told her heavily. "He's bleeding a lot."
She already knew - Angel was soaked with Doyle's blood. And she could feel the heat and wetness on her lap as Doyle bled on her. Her first reaction was screaming, but she quickly regained control of herself. It wouldn't be fair to Doyle for her to go into hysterics.
Angel leaped into the car and gunned the engine. "I don't think we have much time to get him to the hospital," he croaked out as he turned human again.
That, thought Cordelia, was another unnecessary statement. Doyle had no color remaining to him and he hadn't moved at all. His eyes were open and scarily calm. Cordelia had always thought if she were dying, especially if she were shot, that the pain would be too much for her. Doyle didn't seem to feel it at all. Instead he seemed very accepting of death. She wondered, briefly, if Doyle wanted to die.
She had no idea what to say to Doyle, so she didn't speak. She held him tightly and stroked his hair and for the first time since she was small, she prayed.
Doyle opened his mouth a little and she thought he might speak, but she couldn't hear him. She bent closer to him and instead of speaking, he kissed her. She looked into his eyes. "See ya Princess," she could barely hear. Doyle's eyes changed and then she understood.
"We'll be there in a minute," Angel was crying. Cordelia had never seen him cry. But she felt too empty to empathize with him.
"Don't bother Angel," she told him dully. "It's too late."
Doyle hadn't any idea Cordelia had followed them either until he saw her standing outside. He briefly thought of the vision and wondered how he could possibly protect her from whatever was to happen to her. He heard Angel order her to the car to the car and vaguely felt Angel set him in Cordelia's arms. As Angel straightened, Doyle could see Angel was covered in blood...and in vamp form. He looked as he had in Doyle's vision. Doyle felt an enormous burden leave him as he knew Angel would be all right. Doyle gazed towards Cordelia, who was on the verge of screaming, and saw his blood was already on her clothes as well. He had worried needlessly about their safety, but simply knowing they would be okay made Doyle feel much, much better.
He was not only freezing now, but he felt dark. It was creeping up his already numb and cold body. Doyle didn't mind; he welcomed it. In at least a subconscious way, he had wanted the relief of death for years. Maybe since he first learned about his demon half. Definitely in the past year, he had wanted to die. 'For the first time in my life, and the last,' he thought, 'I'm getting a wish I asked for.'
Doyle tried to speak to Cordelia but he could barely move his lips. She moved closer to him, realizing he was trying to speak. She was close enough to him he was just able to kiss her lightly. He made one more try at speaking. The only words he was able to produce were the least he wanted to say to her, but enough. "See ya Princess," left his breath and Doyle felt the cold and darkness pull him under.
Angel stopped the car when Cordelia told him Doyle was gone. He put his head on the steering wheel to hold back sobs. This was all wrong. It was worse than the first time Doyle had died. Because this time, there was no reason he could find.
The decision came to him instantly. No wasn't an option this time. Angel restarted the car, whipped it around in the other direction and floored it. Cordelia had some trouble hanging onto Doyle's body.
"What the hell are you doing?" she screamed.
"I'm fixing what went wrong." he said flatly.
It was only minutes until they arrived outside the post office. Angel told Cordelia she had to stay in the car. For once, she didn't want to go with him. He picked up Doyle's body and carried it to the entrance to the Oracles.
He wasn't even sure the Oracles would appear to him, but fortunately, they did.
"Have you brought a gift for me?" asked the female Oracle in her typically self-satisfied manner.
"Yes," Angel found the word difficult and the motions harder, but he stepped forward and laid Doyle's body at her feet.
The Oracle was very uncomfortable with this development. "This is not a gift," she said and sounded awkward.
Angel ignored the remark. "You told me his sacrifice was perfect. You told me he had atoned. We both know that wasn't true."
The male Oracle was equally ill at ease with Angel's words. "We do not lie," he said icily.
"You did this time," Angel matched the temperature.
"We can do nothing for you." The male Oracle turned to leave.
"Take your friend and bury him. You are commanded so," announced the female Oracle.
"No." Angel felt fury building up in him. "I will not leave until you make this right."
"There is nothing wrong to make right. What has happened, is so."
"No, it isn't right. You said Doyle died to atone, but you knew he didn't die, and that no one was going to die. He wasn't part of your little plan at all, was he?"
That one stung them. Visibly. They weren't nearly as perfect as they claimed.
