"You know, I have a concussion," Cordelia complained as Lindsey helped her out of the low-slung sports car.

"Yeah, I remember." Lindsey closed the car door behind her, and went back to get something out of the trunk. Cordelia stayed next to the Porsche, glancing around the street to get her bearings. They were out on the edges of downtown, in one of the slightly nicer areas. The sky was just shading into twilight, but the street lights weren't on yet, so the neighborhood was still as safe as it ever got.

She kept talking, mostly for the sake of saying something. Lindsey had been awfully quiet for the last part of the drive home from Sunnydale, and she was seriously starting to get scared. "Also, we've been driving for three hours, and while I'm grateful we were doing that in the Porsche instead of the back seat of the Angelmobile or your icky old truck--"

"Classic. It's a classic truck." Lindsey pulled a -- a guitar case? Seriously? --- out of the trunk, and slammed it closed.

"Whatever, it's practically as old as Angel. The point is, I would really rather be going home to do things like shower and sleep instead of going bar hopping."

"We're not going bar hopping, and I promise we won't be here for long. Come on."

Cordelia sighed her 'humoring the crazy person' sigh, but took his offered hand and walked next to him. It felt good. Natural. "And what's with the guitar? I didn't even know you played guitar." Which was maybe a huge thing not to know.

Lindsey shrugged uncomfortably. "Yeah. I play here sometimes. You'll like it, once you get used to it."

"The place or your playing?" Cordelia grinned teasingly at him as they went past the guy sitting next to the door, who waved Lindsey through with a grin. Lindsey actually smiled back, the first time she'd seen him do that since they'd woken up this morning, and leaned over to kiss her, releasing her hand so her could cup her face gently. She closed her eyes and leaned into him, so happy to be close to him again that she almost couldn't contain it.

They were both breathing a little faster when the kiss ended. "You sure you don't want to go home?" she asked, her voice husky with invitation.

Lindsey kissed her again, then reluctantly pulled away, starting down the stairs and tugging her behind him. "We'll go home. I just have to do this one thing."

Cordelia sighed again, but followed him. "Fine. What's so special about this place any-- Oh."

She stopped cold when they reached the bottom of the narrow staircase, and she got her first sight of the bar. Which was way more like a club.

It was Art Deco done by Lewis Carroll. The decorating was nice -- all sleek silver lines with pops of color, like the pink lights glowing in the wall behind the bar. The bar was a long, sinuous stretch along one wall, a stage that was large but not overpowering on the other wall, surrounded by shimmering velvet curtains. It was actually really kind of fabulous.

Except for the blue-green slime demon on stage singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". And the demons politely watching from the little round tables all over the club. Humans, too, but... demons. Sitting. In a karaoke bar. Where Lindsey had just brought her.

She didn't realize she was starting to retreat up the stairs until Lindsey grabbed her hand and pulled her back around.

"Relax," he said quietly, under the sound of the demon trying to hit the high notes and not really succeeding. "Caritas is neutral territory. Strictly violence-free. No one can hurt anyone else here. So don't try to start any fights."

Cordelia stared wide-eyed at a large orange... something, with about a billion eyes, sitting at a table with a short black guy in hot pink hot pants. "Right. 'Cause usually, I'm all about the fight starting. What the heck is this place, and why are we here?"

"This is Caritas, sweetie. And you are here because my compadre here has decided to treat us to his golden tones tonight, am I right?"

Cordelia looked at the tall green demon who had just come swanning up to them; she blinked hard, then looked again. Nope, he was still tall and green, with red eyes and short little red horns, and wearing a silver lame leisure suit with a purple ascot. And holding a fruity drink with umbrellas in one hand.

The whole look was totally over the top, but really kind of worked for him, she had to admit.

"Hey, Lorne." Lindsey dropped Cordelia's hand so he could shake the demon's. "Yeah, I was planning to sing."

