Title: Birthday Message

Disclaimer: No I am not Joss Whedon, therefore I do not own anything. But if there is anything that sounds familiar, I totally stole it from him!

A/N: I think this will probably be the only post-death Doyle fic I ever write, because it was really hard to keep it from being super angsty and depressing. I aimed for "bittersweet," so hopefully no tissues will be needed. In the future, though, I'm totally sticking with happy, bantery fun!

The large demon stood before Cordelia, waiting for her answer. Despite the fact that her physical body was lying in a comatose state and her astral body was invisible to everyone around her, "Skip" had insisted that she wasn't dead… yet. He promised that if she followed him, she would continue to not be dead.

That was certainly preferable to the alternative.

She really didn't like skipping out of the mortal coil when some poor little girl on Oak Street was about to become Demon-food, but she didn't seem to have any other options. None of her friends could see or hear her. She resorted to bargaining with the one being that could.

"Well, I'll follow you on one condition. You have to tell my friends about this vision I had."

Skip shook his head, not looking at all apologetic about refusing her request. "Sorry. No can do. I'm not a messenger. I'm just a guide."

She frowned. She really didn't have a choice. If she died, she not only wouldn't save the girl on Oak Street, but she'd never save anyone ever again. "I don't wanna die."

"So don't." Skip replied, extending a hand out towards her.

With one final glance toward her catatonic body, Cordelia took the large demon's hand, silently accepting his invitation. The next thing she knew a bright, blue light engulfed her and she felt almost weightless for a few seconds.

It took a moment for her vision to clear, and even then she was left with sun-spots in her eyes. She blinked a few times trying to get her bearings. Soon she realized she was standing in a very familiar-looking room. One that she hadn't seen in several years.

It looked exactly as she remembered.

"Is this... The Bronze? Did you bring me back to Sunnydale?"

Out of all the places she expected this strange demon-guide to take her; the Hellmouth was never even a consideration.

"We just figured you'd be more comfortable here." Skip replied calmly.


"The Powers That Be."

Somehow, that particular revelation didn't surprise her at all. Of course, the Powers that Be would be behind this. It was their heinous visions that ejected her from her body. Besides, who else would dare to ruin her birthday so supremely?

"The Powers That Be popped me out of my body and sent me to The Bronze? I don't get it. Also, why are we the only ones here? Is The Bronze not popular with the kids these days?" She asked as she walked toward the center of the empty dance floor, turning back to face Skip.

She wished she was wearing something a bit more stylish than her fuzzy sweatpants. Maybe she should be grateful that The Bronze was empty.

"Actually, this isn't really The Bronze. It's just a construct of The Bronze. Sort of like a mystical set decoration. It's just here to make things easier on you. If you want people, I can make that happen. They won't be real, though. And I'd probably keep them on mute, or else it could get kinda noisy."

"Um, that's OK. No need for creepy, mutable people. I think I get it. What I don't get is why you brought me here in the first place. How is coming to The Faux-Bronze going to save my life?"

Skip cocked his head sideways, nodding slightly as if she was fulfilling some kind of pre-existing expectation he had of her. "Not much for beating around the bush? He was certainly right about that."

There was nothing worse than feeling like people had discussed you behind your back. She should know, having spent a good portion of her high school years discussing other people behind their backs! But it was way worse when the people in question weren't, in fact, people at all. She leveled him with her best intimidating gaze, arched brow firmly in place. "Are you still talking about The Powers? They are a he now? That... kinda figures, actually. Only a man would screw things up so royally. No offense."

"No offense taken. I'm not exactly what you'd call a 'man'."

"Listen, Skip, can you stop with the cryptic stuff and start telling me what's going on?"

He gave her a light pat on the shoulder. "All your questions will be answered, Cordelia. Just…not by me. I've actually gotta be somewhere."

