An announcement first. I'm about to enter the month from hell. This time next week, I'll be on a family vacation, 2 weeks from today, I'll be at Creation Con, and then a week and a half after that, I fly to Texas for a writer's convention. Because of all my traveling this month as well as other deadlines that I have, I can't guarantee that I'm going to be able to update every Sunday. I'm going to try. But there is no telling whether or not I'm going to have connectivity on Sundays. All I ask is for your patience in case I can't update regularly over the next month. May will be better. :)
This one's all plot, though after the last chapter, that shouldn't be surprising.
TITLE: A Soul to Seduce
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 went to go see Lindsey, only to be caught by Spike, Buffy had a visit with Dana that left her unsettled, and Angel asked Wes for his help in finding the link between Dana and Cordelia in order to save both women…
There is a primer for this now, in case you need help keeping track.
The story begins here.
Most of the time, Eve considered herself an easygoing person. She smiled, she got along well with others, and if she had to tolerate attitude from certain people once in a while, she credited it as jealousy. After all, she had a lot of things most people would kill for – power, youth, connections, a clear path straight to the top. It was even simple to categorize the animosity from Angel and his gang. They were the interlopers; she was the one with the inside track.
Snagging Lindsey was further proof. Once the Senior Partners became aware of what his intentions were and how they interfered with their own for Angel, it was easy to put her in Lindsey’s path. It was even easier to get him into bed. Lindsey had been alone for a long time since quitting his lucrative career. As soon as she expressed knowledge in the darker paths he was familiar with, he’d turned to her as confidante without a single bat of those long lashes on his baby blues. He’d been greedy for someone to share his plans with, someone he thought he could manipulate into being his assistant. Eve loved knowing that she was the one who actually wielded all the power with him.
The only problem was, now he was missing. And all of Eve’s easygoing instincts were out the window because she didn’t have a damn clue where he was, and Lilah, the queen bitch of Sheba, was breathing down her neck. What made it worse was knowing she had to put up with it. Because as soon as Lilah stopped, the Senior Partners would be right there to take her place. And they would do a hell of a lot worse than breathe on her.
She was running out of options. Eve had put quiet feelers out at all of Lindsey’s usual haunts, but not one of them had panned out. She had made noises about needing a locator spell done, but that was a last resort, mostly because she was pretty sure it wasn’t going to work anyway. Now, she was doing something that gave her the willies, but in light of the consequences, she was more than willing to tolerate for the time being.
She was searching Angel’s office and files.
Lindsey’s number one priority lately had been Spike. Since Lilah had confirmed for her that he was no longer at Watts with not a speck of dust to be found, that meant somebody had found him, that somebody most likely Buffy Summers. If Buffy was hiding Spike, there was a good possibility that Angel was aware of it, the new friction Lilah had sparked between the ex-lovers notwithstanding. The math was easy. Find Spike. Find Lindsey.
Angel was her best shot at that without drawing more suspicion to herself.
She found nothing in his personal date book, no doodles drawn along the margin that might give something away. There was an e-mail from Harmony about rescheduling everything for him and an oblique reference to finding him in medical, but nothing specific to Spike. All that she had in reference to the other vampire was some scribbles that looked like questions regarding the reattachment of his arms. Other than that, Angel’s office was clean, a shell of a space considering it housed the CEO of a very powerful law firm.
Their plan was working too well. Nobody was telling Angel anything, exactly at the time when Eve needed them to be their natural white hat selves. She was going to have no choice but to try the locator spell.
She heard the voices as she was heading for the elevator.
“I still think we should just take them back to your place.”
“And as much as I’d like that, Angel, you know we can’t. They’re originals. Records will be alerted as soon as they leave the premises.”
“What are they going to do, report it to me? It’s not a big deal, Wes.”
“It is. It alerts others as to what we’re investigating. Is that what you really want?”
Angel fell silent, leaving Eve to her racing thoughts. What were they looking into? Lilah had said she was taking care of Wes and Faith, but had she known Wes had been in Records recently? And what had he been looking for? Worse, what had he found?