"You screwed up, that's what happened isn't it? Someone made a mistake, and my friend paid for it. And that isn't right, and we all know that."
"We do not make mistakes," the male Oracle informed Angel, and both of them vanished.
Angel's knees gave out on him and he fell next to Doyle. So that was it. Angel picked up Doyle's still body and cradled Doyle's head in his lap. Doyle was turning cold. It was all real. Then Angel cried openly.
Angel didn't know how long he was there like that, but suddenly the Oracles reappeared before him. He was so surprised he didn't move.
"Rise up warrior!" The Oracles thundered together. Angel had never heard quite that tone from them and immediately did as they commanded him.
"We have conferred with the powers that command us," advised the female Oracle. "The evil that you battle has interfered with their plans for you." She glanced down at Doyle's body momentarily. "And their plans for your fellow warrior."
"The powers will grant you one opportunity, and one opportunity only to restore your friend," announced the male Oracle. "He shall be restored for one hour. After this time, his restoration shall depend on your mortal medicines. Do you accept?"
"Y-Yes," stammered Angel in utter disbelief.
"The powers do not agree to fully restore him. He has been wronged twice. Only one wrong shall be righted. You shall choose that which will be righted and you will be responsible for the consequences of your choice. Do you accept?"
Angel wasn't sure he understood what they were asking. He decided honesty was his best policy for now. "I don't understand what you're asking me."
The female Oracle stared him down impatiently. "The mortal has suffered greatly from the actions of the evil. He suffers mortally from the actions of the day. Which actions shall be undone?"
Now Angel was getting the idea. Either Doyle survived with the end results of a bullet in his back, or he survived in the same condition he'd arrived in at the office yesterday. And Angel already knew what little doctors could do for the damage done by the Beacon. Doyle was ashamed of his ugliness and miserable in his pain. Doyle would not want to live like that. Doyle allowed himself to die because of that.
"I choose to undo what was done by the actions of the evil. I live with the gravity of my choice."
"So be it."
The Oracles raised their arms and disappeared again into smoke. Thunder crashed and lightning streaked around the room until it settled around Doyle's body and circled it rapidly. As suddenly as the Oracles had appeared before Angel, the room was just as suddenly quiet and dark. Quiet except for the choking sounds Angel could hear, and knew to be Doyle.
Cordelia waited for what seemed to her forever for Angel to return. A dull ache lay in stomach and felt worse each time she thought of Doyle. She wanted to cry and couldn't. It was beyond her understanding that Angel could cry, and she couldn't. Something must be wrong with her. Maybe she wasn't a good person. A good person could cry for a lost friend.
Suddenly Angel reappeared from inside with Doyle's body still cradled in his arms, but something was different. Angel thrust Doyle back into Cordelia's arms so quickly it was a moment or two before she realized Doyle was warm. And bleeding again. He was alive. And...he looked normal.
"What happened in there?" she asked Angel incredulously.
"The only miracle we're ever going to see," Angel told her as he gunned the car once more. "We only have a few minutes to get him to the hospital though, or he'll die again."
They made it to the emergency room within fifteen minutes. Then Angel and Cordelia waited. For hours on end.
Angel remained awake throughout the night. He was hopeful; no one had come to tell them Doyle had died, so maybe he would survive. Cordelia couldn't stay awake at all; since she didn't understand what had happened, she couldn't find any hope.
It was morning before a doctor finally approached Angel and asked to speak with him privately. Angel slipped out of the room without waking Cordelia, with a feeling of dread.
"Your friend is alive," the doctor told him. "It'll be days before we know for certain though."
Angel knew then Doyle would live. Despite the doctor's pessimism, if Doyle had stuck it out this long, he would stay.
"But you should know, however..." the doctor began.
The doctors agreed to let them have a few minutes alone with Doyle. Cordelia sat with Doyle, talking to him and stroking his hair even though Doyle was still unconscious. She was finally able to cry for Doyle.
Meanwhile, Angel thought about the fact that he was responsible for Doyle now. That was what the Oracles had meant, he thought. They weren't asking if he was taking responsibility for the decision, but whether he would take responsibility for Doyle.
Angel asked Cordelia to leave him alone with Doyle. Angel picked up Doyle's hands and held them for a time.
"I'm sorry Doyle," he said. "I'm sorry."