"Wait, what? You're just going to leave me here? Are you like Bob Marley from A Christmas Carol? Is the ghost of birthdays-past coming along to show me my painfully shallow past, my workaholic present and my lonely, death-filled future?"

Skip chuckled in response.

"Wow, that sort of fits, doesn't it? But, uh, I think you mean Jacob Marley. Bob was a cool guy, though. Met him once, back in '72…" He trailed off as he noticed the daggers she was shooting his way. "Nevermind. Just stop worrying, okay? It's like I told you before, I'm just a guide. My job was to take care of the travel arrangements. This next part—well, it's really more suited for a messenger."

With that, Skip gave a little wave and disappeared right before her eyes. His reassurance that she wouldn't be alone for long wasn't at all reassuring.

"I thought I was the messenger!" She called out to the empty room, knowing that Skip was long gone.

Sighing heavily, she moved away from the dance floor to examine one of the pool tables nearby. She ran her hands over the green felt of the table, marveling at how real it felt. She had half expected her hand would go right through it. Apparently in this place—wherever here truly was—she and the pool table were equally substantial. It was actually pretty amazing.

"You looking to hustle me out of a few bucks, Princess? Not gonna lie, pool was never really my game. Poker on the other hand…"

The familiar voice made her breath catch in her throat. She had never thought it would be possible to hear that distinct, subtly-Americanized Irish-brogue ever again. But it occurred to her that if she was truly waiting for a messenger, he would fit the bill.

She slowly turned around to face the owner of the voice and her heart almost leapt out of her chest. As her eyes fell on the face of a man she hadn't seen in over two years, she thought for sure that she was now dreaming. After all, her dreams were the only place he still existed.

Unkempt black hair, brilliantly expressive green eyes, dimple on the right cheek, hideous bowling shirt underneath a beat-up, brown leather jacket. There was no question about it. Allen Francis Doyle stood before her, looking just as he had in life.

Actually, maybe he looked a little taller.

All she could do was stare at him in complete shock and awe, while a dozen different emotions flooded through her soul. There was no doubt that she was overjoyed to see him, but her happiness was muddled by an onslaught of other feelings—grief, guilt, regret, yearning... She had desperately wanted to love this man, only to be robbed of her chance. It was a lot to process.

"Hope I didn't startle you." He was wearing that charmingly crooked grin of his. "You're looking as gorgeous as ever."

"Doyle?" She finally choked out his name, but her voice was hindered by the weight of her emotions. Unshed tears started blurring her vision, and she blinked them away rapidly so that she wouldn't lose sight of him. "Are you… real?"

"As real as that pool table you were just fondling." He replied. Holding out his arms, he gestured for her to find out for herself. "Don't have to take my word for it, though."

She didn't need any further invitation. Nor did she stop to question whether or not this was some kind of trick. Instinctually, she knew she was safe. She knew it was him. She flew forward and let herself sink into his awaiting arms, clinging to him with every ounce of her strength.

He looked like Doyle. He sounded like Doyle. He even smelled like Doyle. And he was as real in this place as she was!

Nothing else mattered to her at that moment. She no longer cared about the whys or hows concerning her current situation, she only cared that she currently had her arms wrapped around a long-lost friend whom she had missed more than anything else in the world.

She was crying on his shoulder—not something she was known for doing very often. She had done so on the night of Doyle's death. It had been Angel who held her as she cried tears of sorrow. Now, with Doyle's arms wrapped tightly around her, she was crying tears of joy. She inhaled deeply, filling almost every one of her senses with a part of him. "I missed you, Doyle…I missed you so much."

His voice was close to her ear, soft and comforting, "Ah, I missed you, too, Princess. Please, don't cry."

She tried to stop the flow of tears, but was finding it difficult to rein in her emotions. She remained wrapped in his embrace with her head on his shoulder. She didn't want to let go. She hoped he wouldn't make her let go any time soon. Her voice was barely more than a gravelly whisper. "How is this possible? How are you able to be here?"

