When Lindsey comes back, it's in the middle of the night, days after the battle. One minute Angel's playing a restless game of cards with Spike, the next Lindsey's standing in the corner, looking Angel straight in the eye.
"Lindsey," Angel says.
Spike looks up from his pile of chips. "What's that, mate? Ready to talk about it?"
"No, he's-" Angel starts, but when he looks up again Lindsey's gone, and the corner's nothing but shadows. "Nothing. Nevermind."
"Feeling guilty, are you? Was the right choice, you know. Nasty little bugger, that one. Only out for himself." Spike paused. "Which, actually, I rather liked about him. 'Bout the only thing, though. Nice to see you get all cold-blooded, anyway. He deserved it."
Angel looked at his cards: two black aces, two black eights, and the five of diamonds. "I fold. I need to get out of here."
"Sure that's a good idea?"
"Good as any."
A few hours later and sunrise is coming on early, the first rays of the summer sun chasing the vampires indoors and the demons back underground. Angel brushes the night's dust off his hands and stores his jacket in the hangerless closet. Spike is already asleep in the next room, naked and tangled in the sheets. Angel pulls his door closed.
"There's something here," Illyria says, when she looks up from the game she's been playing since before Angel left. "And this dragon creature can't be killed."
"What's here?" He pauses. "You can't kill it; you have to run away from it. And try not to crash into the nitro boxes."
"Yes, that seems to be key." Her fingers hover over the pause button. "I don't know what it is, nor what it wants."
"Is it friendly?"
"I don't think so. But it's incorporeal. It cannot harm us."
"Right. I'm going to bed."
By the time he turns around she's already back in the game, and the electronic chirp of video game music follows him to his room. He shuts the door. Lindsey is lying on his bed, hands behind his head.
"You're dead," Angel says.
"Hello to you too. What, no hug?"
"What are you doing here?"
"Couldn't go without saying goodbye."
"Goodbye," Angel says, without much hope.
"So you had me killed," Lindsey says, as if he didn't hear. "That's not very heroic. Couldn't even bother to do me in yourself."
"Is this going to take long? Isn't there someone else you can annoy?"
"I thought you'd be more surprised." He grins. "Where's the fun if you're not suprised? Oh, right. The eternal torment, <i>that's</i> the fun part."
"So you're what, here to haunt me?"
"Smart <i>and</i> pretty. And unbeatable, too. How about that apocalypse, huh?"
"Wasn't the first. Sure it won't be the last." Angel sits down on the opposite side of the bed from Lindsey and takes off his shoes. "You planning on hanging around all day while I'm trying to sleep?"
"Angel," Lindsey says, "with me around, I don't think you'll ever sleep again."
Spike wanders in at the next sunset and talks to Angel as if Lindsey isn't there, which Angel thinks he maybe should try. They make arrangements to run out for blood and supplies, and Spike walks back out, leaving Angel alone with Lindsey's ghost.
"Am I the only one that can see you?"
"Yep. I'm all yours, big guy. Makes you feel all special inside, doesn't it?"
"It's talking to you," Illyria says later, as they walk through the sewers, weapons swinging from battered hands. "What does it say?"
"You can hear him?"
She cocks her head. "Him? I hear the language of ghosts; I do not understand it. Do you know what he wants?"
"Attention," Lindsey says, and this is nothing new.
Spike, irritatingly, sides with Lindsey. "Can't say I blame the guy, you did have him killed after all. Bound to make any bloke a little bitter. I think he was a bit in love with you, anyway."
"Yeah, he's one to talk," Lindsey says sardonically from where he's perched on the worn out couch.
"You were in love with me?" Angel asks, and Spike and Lindsey say "No" at the same time.
"They've both wanted you, in their own way. Their lust made the air around them burn," Illyria says. She sits at the kitchen counter, eating a bowl of Rice Crispies. She pauses after a spoonful. "I enjoy these. The crackle amuses me."
"That's not true," Spike says.
"Well, the crackle <i>is</i> pretty fascinating, at least in the beginning," Angel says consideringly.
