For those unfamiliar with Grimm, Wesen are people who can shift into animal-like features, sort of like vampires in Buffy, but only certain others can see them. Either Grimms, who hunt down and kill rogue Wesen, or humans who have been let in on the secret.
A Blutbad is, according to Monroe, the big bad wolf of fairytales.
Lindsey stifled a yawn as he slotted his key into his door. It hadn't been all that long since their discovery that Adam used to be an archangel, but the team had settled back into their old routine of working long hours to solve bizarre cases. Adam himself hadn't seemed much changed at all. He was still the same beer-drinking, computer-hacking, inveterate liar that they all knew and loved. Lindsey appreciated that sense of familiarity. He hadn't had anything close to it in longer than he cared to think and the team had been through a lot together, he really didn't want to lose them.
He pushed open the door and almost stood on a plain white, A4-sized envelope just inside the door. He hesitated though he wasn't entirely sure why. There was nothing inherently sinister in an envelope, but Lindsey couldn't shake the feeling that this meant nothing good. Slowly, he picked it up and let the contents slide out. There was a folder, the layout of which was entirely too familiar. It looked like every other report he'd ever compiled for Wolfram and Hart. It certainly didn't flinch away from the gruesome details Wolfram and Hart had a tendency to gloss over a little too efficiently.
It detailed several cases that were being investigated in Winchester. At least three people had sustained injuries and died in their sleep. There was no indication of direct Wolfram and Hart involvement, but Lindsey was well aware that they preferred to keep their hands clean where possible. They would have worked through an intermediary, at the very least.
It seemed Wolfram and Hart had finally caught up with him again. He'd known it was inevitable, had known his ability to keep ahead of them would fall short eventually, but he'd hoped he would have more time, even if just a little bit. The team had become family to him and he hated the thought of leaving them. But they'd survive without him and Adam would make sure they remained safe from the likes of Wolfram and Hart. It wouldn't be the first time he'd lost a family.
He thought about calling Tony and, if not him, then at least Adam, but Wolfram and Hart was his mess. If this was a trap, and Lindsey had no doubt it was, then he wouldn't risk the others. He couldn't. Not against Wolfram and Hart.
Shoving what clothes and supplies he might need into a bag, Lindsey wondered what his plan of action should be. Walking in without a plan was the sort of thing Angel did, and it was what had done him and his team so much harm, but Lindsey knew Wolfram and Hart in ways Angel never could. He knew how they worked and how they thought. If he was cautious, he might just make it out with his soul intact.
Nick watched as they wheeled the zipped body-bag out of the house. That was the fourth body this week and they were no closer to figuring out what was going on. Captain Renard had been getting more and more anxious for an answer as the week went by.
"Captain getting on your case?" Hank asked.
"He wants this solved," Nick said, which he understood perfectly. The longer Wesen cases remained open, the more open to exposure they all were.
"Have you found anything at the trailer?" Hank asked quietly, making sure not to be overheard. Nick shook his head.
The trailer had been left to him by his aunt before her death and it detailed the history of the Grimms and the Wesen they had encountered. Nick had only showed it to a select few, his allies and friends, and he hated the thought of all that accumulated knowledge and all those weapons getting into the wrong hands.
"If we don't get anywhere, I'll see if Monroe can help," Nick said. He'd resisted dragging Monroe into the case because they really didn't have anything solid and Nick was reluctant to impose on Monroe when it often cut into his time with Rosalee.
Nick had done that enough when Juliet was still struggling with the aftermath of Adalind's memory spell and wanted her space. Nick had tried to talk to her, had given her space, had done everything she asked and it still hadn't been enough to keep her with him. Monroe had been a strong shoulder he could lean on during that time, had even opened up his home to Nick, and the least Nick could do in return was give Monroe time with his girlfriend.
It hadn't been all that clear that Monroe could help them anyway. When the first body was discovered, it was assumed to be a B&E gone wrong with the victim being stabbed in his sleep. The second had drowned in her bed, although there had been no indication of water around her except the liquid in her lungs. It was the third death that really gave them an indication of what was going on. The man had his bones crushed as though he'd fallen from a great height, though he hadn't moved from his couch.
"You back at the house?" Hank asked, glancing side-long at Nick, his expression sympathetic. Juliet had moved out a while ago, it seemed pointless to leave the house empty. At least, that's what Nick told himself when he looked at the pictures of them together and slept in the bed they'd shared for years.
He nodded briefly and looked over the crowd to distract himself. Sometimes perpetrators returned to see the aftermath of their crimes and sometimes there were witnesses who were as reluctant to come forward as they were to stand by and do nothing but just needed a little coaxing. Most of the people gathered were simply spectators, but there were two, at the very edge of the crowd, who stood apart.
A dark-haired girl and bleach-blond-haired man stood side-by-side, conversing softly even as they joked. The man smirked at something the woman said and she nudged him, sending him stumbling a step. He looked affronted and she simply crossed her arms, looking up at him challengingly. Clearly, they were comfortable with each other, but they were too nonchalant about a crime scene and a little too interested in the body as it passed them.
"I think those two might know something," Nick said, gesturing subtly in the direction of the two suspects. Hank nodded briefly, keeping casual so as not to alert them. Slowly, they made their way over.
"Detectives!" Sergeant Wu called. The split second's distraction was enough to give the two suspects time to disappear. Nick glanced around hoping for some indication of which direction they'd taken off in, but they were gone.
"We're not getting anywhere," Hank said, dropping the phone back into its cradle. Nick leaned back in his chair.
"I'll go see what Monroe can add," he conceded. Rosalee might know something, too. There was often information in her collection of books that he lacked.
Some instinct made Nick look up when a man in a suit walked into the precinct. Nick shrugged when Hank glanced his way. The man wasn't all that tall, but he had presence in a way that made Nick think of powerful Wesen. Still, the man hadn't shown a Wesen face and Nick couldn't tell one way or the other until then. The man stopped Wu and had a quiet word with him where Wu pointed toward Nick.
"My guess is Fed," Hank said. "Even if he is, you know," Hank added with a vague gesture at his face. Nick looked up when the man approached their desks.
"Special Agent Lindsey McDonald, FBI," the man said, flipping open his ID.
"Something we can help you with, agent?" Nick asked, politely if reservedly.
"According to the Sergeant, you're investigating a series of largely unexplained deaths. I would appreciate any information you can give me on the case," McDonald said.
"Is the FBI taking over jurisdiction?" Hank asked plainly.
"I wanted to offer my assistance in the investigation in any way I can."
To Nick he seemed sincere, but he was reluctant to let anyone in on the investigation when it would only put them in danger. He couldn't afford to lose the case, especially not to someone who probably wouldn't have any idea what was really going on. If this was a Wesen, and he couldn't see how it couldn't be given the method of death, then the fewer unaware people involved, the better.
"We'll be in touch," Nick told him. Something dark passed over McDonald's expression before he nodded. The FBI agent hesitated then pulled out a card from his wallet and handed it to Nick. The card detailed his title and contact details as well as those of his supervisor.
"I'll see what I can find out about him," Hank said softly, watching the agent walk across the bullpen. Nick waited only long enough for McDonald to exit through the doors before he was up and knocking on the Captain's door. When a voice called for him to enter, he did so quickly and shut the door behind him.
"Did the FBI inform you about a joint investigation?" Nick asked. Renard steepled his fingers in consideration then shook his head.
There was always something about Renard that put Nick on edge, even before Nick discovered he was Wesen. Renard was always calm and collected, always in absolute control, but Nick could never shake the feeling that he was someone to be cautious of, that he was dangerous. Even if they were now allies of a sort.
"I'll make a call," Renard said. Nick gave him the card and couldn't help but notice the way Renard's eyes narrowed. He wondered if Renard knew the agent. When the Captain didn't dismiss him, Nick settled into a chair and watched as Renard dialled the number, then set the phone on speaker. If nothing else, Nick had come to appreciate Renard's forthrightness when it came to Grimm-related business, he just wasn't entirely sure of the motive behind it.
"SSA DiNozzo," the voice on the other end answered.
"Captain Sean Renard, Winchester PD," Renard answered. "One of your agents, McDonald, is looking into my detectives' case."
There was a pause that lasted a little too long. To Nick it seemed obvious that the news was entirely unexpected and, from the look on Renard's face, he thought the same.
"Of course," DiNozzo said. "Agent McDonald preceded the rest of the team while we finished up our last case. I apologise for the miscommunication. We'll be there in the morning to brief you."
"Of course," Renard echoed. "You'll have our full co-operation."
"I appreciate that, Captain," DiNozzo said before he ended the call.
"Are we handing over the case?" Nick asked. Renard was silent for a long moment as he stroked his chin thoughtfully.
"No," he said. "Give them only what you need to and keep a close eye on them until we're sure what they're after."
"Yes, sir," Nick said, standing.
Tony ended the call and lay his head back down on his pillow. Aaron turned onto his side, blinking the sleep from his eyes as he rested a reassuring hand on Tony's shoulder.
Tony curled his hand around Aaron's, twining their fingers.
"I'd say it was like running herd on six-year-olds," Tony said with a sigh. "Only, Jack's actually well-behaved."
"Which one is it this time?" Aaron asked, but there was a trace of humour in his eyes that Tony didn't entirely appreciate. Tony couldn't help it that fighting supernatural forces seemed to go hand-in-hand with being an irreverent, rebellious delinquent.
"Anything serious?" Aaron asked, growing solemn.
"I don't know," Tony said, wiping a hand down his face. "Far be it for any of them to be upfront with me."
"They only do it because they care," Aaron told him and Tony groaned, rubbing at his eyes.
"I could do without their brand of caring."
"No you couldn't."
"Don't tell them that."
They were interrupted by Aaron's phone ringing.
"Your secret is safe with me," Aaron said, pressing a kiss to Tony's temple before he turned to answer his phone. Tony rose out of the bed to get dressed. He had a ready-bag waiting in the hallway closet. He just had to contact the rest of the team and let them know what was going on.
"I'll be right in," Aaron said after a moment.
"Trouble?" Tony asked.
"Looks like we're both working tonight."
"What about Jack?"
"I'll call Jessica and, if she can't help, maybe Will can. We'll make a plan," Aaron said.
It still amazed Tony every time he was included in decisions that affected Jack. It was all so horrifyingly, terrifyingly domestic and Tony still wasn't entirely used to it. But this, being part of a family, being part of Aaron's family, had come to mean everything to him. He smiled a little as he watched Aaron straighten his tie in the mirror.
"Don't you have a case to investigate?" Aaron asked, eyebrows raised as he met Tony's gaze through the reflection in the mirror.
"Oh yes, absolutely," Tony agreed easily, stepping around the bed and walking over to Aaron. The other man turned to him with the barest smile.
"The jet leaves in an hour and I still have to get a file together to brief the team," Aaron said, but he didn't seem in too much of a rush. Tony slid his hands into Aaron's hair, knowing how much it irritated the man to present a less than professional image to his subordinates and that he probably wouldn't have time enough to fix it to his liking, and pulled him into a kiss.
"I'll call in the morning," Tony said, pulling back with a sigh. "Or rather later this morning."
"I should be able to let you know how long I'm likely to be away by then," Aaron said.
"I've got to brief my team, too."
Aaron drew Tony into another kiss before they parted ways.
Methos settled onto Tony's couch and rested his feet on the coffee table, not removing them even when Tony looked at him pointedly. Finally, Tony sighed and left it. Beside him, Dean leaned forward, elbows resting on his knees. It never boded well when they met for a briefing at Tony's apartment, which was looking increasingly disused.
The place was as immaculate as ever, with everything in its neat little place in a way that probably bordered on the obsessive and might have been cause for concern if Methos wasn't aware that Tony spent most of his time over at Hotchner's place these days. The only thing without the finest layer of dust on it was the piano.
"When's Lindsey getting here?" Dean asked.
"He's not," Tony said, his voice flat and his expression closed off. That wasn't like Tony, not that he wasn't usually emotionally guarded, just that he usually hid it better.
"What happened?" Methos asked. Lindsey wasn't injured, at least not as far as Tony knew, otherwise they'd be meeting at a hospital, which meant Lindsey was probably missing.
"He's gone rogue," Tony told them.
"I might be able to get Cas to find him," Dean said, then frowned. "If he'll come when I call."
Things had been tense since Raphael's death and, in a way, even more so since the angels had found out about Gabriel's resurrection. Gabriel was the last true archangel and the angels were desperate for someone to guide them. Cas had taken to trying to both curb Gabriel's excesses and persuade him to take up the mantel of role model for the other angels. He hadn't been all that fortunate in his endeavour, but then Cas was the only one who assumed he might be.
Methos hadn't seen much of Kronos either, since he was off re-establishing his little empire. It amused him and kept his busy, and hopefully away from MacLeod and his lot. Given the choice between them as things stood now, Methos couldn't honestly say he would make the same choice.
"Don't bother. I know exactly where he is."
Dean stood up and paced, never comfortable with sitting still when one of his own was out from under his aegis. Methos was coming to feel much the same way about these mortals, which was fraught with its own dangers.
"He's in Winchester."
"He's what?" Dean asked, turning abruptly to face Tony, whose face relaxed into a teasing smile.
"That is, he's in the city of Winchester, investigating a case."
"What case?" Dean asked, folding his arms and looked at Tony through narrowed eyes. Methos was sure Tony would be paying for that comment for a while.
"I don't know yet, but we'd better find out before I brief the captain on our involvement," Tony told them.
"When do we leave?" Methos asked.
Lindsey was working his way systematically through Wolfram and Hart's file when there was a loud knock on the motel door. He drew his gun and activated the strength sigils tattooed across his shoulders. Carefully, he peered through the eyehole in the door to see Tony glaring at him impatiently. He stepped back and sighed. Finally, he released the sigils and re-holstered his gun. Taking a deep breath, he prepared himself for the onslaught he knew was coming his way, then opened the door.
