Our primary Christmas gift to ourselves was a trip to Vegas. We're going to be there for 8 days, just us, no kids. Craig has indulged his own fanboy tendencies and we have tickets to go see Toni Braxton (the first thing out of his mouth when he called to tell me all excited that she was performing in Vegas while we were there was, "She's almost naked for most of it!"), and we're going to go see Penn & Teller as well (my choice, I adore Penn Jillette). There might be a third show, but we can't decide what it's going to be. One of the cirques, most likely. I get to see the wonderful _sharvie_ and her husband, too. All in all, wonderful fun.
HOWEVER, we leave this week. On Wednesday. And we fly back the following Wednesday. We *are* taking laptops, but in order to save myself a little bit of stress on traveling days, I won't be updating either of those Wednesdays. That means there will be an update today, but I'll be going to once a week updates for the next 2 weeks. So today, next Sunday, and the Sunday after that, and then I'll be going back to my regular schedule.
On the plus side, I don't think the cliffhanger on this particular chapter is that bad to have to wait a week, lol.
TITLE: A Soul to Seduce
RATING: NC17 eventually
SETTING: This is set immediately after the AtS S5 episode, “Damage,” but will veer from canon at that point. You’ll very quickly see how. :)
PAIRINGS: Spike/Buffy, Wes/Faith, Lindsey/OC
DISCLAIMER: Not mine, which is a shame because usually we're nicer to them than Joss was.
SUMMARY: When Buffy finds out Spike's alive, she shows up in Los Angeles to demand answers, only to find herself immediately immersed in a web of deceit and betrayal. Who to trust becomes the million dollar question, and her life turns into a race to solve it. Before it's too late for everyone.
PREVIOUSLY ON BUFFY: Dana attacked Angel and forced him to flee or risk getting caught; Buffy told Wes what was going on with Spike, and he agreed to do what he could to restore Spike’s memory; and on the way to Spike’s apartment, he and Faith encountered Lindsey…
The story begins here.
It only took one sweeping appraisal of Lindsey McDonald for Wesley to know he was a different man than the one who had left LA three years previous. The suit was gone, and the hair was longer, but there was a visceral strength about him that hadn’t been there before, like a wild dog prowling in the dark around the edges of a campfire. Even with Faith’s hand at his throat and a gun aimed at his head, Lindsey’s eyes flashed with confidence, and he kept his chin high.
“What, not even a ‘how’ve you been?’” Clicking his tongue, Lindsey shook his head as best he could manage in Faith’s grasp. “And here I always thought you were the civilized one, Wesley. But then…” His gaze flickered to Faith, the slightest of disdain visible in the streetlights. “…maybe that has something to do with the company you’re keeping these days.”
The flare of her nostrils prompted Wes to come a step closer. “Considering my company has both the capability and the inclination to pop your head off like a dandelion, perhaps it would be prudent for you to take care what you say about her,” he said. “Not to mention, I’m armed, and…” He smiled. “…I don’t like you very much.”
Though the joking gleam in Lindsey’s eyes faded, his bravado did not. “Well, now you’ve just hurt my feelings.”
Faith shoved him harder against the wall. “That won’t be the only thing hurting if you don’t start talking,” she threatened.
“Except ol’ Wes here hasn’t actually said anything that might promote an actual conversation.”
“Let’s move this to a more conducive location, shall we?” Wes tilted his head back toward the car. “Faith, please put him in the back seat. There are plenty of facilities at Wolfram & Hart that will suffice for our interrogation.”
Lindsey yanked himself back against the wall when Faith tried to drag him away. His attention shifted fully to Wes, all vestiges of any humor wiped from his features. “No,” he said, his voice low and menacing. “This meeting is over.”
Though Faith anticipated an attacking blow, neither she nor Wes expected Lindsey to vault over their heads, grabbing onto the streetlight pole and using it to fuel his momentum up onto a fire escape. Wes swiveled, tracking him through the darkness. The instant he saw Lindsey pass through a patch of illumination, he pulled the trigger.
Faith dove out of his way, but he had been careful about clearing her from his shot. The bullet slammed into Lindsey’s calf, and with a snarl of pain, McDonald lost his grip and fell back to the sidewalk, landing with an audible grunt. In three long steps, Wes stood over him, the gun now aimed at his chest.
“Impressive display,” he commented. “Too bad only Superman is faster than a speeding bullet.”
With a fresh wariness, Lindsey edged back until he leaned against the building, grimacing in pain as his injury left a trail of blood, black along the sidewalk. “What do you want?”
“I believe I already made that clear. I’m fairly certain you have answers we require, and now we’re going to Wolfram & Hart as I planned to get those.”
Lindsey shook his head. “No, no Wolfram & Hart. The Senior Partners don’t know I’m here, and if you drag me back in, they’ll find out. Then I’m as good as a dead man.”
