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Trilogy

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Thursday nights are the only night of the week that Lindsey can actually say he leaves his work at the office. Any other time, it's just a matter of moving the papers from his desk to his briefcase to his coffee table and back again in reverse the next day.

But Thursdays he is a free man. Home and showered, jeans and boots and something well worn and soft under his leather jacket, into the truck he drove here from Alabama to LA by way of Stanford Law School, and thank-you-Jesus, out of town for the night. Up the highway, north of LA, until it's smaller and smaller towns in front of him.

Oxnard. Just about a thousand people bigger than the town he grew up in. Not much in the way of a tourist attraction, unless you are looking for a special kind of entertainment on your Thursday evenings. And Lindsey is looking for something special. His hidden vice, so to speak.

Park at the end of the row, away from the door and walk up to the shabby little club. The bouncer eyes him with professional disdain, decides not to ask for ID, and waves him in. The room is already full of people - men of all ages mingling on the floor in front of the stage.

On the stage a tall black man in a fireman's uniform is dancing to the some old worn out song that no one is really listening to.

//The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire//

He heads to the corner bar, his usual spot. Sheltered from the main floor where everyone is groping and making serious and desperate body contact. Unobstructed view of the stage, although that's the least of the reasons for choosing this seat. The dark-haired young man at the end of the bar, however, is the main attraction.

Lindsey has seen him here before. Knows he never mixes with the crowd. Knows he dances during the week in the straight shows. Knows the bartender has alerted him about Lindsey's inquiries because Lindsey never bothered to tell him not to.

Tonight he's sitting on the stool, posture just the slightest bit tense but not over-wound. When Lindsey sits down next to him, he turns and looks, tips his chin and says "Hey." in a non-committal way.

"Hey." Right back at him, and Lindsey watches him turn around and study the crowd with far too much concentration for it to be real interest in what's happening. Scott, the bartender, walks by and cleans the bar on the other side of where the young man leans, and Lindsey knows that's the tip off. He's been ID'd as the guy who was asking "Questions."

"So, what's your name?" Lindsey just takes the bull by the horns, no sense in being coy because they all know what's going to happen here.

"Alexander Lavelle Harris" His nerves showing in the way the words tumble out, as if he had rehearsed them studied them for a test and panicked at the actual question.

Lindsey raises his eyebrow at him. "You go by the whole thing, or can I just call you Alex?"

"Actually, it's Xander."

"I like that. It's unique."

"What about you? Are you just going to be Quiet Guy, or do you have a name?"

"I'm Jay."

"Do you just like to keep things down to first initials? Like in those old novels, Mr M and Mrs H?"

"It's short for Junior, but I shed that with the football jacket and the cheerleaders."

"Yeah, shedding the past is of the good."

"Ignoring is just as good. You wanna drink, Xander?" Pushing back slightly from the bar to let himself seem open to conversation, or whatever else the young guy might be up for.

"I wouldn't say no to a beer." Big smile, he's relaxing now.

"Would you say yes, or just not no?" Grin of his own, and he can hear his accent taking up residence. Can't ever help it when he's drinking or pissed off. They usually happen at the same time.

"I think I might say yes. Yeah, I'm gonna go with yes on that one."

"Bartender, two Carlsburgs."

"Big spender, huh? Usually I just say 'beer'. Are you trying to impress me?"

"No, they told me no Bud on my first go 'round. And, I can afford a few beers. You underage? Am I about to go to jail?"

"Let's just say that working here has its perks. And this is the only one I've found so far."

"The only one?" Looks over his shoulder at the half-dressed man gyrating on stage. "Maybe I should be buying someone else a drink."

And Xander thought he was being all smooth and flirty here, realises, maybe just incredibly retarded, gets flushed and embarrassed. "No, that's not... I was just... I'll shut up now." Grabs the beer and takes a long, long pull on it. Looks over to see Lindsey watching him closely. "OK, so it's not the only perk anymore."

Leaning back against the seat of his chair, Lindsey considers the situation. Younger than he normally goes for. Inexperienced. Nervous. So many factors that could make his life all the more stressed to the hilt and miserable, but quick fucks usually weren't complicated, and he had been dry for a while. Plus, the kid had *something,* not sexy, no something else that made him want to push the hair back from his eyes, stroke the stubble forming around his mouth, lick the crease behind his ear...maybe it had been an arid spell.

Xander watches the way Lindsey's eyes are getting darker, bluer as he sits there not-quite-staring.It isn't the first time he's been approached, but it is the first time he's been talked to, flirted with, treated as something more than just the closest warm body. There is something about the way this man holds himself - confident without arrogance -that reminds Xander of something...someone ... else. He is as attracted to that as he is to the way Jay's lower lip is full and soft and...

Lindsey looks down at the garish pattern around the hem of the boy's shirt, maybe fuchsia and green paisley swirls were the "in" look. He feels out of the loop, burdened, and ageing by the second as he sits here and watches the boy fidget and sigh in front of him. He knows he can't take him home, too far. He would lay odds on the boy living at home with the folks, too. His easy fuck is starting to take on complexity, and he wonders if that is just the road he is bound to travel for life.

"You wanna 'nother?" Dilated pupils, and easy grin from Xander, and Lindsey motions to the bartender.

As Xander drinks his beer, Lindsey begins to pry, just the slightest bit, delicate questions to try and see where this night might end up. He watches the line of Xander's throat as he tips his head back and swallows, and decides that even if there's no apartment to end up in, the back of the truck might work out just fine.

"Do you live around here? In Oxnard?" Xander is peeling the label off his latest bottle of beer and watching the half-light flash off the face of Jay's watch. Heavy, steel and or probably titanium, bulky, and somehow obviously expensive in a way Xander can't quite name. Thinks that's odd, worn flannel, denim and leather matched with a thousand plus dollar watch. Weird guy.

"No, LA actually." Lindsey looks away, glances at the stage where another dancer is down to nothing but a g-string and a sheen of sweat. He's not even vaguely interested, though. Not with Xander sitting here and leaning closer as they talk and practically begging to be taken off and fucked senseless.

"You live with your parents?" He runs his left hand through his hair, and watches Xander's eyes follow it. The watch. A lawyer trick, something shiny and expensive to draw the eye and distract an opponent. It works well with demons, too. Turns a more appraising eye on the boy. No visible scales or horns, and this job really bit him in the ass at the WRONG time.

"How young do you think I am?" Xander blinks once, a little slower than usual, thanks to the beer and the heat and maybe the way he always slows down when he gets hit with the rolling wave of *want* that's currently washing over him. "Wait, don't answer that."

"I wasn't going to."

"Good. No parents. Just me."

"You want to go to the place where your parents aren't?" Swinging 'round so he's facing the boy, knee bumping thigh. Push the wavy, sable hair back from the front of the ear facing him. Can't resist. Compulsion. Wonders if this is Alexander Lavelle Harris's first pick-up. Maybe he's one of those "experimenting" gen-Yers. And that isn't something he cares about, but even the alcohol won't numb his thoughts anymore, so he reaches back out and strokes a finger down the side of the clenched jaw maybe a foot from his face.

Xander just leans into it, thigh rubbing knee, scratch of stubble on Jay's finger as the space between them becomes much less than 12 inches. Xander gets a good up close look at blue, blue eyes// blue like mountain lakes on nature shows, blue like the satin of Faith's bra// and the faint shadow of beard, puts his own finger out to touch that unbelievably pouty looking lower lip. Breathes out his answer so quietly that Lindsey can hear him *under* the crowd.

He's not normally one for PDAs, always been a little inhibited in his own way, a quirk of the bible-thumping up-bringing, shame and taint he still sees lingering in sex and desire, especially when it comes to sex and desire for other men, but he just can't NOT. Whips his head to the right, snatch at Xander's wrist and sucks the questing finger into his mouth. Sees half-lidded eyes drop rapidly closed and tightly drawn mouth slacken to open. He also knows this night is going to be a long one.

The warm, wet suction on his finger creates an amazing electric path right to the root of his cock, and Xander forgets to breathe. It's not until he realizes he's light headed that he takes a shaky gulp of air and opens his eyes to see that Jay looks just as stunned. He licks his lips and resists the urge to ask him to do it again. There's all night for that.

A new song kicks up, a new dancer coming up on stage, and Lindsey slides off his stool languidly. "I think that's our exit music, don't you?" He reaches into his back pocket, pulls out his wallet and throws a couple bills on the bar top.

"Good call." Xander follows him, thinks for a minute of his locker in the back, the things he has in there, and decides that all he needs right now are the keys to his apartment. He slips his hand into his pocket, adjusts himself casually as he makes sure the keys are indeed where he put them, and follows Jay through the club and out the door. Steadfastly ignores the raised eyebrows and smirk on the bouncer's face as they walk past him, and hopes that Jay has parked somewhere far away from the front door so he can exercise a little of his size advantage and shove him against the car. He needs to get a taste of that mouth right *now.*

Lindsey listens to the sound of the rocks under his boots echoing loudly in the parking lot. The sky is overcast, and he can feel the pressure in the air of the gathering thunderstorm. He slows down a little to let Xander catch up with him, turns to watch the boy's movements, and is shocked by the suddenness of metal through denim and cotton on his back. He loses his breath when plum-colored lips meet his and muscle, bone and a wall of lust pins him against the minivan. He lets it happen. He never gets the chance to live in the moment, let someone else take the upper hand now-a-days, he wants to feel the current pick him up and carry him along.

Xander's hands are cupping his face, and instead of the eager clumsy attack he was expecting, Lindsey finds himself being tasted, savored, slow and thorough exploration. Soft lips, warm hands, hard body, and Lindsey is swept up and thrown headlong into thoughtless desire.

He presses his hips forward and yanks Xander against him by wedging his hand into the boy's back pocket, feels the smile twitch on the lips that leave his mouth to travel down his neck. His body is on fire, his stomach clenching and spinning, and this is the need and falling want of youth, something he thought was crushed and bleeding some place far from here. His earlobe is lapped by a dexterous tongue and sucked into a velvet mouth, and he can't keep the sigh inside "Xander."

"I like the way you say that," words whispered, tickling Lindsey's ear with breath, following it up with a nuzzle into the crook of his neck, soft skin and worn cotton smelling of some sharp cologne.

Xander makes a move to drop to his knees, and Lindsey catches his waistband. He glances over his shoulder at the door where three men are stumbling out into the parking lot, hooting and catcalling at the two of them. "I don't think here is the best place."

Turning around, catching the way the trio seem intent on causing trouble, Xander has no choice but to agree. "Right. Car?"

Lindsey leads him down the row of cars to a primer colored behemoth of a pickup truck.

"I don't know, Jay. For some reason I thought you'd be a Dodge man." Xander grins loopily at him and Lindsey feels something sweet and hot roll over in his belly. "Junior? I guess that wasn't a joke."

He lets out a half-laugh, reaches his fingers out to grab the passenger handle, and feels the shorter man press flush against his back, hand riding down his stomach to stop against his fly. "You'd be surprised what this truck has seen."

The taller man puts his hand over the one hovering at his zipper and presses it against him, pushes back, half turning and lets himself feel the same hardness against his hip. . "So surprise me."

One head lunging up, the other down, and the kiss is insatiable on both ends, tongues and teeth and sighs breaking free. Fingers on handle, and door flung open, two bodies falling back against the seat, half lounging, but there has to be a breaking apart, because the truck's high, and a step is needed.

Half panting, trying to get a grip, Lindsey asks, "How far to your apartment?" and prays the answer is less than a mile.

"Three..." Xander gasps out.

"Miles?"

"Blocks."

"Get in the truck, Xander."

He pushes off, and walks to the other side. The shortest distance is often the longest. Refuses to look through the wind shield at Xander. Needs the twenty second respite to collect himself, roll himself back into the tight ball that is Lindsey MacDonald. Hasn't felt this come undone in so long he can feel anger and fear at the periphery of his mind. Flings open the driver's door, stabs the key in the ignition, and leans into the long, strong fingers threading through his hair. "Which way?"

Has to turn and look when there's no immediate reply, so used to the instant response he gets at work, and gets instead another kiss that makes him floor the gas peddle and flood the engine. Xander breaks off, looks at him seriously. "You flooded it." Cocks his head and says, "We'll have to wait a minute before -"

But Lindsey is on him, slipping across the seat to shove Xander back against the door, one hand hooked in his belt loop, the other tangled in the damp, dark curls. As if he expects Xander to try and escape. As if the boy isn't pressing up into him, groaning at the friction when heat meets hardness. The man on top rolls his hips once, twice, shudders at the sweet sex-need sounds coming from below him. "Think we can wait that long?" he whispers before swooping down and kissing Xander long and deep and rough. Out of control.

The sounds of the three men who had interrupted them earlier are suddenly far too close, and Lindsey freezes, feels Xander tense under him. He lifts his head, sees the group of them wandering up the row of parked cars in the waxy artificial floodlights, apparently completely clueless as to what they actually arrived in tonight. He waits for them to pass, feels Xander breathing under him, takes the moment to calm himself. This is something to be enjoyed, not just a parking lot fuck with some jaded hustler who'd pointedly not-ask for a tip when they finished. He allows himself to grin down into the flushed face, sees the wrinkle of concern smooth out of his forehead. Takes about three seconds to admire the swollen mouth before he brushes his own against it in a teasing, almost kiss.

Lets his mouth brush and plain against the other, nips and light skip of his tongue, and Xander is right there with him, gentling his movements and falling into the new groove that isn't so much like two total strangers whipped into a frenzy anymore, and a whole lot like a first, needy make-out between equals.

He settles his hips, and slides his erection into the groove next to Xander's own and starts a steady thrust he can't stop. A pained gasp, and he leans up to unbutton and unzip the larger man. "Thanks, hurt." Vibrations against his lips as Xander tells him what he already knew.

Lets his hand slip down between them, fingers trailing against the heated length of Xander's cock under the thin, wet cotton of his boxers. Watches his face as he takes the head between finger and thumb and just holds.right.there. The reaction is all he could ask for as Xander gasps and bucks his hips helplessly, mouth open and wet and beautiful.

"Can't wait?" Lindsey whispers to him, Xander whimpers and shakes his head nonono. "Do you want to wait?" and that makes Xander's eyes open.

"Is there something happening here where saying yes is important?" Xander has spent a lot of time around women, most of his life as a matter of fact, and he is open to nuance, he is all about the nuance, and the way that Jay is looking at him, the need and the want he sees in the bottomless blue eyes has a lot more to it than the need to put his tab in a slot.

Lindsey's face has lost the hard lines of self control. Now it's open and softer, somehow gentle as he takes clever fingers and dances them against the bare skin of Xander's belly, exposes more flesh as the shirt is pushed up and up and up until it's bunched under his chin and has his head lowered to taste the whole expanse of it. Licking the dark hair below his navel, trailing up to lap at a nipple that hardens instantly, unexplored erogenous zones being made known.

Xander reaches his right hand out and twines his fingers in Jay's hair, tugs just enough to get his face up into his own. "What about the waiting thing?"

"I didn't know if you'd decided yet." Arched eyebrow over heavy-lidded eyes.

"Do you want to? Wait I mean?"

"If I didn't want to wait, I'd be on the highway headed south by now." Simple truth, Xander feels it, he's not playing at being the romantic here. Whoosh, a sudden dropping sensation, and Xander feels the clutch at his stomach, the Fear. The big one. The what if there isn't anything to wait for? What if tonight is the last night? The last few moments before the end of the world.

"OK, three blocks. Don't flood it this time."

Lindsey slowly slips back to his side of the truck, runs a hand through his hair and watches Xander sit up and try to tuck himself back into jeans that are too tight.

"You don't really have to bother buttoning up" Those unbelievably sexy lips tightening up into a leering grin, and that makes him flush, hot wave from head to toe, realization that he's five minutes away from getting Jay in his room, in his bed, bare flesh and open mouth and hands everywhere they want them to be. And he doesn't want him to know this is the first time this has happened, doesn't want to appear unskilled or inexperienced. Wants to be the normal guy who picks up other guys all the time, but he hasn't really gotten around to that yet.

Lindsey watches him out of the corner of his eye as Xander directs him - left here, left again, end of the street, park there - and sees his nervousness in the way his hands shake as they rest on his thighs. Wonders if this is his first time picking up someone, wonders if this is his first time with another man. And he surprises himself by actually caring about the answer.

"You know, not to belabor the point, but about the waiting thing, we could wait longer than just until we get to the apartment." One last pointed direction, and Lindsey is pulling the truck into a parking place.

"Second thoughts?" Xander looks at him curiously.

"No, just...don't want you to think that you have to do anything here that you don't want to do. I feel like a sleaze enough of the time." Xander can see the other's jaw clench, doesn't press the personal moment.

"Does this feel like I don't want this to happen?" Takes Jay's hand off of the wheel and presses it against himself, lets him feel how hard he still is; holds it in place and bucks once, twice, can't help himself, feels wanton, likes it.

Lindsey leans down abruptly, mouths him through the boxers, tongue tracing a hard line up to the head, then letting the heat of his breath envelop it. Even through the material, it's enough to bring Xander screaming to the edge. "Stop," he groans out, and Lindsey raises his head.

"Stop? Or wait?" He grins, wicked in the dark.

He sees the desire he feels reflected back at him, and knows it's real, not feigned, not pity, just simple want. Grips the back of Jay's head and pushes him back into his lap. Slide of petal-soft fingers on his hips shoving the elastic down just far enough for his cock to bob out, lips, tongue, all of it so fast he can't get a hold of that place where reason and thought are. "Neither, actuallll....ahhhh, yessss!" and he can feel mouth and throat muscles constricting, fingers digging into his hip, and he can't wait for the next part of the night to start.

=end pt 1=

Chapter Text

Years of being able to pick up a routine and then go to autopilot have served Xander well. It's not his only vice, but it's a safe one to hang onto. First high school, buzz of classroom noises the soundtrack to his own internal thoughts as he buries his face in the textbook and looks intent. Doodles diligently as if taking notes. Gets ignored by the ones who only look out for troublemakers and obvious slackers. A good way to exist, it works for him and he sticks with it.

Every night at work since Thursday, he's been the Xanderbot, replacing the readin' and writin' with bumping and grinding, practiced smile on his face as he looks out over the women who don't register in his brain at all. He's all about the video rewind and catches himself zoning a little too far once in a while. Not good, not when the boss catches him doing it too and gives him the look that says it could be back to the kitchen and goodbye to the tips.

He finds himself staring in the mirror, flushed with the memory of the way he had gone completely off the deep end. Things he'd said. Things he'd asked for. Things he'd done over and over again.

//First minutes in the apartment, dark room, Jay kicking the door shut behind him and just pressing him against the wall. That full and amazing mouth covering his own, tongue teasing, licking and retreating, light kisses on his throat, up to his ear.

"Xanderrrrr..." purred out in a tone that makes him shudder and grip Jay's arms. Hard roping muscles under the fuzzy worn flannel. Jay grinding his hips into Xander's, rough bump of denim against the bare skin his hands are uncovering, pushing his jeans down his hips until all he can feel is how hot those hands are against him. Then they are tracing the line of hair from his navel to the tight curls at the base, cupping his sac, making him moan again and again.

Harder than he's even been in his life, painfully hard, throbbing with the need to writhe and pump and...//

With a total stranger.

Doesn't know which wigs him out more - leaving with the guy and taking him home //home, where you live, you asshole, you don't know him//... or how much he wants to see him again, to see if it was something. Anything.

He's so far into the fantasy one night on stage as he does the usual thrust and writhe that he gets half way to hard before he can control himself. It was the rhythm he was using, the way it made his hips buck, like it had that night when Jay was on him. In him.

//Later, in the bedroom, naked, finally both skin to skin. Kneeling on the bed, Jay pressed tight behind him. His mouth, oh god his mouth was so soft, so wet and hot, and right there on his neck. Jay's hand across his chest, the other stroking him slow and slow and just perfection, in time to the way his cock slid in the cleft of Xander's ass, not inside, just rubbing, getting him used to it, making him want to open and spread wide and take it inside...//

"HARRIS!"

Xander startles violently, nearly falls off the steps at the side of the stage, sees the manager motioning him over to the dressing room doorway. He ducks his head, threads his way through the press of girls who are doing their best to molest him in their drunken and gleeful lust. It doesn't help the situation at all, and he's still halfway at attention when he gets to Bob.

Tries to look him in the eye and pretend there's nothing going on that shouldn't be. Wills the erection away and is not surprised when it refuses to cooperate.

Bob opens the door, and Xander steps through into the relatively quiet dressing room. He's missing prime tip collections, and knows this is exactly the part of the punishment that works so well with the other dancers when they fuck up. If he's lucky, he'll get a quick lecture and get back out in time to get a few dollars stuffed in his g-string before they close up for the night.

"So Chris tells me you left with some hick the other night."

Not a good start, and who does this guy think he is, his *dad*? "Should I have brought him in to meet you before we had our date?" Doesn't want to be snarky but can't help it. This is invasive and embarrassing and he wants to be yelled at and get it over with.

"OK wiseass. Obviously you've met the dick of your dreams. Fine by me. Just do us all a favor and save the wood for home, OK?" Tosses something to Xander, who catches it instinctively.

At first he thinks it's a condom, it's the same size and he feels the round ring against his palm.

//Sight of Jay unrolling the condom over himself, not looking at what he's doing but watching Xander's reaction. Groans when Jay leans down and spreads his thighs wider, knows he's shaking and can't help it. Need and want and terror and oh, godthat'ssofuckinggood when the first finger slips inside of him. Jay's blue eyes are dark, Xander is hypnotized by the depths. Eager for the next finger that slides in. So patient, so gentle, and he thought that it make him feel stupid because he doesn't know what to do. But he does know, or Jay knows how to make him.

"Right there." Not a question, just a growled statement Jay makes before his fingers slide in a little more and touch *something* - some magic spot that makes Xander gasp and buck up off the bed. Jay is actually biting his lip, and somehow that's just as good as what he's doing with his fingers. Xander realizes Jay is almost crooning to him while he slides in and out and more and more, steady stream of that whiskey rough voice: "Yes, yes, god, baby, right there, I want it to be good, tell me it's good..."//

Looks down at his hand and sees the package contains a black elastic cockring.

"You don't go on stage without it again, got it?" Bob is leaning back against the desk, arms crossed, still doing the uncomfortable dad-like thing.

He feels himself blush, hot and red and is this not *the* most embarrassing moment of his entire life? //Yes, folks, we have a winner, I am now officially mortified// but Bob is saying something else, and he missed it in all his self indulgent internal ass kicking.

"Huh?" he says, winces at the way he knows the manager is going to ream him. Wonders if he'll want a drug test, if he'll think he's doing what some of the others do before the show.

But Bob passes his hands over his face, scrubs it and then drops both hands to his hips. He looks sort of Ozzie Nelson all of a sudden, like he's going to put an arm around Xander and tell him about the importance of lubrication in anal sex, and the proper way to wear a cockring. It would not be the least bit surprising if this indeed occurs. It's been weird like that for Xander since...

"I said do you know how to put the fucking thing on?"

OK, a little too close to what Xander had pictured and he suppresses a grin. "Yeah I know. I think I got it."

"Good. Get dressed. Go home."

"Home? Come on, Bob, let me work the rest of the show. I'll be the perfect gentleman. The perfectly flaccid gentleman, I swear to God."

"No way. You need a cold shower, and this'll teach you to jerk off before you come to work tomorrow." But there's no venom in Bob's reprimand, and Xander didn't really expect to get away with it. And he's not flaccid guy either, so there's nothing to do but go get dressed.

Grabs his clothes from the locker and heads into the dirty little bathroom, tosses the package into the sink while he changes. Strips off the flimsy piece of lycra and can't help but notice how heavy his cock feels. Strokes himself once, presses the length hard against his own belly and sees a single drop of clear fluid peep from the slit.

Wants so badly to have Jay's mouth there again, hot and wet and *knowing* how to make Xander rush right to the edge and linger. Closes his eyes and remembers the truck and resists the urge to stand right here and just lose himself in the memories until he comes all over the floor, imagining his own hand to be Jay's stroking him slow and sure and easy.

Shuddering, Xander turns to the sink and tosses the package over his shoulder. Turns on the cold water and puts his whole head down there, lets it run over his hair and his face and into his open mouth, until he gets a headache from the sharp chill, and he can stand up again. Dries his hair and his face with the scruffy old towel he keeps here. While he's going through the motions of dressing himself, he tries to think of Jay and what he was all about.

Why did he come all the way up here from LA? LA, land of weirdness, and the guy needs to drive to a small town to get a pick up for the night? He's a smart guy, too; kind of rough around the edges but still way more polished than Xander is. His accent comes and goes, Xander noticed that right away. The more they talked, the more they touched, the heavier it got. Like he worked hard to keep it from showing all the other times.

He wishes he knew more about him. What he did, who he *was* and he really wishes most of all that he had been able to somehow thank him for, well, everything.

But Xander had passed out in a state of sexual exhaustion and wasn't surprised that he woke up alone. No note.

And that's cool, or so he tells himself. It was a one time thing. A random pick-up and a fucking amazing time was had by all, thank you very much. They guys will keep riding him about being a slut for another week or so and then someone else will fuck up and they'll have a new target, and life will roll along.

Right? Right.

Only he really *liked* the guy. Felt something like a weird connection of some sort, and maybe that's why he doesn't feel sleazed out about the whole encounter. And why he finds himself hoping that Jay shows again. To see him. He doesn't really expect it - Xander's well versed in not setting himself up too high for the usual disappointments life deals him - but he knows that next Thursday he'll be looking for Jay in the crowd.

=====

"Did you go over the Harmon account? You know, that brief has to be on Leland's desk by five, and the way you've been slacking I don't think it will be there. Hell to pay around…"

"Could you spare me another pun, Lilah?" Lindsey looks up from the stack of papers and the law review open in front of him and has to suppress his homicidal impulses. On a normal day he would be annoyed by her presence, but the fact that she was jerking him out of yet another fantasy involving his newest fixation brought out the urge to smother her with her own Armani jacket. He loathes her, and if he could hire himself for defense, she wouldn't be standing here now. Quicklime, an ax, and a creative alibi, and his life would be so much more pleasant.

"I don't need you looking over my shoulder every five minutes hoping I go down in a blaze. Next time, knock." He doesn't even watch her huff out. Goes back to his dreamscape, all pink lips formed into an 'O' of ecstasy, grunts of contentment, and supple limbs.

He knows this might be the deep end of the pool. It's not the first time he's been in this place wondering why he cares for someone he doesn't know from Adam, treading water and trying not to go any deeper. Knowing his pattern doesn't change the fact that he can't let go of the image of that long neck arched, thick head of black hair thrown back and the long, low moan echoing against the bedroom walls. Or of the admission given some short time before.

//"Am I doing this right?" black hair falling across one eye, face peeking up from between his legs, Lindsey just wants to shove him back down, force his cock back in his mouth and get back to that edge he was just standing on.

"Huh? Yeah. Great, baby, you're doing great…" Sheepish grin, shy and guarded, and Lindsey KNOWS. Should have known from the start. Wishes he could just go back and start this all over again.

Grips his fingers in the boy's hair and tugs just a bit when the move is made to start the rhythm right back up.

Can't look him in the eyes. Too intimate a moment for strangers. Rests his head against the back of the chair.

"Is this the first time you've done this?" Forces the words out, his back tensing up, embarrassed for himself and for the other man as well. And he wanted to not have to ask. Wanted to make this simple and easy, like the rest of his life wasn't. But that just never was him.

"Yes. Is it bad?"//

Keeps replaying that loop over and over. Intersperses it with his own first time with a guy: the back of his daddy's Caddy, maroon velvet upholstery looking like some kind of cat-house, the feel of Claude's mouth on his own after way too many beers and their girlfriends ditchin' them "For people who aren't total losers!", the waxing moon overhead casting the world into long lines and shadows. Couldn't imagine anyone's first time not being like that until Thursday night. And now he knows he was someone else's first. Can't shake it. It should mean something, but what that is, he's not sure.

What he is sure of is the way his cock is aching hearing his boyhood name rolling off Xander's lips again and again in his mind.

Flips the intercom button. "Hold my calls for a while, Jenny, and make sure Lilah Morgan doesn't come in here unannounced."

Wants to pop his pants open and jack off slow and steady to the barrage of Xander images he has going on right now. Knows they have cameras in his office. Considers giving them a show anyway. Moves on to his other, non-sex thoughts of the boy. The kind of thoughts that makes him feel sympathy for the stalkers and panty-sniffers of the world: his elaborately constructed world of Alexander LaVelle Harris.

Sees him with his normal, average family. Ranch house and blue minivan. Dad a school teacher, mom a dentist. Kid sister and maybe a little brother. Football or swim team in high school. Vacations at Disneyland or the Grand Canyon. Part time work during high school at a grocery store or Burger King to pay the insurance on the car his parents bought their oldest son.

He can see it all. Probably has a cheerleader girlfriend at home packing up to go to USC or UCLA wondering where Xander is, and why he hasn't called for weeks. Knows the dancing job is one of those side-lines of youth. It's not the kid's destiny, that was for sure. He was out of place in that environment. Fish out of water, and that was what had attracted him in the first place. He just needed the space to find himself, and that brings Lindsey to the part he is really interested in. What was Xander hoping to find?

Lilah barging in again disrupts his little obsessive interlude, and he wishes he had taken his dick out after all. That's what she'd rather be riding than his ass anyway.

"It's 4:45! Jenny said…." He grabs his briefcase and his notes and zones out the rest.

++++

He considered leaving. He considered not coming at all. He also considered a lobotomy somewhere along the way. Instead, he just keeps sitting here in the dark outside Xander's apartment. All the reasons he shouldn't be here are cataloged and alphabetized by now, and they don't seem to be making a dent in his overwhelming NEED to be right here right now. The itch of compulsion, he's learned to live with it, but sometimes it still gets the better of him.

//One hand fisted in his hair, the other pressing into his lower back so hard he knows there'll be five oval print marks in the morning, owning this minute, this glide of flesh on flesh from lips to toes, this suckling of bruised lips and swollen tongues.

Pulls his face back enough to get a mental imprint of Xander, lips parted, eyes closed, face flushed to shocking pink, and he can't just fall back on his nature as a genuine asshole and take his body where it wants to go. Wants to, but can't.

Brown eyes, gold in the center, staring up at him, curious why the friction of cock on cock and mouth on mouth has ceased. Tick, tick, and the expression is starting to lean toward fear, alert to any mood change Lindsey might be about to throw.

He pulls up a little smile for reassurance, fills his lungs. "We don't have to do anything you aren't comfortable with." Whoosh, and he finally said it. Wills the kid to hurry, speed it up, tell him which kind of getting off there will be so they can get down to it.

"I want you to fuck me." Point of vision averted to somewhere around his nipple, but eye-contact is way more commitment than fucking. And Lindsey isn't interested in commitment here.//

His ass has gone numb from the wrought iron of the railing under him. Feels like he's about to break from the wait when he sees the boy walking up the steps to his door. Lets his eyes travel over the soft curls against the nape of his neck, the veins on his arms catching the light from the neighbor's window.

The low hum is winding its way through his system, and he knows he might fuck Xander into the concrete on the landing in front of him.

Xander's all wrapped up in his thoughts as he strolls up to the door and snatches his keys out of his pocket. He sublimates the urge to glance over his shoulder to the place where Jay's truck had been last night and, instead, concentrates on getting the right key into the lock.

"Xander." Lower, raspy, voice with elongated vowels sounds, and Xander's entire body is ready to fight or get the fuck away.

The keys hit the pavement, and Xander tries to decide if he peed on himself or not when he realizes it's not a vamp that knows him personally. Thinks that's a big no.

Jay standing about two feet to his left, dressed in an unexpected way, and that's not what he should be thinking about, the fact that Jay appeared out of nowhere and might be stalking him, priority. The half-undone tie, tussled hair and open, navy blue jacket shouldn't be making him rock hard. Authority figure fetish. No, please, make that idea go away. But not Jay, he can stay.

The blond man leans down and picks up the keys, hands them to Xander, and without warning pushes him right onto the door, hand in his hair pulling him down into a bottomless kiss that makes Xander's stomach roll over in a lazy, dizzy swirl of lust.

Xander's hands catch in the fine linen/wool blend of the suit jacket, and his mind goes wandering down the path of stalker-serial-killer-psycho until he realizes he's kissing back, pulling Jay in hard against him, and maybe having a stalker wouldn't be that bad if this is what he gets out of it.

Lindsey knows he's not following through with the "quiet chat" plan, and some part of him says to at least wait until they get behind the door into some kind of shelter to shuck the kid out of his clothes and swallow him whole. But the rest of him is busily working on getting all that well-toned, beautiful body bare of clothes and under him, around him, right now. Heat of his skin, taste of his mouth driving Lindsey right off of the path of common sense, and he doesn't give a fuck.

A car rolls down the street, and the headlights flash briefly. It's not a direct strobe on the two of them, but it's enough to make them pause. Xander's hands shake as he relaxes his grip on the lapel of the jacket and lets Jay stroke his hair for a minute.

"Can I come in?" Lindsey asks, quiet and intense, like he half expects the answer to be no and is all set to provide a few dozen reasons why it has to be 'yes.'

As if the way he's still pressed against Xander isn't enough of a reason.

"Yeah, of course." Jangle of keys again as Xander finds the right one and turns to fit it into the lock. Lindsey follows the movements with his own body, deliberate and constant brush of fabric over tense muscles. Nestles himself behind the boy, one arm around his waist to keep him close, inhaling the scent of him. Sees his hand shaking as he tries to work the keys, and puts his own over Xander's to steady it, guide the key in, turn the handle, muscle on muscle from chest to back to arm to arm, and they are both slipping to the mindless place through the incessant contact.

The door opens and they're in, keys ripped out of the lock, black mark on the door from the harsh kick Lindsey deals it to close them in here and lock the night out. The keys hit the floor with a loud jangling clatter that's drowned out by the sounds of their harsh breathing and softer groans.

Lindsey's hands are quick and sure as they strip Xander's clothes away. His motions are echoed as best the other man can, pushing the jacket from his shoulders and tugging the tie all the way loose. They both complicate things by trying not to break apart at all. If the clothes would just dissolve and leave them naked immediately, life would be perfect right now.

Finally, finally, bare skin, and they are stumbling towards the bedroom, expensive suit tangled with old cotton t-shirt in a pile by the front door, all fabric having the same destiny in the heated rush to touch and lick and join.

Lindsey insists on keeping them pressed together, mouth everywhere he can reach on Xander's skin, lapping and nipping, fingers digging into the flesh above his hipbone, leaving the boy moaning at every step as the awkward gait makes their cocks bump and rub together, both already wet with need and want.

Through the bedroom door and when they hit the bed itself, Lindsey turns, pulls Xander towards him, and they fall onto the rumpled piles of sheets and blankets with a grunt, Xander on top. He blinks down at Jay, a little shocked, mostly fuzzy from the adrenaline. Jay's eyes are heavy lidded and the same color as the suit he's left on the floor outside of the room, his mouth is red and almost bruised, wet and open. Xander leans up on his elbows, one hand easing into the tangle of Jay's hair, the other coming up to cup his face so he can run his thumb over the pouting lower lip. It feels like silk, unbearably smooth, and he *has* to lick it. Does just that, leans his head down and lets his tongue lap across it with a slow broad stroke. Travels over to his cheek, open mouth dragging over the rough brush of stubble to his earlobe. Questing tip of tongue in Jay's ear, lick round the rim, then nip to the lobe before sucking it into his mouth until Jay writhes under him.

Narrow hips thrusting up to meet the body held too far away, and Xander grins. Being in control is good.

Hovers his mouth barely off the skin of Jay's ear. "Tell me what you want, Jay. Say it out loud." Fingers at his lower back, and metal chaffing his skin there as Xander's hips are pressed down.

He moves his face back to look at the man under him.

"You can start by calling me Lindsey." One eye-brow raised, and the same corner of his mouth lifted. Chagrin? Xander hasn't ever been able to put that word to a face before now.

Back to his elbows, and that leaves him so right there in J…Lindsey's face that he can feel his breath on his skin.

Realizes he should have used a fake name too. Damn, out smarted again. He'll have to remember that whole thing.

"Lindsey? So, Junior and Jay, that's all part of the pick up thing?" Fingers on his back clenching.

"No, it wasn't a lie. People just call me Lindsey now. I thought, well, I wanted to hear you call me that." And Xander's heart changes rhythm for a few beats, because, really that is sweet and honest, and he is such a sucker and knows it.

"My name is really Alexander Lavelle Harris," he whispers before diving right back in for more of those crushed velvet lips and moans he's making happen.

Lindsey's body just melts, the wrong stress flooding out and leaving room for the sweet strung out tension of Xander's body on his. Letting his fingers trip and slide across the broad back, feeling the bunch and flex of muscle as Xander begins to move, to taste every part of skin bared to him. His face nuzzles into the curve where shoulder meets neck and Lindsey takes the opportunity to hook his leg behind Xander's knee and just hold him there. Heavy press of body covering him everywhere, more of Xander than there is of Lindsey, and he can just disappear right where he is, let himself become a part of the golden in Xander's irises, the freckles on his rounded shoulders, the swell at the small of his back that makes him shiver and close his eyes when Lindsey rubs it just. like. this.

