Posted: February 2004
'I know you're there, Lindsey.'
Angel looked into the lens of a security camera as though the distance between them was feet, not comfortable steel-enforced walls and city blocks.
Can't hide from the monsters, they know you too well, boy.
Daddy would have laughed. The big city man afraid to go outside at night. Problem was, no amount of schooling could fool him into thinking that there wasn't something hungry waiting for him to let his guard down long enough to sate a hunger. So many inhuman things with beautiful masks.
It was a grand and horrid joke that the most beautiful creatures were the ones who could kill the most easily. The coldest, unforgiving loveliness was close to unbearable, yet invited the unwise to approach.
Lindsey had put a lot of thought into why this was the case and had decided that it was Nature's way of giving warning to the rest of the world. If something was dazzling, chances were that it had a nasty secret, so best stay away. For some reason that lesson wasn't applied to more celestial unpleasantness.
Heroes put faith in powers from above looking out for them. How Angel and his people could believe that after their Seer was lifted up and fixed was anyone's guess.
Maybe they just had just figured out that there wasn't an either or to getting by. It could be good, bad, or scrape.
His own experience backed up that way of thinking. He'd driven around the country like a man out to see everything before he accepted something inevitable. Skirting California as if it were best avoided but still interesting, evidently some part of him was still waiting for him to claim it. If he could just scrub out certain urges, the feeling of standing on a fault like of desire, then the chances of getting what he wanted were greater.
Instinct warned him that he wasn't certain what he wanted, but he ignored it.
Some part of him thought //worried// that Angel didn't care about old adversaries. That with all the crap going on in his life, Lindsey would be filed under 'lost.'
Los Angeles was just as bright as when he left, if the people were more wary after dark he thought nothing of it. Until he heard that there was no guarantee of sunrise. The sun ducked away and night teased gleefully teased. //Could hang around a little longer.// Because now people knew even sunrise wasn't for sure.
He was curious to see if he would be drawn to his old haunts, but there was a finality in the air. One didn't have to step inside the firm to know what was going on. All the talk of 'change' and 'new management' meant less than nothing to someone who had seen the inner workings of Immorality Inc.
Better that he go about pulling things down from outside as well as within. And if he happened to trip a few do-gooders on the way, that was no problem.
He knew that coming back when he'd been told that returning would be a painful mistake was nowhere near 'a bright idea.' As good as an invitation for punishment. Then again, if Angel was that bent on seeing that Lindsey pay for the arrogance of ignoring the warnings, then there was no place to hide. Lindsey already had experience with being unable or unwilling to escape his fate.
He'd understood a long time ago that he wanted to exceed expectations. His own, those of his peers, family, anyone who had ever refused to look past his battered truck and flannels to the desire waiting to be fanned.
Holland Manners and hellish deals had promised him a place above his past. What he'd failed to see was that he wasn't in a position to control what was happening around him. There was no room for squeamishness when the games were so loosely controlled.
Without rules, the players tended to make their own amusements.
He remembered hearing Darla's voice, nearly inside his head, like if he let himself go, neck taut, exposed, that soft rasp of crumbling worlds would be for him. Her lips on his throat a prelude to some soiled kiss and then the world fuzzed out of focus.
Screams like an orchestra, gore flying in the strokes of an impassioned artist. Lindsey watched it all. Here was the reason nobody got near enough to see what color his eyes were, or if he had a mole on his neck, or anything close to healthy happened his way. Not that he made an effort to seek out the 'good for him' types.
For example, the 'something' that tied him to Angel. It was twisted, and he could admit, explained away by the presence of a woman between them but it remained. A comfortable exchange of threats kept them in an intimate position that still allowed for adversarial posturing. As if they both knew that the mere act of really saying what they thought of one another would be the thing to run over irrevocably.
There were times when he wondered what it might have been like between them. Provided both could remember to not mention any of the differences that made them so eager to needle the other. But then again, he didn't want anything normal or safe. That grip around his throat had never really let go.
At present he felt the air thinning as he tried to pull back into shadows that he knew would do no good in hiding him. Certain surprises hadn't been prepared for.
Lilah wasn't one to let death get in the way of her plans. She'd do what was necessary, and it seemed that one ex-Watcher was on her short list. Her assistance had taken Angel out of the top spot and made her boy 'boss.' Then came a baring of things hidden from the 'underlings.
With all the revelations, it was no shock that Angel got kicked right out. His little family had gotten so grey that they didn't see anything wrong with doling out judgment.
Whether or not Angel would recover from this latest loss was anyone's guess. On the streets again, old patterns repeated themselves. He wondered how long it would be before Angel was back to eating rats and stinking worse than his singing.
He hadn't heard about any suicidal heroics, but may be Angel had just decided to go quietly.
Rumor had it that the vampire was holed up in the Hyperion. Wesley and the others seemed willing to let him have refuge for the moment.
