Secondly, thank you *so much* to whoever nominated Soul over at the Fang Fetish Awards! I love this story and am pleased others are enjoying it enough to go out of their way to nominate it. Thank you!
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: Gemma suggested she could be Lindsey’s friend, though for what in exchange, he has no idea; Buffy and Spike had a fight about his return; Angel found out Gemma was looking for him and decided to arrange a meeting; and Wes sent Faith up to his office to try and relax after they discovered Angel had orchestrated the mind wipe, staying behind to find out if Records had anything on Dana and the Senior Partners…
There is a primer for this now, in case you need help keeping track.
The story begins here.
Buffy was surprised to hear Lindsey’s voice as she descended the stairs, but the distraction was welcome. The fight with Spike left her wanting to hit something, which was never a good thing. There was so much anxiety on both their parts, but nothing either of them said seemed to make matters better. If anything, she thought things were worse now, which was so far from what she wanted that it needed its own time zone. Things had been better when they were both in denial. If she didn’t think that going back to that place would ultimately destroy any chance they had, Buffy would gladly be the first to get onboard. The only problem was, she was pretty sure Spike would stick around on the platform. He and Buffy-denial got along as well as he and Angel did.
Gemma looked up from where she was crouched next to Lindsey, holding out her hands for the supplies. “You do know he should’ve been taken to a hospital, don’t you?” she said, her voice stern. “I thought you were better than that, Buffy. I really did.”
“Well, to be fair, they did try to take me to Wolfram & Hart last night.” Both women were surprised by Lindsey’s interjection. The gleam in his eye made Buffy think he already looked a lot better than when she and Spike had first arrived. “But I’m done with them.”
“You might’ve been better off,” Spike said from behind Buffy. When she glanced back at him, he didn’t even look in her direction, but if it was because he was too focused on Lindsey or because he didn’t want to deal with her, she wasn’t so sure. “And you know, Doyle, or Lindsey, or whatever the hell your name is, for bein’ so done with the suits, you got an interesting way of showing it. Some of those goose chases were right on Angel’s heels.”
“Someone had to make sure the job was getting done right.” Buffy thought this Lindsey had a smooth answer for everything; it was no wonder Spike had been taken in by him. “And I just placed my bets on the best vamp for the job.”
Gemma straightened. “If it’s all right with our patient, I’d like to move him to Watts,” she said. “He needs close attention.”
Buffy didn’t need a translation dictionary to know that meant he needs to be where he’s not going to get beat up, but held her tongue. “He was trying to get information on Dana yesterday,” she said instead. “I don’t want him anywhere near her.”
“Somehow, I get the feeling he’s not going to be in any shape to do any snooping any time soon.”
“I’m the Slayer-in-Charge of Dana’s care,” Buffy said firmly. “And I say he stays away. Now if you’ve got a problem with that—”
“I’ll watch him.” All eyes turned to Spike. “I’ll make sure Angel doesn’t lay another hand on him, and if he needs anything, I’ll see that he gets it.”
Gemma still looked unsure about the arrangement, but after a moment, she nodded. “I have to get back to Dana,” she said. “If you need anything…” She stopped and shook her head. “You know what? Keep me out of it.”
Her tread up the stairs echoed throughout the basement. One glance at Spike and Buffy flew after her.
She caught up to Gemma in the lobby. “I’m coming with you,” Buffy said.
The warmth that she’d always seen in the doctor’s eyes had fled. “I don’t think it’s such a good idea for you to see Dana any more.”
“I helped her yesterday.”
“And then turned around and let a monster nearly kill that man down there. Those are awfully Escher principles you’ve got there, Buffy. And I’m not entirely certain those are in Dana’s best interest.”
When she began to walk away again, Buffy grabbed her arm to stop her. “You’re not seriously going to keep me from seeing her, too, are you? You were all ready for me to try talking to her again. I got through to her yesterday. I can get through to her again.”
“Maybe,” Gemma conceded. “But she’s my patient. And it’s my call. And I’m not letting you see her.”
“Because of Lindsey?” She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “He’s not an innocent here. How many times do I have to tell you, we caught him snooping around your office yesterday?”
