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Promises of Someday

My first net-published non-TS fanfic. Ooh.... I hadn't ever really planned to write anything that was non-TS fic, but this...this just kept bugging me, so I had to write it.

Summary: An old friend returns with a few words of wisdom for Angel and words of another sort for Cordelia.

Notes: This is post-Reunion, so there be spoilers for episodes leading up to this episode, and obviously goes in a *way* different direction that Redefinition (which aired tonight). And may I say I don't really like the direction that Angel is going? He's getting a bit too, um, dark. And not a little scary. But then I was never a big Angelus fan... (As opposed to Angel and yes, there is a difference.)

Disclaimer: All characters on Angel belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
Archive: Please ask first.
Not beta'ed.

Promises of Someday
by Becky
January 2001

"...Angel....can't....stop...."

"...alone...risk...Darla...fault...no one...hurt..."

"...not...stupid...no..."

The loud and angry voices drifted downward from the upper levels of the large, mostly empty hotel. From where he stood behind the front counter in the lobby, Wesley couldn't pick out more than a few individual words, but the tones told him all he needed to know. Cordelia was still arguing with Angel and not having much luck. He shook his head and looked back at the evening newspaper as he sipped the cooling tea. Angel's firing them hadn't been expected in the slightest, though watching him slowly deteriorate back into a loner had been obvious. Wolfram and Hart knew exactly what they'd been doing when they brought Darla back -- distraction first, then destruction. With Angel out of the way for the most part, their work would be easier.

Except that their plan worked a little too well and backfired, getting a great many of them killed when Darla and Drusilla turned on them rather than the populace of Los Angeles. Vampires, especially those two, weren't to be played with or trusted or used. Something they obviously hadn't realized.

And then there was Angel.

Angel and his shocking story of just leaving, letting Darla and Drusilla do as they wanted.

Wesley shivered and glanced toward the stairs again, hearing the voices getting nearer as Cordelia continued to harass Angel into listening to her.

The front door opened and Wesley blinked in surprise to see Gunn entering. The last rays of the setting sun followed him as he shut the door and tromped down the short steps. A particularly loud bang echoed from above and both men jumped, eyes wide as they waited tensely in the following moments of silence. But then Cordelia's voice started again. Wesley relaxed, and Gunn slowly made his way over to the counter. He leaned against it, his body half-turned toward the main stairwell.

"She still at it?"

Wesley nodded. "Yes. And Angel's still not listening."

Gunn snorted. "No kidding." He shifted and eyed the Englishman. "So tell me, why's she still trying and not you?"

Setting down the tea cup, Wesley folded his hands over the paper. "One, I did try. For several hours. He didn't listen. Two, Cordelia has known him longer and knows him better. She and I both thought she would have more luck. However--" He stopped short as Cordelia's voice suddenly echoed around them.

"Angel, listen to me!"

Long black cloak snapping behind him, a short-handled battle axe in his hands, Angel appeared at the top of the stairs and strode down. "I'm tired of listening." Cordelia followed right on his heels, her expression both angry and a touch concerned.

Wesley sighed and finished. "--she didn't." He straightened and came out from behind the counter as Angel's feet touched the main floor.

The vampire paused and glared at the two men. "I thought I fired you."

Gunn raised an eyebrow. "You did. Just cause I'm here don't mean I came here to see you."

Cordelia hurried past Angel and skidded to a quick stop in front of him, holding out her hands to block his way to the front door. "You can't do this, Angel. This isn't right. We're a team, remember?" She waved a hand out to encompass Wesley and Gunn as well as the two of them. "We work together."

"Not anymore." He moved to go around her, but she moved with him, backing up towards the door. "Cordelia..." His voice lowered dangerously.

She shook her head adamantly. "No. No, no, no."

"Look, I tried it the other way. It doesn't work. If I hadn't listened to D..." He stopped, tightening his lips into a thin line.

Cordelia pounced. "To Doyle. Is that it? You're gonna blame him? For...for..." She stammered, looking for words. "For...everything that's happened? For Darla? For you deciding you have the right to pass judgment on those lawyers?"

Angel tried to edge around her, but she moved again. He stepped back and glared. "No. I'm not blaming D...him. But if I hadn't listened, he'd still be alive. And maybe Darla would still be dusted and none of this would've happened. Wolfram and Hart wouldn't have noticed me because I wouldn't have been out there, making the...the..." He finally settled for the word Doyle had used at the beginning. "...connection."

"And you know what else? Huh, Angel? If you hadn't listened Doyle, whose name you still can't say, I'd be dead, a nice evening snack for Russell Winters." She moved into his space. "Do you regret that too? Do you regret saving me?"

Wesley and Gunn watched the interchange with wide eyes, not wanting to interrupt either of them by the slightest move or word.

Angel stilled and his voice softened. "No, Cordelia, I don't regret that. But..." He shook his head, his eyes hardening again. "But it's over. By myself, I don't endanger anyone but myself. It's better."

