Pot Of Gold
Disclaimer: "ANGEL" and all characters previously seen on the show is a trademark of Twentieth Television, 1999. Any character, place, or event not seen on ANGEL is property of the author. Please respect them as such.
Summary: The events leading up to Doyle's appearance in Angel's basement in "City Of".
Notes: I wrote this quite a long time ago (February 2000) under a different pen name -- it's archived... somewhere. I don't remember where. But I thought it was high time I relocated all my fiction to one central place and under one name. What can I say? I was young and there was something altogether "cool" about having a half-dozen different pen names. Now it's just far too much to keep track of. It's not badly written, especially considering I wrote it seven years ago.
"Well now," said the shadows behind him. "Aren't ye a vision..."
Doyle had never been more scared in his life.
Well, maybe he had. Once or twice. But at the time, he'd never been more scared in his life. Fear was an elusive thing; the memory faded the moment it passed. You could remember being scared, but never quite call up the way it had actually felt at the time.
Either way, Doyle very nearly had a heart attack. Once he recognized her voice, knew who she was and how she'd managed to get into his room to lie in wait for him, his heart started to beat again. The perfect cap to the perfect day, he supposed. One big cosmic joke.
And he was the punchline...
"Damn!" he swore under his breath as he pushed the door shut, locking it tight, then whirled on her, not completely recovered from the shock of her being there. "What the hell are ye tryin' ta do, ye bloody caffler? Kill me?"
Fiona's eyes betrayed her amusement faster than the smile on her face as she tossed him the tiny silver key he now remembered sending her, along with his address. "Had a rough day, I see..."
"Rough month, more the like," he scoffed back, feeling the wall for the light switch. "Why the devil are ye waitin' in the dark?" The light didn't come on. Doyle tried it a few more times, then sighed. "Oh."
She was sitting in his one and only easy-chair, reclined, her chin resting on her hand thoughtfully. Plucking two envelopes from the side table, she held them up from him to see. "Seems you've been gettin' a bit behind in a payment 'r two, eh luv?" A teasing smile graced her pale features as she tossed one of the two to an ever growing pile of bills that should have been paying rent for desk space. "The electric company's gonna start chargin' ye for their postage if ye aren't careful."
Again, Doyle sighed. "What's the other one about?"
"Let's take a wee peak, shall we?" Doyle rolled his eyes, shrugging off his jacket as she opened the envelope. "'Dear Sir; We regret to inform you that your phone bill is three months past due. Your inability to pay for the service we have provided has, unfortunetly, caused your lines to be disconnected until you provide us with a valid Visa. For more information, please call the number below, yadda yadda yadda, blah blah blah..."
Doyle reached for the telephone receiver, and wasn't surprised when he found a dull silence when he put it to his ear. Annoyed, he set it back down in its cradle, glancing back at Fiona as she folded the letter and set it back on the table.
She shrugged. "I woulda called, but..." Fiona graciously let that one trail off, with only the raise of her brow, and he couldn't help chuckle. There was really nothing else he could do. With a shake of his head, he fell back on the bed, hardly hearing the protesting creaks and groans of it that kept him up all night and every night, and laughed. Laughed and laughed and laughed until his stomach ached from it, and then launched into a short, but painful, coughing fit.
"I need a cigarette..." he croaked out, rolling over onto his stomach as he reached for his last pack, set carelessly on the bedside table.
"Oh yeah," Fiona quipped as she stood, moving toward the bed where he lay. "That's just what'll quench a nasty cough. A dark breath 'a tar an' smog ta coat yer throat."
Doyle grinned as he snatched both a lighter and an ashtray from the mess on the floor, holding the pack out to her. "Want one?"
The bed moved in double protest as she set herself down next to him, taking the offered cigarette from him, and set it delicatly between her lips as he lit the end of it for her, then lit his own. Doyle couldn't help watch her, as she inhaled, then blew a smooth stream of smoke into the already congested air. He didn't usually think a woman with a cigarette was anything to look at, but Fiona somehow managed to make it look good. She made everything look good. "Yer nothin' but a firey haired, green eyed hypocrite, ye know that, don't ye?"