Tony pushed his way into the room, Dean close behind him. Adam strolled in after them, then firmly shut the door behind him. This was not going to wash over quickly, Lindsey could see. Tony folded his arms and looked at Lindsey steadily while Dean leaned against the doorway to the bathroom and Adam leaned against the door to the room. They had effectively corralled him in.
"If you'd taken any longer, I might have let Dean at the lock," Tony said. Lindsey cut a side-long glance at Dean to see he wasn't looking his most patient. They would have been lucky if Dean hadn't shot out the lock.
"So," Adam said, quiet and composed in that way that only made him seem more dangerous. "You want to tell us what you're doing here?"
"It's my problem," Lindsey said, already knowing it was futile. Tony snorted.
"I thought you were supposed to be the reliable one. I get enough of these two going off half-cocked, without you joining the charge."
"Excuse me," Adam said, the very picture of righteous affront. "I'm never half-cocked."
Dean just shrugged and Lindsey couldn't help but smile, which he supposed was rather the point when the tension in the room was at least partly diffused.
"I just..." Lindsey began before trailing off. How to explain to these men the dangers becoming entangled with Wolfram and Hart would present? Dean would assume that his previous experience would prepare him to go against the firm, but he had no idea. Even Tony with his experience of the evils organisations could do and the lengths they'd go to hide their misdeeds, had no comprehension of the reach the Senior Partners had. Only Adam would likely understand what they would actually be up against.
"We can help," Tony insisted. "You know we can."
"How is whatever this is any different than zombies, witches, demons and angels?" Dean asked.
"Because they aren't going to come at us straight on," Lindsey said, reluctant to tell them too much. He could feel their eyes on him, weighing how much he was keeping from them.
"Wolfram and Hart," Adam said immediately and Lindsey nodded.
"They're the demonic law firm you used to work for?" Tony asked, uncrossing his arms and leaning back against the chest of drawers. Lindsey nodded again. "Okay, so what can we expect?"
Lindsey though about telling them about Old Ones, about what they were actually facing, but the Senior Partners wouldn't act in this dimension directly and Lindsey didn't want to involve them unnecessarily.
Lindsey sighed, knowing that he was lying to himself. He didn't want to tell them that he had worked for Old Ones. Both Adam and Dean had found themselves tangled up with demons at one point or another, but they had not become so thoroughly entrenched with Old Ones. He wasn't sure he could explain to them what his desire and ambition had almost risked, he low he'd stooped for the barest of crumbs.
"Wolfram and Hart has an extensive reach into any number of demon worlds. Their resources are almost unlimited," Lindsey told them. It was as close to the truth as he could get.
The Senior Partners might have lost some of their influence when the Los Angeles office fell, but it was hardly their only branch. They still had far too much influence over this dimension and once Wolfram and Hart got a hold of you, they never let go. Lindsey didn't want to endanger his team on risking Wolfram and Hart's ire.
Adam raised an eyebrow and Lindsey wondered, not for the first time, if Adam, or Azrael rather, had been around when the Old Ones had dominion over the Earth. Adam still hadn't opened up at all about anything before his exile to Earth or his early Immortal life, except for the brief description he'd given them of his reaction to that exile. Not that Lindsey could find fault with that. They all still had their secrets.
"So," Adam said, meeting Lindsey's gaze steadily and remaining in his place by the door. "Where do we start?"
Lindsey knew Adam understood and he'd do whatever he could to keep Tony and Dean safe, to keep him safe, too and relief and fear warred within Lindsey.
"There have been four deaths now," Lindsey began, telling them about the case file he'd been given.
Nick opened the door to Rosalee's spice shop, hoping Monroe would be there too. When he wasn't at home tinkering with his clocks, Monroe always seemed to be with Rosalee. Nick always felt a little bittersweet watching them. He missed that sense of belonging with someone. He hadn't had that for long before Juliet left.
The spice shop always smelt like herbs, spices and smells he couldn't even begin to place and probably didn't want to know about. He had, after all, found her brother selling human organs before he'd been murdered.
"Nick," Rosalee greeted with a warm smile that he couldn't help but respond to.
"Rosalee. Is Monroe here?"
"He's in the back," she told him. "Monroe, Nick's here to see you!"
"Nick," Monroe said, coming from the back room. He smelled faintly of St John's Wort and Nick assumed he'd been preparing ingredients for Rosalee. "Something going on?"
There was something dark, almost angry, in Monroe's expression as he came into the room, stepping in front of Rosalee. Nick felt his Grimm instincts kicking in immediately and the effort to fight them down took more than he expected.
"I've got a case you might be interested in," Nick told him. Monroe tensed in anticipation and smiled his wolfish smile, though he didn't move from his protective position in front of Rosalee. Despite being Wieder, a vegetarian, Monroe hadn't lost any of his Blutbad instincts. She rested a calming hand on his arm and moved out from behind him. He relaxed only marginally and she shared a confused and concerned look with Nick.
"What is it this time?" Monroe asked.
"Have you ever heard of people dying in their sleep?"
"Other than naturally?" Monroe asked and Nick merely raised an eyebrow. "No. There wasn't anything at the trailer?"
Nick shook his head. He and Hank had spent more hours than he cared to count pouring over the books. It had been a while since he'd felt this lost when it came to Wesen, not since he'd first found out he was a Grimm.
"And the Captain doesn't know anything?" Rosalee asked, keeping her hand on Monroe's arm. Nick shook his head again.
"He's as in the dark as I am," Nick admitted. All his usual sources seemed dried up and he wasn't sure where to go from there or how to stop whatever it was that was killing people.
"Are you sure it's Wesen?" Rosalee asked, a little hesitantly. Both Nick and Monroe paused at that, thinking it over.
"Well," Nick began slowly, "what else could it be?"
But then he'd been entirely unaware of the extensive Wesen presence in Winchester before he'd become a Grimm. He'd be the last person to deny the possible existence of entire races of creatures he'd never heard of.
"I don't know," Rosalee said.
"Maybe you can pick something up from the crime scene," Nick said to Monroe.
Monroe's grin was almost feral and he stepped away from Rosalee entirely to follow Nick.
"Lead the way."
Once they were away from the shop, Monroe seemed to calm down. Nick wondered what had happened to cause the show of aggression. Despite being a Blutbad, Monroe was one of the gentlest people he'd ever met and he was glad whatever it was had seemed to pass.
"Things going alright with you and Rosalee?" Nick asked cautiously.
"Fine," Monroe said, sending a hard look at Nick and Nick decided it was better to leave it alone. Instead, he gestured up at the terribly ordinary looking, little single-storey house. It was hard to imagine that a man had been mauled to death in there.
"You getting anything?"
Monroe moved closer to the house, scenting the air. Nick kept a wary eye on their surroundings as he did so.
"Nothing new," Monroe said, taking another sniff before stopping. "I smell death."
It had to be more than just the fact that a man had died there, otherwise Monroe wouldn't have bothered to mention the obvious. That meant there was something there at that moment that was registering to Monroe's senses.
The first thing wrong that Nick noticed as they approached the house was the broken crime scene tape on the door. He waved Monroe behind him and drew his gun as he slowly entered the house. It was quiet, but not the absolute silence of an abandoned building. He cocked his head, listening to the slightest shuffle of careful footsteps and the faintest rustle of clothing. He and Monroe looked at each other and nodded. There were other people in the house.
They made their way further into the house, clearing rooms as they went, until they reached the back of the house. Monroe nodded to one of the last two doors, the victim's lounge, and Nick eased the door open, stepping into the room. The man and woman he'd seen at the crime scene earlier stood, examining the area where the man had died. They turned to look at, both dropping into fighting stances.
"Winchester PD," Nick said, raising his gun to aim at the two.
"You can't be serious," the woman said, rolling her eyes.
"Since when are the cops actually competent?" the man added, British accent obvious.
Nick wasn't sure how he should feel about that, but he was leaning toward insulted. Monroe's growl was a soft rumble at his back and Nick was glad for the support. There was something strange about the two. Wesen, maybe, but Nick was beginning to suspect there was far more to the world than even he was aware of.
"You're both under arrest," he told them, nodding to Monroe to watch them while he holstered his gun and went to cuff them.
"Oh, no way am I doing this again," the woman said and launched herself at him. It was clear she thought he would go down easily from the way she stepped back, surprised, when he blocked her. The man went for Monroe and Nick saw Monroe change.
"Vampire?" the woman asked.
"Wesen?" he asked in return and they looked at each other in confusion for a moment. Then she shrugged and leapt at him again.
He blocked her swing and tried to catch her leg to trip her, but she caught his move and unbalanced him, throwing him over her shoulder. He rolled and leapt to his feet, immediately moving to strike at her. She caught his hand but stumbled back a step.
"You sure you're not a vampire?" she asked, before twisting his arm behind his back. He broke her hold, turning to strike out at her. She blocked and used the momentum to aim a kick at his head. Nick caught her ankle and flipped her. The twisting motion she did mid-air to land on her feet seemed physically impossible.
"I'm fairly certain that's the sort of thing someone's aware of," he told her after a moment.
"Then what are you?" she asked, eyeing him critically.
"A cop," he said, honestly. He was a Grimm, too. But, first and foremost, he would always be a cop.
"Right," she scoffed.
"What are you doing here?" Nick asked, pausing for a breather.
"None of your business."
"Considering you're breaking and entering, disturbing a crime scene, impeding an investigation and assaulting a police officer, I think this is very much my business," Nick told her, circling her warily. She kept out of reach, catching her own breath as she moved.
"I'm just a concerned citizen," she told him with a cheeky smile.
"Then you won't mind telling me what you know."
"It wouldn't matter if I did mind. We don't know anything," she conceded.
"Then why are you here?"
"Concerned citizen," she repeated.
"Come on, Slayer," the blond man said, standing down as well. He came to stand next to the woman and Nick was darkly pleased to see his shoulder was deeply scored where Monroe's claws had raked him. Monroe paced the other end of the room, watched the two keenly, still in Wesen-form, his red eyes glimmering. "You've had your fun."
The woman gave Nick a heated look and winked.
"Catch you around, hot stuff."
It was early morning when Tony got the call about another victim. Whatever this was, it was killing people fast and they needed to get a handle on it before it escalated further.
"Lindsey," Tony said, looking to the man who was staring into his coffee mug more than he was drinking it. He looked tired, like he'd had a restless night, but Tony couldn't really blame him. It wasn't like he'd fared any better facing his own history, and that hadn't included demonic law firms. "There's another crime scene. I want you and Adam to investigate it."
Adam met his gaze and nodded, letting Tony know he'd received the message. Lindsey rolled his eyes at them.
"Looks like you're my babysitter today," Lindsey told Adam. Adam shrugged, unconcerned with his tone.
"Like you lot weren't worse when it was me," Adam said, mouth curled in a faint sneer. Tough love, it was, Tony thought. "Come on, McDonald, we've got work to do."
"I haven't finished my coffee."
"I buy you whatever you want from that ridiculous little coffee shop around the corner," Adam told him, grabbing his arm and dragging him from the room. Tony smiled a little as he watched them go, sure that Lindsey was in good hands. Tony turned to Dean.
"I need you to call Castiel."
"Sure," Dean said, looking confused. "Any particular reason why?"
"I think he might have some of the answers we need."
"Cas!" Dean called.
There was a flutter of wings that never ceased to amaze Tony and then Castiel was in the room. He appeared looking distinctly ruffled. There was a candy wrapper stuck to his hair and when he turned to face Dean there was a 'kick me' sign on his back.
"Gabe not co-operating?" Dean asked with a grin.
"No." Castiel's tone was flat and his expression was schooled to reveal as little as possible. Tony tried to carefully hide a smile.
"I'm sure we could sic Adam on him,"
"I believe they would be more likely to join forces," Castiel said with a touch of annoyance. Dean thought for a moment and nodded.
"You're probably right," Dean agreed. Tony had never met Gabriel, but from what he'd heard, the idea of Gabriel and Adam teaming up wasn't something to be encouraged.
"You called me?" Castiel asked, voice and expression softening as he stepped toward Dean. Dean wrapped an arm around Castiel's shoulders, using the movement to unstick the sign without alerting Castiel, and turned him toward Tony.
"Tony has questions," Dean told him. Castiel nodded and his expression became resolute again.
"What do you know about Wolfram and Hart?" Tony asked, because Lindsey wasn't telling them everything and Tony needed to know what was going with his team. Tony respected his team, respected Lindsey, but he needed answers to do his job properly and the biggest part of that as far as Tony was concerned was protecting his team.
"They are a law firm run by the Senior Partners with links to several dimensions," Castiel told them. Which was all very interesting, but didn't tell him anything Lindsey hadn't already revealed.
"Who are the Senior Partners?"
"The Wolf, the Ram and the Hart."
Tony sighed and scrubbed a hand down his face. When he looked up again, Dean was smiling only faintly, but Tony could tell he was inwardly laughing at him. No matter how many times Tony encountered the angel, he still couldn't seem to elicit more than single sentence answers. He'd never found trying to connect to someone more challenging. Most of his interrogations went more easily.
"What can you tell us about them?" Dean asked.
"The Senior Partners are Old Ones. They are pure demons, from a time before anything good and light walked the world. They divided the world between them to rule unchallenged. Eventually they were banished and only echoes of them remained; vampires and the sorts of demons with which you're more familiar. Some retained their influence in this realm. The Wolf, The Ram and the Hart are such," Castiel explained.
Tony thought it might be the most he'd ever heard from Castiel at once and he was sure it was only because Dean had asked. While Castiel usually followed Adam's directions, he always went above and beyond for Dean.
"There is also Illyria, but her power is much curtailed," Castiel added after a moment. Dean looked at Castiel with a fondness that made Tony acutely miss Aaron.
