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U Turn, Part One


Contains explicit male/male sex.

Pairing: Angel/Lindsey

Summary: On his way out of Los Angeles, Lindsey has an encounter with Angel that leads to his return to Angel Investigations. Spoilers through “Dead End.”


Disclaimer: Angel belongs to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and probably some others who aren’t me.

Acknowledgment: Thanks to Laura, beta extraordinaire.

* * *

Part One

Lindsey paused at the open door of his truck. Looked back at Angel standing there, a looming shadow in the darkness, one corner of his mouth curled in a smile that contained a hint of a smirk, a suggestion of bared teeth. Lindsey smiled back, not caring that there was more than ‘glad to be seeing the last of you’ in it. He was leaving L.A. He might be dead before he hit the state line, but he was leaving on his own terms, in his blue jeans and boots, with everything he wanted to keep in the back of his truck. He felt a strange euphoria come over him, a wildness. He belonged to no one any more. He could say anything. Do anything.

Do it, a voice whispered. Ask him. Lindsey smiled at his own daring. And why not? Angel couldn’t hate Lindsey more than he already did. And he’d never see him again anyway. Ask him. Who knows? he might even say yes.

He stepped away from the door, back towards where Angel stood, a night vision in somber black, hint of a teasing smile on his face. His presence stirred something in Lindsey, it always had. Darla knew it. It’s not me you want to screw. Even Angel knew it. You’re losing me, in a way. He’d wanted Angel from the moment he laid eyes on him. But he’d wanted to kill him more. Only tonight the balance had shifted. Rage and hatred had lost their foothold—not completely, never completely, but enough to let the lust gain control, to whisper, You’ll never have another chance. Ask him now, or forever wonder whether he might have, just possibly, said yes.

“Angel. Do me a favor?” It came out hurried and jagged.

Angel said nothing. Waited. And the request Lindsey had thought would be so easy to make stuck in his throat. But he couldn’t back down now. He’d leave L.A. humiliated, but not a coward.

“Kiss me.” If he’d had the slightest doubt that this was what he wanted, it was dispelled by an electric jolt the words sent to his cock. He lifted his chin and looked Angel in the eye, unashamed of his desire.

The vampire’s eyes widened slightly. He didn’t answer.

The silence was huge. Lindsay couldn’t leave it hanging there so nakedly. He had to explain… but what was there to explain? “I want you.” And of course there was more to it, so much more to it, but what was the point in rehashing old confrontations, old wounds? Angel knew their history as well as he did.

“Because I’m a vampire.” Angel spoke quietly, matter of factly.

And yes, there was that in it. Lindsey couldn’t deny it. But, like everything else, there was so much more to it. “Because you’re powerful. And dangerous. And I’ll never have you.”

Angel’s soft chuckle had just enough understanding in it to take the sting out. “Probably want to work on that.”

Lindsey smiled crookedly. “Probably.”

Angel’s brow furrowed as he considered. And Lindsey let him. He wasn’t going to beg. He wasn’t going to offer promises or reassurances. Angel would make up his own mind, and whatever his response—well, would it be better to leave empty-handed, or to take away one taste of the forbidden to haunt and torment him forever? Lindsey honestly didn’t know.

Angel’s face cleared as he came to his decision. He nodded once. Then he stepped forward and put his hands on Lindsey’s shoulders and looked thoughtfully into his eyes and—

Oh god he’s going to do it. Lindsey felt the rush of blood through his body, tingling heat at his crotch, red spots behind his eyes, and his knees went out from under him as if they’d turned to jelly. Angel’s fingers dug into his arms to keep him from falling, and there was a slight smile on Angel’s face as he leaned down to press his mouth to Lindsey’s.

Big, was the impression that filled Lindsey’s senses. Tall. Lindsey had to tip his head back, stretch his neck up to reach the kiss. One strong arm encircled his back, lifting him nearly off his feet. The other hand was at his neck, fingertips brushing the back of his head, thumb toying with his exposed throat. Lindsey swallowed, and whimpered, and thrust his tongue into Angel’s mouth. Not as cold as he had expected, but not hot, either. Not human. He shivered, and worked his arms under Angel’s coat, wrapping them tight around Angel’s back. He felt the hard sinew move under his arms as Angel pulled him closer, opened his mouth, met Lindsey’s tongue with his own. The taste was studied and fine, tang of spice and smoke, heady and dangerous as death. Lindsey wanted it as he’d wanted nothing in his life. He found Angel’s teeth with his tongue. Vampire’s teeth, blunt and human now. He kissed him wetly, like a horny teenager, ground his crotch into Angel’s thigh, not caring what he looked like, what he was acting like, who saw him there, only desperate to touch, to feel, to have.

Angel shifted, breaking the kiss, and for a desolate moment Lindsey thought it was over. But Angel gripped Lindsey’s neck, thumb pressing gently into Lindsey’s throat, while he turned to lean back against the truck bed, and pulled Lindsey roughly to him once more. Fireworks went off in Lindsey’s body. It was so good, it was everything he had wanted—the strength, the power, the touch of ruthlessness. No human could compare. He put his arms around Angel’s neck and tried to pull him down for another kiss, but Angel was solid as stone, staying just out of reach, a slight smile on his teasing mouth.

“Damn you,” Lindsey muttered, frustration only making him hotter, his cock and balls like fire. Then Angel slid his hands down Lindsey’s back and over his ass to cup his butt, thrust one thigh between Lindsay’s legs, and lifted him clean off the ground, pulling him up until their mouths met again. Lindsey groaned, flailed one leg in the air until his boot found purchase on the truck’s fender, the other reaching for the running board, pressing heavily into Angel’s body. He fastened his mouth on Angel’s, sucking and licking until his jaws ached. He ground his erection into Angel’s hip, crazy for all he could get, thrusting harder and faster, working himself to a mindless frenzy.

Until finally it broke, and he tore his mouth free, groaning loudly, while his cock spurted hot and wet into his jeans.

He clung to Angel while the spasms subsided, face pressed into his neck. And Angel held him patiently, stroking his back and his hair, whispering nonsense into his ear. For just a little while it was bliss, warm and heavy and satisfying, lying spent in Angel’s arms. But all too soon the sweat began to cool, and the pool of semen squelched uncomfortably in his jeans, and he became all too aware that he was plastered against a vampire, who by the way was his worst enemy, on the side of his truck in the middle of the street in a city that wanted him dead. So, a little stiffly, he detached his face from Angel’s neck, unwound his arms from Angel’s neck, stepped off the running board and fender and let himself slide back down to the ground.

Angel continued to hold him loosely, which was really far more decent of him than Lindsey had any right to expect. Even less expected was Angel’s softly murmured, “Thanks.”

Startled, Lindsey looked up, and no, Angel wasn’t making fun of him. In fact, he was smiling as if he’d just caught a little bit of bliss of his own. Which sent a sudden thrill of fear through Lindsey—the curse. Angel’s soul. No, Angel hadn’t even come, it couldn’t be. But…. Horribly ironic if after all this, he was the one to break the curse….

“Shit,” Lindsey muttered, taking a step back.

Angel shook his head, one hand still resting on Lindsey’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Lindsey, it wasn’t perfect happiness. But it was nice. I don’t get to really touch people that often.”

“Oh.” Strange to think that maybe, in his own way, Angel had needed this too.

Stranger than Lindsey wanted to think about. He pulled away from Angel, and went back to the door of the truck, still standing open. But paused, again, before getting in. “You’re welcome,” he mumbled to the floorboards. Then, looking back at Angel, offering his own tentative smile, “Thanks.”

Angel lifted a hand in a brief farewell. Then he was gone.

Time Lindsey was gone, too.

* * *

He made it as far as Kingman, Arizona before he found Angel’s little calling card. Courtesy of the epitome of a small-town sheriff, who inspected Lindsey’s driver’s licence, looked him up and down, and then, smiling coolly behind his sunglasses, stood with elbow bent and hand on his holster and drawled, “Well, Mr. McDonald, you and me would get along a lot better if you’d take that sign off your truck in my town.”

It was oh, so easy the way Lindsey’s speech slipped back into the slow sliding rhythms, as if he’d never left Oklahoma. “I’m sorry, Officer, bad practical joke. Fellow who was a little too happy to see me leave California.” And before you knew it, the sheriff was listing relatives in Tulsa (My cousin’s boy married a McDonald girl) and recommending places for him to eat (Best burgers in Kingman) and agreeing that most of those Californians had a screw loose.

Lindsey McDonald, Master Bullshitter. At least his expensive education wasn’t going to waste.

He took a motel room in Flagstaff when his eyes refused to stay open any longer, and spent six uneasy hours tossing and turning and dreaming of blood and lawyers and making out in the street with Angel. As soon as he felt more or less awake again, he filled up on eggs and sausage and toast in a nearby diner, drank three cups of coffee and hit the road again.

He was almost to Albuquerque when the first of Wolfram and Hart’s goons showed up. There were a few minutes of exhilarating terror as he and two gunmen in a Ford Bronco tried to run each other off the road and Bluebell acquired a couple of bullet holes in the passenger-side door, until the Bronco spun out and Lindsey drove off thumping Bluebell on the dashboard and whooping in relief.

Still, he decided he’d better cut south on 25 and head for El Paso. Not that he really expected to lose them, but if worse came to worse, he could jump the border and try his luck in Mexico. They caught up with him again just outside of Socorro, and this time harried him all the way to Las Cruces. It was only a couple of tons of Detroit’s finest steel and a wild youth chasing around Oklahoma’s back roads that kept him from being road kill.

As soon as he got free, he doubled back and headed west towards Phoenix.

It was around three a.m. when he crossed the Arizona border. Lindsey drove until he found a nearly deserted campground where he stopped the truck and curled up to sleep as well as he could in the cab. Early next morning, he drove to the nearest town, bought convenience store sandwiches and Cokes, and found a picnic area where he could sit in the truck and eat and try to figure out what to do next.

Obviously, they weren’t really trying to kill him. Oh, they’d made it look good, and if he’d spun out and ended up dead in a gully, there’d be no tears shed at the loss. But running somebody off the road was a messy and inefficient way of killing him, and Wolfram and Hart were nothing if not efficient. A quick bullet in the head, a car bomb, a road block and a well-planned ambush—that was more Wolfram and Hart’s style. A couple of demons to clean up the evidence and he’d be nothing but a sooty spot on the road. And that was another thing—where were the demons? Lindsey hadn’t spotted anything remotely magical in either of the attacks. It was like they weren’t even trying. But that would never happen, so they had to be up to something else.

And if they wanted Lindsey alive, that meant they had another use for him. Trying to get him to come crawling back with his tail between his legs? Second chances were pretty rare at Wolfram and Hart, but they happened. Hell, Lindsey’d gotten one already. He was the firm’s golden boy—they had enough invested in him that maybe they thought it was worth letting him act out a little of his frustration—just as long as he knew there was nowhere else he could go. Maybe they thought the hand transplant really had unhinged him, and some humble pie and a little more demon mojo would put him right.

Lindsey put down his sandwich and brought his right hand—Brad’s right hand—before his face. He spread the fingers, made a fist, turned it this way and that. It felt like his hand. Looked like his hand. Even the pale scar was fading, nearly invisible now. Since Brad had… no, no euphemisms—since he’d killed Brad, put him out of his misery, there hadn’t been any more problems with it. No “Kill, kill, kill.” He felt sick about what happened to Brad, but it wasn’t his fault and now it was over. He wasn’t going to spend any more grief over it. No moral crisis, he’d told Angel, and he’d meant it.

