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ACiS, 1x10: Enter the Watcher

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"Oh, for the sake of... stop complaining already!"

As the door to the office opened, Angel quickly glanced up from the paper that lay in front of him. There was more than a hint of worry in his eyes when a wheelchair was pushed through the door, its occupant wearing what could almost be described as a pout. Trying to keep his voice steady, Angel met Doyle's eyes.

"What did she do to my car?"

Doyle smirked slightly as he opened his mouth to answer... but his words turned in a choked-back cry as his wheelchair was practically thrown into the room. Biting his lip as waves of pain shot through his still severely burned body, he managed to turn his head toward the young woman who was pushing him. In reply to the glare he shot her, Cordelia merely smiled sweetly.

"Oops. I thought that you were going to start complaining about my driving again. My mistake."

Muttering a few choice words under his breath, Doyle turned his gaze back toward Angel. There was amusement shining in his green eyes though, and Angel couldn't help but choke back a laugh. His merriment quickly faded, however, as his gaze moved over the bandages that still covered his friend's hands - not to mention those which hid part of his face.

"It's good to have you back, Doyle."

Both Doyle and Cordelia suddenly became quiet, and for a moment the three of them just stood there in silence. In each of their minds, that night from barely a week earlier stood out like a beacon. The Beacon...

As the image of Doyle's flesh burning flashed in his mind, Cordelia couldn't help but snap her eyes shut for a moment. After a few seconds, though, she began to open them once more... and for a brief instant, she felt as if the world had been turned upside down. Doyle was dead. He had leapt onto the Beacon, shutting it down at a high price. Too high of a price. He was gone. They would never have a chance at anymore more than friendship. And then she opened her eyes completely.

Cordelia felt the strength in her legs waver slightly, and she quickly let her hand dart out and grab the doorframe. The disorientation that had rushed through her faded as quickly as it had appeared, leaving her standing there rather unsteadily. Her breath was coming out in short gasps, as if she had just finished running a marathon, and her heart felt as if it was going to burst.

"Cordelia?"

At the sound of Angel's worried voice, Cordelia quickly brought her attention back to the present. Both he and Doyle were staring at her anxiously, neither of them certain as to what was wrong. She forced a weak smile onto her face before slowly edging back out the door.

"I... think that I left your car unlocked, Angel. Let me go check."

As she turned away from them, the smirk quickly collapsed. An uncertain expression replaced it, as if she wasn't exactly certain as to what had just happened. Biting her lip slightly, she pulled the door shut herself.

Angel and Doyle exchanged baffled gazes as the door shut, but it was the half-demon who voiced the question they both had.

"What just happened?"

*

Elsewhere in the city, a demon with two horn buds on its temple frantically ran down an alley. The sound of a motorcycle filled the air, and as it came into view it was apparent that its rider - a man clad entirely in leather - was pursuing the demon.

A homeless man standing at the entrance of the alley quickly turned around and headed in the opposite direction. He'd lived on the streets long enough to know better than to stick his nose where it didn't belong.

*

As she slowly stepped into Angel's office, Cordelia let her gaze drift over the room. When it was apparent that no one was there, she let out a quiet sigh and walked over to the coffeemaker.

"You had us worried there, Cordy."

Cordelia jumped slightly as Angel's voice suddenly rang out behind her, and she couldn't help by let out a startled gasp. Her surprise quickly faded in annoyance, however, as she turned around. She started to speak... but froze when she saw the worried expressions on both his and Doyle's faces.

"Sorry guys. I just... My imagination got away from me."

For a moment, they both just stared at her. Then Doyle's eyes lit up in comprehension, and he quickly shook his head.

"Cordelia, it's over. I'm fine, Angel's fine, you're fine... there's nothing to be worried ab--"

Suddenly the alarm on Cordelia's watch rang, drawing her attention to the time in an instant and causing Doyle to trail off.

"Oops! Got to go. Commercial audition." She shot them an apologetic look. "If it wasn't a national, I'd blow it off."

Angel and Doyle exchanged bemused glances as Cordelia turned and headed for the door, her eyes never turning back as she spoke.

"I get what you're saying, Doyle, and you're absolutely right. It's stupid for me to dwell on what might have happened. There's noth-- ahh!"

Cordelia let out a shriek as, when she opened the door, she found herself face to face with a red-skinned demon. The demon's eyes widened in surprise, and it appeared for a moment as if he was going to let out a shriek of his own.

"You scared the heck out of me!" the demon exclaimed.

Cordelia let out a loud "harrumph" as she stepped out of the demon's way, and she sent a scathing look in Doyle's direction when he choked back a chuckle.

"I scared you?" she shot back. "Look in the mirror lately?"

The demon shook his head as he pushed past the dark-haired woman. "Every chance I get!"

His eyes flickered toward Angel, and he suddenly pointed at the vampire. "You're him, right? You're the guy, the vampire with a soul?"

An uncertain expression on his face, Angel nodded slightly. "I'm Angel."

The demon nodded and continued on as if Angel hadn't said a word. "Yeah. You got to help me! Please. I mean, that's what you do, right? You help the helpless? You protect the, what do you call-- he's not one of your clients is he?" The demon had finally noticed Doyle, and his gaze was drifting warily over the bandages that covered the Irishman's face and hands.

Doyle quickly shook his head, grimacing slightly as he did so. "No, I work for him. Suggestion: never mess with the Scourge unless you want to end up dead or looking like this."

As the demon stared at Doyle for a few more seconds, Angel glanced in Cordelia's direction. "Weren't you leaving?"

Cordelia glanced down at her watch and let out a moan. At the sound, the demon shifted his attention toward her for a moment. "Break a leg."

A confused expression appeared in Cordelia's eyes, and she started to speak. At the last second, however, she seemed to change her mind. "Never mind, I don't want to know." Her gaze flickered toward Doyle, and a faint smile played at the corners of her mouth once more. "Since you're stuck in the wheelchair for now, you might as well come with me."

Doyle raised an eyebrow. "I thought you were tired of pushing me around."

Cordelia gave him a sickly sweet smile before walking over and grabbing the back of his wheelchair. "Now why would I say that? I mean, you're taking me out for coffee so that we can have a little talk. Right?"

As Doyle shot him a frantic look, Angel merely shrugged. The demon standing beside him, however, let his face twist into what appeared to be a smile. "I'm sensing a little hostility."

Cordelia glared at the demon for a moment before pushing a protesting Doyle out of the room and slamming the door behind them. As the door shut, the demon flinched and glanced at Angel. The vampire merely sighed and walked into his office. As he sat down at his desk, he glanced back at the demon. "So, what's the problem?"

