Title: This Skin That I Live In

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: T

Summary: Angel/Leverage. Lindsey stared at the demon in disbelief. "Wait a minute. What do you mean, half a soul?" 1100 words.

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not. I claim nothing but the plot.

Spoilers: AU tag for Angel 2.18 "Dead End"; general Leverage spoilers

Notes: For maevebran. Plot point borrowed from a Season 5 Buffy episode; you'll know the one. Lyric fragments near the end from Christian Kane's "Rattlesnake Smile".

"You've got to be kidding me," Lindsey said, staring across the table at the anagogic demon.

The newly ex-lawyer had stopped in at Caritas for one last reading before packing up his truck and getting out of Dodge, just to get some idea of where he should go. Instead of offering him traveling advice, though, the Host had dropped something else entirely in his lap. "All this time? All this time you've known this, and you didn't tell me?"

The host shrugged, sympathetically. "Trust me, that's not information you would have wanted spread around in this town, especially considering your former employer. You were better off not knowing."

Lindsey narrowed his eyes in a glare, thoroughly nonplused. "Why? Why was I better off not knowing that all these years, all I needed to do to put things back the way they're supposed to be was just to break the spell?"

The Host sighed and flagged down one of his bartenders for another Sea Breeze. "If you'd gone to a witch right after the attack, it might have been that simple. But I don't think anyone's ever studied what could happen if the twinning effect isn't resolved immediately. You've had a lot of time to develop separate identities, including both physical and mental changes--" he gestured at Lindsey's newly replaced hand, "--and restore the half a soul each part of you was missing. Trust me, if you tried to merge yourselves back together at this point? It wouldn't be pretty. Think of it this way; at least you're not at risk of dying anymore just because he kicks it."

"That was an option?" Lindsey sat up straighter in his chair, staring at the demon in disbelief. Then something else he'd heard registered. "Wait a minute. What do you mean, half a soul?"

"Oh, sweetheart," the Host replied, shaking his head. "Don't tell me you haven't noticed? You were in here pretty often back before you went mano-a-mano with Angel and lost one. Moral questions troubling you lately that wouldn't have when you first joined Wolfram and Hart?" he asked pointedly. "Decisions you would have made without a second thought back then starting to drag on your conscience?"

Lindsey shifted in his chair uneasily. What did any of that have to do with his soul? "Bullshit. You can sit there, friends with that Eurotrash vampire, and tell me a soul really makes all that much of a difference?"

"Whoa there, stormcloud," the Host held up a hand. "I wouldn't exactly call him my 'friend'. But you're right, to a point. The truth is, a soul just prods a human's subconscious to ask the tough questions, it doesn't guarantee you'll answer them in the service of all that's sparkly and bright. Angel's situation is unique; with that curse of his, it's either all or nothing, stuck in place. Most people actually lose and gain small portions of their souls every day. They exchange energies every time they touch, wounding or healing each other with every cruel word and every shared laugh; the list goes on and on. Being ripped in half is the kind of trauma that a soul usually doesn't just recover from, though. Even though it does regenerate with time, you'll always carry spiritual scars from it."

The uneasy feeling roiling in the pit of Lindsey's stomach grew worse; he had a sinking feeling that the Host's cheery greeting every time he'd come in the year before had actually had less to do with his musical talent and more to do with his unknowing status as some kind of metaphysical curiosity. He didn't like that idea at all. He didn't like what it suggested, either: that the Host really did think him somehow impaired on a spiritual level.

Even worse was the thought that it might be true. After all, what had his physically more dominant self gone and done, the instant they'd decided the more obviously articulate version would be the Lindsey to keep their official identity and go on to college? They'd carried all the same memories up to that point, all the same frustrations about their past, and all the same driving fires. But after that chance encounter with a survivor of the Tothric clan looking to field-test a new ferula gemina rod before going after his actual target-- incidentally introducing him to the supernatural world-- Lindsey Eliot McDonald had ended up working for a demon law firm... and the newly created Eliot Lindsey Spencer had become one of the world's most infamous hitters.

Neither career exactly matched up with all the dreams about making a better life for himself, his family, and those like him that Lindsey had cherished when he'd first kicked the dust of his dirt-poor home town from his cowboy boots. If it hadn't been for those kids, and Darla, he'd probably still be happy as a clam at Wolfram and Hart even now.

He took a long pull of his beer, then set the bottle back on the table and rubbed at his temples. "So, what am I supposed to do now?" he asked.

The Host sighed. "I'm afraid I don't know the answer to that any better than you do. Your fate is what you make of it, now. I can tell you one thing, though; if your path ever crosses Angel's again, the results aren't going to be pretty."

"For him or for me?" Lindsey had to ask, curling his lip.

The Host just gave him an unimpressed look, then finished his Sea Breeze and stood. "I have other clients waiting, cupcake; but I think you can answer that question for yourself. Don't take this the wrong way, but I hope I never see you again."

"Same back at you," Lindsey said, saluting the green demon's retreating back with his beer bottle. Then he sighed and pushed back from the table, reaching down for his guitar case.

"I ain't no good to no one no how, not right now," he hummed under his breath, then sighed and stood.

The hazy plans he'd had of checking up on Willy and Aimee and then hunting up that shaman in Nepal with a line in concealment spells had fallen apart over the course of the conversation; looked like it was time for a long-overdue chat with his 'brother' instead.

"'Cause I forgot to run myself and I got run down...."

He felt red eyes on him as he headed for the door, and flipped a middle finger in the direction of the bar.

So long, Los Angeles. Lindsey McDonald was leaving town.