"Nice ta see you, too, ye daft bastard..." she smirked, mussing his hair good naturedly, then sobered, tapping off excess ashes into the ashtray. "I got the letter."
Doyle nodded, enjoying the bitter taste in his mouth. "When d'you get here?"
"This afternoon. Had a bit a' trouble findin' the blasted place--this damn city never ends, don't ye know. I've been sittin' an' waitin' in the dark since."
"How long's that?"
Fiona's lips pursed thoughtfully. "Few hours. Not long." She examined his face a long moment. "You been sleepin' at all?"
Doyle sniffed, rubbing the back of his neck. "You know how it is, Fiona. Sleep when life lets you. Gotta watch my back right now."
Doyle laughed inwardly; it never did take her long to figure him out. "Demon. Big bugger, too. Real dedicated, in a one-track way. Spent all day fightin' fer my life." Fiona gave him a look. "Fine then, runnin' fer my life." Another look, and Doyle threw up his hands in exasperation. "Yer right, I was hidin', but what's the difference, really?"
"None, where your concerned..." she teased, poking him in the side. He met her eyes just as they flashed with guilt. "I got here as soon as I could. There were a few things--"
Doyle pressed a finger to her lips, shaking his head, touched by her guilty conscience. People feeling accountable to him were few and far between these days. "No worries, Fiona luv. I know how it is when things come up." He smiled, brushing his thumb across her cheek. "I knew you'd get here sooner or later."
"How much do you need?"
Doyle pulled back a long drag on his cigarette before answering. "Four grand and some change."
Fiona blinked in surprise. "That much?"
Doyle shrugged. "It's grown a bit."
She frowned. "How much is 'a bit'?"
Fiona snubbed her cigarette out, shaking her head. "I've only got two, but I imagine we could drum up the rest in a week 'r so," she gave him a look. "If ye know the good spots 'round town."
"There's a high stakes pot twice weekly down a few blocks, strictly a demon game, but they're mostly a bunch of buckled pastys anyway." He shrugged. "I can get us in, so long as yer willin' ta get down and demony fer a bit."
Even in the dark, he could tell when her skin paled to a soft green. A half second later, and her eyes started to glow. "If yer game, I imagine I am."
"Off with ye," Doyle looked away from her face. "That's creepy, girl. Especially in the dark."
She obliged, and when he looked again, she appeared as he preferred her; human. "This from the boy with blue spikes on his face."
"Don't get me started, Fiona," Doyle warned, taking one last drag on what was left of his cigarette before it joined hers in the ashtray. "My da's hand-me-downs aren't the things I like to joke of."
That set an uncomfortable silence between them, and he was almost sorry for having spoken like that to her. It wasn't her fault, what he was. Or that he hated it as much as he did. He just liked to forget about it, whenever he could, and that was hard to do while talking about it.
"Sorry..." he apologized. "I didn't mean--"
"S'okay." Fiona smiled sadly. "You've got yer scruples, just like I've got mine."
"Still... sorry." He picked at the blanket. "You got a place ta stay?"
Fiona nodded. "A cheap hotel downtown." She smiled, glancing around his tiny apartment. "Not as terrible as this, but..."
"Alright, at this point, yer abusin' sarcasm," Doyle quipped, but his eyes were curious as he reached for her hand. "You'll stay tonight at least, won't you?"
Instead of answering, she kissed him; a slow, sweet, familiar touch that made Doyle smile against her lips as he pushed her down underneath him, ignoring the bed frame's cracking whine.
Doyle pulled back, looking down into her flushed face with a smug, breathless grin. "Good," he said, pulling her close. "'Cause I've reason ta believe that the heat could go the way of the electricity an' the phones any minute now..."
Doyle hated when he was right.
