"Of all the moronic, idiotic, simpleton moves-"
"How was I supposed to know he'd start feeding?" defended Lee Mercer, as he tried unsuccessfully to stand his ground against the raging Marcus Hamilton. He looked to Darla for help but the vampire's icy glare sent shivers down his back. "Look," reasoned Mercer, "we have an army. It's not like they can hide from us. Send the soldiers out-"
"Of course," Darla smacked her forehead, "let's send the soldiers out and give up our element of surprise against Holland." She rolled her eyes, shaking her head as she moved away from Mercer, afraid if she got too close, she'd rip his head off.
"And it's not like it would be telegraphing to every demon out there that the golden goose is up for grabs." Hamilton walked behind Mercer and smacked the back of his head. "Idiot," he muttered.
Mercer rubbed the back of his head. Hamilton may have pulled the hit a bit but it still smarted. "Okay, fine. You're right...so what do we do?"
"What do you think?" snarled Hamilton. "We go out there and find them ourselves without letting it out that they've escaped. Think you can manage that?"
Mercer wanted to give some cocky answer but knew now was not the time. Both demons were less than thrilled with him at the moment and he'd be wise not to stir the pot. Instead he simply nodded.
Hamilton glared at Mercer a few moments longer before turning his attention to Darla. "Anything?"
Darla had her eyes closed, head back, just standing quietly. The silence was becoming uncomfortable for Mercer and he was about to speak when Darla's head came down and her eyes snapped open. She smiled.
Hamilton smirked. "You found them?"
"No." Darla laughed at her companions confused looks. "I found the scent of their trail. It's faint but it should bring us close enough." She turned quickly and left the room, Hamilton following directly behind.
Mercer frowned. "Close enough for what?" he asked as he scrambled to catch up.
The darkness was eerie. The only sounds were the sloshing of the water as they waded through it and Lindsey's breathing...and his heartbeat. Angel shook the thought away. His thirst for blood had increased again with his recent feeding and the warm hand on his back didn't help but it was the only way for Lindsey to make his way thru the darkness. Angel's vision could carry him thru the dark sewer but human eyes couldn't see the hand in front of them. Lindsey gagged again at the smell and pulled his hand from Angel's back to cover his mouth. Angel stopped as soon as the touch left and Lindsey ended up running into him.
Angel turned, growling at his companion, "I told you to keep your hand on my back."
"Back off," snapped Lindsey in between boughts of gagging. "What the hell are we doing down here anyway?" He placed one hand against the wall but pulled it back the instant he felt the slimy surface.
Angel grabbed Lindsey's arm and placed his hand on his back. "Let's go."
Lindsey sighed but kept his hand on Angel's back. Truth of it was, he didn't want to get lost in the sewers but he hoped they would be surfacing soon.
They had walked another twenty minutes before Angel spoke. "Vampires can smell each other. Demons can smell humans. Let me know if any of this sounds familiar?"
Lindsey made a face behind Angel's back. "Fine," he snapped, "but you aren't planning on staying down here forever, are you?"
"What's the matter, Lindsey? You too delicate for this?"
"You're an ass."
Angel's smile was covered in the darkness.
Morning, such as it was at this level of hell, was dawning as Darla led the others thru the desolate streets. The few creatures they had encountered scrambled back in to the dark recesses of their lairs as the group past. Mercer was lagging somewhat behind the others, his feet sore from the endless walking. Finally garnering enough courage he asked, "Do you really think they could've come this far?"
"Shut it," growled Hamilton, turning to glare at the man.
Lee Mercer wasn't smart enough to cower under Hamilton's gaze. Instead, he defiantly squared his shoulders and was about to put his foot in his mouth when Darla spoke. "This will do. Come."
Lee and Hamilton exchanged cross looks but both followed without question. Darla led them into an abandoned warehouse and up some stairs to the second floor. The semblance of offices still remained, although the furniture was scattered about. Walking into first one office then another, Darla finally seemed satisfied with the fourth office. It was larger than the others but in worse shape. The floor creaked under their weight and Mercer was doubtful it would last for any length of time. He was about to comment when Hamilton beat him to it.
