Part of the Solution



A dim light permeated Lindsey's closed eyes. His body ached and his chest burned, but the sensations were fading. Groaning softly, he forced himself to focus on his surroundings and opened his eyes. Squinting in the soft light, he surveyed the destruction before him. Demon bodies, whole and not so whole, were strewn around the room, pools of blood everywhere. But no Lorne. Lindsey had played dead long enough for Lorne to hit the road.

The bullets may not have penetrated his body, but damn, the impact still hurt and took his breath away. Lindsey tentatively took a deep breath and slowly exhaled as he willed the aches and pains away. He focused on the mental skills he had learned in Nepal until he felt his strength return. With another deep breath he rose shakily, holding on to the wall for balance, and unbuttoned his shirt to survey the damage. The Kevlar vest had done its job; it just wasn't the job for which it had been intended.

After his conversation with Angel earlier he had gone out to buy the vest, knowing he would need all the protection he could get tonight. And yet it was Angel and Lorne -- Lorne of all people! -- from whom he had needed protecting. The anger and indignation he felt was mixed with a not-so-small amount of respect that they had actually pulled it off. Or at least they thought they had.

Kevlar wasn't the only trick Lindsey had up his sleeve. He hadn't spent nearly two years in Nepal for nothing. The magicks he had learned weren't quite up to par with his sword-fighting skills, but they were pretty damn close. He had come to the party prepared tonight. And the party wasn't over yet. It was still early and he was sure Angel and Spike, at least, were still in the game. The Senior Partners wouldn't have had time to pull together a real army and if the Fang Gang had been successful at taking out the Circle of the Black Thorn, the odds were still to Lindsey's liking.

Even before he arrived at the alley behind the Hyperion, he could feel the evil in the air. His time at Wolfram and Hart had left its mark. His senses were attuned to the subtle changes. Even through the pouring rain he could feel the angry screeching vibrating through his body. He scanned the radio stations in the car on the way over, but no one was reporting any unusual activities. Yet.

Parking the car a block from the Hyperion, Lindsey grabbed his saber and a small bag and followed the swarm of demons making their way to the back of the hotel. He was pretty sure Angel was already there, most likely trapped between the demon mob and hotel. Lindsey spun on his heel and headed back towards the front of the hotel instead. The hotel was dark. Either Angel was still paying the rent on the place or no one else was interested in it. Kicking down the door, Lindsey entered the hotel. He couldn't risk turning on any lights, assuming Angel was still even paying the electric bill, so he quickly pulled a small bottle from his bag, threw it to the floor and cried, "Fiat lux!" A soft light hovered before him and he raced up the stairs to the roof of the old hotel.

The hotel itself was vibrating from all the dimensional activity in the air. Cautiously opening the rooftop door, he breathed a sigh of relief when he found the roof empty. Everyone was involved in the battle below. Before he made his way to the edge of the roof he murmured, "Fiat infusco," and the magickal light disappeared. He reached the edge of the rooftop and dropped to his belly before peering over the edge. Fortunately, the pouring rain had been steadily slowing to a light drizzle, making it easier for him to survey the scene below him. He soon found Angel and Spike in the thick of things. Five or six dozen demons surrounded them, some dead and more very much still alive, so to speak. Moving so quickly through the throng of demons, their swords and fists flying, they were nearly a blur. Not far from them he saw Illyria, doing just as much damage as the vampires. He marveled at their skill and speed. And at the carnage at their feet.

Was that a dragon crumpled near the dumpster? They had actually sent a dragon? He had read about them but had never seen one up close. And never wanted to again. That thing was huge! But not nearly as large as the giant demon now lumbering towards the Champions, reaching out for both Spike and Angel. The giant moved slowly, hampered by its large size. Moving fast, Lindsey pulled a small sphere from his bag. Circling his hand over it a few times, he chanted under his breath until the ball began to glow a bright green. Lindsey hurled the glowing orb at the giant demon and watched with a satisfied grin as the ball expanded in flight. When the orb hit the unsuspecting demon in the head, both orb and head exploded, covering everyone on the ground with demon brains and slime. Fortunately for Angel and Spike, the dead demon fell backwards and landed on a dozen or more demon minions, effectively removing them from the battle. The fighting stopped momentarily as everyone looked up to where the exploding orb had come from. Lindsey wished he wasn't so far away -- he would love to see Angel's expression.

The odds were now much better -- about four dozen demons left against Angel, Spike, and Illyria. Lindsey didn't see Wesley or Gunn in the fray, but he didn't have time to worry about them now. A number of those demons were now making their way up to him. He ran back towards the roof door, grabbing his bag and saber as he went. He quickly rummaged through the bag until he found another orb. Slightly larger than the last one, Lindsey muttered another spell and this time the orb turned bright red. Lindsey pitched the orb towards the demons now scaling over the wall to the roof. Flames started shooting from the orb and a high-pitched scream emanated from it as it hit the demons and exploded. The impact sent Lindsey flying back into the door. Scrambling to his feet, he grabbed the bag and saber and headed down the hotel stairs. By the time he joined Angel and the others in the alley, the rest of the demons were either dead or retreating. Angel, Spike, and Illyria were wearily surveying the damage.