Lindsey’s assertion made Wes pause. If he really was behind all the events that had been conspiring against them, Angel included, it seemed obvious that he would need access to Wolfram & Hart’s facilities. That left only two possible conclusions. He had a partner, or he wasn’t the one responsible. Either way, taking him back to the offices would betray their hand, and frankly, they needed any advantage they could get at this point.
“Someplace else then,” Wesley said.
Lindsey had shrugged out of his jacket and pressed it to his bleeding wound. “A hospital would be nice.”
“A hospital would provide you the means to escape.”
Faith hovered at Wesley’s side. Coiled tension radiated from her body, ready for another attack. “Could always take him back to your place,” she suggested.
“Buffy needs her rest…” Wes stopped, a sudden thought striking him. “What exactly are you doing out here, Lindsey?” he said. “This neighborhood is a little…downscale for you, isn’t it?”
Lindsey’s mouth clamped shut.
With a sigh, Wes shifted the aim of his gun. “Please don’t make me shoot the other leg. I’d really rather not have to waste Faith’s strength in carrying you to the car.”
“Someone’s gotten bloodthirsty since I’ve been gone.”
“No, someone’s patience is wearing very thin. Now, are you going to tell me, or am I wasting another bullet on you?”
Nearly a minute passed before Lindsey broke from the staring contest. “Visiting a friend,” he bit out.
“The name, please.”
“You know the damn name, or you wouldn’t have asked!” When the gun still didn’t waver, Lindsey banged his head back against the wall and closed his eyes. “Fine. I was here to see Spike. Happy, now?”
“Quite.” Retreating a few steps, Wes came abreast of Faith, aware that she watched him as cautiously as Lindsey did. “Get him to the car,” he instructed. “If I sit in the back with him, can you drive?”
Her frown disappeared with a lopsided grin. “Trusting me with your wheels? Big step for you, Wes.”
“Can you do it?”
“Earnhardt’s got nothing on me.”
She didn’t wait for Wesley’s approval, sauntering forward to haul Lindsey to his feet. Wes hung back out of the way, ready to shoot again if necessary, but already the blood loss was starting to get to McDonald. His pace was slow, his face screwed into a tight rictus as he fought to retain what dignity he had left. By the time they reached the car, however, beads of sweat shone on his brow.
Faith was less than graceful in shoving him into the back seat. She stepped back to allow Wes room to slide in, then took the keys he offered before jogging around to the driver’s seat. “Where to?” she asked, once she was behind the wheel.
With Lindsey tucked as far away from him as possible, Wes turned sideways to make sure the gun remained steady on his prisoner. “The Hyperion. The cage should still be intact. It’ll serve to contain Mr. McDonald while we question him. Without having to worry about Wolfram & Hart intervention.”
He got Wesley’s message as he pulled into the Wolfram & Hart parking structure. Sitting in the car, Angel punched in the callback, studiously ignoring the bloody rag that sat on the passenger seat. He doubted anybody would still be around who’d be able to sense the blood was human, but he hadn’t been willing to take the risk of detection. If Buffy found out—
Wesley’s voice interrupted the train of thought Angel really didn’t want to follow.
“I was beginning to wonder if something had happened to you. Is everything all right?”
Angel closed his eyes to stop from looking at the other seat. “I had business to take care of, but I’m done for the night now. What’s going on?”
“Lindsey McDonald is back in town.”
The name was a shot of adrenaline from his past, and his hand tightened convulsively around the phone. “You’re kidding me.”
“I wish I were. Faith came to see me tonight to tell me she ran into him at Watts, attempting to dig for information on Dana – wait.” His voice grew fainter as if he was speaking to someone else. “Turn left at the next light.”
Angel frowned. “Who’s with you?”
Wesley’s voice came back strong. “Faith’s driving. We’ve got Lindsey and we’re taking him to the Hyperion for questioning.”
“The hotel? No, bring him back to the offices. We’re better equipped here—”
“Lindsey’s adamant about not going back there,” Wes interrupted. “He claims that the Senior Partners are unaware of his presence in Los Angeles, and that if he returns, he’ll be killed.”
“No, that’s going to be my pleasure.”
Through the line, Angel heard Faith asking for further direction, distracting Wes for a moment before finishing his thought. By the time Wes got back to him, Angel was ready to crawl out of his skin.
“Considering everything that’s happened in the past twenty-four hours,” Wes continued, “I believe the hotel is our best option for this. Obviously, Lindsey has tapped into Wolfram & Hart files if he knew about Dana. And with the events surrounding Spike’s disappearance—”
“We’ll have better control on our own turf,” Angel finished. He reached for the keys in the ignition, revving the engine back to life. “Good idea.”
“We’re almost there now. How long before you can arrive?”
