Title: Tarnished Armor
Summary: Leaving Wolfram & Hart was the best decision Lindsey could have made.
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership over these characters. I am merely borrowing them from Joss et al.
Distribution: joss10k, my site, the usual lists, anyone with previous permission. Anyone else - just ask.
Feedback: Yes please! It makes me happy and keeps me writing.
Thanks to my betas: Strangecreature, KallieRose & Emmy for all of your help.
Author's Note: While this takes place during season 5 of Buffy, I'm leaving out some things to suit my purposes. 1) No Dawn & Joyce isn't sick, so Buffy is still living in the dorms with Willow as her roommate. 2) Tara is just a friend.
See Awards this story has won.
He had only been on the road for a couple of hours after leaving Los Angeles, for good. After a minor hassle with the California State Highway Patrol, courtesy of Angel, Lindsey was finally on his way. Of course, he had no idea where he was headed. All he knew was that he needed to leave the high-powered, evil-filled, life of Wolfram & Hart far behind him.
He passed the sign welcoming him to the town, idly noticing that it seemed to have had been run over a few times. He'd heard of Sunnydale while he'd lived in LA. How could he not have heard of the town sitting on the Hellmouth? After all, the Master had been a client before he had gone and gotten himself trapped underground for decades. His Darla had served the Master here; it's where she was first dusted.
Shaking his head to rid himself of his melancholy thoughts, Lindsey re-focused his attention on his driving. As he passed his third cemetery, he caught a flash of red hair bobbing above the headstones, rapidly being pursued by a vampire.
Instantly realizing that as a former bad-guy he should help this girl, Lindsey moved to intercept the pursuit. His tires squealed to a halt just as the redhead dashed through the exit of the cemetery. Leaning across the cab, Lindsey opened the passenger door as she got closer.
"Get in," he called out, and after a moment's hesitation, she climbed in.
"Thanks," the girl panted, slamming the door shut as the vampire reached for her, catching his arm in the frame. She pulled a stake out of an inside pocket in her jacket, rolled down the window, and stabbed it through the heart, firmly shutting the door as the vampire turned to dust.
Lindsey was pretty sure his mouth was hanging open, but was afraid to check. He had been expecting to have to explain to this girl that that really had been a vampire chasing her. Apparently this girl not only knew it was a vampire, but how to kill them.
Willow fidgeted nervously under the stranger's stare. She was extremely grateful that he'd stopped and provided her shelter from the vampire, but now he was just staring at her, and it was making her uncomfortable. She really didn't want to have to explain to him what had just happened.
Inching her way back towards the door, Willow said, "Um, thanks for helping me, but, uh, now that he's gone, I should be on my way."
Lindsey immediately panicked when the beautiful redhead said she was going to leave. "No, wait," he exclaimed, reaching out to grasp her arm. "Please. Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine; thanks for asking. Bad guy's gone, so I should be too," Willow politely answered, growing more nervous by his reluctance to let her go.
'Just great!' she thought. 'Escape from a vampire to get kidnapped by a lunatic.'
Lindsey still stared at her, but it was no longer in amazement. Sure, he was still surprised she knew what went bump in the night, but now he was really looking at her. Fiery red hair was wind-ruffled from her pursuit. Bright green eyes, which he noticed were starting to show fear, stared back at him. Her pale skin was luminescent in the moonlight.
"I didn't mean to scare you off," he apologized, realizing he was still holding onto her arm. "You startled me s'all. Here I thought I was going to have to play the hero, save the damsel in distress from the monster, and you did all the work."
Willow relaxed a bit once her arm was free. The handsome stranger didn't seem so bad once he stopped manhandling her. And handsome he was. His hair was short, but not too short, beautiful face and sparkling eyes.
"Y-you know about monsters?" she hesitantly asked. "Did you mean bad guy monster or Dr. Frankenstein monster?"
Lindsey couldn't help laughing and the sound was music to Willow's ears. "Actually, I meant vampire monsters."
"What do you know about vampires?" she asked suspiciously. She wasn't sure if she could trust someone who knew about vamps. "Are you one?"
"If I was, don't you think I'd have bitten you by now?" he teased. At her skeptical look, he held his arm out for her to inspect. "Go ahead, test for a pulse."
Willow cautiously reached out and rested two fingers against his wrist. She sighed when all she felt was warm skin and a strong pulse. And maybe a little something more.
"So you're human. How do you know about vamps?" she pressed.
"Stubborn little thing, aren't you? I lived in LA. It's got all kinds of demons runnin' loose. I used to work for a place that worked with demons, including vamps."
"Are you evil?" Willow nervously asked, panic once again filling her.
"No," Lindsey rushed to assure her. "At least, I'm trying not to be. It all just got to be too much, ya know?"
Willow nodded. "Well, good for you."
Lindsey smiled at her affirmation and was about to ask her for her name when she spoke up.
"Look, thanks again for helping me, but I really should be getting home."
"I could drive you," Lindsey offered. "It's not safe out here."
Willow raised an eyebrow at his comment. "Thanks, but I'm not so sure I should be accepting rides from strangers."
"What are you, five?" he laughed. Noticing Willow's scowl of indignation as her arms crossed over her chest, he said, "Look, I'm not gonna try anything, I promise. You've already been attacked once tonight, let me get you somewhere more populated at least."
Willow scrutinized him for a moment longer before relenting. "Okay, thanks. You can drop me off at the UC Sunnydale campus."
"My pleasure," Lindsey said, turning back to face the road. As he started driving, he sheepishly asked, "Now that would be where?"
Willow giggled. "I'll show you. It's not out of your way, is it?"
"I'm not going anywhere in particular. I'd just arrived in town when I saw you. Know of any good hotels?"
Willow blinked, pleasantly surprised that he wanted to stay in Sunnydale after he'd just had to save her from a vampire. "There's one near campus for when parents come to visit. I've never been there, so I don't know what it's like, but it's gotta be better than the motels near the other side of town."
"Thanks, I'll take a look. It's been kind of a long day."
"How long will you be staying in town?" Willow asked politely, starting to hope she'd see this handsome stranger again.
"Don't know. Until I get bored." Lindsey shrugged. "Didn't really have a plan when I left."
"You can pull over here," Willow said as they drew near to the library. She wasn't ready to have him know which building was her dorm, yet. "Well, as long as you know about vamps and demons, you'll be kept on your toes. Thanks again for the ride."
"You're welcome. My name's Lindsey, Lindsey McDonald." He offered her his hand as she slipped out of the truck.
"Willow. Willow Rosenberg," Willow offered with a smile. She shook his hand and could have sworn she felt a tingle all the way down to her toes. She closed the door and walked towards the library.
Lindsey watched her go for a minute, amazed at how infatuated he was starting to feel towards this girl he'd just met.
