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: Wes and Faith went to Records to look at Angel’s contract where Wes kissed her again, and Buffy and Spike brought in Gemma to look over Lindsey’s injuries…
There is a primer for this now, in case you need help keeping track.
The story begins here.
There were parts of Lindsey that hurt that he hadn’t even realized he had. Some of it was to be expected; the fact that he could barely open his eyes for how swollen they were, for starters. But the aches that went bone deep – the tightness in his chest that made breathing not so fun, the way his shoulders didn’t want to cooperate and lift his arms – those were reminiscent of beatings from a long time ago, when a scrawny, too-smart-for-his-own-good kid hadn’t yet learned when it was best to shut up if he wasn’t prepared to take the consequences.
He should have expected this from Angel. After all, this was the same vampire who’d locked a room full of humans in with two of most dangerous members of the Aurelius clan. Lindsey had made this personal. Frankly, he was surprised he was still alive.
Not quite as surprised as waking up to find himself gazing up into the face of the enigmatic Dr. Guerrero, though. Or to hear her make the very odd offer of friendship.
Though it hurt to move his jaw, Lindsey darted his tongue to moisten his dry lips. “Now how does a pretty thing like you get messed up with a demon like Angel?” he joked.
Mention of Angel’s name brought a cold glint to Gemma’s eyes. “She doesn’t. She gets a call from Buffy Summers asking for help and walks in on more than she expected. You’re in pretty bad shape, Mr. McDonald.”
So she knew who he was now. And Buffy was stepping in to help. Interesting.
“If you want to be my friend, you’ll call me Lindsey.” He paused, deciding to take a gamble. “Never had a Slayer on my side before.”
She didn’t blink. “What makes you think you have one now?”
“Am I wrong?”
“I think you’ve been beaten to an inch of your life by a volatile vampire.” She finally looked away, her hands fluttering over his leg. The sharp stab of pain through the muscle reminded him of the scene with Wesley the night before, and he gritted his teeth against the fresh ache. “Do I want to know what you did to piss him off?”
She was neatly sidestepping his questions, but that only convinced him more that he was right. “I’m alive,” he said, regarding her profile thoughtfully. “For Angel, that’s enough.”
“That’s what I’ve heard,” she muttered. “But seriously, Mr. McDonald—”
“—if you don’t want to end up dead next time, your best bet is to be straight up with me.”
“Who says there’ll even be a next time?”
Gemma paused, her bloody fingers hovering above his hurt leg. “You’re locked in a cage in the basement of a hotel with his ex-girlfriend and another vampire as your bodyguards, and you have a bullet in your leg. Pardon me for being a little skeptical about your odds of getting out of here without my help.”
Though he didn’t let it show, Lindsey knew she was right. He couldn’t even stand up right now. The only thing he had going for him was the fact that at least he didn’t have to worry about the Senior Partners finding him any time soon.
And apparently, Gemma Guerrero was on his side.
“Honesty is a two-way street,” he said. “You expect it from me, I’ll expect no less from you.”
Her smile was returning. “Does that mean you’ll tell me what you were doing in my office last night?”
“Are you going to confirm for me whether or not you’re a Slayer?” he replied.
She laughed, a rich, throaty sound. “Let’s get you patched up first,” she said.
In spite of how much it hurt, Lindsey chuckled with her. Gemma might not have the same resources Eve did, but as long as one didn’t find out about the other, there was no reason he couldn’t use them both. All that mattered was that Angel got his due in the end. And one way or another, Lindsey was going to make it happen.
They worked in silence, searching the kitchen, musty from disuse, for the supplies the doctor needed. Spike kept waiting for Buffy to talk – about anything, really – but she seemed lost in thought, focusing on the opening and closing of cupboards with a distant look in her eye. It didn’t take long to reach the point where Spike couldn’t stand the quiet any more, and he grabbed the edge of a door to get her attention.
“What’re you planning?” he asked.
Buffy frowned. “Who says I’m planning anything?”
“I can see you thinking. And you haven’t said boo since we left the doc downstairs. Considering how much you wanted to talk just a few hours ago, that means only one thing.”
