Waking up wasn't fun, but at least Cordelia wasn't waking up to the sterile, antiseptic smell of a hospital bed. She'd been very vocal about that the previous night, resisting all attempts to make her lay still and be a good little patient. She had quite enough not-so-fond memories of Sunnydale General, thank you very much, and no desire at all to add more.
Still, waking up in Giles' bed was only slightly less wig-inspiring, she had to admit, even if it was the second morning in a row that she'd done it. At least she wasn't waking up next to Giles; she didn't have all of the warm and fuzzy father-figure-even-if-we'd-rather-die-than-admit-it feelings towards him that the rest of the Scoobies did, but still. Mildly of the ew.
Waking up in that bed nestled against Lindsey, on the other hand? Worlds of wonderful, especially with his hand lazily running up and down her back over her silk sleep shirt. She sighed and buried herself more deeply into his side.
He pressed a kiss to the side of her head, carefully avoiding the lump. "You awake?" he asked groggily.
She snuggled closer. "Not if I don't have to be." Her head still hurt with the hard throb of concussion, rather than the sharp pounding of a post-vision migraine, and how much did it suck that she knew all the possible gradations of headache?
"How's your head?" he asked, reading her mind. Or, probably, her black eye was just blacker and uglier than previously suspected. She couldn't get herself all that worked up over it either way.
"Nothing 12 aspirin won't fix." She honestly hadn't meant it as a request, but he immediately rolled away from her with a small groan of his own, taking his warm body and that wonderful hand with him.
"No! No moving!" She grabbed him and pulled him back to her side. "I don't care about the headache, I want my pillow."
He laughed with that sexy little rasp that was raspier than usual and propped himself over her with one elbow, running his hand over her stomach this time. "Maybe you don't need aspirin, little girl, but I sure as hell do."
"You do?" She forced her eyes open all the way, and realized that his shoulder and back were covered with bruises. Most of them had turned dark purple already, and she winced just looking at them. "Oh my god, you do! You didn't tell me you got hurt last night! Did anyone check you at the hospital? Do any of your ribs hurt like someone's sticking a knife into them?"
Lindsey flinched as she checked his ribs; she kissed the top of the huge bruise covering most of his shoulder blade in apology, once she was sure his ribs weren't broken. "No, they don't, and I didn't need the hospital. Not like some people who should have damn well been under observation last night."
She started to say something entirely justified as she looked up into his eyes, but gasped and jackknifed upwards instead, suddenly totally awake. And, ow, in desperate need of that aspirin. But not important with Lindsey-- "Oh god! Your eyes!"
He grimaced. "Damn, I was hoping it would be gone by now. This crap never happens to the guys in the action movies."
"They have better makeup artists," Cordelia said automatically, unable to tear her gaze away from him. His eyes were unrecognizable, the whites so bloodshot they were solid red, his pupils dilated almost entirely into two spots of black floating in a sea of scarlet. She stroked one finger carefully down the side of his face, careful not to touch too hard. "God, what happened? What did that demon do to you?"
He caught her hand and kissed her fingers. "Djinn. And... I don't know for sure. But it'll go away."
She wasn't fooled by the false confidence, and her heart broke at the idea of never seeing his beautiful blue eyes again. But she sniffed back the worry and tried to smile. "As long as you can still see okay -- you can still see okay, right?"
He smiled slowly. "The most beautiful woman in the world, right here in my bed? Oh yeah, I can see her perfectly."
"Giles's bed," Cordelia felt compelled to point out before sinking into Lindsey's kiss. She'd forgotten what he tasted like -- morning breath, sure, and the lingering coppery after-taste of blood from his split lip. But also darkness and spice and Lindsey, and somehow he tasted even better after weeks of deprivation.
"I never thought I'd get to do this again," she whispered.
"Me neither." He kissed her again, carefully but lingeringly, his hand spread across her stomach and his thumb brushing back and forth against the bottom of her rib cage. "God, I missed you, little girl."