'Willow Rosenberg,' he silently repeated to himself. 'What are you doin', man? She's a college kid, for Christ's sake. You don't even know if she's got a boyfriend. Do you want to be hanging around the Hellmouth lusting after some kid?'
Staring down the path Willow had taken, he decided that he did.
Putting the truck in drive, Lindsey followed Willow's directions until he found the hotel near campus. It wasn't the Four Seasons, but it was clean. There was a restaurant open late attached to the hotel, perfect for a starving ex-lawyer. And the best thing about the hotel: it was only five minutes from Willow.
Granted, he still didn't know which dorm was hers. He couldn't blame her for making him drop her off at the library. After all, she'd just met him; and if she knew about vampires, then she might be afraid that he was some other kind of humanoid demon.
He was having a hard time believing that such an innocent looking girl, young woman, knew about vampires and how to kill them. She didn't seem to be a slayer. Faith had given off a strong vibe that even he could feel. This girl gave off no slayeresque vibes. No, what he felt from Willow was much more pleasant.
Stretching out on his king size bed, one hand behind his head, Lindsey replayed the events of the evening over again in his mind. He saw it all in slow motion. Willow running away from the vampire, Willow jumping in his truck after he opened the door, Willow dusting the vampire, Willow getting all shy and nervous as she tried to get away from him, his inability to think straight as he looked at her shy smile. Lindsey knew it down to his toes; he was infatuated with the red-haired not-slayer.
After watching the red truck pull away and turn the corner, Willow left the library and made her way back to Stevenson Hall.
Buffy was lying on her bed, flipping through TV channels when Willow walked in.
"Hey, Will," Buffy greeted her roommate, sitting up. "Where've you been?"
"Hey, Buffy," Willow replied. "I took a shortcut home through one of the cemeteries and kinda ran into an undead citizen."
"Are you alright?" Buffy asked, immediately concerned that her friend had been attacked by a vamp while she was home being lazy.
"Yeah, I'm fine. The vamp's dust. This guy pulled up in a truck as I was running away from it and helped."
"Did he know what you were running from?"
"Actually, yeah. It was so cool." Willow bounced on her bed as she excitedly told Buffy how she'd killed the vampire using the truck to hold it in place.
"And the guy didn't freak when he saw your attacker turn to dust?" Buffy asked in disbelief.
"Nope. He seemed more surprised that I knew how to kill a vampire than that that's what it was."
"Uh, Will, how do you know—"
"He has a pulse," Willow assured her friend. "He held his wrist out for me and everything."
"So, dish, what's he like?"
"Ohmygod, he's the most gorgeous man I've ever seen," Willow gushed, excited about getting to the fun girl talk. "He said he was a lawyer, but he didn't like where he was working and quit. He's in his late twenties, I think. He has light brown hair and sparkling blue eyes. He had just arrived in town when he found me, so I directed him to the campus hotel."
"You sure you didn't take him to the hotel," Buffy teased her friend.
"Bu-ffy, bite your tongue. I just met the guy," Willow gasped.
"Are you going to see him again?"
"I certainly hope so," Willow dreamily said. "I swear that I got tingles everywhere from when he touched my hand."
Buffy's goofy smile matched Willow's. "I love that feeling. Don't you just love that feeling?"
"Yeah," Willow sighed. "We didn't make any kind of plans to meet up, but I have a feeling that I'll see him again."
"And I hope I'm with you when you do. I can't wait to meet this dreamboat," Buffy said.
After a dream-filled sleep, Lindsey woke with a sense of hope that he hadn't felt in a very long time. When he had first started driving away from Los Angeles, he hadn't been completely sure that he was doing the right thing. After meeting Willow, he knew that he was.
It was strange. He normally wasn't one to look for signs to show him that he was making the right or wrong decisions in his life; readings from an empath demon aside. If he were, he never would have gone to work for Wolfram & Hart in the first place. Yet somehow, one chance encounter with a sweet, young woman and he was suddenly seeing that meeting as a confirmation that he had been right to leave LA.
Stretching as he rolled out of bed, he flexed his evil hand and wondered what he should do now that he was here. After a quick shower and shave, he headed out in search of breakfast. He spent the day walking through the streets of Sunnydale, familiarizing himself with what was available to a man looking for a new start in life.
He wandered past a few bars, a magic store that was closed while being taken over by new management, and a coffee bar that was advertising an open mic night that night. He made a mental note to return to see who was performing, maybe even bring his guitar with him.
He also headed over to the college campus, telling himself that he was simply checking that out too, even though he knew he was really hoping to catch a glimpse of Willow. He bought a newspaper and found a bench near the library he had dropped her off at the night before, assuming that it was near where she lived.
For the next hour, Lindsey spent his time divided between reading the news, obituaries, real estate listings and help wanted ads. He had to try to keep his laughter down a few times while reading stories that were obviously the results of demon attacks, but were being explained with much more mundane causes. He wasn't surprised to see that many of the help wanted positions were re-advertisements. With such a high mortality rate on the Hellmouth, he expected that there were always job openings.
Skimming the want ads he found himself getting lost in his thoughts. 'What am I going to do with my life?' he asked himself.
He had the stark realization that he couldn't continue practicing law, no matter how great a lawyer he was. Wolfram & Hart would easily be able to track him down that way, and that was the last thing he wanted. No, he was going to have to do something else. Something less challenging and less intellectually stimulating.
With a sigh, he started looking at the ads again, in earnest. He had been a bartender in college; he supposed he could do that again, for a little while at least. You certainly met some interesting people in that line of work. Maybe he could work at the campus bar, hoping to see more of Willow. If she was even old enough to drink. He had a sinking feeling as he realized that she probably wasn't even 21 yet. So no chance of her hanging out while he worked at a bar. Scratch that idea.
Working on campus wasn't such a bad idea, though. He wondered what opportunities might be available. He could work for the law school, maybe. Find a way to put his vast knowledge of the legal system to work in a non-practicing manner. Those jobs were probably reserved for law students, though.
A shadow fell across the paper and Lindsey glared up at the person blocking the sun. "Do you mind? You're in my light." When the woman stepped aside, Lindsey nearly fell over himself to apologize. "Willow, hey! Sorry, didn't mean to snap at you."
"Yes, you did," she said with a grin. "What's got you in a grumpy mood on this sunny day? Or, more importantly, what are you doing back on campus?"
"Would it sound too much like a stalker if I said I was hoping to see you?" he bashfully asked.
"Yes, but flattering too. I've never had a stalker," Willow said. Then realizing how that sounded, she added, "Not that I'm looking for one. From what I hear, they're not so much fun to have around."
"Trust me, they're not." Lindsey sat back on the bench, gesturing for Willow to join him. His smile grew when she did.
"So what's got you in such a bad mood?" Willow asked again. "Bad news in the paper?"
"No more so than usual," Lindsey said. "No, I was just realizing that I have no idea what kind of job to look for."