Exhaling long and slow, Buffy let go of the cupboard and turned around, leaning back against the counter. “Yeah, it means I’m tired of the vampires I always thought I knew best being the most unpredictable things in my life right now.”
For all her supposed “understanding” back at his flat, Spike knew this was the real Buffy finally making an appearance. She was angry at him, at Angel, at all the things that were running rampant in her life, things she couldn’t control. With a broken body down below and a broken Slayer on the other side of town, the dam was breaking around her emotions. Spike had to be prepared for getting in her way.
“Angel’s still bein’ predictable,” he said, trying to shift the focus away from him. “It’s just you’ve never bothered believing he could do rubbish like this before now.”
“Even if that’s true, that still leaves you making with the random choices. I almost think you came out of that amulet with a magic eight ball around your neck that’s telling you what to do. ‘Gee, will Buffy be happy to know I’m alive again?’” She pretended to shake an imaginary ball and turned it over in her hands as if to read the answer. “’Outlook not so good.’”
Shutting the cupboard door, Spike turned away and began rummaging around elsewhere in the kitchen, unable to meet the accusation in her eyes. “Bein’ unpredictable is what’s had me kickin’ all these years,” he said. “Kept you on your toes, didn’t it?”
Behind him, Buffy sighed. “You know, Spike, I hate to break it to you, but before this whole resurrection thing, the only one who thought you weren’t the easiest person to size up was you. You’re only a legend in your own mind. And a few Watchers’ journals.” She paused. “And maybe Dawn’s diary.”
She wasn’t going to pull any of her punches, that was for sure. It was one of the things he both loved and hated about Buffy. Too bad he was so out of practice in dealing with it.
Forgetting about the real reason they were in the kitchen, Spike whirled on his heel and stalked back to face Buffy head-on. She didn’t flinch as he entered her personal space, simply lifting her steady gaze to wait for what he had to say.
“And yet, you’re here. And you’re not leaving. Maybe I didn’t let you know I was back ‘cause I knew it wouldn’t take much for you to be at the end of your wick with me. And maybe I’m done bein’ your whipping vamp, pet.” He jabbed a finger at the door that led to the basement. “You wanna know why I don’t bloody care why Doyle—”
Spike growled. “Whatever his name is. He can hate on Angel all he wants. He can go pokin’ his nose into Slayer business. He can even slap Faith around a bit; hell knows she’s begging for it half the time. But I’m still goin’ to do what I can for him, make sure he gets back on his feet, because he’s been the one responsible for helping me get back a little bit of my pride since this ghost nonsense.”
“Because you never gave me the chance,” Buffy shot back. “You stayed here, and you didn’t trust me to remember everything we went through together last year. If you’d called—”
“—I’d’ve come runnin’,” Spike finished. “You know that. I know that. I only dusted in the Hellmouth, I didn’t lose how much I love you.”
“But you still didn’t call.”
Her voice had gone quiet, though her eyes were flashing. With a frustrated sweep of his hand through his hair, Spike stepped back and began pacing. “Told you why that was,” he said. “And I can keep tellin’ you, but it’s never goin’ to be enough, that’s bloody obvious.”
“Because it’s lame!”
“And it’s all I’ve got!”
His fist shot out and slammed into one of the cupboards, smashing through the wood to splinter around his hand and arm. He felt rather than saw Buffy start forward, but she stopped after only a couple steps, hovering in the background.
“I don’t know what you want,” he said, his tone more controlled. The punch had taken the edge off his taut nerves, though he still felt like going out and killing something. And it kept him from lashing out at Buffy, which was the last thing in the world that he wanted. “I’m not the same demon I was in Sunnydale.”
“I think that was obvious the second you decided to stay here.”
Spike tilted his head to stare at her. Was there recrimination in her words? He couldn’t tell. He couldn’t tell a lot of things any more. “So why keep on me about this?” he asked. “Why stick around? Why not jet on back across the pond and leave someone else to deal with all of it?”
He could feel the thrumming of her heart burrowing beneath his skin. She might look cool and collected on the outside, but she couldn’t hide the truth from him, not where it counted.
