He opened his eyes and looked around. He found himself laying on his back in a small bed in a small room. There was a chair, a sink, a bed, a small table... During his college days, he'd had a dorm room almost like this for about a semester, before he and Harry tied the knot.
Allen Francis Doyle stood up and took stock of himself. He was wearing jeans, a white T-shirt under a black button-up shirt and boots, all in all, normal. He seemed fine physically, no aches and pains, in fact he almost felt energized. A niggling memory at the back of his mind told him that wasn't quite right, but Doyle couldn't quite put his finger on it.
He looked around the room again, and noticed the window. A pretty normal affair, actually. It had gingham curtains over mini-blinds. He stepped toward it, thinking a look outside would jog his memory as to how he got to this place. He pulled open the blinds and looked out.
The first things he saw were Cordelia and Angel huddled together in what looked to be a boat. They were both crying.
"What's wrong wi' ye, princess?" Doyle whispered, but a sense of dread that was slowly mounting told him something was seriously wrong here. And how was he able to see them on a ship from whatever building he was in? It couldn't be a part of the ship, could it?
Doyle pounded on the window. "Angel! Cordelia!" he yelled, pounding so hard the glass trembled, but it did not break. "I'm up here! Look at me!" But they didn't so much as glance in his direction.
When that tactic failed, Doyle looked below the place where his friends were standing, and saw quite a number of dead bodies, and quite a few live ones as well. The live ones, obviously of some kind of demon descent, looked very familiar. He knew them. Then his gaze went up, and his breath caught in his throat. A white, sharp-edged thing was suspended from a platform. Just looking at it made him want to scream. And then it all flashed back to him... Cordelia learning his secret, the almost date invitation, the Scourge, the kiss, jumping onto the glowing white thing, almost unbearable pain, pulling the cord and then nothing, until waking up here.
"Is this heaven?" Doyle wondered aloud. "If so, paradise ain't all it's cracked up ta be."
He looked out the window again, hurting inside at the grief-stricken looks on his friends' faces. He wanted to reach out to them, to let them know he was still here, despite his skin melting off and everything. But it was impossible. They couldn't hear him.
Doyle felt the huge weight of sadness settle on his soul as the implications of everything set in. He was dead. There would be no more helping Angel save the world, no more flirting with the Californian beauty he knew he would love if he let himself, he'd never see his mother or any of his relatives or Harry ever again. But he hadn't seen them in a long time. It was Angel and Cordelia that he would miss.
Tears began to form in his eyes. Normally, Doyle wouldn't indulge in such an unmanly display, but this time he did. After all, who was here to see him? He dropped the blinds, lay back down on the bed, buried his head in the pillow and sobbed for all he was worth.
His whole body jerked as he jolted back awake. Someone was sitting on his bed. Doyle twisted around, pulling his flushed face out from underneath the pillow and saw a slender, pretty girl with dark, near shoulder-length hair. She was wearing jeans and a sweater. Her hand was on his back.
"Who are ye?" he demanded, angry at being caught in such an embarrassing position.
"A friend," the girl replied in soothing tones. "I heard there was a new arrival, and that you had Sunnydale connections, so I offered to take you on the tour."
"Tour?" Doyle questioned. "An' I've never been ta Sunnydale. Heard of it, though." He sat up, and looked at the girl closely. "Besides, I thought one o' my dearly departed ancestors or somethin' would be here to greet me."
The girl shrugged. "It all depends."
She stood up, and Doyle followed her example. "Well, do I at least get a name?"
The girl smiled, leading him toward the door. "Amy, Amy Madison."
Doyle followed Amy out into a long corridor. It seemed almost endless, and each side was full of doors just like the one they'd emerged from. Amy shut the door and started walking.
"Wait!" Doyle exclaimed.
She turned back. "What?"
"Well, what if I wanna, need ta come back here?" he stammered, not mentioning his window to Cordelia and Angel. "How'm I ever gonna find it again?"
Amy smiled. "Take a closer look."