"Well, you were a lawyer before, right? Why can't you just find another firm here?" she asked.
"It's complicated. I didn't exactly leave my former employer on good terms. It's not an easy place to just up and leave. They may be looking for me. And I don't want to make it easy for them. Going to work for another law firm would be like walking around with a target on my back."
"What kind of place did you work for?" Willow teasingly asked. "You make it sound like you left the mob or something." She giggled at the idea.
"No, not the mob. This place was worse," Lindsey solemnly told her.
Willow's giggles stopped abruptly as she gaped at Lindsey. Her quick mind pulled up parts of a conversation she had had with Cordelia at the end of last year. She gasped.
"You're him. You're the lawyer from Wolfram & Hart that went to Angel about the blind kids! I helped Cordelia decrypt those discs you stole."
"Aw hell, you know Angel?" Lindsey groaned, burying his face in his hands.
"Uh huh, since my sophomore year of high school," Willow said. "You two don't get along, I take it?"
"It's a long story," Lindsey said. "But no, for the most part we can't stand each other."
"Oh, well then I won't tell him you're here," Willow offered, resting her hand on Lindsey's arm.
"Why would you do that?" he asked, turning to face her, a look of amazement on his face.
Willow shrugged. "It's not really any of his business where you are if you're no longer on his case in LA. Right?"
"Well, when you put it like that, yeah. That's awfully decent of you," Lindsey said, a twinkle in his eyes.
"Pfft," Willow waved off the compliment. "I love Angel, but he can get a little single-minded when he takes offense to someone, or something. I guess now I know how you knew about vampires last night."
"Right, that. If you know about Wolfram & Hart, then you know about the kind of clients we, I, had. Not all of them were of the human variety."
"Not to repeat myself, but are you evil?" Willow felt she had to ask.
"I'm trying really hard not to be. I reached the point where I had seen too much and just wanted out. I could rationalize most of what I'd seen and done, but something happened and I couldn't live with it any more."
"If that's the case, you probably don't want to be hanging around Sunnydale. After LA, this is like the biggest demon population around. Well, I hear Cleveland has a pretty big one too," Willow said, a hint of sadness in her voice. The thought that Lindsey might be going out of her life as quickly as he'd entered it was a disappointing one.
"I don't know about that," Lindsey said. He'd picked up on Willow's hint of disappointment at the thought of him leaving and it brightened his day. "I'm kind of used to being surrounded by demons. The trick is to stop working for them. Any suggestions?"
"Um…" Willow bit her lip as she thought about possible job opportunities for an ex-lawyer that didn't involve demons. "Well…"
"Do you have a job?" he asked, interrupting her thoughts.
"Who me? No. Full time student here. I have a lot of extra-curricular activities that take up most of my free time."
"Oh." Lindsey knew that syllable must have sounded awfully depressed, but he was afraid that she was too busy to date him. And man was he moving quickly in his thoughts if he had them dating already – spending all of their nights together, safely away from hungry demons. It was a nice thought though.
"Oh, hey," Willow excitedly said. "If you know about demons and magick and stuff, my friend just bought the magick store. Maybe you could help out there."
"Work in a store?" Lindsey said, testing the idea out. He'd never done that before, but he was adaptable. "Will it matter that I don't practice?"
"Not at all. Most of the people who shop there wouldn't know a toad's stone from a piece of gravel. If someone knows what they're talking about, you can just ask Giles or me. I'll be hanging out there a lot when I'm not in classes."
'Bingo!' Lindsey shouted internally. "I suppose it wouldn't hurt to talk to your friend. If you don't mind my asking, how could someone your age be taking over a shop?"
"Oh, Giles is my adult friend. He was the librarian at my high school and I spent so much time in there that we became friends. After I graduated and the school blew up, we kept in touch."
"And your boyfriend, what does he do?" Lindsey not-so-subtly asked.
"He's a musician," Willow automatically. "And he's not my boyfriend. Not anymore."
"I'm sorry to hear that," Lindsey said, his grin belying his words.
"No you're not, but that's okay. I'm glad he's not my boyfriend anymore, too."
Just as Lindsey was about to take that opening to ask Willow out, a blonde girl Willow's age bounded up to them.
"Hey, Will. I've been looking for you. You didn't come back to the room after class and I've been waiting," she said.
"Oh, sorry. I saw Lindsey sitting here and stopped by to say hi," Willow apologized. "What's up?"
"This is Lindsey?" Buffy asked, running her eyes appreciatively over Lindsey's seated form, causing the man to fidget.
"I don't believe we've met," he said, standing. "As it appears you know," he locked eyes with Willow, pleased that she'd mentioned their encounter to this girl, that he assumed was her roommate, "I'm Lindsey McDonald."
"Buffy Summers," the blonde supplied, shaking his hand. She had a feeling she knew that name from somewhere, but pushed it out of her mind, assuming it was just from Willow mentioning it the night before.
Lindsey's face paled. "You're roommates with the Slayer," he practically yelled, facing Willow.
"How does he know what a Slayer is?" Buffy asked Willow, then turned to Lindsey. "How do you know what a Slayer is? You're not from the Council, are you?"
Willow was instantly on her feet standing between the two. "Buffy, chill, it's okay. It makes sense that if he knows about demons then he knows about the Slayer."
"But how do you know I'm the Slayer?" she asked Lindsey.
"I worked for Wolfram & Hart," he answered.
Recognition filled Buffy's face as her hands unconsciously balled into fists. "You're Angel's Lindsey. You're the one who has been harassing him! If you weren't human, I swear you'd be standing there dead."
"How is it that everyone here knows Angel?" Lindsey asked, throwing his hands into the air.
"I was in love with him," Buffy coldly answered.
"Oh, right," Lindsey said, "I remember reading that in his file."
Trying to dispel the situation, Willow blocked Buffy's line of sight. "Buffy, before you go running off to tell Angel where Lindsey is, you should know that he left Wolfram & Hart, for good. He's trying to start over. Be good. Right?" The last part was directed to Lindsey.
"Right," he said. He was deeply moved that this wisp of a girl was standing up to the Slayer in order to defend him. He also now knew how it was that she knew how to kill the vampire the night before.
"And you just believe him?" Buffy asked Willow. "He says he's good now and you're going to take him at his word? God, Willow, I know that you like seeing the good in people, but don't let a pretty face cloud your judgment."
"You know that I wouldn't do that," Willow protested, hurt that Buffy thought she could do something like that. "I can see it in his eyes, and in his aura. He's trying to turn his life around. And I think we should help. Please don't pass judgment on him, not yet. Get to know him a little bit first."
Buffy slowly ran her eyes over Lindsey again, this time scrutinizing him in a way that made him feel like something she'd scraped off her shoe, and not at all in the slightly pleasant way she'd ogled him earlier.
"Fine. You may as well bring him along. Let the others decide how evil he is now. That's why I was coming to find you anyway. Giles called; he wants us to meet him at the shop."