She kept still, watching from where she’d ducked into the shadows. She expected them to head for Angel’s office, but instead, they went up the stairs, Wesley leading the way.
There were two options.
Follow them and find out what they were doing, or go tell Lilah what was up so that she could clean up her own mess.
Eve didn’t consider the choice for more than a split second before heading for the stairs. If something was about to blow up, she had no doubts Lilah would try and find a way to put the blame on her. At least if she knew what it was ahead of time, she had a fighting chance. Or the opportunity to fix it and get all the credit for saving the day.
She smiled. She liked that latter possibility much better.
It was hard not to grin like the proverbial Cheshire Cat. As cool of a customer as Lindsey could be, there had been a moment before the mask had fallen into place that Spike had seen him fluster. He’d heard Gemma’s pulse accelerate as well, but that had slipped so swiftly back to normal, it could easily be excused away as simply being startled. No, Lindsey’s reaction only confirmed what Spike had overheard – that it was a very good thing he hadn’t stuck around Watts, after all.
When neither of them moved or spoke in response to his question – not that he expected they would, because if there was one thing about those with secrets, it was that they got ultra-paranoid once they’d been caught – Spike came down the rest of the stairs. “Don’t stop on my account,” he said. He rolled his hand to gesture that they should continue. “Sounded fascinating. Slayers are always my favorite subject.”
Gemma pulled herself straighter, her dark eyes never wavering from Spike’s. “I thought you were at Watts with Buffy.”
His mouth slanted. Oh, he liked this one. She had stones. He’d not been pleased about how she’d ripped into Buffy, but considering she was doing it over Angel, it was hard to get too mad.
“Same could be said about you. Didn’t know you made house calls, pet.”
“She was just checking up on me, Spike,” Lindsey said. “No big deal.”
“You were kickin’ up a lot of dust for it not bein’ a big deal. How’d you know the doc was a Slayer?”
“I told him,” Gemma replied smoothly. “When I was tending to him earlier today. He wanted to know my qualifications.”
“And you’ve got killer of the undead on your resume? Lucky for him he’s not one of us.”
He was having fun with this, listening to Lindsey’s heartrate go up and down. Gemma’s never budged from its slow, even pace. It only made Spike want to try harder to get her riled up.
“Funny how Buffy never mentioned you were a Slayer,” he said, ambling towards the open entrance to the cage. He came to a halt just outside the doorway and tilted his head to allow his curious gaze to rake over Gemma. “’Course, you’re a bit long in the stake for the job. Probably smart of you to stick to the desk.”
“I’m not that different from Buffy,” she said. “I go where I’m most effective.”
“Shouldn’t you be hanging out with the girl instead of this one, then? Or does your kind of doctoring require bein’ up close and personal?”
“Buffy is seeing Dana at the moment. But then again, you knew that.”
Hooking his thumb in his belt, Spike’s expression sobered. “Know a lot of things, luv. Know you’ve got an itch for Angel you’re tryin’ to get Lindsey to scratch, for instance.” He shrugged. “Doesn’t say a whole lot for your taste in vamps, but he’s been known to snow the best of ‘em.”
He saw her move before she’d taken the first step, prompting him to leap forward first. The cage door slammed shut with a clang, stopping Gemma short, and Spike snapped the lock into place, dancing back beyond her reach when she attempted to grab him through the bars.
“You might be a Slayer,” he drawled. “But your timing’s for shit.”
She grasped the bars and rattled the cage, trying to break free. “Let me out of here.”
“I have a better idea.” Pulling the phone Buffy had loaned him from his pocket, he found her number and dialed it. “Let’s see what Buffy has to say about this, shall we? Because something tells me, she’s goin’ to like this story even more than I will.”