His hand slides higher as Xander moves again, and now the skin is soft though the canvas is wider, spreading from the hips to the middle of his back. Xander's mouth in on Lindsey's chest, wet warm kisses that trail after the path his fingers take as they roam from smooth pale skin to the brown bud of a nipple that hardens and perks under the attention. One then the other, fingers here and mouth there, pinch and lick and suck.

Lindsey's almost forgotten about the way it can be when you discover someone new.

Then it's shoulders and neck under his well manicured hands as Xander slips off the edge of the bed and kneels on the floor, face buried in the pale brown tangle of curls. Looking up with open mouthed lust that makes Lindsey's cock twitch, makes him bite his lip to keep from gasping. He does gasp when Xander leans forward and takes the head of his cock between his lips, lets his tongue move over it and then backs away again. Teasing.

Wraps his hand around Lindsey's cock, holds it there, still and warm, wet and drooling precome on his fist.

"Christ, Xander..." Lindsey writhes in his grip, gets his feet on Xander's shoulders and uses the leverage to push up, back, up, fast and hard, fucking his hand. Hears Xander growling and opens his eyes to an intense stare, so heavy Lindsey can *feel* it burning him.

"Say it again, say my name," he breathes, strokes Lindsey's cock lightly, fist barely closed, just enough pressure to make the other man twitch and do just as he was told.

"Xander, Xander, Xander, Xanderxanderxander..." Almost chanting it as he arches again and again into the rhythm Xander sets until he has to grab the boy's wrist and make him stop, stop right there.

"Stop or wait?" Grins at him, and Lindsey laughs.

"Fair enough," he says before he reaches to pull Xander onto him again, fisting that silken hair with both hands and absolutely devouring the mouth the opens under his assault. Sweet tongue tangled with his own and Lindsey is in a state of pure bliss.

Drags his mouth from Xander's and breathes into his ear. "Do you want to fuck me tonight?"

Xander nearly comes on the spot. The press of Lindsey's hips against his, the voice in his ear, the thought of being inside of him, all too much to process at once. Terrifying in its power. He tenses, tries to control himself and can't. Groans out a strangled, "Yeah, I do. I want. I want to."

"Say it." Lindsey licks his earlobe, bites down, nuzzles into his ear. "Say 'I want to fuck you, Lindsey.'"

Xander grabs his face, presses his own down so they're forehead to forehead, nose to nose, features all blurred and out of focus. But his eyes are open when he says, "I want to fuck you, Lindsey." Shuddering deep breath, and again, "I want to fuck you. Lindsey." Kisses him slow and sweet, tongue licking the roof of his mouth, thoroughly and completely tasting him. "Lindsey." Whispers his name.

=====

Lindsey flips his wrist around so that his watch faces him. The luminescent face tells him it is far too late, and he is far too far from home. He sits up, and tries not to wake Xander.

"Leavin'?" He glances back over his shoulder and sees Xander taking in the situation.

"Yeah, I gotta be at work at 7." Xander rolls over on his side and follows Lindsey's movements as he rises and starts to head to the other room.

"Right, one of those grown-up, morning type jobs. Porpoise trainer?" And Lindsey has to laugh at that. Brings his rumpled, wrinkled, mangled clothes back into the bedroom and starts to get dressed.

"I gave all that up. Now I'm just a lawyer." Is not so shocked to see that Xander is shocked as hell. Not the first time he's seen that reaction. People always think he's in the rodeo for some reason.

"A lawyer? Ok, impressed over here." Huge smile, and Lindsey is glad Xander isn't secretly on the lam and scared of the law. Didn't want to have to go through that again.

He drags his battered wallet out of the inside pocket of his jacket and walks over to sit next to Xander on the bed. "Here." He hands the boy one of his cards, the ones with his home, cell, and work number on them. Hands him a pen and a second card and lifts his eye-brows.

"Wow. We're doing numbers. So, next time you're gonna call before you come by?" Looks down at the card and knows the paper is the best, the printing company expensive and the address all the more so.

"Will I be interrupting something if I don't?" And he never meant to sound jealous, but he thinks he might have.

"Right, I think we talked about all that before. I was just thinking of my cardiac health." Took the proffered pen and tried to remember his phone number again.

"Gonna give me a fake?" Lindsey is starting to look uneasy, and Xander thinks he might be high-maintenance guy. At least he's well trained to deal with that.

"Since you know where I live, that's not such a brilliant plan is it?" Lindsey relaxes in to self-effacing smile and shrugs. "No, I was trying to remember the area code here. I can't ever remember it."

"You aren't FROM Oxnard?" Surprised by that. His whole Xander-world might be wrong.

"No, from a little town you never heard of. Sunnydale." He hands Lindsey back the card with his number on the back and leans up to get in some more contact before the other man walks out.

"You're right, I haven't." Meets Xander's mouth half-way and tries to memorize every sensation to hold onto until next time.

=end part ii=

Chapter Text

*BEEP* //Xander, this is Lindsey. I don't know what your hours are at work, so, I have no idea when you'll be home, but I was just calling in case you were there. Which you aren't. Clever. That's me. Unless you screen your calls, but I'm going to ignore that option. Gimme a call.//

*BEEP* //Hey. I guess you're not home yet. I just had a marathon lunch with a client who I would rather not be in the same room with, much less seen in public with. Thought talking to you would be a nice pick me up. Oh well. Bye.//

*BEEP* //Are you scared yet? I swear I'm not normally like this. If you were to say, call me, I might stop leaving these messages. Ok, so you can't see that I'm kidding. But I am. Kidding. Oh shit, I'll just hang up now.//

*BEEP* //I know, you're shocked. There's an actual reason for all these humiliating calls. I was wondering if you wanted to get together this week. I was giving you that heads up. I suppose I might have gone overboard. Call me if you wanna hook up.//

Xander grins as he listens to the messages. Apparently Lindsey is a multimedia stalker kind of guy. It's endearing, in an almost paranoid kind of way. And it will make Xander giddy if he lets it. Gorgeous, sexy, smart lawyer guy is calling him all the time. Even when he knows Xander won't be there to answer. This must be how Cordelia felt her whole life - wanted and needed and special and, OK, in his case horny as hell.

He can definitely groove on the change in his social status.

Picks up the phone, looks at his watch, decides to chance the call. What would one more unleft message matter? Dials the number he already knows by rote. He's looked at the card so many times that it's already worn on the edges, lost its sharpness. He's traced the raised letters, 'Lindsey R. MacDonald, Esq.' about 500 times. He can see the whole card in his head when he shuts his eyes and visualises, like he does now.

Listens to the ring, ring ring and click, recites along to the message:

"I'm not in at the moment. Please leave your name, number and the time of your call. If this is an emergency, please contact my office." Formal lawyer-voice, no accent, but still rough and familiar to his ear.

No emergency, and no message, and what difference does it make? He probably has one of those high tech phones that trace the calls and leave the phone number, name, address, and blood type of the person on the other end anyway. There's no way he's calling the him at work. He called one time, or rather dialled the number and hung up in a panic before it even started to ring. He figures that when it's time for him to actually get in touch with Lindsey, the Fates will make it happen.

Either that or he'll get another surprise visit, and that would be most definitely of the good.

======

//You have 2 messages.// *Beep*

//Mr. MacDonald, I'm calling from the L.A. Times, and we'd like to offer -// *click*

Damn computerized phone solicitations, no way to get around them finding your private line with their pain in the ass random calling patterns. They should all be strung out by their necks for getting his hopes up.

//Lindsey, it's Lilah. I-// *click* Speaking of being strung by the neck.

She can't just limit the fucking annoyance to the office, has to bring her own special brand of glass-shards under his nails, fake camaraderie into his apartment.

Lindsey picks up the caller ID box and sees three calls came in while he was out. The last was a no message. Presses the button until the number he's been hoping to see shows up. Grins and dials one handed as he pulls his tie loose and tosses it onto the couch.

//ring, ring//

Dashing out of the shower, Xander grabs the phone right before the machine clicks over. "Hello?"

"Are you running from bill collectors?" There it is, clear this time without the blurry tape of the machine ruining the gravely, raw edges. Lindsey's voice, accent right back down on the farm.

"Actually, no, I was in the shower surveying the lingering damage from your last visit." Xander grins and sits on the bed, towel around his waist. He lifts the edge of it and peers down at the faint bruises on his thighs. Fingerprint sized bruises.

"Damage is not normally a positive description, but you didn't seem too upset about it at the time." Lindsey flashes to a bright-hot picture of Xander, lower lip between his teeth as he eases inside of him, feels a thump right in the pit of his belly.

"You've now witnessed the patented Xander way with words. Damage in a good way, the best way, the bestest way. Um, right, I guess you got the idea." Babbling, what he does best, and it's been a while since he felt this gleefully relaxed with someone, anyone. A feeling he could get used to, if he dared.

Laughter. "I got it. I was hoping you wouldn't hang up on me when I called what with the complete freak routine I pulled."

"No hanging. Besides, you would just call back. HA. Joke." Short pause as he flops back on the bed, soft grunt as he lands, which Lindsey can hear. "So, what's up?"

"I was thinking we might, as they say in France, have a date."

"A date. Hmm, like with the eating and the movie watching?" Sits back up slowly, because this is out of the blue. Completely unexpected.

"Or whatever you might want. Eating, movie watching, dancing, whatever." Lindsey does his best to use that well-practiced, lawyer control over his voice, keep the edge off of it. Casual, that's what this is. No big deal. Except for the fact that he's gripping the phone so hard that his fingertips are going numb.

"On the dancing, you are not wanting that one. Dancing, no. The rest, yes." And of course when he hears dancing, he thinks right away of work, of dancing in front of Lindsey and that's not something he can handle right now, no way, uh uh, and maybe he should look into some therapy because he knows that's not what was meant. Paranoia, thy name is Xander.

"Ok, no dancing. I'm not exactly twinkle toes myself, so you're saving me years of therapy on that one." Guilty jump from Xander when he hears Lindsey almost speak his thoughts. Tunes in to the rest. " I was thinking you could come down here. Maybe meet me at my apartment. If you wanted."

//Oh and that's not too pathetic// Lindsey thinks, as soon as he says it. Wonders what the hell happened to discretion and no commitment and only on my own terms.

"Wow. Sure, I'm off tomorrow, is that too soon?"

That's what happened to it, that eager puppy attitude, guileless brown eyes, soft mouth, hard body. Speaking of hard... Lindsey thinks out loud, says "Now isn't too soon."

Xander feels something melt, heat pooling from chest to cock in one long slow drip. His voice drops to match the other man's tone without even realizing it. "You know what to say to get the stomach-flip-of-doom."

"It might have been your lunch." But he's smiling, and Xander can hear it. And he's starting to get that eerie feeling where you feel like you've known someone all your life, even though you really don't know them at all " So, you got a pad and a pen, I'll give you directions."

"Pad, paper, I am on it." He takes the notes, precise directions, and wonders two things. How the hell am I going to get one of the guys to lend me their car? And what the fuck do I wear on a guy-date in LA?

==============

Absolutely refusing to look at his watch again, Lindsey glances instead at the chrome and glass clock on his wall. Pretentious. Why couldn't I have just bought things I liked? Next time, wood floors and deep, comfortable furniture, not all this Swedish, modernist shit. I wonder if he'll think I'm a complete ass. Or if he's coming at all.

Stood up, and it's been a long damned time since that's happened. 8:43. Shoulda been here at 6:30, and that means late. Even if Xander is one of those guys with the whole "creative" time keeping personalities, two plus hours is late. And Lindsey is, something. Panicky was the closest thing he could put a name to, and he didn't like being made to feel that way.

Then there's the buzz of the intercom, and the doorman announcing his guest, and fuck, he's here. Not dead, not stood up, here, in the elevator. Get a grip, MacDonald. All the same, there better be a good excuse

Opens the door hard, and Xander's standing there semi-dishevelled and possibly as panicked as Lindsey is himself. Not afraid to show it either, because he says it straight out.

"I was lost, and freaking, and it was all bad. Sorry."

"We missed our reservations." He knows he should try to smooth over the situation, but he hates missing appointments, hates being late, hates disruptions to his plans. Xander has no way to know that. Has no way to know why he's still tense, still not overjoyed to see him, so he reaches out and pulls him inside. Hello kisses might still be not quite right for this relationship, and right, he didn't realize until now that word even applied, but he opens his mouth on the one above him and tries to let everything in his mind bleed through.

Rush of relief through Xander because he is wound so tight over this event that he doesn't really know how to act. Until Lindsey pulls him in, and there's the tingle of skin and the smell of him. Taste and heat all clicking right through to permanently established paths, and maybe they don't need to go anywhere. Slightly disappointed that things kind of stop at the kiss, not what he's come to expect from the other man who is normally all rushed sex and breathless fondling, but the smile on Lindsey's face is as good as things get while they are still clothed.

Lindsey pushes back, walks over to the black leather armchair by the bar and grabs his jacket. "Ok, so, the romantic dinner is out, how about we head over to the Liquid Crystal for a drink and some finger food?" Open smile, and trying to be non-ruffled.

"Um, underage." Xander tightens his posture, and Lindsey realizes he is worried that he'll not be served, that it will be a "thing" and the night will be ruined. He might also still be put off by the whole not-so-well suppressed OCD incident.

"Not a problem. Trust me." Winds his fingers through the other man's and pulls the door closed behind them.

===========

The place is crowded but not uncomfortably so. Xander finds himself measuring the size of it with his own brand new gauge of the show turn outs. This is about a Wednesday night crowd. Tuesdays are dead, Fridays and Saturdays are packed, and is this going to be something he does forever now?

Shakes it off and gives a silent thanks to whatever deity made him ask some of the guys what the hell to wear to dinner in LA. After the more obnoxious comments ran out of steam, Steve led him to his locker and showed him some decent city garb. Took pity on him and *loaned* him the outfit when he saw Xander's face. Black ribbed turtleneck, black slacks, leather blazer. Boots, which he amazingly enough has on his own. He feels weird in the other guy's clothes, not himself, but when he sees what the other customers are wearing, he knows it's right. He looks like he belongs with Lindsey, who's wearing something far above the jeans and cotton thermals he'd worn on their first encounter. Slacks that probably cost more than Xander's monthly rent. Possibly two months'. Sweater that brings out the blue in his eyes, and a jacket that has to be custom made.

Xander glances at Lindsey, who surprisingly enough doesn't put any personal space between them when they get to the restaurant. His hand's on the small of Xander's back as they weave through the people and towards the bar. A few empty seats and they take two facing away from the door.

Lindsey says, "Beer?" with his hand already up to catch the bartender's eye, and when Xander nods he orders two Newcastles.

"Newcastle? I see now that you are all about the expensive beer."

"In public. One of those things I picked up along the way. After two they all taste the same. Did you want something else?" Hand half way up again just in case.

"What? No, no. Whatever you have, that's fine. Not to sound like I'm trying to copy you, or just...right, Newcastle is fine." Xander is still a little wigged from getting lost in a city that to him is the size of the entire state of California, and the whole first date thing isn't helping either. But Lindsey seems to be unwinding a little bit, he's looking at Xander like there's no one else in the room, and that's just fine. So fine, in fact, that Xander takes off the jacket and turns to lay it carefully over the seat next to him.

Lindsey admires the view of that long, lithe torso encased in the snug black shirt. Thinks, with no great need to rush it, of the rest of the night together, especially after drinks and food. Back in his apartment, and out of the sweater, and...right, say something. Now. "You look nice. Black suits you. Tight does too. But no clothes are fine by me."

"Blushing. Clothes and no clothes, and where are those drinks?" He's blushing, too, but it's dark enough to not be visible. He feels about 12 years old, and what the hell happens if the bartender comes down here and asks for ID when he brings the drinks?

Lindsey's knee brushes his then, not a press but just a touch. Slide over and back, like he knows that Xander is ready to trip and needs a grounding force. It works, Xander breathes out a long sigh and decides this is all pretty much all good with him. Beer on the way, food later, Lindsey here flirting with him in a way that makes him all kinds of glad he didn't give up when he got lost.

But there is some really tall chick giving them the eye for about 10 minutes now. "Do you know that lady?" Xander's voice is curious but not upset as he nods to a spot behind Lindsey's left shoulder.

Lindsey doesn't want to turn around. He knows already what the fates have in store for him. His entire body goes rigid, but he plasters a smile on his face for Xander, turns and sees Lilah stalking through the crowd towards them.

He faces back to Xander, alter to whatever is about to happen.

"Ignore anything she says." Sees the startled look on the boy and hopes he listens to him.

"Lindsey. Hi. Who's this? You already over that fling with the Latin boy? But this could be Latin boy number two, or maybe it's in the double digits." Sticks her hand out and Xander automatically takes it. "Lilah Morgan. I'm a colleague of Lindsey's." Her smile is huge and makes her face look like it's carved out of wax.

"Lilah, I don't think this is the time." Knows he has to get rid of her as soon as possible, play damage control with Xander, tell him whatever he can to soothe him and not give away too much about his work.

"Oh, right, I am interrupting the conquest. I hope you at least pay for dinner if you're not paying for the rest.Well, you know best how to handle your own vices." And he's trying to control himself, but his hand flies out on its own accord and the sound of it hitting her face is almost deafening even to him.

Lilah turns on her heel and stomps away not even gracing them with a parting remark as the image of his fingers around her neck pop into Lindsey's mind, all those desires he has regarding her coming to the fore when his sheltering place is blown away by her abrupt entrance and complete obliteration of his evening.

Xander's expression is unreadable. Lindsey knows that is the worst sign he could have gotten.

"Xan, I." Flare of anger at Lilah still high, and he stops himself before he says something stupid here and makes it worse. Should have known that back stabbing snake would turn up just when things were getting to be on the closer side of good for him.

"Do you regularly bitch slap your 'colleagues'?" He's gripping his beer in a clenched fist, his voice so tight, so cold that it doesn't even sound like Xander at all. Tilts up the glass, draining it almost to the bottom.

"Not that I don't want to, but no. She's jealous." That sounds forced and a half-truth to his own ears and knows it has to sound worse to someone else, but even if he wanted to tell Xander the truth, this bar is not the place to do it. Too many people, most of them staring at him now, and he knows that Xander is just as hurt as he is angry. Control of the situation is long gone, but Lindsey can't stop trying to fix it.

"Interesting take on the situation." Xander leans over and picks up the borrowed jacket, shrugs into it with a grace that is evident even in his anger.

"It's complicated, why don't we just leave? Maybe go back to my place and order in?" Lindsey's eyes are dark again, and the tight reigns are completely unraveling. Could this night have gone any further south than it has right now?

"Right, so you can get the benefits of the rest of the 'date'? So it can all go down like she just predicted? I don't think so." And Xander's on his feet and past Lindsey before the blond man can process what's happening. Split second reaction time, and he's chasing the boy down. Catches up with him close to the door and makes a snatch for him arm. Gets ahold with much more force than he intended and wrenches Xander around.

"You gonna bitch slap me now?" No anger there, just hurt, acres of it, tons of it, and Lindsey lets go, watches as Xander pushes his way through the front doors and out onto the street.

Disappears.

= end part iii =

Chapter Text

"Right, the black face, not the blue. Yes, that's the correct address, make sure it's there no later than tomorrow."

Flowers hadn't gotten him even a hang up, so he was switching gears, going for a gift that would last, be around a while, and maybe have a little resonance.

He should cut his losses and move on. Why did he give a damn if Xander was pissed off? He has cases to work on, a plot to kill Lilah to put the finishing touches to, that dinner at Leland's to worry about, this whole fiasco was taking up way too much of his energy.

"It's the temper that's gonna be yer downfall, boy." So far his mama had pretty much been on the mark about that. Time and again he reached out for something, and his anger surfaced, destroyed everything before he could take stock of the situation or prepare himself.

Loss of control always shatters his finely constructed world-view, his order in the chaos. He knows the nerves over having Xander over, the fact that he had even invited the man over to begin with //one night stand, Lindsey, remember what that means?//, and the missed reservations had set him up for the SOB performance at the bar.

Not that he didn't want to get in a few more licks on Lilah. But normally that would have never happened. He wouldn't have snapped like that. The trigger was knotting his stomach and amping up his stress as much as the fact that he had lost it in such a public place, and that Lilah would sure as hell get him back. He fucking smacked her because she was trying to goad him through Xander. She was hurting the boy's feelings to make Lindsey angry. And it worked. Way too well, he was sure she was thinking this morning when she had to put on extra concealer to cover the bruise on her check. That part of it was conflicting. He'd never hit a woman before, but she was hardly one, and sure, that was a rationalization and not even a good one, but she's Lilah fucking Morgan, and she would eat his liver if she thought it would get her a better parking spot.

Of course Xander doesn't have a damned clue about that. He doesn't know anything about his life, and it should stay that way for everyone's best interest.

=========

If he didn't know better, Xander would swear the morons he works with are setting him up. It is too perfect an opportunity for them to ride his ass for the rest of the time he works there, but he knows as soon he sees the look on Roy's face that it isn't a set up.

Flowers. Something exotic, flowers he's never seen before. They're deep, luscious, violet purple with spots of white, masculine somehow. Appealingly strange-looking and definitely expensive. Being handed to him at the exact moment that Roy pulls up to get him for the gym. He doesn't even bother to attempt to explain them away, he just tosses his bag in the backseat of the car, tells him to wait a minute, and dumps the whole thing in the neighbor's trashcan.

"Yo, man, what the fuck was that about?" Roy must be interested; he turns down the stereo so he can actually hear Xander's answer.

"I'm not a flowers kind of guy, what can I say." Stares out the windshield, not looking over at all, and it sucks to feel this way. Roy's been a friend to him since he started, teaching him the tricks and traps of the trade, and although it's just a surface kind of friendship, Xander still hates feeling like it's an effort to maintain it today. More fall-out to chalk up to the nightmare that was last night.

Three fucking hours to get the car, get the directions switched around and get back to Oxnard. Up the rest of the night alternating between being pissed and hurt and flashing back to the last time Lindsey was here. He could still smell him on the sheets, so Xander stripped the bed and laid on it staring at the ceiling. Must have drifted off sometime close to dawn, still wondering how Life could pinpoint Xander Harris' current location at any given time and send forth the forces of destruction to screw him over.

He hates that it matters to him that Lindsey has turned out to be some kind of freak. Right at the time Xander was hearing that evil witch talk about Latin boys and double digits and making that thinly veiled prostitute reference, while his already over wound system went springing up another notch at the palpable anger that Lindsey was projecting, he was still thinking that somehow it was going to be OK. This disaster of a night was going to be a test, and they were going to look back and laugh at how bad it all went that one night years ago when they were just beginning to date.

Yeah, hi, this is Reality. We want you back, stat.

Hit her, Lindsey had *hit* her, and that was so bad that there weren't even words for it. It was his dad all over again, albeit in a much more attractive package. And just no. No more abusive people, not for Xander, no way. Pushes aside the part of his mind that says 'you wanted to pop her one, too, she was being a bitch, admit it' and knows that he wouldn't have done it no matter what.

"Earth to Harris." It's Roy, interrupting his mental rehash and bringing him back to the present.

"Sorry. Zoning." Looks out and sees they're at the gym already.

"Look, I'm not the best one to be telling you this kind of shit, but whatever it was, whoever it was, just, you know, fuck 'em." Roy's leaning over to get his bag out of the back seat. "Not worth it to mess up your head."

"Right, that's what I'm going with. The whole not-worth-the-time plan of action." Xander attempts a grin, misses but hits something close enough to satisfy Roy. Grabs his bag from the where it sits on the seat beside him and rolls out of the car. "I'm already so over it, I forget what it was."

"It was the dickhead you drove to LA for." Roy doesn't even bother to look back, and that's when Xander knows it's going to be a long fucking day. He's thinking he's got ten minutes tops before everyone knows about the God damn flowers, and he'll never hear the end of it.

+++++++++

Lilah doesn't even look at him at the meeting. Fours hours of "strategy" on how to deal with the unraveling Malloy situation, and she doesn't look at him once. He saw her cheek when she looked over to answer a question from Royce in accounting about her expense account. Pancake makeup really doesn't hide bruises all that well after all.

He thought about apologizing, knows there's no point to it. She wants this, wants to have one up on him and a reason to fuck him over next time around. They both know it, and he's almost as pissed at himself for giving her the ammunition as he is guilty about the whole thing.

All the words he could have hurled at her have been whirling about in his head non-stop since he watched Xander storm away, and they're just no good to him now.

He fucked himself royally, just like always. Not only left himself exposed to Lilah's well-plotted revenge, but also possibly ruined any chance he had with Xander.

Sitting on his sofa listening to the leather creak with every movement to refill his cut-crystal tumbler with more scotch, he allows himself the luxury of fantasy. Imagines the night with no Lilah, then with no leaving his apartment to begin with. Plays over Xander waking up next to him in his bed and curling an arm around his waist. Sees breakfast and the parting when he has to leave for work "I'll be here when you get home." And that is far fetched even for the fantasy world, but it would've been nice all the same. Someone here to make the place less sterile, maybe a dirty sock on the bathroom floor or a crumb-filled plate on the counter, and it's been a long time since he's even had anyone stay the night.

It's ridiculous to him, the entire situation. So easily attached, the story of his life, and every attachment brings a new scar to his psyche. He knows that if Xander never calls him again he will carry the boy with him, all the recriminations and regrets for what never was.

Comes finally to the place where what he hates and regrets the most is him, being himself. Being Lindsey MacDonald.

====================

Wednesday night. Big crowd, all kinds of college girls who do a lot of drinking and groping and vomiting in the hall between the bathrooms. College Night sucks, because they drink up all their cash and don't tip, and that's why the guys make Bob promise to do it once every other month. Xander's first one and he hates it already.

Frank nudges him on his way to the stage. "Dude, college girls don't make you drive to LA. They'll do you in the alley."

"Oh you're a fucking riot, that's what you are." Xander flips him off casually as he leans down and tightens the laces on his boots. "And Bob says you're the Hall Monitor tonight if he catches you feeling up the girls again."

Frank swears, stomps onto the stage muttering something about not cleaning up anyone's puke and missing out on prime college tits. Xander grins; Bob could care less who feels up the willing girls. Walks to the corner bar for a bottle of water while Frank does his MTV Badass routine.

Stops dead in his tracks when he sees Lindsey leaning way over in the shadows behind Scott the bartender. And doesn't Scott suddenly decide he's out of white wine and hey, there's a case in the kitchen, so I'll be right back.

The initial rush of feeling keeps Xander rooted to the spot staring, listening to his own heartbeat thud along in his ears. He looks so edible, and Xander wishes so fervently that he had never driven down to LA, that he could be glad to see him.

Or at least he could admit that he *was* glad to see him, skin thrumming with the need to go over and get one of the full-body-contact kisses that ends with Lindsey's hands in Xander's hair and Xander's tongue in Lindsey's mouth. Sees himself doing it right now, College Night be damned, then he hears that sharp crack of flesh on flesh and remembers to be pissed.

Lindsey sees the rush of emotion go over Xander's face; the boy is nothing if not open with his thoughts whether he realizes it or not. Is relieved to see that at least part of the reaction he invokes is clearly discernible as pleasure and desire before it darkens and closes into anger and stubbornness. He wills the purgatory to end. To be able to not care or ever think about this kid again or for him to let him touch, caress, lick every available surface of his body. He couldn't stay away, four drinks, and he knows a DUI will never stick to him, so he was gonna be at the Fabulous Ladies Nightclub or die trying to be.

"You know I work here, right?" Too angry to care how dumb that rhetorical question is. He feels ridiculous, knows now that Lindsey saw him dance and that's pretty damn invasive. Doesn't matter that he's seen him naked and sweating and sucking his cock. Hates himself for going to that last particular situation.

"That was the general idea. Did you like the flowers?" Calm, calm, that's the operative word. Lindsey is being quiet, his movements are extremely minimized, like he was taught to do with any animal that he cornered. And he cornered Xander tonight, did it with full knowledge that the act put him at yet another disadvantage, did it anyway.

Xander crosses his arms, glad for the dark that hides the blush he feels creeping over his cheeks. "Oh, those were from you? I didn't read the card." Clipped tones telling the other man exactly how he's feeling.

"Right. I just wanted to come here in person and tell you how sorry I am." Takes a deep breath, sets his beer on the bar, forces himself to not step any closer to the wide barrier of personal space Xander has undoubtedly got going right now.

"Sorry you slept alone last night? Or did you?" Muscle twitching in his jaw, and this is just not the kind of conversation he wants to be having. Not here, and really not ever, and it's surreal to be fighting with the guy who fucked him senseless just days ago.

"Xander, it's not like..." Does move this time, steps about one foot towards him, hand on the bar-top sliding, and freezing when Xander steps back.

"Look, let's take this outside. I don't want to have this repeated to me word for word tomorrow." Turns on his heel, offering the lovely spectacle of his bare ass in the g-string as he heads for the dressing room, through it and out the back door. Lindsey's right on his tail, but not so close to miss the way the brighter lights hit the curve of muscle, the swell and dip on hips before Xander pulls sweats on raggedly, jerking them over the boots and turning to look at Lindsey. Who is trying hard *not* to stare at the way the sweats are too tight and the g-string just pulls everything... well, forward... because getting caught will most likely get his ass kicked right here in the parking lot

He clears his throat instead. "Could we start over? Please? Or maybe just another chance and I'll make it up to you."

Xander's already shaking his head no. "I don't date people who get mad and express themselves physically." And there's a shitload of sincerity in *that* statement, causing Lindsey to wince, mentally kick himself again. God damn Lilah and god damn his own fucking temper.

"I swear to GOD that was the only time I have ever done anything like that, and I know you don't believe me." Begging? Yes, fine. Begging is good, begging fits in right here like a piece in a puzzle. Fits in with the rest of the walking nightmare this week has been. He will humiliate himself in the parking lot of a strip club if the means Xander will just say yes.

"Yeah, you're right, I don't." Cuts him right off, completely, doesn't want to hear another single syllable.

"Xander." Tries to take his hand, touch him, make the connection, but Xander sees it coming and pulls back.

Reaching around to open the door, he doesn't even look at Lindsey as he says, "I wish as much as you do that that had never happened, but it did, and I can't just forget it. Just leave me alone."

++++++++

There was never even a slight chance that Lindsey was just going to leave him alone. He wasn't a violent guy. Maybe if this whole thing had been a fight over him working too much or having anger management issues, sure, he would understand and be pissed and move on //eventually//, but for it to end over something that was a fucking fluke, not gonna happen.

Besides, he already sent the watch. In for a penny, in for a pound.

Most of his day was spent looking over his shoulder for whatever Lilah had up her sleeve. She had come into his office around ten that morning acting like nothing had ever happened, and Lindsey had a momentary spark of hope that he was in an alternate reality, and Xander was about to call him. Then she turned her head, and he saw the mark. So, his nerves were shot to hell and back worrying that he would open his bottom draw and be bitten by a rattlesnake, step into the elevator and drop to his death, drain his coffee mug and realize there was an odd, lingering taste of bitter almond: the regular associate's worries at Wolfram and Hart.

Home again, home again, jiggidy jig for a shower and a change of clothes, checks the machine just to be sure, and is out the door again in under a half-hour. On the road to Oxnard after two more stops, and he's hoping Xander doesn't have a gun license.

++++++++++++++

There's something wrong with his alarm. It's going off like a doorbell. Ring and stop. Ring and stop. Damn, another thing to replace and right on top of having all of Steve's city clothes dry-cleaned.

Then it occurs to him that it *is* the doorbell because he didn't set the alarm. Tumbles out of bed in a rush until he thinks about who might be on the other side of the door. Peers out of the bad peephole with an eye still bleary from sleep, sees a really tall guy in a blue delivery uniform. Check, not the stalker/lawyer boy. Opens the door.

"Mr. A. Harris?" Fed-ex guy looks him up and down; Xander's not in the mood.

"Yeah. A. Harris, that's me. Let me guess. Paternity suit?" Neither one of them cracks a smile, and the guy hands over a box around the size of a softball. Xander takes it cautiously, wants to shake it but that seems a little Christmas-morningy. "My mail order bride is coming one piece at a time?"

"Sign here please."

Signs the electronic box thing that has replaced good old paper and pen, closes the door on Mr. Personality, and puts the box to his ear. No ticking. This could be interesting.

Sets it on the counter and looks at the brown paper. Sees the name of a shop in LA as the return address on the shipping label, but knew already it was from him. Has a moment when he remembers that crazy painter guy who cut off his ear and mailed it to his beloved, but thinks Lindsey might kidnap him and tie him to his bed before he actually started removing body parts to show his devotion.

Time to open it. Right, and what if it's something freaky? What if it's handcuffs, or a stack of naked Polaroids that Lindsey took of himself to let Xander know what he was missing. What if... what if he opened the damn thing and got it over with instead of being a lameass and playing games all day.

Crisp, sharp folds of paper crackle as he splits the tape and peels it away. Dark-blue box, shiny gold letters. Smooth, plush feel on his hands as he holds it and rubs it. Wants to smile, wants to throw it away unopened, wants to call him and tell him to fuck off . And hurry up and get here and be naked when he does.

No, not going there. Wrong to be with the guy who solves things with his fists. The pretty thing that's in this box is going back. Right now. Third class mail. Right after he opens it to see what it is, even though he knows the answer to that ahead of time. Cracks the box, and the lid swings open like the hinges are oiled. The little tag in front of the watch says "Patek Phillipe 5085/1a." The metal just gleams; the light in the room is attracted to it, makes it glitter on the black velvet lining.

It is without a doubt the single most expensive thing he has ever been this close to. More than just the usual clock information on it. It's got moon phases //hey, just what i need when I go back to Sunnydale, I can be Oz's back up guy// and another dial that serves no purpose that he can puzzle out without taking out the little book and reading about it. And that would mean touching it. He really wants to touch it. Wants to try it on at least once, knows it will feel heavy and cool and perfect on his wrist. Knows somehow it's the same kind of watch Lindsey wears //not exactly the same, that's too bizarre even for him, different face plate, same company// and this is some fucking amazing make-up gift. //Make up? No, no making up, I told him to leave me alone//

Resolutely shuts the box and puts it down gently on the counter, covers up the navy blue with the loose wrapping paper. And goes to take a long, long shower.

Several hours and many fondlings of the watch later, Xander is startled from his "Millennium" marathon on FX by a knock at his door.

"Sweet, another ass-kissing gift, maybe this time a car," he blurts out on the loud side as he opens the door without looking in the peek hole.

"I take it you got the watch then?" Lindsey, brown paper shopping bag in one hand, an armful of plastic bag on the other side, jeans and long-sleeved, baby blue t-shirt, and Xander realizes he hasn't slammed the door yet.

"Yeah, I got it." He sees the Rosses sitting on their balcony across from his door and sighs.

"Come in." He steps to the side to let Lindsey in and closes the door behind him.

"I didn't bring you a car, but I do have some food and drinks." He sets both bags on the couch and waits for Xander come over and look inside.

"Twinkies? You brought me Hostess goodness? How the hell... I don't want any answers to involve going through my trash." He is pointing and waving his finger in the air in mock seriousness, and Lindsey is almost to the point of tears at the relief of just being inside the apartment.

"I like Twinkies. I thought everyone did." Lindsey sits cautiously on the couch while Xander picks up the bags and puts them on the floor and continues to riffle through the contents. He's on the other end of the couch, but they're both sitting.

"And mucho alcohol. I see now how it is." Said around the twin of the first twinkie he's already devoured. "I hope you don't think you are forgiven. Because you aren't. I'm sending the watch back."

"Sending it back? Why don't you keep it? It doesn't mean anything." //Yes it does you lying sack of cowshit, it means something, I picked it out just for him, so keep it, he keeps the watch//

"No, I can't keep your gifts, it's not right." Pulls out a bottle of tequila, rummages again and finds limes rolling down there too. The tequila is vaguely chilly, was probably ice cold when he left LA.

"You could hear me out and then keep it." Lindsey watches as Xander gets up and heads to the kitchenette and rummages in a tiny little cabinet for glasses. Finds two relatively small ones, sets them on the counter next to the brown paper wrapper that covers the watch box again. He comes back in with the glasses and a small knife. Pulls the shabby coffee table over closer to him, moves aside the newspaper and slices into a lime with extremely controlled motions. Won't look at Lindsey as he says, "Do you really think you have anything to say that I haven't heard before? 'It won't ever happen again.' 'I couldn't control myself.' 'I'm so sorry, if she hadn't pissed me off, it would never have happened.'"

Lindsey runs a hand through his hair. "Fuck, Xander. I have never hit a woman before in my life, and I'm not your dad."

Xander hands Lindsey the huge shot of tequila he has poured. "Ok, so a little transparent on the personal angst there. You got the idea." Avoids even the remote possibility of their hands touching when the glass is handed off. Tosses him a lime, slides the knife down the table towards him.