The demon took a deep breath. "Call me Barney. First off, you should know right away before there is any misunderstanding... I'm a demon."

Angel struggled to keep a straight face as he dryly spoke. "I appreciate the candor."

Barney nodded, oblivious to his sarcasm, before continuing on. "Secondly, I just realized it's 3:45 in the afternoon. If you're a vampire, why aren't you in your..."

Angel held up his hand, cutting Barney off. He took a deep breath and silently counted to ten. "Please tell me that you weren't going to say coffin."

Barney quickly nodded again. "Just a rumor, huh?"

Angel took another deep breath before answering. "You're a demon, and you don't know anything about vampires?"

Barney shrugged slightly. "Only what I've learned from T.V."

Angel started to speak, but he quickly changed his mind and focused his attention on the headache that was forming under his temples. As he sat there, Barney pulled up a chair and took a seat across from him.

"Got it. Sorry. So... did you know that the guy who left with the gorgeous chick has some demon blood in him?"

Angel merely rubbed his forehead as the dull throb speedily intensified.

*

Doyle gave Cordelia what he hoped was a reassuring smile, but the nervous expression on her face didn't seem to fade.

"If you don't mind my asking, what happened to you?"

As a curious voice suddenly came from behind him, Doyle instinctively tore his gaze away from Cordelia and twisted his head around. His still-healing flesh protested, however, and he ended up choking back a moan of pain.

"Oh! I'm so sorry."

Doyle found himself facing an attractive young woman who was wearing an apologetic expression on her face. There was a curious light in her eyes, however, and it appeared that she was looking everywhere but at the bandages that covered much of his visible skin. He grinned slightly as his mind quickly brought up the cover story that Cordelia and Angel had used when they had taken him to the hospital.

"Car wreck. I managed to get out, but my clothes caught on fire." He shrugged the best he could, trying to ignore the pain that spread through his body just from that simple motion. "To make a long story short, I have first degree burns from the flames and an injured back from... falling while trying to put them out."

The woman reached up and brushed a long strand of blonde hair from her face, her eyes flickering toward Cordelia. "Your girlfriend must be someone special if you're willing to come watch her... act, when you've been through so much."

Doyle let out a quiet sigh. "We're not dating."

The woman's eyes lit up, and she suddenly smiled coyly at him. "Oh, really? I'm Karen, by the way. Karen Travis."

A surprised expression appeared on Doyle's face as he suddenly realized that she was flirting with him. He smiled slightly and started to respond, but he couldn't help but glance over at Cordelia. Her nervousness had apparently faded somewhat, but - judging by the expressions those around her wore - the audition wasn't going that well. Shaking his head slowly, he glanced back at Karen.

"The name's Doyle," he said. "And I meant that we're not dating yet."

She smiled regretfully before glancing over at Cordelia once more. "Damn. Why is it that all the cute, non-gay guys are already taken?"

Doyle glanced at her in surprise, but before he could say anything an intense wave of pain shot through his skull. As his head automatically shot backward, the pain from his burns seemed to multiply tenfold.

/ Bright light. Grey. Something. An object. What was it? Familiar. Pain. Fear. /

Doyle's eyes flew open, and he couldn't help but let out a quiet moan of pain. He felt distant, disoriented... everything seemed to be floating and spinning and turning and twisting. Suddenly there were two arms wrapped around him, supporting him, holding him up. He heard a familiar voice speaking, but as if from a great distance.

"It's happened once or twice before. The doctors think that it's a side effect from the wreck, but they aren't entirely sure yet."

Doyle blinked a few times as the world seemed to come back into focus, and he couldn't help but feel a little surprise shoot through him as he found himself staring directly into Cordelia's worried eyes. "Are you okay, Doyle? You had another one of those seizures."

Though his head felt as if it were going to explode, Doyle was still able to catch the way that Cordelia emphasized the word seizure. Forcing himself to keep his face as expressionless as possible, he struggled to keep his mind focused. "It was a bad one."

He was surprised to hear how weak his voice sounded, not to mention the slurred quality it had, and - judging by the look on Cordelia's face - he wasn't the only one. Worry shining in her eyes, she quickly straightened back up and gave someone who appeared vaguely familiar an apologetic smile.

"I'm sorry about this. I really should get him home." She paused, her eyes lighting up. "Maybe I can come by tomorrow and try again?"

*

Angel focused his gaze on Barney, his voice bordering on exasperation. "Who's hunting you?"

Barney shrugged, his eyes anxiously moving about the room. "I don't know. But whoever he is, he's unstoppable. Like a machine. Been on my tail for a few states, ever since Phoenix. I pulled out all the stops to shake him, but he keeps on coming."

Angel quietly took in a deep breath. "What makes you think he means you harm?"

Barney shook his head. "I don't think he's tracking me down to tell me that I've won the Publisher's Clearing House. He's an assassin."

"Is he a demon?"

Barney looked up at Angel and shrugged. "It's always a possibility."

Angel raised an eyebrow. "Why you?"

A startled glint appeared in Barney's eyes as he looked at the vampire. "What do you mean?"

Angel met his gaze. "Who are you?"

Barney gave him an exasperated look. "That's what I'm saying. I'm a nobody. I mean, I'm no Boy Scout. I'm an empath demon. I can read emotions. It might possibly give me a slight advantage at cards... and the fights, of course."

Angel let out a tired sigh. "So you're a cheat."

Barney shrugged again, his voice rising slightly in volume. "I choose to think of it as going with my strengths. Look, whatever. I'm a demon. I'm evil. But, I'm not, you know, Evil!"

Angel raised an eyebrow. "And you can't think of anyone that's got a beef with you?"

Barney shook his head and sank back in his chair. "No one! But like my old man always said, you can't please everybody. So you're gonna help me?"

*

The sound of a motorcycle filled the air as it roared down the streets of Korea Town, its leather-clad rider leaning down low as it moved. Then the motorcycle's engine died.

After a moment, its rider climbed off of it.

The motorcyclist searched through a black bag full of weapons, his eyes moving over swords, stakes, and a variety of weapons. After a moment, he finally pulled out a crossbow. Then, narrowing his eyes, he started walking toward a nearby building.

He knelt down and studied the yellowish slime coating the side of the building.

*

Cordelia carefully pushed Doyle through the doorway, her gaze drifting toward Angel. "Where did we put that pain medication they gave Doyle?"

Angel glanced up, a puzzled expression on his face for a moment. As he caught sigh of Doyle's pale face, however, realization quickly flooded through him. "Beside the coffeepot."

As Cordelia grabbed the bottle of pills and a glass of water, Angel quickly made his way over to Doyle and knelt beside him. The half-demon gave him a half-hearted grin as he did so. "And I thought the visions were bad before."

