Cordy pulled herself from Grue’s arms as the frightened screams grew louder around them, she stared around and then followed the eyes of the crowd to the roof of the palace. There outlined against the night sky was another of the priests and he had dragged the device for killing the human slaves out with him and was staring down on the assembled crowd with a cruel sneer on his face. She felt the hum as the device gathered strength and knew she had only seconds to act, abruptly kicking off her high sandals she shouted ‘Angel, boost me!’ and grabbed Grue’s short handled axe.
She began to run towards Angel who had dropped into a crouch with his hands loosely linked as she picked up speed she heard a familiar voice scream out and then her foot touched Angel’s hand and he heaved and she was flying. For a moment she thought she had overshot and that Angel in his desperate throw had overcompensated and she would come down in the fields beyond and then she was falling to land in a bone crushing pile on the unforgiving stone roof. She took two seconds to herself and then rolled to her feet and raised the axe and began to run at the priest as his hand lowered to the glowing surface of the sinister machine. The impact as she slammed into his side send agonising waves through her already abused body but she managed to stay on top of the struggling figure as she once again crashed to the stone floor.
The air crashed out of the enraged figure beneath her but he was still amazingly strong and Cordy managed only two glancing blows with her axe before she was backhanded away from him to sail into the low wall behind them, her head rang with a thousand bells as the priest struggled to his feet and staggered back to his terror device. Cordy sobbed as she tried to regain enough coordination to bring herself upright but black spots burst behind her eyes and a wave of nausea had her slumping back against the wall as she fought to remain conscious. Her eyes closed briefly for a moment and then when she opened them she was amazed to see bodies raining down around her. The priest was blocked from her view for a split second and then she saw his head fly over the wall as everything beneath the neck fell to the floor and then her world suddenly got a whole lot noisier.
‘Cordy! Cordy! Can you hear me?’ She tried to focus on the face in front of her but all that she could see was a black blur against an even blacker sky, that blur moved to be replaced by a glowing white blur that began shouting at her just as urgently but her ears were ringing too much to make sense of what was being said. She closed her eyes and then snapped them open again in outrage as her face was none to gently slapped and the black blur and the white blur began to furiously argue over her head, she felt the world begin to spin and a black hole opened up before her and she gratefully threw herself into the void.
Unfortunately that was the moment Lindsey erupted onto the rooftop a stolen sword in hand and in the grip of furious terrified battle lust. From the moment he had first glimpsed Cordy in the middle of the savage battleground his one thought had been to get to her and drag her to safety, when he had seen the leader of the palace troops fall and the rest obey Cordy’s command to lay down their weapons he had started across the space between them unsure whether to kiss her or kill her himself and then a black haired giant had clasped her in his arms and she had allowed herself to be held without so much as a biting comment. He was still twenty paces from her when she had seen the danger that the slaves were still in and had been forced to watch as Angel had thrown her into the night sky. Lindsey was sure she had heard his scream of fear and protest but she hadn’t so much as glanced around and it had been left to Angel to deal with the enraged lawyer as he had crashed into him seconds later.
‘You could have killed her!’ He struck at the vampire in a blind rage ignoring Angel’s shouts of protest and his efforts to push him away until finally the vampire had lashed out in desperation and smacked Lindsey so hard around the face he had spun twice before he hit the ground. Through tears of pain he had watched as first Gunn and the Wes raced towards Angel and were both boosted after Cordy and then Angel had spun and had thrown himself onto a nearby building and began to scale the nearly sheer wall of the palace after his friends. Lindsey had come to his feet and taken off like a madman snatching a sword from the chest of a dead guard as he ran and then he had thrown himself into the nearest doorway to find the stairs to the roof.
The pain in his chest from his headlong dash up flights of stone steps was nothing against the pain he felt when he saw Cordy lying between Wes and Gunn unconscious, his feet hit the floor as Gunn smacked her across the face and he was able to see the ticked expression on her face just before she passed out again. Then he was there pushing the arguing men aside as he sank in a heap beside her and gathered her into his arms he pushed her hair back from her face roughly and her tiara became tangled, with one quick yank it came free and he cast it carelessly over his shoulder ignoring the annoyed yelp from Gunn as it bounced off his forehead.
He looked around at the touch of a hand on his shoulder and the concerned face of Wesley looked back at him ‘I really don’t think you should be doing that Lindsey.’ His lips drew back in a snarl and jerked his shoulder out from under the man’s hand ‘Someone’s got to do something and I’m damn sure hitting her isn’t going to help.’ Wesley drew his hand back and shrugged ‘You maybe right, however I am not going to be the one to explain to her when she wakes up that the appropriate measures of first aid were thought to be pulling off her jewellery and throwing it away.’
Lindsey glanced between Cordelia’s pale face in his arms and the Englishman above him ‘What? Do you really think she’ll care about her stupid headband at a time like this?’
Gunn snorted behind Wesley and leaned forward to slap Lindsey around the back of the head ‘This is Cordelia Chase right? You really think she’s gonna accept we were worried she might have severe cranial trauma as an excuse for losing her diamonds? Please and you say you know the girl.’ He stepped around Wesley and slid his arms gently under Cordy’s limp body and kept his voice low and unthreatening ‘Let me take her for you and we’ll go get her some proper treatment and take care of her sparkly things at the same time. Come on just let go of her and we can all go down together.’