Doyle turned and looked at the door. Over the peep hole there was a tiny placard that read A. F. Doyle.
"You'll find it again," she assured him. "Now, come on."
They walked down what seemed to be miles of hallway, all the same. When Doyle looked, he could make out the other names, but none of them were familiar. He looked at Amy's profile and wondered what was going on yet again. Then they took a sharp turn and were suddenly in a lounge. There were several sets of tables and chairs, a couple of big, comfy couches, a refrigerator, even a bar. Doyle looked around.
"This is some kinda set up," he murmured.
Amy reached in the fridge and took out a couple of cans of soda. "Coke or Root Beer?"
Doyle shook his head. "I'm not much o' a soda drinker."
"You'll like this." Amy tossed him the Coke, and Doyle reluctantly took a sip.
It was the tastiest, sweetest, fizziest drink he'd ever tasted. He looked up in amazement. "This is the best bleedin' Coke I ever had! It's like ambrosia or somethin'."
Amy smiled. "All the food here is like that."
That brought up a question, which Doyle asked as they sat down on one of the big couches. "Where is here?"
"The Repository for Lost Souls."
Amy repeated herself, this time with more explanation. "This is a haven, or a waiting room of sorts, for souls that have lost possession of their bodies. All the people here, it wasn't their time to go. We're all waiting for the time when we get to go home." She paused, and then said, "My body has been transmutated into a rat."
Doyle had to laugh. "A rat! Why a rat? Did ye get on the bad side o' some mean wicca?"
Amy blushed and mumbled. "I did it to myself."
Looking at her with wide eyes, trying to smother his laughter, Doyle repeated, "Ye did it ta yerself?"
"Yeah, well, there was this mob. They were going to burn me at the stake," Amy rushed to explain. "I had to escape the ropes before the flames got to me. The rat spell was the first thing that came to mind, so I went with it." She sighed deeply. "You don't know how many times I've wished I could go back and remind myself that you can't say a counter spell when you're a rat!"
Hoping to get her mind off her colossal mistake, Doyle asked, "So, what is there ta do 'round here?"
"Pretty much anything you can imagine," Amy answered.
"How 'bout a card game?" Doyle tried, just to see what she'd say.
"Third floor lounge there's a rotating game," Amy replied smugly.
"Swimming in the basement, and billiards on the tenth floor."
"Shuffleboard?" Doyle guessed, enjoying the game of trying to stump her.
"Fifth," Amy started, but she was interrupted by a voice from the doorway.
They both turned to look, and Doyle was surprised to see someone he recognized.
"Oz!" Amy cried. "Has it been a month already?" She turned to Doyle and said, "He's a werewolf. He's here on the nights the wolf is in control of his body."
Oz walked into the lounge, grabbed a soda from the fridge and took a seat on a big wing chair near the couch. "Yep. Goes fast." His eyes landed on Doyle. "Hey, man. What happened to you?"
"There was this big, glowin' thing that was gonna destroy a bunch o' innocents. I had ta stop it. I thought I died, but then I found meself here." Doyle's face lit up as he suddenly had an idea. He leaned forward and grabbed Oz's sleeve and said, "Oz, man! When you go back you can call Angel and Cordelia. Tell them where I am! Maybe they can find a way to get me outta here!"
But Oz and Amy were both shaking their heads.
"It doesn't work that way," Oz replied, then taking a sip from his Sprite.
Doyle looked to Amy, who again found herself in the position of mistress of the explanations. "I thought that, too, when Oz first showed up. I wanted him to tell Willow the counter spell to the rat thing, but we found out that when you go back, you don't remember being here."
"But somehow every time I show up here again, I remember," Oz added.
Doyle sank back onto the couch in despair. "There's no hope then. I'm stuck here forever."
"You don't know that," Amy said consolingly. "If you were dead you wouldn't be here. There's gotta--" Then suddenly, right before their eyes, she vanished.
Oz and Doyle exchanged a look. Doyle grinned. "I guess someone finally found the counter spell!"