“Just the once. But look at it from my perspective, Buffy.” Carefully, she unpeeled Buffy’s hand from her arm, and though Buffy hadn’t been using her Slayer strength to hold Gemma in place, it surprised her how strong Gemma’s fingers felt. “On the one side, I have a man who showed up and talked to my secretary to try and get me to come and see him, to talk to him about Dana. On the other, I have a vampire who broke into my facility after hours and left my patient cut and bleeding, and then ran away instead of facing the consequences of what he’d done or answering my questions. You’re defending the vampire. You. A Slayer. I can’t be sure you didn’t sanction everything Angel did.”
Phrased like that, Buffy understood completely why Gemma was being firm on this. But what Gemma didn’t know was all the history, and Buffy didn’t have time to explain it to her.
“It doesn’t matter what you can be sure of,” she said. “Don’t make me pull rank. I’m going to see Dana, one way or another.”
Gemma didn’t blink. “Fine. I’ll save you the call to London. But I swear to you, the second I think Dana is in any danger from you, or Angel, or anybody else, your Council clout is going to be worth less than the vampire dust on your favorite stake.” Turning on her heel, she marched up the stairs that led out of the lobby, only to pause at the front door. “You don’t know what you’re messing with, Buffy. Dana’s not a hobby for you to take a passing fancy to. She’s just a girl. A very damaged, fragile girl, who needs to know there are people out there who don’t want to see her get hurt any more.” She opened the door. “I’ll assume you can find your own way to Watts. And make sure you let my staff know you’re there. Progress or not, you’re not seeing her unsupervised.”
With that, Gemma was gone. And Buffy was left wondering what in hell had just happened.
In spite of the blood and bruises, the man who gazed back at Spike through the bars of the cage more resembled the one he’d been dealing with over the last few weeks than the broken one he’d found lying on the floor on his arrival. Some of the bravado had returned to his eyes, and now Lindsey regarded him in silence, waiting for Spike to speak first.
“So, it’s Lindsey, is it?” He straddled the chair he’d sat guard in, ready to resume his post. “Did you think I’d beat you up and steal your lunch money, or some such rubbish?”
“Me and Angel go way back,” came the explanation. “I didn’t want that to get in the way of our business.”
“And all this with the visions and the Powers That Be…more lies, I take it.”
Lindsey grinned. “Maybe I stretched the truth a little bit. But that doesn’t change the fact that you did some good, Spike. That’s what matters, isn’t it?”
There had been a time when Spike would’ve agreed without blinking. It wasn’t the path that mattered; it was the final result. But that was before, when he didn’t so much care about what his path might do to others. He’d learned that lesson the hard way, and he didn’t plan on forgetting it any time soon.
“How much of the rest of it is make-believe? You said you were the one who made me whole again.”
“I was. I’m also the one who climbed down to the bottom of the Sunnydale crater to dig you out. Not even Buffy did that for you, Spike. That was all me.”
The left-handed jab at Buffy didn’t go unnoticed, but when it came to the Slayer, Spike had far more pressing concerns to consider. “That mean you know what the business was with it from the beginning?” he asked. “Angel brought it to town, fully expecting to be the one goin’ down the runway with it. And he got it from Wolfram & Hart.”
Lindsey nodded. “Another ploy of theirs to try and get him under their control. When you wore it instead, they abandoned that route. So I dug you up myself.”
“And you couldn’t have magicked me out solid?”
“Do you have any idea how hard that kind of magic is? It took me awhile to figure it out. I don’t exactly have all of Wolfram & Hart’s resources at my beck and call any more, Spike.”
His eyes narrowed. “You knew about Dana, though.”
Another grin, this one as wolfish as the one before. “I said I didn’t have all of them. There’s still a few doors I can sneak through.”
At least he had more answers now, even if they didn’t shed light on their current situation. It was all so believable, and while Spike knew Lindsey was trained to be convincing, he was inclined to believe him. What did he have to gain by lying at this point? He had to know that Spike was his lone ally in this mess.
“Just answer one thing then,” he said. “Why? Why go to all this fuss with me? All it’s done is left you a bloody wreck.”
Lindsey’s smile faded, and his eyes darkened. Leaning back against the wall, he lifted a damaged hand to his face and pushed his sticky hair back. Spike made a mental note to ransack the hotel in search of clean clothes.
