But what that means is that I've only written a single additional chapter of Soul this week. Which puts me in the same boat I was in last week about being afraid to post on Wednesday. So I'm going to say that until I have 4 chapters in reserve (right now I only have 2), I'm sticking with a Sunday-only posting schedule. Hopefully that won't be long. My editing is done on my new book with Liquid Silver, and I can't write with Pepper M-Th anyway. And hopefully my vampire 3some won't lure me away, although I got the first 3some smut scene done and out of the way so that might be abated somewhat.
But look! A chapter today. :) There's Wes/Faith, Spike/Buffy, and oh yeah, some exposition to shed a little bit of light on things...
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: Spike and Buffy had a brief talk and agreed to talk about certain subjects later, while Faith followed Wes out to stop him from going to Angel’s, resulting in a kiss in the rain…
The story begins here.
Though his head was a clamor of competing images, Wes found the fortitude in those stolen seconds to focus on only those that assaulted his immediate senses. Like how Faith tasted of ginger and warm milk, or how heavy her hair was, laden with rain, when he curved his hands around the back of her skull in order to keep her from disappearing. There was the raw scrape of her fingernails where she gripped his biceps, and the definite points of her nipples visible through her soaking shirt that made his cock throb. And there was her sinful mouth, soft and luscious, that he’d only imagined used this way once or twice. Well…perhaps three times.
Faith broke the kiss first. With ragged breaths audible even in the storm, she pulled away to stare up at him, eyes dark and haunted as they searched his. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Wesley knew that this was the point where he should apologize for taking advantage of her weakened condition, but he knew he wouldn’t. He wasn’t sorry. And she wasn’t any weaker than he was.
There was only one thing to say.
“I won’t go yet.”
His soft concession to her earlier demands that he stay made her shoulders slump from her rigid posture. Skimming her tongue over her bottom lip, Faith nodded and took a step back. It would appear neither of them were going to mention the kiss. Wes was vaguely disappointed that Faith was so willing to move on from it.
“Sorry about shoving you so hard,” she said.
He shook his head. “You did what you had to do.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t have to do it so that you’re bouncing off the walls.”
The corner of his mouth lifted. “Perhaps not.”
For a moment, her gaze flickered to his mouth, and the barrage of sensations returned to him, his taste buds prickling at how her tongue had swept against his, the backs of his hands tingling at the weight of her hair draped over them. He was still hard, and he had little doubt that Faith was well aware of the fact. How it would affect future exchanges between them, though, he had no idea.
“So what’s the new plan?” she asked. “We want the 411 on who might’ve done this, right?”
He was grateful for her prompting, though Wes still harbored suspicions that Angel had to be involved in this somehow. When it came to Connor, Angel’s behavior had always been single-minded. The fact that those were the specific memories that had been excised from their awareness was significant; it had to be. He just had to determine why.
“Considering Spike’s memory was fine before being removed from Wolfram & Hart,” he said, “the logical place to start is there.”
“What about Fred and Gunn? You think somebody messed with their heads, too?”
So wrapped up in his own dismay about the tampering, Wes hadn’t even considered that the others might be victims of the same foul play. Thoughts of Fred, especially, left him with a pang of melancholy guilt, and he looked away from Faith as he replied, “Most likely, yes. I find it difficult to conceive that they wouldn’t mention Connor in all this time otherwise. But they still would be unaware of the loss. The Orlon Window works on people in the immediate vicinity. It would have no effect on them.”
“So let’s scope out what they know,” Faith offered. “I’ll check with Gunn, you go talk to Fred. Then we meet up and compare notes.”
As far as plans went, it was a good one. What left Wes uncomfortable was facing Fred so soon after kissing Faith. Perhaps he should discuss it with Faith, after all.
Except she was already retreating back to the apartment building.
“We’ll give B the car keys,” she was saying. “That way she’s not stuck in case Spike needs something. And we can dry off a little before getting soaked through on your bike again.” Hesitating on the doorstep, she looked back at him with an unmistakable challenge in her eyes. “Think you can handle it for the both of us? Storm might make it a little bumpy.”
The words were out without thought.
“I’ve weathered worse. Let’s do it.”