"Oh, okay. I wanted him to meet Giles anyway. I thought maybe he could work at the shop when it opens," Willow agreed. She hoped her friends would like him. She'd thought that he was going to ask her out before Buffy showed up, and she knew that if he did, she'd say yes.
Turning to Lindsey, she said, "Is that okay with you? Do you want to come with us?"
Ignoring Buffy's mumbling that he didn't have a choice, Lindsey stiffly answered, "I'd love to."
Buffy led the way into the Magic Box, as Giles had decided to call his shop. Lindsey had barely set foot inside the building before Buffy had yelled out, "Giles," in a piercing tone. Lindsey couldn't help wincing at the urgency behind the word.
A middle-aged man wearing jeans and a flannel over his t-shirt stepped out from behind a bookshelf. Lindsey assumed that this was Giles.
"I'm right here, Buffy. There's no need to shout," Giles automatically said. It was obvious that he'd said these words to Buffy many times before. When his eyes caught sight of the newcomer, Giles said, "Oh, I'm sorry, but we're not open for business yet." He gestured to the work being done on the shop around them.
"Oh, he's not a customer," Willow quickly said. "This is Lindsey. He helped me get away from a vamp last night. Giles, Lindsey. Lindsey, meet my friend Giles."
Giles looked a little surprised when Willow said Lindsey had helped her with a vampire, but he recovered quickly. Holding out his hand to shake, Giles said, "It's a pleasure to meet you, Lindsey. Thank you for assisting Willow. She is very dear to us and we would hate for anything to happen to her."
"It's nice meeting you too, Sir. And it was my pleasure to help Willow," Lindsey said, flashing a grin in Willow's direction, causing her to blush.
"I suppose you have some questions about Willow's attacker…" Giles guessed. "Is that why the girls brought you here?"
Before Lindsey could say anything, Buffy jumped into the conversation. "Oh no, he already knows all about vamps and other things that go bump in the night. Don't you, Lindsey?" Buffy said, glaring at the lawyer.
Giles' eyes grew colder as he reevaluated this stranger, trying to determine if he was a threat to them.
"Buffy," Willow admonished her friend, "stop it."
"What? I'm only telling Giles the truth."
"But it's not your truth to tell," Willow insisted.
"It's okay, Willow," Lindsey said, placing his hand on her arm. He tried to ignore the warmth he felt at touching her. "It's part of why we came here, isn't it?"
"I know," Willow said, placing her hand over his, "but she's still being rude bringing it up like that. I wanted Giles to like you before bringing up your past."
"Maybe he'll like me anyway," Lindsey said, his confident grin making her knees weak. "You seem to still like me, after all."
"Yes, perhaps I will still like him," Giles said, interrupting the moment. "Or at least I might if I knew what was going on."
Three voices spoke at the same time, each wanting to clarify the situation best. Buffy said, "He's evil," as Willow said, "He's from LA," and Lindsey said, "I worked for Wolfram & Hart."
Giles took in all three answers and turned to Lindsey. "You were a lawyer for Wolfram & Hart? In Los Angeles?"
"And he's evil," Buffy added, in case Giles hadn't heard her the first time.
"I heard you, Buffy," he said, still scrutinizing Lindsey. "Is she right?" he asked the man before him. "Are you evil?"
"Do you really think that I'd admit it if I was?" Lindsey defensively snapped. He felt like he was being evaluated by his potential girlfriend's father. Which, given what he'd observed so far, was probably the case. Calming down, he apologized. "I left Wolfram & Hart because I couldn't handle working there any more."
Willow squeezed his hand encouragingly.
"And you chose Sunnydale to start over?" Giles asked, doubt shadowing his voice.
"I didn't set out to move to Sunnydale, no. I didn't know where I was heading when I left LA. I was just going to pass through here, until I met Willow."
Willow blushed and gave Lindsey a shy smile. She'd had a feeling that Lindsey was attracted to her too, but was surprised to hear him pretty much admit it.
When Buffy saw that it looked like Giles was going to believe Lindsey, she triumphantly said, "He tried to kill Angel. Lots of times."
Giles raised an enquiring eyebrow as Lindsey scowled. Unfortunately, for Buffy, her words had the opposite effect than she'd been hoping.
"I'm sure that he had it coming," Giles said, much to Lindsey's surprise.
"Giles," Buffy whined. "Didn't you hear me? I said he tried to *kill* Angel."
"Who tried to kill Angel?" Xander asked as he entered the shop. "And more importantly, please tell me they succeeded."
Lindsey turned to the new voice, surprised to hear the venom in the voice of someone so young. Whoever this boy was, he obviously hated Angel, maybe even as much as he did.
"Xander, this is Lindsey," Willow said by way of introduction. "Lindsey, this is my other best friend, Xander."
Xander looked Lindsey over, appraising the man Willow seemed to already know, trying to decide if he'd be good enough for her.
"You're the one who tried to kill Angel?" he asked, his voice flat, giving nothing away.
"Um, yes?" Lindsey answered, thrown by the boy's tone.
Xander grinned. "Well then, you're very much welcome here."
Xander ignored Buffy indignantly crying out his name in order to whisper in Willow's ear, "I approve," causing her to blush and nod her head in acknowledgement.
Lindsey was a bit floored by the different reactions he was getting from this group of people. Xander seemed like a good guy, and one he could definitely see himself becoming friends with, especially over a shared hatred of Angel. Giles he was still a little unsure about. While he seemed to be very concerned about his knowledge of vampires and the evil of the world, he also seemed to be open to giving him a chance to prove himself, which is what Lindsey needed right now. Buffy, on the other hand, was prepared to hate him simply because he had tried to kill her ex half a dozen times or so. As the slayer, it wouldn't be smart to piss her off too much. But Willow…
Willow was quickly becoming someone he wanted to stick around for. She was open-minded and forgiving, and seemed interested in him, too. Even after learning about his past, she still wanted him to meet her friends and was trying to help him find a job. She was definitely someone he wanted to get to know much better.
"Doesn't anyone here care that this man has tried to kill my ex-boyfriend?" Buffy practically shouted, having gotten fed up with the apparent lack of concern for Angel's safety.
"Not really," Xander answered.
"Buffy," Giles said, trying to placate his Slayer. "Perhaps if Lindsey had succeeded in staking Angel, we would be a bit more hesitant to get to know him. However, as he has only attempted to kill Angel, obviously unsuccessfully, I don't see why we should hold that against him. As the…" He paused, realizing he was about to reveal that Buffy was the Slayer, "You can hardly fault him for wanting to kill a vampire."
"It's okay, Giles," Willow said, having caught his near-slip. "Lindsey figured out that Buffy's the Slayer."
The coldness was back as Giles asked, "He what?"
