sparrow2000: (sparrow)
[personal profile] sparrow2000
Title: Laying the Blacktop
Characters: Willow, Lindsey McDonald
Type: Gen
Warnings: Character study
Disclaimer: Joss and Mutant Enemy et al, own everything. I own nothing.
Summary: Willow goes to LA to tell Angel about Buffy’s death. She runs into one Lindsey McDonald while she’s there.
Comments and feedback are cuddled and called George
Beta extraordinaire, as always: [livejournal.com profile] thismaz. Thanks especially for the notes on Lindsey.

The space post-The Gift has always been an interesting place to put characters to see what they do. Last year I wrote Pushing Limits, in which Xander runs into Lindsey in a bar. It started me thinking how Lindsey might run across other Scoobies and what might happen. This isn't the same 'verse as Pushing Limits, but the jumping off point for my fevered brain is the same. *g*


Laying the Blacktop

Willow’s not been to LA in years. Not since her mom dragged her along to a conference on gifted children when she was ten that left her with the overpowering feeling that she’d never quite be A-grade material, no matter what her school work said. She hadn’t wanted to be in the city then, and she definitely doesn’t want to be here now.

But she’s here, anyway. It’s her own fault. She volunteered, because really, who else is going to tell Angel that Buffy’s dead? Giles is a wreck. Xander’s looking after Anya. Spike’s keeping tabs on Dawn. And Tara, sweet Tara, offered to come, but Willow knows this was something she has to do on her own.

Angel takes the news the way she knew he would. Shock, then grief, then guilt and self recrimination. It’s like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, tailored to Angel’s compulsion to take the weight of the world on his shoulders. For all that, he still wasn’t around when Buffy needed him, so once she’s told him and made the appropriate noises, Willow doesn’t feel any obligation to stay. Angel’s got his own crew to give him support and it’s time she got back to hers.

She feels better, sort of, when she’s back out on the sidewalk. The bulk of the Hyperion looms at her back, casting a shadow over the street. Shivering, she hurries back towards the parking lot. She’s still got an hour on the meter and she feels the need to get away from Angel before the weight of his grief overwhelms her own. She walks half a block, then pauses, waiting for the stoplight. The sun soaks into her back, warming her. Pushing the visit to the Hyperion to the back of her mind, she watches the traffic while she waits.

“Miss Rosenberg,” a voice calls from behind her and she turns to see a handsome man standing about 15 feet away, half in and half out of the shadows of a Seven Eleven. He takes a step forward into the sunlight so she can see him clearly. He’s wearing a light grey suit that looks like it’s just come off the catwalk and his shirt is pale cream. It complements the dark blue of his tie. “It is Miss Rosenberg, isn’t it?” he says. “Willow Rosenberg.”

She nods slowly. “That’s me. Do I know you?”

He smiles and walks towards her. She notices his shoes are shiny. She feels like she could probably see her face in them if she bent down to look.

“I’m sorry,” he says. He pauses, just out of touching distance. “My name’s Lindsey. Lindsey McDonald. You probably think I’m really rude just coming up to you in the street like this.” His voice has a mellow tone, as if it’s been polished slowly, over time, to take the edges off. She knows he’s not from California, but she can’t quite work out where he’s from and she’s too much of her parents’ child to ask.

“I don’t know about rude,” she replies. “Unexpected, maybe. Is there something I can help you with?”

He smiles. His teeth are white and she wants to smile back, but the meeting with Angel is still too close to the surface.

“I wanted to say I’m sorry,” he says. “For your loss. I know how hard it is to lose people you’re close to, so I wanted to offer my condolences.”

She stiffens, every Hellmouth born sense on alert. “I’m not sure what you -”

“Miss Summers,” he interrupts. “I’m sorry for your loss of Miss Summers.”

“What, what do you mean? I mean, how do you-”

He takes another step towards her. She makes herself stand still - curiosity warring with her concern. “It’s all right, Miss Rosenberg. I know the death of a Slayer is a big deal. If I were you, I wouldn’t want it broadcast either. That’s why I wanted to approach you discreetly.”

