"But you will come to a place
Where the only thing you feel
Are loaded guns in your face
And you'll have to deal with

Lindsey didn't know how many traffic laws he broke on the way to the hospital. He vaguely remembered bailing out of the office, the looks on Lilah and Holland's faces when he'd blown past them without a word or an excuse, the way the elevator had taken forever and his feet had skidded on the fire stairs somewhere around the twentieth floor.

But mostly Lindsey remembered the barely-concealed tension in Angel's voice on the other end of the phone: "There was a fight. Cordelia was hurt. She's going to be all right, but she's asking for you." He didn't know how much it had cost the vampire to call him; he honestly didn't care.

His mind tortured him gleefully as he parked the Porsche illegally and raced towards the flickering Emergency sign. Cordelia's body, torn and bleeding, laying limp and unseeing on a some anonymous concrete floor, while he stood over her and tried not to care about...

No. Not Cordelia. Different time, different place. Cordelia was fine, Angel had said so, and the bastard had no reason to lie. About this.

The glass door slid aside, depriving him of the chance to slam his hand against it and feel the door swing back under his power. It smelled like a hospital, antiseptic and fear and just a hint of blood, like a coroner's office and a torn body laying on a slab, young and once beautiful and he needed to make sure no one paid, no one cared...

No. Cordelia. He had to get to Cordelia.

The nurse at the reception desk looked up briefly when he leaned against the counter, then again, more sharply. He saw her hand twitch towards a security button, and wondered vaguely what he looked like. His voice was steady when he spoke. "Cordelia Chase. She was brought in about an hour and a half ago. I need to know where she is."

The nurse was middle-aged, with dark brown skin and dark brown eyes, and she looked at him with a blend of compassion and detachment. "Your relationship?"

"I'm her..." Friend? Enemy? Lover? He'd never had to define it before, had tried not to. "...her boyfriend. Cordelia is my girlfriend. I need to know where she is."

The nurse studied him again, then did something to her computer. "Fourth floor; she's in room 415. Take the elevator on your left."

He was already walking, tossing a "Thank you" over his shoulder in some weirdly polite reflex. The elevator was slow, so slow -- what was it with elevators today? He waited this time, not sure where the stairs were and not willing to take the time to look. The elevator opened with a small chime, and then he was waiting again as it rose, still so slowly.

He left the elevator before the doors had finished opening, looked for the signs and followed them. 403, 405, 407 and he could hear voices, familiar ones. 409, 411, 413 and that was Cordelia's tired laugh. 415, and he skidded to a halt in the doorway.

The room was full -- Angel by the bed, leaning against the wall; Wesley across the room at the window; a young black man he vaguely recognized sitting casually at the foot of the bed. They stopped talking when he came in, but he ignored them all and went straight for Cordelia.

"Jesus." He muttered it against her hair as he pulled her into him, and didn't know if it was a curse or a prayer. She put her arms around him and buried her face in his chest and he rocked her carefully, holding her as tightly as he could and still be careful of the bulk of the bandages he could feel under his hands.

After he didn't know how long, he loosened his hold, putting his hands on her shoulders and moving her carefully back. "Christ," he said roughly, and it was definitely a curse this time.

"It looks worse that it is, trust me," she assured him, trying to make her hair fall forward to hide the lump on her forehead and the black eye, the scrapes running from the top of her cheekbone down beneath her hospital gown. Her left arm was bruised heavily enough to show on either side of the bandage that swathed her forearm.

"If it looks worse than it is, you still need a new body, little girl," he told her, conscious of his hands shaking as he smoothed her hair carefully away from her face.

"Thanks a lot, old guy. Way to make me feel better." She winced when she tried to move, in a way that suggested problems with her ribs.

He cradled her face between his hands and very carefully kissed first her forehead, then her eye. Then he pushed her head against his chest and glared at her friends. "What the hell happened? What did you screw up?"

"Hey, now!" the black kid started, half-rising.

"How dare you--" Wesley straightened, his fists clenching.