"It wasn't all that hard to suss out," Lindsey said. "I've…met Faith before, so I've felt the energy that comes off of a Slayer. It didn't take long to put together Willow's knowledge of how to kill a vampire with a roommate being a blonde named Buffy living in Sunnydale. The fact that Buffy's ex is Angel just cemented the fact, since I'm very familiar with his history."
"Buffy gives off energy?" Xander asked. "What are you, radioactive?" he teased his friend.
"Not that kind of energy, Xan," Buffy said with a roll of her eyes.
"No," Giles warily agreed. "It's one not normally felt among the general population. Mainly only magick-users and creatures of evil are aware of it. Which are you?"
"Neither really," Lindsey said. "I have no Talent to speak of. I may have worked for a firm that represented evil; but I don't believe that I, myself, am evil. Let's just call it an…awareness. I've been working alongside demons and truly evil lawyers for so long now that I've had to strengthen my perceptions to be aware of those who might wish to do me harm." He didn't feel comfortable mentioning the fact that he had an evil hand, although he did unconsciously rub the faint scar.
"So what is it that you plan to do here in Sunnydale if you are not, as you claim to be, planning on carrying out nefarious plans," Giles asked.
"Actually," Willow nervously started, "I thought that maybe Lindsey could, um, work here?"
Giles turned surprised eyes on Willow. "Y-you expect me to hire a man who admits to having worked with evil for I don't know how many years, and expose him to books and other implements of power?"
"Uh, yes?" Willow uncertainly replied. When she was met with Giles' disbelieving stare, she said, "Look, Lindsey said that he wants to start over, turn his life around, start doing good. What better place to do that than here, helping us?"
"How do we know that this isn't all just some elaborate plot to get close to the Slayer?" Buffy asked. "He could have set that vamp on you last night, just so that he could play hero and get you trust him. He might be using you to get to me."
"God, Buffy, why does everything have to be about you?" Willow exclaimed. "Do you really think he'd admit to having worked for Wolfram & Hart if was trying to infiltrate us?"
"If he was trying to earn your trust with the whole redemption angle, then yes," Buffy answered. "Angel's told us about him before, remember? They've come to blows many times since he moved to LA. You know how tight-lipped Angel can be about what's going on in his life. He wouldn't have bothered mentioning Lindsey if he hadn't been a continuous thorn in his side. And now we're supposed to just believe him when he says he wants to start doing good? I don't think so."
"He really said that about me?" Lindsey asked, sounding a little proud. "I was a continuous thorn in his side?"
"Not now, Lindsey," Willow said in a loud whisper.
"Oh, right. Sorry, just means that I was doing my job right," Lindsey said. Turning to Buffy, he said, "I know that it may look suspicious, but I really don't mean any harm to you and yours. If it's really going to be that big of a problem, me stayin' in town, then I'll keep going. Like I said, I hadn't planned on stayin' here." He turned his eyes back to Willow, who he was pleased to note looked sad at the idea of him leaving. "But if it were up to me, I'd stay here. I'd like to try to make up for some of what I did at my former place of employment, and the Hellmouth seems like a good place to do that. Besides, there's a few other things here that I'd like to have a chance to explore."
Willow's fingers itched to reach out and hold his hand, but she resisted the urge, barely.
"I think you should hire him," Xander said to Giles, allowing Willow and Lindsey their moment. "That way, if he's up to no good like Buffy thinks, at least we can keep an eye on him. But if he's on the level, which I think he is, and I'm pretty confident Willow thinks so too, then it's a win-win situation."
Giles removed his glasses and began to clean them with the edge of his flannel shirt. "Perhaps you're right."
"Lindsey," Giles said, drawing the man's attention away from Willow. "How are you with a hammer?"
"Fine, I guess."
Giles nodded. "Be here around 10 o'clock tomorrow morning. We'll see how you do preparing the shop to open; then we'll see about the rest."
"Thank you, Giles," Willow gushed.
"Yes, thank you Mr. Giles," Lindsey said, somewhat surprised by the offer, temporary as it might be.
"You may want to hold onto your thanks for now. This is just a temporary invitation. And please, call me Giles," he said.
"Of course," Lindsey agreed.
"Oh, now that that's settled, what did you want to see me about, Giles?" Willow asked, having nearly forgotten that he'd asked her come down.
"What? Oh, um, right. I was hoping that you would be able to do a protection spell for the shop when you have some time. We may not be open for business yet, but as we get closer to opening, I rather think that we should ward against anything happening to it to prevent it from opening."
"Of course. No problem. I should have all the necessary supplies in my room. I can do it tomorrow if you'd like," Willow offered.
"That would be wonderful. Thank you."
"Is that all?" she asked, hoping the answer would be yes.
"Yes, that was it," Giles said. "I do have some other business to discuss with Buffy, though."
"Gotcha. I think I'm gonna take off then," Willow said to the group.
"You don't want to hang out for a bit?" Buffy asked, not wanting Willow to leave with Lindsey.
"I was kind of hoping to show Lindsey around a bit," Willow said. Realizing that he might not want to spend more time with any of them, she quickly said to him, "Unless you don't want to, that is."
"I'd love to have a Sunnydale native show me around," Lindsey said, thrilled by the idea of spending some one-on-one time with Willow.
"Good," Willow said with a sigh of relief. "We'll see you later," she called to everyone as they left.
The sound of two male good-byes and a female "be careful" followed them out the door.
As they left the Magic Box, Lindsey spied the Espresso Pump across the street and offered to buy Willow a coffee. Part of him wanted to roll his eyes at the notion, not having asked anyone on a coffee date since college, but at the same time, hoping she'd say yes.
"I'd love a coffee," Willow beamed. "Only make mine a decaf latte. I'm not supposed to have caffeine."
"Why not?" Lindsey politely asked.
"It makes me hyper," Willow admitted. "I become a total spazz and believe me, that's something you don't want to see."
"I don't know," Lindsey slowly said, looking Willow over. "I think 'spazz' would be cute on you."
"Please," Willow sarcastically brushed him off.
"Why don't you grab us a table and I'll get the drinks," Lindsey suggested.
"Oh, sure. Just let me give you some money," Willow said, opening her purse.
"It's on me," Lindsey offered. Before Willow could object, he added, "I insist. After all, you're taking time out of your day to show me around. It's the least I can do."
"Fine," Willow relented. "But just this once."
Lindsey smiled as she went in search of a free table. 'Just this once' implied that they'd be doing this again, and that was definitely something to smile about.
"So what do you know about the open mic nights they have here?" Lindsey asked as he set their drinks on the table Willow was sitting at.
"Not much," Willow admitted. "I've never actually been to one. I guess it's what you'd expect, people singing. I usually hang out at the Bronze at night, and there's either a band or a DJ there."
"The Bronze? Is that a club?" Lindsey asked, taking a sip of his coffee.
"Yep, the only game in town. Plus, you don't have to be twenty-one to get in."
