Spiked Blood
by Katta

There were very few things Angel had as little concept about as computers. Cell phones were a possible runner up; he hated how they made him stand in the street hollering like an idiot, but computers were worse. Yet he somehow managed to be stuck with one for the evening. Cordelia had gone to bed with a vision headache hours ago, Gunn's shoulders had been burned pretty bad in the latest fight, Wesley was bandaging them, and he had told Angel to get the information about the fire-breathing demon into the computer. Since Angel could see the point in this he did try, but the dullness of it all made him sleepy. When someone knocked on the front door he was too apathetic to look up, counting on the others to take care of any potential client, but his head jerked up the moment he heard that familiar, slightly Southern voice say,

"I need your help."

Lindsey was dressed very like he had been when he left. His eyes mirrored Angel's automatic hostility, which only served to make Angel more irritated. He didn't trust the ex-lawyer any further than he could throw him, and didn't want him around. After all the trouble Lindsey had caused, no one here had any reason to help him, and he should have the decency to figure that out.

Of course Lindsey having decency was pretty much a contradiction in terms.

"I thought I told you to stay out of town."

"Takes a lot of nerve to show up like that," Gunn muttered in agreement.

Lindsey let the door fall shut behind him. "It wasn't exactly voluntary. I've been having dreams. About killing people."

"Why is your guilt trip our problem?" Gunn asked, straightening his back. Wesley immediately pushed him down again to get the bandages straight, but glanced at Lindsey for the answer.

He shook his head slowly, eyes not leaving Angel. "It's not a guilt trip. I didn't kill these people. They're being bitten to death by a vampire, and I'm the one doing it. It's not just the dreams either. There are times I don't recognise myself."

"Yeah, well, you've always been a bloodsucker, you might as well..." Angel silenced, as it occurred to him that if Lindsey was saying what it sounded like he was, his problem really did concern all of them. So maybe throwing him out of the nearest window wasn't the best option even without considering the expense of a glazier. But who could have caused this? It had never been Darla's style. "Go on."

"I think I'm turning into a Bathory vampire."

"Oh dear," Wesley breathed. It didn't surprise Angel that the Englishman knew of this obscure anomaly, rarely appreciated even by real vampires. If he knew him right, he probably knew more about it than Angel ever wanted to find out.

"Say what?" Gunn asked in disbelief. "Either you are a vampire or not. How can you slowly turn into one?"

"You can't - quite," Wesley said, his voice very low. He spun a pencil between his fingers. "Bathory vampires are human beings, who take on the personality and the blood lust of a vampire."

"Crazy people who think they're vampires?"

"Essentially, yes."

Gunn let his eyes rest on Lindsey for a moment. Then he shrugged, and winced. "Do they get the fangs and all that?"

"No. They're still human."

"Then what's the problem?"

"The problem," Lindsey said, raising his chin, "is that Elizabeth Bathory, the most well known victim of this form of insanity, killed six hundred young virgins and bathed in their blood."

Slowly, Gunn's mouth opened. It stayed that way. "Okay."

"But in order to become a Bathory vampire," said Wesley, who only now seemed to grasp what Angel had suspected right away, "you have to engage yourself in a blood ritual with an actual vampire. Have you recently... oh dear."

He sank down on the sofa next to Gunn, staring at Lindsey, who remained by the doorway.

"That's not really Darla's style, is it?" Angel said, and if it came out as an accusation, it wasn't really his fault. There were vampires who loved to make humans follow their every whims, and certainly, in some aspects they were more useful than ordinary minions. But after a while they became a damn nuisance, convinced they were vampires and causing troubles for the real ones. Elizabeth Bathory had wasted the blood of hundreds of women on hot baths because she couldn't understand that she was growing old; it wasn't something vampires did. If the Bathory vampires lacked nothing in cruelty, they tended to miss the part where playing with the food turned into actual eating. He'd known more than one ordinary vampire who had gotten tired of it all and demonstrated what happened to people who didn't finish their meals.

"Darla was never in on it," Lindsey said, with a calm only seen in the eye of a storm. "The firm took blood from her right after Drusilla turned her. They knew I cared for her. Maybe they figured I could help keep her controlled if the care turned into an obsession. I don't know. It's too late to ask now."

That was so entirely typical that Angel actually took a deep breath and let it out through his teeth. "And of course you'd go along with it like a good little boy."

"Didn't have much of a choice," Lindsey said, closing his fists.

"No, you never do, do you? Tell me, how is it that whenever you do something incredibly stupid, it's never your fault?"

"Are you going to help me or not?"

"Not", no matter how much Angel would want it, obviously wasn't an option. If Lindsey was going to start killing people, it was their duty to stop it. Only problem was that even though many older vampires knew how to make a human minion, and it didn't take a genius to figure out how to kill them when you were done with them, he hadn't actually heard of any way to reverse the procedure.

"You better sit down," he said. "This may take a while."


Come morning, everyone was still browsing books. Wesley had made sure everyone was occupied, giving Cordelia a thick volume the moment she entered. Her nails now drummed a steady beat on the table. Every so often she let out a little sigh.

"Pointless," she said, turning a page. "Pointless. Pointless, pointless, pointless!" She slammed the book shut.

"Yes, thank you, Cordelia," Wesley said. He was too busy replacing one Watcher diary for another to bother much with what she was saying. The sixteenth century had held little of interest, perhaps he'd fare better with the seventeenth. "Can you please try one of the other books?"

"You know what I don't want to do?" she asked, standing up. "I don't want to read about what psycho wannabe vampires do when they psych out. Mostly because it's really gross. I would much prefer to find out how we're going to handle it when this guy psychs out. Preferably before he does."

Lindsey was doing an admirable job of not listening to what people said, regardless of the fact this was his fate they were discussing. He kept his face in a book and turned the pages from time to time, but didn't appear to be doing any active reading.

Halfway through the 1630's, Wesley suddenly found something that should have been circled in red and marked "clue". "Interesting," he said, putting his index finger in the book as he looked up at Lindsey, who stiffened.

"What's interesting?"

"How do you feel about Darla these days?"

"How I feel about her?" Lindsey laughed a little, but didn't answer the question.

"Come on now, Lindsey," Angel said. "Be a good boy and tell us how you feel."

A glint of murder showed in Lindsey's eyes for a second; then he sat back and shrugged. "Is there anyone here who doesn't know that? You all know what I did for that arrogant little bitch who wanted to boss everyone around." He suddenly frowned. "Hang on."

"That's how you feel about Darla?" Cordelia said, taking a pause in her annoyed sighing. "'Cause you could have fooled me."

"No," Lindsey said, looking as if he didn't know which way was up.

Wesley shook his head slowly. "No it isn't. It's how the vampire feels. According to this, he's not just taking on a vampire personality, he's taking on a particular vampire personality from Darla's bloodline. There may even be some memories seeping through."

"Oh, fabulous," Lindsey groaned, running his fingers through his hair.

Wesley reached for his notebook. He kept the facts about the most prominent members of the Order of Aurelius in his head, and was ready to write down any similarities.

"How do you feel about Angel?" Wesley continued the interrogation.

"Same way I always did, I guess." Lindsey loosened his collar a little. "He's a sodding bastard who can't stay away from what doesn't belong to him."

"Darla was never yours, you idiot," Angel snapped, standing up. Lindsey followed his example.

"No, you're the one they all have to adore. You can't even get properly laid, and still they all swoon when you walk by."

They seemed ready to take each other on, and Wesley held up a hand. "Hold on for a minute. Lindsey, are you absolutely sure that this is your own opinion? There's nothing about it that feels strange to you?"

"No." He was still trying to stare down Angel. "This is all me."

"Very interesting," Wesley said, noting it down. "Are you aware that you just used the word 'sodding'?"

Angel was the first one to look away, giving Wesley a shadow of the glare he'd been using on Lindsey. It was still more than intimidating. "Is there a point to this?"

"Yes," Wesley said, surprised Angel didn't see it. "The victim will have the possibility to take after any vampire in the bloodline. Usually, it's one they can relate to somehow. So if Lindsey's attitude towards you is similar to how the vampire feels, this may actually be the point of identification."

"Will that help me get better?" Lindsey asked in a low voice. You could have scrubbed clothes on Angel's frown.

"No," Wesley said, suddenly somewhat less enthusiastic. "I can't see how it would." He cleared his throat. "Nevertheless, it would be of significance for the future if we determined what personality we are dealing with."

"One who dislikes Angel." Lindsey offered a weak smile.

"And Darla," Cordelia pointed out.

"One who disliked Darla and..." Wesley's gaze drifted off to Angel, then to Lindsey. "...hated... Angel." Hate wasn't the word he was looking for, but even he didn't have the vocabulary to sum up Lindsey's strange emotions. Nor did he know which vampire would mirror it. Angel knew, he could see it in his eyes, but naturally he wouldn't say anything. That was the thing with Angel, he never disclosed any personal information if he could help it. That had been part of the problem in the Darla situation, and it was part of the problem now. Wesley could sympathise with it, really he could, but it didn't make anything any easier.

Lindsey licked his lips. "So, that means it can't be Darla herself, or Angel, right? And probably not Drusilla either."

"Could be Spike," Cordelia suggested.

Wesley sought confirmation in Angel's face and got it. Yes, it could be Spike. And fortunately, that was one vampire he actually had more than fleeting information about.

"When you remember killings," he asked Lindsey, taking his pencil, "what do you remember?"

"I... I grab them," Lindsey said, clearly not comfortable with the question. "Sometimes I fight them first. Those are the best times. But sooner or later I grab them hard, pull them close to me and rip out their throats with my teeth. I drink from them..."

"That wasn't what I meant." Obviously, this was something he should have clarified earlier, but the hunger in Lindsey's voice when he spoke of death was much too disturbing to interrupt. "What kind of victims are they? Men, women, children? Do you remember any particular faces?"

"All kinds of people," Lindsey said, his voice distant. "Sometimes just food... sometimes more than that. There are two in particular. An Asian girl that looks like someone from a Samurai movie, and a black chick in a subway..."

Wesley nodded. The description fitted the two Slayers Spike was infamous for having killed. The next thing Lindsey said was more surprising.

"And I remember a gypsy family."

The word "gypsy" alone was enough to make everyone look at Angel, who stood unfazed, as if nothing Lindsey said could surprise him

"As in the cursing gypsies?" Cordelia asked. "I thought those were yours."

"They weren't." Angel's voice was barely audible. "Spike killed them. But none of it would have happened if it hadn't been for me."

Of course, Angel was the expert at taking responsibility for the wrong things. Wesley let that go for the time being and concentrated on the problem.

"So I think we can determine that it's Spike. That means if this goes far enough for you to give in to the vampire completely, we'll have to alert Sunnydale, given Spike's obsession with Slayers. Then again, it's possible that you might try to find Drusilla."

"Yeah." Lindsey was obviously not thrilled at this glimpse of his future. "Any chance we can stop it from going that far?"

"I can kill you," Angel suggested amiably.

"There is a rite," Wesley said, cautious not to bring Lindsey's hopes up too much. "But I'm afraid most people who used it died from it."

"Oh." It was hardly surprising that this made Lindsey look seasick. "Still, better than eating people, right?"

"Uh... yes." Perhaps he had misjudged Lindsey earlier. Clearly he was brave enough to take responsibility for his actions. Wesley decided to make sure he did everything in his power to resolve this without bloodshed.


Cordelia stared at the page she was reading, which described a successful "salvation of a damned man's soul", as the book had chosen to call it. Finding a basic description of the rite requested hadn't taken long. It was a bonding rite between the infected person and a living human, and although the description had been brief, and unspecific enough to annoy Wesley, it had spoken quite a lot about blood. Ew, but okay. That wasn't the problem. The problem was that this was only the third account of a success they had found all day.

