Angel paused as he was about to leave the vault, the files all safely secured inside the briefcase he'd bought a few weeks ago. So far everything had gone to plan and all he had to do now was leave, make his way home and figure out from the files where the kids were. Maybe by then Spike would have forgiven him for not garrotting Lindsay as soon as his well clad ass had walked through the door. It wasn't as though Angel really cared about the man in any way at all. If the powers that be had insisted that Lindsay was a soul to be saved, he would have backed away. Lindsay hadn't almost had their lover killed, hadn't struggled every day to try and eliminate Angel investigations from their inquiries. They didn't hold the man up as a symbol of everything that was wrong in LA. Of course, nor did Angel, really, but it was all too easy to just look at this bright young man who'd walked the stony path and judge him. But he couldn't, he shouldn't. Compared to the acts he'd done as Angellus, getting a few killers off just didn't compare. And telling himself that his soul made all the difference didn't help either. Lindsay had started to try and justify his life and Angel had cut him off at the pass. Wesley, Doyle, Xander, Cordelia...they had problems, they'd had tough lives, but it hadn't made them evil people and it hadn't excused their sense of right and wrong. And whilst he understood the man's decision not to be the underdog, he wasn't prepared to let him blame the whole thing on something that happened in childhood and leave it at that. He didn't know what he expected Lindsay to do after this. Stopping someone killing kids was one thing, but the lawyer was too wrapped up in the perks and the thrill of winning to give it up and start over. Still, people could do surprising things sometimes - Sunnydale had taught him that. Hell, Spike had taught him that, long before he'd even acquired that nickname. He couldn't shake the feeling that Spike was up to something though. Although the younger vampire was an accomplished liar, since he had come to LA he rarely lied, seeing no reason to hide behind deceit. It was one of the things that made Angel feel so secure, knowing that all he had to do was ask Spike, and he'd get the honest, if slightly crude version. But today, (and last night for that matter) there had been something 'off' about his response. There had been a moment when he was sure the vampire was going to kiss him, tell him to blow this whole deal off and shag until the cows came home. And if he'd done it, Angel would have closed his eyes to the problem for long enough to earn them both some release. There was nothing like it, not before and certainly with no one else - loving Spike was unique and something else. Yeah, loving him felt powerful, as if nothing else could touch them when they were together. Fanciful maybe, but there was precious little in his life that had ever made him feel so invulnerable. The knowledge of being loved, of being known so well was intoxicating. They were so in tune with one another, he could sense when Spike was hurt, when he was well, and when he was hornier than a sex-starved rabbit. Which was why he knew Spike was lying. God, don't let him be doing something dangerous enough to kill him. Don't let him be that stupid. Don't let him leave me. Resolved to leave, Angel walked toward the door. And he turned, feeling something he couldn't ignore, feeling something that felt like Spike, something that called to him. And as he moved to the cylinder, he wondered what the siren call was. He picked it up. * Holland uncovered his ears as the alarms finally stopped. He wondered if there was a less deafening way of setting alarms off. After all, they had enough security equipment, both spiritual and technical...and some combining the two. He was used to his lunch appointment being interrupted, and today had been no exception, but at least there had been a positive outcome. How wonderful. Of course, now he had to go through the tedious process with the mind readers. Terrible - they never gave you the really juicy stuff. Ah well, best to just grit ones teeth and get on with it. He watched as the telepaths walked along the line and glared meaningfully at each employee. Whilst he'd once stood there, nervous, worried, wondering if his every thought would get him fired (or worse, he discovered after a brief encounter with a career termination) once he'd settled down and chosen his place, such things no longer worried him. He could see them tensing now, most of them. Lee seemed a little tense, but