Angel gingerly reached out and squeezed Doyle's shoulder gently. The Irishman gave him a weak smile, one that widened considerably when Cordelia came back over with the pain medication in hand. Angel's voice was quiet as he spoke. "What did you see?"

Doyle downed the pills, grimacing slightly as he did. Then his gaze moved back toward Angel. "It was... different. All that I saw was a grey... something."

Cordelia rolled her eyes as she pulled herself up from the kneeling position she was in. "Sheesh. If I got the visions, I bet even I could give a better description than that."

Doyle smirked a little before glancing back at Angel. "I think it might have been a statue or something. For some reason, it seemed familiar." He flexed his hands, biting back a moan as pain shot through them. "I would offer to sketch it, but..."

He gingerly held up his bandaged hands as he glanced in Cordelia's direction. She quickly realized why he was looking at her though, and he reaction was immediate. "No. No way. I don't draw."

Doyle opened his mouth to protest, but he was cut off as one of the doors opened and Barney walked in.

The demon froze when he saw the three of them, and a sheepish grin came onto his face. "Oh, sorry, I thought I heard voices."

Angel planted a bogus smile on his face as he quickly gestured toward Doyle and Cordelia. "Uh, Barney, you remember my associates Doyle and Cordelia?"

Barney nodded as he quickly began walking again, this time toward the door that led to the outer office. "The aspiring actress and the injured part-demon. Yep. Nice to see you again."

As he shut the door behind him, both Doyle and Cordelia shot bemused glanced in Angel's direction. The vampire merely shrugged, however, before handing Cordelia a pen and some paper.

"Yes, he's a client. Apparently someone or something is after him."

Cordelia glanced down at the items Angel had handed her. Before she could say anything though, he continued speaking.

"Doyle can describe it, and you can at least attempt to sketch it. In the meantime, Barney would probably feel safer downstairs. The two of you can baby-sit him until I get back."

Doyle glanced up at him. "Where are you going?"

Angel shrugged as he made his way toward the door. "To check out his apartment. He thinks that whoever is chasing him knows where he lives." He froze in the doorway for a moment, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "Try to behave."

*

Angel stepped out of the slow-moving elevator, his eyes narrowing slightly as one of the few lights in the already dimly lit hallway flickered on and off. He slowly walked up to one of the doors and carefully reached out to touch it.

A sudden sound caught his attention though, and he spun around to find the door opposite it opening. His body tensed slightly, but as a maid pushing a cleaning cart walked out, he quickly relaxed. Returning the smile she gave him, he turned back to the apartment door and slowly opened it... only to find himself being shoved through it into the room.

Angel spun around, but he quickly froze when he discovered a crossbow aimed at his chest. He narrowed his eyes as the dark figure that held it stepped into the light. The shadowy features melted away, revealing a surprisingly familiar figure.

"Hello, Angel," Wesley Wyndam-Pryce said with a grim smile.

*

"I can't do this!" Cordelia threw the pencil down in a huff, her eyes alight with exasperation.

Doyle smiled slightly, however, and merely reached over to clumsily pick it back up. "Come on, princess, it's just a simple sketch."

She glared at him, her voice rising slightly in volume as she spoke. "If it's so simple, then why don't you draw it!?"

Doyle felt his temper envelope him, and for just a moment his vision seemed to go red. "I would love to, but it isn't exactly a piece of cake to sketch something when you have these damn bandages covering your hands!"

The moment the words left his mouth, he felt a great bit of remorse shoot through him. He took a few deep breaths, and as his vision cleared he was horrified to see the guilt-stricken expression on Cordelia's face. His voice cracked slightly as he quietly spoke.

"I'm sorry, Cordelia."

She shook her head a bit before carefully reaching over and pulling the pencil out of his loose grip. When she spoke, her voice was unlike anything Doyle had heard before. There was something about her tone that seemed almost childlike, and for just a moment he saw the scared nineteen-year-old girl that she usually kept hidden deep inside. "I should be the one who's sorry. I didn't mean it. I was just frustrated and... I didn't mean it."

Doyle gave her a reassuring smile before leaning backwards against the wheelchair's back with a quiet sigh. "I know."

*

"Wesley."

Angel stood still, his hands in his pockets, as Wesley moved the crossbow's aim up from his chest to his face. There was a smug half-smile on his face as he stared at the vampire.

"I wager you thought you'd never see me again."

A blank expression on his face, Angel shook his head ever so slightly. "To tell you the truth, I hadn't given it much thought one way or the other." He frowned. "What are you--"

Wesley quickly waved the crossbow in Angel's face. "Hup-up-up. I'm the one asking the questions here. I think it only fair to warn you, any sudden movement and I'll be forced to--"

Angel casually reached up and batted the crossbow out of Wesley's hand. The Englishman smiled nervously and continued on as if there had been no interruption. "Right. You had a question?"

Barely suppressing a smile, Angel slowly walked around Wesley. His gaze carefully moved over Wesley's body, lingering for a moment on his leather-clad legs. "Interesting look for you. Motorcycle. The Watcher's Council trying out a new image?"

Wesley walked further into the room, an indignant tone in his voice. "In point of fact, I no longer work for the Council. I came to the conclusion that I was of greater value to the cause working autonomously."

His feet suddenly caught on something, and Wesley had to catch himself on the edge of the bed. Angel merely shook his head. "They fired you."

Wesley gave him a dirty look as he straightened back up. "Hardly. With the current conditions of the two Slayers, there was simply no opportunity to function as Watcher. And that's why I became a rogue demon hunter."

Angel choked back a laugh as his eyes moved over Wesley. "You're a demon hunter?"

Wesley coughed slightly, his eyes never leaving Angel. "Rogue demon hunter. And I'm on the trail of a particularly nasty bugger right now. So I suggest you stay out of my way."

Angel shook his head as he let his gaze drift over the room. "Easy, tiger. I think you might be making a mistake. If we're talking about the same demon here, he seems pretty harmless to me."

Wesley gave him an incredulous look. "He's left a trail of corpses, human and demon, all mutilated."

Angel's gaze moved back toward Wesley. "Mutilated?"

Wesley nodded, his expression growing grave. "Each of his victims possessed some unique power: telepathy, poison tongues, healing hands... whatever the physical source of their power, it was ripped, gouged, torn from their corpses."

Angel slowly nodded. "He's collecting powers."

Wesley nodded and let out a quiet sigh. "For what purpose I can only guess. The fiend has cut a swath across half the continent. I almost caught up with it in Phoenix. Got a pretty fair look too."