She pulled back to look him in the eye, but kept her arms around his body. Just to make it clear, she really had no intention of letting go. He lifted his hand and lightly brushed away some of the tears that streamed down her cheeks.

"You don't need a mortal body to exist here, darlin'. And the Powers that Be needed someone to bring you a message. Naturally, I volunteered." He winked at her, trying to make her smile. She knew he didn't want her to be sad—he had never ever wanted her to be sad.

"You're still working for the Powers?" This news surprised her, as she had always pictured him lounging around on fluffy clouds, peeking out of those proverbial pearly gates. Most likely with a bottle of Scotch in hand.

"Not a bad gig, really. Sort of a freelance type of thing. Speaking of which, I pulled some strings regarding that girl on Oak Street—the one from your vision. She'll be just fine, so you don't have to worry."

She nodded. She was relieved to have that burden off her chest. Right now, she didn't want to be distracted by cosmic duties. She wanted to focus on nothing but the man she was holding in her arms.

There were so many questions that needed asking. So many things she wanted to say to him. "I…I don't know where to start. There's so much…"

"I know. You don't have to say anything." Again, he raised his hand to her cheek, wiping away one final stray tear with his thumb. His eyes were full of understanding. And something more.

"But, I want to." She replied sincerely. "I need to."

They had a lot of unfinished business—pretty much nothing other than unfinished business. He didn't appear to be concerned with any of it. It almost seemed like he already knew what she wanted to say.

Still, he obviously wanted to make the situation as easy on her as possible. He wanted her to be able to say whatever it was she felt compelled to say. He gestured to a plush-looking booth in the corner of the empty room. "I know this is a lot to take in- my being here and all that. Why don't we sit down and have ourselves a nice little chat, yeah? And maybe if we will it hard enough we can even get some margaritas to make the occasion more festive-like."

She smiled at the fact that even death couldn't change Doyle that much.

Somewhat reluctantly, she freed him from her vise grip. Sensing that she needed to maintain some sort of contact, he took her hand in his and led her over to the booth in question.

She was only mildly surprised to see two ice-cold margaritas waiting for them there. Complete with colorful, little paper umbrellas.

As they settled into the booth, Cordelia scooted as close to Doyle as she could without actually sitting on his lap. He rested his right arm around her shoulders—completely at ease with having her in close proximity to him. There was a bond between them now that went beyond the friendship that existed previously. His visions, his legacy. They had become hers. And they had helped her get to know him in a way that wasn't possible during his life.

That—and the fact that he had been dead for two years—made waltzing around their feelings rather unnecessary at this point.

He raised his margarita in Cordelia's direction, "Happy Birthday, darlin'. It's legal for you to be drinking one of these now, yeah?"

She found herself smiling as she raised her own glass and clanked it with his. "Yeah. 21 today." She replied, putting the glass back down on the table without actually taking a sip. She focused on studying his face, taking in the features that flawlessly matched her memories. "Is being here with you...is it some sort of gift from the Powers that Be?"

"Uh, no. Nothing like that, I'm afraid." He took a quick sip of his drink and raised his eyebrows in pleasant surprise. "Not bad for a construct. Could use a bit more tequila though."

Cordelia smiled at the familiar expression that played across his face. There were certain things that memories could never truly do justice. "I really did miss you."

"Same here." He flashed his trademark grin, his eyes full of warmth. "More than anything."

"Skip told me that if I followed him here that I wouldn't die. Was he lying? Did he just say that to make it easier on me?"

"You're not dead, Cordelia. This is just a visit. A highly unorthodox one, I might add. So, while it's not a gift in the official sense..."

There wasn't a drop of insincerity evident on his face. She took in every word that he spoke, trying to process what it all meant. Of course, one heartbreaking fact seemed to stand out—she wasn't being reunited with him. This was only temporary. "So, how long do we get? How long can I stay here with you?"