It was colder than sin in his apartment when he woke up, the heating having gone sometime during the night. It wasn't necessarily that he'd gotten behind in his bills--though he had, in truth--but more probably that the archaic furnace in the apartment building basement had killed itself again. He really had no right to complain; had he actually been paying for it, he might consider talking up the super, but it was useless. Unless he wanted to go through the matter of last month's rent. Again. Not to mention this month's...
L.A. was a beautiful thing. From the outside.
Regardless, Doyle was grateful for Fiona's body beside him, to lend him a little extra heat. He craned his neck to glimps the time, then remembered the electricity was out when nothing flashed on the little bedside clock. What he wouldn't have given for an old fashion wind-em-up clunker like they used in the old days... Or maybe a sun dial...
There was light coming in through the window, but it was often difficult to tell if the light was natural, or merely the glare of the city. Either way, he figured it was probably early morning. Too early for him, and especially too early for the crowd he was looking to hang around with later that day. Demons and gamblers were night folk, preferring to get up with the sunset, not the sunrise. He thought about sleeping some more, but didn't fancy he'd get very far in the sub-zero temperatures that occupied his room just then.
And then there was the matter of those damn dreams.
Night after night, week after week for God only knew how long. It was a Powers That Be sitcom, and his head was the channel nearest you. Just what he always wanted to know, too; the life story of a son-of-a-bitch vampire. Not exactly a bedtime story to sleep easy by... and it didn't look like the tale was going to end anytime soon, either. Times like these, he wished The Powers had a good publisher. He'd even by the hardcover.
The bed creaked dangerously as Fiona rolled over to look at him, hair tangled, eyes still heavy with sleep. Doyle cracked a smile; he liked her best this way, before she had the chance to make herself up. There was something inainly perfect about her appearance that, while it made her the vision of Irish beauty, reminded him that she was good at hiding herself when she wanted to. Too good. But now... he knew without a doubt that there wasn't anything he had to get around. Just Fiona. It was nice to be sure.
"Mornin' luv," he greeted, pressing a quick kiss to her lips.
"Mmm..." she blinked against the light, little as it was. "What time is it?"
Doyle shrugged. "Dunno. Everything's still out."
Fiona reached over his shoulder to the bedside table, and suddenly there was a small woman's wristwatch in front of his face. "A man with bills ta pay might want ta get himself a watch, you'd think," she teased, dangling the accessory in front of him.
Doyle grabbed it, scoffing her off with a snort that knew she was probably right. "Damn!" he stated, eyes wide when he glimpsed the time. It was later than he thought. Much later than he thought. "It's almost noon!"
Fiona yawned, stretching catlike as she curled her arms around his neck. "I should imagine so." Her smile was enough to drive him crazy. "It was near three before ye even came in last night, an' I'd wager we didn't get ta sleep fer another few hours at least." She sent a glance around the small room. "I don't suppose ye've got anythin' but bad beer in this ramshack a' yers, eh?"
"Probably not," he admitted with a sigh. "But I know a few places that at least serve a reasonable imitation of coffee, and--"
It hit him as abruptly as a blow to the temple with a brick, and probably twice as painful, so far as he was concerned. His eyes squeezed violently shut against the flashes, and he braced himself against the pillow, largely unaware of anything outside the intense ache in his skull. It lasted for seconds, but to Doyle, it seemed like hours; as if time was enjoying making him suffer, and then...
As quickly and as suddenly as it had possessed him, it left. The pain was gone, but the memory of it wasn't quite up to speed, and he was quickly aware that Fiona was shaking him, and none to gently at that. Calling his name. The combined movement and shouts only made his head ache more, and he pushed her away, rolling over onto his back, blinking against any lingering sensations as he reached blindly to the floor for something to write on and with.
Visions, the Powers That Be called them. Giving him a piece of Their mind.
If Doyle ever met up with the sadistic bastards, he'd give Them a piece of his mind. And it would be accompanied by a large sledgehammer. To the head. Just so they got the right effect...
