They faced each other across a mausoleum. A souled vampire, searching for a chance at redemption, still holding a demon's bloody scythe. A battered, swaying mortal, who'd just made the most crucial decision of his life, still carrying the scroll of life and death.

Lindsey McDonald held Angel off with a long cross set atop a longer pole, circling to stay out of reach. His tie was too tight, his face sweaty, his mind still reeling with the choice he'd just made. Angel advanced on him coolly, calmly, like the Death he'd just killed, all black clothing and blacker eyes.

"Lindsey. Give me the scroll."

He adjusted his grip on the cross, held the scroll more tightly. "That's not gonna happen. It belongs to us." Wolfram & Hart. Us. He'd just decided that, not two minutes ago, and he would stand by it now.

Stubborn, isn't he?

Oh, totally. But he saved the kids.

And he sacrificed how many others, including the Seer?

He hasn't sacrificed her yet!

We just have to wait a few more seconds.

No, we don't.

"Us." Angel's face was blank now. Like he hadn't expected anything else. "You put your faith in Wolfram & Hart."

"You said I had to make a choice."

"And you did."

"Yeah. I had a crisis, and I want to thank you for your help with that. I'm seeing more clearly now."

Free will. It's his choice, and you heard him. He's made it.

Oh? And how many other choices has he had?

Others have made better choices, and they've gotten less help.

So we're supposed to just turn away from him?

Angel shook his head, so slightly Lindsey almost couldn't see the movement. "You don't see anything. You don't know what faith is."

"I see that what happened here tonight was foretold." Lindsey held up the scroll, taunting, in control -- he knew what it said now. "That doesn't bode well for you. I see that you're either the one with the power, or you're powerless!"

"Uh-huh." Angel was unimpressed. And pissed. "You see what I'm going to do to you if you don't give me that scroll?"

This was power. Yes. Angel wanted something Lindsey McDonald had. He held life and death in his hands, and he could do whatever he wanted with it. Whatever he chose.

He's turning away from us. What should we do, chain him to our side? We can't keep someone who chooses to walk away.

But we can give him more choices to make. More time to make them.

He's had enough chances!

He saved the kids! He's earned one more. We should give him some time -- and just one more little chance.

"You need the Words of Anatole to cure your friend. She's your connection to the Powers That Be." An image of the girl, young and beautiful and all attitude, rose in front of Lindsey's eyes. He pushed it away instantly, ruthlessly. "And since it's foretold that we sever all your connections... Well..."

There was a fire burning next to him; that was where the heat was coming from. it had been lit for the ritual, representing one of the four elements. Superstition and magick... but practical right now. Useful.

Is this about the girl? They've barely...

No, it's not about the girl -- well, maybe a little. But it's mostly about the possibilities. I don't want to just throw all that potential away because we gave up on it too soon.

His eyes locked on Angel's, Lindsey lowered the scroll towards the burning brazier.

...And if he makes the wrong choice again?

The flames leapt eagerly towards the parchment, reaching to embrace it.

Then you're right, and there's nothing else we can do. He'll have to live with the consequences. Just... one last chance. Right here, right now.

Angel's hand tightened on the scythe, hefting it, judging the distance.

....Fine. One last chance. But the choice to take it has to be his.

Duh. Of course.

Lindsey saw Angel's hand tighten, and he blinked against a sudden vision of what was about to happen, as if he could see it playing out in front of him. See Angel pull his arm back, see the scythe go spinning through the air, though his wrist, and the burning pain as the scroll was lost and his hand burned--

He flinched back from the illusory pain, and saw Angel's hand tighten reflexively, start to lift the scythe, and the weird flash of images became certainty, deep in the suddenly cold pit of Lindsey's stomach. The so-called good guy was ready to cut off Lindsey's hand to get the stupid scroll, and this was way, way more than he had signed on to sacrifice for anyone.

His soul, fine -- but not his hand.

Lindsey's arm flicked forward, bringing the scroll out of the fire in the same motion that he threw it towards Angel. It rolled, tumbling, to stop at the vampire's feet.

Angel looked at it, then stared at Lindsey, unblinking, expressionless. The scythe was still clutched in his hand, still half-hefted. Lindsey stared back. "We don't need it anymore," he said snidely. "See if you can find a way to squirm out of fate. But I wouldn't count on it."

It cost him every ounce of courage he had left after this night, but he dropped the cross with a clatter to the floor and turned his back on Angel. Then he straightened his tie and strode towards the door after Lilah and Holland. He could feel Angel's eyes on his back, but he didn't stop, didn't turn. Didn't breathe.

There would be explanations to make, and he started rehearsing them. Holland didn't have to know when Lindsey had regained consciousness, after all, and it wasn't like Wolfram & Hart didn't owe him some major brownie points after tonight. Oh yeah, he'd walk away from this with a bonus and another secretary.

The crypt door swung open, and he stepped through into the dark, heavy night, shoving his hair out of his face and making a note to get it styled. As he lowered his arm, a sudden pain ripped through his wrist,tearing at flesh and bone like ice, then passing as quickly as it had come. He gasped, reflexively clutching his hand to his chest, but it was still there. Still whole. "Sir?" the driver called from the limo. "Yeah," Lindsey said roughly, forcing himself to let his hand drop. "I'm coming." He walked to the limousine and climbed inside, where he belonged.

It pulled swiftly away from the curb and he settled back without a word from any of the other occupants. This mess was over.

He was done.

All of Angel and Lindsey's dialogue up to the PTB's intervention is from the episode "To Shanshu in L.A.", written by David Greenwalt.
My portrayal of the Powers That Be owes a great deal to Christina K's fabulous series here.

Comments welcomed at or drop a note on LiveJournal. Last updated August 28, 2009.


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