Cordelia giggled against his mouth. "Better watch that 'little girl' stuff when you're trying to seduce me."
He chuckled, then stopped talking, and the world disappeared into touch and taste and heat, until one of them moved wrong and Cordelia's head responded with a sharp stab of pain.
Lindsey moved back at her low moan, stroking her hair carefully away from her forehead. "Damn it, I knew I should have made you stay at the hospital. Two hits to the head and a vision -- how the hell are your brains not completely scrambled?"
"Who says they're not?" Cordelia managed an arch smile. Lindsey didn't rise to the bait and she let it drop, smoothing the worry lines off of his forehead with her fingers. "I hate hospitals, especially in Sunnydale, and I'll be okay once I have some aspirin. And if the aspirin doesn't work, I bet Xander, Anya and Giles bring some really good pills home from the hospital that they'll share." She reached up just enough to gently kiss his eyelids, one, then the other. "It'll be fine, Lindsey. It's all going to be fine now."
"Yeah," he nodded. "Yeah, it's going to be fine."
She caught his hesitation and bit her lip, letting her fingers trail over his cheek into his hair. "Unless it's not. Lindsey--"
"Speaking of the walking wounded, I bet they're gonna be back any second. We should go find some clothes, maybe some coffee." He tried to move away, avoiding her eyes, and her vague worry coalesced into serious fear.
"Lindsey." She caught both his shoulders to keep him close, but she couldn't make him meet her eyes. "Lindsey, what happened last night? What you did, when you came to help.... Wolfram & Hart is going to be really upset. On a possibly demonic level."
He breathed a humorless laugh, his eyes closed as he rested his forehead against hers. "Yeah, I figure I'm about as fired as it gets."
"Wish I could say I'm sorry, but--" She shrugged. "I'm really just grateful. And scared for you."
"Don't be. Whatever Wolfram & Hart wants to do to me, I can handle it." Before she could call him on that spectacular load of bull, he rolled away and sat up on the edge of the bed. He moved like everything hurt, which it probably did. "You need some aspirin. Where do I look?"
Cordelia bit her lip, but let it go for now. Just for now. "Check Giles' nightstand, I bet there's an economy-sized bottle in there."
Lindsey looked at her. "Do I want to know how you know that?"
She wrinkled her nose at him. "And again, ew. Giles keeps aspirin stashed everywhere. If he doesn't need it because he has a concussion, he needs it because of whatever the Scooby Gang's been doing that's scary or annoying." She managed to get a little derision into the words 'Scooby gang,' but not as much as she would have in her prime. She was definitely losing her touch.
Lindsey found the aspirin and they both dry-swallowed their non-recommended doses. "The couple that medicates together...." Cordelia stopped halfway. "You know, I'm not even going to finish that thought."
"Thank you." Lindsey stroked her hair out of her face, then groaned again as he stood up and reached for his pants. Cordelia winced in sympathy, reaffirming her determination to stay in bed as long as humanly possible.
"What did Wesley say about what happened to your eyes?" she asked casually. Well, tried to ask casually -- she suspected the stressed-out-ness came through.
Lindsey shrugged tightly. "I didn't ask. It's probably just because of all the bleeding I was doing. Sounds like other people are here -- I'm going to see if they brought coffee."
He wasn't moving so well or so fast that she couldn't have pinned him down to a better answer if she'd felt like it. But coffee sounded good, and she usually needed all of her wits about her to make Lindsey do anything he didn't want to, and judging from the music and the sudden loud crash from downstairs, the Scooby Gang had definitely descended. She should go downstairs, check on Angel and Wesley, and see if the hospital crowd had been released yet.
"Wait a second, Lindsey," she stopped him halfway to the door. "Give me a hand."
He looked at her suspiciously (and she winced again at his poor eyes), but came back to lever her into a sitting position. She pulled the sheet back and tugged her comfortable (and unfortunately way not attractive) sleep shirt down as far as she could, but was aware of Lindsey's eyes lingering on her legs. Maybe if they hadn't been so tired and beaten up last night, she might have thought about relaxing the old rules about sex on the Hellmouth... But there had been snuggling, and whispering, and apologies and promises, so she could wait.
