Author's Note: This story takes place about a year after the series ends.
Disclaimer: Anything recognizable belongs to Joss- the rest is my overactive imagination.


BEING FOUND

"So let mercy come
And wash away
What I've done"
- What I've Done by Linkin Park


Why was he back here? After what had gone down, intelligence and self-preservation would have dictated that he stay as far away from this place as he could possibly get.

Lindsey grimaced at his reflection in the dirty, cracked mirror- at the scars on his bare chest. He had barely escaped with his life- and wasn't it a kick in the crotch that Lorne, a pacifistic second-tier member of Angel's group of fighting flunkies, was the one to pull the trigger? The only reason he hadn't bled out was because he hadn't quite trusted Angel not to do something- and had arranged for an emergency portal out of L.A. long before he'd needed one. The portal was only good for one trip, but it had been enough to get him out of the city without being caught by either Wolfram and Hart's thugs or Angel's crew. The fact that he'd had the foresight to have the portal drop him very near the emergency room of a hospital, had allowed him to get help before he'd completely bled out.

He had stayed in the tiny mid-west town for over a year resting, gaining his strength back, and improving his fighting skills. Truth be told, he had worked himself so hard he was actually in better condition than before his near-death experience. When he had decided it was time to move on, he could have gone further east. He SHOULD have gone further east. He wasn't wanted here. He knew it. He didn't want to be here himself.

But... all he could hear in his head at night was Angel's voice- full of accusations, contempt, and shoulda-woulda-coulda's. His voice telling him every wrong thing he'd done and how he wasn't worth saving. As much as he didn't want to believe the voice, part of him couldn't help believe that it spoke the truth. He couldn't get away from the voice- he'd tried. That was the problem with voices in your head- the only way to lose them was to lose your head. He'd finally decided that the only way to prove the voice wrong was to face the owner of said voice. So here he was, back in good 'ole Hell.A.

Shaking his head briskly and snorting out a harsh laugh, he turned from the mirror and grabbed one of the t-shirts out of his bag that was still semi-clean and tugged it over his head. What did it say about his state of mind that he'd decided if he couldn't escape "the voice" then he'd find the body it belonged to? How had he reached a point where dead-boy held so much influence over him that he couldn't help but return back to where his greatest failures had occurred? He had liked to believe himself above letting someone else's opinions and views affect him. When had that become a lie?

He stared down at the thin scar around his wrist sourly.

"At least he can give me new material so the recriminations won't sound so much like a broken record," he muttered irritably.

After tugging on the shirt, he glanced at the freshly changed bandage on his arm to make certain he hadn't dislodged it- the remnants of a fight at a pool-hall two nights before when one of the regular's didn't like being hustled at his own game and had pulled a knife. He ignored the pain, pushing it down deep where he knew it was present, but it wouldn't affect his actions. He'd been ignoring pain of one sort or other for most of his life. It was what helped him rise so fast in the ranks of Wolfram and Hart- the ability to push down pain, emotion, and conscience- in order to get the job done. If you didn't let it touch you, it couldn't affect you. If it didn't affect you, it couldn't stop, or kill you. He winced and fetched the bottle of pink out of his bag. Pushing things down, did have some negative consequences....

Carefully lifting the broken blind that covered the smog smudged window, he sipped the cherry flavored, chalky liquid and glanced outside. He had maybe 2 hours before the sun would set and he could head out to take care of the job he'd discovered. A quick nap would probably be a good idea- if he could actually sleep. The nightmares were as bad, if not worse, than the judgmental voice. Plus, glancing at the sheets that looked like they hadn't been washed in months, he'd probably end up with lice or some other parasite. Food would probably be a better idea. He could catch a quick nap in his truck after he finished the job, if he was lucky.

Sighing, he turned back to the bed and threw the few belongings that weren't already there into his bag. Zipping it quickly, he slung it over his shoulder and left the room, dropped the key at the front desk, and moved to his vehicle climbing inside. Luckily he had only paid for an hour- he'd hate to think he'd wasted his meager funds. He hoped to find a small diner somewhere that wouldn't cost too much money. After he found and dealt with whatever was eating the homeless population on the east side, he'd have to find some hole-in-the-wall club that would let him play his guitar for whatever tips he could get. He hadn't quite reached the point where selling his body was necessary - but he was fast approaching it.

He sighed again. How far he had fallen- and it was all Angel's fault! The bastard had woken up a conscience Lindsey had forgotten he had.

# # #

Angel glanced at Spike and Illyria as the older man they were questioning repeated the same thing the other three men had said. There had been "something" attacking and devouring their comrades, but earlier in the evening a younger man had arrived, tracked the "thing" down and "chopped it up like confetti" before burning it in one of the barrels they used to warm themselves by on cold nights. The youngster had been alone, he hadn't given them a name, and he left as soon as it was evident the "monster" wasn't going to pop back into existence. The boy had also been wounded in several places and probably should have gone to a hospital, but he'd refused any help offered.

"… Well, if you hear or see anything else of this man- or if something else strange happens, I'd appreciate you getting in touch with me. Here's my card- you can call collect." Angel rather doubted he'd hear anything, but it couldn't hurt to get a few more eyes and ears open on the streets. He'd forgotten how difficult it was to come by information when you didn't have access to a library full of ancient texts or friends in the right place to overhear things.

At least Lorne had returned. He hadn't been sure he'd ever see their green friend again, after he'd done Angel's bidding and shot Wolfram and Hart's number one bad boy. It had been a rough year. Losing first Fred, then Wes had hurt. Losing Gunn 6 months later to a drunk driver instead of one of the minion's of evil that they frequently fought was devastating. They expected to die in a fight- not while crossing the street. It was Gunn's death that prompted Lorne's return. He was still mad at Angel for putting him in a position of needing to kill someone who he had once been on friendly terms with, if not an actual friend- but he had forgiven him enough to not avoid him any longer.

"So you think someone's trying to horn in on our job?" Spike smirked over at him before taking a drag on his cigarette. Angel rolled his eyes and snatched it from his mouth, tossing it on the ground and smashing it with his boot.

"You're supposed to have stopped smoking," he huffed. "As for someone trying to horn in…I don't think that matters as much as finding out if this guy is an ally or an enemy…." He focused on Illyria who had walked over to a fragment of a shirt that had gotten caught on some barbed wire. She was examining it closely. "Illyria?" he questioned, one eyebrow going up.

"There is blood…" she stated as if talking about the weather. "Blood, and there is a smell on the material that is familiar…but…I can not place it." She frowned at her inability, then turned back to the two vampires she accompanied. Angel wrinkled his nose and walked over to her, taking the material out of her hand. Holding it up to his nose, he frowned and nodded.

"It does smell familiar…" he hesitated. "I doubt it would do much good to try and track the smell though. I have the feeling, if he'd known this was here, he would have taken it with him. Other signs of his presence here tonight have pretty much been removed or destroyed…."

Spike shrugged. "Fine by me. We can catch him another time. I wanna go home and watch that NCIS Marathon on the telly."

Humming softly, Angel agreed. Unless whoever it was got killed, there would be plenty of time to try and catch or meet them. As long as they were only attacking demons or "monsters", it wasn't someone they needed to be too concerned about.

# # #

Pulling into the parking lot of a 24 hour drug-store, he carefully stepped out of his truck, bag in hand, and made his way inside- doing his best to hide the bloody gash that was in his side by holding his jacket tightly against his body with the arm that he could barely move. He was positive it was dislocated. As soon as he had some bandages, antibiotics and extra-strength pain reliever- and maybe another bottle of the pink stuff- he would see about putting it back into place. Antibiotics and bandages first though. He wasn't entirely certain, but the wound from a few days ago was feeling hot to the touch- he couldn't afford an infection. He couldn't afford to end up in the hospital. Chances of being found there were too great.

The clerk eyed him with suspicion as he walked around gathering up his purchases, but didn't say anything as he piled everything onto the counter and peeled some bills out of his wallet. He'd stopped looking anywhere at Lindsey as soon as he'd caught Lindsey looking back. Not terribly surprising in this part of town. After paying for the items, Lindsey cocked his head to the side and attempted a non-threatening look.

"You have a restroom I could use? Had a bit too much coffee."

The clerk grunted what must have been an affirmative response, as he also pointed toward the back of the store. Lindsey nodded his thanks and in went in that direction. He was glad to see it was a single occupant restroom- not as much chance of being interrupted. Closing the door and locking it, he carefully peeled off his jacket and the shirt underneath, breathing in deeply to avoid making any noise. The pain washed over him and he gripped the sink with his good hand until he was able to get it under control. Then, arranging himself next to the wall, he took a deep breath before forcing his arm back into its socket. He swallowed the bile that rose in his throat, before going back to the sink and beginning the process of cleaning out the wound on his stomach.

"Who would've figured there would be tiny dinosaurs in LA.? And how the hell did it get here?" he mused to himself as he diligently cleaned the wound.

He then began the slow process of stitching himself up. Once finished his ministrations to his belly, he double checked the wound on his arm. The stitches were still in place- amazingly enough. But he had been correct. It was red and puffy. He had the beginnings of an infection then. He sighed and poured antiseptic onto the wound, hissing through his teeth at the sting. Finally finished, he cleaned up his mess, wrapped his ruined clothing in paper towels, before placing it into his bag, and then put on another clean shirt. He hoped it didn't get cold any time soon, as he only had the one jacket. Maybe he'd be able to get the blood out….

Leaving the bathroom, he walked back to the front of the store, where the clerk was busy looking through a girlie magazine. The guy didn't even glance up when Lindsey cleared his throat.

"Any bars or pubs still open this time of night?" he asked as if he didn't really care if he got an answer.

"Two blocks from here on the left. New bar that just opened up a few months ago. They do karaoke or sometimes live music…" the clerk mumbled, still not looking at Lindsey.

"Thanks" Lindsey grunted and headed back to his truck. He needed to eat something to help his body replenish the blood he'd lost and if this bar had a place for live music…well maybe the owner wouldn't mind him performing for a bit of pocket change. He was down to his last twenty.

Carefully driving down the street, he kept his eye open for his destination, fighting the fatigue that constantly plagued him.

# # #

"Memories are just where you laid them
Drag the waters 'till the depths give up their dead
What did you expect to find?
Was there something you left behind?"
- Hemorrhage by Fuel


He'd found the bar easily enough and bought himself a plate of fries and tap water- the cheapest item they'd had on the menu. He'd even had the chance to ask the night manager- name tag Albert- about possibly 'singing for his supper'. He'd attempted to come off as friendly and charismatic, but he feared he'd just seemed a bit desperate.

Sometimes he wondered if he'd spent too much time alone while recuperating, thinking about his actions and what he should have done differently. He hadn't wanted to see it before, because his pride wouldn't allow it, but he had always known deep inside that he was wrong- that he was doing wrong. But that pride was gone now, and he'd had to face what he'd become. In the past, he'd been able to appear in control, aloof, untouchable, but it was difficult to hide behind his masks now, and he wasn't certain if he'd ever be any good at it again.

He supposed it didn't matter though. The manager had given him a short smile and said that if he was serious about it, he'd need to do a quick audition. He'd picked a song from the list of karaoke tunes-hadn't really paid attention to what he chose- and gotten up and performed. He was gratified that the audience seemed to appreciate his efforts, although it could have been the alcohol talking. It was harder to tell with Albert.

As he walked back to the manager, he briefly wondered what his life would have been like, had he decided to pursue music instead of a law degree. At the time, he'd been convinced that the only way to insure he'd never be dirt-poor, hungry, and at the mercy of anyone else ever again, was to become a lawyer. While he had loved music, there was never any guarantee that he would make money at it and the security and respectability of money was what he craved. He swallowed thickly- just look where that had gotten him.

He didn't realize he had been holding his breath till Albert told him that he'd hire him to perform for the dinner crowd, offering three hours a night at minimum wage, but he could keep all of any tips he earned. And if his performance started drawing in more customers- then they could renegotiate.

"Thank you" he said softly. "You won't regret it..."

The manager smiled and nodded, then went back to whatever he had been doing before Lindsey had approached him. Taking that as a dismissal, Lindsey decided it was past time for some rest and walked out of the bar, never noticing the eyes that were following him.

# # #

Lorne sat in his corner booth, watching the people come and go, making observations about what might need changing and what was working well. He generally didn't micro-manage his staff. He'd hired managers to run his newest bar and it would be a waste of time and money if he stood over their shoulder telling them what to do.

When he first noticed the very scruffy man talking to Albert, he didn't think anything of it. When the man turned, carrying a guitar toward the stage and Albert signed that it was an audition, he watched carefully. The man seemed familiar, but with all the people he had seen come in and out of his bars in the past, it could be anyone. It wasn't until the man began to play the song and sing, the notes on tune and clear enough to cut through all the chatter in the nearby area that he realized WHO was on the stage and singing. The shock caused his mouth to drop open and it took him several seconds to recover and begin thinking again.

"Oh, this is not good, not good at all..." he muttered under his breath, worry causing his brows to wrinkle. He was positive he'd left Lindsey at death's door. The only reason he hadn't stayed to actually watch the brat die was because he was sure it was a mortal wound and it hurt his soul to be the one to kill the kid. They had been semi-friends before Lindsey had decided he didn't have to listen to his conscience.