It felt like Buffy was just going through the motions as she and Spike helped Wes and Faith dry off before leaving for Wolfram & Hart offices. Spike seemed especially interested in hearing that it wasn’t only his memory that had been tempered with, but the cagy ways Faith and Wes answered his questions worried Buffy. Something was going on, and the fact that they were resorting to returning to the evil lawyers didn’t bode well. It was on the tip of her tongue to ask about Angel, but they were gone before she mustered the nerve. It was just as well. She probably wouldn’t like the answer anyway.
“Well, that’s an interesting twist,” Spike commented after the door shut behind the pair.
Buffy frowned. He was regarding the door with a tilt of his head, his mouth slanted in amusement. “What is?”
“The two of them.” As she continued to stare at him blankly, he finally moved to return to her side at the couch. “Not sure what prompted them, but those two snogged at least once before comin’ back in.”
“Wes and Faith?” It probably should have been more surprising than it was, but she’d seen their easy camaraderie for the past twenty-four hours and listened to their mild flirting just that morning over breakfast.
“Maybe this memory wipe told them they’d shagged before or something,” Spike said. He snorted. “Didn’t think the Watcher had it in him.”
Buffy wanted to comment that she didn’t think Faith had had it in her, but stopped almost immediately. Faith had even had sex with Xander; a sense of discrimination was as foreign to her as an underwire bra.
The ringing of her cell phone in her purse interrupted her from commenting further. Leaving Spike on the couch, Buffy rose and crossed the room, frowning when she saw the number on the cell. Unidentified caller. She hit the connect button and said, “Hello?”
“Buffy? Thank god. I was beginning to worry something might have happened to you, too.”
The unadulterated relief in Gemma Guerrero’s voice was mitigated by her words. “What do you mean, too?” Buffy asked. The debate on Wes and Faith vanished in light of more real concerns. “What happened? Is Dana all right?”
“She is now. But we had a disturbance here last night that I think you should know about.” Gemma took a deep breath. “Angel was here. To see Dana. Unauthorized. We’re not sure on the specifics, whether she attacked him first or he attacked her, but she crashed through the observation window and got hurt fighting him. I’ve had her moved and sedated so that she can get some real rest, but none of the Slayers we sent out to look for Angel have been able to find him.” Her voice grew tight. “I’d like to know what the hell he wants with my patient.”
Buffy listened with growing dread, her skin turning to ice at the picture Gemma was painting. “How do you know it was Angel?”
“The Slayers sensed a vampire being around, and Dana identified her attacker as him.”
“But how do you know it was really him and she wasn’t just channeling another Buffy the Vampire Slayer rerun?”
Gemma paused. “That’s a possibility, yes,” she conceded. “But I’m inclined to believe that he was really here. I’ve left numerous messages for him with his secretary at Wolfram & Hart already today, and he has yet to get back to me.”
Buffy knew why Angel wasn’t getting his messages, but considering the anger that was obvious in Dr. Guerrero’s voice, she didn’t think it was wise to tell her where she might find Angel. That didn’t mean Buffy couldn’t stop by and talk to him herself, though.
“I’d like for you to come and see Dana this afternoon,” Gemma was saying. “She responded well to you yesterday. If we can get her to talk about what happened, we might be able to determine what it was Angel thought he was accomplishing. Without worrying about how to filter through a vampire’s testimony.”
It was the perfect opportunity to compare stories, Buffy thought. Because there was no way she wasn’t going to go get one from Angel first. “I’ll be there,” she promised, and hung up the phone.
Spike was pulling on his boots. “I’ll drive,” he announced. Obviously, he’d heard the entire conversation. “You’re a menace behind the wheel.”
“Are you kidding me?” She stared at him like he’d grown a second head. “You’re not going, Spike.”
“Why the bloody hell not?”
Buffy couldn’t believe she was having this discussion. “Because you just had major surgery? Because the reason you had the major surgery was because the Slayer in question cut off your arms? Because said Slayer just got into another fight last night with Angel? Take your pick, Spike. They’re all excellent reasons.”
His face grew hard. “So all that talk about me not bein’ just another vamp. That was just you tryin’ to make me feel better, was it?”
