Angel does some talking. So do Buffy and Spike. And a plan is launched.
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: Buffy and Spike have reached a truce, Gemma is back at Watts where Dana is still asleep, and Wes has stopped Faith from killing Angel and demanded that Angel tell them what is going on…
There is a primer for this now, in case you need help keeping track.
The story begins here.
Riding next to Angel, knowing what she did, knowing that every flare of his nostrils meant he was aware of the blood seeping from her injury, was one of the hardest things Faith had done since Wes had broken her out of jail. Because each second of silence was a reminder of his betrayal, each second was another twist of the knife that had cut out her trust in him. She had believed in him. He had given her the hope that she could atone. If Angel could fail in such a monumental way, how could Faith even dare to think that she could move past her own crimes?
“For what it’s worth…” Angel’s voice was low and even, his gaze fixed steadily ahead. “…this was never about hurting any of you.”
Her bark of laughter ripped through her chest. Even the sound of it made her ache. “Whatever helps you sleep at night,” she muttered, turning her head away from him.
“I mean it, Faith. I did what I thought I had to.”
“No, you fucking did what you wanted to, Angel. At least have the balls to own up to it.”
His sigh preceded the car’s silence once again. The silence was better, she decided. Anything was better than listening to him try and justify his actions.
She was out of the car before he’d killed the engine, heading for Wesley’s door as the sound of the motorcycle roared to a halt behind them. She didn’t look back even when Wes called after her, and it wasn’t until she was leaning against the wall inside that she realized she had curled her hand into a fist against her stomach.
She was still staring at her blood-stained fingers when Wes came rushing up.
“Oh, Faith…” With his characteristic gentleness, he grasped her wrist in one hand while fumbling with his keys with the other, keeping her from aggravating the wound further. Angel’s heavy footsteps drew his attention away for a split second, but the approach seemed to give him a firmer resolve, his hand growing surer as he slid the key into the lock.
“Come in, Angel,” he said, crossing the threshold. He didn’t look back. Faith wondered why he’d issued the invitation in the first place. It wasn’t like Angel had ever been uninvited.
Wesley guided her to the bathroom, but then hesitated, as if realizing for the first time that he was going to be leaving Angel alone in the living room if he tended to Faith first. His concerned gaze flickered from her back to Angel. It was all she needed to garner her strength.
“Fuck, it’s not like it’s nothing none of us hasn’t seen before,” she muttered. Pulling free of Wesley’s hand, she grabbed the hem of her shirt and whipped it off over her head, using the ruined fabric to wipe away the blood that soaked through her bandages to trickle down into her waistband. “So is Angel going to start talking or what?”
“Maybe Wes should—”
“I can listen and bandage at the same time,” Wesley interrupted. While Faith walked over to the couch and stretched along its length, he went into the kitchen. The sound of running water filled the heavy silence stretching between her and Angel, and soon enough, Wes returned with a wet towel and the first aid kit in hand. “Any time now, Angel. I’m sure we have a lot to cover.”
Running his hand over his hair, Angel began to pace behind the couch, keeping his eyes averted. “I don’t know where to start.”
“I suppose saying ‘the beginning’ is more than a little trite,” Wes said. “So let’s just say…Connor.”
It took several more minutes for Angel to find the comfort zone he was looking for to begin explaining, but when he did, the story that tumbled out both surprised Faith and didn’t. She listened to him talk about how Connor had unraveled there at the end, how he’d taken the hostages, and how without hope he’d seemed. She listened to him describe what it felt like to know you’d failed the one person who needed you the most, and to be offered the possibility to fix every mistake you had ever made.
He looked at both of them when he said that. “Don’t tell me you wouldn’t love that chance,” he said. “Someone waltzes in and gives you the opportunity to correct where you went wrong. An innocent man doesn’t die, or a prophecy gets exposed as being a fake. I dare either one of you to look me in the eye and say you wouldn’t take that deal.”
Angel paused, waiting for one of them to react. Faith couldn’t meet his eyes, too absorbed in a world of what if I could take back that one day. Suddenly, she wasn’t so sure that Angel had been so wrong in making his choice, though it felt like there was a detail about the whole argument that was eluding her.