Illyria eats another bite, and tilts her head. "Spike wants you still."
"See," Lindsey says. "It's not just me."
The next night Angel doesn't sleep, and the next, and the next. He lies in bed, staring at the ceiling, half listening to Lindsey and half wishing for death. Whenever he begins to nod off, Lindsey starts singing, mournful country songs or the Sex Pistols back catalog. One night he went through half of Never Mind the Bollocks, and the next day Spike walked around singing Anarchy in the U.K. until Angel punched him in the face and they got into a pointless fistfight which nonetheless made Angel feel a little better.
Angel's eyes twitch open at the first note of an alt-country song Lindsey's sung so many times Angel's beginning to know the lyrics, and Lindsey subsides back into his speaking voice.
"Bruises," Lindsey continues. "Scars. You didn't even allow me that. Just bullet wounds from a lackey. Not even a good fight to the death."
"If I say I'm sorry, will you go away?" Angel says.
"I'll never go away," Lindsey replies, and Angel thinks he might mean it.
"How's the ghostie?" Spike asks. "Letting you sleep yet?"
"No. Any luck finding an exorcist?"
"'Fraid not. There's not many around here willing to talk to the likes of us. Maybe if we leave?"
Angel nods once, decisively. "Yeah."
"Where to, then? Europe? Something closer? I'm not in love with you, you know."
Angel blinks. "Right. But you're coming with me?"
"Because I've got nothing better to do."
"Okay." He nods. "Council's setting up shop in Vegas. Could see what they're up to."
Lindsey wanders in and sits next to Angel on the couch. "Not trying to leave without me, are you?"
"As soon as possible," Angel says, and goes back to his room. Lindsey follows, settling on the bed as Angel begins to pack what little he has.
"Admit it," Lindsey says. "If I'd given you the chance, you would have fucked me."
"No, you wouldn't have, or no, you won't admit it?"
"What about you and Eve? And Darla?" Angel says impatiently, carefully folding a black shirt. "Why aren't you haunting them?"
"Because they're dead."
"So am I."
"You're not dead until you're dust. Besides, they didn't kill me. And don't interrupt me on a technicality."
Angel closes his mouth and concentrates on getting his bag zipped up.
"You never did get it, did you, Angel? It was never about the bigger picture, it was always just you and me."
"Nice to see you haven't lost your sense of self-importance. You were nothing, Lindsey. You were nothing but an annoyance then and you're nothing but an annoyance now."
And suddenly Lindsey's in his face, his fingers grasping the air just in front of Angel's collar. Up this close it's clear something's off; beneath the room's bare lightbulb his flesh seems thin, like layers of translucent skin still failing to gain opacity. This close he's spectral, wrong, like a glass lamp shattered and glued back together. Angel can almost see the hairline cracks.
Lindsey's a breath away, except they're not breathing, either of them. They only stare, and say nothing, and when Lindsey leans in there's still nothing. He's still incorporeal, and where his lips should touch Angel's there's only a slight burning, like an inexpertly taken shot of whiskey. Angel stays motionless, and Lindsey moves back.
"Everyone you love dies," Lindsey says. "It's what you deserve."
"At least they've loved me back."
Lindsey sits back down. Angel finishes packing in silence.
Angel leaves Lindsey in his bedroom to go out hunting with Spike. When they return Lindsey's gone, and Illyria's procured a car with tinted windows. They don't bother asking how.
They make it to Las Vegas in about four hours the next night, and move into the new council headquarters.
Angel stops sleeping altogether, because when he does, he dreams of Lindsey.
Please post a comment on this story.
Author: Sara [email]
Details: Standalone | PG-13 | *slash* | 8k | 08/11/04
Summary: When Lindsey comes back, it's in the middle of the night, days after the battle.
Notes: Title from from Epidermal Macabre, by Theodore Roethke
Disclaimer/Other: Joss wins.
Archive: Silverlake, Glass Onion, otherwise ask.
Betas: Reena encourages, Anibe prods, and lalejandra speaks the mysterious language of commas. Without them, anarchy.
Feedback: Also wins. email@example.com
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