“What does one have to do with the other? I don’t want you to go because it’s not safe, not because I don’t trust you.”
“You don’t trust me not to hold my own,” he countered.
“When you’ve only just had your hands reattached? Um, no, you got me there.”
With a snort of disgust, Spike flounced away, growling under his breath. “You’ll never change, Summers. Guess it was daft of me to think you comin’ all the way out here actually meant something.”
His words stunned her into silence. She was protecting him. Didn’t the idiot vampire see that? None of the Slayers at Watts knew anything about Spike; if he encountered even one of them in his condition, Buffy couldn’t guarantee that he wouldn’t end up dust. And why would he want to see Dana anyway? She cut off his hands. That seemed like reasonable grounds for eternal aversion to Buffy.
“Why?” She blurted out the question that weighed on her mind, drawing Spike to a halt. “Why do you want to go? Is this about Dana? Or something else?”
He seemed a bit taken aback that she was asking. She half-expected more arguing. It was a relief when he didn’t.
“For once, this is about me,” Spike said. “Not you, not Dru, not even Angel. You found me there, right? In the middle of a bunch of Slayers? Don’t tell me you don’t think that’s just a wee bit odd, pet.”
Buffy frowned. She’d had that brief thought the previous night, and Wes had repeated it in his inspirational let-us-do-this-spell speech before he’d dropped the Orlon, but in light of all the other weird stuff going on, she hadn’t pursued it. “Whoever put you there didn’t want you leaving, either,” she said. “There were crosses embedded in the straps that were holding you down. No way that wasn’t deliberate.”
“Exactly. The way I suss it, there’s a reason for all this, and it’s sitting there, back at Watts, waiting for me to nose it out.”
Spike had a point. As much as she hated to admit it, he really did have a valid reason to go back to Watts. She would do exactly the same thing if she was in his shoes. “You know I’m not going there until this afternoon, right? I need to talk to Angel first.”
“We both need to talk to the wanker. It was his watch that saw me disappear, right? I want to know what’s goin’ on down at those offices.”
Fair enough, she thought. Plus, it would give her the opportunity to see the two vampires interact. If she could see how they were around each other, it would help in trying to figure out whose side Angel really was on.
In spite of her fears back at Wolfram & Hart, she really hoped Wes had been right. She didn’t want Angel as an enemy.
They all had enough of those as it was.
Eve walked through the hallways of Wolfram & Hart with her head high. She smiled at people who passed, stopped and flirted with the cute new guy in Acquisitions, even stopped into the lab to say hello to Fred, though that was more of a double-check to make sure that Armando hadn’t screwed up and actually sent the security footage than any kind of good will. He hadn’t, thank god. One less thing for her to worry about. If they discovered that the video had been tampered with as well, it would only bind them all even closer together. The Senior Partners would be very unhappy if that ended up happening.
Just to be safe, though, she made arrangements for Knox and Fred to get embroiled in a project off-site. She had to keep Fred and Wes apart until the seeds of mistrust had fully been sown. After they learned of the mind wipe, that would be moot. Until the wedge had been firmly driven between Angel and his most trusted supporters, however, Eve had to keep them precariously balanced.
In spite of her calm outward demeanor, Eve’s stomach was in turmoil. Lindsey had never returned, and she was starting to fear that something might have happened to him. As far as she’d been able to determine, he hadn’t come back to Wolfram & Hart, which meant he’d probably gone out in search of Spike himself. There was no way he’d found him at Watts, she was certain. And she had yet to see Lilah to find out if one of the Slayers had found Spike yet, either. Eve felt like she was barely treading water, trying to keep her head afloat in an ocean filled with circling sharks. Lilah. The Senior Partners. Lindsey. If he found out she’d been working with the Senior Partners all along, she knew there would be hell to pay. Lilah might think he was a dumb hick who got a lucky break, but Eve had spent enough time with him to know the truth.
If he was cornered, he would attack. It was what he did.
She was on her way to do her morning check on Cordelia’s status when her phone rang. With hope that it was Lindsey, she stopped and pulled it out, her smile fading when she saw it was only front reception. It disappeared completely when she answered it and discovered that Wes had returned to Wolfram & Hart with Faith Lehane in tow. She thanked the receptionist politely and hung up, mulling over what to do now.
