Title: "To Serve in Heaven"
Author: Mala
E-mail: malisita@yahoo.com
Spoilers: "Angel" S1 and MTV's "Love Song".
Rating/Classification: PG-13, L/A-ish, angst, crossover.
Disclaimer: Grrr. Aargh.
Summary: Will a trip to Ireland and a reunion with family bring Lindsey back from the edge?
Dedication: To Lex. 'Cause you alone understand this obsession. You're straight up Mama's dressing and Christmas pine.

"To reign is worth ambition though in hell:
Better to reign in hell than serve in heav'n."
--John Milton, _Paradise Lost_.

Creak. Swoosh. Creak. Swoosh.

The sign swung back and forth on it's rusted chains. A throwback to times before neon. It beckoned. It spoke of sanctuary. And it was that voice that made him step through the doors.

The interior was dark, smoky...and the amber grain of the bar's surface gleamed, calling him towards it. It was smooth, untarnished. Lined with stools that seemed to extend back to some distant infinity. To his surprise, only a few Dubliners filled the tables sprinkled around the small establishment...and then he remembered that his plane had touched down on a Sunday morning.

All God-fearing men were in church.

He laughed, crumpling up the name and address of the bar in his palm and shoving it into his coat pocket. *God-fearing*. When had he been that? He couldn't remember. There was nothing as powerful and so honest in his life as faith. Not in the network of lies and illusions.

Unless you counted Angel.

And he tried not to.

He settled onto a stool near the door, tapped his false fingertips on the wood to signal someone from the hidden depths. Rows and rows of glasses hung above, in perfect tandem with each other. On the wall in front of him was every kind of bottled libation imaginable. Four shelves packed with names and labels and no stereotypical mirrors.

No reflections in this pub.

No vampires either.

He winced, wondering, again, why he'd come to Ireland. He had handed his caseload to other junior partners, told Holland it was a family emergency, and thrown a few things into a traveling bag. Why had he followed his grandfather's papery whisper to this soil, this place, this *pub*? Why could he *still* hear the old man's voice on the other end of the phone line?

*Lindsey...Lindsey, my lad...ye have to find the magic. Ye have to find the soul. Go to Purgatory.* And old Seamus had rattled off the particulars.

Why was he here?

Lindsey McDonald knew why.

His grandfather had been dead for three years.

"Can I help ye?" The bartender's words came from nowhere, startled his eyes back to the present, to the living.

"Scotch," he murmured, looking up and catching a vague flash of dark hair and gray-blue eyes. "On the rocks."

The tumbler slid across to him a few moments later, filled halfway with liquid the same color as the bar beneath it and a few chunks of ice. The scotch burned a path down his throat and he welcomed the fire. He welcomed his initial gasp and the way a jolt of pain made his eyebrows furrow together. He welcomed anything that made him numb. As numb as the extension of plastic and metal below his right wrist.

Out of the corner of his eye, he registered that someone had taken a seat two stools down. Tapered, tanned, fingers tapped the bars just like his had and he noticed that they were made of skin and bone. Normal. *Normal*.

Ha.

He took another sip, savoring it this time. Swirling the taste and the smell around on his tongue and remembering how Seamus had always kept a small silver flask in his coat pocket. He'd bought Lindsey one exactly like it when he'd graduated from college. *Silver keeps the spirits away AND the spirits within*, the old man had informed with a twinkle in his gray-blue eyes. The same eyes he'd seen reflected back at him every morning until he'd shattered his bathroom mirror.

Lindsey hooked his scuffed hiking boots around the iron rungs of the stool. To keep himself from forgetting this foolish pipe dream and running out the door? He didn't know. *Ye have to find the magic. Ye have to find the soul,* Seamus had said. What magic? What heart? Two more things he had no use for. Like faith, they were concepts that were the stuff of fantasies...of shining goodness that didn't really exist.

Unless you counted Angel.

And he tried not to.

He tried and tried and tried.

And he failed and failed and failed.

Two stools down, there was a shot glass full to the brim with whiskey. Untouched. From his vantage point, he could gauge the surface tension...see how the smallest movement would make drops spill over the edge. And he wondered why the liquor wasn't burning a hole in the gut of the person who'd ordered it, why it was just sitting there like a piece in a still life. When he turned his gaze to the occupied stool before it, he understood.

Condensation dampened the sides of the scotch tumbler he gripped in his left hand. Cold sweat against his palm. And he gripped the glass yet tighter.

"Hello, Lindsey."

The voice was just like he remembered it. Sweet-tart like a mint julep on his Mama's porch swing in the middle of sticky July.

Just like his own.

"Hello, Billy," he said, barely registering the echo.

Blue eyes met blue eyes.

One pair calm and one pair stormy.

A crooked smile met a tight one.

"What are you doing here?" he asked his brother.

Billy Ryan Gallo's face was his. His body was his. If not for the fact that his jeans were black to Lindsey's blue and his shirt was pale blue to Lindsey's white, they would even be dressed the same. But Billy had kept their daddy's name. And Billy had two hands. And something like happiness in his eyes. "My wife and I were tourin' the blues spots in London on our honeymoon. Thought I'd come up here and pay my respects to Seamus."

'My wife.' He said it with proprietary ease. But, then again, everything came easy to Billy. Everything was simple. Follow your heart. Pump gas and play the chords and never want more than you can have. Yes, he *would* be married, wouldn't he? To more than just his guitar, to more than just the blues and the sizzling sounds of New Orleans that Lindsey had left behind.

