Title: Being Aware
Author:
Hope1iz
Rating: R
Disclaimer: I don't own anything from Angel and am not making money from this fic.
Warning(s): AU; discipline of adult.
Verse/Setting: Post-Angel the TV series (two years after the series ended).
Author's Note: This follows "Being Found", "Being Taught", "Being Accepted", and "Being Stubborn". It will make more sense if those are read first.


"Through every turn I'll be near you
I'll come anytime you call
I'll catch you when you fall
I'll be guiding you"
Magic by Olivia Newton-John


Lindsey smiled in satisfaction as he looked at the sword in his hands. It was basic in every way, with no frills or adornment that would draw anyone else's eye. However, considering that mere minutes before it had been a small steak knife, the fact that it was a durable and usable sword made him proud. He was back into peak form; or at least the form he had been in before his life had irrevocably been turned upside down by Angel. Speaking of….

"How long do you plan to stand behind me without saying anything?" He asked the vampire as he turned to face the man with an impish grin. He was amused to see the startled look on Angel's face at having been caught. He smiled even more impishly when he noted his father-figure's eyes as they stared at the sword he held.

"You've improved a lot," Angel remarked before looking into his son's face critically. "But I think you've done enough for today. Your stamina is much better than even a few weeks ago, so it looks like your abilities have finally stabilized; but there is no need to overdo it. Not yet anyway." The vampire smiled to take the sting out of the order, although he was pleased to note Lindsey only nodded in acceptance and put the sword on the desk without argument, before heading into the kitchen to grab a snack and relax on the porch swing.

It had been six months since they'd decided that the issues Lindsey was having weren't life threatening. It had been a peaceful six months where the younger man and his siblings had been careful not to break the minimal rules of the household, and where Lindsey in particular had taken Angel's admonishments to rest and not overdo it- to heart. The boy looked healthier and happier than Angel could recall ever seeing him- even when he had worked at Wolfram and Hart and seemingly had the world at his fingertips. Angel looked at the sword his child had left on the desk, pride shining in his eyes before turning to go find his other 'kids'.

#####

He hadn't had to look too far. Spike was- as usual- with Illyria, watching the television. Angel shook his head in amusement. He was tempted to tell Spike to go get some exercise, but decided to leave the blond be and walked into the kitchen instead. There he found Faith and Lindsey chopping up some strange vegetable he'd never seen before. Granted, he'd not had that big of a variety in his diet before being turned and afterwards he hadn't had much reason to learn about new vegetables. He leaned to look over Lindsey's shoulder, noting the precise way the younger man diced the food.

"What's that?" he asked curiously. Lindsey glanced at him and grinned. "Daikon."

Waiting a few more seconds before realizing Lindsey wasn't going to elaborate; he shrugged and headed toward his office. "I've got to do some work. If anyone needs me, I'll be chained to my desk…."

"Don't work too hard!" Faith called out to him sweetly then went back to helping Lindsey. Angel snorted softly. It always amused him when the "kids" tried to parent him. Sitting behind his desk, he looked at the research he had been doing.

He'd been hired to retrieve a stolen artifact. A younger woman had inherited a necklace from her great grandmother which had been in the family for generations. On the day she was supposed to have received the item in question, the safe where it had been stored had been broken into. The girl was positive that a businessman who had 'shown interest' in the necklace was the one who had it in his possession- but she had no proof.

At first Angel hadn't been sure why she would go to him for help and not to some other group that actually dealt in that type of business, but when she'd explained about the supernatural elements of the necklace, he'd agreed to take the job. Allowing the necklace to remain in the hands of someone who had proven themselves dishonest was not a good idea when the necklace could be used in all sorts of nefarious ways. The woman had seemed positive that once she had it back in her possession, she could protect it- it hadn't been her safe that the necklace had been stolen from.

Looking at his notes again, Angel frowned thoughtfully. This job really didn't appear to need a lot of people in order to succeed. In fact, the less people, the better it would be. He glanced out the specially treated window and noted that the sun was almost down. If he left now, he could sneak into the thief's residence, reclaim the necklace, and be out again before anyone missed him. Quickly making up his mind, he grabbed his gear and headed out.

#####

Lindsey and Faith had eaten their dinner and then made their way into the recreational room to practice their fighting techniques against each other. Spike and Illyria had followed them in maybe half an hour later and joined them in their practice. Because of this, none of the occupants of the house had noticed Angel's absence until Lorne came into the room. Watching them silently until they had slowed down to take a short break, he had quizzically asked, "Where's Peaches?"

Looking askance at the green man, Lindsey had answered. "He's in his office doing work- at least that's what he said he was going to do." He looked at the clock on the far wall and blinked. "And that was several hours ago. Sheesh- maybe one of us needs to drag him away from his desk…."

Lorne snorted then replied. "I would, but he isn't there. That's the first place I looked. He isn't in his room either- I knocked on his door when I went up to change clothes." Lorne had finally let the lease on his apartment go the month before and moved into the mansion full time at Angel's urging. It made it much easier to locate the green demon when he was needed if he was living in the same building as everyone else.

At his words Lindsey, Spike, and Faith looked at each other, worried frowns forming on their faces. Illyria slanted her head and calmly remarked. "I believe he left the house before you two finished eating. I saw him walking toward where his car is stored." Spike looked at her askance, wondering how he hadn't seen the same thing, but didn't bother asking.

Blinking Faith and Lindsey looked at each other. "That was almost five hours ago…" Faith muttered.

Not saying anything else, she and Lindsey headed toward Angel's office in the hopes that he had left a note or something else that would aid in finding him. The other three followed quickly behind.

#####

Angel forced himself not to groan and kept his eyes shut, although he couldn't help tense up slightly when he first started becoming aware of his surroundings.

He hurt, and not in an 'I've just been in a brawl with something twice my size' type way. His pain was a burning from inside. He'd felt that way once before, when in Sunnydale. He'd been poisoned and the only thing that had saved him then was drinking Buffy's blood. He shivered, wondering if his captors had used the same type of poison that Faith had used, or if it was different. Either way, there wasn't much hope for him. Not unless the others figured out he was in trouble and found him before it was too late.

He bit his lip as one of his muscles cramped. He tried to figure out what had happened and where he was in an attempt to not focus on the pain. It wasn't really working, but it might be useful information to have, all the same. Unfortunately, he couldn't remember much. He'd driven to what he'd assumed was the necklace thief's residence; he'd snuck into the man's study; he'd quickly located and liberated the necklace. It had all gone to plan and so very easy.

He supposed that should have clued him in that something wasn't right. He was out of the house and half-way to his car when the arrow struck him. He could only look down at the protruding shaft in shock as he'd felt the quick acting poison immobilize him and drop him unceremoniously to the ground. Very few things could fell a vampire of his age and abilities. The fact that he had been felled with one arrow indicated that they had expected him and prepared.

But how and why had they expected him?

#####

"It doesn't make sense. His notes indicate a quick enter and retrieval. He should easily have been back by now…" Faith muttered.

"Unless he decided he wanted some company that was slightly more than familial…" Spike waggled his eyebrows suggestively causing Lorne to snort.

Illyria slanted her head inquisitively. "Would he not have answered his phone, at some time- even if he waited until after…?"

"Yes, he would have." Lorne interrupted, shaking his head. "He would have at the least answered his phone."

Lindsey was staring at a photograph, a far away look in his eye, frowning. "Something…is off…about this whole thing. Something about the client…." He muttered, before leaving the office and running upstairs to his room. The other four blinked and stared at each other uncertainly.

Returning a few minutes later, he held his laptop in his hands and put it down on the table so that the others could see.

"I KNEW she looked familiar to me. I just didn't bother trying to figure out why because I thought Angel would ask my opinion if he needed it and he never asked so…." Lindsey was muttering to himself, which didn't really help the others understand. Spike however was getting a calculating look on his face and Faith looked suspiciously at Angel's notes.

Lindsey noticed the confusion on his team mates faces when he glanced up, and began to explain further. "The necklace was taken by this man…" he pointed at the photo. "Angel was going to go get it for the client…only…the client," it was at this point that Lindsey began clicking on some links on his laptop before stepping back and pointing at the screen. "The client is actually the sister of the man she claims stole the necklace. I remembered seeing her at Wolfram and Hart a few times before Angel initially came to town. They were both clients. And they live together. And their great grandmother died before they were born, so never left anything to either of them." Lindsey watched as realization crossed all their faces.

"It was a trap…" Faith whispered, worriedly.

"And Peaches walked right into it." Lorne frowned.

#####

Angel forced himself to look up when he heard the cell door clamor. He was chagrined to see his 'client' walk into the cell- on the arm of the 'thief' he had been hired to retrieve her necklace from. The necklace hung around her neck. It glowed a faint, sickly grey. She smiled brightly at him as if welcoming him into her home for a party.

"You were ever so helpful, Mr. Angel. My brother and I both appreciate your willingness to get right to the job, such as it was. It makes things ever so much easier that you did exactly as we wanted you to." She giggled in a slightly off balance way. Her brother grimaced, removing her hand from his arm and moving in closer to menace the immobile vampire.

"I'm sure by now, you are wondering why we would poison you and then bring you here, rather than just stake you and be done with it…" the man growled.

Angel held the man's gaze, unblinkingly, unwilling to show any more weakness than he had to. "I have wondered a few things, yes…" He whispered.

The woman giggled again. While the man sinisterly smiled.

"So- are either of you going to share, or am I supposed to play twenty questions and guess?" Angel muttered, and was gratified when his attitude earned him a glare. He wasn't so gratified when a harsh kick followed the glare, but at least it meant he could still unsettle his captors.

He just needed to figure out what to do.

#####

"When the day comes and you're down
In a river of trouble and about to drown
Just hold on, I'm comin'
Hold on, I'm comin'"
Hold On, I'm Comin' by Sam and Dave

"I know where he is!" Lindsey exclaimed into the silent room. The other occupants quickly shot out of their seats and surrounded him, peering over his shoulder at the computer screen in front of him.

Faith bit her lip and narrowed her eyes. "How can you tell where he is, just by looking at a blueprint?" She had expected some type of surveillance photo of people dragging a body somewhere, at the least.

Lindsey couldn't help the smirk that crossed his face, although it was a bit chagrined. "Like I said, I'd seen them before. They were clients. In exchange for our services, they paid by…" here the younger man's eyes took on a shamed look, "…by hiding inconvenient parties for us until they could be properly rid of." His voice fell to a whisper at the last bit. "This blueprint doesn't show the hidden rooms- but I remember where they are. I can get us in there and we can get him out."

"Well, ok then, let's go!" Faith exclaimed, quickly jumping back and heading toward the weapons.

Lorne frowned. "Now hold on a second! You don't know for certain that he is there- they could have him somewhere else!"

Spike remained silent, watching Lindsey's face as it went through a myriad of expressions before settling on irritation. He made note that a few of the expressions looked vaguely guilty and decided to ask his little brother about it later. He raised an eyebrow when Lindsey turned toward Lorne and began arguing vehemently.

"I know he is there- they are creatures of habit and they never took their prisoners anywhere else! They also never left their prisoners live for much longer than a day. He's already been there at least 4 hours, so we have to go NOW- before it is too late!" The younger man argued hotly.

"You can wait long enough for back-up to join you!" Lorne protested. "It won't do anyone any good if you get caught as well! How do you know they aren't using Angel as bait to lure the rest of us in; to get rid of everyone at the same time?"

Lindsey waved a hand in dismissal. "Angel was working on this case alone. The sister never saw any of the rest of us- they won't be looking for any of us to know as much as we do."

Lorne shook his head, "You said you recognized her- that means you saw her. There is no guarantee that she did not see you as well and that she will not remember who you are! 45 minutes is all I need! I'll call in nearby slayers- they'll meet us there- it won't take that much longer than just rushing in- and it will give us just that much more chance of coming up with an actual plan!"

"We DON'T have time to wait Lorne. I'm sure you're worrying over nothing. We've got to go…" Lindsey ignored the green man's concerns.

Faith looked uncertainly at Lorne, but her worry for Angel spurred her to follow Lindsey's leading. She quickly retrieved a couple of swords, tossing one to the ex-lawyer, smiling when he caught it deftly. Spike sighed and caught the sword she tossed to him- watching as she and Lindsey quickly left the office. He turned to Lorne apologetically.

"Maybe you can get that back-up to come along behind us, yeah? I need to make certain Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum don't get themselves killed," the vampire muttered as he left.

Lorne frowned as the bleach-blonde left after his siblings then threw his arms up in the air in exasperation. "If Angel had told them no, they would have listened," he grumbled to himself- then looked at Illyria. "Come on sweetheart- let's get that back-up together…"

Illyria, who had remained silent and standing well out of the way, raised an eyebrow then began getting items together while Lorne called Linda, Sally, and Trish. Linda would bring supplies to help heal and to do various protection spells; Sally and Trish would pick up a few other slayers. They would all meet at the mansion and form an actual plan of attack. He already had one such plan in mind- they would only be behind the other three by an hour at most. He really wished he could have convinced the others to wait.

#####

Angel tried, he truly did, but the poison they'd used had weakened him too much to be able to fight them off. It took little effort at all on their part to drag him further down into the bowels of their house and chain him to the damp stone walls of a cell. He forced his eyes to remain open and tried to focus on what they said to him.

The woman who he had originally thought was his client, smirked and began humming softly under her breath. "He looks so confused, JR."

Her brother chuckled meanly then spoke to the weakened vampire. "I think it will do no harm to tell you our plan…"

Angel swallowed thickly, glaring at his captors but unable to voice his displeasure.

The man continued. "See…you have caused me and my sister a great deal of difficulty. When you decided to be all high and mighty and attempted to destroy Wolfram and Hart- you didn't take into account all the clients that your actions would impact. Because of you- I lost several million dollars. I lost many important contacts that will take years to replace- if I am ever able to replace them. I lost assets that will never be replaced. So, Sissy and I- we decided that you needed to be taught a lesson. You needed to lose too." Angel narrowed his eyes as the man's voice dropped to a whisper before he continued again in his normal tone.

"So- we watched you. For a long time we've been watching you. Several times I thought you'd caught us, but- justice must be on our side. You never figured it out. And we learned some things about you. We learned that we could cause you to lose all your money, your assets, your contacts- and it wouldn't matter to you in the least. You'd just start over and rebuild from scratch. But there is one thing that would matter to you…." The man smiled evilly as Angel's eyes widened in horror at the realization of what- WHO- the man was talking about.

"I see you understand…. My eyes and ears tell me they are on their way to 'rescue' you right now. Of course, there is only one cure for the poison you've been given. We'll catch them all; put them in this cell with you. And they'll have to watch their dear father die in front of them. Unless you drink the cure- of course you won't want to do that…" The man laughed. "So they will live- for a short time- with the knowledge that they could have saved you but didn't."

"Of course, you may hold on long enough for instinct to take over. Then you won't be able to control yourself and you WILL drink the cure- but by the time you are able to regain control over your demon, at least one of your children will be dead and you will have to live- for a short time- with the knowledge that you killed your own…." The man stopped, turning his head toward the cell door. "I do believe they are here. Time to put the plan into motion." Twirling away from Angel, he took his sister's arm and disappeared from view.

Angel let his head fall weakly to his chest despondently. They had come for him- and they were going to die because of him. He had to fight the poison inside of him. He had to fight long enough to give them a chance!

#####

It hadn't taken Lindsey, Faith, or Spike very long to reach the mansion where Lindsey knew Angel to be held. At one time, the building had been well kept and lavish- its owners had definitely fallen on hard times though. Weeds overgrew the gardens, fountains were cracked and dry shingles from the roof had been torn off in several storms but not replaced. There were even a couple of broken windows. Lindsey snorted. If he hadn't known the people inside the house like he did, he would have thought they were attempting to go for a classic 'haunted house' look. He glanced at his two companions a serious expression on his face.

"We need to get in and out as quickly as possible. These two freaks were never completely stable and after two years of having everything they own and rely on being lost or falling down around their ears- I don't doubt they're one fruit-loop short of a full bowl…" he drawled before giving a boyish grin. "Everyone ready to rumble?"

Faith grinned back, while Spike snorted in amusement. The kid actually looked like he was going to enjoy this. Sometimes the vampire wondered about the younger man. He grinned back at Lindsey crookedly. "Just one question. Are these two fully human? Or can I let loose on them?"

Lindsey slanted his head, but didn't look into Spike's eyes. "They're human." He didn't say anything else, leaving it to Faith and Spike to decide what they would do. Himself- well he might never have actually pulled the trigger when working for Wolfram and Hart, but his hands weren't exactly clean either. He'd hoped to never have to make a choice like this again; he knew if it came down to getting rid of the two scums who had grabbed his mentor or any one of his family dying the two cretins wouldn't stand a chance against him.

Spike and Faith gave him furtive, worried glances but didn't say anything. The tension in the car was thick when Lindsey visibly shook himself. "Let's go then. Angel's waiting for us…."

#####

Angel watched the door to the cell with worry. He'd finally figured out what 'JR' had meant when he said Angel would have to 'drink the cure' to his poison- but that he wouldn't want to. They'd used the same poison on him as had affected him in Sunnydale. They'd really done their homework, if they knew about that. Since the only cure in Sunnydale had been to drink a slayer's blood- then they planned for him to kill Faith.

He frowned. Except- if they'd done their research, then they knew there was more than one slayer active now. It was possible to get enough slayer blood to cure him without actually killing any of them. Had they altered the poison in some way? He shook his head. He wasn't going to hurt any of his 'children'. If he had to, he'd stake himself first.

With that thought in mind, he began looking around the cell, searching for some method that could kill him before his 'kids' would be able to witness it.

#####

Perhaps splitting up hadn't been their best idea. They had thought that they would be able to cover more ground, more quickly, that way. Since they wanted to find Angel as quickly as possible, it had seemed like a good idea. But in retrospect, it might not have been the best idea.

Spike had been the first one taken out. As he looked at his grand-sire in chagrin, he shook his head and then hit the rock wall in frustration. He'd seen two guards carrying what looked like bandages and water toward a door at the end of the hall. He'd assumed that they might be heading back to a prisoner to clean them up- and on the off chance that the prisoner was Angel, he'd followed. Two steps through the door and all of a sudden the floor wasn't under him any longer. He'd fallen in a heap at his grandsire's feet, locked into a steel and rock cage. The trap door had shut immediately upon dumping him, so jumping back out again wasn't an option.

Sighing he looked over at his grandfather and said morosely, "Well I buggered that one up pretty well, didn't I?" Shaking his head again at the fact he'd been taken out so easily, he walked over to Angel and picked the locks of the manacles chaining him to the wall. Snorting, he mumbled "Hope the princess and the young cub have better luck than I did….." He swallowed down his worry when all Angel did was nod and whisper his thanks at being unchained.

#####

Faith hadn't had much luck finding anything of use in her exploration. She was almost glad when she'd run across the two guards in what she supposed was meant to be a kitchen. She'd quickly jumped into battle with them quickly overpowering them- when the dart had hit her. Her eyes had widened in surprise before the drug had taken effect and she'd collapsed at the two guards feet, unconscious.