Gunn had been the one to dig up the first, a Watcher whose Slayer had offered to bond with him. Three hours later, Lindsey had found an old witch who helped rescue a boy. And now, as the Chinese takeout boxes piled up beside her, Cordelia sat staring at the words in her book. "But a man from the nearest village, who was a half-wit, but said to be able to foresee the future, said to the people to choose him for their sacrifice. At first they mocked the idea, but he was persistent. Washed in the stricken man's blood, the half-wit blessed his soul, and the demons left him. They both fell senseless to the ground and were believed dead, but before the blood had dried on their bodies they awakened and could return to their homes."

A happy ending, but Cordelia was a lot less than happy reading the words "able to foresee the future". With Gunn's Slayer and Lindsey's witch, she was beginning to see a pattern, and she didn't like it one bit. She could only hope that nobody else would make the same connection until she figured out what to do about it, but she wasn't very hopeful.

"Got anything?" Gunn asked, diving into the fried rice. Cordelia jumped half an inch.

"Yeah," she said breathlessly before she had time to think.

"Really?" So he hadn't expected her to say yes. He'd just been asking a friendly question while he got some fried rice, and she could have told him "no" and gotten on with it. Nobody would have been the wiser. If they had found the story later she could have claimed to have accidentally turned two pages at once or something.

God, what was she thinking? Lying about something that could save lives? Even if one of them was - well, Lindsey. She couldn't have done that, even if she hadn't screwed it up by admitting she found something. It wasn't as if they could make her do it.

Gunn was reading over her shoulder, and she waited breathlessly for him to point out the obvious, but he just lifted the book up for a closer look.

"Do you mind?" he asked, and she shook her head, drawing her hands away from the cracked old volume as if it had burned her. The sound of her own pulse filled her ears, and she wasn't seeing too clearly, but she noticed how everyone took an immediate interest.

"We have a witch, a Slayer and a psychic," Wesley pointed out, and she cursed him for his intelligence. "It's quite possible that the supernatural connection somehow increases the chances of success."

Cordelia held her breath.

"I'm not letting him anywhere near Buffy," Angel said, frowning at Lindsey.

Lindsey just smirked. "Last I recall, there were two..."

"Or Faith."

They hadn't even thought of her. Of course not. Even after all this time, Buffy was still Angel's first priority, and everyone else followed Angel's lead, whatever the bills and business cards might say. She slowly let her breath out - and caught Lindsey's gaze. Damn that man. Even if the others had overlooked what she was, he very clearly hadn't. She watched him stand, daring him to speak up.

"I need a smoke."

And he was out the door.


Lindsey circled the hotel over and over again, trying to walk off the craving for cigarettes. He wasn't a smoker. He'd never been a smoker, even as a kid, and once he got into law school he'd realised that was fortunate. Success didn't smell of nicotine, except possibly after a closed deal if someone offered you a Havana. Yet now he couldn't get rid of the longing. In a way it was worse than the lust for blood, because at least he knew that was supernatural.

He didn't think he was Spike. That would actually have been a lot less scary. As it was now, every new emotion sneaked into his personality and changed what being Lindsey meant. He believed that Spike was him. Before this was over their personalities would be indistinguishable, but he'd still call himself Lindsey and know that he was born and raised in nowhere, Oklahoma, even though Spike's memories told him differently. He'd know what was happening, know everything about it, except where he stopped and Spike started.

Well, he was going to fight it as long as he could, and he'd start right here. No smokes. He wasn't a smoker. He leaned his head back, watching the hotel facade, counting the windows. There were enough of them to keep him occupied for a while. Now, without multiplication or estimates, the final number would be...

There was a girl in one of the windows, looking down. He didn't think he'd ever seen her before, but when he raised his hand to wave to her she quickly disappeared from view. Odd. He briefly wondered if she could see the things he'd done in his face somehow, or maybe the things he was to become. Because, come on, he wasn't that scary, was he?

Not that he wouldn't like a taste of her. She looked too brittle to put up much of a dance, but if there wasn't much meat on the woman, he still had things to choose from. He liked it when they were so thin the arteries could practically be felt through the skin. There had been times when he closed his eyes and let his fingers wander over Drusilla's body like that... oh fuck.

He scratched his neck, trying to get his act together. Okay, he didn't get his kicks out of hurting girls, that much he knew. Whatever his flaws, that wasn't one of them. So, first priority, not killing any girls.

Except that there was this problem with Angel's secretary. It seemed as though she'd be able to help him, and it was pretty clear she had come to the same conclusion. Somehow, he would have to convince her to help him, maybe by pleading to her sense of duty. Doing this ritual must be a good thing in the big picture, right? Of course he could pick someone else. There had to be hundreds of people in L.A. who'd be useful for a binding rite - only they wouldn't be willing. And he wasn't in any position to force anyone. Force had never been his preferred method anyway. Why kill the cow when you can get the milk by talking?

Maybe she'd die - maybe they'd both die. It was still the better option. He belonged to himself for the first time in ten years, and he wasn't going to give up on that.

Averting his eyes from the facade he saw the neon sign of a convenience store down the street, and started to walk.


There was a man outside the window. Fred didn't know who he was, but she knew she didn't like the way he looked at her. In this world, people treated her like a person, and she liked that. It was something she'd almost forgotten during her time in Pylea. But this man didn't look at her as if she was a person. Not a cow either. Humming to herself, she tried to remember where she had seen such a look before. There was something... One, four, nine, sixteen, twenty-five, thirty-six... The thing Angel had turned into. The one they said was the vampire part of him, although it didn't fit what she had heard of vampires. She wasn't a cow, she was tacos. That was funny, really, but she didn't want to be tacos, and she waited for him to go away.

She kept counting squares and was at 14,884 when she dared to look out again. At first she couldn't see the man, but then she noticed him walking up the street, lighting a cigarette. He had a pretty walk, relaxed and self-assured.

"Bad man," she whispered to herself. "Bad man."

As if he had heard her, he suddenly dropped the cigarette, and his entire posture changed. The sight of his hanging head made her wish she hadn't said anything. She stayed behind the curtain, but when he put out the cigarette with his shoe and looked up she was pretty convinced he still saw her. Only this time, she didn't feel like tacos. She wasn't even sure if it was really the same man. Of course, that was crazy talking, but you never knew. This world wasn't quite the one she had been born in, was it? Maybe you could be two people. Maybe the bad man was.

He walked into the hotel, and she withdrew from the window. If he lived here, she was sure she'd see him again. She could only hope she wouldn't be tacos to him then.


"Is anyone else thinking that our biggest problem right now isn't finding the right person for the ritual, but actually getting the ritual?" Gunn asked in the middle of a somewhat lengthy discussion between Wesley and Angel. His shoulders hurt, and he was getting more than a little testy. "'Cause so far all we got is lots of blood."

"It's always blood, isn't it?" Lindsey said, entering the room. He didn't look any calmer or more pleased than he had walking out. Hardly surprising, really. The stuff he'd have to smoke to forget about this mess could probably give you a lifetime in jail - or longer in Hell.

"Yeah, well, just splashing your blood over people probably isn't going to help."

"It's worth a try," Angel muttered.

"We must consider the binding person, though," Wesley deadpanned, head still buried in the book. "It's quite traumatic to be splashed with blood. Gunn, since you're already up and about, could you find me Singh's 'Common Misconceptions About Famous Vampires'? I think there's something in there about Minna Murray."

Gunn was used to Wesley asking for peculiar stuff, and the name didn't immediately ring a bell. He already had his eyes on the book titles when Lindsey and Angel both said,

"Minna Murray!?"

"Or Harker, if there's nothing on Murray," Wesley continued, and then looked up. "What? The whole world knows she was tied to Dracula."

"Dracula," Gunn said, finally understanding why the others acted so strangely. "That Winona Ryder girl?"

"Well, yes, if you choose to canonise a version that's even more horribly wrong than what Bram Stoker wrote." He gave a sigh that was part laughter. "Will you just give me the damned book?"

"Dracula was real," Gunn said, returning his attention to the bookshelf. "Fine with me."

The book was big enough to be eye-catching even though the title was faded. He picked it out and returned to the others. By now, Lindsey looked so nervous he could have beaten every Olympic winner in history. It was pretty contagious, too. Gunn couldn't care less what happened to the lawyer, but he still found himself holding his breath as Wesley looked through the index to find Minna Murray and then read the article. And then he let it out as a smile spread over Wesley's face.

"You got the ritual?"

"'The most complete version of this ritual can be found in Zwerminskykowsky's Demonic Handbook'," Wesley read with obvious triumph.

"Do you have that one?" Lindsey asked, his voice rough.

"No, but I can order it quite easily. It will take a week, perhaps, no more than that. It's utterly unlikely that you'll reach critical condition before then."

Gunn raised his eyebrows. He wasn't sure having Lindsey around for a week would be very pleasant. Particularly not if Wolfram and Hart found out. Angel might be willing to forget old differences for the sake of good, even if he didn't seem happy about it, but the firm had pretty much owned Lindsey, and Gunn was willing to bet they held grudges. This was going to cause trouble. What could make it worth it?

"So, I know you can sing," he said slowly, "but can you make coffee?"

"Uhm... yeah," Lindsey said, clearly not catching on.

"That's enough for me."


"What are you cooking?" Cordelia asked, going up to the stove with highest anticipation. Seeing what lay in the pot, she grimaced. "Ew. Add random curse to previous question."

"It's grits," Lindsey said, stirring.

"Ew," she repeated and sat down on the table. The corners of her mouth tilted down. "I was hoping for something good."

"Well, it's not for you," he replied.

For some strange reason, that hurt a little. It wasn't as if she didn't know why he was cooking her meals in the first place, but she had gotten used to the attention.

"I heard the girl upstairs is a Texan," he said, concentrating on the cooking. "She seems scared of me, figured this could be a peace offering."

Of all the strange things he could do, this was positively the strangest. She wondered for a moment if it was the vampire's influence on him, but she couldn't see Spike cooking grits for anyone.

"You do know she doesn't have any magical powers, right?"

This made him give her a sharp glance. "Not everything I do is self-serving."

She wasn't entirely sure about that. "Sorry."

"Whatever." He returned to his cooking, and what the hell, this was as good a time to say it as any.

"I'm going through with it." That wasn't a statement that needed any clarification, but she kept talking anyway. "The ritual. If the book Wesley ordered says we can do it, I want to do it."

He looked as if he was going to throw up any second, and she sincerely hoped he wouldn't. The grits were unattractive enough without vomit to clash with them.

"I never coaxed you on this."

She couldn't help laughing. Was it really so necessarily for him to deny that he was a bad guy? "No, of course you didn't. You just made me coffee, and cooked me meals, and helped out with research on things that have nothing to do with your case. Oh, and the singing, I almost forgot. 'If you could be so kind to help me find my mind'? Good one."

"That was just... it wasn't..." He struggled with the words. "Yeah, okay. But I don't want you to feel like I forced you."

"I came up with the idea before you did." And she'd fought it ever since, but there was no reason to tell him that. She would only come off as a whiny little girl who wanted to play hero but didn't have the guts. Now, she could do it in glory, acting heroic even if she didn't feel it. The centre of attention. That wasn't a part she'd easily give to anyone else, but of course, as reasons to sacrifice yourself went, it was too brain-dead to say out loud. "I mean, it's fairly obvious. I'm surprised the others haven't figured it out as well."

"They probably have," Lindsey said, shoving the grits onto a plate. "But do you really think they'd say anything before they were sure?"

"Well, what were they going to do, then? Wait until Wesley has the books and then go 'oh, Cordelia, honey, we need a favour'?"

"They may not want you to do it at all."

That made her stop to think. To her it had been so obvious that she was the one supposed to do it, and Lindsey's behaviour had reinforced that. But coming to think of it, Angel and Wesley might have a very different view to it. They were always so protective of her. Not that it was a bad thing. It came with the job description for a hero: always protect the girl. And she definitely was a girl, even if she wasn't one of those whiny blondes Angel liked.

"You wanted me to," she said, hoping her uncertainty didn't show too much.

He smiled a little. "Of course I did. You're enough of a good guy to do it voluntarily."