then, his tetchy nature seemed to always leave him that way. You couldn't fault the man for knowing what was going on, almost before Holland knew himself. Some day soon, he'd find out exactly where the man's loyalties were, and where all that juicy information came from. Maybe today. Lilah seemed as disinterested as usual. It was rare to find a person, let alone a woman so dispassionate. She rarely responded with anything more than disdain to these sweeps and whilst her faultless information and tactics were fascinating to discover, there was something about that poised stance that set her in the same cast as Vanessa Brewer - something that made his skin crawl. And between them stood a heavily perspiring Lindsay. If there had ever been evidence that the man was going through emotional changes, it was here in this office. He looked...hmm...he looked as though the Brewer case was praying heavily on his mind. Holland sighed and decided to pass the case over to Lilah, even if it did mean going over Lindsay's head. He almost smiled when he thought of the three of them - squabbling children going after the best toy, using their various talents to get it. Lee would always use his fox like cunning, his stealth and downright nastiness. Lilah used style and deception, and if it meant one of the boys losing his balls over the job, she wouldn't hesitate. And Lindsay...well Lindsay would use his natural intelligence and that desire not to be discounted. When he'd seen him first, Holland knew that the boy held the chip of all poverty stricken kids - don't ignore me just because I have to work harder. I will work harder, I'll be everything you ask, just don't count me out. And Holland hadn't, and Lindsay had done almost all that he promised. Almost. Time that boy had a vacation he mused, just before the telepaths returned to his side and told him who'd be staying on and who'd be leaving...immediately. He stepped forward in front of them and assumed a suitably solemn expression. 'Well, I have to say, this is a shame. It's just a shame. Whenever I hear of disloyalty it...ah, hurts me.' He gestured to himself. 'Hurts me personally.' Lindsay blinked and ignored the sweat dripping down his forehead. He stared steadily at a point two inches to the left of Holland's head, ignoring his boss, ignoring the glaringly obvious fear he was giving off. Holland looked over to where the security guard stood and gave him a barely perceptible smile. 'But this kind of thing really has to be dealt with, quickly and cleanly.' He watched as Lindsay slowly swivelled his eyes round to face him. Call me out, he seemed to be saying, I dare you. Holland almost grinned, but there were pressing matters to be dealt with first. He turned easily to Lee. 'I'm sorry Lee, I truly am.' The shock was unmistakable. 'What? No!' As the skinny man flinched, Holland noted that Lindsay still wasn't relaxing. Obviously has something to hide...it'll be interesting to discover what. 'You've been in secret talks with Klein and Gruber...' Lee shook his head. 'They approached me,' he said desperately. Holland continued regardless. 'You were planning on taking clients with you.' 'You don't understand, they misread me...' babbled Lee as the guard cocked the gun behind his head. 'I just wanted Klein and Gerber to think...' He stopped abruptly as the bullet put an end to that and all other conversations. Blood spattered against Lindsay, but he didn't even pull away. Holland reached for his handkerchief and shrugged. 'Terminating an employee is never pleasant.' He sighed. 'That's all.' He watched as Lindsay lurched toward the door. He definitely needs a vacation, he decided. Must have a word with him in the morning when all this unpleasantness has left his mind. In the meantime... 'Lindsay,' he called before the man left the room. 'Take the day off.' The boy turned. 'Sir?' Holland smiled. 'You look like hell. Go home and sleep it off. We can't have our clients believing we work you to death, can we?' Lindsay paused, then nodded and left the office. Holland sighed and gestured to the body. 'Get that out of here would you.' The security guard nodded whilst Holland hit the intercom. 'Leslie, I think we're going to need that extra roll of carpet...yes, same as last time.' He leaned back in his chair and watched as Lee's limp form was removed. Sometimes, you just had to break children apart and let them find their own way. He just hoped Lindsay's was with the firm. Otherwise... * 'Where's Spike?' 'Where's Lindsay,' asked Cordelia. Angel shook his head. 'Don't know, don't care. Now where's Spike?' Xander shrugged. 