Angel. The image flooded his mind and body in full sensurround and technicolor—Angel’s mouth on his, Angel’s hands on his butt, Angel picking him up like a doll, Angel holding him while he rubbed himself off on Angel’s thigh in a lust-crazed frenzy…. Lindsey’s cock stiffened and his new right hand slid down to his crotch, flat-palmed hard pressure with a little circular motion, just the way he liked it and oh god it was such a sweet pleasure to have a right hand for this again—it had been awkward and unsatisfying trying to beat off with his left hand, and every time he’d done it he’d been seared with images of the axe and the pain and Angel.

And Angel—oh, shit. What were the chances Wolfram and Hart hadn’t had a man watching his building within five minutes of that little scene in the conference room? They’d seen him with Angel. Kissing, grappling, coming in the middle of the street. Probably had his moans and shouts on tape, for the amusement of the senior partners.

Well, so what? Everyone knew about his obsession with Angel, and anybody with a little imagination could figure out that there was lust in it, too.

But they hadn’t known there was a chance in hell that Angel might reciprocate—

That was what they wanted. That was why he was still alive. As a temptation for Angel, another chance to break the curse and destroy Angel’s soul. Sure it was a long shot, but why waste the resource if there was even a slight possibility?

So what did he do? One thing was for sure, he was no good to them as a temptation as long as he was out of Angel’s reach, so they’d keep on harassing him until they either killed him or chased him back to L.A. Long days and nights on the run, never trusting anyone, just waiting for the next car chase, the next bullet whizzing by his ear, the next shadowed figure leaping out at him from nowhere, the next magical wrong thing sneaking into his path.

All right, no point prolonging the game. He’d head back to L.A.

But not to Wolfram and Hart. To Angel.

* * *

He drove straight through, stopping only for rest stops and takeout meals eaten in his truck. There were no more attacks, no sign of the Bronco—either he’d really lost them in New Mexico, or, more likely, they were content to let him run, as long as he was running in the right direction. It was only ten o’clock when he arrived back in L.A., but the long hours of driving, too much coffee and Coke and too little sleep, not to mention the prolonged adrenaline terror of the two road duels, had left him exhausted and aching and more than a little punchy. Sleep would have been the sensible thing—but he was way past sense and just wanted to face Angel and get it over with. For all he knew, Angel would laugh in his face and toss him out in the street, at which point he might as well slit his own throat because the only other alternative was going back to Wolfram and Hart, and he was never, ever going to do that.

Still, once he stood at the front steps of the Hyperion Hotel, he found himself hesitating, shaking and sweaty. Exhaustion, he told himself. Fear, whispered back at him. Big, stinky, mortal terror—Angel had said he could smell it on him, the first time he’d come and begged for Angel’s help. Then it had been a more immediate terror—that Angel would kill him, that he’d get caught betraying Wolfram and Hart and they’d kill him, that he’d fail and those children would die. But he’d known it would all be finished in a couple of days, one way or another. Either he’d fail and die, or come through it intact and ready to go on.

This time it was an older, quieter fear that had filled up his pores and settled in his guts and had no intention of going away. Fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of being hungry and having no place to go. Fear that he was losing it, that the answers were there but he just couldn’t see them. Fear that there were no answers. Fear that he was once again about to throw himself into a pit of hopeless wanting and grind himself up on the rocks. Angel doesn’t want you, he told himself, as harshly as his inner voice could muster. Angel had told him not to come back, and he’d meant it. Sure, Angel had kissed him. A pity kiss, and Lindsey knew it, even though Angel—well, it sure seemed like he was enjoying it at the time. But it hadn’t changed anything between them. It was a gesture, a momentary truce, when they thought they’d never see each other again. A single isolated moment that had gotten stuck in Lindsey’s senses like a tape on infinite loop that kept replaying over and over again….

Lindsey caught himself. He wasn’t here to start anything with Angel. To try to start anything. He was here to… well, he wasn’t really sure why he was here. Back in Arizona it had seemed so obvious, but twelve hours more tired, he could only wonder if he shouldn’t have just kept going south from Las Cruces. Thirty more miles and he’d have been in Mexico. Not that that would have kept Wolfram and Hart from coming after him, but….

He yawned, the kind of deep-throated yawn that almost hurt your chest because you were so tired you just couldn’t pull in enough air. He ran his hand through his hair and yawned again. He was dirty and scared and so tired it hurt and Angel was going to stomp him like a bug. Might as well get it over with.

He pushed the hotel front door open, took a deep breath, picked up his duffel bag and guitar and stepped in.

* * *

They were all there, frozen into a tableau of cold unwelcome at the sight of him, whatever conversation they’d been in the middle of chopped off dead. Lindsey groaned inwardly—he’d been hoping to find Angel alone, but no—it seemed everything was going to be just as hard as it could be. They stood and glared at him: Cordelia, the girl with the visions; prim ex-Watcher Wesley; streetwise vampire hunter Gunn. And Angel—

Angel glowering at him, Angel looking huge even across the lobby, Angel as hard as Lindsey had ever seen him. Lindsey left his duffel and guitar in the entryway and took the long walk over to them. He had to cross his arms over his hands to keep them from shaking.

“Lindsey,” Angel said softly, almost pleasantly, but with a sharp undertone of menace. “What part of ‘Don’t come back’ didn’t you understand?”

“I didn’t want to. I was almost to Albuquerque when Wolfram and Hart’s enforcers caught up with me. Nearly ran me off the road. Put a couple of bullet holes in my truck. Chased me through half of New Mexico, until I turned around and came back.”

“So you thought you’d bring some of your ex-employer’s hired killers here. Wonderful.” Cordelia’s voice dripped with sarcasm.

“They weren’t trying to kill me.”

“How do you know?” This from Wesley.

“Because I’m not dead.”

“This is all very entertaining, Lindsey, but what does it have to do with us?” Angel was a picture of studied disinterest.

Lindsey took a couple of deep breaths. “Angel. Could we talk in private for a minute? Please?”

“I don’t think you have anything to say to me that I want to hear that badly.”

“It’s about what happened at my place. Just before I left.”

If Angel hadn’t wanted to kill him before, he sure as hell did now. Before Lindsey could even flinch, Angel had him by the collar and was dragging him off to a small office behind the front desk. He threw Lindsey into the room, and stalked in after him with an expression only slightly less frightening than his vamp face, backing Lindsey up against the desk until the desktop pressed painfully into the backs of his thighs. “Angel.” His voice was no more than a hoarse whisper. “Just listen to me.”

“Talk.” Angel backed away suddenly, the rage damping down to a weary, embarrassed anger.

“If I’m alive, it’s because Wolfram and Hart think I can be of some kind of use to them.”

“As a thorn in my side? You’re good at that.”

“As a threat to your soul.”

Angel was stopped cold by that one. Gradually, a sort of incredulous amusement came across his face. “Well, you’re not too subtle about your obsessions, but what would make them think that I… ?” Finally, it hit him.

Lindsey spelled it out for him anyway. “They’d have had a watch on me within five minutes of my resignation. I’m sure they saw the whole thing.”

Angel’s mouth hardened into a tight line. “You knew they’d be watching.”

“Sure. You’d have known it, too, if you’d bothered to think about it. I didn’t think it mattered. It’s not like I thought I’d ever see you again.”

“And yet, here you are.”

“I had no choice! They’d have gone right on chasing me until they killed me if I didn’t come back. I’m no use to them if I’m not in L.A.”

“Not much use to me, either.”

“I just thought you should know what they were up to.”

Angel smiled viciously. “That Wolfram and Hart want me to have sex with you? Thanks for the warning, Lindsey. I’ll be sure not to.”

Lindsey took the hit. But he couldn’t help the bitterness in his voice as he answered. “Yeah. Right. Sorry I wasted your time.”

Angel’s expression softened just a little. “Is any of this little visit because I’m, you know, powerful and dangerous and you’ll never have me?”

Lindsey flinched as Angel quoted his words back to him. “Of course it is. But I’m not stupid. I understand what ‘never have you’ means.” He couldn’t bear Angel standing there so smug. “But damn it, you were there, too. You could have said no. You could have been a little less enthusiastic.” His voice suddenly ran out of heat. “You didn’t have to thank me for it.”

“You’re right,” was Angel’s very quiet reply. “So. What do you want me to do?”

Lindsey shook his head helplessly. “I don’t know. I wish I did. I wish I had some sort of brilliant plan to offer you, to take Wolfram and Hart down, get them off your back and mine for good. You know that’s not going to happen. I wish I had any kind of plan. I don’t. I don’t even know how I’m going to live until next week.” He stopped for a moment, and looked Angel in the eye. “I can help you if you let me. Maybe we can figure something out.”

There was a long, long pause while Angel considered. Finally, Angel nodded. “I’ll talk to the others about it.”

“What are you going to tell them?”

“The truth.” And then, off Lindsey’s look, “Well, not everything.”

“You can’t just…. If you tell your people I’m here because Wolfram and Hart think I have a chance of making you lose your soul, they’re going to wonder what happened to make them think so.”

Angel sighed. “Let them wonder.”

* * *

Angel told Lindsey he looked like shit and pushed him, not ungently, into an easy chair, where he was ordered to stay while Angel discussed his future with three other people who couldn’t stand the sight of him. Lindsey expected to fidget and worry until Angel came back, but his nervous system didn’t agree. Thirty seconds after Angel closed the door, he was slumped down in the chair, fast asleep.

* * *

Lindsey clung to Angel in a vast dark emptiness, gravityless, folds of Angel’s great coat drifting around him, caged so tightly in Angel’s arms he could barely breathe. Angel’s teeth bit into his neck—human teeth, not fangs—blunt and grinding. He could feel the blood dripping down his collar. It hurt so bad there were tears in his eyes but he couldn’t compel himself to try to break away. He could feel his own heart pounding, blood pulsing through him so strongly that he shook with it, body sliding against Angel with every beat. It was like being enveloped in stone, hard and cold and unyielding.

Someone was behind him. He could hear the soft breathing, and then the voice of Holland Manners. Healthy attachments, Lindsey.

He won’t kill me, Lindsey tried to answer. But with Angel tearing at his throat, and the vicious pounding of his heart, he couldn’t get the words out.

That disappoints you, doesn’t it? Holland answered in any case. I find being dead rather pleasant. You should try it.

* * *


Lindsey started up out of the chair, into Angel, hands and collarbone and the side of his cheek pressing into Angel’s solid body for one startled second before he dropped back down with a groan. “Angel,” he muttered, the pounding of his heart echoing the dissipating dream. “Sorry.” He rubbed his eyes. “Guess I fell asleep.”

“Guess you did.” There was amusement in Angel’s dark eyes. “We talked. You can stay for now.”

Lindsey nodded. He ran a hand through his hair. His palm was sweating. The wild pulse of his dream had settled into his groin, leaving him weak and aching. And Angel was so close, leaning over the chair….

Lindsey cleared his throat, shifting to ease the pressure in the crotch of his jeans. “Yeah. Thanks.”

The Englishman, Wesley, was standing behind Angel in the doorway, frowning disapprovingly. Great, Lindsey thought. Pretty soon they’ll all know I have the hots for Angel.

“Come on,” Angel said. “You’re obviously not going to be any use till you get some sleep.”