"Doyle!" Fiona was calling, bent over him with more than just a little concern lining her features. "Damnit, ye sod, talk ta me!"
His hand grasped something that felt like a pen, and a moment later, he found what he guessed was probably paper. A receipt, actually. Good enough. With an unsteady hand, he scribbled down what he remembered. After, he looked at it, and wondered why he'd done it.
Then, Fiona's hand came down across his face, and his attention was suddenly drawn elsewhere.
"Ow!" he yelled, pushing her up, rubbing his cheek where her palm had connected. "What the hell did ya do that fer?"
"I'll do it again if ye don't start talkin' ta me," she snapped, grabbing the paper from his hand. "What the hell just happened ta ye? And who's Tina?"
Doyle didn't answer right away, and he saw her raise her hand out of the corner of his eye, and flinched. "Merciful crips, woman! Lay off, will ya? I'm not gonna be of much use if ye beat me ta death." Her hand fell, but the determination in her eyes didn't falter for an instant.
"Well?" she said expectantly, holding up the note. "What is this?"
Doyle was blank for a moment, blinked, then said, without realizing he was saying it: "A message."
Again, silence. But this time, there wasn't an answer waiting for him. So he shrugged. "I don't know, exactly." She gave him a look, and he grunted, throwing up his arms in frustration. "Look, I've been gettin' these crazy migraines lately, with pictures and such. Visions. Damn, I don't know what they're about, all I know is they're true, or gonna be true, or who knows what, and I suddenly got this feelin' I was supposed ta be givin' this one ta someone else, but I'll be damned if I know who, and don't look at me like that!"
Fiona frowned, staring long and hard at him, than at the note. Tina. Coffee Spot. "That's a pretty meager message. An' a hard explanation ta swallow."
Doyle met her stare levelly. "D'you think I'm lyin'?"
She sighed. "No. Which only makes it all the more confusin'." She handed him back the note. "We got at least six hours before any decent game starts up, so how about we go down to that place you were talkin' about before this all happened, have a cup, and you can tell me what's goin' on."
Doyle shrugged. "There's not much more I can say other'n what I've told you already. That's pretty well all I know about it."
"But there is more."
He paused, hesitated, than nodded. "Yeah. A little..."
Doyle shuffled a worn, dog-eared deck of cards absently as Fiona muttered through the crumple of bills in her hands. They'd started out early, she because, once she got started with cards, she could go forever, and he because moving around would make it harder for the big bad demon behind him to find him. They'd hit mostly the small placesÑhuman gambling halls and casinos. Sure, by human standards those places offered pots sizable enough to make a rich man choke, but a demon's game... Immortals tended to accumulate a God-awful amount of money in a few centuries, and had more than enough of it to burn. If you knew where to look, and had an edgy background, there was a lot to be won.
And a lot to lose.
Which, in reflection, was what had put him in this mess in the first place.
"Three hundred and change," Fiona pronounced finally.
Doyle frowned. "That's it?" She nodded, and he cursed. "Cripes, that only leaves, what, seventeen hundred ta go?"
Fiona smiled. "I'm just gettin' started. An' if this big game is half as good as you've yattered on about, than I imagine your debt'll be settled in no time. This is just a mortal's game, Doyle. It's nothing. Just a practice run." She tucked the bills in her jacket pocket.
"Speakin' a' which, that game should be openin' pretty soon. We should start headin' that way--"
And, suddenly, there he was.
The son-of-a-bitch from his dreams.
Walking right by on the other side of the street, clear as day. Black trenchcoat and everything. Doyle had to blink to make sure he wasn't actually dreaming again. And, as his eyelids dropped, the Powers That Be dropped a message in the mailbox.
Twice in one day... Christ, but this was getting mind-numbingly annoying. In the most literal sense.