Lindsey catches the fruit deftly, sets the lime down and quarters it. Plays the no eye contact game for just long enough to move the knife well away from Xander's reach. Then moves the table out and leans forward. Makes sure Xander is looking at him this time. "Yeah, I did. I'm sorry if you grew up like that, but I did too, so I know what it's like. Just hear me out about Lilah, please?"

"Talk all you want. The air's free." Gulp of liquor and a shudder when it goes down, then a bite of the lime. "Need salt. You keep right on talking." Gets up and heads out to see if he actually has any salt that isn't already in his junk food.

"Listen, Lilah and I are kind of like rivals at work. We work in the same department, and we compete for the best clients. She is a complete bitch, but I'm not exactly a saint myself. We take each other down whenever we have the opportunity. She crossed the line the other night. She was using you to get to me, and I never should have hit her, but I couldn't stand the fact that you might believe what she was spewing." Voice a little louder until Xander comes back in with a grimy looking plastic salt shaker and sits back down. Still at the other end of the couch, Lindsey notes. He drinks, too. Bites the lime, reminds himself that if he could kiss Xander right now, he would taste like lime.

"You're saying that she's always like that?" Not watching the way Lindsey's jaw works as he swallows and bites, licks the juice from the corner of his mouth. Not at all.

Lindsey sighs. "I'm saying that's not even the worst I've seen."

"Hm, I know someone like that myself. My ex." Look the glass is empty already. Xander leans up and pours again. Sits back not quite as far into the corner of the couch, licks the skin between his thumb and first finger and pours on the salt.

"Lilah wishes she could get the opportunity to be my ex." Lindsey's gaze is riveted. Thinks to himself: Is he doing this on purpose? Goading me into doing something stupid? He has to know how he looks... that mouth, his tongue.

Xander grins at him before licking the salt back off and taking another huge gulp of tequila. "I got that impression. So, no Latin lovers stashed away in some lovepad in L.A.?" Biting the lime again, sees Lindsey is staring at him, and it makes him warmer than the alcohol currently burning in his stomach.

"No, my last boyfriend was blond and not the bottle variety. Besides, that was long time ago, and no one from work ever met him." Matches Xander's shot with one of his own, waits before moving even though he wants to lunge for the boy right now. Strategy. Patience. Planning. All on his side.

That and a wickedly high tolerance to tequila.

Second empty and Xander lifts an eyebrow as he realizes he forgot to do the salt first. "Ah. So, what're ya gonna do when you get tanked on this tequila and have no place to sleep it off?" Salt then lime, no big deal, it's all good. Mental note while he can still make them, don't drink tequila when you haven't eaten all day because you were busy brooding.

"Your couch or my car if you pick me up and throw me out." Like there is a chance in hell he's getting up and going anywhere tonight. Watches Xander pour more salt on his hand. Wants to lick it off and then keep going, up his arm, up his neck, over to the mouth...

"Your car? You drive a truck." Genuine puzzlement in his soft brown eyes as Xander turns his head to look at Lindsey, tilts slightly towards him more by the force of gravity than by the actual desire to move.

"I have a car too." Licks his own hand, reaches for the salt, slow movements so Xander can track him. Pour, lick, sip and bite. Deliberately lets the juice run a little so he can rub it off and draw those saucer-like, staring eyes up to his again.

"What kind?" Sits up and grabs the bottle and forgets all about the glass. And the salt. And the lime for that matter.

"What's your guess?" Big grin from Lindsey as he watches all this. The boy is so gone. It's going to be simple as pie.

Xander chuckles a little, waves the bottle at Lindsey and lets him take it. "Like I have to guess. Mercedes. It's a silver sedan." Looks smug and proud of himself for getting it out, all in English. Very little slurring that he is aware of.

"Who's stalking whom?" Puts the bottle on the table again. Leans over closer to Xander, who shows no signs of getting upset about it. Drops his voice down so it's low and rough. "So, you gonna throw me out?"

Head lolling on the back of the couch, Xander watches Lindsey get closer, waits for the contact to happen. Despite the langor of the alcohol, he can feel the *want* stringing out from his belly like fine silver wires. "You gonna start begging for forgiveness anytime soon?"

"Tell me how you like your beggin' and we can get down to business." Pure country that time, leather and whiskey and oh christ, that's so unfair.

Mouth as hot as he remembered, soft and pressing his, sucking on his bottom lip and Xander whimpers at the way it makes him feel. He opens his mouth, Lindsey's tongue is there to meet his own, slow and deep. Hands cupping Xander's face, Lindsey takes his time and kisses him completely, sharp taste of lime the counterpoint to the salt and tang of tequila. Under it all, something mellow that's Xander himself, and Lindsey can't get enough. Kisses harder now, lips pressing, teeth nipping and Xander's hands are pulling him closer. Lets himself melt into the long sweet body and they slip to the side, Lindsey on top.

Breaks the kiss. "How's my opening statement?" he asks, licking along the jawline, picking up more traces of lime there.

"That's some mighty fine begging you've got going."

"Mm hmm. Let's drink to the excellence of my begging skills, which have only just begun." He sits up slowly and pulls Xander with him. Takes his hand, licks the hollow between thumb and index finger and follows it to his palm. Grabs the salt shaker with his free hand and shakes it over the moist skin. Tosses it onto the table again so he can pick up the lime and sit it on Xander's thigh. Grabs the bottle. "Ready?"

Takes Xander's nod as good enough, presses his palm up toward his mouth, licks from the other side so their tongues meet. Drops his hand, takes a mouthful of the tequila and swallows just a little. Kisses Xander and lets his tongue guide the alcohol over to the boy's open mouth. Allows him to swallow so it won't spill out and has the lime ready. Squeezes it just a little and rubs it over Xander's full and swollen lips, drops it abruptly and licks every drop he can get to from the mouth that's opening eagerly under his laving tongue.

Lindsey reaches down, tugs Xander's shirt free and eases it over his head. Drops to his knees between thighs that open for him eagerly, rubs his face over Xander's hard length still trapped behind the buttons of his Levis.

Almost purrs when the boy writhes under him, pops the buttons as quickly as he can and frees his swollen cock.

Takes it in his hand, looks up to see Xander watching him, flushed skin, dazed eyes and mouth soft, wet, open. "Still begging, Xander," he says, no hint of a smile. Not joking at all.

Tongue wide as he can make it, Lindsey licks him from base to head, opens his mouth when Xander presses himself up and takes him in. Feels Xander grab his head, fingers laced in his hair as he groans out his name. Lets the boy control it all for a minute before pulling back. He might just come himself, fully dressed and rock hard and wanting so badly to be on top of him, inside of him, around him, that his stomach is in knots.

Xander's head is spinning, alcohol, hot wet mouth on him, it's all overwhelming. Lindsey leans into the hand Xander cups on his face, turns to the side and licks the palm, sucks the thumb into his mouth and licks that too. "You still with me here, Xan?"

"I'm here. You're touching me, can't you feel that I'm here?" Leans forward off the couch, nuzzles right into Lindsey's face. Feels him breathing faster, warm air moving on Xander's skin.

Lindsey groans quietly, catches the back of Xander's neck to hold him still. "I mean, are you ok? I feel like I'm molesting you."

"Molest away." He can feel the boy's grin against his cheek, then a soft kiss before the questing face moves over to breathe warm and moist in his ear. Makes himself wait and say, "Xander, I don't want to fuck you and have you wake up in the morning and try to kill me."

"Why would I do that?" Whispered words outlined with the tip of his tongue, making Lindsey shiver and press his fingers harder into the glossy black curls at the nape of the neck he's caressing.

"For taking advantage."

"You can't rape the willing." Licking the line of Lindsey's jaw now, warm, wide tongue, then open-mouth glide over the wet trail. But the other man stops him gently. Looks into his face with eyes so blue and serious that Xander is pulled down into an undertow in the ocean of their depths.

"I'm not talking about rape, I'm talking about regrets." Serious time here, and he needs the answer, needs to know it's the truth and not the tequila.

"The only thing I am gonna regret is not meeting you sooner." Bare truth, no thought behind it, it just comes straight from his brain and gets spoken, Lindsey can tell.

Takes a deep breath. No chance of any doubt here tonight, not if he can help it. He wants this so badly, wants it to mean something, not just be some fling that will vaporise one morning leaving him empty and alone again. "That's the alcohol talking. Xander, I don't want you to have another reason to hate me."

Back to Lindsey's neck, pushing aside the soft, cotton t-shirt and baring the slope where shoulder and neck come together. Three freckles right there that Xander laps gently before continuing. "I don't hate you. I need you, and wait, that might be alcohol, but I couldn't stop thinking about you touching me like this even when I was pissed and hurt and * wanting* to hate you." Kissing that sweet little spot now, and then opening his mouth to almost-bite, teeth grazing the skin.

"Are you sure?" Rapidly losing the ability to keep up the dialogue, the need to throw him to the floor overriding every other thing in the world right now.

"If you tell me you feel the same way."

"If I didn't want you, need to be with you, touching you, I wouldn't have sent you the flowers, shown up at the bar, sent the watch, you getting the picture?" Tugs gently at his hair until Xander looks up, and Lindsey can kiss him again. Soft, sweet kiss, mouth open and barely grazing Xander's, tongue tracing plush lips over and over until he can't wait for it any longer, and he's pressing the boy back into the couch, feeling his skin burn right though the cotton shirt and the heavy denim of his jeans.

"Don't fuck up again, ok?" Said between clenched teeth as Lindsey fists his cock, hard and fast, and Xander knows he's about to come.

"I can't promise, but I will try to be good." All spoken lips on lips, and Xander is breathing Lindsey's recycled air, taking it into his lungs knowing it was just inside the other man, wanting that transference of being. Wedges his hands between their bodies and stills Lindsey's hands. Pops the button and lowers the zipper on the other man's pants. Fingers inside and brushing the flap of the designer underwear. Loving the feel of the nap of the cotton over the hard length he finds there.

"Not gonna last long." Lindsey echoing his own thoughts, again. And maybe there * is* a connection, or it could be hot sex on the go and both of them needy.

Lindsey sliding down his body, not stopping for much contact besides a lick to one nipple and a flick inside his navel, swoops back down on his cock, just the head, and sucking hard. Feels the pre-come spurting out, reaches his hand down and cups his own balls. The other hand on the back of Lindsey's head, trying to shove him down, make him take him in all the way. Instead gets his hands shaken off completely. Looks down to see Lindsey looking back up at him.

"Xan, god. Touch yourself for me. Will you? I wanna watch." So hot to even think of it that he feels his entire body shock out a blush. Does it anyway. Right hand rubbing the spit from Lindsey's mouth and his own fluid down the shaft, flicks his thumb over the opening at the head and goes to work.

Feels the edge, tenses up, and Lindsey's mouth is right there, over his fingers, drawing him back into his mouth and he hits the wall, loses consciousness for a heartbeat, comes back to the sensation of Lindsey licking his fingers.

"Gotta fuck you." And he's hauled to his feet, being propelled by the force which is Lindsey in to the bedroom, onto the bed, sprawled on his stomach. Twists his head back to see Lindsey loses the rest of his clothes, standing over him with a look on his face he's only ever seen before in his mind. Hunger. And it's all for him.

The bed dips with Lindsey's weight, and suddenly body heat, skin on skin as he layers himself on top of the boy and makes himself slow down for one minute, long enough to do it right. Xander's arching his back, though, and spreading his legs so that Lindsey's cock just slips into the crease of his ass. He grinds his teeth, grabs Xander's shoulder to still him. He can barely take the time to rub a hand over himself to gather the slick precome and use it to press a shaking finger inside. Xander just about blows his mind anyway by pushing back, hard, rocking his hips.

"Don't make me wait," he gasps, and who is Lindsey to not oblige a request he wants to fulfill so badly? Lets his finger nudge the bump he was seeking once before replacing it with his cock, biting his own lip hard enough to draw blood so he can push in slowly.

Xander feels the burning pressure and knows how close Lindsey is to the edge. All that want, all that care on his behalf. Another full body flush, and he's hard again already. Arches up off the bed, buries Lindsey completely inside him in one fast hard push and they both shout. Arms around his waist pulling him up to his knees, sweat slick skin slipping as Xander's head rolls back onto Lindsey's shoulder. Eyes closed, mouth open, noise of pleasurepain as Lindsey begins to move inside of him.

"Christ, Xan..." he breathes out low, nothing but farmboy in those full round syllables that drip like honey into the space behind Xander's ear. Lindsey's hand strokes across smooth chest, down tight belly, catches the sticky wetness on his fingertips. Fists Xander's cock and stokes him hard and tight, the way the boy's body feels around his dick right now.

Xander's arm comes up to hold Lindsey's face next to his own as he begins to shudder towards another climax. "Gonna come again," he says in a thick voice, tacit permission for Lindsey to stop holding back.

All he needs to know in those three words and Lindsey lets go. Long stroke of Xander's cock before he lets his own hips roll with the movement, out to the head and in to the hilt, and again, and again. And that's it, off the edge, wordless moan of satisfaction as he pours himself into the boy and feels the wet heat hit them both a second later as Xander joins him this time. They kneel there trembling and panting for a minute that feels like and hour, and Lindsey never wants to move again.

But he does, eases out of the snug place he would like to live inside, falls forward into the pillow and pulls Xander down with him.

As Xander drops, rolls, slides into sleep with Lindsey draped and snuggled onto/into every part him that is available, his mind nudges something he should have thought of a whole lot sooner. Unprotected sex means lots of bad things. Lets that fade away and replaces it with the soft sound of Lindsey breathing into his hair and the quiet burr of the "Good night, Xan" he hears after a few seconds.

=end part iv=

Chapter Text

No alarm clock this morning, and Xander wakes up in small degrees. Recognition of light in the room even though his eyes are closed, muffled sound of cars going by outside. Tangle of blankets. He stretches, and there's no one else there, but that's to be expected. People with real jobs get up every day and go to them, which is why they continue to be the people with the real jobs.

Crackle of paper under his hand, and he opens one eyelid to find a note laying on the pillow beside him. Scrunches his face into the cotton pillowcase and smells Lindsey there, sweat and cologne and come. Smiles like a lunatic and rolls back over to read his note, monitoring some complaining body parts that want a shower and TLC from the abuse they received last night.

Neat scrawl, thick black marker on the paper:

'Xan -

Early meeting today. Sorry you have to wake up alone. In case you're thinking about it, I'm negative, but if you want, we can go get tested together. I'll call you when I get a break between clients.

Lindsey'

He folds the note up carefully and rolls over to see that Lindsey has moved the watchbox to the bedside table. There's a scrap of paper sticking out of it, and when he tugs it out, there's the same handwriting:

"It's got the moon phases, a power reserve indicator, and the date. I already set it all for you. I'd really like you to wear it. -L."

If he smiles any wider, the top of his head will come off. Actually believes that Lindsey is being honest with him, that he's clean and wouldn't have put him at risk in the first place. Takes some time with those thoughts. Isn't sure he should trust this guy he still barely knows with something like his life, but also considers his chance of living to see twenty if he moves back to Sunnydale. And that 'if' is the biggest shock of the morning.

+++++++++++++

A few days later, Lindsey comes to pick him up in the truck for another go at the L.A thing, and they head off for the big city together. Xander bites back his initial panic about getting anywhere near Lilah Morgan again, but Lindsey assures him that the only residents of the city that Xander will get to see will be the doorman at Lindsey's apartment building and Lindsey himself.

"We're not leaving the bedroom, if I have my say," Lindsey says, looking over the top of his sunglasses and leering. Everything short of waggling his eyebrows, and he can't believe how relaxed he is already. Five minutes on the road with Xander, and he's shed all thoughts of anything other than getting him back to the apartment, getting him naked and keeping him that way for the next 72 hours. He tipped the doorman to be sure that every shift would know that there were to be no calls to his apartment, not even if the President or Jesus Christ himself came calling. Tipped the man so generously that his eyes went wide, and he actually smiled. Wonders never cease.

Xander's sprawled out in the seat, seems to be taking his cue from Lindsey's no-stress attitude and anything goes frame of mind. He does the eye-brow waggle himself when he meets Lindsey's eye and oh, yes, what could the boy have in mind? Something that's put a smile all over his face and the slightest hint of a blush on his cheeks.

The rest of the ride passing in a blur of conversation and mock debates, and before they get to Lindsey's part of town Xander has already got him hard and aching and changed the radio station approximately ten thousand times. Stolen kisses and hands loosely clasped on the seat between them, and he's ready to pull over and take him on the seat of the truck just to get the edge off.

Manages to contain himself and finally, after what seems an eternity, there's the goddamn building. He's never wanted to see it so badly before in his life. Xander's impressed with his reserved parking spot, runs a finger over the gleaming silver Benz in the next spot when he gets out and looks rather pleased with himself over all. Hitches Lindsey's curiosity up about three more levels, and when they hit the elevator, he just shoves Xander against the back wall and hits the emergency-stop button so he can lean in and have the first full body contact of the day. Leg between Xander's thighs, hand under the back of his shirt and touching bare skin while the other twines through the shaggy curls and pulls his face down and to kiss him. Light brush of lips, flicker of Xander's tongue betraying his own desire, and that makes Lindsey feel so *fine.* Reluctantly leans back, pops the elevator into working order again and presses the button for twenty-three.

Xander wonders at the lack of actual Lindseyness in the apartment. Everything is very spare, and very expensive and very much not the way he thought it should be. He didn't get in much assessment the last time he was here due to the berserk behaviour from Lindsey and his own agitation over the situation. The place could be a hotel room, or a display model for prospective renters for the lack of personality it contains.

Lindsey picks up on his assessment right away, tells him straight out, "It's not me, it's done by a decorator, and the only things I like about it are the location and the view." Drops Xander's bag by the door, closes it and clicks over the brass deadbolt. Gives Xander a little press at the small of his back to urge him into the room. "Go ahead, sit down, it's just furniture, boy."

"Yeah it's really big, expensive...is that a leather couch? Kinky. It reminds me of someone I used to know who likes leather a little too much."

"Someone like me?" Curious at the reference and already has a list of cross examination questions lining up, can't help himself, it's second nature, wants to know everything he can about Xander. And just who the hell did Xander know with a leather fetish? And how well did he know them?

"Uh, hell no. Someone who sucks. Not in the good way, wait, I don't think so anyway." Easy grin, and he's walking over to the object of concern. Flops down on it and seems alarmed with the amount of noise it generates, all that squeaking from every little movement.

"Kinky *and* noisy. The fun never stops."

Lindsey hones in on him sprawled there and contemplates just breaking the damn thing in by fucking Xander on it, right there, ruining the finish and finally marking the place with something that's all his, better than peeing on the rug to mark his territory.

"What's for dinner, Mr. Host-with-the-most?" Xander grins at him and that's it, forget dinner, forget everything except his naked ass on that couch right now.

"Oh I have dinner all planned out," he manages to get out pulling his shirt over his head even as he stalks over to drop down on top of Xander. The boy's all reaching hands, open mouth and long legs opening to make room, likes the squeak now.

Much later, dinner turns out to be Little Debbies and beer. The couch will never be the same.

=====

Waking up the next morning, finally getting to know what it's like to have another body pressed up against his when sleep falls away, Xander watches Lindsey sleep for a few minutes more. His face is so gentle when he's not on guard, and that's not so often; Xander would bet on it. Stays perfectly still, arm over Lindsey's hip, leg trapped between his thighs and just takes it all in. Must have a powerful gaze because without warning those blue-blue eyes pop open, almost startle Xander but not quite, and they both lay there not moving. Morning kisses, something Xander has never had, are now his favorite thing because they mean that something has finally gone right. Wide grin from Lindsey, and he wonders if he's echoing his thoughts again.

Out in the kitchen, drinking juice and listening to the sounds of the shower from the bedroom. Wearing absolutely nothing but a look of perfect contentment, and wait...what's that sound?

Pads down the hall to the bedroom and in, over to the open bathroom door where Lindsey stands behind a three panelled glass shower. Singing. Johnny Cash, unless Xander misses his guess, and could this *be* any sexier? Honey voice, sugar twang and he's sounds amazing.

"When I was just a baby, my momma told me, 'Son,
Always be a good boy; don't ever play with guns.'
But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.
When I hear that whistle blowin', I hang my head and cry."

Xander slides into the bathroom, gets a load of the perfect acoustics working in there and toes the door almost shut behind him.

"Well if they freed me from this prison, if that railroad train was mine,
I bet I'd move it all a little farther down the line,
Far from Folsom Prison, that's where I want to stay,
And I'd let that lonesome whistle blow my blues away."

Opens the shower door and Lindsey looks at him a little sheepishly, mouth open to apologize until he sees Xander's hard. Eyes dark, heavy and mouth parted and so fucking beautiful that Lindsey's hard too. Steps back so Xander can join him in the shower, and he's under the stream, heavy rivulets of water running over his hair, down his chest, little tributaries that catch and leave droplets in the dark tangle of hair around his cock.

Lets Xander move right up against him, pressing him into chilly tiles that make him gasp and try to move away. Xander's having none of that, grabs his wrists and pulls them up over his head, and that's new, and Lindsey is glad it was something that came natural to the boy; he hates having to ask for it. Feels how the boy's shaking despite the power position he's taken, and he hasn't kissed him or made a move to. Lindsey watches through wet lashes as Xander puts his head back, lets the water soak it away from his face. Brings it back down, comes in ever so slowly, like a movie being shown at the wrong speed. Kisses him with open mouth and soft lips, nuzzles into this neck. Rocks his hips so that their cocks slip together.

"Keep singing," he says, and this time it's Lindsey's turn to flush. Tries to catch his mouth for another kiss, distract him, but it's not going to happen. Xander slides his wrists further up the tiled wall and presses his thigh further between Lindsey's own. "Sing."

Somehow Lindsey finds his voice, although it's molasses now, not honey. Thicker. Darker. Xander watches his mouth so intently that Lindsey feels like he's breathing in the sounds as he sings them.

"I bet there's rich folk eatin'in a fancy dining car.
They're prob'ly drinkin' coffee and smokin' big cigars,
But I know I had it comin', I know I can't be free,
But those people keep a-movin', and that's what tortures me."

Gulps in a mouthful of the warm water that's still spraying over them both. "Xander."

"Shh."

Hungry, devouring kiss, and rolling hips, and, jesus, he'll never be able to sing in the shower again without getting hard. Water making everything slide, and when he puts some resistance on his wrists, Xander lets go. Catches his face instead, and holds him there, fucking his mouth with his tongue while he presses away from the wall to get more pressure, more friction between them.

Not working, so Lindsey slips his hand between them, gets a grip on them both in his one hand Squeezes, strokes, groans into Xander's mouth.

Disappointed when Xander leans back, breaks the kiss, tries to bring him back down for more. Hand still stroking both cocks, tight grip, long movements, no hurry to get anywhere with this until the hot water runs out.

"Wanna watch you this time," Xander says, bedroom eyes gone from brown to black, and he almost comes right then just hearing him say it.

"You wanna see what?" Lindsey knows exactly what Xander is asking for, but he's not gonna give it up that easy. Wants to hear him say it.

"Wanna see you come for me." Hears the edges of his own voice in that round and soft slur of want, and maybe he's just blissed out on need and desire, but it's not going to take long to show him what he wants to see.

Keeps his eyes locked on Xander's, right hand on his cock, twisting motion to gather the precome and water on his palm. Starts to jack off slow and hard, catches his bottom lip in his mouth as he does it, old habit never lost. Moans out, "This what you wanna see? Is this what you want, baby?"

Keeps talking to him, slow dirty whispers asking him if he likes it, does he want it, and Xander can't even find the voice to say yes, yes, yes, until Lindsey drops his eyes closed and whispers, "This is what you do to me all the time, every time I think of you and your mouth on me."

Inarticulate groan from Xander, and he drops down to the floor of the shower, puts his hand over Lindsey's. One touch and Lindsey's gone, over his own hand and Xander's, the boy's neck and chest. Sees Xander's back arch and realizes he's coming too.

The water's cold by the time they're both clean again.

+++++++++++

Thursday night at the club, and Lindsey tries not to grin. He's being shown off. It feels sweet, gives him a sense of something long gone that he thought was never coming back. Small piece of his mind telling him that he's OK if he's got someone like Xander around. Hasn't fucked it up yet, prays he doesn't ever. There seems to be some spark of chance of him having this in his life for a good long time, and who ever would have thought it? He sure as hell wouldn't have. His heart rate almost hits danger levels when he thinks about the look on Xander's face each time he shows up. It's the picture he conjures up when another file lands on his desk of some new menace to society the he's responsible for throwing back onto the street to wreak a little more havoc on the unsuspecting population.

He eats up watching Xander in another environment, out of the confines of his apartment, not wound up or nervous, interacting with the other guys. He's clever, thinks on his feet, always has something to say no matter what's being tossed around. Makes sure Lindsey is in on the conversation, he's not getting that fifth wheel feeling. Realizes Xander is one of those rare people who's just as he appears. Good guy, honest young man, Golden Rule ingrained in his DNA. Sexiest mouth in the state and possibly the entire United States, and in about twenty minutes he's going to drag him out to the truck and show Xander some appreciation.

Doesn't give a damn that the bartender is practically reading his mind, tips his beer at him and smiles. If he's getting shown off, he might as well make sure it's something to remember.

++++++++++++++++++++++

Home from work on a Wednesday night, and Xander rushes his shower because he knows the phone's going to starting ringing any second.

Right on cue it goes off, and he's making a mad dash for the receiver.

"Hey."

"Hey. You outta breath again? Shower?"

"You know it."

"Whatcha wearin'?"

"Didn't I mention the shower thing? Naked."

"No towel?"

"Yeah, towel."

"Take it off."

He might not be able to get there every night, but Lindsey makes sure he gets them both off all the same.

===========

Back at Xander's after the obligatory flaunting of Lindsey in front of his work buddies. //See, he isn't a figment, hasn't run away, still right here with me//

Maybe a couple too many beers, and he's starting to think of himself as a hard-drinkin' man. Needs to write a song about it and have Lindsey sing it for him.

Watches Lin just start stripping immediately as he hits the door, shirt, shoes off and only half-way to the bedroom.

"You comin?"

"Enjoying the view." And Lindsey gets an odd look at that. Runs his hands down his torso. Turns back to face Xander. Pops the button on his jeans and breathes out "You like watchin' don'tcha, baby?" And Xander hopes Lindsey is understanding when he comes in his pants and has to rest up for a minute. Lindsey reaches into his back pocket and draws out a plastic package. Tosses it to Xander.

"I picked that up at the bar, I think you might need it." Xander rips the cover with his teeth, and hopes he can get the cockring on fast enough.

+++++++++++++++++

Six weeks of phone calls, hanging out, mind blowing sex and the heavens open up and pour out the retribution for all the simplicity and calm-waters.

"So, Lindsey, we need to talk." Holland Manners smiles. He always smiles, whether he's ordering lunch or an assassination. Off-putting and creepy as hell, but every boss has a quirk, and Lindsey is in no position to complain.

"If it's about the Malloy situation, I have it under control." Picks up the file from the corner of his desk, walks toward Holland and begins to open it.

Holland puts out his hand in a calming gesture, halts him. "No, it's something of a more personal nature."

"Oh? Then shoot." Thinks raise, thinks promotion, thinks weekend in Carmel with Xander to celebrate.

"You have to give him up." Smile still in place, eyes same pale shade of blue, faint amusement that's always there. No anger, no pity. Nothing to denote the jagged crack forming in Lindsey's world, and he thinks there should be some sign outside his own mind.

"Who?" Reeling from the shock, can't believe it's possible for him to be talking about -

"You know who, Lindsey. The firm has nothing against alternative lifestyles, I think that's rather obvious. But we have appearances to keep up, and you're dating outside your social circle."

Holland perches on the end of Lindsey's desk. Fatherly demeanor, airs of this being for his own good. Chant going on right between Lindsey's eyes //notthisnotthisnotthis//. He doesn't blink.

"I don't think..." Knows there's no ground to play on here, no way Holland is ever going to relent, but he had to say something, at least TRY

"No, you don't think. A stripper? Really, Lindsey. What was going through that steel-trap? I'm sure he has his...*talents*, but why don't you find yourself a pretty neurologist or an architect?" Stands, brushes an invisible fleck of lint from his immaculate suit jacket and increases the smile by a centimeter or two. "I expect this to be resolved with all due expedience."

Watching Holland's back vanish through the door to his office and close behind him, Lindsey feels his legs give out from under him, a list to the side, and he's collapsing onto the floor. Doesn't even try to stop the fall, just lets his body go limp. Can't bring himself to move. Rests his head against the cool wood of the drawer next to him and feels nothing.

He knows who did this. He knows why. Not for the first time he wonders if he would be able to get out of this job alive. If he were to just walk into Holland's office in the morning with his resignation if he would make it out of the building. If he were to split, pack his things and get the hell out of LA, how long it would take them to track him down and how many pieces his body would end up in, identification through dental records.

Pulls himself to his feet. Starts working out the plan to cover his tracks for the foreseeable future. Meeting Xander at neutral locations, a different one each time. Doesn't know if the boy is up to it. If he could pull it off, live with the stress. But giving him up completely is not in the game plan. His life is worth little, always a hair's breath from being snatched away, but all he does have is wrapped up in the tender brown eyes, the shiny black curls and the sardonic wit of Alexander LaVelle Harris.

He'll figure it out. Or he'll die. Like always.

+++++++++++

Outside Xander's door, and the drive was a blur. All streets and stoplights and time to himself, by himself. Time to work himself up into such a state that Xander is immediately scared when he opens the door to let him in.

"What's wrong, Lin. Are you ok? Are you hurt or something?" Pulling him into the apartment, closing the door, running frantic eyes all over as he tries to spot a wound, knows that Lindsey doesn't have a clue about the things that go bump in the night, and maybe one of his worst fears actually happened, again.

"No, I'm not hurt. It's nothing like that." //Not on the outside, not where you can fix it// Runs both hands through his hair over and over until Xander catches hold of one and makes him stop.

"Then, what." Frown and crease to the brow visible even through the perpetual tangle of hair that covers it.

Not moving further into the apartment, still standing at the door. Body so tense it's almost vibrating, and Xander can nearly see the stress/anger waves radiation off of him. Lindsey sighs. "It's something with my work."

"You lose a case? You shoot everyone and need me to help you hide the bodies?" Kidding, but not at the same time. Deeper frown. Eyes getting that white gloss to them, and Lindsey congratulates himself on managing to string Xander out in less than five minutes.

"Not that I don't appreciate your willingness to be an accomplice after the fact, but there aren't any bodies. Yet." Finally lets Xander lead him over to the couch. First time in what feels like forever that they haven't spent their first five minutes together after any kind of separation satisfying the need to touch and kiss and reassure themselves that it's still happening.

"Oh, so you need me for the actual killing. I could do that. Pop a cap in their asses." Mimes the whole finger-gun routine, crosses his arms in a poor imitation of any given gangsta rapper album cover. Breaks the tension just a little.

Lindsey laughs."No, Xan. No killing for now, it's something else."

Lindsey thinks his face might actually crack when he smiles. It hurts, muscles strained from the effort of keeping the facade in place. He saw Lilah in the hallway that afternoon and actually managed to not walk over and snap her scrawny chicken neck on the spot. Gritted his teeth and refused to let her see that she had gotten to him. Again. Contemplated some of his favorite death-to-Lilah scenarios as a mantra for the rest of the day and managed somehow not to fall completely apart again.

"K, well. Here I am. Tell me all the badness." Xander genuinely believes that talking is going to make this better, thinks that letting things get spoken and thrown into the light will make them lesser evils somehow. Lindsey wishes it were true.

"My boss told me to stop seeing you." There. Said it, straight out, and oh, it hurt to see the reaction flood across Xander's face. Lindsey wonders if he would have looked like that this afternoon if he hadn't been so well trained in the fine art of covering his ass and any emotions that might betray a weakness to an opponent .

"What?" Xander takes a deep breath. Blinks one time too many for it to be a casual reaction kind of thing. "OK, not prepared for that. So, we're breaking up? I knew this would happen. It's ok..."

Babbling and sort of pulling away from him on the sofa, and that's the final straw, someone else hurting Xander, and it's *him* goddamnit, //it's not the first time, either, you asshole.// Catches his hand and squeezes it, holds him there before he can put any more space between them. "We're not fucking breaking up!"

"You're getting a new job then?" Total confusion there, and Lindsey feels him shaking, quivering on the seat beside him, and his protection instinct kicks into gear.

He wishes fervently for the mental powers of some of his choicer clients so he could go have a drink in a crowded bar with a few dozen people for an instant alibi while he sent sonic thought waves through Lilah Morgan's brain until her head exploded. But right now needs to be about Xander, about the two of them, and letting him know that it was going to be OK. Difficult, but workable.

"No. Plan C, we're gonna be discrete. Keep to ourselves more. Not be obvious." Sees some relief settle into Xander's frame, pulls him over so that they're shoulder to shoulder on the couch. Body contact. Comfort. Lindsey sighs.

Xander's talking again, voice quiet, almost back to normal as the shell shock begins to recede. "This I know how to do. Trust me. On secret relationships, I'm the expert. But, how did they find out?"

"Lilah." One word, venom in both syllables, and if thoughts could kill...he's back to head explosion.

"Ah. So, are we gonna hide her body soon?" Smiling now, and Xander still nurses a resentment that just matured into a full blown and active grudge, bonding through hate, it's a new level to their relationship.

"If I wouldn't be the prime suspect we might be doing that right now. Look, Xan, I know this sucks, and it's a lot to ask you, but I can't think of anything else to do right now."

Eyes so honest and genuinely terrified that Xander has to look away. Contemplates the doorway to the bedroom with great interest. "Lindsey, I understand, you work for some huge law firm, they have rules. I just don't want you ruining your life over me."

"I have no life without you." Voice so quiet, Xander could almost believe he imagined it. Turns back to look, sees Lindsey opening his mouth to say it again and stops him. Leans over as Lindsey shifts on the couch and now they're facing each other, foreheads and knees touching, hands on each other's thighs, reassurance of presence.

Xander stares down at Lindsey's hands as he takes a deep, centering breath. Clears his throat and begins talking in a slow, measured, gotta-get-this-out-in-the-right-order kind of way. Won't look up when he starts talking. "I know this might not be the best time for this, but since we're being all open, and declaring things, and all that stuff...I just wanted to tell you, I mean, well, I think I'm falling in love with you."

"Xander..."

Tangles his fingers into Lindsey's and stops him "No, don't derail this humiliation train. I haven't ever felt like this about another guy. I didn't know I could, I mean, yeah, great sex and what I mean is fucking mind-blowing sex, but that isn't even the important thing anymore. I just want to be around you, to see you, to know you're happy." Looks up finally when Lindsey takes his free hand and cups it under Xander's chin, forcing him into the eye to eye he was avoiding. Natural reaction, fall back on the protection of denial.

Lindsey can feel his chest constricting, his voice cracks when he speaks. "Baby, you didn't humiliate yourself. I feel the same way. Every minute I spend away from you is a countdown until I'm with you again. I need you. I love you."

He's never said that before, never even gotten close to thinking it until Xander, and all he wants to do is prove that he means it. This is the something splendid and worthy that he's never dreamed would be his, and he doesn't know how to touch it. How to keep it whole and intact without shattering it by being too close. Words are cheap to him; he twists them all day long to make them work for him so that at this point in his life he has no faith in anything that comes out of his own mouth. He has to be sure Xander feels how real this is to him, clear and pure of any ulterior motive There's nothing else in his life that is anything close to that.

Lindsey's mouth brushes over Xander's, and they're both moving so carefully. Motion almost choreographed for the most pleasing reaction. Lips and tongue slide, and Xander's standing, pulling Lindsey to his feet, leading him to the bedroom.

Clothing comes off, breaks in between each one to caress newly bared skin, fingers trailing lightly to find favorite spots to touch and be touched. On the bed and skin to skin, first Lindsey on top, mouth covering every inch of Xander's body, working his way up from the soft silk of his inner thighs, past the cock that jerks with need at every licking stroke of tongue, nails lightly scratching the dark line of hair below Xander's navel as Lindsey moves up and up again. Nipples suckled and nipped, throat licked, earlobes explored with the tip of his tongue and finally back to that open, wet mouth.

Allows himself to be rolled and Xander's above him.

Mirroring Lindsey's earlier motions, Xander lets his tongue travel from ear to neck, finds the place that makes Lindsey shiver every time he hits it and nuzzles into it. Kisses, warm and wet, feels the other man buck under him just once, gentles him by raising himself on knees and elbows. Waits, waits, then leans up and runs his hands over Lindsey's chest. Fingertips circle his nipples, again and again. He bends to put his mouth there. Feels the rush of wetness between them, doesn't know if it's his own need or Lindsey's that's pooling on their skin, doesn't care. Back up on his knees, and Xander's watching Lindsey's eyes fall closed, his legs dropping open. One hand comes up off the bed and beckons Xander closer. That hand cupping his face, Xander just melts into it, allows Lindsey to pull him down on top, all along the line of their bodies, chest and hip and thigh together as he loses himself in the full softness of Lindsey's mouth.