"And for coffee. You're not getting off the coffee, you know that? Stop making coffee and I won't do it."

"Deal." He handed her the plate. "Care to take this up to the Texan girl?"

She took it, and wondered if Fred would really find this stuff appealing. Tacos would probably have been a better choice. But then, she wasn't quite nice enough to say that. Whatever Lindsey may say, he wasn't the kind of guy to cook for someone just because he could.

"You owe me another one."


After Cordelia left, Lindsey cleaned the pot, wondering why he felt so queasy. She had made her own choice, fully informed, and he hadn't forced her. Of course, he hadn't been quite honest with her, but then again, she must have known that. Honesty wasn't his thing. Lies, obviously, were tricky things that tended to blow up in your face, but half-truths were his best friends, playing your cards just right while sticking close enough to the truth to be credible. In fact, he'd been a bit too open for comfort this time, letting her know things that probably weren't smart to say. Getting careless.

There was no need for this. Things were going great. Angel's guys had it all under control, they were all more helpful than he could ever have hoped for, and in a few days he'd be back to normal. Back to what normal used to be before people started screwing him around. He almost couldn't remember what that was like. It had been over ten years since he last made grits. At least he still remembered how it was done. Odd thing to be comforted by.

Cordelia entered the kitchen again just as he finished with the dishes. She stood in the doorway watching him, her arms crossed in a way that made him want to break them just to get rid of that smug posture.


"Fred says thank you for the grits."

"Oh. Okay." What a stupid idea that had been. What was it all about, really? Back to his roots? As if he hadn't spend the last century trying to get as far away from his roots as possible.

Decade. He meant decade.

"And I've decided what you owe me. When you're a millionaire, I want you to make me a star."

"I really doubt I'm ever going to be a millionaire, love." The downside of leaving Wolfram and Hart. Pretty much the only downside, now that he thought about it. That and power. Having power was one of those things that never went old. And that was part of what made Angel so irritating - the vamp sucked up power like a sponge, no one could have any next to him.

"Sure you will. After you make a couple of albums."

The smile she gave him was so sweet he realised she was kidding him.

"Sure. A tribute to Sid Vicious by Lindsey MacDonald, featuring Cordelia Chase."

Her smile faded, although he wasn't sure why. He'd spread the charms pretty thick, that usually won women over, whether they were clients or potential dates. There had been exceptions, of course, most noticeably Darla, but Darla had made fun of him. She hadn't stared at him as if each word was an obscenity.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing." The smile returned, wide and fake. "We'll get that ritual done, okay?"

With that she walked off, and he was left trying to figure out what had triggered that comment. He'd acted vampy again, that was obvious, but where? Going through his actions and comments, he just couldn't figure it out. The sooner they performed this ritual, the better.


The bad man had made her grits. Why he had done it, she wasn't entirely sure of, but she ate anyway. It tasted good, too, although she really preferred food with more spices in them. Maybe she could tell him that. Or just thank him for making food for her when the others were giving her what they ate. Which was usually sandwiches. Grits were nice for a change, really. She ought to thank him.

She already knew where his room was, having sneaked in there once when he was out. Now she walked back through the corridors, ready to face whatever would meet her there. Nothing did, and she knocked on his door. When he opened it, she almost ran away again, but managed to stay still and look into his face. At least it was the right bad man - not the one who thought she was food.

"Hi," she said.

"Hi," he replied, making her smile in relief.

"You talk like me!"

"Not quite. Close enough, I guess." He opened the door wider. "Want to come in?"

"I wanted to say thank you," she explained.

"Okay. And not come in?"

He was still holding the door open, and she hesitated. On one hand, she didn't trust him, but on the other hand, he sounded like home.

"I don't know."

"I'm not going to hurt you, I just want to talk to you."

And those "gonnas" and "wannas" settled it. She took the few steps into his room. It looked like hers had when she first arrived. Nice and bright, but without anything that said people lived there. It was really just an empty cave with better furniture. Nobody really lived here at all.

"Why are you here?" she asked, walking around to look at everything. She knew what it looked like, most of the rooms were the same, but she studied everything closely anyway.

"I have a bit of a magical problem. Angel's people have promised to help."

"Maybe they shouldn't have." She hadn't meant to say that, but it was too late to go back. Spinning around, she warned him, "You may not bite, but be sure I will."

"Who said anything about biting?" he asked, apparently puzzled.

"You said you wouldn't bite me."

"No, I said I wouldn't hurt you."

"Oh." So why had she changed it in her head? That was Freud. Definitely out of her territory. "But you won't bite me either, will you?"

"God, I hope not," he muttered, sitting down on the bed.

She had hurt his feelings. That wasn't what she had meant to do at all. Still wary of every sudden movement, she sat down next to him.

"Then what will you do?"

For the briefest of moments he just watched her, and then he flashed a grin that actually seemed genuine.

"Want to see a trick?"

He bent down to his feet and loosened his shoelaces, then look up at her, waiting for a confirmation. When she nodded, he tied them again. Both at once, with one hand over each shoe. Her jaw dropped.

"Where did you learn that?"

"A nurse taught me."

She was pretty sure nurses weren't supposed to teach people parlour tricks. Not unless they were in a film with... that guy... who wore suits and talked like Wesley.

"Was she pretty?"

Frowning, he replied, "You know, I think she was."

She twirled her fingers around each other, trying to imitate what he had done with the shoes. "Did you like her?"

"I hated her." His reply came quickly and startled her. Only a moment ago he had acted almost kind. This got her on her guard, and when the door slammed open a moment later she was up on her feet and ready to attack before it had even bounced back from the wall.

Angel stood in the corridor, leaning on the invisible barrier crossing the entrance.

"What are you doing here?" he asked her, and she almost got scared until she remembered that he couldn't enter without permission. And then she realised it wasn't her he was angry with at all.

"I came to thank him for the food he made me."

"Get out."

Now, that was an incredibly offensive remark, she knew that much even if she had been out of the loop for a while. She didn't mind Angel trying to rescue her from danger, but she hadn't been in any danger. So she stayed in the room, waiting to see what would happen.

"Lindsey, I'm warning you!"

"Yeah? What are you going to do?"

All of a sudden he wasn't talking like her anymore. Without thinking, Fred took the few strides to the door. Angel reached out a hand for her, but she avoided it, walking down the corridor to her own room.

The man called Lindsey was very clearly bad, but as long as he talked like her and didn't treat her like Tacos, he wouldn't hurt her. When things were otherwise, she didn't want to be around him.


Angel watched Fred go, and not until she was well out of view did he turn back to watch Lindsey. There was a moment's silence as the former lawyer seemed to contemplate his different options, and then an exasperated sigh.

"Yeah, whatever, you can come in."

Quite a demeaning invitation, really. At least that cocky smile was gone from Lindsey's face now - seeing it there was much too creepy. Angel entered the room, but kept his distance.

"What the hell was that all about?"

"Maybe I just wanted to talk to her," Lindsey said, getting off the bed. He walked up to the wall by the door and started scratching off the wallpaper.

That was as unlikely an explanation from Lindsey as it was from Spike, so Angel waited silently for the truth.

"Ever noticed how when you're around people you start talking like them?" Something about Angel's expression must have amused Lindsey, because his mouth curved up as he continued, "Of course you have. Well, that's what I'm doing. Trying to keep a bit of Oklahoma in my voice."

"Oh." Angel didn't know what to say about that. It was clear Lindsey wasn't lying - if for no other reason because he clearly had more of a Southern accent than just a couple of days ago. Not to mention when he was still a lawyer and at all times tried to maintain the impression that he wasn't from anywhere but his own office.

"Yeah, so, that's the reason." Lindsey slowly tore off a long strip of wallpaper.

The action irritated Angel, and the sound of it even more so, since it interfered with his thoughts. Even if Lindsey wasn't lying, that still didn't mean anything he said could be taken at face value. Spike was a rotten liar, but Lindsey could bend the truth every way without breaking it, and he still had more character traits of his own than of the vampire's. By telling the truth about Fred, there was something else he didn't want to draw attention to.


Lindsey tensed. "What about her?"

"That's what I want to know. You've been paying her more attention than Fred. Are you going to tell me you just want to hear her talk?"

"Does anyone want to hear her talk?"

Angel didn't laugh, and most certainly didn't budge. He was getting close to something here. Lindsey was avoiding the question, and fortunately Spike influenced him enough to make his evasion clumsy.

"I think you'd better ask her, not me."

This definitely wasn't good. "Ask her what?"

Lindsey didn't answer, and there was no smile on his face now. Seeing this as anything but a threat was impossible, and so Angel grabbed Lindsey by the collar and shoved him up the wall.

"Remember what happened last time you hurt her?"

"It's her choice," Lindsey said, his voice half-choked by Angel's grip.

This didn't exactly ease Angel's mind, but he loosened his grip a little. "What is?"

Cold, blue eyes met his. The little creep had courage, that much he had to admit.

"She wants to be the one to do the ritual."

His hands tightened upon Lindsey's flesh again, but only for a moment. This wasn't an attempt of Lindsey to hide behind a girl. It had really been Cordelia's idea. Was there no way to keep that girl out of trouble?

"Trust me, that's never going to happen." He shoved Lindsey away and heard the thud of a body hitting the far wall none too gently as he turned and left to find Cordelia.

He didn't know if this was some misdirected heroism on her part or if Lindsey had manipulated her somehow, but he knew this must be the most idiotic thing she had done in her life.

A luxurious dungeon might be a good idea.


If Angel had barged in ten seconds earlier, he'd have found Cordelia in the bathroom, which was never a good idea, and especially not at this time of month. Now, back in her office, she put a hand on her hip, staring him down. Whatever he had to say, it had better be good.

"Are you out of your mind?"

Well, that was a bit rich. She wasn't the one without any sense of privacy. Not to mention how she really wouldn't want to watch Angel resist his blood-lust for an OB Fleur. Opening her mouth to say as much, she caught his gaze and shut it again. Okay, if he was that angry, there was only one possible explanation. Damn Lindsey for telling him.

"Well, if you think about it, I'm the only one who can do it, provided the whole magical powers thing is really what makes it work. Or would you rather pick someone up from Sunnydale? Or from the street?"

"That isn't the point!"

"Isn't it?"

Angel was now circling her office like some big raven with a bad haircut.

"This could kill you."

"Again, would you rather take someone off the streets? 'Cause if you're getting into the sacrifice of random girls business, I'm not sure I want to work here."


Oh, now he had the reasonable voice going. Like that would really make a difference. She put the other hand on her hip as well.

"Listen. I can do this, not many other people can. And it's something that needs to be done. Nobody wants a Lindsey vampire, even if it's a fake one. Sure, if it goes wrong I could die, and I definitely don't want that happening, but I trust Wesley to come up with something that is at least somewhat foolproof." She smiled widely, pretending for a while that she could get Angel to see this as a magical gala night with her in the starring role. "And hey, it's my chance of doing something big around here. Let's face it, visions aside you guys usually handle the action."

Mentioning the visions got her mind onto another track. They were valuable to Angel. Oh, she was pretty sure he cared about her on a personal level too, but from a champion point of view he'd probably prefer it if the magical powers needed for the ritual weren't also needed for his work.

"Of course, there's the visions. I could kiss someone like right before, just in case." She thought of something. "No. Wait. I couldn't, because then I can't do it. Damn. I understand why you'd be bothered."

"That's not even close to what's bothering me." Angel's face might be one of gloom, but that didn't have to mean things would turn out bad. He was always so pessimistic. "What I don't get is why do you even want to do this? I know Lindsey can be persuasive..."

"Oh, please, like I can't make up my own mind. He wouldn't even have started that stuff if he didn't know I was already thinking about it. I mean, okay, I encouraged his attention a bit. Can you blame me? It's been ages since a guy wanted me to do anything. And yeah, okay, it's a scary blood-letting ritual and not sex, but after that whole demon spawn incident last year, I'm not sure it's a big difference."

"Dying might be."

"I could have died from that." She watched him carefully, trying to interpret the nuances in his gloom. "And this is for a reason."

