Three days later, Lorne was just back from giving a reading on stage when he almost ran into Rebecca. She was charging out of his office, not paying any attention to anyone. "Hey, watch the suit!" Lorne yelled at her retreating form, blotting the Sea Breeze off his red shirt with a cocktail napkin.
Several moments later, Angel descended in the rickety elevator, stepping off without bothering to extricate his head from the file he was reading.
"Girl trouble?" Lorne asked.
Angel looked up, frowning.
"Rebecca," Lorne offered. "You know, the nasty little two-bit whore of an actress that you spent the better part of last year entertaining."
Angel shrugged, making a face. "If she comes in again, see that she's escorted right back out."
Angel frowned at him. "What?"
"Nothing, Angelcakes," he said, "just wondering if this has anything to do with a certain Slayer."
"That," Angel said, snapping the file shut, "is none of your business."
A match flared to life in the dark alley. Buffy didn't jump. Somehow jumping would make her seem not very scary as a Slayer. So she didn't jump. But she did pivot around and face the man lurking in the shadows, watching as he took a drag off the cigarette.
"Word has it that Roarke still has you assigned to desk duty," Lindsey said with a smile. "You wouldn't be going against his orders, now would you?"
Buffy flipped the stake idly in her hand, popping out one hip as she eyed Lindsey. She watched as he pushed off from the wall and approached her. It shouldn't have been a sensuous move, but somehow it was. But Lindsey was smart. He was careful not to get too close and his posture was completely relaxed. There was a contained darkness about him, but for tonight at least, he wasn't a predator. She had never entertained that thought about Angel. Angel was always a predator.
Her musings sobered her instantly. She hadn't seen Angel in days and it was making her inordinately grouchy. "Wesley has me on desk duty," she replied.
Lindsey chuckled. "Wesley's a good dog," he said, "but he doesn't hunt. All orders come from Roarke."
Buffy shrugged. "I don't really know much about his management style, but all of my orders come from Wesley."
Nodding, Lindsey let it drop. "But regardless of who gives you orders, you're still disobeying them, right?"
Meeting his eyes for a long moment, Buffy finally nodded. "I don't like being kept on a short rein."
He smiled broadly. "Me either," he said with a wink.
Despite her better judgment, Buffy returned his smile and continued walking down the alley, nodding for him to follow. He did so easily, his gate lazy so she didn't strain her leg. "So what's up with you and the boss?" Buffy asked, deciding that there was no point in playing coy.
He laughed. "You don't pull punches, do you?" he asked.
"That's not an answer," she replied.
He nodded. "Fair enough," he said, dropping the cigarette to the ground and stubbing it out with the sole of his well worn boots. "Roarke and I go way back. Used to be close and then we had a difference of opinion that left me high and dry."
"Difference of opinion ..." Buffy repeated. "About what?"
"I thought I should be allowed to live my life the way I saw fit, and he disagreed."
Buffy remained silent. She knew Angel well enough to know that he wasn't above dictating how others lived their lives. But still, she knew Lindsey wasn't being completely truthful. "Got any details there, Tex?" she asked.
"Big Brother didn't approve of my employment," he said. "Roarke put me through college, through law school, all the while telling me that I didn't owe him anything ... and then when I got a job he didn't like, he took it all away."
"Must have been some job," Buffy said evasively. While she had no trouble imagining Angel using his power to force someone out of a job, the fact that he had put Lindsey through college was shocking. Given Lindsey's bitterness, she also guessed there was a lot more not being said.
"To give the devil his due," Lindsey elaborated, "my employer was a firm of demons hell bent on winning Armageddon."
Buffy snorted. "Gee, can't imagine him having any issue with that."
"True," Lindsey said, "but that's not really the point, is it? He gave me this gift and said 'do with it what you will', but when he didn't like it, he took it all away. And now instead of looking at the view from my office, I'm working as a public defender for the city and hiding out in alleys."
Coming to a stop, Buffy turned to face him with slitted eyes. "You're not hiding," she said baldly.
He laughed somewhat uneasily. "Touché," he replied. "I'm not hiding. In fact, I'm doing my best to beard the lion in his own den."
"If you and Angel really were such good friends, then you must know that's not a bright idea," she advised.
For a long moment, Lindsey held her gaze, saying nothing. Finally he took a deep breath, breaking eye contact to stare blindly down the alley. " I never trusted anyone the way I trusted him and he made me regret every second of it," Lindsey said, his voice hoarse with emotion. "So now my life holds nothing but the hope that one day I'll get my payback."