* * *

It should have been easy to fall sleep. It had been easy enough downstairs, curled up in a chair waiting for Angel and his crew to decide whether to kick him out. But in a soft bed with clean sheets in a room all to himself with his things safe at the side of the bed, Lindsey lay wide awake staring at the ceiling.

Angel’s room was just down the hall. He probably wouldn’t be in bed yet—it wasn’t even eleven o’clock. Lindsey wouldn’t hear him when he did go to bed, either. His room was several doors down and he’d be moving with his usual vampire stealth. So Lindsey wouldn’t know. He could lie here awake all night not knowing. Was Angel lying in bed, maybe thinking about the man sleeping—or not—a few walls away? Was he silently haunting the downstairs lobby, working or sipping on a glass of blood or just thinking? Was he even still in the hotel? Maybe he’d go out to wander the streets, maybe visit Caritas and ask the host, what do I do with this horny ex-Wolfram and Hart lawyer?

Or was he standing just outside Lindsey’s door, listening to the heartbeat and slow breathing of the man inside, wondering whether to come in?

Lindsey sighed. He was acting like an idiot. He didn’t even like Angel. That crazy vampire had cut off his damned hand, for Christ’s sake. Lindsey held his right hand up. He could only see the barest outline of it in the darkness, but he knew well enough what it looked like. A perfect match for the one he’d lost—almost. The fingers were fractionally longer. The skin a little more pink. He ran his fingers along the join at the wrist, feeling the slight ridge of scar tissue under the skin. Almost a year he’d lived with a stump and a prosthetic, learning to write with his left hand, to drive, to brush his teeth, to dress himself. He’d hated every single minute of it. The loss. The pain. The simple things that were no longer simple. The taunting face of a creature who’d chop off a man’s hand with no more concern than if he’d been snapping a twig that had grown across his path. No matter what happened, he wasn’t going to forgive that. Angel had hounded, harassed, and humiliated him until his life had been a complete misery. Just when it should have been a resounding success. Money. Position. Power. Everything he’d worked so hard for.

It seems the more you get, the less you have. Angel’s words played through his mind. Well, now he had nothing. Except somebody else’s hand. Brad’s hand. He slid the hand back under the sheet, let it run down his stomach, over his thigh. Lindsey remembered those days, back in the mailroom with Brad, a couple of brand-new lawyers, the ink still wet on their law degrees. They’d gossiped about the partners, made up stories about the letters they sorted, gone out for drinks a couple of times. And yeah, they’d flirted. Not that anything was ever going to come of it—Brad wasn’t Lindsey’s type. But it was fun, good-natured stuff, something to make the time pass.

Lindsey let the hand curl around his cock, stroking lazily, nothing serious yet, just enjoying the feel of skin on skin, the pleasure of being able to touch himself the way he liked again. Hey, Brad, finally got your hand on my dick, he thought. And that was one way to make sure he stayed soft.

Lindsey sighed, shifted a little, but continued to play casually with his cock. It was his hand now, and Brad was dead, and so were those days in the mailroom, and so was his high-powered fast-track career. Just three nights ago, on his way out of L.A., having nothing had seemed like an okay thing. Back to roots. See his family, eat some of Ma’s home cooking, clear all the California cobwebs out of his head, and get a fresh start.

The problem was, as it turned out, he didn’t have nothing. He had an evil law firm on his back, and an enemy he wanted to fuck so bad he couldn’t see straight. And no good way to get clear of either of them.

And thinking of Angel made his cock leap up into his hand, hard and ready.

Oh god. Lindsey groaned and thrust into his hand. And thought about Angel kissing him, Angel’s hands gripping his butt, Angel lifting him right off the ground. It had been so good, so damn good, and—

No. Goddamn it, he wasn’t going to lie here in Angel’s home, at Angel’s mercy, and make himself crazy jerking off to the memory of what they’d done.

I hate that bastard, he thought, and his cock just got harder. Angrily, he let go, pushed himself out of bed and stumbled in the dark to the bathroom.

He splashed some cold water on his face. His head pounded, and he wondered if he ought to get dressed and go back downstairs to hunt up some aspirin. Did a vampire even keep aspirin in his home? Probably for Cordelia. Word was the psychic strain of the visions was getting to her.

But what he really needed was sleep. And nothing would conk him out faster than a nice warm orgasm. Right now, like it or not, that meant thinking about Angel.

Angel naked. Angel on his knees. Angel with his smart mouth full of cock. Vampires didn’t need to come up for air, he could just keep right on sucking till he finished the job. Surely in two hundred and forty seven years, he’d learned how to deep throat….

Already working his cock, Lindsey made his way back to the bed. He crawled under the covers one-handed—he’d gotten good at that—and settled in to bring himself off as quickly as possible.

And, hell, that meant turning over onto his stomach, hand underneath himself, image of Angel above him, kneeing his legs apart, solid weight on his back, cold hand between his buttocks, slicking his ass with lube, big Angel-sized dick sliding into him, fast and hard and so thick it hurt, hand in his hair twisting it tight, cool mouth on his neck, taking him, making him take it, relentless and rough.

Lindsey groaned and thrust into his hand, spilling his load into the mattress and Oh, damn, going to have to sleep in that now, anger and relief and even a little sadness all mixed up with the pleasure of release. Ought to get a towel and clean himself up—ought to have brought one to bed with him—but no time now, he was already spiraling down to sleep. And sleep was what he wanted most, so he let it take him, and didn’t even fight the image of Angel grinning wickedly down on him as he went.

* * *

His head still ached when he went downstairs the next morning. Or maybe still wasn’t the right word for it—it was a different headache now, less of exhaustion and fear and caffeine hangover and more of tension and frustration and worry. More like the week-long headaches he used to get when a big case was coming up and he knew he’d be walking a tightrope, carefully untangling mazes of legal threads, nailing down every last detail, so that he could not only win but win so impressively and so decisively that the opposition would wither and blow away and the client would cheer and the big boys at Wolfram and Hart would smile down on him with approval.

Used to get. How long since a case had been so all-consuming and vital that he’d actually hurt with the need to make it another Lindsey McDonald triumph? Not that he missed the headaches, but he missed… caring. Wanting to win because winning felt good, not because losing sucked and you got your hand chopped off for it.

In a neat bit of synchronicity, he found Cordelia downstairs with an open bottle of aspirin in her hand.

“Hey,” he greeted her. “Can I have a couple of those?”

She gazed dully at him. Her face was pale, her eyes ringed with purple. Wordlessly, she handed the bottle to him, watched expressionlessly as he shook out four tablets and tossed them into his mouth.

Then one perfectly groomed eyebrow rose. “How can you eat them like that?”

Lindsey shrugged. “Habit.” He’d almost gotten to like the taste, the chalky acid bitterness. “Running around between meetings, or at court. You can’t always take the time to find a glass of water.” It was a show of weakness, anyway. You got good at sneaking the tablets into your hand, faking a throat-clearing to palm them into your mouth. But he wasn’t dashing to a meeting now. “I wouldn’t turn one down, though.”

She gestured off to her right. “Kitchen’s in there. Help yourself.”

Right. No hospitality was to be wasted on him. He was going to have to earn his welcome. He nodded and turned to go.

“There’s coffee, too,” she added grudgingly. “And donuts. Just don’t touch the tomato juice. ‘Cause it isn’t.”

He paused at the doorway and looked back with a faint smile. “Don’t worry, I know what blood looks like. Can I get you anything?”

It was almost gratifying, the little flinch of embarrassment his offer caused in her. But there was a little too much pain already in her face to make that game fun, and besides, she wasn’t an adversary he was trying to undercut with an edge of ruthless pleasantness, she was someone he hoped to make an ally. Or at least something other than an enemy.

A little sheepishly, she held out her coffee mug. “If there’s any left.”

* * *

There was, but it was old and weak and bitter, so he poured it down the sink and made a fresh pot. While it was brewing, he found a couple of halfway decent-looking pastries and put them in the microwave. No butter, which was too bad, but there was fresh half-and-half for the coffee. That was pretty much it, unless you had a taste for O-positive. Lindsey made a mental note to do some grocery shopping later, assuming he and Angel hadn’t killed each other by then. If he was going to be staying here, he was going to need more to eat than stale donuts and coffee.

When he came back out to the lobby, two mugs in one hand and a plate of pastries in the other, and feeling inordinately pleased with himself for being able to carry it all at once, Cordelia was bent over her computer, rubbing her temples.

Without looking up, she said, “Find anything interesting?”

“Not much.” He set one of the mugs and the plate down on the desk beside her. “Sugar, caffeine, fat, and aspirin. The four basic food groups.”

With half a smile, she picked up the coffee mug. “Thanks.” She sipped, and her smile widened. “Hey, this is good!”

He shrugged. “It was getting kind of old, so I made a fresh pot.”

“You didn’t just make it fresh, you made it good.” She took another sip. “Okay, as long as you’re here, you’re in charge of coffee.”

“No problem.” He picked up one of the pastries and sipped his own coffee. “So where’s A—everybody?” He could feel the heat rising in his face. Goddamn it, he couldn’t even say Angel’s name without blushing. Pathetic.

Cordelia looked up at him thoughtfully for one long moment. Great. Now all he needed to do was let something slip in front of Gunn, and all three of Angel’s colleagues would know about his stupid obsession.

To his relief, whatever she saw in his face, she decided to let it go. “They’re out on a case. They should be back soon.”

“One of your visions?”

No response. Just more pain behind her eyes, that she clearly didn’t want to talk about. His turn to let it go. “Can I help with anything?”

“No, it’s just your basic demon sighting.”

He nodded, wandered away from the desk, coffee mug in hand. So what was he going to do with himself until Angel and his crew came back? He hadn’t seen a television in the hotel, didn’t have a book to read. He supposed he could go out—he wasn’t tied to the hotel—but he didn’t want to be gone when Angel came back, and give Angel reason to wonder what he was up to.

He turned back to Cordelia, still huddled over her computer. “Hey, would you mind if I played my guitar for a little while? I could do it over there—” he gestured to a sofa on the other side of the lobby—”so it wouldn’t bother you while you’re working.”

That got him her nicest smile yet. “Sure. I like your playing. You can do it right here, it won’t bother me.”

He went upstairs and got his guitar, then settled into a chair across from Cordelia’s desk and began to tune up.

“Do me a favor?” Cordelia asked. “Do that song you were singing in the karaoke bar the other night? Angel was being a big baby and I didn’t get to hear it all.”

Lindsey nodded. His smile was a little pained, remembering Angel’s reaction to his song. “He doesn’t like my singing, does he?”

Cordelia waved a dismissive hand. “Oh, he’s just jealous because he’s so terrible.”

“Angel can’t sing?”

“Nope. It’s painful to listen to, really. You’re lucky to have avoided hearing it—Hey! Maybe if you stick with us, you can be the one to sing for the Host when we need help on a case.”

Lindsey chuckled. “Making coffee and singing. I can do that.” He launched into the song, and the whole world fell away, leaving only the scrape of the strings on his fingertips, and the vibrations in his throat, and the pure clean balm of the music. He finished the song and started straight into another, and then another. He played old folk tunes and ballads, songs he’d heard all his life, songs his mother had sung before too much loss had dried up her voice. God, he’d missed this. If he hated Angel for nothing else, he hated him for the long months his guitar had sat gathering dust in his closet.