He smiled at her with a touch of sadness, "Not nearly long enough. But, we'll make the most of it, yeah?"

She could only nod in reply as another wave of emotion washed over her. She dropped her gaze toward her lap. Feeling the warmth of his body beside her—even if it was just some sort of illusion—was something she never wanted to give up. She heard Doyle clear his throat. "I should probably tell you why you're here, Cordy."

She forced herself to try and focus on the bigger picture. She raised her eyes back to meet his. "Right. I'm not dead. It's not a birthday gift. So, why then?"

His gaze never wavered away from hers; she could see the apologies swimming in his eyes. "Well, y'see, the night I died I made a pretty big mistake—in the cosmic sense. Passing you the visions… I wasn't supposed to do that. I didn't even realize what I'd done until it was too late. And I don't even know how to begin apologizing for that. Don't really think I can."

"You just wanted to kiss me." It wasn't a question. At one time she had wondered whether or not their kiss had meant something or had just been a way to pass along the visions. She had long since decided that it meant something either way.

"That, I did." He replied sincerely. "If I had known what was gonna happen… well, I would've been more careful, yeah? I just never thought the Powers could miss a mistake like that."

"Wait, what do you mean they missed it? The Powers That Be didn't want me to have the visions?" She was a little hurt by the thought that the Powers that Be hadn't chosen her to be their messenger. After all, she had been putting up with the splitting migraines for well over two years now. If they thought she wasn't good enough for the job, why let her suffer for so long?

"They weren't meant for you, darlin'. They weren't meant for any human. Only demons are strong enough to withstand 'em. Hell, I'm half-demon and I could barely manage. The visions…they're killing you, Cordelia. I'm here to tell you that your next vision will be your last. That's why I had to step in." She could see the regret etched into every inch of his face. He felt responsible. He never wanted to cause her any kind of pain or suffering. Not even for the greater good.

"You had to step in? Don't you mean they had to step in?"

"Alright, maybe I fibbed a bit earlier. Maybe it wasn't so much me volunteering for this gig as it was me begging for it. I appealed to the Powers to fix what happened. Your life shouldn't get cut short because of what I'd done to you."

She was touched. Even after death, Doyle was protecting her. And as much as he claimed responsibility for what was happening, she knew that none of it was truly his fault. The visions came from the Powers That Be—they were the responsible party as far as she was concerned.

"And they're allowing it? They usually sit idly by as horrible things happen. Case in point." She gestured toward him, recalling how The Powers had outrightly refused to save their former messenger. She couldn't imagine what made her life more valuable to them than Doyle's had been. "Why intervene this time?"

"I can be quite persuasive sometimes, yeah?"

Something in his look told her there was more to it than what he was saying out loud, but she didn't press the matter. There were too many other questions floating through her mind.

"I still don't understand how this was even possible. How could you give me the visions without their permission? Don't the Powers That Be know everything there is to know about everything?"

The question struck a chord. "Well, that's the funny thing. You think the Powers That Be are these all-knowing, all-powerful entities. Turns out there are certain things they have no control over. Free-will and all that." He paused for a brief moment, choosing his next words very carefully. His eyes never left her face. "They can't control how we feel about each other. My feelings for you, for example—that was the wild card. Couldn't have happened without that, darlin'."

"You're saying that you gave me the visions because… you loved me?" She breathed. Warmth spread throughout her at the revelation and despite the fact that her stomach was located inside her body which lay in a bed somewhere—she felt it drop all the same.

"That's exactly what I'm saying." He replied with no hesitation or apprehension. It was as if he was telling her the sky was blue. "I loved you then. I love you now. Always will, for that matter."

She had spent countless hours analyzing exactly what he might have felt for her and even more so, what she had been feeling for him. They had a friendship—a close friendship that had formed so quickly and effortlessly. They had a mutual attraction. They had a connection that couldn't really be put into words, but had been undeniable. They had shared a single life-altering kiss. The rest was open to interpretation.