Spike and Angel looked up in worry when 'Sissy' and 'JR' had drug her downstairs, not too gently, and motioned at the two of them to back away from the cell door. "Back off or I put her down like a wild animal," the man sneered, waving a gun in Faith's direction. Wordlessly, Spike and Angel had complied while Sissy had opened the door and JR had tossed Faith into the cell like a rag doll.

"What did you give her?" Angel whispered, his voice still managing to carry his displeasure in an almost growl, despite its soft cadence.

"Just a little concoction I read about, once upon a time." Sissy giggled. "It takes away a Slayers' powers. Don't worry. Soon as it is completely out of her system, she'll be back to normal. Until then, she'll just be a normal girl." The woman giggled madly again, before turning to follow her brother back up the stairs.

"I'm seriously beginning to reconsider my stance on not hurting humans…" Spike muttered, before picking his little sister up off the floor and rearranging her into a more comfortable and safe position.

Angel watched, his eyes thoughtful. Spike fought the urge to fidget, feeling like an errant school boy with the way the older vampire was watching him. Finally Angel spoke. "They were expecting you to come."

Spike sighed. "Looks that way."

#####

Lindsey, despite his desire to find Angel and get out of Dodge as quickly as possible didn't begin his search for the vampire immediately. He knew Angel would not have been taken out that easily without some type of magical artifact, drug, or other type of weapon. He needed to find out what they were up against. So he'd gone against his initial impulse to head directly to the cells and instead had gone to the laboratory/office section of the house. He'd not been disappointed.

He'd discovered several different items of interest about the brother and sister- and gotten a good idea about how to stop them- when he'd discovered the formulas for two different poisons. When he read what the poisons were, what they did, and how they needed to be cured- his blood had boiled, then run cold. If they'd gotten to Faith, then she would not be any help against anyone for several days until the poison ran out. If they'd used the same poison on Spike that they'd used on Angel-and he was positive they'd used it on Angel (There was no explanation for them having caught him, otherwise.)- then….

Lindsey swallowed. He'd cross that bridge when he came to it. Quickly, he left the room glancing both directions down the hall before he began to head in the direction he knew the cells to be. He took a circuitous route in the hopes of avoiding whatever guards the pair had hired, although he hadn't seen ANY guards at all, so was fairly certain if they'd hired any there weren't that many.

He'd actually made it downstairs and to the cell where his family was being held before he'd been caught. He'd been in the process of unlocking the cell door when Spike's eyes had widened and he'd called out "Lindsey…."

Unfortunately, the shovel that hit him on the back of the head was quicker than Spike's warning. He'd crumpled toward the ground without a word.

#####

Lorne looked at all the girls surrounding him and nodded his head in satisfaction. "You all know what you need to do?" The room chorused with yesses. Lorne smiled faintly, looking at Illyria and nodding. "First wave- head out now. I will follow with the second wave in exactly five minutes. And be careful out there girls."

Illyria quickly spun around, Sally and two newer slayers following her. Trish and Linda looked at him, waiting for when they would head out. Linda smiled sympathetically. "They'll be ok. Every spell I did indicated that they only have two guards in the house. The only reason they got Angel was because he wasn't expecting it. The only reason they would be able to get Spike or the other two would be because the guards are expecting them and waiting- and that doesn't mean they will actually get them…"

"I know. I can hope that those three will not be caught and will actually get Angel. But I'm not optimistic. They weren't thinking about anything except rescuing their mentor, if they were thinking at all. And they are all trouble magnets of the highest sort. I'm not optimistic…." Lorne muttered.

Linda chuckled, and Trish grinned. "Well, then let's go save us some trouble magnets then!" Trish chirped, strapping her sword on more securely.

Lorne nodded, smiling at the two women. "Let's go!"

#####

"One push is all you'll need…
A fist first philosophy…
We watch with wounded eyes…
So I hope you recognize
I'm on the front line"
Diamond Eyes by Shinedown

He'd pretended unconsciousness and waited, the seconds ticking by excruciatingly slow while 'JR' had slung him over a shoulder and 'Sissy' had opened the cell door to throw him in. Just as the cretin was about to toss him in, he'd made his move. Twisting in such a way that he'd used his captor as a fulcrum, he'd grabbed the woman and slammed her into the bars before landing nimbly on his feet when her brother dropped him in an attempt to spin around and stop him. 'Sissy' was out for the count.

'JR' smirked as he slowly reached toward where he'd hidden his gun. "My soldiers will be here in seconds. The only one of your team that is able to truly help you is the blond- the other two are weak as newborns. Do you really think you can make it through my army, dragging their worthless weight behind you? Get into the cage like a good boy, and I might make your death less painful…."

Lindsey snorted, smirking back. "I'm not a 'good' boy. Just ask my family…." Without another word, he attacked.

#####

Lorne looked at the two guards that were trussed up and gagged, then looked up at the small group that had gathered around him before addressing Linda. "You are positive there were only two guards?"

Linda looked slightly irritated that he asked- for what felt like the hundredth time- but kept her composure and answered. "Yes. And the latest spell I did indicated that the brother/sister duo is below us. So are Angel and the others."

Lorne nodded. "Then down we go. Sally if you would take point. Trish, you're rear-guard. Keep an eye out people- we don't want any nasty surprises…"

Slowly, the group made their way to the cellar steps. They'd had to disable three traps by the time they'd reached the cellar door; surprisingly the trap for that had already been disabled. Frowning slightly at the sight, Lorne nodded for Sally to begin the descent. It soon became clear WHY the trap had been disabled, as they could hear the voice of their male opponent taunting Lindsey.

Sally had reached the bottom of the steps and Lorne was only a few steps behind her. Those few seconds had seemed to move at a snail's pace- as he listened to Lindsey's taunting response to 'JR' and the slight scuffling noise that followed it. Then suddenly everything was moving at a blazingly fast pace as the sound of a gunshot echoed through the cells.

#####

Lindsey had been expecting him to pull the gun, and had prepared himself. Even so, feeling the heat of the bullet as it whizzed past him- missing him by millimeters- was still disconcerting. He hadn't wasted any time in disarming his opponent, knocking the gun out of JR's hand and sending it skidding across the floor toward the stairs. A quick glance had told him that 'Sissy' was still immobile on the floor, while Spike was helping Angel out of the cell, Faith following close behind. A strong fist to his jaw, redirected his focus onto the man he was fighting. He quickly returned the favor- his punch hitting in just the right spot to knock his opponent out.

The group had wasted no time in exiting the dungeon. Trish had taken point, the two newer slayers and Spike flanking her so that they could remove any potential threats. Lorne had taken Angel's arm while Sally had taken Faith's. They'd followed as close to the three other slayers as safety would allow. Linda had followed them while Illyria stayed next to Lindsey. They moved quickly, everyone assuming that the group was staying together. No one noticed that Lindsey and Illyria weren't following.

Lindsey stood, watching until all but Illyria had gone out of sight. Turning toward the blue goddess, he looked her in the eye. "I'm not leaving any loose ends…"

"I would not expect you to." Illyria said flatly. "I will stand guard until you are ready to leave." With that she turned to face the stairs.

Lindsey raised one eyebrow at her easy acceptance of what he was about to do, then shrugged. Illyria was nothing if not practical. Without giving himself time to think about his actions, he quickly went to 'JR' and gave a sharp twist to the villain's head. He repeated the procedure for 'Sissy'. It was crude, but effective. He might have to do a bit of hocus-pocus later, to cover all evidence of his and the others' presence here tonight, but that was easily accomplished.

Moving quickly to the stairs, he took Illyria's arm in a loose grip. "I have one, quick, stop to make."


#####

Illyria really was a very helpful sort. She didn't complain or ask a lot of questions when he'd led her into the lab/office where all the information he needed had been stored. She hadn't even complained when he began stacking folders and books into her arms. For himself, Lindsey had managed to locate an empty case- in it he placed more folders and books, taking anything that looked like it might be useful.

Illyria raised a delicate eyebrow when Lindsey suddenly snorted in amusement. He gave her a chagrined smile then shrugged. "Just thinking my father wasn't too far off when he predicted my future. He said I'd never amount to more than a common thug or thief…." He sighed, having filled the case to overflowing.

Turning towards the door, he stopped and glanced over his shoulder with a questioning expression. "Please don't tell them anything about…."

Illyria slanted her head before answering. "I will not say anything unless it is necessary. It is your story to tell." With that, she led him back out of the room, her bearing regal. Lindsey let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding and quickly followed.

#####

Spike looked around at the rag-tag group that had finally made it to the cars. Faith was standing up on her own without any problem- the only indication that she had been drugged was the lack of her super-strength. She was trying to act normal, but he could tell it was becoming increasingly difficult. The other slayers had learned what had been done to her and kept shooting her sympathetic and slightly sickened looks. It was unsettling.

Angel wasn't doing so well- the poison he had been given making him weaker by the moment. Spike was doing his best to aid his grand-sire, but Angel was refusing to drink any of the slayers blood; they weren't entirely sure that would be the cure anyway. The way Angel's kidnappers had talked, they had altered the poison. Spike doubted they would have the antidote be something easily obtained- and ironically slayer blood was very easy for Angel to obtain if he truly needed it.

Linda and Lorne were speaking in low tones about something or other that Spike just couldn't be bothered to eavesdrop on. Lindsey and Illyria were… the blond frowned, glancing around at those gathered near, then looked towards the various vehicles. "Hey. Anyone seen Bluebird and 'the Kid'?" he asked uncertainly.
"Lyri and Linds?" Faith asked curiously. "I thought they were with us- in the back…" her voice trailed off as she realized the two weren't anywhere in the vicinity of the cars.

"I'm going back," Spike growled and was just about to do so when he noticed two figures running through the front door of the house and heading in his direction.

Moving quickly to intercept them, he opened his mouth to ask where they'd been and what took so long. The look in his little brother's eyes stopped him. The look, quite honestly scared him. He'd give the kid a bit of space and let things calm down before he started with the twenty questions. Instead, he carefully took some of the books from Illyria and then motioned his girlfriend and brother to precede him to the cars- there was no way in hell he'd expect them to follow again.

He looked at the items he carried curiously. "What are these then?" He felt safe in asking THAT question.

Lindsey grunted. "Research. Hopefully the cure."

Spike looked up sharply at that then glanced at Angel. "Well, all right then. Let's get home and get crackin'…"

#####

It hadn't taken long for everyone to get into the different cars. They had decided to all go to the mansion. Since half of them lived there, and the other half could easily stay in the guest wing, there didn't seem any point in everyone splitting up immediately. Lorne began cooking for their guests, while Spike, Illyria, and Faith started researching the files Lindsey had found. Angel lay on the couch in the office, answering questions about his condition whenever they needed clarification.

Lindsey and Linda- as the sole spell casters of the group- began making sure that any evidence of their being at the house was either magically destroyed or masked so that normal police couldn't make any connections to them should complaints be filed. Only Lindsey and Illyria knew how unlikely that was. Even so Lindsey insisted on being in charge of destroying the evidence of their having been in the cellar. He wouldn't have Linda be an accessory to covering up his actions, even if she didn't know what he had done. There were plenty of other areas in the house that needed evidence altered or removed.

He and Linda had finally finished the 'clean-up' when Lorne called in to say that dinner was ready. Stretching and wincing as he heard several vertebrate crack, Lindsey wearily headed into the dining area and began making himself a plate. So much had happened, too much. It was early morning the day following when they'd discovered Angel's kidnapping- but it felt like weeks had passed. He stifled a yawn. He was running on auto-pilot. He would need to get some sleep soon or his ability to monitor his emotions would falter- and he just wasn't ready to deal with everything that had occurred. Not yet. Slowly, he made his way to the table and sat down wordlessly digging into his food and shoveling it into his mouth.

He glanced up warily when Lorne sat down next to him, but the green man didn't say anything; just stared at him silently as if trying to figure out a puzzle. Lindsey frowned and forced himself not to fidget. "What?" he asked somewhat testily.

"Just worried about you kiddo. You do realize this wasn't your fault?" Lorne queried calmly, still dissecting Lindsey with his eyes.

"Yeah-I know." Lindsey muttered half-heartedly before going back to his food.

"Just- take care of yourself. Angel wouldn't want to get better at the expense of you…." Lorne stated firmly before standing to go refill his coffee. Lindsey watched him walk away uneasily and swallowed hard.

"I'm gonna help them do the research. I think I saw something when I was grabbing the stuff….Thanks for the grub…." He drawled softly then headed back to the office.

"You're welcome, Cowboy." Lorne replied to the now empty chair, worry causing his brows to furrow. Lindsey was not dealing with things right now. It was obvious. Hopefully, he'd get that rest he needed and it wouldn't become an issue.

#####

Faith, Spike, and Illyria returned from eating to find Lindsey holding up two pieces of paper, comparing them critically. "Yo, bro- find anything helpful?" Faith asked, trying to keep her voice upbeat. They'd spent hours looking through books and hadn't found anything- it was discouraging.

"What do we already know about this poison?" Lindsey answered her question with a question- earning himself an irritated huff from his sister.

"We know it is an altered form of a poison that he had been given in Sunnydale…" Faith fidgeted awkwardly when she thought about the fact that in Sunnydale SHE'D been the one to poison her now-father.

"So far all the base elements seem the same as the original- we weren't able to figure out what the difference is and without knowing the difference, we don't' know if a slayers blood will work as a cure." Spike muttered.

"It won't," Angel forced out weakly. The four others turned toward him, having thought him asleep on the couch. Angel continued, "JR planned for me to either die by refusing to drink the cure- or to kill one of my children when drinking it. If it was slayers blood I needed, then it would have been Faith he planned for me to kill. Except- JR had done his homework. He knew enough about me- about us- to know about the original poison. He would have had no problem knowing that there were more slayers than just Faith. He wouldn't have taken a chance on me being able to get away and easily get the cure- so it couldn't be slayers blood."

"So he based the poison off of me or Lindsey?" Spike asked.

"He based it off of me." Lindsey stated far more calmly than he felt.

When he felt all eyes in the room fall on him, he continued. "The formula is in these two papers." He handed the pages to Spike so he could read over them, continuing his explanation. "They remembered me from Wolfram and Hart. They also knew that I had joined Angel's team- even realized that I'm considered family. As far as they could see, it was win-win. Angel dies refusing to drink my blood- I lose my family that I could have saved. They get revenge on me for my turning on Wolfram and Hart. Angel drinks my blood and I die- Angel feels guilty for killing family and they get revenge on Angel for him destroying so much of Wolfram and Hart."

Spike wrinkled his nose. "According to these papers, Angel doesn't have to drain you for the cure to work. If he drinks a little over a pint, it would be enough for him to fight off the poison. So how could they be so sure that someone would die?"

"Because they weren't going to tell me how much I needed. And I wouldn't have wanted to take a chance on drinking too much- so I wouldn't drink at all." Angel whispered.

"So, the poison would either kill him. Or when it became too much, instinct would take over- he'd drink and not be able to stop…." Faith muttered.

"So- now you know, there's no reason to refuse the cure. I trust you to be able to stop." Lindsey forced himself to shrug and walkover to Angel, kneeling down on the floor so that his neck was within easy reach of the vampire. He thought he was doing a pretty good job of hiding how scared he was- trusting Angel didn't take away all the fear. The look in the vampire's eyes told him he hadn't succeeded quite as well as he wanted to. He grinned slightly, hoping Angel wouldn't refuse even now when there was a chance they could all come out of this alive. "The sooner we get rid of that poison, the sooner I can go to bed…"

Angel rolled his eyes then looked at his son sternly. "Bed is exactly where you are going as soon as we are done- and you're going to be taking vitamins on top of your meals for the next few days. Understood?"

Lindsey sighed drawling, "Yes, sir" as he helped Angel sit up.

Angel frowned, unhappily. "I really don't like this…are you sure there's no other…?" he looked at Spike hopefully.

"Sorry, da. They wanted you to hurt with this one." Spike grimaced.

"Well, if we're doing this, you aren't going to be kneeling in front of me like some… something or other…" Angel waved his hand around uncomfortably. Faith and Spike choked back a laugh at the vampire's discomfort, while Lindsey got to his feet and looked at his father questioningly.

"Sit on my lap," Angel ordered, tugging Lindsey unceremoniously into place.

Lindsey blushed hotly. "I'm not a little kid, fer cryin out loud!" he wiggled trying to find a comfortable position.

"Age and size have nothing to do with it," Angel took his wrist in one hand and wrapped his other arm firmly around Lindsey's waist. "You're about to lose enough blood, very quickly, that you could pass out. I want to make sure you can't fall on the floor and hurt yourself."

He barely gave Lindsey time to acknowledge his concern before he'd pulled the younger man close and lifted the captured wrist to his mouth, quickly biting down.

#####

"Maybe after all the ends do justify the means
Is it guilty in here or is it just me"
Guilty In Here by Miranda Lambert

Lindsey winced at the initial bite, but soon relaxed into Angel's embrace. It didn't feel like he had expected it to. He didn't want to think about why he had thought it would be excruciatingly painful. He was well aware that a vampire could control what was felt during a 'kiss'. He should have known Angel would never cause him any unnecessary pain. Instead of painful, the bite was blandly pleasant. Like scratching a mosquito bite- not anything he'd go actively looking for, but nothing to fear either.

The younger man glanced out of the corner of his eye toward the only other occupant in the room. Faith and Illyria had left as soon as Angel had pulled Lindsey onto his lap, knowing that the situation was difficult enough without having a lot of witnesses. Spike only remained as a safe-guard; if Angel lost control, Spike would intervene. Lindsey gave his older brother a somewhat dizzy grin, the blood loss beginning to cause him to feel light headed. Angel seemed to sense his problem and pulled him tighter against his side.

With a small sigh, Lindsey let his head drop onto Angel's shoulder, his eyes becoming heavier as he watched the vampire drinking from his wrist. He didn't want to stop watching. He was curious about what would happen when Angel finished. Would they have to apply pressure to his wrist to stop the bleeding? Would he have a scar? He had a lot of scars, but he didn't think he'd mind if he had one from this experience. If he did, it would be a scar he could be proud of. Of course, just because he didn't want to stop watching didn't mean his body was going to cooperate. A tiny, frustrated, mewl slipped past his lips without him even realizing as he owlishly blinked his eyes in an effort to keep them open.

#####

Angel wished there was another antidote. Unfortunately, there was no other way to save his life. While he'd like to pretend he was noble, and only doing this because his children would be devastated if he let himself die- the truth was he didn't want to die. He'd finally found a small bit of happiness, family, contentment. He didn't want to lose that. So, he'd lifted Lindsey's wrist to his mouth and bit.

Angel closed his eyes as he fed from the younger man. He wouldn't have been able to continue had he watched. There was a reason Angel used animal blood for his sustenance; feeding from the young mortal- his adopted son- only reminded him of the monster he truly was. He hated it. He did his best to make certain that the experience was as NON-memorable as it could possibly be. He forced himself to drink slowly, not wanting to shock the boy's system too much. This enabled him to gauge how much he had taken and feel the blood coursing through his own body to fight the poison.

He knew the instant that he'd had enough to eliminate the threat and immediately stopped drinking, licking the wound closed. He gently lowered his child's arm. Hearing the tiny noise of frustration- the kid didn't realize they were through- he hugged the boy closer, kissing him on the forehead. He already felt stronger.