Oz smiled a bit. "Go, Will."
And then Amy rematerialized next to Doyle on the couch, a depressed expression on her face. She slumped backwards. "I don't know what Willow was doing! She got me there. I was there, in her dorm room! And then she said the word rat, and I'm back here." Tears started to form in her eyes. "This just sucks!"
"Sometimes her magic doesn't work right," Oz said quietly.
Amy sighed. "She's really depressed about something. I was only there for a split second, but I could feel it. Her energy is really unfocused."
Oz sighed, but didn't offer an explanation.
Doyle looked at the two now-depressed teens, and decided to try and change the subject. "So, what's the deal wi' those windows? The ones that look out onta the real world?"
Amy dashed her tears away with the back of her hand, and threw herself back into tour guide mode as a distraction. "You can direct them to look at anyone you want with just a thought. I used to monitor Willow's progress on finding a counter spell, until it got too depressing. I wish the girl would just swallow her pride and ask the witch who runs the magic shop already!"
Doyle laid a hand on Amy's shoulder. "How 'bout we go play a game o' shuffleboard or somethin'? It'll take yer mind off everythin'."
Amy stood up with a grateful smile. "Sounds good." She looked back at Oz. "Wanna come?" He stood and followed them out of the room.
"Are you sure this is going to work?"
"Of course, it is! I was a demon for eleven hundred years! I learned quite a few spells in my time."
Willow looked at Anya suspiciously. "I really want to get Amy back, but I want to make sure it's safe."
Anya sighed and glared at Willow. "You asked for my help. I gave it. I found the spell and I translated it into Latin. Now we just need to do it."
"Maybe we should double check the Latin," Willow suggested. "I've got this really nifty computer program..."
"Willow!" Anya snapped. "I was ALIVE before Latin became a dead language. I spoke it. It's fine."
"It's been a long time, you might be rusty," Willow muttered under her breath, but she finally joined Anya in the circular diagram they'd drawn on the floor of the dorm room. They joined hands around the tiny rat sitting confusedly on the floor.
"Are you guys sure about this?" Buffy asked from her position on the bed. "I mean, Will, the last time you did a spell it kind of backfired. It a big way."
Willow and Anya both glared at the Slayer. "We're SURE!" they chorused. With that they started the spell.
"Do ye have any twos?"
Amy glared at Doyle from over her hand of cards. "No, for the tenth time! I do NOT have any twos!"
Doyle gestured to the go-fish stack in the middle of the table. "Well, ye coulda drawn a two."
"Well, I didn't!" Amy snapped. Then she sighed. "I wish Oz was still here. Go Fish is much more fun with three people."
"How long til he comes back?" Doyle asked, drawing a card to add to the two cards in his hand.
Amy glanced at the clock on the wall. "He's got three weeks down there before he changes again." She looked back at her cards, and then asked, "Do you have any threes?"
"I TOLD you!" Doyle yelled over his cards. "I ONLY HAVE TWOS!"
"Well," Amy mimicked in a fake Irish accent, "ye coulda drawn one."
Doyle rolled his eyes, and was about to snap something back at his new friend, when suddenly he disappeared. His cards fluttered down to the table.
Amy sighed and began stacking the cards back together. "Good luck, Doyle, wherever you are." She pulled his three cards toward the deck and couldn't resist turning them over. He had two twos and a three. "Why that no-good, little, Irish cheat!"
Doyle opened his eyes and found himself laying on the floor between two girls he didn't know. He tried to remember how he got there, but nothing was clear. And then slowly, the memory of his death came back to him, leading to nothingness and then here.
"Amy!" the red head yelped. She lunged forward, pushed Doyle to the side and pulled a rat out from underneath the small of his back. "There, there, Amy," she murmured to the rat. "You're OK. That man didn't squish you."
The brunette stared at Doyle as he pulled himself to a sitting position. "Who are you, anyway?"
He turned and saw Angel's Slayer sitting on the bed with a stunned look on her face. "I heard you were dead. How did you get here?"