Rolling again, and Xander's legs are over Lindsey's shoulders, Lindsey's fingers are inside of him, curling to find the right place that sends Xander arching up off the bed with a shout. And does it again, and again, until Xander tells him to stop, to be inside of him, please, please.

Lindsey slides over the bed to get the condom out of the drawer, and Xander bats his hand away. "Not this time, just inside. Just you."

Can't resist the offer of perfect pleasure freely given, groaning as he presses in, tight and hot and Xander's rising to meet him, pushing him in all the way slicked up with spit and pre-come. Lindsey lets himself fall forward slowly until he's face to face with him, starts to rock them both. The angle of his body brings him in constant contact with the head of Xander's cock as it strains up away from his belly. Breath coming hard and fast for them both, and they murmur to each other to come, come now, come for me, baby.

Lindsey first, and Xander not far behind, long shuddering freefall that ends with them wrapped together in a pile of tangled sweaty limbs, reluctant to break apart at all, trying to find some position that leaves them joined. Lindsey spoons himself to Xander's back, tucks his knees in the bend of the other's, his arm under Xander's across his chest. Not an inch between them, pressed as close as second skin, and they drift.

Indefinite amount of time later and Lindsey wakes. Looks at the clock on the bedside table and isn't surprise to see how late it is. Whispers Xander's name, and gets a quiet "I'm awake" in reply.

"I gotta get home. Who knows when the boss's gonna call to make sure I'm out looking for some new, more acceptable boyfriend." He's never wanted to stay more than he does tonight, but there's no way he can. It breaks his heart all over again to get up and watch Xander roll over right away into the space that Lindsey was just occupying, watches him bury his face in the pillow his own head just rested on. Might fall apart knowing that Xander isn't ashamed in the least to show that he needs to be where Lindsey was seconds before.

"Ok, I understand."

"I'll call you later."

"I'll be here waiting." Lindsey bends down to kiss him before gathering up his clothes and dressing.

Kisses him again, fingers in the black curls "Love you."

"Love you more." Soft smile to take with him for the drive home, and Lindsey is gone, door clicking shut behind him.

Xander rolls out of bed and hits the shower. Feels his hands shaking as he soaps up. Feels the tears mingling on his face with the spray from the shower. Lets it happen. Dries off, dresses, and sees the round splash marks on his black t-shirt as the crying jag continues. Grabs the duffle bag out of the closet and systematically collects his belongings from around the apartment.

Walks over to the bedstand last. Clasps the Patek Phillipe on his wrist.

Decided before Lindsey even finished telling him about making it work and laying low where he was going to spend the night. He can't let Lindsey wreck his career over him. Can't ruin anymore lives with his selfish desires and needs. Grabs a wad of toilette paper from the bathroom, slings his bag over his shoulder and heads out the door to the bus station. Sunnydale or bust.

end part v

Chapter Text

Work, home.

Work, home.

And if you didn't know any better, you'd think this was the exact same life Lindsey lived a few months ago. He gets up. He showers. He eats when hunger beckons. He turns his reports in on time. He shows up for court appropriately attired and responds when spoken to.

But this is very much not the same life. Life is a word that Lindsey doesn't really feel applies to his space-filling in the universe. He has an existence. He's not exactly sure why that is, but he is working on trying to end it. Special Projects might turn out to be his niche after all.

He can't even put a round figure on the number of bottles of alcohol he's knocked off since Xander left. Knows American Express will have them all itemized when it comes time. Alcoholism, sure, runs in the family, it was only a matter of time. He pops the top off the bottle of Advil he keeps on his coffee table now-a-days. Shakes out two and downs them with a mouthful of scotch. Keeps the hang-over to a minimum if he takes them before he passes out for the night. Staggers into the kitchen, downs two glasses of water from the tap and barely makes it to the bed before he collapses. Reaches to his side and grabs the 'Mr. Bubble Bubblebath' t-shirt that's slipped under the covers. Knows it doesn't really smell that much like Xander anymore, but what with the scotch he can't smell it anyway.

He wakes up around eleven, groggy and disoriented. But he knows one thing, he didn't drink enough. His alarm isn't blaring out at him, it's dark outside. No reason to be awake. Lots of reasons not to be. He feels the vinyl logo on the t-shirt in his hand, rough from too much washing, crackled. It's probably years old, and Xander probably misses it. One of his favorites.

Lindsey swings his legs out and pulls himself up on unsteady legs. Yanks the drawer on the bedside table open and draws out the dented, chrome Zippo his uncle gave him when he was around fifteen. Makes his way to the bathroom, flicks the flint on the lighter and watches how fast natural fiber burns. Too fast, and he has to fling the t-shirt into the shower, reflexes shot, and his fingers get slightly scorched.

Makes his way into the living room .He thinks about drinking more, swallowing a couple xanax, maybe calling up Karl to see if he can get anything stronger, but the anger that lead to the immolation of his most cherished possession is still holding the reigns.

Crying, laying in bed for days at a time, drinking, drugs, he'd been through the list of all the self-destructive post-relationship coping methods, and he wasn't even beginning to feel any relief. He only knows one more option: break things.

The first to go is the crystal clock sitting on the bar which just happens to be within reach when the synapse fires and he remembers destruction can be your friend. The clock is followed shortly thereafter by one bottle of vodka, two of gin, and several cds. When the first round ends, he surveys the damage and doesn't feel any different. No change, all the pain still sitting on his chest, covering every inch of his flesh and getting sucked up into his nostrils so that he thinks if he breathes too hard it might smother him. He gazes at the prism effect across the shards of glass and crystal from the moonlight through the unshaded window. Takes one step, then two and pretty soon he's walked all the way to the other side of the living room with bare feet on the sea of shifting light. Falls to his knees where the last cd he hurled lays out of it's jewel case cracked in half by the force of the impact. 'Johnny Cash Live From Folsom Prison', and he's already living the cliché, so he lets the tears well up again.

He also picks up the largest piece of broken bottle within immediate reach and tears a gash in his right arm that takes fourteen stitches to sew up.

+++++++++++++++

Xander seems to be riding some kind of karmic wave that began with Lindsey's announcement about his boss ordering the split and has taken him back to Sunnydale and life in his basement. No explanation from his parents, just the room that used to be his full of junk and a few boxes at the bottom of the step with the very few things he hadn't taken with him on the road.

First week home spent down there alone, on the dirty pullout he never even bothered to unfold. First three entire nights spent in the tiny powder room crouched over the toilet crying with his fist in his mouth so no one would hear him upstairs, biting back the sobbing until he vomited over and over again. Isn't really surprised when he's able to stop throwing up because he's never been so empty in his life. It's just his skin stretched over a glass frame that happens to be his shape, and everything that was inside is gone.

The opposite of joy isn't pain. It's nothing.

Finally his mother tells him that she saw Joyce Summers at the market, and that means his cover is blown. He has to pull himself together, be socially interactive. No one will ever know that his summer was anything more or less than what he had told them it would be. And it's not as if they ask too many questions. As usual his flip responses get him smiles because everyone's too wrapped in their own lives to see beyond the shiny happy surface that Xander presents them

Wills looks at him now and then like she's got her vibes on overdrive, but she never presses, and he doesn't want to start so it goes away. Eventually she's caught up in college and it's just him and his basement couch.

The watch is in a box, and he hasn't taken it out since he got back here. He can't even think about this place as home anymore, not liked he used to, because he's seen the way things should work and his head won't equate anything less with what's needed anymore. He starts taking some of his mother's sleeping pills at night after she goes to bed. Some nights he swallows them and lays there staring at the ceiling, not thinking, not feeling. Just not anything at all.

Sometimes he just takes them and puts them in the baggie under the couch cushion. Not that he's going to need them all, not like he's considered it. It's just, you know, so he can have them here if he really, really needs to sleep.

Buffy and Wills show up out of the blue one day, break from classes or something, and Buffy asks him if he minds helping out with Dawn. His first reaction is to say no to her request, he doesn't want to drag himself out of his snug rabbit-hole of misery. He wants to sit here and be empty until it all goes away. But it looks like *that * plan isn't working out too well //big surprise there, huh?// so he says yes.

That's what he always does; he does the right thing.

Joyce goes off to the gallery, and there's Dawn, all big saucer-eyes and 100 watt smile and too much energy in one little girl's body. Hard not to respond to so much genuine happiness at his presence.

"Ok, Dawnmeister, what's the game plan? Mystery Date, Barbie Shopping Mall or just a little world domination?"

"You wanna play beauty salon?" She asks him like he has a say in the matter, their own brand of politics, pretending he isn't going to let her do mostly whatever she wants.

"You gonna put that unwashable, green mascara on me again?" Teasing her to see her blush, she was so much more upset about that than he was at the time.

She does blush, drops her eyes for a breath or two, and it hurts just a little because it reverberates in him, can see his own actions of not so long ago reflected back at him. Punches the memory back down hard and nails the lid shut while she digs her toe in the carpet and says, "Like, no, I told you before, Buffy hid it. Anyway, how about hairdresser this time?"

"As long as there's no permanent damage, I'm in."

"Xan, what did you do this summer?" Sitting in a chair, towel over his shoulders and leaning back so she can use the hose spray in the kitchen sink to wet his hair down. It's too long, and he thinks with a pang that he might not have washed it for a while. Can't in fact remember washing it or himself since... Well since then. But Dawn is blithely ignorant of this, she's got about four times the usual amount of shampoo puddling in her little hands and he doubts she was offering to clean him up because she thought he looked like a homeless guy.

"Like I told you when I came back, I got stuck in Oxnard and had to work to pay for the car repairs." That's his story, and he's sticking to it. Nothing. else. happened. He can't move to see her at all, and her hands are busy, scrubbing at his scalp with short little nails, then swooping the soapy clumps up into ridges and swirls, white Mohawks, long long ponytails. Playing. It's kind of relaxing despite the topic.

"Nothin' bad happened?" Hands still busy, but he feels his heart trip over.

"Bad, how?"

"I don't know, maybe an alien abduction?" Senses rather than sees her shrug, and she's still into the Vidal Sassoon thing. His scalp is tingling, but in a good way, and could he have been stupid enough to think that Dawn wouldn't be cataloguing everything? Considers her diaries and her "Cub Reporter" badge, how she's grown out of acting like she writes for the Metropolis Daily Planet, but she still probably has the eye. He knows she has a crush, he's always touched and flattered and feels kind of big-brothery about her because of it. Goes out of his way to pay attention to her when no one else will. He wonders if she's the only one who actually did notice him, see him as changed.

Maybe the beauty parlor thing wasn't as un-planned as he thought to begin with. "You sayin' I'm not acting like myself?"

Again he feels her shrug, and she turns on the water, starts to rinse him. So very careful when she's at his forehead so no water will get in his eyes. Protective of him. Taking care of him. Pointedly not looking at his face as she says tell him, "No one ever acts the same for very long. I just was askin', because you seem, well, down."

If it had been Buffy or Willow, he'd have broken down immediately, but he's not about to cry out his hurt about the lover he lost to a 12 year old girl. The *gay * lover, and that was becoming not so important when he thought about it, but still. He knows this is his shot, his chance to get it out, because Buffy and Willow weren't going to ask. They hadn't noticed the fact that you could feel his ribs through his shirt, and that was mainly because there hadn't been any hugs or tickles since he's been home. Knows they've all changed. But this is Dawn, and she's just a kid.

"I'm just getting used to being back with all the girls in my life. Big change for me after being alone and all. You know, like coming back from camp. Everything's all weird at first, but pretty soon it all fits again." Sits up since she's stopped washing and pulls the towel up to scrub the wetness off his hair. When he takes it away from his face, she's got her arms crossed and that determined look to her face.

"I think you're not telling me something," she says, one eyebrow headed for her hairline.

"OK, you're too clever for me, I knew I couldn't keep it a secret forever." So serious and he leans up to her. "Just between you and me, OK, because Buffy will flip if she finds out."

"Cross my heart, hope to die." Whole nine yards, little white fingers making x's over the Hello Kitty t-shirt.

He takes a deep breath and says, "This summer, when I was in Oxnard, I was in fact abducted by aliens."

She shrieks at him, grabs the hose and sprays him right in the face. In five minutes the kitchen is a mess, Dawn is on the floor with a semi-terminal case of the giggles, and Xander isn't thinking of the sleeping pills for the first time since he got back.

===========

Hospital smell makes Lindsey gag. He's still half-toasted when he shows up at he emergency room. The nurse asks him if his injuries are "domestic violence" related. He wants to tell her yes. That his lover did this to him, he just doesn't know it. Instead says he fell through a glass table.

"And the feet?" She isn't buying what he's selling but is just as jaded as any other graveyard shift RN at any other megalopolis ER.

"Then I walked on the broken glass."

"Fill these forms out, a doctor will be with you shortly."

Shortly turns out to be an hour and a half. And he's sure it would have been longer if he hadn't had a Blue Cross card in his wallet.

Waiting to see the punch-drunk ER doc, he pulls out his cell and dials up one of his former clients.

"I have a job for you."

"You payin'?"

"Unless you're working for charity now, yeah."

"What's the deal, MacDonald?"

"I want you to kidnap and kill someone's pet."

"What kind of pet?"

"I don't know, whatever they have."

"What if they don't have one?"

"Then I'll pay you for busting your ass to find that out."

"Fine. Who?"

"Lilah Morgan. I'll give you the address."

Surgical gauze wrapped slightly too tight around his forearm, Lindsey sees Lilah outside her office the next morning. She doesn't miss a beat, turns to him and gives him her most insincere grin.

"Lilah"

"Lindsey."

He finds out later that afternoon that it was a Siamese cat.

============

Anya's waiting for him when he gets home, like he knew she would be.

"How long you been here?" He steps out of his shoes and walks over to where she's sitting on the edge of his bed.

"An hour. It could be more. Your clock doesn't work." She's already unbuttoning his pants and tugging his shirt over his head as she tells him this, and he zones out her actions.

Part of Xander is still waiting every minute of every day for a phone call. A letter. Some kind of contact from Lindsey. He remembers how he was over their first fight, when they were just starting. It was just probably about making a point to prove he wasn't as big a dick as he appeared to be, but that got him flowers, a watch, it got him Twinkies and tequila and begging for forgiveness. And most importantly, it got him the second chance he had thrown away.

It's not that Xander *wants* Lindsey to do that again. He left for a reason, he left to protect him, and he tells himself it was the right thing to do. So it's good that there's no more phone calls, no more whiskey-rough voice calling him 'Xan' and telling him to take off his towel. No blue eyes watching him, no syrupy-rich country boy twang in the shower singing Johnny Cash.

Soft, full man-lips kissing him goodbye with his hand in Xander's hair and telling him that he loves him, and he'll call.

Now he has Anya in his bed every night for some unknown reason, and each time the sun goes down he expects to walk outside and see Twilight Zone written in the sky.

She uses him like a living doll, and he lets her. Doesn't know what she gets out of it besides physical contact with another living person, but he figures there has to be better candidates than him out there. Still, he doesn't want to tell her to leave or that she's not welcome, partly because it's just cruel and partly because he's afraid of her.

After she gets done with him, she always leaves. Tells him his parts fit hers well, and she'll be back tomorrow. So, he's alone again for real now. Not just in his head.

As he lays down post-shower, his thoughts turn in on themselves and twist up, take on new configurations. He thinks that Lindsey never came back to the apartment anyway. That he was never going to, that he was using his boss as an excuse. Pain comes screaming in to fill all the empty places inside of him, and he groans out loud before he can cover his mouth. Because he knows that's wrong, it's a ridiculous lie that he's trying to foist on himself to cover the guilt. He knows that Lindsey called and called, and when there was no answer, he went to the apartment. Can see him getting the manager to unlock the door, panic hidden under all that legal doubletalk. Can see his face when they find the place empty, all his stuff gone and no trace of Xander Harris anywhere.

He falls asleep the same way he has every night since he took up residence on the fold out, exhausted from tears and self-hate.

=end part I=

Chapter Text

Another night out patrolling, and to add to his misery, Anya has decided she needs to experiment with the various things she's found on her favorite, obsessive topic. Cosmo headquarters needs to go up in a fiery ball of flame. He's still her fucktoy; she undresses him, tells him what she's read and nags, wheedles, pushes him into letting her do whatever it is. He goes blank now as soon as they're alone, wonders if he ever answers her in any way that's even mildly related to whatever she might ask him.

She finishes; she leaves; he showers. Sometimes he finds himself in the middle of a crying jag and wonders how long it's been going on. If the water's still hot, he has no way of knowing if it was two minutes or twenty.

Stumbles to the couch, drags off the sheets because he is *not* sleeping on anything that smells like her, because, really, it's too painful. He knows he's screwing her as hard as she's screwing him. That he should have told her the truth and waited out the tears and spite on her part. Just can't bring himself to be that kind of an asshole twice in so short a time. She needs someone. He seems to be enough. Besides, Willow told him something about her being able to get her powers back if she's spurned again. Danger Will Robinson. When he pulls the sheet off the bed, he catches a peek of the baggie when the cushions pull out of the corner. Lays down and holds the sealed plastic in his hand. It's a good stash now; he's been able to take two at a time right after she refills it. Wonders briefly if he would go to sleep and just not wake up, or if it would make him sick, vomiting it up until he pukes blood.

Not something he wants to repeat. The blood in the toilet bowl scared the hell out of him, and he made himself stop somehow. Snooped though his mom's dusty old Family Medical books and decided he's either given himself an ulcer, or he's ruptured something in his stomach from all the stress of the almost nightly event that is his worship at the porcelain altar.

His clothes are falling off of him, and yet no one seems to notice except Dawn, who has taken to giving him brownies, cookies, granola bars, anything she can slip into his hand as she walks by on her way out the door or up to her room. There's something old and understanding in her eyes which gives him pause, but life is weird, and Dawn is the only 12 year old he knows; they all might be like that. He takes the offerings, usually just to make her happy. They end up in the trashcan.

Tonight, though, the pills are looking mighty fine. Like they might be the best thing he could eat, solve all his problems, and if there's a little upchucking involved maybe that's fine, too. Weighs the bag in his hands, one then the other, beanbag effect. Sees Dawn handing him the last goodwill package on the sly, chocolate chocolate-chip cookies wrapped in a piece of notepaper from her school books. Scrawled on it in purple pen was a big four armed monster with buggy eyes and a drooling tongue. Her carefully-printed, child-like letters underneath saying "Eat this or else." She prints her name with a tiny heart drawn inside the 'a', and he wants to cry again remembering how solemnly she had been staring at him from the top of the steps.

Tosses the pills back under the couch cushions, puts an arm over his eyes and lets exhaustion claim him for another few hours. If he's lucky.

++++++++++++++++

"Glenfiddich, neat." Lindsey motions to the waiter to take Lilah and Faith's orders as well. He could think of few places he would rather be less, but this girl had demonstrated her willingness to get her point across physically, and he knows that's exactly what they need to deal with the Angel situation.

*ring. ring *

Lilah pulls her cell out of her pocket and leans away from Faith and Lindsey. Finger to her ear and her head down, hair hiding her mouth so no one can read her lips. Paranoia as a lifestyle.

"I'll have a beer. Not a lite." The waiter pulls a sour face, but doesn't ask for Faith's ID. Turns to Lilah, but she motions him away, impatient swish of her hand dismissing him, earning her a look that signifies her order will come with the complimentary spit.

She snaps her cell closed and turns back to the table. "Well, goddamn it, I have to go."

"Time for your monthly bile transfusion?" Lindsey doesn't even crack a smile. Knows that wasn't a very good one, but he has other things on his mind than living up to the cat-fight grind he and Lilah have going on. Cat-fight. He does smile at that.

"Your wit has really gone down the shitter since you went on the liquid diet, McDonald. Faith, we'll see each other again soon. Glad to have you on-board."

"Yeah, whatever. Eat something. Your legs might break like twigs soon." Lilah tightens her smile and leaves when Lindsey doesn't even suppress the laughter.

"We *are * glad to have you on-board. She's a harpy, but your skills are something we've been looking for quite some time." That's an understatement if he ever made one, but no sense letting her in on the "No way out" clause in her contract. He'll wait and see what goes down with Angel, and if it turns out like he expects, then there's a huge future at the firm for someone with her particular talents, if not, she'll end up n an acid bath somewhere in the Valley.

"Glad to be out of Sunnydale." Faith twirls the stem of her empty water glass between her fingers, nerves bundled tight in this place where she's entirely out of her element. There's more silverware at her place-setting alone than there ever was on her mother's entire table at one time. It makes her jumpy and awkward to be so visible, sitting in the middle of the room with no wall or even booth-back behind her.

"Where?" //Speaking of jumpy// She sees the lawyer get one of those moments of clarity for some reason. He looks like someone finally flipped his switch or something, blue eyes more alive than they were since the first time she clapped eyes on his fine form. Gorgeous eyes, she thinks, pretty face. Long lashes and soft mouth. She's been down this road before more than twice, knows how easily he would break, and how much fun it would be for them both for her to do it...

"Sunnydale. Turn up your hearing aid." Stops playing with the glass and lets her senses read him. Excitement, some anger, lots of adrenaline. He's wired now, although he's got a reign on it. Faith decides this might be more interesting than the job itself.

"Where is that exactly?" Lindsey leans back, wills himself still and calm. No emotional outburst required, he tells himself. Gathering data, recording information; this is what he does every day, and he does it well. The waiter brings their drinks, and he doesn't even touch the glass.

"The Hellmouth?" She grins, forearms on the table, looking at him like she doesn't know what to file him under in her own personal catalogue. He knows the look, uses it himself to make the other person aware they're being assessed, rattling their nerves. He's rattled, but it has nothing to do with the way she's looking at him.

She continues. "You gotta be kidding. I would've thought that law firm of yours would've been on that one like a crack-fiend on a rock. It's a coupla hours north of here."

"The Hellmouth? What's that?" He nods to her, just a slight inclination of his head. Less interruptions mean she's more likely to keep running her mouth and telling him everything he wants //needs// to know.

"Mouth of hell. Pretty self-explanatory. What's your damage?"

"How big is this town?" Getting into cross examination mode, he can tell she's onto him, but he's not letting go until he's got all he can get from her.

"Town is pushing it." She blows a breath of air out that ruffles the hair hanging in her face and rolls her eyes.

"How many high schools?"

Now she's getting annoyed. What is he, a census taker on the side? "One public one. Why're you riding my ass?"

"What year did you graduate?" Same calm tone of voice, like a computer, marking it down in his head. There's a vague rushing sound of blood in his ears, the signal that his temper is wanting to make itself known. It wants control like it's had so much lately. He damps it down for the minute.

"What the fuck is wrong with you? I *didn't * graduate." Faith, on the other hand, knows no restraint. She looks at the water glass again to gauge it's weight and heft, takes stock of how much damage it will do if he continues to annoy the hell out of her with is lameass questions. And oh fuck, if this is about Almighty Buffy, he's leaving here in an ambulance. Her fists will do that all on their own.

"Fine, you wouldn't happen to know a guy about your age named Alexander Harris, would you?" The way he glances away gives up the jig right away, even to him. Doesn't want her to see the way that he *knows* his eyes have gone glassy with anger, hope, need. Would rather have her wonder at his thoughts than just bare them completely. Things like that were life and death in the courtroom, and his recent downward spiral has left him with just enough to get him through those situations and nothing left over for anything else. Like this conversation, for instance.

Short bark of laughter from Faith, hand slapping the table loud enough to cause several patrons to look up and stare before looking away again. "How the hell do these things happen to me? Know Xander? I fucked his brains out."

//she did not just say that, she must be confused. Fuck, after Angel, she is gonna be in a world of hurt, but for now, keep it together McDonald//

"When would this have been?" Waits to hear her say that it was last week, last night, give him an excuse to walk out of here and flat out kill someone.

"It would have been before the goddamn coma his best friend Buffy caused." The name comes out sounding as sour as it tastes in her mouth.

"Didn't mean to hit a nerve." Glad to have company in the hell that is this conversation, Lindsey notes her reaction and lets her know he's seen it, heard it. Not even footing here, but a leg up for him at any rate.

"I think I'm the one who hit the nerve." Predatory smile. She leans way over the table, breasts spilling out of the little scrap of fabric that masquerades as her shirt.

"What makes you say that?" Carefully, slowly, Lindsey leans back. Personal space. Increasing his bubble so if this goes south he has enough room to get away before she's at his throat. He's thinking the scotch would taste good in his mouth right now, but he's not letting her rattle him enough to take it.

"Oh, nothing besides the attack you're having. Wanna tell me how you know Xander?" Sharp eyes glittering at him, and there's not a chance in this world, or any of the others he knows of, that he's telling her anything. She's picked up enough already.

"No." Polite, but a rebuff just the same. She thinks a minute, decides not to take it personally.

"You play for the all boy's team?" Because he is such a pretty thing, and she does like her toys.

"Why do you ask?" Amusement in Lindsey's tone. First time someone's come on to him in so long, and of course it would be her. If she hadn't spilled on Xander, he might have even taken her up on it. She doesn't leave much to the imagination, and a quick, hard fuck might just be what he needs right now.

"Because if you don't I can show you the only other up side to being the Slayer besides all the killing." Smirk and pout in one, and Lindsey has no doubt that she could snap him in two and make him beg for more the whole time. Not what he wants, not anymore.

"Not all boys, switch hitter, but not tonight." Reaches for the drink now, takes a sip, realizes he's back in control of himself.

"Does that mean you're interested?"

He has to give her points for persistence. It's a good trait; she must fight like something possessed if this is the way she goes after her nightly bump and grind. "No, it means you'll have to find someone else to injure tonight, I have other priorities."

"Riiiiiight," draws the word out to a moan. Another smile this time, hard edge behind it that wasn't there before, although he knows this one's made of steel. "When you find Xander, give him a kiss for me for old time's sake. Later." She pulls her jacket on with syrupy motions, letting Lindsey have an opportunity to change his mind. He watches the performance. Nods his head when she makes a move to leave, throws some bills on the table and heads for his car.

Starts the engine and listens to his mind ramble at him. He could have found him before this. He has his resources. It would've taken him about a half hour to track the boy through his social security number. Didn't do it. Didn't even try. Xander had left no doubt in his mind that the clandestine relationship fun-and-games wasn't for him. The empty apartment and lack of any contact whatsoever announced that loud and clear.

But Lindsey believes in luck, fate, kismet, some force propelling his life. Why else would Holland have found him out of the sea of somewhat sketchy law students at Stanford? Why would have picked * him* for Wolfram and Hart? Lindsey can find no answer to that. Nor can he find one as to why Xander stumbled into his life and blew it apart. And he's considered it from every angle, many times over.

Luck brought Faith to him, as a double bonus. She'll take out the biggest thorn in his side professionally and lead him back to his one shot at happiness personally. Why else would he have gotten her case? Luck, that's all there is to it, and Lindsey plans to ride that wave while it lasts.

==========

Contrary to popular misconceptions, Xander is clued in to the fact that no matter what he says, nobody is listening to him. He's going to test the theory one of these nights when they're all hanging out. Bust out with a little soliloquy about S&M or Dawn having his love-child. Something really fucked up. He's coupled up with Anya, God help him, and no one hears what he suggests. Good excuse to stop even trying to think about anything at all other than the self-hating stream of consciousness he's got on the automatic loop.

Research mode in full swing for everyone but him. He's turning the pages and moving his eyes, but he sees nothing at all. Suddenly, Buffy has identified the demon du jour, and Anya is chattering about her deep and intimate knowledge of all things slimy. He's panicking slightly, because the session means delays in alone time with her, and he just doesn't know if he can take it tonight. Not again, he just needs a break, and why can't she be one of those girls who wants to be left alone 5 days a month?

Then Giles, his savior, speaks the most beautiful words he's heard in a long time. "Anya, I need you to stay here a bit and give me all the background information you have on these creatures. The texts have lost quite a bit in the translations."

She burbles her agreement, and Xander is on his feet so fast he gets a head rush. "I'll patrol while you guys do the demon mind meld. No contact, just recon, OK?"

Out the door before anyone can voice much of a protest and he's free, thankyoujesus. No real plans to patrol, and unless the thing walks up to him on the way home, he's not going to need to report any sightings.

Walks with his head half way down, although he knows it's begging any random vamp to see him as the blue plate special. He can't even get all that worked up about it, really.

Suddenly he realizes that there is, in fact, something taking the stroll with him, uninvited guest, and he gets the uncontrollable fight-or-flight rush. It makes him shiver once as the adrenaline floods his system, and he glances once over his shoulder, risking it to see if he has a shot of outrunning whatever it is that thinks he's for dinner tonight. Sees a dark shape getting out of a car and just breaks.

Sprints about half a block and realizes he is a dead man, he's got no energy, no stamina, and the thing behind is fast and gaining. It hits him in a tackle, and they both fall heavily to the grass on the edge of someone's lawn. Dampness soaks through his shirt, and he just lays there, gasping and wondering why he isn't dead yet. Hears whatever has managed to catch him breathing heavily as it sits on his back.

Turns his head to the side and pants out, "Ok, you got me. Yay you. Just don't suck my eye-balls out. Make it quick."

"I ate earlier, and I'm not much of an eyeball man."

Oh no. No no no. That's just wrong, for the fates to bring him death at the hands of something that could conjure up the exact voice he's been hearing in his head, in his dreams, in his every waking or sleeping moment ."Great, a demon who reads minds. And can throw their voice. Get on with the killing part."

"So, that answers my question about you knowing about demons or not." Weight lifting and hand on his shoulder, rolling him over. Xander closes his eyes so he doesn't have to see the face of the thing that has stolen Lindsey's voice and is using it to torture him.

Peers out cautiously, and "Oh even better, a shape-shifter."

"Xander, I'm not a goddamned demon. Why would I go for you if I was, is there something ELSE I don't know about you?"

Southern drawl, just creeping in under the last few words and Xander's heart thuds hollowly for a split second. "Lindsey?" Negates it before he's even finished saying the name, shaking his head. "I'm not even gonna get my hopes up. Demon-magnet, that's what you don't know, evil guy. I'm one. Do I smell tasty or something, just tell me before I die."

"You smell like coffee and incense. You want me to prove I'm who I say I am?" It's coming down, closer, and look, it has blue eyes; he sees it has the exact shade of Lindsey's eyes plucked fresh from the middle of Xander's bright-sharp recall.

"If you read minds, you can trick me." Puts his hands up, childish gesture because he can't stand seeing the face he has missed so much right here and not have it be real.

Hands pulled away, pinned to the grass beside him. "Shit. Fine. How about this?" And, oh God, mouth on his, not too hard, just right, just the way he'd kissed him goodbye, soft lips and slip of tongue; and it even tastes like Lindsey. Smells like him too, sharp clean cologne and the dampness releases the scent of his shampoo into the air.

Xander's heart is racing, painfully fast hummingbird beats as hope and need and every wish he's ever had are thrashing at the door of his mind to break free. "Still could be mind reading." He's panting again, out of breath from the kiss.

"You wanna get in my car anyway?" Familiar tone, hello Counselor.

Heartbeat not slowing in the least, Xander closes his eyes and nods. "Sure, why not, I got a death wish. Fulfill me."

Lindsey's taking no chances, grabs Xander's arm, and hauls him to his feet, drags him unprotesting behind him back towards the car. Feels his fingers almost meet around the forearm, refuses to acknowledge that they both went down in the tackle because Lindsey hit him with a force gauged on Xander's well-remembered former bodyweight. Wasn't expecting to hit something that was all skin, bones, and clothing, like knocking over a scarecrow. He could feel the way Xander's heart was pounding right though his chest when he was laying there, straddling him, and what the hell has he been doing to himself?

"Hellmouth. What the fuck?" Growls this as soon as he's put Xander in the driver's side and pushed him over. Slams the door shut and hits the door lock control. All trapped and comfy now, and time to talk on his terms.

"Huh?" Not even an actual word, more of a grunt from Xander. He notes the glassy eyes, the dark circles underneath, and here's someone who almost looks worse than Lindsey feels. Felt.

Turns and looks out the windshield at the sleeping town in front of them. Nice, normal, single houses, trees and flowers, swings and fucking picket fences. He should have known. "You live on the Hellmouth."

"Yeah. That's what this is. It's why you're here, right?" Xander's back in the conversation, alternating between staring at Lindsey and examining the dashboard with great interest. Nice to see that his whole recall of the way Xander deals with less-than-pleasant things hasn't been warped, because he can see him doing this same thing in a different setting, the last night they were together.

Lindsey softens for a minute. Hears the echo of Xander saying he loves him. Sighs and tells him, "I'm here because you are."

"You're sticking to the party line on that one, huh?" Shifting eyes catch his for a minute, and the shaking hands could be equal parts fear, anger and from what Lindsey has seen, possibly malnutrition.

Both hands running through his hair now. "Xander, you're about to really fucking piss me off. I thought you might be glad to see me. I see now that when you left you meant it." Hurts to say it, but he's hoping for the reasons to come out. Something, anything other than the not knowing.

Spark of anger in Xander with that one, and he turns in his seat. "Whoa. Hold up. I did that for your own good, Lindsey-form-thing. And wait, what's all this Hellmouth crap?" Still shaking now, Lindsey sees, and that's just too fucking much. Can't take it any more.

"When was the last time you ate?" Wants to put his hand out and touch Xander's face, all cheekbones and tight skin, but thinks he might startle if he does.

"Is that important for your feeding arrangements?" Blinking eyes and Lindsey begins to wonder if Xander hit his head when he fell, maybe that's what this is all about. He's stunned and more confused than usual. Or he's being deliberately obtuse, which is also a strong possibility.

"I'm not going to fucking eat you!" Hand clenched, the one Xander can't see because he's gone beyond the limits of the little self control he has left. Having him here, right here, and not touching him is sapping the willpower he's burnt up managing his rage lately. The veil is thin and it's stretching, and in a minute or two something is going to snap.

"Right, that's what they all say." Dismissive wave of his hand as Xander turns away to look out the window. Lindsey wonders if there're any cops in this town who bother to come out at night, and what Xander would do if one drove by them parked here. Would he start banging on the window, attract the attention, use that to get away?

"I should've had a drink." Thinking out loud again, not a good sign, but it's been a frustrating four hours for him, finding the place, tracking Xander down and waiting to get him alone, away from the group where he seems to be a member of the fringe faction.

"I could use one myself."

Something they agree on at last, and Lindsey knows he's clutching at straws. "You want to grab a beer and some nachos? Any place around here to eat?"

"A few, but you better have human money. I'm not floating you." Arms across his chest. Could he be carrying on this act?

"Let's get back to the 'they all' then. How many times have you been attacked by demons?" Lindsey checks Xander's forehead surreptitiously for any signs of bruises or lumps that might indicate concussion. No, from what he can see under the much longer mop of curls then he remembers, it's all fine. Xander's just weirded out.

"That would have to be a rough estimate, and wait, nope can't give that either. A shitload." Wave of his hand that eerily echoes the one Lilah gave the waiter that night.

"Let's get you something to eat, you look like hell." Reaches out to start the car, turns the key in the ignition and the dashboard lights come on.

Petulant whine in Xander's voice when he answers. He also sounds suspiciously close to tears, but that could just be the overload of the whole stalker-tackle-kiss-kidnap thing working on the boy. "I'm not hungry. And I know you're not really Lin, so you can give up the act."

"And how do you know that?" Patience might work, it might, and Lindsey can try it. For a few minutes at any rate.

"Because you're talking about demons, you stupid puss-brain. Lindsey doesn't know about that whole demon-subculture thing." Complete and total conviction in his statement, spoken as if Lindsey is dumb as dirt, and he looks both shocked and insulted when Lindsey laughs out loud.

"How wrong can one guy be? Xan give it up, you're batting a thousand tonight." Leans his head on the steering wheel for a minute, and thinks about how natural it felt to laugh. With Xander. How he hasn't had a real laugh, one that felt this good, since he left.

"I see now you try to trick me with the wily sports references." An odd reply, and when he looks over again, Xander is staring at the dashboard, much the same way cavemen might have stared at fire the first time they ever saw it. Transfixed by the fucking Mercedes logo of all things. Christ!

"Xander, lord love a duck! Get a grip. It's me. Ok?" Reaches over, the hell with being calm and letting him get his bearings, there's no way he can stand to not be touching him right this minute.

Slides his hand into the black curls at the back of his neck, and just takes his face right on in, nose to nose, eyes open and staring.

"Mercedes sedan." Xander's voice breaks.

"Yeah. Silver, Mercedes sedan, you knew before you even saw it, remember?" Mouth parted, licks his lips, waits for it. //give me the words, Xan, let me see you back here with me//

"Lindsey?" Voice thick and hopeful. Lindsey's hands tighten in the curls, and he closes his eyes for a second. Swallows hard.

"It's me, Xan." Kisses him then, mouth open and full of need and want, all the missing he's been doing focused in to the way his tongue traces Xander's lips before sliding inside. He devours him, every inch of his mouth, teeth and tongue and the ridges on his palette and realizes he's tasting salt.

Xander tastes like tears.

