: Down the Primrose PathAuthor
: Jedi ButtercupDisclaimer
: The words are mine; the world belongs to Whedon.Rating
: Wesley thought about it a moment more-- thought about his own disillusionment of late, the increasing emptiness that threatened to swallow him whole every moment he sat in that gilded office-- and nodded, slowly.Spoilers
: Post-"Damage" (5.11) but pre-"You're Welcome" (5.12)Notes
: What if Lindsey's meddling had been uncovered not by a temporarily revived Cordelia in company with Angel, but by someone else? Inspired by my five-and-a-half year old ficlet "Reverberations
", and will diverge wildly from canon. Multiple chapters plotted out, though they may be slow in coming.
Wesley nearly did a double take at the cliché of the moment when Lindsey McDonald walked into the pub. He lowered his glass carefully, then took a quick, reflexive glance into its depths to make sure that whisky was the only thing in it.
No, he wasn't seeing things. When he looked back up toward the door, Lindsey was still there, suspending a brown leather jacket over his shoulder with a careless finger, dressed in casual attire and chatting with someone entering the room behind him.
...Someone equally recognisable, as a matter of fact, whose identity was even more alarming.
Spike, rogue vampire with a soul. In the company of a familiar rogue former lawyer, the state of whose soul was clearly also in question. The likenesses between them-- rebellious, antagonistic toward Angel, and inherently unpredictable-- caught his breath with apprehensive possibilities as he watched them slide into a booth toward the back of the pub. He'd thought Spike had been 'fighting the good fight' on his own of late, but what if it had all been a ruse?
Carefully, he considered the options he'd just been presented with. He could tell Angel. Now, by phone, or later, in person; either method would certainly produce results, though Wesley was not altogether sure he'd approve of the form those results would take. He could pretend he hadn't seen them, and carefully plot possible countermeasures on his own. Or he could simply approach the men now, let them know they'd been seen, and judge firsthand whether drastic measures would be needed to quell whatever trouble they were brewing.
Undoubtedly, some fourth option would present itself once he'd acted, something detrimental to his health or emotional well being that he hadn't been wise enough to expect, he mused pessimistically. Fortunately, he'd become something of an expert on surviving suboptimal plans over the last few years. He made up his mind, downed the last of his whisky, and strode, more calmly than he felt, across the room to the booth where they had settled.
"Spike," he said calmly, meeting the vampire's eyes as the two men noticed his approach. "Fancy meeting you here."
Spike's eyes were cool, and closed to him, not that they'd ever been particularly friendly. "What, can't a man go for a drink with a friend after he's had his hands chopped off?" His voice was indignant, and he made a dramatic gesture with said hands to emphasise his point.
The ex-lawyer flinched a little at Spike's choice of descriptor-- belatedly, Wesley remembered Lindsey's own experience with amputation-- but otherwise maintained an unruffled air, as though Wesley's presence there meant less than nothing to him.
"It's not the drink that bothers me, Spike, it's the friend," Wesley said, in a tone as mildly menacing as Lindsey's expression.
Spike narrowed his eyes a little at that and glanced between his two companions. "Don't tell me the two of you know each other?" he asked.
Wesley saw the muted alarm surfacing behind the calm façade in Lindsey's eyes, and felt the ground firm under his mental feet. If the other man hadn't told Spike of his former connection to the firm and his antagonistic relationship with Angel in specific, then whatever plan he'd cooked up this time had most likely not been made with Spike's informed cooperation. That changed things a bit. Wesley allowed himself to smile a little, more sure of his choice of action than he'd been before he made his approach.
"Why, surely your friend has told you of his long history with Angel Investigations?" he answered gently.
Lindsey opened his mouth, but seemed unsure what to say-- undoubtedly realising that any further lie he might make up for Spike's benefit, Wesley could easily refute.
"That true, Doyle?" Spike asked, narrowing intent blue eyes at the former lawyer. "You said the Powers weren't backin' Angel anymore, that they sent you to me, not him."
?" Wesley echoed him, sharply, before Lindsey could answer. Disgust welled up in him. "You told him your name was Doyle
?" He turned to Spike. "And did he also tell you that he has visions of people in danger, visions you're meant to avert?"
"Seen it happen myself," Spike frowned, glancing between Lindsey and Wesley, confused and clearly growing angry. "Pictures in his head that hurt like eatin' ice cream too fast, he says. Those people I rescued that you and Charlie-boy came to talk to me about? He sent me after 'em, and that parasite on Angel's chest, and crazy Slayer-girl too, though fat lot of good that last one did me." He rubbed at his arms again, at the fading line where the limbs had been reattached by Wolfram and Hart's medical team.