"So Wolfram and Hart is run by a bunch of really old demons," Tony said. "I suppose Gibbs might have been right about lawyers."
"Very old and very powerful demons," Castiel told him. "Though the Wolf, the Ram and the Hart were hardly the strongest."
"So how do we fight them?" Dean asked. Castiel shook his head.
"Even the weakest of the Old Ones is not to be underestimated," he said. "But they seldom influence this dimension directly. Their most recent incursion was stopped by a small group of warriors that included your Lindsey McDonald. "
That wasn't much of a consolation as far as Tony was concerned.
Methos followed Lindsey as they entered the house of the fifth crime scene. The acceleration of the rate of deaths could not mean anything good. There were two cops standing in the living room, having a quiet discussion between themselves.
"Detectives Burkhardt and Griffin," Lindsey greeted. Methos nodded to them before looking around to get a gauge of the place. "This is Agent Baines."
They shook hands, exchanging pleasantries. A third man came from another room, his eyes widening when he saw the agents.
"Uh, this is Monroe," Burkhardt said. "He's a consultant."
"A consultant?" Methos asked, eyeing Monroe closely. There was something about him that prickled at the back of Methos' mind, hinting at memories long discarded.
Monroe ducked his head at Methos' scrutiny. Burdhardt looked at Monroe strangely. Clearly it was not normal behaviour. Methos stepped forward, moving into Monroe's space, and Monroe made a little whining noise in his throat, not looking up.
"Agent Baines," Burkhardt said, warning in his voice. Methos ignored him. Kronos was definitely a bad influence, but then he'd always known that. In his most honest moments, he could admit that that was the appeal.
"What are you?" Methos asked. Monroe looked up and his face was distorted, his eyes red. "Wesen. Of course. Blutbad, if I'm not mistaken."
He hadn't had much cause to encounter Wesen, even in his 5000 years. They tended to keep to themselves and with reason considering the way they'd been hunted in the past. Methos had only rarely knowingly met one and usually only under situations of extreme stress when they were more likely reveal themselves.
"What's going on?" Burkhardt demanded, moving to stand beside Monroe and glare at Methos.
"Can't you feel it?" Monroe asked, glancing side-long at Methos before ducking his head again. Burkhardt shook his head. "What he is?"
"What is he?" Burkhardt asked and Methos was quite curious as well. He'd never had anyone other than another Immortal sense what he was.
"Powerful," Monroe said. Methos stepped back then, giving Monroe his space, and the man immediately straightened up, looking a little embarrassed at himself. The two detectives gave Methos a re-evaluating look.
Methos wondered if this was a symptom of what was going on. If Monroe's being controlled by his instincts was an indication of unconscious impulses rises to the surface, unable to be controlled or contained, in the same way that dreams seemed to be becoming real. They needed to find out what was going on quickly before the entire situation escalated.
"You know about Wesen?" Burkhardt asked and Methos nodded. Lindsey remained silent and Methos knew he'd wait for a full explanation later, when it wasn't likely to jeopardise the case.
"I've met one or two," Methos conceded.
"Then you have an idea about what's going on here?" Burkhardt asked, anxious to get an answer.
"Not much of one," Lindsey said. "We just became aware of the situation yesterday."
"We haven't been able to find a Wesen connection," Burkhardt told them. "I was hoping you would know something."
"Our supervisor is briefing your Captain. Maybe you can brief us on the specifics?" Lindsey asked Nick.
"Sure," Burkhardt agreed easily. He gestured Lindsey to follow him to where the crime had taken place. Lindsey followed, not shrugging off the hand Burkhardt rested on his shoulder. Methos saw Monroe sniff the air faintly then frown, narrowing his eyes at the two as they left the room, talking amiably. Except for Tanner, Methos hadn't ever seen Lindsey so agreeable with anyone that wasn't a member of the team.
"This is not going to end well," Griffin muttered. Methos couldn't help but agree, but then he was the last one to talk.
Lindsey opened his eyes, disoriented as the immediacy of the dream faded. He breathed in deeply and let the last of the stark terror subside. Nothing quite disturbed his sleep like remembering his own death.
It was only then that he noticed the soft light coming from the other side of the room and noticed Adam sitting up in bed, his laptop open and ignored in front of him. The double rooms had been at Tony's instance and they all knew it was to safeguard him, as much as Lindsey resisted it. Lindsey moved to sit at the edge of the bed and scrubbed at his face.
"That happened often?" Adam asked.
"No," Lindsey said immediately then shook his head. "Not usually, not like that." Lindsey looked at Adam critically, taking in his pallor and weary eyes. "What about you?"
"What about me?" Adam asked, the very picture of innocence. Lindsey looked at him steadily and Adam met his gaze easily.
"You know exactly what I mean," Lindsey told him, conceding that he'd probably never win a battle of wills with Adam. The only person who seemed to come close was Tony, for reasons Lindsey never quite understood.
"No," Adam said, "not usually."
"I haven't had dreams like that since it first happened."
"Since you died," Adam said. It wasn't a question. Lindsey wasn't surprised that he knew. Especially not after he'd taken on the mantel of Azrael again. It was the sort of thing that left its mark on a person.
"It's all a bit co-incidental," Lindsey said grimly.
"It's linked," Adam told him. "We both know that."
Unusually intense nightmares when there was a spate of sleeping deaths was far too much of a co-incidence for either of them to accept.
"I know," Lindsey said with a sigh. "How long do you think?"
"Days. If we're lucky," Adam said with a shrug, then looked at Lindsey intently. "You have to know none of it is going to make a difference to them."
"I..." Lindsey began, looking up at Adam. "I want to believe that."
Adam nodded and Lindsey knew he understood. Confronting your past was never easy even when you'd come to terms with it yourself. Admitting it to people whose opinion you cared about was another thing entirely.
"They might surprise you," Adam told him, the warmth in his expression warring with an astonishment he still felt. Lindsey nodded. "You should tell them why this is happening."
"It will put them in danger."
"They're already in danger, just through their association with you. Cutting ties now won't change that."
Lindsey took a deep breath and nodded.
Adam's phone rang, shrill in the silence, and Adam glanced at phone and sighed before answering.
"Kronos, do you have any idea what time it is?" Adam asked softly, tiredly, which took the edge off the remark. He listened a moment then rolled his eyes.
"It was rhetorical. And the polite way of asking what the fuck you want."
Adam sighed, some of the strength leaching out of him as he listened to what Kronos had to say.
"How many people were killed?"
Adam looked surprised at the answer, then pleased, though he hid it quickly.
"I'll get you a six month sobriety chip," he said sarcastically.
"I'm sure you'd prefer that, but I'm not that flexible."
Adam's entire posture changed.
"An Alexandrian scroll? Really?" A pause. "Well, I might just be persuaded."
Adam's smirk was a slow, sly thing.
"I'll let you know knew we're done here," Adam said.
"In your dreams," he said, then hung up. It really was more insight into his relationship than Lindsey really needed, but as a distraction from his own problems it worked.
Nick knew Hank was watching him when he yawned for the third time in five minutes even as he drank his fourth cup of coffee of the morning. He'd been tired, but Wesen business always left him looking a bit worn around the edges.
"How late did you stay at the trailer last night?" Hank asked. Nick looked up, surprised.
"How did you know I was at the trailer?"
"You're always at the trailer when you don't have a lead on a case."
"I was looking into what might affect a Blutbad, but other than Royals, I haven't had much luck," Nick explained. He'd been worried by Monroe's reaction to McDonald's fellow agent. Nick hadn't sensed anything himself, but then he couldn't always tell when someone was different right off. He'd work for Renard for years before he'd discovered he was a Zauberbiest.
"And is that all?" Hank asked. Nick rubbed at his eyes and sighed.
"I haven't been sleeping well," Nick admitted.
"Nightmares?" Hank asked, concerned.
Nick nodded. He knew that he suspected what Nick himself had suspected for days; that the unusually intense dreams were somehow linked to what was going on. McDonald had agreed with the assessment that the deaths were caused by dreams that had somehow become real. It made his own dreams all the more worrying.
"Anything I can do to help?"
Nick shook his head again. It wasn't like he had the faintest idea what it would take to stop it other than trying to stay awake and that was a doomed enterprise.
"Do we have the report back from the coroner on the latest victim?" he asked instead.
"Another heart attack. Nothing new," Hank said, sighing with the same frustration that Nick was feeling.
"Monroe didn't get any scents from the scenes either. Every avenue we try leads to a dead end."
"What about Agent McDonald? You two seemed quite cozy. Did he have anything new to add?"
Nick fought the blush that threatened to colour his cheeks at the implication and shot a glare at Hank, who looked entirely unfazed. He had gotten on well with McDonald, but it had been nice to have someone understand his perspective without having them either instinctively fear him or having to coax them through a mental breakdown when they learned what was really out there. But telling Hank that would only make him feel bad considering the way he'd reacting to learning about Wesen and about Nick.
"Nothing much, just that he suspected it wasn't Wesen."
"If not Wesen, then what?"
"I don't know," Nick admitted, failing to stifle another yawn.
"This job used to be so much easier," Hank said, though he smiled when he said it. Nick couldn't help the regret that he'd dragged Hank into the Grimm side of his life even as he was relieved that he didn't have to lie to him anymore. He rested his head on his hand and blinked, trying to clear his vision.
"You sure you're okay?" Hank asked.
"Yeah," Nick said softly. He blinked slowly, his eyelids heavy.
"Nick?" Hank said. Nick blinked again and had to force his eyes open. "Nick?"
"Hank," he slurred, swaying in place. The last thing he heard was Hank yelling his name again and for someone to call an ambulance.
Hank paced the hallway, waiting to hear any word on what was going on with Nick. It was like Juliette all over again and Hank couldn't stand the idea that he might lose his partner that way. Nick had just collapsed and hadn't woken up at all, either in the ambulance ride or at the hospital. They were running tests on him at that moment, but Hank thought that it would probably be just like with Juliette. They wouldn't find anything. He could only hope Nick was still himself when they worked out how to fix this.
"Detective Griffin?" a voice said and he spun around, hoping to see a doctor with some news on Nick's condition. Instead, it was Agents McDonald and Baines, and two others.
"How is Detective Burkhardt?" McDonald continued.
"They're running tests now," Hank said, willing to tell them that much at least. They might barely know each other, but Nick had liked this man, trusted him, and it was a small thing to concede. It helped that McDonald's first concern was Nick.
"What happened?" a tall, good-looking man asked.
"SSA DiNozzo and Agent Winchester," McDonald said, introducing the two unknown men. Hank nodded to them both.
"I'm not sure," Hank told DiNozzo. "He was tired – he'd been having nightmares – and he just couldn't stay awake any longer."
None of them missed the way McDonald and Baines looked at each other. DiNozzo pinched the bridge of his nose before he turned to the two.
"Something you want to tell me, gentlemen?" he asked, his voice calm and measured in the way that Hank had seen in plenty of supervisors who weren't feeling either. Hank felt a twinge of sympathy for the two.
"Yes," McDonald said after a long moment. "But it can wait."
DiNozzo glanced at Baines, who nodded his agreement. McDonald folded his arms.
"I can look after myself," McDonald said.
"Just be glad we aren't locking you in a dark and musty panic room," Baines told him, tone as sharp as his smile.
"That was for your own protection," Winchester said, sounding offended although Hank wasn't sure why.
Hank was beginning to suspect that these people were probably more than a little crazy. But then, he imagined people probably reacted much the same way to Nick and his informal team. They certainly must have acted inconsistently enough to people who had no knowledge of what they were facing.
"We really are doing everything we can," DiNozzo assured him. Despite himself, Hank wanted to put his confidence in these people. "Lindsey, is there anything you can do for protection?"
"Nothing that would make much difference, not without knowing the specifics of what form the attacks are taking," McDonald said. "But some more general protections might help."
Hank nodded his consent, willing to try anything to help Nick. Doing nothing would mean his death. McDonald immediately took out a small pad and pencil and started sketching.
"Hank!" he heard Monroe call and he turned to see the tall Wesen striding down the hallway.
"Monroe. I'm glad you're here," Hank said, clapping the man on the shoulder.
"I don't know," Hank told him. "They're still doing tests."
Monroe rounded on the agents, glaring intently. He faltered a moment at catching sight of Baines before he resumed the glare. Hank had seen the same reaction the day before and he wondered what the cause of it was. Baines was clearly something other than human to have that effect on Monroe, but neither Monroe nor Nick had indicated that he was Wesen.
"What did you do?" he growled. A moment later he shook his head and backed down, taking a step back. "Sorry."
"If it helps, I don't think you're fully in control of yourself at the moment," Baines told him.
"Perhaps we should continue this discussion somewhere more private?" DiNozzo said, taking a pointed look around at all the hospital staff, patients and patients' families around them. Hank nodded.
"I agree," he said. "But I don't want to leave Nick here alone. He has plenty of enemies who would be only too happy to take advantage of his state."
"I'll stay," Monroe insisted. It wouldn't be the first time Monroe had sat vigil for Nick, and Hank would feel some small comfort knowing Nick wasn't entirely defenceless.
"Does Rosalee know what's going on?" Hank asked. Monroe nodded.
"I told her before I left. She's at the spice shop looking for anything she can do to help."
"We should join her there," Hank said. Monroe looked at the others suspiciously before he nodded again. These people were their best chance of getting Nick to wake up again.
Tony walked into the quaint little shop, the smell of exotic spices and things he couldn't begin to name almost overwhelming him. He coughed a little, extremely glad that Castiel had healed his lungs. He'd forgotten how amazing it was to go running and not worry about losing his breath. Or to go a winter without worrying about pneumonia. There was no way he could ever repay the angel.
"Can I help you?" the rather pretty woman behind the counter asked.
"You must be Rosalee," Tony said, smiling as he shook her hand.