He pulled out his cell-phone and was about to dial Angel immediately, but at that moment he noticed the aura surrounding his unwelcome surprise. The aura, it was almost foreign, it was so different to what it had been before. Any hints of betrayal he had seen before in the young man, were gone. There was very little pride left, the colors of greed and avarice had been muted so much that he doubted they had much influence on the kid's actions any longer. What he saw now didn't bode badly for anyone but Lindsey. The boy seemed to be eaten alive with self-doubt, guilt, depression; every negative emotion that one could feel about one's self seemed to hang over the young man's head. The worry about Lindsey showing up back in L.A., turned into worry about Lindsey- an emotion that Lorne really did not want to feel.

"What have you done now, child?" he whispered, shaking his head. "Well, Angel will still need to know of your arrival...." he hit the speed dial on his phone and waited for the vampire to pick up.

# # #

Angel, Spike, and Illyria had all settled down to watch television- Spike and Angel each holding a mug of blood while Illyria ate. Angel couldn't tell what she was eating, and to be honest he didn't really want to know. She had come up with some rather grotesque food choices in the past.

Just as the show they were watching was about to reach the climax, his phone began to ring. Glancing down at the screen, he saw it was Lorne, and at Spike's less than cordial look, he got up and went into the bedroom to take the call.

"Hi Lorne, what's up?" he answered with a smile. The smile quickly turned into a frown, his eyes beginning to flash angrily.

"WHO showed up at your bar???" his voice rose slightly in disbelief. "I thought you had taken care of that problem over a year ago!" he accused. "Wasn't that one of the reasons you avoided me for so long? Because I dared ask you to take care of that problem?"

Grimacing, he held the phone as far away from him as he could reach, then once he was sure the shouting was over with, he held it back up to his ear. "You're right. I apologize..." he said in a softer and more conciliatory tone. "It's just a bit of a shock- I had assumed he was dead."

"Yeah, yeah... I guess it would be more of a shock to you, since, you know..." Angel nodded, even though Lorne wouldn't possibly be able to see him.

"So...what was he doing?....He sang? Were you able to tell what he was up to?....What do you mean he isn't up to anything? He HAS to be up to something! Why else would he be back in L.A.???" Angel listened to what Lorne was saying, becoming more confused the more he heard.

"He hated me Lorne; he blamed me for anything that went wrong with his plans for climbing the Wolfram and Hart ladder. You said yourself that betrayal was the predominant theme in his aura the last time you read him....if he wanted to betray me then, when we were supposed to be working together, there is no possible way that he is not back in L.A. for some type of revenge or scheme. Especially after what we did to him. I can't believe that!"

"Well, I guess we'll just have to watch and see. I'm sure his true motivations will be made known soon enough..." he answered. If there was a bit of hesitancy in his voice, Lorne didn't comment on it.

"Thanks for the information. I'll come by tomorrow. Maybe we can put a tail on him and see what he's really up to....Yeah. Goodbye." He hung up, and then stared at the phone thoughtfully. What Lorne had just told him, didn't mesh at all with the Lindsey he remembered from before. The man had been full of betrayal. Lorne had been positive of THAT fact. Of course, Lorne had also been adamant that he couldn't tell who the betrayal was of, but Angel knew it had to be himself Lindsey planned to betray. Lindsey hated him after all- and he hadn't ever been fond of the whelp, so the feeling was mutual.

"Just what are you up to McDonald?" he asked the empty room.

# # #

Lindsey pulled into the parking lot of a church, looking at the building and debating if he should go in or not. It may or may not be one of the safest places to catch a quick nap- as long as whatever priest/reverend/rabbi didn't mind. Of course he could be fooling himself about that too, but he was just so weary and he KNEW his truck wasn't very safe.

Climbing out of the truck, pulling out his few belongings, and locking the door behind him, he quickly walked inside the building. He glanced around quietly then reverently made his way to a back pew, remnants of an early childhood attending church dictating his motions for the moment.

He felt like he should pray, confess, do SOMETHING, his guilt a crushing weight on his mind and spirit. But he was certain that if God had ever cared about him at all, he had most certainly stopped long ago when Lindsey was old enough to be held accountable for his actions. Lindsey's father had said often enough that he was bad seed. It didn't matter how many times, as an adult, Lindsey told himself that his father had been ignorant and just wanting to blame someone for his wife's death. The part of him that was that blamed child couldn't help but believe his father had been right and that he was fundamentally bad. Maybe his mother would have fought harder to live, if he hadn't been.

He sat still, uncaring of the tears that slowly fell down his cheeks. He'd never meant to become part of the problem. He'd had high ideals and dreams when he'd begun law school. He'd kept them, even as he first signed on to Wolfram and Hart. Yes, he would make a lot of money and never have to scrounge or fight his way to survive again- but he'd also be in a position to do good for people. That's what being a lawyer was supposed to be, right? Helping those who needed help?

It wasn't until he was indebted to the firm and knew too much, that he realized he wasn't really helping the side of good at all. By then, his choice was to continue on as he was, make more money and more of a name for himself- and possibly reach a position where he could choose who he'd represent; or try and back out and sign his own death warrant. So of course, he kept his mouth shut, did as he was told- and pretended he agreed with it. For a short period of time, he had thought perhaps Angel would help him get out of the mess he'd gotten himself into.

Unfortunately, Angel viewed him much the same as his father had. Bad seed. Irredeemable. No good. He had to admit that his response to Angel wasn't the best. Instead of trying to prove Angel wrong, he'd pretty much given him the finger and decided to see how right he could prove him. He'd done a pretty bad ass job of convincing the vampire too. It hurt to think how easy it had been to convince him. If even a vampire- who had been called the scourge of Europe- couldn't believe him worth saving, what did that say about him?

# # #

"I'm fragile but I'm not a fool
I won't hear another word from you
You won't hurt me anymore"
- You're a Lie by Slash


Lindsey hadn't slept anymore in the last three days than he had been able to the past year, but at least it was a fairly safe place. Someone 'in the know' had taken it upon themselves to make a welcome placard that was placed at the main entrance of the church- wording it in such a way that it could be taken as non-inviting if the individual's intentions were for evil. Wording of that nature wouldn't affect a normal human- but for supernatural beings that needed an invitation, it should prove an effective deterrent.

He'd done his best to keep his wounds clean and watched them closely. The wound on his arm had finally begun to heal correctly, with no signs of the infection he had been worried about. He was thankful for small favors- since the wound on his belly wasn't faring quite as well. Not only was it definitely infected, but every wrong movement caused the scabs to open up and it would begin bleeding again. He felt his strength ebbing each day and knew that if something didn't change in his favor soon, he wouldn't be able to keep up his patrols.

He had just ended a short break and was beginning the final hour of his performance. Albert seemed pleased with him. In the three short days he'd been playing for the bar, it seemed that patronage had increased slightly. There was a good chance that within a week or so, the clientele would have increased enough that Albert would be willing to give him a few more hours.

He had yet to see Angel or any of the surviving members of Angel's team- although he had enough feelers out and listened to enough conversations that he knew Angel was still around. Plus, he'd felt like he was being watched. He just couldn't pinpoint who was doing the watching. It should probably worry him more than it did- but for some reason he couldn't bring himself to care.

He'd learned of a few "jobs" that needed taking care of, through different channels. The coven of vampires in the abandoned warehouse a mile or so away would be more than he could handle- but the demon who was taking runaways off the street and sending them off to another dimension as slaves? That one he could do. He vaguely recalled a similar operation being mentioned while he was at Wolfram and Hart- the current slayer of that time had closed it down and it had greatly vexed the senior partners. He was planning to take care of it after he finished his last song- and maybe after eating.

Albert had begun offering him one free meal after he performed immediately after his first performance. He couldn't find it in himself to be offended. He was too hungry. It did shame him, somewhat, that it was so obvious how hungry he was. Once again, his inability to keep his masks in place and have people see what he wanted them to see- instead of what was really there- caused his pride to take a beating. It had been so long that he really had anything to be proud of, so he supposed it really wasn't that big of a loss.

# # #

Lorne and Angel sat in Lorne's booth. Lindsey was in full view, but they were hidden from the singer's eyes themselves.

"I tell you Angel, his aura is worrying. He is a man on a mission to get himself killed. I can't see how or why, but it is plain as day that he is hurting and desperately needs help!" Lorne argued.

"It's LINDSEY!" Angel scoffed. "His life work is to fool people into believing a lie...he's just found some way to disguise his aura so that you'll feel sorry for him and he can sucker us into letting our guard down!"

"It doesn't work that way and you know it!" Lorne admonished. "What I see is true- just because we don't always interpret it right, doesn't mean it isn't true!" Lorne huffed in offense and took a gulp of his drink.

"I know you are right" Angel back-tracked, trying to avoid yet another argument with his friend over this point of contention. "What you see is true- but that doesn't mean he hasn't found some way to hide the parts of him that would alert us to his deviousness. He's intelligent and he knows all types of esoteric information for the mystical. Can you honestly say he isn't hiding something?"

Lorne frowned unhappily, feeling the slight twinge of defeat. "No I can't, Peaches. Just my gut that tells me he isn't hiding anything. And the fact that despite watching him for three days, you haven't seen him do anything remotely bad. To hear you talk, he doesn't even speed when driving his truck!"

It was Angel's turn to frown. "I want to trust your gut Lorne. But I can't afford to unless he proves himself. I'll.... just keep watching him, I suppose." He sighed as he watched Lindsey finish his last song and head over to Albert for his meal.

"It was nice of you to have Albert feed him," he remarked, then shrugged uncomfortably. "It doesn't appear that he's been eating much lately. Seems a bit skinny and wane. Wonder how much of that is because he's bleeding though..."

Lorne looked at Angel, eyebrows shooting up. "Bleeding? Angel, I don't care how much you hate the kid- you need to find out what is going on with him, and NOW. I refuse to be a part of him dying, a second time. Especially if he's behaving himself." Lorne sniffed, as if the matter was closed. And Angel, giving his friend a put-upon look, imagined it was. It was time to up the ante- let the whelp know they knew he was here.

# # #

Angel had quickly called Spike and Illyria to join him at the bar- telling them to make certain that they weren't seen by one Lindsey McDonald. A year ago, he wouldn't have been able to count on Lindsey not noticing them; he was very observant after all. Lorne seemed to be right about one thing, however. The kid had changed at least somewhat- he was so focused on his meal, that he seemingly didn't notice Spike or Illyria's entrance at all, and he didn't even bother looking behind him when he got up to leave and the three of them went to follow him. It wasn't a deliberate avoidance of looking behind either. It was totally an "I'm too preoccupied to notice three people following me" type of not looking. Maybe the kid DID have a death wish....

They followed him to what appeared to be a house for runaways- something tickling at Angel's memory. When he remembered Buffy's story about her time as Anne and what had been happening to runaways- he realized that someone had set up shop in L.A. to do the same thing. He growled under his breath, Spike and Illyria giving him odd looks, before he muttered.

"I should have realized this was here- McDonald knew it was here. I should have..." he sighed, and then proceeded to explain the situation to his team. Meanwhile, Lindsey had found the entrance to the other dimension and had pulled out a sword, preparing to enter and- well it was hard to say what he was planning to do. Angel shook his head. "Idiot child's going to get himself killed- he isn't supernatural. One-on-however many there are is NOT something he should attempt!"

"Guess that means we get to be the cavalry?" Spike smirked, holding his own weapon, while Illyria handed Angel the one they had brought for him.

"Don't cavalry need horses?" Illyria dead-panned. Angel chuckled at their antics before waving them toward the entrance of the dimension and stepping through himself.

# # #

There was a brief feeling of disorientation before Lindsey's body adjusted to having gone through a dimensional gate. It felt kind of like walking through a mist of ice-water- and left him grimacing while he waited for his eyes to adjust. Despite himself, he'd somehow thought that it would be hotter than it was. Quirking his lip in a self-mocking smile, he quietly moved forward, memorizing where he needed to return as he looked for his adversary.

It hadn't been difficult to find the demon he'd been watching. It was close to the entrance and looking down into what was probably a larger cavern. Lindsey made quick work of decapitating the creature- taking extra care to not let it fall forward and doing it quickly enough that it didn't make any noise. He allowed himself a pleased smile as part one of his plan had succeeded without a hitch. He was still smiling as he found the keys to unlock the prisoners and then quickly moved further down the tunnel to begin releasing prisoners as he found them, sending them back up toward safety. The smile lasted until he saw the other guard 10 feet in front of him- and about 40 feet beyond him, yet a third guard.

Meanwhile, the trio of Angel, Spike, and Illyria had been quietly following- Angel becoming more and more incensed as it became obvious that Lindsey was unaware of their presence, and likely would never figure out they were there if they didn't directly let him know.

'Lorne was right. He has a death wish. How else can it be explained when he leaves his back unwatched and unprotected in hostile territory???' he angrily thought to himself. Spike glanced over at him consideringly, but didn't say anything or even make a face- apparently deciding that whatever was pissing Angel off, he'd rather not draw attention to himself. Illyria was smiling grimly, anxious to get into battle and let blood flow.

By this time, Lindsey had reached the second demon and dispatched him as quickly as the first- however he hadn't been as quick to catch it and the sound of it falling reached the ears of the third before Lindsey could do anything about it. Well, it was too late to back out now... he ran at the third demon, sword raised and decapitated it- as it screamed loudly for reinforcements. Lindsey swallowed hard as he realized how badly he'd miscalculated the situation. He would have had a better chance of surviving the vampire coven!

He'd raised his sword, planning to go down fighting, when two shapes rushed by him attacking and keeping the remaining demons from reaching him. A third shape slowed just enough to tell him to finish freeing the prisoners and get them back up to safety, before it too rushed forward and joined in the fight. Lindsey blinked, shocked for a few seconds at the realization that Angel was helping him, before quickly gathering his wits and doing as ordered. There was no time to waste- he'd question his quick obedience later when lives didn't depend on it.