"I have absolutely no idea," Doyle answered, standing up and brushing off his clothes. "I take it this is Sunnydale?"
Buffy nodded. "Yeah, and these bumbling witches are Willow and Anya."
"I resent that remark," Anya sniffed.
Doyle thought about saying something to ease the situation, but he couldn't really think of anything, and he wanted to get back to LA. Cordelia and Angel had to know he was OK. That the Scourge hadn't gotten him. "Can one o' ye ladies point me in the direction of the nearest bus station?"
Buffy gave him directions, and walked him to the door. "Well, good luck, Doyle," she said with a confused smile. "I'm glad the whole dead thing was wrong."
"Me, too, lass," he agreed. "Me, too."
As the door was closing behind him, he heard Willow let out an indignant shriek. "Anya! I can't believe this! You translated it wrong! You made all the she's into he's!"
"Well, nobody's perfect," Anya muttered as the door closed. "We can just try again..."
Doyle looked around the dorm hallway for a second, and then began to run.
Cordelia sat at her desk, idly turning her chair back and forth with a toe. She stared at the computer screen blankly.
Angel walked in. "Any calls?"
"No," Cordelia replied. "Not that we'd be any good to people right now, anyway." She glanced in her pocket mirror and sighed. "Depression is so not good for my complexion. I mean, you're always pale, but I'm supposed to be a bronzed beauty!"
Angel just looked at her for a minute, and then replied, "If you need me, I'll be downstairs."
"What else is new," Cordelia muttered to his retreating back. "You're always down there brooding."
She swiveled her chair around to grab her purse off the shelf behind her, and she heard the door open behind her. "Angel Investigations," she called halfheartedly, not even bothering to turn around. "We help the hopeless... sometimes."
"I need a little help."
Her heart skipped a beat at the familiar Irish accent, but she restrained herself, afraid to turn around and look. Doyle was dead. When she turned around and saw someone that wasn't him, she was just going to feel even worse.
"On second thought," she said, staring at the wall, "you should probably go somewhere else. I don't think we can help you."
"How 'bout if I help ye, princess?"
At that, Cordelia spun around in her chair and could not believe her eyes. There he was, Doyle, alive and right there in front of her. She jumped out of her chair and started to hug him, then she paused suspiciously. "Are you really Doyle? If you're some vengence demon or some other bad thing, I'm just going to warn you now that my boss can and will beat the crap out of you, and he'll be coming up from the basement any time now!"
Doyle smiled at her. "It's me, Cordelia. It's really me."
Cordelia looked deeply into his eyes, and then she knew. It really was him. She hugged him so tightly that he grunted, but he didn't say anything. He just held her back.
"Oh, Doyle!" she said, pulling back a little. Then her smile turned to a scowl and she slapped him.
"Hey!" Doyle protested, stepping back.
"How could you scare us like this?" Cordelia demanded. "Angel's been moping around here worse than ever, and I'm all pale. And how could you do something like go and make me care for you and then sacrifice yourself and not even call?"
Doyle fixated on one part of the tirade. "Ye care for me?"
"Well, duh!" Cordelia said with a small smile. "You are a fixer-upper, like I said, but I think I could do something with you, if we just worked on your wardrobe."
Doyle couldn't wait anymore. He did what he'd been thinking about for so long. He kissed her. It wasn't hurried and sad like the kiss on the ship. It was a real kiss, one that took as long as it wanted, one full of passion and hope. When they broke apart, neither one said anything for a second.
Then Cordelia asked, "Where did you go after you vanished?"
Doyle shrugged, but didn't let go of her. "I don't know. I was on the glowin' thing, and then I was in Sunnydale."
"Yeah, it was odd. The Slayer was there."
"Buffy?" Cordelia's eyes widened, and then she grabbed his hand and started pulling him toward the elevator. "You've got to come down and see Angel, get him out of his brood-fest. But whatever you do, don't mention the word Buffy!"
Laughing, Doyle followed her, happy just to be home, and to be holding her hand.