"Yes, and you are?" she asked, confused but faintly returning the smile.
"These are the agents who have been investigating with us," Griffin explained.
"Oh," Rosalee said, smiling more brightly and gesturing Tony and the team in. "Of course. Please come in."
She led them further into the shop and to a set of chairs and couches.
"Can I get any of you anything to drink?"
They all declined and she settled on the edge of one of the seats and looked at Griffin curiously. She seemed a little timid, or perhaps just overwhelmed, but Tony could sense a core of strength to her.
"Is there any news on Nick?" she asked. Griffin shook his head.
"Only that they've done all the tests they can and that, so far, there's no change," Griffin told her. She looked down, taking a moment to gather herself before she nodded.
"I haven't been able to find anything to help him."
"That's because what we're looking for isn't Wesen, it's a demon," Lindsey told her. "At least, that's what we've been able to piece together."
"So what do we do?" she asked.
"You call the professionals," a woman said from the doorway. She stood there with a taller blond man at her shoulder. Lindsey stood immediately, angled to one side to present a smaller target. He was expecting trouble from these two. The rest of the team stood as well. Hank and Rosalee joining them a moment later.
"Or you could just call us," the man said.
"Faith, Spike," Lindsey greeted, moving to stand in front of Dean and Tony.
"I should have known you'd have something to do with this," Faith said, folding her arms as she glared at him.
"Come to kill any innocent people?" he asked her, mirroring her posture.
"I don't know, you tell me," she retorted. They glared at each other for a long moment.
"Aren't you supposed to be dead?" Spike asked, peering at Lindsey.
He didn't seem quite as hostile as the girl, which Tony counted as fortunate. Tony rested a hand on Lindsey's shoulder, feeling the tension in his muscles. He wondered who these two were to Lindsey and what sort of threat they represented.
"Aren't you?" Lindsey asked in return. Spike shrugged, frowning faintly.
"What's a little death between friends," Adam said, from where he was leaning against one of the bookcases. Tony really needed to make less dramatic friends.
"You!" Spike said, pointing to Adam. "You're not going to get away this time!"
"Don't play the idiot with me. I know exactly who you are!"
"Do I know you?" Adam drawled in his most obnoxiously uninterested tone. It was the tone he tended to use with supervisors and politicians.
Spike growled, his face shifting to something grotesque and ridged, and launched himself at Adam. Lindsey and Dean each grabbed an arm and slammed him down to the ground. He struggled and growled and snapped, trying to throw them off. Adam absently picked at his nails.
"I know who you are, Immortal."
"Wait," Faith said. "He's the one who was putting it to Buffy in Italy?"
"Buffy?" Adam said, trying out the word with distaste.
"And Darla and Drusilla!" Spike said, starting to struggle again.
"Now those two I remember well," Adam said with a smirk, then shrugged. "What can I say, I spent the 19th century in style."
"What did you do with Buffy!?" Spike demanded. "You were all over her in Italy 10 years ago."
"I was in France 10 years ago."
"Then who was in Italy?" Spike demanded through gritted teeth.
"Sometimes I find it useful not to discourage those who like to take on my identity," Adam told him with a shrug. "It leaves my enemies satisfied and me none-the-worse."
Tony wondered how many people had died pretending to be Adam. His enemies didn't tend to be of the mild and easily dissuaded variety.
"Now that you've all peed in your corners, where's boy-Slayer?" Faith asked.
"Now hang-on, what about him torturing me and Angel? And sending me to prison," Spike continued. "I deserve some restitution."
"Boy-Slayer?" Lindsey asked, ignoring Spike entirely.
"The pretty one. Well," she said, glancing over the group. "The other pretty one."
"He's in hospital in a coma," Lindsey told them. Faith frowned.
"Pity," she said. "I liked him."
For a moment there was a chink in her armour and it looked like she was telling the truth, before she cleared her expression. Tony liked her immediately. He thought she'd probably get on well with Abby.
"Why are you here?" Lindsey asked.
"Didn't you know?" Faith asked. "Winchester is the centre of a confluence of energies. It's the perfect place to amplify whatever mojo you want to cast. At least, that's what Glinda said when she sent us here. And that there's something bad going down."
Nick backed away from the shadow looming over him and ran, ducking through a hole in a fence and jumping over a short wall before he crouched behind a dumpster. It had been like this since he'd fallen asleep at the office; running and hiding. He'd tried fighting, but he'd been lucky to get away with his life the last time. He couldn't do this indefinitely. It explained a lot about why all the victims had died.
He'd come aware, if not awake, to a city draped in darkness and night. It was everything he'd associated with those early days of finding out he was a Grimm when he thought everything was violence and darkness.
The shadow loomed again and Nick was trapped against the wall. He stood up slowly, his clothing catching on the rough brick as he went. That was the problem with these dreams. Everything felt all too real. It was all too easy to see why dream traumas had manifested physically when there was none of the usual indistinctness or abstraction of dreams.
The shadow grabbed Nick by the throat and squeezed. Nick gripped the claw, trying to pull the fingers away, to no avail. Everything in this dream world seemed stronger than him, faster and more agile. He wondered if this was what Hank felt like when dealing with all his Grimm issues.
Suddenly, there was a flash of light and the shadow wavered then faded away, disappearing entirely. Nick dropped to one knee, gasping for breath. Finally, Nick was able to push himself to his feet, leaning on the dumpster for a moment before stepping out to see what had chased the shadow away.
McDonald stood at the entrance to the alley, looking strong and bright against the dark dreamscape. He seemed to be the only thing in sight that wasn't in shadow. At his shoulder was a slightly shorter, broader-shouldered reflection of him. The reflection was pale, almost translucent - the echo of a man - even as he crossed his arms and glared.
"Ignore him," McDonald told him. "He's always like that."
The reflection shifted his glare to McDonald, but didn't otherwise move or say anything.
"Agent McDonald," Nick said, relief flooding through him. It seemed like forever since he'd seen anything familiar or reassuring.
"I think under the circumstances, you can call me Nick," Nick told him with a grin. Lindsey smiled back.
"Lindsey," McDonald insisted. He slid his gaze over to his echo. "He's Eliot, I suppose."
There was definitely a story there. Despite Lindsey keeping his voice light, Nick could tell there was pain there. He wondered what had happened, but knew better than to ask.
"You here to rescue me?" Nick asked hopefully. Lindsey's smile faded.
"How's he doing?" Tony asked, looking down at Lindsey's face, slack with sleep, and lacking its usual strength and determination.
"He's been twitchy," Dean said from where he sat at the man's side, as he had done since Lindsey had collapsed an hour ago. Adam checked Lindsey's pulse and then pulled out a stethoscope. Tony had no idea from where he'd obtained one, but Adam never seemed to run short of whatever supplies he needed.
"No change. Just like with Burkhardt. Whatever's going on, they seem to be fighting it," Adam told them. "Burkhardt's lasted longer than any of the other victims and Lindsey shows no signs of deterioration."
Tony breathed a sigh of relief. If anyone could fight this, he was sure it would be Lindsey. He was as stubborn as they come, and considering the company Tony kept, that was saying something. Tony let Adam usher him to the main part of the shop, leaving Lindsey with Dean at his side.
It was just as well Dean remained with Lindsey. He wasn't sure the man would be able to control his temper with the way the two new additions to their investigation were acting. They seemed reluctant to let go of the past and Tony supposed he could understand that, he had his own grudges he couldn't let go, but it grew tiring.
"You're worried about him," Spike said. He sounded surprised.
Tony knew he shouldn't take that personally, these two hadn't worked closely with Lindsey these last few years and he hadn't known the Lindsey they had, but he couldn't help but feel that they were doing him, and Lindsey as well, a disservice.
"You know what he was?" she asked.
"Probably better than you," Adam told her. After their initial disagreements, Lindsey and Adam had seemed to forge a strong connection based on similar histories that he and Dean could sympathise with but could never fully understand.
"I wouldn't count on that," she said after a moment.
"Whatever or whoever he was before, he's someone I trust with my life and someone who's put his own life on the line for all of us," Tony told them, moving to block their view of the man. Lindsey had worked hard to get to where he was, had dragged himself back up when he'd fallen without any help from anyone else, and Tony wouldn't let these strangers diminish that struggle.
"He is very good at convincing people to believe what he wants them to," Spike told him. He seemed bitter about something and he continued to glare at Adam. Adam ignored him as he busied himself checking Rosalee's supplies to see what he could do for Lindsey.
Tony bristled at that remark even as he tried to hold back the reaction. Maybe he should have joined Dean in sitting with Lindsey.
"It is one of his more admirable skills," Adam said and Tony smiled a little at that. Adam had always had a strange set of priorities – Tony wondered if it was Adam's nature or a result of his long years – but Tony wouldn't trust anyone but his team at his back.
"You admire liars?" Faith asked, a puzzled expression on her face.
"Only good ones," Adam told her.
"You're crazy, you know that?" Faith asked, grinning.
"You wouldn't be the first person to think so," Adam said, matching her grin. Spike muttered something under his breath, too low for Tony to catch, but he could imagine the contents of those words from the way Spike was glaring at Adam.
"Tell me something," Adam said, glancing up from the supplies to look at Faith intently. "When you were at your lowest, when you thought there was nowhere else to turn, what changed?"
"I... had help," she said slowly, choosing her words. "Someone gave me a hand when I needed it most."
"Who do you think did that for Lindsey?" Adam asked. Faith shook her head.
"I don't know."
She became thoughtful at that and Tony hoped it would be enough at least to make them re-evaluate Lindsey.
"So we should feel sorry for him because he didn't have anyone to hold his hand?" Spike scoffed. Faith punched his arm.
"Don't be an asshole. I had Angel and you had Buffy. Where do you think you'd be if she hadn't pulled you out of that basement?"
Spike was silent at that. He folded his arms and gritted his jaw, but Tony figured the lack of response meant at least something was sinking in. Faith glanced back at where Lindsey lay unconscious and Dean who sat diligently at his side, keeping watch when Lindsey couldn't.
The dark city gradually gave way to suburbia. At some point dawn had come and gone, though neither man could pinpoint precisely when, and the shadows had gradually stopped pursuing them. Nick let himself relax only a little, not trusting the ephemeral protection of dreams. Lindsey, however, seemed to grow only more tense as they went.
"You alright?" Nick asked, glancing again at his companion when Lindsey twitched at nothing. His reflection remained ever silent as he walked in Lindsey's footsteps.
"Fine," Lindsey said, short and dismissive, as he continued to survey the area around them.
"You know, I don't think I've ever met anyone whose actual nightmare was suburbia," Nick said, trying to get a smile out of Lindsey. The man continued to look grim.
"Most people don't have any idea what's actually going on."
That Nick could understand. Since he'd learned about Wesen and what lurked beneath the surface of suburbia, his entire understanding of the world had been overturned. Lindsey stopped and turned, his gaze chasing something Nick couldn't catch.
"Is there something following us?" Nick asked, trying to choose his words carefully.
"There's always something following us," Lindsey told him. Nick nodded. These dreams had always ended up with the victims dead. Though he couldn't tell how long he'd been dreaming, he was sure the only reason he was still alive was because they were working together.
"What happened here?" Nick asked. Lindsey was quiet for so long that Nick thought he wouldn't answer.
"I died," Lindsey told him. "More times than I can count."
"I'm sorry," Nick said and Lindsey nodded, accepting the words if not the sentiment.
They walked in silence for a long while, the streets and the houses all looking exactly the same. Nick wasn't sure if there was a shift in the atmosphere of the dream or if it was because of what Lindsey had said, but be began to feel something ominous. It was as though something was lurking just beyond his perception, waiting for a sign of weakness.
"This isn't suburbia, is it?" Nick said. "Or at least the real version of it wasn't."
Lindsey shook his head, still glancing around, trying to keep his eyes on all directions at once.
"It was a holding dimension run by my old employers," Lindsey explained, expression completely blank. "It was hell."
"You're not facing it alone," Nick said, hesitantly wrapping a hand around Lindsey's forearm. He was the only thing that felt truly real in this dreamscape. "We're stuck in this together."
Lindsey look down at his hand for a long time and Nick wondered what he was thinking, wondered how to explain that, in this place at least, nothing else mattered. Finally, Lindsey rested his hand on Nick's.
"We're going to get out of this," he assured Nick. "My people won't rest until we do."
"Whoever is behind this, they don't stand a chance against both your people and mine," Nick told him. They grinned at each other and continued on.
According to the new Watchers, Faith and Spike were working with local law enforcement. Angel wasn't sure what to think about that, but they knew what they were doing, as much as Angel was reluctant to admit it where Spike was concerned. Willow had given him directions on where to meet up with them. Which was how he'd ended up in front of a small spice shop that reminded him a little of the Magic Box.
He pushed open the door to see no small amount of chaos as people rushed back and forth and talked loudly at and over each other.
Faith was deep in discussion with a pretty young woman and gesturing toward the back of the shop. Spike was leaning casually against one of the bookcases, no doubt keeping subtle watch on the front. Their eyes met and Spike frowned exaggeratedly. Two of the other men stood at his entrance, reaching for weapons though they made no immediate move against him. The last man didn't even bother to look up from what he was doing.
"Wasn't expecting to see you here," Spike drawled.
"Willow thought you might need help," Angel told him.
"And you are?" one of the men asked, moving to stand in front of the others.
"He's with us," Faith said, then gave Angel an evaluating look. She'd come a long way after her stint in prison and that last year going up against the First. "Probably."
"Relax, DiNozzo, he's usually one of the good guys," the man who hadn't yet looked up said. It took only a moment for Angel to recognise him as the Immortal. "And if he isn't, he knows better than to go up against me."
"The Immortal," Angel growled.
"This again? Really?" one of the other men said, shorter than DiNozzo and with freckles.
