Title: Another Hero
Pairing: Mostly Cordy/Doyle, but also some Cordy/Angel
Summary: On her death bed, Cordelia is granted one day to set things right. (This is the events of "IWRY" and "Hero" through the eyes of season 5 Cordelia.)
A/N - Happy 16th anniversary of Angel's premiere (and our first introduction to Doyle)! I wrote this as a set up for a Doyle-centric retelling of season 1 and because it's in the POV of You're Welcome-era Cordy, I felt like it should be its own standalone story. It will be relatively short (just a handful of chapters) and I will start posting Another Hero: Season One as soon as this ends.
Cordelia was dying.
Actually, she had been dying for quite a while. Ever since Jasmine had drained the life force from her body, Cordelia was nothing but an empty shell lying in a hospital bed, waiting for her physical body to give up its pointless fight. Her organs, however, were young and strong and not nearly as ready to let go as the rest of her. Thankfully, the astral body that was also Cordelia—the part that held her spirit and her soul—had finally been freed of the confines of her body.
An act of mercy from those above—she hadn't questioned her sudden ability to hover intangibly in Angel's office and watch as he and the Angel Investigations team dealt with the evil du jour. What was rather disappointing was the fact that his office was now contained inside the walls of Wolfram & Hart, making any attempt to fight evil seem rather ironic. It had become abundantly clear that Angel was not merely working for Wolfram & Hart, but was, in fact, in control of the home office. And, if that wasn't bad enough in and of itself, Connor had been completely erased from the picture—he wasn't there, and no one seemed to remember he had ever been there.
It was all very disappointing.
"News flash—nobody in our camp trusts you anymore. Nobody. You work for Wolfram & Hart. Don't fool yourself... we're not on the same side."
She had heard Buffy's little errand boy, Andrew Wells, say those harsh but all-too-true words to Angel, and it had been her last straw. It was great that she was no longer trapped in her body, but how could she stand idly by and watch this?! She couldn't. Not when the Powers That Be owed her as royally as they did. Clearly, without some serious intervention, the end of this story would leave a lot to be desired.
So, Cordelia had put up a stink—full-diva mode. She told those Powers That Don't-Give-A-Damn-But-Really-Really-Should, that it was time to stop acting like Switzerland. They needed to act.They needed to set things right. Or, in the very least, they needed to let her set things right. She'd gladly do it, if they gave her a tangible form for a few days—heck, even a few hours would be better than nothing.
And then it happened. The Powers That Be sent her an astral vision in her astral body and she knew her request had been not only heard, but granted.
She would be allowed one day to set things right. Only one day.
The day in question, however, was entirely her choice.
Okay... that was a surprise. When she demanded a chance to make things right, she was thinking she'd be thrown into the wreck that was the present tense and the best she could do was glue some of the broken pieces back together. Like Humpty Dumpty, things would never be fixed the right way, but she could remind Angel who the enemy was, and all that had been sacrificed to fight them. Instead, she was being given a real golden ticket—a chance to choose any day from her entire lifetime and change the course of the future from that point forward.
To say she was shocked by the generosity the Powers That Be were extending toward her, would be a gross understatement. But, it was now abundantly clear that they too were quite displeased with the way things had transpired, and they had faith in her knowledge and judgment to be able to pick a single diverging point that could change everything for the better.
Her gut reaction was to choose the day when she had so stupidly accepted Skip's offer to become a Higher Being. If there was any single moment that had ruined everything, it was most certainly that one. After that moment there was nothing but complete chaos and misery, not to mention her death. She wondered if that wasn't just a selfish choice on her part—saving her own life. Not to mention, she'd finally have the chance to tell Angel she loved him. As she imagined that scenario play out in her head, she felt the ache in her chest of a love that never got to be shared. They had been robbed of their chance to be together, and now she could give them a new one.
It would be so easy to accept that day as her choice. Too easy.
Cordelia forced herself to pause and think about the bigger picture. There were other things that had gone wrong prior to Skip's duplicitousness. It would be short-sighted of her to choose based solely on her heart's desire.
Perhaps, she should go back and stop Wesley from handing Connor over to Holtz. Or, and this was a conflicted thought on her part, she could stop Angel from ever sleeping with Darla in the first place. As much as she loved Connor, she had to admit—his birth had caused just as much destruction as it had happiness. Maybe more so. Or, perhaps, the best way to play it was to ensure that Wolfram & Hart never brought Darla back to life in the first place. Darla's resurrection had been the beginning of the evil law firm's endless manipulations of Angel. If Wolfram & Hart's plan had been foiled, Angel would never have gone dark, never pushed she and Wes and Gunn away. And who knew what the future would've held if that had never happened? Angel Investigations may have simply continued to help the hopeless in their claustrophobic little office space, never hearing boo about the apocalypse. Just a vampire with a soul and his friends, saving people on a nightly basis.
She made a mental note to also stop that Vocah guy from wreaking havoc on her mind, because that was no bueno…
That's when it hit her. The visions. Doyle.
She almost felt ashamed that he hadn't been her first thought. There had been a time, when he was all she could think about. A time when all she wanted to do was go back in time and save him. And now, with years of acceptance behind her, it had taken her several minutes to remember that saving him was a realistic option.
And an enticing one at that.
