THE HANGED MAN'S SONG

D.M. Evans

Disclaimer- Nope not mine. The characters belong to Mr. Whedon, the lyrics belong to Duran Duran

Rating - PG-13

Pairing - Pairing free (Lindsey and Lorne pov's)

Time Line - A few hours before City Of... AtS S1

Feedback - feed me Seymour! - Lindsey goes to Caritas for the very first time.

Author's Note - This was written for Ragna in the BtVS/AtS Challenge and the requirements are at the end of the story. Thanks to SJ for the quick beta.

Lindsey didn't know what he had been expecting but it wasn't this. The club was packed with humans and demons, seemingly happy to coexist. What did the Normals think the demons were? Goths? Refugees from Halloween? Just part and parcel of the weirdness that was L.A.?

Holland had suggested Lindsey take a little time off, have a night out for fun. He also suggested doing a bit of soul searching to figure out the future. Lindsey didn't see how those two went together but Holland had said it in that infuriating parental way of his. There was always in underpinning of threat in his words, of hidden malice.

Lindsey couldn't ignore the suggestion to come to Caritas. Holland most certainly had an ulterior motive in sending him to this place and it was his responsibility to figure it out. But how Holland knew of a karaoke bar, Lindsey had no clue. This club would be one place he could never picture Holland entering.

Lindsey had dressed down for the occasion, not knowing what he was getting into, opting for black slacks and slate-blue silk shirt, casual in comparison to his Armani suits, yet dressy enough for clubbing. He could have come in anything and been at home here, the crowd was that diverse. He glanced around and saw one or two Wolfram and Hart employees in the club so he obviously wasn't the only one Holland had steered here.

Lindsey got a beer from the bar and looked around for a place to sit. There was seating so he stood along the back wall and watched the stage. A brunette cheerleader type was mangling an 80's tune under the close eye of a tallish green creature. The red horns and the hooked nose couldn't compete for attention, not against the stylish but garishly colored outfit the demon had on. Was the girl in danger from the demon? If so, why should he care? It wasn't his business and working for Wolfram and Hart one quickly learned to not pry into other people's business.

"And let's hear it for Amanda," the demon said cheerily as the girl mercifully left the stage. He put an arm around her whispering to her. She looked very excited by whatever it was the demon said.

A pair of frat boys took the stage and the process began again. They sang and the demon scrutinized them. Was this what Holland wanted him to see? If so, why? Out of the corner of his eye, Lindsey caught a movement. A young woman was waving at him. She reminded him a bit of home with her long, glossy hair and mahogany skin. Oklahoma had a high population of Native Americans and she looked indigenous in the extreme. He went over to her.

"Hi. I felt bad with you just standing there. Want to share a table?" she asked with that singsong accent he associated with the tribes back home.

"Thanks." He sat across from her.

"Sometimes it's nice to see a friendly face and you have one," she said. "This city can be so impersonal."

"Can't argue that," he said warily. It could be she was just a girl looking for a date or maybe someone Wolfram and Hart had set up to test him. They liked doing that to junior associates.

"I'm Briar Rose Mankiller," she said and at his uplight of eyebrows added, "I know, I know. Mom loved Cinderella."

"Ah. Lindsey McDonald. You haven't been out here long have you?" He took a swig of his beer.

She flushed a bit. "That obvious?"

"I've been here a while. I've gotten good at spotting it," he assured her. "Are you from Oklahoma?"

Her chocolate eyes widened. "How did you know?"

"Mankiller, that's a pretty popular Cherokee name. I grew up in a little town there," he admitted not exactly sure why. Maybe because she looked like a good, honest girl, reminding him of the few good things from his childhood.

She smiled. "Really? I grew up in Catoosa. What a small world. Did the silver screen lure you out here, too?"

"What?" Lindsey shook his head. "Oh, no, I'm not here to make movies."

"Are you sure? With that face, you'd do well. You have the prettiest blue eyes."

Lindsey blushed in spite of himself.

Briar Rose covered her mouth. "Sorry. Could I be more blatant?"

Lindsey smiled. "It's all right. I like straightforward people. You said 'too' so can I assume that's why you came out here?"

Briar Rose nodded, her long hair moving like silk. "I got tired of seeing white people dressed up as Skins so I thought I'd give the producers another option." A sheepish look crossed her face. "That sounded so radical and pretentious."

"Not at all," Lindsey said, even though it did have that flavor. "How's it working for you?"

She shrugged. "Not too great. I've done a few bit parts but I'm learning that the only thing they think I can do I are /I ethnic roles. It never occurs that I could do just about any role unless it has to be played by another ethnic group. But I'm not giving up, you know. I'm still trying and I have a good job doing medical transcription so until I'm replaced by a computer, which I know will come, I have to means to stay here and keep fighting. That's why I'm here tonight."