Lindsey reminded himself that the 'whole story' meant paying tolls, and his coin seemed worthless as a new authority took control. Withdrawing seemed the wisest course of action.
The room he rented was on the edge of what he never would have stayed in as Mr. McDonald Junior Partner. He'd chosen it because it was separate from where Eve and he met to plot their next move. He had enough sense to not completely trust his partner in 'Bringing Down The Firm'.
If Angel wanted to make him pay for the arrogance of returning to a town that a vampire had warned him to stay out of, then Lindsey figured an out of the way hovel wouldn't matter. Besides, someone always saw what they weren't supposed to and that was the quickest way for news to travel.
Coming across Spike for instance had been a piece of luck. One vampire went down a path too dark for industrial watt bulbs and another thought that he was getting a chance to 'do good.'
It was a shame that Lindsey didn't have more use for the vampire. A certain amount of expertise seemed to have been passed down and he appreciated that sort of thing. Runes did little to keep the undead off him. And if he wanted to be safe he wouldn't have come back.
Whether or not he and Angel went out for beer and a bracing baring of souls wasn't important. Resolution wasn't about a pretty picture it was completion. He wanted to figure out how to breath again. If he wanted to find another way.
After the requisite several days of waiting on edge, there was a knock on the door, though he hadn't expected such a courtesy. Did the lord bother announcing his presence to those beneath him?
Lindsey glanced up, hand resting on the stake in his waistband, but the movement was more for show. He knew what stood in his doorway.
Death, without cloak and scythe, just elegance and ripping edges to every part of him. Stance that meant a wide range of things, none of them tranquil or simple.
The vampire looked at Lindsey as if to say 'we could play this game, but why not just get to the point.'
It was nice that the old formalities still held despite his reckless disregard for such precautions. "I invite you in, Angel."
Angel moved lightly, as if he'd made gravity an intimate and easily swayed acquaintance. Lindsey had forgotten that about him, and with close proximity, his memories were revealed to be out of focus.
Brown eyes with the intent of splintered wood, where something harboring a grudge against dawn stalked took in the room and the man sitting at the end of the double bed.
Lindsey shifted, aware that his stubble, and half-packed suitcase loudly announced his uncertainties.
When Angel stepped closer, the daydream of a crossbow seemed increasingly sensible. Something learned through uncomfortable encounters resurfaced. What made Angel more dangerous was the softness in his eyes. The deceptive veneer of pained understanding //he'd been there, killed that, and was oh so sorry//brought down barriers. It was a great way to get the wary to trust him. So good at being harmless that people forgot they were embracing a killer. A tiger that could look like a nice kitty-cat. If one got close enough, it was chomp chomp, and the end of you.
Watching his 'invited enemy', Lindsey was reminded of how the air seemed to be sucked out of whatever space Angel occupied. It really was quite unfair to those who actually breathed. And the 'lord of all I see' attitude wasn't something he'd missed. He really hated it when plans to bring an especially annoying adversary fell through so spectacularly.
He'd kept pieces of his life no matter how high or low he went. A truck that refused to give up, his guitar, and a set of sturdy clothes. To see himself defined in such simple terms made Lindsey wince. Everything he'd learned, from childhood to law school had advised against showing so much weakness.
The room was nothing like what he'd had before, that the fact he'd slipped was evident in the furnishings, and that Angel noticed all of that.
It was unlike Angel to let any time spent in Lindsey's proximity pass without comment, and his silence only heightened the tension. Figuring out how Angel's mind worked used to be part of his job and he was out of practice.
A voice in his ear, 'really, what point is there in playing the game with someone who's already mastered it?' He was tired of Reason sounding like Holland. Time to hear himself think - and act on impulse.
Whatever boundaries existed could be gnawed through to expose how much he needed this. He wore the protection of ignorance like just other expensive suit but Angel knew masks better than anyone.
Gesturing the vampire to take a seat //how civilized, see what manners he has// was easier than being the first one to speak. Common ground did not mean safe. Particularly when he could see the changes.
Angel used to shine as if a good cause was better than a finishing gloss. Now the vampire acted like someone who had lost enough to see the pit and recognized that the sides were too slippery for escape. Justice might not be blind in Los Angels, but she did need a better prescription.
The vampire brushed by him in a way that said he doesn't have personal space where Angel was concerned, and sat at the table, not behind Lindsey so much as to the side. Though neither of them had broken the silence alertness felt necessary, as if there were words unsaid he might miss.
That Angel hadn't actually broken any bones was a nice surprise. Though, he supposed that didn't mean he wasn't planning to. Just that he had better things to do at the moment. Like watch Lindsey not- run away.
If ever his survival instincts were going to pick themselves up out of the bourbon haze of his latest Angel debacle, there was no time quite like the present.
