The first memory Angel has of Doyle is this skinny little demon, his face spouting blue spikes like acne, his eyes a deep blood red. “You’re a demon,” he says.
“Well that’s just stating the obvious,” he says and then to Angel’s utter astonishment, the spikes resend to leave a pale human kid who looks like he’s ready to climb out of his own skin. “If you prefer we can go with the human element but when a half demon’s hanging with a vampire, no real point in hiding it.”
The face relaxes as the spikes pop back into being. Angel remembers that being weird. It’s the first time in his life he’s met a person who could pass for human but doesn’t.
Doyle becomes his best friend in weeks that feel like years. Angel gets his story through drinks and late nights covered in demon slime and it’s surprisingly trivial for one that stars a demon. “When I came out...spiky, me mum took me and left me on the doorstep of my dad’s.” He downs a beer. “Nothing wrong with being a demon. Most Brachens I’ve met are the decent sort. Don’t blame me mum either. Wasn’t exactly the sort of country you could raise a kid who looked like a monster.”
The first time Cordelia meets Doyle, she whacks him right across the face with a baseball bat. Doyle, cursing, stumbles backwards and lands heavily on the sofa hissing, “What was that fer?”
Angel catches the bat before the second blow. “Cordelia, Cordelia. Stop. This is Doyle. He’s a friend.”
“He’s a demon,” Cordelia says. “You know, all evil and grr? Am I the only one here who learned anything from living on the Hellmouth.”
“Remember how I told you about the vision thing? The reason I knew about Russell? That came from him.”
“Oh,” Cordelia deflates a little turning back to the demon as he pulls himself to a sitting position, catching the red drips of blood dripping out of the fractured spikes on his face. “You’re vision guy?”
“Allen Doyle,” he says. “I think you broke my face.”
That’s when Cordelia picks out the rest of the demon’s appearance behind the spiky face and the red eyes.
Dark hair. Short stature. Battered leather jacket. Ugly polyester shirt. “With clothes like that I don’t think you could possibly be evil.” She jerks her thumb in Angel’s direction. “You should have seen this one when he went bad all leather pants and big smiles. Creepy, but stylish.”
Doyle laughs, a merry and surprisingly human sound, still cupping his hand under his chin to catch the red drops of blood falling from his face just like any human would.
It’s the last time Cordelia even mentions the demon thing and Angel finds himself thinking he’d misjudged her back in Sunnydale. Cordelia is rude and abrasive and makes fun of Doyle’s clothes, his gambling, his drinking, his lack of wealth and just about everything in between but for whatever reason Cordelia has drawn a line at the demon thing.
“So he’s a demon,” Cordelia says when he asks her about it. “Who cares? You don’t see me making fun of Sean Connery because of his lisp. It’s not like it’s something he can fix. What do you think I am? Shallow?”
“Wait, you don’t like the Connery lisp?” Angel hesitates. “I always though it was, you know, sexy.”
Maybe Cordelia being completely all right with the demon was a bit of a lie. She likes Doyle. He’s got a dry sense of humor, an almost scary knowledge of demon lore--if he was an actual person Cordelia thinks she would be impressed—and somewhere under the eyes and the spikes were the makings of a genuinely nice guy.
“I’m not going to let Doyle find me an apartment. He says he knows a guy? He can’t even go outside! His guys is going to have tentacles and slime and I can deal with the green and the spikes but slime’s a deal breaker. Especially for an apartment. I mean I lived in Sunnydale! I know how hard it is to get that stuff out.”
“You good for going, Cordy?” The guy standing in the door to the office is short and pale with the same dark hair and accent she’d come to associate with Doyle.
“Let me guess, Doyle’s guy?” Her eyes flicker back to Angel.
“Find her an apartment,” Angel orders.
“Quid pro quo, right man?” Doyle’s guy says, turning to Cordelia. “Angel’s helping me on a problem if I help you with yours.”
“This is all lovely and all, but I’m not sure I’m comfortable with this—”
“Come on, Princess,” Doyle’s guy says and she does a spit take.
Because Doyle’s guy looks exactly like Doyle himself would if he were human and the thought’s something she never thought possible. “Hold on, Doyle? Is that you? Are you playing with some of that witchy wicca stuff?”
The eyebrow raises, some sort of an emotion playing out on his face, but Cordelia can’t read him like this. She’s learned the other face. The demon face. The way the red in his eyes would dull in a sentimental moment. The pricklier-than-usual nature of the spikes when annoyed.
This is the face of a stranger.
“We going to find you an apartment or you just going to stand there with your jaw on the floor?”
“I don’t get you.”
