Disclaimer: Angel belongs to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy, not me.

Author's Note: Thanks to –J and Imzadi for reviewing! I love getting your comments and critiques. Warning: This chapter is a little more intense than the others with references to torture. Also a kiss that is "rather deep and French" to quote Excel. Don't read if this bothers you.

"We'll stand on our records. It's the only thing we've got." –Lindsey, "Reprise"

His memories were nothing but blurs. Big, fat, red blurs that swirled together in a cacophony of pure pain. If he was capable of it, he would have regretted signing away his soul to Wolfram & Hart. There were a thousand other regrets he could have felt at just that second, but that was the main one. But there was just too much pain for regrets…for thinking…

He hung in the iron shackles, knees barely brushing the ground. It was hard to breathe like this, and the metal of the cuffs had long since chaffed his wrists to bleeding. His pulse pounded in his ears, but it felt too slow…everything was just too slow. One bleeding minute dragging out into the next as his life seemed to drip away.

Except it couldn't.


He was dead. It took him a moment to remember that. He couldn't die because he was already dead. Dead and in Hell. Something trickled down the side of his nose to his upper lip where it hung, perched, for a second before falling on to his lower lip. Tentatively, he stuck out his tongue to taste it. His mouth was so parched that just trying to breathe through it hurt.


And then there were lips on his, crushing against his. Agony as another mouth pressed against his bruised one. Pain…and then warmth. A soothing warmth that seemed to slip down his throat and into his belly even as a tongue was pushed into his mouth. White heat—that's what swept down his torso. He moaned as he felt it knit muscle and bone back together. The lips pushed harder against him, and the heat in his torso flared even hotter. It was healing, but it was pain too, and he found himself screaming into the kiss…

When Lindsey came to, he found himself not hurting for the first time in what seemed like an eternity. He was on the floor, as well, though still chained at wrists and ankles. He lifted one hand experimentally and moved it into his field of vision. His arm ached—everything ached, actually—but it didn't hurt per se. More like he'd gone to the gym the day before and gone through a good work out. The right kind of aches that suggested healing.

He frowned as he noticed something else on his wrist besides the shackle. A large silver cross on what looked like a silver chain necklace was wrapped two or three times around his wrist. The trinket was covered with blood, still tacky, unlike the blood on the shackle itself, which was dried to an earthy brown. "Wha?" he tried to say. His voice came out a raspy croak. The voice of a man not used to talking. The voice of a man whose vocal cords had been damaged by his own screams. The voice of a man in Hell.

"It's hiding you, for the moment," a voice answered. "The blood isn't yours."

He lifted his head and then propped himself up on his elbows, the effort making him groan. A young woman sat in front of him, cross-legged, with her hands on her knees as if she'd been meditating. Black jeans, a white tank top, and studded belt. Black hair pulled up in a top knot. Pretty, petite, and covered in blood. He had a feeling most of it was his. Like she had pressed herself against him. One guess as to who had kissed him. "So you're my new jailor," he said as he levered himself up on to hands and knees. The effort made him dizzy. "What? So they heal you in hell now? Was I getting too broken, and you were afraid I'd just shut down and stop feeling the torture?"

"Anyone ever tell you that you're a dick?" she asked.

"All the time," he muttered. He was trying to rally himself to sit down…or at least move, but the dizziness wasn't fading as fast as it should.

"You're probably going to feel a little weak," she explained. "I had to use some of your own reserves to heal you. You really don't want to know how bad they fucked you up—ruptured organs, broken bones…the list is long and gory, boy."

"It goes with being tortured for an eternity." That's what it was—why he was here. Now that she'd fixed him, thinking was now an option as well as regretting. So he kept with the talking in hopes that it would hold the regret at bay. "So, if you're not my jailer, then who the hell are you and why are you here?"

"My name's Cass, I'm the Oracle, and I'm here to make you a deal."

He gave her a twisted little smile. "I don't do deals."

"Funny, because I was under the impression that it was a deal that got you stuck down here after you got shot. Something about your contract with Wolfram & Hart extending into perpetuity." She stood up, giving him a good look at her combat boots, and crossed the room to squat down in front of him. Taking his chin in her hand, she tilted his face up to look him in the eye. "You're in a bad, bad place, Lindsey McDonald. If I were you, I might stop mouthing off and start listening."

He gave her a withering glare and then jerked his chin out of her grasp. "I'll listen."