If she could convince him that she was some brave heroine, she might have an easier time making him agree to this. And that in its turn would make it so much easier for her as well.

"I have to be the one doing this. I've got the powers, and I'm willing."

He shook his head very slowly. "No, you're not. You can't convince me you want any of this. Especially not with someone like Lindsey MacDonald in the middle of it."

"Maybe not," she admitted.

They watched each other silently for a few moments. Angel was the first to lower his eyes.

"You're not the type to go for martyrdom. Which I guess proves that you're right. You have to do this."

He swallowed, and she got a strange urge to comfort him. Comfort him, when she was the one risking her life. God, men. Even bicentennial and undead, they still screwed up your priorities.

"Just promise me one thing."


"Don't settle on this before we know what's what. Let Wesley investigate the ritual first. Make him find every safety procedure he can think of. Then you do it. Okay?"

"Yeah, okay."

He nodded and turned to leave. Although touched by his concern, she was also a bit irritated.

"You know, it's not like I was going in head first, ready to die."

His back revealed more emotion than his voice as he replied, "I'm sick of losing people."

As he reached the door, he stopped again, just for a second. "Sorry about barging in like that."

"So you should be," she muttered to the door closing behind him. But she was glad he left when he did.

Her eyes were beginning to ache.


Lilah had dreamed more than once about Lindsey MacDonald's return. In her daydreams, Wolfram and Hart's contacts would find him, preferably in an alley somewhere, and bring him to her office. She'd make him beg for his life, helpless in the face of her superior power.

In her nightmares, she'd suddenly find him where she least expected him, laughing at her, taking away everything she had worked for.

Her experience had taught her that neither of those possibilities were particularly likely. But then she still would have rated them more likely than Lindsey showing up at Angel Investigations.

Forced to stay realistic in this real, if unexpected situation, she reached for the phone, but never got so far as lifting it. For several minutes after the messenger had left she sat there pondering her options, until she finally pushed the chair back and left for Nathan Reed's office. She didn't answer to him anymore (another benefit of promotion), but she'd rather take it to someone who'd been there when Lindsey was. It wouldn't be half as satisfying as seeing Lindsey degraded at her command, but it was the sensible thing to do.

Nathan was reading a case file when she entered, but looked up with that pleasant smile that meant 'Sure, I'll give you anything what you want. You can pay later.' And never a word about the fact that 'later' wasn't optional.

"Lindsey's back," she said. There was no use beating around the bush.

The smile didn't waver. "I see. He's been spotted in Los Angeles?"

"At the Hyperion hotel, of all places."

"Really?" For some odd reason, this seemed to cause Nathan immense satisfaction. "I do believe we should check his status."


"We let him live through the Darla debacle for a reason, as I suppose you know by now. I think it's about time you see what it is."

This didn't clear the confusion any, but she didn't argue with him when he left his desk and motioned for her to follow him.

Considering her position in the firm she should have known there was a secret door painted on the backside of the Venetian blinds. Seeing Nathan flip them over to remove the window and the room it showed, like something out of a Looney Toon, thus made her more angry than surprised. She hated being kept out of things. In spite of this, she couldn't help being interested when they went through a hallway into a small laboratory. There wasn't much activity at the work benches, but a small frame with test tubes stood see-sawing on a table near the back wall. The tubes were filled with a dark liquid that Lilah instinctively determined as blood. Moving closer, she could confirm her suspicion.

Nathan lifted the frame and after closer examination removed one of the tubes, shaking it gently. His face showed a calm satisfaction.

"Aha. Look at this."

She looked. Not that she knew what blood in a test tube was supposed to look like, but as far as she could tell, the strangest thing about it was that it was swirly.

"What you are seeing," he said with the slightest hint of excitement, "is the blood of a person who is about to be taken over by a vampire."

"Lindsey?" she said, and saw his satisfied smile. "Lindsey is being turned?"

"No, no, you misunderstand. He will still be human, physically. Just with a vampire's mind."

That was new. She wasn't sure what she thought of it. Any messing with Lindsey's mind was good, of course, but a vampire? She waited for the further explanation.

Nathan put the test tube back in the frame and set it down on the table. It continued it's seesaw dance. "You see, while it has always been in our interest to put Lindsey's talents - which I assume you know are extraordinary - to proper use, he has shown regrettable character flaws."

Yeah, and you forgave him for every one of them, she thought.

"The Darla situation may not have ended the way we wanted it to, but you don't get as far as we have without a backup plan. Lindsey's feelings for Darla - his obsession I suppose you could call it - presented us with a very interesting possibility. On occasion, vampires have been known to tie humans to themselves. If done thoroughly, this causes the human to slowly take on a vampire personality for the rest of their lives."

"You tied Lindsey to Darla?" She had a feeling she was still missing something vital. "To make him think he was a vampire."

"Not a vampire," Nathan explained with obvious delight. "A vampire who cared as much for Darla as Lindsey did."

And finally the pieces clicked together in her head. If you can't have the original, go for the copy. Had Lindsey known? She didn't ask, because she wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer. A "no" meant similar things could be happening to any of them right now, which the presence of further test tubes indicated quite possible. A "yes" meant there were people in here who'd really do anything to get ahead, and she wasn't sure she could compete with that.

"What should I do?"

"If Lindsey is in town and Angel knows about it, we'd better make sure things are going according to plan. Have people come in here every hour and report back to you. As long as his blood is swirling, we're fine. If it pulsates, even better. But if the swirls slow down, or stop completely, we need to act immediately."

She tried to imagine an Angelus in Lindsey's body and shivered at the thought.


Wesley had barely paid for the book before he tore it from the clerk's hands and opened the page mentioned by Singh. The first thing he saw was a title in old-fashioned letters: "To fave the foul of a Living Vampyre". If he hadn't been in a shop belonging to the without a doubt crabbiest warlock in LA, he would have cheered out loud and kissed those silly S-es. He loved finding solutions.

"Is it there?" Gunn asked.

"Oh, yes." Wesley was already caught up in the reading, opening the shop door with his elbow. "I do believe this is everything we need."

Including the amounts of blood needed for the ritual to work. Wesley swallowed. "Oh, dear."


The information was followed with instructions on how to draw the blood and what to do with it. "Oh, dear."

"Give me that!" Gunn grabbed the book and slowly read through the page while they walked down the street. Wesley waited patiently for a reaction.

"How much is a vodka bottle?"

"A bit more than a pint."



Although it was entirely possible to lose a pint of blood without any serious after effects, ritual carvings in arms and torso with shards of glass probably wasn't the best way. His muscles tightened at the mere thought. Nevertheless, he thought he had a glass dagger somewhere. It wouldn't make the matter any easier, but it would make it look more like a ritual and less like a sex game for the insane. Still thinking about this, he let Gunn keep the book the rest of the walk back to the Hyperion, and he thought his friend looked remarkably shook up when the walk was over.

"I'm not sure I like this, man. Okay, we're not sacrificing any virgins, but the whole cleansing thing just seems a bit more perverted than I like. Plus, who's going to do it?"

"Whoever has to, of course."

Gunn nodded. It was clear his thoughts went in the same direction as Wesley's. "That was what I was afraid you'd say. And just for the record, I don't like it. This stuff is bad."

From what little he had read, Wesley was inclined to agree, but he didn't get a chance to find out more. People surrounded the two of them to get to the book, and surprisingly Cordelia, not Lindsey, was the one who snatched it first.

"God, I hate this way of writing," she said, scowling at the yellowed old paper. "The binding mate - here we have it - should have some kind of magic that is... Well, what do you know."

She looked up, slightly paler than before. "Given, not learned."

Her face was directed at Angel, who groaned quietly, and just as Wesley understood what it was she was saying, what she planned to do, he also understood that Angel had known about it. She had discussed it with him, and judging from Lindsey's dispassionate glance at her, he had been in on it too.

And he, the supposed leader, hadn't suspected a thing. He'd assumed that he would have to do it himself. After all, he was the one with the most experience of spellcasting. And although he experienced a treacherous rush of relief that not only was that not expected of him, but not even possible, it wounded his ego a little that he'd never noticed what was so obvious to everyone else. But looking past that, he had to admit Cordelia did fit the demands of the spell better than anyone else he could call on.


At first, seeing Cordelia's horror almost made Lindsey want to call off the whole thing, but he soon came to his senses again. If all went well, she wouldn't suffer much. Sure, blood rites were never painless, but he trusted Angel's Englishman to want to make this as smooth as possible. Not for Lindsey's sake, certainly, and maybe not even for Cordelia's, but just because. Lindsey had known people like that at the firm. So particular you wanted to kick their behinds, until their perfectionism saved your life.

Right now, he was discussing the amount of blood needed for the ceremony. Lindsey automatically divided the number with ten and found it to be very little, but then he realised that his assumptions might not be suitable for this ritual.

"Does it have to be pure?" he asked.

Wesley looked up in surprise, and then back down into the book. "Hard to tell. He can't seem to finish one thought before another has started." After some turning of pages back and forth, he said, "Probably not. It says 'One vodka bottle each of their blood must be used', but also that 'one vodka bottle needs not be drawn from their flesh, if the blood be thick'. I've heard of ways to increase the volume of blood, but I'm afraid I don't know what it is."

"I do," Lindsey said, banishing the thought of his first promotion as well as a game played in London to please a wicked lover. "You can get up to ten times the amount of blood by adding as much sangric acid and then fill up with water."

"I do believe I have a box of sangric acid somewhere!" Wesley said, lightening up quite a bit.

Lindsey barely listened during the following description and discussion of the ritual. He knew his future depended on this, but he'd go through with it no matter what, and so details were of no interest. He paid some attention while Cordelia was still making up her mind, but once he saw her lips tighten in determination, he relaxed. The game was won, and soon he'd be all Lindsey or all dead, and in either case rid of the intruder in his mind.

The discussion silenced around him, and he realised he had been asked a question. "Sorry, you were saying?"

"You need to hold on to Cordelia during the ceremony. We will draw the blood and cleanse you both in it, and all you have to do is keep still. Considering how you're both young and healthy and her powers fit Zwerminskykowsky's description well, there's no reason to think things will go wrong, but even if they do, you need to remain connected until the ritual is done. It is absolutely vital. Do you understand?"

"As instructions go, it's hardly difficult to understand."

He looked at Cordelia, whose face was calm now that she no longer had any retreat. The courage she possessed wasn't something he had expected from a chatty secretary. Better men than he might have found it unworthy to hide behind a girl, but he had no such qualms. If it were possible, he would hide until none of his old sins could catch up with him anymore.

He'd have no problem holding on.


Helping lawyer scum, even if it was born-again lawyer scum, was bad enough. When Cordelia offered to play magic blood games with him it went beyond creepy. Gunn knew the glint in Wesley's eyes too well to bring it up with him; he'd seen it during the whole battle in Pylea. But Cordelia wasn't an acceptable loss in the big picture, and even if Wesley couldn't see that, Gunn was surprised that Angel hadn't complained. After his return to the firm the fuss he made over Cordelia sometimes verged on intolerable, but at this time, when it would actually have been welcome, he chose to remain quiet. Gunn had never felt so much like staking him.

"You sure about this?" he asked Cordelia.

When she hissed "yes" in a tone that clearly meant "get off my case" he figured Angel's say in it had come earlier. That didn't make it all okay.

He helped arrange and light the candles on the floor of Wesley's office, and then sat waiting on the desk while Lindsey instructed Wesley in a low voice how to mix the sangric acid into the water and add the blood. What was with the whispering around magic anyway? At no place in the book had it said you needed to be veeeery quiiiiiet for the magic to work. If you shouted too much, couldn't the power concentrate? He kicked his feet against the leg of the desk and tried to tell himself that his irritation didn't come from being nervous.

Then Wesley lifted Lindsey's T-shirt and made the first cut, collecting the blood in a coffee mug. If anyone was going to use that coffee mug after this, Gunn sincerely hoped it would be Angel and not, for example, he.