He eased Cordelia’s body towards him keeping eye contact with Lindsey the whole time and watched as the other man’s eyes turned liquid with pent up fear and worry ‘I ..I don’t know what to do.’ Gunn nodded and tightened his grip on Cordy and then stood in one fluid movement ‘I know but I do. Wes take care of the rebels and secure the area.’ Out of the corner of his eye he saw Wesley open his mouth in protest at the order and then abruptly close it as he followed Gunn’s gaze down to Lindsey huddled on the floor with his gaze in turn fixed on Cordelia’s face. ‘Angel!’ The vampire came forward to stand at Gunn’s shoulder and one hand came up to gently touch Cordy’s hair ‘Help Lindsey up and follow me, we need to get her to a medic.’ Gunn felt the vampire stiffen and then the powerful body relaxed and he moved past Gunn to gently put his hands under Lindsey’s arms and lift him to his feet, the lawyer stared uncomprehendingly at his enemy for a moment and then nodded once holding Angel’s gaze.
Angel gave a small smile and guided the smaller man after Gunn and his burden ‘We need to get her some treatment and Gunn needs us to help him, it’ll be chaos down there. You up for that?’ Lindsey nodded and kept his gaze on the tall black man as he disappeared into the dark doorway leading down into the castle.
‘How can you all stay so calm seeing her like that?’ He felt his throat close again with fear and panic and turned his face from Angel not wanting the other man to see the emotions flooding his face and so he felt rather than saw the taller man flinch, he turned back to see a look of anxiety mirroring his own.
‘The time for panic comes after we know she’s ok. If we let go now then we can make a mistake while we’re all thinking with our emotions rather than our heads.’ Lindsey shook his head at such cool words and then came to a sudden halt as Angel continued quietly ‘When she was in hospital last year, after the visions and I knew she was safe I cried for two hours straight. I couldn’t move. I just sat there and cried.’ He met Lindsey’s eyes unflinchingly ‘I’ve worked with Cordelia now for two years and known her for five and in all the things and people we shared not once have I ever cracked in front of them and the thought of what she faces night after night through her own choice fills me with terror but not once would I ever dream of telling her to stop. She does the things she does because she’s driven to by something inside and she needs me to be there to be strong and make sure she lives through one more day.’ He shook his head and raised a hand to drag through his hair ‘What she doesn’t need is me falling to pieces every time she gets hurt and she doesn’t need to know that every time she does it’s like a stake in the heart.’
He started after Gunn and then swung back abruptly to stab a rigid finger at Lindsey ‘And if you ever repeat any of this conversation to her I will personally turn you and keep you locked in my basement for the rest of eternity to practise torturing techniques on, are we clear?’ Lindsey raised both hands in the air and nodded vigorously and his gaze was thoughtful as he followed Angel down the winding stairs.
Two hours later and things were quiet. Angel, Gunn, Wesley and Lindsey were grouped around Cordelia’s bed waiting for her to awaken and had just finished a light meal of bread and cheese brought to them by a frightened palace servant. Grue visited periodically but he was mainly kept busy with organising the castle and dealing with anxious villagers and palace personnel. The four men had managed to clean themselves up somewhat but their clothes still hung on them in dirty, tattered rags and all four faces betrayed the strain of the last few days. In front of the fire on a hastily prepared pallet bed lay the girl Fred sleeping fitfully in the glow of the logs. The four hadn’t talked much in the time it had taken to have Cordelia attended to and settled in the bed and the tentative alliance they had forged in the heat of the battle had once again become strained and awkward under old prejudices and grudges.
A low groan from the bed brought them all to their feet and Lindsey slipped behind Gunn and Wesley as Cordy’s eyes slowly opened ‘Did we win?’ The low question was barely audible as her eyes focused on the men standing around the bed and the tension flowed out of them as they grinned as one. Cordelia relaxed against the pillow and curled her fingers around Angel’s as he eased his hand into hers; she gave a wan smile and ran her tongue over dry lips ‘Can I have some water?’ Wesley hurriedly poured her some into a wooden cup and slipped an arm under her head to assist her in taking a few shallow sips.
Gunn grinned ‘So, how do you feel.’ She sank back against the pillows and rolled her eyes wincing at the pain in her skull at the movement.
‘Like I ran head first into a brick wall.’ She swallowed painfully ‘Tell me the other guy looks worse than I do.’
Gunn shrugged and patted her hand ‘Well you still have your head so I’d say yeah.’ She gave a weak smile at that and then frowned as the pain rolled over her again ‘God, I wish I had some aspirin.’ She looked up at Angel and smiled again ‘Is everything ok? Did I stop him in time?’
He swallowed the lump in his throat and took a moment to make sure his voice was under control ‘You did great, you bought us the extra time we needed to get up there.’ He smiled as her hand squeezed his briefly and added ‘Although the sight of your broken and unconscious body was not what we were expecting to see when we did get up there. What have I told you? Tuck and roll not fly and crash.’
His heart lifted at the flash of pique that came into her eyes as she said bitingly ‘Well excuse me Burt Reynolds but in the heat of a desperate fight for survival there’s not always time to politely ask your opponent to smack you in the direction of the open space rather than a solid wall. Particularly when you happen to be fighting someone of demonic strength.’ Her eyes drifted closed and then opened again ‘Idiot.’ Angel grinned like a fool as his eyes met Gunn and Wesley’s and then he frowned slightly as he spotted Lindsey hiding behind their taller forms with an unobtrusive gesture he motioned them apart and turned back to Cordelia ‘Cordy there’s someone else here to see you.’