'No idea, he said he had stuff to take care of and I really didn't feel up to asking.' There was the barest hint of a growl in Angel's voice. 'Did he say anything at all about where he was going?' Cordelia stared at him. 'Well gee, Angel, I don't know. But my first guess is that he's out there drinking and celebrating you taking on the guy who almost killed him.' Angel swallowed and nodded slowly whilst Cordelia looked away and picked up an armful of files. 'Well that or found some poor schmuck to torture.' Xander held is hand up. 'Does it make me shallow if I'm okay with that as long as it's not me?' 'No,' said Cordelia, 'it does make you a wimp and an asshole.' Xander nodded. 'That's okay, as long as I'm not shallow.' She giggled and looked toward Angel who was drawing his coat back on. 'And where are you going? We have files to decipher!' Angel gestured to his office, where Doyle and Wesley were going through various texts. 'You have them, you can phone Willow. You don't need me.' 'Well duh, but where are you going?' Angel walked to the door. 'I'm going to find him.' She threw her hands in the air. 'Angel, there are millions of people in this city! How are you going to find just one?' 'Leave it, Cordy,' said Xander as the vampire hunched his shoulders and left. 'What? How can you tell me to leave it when he's going out there looking for Spike, whilst we have to do the hard work...again!' Xander shrugged. 'You have no idea how weird this feels to say, and I'm freaking as I actually say it, but that's love, Cordy.' She raised an eyebrow at him. 'Skipping out on your sacred duty to find your bump and grind partner?' He chuckled. 'Choosing one person over anyone else.' 'Oh.' She looked at him, a puzzled expression on her face. 'Didn't I read that in your fortune cookie the other night?' 'Hey, I never claimed to be original, just honest.' Cordelia nodded and brushed her hand along his forehead, moving a stray hair out of the way. 'Sometimes I think you may just be too dumb to lie.' 'That too.' * There were a couple of holes in the roof and the whole place stunk of burned meat. Lindsay swallowed hard and slumped forward on the floor. His nose ran briefly with blood and the migraine he felt was overwhelming. He'd never felt pain quite like it. It felt as though his head was swimming and he knew for certain that his vision was blurred. He shuddered hard as it left him, the freedom of thought only just compensating for being the only one in his head once more. With a groan, he rolled to his side and tried to look up, seeing only a blurry dark shadow and a swirl of air. He couldn't focus and he coughed hard as the dust crept up his nose. Couldn't see anything properly. He could hear them, though. 'Now that really felt dirty.' There was something about that voice - it was hazy, almost like a radio signal that faded in and out. Something familiar though, but he couldn't quite place it. 'Well it's your second time, pet. Can't all have minds as pristine as mine.' 'Oh hur, hur. Like hanging in your head was any big fun.' Lindsay ran his tongue along suddenly dry lips and tried to focus again. It was growing slightly clearer, but his brain couldn't cope with what he was seeing. 'Worked though, didn't it, pet. Bloody thing couldn't function properly cause it didn't know what was going on.' 'Like a signal that jammed. Tingly though.' Lindsay watched as the vapour like creature moved closer to the vampire. 'Still, at least your mind's simple - clean. Not like the big ethical dilemma he's got going on.' 'He's a lawyer, pet. Can't deal with the stuff he does so he separates the lot.' 'Oh...icky.' The lawyer in question got to his knees and looked up at them as Spike noticed him with a grin. 'Show-time, love. Better do your thing.' He couldn't be sure, but the shadow passed across the vampire and disappeared, as Spike shuddered briefly and rubbed his head. But before Lindsay could move, a well aimed kick caught him in his side and he howled into the empty warehouse. A firm hand gripped his neck and pulled him uncomfortably back. 'Hello, pet. Seems like you and me are going to be spending a bit of quality time - you know, discuss some of them business practises you get up to.' 'You...can't hurt...me,' spluttered Lindsay through gritted teeth. 'The chip...' Spike nodded and stood up again, kicking the lawyer hard in the kidneys. 'Let's just say I've found a loophole.' *