"Is this true, Lindsey McDonald
?" Wesley asked him, pointedly.
Lindsey set his jaw, but did not back down, sprawling in his seat with deliberate, if slightly tense, arrogance. He had courage, if nothing else; he'd always had that, though he'd simply preferred to use it to save his own skin unless it was most convenient to do otherwise, as far as Wesley recalled. "I did, in fact, give him the information for those missions," the former lawyer replied, choosing his words with care.
"I might be more inclined to believe you if I had not heard, rather extensively, about the original Allen Francis Doyle and the visions which he passed to Cordelia Chase before his death," Wesley said, raising his eyebrows. "Rather a coincidence that another so-called seer, claiming the same name, should show up just at the right time and place to sow discord among the companions of a vampire he is known to despise."
"Are you saying I don't have reason?" Lindsey fired back suddenly, abandoning all pretense of casualness and leaning forward over the table. "Are you saying he hasn't
sold out? Are you saying that Eurotrash vampire isn't
walking down the primrose path to apocalypse, while Spike
goes out and does the actual helping the helpless that Angel always claimed was his
mission of redemption?"
Spike's expression had grown more and more sour as Wesley and Lindsey spoke. "I think what you're sayin' is that it was never about
me; I was just a convenient way to get your revenge on," he growled.
"I thought you and Angel had finally buried the hatchet-- or should I say, sledgehammer
-- when you left town two years ago," Wesley continued. It felt good-- seductively good, in fact-- to stand there berating a man whose morals he knew to be even grayer than his own; but in a world where he'd actually found himself arguing that assassinating a man with a microwave satellite might be a laudable solution... well. Best make absolutely certain. "What brought you back, after all this time? And after having gone to such lengths to make sure no one would see you coming?" he added, nodding at the runic lines of obvious spellwork extending below the rolled-up cuffs of Lindsey's shirtsleeves.
Lindsey smiled at that a bitter curve of mouth that did not reach his eyes. "C'mon, Wesley, think about it a little. Why the sledgehammer in the first place? Why'd I turn my back on Wolfram and Hart at all?"
It still didn't make sense; why after all this time? But the answer was clear: "Darla," Wesley replied, knowingly.
me?" Spike blurted. "Darla? As in Angel's sire, Darla? I heard from Dru that she'd turned 'Grandmum' again, but nothing since, and you look suspiciously human to me." He jabbed a finger into Lindsey's chest. "How the hell did you get involved with her
? She's been obsessed with one bloke since she turned him more'n two hundred years ago, and you're not him."
"I know," Lindsey drawled. "Believe me, I know. Those weeks I was sheltering her from the firm? You know, back when you were on wheels and I had a plastic hand?" He wrapped the fingers of his replacement hand around his bottle of beer, lifting it ostentatiously in Wesley's direction, then turned his attention back to Spike. "She was using me. In just about every way possible for someone to use another human being, both before and after she was turned again. And the whole time, it was just to get to him
. I knew she cared about me, but not like I cared about her; I came to terms with that a long time ago. It's what happened to her after
that that brought me back to town again. Fucking Angel; he can't just take
, he has to ruin
everything and everyone he pretends to care about."
"I hear that," Spike said, settling back down, posture mirroring Lindsey's. His eyes were sharp on the former lawyer's face, but the signs of anger had ebbed; Wesley wasn't surprised. Lindsey had appealed right to one of Spike's own weak spots. "So what did
happen to her nibs?"
"I'm not too clear on the details of those first few months," Lindsey said. "I wandered a lot after I left here. Eventually ended up in Africa, visited a shaman; yeah, you know the one. I left all the power I'd ever had behind when I left the firm, but I wasn't done with this world yet, and it really burned that I'd never been enough for the one woman I ever really cared about. So-- I asked. Ended up with a few-- gifts." He picked up a piece of silverware as illustration, and crushed it in his fist with an ease Wesley had only ever seen from a slayer, or vampire, before; it was rather alarming, and in more than just the fact that it boded ill for any potential physical confrontation. The look on Spike's face at Lindsey's explanation was nearly enough to make him glad he'd never got anywhere with Fred. Love, in their world, might as well be synonymous with spiritual poison; the deeper the emotion, the worse the fallout in the end.
"By the time I got moving again and picked up Darla's trail, she was already on her way back to L.A.-- and you know the rest," Lindsey continued. "Her pregnancy. Her death. Her kid
, whom I haven't seen hide nor hair of since I got here, which just makes me even angrier; of course
Angel wouldn't be able to take care of him
either. So I took a trip to Nepal to pick up a few concealing spells the firm wouldn't be able to crack, and made some plans of my own."
