TITLE: ANOTHER HERO: Season Four
SUMMARY: A Doyle-centric retelling of the fourth season of Angel. This is part of my Another Hero series, which begins with an alternate version of "Hero," and is followed by Another Hero: Seasons One, Two and Three. It is strongly recommended that you read the series in order.
A/N: In honor of the upcoming 20 year anniversary of Angel (which will be this October), I felt like I should make every effort to continue Doyle's journey. In the interest of full disclosure, I don't have nearly as much time to dedicate to writing as I had in the past, therefore, I can't promise that chapters will come fast or be on any regular schedule, but as always, I will feel compelled to see my story through to the end, no matter how long it takes.
As with the previous seasons, chapters are labeled by the corresponding episode titles. My story has diverged quite heavily from the source material by this point, therefore, the "episodes" are maintained simply to orient you as to how my timeline matches up to the original events from the show.
Feel free to send all manner of comments and criticisms my way. And, most importantly, enjoy the read!
1. Deep Down
The alley was quiet, dark and seemingly empty. But to the vampire, Angel, who observed from the fire escape above, there was the distinct hum of danger emanating from the murky shadows.
Something was alive down there. Something that wasn't human. Some thing…
Crunch. Crunch. Crunch.
Angel required no oxygen, so the heavy sigh he directed over his shoulder was purely for effect. There, a slender brunette was huddled beside a much larger man, who held a crossbow lazily at his side as he, too, kept watch over the ominous alleyway below. The woman's dark eyes grew wide with apology. She lifted a bag of popcorn and extended it in Angel's direction.
"Sorry, did you want some?" Fred whispered loudly, assuming that the silent chastisement was due to her bogarting the snacks, rather than the fact that she had snacks to begin with.
"No." Angel replied tightly, his chin pointing ever-so-slightly toward the alley below. "Thanks."
Her mouth formed a silent O and her already-saucer-like eyes managed to go wider. She smiled apologetically as she finally caught Angel's meaning. Sealing the bag as quietly as possible—which was not at all quiet by most people's standards, most especially those with supernatural hearing—she placed it down beside her on the metal grating.
"We've been chilling here for hours." Gunn grumbled from the far side of the metal platform. "There ain't nothing down there that an exterminator couldn't slay. Face it, your intel was bogus. Just like last time…" He turned his head and muttered the rest of his sentence under his breath. "…and the time before that."
Now it was Gunn's turn to be on the receiving end of Angel's death glare, followed by a retort uttered through gritted fangs. "Maybe if we skipped the snacks and the running commentary, we'd actually find the demons we're looking for."
"Guys…" Fred said diplomatically holding up her hands in a peacemaking gesture between her boyfriend and her employer. "Do we really have to do this every time a lead doesn't pan out? Demon-hunting without the visions or, um, clients, takes time."
"Oh, it's taking time a'right." Gunn complained. "It's just the demons we're missing—aside from the one we bring with us."
"What do you want me to do, huh, Gunn? Raise the dead?" Angel asked facetiously. "Summon a Succubus from the depths of Hell? Would that make you happy?"
Fred dropped her peacemaker act, slumped against the brick wall behind her and reclaimed her bag of popcorn. "Here we go again." She mumbled to herself, even as Gunn leaned over her to wag a finger in Angel's face.
"Man, I just wanna be in on the action again!" Gunn insisted. "Lately it seems like we're the only ones getting left out. You got Wes' crew cleaning up—just last week they busted a nest behind Mann's Chinese—vamps were picking off tourists, living fat and happy. That's exactly the kinda gig that would've been ours a few months ago."
Popping another kernel into her mouth, Fred's eyes volleyed from Gunn's perturbed face over to Angel's as if this were a tennis match.
"Doyle would've called if the Powers sent him a vision." The vampire retaliated and then promptly shut his mouth, as a furrowed look fell over his perpetually furrowed brow. "Wesley has a crew? What kind of crew?"
"The kind that actually kills demons for a living!" Gunn huffed in reply.
"Hey, hey—you guys mind keeping it down?" A voice protested from the alley below, interrupting the bickering between Angel and Gunn. "I'm trying to eat and all this arguing is gonna give me indigestion."
"Sorry!" Fred yelped out of habit, although she did have to wonder what sort of individual would be trying to enjoy a meal in the dark, smelly alley two stories below them.
