“Yeah.” Eliot said into his phone.
“Hey it’s me.” Xander said. “I followed Jason and I think we have more trouble than we thought.”
“How is that even possible?” Eliot asked, the weariness showing through in his voice.
“Remember the chick that bit you?” Xander asked.
“Yeah. She’s Miranda’s lieutenant.”
“Well currently she and Jason are wrapped around each other like a couple of eels.” He said. “The way things went down with Hardison and all, I don’t think Jason is playing on our side which is to say Miranda’s. “
“Not sure I would count Miranda on our side either.” Eliot said.
“She is until this turf war is handled. After that I’m pretty sure she is going snag as many of you as possible to either turn or enthrall.”
Eliot sighed. “Yeah I know. I have security coming in. They’re supposed to be here by morning to keep the rest of my people safe. Then we can go after Jason and his crew.”
“Be careful until then. I have a feeling you might be on Jason’s list to turn too. “ Xander said. “So who did you call for back up?”
“Just someone I know.” He said, not wanting to get into the situation with Xander. He knew how most of that crowd felt about MacDonald. Hell he wasn’t sure he didn’t feel the same way. Eliot was just willing to make a deal with the devil if he had to in order to keep his people safe.
“So do you have it handled there in the mean time? I was thinking of calling Faith to come help me watch these guys.”
Eliot nodded, even though Xander couldn’t hear him. “Yeah I have it covered. Go ahead. They won’t make a move in a hospital, and she’s probably going stir crazy right now.”
“Like I said, be careful. I’ll talk to you later.” Xander ended the call.
Eliot leaned against the wall of the stair well a moment before sinking down onto a step and letting out a long low sigh. He sat in the stillness, letting it wash over him. Breathing deeply he traded the heavy weight of guilt for calmness. He could deal with his guilt later. For now there was no time. He needed to focus on keeping the others safe. He couldn’t let himself be distracted by emotions that would only get in the way.
It was nearly an hour later when he entered the cafeteria and found his friends seated around a table. Nate and Sophie were on either side of Parker, who looked like she had just been put through the wringer herself. Eliot sat down across from her.
“Okay, I don’t know if Faith told you before she split but Xander has been following Jason. “ Eliot said and relayed the information he had gotten from Xander.
“She did say that.” Sophie said. “And that she was going to go team up with him for the rest of the night.”
Eliot nodded. “The rest of the information is that apparently Jason and Cassandra are or at least were when I talked to Xander going at it hot and heavy. “
“Cassandra … that’s the one that drank your blood.” Parker said.
“Miranda’s lieutenant.” Nate said.
“Oh that’s not good.” Sophie said. “Either she’s working with him against Miranda… or they are all playing this sick and twisted game.”
“Which according to Faith is completely possible.” Parker said quietly.
“Which is why I have called in some guys to play body guard while Hardison is in the hospital. People that are used to dealing with this sort of thing.” Eliot said.
“I thought that’s what Faith and Xander were.” Sophie’s eyes narrowed a little. “Who did you call, Eliot.” She asked and her frown deepened when he looked away. “Oh you didn’t… Eliot you can’t do that, he’ll just find some way to use it against you. “
“I can do that.” He said quietly “And I did. “
“So what’s the plan?” Nate asked, he was worried about what his friend had done, but he wasn’t going to make his sacrifice for nothing. He’d have a talk with MacDonald later. There had to be something the man would want in exchange for tearing up Eliot’s contract.
Eliot gave Nate a grateful look. “Right now we wait. Xander and Faith are our best option for intel right now. They know what they are doing. Come morning the body guards will be here. I need you guys to stay with them. Please, Parker, this includes you. Besides, if you stay with Hardison and you both have guards there, he’s doubly safe.”
“What about you?” She asked.
“I’ll be catching up with Xander and Faith and putting an end to this once and for all.”
Angel sighed in relief as they spotted a familiar figure sitting in a corner booth all alone consuming an all too familiar pink drink.
Lorne was still shaking after his meeting with Lindsey. He didn’t know if it was because of the gun that had been pointed at his chest, or the fact that he had failed the man… again… and in doing so this time had failed himself and Angel as well. “Can I get another?” He asked holding his glass up.
A demon with a remarkable resemblance to Doyle after a sneeze, brought over another sea breeze and set it in front of Lorne before sitting across from him in the booth. “Here. This one is on the house.” He said putting a completely different drink on the table in front of his friend.
“Oh, thanks, but I’m a one drink kinda guy. Just wish they packed a little more punch you know.” Lorne said with a sad smile.
“That’s the point. This one will. You’ve been coming in here for seven years now. Never once seen you happy, but I have never seen you this messed up either. So I figure if there was ever a guy who deserved a chance to let go it’s you. This is a little something special I keep in back. Not something you want the average demon getting his hands on. “
Lorne looked at it a moment. “So you think this will actually get me drunk?” He asked “No other side effects.”