“Because Angel isn’t even trying any more,” he said. “I was never all that interested in his mission, or his destiny, or whatever he was calling it. But he’s in bed with Wolfram & Hart now, whether he likes it or not. And as someone who rolled out the other side of that bed, I know how next to impossible it is to do anything but what Wolfram & Hart wants.”
Spike didn’t say anything. There was more to this; he knew it. He’d just wait Lindsey out to get the rest of it.
It only took a minute.
“And as for why you,” Lindsey added, “well, that one’s easy. Who else would piss Angel off more to take his place? Tell me how I could resist rubbing you in his face.”
There was enough petty jealousy in Lindsey’s tone to make it believable. Not that Spike appreciated being the subject of that jealousy, but hadn’t he rubbed his place in Buffy’s life in Angel’s face more than once since coming back? Spike might not respect the emotion, but he sure as bloody hell understood it.
The sound of Buffy’s footsteps at the top of the stairs stopped Spike from pursuing the subject. For whatever reason, he didn’t want to talk about it in front of her. He wasn’t entirely sure she would ever understand his reasons for not wanting to see Lindsey hurt, and while the games Angel was playing were slowly opening her eyes to the other vampire’s true nature, Spike knew better than to push the matter for the time being. There was enough going on between them already without adding more fuel to the fire.
Buffy only shot Lindsey a cursory glance before turning to Spike. “I was going to head over to Watts to see Dana,” she said, “but I think I’m going to wait until tomorrow. Do you want me to run and get you something to eat?”
The unexpected offer made him soften. “Might not be a bad idea,” Spike agreed.
“What about you?”
The second offer was directed at Lindsey, taking both of them by surprise. “You mean I’m not rationed to bread and water?” he commented.
Buffy’s mouth thinned. “I might not trust you, but I’m hardly going to let you starve. Burgers okay?”
Behind her back, Spike gave Lindsey a short nod. Better to just agree to her, it said. Thankfully, Lindsey took the hint and soon enough, they were left alone again.
“You two all right?”
Lindsey’s careful question didn’t say nearly as much as his tone did. Spike regarded him with a tilt of his head. “Didn’t know pointing me in the direction of do-gooding made you a card-carrying matchmaker, mate.”
His shoulders lifted in a casual shrug. “I just know you two have a history,” he said. At Spike’s cocked brow, he added, “And I’m wondering who I can count on my side. Buffy doesn’t trust me, and from the way I heard it, there was a time when you did whatever you had to to get on her good side. I’m just wondering if I have to start watching my back with you.”
“Buffy has good reason not to trust you,” Spike replied. “You went nosing around her pet project, and you leveled Faith. Which, by the way…” He pointed a finger at him. “…you and me are goin’ to have words about. How many times did you stand ringside while I took a beating? From the way I heard it, you can hold your own and then some. I figure you owe me.”
“Well, I did give you your life back. Some might say that makes us even.”
In spite of the glib response, Spike grinned. “You don’t have to fuss about me goin’ turncoat. Promise you’ll be honest with me from this point out, and you’ve got nothin’ to worry about.”
As Lindsey did, Spike knew he couldn’t put much weight into it. He’d always known Lindsey was a slick one, and just because he’d taken a few knocks, didn’t mean that disappeared. But Spike’s eyes were open now. He knew what he had to look out for. He wouldn’t get caught with his pants around his ankles again.
The file was thick, a noticeable weight tucked beneath Wesley’s arm as he rode up the lift to his office. It was surprising what additional records there were on Dana Jameson, too many to waste time perusing in the basement. What was more surprising – though perhaps alarming was a better choice of word – was that none of these had been available to him when they’d done their earlier research on the unstable Slayer. What if they hadn’t found the information they’d needed to find her the first time? Even more worrying, was this indication that they weren’t as welcome as they’d assumed? How many times had they been sabotaged in their time at Wolfram & Hart? The implications were staggering.
The higher the lift climbed, the darker Wesley’s thoughts became. He felt like a pawn in a chess game he hadn’t realized was being played. Angel clearly had an agenda, as did Wolfram & Hart. The question remained, though, about how at odds those agendas actually were. Allying so closely with the law firm was the last thing he would have expected from Angel after all their adversarial years.