"One of these days, I'm going to sit you all down and get a list of who exactly this team would be better off avoiding," DiNozzo said.
"We wouldn't be able to get any work done if we had to avoid everyone," the freckly one said.
"Angelus," the Immortal said, ignoring the other men. "Last time I saw you, you were strung up in my basement."
"You think having a soul makes you a different man? A good man?" the Immortal asked, amused. "You think you know darkness, vampire? You killed a few people, terrorised a few more, for what? 200 years? You're still a mewling infant."
"You think you have the right to judge me, Immortal?" Angel growled.
"You children are always so focused on judging things, on deciding what's right and wrong. It's a very narrow view of the world," the Immortal told him. "You miss out on so very much."
"What? Like torture?" Angel sneered. The Immortal shrugged.
"You were annoying me."
"What about Darla and Drusilla?" Angel asked, striding forward. The Immortal shrugged again and looked back down at what he was working on.
"They were a rather pleasurable diversion," he said, dismissing Angel entirely, then added, "A pity I had parted ways with Byron by then."
The Immortal paused for a moment, looking off into the distance, before shaking his head.
"Now that I think about it, the 19th century might well have been my mid-life crisis. Maybe I should belatedly get a sports car."
"You'd need a ridiculously young piece of arm candy," the freckly one told him. The Immortal shrugged.
"My boyfriend is only 4000 years old," the Immortal said. "Not counting his time in hell."
"How old are you exactly?" Faith asked curiously.
"Isn't there a case we should be working?" Angel asked irritably.
Between them, they quickly brought him up to speed and Angel couldn't seem to keep his gaze from straying to the man lying on the couch. He should have been dead. Angel had lost the respect of a good friend, had lost Lorne entirely, to ensure that this man would never interfere in their lives again. Angel thought about what Lorne had confided in him just before the end, about Lindsey having supposed to have been a Champion but that destiny had been subverted. All that had been left was wasted potential, hate and regret.
"If Wolfram and Hart's after Lindsey, you should let them have him," Angel said.
"What did you say?" the freckly one demanded.
"It'd be better for everyone in the long run," Angel continued. "If he dies Wolfram and Hart will be satisfied."
The Immortal moved to stand in front of Angel, matching him for height if not breadth. Angel refused to back down.
"Let's make one thing clear," the Immortal told him. "If Lindsey dies because of you, because of something you did or didn't do, then so will you. But not before I take away everything you've ever cared for piece by piece."
Angel swallowed, but kept his gaze defiant.
"You're no better than Wolfram and Hart."
"I never claimed to be," the Immortal told him, amused, before he turned serious again. "How about you?"
"I'm a Champion," Angel said.
"You think that makes a difference?"
"I fight for the Powers."
"Lindsey was right. You're just a puppet, dancing to the Powers' tune. Or the Senior Partners'."
"You don't know anything about the choices I've made," Angel told him.
Faith gasped and Angel immediately turned his attention from the Immortal to the Slayer. She reached out, blindly, and the freckly grabbed her before she could fall to the ground, unconscious.
Faith pulled herself to her feet and dusted herself off. Looking around, she couldn't help but think it looked remarkably like the biggest of Sunnydale's many cemeteries.
"Wonderful," Faith muttered. "I can't get away from this place even when it's a sinkhole."
She randomly picked a direction and began a determined march. Years of experience meant she could feel eyes on her as she made her way around the gravestones. The moonlit cast shadows seemed to move independent of their light source, but it would take more than that to unsettle her. After Turok-Han, there wasn't much that scared her anymore.
She wasn't sure how long she'd been walking – it felt like hours, but time never seemed to pass, so she couldn't really tell – when she saw two figures in the distance. Gradually, the graveyard gave way to a cityscape and the two figures seemed only a few blocks away.
Slowing, Faith stuck to the shadows at she approached them, waiting to see if they represented a threat or not. The two men turned out to be three, perhaps two and half, and it didn't take her long to recognise Lindsey and the pretty cop she'd fought before. She was more relieved than she thought she would be to see familiar faces. They seemed to recognise her at the same moment.
"Now, aren't you just what a girl likes to see," Faith said, sidling up to Lindsey. She slid a hand into his hair, which was shaggier than she remembered, and pulled him into a deep kiss. He responded, but she could tell it was only as a reflex, and she finally pulled back, though she didn't release him entirely.
"Faith?" he said, frowning.
"What are you doing here?" the pretty cop asked, his eyes narrowed as he looked between her and Lindsey. And wasn't that very interesting, she thought.
"Sleeping, I would assume," she told him. "Who's the twin?"
She gestured vaguely at the ghost behind him.
"No one important," Lindsey insisted. The ghost twin folded his arms but didn't say anything.
"I thought you hated me," Lindsey continued, confused. He extricated himself from her grasp and went to stand closer to the pretty cop.
"You tried to kill me, I tried to kill you. Fun times," she said dismissively. She'd tried to kill all of the old crew at one point or another. So had Spike. And Angel. Even Willow and Buffy had. It wasn't something they held against each other and she was beginning to see Lindsey in a new light.
"What's a little attempted murder between friends," Lindsey said faintly before shaking his head.
"Exactly," she said with a smile.
"We need to keep moving," the pretty cop told them.
"If we stay any place too long, they catch up with us faster," Lindsey explained.
So they walked. Endlessly, and in silence for the most part.
She began to recognised Boston. She recognised these streets and something inside her trembled at being here again. It had been years since she'd been that terrified little girl with nowhere to turn to, but it felt like no time had passed at all.
She could hear whispers, echoes of things she'd heard long ago. They cut at her psyche, scoring wounds to which she had thought she was impervious. From the looks Lindsey and the pretty cop were sending her, they could hear it too.
"If we walk long enough, we usually end up somewhere new," the pretty cop told her. He was probably all fairness and light like Buffy, believing that things usually ended up alright. Lindsey didn't bother with platitudes. She could respect that.
The ground tilted beneath them and they all stumbled, losing their footing. A figure loomed over her and she recognised one of her foster-fathers. She froze for a moment and it was long enough for him to take advantage. She back-handed her and she fell hard, holding a hand to her bruised cheek.
A moment later and Lindsey was standing in front her, protecting her. It was the very last thing she had expected. She climbed to her feet and elbowed Lindsey out the way. She might appreciate the gesture, but she didn't need it. The man was gone, however. As ephemeral as her fear of him.
The ground tilted again and they fell away from each other. Lindsey scrabbled to grab a hold of something when the road opened up beneath him, separating them. She was relieved to see Nick grabbing his wrist, the ghost grabbing the other, and pulling him to safety. There was another lurch and she could see a cavern through the crack, filled with a writhing mass that was all too familiar.
"We need to get out of here!" she told the two men.
It had taken a small army of Slayers and Spike's sacrifice to destroy the Turok-Han last time. The three of them wouldn't be able to defeat them this time. They remained where they were standing for a long moment before Lindsey nodded and dragged the other man with him, the ghost following dilligently after them. Faith turned and ran down a side street.
Monroe lifted Nick's limp body from the back of the car and shifted his grip so Nick was secure in his arms. The Grimm weighed more than it seemed he should.
"DiNozzo says they're in room 12 on the ground floor," Hank told him. He gestured to the other end of the full parking lot. "It should be just over there."
Hank looked worried when he looked at Nick and Monroe knew how he felt. He wanted to find whatever had done this to his friend and crush them. He fought the emergence of the Wesen within. It was so difficult to hold himself in check recently.
"The hospital couldn't do anything for him anyway," Monroe said. Hank nodded. They both knew they had more chance of finding a cure for him than the hospital doctors did.
Hank knocked on the door and there was a moment before Agent Winchester opened it, the barrel of a shotgun aimed at them before he lowered it and motioned for them to enter.
"Any luck?" Hank asked as he closed the door behind them.
"We managed to narrow it down to several kinds of sleep and nightmare creatures," Rosalee told him. She smiled warmly at Monroe and, as always, he didn't think he'd ever seen a woman more beautiful. He wished he could bend down to kiss her at that moment.
"Who are they?" an unfamiliar man asked.
"Who's he?" Monroe asked, looking at the dark-haired man who smelled like death. Just like Spike did.
"Angelus," Baines said, oblivious to the other man's glare. "Ignore him. He's having a snit."
"You'll have to put him with Lindsey. Faith's got the other bed," DiNozzo told him. "She manifested a bruise on her cheek and we want to monitor her carefully."
"We'd better not lose anyone else," Dean said, glancing between the two beds. "It could get a little uncomfortable."
"It'll have to do for now," Hank told him and Monroe narrowed his eyes. He knew the two men were attracted to each other – he could smell it when they met – and he didn't trust these agents. They knew too much. They were dangerous.
Baines even felt like a storm, all ozone and air crackling with charge. He was the worst of them. The one that left Monroe feeling small and weak. He wasn't Wesen. Monroe knew that at least. But he had no idea what he was and that was worse.
Monroe rested Nick on the bed next to McDonald and really didn't like the way they seemed to turn toward each other, even in sleep. Nick was like pack to him. He had to be protected.
Methos sat up, sand falling from him, and sighed. He flopped back down and rested an arm over his eyes as the hot desert sun beat down on him. This really was just typical. A shadow moved across him.
"Well, this is better than earthquakes and Turok-Han," Faith said as she sat down beside him.
"Been having an exciting time?" he asked, not moving.
"You know how it goes."
They were silent for a long while before Methos sighed again and finally sat up. He squinted against the sun to look at the young Slayer. She had an almost faded bruise on her cheek, but she didn't seem too out of sorts.
"How long have I been asleep?" she asked. "And what's up with the face paint?"
"At least a day," he told her, unable to give her a more accurate estimate considering he was unsure for how long he'd been asleep. He ran fingers over his cheek, feeling the old but familiar sensation of dried paint. His fingers came away with small blue flakes. It seemed that the only person he'd never been able to lie to was himself, not even in dreams.
"We should probably get going," she said. "Lindsey seemed adamant that we'd be in more danger the longer we stayed in one place."
"In lieu of anything better to do," Methos said, climbing to his feet.
"You know the whole white thing really isn't the best look for you," she told him. He laughed.
"You have no idea."
They walked. Time had little meaning.
"I thought this was my nightmare," Faith said eventually, "but I have no idea who that is."
She pointed to the crest of a dune far in the distance. There, silhouetted against the bright blue sky, was a man all in white on a white horse, his mail shirt glinting in the sun. The man bowed his head and rode down the other side of the crest.
"Was there a fashion memo I missed?" Faith asked.
"We should go in that direction," Methos said with certainty.
"He didn't exactly look very friendly."
"He isn't, but he's never led me astray," Methos told her. His relationship with Death, both of them, was complicated.
"Well, it's as good a direction as any," she said with a shrug and they both set off again.
"So, why did you think it was your nightmare?"
"I've had dreams like this before, although it's usually Slayer-related." She paused a moment and glanced up him. "How is this a nightmare?" she asked.
"What do you mean?" he asked, looking at her curiously.
"It's a desert and all, but there haven't been any monsters or demons or shadows."
"It's not a nightmare because I'm afraid of it," he said. "It's a nightmare because I loved it too much."
"You loved sand in places it shouldn't be, a sunburn from hell, and no modern transport?"
"There were other redeeming features," Methos said, thinking about his anger and resentment at the time and the way he'd revelled in the bloodshed because of it, about his brothers, about Kronos.
Something moved behind them, quick and low to the ground. He gestured to Faith to stop. They looked around cautiously, trying to catch sight of what it was again. Something moved again, the briefest glimpse of dark skin and white paint. Faith relaxed.
"She's alright," Faith said. "She's mine."
"Not in the strictest sense," Faith told him. "More like the unshakable weight of duty."
"She doesn't exactly look friendly either," Methos said. There was something about her that seemed familiar, but it was an old and distant memory. The kind that lingered from before he became Immortal.
"She isn't," Faith said with a smile. "But she's never led me astray."
The hallways were the drab corporate grey of every Wolfram and Hart office the world over, but the layout was nothing like Lindsey remembered. He and Nick had fled the Turok-Han only for the alley they were running down to turn into a corridor. They'd been trying to navigate it for what seemed like hours. This shifting between locations was really getting old.
"Which way?" Nick asked when they came to a split in the corridor. Lindsey shook his head, not sure which way to go, not sure it mattered. Nick glanced between the two directions, black eyes wide as he considered.
The eyes were curious. Ostensibly similar to Lucifer's pet demons, but the quality of them was entirely different. They seemed darker, somehow, and deeper. Clearly, they were as much a part of Nick and the way he saw himself as Eliot was to Lindsey.
"Whichever way we go, we need to go quickly," Lindsey said, hearing the sound of something coming up the corridor behind them. Despite being beset by demons as they'd travelled, Lindsey almost felt like this dream version was less dangerous than the real Wolfram and Hart had been.
Nick nodded, wrapped a hand around his wrist and dragged him down the left corridor. Lindsey followed quickly, not relaxing at all when the sound of something following them faded. All that meant was that something else would find them soon. They slowed, beginning to move more cautiously the further they got from the previous threat. Nick released Lindsey's wrist, but kept a step in front of him as they continued down the corridor.
There was a rumbling, threatening growl and then a vampire appeared in front of them, but it was unlike any vampire Lindsey had ever seen. The vampire was distorted, disfigured beyond the usual manifestation of the demon within. The slant of its brow and the style of its hair, however, were a little too familiar.
"Angel?" Lindsey questioned. He remembered having this dream before. Bits and pieces of his dreams had filtered into the dreamscape before, but never something quite so recognisable.
The vampire grabbed him by the throat and slammed him up against the wall, sharp nails digging into his neck. Nick growled, sounding as feral as any of the creatures that had hunted them. Briefly, Lindsey wondered at the source of a Grimm's powers, before Nick was barrelling into the vampire, knocking him away from Lindsey.