“None that I have seen.”
Lorne picked the drink up and sniffed at it like one might a glass of wine. He took a hesitant sip. “In that case. Keep em coming.” He said and took a long drink before setting it down.
“This is not good.” Cordelia said quietly. “No… they shouldn’t get him drunk. This is bad. “
“Might be what he needs.” Angel said.
“Hello… you went to Pylea too remember. Do you really want to see Lorne revert to his roots? Really? “
“No, but you know, he’s been through a lot.” Angel pointed out.
“Yeah, and whose fault is that? If you say Lindsey’s I’m going to hurt you.” Cordelia said.
“Well it kind of is.” Angel said sheepishly. “From a certain point of view. “
“Sure… because he chose to lay down and die. “ Cordelia rolled her eyes. “Or from another point of view its your fault for sending him out there to shoot the man to begin with.”
“Or.” Lorne said softly. “It’s my own fault for doing it in the first place. Personal responsibility, Children. Embrace it.” He took another long drink. “But what the hell do I know.”
“You can hear us?” Angel asked, smiling a little.
“Sadly, yes.” Lorne leaned forward and stirred the drink “This isn’t bad you know. Never stand up to a sea breeze flavor wise. But it’s definitely got a punch.”
“Lorne, I am so sorry. “ Angel said ushering Cordelia into the booth and taking a seat as well.
“Save it. “
“Lorne… he really means it,” Cordelia said.
“I know. He always means it. Just tired of hearing him say it about the same thing all the time. “ He took another drink. “That whole I just made a bone headed decision and now everyone is screwed reason. And this time I think we really are. I failed, Princess. I went to see Lindsey in his gilded cage and well it didn’t go so well. I think it might be too late.”
“The fact that you can hear us has to mean something has changed. “ Cordelia said trying to sound reassuring. “And there are others working on Lindsey. It’s not too late.”
“No, nothing has changed. I can hear you because it’s part of the same assignment from the powers that be. Wouldn’t have been able to hear you before. Wasn’t part of my gig. “ He sighed and took another drink, finding himself half way through the glass and his nose was beginning to tingle. “Ah yes, this is going to work. Just what the doctor ordered. So why is tall dark and broody not back in his body ? Still working on that one too?”
“I –“ Angel started to protest “Ow.” He said as Cordelia swatted him “Will you stop that?”
Lorne smiled a little.
“Well, I or rather he made a breakthrough and we were all set to put him back in his body but it’s not there. “ Cordelia said. “I don’t suppose Connor has been in to see you yet. We have a theory about what happened to his body.”
“Well she might have called him. Beautiful woman, Angel. You should treat her better.”
“I don’t treat her badly. Why does everyone assume I am going to treat Tara badly?” Angel protested and was ignored by both of his companions.
“ Anyway, no I haven’t seen Junior. Not sure why I would. Unless she told him I was there and he decided that I might have a few answers. I don’t think I made a very good impression on her. “ Lorne said. “She almost shot me. Lindsey almost shot me. I think its Karma catching up to me… what do you think?” He asked Cordelia, his words beginning to slur slightly. “oooh this feels good. Definitely doing this again. I like this drink.”
Angel had never felt so low in his life. Not for once had he considered that this would be the consequences for following his orders. He should have known but he hadn’t really seen beyond the job at hand. He hadn’t seen beyond his need to kick the senior partners in the shins and his hatred for Lindsey MacDonald.
“I think that one of these days I’m going to walk out of a bar… although I may never go to any other bar again… and someone is going to shoot me twice in the chest. You know he asked if I was part of the solution. “ Lorne said. “I know what he was really saying, and I don’t blame him… but you know… I don’t think I am, Princess. Not anymore. “
“you can’t give up.” Angel said worriedly.
“Sure I can. It’s easy. After all, you did.” Lorne told him and finished off the drink. He held the glass up in the air to indicate he needed a refill. “Oh at first I was afraid I was petrified, “ Lorne began to sing. “Kept thinking I could never live without you by my side…”
“God will you just shut up.” Lindsey growled as he entered his office and slammed the door, wishing that it would actually keep her out.
“No. Not until you tell me why you keep throwing Angel in my face. “ Darla said. “Why is it so impossible for you to believe that I am here for you?”
“Why? Why do I-?” He made a low growling sound in his throat. “You really want me to get into that? “
“Why not? It can’t be worse than you calling me a whore.” Darla said, with her hands on her hips.
“You were a prostitute remember? That whole dying of syphilis thing ring any bells?” Lindsey countered.
“It was still mean.” She told him folding her arms across her chest.
Lindsey looked at her as if she had grown a second head. “CEO of Evil Incorporated. I think mean is somewhere in the job description. “
“Fine. So tell me then. Why won’t you believe me that I’m not here for Angel?”