He looked over at Spike. "I'm going to put him in bed then I want to meet with you, Lorne, and the others- just to make certain I didn't miss something important in my poison induced haze."

"Ok. I'll get them together, "Spike nodded, his eyes firmly on his little brother. The kid was fighting sleep and mumbling something, but it was unintelligible- probably some nonsense about not being tired, being alright, or wanting to be there for the meeting. He smirked as Angel stood, Lindsey in his arms, and started to head out of the office and upstairs.

"Just quiet down, you're going to bed and that's that." Angel stated in a tone that didn't leave room for argument. Lindsey must have complied as Spike could hear a "good boy" as they disappeared from sight.

#####

Lindsey had been fast asleep by the time Angel made it to his room. The vampire snorted softly in amusement. "I'm not tired; I'll be fine…" he mimicked the sleeping younger man then shook his head before carefully laying him on the bed. Sighing, he quickly changed the youngster into his sleep clothes not wanting him to wake up in filthy clothing.

"You know, as often as I have to change you due to you being passed out for one reason or another…." He didn't finish the sentence though. He didn't mind helping the younger man out- and this time his reason for being passed out was beyond reproach. Making sure that the boy was as comfortable as he could be made, he went back downstairs.

Spike and Faith were sat on the couch, while Lorne and Illyria were stood by his desk, talking quietly. He glanced around in confusion. "Where'd Linda and the others go?"

Lorne looked at him and smiled brightly. "Wow, big guy. You look 100 percent already! Glad to have you back! Linda and the other girls all went home to get some sleep. They were completely zonkered. Plus, I might have let it slip that I wanted to talk to you without a large audience."

Angel blinked then nodded, hesitantly smiling back. "I guess anything they could tell me, you all already know and can let me know…" he said going to sit behind his desk while motioning for Lorne and Illyria to take a seat.

Glancing at Lorne, Illyria looked back at Angel and said in a flat voice, "Actually, I believe I will also go to sleep. Since I was with Lorne almost the entire time, he will be able to fill you in on my part as well." She quickly turned and left the office before Angel could protest.

Angel frowned. "She said almost the entire time. What about the times she wasn't with you?"

Spike snorted. "You'd have to get that information from her or Lindsey- since I believe the only time she wasn't with Lorne was when she was with Lindsey gathering up all this information and stuff…" he waved his arm toward all the books and files that they had spent such a large amount of time on.

"Well….ok then." Angel shook his head then looked back to Lorne. "What do we need to talk about that you didn't want non-family sticking around for?" he gave the green man a worried smile.

Lorne sighed, glancing at Faith and Spike. He hated telling on them, but he felt strongly that their actions had been reckless and unnecessary. Perhaps Angel would not feel the same way. They had, after all, been going to save their father-figure. The vampire had a right to know what was done and make his own mind up about the situation. The two obviously realized what he planned to tell Angel. Faith suddenly found the floor very interesting to look at, while Spike raised one eyebrow before nodding at him in acceptance. Nodding back at the blond, he looked back at Angel.

"There was a bit of disagreement about how to handle your rescue." He started.

Angel frowned. "What do you mean?" he didn't recall a lot of what happened after he had been shot with the poison laced arrow. Some parts stood out more strongly than others- such as Spike falling from the ceiling

Lorne grimaced. "When we realized how long you had actually been gone from the house, and I was unable to reach you via phone, we realized you must have gotten into some type of trouble. When Lindsey took a closer look at your notes, he quickly realized that the whole thing had been a setup." Angel nodded to show he understood.

"I told them we needed to form a plan and get some back up. We had no idea what you had walked into- and therefore what we could be walking into…" Lorne shook his head, a frustrated look on his face. "My concerns were completely dismissed as irrelevant. Well…mostly dismissed." He amended when he saw Spike's wince. "Spike acknowledged that my concerns were valid- but he felt obligated to follow his brother and sister to make certain they didn't get into permanent trouble- so he had to ignore my suggestion of waiting for back-up as well."

Angel's frown of confusion transformed into a frown of displeasure as he realized what this meant. He turned to face Spike and Faith. "I won't ask if this is true-Lorne would never lie about something like this and the way you two are looking everywhere but at me proves it is true. What do you have to say for yourselves?" he asked quietly.

"We just wanted to save you before it was too late!" Faith said plaintively. "Lindsey said he knew these people from when they were clients of the Big Evil Law Firm. He was positive if we waited for the back-up that Lorne wanted it would be too late. And I didn't want to take a chance he was right…." Her voice trailed off softly. Angel did NOT look happy.

"We were TRYING to save your life!" She finally huffed out hoping that if she went on the offensive Angel would stop looking at her with disappointment.

Spike elbowed his little sister and snorted. "Enough of that now, girlie. You know we shouldn't have run off like we did. Even if we didn't wait for back-up, we should have at least shown enough respect for Lorne to consider his opinion and take five minutes to discuss it. And going in without a plan did nothing to help us- considering how all three of us got caught." He shrugged, philosophically.

"Lindsey wasn't caught!" Faith protested half-heartedly.

"He would've been. Had Lorne's backup not already been in the building, those two goons that were hired as guards would've probably been down in the cellar with us when or shortly after the kid made his move." Spike shook his head slightly. "Angel wasn't able to fight. You lost all your slayer powers and were woozy from the drug. I could fight, but all it would take is for one of you all to be caught and threatened, and I would have had to back down…."

"But we were trying to save our father…." Faith whined, hoping that her reasons for doing what she'd done would be enough to get her out of trouble.

Spike smiled faintly. "We should've done it in a different way. Personally, I think we had enough time to wait and get back up. You and Lindsey didn't agree. One thing I think we won't disagree on is the foolishness we displayed by splitting up once we reached that manor."

"You SPLIT UP?!" Angel's eyes widened before narrowing into furious slits. Spike and Faith jerked to attention, neither one talking.

#####

Another sigh was heard from the corner. Shaking his head, Lorne glanced over toward the brunette girl and admonished. "You upset your daddy enough kiddo. I suggest you stand quietly and stop making noise before you get into even more trouble."

Angel had needed to leave the room after hearing Spike's declaration. He'd been too upset to stay in the room, afraid that he would say something in his irritation that could not be taken back and that he might regret the wording of. As he'd left, he'd ordered his grand-son and his daughter into the corner to think about their actions.

Lorne felt bad for the young girl and the younger vampire. Not too badly, mind you. If Angel hadn't become upset at Spike's admission that the three of them had split up to go into an unknown situation- without any back up or a plan- Lorne would have wondered if the poison had affected more than his body. It was a relief that Angel reacted exactly as a worried father should, when finding out his children had put themselves in harms way.

Still, he could feel bad for them a little bit. Their actions HAD been done with the best of intentions, after all. He smiled slightly as he saw Faith's shoulders slump. When he saw Angel finally returning to the room, he turned toward the vampire.

"Faith, Spike, please come here," The older vampire ordered.

Quickly the two obeyed. Angel looked at them sternly. "You realize that you both broke the most important rule, when you threw caution to the wind to come get me?"

Spike nodded in resignation. Faith quickly opened her mouth to argue her position again, but Angel held up his hand to stop her. "I realize that the rule says unnecessary danger- and you felt it was necessary. But even if I overlook the fact that you disregarded Lorne's concerns and went rushing in without a plan or backup- I can't overlook the fact that you put yourself into further danger by separating yourselves from each other. You didn't separate because you had a plan where separating was the best idea. You separated because you thought it would be quicker. That's careless… and unnecessary… and DANGEROUS." He stated firmly.

Finally looking her father in the eye, Faith woefully answered, "I know. I'm sorry."

Relieved that the girl had finally stopped trying to justify her actions, Angel nodded at her with a tender smile. "You know I can't let this slide."

"Yes sir," Spike and Faith answered in unison.

"You were dismissive of Lorne. That is unfair and disrespectful to him." Faith winced, turning toward the green demon.

"I'm sorry Lorne," she said in a small voice.

Angel continued after giving Lorne a chance to acknowledge her words with a nod. "I guess I had assumed that everyone knew this- since you all seemed to follow him as if you did know- but Lorne is my second in command. If I am unavailable, unless I've given you a specific order in case of my absence, you will obey his orders."

"Yes sir," Spike and Faith answered again, Spike looking a bit irritated at the declaration, but not arguing it.

Angel clasped his grandson on the shoulder and smiled slightly. "It isn't that I don't think you can lead Spike, but when it comes to your brother and sister- I think Lorne has a better chance of reining them in. Once they realize he's in charge anyway." Spike smirked faintly.

"Now," Angel continued, "normally I prefer to handle the consequences to your actions as soon as it is feasible. However, since your brother also participated in your misguided actions, I will give you a choice. We can handle it now, or we can wait until Lindsey is recovered."

"Now please….I hate having things hang over my head." Spike said quickly.

Faith reluctantly nodded her head. "What he said," she whispered then glanced at Lorne guiltily before turning back toward Angel. "Can, Lorne be the one to spank me? I really didn't mean to disregard him or be disrespectful…" She bit her lip, wanting to make things right between her and her 'uncle' but uncertain how to do it.

Both Lorne's and Angel's eyebrows shot up, before they looked at each other. At a slight nod from Lorne, Angel turned back toward Faith. "Very well," Angel agreed. "Both of you are to go get ready for bed then Faith will wait for Lorne in her room while Spike will return here. I doubt you want Illyria to witness this." Angel smirked at Spike's horrified look. "No way! She'd prolly get ideas!" the blonde muttered.

With very little prompting, Faith and Spike left to follow Angel's directions. They weren't looking forward to the next half hour, but at least it would be over and done with soon. They were both ready for things to get back to normal.

#####

"With every mistake we must surely be learning" While my Guitar Gently Weeps by the Beetles

Faith had quickly gotten ready for bed and then gone to wait for Lorne in her room. She couldn't help but be a bit nervous. It had been a big step for her, placing herself into Angel's care and accepting his guidance and correction. She'd never expected to accept discipline from a second individual.

Even so, it had felt right to request Lorne take charge of her- she hadn't realized until Lorne was telling Angel of Lindsey, Spike, and her own actions how much her quick dismissal of his concerns had hurt the man. She'd not intended to hurt him- and she truly did respect him and regard him highly. She certainly hadn't proved it in the last day and she wanted- NEEDED- to make things right between them again.

She just wished knowing that this would help in the long run would make it less nerve-wracking for her; because she was nervous. She stood indecisively in the middle of her room for a few seconds, not sure if she should sit on her bed or stand beside it, or just what she should do until Lorne arrived. Shrugging slightly, she went over to the corner and stood facing it. For some reason, Angel seemed to like making them stand in corners to think about their actions. Lorne probably wouldn't find fault with it, and it might help reduce the awkwardness if she didn't have to actually watch him come in. Faith let out a relieved sigh when Lorne finally knocked on her door and slowly pushed it open.

Lorne had to smile when he walked into the room and saw where the brunette girl was. Maybe he'd tell Angel later- if the first thing the kids did when they thought their guardian was upset was to go to the corner, then Angel must be becoming fairly predictable. It was debatable if that was a good thing or a bad thing. His smile fell when he realized that Faith's position meant she thought he was angry with her. He sighed sadly, pulling the chair out from under her desk and sitting in it. "Please come here Faith. I'd like to speak with you."

Taking a deep breath to calm herself, Faith slowly turned to face her 'uncle' trying to gauge how upset he was with her. She bit her lip when she noted that he didn't seem angry, but he did look very disappointed. That was worse. Anger she was used to and could handle- but the disappointment of someone she actually looked up to and cared about? She blushed as she found herself sniffling, and had to brush at her eyes quickly to be able to see clearly. Straightening her shoulders she walked to stand in front of the man. "I'm so sorry Lorne," she whispered brokenly. "I didn't mean to…" she swallowed hard and looked down at her feet. "I just didn't think about it until it was too late…."

Lorne watched the young woman closely. If he'd had his way, he would have accepted her apology and had Angel hold her accountable for the endangering her life. He knew she hadn't meant to disregard him so thoroughly, just as he knew she was truly sorry for it now. He didn't want her to think that the punishment he was about to give her had anything to do with the disrespect. Carefully he tucked a finger under her chin and made her look up into his face.

"I know you are sorry for the way you acted toward me, Princess. I already accepted your apology and have forgiven you. I'm not spanking you for disrespecting me. I hope you realize that…." He watched her closely to see if she did understand. The confused look on her face worried him for a second, but then she nodded.

"I know, Uncle Lorne. I'm being spanked cuz I went off on my own instead of staying with Spike and Lindsey- and it put me in more danger. I'm just lucky that Angel understood about us feeling like it was necessary to go after him right away- since it turns out we shoulda listened to you." She gave him a chagrined smile. "I just- I DID disrespect you and I …I guess part of that was cuz even though I called you 'Uncle Lorne' before, I never really saw you as having any authority over me. I…If you spank me, there's no way I can see you as NOT having authority over me….not easily anyway." She blushed again, hoping he understood.

Lorne nodded and smiled gently. "You do realize that by accepting my authority now- it means that you are just as bound to obey me if I give you a direct order as if Angel does. With the same consequences if you don't listen."

Faith grinned sheepishly. "Yeah. I know. You're second-in-command and all. Kinda figured misbehaving with you would get me some consequences too. Just wasn't sure if you'd make up your own or not…"

Lorne shook his head, still smiling. "No need to fix something if it works as is." Taking a deep breath, he allowed his face to become stern. "Since you understand the reason you are about to be spanked, I don't think we need to prolong this any further." At her hesitant nod, he gently tugged her to stand between his knees. Carefully lowering her over one knee and locking her legs in place with his other leg he shifted her nightshirt so that his target was in sight. He then lifted his hand high and let it fall with a resounding smack against her bottom.

Faith gasped at the sharp pain, relieved that he'd allowed her to keep her panties up. She hadn't expected Lorne's hand to hurt as much as it did, but as he peppered her backside with carefully controlled and evenly timed strikes, she had to admit that his punishments were every bit as painful as Angel's. He was methodical, making sure that he didn't miss even one spot on her bottom. She had already been emotionally overwrought due to her feeling guilty about how she'd acted toward him. Knowing that she deserved this spanking because she HAD taken such an unnecessary risk when she split up from her siblings, made it difficult to fight the consequences; it didn't take long at all for her to begin sniffling. By the time Lorne had finished his second round of admonishment to her backside, she was sobbing brokenly and gripping his leg tightly.

Lorne saw no reason to be overly harsh when she understood why she was being punished and was already fully contrite and accepting the consequences. Being harsh wouldn't help her learn anymore. He ended the spanking with six quick smacks to the tender crease between thigh and bottom, then gently helped the sorrowful girl up and sat her on his lap, holding her tightly while she cried on his shoulder.

"I've got you Princess. Everything will be alright. You're forgiven…" Lorne crooned to Faith softly, relieved when her sobbing ebbed into short gasps and sniffles. Once she had her emotions under control, Faith slowly sat up. Wincing slightly at the sting she could still faintly feel, she smiled crookedly at the green demon while rubbing at her eyes.

"I guess I better go to bed then…" she said in a hoarse voice. Her uncle nodded.

"That sounds like a good idea. You ok?" he asked in concern.

She nodded emphatically, her smile becoming brighter. "Five by five, uncle." She kissed him on the cheek and carefully stood up, walking to her bed and laying down on her stomach. She laughed softly when he stood up and followed her, tucking her in. "Thank you for taking care of me…" she said quietly.

Lorne kissed her on the forehead. "Always…always will. Sweet dreams, princess."

Faith smiled to herself as she watched him leave the room, closing the door carefully behind him. She was asleep within moments.

#####

Spike hadn't taken long to get ready either, quickly grabbing a pair of loose sleep pants and a white undershirt from his room before heading into the bathroom to take a rapid shower. He'd dressed just as fast and headed down to the office without stopping back at his room again- not wanting Illyria to know what was going to happen. It would be enough that she'd figure it out as soon as he came up to bed after the fact.

His grandsire was sitting on the couch, a faraway look on his face. He sat up quickly when Spike cleared his throat.

"Just so you know," Spike began to speak. "I know why I'm being punished. It was stupid to split up when we got to that house- really stupid. I deserve every smack you give me for that…" he winced and rubbed a hand through his hair. "I don't think I deserve to be smacked for going with Lindsey and Faith though- I was going to help protect them. I failed miserably at it, but that was my sole intention and I'd do it again if the choice came up so…." He shrugged uncertainly.

Angel stared at him in silence, remaining still for what seemed like an interminable amount of time. Spike couldn't help but begin to fidget. He nearly sagged in relief when Angel responded to him.

"Fair enough. I hadn't planned on punishing you for going to the house- despite it being dangerous- because I knew you wouldn't agree that the action was unnecessary. You however, will be spanked for splitting up. Lindsey and Faith I could see not thinking it through clearly, but you're over century old with a LOT more experience. I expect you to use your brains and experience to keep you and your siblings safe." Angel kept his voice neutral and calm, but even so the words caused Spike to flinch and look down at his feet.

"For what it's worth," the blonde vampire whispered, "I AM sorry."

"It's worth quite a bit actually." Angel smiled softly as his grand-childe jumped in surprise- not having realized that his grand-sire had moved to stand beside him.

"The last time you found yourself in this position, you didn't want to go over my knee. I am assuming you still do not care for that idea…." Angel stated, leaving time for the blond to correct him if needed, but not expecting him to. "Please lean over my desk. You can keep your sleep pants up."

Swallowing hard, Spike nodded then walked to the desk- clearing a space- and bending over it. He held still as he felt Angel put one hand on the small of his back, tensing up in anticipation. When the first harsh smack landed, he wasn't prepared. If he had thought being allowed to keep his clothing up would help alleviate some of the pain, he had been completely wrong! Angel quickly fell into a pattern, three smacks on each spot before moving to the next. That was as far as the pattern went however, one moment Angel was smacking the top left of Spike's backside, the next moment he was smacking his right thigh, then moving slightly up, then over to a completely different area.

Spike couldn't predict where the next blow was going to land. On top of that it had been a long, draining night. Spike KNEW what he had done wrong and could not come up with any reason that he did not deserve what he was getting. It didn't help that being in this position made him feel vulnerable and childish. Most importantly, he'd learned that it was better to accept the consequences of your actions and not fight them. It made things a lot easier. If Angel was surprised at the quickness with which Spike fell apart, he didn't show it. Instead he quietly continued with the punishment until every portion of Spike's bottom had received his attention.

Angel stood beside his grand-childe rubbing his back quietly as the blond vampire choked back sobs. It was several moments before the younger vampire realized the punishment was over. Shuddering slightly, Spike stood up turning to face his mentor and authority figure. When Angel held his arms open in an unspoken invitation, Spike quickly moved into them, holding onto the older vampire tightly before stepping back in embarrassment and rubbing at his eyes.

"So…we're ok then?" Spike asked hesitantly.

"Everything's paid for and now forgotten. And now I can thank you properly for helping to save my life." Angel smiled, taking the younger vampire by the arm and leading him over to where a tiny fridge sat near the desk. He pulled out a bottle and grabbed two mugs, grinning as he saw the big smile growing on Spike's face.