It was Wesley’s calm voice that found it for Faith.
“Choosing to give Connor a new life is not the point in question, Angel. Choosing to do so at the expense of arbitrarily rewriting your colleagues’ lives is.”
“I did it to protect Connor,” Angel argued. “You were prepared to do whatever it took to protect him from me, remember, Wes? And when did you tell anybody that you were going to steal him away?”
“So this is to continue your retribution for my mistakes?” His grip on the towel he’d been washing Faith with tightened, and small beads of water dropped in erratic patterns onto her skin. “All you had to do was tell us, Angel. Why is it you always choose to believe that we won’t understand, that we’ll somehow turn against you? You did it with Darla, now you’ve done it with Connor.” He paused. “So is Dana your next folly? What secrets are you keeping there that we were never meant to discover?”
Angel stopped pacing and sat heavily in the armchair, slumped into its depths as if the weight of the conversation was bearing him down. “It was never meant to be about keeping secrets,” he said wearily. “I haven’t even given the Senior Partners my final decision yet.”
“But there is a decision to be made.”
Wes turned away from watching Angel to resume tending to Faith’s injury. His eyes were clouded and his hands slow, and he couldn’t even look at her from the way his mind was churning over this new turn in subject matter. Lifting a hand to cover his, Faith held it there while she waited for him to meet her eyes, hoping that he’d see that, if nobody else, she was there for him. The small smile he gave her made her ache.
“When we were looking for Dana, before Andrew showed up, Eve came to me with an offer.” Angel sounded tired, but somewhere deep within his tone, Faith thought there was a modicum of relief. Maybe he did keep everybody at arms’ length, and maybe he did keep a lot of secrets, trying to be the one-vamp task force that saved the world, but maybe it wasn’t nearly as easy as he made it look to be. Maybe he really did want his friends to help. Maybe he really did wish it didn’t have to be this way. And maybe, for a couple seconds, she wasn’t quite as mad at him for betraying her trust in him as she had been.
“When I ran into her after Spike disappeared, Eve intimated that you had further business with Dana,” Wes said quietly. “I thought she was simply playing another game with us.”
“I wish she was,” Angel replied. “But no. There really is an offer on the table. A trade.” He paused. He was silent for so long that both Wes and Faith glanced in his direction to see if he was actually going to speak.
“The Senior Partners want Dana,” Wes finished for him.
“Yeah,” Angel confirmed. “And they’re offering Cordy in exchange for my bringing Dana in.”
Wesley’s sharp intake of breath was the only thing audible in the room. Faith pushed herself up on her elbows, heedless of the bandage that wasn’t quite fastened down yet. “Are you fucking nuts?”
“I haven’t made the deal yet,” Angel stressed.
“No, but you’re thinking about it. That’s why we’re even talking about this.” She sat up the rest of the way, pushing aside Wesley’s hands when he tried to press her back to the cushions. “So who else would you be willing to hand over to them, Angel? First, your friends, then Dana. I figure I gotta be soon because we all know B’s pedestal is too high for you to reach.”
“It’s not like that!” Angel snapped. “There’s been no handing over of anybody. Don’t you get it, Faith? This has been killing me. I’ve watched Cordy lie in that bed for months, and now, there’s a chance I can get her back.”
Wesley’s arm shot out to block Faith when she tensed to leap forward. “Why on earth are the Senior Partners even making such a deal?” he asked Angel. “If they have the means to help Cordelia, we need to take those and put them to use, not sit back and allow them to force our hands on this.”
“I don’t know,” Angel conceded. “I’ve been trying to figure it out. It’s one reason why I was keeping such a close eye on Spike. I didn’t need them sabotaging his treatment, too. The last thing I wanted was to give the Senior Partners even more leverage to use against me.” He snorted. “Fat lot of good that turned out. I should have known Spike would create all his own separate problems.”
“Spike isn’t your problem, Angel.”