Cordelia continued to work, offering only the occasional brief smile, but he could see the lines of pain around her eyes gradually fade, and a little color come back into her face. Probably the aspirin going to work, he told himself, or the demon hunters making a successful raid and releasing her from her visions. But maybe it was the music, too.

He was so engrossed in his singing, he had no idea the others were back until he heard Angel’s voice call out in mock cheer, “Lindsey! Are you trying to drive the clients away?”

Suddenly, his headache was back in full force.

* * *

“I told you,” Lindsey repeated wearily. “I can’t get any information out of Wolfram and Hart. They’ll have cancelled all my clearances, disabled all my passwords. And changed the passwords of anybody who ever worked with me. The guards will probably have been told to apprehend me on sight if I even come near the place.” He paused for a moment. Cordelia and Wesley were sitting behind the big desk; he and Angel sat on the other side. Gunn stood leaning against the wall. They were all watching him and waiting for him to give them a reason to let him stay. Waiting for him to hand them something big and flashy and sexy to use against Wolfram and Hart. Well, he’d already told Angel it wasn’t going to happen. “I can tell you what I know about them. I worked there for four years, so I know history, I know the people, I know what they’re capable of. But current stuff, forget it. I don’t have any access.”

“What about Lilah?” Angel asked. “She owes you a pretty big favor, doesn’t she?”

Lindsey shook his head. “She’d shoot me on sight before she’d take the chance that Wolfram and Hart might think she was helping me.”

“Damn. That’s gratitude.” Gunn stood with his arms crossed, looking casual and dangerous. Lindsey couldn’t figure him out, and it troubled him. He liked to know where he stood, and Gunn was so far unreadable. There wasn’t the mocking tease that Angel loved to taunt him with, the open distrust he got from Wesley, the almost-friendly ‘you’re okay for an evil lawyer from hell’ he’d managed to achieve with Cordelia. Gunn seemed to be keeping his distance, waiting.

Lindsey made a mental note to keep an eye on him. “Lilah came this close to being terminated,” he explained. “She’s going to be on thin ice for a while, she won’t be taking any risks. But even if she thought she could help me without getting caught, I doubt if she would. I know where her loyalties lie.”

“So what, exactly, are you proposing to do for us in exchange for our protection?” Count on Wesley to make it sound like he’d come begging for asylum. Which he had, in a way, but he wasn’t exactly helpless.

“Well, for one thing, I’m a lawyer. Your biggest adversary is a law firm—one that I used to work for. I can advise you. Represent you. House counsel with experience in the demon world—that’s got to be something you can use.”

“And he makes great coffee,” Cordelia said brightly.

“And he serenades the pigeons,” Angel added, with bored disdain. Lindsey felt his jaw tighten with anger, but he forced himself not to respond. Angel continued, “Will Wolfram and Hart try to make trouble for you, legally? Get you disbarred, or something?”

“I’m sure they’d love to. But I don’t think they can. The state bar investigates these things pretty carefully, and Wolfram and Hart don’t have anything they can use against me. I’d have to be convicted of a felony, or commit gross malpractice—abandoning or defrauding a client. I’ve never had a private practice, or even worked for another firm besides Wolfram and Hart, so all my clients have been theirs. They can’t accuse me of malpractice without accusing themselves.”

“What about that felony conviction thing? Could they get you into trouble that way?” Cordelia asked.

“Sure. But it wouldn’t be in their best interests. Big showy court trial—I could make all kinds of trouble right back at them. Besides, I wouldn’t just lose my license, I’d end up in jail. That’s not what they want. They want me right here.”

“Okay, I’m still not quite clear on this,” Gunn said, pushing himself away from the wall and circling behind the desk to stand at its end between Angel and Wesley. “How is your being here supposed to turn Angel evil?”

Wesley turned his stiff gaze onto Angel. “Yes, Angel, you didn’t really explain that. It’s not as if you and he….” Wesley looked flustered, but soldiered on. “What would make them think that Lindsey might be the one to… to give you a moment of true happiness? It just seems so farfetched.”

“And what was it that happened the night Lindsey left that you guys had to talk about in private?” The wheels were turning in Cordelia’s head; Lindsey could see it in her eyes. Any minute now she’d have it.

Lindsey looked at Angel, who was busy being stonefaced. Tell them something, Lindsey urged. They were going to figure it out, and they’d just be angry that he hadn’t told them. And it was stupid to hide it. So he and Angel had made out—yeah, it was embarrassing, but it wasn’t exactly the end of the world. If they’d taken the time to cook up a cover story last night, they could have avoided this, but Angel had been hot on the truth—so he’d better just tell it. Maybe his people would freak a little, but they’d get over it. Refusing to admit it would just have them imagining all sorts of worse things. Not to mention that they’d never understand why it was so important for Lindsey to stay here, which wasn’t fair to him, because he needed their support to make this work.

“Something happened that made Wolfram and Hart think that you and Lindsey….” Gunn couldn’t quite seem to finish the thought. But it hung there like a ripe plum, waiting to be plucked.

Lindsey glared at Angel. Still no response. All right, damn it, if Angel wouldn’t talk….

“I kissed Angel.” Okay, that sucked all the air out of the room. And oh, Angel was going to kill him, and it was almost worth it for that crack about the pigeons.

“Lindsey….” Angel’s voice was a soft hiss of warning.

Ignoring it, Lindsey went on. “I was on my way out of L.A. for good.” Lindsey’s voice took on an almost dreamy note, remembering the moment when he really thought his world was about to stop and start over. “I was free. At least I thought I was. I felt like nothing really mattered, like I could do anything. I was… a little bit crazy. And….” He stared at Angel, into those hooded eyes, searching for… something, he didn’t know what. Whatever it was, he didn’t find it. “He dropped by to get in a few last jabs. Tell me not to come back, tape joke signs to my truck, things like that. I just thought… what the hell. One for the road. It just happened.”

Wesley looked like he was going to be sick. Cordelia looked like she couldn’t decide whether to be sick or delighted. Gunn just looked incredulous.

And Angel? Angel was a block of ice.

Suddenly Lindsey’s hands went cold and clammy and his breath caught in his lungs. He was in real, serious trouble. Angel might not actually kill him, but he could kick him out and that would be the same thing. They were going to figure it out, he wanted to protest, but his throat wouldn’t work, and it wouldn’t do any good anyway.

Angel stood up. Everyone flinched.

“I’d like to talk to Lindsey alone, if you don’t mind.”

They couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

* * *

Lindsey sat staring at his hands, all expression wiped from his face. He remembered standing in the conference room at Wolfram and Hart, waiting for the Mind Readers to reveal his treachery to Holland Manners, knowing he was screwed and there was nothing at all he could do about it, nothing but hope it would be quick.

He waited. But Angel just stood there, saying nothing. Eventually, Lindsey started to breathe again. And finally, “They were going to figure it out. Hell, Cordelia already did. What was the point of refusing to tell them?”

“It was none of their business.” Angel’s voice was tight and controlled.

“It was if they were going to understand why I’m here.”

“They don’t need to understand.”

“You asked them if I could stay. You made it their decision, so yeah, they need to understand. Why is it such a big deal anyway? Am I that horrible that you’d rather see me out in the street than admit for one second that you were attracted to me?” Lindsey pushed back his chair and stood face to face with Angel. Or as face-to-face as he would ever be, with a good four inches between them. Not for the first time he wished like hell he’d been just a couple of inches taller. Not for the first time his cock twitched as he was forced to look up to meet Angel’s eyes.

“Lindsey, that’s not what this is about. You need to understand. I don’t have sex.”

“Well, no kidding. I know that, I didn’t….”

“No, you don’t understand. I don’t have any kind of sex. I don’t date. I don’t flirt. And I don’t have spur-of-the-moment makeout sessions with runaway lawyers in the middle of the street. It isn’t that I kissed you, Lindsey, it’s that I kissed anybody. I let my guard down, and I put you and me and everybody I care about in danger.”

“From one kiss? It wasn’t true happiness. It wasn’t even close.”

“No, it wasn’t. But—you think I’m not tempted to do it again? Make it last a little longer this time? Because, it wasn’t even close, so there couldn’t be any danger in it. And what if we took our shirts off? Still wouldn’t be true happiness, right? Maybe we could get naked if we were careful not to go too far. How far is too far? I really don’t know. The gypsies didn’t exactly hand out a guidebook to spell out what I could and couldn’t do to keep my soul. All I know is that sex can break the curse. And that it’s way too easy to let things go just a little bit farther than you mean to.”

“Like with Darla, you mean?” Which was not what he wanted to talk about at all. The old fury still boiled in him. The humiliation. The hurt. He’d wanted her so badly, but all she’d ever seen was Angel. “You had sex with her. And you’ve still got your soul.”

Angel’s eyes narrowed. He leaned in, his voice low and measured. “That’s because by the time you and your pals at Wolfram and Hart got through driving me over the edge, there wasn’t anything like happiness in what happened between me and Darla.”

“So you used her and threw her away. You treated her like a whore.” She’d come back from Angel’s numb with misery. My payment, Darla had said, of the ring that Angel had given her, after he’d done whatever it was that he’d done to her—and Lindsey suddenly realized that until now he’d held out some faint hope that he’d been wrong, that the terrible thing that had happened between Angel and Darla wasn’t sex after all, and if he could only get them, either one of them, to spell out for him what had really happened, it would be something he could find a way to live with.

Angel’s voice held an undertone of danger. “You don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. Drop it.”

He wasn’t afraid of Angel. Well, all right, he was afraid, but he’d never let that stop him from speaking his mind. Or venting his rage. And how dare Angel just tell him to drop it, like his feelings didn’t matter, like just because Angel had been with her for a hundred and fifty years he knew everything and Lindsey…

Knew nothing. He knew that. Everything he’d ever had with Darla had been convenience, contrivance, and wishful thinking. And this was a pointless rehashing of old wounds. They had other things to worry about now.

Still, it was almost a physical wrench to shift his attention back to the topic at hand. “All right, so it’s not sex that flips your switch. Not just sex. It’s how you… it’s the way you feel….”

“That’s right. And that’s not so easy to control. So I don’t take chances. Any chances.” Angel leaned in again. “And by the way, the rest of my people—they don’t know about me and Darla. And you don’t tell them. Ever. I don’t have to explain what will happen to you if you do, do I?”

Lindsey shook his head irritably. “You could just ask, you know. Or do you get such a kick out of threatening me you can’t resist the opportunity?”

Angel grinned. “I have to have my fun where I can get it.”

Lindsey couldn’t help an exasperated smile. “Okay. So I get why you don’t want them to know you were getting crazy in the street with your worst enemy. But I only told them I kissed you. I never said you kissed back.”

“I did, though.”

“Well, you don’t have to tell them that, do you? Just say you were too startled to shove me off, so you let me do it, but you didn’t feel a thing.”

“It wouldn’t bother you if I said that?”

Lindsey shrugged. “I was all for making something up in the first place. You were the one who wanted the truth.”

“I suppose I could do that.”

“So,” he said, a little aggressively, “You going to kill me?”

Angel smiled. “Nah. Not today.”

* * *

Lindsey spent the rest of the day out. He had lunch, went to the gym, caught an early movie, ate dinner, bought a few groceries, and tried unsuccessfully not to think too much.

The hotel was empty when he got back. There was a note and some leftover pizza in the kitchen. The others had gone for the day; Angel would be back whenever; he should make himself at home. Lindsey picked up a slice of cold pizza and wandered back into the lobby. The hotel seemed so much bigger when it was empty. His footsteps echoed through the cavernous space.