The three occupants of the fire escape slowly leaned forward to peer over the metal railing. Roughly twenty feet below stood a menacing creature with giant teeth that resembled an upright stegosaurus; slung over his shoulder was the prone body of a slender man in what appeared to be a security guard's uniform. The demon shook its head at them in annoyance before readjusting his prey and lumbering deeper into the shadows.
"Okay, so maybe you were right this time." Gunn noted unnecessarily as he sized up the carnivorous creature.
"Can I get that in writing?" Angel quipped, gesturing over the side of the railing.
Brushing their thumbs against the sides of their noses in a sign of solidarity, the two heroes bolted into action in practiced unison. Angel leapt over the side of the railing with ease, while Gunn expertly rode the retractable ladder downward, hopping off when it reached its limit.
"Thank Satan they have something to kill tonight aside from each other." Fred mumbled to herself before once again tossing her munchies aside, wiping off her crumb-laden lips with the sleeve of her shirt, and hoisting her own crossbow over her shoulder. She galloped down the metal steps to join the fray.
It had been a really long summer.
"Hellooooooo!" Cordelia's jubilant voice echoed through the cavernous space of the Hyperion Hotel's apparently empty lobby. "Anybody home?" She asked into the continued silence, her thousand-watt smile dimming as she turned to address the discombobulated half-demon who was bumbling his way through the front doors, weighed down by multiple pieces of luggage. "We've been gone for months—was it too much to hope for a Welcome Home party?"
Gracelessly letting the bags tumble out of his arms, onto the floor and off the landing, Doyle let out a sigh and wiped his brow. "I'm sure they're just giving us some time to get settled in, yeah? Either that, or Angel forgot how to check his voicemail again."
"You think they've gotten a lot of work this summer?" Cordelia wondered, making her way to the empty reception area to assess the damage that had probably been done to her filing system. Everything looked to be in its right place on the surface at least. "Even without the Higher Powers steering the ship?"
"We do advertise." Doyle pointed out, brushing by her on the way to the water cooler, where he filled a tiny paper cup and thirstily gulped it down.
"Not unless someone remembered to pay the advertising bill." Cordelia said ruefully, lifting a stack of unopened bills with concern. "I'm thinking right now, we don't."
Doyle frowned in reply, guessing that she was probably right. "Well, the lights are still on, yeah? Things can't be that bad."
As if on cue, the front doors burst open giving way to three sludge-covered creatures who smelled like they'd spent the better part of the evening in a dumpster.
"Cordy!" Fred shrieked with excitement as soon as she lifted her head; her body language went from utterly exhausted to positively boisterous as she bounded toward the new arrivals. "Doyle! You're back! Look guys, Cordy and Doyle are back!"
"Hey, Fred. Aren't you perky for someone who obviously spent the night killing something slimy and disgusting." Cordelia replied with a hesitant smile, as she once-overed the other woman's sticky hair and grime-covered clothing.
"We just really missed you guys, that's all." Fred said, her eyes conveying far more meaning than her words.
"Hey, guys." Doyle greeted Gunn and Angel, who followed behind Fred at a slightly more reserved clip. Holding his newly refilled paper cup in the air in a gesture of good cheer, he then chugged it down once again. "Looks like ya coulda used an extra hand. Sorry we didn't make that earlier flight."
"We had plenty of hands for tonight's slicing and dicing." Gunn answered, letting his dirty crossbow clatter onto the countertop. "And a few too many most other nights."
"You're just in time." Angel said with a warm grin—for him, it was the equivalent of bounding into the room as Fred had done. "Welcome back."
"Maybe we can save the hugs for later." Cordelia suggested with an apologetic smile to the group. "Not that I'm not thrilled to see you all, it's just—this blouse was kinda pricey."
"It's nice." Fred admired, flashing Cordelia an admiring grin rather than slathering her with demon guts.
"It's French." Cordelia explained, giving a twirl to show off the attractive designer garment. Her hair, which had grown well past her shoulders, swirled around, showing off the golden highlights threaded throughout.
"This one, too?" Gunn asked Doyle, as the two men bumped knuckles in official greeting.
Doyle chuckled, lifting the thick cable-knit fabric away from his body. "Just something I'd left at Ma's house. Can ya believe it still fits after all these years?"