A little while longer, anyway.
"I don't suppose I could talk you into bringing me breakfast in bed?" she tried, with a winsome look up through her lashes.
Fat chance. Lindsey snorted and pulled her to her feet, ignoring her yelp as her sore muscles protested and throwing her pants at her. "You wish. Come on, there's a shower calling my name."
The look probably would have worked better if she didn't have a black eye. But... Hmmm. Showers had possibilities, too.... Cordelia hummed under her breath as she slowly limped after her boyfriend to the stairs.
These people were insane.
Lindsey leaned back against a wall and sipped at his coffee as the floor show raged in front of him. The morning after almost getting wiped out preventing the incursion of the binding demon from hell (literally), and all these people could do was argue about who stole the last jelly donut, and who should have to go out to buy more. And this crew of sugar-hyped teenagers was the legendary Scooby Gang that had defended the Hellmouth for four years.
Hell really needed to hire some better minions.
Cordelia sat on the couch next to her partners, alternately fussing over Wussley's bruises, and throwing random comments into the raging debate whenever she thought she could make things worse. Giles kept giving her pained looks, which she would meet with a sweetly malicious grin. Angel and Wesley both looked like they were enjoying themselves; Lindsey was, too, but no way he would ever get caught agreeing with those two.
Lindsey finished his coffee and caught Tara's eyes as she hovered on one side of the fight, trying to support her girlfriend without participating in any way, or actually being visible at all. Her eyes widened as he tilted his head towards the door in a silent request; she bit her lip in confusion, then seemed to decide outside was a better place to be, anyway.
They both worked their way though the small, crowded room. Lindsey dropped a kiss on Cordelia's hair as he passed the couch, smirking when her two buddies glared. She started to get up, but he waved her back down. "Just gotta talk to a witch for a second," he told her quietly. "I'll be back."
"Talk to a witch about what?" she demanded, but he pretended he was already too far away to hear her. Luckily, Anya chose that moment to make a very strident point, and he got away with it. Cordelia settled back on the couch in a huff as he opened the front door for Tara and followed her through.
Tara's shoulders sagged in relief as the door to the townhouse closed behind them, leaving them in sudden silence. "They always get along this well?" Lindsey asked, jerking his head back towards the living room.
"N-no," Tara said with an unexpectedly mischievous smile. "S-sometimes they fight."
Caught off guard, Lindsey chuckled in spite of himself. He'd have to watch it; there was more to this one than he'd thought.
"D-did you get a d-donut?" she asked, like a good little concerned hostess.
"I snagged two while Buffy was threatening Xander with the empty box."
That won him another glimpse of her quick smile. "Good." The moment of camaraderie passed quickly, leaving the witch biting her lip shyly and looked up at him from behind her hair again.
"I need a favor," he finally said, his courtroom eloquence completely bailing out on him. "I need a... a spell, I guess."
"Oh." Her eyes went very wide. "I can g-get Willow, she can--"
"No." He shook his head. "No, not Willow. I'm sure she's great but... I don't trust anyone in my head, but if I have to, I'd rather it was you."
"Oh," she said again, then tilted her head. "B-because you think I'll do it better, or because you think I'm less, um, intimidating?"
"Both," Lindsey admitted.
Tara looked worried instead of offended. "Willow's much stronger than I am. She could, um, probably do it better."
"You don't even know what I need," Lindsey pointed out.
Tara shrugged one shoulder slowly. "Not exactly, b-but I bet it has something to do with the b-binding spell. The one that isn't there anymore."
Lindsey's head snapped back sharply. "It's not? How the hell do you know that?"
She flinched back a little, but glanced towards the town house and held her ground. "B-because we felt it break, last night. It went... somewhere. Maybe to Aztorath, there was an awful lot of power flowing everywhere. But it's not in you anymore. I don't think."