Angel waved them both down. "He's right," he admitted quietly, reluctantly. "We screwed up. It was a Tarlik demon; we thought we had him surrounded, but he had a bolthole. It came out right on top of Cordelia."

"It was not your fault," Cordelia said fiercely, turning her face enough to try to match Lindsey's glare, which would have worked better if she'd been able to see out of that eye. "I'm the Seer, remember? Last I looked, your job description didn't include, 'Sees all, knows all.'"

"Like that's new," Lindsey muttered, and Cordelia hit his shoulder. Her wince as the movement hurt her ribs was much more effective than the fairly weak slap at quieting him.

"You -- enough with the macho attack; it doesn't go with your suit. And you," she told Angel, "enough with the guilt patrol. If you really want to make me feel better, you can both get along with each other for five minutes."

Angel looked away and Lindsey nodded grudgingly. "Thank you." Cordelia shook her head in disgust, and settled herself carefully back on the bed. Lindsey helped her lie back, then took her hand, settling on the bed next to her. She smiled up at him, the glory of it dimmed by the bruising, but not extinguished.

The kid on the foot of the bed laughed, the sound almost friendly. "Not bad, Cordy. Nice to see you've already got this dude whipped, along with the other two."

"Bite me, Gunn," Cordelia shot back without bothering to look at him. "Lindsey, that's Gunn. He can be ignored except that he's kind of useful in a fight. So far. Gunn, this is Lindsey. He's...."

She floundered for a moment, and Lindsey leaned forward to kiss her. "Her boyfriend," he filled in, twisting around enough to look at Gunn with territorial warning. "I'm her boyfriend."

"The lawyer dude." Gunn nodded once. He had eyes like Cordelia's, years too old to fit with the rest of his face, and penetrating. This kid had seen it all before, and it hadn't impressed him then, either. "Been hearing about you."

"I bet."

"Hey, it wasn't all bad." Lindsey lifted his eyebrows at him -- 'oh really?' -- and Gunn shrugged. "Yeah. Cordelia said a couple of things a few minutes ago that were almost compliments."

Cordelia glared daggers at Gunn, and Lindsey half-laughed in spite of himself, keeping her from sitting up. He didn't care if she hurt the kid, but it didn't look like her ribs were going to take much more abuse. "Glad to hear it."

Gunn grinned, although it still didn't quite reach his eyes, and got off the bed, turning out to be a lot taller than Lindsey would have guessed. "Well, since Cordy here seems to be in good hands--"

"Lots of them," Cordelia grumbled, laying back down and crossing her arms. It obviously hurt, but she kept them there anyway.

"--I'm gonna head back to my crib. Angel, you need more demons killed, you make sure about the back doors before you call me, hear what I'm sayin'?"

"Yeah." Angel shook the kid's hand, and Wesley did the same. "Thanks for the help, Gunn."

"No problem. Catch you later, Cordy. Later." The last was offered to Lindsey as an afterthought, as Gunn strode out of the room.

There was an awkward silence after he left. "So, what happened?" Lindsey finally asked Cordelia, in spite of himself. "And stop moving around," he added, as she tried to shrug nonchalantly and obviously regretted it.

"It was like Angel said. Li-ittle glitch in the battle plan."


"I still think he had help," Wesley commented, as if picking up the thread of an argument. He was talking to Angel, but his eyes stayed on Lindsey, daring him to comment. "That warehouse was quite secure, yet he still escaped. If Kate hadn't arrived with backup when she did--"

"--But she did get there, with the cavalry, which is why we called her in," Cordelia finished for him.

"Why you called her in," Angel corrected. "I only asked you to get the information."

"And aren't you glad I have initiative?" Cordelia grinned smugly. "Ever think you'd be glad to see the LAPD?"

"No," Angel, Lindsey and Wesley said, more or less in chorus. They blinked and looked at each other, then all three looked away quickly.

"Well, at least our demon friend Mr. Nodraan will be behind bars for quite some time," Wesley finally said, staring fixedly at a wall behind Lindsey's head. Lindsay didn't notice, since he'd stopped breathing at the name Nodraan.