“The man set you on fire. Remember that? You and Dru doused in gasoline and set on fire. He set you on fire, and still you left my bed for his.” Lindsey said bluntly as he settled back into his seat. “you went to him and you come back to me long enough to lick your wounds and disappear while I’m gone because he hurt your feelings.” He picked up a file that was on his desk. “ You went to him when you were pregnant with my son. MY son. You used me the entire time we were together so that you could hide from the firm. I wasn’t your lover. No matter what happened between us I was nothing to you but a convenience. A means to an end and that end was Angel. So asking me to think I rate anywhere above Angel in your world is like asking me to believe the sun is made of lemon drops. “
“I’m sorry I hurt you.”
“Fine. I believe you. You’re sorry you hurt me.” He said, although he wasn’t sure that he did believe it. “And I’m sorry that your soul is trapped here with me.” That was true. On many levels it was true. But even when she had been human she had preferred Angel. Lindsey knew where he stood. He wasn’t a fool this time around. There were certain things that were a given. Darla and Angel were a given.
“This isn’t about me.” She said. “Its not about Angel. “Although he was a part of it. She knew better than to say it. That would only get Lindsey’s back up again. “It’s about finishing what you started.”
He sighed and closed the file. “You don’t seem to get it.” Lindsey said. “I failed. I spent a lifetime preparing for a battle I was never even a part of. “ he told her and rubbed his eyes tiredly. God he had no energy lately. He wondered if Spencer were coming down with something. “And that’s my own fault for trusting the wrong people time after time. “
“The fight isn’t over, Lindsey. You can’t give up.”
“I’m not giving up. I lost. I’m dead.” He said firmly.”Do you not get that? I’m not a real boy anymore. I’m a magical construct with my memories shoved in for good measure. All of them. And if the partners put them in you know they’ve seen them.” He told her, getting up and going to get a cup of coffee. “I’m their liaison. Not with a CEO but with the entire firm. I’m their hand on earth. Direct conduit. There is no fighting that. You’re wasting your time. “
“It’s not your memories, Lindsey. It’s your soul.” She said.
“I don’t know that I’ve had one of those for a very long time.” He said quietly.
“Darla please. “ He said raggedly. “Just go. “ He heaved a sigh of relief as the room fell silent.
They let Parker and Eliot go in first. Hardison was still unconscious but he was out of recovery. The nurse smiled sadly at them as she explained the equipment that was attached to him, and why it was important to be careful of the tubes and wires. She sounded hopeful when she said she was sure he would come around. She’d seen patients come back from far worse. Although it would have been more convincing if she hadn’t been speaking with two seasoned con artists.
Eliot thanked her and moved to sit on the window bench, while Parker took up position at Hardison’s bed side. He watched in silence as Parker spoke to Hardison as though he could hear her. If ‘they’ were to be believed, a person in a coma could hear you. They just weren’t able to respond. He wondered if that wasn’t some sort of personal hell. Not that he would ever share those thoughts with anyone, much less the frail looking blonde who sat talking to his friend.
Scenes like this were why he had always worked alone after his days with Moreau. Innocent people always got hurt, and yes he considered his team to be innocent. Sure they had broken laws, they had caused people hardship and heartache, but they hadn’t done anything that could be considered truly evil. Not really. Not one of them. Hardison didn’t deserve to be laying there and Parker didn’t deserve to be sitting there fighting back tears as she desperately sought for the strength to sound confident.
He turned to look out the window. It had started to rain. It seemed appropriate somehow. He found himself thinking about Faith. He hoped she wasn’t stuck out in the rain. He’d pulled surveillance and reconnaissance in nasty weather and it wasn’t something he wished on anyone.
The woman confused him. He wasn’t sure if he liked the confusion or not. He liked being in control. He liked order and structure and she lived for chaos. From the hot pocket wrappers (he shuddered to think of anyone eating those) to the way she tossed her clothes around the bedroom. They were night and day. Eternally opposite. Yet some times… Most of the time… he didn’t mind. He knew it wouldn’t last. Couldn’t last. Neither of them led a life that allowed for real connections. Not romantic ones. Their past held them both firmly in its grasp and neither was quite willing to achieve escape velocity. Much for the same reasons. Fear of repeating the past if they let it slip away.
He looked over at Parker and Hardison. They had a chance. If they survived the nights to come, they could achieve something he’d never have again. He’d give them that chance. He couldn’t do anything less. No matter what it took.
“hey.” He said gently as he got to his feet. “Come on.” He told her, “Come lay down over here. I’ll keep watch, you get some sleep.”
“Promise?” She asked sleepily, not quite willing to let go of Alec’s hand.
“I promise.” He said and slid his arm around her to help her to her feet. He got her onto the window bench and then went in search of the extra pillow and blanket that was found in the locker type closet. “here you go.” He said tucking her in.
Parker smiled a little, even if her eyes were red and swollen. “I’m glad you’re here. Don’t ever leave us.” She said quietly and closed her eyes.
Eliot looked at his hands but said nothing.