"Seems a little unstable, don't you think?'
"Of course, that's why it's perfect." Darla carefully stepped over some debris, making her way to the window. The view of the street below was expansive in either direction. "You will come to me, my dear boy," she whispered. Closing her eyes, she softly started humming, swaying slightly with the rhythym.
Mercer frowned, puzzled by the behavoir. "What is she-"
"Shhh," snapped Hamilton. He motioned with his head for Mercer to follow him from the room. Hamilton led them back to the staircase before turning to face Mercer. "She's calling Angel."
Hamilton snorted. "How do you think?" He mimicked the whole humming bit that Darla was performing.
Mercer looked doubtful. "And that's going to draw Angel here...how?"
Hamilton rolled his eyes. "You aren't the sharpest tool in the shed, are you?" He laughed as Mercer's posture stiffened. "Don't get your pants in a twist. Angel drank tainted blood."
"Lindsey's blood? You both said you couldn't doctor the blood while it was still in him."
"I'm talking about the first time."
"But that was weeks ago. Surely the effects have worn off by now."
Hamilton smirked. "Not completely. Darla thinks there's just enough left to lure him here."
"He hasn't shown any signs of bending to Darla's will for weeks now," insisted Mercer, still doubtful of the plan. "Angel's gotten all protective of Lindsey. He won't bring him anywhere close to where Darla is."
"Oh, he won't even realize he's doing it." Hamilton started down the stairs; Mercer following behind.
"I don't get it."
Hamilton stopped at the bottom of the stairs, turning to face his tag-along. "He won't realize it's Darla that's drawing him here," he clarified. "All he'll sense is safety."
"But won't he sense her when he gets closer?"
"Not if it's still working right. He won't know what hit him until it's too late." Hamilton looked around the warehouse. "You take up position behind those skids." As Mercer moved to follow his instructions, Hamilton grabbed his shoulder in a tight squeeze, causing Mercer to cry out. "Do NOT make a sound or a move until I tell you...got it?"
Mercer shrugged from the man's grip. "Got it," he griped, rubbing his shoulder as he walked away.
Hamilton shook his head as the other man took up position. He wasn't sure why he hadn't gotten rid of the weasel already. It was obvious he hadn't been as useful as Hamilton had thought he might be. Clearing his thoughts, Hamilton took up position on the other side of the warehouse. It could be a long wait but in the end, if it brought Angel and Lindsey back to them, it would be worth it. He would take out his frustrations on Angel and leave McDonald for Darla and Mercer to handle. They couldn't kill the golden goose just yet.
Angel swayed as dizziness took over for a moment. He stopped short and felt Lindsey run into him.
"A little warning next time," hissed Lindsey, his voice muffled with his palm still over his nose and mouth.
"I think it's okay to head up now." Warning bells were going off in Angel's head but they were quickly pushed down by the feeling of security and safety being only a short distance away. "Come on."
The ladder up was slick with slime and Angel didn't want to know what else. He wiped it off as he went but knew there would still be plenty of residue for Lindsey to complain about...only he didn't. He simply followed Angel up the ladder, not making a sound. Angel pushed up on the manhole cover and slid it as quietly as possible across the ground. The light of day blinded him for a moment. He raised his hand to shadow the sun and thought for a moment he saw a figure in the window of the warehouse across from them. He waited but there was no further movement.
"Are you moving or not?"
The voice brought Angel's attention back to street level. He glanced around but didn't see or hear anything amiss. Satisfied, he crawled the rest of the way out and lent a hand to pull Lindsey out. The man was grateful to be away from the stench of the sewer and walked away from the opening, disappointed to find the smell didn't completely leave. They had been down there long enough that they themselves reaked.
"Terrific," mumbled Lindsey. "Don't suppose you brought us to some fresh water?"
Lindsey looked around but didn't see anything threatening. "You hear something?"