Wesley's thought processes ground to a halt as Lindsey's explanation took an abrupt detour out of reality. He didn't remember Darla returning to L.A., and he certainly didn't recall--
" he frowned at Lindsey, baffled and more than a little annoyed, then clutched briefly at the table as a wave of dizziness swept through him. Something seemed to tremble on the edge of his consciousness, something massive and disturbing, then faded just as quickly back into the ether. He shook his head, blinking the sensation away, then glanced back up at the other man. "You do know that it's impossible for vampires to have children?" He couldn't quite keep a note of condescension out of his voice-- one of Wolfram and Hart's former star employees should know
this-- but at the same time, he felt as though the world had taken a sudden, sharp left turn.
Lindsey gaped, caught entirely off-guard in the middle of whatever else he'd meant to say. "You... don't remember?" he said, sounding a little uncertain, then glanced over at the equally unenlightened blond vampire. "You don't remember," he said again, a little more thoughtfully this time, then turned his attention back to Wesley. "Are you serious, here? You were the one who nearly got his throat cut over the tyke; you're telling me you don't remember that
?" He gestured at Wesley's throat.
Dizziness beat at the back of Wesley's thoughts again; he reached a hand up instinctively to touch the skin where Justine's knife had marked him, and shook his head. "It was Justine that tried to kill me; one of Holtz's minions. There was no infant involved."
"Oh yeah? And what was Holtz doing in L.A.? What were you
doing leaving town, that she caught you out in the open like that? What was the prophecy Lilah and her pal Sahjahn went to so much effort to tie you up in knots with?"
Wesley opened his mouth to answer, to refute what Lindsey was saying-- and realized rather abruptly that he couldn't
. The more he examined his memories of those events, the more they fell apart; it was as though someone had gone through them with a mental ice cream scoop, taking out certain pieces of information and leaving the rest, papering over the wounded places with a simple, skin-deep 'nothing to see here, move along' compulsion.
Spike eyed him, seemed to see that Wesley was having trouble forming a response, and took up the thread of conversation himself. "And just how do you know so much about what went on when you weren't here?" he demanded. "How'd you manage the thing with the amulet, and the de-ghosting, if you aren't actually working for the fellows upstairs?"
"Haven't you guessed yet?" Lindsey shook his head at them. "Her name's Eve. Ring a bell? She's no Darla-- she's not even a Lilah Morgan, may her black little heart roast for all eternity-- but at least I'm man enough for her
." He smirked, comfortable with himself again, clearly feeling as though the power in their little meeting had all swung back in his direction.
And he was right to feel that way, Wesley realized, as he brought a hand to his temple. Now that he was focusing on the problem, his own magics were interacting with the mental barrier to give him quite the headache; he still couldn't remember what he'd been made to forget, but he was more than aware of the swiss-cheesed structure of his own thoughts. If Lindsey was correct and the holes had specifically to do with Darla, and some impossible offspring of hers, it explained rather a lot about Angel's sudden decision to take over Wolfram and Hart-- and cast in a suspicious light everything Wesley and the other members of Angel's team had done, or chosen, since the moment they'd stepped through the firm's doors. Possibly even earlier; how could he be certain how far back the damage had gone?
"Angel did this," he murmured to himself, aghast. "Angel made me-- made us
Lindsey nodded. "Makes sense to me. Wondered why you boys had gone along with him so easily."
"Forget bloody Angel
," Spike said, voice sharp again. "So if you were lying to me this whole time, using me to get to him
, why the saving people thing? Why the heroics? What was your endgame, here?"
Lindsey eyed them both, thinking quickly. Then he lifted his bottle, took a long swallow, and wiped the back of his hand across his mouth. "All right then," he said. "You want to know everything? Let's go back to Spike's apartment, and I'll tell you. All of it. You
decide what side you want to come down on, after that. You don't believe me, I'll go back to Eve, clear out of town. But I think you'll be pretty interested in what I have to say."
Wesley thought about it a moment more-- thought about his own disillusionment of late, the increasing emptiness that threatened to swallow him whole every moment he sat in that gilded office-- and nodded, slowly. "I'll have to made a detour first, pick up a few ingredients to restore my memories. You understand, I prefer to trust my own experiences over just your word."
"Fine by me." Lindsey spread his hands. "Spike, you game?"
Spike clenched his jaw. "I'm always game. Question is, whether you
will be after you've done talking."
Lindsey's smile only widened at the threat. "Promises, promises," he said. Then he stood, slung his jacket back over his shoulder, and strode toward to the exit, as though trusting them to follow.
Damning himself for a fool twice-over, Wesley did.