A curious expression on his face, Angel let his gaze drift over the inconspicuous room once more. "Kind of short, ruddy complexion?"

Wesley gave him a confused look, as if he wasn't certain what he was talking about.

"Short? No, on the contrary, quite enormous - and powerful. More of a yellow-green. And it seems lately to be secreting some sort of viscous, yellow fluid."

Angel's eyes moved to a yellow blob that had appeared suddenly on Wesley's jacket."

"Like that?"

Another blob landed beside it, and they both looked upward. As they did, the demon that had been hanging there dropped down between them. It hit Wesley, sending him flying across the room. Then it turned its attention toward Angel.

For a few moments, the demon and the vampire exchanged blows. After a second or two, however, it knocked Angel to the ground. As it turned around, Wesley suddenly hit it in the chest with a crossbow bolt. The demon let out a scream as it leapt through the nearest window.

Angel and Wesley hurried up to the window, their eyes narrowing as the demon disappeared. After a moment, Wesley let out a sigh and hesitantly met Angel's gaze. They both exhaled loudly as they turned back toward the door.

"Well, that might have gone better," Wesley said sheepishly.

*

Doyle let out a sigh as he watched Cordelia attempt to draw the object from his vision, and he couldn't help but glance regretfully down at his bandaged hands. Though he could still see the image from the vision vividly in his mind, his attempt to show Angel what it looked like was failing miserably. "Cordelia... I didn't see a donut in my vision."

She stared at him for a second before glancing down at her drawing and grimacing. With a sigh, she crumbled up the paper and threw it into the growing pile on the table.

"You two make a cute couple."

Both Doyle and Cordelia looked over at Barney, surprised expressions on their faces. After a moment, Doyle gave a bittersweet smile. "We're not dating..."

"...at the moment," Cordelia added with the barest hint of a smile.

As Doyle glanced at her in surprise, Barney merely let out a laugh. "If it doesn't work out, there's another demon right here who's interested."

Cordelia plastered a fake smile on her face, but it was obvious that his words had struck a nerve. It took Doyle only seconds to realize that it was the words "another demon" that had caused the problem. He grimaced slightly as he realized that she was still upset with him over keeping his heritage a secret for so long.

Doyle started to speak, but he stopped himself as the sound of footsteps suddenly filled the room. Angel and Wesley came down the stairs into view moments later.

"That's him!" Barney pointed at Wesley and made as if to run. "That's the guy that's after me!"

As Barney darted from the room, Angel sighed and followed him. "Barney, it's okay!" he yelled. He froze in the doorway, his gaze drifting back to Wesley for just a moment as he gestured with his hands. "The books are over there."

As Angel left the room, Wesley's gaze focused on Cordelia. His shock was evident, and Doyle couldn't help but feel a twinge of jealously shoot through him as the other man made his way toward her.

"Good lord," Wesley said, wide-eyed. "Cordelia? Angel never mentioned... well, this is a nice surprise."

Cordelia grinned as she made her way over and enveloped him in a hug. "My god. Wesley? What are you doing here? Are you working with Angel?"

Wesley straightened up, his eyes never leaving her. "A lone wolf, such as myself, never works with anyone."

Doyle coughed slightly, the sound drawing Wesley's attention away from Cordelia for a moment. "Let me guess... You're allowing Angel to help you."

Wesley gave Doyle a disdainful look as he stepped over to the wheelchair-bound man. "Actually, that's correct. And you are?"

Doyle pulled himself up as straight as he could, his gaze meeting Wesley's own. "Allen Francis Doyle, Angel's link to the Powers That Be. You?"

Wesley met his gave unwaveringly. "Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, rogue demon hunter."

Cordelia seemed to sense that there was something going on between them, and she couldn't help but let out a quiet sigh of exasperation. "Men."

Both Wesley and Doyle glanced over at her, but her attention had already moved on to Wesley's words. "Wait, you're a demon hunter now?" she asked. "What happened to you being a Watcher?"

Wesley coughed, and he seemed to disinflate a little. "The Council and I thought it best that we... split ways."

Cordelia nodded as Angel and Barney came back into the room. "So they fired you?"

Doyle let a genuine smile come to his face, but Wesley's grew a little forced as he went over to look at the books Angel had pointed out to him. As he did, Barney's gaze followed him for a second. "So he wasn't hunting me... he was hunting something else that was hunting me?"

Angel nodded. "That's about it."

Barney took in a deep breath. "And that something else was after me because--"

"It wants to steal your empathic ability," Angel finished.

Cordelia stared at the two of them for a moment, a disgusted look making its way onto her face. "The feeling feelings thing? What kind of demon would do that to another demon?"

Wesley walked over to where they were, an open book in his hands. "A Kungai."

At the name, Doyle looked up with a start. It was Barney, however, that spoke. "A Kungai?"

Wesley nodded, his eyes focused downward on the text he carried. "The description matches. It's of Asian origin, very deadly. A powerful race of demons, the Kungai possess a--"

"Tak horn," Doyle put in with a knowing nod. "It consumes its opponent's life force. Quite a few loan sharks use them."

Wesley glanced over at Doyle in surprise, while Angel and Cordelia merely shared a slightly troubled look. Barney, however, was staring at the half-demon in what seemed to be fear.

"I know these Kungais," he said, moving his gaze between Angel, Doyle, and Wesley. "They... they're killers! They're relentless! You got to take this thing out before it finds me!"

Angel nodded, a slightly frustrated expression on his face. "I'm working on it, but I have to find it first."

Angel reached over to take the book from Wesley's hands, but the former Watcher refused to let go. After a short tug-of-war, Angel finally managed to wrench it from his grip. As he did, however, Wesley's eyes lit up.

"Hang on. It's of Asian origin. Earlier today I tracked it through an Asian district just north of here."

Cordelia nodded slightly, her gaze focused on Wesley once more. "That's Koreatown."

Wesley shook his head, a thoughtful glint in his eyes. "It's very likely it's hiding there."

Angel carefully closed the book. "Then that's where I start looking."

Wesley gave him a curious look. "Don't you mean we?"

Angel merely walked past Wesley, his face stony as he failed to so much as glance in Wesley's direction. "I'm doing this alone, Wesley."

Both Wesley and Doyle broke in at once, their words mingling into one voice.

"The hell you are!"

Wesley blinked, his gaze drifting over to Doyle. Though it was obvious that he was in pain, he had pushed himself up so that his back was almost completely straight. "Angel, you need someone by your side. Just because I got myself a tad hurt doesn't mean that you don't need help."

Wesley kept his gaze focused on Doyle, but when he spoke it was most definitely aimed at Angel. "You don't even know where to begin to look."

