There are three people on the catwalk, oblivious to the chaos beneath them. The beacon blazes overhead, deadly light seeking to destroy all humanity. The two men exchange a heavy look, the girl is panicking.
Someone is going to die tonight.
It’s not who you think it is.
The name is mocking him. He can’t even look at it without a surge of anger and regret. Behind him, he can still hear Cordelia sobbing, but he hasn’t cried. His mind hasn’t quite let him process the information. He watches Cordelia’s fingers trace over the letters of their sign. Angel Investigation.
He touches her shoulder and she turns and pulls him into a hug. “Oh, Doyle.” Her voice is choked with tears and he doesn’t know what he’s supposed to do to make it better.
Angel’s gone. They’re are all that’s left.
Cordelia’s not herself for about a week, but after she slams the phone on Buffy’s fifth phone of the day, Doyle can see her in one swift moment snap back into form.
“Can you believe her?” she fumes. “Like we don’t have enough to deal with already. Angel had two hundred and fifty years. That’s a pretty good run. His black cloud of despair should have died with him.”
Doyle looks at her for a moment in shock and then he feels the smile creeping across his face. “Don’t you think you’re being a bit hard on the girl? She did just loose her one true love.”
She turns her razor sharp gaze onto him, but the insult he expected doesn’t come. “You still owe me dinner. And a hell of an explanation.”
He feels his face redden. “Ah, that would be a fantastic idea if it we had any money.”
“So have a vision, drum us up some business.”
His smile stretches wide. They’re on familiar ground again. “That’s not quite how it works, Princess.”
He doesn’t know what he expected from the visions. He’s supposed to be the messenger. The powers beam whatever information they need into his head and he passed it along. After Angel, he thought they would have just sent him to the next hero. But when the next vision slams into him, it’s not sending him towards a new hero. It’s a message for him.
And that night when he drags himself back into the office, covered in grit, blood and slime, Cordelia’s waiting to patch him up. They’ve reached a comfort level, a status quo. He fights, she snarks. He bleeds, she’s there to mend him. It works for now, but Doyle doesn’t heal like a vampire and he doesn’t know how long he can keep this up.
They keep the business open. Even managed to get a license and every now and then, they get a paying customer. Things get a little easier when Wesley (by sheer persistence more than necessity) joins their little group.
Doyle moves into Angel’s old apartment because it had been paid for and it’s nicer than his place. Cordelia eyes him suspiciously, but the arrangement is too practical for any real protest. Wesley cautions him about losing himself to grief. Angel was his friend. Doyle still hasn’t cried.
The mission (Angel’s mission) is leaving it’s mark on him. The visions, the fights. He has four broken ribs that don’t have time to heal between battles and he can’t remember the last time he slept through the night. He’s not cut out to be the hero. That was always supposed to be Angel’s job. And then when died, Doyle didn’t have any choice but to take his place. But when he lies down at night (or more often, early morning), there’s a little voice in the back of his head hissing, you’re not fast enough, not strong enough and in his dreams, he watches his friend burn.
And when he snaps awake and shoves his fist in his mouth to keep from screaming, the voice is back hissing, it should have been you.
The first time he let, really lets his demon go, Cordelia is watching. He takes out three vampires one after another while Cordelia and Wesley managed to dispatch a fourth.
He’s breathing hard when he finishes, almost completely unaware that his demon side was at the forefront until he saw Cordelia’s face, jaw hanging open. Wesley, adjusted his skewed glasses. “Oh dear, Doyle?”
He shakes off the demon face.
Cordelia finds her voice. “I was wondering what the half demon side effects were.”
He wants to say something, but can’t quite find his voice. This is a bomb that’s been waiting to drop since the Scourge…
But Cordelia just smirks and says, “It’s not that bad.”
He stares at her for a moment before his face splits into a smile. “Not too bad?”
“No, it’s actually kind of hideous. Figure that the good guy would be the worst looking demon.” His face falls a little, but a second later, he feels her hand slip into his and her voice is in his ears. “Glad your on my side.”
He shakes his head in disbelief. “I still owe you dinner.”
Wesley coughs behind them to remind them of his presence. They leave the room laughing.
He has a vision ten minutes into their first date. Which is typical of the Powers that Be and by now, practically expected. Doyle’s got a small axe and a half dozen stakes stashed in his jacket and Cordelia has holy water in her purse so when the vision slams into him before they even get a chance to order their food, they’re ready.
The slip out quickly, leaving a few dollars for their drinks, call Wesley for back-up and catch up to water demon right before it drowns a young girl. It takes all three of them to dispatch it and when they leave, Cordelia’s bitching about her ruined shoes, Wesley’s got a gash through his sleeve and Doyle’s weaving as he walks.
Wesley hops on his motorcycle and says something about getting home and Cordelia and Doyle go back to Cordelia’s place, order a pizza and fall asleep on the couch watching an old vampire movie. It’s not what they had planned, but neither of them can bring themselves to complain.