Faith was a wild card nobody had anticipated. Sending the laptop to Buffy had been about turning her against Angel, finding out the truth about Spike’s return in the most painful way possible so that she and all her resources would be permanently removed from Angel’s reach. She wasn’t supposed to bring somebody along who would prove to be Angel’s staunchest supporter. Someone who would be there to pull Wesley out of the fire when the need arose. And certainly Lilah never anticipated him having help at his beck and call.
Eve’s smile began to return. Lilah had been on her back since the beginning, telling her where she was going wrong with Lindsey, nagging her about every little detail. It made Eve want to shove it back in her face that Lilah was just an attorney with Wolfram & Hart; Eve had a direct line to the Senior Partners herself. If anything, Lilah should have been taking orders from her.
Maybe it was time Lilah got a little more hands-on in the process.
She opened her phone again and hit the number she wanted. “I thought you’d like to know Wesley decided to come into work this morning,” she said before Lilah could even speak. “And I can’t keep an eye on him today. The Senior Partners have me hopping. I was wondering if you would—”
Lilah sighed. “You know I will. We can’t afford to let him slip through the cracks. You know that.”
“And here I thought you’d appreciate the chance to get to see him personally.”
“I’d appreciate you doing your job for a change.”
The line went dead. It didn’t even bother Eve that Lilah was so bitchy about it. Imagining the look on her face when she saw Wesley with Faith was worth every second.
They got to the Hyperion just in time. The rain stopped a few blocks away, and as Spike pulled Wesley’s car up in front of the looming building, the clouds started to part, allowing the sun to peek through the gloom. Spike ducked down as far as he could go while Buffy rummaged around in the trunk for something to cover him with. She wasn’t surprised to see how well Wesley had his car stocked. The guy looked like he was prepared for any contingency. Good for them.
As soon as they rushed into the lobby of the hotel, though, Spike jerked to a halt. Frowning, he sniffed the air. “Somebody’s bleedin’,” he said.
Buffy nodded. “Probably that Lindsey. Wes said he had to shoot him to stop him from running away. They brought him here for Angel to question.”
Her explanation didn’t wipe away his frown. “Who’s Lindsey?”
“Some lawyer that hates Angel. Supposedly, he left town, but now he’s back, digging around in all the Dana stuff. Wes said they found him on his way to see you last night.”
Spike shook his head. “Only visitor I had last night was you. Oh, and Doyle.”
She remembered Wesley’s explanations, how Lindsey had admitted to going and seeing Spike. And one more part of the puzzle came a little bit clearer.
“Let’s go see Angel,” she said simply. Better to keep her mouth shut about what she suspected. If she was right, Spike would know soon enough anyway.
His frown grew more pronounced the closer they got to the basement door. By the time they reached the stairs, his jaw was locked and his eyes were flashing. “That blood’s fresh,” he muttered before taking the stairs two at a time.
Buffy hurried after. The sound of their feet echoed in her ears.
The basement was cool and dark, but the scents that Spike had detected upstairs clogged the air, even for Buffy’s nose. She blinked more than once, trying to adjust to the dim lighting, but she didn’t need to see clearly to know that Spike leapt forward before hitting the bottom step.
“What the hell…?” he muttered. The sound of heavy clanging followed.
By the time she was at his side, Buffy could see what had captured his attention, though she wasn’t sure knowing was better.
Inside a solidly built cage, a man was curled on his side on the concrete floor. Dark hair fell across his bruised face, his lower lip swollen and split, and his hands were ragged and bloodied where they rested lax. One of his pants legs had been torn away, but Buffy didn’t need to see the seeping gunshot wound to know who it was.
It was Lindsey.
“What happened to him?” Buffy murmured. This wasn’t from his encounter with Wesley and Faith. That had been the previous night. These injuries were fresh.
Spike gripped the bars, heedless of any residual pain in his hands. His mouth was curled into a snarl. Buffy couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen him look so furious.
He uttered a single word.
To be continued in Chapter 14: Every Man Has Certain Needs…