Angel merely shook his head and went up the stairs, his gaze drifting back to Doyle ever so slightly. "I don't need any help," he said firmly. "And I have a pretty good idea where to start looking."

Doyle shook his head as he sank back against the wheelchair, a few quiet curses escaping his lips as he did so. Wesley merely sighed and began to sit down. He seemed to changed his mind, however, as a grimace of pain appeared on his face. As he let out a pained moan, Doyle smirked knowingly while Cordelia shot him a worried look.

"Are you alright, Wesley?"

Wesley let out a sigh. "No. These pants, they tend to chafe one's--"

Doyle coughed, his eyes gesturing in Cordelia's direction. Wesley glanced at him, understanding dawning in his eyes, and he quickly changed the direction in which his sentence was headed.

"... legs."

*

// "Kungai? You must be joking, Angel. They scare away the regulars." //

Angel glared at the young man in front of him, his Korean almost flawless. // "You don't mind if I take a look around, do you, Soon?" //

The Korean man he was speaking to gave the vampire an exasperated look. // "You can't come in here, disturbing our customers like this." //

Angel nodded in understanding as he pulled a wad of bills from his pocket. // "Forgive me. I respect you have a business to run." //

The man took the bill that Angel offered him, nodding slightly as he did so. // "He's in the back." //

Angel leaned forward a little so that he staring into Soon's eyes. // "Show me." //

*

"That's it," Doyle said.

Cordelia glanced over at Doyle who was staring at the rough sketch she had made with interest. "That's what I saw in my vision," he elaborated. "Do you recognize it?"

As Cordelia shook her head, Barney's attention was drawn back down to the drawing. Then he glanced over at Doyle, who was unconsciously flexing his bandaged hands in frustration. "What do you mean by vision?"

Before Doyle could answer, Cordelia piped in. "He gets these brain flashes. Messengers from the PTB."

Barney shook his head in question.

"The Powers That Be," Cordelia continued on. "He gets visions of all sorts of stuff: people in trouble, things about to cause trouble, places trouble is happening."

Once again, Barney glanced in Doyle's direction. "It sounds like a special gift."

Doyle grimaced as he carefully moved his wheelchair slightly closer to the demon. "Yeah. It's terrific. Head-splitting migraines that come with images so vague I don't know what they mean more often than not."

Barney merely shrugged, a thoughtful expression on his face. "It sounds to me like a valuable ability."

*

As Angel walked into the back room of the spa, he froze. The Kungai was laying on a table, an old lady wiping its brow. She turned her eyes toward the vampire after a moment, her voice quiet as she spoke.

// "He's dying." //

*

Cordelia looked through Angel's fridge, her eyes moving over the few items inside. "I hope you like your coffee black, because the only lightener the boss has in his refrigerator is O positive."

Barney smirked slightly, his hand slowly moving over to pick up a pan that was laying on the stove. "Black is great."

As Cordelia straightened back up, Barney brought the pan down heavily on her head. She didn't even make a sound as her eyes rolled back into her skull, her body dropping to the floor with a quiet thud. A smile on his face, Barney pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number.

"It's me. Of course I got the Kungai horn. It's in a safe place. But listen..." He turned his gaze toward the door that separated the kitchen from the room where Doyle was. "I think I just found something even better."

He flipped off the cell phone and leaned down slightly. Grabbing the coffee can from the floor, he carefully placed it back in the fridge. His gaze moved over the items inside, and he smiled as he pulled out a bottle of Jack Daniel's that was hidden near the back. A knowing glint appeared in his eyes as he headed for the door.

"Bingo."

*

Doyle glanced up from the drawing he was still studying as Barney entered the room, a familiar bottle of Jack Daniel's held in his hand.

"Cordelia's making coffee, but I saw this in the back of the fridge and thought you might like something a little stronger. I assume that it's yours?

Doyle smiled wryly as he nodded. "Yeah, it's mine. I'm not supposed to drink for awhile though." As Barney shot him a curious look, Doyle let his eyes gesture toward the bandages on his hands. "The pain medication. They don't mix well."

Barney nodded in understanding as he lay the bottle on a small table nearby. "Well, that sucks. But I guess a loser like you must be used to it."

Doyle's eyes shot in his direction, fire shining in them. "What?"

Barney smirked, a knowing glint in his eyes. "You get hurt like this, and your so-called friends don't even get a scratch," he said, shaking his head. "And they really don't seem to care that much. It's like you're the one who doesn't matter. Really, it's pathetic."

Doyle took a deep breath, his anger kept barely in check as Barney continued.

"And to make it even worse, you've fallen head over heels for a girl who's barely more than jailbait... and we both know that she'll never be interested in anything serious with a half-demon mongrel."

In an instant, the anger that was coursing through Doyle seemed to drain away. As his face paled slightly, a cold smile appeared on Barney's face. "We both know that you don't stand a chance. She wants someone rich, handsome... and human," Barney went on. "You don't fit the bill, and you never will. The girl will never give a damn about you, and you know it. So what's the point of hanging onto some hint of hope?"

Barney's hand shot out, and he grabbed Doyle's bandaged arm. The half-demon bit back a cry of pain, his eyes watering.

"Let me--"

Barney's grip tightened, and he pushed the wheelchair back against the wall. It collided with a thud, and Doyle let out a strangled cry as the sudden jolt jarred his injuries. A few tears of pain shone in his eyes as he struggled to remain sitting up.

"Oh, shut up!" Barney snapped. "So you hate your gift, the visions? At times you probably would love to rip those green eyes of yours out of your head. I know I would."

Before Doyle could react, Barney grabbed the wheelchair and flung it on its side. As it fell, Doyle went sprawling onto the floor. A quiet scream of agony escaped his lips as his healing flesh collided with the floor, the bandages that covered them staining red with blood in an instant.

*

Angel picked up the crossbow bolt and gingerly smelled it. As he did so, the Kungai grabbed his arm. The demon spoke weakly, but Angel shook his head regretfully. "I don't know your language."

Wesley stepped up behind Angel, his black leather replaced with a white outfit that seemed much more comfortable. "I do. At least I think I recognize the dialect."

Angel's voice was practically dripping with sarcasm when he spoke. "Well then it's a good thing you happened by."

Wesley nodded slightly, seeming oblivious of his sarcasm. "Indeed. Your friend, Doyle, said to tell you that he plans on having a serious talk with you when we get back. Though he used slightly more colorful language."

Angel couldn't help but smile slightly, but Wesley's attention had already been drawn back to the Kungai. "I wouldn't have thought the wound I gave him was fatal."

Angel shook his head. "It wasn't the arrow. Look at his head. His Tak horn's been broken off."

