He taps a rhythm on the steering wheel with all ten fingers, waiting for the light to change. This time, he is glad the bright blue and red beams of a police cruiser aren't shining in his rearview...he doesn't think he'll ever forget pulling the cardboard off Bessie's back and crumpling it as he offered up his best "down home" grin.
*"Aw, shucks, Officer...must've been my ex-girlfriend pulling one last payback on me before I let L.A. You know how women are...Hell hath no fury an' all that..."*
He'd been caught between throwing a fit right then and there and laughing his head off. And the paper had felt good in his hands...coarse on the back, smooth on the front...lightly scraping his palms as he balled it up. It's on the seat beside him now, the black ink of the defiant "Cops suck!" still visible through the wrinkles.
He wonders if Angel put a mental bet down on how long it would take for him to discover it. 10 miles? Twenty? Forty? "Eighteen and a quarter, thank you very much," he murmurs, as red goes to green and he lets up on the brake.
As it stands, he's kind of impressed. Juvenile pranks are something he would've expected out of Lilah...or out of his brother Billy, who'd been prone to putting frogs in his lunchbox and worms in his shoes when they were kids. But the vampire formerly known as the Scourge of Europe? The bane of Wolfram & Hart's existence? Angel just doesn't seem the type...
What a surprise...
Who'd've thunk it?
Who'd've thunk any of this?
The wheel is warm beneath his light grasp...9 o'clock and 2 o'clock, just like old Willy Gallo taught him when was fourteen. Driving with a prosthetic had been hard. Hitting turn signals and keeping the wheel steady in busy Los Angeles traffic was like being a center ring fire juggler at the circus. But now it is just like playing the guitar--natural--something that comes without thought, straight from his soul. Another something that he never thought he would do again...
A Lyle Lovett song drifts from Bessie's battered speakers and he sings along, liking the sound of his own voice. The ease of it, the lightness. Before he sang at Caritas just a few days ago, he hadn't sung in almost eight months. Not even in the shower. He couldn't. Singing country or the blues takes heart...takes soul. He thinks they are what he really got back with the transplant. Not five fingers, a palm, and a wrist...but the most vital parts of the real Lindsey Ray McDonald.
Every ten miles or so, he sends up a silent prayer for Brad Scott. A silent "thank you" for his hand, his second chance, and the thin red line that will never allow him to take any of it for granted.
There is no evil in his borrowed fingers. He knows now that there never was. There was only desperation. Desperation that he understands all too well. Desperation that started turning to peace when he released Brad from the firm's torture...when Angel blew up the underground organ farm...when he trashed the meeting room in his finest performance since he played Sky Masterson in "Guys and Dolls" in 8th grade.
He chuckles as he remembers the way Lilah leapt up like a frightened deer when he grabbed her ass. It's been a long time since he felt the firm weight of a good butt against his palm. Lilah Morgan, he thinks waspishly, does *not* have a good butt.
"Time to renew that gym membership, Babe."
He wishes her luck at Wolfram & Hart. That is the life she wants. The life she's suited for. And he knows it won't last long if Angel and his friends have their way. For all he cares, they can all lock each other in a giant box and sting each other to death like scorpions.
Because he's out.
He's finally out.
He's finally free.
Of all of them. All of *it*.
The open road is ahead of him. Weeks of doing nothing but stopping in seedy dives and playing a tune or two and then moving on. Of singing and playing and living without looking over his shoulder. Weeks that can turn into months. Miles that can turn into state lines and deserts and the way back to the bayou. When he reaches the California border, he's going to get out, press his palms into the dust and kiss it "good-bye."
He's going to relish the gravel and grit in the crevices between his fingers. He's going to keep that dirt there until he reaches Louisiana...and then he's going to brush it off at the base of the first magnolia tree he sees...brush until the bark makes him bleed. And he'll kiss the scratches "hello."
He'll be home.
And he'll be *happy* to be home.
Who'd've thunk it?
Of course, realistically, he knows he has a few debts left to pay, a few things he's leaving unfinished in the City of Angels.
In the City of *Angel*.
"I wonder if frogs and worms can survive cross country mail...?"
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