Snapping the phone shut, Angel tossed it aside as he peeled out of the parking structure, the suspension smooth as he pulled onto the nearly empty street. Lindsey McDonald. It explained a lot. They had suspected Eve, and while Angel still didn’t like her, he was more inclined to believe that Lindsey was behind much of what had happened over the past few months than anybody else. He knew it had been too good to be true that the man had turned over a new leaf.
A pile-up slowed him down, but he still made it to the Hyperion in twelve minutes, pulling up behind Wesley’s parked car. The scent of blood assaulted him as soon as he got out, however, and his eyes narrowed as he saw the trail leading up to the hotel’s entrance. It wasn’t Wes or Faith’s, which meant that Lindsey had been hurt while being captured. That was going to make the interrogation infinitely easier.
He found them in the basement, but here the tableau grew confusing. Lindsey was in the cage as had been expected, with his pants leg torn away and a thick bandage wrapped around his calf. Something about him was different, though, a sense of calm in spite of being injured. He looked bulkier, too. Someone had been working out.
But it wasn’t only Lindsey’s blood that filled the air. Faith leaned against the wall, watching the scene with detached wariness, and the stiff pose of her upper body told Angel where exactly she’d been hurt. Wes seemed oblivious to it, though. Obviously, Faith hadn’t said anything. Angel hid a smile. Some things would never change.
“You should take care of that,” he said after greetings were exchanged, nodding toward her midsection.
Wesley’s gaze shot to Faith, his brows pulling together in a frown. “Are you bleeding again?” he asked.
She shrugged. “It’s nothing.”
“It’s not nothing. You’ve bled quite enough already today.”
Without hesitation, Wesley went to her, his hands practiced and sure as he pulled at her top. Though she argued with him for a moment, Faith quickly caved, just standing there while he peeled away the gauze to expose the jagged gashes across her abdomen.
“Lindsey didn’t do those,” Angel commented.
“No,” Wes agreed. “Faith prevented an attack on me this evening after I was done reviewing the security tapes.”
“Gee, Angel…” Though he was locked behind bars and had clearly seen the wrong end of Wesley’s gun, Lindsey was still bright and cheerful, in that unctuous way that had annoyed Angel so much when he’d still been a lawyer. “Your people are taking stabs every which way, aren’t they? First Spike, now Wes. Who’s next? Cordelia?”
Mention of Cordy brought an unwanted growl to the back of Angel’s throat, and he shoved his hands into his armpits to keep from tearing the bars off the cage and ripping Lindsey’s heart out. “First of all,” he said, his voice taut, “Spike is not my people. Secondly, what happens to my people is my business, not yours. Though it certainly seems like you’re trying to weasel a way in, Lindsey. Again. What happened? Get tired of ripping wings off butterflies?”
His blue eyes flashed, his smile almost a sneer. “I just thought this town could use a real champion for a change. Someone who couldn’t be bought off by thirty pieces of silver and empty promises.”
“And you think Spike is that champion?” Wes volunteered. When Angel frowned in confusion, he elaborated, “Buffy found Spike tonight at Watts. She got him out and back to his apartment. Faith and I were on our way over to check on him when we saw Lindsey.”
There was far too much new information in that brief explanation for Angel to process all at once. “Spike was at Watts?” he started with. At least he knew Spike hadn’t walked out on his own two feet. Since he’d been unconscious since being taken from the distillery, he would have no knowledge that that was where Dana had been taken. “Why would somebody dump a vampire in the middle of the highest concentration of Slayers in the city? That’s suicide.”
“Perhaps we should ask Lindsey,” Wes said. “And while we’re at it, perhaps we should inquire about the laptop Buffy had in Rome that tapped into Wolfram & Hart’s security cameras.”
Angel’s mind boggled. “Is that how she found out?” That was directed at Faith. “She was spying on me?”
“B didn’t even talk about you until someone decided to gift her with the candid camera,” Faith shot back. “She watched Spike’s op, and then hopped the pond to find out what the hell was going on.”
Another puzzle piece. Angel wished he’d known those were the circumstances before she’d shown up. He wouldn’t have been so gruff with her if he knew she’d been forced to witness Spike’s operation, too.
Though Faith was putting up a brave face, Angel could smell her exhaustion. There was a roundness to her shoulders, and her hand was resting protectively over her stomach, as if shielding it from further attack.
Taking Wes by the elbow, Angel pulled him aside, out of earshot of both Faith and Lindsey. “Why don’t you get her out of here?” he murmured. “She’s dead on her feet, and the day we’ve all had…you could both use a good night’s sleep.”
Wes glanced over his shoulder at the cage. “Are you certain you don’t want our help?” he asked. “Lindsey’s not the same man he was before. His strength and physical prowess have been enhanced, by magic, most likely. He even managed to overcome both Buffy and Faith this afternoon at Watts.”
“I think I’ll manage. But thanks for the warning.”