The two wrestled, punching and grappling with each other as they vied for domination. The vampire managed to throw Nick off, knocking him back into the wall. For a moment, Nick struggled to regain his feet. Lindsey launched himself at the vampire in an attempt to distract him from the Grimm while Nick cleared his head but all he did was make the vampire stumble back a step, otherwise not affecting him at all. He hadn't realised exactly how much he'd come to rely on his extra abilities. Tony would take him to task if he found out.
Nick growled, low in his throat. He dodged a blow, claws raking into his shoulder, before he ducked into the vampire's reach and punched him hard across the jaw. The vampire reeled and Nick wrapped strong hands around his jaw and skull and wrenched. There was a terrible snapping sound and the vampire collapsed.
"Come on," Lindsey said, touching Nick lightly on the shoulder. Nick relaxed at his touch and turned to look over Lindsey. He pressed light fingers to Lindsey's neck, touching the bruises that had started to show.
"It's getting more dangerous the further we go," Nick said.
"I think that's the point."
They set off down the corridor again, walking quickly. Eventually, it opened up into a familiar reception area.
"That office there," Lindsey said, pointing to a set of double doors. Nick nodded and followed him in.
Holed up in what used to be his office, Lindsey pressed the tattered remains of his shirt to the deep scrape on Nick's chest. Eliot stood guard by the doors, but Lindsey could feel the weight of his gaze. He hadn't spoken to his brother in years. Not since they were in their early twenties. Eliot hadn't approved of the path his life was taking. Considering how Eliot's had ended up, Lindsey found that a little ironic.
"We shouldn't stay here too long," Nick said, not taking his eyes off the door.
Lindsey tried not to look too closely at the drab grey walls and the equally drab furniture. Oh, it was fine enough. It had been when he'd occupied it, too. But it had never seemed so featureless, so meaningless, as it did now. He missed Tony's stupid stapler, Dean's weapons hidden around the office (Lindsey was sure Dean had forgotten at least half of them), and Adam's strategic mess (most of which were pointed internet memes aimed at his teammates).
"We won't," Lindsey agreed. "I don't really want to spend more time here than necessary, anyway."
"This is where you used to work?" Nick asked, looking at Lindsey.
"For a while."
"Did you like it here?"
Lindsey thought about it. He'd thought he had. He'd enjoyed the challenge of it, the space to exercise his ambition. But he hadn't liked the people, hadn't even really liked the work, at least not the consequences of it. There was no easy answer.
Nick's black eyes looked at Lindsey intently and he was reminded again that the man was a detective.
Spike watched as Winchester worked quickly on cleaning the wounds that had appeared on McDonald and Burkhardt's bodies. They'd stopped bleeding fairly quickly, but the appearance of such relatively serious wounds had still been worrying. It was the first true indication that they were really in danger inside their dream worlds.
Apparently, keeping the team in working order was usually the Immortal's job, which Spike found a little ironic, both because he never suffered those sorts of injuries and because he'd certainly inflicted a fair few himself. Baines, as he was calling himself, was curled up asleep in a chair in the corner. He looked for all the world like a student who'd fallen asleep after spending an all-nighter studying for an exam.
Their team was so diverse, more so than the core of the Scoobies who had grown up together and had similar motivation for what they were doing. Yet, this team worked together as well as the Scoobies ever had, better perhaps. Spike would be cautious of them, he hadn't had much luck with government organisations, but these men weren't like anyone he'd met before.
"When I knew him, he wanted power and would do anything to get it," Spike said. He hesitated a moment and added, because he figured they would appreciate the truth, "I think he thought power meant freedom."
"I don't know that man," Winchester told him, looking up from where he was packing away his medical supplies.
"I don't think anyone did," Spike said after a moment.
"It was difficult at first," Dean admitted slowly, like the words didn't come easily. "When I joined the team, there was an uneasy sort of truce, but it didn't take us long to realise that we had something in common."
"What was it?"
"All each of us had left was each other."
Spike could admit, if only to himself, that he might be a little jealous of Lindsey. He'd worked with Buffy and her team, and Angel and his team, but he'd never really belonged with either group. Had, at times, revelled in remaining on the outside of each group. But Lindsey was accepted without reservation by these men, good men. Even the Immortal had come to belong with them.
"And you all take orders from DiNozzo," Spike said.
"We trust him," Winchester said with a shrug.
"As easy as that, huh?" Spike asked. It wasn't as simple as that. They both knew that.
Spike wondered if Angel could have redeemed Lindsey years before if he'd trusted him and found a way to get Lindsey to trust him. Every member of their group who'd found their way back to the side of good had done so because someone had reached out to them and hadn't given up; Angel, himself, Faith, Wesley, Willow, even Andrew. But then, Angelus had never liked competition, not even when he was Angel. It almost made Spike feel a strange sort of kinship with Lindsey.
Spike might not like Lindsey, in fact there were times when he thought the guy was slime, but Lindsey was the one who'd made him believe in himself. Doyle might have been a lie, the cup and whatever other stupid tests he'd devised, but Spike was alive and he was the only contender for the Shanshu left because of Lindsey. He thought that just might mean something.
Tony hesitated before he dialled the number on Adam's phone labelled 'possessive despot'. It was somewhere after 'angel's boy-toy', 'not evil lawyer' and 'delusions of being in charge'. He had to wonder who 'annoying boy scout', 'sticky fingers' and 'bartending voyeur' were.
"You said you were going to tell me how much longer it was going to take," Kronos said and Tony could just about hear the pout. The mental image of a demonic warlord possessing an evil mastermind pouting might just scar him for life.
"Where is he?" Kronos demanded immediately, tone changing entirely. That was more like the man Tony had met.
"He's alright," Tony told him. "So far."
Tony couldn't help the shiver that ran down his spine. Adam would never allow Kronos to do the team any harm, but Adam currently wasn't in any position to rein him in. And Tony didn't exactly trust Kronos' impulse control.
"Where is he?" Kronos repeated slowly, deliberately, as though through gritted teeth.
"He's safe enough, for now," Tony told him. "There's a demon infecting people with nightmares. He's trapped in a sleep state, unable to wake up."
"Oh," Kronos said eventually. "Is that all?"
"Is that all?" Tony repeated, not entirely sure what to make of Kronos' lack of concern. Kronos remained silent and Tony wondered if he was losing the man's interest. Kronos had never showed all that much patience with him. The only one of the team he really seemed to like was Lindsey. Dean was tolerated and Tony was simply endured.
"You're not worried."
"There is very little about his unconscious mind that... Adam," Kronos tone was mocking when he said the name, "hasn't been forced to confront at one time or another."
"That's all you have to say?" Tony asked. "You're not worried about what some demon might be doing to him?"
"He is a survivor," Kronos said, almost dismissively, though there was an underlying edge of steel. "If he needed me to follow after him, holding his hand, he would not be the man I know."
"That's it?" Tony asked, trying to reconcile the man who'd run to Adam's side, dropping everything else, with this man who was entirely uninterested.
"He can take this demon, but if he can't, then I will hunt it down and make sure every supernatural, demon or angel, knows better than to touch him," Kronos added, almost as an afterthought.
Kronos hung up after that and Tony was left staring at the phone, half in disbelief and half in shock. He knew Adam's record wasn't exactly stellar, but he deserved better than a thief, a liar and undoubtedly a murderer. Tony sighed. Maybe it was their age, maybe they were just screwed up, but Tony knew Adam and Kronos were all tangled up in each other in ways he'd probably never understand. He knew Kronos clearly felt something for Adam even if Tony couldn't begin to fathom what that was and he thought he could respect that even if he didn't really respect the man himself.
He got out his own phone and decided to call Hank to see how he and Rosalee were doing with the supplies they needed.
"Oh, come on!" Dean said. "I wasn't even tired!"
Hell stretched out in all directions around him, people writhing and crying out in pain and pleasure at causing it. A light glowed, brightly from his shoulder and when Dean lifted up his T-shirt sleeve, he wasn't entirely surprised to see Cas's handprint lit like a beacon. For all the nightmares he'd had about this place, it was as if none of the darkness could truly touch him. For a moment, he pressed his hand over the mark, feeling some echo of Cas's presence and it gave him strength.
"Cas!" he called, hoping the angel would somehow hear him, but nothing happened. He set off in a random direction, hoping to find some indication of where he should be going or what he should be doing.
"Cas," he tried again, sometime later. Still, there was no response. He sighed. If Cas could hear him, he would have tried to reach him already.
"You're a veritable night light," Adam said and Dean spun around to see the man standing before him. The white of his clothes stood out starkly against the shadow black and blood red of their surroundings. The blue paint across half his face was a surprise, too.
"Did I miss the fancy dress invite?" Dean asked. Adam glared at him.
"What is this place?" Faith asked, looking around.
"Which one?" Faith asked, unconcerned.
"The one," Dean said.
"Like Lucifer, fallen angels, souls tormented for all eternity sort of thing?" Faith asked, curious.
"Just like," Dean told her.
"Somehow, I was expecting more of a reaction," Dean said with a shake of his head. He should have known better, considering the company he kept.
"I think living in a house with a bunch of teenage girls and only one bathroom might have been worse," Faith said. Dean grinned and that surprised him. He hadn't thought he'd ever be able to get past what this place had done to him, but time and distance, Cas and the team, had changed that.
"Try crossing the Atlantic in a rowboat with a bunch of Irish monks," Adam muttered.
"Why the hell would you do that?" Faith asked.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time," Adam said and Dean assumed he'd been running from something. There was absolutely no other way Adam would put himself through that.
"We should get out of here before Alistair shows up," Dean told them. The way Adam looked at him made him wonder if Adam knew he still had regular nightmares about this place, about Alistair, about what he'd done. His fingers traced over the brand. The only thing that had ever stopped his nightmares before was Cas. Mostly by being a creeper at his bedside when Dean wasn't aware, but that was just Cas.
"Alistair?" Faith asked.
"No one important," Dean said quickly, definitively. It was bad enough Cas and Sam knew that part of his life, how weak he'd been, he didn't really want anyone else to see that side of him.
"How's the case coming along?" Adam asked, ignoring Faith's question for which Dean was grateful. Adam was good at recognising boundaries, and not crossing them when it really counted.
"We've narrowed it down to one of the Oneiroi," Dean told him. "They're –"
"The Greek gods of dreaming," Adam finished with a sigh.
"And nightmares," Dean added.
"Well, that's one thing about this job. It's never boring," Faith said. "How do we kill it?"
"We don't know yet. Or at least, they didn't know when I..." He trailed off and gestured broadly at their surroundings. "We just need to do whatever you've been doing the last few days to survive."
Faith frowned thoughtfully and Adam shrugged.
"How good are you a fight?" Faith asked. They grinned at each other.
"I take it there isn't much control over where we end up then?" Dean asked. Adam nodded.
"Whatever's in control seems to randomly pick a nightmare," Faith said. "A nightmare on steroids."
"I don't have many nightmares left," Adam said. Dean was sure he was lying. He'd seen Adam after he'd been Azrael. It was the closest to really vulnerable Dean had ever seen him. He'd seemed harrowed – wrung out and drawn thin – after the experience. Dean thought that maybe to someone who was always in control of who he was even when that could be anyone, losing who you are might be the scariest of all.
"I'm sure I've got enough for both of us," Dean said instead and traced the brand through his T-shirt, feeling its warmth like a balm.
"This is getting ridiculous," Tony muttered as between them Spike and Monroe manhandled Dean onto the bed with Faith. She didn't so much as twitch. Neither did Dean.
"There must be a reason why your team is particularly vulnerable to the effects," Monroe said.
"I suspect it's because Lindsey's the focal point," Tony said. Dean had first suggested it when, beyond the general effects and the occasional vulnerable person, the effects had been targeted to Lindsey and those with whom he had connections, good or bad. Tony fully expected to be the next to go. He'd probably been left for last because he wasn't a Grimm or a hunter or Immortal or a Slayer. He wasn't any particular threat to this brand of evil.
Hank entered then, coffees in hand and bag over his shoulder, and Tony was up and grabbing one immediately before Rosalee had a chance to come in behind him. Monroe took two of the cups, handing one to Rosalee, diligently keeping himself between her and the two vampires. She gave him a grateful smile as she took the cup and settled in at his side.
"Of course he is," Angel snarled, pacing restlessly. "MacDonald's always at the centre of it when things go to hell. Literally."
"You want to keep your opinions to yourself," Tony said, stepping up to Angel and looking at him evenly. He felt anger at this man burning beneath his skin like it never had before. A symptom, he knew, but still so damned gruelling trying to control it.
"Have you checked your facts recently?" Spike said, getting between Tony and Angel. Tony was half grateful because there was no way he could really take the vampire, but then he doubted Spike was actually trying to do him a favour. "It wasn't MacDonald at the centre of the last one."
"You want this to be over," Angel said, looking over Spike's shoulder at Tony. "You let it take them."
"Over my dead body," Tony promised softly. Monroe snarled and shoved Angel, propelling him against the wall, then holding him there, his strength rivalling the vampire's.
"If you're here to help, then help. If not, get out," Monroe told him. Even if Angel was willing to let Lindsey die, he seemed just as willing to condemn everyone else, including Nick, which Monroe couldn't abide.
"Otherwise, all I see is you standing around while good people are dying," Hank said.
"And that includes Faith," Spike added, growl in his voice. "Even if you couldn't give a damn about the others, you'd better give a damn about Faith."
Angel held on to his anger for a moment longer before he slowly relaxed. No longer arguing, but not entirely conceding the point either.
"I've been thinking," Rosalee began hesitantly. "About where the... demon might be hiding out." She hesitated on the word, still a little unsure about the new world to which she'd been exposed.
"What have you got?" Tony said, turning to look at Rosalee reluctantly because it meant turning his back on Angel. He figured Monroe and Spike would only be too happy to take Angel down if he tried anything.