"You almost don't need to, honey," the demon -- Lorne -- told him, looking him up and down in a way that would have been kind of creepy if it hadn't seemed so weirdly professional. "If I ever saw anyone in the middle of a crisis of destiny, it's you. And this--" he turned to Cordelia, suddenly smiling broadly. "This must be the lovely lady who's been making your life so interesting. It's such a honor to have a Seer come visit my little slice of Heaven."

He grabbed Cordelia's hand, but kissed it instead of shaking it. She was too startled to protest, even when he hung onto it. "I can't tell you how happy I am to see you two crazy kids back together. It's that whole wonderful Romeo and Juliet thing, but let's see what we can do about a happy ending, shall we?"

"That's the plan," Lindsey said, rescuing Cordelia's hand and holding it in his own. "Can you put me on the list?"

"Buckaroo, I'm putting you at the top of the list," Lorne told him with a wide gesture of the fruity drink in the generally direction of the stage. "I don't think there's any time to waste. And also," he added conspiratorially, "Mog the Mud Demon is coming up soon and I love the guy, don't get me wrong, but if I can put that off for a little while, it's not going to break my heart. Or anyone else's. Just head right backstage to tune up, and I'll look after your lady for a few minutes."

"Oh, wait, I don't--" Cordelia clutched Lindsey's hand as he tried to drop hers. He smiled crookedly and kissed her again.

"Relax. I wouldn't leave you if it wasn't safe. Lorne's a good guy."

"For a demon?" she hissed back.

"Trust me, I work with humans way more demonic than our host here."

"Ain't that the truth," Lorne interjected, snagging Cordelia's hand again and putting it through his elbow in a courtly gesture. "You run along and get those golden vocal cords warmed up. We'll be just fine." He started off towards the bar, trailing Cordelia unwillingly behind him. Lindsey just smiled at her panicked glance backwards and disappeared behind the heavy drape of the stage curtains.

"Now, don't you worry about offending me, I know humans can be a bit, oh, freaked out by my little world here," Lorne said as he settled them at a small round table near the stage, pulling out a chair for Cordelia with a flourish. "And you, you do the dirty work of fighting the nasty ones, which is bound to make you a tiny bit... well, let's call it twitchy, in here. Completely understandable." And there he went with the patting her hand again, which was just weird.

"It shouldn't take our favorite legal eagle much time to warm up. Why don't we get you a drink while I introduce my next fabulous performer."

"No, wait--" But he was already up and striding on stage, applauding loudly for the slime demon guy.

"And lets hear it for Osktikitoth," he said into the mic, sounding like the MC for a cheesy Vegas lounge act. "Next up, we've got the lovely ladies of the Fourth Street Choppers, and then there's a special treat in store, so everyone be sure to hang around! Ladies!"

Three human women in biker gear stomped on stage, still carrying their beers, and started singing along to a Dixie Chicks song that Cordelia was embarrassed that she recognized. Lorne made his way back to Cordelia's table, snagging two drinks from a passing tray. He set one in front of Cordelia, and took a long sip from the other.

"Ah, nectar. Go on," he urged her, when she just looked at the highball glass he'd given her.

Cordelia wrinkled her nose. Whatever it was, it was dark pink and probably demonic. Or just really, really strong. "Thank you, but I'll pass."

Lorne gave her a very knowing look, leaning one elbow on the table. "You don't have a lot of trust in Lindsey, do you? If you think he'd leave you with someone who would hurt you."

"I trust him," she said firmly. "Now. But he's... kind of got a history of not making the greatest choices in people he... hangs out with."

"And works with," Lorne nodded, his mouth twisting in a sour expression. "Don't I know it, sweetie. That firm of his is nothing but bad news. I've tried to tell him, but he's got to make his own choices. Everybody does."

He said the last part with a pointed glance at her, and the pointyness didn't have anything to do with his horns. Cordelia narrowed her eyes at him in return. "You sure like to talk a lot about everyone else's lives. Don't you have one of your own?"