Lindsey went upstairs to his room, but he didn’t feel like going in. It was still early and he was restless and damn, he should have bought a book or something while he was out. Idly, he continued down the hall, and took the stairs up to the next floor. He opened the doors to some of the rooms. They’d been cleaned and stripped; some had chests of drawers, chairs, beds stripped down to the mattresses, but nothing else. On the next floor, it was the same. Empty rooms, bare furniture. Lindsey wondered why Angel wanted to live here. It was far more space than he needed, or could possibly want. Apparently he didn’t even come up to these rooms.

He wasn’t sure how many floors there were, so he just kept going up, until he found himself outside on the roof. It was a clear night, fresh, light breeze. Nice. He wondered if Angel ever came up here. He went over to the edge, where a four-foot-high barricade ringed the roof. He walked the perimeter, slowly, hand trailing along the barricade as he looked out over the city.

Lindsey chose his spot and stopped, leaning his elbows on the barricade, hands clasped together. It was a beautiful view from up here. Night sky above and city lights below. L.A. almost looked friendly from here. Almost like a dream. For a long time, he just stood there and watched.

He didn’t hear Angel coming up behind him, but he knew he was there. He didn’t turn around. He just waited. And, eventually, Angel moved to stand beside him, a large dark form in the still night.

“You know,” Lindsey said, “I don’t even know any more if I want you because you remind me of her, or if I wanted her because she reminded me of you.” He laughed bitterly. “I suppose it was always you. She even said that to me once. ‘It’s not me you want to screw. It’s him.’ She said I was using her to get to you. I thought she was wrong, but I guess she wasn’t. It didn’t matter anyway. She was using me to get to you, so we were even.”

Angel stared out at the night, saying nothing. But he was listening, for a change. Not mocking. Not making fun. So Lindsey went on.

“She let me kiss her once. She was still human then. Confused. I didn’t want to push her. I thought if I waited, eventually she’d see I was the one who’d take care of her, I was the one who understood. But you were all she could see. It was always you. After that night in the wine cellar, I tried to tell myself she let me live because she had some sort of feeling for me, but it wasn’t true. She was just using me again. Even then I tried to help her. I took care of her after you set her on fire, and she still went back to you. Do you know how much that hurt?”

“Lindsey, I didn’t take Darla away from you. She was never yours.”

“So you keep telling me.”

There was a long pause. Lindsey looked out over the city.

Then he felt Angel’s hand settle on his shoulder, squeezing gently. Although there was no heat from it, he felt his skin grow warm.

“I’m sorry,” Angel said.

Lindsey’s chest tightened. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “You know, you’ve said you were sorry about Darla. You said you were sorry you didn’t try harder to help me when I came to you before. But you’ve never once said you were sorry for this.” He held up his right hand, flexing the fingers that had once belonged to Bradley Scott.

Angel stepped closer, hand still on Lindsey’s shoulder, let the other hand run lightly down Lindsey’s arm. Fingertips brushed Lindsey’s forearm, sending tingly little chills through his flesh. Angel’s thumb briefly stroked the fading scar at his wrist. “You do remember why this happened, don’t you?” Angel’s voice was a quiet murmur in his ear. “You were about to destroy the scroll that would save Cordelia’s life. You know, Cordelia? The one you’ve been making coffee for and singing to and sucking up to like crazy?”

Angel’s hand closed around Lindsey’s, thumb stroking the back of Lindsey’s hand. Slowly. Hypnotically. Lindsey couldn’t take his eyes off it: Angel’s hand holding his, caressing it. A sweet, warm buzz up went through his arm and trickled all the way through his body, kindling a bright silver heat in his groin. “I get the irony.”

Angel suddenly moved his hand to circle Lindsey’s wrist, fingers and thumb closing around the scar, as if to separate hand and arm once again. “I’m not sorry I did it. I’d do it again if I had to. But I am sorry there wasn’t another way.”

Memory boiled up in him. He could feel the scythe slice through his wrist, the terrible sweet pain bloom, the heavy pulse of blood gushing out, the thin, thready chill of shock setting in. Lindsey let out a little moan, desperately forced the images away. He shook, as if startled awake from a nightmare.

Angel let go his hand and stepped back. But his other hand, the one that had never left Lindsey’s shoulder, now slid across Lindsey’s back.

“That’s all I’m going to get, isn’t it?” Strangely, there didn’t seem to be any bitterness in his voice.

“That’s all.” Nor was there any taunt in Angel’s.

Lindsey turned and slid into Angel’s arms. He didn’t mean to do it; it just seemed to happen. Angel was there, and then—he had his arms around him, his head on Angel’s shoulder, just as if—

And Angel was holding him back. Not like before, standing in the street in front of his apartment building, heated and frantic. Just the stillness of the night and Angel’s arms around him.

Lindsey tightened his grip. “I hate this. What you do to me. I hate it.”

Angel stroked Lindsey’s hair. “I’m sorry.”

* * *

The next morning, Lindsey was in the kitchen just finishing his breakfast when Cordelia arrived.

“All right,” she said sternly, looking over the remains of the eggs, hash browns, and biscuits he’d made himself, “there’s actual food here.”

“I went shopping,” he said. “You want breakfast?”

“I already ate. Unfortunately.” She took a bite out of a biscuit while pouring herself a cup of coffee. “Did you make these?”

He shook his head. “Pillsbury. I can make them from scratch, but you need things like, you know, utensils.”

“We could get you some.”

Lindsey shrugged. “I don’t know how long I’m going to be staying. And Angel isn’t going to need them.”

“You bought a frying pan.”

“Yeah, well, I can use it to hit Angel over the head if he gets too annoying.”

* * *

They took their coffee and buttered biscuits into the office, where they sat on opposite sides of the desk. Cordelia regarded Lindsey for a long, heavy moment. “So. You and Angel.”

“No. Not me and Angel. Not even remotely me and Angel.”

She lifted an eyebrow. “No? Somehow I don’t think Wolfram and Hart would be so eager to have you here for something that isn’t anything.”

“I told you. It was just….”

“A wild and crazy spur of the moment thing you did for no reason at all?”


“And Angel?”

Lindsey hesitated. “What about him? What did he tell you?”

“A whole lot of nothing. But, again, Wolfram and Hart? If they didn’t think Angel was at all interested in being wild and crazy too, why would they want you here?”

He could lie to her, but why bother? The truth was obvious enough. “I can’t talk about it. But I don’t really have to, do I? You already know.”

Cordelia stared into her coffee mug. When she spoke again, it was measured and thoughtful. “I wish Angel could have someone. I hate seeing him alone all the time, and honestly, sometimes I really wish he could just get laid. But,” and now she gave him one of her laser stares, “I was there when he lost his soul last time. Believe me, Lindsey, you do not want to see Angel turn evil. You think he was rough on you before? You’d be crying for the good old days when all he did was cut off your hand.”

She smiled ruefully. “You may be pretty much the last person in the world I’d ever expect to be with Angel, what with your being evil and his enemy and all, not to mention that his type tends to be blonde and, well, female, but I’d be happy to wish you guys all the best—if it weren’t for that pesky little curse. As it is—we’re all going to be watching you. If you start getting too close to him, you’re out of here. Whether Wolfram and Hart come after you or not.”

Lindsey nodded slowly. “Understood.”

There was a beat. Then, “Okay. That was easy.”

“What do you want me to say? I don’t want to see him turn evil any more than you do. Besides….”

Cordelia waited expectantly.

There were advantages to being a guy like Angel, who had no trouble keeping his feelings to himself. Lindsey had never been able to brood in silence. “I don’t even like him. No matter what else I might feel, I still hate him for what he did. I don’t want to be here. I want to be home, with my family, forgetting I ever heard the name Wolfram and Hart. Or Angel. But no, I have to stay here. Seeing him every day. Thinking about something that was supposed to be a one-off farewell to a life I’d come to despise. Being watched by his friends. Knowing if I step out of line in any direction I’ve got you guys on one side and Wolfram and Hart on the other just waiting to take me down.

“So you go ahead and threaten me all you want. But you’ll have to get in line.” Lindsey stood up, angrily, and scooped up the coffee mugs. “I’m going to go… clean up the kitchen.”

Yeah, great exit line.

* * *

He was in the middle of doing the dishes when Cordelia came up behind him. “We have a dishwasher, you know.”

He stopped, up to his elbows in soapy water. “I needed to scrub something.”

Cordelia picked up a towel and began to dry the plates. “I’m sorry, Lindsey. I guess I didn’t stop to think how hard this is for you.”

“You knew. You just didn’t care.”

“Okay, I’m sorry for not caring.”

He shrugged. “It’s all right.”

They finished the dishes together. Lindsey was reminded, painfully, of helping his mother clean up after dinner. It had been far too long since he’d seen her, and he had no way of knowing when he’d ever see her again. A couple of days ago, he’d been counting the hours until he was knocking on her door. That was one of the hardest things about all this—and one thing he wasn’t telling anybody.

As they put the last few dishes away, he asked, “Have you got some kind of work for me to do? Much as I love being your domestic help, I’m going to go crazy if I don’t have something real to sink my teeth into.”

“Actually, we do. Let’s go into the office and I’ll show you.”

* * *

The letter was from the owners of Angel’s hotel, but it had Wolfram and Hart written all over it. Two pages of single-spaced, nine-point legalese, especially designed to be impenetrable to a layman, and even Lindsey spent a good forty-five minutes decoding the minutiae.

Forty-five minutes during which Gunn and Wesley arrived, consumed the rest of the biscuits, and complained that there weren’t more. Everyone grew increasingly impatient.

“Well?” Cordelia finally interrupted. “Does it say what we think it says?”

“I’m not a real estate lawyer,” Lindsey said, “But basically it’s an order to open your doors to Wolfram and Hart for inspection pursuant to an offer to buy, according to the terms of Angel’s lease.”

“Can they do that?” Gunn asked.

“Probably. I need to see the lease. Cordelia?”

“Oh. I think I have that….” She went to the filing cabinet and came up with a thick legal binder. She turned to Lindsey with an apologetic smile. “It’s pretty big.”

Lindsey smiled an evil smile. “That’s fine. I like ’em big.”

The red faces around the room were almost as satisfying as the solid thump of the legal document hitting the desk in front of him.

* * *

An hour later, Lindsey packed up the letter and the lease, changed into a suit, and headed out to the law library, where he spent most of the day researching commercial leases and tenant rights.

And finally was forced to conclude that Angel didn’t have any. There was nothing in his lease to stop the owners from selling to anyone they wanted to. And nothing to stop the owners from declining to renew Angel’s lease when it was up in six months.

Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. In fact, this was the part where, to Lindsey’s mind, things were just getting fun. This was where you dug in and started looking for loopholes, delaying actions, ways to end run your opponent.

The ideal solution, of course, was for Angel to own the hotel. As long as he was leasing it, he was vulnerable. A straightforward offer to buy was out of the question, though—in a bidding war with Wolfram and Hart, he’d be bound to lose. Which meant there had to be some reason for the owners to sell to Angel and no one else….

Time to start making some phone calls.

* * *

It was nearly ten when he got back, once again, to an empty hotel. No note this time. Or leftover pizza. He supposed they were out on a case. Or the others had gone home and Angel was out doing whatever it was that he did when he was on his own.