Angel was pleased to notice that Lindsey hadn't wasted any time in obeying him. He killed two more of the demon slavers, with a feral grin. That didn't mean the boy wouldn't get the sharp edge of his tongue when this was all over....

# # #

Lindsey had helped the last prisoner through the gateway and back into their home dimension, assisting them to the exit of the building and telling them if they needed anything to head to the bar where he worked. He might not be able to help them himself, but he could at least direct them to someone who could. He winced as the front door of the half-way house closed- at the same time that Angel sealed off the gateway to the hell-dimension.

Angel, Spike and Illyria- he still wasn't sure yet if he was happy about their sudden assistance or if he was just resigned to it because it had ended up being necessary. He hadn't planned to meet Angel here of all places. He was honest enough to admit the reason he'd returned to L.A. was because he was obsessed with Angel's opinion of him, but that didn't mean he actually was ready to face the blood-sucker. Especially not in a situation where Angel had needed to pull his butt out of the fire.

Slowly he turned toward the trio and tried to look calm, in-control, and detached from the situation. That seemed to irritate Angel, and he couldn't help but smile slightly at the irritation. Before he could say anything, Angel had moved into his personal space and was leaning into his face, eyes flashing.

"What kind of idiot goes into a hell-dimension, alone and with just a cheap sword for protection??? I'd given you more credit for brains McDonald, but it appears that THAT was a lie too!" He snarled.

Lindsey wanted to say something cutting back. He wanted to say something to knock Angel down off his high horse- but his mind blanked. Angel was right. It had been an idiotic move- and it wasn't just his life at stake. He could have cost all the people he'd gone to save their lives. He stood there just staring at Angel for what felt like hours, though it was only a few seconds, before he spun around and ran out the door. It was bad enough he couldn't find the words to defend his actions or put Angel in his place- he wasn't about to let the man see him crying.

# # #

Angel looked at the empty space in front of the door in shock, and then groaned.

"Dammit, Lorne's going to feed me my guts for dinner. Why is it the first thing I automatically do with that twerp is pick a fight?" Hunching his shoulders slightly, then straightening up, he motioned to Spike and Illyria, who had quietly watched the interaction with interest. "Come on, may as well face the music now as later..."

"Hey, don't be dragging me into the line of the firing squad. You're the one who had to go all Bad-Daddy on him!" Spike objected.

Angel stood with his mouth open as they passed him and headed back to the vehicle. Bad-daddy? What the hell was THAT supposed to mean????

# # #

"I'm all alone
No one was sent to get me
I'm all alone
No one got left here"
- No One by Cold


After that night, Lindsey had been on a see-saw of emotions. He was confused that Angel had come to his rescue- but had a hard time believing that Angel had actually done it for HIM.

It had probably just been coincidence. Angel had been furious with him when all was said and done. Lindsey couldn't blame him really. The other three had probably had a plan in place to rescue all those people and Lindsey's brash actions had probably made things more difficult than they had needed to be. Yes, that must have been why Angel and friends had been there. They had planned to rescue the runaways themselves. Lindsey was just so much extra baggage that Angel's soul wouldn't allow them to leave behind- but he probably would have been just as happy if Lindsey had gotten himself killed.

One thing Lindsey didn't want to think about was why it mattered so much to him in the first place. It was one thing to come to L.A. with some vague idea of proving Angel wrong, confronting him, and forcing everyone to see that he- Lindsey McDonald- was actually worth something. It was quite another to face Angel. Especially when his plan to prove Angel wrong, seemed to go so spectacularly in the opposite direction. It was depressing. Angel had been right. He was an idiot.

On top of that, he had to wonder why he had jumped to obey Angel the minute Angel had given him an order; or the fact that he had actually wanted to obey. He'd never wanted to listen to the man before- he had thought him sanctimonious and a bit of a hypocrite really, and they had begun clashing from the moment they met.

He had listened to Holland. But Holland had acted parental to him, although Lindsey hadn't been fool enough to believe the man's acts of concern and guidance; he knew what happened to those who crossed the man, after all. Of course, now that he thought about it, Angel had acted like a father to him too; or at least he acted like Lindsey's actual father had acted toward him: bossy, judgmental, and assuming the worst.

"He's probably thinking there was some ulterior, sinister motive behind my obedience," he thought morosely. Lindsey hated that he was falling back into old patterns that he had followed when still under his father's thumb- with Angel of all people. Damn shame that he didn't hate it enough to be able to stop himself....

He continued to go to the bar and work- Albert had offered him two more hours a night with a thirty minute break and the possibilities of a raise if he continued to draw the crowds like he had been. He was hesitant to accept the offer at first- something about it felt like charity, although he couldn't figure out why- but he finally decided that he'd rather be given a job out of charity than have to borrow money or steal. At least he'd be doing something for the money he received. His job was the only area of his life where he actually took care of himself.

After the rescue attempt, where he'd ended up being the one needing rescue, something in him just snapped. The thin thread of hope and control he'd had over himself just seemed to disappear- even if he didn't realize what the difference in himself was. He began going out after working his five hour shifts and looking for trouble of the supernatural sort.

While he did attempt to avoid taking on more than two nasties at a time, he seldom got away from each fight with less than two bad injuries. He often came away with cuts and abrasions that needed medical care- which he was not receiving. On the nights when the injuries were to his face, he'd make certain to put on a glamour to hide the fact from his 'day' job. By the end of the first week, he was wearing the glamour every performance.

He hadn't seen Angel or any of the others, since their rescue of him. He thought he should be grateful to them, but he didn't think he could take listening to Angel's ridicule without Angel being able to figure out how badly it hurt him to hear. If Angel ever saw how much his words had impacted Lindsey, that would be the end of what little tiny shred of pride he had left, so he was slightly glad that he hadn't seen the vampire. Even so, the fact he hadn't seen him, hurt on a different level. He knew Angel felt him useless and worthless. The fact he hadn't even attempted to find him and threaten him or tell him to leave town in some overly-Alpha manner, just proved the fact. Had Angel had any type of feelings for him at all- even negative- he was sure the vampire would have confronted him by now. Lindsey was a non-entity.

# # #

Angel and Lorne sat in Lorne's booth two weeks later, watching Lindsey perform- just as they had every night since Angel had gone in and pulled Lindsey from the jaws of certain death. It had gotten so common place that the servers automatically had Lorne's favorite drink and a glass of warm blood for Angel within seconds of them sitting. As had also become common, Lorne and Angel were watching the young man that had garnered Lorne's concern from the beginning- and had finally earned Angel's.

Having Lorne describe in excruciating detail every concerning thing seen in the child's aura, and then spending the rest of the night following said child and watching as he took on enemies that he had no business going after...Angel felt a mixture of irritation and guilt that he did not like at all. Irritation that Lindsey was being so reckless with his life (how many times in the last several weeks he had wanted to step in and let the youngster know in no uncertain terms that he was behaving foolishly.) Guilt because he knew that a lot of the young man's issues had been exacerbated by his own reactions to Lindsey. On top of that, he could smell the wounds the young man carried on his body, even if they couldn't be seen. That the boy would use a glamour to hide his injuries and pretend that he was just fine....

"If Lindsey had been my child...none of this would have ever happened." he thought to himself, then widened his eyes as the thought sunk in. Why would he even imagine Lindsey as his son? There had never been anything between them but animosity, and just because the boy seemed to be doing everything possible now that would earn Angel's approval (and didn't that just make him the biggest narcissist ever, assuming that what Lindsey was doing was for him instead of one of a thousand other reasons) didn't explain why his hand now itched watching the kids activities.

He stared at Lindsey, unblinking, as thoughts of the child he had never really had a chance to be a father to came to mind. He had a lot of regrets with Connor- the biggest of which was that he hadn't stepped in soon enough when Connor began acting out. That whole mess with Jasmine- it hadn't needed to occur that way, but he had dropped the ball. Then, instead of trying to work with Connor and mend their relationship- he had decided that it would be better for Connor to be without him and arranged for the whole "forgetting".

He had a lot of misdeeds to make up for that he never would be able to make up for. Who was he to deny the child in front of him a chance to start over?

"Lindsey hasn't done one thing that I could classify as evil or even bad- since we became aware of his return," he said softly to his green friend.

"Does that mean you are willing to admit you should have given him a chance?" Lorne glanced sideways at Angel.

"I think it means that I owe him an apology..." Angel shrugged, then sighed softly. "If someone doesn't step in soon, he's going to get himself killed. I don't think he even cares anymore." His voice had a tone of sadness to it, and he was surprised that the thought of Lindsey's death didn't make him feel anything but dejected. At one time, he thought it would have made him feel vindicated if not happy.

"I'd be amazed if we still have the opportunity to step in...there is very little light left for him to hold onto..." Lorne's voice was so soft that only a vampire could have heard him. The words cut into Angel like a knife and his gaze shot to his friend's in question.

"If you're planning to do anything for him at all, Angel- it needs to be tonight." Lorne stated before swallowing the last of his drink and getting up and heading to the back office.

Angel watched Lorne leave, then watched Lindsey finish his last song.

"Well, kiddo- you can consider this your last night of doing things your way. I'm not standing back and watching you throw your life away, any more..." he promised.

# # #

Lindsey had finished up his last set for the night and had carefully put his guitar in its case before going up to Albert with the guitar and his bag.

"Hey Albert, would you mind if I left these behind the bar tonight? I'm in the process of finding a new place and I think they would be safer here, for the moment..." he gave what he hoped was a winning smile and nodded his thanks when Albert agreed.

He wasn't exactly sure what he was going to do tonight, but he had this gut feeling something big would occur. If something happened to him, at least Albert would have a chance of finding out if the police had something of his to work with. He'd like to think at least one person would miss him....

With no particular destination in mind, he left the bar and headed to his truck. He didn't notice his shadow.

Angel, having witnessed the exchange of property, was worried. It was almost as if Lindsey was giving away possessions in preparation for his death. The brat wasn't planning anything permanently fatal, was he?

"He better not be...if he is, I'll kick his butt from here to next Tuesday," he muttered to himself, worry and frustration lacing his words.

Lindsey, oblivious, drove away.

# # #

"What you thought was real in life somehow steered you wrong
Now you just keep drivin' tryin' to find out where you belong"
- The Road I'm On by 3 Doors Down


"Where the hell is he going?" Angel irritably slammed his hands onto his steering wheel, as Lindsey took yet another unsignaled turn. He was driving slowly enough for Angel to keep up with him- so it was obvious he still wasn't aware he was being tailed- but by this time, Angel didn't have a clue where he might have been going. Even so, Angel kept two cars between them. Just because Lindsey wasn't as observant to his surroundings as he should have been, didn't mean Angel had to make it easy for him.

When Lindsey had finally pulled over to the side of the road where a group of women were standing, opening the truck door to let one of them in, Angel rolled his eyes. He was about to just turn around and go home- there was no way he was watching the kid do that- when someone else jumped into the truck bed and ducked down. Lindsey nor his companion had seen the move, and Angel growled low in his throat. Looked like he'd be needed after all.

Angel was becoming pretty confused. After picking the girl up, Lindsey had driven around in circles for the most part of an hour- not going anywhere, not stopping. If they were doing anything in that car while Lindsey was driving, Angel vowed to have a talk with him about vehicular safety!

They had been stopped at a red light when it occurred. Lindsey had suddenly decided that turning right from the middle lane was acceptable driving practices. Angel had two cars in front of him, and a line of cars in the right hand lane that were blaring their horns at Lindsey- and blocking Angel from following. Angel nearly screamed in frustration.

"No...No...No...come on- GET OUT OF MY WAY!" he shouted, before cramming his car into a tiny spot between two other cars, then laying on his horn till the cars in front of him had moved out of the way and he could quickly turn the corner himself. It was too late though. Lindsey's truck was no where in sight.

Gritting his teeth, he pulled out his phone and called Lorne.

"If you have anyone that is able to do a tracking spell, now would be the time to do it- I lost him and he's got a big bad along for the ride...." He leaned his head back on the headrest, then ran his hand over his face, rubbing the spot between his eyes to sooth the headache that was fast forming. Then he dialed his phone again.

"Spike- you and Illyria, meet me at Lorne's bar. And bring weapons. I'm not sure what we will be going up against."

Glancing down the street one more time in the hopes he'd just missed Lindsey's truck the first time, he shook his head and made his way back to Lorne.

# # #

Lindsey blinked, the tiny amount of light in the room causing pain to shoot through his eyes to his brain, making him groan, before he finally was able to adjust to the light and open them all the way.

"What..." he slurred weakly. "Where..."

"Ah, you're awake now. Good. I'd hate for you to miss all the fun!" a too smooth voice purred directly in Lindsey's ear, the warm, fetid breath wafting over his face and making him cringe.

The last thing he remembered, he was taking Lucy home. The young girl had caught his eye as he was driving aimlessly and something about her reminded him of his little sister before she had died. "A girl her age shouldn't be standing on street corners" he'd thought sadly, and so he'd stopped and picked her up, then spent almost an hour just driving around with her, talking to her and listening to her. He had been overjoyed when she had asked him to take her back home. Maybe he'd been able to do at least ONE good thing with his life.

He remembered pulling into the driveway of a modest, well-kept home and walking her to her front door. He remembered the relief of her parents as they'd welcomed her home- and if he'd been a little envious, he kept it well hidden. He'd said his goodbye's and wished them well, and was just about to turn around and go back to the truck when something had hit him from behind. That was the last he remembered.