In the time it took her to slowly to turn her head Wesley and Gunn swiftly stepped to the side and behind Lindsey effectively trapping him between them and the bed, Cordy’s eyes fell on him and then widened with sheer unadulterated panic as she assimilated the seemingly impossible fact of her ex-lover standing with her family glowering all around him. Her mouth opened but nothing emerged and her hand went ice-cold and began to shake in Angel’s light grasp, he gently took her hand in both of his and said quietly ‘Cordy it’s ok. He came here with us to rescue you.’ Her gaze flew back to his face and he said again ‘It’s ok, he told us everything.’ He watched her colour drain away until her face was nearly the same colour as the pillow she lay on and then laid a hand on her cheek as tears began to fall from her eyes ‘Cordy, it’s ok. Calm down.’
Shooting a swift look at Lindsey standing just as pale beside the bed he growled ‘McDonald get over here and say something.’ Lindsey froze in place until with the help of a non-too-gentle shove from Wesley he staggered around the foot of the bed to Angel’s side his mouth opened but nothing came out he closed it again and only the clearing of three male throats and some pointed shifting of muscles finally broke through his trance.
‘I thought I’d lost you.’ Cordelia continued to watch him with wide wet eyes still unable to speak and Lindsey patted her awkwardly under three narrowed gazes ‘I’m glad you’re ok.’
Gunn snorted and glared as Lindsey’s eyes met his ‘That’s it? We’ve had your whiny ass following us around for the last three days and that’s it? The best you can come up with?’ He snorted again and he stared down at Coredelia ‘The man was half out of his mind with worry and he was prepared to beat Angel bloody to let him come with us.’ He held up a hand as Angel and Lindsey both opened their mouths and continued loudly ‘Now I’m not saying we all weren’t extremely pissed to find that you been sneaking off behind our backs to meet with evil Armani boy here, and don’t think that there won’t be some serious explaining to do once we’re home Barbie, but we all sat down and worked it out and now we’re friends. Right?’
He glared around at the other men and a hasty chorus of ‘Yeah, sure’ s’ were heard around the room accompanied by more vigorous nodding, he gave Cordelia a gentle smile and wiped her eyes ‘Now calm down and get some rest. We’re all safe and nobody is trying to kill anybody else and that’s always a plus, right?’ He stepped back from the bed ‘Well now we know she’s ok what say we get something to eat? I haven’t eaten in days.’
Wesley hastily kicked the incriminating tray with the remains of their meals under the bed and nodded in agreement ‘Excellent idea. Angel you must be starving are you coming?’
The vampire leaned forwards and gently kissed Cordelia’s forehead ‘Ravenous. Lindsey, will you stay with her until we get back? We won’t be long and then you can get something or we can bring you something back?’
Lindsey looked into the cool eyes "If you could bring me something back that would be great." He cleared his throat and said almost inaudibly ‘Thanks.’ Angel grinned back at him for a moment, genuinely amused by the strangled tone of voice used by the lawyer and then with a final squeeze of Cordy’s hand he followed the other two from the room.
There was a long silence following the gentle thump of the heavy wooden door and then Lindsey finally found the courage to raise his eyes to meet Cordelia’s he wasn’t sure what he expected but the blazing fury in the molten chocolate depths came as something of a surprise. ‘What the hell do you think you’re playing at Lindsey? What exactly did you tell them?’ He opened his mouth to answer her but before he could even form the first word she swept on ‘And you tried to kill Angel? Again? What the hell were you thinking?’
She stopped abruptly as Lindsey slammed his hand down on the small ornamental table at the side of the bed and it collapsed into a pile of jagged splinters, he barely noticed the screaming pain in his hand the rage that suddenly filled him was to intense for any other thought or emotion to register.
‘What was I thinking? I’ll tell you what I was thinking! You were missing and your precious Angel had no idea how to get to you and was too damn stubborn to accept my help. Your stupid friends wouldn’t tell me what the hell was going on and I couldn’t find you without their help. I did attack Angel, with a very large and heavy wooden bat if that makes any difference, because that was the only option left open to me to find you. When that didn’t work I had to sit there and lower myself to grovel to that bunch of misfits and tell them everything about us, every little insignificant detail, to convince them that we had something between us. When we finally arrived on this stupid world we went through hell and back trying to find you, all the time sniping and not trusting each other an inch and when I do finally lay eyes on you you’re clinging to some throwback with Xena hair and getting your boss to throw you over three story buildings and then you nearly die before my eyes. So as for the whole thinking part of the equation I’ll be the first to admit not a lot going there. We were kind of busy running for our lives and being frantic with worry for you!’ He stopped abruptly as he ran out of air and stood before her panting and wild-eyed clenching and unclenching his fists with impotent fury at her reaction to seeing him.
Outside the door Angel, Wes and Gunn had their ears pressed flat to the door listening with wide eyes and bated breath to the outburst in the room. Gunn shook his head and gave a low whistle ‘Evil lawyer’s toast now, ain’t nobody speaks to Cordelia like that and lives.’ Angel gave a smug grin and Wesley nodded his head in fascinated agreement.
Cordelia stared at Lindsey and then reached out a hand towards him ‘I’m sorry Lindsey, I had no idea you’d be that worried.’ Her eyes filled with fresh tears as he sank down beside her and lifted her hand to his face in a shaky two-handed grip.
‘What?!’ Angel hastily clapped a hand over the outraged yell from Gunn as he fought to restrain his own astonishment and meeting Wesley’s eyes they dragged Gunn down the passageway ignoring several serving girls staring at them with amazement. He could barely contain his own incredulous reaction, Cordelia had apologised. Cordelia! And she hadn’t ripped off Lindsey’s balls and fed them to him! What the hell was going on? Obviously that blow to the head had affected her more than they thought, the minute they got back to LA he was taken her to the best damn brain specialist he could find.