Or, come to think of it, he could be upstairs in his room, although it was awfully early for a vampire to be in bed. Curious, Lindsey went upstairs. Angel’s room was second on the left. (Why the second? Lindsey wondered idly. Why not the first, or the fifth?) Lindsey’s was fourth on the right. Far enough apart to give them both some privacy, close enough to—what? Keep an eye on him? Lindsey still wondered whether Angel ever stood outside his room, listening with his demon senses to the man inside. Come on in sometime, Lindsey thought. I’ll give you a show.

And that was an interesting point—would Angel be able to come into his room without an invitation? It was as close as Lindsey got to a home. All his things were there. Angel had even given him a key for his door, though he didn’t bother to use it. On the other hand, it was a hotel. Hotels were public places—but this one wasn’t, it was Angel’s home. Another reason Angel might to be able to go wherever he wanted in it.

An interesting point, but not an important one. He supposed he could ask Angel later, although perhaps he didn’t want Angel to know he’d been wondering whether Angel needed an invitation to come into his room.

And now he was the one standing outside Angel’s room, straining to hear any signs that its occupant was inside. He heard nothing, but that didn’t mean anything. Angel could be as silent as the grave.

Lindsey raised his hand to knock—then hesitated. If Angel was asleep inside, he might not like being disturbed. But that wasn’t likely—Angel slept until noon, stayed awake most of the night. If he was here, he was up, doing something. Lindsey only wanted to know if he was alone in the hotel or not.

He rapped on the door—and it swung open a few inches at his knock. Lindsey started back, then froze, waiting. Still no sound, no indication that anyone was inside.

“Angel? Are you here?” Lindsey put his hand on the doorknob, pushed the door open a few more inches. “I just got back from the law library. I’ve got some ideas on how we might save the hotel.”

No response. Angel wasn’t here.

All right. He’d found out what he wanted to know. Angel wasn’t home. Unless something had happened to him….

And now he was getting completely ridiculous. But the door to Angel’s room was half open. It wouldn’t hurt to just take a quick look around.

Slowly, Lindsey pushed the door open. It was a suite, with sofa and chairs and an oak credenza in the outer room, double glass doors leading to the bedroom beyond. At first glance, it was completely ordinary. Impersonal. It looked like a hotel room. The walls were painted hunter green, the sofa and chairs were covered in the same flowery green and blue fabric as the chairs in his own room down the hall. And no, Angel wasn’t here, lying on the floor unconscious.

He took a couple of steps inside the room and began to take in some of the details. The walls were decorated with old and mystical-looking drawings, scrolls, and pieces of tapestry. There were bits of jewelry and decorative glass on the credenza. Unsurprisingly, there were no mirrors.

He went over to the glass doors and hesitated, hand on the doorknob. He could see into the bedroom through the glass, and Angel wasn’t there. Then he took a deep breath, abandoned the fiction that he was here to make sure Angel was all right, opened the door and went inside. Another step, and the unmade bed was within reach of his hand. Casually, he let his fingertips trail over the midnight blue sheet. Soft. Tight weave. Linen, Lindsey thought. He thought he could detect a faint scent rising from the tumbled bedclothes. Something spicy and exotic, like jasmine. He wondered what it would feel like to lie down in Angel’s bed, to wrap himself up in the sheets, to lay his head on Angel’s pillow. There was a slight impression in the mattress where Angel’s body had lain. He imagined Angel lying there, face smooth and untroubled in sleep. Imagined him turning onto his side, eyes opening, arms reaching out for—

“Hello, Lindsey.” Angel’s voice was cool behind him.

Lindsey jumped and whirled around. Angel stood in the doorway, a looming shadow, tight-lipped with anger. “Whatever you’re looking for, you won’t find it.”

Lindsey took an uneasy step back. “I’m not looking for anything. I was just… seeing if you were at home.”

“Ever heard of knocking?” Angel stepped in, closing the distance between them.

“I did knock. I thought maybe something was wrong. I wanted to check… to make sure you were all right.” It sounded as lame to him now as it had when he’d first told himself that was why he was entering Angel’s room.

“Under the bed?” Another step, and he was inches from Lindsey, drawn up to his full height. “Sure you’re not, oh, I don’t know, spying on me? Maybe you never really quit working for Wolfram and Hart after all. Maybe it was all a setup to get you into my home.”

“That’s not true. You know it’s not. I just wanted….” Lindsey tried to move back again, but his knee bumped against the bed and he faltered, leaning down to brace his hand on the mattress for balance. He felt his face heat.

Angel’s hands closed on Lindsey’s shoulders, hauling him up and then slamming him against the wall. His voice was a menacing whisper. “What do you want, Lindsey? Is this what you want?” He reached down and roughly grabbed Lindsey’s genitals through his suit trousers.

Lindsey flinched and gasped, pressing back into the wall, trying to twist away. Despite the pain, his cock turned rock-hard in Angel’s grasp. He gripped Angel’s shoulder with one hand, and closed the other into a fist. But he didn’t strike. “No!” he managed to protest.

Angel let go of Lindsey’s crotch, leaving him both gasping with relief and straining into the touch, then thrust a thigh between Lindsey’s legs and pressed forward, crushing him into the wall. Angel’s face was a mask of cold fury, eyes like chips of black ice. His body felt as solid and unyielding as the wall at Lindsey’s back. Lindsey struggled, but succeeded only in grinding himself helplessly against his captor.

Angel caught Lindsey’s flailing fist, worked his fingers through Lindsey’s and pressed their entwined hands against the wall. He spoke into Lindsey’s ear, his voice a cool murmur. “Or is this what you want?”

Then he kissed Lindsey, savagely, and oh god yes, it was what Lindsey wanted, exactly what he wanted, crazy and painful and wrong. Lindsey clawed at Angel’s back, roughly tongued Angel’s mouth, moaned into him, rode Angel’s thigh, and he could feel himself rushing towards orgasm, desperate for release—

No. He couldn’t let it happen. Not like this, with Angel’s strange celibacy in the balance and the specter of Wolfram and Hart urging him on. God knew it wasn’t perfect, it wasn’t happiness, it wasn’t even real sex, but it was exactly what they were never to do.

Lindsey tore his mouth away from Angel’s and protested, “Angel, stop!”

Angel glared at him, dark eyes sparking.

Then glints of gold shone in the dark eyes, and Angel’s brow furrowed, and his teeth grew into fangs. It was a demon that took Lindsey by the shoulders, shook him and slammed him back into the wall. It was a vampire that pressed his mouth onto Lindsey’s, sucking, licking, raking fangs across Lindsey’s lips and tongue, leaving scratches that flooded his mouth with the coppery taste of blood.

Rough fingers grabbed a handful of Lindsey’s hair, jerked his head to the side. Cool mouth kissed Lindsey’s neck.

Terror shocked through him. Lindsey exploded, shouting, hitting, kicking his way free.

Angel let go at once, stepping back, his features melting back to human form, stunned and horrified. “Lindsey….”

Lindsey shoved past Angel without speaking, shaking so hard he could barely walk. He stumbled out of the room and down the hall to his own room, slamming the door decisively behind him. He staggered in a few steps, then turned back to lock the door for good measure.

My home or not, Lindsey thought angrily, You won’t get in here now. Unless you want to knock your own door down.

He stalked up and down the room in quick, explosive bursts of energy. Damn Angel. Damn him! Was it some kind of test? Would Angel have really bitten him? Would he have drained him? Or was Angel just trying to scare him? If so, it had worked. Lindsey’s heart was still pumping with adrenaline. And something else—Lindsey was so hard it was painful. And damn it, he still wanted it. All of it. Even if it killed them both.

Lindsey went into the bathroom, and slammed that door behind him, too—another barrier between him and his torment. He bent over the sink, splashed cold water onto his face. He stared bleakly at himself in the mirror.

Angel’s hard body crushing him into the wall. Angel’s thigh grinding into his cock.

Angrily, Lindsey worked open the fly of his pants.

Angel kissing him, rough and devouring.

Lindsey pushed his briefs down, just far enough to get a good grip on his cock.

His tongue running over the sharp points of Angel’s fangs.

Lindsey stroked himself hard and fast, bent over the sink, moaning.

Angel’s fist pulling his hair, Angel’s mouth on his neck.

Lindsey came, in hot desperate bursts, onto the bathroom floor.

* * *

Lindsey cleaned the semen off the tile. He took a shower and changed into tee-shirt and jeans. He paced around his room, up one side, across and down the other. He sat with his guitar and played bits and pieces of songs. He wished, again, that he’d remembered to pick up something to read while he was out—something other than copies of legal briefs and notes on real estate law.

He ended up lying on the bed staring up at the ceiling. More than half an hour had passed since he’d stumbled out of Angel’s room and he was still wound up tight. He could still feel Angel’s body, Angel’s hands, Angel’s mouth. And he was still furious.

There was a light tap on the door. Lindsey was on his feet in an instant, in fighting stance, staring at the door as if expecting Angel to break it down. He heard Angel say, “Lindsey? Can I talk to you?”

No, Lindsey wanted to say. I don’t want to talk to you. Go away. But he also wanted to say, Come in here and fuck me, you asshole. I’m not going to turn you evil. Why even pretend that anything you and I could ever do together would even be close to happiness, much less perfect? You could screw me all day and all night. Beat me, shove me up against the wall, make me scream. You could have me and never think twice. Why did you let me walk away?

Lindsey backed away from the door until he reached the bed and sat down heavily. Goddamn you, go away.

Finally, he heard Angel’s voice through the door. “I’ll be up on the roof if you want to talk.”

* * *

Another half hour of pacing, punctuated by the occasional flinging of himself into a chair or onto the bed and then jumping back up again a few minutes later, and Lindsey’s rage had finally begun to settle. Like it or not, he was stuck here for the time being, living on Angel’s good will, and he’d just have to make the best of it. He’d better go talk to Angel.

Lindsey sighed and headed up to the roof.

Angel was leaning against the barricade, looking out at the night. Lindsey went to stand beside him, assuming a matching position. Neither of them spoke for several minutes. Angel was clearly waiting for Lindsey to begin, as he had been waiting here for the past half hour. And would go on waiting, as long as it took. Patience, Lindsey thought, must come easy for someone who’d existed for two and a half centuries. It was a wonder to him how Angel could stand there so still, not even a breath to stir his form. Lindsey imagined that his thoughts must be slow and cold in his head, like glaciers inching their inexorable way along.

Darla had been that way, too. She could sit at the window for hours, staring into nothingness. When Lindsey would ask what she was thinking about, she would just laugh at him. So young, she would say, and touch his face. He’d liked to imagine he could see affection in her smile, but it was probably just amusement.

What must he look like to them, impatient and hot-tempered and always in motion? Angel was nearly ten times his age. It seemed as though Lindsey had always been the youngest, the smallest, the poorest. He had to work harder, think faster, be better than anyone just to stay even. There was never time to stop and contemplate, to wonder if there might be a better way. He’d been on the fast track since he was seven years old, determined to claw his way to the top, pushing everything else aside for that fifth-floor office with a view….

A quiet laugh escaped him. Angel’s head turned.

“I was just thinking,” Lindsey said. “The view from here. It’s a different part of the city, but in a way it’s just the same as the view from my office at Wolfram and Hart.”

“Do you miss it?”

Lindsey understood that he was asking about more than the view. “You know, it’s funny—I thought I would. I thought that job was all I ever wanted, that without it, I’d be nothing. I’d be that hungry kid with no shoes again. I never even noticed how miserable I was there until I walked away from it.”