Most people would have been offended and gone stomping away, which was kind of the idea. But Lorne was true to his word; he just smiled and swept an arm around as if to show off his club. "This is my life, pumpkin. People come to me about their destinies, and I advise them on what path to choose. It's my gift. You know about gifts."

Cordelia snorted. "Yeah, they come with nasty headaches and visions of blood and slime. Wait a minute," she straightened in her chair. "How do you even know that? About me being a Seer? Did Lindsey--"

Lorne shook his head, waving his free hand before going back to patting hers. "No, no, Lindsey's tight-lipped even for a lawyer. Some things I don't need to be told; they just shine out around you. At least, to someone with the right kind of eyes."

"Red ones?" Cordelia shot back, pulling her hand out of reach.

Lorne laughed, a surprisingly rich and comforting sound. "I keep thinking maybe I should get colored contacts, choose a nice purple, maybe. But they might clash with my horns."

"Not if it was the right shade--" Cordelia started without thinking, then stopped and shook her head. "Oh, I'm so not going there."

Lorne laughed again, but then his face grew serious. "You know, I don't normally stick my two cents worth in without asking, but Lindsey's a friend of mine, and he's all tied up in you. So I'm going to be telling you a few things, and I hope you'll keep your gorgeous ears open and listen."

Cordelia sighed, and leaned her chin on her hand, giving into the weirdness. "Oh, why not. My boss is a vampire, why shouldn't my boyfriend's therapist be a demon?"

"Life is strange and wonderful sometimes," Lorne agreed with a broad and toothy smile. "I'd usually recommend just going with it for a while, but unfortunately, I don't think you're going to have time for that. Give me just a sec, princess, time to intro your boyfriend."

"What do mean, we won't have--" But Lorne was already bouncing back on stage. "--And don't call me princess," Cordelia finished, sitting back in her chair and crossing her arms in disgust.

The biker chicks left the stage to hand-kissing and some whispering in their ears from Lorne. It looked like they enjoyed it, which was just a wrong and bad image to have to carry around. Lorne grabbed the microphone, still applauding the bikers. "Weren't they just fabulous? I gotta tell you, I feel sorry for Earl with these ladies after his hide. Now, next up, we've got an exceptional performer who hasn't been with us for a while, so let's give a big, big welcome to our own Lindsey McDonald!"

And they did. Wow. Some people actually stood up and applauded when Lindsey walked on stage carrying his guitar. A short red demon carried a stool out, then set up a pair of floor mics; they went through a series of sound checks or something that looked really professional. Clearly, Lindsey had done this before. A lot.

"How did I not know this about him?" Cordelia asked herself.

"Just a wild guess, but probably because he didn't tell you." Lorne slid back into his chair opposite her. "There's trust, and then there's trust, and you two needed to be working on the trust. You still do, but I don't want to miss any of this, so we'll have that conversation in just a little bit."

"Or not," Cordelia snarked quietly. No way she was going to have any conversations about relationship and trust with a demon, no matter how charming he was or how snazzy he dressed.

Lindsey was settled on the stool now; the stage lights washed over his face, making his cheekbones look even higher, and glinted off his heavy silver bracelet. He looked cool and composed and... really, really hot. And that was before he started to play, his fingers strumming lightly over the strings. Oh my god, and then he was singing.

"I guess I oughta tell you what's been going on
Well I've been chasing dreams for everyone but me.
When your heart is filled with misery
It's hard to find the energy
To remember just how much she means to me."
"I've never heard this song," Cordelia said softly, almost to herself. Her chest was tight, and she couldn't take her eyes away from the man on stage. He was looking down at his guitar, a piece of hair falling across his forehead, and he was totally absorbed in the incredible music he was creating.

"It's an original," Lorne said, radiating satisfaction. "Nice job, caballero, glad to see you're back in the saddle."