"As long as the cops don't let him walk out again. Right, Lindsey?" Cordelia looked at him steadily, and Lindsey swallowed, hard.

"Yeah," he managed to reply, in something resembling a normal voice. "Let's hear it for L.A.'s finest."

"Yeah," Cordelia echoed softly, and her hand crept down to take his again. He leaned over to kiss her, mostly so he wouldn't have to meet her too-knowing eyes.

Lindsey's cell phone chose that moment to ring; it would have been funny watching three people and a vampire all go for their (in some cases nonexistent) pockets except that he knew -- with a sick certainty -- who the call was for. And what it was about.

He squeezed Cordelia's hand again, hoping he looked calmer than he felt, and fished his cell phone out of his jacket pocket. "Yeah, McDonald."

"Mr. McDonald," his secretary said, calmly and unemotionally. "Mr. Manners would like you to return to the office as soon as possible. Apparently a client of yours has been arrested and Mr. Manners would like you to handle the situation."

His knuckles were white around the phone. "I'm... in the middle of something. An emergency. I can't--"

"Mr. Manners was extremely insistent. And he didn't seem happy with your exit earlier tonight." Her voice carried a very clear warning, one she normally wouldn't have bothered with. "May I tell him when you'll be arriving?"

"Tell him..." Tell him I'm on vacation. Tell him I died. Tell him to go to hell; he knows the way. "Tell him I'll be there in 20 minutes."

"Yes, sir." She hung up and he held the phone a minute longer, then carefully disconnected it.

"I, ah... I have to get back to the office." He still couldn't look Cordelia in the eye as he leaned over to kiss her. She hugged him, ignoring the pain of her ribs, and he buried his face in her hair again for a long moment. Even through blood and antiseptic, he could smell her shampoo. "I'll... I'll talk to you later."

It was the only thing he could promise, and he felt the motion when she nodded. "Sure. Duty calls and all that." She pulled away from him, combing her hair into place with her right hand, a fake smile settling on her lips. He hated that smile. "They're letting me go tomorrow -- want to bring me lunch and pamper me ridiculously?"

"Yeah. Absolutely. If I can." He smoothed her hair one last time, then stood. "Angel. Wesley."

"Lindsey." Angel's voice was expressionless; Wesley didn't reply at all.

Cordelia caught his hand as he started to leave. "Lindsey..."

He tried to smile, gave her hand a quick squeeze. "I'll call."

She pressed her lips together and nodded, as if she didn't trust herself to say anything, but let his hand drop. With one last look at his girlfriend, Lindsey walked out the door.


Lindsey's secretary was waiting for him when he got to his office. "Don't you go home?" he asked, without caring about the answer.

"Occasionally," she responded calmly. "Mr. Manners would like to see you in his office. Immediately."

"Yeah. I got that." He took a deep breath, blew it out, and straightened his tie. "Go home."

He didn't bother looking back to see if she obeyed, since he still didn't care. He just headed for the elevators. Holland's door was half-open when he got there; he knocked on the wood of the doorframe as he entered.

"Yes, sir. I understand. We'll get that taken care of for you." Holland looked up from his phone call and gestured Lindsey in. "Yes, sir, I think we can handle that. Yes, he is a bright young man; I'm sure he'll take care of everything. Of course." He nodded and made a few more agreeable noises into the phone, and finally hung up.

"So, Lindsey." Holland gestured at the visitor's chair, then clasped his hands on the table in front of him, giving Lindsey an avuncular smile. "We've got a special request for your work. One of your former clients, whom you did such a wonderful job representing a few months ago, has found himself in a bit of trouble again. It seems--"

"Nodraan," Lindsey said flatly.

"Well." Holland's smile grew broader. "I should have known you'd be on top of things already. It seems like a fairly straightforward case, much like the last time; I'm sure you'll be able to deal with it with your customary efficiency. He's being held--"


"Excuse me?" Warm smiles and backpats aside, very few associates got away with interrupting Holland Manners once. Almost no one was stupid enough to do it twice.