"Are you?" Lindsey hesitantly asked. "Twenty-one?"
Willow giggled. "On my next birthday."
"Damn," Lindsey swore under his breath. He'd had a feeling she was young. He comforted himself with the thought that at least she was over eighteen. "Guess it's a good thing I didn't ask you out for drinks then," he joked.
"Would you have?" Willow shyly asked. "'Cause drinks sounds an awful lot like a date."
"Would you have said 'yes' if I did?" he asked in return.
"You won't know if you don't ask," Willow teasingly said. She was flirting with him, she knew it, but she really hoped that he'd just hurry up and ask her out already.
Lindsey met her eyes and seriously asked her, "Willow, do you want to go out with me?"
Willow gasped at the intensity in his eyes. She found herself nodding her answer before she found her voice. "Yes."
Lindsey's grin lit up his face at her answer. He didn't know why he'd been so nervous. He supposed it was that innate fear of rejection, even though he hadn't been rejected often in his life. Until lately…until Darla. His face darkened at thoughts of the blonde vampire that had broken his heart.
Sensing Lindsey's change in mood, Willow sipped at her drink before asking, "So your girlfriend didn't mind when you decided to pick up and leave LA?"
"What?" Lindsey asked, coming back to the present. "No, no girlfriend. My life didn't leave me much time for a social life. Besides, do you think I'd be asking you out if I had a girl waiting for me back in LA?"
Willow shrugged. "I don't know. I just assumed you would have had someone."
"I could say the same thing about you," Lindsey countered.
"Well, I did. Until I didn't. Then I didn't want to have anyone else, ya know?"
"And do you now? Want to have someone?" Lindsey pressed.
"Yeah, I think I do," Willow said, briefly meeting Lindsey's eyes before lowering her lashes as she blushed.
When they finished their coffees, Willow walked Lindsey around downtown Sunnydale, before heading back towards campus. They passed the library that Willow had had him drop her off at the night before and stopped before a residence hall.
"…and this is where I live," Willow said, concluding their tour.
"Really?" Lindsey asked in disbelief. "I thought you didn't want me knowing where you lived."
"Well, if we're going out on a date, I thought you should probably know where to pick me up," Willow said, staring at the ground. "Do… do you want to come up?"
Lindsey blinked in surprise, floored by the invitation. "Are you sure?"
Finally meeting his eyes, Willow stared into them for a minute, as if she were trying to decide if she truly was sure that she was comfortable inviting this virtual stranger up to her room. Taking note of his honest surprise at the invitation, she smiled and nodded her head.
"Yep, I'm sure." She held out her hand for him to take, which he eagerly did. "Come on in, Lindsey. I invite you." They both laughed at the spoken invitation, easing the tension that had been building.
Pausing outside her door, Lindsey saw Willow take a deep breath, as if steeling herself for admitting him into her life. The small action warmed him.
She unlocked the door and entered, pulling him along. "Well, this is it."
Willow let out a small sigh of relief that Buffy wasn't back yet. She didn't want to have to deal with Buffy's certain disapproval of Willow bringing Lindsey home with her.
Lindsey stood just inside the room, taking in the two sides. He was temporarily taken back to his own college days, remembering some of the horrid roommates that he'd had to put up with since he couldn't afford a single room.
"You're lucky that you're rooming with your best friend," he commented.
"Tell me about it. I started out with someone else last year who did nothing but host parties in our room. But when Buffy's roommate suddenly… dropped out, I was able to move in with her. It's great because she doesn't have to hide her Slayer stuff from me and I don't have to hide my witchy stuff from her."
"Yeah, I could see how that would be convenient." Lindsey watched with some amusement as Willow nervously played with some of her belongings on the far side of the room. "So does Xander live in this dorm too?" he asked.
"No, he just got an apartment. He also isn't in school. He's a construction worker," Willow said, finally taking a seat on the edge of her bed.
Lindsey stepped closer to the bed and cautiously sat on the opposite side. He noted Willow's eyes nervously fill with uncertainty as he sat, but his only other choices seemed to be sitting at the desk or on Buffy's bed, and he didn't want to disturb anything of hers.
"I'm not going to try anything, promise," Lindsey said, his voice pitched to try to comfort her. He was surprised by how quickly the nervousness in Willow's eyes changed to disappointment. This girl was a wealth of contradictions, but at least they seemed to be going in his favor.
"I know. I know that I probably shouldn't, but I trust you," Willow admitted, scooting closer to the middle of the bed, and Lindsey.
"I know that I haven't done anything to earn that trust, so thank you," Lindsey sincerely said.
Lindsey slid his hand across the small space separating them to rest on top of Willow's, giving it a small squeeze of thanks. Being as close as they were, Lindsey didn't miss Willow's gasp of surprise when their skin touched. There was no denying that she felt the same shock of pleasure that he had.
As their eyes met, Lindsey closed the remaining distance between them and leaned forward to meet Willow's lips in a tentative kiss. Shocks of pleasure spread like wildfire from his lips throughout his body, awakening every nerve and pleasure center inside him. He saw the awe that must have been written all over his face mirrored on Willow's face when they separated moments later.
"What was that?" Willow asked in a quiet voice, her fingers brushing against her tingling lips. "I've never… How did you do that?"
"I honestly don't know," Lindsey admitted, sounding as lost as she was. He ran a hand through his hair, thoroughly confused by what had just happened.
"Maybe it was a fluke," Willow suggested, but doubting the words as she said them. She'd fluked before and it hadn't been anywhere near as electric as this brief kiss with Lindsey.
Smirking, Lindsey suggested, "Maybe we should try again; just to be sure."
"An excellent idea, Counselor," Willow agreed, already leaning back in.
This kiss was just as electrifying as the first, if not more so. This time they gave in to the kiss, lips pressed firmly against each other's rather than just barely brushing. Lindsey's arms circled Willow's waist as hers slid around his neck.
This kiss seemed to last an eternity… until Buffy walked through the door.
"Get your hands off her!" she nearly screamed, slamming the door closed behind her.
Willow and Lindsey instantly separated, each panting harshly and trying hard to glare at the intrusion, but having a difficult time focusing.
Being the first to recover, Willow tried to stand, although her legs seemed to be made out of jelly at the moment. "Buffy, I didn't hear you come in."
"I can see how your hearing would be impaired with Lindsey's tongue down your throat," Buffy hissed. She drummed the fingers on one of her hips impatiently, waiting for an answer.
Lindsey and Willow exchanged an amused look at Buffy's accusation before sobering.
"Look, this is my room too, and if I want to make out with someone in it, that's my business," Willow said, her chin lifted defiantly. "It's not like I haven't walked in on you and Riley kissing on your bed before."
"But that's different. Riley's my boyfriend. You barely even know Lindsey. And, oh yeah, my boyfriend isn't Evil!" Buffy retorted.