"Well I keep everything inside so long till it burns
Everybody stokes the fire and the walls get a little higher.
I light the candle at both ends
And I hit the gas, the wheels start to spin
But she's always there to catch me when I fall."
Lindsey looked up from his guitar for the first time, his fingers pausing on the strings for a moment that seemed endless as he met Cordelia's eyes. Her breath caught in her throat, and she looked back helplessly, knowing everything she was feeling -- the shock, the awe, the love -- was written all over her face, and not caring. For once, she could let him see everything.

He smiled, the slow, sexy smile that made her weak at the knees, and let the beat pick up, his eyes still locked with hers like there was no one else in the room.

"'Cause I've been hell on wheels for days now
There ain't a shade of red I can't paint
When the lights go down, she always helps me see.
In the darkness a day will come
Another light for you to lean upon
But until then maybe your heart
Can rest in mine."
Oh, and that was it. The tears spilled over and she was crying in a public place, in front of everyone and Lindsey, and she didn't care. Lorne whipped out his pocket square and handed it to her without even looking, patting her other hand again. This time, she let him.

God, Lindsey had been hiding this all the time. All of this talent, his sexy, growling voice, the quickness of his fingers on the guitar, the absolutely confidence and joy she didn't need to be some kind of demon to see radiating out from him. He hadn't trusted with this before, but he did now. He wasn't holding anything back, and she blinked back her tears so that she wouldn't miss a second.


Damn, it had been a long time. The spotlight was hot on Lindsey's face, his guitar was warm underneath his hands, and he could feel the crowd getting into the music with him, letting him carry them along. And this time Cordelia was there, out in the crowd, watching him with the most amazing expression he'd ever seen, like he was the only man in the room. Maybe in the world.

It was like being drunk, but better. This wasn't going to go away in the morning.

He hoped.

"I just can't get the hang of hanging on
Every time I try to grab it, the will is gone.
When she looks into my eyes
She sees a man she used to recognize
And not the stranger trying to go it all alone."
If he'd been thinking, maybe he wouldn't have chosen this song, written after he'd watched her sleeping in his arms on his couch, what seemed like a long, long time ago. But he'd started playing without planning what was going to come out, and what the hell. It was time to start making choices anyway, and he'd already made this one.
"Maybe someday I'll see exactly what she sees in me.
Maybe someday I'll be exactly who she wants me to be.
Maybe someday I'll have the strength to run into the man that I once was
But right now I think I'll walk into a crawl."
Cordelia was crying as he went into the last chorus, tears running down her cheeks and leaving diamond trails. But she was smiling too, beautiful and radiant and so damn young and hopeful. He couldn't screw this up.

Somehow, he had to not screw this up. If he could just figure out a way....

"In the darkness a day will come
Another light for you to lean upon
But until then maybe your heart
Can rest in mine."
He held Cordelia's eyes as he strummed the last chord, and let the note trail away. There was a long second of silence, a long moment of wordless connection between them.

Then Caritas erupted in applause that broke the moment. Cordelia swiped at her cheeks with what looked like one of Lorne's handkerchiefs and joined enthusiastically in the applause, her smile beaming like the stage lights in his eyes. Lorne was applauding too, and gestured towards the mic in an indication that an encore would be fine with him. Lindsey was tempted, but shook his head.

"Thanks," he said into the mic. "I'll be back another time." There was a chorus of disappointment from the audience, but he just waved, picking up his guitar and making his way off-stage to Lorne and Cordelia's table.

He had to move his guitar hastily out of the way when Cordelia lunged against him, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck. He returned the embrace with one arm around her waist, closing his eyes and nuzzling into her neck, breathing in the warm scent of her. If this was the only second in his life everything in the world would be right, then he was damn well going to enjoy it.

Cordelia pulled back a little, and he reluctantly opened his eyes to look at her. She was still a little teary. "Okay, I can't believe you never told me about this. You are really, really amazing. Seriously."

He grinned a little, feeling weirdly shy. "Yeah?"