As Cordelia was treated the same way, Gunn wondered briefly if he should look away. Not that he hadn't seen a pair of tits before, and Cordy looked phenomenally unembarrassed given the seriousness of the situation, but there was something obscene about how the blood seeped forward from the horizontal wound, dripping down across and between her breasts into the cup. At least the cut was shallow enough not to leave any permanent scars. Wesley knew what he was doing.

If Gunn was feeling uncomfortable, Angel was positively squirming. Wesley noticed it too. "Are you sure you should be here? With all the blood-letting, I mean?"

"I'm not sure anyone should be here," Angel said, but he drew back towards the stairs. "I'll stay with Fred. If you need me, call me down."

Now, Gunn saw himself as a fighter in his own right, certainly not needing Angel's help to stand strong, but he wished the vampire could have stayed. He wasn't sure what sort of powers were involved in this stuff, and just in case there was more to it than giving Lindsey and Cordelia a Sissy Spacek type shower he wanted as much armed power as they could manage. But he had to admit that a potentially hungry vampire wouldn't help much.

"Gunn, if you would come, please."

He jumped off the desk and joined Wesley, who held up the book for him to see. "Do you mind doing the blood cleansing while I chant?"

He reluctantly took the cup from Wesley and poured its content into the bowl of water and acid. It started to froth immediately as the blood spread through the water. After a few seconds, it looked as if the bowl contained two pints of blood and nothing else. He didn't even have to stir.

Although grossed out, he dipped his hands into the bowl, filling them with blood that he poured over Cordelia's head. He expected her to grimace or something, but she didn't. In fact, she didn't even seem to notice that he was there, her entire concentration on something he couldn't see. That was pretty damn creepy.

Once he started massaging the blood into her scalp, he found that although it looked pure, there was one significant difference: it started to froth when he rubbed it. This made him feel as if he was just washing her hair with red, liquid shampoo, a notion that giving Wesley's chanting and the candle light by their feet was thoroughly bizarre. He tried to disregard the feeling, letting the blood run past his fingers into her hair and down her neck and face. She blinked when the drops hit her eyes, but that was the only thing that told him she wasn't completely catatonic.

Having soaked her hair thoroughly in the blood, he proceeded on to her face, drawing circles and crosses on her cheeks and forehead. When he moved his fingers across her eyelids she obediently shut her eyes. Trailing his hands from the shoulder straps on her halter top down her arms he found she held on so tightly to Lindsey's hand that her knuckles were whitened. It took him a few seconds to realise it was because Lindsey was trying to get loose. His face was as blank as Cordelia's, but his hand was struggling fiercely.

"Wesley," Gunn said, trying to hold Lindsey with a hand on his shoulder. "I think there's some..."

Lindsey pulled away from Cordelia, and before Gunn had time to react he found his hand in an iron grip. His wrist was tweaked until he felt the bones break, accompanied by a small snapping sound that didn't match the pain at all. And then Lindsey was out the door, pushing Wesley aside as if the attempt to stop him didn't even matter.

"Fuck," Gunn breathed, making a half-hearted attempt to follow. It was no use; Lindsey was faster than him, faster than any human he'd encountered. Either the guy was an Olympic track runner on his spare time, or this vampire mojo was affecting him a lot.

"I thought you said he had no vampire powers."

"The relative strength of a madman can be extraordinary," Wesley answered. "Are you all right?"

He really hated the thought of going to the emergency room again. As if last week's burns hadn't been bad enough. But he could still wiggle some of his fingers, so the fracture may not be all that bad. It just made him want to faint, was all. "Fine."

Throwing a glance at Cordelia, he found that she was swaying slightly. The look of concentration had disappeared from her face, and she was now staring at him and Wesley in a way he found really disturbing. A moment later, her knees began to buckle, and he rushed over to stop her fall. His arm protested at her weight.

"Ow! Fuck!"

"You should probably see a doctor."

In times of trouble, stating the obvious could be a great comfort. Gunn knew this. It didn't make it any less annoying. He shifted the weight of Cordelia's unconscious body so that Wesley could take her.

"Find out what the hell happened, will you?"


There hadn't been any time to panic. The blood had started acting strange in a way Nathan had never mentioned. Lilah contacted him right away, and then there was too much work to be done to worry about what was happening. Not that she knew what was happening. She hadn't been told enough to know if Lindsey was getting better, or dying, or whatever, but she engaged herself in the activities that would apparently stop the process and bring Lindsey to them, and jumped when Nathan told her to. Which was right by the end, after some chanting and lighting of incense, and she felt fairly stupid doing it, but you learned not to ask questions working for Wolfram and Hart.

She had half expected Lindsey to show up in the circle they had formed around the blood, but instead Nathan eventually turned on the light, opened the windows to let the smell of incense out, and told her to go back to her office.

She kept the test tube in her inner pocket and sat on the edge of her chair for the next half hour, wondering what would happen when Lindsey came to claim it. When her secretary knocked on the door she accidentally snapped her pencil in two.

"There's a gentleman here to see you."

"Send him in."

Her first thought was that this wasn't really Lindsey, but a double. In spite of everything Nathan had told her, she hadn't quite understood what a difference the vampire's mind would make. She had seen people being turned and of course it changed them, but they were usually recognisably themselves. Lindsey wasn't. It wasn't his clothes. Although she had never seen him in jeans and T-shirt before, it was a lot like what she had expected Lindsey to look like in casual clothing. But the way he carried himself and the expression on his face finally made her understand that the person he was becoming wasn't a demonic version of himself, but someone else altogether.

"Hello, Lilah," he said, the bored familiarity in his voice clashing with her newfound realisation, as well as with the new accent he had gained. "What did you bring me here for?"

"I..." Just wanted to have you screw Angel over because we can't seem to do it ourselves. Yeah, that would work. "Angel. Are you... do you remember...?"

He stared at her, and an incredulous grin slowly crept over his face. "Do I remember Angel? After all this time I spent fighting him, do you really think I'd forget him?"

"No, of course not," she said, shaking her head a little to get a clearer mind.

Now he was sitting on the armrest of a chair, spinning it around slowly. He dug a half empty pack of cigarettes from his back pocket and pulled one out.

"Mind if I have a fag?"

"No, not at all, it's..." What had he just said? She took a lighter from her top drawer and handed it to him. The glance he gave her as he leaned over to light the cigarette was disconcerting. She was used to men checking her out, but she could usually tell what it was they saw. But Lindsey had always seemed more ready to kill her than fuck her, and she'd done some reading on what Angelus did to women. For the first time in more than ten years, she wished she had worn something that showed less cleavage. Whatever his desires, they wouldn't be pleasant, and if she was to put up with it she really wanted a raise.

Crossing her arms, she met his gaze, trying to regain control. "Basically, we have a business proposal for you."

"You want me to go over there and kick his ass?" he suggested.

"No. Not quite."

"Why not? It's not like the poof doesn't deserve it."

A pulsating pain started to make itself noticeable in her temple, and she wished that this person inhabiting Lindsey's body could have kept his intelligence. "If we're to defeat Angel, we need a bit more planning than that."

"Defeat Angel?" He laughed, stopping his chair. "That's not going to happen any time soon. I mean, you send him to Hell, he just comes bouncing right back. I don't mind tossing him around a bit, but I'd prefer if I didn't have to commit suicide over it."

The mirth disappeared from his face as he slid down from the armrest onto the seat. Instead, his face appeared almost hostile. "Not that I have a choice, if that's what you want."

"That's right," she said, with a conviction she didn't even remotely feel. She still wasn't sure what the blood spell had done, but dared to take a guess. "I'm your master now."

"My sire." Even though she had the power over him, he didn't even try to hide his sneer. "You have my blood, you're my sire, not my master. You have to live for hundreds of years to be a master. Not to mention the fact that you can't be human."

"You're human," she pointed out before it occurred to her to wonder if he was aware of this fact.

Apparently he was, because he just shrugged. "Only in the most technical sense."

He couldn't harm her, that much she knew. Nathan hadn't been very informative, but he had been almost giddy as he reassured her that Lindsey would be forced to follow her wishes. Yet she felt threatened enough to pull the tube from her inner pocket, feeling safer just holding it.

He tilted his head. "What's that you have there, love?"

Big mistake. Sweat started running down her back, and the pounding in her temple was now nearly insufferable. He couldn't attack, but she shouldn't have let him know the tube existed, and her hands were fumbling as she put it back into her pocket.

"Really, Angelus," Nathan said, stepping inside. Behind him, Lilah's mild-mannered secretary shut the door. "Don't intimidate Lilah. It's bad politics."

Lindsey looked at him with a strange mix of curiosity and horror. "What did you just call me?"

"Angelus?" Lilah had never seen Nathan Reed anything but calm and collected. Now his smile faltered. "That's not who you are?"

"Not bloody likely." Lindsey pushed the chair back, standing up. "And I'll have you know I'm offended by the idea. Good or evil, he's a total wanker."

"Lilah," Nathan said with an alarming fatigue in his voice, "Would you mind waiting outside? I need to sort this out with... this gentleman. And please, drink the blood you're holding. It's much safer that way."

Lilah wasn't sure she should leave, but she obliged. This was her case as much as Nathan's, and she didn't understand why he wanted to be alone on this. The only explanation was that he had made a mistake and didn't want her to see it, but that was unthinkable.

She leaned on her office door, staring at the test tube. The swirling had started again and prevented the blood from coagulation, but its dark colour was by now sickening. There was no way she was ever going to drink it. Not without knowing what it did to her. She wasn't so sure Nathan would tell her if she asked him. What Wolfram and Hart needed were people willing to go through with any sacrifice, at any costs. That had been clear from the start. She lifted the tube to her lips, but didn't pull the cork, and after a moment she put it back in her pocket.

This was already a mess. One more failure couldn't make any difference.


Cordelia lay on the couch, speaking to her new sister. Of all the people talking right now, she was the only one who didn't bore her. Everyone else just kept asking her stupid questions, and were altogether far too grounded in a dull old hotel room. Her new sister was the only one who saw how pretty the world had become.


Come to think of it, that was a very nice sounding name. Cor-de-li-a. The name had never mattered to her before. A lot of things had never mattered that really should.

"Cordelia, do you know where Lindsey is?"

This caught her attention. Lindsey belonged to her now, it was important what happened to him.

"I don't," she told Angel's dark and worried eyes. She liked that Angel was worried about Lindsey. He should be. Lindsey should be here with her, but instead he was running wild somewhere, and anything could happen to him. "We should find out."

She put her arms around his neck. Oh, Lindsey was who she wanted right now, but she had never been picky. Her sister revelled in the delight of Angel's body as much as she did. It would have been more fun if Angel had responded, though. Instead, he just lifted her gently into a sitting position. He wore a blue hat of light. It was very pretty, but made him seem even more sad.

"Yes, Cordy, we should find out."

"He has found a brother," she explained. "And he doesn't know him properly. Why doesn't he know him properly?"

Her sister told her the reason. Lindsey wasn't special like the two of them. He would share everything with his brother, just like they did now, but he wouldn't be able to feel it. That was so sad.

"I don't know why, Cordelia." Angel had such a pleasant way of talking to her. She remembered that from when they had met earlier. She remembered too that when he was evil he didn't talk like that at all, then he snipped at her and was terribly rude. But he liked her when he was evil. Now he didn't like her at all. She wasn't sure which was the best - like or kindness. She wanted them both.

"I'm hungry," she said, knowing it was true the moment she said, it, even though she hadn't thought of it before. Her hold on him tightened. "Feed me, daddy." Begging him to play with her like he used to so many years ago.

His response was a half-choked sob, but he took her arms down from around his neck and nodded quietly. Seeing him leave made her feel sad, but she knew he had just gone to get food. If only he hadn't been so sad about it. It took all the fun out of eating and made her miss Spike even more. He would have enjoyed the game, not just played along with it to make her happy.

Angel was speaking to someone in the kitchen. Of course, he had people here. She had almost forgotten. They weren't important anymore. Or at least no more important than the colours and the stars.