Instead he figured they were off with his common sense nodding sagely and getting drunk again over his profound stupidity. Never stick around after the deal's gone South, not unless you want to get even more screwed over.
His shirt had slid up his back, and he knew that he was sort of sweaty, the fan was arthritic and neither he nor Angel was about to get up to poke threateningly at it. Of course, Angel wasn't really affected by heat so he wouldn't do anything about it anyhow. It seemed important that the cotton was sticking to his ribs, so he felt when something pushed it up further.
A finger, long, cold and not, like it had been heated with breath or friction of hands out of considerate caution. He was more afraid of what he might do if the touch stopped than if it made him jump. Angel was touching him, curious, soft, over his spine. As if they'd entered a place where such a thing was acceptable.
He wondered exactly how well Angel kept himself within 'socially acceptable limits', how much he wanted to. Without any well-meaning 'family' around him to point out the 'Caution' signs, stopping might not matter anymore.
A glance at Angel was anything but comforting. His face was rougher, growl behind a deceptively patient look. Sound that didn't belong with such a reasonable expression. 'It'll be alright. Just hold still while I take a bite out of you.' Then he moved forward with an assurance that said he had all the rights in the universe, or any other to do this, and licked Lindsey.
As his breathing sped up it was difficult to remember that Angel was closer to teeth and asphyxiation than it was sensible to get. Of course, for someone with a death wish, or a real blind spot where predators were concerned, 'just right' applied. The air vibrated with a hum of laugher that he reallydisliked. It wasn't obvious, something to be confronted, but waiting. Even Angel's amusement was predatory.
Believing in the monster was far from the most dangerous mistake. Only a fool could trust the delusion that a vampire wouldn't take the bloodiest route possible. After working hard to be the focus of Angel's attention, it was more than expected.
Thoughts tripped through his mind like acid addled fairies. It was worse when there were choices, because wrong and right looked like rainbow jellybeans and the worse one wouldn't show itself until lips met. An audible click of chosen paths.
The feeling of smooth skin against his own made Lindsey shiver, Angel's body was a chill that would gulp down warmth to heat death. Other small details made themselves known. For someone who used hair gel so liberally, his hair was rather soft. It gave under pressure as he nuzzled Lindsey's chin.
Those dark eyes were fixed on him as thought there wasn't anyone else ever. Angel said 'Lindsey' like halfway between sighing and ordering there was a place where smug pleasure waited.
"I can hear the blood under your skin. It's..." he nuzzled Lindsey's cheek- "very distracting."
Inventing subtitles for Angel's more significant glances was one thing, but to hear the hunger in his voice, and realize that control had been abandoned was quite another.
He took an internal memo, vampires did not care about peaceful solutions, blood was always preferable to a truce. Still, it was never too late to look for some kind of map for what was going on.
"Just tell me what you want, Angel."
'Make a demon happy, beg for your life.'
"Nobody ever means it when they say those things Lindsey. Not really." Fingers trailed lighter than spider web on his back, forcing him to follow the vampire's path with honest reaction.
Things never to forget, how Angel turned all of his attention onto a person and picked them apart as if it were both fashion and pleasure. If they could bear what he did, then maybe they were worth more time.
Melody torn from songs spun with fear and soothed Lindsey.
//Get what you need..// After all, an inner voice said coolly, isn't this what you wanted. to be known to death?
Deliberate mimicry of human respiration. Angel was focused on Lindsey's skin as though it had been smuggled over some heavily guarded border. He wondered, had Angel already bribed the appropriate authorities for this act, or would he pay later? And why did it hurt to think that he might not be considered worth a price?
Angel grinned like a melting glacier, frighteningly inevitable and so bright that one could only just remember to not move closer. Lindsey shuddered, there were things in that smile that he wanted to bite down on.
"Is this all I have to do to get through to you Lindsey? Little touch and heavy breathing?" Angel's voice was thick, heat of standing so close to fire that skin ached, burns not far off, but warmth seductive all the same.
Lindsey didn't care for the reduction of his need, and gasping was closer to losing than he liked.
A brush of lips across his throat made forget why he cared about proving himself. Still human teeth rested against his pulse, not biting, but since when did a vampire not draw blood. And he abruptly wanted to be bitten, something more lasting than bruises. Claimed in a way that wouldn't be contested by time or sunrise. A scar would remain and prove to whom he belonged, some unchanged place to be.
Wriggling was for getting away and he wanted to get the message across.
The air was somehow heavy on his limbs, and movement seem to require great expenditures of energy. His reward was an encouraging glitter of dark eyes.
"You want to know that you're needed."