He wouldn’t say so to Angel, but a thread of excitement was coiling through Wesley’s veins at the prospect of going through the files on Dana. There was logic to Angel’s argument, enough for Wes to believe that he was on to something. There was also the fact that Angel had come to him this time. He could have endeavored to find the truth out on his own, but instead, Angel had sought out help. Wes didn’t trust him yet, but he had to admit – begrudgingly so – that it was a step in the right direction. Especially if it ended up both thwarting the Senior Partners’ intentions for Dana and bringing Cordelia back to them.
Angel didn’t speak again until they stood in front of Wesley’s office. He watched Wes fumble with his keys for a moment, and then said, his voice low, “I appreciate you doing this for me.”
Wes stilled. “I’m not.” He remembered then that he hadn’t had time to lock the door when he’d left earlier, too concerned in chasing down Faith to intercept her with Angel. Gripping the knob, he pushed it open and stepped into the welcoming cool of his sanctum. “I’m doing this for Cordelia.”
He flicked on the light and headed straight for his desk. The files sat exactly where he’d left them, and he scooped them up, rifling through the stack to see if something stood out.
“Records had that much?” The surprise in Angel’s voice was genuine. “What the hell did you ask for? And why didn’t we get these when we were trying to get the information on Dana before?”
“I think they took our previous requests a tad literally.” Nothing seemed odd in the files; it was going to take hours to go through all of them. “We requested information on Dana’s history in order to figure out where she had gone. I requested anything that might connect Dana to the Senior Partners specifically.”
Shaking his head, Angel took half the stack. “I don’t like this. There’s too much.”
“So we should get straight to work.” He went around his desk to sit down, pausing when Angel hadn’t moved. “Is there a problem?”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to do this here.”
Wes sighed. “I’ve already explained this—”
“I know, I know, no originals leave the building. What about copies? Can we copy all this and take it back to your place? I’ll feel better knowing we’re somewhere I don’t have to worry about being spied on.”
“That’s the second time you’ve insisted on leaving the premises for privacy. If you don’t trust your own staff, why on earth did you think you could exclude us from your decision?” He held up his hand to ward off a response. “Never mind. I think we could go back and forth on that all night and still not get anywhere.”
As Wesley watched, Angel stiffened. He’d seen this response a hundred times before, this tension when Angel suddenly detected something he didn’t expect. Wes tensed automatically, but before he had the opportunity to say something, Angel was marching back to his open door and out into the hall.
His eyes widened when Angel reappeared seconds later with a wriggling Eve firmly in his grasp. “You want to know why I don’t want to do it here?” Angel said. He shoved Eve forward so that she was trapped between the two men. “This is why.”
Eve immediately straightened, smoothing down her short skirt. “No wonder the reports I’m getting from personnel are all complaining about you,” she said to Angel. “If this is how you’re treating all your staff—”
“Can it, Eve. I’m not interested in your bureaucratic bullshit right now. I want to know what you thought you were doing eavesdropping outside of Wesley’s office.”
She shrugged. “I heard voices, and it’s after hours. I was coming to see who was burning the midnight oil.” The smile she shot in Wesley’s direction made him want to scrub his skin under a scalding hot shower. “It’s good to see somebody takes their job seriously.”
“Yes,” Wes agreed. “I take it seriously enough to know when I’m being played.” He looked past her to Angel. As much as he hated what Angel had done, he recognized enough of his friend to know that Eve was still very much a thorn. When she was around, taking Angel’s side was the only natural thing to do. “What do you suggest we do?”
Angel appeared startled at Wesley’s question, but composed himself quickly enough that Eve didn’t catch it. “You know what would be fun?” he said. “Seeing Faith smack her down.”
Wesley’s mouth twitched at the sudden image Angel’s words conjured. “I should call her,” he mused, though really he had no intention to. As entertaining as it would be to set Faith on Eve, Faith was still recovering and didn’t need to be involved in the corporate politics any more than she already was. He pretended to reach for his phone anyway. “She should still be up, I believe. She’s got television and takeaway. She’s likely to make a night of it.”
“Faith’s at your place?”