He took so long with the blood that she became impatient and left the couch she'd been lying on. This was a room she recognised, so she knew the way to the fridge. But she had barely gone beyond the doorway when Angel came back, carrying a bag of blood. One of the humans was following, but her attention was on the glorious blood she and Angel would share now. Watching him open the bag and pour the liquid down his throat she could barely control her excitement. She moved closer to him, moaning a little as he pressed his mouth to hers and let the blood he had just swallowed work its way up again. It was smooth and cool in her mouth, a sensation entirely different from live feeding, but just as delightful. She really was much too old to eat this way, but she liked it anyway, it made her feel taken care of and tingly all over at the same time. Usually. But this time she felt that Angel was only obliging her, and she drew back, whimpering.

"I want my Spike," she complained. Either one of them had to be better than boring old Angel who couldn't play properly.


"So now we have a Drusilla as well," Wesley said, trying to pretend his voice hadn't just become a terse higher. "That's really all we needed."

"Why didn't you tell me this could happen?" Angel had made Cordelia stay in a locked room, and now he evidently felt that Wesley was responsible for all this.

He wasn't entirely wrong. If anyone should have known, it was Wesley. But "if" was still the main word. None of the books had said a word about what would happen if the ritual was interrupted. He had absolutely no idea why Lindsey had run off like that, and unlike Angel, he had no one to blame. Zbigniew Zwerminskykowsky was long dead and rather unsatisfying as a punching bag.

"Nobody told me it could happen," he pointed out to Angel. "All any of us got was 'do as you're instructed and don't let anything disturb the ritual, and you'll be fine, maybe'. That's what we did." He frowned, repeating in his head what he had just said. "Did something disturb the ritual?"

"You're asking me? I wasn't even there."

Wesley didn't answer, because in fact he hadn't been asking Angel. His mind was focused on the ritual, and the way Lindsey had suddenly broken loose - and broken Gunn's hand in the process. Nothing had happened before that point that wasn't supposed to happen, and yet the ritual had failed. Whatever had disturbed Lindsey, it wasn't anything they had done. So either there had been something in the room of which he hadn't been aware, and he was pretty convinced that wasn't the case, or there had been some interference from the outside.

"Shall we take a guess that Wolfram and Hart have something to do with this?"

Angel formed his hands into fists. "Haven't they learned by now not to mess with me?"

"Actually, they're messing with Lindsey." And he supposed they were entitled to do that, from a certain perspective. He wondered what would have happened if innocent lives hadn't been at stake. Would they just have left Lindsey to the bed he had made? He hoped not. It would have been beyond unethical. What they had done was the only reasonable option - but that didn't make the situation any less frustrating.

There was a series of loud bangs from the room Cordelia was locked into.

"Maybe we ought to tie her up," he suggested without much enthusiasm. The door was beginning to curve now, and it was only a matter of time before it would give.

"Or chain her."

Wesley nodded, relieved that Angel saw it his way. "I have... I'll get some chains."

He hadn't wanted Angel to ever find out about those chains, but being prepared for the future meant very little to him right now compared to the very present threat of Cordelia in a vampiric state of mind.

He'd find a new hiding place for the chains later.


"That is so fucked up," Gunn said, staring alternately at the bent door and at Cordelia, who was stretching her chains as far as possible and leaning back in a futile attempt to make them stretch more.

"Do you have a better suggestion?" Angel snapped.

He didn't, and so he shut up, but he couldn't tear his eyes from the young woman twisting and turning her chains. A few weeks earlier, he'd had a nightmare that was a lot like this. Only in his dream, Cordelia's insanity had been due to vision overstrain. Not some magical mind-meld with a mad vampire chick.

"There's got to be something we can do."

"Be my guest."

The sarcasm in Angel's voice was understandable, but it still irritated Gunn no end. There was plenty of blame to go around, but none of it belonged to him. Of course, yelling at Cordelia was pretty pointless at the moment.

She was now sitting on the floor, combing her hair.

"Can she hear us at all?"

"Sure she can. But she can't hurt you when she's tied up, and I don't think she's interested in anything else."

"Spoilsport," Cordelia said, although she seemed to be talking to the radiator. "No fun for Angel, no fun for anyone else. And I'm still hungry."

"You can't be hungry," Angel said, addressing Cordelia for the first time since Gunn came. There was an exasperated tone in his voice as if he'd spoken to her like this a hundred times before. That certainly didn't make Gunn feel any less spooked. "You ate an hour ago."

"I want a tea party."

Angel sighed. "Yeah, okay. And... I'll see if I can find someone for you to have a tea party with."

He nodded for Gunn to follow him downstairs, where Wesley was sitting with as many books as he could possibly balance on his lap and the table.

"Find anything?"

"I think it'll turn out all right if we just finish the ritual." Wesley pushed up his glasses on his nose. "Of course, to do that we have to find Lindsey."

"Well, that's a top priority either way," Gunn replied, sitting down. He'd love to take his anger out on Lindsey. Logically, he knew Lindsey was no more in control of what he did now than Cordelia, but in this case his conscience didn't protest much at the unfairness.

Wesley nodded, bowing his head over the books again. "How is Cordelia?"

"She wants a tea party," Angel said gloomily. "Do you know anyone who might own a doll?"

"Toy shops?" Wesley suggested, and Gunn wondered just why Angel had thought he needed a second opinion on something that obvious.

"Right. Well, maybe..."

There was a loud crash from above, followed by more muted thuds as three of Wesley's books hit the floor. Nobody stayed to pick them up.

Angel was the first to reach the room Cordelia was in, Wesley and Gunn close behind. They found her standing in the middle of the room. The chains were still attached to her wrists and to the radiator, but the radiator was no longer attached to the wall.

"Take these off," she said, her voice deep and threatening.

"No, Cordelia, I won't."

"Take them off." Cordelia could glare better than most people when there was something she wanted, but she'd never looked as frighteningly determined as this. "I want to find my Spike."

"Yeah, okay." Gunn's reply, laconic as it may have sounded, surprised even himself. As for the others, it was clear they feared that Cordelia's insanity had somehow infected him. "Wes, let her loose."

"I will do no such thing."

"She wants lawyer boy. So do we. I say we let her help. If she was going to kill us, she would have tried already. And it's not as if she's an actual vampire." He smirked a little. "I think together we can overpower Cordy no matter how mad she is."

They were all staring at him now, but he ignored the guys, concentrated on Cordelia, trying to find any shred of her old self in her eyes. There was nothing, and he found that it was easier to think of this person as a stranger, with outer likeness to Cordelia and inner likeness to Drusilla, but actually neither one. And they needed this stranger's help to get the old Cordy back.

She smiled at him. It would have been a very sweet smile if he hadn't known that look in her eyes from every damned vampire he'd ever fought.

"You'll help me?"

"If you help us."

Her eyes wandered towards Angel. "Daddy?"

Ignoring how weird it was to hear her use that particular term of endearment, Gunn gave Angel a demanding look. The vampire stood silent for a moment, and then sighed.

"Wesley, get the keys."


If Lindsey could have done anything to have both Lilah Morgan and Nathan Reed die slowly and painfully, he would have. Hell, he'd always hated being confined to rules, and theirs were stricter than any sire had ever put on him before. They kept him in a little room with no telly or smokes or anything except a bed and a fridge full of blood. As if he was just an object that might be useful.

It hadn't even been him they were after. They had been expecting Angelus. What a laugh. As if they would even have known what to do with Angelus had they gotten him. Annoying as he may be, the guy was an obsessive, fanatical git. Destroy the world, that sort of thing. You couldn't fucking trust him with anything, and they wanted him to be their champion? Yeah, right.

So in a way it was lucky for them that they had gotten the wrong vampire, because the truth was, Lindsey still wasn't sure how to get out of this. He couldn't fight them, which was what he wanted to do, and sure he could run, but they just had to pull the leash and he'd be coming back like a good little dog. And there wasn't even anything to do!

The door opened, and he tensed, knowing that whatever they wanted with him, he had to oblige. And it wasn't likely to be "hey, get yourself a night out". Simple feeding and mayhem wasn't enough for them. It never was with types like that.

Except this time it wasn't a lawyer, it was that pretty little secretary. Laura was her name, he'd given her a wink from time to time when he worked there.

"Hi," she said, a little smirk showing at the corners of her lips. They hadn't given her any power over him, had they? That would be beyond demeaning. But he couldn't feel that slight pull he got from Lilah and Nathan, that tingle in his spine that told him he had to follow her wishes.


There was a moment's silence, and then she asked, "So, aren't you Lindsey at all anymore?"

Was she coming on to him? But she seemed too awkward for that, more ready to play innocent sweetheart than wanton wench. Didn't mean she didn't fancy him, though, and he was just angry enough to play with that.

"I still remember you, if that's what you mean," he said, taking a step forward.

She brightened up, and the happy look on her face still remained when he snapped her neck and tossed her on the floor. Stupid bint. Still, he felt a lot better now that he'd had a kill.

His teeth were too blunt to use on her, but fortunately the bed had wire springs. He pulled one out and hacked into her throat with it. Not perfect, but at least it caused some bleeding. Since there wasn't any way to drain her completely, he just took what he could be bothered and then threw the corpse aside. That was when he saw the thin line of light from the doorway. The glorious, wonderful girl had left the door open.

If only he could get out on the street, into a pub, he didn't care what would happen afterwards. He was out the door in no time, took the steps two at a time, and was almost down to the next floor when he felt the pull. Turning around, he saw Lilah standing at the top of the stairs.

"Did you think it would be that easy?"

His hand clenched into a fist.


If it had all been Drusilla, Angel might not have found it so unsettling.

Probably the others couldn't tell the difference, but he knew that there were things about this woman that weren't Drusilla at all, and that consequently had to be Cordelia. Only not any Cordelia he had ever known, even in the old days when she'd been the worst horror of Sunnydale High to some of her less fortunate classmates - and that was saying a lot considering the horrors of Sunnydale High. Her determination to find Lindsey had very little to do with Drusilla, who had never been particularly single-minded; on the contrary, she had a tendency of forgetting whatever she wasn't currently playing with.

Even stranger was the fact that this new not-quite-Drusilla Cordelia seemed to see the real Drusilla as separate being with whom she could converse. Maybe it was the clairvoyancy, the tie they had in common.

Except there seemed to be so many things they had in common. Every now and then Cordelia would make a comment or a move that came so naturally Angel first interpreted it as her own personality coming through, which still did happen from time to time. Then he'd notice that it was actually something Drusilla used to do, only to change his mind again: no, it's Cordelia. And he couldn't tell which one of those impulses was correct. It made him wonder what Drusilla would have been like if she had never met him - and that was the most comforting thought, because the alternative was thinking of what Cordelia might have been like if she had been made mad and then turned into a vampire.

Right now, she was dancing down the street, muttering rhymes in a manner that might have been considered singing. She seemed totally oblivious that they were out searching for someone. At times she would stop in front of a shop window, smiling at her own reflection. Of course, that was only natural for the part of her that hadn't seen herself for two hundred years - but the poses she took were most definitely Cordelian.

"Cordelia?" It was Wesley speaking, very gently, but with a caution that couldn't be mistaken. "We need to find Lindsey now."

She nodded and started to move, but stopped short. "Not yet."

"Yes, we have to search now. There's only a little more than an hour until the sun comes up, and Angel needs to be inside by then. Remember?"

"But he's still there now," she said, speaking as if this should be completely obvious. "We have to wait until he's not there."

Wesley frowned, and for a moment Angel thought that he would actually ask Cordelia to please follow his orders. Instead, he looked at Angel.

"You know her best. What do you think?"

He recalled how no so long ago he'd been accused of not knowing Cordelia at all. But it wasn't Cordelia Wesley was talking about now. It was Drusilla. And Drusilla was rarely so worth noticing as when she was talking complete and utter nonsense.

"I guess we could wait a little while."

"It won't be long," Cordelia said, patting his hand in comfort.

"That's good."