"Oi! You got the good stuff!" the blond enthused.

"Illyria won't mind you coming in a bit late?" Angel teased.

"Naw- she'll just require me to make it up to her somehow." Spike wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, laughing when Angel got a disgruntled look on his face.

With a smile, both of them settled back on the couch to enjoy their drink and relax in the feeling that everything was right in their world.

#####

Lindsey had woken up shortly after being placed in bed by Angel, needing to use the restroom. He'd lain in bed for several minutes trying to get the energy up to actually get out of bed when he'd heard it. His little sister was being punished! Swallowing, the young man tried to ignore the sounds of what was obviously a spanking, but unfortunately good hearing was one of the results of the mystical powers he now had- he couldn't ignore it.

Guilt was the first thing to plague him, as he thought about all the things that had occurred in the last night. Then anger set in. They'd only gone to that mansion so that they could rescue Angel! If they put their lives in danger, it certainly wasn't for any unnecessary reason. How could they be punished for something that was completely and totally necessary??? Well, Faith may have accepted such a punishment- and he really didn't understand how she would accept it without argument- but HE wasn't about to. When they brought him in to talk to him, he wasn't going to agree to it at all.

Every single thing he did in the last night was necessary. EVERY. SINGLE. THING.

He forced down the guilt that was trying to overwhelm his senses again, and forced himself out of bed. Maybe a quick shower and something light to eat would help his mood. He wasn't going to be able to go back to sleep anytime soon if he couldn't find a way to relax.

#####

"Well I'm a Man; I'm a Man; I'm a Man of Constant Sorrow
I'm a Man; I'm a Man; I'm a Man of no tomorrow
I've seen trouble all my days"
Man of Constant Sorrow as performed by Charmed City Devils

He'd taken his shower as hot as he could without scalding himself, standing under the spray until it started to cool. He'd then stood in front of the mirror, staring at the foggy image of himself. He looked the same as he had only a day before- but he felt irrevocably changed inside. One more step toward the dark side- even for the right reasons- had left him feeling wrong footed and unstable. He'd been able to ignore it in the rush to find a cure for Angel- and then apparently he'd been sleeping. But now he was awake, Angel was safe, and he was left to think about his actions.

His actions had been necessary. He was positive of that and he'd do things exactly the same way if it meant keeping his family safe. And it wasn't as if he had never had anything to do with death before- he'd arranged things for Wolfram and Hart before that had ended in people dying. He'd always been able to pretend it wasn't his fault and that they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. He couldn't pretend that this time- he'd done the deed with his own bare hands. Grimacing, he turned on the sink tap and began to wash his hands before catching himself and turning the water back off again.

Why did he feel so guilty? If it was necessary to keep his family safe- and he'd do it again if needed- why did he feel guilty about it? It wasn't as if the brother and sister duo were innocents in this matter. He knew their background and he knew that if they had not been eliminated, innocent people WOULD have started dying as they attempted to get their revenge. A year ago, he wouldn't have felt any guilt at all.

He chuffed softly, rubbing at his eyes. A year ago- nearly exactly to the day- Angel had brought him home, given him a safe haven, a family, a purpose, and apparently a conscience. Because a year ago he wouldn't have felt any guilt but now he was dangerously close to wallowing in it. He glanced back into the mirror again, smirking at himself. "If I start brooding, they're liable to want to do a DNA test…" he muttered sardonically.

Quickly he rubbed a towel over his head, and then ran clumsy fingers through his wet hair. The air in the room was finally cooling enough to allow the steam to run down the mirror in little rivulets. Beginning to feel a little chilled, he donned the sleep clothes he'd had on and opened the bathroom door, cautiously stepping out with a glance up and down the hallway. He didn't relish running into anyone right at this moment. He knew that there would be a conversation between him and his 'father' sometime in the near future, but he just wasn't up to handling it right now. If Angel stopped him now, he was afraid he'd just admit to everything- and what he'd done after everyone else had escaped the cell was something that no one else could know about. It was bad enough that Illyria knew.

Seeing no one in his near vicinity, he quickly headed down the stairs, making sure to keep his step light so that he wouldn't alert anyone to his presence. He could hear murmuring in the office between Spike and Angel, but he couldn't understand what was being said without actively trying to eavesdrop. That wasn't his objective. He walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator, grabbing various leftovers and making himself a plate. He then carefully cleaned everything up before picking up his plate and preparing to sneak back to his room.

The door to the office was opening! Biting back a curse, he rapidly pressed himself against a wall that was hidden from view of the office door. Angel and Spike were walking out, Angel's arm around Spike's shoulder. They were laughing about something. That wasn't what drew Lindsey's attention though. Spike was rubbing at his butt like…Lindsey rolled his eyes. That was just great. SPIKE had gotten a spanking too. That didn't bode well for him, Lindsey frowned. It seemed a bit unfair really. Yes, their actions may have been reckless- but they were trying to save Angel's life. Lindsey wouldn't be told that anything he'd done was unnecessary. He COULDN'T admit that anything he'd done was unnecessary.

He held his breath as he watched his brother and father reach the top of the stairs and disappear down the hall. Waiting until he heard the tell-tale click of closing doors, he carefully made his own way up the stairs and into his own room- making as little noise as possible. Tomorrow would be soon enough to face everyone. He'd be more rested and on his game tomorrow.

Sitting yoga-style on his bed, he dug into the food he'd gathered, but while he ate his mind kept dragging up the last evenings events- questions and doubts about his own behavior causing him to soon lose his appetite. Sighing, he set the uneaten portion of food on his desk and crawled back under his covers, drawing his knees up so that he could wrap his arms around them.

He hadn't made the wrong choice. He couldn't have. If Angel ever found out, Lindsey wasn't certain the vampire would agree. If Angel ever found out....what if he was wrong and he HAD made the wrong choice. Had he just committed the unforgivable?

Lindsey closed his eyes tightly, trying to think of other things. Angel wouldn't find out. He'd make certain of it.

#####

Five hours later and the household was up- all except for Lindsey. No one thought anything of it, at first. They each ate a light brunch- their schedule still a bit messed up from the late night/early morning excursion they'd had going to rescue Angel- and then moved into the entertainment room to watch TV together. If Angel and Lorne kept glancing toward the door as if waiting for someone, no one else commented on it.

Finally, after an hour of watching, where both men spent more time looking at the door than at the television, Spike finally suggested, "You could go upstairs and check on him if you're worried…" he smiled , amused at the older vampire and demon.

"I think I will." Angel declared, standing up and heading for the stairs. "I'll just join him, then." Lorne added, quickly following.

Faith glanced at Spike with a frown. "The bet was how long it took them to go check on him WITHOUT you prodding them, DORK!"

#####

Angel and Spike stood outside Lindsey's door for a few seconds before Angel took a deep breath and knocked. At first there was no answer, but then a weary voice- tinged with reluctance- said "come in."

Looking at Lorne with a slight frown- the kid didn't sound good- Angel turned the doorknob and stepped into the room. Lorne quickly followed.

A quick scan of the room revealed an empty bed- the sheets and comforter twisted up and half hanging onto the floor. It looked as if the boy had a rough night. On the desk were the remains of Lindsey's early morning foray into the kitchen. The child himself had pulled his chair over to the window where he now sat- knees pulled up under his chin and arms wrapped around his legs- staring out the window with a listless expression. There were dark circles under his eyes and he was pale. He'd definitely had a rough night.

Angel frowned and moved closer, till he was standing beside the chair and could reach out and put a hand on Lindsey's shoulder. Lorne could see the flash of hurt in the vampire's eyes when Lindsey flinched and shrugged away from him, although he quickly hid it. "Are you ok, son?" Angel asked, his voice warm with concern.

Lindsey, visibly shuddered, a mask coming over his features as he pasted on a smile and sat up straighter. "I'm fine, Angel. Thanks. Are you…?"

He was putting on an act. Lorne felt a bit insulted that the brat would think he and Angel would be fooled, but he didn't say anything. Angel however, didn't feel any compulsion to keep quiet. "I'm fine- but you must be mental if you think I'll believe that you're ok. You look like death warmed over." The vampire stated flatly, an unimpressed look on his face.

Lindsey, bit his lip and swallowed, obviously rethinking his early statement. "I…I didn't sleep well last night. But I'm not tired enough to sleep right now- and I'm not very hungry, but I have eaten…so…" he looked up at his father warily. "I didn't think you'd be impressed by my saying 'I'll live'," he attempted slight humor to lighten the suddenly tense and serious mood.

Angel allowed a tiny smile at the boy's attempt, before reaching out and running his hand over Lindsey's head- his fingers carding through his hair in a paternal caress. Lindsey closed his eyes at the feeling of warmth and acceptance he felt from Angel, sighing softly before opening his eyes again and looking up into the vampire's face.

"I heard…what happened to Faith last night…" he whispered, chagrined that he would even bring it up, but knowing he had to get this out in the open now before he could fully move past the events. "And I saw Spike, when you and he were leaving the office last night…" he wrinkled his nose, becoming agitated.

Angel raised an eyebrow. He wanted to ask why Lindsey didn't let him know he was up- instead of hiding as he apparently had- but he kept the question to himself.

"Does it bother you that I punished Faith?" Lorne took the bull by the horns.

Lindsey blinked, not having realized it was Lorne who had handled his sister. "You….uh…" Lindsey stuttered, not exactly sure what he was supposed to say to that.

Lorne nodded slightly, "Ah…you didn't realize it was me with her." Lindsey shook his head, wordlessly, a slight look of confusion on his face. It was bad enough that his siblings got punished for something that was necessary- why the heck was Lorne doing the punishing?

"Now seems a good time to let you know…Lorne is my second in command. If I'm unavailable for some reason- and I haven't already given you direct orders of what to do- then if he gives you an order, you're expected to listen. Same consequences if you disobey him." Angel told him.

Lorne added, "We can't have the chain of command breaking down just because the General is away, after all."

"Ooook…." Lindsey replied, still a bit confused. "That makes sense, I guess…"

Lorne took pity on him. "Faith requested me to handle things last night. Her reasons are her own, so you'll have to ask your little sister why, if you want to know."

Lindsey nodded, slightly less confused. "Why were they spanked at all, though?" he frowned. "Everything we did was necessary. The rule is putting ourselves in UN-necessary danger gets us a spanking. Necessary danger shouldn't get us in trouble!" His voice had risen slightly by the end, his irritation at the 'injustice' of it apparent.

Angel quickly held up his hands in a placating manner. "Hey, calm down! They weren't punished for trying to save me- despite the fact that you all completely ignored Lorne's concerns and dismissed him from your plans entirely…." Angel gave the younger man a disappointed look. The boy had the decency to give Lorne an abashed look before looking at his own feet.

"I didn't mean to disrespect or disregard you Lorne. You are one of my closest friends and I wouldn't deliberately do that…" Lindsey's voice had fallen into that soft drawling cadence it always had when he felt guilt about something. "I just really felt that we didn't have time and I let my own fear lead my actions. I should have treated you a lot better, and for that I am sorry. But I would still do things the same way I did- if I was given the same choices. I'd try not to be so…curt about it…but I wouldn't change my actions." Lindsey smiled crookedly at the green man, hoping that he wouldn't hold any hard feelings.

Lorne smiled back, reaching over and patting Lindsey on the shoulder. "It's forgiven and forgotten kiddo. You won't have the same excuse next time though…." His eyes were determined and Lindsey nodded, hoping that there would never be a next time.

Sighing, Lindsey looked back at Angel. "So why were they punished, if not for going to rescue you?" he wrinkled his nose, suspecting the reason but needing to know for certain.

"They were punished because the three of you split up once you reached the residence. That WAS unnecessarily dangerous. Considering you didn't even have a plan or know what you were walking into it was exceedingly dangerous and unnecessary." Angel's voice was stern and he didn't expect an argument at the reasoning. Faith and Spike had understood and submitted immediately upon hearing why their father was displeased. Lindsey, it seemed, had other ideas.

"Sorry, but it was necessary." Lindsey said flatly.

Angel and Lorne both blinked, waiting for the younger man to continue, but Lindsey seemed intent on frustrating his guardian and didn't elaborate. Finally Angel asked, "and WHY would that ever be necessary?"

"Because I needed to go find the files and books that might possibly have your cure in them!" Lindsey stated as if that answered everything. It was an effort to hide how uncertain he actually felt about his actions.

Angel shook his head slowly. "You didn't pick those up until AFTER I was rescued. You brought them out with Illyria- Spike told me." Lindsey frowned.

"Yeah- but that was only because I knew they were there. I had to find the place- that is what I did before I went down to the cells. I was lucky and found it fairly quickly…." The ex-lawyer kept his voice as steady as possible.

Angel could feel something wasn't quite right with Lindsey's explanation, but he couldn't put his finger on what it was. "You didn't know where the room was ahead of time?" he asked as if confused.

"No…why would I have?" Lindsey drawled out, eyes not quite meeting Angels.

Angel forced a smile. The brat was obviously lying to him. He HADN'T needed to separate from the others to find the information- he'd already known where the information was. Why the child would feel the need to lie about it and pretend that he had no other choice but to separate from the others, he wasn't sure. Something else was going on here.

Glancing at Lorne- the green man was frowning slightly also having figured out Lindsey was lying- Angel forced his voice to sound non-challenging. "Very well. I'm not sure I agree that it was necessary- but since you believe it was then I will accept your view of the matter."

Lindsey blinked, having expected an argument. Spike and Faith had been punished for something and he was going to get away with it- because he had said he felt it was necessary? Part of him felt relief- Angel had just proven that he could be trusted not to force his opinion on his children. Mostly he just felt disappointment; disappointment in himself because he'd lied to his father-figure and disappointment in Angel because the vampire had actually believed the lie.

"Well, ok," Lindsey eyed the other two men uncertainly. "Is that everything then?"

Shaking his head, he allowed his love and concern for the younger boy to eclipse the disappointment he felt that his son wouldn't admit his error and had lied to avoid the consequences. Angel drew Lindsey close to his side and hugged him with one arm. "No. I still have to thank you for saving my life, runt." He reached up with a fist and rubbed the top of Lindsey's head.

"Hey! You can thank me by not messing up the 'do!" the boy laughed, his shoulders and posture relaxing at the lack of censure from the vampire.

Grinning, Angel let him go. "Get dressed, then come downstairs and get something light to eat. Also, I remember saying something about vitamins…" the vampire chided good naturedly. "We're watching movies and it just isn't family movie time without the 'little brother'" Angel teased.

"I'll just take these," Lorne picked up the leftover food from the desk and smiled at the youngster so that he would know he held no hard feelings either. "It's been sitting out long enough. You don't want ants in your bedroom."

Lindsey rubbed a hand awkwardly against the back of his head then nodded with a smile. "Ok. I'll be down in five minutes. Ten tops." He waited until both the vampire and the demon had exited his room and closed the door to allow his smile to fade into a grimace.

Why the hell had he thought lying would solve anything? His guilt had just increased ten-fold.

#####

Angel followed Lorne into the kitchen and put together a sandwich for his recalcitrant son, while Lorne scraped the old food into the trash and cleaned the dish.

"So we're letting his lie stand?" Lorne asked softly.

"I'm not sure why he felt the need to lie, to be honest." Angel answered. "It isn't like he's afraid of a spanking. When he feels guilty enough, he's actually requested it so that he can feel like he's paid for his misdeeds." The vampire set the sandwich on the table along with the vitamins before going to get his son a glass of juice. "If he's lying, it's for some other reason- and I'm not sure confronting him about it right now will help matters. This time- I think he needs to figure things out on his own and come to us when he's ready."

Lorne nodded his acceptance of Angel's decision. He glanced up when Lindsey walked into the kitchen. The brat had pasted a smile on his face and was acting for all the world like nothing was wrong. Why he thought Angel and himself couldn't see through the charade, he didn't know. After living with the whelp for a little over a year and seeing him at his best AND worst- even before the child moved in with the vampire- he felt that they both knew Lindsey well enough to tell when something was bothering him. It really WAS insulting that the younger man thought he could get away with pretending. Then again, they weren't confronting him on it- he had no reason NOT to think he was getting away with it. Shaking his head, he smiled at the boy and nodded toward the food. "Why don't you take that with you and come watch the movie with us. They're just about to start Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, if I'm not wrong."

Angel handed him a glass of grape juice and nodded. "Yeah- that sounds like a good idea to me. Come join us, brat." He smiled when Lindsey picked up the plate with his other hand and agreed.

"Sounds like a plan," the ex-lawyer said. "I haven't seen that movie in forever. What dusty old sale-bin did you find it in?" he asked impishly.

Angel pouted. "I bought it when it first came out. Dusty old sale-bin….sheesh."

He followed Lorne and Lindsey's laughter into the other room where the rest of the family waited.

#####

"I tried so hard and got so far
But in the end it doesn't even matter."
In the End by Linkin Park

The movie had been fun. The whole day had actually been fun. They'd all stayed in as a family, watching the movie, making snacks or meals when everyone was hungry, playing card and board games. As long as Lindsey allowed himself to be in the moment and not think, he was able to enjoy himself. The times when he did think, he'd force down the guilt he was feeling and pretend. As far as he could tell, everyone believed his act- although he noticed a few strange looks being sent his way by Faith and Spike.

All too soon it was night again. Angel, noting that the sun had gone down looked at his watch. "I realize it is only nine o'clock," he remarked casually, "but after all the excitement from last night and the fact that everyone received such little sleep- I believe it is time for bed."

"Aw, I'm too bloody old to be going to bed this bloody early!" Spike grumbled good naturedly, even as he stood up and began putting their latest game away.

"I know, right?" Faith agreed cheerfully, helping him with the pieces. "You'd think we were still children or something."

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe we're not being fair." Lindsey said with an impish look towards Angel. "I've heard that most parents have a hard time sleeping if their kids aren't safe in their beds…Maybe the 'old man' over there is really tired. If we don't go to bed now, he won't be able to get his beauty rest."

"Hey now! Watch the old man business!" Angel spluttered in indignation.

Lindsey smiled as the rest of his family laughed at the joke, trying to keep the melancholy at bay. He didn't want to lose this. He'd never had anything like it before and he was positive he'd never be able to replace it if it disappeared. Swallowing back a sigh, he finished helping with the clean-up, then followed Spike and Illyria up the stairs, Faith on his heels.

Angel watched them go, a fond look on his face. Anyone looking closely at him would have noticed his eyes held a hint of worry. He turned to his friend. "Are you noticing the same thing I am?" He quietly asked.

Lorne snorted. "If you mean, did I notice Lindsey fighting down a severe case of depression and trying to pretend everything is fine and dandy- then yes. Are you sure it is better for us to let him decide when to come and confess? Wouldn't it happen quicker if we gave him a gentle nudge?"

Angel grimaced and shook his head. "No. I can't figure out why he is fighting admitting his error so strongly. It wasn't even that big of an error on the scale of Lindsey errors. And until I can figure out WHY he is fighting it, pushing him to admit it won't do a damn thing, I'm afraid." Angel sighed.

"Well, you may be right big guy," Lorne said quietly, "but I really hope he either gets beyond what's holding him back or you figure out what's holding him back soon. If it's one thing I've learned about our Cowboy this past year- he doesn't deal with his guilt well at all."