He reached out to grab Fiona to steady himself as best he could through the blinding pain, his other hand pressed against his forehead as he twitched sharply against it. He knew, even in the midst of it, that it was the longest one yet; the most vivid. And, somehow, the most important. He saw himself, and very suddenly, it all made sense in a flurry of images and garbled voices and incontainable feelings.
Doyle hated when things came together like that.
Sometime during the clearing of clouds in Doyle's head, Fiona had managed to move the two of them into the shadows of an alley, out of the way of the curious eyes and ears of the people who had nothing to hide. He was, for once, grateful for the darkness as he blinked away what remained of the pain, only to find himself just in time to see a dark figure brush past, ignoring both of them after a quick look.
But what a look it was.
Even in the shadows, those eyes had something. He looked young, say twenty-five, but something in his stare revealed that he had known more in his life than any man should. Doyle felt suddenly ashamed of his own personal demons, feeling in a fleeting instant how petty and insignificant they were compared to the life story of the man who disappeared as quietly and suddenly as he had appeared.
Not a man, Doyle remembered.
But not a monster, either.
"I gotta go," he croaked finally, meeting Fiona's delicate gaze.
She was, understandably, confused. "Why?"
He pulled the receipt bearing the message from the Powers on it from his pocket. "I got a note ta deliver."
"Yer vision--" she began, and he nodded off into the alleyway.
"That man," he interrupted. "That's him. The sod I'm supposed ta be takin' notes fer."
She frowned. "How in the hell d'you know that?"
Doyle shrugged, unsure himself. "I just know." He looked back. Something intangible was crying out to him, and he couldn't ignore it any longer. "Listen, Fiona..." He trailed off, unsure how to make her understand the importance when he wasn't sure he got the entire picture himself. After all, he was the one who'd called for help that time, and here he was, about to walk off and leave her to worry about his problems in a city she'd never set foot in until the night before.
But she was smiling like she knew, and whether she did or not, that she was willing to let him go was good enough for him.
"I'm sorry," he said simply.
She shrugged. "Like ye said last night, I know how it is when things come up." With a bittersweet kiss that somehow felt like goodbye, she stepped back, looking toward the street. "I'll get on ta this game, see if they'll let a sweet lookin' foreign thing in fer a few rounds. Try an' get that price off yer neck, yeah?"
"Thanks, Fiona," he breathed sincerely, unable to find words to express his gratitude. "Yer a blimy pot a' gold, ye know that?"
"Yeah, well..." she smiled sadly. "Every rainbow's gotta end, right?" With a swing of her head and a small gesture, she sighed. "Now get on before tall, dark, and handsome gets too far ahead an' ye lose him."
"Right," he said, turning to follow the vampire's path, leaving her standing there watching him go, thinking that it didn't really matter, because Doyle knew where to find him. He could feel her eyes on him until he turned the corner, and knew they were both thinking that things were changing for good this time. Ending. It just felt... different.
The office was right where it was supposed to be, but Doyle passed by the door, knowing instinctively that there was an entrance round the back way, one that would lead him down, beneath the abandoned office, to the makeshift home that lie in hiding under it. It wasn't until he was through the door and caught sight of the collection of battle axes, swords, and other fun things on the wall that he realized he didn't really have the foggiest idea of what he was supposed to say. And why would a two century old vampire put any trust in a demon he'd just met?
Cautiously, he stepped lightly through the darkened rooms one by one until he found himself standing just yards away from his goal.
Some angel, Doyle thought absently as he watched him remove two spring release stakes from his forearms. The man looks more like batman, overhanging forehead and all. He glanced around the small living area, noting the lack of natural light, or even electric light when you got right down to it. Still, he liked it. Not much with the view, but it had a nice batcave sort of an air to it...
He didn't realize he'd said it out loud until the vampire turned and gave him a crippling look.
"Who are you?" Angel asked pointedly. Not with curiosity, but more with a need to know who he was about to kick out.
Oh well, Doyle thought. I'm in it now, live it or lose it, right? Take the plunge.