Her fingers curl into a fold of her skirt and she nods. “Um, right. Good job. Discreet is good. Discreet is really good, if you can call a street in central LA discreet? But I’ve not been many places outside of my home town, so maybe this is the LA version of discreet, and I really should be asking you how you know, I mean, how you know, what you think you know?”

“You came to see Angel, didn’t you? To tell him about Miss Summers.” He glances back in the direction of the Hyperion. “It’s okay, I know Angel. I know about Sunnydale.” He holds up his hand before she can reply. “Look, I’m sorry. I’m going at this all wrong. Can I buy you a coffee? There’s a coffee shop right there, across the street. Maybe we can talk without doing this awkward on the street thing where you probably think I’m some kind of stalker.”

She glances across the street at the Starbucks he’d pointing at. Starbucks, right. Nothing more all-American and non-descript than a Starbucks and it might be interesting, purely in the name of research, to see if their Caramel Macchiato tastes the same in the city as it does in Sunnydale. “Okay,” she says. “I could do coffee. Just the one because I’ve got to get back on the road before it gets dark, but one coffee I could do.”

His smile gets wider. “I should clarify that I’m really not a stalker. Just in case you were worried. But you want to phone anyone and let them know you’re stopping for coffee with the non-stalker before you head back?”

“No, no, that’s okay. I’m good.” She starts to unwind in the face of his concern and his humour. It’s kind of nice.

The traffic stops and they head across the street to Starbucks and place their orders. It’s quiet - just a few students and late lunch officer workers. She relaxes a little more.

While they wait, she catalogues him discreetly. It seems to be the word of the moment. On a closer look, the suit is nearer light blue than grey, but it’s still as expensive and beautifully cut as she thought on first sight. His tie is definitely silk and the stitches on the collar of his shirt match the heavy cream of the pocket square in his breast pocket. His eyes are blue, but a bit bloodshot around the edges, like he’s been pulling too many late nights. To make up for it, his hair looks like it had been cut and styled by someone who really knew what they were doing. Looking down at her own ankle length skirt and embroidered shirt, she wonders what on earth he’s doing talking to her, but she doesn’t resist when he ushers her to a table in the corner. She sinks down into the chair and he sits opposite, a small espresso in front of him. All of a sudden her caramel macchiato seems like a fussy little girl drink, so she studies the table top instead of looking him in the face. It looks the same and at the same time kind of different from the ones in the Sunnydale Starbucks. Maybe just a different shade of grey.

“Thanks for agreeing to this,” he says.

She finds the table top fascinating for another few seconds before looking up. “You didn’t really say how you knew. About Buffy, I mean.”

“Let’s just say that in certain circles, certain things get known.”

“Not really a comfort.” She takes a sip of her coffee. It’s sweeter than she remembers, but maybe the Hellmouth makes everything taste a little bitter.

“No, I guess not.” He takes a sip of his own coffee. She notices his nails are manicured.

“So you’re saying that there are people, who have been watching us. And, can I just say, if that’s true, why haven’t they been helping, because helping would have been good, and - “

“I’m sorry,” he interrupts. “I don’t have an answer to that.”

“Then why are we having this conversation? I don’t know you Mr McDonald. You say you know Angel, but LA is a big city and I’m sure he knows lots of people.”

“We’re not exactly buddies. We’ve had our ups and downs. And the whole dark avenger thing bugs me, which probably says as much about me as it does about him.”

“Oh yeah, I know what you mean.” She bites her lip. She should be shocked to be less than polite about Angel, but she’s grieving, so she reckons that gives her a pass. “I haven’t spoken to him since he left Sunnydale, until today. Well apart from that time at Thanksgiving, with the Chumash, and I still think I’m right about the oppression of Indigenous cultures, but that’s probably not why you wanted to talk. And we were kind of busy that day with the arrows and the bear and stuff, so it’s not like he would have had much chance to talk about you, even if you were friends. Anyway, I don’t understand why you want to talk to me. I mean, it’s nice that you want to say you’re sorry about Buffy. But I’m not sure why.”