Desperate arms around him then, familiar sigh against his mouth, and Lindsey wishes for it to be weeks and weeks ago so he could have that night back, stay there, the hell with Holland Manners, and Wolfram and Hart be damned. Can't do it, so tries to make it up the best he can. Slips and slides against Xander, gets them halfway down on the seat. Looks down to see complete recognition in Xander's eyes before they drop closed and thinks his heart might just explode with the feelings that conjures up for him.

Strokes Xander's hair, combs his fingers through it, shifts a little, and this is familiar, front seat, loose limbed sprawl of the man under him, every part of his body knowing where to be. Fitting himself into the hollow between Xander's hipbone and his erection, slow thrust of his hips, gasp and sigh from them both.

"God, baby, you're disappearing on me," Lindsey's voice is rough as he slips up Xander's shirt and sees ribs and the dip of his belly. Lowers his head to lick, kiss, lick his way from navel to neck. "I wanna take your shirt off, let me take it off for you." Urges him up, peels the baggy thing away and has a pang for the pile of ashes he created from another shirt that used to be Xander's.

Pops the buttons on Xander's jeans and slides the zipper down, but they're so loose he could have pulled them off the way they were. Xander's hands work the buttons of Lindsey's shirt, and there's no time for that so Lindsey helps him, tugging at the buttons until they open or fly off. Pulls off his undershirt, and they're skin to skin again, Xander's body full of heat.

Back to his mouth, Lindsey needs that mouth again, hot and pink and all his. Bruised already from the way they've been kissing, urgency without the fumbling, and Xander rocks his hips up, writhes. "Missed you, Lins, missed you so much. What took you so long?"

Lindsey groans, hears the hurt there, knows Xander's been waiting for him to do what he proved he does so well, for him to find him, come and get him if he really wants him. Kisses him again, tries to explain it without the words, uses his hands and his mouth instead. Slow stroking hips, and he wants far too much to be inside of him again, he can almost taste it. His head's spinning as he reaches down and undoes his own pants, feels Xander's hands eager to help him, pushing them off his hips and arching up to so they're pressed together as soon as he's able.

Wet warmth between them as soon as Lindsey gets his cock against Xander's, rush of precome from them both, and this is going to be so fast. Xander's pulling him down, and Lindsey knows he can't do it, not here, not now, he'll hurt the boy, but oh god he wants to, needs to. Face buried in Xander's neck, licking the skin there as they rock once, twice, three times, and it's over. Flooding heat then, his shout muffled in the muscles of Xander's shoulder, stopping himself from biting down at the last second, and hearing Xander's low, long moans, so loud inside the car.

Harsh breathing for a few minutes and Lindsey realizes he's shaking. Xander's hands twisted in his hair, holding him still, and he lets himself rest for one minute. One perfect minute, skin on skin, breathing leveling out, matching each other, in-and-out, in subconscious need to be in sync.

He pulls back enough to get eye-contact with the boy. "You wanna get a burger now?"

Xander drops his eyes closed, but smiles all the same. "You gonna tell me how you know about demons?"

Lindsey smiles back, sits up and lets Xander right himself as well. "Food and talk. That's what it's gonna be." He fumbles for his under-shirt, pulls it over his head and starts the car.

=end part II=

Chapter Text

Xander looks down at the fingers that are entwined with his own, laying on the leather of the seat. Very little space between them, but it still feels like a chasm. Wants to be wearing Lindsey's skin and then, maybe, it'll be enough. Lindsey starts driving, pulls away from the curb and lets the car wind its way down the street.

Xander glances over at him. "Where're we going?"

"To get you some food." He seems in no hurry, the car is just rolling along, barely making the speed limit. Moonlight drive through the mouth of Hell.

"Nothing's open here this late." Not that Xander thinks he could keep it down anyway. Nothing he wants right now exists outside of this car, unless it's a room somewhere for them to sit and talk undisturbed.

Lindsey turns to him, one eyebrow raised to his hairline. "Not even a convenience store?"

Squeezes Xander's fingers with his own just a tad, comfort, touch.

"Yeah, right. Those are." Thinks about what's open, and where it's located, and how can he get them there without running into Buffy or anyone else.

"You live around here, don't you?" Trying to look nonchalant. Not give up the ghost about how in-depth he went with his research into Xander's life, not as deep as he could have, but he knows where he lives, where he works.

"I think you know I do. And I also think you know I live with my parents now." Doesn't know if he should be glad that he has parents to throw up in as defence mechanism or not. Because certainly they never notice that Anya's been coming over every night, right to the back door, and doing naughty things to their baby boy in the basement.

"Yup. I knew both those things. Would they miss you tonight if you didn't stay there?" Lindsey brings Xander's hand over to rest on his thigh, keeps his fingers wrapped around the boy's. Thinks of spending the night with him, even if all he manages to do is feed him and make sure he's not going to fade away to nothing.

Small, not-very-pleasant chuckle from Xander, who shakes his head a little. "They probably didn't notice when I was gone all summer."

"Ok, not that that's a good thing, but it works out fine for my plans. We'll get a room." //a room, a bed, a shower, alone//

"Don't you have to be at work in the morning?" Xander slides over the remaining inches and rests his body weight on Lindsey as he drives. Not quite head-on-the-shoulder, but seeking more contact. Reassurance that he's there. Despite the fact that he can smell Lindsey all over himself; he' s still sticky with it; it's the constant companionable presence that he needs most.

Eyes on the road, Lindsey smiles. "My position at work has altered some. I took a couple days off." More gentle pressure to Xander's hand, pressing it into his leg. Squeeze on his thigh in return.

"Days off? So, you thought this out, did you?" Xander admits a huge sense of delight in the fact that Lindsey is indeed his own personal stalker-guy, even if he is a little slow on the uptake this time.

"I was going to hog-tie you if you tried to resist." Wicked dip of his head to positively leer at Xander, sees him wriggle in response. The eager puppy side of Xander is coming back, a sight for sore eyes, and Lindsey asks himself how they hell he managed to wait so damn long anyway?

"That might have been fun, maybe we can do it anyway." Right. Food and hotel. Right now, and Lindsey would be very happy if they were both within a block of their current location. Or less.

++++++

The 7-11 turns out to be only a block from there. Lin surveys himself in the security mirror and knows with his hair tussled, white undershirt and his purchases he looks like a pusher who likes to sample his own wares. Winks at the store clerk when she tells him to hit it once for her.

Comes back out and deposits two bags in Xander's lap.

"I'm sure there's something in there you can stomach. Maybe the milk and oreos." Xander pulls out the quart of whole milk and opens the spout.

"You're not going to shut the hell up about this are you?" Completely ignored, he takes a mouthful and swallows. Feels a tightness in his throat and the acid in his stomach bubble.

"Where's the closest motel?"

"Turn left here."

+++++++

No eye-contact from the check-in clerk. Key tossed at him, and his change somehow getting lost between the clerk's hand and his pocket. He doesn't mention it. Doesn't even care.

Xander carries the food in the room, and dumps it out on the middle of the right hand bed. Picks out a packet of saltines and tears them open.

Lindsey surveys the middle of the road, almost seedy hotel room with repulsion. It makes him feel dirty, cheap rendezvous after cheap rendezvous plays through his head and he walks over to flip the bed-side lamp on. Hears Xander rustling behind him. Second cracker, and Lin knows that's about all the boy will be eating tonight. He'll force the Power Aid on him after bit.

"So, why now?" Xander talking to his back. And he wanted maybe some room before this conversation.

"Why now what?" He knows. Tries to deflect it all the same. Turns and sits next to Xander on the bed.

"Why did you come now? Out of the blue, after all this time?" Xander tosses the crackers aside and has the Power Aid out on his own, and Lin thinks that earns him the truth. They could both put in a little effort.

"I ran into one of your ex's. She told me where to find you." Straight in the eye, and he will get through this without having a raving, jealousy fit over a woman he considered fucking himself, thank you very much.

"No way. You can't mean..." Xander is about to start laughing, he has the breath drawn for the gaffaw, one hand in the air and about to tell Lin how sorry he is.

"Yeah, Faith." The shock so plain and real, that Lindsey wonders how many ex's Xander has running around in L.A. His boy, the lady-killer, and he's not liking that image one iota.

"Holy shit, not the name I was going for. And ex doesn't really apply to her." Xander's on his feet, turning away from Lin. Trying to collect himself. Because the newest Faith fiasco is far too fresh for this. //She's going around telling people we dated? That's…weird. And…oh god, how does he know her?//

"No? She told me to give you a kiss for old time's sake. Sounds like an ex to me, look, it was when you were a kid, I don't care." Anger there, and the calming words weren't covering it, and maybe she was lying when she said it was *before * the coma and Xander doesn't know how to cover his tracks well enough.

"A kiss? Not a blow to my windpipe? Yeah, it was a long time ago, but you got the wrong picture of that situation." Xander rounds on him. He knows the nuances of the other man's voice, has heard anger there before. Can fit the elongate long a sound to the blood rising. Can't believe HE'S the one pissed here.

"Blow to your windpipe?" Left field, Lindsey knows Xander lives there, but that was one of his better completely fucked up remarks.

"Yeah, she almost killed me." Lin on his feet now as well. Hands on Xander's biceps, squeezing slightly too tightly, but that's all the grounding he has at the moment.

"Was this a consensual thing?" Xander has to strain to hear him, and he can see Lindsey telling him to say yes with the twitch above his left eye.

"Consensually almost dying? The death wish is a new thing." Shrugs Lindsey off and moves back to the bed. Plops down and rests his head in his hands. //Why am I talking about the whole strangulation thing? That's not the important issue here.//

"That fucking cunt. I should've known." Whoosh, slam and the crackle of glass. Xander looks up to see the motel ashtray shattered into about a gazillion pieces on the other side of the room, and a look on Lindsey that might actually give Faith pause.

"Gonna go for round two on the woman beating thing?" The vein in his forehead feels like it it's about to burst, but when he sees the mocking expression on Xander's face, his anger dissipates. He walks over and drops to his knees between Xander's.

"Xander...what did she do to you?" Two fingers stroking down the side of his face, and a brush of his thumb over his lower lip.

"I told you, she tried to strangle me to death, I was saved, like always." Shake of his head, half-hearted, and Lindsey doesn't let go.

"The other slayer?" Scooting in now, wrapping his free arm around Xander's waist, pulling them flush.

"No. Someone else. New topic, how the hell do you know Faith at all?" Fingers in Lindsey's hair, yanking his head back slightly, no pain, but a show of will.

"She's working for my firm on a problem we have." Knew as the words formed in his mind that the truth was going to get him flat on his back.

"Did you put the deposit on the phone?" Towering over him, fury and anguish making Xander gag once, twice, reaches for the phone anyway.

"Why?" Up on his elbows, then his knees, and all the way to his feet, Lindsey has the receiver out of Xander's hand before the boy can make a move to check.

"I have to call my friends and tell them where Faith is." No struggling as Lindsey sets the receiver back on the cradle and turns him around.

"I don't think so." Tries to smile around the words, knows it ends up more of a smirk. Probably looks as sleazy as he feels.

"What do you mean, you don't think so? Fuck that, she's dangerous, she needs to be in jail or a mental ward or something." Another grab for the phone, but this time his eyes off-set the angry tone. Pleading.

"I need her." Lindsey is on him, toppling him back on to the bed with his weight. One of Xander's hands pinned between their bodies, the other held by Lindsey's own.

"You * need* her? You better start talking fast, because my spidey-senses are tingling." Lindsey rolls off, sits back up. Xander makes no attempt to sit up or move at all.

"Her skills, I need them to take care of a problem I have at work." Nervous hair rake with his right hand, and that is such a bad habit. He needs to break himself of it.

"She's gonna kill someone for you." Mono-tone. The bed not moving at all, as though Xander doesn't really say it himself, the disembodied voice that follows Lindsey around day and night casting recriminations and laying out guilt trips has just taken up Xander's voice.

"Yes."

"Why? Why did you come back, Lindsey? Why did you have to ruin my memories?" Whirlwind of motion behind him, and Xander's struggling to sit up, Lindsey' blocking him, and the weakness from fatigue and hunger makes him have to grasp on to the undershirt to haul himself up.

"Xander, it's complicated. The guy I want her to kill isn't human, does that make a difference." Attempts to soothe the boy with touch, hands on his shoulders to keep him from tripping out any further than he already has.

"It might. What kind of not human?"

Thanks God that they've already done the Demon Awareness part of the talk, and he can just tell him straight out. "A vampire."

"Oh." Beat. Pause for breath. "I'll think about it then, but look Faith will fuck you over, trust me. She doesn't understand the concept of loyalty, and wait, neither do I, I should be ratting her out right this second." Xander looks up at him, confusion plainly written on his face, wanting to know which is the right thing to do and just too tired to make the call.

"Why aren't you then?" Lindsey's voice dropping in tone, hands gently urging Xander back against the pillows. Slipping on top of him. One hand brushing back the tangle of hair from his forehead, then cupping his face.

"Because all I've wanted is for you to fucking show up and make this living hell I've been in since I came back to Sunnydale end. I should be running the other direction, because I have the suspicion that you aren't exactly adverse to the human killing either, but it just doesn't seem to matter all that much." His hands reaching up to pull Lindsey to him for a slippery, tongue on tongue kiss. Open mouth, slow, deep, taking in the taste and the ease with which he gives himself that Lindsey has missed for so long.

Unhurried pause to look at Xander's face, waiting for his eyes to open before he speaks. "I live in the grey area of the world, that's true, but I wouldn't do anything to hurt you. I hate my goddamned job, but it's not like I can just resign, ok?" Punctuates the question with another languid kiss. Undemanding, no rush, all night to savor this again.

"Why not?" Asked in between the pressing of lips and brushes of tongue, and Lindsey hates the question. Hates it, but knows Xander needs and deserves an answer.

"Because what they would do to me would make strangulation at Faith's hands look like a peaceful way to go." Tries to lessen the impact of the revelation by deepening the explorations of Xander's body. Flicks his tongue over a soft earlobe, draws it into his mouth, bites just enough to make Xander groan.

"They would kill you?" Warm hands under Lindsey's shirt, roaming over muscles that flex and slide, pressing him down with soft urgency.

"More than likely." Intake of breath when one hand slips inside the waistband of his pants to the small of his back, brushes the dimples there before withdrawing. Lindsey wants it back, right where it was, nuzzles into Xander's neck and licks the skin there, tastes salt and soap, sucks a little before he can help himself.

"You work for Evil Incorporated?" Not much surprise there in Xander's voice, but there's not much room for thought for either of them. Their frantic release earlier only managed to take the edge off. Now instead of an out of control rush of hormones, they're dropping down head-long into the next layer of desire. Drawn out for the sake of the pleasure.

"Pretty much." Lindsey gets to his knees, skins off his shirt, pops open his jeans. Xander watches his cock strain against the elastic of his briefs, wants to slide them off with his jeans and have him naked again.

"I was right to leave then." Lindsey hears the weight of the statement despite the way Xander's pulling his shirt off and slipping his own jeans down, no need to bother with the zipper. He does reach out then and tug Lindsey's cock free, wraps his hand loosely around it, thumbs the clear droplet from the head. Lets go to bring it up to his mouth and taste it, tongue flickering out to make it disappear.

Lindsey drops back down onto the bed, knees gone shaky at the sight. Pulls Xander over on top of him. Pushes his hips up off the bed just a fraction, hint of rubbing. "Don't start that up again. We'll work it out, ok? Somehow. I'll think of something." He'll think of something, swears he will, as soon as he can be free to think again. To let his mind wander beyond heavy lidded brown eyes, a vise-like, wet mouth and the way it's slipping over his cock. Twines his hands in Xander's hair and just rests them there, lets him lick and tease.

"Uh huh." Muffled sound from between his legs as Xander's mouth continues to take him in. Lips closing over the head of his cock, no longer shy and unsure, knows just how to take his tongue and swirl it across the tip. Jaws opening wider and Lindsey is sliding down his throat as far as he can, slow easy glide.

Tightens his hands in Xander's hair, pushes him down just a little, urging him to take in a little more, just a little bit more. Hard sucking on the head of his cock, he feels a rush of precome and groans. "Oh God, Xan..."

Tugs at him to stop, pulls and half sits, and gets him back up. Kisses him hard as he leans, slides, rolls them over so he's on top. Tastes himself on Xander's tongue and sucks it into his own mouth. Hand down between their bodies, wrapped around them both. Gets their hips moving in a slow, easy ride, and Xander's hand covers his.

Raises himself up, watches both the hands stroke, the boy's over his own. Looks up at Xander's face to see him watching not the way their cocks move pressed together, but instead studying Lindsey's own expressions. Full body flush to see he's being studied and Lindsey jerks once, loses the rhythm. Xander pulls Lindsey's hand away from them, gentle but insistent, and holds on to them both himself. Grip tighter, stroking with long sure movements. Lindsey's eyes fall closed at the picture, and he shudders.

"Lins, " Xander breathes out. "Want you." Moans out something low right behind it.

"Do you want me to fuck you, baby?" Stops the movement of Xander's hand and lowers himself on the boy, thigh, hip, belly. Holds himself up in his hands for a minute, rolls his hips and lets them both slide in the slick heat there.

Asks him again, low and thick, all rough edged sexy-sweet drawl. "Do you want me to fuck you?"

"Yes, yes, want you, need you." Whispered against Lindsey's mouth as Xander pulls him down all the way against him, one hand on the back of Lindsey's neck, the other slipping across the baby-fine hairs at the small of his back. Pressing both places, urging but not urgent. Lindsey rolls away, grabs for the jeans he discarded at the side of the bed.

"Yes, Lindsey, I want you. Hurry. I missed you so much, missed you inside of me, missed the way you smell and feel, the way you touch me." Xander's eyes clamped shut, head rolling against the pillow.

Wallet scrounged out with shaking hands, flash of foil packet as he tears it open with his teeth, back on the bed, to his knees. Unrolls it on himself as Xander turns, slides, hands and knees now.

Gets the condom on, and pulls Xander up against him. He's still crooning, hot sweet words that go through Lindsey like fire, electricity right to his cock, drawing his balls up tight, then, "Everytime I touch myself, I pretend it's your hand, " as he gathers a handful of precome from Xander to slick himself to ease the way. Never makes it that far, too much to hear his boy saying those things to him, needing him, wanting him, so verbal and unbridled. Comes with a hiss and shuddering sigh with his cock pressed tight in the crease Xander's ass. Drops his forehead to the other man's shoulder, breathing heavily.

Reaches around to fist Xander's heavy cock, starts to jack him off slowly. "You pretend it's me like this?" Whimper of pleasure from Xander, Lindsey catches hold of his neck with his teeth, worries the skin there before he licks it. Presses his face to the line behind Xander's ear, whispers to him. "Think about me doing this to you, slow and hard, like I am right now?"

Xander's hips buck once, twice, fucking himself into Lindsey's hand, and he comes, splash of heat on his belly, his thighs, the fingers that continue to stroke him until he has to grab Lindsey's wrist and stop him. Lindsey presses Xander down to the bed, onto the pillows, spoons him as tightly as he can, arm around his chest and face in his hair.

Xander almost down for the count, Lindsey can hear his breath evening out, slipping into the half-conscious waking dream state.

"Would you consider moving to L.A. with me?" Kiss to the back of Xander's neck when he feels the muscles in the boy's back tense.

"Wasn't there some hitch with that whole plan before?" Not as asleep sounding as Lindsey would have thought.

"Things have changed. There might be options. Would you at least think about it?" Xander disengages from he snuggling, rolls on his back, reads Lindsey's face.

"What the hell else do I ever think about?" Right hand scrubbing hard at his forehead and eyes, deep sigh to go with it.

"Is that a yes?" Drops his hand to his chest, and Lindsey covers it with his own.

"Lins, I want to be with you more than breathing, but I have to work some things out here first, alright? I'm back here in my old life again, and I think you figured out by now, it isn't normal. You work on your plan, and I'll try to tie up my loose ends." Pushes his arm under Lindsey's pillow and pulls his body across his own.

"How much did you miss me?" Doesn't look up, but Xander can feel that it's half teasing, half openly-needy.

"You're lucky you weren't visiting my grave." Too tired to obfuscate, lets the truth out.

"That's not funny." Lindsey makes a move to pull away, sit up, prolong the talk. Xander pins him with his arm around his shoulders, not much strength there, but Lindsey doesn't push it.

"It wasn't a joke." Two sighs meeting in the middle turning over to laughter.

"Goodnight, Xan."

"Nite, Lin."

=end part iii=

Chapter Text

Paper-work and more paper-work, and the fall-out from the Faith situation never seeming to end, Lindsey doesn't know which end is up, or which path has the least brambles. He can't believe Faith turned to Angel instead of killing him //what is it with this guy? Like moths to a flame. Should've listened to Xander//

*buzz *

Punches the intercom button with more than the usual level of annoyance, and wonders if Jennie knows that one of these days she's going to buzz him at the wrong time, and he's going to just toss the whole phone through the window. Right after his chair, and possibly followed by his desk and any clients who are stupid enough to be in the office with him when he snaps. "Yes?"

"Mr. McDonald, you have a call from a Mr. Harris." Bad mood instantly lighter, and it's rare for Xander to make a call to his work. Lindsey knows how much he hates the idea of people listening to them on the phone, and it makes him nervous to say he's Mr. Harris. //it wigs me to sound like my dad, OK?//

"Put it through." Picks up the handset, and there's his boy.

"Lin?"

"Xander, calling to gloat?" //Wait, no he has no idea how bad the whole Faith thing went// Lindsey hasn't brought her up again, because he keeps seeing Xander's face tightening at the mention of her name. He also knows he might let the fantasy of wanting to go set fire to the jail where she's currently incarcerated slip. Stand outside and listen to her scream a little, not really something to share.

"What?" Good, he's got his own agenda, and Lindsey's relieved to not have to explain himself, back-peddle on the brain malfunction he just had.

"Nothing. What's up? Is there something wrong?" Momentary jump in his chest, there's nothing supposed to be wrong, and tonight he gets to see Xander. Only thing keeping him sane today as he creates his back-story for the Faith debacle.

"Yeah, but not of the life-threatening variety. I have to work, I can't make our meeting."

"The hell you do. Get off." Not angry, no, just relieved it's something that simple. Hates knowing that there is so much truly bad shit in the world that most people are blissfully ignorant of, and, therefore, never need to fear; wishes that's how it is for the two of them as well. Demons all around us, alternate universes opening almost at will, end of the world immanent on any given day.

"I can't - new job, low man on the totem-pole. I have to work." Stubborn tone to Xander's voice, even though Lindsey knows he wants to see him. It's the streak of "do right" that runs ten miles in every direction right through Xander's personality, and it gets him every time.

"Then quit." Not an order, nothing like that, but not quite a suggestion either.

Exasperated sigh on the other end of the line, and he can *see* Xander rolling his eyes. "I have to pay my parents rent, Lin. God, why is everything always so simple for you?"

"This *is* simple. Quit and I'll give you money." It makes sense to him, after all. Xander hates the jobs he's been carrying on a sporadic basis. Dull as dirt, minimum wage and usually exhausting him with ridiculous hours. It's not as if he's found something he likes doing.

"You want me to be your whore?" Lindsey's not sure of the tone that's being taken, whether or not he's joking or if he might be upset, offended.

"That's not exactly how I would put it. You're my boyfriend. I want to take care of you. And your job gets in the way of me seeing you." //This concludes my opening arguments, your honor...//

"So, it's the whole sugar daddy thing. I think people might notice that I'm not really working." But his voice is more amused and less neutral now. Lindsey thinks Xander enjoys getting him into what he calls 'lawyer-boy' mode every now and then.

"Have they noticed that you have a lover on the sly? One who leaves marks all over you?" Last three words drawn out, intending to make Xander blush on the other end and think about the places some of those marks have been. Thinks of a few of the marks he's found on his own body and wills away the beginnings of a hard-on.

"Thanks for reminding me how pathetic my life is. Fine. I'll do it. Cash up-front." Xander sounds like he's back into uptight mode, and that's just not going to work here at all. Flirting requires the other person to flirt back, or at the very least enjoy it a little bit.

"Your life isn't pathetic. Jesus. Your self-esteem really needs a kick in the ass." Lets his irritation hit the conversation finally, and he really didn't want to do that. Not with Xander. That's what Lilah's for.

"What's up your butt today?" Tone of concern rather than insulted pride or hurt feelings, and that's enough to settle Lindsey back down a notch for the moment.

Rubs his hand over his eyes and tells him, "Work. I'm having some problems. I can't talk about it on the phone."

"Right, code 15, insect on the line." Theatrically overdone whisper and Lindsey can't help but laugh.

"Right, Mr. Slick, I'll see you tonight." //see him and raise the self esteem, among other things//

"Yes, you will. Gotta get back to the research thing." Lindsey picks up the sound of other voices coming closer to wherever Xander is standing, and at least one of them is definitely female and impatient as she asks Xander "Do you want to go work for the phone company or come back and do the book thing like we're supposed to?" Doesn't ask who the hell it is, despite the fact the question almost leaps out of his mouth on its own.

"Tonight then. Bye." No endearments on the phone when he's at work, and it's hard not to call him 'Xan' or 'baby' or say something else much more personal.

"Bye" A second of hesitation before the phone clicks, as if he hates to go, and that's almost as good as hearing something more blatant. In a considerably better humor than he was when the day began, Lindsey turns his thoughts back to work.

// "I told you he wouldn't be easy. He can't be bought, and apparently he can't be killed - even by a vampire Slayer. - Rumor has it he used to actually date one."// He knows that Slayers come and go, don't live long, rapid expiration date. Lilah's rumors are almost always dead wrong, but he can't get that one out his mind. Files it away to look into it, after he stops by the police station. Maybe tomorrow then, because that would be cutting it close with the drive to Sunnydale. Not enough hours in the day.

And the hours reserved for Xander are top priority, no matter what else might be trying to encroach on them.

======

Xander lolls next to Lindsey, feeling alive and sated. He wants to tell him every detail of his life to date, spill it all, get it in the open. The way he used to feel about Wills. He keeps some things back, feels the guilt like a hard knot under his breastbone, but just can't broach the Anya topic. Feels her hovering over them sometimes, like a ghost of lies and half-truths. Just can't bring himself to mention it, and the longer it goes, the harder it is to say anything.

"Did I ever tell you about Graduation?" Beginning another of the talks they've gotten into the habit of having when they're relaxed, when they've gotten past the initial grinding need that always hits them as soon as they're together.

"No." Lindsey turns onto his side, props his head in his hand and looks down at him. He's been eating again, and gaining some weight. Looks more like the Xander of old and less like the wreck he was when Lindsey finally tracked him down. It gives him a warm spot, right in the pit of his belly, to know that he's part of the reason Xander's getting better. Also knows that Xander being back with him is the reason he's stopped drinking almost entirely. He keeps waiting for Lilah to kick in with some snotty 12-Step Program remark whenever their client lunches extend to cocktails, but she seems to be biding her time for other efforts.

"We blew up the school." Eyes unfocused and a little far away with the remembering.

"Why would you do that? You were getting out anyway, shoulda done it earlier." Grin from Lindsey, and that brings him back.

"It was a demony ascension thing. He was gonna eat everybody. He got some anyway." Flash of recall inside Xander's head, screams, shouts, crack of bone. The odd whooshing sound the vamps made as they were staked.

"Anyone you knew?" Over on his belly now so he can stroke Xander's hair away from his face. Begins to understand a little more what it's like to be on the other side of the demonic interaction from the way Xander's eyes darken while he's thinking of it, carnage, and people he knows dying horribly.

"Of course. Other people died from vamps, shrapnel, that kinda thing." //People I knew, people who dissed me every day, and it doesn't matter, still wrong//

"You get hurt?" Head down on Xander's shoulder, comfort through cuddles, something they both seem to need with no sign of it lessening in the near future.

"Not too bad." Little sigh, indrawn breath and Xander's eyes close. Lindsey waits a few minutes, adjusts himself so his ear is pressed to Xander's chest, steady thumping beat beneath. Wants to kill everything that ever touched his boy and made him hurt, made him sad or ache. Includes himself on the list of things Xander would probably be best without.

Lindsey shifts again as Xander rolls, comes behind him to wrap him up. Odd protective gesture considering what they were talking about, but then maybe not. Lindsey wonders if Xander carries some of the blame inside himself for any of the kids who didn't make it, or if maybe this is just worry about him and the demons he knows he deals with every day. "The first demon I ever saw, well and realized it, was a Blirag. You know what those are?"

"Not good with the demon names. What did it look like?" Chin in the crook of Lindsey's shoulder, his voice a little garbled because he's getting that heavy feeling to his limbs, the drifting off kind of languor that they both only find when they fall asleep together.

"Purple, horns, scales. The normal thing. I thought it was a joke. That they were pulling a gag on me. It was my first week in Special Projects. I thought it was just a really good make up job." Smiles to himself, feels Xander echoing it against his shoulder.

"How did you figure out it wasn't?" Small kiss on the back of his neck, arms tightening him up into a closer spoon, and Lindsey lets himself slip into it. Nice to be held like this for a change, to be covered with Xander as his blanket.

"It spit on me." Soft chuckle into his hair, and Lindsey feels his breathing change as Xander tumbles into sleep. Closes his eyes and stays awake a little longer so he can enjoy the sensation that will end far too soon, woken by the alarm for the drive back to LA.

============

Sitting up in bed, Lindsey against the headboard, Xander between his legs, back to his chest. Comfortable tuck of soft cock on the bumps of Xander's spine, both of them drowsing with fingers entwined. Lindsey doesn't want to fall asleep yet.

"Xan, tell me something else. First thing that pops into your head." Drops a kiss onto the top of his head, inhales the scent of his hair, which Lindsey strongly suspects is Johnson & Johnson's baby shampoo.

Xander thinks a second. "I had syphilis at Thanksgiving."

"What?????" Lindsey startles, bumps his head against the headboard. " Ok, you might have mentioned this before, and who gave it to you? Talk fast."

Xander's grinning at him, twisting his head so Lindsey can see. Not joking, Lin can pick that up, too. "It wasn't like that. It was a spell. This Indian spirit did it to me."

"Why?" Tumble of odd thoughts, Xander accidentally insulting the spirits by pissing on their ceremonial burial ground, because the line at the bathroom was too long, and he just took it outside.

Watches him turn his head back around, hears him sigh as he gets back in, and his eyes start to close. "Wrong place at the wrong time, story of my life." Miniscule shrug of his shoulders creating some interesting friction between Lindsey's legs.

Head to one side, Lindsey ponders the possibilities of making this a no-sleep night. Disengages his hand from Xander's and begins to run fingers through the thick glossy curls. Xander leans towards the stroking like a cat. "Were you in the wrong place you met me?"

"Don'tcha know it." Completely deadpan, not even the hint of a smile or the flicker of an eyelash.

"Better watch it, syphilis boy. You sure that's all cleared up?" Fingers tightening in the thick hair, Lindsey tugs his head back until Xander opens his eyes and meets his gaze. Sees his own wave of desire echoed in Xander's dark stare.

"I don't know. You had any body parts dropping off?" Snakes a hand back and finds that all of the body parts on Lin are in fine working order.

Open smile on Xander's face as he offers to check things out. Just to be sure, you know how it is. Lindsey has no objection to that at all.

========

Another night, another hotel. Sitting on the floor on top of the bedcover, devouring a makeshift picnic. The girl at the 7-11's getting to think of them as regulars, and when Xander sees her outside of the place when he's walking with Willow, the girl waves to him. He steadfastly pretends he didn't see a thing and asks Wills to explain all about crystals. She talks for the next twenty minutes and never remembers to ask him about the girl. One of the things he loves about her is Willow's intense and easily utilized desire to share knowledge.

Lindsey's turn to talk tonight. He's using the bed behind him for a backrest and eating Oreos. Does it the good way, too, twisting them apart to scrape the cream off with his teeth, licking the stubborn traces with his tongue then crunching up the cookie. Xander approves, and not just because he gets to watch all the tongue action. Well, OK, maybe mostly for that reason, but also because it makes Lin look like he's a kid. Equal footing. Nice image.

Xander pokes him in the arm, reminds him to answer the question.

"Being a lawyer isn't what I expected. Especially with the clients I handle. I just wanted to have some security. Money in my pocket and a way to keep it that there." Still intent on the cookies, not looking up. Not avoiding Xander so much as not happy with talking about a job he literally hates, one that rules every minute of his life that he isn't with Xander.

Xander sneaks a cookie from the pack and gets himself a shove for his trouble and a quickly snatched kiss to make up for it. "You get all the nastiest cases?"

"Not all of them but enough. It's hard to leave it at work."

"I would imagine it bleeds into everything you do. No, I don't imagine it, I know it. And it's not even my job, just a hobby." Thinks of how much his life is only about time spent with Lindsey or time spent with the rest of the gang doing research at the at Giles'. How the other parts of his life are the ones he wants to make go away. Not so much end them as go back and make them never happen. No one gets hurt that way; Anya never gets all wrapped up with him, and he could walk away right now without the fear that doing it will result in a horribly painful death or some eternal curse that leaves him praying for death instead.

"Hobby?" Lindsey quirks an eyebrow at him before grabbing the milk and taking a mouthful.

"Yeah, some people have model boats, others hiking or out-doorsy stuff, I have vamp-slayage and demonic research." //Milk and cookies was never like this// He finds himself wanting to lick the milk moustache from Lindsey's lip. Leans over and does it, interrupting the entire discussion and getting himself a very enjoyable grope in the process. Soft skinned lawyer-hands, no calluses from the work he does, slipping between his legs and touching him with easy familiarity.

"Maybe you should take up water-skiing." Suggestion whispered in his ear before the mouth making it moves down to nibble his neck, lick across his shoulder, trail wet kisses over his chest. Dip into his navel and warm sucking pressure on his cock.

"Thought about that. I'm keeping my options open." Voice a little breathless as Lindsey continues to work on his own new hobby.

===============

Dinner at some steakhouse Lindsey noticed on one of the rides down to Sunnydale. About half an hour out of town and no chance of running into anyone either of them knows. Xander has a moment when he sees some guy in fatigues, but it's not any of Riley's friends that he recognizes so he relaxes.

Beer and steak and baked potatoes. Talk about how things are for each of them without mentioning how much they're both beginning to hate the distance, the time apart, and the fact they have to hide things from everyone. The only one who actually notices any change in Xander's life is, of course, Dawn. She's relieved to see him shifting back towards the familiar Xander that she knows and loves, but always with that odd looks he catches on her face now and then. He knows she can tell in some way that he's not altogether comfortable with his life as it is. He gets the funny feeling that if he sat down and told her what was going on, she would think a minute and say "Here's what to do and everything will be alright." Of course that's not going to happen. But still and all, having her there playing Guardian Angel is pretty much alright with him. Grounds him when he's away from Lindsey, especially with everyone drawing tight into their own little spheres recently.

"It's not like I care that they have their own lives now, I mean, hey, I have this whole thing going on, and they have no clue, but I just miss them, you know?" Walking out to the car, continuing to explain what's been sitting on his chest for the last few weeks, Lindsey listens and nods his head.

"Have you tried to talk to them about the way you feel?" Unlocks the doors and the both get in.

Xander makes a sound of disgust. "When? Buffy's so up Riley's behind I can't see her head half the time, and Willow is to caught up in school." Pauses to consider Willow and the way her life has been turned inside out much the same as his. And still they never manage to talk about it, not at all. "I should've been there for her more over the Oz thing, but I was so fucked up myself I couldn't even put in that much effort. Does that make me a bad person?" He really doesn't expect Lin to tell him that he's scum for being a little self-involved during his whole death-wish- suicidal-mind freak-out, but it helps to hear it negated anyway.

"Xander, I deal with murders and rapists all day. A little emotional distance doesn't even register for me. You had your own problems. Did she ask you about that?" Lindsey takes Xander's hand and pulls out of the parking lot. Heads back to Sunnydale.

"Uh?" Hates to admit to anyone else, even Lindsey, that the only one who really asked him how he was doing or made an effort to keep him from starving to death was a 12 year old girl who has a crush on him.

"Right, so, fuck them all." Squeezes Xander's hand and tugs him over closer.

"Your personal motto." Half smile, and Xander rubs his free hand up the inside of Lindsey's thigh, cups him between his legs.

"Yup." Shift, push into Xander's hand, and he's half way hard already.

"If you drive a little faster, we can be putting that motto into action in about 15 minutes."

Xander grins as the car accelerates smoothly, and pops the button on Lindsey's jeans. Tugs down the zipper and slips his hand inside, feels bare skin against his fingers. Catches his breath when he realizes. "Counselor, you have apparently lost your briefs."

"We had an efficiency expert in to discuss ways to save time in the workplace. I figured I should show some initiative and apply it outside of the office." Lindsey grins, risks a glance away from the road, makes Xander blush with the look on his face. Takes full advantage of the situation and pushes Xander's head down, gently, but firmly.

They end up getting lost somehow, but Lindsey doesn't care about the extra driving.

=end part iv=

Chapter Text

Lindsey feels like the tension might break him, finally. Lee is almost as bad as Lilah, and the combination of the two of them make him want to take up drinking again, before work, during work, hell, in the middle of meetings. The slow burn taking away the need to bolt. It might just be this latest client. She makes his skin try to crawl off his body.