"This isn't like an infection, it manifests too randomly," Rosalee said. Hank nodded.
"We've had another two unexplained sleep deaths," Hank told them. "The Captain's covering as much as he can, but the media's starting to ask him some difficult questions." He shrugged then and they all knew that it was only so long before the whole thing spiralled completely out of control.
"So it's got to be somewhere that's central, somewhere where its affects can be felt across the city," Rosalee continued.
Angel didn't wait for anything further, just stormed out of the room, leaving silence in his wake. Spike rolled his eyes.
"Drama queen!" he yelled after the vampire. Tony pushed away the dark amusement he felt at that and turned back to Rosalee.
"Good thinking," he told her and she smiled at him. "Any idea on how to kill it?"
Her smile faded and she shook her head. Spike huffed out an unnecessary breath, as frustrated as they all were, and followed Angel out.
"Spike!" she said, surprised and then happy. He was so glad that they'd been able to get back to what they'd been before everything had happened with Buffy because he'd always had a soft spot for Dawn, being the outsider of the group and the sidelined so often as she had been.
Dawn was a Watcher now, on the committee that ruled the reformed Watchers Council with Giles, Buffy, Xander and Willow. They'd invited Faith as well, but she'd said a desk job would drive her insane. Spike would never tell her, but he enjoyed roaming the world with her. She'd become a good friend. If nothing else, Spike had to admit that the new council seemed to be better run than the previous one. Certainly, the Slayers were better trained and had more back-up than in the past.
"How's the case coming along?" she asked.
"That's why I need you. Think you can track down something for me?"
"Sure," she said immediately, then laughed a little. "When I have a free moment I'll make Andrew do it. What do you need?"
"We've got an Oneiroi, not sure which one, and we don't know how to kill it."
"Makes things a little difficult," Dawn said, concern and amusement warring in her tone.
"You're telling me," Spike said, thinking about the increasing number of people unconscious in their little hotel room. And the brooding vampire who refused to speak to anyone. The less time Spike had to spend around him, the better. Angel hadn't been the same since the end of Wolfram and Hart, since Wesley and Gunn had died and Lorne had split.
"I'll let you know when we find anything."
Spike ended the call and wondered if it was worth going back into the room with no new information or if anyone would miss him if he went for a drink.
"Fantastic," Lindsey said, sarcasm thick in his voice. They'd made their way through Wolfram and Hart before it had turned into a graveyard. Around them were names he recognised, could never forget, of Wolfram and Hart's victims, his victims.
"This another one of those places I shouldn't ask about?" Nick asked. Lindsey nodded. "Alright."
Nick fell into step with Lindsey, a comforting presence at his side, and Eliot was at his shoulder. He stopped short, however, when the names became more personal. On one side of him read Ashley McDonald and on the other Taylor McDonald.
"Family?" Nick asked softly. Lindsey nodded again.
"They were so young," Nick murmured, looking at the dates. Lindsey didn't need to look to know that they'd been nine and ten. He and Eliot had only been seven when it happened.
"Everything changed after that," Lindsey said, running a hand along the top of one of the gravestones. Nick rested his hand over Lindsey's and Lindsey looked up to see Eliot's saddened expression a mirror of his own.
They'd been put into foster care; Lindsey, Eliot and their two remaining siblings. Jody had died a few years later and he'd never found out what happened to Reilly, if she was still out there.
"We should get going," Lindsey said, unable to stick around with the reminders of what had happened and where he'd come from anymore. Eliot, or his shadow, whatever he was in this place, nodded in solidarity.
"You'd think I wouldn't get sick of graveyards," he heard Faith say, "being what I am."
Looking around, he saw her, Adam and Dean not too far off. He was glad to find she was still alive. She'd always had an attitude he could appreciate, at least in retrospect.
"How many are there still awake?" Lindsey asked, approaching them. Dean shrugged. Adam looked at Eliot with something like recognition, beyond Eliot being Lindsey's twin, before dismissing him. Lindsey considered making something of it, but now wasn't the time. Nick moved in close, protective but not overwhelming. Lindsey hadn't really had anyone do that, at least not until Tony and the team.
"When I got hit, Tony was still awake," Dean said, like that was the most important thing. To them, it was.
"Your friends were still awake, as well," Adam told Nick who nodded gratefully.
"And the two vampires," Dean added.
"Two vampires?" Lindsey asked, something between fury and dread rising in his chest and burning through him.
"Angel," Adam told him, not trying to soften the blow.
"Angel," Lindsey repeated, not sure whether he wanted to take another sledgehammer to the vampire or find a way to avoid him entirely. Angel had killed him, even if Lorne had pulled the trigger, and it was only luck and the Wolf, Ram and Hart's sense of humour or justice or vengeance that he was alive. Lindsey was never entirely sure. He had been dead and then he hadn't.
"Don't worry, between Spike and Monroe, they've got him in hand," Adam told him with a wicked smile. Lindsey smiled back.
"So what are we dealing with?" Lindsey asked, feeling a little lighter.
"Oneiroi," Dean told him.
"That's not good," Lindsey said, shaking his head.
"You know about them?" Dean asked.
"They're gods, not as powerful as Old Ones, but even Wolfram and Hart was hesitant to get involved with them."
"Any idea how to kill it?"
Lindsey shook his head.
"I know it's vulnerable in dreams, but beyond that..."
"Well, that does significantly improve our chances," Adam said and Nick matched his feral smile.
Spike answered his phone on the first ring.
"Eager?" Dawn asked.
"Always a pleasure, Niblet," he told her.
"You're such a sap."
"Don't think I don't remember you as a teenager," he told her, grinning. She groaned.
"Oh goddess, don't remind me," she said, but there was laughter in her voice.
That was new, but he knew most of the veterans as they were called now, those who had survived Sunnydale, had taken up Wicca, in beliefs if not magic. Willow's spell had changed everything, not just the Slayers. It had changed Buffy and Dawn's relationship most of all, because suddenly Buffy was looking at a future, not the only Slayer, not an early death. As much as he'd chased her in Rome, he hadn't really expected to catch her. There wasn't any space in her life for him anymore.
"You got something for me?" he asked instead.
"It has to be defeated in the dream," she told him.
"Any particular way?"
"Depends on which one it is," Dawn said. He could just about hear her shrug.
"What are the options?"
"Morpheus, Phantasos and Phobetor. Sounds like you're dealing with Phobetor. He presides over nightmares and can appear in dreams as animals or monsters," she told him.
"How do we kill it?"
"It can't be," Dawn said and Spike glanced at those sleeping, at Faith and Lindsey, and sighed unnecessarily. "The texts are very specific about that, but it can be defeated. You've got to face the fears, turn them back on him, somehow. Especially whoever the target is."
Spike wondered if Lindsey could do that, could face the truth of himself, and come out of it whole. Spike thought he might have done it, down in that basement, but he hadn't pulled himself out of it alone. Looking around, Spike figured Lindsey wouldn't be either.
"Thanks, Niblet. That was some good work."
"Anytime, Spike," she told him, pleased. Spike smiled and he ended the call.
"I know what to do, but someone's going to have to tell Lindsey," Spike told the others.
"What do I have to do?" DiNozzo asked immediately and Spike was surprised again at the team's automatic loyalty to Lindsey, though he shouldn't be by now.
"Is that all?" Dinozzo said, his laugh a little shaky. Spike wondered if it was the thought of facing his nightmares that made him nervous or if it was the thought of leaving his team's welfare in the hands of strangers.
"We'll make sure nothing happens," Rosalee assured him and Dinozzo nodded, squaring his shoulders and gritting his jaw.
"What's the message?" DiNozzo asked, settling himself in the chair opposite the Immortal.
Spike waited until DiNozzo had dropped off to sleep surprisingly quickly before he grabbed his jacket.
"Where are you going?" Monroe asked suspiciously.
"After Angel," Spike said, more than a little aggrieved, but Angel was likely to do something stupid on his own. He'd never been particularly big with the planning when he was on his own. Even with his team, it had mostly been 'find the bad thing, kill the bad thing'. And Spike supposed he might owe Angel something. "Keep an eye on them."
Rosalee nodded, a look of steely determination in her eyes and Monroe at her side, shoulders hunched. His wolf seemed barely below the surface. The cop rested a hand on his gun and nodded as well. Despite himself, Spike was beginning to like these people. It was like Buffy and the Scoobies before they got organised; just them against everything that skulked in the shadows.
"Good luck," Rosalee told him with an attempt at a smile.
He nodded back and left the hotel room, going to the beater he and Faith had been using to travel. He knew this thing would be somewhere in the centre of town. Twenty minutes later and he'd found a likely location; an old office block slated for demolition. He skidded to a stop outside the building, gravel kicked up by the wheels and jumped out without bothering to close the door behind him.
When he was in the building he headed down the stairs to the basement because creatures like this thing were always down in the dark and the deep. Sounds of a struggle reached him long before he walked through the doors into a parking garage. Angel flew across the room to crash at Spike's feet. Spike folded his arms and looked down at Angel with a smirk.
"Fight going well, then?" Spike asked.
"Fine," Angel grunted before rolling over and carefully climbing to his feet. He staggered a step before righting himself.
"You know you can't kill this thing?" Spike told him.
"Sure I can."
Angel rolled his shoulders and went back at Phobetor. Phobetor's face was angelic, pale and flawless, but the body beneath it was emaciated and grotesque. Spike shuddered. Angel flew back in his direction moments later.
"It's not vulnerable in the real world, only in the dream world."
"That's what you think," Angel told him, "but I drew blood."
There was a spot of blood on Phobetor's cheek. Spike wasn't entirely sure it wasn't Angel's. He sighed as Angel leapt at the creature again.
"I hate you," Spike called after him. "I hope you know that."
He leapt in after Angel.
It took Tony a moment to get his feet under him and then he found himself in a large open room that looked like the foyer of his father's house when Tony was a child, but it was painted the bright orange of the NCIS bullpen. Up the stairs wasn't the landing, but the Director's office.
He frowned, wondering what was going on, since this wasn't something he'd ever expected, nor was it something he'd ever dreamed before. Sewers, falling out of a plane, the military academy, the bathroom of one of the precincts he'd been at where the other cops thought he needed to be taught a lesson, the front seat of the car with Jeffrey White, blue lights. There were any number of things he'd expected to encounter when he closed his eyes and dreamed, but not this, never this. But perhaps he should have.
He needed to find Lindsey.
"I always knew you'd come crawling back," a terrible voice spoke from the shadows. It was familiar, but only vaguely, layered as it was with half-forgotten memories and fears that made Tony shiver.
"Dad?" he asked, turning to scan the shadows. When he turned again, he found himself staring at his father. The man was larger than life, like he'd seemed when Tony was a child. And Tony could smell the alcohol wafting off of him.
He'd thought he was over this, had been for years, he even tolerated the man these days, but he felt like he was six again.
"Didn't I tell you you'd end up in the gutter," his father said, giving him a shove. Tony stumbled several steps, his back hitting the wall. His father leaned against him, forearm across his neck.
"I'm not the one begging for scraps," Tony told him, pushing back, but without success. "And I'm not a scared little boy anymore."
"Somewhere inside, you'll always be a scared little boy," his father sneered.
"Well, I guess that makes us even," Tony said, kicking at the man's knee. "Because you'll always be a narcissistic asshole."
His father stumbled back but used the distance to strike out at Tony, catching him on the cheek and knocking him to the ground. Tony kicked out again, knocking the man to one knee.
"You never used to fight this hard," his father told him. "Not unless I ordered it."
With that his father's frown shifted into Gibbs's glare.
It was only then that he realised what he'd felt for a long time but had never really been willing to acknowledge, even to himself. He'd thought Gibbs would be different and in the beginning he had been but, by the end, he'd just been another mentor who'd left Tony behind. Then again, Tony had let himself be left. Or they'd changed and he'd changed and it hadn't been in the same way. All he'd known at the time was he'd needed to leave, to move on, because that place and those people had felt like they were suffocating him. And he'd had more than enough of that for one life-time.
Gibbs hit him, square on the jaw, and it knocked him back. If this was a metaphor for the emotional impact Gibbs had had on his life, Tony decided it sucked.
"I'm not a probie either," Tony told him, wiping the blood away from his mouth. He hoped he wasn't scaring Rosalee too badly, because she would probably be the one trying to clean up the mess.
"Technically, our probie's Dean," Lindsey said, and Tony could see the smug delight he took in punching Gibbs until the dream version of him disappeared. There was a shadow of Lindsey at one shoulder and Burkhardt at the other.
"Hey, I've been hunting longer than you've been on the straight and narrow," Dean objected.
"And I've been at it longer than there's been a solar system," Adam said dismissively as he reached out a hand to Tony. "Do try not to argue, children."
"We're dealing with Phobetor," Tony told them, as the dream seemed to collapse around them. "Lindsey needs to face his nightmares."
The ground shook beneath them, making them lose their footing, and Tony clung to the wall, trying to keep hold of something solid. Everything around them crumbled and faded and Tony felt like he was falling. When he hit solid ground again, it was in the middle of a dark alley.
"This one's mine," Faith told them, struggling to tear her eyes away from a particular spot next to a dumpster.
"We have some answers now," Lindsey told her, sympathetic in a way that Tony figured meant he knew what was bothering her. "It won't be much longer."
"I'm fine," Faith said, her cocky smile a little too forced a moment too late to be natural.
"Where are the others?" Tony asked and both Lindsey and Faith shrugged.
"It happens sometimes, the shifting thing," Faith said. "Though usually not that violently."
"That's the thing," Tony told them. "This thing is only vulnerable in dreams and our best shot is Lindsey facing it head on."
"So I've got to fight a god with none of my usual tricks and no weapons," Lindsey said, rubbing the bridge of his nose. "Piece of cake."