He closed his eyes again, trying to take stock of his situation. His head hurt, he likely had a concussion, but other parts of him hurt as well. He was also cold...too cold. He barely stopped gasping as he breathed in quickly at the realization that he was completely naked and tied to a table of some sort. He couldn't help but shudder at the ideas of what could be done to someone in his position, but regretted it when he heard his captor chuckle darkly.

"You know, you've been a thorn in my side for the last several weeks..." the voice seethed. "My minions, my business associates, and last night... my brother. You've taken a lot from me, so I thought it only fitting that I take from you as well."

Lindsey opened his eyes and looked at the thing next to him. He didn't say anything, not wanting to give the bastard a reason to gloat.

The demon continued. "Sadly- although I do find it amusing- there really wasn't anything of yours I could take. You have no family. No friends. No one who remotely cares about you or would miss you..." he grinned as he saw Lindsey flinch. "So, I said to myself. What do you take from a man that has nothing to lose?" he laughed maliciously before painfully forcing Lindsey to look toward the corner of the room.

He couldn't help it. He whimpered, and then choked back a sob of horror. Lucy and her parents were set on chairs, eyes aimed toward Lindsey as if getting ready to watch a movie, their hands carefully keeping their heads from rolling off their laps.

"I see there was at least one thing I could take from you..." the demon whispered against his cheek. When the demon began cutting him- taking care to slice open all the old injuries he'd suffered before starting new ones, he couldn't find the strength to try and move away. He just lay there sobbing, choking on his own despair, until his voice became raw and no sound emerged. Even then the tears poured from his eyes as he stared at his "one good" act.

# # #

Lorne stared in consternation at the phone in his hand, before shaking himself and quickly calling one of the witches he knew in town. She only lived a few blocks away, so could quickly come to him- they'd use his back office to do the ritual. She had agreed to be there as soon as she'd gotten the necessary items to do a trace- and had told him to make certain they had something that belonged to the person they were trying to locate. It improved their chances of the ritual working, immensely, if they had a personal item- especially if it was something that the person might have worn.

Lorne was behind the bar, pulling out one of Lindsey's soiled and bloody t-shirts as Angel, Spike, Illyria AND his witch walked through the door. Maybe the Powers that Be were actually on their side tonight. The timing couldn't have been better. He waved them to go back to his office, then zipped up Lindsey's bag and folded the shirt he planned to use, carefully taking it with him to meet the others.

"Here Linda," he said, handing the witch the shirt." I saw him wear this the other night. "The red blood on it belongs to him...." he grimaced as he said this. Seemed like the kid was always bleeding out. No wonder he was always hungry- needing to replenish the lost cells. He'd have to talk to Albert about feeding him more than the one meal.... He shook his head and tried to focus on what was going on around him.

Linda had chalked out a circle, which she had them sit around. The t-shirt had been placed in the middle of the circle and Linda stood outside of the circle beginning her chanting. He wasn't sure what ritual she had used, he'd never heard of it before, but when an address flashed across his mind- and the minds of the other three- he had to admit it was useful. After the address had been imprinted in their minds, the t-shirt suddenly burst into flame, nothing but ashes left by the time the chant was finished. Linda had done everything she could do. It was up to Angel and his team now.

"I'm going with you." Lorne stated, his voice allowing for no opposition.

Angel just looked at him and nodded. "I wouldn't have it any other way."

Grabbing their weapons, they went out the back door of the building and got in their cars- Spike with Illyria and Angel with Lorne. Then they sped toward Lindsey's last trackable location.

# # #

When they arrived at the small house in the lower-middle class neighborhood, they were glad to see Lindsey's truck was still in the driveway. Angel automatically glanced toward the sky, guessing they had maybe 4 hours before the sun would rise. He didn't expect it to take longer than a few minutes however.

Motioning to Spike and Illyria to go in through the front, he and Lorne made their way to the back. He jammed the door open within seconds of hearing Spike do the same to the front door, quickly entering the home. The fact that they could enter without invitation was worrisome, but he didn't think of that in that moment. His rage boiled as he saw the young man lay out on the kitchen table being cut up like he was a piece of meat for dinner. His growl of fury stopped the demon doing the cutting, mid-slice- as the creature looked up in surprise. In the next second, Angel was on top of him. He wanted to tear him to pieces, but he settled for breaking its neck.

Lorne meanwhile had begun untying Lindsey, trying to get him to speak.

"Come on Sunshine...look at Lorne, come on sweetie- let me know you're still in there, ok? Lindsey? Come on child...look at me...." Lorne was worried as he could get no response from the boy except wounded whimpers and choked back sobs. It was Spike who realized just what Lindsey was staring at, and who quickly found a sheet to cover the remains of the poor family who had been murdered in their own home.

"I'll call the unit in the police department that we work with..." Illyria said softly. The demon looked human enough- luckily- that they could actually lay the blame at its feet where it belonged and have it be believable. Lindsey would have to give his statement later though.

Angel had found another sheet and wrapped Lindsey up in it carefully, hating to cause the kid more pain- but there wasn't a place on him that didn't have an open wound, so it was impossible to avoid. After making sure the boy was covered enough to protect him, he carried him out to his car. Turning to Lorne, he swallowed. "I'll take him to the hospital. You should use his truck to get there as soon as you are done here. Let the police know where we've gone, in case they want my statement."

Lorne just nodded in acceptance, hoping that they had gotten there in time and that Angel would get Lindsey help before he gave in to his wounds- or gave up.

Angel pulled out of the drive, speeding toward the hospital, one hand on the steering wheel and one hand holding the kids wrist gently, the faint pulse giving him hope that he might not have been too late this time.

# # #

"The memories are shadows, ink on the page
And I can't seem to find my way home."
- Far From Home by Five Finger Death Punch


Angel stood by Lindsey's hospital bed, looking down at the pale, bruised face. In sleep, he looked so young; so innocent, so...in need of someone to take care of him. Unable to help himself, Angel brushed a stray lock of hair back from the boy's face, smiling slightly when Lindsey turned his face towards the touch, still asleep.

It had been touch and go for the first few days. While the injuries were very serious that Lindsey had sustained from the demon's attack on him; they were compounded by the fact that he had not been eating enough, he had not been sleeping enough, and he had not been taking care of the injuries he'd received before the attack good enough. There had been one nasty infection that they were still very worried about. The doctor's were quite frankly amazed that he had survived at all, let alone as long as it took Angel to get him to the hospital.

When Angel had heard the lists of all his charge's ailments, to say he was displeased was an understatement. He'd known that Lindsey had been courting death in his actions- but he hadn't realized the kid had also been courting it with his inactions. He was thankful that Lorne had arranged for him to eat one meal a day at the bar- he had a feeling that was the only meal Lindsay had been eating for a long time. As for the sleep and the lack of proper medical care; well now that he knew it was even worse than he originally suspected, there was no way he was not stepping in and taking over.

"You're about to find yourself on a very short leash, little boy- whether you like it or not..." he whispered to himself.

Spike, who was standing silently behind Angel and watching the vampire's actions toward the whelp, narrowed his eyes slightly before grinning. Looked like Angel had someone else to worry about and boss around now. Bout bloody time too.

"You wanna go grab something to eat, I can stay with him," he offered. He had a feeling Angel wouldn't be letting Lindsey be anywhere alone for a while.

Angel whirled around. He hadn't heard Spike's arrival; he had been so deep in thought. Blinking, he rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly at the big grin Spike gave him at having startled him. "Yeah, that sounds good. Thanks...I'll just grab something quick and be back in about an hour?" He smiled at Spike's quick nod and left the room.

Spike went and sat down in a chair that had been placed by Lindsey's bed.

"So if you're a good little boy and do everything the doctors tell you....they're talking about letting you out of here by the end of the week. That is of course if that nasty infection doesn't return. Can't imagine why you wouldn't have gotten that taken care of sooner....but never fear. You won't be making anymore bad decisions about your health again, any time soon. You've managed to get Angel all mother-henny. I wouldn't be surprised if he started keeping track of when you...." A throat was loudly cleared, stopping him just before finishing his thought.

"Ah, hi Lorne. You come to play care-bear for a bit?" he leaned back in the chair carelessly.

"Care-bear? Do I look like an overly cheerful cartoon?" Lorne asked in mock exasperation. "How's he doing?" he glanced at Lindsey, worry etched on his face.

"He's actually doing a lot better from what I've been told. They're still worried about that one infection on his stomach. Apparently that wound is old- and he's barely just managed to keep it from becoming gangrenous- he's lucky it didn't kill him, considering how many weeks he's been self-treating it incorrectly." Spike wrinkled his nose at that.

"Anyway- once they aren't worried about that anymore, they say there is no reason he can't go home." Spike looked at Lorne consideringly. "He doesn't have a home, does he?"

Lorne shook his head and sighed. "No, I think he's been sleeping in a church or his truck."

"I think Angel plans to move him home with him...." Spike stated. He was glad that he'd gone and found his own place to stay. He had a feeling the next few months- if not longer- were going to be a battle of wills between an opinionated, obstinate vampire and a headstrong human with more chutzpah than sense.

"Remind me to have a spare room ready for the times when they are thinking of killing each other..." Lorne mumbled, although he was happy that Angel planned to take such a proactive role in Lindsey's future. It was obvious the kid needed it.

"Have a spare room ready for if they decide they want to kill each other..." Spike reminded him cheekily.

"Har-dee, har- har...."

# # #

Lindsey had woken up about a day after being admitted, not for long, but long enough for the doctors to determine that he hadn't suffered any brain damage from the loss of blood. He'd woken up for short periods of time ever since, at first not sleeping for more than an hour or two hours at a stretch. Angel had stayed by his side the entire time, with the few exceptions that Lorne would come in and sit while he'd run home to shower and change.

Angel had quickly and easily taken on the role of worried parent. He'd expected some sarcastic comments from Spike about his 'mother-henning' but his grand-childe hadn't said a word about it, even behaving like a worried brother- when he didn't think anyone was watching. It seemed everyone had all figured out how Angel felt towards the kid, before Angel had figured it out himself; everyone but Lindsey that is.

Angel leaned forward toward the bed, his elbows on his knees, as he stared at Lindsey. He'd read every magazine in the hospital he could find, done every crossword he could obtain. He was, in short, bored. But he wasn't going to leave the kid's side. The first time Lindsey had woken, he'd had an unsettled look on his face, like he couldn't believe that Angel was sitting there. The kid had become used to his presence however; he'd noticed that the boy had been sleeping for longer periods without waking up. Angel suspected Lindsey didn't normally sleep for very long periods of time, and he needed the rest in order to heal- so if Angel being there helped him sleep, then Angel would stay.

He reached over and brushed hair from the boy's face, "When you wake up and are able to focus better, kiddo, we're going to talk about your driving…" he glanced down toward Lindsey's eyes. They were wide open in surprise. Lindsey had heard him. Angel carefully moved back away from the child at the look of shock on the boy's face. Lindsey was mouthing "kiddo?" to himself as if it was a foreign word that he didn't understand.

Angel smirked, but didn't say anything. If he wanted to call the boy kiddo or other pet names, the brat would have to deal with it. He was 200 years older than the whelp. Who was going to stop him?

# # #

Exactly one week after his admittance, Lindsey was fidgeting in the wheelchair that the hospital insisted patients be escorted out in when being discharged. Anytime he looked like he was about to stand up and walk without it, Angel would give him this stern frown.

Lindsey wasn't sure what to make of Angel or his actions. The vampire had insisted that Lindsey come live with him. Since the hospital had stated that they didn't feel comfortable discharging him unless he stayed with someone who could help if something happened, he hadn't been left with much choice.

He supposed he could have discharged himself against doctor orders- but he had suspected if he'd done that, Angel would have hunted him down and drug him back. The vampire had been muttering something under his breath about death wishes and committing and some other things that sounded suspiciously like Angel thought he should be admitted to the psych ward. He had no desire to go there. Besides, if he was honest with himself, he was scared of being alone. He'd always had a problem with nightmares- some worse than others- but after... he swallowed hard, looking at his hands in his lap. Of course Angel noticed.

"Hey- you'll be ok. I'm not going to let anything else happen to you, I promise..." Angel put his hand on Lindsey's shoulder.

He didn't seem overly hurt or offended when Lindsey shrugged his hand off and snorted, forcing a smirk onto his face. "Of course I'll be ok. I don't know why everyone is insisting on treating me like I'm made of spun glass. Think that will make me 'like' you or decide to go along with your bullshit?"

Angel frowned slightly, but rather than argue with Lindsey he just said one word in a chiding tone. "Language...."

Lindsey blinked and shut his mouth. The last person to ever say THAT to him was his mother.

It didn't take long before Lindsey was loaded into Angel's car and they were on their way back to what would become Lindsey's home for the unforeseeable future. Angel had said something about going over the rules, once they got home. He rolled his eyes then looked out his window, deliberately facing away from Angel. That ought to be good. He probably had a list, pages long, of what he could touch, what he could eat, where things were to be put. If Angel thought he was going to follow any stupid rules list, he had another think coming.

The remainder of the ride home was spent with Angel trying to make small talk by asking innocuous questions and Lindsey answering them in the most obnoxious and irritating way he could. Angel would change his mind soon enough and then he'd welcome Lindsey leaving. He'd probably push him out the door. Just wait, Lindsey thought.

# # #

When they finally pulled onto a quiet street in an upper-middle class neighborhood, Lindsey looked at Angel skeptically. "You live in Suburbia?" he snorted.