"Lindsey, come say hello." Great, and Holland scents blood. Never lets a chance pass him by to freak Lindsey out a little harder, rub the bizarreness of his life in a little more.

"I think she likes you." Smirk on Lee's face, and Lindsey wonders sometimes if Lee isn't working with Lilah, tag teaming him until he wears down and crumbles. Lee pats him on the back and strolls off as Lindsey walks over to the group around the aforementioned client, the one who gives him what Xander accurately terms "the wiggins."

Holland's perpetual grin spreads wider as he introduces the men standing with him "Ah, Bill, Chuck, you remember Lindsey McDonald, our point man on Miss Brewer's case?"

Lindsey shakes hands with the two older men standing behind Vanessa Brewer. She's not wearing the dark glasses and Lindsey *knows* she does it for the way it makes everyone uncomfortable.

"You did an excellent job." //you mean this time, you fucking ass.// Corporate smile in place, Lindsey is glad not all the clients are telepathic.

Vanessa catches Lindsey's hand and holds it in both of hers. He wants to flinch, snatch his hand away and wash it. She's got something about her that he can't get his mind around.

"Thank you, Lindsey." Quiet voice, smile on her face.

"You're welcome." //now let me get out, I'm done with this, it's over// "It's nice to see you again."

"You, too." //even nicer to see you leave//

Bill and Chuck follow her out and Holland says goodbye. Turns to Lindsey. "Got a sec?"

No sense in even answering that one, and he turns to enter the office, Holland right behind him shutting the door. Private conversations usually mean more bloodshed and destruction, and coming right on top of the meeting with Vanessa, Lindsey is jangled. Wants it over quickly but stays as passive as he can. Holland enjoys the torture of prolonging meetings when he picks up on an associate's urgent desire to be elsewhere.

Holland's hands clasped in front of him, demeanor placid and saccharine as always. "Does she unnerve you?"

"A little." //unnerve, no she freaks me the hell out//

"Two minutes alone with that woman and I feel like my spine's been fused." A rare admission and rather than relaxing Lindsey with what was perhaps intended to be a gesture of camaraderie, it makes all his nerve endings perk up. "Still, one has to admire her talent - and her work ethic. Everything all right? You look a little stressed." Always the concerned leader.

"I've been putting in the hours, but..." //you keep giving me these shit assignments//

"Ah. Well, that's a big part - the perspiration. But the other part - the inspiration - you've had kind of a rough year on that end."

//here we go// "I've made -uh - some bad choices." At this point Lindsey's ready to admit to anything, play the game like he used to, anything to get this to the point. Get him out of this office so he can go back to his own. Pretend his law firm is the kind that he can be proud of instead of the kind that gives him nightmares.

"Well, I'll say." Delivers this with the flashing white teeth of some demonic game show host.

"Sending the rogue Slayer after the vampire?" Names the biggest screw up he can call to mind and prays that's enough to keep things on a reviewer's note rather than it moving on to something with much worse possibilities.

"Among other things. But you've had a nice success in court. You're starting to pull out of it. I'm fond of you, Lindsey. I'd like to see you moving up here."

//other things? Like my sex life. Never gonna let that go, are you, Holland?// "I'm glad to hear that, sir."

"Not everybody will. This is kind of our ' Harvest' time of year. Where we separate the winners from the, uh, dead weight. Now I have to say, you don't seem that happy lately. Could I take a wild stab as to what I think that might be?"

"Sure." Braces himself for a revelation that they've been tailing him, they've infected him with some demon-spawn, internal bugging device and know all about Xander.

"It's your age. You're a young man. You've hitched your wagon to our star. Oh, and it's a bright star. But now you're starting to feel a little 'Is that all there is?'" Fatherly again, and the last time this happened, Lindsey ended up on his floor with a gaping wound in his life.

"Sometimes you question things, but I mean it's no big..." //oh, god, dead weight, is that me?// Hands in his pocket so they won't show his nerves.

"Yeah, I did a lot of crazy things when I was your age - searching and all. Took me a while to realize how the world was put together and where I belonged in it. And actually the world isn't that complicated. It's designed for those who know how to use it."

And what is the appropriate response to that, Lindsey wonders. "Yes, sir."

"Don't give me that 'yes, sir' crap. I want you to think about these things. You're not going to be happy until you find your place in the scheme of things." Pause. Shark grin again. "Okay, enough of the old guy's lecture. Now, down to business. I don't think she had a happy childhood."

Caught off guard by the abrupt change on direction, Lindsey's mind tries to wrap up the lecture and file it for later. He blinks at Holland. "Sir?"

"Our blind friend, Vanessa. I think she was terribly abused growing up. I think the details of that are tragic and shockingly specific, and I think you should create them, sooner rather than later."

"She is going to do something else that may require a strong defense." Full-on alert status now, so he keeps himself still. Barely breathing, ready for the bomb to hit.

"Strong defense, alibis, creative alternatives to incarceration. She is an invaluable tool to some of our most valuable clients and we can't risk losing her."

Doesn't want to know, but has to ask. "What's she gonna do?"

"There are some children arriving. They pose a threat." Said with the bland acknowledgment he might use to indicate that he's misplaced his pen, or perhaps had a bad golf game. Cool, emotionless.

Not quite sure he heard correctly, Lindsey repeats him. "Some children." //oh fuck! Not that. It's a test, see if I'm still on the team, that's all, he's watching to see me lose it.//

"Is this too shocking for you?" He *is* watching, ice blue eyes that never waver. Does the man ever fucking blink?

"I'm just thinking it might be for a jury." //and for anyone who isn't out of their mind//

"Which is why I'm thinking her terrible, terrible childhood drove her to it. Not guilty by reason of insanity. Of course the odds of her getting caught again are pretty slim."

Wets his suddenly dry lips and asks, "Who- who are these children?" //like it matters, children are children//

"It's best we know only what we need to, without forgetting the important part we play in the greater whole." Holland comes over and pats him on the shoulder, affectionate gesture to anyone who might see it, but it makes the skin on Lindsey's arm and neck actually twitch under his jacket. "I'm sure you're going to want to get right on it."

+++++++

Slam of the door behind them, and Xander finds himself immediately on the closest bed. Frantic body contact and Lindsey's on him in a hurricane of hands, teeth, lips. When he breaks away long enough to pull off his shirt, Xander gasps out. "What's wrong, Lin?"

"Work, it's just work. I don't want to talk about it." Tugs off Xander's shirt and presses him back into the bed.

"You gotta let it out sometime, you know?" Xander tries to gentle him, slow him down, but it's not working. He's so hard, and his hands are rough. Tugging franticly on buttons and zippers until they're both naked, and Lindsey can feel Xander against him everywhere.

"I know. Trust me, I do." Kisses bruising Xander's mouth, and Lindsey's almost out of control. More than the usual amount of need working here, and the electricity transfers to Xander by contact. He takes on the hurried pace, and they thrust and rub together, heated motions and low moans into searching, open mouths. Harsh slide of tongue on tongue and Lindsey grips his wrists, pulls them over his head. Pins them there with one hand, knees Xander's thighs apart. Runs his index finger across his bottom lip, then into Xander's mouth, lets him suck and lick the tip. Pulls it out and rubs his thumb over it; not wet enough. Sucks it into his own mouth for a minute, and his hand's running down Xander's cock, to the smooth stretch of skin behind his balls and pressing into him. Harder than usual, and Xander hisses a little before rocking back and forth, taking him in deeper. Another finger, slicked on Lindsey's own precome, crooked inside of him and hitting him right *there*. Making him writhe, making him moan and roll his hips, and tug a little on the wrists that Lindsey still holds to the bed.

"God, Lins, please..." Low groan of *need* and Lindsey echoes it. Abrupt absence of his body as he forages for his pants, the packet, and almost a growl when he can't get it out of the wallet fast enough. Wallet tumbles to the floor, cards and slips of paper fluttering free, and he's tearing open the foil. Stands beside the bed and rolls the condom on, almost throws himself across Xander, who hasn't moved an inch. Panting, eyes wide, not frightened but wound up, high on the tension and the desperation in Lindsey's actions tonight.

Lindsey back between Xander's legs, fisting his cock, gathering the glistening strands in his hand and then stroking himself. Xander's legs on his shoulders, and a wild look in Lindsey's midnight-blue eyes when he bites his lip and pushes inside of him.

"Need you, Xan, need you so bad." Whispering it, and Xander pulls him down closer.

"I'm here, Lin, right here, god, you feel so good." Takes Lindsey's hand, licks the palm, draws a finger into his mouth and bites down as Lindsey's hips begin to thrust faster, deeper inside of him. Lets go when Lindsey pulls it out and grabs Xander's hair as if he's trying to slow himself down somehow, grip tight but not painful.

He comes with a sound that's halfway between a sob and a shout, collapses on Xander heavily and releases his hair. Murmurs apologies against his lips as he reaches down between them and strokes tight, slow, brings Xander to a shuddering climax of his own. More kisses, tender now, but he's still shaking and Xander can't get him to stop.

+++++++++

Leaving Xander and coming back to L.A., Lindsey knows there's only one place to go. Didn't ever want to have to debase himself like this, run to his enemy with his tail between his legs. But he can't let this go down. Can't be the person who turns a blind eye this time, not with Xander trusting him to do the right thing when all bets are off, and the true evil is out to play. He knows the boy can excuse most of his work, bad guys fucking over bad guys, people who kill and torment dying cruel deaths, but the blood of children on his hands? That's something else entirely.

He comes straight to Angel from Xander's arms. His will reinforced by the honesty and love the boy gives him. He's a sap and a sucker, and all the clichés, but he couldn't do this without the memory of why fresh in his mind

The door thunders closed behind him like the hammer on the last nail of his coffin, knows it all in his head, it probably hardly made a sound. He takes in Angel's stoic appraisal.

"I want out." Starts talking right away, he doesn't know any other way to do this. "You probably think this is some kind of trick."

"Are you afraid of me, Lindsey? You think maybe I might kill you?" The same facial expression Lindsey has seen every time he's encountered him stretched over Angel's features, and Lindsey wonders if he feels anything, if he's ever cried, smiled, screamed from pain.

"No." Fingers in his hair, pulls them out when it registers that he's doing it. Looks Angel down.

"I'm smelling a whole lot of fear - big - stinky - mortal - terror. So, no, I don't think this is a trick - I think it's a big joke." On his feet, advancing on Lindsey. Lifts his face in the air. "I smell something else as well. What did you do to Xander?" Rolling motion, graceful like a blade, and Lindsey can appreciate that for the split second it takes him to process what Angel just said.

"What? Do to...oh fuck, of course you know him. So, it's true, you did date a slayer. Buffy, right?" Angel's on him, hand around his throat, body pressed into his. Vibrations hitting Lindsey in the chest, and he knows that's growling, hasn't ever been this close to a vampire before and never intended to be.

"I don't ever want to hear you say her name again. Are we clear on that?" Slight release on Lindsey's windpipe so he can gasp the air to breath, and Lindsey sees that there is more than one facial expression after all. This one must be pain, bottom lip quivering, eyes narrowed.

'Sure." //why would I want to talk about her anyway?//

"Tell me how you know Xander, and why it smells like you've been rolling around in his come." Angel lets him go, doesn't move out of his space though. Just stays right in close, takes a few more breaths in while he's there, smelling him.

"Maybe because I have." A step back from Angel, and Lindsey rolls the crick out of his neck.

"What? Changing your tactics, McDonald? Rape now? He better be alive." Fists clinched at his sides, and Lindsey never really thought about Angel as anything more than a major pain in his ass, now he sees there is more here. Something he's not getting.

"You seem to care a lot about someone you must have little to no contact with." //I can't believe Xander never mentioned him. How could he have overlooked THIS?//

"It's not him I care about, it's people who love him." //that's why//

"I don't give a damn about your motivations. It's none of your business what's between Xander and I." Angel moves to sit on the edge of his desk, propped there, deceptively loose.

"Between you? I think you just told me what I need to know, how and why, I don't really care." But Lindsey can tell that's not the whole truth, can see Angel might not be easily shocked, but he's running his own hand through his hair, and that's a nervous tick he can spot a mile away.

"Hey, I don't want to be here anymore than you want to see me. But I don't have a choice." Rubbing the bruises already purpling around his throat.

"You always have a choice. I mean, you sold your soul for a fifth-floor office and a company car." Moving back to sit behind his desk again. Power play, and Lindsey's so tired of all this high-handed shit that he almost leaves. Remembers the kids, Xander; stays.

"You think you've got me all figured out? You think you know everything about me?" //don't show weakness, suck it up//

"Everything I need to know." Disdain, and right now, that pushes Lindsey over the edge.

"I'm going to guess somewhere along the line in all the two hundred plus years you've been walking this planet you might have fallen in love. You know how it eats you up inside, tears you apart. I love someone like that, and I'm not going to ruin his life. He trusts me. He thinks I'll do what's right in the end. I never thought it would come down to this, but I have to get out. For him." Draws in a shaky breath, gets a handle on his temper again. //what did I say?//

"I'm sorry. I nodded off. Did you get to the part where you explain what this has to do with me?" //fuck you, you undead prick//

"I found out about a job. The blind woman. Vanessa Brewer. Your friend from court." To the point now, he's had enough of being in this room with the man/creature he despises.

"That you got off." More baiting, and Lindsey thinks maybe he should have gone to the cop after all.

"There is a new contract."

"Why don't we just save the lawyer talk?" //if I didn't need you right now, you insufferable asshole...//

"She's gonna kill some kids. I've worked some pretty hairy deals, comes with the turf, but this..." The truth is sometimes the best option in an impossible situation.

"What do you know?" Finally, some interest from Angel.

"Almost nothing. Some kids from overseas, job's in a couple of days."

"I need more." He's on his feet though, and Lindsey knows he'll rally the troops for the good fight no matter what he says to his face.

"There's some files. They'd be at the firm, probably in the vault."

"Then I'll guess you'll get them out." Rounding the desk, and Lindsey steps back, gets some distance between them, even though he knows it's a false security, Angel can move faster than Lindsey can react.

"I can't go back in there. Do you understand what that place is?" Fear kicking up, and he never thought it would have to be him back in the building.

"I'm not sensing a whole lot of resolve here." //I'm still standing here, aren't I?//

"They are constantly watching you. Other companies have drug testing - they have mind-readers. I go back there, they're gonna kill me." Lindsey knows Angel doesn't give a damn about that. Could care less if Lindsey didn't make it to his car when he walks out of the building.

"That's what we call an acceptable risk. You're panicking right now. You can't believe how bad you let things get. That's not change. You have to make a decision to change. That's something you do by yourself. Most people - they never do." //please, lecture me, Scourge of Europe//

"If I get myself killed, that'll convince you that I've changed." Let's some of the venom drop out in his words, knows it doesn't matter one way or another. They hate each other, that isn't about to change.

"It's a start."

=================

Lindsey watches as a security guard manhandles Lee's body out, dragging him by the feet and leaving a trail of his blood on the carpeted floor. Lindsey's transfixed by it. Smells the blood on the side of his face, his shirt, his suit, tries not to gag. //never got to tell Xander goodbye, gonna die right here and never got to tell him goodbye//

Holland adjust the cuffs of his suit, sees Lindsey staring. "What a pity. You can't get that out of the carpet. Believe me, we've tried." Takes a seat at the conference table across from Lindsey. "Are you afraid?"

Unsure of what to do, convinced he's going to die anyway, Lindsey nods. Doesn't trust himself to speak.

Holland continues, soft voice, lulling rhythm as he lists Lindsey's sins against the firm. "Well, that's understandable. You betrayed this firm by allaying yourself with someone who has given us a great deal of grief. You've stolen important documents form our vault. Tried to sabotaged an extremely important case. And in the course of this egregious behavior, you lied to us. More importantly, to me. Did I leave anything out?"

Dry throat, but he speaks, is afraid not to. "No, sir." Wonders if the lying covers his continued relationship with Xander and assumes they know, and it's just one of the lesser sins.

"Did you actually believe I wouldn't learn everything?"

"I..." Begins to speak without knowing what the hell he's going to say. Talking because that's what he does, that's what he was trained to do, when in doubt, speak, say something, open your mouth and keep on talking... His thought process has completely derailed now, his mind twisting over onto itself again and again, and he realizes Holland is staring at him.

"Lindsey, this is a delicate moment. I nod to Phil behind me, and he's going to put a bullet in your head." No remorse there, it's like looking at a robot, and Lindsey thinks Holland and Angel might be two of a kind.

Decides that if this is his day to die, he's going to go out telling the truth. It might not count for much when added against the other things he's done, but he wants to do. Thinks of Xander, that the purity of thought and spirit he runs his life on despite the dips in the road. "I-I didn't want to lie to you. I didn't want to betray you. I just wanted out."

Holland ponders this. Or rather makes a mockery of the thought process and says, "Hmm. Well, then you're in a crisis, son. Crisis of faith. Do you believe in love?"

Shock hits hit like ice water and his panic is reaching new levels, but Holland keeps on talking.

"I'm not speaking romantically. I'm talking about that sharp, clear sense of self a man gains once he's truly found his place in the world. It's no mean feat, since most men are cowards and just move with the crowd. Very few make their own destinies. They have the courage of their convictions, and they know how to behave in a crisis."

"Like now?" //as if I know what to do here, as if I'm not terrified out of my fucking head//

"Like now. You have everything it takes to go all the way here - drive, ambition, excellence - but you don't know where you belong. And until you do, I guess we both have some important questions to answer. Now, my first one is - do I nod - to my friend behind me?" Pause and Lindsey's heart skips a beat, tachycardia, adrenaline flooding his system. Holland continues in that same monotone of his, as if he speaks to a child, an extremely dull-witted child. "No, I don't. Because I know you, and I know a little something about character. I think what you actually need is a few days off to think about it. And I'm sure once you have, you're going to do the right thing."

"I can - I can go." Surge of hope fiercely shoved down, because this would be the moment for Holland to say "just kidding" and nod, end his life, and Lindsey won't dare believe it is anything other than a joke until he's out of this building.

"You can go."

Gets up, slowly, moving like he's walking on eggshells, on grenades inside eggshells. Freezes when he hears the voice of the man who holds his life in his hands right now.

"Lindsey, I believe in you. Look deep enough inside yourself - you'll find that love."

The muscles in his back tense rock hard, waiting for the bullet to hit him any second, Lindsey walks with as much dignity as he can muster to the elevator. Keys in his pocket, then in his hand. Hits the button for the parking garage and stares silently at the doors in front of him He's sweating, drops rolling down his back, beading on his forehead, but he makes no move to wipe them. //show no fear, show no fear, show no god damn fear, just let me get out of this hell//

The doors slide open, he steps into the dim cool of the parking structure and looks around. No assassin waiting there to take him out. None that he sees. Keeps his hands in his jacket pocket, minimizes the jangling of the keys. Heart tripping over at far too high a rate, and he might just have a stroke before he can get out of here.

In the sedan, key in the ignition, and wince as he starts it up. No explosion, and that's it. He backs up, brakes with a screech, and floors the pedal. The car leaps forward, when the sun hits the window, when he clears the shadow of the office building, he's almost in tears. Afraid to let go of the reigns on his emotions, because he's not sure he can stop once he starts.

Pulls over about a block from his apartment, stumbles to the alleyway and vomits violently. Back in the car, and home. He has never needed to see Xander's face as much as he does this second.

=================================

Pounding on the back door and it's much too heavy to be Anya. Xander wrenches it open and Lindsey is there, grabs him pushes him back inside. Rough, deep kiss. "Xander, get your things, we have to go."

"Go where?" Caught completely unaware, completely forgotten that Lindsey knows where he lives, and all the amped up fear in Lindsey's face is sending off the bells.

"Away. Now." He's looking around the basement like there might be cameras, spies, something tracking them. Pacing.

"What's going on?" Xander watches him, not moving, but his heart revs up, no more time to hide the problems he's been burying for so long.

"Look, I left the firm. I did some things, stole some things, that mean I have to get away." Walks to the door, cracks it and looks out.

"Lin, I can't just drop everything and leave!" Plaintive note in Xander's voice and Lindsey swings around, steps up into his face. Takes his shoulders in a painful grip.

"Why the hell not?" All long vowels and tight hands, and no color in his eyes now but black. Xander licks his lips, and wonders if he's going to end up on the wrong end of the temper this time.

"Because, it's more complicated than that. I have to talk to some people, tell them where I'm going, all that." Stalling for time, looking away, and he knows this is the obvious kind of body language that even amateurs can pick up.

"You can't. They'll be able to trace us that way. You can't tell anyone." Lindsey wants to shake him, rattle his brain, get him moving, They're standing there wasting time, valuable time that should be used to make them both disappear before Wolfram and Hart does it for them.

"Look, Lin, there's something I have to tell you. I should have told you before." Definite notes of fear and hurt in Xander's voice, and Lindsey tries to calm himself, just a little, just enough to stop scaring the hell out of the only person left in the world he can trust anymore.

"If it's about Angel, I already know." Still thick on the accent, but his hands lessen their pressure on Xander's shoulders.

"Angel? Huh? I haven't seen him since Thanksgiving." Genuine bafflement on his face for a minute whipping right back to the pinched look of fear. Visibly steels himself before he says, "No, it's about a girl."

"Uh huh." //and...and...//

"I don't know how to say this...there's this girl I know, and she thinks I'm her boyfriend, and well, I can't just leave without talking to her." Shaking now, definite shaking, and he's white as a ghost.

"Are you telling me that you owe some responsibility to this delusional chick? Xander, you're a sweetheart, but really..." Lindsey cups the back of Xander's head, runs his hand down to tangle in the curls at the nape of his neck.

"No, you don't understand. She has reasons to think this." Voice filling in now, getting thicker, and Lindsey is growing concerned, nagging suspicion beginning to stab through the nerves that have carried him this far.

"What kind of reasons?" Actually as quiet as possible to still be heard, but in Xander's ears deafening.

"Like the having sex reasons." Lindsey actually flinches, like taking a physical blow. Blinks twice slowly and lets his hands drop away.

"Who is she having sex with again?"

"Me." Small voice, and Xander's maintaining eye-contact, but there's two spots of color high up on his cheeks. He looks like he might throw up any second.

"Are you trying to kill me here? Is this some kind of sick joke?" Lindsey steps away from him, involuntary reaction to get some distance, perspective.

"No. Lin, I should have told you when you first came back." Xander puts a hand up, but Lindsey slaps it away.

"Holy shit. This has been going on the whole time? I'm not enough for you? Tell me why!" //Brand it into me, tell me why you've been lying to me// Brain speeding up, crashing to a halt, rewinding, memories and thoughts jerking in and out of focus.

"She's an ex-vengeance demon, do you know how they get their powers back? I don't, and I'm thinking gay lover might be just the thing. I'm scared." Even to his own ears it sounds pitiful, and he can't think of how to make Lindsey see how it is. Tries to make it come to him, to find someway of presenting it so there's some logic in the middle of all the pain.

"You have a girlfriend and it's supposed to be ok because you're scared of her? This has to be the most insane story I've ever heard. Ex-demon? If you wanted to break up with me, you could have at least come up with something believable." Lindsey's backing up again, and that hurts more than anything, more than when he was gone all that time, and Xander doesn't know how to make it end.

"I don't want to break up with you! And she's not my girlfriend. She just molests me all the time and makes me insane with all this 'relationship' crap." Frustration getting the better of him and it's either get mad or cry and he doesn't want to cry, doesn't think he'll be able to control it if he does.

"So it's supposed to be OK with me that you're just fucking her?" Nothing in Lindsey's voice now but pain. No anger, just hurt and betrayal.

"I'm not fucking her. She's fucking ME." It seems to be important somehow to make that clear to Lindsey, to let him know that he's not really there, he's not part of the process, it's just his body, that's all. Has a pang in his chest when he thinks of Lindsey with someone else, anyone else, lover, whore, doesn't matter, and it hurts him, crushes him.

"I think you told me before Xander, you can't rape the willing." Thick sounds after he says it, like he's swallowing something down, and Xander can't see him well enough in the dimness of the basement. Lindsey is so far away from him and all he wants to do is touch him, take it back, keep it a secret.

"I don't want any of this to be happening. I tried to get rid of her, she won't take the hint. I don't know what to do, and I just, look how mad you are! I knew this would happen." Voice rising, he's losing it, too, because Lindsey might be mad but he's also in pain. //all my fault all my fault//

"If all of this is true, why didn't you tell me? Just fucking tell me about it? Did you think I wouldn't understand, that I don't know about 'complicated'? I don't understand being afraid?" One step forward and Xander's heart gives a lurch of hope. Getting closer now, maybe he'll understand, gray part of the world.

"Lin, I wanted to tell you, I really did. I just didn't know what to say. Give me a chance." //please, please, anything, let me make it up to you, let me take it back//

"Give you a chance? I'm not the one who ran away. I'm not the one who disappeared without a trace. You think you haven't had your chance?" Another step now and the anger's on the surface, eyes flashing and his own skin pinking up. Lindsey presses the unbelievable tidal wave of raw, aching devastation down, defenses rising instead.

"Why are you throwing that in my face? I thought we were past that. I paid for it! It was a mistake and I know it. Not the last one either."

Lindsey shrugs out of his jacket, rolls up his sleeve, tearing the buttons off the cuff. Shoves the red, angry scar into Xander's face and watches him flinch, really see it for the first time. Wills himself not to remember how Xander kissed every inch of it the first time he saw it, when he told him he cut it on a broken bottle in his trashcan. "When you've cut yourself open to let out the hurt, then we'll know you've paid. When you can show me the scars, when I can see that you went through the same hell I did, then I'll know." Pulls his arm away again, sees the awareness dawning on Xander's face as he realizes where the scar really came from, and what that means.

Lashing out, Xander leans into Lindsey's face, his voice rising now, not giving a fuck who hears him at this point. "Why do you get to decide how much or what kind of pain I have? You saw what I looked like when you came here. What, did you think I went away to the Auschwitz spa for the week?"

"I fucking threw away my career for you. I put my life at risk. I crawled on my belly to the person I hate the most for the chance to be with you! A few missed meals don't really balance that out." Puts his hands on Xander's chest and presses. Not a push, but it wants to be one. Takes his hands away knowing that if the punches start flying, he's not going to stop until he's taken away in an ambulance.

"I know you're pissed at me. I'm not telling you not to be. Why are you saying these things, though? Why do you have to be this over the top? Are you enjoying it?" Tears now, doesn't even realize they've started, too much guilt at knowing how wrong he was, how he hurt Lindsey, how he made Lindsey hurt himself.

"Yeah, I am. This is the fun part of my life right here. The part where I find out that the one person I have ever opened myself up to is... and you know what, forget it. I'm done." Turns on his heel, grabs his jacket from the floor and walks over to the back door.

"What do you mean done?" Xander hitches in his breath, chokes down a sob. Steps towards Lindsey's retreating back.

"I mean, I'm leaving."

"Lin...please don't!" Begging now, outright begging in his voice, and he trips in his hurry to grab onto Lindsey again, stop him from leaving. Misses.

And he's out the door.

=end part v=

Chapter Text

Xander dreams of wakefulness. Startles as if he's caught himself falling.

"I'm awake. I'm good. Did I miss anything?" Looks up to see Buffy and Giles mesmerized by the television, Willow gasping like a fish on the sand.

"Not very much at all really." Giles crunches, crunches as he stares straight ahead.

Buffy echoes him. Rustle, chomp. "Bunch of massacring."

Turning to the TV, Xander watches the soldier wander through the forest. He's frightened but in charge, the soldier is, and it captures Xander's attention. The speaker on the TV crackles with the sounds.

"We gotta keep going, men. We gotta take that hill."

"Damn this war!" Thinking out loud, as we tend to do in our dreams.

Giles voice, dry and a little annoyed, interrupts Xander's thoughts. "I have to say, I really feel that 'Apocalypse Now' is overrated."

Enraptured still, Xander tries to explain. "No, no. It gets better. I remember that it gets better."

TV soldier screams out his fear and pain. "Oh my god. What's happened to my men? Ahhh!"

"Want some corn?" Xander turns his head to see her offering the bowl. Gives it some consideration.

"Butter flavor?"

"New car smell."

"Cool." Leans over Willow to take a handful. Wills is still doing her gasp and choke routine. It's getting monotonous. "What's her deal?"

Buffy shrugs. "Big faker."

Giles stares at the screen, trying to find the logic. "Oh, I'm beginning to understand this now. It's all about the journey, isn't it?"

Xander rolls his eyes. "Well, thanks for making me have to pee." Gets to his feet, he knows where to go.

"You don't need any help with that, right?" Buffy offers but she is back to her study of the television war.

Xander hits the stairs. "Got a system."

========

Xander dreams of Angel in black silk pajama bottoms leaning in the doorway of Joyce's bedroom. His eyes are half-closed, and the fingers of one hand are resting against his stomach, the other is hidden behind his back.

"Hey," says Angel.

Xander looks at Angel's mouth, it's red, too red and the rest of his body seems to be glowing slightly.

"Hey Angelus. " He steps forward. "We're not making too much noise down there, are we?"

"Oh, no. Anyway, they all left a while ago." Angelus smiles.

"Oh, I should probably go catch up."

"I've heard that before." Words dropping off his tongue with a lilt, two fingers dip into the waistband of his pants.

"I move pretty fast. You know, a man's always after-"

"Conquest?"

Xander shrugs. "I'm a conquistador."

Xander's eyes focus on Angelus' rapidly swelling cock under the flimsy material. Xander focuses back on Angelus' face, but his lips don't move as he speaks.

"You sure it isn't comfort?"

"I'm a comfortador also."

Angelus leans back against the doorfacing and rubs the heel of his palm against his erection."I do know the difference. I've learned about boys."

"That's cool about you."

Angelus's face morphs, takes on ridges and his teeth extend, he runs his tongue against one canine. Xander can't look away.

"It's very late." Angelus' lips still don't move and a trickle of blood runs from his tongue. "Would you like to rest for a while?"

Xander sees a bed made up in red satin sheets, the pillows in disarray and the covers rumpled.

"Um, yeah. I'd like you. I'm just ... gonna go to the bathroom first." His voice is gravely with desire and pitched low.

"Don't get lost. " Angelus jerks into the bedroom like he's on film and every other frame's been removed.

===============

Xander dreams of moving forward. Enters the bathroom, closes the door, lifts the toilet lid, unzips his pants.

Looks over to see a conference room, a crowd of lawyers watching him. Pinstripe suits, cowhide briefcases. Some take notes on yellow legal pads. An older man with cool blue eyes stands to the left, apart but with them. His smile is thin lipped.

Xander raises his eyebrows, zips his pants back up, says "Okay, I'm gonna find another bathroom."

Opens the door to leave but keeps looking back. You never know what might happen. Steps across the hall and opens the door there, identical to the one behind him. Finds himself in his basement, and it's dark. The side door shivers and Xander hears banging, sees the frame tremble.

He calls out. "I didn't *order* any vampires."

The banging gets louder, doorframe shaking harder.

Xander is afraid. He backs away. "That's not the way out."

==============

Xander dreams of the playground of his elementary school.

Giles and Spike swing on the swing-set clad in tweed and cotton. The sun is glaring, and Buffy frolics in a sandbox in front of him.

He walks over to Buffy.

"Hey, there you are."

She continues to play with her plastic bucket and shovel. "Are you sure it's us you were looking for?"

Spike swings and speaks. "Giles here is gonna teach me to be a Watcher. Says I got the stuff."

Xander turns to see Giles reply. "Spike's like a son to me."

"That's good. I was into that for a while, but... " Xaner nods toward the street behind Buffy. " I got other stuff goin' on."

Xander sees himself in an icecream truck, serving children treats.

"You gotta have something." Says Xander. "Gotta be with movin' forward."

"Like a shark." Buffy answers.

"Like a shark with feet and ... much less fins."

Spike interjects. "And on land!"

"Very good!" Giles crows still swinging.

"Buffy, are you sure you wanna play there?" Xander asks, and Buffy pulls a face. "It's a pretty big sandbox."

"I'm okay." A vista of desert strewn with rocks expands behind her head as Buffy speaks "It's not coming for me yet."

"I just mean ... you can't protect yourself from ... some stuff." Xander tells her, and the playground returns.

"I'm way ahead of you, big brother."

"Brother?"

Xander squints at Buffy, the sun is blinding him, and behind him Giles squawks at Spike. "Go on, put your back into it! A Watcher scoffs at gravity."

Xander watches Buffy's unreadable face.

+++++++++++

Dream Xander sees himself in the playground with Spike, Giles and Buffy. He's leaning out the of the window of the icecream truck.

Sunnydale passes by the windows of the truck as he drives, and Anya sits to his left.

"Do you know where you're going?" Xander glances at Anya in surprise when she speaks.

"I've been thinking about getting back into vengeance." Anya has a sucker, she fiddles with the wrapper.

He sets his hat on the dash. "Is that right? It'd be a lie if I said I was surpised."

"Well, you know how I miss it. I'm so at loose ends since I quit. I think this is going to be a very big year for vengeance."

Xander looks over at her, but she's watching the road. "But ... isn't vengeance kind of ... vengeful?"

Anya whines in response "You don't want me to have a hobby."

"Not a vengeance hobby, no! It's dangerous. People can't do anything they want. Society has rules, and borders, and an end zone. It doesn't matter if-" Giggling behind him interrupts his diatribe.

He turns, and dream Xander sees Tara and Willow in the back of the truck dressed in short shirts and wearing too much make-up. They're making out.

"Do you mind? I'm talking to my demon." Xander's voice is shrill and annoyed.

"Sorry." Willow tells him.

"We just think you're really interesting." Tara smiles at him, her lips don't move as she speaks.

"Oh, I-I'm going places."

"I'm way ahead of you." Willow slides her hand up Tara's leg and fondles her own breast through her shirt.

Willow's hand moves under Tara's skirt.

Xander is transfixed. "Is that right? You just think so."

Both girls turn to look at him.

"Watch this." Whispers Willow.

Dream Xander watches Tara and Willow passionately embrace, Willows tongue tracing the outline of Tara's lips; Tara's hand under Willow's shirt moving in circular motions.

The women break apart.

"Do you wanna come in the back with us?"

Xander doesn't reply.

"Oh, go on." Anya waves him away. Seventies porno music begins to blare.

"I don't have to." Xander tells Anya.

"I'll be fine. I think I've figured out how to steer by gesturing emphatically." Xander stands up and makes his way to the back of the truck. He passes the icecream and enters a crawl-space. He forces his way through the debris of suburban life.

=======

Xander dreams of losing his way. Falls to the ground and finds himself back in his basement.

He looks around in frustration. Back to the place he started.

"Girls?"

The side door shakes with the insistent pounding.

Xander yells. "I know what's out there!"

The pounding continues. Perhaps he is the only one who can hear his own voice. He backs away, turns, sees a bald man holding up a plate of cheese slices.

"These ... will not protect you." Voice grave as he imparts his wisdom.

The door again. Xander walks past the man with his plate still in hand. There's growling now, and the pounding never stops.

============

Xander dreams of going back in time. Sunnydale High hallways, but the colors are wrong. Everything's purple and green, overexposed film. Weird noises like microphone feedback all around him, students standing and talking in groups.

Xander pushes his way past students in the halls. Looking over his shoulder, he can see a blur. Animal darting movements, tracking him through the forest of legs. Chasing him, hunting him.

Giles is leaning against a wall, relaxed. He is eating an apple and Xander calls to him. "Giles."

"Xander, what are you doing here?" He continues to eat. Bites. Chews. Swallows.

"What's after me?"

Giles knows things. "It's because of what we did, I know that." Bite. Chew.

Xander is confused, shakes his head to clear the dreamthoughts. "What we did?"

"Hm. Now, the others have gone on ahead." Xander looks in the direction that Giles indicates. "Now, listen very carefully. Your life may depend on what I'm about to tell you. You need- "

Xander loses Giles' voice. He's talking to Xander but it's not right. None of the words make sense and it's important that he finds out what this is about. He needs to know. Tries to ask Giles for help, tell him it's too hard. "What? Go where? I don't understand."

"Ce n'est pas le temps pour des jeux."
//This is not the time for games.//

Dawn is here now. Xander hears her call to him. She comes up and takes his arm.

"Xander. Il faut que tu viens avec nous maintenant. On t'attends."
//You have to come with us now. They're waiting for you.//

Xander sees Dawn's mouth moving but it's not her voice. Grown woman voice coming from Dawn's little girl mouth.

Giles again, and not-Giles. "C'est que j'ai vous dire."
//That's what I said.//

Xander tries to make Dawn listen. "Dawnie, I don't...I can't hear you."

She takes his hand. "C'est pas importante. Je t'escorte."
//It's not important. I'll take you.//

Giles comes along. "Allons-y la."
//Let's go.//

Xander finds himself pulled, tugged. Dawn and Giles leading him, and he doesn't want to go there. Not sure why, but he isn't ready yet. Shove on his shoulder and he's pushed. Skateboard, some guy trying to hurry him.