Back in the room Cordelia and Lindsey sat in silence their hands clasped together and eventually Cordelia broke the silence ‘Why did you come back?’
Lindsey gave her hand a gentle squeeze and rose from the bed suddenly desperate to put some distance between them and gain his equilibrium, he walked over to Fred and checked she was still asleep and then turned and faced Cordy as she lay back on the bed. ‘You look tired. We can talk later when you’re feeling up to it.’ In truth she looked more vulnerable from the other side of the room than up close, from several feet away all he could see was the desperate frailty of her bruised body and the terrifying pallor of her normally lightly bronzed skin. He welcomed the excuse of not taxing her further and keeping her from her rest as a way to ward off the conversation he knew they had to have.
Cordelia, of course, had other ideas ‘I don’t think so, Lindsey.’ She struggled to raise herself on her pillows biting back curses as her head swam and spots again flashed before her eyes, Lindsey crossed the room quickly and with his strong arm around her, and several inventive expletives echoing in her ears, she got into a semi-sitting position. Before he could move away again she grasped his wrist and said in a low serious tone ’Lindsey what are you doing here? Really?’
He laid one hand over hers and said in an equally serious tone ‘I don’t know. I got as far as my hometown and lasted for three days before I had to come back. I came to the hotel and just watched for a while thinking I might catch you as you left one night and then you were never there.’
He gave a long sigh ‘I don’t know what happened. You weren’t anything special and then you were all that I could think about and then you were all that mattered and now…’ His eyes locked on hers and he said in a voice that was almost too quiet too hear ‘Now you’re everything.’
He gave an embarrassed laugh and shrugged his shoulders as though his shirt had suddenly grown too tight ‘It took everything I had left to walk into that hotel and ask to see you and then when I’d finally plucked up the courage to face Angel again I found you missing and him half crazed with fear and the others milling around like zombies.’ He shivered and his grip on her tightened until she flinched with pain and then he abruptly let go and jumped to his feet to pace restlessly around the room ‘It shouldn’t have happened, this isn’t right.’ He rubbed his hands over his face in a quick frustrated move and glared at her ‘That first night I was convinced you weren’t human I thought you were some kind of temptation demon and that my reaction wasn’t my fault but I was kidding myself. Look at me, a few months ago I had it all and now my life has gone and I have nothing and even after all that all I really want is you.’ Tears began to glisten in his eyes ‘All I want is something that I have spent most of my working life fighting against and still you are the one thing I would give my life to have. The whole stupid package. The stupid heroic fights and the sacrificing your life for others and even your stupid, goddamn friends because they help keep you alive night after stupid endless night and I can’t bear the thought of you being hurt like this again and I know that you can’t stop what you’re doing.’
He became aware his voice was echoing off the stone walls and that Cordelia was staring at him as though he had gone mad. Hell, maybe he had and he was about to wake up and this whole nightmare would be over and Lilah would be standing over him with that disdainful smirk on her face and the black hole where his soul should be would still be gloriously and marvellously empty.
‘Have you finished?’ He winced at the savage tone of her voice and nodded swinging round to stare blindly at the wall hunching his shoulders in a futile attempt to ward off the scathing attack he knew was coming, Cordelia’s face softened briefly as she stared at his hunched miserable figure and then she remembered his angry words of a few moment before and the fury rose in her again.
‘First of all, you thought I was a demon? Do I look scaly and horrendously ugly to you?’ Her voice rose in disbelief as she stared furiously at his back ‘What I have is one hundred percent god-given human sex appeal pal and don’t you forget it.’ She blew out an impatient breath ‘And since I didn’t have any choice but to sit here and listen to you drone on about your lame life you can damn well turn around and look me in the eye like a man when I talk to you.’
She watched as he reluctantly turned around and faced her and then when she was sure she had his full attention looked him slowly up and down ‘You have to be the most pathetic excuse for a man I have ever seen, not even Angel carried on this way about Buffy and god knows he could gold medal in heartbreak and anguish if he wanted.’
She sniffed as he flinched and continued mercilessly ‘You left me. I didn’t ask you to go and now you have the nerve to come back and not only attack me for doing my job but for being the one person you would do anything not to love but you can’t help it? Well boo-hoo baby. You think you’re my ideal guy? Until a few weeks ago your idea of a leisurely weekend was planning an apocalypse and trying to kill my boss but I rose above it and tried to see the person beyond that and believe me that was not easy.’ She leaned forward slowly ‘I risked everything for you Lindsey not just my life and my friends lives but the lives of innocents everywhere because let’s face it you’re a pretty safe bet to turn tail and betray everyone near you if it means you come out ok. I didn’t know you weren’t using me in some elaborate plot to destroy my friends or undermine the Powers but I trusted the man I came to know and then I loved you.’
She took a deep shuddering breath and then her eyes resolutely met his eyes ‘I love you still and I won’t stop but I want you to leave now and except when we travel back to LA I don’t want to see you again ever.’ She held up a hand to stop his instant reaction ‘No Lindsey I mean it, I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you came but I want someone who’ll love me because of who I am not in spite of it.’ She shrank back against the pillow as he came towards her and whispered brokenly ‘Don’t make me call Angel.’ He stopped as though she had struck him and his mouth opened and closed as he sought for the words to make her change her mind and then as the tears began to fall from her eyes he turned abruptly and walked out of the room without looking back.
She stared after him as the door closed and then yelled in outrage ‘And you’ve turned my life into the Buffy and Angel re-run show.’ She sniffed back another threatening flood of tears ‘You son of a bitch, you’ve turned me into another goddamn Buffy the Whiney Slayer.’