Cordelia persisted. "No! This is not the way we do things anymore This is not the way you do things anymore." She poked him hard in the chest.

Eyes cold and flat, Angel growled deep in his throat and took a step forward, standing so close he was nearly on top of Cordelia as he leaned over her. His eyes glinted dangerously, and Wesley felt a touch of fear as the room chilled even further. Gunn shifted nervously, his hand straying unconsciously to the stake tucked in his belt. Cordelia stood her ground even as she slowly withdrew her hand.

"It is now." Angel's voice was low and no one missed the barely-checked malice hovering just beneath the surface. He shoved her effortlessly aside and she stumbled before regaining her balance. By then, Angel was at the door, his hand on the handle, beginning to open it.

Cordelia half-turned, despair in her voice as she gestured toward Angel. "Wesley! Do something. Say something."

Knowing that his words wouldn't reach Angel if Cordelia's couldn't, the ex-Watcher felt inclined to try anyway. He cleared his throat and took a step towards the front door. "Angel--"

"You should listen to Cordelia, man. This ain't right."

Everyone froze. Including Angel.

Gunn shoved away from the counter and looked around warily. "Who was that?"

His eyes narrowing, Wesley turned to examine the large room. "I don't--"

Again he was interrupted, this time by Cordelia as she slowly turned to face the room. "Doyle?" Her voice cracked and her demeanor shifted abruptly from anger to whisper-thin hope. She took a step away from the stairs and reached out a hand, as if looking for something. "Doyle? Is that you?" Her eyes scanned the room, flitting from object to object. Behind her, Angel hadn't moved other than a tightening of his hand on the door handle.

A movement caught Wesley's eyes and he shifted to face the main stairwell as a short, dark-haired man stepped around the corner. Dressed lazily in a brown leather jacket, a wide-collared shirt, and tan pants, the man stood just outside the shadows cast by the walls. Cordelia gasped and her hand flew to her mouth.

The man smiled. "It's me, princess."

Cordelia's only response was a stifled sob, muffled behind her hand.

At the front door, Angel finally released the door handle and turned. His resolute expression faltered a bit at the sight of Doyle standing so familiarly in the archway, as if he belonged there, had always been there.

Doyle lifted his eyes from Cordelia and met Angel's. The smile melted away and he said somberly, "Angel."

Angel swallowed and replied in a hoarse voice, "Doyle. I thought--"

Wesley's eyes widened as he abruptly remembered why Doyle looked familiar to him. "Doyle. The one who gave Cordelia the visions. But you're...you're supposed to be..."

"Dead?" Doyle finished for Wesley after the man had trailed off. He shrugged. "I still am...as far as this place is concerned."

"What?!" Gunn's exclamation echoed in the large room, but neither Cordelia or Angel seemed to notice. He looked at Wesley. "Just what is going on here? Another ghost?"

Doyle chuckled and glanced at Wesley and Gunn. "Not...exactly. Though I'm not really here in the strictest sense of the word either." He passed his hand through the wall in demonstration. "Kinda weird feeling, if you ask me." Shaking it off, he straightened and turned serious. "It was...decided that I should pay a little visit to my man Angel." He looked back at Angel. "He's gotten a bit off the path."

Slowly moving away from the door, Angel just returned his look and finally said in the ensuing silence, "That path got you killed."

"That path has also saved a lot of people's lives. This is wrong, Angel." Doyle gestured to the other three. "They know it. And you know it."

Angel paused as he walked past Cordelia. He laid the battle axe on a nearby end table carefully, then raised his eyes to meet Doyle's halfway across the room. "I'm doing this for them. You don't know Darla. She'll come after them. I can't--"

Doyle moved away from the stairwell and made his way over to Angel, standing just a few feet away from him. "You can't afford to be alone in this, man. Look how far she's gotten already -- simply because you were alone. You need friends." He pointed to the other two men, suppressing a smile at their surprised looks at being included in the conversation. "You need Wesley and his books and his intelligence and his Watcher background. You need Gunn and his sharp wit and his different way of looking at things and his connections." Lastly he looked at Cordelia who stood a few respectful feet away, giving Angel and Doyle their moments. Doyle winked at her, then returned his gaze to Angel. "And you need Cordelia, not because of the visions, but because of her humanity and the reminder that everything's not dark and gloomy, that it's okay to smile."

"I need you." Angel whispered quietly. He stretched out his hand hesitantly, fingers stopping just above Doyle's shoulder, wanting to touch, but knowing he couldn't.

"I'm sorry, man, but I can't stay. I wish..." His blue eyes filled with sadness. "I wish I could. But the Powers only gave me a few minutes. Just long enough -- I hope." Seeing the battle waging behind Angel's eyes, Doyle forged ahead. "The longer you walk alone, Angel, the further you are from your own humanity, your own...peace." He took one step closer to Angel and gestured beyond them to the watching Wesley, Gunn, and Cordelia. "These people are your family; don't shut them out. All right?"