Buffy cocked an eyebrow. "Touching story there, Tex, but you hope to accomplish this mission how? By lurking around in alleys?" she asked sarcastically.
"No," he said with a grin. He stepped closer, letting his eyes drift over her body in a way that sent pleasant tingles of excitement tickling over her skin. Buffy didn't even try to deny that there was definite chemistry between herself and Lindsey ... but it didn't mean she welcomed it. Something inside of her knew that getting involved with an enemy of Angel would be a very bad idea. Lindsey leaned in and though she knew she should back up, she couldn't bring herself to do it.
He let out a self-derisive snort. "I had this all planned," he admitted, shaking his head in wonder. "I followed you, waiting for the right moment. I was going to casually show up and lay some line on you ..." he trailed off and shrugged. Stepping back, he reached for another cigarette and lit it in silence. After he released his second drag, he said, "I didn't count on actually liking you."
Buffy stepped back, crossing her arms over her chest defensively. "Followed me?" she echoed. "And like me? What's that supposed to mean? What do I have to do with your pissing contest with Angel?"
He looked at her incredulously. "You can't honestly be that blind," he said. "Roarke is about as subtle as a bull in a china shop."
"Know what?" she demanded, getting more irritated by the second.
"Liam Roarke is a very hard man to get a bead on, but he was my best friend for a long damn time. I knew him better than anyone. Better than his sister. I know for a fact that the easiest way to truly hurt him would be to get close to you. To take you from him. He'd kill me for it, but at least I'd get my revenge."
Shaking her head, Buffy said, "I don't know what you're talking about. I work for Angel. We're - "
"Angel," Lindsey repeated pointedly. "That's his real name. He told me that once when we were both drunk out of our minds. I know that there are only two people on the planet who would dare address him by that name. One is his only flesh and blood relative and the other is the woman he's been in love with for years."
Buffy laughed and it sounded strained even to her ears. This wasn't true. It couldn't be. But she couldn't stop the pain that it caused ... because part of her desperately wanted Lindsey's words to be real. "Angel doesn't love anyone or anything."
Lindsey shrugged. "Not the way any normal, well-adjusted person would love, no. He doesn't. But I also know that whatever twisted, obsessive emotion passes for love with him, he feels it for you. I doubt he even entertains the notion of love, but it's still there. He wants you. He's always wanted you. Roarke isn't a man to deny himself anything and the fact that he has denied himself you - especially with your new oh-so-convenient circumstances - speaks volumes."
Buffy shook her head. "You don't know anything."
"Don't I?" he asked. He let his gaze wander her body again, stepping closer. "I don't know you," he said, his voice quiet and sensual. "But I do know that there is ... something between us."
Buffy swallowed audibly, but held her ground, staring defiantly into his eyes. "So?" she asked, not bothering to deny his assertion.
He chuckled at her feisty nature. "I also know that you're holding back."
Her lips pursed into a thin, hard line. "What?" she spat. "You think that just because there's some something between us that I'm going to jump you in the first convenient alley? Ego much? And for your information, I don't work for Skanks-R-Us."
"Oh," he said with mock understanding, "so it's your own standards that are getting in the way and nothing else?"
He didn't look convinced. "And it doesn't have anything to do with your Angel?"
Buffy stared at him, but held her tongue. Her Angel. What a joke. Angel didn't belong to anyone but himself. But she couldn't prevent the oddly satisfying sensation the words brought.
Lindsey stepped even closer, almost touching. "What do you think he would do if he saw us now?" he asked in a near whisper.
Buffy swallowed thickly, turning away from Lindsey's knowing gaze. For reasons she could not explain, she knew that Angel's rage would be exquisite. They had no claim on each other, no understandings spoken or unspoken. But still, she knew the truth in her bones.
"He would kill me for touching you," Lindsey said flatly.
Buffy didn't contradict him because she knew his words to be true, though she didn't know why. "I have a job to do," Buffy said, turning on her heel. As she walked off, Lindsey wisely did not follow.
"You're certain it doesn't hurt?"
"It didn't," Buffy ground out, "but if you keep poking at it, I swear I'm going to poke you with Mr. Pointy."
Wesley straightened up, backing away from the agitated Slayer and her mostly-healed leg. "Ah yes," he said. "Point, erm, taken."
"So I'm off desk duty?" she asked hopefully.
"It would appear so," Wesley conceded. "I would rather you give it another week, but taking into account your enthusiasm for your work and the fact that there are three people trying to pick up your slack, I have to defer to your opinion. If you think you're ready, by all means, resume patrolling."
Grabbing her jacket off the counter, Buffy called over her shoulder, "Don't wait up."
[End Chapter 12]
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