“She saved the world,” he says. “That’s reason enough to say thank you and I’m sorry she’s passed, isn’t it?”

“Well, sure. That’s a huge reason. And she’d be really happy that someone said thank you. And I’m happy on her behalf, in a sad kind of way, that you’re saying thank you. It’s just that you didn’t know her and you coming up to me on the street unexpectedly feels kind of personal and…” She’s not sure how to go on without seeming impolite and that’s just a big no in the Rosenberg family.

He takes another sip of his espresso. It’s his turn to study the table top. It’s kind of reassuring. When he looks up, the smile has gone. “I don’t have an agenda, Miss Rosenberg. Well, to be honest, that’s not true. Everyone has an agenda of some kind. I just wanted to connect. Let you know there are people outside who know the score.”

“Oh, okay...” she says. “Then I guess I really should say thank you. So, you know, thank you.”

“No problem,” he replies. “I also wanted to say, when Miss Summers,” He pauses and picks up his cup again, but puts in down before he can take another drink. “Oh heck, I don’t know how to say this, so I’ll just come out and say it. When she jumped, she stopped a dimensional rift, but I have no idea where she came to rest.”

“What? But she’s in heaven, isn’t she? I mean, that’s where she deserved to be.”

“Yes, that’s what she deserved. But I don’t know if that’s what happened.”

“But if she’s not there, where else could she be?”

“I don’t know. But-”

“But what?”

He pushes his chair away from the table and stands up. “I’m sorry, this was a mistake. I should let you get on the road before it gets dark.”

She’s on her feet before he can take a step. “Oh no, mister. You don’t get to take me for coffee with your good suit and your smooth talk and your condolences and say that Buffy might not be in heaven, and then tell me you’ve made a mistake. You don’t get to do that.”

“Miss Rosenberg.”

“Don’t you Miss Rosenberg, me. If Buffy’s in trouble - if she’s not at rest, can we help? Can we do something? Oh goddess, what if she’s in hell? She could be in some hell dimension. Is that what you’re trying to say, without actually saying it? Can we get her out? Can we save her?” Her breath hitches and she stares at him. There’s a thought, hanging by the slenderest of threads in her mind and she whispers. “Can we bring her back?”

He scrubs his hand through his hair. It settles back into its style as if he hadn’t touched it. “Miss Rosenberg, you know bringing someone back is really hard. There’s so much that can go wrong. There’s so much responsibility.”

“And I’m all about the responsibility. I’ve got top marks in responsibility, but you’re talking about Buffy and she’s gone. She saved the world and if she’s hurt and I can do something about it, I have to try.”

Nodding, he slides back into his seat. “Okay, I get it. Please, will you sit back down?”

She thinks about continuing to stand, but it seems kind of pointless, so she sits and pushes her cup to the side. Somehow she’s lost the notion for it.

He does the same with his. It’s empty. “It’s not easy” The index finger on his right hand taps on the table top. “But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t possible.”

“How?”

“There’s a spell. A powerful spell that has its own dangers, but if it’s done carefully, it’s possible to use it to bring someone back.”

“Careful and responsible, that’s me.” She pauses. “And how do you know all this, anyway?” How do you know about spells and stuff?”

“I used to work for an organization that sometimes dealt with the supernatural. It’s how I first got to know Angel. I don’t work for them any more, but I still move in circles where some people know about Slayers and the Hellmouth and Angel being a vampire with a soul. Knowing about spells isn’t much of a stretch.”

“I guess not. So there’s a spell. Is it a hard one? I’ve been practicing magic for four years.”

“I know you have. In fact, you’re beginning to get a bit of a reputation. It’s impressive how far you’ve come in such a short time. I’m sure your teachers are real proud of you.”