"Preaching to the choir, Lorne. Preaching to the choir." Angel snorted then headed upstairs to his own bedroom. Turning off the lights, Lorne followed shortly behind.

#####

Lindsey lay in his bed. He'd been there for two hours unable to sleep. It wasn't that he didn't want to sleep, or that he wasn't tired, but every time he closed his eyes- it was as if a bad movie was replaying over and over again. "It was necessary," he whispered to himself.

His family had all gone to bed at the same time he had. Well most of them had. He probably should let Spike and Illyria know the walls weren't as soundproof as they seemed to think. He grimaced. He was fairly certain everyone was sleeping now. Sighing, he got out of bed and walked to the window. If he couldn't sleep, he may as well do something useful.

Powering up his laptop, he sat down at his desk to do some work. He'd been trying to gather information on his late brother. The whole magic rebounding thing had caused several questions to pop into his mind. Questions he'd never thought to ask when he had first been told of his brother's death. Looks like some of his inquiries had responses. He clicked on his email.

Working steadily, Lindsey never noticed the minutes ticking by into hours. Just as he never noticed that his eyes had finally fallen shut. When he woke up three hours later, the imprint of his keyboard on his face and a few wet spots on the keys from drool- he grimaced. Three hours really wasn't enough sleep, but he doubted he'd be able to get any more than that.

He looked at his clock. 5 am. Well, he may as well get up and get started on his day. Standing, he quickly changed into clean clothes then tiptoed downstairs. The rest of his family seemed to still be asleep and he saw no reason to awaken them.

He carefully pushed his truck down the driveway until he was far enough away that they shouldn't notice him starting it up. Then, climbing into the cab, he turned the ignition, shifted into gear, and took off. He needed to hire some people to get him some files, if he didn't just go ahead and do it himself.

#####

Four days later, Angel sat at the breakfast table looking around at his family. For the fourth day in a row- Lindsey's chair was vacant. Angel frowned unhappily.

"Have any of you seen your brother recently?" He asked in concern.

"Nope. Sorry Pops." Faith smiled sadly. "He's been gone early everyday and doesn't get home until after we all go to bed." She shrugged. "Only reason I know he's even coming home is cuz I can hear him in his room when he returns."

Spike grimaced. "Same here. If I didn't know better, I'd think he was avoiding us. But he doesn't have any reason to do that Not that I know of anyway." He frowned, suddenly suspicious.

"I haven't seen him either- although he is supposed to sing at the bar tonight. So if he hasn't made his presence known by then- I'll try and catch him after his act." Lorne stated.

Illyria slanted her head in confusion. "I have seen him every day. Of course- I have seen him outside of the house, in various parts of town. Perhaps that is why you have not seen him. You have not left home in four days?"

Everyone stared at her blankly.

#####

Everyone had cleaned their dishes then disappeared into the various parts of the house as they usually did. Angel was helping Faith with her skills in one of the weapons. Spike had gone to watch one of his shows on the television and Lorne was preparing to head to his bar to make certain there weren't any problems that needed correcting before it opened that night.

Illyria stood in the hallway, uncertain as to what she would do. She hadn't lied. She had seen Lindsey every day that week. He'd been hunting for information of some sort and had gone to some questionable places to find it. She rather thought Angel would not approve if he knew of the places the younger man had been going. She rather thought Angel was a bit too over protective sometimes. Even so- she had noticed that Lindsey did not seem himself. He hadn't seemed himself since the night that they had rescued Angel.

Frowning, Illyria thought about what had happened. The younger man had killed two mortals. He'd said it was necessary- to prevent them from going after his family in revenge. She had agreed with him completely- his reasoning sound, and so she had agreed not to mention his deeds to anyone else. She had forgotten one important thing about these mortals she now shared existence with- and that was that they were plagued by an ailment called a conscience. She hadn't noticed that ailment in herself- not yet at any rate. She wondered if it was contagious and if so, was it possible for ancient goddesses to catch it?

Shaking her head, she refocused her thoughts. Lindsey was a mortal and he had a conscience. Was it possible that his actions- done to protect his family- were causing this conscience to plague him? And if that was the case, what could be done for the boy? He couldn't keep going as he was. Not if he planned to live for any length of time. Perhaps she should ask advice of Spike. He might know what to do.

Mind made up, Illyria went into the entertainment room and turned off the TV, standing in front of it.

"Hey! I was watching that!" Spike peered up at her, amused at her behavior. "What's gotten into you, my blue minx?" He grinned lecherously. "Feeling frisky?"

Illyria stared down her nose at him, raising a delicate eyebrow. "I did not come here to copulate. I have a question."

"Well, ok then." Spike straightened up and waited…and waited. Finally, a baffled look on his face, he asked. "What's your question, love?"

"I believe your brother is being plagued by an affliction that ails you mortals." She stated blandly.

Eyebrows knitting together in worry, Spike quickly stood up. "What? What did he catch? If he got some STD after all the talks I've given him- I mean yeah, I was teasing him- but they were still serious talks…" Spike muttered under his breath.

"You will stop talking now. You are annoying me." Illyria poked the blond vampire in the chest, an irritated look on her face. "I will explain."

Rubbing the spot she poked ruefully, Spike waited for her to do so.

"When we were in the house- something occurred for which your brother feels… guilt," Illyria shrugged. "I do not see why he should feel guilty. But he does. You need to fix him." Illyria smiled briefly, then turned and strode from the room, leaving a flummoxed Spike behind.

#####

Lindsey, unaware that his family had noticed his odd behavior or that he was being discussed so freely and often, was at yet another demon dive bar. He'd never met this particular contact before, but they had said they had information for him that would alter his world. Of course he had to get that information.

He'd parked his truck a few blocks away and walked to the joint. When he entered he made sure that his back was to a wall and he could see all the entrances. He grinned wolfishly. Some people would call him paranoid. They would be right- but it was something that had been beaten into him at a young age. He supposed he had one thing he could thank the sperm donor for; his sense of self preservation.

That was why, when his sister attempted to sneak up on him and grab hold of his arm, he was ready for her. "I'm not leaving Faith," he casually remarked as he caught her hand in a firm grip and pulled her around so that she could sit facing him.

"What are you doing here, Lindsey? You know Angel would have a fit!" Faith muttered under her breath, not wanting any of the other clientele to hear.

Lindsey just raised an eyebrow. "I could ask you the same thing. You do realize that with my abilities at full potential now, I am nearly as powerful as you? If Angel would object to my being here because of the danger- he'd object to you being here as well." He smirked when she pouted, realizing he was right.

"Oh. Yeah." Sighing she looked at her brother. "Why are you avoiding us?"

"I'm not avoiding you," Lindsey said gruffly. "I've just been doing a lot of research and …"

"….and you leave before we get up and don't come home till we're in bed and you don't eat with us or talk to us anymore. You're avoiding us!" Faith reiterated in frustration.

Lindsey grimaced, also becoming frustrated. "I'm sorry if I've hurt your feelings, little girl, but not everything revolves around you all. I've got things that need doing. You'll see me again when they're done."

Eyes flashing, Faith grabbed his arm squeezing it hard enough to bruise. "I don't know what your problem is Lindsey, but you need to get your head on straight before you ruin everything. You've got people who love you and who want to be there for you. You don't just push them away because you find it inconvenient to have someone care!" She snarled the last under her breath, then stood and quickly left the building- just barely keeping the tears from falling until she was outside.

Lindsey sat there for another five minutes, morosely watching the bar. His contact was no where in sight. Either he'd seen the slayer and been scared off- or he was a no show from the very beginning. Lindsey didn't really care though. He'd hurt his little sister. Just one more guilt to lie on his shoulders. Sighing, he stood up and left the bar himself.

#####

He'd actually gone home for lunch. He didn't want to admit it, but Faith's words had made him realize that he missed seeing his family. He just hoped there wouldn't be a whole lot of questions thrown at him because he really wasn't in the mood to be interviewed.

Ironically, there was no one else there when he walked into the kitchen. Lorne was at the bar, working. Faith was still out and about- probably nursing her hurt feelings he thought guiltily. Angel had apparently gone with Illyria to talk to some potential clients. Spike….

"Ah, the prodigal son returns!" a snide voice said from behind Lindsey's shoulder. He turned to face his older brother, the blond vampire giving him an unimpressed look.

"I'm not in the mood Spike," he mumbled before going to the cupboards and making himself a peanut butter sandwich.

Spike frowned, his eyes narrowing. "Well that's just too damn bad, because I AM in the mood, and since I don't trust you not to disappear for another four days, I feel like I better get this off my chest now before it is too bloody late to do so."

"Spike!" Lindsey huffed, and then slumped. "Ok. Fine. What do you want to tell me? That I'm a really bad boy for skipping out on the family meals? That I should leave later and come home earlier so that I can at least be seen? What? Just what have I done wrong now?"

Spike listened silently, noting the frustration and underlying guilt in his little brother's voice. "You weren't spanked, were you?"

Lindsey blinked at the non-sequitur. "What?" his blank look and confused tone caused Spike to smile for the first time since they'd started this conversation.

"I asked if you were spanked." Spike reiterated. "When we got home from rescuing Angel. Both Faith and I were disciplined for our lack of thought and self-preservation when we split up upon entering the house. You weren't, were you?"

"I don't see how that's any of your business." Lindsey huffed, not looking at his brother. It was one thing to know that he'd gotten away with something that his siblings had been punished for. It was another entirely to admit it to one of the siblings who hadn't gotten away with it.

Spike frowned. "Hey- I don't care if you didn't get spanked. That's between Da and you. What I care about is what you're doing because of it."

Lindsey wrinkled his nose in irritation. "And what exactly am I doing?"

"You're self-destructing. Even if you can't see it- you are. This is probably the first real meal you've had in several days. Isn't it?" Spike asked knowingly.

Lindsey frowned, looking at the sandwich in his hands. "I've eaten!" he protested, but not as vehemently as Spike had thought he would.

Spike snorted. "What? Chips, candy bars, and whatever else you could find in a vending machine?" He nodded when Lindsey blushed. "S'what I figured. You prolly aren't getting much sleep either. You get home what, 1am? And you're out the door again before 5am. And I can hear you tossing and turning for the four short hours you ARE in your room."

Lindsey's shoulders drooped and he ran a hand through his hair. "Spike, I…"

"No Lindsey. You don't get to pretend everything is ok. Because it's not. And it's guilt that's doing it to you. Even Illyria noticed it. Actually, she's the first one that noticed it and she brought it to my attention."

Lindsey blanched at those words. "Illyria? What did she say? Because…"

"Whoa, mate!" Spike held up a hand in a calming manner. "She didn't say anything other than something had happened back at the house and you felt guilty about it. I have no clue what actually happened- she left before I could ask and I doubt she would tell me anyway." Spike shrugged. "I'd be willing to listen if YOU wanted to tell me, but I think it'd do you the world of good to go talk to Angel first."

Lindsey shook his head, becoming irritated again. "There is nothing I need to tell ANYONE. I'm just busy doing research is all. If it will get you all off my back, I'll make sure you see me for a few seconds each day. Or would you rather I be under house arrest?" he asked snidely.

Narrowing his eyes, Spike clenched his hands. "No. I don't want you under house arrest. I want you to feel better. And the only way that's going to happen is if you clear the air with Angel. And so help me, if you DON'T go to him and fix things- and you keep acting like a stubborn little brat with no concern about how your actions are affecting yourself or your family, I might be tempted to turn you over MY knee." With those parting words, Spike whirled around and headed up to his room, afraid that he might just follow threat with action if he stayed in the kitchen.

Lindsey watched him leave, his mouth hanging open before he snapped it shut and muttered. "Everyone is complaining that I've been avoiding them- but they keep leaving me in dramatic exits. Not exactly fair…"

#####

Lindsey had intended to stay home the rest of the afternoon so that everyone could see that he truly was all right. He'd cleaned up his mess, gone upstairs and showered and dressed for work and then gone back down to the back porch, where he'd lain on the swing. He'd intended to read and wait for everyone else to get home, but the warm breeze, the gentle swaying of the swing, and his utter exhaustion lulled him to sleep. When he awoke, he had one hour before he was meant to be at work and on stage.

Sighing, he'd grabbed his guitar and other gear and quickly jumped back into his truck, heading to the bar. He'd been tempted to cancel his gig tonight. He knew that if his siblings were worried about his behavior and if Illyria had even noticed something was wrong- then Lorne would have noticed as well. And he'd be reading his aura as he sang. He couldn't really justify calling in sick though. It was his job, his responsibility, and if Lorne found out some things he'd rather Lorne not see. Well, he'd just have to deal with that when or if it occurred.

He'd arrived at the bar and stashed his belongings behind the bar with Albert. Albert smiled at him and Lindsey returned the smile before walking over to him. Albert was a good friend. On top of that, he didn't know anything about what had occurred the other night. Maybe now he could have a conversation that didn't involve questions or remarks about how he was doing. Lindsey's mouth dropped open at the first words out of Albert's mouth.

"You doing alright, Linds? You look- peaky." Albert wrinkled his nose in concern.

Lindsey frowned slightly. If even Albert thought he looked bad and that something was wrong- maybe he'd been too quick to dismiss his siblings concerns. "I…I've just had a lot to think about the last few days. I'll be ok."

Albert shrugged. "Ok. But if you ever need to talk, you know I'll listen." The bartender looked at Lindsey through lowered lashes, tossing out in an aside: "Lorne hasn't been looking all that lively either. Seems sad for some reason. If the thing that makes you look so unhappy and worn out is the same thing that's making him look unhappy and worried…can I give you a word of friendly advice? If I'm off mark, you can just ignore it completely…." Albert looked at Lindsey a question in his eyes.

Uncertainly Lindsey agreed, "Sure. What do you suggest?"

"If you're fighting with your family- well- make things right with them. As much as you like to pretend you don't need anyone- you know as well as I do that your family is the glue that holds you together. I don't want to lose my friend because he's too stubborn to go back home." Albert smiled again to take any sting out of his words, then turned and went to the other end of the bar to continue prep for the night and give Lindsey some privacy to think on what he said.

Sighing, Lindsey let his head fall onto his chest. He wished it were as easy as Albert made it sound. Shaking his head, he grabbed his guitar and headed up onto stage.

#####

"You're holding the rope and I'm taking the fall," Loser by 3 Doors Down

Lorne had watched his friend/pseudo-nephew walk into the bar from the relatively hidden seclusion of his personal table. The kid did not look good. It was obvious he was not sleeping. He wasn't certain if the boy was eating either- he might just be cleaning up his mess really well so that they wouldn't notice that he'd eaten, but Lorne suspected that he wasn't eating enough, even if he was eating. He'd been debating walking over to the younger man and asking him directly why he hadn't been home and to order him home tonight, but Albert began talking to him and after that there wasn't any time left. Sighing, Lorne settled back in his seat and resigned himself to finding out what was wrong with the child through watching him perform. Maybe it was better this way. Lindsey couldn't hide the truth in his aura and Lorne was getting really tired listening to the brat pretend nothing was wrong.

When Lindsey actually began his set, Lorne began to wish he and Angel had gone ahead and stepped in. Even if Lindsey wouldn't have been pleased with their actions and even if he wouldn't have made it easy on them- possibly even resenting them- it couldn't have resulted in any worse results than what he was seeing in the child's aura. It looked as bad as it had BEFORE Angel had taken him in. Hurriedly, he picked up his cell-phone and dialed.

"It's bad Angel." He skipped over any salutation and went straight to the heart of the problem.

"It's as bad as before he began living with you and you started caring for him. Guilt, depression, low self-worth…added into the mix is a healthy dose of fear and worry. Three guesses as to what he might be afraid of, though I still couldn't say why. Your boy needs you Angel. He might need me too, and I definitely plan to drag his butt home tonight whether he wants to come or not- but he needs YOU."

"Actually, that's not a bad plan. If you get here before his set is over, we can both corner him and bundle him home. How far away are you? Good- he's not due to finish for another 30 minutes, so you'll be here before he is done." Lorne disconnected the call and turned back to watching the younger man perform, wishing he could just turn off his ability for a short while. He felt like he was watching his friend bleed out on the floor and he couldn't do anything about it.

#####

'Dear Lorne,' Lindsey thought to himself wryly. 'Always thinking I can't see you back in your favorite booth and that I won't possibly know that you are calling Angel. He's probably decided to come here and wait for me to finish my performance, then both of you will gang up on me to take me home or find out what's wrong.'

Lindsey refocused on the audience in front of him. They all looked a bit depressed. Huh. Maybe he'd been singing too many sad songs. Better pick something upbeat and happy for the next one. Nodding to his band mates, he grinned at the audience. "Next song we'll perform for you is a classic…"

He was pleased to note the smiles forming when he began the song and motioned them to sing along when he reached the chorus. "Mama's… don't let your babies grow up to be…cowboys." There. There was no sense in having his roller-coaster emotions affect the paying customers.

He continued in that vein for several more songs- picking ones that the audience could participate with or that were just feel good songs. He noted Angel's arrival out of the corner of his eye and watched as he made his way to Lorne's table. He quickly looked away when the vampire glanced in his direction. He didn't want them to know he was onto them.

They were probably going to talk about him. He glanced over to the table again, noticing how Lorne and Angel had their heads close together in a deep conversation. They were DEFINITELY talking about him. Probably trying to figure out the best way to drag him home and get him to talk. The problem was, he COULDN'T talk.

If Angel and Lorne found out what he had done- they would never look at him the same way again. He didn't think he could bear to see the disappointment or censure on either of their faces. It would be even worse if he saw disgust or revulsion. And once they found out- he was positive that he'd be told to leave and not return. How could they want someone- who had killed in cold blood while possessing a conscience- to be around them?

He'd have to find a way to leave without them catching him. He'd have to cause a distraction or get someone to slow them down while he left. Mind made up, he started playing the last song of the evening.

#####

"How could I have let it get this far, Lorne?" Angel fretted, radiating guilt. "He's my son. I should have realized he was…I should have realized SOMETHING. If I'd confronted him the other night instead of letting him alone…if I'd waited for him in his room and made him talk…I should have done something…" The vampire whispered, the words choked with the pain he felt at what he considered a personal failure.

"You did what you felt to be the right thing. If you had confronted him or forced the issue, he wouldn't have admitted anything. The only thing you would have accomplished is pushing him away sooner. I'm certain of that. Whatever is tearing Lindsey apart is not your fault. He needs to remember that he trusts you and come to you on his own. We just need to help him remember why he trusts you." Lorne patted the vampire on the arm.

Straightening his shoulders, Angel nodded, resolved to doing whatever was necessary to save his son. "Thank you Lorne." The green man nodded at him, then looked toward the stage. Lindsey was finishing up the last song.

"Time for us to make our move, Big Guy," he muttered softly, then stood up and started walking toward the stage to head Lindsey off at the pass. Angel meanwhile was heading for the front door, in case Lindsey tried to duck past Lorne.

Neither one of them was certain what happened after that point. One minute everything was calm and collected and the next minute alarms were going off in the building and everyone was heading toward the exit in a panicked rush. By the time the bar was cleared, Lindsey was long gone.

Lorne sighed. "I've got to talk with the firemen and find out exactly what happened. You go home and see if Houdini makes an appearance."