You don’t seem all that happy, Angel had told him, on the way to Wolfram and Hart’s body shop. Seems the more you get, the less you have.

And Holland Manners had seen it, too, all the way before Lindsey’s first abortive attempt to get out. You don’t seem that happy lately. Had it been that obvious to everyone but him?

“What about now?” Angel asked.

Lindsey shrugged. “I don’t know. This… sure isn’t what I wanted. But when I was on the road out of L.A….” He paused, eyes closed, and sighed, remembering: the highway unwinding before him, tape deck turned up loud, wind whipping through his hair. For a few short hours, he’d been free. He cleared his throat and continued, “When the goons caught up with me, I knew I had two choices if I wanted to stay alive. Go to Wolfram and Hart and beg for my job back, or go to you and beg for my life. I never once considered going back to them.”

“Do you think they’d have taken you back?”

“Sure. As long as I agreed to come and tell you I was in danger of my life, and convince you to let me stay here.”

Angel stepped back from the barricade, regarded Lindsey coolly. “Sure that isn’t the way it happened?”

Lindsey turned to glare at him. “What difference does it make? Whether I went there first to have the situation spelled out for me, or just figured it out for myself and came straight to you?”

“If you’re still working for them? It makes a difference.”

“Well, I’m not. You want to shove me up against the wall and threaten me some more? It won’t prove anything, but I guess you’d enjoy it.”

“So would you,” Angel said softly.

Lindsey’s flare of temper died down as quickly as it had erupted. “Yeah. That’s the problem, isn’t it?”

Angel turned back to the low wall, leaned again on his elbows to look out over the city. After a moment, Lindsey joined him. Angel spoke. “When I found you in my room, I… overreacted. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah. You say that a lot.”

“Funny thing—you’ve never said you were sorry to me.”

“For what?” Lindsey burst out.

“Oh, I don’t know, sending assassins to kill me? Bringing my sire back from the dead to try to turn me evil? Just generally doing everything you could to make my life as difficult as possible?”

“But—” Lindsey bit off his protest. All right, he’d done all those things. But he’d done them for Wolfram and Hart, it was his job, nothing personal—

And that was a lousy excuse. Not to mention a lie. It had always been personal between him and Angel, never mind Wolfram and Hart. He’d even defied firm policy in taking out contracts on Angel. Still, Lindsey didn’t feel like he had anything to apologize for. It had been war between them, and you didn’t apologize for having fought on opposite sides once the cease-fire was declared.

But things were difficult enough between them. And Angel was making an honest effort to remedy the past. He supposed he ought to make an effort himself. “I’m sorry,” Lindsey said stiffly.

Angel raised an eyebrow. “No, you’re not.”

“No, I’m not,” Lindsey admitted. He struggled for something to say. “I’m sorry… I’m not sorry.”

“That’s all I’m going to get, isn’t it?”

Lindsey honestly wished there were more he could say. But it was no good pretending to feelings he didn’t have. “That’s all.”

Silence stretched out between them. But it wasn’t an unfriendly silence. Then Lindsey realized there was something he could say. “Look—I am sorry about going into your room. But I wasn’t spying on you or anything. I just… wanted to see where you sleep.”

Angel smiled one of his faint almost-smiles. “Okay.” There was another pause. “Cordelia said you were looking into the lease?”

Lindsey breathed a big sigh of relief and jumped with pleasure into a recounting of everything he’d learned in his researches that day. And he was gratified to find that, despite his tendency to go off at a hundred miles an hour and sink into dense legalese when he was excited, Angel seemed to have no trouble keeping up with him, only occasionally having to ask Lindsey to slow down or explain some fine point. The guy was no dummy—and Lindsey liked that. He was also not particularly pleased at what Lindsey had learned.

“So basically, I’m screwed,” Angel summed it up glumly. “They can buy the hotel and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

“Not at all. There’s a lot we can do. It won’t be easy.” Lindsey felt his “lawyer’s smile” forming: cold, calculating, and more than a little vicious. “But it will be fun.”

Angel regarded him with an expression made of equal parts amusement and distaste. “Okay, so what can we do?”

“First, we answer Wolfram and Hart’s letter demanding we allow them access for an inspection. According to your lease, you can insist that outside inspections be scheduled so as not to inconvenience your business. And I’d say a convenient time for the inspection would be, oh, around August.”

Some of the distaste dropped from Angel’s face. “Can we get away with that?”

Lindsey shrugged cheerfully. “Not for long. It’s a delaying tactic. We say August, they say tomorrow, we say July, they say next week—it will buy us a couple of weeks to figure out what we’re going to do while we dicker about it.”

Angel nodded. “And then what?”

“The best thing would be for you to buy the hotel yourself. So we need to find someone who’ll lend you a couple mill. Got any unspeakably rich clients who’d like to do you a favor?”

“What’s wrong with a bank?”

“Two things. First, you don’t have the credit for a mortgage that big. No bank’s going to lend you the money. And even if you did find one that’d take the risk for some ungodly interest rate, banks sell mortgages all the time. Wolfram and Hart buy them. Having them own your mortgage wouldn’t be quite as bad as having them own the hotel outright, but I’m guessing you wouldn’t really want to be into them for a couple million dollars. You need someone who’ll lend you the money because they like you, and won’t be interested in any offers from Wolfram and Hart to buy the note.”

Angel clearly didn’t like it. But he’d like it a lot less if Wolfram and Hart owned the hotel. Lindsey shifted impatiently. “Look, I can ask Cordelia. She’ll tell me.”

“David Nabbitt.” Angel muttered.

Lindsey was suitably impressed. “You know David Nabbitt? Perfect. Do you think he’ll—?”

“You know who he is?”

“Of course I know who he is. Software genius. Makes another twenty million every time he stubs his toe. He could buy a dozen hotels like this every day before breakfast. It’d be like Monopoly money to him.”

“I still don’t like asking him to lend me money.”

Lindsey shook his head in exasperation. “All right, how about if he buys the hotel and gives you a long-term lease? Face it, you need to call in favors on this one. Or you might as well hand Wolfram and Hart the keys.”

Angel nodded slowly. “Maybe. What else?”

“Well, the next thing is to find a good reason for your owners to sell to you or your friend instead of Wolfram and Hart. That means digging for everything I can find on the owners and the hotel. I need to find some kind of a lever.” Lindsey paused, searching gaze on Angel’s face. Angel was going to like this even less than borrowing money from a client. “It could get dirty.”

“The owner’s a decent guy,” Angel said. “I don’t want to screw with him.”

“Figured you’d say that. How about this—I send the letter to Wolfram and Hart, you talk to Nabbitt, we see what we can find out and go on from there? I won’t take any action without checking with you first.”

“You sure about that?”

Lindsey smiled. “I’m just your lawyer. Presenting my client with options so he can decide what to do. That’s my job. And I’m good at it.”

Angel’s eyes narrowed slightly, as if suddenly struck by a notion. “You are, aren’t you?”


“Good. A good lawyer, I mean. Not just with demons and magic and a giant evil law firm to back you up. Even on your own, you’re a damn good lawyer.”

Lindsey’s smile wavered a little. “Yeah. I am.”

“You really think we’ve got a chance in this?”

Lindsey cleared his throat. “Yeah. We’ve got a chance. But—tell you the truth, what it’s really going to come down to? Soon as I send that letter, Wolfram and Hart’s going to know that I’m acting as your lawyer. The question is, what do they think would be more advantageous to them? To stomp on you and me a little, give us both a taste of their power? Or to give me a good run, then hand me a victory that’s going to make you feel all warm and happy towards me?”

Angel grew very still. “What do you think they’ll do?”

“Kicking you out of your hotel—that’s going to piss you off, but it’s not going to turn you evil. Me, on the other hand—I’m the one supposed to make you lose your soul. Odds are pretty high against it happening, but I’m guessing they’ll go for the big win.”

Angel’s smile grew just as cold and vicious as Lindsey’s had been. “Good.”

* * *

Lindsey dove into the matter with a spirit and determination that seemed to surprise Angel’s crew, although he didn’t see why it should. He was a lawyer, after all—this was what he did, this was what he loved doing. He hadn’t spent four years in college, four more in law school, working nights and weekends all the while to pay the bills, just so he could spend the rest of his life doing something he hated. Sure he liked the money, the position, but more than anything he loved the law. He loved researching it, studying it, working it like a puzzle, figuring out how all the pieces fit together, how to make it serve his clients. He loved the looks on their faces when he told them he’d found the way to solve their problems.

And he was going to love the look on Angel’s face when he handed him the keys to the hotel. Angel already knew he was good—now he was going to find out just how good Lindsey was. Lindsey was going to even the score a little. He was going to make Angel sit up and take notice. He was going to find a way to beat Wolfram and Hart, even if they didn’t want to be beaten.

Lindsey was up every morning before seven a.m., dressed in a suit and tie and out of the hotel by eight. He spent long hours at the law library, making phone calls, setting up meetings. He searched the Internet for information on the hotel and its owners. He even canvassed the neighborhood digging up any shred of gossip or rumor he might be able to use to his advantage.

Eventually, the puzzle pieces began to fall into place.

* * *

Five days later, Lindsey walked into the hotel and dropped a thick legal document on the counter top in front of Angel.

Angel regarded Lindsey’s triumphant smile with something like suspicion. “What’s this?”

“It’s your new lease. With your new landlord, Nabbitt Enterprises.”

“Lindsey!” Cordelia exclaimed delightedly, jumping up from her desk to gather around the counter with Angel. “You did it!”

Wesley and Gunn also stopped what they were doing and joined the group with hopeful smiles. Angel, on the other hand, poked the document with his finger, as if expecting it to turn into a demon and set the hotel on fire.

“What was wrong with the old lease?” Angel asked, barely masking the petulance in his voice.

“Nothing,” Lindsey grinned at him. “But this one’s better. For one thing, it’s got a ninety-nine-year guaranteed renewal, buyout options—oh, and your lease payments have been cut in half.”

“Half?” Cordelia shrieked.

“Half?” Angel said in a strangled half-whisper.

Then Cordelia came flying around the counter and flung her arms around Lindsey, planting a big, enthusiastic kiss on his mouth. Just before his eyes began to cross from the wonderful sensation of laughing squirming girl in his arms, he was sure he saw a predatory scowl on Angel’s face.

Then he was shaking it off a little dizzily, and Cordelia was standing apart from him grinning widely, a smudge of lipstick at the corner of her mouth, and everybody, including Angel, was laughing at him.

What the hell. Lindsey laughed, too.

“How did you get the guy to sell? I thought this was just a recon meeting.” Gunn asked.

Lindsey was happy to strut. “I pointed out to him that anybody who was so intent on having the building inspected before making an offer was probably planning on turning it back into an operating hotel. And the place hadn’t been maintained in so long, an inspection was bound to turn up a whole host of code violations that would have to be fixed before it could open its doors to the public again. Rough guess, maybe a quarter mill to fix up the place, which the guy’d either have to come up with out of his own pocket before the sale, or take off the price.”

Lindsey smiled his cold lawyer’s smile, and didn’t care who saw it. “Whereas my client only wanted the building as a tax write-off, and was perfectly happy to buy it as is. In cash. And I just happened to have an offer in my briefcase for a more than reasonable price. They guy signed it on the spot.”