Wesley leaned over the Kungai, an expression of concentration on his face as he attempted to translate what it was saying. "Not stick. No, horn." His eyes flickered toward Angel. "I think he's trying to tell us that his horn was taken."

Angel's face was impassive as he quietly spoke.

"We got that. The question is by whom."

*

Doyle's face was twisted in pain as Barney tied his bleeding hands and pressed down on his back as if he thought there was any way the half-demon could rise to his feet.

"Where's Cordelia? What the hell did you do to her?"

Barney smiled coldly, his eyes lighting up. "You have much fear for her safety. In fact, it could even be called terror." His grin grew. "Good. Keep it coming. You have no idea what a rush it is."

Doyle glared up at Barney, his eyes flashing with a mixture of fear, pain, and anger. The demon merely smiled, however, and pulled Doyle to his feet. As his body straightened up, Doyle felt a fresh wave of pain rush through him moments before his legs buckled beneath him.

Barney let Doyle drop to the floor, an irritated expression on his face. "Damn," he muttered." I was hoping that I wouldn't have to take you to a healer."

*

"The horn was taken."

Wesley glanced away from the Kungai for a moment, his eyes moving toward Angel. "He said his horn was taken for something, the Klu-(click)-Ka. I'm not familiar with that word."

Once again, he turned back toward the demon. "Yes. Fish. Fish will die. Not fish. More." His gaze travelled back toward Angel. "He says more will die."

Angel's voice held more than a twinge of impatience when he spoke. "Okay. How? Who'd be doing this?"

Wesley glanced over at Angel, his eyes shining with irritation. "No good losing patience. He's dying, and I'm not exactly fluent." He took a deep breath before going back to translating. "Bit to the cherry? Slam the cherry? Oh, no, oh dear. Stop. Stop the demon. Red - heart. Reader."

Without another word, the Kungai sank back against the table. Wesley slowly looked away from the dead demon, an expression of worry on his face.

"He was trying to describe his killer. Demon, heart, reader."

Comprehension flooded Angel's face as his gaze met Wesley's. "Empath demon."

"Barney," Wesley breathed.

*

Doyle slowly opened his eyes, and the first thing he became aware of was the sculpture from his vision sitting directly in front of him. The second thing he noticed was that the pain he had felt constantly for the last week or so had faded to nothing more than a dull throb.

Though he was bound and gagged, Doyle let his gaze drift around the room. It was a obviously a storage area, filled to the brim with mystical items. As he caught sight of a still beating heart under a glass cover, however, he felt a trickle of fear move through him.

A shadow suddenly fell over him, and his eyes narrowed as Barney stepped into his view. There was a cold expression on the demon's face as he looked down at the half-demon laying there. "We paid good money to get you healed up enough for the bidding."

Confusion darted across Doyle's face, causing Barney to smirk.

"It should be worth it though. Your price is sure to go up quite a bit. In fact, you should feel honored that we were willing to pay so much for you to begin with."

*

Wesley and Angel bounded down the stairs that led to Angel's apartment, worried expressions on both of their faces. As they moved, the vampire called out frantically... even though he knew it was most likely in vain.

"Cordelia! Doyle!"

Angel suddenly froze, and his head cocked slightly. "I smell blood."

Wesley's face was pale as he followed Angel across the room, the worry in his eyes intensifying as they both caught sight of the pool of blood on the floor right beside one of the walls.

"It's Doyle's."

Wesley glanced over at Angel. "How do you know?"

Angel's voice sounded distracted as he spoke, his head cocked once again as if he were listening for something. "Because it doesn't smell human-- someone's here."

Wesley started at Angel's words, but before he could question them the vampire was moving toward the kitchen. Shaking his head, he started to follow him... but paused for a moment when a piece of paper lying on the floor nearby caught his attention.

"What do we have here?" he asked, leaning down enough to pick it up. Then he continued after Angel.

When Wesley entered the kitchen, the paper in his hand, he froze. Cordelia was sitting on the floor, a dazed expression on her face as she let Angel hold in her a sitting position.

"This is all my fault," Wesley said quietly.

Angel glanced over at him, but Wesley continued on obliviously. "I'm a fool. The Council was right to sack me." He chuckled cold. "Yes, I was fired. I had two, two! Slayers in my care. One turns evil and now vegetates in a coma. The other is a renegade. Fire me? I'm surprised they didn't cut my head off."

Cordelia's eyes widened slightly as her eyes caught sight of the paper that Wesley held in his hand.

"I'm useless. A fool. A sniveling great, big..."

"Ugly, gray blobby thing," Cordelia said weakly.

"Yes, I'm an ugly, gray, blobby--" Wesley trailed off and glanced at her in confusion. "What?"

Cordelia gestured toward the paper that Wesley held. "That's the drawing I made of the thing Doyle saw in his vision."

Angel carefully moved his arms from around Cordelia and pulled himself to his feet. Taking the paper from Wesley's hand, he stared at it for a moment. "I know this. It's a sculpture by Van Gieson, Maiden with Urn. Doyle saw it in a vision, so it could tell us where he was taken."

Wesley nodded slightly. "So, we ascertain the sculpture's whereabouts, and then you can go rescue your friend."

Cordelia's head shot up at the word "you," and a determined expression appeared on her face. Angel's attention was focused on Wesley though. "We can go rescue him. I need your help, Wesley. The Kungai said Barney wanted the horn for something."

Wesley nodded again. "Klu-(click)-Ka."

Angel's gaze never wavered. "You're the only one in this room who could translate that. Are you with me?"

"Us," Cordelia said firmly, as she weakly pulled herself to her feet.

Angel turned his attention away from Wesley in an instant and gave her an incredulous look, but before he could say anything she glared at him.

"I'm coming," Cordelia said, narrowing her eyes. "No argument."

For a moment, it seemed that Angel was going to argue. One look at the stubborn expression on her face, however, convinced him that there would be no point. Letting out a quiet sigh, he turned back toward Wesley. "Well?"

Wesley let his gaze drift toward Cordelia for a moment, who was unsteadily leaning against the refrigerator. After a few seconds, he slowly nodded. A hint of a smile then made its way onto Angel's face.

"Good."

*

Angel and Wesley stood in front of the office's computer, their gazes focused on an image of a sculpture that was on the screen. Cordelia sat in the computer's chair, an icepack held to her head as Angel spoke. "Van Gieson's Maiden with Urn was sold to the Ramsey Hotel Chain in '82. There are twelve hotels between here and San Diego, and it's got to be one of them."

As he finished speaking, Wesley laid an open book on the table. "I keep running up against a translation for Klu-(click)-Ka, which translates as Caller Sale. Caller. Caller Sale." He looked up, grinning broadly. "Yes, of course! I know what Klu-(click)-Ka is."