"Oh yeah," she said with a firm nod and kissed him, before whispering in his ear. "And that was a really beautiful song. Thank you."

"You're welcome," he whispered back, rubbing his jaw along her soft hair.

A throat cleared behind them. "I hate to break into a lovely moment...." Lorne said, letting his voice trail off meaningfully, and Lindsey suddenly remembered where they were. Cordelia remembered too, and stepped away, but Lindsey kept his arm around her waist so she couldn't go far.

Lorne was smiling at them like a proud papa, beaming with delight. "You know, I can't tell you the last time I got such fantastic vibes off of a couple. It's like a big, double-scoop of destiny sundae, with whipped cream on top. Ah, I love my job." He sobered a little. "Well, most of the time."

Lindsey nodded, following Lorne's gesture to sit next to Cordelia at the small table. The waitress delivered a long-neck, and he took a drink before asking, "So. What'd you see?"

Lorne looked at him very seriously. "Nothing you don't already know, I'm betting."

"I'm still not getting this whole 'seeing' thing," Cordelia interrupted.

"Lorne can read auras when people are singing," Lindsey told her, not looking away from Lorne. "He can also read your future."

"I can read your possible future, what it looks like at the moment," Lorne corrected. "Everything is about choices, kids."

"You keep saying that," Cordelia grumbled. "Can we unvague things here? Nobody likes a unspecific prophecy."

"Oh, the specific ones are much worse, sweetie. Trust me on this." Lorne sipped at his drink, then looked back at Lindsey. "Okay, cabellero, you already know nothing's going to be easy. I'm sorry to say you're going to come out on the losing end one way or the other."

Lindsey's jaw tightened. "Yeah. I got that."

"The question you need to ask is, what can you live with losing? That's your choice here, and it's not a fun one. I wish I could say it was." Lorne's face twisted into a grimace before he sighed. "But if you choose right -- and I think you already have -- and if you make it all the way through, I think you'll like what you've got left."

"Lot of 'ifs' there," Lindsey observed, playing with his beer bottle with the hand that Cordelia wasn't holding.

Lorne shrugged. "You want guarantees, go buy a refrigerator. All Fate offers is a chance. You already know what path you should take; now you just have to keep walking it. I wish I could tell you what's at the other end."

"Yeah." Lindsey finished his beer.

Cordelia had been looking back and forth between them, her expression increasingly dark. "Okay, can we get subtitles for those of us who don't speak cryptic? Something bad is going to happen, isn't it? Lindsey?"

He thought about lying, but knew she wouldn't believe him, and Lorne would probably rat on him if he tried. "I don't know, babe," he settled for saying. "But you know walking away from Wolfram & Hart isn't going to be easy."

"Don't call me babe," she snapped automatically. Then she stopped, as if she'd just heard him, and said more carefully, "I didn't know you'd decided to do that. To walk away."

Lindsey studied the empty bottle, the way the overhead lights reflected off the glass. "The blood contract's broken, and damned if I'm signing another one, not after all this crap." He stopped, then admitted the last part quietly. "And you can't be with someone evil."

"You're not evil," she told him equally quietly, but with absolute conviction.

He shrugged. "I work for evil people, defending evil beings. Pretty sure that's going to count against me. Pretty sure it already does."

"Don't be too sure of that," Lorne contributed from the other side of the table, where Lindsey had almost forgotten him. But he just smiled when Lindsey looked at him. "As for you, beautiful," he continued to Cordelia, "all I can really tell you is to have a little faith. Stick with what you believe in, and don't give up on Lindsey here."

"As if I would," Cordelia snarked back, her hand tightening around Lindsey's. He lifted it and kissed her knuckles softly, and her face relaxed into a soft, glowing smile.

Lorne sighed happily. "And on that note, I think we all need another round of drinks." He started to gesture toward the waitress, then stopped and looked archly at them. "Unless you two have other plans?"