His words were a confirmation of the conclusion she had hoped for all along.

"I love you, too, Doyle." She said in a heartfelt voice, relishing in the truth behind her words. She also felt a certain degree of relief flow through her. Regret had been something she had gotten used to living with. With this confession of love, some of her regret was finally subsiding.

His reaction was subtle, but she could tell that her words had touched him deeply. She could see it in his eyes. His arm that had been resting loosely around her shoulders, tightened into a semi-embrace. He remained silent, sensing that there was more to come. "The last thing you ever said to me… you wondered if I could ever learn to love your other face. And then you went ahead and got yourself killed without me ever telling you that I could love that face! I could have loved everything about you, Doyle. But, it was too late. It didn't matter that I'd figured it all out, because you were already gone. And I could never tell you how I felt. You never got to know..."

"Ah, well, that's where you're wrong, Princess. You tell me all the time." Seeing the confusion play across her brow, he elaborated. "It's the one perk of being dead. I know when people are thinking about me—when they're missing me. When they dream of me it's even better."

"You mean…?" Her eyes lit up at that revelation.

"Almost like I'm really there." He replied with a wink.

The look in his eyes shattered any feelings of shame that threatened to creep in. He hadn't told her these things to embarrass her. He told her so that she'd know her feelings for him still mattered. Nevertheless, she knew she was blushing. "I guess you really do know how I feel."

"And don't forget…. You did tell me to ask you out. Right after finding out my deep, dark, half-demon secret. You have no idea how much that moment meant to me. I died a happy man."

"I could never forget." She replied as she leaned against him, closing her eyes and letting her head rest on his shoulder. She let her mind drift for a moment, wondering what would have happened if he had asked her out sooner. She almost voiced her thoughts, but thought better of going down that path. "So, what happens now?"

"I'm here to offer you a choice. Courtesy of the Powers That Be."

"What kind of a choice?"

"Well, I'll be honest; they wanted me to offer you some alternate-reality type deal, where you would have never gotten the visions. In fact, you would have never had the pleasure of meeting me at all. But, you would have been some kind of famous actress with your own sitcom. I'm sure you'd fancy that part."

"Doesn't sound like a bad option." Cordelia noted as she lifted her head back up to give him an expectant look. "I mean, except for the not meeting you part. But, I could change that, right? Second time around, I could meet you some other way!"

Her voice had filled with such hope that he really hated bursting her bubble. "Doesn't work like that, darlin'. It's not time that would be altered, it's history. I'd still be dead. And, if I'm not mistaken, I'd somehow have managed to pass the visions to Angel instead of you. Don't really want to think about how I might have gone about doing that, exactly. I mean, I said I was a little attracted, but he's not really my type."

She knew he was trying to make her laugh, but her disappointment was too consuming. There was no way to change the past. It would just be an illusion. And it wouldn't bring Doyle back. "Oh. That doesn't sound so great. I mean, I used to want to be an actress, but now…"

"You've gotten used to being a champion. Hard to go back on that, yeah?"

"Angel needs me."

"That, he does. He wouldn't do so well on his own. Trust me on that one."

She knew Doyle was right. Historically speaking, Angel had never done all that well on his own. She would never turn her back on him willingly.

"So, what's my other choice?"

"Your other choice is kind of ironic, coming from me. See, you can't exactly return to your human body without dying. Like I said before, the visions are only meant for demons."

"So, that's it. Dying is my other option?"

"No. There's one more…You could become part-demon." Once upon a time he would have held his breath, waiting for her to be horrified by anything having to do with demons. He didn't do that now.

She had barely processed the words, but replied without hesitation. "I'll do it."

"That simple, yeah?"

"I get to live? I get to keep helping Angel?"

He nodded in reply, smiling down at her with pride.

"Go ahead and demonize me," she said firmly.

He was impressed, but not surprised. He knew full well that she wasn't the same girl she had once been.