“People know about me?” She winces at the squeak in her voice. It’s so not a grown up sound.

He shrugs. “Certain circles, yeah? It’s not a big community, so things like the rise of a potentially powerful witch get noticed.”

“Wow. I mean, wow. That’s kind of cool. It least I think it is. I know I’ve been getting more confident, though Giles and Tara keep reminding me I’ve got to be careful. And I am careful. I’m super careful.”

“I’m sure you are.”

“Darn right, I am. So this spell. Do you think I could do it? If it helped Buffy.”

“If you had the right stuff, probably. You’d need an Urn of Osiris to act as a talisman.”

She nods. “I’ll ask Giles about it. He’ll know.”

“I don’t mean to tell you what to do, but I wouldn’t ask Mr Giles.” He leans forward. She can smell his cologne. It smells expensive. “It’s just, I know he’s grieving for his Slayer, just like you’re mourning your friend. Imagine if you get him hoping and it doesn’t work.”

“It would kill him,” she murmurs. “But where would I get one of these urns? Is there only one, or do they come in sets? It’s not like they’re going to be selling them on eBay.”

His smile is back. “You’d be surprised what you can get on eBay. There’s only the one, but I know where to get it. It’ll take me a few days, but I could phone you and-”

“No,” she interrupts. “I don’t want anyone to know yet. I’ll tell the others once I’m sure I can do it. But like with Giles, I don’t want to put them through anything until I know it’s possible. There’s no point getting anyone’s hopes up.”

“That’s a good idea. Your friends are lucky to have you looking out for them like that. Can you find an excuse to come back to the city in a few days? Say, Saturday? I should know by then. We could meet back here, since you’re familiar with it. Kind of neutral ground.”

“I can do that.” She bites her lip. “I’ll have to come up with an excuse, but I’ll think of something. And I’ll meet you here at midday, if that works for you? It’ll give me time to get here and get back in daylight.” She leans forward like she’s telling him a secret. “And it’ll mean there’s no chance of you running into Angel at that time of day.”

“I like the way you think.” His smile becomes a grin and she grins back.

“I’d better be going,” she says. She pushes herself to her feet again, and he follows. “I don’t want anyone to worry.”

“Like I say, your friends are lucky to have someone like you thinking about them, Miss Rosenberg. I’m really glad I managed to catch you. I’m sure if anyone can help Miss Summers, you can, and I’m really happy if I can help.”

“Willow,” she says. “Miss Rosenberg seem really formal.”

He nods. “Willow it is, then. And I’m Lindsey.”

“Lindsey,” she echoes. “I’ll see you on Saturday.”

“I’ll be here at 12.00,” he says. “Hopefully I’ll have the Urn, but even if I don’t, we can talk through how the spell will work, and the other stuff that needs doing in preparation. Okay?”

He holds out his hand and she shakes it. It feels like an adult thing to do, like they’re sealing a deal. “Okay,” she says.

Turning, she walks towards the door. When she glances back, he’s still standing by the table so she sketches a wave before she opens the door and steps onto the sidewalk. She glances at her watch. There’s still ten minutes left on her meter and she can make it if she hurries. She’s got the drive home to plan what’s she’s going to say to the gang about coming back to LA on Saturday. She feels guilty about having to lie to Tara, but it’ll just be a little lie and it’s all for the common good.

She walks quickly back towards the parking lot, already thinking about meeting Lindsey again. Saturday feels like a long time away. She wonders if there’s as spell that makes time move more quickly. She’ll ask Lindsey when she sees him. She bets he’ll probably know.


Fin


A/N
I’m kind of intrigued by this relationship. I don’t think it will turn into a complete ‘verse. But I could see myself coming back and exploring a little more at some point. We’ll see. *g*

Date: 2016-03-20 09:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] texanfan.livejournal.com
Oh wow! Willow is so vulnerable here, so naïve and innocent. Lindsey knows just what buttons to push, offering and withholding knowledge, just the right kind of flattery, the chance to do something really important, to be the big hero. It's almost painful to watch Willow fall so neatly into the trap without ever realizing it. And it so fits every note of her character. What is Lindsey's game? How does he profit from this? I'm dying for that side of the story.