“Because no matter what,” she said, “no matter if you have a soul, or if you’re a ghost, or if you’re a chipped pain in my ass, my life has always been better when you were in it, Spike.” She grabbed the few items they’d managed to scrounge up and headed for the door, only to pause with her hand on the knob. “If you can’t believe that, then I don’t know what else to do. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I should go back to Rome. It’s pretty clear to me that’s what you want, and unlike you, I know when to back off where I’m not wanted.”
She didn’t glance back before disappearing down the stairs. Spike was left standing there, unable to say a word.
No matter how long Angel stared at them, Spike’s records weren’t telling him anything different than the day before. There was still the notation that he’d gone in to visit him, and the nurse was still insisting that she had seen him personally. The fact that Buffy had found Spike at Watts proved the records were false, of course, but in spite of Angel’s curiosity that maybe something else might jump out at him as being off, it all looked above board. At least he didn’t have to worry about Buffy suspecting him of dusting Spike any more. But he would love to know what somebody thought they were doing by dumping in the middle of a huge group of Slayers.
It had been that question that had driven him to the infirmary after cleaning up and resting in his apartment. There were two things at Watts that interested Angel the most – Buffy and Dana. He didn’t want Spike around either of them.
“There you are. I’ve been looking all over for you.”
The tensing of his jaw was an automatic reaction to the sound of Harmony’s voice, and Angel gritted his teeth without looking up from the file. “What do you want, Harmony?”
“Do you have any idea how many messages I have for you?” She appeared at his elbow, leaning up against the counter and almost pressed into his side. A sheaf of pink slips of paper were slid in front of him. “Everyone and their brother is looking for you, and the way you keep disappearing is so not helping me.”
He sighed. “Far be it for me to make your job more difficult. Can’t this wait?”
“Only if you want this stack to double by tomorrow.” She leaned in, her blonde hair spilling over the file, blocking his view. “What’re you looking at? Is that Spike’s? Did you find him yet?”
The last thing Angel needed was more rumors flying around the office. Until they figured out what had happened to Spike, the less said, the better. “No,” he lied. Hopefully, Harmony wouldn’t be resourceful enough to consider checking out Spike’s apartment. “I’ve got Wes working on it.” In hopes of distracting her away from the topic, Angel picked up the stack of messages and began thumbing through them. “Anything in here that’s pressing?”
Harmony shrugged. “Eve’s starting to get a little annoyed that you’re never around,” she said. “And I’ve been able to reschedule most of your appointments that you missed. Oh, but there’s this one…” She flipped through the top of the slips until she reached what she wanted, pulling out three from the middle so that they were now on top. “Dr. Guerrero. She said she was from the Watts Institute and needed to talk to you as soon as possible regarding Dana Jameson. She was really insistent. I mean, bitchy insistent. She accused me of trying to hide you from her, and when I said I didn’t even know where you were, she called me incompetent and then hung up. Can you believe it? Just because someone has a few letters after their name…”
As Harmony droned on, Angel tuned her out, too caught up in the knowledge that Dana’s doctor was asking for him. He supposed it could be possible that she just had questions about what had happened prior to her transfer to Watts, but he doubted it. She was being too persistent. And pissed off. She knew he’d been there the night before, which meant he’d been seen.
He couldn’t just ignore this. And maybe if he spoke with the doctor directly, he could sell her on having innocent reasons for wanting to see Dana. At the very least, he’d be able to scope out the new arrangements at Watts.
“Clear the rest of my schedule for the day,” he said, pocketing the three messages.
“I already did. Are you--?”
Angel was already walking away, heading for the elevator. He’d had brief thoughts about looking at Cordy’s file as long as he was here, but with Harmony hanging around, he didn’t want to risk questions about why he’d be interested in that when there were so many other things more pressing.
“If I’m not in my office, I’ll be reachable on my phone. Screen what you send through, though. You know the list. Oh, and add Buffy or Faith to it.” They reached the elevator, and he punched the button to go up. “And Dr. Guerrero.”
“What about Eve?”