He closed his eyes. Felt the breath rush back into him like a gust of wind. *What's her name? Is she pretty? Does she love you? Do you love her? Are you happy? Do you hate me? How's Mama? Do you feel whole?* He filtered through a mass of questions and picked the one that seemed the most important. "Did you hear him, Billy? Did you hear his voice?"

He swallowed a warm mouthful of scotch, watching his mirror image drag his working right hand through his long golden brown hair...a gesture so graceful that nary a drop of liquor spilled from the brimming shot glass by his elbow.

"I did." Billy closed his eyes, as if moving to some private music that was written on the lids. "The phone in our hotel room rang...Camille picked it up once and it was a hang-up. Second time around, I grabbed it. Nearly dropped the damn thing when he spoke, Lin'."

He worked the follow-up question up his throat like a good little attorney. "What did he say to you?"

His brother continued to sway to his silent rhythm and he recognized it as something he, himself, hadn't known in a long time: contentment. "He said...he said 'Billy, my lad...ye have to find the magic. Ye have to find the heart. Go to Purgatory.' And then he gave me the address."

He couldn't speak, couldn't find a response...not even a "wow" as his suspicions were confirmed.

Very few people could render him speechless.

Unless you counted Angel.

And he was beginning, to dammit. He was beginning to.

"Lin?" Billy prompted, using, again, the old nickname from their tussles in the dirt.

He shook his head. And then he raised the synthetic monstrosity that was his right hand, brought it down on the bar so hard that his scotch tumbler jumped and whiskey spilled down like a mini waterfall from his twin's glass. "Why?" he whispered. "Why us? Why *now*? Why the soul for me and the heart for you?"

"Hell if I know. I thought I had my heart, Bro'. Thought it was Camille," Billy admitted.

"Camille?" he echoed automatically. "That's her name, huh? It's pretty."

"So's she. My muse," the proud husband replied with the kind of confidence only the truly happy could pull off. "What about you? You have yourself a soul? What's she like? Or what's *he* like?"

Damn his twin for always being so perceptive.

"If I had a soul, I wouldn't BE here," he snapped, defensively, feeling the bile rise in his throat. "I'm alone. I've always been alone."

"Not always." Billy corrected him with an imperceptible shake of his head. "We had each other once. And Mama and Daddy. And then y'all ran off to the coast, to the big city."

"Well, I don't see you doin' the Gallo family Thanksgiving either, Billy Ryan," he pointed out, dryly.

"Doesn't mean I don't *want* to." Billy cocked his head. "What do *you* want, Bro'? Why'd you come here?"

"I don't know," he admitted, helplessly, staring at his plastic palm. "I don't know...chasin' a memory?"

*Lindsey...Lindsey, my lad...ye have to find the magic. Ye have to find the soul. Go to Purgatory.*

Whose soul? His own...? Or someone else's? And what was so damn vital about having one, anyway? Why did the word keep haunting him, dogging him like a perpetual cloud? And did he really have to ask? Didn't he *know*? Didn't the Irish air scream the answer into his lungs every time he took a breath?

Suddenly, Billy's hand was on his arm. And his own eyes pinned him down. "What's this memory's name? Tell me true...it ain't Seamus, is it? That ain't why you're here. Not *really*."

Lindsey wanted to shrug off the well-meaning fingers. He wanted to break away from the eyes that he couldn't smash and splinter like the ones in the mirror. But he couldn't escape the reason he'd run clear across the country all those years ago. Not this time. His brother had always been able to see too much. Almost a seer. Knowing all his weaknesses. Every fault. Every temptation. Everything that made them different. The discontent. The darkness. The desire.

"Angel," he whispered, despite his misgivings. "His name is Angel."

"Is he your soul? Is he the magic?" Perfect, pointed cross-examination from someone who had barely graduated high school. *Now* who was playing the good attorney...?

He sighed, reaching for his tumbler and taking a sip of the scotch that was mostly ice water now. "He cut off my hand."

"You probably deserved it," Billy shot back without batting an eyelash, his earrings glinting in the sunlight that was streaming in through the front windows.

"I did," he agreed, not even bothering to deny it...remembering how he'd held that scroll over the fire. How, in that instant, he had not cared whether Cordelia Chase lived or died. Simply because she was under Angel's protection. Because she was under it...and he wasn't. He had been so sure...so absolutely sure that he had the upper hand. Losing it for real had been fitting. Painful. An abomination. But fitting. He closed his eyes, downed the rest of the watered down liquor and shuddered.

"You love him anyway?"

It wasn't a question.

He swallowed convulsively, turning away from his brother's open face. From the knowledge he couldn't escape. *You love him anyway.*

*Dark eyes. Dark hair. Dark everything. And light. Bright white light.*

"Give my best to your wife, Billy Ryan."

It wasn't an answer.

The Irish air screamed and he ignored the cry. The interior of the pub seemed cold and he felt his twin's disapproval like a physical blow. But there was nothing to be done. It was too late. Too late to let Billy reach out. Too late to use this mirror to count his wounds and bandage them. There was no one in the world who could help him now. No one to pull him back from the edge, from the choices he'd made. Not his grandfather's ghost. Not his brother. No one.

Unless you counted Angel.

And he couldn't.

He wouldn't.

He didn't look up as he motioned for another fifth of scotch and the bartender complied with efficiency and silence.

He didn't look up.

So he missed the look that passed between Billy and the man behind the bar. And he missed the tears that slid down Seamus McDonald's cheeks as his silver flask gave up the last of it's holdings. And the last of it's hope.

Creak. Swoosh. Creak. Swoosh.

Outside, the sign continued to swing back and forth.

Perhaps faster. Perhaps not.

Nothing ever changed in Purgatory.

--end--
January 2001.



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