"That's my girl." He said with a twinkle in his eyes. "Even more amazing now than you were when I knew ya."

"Because of you." She said emphatically. "The visions changed my life, Doyle. I feel like I was meant to have them. And what you've told me only confirms it. You loved me—you gave me your gift. I'm not sorry about any of it, I'm thankful."

"So, is that it? You're going to turn me into a demon and send me back into my body?"

"It's gonna hurt a bit, but considering the agony you've been going through from the visions themselves—it's nothing you can't handle. I can't tell you for sure what the side effects will be, though."

She nodded, taking that in. "I could end up with horns and a tail is what you're saying? Guess that's better than being dead...Oh, I mean...Sorry."

"For what? Reminding me that I'm dead? It's not something I'm likely to forget, darlin'. And as much as I miss you, I am sincerely glad you won't be joining me just yet."

She sighed sadly, realizing that goodbye was rapidly approaching. Staying with him wasn't an option. Her life wasn't over yet. She belonged with her friends at the Hyperion. She had chosen the option that would bring her back to them in one piece. But, that didn't make leaving him any less painful.

"I have to go back now?"

"You probably should. You should see how worried Angel is about you. He's liable to get himself turned into a toad if he keeps it up. He's been mouthing off to the Powers through one of their conduits—they don't really take kindly to that sort of thing."

"He can't bear the thought of losing his best friend. He's still not over losing the first one. Want me to give him a message or anything?"

"Maybe we just keep this little visit between us, yeah?"

She smiled sadly and looked down at his hand which rested on the table in front of her. The arm around her shoulders had never moved and only now did she realize how safe and comfortable it had made her feel. "It's so unfair, Doyle. We deserved more time together. You and me. I think we belonged together… we just never had our chance."

"I'm sorry for that," he said quietly.

"I don't blame you. Well, okay, maybe I used to. But, I really do get it now. I know why you had to be the big hero. I just… feel like we missed out. I missed out. Finding someone who's right… it just doesn't happen that often, y'know?"

She rested her hands on top of his and met his gaze once more. She was a little surprised to see the acceptance there. Not unlike the look he gave her before his final leap toward the beacon. He had long since accepted his fate, and he didn't look entirely unhappy about it. "Death doesn't change how we feel about each other, Princess. But… there is something important I need you to know."

She knew what he was going to say. Professions of love were all well and good, but the truth was she was going back to the land of the living. And he wasn't coming with her.

"You think I should fall in love with someone else?" She posed it as a question; even though she wasn't sure she wanted to hear his answer.

"You have to, Cordelia. I want you to. No more holding back, yeah?"

He knew her so well. He knew she had been holding back with him. He knew that she still hadn't changed in that regard. She wouldn't be surprised if he knew everything that had happened in Pylea, including her empty professions of love to another half-demon. It was easy to say the words when you didn't mean them. It was so much harder when you did.

She told Doyle she loved him and she meant it with all her heart. Now he was telling her to do the same with someone else.

"I don't want to hurt you."

His expression hadn't changed. It was obvious that he had already known what she was worried about. "There's no such thing as being unfaithful to a dead guy. I think you know by now that I want you to be happy. I want you to find love with a living guy. Or an undead one, at the very least."

"Gotta tell you the truth." She said with a shrug, "Dating is a tough thing to do when you're in our line of work. And if I'm going to be growing horns and a tail, it isn't going to get any easier. But… I'll try."

He chuckled, but she was certain she caught a flash of sadness in his eyes. She couldn't be sure if his sadness stemmed from the thought of her moving on, or from the thought that she would have difficulty doing so. She suspected the latter, which only made her love him more.

"You will find someone, Cordy… Just, don't forget about me completely, yeah?"

"As if that's even possible. I'm keeping those visions of yours, buster. Constant reminder." She poked at his chest jokingly and gave him a wide smile. She had to keep the mood light or else her final moments with him would be spent sobbing in a fetal position. She didn't want that and she knew he didn't want that either.