Angel just stared at him, then slowly nodded. "All right."

"Promise?" Doyle's eyes grew merry.

A hint of a smile tugging at his lips, Angel replied obediently, "I promise."

A grin spread across Doyle's face. "Good."

"I'll still miss you, though. You're family too."

Doyle took a half-step back, out of Angel's space. "Trust me. I'd rather be down here than up there." He chuckled and lowered his voice. "Don't tell Them, but it gets a little...dull. No gambling. No drinking. No parties." Doyle sighed and shook his head mournfully. "Dull, dull, dull."

Angel laughed softly. "Only you."

The crisis with Angel dealt with, Doyle turned his attention to Cordelia whose eyes hadn't left his form all through his talk with Angel. His laughter faded and he stepped over to stand in front of her. "Cordelia." Her name rolled off his tongue, the Irish lilt giving the word music. He lifted a hand, letting it hover just above her hair for a few moments. "You cut your hair."

She self-consciously reached up to touch her hair. "I...yes. Do you...like it?"

A smile lit his face and his eyes. "I'd love anything about you."

Cordelia blinked back tears and whispered, "I miss you. And...and...Doyle? I could have, you know?"

Doyle's eyes softened and looked suspiciously wet. "I know, princess."

"I just...we never got the chance. You should have told me." Her eyes glistened and a lone tear slid down her cheek.

"One of many regrets." An ironic smile lifted one side of his mouth. "I guess we've been trying to get it right for a long time now and have never quite made it."

Cordelia blinked once at the unexpected news, but immediately grasped the thin thread of hope. "Then you promise me something."

"Anything, Cordelia. You know that."

"Promise me that someday...we'll get it right."

Doyle's eyes shifted away as if hearing someone else speak, then he returned his gaze to Cordelia and stepped closer to her. He raised a hand and laid it against her cheek. He closed his eyes and abruptly Cordelia could feel Doyle's hand warmth along her face. She tentatively reached up and touched the back of his hand, holding it there gently, afraid that he would vanish with too much pressure. Opening his eyes, he met her gaze with intensity, stroking his thumb over her check to wipe away the tears. "I promise." He leaned forward and brushed nearly unsubstantial lips across her forehead. Her eyes slid closed and she focused on feeling that kiss, on hearing his voice, on the touch of his hand.

"Look for me, princess. I'll be around."

And then he was gone, leaving only the echo of a whisper hanging in the air.

"Take care of each other."

****************

Years later....

Angel walked through the trees in the park, listening to the crickets chirping quietly in the cool early evening air. While he normally didn't walk through this particular area, tonight the park had called to him and he found it oddly restful. It had been a surprisingly quiet week, almost as if the Powers were giving him a small vacation. He chuckled at the thought, abruptly hearing Cordelia's voice in his head. 'It's about time!'

Even several decades after her death, he still thought of her and the others he'd lost over time. Each one held a tiny spot in his soul where their memory lived on. Buffy still held the majority of his heart and probably always would; her passing had been hard to take, but he'd survived, just as he survived the others. Each had asked him to continue the war, continue fighting, continue earning his redemption, each knowing that they were helping him reach the goal of earning his place among in the Light.

It didn't make up for bittersweet tang of missing them, but it was something.

He shook off those thoughts as other voices impinged themselves upon his hearing. Sidling up to a tree, he peered beyond it to see two people, a young man and woman, cleaning up a small picnic area from what he gathered had been a romantic dinner for two. Laughter rang in the air and he smiled to see the young man playfully tickle the woman as they rolled off the blanket onto the grass. Her answering giggles made both Angel and the man chuckle.

"Stop it! Stop it!" She swatted at him, grinning all the while.

Angel shoved away from the tree, preparing to move on and leave the two humans to their play when the man's voice stopped him.

"And why would I do that, princess?"

He jerked his head up at the nickname and around to stare at the couple. Unconsciously Angel took a step closer, nearly leaving the shadows of the trees, before he stopped himself, not wanting to intrude, but not able to leave either. The young man had risen to his knees, bringing the girl up with him. Angel's superior sight caught the flash of blue in his eyes. The girl grinned and wrinkled her nose at him before leaning in to peck him on the lips.

"Because, my little man, if you don't, you won't get dessert."

Angel let the breath rush out of his lungs, unaware that he'd even drawn in it. The nicknames, the eyes, the girl's grin and the trademark nose-wrinkling, the teasing...it all added up. Slowly, he smiled and whispered, "Seems you finally got it right." Angel looked heavenward and added softly, "Thank you for giving them the chance."

~The End~


Endnotes: No, this isn't a "bring back Doyle permanently" fic. Sorry! There are so *many* good ones (see my fave fics page for a few recommendations ~grin~) and I don't think anything I could come up with could top what's already out there.