Ten minutes later and Lindsey was ready to scream. They had crept down two floors without seeing a single soul and he was seriously considering the possibility that Cordelia had put on the performance of a lifetime as part of a devious plot to lull him into a false sense of security and weasel information out of him. The girl stalked ahead of him, her battle axe gripped in her hand scanning around every bend with a look of fierce concentration on her face and her body held in a rigid posture. Every sense and muscle of her body seemed to be tuned to pick up the presence of a threat and, unless he was much mistaken, she seemed almost eager for a fight.
"So do you do this a lot?" His voice echoed unnaturally loud in the deserted corridor and he was rewarded with a furious look over her shoulder.
"Gee Lindsey why don’t you just jump up and down and yell ‘come and get us’ that way the bad guys will find us so much quicker!" Her voice was lowered to the slightest whisper but was laced with venom as she froze in place as the wall came to an end and she leaned slowly around the corner to check all was silent before proceeding.
He opened his mouth to deliver a scathing retort and frowned as her hand clamped across his face and she shook her head frantically, he had reached up to push her wrist down when he heard the voices float down the corridor towards them. They were too far away to pick out distinct words but there were definitely more than two and one in particular caused an outbreak of goose bumps to spring all over his body. The tone was low and slow but with an intensity of pitch that bypassed the thin veneer of genetically inherited civility of two thousand or more years and went straight to the vestiges of primal instinct that lurked in every human soul. The message was clear, stay and die or flee and hide. Cordelia met his eyes with perfect understanding and jerked her head to indicate retreat was the only way to go, he nodded and they began to silently edge back down the passageway hardly daring to breath for fear of alerting the other beings to their presence.
A few minutes later they stood on the stairwell and trying to come up with a plan, Cordy was all for finding the most direct route out of the building and getting the hell out of Dodge but Lindsey on the other hand…"Look we just find some security guards and have them escort them out, that’s what they get paid for after all!" Cordelia groaned and slapped a hand to her forehead and winced as her headache popped up to say hello again "Lindsey we don’t know if we can trust the guards! They could be hunting round the building as we speak desperate to get their hands on your high priced ass."
She tried for a reasonable tone "My vision is an indication of what might happen if we can’t prevent it not a preview to what we can expect to see in a couple of hours. If we act sensibly we can probably avoid a lot of trouble and keep ourselves alive till sunup which, I don’t have to tell you, is a damn good plan!" She reached out and laid a hand on his arm and squeezed gently "I’ve been here before, many times, and as much fun as it is being chased around deserted buildings at night by the big bad of the moment after the sixth or twentieth time it gets really old. I’ve stayed alive this long because I know when to lay low and beat a strategic if undignified retreat. Please, if you want to live listen to me."
Lindsey stared down at the ridiculously earnest face lifted to his and saw underneath the veneer of capability a very real fear, his ego rather than his brain made him say with a sneer " I thought you could take care of yourself. You remember, hell mouth survivor and all. Not so brave without your demon boss and muscle boys when it comes down to it are you?"
Cordy reared back as though she had been slapped and then hauled off and slapped Lindsey "How dare you?" She took an unsteady breath and said in a low, furious voice "How dare you judge me? I live like this every night of my life. You…you sit on your rich, pampered ass day after day and never give a thought to the creatures you unleash on thousands of innocents and now you dare to judge me because I’m trying to get us out of here without getting either one of us killed? You sicken me." She slammed her hand flat against his shoulder and slammed him against the wall "This is how it’s gonna go. You are going to do exactly as I say or I will leave you where you stand and you can take your chances on your own and I hope when the end comes your last thought is of me and the deaths you have caused over the years and maybe you might feel a tenth of the fear and horror they felt as they died by your order." She stepped back and wiped her hand unconsciously on her pants leg as though it had something unclean on it "If you want to live follow me if not say hi to your lawyer buddies in hell."
She turned without another word and headed down the stairs to the next level, Lindsey’s mouth opened and closed soundlessly for a moment as he tried to assimilate the almost forgotten emotion that had stolen his voice and then it came to him in a flash of clarity. Shame, his entire body was writhing within its skin as shame flooded every cell of his being. The girl had looked at him as though he had crawled out of a pit and had crapped on her shoes. She had no time for his power or his position the only thing she saw was a weak man who had made him self anew by using and destroying the lives of others. He shook his head and followed her down the stairs his gaze slightly unfocused with the unpleasant thought that when it came to it that was all there was to him, no real substance just a puppet master being operated by the strings of others.
They proceeded in silence for a few minutes, Cordelia still clearly vibrating with repressed fury until they came to level twelve and behind the doors leading to the floor came the sound of singing. Cordy held up a hand in silence and Lindsey ground to halt still reeling from the ticking off he had just received, they listened for a few minutes as a very loud and slurred voice sang the same two lines over again.
"Uptown girl, she’s bin livin’ in her up town world,
Bet she neva had a back street guy, bet her mama neva told her why,
I’m gonna try for an uptown girl."