Cordelia attempted to keep her voice steady as she spoke. "What?"

Wesley glanced over at the worried expressions on both Cordelia's and Angel's faces. His grin faded.

"Auction."

*

Barney stood in front of a crowd of humans and demons, his voice that of a smooth auctioneer.

"Sold! For twenty thousand to number 118, the dapper gentleman in the center aisle. Well done, sir. You are now the proud owner of an authentic Tak horn. Stab your enemies with it, heck, stab your wife, it'll drain the life right out of them. The power to drain the life force is an investment in peace of mind."

A human, Hank, carried a red cushion with the horn on it off the stage. As he did so, Barney started speaking once more.

"Next up, lot thirty-two. We're very lucky to have this here today, an extremely rare find."

Hank handed the cushion to a man who had just led a still bound and gagged Doyle into the room. He carefully removed the gag and gave Doyle a warning glare. The half-demon merely glared back, his eyes burning. "Go to hell."

As he led Doyle onstage, Barney continued on. "The magnificent eyes of a seer, in the body of a half-demon. Your very own pipeline to the Powers That Be, folks. The possibilities are endless. Keep the half-blood as a slave, remove the head as a trophy, or simply harvest the eyes, in any case a unique party icebreaker. It doesn't get any better than this. Let's start the bidding at two thousand. Do I hear two thousand? ... Ah, two thousand. Do I hear two thousand and five? Two thousand and five, do I hear three?"

*

As Angel hung up the phone, Wesley carefully finished taping a large, dangerous-looking knife to his own leg. Cordelia, in the meantime, was cautiously aiming an empty crossbow at a point across the room. At the sound of the phone's click, however, they both glanced over at Angel.

"Hotel Ramsey in L.A. recently redecorated. The Van Gieson sculpture used to be in the lobby."

*

"Eight thousand, do I hear nine? Come on, I don't have to tell some of you what a rare find this is... Nine thousand. Nine gets me ten. Ten thousand. Ten thousand, do I hear ten? Ah, ten! Do I have eleven? Eleven thousand. Eleven thousand from the gentleman in the back! Do we have twelve? ... Seer's eyes going at eleven thousand, do I hear twelve?"

Barney glanced around the room, but no one seemed to want to make a higher bid. There was a disappointed expression on his face as he glanced over at Doyle.

"Eleven thousand it is. Eleven thousand once, twice... Twelve thousand. I have twelve thousand from the gentleman. Thirteen thousand? Thirteen thousand? Going for twelve thousand..."

Doyle suddenly moved, but before he could go farther than an inch Hank punched him in the stomach. Though most of his major burns had been healed some, he quickly realized that they weren't completely gone. Barney shot him a warning look before turning back toward the crowd.

"Thirteen thousand, do I hear thirteen?"

A white-faced demon that had been bidding glanced over at the white-haired man sitting beside him. Then, his face expressionless, he lifted his paddle.

"Thirteen."

The man beside him quickly raised his paddle.

"Uh, fourteen."

The demon glared at the man before lifting his paddle once more, which quickly led to a brief bidding war.

"Fifteen. Sixteen. Seventeen. Eighteen. Nineteen."

The white-faced demon hit the man beside him over the head with his paddle a few times, until the man collapsed onto the floor. Then, a smile on his face, the demon raised his paddle once again.

"Twenty thousand from the gentleman in the center aisle, going once, going twice..."

A woman standing near the wall, a cell phone held up to her ear, suddenly raised her paddle. "Thirty thousand."

Barney's eyes widened slightly, and he was quick to finish his speaking. "Sold for thirty thousand to the lovely lawyer from Wolfram & Hart."

Doyle's eyes widened slightly as his gaze drifted toward the woman, who was staring at him with a cold expression on her face.

*

As the winners of the auction picked up the items they had bought, Barney smiled at the female lawyer. "I'm sure your people will be happy with their purchase."

The woman nodded. "We won't be needing the body. My employers have requested that the eyes be extracted." She paused for a moment, her gaze running over Doyle's body. "If you don't mind though, I'd like a few minutes with him first."

Doyle's eyes narrowed at her words, but Barney merely smirked slightly, a glint in his eyes, and nodded. "Of course. Whenever you're finished with him, we'll be ready for the extraction." He paused, a thoughtful expression on his face. "An extraction is a very delicate process though. We run the risk of damaging the gift. It's going to cost you an extra thou."

The woman's attention shifted to him at once, an unimpressed expression on her face. "Please! Extraction is always included in the price."

Barney slowly shook his head. "Not with seer's eyes."

The lawyer raised an eyebrow. "Never heard of such a thing."

Barney smirked ever so slightly. "There's never been such a thing like this on the market. ... An extra thousand or you take it as is."

The lawyer sighed quietly before glancing at Doyle once more. "Go ahead. Just make certain that he doesn't die at least for awhile. I'll have my time alone with him after the extraction."

Doyle's face paled a bit as Barney smiled and turned toward him, his hands rubbing together in anticipation. "All righty then. Hank, give me the extractor."

Hank's face fell as he looked at Barney. "But... I want to do it. You know that. I've been begging you--"

Barney raised his voice, snapping his fingers once to get the man's attention. "Hank! You're embarrassing yourself. Hand it over."

Hank reluctantly handed over the extractor, an object that resembled a pair of tongs much too closely for Doyle's liking. Doyle's face paled even more, but he refused to make a sound.

*

"Convention halls?"

An usher politely pointed down some stairs, and Angel, Wesley, and Cordelia quickly headed down them. As they reached the bottom, Angel quickly questioned another of the hotel's employees. "We're late. Where is the auction?"

The man shook his head regretfully. "I'm sorry, we have no auction here."

Cordelia started to say something, but she didn't get the chance as Angel vamped out and grabbed the man by his lapels. "Where is it?"

Cordelia raised an eyebrow in Angel's direction, but he didn't seem to notice. Neither did the man he was threatening. "It's... it's in the Tulip Room." He gestured wildly. "That way."

*

Hank pushed Doyle down in a chair, causing the half-demon to moan slightly as the dull ache still left from his burns intensified. Before he even began to struggle, however, Barney hit him across the face.

"Now, behave and hold still. This will only hurt a lot."

*

Angel, still in vamp face, Wesley, and Cordelia ran into the room where the auction had been held. The vampire's face fell slightly as they continued into the room. "The sculpture's not here."

Wesley shook his head as he followed Angel. "As usual, one step behind."

Cordelia let out an anxious sigh. "Shut up, Wesley."