Faith rolled her eyes as she slumped back onto the couch. “Yeah, you got a bigger one in B when she finds out you’re planning on selling her new pet project out for the princess. You thought I was swinging hard? Something tells me Buffy’s blows might sting a little bit more than mine did.”
When Angel looked away, Wes did the same, turning back to Faith with hands that were sure and gentle. “She’s right, you know,” he said quietly. “If you don’t wish this to escalate even further than it has, you need to tell Buffy.”
“She’s not going to like it.”
“None of us do. But if you want any of us to help, or to even understand, you need to stop leaving us in the dark.” He paused, and she saw the thoughts filter through his mind the moments before he uttered the words. “If you’re truly interested in not losing every ounce of trust we might have left in you, you’ll do this, Angel. Otherwise, I’m not sure I can continue working at Wolfram & Hart.” His eyes met Faith’s. “It might be time for me to move on.”
“Faith needs to wash up.” He took her hand and pulled her to her feet, not even glancing in Angel’s direction. “Consider what I’ve said. Because if you don’t tell Buffy, I will. Right before I leave Los Angeles for good.”
Faith stumbled as he led her to the bathroom. At the last moment, she glanced back.
Angel still sat in the chair, unmoving, his eyes fixed on nothing but his thoughts.
It hit him after the door closed behind Faith, but Wes refused to acknowledge the sudden shaking in his muscles as he went straight to the sink and turned on the tap. He did what he was supposed to do, he kept telling himself. Angel was forcing his hand. It had to be done.
It was the right thing to do.
Faith’s hands appeared under the water, blocking the flow. Without saying a word, she curled her strong fingers around his, holding him still as the blood staining their skin ran down the drain. It wasn’t until the water ran clear that he was able to look up, and the empathy he saw in her eyes nearly undid him.
“You’ve got balls of steel, you know that?” she said with a small smile.
His bark of laughter choked in his throat. Shaking the excess water from his hands, Wes reached for a towel to dry off, taking Faith’s hands in the terry when he was done. “Thank you for not killing him before he got here,” he teased. “We wouldn’t know about the Senior Partners’ interest in Dana if you had.”
“Just don’t go spreading it around how much I can sacrifice for the greater good. You’ll ruin my rep.”
He took his time drying off her skin, grateful for the steadying contact. “I don’t know what to do next,” he confessed, keeping his voice low. “I didn’t anticipate this new development with Dana.”
“I don’t think any of us did. And I thought you made it clear to Angel that you were going to hightail it out of here if he didn’t tell B?”
“He’ll tell her. He doesn’t have a choice any longer.” Her skin was pink and dry, and without the excuse to touch her any longer, Wes tossed aside the towel. “I suppose I could go back to the office—”
“No.” She lifted dark eyes to his. “We’re staying in. We’re going to order some decent Chinese, and we’re going to turn on the TV—” Faith stopped, her eyes narrowing. “You get cable, right?”
“No, you know, don’t pussy out on me, Wes. We’ve been going nonstop since I fucking landed, and you said it yourself. I need to take it easy, give myself a chance to heal. So we’re going to call it good for the night, and let Angel deal with his own mess. He did this. Not us. And B’s not going to let him do anything to Dana.” She shrugged. “Now if B comes pounding on your door, saying we have to figure something out, then we’ll talk. Until then, we’re taking a break. Because we both deserve it.”
It was impossible not to smile at the vehemence in her tone or the defensive glints in her eye. “You’re very persuasive,” he said.
Faith searched his face. “Is that Watcherspeak for ‘you win’?”
“Yes. As soon as I know Angel is going to do the right thing.” He brushed past her for the doorway. “Why don’t you find something else to wear?” he suggested, glancing back. “Otherwise, I’ll be a tad distracted from whatever we choose to watch on the telly.”
Her wariness was replaced by a knowing smile, and his cock twitched, in spite of his wayward emotions. “Funny if I don’t think that’s a bad thing,” Faith said slowly.
With an amused shake of his head, Wes walked out and closed the door behind him. He stopped at the entrance to the living room, his gaze settling on Angel still sitting in the chair. “If you don’t know Buffy’s number,” he said, reaching into his pocket to extract his phone, “I’ll be more than happy to provide it.”