Lindsey jogged up to them, sword at the ready. "Damn," he quipped. "And here I was hoping to give my sword another workout tonight." He walked up to Angel, who was looking at him in dazed disbelief. "What's the matter, Angel? You look like you've just seen a ghost."

"Wha--? How? Why?" Angel struggled to put together a coherent sentence. Spike just leaned over and gave Lindsey a light punch on the shoulder. "Well, he's solid enough, so he's not a ghosty." Lindsey just smirked before he glanced around the alley.

"Where's Gunn and Wesley?" he asked. He saw their faces fall, even Illyria's. "They're dead," she stated flatly and looked back towards the fence. Lindsey followed her gaze and saw Gunn slumped in the corner.

"How long?"

They all looked at him in confusion. "How long what, mate?" Spike asked wearily.

"How long have they been dead? And where's Wesley?"

Angel shook his head. "Why? What does it matter how long they've been dead?" he asked angrily. He didn't want to dwell on the fact that he'd just lost two more of his friends tonight. This morning. Whatever the hell it was.

Lindsey walked over to Gunn, dropping his sword next to him. He sunk to his knees and began circling his hands over Gunn's body. "Has it been longer than two hours?" He knew before anyone answered that it hadn't been that long. He could still feel traces of life energy emanating from Gunn's body. He channeled his own energy into the space between his hands and Gunn. The others watched in silent amazement as they saw flashes of light pass between the two men. Lindsey was muttering under his breath. Angel thought he heard Sumerian mixed in with some Latin, but he was too dazed to focus on what Lindsey was saying.

After a few long moments the wounds on Gunn's body began to dissipate. The cuts began to shrink and disappear, along with the blood. His right arm, bent at an unnatural angle, eased back into the correct position. When Lindsey finally stopped chanting, he collapsed next to Gunn, his body trembling from the effort.

Illyria reached down to touch Gunn's face. He moaned softly but didn't regain consciousness. "He'll be out for a while yet. He still needs to do a lot of healing. But he'll live," Lindsey announced weakly. He took a few deep breaths and stood up shakily. "Now, what about Wesley?"

Illyria stared at Lindsey. "It's been over three hours since I left him. I can take you to him."

Lindsey shook his head sadly. "I'm sorry. The protection spell was only good for two hours. There's nothing I can do now."

"What protection spell? What the hell is going on, Lindsey?" Angel demanded.

Lindsey sighed. "Can we move this to somewhere drier that doesn't stink like hundreds of dead demons, first? Like the hotel?"

"Best idea I've heard today," Spike agreed. Angel, Spike and Illyria moved in tandem towards Gunn, but Illyria pushed the others away and gingerly picked him up. Angel realized he didn't know or understand her at all. The depth of her feelings for Wesley and Gunn surprised him. Tonight was just full of surprises.

The group made their way into the hotel and Angel turned on the lights. The place hadn't changed that much. There was just a lot more dust. Probably some rats scampering around, but Lindsey wasn't going to look too closely. Illyria gently placed Gunn on the lobby couch.

They looked at each other for a moment and took a silent inventory of all the damage. Besides looking like drowned rats, they were all covered in blood and slime of various colors. Angel, Spike, and Illyria had nasty looking cuts and gashes on their faces and bodies. Lindsey was amazed that they were still standing. He was completely drained from the night's events, and he was no where near as beaten up as the others.

"Some heat would be nice," Lindsey requested quietly. Angel gave him a look that Lindsey wasn't quite sure how to interpret before heading to the basement to turn on the heat. When Angel returned he noticed that Lindsey was still trembling, and he was pretty sure it wasn't just from the rain-drenched clothes and lack of heat. The night was catching up to Lindsey, not to mention the rest of them, and Angel wanted some answers before everyone collapsed.

"Spike, the kitchen's back that way. Can you get Lindsey something hot to drink? I'll grab a blanket." Spike nodded and started heading toward the kitchen.

"Hey, got any whiskey instead?" Lindsey called after him. Angel glared at him. "Maybe after you tell us what you've been up to, but not before." Lindsey just gave him that annoying smirk he hated so much.

Ten minutes later everyone was sipping hot drinks in Angel's old office. Lindsey sat while the others remained standing. Angel looked at Lindsey pointedly.