They continued through the room, heading for a curtain near the back. A man stepped out from behind it, and - as he caught sight of the three of them - gave them a rather inquisitive look.

"Have you got a number?"

*

Barney's gaze moved away from Doyle as a man came flying through the curtain with a cry, followed closely behind by Angel, Wesley, and Cordelia. He glanced over at Hank. "Hank. Stakes."

Angel quickly began to attack the security guards who rushed at him, while Wesley hopped on one foot trying to free the knife he had taped to his leg earlier. As he did so, he fell to the floor, and a man headed toward Angel tripped over him.

Cordelia shook her head in exasperation, the crossbow gripped tightly in her hands, as she glanced frantically around the room. As she caught sight of Doyle, she glanced back at Angel.

"I'll get Doyle!"

Cordelia ran over to where he was sitting, a worried expression on her face. She quickly pulled the gag from Doyle's mouth. "Are you alright?"

He smiled weakly and nodded. She let out a sigh of relief and glanced back at Wesley. "I need that knife!"

Wesley crawled over to where they were, still trying frantically to pull the knife from his leg. After a moment, he let out a frustrated sigh and grabbed a claw that was lying on the floor nearby. He handed it over to Cordelia, who quickly used it to cut through the rope that bound Doyle's hands.

"Okay. Let's get out of here."

She quickly helped Doyle to his feet, shooting him a surprised glance when he was only slightly unsteady. He shrugged slightly, a weak smile playing at the corners of his mouth. "It's a long story, princess. I'll tell you later."

The two of them headed toward the exit, Wesley following closely behind them. Barney suddenly appeared out of nowhere, catching Wesley with a right hook. The Englishman was quick to fight back, however, and - to the surprise of both Cordelia and Doyle, who had frozen where they were standing - seemed to be doing fairly well.

*

The Wolfram & Hart lawyer walked up the hotel steps, her cell phone once again held up to her face. There was an annoyed expression on her face as she talked.

"Our merchandise was just taken off the market. Three guesses by whom."

*

As Angel fought the security guards, Wesley pounded Barney against the floor. The demon suddenly rolled over and got on top of Wesley. As he did, Cordelia picked up the Tak horn from where it lay on the table and handed it to Doyle, an alarmingly sweet smile on her face. "Here you go."

Doyle gave her a grin before stabbing Barney in the back with it. "This will only hurt a lot," he said, doing a fair impersonation of the demon's voice.

Barney fell off of Wesley, his arms reaching out toward Doyle. He didn't manage it, however, and merely collapsed face down on the floor. His body turned gray, and then it faded into black and slowly deflated. Angel quickly ran up, his eyes moving over Doyle worriedly.

Doyle smiled weakly, as he straightened up. "I'm fine. Believe it or not, I'm actually in better shape than I was earlier."

Angel and Cordelia both shot him an impatient look, and he quickly realized that they wanted to know why that was so.

"They thought I'd bring a better price if they took me to a healer first. At least, that's what he..." He gestured down at Barney's remains. "...said. I was a bit unconscious at the time."

Doyle's smile widened slightly as he glanced at both Angel and Cordelia. "I knew the two of you would get here," he said. "Eventually."

Cordelia glared at him, and Angel smiled. After a second, however, he glanced over at Wesley, who was staring at the three of them with a downtrodden expression on his face. Angel's smiled faded a bit as he glanced at Doyle once more. "Well, we were lucky. We had a rogue demon hunter on our side."

Wesley looked over at Angel in surprise, a hesitant smile coming to his face. "Glad I could be of service."

*

As Angel stood cooking in front of the stove, Cordelia sat at the table with her head lying on its top. She was once again holding an icepack to her forehead, and she kept shooting dirty glances in Doyle's direction.

"I'm glad I don't get those visions of yours," she muttered. "If they're anything like how I'm feeling now, you're stronger than you look."

Doyle rolled his eyes as he leaned back against the wall, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. "I'll take that as a compliment."

Wesley stood to the side, carefully placing items in his bag. After a few seconds, he glanced over at Angel and Cordelia. "Well, I'll be off then, Angel. Who knows when our paths will cross again."

Angel shook his hand and then reached into the refrigerator. "Wesley."

The Englishman carefully put on his jacket. As he did, Cordelia pulled her head up from the table and glanced over at him. "Do you even know where you're headed?"

Wesley shrugged a bit, careful to keep his eyes from moving in Doyle's direction. "Us rogue demon hunters rarely do. Where evil lurks, where the forces of darkness threaten humanity, that's where I'll be."

Cordelia pulled back from the table a bit as Angel set down a few plates and poured her a glass of orange juice as he did. "Well, okay. Keep in touch."

Wesley nodded as he picked up his bag. "Yes. Yes, I will. But now the evil lurking everywhere bids me onward."

He glanced back at Angel cooking and Cordelia drinking her juice, carefully avoiding looking at Doyle, who was picking up a glass of juice himself. "So... I go."

Cordelia turned around, a bittersweet smile on her face. "Take care."

Wesley took one more look around the room before nodding and turning around the corner to go up the stairs. As he disappeared, Angel shot Doyle a meaningful look. "He thinks you don't like him."

Doyle shrugged slightly. "That's because I don't."

Angel gave Doyle a look, but the half-demon merely shrugged. When Cordelia turned and gave him a look of her own, however, he sighed and reluctantly started walking in the direction Wesley had gone.

*

When Doyle reached the stairs, Wesley was slowly and reluctantly making his way up them. He sighed quietly before raising his voice.

"They want you to stay. You know that, right?"

Wesley turned around and stared at him, a tired expression on his face. "They do, but not you."

Doyle shrugged, though the expression on his face answered the question. "What I want is not to have Cordelia mad as hell at me."

Wesley let out a quiet chuckle as he slowly made his way back down the stairs. "She can hold a grudge, can't she?"

Doyle smiled a bit as he nodded. "That she can."

Wesley paused for a moment, his gaze moving curiously over Doyle's face. "You're not human, are you?"

Doyle stood there silently for a moment before shaking his head. "Half human, half Brachen. On my father's side."

Wesley nodded slightly, but his smile faded after a moment. "We're most likely going to hate each other, aren't we?"

Doyle slowly nodded in agreement. "Probably."

With a shrug, Wesley let out a quiet sigh. "So... shall we go eat? Or is Angel's cooking something to avoid?"

Before Doyle could help himself, he felt the hint of a grin tugging at his mouth. "He's better than me, if that helps any."

Wesley's mouth twitched as he turned and headed back toward the kitchen, and Doyle stood there watching him for a moment. His voice was barely above a whisper as he slowly followed him back toward the others.

"And life keeps changing."