Angel was prowling. He knew he was doing it and tried to make a conscious effort to straighten up and walk the streets like any other man...like any other vampire who happened to be stalking the streets looking for a sign of his lover. He growled at the knowledge, startling an old lady in front of him. As she leaned instinctively back, he tried to offer her a smile. But the damage had been done and she backed off quickly. He stood there a moment, watching her go, wondering if this was really the world he wanted to be a part of. Back in Galway, people had been more trusting...or so it seemed. He allowed himself a grin as he recalled the community he'd once been a part of. Well even that was pushing it - he'd longed to get away from its small town mentality and closed circuit of friends he'd had. He was expected, like every other lad he'd grown up with, to settle down in the family business, find a nice girl with a hefty dowry and pour his life away. Of all his peers, Angel wasn't entirely alone in wanting to escape that fate, but he was the only one who'd had a chance, even if he'd had to die to gain it. Could I have just walked away? Is there any chance I would have ignored Darla and lived out my dull existence in Galway? He shrugged and moved forward. It was hardly a new question - he'd been asking himself the same thing since the day his soul had been restored. But he knew the answer would never change, he'd been longing for something new, and she glittered - glowed in the gentle town. There had never really been a question of doing something else, and his fate was sealed before she set a single dainty foot in the alley. And then he shook his head, moving away from that false comfort. There's always a choice, he'd told Lindsay last night. There's always a decision other than the one you made, even if wasn't a better one. But what did it matter, really? Liam had walked into that alley, Angellus had fed from the gypsy, Angel had....fallen in love with his own childe. He could almost hear Spike chuckling at this moping, reminding him that there were far better things to think about than the past. There was all this delicious future in which he could be stripped naked and rolling about the bed with a certain blond vampire. Or they could be fighting side by side against something which literally begged to have its throat torn out. Or he could be drifting to sleep peacefully, a cool body pressed up against his, legs and arms possessively holding him, head pressed against his chest, spare limbs resting easily along the rest of the mattress. He could hear the slow snore which evolved into a chuckle every now and again. He could feel the way Spike seemed to itch his face, nuzzling against his chest, feeling his lips brush past a nipple, and there was always a moment in which the vampire nearly woke. Mostly, he just shifted his head and relaxed, dreaming whatever dreams Spike happened to dream. There had been choices, he really couldn't deny that, and he had over time made some phenomenally bad ones. But loving Spike...he'd looked over it and over it and there wasn't a single way he could see that being a bad thing. How else would two lairy old vampires wind up fighting for the greater good? Even if they both questioned it frequently? Even if one of them only happened to be on the 'right' side by accident? Fate wasn't something set in stone, or at least, not a stone you couldn't hack away at. And Spike had managed to hone a sharply edged chisel, refusing to accept anything other than what he wanted. Instant gratification was what had driven him once, and to some extent, it still did. But what he wanted had been narrowed down, and he'd adapted to every challenge and setback with more ease than Angel had managed in a century. So Angel found himself getting down to some basic thinking. What do I want? Easy, shorter than me, blonder, wittier and far more able to brush off unwelcome thoughts. See, even when it's a simple question you don't give the direct answer. Okay, so I want Spike. And? Okay, I want Spike and some hot and heaving sex, I want to lave at his body with my tongue, I want to feel his skin against mine, in me, around me, so close you'd need a crowbar...and again with the too much information. Cordelia would be laughing. After she'd been officially grossed out that is. He sighed and looked around. This street seemed identical to the one before it, and dammit, like the almost any other he'd been down tonight. How can I find him if I don't know where to start looking? What about the kids? Which comes first? He leaned into an alleyway and smelt the rats. Whatever he'd become since he'd gained his soul, he knew he'd changed - Angel was no longer the wretch who struggled to exist with himself day by day, feeling useless and frightened. Okay so sometimes those feelings came back, but they weren't constant, and they weren't even everyday issues. Not any more. He reached into his coat pocket and drew out the cell phone, hoping that Spike hadn't been using it to make prank calls to Cordelia. He checked the battery and huffed into the night air. At least he had enough to call back to the office - to see if they'd made any progress. 