Angel grimaced. "I'll have to put him in the corner while I calm down. Otherwise I'm liable to turn him over my knee immediately for that little stunt- I'm fairly certain he had something to do with it." The vampire shook his head at the chaos his son had caused then looked at Lorne. "I'm just afraid he won't come home…"

Lorne patted him on the back in sympathy. "If he doesn't come home then we go search for him and drag him home. This has gone on long enough." He gave the worried vampire one last smile before turning and walking to the Fire Chief.

Angel looked around one last time then rubbed at his eyes wearily and went to his car. He'd head home and wait. Lindsey better hope he didn't make them go looking for him.

#####

Lindsey drove around until he found a church with its doors still open. Pulling in to park and locking the cab door, he walked into the nearly deserted building and sat in the back pew. He wanted to go home so bad. Irritated at himself, he rubbed tears from his rapidly filling eyes. He COULDN'T go home and he'd just have to accept that. Going home meant telling what he did, and he couldn't face having Angel- the only real father he'd ever had- look at him with revulsion. He'd proven the man who carried his DNA right. He'd become little more than a thief and a thug- and while there had been a short period of time, all under Angel's care, where he had been GOOD- a hero possibly- it didn't change DNA. He'd turned out just like the scum who'd planted him in his mother's belly. And while it hurt desperately to remove himself from his family- and that's what they were, his chosen family- it was better to do that than to have them find out the truth and regret ever taking him in. Wasn't it?

He rubbed his eyes again, then his neck. The peanut butter sandwich he'd eaten earlier hadn't sustained him nearly as long as he had hoped. But he couldn't afford to look for a 24 hour diner. They were probably looking for him already. He wasn't even sure staying in this church was such a good idea. Angel knew of his penchant for going to churches when he needed a place to hide-out or think. It just felt…peaceful here. His emotions were churning so badly, he'd needed the peace and so he'd come despite the danger of being located and retrieved more quickly.

Slinking down into the pew, he closed his eyes, saying a quick prayer for some sort of direction.

#####

Angel had been pacing in the office for nearly an hour when Lorne finally returned. Spike, Faith, and Illyria were sat on the sofa, watchful.

Lorne sighed. "He didn't come home, then?"

"No." the word was terse and forced out of Angel's clenched teeth. He was so very worried, but righteous anger was slowly building. "How can the kid put us through this? After everything we've been through together, and everything I've done to prove my good intentions and the kid decides to run away because he doesn't want to admit he was wrong about something? It doesn't make sense!" Angel growled out in frustration.

Spike glanced at Illyria when he heard his grand-sire's words. Frowning, he motioned with his head, increasingly frustrated when she didn't seem to understand what he was trying to non-verbally tell her. Faith had finally had enough.

"Spike- unless you've developed a very bad nervous tic that causes you to jerk your head around, why don't you go ahead and tell us whatever it is that you want Illyria to tell us, huh?" the brunette slayer said shortly, not too happy with her missing brother and therefore lacking patience.

Huffing, Spike rolled his eyes but then turned toward Angel- who was now staring at him expectantly. "Apparently something occurred in the house after everyone left, but before Lindsey and Illyria came out. Illyria told him she wouldn't tell on him- that she'd leave it to him if he told or not. But she thinks that is what is causing all this problem. Cuz he feels guilty about whatever it is that the rest of us have no clue about."
Angel looked at Illyria, searchingly. She watched him back. Finally, she spoke.

"I told him I would not say anything as long as I did not feel it was necessary. I believed that he would tell you himself before things became this…bad. I seem to have been mistaken. " She glanced at Faith's snorted out "ya think?" then looked back at Angel.

"Before I tell you what occurred, I must ask a question." She waited until Angel nodded, then continued. "Did none of you wonder why the two who took you hostage did not attempt further revenge? You thwarted their plans and Lindsey stole information from them that would be very incriminating if given to the authorities. Why would they not come after you? It has been four days."

Angel frowned, looking at the other three in the room with them. Lorne had a thoughtful look on his face, while Faith looked confused. "I assumed they realized they had lost the element of surprise and decided revenge was no longer an option." The vampire said with a slight question to his tone.

"What they did to you…it took months of planning and a lot of resources. Would they quit so quickly after one failure? All the plans Lindsey took from them indicated they had many back up plans and contingencies if the first plan failed. Why would they not attempt one of those and strike when everyone was still unsettled from the first attack? Waiting only gives us time to prepare for future attacks and find more information to stop them." Illyria calmly said.

"If that's true, then Lindsey could be in danger right now!" Faith stood up.

Illyria glanced at the brunette slayer and raised an eyebrow. "Your brother was worried about a lot of things, but one thing he was not worried about was danger coming from the two that took you hostage." She shrugged.

"Is that because Lindsey tends not to worry about things that he should worry about, or because he KNEW there was no reason to worry?" Lorne asked quietly.

Angel closed his eyes then opened them again realization of what his son had done hitting him hard. "He killed them, didn't he?" it was more of a statement than a question.

Illyria nodded. "He knew that none of you- his family- would be safe as long as they were able to come back and attempt their revenge. He said he'd known them from when he worked with the Wolf, Ram, and Hart. They were pure evil and would not care how many innocents died in their attempts to get to you and him. So, he made sure they could not hurt those innocents and they could not hurt his family. I personally do not understand why he holds this guilt- he did what was necessary. Would he have felt less guilty if he'd killed them in combat?" Illyria looked at Spike and asked him curiously. Spike rubbed his nose and ignored her question.

"He's ashamed and feels like he doesn't deserve to be with us." Faith said softly.

"Then we're just going to have to prove him wrong." Angel responded forcefully. "Lorne, call Trish and Sally- tell them to keep an eye out for him. Also, call Linda and see if she can do that locator hocus-pocus she did last time…"

Lorne nodded and quickly started dialing. Spike had stood up by this time and taken Illyria's hand. Faith stood slightly in front of him. Angel nodded at them. "You three, take my car and start searching the south side. Lorne and I will go in his car and search North."

Angel watched as the three rapidly took off, then turned to wait for Lorne. When Lorne had made the final call, he nodded. "Let's go drag your boy home."

#####

Lindsey didn't know how long he'd been sitting here, pondering the downward spiral that was his life. It was a testament to how tired and out-of-control Lindsey felt that he never noticed the two slayers slip into the church and sit beside him. He didn't have a clue until Trish cleared her throat.

Jerking up in startled surprise, he looked at the girl and gave her an irritated glare. "A little warning would be nice!" he grumbled.

Trish grinned. "That's what the throat clearing was for."

Sally, who was on his other side, took his hand and tugged it onto her lap- ignoring his disgruntled objection. "Do you know how long we've been looking for you? At least 2 hours. And your family is frantic with worry. I think they believe you might throw yourself off a bridge or something." She said nonchalantly, although her eyes were watching him like a hawk.

Lindsey shrugged uncomfortably. "Yeah- well- I thought about it a couple of times, but figured with my luck I'd land wrong and end up being an even bigger burden to my father than I already am." He muttered then blinked- not having meant to reveal that much to the girls.

"Your father doesn't think of you as a burden." Sally shrugged then glanced at Trish. "He wouldn't be looking so hard for you if he thought that. He'd just let you go."

Lindsey smiled crookedly, his eyes tearing up again. "Maybe," he said softly.

"No maybe about it," Trish stated emphatically. "He's worried about you. Whatever it is you did, or think you did, or are hiding, or…whatever it is…he doesn't care. He just wants you back home. You're lucky." The girl sounded somewhat wistful and Lindsey looked at her wondering what her story was, but not really sure how to ask. Finally he just shrugged again.

"He doesn't know what I did," He stated.

"So you tell him what you did. What's the worse that could happen?" Sally asked curiously.

"He can be so disgusted by me that he never wants to see me again." Lindsey eyed her, irritation back in full swing.

"So?" the girl continued. "How's that much different from you being disgusted with yourself and not allowing him to ever see you again- other than your method being the more selfish of the two, I mean."

"More self….. How am I being more selfish?? I'm trying to protect him from finding out that his adopted son is someone he should be ashamed of and from having to be disappointed he ever took me in!" Lindsey spluttered.

"No you're not." Trish retorted calmly. "You're trying to avoid seeing his disappointment in you. You're trying to avoid having him tell you to leave- when you don't know for certain that he'll even ask such a thing and I DON'T think he will. You are trying to avoid seeing his reaction by not allowing him the option of having a reaction at all. Well no reaction beyond wondering for the rest of his undead life whatever happened to you and if he had done something differently would you have stayed and if you were alive and well or dead somewhere or…. Well you get the idea."

"Not knowing the truth is worse for him than knowing the truth….yeah. I get it, " Lindsey cursed soundly, blushing and apologizing when the church's minister peered around the corner and frowned. The two slayers giggled.

Lindsey sighed. "I've been real stupid, huh?"

Sally patted him on the knee and grinned. "I wasn't going to say that- but it works." Lindsey shot her a chagrined smile then shrugged. "I…I guess I'm heading home then."

Trish and Sally both nodded then gave him quick hugs. "If it helps, your father loves you and he isn't going to make you leave. I'm sure of that." Sally said softly before standing up.

Trish stood up as well. "You should probably call him and let him know you're coming back. They're out searching for you too and he'll want to get back to you as soon as possible." With that the two girls disappeared.

Swallowing hard and closing his eyes, Lindsey took out his cell phone and turned it back on- wincing at the amount of missed calls he had. Taking another deep breath before dialing his father, he listened to the ringtone, waiting for Angel to pick up.

#####

"I'm hard to love, hard to love,
I don't make it easy."
Hard to Love by Lee Brice


He held the phone tightly against his ear, while wrapping his arms around himself trying but unable to comfort himself. When his father finally answered, it caught him by surprise.

"LINDSEY? WHERE ARE YOU?!" his father demanded in stern, yet urgent tones. Lindsey's voice caught in his throat as tears began streaming from his eyes.

"Lindsey- please son. Where are you?" Angel's voice was softer this time- yet under the softness, Lindsey could still hear the urgency- the worry- in the man's voice.

Lindsey's voice quivered as he fought back tears. "A…Angel? Please…I want to come home." He choked out the words before starting to cry in earnest.

He was so upset, he barely noticed the minister taking the phone from his hands and giving Angel the directions to come get him.

#####

Angel was worried. They were running out of ideas of where to search and the longer his child was out there, unaccounted for, the less chance there would be of ever finding him again. He could only hope that Lindsey hadn't just decided to drive out of town.

"The sky's gonna open…People gonna pray and crawl…It's gonna rain down fire…It's gonna burn us all…"

Angel blinked in confusion as Lindsey's voice suddenly blared through the car.

"Really optimistic ring tone, you have there," Lorne glanced at the vampire.

"Faith's been playing with my phone again…" Angel muttered, as he attempted to get said phone out of his pocket before it stopped 'ringing'. When he saw the ID on the screen, he nearly crushed the tiny device in his attempt to get it to his ear quickly.

"LINDSEY? WHERE ARE YOU?!" he demanded urgently, his desire to bring his child home safe causing his voice to come out more sternly than he intended. He could hear the catch in the boy's throat through the phone.

"Lindsey- please son. Where are you?" he softened his voice carefully, not wanting to frighten the younger man away. He wasn't too proud to let his worry through in his voice though. The boy needed to know how much he meant.

His son finally answered, voice choked with tears. It hurt to hear the despair and the begging in his son's voice as he asked to come home. His child should never have to beg to return home- he should know that he was always welcome. Angel was starting to attempt to calm the younger man down so that he could get a location when another voice came on the line.

"Hello? Sir…the young man can't speak right now, but I can give you the address to come get him…."

A minute later, Angel had thanked the man and they were on their way to church.

#####

"One of these days we'll remember Lindsey's penchant for visiting churches when he's running away from home and just start our searches there." Lorne muttered as he pulled up behind Lindsey's old truck.

Chuckling softly, Angel nodded. "Lorne- will you call the others and let them know he's been found? Tell them to go to dinner and a movie. I want to deal with this before they get home- they can let their brother know how unhappy they are with him after I've taken him in hand."

Lorne nodded, smiling slightly. "Do you want me to make myself scarce as well?"

Angel shook his head. "No. I think you need to be there too. Lindsey never properly acknowledged your position in our 'family' and you being there will remind him that you hold authority in the household. Besides, I might need your help getting him to the point where he'll confess everything. He's had entirely too much time to dwell."

"Ok. Then I will call the others and then follow you home. I'm assuming you will drive his truck?" Lorne asked quietly.

"Yes." Angel opened the door and slid out before glancing back in at the green man. "Thanks Lorne."

"Hey, that's what brothers are for, right?" Lorne grinned then made a shooing motion with his hand. "Go get my nephew before he takes it into his addled head to think we aren't coming."

Smiling, Angel closed the door then strode into the church. The minister had been waiting by the door for him and led him into the sanctuary where he could see the bowed form of the young man he'd come to get. Nodding his thanks to the other man, Angel carefully walked over to his child and sat down beside him. He could hear the sniffling and the catches in breathing that indicated the younger man had been crying and might still be close to crying. Carefully, so as not to startle him, he put his arm around the younger man's shoulders and squeezed gently.

"Let's go home son," he said softly. He glanced over at the boy who had finally straightened up- but was leaning toward Angel instinctively- and gave him a crooked smile. The younger man's eyes were red rimmed and still very wet, tear tracks run down his cheeks.

"You're gonna spank me." Lindsey whispered, glancing away and unable to look him in the eye.

"Can you tell me you don't deserve to be?" Angel quietly asked.

"No." the ex-lawyer admitted hoarsely. "I deserve it." The younger man sniffed again before glancing up at Angel with a shamed look. "I broke all the rules…" he whispered.

Angel nodded, having expected as much. "You never do, do anything by halves." He smiled crookedly again. "Let's go home. We'll address your behavior there. Everything will be alright son."

"Will it?" Lindsey asked brokenly, still certain that once Angel knew the truth nothing would be alright.

"Yes." Angel stated emphatically, before standing up and holding out a hand. Lindsey only hesitated a second before placing his own hand in the vampire's and allowing himself to be pulled up and led out of the church like a child.

#####

The ride home was quiet, Lindsey staring at his hands or out the window while Angel drove. Every so often the kid would glance out the back window and see Lorne's car tailing them, but he didn't say anything. Angel allowed the quiet. It gave him time to formulate what questions he wanted to ask and decide how he should ask them. The following few hours were going to be far from pleasant- but he was determined that everything would be out in the open and on the table before they were through. He wasn't going to let any other 'secrets' fester and hurt Lindsey.

Lindsey couldn't stop thinking about everything that had occurred in the last week. It had started out so promising, only to take such a horrendously bad turn. He needed to admit to a lot of 'sins' that would gain him a heap of trouble. How did he admit to all of them without admitting the reason he did them though? He didn't want to tell Angel what he'd done. He'd accepted that running away wasn't the answer- but he still couldn't stand the thought of Angel knowing.

He glanced out the rear window again, seeing Lorne's car as it carefully followed behind. Lorne would be there as well- he'd expected as much. That was a whole other kettle of fish. He respected Lorne. He did. But he respected him as a friend- not as an authority figure. Yet Angel had made him second in command. That meant he WAS an authority figure. How did Lindsey work with that? How did he let them know how difficult it was for him to switch his thinking from 'Lorne- good buddy' to 'Lorne- man who can blister your butt if he thinks you need it?' Granted he'd already let Lorne use a ruler on him- but that was extenuating circumstances.

He shook his head ruefully and looked at his hands again. 'Deal with one thing at a time, McDonald,' he told himself irritably.

Lindsey swallowed, hard, when they finally pulled up to the mansion and into the garage. He noticed Angel putting the truck keys into his own pocket instead of giving them back to him. He wondered it Angel was afraid he'd run again. He blushed as he realized his behavior the last four days hadn't been the sort to instill confidence in him. "How much trust have I lost?" he whispered, chagrined that he'd even voiced the question.

Angel looked at him sympathetically. "It's not that bad, kiddo. I'm just taking temptation out of the way until you're better able to resist it."

The vampire smiled to take the sting out of his words, but it still hurt to hear. Of course, Lindsey had to reluctantly admit- Angel was right. At this point in time, if the truck was available for him to just take off- he wasn't sure he wouldn't yield to the temptation of doing so.

Sighing, Angel turned toward Lindsey and- taking the younger man's chin in his hand- forced the boy to look at him. "This is how it is going to work. You will go upstairs. Take a shower. Put on your pajamas. Then you will come downstairs to my office where we will discuss the last week. If you are upstairs for longer than 30 minutes, I will come looking for you. Understood?"

"Yes sir," Lindsey whispered, keeping his eyes on the vampire. When Angel nodded in satisfaction and let his chin go, Lindsey quickly got out of the truck and ran upstairs to do as bid.

#####

Lorne watched as Lindsey disappeared into the house before getting out of the car and walking over to Angel. "You going to be ok, big guy?" he asked his friend softly.

Angel snorted, "Define ok?" he shook his head. "I'm not looking forward to the next several hours, but it needs to be done. And I'm the one that needs to do it. So, yeah. I guess I'm OK. Just not overly happy right now." He sighed.

Lorne nodded. "You still want me there?"

Angel frowned thoughtfully. "Yeah- If you don't mind staying for the conversation. I think it might help if there are two of us that can ask questions and get him to where he'll admit to what was really bothering him. After he's admitted everything and it comes time for the actual punishment you can slip out. I think that will probably be best handled just me and Lindsey."

Lorne nodded. "I think I need to talk with him later- maybe tomorrow- about my position. He says he accepted it- but I'm not sure it really sunk in."

"You're probably right. But yeah- wait until tomorrow. It's a separate issue and it really needs to be one on one between you two." Angel smiled, then walked into the house and headed toward his office. Lorne followed behind, taking a seat on a recliner and leaving the couch for Angel and Lindsey.

"When the questioning part is over with, I'll go into the kitchen and make some dinner. See if I can't entice the whelp to eat." Lorne muttered.

Angel nodded, glancing over at Lorne as he took a seat on the couch. "Do that. He'll eat. I'll make certain of it- even if I have to spoon-feed him myself."

####

Lindsey had turned the water up as hot as he could stand it and stood under its spray, eyes closed, letting it wash away all traces of his crying like a baby. He had no doubt he'd be crying again before the night was through- he knew what he'd done wrong after all and Angel was nothing if not thorough in addressing his children's misbehavior. He wondered what it said about him that he was actually relieved and grateful that Angel was so consistent and that he WOULD get a blistered backside for his actions. Not wanting to think on that too hard, he poured shampoo into his hand and began to lather his hair.

He quickly rinsed, then turned off the water and stepped out of the shower. He would have liked to stand under the spray for a little longer, but he knew he couldn't put off the conversation and Angel had said he only had thirty minutes. He had five minutes of that time left. Rubbing a towel over himself briskly, he tugged on his sleep pants and a tank top. He then ran a comb through his still damp hair and tied it back with a blue ribbon he found lying in a nearby basket- only briefly wondering who it had originally belonged to.