"I can't." Cordelia mumbled under her breath, clearly not a fan of the unflattering cardigan Doyle had reclaimed from his youth.
"How is your mom?" Angel asked.
"She must've been so excited to finally meet Cordy!" Fred interjected with enthusiasm.
Cordelia snorted loudly while Doyle shrugged along with his reply. "You could say she started off a little on the overprotective side. Can't blame her, seeing how things ended up with me and Harry. It took 'er some time to warm up—"
"You mean thaw out." Cordelia corrected. "If she'd gone to Sunnydale High, I wouldn't have been the reigning ice queen."
"She wasn't that bad." Doyle insisted in a rather unconvincing tone. "And my Nan more than made up for it—she loved ya right from the start. Knitted ya several sweaters, in fact."
"Yeah, well, thank goodness my talents include: charming elderly Irish-folk and making any type of fabric look appealing." Cordelia conceded. "By the end of the trip Doyle's family liked me more than him."
"That part is more or less accurate." Doyle agreed, tossing his paper cup into the wastebasket nearby. "Meet the daughter-slash-granddaughter they never had."
"That's so sweet." Fred enthused. "No wonder they wouldn't let you guys leave."
"Oh, it wasn't just the Doyle women who adored me." Cordelia added with a hoot of laughter, ignoring the sour expression that had washed over Doyle's face. "I got three marriage proposals while I was there!"
All eyes turned curiously in Doyle's direction, while Cordelia continued to snicker smugly in the background. "Don't look at him—they all came from his cousins."
"Ah, ah—" Doyle interrupted holding up a correcting finger. "One of 'em was my uncle."
Gunn's face scrunched up with disapproval as he folded his arms over his chest. "That ain't right."
"Sounds like an interesting family." Fred giggled.
Angel tossed Doyle a sympathetic grin, but it was clear Doyle wasn't all that bothered by the myriad of marriage proposals his family bestowed upon his girlfriend. In truth, he looked almost a little proud.
"What about you guys?" Cordelia wondered, redirecting the flow of the conversation. Her eyes found their way to Fred who was most likely to give a detailed answer rather than resorting to a shrug or a grunt. "Did you stay busy this summer?"
"Well, you know how it is in 'the biz'…" Fred hedged, toying with the hem of her soiled shirt. "Sometimes you get the demons, sometimes the demons get you…"
"Sometimes you can't find the damn demons." Gunn finished Fred's thought.
"Yeah, mostly that last one." Fred agreed with a hapless shrug.
"It's not like Gunn's sources were all that helpful." Angel grumbled, picking the same fight that had ended hours earlier.
"I know you didn't just go there, bro." Gunn replied, ready to get right back into it. "Want me to pull out my scorecard and do some quick math?"
"Math's not really your strong suit." Angel dug in. "Remember what happened when I left you in charge of the phone bill?"
"Okay, stop right there." Cordelia reprimanded the two men with a wave of her hand and disappointed curve to her brow. "To your corners, Oscar and Felix. Wanna tell me what this is all about?"
"The group dynamic kinda shifted with you guys gone." Fred vented, slumping against the front counter. "I guess you could say 'three's a crowd,' or something like that."
Cordelia and Doyle were directing critical stares at both Gunn and Angel, who to each of their credit, looked rather ashamed by their behavior.
"Gunn has trouble with authority." Angel mumbled an excuse, his eyes drilling self-consciously into the floor.
"I have trouble with Angel's authority." Gunn agreed. "You didn't see me and Wes butting heads when he was in charge."
Gunn's offhanded comment landed in the middle of the group like a grenade. Varying shades of awkwardness and dismay were painted across each face. Fred, in particular, looked stricken by the reminder that Wesley was no longer amongst them.
"Well, Doyle and I are back now." Cordelia stated flatly, breaking the silence as well as putting a punctuation on the uncomfortable topic of Wesley.
There was a collective sigh of relief as she breezily crossed to her desk and began sifting through the pile of papers that littered the work area. A small colorful rectangle caught her eye; she lifted the stiff piece of paper and waved it in the air, taking note of the other matching rectangles pinned to the wall nearby. "I see Lorne's been in touch." She flipped the card over and her face changed as she eyed the neatly printed words inked across the back. "Who's Fluffy?"
"That's still up for debate." Gunn replied with a glower.