Angel gave a distracted shake of his head, moving across the road to the warehouse that lay open before them. The door sat ajar and seemed to be beckoning to Angel. He motioned to Lindsey to follow.
"Angel, are you sure?" Lindsey wasn't feeling the love for the warehouse like Angel was. "Something doesn't seem right." The glare Angel threw his direction had Lindsey taking a step back.
"Where are you going?" asked Angel, taking a couple steps closer to Lindsey, concern obvious.
"You're being a little Jekyl & Hyde. I think we should go back-"
"Go back? Go back where? To Hamilton and Darla or maybe Holland? Is that where we should go?"
"You are freaking me out."
Angel's shoulders slumped. "Sorry, it's been a long..."
"Yeah," agreed Lindsey. After looking around at their surroundings, Lindsey asked, "Why here? Why this warehouse?"
"I don't know," admitted Angel. "It just feels...safe."
"You have know idea how not reassuring that is." Lindsey rolled his shoulders trying to get out some of the knots. "Fine, lead on."
Lee Mercer smiled as he heard the footsteps move closer. He wanted to take a peek but one glare from Hamilton kept him glued to his spot. He could see two shadows fall across the wall moving away from his position. He peered through the skid flats and could just make out the forms as they moved towards the stairs. He really couldn't hear what they were saying, as both men talked in whispers, but he could tell Lindsey was reluctant to follow Angel up the stairs. Mercer ducked down as Lindsey took another look around the room, motioning with his hands. Angel stopped for a moment, shrugged his shoulders, and moved on up the stairs. Mercer watched Lindsey run his hands thru his dropped head. Defeated, he followed Angel up the stairs. Mercer smiled. 'Got you.'
Lindsey watched as Angel seemed to move on auto-pilot. He still had misgivings about the building but Angel seemed to ignore his wariness. Finally he gave voice to his concerns. "Something's wrong, Angel. This doesn't feel right."
"It's fine," replied Angel quietly. "It's safe here."
"It's safe here? Why?" Lindsey motioned around the building. "Why is it safe here?"
Angel shrugged his shoulders. "It just feels safe." He started up the stairs confident Lindsey would follow eventually. He smiled when he heard the man's resigned sigh and his soft footsteps coming up behind him.
Darla's skin tingled as Angel moved closer. She could see in her mind, the slow steady steps her former partner was taking up the stairs. She needed to be careful and not pull him in too quickly. Lindsey was barely hooked on following Angel and they definitely needed him. Fact was, if the others had their way, Angel would've already been a memory. Both Hamilton and Mercer had questioned the wisdom in keeping the vampire alive. She knew she would have a bigger challenge now that he had pulled his escape but she was confident she could make it work. If she still could control him even after all the weeks that had passed, then a little more drug, a little more often, would keep him completely pliable until she could draw out her Angelus. Of course she was going to have to keep him separate from Lindsey. She couldn't have him feeding off their goldmine...at least not until Holland Manners had been defeated. Then she knew her Angelus would come up with a wonderfully wicked plan for Lindsey's future. She hoped it involved the three of them in a less than virtuous relationship. She was somewhat fond of Lindsey.
Clearing her head of those thoughts, she concentrated on drawing Angel in closer. She heard the floor creak as they walked ever closer. She could visualize it all now. Passing the second office...now the third office...the door squeaked as it slowly opened. She watched from the dark corner as Angel came fully into the room, soon followed by Lindsey.
"Hello, my boys." Darla smiled as she came out of her hiding place.
"Damnit, Angel. I knew it." Lindsey grabbed Angel's arm as he turned to leave but Marcus Hamilton's form filled the doorway.
"Leaving so soon?"
Hamilton's voice seemed to bring Angle out of his trance. He looked slowly around, analyzing their situation.
"It was you." Angel looked at his former lover.
"All me," agreed Darla. "I still know how to get to you, my boy."
"Yeah, by drugging me."
Darla frowned. "Oh please. A part of you still wants me. Just admit it."
Hamilton walked into the room, followed by Lee Mercer. "Give up now, Angel, and I won't have to beat you to a pulp."