"Not long at all..." Her eyes started to glaze over. "Oh, oh... Yes, that's my boy! Well done, both of you!"

She started running down the street in a pace almost too quick to follow. Only Angel managed to keep even steps with her, and he heard her humming over and over again, "He's coming now, yes, he's coming now."


Lilah was pretty sure it was against regulations to take the subject to a bar - how much easier it was to think of him as the subject, now that he had killed her secretary. Nathan had found that unexpected death rather interesting, especially the modus operandi, and asked her to find out more about his personality. He might not be what they wanted, but he could still be useful to them. Unfortunately, he'd been extremely uncooperative, even under the influence of the spell. When he finally claimed he was parched and wouldn't say another word unless he got some liquid revitalising of the non O-pos kind, she didn't only say yes to humour him. The truth was, she needed some relaxation more than he did, and screw regulations.

"So what were you thinking before you killed her?" she asked.

"I was thinking 'wow, that's a pretty bird, wonder what she tastes like'. Do you think they have those little onion flowers here?"

"So, what did she taste like?"

He shrugged. "She was okay."

"Just okay?" Nathan would probably want her to record this, but the conversation was spooky enough already.

"Yeah, well, some people are first class meals, some are fillers. This one was a filler. Is this really what you want to talk about?" He took a sip of his brandy.

"I thought it was what you wanted to talk about."

"Oh, so this is about what I want, is it?"

"That's right." She was pretty sure that didn't come out half as casual as she would have wished, but there wasn't much to be done about that now. She had never been able to screw with Lindsey's mind. Now that she'd accustomed herself to the shock of someone else wearing his skin, she had started to recognise the familiarities that did remain, and try as she might she couldn't quite convince herself that this wasn't Lindsey, deep down inside.

"Then how about giving me a room with a telly?"

"May I remind you that you're here to work?"

"Well, we both know that's a load of crap." He was leaning so close to her, she was beginning to feel decidedly uncomfortable. "I'm here because you guys messed up. That's the one and only reason. It's your mistake, I'm suffering for it, and the least you could do is soften the blow a bit."

Oh, hell, now he was pressing against her breasts. Soften the blow, really. Had he planned to come on to her all along? She wondered what he thought he could get out of it. As long as she kept control of his blood, there wasn't anything he could do to hurt her. At least, not without her consent.

Scary, how much that thrilled her. He had just killed a girl. Had he flirted with her first, as he was flirting now? Even when he was still Lindsey, he'd always known how to use his charms. Bending the truth every way it would go and smiling so you wouldn't even notice. Did he still have that? What would he do if she didn't stop him? Try to bite her perhaps - he didn't have the teeth for it, but that hadn't stopped him when it came to Laura. It wasn't so long since the kill. If her mouth was to touch his, would she be able to taste the blood?

"Lilah," he said, and there was a laughter in his voice she couldn't quite understand.

"Yes." Her voice was barely more than a breath.

"How stupid do you think I am?"

And then she couldn't breathe, because his hand had closed around her throat. He wasn't supposed to be able to do that! She tried to collect the means to stop him, but found nothing but slack ends to the strings of magic she had kept around him. How was this possible?

Grinning at her confusion, he looked down, and she followed his gaze, seeing the tube of blood in his right hand.

"Seems like you forgot a little something," he said amiably, his grip tightening around her throat. "You never worked your blood magic with my evil hand."

The world was darkening around the edges now, but she could still hear him talking.

"I'd love to kill you, but I'm in a bit of a hurry right now, and nothing I can think of would be half as creative as what I'm sure the firm could think up as a punishment. So, you'll get to live for the time being. Pray you never meet me again. Oh, but I forgot, you don't pray, do you?"

Just as it all went black, she felt the pressure easing on her throat, and managed to draw one long, painful breath.


The night had been a complete disaster. Not that demons could usually sing, but most of the time there were one or two with a half decent voice who could be convinced to stay around long enough to keep the rest of the noise bearable. But tonight, Lorne couldn't help but wonder if going to a dimension that had music was really to be preferred in the long run.

He had already given up hope and started contemplating emigration when Lindsey MacDonald arrived. Without a guitar, but that was a minor disappointment next to the joy of having someone in the bar who actually knew what to do with his vocal chords. There had been many long nights in which Lorne had only hoped and dreamed that one day, in spite of the potential danger from Wolfram and Hart and the macho posturing that Angel liked to put up, Lindsey would once again enter the Caritas stage. And here he was, as if nothing had ever changed.

It obviously had, though. Even through the relief he was feeling, he could see there was something off with the boy. He still moved like God's gift to anyone who could claim it, but there was a restless energy to his movements that hadn't been there before. Lorne wasn't sure if it was an improvement. In any case, it caused him to be more immediately noticed than he'd used to be. The long glances from drunken, sleepy customers irritated Lorne, not so much from jealousy as because they didn't know what they saw, or what they were about to hear. He hurried up to Lindsey's side.

"Sweetie, you won't believe how happy I am to see you! Do me a favour and sing something, anything, right away. You can drink as much as you want to later, on the house, just as long as you sing now."

"Yeah, okay." He was rewarded with a knockout smile. But there was something wrong with that smile. Something wrong with the voice too, although he couldn't figure out what. "It's what I came for anyway."

The problem with being precognitive was that it tended to make you a little less perceptive the ordinary way - pure laziness, probably, but a habit hard to break. It wasn't until Lindsey chose a song and started singing that Lorne realised what was actually wrong.

"And now, the end is near, and so I face the final curtain."

There wasn't anything wrong with the actual singing, fierce and cocky as it was. Nobody with Lindsey's voice could ever sound bad. And that was exactly what this was - somebody with Lindsey's voice. What rotten luck the boy always seemed to have. Of course, most of the time he brought it upon himself.

It was such a fascinating fate that Lorne almost forgot how disappointed the singing made him. How very peculiar it all was, both the ailment and the solution. He saw the latter enter the room as the song continued, and waved for her and her companions to step up.

"Hello, Cordelia," he said to the girl, who was humming the most awful wishes. How fortunate that she was never going to make them come true. "How are you today?"

"My boy!" she said happily, eyes focused on the stage, where Lindsey had just finished the song and was now throwing the microphone rack at the nearest table. Such charming rock star manners he'd gotten with the new personality.

"Your boy, your way," he pointed out to her. "Why don't you go say hello?"

She rushed off towards the stage, and Lorne gave her colleagues a hearty nod.

"I don't have to ask you why you're here, do I? I don't even want to know how all this happened." He searched for a drink and found something pink by a sleeping demon. Wild berry shot. You'd think demons at least wouldn't drink candy, but no. "Unfortunately, I already do. I've been hearing Oklahoma in a whole new setting tonight."

"Can you do anything about it?" Wesley asked.

"What are you asking me for?" Lorne put the abominable drink down. "You're the ones with the spells and knives. I suggest you use them fast, because it's only a matter of time before the lawyers catch up with him."

He threw a sideway glance at the stage but the scene that greeted him quickly grabbed his full attention. Lindsey had jumped down and now stood leaning on a loudspeaker, his mouth locked to Cordelia's and both their bodies fast entering a state of undress. Even from where he was standing, Lorne could see the way the muscles of Lindsey's throat were working as if he vomited. Well, what did you know. He'd never seen that done by a human before.

"Those kids will be so embarrassed in the morning," he chuckled.

"They will?" Trust Gunn to see the importance of a simple comment. He was so clever, that one. Too bad he wouldn't let his heart keep up with his head - but then, there were always people willing to rectify that, if you knew where to look.


Angel hadn't participated in the discussion, just stared mortified at the scene in front of him. As Lindsey's pants fell to the floor, he decided that he had seen enough, and pushed his way through the half drowsy, half interested crowd to the scene.

"Come on, Cordelia," he said, hauling Lindsey off her so fast her mouth was still filled with blood. "We're going."

"Why do you always have to spoil the fun?" she complained. Blood trickled down her chin. Lindsey got himself back on his feet and wiped the blood away from her mouth with a kiss.

"Hush now," he said to her, then, turning to Angel, "I was hoping you'd come. Just got a bit carried away, you know?"

Angel knew exactly who it was that had gotten carried away, and so he didn't say anything. She wasn't an easy woman to resist, whatever shape her body had. "We're going to finish that ritual," he said, making the comment almost hostile. He expected a long-winded row of the kind Spike usually put up, and wondered if it would be possible to just carry the two of them out of there.

The row never came.

"Yeah, okay." Lindsey let go of Cordelia long enough to pick up his pants, ignoring the disappointed whine she gave him. "It's what I had in mind anyway."

Definitely not what he had expected. "It is?"

"Lilah's taken care of, but there's still Nathan. He's bound to realise I'm gone sooner or later, and I'm not exactly thrilled at the idea of being at his beck and call. I'd rather go back to the way things were." He kissed the top of Cordelia's head affectionately. "Even if it means losing her. And we might be able to do something about that."

The thought of Lindsey and Cordelia going at it with their normal personalities was even more revolting to Angel than the current situation. The only thing that kept him from explaining his viewpoints in great detail with demonstrations on Lindsey's face was that he knew not to press his luck. If he got Lindsey angry now, he could kiss the ritual goodbye, no matter how badly it was needed. Some people would work against their own interest if you bugged them, just to get back at you.

"I don't want to do the ritual," Cordelia complained. "Why doesn't anyone care what I want?"

"We do," Lindsey assured her, hugging her tightly. "But you want me to be a free person, don't you?"

She pouted. "I'm going to lose my sister. I don't want to lose my sister."

Angel wanted very much not to get annoyed with Cordelia right now, but the guilt he usually felt near the real Drusilla was missing here, and so he couldn't help himself. This was just so like her. Everything always had to be according to her whims and wishes, and anyone else was just a minor inconvenience. "Cordy, just because you and Dru want to stick together, that doesn't mean..."

"She doesn't want to." The tears from Cordelia's voice were beginning to spill over in her eyes now. "She wants me to do it."

"She does?"

Cordelia nodded unhappily. "Says to be brave."

"Will you, then?" Lindsey asked, his voice holding that gentle tone that Spike would use at those times when he would concentrate wholly on taking care of his girl.

"I'll be brave," she promised. "But I'll miss you, my boy."

"Hey, that's okay." He stroked her hair, the way you calm a frightened animal. "I have an idea. We can shag while we do it. All the way through. That way it will be sex magic, and there's really nothing stronger in the world."

He stared over her head at Angel, clearly daring him to deny them this opportunity.

Angel grabbed Lindsey's neck and flung him down on a table. "No, because I'd kill you first. And so would she if she was herself."

He wasn't holding on very hard, and Lindsey managed to tear himself loose, his face flushed as he stood up.

"Whatever, mate, if you want me to go off to Nathan's after all. Fighting you isn't such a big deal for me, really." Caressing Cordelia's arm that she put around his neck, he continued, "You can't say it's not voluntary."

Couldn't he now? He thought about what Cordelia would say if he let something like that happen. She'd probably never forgive him. And he'd certainly never forgive himself. "Forget it. You want to do the rite, you do it our way. And if you don't, I know ways to make you."

It wasn't an empty threat, and with Spike's memories in his head, Lindsey would know that too. Their eyes met, and they held the gaze for a couple of minutes, neither of them ready to give up easily. Lindsey was the first one to look away.

"Fine. Whatever. I'm not that desperate."

"Glad you're being sensible," said Angel, having "for once" on the tip of his tongue. He managed to stop himself from saying it. More quarrels was not what he needed. "We'd better go get started right away."

"You'd better not go at all," Lorne pointed out. "There's magic heading in this direction. The club's keeping it off, but I wouldn't recommend going outside."

"You have defensive wards on the club?" Angel asked.

Lorne tilted his head. "I'm looking for a word... I believe it may be 'duh'. Of course I do. They're not perfect, but then neither is whatever spell they have going. It'll hold an hour, maybe."

Angel turned to Wesley. "Can we do the ritual here?"

"Without the books? Maybe. I think I remember the chants." Looking around, he added, "Glass and blood we can always get, but my sangric acid is still at the hotel."