Angel just smiled serenely in response. "I needed the room. There was too much a chance of the neighbors complaining about late night workout and practice sessions- not to mention the occasional guest. This way I don't have to worry about noise or space." He didn't mention that he suspected Lindsey would eventually begin to fight him on the rules he had yet to hear and the arguments would be loud. It was also possible the consequences of said arguments would be loud. There was no sense telling the kid that and getting his panties in a bunch.

Angel quickly got out of the car and grabbed Lindsey's bag and guitar from the back seat, heading to the front door to unlock it. He kept a close eye on Lindsey, but he very carefully didn't hover near the kid as he got out of the car. He knew it was going to be difficult on the boy- giving up so much independence and freedom. Especially since it wouldn't be willingly; not at first anyway. The least he could do is attempt to let the kid feel some measure of independence.

He'd taken Lindsey's bag and guitar to the room that would become his, then made his way back into the living room, glancing at his charge. Lindsey had made it inside and closed the door, then had sagged into the nearest recliner, trying to hide how tired the walk from the car to the house had made him. Angel sighed. He would have rather gone over the rules when the boy wasn't so tired and most likely to take things the wrong way- but then, if he waited for the best moment, the moment would never come. And Lindsey needed to know what was expected of him.

Clearing his throat, he came to stand in front of the young man, who looked up at him warily.

"So, I have four rules that you are to follow." Angel stated, deciding not to beat around the bush. "There are different consequences to breaking a rule-depending on which rule is broken."

Lindsey nodded slowly. "Only four rules? Not at all what I had expected," he muttered in confusion, then blinked and forced himself to pay attention to what Angel was saying.

"Rule one: You are to take care of your health." Angel waited to see what Lindsey's response to this was. It wasn't a difficult rule, so he hoped the kid wouldn't begin balking immediately.

Lindsey slanted his head, thoughtfully then began nodding slowly. "Ok. Does that mean that I have to go to the hospital anytime I get a scratch or something? Because I do know how to bandage myself up…." He tried not to sound snotty, as it really wasn't an unreasonable rule and it was better to choose your battles wisely.

Angel frowned at the comment, choosing not to give his opinion on Lindsey's self-doctoring skills. It was obvious the boy truly believed he had been taking care of himself. "What that means is that you eat at least two healthy meals a day- preferably three. There will be no reason for you to go hungry now that you are living here and I won't be happy if you skip eating. You will also attempt to get enough sleep. I realize that…sometimes it is difficult to sleep. But you should at least attempt to get enough rest." Angel stopped and eyed the kid to see how his words were being taken. Lindsey had an odd look on his face, as if he couldn't believe that someone would actually care what amount of food or sleep he received.

Clearing his throat, Angel continued. "It also means that if you are wounded, you will allow me or Lorne to see the wound and help you take care of it. If it IS only a scratch, you can grumble at us being over-protective. However, if is more than just a scratch- you will allow Lorne or I to take care of it for you and to make certain it does not require more serious medical attention. I refuse to have you get another infection like the one you had on your belly…."

Lindsey noticed Angel frown and look down Lindsey's torso where a thick pink scar remained hidden under his shirt. Swallowing, he debated arguing with the vampire- but it wasn't really an unreasonable rule. He hadn't proven himself overly dependable when it came to taking care of his health, and as much as it galled him to cede that amount of control to his benefactor, he couldn't come up with any reasonable excuse not to. Besides, it wasn't like Angel would always know when he got wounded and needed to be attended- as long as he could stop the flow of blood himself and get cleaned up before Angel noticed, he wouldn't have to worry about this rule at all.

Slanting his head, he asked softly, "Ok. But what are the consequences if I don't follow it?" And didn't asking about consequences make him feel like he was all of five-years-old? He winced, but decided to continue to go along for now.

Angel looked into his eyes as if searching for something, then nodded and answered him. "Consequences for not taking care of your health are: You will be required to eat with either Lorne, or myself, where we can see you. We would of course be communicating with each other, so you wouldn't be able to try and play us off against each other. You would have a set bed time and a set time for getting up. And…if you hid a wound from me that I felt was dangerous enough-you would be required to submit to an 'inspection' every evening to make certain you weren't hiding any other wounds. The duration of those consequences would be determined by your attitude during the consequences and if I felt you had learned your lesson." Angel couldn't help the slight smirk as he saw Lindsey's eyes widen with each listed consequence, but he did manage to refrain from laughing.

Before Lindsey could form a proper protest, Angel stopped him with one question. "I don't think it should be that difficult for you to keep care of yourself better now, so I don't think you'll end up having those consequences happen to you, do you?"

Huffing, Lindsey looked down. "No…." Angel noticed that a slight drawl was working its way into the boy's voice. Well, that was interesting.

Angel shook his head and continued. "Ok then. Rule number two: You will not lie to me. About anything."

Lindsey nearly squawked in protest, the drawl getting more pronounced. "What if it is something that's none of your business! I have the right to not tell you some things!"

Angel's eyes flashed in irritation, but he managed to hold onto his temper. "I need to be able to believe what you tell me Lindsey. If you don't want me to know something, then it is better for you not to say anything at all, than to tell me an untruth about it. I may not be happy with your decision- especially if keeping quiet causes you to break one of the other three rules- but I will respect your right to privacy. However, any lie you tell me will be met with the following consequence. You will be made to stand in the corner with soap in your mouth. Again, the duration of the punishment will depend on your attitude and on if you have been caught in a lie more than one time, or not."

Lindsey was still spluttering in indignation. "I'm not a child, Angel. I should be able to choose what I say…." he bit his lip in consternation as he realized how difficult this rule was going to be. Most of his adult life had been spent lying to people, either through misdirection or just outright lying. It was almost second nature to him. Well-again… what Angel didn't know, couldn't hurt Lindsey. He'd just have to be very careful how he phrased things and what he said so that Angel couldn't figure out when he was telling the truth or not.

Angel watched Lindsey. For someone who prided himself on being able to hide things and fool people into believing anything, it was certainly very easy for Angel to figure out what he was thinking. The kids thoughts were practically broadcast in the way he was sitting, hunched over and defensive. He wouldn't be surprised if Lindsey had his first taste of Irish Spring within the week. He debated letting the kid rant a little longer, but decided it would be better to finish up and then let Lindsey stew on the matter.

"Rule three: If I give you a direct order- you will obey me." Angel waited for a response.

Lindsey, looked at the vampire closely, and fidgeted in agitation. He was being treated like a little kid! Angel was… well he wasn't mocking him. There wasn't any indication at all the Angel was attempting to make him feel small and extremely young…even if that's how Lindsey was feeling at this moment. There was nothing to his posture or in his eyes that indicated anything more than resolve. It was frustrating. If Angel had looked like he was enjoying this, he would have been able to refuse, and find a way to use Angel's attitude as a valid reason why Angel was out of his mind. Instead- "I'm not a baby! You can't tell me what to do!" Lindsey blushed, the sound of his protest sounding petulant and childish, even to his own ears.

Angel smiled slightly, and couldn't help remarking "I'm 250 years old. For me, anyone under the age of 50 is a child." He then continued more seriously. "I won't be ordering you around all day every day. When I want you to do something, I will ask you and you will have the choice about if you want do it or not. But in some cases, it will be imperative that you do what I ask you to do. In those situations, I will order you and I will expect obedience."

Lindsey rolled his eyes and huffed again, crossing his arms over his chest, completing the look of indignant child. But he didn't argue anymore. Instead he asked, "So what are the consequences of disobeying?"

"You will be grounded. Your life will become home and work. When at work, you will go directly to your job and when your job is completed, you will go directly home. There will be no socializing before or after. When you are at home, you will not be allowed TV, music, telephone, or any recreational books. You will be given chores to occupy you and you will be given a set early bed-time."

Lindsey eyed the vampire balefully. "Anything else daddy?" he snidely asked.

"No, but if you want to keep talking to me with that attitude, little boy, I'm sure I can think of a few more things…" Angel quietly said, his eyes narrowing as he attempted to keep his calm. He'd known Lindsey wouldn't be happy with any of these rules. The kid had actually handled it a lot better, so far, than he had been expecting him to.

Lindsey looked down and mumbled. "No sir…sorry".

"Ok then," Angel nodded and took a deep breath. The last rule was the one he expected the most argument from- not so much because the rule was unreasonable, as because the consequence would be difficult for Lindsey to accept.

"Rule four: You will not deliberately endanger your life. That means that if you plan to go up against some big bad, you get back up. If you plan to go up against some not-so-big-bad, you at least tell someone where you are going so that we can come looking for you if you don't return home. You will not take unnecessary risks- and even if the risk is necessary, I expect you to think about it and find a way to deal with the situation in the manner that is least dangerous to you. Do you understand me?"

Lindsey blinked, and nodded, his mouth open slightly in surprise. Angel sounded like he actually cared what happened to him with that rule. But…that couldn't be possible. Angel didn't like him, didn't care for him at all, why would he be so worried about Lindsey doing something that might get him killed? In any case, he didn't see why he couldn't agree to that rule. It was mostly common sense anyway. Even if he wasn't used to telling people what his plans were or asking for help, doing so- at least in this case- didn't mean he was being treated like a child or that he was incompetent.

"Ok" he nodded quickly. "So that's all the rules then? We finished here?" he wasn't sure he wanted to know what the consequences were for putting his life in unnecessary danger. Wouldn't almost dying be enough of a punishment?

Angel held up one hand to keep Lindsey from moving. "Almost done. The consequences of deliberately putting your life in danger is a spanking." Angel couldn't help but feel amused at the slack-jawed incredulous expression on Lindsey's face.

"A spanking?" Lindsey drawled out, suspicious that Angel was just pulling his leg….Hoping that Angel was just pulling his leg.

"Yes," Angel elaborated. "I will take your pants down, put you over my knee, and spank you until I'm sure you've learned your lesson. And YES, I WILL bare you for the spanking. I have supernatural strength and I will not risk harming you because I can't see what damage I'm doing. So I suggest if you get it into your head to do some fool-hardy stunt like the ones you were doing the last three weeks, you think about it really hard first."

Angel's eyes seared into Lindsey. Lindsey swallowed thickly and bit back the comment that he wanted to make: that Angel was some kind of kinky bastard and he'd be dead before he let him lay a finger on his ass. He knew that wasn't really true and his own sense of right wouldn't allow him to say it. Damn the vampire for making him start to listen to that little voice again.

He still wanted to protest, he really did. But he was quite honestly shocked at the apparent concern Angel had over his welfare and the way he planned to show that concern. He'd never been spanked in his life. Hit yes, spanked no. His brain short-circuited and he couldn't think of one single articulate way to object. By the time he'd been able to formulate words to argue, Angel had turned and left the room.

# # #

Lindsey sat on the couch, feet propped up on the coffee table in front of him, watching Saturday morning cartoons of all things. He had them turned up as loud as he could get them, just because he knew it would irritate Angel- just like having his feet on the table would irritate the vampire. He had deliberately not taken a bath for several days- he was even starting to bother himself with the smell. He was, in short, the room-mate from hell.

Letting out an irritated growl, Angel strode across the room and turned the TV off, gently pushing Lindsey's feet back onto the floor.

"Hey! I was watching that!" Lindsey pouted.

"We need to talk." Angel ignored his complaint and sat down on the table, directly across from him.

"So...talk..." Lindsey eyed the man curiously.

"What were the rules I gave you, when I brought you home?" Angel asked calmly.

"If you don't remember, I don't know why I should have to repeat them for you!" Lindsey responded in as sarcastic a tone as he could manage.

"Lindsey..." Angel rubbed the bridge of his nose, and then took a breath, counting to 10. "Humor me, please."

Lindsey rolled his eyes and let out a huff of air. "Fine. I'm to take care of my health, I won't lie to you, I'll obey your orders, and I won't deliberately endanger my life."

"I won't ask you what the punishment for not following those rules is- as I'm sure you remember. But, I only gave you four rules, correct?" Angel softly asked. Lindsey frowned slightly, wondering where he was going with the question, and then nodded hesitantly.

"So, tell me...what affect on your health do you think not bathing has?" Angel quietly asked.

Lindsey blinked, opened his mouth, and then shut it again. Sighing in defeat, he went to take a shower.

# # #

Lindsey's health had improved greatly with frequent and healthy meals and a safe place to live. The only thing that hadn't improved was his sleep. Angel didn't know what to do for him, but it was often the case that the boy would go to bed early, and within two hours, he'd be wide awake again and pacing the hallway, a haunted look in his eyes. He'd go back to bed as soon as he realized that Angel had noticed him, but Angel could still hear him tossing and turning, fitfully.

Angel wanted nothing more than to draw the child into his arms and comfort him, but he was positive Lindsey would never welcome such an action. The little brat had been nothing short of rude, since moving in- deliberately answering questions as sarcastically as possible, doing things that he knew would irritate Angel, barely staying within the few rules that Angel had laid down.

So far he hadn't actually broken one of the rules, but Angel fully expected it to happen eventually, if not soon. Lindsey was obviously trying to push as hard as he could. He knew the kid expected him to give up on him and say he wasn't worth the effort. That's what he would have done over a year ago- Angel was ashamed to admit that. But he had made a decision to stick by Lindsey this time and he wasn't going to give up, just because of the kid's trust issues. He might have to count to 10 in several different languages, but he would keep his cool and he wouldn't abandon Lindsey a second time. He only hoped Lindsey would realize that he was there to stay and accept him in his life.