"Not on your best day, Hamilton." Angel moved Lindsey protectively behind him. "Look for a weapon."
Not one to do as told, Lindsey was about to respond when Angel forcefully ordered, "NOW."
"Fine," muttered Lindsey just under his breath. "You go and get us in this mess then boss me like it's my fault. Big, bag of hot-"
"Really? Now's the time for this?" asked Angel, turning his full glare on Lindsey.
Lindsey was about to reply when Hamilton lunged forward. "Look out!"
Angel turned just in time to fend off Hamilton's attack. "That all you got, big man?" taunted Angel.
Hamilton roared in fury and came at Angel. The two men engaged in a ferocious battle, leaving Lindsey to protect himself against Lee Mercer (not really a threat) and Darla (a master vampire).
"Great," muttered Lindsey, grabbing a wooden chair and smashing it against the wall. He picked up two wooden shards that had shattered from the impact. Mercer wasn't the threat but Lindsey needed to keep an eye on the sneaky bastard. Giving a quick glance in Mercer's direction, Lindsey circled away from the man to give himself more room to take on Darla.
She smiled at him. "Lindsey, there's no need for that." At an extremely loud crash, she checked on the fight between Angel and Hamilton. "Do not kill him, Marcus." She turned her attention back to Lindsey. "I think you should drop those stakes, luv."
Lindsey shook his head. "Come and get them," he dared.
Darla's smile thinned, her body stiffening. "Careful what you wish for, Lindsey." She came at him, dislodging one of the stakes he held, but he was able to beat her back. "I'm impressed. You've been working out."
Lindsey was slightly winded. A fight with a vampire when you were low on blood already really wasn't the best recipe for success. He took a quick glance to check Lee's position and wasn't surprised to see the man ducking out of the room. The man had always been a weasel. "Looks like it's just you and me, darling."
"I wouldn't have it any other way...darling." Darla maneuvered to a better position so she could keep an eye on Angel's fight too. She came at Lindsey again but the result was the same. She was hampered by the fact she needed him alive and couldn't go in for a death blow. He was tiring though; success was only moments away. She came at him again but was distracted by Angel's loud cry as he and Hamilton crashed thru their floor and the floor below. Apparently the warehouse had a basement.
Lindsey was also distracted by the noise but recovered first, plunging the stake thru Darla's heart. His moment of victory waned as she didn't dissolve into dust. She made two steps towards him before falling to the floor, her unseeing eyes still open. Lindsey grabbed a longer piece of wood and poked at her unmoving form. Just to be sure, he thrust the longer piece of wood thru her heart. Again no turning to dust, but neither was there any sound or movement of life. He stared a few more seconds before heading for the door, taking care to avoid the large hole created by Angel and Hamilton. Unfortunately, he had counted Mercer out of the fight but the sneak was just waiting for the right opening. He pushed with all his might and Lindsey teetered precariously on the edge of the hole before falling in.
Mercer peered over the edge, seeing Lindsey's lying in the debris, two stories down. Dusting his knees off, Mercer delighted in the thought he would soon finish off his former colleague. If the fall hadn't killed him, Mercer would be sure to finish the job.
"Ow," Lindsey moaned. He turned over to his side, trying to get his knees under him. After a few false starts, he stumbled to a standing position. He felt the knot at the back of his head, wincing at the touch. Coughing, which ignited pain in his ribs, helped to clear his head. Looking up, he saw how far he had fallen. "Well, that sucked."
"Can't argue with that."
Lindsey jumped. "Damnit, Angel. Are you alright?" He went to help the vampire up but Angel waved him off.
"Where's Hamilton?" He grimaced as another wave of pain rolled thru his body.
"How should I know. I just arrived."
Angel smiled at Lindsey's sarcasm. "Okay, I'm ready; you can help me up now."
"No need," answered Hamilton, "I've got you covered." He came at Angel but Lindsey grabbed a two-by-four and swung with all his might. Hamilton stumbled back a couple steps but that was the extent of the damage.