Gunn doesn’t trust him. It’s not his fault. At least not initially. Cordelia’s taken to announcing his half demon status to any potential ally just ‘to clear the water’ and Doyle’s never found that got the greatest reaction from most demon hunters.
He wants to blame that initial distrust twelve hours later when he’s standing with a stake in front of a vampire Gunn. He wants to think that this could have been avoided if them had just trusted him. But he can’t. This one’s all on him.
The vision don’t stop this time just keep coming, one crashing on the heels of the other in a haze of blinding pain. Somewhere far away, he can hear Cordelia’s panicked voice and Wesley’s marginally calmer tones and later the inner workings of what sounds like a hospital.
He watches murders and torture and sacrifice and pain and he can’t make himself come out of the vision. Can’t make his mouth form words. He thinks he hears Cordelia telling him that their going to fix this. Thinks he hears Wesley’s voice whispering about Wolfram and Hart.
He knows why they’re doing it. He figures it out in the dim haze between reality and visions, the abyss where he now lives. Wolfram and Hart’s planning to end the world and they’re going to start by bringing back Angel. Not the Angel he knew, but the monster, the demon. And Doyle, looking on the face of a friend would never be able to kill him and with the endless visions crashing into his brain, he won’t get a chance to stop it before he has to make that choice.
When the visions stop, he knows they’ve failed. Knows that this is the beginning of the end. Cordelia comes in and gives him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. He makes himself smile back at her, but his gaze drifts to Wesley standing with his arms crossed in the corner. Wesley meets his eyes. “Wolfram and Hart?” Doyle asks.
“Wolfram and Hart,” Wesley confirms.
Angelus signs his work. Leaves it in the office upstairs when Doyle is sleeping and he wakes up four days in a row to find a body sitting at his desk. The only piece of luck they have is the fact that lead investigator is detective Kate Lockley. Doyle tells her everything on the second day and when she asks for proof, he shows her his demon face.
There’s screaming and denial and it takes him and Cordelia a full two hours to calm her down and fill her in completely.
And the next day when Kate gets an equally gruesome message outside her apartment, Doyle thinks it might be time for desperate measures.
Cordelia calls Willow and before the day’s out, the entire Sunnydale gang’s on their holding touting equipment for the soul curse and looking grim.
The spell doesn’t work. Somehow Doyle had know that would be the case. Giles shakes his head softly and examines his glasses. “I was afraid this. You see, when a person is brought back from the dead, there is always a steep price. Take vampires for instance, when they are resurrected, their soul is no longer with them. The same thing holds for Necromancy. Something is always lost, destroyed in the process.”
“So, Angel’s soul,” Doyle choked, unconsciously moving towards his stash of whiskey. “it’s gone fer good?”
“I’m afraid so.”
Xander opens his mouth as if to comment, but Cordelia is quick to cut him off. “I swear, Xander Harris, if you say I told you so, I will kick your ass all the way back to Sunnydale.”
Buffy shoots them a brief glare and their mouths shut simultaneously. Doyle feels an inexplicable stab of jealousy. “Well,” the slayer says slowly, “there’s only one thing to do,” She pulled a crossbow out of her bag and hoisted it over her shoulder. “go hunting.”
“Great,” Xander says with fake enthusiasm. “what can we do to help?”
“Stay safe. I’m going to finish this alone.”
“You don’t know what yer getting into,” Doyle protests, “What happens if it’s not just Angel we’re dealing with. I’m thinking Wolfram and Hart has a bigger plan than this.”
Buffy eyes him coldly. “I’ll deal.”
The next morning, they find her broken body sitting in Doyle’s desk chair.
Doyle takes a single look at the scene and leaves to see the Oracles.
“Where is your token mortal? We do not often entertain lower beings.”
Doyle pulled a vial from his jacket and tossed it to the golden lady who catches it and examines the contents. “You bring us slayer’s blood! Why?”
“He wishes to alter the course of history?” The blue man says with something like contempt in his voice. “You wish to alter that which was meant to be.”
“This wasn’t meant to be,” Doyle hisses and the venom in his voice take even him by surprise. “Angel was suppos’ta be a hero. A champion. That’s why you sent me here. I’m a just the messenger.”
“And now,” replies the blue man, “you are the champion and the vampire is the killer. Do your duty and be done with it.”
“People are dying an’ I’m not Angel.” Doyle says simply.
The golden lady leans close and he can feel her breath on his skin. “I know what you, ask, Messenger, but are you willing to pay the price?”
He opens his mouth to answer, but before he can, white light invades his vision and he’s back on the catwalk.
The beacon blazes overhead, deadly light invading their every pore. Angel puts a heavy hand on Doyle’s shoulder and behind them, Cordelia’s face clouds as she realizes what is happening. “The good fight, yeah,” Doyle says softly. “You never know ‘til you’ve been tested.” He tries to smile. “I get that now.” His punch sends Angel spiraling off the catwalk.
Someone is going to die tonight.
You know how this story ends.