# # #

"So give me reason to prove me wrong,
to wash this memory clean,"
- New Divide by Linkin Park


Angel had quickly picked up on one way to tell when Lindsey was thinking of doing something he shouldn't- or felt guilty about something he had done. Any time Lindsey felt remotely guilty in Angel's presence, his voice would take on a slow drawl. Angel suspected that it was because of the parental role he had taken on- without Lindsey's permission- and that it unsettled the kid enough that he was unable to hold onto the affectations he'd developed when working with Wolfram and Hart. The more child like and vulnerable Lindsey felt next to Angel, the more he sounded like he came from the heart of the country. Angel didn't say anything- there was no sense letting the kid know he had a huge 'tell'.

And it had been rather useful. Whenever Lindsey started sounding like he came from Hazard County, Angel would watch him a little more closely, notice what area he was coming dangerously close to breaking a rule on, and gently nudge him back in the right direction.

This morning for instance…. Lindsey had taken to telling Angel what he planned to do during the day, if he planned to go anywhere. It wasn't a rule that Lindsey always let Angel know his whereabouts, but Angel had asked what his plans were one morning, a couple of days earlier, and he'd actually told him without the usual sarcasm. He'd seemed surprised that Angel was truly interested and not humoring him. Since that day, he'd just started sharing what his plans were. He seemed to crave the simple act of sharing and having someone else be genuinely interested in him. Angel wasn't sure the boy even realized what was going on, but he made it a point of being available every morning so that Lindsey could talk, if he wanted. Which led to this morning….

Lindsey had walked into the room and begun to tell Angel about his plans to go over to the bar early, to help Albert with something before his shift began. His accent was so thick, Angel was hard pressed to understand him. Something was definitely up. While carrying on the conversation with his charge, Angel watched to see what he was doing. Well, one thing he wasn't doing was eating. He was picking at his breakfast listlessly, while explaining to Angel about the new song that he was going to perform that night and how he hoped it would be received. Angel wrinkled his nose in concern. Looking closely at Lindsey, Angel could tell he was a bit pale.

"Do you feel alright?" He asked the kid abruptly.

Lindsey blinked in surprise and yelped out an automatic "Yes," before biting his lip and flushing a little. "I mean…my stomach is a little upset, but I should be ok as soon as the antacid kicks in…." He watched Angel cautiously- since he hadn't exactly lied. He hoped that the vampire wouldn't say anything else.

"You have these stomach problems often?" Angel asked sternly.

Lindsey sighed. "I've had them since before…" he shrugged inarticulately, but Angel knew he meant when Lorne had shot him. Angel watched him worriedly.

"You might have an ulcer. I'd like it if you would get it checked out." He tried to make it a request instead of a demand. He didn't want to take over all control, unless the kid proved he couldn't handle himself. He'd been pleasantly surprised, when Lindsey agreed. He'd even gone so far as to make an appointment within Angel's hearing and writing it on the calendar they kept on the refrigerator.

In fact, the more he thought about it, the more he realized that Lindsey seemed to settle in very well. He was still sarcastic and pushed Angel's buttons- but he had yet to do anything that would require Angel to step in. Angel was beginning to think he had underestimated the boy- and that he wouldn't act out in defiance.

"Maybe he's already accepted my authority and I won't have to worry about him doing anything he shouldn't…" he whispered to himself, then winced. You'd think at his age and having lived on a Hell mouth, he'd have learned not to jinx himself like that.

# # #

Lindsey wiped the sweat off his brow as he unloaded the last box from the truck and grinned at Albert. "So… Lorne is planning to expand the bar into an actual restaurant? You planning to apply for the head chef position?" Lindsey looked at his friend impishly. He remembered Albert mentioning something about culinary school- but he had needed to stay in the area in order to help out his ailing mother, so he'd taken the bartending job instead of moving to a city where he could get a chef job.

"Yeah, I am!" Albert grinned at him, then clapped a hand on his back. "Thanks for the help, man. I'd have been here all night, if you hadn't come by. I better go get cleaned up before I start tending bar…" He smiled once again at Lindsey, then turned and headed to the employee restrooms.

"Sure thing, man. I'll see you later tonight…" Lindsey waved, then turned toward the bar, figuring he'd grab a bottle of water before heading back home to clean up and change for his performance that night.

He was leaning around the bar, reaching for the water, when Lorne's voice startled him and he shot up, hitting his head. "Ow…" he winced, rubbing the spot gingerly before turning toward the man.

"Sorry, sugar. I didn't mean to startle you…" Lorne apologized. "Need some ice for that?"

Lindsey smiled crookedly and shook his head. "No, thanks. I'm alright. I didn't hear what you said though. You need help with something?" He raised an eyebrow and took a sip of the water, waiting for Lorne's response.

Lorne looked uncomfortable for a moment before taking a deep breath. "I just wanted to apologize, Lindsey, for a year ago when I shot you. I complained about Angel not giving you enough of a chance and deciding you were a lost cause, but then when push came to shove and I could have stood by my comments to him, I went and did the same thing. You've turned out alright kid. I should have trusted in you from the beginning." Lorne smiled sadly, then turned to go, not expecting a response.

Lindsey swallowed thickly, then said just loudly enough that Lorne could hear him. "It's ok Lorne. You saved my life. Think that makes up for when you tried to take it." He gave Lorne a sad smile back, uncomfortable with the conversation. "I'll be back tonight, okay?" At Lorne's nod, he quickly left the bar, but he didn't start his truck or pull out of the parking lot for several minutes as he fought back sudden tears.

# # #

Later, as he showered under the hottest spray of water he could stand, he found himself alternating between wanting to cry and wanting to scream. Lorne's words of how he should have trusted him, had hurt deeply, because he was sure that Lorne still didn't trust him- despite the apology and kind words. For that matter, he was sure that Angel still didn't trust him, despite the camaraderie they had fallen into the last few days.

He was positive that he'd be kicked to the curb as soon as he did that one unforgiveable thing. Wouldn't it be better to have it sooner than later? He didn't think he would be able to take Angel's accusations and hate after so long of having the vampire's care and concern. But Angel had made it clear that he wouldn't let Lindsey leave. He routinely said that he wanted him there. That he would change his mind as soon as Lindsey screwed up royally, was a given, as far as Lindsey was concerned. Perhaps it was time to make Angel see the truth so that he could be gotten rid of before anymore attachments could be formed.

With that in mind, Lindsey finished his shower and went to his room to get ready. He looked around considering everything that Angel had done for him or gotten for him since moving in. Was he a fool to risk losing this safe haven and all the possessions that went with it? He sighed. A year ago, he probably would have found a way to stick it to Angel and keep the room and the material gains. Now he knew, if he couldn't trust that Angel truly trusted him, then the rest of it wouldn't matter in the least. It might be a bit difficult, considering the fact that he and Angel had been somewhat friendly the last week, but it wasn't impossible. He'd get Angel to reveal his true feelings and then he'd be able to leave, confident that he had been right all along. All he had to do was put his plan in action.

# # #

Four days later and Angel was seething with frustration. What the hell was wrong with the kid? One day they are having normal, pleasant conversations; the next day it is as if a switch was turned off and the kid is right back to his spiteful, sarcastic, belligerent self. Angel hadn't done anything, so he couldn't figure out what had set the boy off. Any attempts to ask him what was wrong, were met by rude comments or just plain being ignored. He had very nearly sent the brat to his room directly after supper, last night, it had been so bad. Only the fact that he'd never actually made it a rule that Lindsey be respectful to him, held him back.

Running an agitated hand through his hair, he stomped over to the phone when it started to ring. "Hello?" he listened, eyebrows drawing together in confusion.

"You're calling to let Mr. McDonald know that you received his message and will reschedule his appointment with him as soon as he calls you back…" his mouth pressed together in a thin line. "I'll be sure to let him know that he needs to call you back. Thank you."

Hanging up the phone, Angel stared at it stonily. Lindsey's doctor appointment was supposed to be today. Actually it was supposed to be right now, at this time. Lindsey had left the house an hour ago, after making certain to get into an argument with Angel over whose turn it was to do the dishes, supposedly to go to this doctor's appointment. But Lindsey wasn't at the doctor's office. In fact, from the sounds of it, he'd cancelled it before he ever left. So…he'd lied.

Angel sighed, unhappy with this turn of events. So, if Lindsey wasn't at the doctors, where would he have gone? Picking up the phone again, he started making some calls.

Unfortunately, several hours later, none of the calls had given any clue as to where his wayward charge had gone. He did talk to Lorne long enough to discover that Lindsey had been there for a short time. Evidently he'd been helping Albert with something. Lorne had been concerned because he seemed to not be feeling well, but he'd told Lorne he planned to go back home and rest and that Angel would help him if needed. So, yet another rule was broken. Angel would have thought the kid would at least make sure he tried to keep care of himself, as the last time he hadn't he'd ended up in the hospital for a lot longer than anyone wanted.

Angel had begun pacing, waiting for the sun to finally go down so he could go search for the child- his child. He would have found a way to get to the sewers and go search that way, except he suspected Lindsey was deliberately avoiding him and wouldn't go anywhere Angel could easily get to. Just as the sun was low enough in the sky that he felt he could risk being outside without dusting himself, the phone rang. Looking at it in worry, he slowly reached over and picked it up. "Hello?"

"Why is Lindsey at that abandoned warehouse we were discussing three days ago? You know- the one where those Rklath Demons are holed up? The one where it was decided we needed a planned attack and all of us needed to be there because it would be too dangerous otherwise?" Spike asked in a mocking voice. "Did Junior go and decide he didn't want to wait for the rest of the team to go play?"

"Are you there right now and is Illyria with you?" Angel growled.

"Yes, and we have a few weapons. Not the ones that would really help, but better than nothing…" Spike was all business now. "Should we go on in after the whelp, or wait for you to get here?"

"Go in. I'm several minutes away, and a few minutes is all it would take for them to kill him." Angel directed, then hung up the phone. Grabbing an axe that was sitting in the corner of the room, by the door, he quickly left, heading in to save Lindsey. The kid's butt might be in for a world of hurt, but it was going to be Angel's hand doing the hurting- no one else was allowed to touch him!

# # #

Lindsey had realized as soon as he'd snuck into the warehouse that he'd under-estimated the danger the demon's posed. He'd also apparently over-estimated his ability to spy on them, as his head was beginning to feel very stuffy and he was finding it difficult to focus. He swallowed nervously and was just about to turn around and go back out the way he'd come in, when a large beefy hand grabbed him by the back of the neck and threw him into the center of the room. Every eye in the room was on him now- he was well and truly screwed. He swallowed nervously and was just about to turn around and go back out the way he'd come in, when a large beefy hand grabbed him by the back of the neck and threw him into the center of the room. Every eye in the room was on him now- he was well and truly screwed.

# # #

Spike and Illyria had snuck in through a broken window and were looking down on the proceedings. From what they could tell, only 4 of the Rklath were in the building at the moment- although that could change at any time. They would need to hurry if they wanted to get the kid out before any other hostile reinforcements arrived. Spike motioned to Illyria who nodded. They'd each take two of the demons. Hopefully the kid would be smart enough to stay out of the fight- since he didn't have any weapons in his possession any longer. So far the Rklath hadn't done much more than rough the boy up, but that would probably change very soon- the creatures looked like they were becoming more and more agitated.

Holding up three fingers, he carefully lowered one at a time until his hand formed a fist. Then with a roar, he jumped down out of the rafters and onto the closest demon. Chaos erupted.

# # #

Lindsey lay on the ground, shocked for a few moments. He'd been dropped to the ground like so much useless baggage the minute Spike and Illyria attacked. His breath caught in his throat as he quickly crawled toward the exit, hoping that if he kept low and didn't attempt to fight, maybe he'd be able to get out the door. Forget pride. He'd not actually planned to fight and didn't have a weapon. He'd get out of the deadly duo's way and hopefully nothing bad would happen to them.

He was almost to the door when he ran headfirst into a pair of legs. Throwing himself to the side and holding his hands up defensively, it took him a few seconds to realize it wasn't another Rklath coming to back up their mates. It was Angel.

Lindsey almost wished it was another Rklath.

# # #

"You shut your mouth
How can you say
I go about things the wrong way
I am Human and I need to be loved
Just like everybody else does"
- How Soon Is Now by the Smiths


Angel didn't think he had been so royally pissed off, in a very long time. There were so many things he wanted to say to the child in front of him, but he knew that saying anything in anger would only lead to pushing Lindsey further away. He'd make sure the young man repented of his folly- but it couldn't be done through anger. Gritting his teeth, he realized he needed some time to cool down- and something else to take his ire out on. He glanced toward where Spike and Illyria had killed the four Rklath, before noticing that the remainder of the demons were coming in through the back and getting ready to swarm. Perfect.

"You go to my car, get inside of it, and you do NOT step foot outside of it again until I give you permission." He ordered, only barely keeping a handle on his temper. He took one step away from Lindsey, before turning back, pulling him to his feet and shoving his hand into the pocket of the boy's jeans, taking away his truck keys.

"Hey…!" whatever protest Lindsey planned to make at having his personal space invaded or his property taken, died a quick death when he looked into Angel's eyes. Trepidation and a little fear flashed on his face before he nodded once and ran out the front door to Angel's car.

# # #

Lindsey fumed as he sat in the front seat. Ok, so it had been a bad idea to come here and spy. But now that everyone else was here, there shouldn't have been any reason he couldn't have helped. He could have gone to his truck and gotten a weapon. He could still do that if Angel hadn't told him not to move out of the car.

Angel…had looked more furious than Lindsey had ever remembered seeing him- even when they were fighting each other and Angel had cut off his hand, the vampire had been more cool and in control than anything. He…didn't look cool this time and barely in control. Lindsey swallowed hard. Somehow, he didn't think facing Angel was something he wanted to do any time soon. It probably was a good thing Angel had taken his keys. He'd probably have left in his truck by now, if he'd had them.