And so, with an easy smile of someone who figured he'd been expected, he said: "Doyle."
"Fiona?" Doyle called as he entered his apartment, remembering the power was out only after he'd tried the light switch. Twice. He swore to himself softly, closing the door behind him, then called for her again, checking the bedroom as he did so.
When there was no answer, and the bed was empty, he frowned; true, Fiona liked to stay out all night, but the sun was mostly up, and she should be waiting for him, or dead to the world on his bed. He didn't want to start worrying--Fiona was perfectly capable of taking care of herself--but something in his gut told him something was... not wrong, but different.
It was when he crossed the room to open the blinds to let some light in that he saw the envelope, resting on the desk with his name printed on it in block letters.
It was from her, he knew, even before he opened it. It felt thick in his hands, and when he opened it, he knew why. Inside was an impressive stack of fresh hundreds, and a note. Laying the money down on the desk carefully, he unfolded the paper.
You were right about that game. And the players. What a bunch of bat eyed sods. Hardly even had to cheat them, they practically gave me their money. I came out about seventeen hundred up, which leaves you with three to find before you can clear that price on your head, and maybe get around to paying some bills. It's all here, including the two large I brought with me. I've gone back home. It was just a feeling. Something told me it was time to step back when you disappeared after that guy. That maybe you won't be needing my shadow for a while now, and that's okay. You've played the cheat with me so often, it's beginning to look good on you, and that's what worries me. People like me... we are the end of the rainbow. People like you, well, they shouldn't have to get to the end. Maybe it's time you stopped looking for it. I'll always be there for you if things don't work out, but I hope they do.
Doyle set the note down next to the pile of bills, and closed his eyes, suddenly exhausted. It had been a long night of explanations to a vampire who'd heard too many explanations in his lifetime. Still, all things considered, it had gone surprisingly well. At least his end of things. Doyle couldn't help wondering how Angel had made out at the Coffee Spot with Tina, whoever the hell that was. Actually, come to think of it, Doyle mostly just hoped that there was a Coffee Spot and a Tina, because the last thing he wanted was an angry vampire banging on his door because he'd been had.
Doyle wasn't too worried. After all, the Powers knew what they were doing, right?
Famous last words, he supposed, with a chuckled.
And now, Fiona was gone. He idly wondered if the Powers were responsible for that, in any sort of round-about way. It didn't really matter, either way. He just wondered.
His eyes opened, and the first thing they focused on was her letter. Then the money beside it. Good old Fiona, she hadn't left him in a rut, thank the Gods. True, he still had to come up with three hundred on his own, but he could manage that. It would take a little longer, but he would manage. Give the guy a little down payment, and he'd be back in the good for a while.
Doyle smirked. He fancied the Powers That Be were nothing more than the gamblers and track monkey's everyone owed money to; you do them a favour, atone for a few things, the debt goes away. Back in the "good book". Cheques and balances, any way you looked at it.
His sight strayed back to Fiona's neat handwriting, and he felt something grow and constrict in his throat. Fiona... she was no angel. But there was something he could never put his finger on that made her heart a mile wide. So many things, so many times... He owed her more than just money, but she never asked for anything in return. It was the kind of relationship that friendship was made of. Real friendship.
And that sort of friendship... you just didn't throw it away.
After a long moment, he pulled a piece of paper from the pile of stuff, and snatched a pen from where it had fallen on the floor, and began to write.
His name is Angel, and he's a vampire. With a soul. Imagine that, eh? The world's crazier than we ever gave it credit for. He was a big bad ass a century ago, but none of us can go forever without having to atone, can we? And I happen to know that's factually true... What's my part in this soap opera of mayhem? Well, I'm the messenger, the man with the mission...
Four pages later, there it was. His crime and his punishment, all laid out in simple truth.
And as he scrawled his signature across the bottom of it, Doyle smiled.
He'd called her a pot of gold. He hadn't realize how right he was until now.