Wesley still looked uncertain, but after a moment, he nodded in agreement. “I convinced Buffy to spend the night at my flat instead of going back to Watts,” he said, gesturing to Faith to join them. “And if you’re taking care of Lindsey, I can concentrate on the issue of Spike.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Sauntering back to the cage, Angel pulled up a nearby dusty chair and straddled it, watching Lindsey through hooded eyes as Wes and Faith left the basement. “You’ve been busy,” he commented when it was just the two of them. “Making new friends, getting shot. It’s been a full night for you.”
Lindsey grinned. “And what did you do, Angel? Sign a few checks? But hey, at least it keeps the writing hand in shape, right?” His gaze flickered over him. “If not the rest of you.”
The events of the day came crashing back, ruining any mood for going back and forth like they were wont to do. “Was it fun for you?” Angel demanded. “Whatever this thing you’re doing with Spike is, did you really have to drag Buffy into it? The last thing she needs is him back in her life.”
Lindsey’s smile vanished. “And the last thing I need is Spike getting distracted having her around. Whoever sent her the laptop, it wasn’t me.” He rose from his chair and hobbled to the bars, putting only a few inches between them. “You’re in the belly of the beast, Angel. Can’t say I’m surprised I’m not the only one looking to get a piece of you.”
He could be lying. As Angel sat there regarding Lindsey, he knew it was entirely possible that the man was lying through his teeth to save his own ass. Shift the blame to an unknown third party and distract Angel from the true goal here. But what was the true goal? Lindsey had to know that Angel wouldn’t be satisfied with noncommittal answers, even when it came to Spike. Wes and Faith were getting hurt now, and how Buffy had found out was the worst possible scenario Angel could imagine. Lindsey had to understand that all this was going to do was piss him off.
Maybe that was the whole purpose. Just one big game.
But what did Dana have to do with anything? Wes said Lindsey had first been spotted at Watts, trying to get information on her. If he was privy enough to Wolfram & Hart’s dealings to know that was where she was being kept, did that mean he was also aware of the Senior Partners’ interest in Dana? Was he trying to give them what Angel was reluctant to?
“You’re not really going to keep me locked up here, are you?” Lindsey was trying his good ol’ boy, aw shucks grin now. Angel had the urge to smack it off his face. “I mean, we’re on the same side here. Or at least, we were until you sold your soul.”
His gaze never wavered. “The only side you’ve ever been on was your own, Lindsey. And we’re not going anywhere until you tell me exactly what it is I want to know.”
“Don’t tell me you don’t know where he is. You’ve only got one real job right now, Eve, and if you can’t even manage to do that right—”
“He’ll be back. I know he will.” Pacing around the room, Eve rubbed her eyes as she tried not to let the strident voice on the phone get to her. She had to stay calm. Any sign of weakness and this would be the end of her. “This thing with Spike really threw him. I told you it was a mistake not to let him know.”
“It wasn’t a mistake. He was right there at Watts as Spike was getting taken in. Alerting him of the problem would’ve pre-empted our plans.”
“And I’ve had to improvise enough already today,” Eve muttered.
There was a long and deadly silence on the line. “What do you mean, you’ve had to improvise?”
“I mean, Wesley not believing the videotape. He even told Armando to send it to Fred for analysis. I barely had enough time to get a demon down to Security to take care of him.”
The long stream of curses was followed by a deep breath. Eve wondered why a dead woman had to breathe at all.
“You know I made the arrangements to alter Spike’s memory to counter Wesley’s mistrust of the evidence. If we can’t turn him from Angel with Spike, exposing the memory wipe is our only hope. I told you explicitly that Wesley was not to be touched.”
Eve rolled her eyes. “Gee, Lilah, biased much? Besides, the Slayer got in the way. He walked out of the building on his own two feet.”
“Lucky for you.” Lilah’s voice grew hollow, like she was stepping into an empty corridor. Eve wondered where she was calling from. Most likely, Wolfram & Hart. She haunted those halls, always staying unseen, ready to strike at a moment’s notice. “No more deviating from the plan. I’ve given you everything you need to control Lindsey, and if you choose to fuck that up, it’s going to be your head that rolls.” She laughed. “They’ve already got mine once.”
“Lindsey won’t be a problem. The Senior Partners can trust me.”
“Fat lot of good that’s turning out to be.”
The line went dead without a salutation, leaving Eve to hang up the phone in the silent apartment. Her hopes that Lindsey would come home that night were slim, but his markings made it impossible for her to find him. It was only her contact with him that kept him in the Senior Partners’ radar, and if she lost him at this point, Eve had little doubt that Lilah’s prediction would come true.
Her mouth was grim as she started the shower. It was pointless to go out and look for Lindsey; it would make her look suspicious. He’d come home.
He had nowhere else to go.
To be continued in Chapter 11: Just a Minute While I Reinvent Myself…