'Hello, Angel Investigations, we help the hopeless, well we would, only big and broody's out looking for his...' 'Xander,' he said quickly, 'it's me. Any progress with those files?' He could almost hear the mental gear-shifting. 'Hey, Angel. Right the files thing. Well, they were encrypted.' The vampire groaned. 'Any luck breaking the code?' 'Uh huh. Willow came up with the goodies. Turns out they've been doing the same thing back in Sunnydale.' Angel shivered as though a wind had passed by him. He looked around, but it was quiet, almost desolate in its emptiness. He rubbed the bridge of his nose and tried to pay attention. 'So what is it, where are they?' 'The kids? Well I've got the address for you, but you're not going to believe what Wesley's come up with.' There it was again. Not a wind, something closer than that, something...that chilled his blood. 'Angel, you still there?' He looked around...something...near. He was...watched? 'Okay Xander, just give me the address. I'll go get them out before she can get near them.' 'Sure. But that scroll you picked up...' Angel blinked and swapped the ear he held the phone to. He couldn't hear any difference, but still... 'What about the scroll?' Xander chuckled. 'Turned out it's a regular this is your life, or your unlife. Wesley says it's got your lowdown.' 'Uh huh.' 'Hey Deadboy, that was supposed to be a big. Or do prophetic scrolls fall in your lap every day?' Okay, now he definitely saw something. There was movement in the warehouse beyond and he strode towards it, covering as much ground as he could without running. 'Xander - I'll ring you back in a minute. There's something here.' 'Hell of a conversationalist, you know that, don't you?' Angel clicked the phone off and slid into the darkness, keeping as quiet as he could, trying to see inside. It was no good, the lights were too dim and the window too dirty. There was nothing else for it. Angel opened the door, wincing at the slight creak it emitted, and then he was inside. There was definitely something in here. * 'You know what really pisses me off?' Lindsay groaned and rolled onto his side, trying to cover the ribs recently cracked. The vampire had only touched him a few times, but each kick or punch had landed with such precision that it had left him winded, recovering slowly as Spike talked in that low pleasant voice, describing in detail what you could do to the human body with a railroad spike. They'd passed through what were apparently Spike's golden years, torturing and maiming his way round Europe, taking what he wanted, destroying what he didn't. Lindsay had read about some of it - they kept fairly accurate history books at the firm and he was a stickler for research, but to hear Spike talk about it, to hear him revel in his gruesome victories turned his stomach. He would have been sick, only he'd done that three times already, and all he got now were dry heaves. As he closed his eyes, a heavy boot connected with his tender spine. 'Oi, lawyer boy. Don't go passing out on me. You and me, we've got a few hours till morning and I'm not wasting them by trying to wake your bony ass up.' Lindsay grimaced and attempted to sit up. There was a bruise on his ass the size of a football and it was one of the few places that wasn't actually throbbing in pain. He struggled to look up. 'I didn't have to come to find you, to tell you about the children...' Spike crossed his chest. 'You mean you did it out of the goodness of your corrupted little heart? Well blow me, I've gone and done something really naughty, haven't I? You were only trying to help.' The silly me look evaporated as soon as Spike was back within kicking range and the vampire brought his left boot down hard on Lindsay's ankle. As the man shrieked, Spike bent down and grabbed his hair, pulling Lindsay's head back so that he was face to face with the demon. 'You really thought that one bit of info was going to absolve your crimes? You really thought you could change?' Lindsay spat blood and managed to stare into the fierce yellow eyes. 