Cordy winced "I changed my mind, start yelling for the bad guys." Lindsey gave an involuntary smile at her pained whisper and then frowned as she eased the heavy door open a notch and a balding overweight security guard came into view slumped in a chair waving a bottle of whisky in the air several beats out on the song. Cordelia exchanged confused looks with Lindsey and stared at the man as he kicked up the volume on his song a notch and his voice cracked with the effort, Lindsey had just reached out to push past Cordelia and find out what the hell was going on when a glistening silver spike erupted from the man’s chest and pieces of heart and bone flew across the floor. The two in the doorway sucked in shocked breaths as the spike disappeared as abruptly as it had appeared and a figure stepped forward to catch the bottle of whiskey as it fell from the dead fingers "I hate to waste good single-malt." He shoved carelessly at the man in the chair and as the body fell forward onto it’s face and dropped gracefully onto the seat in his place. Tall, at least as tall as Gunn, the man’s face was handsome with a slight sheen to it as though he had been dipped in a vat of olive oil. He looked vaguely Latino but his accent was pure California and he dressed in casual, lightweight clothes that Cordelia, veteran of a hundred battles, recognised as ideal battle attire. Particularly when you seemed capable of carrying your weaponry inside your body, which is where, unless she was very much mistaken, that lethal spike had disappeared to. She thought furiously for a moment unsure whether to ease back into the stairwell and hope they could pass unnoticed or attack and hope to take at least one threat out while he was unprepared. The decision was taken out of her hands for the moment when another figure stepped into view and glanced down at the body on the floor with disdain, she felt Lindsey stiffen beside her and then hiss "Lilah."
Cordelia frowned in confusion for a moment and then realised where she knew the name from, the woman that normally joined in with Lindsey on the whole ‘tormenting Angel till he snapped’ gig. Wait a minute. . ."Isn’t she meant to be dead?"
Lindsey rolled his eyes and grimaced as Lilah stepped over the man on the floor and walked to a bank of security screens on the wall before and scanned them briefly before snapping, "This is stupid! I need to be able to see the inside of the building to pinpoint his location, for all we know he left hours ago and is at home right now mooning over that vapid blonde corpse."
She whipped around and stabbed a blood red talon at the man on the chair "Stop sitting there and do what I’m paying you to do and find him."
The man on the chair appeared unmoved by the harsh tone of voice and instead chugged some more whiskey before saying casually "You know I have people on every floor of the building. We have three telepaths here and our own guards at every exit. He’s still here. We looped the security camera’s because you wanted no evidence of our presence so although that works in our favour for a clean getaway it also means we can’t use them to locate the prey."
He stood and stretched casually "To add to that we also have to avoid the Wolfram and Hart guards you weren’t able to buy off so that limits us slightly but Lindsey McDonald will be dead by morning."
Lilah glared at him for a moment and then turned to stare at the useless screens again, she turned again as a phone went off in the pocket of the man and put it gracefully to his ear "Yes?" He listened in silence and then terminated the call without speaking again "He’s not alone."
Lilah’s eyes widened with shock "What?" The man shrugged and took another slug of his whiskey before putting the bottle carefully onto the desk behind him.
"He’s not alone. There is someone in this building with him." His eyes crinkled as he smirked "From the sounds of it there was quite a party in your friend’s office, blood everywhere, vomit, signs of sharp blades being used and a small piece of flesh was found that looked like an earlobe."
His mouth stretched to a full blown grin "I would have it brought to you to see if you could maybe identify it as his but my tracker lost hold of himself temporarily at the smell of the blood and ate it."
Lilah stared in disbelief and then gave an exultant laugh "So it looks like someone did the job for me?" She clapped her hands together in childish exuberance "What are the chances?"
The man stared at her for a moment and then grinned again "My guy said the room stank of the Powers." Lilah frowned in confusion and he heaved an exasperated sigh "The Powers That Be? Whoever was in that room with your guy works for the light." Lilah continued to frown in confusion for a moment and then blanched in horror "Angel! It’s got to be Angel."
The man opposite her shook his head slowly as he thought, "No, I don’t think so. From what you told me its uncertain who’s side the guy is on these days, if it were him I don’t think that they would have picked up the scent of light so strongly."
Lilah shook her head "But he has worked for The Powers for a long time there would still be some trace of them on him." She glanced around her panic-stricken "I have to get out of here. If it is him then he won’t stop at Lindsey if he finds out I’m in the building. He’s trying to finish what he started in Holland’s cellar."
She snatched up a sleek leather bag from the floor and hurried out of Cordy’s line of sight "You have take me downstairs and out of the building, you can call me when you find Lindsey’s body." The man stood still for a moment and then reached out and snagged the bottle of whisky again and strolled out after Lilah.
Cordy sagged with relief and then stepped out cautiously into the hall holding the door open for Lindsey as she did so. She turned to face him and saw the look of pure rage on his face "Lindsey are you alright?"
She was alarmed to see his fists opening and closing at his sides and his eyes glazed with fury "Hey it’s ok. We’re safe for a moment and I promise you I’ll get you out of here alive."
She smiled reassuringly at him but that faded when he spat "But not in one piece, right Cordelia?" Her face fell in confusion and then she suddenly realised what he was mad about.
"Oh. Oh. Lindsey I’m so sorry. It was an accident I swear!" She backed away as he advanced on her trembling with hate and fury and yelped as she fell over the body on the floor and landed on her butt.
"You cut off my ear!"
"Not all of it! Just the bottom of the lobe, you can hardly see it."
Lindsey stood frozen by the sheer audacity of the girl, she really thought that made it so much better that it was only a piece of him rather than the whole? "Somebody ate my ear!"
Cordy scrambled to her feet and placed her hands on her hips "Yeah, well somebody ate half my graduating class. Life sucks, deal with it." She scowled and stepped back over the body to get up in his face "Buddy, after the scams you’ve pulled in recent years and all the cosmic retribution you’ve got coming you think you’d be a little more forgiving when you get trespassed against. I said I was sorry and it truly was an accident and if you’ll let me I’ll give it my all to stop that skanky not-dead girl killing you to make it up."