Didn't mean he wanted to stick around and face Angel though, even if he knew it would be a bad idea to add disobedience onto the list of things Angel was angry about. Although….Angel had said to stay in the car until he gave him permission to get out. Angel had never said that the car had to remain at the warehouse…..

# # #

The last of the demons fell, and Angel stood in the center of the warehouse, before stretching and letting out a soft breath. That had helped, somewhat. At least now, he felt like he could face his charge without losing control of the situation. He smiled crookedly at Spike and Illyria before turning toward the exit.

"I've got to go deal with the trouble magnet…" he remarked, "but if you'd like to come over later this week, give me a call."

"Yeah, sure thing. Try not to kill the puppy." Spike was following Illyria out the door and stopped in the middle of exiting, blocking Angel.

"Uh Spike…I'd like to get home some time before sunrise…" Angel poked his grand-childe on the shoulder in an attempt to get him to move. He was confused when Spike burst out in hysterical laughter and staggered the rest of the way out the door.

"What?! What's so funny???!" He stepped out the door, looking at first Spike, then Illyria- who had her normal blank stare as she watched Spike roll around on the ground. When Spike pointed to the parking lot, Angel glanced over at the lone truck sitting there, in confusion.

His face fell and he couldn't help the whine that escaped. "Aw…DAMNIT LINDSEY!"

# # #

Lindsey sat in Angel's car- in front of their house- and stared straight ahead, his fingers twitching around the steering wheel he held in a death grip. 'Stupid, stupid, STUPID!' he berated himself in his head. Yeah- he'd obeyed Angel's directions- he was in the car and he wasn't stepping foot outside of it. Somehow he didn't think Angel would overlook the fact that he'd hotwired the vehicle and moved it though. He really had played too many games with rules and wordings of rules in the past if he'd thought he could actually get away with that one. Maybe if he drove back to the warehouse…. No, the fight was probably over and they would have discovered his 'theft' by now. If they weren't already on their way here, he'd eat his dirty t-shirt. Best just stay where he was and not make things any worse than they already were.

# # #

Angel had said good-bye to Spike and Illyria at the warehouse, asking that if they saw Lindsey they detain him long enough for Angel to get there and retrieve him. He'd then called Lorne and asked him to do the same thing, before hopping into Lindsey's truck and heading home. He couldn't help but be slightly amused at the brat's actions- however irritating they were.

He drove slowly, going over in his head everything that had been done in just one day. When Lindsey decided to rebel, he did it whole hog- there was no doubt about that. The only question Angel had was why Lindsey had felt the need to rebel. It didn't make any sense to him. Angel didn't want to punish him before finding out the reasons behind the misbehavior. It wouldn't help anyone if the underlying problem wasn't addressed. Angel frowned. How could he get Lindsey to talk about what was bothering him? Slowly he pulled into the driveway, happy to notice that his car was parked in its space.

The boy had come home without having to be drug back. That was a good sign, wasn't it? And…he was still sitting in the car? Angel raised an eyebrow, then slowly climbed out of the cab of the truck and locked the vehicle before moving around to the driver side of his car and opening its door.

He didn't say anything, just stared at Lindsey, knowing that if he waited long enough the kid would crack and start talking. He wasn't' disappointed.

Lindsey, took a shuddering breath, looked at his hands for a second, then glared up at Angel as if trying to gain control of the situation.

"I obeyed you! I got in the car and I haven't gotten out at all! See…still in the car!" Lindsey pressed his lips together tightly, not realizing that it made him look like a pouty teen in the throws of a tantrum.

"I see…" Angel softly remarked, letting just a little of his amusement show, pleased when Lindsey turned confused and surprised eyes toward him. "Get out of the car now and go in the house, please." He was proud that he'd managed to keep his voice calm. If he couldn't refrain from swatting the seat of Lindsey's jeans to urge him into the house faster- well, he was allowed.

# # #

Lindsey hadn't waited for Angel to start berating him- he'd gone straight to his room and shut the door, the minute he was inside the house. He drug out his bag and quickly threw anything that had belonged to him before Angel had taken him in, then zipped the bag and looked around. He was surprised how much he had accumulated in the short time he'd lived here- all of it paid for by Angel for the most part. He smiled sadly. He couldn't say the vampire hadn't treated him well. It was just too damn bad for Lindsey that he'd have to go. But better now, than later when it would hurt so much more- although he couldn't imagine how it could hurt any worse.

Biting his lip to keep the tears in his eyes from falling, he slung the bag over his shoulder, then grabbed his guitar and opened his bedroom door to leave. Angel was stood in front of it, his arms crossed over his chest in a deceptively calm pose.

"Where are you going Lindsey?" He asked quietly. His eyes raked over the young man, quickly assessing that the boy was running away. That was the only way to describe it. His eyes shot up to Lindsey's face, staring into the kid's own eyes, and saw the hint of tears. He wasn't ashamed to admit he was glad to see those tears. It meant there was hope that maybe Lindsey didn't really want to leave; but that didn't explain why he was packed to go. "Are you planning to leave? Because I have to tell you now that I'm not letting you go."

Lindsey blinked as he heard Angel's words. The vampire didn't look angry anymore, frustrated yes, determined yes, but not angry. Lindsey couldn't believe what he heard though. Angel wanted him to go- if he wanted to be the one to make the final decision, fine. Lindsey could let him order him out, but he wouldn't play games about it anymore. He grimaced and shoved his way past. "You're not letting me go? Get over it Angel. You know as well as I do this isn't working out. You don't have to keep pretending you want me here…." Lindsey's voice cracked at the end of the sentence.

Angel frowned in confusion and followed him. "What do you mean pretending I want you here? Lindsey…I DO want you here."

Lindsey spun around to face him, unable to keep the tears back any longer. He felt so lost, alone, confused- and Angel was standing there rubbing salt into open wounds. Furious, he balled his fist up and took a swing at the vampire. Angel easily caught his fist in his hand and held it immobile, worry mixing with the confusion.

"You DON'T want me here. You don't. You can't….You don't trust me. You know you don't! You were right Angel. You were right and I can't….I can't change. And when you're finally tired of trying to help me change, you'll give up on me….because that's all you'll be able to do. Because that's all anyone can do. I'm bad. I'm bad and I can't….can't change. And you'll realize that eventually and want me gone…you'll want me gone and…and…" Lindsey balled up his other fist and aimed it blindly at Angel, trying to stop crying and only succeeding in crying harder. Angel tugged on the imprisoned hands he held, pulling the child into his arms before wrapping his arms tightly around him and tucking Lindsey's head against his shoulder, allowing his boy to sob out the poison that had evidently been tormenting him for a very long time.

After several minutes, Lindsey was just leaning in Angel's embrace, hiccupping and taking shaky breaths to try and calm himself. Angel squeezed him tighter, then loosened his hold enough to put just enough space between them that he could take Lindsey's chin in one of his hands and direct his gaze upward to look at him. "I'm sorry Lindsey. I'm sorry I failed you so badly. You were never a lost cause and you can change. I've seen you do it the last several weeks. I was so very wrong about you- and if I'd given you even half a chance instead of letting my jealousies, insecurities, and competiveness lead my decisions…. I can't change the past Lindsey. I can only change now- and the future. And I have no intention of giving up on you. I have no intention of letting you give up on yourself. And I am NOT letting you go. If I have to spend the rest of your life proving that to you, I will, but that's the truth child. I'm not letting you go."

Lindsey watched him closely as he spoke, seeming to see the sincerity of his words, and while there were still hints of uncertainty and distrust, hope blossomed on his face. "Do you understand what I'm saying, boy?" Angel asked him quietly.

Lindsey stepped back out of Angel's arms, reaching up to rub at his eyes and blushing, then glancing everywhere but at the vampire- uncomfortable at the show of emotion. He attempted to lighten the mood with a joke. "It means I'm in big trouble?" He grinned crookedly as Angel let out a surprised chuckle.

# # #

Angel had decided they needed time to calm down before facing the task of addressing Lindsey's behavior. They'd gone into the kitchen and Lindsey had watched while Angel cooked dinner for him, being shooed away every so often as he attempted to sneak a taste of what was being made. Lindsey was grateful for the reprieve. He felt raw inside, open and vulnerable. He hoped that Angel decided to just let everything go, after the soul-baring Lindsey had inadvertently done, but he had a feeling he wouldn't.

They'd eaten together, falling back into small talk and comfortable silences. Angel hadn't realized how much he had enjoyed these moments until the last several days of Lindsey not allowing them to occur. He felt bad that he hadn't realized what his charge was going through. He was ashamed that he'd thought he could just brush his own bad behavior of the past under the carpet and expect that Lindsey didn't need an apology. He wouldn't make that mistake again. He'd do his best not to hurt the child, but if he did- he'd make certain Lindsey understood that he was sorry and apologize. All too soon the dinner was over with and they were just sitting at the table looking at empty, dirty dishes. Lindsey had begun to fidget, so Angel supposed it was time to begin.

"I told you to go to my car and not leave until I gave you permission." Angel stated calmly, waiting to see what Lindsey would say.

"I did! I went to your car and I never left it until you came and got me out!" Lindsey protested, his voice faltering toward the end. "You never said the car had to stay where it was…" he blushed as the remark came out in a hesitant whine.

Angel just raised an eyebrow, then asked one question. "You know what the intent of my order was. Were you following the intent?"

Lindsey swallowed, wanting to say yes, but then sighed and slumped. "No."

Angel had to smile a little at the answer. "So did you truly obey me?"

Lindsey pouted and crossed his arms over his chest, looking at the floor. "No" he mumbled.

Angel nodded slightly. "What are the consequences of disobeying an order?" His voice had remained calm, yet firm through the entire process so far, but Lindsey was already fidgeting and looking uncomfortable. He hated to tell the kid, but he was going to be a whole lot MORE uncomfortable in a few minutes.

"I'm grounded," Lindsey spoke so lowly that Angel wouldn't have been able to hear him if he'd not been a vampire.

"Yes. You will be grounded for one week; nothing recreational, no socialization, just work and home. Your bedtime will be at 8pm." Angel listed the consequences, watching as the kid became more and more dejected. "Next time think twice before you 'technically' obey me while doing what you wanted to do all along. Especially if doing so involves breaking the law." He frowned sternly and waited for a response.

"Yes, sir…" Lindsey sighed. "This sucks…" he muttered.

Angel smiled at the term of respect and decided to ignore the other comment and continued. "Now, there is also the issue of not taking care of your health. I know you cancelled your doctor's appointment. They said you may reschedule. You aren't in trouble for that, although I'm not pleased about it. You ARE however, in trouble for going out tonight, when it was obvious to Lorne that you weren't feeling well, and you as much admitted it to him. You should have come straight home like you told him you were going to do and rested. And don't try and tell me you feel fine, now, either!" He admonished when he saw Lindsey open his mouth to argue. "You're pale and have a slight fever. You are ill and you need to rest before It becomes more serious."

Lindsey sighed. "Yes sir. I'm already grounded- how….?" He looked at Angel curiously.

Angel smiled, then slanted his head. "After your week of grounding is over, you will have one more week where you will have an early bedtime- 9pm I think is sufficient, with a 7am wake up. You will also eat all your meals with either Lorne or myself. Since you weren't wounded, I don't think there will be need of inspections- but if I think you aren't taking your health seriously, or you do something that makes me think it necessary- I will give you daily inspections to check your health."

Lindsey grimaced. That wasn't as bad as grounding at least. He could still socialize and do fun things- he'd just be a little more restricted than normal. It wasn't anything he couldn't handle, although he hated how much like a child it made him feel.

Angel was pleased that Lindsey didn't appear to want to argue about the grounding, at least. He hated that there were still two more items to deal with. He sighed, then looked more closely at the young man in front of him. He hadn't been exaggerating when he told Lindsey he was pale and feverish. The kid DID need sleep and Angel couldn't help but feel adding the stress of the other two consequences- at this moment- would NOT help.

"Come on brat…" he smiled to take the sting out of his words. "Time for all sick little boys to take their medicine and hit the sheets." He grinned at Lindsey's grimace at the pet names, enjoying that he could annoy the kid in such a harmless way. Taking Lindsey by the arm, he led him back down the hall.

"I'll put your bag back in your room. You get ready for bed." He ordered.

Lindsey quickly took a shower, pulling on a pair of thin cotton sleep pants, then wandered back into his room, a sheepish look on his face. Angel was waiting at the side of the bed. Was he going to tuck him in? For crying out loud….! Lindsey couldn't bring himself to protest or complain, though, as the vampire helped him into bed and pulled the sheets and covers up to his chin. He was asleep within minutes. Angel pulled up a chair beside the bed and hunkered down to keep an eye on his charge, hoping that his presence would help the boy sleep.

# # #

Lindsey had slept, and slept well- the combination of his illness and the stress from the events the night before had worn him out. While normally, he would have woken up after about two hours, Angel had been able to calm him whenever it appeared he was beginning to have a nightmare, and he had actually been able to sleep through the night with very little interruption. Angel was pleased to notice the paleness was gone and he felt cool to the touch. As the sun was just beginning to make it's first peak into the day, he decided to go back to his room and change.

Lindsay woke up with a start, a vague feeling that something was missing causing him to wrinkle his nose before more pressing needs took precedence. He quickly jumped out of bed and headed for the bathroom, almost running over Angel in his haste. Biting back a snort of amusement, Angel stood outside the door, leaning against the wall, and quietly knocked on the door. "Feel better?" he decided to ask, just to make sure.