"Well neither is mine," Willow countered.
The girls stood there glaring at each other, and Lindsey tried to get over the shock of Willow implying that he was her boyfriend. He knew that she was just riled up over Buffy's accusations and didn't mean it, but hearing her defend him like that made him want to throw Buffy out of the room and not let Willow out of bed for a week.
Willing his body under control, Lindsey stood to face Buffy. "Look, all we were doing was kissin', nothing more. There's nothing to get all worked up about."
"You stay out of this, you evil lawyer you," Buffy demanded.
Turning back to Willow, he apologetically said, "Look, maybe I should just go."
Willow immediately softened her stance. "No, you don't have to."
They both ignored Buffy's, "Yes, he does."
Glancing between the two girls again, he said, "I think I'd better. Besides, the sooner I go, the sooner I can pick you up for our date."
Willow smiled at that thought. "Well, when you put it that way… Pick me up here at 7?"
"On the dot," Lindsey agreed. Ignoring Buffy's glare, he walked around the bed to give Willow a quick kiss before leaving.
Buffy didn't relax until she heard the door click closed behind him.
"Don't even start," Willow cautioned her roommate. "I don't want to hear it."
"I didn't even say anything," Buffy protested.
"I know what you're going to say, so you can save it. I like him and I trust him. And for some reason he seems to like me, too. I haven't wanted to be with anyone since Oz left and you are not going to deny me this chance to be happy," Willow calmly stated.
"But Willow," Buffy couldn't help pleading. "You know how Angel feels about him. Lindsey's even admitted to being evil. How can you open yourself up to be hurt by him?"
"You don't know that he's going to hurt me," Willow insisted. "There's something there between us, and I want to see what it is. It's a risk I'm willing to take. And if you don't like it, then too bad."
Willow grabbed a spell book out of her trunk and a pad of paper and stormed out of the room, leaving Buffy to fume in her wake.
When Lindsey got back to his room, he immediately went to his bedside table and pulled out the phonebook he knew would be inside the drawer. He skimmed through the restaurant section until he found the Italian place Willow had pointed out to him as her favorite on their tour of downtown that afternoon. He called and was able to secure a reservation for two for that evening.
Stretching out on the bed, Lindsey did a mental review of the day. To say it had gone better than expected was an understatement. Willow was just as charming as she'd been the night before, only more so. He was surprised that he'd gotten on as well as he had with her friends, too. Well, aside from the Slayer. He could tell that he'd have to work to get Buffy to trust him. Normally he wouldn't be bothered, but he could tell that Buffy's opinion mattered to Willow. But he didn't think he'd have any problems befriending Xander and Giles.
Inevitably, his thoughts returned to Willow. The chemistry between them was undeniable. And that kiss had been...incredible.
In college, and especially after going to work for Wolfram & Hart, Lindsey had dated some beautiful and successful women. None of their carefully created beauty could compare to the simple elegance that shone from Willow. Maybe she was why everything had gone so wrong at Wolfram & Hart. He needed to be away from there so that she could come into his life.
"Get a grip, McDonald," Lindsey groused to himself as he ran a hand over his face. "You didn't believe in fate before; there's no reason to start doing so now that a pretty girl has caught your attention."
'But Willow is not just another pretty girl,' a small voice in the back of his head insisted.
"Great, now I'm hearing voices," Lindsey mumbled, pushing himself off of the bed. "Too bad it's right."
He stripped as he made his way to the bathroom and a nice hot shower. As Willow's face floated through his mind, he thought that maybe he should make it a cold one. Tonight was just going to be their first date, after all. She was a young woman, so seemingly innocent despite what she knew about the realities of the night. Just because the women in LA were easy, didn't mean that Willow would be, no matter how much his body wished that she would be.
Clean and dressed in khakis and a light blue button-down shirt, Lindsey carefully lifted his guitar out of its case. He lovingly ran his fingers over the wood and strings before strumming a few chords. Part of him wished he could be playing in front of Lorne tonight to see if this thing with Willow was as good as it seemed. He thought about taking Willow to that open mic night he'd seen and playing for her, but he wasn't quite ready to open himself up like that. Maybe on their next date, he thought with a smile.
Lindsey lost himself in the comfort of his guitar, the music calming and bolstering him. He had missed this, more than anything else, when Angel had taken his hand. From before he could remember, music had been his safe place, his escape. Something he could do that would make all the bad things in his life dim and disappear, at least for a while. Nothing bad could touch him when he was cradling a guitar on his lap, fingers dancing over the strings, his eyes closed.
Whenever his conscience reared its head during his time with Wolfram & Hart, he could pull out his guitar and play his distress away. Sometimes he'd go to Caritas to play for Lorne if playing for himself wasn't getting the job done. But he'd always been able to get the project finished afterwards.
Until Angel had taken that away from him.
Maybe that was why he had lost himself in Darla. He'd known it was futile, falling for the former vampire cum vampire. She had been so consumed with her thoughts of Angel that she couldn't spare him a glance.
He'd never admit it aloud, but she'd been right about one thing. It wasn't really her he wanted to screw. He wanted to make Angel pay. He wanted Darla to want him because he was everything that Angel wasn't; which was why she would never want him. Lindsey had a soul, but wanted to be evil; at least he'd thought he did. Angel was a vampire with a soul who wanted to be good; something that wasn't in his nature.
In the end, Darla left them all unsatisfied. None of them got what they wanted and they were all left to pick up the pieces. Alone.
Only now Lindsey wasn't alone. He didn't know how he was so certain that Willow would stay by his side through this new phase of his life, but he was. She was his light at the end of the very long, dark tunnel his life had become.
And if he didn't leave soon, he'd be late to pick her up.
Lindsey was relived when Willow was the one who responded to the knock on her door. He wasn't in the mood to deal with Buffy and her insistence that he was going to hurt Willow.
"Hey," Willow said, holding the door open to admit him to her room, a faint blush on her cheeks as she remembered what had happened in there just a few hours ago.
"Hey," Lindsey echoed, kissing Willow on the cheek as he stepped past her into the room. He did a quick scan of the room, relaxing when Buffy was nowhere in sight.
"Where's Buffy?" he asked.
Willow scowled. "Out. Luckily she was gone when I got back, so I have no idea where she is."
Taking Willow in his arms, Lindsey tilted her face up so he could look in her eyes. "Did she give you a tough time after I left?"
"She tried to," Willow admitted, her arms naturally encircling Lindsey's waist. "We yelled, and then I stormed out. She was gone when I came back to get ready for our date."
Lindsey took a step back so that he could run his eyes over Willow's body, without having to take his hands off of her. "You look beautiful," he sincerely told her.
"You're looking pretty great yourself," Willow said, her hands caressing him.
Reluctantly, Lindsey stepped out of Willow's embrace, knowing that if he didn't now, they wouldn't be leaving this room – or remain clothed for very long.