“In other words, you lied to him.” Angel was still not ready to declare a victory.

Before Lindsey could respond, Cordelia had backhanded Angel in the shoulder. “He did his lawyer thing,” she said. “He saved your hotel for you. And got your lease payments cut in half. So quit being such a gloomy guy.” She turned back to Lindsey, big bright Cordy smile on her face again. “Champagne! We need champagne!”

“I’ll second that,” Gunn raised a hand.

Even Wesley had gotten into the spirit. “This really is cause for celebration, Angel. We’ve defeated Wolfram and Hart.”

Angel gave Lindsey a significant glance. “Did we?”

Lindsey shrugged. “We got what we wanted. They didn’t. Good enough for me.”

At last, Angel agreed.

* * *

Cordelia went out for champagne, insisting that no one else would buy the good stuff, while Angel, at everyone’s insistence, called David Nabbitt to invite him to the party. Wesley and Gunn began to assemble glasses and chairs. Lindsey tried to help, but was unceremoniously sent away on the grounds that he was the guest of honor and not to lift a finger, so he went upstairs to change out of his suit and wash the lawyer away.

An hour later, they were all assembled, champagne mugs and tumblers in hand (there were no wine glasses in the hotel), imitating drum rolls and cheering boisterously as Angel signed the new lease with a flourish.

An hour after that, they were sprawled contentedly around the lobby on sofas and easy chairs, finishing up the second bottle. Lindsey himself was lying on his back, one arm behind his head and legs hooked over the arm of a sofa, gazing at the ceiling and trying to decide whether he could drink his champagne in this position without spilling it all over himself. Gunn, for some reason, was sitting on the other end of the sofa, teasing him about his drawl, and telling him why the Raiders were better than the Cowboys. Somewhere across the room, David Nabbitt was earnestly trying to convince Cordelia to play Dungeons and Dragons with him sometime, while Angel and Wesley bickered about the fine points of killing Mockra demons.

Home, Lindsey thought abruptly. Not one of the people (or demons) in this room was remotely like any of his family, yet somehow it felt like being home.

Lindsey groaned and carefully set his mug of champagne on the floor by the sofa. Not home. The frat house on Friday after midterms, maybe. No, not midterms. Someone would be hanging from the chandelier by now. Someone would be making out in the corner with someone else’s girlfriend. Loud rock and roll would be blaring out of a pair of ratty speakers.

“Music,” Lindsey announced. Perhaps a little more loudly than he meant to. He struggled to get an arm under himself and push himself upright.

“You okay there, Oklahoma?” Gunn asked.

“Anybody got a boom box or something?” Lindsey went on. “We need some music here.”

“You should sing,” Cordelia told him firmly. “You haven’t brought your guitar downstairs in days.”

Lindsey glanced over at Angel. He couldn’t tell if the vampire’s slow half-smile was mocking him or not. “Nah. Angel doesn’t like my singing.”

“Yes, he does,” Cordelia insisted. “We all do.” Most likely she only wanted to get Nabbitt out of her hair.

But then Wesley was nodding in agreement. “Yes, Lindsey. Do let’s have some music.” And Gunn was prodding him in the shoulder, saying, “Come on, cowboy, you know you want to.” Even Nabbitt was smiling encouragingly.

And he was probably only imagining it, the way he used to fool himself that there was affection in Darla’s look, but he could swear that Angel’s smile had grown warm and friendly. Then Angel said, “Sing for us, Lindsey.”

Well, all right. Angel might just be going along with the crowd for the sake of all the champagne-fueled good will in the room, but let it be. Lindsey hadn’t touched his guitar in days, and it was still not even two weeks since he’d gotten his hand back, and he wanted to play. Trying not to grin too foolishly, he ran upstairs to his room and quickly brought his guitar back down.

They all gathered around him. Standing. Watching him. Lindsey shook his head and laughed. “Come on, sit down. This is a party, not a command performance. Everybody’s singing.”

They sat, but it took three or four songs before anyone ventured to sing with him—and it was Cordy who tentatively joined in on the chorus of a Shania Twain song. Which led Gunn to protest that Lindsey couldn’t possibly know any songs he’d sing, so Lindsey asked for requests, and good naturedly began to mangle any song anyone could name that he had the vaguest familiarity with, and presently they were all laughing and offering up bits of choruses and humming verses, and even Angel sat on the end of the couch with a pleased smile and lip-synched along with some of the songs.

Along the way, they finished the third bottle of champagne, talked and laughed and told stories about what they were doing when this or that song was on the radio. Lindsey hadn’t sung so much in ages. Or laughed. His face was beginning to ache from being stretched into an unaccustomed smile for so long, and he felt a giddiness that wasn’t just the champagne.

Finally they began to run out of songs, and stories, and the boisterous laughter settled into quieter conversation. Lindsey put his guitar down and told his disappointed audience he was going to make some coffee.

* * *

He had just switched the coffee pot on when he felt Angel behind him. Not heard; felt. Somehow he just knew the vampire was there—and when had he become sensitive to the presence of vampires? Or maybe not vampires, just this particular vampire. The one that made the hair on the back of his neck stand up, and his hands tingle and his heart beat just a little bit faster. They’d turned a corner today, he thought. He’d been able to help Angel, to save his hotel for him. And they’d had a good time tonight. Maybe everything was going to work out.

“So, Lindsey, how much did you make on the deal?”

Lindsey let the coffee can slam to the counter. “What?” He didn’t turn around, keeping his back to Angel.

“Don’t tell me you didn’t find a way to skim a nice big fee for yourself out of all the money floating around on this.”

All the good feeling of the past few hours dropped away with a solid thunk. Disappointment cut through Lindsey, followed closely by a tight, painful anger. “You just had to do it, didn’t you?”

“Do what?”

Lindsey whirled around to face a somewhat taken aback Angel. “You have to remind me every chance you get just how much you despise me.”

Angel regarded him in stunned silence for a moment. “Lindsey… are you drunk?”

“Yeah. A little.” But he wasn’t going to let Angel get away with it that easily. “I worked hard on this, you know. I saved your damned hotel for you. I deserve to get paid for it. I sure didn’t get any thanks.”

“David Nabbitt did me a favor. Seems a little rude to make him pay for it.”

“I split the fee with his attorneys. He would have paid it to them if he hadn’t paid me. And you’ll notice I haven’t submitted a bill to you for the work I did on the lease.”

Angel shuffled his feet. “So… how much would you charge for that?”

Lindsey took a deep breath and went into calculation mode. “Research, responding to their compliance letter… phone calls, meetings, negotiating the new lease… I wouldn’t charge you my full rate, because real estate isn’t my area of expertise… I’d have to check my notes for the exact number of billable hours, but I’d say around forty-five hundred.”

Angel blinked. “Dollars?”

Lindsey said nothing.

“Did I thank you for saving the hotel?”

Lindsey just glared at him.

Angel’s expression softened. “I don’t despise you.”

“Then why do you act like you do?”

Angel took an uneasy step back. There was flash of something unreadable in his eyes. He’d drunk as much champagne as any of them, and Lindsey suddenly wondered if perhaps a drunk vampire wasn’t such a good thing.

“Because,” Angel said slowly, “If I didn’t, I’d be doing this—”

And then he swooped forward and took hold of Lindsey, gripping Lindsey’s shoulder, sliding one hand around the back of his head, and kissed him hard.

The taste of champagne was mixed in with his usual spice, and Lindsey with one sharp moan returned the kiss, arms flung around Angel’s broad back, head tipped back, pressing his body hard into Angel’s, and thought how astonishing it was that Angel’s taste could have become familiar to him, that this could feel so good and so bad and so right and so wrong and everything all at once, and how desperately he wanted Angel all over him, around him, inside him—

He heard the kitchen door open and Wesley exclaim, “Angel!”

Angel pushed away from him so hard Lindsey was flung halfway across the kitchen. Wesley strode two steps into the room and stood with his arms crossed, trembling with affronted rage. Angel seemed to shrink, brown eyes gone wide, a chastened puppy dog.

“Wes,” Angel cajoled, “This isn’t—”

“I can see what it is, Angel. Have you lost your mind?”

Lindsey couldn’t bear it. His party spoiled, topped off by yet another devastating but unacceptable kiss, and now to have to stand and watch Angel grovel to Wesley for having done it—and somehow it would end up being all his fault, he just knew it. Well, let them deal with it—Lindsey was sick of it. Lindsey just wanted to go up to his room and die of frustration.

He rushed out of the kitchen, eyes ahead, ignoring Angel and Wesley both. Back out into the lobby to grab his guitar before heading upstairs—

But Cordelia, Gunn, and Nabbitt were still there, glowing cheerfully, unaware of the drama going on in the kitchen. Lindsey forced himself to slow down, smile, put on an “everything’s okay” facade.

“Lindsey! Are you going to play some more?” Cordelia asked eagerly.

“No, not tonight. I’m just going to take my guitar up to my room.”

“That was some jam session, Oklahoma,” Gunn said. “You need to learn some more good tunes, though.”

“Next time,” Lindsey smiled.

“You should all come to my place,” Nabbitt offered. “We could have a party there. It would be great.”

They continued to make small talk. Lindsey gritted his teeth and tried not to let his impatience show. Finally, he seemed about to escape. He had his guitar in his hand and was about to head for the stairs—

He felt a tap on his shoulder. “A word with you, Lindsey,” Wesley said calmly in his ear.

Swearing to himself, Lindsey put his guitar back down, nodded, and followed Wesley back to the kitchen.

* * *

Angel was gone; he’d managed to slip away unnoticed. Lindsey felt a small sliver of relief. The last thing he wanted was to face Angel’s watchdog with Angel looming all gloomy and glowery in the background.

Wesley drew himself up and crossed his arms. “I want you out of here.”

Well. All right. Cards on the table. That made it easier. “What did Angel say?”

“He said he is in control of his desires. It seems apparent that he is not.”

“All we did was….”

“All you did was jump on each other like a couple of hormone-driven teenagers. In the kitchen. Where anybody could walk in on you. Where who knows how far you’d have gone if I hadn’t. I don’t call that being in control.”

Lindsey felt his face heat. “Yeah, well, so what? It may have been hormone-driven but it had nothing to do with happiness. Perfect happiness, remember? Not perfect lust. I’m no danger to him. Why can’t you people understand that?”

Wesley’s voice took on an almost sympathetic tone. “But Lindsey. You are a danger to him. You’re the most dangerous thing of all to him—a soul in need of saving. Angel would sacrifice anything to redeem a soul.”

“In the first place,” Lindsey said hotly, “I don’t need saving. In the second place, how is his driving me crazy supposed to save my soul?”

“He cares. That’s what makes it dangerous for him.”

“We can handle it,” Lindsey insisted.

“I’m not convinced you can. And I’m not prepared to take the risk.”

“They’ll kill me if I leave.”

Wesley’s face hardened. “Frankly, I’m not sure I believe that. We’ve only your word for any of it. In any case, if it comes down to a choice between your life and Angel’s soul—you’ve made your own bed. And many more people than you will die if Angel reverts to evil.”

Lindsey decided there would be no convincing him. “It’s Angel’s home. He’s the only one who can kick me out.”

“Perhaps. But he agreed that we all had a say in whether you would be allowed to stay.” He paused. “Think about it. If you’re still here in the morning, we’ll talk again.”

Wesley turned and walked out of the kitchen, leaving Lindsey standing there, alone.

end part one | continue to part two