Just mention of her made the back of Angel’s eyes hurt. When she had first brought the deal from the Senior Partners about the trade for Dana and Cordy, Angel had thrown her out of his office. It was exactly the sort of thing he didn’t want to get sucked into when he’d joined Wolfram & Hart. He had suspected her of far worse until Lindsey had been exposed, but still, her nagging about when he was going to make a decision, how time was slipping through their fingers, how they’d lose both Cordy and Dana if he didn’t act fast, was starting to wear.
The doors slid open. “Tell Eve I’m busy and I’ll talk to her tomorrow,” he instructed as he stepped inside. He thought for a moment. “Make it an afternoon meeting.”
That would give him time to go back and deal with Lindsey, maybe get some more answers about why somebody was messing around with Spike. Living with the pain Angel had left him in might be all it took to get Lindsey to finally break.
Though his hand wasn’t shaking, on the inside, Wesley felt like he’d been caught in a gale storm. It didn’t help that Faith’s breathing had grown hot and heavy at his elbow, or that he could sense the tension winding in her like a snake preparing to strike. But he couldn’t tear his gaze away from the document in his hands. In spite of his suspicions, seeing the black-and-white truth was far worse.
“Tell me that’s fake.”
Faith’s voice was low and rough, coarsened by her fluctuating emotions. It shot straight past his meager defenses, and Wes had to swallow once in order to answer her.
“It’s not. That’s Angel’s signature. I’d recognize it anywhere.”
What he didn’t recognize was a friend who sold his partners’ memories out in favor of…what exactly? Connor’s new life. One that Angel valued more highly than trust or honesty, it would seem. Rather than come to his so-called friends and inform them of his problems and potential solution, Angel had made a unilateral decision and played with all of their lives as if they were his to manipulate at his whim.
“I can’t believe it,” Faith was muttering. “After all his talk…”
Finally, he found the fortitude to glance at her. Her dark eyes shone from the tumult he knew matched his own feelings. It was hard not to look at her and remember how her soft curves had felt pressed to him, or how she had scratched her nails across his chest when she’d grabbed his shirt to pull him closer, but that physical attraction, while surprising and distracting and oddly exhilarating, was secondary to the betrayal he knew had slammed into her psyche. Faith had been the one person to believe in Angel throughout everything. She had trusted him more than anyone. And now, she had the truth ripping away the fragile foundation she had made for herself.
“I think we’ve seen enough,” he said, though he didn’t really believe it. Closing the file, he set it aside in favor of taking Faith by the shoulders and forcing her to look at him. “We knew this was a possibility.”
“No, you thought it was. I was the idiot who actually thought Angel was getting shafted.” Her harsh laugh chilled him. “You’d think I’d be used to the shaft by now. After all, hard pointy things through the heart are my specialty.”
“There’s nothing wrong with trusting people, Faith.” The words felt odd coming out of his mouth. How could he expect her to listen to him when he couldn’t even listen to himself? “Look. Go up to my office. Sit. Relax. Have a drink if you want. I’ll get the rest of these files put away, and then I’ll come and get you so that we can go talk to Buffy. We need to have a plan.”
He thought she was going to argue with him. He fully expected it. Wes didn’t know how he’d be able to counter whatever she tried to pull, but he was ready to try.
But she didn’t.
“You got the hard stuff?” she asked.
It took a moment for him to realize what she was referring to, but when he did, Wes sighed inwardly in relief. “Bottom drawer on the left side. There’s a nearly full bottle of twenty-five-year-old Glenmorangie.” He gave her a tight smile. “Try not to drink the whole thing.”
With a curt nod, Faith pulled away from his grasp, pushing past him and out toward the elevators without another word. He watched her go, not making a move until he no longer heard her footsteps in the hall.
There was one more item to check before he could bring himself to leave. If Angel was covering something like this up, it was entirely possible there was more.
The Records Secretary looked up as he approached her desk. “There’s one more item I need to know if you have any records of,” he said.
“Another Wolfram & Hart employee?”
“No. Someone else. We were given background information on her a few days ago, but I’m interested in seeing if there is anything else. Perhaps something regarding her and the Senior Partners.”
“And what’s her name?”
Wes took a deep breath. “Dana Jameson.”
To be continued in Chapter 16: Cut It from the Chase…