Clearing his throat, Lindsey said, "We should get going, or we're going to be late for our reservation."
"Reservation?" Willow eagerly said, a slight bounce in her step as she grabbed her purse. "We're going somewhere that requires a reservation?"
Taking her hand as she locked the door behind them, Lindsey said, "I don't know if they require one, but I made a reservation, just in case."
"Where are we going?" Willow asked.
"You'll see when we get there," Lindsey teased, his eyes sparkling at Willow's mock-pout.
As expected, Willow was thrilled that Lindsey had remembered which restaurant she'd pointed out as her favorite. The conversation over dinner was just as easy as it had been all day. At the end of the meal, Lindsey admitted that he could see why it was Willow's favorite, and promised to take her there again.
It was only 9 o'clock when they finished their meal, so Lindsey proposed getting a cup of coffee, decaf, and Willow eagerly accepted.
"Do you mind going back to the Espresso Pump?" Lindsey asked, hoping she'd say no. He really did want to check out the open mic night tonight so that he could decide if he wanted to play in the next one.
"There really isn't anywhere else to go, except the Bronze, and I'm not really in a clubbing mood," Willow said.
The place was pretty crowded when they arrived, much to Willow's surprise. They could hear someone singing, and she figured they were all there to see him, as it was definitely a male voice – a somewhat familiar one at that.
"Oh. My. Goddess." Willow froze on the spot when she saw a very familiar face sitting on the stage, when they got close enough.
"Is that Giles?" Lindsey asked, leaning down to whisper in Willow's ear.
Willow did a remarkable impression of a fish, while trying to wrap her mind around the fact that Giles, Watcher-father-figure-mentor-shopkeeper Giles was sitting on a stage, in public, playing the guitar and singing. Singing really well.
Eventually, she managed a nod in response to Lindsey's question.
While Willow did her impression of a statue, Lindsey looked around the small café in hopes of a table being free. As if reading his thoughts, the couple at the table next to them stood to leave and Lindsey quickly sat down as soon as a chair was vacated. Seeing Willow still gaping at the stage, he pulled her back until she was seated across from him.
The jolt of her bottom hitting the wooden chair shocked Willow back to awareness.
"That's Giles," she fiercely whispered to Lindsey.
Trying to hide his mirth, Lindsey said, "I thought so. I take it you didn't know he was playing here tonight?"
"No. Not tonight, or any other night. I didn't know he even still played the guitar," Willow said, turning in her seat to try to see Giles again.
Feeling a little ignored, Lindsey rested his hand over Willow's, purposely drawing her attention back to him. "He must have had his reasons for not telling you," he said.
Returning her attention to her date, Willow said. "I get that. It's important to have something that's just yours, something that makes you happy." Willow turned her hand over so that she could clasp the hand that Lindsey still had resting on hers.
When the set ended, Willow joined the crowd in enthusiastically clapping. She was excited that Giles was headed in their direction when he stepped off the stage. He seemed a little embarrassed as he approached their table.
"Willow, Lindsey, I didn't know you'd be here," he said by way of greeting.
"Giles, you were wonderful up there," Willow gushed. "Why didn't you tell us you were singing in public?"
"I'll just go grab us those drinks," Lindsey said, excusing himself from what appeared to be an awkward situation. "It's good to see you, Giles. Can I get you anything?"
"No, nothing, thank you," Giles replied. When Lindsey stood to go order coffees for himself and Willow, Giles took his seat. "A-are you here on a date?"
"Actually, yes, we are," Willow said. "For some reason, Lindsey really wanted to check out the open mic night, even though he didn't say so. He asked about it when we were here this afternoon, though. Is this your first time singing here?"
"Um, no," Giles admitted, cleaning his glasses so that he didn't have to see the pity in Willow's eyes he knew would be there. "I try to play every other week or so," he added.
"That is just so cool," Willow gushed. "I knew you'd been in a band when you were younger, but I had no idea you kept it up."
Giles coughed slightly at her phrasing. Yet another thing he'd never tell the children was that his playing here had done wonders for his social life.
"A-are...do you plan on telling the others?" Giles nervously asked.
Willow shrugged. "Not if you don't want me to. I don't know why you haven't told us yet, though."
"Thank you, Willow. If any of you were to have found me out, I'm glad that it was you. Can you just imagine what Buffy or Xander would have said or done if it had been them who had seen me playing?"
Willow giggled. "Yeah, I see your point. You're really good though, Giles. You have nothing to be ashamed of."
"She's right," Lindsey said, returning with two steaming coffees. "You have an amazing voice."
Giles stood to give Lindsey back his seat. "Thank you, Lindsey. Although I'm sure I'm just average."
Sneaking a sideways look at Willow, Lindsey decided to go ahead and ask Giles the question he'd been wondering all afternoon. "How does one go about getting stage time here?"
"Do you play?" Giles asked in surprise.
"From time to time," Lindsey admitted. "I used to play more, but then I wasn't able to for a while. I just started playing again."
"Play? What do you play?" Willow asked, feeling left out.
"The guitar," Lindsey said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.
"Oh," Willow said, momentary pain over Oz's departure washing over her.
"I-is that a bad thing?" Lindsey asked, confused as to why it would be okay for Giles to play the guitar but not him.
Sparing Willow having to answer, Giles quietly informed Lindsey, "Willow's previous boyfriend played the guitar for a popular local band, before he left her."
"I'm sorry, I didn't know," Lindsey said to Willow, squeezing her hand.
Willow took a deep breath and shook off bad thoughts about cheating ex-boyfriends.
"I'm okay. Really. Lots of guys play the guitar. So, uh, how long have you been playing?"
"For as long as I can remember…and we really don't need to talk about this," Lindsey said.
"No, it's all good. Maybe sometime I can hear you play?" Willow hopefully suggested.
Lindsey grinned. "Yeah, I think that can be arranged. That's actually why I was so interested in coming here tonight. I was thinking of playing at one of these open mic nights."
"That'd be cool," Willow said. "If you do, I'll be in the front row."
"You'd better be," Lindsey said, eyes locking with Willow's.
Giles took this as his cue to leave. "I think that I've intruded on your evening for long enough. There's a sign-up sheet at the register if you want to get on stage next time. I will see you both at the shop tomorrow."
Willow spared a quick glance in Giles' direction. "Bye, Giles. See ya tomorrow."
"Good night," was all Lindsey said, never taking his eyes off of Willow.
Returning her full attention to Lindsey, Willow blushed as she said, "Maybe I could get a private performance."
Lindsey raised an eyebrow, knowing he'd love to play just for Willow, alone in his hotel room.
"I think that could be arranged," he practically purred.
Willow swallowed hard at the lust in Lindsey's eyes. Her body flushed in reaction. "N-now?" she breathlessly asked.
"Let's get out of here," Lindsey agreed.
Back to Willow/Lindsey