Lindsey almost laughed, not taking his eyes from Cordelia's. "Yeah. Yeah, we have other plans."

"Good," Lorne said smugly. "Go on, you crazy kids. Go make some destiny."


Lindsey's condo was dark and quiet; he still held his breath before opening the door, just in case Wolfram & Hart had already decided on a response. But nothing exploded, and no messengers leaped out of the darkness with claws or weapons. He blew his breath out and turned on the lights, letting Cordelia come in after him.

She looked at him pointedly as she came past. "You know, we could have gone to my place if you're that worried. Angel and Wesley should be back by now."

He laughed, leaning his guitar against the wall as he closed the door. "Oh yeah, because what I really want to do tonight is hang out with Angst Boy and Wussley."

"Hey!" She smacked his shoulder halfheartedly. "They'd help protect you."

"Yeah? For how long?" She started to answer, but he cut her off. "They can't protect me forever, Cordelia. Sooner or later, I'm gonna have to deal with Wolfram & Hart. Nothing you or anyone else can do about that."

"We'll see," she said with a determined set to her chin. "But you're not going to do anything until we've talked to Angel and Wesley and have a plan. Maybe even Buffy -- they owe us now, and Wolfram & Hart just got a big lesson in not messing with the Slayer."

"We'll see," Lindsey echoed her grimly, and caught her around the waist to pull her against him. The sudden move short-circuited whatever she'd been about to say. "I don't really want to think about any of that crap right now."

She bit her lip and looked up at him sadly, sliding her hands up his chest and around his neck to play with the hair at his nape. "We have to eventually. "

"Yeah. But not now." He kissed her, long and slow and deep, reminding himself of the taste of her. By the time he finished, she was clinging to him to stay standing. He leaned against the wall behind him, a little unsteady himself.

"We came so close to losing this," Cordelia whispered against his throat.

"I know." He kissed her again, a little desperately, running his hands up and down her back as if he could get her closer, which he really couldn't. "I will never let you walk away from me again."

"You better not give me a reason, buster." Her short laugh was almost a sob. "Lindsey--"

"No. Not tonight. Just leave it until tomorrow, sweetheart." He trailed his lips along her neck to distract her, and shivered when one of her hands stroked through his hair.

"You never called me that before. Sweetheart."

"Never felt right before. Never felt...." He pulled away, just enough to see her face. He had to be looking at her, had to do this right. "I love you, Cordelia. I know I've screwed up, a lot, I'm getting that now, but--"

She laughed again, and laid her palm against his cheek, gently stroking. He closed his eyes and leaned into her touch. "Oh god, Lindsey. I love you, too. Even when I totally hated you, I was totally in love with you." She kissed him quickly, sweetly. "And I never said it like that before, not even Xander. Just so you know."

"Okay." He nodded against her hand, turned his head enough to kiss her palm. "Okay."

"You know what else?" she asked as she moved deliberately closer to him, until every one of her curves was pressed against him, until they fit together like puzzle pieces, snapping into place. He could see the nerves when she looked up at him, but he could also see that she meant what she was doing. "I trust you, too."

"Yeah?" His hands slipped down her back to her hips, pulling her just a little closer. Her breath caught as she closed her eyes.

"Yeah," she sighed.

"And what about tomorrow?" he asked, even thought every inch of his body screamed not to, but knowing he'd never be able to live with himself if he didn't make sure. If she woke up in the morning and hated him.

Cordelia's lips curved in a smug, almost feline smile. "The hell with tomorrow. Be with me tonight." Then she kissed him, lush and deep, making her intentions completely clear.

"Deal." His ribs still hurt, but Lindsey was beyond caring; he lifted Cordelia until her legs wrapped around his waist, and her arms twined around his neck, fitting herself snugly against his body as he carried her into his bedroom.

Title and lyrics are "In the Darkness", by Kane.

Comments welcomed at perri@neon-hummingbird.com or drop a note on LiveJournal. Last updated September 25, 2009.


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