Lindsey's blue eyes narrowed. "I don't follow. Were you expecting an agent?"

Her full lips pulled into a smile. "Don't you know what they do here at Caritas?"

That sounded more ominous than Briar Rose knew. Lindsey glanced around looking for danger and saw nothing. What was Holland up to sending him here? "No, a friend suggested coming but he didn't say why."

"The Host." She pointed to the green-skinned demon, "can read your future but only when you sing."

"Oh, so that's why I'm in a kareoke bar. I was wondering." Lindsey grinned, now understanding what the soul searching about the future Holland had mentioned meant. "This could be interesting. How does it work?"

"You have to sign up. I'll get a waitress so you can do that." Briar Rose waved a hand at one of the passing waitresses. "And just pick out a song and write down the number so they know what to program in when you get up there. It's as simple as that."

"Great. Thanks. Would you like another drink?" He pointed to her empty glass as the waitress came over.

One sign up, one beer and one screaming multiple orgasm later - no wonder she had been reticent to tell him what she was drinking - Lindsey settled in for small talk with Briar Rose. He liked her. She had an air of sweetness and openness he was no longer accustomed to having deal with Wolfram and Hart shark-women for so long. Eventually her name was called to go up for her reading.

"Good luck," he told her and while she was doing a good rendition of Pat Benatar's We Belong, he looked through the musical selection. He would be more comfortable with something from the country offerings but while country was beginning to be 'cool' he didn't want to share that side of himself with anyone from Wolfram and Hart who might just so happen to be looking on. He chose something from his college days without being sure why. It was sort of romantic, sort of an ode to one night stands. Briar Rose looked very happy and relieved when she returned to the table. "Good news?"

She bobbed her head. "I'm not giving up. The Host says it'll pay off."

"Great."

They made more small talk until it was Lindsey's turn to go up. He almost wanted to back out. He hadn't sang in front of a crowd in years. He did used to be good at it. He loved playing guitar in a honky tonk but those years were so far behind him, like a life he had long forgotten. Lindsey gave his number to the girl running the kareoke machine, glanced at the demon who'd be telling him his future and prepared himself to sing.

Lorne had seen the handsome young man at the back of the room watching the proceedings with great interest. Lorne was a people watcher, too, but his role at Caritas didn't really afford him the opportunity to just sit and watch. No, he had too much work to do so the best he could hope for was that the young man would come and sing.

And finally he did. He took the stage, slightly tentative which was a breath of fresh air compared to the arrogance some of Lorne's customers exuded or the all too common drunkenness. Lorne could tell this guy probably hadn't ever done this before. The first lyrics tumbled out of his mouth, no certainty there. Lorne tugged mentally at the man's psyche trying to read it with only the haziest of images coming. The man seemed to rally a bit and belted out the next stanza with confidence.

Feel the breeze deep on the inside look down into the well
If you can you'll see the world in all his fire
Take a chance (like all dreamers can't find another way.)
You don't have to dream it all, just live a day.

Don't say a prayer for me now. Save it til the morning after
No don't say a prayer for me now. Save it til the morning after
Save it til the morning after. Save it til the morning after

The images washed over Lorne hard and fast, leaving him gripping the stage to steady himself. He raised his Sea Breeze to his lips, needing the alcohol but the glass was empty. Somehow his own life was enmeshed in this stranger's. Lorne hadn't been expecting that. There was so much violence. How could he get caught up in violent things? He abhorred violence and yet there he was. Oh, not for a year or more but he was there. As the man continued with Duran Duran's song, Lorne saw the man's climb in his job, watched him coming into the club again and again regaling him with some of the best singing he had heard in a long time, saw him writhing in agony, his hand gone. Lorne tried to disengage himself from the images but couldn't.

He saw a beautiful young woman with powers that were slowly killing her, a confident, cold woman who would challenge the stranger every step of the way, a tall, dark broody vampire and his unlikely companions, a thin Englishman and an angry young African American and his green-self. Lorne saw home and a woman they would all rescue. A dangerous young man in leathers menaced his vision. He saw the stranger falling in love with a vampire, saw him deserting his job and having to hide from the horrible creatures he worked for. As the lyrics ended a final vision exploded in Lorne's mind, leaving him shaking. He would one day murder this man. How was that possible? He wasn't a killer.

The man left the stage. Lorne took several deep ragged breaths trying to figure out what to tell him. He couldn't think. All he wanted was this man out of his club but he knew that wouldn't happen. Things were already in motion and Lorne hadn't seen a brake for them. Life was like that. It would do what it wanted regardless of what the person tried to do. The best he could do was try to guide this stranger, maybe make enough choices to alter the future he had seen.