The genuine confusion in Eve’s tone made Wesley pause. “Did you expect her to be someplace else?”
“No,” Eve replied quickly. Too quickly. “Of course not. Just…considering your history, I’m a little intrigued why you’d keep your rogue Slayer so close. But hey, you want to harbor that death wish keeping a convicted felon in your apartment, be my guest.”
But Wes didn’t believe her. His eyes narrowed as he came back around his desk, and Eve backed away, only to collide with Angel’s broad chest. “You’re not telling us something,” he mused. “How is it you know so much about Faith’s past? She’s not a Wolfram & Hart employee.”
Angel gripped Eve’s upper arms to keep her from running away again. “There’s a lot of stuff not adding up tonight,” he said. “But I’m starting to think that the Senior Partners’ interest in Slayers isn’t limited to Dana.”
That made up Wesley’s mind. Scooping up the files again, he grabbed his keys and headed for the door. “We need to regroup someplace safe. Bring Eve. We’ll pick up Faith, call Buffy, and decide from there what to do next.”
If Angel had problems with Wesley’s sudden orders, he didn’t let them slow him down from dragging Eve out of the office. “What about the files?” he asked as they headed for the parking garage. “I thought you said we couldn’t take them.”
“Eve heard every word we said, didn’t you, Eve?” He didn’t wait for a response. “It’s pointless trying to hide our tracks now. We just need to ensure we stay at the front of the pack.”
Now if he could only deduce what race they were actually running. He hoped that the answer rested somewhere in the files he carried.
And that Faith would still be at his apartment to help.
It was the first time in weeks Faith had been completely alone. There had been instances in Rome, when Buffy or Dawn had left Faith for a few hours, but generally speaking, those were far between, like nobody trusted her to be by herself for any length of time. Circumstances had kept her busy since their arrival in LA, and while she knew why Wes had left her behind, it still made Faith itchy. She wasn’t used to it, which was fucking ironic considering how she’d isolated herself in the joint.
But she was bored. She felt like she was on the outside again. And oddly enough – or maybe not so odd, considering how they’d spent the afternoon – she missed Wes.
Flipping through the channels on the TV didn’t help. Neither did ransacking Wesley’s meager music collection. Unsurprisingly, his CD’s leaned toward the dead and dusty, with the exception of the sole Celine Dion disc she found tucked behind some Russian composer with lots of k’s and v’s in his name. That was worth some ragging when he got home. If he got home. When he got home. Some time.
In an effort to alleviate her boredom, there were minutes where Faith contemplated rooting around in Wesley’s things to see what secrets she could dig up. There had to be something. He had scars galore now, and she’d seen some of the weapons he had stashed around the place when he’d just been going about his daily business. Maybe he had a journal, too, like back in the Sunnydale days. Some kind of Watcher diary that he still felt the need to maintain.
It didn’t take long for her to dismiss the notion, as entertaining as it sounded. It wasn’t worth sacrificing what ground she and Wesley had gained for a minor distraction. She wouldn’t like it if he did the same with her, and frankly, he’d done nothing but respect her privacy since she’d arrived. If she didn’t want to fuck up the one good thing she had going, she’d leave his shit alone, end of story.
She was still bored, though.
When the knock came at the door, Faith leapt from the couch in relief. “Finally,” she muttered as she went to answer it. It was only when her hand was on the doorknob that she stopped to question what she was doing. Wes wouldn’t be knocking at his own door. And she didn’t know if he’d appreciate her answering to one of his friends or co-workers wearing only one of his shirts.
Another knock came, this one harder.
Faith pressed her eye to the peephole. All the air vanished from her lungs when she saw the three policemen flanking what was obviously a plain clothes cop.
“Mr. Pryce?” he called out. “It’s the police. We need to speak to you in regards to a fugitive.”
With a grimace, she turned her back to the door and squeezed her eyes shut. “Shit,” she muttered under her breath.
To be continued in Chapter 23: I’ll Break Before I Bend…