Methos lifted his face to the sun and waited. He'd been separated from the others, but that was perhaps just as well. A soft breeze ruffled his hair and he breathed in deeply, smelling the scent of the ocean. He remembered this place well. It was when Alexa started to go into her decline. There was a change in the atmosphere, but Methos didn't change his position.
"I knew you'd be around here somewhere," Methos said eventually. There was no reply. Slowly, Methos lowered his head and opened his eyes. Before him stood his mirror image, with that metallic skull mask that was the first thing Methos had disposed of when leaving the Horsemen. Behind his reflection stood a horse, whiter than any Methos remembered.
"Never too far, are you?" Methos said, then he smiled wryly. "Kronos would just love this."
Death remained implacable. Methos hadn't really expected anything different.
"They're going to need us... me," Methos said. "My team... my brothers need me."
Death slowly inclined his head in acknowledgement.
Methos lifted a hand and waited for Death to do the same. The moment their fingers touched, there was flash. When the light faded, Methos was alone again, with a scabbard strapped to his waist and the mask in his hand. After a moment, Methos lifted the mask to his face.
Dean watched Burkhardt pace and, despite himself and everything he'd seen, the black eyes made him shiver. At least the others had been mostly normal, for all that Adam in white meant bad things and Lindsey apparently had a double. The shifting of Tony's clothing and hair, while a little disconcerting in quick succession, wasn't all that different from the man himself who wore his appearance like emotional armour.
"We need to find him," Burkhardt insisted.
"I know, buddy," Dean said, hands open in a gesture of peace, while he desperately wished he had a weapon of some sort. "We're going to find him and get out of here."
"Right," Burkhardt said, focusing on that. He started to snarl a moment before Dean heard footsteps. It wasn't long after that that a figure, decked all in white, approached them.
"Adam?" Dean asked, looking into the metal skull mask. Adam removed it.
"Relax," Adam told Burkhardt. "You can rub your scent all over Lindsey as soon as we find him."
Burkhardt bared his teeth and glared at Adam who glared right back. There was something different about Adam, a stillness to him that Dean wasn't used to, that somehow made the threat of him worse. Dean couldn't quite describe it. Burkhardt cracked his neck and clearly fought for some sort of control.
This dreamscape hadn't brought out the best in any of them. Except perhaps Adam, who seemed unruffled by what they'd encountered. Dean narrowed his eyes, because he might have spent a lot less time in the dreamscape than Adam had, but he was already dreading whatever was around the next corner. Adam looked at him and shrugged.
"I got in touch with my inner self," Adam told him. "This seems to be the decade for it."
"We should find the others," Dean said. "It looks like we're being separated intentionally now and we need to stick together."
"Then let's go," Nick said and he set off in a random direction, not willing to wait any longer. Adam and Dean looked at each and smiled a little before setting off after him.
As they walked, the dream became more and more confused. An abandoned mental hospital melted into hospital hallways illuminated by blue lights, which shifted to a prison. It was then that the things that had kept to the shadows, to just beyond their peripheries, started to move in.
"I'm never going to dream again after this," Dean swore.
"Good luck with that," Adam told him.
Lindsey wasn't too surprised to end up in Wolfram and Hart's basement. Tony rested a hand on his shoulder and Lindsey nodded to him. He could do this, could do what he hadn't been able to before; take on Wolfram and Hart and win.
It wasn't a surprise either to hear the growl of the beast-like Angel, who, for a time, had become Wolfram and Hart's figurehead. The epitome of their corruptive influence. Nick had killed a version of him, but it was Lindsey who needed to face him, Lindsey around whom the dreamscape was centred. Everyone else was just collateral.
Lindsey turned, cautious, as he looked around, trying to judge where Angel would come from. Tony, Faith and Eliot turned with him, watching his back. The attack came out of nowhere, shadowy figures melting out of the corners of the room and engaging them. Angel leapt at him, tackling him to the ground, and Lindsey struggled to kick and squirm his way free. He knew if Angel got him on the ground, Lindsey wouldn't have any advantage. Or any chance at all.
Angel picked up Lindsey and threw him against the wall and he gasped as the breath was knocked out of him. That was when Adam, Dean and Nick showed up. Nick immediately placed himself between Lindsey and Angel while Lindsey climbed to his feet.
"I'm alright," Lindsey told Nick, putting a hand on Nick's arm and pulling him away. "I have to do this."
Nick held his place for a moment before relenting. The moment Nick was out of the way, Angel launched himself at Lindsey, who managed to dodge the first blow and strike out, making Angel grunt. Angel punched him hard, knocking him back. Lindsey tried to get his footing under him, but Angel continued his relentless assault.
Lindsey clenched his jaw against a pained moan, knowing that he was failing, that this fight was going the way all his fights with Angel always went. Between them, Eliot and Nick grabbed Angel's arms, holding him back and preventing the vampire from advancing.
"Lindsey," Adam said, getting his attention, before he slid the sword across the floor. Lindsey grabbed the hilt and came up swinging. Angel's head rolled until it hit the wall and stopped. The last thing Lindsey saw was Eliot smile at him.
He woke up to find himself in a tangle of limbs and it wasn't something he'd experienced in quite some time. He opened his eyes to look into Nick's green ones. Nick flushed as they disentangled themselves.
"Oh, thank god," Rosalee said and Monroe wrapped his arms around her.
On the other bed, Faith smiled flirtatiously at Dean. Lindsey knew flirting was mostly a game to her, but the team was probably not the best target. Hopefully, she wouldn't try Adam next. There was no way that would end well.
"Cas would burn out your eyes," Dean warned her, though her smile was friendly. He swung his legs off the bed and sat on the edge. "And then he might burn out mine, depending on his mood."
Tony stretched in his chair, wincing as various muscles protested the position he'd been in the last few hours.
"I'm getting way too old to be sleeping in chairs," he muttered as he rolled his shoulders.
"Speak for yourself," Adam said, stretching and standing up.
"This isn't over," Lindsey told them. "We might have defeated this Oneiros, but someone set him on me, on us."
"Wolfram and Hart don't let go of their enemies easily," Adam said.
"Or their traitors."
Spike kicked Phobetor's body once more before it disappeared. That wouldn't be the end of it, not when he and Angel had barely scratched it, but it had collapsed not too long ago. Clearly, Lindsey had done whatever he'd needed to, which Spike really should have expected. The lawyer always seemed to do exactly that. But Spike could appreciate that people were willing to sacrifice everything for Lindsey and that kind of loyalty didn't come easily.
He looked at Angel and shook his head.
"I really need to consort with a better class of people," Spike muttered as he walked away.
Tony marched past the harried looking secretary, the rest of the team in his wake, and into the fancy office he couldn't help but remember had been bought with blood. The man at the desk was young and terribly smug, but beneath that Tony could see fear in the way his hands shook ever so slightly and his eyes darted around the room.
"Mr John Anderson," Tony said.
"Who are you?" Anderson demanded.
"I think you know exactly who we are," Tony told him, eyes narrowed at the thought that this little man with his little ambitions had endangered Tony's team and killed a lot of people.
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean."
"You stick to that story if you want to," Tony told him, knowing there wasn't anything they could actually do to him, they had no proof beyond the fact that he was in Special Projects for the local branch of Wolfram and Hart, and he was human. "But know that if you ever come after one of mine again, I will end you."
Anderson's smirk grew more sure and he tilted his chin up, looking down his nose at them.
"If that's all gentlemen, I have a meeting in five minutes," Anderson said, gesturing to the door. Behind them, several guards had appeared.
"We're going," Tony said. "But I'd recommend you remember what I said."
"A pleasure meeting you," Anderson said as Tony and the team left the office. "I'm looking forward to the next time."
Methos looked up when Castiel appeared in the room with them. He took one look at Dean's bruised face and was at his side in an instant.
"What happened?" he asked. "Why didn't you call me?"
"I tried," Dean said and shrugged. Considering they'd been trapped in a dream controlled by a god, Methos doubted any kind of metaphysical communication would have been able to get out.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there," Castiel said, lightly touching Dean's jaw and healing him until the bruises faded.
"You were," Dean told him with a faint, bashful smile. Castiel frowned.
"I don't understand."
"Just... know that you weren't very far," Dean told him. Castiel smiled at him, pleased. "Do me a favour," Dean added. "Give Lindsey a once over, too."
"Of course," Castiel agreed quickly.
Despite himself, Methos really was growing fond of the angel.
Methos' phone rang and he glanced at the display before exiting the room and answering it.
"Methos," Kronos said, tone bland but Methos could hear a wealth of meanings below it. He rolled his eyes.
"I hear you've been asleep on the job."
"I hear you were willing to leave me at the mercy of a god."
"Did you have any trouble?" Kronos asked, dark amusement colouring his tone. Methos laughed.
"I'm here, aren't I?"
"If there's one thing I can count on, it's you surviving."
"Yeah, well, I could use a stiff drink and a good meal."
"I'll be at your place tomorrow," Kronos told him like he was collecting on a favour, not indulging Methos' whims. Methos knew better. "We can order in."
"Leaving without saying goodbye?" Lindsey asked, smirking as Angel turned quickly and scowled at seeing him.
"What do you want, McDonald?" Angel demanded, getting into Lindsey's space. Lindsey didn't flinch.
"Give it a break," Faith said with a roll of her eyes. "Lindsey's one of us now."
Angel narrowed his eyes, not looking away from Lindsey.
"He'll never be one of us."
Lindsey smirked, because whatever tension had thrummed between them before, whatever it was he'd wanted from Angel – love or hate or acknowledgement – he didn't need it any more. Hadn't needed it in a very long time. He looked at Faith and nodded to her. She rolled her eyes again and finally shrugged and went to leave the room.
"Try not to get blood on anything while I'm gone. Some of those clothes I borrowed from Buffy and she'd kill me. You wouldn't believe a Slayer's dry-cleaning bill," Faith said before closing the door behind her.
"Maybe I didn't try hard enough to save you or whatever it is you keep complaining about..." Angel began, clearly wanting the conversation to be over.
"You didn't try at all."
"Neither did you."
"I get it, you know," Lindsey said. "Why you never bothered with me."
"You do, do you?" Angel asked, folding his arms.
"I remind you too much of yourself," Lindsey told him.
"We're nothing alike," Angel snarled.
"No, we aren't, but that doesn't stop you from seeing some part of yourself in me, the part that wanted the darkness, that embraced it," Lindsey told him. "Don't forget, you walked into that alley willingly."
"Just like you walked into Wolfram and Hart," Angel accused. Lindsey shrugged.
"Doesn't mean I had any better idea what I was doing than you did."
Angel turned away and Lindsey stared at him for a long moment before he continued softly.
"If you tried and failed with me, it might mean there wasn't any hope for you either," Lindsey told him.
"Think you've got all the answers?" Angel asked, turning back to glare at Lindsey.
"Not all of them," Lindsey answered easily, but he'd definitely found some of them. "Tell me I'm wrong."
Angel remained stubbornly silent. Lindsey smirked, because even now it was entertaining to rile up the vampire, whose glare darkened as his brows drew together.
"It was... a pain in the ass seeing you again, Angel," Lindsey said, nodding to the vampire, before he turned to leave.
"McDonald," Angel began then shook his head. Lindsey knew there wouldn't be anything further. One of the things Angel had always had trouble doing was acknowledging he'd made a mistake. He left.
Methos stepped out of the shadows into the small circle of light left by the lamp on the desk. Anderson looked up him and smirked.
"Come to threaten me again?" he asked.
"I try not to threaten," Methos told him. "It means people don't think I'll follow through on my promises."
Anderson's smirk faltered.
"Why are you here?" he asked.
"You know your bosses?" Methos asked conversationally, leaning over the man's desk. "I'm older than them."
Anderson swallowed as he stared at Methos, a rabbit confronted with a hawk.
"You tell them that whatever he used to be, Lindsey belongs to me now," Methos told him. "If they keep coming after him, I won't hesitate to go after them."
"I don't have any way to contact them," Anderson said, voice wavering.
"Not yet," Methos agreed and he raised his gun and fired.
Nick was surprised by the knock on his door late at night. Hank would have called and Monroe would have sounded far less hesitant. When he opened the door to see Lindsey McDonald, he wasn't entirely sure he could name the tense, coiled feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"Agent McDonald," he greeted, hovering at the door a moment before gesturing inside.
"Detective Burkhardt," Lindsey said a little sardonically before he swept past Nick, only to stop not too far inside the door, his hands fluttering at his sides.
"I'm sorry," Nick told him. "About my behaviour. That side of me, it's not usually so near the surface. I usually have better control."
Lindsey looked at him blankly for a moment, like he couldn't even begin to imagine what Nick was talking about, before he shook his head. Nick began to wonder if Lindsey hadn't come expecting an apology.
"We all have a side of ourselves that we'd prefer not to expose to the light," Lindsey told him. From what Nick had seen, that was something Lindsey probably understood intimately.
"I guess we do."
"The trick," Lindsey said, stepping forward before hesitating again. "The trick is to learn how to reconcile it."
"How do you do that?" Nick asked, closing the distance between them.
"When I figure that out, you'll be the first to know."
"I'd appreciate it."
"I should go," Lindsey said, but he didn't move.
"Why did you come?" Nick asked, half curious, half thrumming with anticipation.
Lindsey shook his head as though even he didn't know the answer to that. Then Lindsey was kissing him, hands pulling Nick closer, and it was all longing and desire and barely constrained passion that made his knees weak and that part of himself he'd only barely begun to acknowledge clamour for freedom. Finally, Lindsey released him and took a few steps back, breathing heavily and not meeting Nick's gaze.
"Do you..." Nick began before he had to clear his throat. "Do you want to come in for a drink?"
"Yeah," Lindsey said, looking up at him with dark eyes and a hint of a smirk. "I'd like that."