Date: 2016-03-20 11:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sparrow2000.livejournal.com
I feel very guilty about how much I enjoyed writing this encounter. You are right, Lindsey knows exactly what buttons to push and it was great fun helping him do it.

I did wonder about writing the flip side of this from Lindsey's point of view. I know in my head what he's thinking, so I'll see if that filters onto the page at some point, perhaps later in the year. :)

Date: 2016-03-20 10:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] velvetwhip.livejournal.com
YOU WROTE MORE WILLOW!!!!! *squees and squees and squees*

It is so insidiously believable that Lindsey has manipulated her into the spell to bring Buffy back! Brilliant stuff in every way! LOVE IT!!!!! LOVE IT!!!!!! LOVE IIIIIIIIIT!!!!!!


Gabrielle

Date: 2016-03-20 11:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sparrow2000.livejournal.com
I wrote more Willow. I've had this swimming in my head for a while, so it was nice that it finally decided to come out.

I'm glad it was believable that Lindsey could manipulate her in this way. Insidious is a wonderful word, so thank you!

Date: 2016-03-20 11:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] velvetwhip.livejournal.com
This is already on my list for next year's Willowy Goodness!


Gabrielle

Date: 2016-03-20 11:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sparrow2000.livejournal.com
Wow, thank you. I'm incredibly flattered.

Date: 2016-03-20 10:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baphrosia.livejournal.com
Ooooh. I absolutely love the idea that Lindsey's responsible setting Willow on this path with his subtle maneuvering. But why? What's he up to? Hmmm...

Date: 2016-03-20 11:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sparrow2000.livejournal.com
The idea of Lindsey being behind Willow's actions post The Gift really appealed to me, so I'm thrilled you enjoyed it.

I think at some point this year I will probably write the flip side from Lindsey's PoV and we'll see what's going on in that brain of his. *g*

Date: 2016-03-21 12:56 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] baudown.livejournal.com
That manipulative bastard!

Date: 2016-03-21 01:07 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sparrow2000.livejournal.com
Isn't he fun! *g*

Date: 2016-03-21 02:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shakatany.livejournal.com
Hmm I did wonder how Willow got the idea of how to bring Buffy back. You came up with a very good explanation.

Shakatany

Date: 2016-03-21 02:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sparrow2000.livejournal.com
Thank you hon, I'm glad it worked for you. Once I got the idea and started thinking about it, the more it seemed very plausible to me. :)

Date: 2016-03-21 06:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thismaz.livejournal.com
Beautifully paced and a prime piece of manipulation. Very nice. And the additional bit works really well.

Date: 2016-03-22 12:46 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sparrow2000.livejournal.com
Thank you, love. I take that as a great compliment! *g*

Date: 2016-03-24 03:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] postholedigger.livejournal.com
Oh dear. Lindsey can be such a scumbag. This was wonderful, and your Willow is dead on. She really is the poster girl for intelligent people who are dumb as rocks. Heh.

Date: 2016-03-24 08:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sparrow2000.livejournal.com
But he's such an engaging scumbag! *g*

Thank you hon, I'm really happy that you thought I got Willow right. She doesn't talk to me the way Xander does, so it's good know that it hit the mark I was going for.

Thanks as always!

s xx

Date: 2016-04-17 11:37 am (UTC)
double_dutchess: (Willow)
From: [personal profile] double_dutchess
Oh ho, that's an intriguing idea that it was sneaky Lindsey who manipulated Willow into bringing Buffy back! Willow really was an easy victim for him.

Date: 2016-04-17 05:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sparrow2000.livejournal.com
Thank you, I'm glad you found it intriguing. Once I'd had the thought, I couldn't get it out of my head and just had to get it down on paper. *g*
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