"Son of a bitch," whispered Lindsey.
Hamilton rotated his head a couple times before turning his attention to Angel. "Hang on for a moment. I have to take care of something." Hamilton grabbed the piece of wood as Lindsey swung it at him again. He tossed it aside and grabbed Lindsey by the throat, pushing him back against the concrete wall. Lindsey pulled with both hands at the vise-like grip but Hamilton just tightened the hold. He lowered them both to the ground, Lindsey sitting with his back against the wall. "I need you to stay out of the way," growled Hamilton, picking up a steel rebar and plunging it thru Lindsey's shoulder causing the man to scream in pain. Bending the bar, he smiled at Lindsey. "How's that? Not too uncomfortable, I hope?" Hamilton tapped Lindsey's cheek before turning his attention back to Angel.
Lindsey's painful cry had spurred Angel to his feet. Hamilton smiled at his adversary. "Round 2?" he mocked, sure Angel was on his last leg.
"Bring it on," snarled Angel as he vamped out.
As the battle raged on between Angel and Hamilton, Lee Mercer wound his way closer to Lindsey. Even with Lindsey pinned, Mercer was being cautious. He watched as Lindsey pulled vainly at the bar pinning him to the concrete wall. He was amazed Lindsey was still conscious with the amount of blood that pooled beneath the man. Lindsey cried out in pain and frustration. His futile attempt to dislodge the rebar had only increased the blood that flowed from the wound. Settling back against the wall, his eyes squeezed shut, teeth clenched, he struggled to bring his breathing under control.
Mercer smiled. This was going to be so easy. "Looks like it's just not your day, Lindsey."
Lindsey's eyes slowly opened, glaring at the man squatting before him.
"Does that hurt?" asked Mercer as he pushed on the rebar.
Lindsey's hand came up, pushing Mercer back. Gritting his teeth, he fought the black dots that danced before his eyes.
"Yeah, that's what I thought. Course it should be over soon. You're really bleeding out fast, McDonald. Guess you're going to be leaving us soon," taunted Mercer.
"He's not, but you are," growled Angel, his face just inches away from Mercer's ear. With a quick twist of the man's neck, Mercer was dead...or this level's version of dead. "Lindsey?" Angel looked at the amount of blood and the paleness of his face. "Damnit, Lindsey. Hang on. Let me get that bar out." Angel held Lindsey's shoulder to the wall and with his other hand, he slowly pulled the rebar out. Lindsey barely let out a sound. Angel threw the offending item away, brushing a hand across Lindsey's forehead, tapping the man's cheek with his other hand. Angel pulled Lindsey forward trying to staunch the flow of blood to both the front and back of the man's shoulder. Lindsey's head rested on Angel's shoulder. Angel shrugged his shoulder. "Hey, you still with me? Come on. Don't give up now. Lindsey?" Angel cursed as Lindsey's heart stuttered to a stop and his last breath was released. "Damnit, Lindsey."
Angel turned angrily at the sound of slow clapping. "Well done, Angel. You have saved me quite a bit of trouble. Thank you."
Angel glared at the smirking man behind him - Holland Manners.
"Looks like I got here just in time." He motioned to the two demons that accompanied him. Angel tensed as they moved closer, growling to warn them off. "Here's a question you need to answer, son. I can reanimate Lindsey or I can let him slip further into hell. What is your choice?"
Angel sat back defeated. The last place he wanted Lindsey to be was in Holland Manner's clutches but he couldn't let the man slip down to eternal torment. Not while there still was a chance. Reluctantly, he watched as one of the demons picked Lindsey up and threw him over his shoulder. Angel stood to follow not expecting the blow from behind from the other demon.
"Lessons have to be taught, Angel," Holland said to the unconscious vampire. "Bring him."
The second demon did as the first, flinging his burden over his shoulder.
"And all is right with the world." Holland Manners smiled wickedly as the bodies of Lee Mercer and Marcus Hamilton slowly seeped thru the cracks, followed by Darla's. "Enjoy your time in the eternal fires."