She broke off her speech to flash a blinding grin "What do you say? One nearly whole body in exchange for one measly earlobe, deals like that don’t come along everyday you know."
Despite himself Lindsey felt his lips twitch as she smiled up at him "You really think that will make alright what you did to me?"
Cordy looked troubled for a moment and Lindsey caught a glimpse of genuine regret flash across her face "Not even close but if you think I ‘m gonna let you cut bits off me when we make it out of here to even up the score you’re even loopier than Druscilla."
Lindsey laughed out loud then and Cordelia caught another glimpse of the man he might have been if he hadn’t gotten caught up with Wolfram and Hart, he smiled into her eyes and said "I think you owe me for more than an earlobe Cordelia."
She frowned until he lifted his hand in front of her eyes and then watched the light glint off the plastic.
"You blame me for that?" Her voice was husky with the remembered pain of being trapped screaming in her own head with the forgotten, troubled souls of the city. Lindsey opened his mouth and then paused for a moment "Are the visions always like that?" Cordy met his eyes and very slowly dropped her habitual cloaking so her eyes and soul lay as naked to his gaze as a newborn child "Every time."
Lindsey swallowed at the pain, fear and weariness that lay before him and that hung heavily on every syllable of the two words she spoke. He shook his head and spoke through a suddenly dry mouth "We never thought what it would do to you."
He half expected to have his uncertain words flung back in his face but she nodded and said simply "Thank you." They held each other’s gaze for a second longer and then broke apart and uncomfortable silence coming between them.
Cordy swallowed and looked down at the body on the floor and then knelt and pressed a gentle hand to the pulse point on the neck, Lindsey frowned and said "Cordelia he’s dead there’s nothing you can do for him."
She stared up at him for a moment suddenly looking a lot younger than her years and then spoke "I know I just had to check." She came to her feet in one graceful move and looked down for another brief moment "I stood there and watched him die and did nothing. If there was any chance he survived then I owe to him to do what I could." She shrugged and turned away "As it turns out he’s just another human shish-kabob."
Lindsey stared at her in genuine bafflement "If you’d have tried to do something you’d be dead." It was his turn to stare at the body on the floor "You can’t save them all."
Cordelia gave a bitter smile "Congratulations Lindsey you just summed up in one sentence the glaring differences between us." She looked at him with deep disgust "I don’t want to save the world I just have to save the person in front of me. Even if that means that one day I die trying." She shook her head and turned away "Come on we need to get moving."
Lindsey followed her without a word and nearly crashed into her back as she froze in place staring ahead of her, he looked past her and saw two vampires, one in a long coat and Stetson, staring back at them with wide grins.
Cordelia frowned for a moment and then exclaimed in surprised recognition "Lyle Gorch!" She made sure she was squarely in front of Lindsey and raised one eyebrow "What rock did you crawl out from under?" She pointedly hefted the axe over her shoulder and said calmly "Didn’t I cream your ass enough for you last time?"
The vampire looked momentarily discomfited and then gave a shrug and stabbed a finger at her "Last time you had help. I only see one Slayer tonight and two of us. The human doesn’t look like good back-up to me."
Cordelia risked a quick glance over her shoulder and took in Lindsey’s pale face covered in a light sheen of nervous sweat "We both know I don’t need help to take you Gorch." She gave a confident grin "Just so you know Buffy’s two floors up dusting up a storm as we speak. I wouldn’t want you thinking I don’t play fair after all."
She took a measured step towards the two vampires and said in a hard tone "Now introduce me to your friend so I know who’s ashes I gonna be washing out of my hair come morning and we’ll get this show on the road."
The vampire with Gorch flinched back and then was shoved forward, Cordelia had time to get the impression of a young guy who couldn’t have been more than twenty when he died then she took a step back for balance swung her axe and neatly took his head off.
Lindsey had taken a deep breath to shout a warning and unfortunately got a mouthful of vampire dust and promptly choked leaving Cordelia to face Gorch again with an eyebrow raised in query, the vamp blinked in disbelief suddenly looking worried "You have two choices John Wayne get the hell out of my way or be prepared to spend the rest of the night being trodden into the carpet."
Cordelia’s voice was harsh with fear and anger and the demon before her visibly flinched before saying "If you give me the human you can get out of here Slayer nobody needs to get hurt."
Despite herself Cordelia took a small amount of genuine pleasure in the tremor of fear in his voice "I think you mean you don’t need to get dead honey, but just so we’re clear the man is under our protection and when have you ever known a Slayer back down from a fight?"
The demon stared for a second and then turned tail and ran hell for leather back down the corridor, Cordy yelled after him "You’d better run Gorch! I’ll tell Buffy to keep an eye out for you!" She turned to Lindsey and shoved him in the opposite direction "Run!"
Lindsey obediently began to run alongside her managing to pant out "Slayer?" Cordelia shot him a smile as they pelted down a seemingly endless corridor " Really dumb vamp. Met him in high school, long story explain later."
She stopped abruptly and gave a small whoop of delight at the discreet sign by a large oak panelled door she opened it and shoved him inside and locked the door behind them. It took a few moments to locate the lights but eventually she found them and then Lindsey found himself standing in the Partner’s private lounge, Cordy hurried to the bar that ran the length of the room and began examining bottles and selecting ones to stand on the bar in front of her.
Lindsey crossed to her and said curiously "What are you doing?"
Cordelia glanced up and waved a twenty-year-old bottle of scotch under his nose "Weapons." She gave an exclamation of delight and threw a pile of cotton napkins beside her bottles.