"You don't look happy," the man said. "Did I do it wrong? That's not my usual type of music."

"You did fine," Lorne assured him shakily.

The stranger's brow wrinkled. "Then it's bad news."

"Ah...what's your name?" Lorne scrambled for things to say.

"Lindsey."

"Lindsey, I can see you have a lot of ambition and that's a good thing sometimes." Lorne put a hand on Lindsey's shoulder. "Other times it can get you killed. There's no need to be number one in your employer's eyes."

Lindsey laughed harshly. "You don't know my employers. If you're not your best, you find yourself...terminated."

Lorne knew Lindsey meant that in the most final way the word could be interpreted. "Still..."

Lindsey held up a hand. "In America, everything's about who's number one today. The Senior Partners expect nothing less than my best." His blue eyes narrowed. "Is that all you have for me?"

Lorne shook his head. He couldn't tell him everything. Lindsey wouldn't listen. He could see that much. "Just that if you try to please them in everything, you will get pulled under. These are dangerous people you're working for."

Lindsey's face darkened, maybe believing in his ability for the first time, Lorne suspected. "I know that."

"And next time you come, sing something you're comfortable with. You have a good voice." Lorne tried to sound cheery about it. He knew Lindsey would be back. He didn't want to read him again, knowing what he already knew. Lorne knew his wishes didn't matter.

Lindsey smiled at him. "Mind if I bring my guitar?"

Lorne couldn't help the lift in his mood. He was such a sucker for good music. "By all means, bring it."

He watched Lindsey head back for his table and he waved over Kay. The waitress bounced over.

"Another Sea Breeze, boss?"

That wouldn't do it. He needed more fortification than that. "Scotch on the rocks." Yes, that might just purge the vision from his mind.

Lindsey paused at his table, holding out a hand to Briar Rose. "Want to open up some space for someone else and go some place else?"

She put her hand in his. "Where do you have in mind?"

"I know a nice quiet Irish bar, if that's not an oxymoron." He grinned. "We could sit and talk for a while."

"I'd like that. Did the reading go okay?" Her face was lined with concern.

Lindsey looked back at the Host. "Didn't tell me anything I didn't already know."

Lindsey took her to O'Reilly's and found a table next to the pool table in case they wanted to play later. "I'm not sure they make any fancy drinks here," he said, remembering her drink of choice.

Briar Rose flushed slightly. "You know I've had enough to drink. A coke would be nice."

"One soda coming up."

Lindsey pressed his way to the bar which was crowded. As he tried to get the bartender's attention he listened to the man beside him babbling about a hottie to some man who obviously could care less. The heavy-browed pale man, going on and on about his lost blonde chick, seemed sloppy drunk. Lindsey hated that and yet there was an odd feeling about the man, like someone stepping over his grave. Lindsey had the feeling he'd see this man again. This is what happens when you see a seer. You start thinking you can do it, too.

After giving the bartender his order, Lindsey looked around the bar. Across the bar from the sloppy drunk was an even paler man with dark hair watching the drunk with piercing blue eyes. Lindsey hated to tell him this was not the place to be ogling men for a date. It was likely to end badly but it was none of his business. Maybe it was the messy gelled look that the drunk had going on that had captured the skinny man's attention since he seemed to be studying the drunk's head. As Lindsey got his drinks, the drunk started telling the shave-headed African American next to him how he reminded the drunk of his girl because of the hair.

Lindsey sat back down with Briar Rose handing her a coke. "So, do you think you'd like to go dancing some night?"

"I'd love to." She beamed.

Lindsey settled in, knowing Briar Rose wouldn't really ever fit in with his current life but it was nice to pretend just for a little while. He was giving himself that present tonight. He needed to get the ominous undertone of his reading out of his mind. Now to figure out what he'd tell Holland when he got back to work.

Requirements:

THE CHALLENGE:
First character you want: Lindsey
Second character you want: Lorne
Challenge: I want a fic before A:tS started, showing the first time Lindsey went to Caritas and what Lorne saw when he sang.

THE PREFERENCES:
Slash or no slash: No slash.
How high a rating can the author write: R
What genre(s) can the author choose to write this in: Humor with a touch of sarcasm or dramatic.

THE ADDITIONS:
Third character: Angel
Quote: "In America everything's about who's number one today." - Bruce Springsteen
Song: "Save A Prayer" by Duran Duran (http/www.azlyrics.us/printable.php?id76053)
Object: A scoth on the rocks
Episode: Not Fade Away (A:tS)