Lindsey blushed remembering his complete meltdown the night before. He'd love to come up with a good excuse as to why that had happened, other than the truth, but he wouldn't be fooling anyone. Quickly washing his hands and splashing water on his face, he exited, then nodded at Angel. "Yes, sir. I feel a lot better…" As he stood facing his guardian, he could tell Angel wanted to say something. "You wanted to talk?" He queried, softly.

Angel took a deep breath, then looked directly into Lindsey's eyes. "Yes, we need to talk about you lying and taking chances with your life," he sternly stated.

Lindsey's eyes widened comically, and Angel would have laughed if the situation weren't serious. "Yes, Lindsey- I haven't forgotten about the lie you told me. You told me you were going to your doctor's appointment. But you weren't, and you knew you weren't. You would have been better off not saying anything, than telling me an outright lie. I want to believe you when you tell me stuff. You need to behave in a manner that will allow me to believe you." Lindsey blinked at those words, suddenly feeling like crying again. Angel was right of course. There'd been no reason to lie, and he DID want Angel to believe him…believe in him.

Without saying anything else, Angel took Lindsey's arm and directed him back into the bathroom. Taking out a small bar of soap that he'd collected from some motel, he pulled Lindsey back into his bedroom and led him to the corner, facing him towards it. Carefully he unwrapped the bar of soap and held it against Lindsey's lips. "Open up, kiddo. Leave half of it on your tongue and the other half hanging out of your mouth. You have ten minutes to stand there. " He placed the soap, then moved behind Lindsey and sat on the bed to wait.

Lindsey couldn't believe he was in this position. He could feel the soap melting on his tongue, the suds filling every crevice of his mouth. He didn't dare move because he was afraid the bar would break in half and he'd end up with the slimy mess going down his throat. He stoically kept himself from swallowing, but he couldn't prevent more tears from leaking out of his eyes. This was so stupid! Why hadn't he just kept quiet about the doctor? Angel was right. He hadn't needed to say anything, let alone lie about it- and the few seconds it took to tell Angel the untruth were certainly not worth this!

Angel came up beside him after a minute and a half, holding an empty trashcan and a tiny glass of water. "Spit it out and rinse…" He softly said. Lindsey hadn't been so grateful for a tiny bit of water as he was at that moment. He only wished it was more than one mouthful. After he'd finished, Angel had turned him back to the corner. "You have 8 more minutes. Think about your actions last night, why you did what you did, and what you might have done differently," he directed before disappearing.

Lindsey could hear water running in the background, so he could only assume Angel was cleaning up. Lindsey wanted to be mad at Angel- he was treating him like a baby! He couldn't find it in his heart to be upset at anyone but himself. He'd been the one to make all the poor decisions. Angel was just following through with what he'd promised. He was keeping his word. Lindsey could only appreciate and admire that fact, even if he didn't like the results. Since he couldn't be mad at Angel and therefore spend his time railing against the unfairness of his position, he actually had to think about what he'd done.

He still wasn't certain that Angel wouldn't turn around and make him leave- but he was starting to believe that maybe the vampire had been telling the truth. It wasn't as if he hadn't had plenty of opportunity to just throw him aside. Lindsey might have been tempted to believe the vampire was only keeping him around to punish him because of some sort of power trip- but Angel didn't seem to be enjoying the proceedings at all. In fact, he seemed reluctant, but determined to follow through anyway. He hadn't really expected to have Angel follow through on the consequences of breaking those rules. The fact that he was….

"Crap!" Lindsey muttered, shutting his eyes tight in mortification. He'd broken the biggie. The "do not endanger yourself" rule, and so far Angel had kept his word about every single consequence, which meant….

"Ok Lindsey, you can turn around. Come here please." Angel's voice cut through his reflections.

# # #

Lindsey slowly turned around, his eyes on the ground, then hesitantly looked at Angel. He really wouldn't…who was he kidding. Of course he would! Lindsey thought briefly about the idea of convincing Angel that he felt sick. Angel was observing him as if trying to determine that fact. No, he'd rather get everything over with so he could start with a fresh slate. Straightening his shoulders Lindsey forced himself to take a deep breath. It was just a spanking. He'd been beat up plenty of times, wounded in horrible ways- he could take a little spanking. It was time to man up and be an adult about it. He'd done the deed- now it was time to pay the piper. He'd… he'd stopped halfway to Angel, no longer able to move his feet.

Angel watched Lindsey carefully as he'd turned around and straightened his shoulders. It appeared the kid planned on going the stoic, 'I can take this, it's not going to affect me' route. Too bad for Lindsey that Angel didn't plan on stopping until it had obviously affected his charge. Angel didn't want a repeat performance and the only way to ensure that was to make sure the lesson was memorable. He smiled sadly when Lindsey's bravado failed to bring him more than halfway to Angel's side. "Come here, Lindsey." He repeated softly, but sternly, pointing a spot directly in front of his knees.

"Angel, I know what I did wrong and I'll never do it again! Honest!" Lindsey tried to wheedle his way out of the punishment.

"So what did you do wrong, Lindsey? Tell me…" Angel asked him, curious to know if the kid really understood.

"I went to spy on demons that you all had decided we should wait to deal with. And I did it without a weapon, and I did it when I wasn't feeling 100 percent well, and I did it because…because…" Lindsey faltered, sounding small and young.

"Because why, Lindsey?" Angel softly asked.

"Because I wanted to push you into doing something." Lindsey weakly admitted. "I thought it would make you send me away…" his whisper felt like a knife in Angel's heart, but he steeled himself to move forward.

"Well, you wanted to push me into doing something, and you have. It just wasn't the something you were aiming for." He pointed again at the spot in front of his knees. "Don't make me come get you little boy." His words were gently said, but the steel behind them galvanized Lindsey into quickly moving the rest of the way to stand in front of his protector.

Angel, deciding that things had drug out long enough, quickly pulled Lindsey between his knees. Lindsey gasped as his sleep pants were quickly and efficiently sent down to his ankles, but he had no time to be embarrassed about his lack of modesty as he just as quickly found himself laying over angel's knee, his legs held in place by angel's other leg.

Angel had arranged them in such a way that his head and shoulders were supported on the bed. A fact that he was thankful for as he was already lightheaded from holding his breath in dreaded anticipation of what was about to happen. When the first hard smack landed on the middle of his bare backside, he let out his breath in a gasped yelp, finally beginning to breath again. He dug his fingers into the covers, gripping them tightly, determined that he wouldn't throw his hands back to protect himself.

"You do not endanger your life in such a manner!" Angel's voice gently scolded even as his hand landed heavily on his bottom. SMACK, SMACK, SMACK, SMACK, SMACK, SMACK… Angel started at the top, moving left to right- making sure to apply an even amount of pressure behind each slap to the pale skin before him. Just as Angel had suspected, Lindsey was trying to be stoic and 'adult' in accepting his punishment. With the exception of the first startled gasp, he had held back any other grunts or gasps of pain- although Angel could tell he was clenching his teeth hard in order to avoid letting the sounds escape, and his knuckles were white from the grip he had on the comforter.

"You are a smart man. I expect you to behave as if you are a smart man." Angel reiterated, moving his hand slightly lower and continuing on in the same left-right pattern. SMACK, SMACK, SMACK, SMACK, SMACK, SMACK.

Lindsey breathed heavily through his nose. He'd experienced pain before, but never had he felt so vulnerable, and childish, and ashamed….He'd never before felt like he deserved what he was getting. But he knew he deserved this. His actions had done everything but outright beg Angel to do exactly this. He closed his eyes tightly, frustrated that yet again tears were in his eyes. He couldn't help the tiny grunts that escaped his lips with each hard smack.

"You are too important to us, to ME, to lose because you decided to do something reckless." SMACK, SMACK, SMACK, SMACK, SMACK, SMACK. "Do you realize how much it would devastate me if you were killed because you had done something that I couldn't protect you from???" At that Angel let his frustration and fear that Lindsey's actions had caused out, his hand falling more rapididly with harder strokes, no longer following a set pattern. SMACK, SMACK, SMACK, SMACK, SMACK, SMACK, SMACK, SMACK, SMACK, SMACK, SMACK.

Lindsey opened his eyes wide and wailed, the combination of the pain and Angel's words finally breaking through his crumbling barriers. Forget his pride, the only thing he could focus on was how much his butt hurt-it felt like it was on fire- and the fact that Angel was worried about him. Angel wanted to take care of him and protect him and… and Angel was making his displeasure with his actions very, very, very clear.

"I'm soooooorry!" Lindsey sobbed, all dignity gone. At this moment he wasn't the proud, in control, adult- he was a little boy being chastised at his father's hand. He couldn't have held back anything now, if he tried.

"I'm glad to hear it son," Angel soothed, only letting up on the strength of his slaps slightly. "We're almost done little one…you're doing good."

Lindsey didn't know how he could possibly be doing good when he was a blubbering mess, exposed physically AND emotionally, but he could only trust that Angel knew what he was talking about. He slumped, seemingly boneless as Angel lifted his knee, exposing the tender crease where Lindsey would feel the punishment the most when he sat. He quickly peppered the sit spot with a dozen strong smacks until that area was the same bright, dark red as the rest of his charge's bottom. He then lowered his leg and rubbed a hand over the sobbing boy's neck and shoulders.

"It's alright Lindsey" he comforted. "I've got you and I'll never let you go. It's alright sweetheart…"

It took several minutes before Lindsey realized the punishment was over. He choked back his sobs, the soothing hand at his neck calming him as much as the words that were being uttered. "I'm sorry…" He whispered softly, his eyes blinking in weariness.

"I know child, I know…" Angel carefully lifted the kid and placed him on the bed, laying him on his stomach, gently pulling the thin cotton pants back up, glad the kid hadn't changed into jeans yet. He might suggest he wear some sweat pants, when the kid woke up again. Until then- he sat back in what was quickly becoming 'his' chair, and watched his charge sleep.

# # #

"But through my tears breaks a blinding light
Birthing a dawn to this endless night" -
Lies by Evanescence


Lindsey woke up again- an hour later- his nose still stuffy and his eyes sticky from crying. He blinked blearily, trying to clear his vision and reached up to rub his eyes, the soft chuckle the first clue he had that he wasn't alone. In startled panic, he rolled away from the voice, hissing as his now very tender posterior made contact with the bed before he continued on, falling onto the floor with a pained yelp.

"OW! Oh holy mother…"
Lindsey let out a string of expletives that had Angel's eyebrows going into his hairline. Angel wasn't sure if he should be impressed- the kid had a few that Angel had never heard in that context before- or if he should add a new rule to the list about Lindsey's language. He settled for getting out of his chair and going around the bed to find the kid- who was currently on one hand and his knees, while reaching back and rubbing at his hip, the first part of his body to 'stop' him from his plummet out of the bed. Shaking his head ruefully, Angel picked Lindsey up under his arms and put him on his feet.

"Language!" he mildly chided, before wrapping a companionable arm around Lindsey's shoulders. "How bout you take a shower, I'll get you some sweat pants and lotion- then we can go have some breakfast?"

Lindsey eyed Angel, a little uncertain. "Um, sure…" he turned to head toward the bath, but then stopped and turned back toward the vampire. "are...are we ok now?" he hated how his voice sounded so small and needy, but then he supposed he was needy.

Angel nodded and gave him a smile. "Clean slate Lin, you paid for your misdeeds- they're forgotten now. Now go take your shower, sport. Breakfast as soon as your done." He walked by Lindsey, patting him gently on the back.

Lindsey, watched him walk down the hall and took a deep breath, relieved in spite of himself.

# # #

By the time he got out of the shower, the water had run cold; Lindsey's skin was numb and his teeth were chattering. Afraid that he'd taken longer than he should have, he pulled on the sweats that Angel had set beside the sink for him without bothering to dry off. He decided against using the lotion- he was man enough to take whatever pain remained. "Besides," he told himself "it wasn't as if I don't deserve a reminder of how foolish I was."

Gingerly, he walked into the kitchen, rubbing his still damp hair with a towel, drops of water still glistening on a bare chest, water spots on the pants from where he didn't dry off thoroughly. Angel took one look at him and snorted.

"You do realize that if you catch a chill because you neglected to dry off, you'll end up with another week of being under a 'medical grounding'," he stated in a non-accusatory way.

Lindsey just grunted back before grinning, "I'm hungry…didn't want to take anymore time. 'Sides, I figure I'm not allowed out of the house, so, it shouldn't hurt me if I'm staying inside, right?" He shrugged, then went to get a bowl of cereal.

Angel glanced at Lindsey, trying to determine if that remark was meant to try and make him feel guilty, but didn't sense any ulterior motive in the words. He smiled again, sliding the milk across the counter toward the young man next to him. Lindsey nodded his thanks, finished preparing his cereal and walked around the counter towards the kitchen table.

Angel had set a big pillow on one of the chairs. Blushing, but grateful all the same, Lindsey sat down carefully before sighing and digging in.

They ate in silence for about five minutes before Lindsey looked up from his bowl and looked at Angel.

"Angel?"

Angel looked up curiously. "yeah kid?"

"Thanks…for….for taking care of me…" Lindsey flushed, but continued to look up. He wanted Angel to see he meant the words. "And…I…I won't ever make you have to do that again!"

Angel smiled and nodded. "I hope you won't make me do it ever again. Because I'll take care of you in whatever way you need that care for as long as I'm able. Whatever way you need, kiddo. You're family now."

Lindsey, looked back down at his cereal smiling. He was beginning to believe it.


Back to Hope1iz's Stories