"I'm not bleeding a pint if I can avoid it."

Angel waved away Lindsey's protest. "Okay, I'll go back through the sewers and get the blood and acid. You prepare everything else. Do I need to bring the knife?"

"If you want. Or we could just break a glass here."

"Oh yes," Lorne muttered under his breath. "I bought the glasses especially so they could be broken for magic purposes. "

"I'll get the knife if I can find it."

Angel turned to leave and happened to notice how his coat flew behind him. Damn it, melodrama came to him even when he tried to avoid it.


Wesley, Gunn and Lorne hurried to rearrange tables and guests to make room for the pentagram, made up from little lamps and tea lights on plates. To make absolutely sure he wouldn't forget them at the crucial moment, Wesley wrote down the chants. He frowned at them, knowing he had them all, but checking over and over again just to make sure. Finally, he shrugged.

"I think we'll have to start now. Angel will most likely be back before we need the blood anyway."

"I'm ready when you are," Gunn said.

Wesley started the chanting, but was interrupted during the first circle by Cordelia's low whisper:

"Can we start now?"

"What do you think we're doing?" he heard Gunn ask.

"I don't think it's the ritual she's talking about, mate."

Lindsey's voice was full of laughter, and Wesley looked up, seeing Cordelia stick her hand into Lindsey's trousers.

"Oh, for goodness sake, make her stop!" He shouldn't stop the chanting in the middle of a circle, but this was really too much to let pass.

"How?" Lindsey asked, leaning in to kiss Cordelia's neck.

"You promised Angel to stay good," Gunn pointed out as Wesley desperately returned to chanting.

"I didn't," Cordelia pointed out, revelling in the caress.

"It wasn't so much a promise," Lindsey said, letting his hands move a bit further down.

"Well, whatever it was, you're about to get your ass kicked if you don't get your hands off her," Gunn said, taking a step forward.

"If he gets his hands off me there is no ritual," Cordelia said with great satisfaction.

Wesley nodded impatiently at Gunn. As much as he hated to admit it, Cordelia had a point. They had to keep touching to make the magic work, and if interrupting the ritual had caused such horrific events last time, he wasn't about to let it happen again.

"You're just going to let them go on with it?"

Wesley shook his head. Then, reluctantly he nodded and finished the first circle of chants. There wasn't much to be done about it.

The few guests who were still present and awake had definitely started to take an interest now. Some even managed a bit of whistling and cheering, in spite of their profound inebriation.

"Li-ive sex show, li-ive sex show," chanted the demons at one table. Not many rituals through the history of magic could have had that kind of background music.

"Is there no chance whatsoever that you'll be discreet?" Wesley pleaded, just before starting the second circle.

"Sure. Discreet it is," Lindsey said with a sweet smile that didn't appear to be particularly honest.

Even in his wildest dreams, Wesley had never been prone to voyeurism. If anything, it was a nightmare to him. The sight of people having sex while you knew you couldn't have it yourself - really, could there be anything more pathetic? At times when he wasn't getting any he would even look away from public smooching. And in school he'd made the mortifying discovery that porn movies made him blush.

Yet there was no way to make Lindsey and Cordelia stay off each other's bodies, and what with the spell being set up he couldn't leave them alone either. Most of the time he had to stay very close to where Lindsey or Cordelia were lying. Their definition of "discreet" meant they still had some clothes on and avoided the most obvious pumping in favour of an intricate game of blood and touch. While the man in him was squirming, the ever present Watcher found these Vampire mating habits highly interesting.

"This is beyond kinky," Gunn mumbled. "It comes out on the other side of kinkiness as a special brand of vanilla."

"Mmm," said Wesley, as he had finished the third circle of chants. He put a finger down on his notes so he wouldn't lose place. "I think it's the vampire element. I mean, the purpose of sex must be quite different when you have no way to reproduce."

"Except they do." Something occurred to Gunn. "Man... she's safe, isn't she?"

Already starting the fourth circle, there was little Wesley could do except shrug. If Cordelia wasn't on the Pill, all they could do was pray and hope for the best. Not a recommended method of birth control exactly, but better than risking her death.

"Where is Angel?" Gunn muttered, sitting down on a table. "We need him for the next part."

"And soon." Lorne came up to them, rubbing his prominent chin. "I thought I'd let you know that my wards are weakening. There's some pretty strong summoning magic going on out there. If Angel doesn't show up... oh, pretty much now, I think Lindsey's going to be out the door before he gets here."

Startled, Wesley looked up, and it was true. Although Lindsey was still digging his nails into Cordelia's back and his teeth into her shoulders, it was clear his heart was no longer fully in it. The bites were courteous, rather than enthusiastic, and any minute now he would stop completely and head off to the people calling him outside. The catastrophe, in other words, was impending.

"How do we stop him?" Gunn asked, and Wesley frantically searched his mind while he rattled off the rest of the circle.

But all the spells he could think of were in the books back at the hotel, and there was absolutely no time to go back and get them. And tying him down wasn't much of an option. Cordelia had managed to break the chains before.

"Immobility... somehow!" he hissed. "Don't know what."

"Hang on." Gunn grabbed a lamp from one of the tables. "Immobility, was it?"

Wesley smiled, and without waiting for further approval Gunn ran up to Lindsey and swung the lamp into his head. From where Wesley was standing, it looked as though Lindsey tried to block the blow, but was held down by Cordelia.

"Thanks," Gunn said with a nod, and Wesley understood he had been correct.

"Don't want him to leave." Cordelia lay down on top of her unconscious sex partner, holding his head gently in her hands. "My poor boy, your head will hurt." There was a small stain of blood in the back of his head, and she licked it off her fingers, her face thoughtful. "I wish we could have finished, though."

"Maybe some other time," Gunn said. The sarcasm was clear in his voice, but Cordelia seemed satisfied, lying down still like a good little girl ready for bedtime. She didn't move an inch until Angel arrived, and then only to wave at him a little and smile.

"I'll be all gone tomorrow," she told him. "But I'm a brave girl. I can take it."

"Yes, you can," he said softly, although his face darkened at the sight of her. "What the hell happened here?" he whispered to Wesley, as he put the bowl of blood on the bar. Wesley took it and held it out for Gunn.

"Long story, and we don't have time for it," he said to Angel, and then to Gunn, "Here you go. You know what to do with it."

The murderous look he got was quite amusing, even if the tense situation made any laughter difficult.

"Why don't you smear the blood this time?"

He feigned innocence. "Well, there are three circles left. If you'd rather do them..."

"Forget it." Gunn tore the bowl from Wesley's hands, balancing it on the cast around his arm. "You owe me so much, English."

"I know." Teasing eased the tension and made him remember all the chants off the bat.

"In fact, I'm going to kill you when this is done."

"Or I could just take you out to lunch."

Gunn paused. "Yeah, okay, that would work."

He put the bowl on the floor and dipped his fingers in the dark liquid. Wesley helpfully tried to turn over Lindsey enough to reach the places that were to be painted, but not so much he stopped touching Cordelia. She growled at him, but moved along to create a gap for Gunn to work in.

"He's all yours."

"Somehow I doubt Cordy would agree." Gunn stepped up to Lindsey, but stopped and turned to Angel. "Are you sure you should still be here?"

"I can't go out, and I don't want to go back through the sewers when Wolfram and Hart's people may get in any minute."

"Any second," Lorne pointed out. An iron rod broke one of the windows as though on command. "See? There they are."

"Thank God." Angel put on his game face and grinned at the people climbing in. Thugs, not lawyers, but without a doubt sent by them. "I'll handle the fighting," he said over his shoulder. "You continue the ritual."

The conditions were hardly ideal, but Wesley tried to block out the noise, concentrating only on his chants. "No, Cordelia, please lie still and take your hand out of... hm." And on keeping everyone in place. Well, he needed to brush up on his multitasking anyway.

Gunn rubbed blood into Lindsey's hair and painted symbols on his skin with an ease he most certainly hadn't had when he did it on Cordelia. Apparently nothing was quite as sickening the second time around. Oh, he didn't revel in it or anything, just worked it through in sync with the chant, admirably efficient.

Finally, they both stepped back.

"Did it work?"

"I'm not entirely sure yet. We'll probably find out soon enough."

Cordelia stirred. A moment later she sat up straight, staring at her own naked body and at Lindsey's with the blood all over it.

"Oh, ew."


"It seems like no matter how much I scrub, the blood's still there," Cordelia complained once she and Lindsey had been taken back to the hotel to clean up. Nobody had found time to wash her after the first attempt at the ritual, and thus her shower had taken more than twice the time Lindsey's had. It didn't help that her hair was longer, either.

And now he was sitting there smirking at her. "Lady MacBeth."


"You know." He pretended to wring his hand. "Out, damned spot."

"It so isn't funny," she snapped, turning her back on him. She could tell that he was still smirking, though, and turning around she found she was right. "Do you know what the worst part is? Watching you gloat."

"I'm not gloating."

"Right." She put her chin high up in the sky and puffed up her chest, in an attempt to imitate him. "Oh, look at me, I screwed Angel's vision girl."

He leaned his face in his hand, trying to hide his amusement. Fat chance. "That's not how I look."

"And even that part's okay." She was getting worked up now. "Because I've seen people look like that just after getting me to first base. It's the main reason I never drank at high school parties. But you don't even care that you had sex with me. All you care about is that Angel's going to be jealous and angry."

This definitely took away all deniability where his grin was concerned. She grabbed the nearest best object, which happened to be her hairbrush, and threw it at him. "Stop that!"

"What do you want me to say? It's not like you didn't have sex with me back."

"That's not the point. The point is that you don't even care it was me you had sex with."

"Well, I had fun."

She threw her shampoo bottle on him. "Pig."

This time he was prepared and caught the bottle with ease. "I'm damned no matter what I say, aren't I?"

"Oh, is that new somehow?"

"What do you want me to say, then? 'I'm sorry'? Well, I'm not. I'm glad you helped me get my mind back, and..." She could have murdered him for that grin by now. "...Sleeping with you was an interesting experience. Drusilla is quite an energetic creature."

"No, she isn't." Cordy would have preferred never talking about this again, but at the same time she couldn't help wanting credit where credit was due. "The tricks were hers. The energy was mine."

"Is that so?"

She knew he was daring her to continue the conversation, and so she did, ignoring any thought of the too much information zone. If he thought she was some spoiled and innocent little girl, he had another thing coming.

"What's it to you, anyway? You got knocked out. I had to finish on my own." She was both pleased and amused to see his amazement. "What's wrong? You've never taken the matter into your own hands?" A thought struck her, and she wished she hadn't entered that zone after all. "I can see why you wouldn't."

"Oh, Brad and I get along fine these days."

Brad? What an odd name for a... and then she caught on.

"I don't believe I've ever known anyone who named their hands before."

"Well, he's more independent than most."

"I'd say."

There was an extended moment of awkward silence. Even shameless talking couldn't take their minds off what had really happened.

"So," Cordelia finally said. "Everything's back to normal again. I'm a messenger of good, and you're an evil jerk who'd do anything to get ahead. Problem solved, and you can get out of here."

"I mean to." But he didn't move at first, stood there watching her as if he expected her to do something. Well, she had done enough already. "And... thank you."

What did you know, he was actually grateful. Perhaps she was more surprised at that than she should have been. But he had dragged her through a whole lot of shit, and she wasn't in the mood to be generous.

"You're welcome."

"I guess 'see you' would be inaccurate."

"I certainly hope so."

He nodded, flashed a quick smile, and then left the room. Cordelia tossed herself face down on the bed and tried to tell herself that she couldn't feel him leaving. Of course not. She just heard his steps - that were currently on the ground floor, and she didn't exactly have vampire hearing. Not to mention how she could tell the way his emotions from satisfied to upset and back as he took farewell of the others. Damn it all. Nobody had warned her about this. She didn't want it, and she could only imagine what Angel would do if he found out.

Not that she'd ever tell him.


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