Doyle's death was a significant turning point in her life, not to mention Angel's. Angel had been crushed by the loss of his closest friend and mentor. Doyle's death had inspired Angel to keep fighting the good fight, but Cordelia had always felt that Doyle's life would have been far more inspirational. In fact, Doyle's influence could have significantly changed many of the darker turning points in Angel's journey. Because, as much as Cordelia and Wesley and later Gunn, Fred and Lorne, had become important to Angel over time, they could never be what Doyle had been.
Doyle was special. He was one of a kind. And he was irreplaceable.
The truth was, the reason she hadn't readily thought back that far, was because she had been such a different person. It was the visions that had changed her over time. It was the visions and her dedication to them that had made her a champion in her own right. As much as she would love to live in a world where Doyle had never died, it scared her to think of changing something so significant about herself. Doyle's gift had changed her and without that gift, who would she be now?
She would like to think she'd have changed anyway—certainly, she had already been changing, even before Doyle had passed his calling on to her. And since it was his legacy that had changed her, perhaps his life would have had a similar impact. There was a possibility she would have ended up a similar person, if not precisely the same, just by being close to him.
That's when the image of actually being close to him popped into her brain. She remembered his kiss, which had been life-altering for her in more ways than one. Goodbye kisses shouldn't be that mind-blowing. It was simply not fair.
She had been falling for him before he kissed her goodbye—and that kiss, followed all-too-closely by his death, had left her with a grave certainty that she not only could have loved him, but most likely already did. If he had never died, how would loving him have changed her? Because, undoubtedly, it would have—she had been so closed off, hiding behind her carefully constructed walls. If he had gotten all the way through, and showed her it was safe to open up…
Again, an aching in her chest grew strong, full of all the unanswered what-ifs. But, she had to push away her selfishness in all this. She couldn't make a decision this important based on her love life—she had loved both Angel and Doyle at different times, in different ways, and she was robbed of a chance at happiness each time. She couldn't make this decision based on which of them she might have a chance to love. Nor could she make her decision based on what type of person she would eventually become. None of this was about her. It was about keeping Angel on the right path. It was about the greater good.
As much as it scared her to pick a path that would change her so drastically, she instinctively knew saving Doyle was the right choice. Not for her own sake, but for Angel's. After all, this version of herself had been there, done that—she hadn't managed to stop any of the destruction from happening the first time around. Even if she could stop one event on one specific day, what would stop the rest of it from happening again anyway? She and Angel and Wesley and Gunn and Fred and Lorne would all react like they had the first time and nothing would change in the end. No, the best way to ensure things would actually change was to make sure there was someone new there to change them. And Doyle was a good man to have at Angel's side. He was a good man, period. They'd be gaining a soldier, and a guide, and a friend, and hopefully a much better future.
Cordelia made her decision. She was going to see to it that Doyle survived beyond the night on the Quintessa.
The only question left was: when best to intervene?
She would only get one chance at this. The Powers That Be had made it clear, once she chose to make her astral form tangible, it would sever the link between her body and her spirit. Her body would die and she would have a limited window before her spirit moved on to the next plane, permanently. That meant she wouldn't get any do-overs. So, she couldn't risk a plan that wouldn't be 100% effective. The most foolproof plan she could think of, would be to choose a day or two before his death and save the Lister demons herself. Assuming she would be able to do that, with little or no help from Angel, Doyle and her younger self. If she could pull it off, he would never even receive the vision that would lead to his death. It was the safest option, to be sure.
But, was it the best option? She knew that it was important for Doyle to come to terms with his own past; if she intervened too soon, she'd take that away from him and who knew if he'd ever get it back. She needed him to be there for Angel, and she needed it to be the best possible version of him. Not the self-loathing, self-destructive half-demon that was eaten away by guilt and remorse, but the kind-hearted, generous half-man who had a real knack for helping people in need. That was the Doyle she needed to save.
Thankfully, she still had a small window of opportunity to utilize her astral body, before playing her get-out-of-jail-free card. As long as her physical body still clung to life in that hospital bed, she could remain intangible, observing and planning before committing to her one day of action.
A fleeting thought of the days leading up to Doyle's death sent her spinning. Literally, the world around her was spinning so fast she probably would've been nauseous if she still had an equilibrium. When she gained control of herself, she found that she was standing in a room she hadn't seen in years. She hadn't seen it, because it no longer existed.
She was in the original Angel Investigations office and sitting before her was her younger self, tapping a disappointed finger against an empty answering machine. She heard the door open behind her and turned to see a face that made her heart stop in her astral projected chest.
Allen Francis Doyle walked through the front door, all smiling eyes and unkempt hair. His hideous shirt was wide open, revealing an off-white tank top underneath and his beat up brown leather jacket was slung over his shoulder. She couldn't imagine him looking any more Doyle-like than he did right now.
Boy, was he ever a sight for sore eyes.
"Mornin', Princess." He said cheerfully, giving her a brief glimpse of the dimple on his right cheek that she had always liked so much. It took Cordelia a moment to remember that he couldn't see her. This smile wasn't for her benefit. He was, instead, greeting her younger self who was seated at the desk behind her.
"Doyle…" Cordelia whispered out loud, wishing more than anything that she could reach out and touch him.
She couldn't do that yet, but she would soon. And once she was done, her other self would never have to know what it was like to not be able to touch him again.