"You ever dance with the Devil in the pale moonlight?"
--The Joker, "Batman".
As the door of the small diner where he'd met with one of Wolfram's snitches shut behind him, he shrugged off the sickening queasiness at the pit of his stomach. Guilt had no place in his life. Nor regret. It was a job. A job that would give him security...and money...and power. More than he'd ever had. It was worth dealing with slime demons and killers, wasn't it? Ultimately?
Lindsey McDonald shuddered, moving quickly down the sidewalk, and towards the private car and driver just a few blocks away.
And a shiver shot up his spine.
"You had a chance." The cold whisper wrapped around him and he drew his suit jacket tight across his chest with his good hand...his only hand. The stump that was all that remained of his right hand and wrist tingled, reminding him that the firm had promised that there would be reattachment or a prosthetic arranged shortly. Fixing what had been done to him by their enemy.
"Come to take my other arm, Angel?" he spat, glancing into the darkened alley, looking for the long, black, coat...the neanderthalic, self-important, monster.
"I'm not the monster, Lindsey...I leave that to your kind."
He gasped, more from the light touch on his shoulder than the vampire answering his thoughts, and whirled around. There stood Angel...backlit by the moon...looking like the heroic panel of one of the ripped-up, smudged "Batman" comics he'd had as a kid. All dark. All brooding. Like some beautiful savior swooping down from above. The Dark Knight. The Detective.
"I uphold the law and my duty, Vampire," he drawled, trying to keep the tremor out of his voice...trying not to think of years when he'd been so tiny...so small...and his daddy's slurred voice had made him hide behind the woodshed...while splinters dug into his dirty, bare, feet. There was no woodshed here. And he had shoes on his feet. Expensive shoes. Bruno Maglis.
"The law???" Angel shook his head, laughing with a wounded harshness. "Is that what you call trying to burn the scroll that saved a 19-year-old girl from dying a madwoman? Is that what you call throwing in with a group of people that would blow up an entire building--risking the lives of an entire neighborhood--just to hurt me?" He growled, clenching his fists. "Do you think that saving a couple of children washes away any other sins you're going to commit in the name of Wolfram & Hart, Boy? Believe me, it doesn't work that way."
His deep brown eyes were knowing...too knowing.
Lindsey listened to his own voice rise...listened to the strangled, "Don't you call me 'Boy'!" and he knew he was dangerously close to losing the round. Again.
The young lawyer's eyes sparked silver-blue and his Southern drawl deepened with panic. Angel enjoyed the sight and the sound...as he'd known he would when he'd watched Lindsey come out of Helen's Kitchen.
"You are a boy," he pointed out, watching him bristle. A boy...or a three-legged ginger kitten pretending to be a lion. That was Lindsey McDonald. Arrogant on the surface and insecure just below it. "You're a boy playing with demons and men who have your number. And one day, when they've used you up to their satisfaction, your number is gonna be up."
"Have you got my number, Angelus?" the kitten hissed, waving his bandaged stump...an awkwardly placed gold cufflink pinned the sleeve of his jacket and shirt to the white wrappings. "Have you got it? 'Cause I didn't see you holding out a hand to help me. You'd rather take one of mine away than share your precious redemption."
Angel winced, the smile on his face fading as he found no comeback for the truth. He shifted from foot to foot and then moved against the wall to mask his discomfort.
"Not so noble and heroic after all, are you, Vampire? When the Devil came knockin' at your door, you didn't turn him down, did you? Not so different from me," Lindsey taunted bitterly.
When the Devil had come knocking...in that alley in Galway...in her beautiful dress, with her siren's smile...had he turned her down? And who could turn down the demon? Angelus. The killer. Only a gypsy curse could...not free will. Thanks to the Powers, even now, he had no free will. "No," he agreed, softly. "Not so different."
The boy lawyer looked buoyed up by the knowledge. Armed. Moral outrage made his face bright...his eyes just a little mad. "Then why are you ridin' my ass?" he demanded. "You got what you wanted...you saved the day...you saved your friends...you won. Just leave me the Hell alone, Angel."