"Lorne writes a lot." Fred explained with more than a hint of disappointment. "But forget about trying to get him on the phone. I think being a star has gone to his head."
"We should go visit him!" Doyle enthused with a hopeful grin. He took the postcard from Cordelia's hand and hungrily eyed the cover-photo, which featured the dazzling lights of the Vegas strip. "Remind him who his friends are and all that."
"Or maybe—" Cordelia rebutted, plucking the postcard out of Doyle's hand and placing it firmly down on the pile of paperwork from whence it came. "Vacation's over. Because Doyle-in-Vegas? Not something I wanna experience in this lifetime."
Doyle's smile swiftly turned upside down at Cordelia's declaration, but he let it go without argument.
"So, I guess we're all caught up." Angel said, subtly catching Doyle's eye. The reply was nothing more than a blink, but both men acknowledged that there was one more thing for them to discuss privately.
Connor. Gone, but not forgotten. Not by Angel, at least.
Angel had taken more than one trip to Sunnydale to see his son. No one knew. No one ever saw. Connor wasn't even Connor anymore, which hadn't been easy for Angel to digest. But, the boy was happy and healthy. He had a loving mother and a doting father. Most importantly, he was safe. Doyle would want to know that much, seeing how he'd risked everything to ensure that the child was protected and that Angel remained in service to the Powers of good.
"Oh yeah, all caught up on how you guys wasted an entire summer bickering like school girls." Cordelia remarked as she flipped open the general ledger and immediately slammed it shut again. "And now I'm all caught up on how much further in the red we are."
"Hey, look at the bright side." Doyle said encouragingly, as a smile once again spread across his lips, reaching all the way to his twinkling eyes. "That apocalypse we were all so worried about, still hasn't happened."
Hidden in the shadows of the Hyperion Hotel's front courtyard, a pair of blazing red eyes gleamed in the darkness, watching the silhouettes of the four warm bodies moving inside the walls of the hotel—four warm bodies and one walking corpse.
It wasn't the vampire that was of interest. The watchful demon with thermal vision, who had been surveilling the hotel for the last three months, had seen the vampire come and go. It had seen the vampire's two human comrades come and go. The two new heat signatures were the ones that burned with interest.
One of those was the half-demon seer and the other…
The pair of floating eyes blinked, and then turned away from the scene. Those eyes were attached to a charcoal colored body that was invisible in the pitch black of night, hence the demon's proclivity to only surface long after the sun had made its descent from the sky.
It scurried off, leaving the grand hotel where it stood housing its precious cargo. The demon had to return to the hidden place where the others waited. It had to proclaim the good news. It was his duty. It was his honor. If demons had such thing as duty and honor, which they generally did not. But when in service to the Master, it was, indeed, an honor to bring forth positive tidings.
Easily locating the mouth of the so-called "bat cave" nested in the hills of Griffith Park, the demon skulked through the shadows and burrowed its way to the secret chamber deep below the Earth's surface. It was there that the legions of acolytes were gathered, chanting their praise to the Master.
Slinking his way through the dense crowd of robed creatures who had come together to fill the claustrophobic air with a hum of demonic worship, he made it to the front of the chamber. There, upon a raised dais of dirt, sat a large, pale-skinned figure who tapped the razer-sharp talons of his left claw, a perpetually bored look upon his face. His enormous bulbous head lifted as the night watchman appeared at the foot of this makeshift throne.
The red-eyed demon hissed and crackled, his voice sounding like a popping campfire. This was the demon's language, unintelligible to human ears, but to the Master's most favored acolyte, the meaning was clear.
"Nah, you're not interrupting. To tell you the truth, I've never been a fan of this whole chanting thing. But it makes the minions feel good." Skip beckoned for the red-eyed creature to approach. "What've you got for me, Smokey?"
The night watchman's eyes gleamed with excitement as he hissed the news they had all been waiting for. News of the vessel's return.
"Oh, that's good." Skip commented, the hulking figure sitting upright in his throne. "That's very good."
The obscure mouth attached to the fiery red eyes crackled an affirmative reply.
Skip's lips twisted and spread outward into a wide, malevolent grin. "Finally. It's time to do something other than chant." He rose from his station and raised his tree-trunk arms in the air signaling for silence and attention, both of which he received nearly instantaneously.
"Ladies, gentlemen and other… we've got ourselves an apocalypse!"