Of course, Wesley would never have expected Angel to manipulate his friends’ memories so cavalierly, either.
He was beginning to wish that he had joined Faith in that drink. Perhaps it wasn’t too late.
Thinking of her didn’t darken his thoughts. It churned them into whirlpools that threatened to suck him down.
The second kiss had taken him as much by surprise as it had Faith. But when she had started talking about finding someplace else to stay, an unfamiliar sense of panic had settled in Wesley’s gut. It was as much being unwilling to have her beyond his help as it was his desire for her company. It wasn’t just attraction. They were working together. Partners in a way that he hadn’t experienced in quite some time. She kept him from his worst, as he hoped he was doing the same for her.
He didn’t want to lose that. There was potential there to resolve the specters of the past, once and for all.
The doors whispered open, and his heart sped a fraction as he stepped off and headed for his office. And yes, the possibility that a couple kisses might lead to satisfying a more carnal desire was tempting as well.
“I hope you left some for me,” he said as he pushed his door open.
Only his empty office answered him.
Frowning, Wesley set down the files on his desk as he looked around. Faith wasn’t there. A check of his drawers told him his Glenmorangie hadn’t been touched.
She hadn’t come back as he’d instructed.
Wes walked out to the floor’s receptionist. “I sent a young woman up to my office a little while ago,” he said when she looked up. “Dark hair, early twenties. Did you see where she went?”
The receptionist shook her head. “Nobody’s been through here all afternoon. The place has been dead.” She reached for the phone. “Do you want me to page Security and see if she’s still in the building?”
Wes shook his head. The last thing he needed was for Faith to feel cornered by a couple of guards. “I’m sure she’ll be along.”
It wasn’t until he was in his office that another possibility occurred to him. Picking up his phone, he punched in the extension he wanted and waited for Harmony’s perky voice to come on the line. “I’m looking for Angel,” he said at her greeting.
“You just missed him. He had a whole bunch of messages to return, but if you want, I can patch you through to his cell phone.”
Answering her took longer than he thought. His first instinct was to accept the offer, but even as his mouth began to form the word, Wesley hesitated. Talking to Angel at this point would mean either revealing that he’d discovered the truth about the memory alterations, or pretending to be ignorant of all of Angel’s machinations. Frankly, he wasn’t up to either just yet.
“That won’t be necessary,” he said. “If you could just let him know that Faith and I will need to speak with him—”
“Oh, Faith’s already doing that.”
His blood chilled. “Pardon?”
“Yeah, she showed up a couple minutes ago. I sent her down to the parking garage to see if she could catch him.”
He didn’t even say goodbye. He just hung up the phone and bolted for the lift. She might have held Wesley back when he’d wished to confront Angel, but he’d practically shoved Faith in Angel’s direction. With her lowered impulse control, there was no telling what she was going to do.
His footsteps echoed in the dark parking garage, but Angel was too lost in his thoughts to notice. Maybe it wasn’t the smartest move on his part, but going to see Dr. Guerrero in person seemed to him the best way to garner good will. His call back to her had been fruitless, but the way he figured it, if he was there when she returned from whatever emergency had called her out, it might make up a little for not getting back to her sooner. She was clearly concerned about Dana’s safety, and if he could allay that enough to gain some space to do what he needed, Angel thought it might make things easier for him in the long run if he chose to accept the Senior Partners’ offer.
The biggest risk, of course, was Buffy finding out about the trade. Somehow, he didn’t think she’d see it as an equitable deal.
He was almost to the Firebird when Faith stepped out from behind an SUV and blocked his path. She stared at him, unsmiling, her body radiating with tension.
Angel frowned and fought the urge to check his watch. “I didn’t expect to see you today,” he said.
“No, I’ll just bet you didn’t.”
Something was wrong. Her terse tone was evidence of that, though he didn’t sense any fresh injuries on her. If anything, she smelled like…
“Wes.” Angel straightened and took a step closer. “Did something happen to Wes? Is he okay?”
Faith’s mouth curled into a sneer. “Is he okay?” she repeated. “You son of a bitch.”
His last thought before her powerful fist slammed into his jaw, sending him flying back against the SUV, was, What is it with Slayers wanting a piece of me these days?
To be continued in Chapter 17: Stroke and Splatter…