"W-wait! Where we going? Where?" Xander looks back, always looks back. The crowd comes forward and he is being picked up. He's raised high even as he tries to get away. Giles is there, apple in his mouth. Looks like a pig set for roasting.

Xander struggles in the grip of unfamiliar hands. "Hey! Let go! Hey!"

//Hey//

//hey//

=================

Xander dreams of jungles and heat. Hands cuffed and taken prisoner. He is brought to a dark room, pushed to his knees. Soldiers and guns behind him. A man lies on a cot in the darkness, speaks to him.

"Where are you from, Harris?"

"Well, the basement mostly, once I was from Oxnard."

"Were you born there?" Slow voice. Old voice. No face to go with it.

Xander nods his head. "Possibly."

"I walked by your guidance counsellor's office one time." The man rises up on one arm and Xander sees him clearly. Principal Snyder, neck wreathed in a terrycloth towel. "A bunch of you were sitting there ... waiting to be shepherded."

Xander looks confused, edging on frightened.

Snyder keeps talking. Low voice. Dead voice. "I remember it smelled like dead flowers. Like decay. Then it hit me. The hope of our nation's future is a bunch of mulch."

"You know, I never got the chance to tell you how glad I was you were eaten by a snake." Xander makes the statement. A beat and his face betrays his worry.

Snyder sits up slowly, face further in the light. He's covered in sweat. "Where are you heading?"

Xander shrugs. "Well, I'm supposed to meet Tara and Willow."

Synder lifts a wooden bowl.

Xander continues explaining. "Or possibly Angel."

Snyder's hands lift water from the bowl and pour it over his bald head. It soaks into the towel he wears. He tells Xander, "Your time is running out."

"No, I'm just trying to get away. There's ... something I can't fight." Protesting. Explaining. Introducing reason.

"Are you a soldier?" Old voice. Dead voice.

Xander shakes his head. "I'm a comfortador."

Snyder leans forward into the light. His voice is full of contempt. "You're neither. You're a whipping boy. Raised by mongrels and set on a sacrificial stone."

Xander nods agreement, winces. "I'm getting a cramp." Gets to his feet and peers around the darkness. He's elsewhere. He's not alone. The thing from the school is there, predator slipping around the corner, behind the trellis. Growling at him.

Xander backs away. He's in the courtyard outside Giles' apartment. He runs to Giles' door, opens it, enters.

"Giles, it's here!" Giles doesn't respond, doesn't turn, doesn't acknowledge dream Xander's presence.

"It's more serious than we thought." Giles tells Anya and Buffy.

Xander stands in the middle of the livingroom trying to draw his friend's attention. "Giles!" he screams.

They continue to ignore him. "I can fight anything. Right?" Buffy asks Giles.

"Maybe we should slap her." Anya suggests regarding Willow.

Xander gives up and runs out of the livingroom into the hall. Instead of Giles' kitchen he arrives in Buffy and Willow's dorm. Students mill and go about their daily lives around him. Loud music blares, and he makes his way to the girls' room.

"Buffy?" Growling from somewhere, he flings open the closet door and walks in. Pushes past clothes, runs and stumbles out into the basement again.

The pounding is getting louder from the backdoor, and he shudders.

"That's not the way out. " His own voice echos in his dream ear.

The door flies open and a voice booms in at him. "What the hell did you do to me?"

Dream Xander tries to appear as sorry as possible.

In to doorway, Xander sees Lindsey haloed in harsh sunlight.

"You didn't even try to follow me. Are you ashamed of me? Look what I did to myself." Lindsey shouts. He thrusts his arm out, his wrist is cut so deeply the bone shows and the tendons are severed.

"You don't understand." Xander holds his hand out.

"I don't understand what? That you never really loved me?" Xander takes a step back, and Lindsey follows him in the basement.

Xander looks away from the horrid wound.

"You haven't got the heart." Lindsey tells him.

Without warning, Lindsey stabs his hand into Xander's chest. Xander watches it happen. Lindsey's hand gives way to one attached to a dark arm encased in tattered white cloth. Xander's eyes meet animalistic flashing ones where Lindsey stood seconds ago. The hand dislodges from his chest taking his heart along with it.

Xander wakes.

=end part 1=

Chapter Text

Lindsey McDonald lies on his back in the hospital. Morphine drips into his vein through a needle. He is unaware of his surroundings, of the flower baskets and bouquets overflowing around him, of the balloons bobbing in the corner declaring "Get Well Soon!" on mylar.

Lindsey dreams the dream of the heavily medicated and savagely wounded.

¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬

Lindsey dreams of returning to the farm, riding Beau across the freshly plowed fields. The palomino moves under him and Lindsey can feel the horse's flesh shuddering and twitching against his legs. Bareback, always bareback when he was riding for the pleasure of it. The sky is low, full of angry purple thunderheads and he can smell the storm coming.

A rush of wind and a wall of blackbirds take flight from the stand of trees to his right. There are hundreds of them, whirling into the sky, but they make no noise. The horse startles in the eerie silence and begins to gallop. Lindsey clutches the reins, but he's thrown before he can settle the creature down.

Lindsey lands on his back in the dirt, and when he looks up the rain is coming across the fields in a steady visible line. He walks towards the house.

¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬

Lindsey sits on the front porch of his grandparents' house. It's noon, and the sun is right in his face. He's drinking iced tea, it's so sweet he can feel the sugar on his teeth. He looks to his left and Lilah is rocking in a chair identical to the one he himself is sitting on. She's shelling peas into a large white enameled bowl. She looks over at him and smiles. He sees she's wearing a calico dress in brown and tans, but her face is made up immaculately, red lips, eye-shadow and liner.

"When do you think the harvest will come in?" Lilah asks him.

Lindsey looks to his left, and in a large animal pen are various demons chained about the neck and secured to the ground with spikes at the ends of tethers. He looks back at her.

"Any time now, I suppose." She smiles at him, and her face flashes to one of a corpse, noose around her neck, her eyes bulging and tongue distended and hanging from her lips. Flash to smile, flash to corpse and back again. He gets up and walks into the house. The screen door bangs on the frame as he walks in

¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬

Lindsey's in his office at Wolfram and Hart. His new office. He's still dressed in his farm clothes. Boots, jeans and t-shirt. He takes his hat off and sets it on the desk, riffles through the papers on the desk and realizes all the reports are late.

He panics. He knows this dream.

He hears footsteps in the hall, moves behind the desk to hide the overdue paperwork.

Behind him a female, British accented voice says "It's too late for that now."

"I know. I have to wash my hands anyway." Lindsey responds to the disembodied voice. He turns to leave the office, and the door seems to be miles away. He walks toward it. He walks and walks. He never gets to the door.

¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬

Lindsey dreams about the bathroom of his apartment. He's standing in front of the sink. The mirror on the medicine cabinet is shattered, and his reflection is repeated a thousand times.

He looks down at the basin, and the water flowing from the tap is brown. Reaching out his left hand, he twists the cold water tap to fully open, and the water runs black. He rubs his hands together under the flow.

From the other room he hears someone calling his name. It's too low to distinguish the sex. He wipes his hands on the front of his pants and sees he's no longer wearing his jeans, he's now in work attire, a suit and oxford shirt.

Leaving the bathroom to follow the voice he steps into the bedroom.

¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬

As he enters his bedroom, he sees that it's not his at all. Not a room he's ever seen before.

The bed is larger than his, and the sheets are satin. It's too dark to make out the color. Suddenly, his limbs feel like lead, and he moves toward the bed before he collapses.

Behind him he hears the female voice from his office. "It's too late for that, too."

Lindsey lies down on his back and dreams of sleeping.

¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬

Lindsey dreams of the hospital room. He rings for the nurse but she doesn't answer. The buzzing goes on and on, even when he stops pressing the button. His hand hurts, the fingers burn, and he needs the nurse, but she isn't helping him. No one is coming to help him.

The door opens, and Xander is there. He's wearing his Mr. Bubble t-shirt and carrying a burlap sack over his shoulder.

"Is that mine?" Lindsey asks him. His voice is hollow and muffled, stuffed with cotton.

"Present for you. It's Angel." Xander smiles at him, flips the sack off of his shoulder, and tips it up. The sack jiggles open as he shakes it, and fine black ashes sift out. They cover the bed, piling up in small mounds between Lindsey's legs. The dust makes tiny puffs in the still room, and the sound is like sand in an hourglass.

"There's too much," Lindsey says, and the ashes keep pouring.

"The righteous shall walk a thorny path." Xander flickers, bright and then transparent. Gone.

¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬

Lindsey falls past the place of dreaming to the full blackness of total rest.

=end part ii=

Chapter Text

A week goes by, then ten days and finally Xander has had enough.

Enough of thinking about the dream, and not just the part where he was almost killed. He's had enough of hearing Lindsey tell him he didn't have the heart. He's in sheer dread that Dream Lindsey might have had the right idea about him, or that it was some weird Slayer-special future vision vibe, that Lin had gone home and slit his wrists. Too witless to call him, just to hear his voice, because what if the answering machine was gone? What if the secretary at the office refused to let his call through or told him that Mr. McDonald was no longer with the firm?

Guilt doesn't let the sickness from before remanifest, so he's not walking around like a skeleton. Instead he's jumpy, wired to his teeth and no one can stand to be near him except Dawn. Even Anya is a little weirded out by him, and she skips two nights. Says she has her period. He doesn't remember that ever stopping her before. Too wrapped up in his own battle to figure out what to do with himself, and too afraid of making the wrong choice again //three strikes and you are so out//; he doesn't sleep well or peacefully, although there are no more dreams like the last one, *the* dream that he suspects is trying to tell him that it's time to get his ass in gear. Grow up. Make a choice and live with it.

Three notes, then, as identical as if he'd photocopied them. Wills, Anya, Dawn and Buffy (one note doing double duty, even though he only adds Buffy's name as an afterthought):

"I have to go away for a while. I'll call when I can. Please don't worry or be angry. I'm sorry.
- Xander"

Leaves the notes on his bed, and it's back to the bus station, and Xander is going to see if things work well in reverse.

=====

Polite knocking on the door of the apartment jars Lindsey from his reverie. He's been staring out the floor to ceiling window in his living room, looking at the city. It's smoggy and grey, dirt hanging in the atmosphere, filling the lungs of the population and recycling back out filthier than before. He used to think it was a nice view. The painkillers dull most of his senses, but he seems to have his own personal adverse reaction to them: his vision is so clear that it scares him. When he can work up the energy to feel anything, that is.

Walks over to the door, and opens it. Never bothers to wonder who the hell it is that got in without a buzz from the doorman, unless it's the apartment manager or maybe the super. Takes in tender brown eyes, tangle of black curls and look of extreme nervousness that gives him a painful jolt of deja vu to the first time Xander ever appeared at his door, before he swings it shut, hard.

Doesn't make it all the way closed. The drugs slow him down and Xander is prepared for just about any reaction he might receive. His boot in the doorway to keep the lock from engaging, they have a brief shoving contest with the door before Lindsey just gives up. Turns his back and walks away, heads back to the portal to the world below. Xander stands in the open doorway a minute, tentatively steps in. Drops his duffle bag to the floor. Dries sweating palms on his pant-legs and takes a breath.

"Lin, I know you're mad at me. You have the right to be..." All rehearsed in his head on the bus ride out here, trying to think ahead and offer up any and all reasons why Lin might take him back, damaged goods in more ways that one.

Lindsey's voice comes back to him, cuts him off before he gets rolling. "I have other things on my mind, actually."

"Um, ok, so you're trying to move on with your life..." He's ready for that, ready to ask if they can start afresh, come clean. Beg. Plead. Become another person if that's what it takes.

"No, not really." Lindsey sounds detached and amused. Not angry. And not altogether *there.*

Cue Plan A, Xander just lets everything tumble out. He's walking, closing the physical gap between them. Desperately needing to be close to Lindsey again, see his face. See if he can get a spark of something in those blue eyes that's just for him. "I know you don't want me to be here, or want to hear what I have to say, but I can't stay away. I'm so sorry, please, you don't have to forgive me, just let me back in your life."

"What life? There isn't one." He sees Lindsey's right up on the wall full of glass, left hand pressed to the surface. His words make Xander's heart shatter into even tinier pieces. Despite his resolve to handle anything that Lindsey might put him through on the road back to 'together', the plans are crumbling under the stunning indifference on display. As if they'd been casual acquaintances once a long time ago, instead of what they were, what he was to Xander at any rate.

"Lindsey, you're fucking killing me here. Just tell me what I can do." Catch in his voice and the tears are in Xander's throat, burning behind his eyes.

"Time travel?" Half turned body, and Xander can see his profile clearly, sun shining in the glass behind him. Flashes to the Dream Lindsey in the doorway and feels a chill chase itself up his spine.

"Would you at least look at me?" Xander's voice cracking now, pitched higher because of the crying, and he doesn't care that Lindsey can hear it.

"No." Same tone, cool voice, and it could be any two people in the world having a conversation about the weather, instead of Xander offering himself on any altar of Lindsey's choosing, eager to make any sacrifice that would bring his life back to the place he needs it to be, the place he was willing to give up his whole life, his family, his support network to get to.

He's not leaving here without trying everything, and that includes making Lindsey see him, really *see* him, heart on his sleeve. On his knees, if he has to, and he'll do it all gladly. Xander crosses the room, takes Lindsey by the shoulder and spins him.

Hiss of pain from Lindsey, and Xander is stunned. His eyes drop immediately to the arm that Lindsey cradles to his chest. Heart plummeting to his stomach as he tries to make sense of what he sees there. Actually does stumble, reels with the shock of it and feels the blood in his face drain away. Thinks he might be sick at the realization of what he can barely process.

"Lindsey, did you have an accident...why didn't you call me, goddamn it! What happened to you, was it a car accident? What?" He's almost in shock, the real kind, body going cold, pulse slowing instead of speeding, wants to take Lindsey in his arms but is afraid to touch him again, afraid to hurt him more. Doesn't think he could hold both of them up anyway. Stands there with his arm raising and lowering as he reaches out and pulls himself back over and over.

"It wasn't an accident."

Flush of heat and then icy cold at the stillness about Lindsey, the way he doesn't seem to be reacting to anything, not to what his own mouth is saying, not Xander standing before him. "You mean it was on purpose? You cut your hand off?" Pushes his hair away from his face, attempts to find the centering place, like Giles taught him. "Lin, what's wrong with your voice, are you stoned?"

"It wasn't me, and yeah, a little." Half smile from him that never reaches his eyes. It makes Xander flinch to see Lindsey behaving like this. No emotion, not even anger, and that's not the man he knows at all.

Tries another tactic to get a semblance of a clue as to what's going on in this room. "Alright, someone cut your hand off who wasn't you, and it was on purpose?"

"Yup." Lindsey still cradles the injured limb to his chest.

"Could we have a little more detail?" Babying him, soft questions with no sarcasm in word or intent. Xander just needs to know what the hell happened. How could someone cut off Lindsey's hand on purpose? This wasn't the goddamn Middle Ages, eye for an eye and one handed thieves, and ...oh holy fuck. Darkness creeping into his vision as he makes a sickening connection.

"Lin...did this happen because of me? Did they find out about me and do this to you?"

Confusion on Lindsey's face for a minute as he puzzles out the definition of 'they.' "They? What? No. It had nothing to do with you."

"But, it was work, right? Did they catch you for stealing those things? Was this your punishment?" Thought after thought, none of them formed fully from the push of the next to get in, guilt riding high as the main theme threatens to drown Xander where he stands, because Lindsey was leaving for *him,* stole the things he stole for *him*, because Lindsey thought Xander wanted him to leave, and this he could never live with, not in a million years...

"No, I got a promotion." Feral grin, and he lets his arm slowly drop to his side.

The beginning of a blinding headache is throbbing at Xander's temples, and he wonders if he's lost track of something somewhere. Feels like the puzzle pieces aren't coming together at all. "I'm having trouble following you...you got promoted because you stole from your firm."

"Yes."

"And that has nothing to do with the fucking fact your hand is missing?" Exasperation starting to win the war of which emotion to choose, and it's showing. Xander steadies himself, deep breath, since it's obvious that Lindsey is not all together himself. Residue maybe from the injury, and if he would just *tell* Xander what the hell happened, it might begin to make sense to him.

"They are related." Statement of fact, and this is like playing twenty questions in the Twilight Zone.

Xander rubs a hand over his eyes. "You're reminding me of Mr. Cryptic himself, here."

If he'd still been watching Lindsey instead of trying to get a grip on his temper and his whirling thoughts, he might have picked up the change in tone. Indifference has fallen away from Lindsey in crisp pieces, leaving him sharp and edgey. "What did you say? Who?"

Hand dropping, Xander says, "Angel. You're acting..."

Blur of movement and a painful thud of his head meeting the floor, Lindsey's sitting on top of him. Eyes bright and aware in a way that is limited to drug-users and lunatics. Xander's heart trips over at the look of chaos that dances behind eyes midnight at the center and azure further out.

"Don't ever fucking compare me to him." Growled out, and if he hadn't seen Lindsey's mouth move, he would never have recognized his voice. There's something brand-new in that tone, and it has lots of sharp teeth.

"Ok, nerve strike." Xander pauses. Eyes the other man carefully. Lindsey shows no signs of moving from his position, and despite the situation, Xander is in no hurry to break off the contact. He can't read anything behind the wall of anger in those eyes, eyes that are boring into his own, but his body recognizes the weight and contour pressed against it.

Lindsey watches Xander lick his lips and think how best to phrase what is probably one of a million questions running rampant through his mind. //welcome to the party, xan, baby// He's not ready to move yet, rather ensconced on his knees, crouching. Although he thought he'd never be face to face with Xander again, his natural instinct is to get close, stay close, anger and resentment be damned, and straddling the boy like this is familiar. The part of him he believed had ceased to be when the boy exposed his infidelity coming to the fore in his mind, and he wants to hate himself for it. Wants to let it bleed away again, but he's too full of the conflicting need to have him here and also make him pay. The day to day fury that's been the driving force of his life since Angel took his hand, the only thing that has actually kept his heart beating, his lungs pulling air receding slightly. But it's a huge living thing inside of him, and it guards the places that are full of the hurt that Xander caused him.

"Tell me why the nameless person pisses you off so much if you won't tell me about the hand." Still determined to have his answers. Lindsey notes that this has not changed a bit in the boy. Studies the tearstains on his face and refuses to allow himself to take any kind of comfort or satisfaction at knowing they were shed for him, and not in pity.

"It's the same story." No more growling. Something inside of him that was wound tight and full of stuffing seems to be wide open, triggered by Xander's use of the name, the hated name. Lindsey feels clear again.

"Back up. What? Angel...Angel, not Angelus, did this to you?" Precisely spoken, very clear, Xander is being exceptionally certain to get his question across and receive the correct answer. No room for confusion.

"Yessss." Sigh, and Lindsey wants so very badly to drop his head and rest it on Xander's shoulder. The comfort is so close, but he can't take it. Won't take it.

"Let me up." Polite, but it's not a request. He's not going to fight, or try to flip Lindsey off, but Xander's got something to do, determination and goal evident in his voice.

"Why?" Flutter of panic's wings brushing the inside of Lindsey's head. //he's leaving again.//

"Just do it. Now." Calm but definitely getting ready to move, whether Lindsey lets him up or Xander has to make him do it. Hesitation, and Lindsey rolls off him. Lays on his back and watches Xander get to his feet. He walks to his duffle and unzips it, rummages for something that's apparently buried in the middle of clothes and other possessions. Finds it and slips it unseen into his back pocket, shirt coming down to cover whatever it might be before Lin can sit up and try to make a determination.

Xander walks back over to him, offers a hand and helps him to his feet. "I'll be back. Later. Stay here."

Doesn't wait for an answer, and closes the door behind him with a sound that's close enough to a slam to leave Lindsey wondering what the hell's on the boy's agenda.

==============================

Insistent knocking on the door and Angel rolls groggily off of the couch. Dim room but he knows it's still daytime. Glances at the clock to see it's almost time for Cordelia to get home from her dance class, and it could possibly even be her. He sighs. That girl forgets her keys at least twice a week, he's thinking about getting her a spare set and making sure there's always one in her purse. Shuffles over to the door, still feeling out of sorts and disoriented. Opens the door with the natural ease of someone who has little reason to fear anything that could be standing on the other side.

Familiar face behind a thick wave of rage and hatred, and the instinctive step back is the only thing that prevents the stake from piercing his heart. Xander wields it with a heavy hand, and has the full force of his pent up emotions behind the thrust. Silent fury, and when he sees the stake has missed, he takes a wild swing, fist to face and Angel goes down, head striking the floor.

Cordelia's voice over Xander's shoulder as he stands there, breath ragged, staring at Angel. The shrillness of it doesn't even make him blink.

"Oh my god! Is Angelus back? Did Giles send you here? Where's Buffy?" Too many questions, all tripping over themselves as they fall out of her mouth. She's shuffling and digging through her bag, he knows she's going for her stake.

Xander lifts a hand to silence her. "Cordelia, just turn and walk away."

She steps up closer then, peers past his body and "What? Like hell, I'm not gonna let him hurt you, Xander. Where's Buffy?" Looking down the hall, searching for a swish of movement to denote the Slayer's hiding place.

"She's not here. Go AWAY." Risks a glance away from Angel and fixes his eyes on Cordelia so she can see that he's not playing games here, that Buffy or no Buffy, the situation is not altered, and she should beat a hasty retreat.

"I think we covered that." Hands on her hips, and it's like high school all over again. He hasn't missed the stubborn streak in her and hasn't got the time or the patience to deal with it now.

"Cordeliaaaaaaa....." Angel moans out from the floor. His hands are wrapped around the stake, blood stained and slipping as he tries to determine how well lodged it is. Xander wants to step over, plant his boot on the few inches that are still visible and kick it, grind it in. May even have started to take the step, but Cordelia clutches him, thin fingers and short, sharp little nails digging into his skin. He can smell her sweat and feel her breath on his face.

"What's going on here, Xander? You look off your rocker. Why is Angelus calling out for me?" Worry line in her forehead, her face creased, and he notices absently that she looks older and spent. "How did he go bad again? I just saw him this morning!"

"Cordelia, please. It's not Angelus, and I suggest you leave, *again.*" Puts his hands on her shoulders, exerts just enough pressure to make her waver. She blinks at him, processing that important bit of information he fed her. Xander sees the light click on.

"You staked ANGEL? Are you insane?" She pushes past him, and Angel looks up at Xander. She kneels by Angel, touches the blood-soaked sweater and draws back. Xander hears her whisper "Angel, oh god, Angel" under her breath and wants to smack her when she looks back at him, scared, angry.

Cordelia helps Angel up into a sitting position, and he leans heavily on her. Hands clasped over the stake and Xander *knows* that has to hurt like a bitch. He's panting and sees the way Xander is eyeing the stake. Stops himself from attempting to pull it out right now, won't give the boy the satisfaction of hearing him scream, knows he's going to wail when Wes and Cordelia help him remove it.

Meets Xander's eyes. Gets the unnecessary respiration under control. "This is about the hand, isn't it? I should have killed him, then this would be over for all of us." Pause, and the left corner of his mouth twitches into a smirk, hidden from Cordelia as she kneels behind him and holds him up. All for Xander. "I'm sorry, Xander."

"What hand? The hand of God? What are you two talking about?" Both men ignore her, continue their personal battle that up until today neither of them had even been aware of.

"Fuck you, you self-righteous bastard. Next time, I won't miss the heart." Red spots in his vision, the headache that was threatening before hits him full blown. Turns to walk away. Hears Angel call out to him before he gets to the first step.

"Next time you won't get the chance."

=end part III=

Chapter Text

Buzz of the intercom, and the doorman is announcing Mr. Harris. Lindsey is waiting at the open door when Xander gets off the elevator. It had taken him about 15 minutes of puzzling through the drugged stupor and the adrenaline rush combination to realize that Xander had gone off to kill Angel. For him. Part of Lindsey thrills at the idea, sees it for what it is on some level: don't fuck with what's mine. Knows he would have done the same thing had positions been reversed. Another part of him thinks that Xander might never come back. Not because he doesn't want to, but that Angel won't take the attack from the boy lightly, and who knows what his personal hair-trigger might be. Or if the act of violence against Lindsey woke up the demon just enough to remind him of his taste for pain, and Xander walked right into the snare.

Sees Xander come around the corner of the hallway, and does a quick visual confirmation that there's nothing bleeding. Or missing. "Did you get him?" Doesn't really try to hide the raw hope in his voice.

"Get him, yes. Kill him, no." Xander's face a conflicted mask of anger, frustration and something Lindsey can't quite place, but he thinks might be pain. Wave of disappointment at hearing that Angel isn't coming to his apartment in a baggie //sack, it was a sack in the dream//, and he turns to walk back into the apartment. Doesn't close the door or invite Xander in. Doesn't tell him to leave either.

Xander steps in, pushes the door closed behind him, hurries to get himself in front of Lindsey. Stands there and just *looks* at him, and Lindsey knows what he sees. He knows how he looks, tangled hair, eyes blurry from the meds, face scruffy because he hasn't even attempted to shave left handed on his own yet, electric razor or not. Loose thermal shirt, grey sweatpants, and bare feet.

Fixes his gaze on Xander and tells him in a clear, strong voice, "I'm still pissed."

"I can tell." Xander puts a tentative hand out, cups the back of Lindsey's neck and tries to kiss him. Freezes when Lin pulls back. Licks his lips and drops to his knees, slowly, gracefully, looking up at Lindsey to see what he'll do. Waits, waits and then nuzzles his face into Lindsey's belly, hands coming up to his waist and holding him still. Inhales the scent of sweat and sickness and underneath it all, Lindsey's skin. Lets his head drop lower, face brushing the worn cotton of the sweatpants, feeling the evidence of the effect the contact has on the other man, hardening length against his cheek.

"A blow job isn't going to make everything go away." Quiet voice from somewhere up above him, and Xander nods, more friction of face on fabric. Feels Lindsey's breath alter rhythm and pulls him in tighter.

"If I do it right, it will for a few minutes." Feels Lindsey's hand on his hair and sighs. Hooks his fingers in the waistband of the sweats and pulls them out, down over hips, taking the briefs with him. Pushes up the shirt with one hand, and presses his face against Lindsey's cock, nose against the tight skin of his groin, gentle scratch of the wiry hair well remembered and arousing. Kisses the naked hip, skates his lips along the bone jutting out.

Hand around the base now, and Xander licks from bottom to top, slips the head between his lips and hears Lindsey gasp. Clutch of fingers in his hair as he suckles and lets the length slip further into his mouth. Holds him there for a moment before letting him slide out, stroking him with one hand and letting the other find the small of Lindsey's back and rest there. Tongue out again, wide as he can make it licking over the head, catching the salty droplets that are there already. Feels the wave of his own need surge through him as he tastes Lindsey again in his mouth.

Another stroke of his hand and Lindsey moans. Xander looks up to see heavy-lidded blue eyes watching him, full pouting lower lip caught in Lindsey's teeth. Keeps the eye contact as he opens up his mouth and takes Lindsey in, slow and deep. Feels him tensing, knows he's on the edge and pushes him into his throat further, his own groan humming around Lindsey's cock. With the hum comes the buckling of Lindsey's knees, he collapses on the floor and Xander scrambles to catch him.

"Don't stop." Xander snatches the sweatpants all the way off shaking legs, grasps Lindsey's right hip and takes him back in his mouth. Long exhalation that might have been his name, and Xander doesn't hesitate, makes it happen fast. Hand tugging in his hair, slim hips moving under his fingers for the first time since Xander touched him tonight, and he swallows every drop. Rests his face against Lindsey's belly and feels the other man stroke his hair.

===============

The leather couch creaks under him whenever he moves, but that's not the sound that wakes Xander from the drowsing state he finally falls into. First he thinks there's some kind of animal in the apartment, a cat in the vents somehow or something weirder than that, and it's making those freaky noises that animals tend to make when they're trapped and scared. Sits up, comes more fully awake and realizes he's hearing Lindsey in the bedroom. Listens to him whimpering and groaning for a few more seconds, gets up to go wake him and spare him the nightmare he's trapped in. Maybe give him another dose of his meds, although Xander thinks the meds and Lindsey see way too much of each other, and he's only been here less than a day.

Pauses at the partially open door and pushes it so that it swings in. Light from the hallway falls on the bed, square of pale yellow that frames Lindsey as he twists and writhes in his sleep, legs tangled in the blankets. Xander takes a step forward and freezes when he hears the keening sounds turn over into fully formed words.

"Xan, no, uh, please. Don't. Stoppppp!" Creased forehead and sweat glistening on his face as he turns and moans again. Xander hears his heart thudding heavily in his ears. Backs up, pulls the door almost closed again and returns to the couch. Sits there for a second with his throat working before he drops his head into his hands and just starts crying. Hot tears burn his eyes, and he never imagined that his life would ever become this much of a mess. Tries his best to keep the weeping under control because the last thing he wants to do is add to the disaster and wake Lindsey up, not now that he's learned that the thing chasing him through his nightmares and making him whimper like a beaten dog is apparently Xander himself.

Bone weariness sets in as he sniffles and tries to take in a few long deep breaths. He lays back on the couch again, forearm over his eyes, coasts into an uneasy sleep, still feeling the wetness soaking into the hair at his temples from tears that just won't seem to stop despite all his efforts to think of Smurfs and sit-and-spins and freeze-pops . Listens to the soundtrack of Lindsey's nightmares as he drifts.

Sometime later, minutes or hours, he's got no way of knowing, and there's a soft jarring movement against his leg. Opens one heavy eyelid and peers out from under his arm to see Lindsey standing there staring at him. His face is soft in the shadows, and he looks perplexed as he asks, "Why're you sleeping on the couch?"

Xander slides up a little, looks at him carefully in the darkened room, fuzzy from his own drowsing and the edge of exhaustion he teeters on, physical and emotional. "What? What are you talking about?"

"Was I snoring?" Head turned to the side a little, watching. Considering.

Xander matches the head tilt, mimics him unconsciously. Swallows hard to make sure he says something non-committal. He can see Lindsey is vague and unfocused, either stoned or sleepwalking or caught between both. "No, not snoring."

"Needed your rest?" Steps closer to where he lays on the couch, left hand rubbing absently on his own chest.

"Huh?" Genuine confusion on Xander's part, and maybe Lin isn't the only one stuck in the dream time. With out warning, he finds himself with a lap full of Lindsey as the other man drops to the couch on top of him, light languid motions and hot hot skin though the t-shirt and cotton pajama pants he wears. "Lindsey, um, what are you doing?"

"Showing you why rest is over rated." Face up close and breath warm on Xander's face, lips soft and brushing over his, tip of his tongue wet and seeking, and Xander lets himself be overcome. Opens his mouth eagerly underneath Lindsey's and laps at the full soft lips above him, draws the lower one in to suck and nibbles. Careful hands find Lindsey's hair, wind in the waves and pull him down. The kiss grows deeper, hungrier, as Xander arches into the press of the body on his, and he has to remember to be careful, careful of not hurting Lin.

Knee between his thighs now, and Xander's legs drop open. Press of leg against his cock and he rocks his hips into the weight of it. Lindsey's body leans to the right, rests against the back of the couch as his hand finds space between them to stroke Xander through his boxers, over and over until Xander is writhing up and panting. Closes his eyes as Lindsey rolls himself back on top, seats his knee into the cushion beneath them and fits his own cock into the hollow of Xander's hipbone. Presses his face into Xander's neck, dropping hot wet kisses there as he thrusts his hips slowly. Xander's head rolls against the arm of the couch, one arm clutching the leather behind him and the other cradling Lindsey's head at his shoulder.

Break of the rhythm all of a sudden and Lindsey's voice, thick and heavy with desire and need is in his ear. "Xander?"

"Yeah? Don't stop, just a little more, please." Lets his arm come down from the couch where he was holding it to drop across Lindsey's shoulder, rub and press down his back as he rolls his hips up, hard and aching.

Lindsey pulls back a bit. "Is this a dream?" Breathless voice, open wet mouth right there against Xander's cheek, and he shudders.

"No, Lin, not a dream."

Lindsey starts to cry and clutches Xander to him, face against his t-shirt as he mumbles, "Thought it was a dream, thought it was all another dream." Lets Xander press him in tighter, the arm around his shoulder dropping to his waist, slipping under the shirt, his hands cooler than Lindsey's fevered skin. Trails the fingertips lightly up Lindsey's back, feels him shiver again and begin to move. Slow, slow rocking hips, face to neck and then open mouthed kisses tasting of tears, and Xander comes with a low moan and a sigh.

Xander sleeps in the bed from then on.

=====

Xander's in the kitchen reading the comics and eating toast when he hears Lindsey swearing quietly in the bathroom. Choice words clear now and then and Xander takes a minute to be amused until he hears him moan. Up from the table in a second and down the hallway, the door to the bathroom is closed but not tight. The lock never clicked and there's a sliver of light between the door and the frame. Puts his ear up to the door and hears Lin panting and struggling with something, occasionally a heartfelt "fuck" comes out, low moan right behind it.

Pushes on the door cautiously, and sees Lindsey struggling with the bandages. He's got the old ones on the floor and the new ones are a tangled wreck around his wound. He's sweating, even though the bathroom is chilly, and Xander can tell it's the cold sweat of pain.

"Let me help you." Steps in and keeps his voice quiet, knows he's getting way into Lin's personal space here, something that's brand new between them. Closed doors and privacy when he dresses and real anger whenever Xander tries to help or ask him about the hand, and it's not something Xander has found a way to break down. Yet.

True to form, Lindsey looks up at him and doesn't even attempt to hide the anger. His eyes are glassy and his face is flushed. "Get the hell out of here!"

"Lin...let me help you. You need some help." Steps over closer, shuts the door behind him.

"I don't need anyone's goddamn help, least of all yours." Distracted from the botched task, the bandages he's been trying to replace fall away and the wound is clearly visible. Xander's heart flips over in sympathy, and he thinks about how much that must have hurt, the incredible pain that must have knocked him out, and he could have *died* from it.

Lindsey sees him staring, turns and tries to shield it from Xander's view. Flushes further in embarrassment at him seeing it, now attentive on what he hates to look at himself. "Get out! Get out now!"

"Lins, baby, I have fucked you up the ass, you think seeing your booboo is gonna bother me? Damn it, stop being a fucking moron!" Brushing away Lindsey's objections, Xander steps closer, raises one brow at him and folds his arms. Not going anywhere until this confrontation is handled and there's one less thing between them to be skirted around and avoided.

Panting again, tired and in pain, and still not ready to trust that Xander won't be revolted at the sight of his disfigurement, he glares at him. "You gotta mouth on you, don'tcha boy?"

"I always thought you liked that." Easy grin, there's no stress in Xander's voice or the way he holds his body, and Lindsey feels the fear and anger slip down a few notches.

"It's not like you know how to do this any better than I do." His shoulders drop down, the injured arm relaxes away from his body, and he takes a shuddering breath. Everything hurts, every part of him, and he's so tired of doing this. Just wants it to be better, wants to wake up and find that it was all a nightmare, and it's summertime again. Back in Oxnard and just meeting Xander, and everything could be different this time.

"You'd be surprised. Sit there." Lindsey sits on the toilet seat, lets Xander unwrap a new package of bandages and kneel on the floor in front of him. "I hate to break this to you, but the bandaging is a two handed operation. I have two, you have one. You can either deal with that or try to gnaw my head off with your teeth."

Xander begins to wrap, hands firm and gentle, and as Lindsey watches his face he sees nothing but concentration there, intent on getting this done quickly and getting it done right. Takes a steadying breath and swipes his forearm across his face. Xander glances up, reaches back and hands him a towel, then continues with his ministrations.

"I might go with the gnawing, but I have to wait until my teeth don't feel like they're made of rubber. "Lindsey runs his tongue around the inside of his mouth, then gives Xander a mock-ferocious snarl.

"Saved by modern pharmacology." He barely looks up, tears off a strip of tape with his teeth and presses it to the end of the wrapping.

"Don't tell anyone about this." Quiet voice, bravado gone and Xander looks up for real this time, patient and amused.

"Right, like who, all my imaginary friends? Hey, Burt, ixnay on the andage-bay." Snorts a little at the idea and tears off another strip of the white tape. Gentle hands, Lindsey barely feels the pressure when it's applied beside the first piece.

Gazes down at the top of Xander's head as it's bent to the task. Small smile slipping out as he says, "Sometimes I wonder if you have a chromosome missing."

"You aren't the first one." Lindsey watches Xander check the job he's done with a critical eye before gathering up the old bandages, the ones he's ruined in his earlier attempts and tosses them all into the trashcan. Takes the hand he's offered and lets Xander herd him to the couch, trailing on his heels like a puppy.

=====

Laying in bed, Lindsey covered with Xander and a sheet, slipping off to sleep. Soft kiss on the back of his neck, and he should have known it was about time for another talk. "I want the whole story on the hand."

Sighs, tenses up in Xander's arms until he feels the rough brush of stubble as the chin digs into the place where his neck and shoulder meet that makes it impossible for him to hunch up tight. Sighs again, tries to sound rougher than he feels. "You're pushing your luck with demands like that."