“No, I’ve got it.” Wearily, Angel rose to his feet. He was halfway to the door when he paused. “Don’t leave town, Wes. I know I haven’t acted like it lately, but I need you for this. I’m sorry you had to find out this way.”
Wes didn’t miss the fact that Angel wasn’t sorry for what he’d actually done, but accepted the apology anyway with a gracious dip of his head. It was a small gesture, perhaps meaningless in the long run, but they had been through too much for him to simply ignore it.
Angel left without another word.
Wes didn’t have any left, either.
Buffy walked back into the kitchen much slower than she’d left to take the call from Angel. At the table, Spike looked up at her when she entered, but the frown on her face was quickly mirrored by his own.
“What does the wanker want now?” he growled.
“To talk.” She began clearing up the remains of her lunch, leaving aside the extra food for Lindsey. “He said it was about Dana.”
Though she didn’t look at him as she worked, Buffy felt Spike’s gaze remain steady on her, the seconds ticking as he digested the information. “You think he’s goin’ to come clean about showing up at Watts last night?” he asked carefully.
“I don’t know what else it could be about,” she confessed. “I suggested meeting with Dr. Guerrero so that she could get her own answers, and he stomped so fast on that idea that he would’ve broken a heel.”
That seemed to make up his mind for him, and the chair scraped across the floor as he pushed away from the table. “I’m goin’ with you.” When her head snapped around, Spike held up a hand to stop her from speaking. “Lindsey’s locked up tight down there, and if Angel’s with you, I don’t need to watchdog to keep him safe. And you don’t need to do this alone, Buffy.”
“I don’t want you two getting into a fight.”
Spike snorted. “Might as well ask me to stop bein’ so devilishly handsome then. Me and Angel always fight, whether you’re there to witness it or not.”
“But what good will come of you going with me? I need to hear what he has to say, Spike. I can’t spend all my time refereeing.”
“You won’t. I give you my word on that. But nobody knows Angel the way I do, luv. And you haven’t been around him the past few months. You need me to help keep his story straight.”
She needed him for a lot more than that, but on this, she knew there would be no arguing. “All right,” Buffy conceded. Spike sagged as if in relief, and she held up a warning finger. “But the first time either one of you gets out of line, I’m kicking both your asses.”
His smile was brilliant. “Wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The second she saw who she’d called out permission to enter to, Lilah regretted it. “What do you want, Eve?” She hung up the phone on the call she’d just finished. “I’m a little busy here.”
The younger woman sauntered inside, closing the office door behind her. She looked around at the small interior as if it was the first time she’d ever seen it, her mouth contorted into a moue of assessment. “Do you miss having windows?” Eve asked. “I mean, it must seem like such a step down to be stuck in this little hole in the wall.”
So it was going to be like that. Sometimes she wondered why Eve even tried. On her worst day, Lilah could blow the little tramp clean out of the water.
“Remind me,” she said, tossing her pen aside and leaning back in her chair. “Where’s your office again?”
Eve ignored the dig and walked around the side of the desk to perch on the near corner. “I thought you’d want to know, Faith and Wesley have left the building again. Well, Faith left with Angel. Wesley was on his bike alone.”
“Actually, I was already aware of that,” Lilah said smoothly. “I’m dealing with them, if you recall. You couldn’t handle it.” She paused, pretending to only just remember. “Any word on Lindsey?”
A shadow passed over Eve’s face. “I’m working on it.”
“Really? Because it looks to me that you’re just wasting both of our time by coming in here and reminding me of pointless details that I already knew.” She made a shooing motion with her hand and turned back to the file on Faith she had open on her desk. “Go away. One of us would like to actually accomplish something productive today.”
Eve didn’t move. “And what is it you think you’re getting done?”
Lilah couldn’t help her satisfied smirk. “Eliminating Faith Lehane from the equation. After tonight, we’re not going to have to worry about her interfering in our plans any more.”
To be continued in Chapter 19: Exploding Egos…