"Do you feel better now, Princess?"

She did feel better. This moment with him had helped her heal from wounds she'd been carrying around for years. She would always miss him, but she had more of him now than she had ever had before. And she would carry him with her always. "Yes. I really do."

"I'm glad," he replied, squeezing her hand. "I can't keep you here any longer. Much as I'd like to."

He gestured for her to slide out of the booth and she reluctantly obeyed. Whether she was in the booth or out of the booth, she couldn't control the power that was keeping her here. He followed right behind her. Resting his hand on the small of her back, he used it to guide her toward the dance floor. Once there, he took her hands in his and stood facing her.

Their eyes locked and she let herself enjoy the view for a moment. She was positive she'd never find another man with eyes as beautiful as his. It just wouldn't be possible.

"How are you going to do it?" She hoped she already knew the answer.

He stepped closer, placing his hands gently on either side of her face. "Same way I gave you the visions, darlin'. Unless you object."

She smiled as he confirmed her suspicions. Objection wasn't likely.

He slowly leaned toward her and she felt herself falling under the spell of his pending kiss. There was one more question she needed answered before she lost her senses completely. "Doyle… Will I…When will I see you again?"

He lingered close to her lips, answering softly. "I can't tell you when. But I promise, when it's time, I'll be the first one to greet you on this side."

"I'll keep dreaming of you 'til then." She finally closed her eyes, accepting that he wouldn't be there when she opened them again.

"I'd like that."

With those words, he leaned forward and kissed her softly on the mouth. At first, all she felt was the sensation of the kiss itself—slow, sweet and perfect. This was a kiss she could savor for a lifetime.

Soon she felt a slight tingling inside her head. It began to build, distracting from the feel of Doyle's lips on hers. The tingling turned to burning. It radiated throughout her entire body making her feel like every cell was being invaded. She thought for certain that she would explode if it didn't stop. Intense heat. Intense pain. It was all too much...

Her eyes shot open. The pain was gone. Doyle had sent her home.

Thankfully, without a tail.

Doyle stood watching as Cordelia reunited with her friends on the physical plane. He couldn't stay much longer—he had other work to do. He had made a deal with the Powers that he didn't have the luxury of breaking now that they had filled their end of the bargain.

He wasn't all that surprised to find Skip standing beside him, admiring the view.

"That was really touching, man." Skip remarked with a hint of sarcasm, slinging an arm around Doyle's shoulders. "I mean, at first I thought you were completely crazy to make a deal with the higher powers in order to save some lowly human messenger. Oh, wait. That's right—you are definitely crazy! That was a temporary fix—she's only got what? Another year or so? Tops. And there's nothing you can do about that. You have no more bargaining chips. You don't even know what will happen to her in that time. She might have been better off dead."

"Doesn't matter." Doyle replied, ignoring Skip's tone. He watched with a sense of pride as Cordelia barked orders concerning her latest—and completely painless—vision. He had done the right thing. "I know that she's needed down there right now."

"Still. Was it really worth it? You're an indentured servant now—forced to run all sorts of errands for the Powers. You could have been kicking back, relaxing in eternal bliss instead. Not many people give that sort of thing up, y'know. It's practically unheard of."

Doyle finally turned away from the scene unfolding below and gave Skip a definitive look. "Whatever I can do to help her—to help them all... it's worth it. My old pal, Angel—he loves her as much as I do. And he needs her. They need each other."

"None of my business." Skip replied with a shrug.

"Besides, I won't be doing this for all eternity." Doyle quickly pointed out. "I'll have you know that The Powers agreed to a pretty generous retirement plan."

"Oh, yeah? You have that in writing?" Skip sounded skeptical.

"I think you've underestimated the power of my ample, but unpretentious charms."

"Whatever, Doyle. It's your afterlife…"