'I didn't want them killed.' Spike nodded and sat back, dropping Lindsay's head back to the floor. 'Let me tell you what I think, mate.' He drew out a cigarette and lit up, waving its fiery tip in the chilly air. 'You're not going to lecture me again? I thought Angel was the soul saver?' The vampire chuckled and Lindsay shuddered at how inhuman they could seem. And I thought it was bestial at Wolfram and Hart. I didn't have a clue. 'Well Angel's in it for the soul saving. Now me, I'd rather see you break right now, give in and admit that being evil's a whole lot more fun.' 'I'm not...evil...it's just a job.' Spike chuckled. 'Oh and you believe that don't you. Tell me, pet. Just how do you think your boss...' 'Holland.' 'Right, Holland...Just how would he react if he knew you'd been conspiring with the enemy?' The bullet ripped through Lee's head again and Lindsay shuddered. It was just the cold of the warehouse, he told himself, it's just knowing that Spike's unleashed, and that neither of them in that head want me alive and back in my apartment. He shook his head. 'He'd have me killed.' Spike sucked on the cigarette and grinned. 'Honesty? Isn't that outlawed with your lot?' Lindsay ran his finger over his lip, the blood sliding from his mouth for what seemed like the fourth time in hours. 'Aren't you supposed to be in love? Aren't you breaking some vampire law by swearing off blood just because you want Angel?' Spike growled and Lindsay tensed, waiting for the fangs to descend, for his throat to be torn out. But Spike merely dragged down the last of his cigarette and reached for another. 'I'm pretty sure it's a well known bad idea to try and piss your torturer off, mate.' Lindsay spat on the floor, slightly alarmed at how red it was. 'If you're going to kill me, kill me, but don't make me listen to your life story while you do it.' The vampire grinned. 'You know, you wouldn't have made a bad vampire yourself - got the 'talking big' down. Now if you could only do something about the lawyer crap you keep coming out with, we could be in business.' Lindsay shook his head, feeling as though marbles were rattling round in there. 'I don't want to be like you.' Spike got closer and blew smoke in his face. 'You don't get it, pet, do you?' 'Get what?' He grinned again, waving the lit end round like a baton. 'You don't think they call you bloodsuckers for the hell of it?' Lindsay groaned and buried his head between his knees. Crippling pain and cheap gags? If he'd had the energy, he'd have walked out. As it was... 'I'm nothing like you.' 'Sure you are.' Spike lay down on the floor and pulled Lindsay back toward him, hair coming off under his fingers. 'You live on other folks misery, get a happy when you get away with dirty, unspeakable things.' He chuckled. 'I bet you're walking round with a stiffy every day you watch some poor sucker get sucked down into the pits.' He shifted his grip, causing the wincing Lindsay nose to nose with him. 'As long as you're on top, no one else matters, do they?' Lindsay huffed and yanked away. 'If I'm a vampire, what does that make you?' Spike shrugged. 'Good looking and deeply perceptive?' Lindsay shook his head again. 'I've known vampires. They'd have killed me by now. Let's face it Spike, you've gone soft.' Spike kicked him in the ribs, growled and kicked again as the lawyer fell backwards. 'Did that feel fucking soft, boy?' Lindsay cradled his ribs and rocked back, managing to face the vampire. 'You sleep next to the vampire with a soul. You do what he tells you and all so that you can get laid.' He wiped away the blood on his lip and flicked it at Spike. 'I think that qualifies you to be the more pathetic creature.' Spike paused a moment, and Lindsay thought he'd hit his mark, but then the vampire grinned and looked away, finding another packet of cigarettes in that long coat. 'All right, you've made a good point there, pet. Well researched, but one of us wakes up happy and hard every day, confident that there's going to be enough food, sex and violence to suit our needs.' He held the lighter to the tip. 'And it's not fucking you, is it?' Lindsay nodded. 'At least I'm not pretending to be something else.' Spike blew smoke out, and as it cleared, he vamped out. 'And what am I then?' 'An animal.' The vampire chuckled. 'Better than an asshole though, isn't it?' He stopped laughing as something touched the edge of his hearing. 'What's the matter, Spike? Not as funny as you thought?' Spike snuffed out the cigarette and bent down, clamping a hand across Lindsay's mouth. 'Quiet, you little shit, someone's near by.'