"Maybe I like 'riding your ass'." Angelus leapt to his tongue and took control. The purring, flirtatious, darkness came easy. A threat disguised with velvet.
"Do you?" Challenge leapt into Lindsey's eyes, too...a mirror of Hell. "I shoulda known. I had you pegged as a fag. Its satisfying to know I've got your number."
"Satisfying?" Angel arched an eyebrow, not batting a single eyelash. And with one wrenching tug, he caught the little kitten and brought him close.
Lindsey couldn't breathe. His blood was rushing against his eardrums. He was cornered. He was the hapless villain...the Joker...the Penguin...trapped by Batman's wide shoulders and cold, dark, eyes. He could feel his feet dangling just a few inches off the ground and the world tilting around him.
"You don't know the meaning of the word 'satisfying', Lindsey." Angel's voice was so low...low and smooth...lulling him into a deeper terror. His hand was strong and tight against the material at Lindsey's throat. Clutching the shirt, the tie, and the jacket. "And I don't doubt you know the meaning of the word 'fag'..."
He shut his eyes, but the vampire's words worked...tossing him back to grade school...a fist in his face. Another in his belly. The taste of dirt. "What kinda name is 'Lindsey'? You're a fuckin' queer and ah don't like your face..." "Come here, Pretty Boy...lemme give you some make-up lessons..." Then, there was the memory of softer hands. A kinder voice. His hands sliding over close-cropped hair in the back row of a darkened college lecture hall. "Its all right, Lindsey...I'll work on your scholarship, Sweetheart...just let me love you."
"Ah am straight!" he gasped out, wishing his feet would just touch ground. Knowing, deep inside, that lies and truth were blurred in many ways inside him.
"Me, too," Angel chuckled.
Lindsey felt the firmness of the wall against his back...and the ground beneath his shoes. And the strong grasp on his clothes loosened. But he didn't dare open his eyes and look into the face of the Devil that was knocking. That was gently touching his bandaged stump...and then moving to his remaining hand. Two hands were stroking his fingers...moving inside his cuff and caressing the inside of his wrist. Getting ready to break? To rip?
"Angel..." he cried, pleading. Not this hand, too.
"Yes, Lindsey?" A distracted reply.
And then he felt lips. Counting each joint and each curve of his fingers. Investigating the sensitive center of his palm. Tracing his lifeline.
"Stop it!" He wanted to jerk away...couldn't...the wall of brick behind him and the wall of muscle in front of him had closed in.
Lightning danced up his spine, paralyzing him to everything but the feel of the vampire's mouth and tongue. The feel of teeth gently scraping the fleshy base of his hand.
"Let me see your eyes," Angel urged, huskily. "Come on, Kitten..."
He looked. And the sight of dark hair and dark eyes and hunger was so blinding that his body tightened. He'd lost another limb to this monster. His hand and his...mouth.
His hand released, the Dark Knight's next target was a kiss. Lindsey wanted to reach up and push him away...or pull him closer. He couldn't decide. All he knew was that he tasted ice and the faint coppery hint of blood and both tasted rich. Both were addictive. Muddling his senses. Making cold heat pool in his gut.
And then there was nothing holding him.
Nothing but air.
As he struggled for breath. For equilibrium.
The vampire turned on one heel and walked away. Unruffled. Unaffected. The winner. Again. He watched the coat billow out and swirl around slender ankles with something akin to hysteria. Ankles? Freakin' ankles?
And then Angel stopped. He half-turned, and Lindsey drew in a gasp, closing his eyes against that haunting profile. Against the smile.
"You want my number, McDonald? 555-4682."
It was only when he was finally alone in the alley...curled up on the cold, dirty, concrete, that he reached into his pocket for a scrap of paper and a pen... and scribbled down the phone number with his shaky, left-handed scrawl. He crumpled the paper in his hand and felt the phantom edge of lips counting each knuckle.
He was terrified.
Losing to a comic-book-hero was one thing.
Losing to the real deal was something he could get used to.
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