Chatty Angel usually meant he was going off the edge of some personal crisis. As he hadn't heard anything about a blonde Slayer sweeping through the town, Lindsey thought he might connect a few dots about a popular 'soul removal' procedure. Remind himself how it went last time the vampire was unbalanced. Everyone kept pressing at him to take things in hand, be the boss, stay in control, and he kept on...fucking up. Granted this time wasn't as bloody as the last time Angel had gone all 'me and my shadow,' but he thought that there was the potential for just as much damage. The intel Lilah-as-Eve had traded warned him to watch his step. He preferred to notice other things, like skin.
On the road he'd seen more sun than he could have imagined existed. All of those hours doing the devil's work weren't good for a tan. Angel still looked like a sculpture that had gotten bored of being simply admired and decided to have a taste of the wild velvety expanse that was humanity in all its curious variety.
That Lindsey figured as anything more than a rediscovery of appetite was a hope he refused to give substance, yet.
"Been feeling a bit unnecessary lately?" As an opening for Angel to explain himself it was weak, but he hadn't done this in awhile. The vampire raised an eyebrow //you can do better than that// but didn't refuse the invitation to muse aloud on whatever had led him to seek Lindsey out.
"We like to think that we matter, that in the system, it's our small contribution that makes it all work. But really, that's crap. Think of Rome, Lindsey. Hollywood gives us the real characters, Nero, Caligula, to name a few. But think of the strength of a system where it didn't matter that the rulers were nutty. For the most part everything worked."
A pale hand wrenched his shirt open, scattering buttons like assurances. Angel bent over Lindsey's shoulder and put teeth to flesh- not sharp but careful- he was feeling out his collarbone. Lindsey hissed as he felt the change. Ridges came up on Angel's forehead and a growl flowed through him.
"So Rome worked, I know that. Any kid who picked up a history book in school knows how it ended," he said, as if the vampire debating where best to take a chunk out of him was nothing new.
"The point Lindsey, is that it doesn't matter who's controlling a machine like that, things get done." He looked up and Lindsey refused to let himself shiver. The look in Angel's eyes was more than unnerving.
"You're not the one in charge anymore, I already heard. It's a bit late for a 'current events' report.' " Not bleeding out made his a little reckless- of course, breathing made him a little reckless, and he smirked at Angel. "You know what happens to powerful men when they're tossed out of office? They become people who play golf a lot."
No word but 'snarl' adequately described Angel's expression. "You speaking from experience?"
"At least I'm not living off rats in a slum." He'd forgotten how the two of them always ended up squabbling like kids over who got to sit on top of the jungle gym.
"No, you've sunk to truly impressive depths of thriftiness." Angel glanced around again at the room, which he knew was rented, and Lindsey wished he was stupid enough to chance decking the vampire. Still, if he wasn't going to make it through the night anyhow, there was nothing to lose. The experience would have been more satisfying if Angel had at least pretended that he was surprised, or injured. Instead he shook off the punch and pinned Lindsey's arms above his head.
Lindsey was abruptly grateful that this was happening in no place that really belonged to either one of them. It made things more bearable, changing it into a moment out of normalcy. A pocket of connection, however brief.
More than likely, 'brief' was all he was going to get. Angel never made any secret of his contempt for the way Lindsey treated his fellow human beings. All of this could just be a lesson. 'I can take you this far and leave you there, because you deserve that.'
Whatever his decision, Angel was drawing it out. He traced where flesh met the 'gift' of money and power. Control still felt like something imagined in his fingertips, and he knew his face reflected a hunted kind of need.
"As much as I enjoy indulging your need for 'getting out in the world,' is there a reason you came over here? Or did you just feel like catching up on old times?" He was hoping it wasn't the latter, for vampires, 'violent nostalgia' took on a whole new meaning.
Angel was so still, like that moment of useless bracing for the scalpel, and he was the blade. He stared at Lindsey, though it was more like through, and one could only wait for the bleeding.
He offered up his own bit of history. A good university education had to count for something. "Octavian was very young, and the Senate didn't respect him. So he got mad, went across town to get some help, and they took on the Senate together."
Feeling Angel's fingers splayed over his face, ownership without collar or other restraint, he waited. The smile he got was definitely unsafe, even without the partially revealed fangs.
Lindsey grinned back with the icy sharpness of a set course. Ticklish alliances could work in times of need.
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Title: Brick and Marble
Author: scy [email]
Details: Standalone | R | 22k | 02/09/04
Notes: Spoilers: Seasons 1-4, some S5.
Author's Notes: For Lar because she asked so nicely. I expect this to get Jossed at any moment, so consider this AU territory. More room there. While writing this I listened to a lot of different artists, among them 'Your Little Secret', by Melissa Etheridge, Enigma, plus Beth Orton. Title from a quote attributed to Augustus Octavian Caesar: ' I found Rome brick and I left it marble.' Thanks to Branwyn, who read this when I wasn't sure about it and that I should finish it. Thanks again hon.
Disclaimer: Everyone has their little daydreams
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