Lindsey sighed. "Right." He put down the drink and stood up. He didn't like the others looking down on him, figuratively or literally. "This spell -- if we're mortally wounded, the spell basically captures the life essence in a protective casing around the body until I have time to do a little rejuvenating spell that heals the injuries. But since I'm not a full-fledged witch or sorcerer, I only had enough supplies and power to make it last for a couple of hours."

Spike nodded appreciatively. "Good forward thinking on your part, cowboy. 'Course, woulda been nice to know ahead of time."

"Oh, I only did the spell on me, Gunn, and Wesley." He looked at them wryly and continued, "I figured you super heroes could take care of yourselves. But we humans are more breakable so I wanted to cover all the bases." He turned to Angel. "Of course," he suddenly slammed his fist into Angel's stomach. "I wasn't counting on my own team trying to take me out. You bastard!"

Angel, doubled over in pain, winced as he straightened and looked Lindsey in the eye. "If I let you live, you would have gone right back to the Senior Partners to start up a new Circle of the Black Thorn when this was all over. And chances were pretty good that I wasn't going to be around to stop you. I couldn't take that chance, Lindsey. I had no choice."

Lindsey snorted, "Yeah, well, once again, big guy, you underestimated me. That was a test this afternoon, wasn't it? When you came to see me and told me you'd rather have me in charge after this went down -- the devil you know, remember?"

Angel nodded. "If that wasn't what you wanted, Lindsey, then why didn't you say something?"

For the first time, Lindsey looked embarrassed. He sighed. "For so long now I thought that was what I wanted, the power, but . . ." He trailed off and shook his head. "Since I got back from Suburbia Hell I've been thinking about everything . . . what I did at Wolfram and Hart . . . you, me, Darla, Lilah, Eve, the partners, the Circle," he paused. "To have that power . . . to be part of the Circle . . . I know what I'd have to become, and I don't want to be that."

He looked at Angel, hoping he'd understand. Lindsey, with all of his smarts and oratory skills, couldn't find the words to express what had been happening to him. He saw Angel nod and knew before he even said it, what was going to come out of his mouth.

"You had an epiphany," Angel proclaimed smugly.

Lindsey snorted, "I wouldn't go that far. And don't you dare go into one of your save-a-soul sermons. You know I just tune you out when you go all speechy."

Spike laughed. "I knew there was something about you I liked!" Angel just glared at Spike.

"Alright, I'm not giving any sermons tonight. Maybe you just needed time -- a lot of time -- to grow up," Angel responded. "But I still don't trust you."

"After tonight, I'm sure as hell not going to trust you either! But you need me. Did you really think you could take on the wrath of the Senior Partners with brute strength alone? There's no way you could win without magicks and other tricks up your sleeve. The Senior Partners pull out all the stops, boys, and you have to be prepared to do the same."

Angel stared at Lindsey. "You're right. We weren't as prepared as we should have been. But my main concern was taking out the Circle of the Black Thorn and averting the apocalypse. I really didn't expect to be around afterwards to deal with the aftermath. Thus, the need to eliminate you," he finished weakly.

"Yeah, fine plan that was," Spike interjected. "So what now?"

Lindsey turned to the others. "The Partners need to regroup. You caught them by surprise tonight, but they have pretty much limitless resources at their disposal. This is just a short reprieve."

"So we'd better take advantage of it," Angel said. He looked at Lindsey. "You look like you're about to drop. All that magick tonight has to have taken a lot out of you."

"Not to mention getting shot and killed -- after an intense battle with a bunch of nasty demons for you," Lindsey added bitterly. Angel frowned at him but Lindsey just smirked and continued, "I'm not doing anything else until I find Eve. Where is she?" He caught the fleeting guilty expression on Angel's face and panicked. "What did you do?" he demanded, stepping forward threateningly.

Angel grabbed Lindsey's shoulders to stop him. "She's fine." Lindsey's eyes narrowed. Angel sighed. "I told her you weren't coming back. She knew what that meant. And the building was coming down on us so I told her to leave."

"Where did she go?"

"I have no idea. At the time, I really didn't care."

Lindsey was pissed. "She doesn't know anyone outside of Wolfram and Hart. She thinks I'm dead! And you just left her like that. Do you know if she even got out of the building?"

Angel shook his head. He really didn't like Eve and hadn't given her a second thought, but -- "You really love her?" he asked, surprised at the realization.

"I . . . care about her. And feel responsible for her," Lindsey answered quietly. "Jesus, she gave up her immortality for me!" He sighed. "Besides, you know I'm incapable of love, remember?" Angel winced at the memory. He and Lindsey, both wanting to save Darla, both messing it up so badly.

Lindsey was anxious to find her. "Where's my bag? I can do a locator spell."

"Hold up there a second, kiddies. Does she have a cell phone?" Spike asked matter-of-factly. Lindsey flashed Spike a grateful look and reached into his pocket to pull out his phone. "I don't know if she'll have it on, though, even if she still has it. She's not expecting to hear from anyone."