They’re in the apartment. The perfect, wonderful, but haunted apartment with Doyle’s red eyes tracking the invisible presence of phantom Dennis. “What’s not to get? I’m a simple kind of demon.”
“How about the fact that you can pass for human and you don’t. I mean who the hell stays in the shadows when you could be soaking up the sun on the beach?”
“I don’t mean to be rude but have you seen human me’s skin? Paler than pale.”
“You see, I’m stuck on the fact that there is a human you. I mean I though you were a card carrying member of the demons-r-us crowd.”
“That’s a bit speciest now isn’t it, Princess?”
“No.” Cordelia slams her fists down. “The human demon face flip thing! What gives?”
“I’m half human,” Doyle says with a shrug.
“And this wasn’t something to tell me? This is huge!”
“I was raised demon. Clan of Brachens. The human didn’t manifest until I was twenty-one and by then what’s the point?”
“Maybe getting out to see the world.”
“The first I saw of the word was a cargo hold of a ship that was supposedly transporting me to a museum of oddities. Say what you like about demons but at least we’re upfront about it.” He spins the glass in his hands. “It’s not that I didn’t try for a while because I did. Turned me back on me family and just about everything I was and tried living as average, human Doyle. And let me tell you, I didn’t much like the guy.”
Cordelia thinks she reads something dark in those eyes. Something haunted that ties Doyle to Angel and even more to the Powers That Be.
The deal was coffee. Out in the open. Her and Doyle. A thank you for saving her life.
Doyle’s uncomfortable, skittish almost. He doesn’t quite have the hang of facial expressions in human form but his eyes give him away, flickering from the counter to the latte to the door and back to Cordelia.
“Somehow I doubt a Starbucks in LA is going to be attacked at high noon.”
The corners of his mouth quirk upwards. “I count four demons in here myself included.”
“What?” Cordelia sputters. “Where?”
And just like everything’s normal again.
She’s shell shocked when it’s actually happening. Everything’s a blur. A flash of the Scourge marching off in the distance. Doyle’s red eyes alight with an unearthly fire as he says, “Get the Listers out of here. I’ll buy you some time.”
Ten minutes later the boat is gone and for the most part the scourge had either disbanded or fallen as well. Angel has blood streaked across his face, the prominent ridges of his vampiric visage yet to melt back into the softer human one.
These are her best friends, Cordelia thinks, a vampire and an undersized half-demon who’s unconscious on the dirty street.
Angel notices the injury before she does. The neck bent at a grotesque angle, the red eyes open and staring. “Doyle,” he says. “DOYLE!”
A sudden wetness appears on Cordelia’s cheeks that she doesn’t even want to talk about. Angel reaches his hand out hesitantly as if he thought that touching him would make it real.
Doyle jerks when Angel finally gets the nerve to touch his shoulder. “Jesus,” he groans. “Please tell me that was actually worth it.”
He pushes himself into a sitting position, puts a hand on either side of his throat and in a quick, violent movement snaps his neck back into place.
Cordelia’s not really sure what happens next, just that there’s screaming and the slightly wet stick of blood on her hands after slapping Doyle across the face before her arms are around him, around Angel.
She’d deny it happened if any of the Scoobies back in Sunnydale asked. She isn’t a huggy person and she doubted Angel or Doyle are either.
But in the dingy alley surrounded by corpses and the stink of demons, she feels safer than she has in years.
There’s a purple bruise under the spikes of Doyle’s face, vulnerability that she wouldn’t be able to see on any other demon’s face. He’s never ever going to make the first move. Demon insecurities, shunned all his life blah blah blah. “Doyle,” she calls across the room. “You up for a drink and a movie?”
Doyle looks up, bewildered, glances over to Angel who’s making a fresh pot of coffee that doesn’t taste like Cordelia’s fresh coffee. “Sure, I could do for a movie. What say you, boss man?”
Cordelia takes a deep breath. “I mean just you and me.”
Doyle blushes so hard the spikes start to retract back to his face.
Angel pours himself a cup of coffee and hides his smile in a long swallow.
The date is a disaster. The kind that ends with a vision, puss, a ruined outfit (her) and a broken wrist (him). It’s nearly eight hours later when Doyle drops her off at the front door. “Let’s never do that again,” she says with an overdramatic moan.
Doyle looks at her, dejection showing clearly on his face and she finds herself backpedaling as fast as she can. “Not the date. The other stuff.”
“Yeah?” Doyle says, his face brightening just a little.
Cordelia raises her hand to his cheek. He shivers as her fingers graze the tip of one of the spikes. They’re going to have some... issues. She can tell. Not the least of which is how to kiss someone who regularly uses his face to impale people. “Yeah,” she confirms smiling at him. “Yeah, this is going to work out just fine.”