Lindsey looked more confused "You’re going to bartend them to death?"
Cordelia stopped for a moment and stared at him with amused pity "And you call yourself a demon lover." She held up the whisky and poured it over the pile of napkins and then cracked another bottle when that ran out and repeated the procedure "You soak the cloth with alcohol and if you need an edge before a fight you light it and throw, the cloth sticks to the vamp if it hits skin and hey presto! Vampire fondue." She gave him another blinding smile and continued throwing piles of napkins on the counter and saturating them with three hundred dollar a pop bottles of scotch.
"Where did you learn all this?" Lindsey asked in fascinated horror.
Cordy grinned again "Oh please like you don’t know everything there is to know about me down to my bra size." She ducked down under the counter to search for a bag or container to put the ruined cloths in.
"I went to school on a hell mouth with a vampire slayer you pick these things up as you go along. I once killed a demon with superglue and the heel of my foot." She saw the revolted look that crossed his face and laughed "He had transformed into thousands of maggoty things at the time and it was all we could think of. It got the job done."
She stared down at the top of the bar for a moment and then said quietly "And it helped save Buffy and Angel’s life."
Lindsey watched as she carelessly began to stuff the saturated cotton in a tote bag that she first emptied of soiled bar aprons, "Do you do that a lot?"
She flicked him a puzzled look.
"Save Angel’s life I mean."
She worked her way down the bar examining under the counter for anything that could be used as a weapon "Sometimes. We failed horribly once and he went to hell and Buffy died when she fought the Master but other than that we pretty much made it unscathed through high school." She gave a short laugh as she remembered a few highlights of her chequered school career "Sure made for a hell of an education I know that much."
Lindsey frowned as he saw an almost wistful expression cross her face "You look like you almost miss it."
Cordy shook her head and opened her mouth and then paused for a moment
"Sometimes I do. Not just because I had a whole life and money and everything but I was a part of something." She grinned at Lindsey "I telling you, you want to be glad you never came up against the Sunnydale crew we would have cleaned your clocks."
Lindsey snorted "Hardly likely Cordelia, a bunch of school kids who fought a few vampires on the side? I don’t think we were in the same league." He gestured with his good hand to the door "And if that’s an indication of the level of evil you were facing I’d hardly say you were challenged with or without a Slayer."
Far from looking angry or hurt at his casual dismissal of the dangers Cordelia and her friends had faced on the hell mouth she looked amused "Gorch? I agree totally a total embarrassment to vampires the world over. Nah, an average week for us was dust a few vamps, kill a couple of demons, usually snakes for some bizarre reason, and then stop the apocalypse in time for Saturday night down at the local club."
She pushed her hair back from her face and fixed him with a level look "And just for the record Lindsey a Slayer, a Watcher, a witch, a werewolf, a vampire with a soul and two humans does not a bunch of school kids make." She came out from behind the bar with the bag lung across her torso "And that was just the core. Over the years we’ve had another two Slayers, another witch, a techno-pagan gypsy, occasional demon allies, the Council and now I understand they run with a thousand year old demon and have yet another powerful witch and another vamp. By anyone’s standards that’s not a force to dismiss."
She eyed him up and down "You might want to lose the jacket and tie suit boy. The less you give ‘em to grab hold of the better your chances of getting out of here alive."
Lindsey eyed her right back "That explains your outfit then." Cordelia’s mouth dropped open and she glanced down at herself. Low heeled black boots, black trousers and a green sweater she positively screamed taste and class "What’s that supposed to mean?"
Lindsey grinned and swept a dismissive hand up and down her body "What did you do spray your clothes on this morning?"
Cordelia gasped in outrage "Excuse me? This happens to be a one of a kind sweater buddy and pants by this designer don’t exactly come cheap you know. . . "
"Oh right, you couldn’t afford clothes in the right size? I know how it is trying to stretch a budget."
"I do not have a budget!"
"Look Cordelia it’s nothing to be ashamed of…"
"I am not ashamed!" Cordy yelled almost stamping her foot in rage. The goddamn son of a bitch, who the hell did he think he was?
Through the red haze floating in front of her eyes she saw Lindsey giving her what could only be described as a smug grin "Now, now no need to lose your temper."
Her teeth snapped together with a painful sounding click and she glared at him furiously.
"I’ll bow to your superior judgement on this and shed all unnecessary clothing." He waited a beat and then sniggered "Just the jacket and tie or should I lose the shirt and pants as well?"
Cordy snorted "I thought we agreed I’d be saving your sagging ass this evening not getting up and personal with it."
Cordelia stared at him for a moment and then her lips twitched in an involuntary smile "Hurry up we need to keep moving." She crossed to the door and pressed her ear to it to listen for approaching footsteps.
Lindsey shook his head and began to shrug out of his jacket ‘Are you always so serious?’
Cordy turned her head in amazement "Me? Serious?"
Lindsey pulled on his tie and nodded "Yeah, you seem so focused all the time. So…intense."
"Hello paging denial boy. You have noticed that we seem to have half the demons in LA hunting us down like dogs? One of us needs to know what to do in this situation wouldn’t you say?"
Lindsey nodded and crossed to stand behind her as she eased the door open and peered into the hallway and stepped out "Absolutely but do you need to be quite so Xena all the time?"
Cordelia glanced back and then reached down and took his hand in hers to keep him close as they moved cautiously to the next flight of stairs.
"Ok Gabrielle follow me and I promise I’ll try to remember to whistle while I work." Lindsey grinned again and wisely kept his mouth shut as he enjoyed the first gentle touch from another human in a longer than he could remember.