Maybe it was time to get a haircut. He'd always worn his hair on the longish side- the girls he'd dated had always seemed to like his curls- but if it was long enough to tie back, maybe it was too long. And he was procrastinating again. He shrugged, then sighed and straightened his shoulders. It was time to face the music. He wondered how long he could hold out before Angel had wrung every bit of information and confession out of him. As much as he didn't want them to know what he'd done, he was beginning to suspect he wasn't going to be able to keep from telling them.

Taking several deep breaths to calm himself, he made his way downstairs.

#####

Angel looked up toward the door when Lindsey hesitantly stepped through and then stood in front of the door, hands clenched by his side as he fidgeted from one bare foot to the other. Angel smiled gently, beckoning the younger man to sit beside him on the couch. He looked so young- freshly scrubbed, no shoes, and squirming like a naughty schoolboy- Angel snorted softly. Lindsey slanted his head to the side, curious, but didn't ask. Instead he moved over to the couch and sat down on the cushion Angel had been patting.

"I don't have to tell you how disappointed I am that you chose to run away instead of talking through your problems with me, do I?" Angel began the conversation, his voice soft but stern.

Lindsey immediately wilted. If there was one thing he hated doing, it was disappointing those he cared about. "No sir, you don't." he whispered back, eyes turning downward.

"So can you explain to me, WHY, you felt the need to run away?" Angel asked, keeping his voice calm.

"I…" Lindsey swallowed uncertainly. "I was afraid."

Angel frowned. "Why would you be afraid of me? You know I'd never…" he tried to keep his voice calm, but hurt and confusion leaked through anyway.

Staring at Angel in consternation, Lindsey quickly elaborated. "No! No, I was never afraid of you! Never…." He swallowed again, then sighed as he admitted, "I was afraid you'd find out the truth."

Lorne chose that moment to interject. "And what was the truth, Lindsey?"

Lindsey glanced over at the green man and bit his lip. "The truth that I lied the other night…when you asked if I had known where the room was ahead of time and I said I didn't- I actually knew where everything was already. I didn't need to split up to figure it all out." Lindsey grimaced.

Lorne nodded glancing over at Angel.

Lindsey looked back to Angel as well, noting the stern and disappointed look on his face. He winced. "I hate when you look at me that way…" he whispered, earning himself a confused look from the vampire.

"What way?" Angel asked, eyebrows wrinkling together in question.

"Disappointed. In me." Lindsey looked down at his lap.

"Sorry sport- but I am disappointed. You know how I feel about you lying to me." Angel sighed.

Lindsey blinked but managed not to lose control of his still fragile emotions. "Yes sir."

Angel watched as the expressions crossed his sons face. Unfortunately for the boy, the questions would get a lot harder. He didn't' doubt the kid would be crying again before he'd finally confessed everything. He continued, "So you lied. Plus- you actually did put yourself into unnecessary danger because you didn't need to split off from your brother and sister." Lindsey nodded.

"Verbal answer please, Lindsey" Angel admonished.

Gulping, Lindsey obliged, "Yes sir."

Lorne stepped in again, "What did you do the four days you were avoiding everyone?"

Lindsey's eyes shot to Lorne and he bit his lip as he looked at the empath. "I…I…I was doing research. Trying to find out information about my brother that died years ago…." He tried to make his voice strong and not sound guilty. Of course he couldn't manage it.

One of Lorne's eyebrows climbed up to his hairline while the other eye narrowed. He stared at Lindsey, his look saying clearly- explain yourself. Swallowing again, Lindsey continued.

"I went to a few places to do research. Hired a few people I knew to get me information…stuff like that." Lorne continued to stare at him, a resolute look on his face. Lindsey winced then muttered under his breath.

"What was that?" Angel asked, his own eyebrows climbing into his hairline. Lindsey had the decency to blush before he repeated himself- naming at least five locations he'd gone alone that Angel would never have approved of. When Lindsey named 2 other locations that Angel KNEW he had forbidden any of them to go to alone, he had to stand up and take a few paces away from the boy before he acted out in anger.

Lindsey pulled his feet up onto the couch, wrapped his arms around his legs, and hid his face.

"Wow, kiddo. You really DON'T have any sense of self-preservation, do you?" Lorne muttered, astonished at the kids chutzpa- although he was more tempted to call it a lack of common sense.

"I…I don't know why I went to all those places. Seemed like a good idea at the time," Lindsey muttered.

"I suspect I know the reason, but let's continue instead." Angel had regained his calm manner and returned to sit by the younger man, reaching over and squeezing his shoulder.

"Have you been sleeping enough?" Angel got straight to the point. He knew the brat hadn't been sleeping well- he wasn't home long enough to get adequate sleep and the dark circles around his eyes indicated that he was worn out.

Frowning, but knowing he couldn't pretend otherwise, Lindsey admitted the truth. "No sir. I've been having a hard time sleeping."

"Why?" Angel asked for clarification.

Lindsey's answer was short but informative. "Nightmares," he whispered.

Lorne hummed to himself slightly, and then asked, "Have you been eating enough?"

Biting his lip, Lindsey hedged. "I've been eating…"

Lorne frowned, "but have you been eating healthy food? Have you been eating more than once a day?"

Lindsey grimaced and looked at his knees- his arms still wrapped around his legs. "No sir. I've been eating snack type stuff when I can get it- I've eaten a couple of peanut butter sandwiches when I'm home long enough to make them. But I haven't been eating the way I'm expected to eat." He sighed, letting his head fall forward onto his knees.

Angel sighed, clearly not happy with the younger man. Sadly he looked at Lindsey, eyes imploring him to be honest. "Lindsey, why? WHY did you think you had to avoid us? Yes, you lied- and you had earned yourself a spanking- but you know I would never harm you. Why would you feel you had to run away from your family, from ME?"

Lindsey faltered. He didn't want to admit what he'd done. He didn't want to see the look on Angel's face. Angel, realizing that he would need to prod the younger man just a little bit further to get him to admit the truth, decided to fight dirty. "Is it because I drank from you?" he asked softly, allowing his own guilt from having to do that seep through the question. Lorne shot him a strange look, but didn't say anything.

Lindsey looked startled, then horrified. "No! No of course not! I don't regret that at all! And I'm not scared you'd harm me, I'm not!" for the first time since picking him up at the church, Lindsey reached out towards Angel, putting his hand on the vampire's arm.

Angel looked at the younger man's hand and went in for the kill. "Then why would you want to leave us? Leave me? Nothing you did was so wrong you would need to leave, so it had to have been something I did." The vampire spoke softly, knowing he wasn't playing fair- but he couldn't play fair if he was going to save his son from himself.

Lindsey shivered. He was going to have to admit it. He was going to have to tell them because otherwise Angel would blame himself for the fact he'd decided to run away. The vampire had done so much for him. He couldn't let him blame himself…he just couldn't.

Taking a deep breath and closing his eyes tightly so he wouldn't have to see Angel's expression, he blurted it out. "I killed them! I broke both of their necks while they were still unconscious…" pulling his hand away from Angel's arm he wrapped his arms around his legs again and buried his face against them.

"Lindsey," Angel winced, glancing over at Lorne before turning back to the shivering man beside him. He put his hand on the younger man's back, rubbing in gentle circles.

"When do you want me to go?" Lindsey whispered in a broken voice.

"Why would we want you to go?" Lorne asked quietly.

"I'm a murderer…" Lindsey's breath hitched as he fought back despair, only just keeping from crying again.

"So am I," Angel answered calmly, startling the boy enough to make him look up at him. "Or did you forget the night I locked Darla and Drusilla into that conference room with a roomful of Wolfram and Harts very human lawyers?"

Lindsey swallowed hard, thinking about what had just been divulged.

"See, son. While the situation might not be ideal-- and if I had been able to spare you that choice so that you never had to feel the same guilt I've felt, I would have done so-- the fact that you made that choice doesn't make me care about you less. It doesn't make me disgusted with you or want you to leave. It makes me ache for you- that you have to go through this pain. It makes me want to be there for you to help you through it. The fact that you wanted to run away and wouldn't give me the chance to help you... that hurts." Angel gave Lindsey a crooked smile and squeezed his shoulder.

Lindsey looked into Angel's eyes, unable to see any deception. The vampire meant what he was saying. Sniffling, Lindsey gave a crooked smile back. "Sorry for being so stupid…." He muttered.

Reaching up and swatting the back of Lindsey's head gently, Angel admonished. "You're not stupid. You were just very confused for a while. Any confusion left?" he asked carefully, watching the younger man's face.

"No. I think I understand." Lindsey smiled more brightly this time, the look of relief on his face letting the vampire know they had finally broken through to the boy.

"Good," Angel smiled again, and then schooled his features into a stern look. "Now we just need to deal with your actions…."

#####

"There's things I've done I can't erase
Every night we fall from grace"
Keep the Faith by Bon Jovi

Standing up and walking over to Lindsey, Lorne reached over and patted him on the shoulder. "I'm going to go make something for you to eat." He spoke softly, and then walked out of the office, closing the door with a firm click.

Lindsey swallowed hard and looked at Angel forlornly; part of him wanted to beg his mentor to just let things go this once- the other part knew he deserved what was coming. Angel looked back sternly. When he noticed his son begin to fidget slightly, he began.

"Tell me one of the rules you broke Lindsey, and tell me how you broke it." The vampire kept his tone even and stern.

Lindsey closed his eyes briefly. Deciding to get the one that started the whole mess out of the way, he straightened his shoulders and looked at Angel, keeping his own voice as firm as he could manage.

"I hid something from you. It kept you from being able to help me and...I ended up breaking all the other rules trying to keep you from finding out about it." His voice wobbled at the end, despite himself and he had to look away from Angel, still finding it hard to believe the vampire didn't despise him for what he'd done.

Sighing, Angel took Lindsey's chin in his hand and made the younger man look at him again. "Yes- you hid something from me. However---your intention wasn't to hide it so that you could do something else you knew I wouldn't approve of, and it wasn't to prevent me from punishing you. It was because you were afraid of being sent away. I'm not going to punish you for this rule....this time."

Lindsey nodded as much as he was able with Angel still holding his chin, but Angel could see the relief and gratitude in his eyes. Smiling slightly, Angel continued. "If you ever hide something from me again that affects your physical health, your emotional health, or causes you to be in danger- I will enforce this rule. Understood?"

"Yes sir," Lindsey blushed when Angel still didn't release his chin. The vampire was going to make him look him in the eye for every word, it seemed.

"What other rule did you break?" Angel continued, his voice and look still stern. Lindsey found himself squirming, feeling more and more like a child.

"I didn't take care of my health." He said hoarsely. "I wasn't able to sleep and didn't get help for that and I didn't take time to eat the right way."

Angel nodded. "You're on medical grounding for 1 month." Lindsey winced at the time frame. "You will be in bed no later than 10:00 and will get up no earlier than 7:00am- unless given prior permission by me or Lorne. You will also eat three meals a day- in either my presence or Lorne's. Do you have any wounds I should be aware of?" He eyed the younger man closely.

"I...I don't think so." Lindsey muttered.

"Then that should be enough for breaking that rule." Angel smiled quickly before allowing the stern look to return once more. He still hadn't released Lindsey's chin. "What other rule did you break?"

Lindsey winced. "I lied to you. When you asked if it was really necessary for us to split up at the house, I insisted it was and then lied to you about what I knew of the house so that you'd believe me." He closed his eyes tightly knowing how Angel felt about lying and not wanting to see the disappointment again.

"Look at me Lindsey." Angel commanded firmly, squeezing his chin gently until the boy obeyed. When the boy opened his eyes, he could see the disappointment and hurt in his mentor's eyes, but he could also see love and concern.

The younger man swallowed hard, feeling his eyes well up again. "I'm sorry..." he choked out.

"So am I, son." Angel gave his chin one more gentle squeeze. "Lying to me has earned you a mouthful of soap. I'll take you into the kitchen, I'll put the soap in your mouth, and you will stand there until I allow you to rinse."

"Yes sir," Lindsey said softly, having expected something like that.

"Did you break any other rules?" Angel raised an eyebrow already knowing the answer. Lindsey sighed forlornly.

"I broke two rules," he muttered. "I broke the rule about obeying you- because I deliberately went by myself, to two places you've forbidden us to go alone. I also endangered my life, because the places I went aren't safe- even with two people- and I went by myself. Plus...I split up from Faith and Spike when we went to rescue you."

He winced, as Angel's grip tightened slightly, not because it hurt but because his mentor had finally indicated just how upset he really was about the situation. Angel had kept his voice and face so calm, stern, and patient- Lindsey had wondered if he was upset at all. Now he knew. The vampire was upset.

"And for breaking those two rules you have earned yourself a grounding and a spanking. You will be grounded for 2 months. During that time, your bedtime will be 10:00 unless told otherwise by Lorne or myself. You will not be allowed to go anywhere except work. While at home, you are not allowed television, phone, or any other privileges unless given prior approval by Lorne or myself. You will be on a very short leash, little boy." Angel narrowed his eyes, watching and waiting for his son's reaction.

Lindsey wilted, but knowing he had brought it on himself nodded his head in agreement. It could have been worse. Angel could have decided to enforce rule number five. Angel finally let go of his chin.

Looking down for a few short seconds, he forced himself to look up again, a chagrined look on his face. "I was in this same position almost exactly a year ago. Why is it I always do what I know will get me into the worst amount of trouble?" he muttered under his breath, not really expecting an answer.

"Because you're insecure." Angel shrugged, a knowing look in his eyes as he watched the younger man. He smiled at the perturbed expression that flashed on the boys face. "There is still a small part of you that thinks if you do something bad enough, I'll wash my hands of you and send you away. One of these days, you'll believe me when I tell you that's not possible," the vampire finished quietly.

Looking abashed, Lindsey opened his mouth as if to argue, but then slumped, staring at his feet. "I'm sorry."

Angel shrugged. "Nothing to be sorry about. I understand it. You've got a lifetime of issues that cause that insecurity- I never expected everything to be perfect over night. Not saying it doesn't hurt..." Lindsey looked up at him again. Angel continued, "but I understand it and as long as you keep coming back to me and we work through things as they occur- I can handle it." He reached over squeezing the younger man's shoulder. "Let's get this over with, son."

Taking a deep breath and letting it out in a soft sigh, Lindsey stood to his feet and waited for his father's directions.

#####

Gently Angel took Lindsey's arm and led him into the kitchen, where he picked up the bottle of organic non-toxic liquid soap he had bought three days before. Lindsey looked at it askance-knowing Angel had bought the soap just for this purpose-and then looked at Angel uncertainly. Angel shrugged, "You think I'm not able to tell when you are lying to me? I knew the minute the words were out of your mouth, sport. I was just waiting for you to fess up." Angel smiled slightly and beckoned the boy closer. "Open your mouth, stick out your tongue, go aaah."

Pouting slightly and giving Angel an irritated look at the gentle teasing, Lindsey obeyed. When the vampire pumped two squirts of the liquid onto his tongue, he screwed his eyes up in revulsion, not wanting to bring his tongue back into his mouth.

"Tongue back in your mouth and close it." Angel ordered, the younger man's antics making it impossible for him to keep the amusement out of his voice. Lindsey obeyed, giving him a sour expression.

Lindsey was miserable. The soap had quickly filled every crevice on his tongue and in his mouth. He would swear that it had gotten into the spaces between his teeth and was seeping its way back toward his tonsils. He wanted to swallow so badly- and was just as positive that swallowing was the LAST thing he wanted to do. He shifted from one foot to the other in an effort to take his mind off the foul concoction in his mouth, but it wasn't working very well.

"Stand still and stop fidgeting," Angel had to order seconds later.

He gave his mentor a pleading look, but all Angel did was raise an eyebrow and give him another stern look. Lorne meanwhile was quickly leaving the room, but Lindsey could swear his shoulders were shaking. He pouted even more.

"You know you deserve this." Angel calmly remarked. Lindsey slumped again. Yeah- he knew it. Just because he knew it, didn't mean he had to like it though. He kept quiet, not wanting to hear Angel say that was the point; not that he could really voice his thoughts while trying to avoid having suds dribble down his chin or slide down his throat.

Finally, what seemed like an hour to Lindsey- but was actually only two minutes- Angel motioned him to go to the sink and rinse his mouth out. Unlike bar soap, the liquid soap was more insidious. When Angel finally stopped him, indicating that he had rinsed enough, there was still flavor and textural residue left. Slowly, Lindsey rolled his tongue around before opening his mouth slightly and blowing out- sending a couple of bubbles floating out into the air.

Angel smirked as he watched the brat. "Really, Lindsey?" he shook his head at his son-who had the decency to blush- then gently took him by the arm again and lead him back into the office.

#####

Tugging Lindsey back into the room, Angel turned and closed the door with a firm click, then walked to the couch and sat down so that he was closer to the edge than normal and at an angle. He then motioned to Lindsey to come stand at his side.

Lindsey couldn't help himself. He froze. It wasn't that he was afraid; he knew Angel would never truly harm him, but he also knew that he had put his father through an enormous amount of worry and pain with his actions. He knew this would likely be one of the worst spankings he had ever received from Angel and he wasn't looking forward to it.

He jumped, startled when Angels firm, "Lindsey!" broke through his musings. The look in Angel's eyes sent a clear message- don't make me come get you. Swallowing hard, the younger man quickly walked to the vampire's side and without being told lowered his sleep pants before lying across his mentor's lap.

"Good boy," Angel said softly, patting Lindsey on the shoulder before wrapping an arm around the kid's waist and tugging him closer while letting the boy's chest rest on the couch.

Lindsey clenched his fists, then crossed his arms and buried his face into his forearms, tensing up in anticipation of the first blow.

Placing one hand on his son's back, Angel raised his other hand up and then let it fall again with a harsh smack, raising it again and lowering it again in rapid succession. He didn't give the younger man any time to prepare and he didn't follow a pattern, although he made certain that the bottom in front of him became the same shade of pink before starting a new round of admonishment.

Lindsey let out one surprised yelp, when the first smack landed, but biting his lower lip he managed to avoid yelping on the following smacks. He hadn't been wrong. Angel wasn't holding back- each blow to Lindsey's bottom ignited a flame that did not go out. By the time Angel had covered every inch of the younger man's backside and upper thighs, Lindsey was hard pressed not to squirm- only Angel's hand on his back giving him the strength to hold himself still. When Angel began striking already pink skin, Lindsey moaned softly then began to whimper with each smack received.

Finally hearing a response from his son, Angel began to speak, allowing harsh smacks to punctuate his words. "Some danger, you can not avoid. Putting yourself into danger that CAN be avoided will never be tolerated by me. No matter WHAT reason you do it. Splitting up from your siblings when coming to rescue me was unnecessary. Do you think I would be grateful to be saved if one of you had died?" Lindsey's soft whimpers grew louder.

"And then to DELIBERATELY go to locations that you KNEW I would not approve of, that you KNEW I had forbidden- places that were forbidden BECAUSE of how dangerous they were.... because you didn't want to face me? THAT IS UNNACCEPTABLE!" Angel let some of his frustration at the situation through in his voice, still keeping the smacks quick and even. The kid's backside was fire-engine red and hot to touch.

Angel listened for the response he wanted, hoping that Lindsey wasn't going to attempt to be 'brave'. He couldn't in good conscience go on much longer- the idea was to correct the misbehavior, not abuse the boy. Lifting one leg slightly, he began to pepper the as yet untouched crease between bottom and thigh.