"I think I can take you. How many pounds you think I have on you? And, well, we're not going to mention the other advantage."

Opens his eyes wide and half turns in Xander's arms. Exasperated tone when he exclaims, "Jesus. Do you know what the word tact means?"

"Yes, I can use it in a sentence too. 'Jimmy had a bulletin board, he tact pictures to it.' "

Smug satisfaction, completely straight face, and Lindsey rolls back, presses himself against Xander's hips. Feels an answering push in return and the stirrings of Xander's cock against the cleft of his ass. Makes a low noise in the back of his throat and smiles. "What response is there to a remark like that?"

"The story about the hand, response I want." Lingering kiss on his ear, tickle of the tip of Xander's tongue on the lobe, and Xander's releasing him. Propping himself up on his elbow waiting for Lindsey to answer him.

Growl of frustration when he realizes in quick succession that he isn't ever going to get around this question, and now is as good a time as any to give in and tell him. He'll leave or he'll stay and it might as well be now than later, before he lets himself trip all the way over the emotional line. "Goddamn, fine! There's this scroll..." The tale drags out, it's long in the telling, and they both get caught up in it.

Xander listens to the whole sordid story. Doesn't visibly flinch at the part about Cordelia in the hospital, doesn't gag when he hears about Angel smiling at his victory. Lindsey rolls over on to his belly, and strokes the hair below Xander's navel.

"Baby, do you hate me now?" Won't meet Xander's eyes, keeps his gaze trained on the hand that's petting him instead.

"Hate you? Lindsey, I could never hate you. I love you so much it's killing me. It's all my fault anyway." Xander reaches down, hand in Lindsey's hair, exerts enough pressure to get him to look up.

"Your fault? God Xander, you're a piece of work. It's not your fault, I acted on my own volition." Can't believe the boy would take it all himself, he's got enough guilt for the things he actually * did*.

"But if I had just left with you." Tears in the corner of his eyes, heartfelt anguish, and Lindsey's pissed. Pissed at himself for spilling it all out in one go, pissed at Xander for blaming himself, pissed at him even more for grasping at what might have been.

"And never told me the fucking truth, is that what you want? Lies? You think that would be better?" Watches the tears well up and out, down the boy's face at his tone.

"Yeah, I do." Brushes the wetness away with the back of his fingers.

"I would've found out eventually, and trust me when I tell you, it would have been a whole hell of a lot worse that way." Gentle as he can get it out, only a residual edge on the words.

"You have little faith in my lying abilities. You would have never known." Lindsey drops his head back to the pillow and considers how to end this conversation.

"Xander, you talk in your sleep, did you know that? What do you think would have happened if I woke up one night and you were groaning out her name?"

"Do you know her name?" Curiosity, and the tears have ended.

"I do now." Riding on a sigh, Lindsey opens his eyes to see Xander's face hovering directly above his.

"But, did you before?" Tilt to the side, bottom lip wanting to ease into a grin, but he knows this is still shaky ground, it can fall away suddenly and sharply.

"No, how could I have? I didn't know she existed."

"So, like I said, you would have had no clue." The grin appearing full blown, fingers of the hand not cradling his head ghosting over Lindsey's torso.

"I think the wet-dream might have spawned some type of argument." Fingers pushing the hair behind Xander's ear, parting of the lips to signal interest in taking this non-verbal.

"Most of my wet-dreams involve you or the world with the chocolate cows from that Hershey syrup commercial." Spoken into the hollow of his collarbone, punctuated with tongue flicks. Lindsey stills him. Pulls his head up by the hair, no pain, but insistence there.

"Tell me something I want to know now. Did you ever have sex with Cordelia?" Xander's eyes close for a heartbeat or two, his smile gone, muscles around his jaw drawn tight.

"Unless you want to have a Bill Clinton type exchange here, could we save this conversation for another day? I want to know all about your sources about my life in Sunnydale when we get around to this." Slips his fingers under the elastic of Lindsey's pajamas, making sure not to touch anything important, teasing.

"I'll let you off, but only because I'm thinking about those chocolate cows." Raises his face to Xander's, opens his mouth, and sleep finds them tangled together and spent.

==========

Xander thinks about being a bad guy. He thinks about it most of the time when he's not thinking about touching, talking to or helping Lindsey. Life has taken him many places before Lin happened to him, and he feels it in the passive. There have been choices, sure, but all in all, he recognizes that life has carried him and others have made his largest choices. He knows Lin feels the same way about his own life. And that's the part that Xander can see as amusing, because he's come to the place in his life where no matter what he does, he's fucked, so he has what Willow would call perspective.

He never chose to be good. Just a turn of the wheel. He met Buffy; Buffy fought for the good; he cared about Buffy; he fought for the good. Looking at it like that, he sees that the pivotal choice of his life was made because some chick had nice tits. Being hard on himself, because there was also Willow to consider, Willow who is good on the inside, like a ho-ho. Light, creamy and sweet. That's Willow. But, he knows that's just the way he's choosing to see her, knows she's more than that, that the inverse-spark of bad is in her some place as well. A hard nugget of unidentifiable ick in the center of the creamy-goodness.

The choice he's faced with now is not one he can let someone else make or rationalize by saying he stumbled on it. Lindsey is bad. And he never thought he would be so close to someone with that label, get up-close and personal with the makings of the badness. He wishes he hadn't. Hadn't seen that Lindsey isn't evil incarnate, hell-spawn and corrupted soul. He's just a guy. A guy with some issues, oh hell yes. A guy who's made some wrong turns and has some character flaws. But, Xander can't see how that's any different from anyone else he knows.

Sure, Lindsey hates Angel. He has his reasons. Valid as far as Xander can see. What he can't figure out is why Lindsey's bad choices and mistakes are any more flawed than his own, or Willow's, or Giles', and finally he comes to Angel and the horde of human bodies laying in his wake. Right. Lindsey is more evil than that? Lindsey is worse than even a repentant Angel? Xander is having trouble following the logic.

Xander thinks about the bad and the good. About how he's never really considered the complexities and nuances before. He finds himself thinking hard and long about Giles and his past. About Ripper. About Ethan and all the parts of that story he's never heard and wondered about only in the dark of his room in the early morning hours when vamps are heading in from the light and all his bruises were fresh and just beginning to ache. He starts to see Giles' life now as a reparation. Giles making up for all the fun he got up to when he was young. Sees Giles touching his tattoo in the shower and remembering with longing and then scrubbing viciously at the flesh in guilt. Thinks about Giles, the bad guy.

Xander sits in the shower stall, water splashing up his nose in his mouth, thinking about Faith. It's one he reserves for when Lin won't stumble on him, because it makes him cry. Doesn't like to cry in front of his lover, hates to cause him pain over something he can't understand or take away. One of his secret, special regrets. He never loved her, but he needed her in a way. Counterpart to the Buffy crush, he sees that now. He cries for Faith and for the life she'll never have, for the labels he put on her, for the wishing she was dead. Lets the place open up, shines his new understanding on it and hates himself for not realising sooner. Faith never got a chance. They liked to pretend that she only had to say the word, and her whole life could have been different, just one choice and Faith could have put the darkness and hurt behind her. So completely wrong, and he hates himself for being so tied to his one-dimensional version of reality, all pat answers and black and white. He thinks about Faith, the girl who could have been good.

The knowing sits on Xander's back, pushing him forward and making him tired. The knowing that if he does slap the hand away when it reaches down to him, the hand of Buffy or Willow or Dawn or Giles, the hand of light and salvation, of goodness and purity, of uncomplicated decisions and sleeping through the night with no sweats or screaming, that it will be the last time. The last time he's Xander, One Of Us. Xander: good guy.

=============

For the most part, Lindsey tries not to think at all. Lets the opiates in his system dumb him down. Not back at work yet, so he doesn't have to be on his toes. In the habit now of letting Xander do for him. Watches the boy flutter around the apartment, making him food which he's glad he doesn't really taste, tucking a blanket around him when he watches TV, making sure he takes his medicine. His pride was wounded at first, but he let that go. The home-aid nurse was worse, at least Xander isn't laughing about him over a cup of coffee with his work buddies.

When he does think, he thinks of Angel. Hate doesn't even begin to describe what he feels. No words for it, so he doesn't try to name it. The emotion is a tangible entity. It follows him around, dogging on his heels, and he doesn't try to shun it. He thinks of Angel falling to ash under Xander's stake, sometimes pretends it's real and feels lighter. Most of the time he wishes he just hadn't ever met the guy. Knows that's the drugs, because he's never been the avoidance type.

Lindsey thinks about Xander. Thinks about the boy's life now, and how there isn't one. Considers what will happen when he goes back to work, and the boy has to fill his time. Maybe get him in school. That had been the plan back before the girlfriend bomb. He wanted to take Xander away somewhere and put him in school. Get him some self-esteem. Show him that he could make something of his life if he tried. Lindsey equates education with success. He's considering the college plan again. Xander Harris, physicist. That might be a stretch, but he likes the image with the lab coat.

Lindsey thinks about Xander leaving him again. Thinks about making it on his own up until he came around this time. Thinks he might not survive the blow if it happens again. Didn't want to let the boy back in, but he crept up, one joke, one touch, one cup of soup at a time until Lindsey is so wrapped up in having him back that nothing else matters again, almost nothing else. He thinks that if Xander makes the choice to go back home, when the kids come to rescue him -- and he has no doubt it will happen -- he'll just lay down one day and not get up again. He knows that's the drugs again when he thinks that thought a few times, because the truth is, he'll go after Angel. This time he'll know the way the game is played. He'll go for himself, for Xander, for the pain that lays between them. When that happens, it will be over, one way or another.

=====

Xander knows he's living on stolen time, it's like a huge clock with black numbers is burnt into his mind's eye. He can see the second hand tick tock, constantly. The first time he saw Lindsey smile again, he marked the place on the clock with a green arrow. The first time Lindsey touched him again, voluntarily and not doped up or sleep-walking, that one was marked in red.

He knows Sunnydale is well apprised of the Angel situation. Cordelia might have changed, but not that much. Comas and visions don't cause your soul to alter positions, and he knows Cordelia loves for real. No half-commitments and looking back, and he knows she still loves him, if in a diminished capacity in relation to her new, fiery love for Angel. Both weights were almost visibly dangling from her neck while he stood in the doorway to her apartment watching her try not to fragment in front of his eyes. Loves them both, will do whatever it takes. And Xander knows what she believes it will take. But, in the meantime, he lives with Lindsey and loves him the best he can. Hopes that's enough.

=end part iv=

Chapter Text

Weeks pass, and it's time for Lindsey to go back to the firm. First day of work, Xander watches him leave feeling like a parent on the first day of kindergarten.

"Don't let any of the other kids make fun of your plasto-hand, baby. Their hands were accidents, yours was * chosen.*"

So used to the tasteless quips at his infirmity, Lindsey actually laughs. Deflected every time he tries to raise the school issue, he gives up for a while and decides to give it a month, if Xander still resists, he's going to get him a job with the firm. A month is about his limit on Xander as Donna Reed.

Later when he comes home, exhausted and irritated with the suit and tie he's gotten so used to not wearing, Xander is waiting for him with a cold beer, a warm kiss and a seriously needed neck rub. Lindsey reconsiders that Xander at home might not be the worst thing in the world. Lets the thought carry him as Xander extends his definition of relaxation to something much more hands-on.

Clever fingers undoing the buttons of his shirt, easing the sleeves down and off. T-shirt follows the button-down, and Xander's hands smooth the skin of Lindsey's torso. Firm, elegant strokes, as much about muscle relaxation as about enjoyment of the act itself. Reminding them both that Xander has seen, touched, and kissed every part of him. Lips following hands, moist open mouthed trails, until Lindsey gets a handful of shaggy black locks and tugs him up for kisses that lick and nip and make them both rush to remove the rest of their clothes. Clutch and hold and stumble towards the bedroom, wrinkled suit and t-shirt and jeans trailed out behind them. Fall into the need and let it take them where it wants to go.

=====

Laying on top of the bed covers because Lindsey couldn't wait for him to take another second and pull them back, Xander rests his head on Lindsay's shoulder and asks, "What do you want for dinner?"

"Let's go out." Lin feels like celebrating, getting Xander out of the place he's been stuck in for so long. That combined with the thought of Xander cooking again is strong argument for leaving the apartment.

"You're just gonna watch the game over my head on the TV." Fingers tracing patterns on Lindsey's hip, belly, chest. Impossible to be together and not touch.

"You're just gonna look down the waitress's shirt and read the obituaries." Easy smile in the voice, neither caring about the personal habits of the other, just displaying awareness.

"Right, so, The Foster Grill it is!" Toothy grin, surprisingly ferocious kiss from Xander before he rolls off the bed and begins to dress.

Lindsey watches him for a minute, enjoys the sight of the lithe body. Xander's gained back the weight he lost and it's more natural. Not as defined as he was when they met, no more three-times-a-week to the gym. Rounded flesh over muscle, familiar and just so *fine* that he can't keep himself from watching the rest of the process with a self-satisfied smirk on his face.

Xander catches the look. "You look like the cat that ate the canary. Spill." Snaps his watch on his wrist as he grins, the light refracted from the face hitting Lindsey in the eye.

"Well, technically..." Lindsey leers at him. Stands up, takes another kiss and a full body grope, both of which Xander returns with enough enthusiasm to make them consider skipping dinner altogether. Lindsey pulls away reluctantly.

"OK, see now we need to make some kind of rule here," Xander says, taking his turn to watch the strip-show-in-reverse. "No molesting of the partner unless we're going to complete the initiative."

"We completed it about fifteen minutes ago. Don't you think we can manage to refuel between missions?"

Saved from any kind of military themed reply by a knock at the door, Xander heads out to see who it is. Calls over his shoulder. "Lin, I told you not to be so loud in bed, it's Mrs. Crenshaw again."

"Two days later? That's a huge gap even for her." Lin's voice muffled as it comes from the bedroom and Xander crosses to the door, puts his hand on the knob.

"I'm talking about fifteen minutes later, do you have A.D.D.?" Swings the door open and just stops. Knew this was coming, but has rationalized it away as the days turned to weeks and life moved on.

Buffy's standing in front of him, Riley holding her arm and whispering to her. Willow and Giles right behind her, satchels and carryalls full of their stock and trade - herbs and potions, crystals and candles overflowing from Willow's arms. Giles tilting under the weight of the books stuffed into the bag on his shoulder. Various expressions from anger on Buffy's face to the gentle concern on Giles', dropping off at embarrassed protectiveness for Riley and oh, Willow's pain-filled and teary eyes.

Xander steels himself and calls out, "First sign of the apocalypse, go stand in a doorway, Lin."

"What? Who's there?" Lindsey comes back out of the bedroom, jeans and boots and no shirt. Xander picks up the tiny falter in his step when he sees who's come calling - vigilante kidnappers but they've both been waiting for it.

"Get your stuff, Xander, you're coming home." Buffy shoots a wicked glare at Lindsey, and Xander sees her eyes tracking the prosthesis, the thin ridge where the flesh and non-flesh meet.

"There's a glitch, I'm currently standing in my home." Sets his jaw, and keeps his hand on the half open door. Makes them aware that they're all uninvited, despite the fact that he really wants to bring Willow in for a hug so she'll lose that strained expression on her face.

"I told you he was possessed." Willow's voice is shaking, has the mousy squeak that signals she's left the end of her rope several yards behind her.

"You may, in fact, be correct." Giles voice is quiet, and Xander just stares. Thinks of Ripper and Ethan and wonders if he tells himself he was possessed long before they ever summoned Eyghon. Behind him, Lindsey laughs harshly.

Buffy's hand reaches out to snatch at Xander's shirt, but Riley catches her elbow and deflects her. Ignores the dirty look she shoots at him, gazes at Xander with a mute appeal to make things go smoother. "Xander, I won't even pretend to know what's going on here, but could we all just come in, and talk about this?" Pure Riley, collected, reasonable to the end.

Sarcastic and bitterly forced cheer as Xander swings the door open, stands aside. "Yeah, come on in gang!"

"Which one's the girlfriend?" Lindsey still stands in the doorway between the living room and the hallway. His face is hard, clenched jaw and glittering eyes. Xander winces at the question, and this is not going to be easy. Lindsey and Buffy in one room, Xander thinks apocalypse might actually be a pretty accurate term to use.

"'The girlfriend' is not here, she's having a nervous break-down. We left her at home. But, thanks for showing interest." Buffy snaps the words out, and Riley moves to put a hand on her shoulder. Soothe her by touch, or possibly keep his grip on her to prevent bloodshed. Xander wonders idly what the hell happened to the doorman, and hopes that he didn't get the full brunt of Pissed Off Slayer With A Mission.

"Slayer, right? You and Angel, match written in the stars, you have the same sense for witty rejoinders."

"Lin, what are you doing? Stop poking them with sticks!" Plea in his eyes //let me handle this, ok, i know them, let me do it// and he holds his breath until Lindsey moves. Into the room, towards him, then past him to the bar. Makes himself a drink, and if that's going to keep him quiet, it's fine by him.

"Xander, we've been here long enough, get your things, we're leaving, and you're coming with us." Buffy's patience, never much of an asset, is long gone. Xander sees how her hands clench and unclench, how she shoots little darts of hatred from her eyes at Lindsey every time he moves.

"Buff, I appreciate you coming down here. I know you did it out of love, but you should've picked up that new-fangled contraption called the telephone first." Biting down his own anger, knowing it will make nothing that happens here any better if he loses it. Knowing for a fact that if he snaps, Lindsey will go right behind him, one temper triggering the other.

"Xander, what's going on? Why haven't you called *me*? This is the longest we've gone without speaking since we were five. Are you ok? Hit in the noggin?" Willow, the only one to talk to him as if he's still him, still the Xander that she knows and loves. She looks so torn, need to bring him back to their 'family' at odds with the desire to make sure he's OK. Her eyes flicker to Lindsey and back, and Xander wonders if she's learned to read auras or see into people's minds since he left.

"Wills, please. Don't cry. I wanted to call you, I just didn't know what to say, I mean, after, well, you know?"

Xander steps towards her and Willow makes a stabbing motion with her right hand. Sniffles, wipes her eyes on the back of the same hand she used to mime the staking incident.

"You mean after you viciously attacked Angel while he was taking a nap?" Buffy piping up, and as usual no thought for anyone else when Angel's concerned. Xander sees the look of pain that flutters over Riley's face //how much does it suck to be him, always in that huge angelshadow?//.

"What? Nap? He was on his feet, looked awake to me." //nice cover story there, angel, remind me to send you a thank you note for this//

"I mean, did *he* put you up to it?" Buffy points at Lindsey, who tips his glass at her and takes a sip. "Too afraid to go after his enemy on his own, he sends his brainwashed 'lover' to do the job?"

"Buffy. Calm down." Riley adds another hand to her other shoulder and squeezes gently. She shrugs him off, annoyed.

"No, Riley, I won't calm down. I mean, look at him, he's not even stepping in here to defend himself *or* Xander? What kind of man is he? Not only that, but his first response to a crisis is to drink! Evil guy and an alcoholic!"

"Defend myself? Ok I'm not evil, I'm misunderstood!" Lindsey snorts, the sound muffled by his setting his glass on the bar top. Xander's ears pick up the southern slide of the vowels, his fear kicking up that Lin might break any second.

Xander steps closer to Buffy, tamps down the frustration and chooses his words carefully. Feels his jaw begin to ache with the strain of keeping it shut and not letting loose with everything he wants to say, everything he's kept to himself because they never noticed him before now, no one gave a damn until he went and skewered the almighty Angel. "Buffy, you better watch what you say. Some things can't be taken back. Remember that."

"How could you do this to us, Xander? We love you!" Buffy, ever the poster child for tough love, looks more likely to begin kicking ass than hugging and sharing. He's not going to tell her that this is the first time she's said it or shown it in so long that he wasn't even sure she knew what the words were about.

"Xander, we just want to talk to you, we are concerned for your safety." Giles seems to have decided that Buffy's ways are not going to elicit results. He's been watching everything with a keen eye, and he's looking less Watcherly and more dad-like as this conversation drags on. Apparently the thought of possession is not an option, not for Giles anyway, no matter what pat words he doled out to Willow minutes before.

"I know you guys are worried, but there was no reason for the big show-down. This is about Angel, not me." Tries to explain without getting into the whole story, without pointing to Lindsey and saying that he has a whole hell of a lot to stand on in his defense for the attack. Knows that they're just never going to get it, that it's not about his reasons, never was.

"No, it's not about Angel, it's about the fact that you're living with the kind of person we fight on a daily basis." Cold voice, hands on her hips as she faces off against him, and he wants so badly to throw Angelus in her face. He knows he can't -- different situation, different timing, but still she should remember that she's living in a glass house of her own, and no one ever throws a pebble.

"Buffy, this has nothing to do with you guys. I have to do my own thing." Hands out in a placating gesture, Xander steps towards her.

"Why does 'your own' thing have to include dating the devil's legal council? I mean, why? Why? Are you the woman in this relationship? Anya wasn't enough like your Daddy? Does he beat you, too?" The words are barely out of her mouth, and already she looks like she regrets them, split second of surprise on her face that she has actually spoken aloud. Gone in an instant, so fast that Xander may have only imagined it as he reaches out to grab her shoulders in anger and shock.

Slayer reaction time, *pow* right in the mouth, Riley too slow on the uptake to catch her until it's already too late, and her fist is coming back to rest at her side. Giles' and Willow's voices mingled in out-rage and disbelief - "Buffy!"

Lindsey running over from behind the bar to catch Xander's shoulders and turn him around to see the damage; there's already a bruise rising, and his lip is split. Puts his hand up to cup Xander's face, gentle, barely touching, sliding around to tangle in the curls at the back of his neck. Voice low, words meant just for the two of them, he asks, "Xan, are you going home with them?"

Xander blinks at him. "Do I have a concussion, because what you said didn't make any sense."

"Of course he's leaving with us. We're not going without him." Militant anger and no regret for what she's done, and Lindsey has had enough. He walks towards the group and points at Buffy, closer than Xander would have dared to get considering the way she just reacted, the way her hand's still in a loose fist at her side.

"You had best watch your tone. This is our home, and you just assaulted my lover. The only reason I'm not reaching for a weapon is that he cares about you." No more legal speak, no more rich lawyer overtones, his voice is low, deadly. //don't fuck with what's mine//

"Are you threatening me?" Smile on Buffy's face, and she wants her reason to be that clear, that cut and dried.

"Buffy, be quiet." Giles voice barks out with an authority Xander rarely, if ever, hears him use when he speaks to her. Riley's softer tone comes right on the tail end of it, "Honey."

Willow walks up to Xander, whispers, "Did she hurt you?" Wipes the blood away from his face with the sleeve of her shirt.

"Not too bad, Wills, I'll be ok." His voice is so tired, even to his own ears.

She's crying, tears running down her face. "I'm sorry, Xander. You should've called us." From her bag she pulls out a small parcel wrapped in pink, sparkly paper. "Buffy wouldn't let Dawn come, she told me to give you this." Presses the package into his hand.

Lindsey speaks up again. "I'm telling you it's time to leave. Saddle up and head out. Don't knock my doorman out next time, or tie him up, whatever you did. Just buzz up." Unspoken words, he's not going to keep them away from Xander if he still wants to see them after all this.

"Xander, I hope you know what you're doing. I'm afraid you have no idea." Giles looks sad, older by years than the last time they saw each other, and it's only been a few weeks. Xander and he stare at each other for a moment, and it passes. Xander feels there might be understanding in Giles' eyes, commiseration on similar choices.

"It was a sleeping spell," Willow suggests half heartedly, but no one pays her any attention.

"Xander, I would have never thought it would be you. Never." Hint of defeat in her eyes, Buffy turns away. Riley wraps an arm around her shoulders, and she lets him herd her to the door.

Willow hugs him one last time, tighttighttight, like she's memorizing his shape with her arms, and whispers in his ear "Call me, ok? I love you."

Giles waits for her, nods to Xander, and they walk out together, both of them with their heads downcast, Giles pulling the door closed with a soft click.

"Let me put some Neosporin on that lip." Lindsey's voice is soft, his hand catching Xander's, fingers winding them together. Leads him down to the bathroom, both of them silent. Flips on the light, gets Xander settled on the seat of the toilet. Looks down at the package in his arms.

"Whatcha got? A bomb?" Smiling, but not really kidding.

"It's from Dawn." Clutching it tighter in his hands.

Lindsey wets a washcloth with cold water, and hands it to him, makes sure Xander presses it to his face before Lin turns to find the tube of Neosporin in the medicine cabinet.

"Lin?" Such a small voice, it doesn't even sound like Xander. Lindsey peers around the corner of the open cabinet door.

"Yeah?"

"You want me to stay? Right?" Wide guileless brown eyes staring it him, weight of everything he's just walked away from just pressing down everywhere, and Lindsey feels his heart stutter and roll over, rush of protectiveness hitting him hard. Tries to make light of it.

"Now you get insecure? I was gonna hand you a cardboard box right after I doctored up your lip. Why don't you open your present so I can see what you got." Xander nods. Pulls the tape away from the perfectly wrapped rectangle piece by piece making sure not to tear the paper.

Inside is a note taped to the glass of a picture frame.

"Xander,
I really hate her sometimes! Ok, over that now. Willow told me she would give this to you. You did what you had to do. I understand, and so does mom. She says hello too. We just want you to know that we love you, and we will no matter what. I mean, we forgave Her Royal Slayness, didn't we? Not that you have to be forgiven, just, you know what we mean. Next time I come to L.A. to see dad, can I meet him? Is he cute? Mom picked out the gift.
Love you like a sister,
Dawn (and Joyce)"

Purple ink on seafoam paper. Under the note, a framed picture of the gang from senior year, one without Angel.

"Wow. I see your taste in clothes has actually IMPROVED." Wiping Xander's tears away with the back of his hand, Lindsey scrutinizes the picture. Xander with his arm around Cordelia sitting at a long wooden table; the redhead from today sitting on the lap of a green-haired boy; the older man to the side slightly, smiling broadly in tweed; Buffy pulling a face wearing a super short skirt. The backdrop appears to be a library.

Xander's old life, freeze frame.

Lindsey takes the picture from him, takes the note and the carefully preserved wrapping, sets it on the floor. Tips Xander's face up so he can see into his eyes, cups his chin and uses his thumb to wipe another tear track away. "You wanna talk about it?"

Shake of his head, no talking.

"Come here, baby." Tugs at Xander's shirt, gets a hitched in breath as a response. "Come on, let's get out of this room." Takes his hand and leads him into the bedroom. Pulls him in, tight hug, feels Xander shaking against him. Strokes his hair, his back, other arm pressed lightly around his waist.

After minutes of soothing, Xander comes back to him. His hands tighten on Lindsey's shoulders, he presses a soft kiss against the side of his neck, another up higher, tongue trailing up to Lindsey's ear, licks the crease there. Lindsey sighs, rolls his head and gives Xander the bare expanse of his jaw line. Xander's mouth, wet and eager, burns its way to his mouth, and Lindsey's opens under the assault. Deep thrust of tongue, Xander's hands sliding down his back, and his hips buck, thrust, roll. Heat and hardness pressed together.

Xander steps back, skins off his shirt, reaches out and tugs at the button on Lindsey's jeans. Jerks roughly, zipper sliding down with the force of it, and Xander's hand slides inside, fingers rubbing over the silky hot head of Lindsey's cock as he pulls the other man up against him. Lindsey groans against Xander's mouth, presses him back towards the bed. Sacrifices the pleasure of Xander's hand holding him for just long enough to get them both naked, shoving jeans over hips and tugging off sneakers and boots before dropping onto the bed and pulling the boy down with him. Full body press, and every part of Xander seems to fit against him so perfectly, indentation of his hipbone accommodating the swell of Lindsey's cock as he thrusts up, arching into the friction of skin on skin.

Xander raises himself on his elbows, tangles his hands in Lindsey's hair and works at the swelling, pink lips. His own mouth already suffused with blood, Xander skates it across Lindsey's, brush of heat, teasing. Again and again until Lindsey grabs a hold of Xander's neck and presses him down, catches Xander's bottom lip in his teeth gently, licks the captured flesh. Releases his lip, licks up into the open mouth, feels Xander's hips buck against him and the warmth of precome coat them both.

Hand slipping between them, fingers trailing in the wetness there, and Lindsey's back arches when a slick finger presses into him. Gentle push and crook of the knuckle and he groans out Xander's name. Another finger joins the first, slide and push and Lindsey is stretched wide, pleasurepain and need racing through him.

"Need you, Xan," he gasps out, and Xander responds with another slide, press, crook of his fingers before he lets Lindsey move again.

"Turn around." Xander's voice is harsh and breathless as he straddles Lindsey and gets to his knees. His hand on Lindsey's shoulder as he rolls, and then around his waist, pulling him up tight, hand fisted around the other man's cock. Lindsey moans, lets his head loll back and his eyes fall closed as the warm hands hold him, stroke him.

Xander pulls back, fumbles in the covers for the astroglide and stokes it over his own cock. Leans forward again, presses himself in, one long hard thrust, and it's just so hot and *tight.* Lindsey's hand on himself, touching and teasing himself all along the length of it while Xander pushes in and in and in. Slick heat of a mouth on the back of his neck, and the arms around his waist tightens, Lindsey just melts into it.

"Wait for me, baby," Xander whispers in his ear, and that's almost enough to cause Lindsey to not be able to accommodate the request. Hand stutters to a stop as Xander moves inside of him, every stroke nudging him right *there* and making him gasp and moan, bite his lip and whimper. Thrusts himself back hard against Xander, and they both shout. Xander trails his hand down Lindsey's chest, belly, brushes the hair and the base of his cock before he wraps his hand around it, sure of the touch.

Lindsey's hand reaches back, finds Xander's thigh and clenches there. Shuddering breath and Xander is moving again, pushing him forward into his hand, fucking him, stroking him, taking him right to the wall. Lindsey comes with a guttural moan, coating his belly, chest, covering Xander's hand. Sways forward, heavy in Xander's arms and they both go down on the bed. Momentum of the tumble pushes Xander in deeper and he comes, mouth open wide over Lindsey's shoulder, teeth nearly breaking the skin.

Stillness as the panting breaths slow and even out. Slide and roll of bodies until they're face to face, legs tangled and arms holding each other, net of sweaty limbs holding their breath in the dips between them. Kissing until they start to drowse with lips still touching.

Xander nuzzles under Lindsey's chin, his words spoken against smooth salty skin there. "I'm evil-Xander now."

"If you say so." Lindsey's hand on Xander's hair, stroking through the sweaty tangles.

"I think I should look for a job. Something I know about, maybe an occult book store. Or a Dunkin' Donuts." Drifting-mind talk, Xander settling in for sleep. Lindsey listens to his breathing pattern deepen.

"Xander?" Lindsey whispers into his hair.

"Yes?"

"I love you, I hope you know that."

"I hope so, 'cause you're stuck with me now."

=end=

Chapter Text

//come on cordelia, what are you doing in there? past quitting time ok there's the light and the door. no cars coming, she sees me//

"What the hell do you want?" //nice shirt, if you want to hide demon puke, cordy//

"I want to talk to you." //smooth//

"About what? We don't have anything to talk about." //can't you ever make anything easy?//

"Cordelia, come on. We have known each other almost all our lives. Just gimme a chance."

"A chance? We know you're working for them. Gunn saw you." //oh shit, not of the good //

"So? What does that have to do with me and you? This isn't about all that, it's about us and working things out." //reasonable//

"Us? You've lost your mind. There is no *us*. Nothing. You drove Angel insane! Don't tell me you didn't know. What if Darla would've succeeded? No warning, nothing. Wesley, Gunn, me all dead, and you said nothing!" //no, wouldn'ta let that happen, never, never//

"You wouldn't take my calls! You avoided me in public places! How was I supposed to tell you?"

"The mail." //yeah, whatever//

"You would've thought it was a letter bomb and thrown it in the trash. Come, on Cordy."

"Don't call me that! Don't ever call me that. I hate you! I hate you Xander!" //what is..owwww slapped me?//

"No, don't go." //k, got her arm, can't get away, gotta tell her sorry didn't mean it like this//

"Let go of me, you're hurting me. Oh no." //oh no? what's...oh fuck fuck fuck fuck//

"Let her go, now." //what's he doing here? stalking her too, freak, following her, didn't think about him//

"Look, I let her go. I wasn't hurting her. We were just talking." //looks mad, and nuts, should've just gone home//

"She told you she didn't want to talk to you, and then it sounded like you were hurting her to me." //not the smirk, anything but the smirk, hate you hate you//

"Angel, it's fine. I just said that. It didn't hurt." //help me cordelia//

"Cordelia, you can go now." //waving her off not even looking eyes on me gotta thinkthinkthink//

"What?" //where is she? not close enough//

// but he's way too close, two feet one foot, fuck, shoulda run, fists, my eye my stomach my arm sofast, what's cordelia doing?//

"In front of the new office, I know you know where it is. You better be fast. He might kill him." //who's she talking to? the police? kill who? oh god oh god.//

"Angel?" //sniffing me, broke my nose, think the ribs, maybe he'll just go now//

"Do you have a death wish, boy? You smell like them both. Does she sleep in the bed with you? Curl up between you for the heat? Do you care about her?" //told her to get out of the bed stupid stupid//

"Fuck, Angel, just gimme a break! She was hurt, we helped her. It's Lin's job, you know that." //just let me go let me go letmego//

"I know a lot of things, like the fact that getting this kind of scent on your body doesn't happen from 'helping'. " //oh fuck oh fuckkkkkk sorry lin sorrysorrysor//

+++++++++++++++++++++

"Darla? Where did Xander go?"

"How would I know? He wanders off, you need a leash for that boy." //i need a stake for you, that's all i need, too stupid to step out of the gasoline when the match was dropped, now i'm stuck nursing you back to health//

**ring ring**

//that might be him, maybe he's getting chinese, no, steak, steak, that's what i want//

"Hello?"

"In front of the new office, I know you know where it is. You better be fast. He might kill him." //what? cordelia? what's that in the background...angel...nononono//

"Hello? Hello?"

//keys, keys, hurry gotta hurry, shit, ten minutes away, at least//

"Come on, get your fucking shoes on, you're coming with me" //get up you dense bitch, move move//

"What did my boy do now?" //your boy isn't yours anymore remember that//

"He's attacking Xander." //kill him, kill him this time myself if he hurts him, xander, god, what did you do//

"Why do I care about that?" //just come on, get a hold on to her, not resisting, laughing at me, hate you sometimes bitch, ruined my life all over again, hold on baby hold on//

"I don't a give a shit if you care or not, but now's your chance for the showdown with your wayward childe."

"Ah, so this is about me? It's not about you?" //dragging her feet, goddamn her, she's getting off on this//

"Do you want to get him back for the fire, or do you want to ride my ass about Xander?"

"Both, always both options." //can't get the keys in, wrong fucking key, damn it, get a grip, you're not helping this way//

"Darla, we can play games later, I just want you to help Xander." //finally, coming xan, coming, please be ok//

"Such a pretty thing. I like him anyway." //her voice grating me like sandpaper//

"Yeah, a little too much." //seen you sniffing all around him, whore slut keep your hands off, mine, he's mine//

"So jealous, beautiful Lindsey. Don't worry, I like you, too." //hate you, hate you, where's all this fucking traffic coming from, damn it//

"Like I give a fuck." //she's laughing again, snotty bitch, i'd love to snap her neck, should have left her there, fuck the firm//

//there it is, there it is, finally, where... goddamn it...can't see anyone...// "Xander?"

//where's cordelia and angel? please, god, no, so much blood everywhere under him bleeding from his mouth...what are the signs? bleeding from the ears? the eyes? what is it, why can't i remember//

"My boy was angry, very angry to leave him like this." //shut up, shut up, i can't think with you talking//

"Xander, baby, can you hear me?" //pulse, breathing, no movement, none, out, out cold, just unconscious, get him to the hospital//

"He's dying." //nononono, she can't tell that, wrong, just hurt, hurt bad//

"Lindsey, he's dying. He won't make it until the paramedics get here. Don't you see the wound on his neck? He's bleeding to death." //shut up shut up fingers holding, no more can get out I'll hold the blood in, have to save him, has to be ok//

"Call 911! Hurry. Darla!" //make yourself useful, jesus christ, please, someone help me here//

"I have a better plan." //better? need to get him to the e.r., what is she doing? so ugly like that must be the scent of blood, monster monster, just like him, hate them all//

"He left him to die Lindsey, what better revenge can there be than to not let that happen?" //biting him she's biting biting biting not this//

"Wait, no, give him back to me...Darla..." // nooooo,nonono, xander, no, would never want it, not this, she's not stopping, can't make her stop...//

"Just let him die. Get off him!" //so strong, too strong, can't make her stop feeding him, baby so sorry never thought//

"Stop being a snivelling human, Lindsey! He'll be glorious. A shining one, pure and vicious. My blood's still strong." //whywhywhy kill me, kill me you bitch, i know you want to//

"Kill me, Darla. Kill me before he wakes up." //laughing, might pass out, still so much blood//

"I think I'll let him do that."

-end-

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