"I need to know for sure," Lindsey told her. He didn't realize he'd move towards her until she took a step back; he stopped and forced himself to unclench his fists.
"I need to know if they still have some kind of hold on me," he said more carefully. "I need to know... if I still have a soul."
All fear suddenly left her face, and her eyes went soft with compassion. "Y-you do have a soul," she said quickly, reaching out to lay her hand on his arm. He was too surprised to move away. "I c-can see that, that's easy. When you look at Cordelia, it shines out around you. No one without a soul could look like that. Well, no one human," she corrected herself.
Lindsey looked at her suspiciously. "Shining around me? You're talking auras?"
She smiled and gave a small, breathy laugh. "Well, that too." She patted his arm. "You have your soul, Lindsey. Whatever blood contract you signed, I think it's broken. And they didn't get your soul."
"I need to know for sure," he said again, almost pleading.
Tara took a quick look at the townhouse, obviously thinking hard, then seemed to make a decision. She patted his arm again. "Wait here. I need some things, but I'll be right back."
She slipped into the townhouse so quickly and quietly, Lindsey would bet the gang inside didn't even notice. The fight had apparently ended, but the noise level hadn't dropped; he thought he caught a snatch of what might have been play-by-play of the previous night's fight from Xander before Tara came back out, closing the door behind her. She was carrying a small copper bowl, a handful of some kind of herb, and a candle.
"Sit down here," she invited Lindsey, settling herself on the edge of the stone fountain in the center of the courtyard and arranging the bowl and the candle in front of her. Lindsey didn't move, eying the spell components warily. Tara smiled. "It's j-just sage, for cleansing and for clarity. It won't hurt you, I p-promise."
"Yeah." Lindsey wasn't in a trusting kind of mood, but it wasn't like he had much choice, was it? "Fine, whatever."
He sat down opposite her, crossing his legs the way she had. She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths, her lips moving in a silent incantation. A flame appeared slowly on the candle, creeping up the wick until it burned brightly. She smiled happily, whispered something that sounded like "Thank you," and used the candle to light the sage in the bowl.
Scented smoke started rising between them, and Tara reached across it to offer both of her hands to Lindsey. She smiled sweetly in encouragement when he hesitated; he jerked his head once, settled his shoulders uncomfortably, and forced himself to take her hands.
She breathed deeply and calmly, her face serene, her eyes moving behind the closed lids as if she could see right through them and into him. Which she probably could. He hated this. He had to force himself to sit still, to not jump away, to wait.
Finally, she opened her eyes again, and let his hands go. "Well?" he asked, tension knotting his muscles when she hesitated before she answered. The nasty feeling in the pit of his stomach got nastier. "Is it that bad?"
"N-no," she said quickly. "Not bad. But... odd. Your soul is just fine, it's there and it's safe." And he almost went limp from relief, which made no sense. He'd been happy enough to sign it away, hadn't he?
She continued, "The major binding spell -- your blood contract -- it's gone, too. You broke it last night, didn't you?"
Lindsey laughed grimly. "Oh, yeah. Shattered it all to hell."
Tara nodded. "I saw it -- the binding started to kind of flare around you. But there was a binding demon there and I think maybe all the power looked the same to him. So Aztorath... he kind of ate it, I guess. It was probably a pretty good meal for him." She wrinkled her nose cutely, then bit her lip, looked at him from behind her hair. "But--"
"But?" Lindsey prompted her, worry creeping back in.
Tara snarted tugging on a lock of her hair, winding it around her finger nervously. "But there's something else. Something deeper. I don't think it was part of the blood contract, but it's kind of, um, like it. Sort of. Like someone... blocked part of your mind. Part of your memories."
"What the hell are you talking about?" He jolted to his feet. "Someone's been messing with my head? Stealing my memories?"
She held her hands out, trying to soothe him. "They didn't t-take them -- it's hard to take memories entirely. But you can... lock them away. Like p-putting them in a safe, only someone else has the combination."
