Summary: In season 3 of Angel there is an episode called Birthday. In it Skip shows Cordelia what would happen to Angel if he had been given the visions instead of her. That's the inspiration for this story. Cordy is not here. She never ran into Angel in LA. She never started working for him. She's off trying to start her acting career.

Disclaimer: Don't own them. Joss and Mutant Enemy get that right. I just take them out and play with them.

Lyrics are by Fuel

I have a smile to hide me
I have this cross to bear

November 1999

Doyle put his hand on Angel's shoulder and leaned forward to whisper something to him. "The good fight yeah? Never know 'til you've been tested- I get that now."

A silver blue light swirled near Angel's ear and then dissipated. Doyle hauled back and caught Angel in the jaw with a hard right. Angel fell down into the cargo hold. Doyle jumped to the platform the light beacon swung on. He grabbed onto the cable and strained to pull it apart. The light was already beginning to burn him. He finally pulled the cable apart just before he burned to ashes.. The light flashed and then faded to nothing. Doyle's ashes rained from the sky, showering the people he died saving.

Summer 2002

Wes walked into the lobby of the Hyperion Hotel and tossed his battle axe onto the curved reception desk. Gunn walked in behind him and flopped down onto the strange round couch. The hotel was eerily quiet. Neither Gunn nor Wes tried to fill it up with noise. At one time the Hyperion was a grand hotel populated with minor movie stars and other Hollywood high society. Now it's a shell for an investigation business that specializes in things that go bump in the night.

"You gonna go tell him, Man?" Gunn asked.

"I don't know. Most days I doubt he even knows who we are. It probably won't do any good to tell him." Wes said with a glance up the stairs.

"I get that. What the hell were the Powers thinking giving someone like him visions?" Gunn said.

"I don't think the Powers chose him. From what he told me in the days he was lucid, Doyle passed the visions on to him. He didn't have a choice. There was no one else to pass them onto."

"Lucid days, now those were nice. We gotta do something though 'cause I ain't going on no more wild goose chases to save people he killed two hundred years ago." Gunn said.

"Yes. It's become increasingly difficult for him to separate visions from memories. Half the time I think he believes the visions are memories, and vice versa obviously. I'll do some more checking into it. By the way, it's your turn to feed him." Wes said as he sat down at his desk and took out his journal. Wes kept a detailed account of every job, every demon they encounter. It was the watcher in him, the part he couldn't erase.

"Crap. Are you sure?"

"Quite. I'm the one that got attacked this morning, remember." Wes said, tilting his head to the side and indicating a bandage on his neck.

Gunn got up grumbling. He walked in the kitchen and took a plastic container of blood from the fridge. He put it in the microwave. He, Wes and Angel had met almost three years ago. Angel had been lucid in those days and the visions were still new. Gunn had tried to stake Angel. Eventually he had come to realize Angel was one of the good guys, contrary to what it would seem like. He could make a real difference here. It was the difference between saving the world and saving his neighborhood. He'd chosen to save the world. There were times now he wished he'd chosen the neighborhood.

He didn't mean that of course. It would have been easier to live in oblivion, not knowing that sometimes the world was in danger and that there were heroes who saved it. It was far too late for that. They'd pulled the Wizard's curtain back and he knew Oz was really just a little man with a megaphone. There was no going back once you knew that.

The microwave beeped and Gunn jumped down from his seat on the counter. He took the container of now warm blood out. He walked back into the lobby and fished the tranq gun out from under the reception desk. Wes glanced up at him as he did.

"If I wanted to donate blood, I'd go to the hospital." Gunn said and indicated the bandage on Wes' neck.

"Scream if you need to and remember no sudden moves. If you're lucky, he won't notice your there." Wes said without looking up from his book.

Gunn walked up the stairs. He held the tranq gun in one hand, the container of blood in the other. He stopped in front of the heavy steel door that looked out of place in the hotel. He put the blood and the tranq gun down on the floor. He slid back the heavy iron bar across the door and took a key out of his pocket, unlocking the door. He picked up the blood and tranq gun and cracked the door open just wide enough to slip inside, closing the door behind him.

Angel was huddled in a corner talking to himself. The room was small. All the furniture had been removed except for a bare mattress in one corner. The windows were bricked up. Sheets, drapes and anything else Angel could hurt himself with were removed long ago, with one exception, a pair of wrist and ankle manacles hung empty, bolted to the wall. The room smelled like old blood and death. Gunn held his breath. He bent at the knees and quietly sat the container of blood on the floor in the center of the room, never taking his eyes off the vampire in the corner. He backed away slowly. Angel smelled the blood. He jerked his head toward Gunn and then his gaze fell on the container on the floor. He scuttled over to the blood on all fours and picked it up. He tilted his head back, pouring the blood down his throat. It dripped from the corners of his mouth and down his chin. Gunn slipped out of the room, closing and locking the door. He needed a shower now. Watching Angel eat always disgusted him. He could hardly remember the circumspect, civilized being Angel used to be.

"I'm going to bed, Wes. Vampire's fed." He shouted down into the lobby. He couldn't refer to the vampire in the room as Angel. There was nothing of Angel left, the vampire locked in that room was only a shell.

Wes stayed up late looking through books. He had looked dozens of times before, and he knew it wasn't likely he'd find anything this time, but he had to look. There was no cure for Angel. He needed the visions. They were his direct connection to the powers that be. Wes wasn't even sure how the visions got passed. The only help Angel was able to give him was that Doyle had touched him and whispered something to him before jumping to his death. Angel had insisted on keeping the visions. They were from the Powers. He was meant to have them and he swore he could handle them. He was strong enough. Only he hadn't been.

Over the years Wes has had people come and look at Angel, people who claimed to be able to restore a measure of sanity to any person. They took one look at Angel and shook their heads. He was a lost cause. The last witch had suggested to Wes that he stake him.

"It would be the kindest course of action." The witch had said.

Wes had thrown her, literally, out of the hotel. Angel had to be worth saving. There were prophecies about him. He was an important piece of the puzzle when it came down to the End of Days. One didn't just go and kill someone with that kind of future. Wes grumbled and slammed shut the book. He rubbed his eyes. He was tired and he just wanted to go to bed, so he could get up and start it all over again. Besides he needed to be alert when he woke up in the morning. It was his turn to feed the vampire.