Lindsey hit his speed dial and walked away from the others, still looking for his bag just in case. But the locator spell wasn't necessary. Lindsey closed his eyes in relief when she answered on the second ring.

"Hello?" Eve sounded like a little girl lost and Lindsey's guilt grew stronger.

"Eve. It's Lindsey. I'm okay, babe, and I'm going to come get you. Where are you?"


"Yeah, it's me. Where are you?"

"No. Lindsey's dead. This is a trick," Eve's voice was rising in panic. Lindsey could hear someone announcing the boarding of a bus in the background. At least he knew where she was. For now.

"It's not a trick, babe. It's really me. Angel tried to have me killed tonight but I was prepared. I'm fine, but I need you here so I know you're safe. I'll come get you and then we'll talk, okay?"

"Lindsey?" her voice broke and she started crying.

"Stay where you are. I'll be there in a little bit. Okay?"


Lindsey hung up and headed towards the front door. Angel raced after him and stopped him before he got out the door. "Wait! I'm going with you."

"Oh, no, you're not. If she sees you, she'll hightail it outta there."

"Not if she sees you first and you explain. It's not safe for you out there alone."

"Really? And here I thought I'd just saved your sorry butts tonight."

Angel was exhausted, sore, and more than just a little frustrated that Lindsey seemed to be doing everything right while he kept messing up. Something was definitely wrong with this picture. "Look, I'm just trying to help. I'll stay out of sight, but you should have some backup."

"You're gonna get blood all over my car. You need to get cleaned up and I'm not waiting."

"We'll take my car, then. Either I follow you in my car or we go in one car. You're not going alone."

Angel and Lindsey stared defiantly at each other until Lindsey's shoulders finally slumped in resignation. "Fine, but when we get to the bus station, you stay out of sight until I talk to her."

Angel turned back to Spike and Illyria who had followed them out to the lobby. "You two get patched up, cleaned up, whatever. There are plenty of rooms upstairs so make yourselves at home."

"No," Illyria stated. They all looked at her in surprise. "I don't want to leave Wesley in that place. I will bring him back here. Now."

The loss hit them all over again. Spike's voice cracked slightly when he softly replied, "I'll go with you."

Angel nodded and his voice was husky when he said, "Take my car, then. I'll go with Lindsey." Before Lindsey could say anything, Angel turned to him. "I'll sit in the back of your damn car on a towel, okay?" Lindsey was too spent to argue about it anymore and just nodded his agreement. He just wanted to find Eve, get back to the hotel and shower, and sleep for a week.

"What about Gunn?" Spike asked, nodding towards the unconscious man. Angel paused. He didn't think Gunn was in any danger right now, but they really couldn't take any chances. He turned to Lindsey. "Any more spells up your sleeve?"

Lindsey nodded. "I can put a barrier spell around him so nothing can get to him." He went to his bag and pulled out a small branch with odd shaped leaves on it. Taking out a small bottle, he sprinkled some of its contents over the branch. Shaking the branch, he then circled around Gunn and when he had gone full circle he stopped and intoned, "Enemies, fly and fall. Circling arms, raise a wall."

Everyone felt a surge of energy enter the room. Spike stepped forward, touched Gunn, and then looked at Lindsey questioningly. Lindsey shrugged, "Are you an enemy?" Spike made a face.

"Don't worry, it's working. For now. It probably won't last more than a couple of hours, though. Can we go now?"

They headed out the door. As they were leaving, Angel told Illyria, "I'll call Wes's parents tomorrow. I'm sure they'll want Wesley to be buried back home."

"I understand. He should be with his family." She paused. "As should Fred. But that is not possible now," she ended sadly.

Angel sighed. "Illyria, if you hadn't survived tonight I was going to call Fred's parents, too. Assuming I survived. I would have taken care of my people."

"Really?" Spike asked, surprised. "And who were you going to call if I bit the dust? Buffy?"

"Yes, Spike. I would have called Buffy."

"And you just happen to have all those numbers memorized, do you?" Spike challenged.

Angel shook his head and reached into his pocket. At the same time Lindsey snorted and lashed out at Angel, "Of course, taking care of your people didn't include me, did it? You just kill me and leave me to rot with the demons I killed to help you!"

Angel pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and unfolded it. He handed it to Lindsey wordlessly and Lindsey stared at it in disbelief. He saw the names, addresses, and phone numbers for Wes's parents, the Burkles, and Buffy Summers. And at the bottom of the list was a phone number and address for Lindsey's older brother.

Lindsey looked at Angel, confusion and unspoken questions clouding his eyes.

"Lindsey, I didn't want to kill you but I couldn't take the chance. I knew you weren't completely evil. I just didn't know what side of you was going to win out. Now let's go get the rest of our team."

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