Lindsey had thought he'd be able to hold out, but when Angel started lighting his sit-spots on fire he couldn't hold on any longer. Stretching out and kicking his legs in an effort to ease the unending sting, he finally went limp across his father's lap, sobbing out apologies and promises to be good.

Angel immediately stopped the spanking, rubbing the boy's neck gently. He couldn't help but smile at the words Lindsey was crying out- sounding so young and repentant. Hopefully, this would remind the young man not to put himself so needlessly into danger. When his son's sobbing had quieted down to gentle crying, Angel carefully pulled the boys pants back up.

Lindsey couldn't help but hiss as the thin cotton material covered his aching butt. When Angel helped him to his feet, he couldn't look the man in the eye. He was too ashamed. Ashamed at the behavior that had made Angel feel it necessary to put him over his knee- yet again- and ashamed that he was crying like a baby.

Angel would have none of that, putting a finger under Lindsey's chin and lifting his face up so that he could look into the boy's eyes. "You've been punished. You're forgiven. You have a clean slate, son. You don't need to be ashamed. You just need to remember so that this doesn't occur again."

"Yes sir," Lindsey choked out, still crying softly. Without being asked he threw his arms around the vampire's waist and buried his face against Angel's chest. Angel was quick to wrap his own arms around the boy and pull him tighter to him.

Lindsey's grip was tight- almost frightened- and Angel wished yet again that he could get his hands on the person who had caused such insecurity in the younger man. Lindsey, encouraged when Angel tightened his arms around him instead of pushing him away, slowly relaxed- feeling more safe and secure in his father's arms than he had felt all week. They stood like that for 10 minutes before Lindsey was able to calm down enough to stop crying and step away.

#####

When Lindsey stepped away, Angel reached up rubbing some of the tears from his face with a gentle swipe of his thumb. "Come on child. Let's get some food into you and then I think you need to sleep."

Lindsey felt completely wrung out, both physically and emotionally. He could do no more than nod in acceptance of his father's words and follow him out of the office and back into the kitchen.

Lorne looked up from where he had prepared some vegetable soup and sandwiches, smiling in sympathy at his young friend. "I've got your dinner here, Sunshine," the green man said softly, brining the food to the table and putting it down at Lindsey's spot.

Lindsey blushed when he noted the pillow placed there for him, but smiled gratefully as he sat down. "Thank you, Lorne," he said hoarsely, his voice wearing out from all the crying he had done that night. He slowly put a spoonful of the soup into his mouth, at first not thinking he was very hungry and that he would just have to humor the two men who watched him closely; but as soon as the first swallow touched his stomach, he realized how hungry he really was. The food was polished off within minutes. Both Lorne and Angel gave him pleased nods.

"Ok. Bedtime, sport." Angel's voice left no room for argument. Not that Lindsey was inclined to argue. He fought off a yawn, nodding at the older man.

"Night Lorne," he muttered, smiling as the man gave him a pat on the shoulder as he passed by.

He didn't argue when Angel took his arm and led him upstairs and into his room. He gave a chagrined smile as the vampire pulled the sheets down for him and motioned for him to get into bed, but he had reached his quota of being embarrassed it seemed. Being tucked in like a child was mild when compared to being bared over his guardian's lap, receiving a spanking. Not fighting the yawn this time, he quickly crawled into the bed on his stomach, and snuggled down when Angel tucked the sheets and comforter up around his shoulders.

The vampire stood by his bed for a few moments, placing his hand on top of the younger man's head. "If you have nightmares, I want you to come get me," he said softly.

"Yessir," Lindsey drawled in a sleepy mumble, eyes already closed.

Angel smiled down at his tired charge before quietly leaving the room and shutting the door. He then went downstairs to talk to Lorne and wait for his other children to return home.

#####



"I'm going to the place where love
And feeling good don't ever cost a thing."
Home by Daughtry


Lorne and Angel were sitting in the kitchen thirty minutes later when Spike, Faith, and Illyria walked in. The trio quickly walked to the table and sat down with the 'heads' of their family. Faith was the first to speak. "Is he ok?"

Angel smiled gently at her. "We've got him back. I think he believes that we still want him around; but don't be surprised if he has moments of uncertainty." The vampire shrugged, his look sad.

Spike frowned. "The uncertainty isn't because of anything we're doing?"

Angel shook his head. "No. It's... not us. If I could get my hands on the culprit...." Everyone winced at the tone in the man's voice. Whoever had caused that tone better hope the vampire never did get his hands on them.

Spike glanced at the empty chair next to his, seeing the pillow there, and smirked. "Do I have to play nice with the brat?"

Angel eyed his grand-childe with a mix of irritation and amusement. "I won't dictate how you play- but if you play mean and he finds a way to retaliate, don't expect me to intervene," he smirked.

Lorne stood up and walked behind the blonde, smacking him on the back of the head. Ignoring the surprised 'Hey!' he kept walking. "I'm going to bed. Too many late nights and angst ridden days." He muttered before disappearing from sight.

Illyria stood and walking around the table and grabbing Spike in a grip that the vampire was hard pressed to loosen, began to head upstairs as well. "We will see you in the morning Angel," she said flatly, Spike sputtering behind her and only managing to wave before they were gone.

Faith looked at her hands, before hesitantly looking back up at Angel. "You know he ain't gonna 'just get over it' cuz you tanned his butt and then snuggled him after. The stuff he's fighting inside..." she spoke softly, uncertain as to how Angel would take her observations.

Angel nodded at her sadly. "I know. It's an ongoing process. I can't very well expect him to heal overnight when I'm still dealing with things from a century ago. And I know damn well, you're still dealing with things from when you were a kid. It's one step at a time. For all of us." He smiled again, and then motioned with his hand for her to go upstairs. "Time for all of us to be in bed I think."

"Yeah," Faith smiled. "Good night Pops!" She said impishly then silently ran upstairs.

Angel shook his head in amusement and followed, going into his own room. He made certain to leave the door open a crack- just in case.

#####

The younger man whimpered, his heartbeat rising and breathing becoming erratic before he finally rolled over onto his back and awoke with a startled hiss. It took a minute for Lindsey to realize he was in his room at home and that he was safe. Wincing slightly, he sat up in bed and looked at the clock. He'd been asleep a little over an hour- but not much over an hour. Sighing softly, he got out of bed and went into the bathroom.

Standing in front of the sink, he turned on the cold tap and cupped his hands under the luke-warm water before brining it up to his mouth for a drink. Once his mouth was no longer dry, he splashed his face before turning off the tap and grabbing a nearby hand-towel to dry himself off, rubbing the sweat off his neck as well. He was so tired- but he knew he wasn't going to be able to go back to sleep. Not after the dream he'd just had.

Stiffly he walked back towards his room, making a mental not to see about getting some aloe-gel. His backside felt like he'd been sunburned. It didn't hurt exactly, but it certainly wasn't comfortable. He was almost to his room when he noticed Angel's door was open. He hesitated briefly, uncertain. He didn't really want to go back into his own room, but wasn't he too old to be running for comfort after a nightmare? Then again, Angel had said to let him know if he'd had nightmares. It was a direct order! So...Lindsey didn't need to feel embarrassed about going to him with a nightmare. He was just obeying his mentor, as was expected.

Quickly, Lindsey went back to his own room and grabbed his pillow and a blanket. Then he went back to Angel's room, quietly slipping in and carefully closing the door with a tiny click.

Not wanting to wake his father, and feeling embarrassed about his neediness- despite the fact he was doing as told- Lindsey crept to the side of Angel's bed and began to lower himself to the floor, intending to sleep there.

"Not the floor, son. Beside me." The words were soft, the caring and concern as clear as the command they communicated.

Lindsey jerked up at the order, not realizing Angel was awake. Blushing darkly, he hadn't meant to waken the man, he swallowed uncertainly. "But…"

"Not the floor, Lindsey. Get in beside me." At those words, Angel had quickly scooted over, leaving just enough room for the younger man. Lindsey couldn't argue. Quickly, he'd crawled under the covers next to his father, feeling his nerves relax with the action. Maybe he would be able to sleep again after all.

Suddenly, Lindsey felt everything shifting. When his world had stilled once again, he found himself pulled close to his father's side, the vampire's arm wrapped firmly around him and his own head on the vampire's chest. Angel was gently carding his fingers through his hair in a manner meant to relax him. Lindsey had to admit it was working, His eyes began drifting closed within seconds and he wasn't able to focus on anything.

He felt so safe, and…loved? Was this what it felt like to have a parent's love? It had been such a long time. The urge to say something wouldn't let him alone. Giving in to the urge, he whispered so softly, it was almost as if he wasn't speaking at all. "I…I love you Daddy…."

He knew Angel had heard him when the vampire's arms tightened around him and the man kissed the top of his head. He was almost asleep when he heard Angel's "…love you too, sport."

#####

Angel stayed in bed, well past the time he would have normally gotten up. The young man in his arms had slept soundly through the night- Angel suspected it had been the first time in many nights that the boy had gotten any real sleep. The vampire didn't want to disturb the child, and there weren't any pressing matters that he needed to take care of- so he'd stayed in place, waiting for Lindsey to wake up on his own.

When Lindsey finally opened his eyes- blinking in confusion and then blushing when he remembered crawling into his father's arms to sleep- the younger man looked up at the vampire uncertainly.

"Good morning, Sport." Angel smiled. "Why don't you go take a quick shower? I'll grab you a pair of sweats and some aloe for your bottom," He grinned as Lindsey's blush darkened.

"Yessir," the youngster drawled, quickly crawling out of the bed and heading into the bath to do as bid.

Angel shook his head slightly at his child's bashfulness, but didn't say anything. He quickly found the softest pair of sweatpants that he could, along with a t-shirt and other items, before taking them and the aloe into the bathroom and placing them on the counter. He spoke over the shower running, "I'm going to go jump in the shower myself. Everything you need is on the counter. Try to be downstairs for breakfast in the next 20 minutes."

"Ok!" Lindsey answered.

Angel quickly disappeared, locking and closing the door behind him.

#####

Lindsey had finished his shower in five minutes, but spent the next fifteen minutes he was given making sure that he was dry and then putting aloe gel on the still pink skin of his butt. He hadn't been wrong- it really was as if he'd gotten sunburned. He didn't notice any bruising either- not that he was surprised at that. He knew Angel would never deliberately harm him. The aloe was providing some relief from the discomfort- and Lindsey was grateful the vampire had allowed it. He didn't question the vampire's mercy- his emotions were in enough upheaval at the moment. That was one thing too many to focus on.

Quickly, the younger man pulled on his clothing and then stepped out of the bathroom. Taking his dirty clothing back into his room, he put everything away then- still barefoot- head downstairs to the kitchen.

#####

Angel had showered, dressed, and headed downstairs within 10 minutes. When he'd walked into the kitchen he noticed that all the rest of the household was sitting around the table, reading various sections of the newspaper. In the kitchen, everything was prepped and ready to go. The only thing left to do was actually cook the items.

Lorne got up from the table and followed him. "We didn't want to eat without you both, so we got everything as ready as possible and then waited." The green man shrugged slightly, but smiled brightly at Angel.

Angel smiled back. "Thanks. I appreciate it." Without another word he and Lorne began frying up the eggs, bacon, and pancakes. Faith came in a few minutes later and began readying glasses of juice and started a fresh pot of coffee.

When Lindsey walked into the kitchen 10 minutes later, most of the food was ready. He blinked as he noted that EVERYONE in the household had waited for him. Glancing around the table, he smiled hesitantly.

"Glad to see you finally took our advice," Spike threw out casually while Faith grinned.

"Advice?...um…yeah. I didn't really have much choice once Angel got hold of me….but you were right. I shoulda gone to him a lot sooner…" the ex-lawyer muttered softly, remembering the fights he'd gotten into with his siblings and feeling ashamed and embarrassed. Forcing himself to look up at the blond vampire and the brunette slayer, he bit his lip. "I…I'm sorry. I was a real jerk. I…." he swallowed, not sure what else to say.

"S'ok, bro. I know sometimes things get out of control and it's easy to lash out…" Faith shrugged slightly, and then grinned at him before going to help put platters of food on the table.

Spike sat silently, watching his younger brother for a few moments- his stare stern and unyielding. Lindsey began to fidget, chagrined and a bit worried at the blonde's lack of response. Finally Spike smiled. "No problem, mate. Just don't forget what I told you that day. Cuz I won't hesitate to do it, if you ever decide to bury your head in the sand and avoid your family again." The youngest vampire promised, before drinking from his mug.

Angel raised an eyebrow in question- he'd walked in with the remainder of the food just in time to hear Spike's comment- but he didn't ask. It was between his two sons. If either of them wanted him to know what Spike had promised to do, then they would let him know. He somehow suspected he already knew anyway- if Lindsey's blush was anything to go by.

Lindsey watched the rest of his family eat, a feeling of contentment and belonging filling him. He didn't know if things were back to 'normal' or not. He wasn't entirely certain he could do normal- if such a thing even existed. But his father had forgiven him. His siblings had forgiven him. His…uncle?...had forgiven him. Things were as normal for him as they were possible to be. Relaxing, he noticed Illyria watching him closely. He took a bite of food and nodded at her with a small smile. She smiled back, and went back to eating her own meal- satisfied that he was eating.

#####

The meal had been eaten and the kitchen cleaned. When Spike, Illyria, and Faith had indicated that they were going to go to an early showing of a movie they'd all wanted to see- Lindsey had blushed faintly, then awkwardly informed them that he couldn't go. When they had indicated that they would stay home with him, he'd quickly vetoed the idea- telling them to go have fun and let him know if it was worth watching. He could always get it on DVD later, after all. And there was no reason they should be punished for his idiotic behavior.

He'd stood at the window in Angel's office, watching as the car pulled down the driveway, a pensive look on his face. When the care was no longer in view, he turned toward his father and Lorne who were both stood just inside the door of the office and watching him closely. He smiled hesitantly then went to sit on the couch, only wincing slightly- the unbearably harsh sting of the night before and the uncomfortable sting of the morning already fading to barely noticeable discomfort.

"Did I say thank you yet?" he grinned at the looks of confusion that crossed both of their faces.

"For?" Lorne asked curiously.

"For coming to get me. For not letting me run away. For making me talk. For not letting me get away with bullshit…take your pick. I owe you both a lot." Lindsey shrugged slightly.

"Haven't we already been through this before?" Angel asked in barely concealed amusement. "I will always come get you. I will never let you run away. I will not let you hide things if they are hurting you. And if you pull bullshit moves, you can guarantee that you'll get the consequences. There's no need to thank me for it. I consider it my job. Father's are supposed to take care of their kids."

Lorne smiled as well. "I know you don't view me as an authority figure, Lindsey, but I care about you a great deal and I'll do whatever it takes to keep you safe and happy." The green man admonished.

Lindsey gave Lorne an abashed look. "Lorne, I….I'm sorry I didn't show you the respect you deserved the other night. I…" he faltered slightly, trying to find the right words to express himself- something he never used to have a problem doing when a lawyer. Of course he never allowed his feelings to get in the way when he was working as a lawyer.

Closing his eyes tightly, then opening them again- he looked into Lorne's face. "Even if I didn't agree with you, you deserved to be heard out without undue dismissal from me. T was unfair. It was wrong. I'm sorry. " He looked sheepishly at the vampire and demon.

At Lorne's nod of acceptance, Lindsey swallowed and continued. "You DO have authority over me. I know that. And while I can't promise things will always go smoothly, I'll do my best to respect that. You haven't been 'just my friend' for a while now. I'm trying to remember that even in families there is a hierarchy. You aren't an outsider you're a part of the family too. And you're a higher rank than me- so… I'll do my best to pay attention next time. " Lindsey smiled crookedly at the two men before slumping back into the sofa, dejected.

Lorne sat on one side of the kid while Angel sat on the other. When Lindsey looked up in curiosity, Lorne spoke softly yet firmly. "I accept your apology. I don't hold it against you that you didn't give me the authority before. You're a proud young man who has difficulty giving control to anyone else. But now you know what my position in this family is- and I won't accept behavior like that from you in the future. And if you break any rules while under my care, you will get the same consequences as you'd get from Angel. Is that clear?"

Lindsey looked at him with wide-eyes then nodded quickly. "Crystal," the younger boy whispered.

#####

Lorne eyed Lindsey sternly for a few more moments before smiling brightly at him. "Good. Ok, Sunshine. Tell us what you were researching that had you going all over the place and hiring nefarious characters to get information!"

"Looorne!" Lindsey blushed, and then looked at Angel who had a smirk on his face and was nodding at Lorne's question.

"I was trying to get information on my twin brother. He…he died right before I joined Wolfram and Hart. Actually, his death was the catalyst for me deciding to join them. Before then I had told them I wasn't interested. I knew my brother wouldn't have approved of them, because they were all about helping those who were guilty as hell while hurting the innocents. At the time I didn't approve of them either. But when he died…" Lindsey shrugged slightly.

"What happened to him?" Angel asked softly.
"It was an accident. He was in the military. It was so bad they couldn't send a body home for a funeral." Lindsey winced, but continued. "Wolfram and Hart brought me 'information' that indicated it had been done deliberately- and told me they would help me get revenge on those responsible- but it would be easier to do if I was an employee." The look Lindsey gave the two men was heartbreaking.

"I was in a bad place- my brother was the only family I had left in the world. He was my anchor. Without him.... Looking back now I can see how suspicious everything was. They played me like a fiddle. Luckily I had retained enough of my senses that I refused to sign any contract that had that damned perpetuity clause in it. When they complained I said that I wanted to be able to join my brother eventually and I couldn't do that if I was working for them forever. Amazingly enough they went along with it."

Lindsey shrugged helplessly. "I haven't really been able to find out too much- yet. A lot of the information I need is in Wolfram and Hart files. But what little I've been able to find indicates that Wolfram and Hart are responsible for my brother's death. I…I feel sick that I worked for the people who killed him. How could I have been so naïve?" his voice trailed off.

Wrapping an arm around Lindsey's shoulder, Angel hugged him gently. "We'll find out everything we can. Keep me informed about whatever you find out and I'll do my best to help you. As for being naïve- you were young, you were hurting, and Wolfram and Hart could be very convincing; even those of us who are very old and jaded, fell for their tricks occasionally. You can't blame yourself for being human."

Nodding, Lindsey relaxed against his father's side. "Thanks Angel."

"Anytime kid," the vampire smiled.

Lorne smiled too. "I can find you some contacts that could possibly get you information as well." Lindsey nodded his thanks.

"Now," Lorne continued, "since you are very restricted in what you are allowed to do, why don't we practice or fighting skills. I know I could stand to improve…" Lorne grinned.

Lindsey blushed at the reminder that he was grounded, but nodded happily. "Ok. There were a few steps that I don't think I've quite gotten right yet, so the practice would be good…" he glanced at Angel, a question in his eye.

"All right then," the vampire clapped his hands together. "Let's get going, you two. You can't learn moves by sitting on a couch!" The vampire quickly stood and led them out of the office heading to the workout room.

Lindsey followed Angel and Lorne, a small smile on his face: fully aware that he was where he belonged.


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