Lindsey was too pissed off at the moment to care about that. "I said, no. I'm not defending Nodraan again."

Holland blinked twice, rearranged his hands. His expression never changed. "Would you care to explain your reasons?"

"Sure." Lindsey leaned forward in his chair. "Number one, Nodraan was stupid enough to do exactly the same thing he did last time, and he was stupid enough to do it in front of the cops. Again. I've got better things to do than to retry the same case over and over again for a client who's too dumb to know when to quit."

"I see." Holland leaned back in his chair slightly. "And number two?"

"And number two, the woman he tried to eat this time was my girlfriend!"

It came out as a shout, but Holland didn't move; this time, he didn't even blink. "Ah," he said gently, as if everything had suddenly become clear. "I had forgotten your unfortunate... association with Angel and his group. I hope Miss Chase wasn't seriously injured."

"She'll be fine, not for Nodraan's lack of trying, and I'm not associated with Angel," Lindsey shot back. "I've got nothing to do with that sanctimonious bloodsucker, and he's got nothing to do with me."

Holland raised his eyebrows. "I believe Miss Chase would feel differently about the matter, but it makes no difference." He waved off Lindsey's denial. "Personal issues have no place in this office; we have a duty to our client, regardless of our feelings, and we will carry our duties out, or we will deal with the consequences." He looked at Lindsey calmly. "You understand that."

It was a warning, cloaked as advice: 'shut up, settle down, do your job, and we might be able to forget about this.' A year ago -- hell, a month ago -- Lindsey would have obeyed the implied order, would have shut up and done what he was told.

Now, he tightened his jaw and took part of the advice. "With all due respect, Holland, I believe my personal involvement in this case might interfere with my duties, regardless of my professionalism. It would be in our client's--" he forced the words out through gritted teeth, keeping his voice calm, "--best interests if he was represented by another member of the firm."

"I don't think you have enough faith in yourself, Lindsey," Holland answered mildly, raising one hand to cut Lindsey off again. "However admirable it is that you place the welfare of your client ahead of your own opportunities at this firm--" Translation: the senior partners will not be impressed by this "--I still believe that you are the best choice for this case."

He leaned forward over his desk, hands clasped again. "You go home and sleep on this, and I'm sure you'll see that I'm right."

Lindsey shook his head. "No, sir."

Holland smiled again, steel behind the teeth. "If that's true, then we'll find another associate to take over for you. Lilah, for example; I'm sure she'd be delighted at the opportunity." Lindsey flinched in spite of himself. Holland's expression grew warmer, more concerned. "Yes. Lilah might be just the woman for the job after all.

"In the meantime," he continued, standing up and extending a folder towards Lindsey, "Mr. Nodraan is being held at the Los Angeles Police detention center downtown. He'll be arraigned in an hour, and we expect him to be released on bail shortly thereafter. See to it."

Lindsey stood, but didn't move to leave. They stood like that for what seemed like a long time -- Holland's eyes warm as steel, Lindsey's body tense and torn, the folder hanging between them. Finally, Lindsey reached out, and took the folder. "I'll get him out," he said flatly. "Keeping him out is someone else's problem."

"We'll discuss this in the morning, when you've had more time to think." Holland patted him on the shoulder as he walked Lindsey to the door. "Now, go do your magic in night court. I'm sure Mr. Nodraan will be very happy with your performance."

Lindsey wanted to shove the folder down Holland's throat; he forced himself to give a short, terse nod before he walked out the door.

He stopped by his office for his briefcase, ignoring the glowing messages light; the criminal court building was a half-hour drive, even in midnight traffic. But his hand hovered over the phone for a long moment, before he pulled it back. There wasn't time to call Cordelia, to hear her voice and remind himself that she was all right. He had an arraignment to get to.

The glass in his office door shattered as he slammed it behind him.

Comments welcomed at perri@neon-hummingbird.com or drop a note on LiveJournal. Last updated Sesptember 14, 2009.


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