He paced a few angry steps, then spun back around. "Was it Wolfram & Hart? Did they screw around with me?" She flinched a little at the sharpness in his voice and he should have apologized, but he was too furious. Like it wasn't enough that they'd locked him away from his own case!
If they'd taken his memories, messed with his head, then he was going to bring them down.
"I don't know who did it," Tara said. "But if we b-broke the block, p-probably you'd be able to guess."
He turned back to her, forcing the rage back so he wouldn't scare her off. "Can you do that?"
Tara nodded hesitantly. Her stutter got worse when she was upset, he figured, and tried again to dial himself back. "I c-can try," she said. "If you w-want me, too."
"Oh, yeah," he said through his teeth. "Oh, hell yeah."
She nodded and took a deep breath, then gestured him back to the edge of the fountain. They resumed their positions -- cross-legged, hands joined over the smudge pot.
"Close your eyes," Tara murmured. "Breathe in the smoke, and let yourself drift. No one can hurt you here. There's only peace and safety."
He almost snorted, stopped himself barely in time. Tara's lips curved in a tiny smile, like she'd heard it anyway. "Think of Cordelia, if she makes you happy. Think of peace."
Okay, he could probably do that. The hard part had always been not thinking about her, since the first time they'd met. Don't think about the bastards at W&H, think about Cordelia. Think about the gorgeous kid with the attitude problem from hell and the smart mouth that made him want to kiss her or kill her. Cordelia, grinning as she got him with a quick zinger. Fuming when she didn't have a comeback for one of his. Walking gracefully beside him on the beach, warm in his arms on his couch, smiling her beautiful smile when he made her happy....
Dimly, he was aware of the smell of the smoke and Tara still holding his hands, but it all seemed really far away. There was something strange in his head, like fingers brushing along his hair, but deeper. He thought he should have been bothered, but the fingers were gentle, and Cordelia was only a few feet away, and when he went back into the townhouse she'd smile at him again....
Something snapped, and the memories were suddenly there. The Raising, the ritual, his own voice shouting the words of the scroll aloud, the blonde woman with the matted hair cowering naked in the cage, more like a frightened animal than a human, or one of the most powerful vampires who'd ever lived...
"Darla." His eyes snapped open. "Son of a bitch. Holland sat right there and he lied to me, and he put a fucking spell on me. Son of a bitch."
Tara stared at him, wide-eyed, still holding his hands. He let them drop, pushing himself back to his feet and away from the witch. "Lindsey? Are you all right?"
"No. Goddamn it." He even remembered being in Holland's office months ago, remembered the conversation about conflicts of interest. My relationship with Cordelia Chase has nothing to do with this firm. He'd said it and he'd meant it, and Holland had betrayed him, ignored his word and tossed a pen and taken away Lindsey's chance to prove himself. Taken away his choice.
"God damn it."
His head snapped up and around to the door of the townhouse. Cordelia stood in the doorway, looking at them with a combination of worry and annoyance. "What are you two doing out here? Not that I'm jealous because, hello, gay witch and also, you're with me. But you look like you'd like to kill someone, and I'm hoping it's not Tara, because that would be awkward."
"It's nothing," Lindsey managed to tell her, his jaw almost too tight to move. "Tara was... checking the damage from last night."
"On a psychic l-level," Tara added hastily, backing him up. He was starting to like Tara, or would anyway, once the red haze faded from in front of his eyes. He clenched his fists and opened them, once, then again.
Cordelia caught the motion and her eyes narrowed. "Uh-huh. You're both totally lying."
"N-no, we're not," Tara tried, but couldn't hold Cordelia's eyes. "Not t-totally."
"Let it go, Cordelia." He'd have to tell her eventually, and Jesus, was there going to be a lot of trouble. How could he tell her about Darla, about what Wolfram & Hart had planned for Angel. How could he not tell her? How could she not hate him?
How the hell had he ever gotten in this deep, and how the hell was he going to get out?