“The hell she is”
Those words growled out by Angel had everyone freezing; nervously looking between the two men. Fred glanced at Wesley who just lowered his chin and nodded at her reassuringly. Lorne tried to smile and laugh it off, anything to break the almost unbearable tension; while Gunn suddenly took an interest in the ceiling while at the same time surreptitiously keeping a close watch on Groo.
Angel stood in the lobby looking up the stairs at the new arrival, his body language the kind that spells violence, in capitals. The silence lengthened as Groo looked back down at Angel with an expression that spoke volumes, fearless and arrogantly assured that he could handle himself.
“I have come to collect her things” said Groo, looking away from Angel and talking to the group as a whole; ignoring Angel’s aggressive denial, which did as it was supposed to and infuriated the vampire even more.
“You are not taking anything from this hotel” snarled Angel moving forward a few paces, stiff with anger; his muscles tight as if he was barely holding himself in check. If he had hackles they would have been standing up by now, thought Lorne, wondering where he could get his hands on some water to throw over the pair one they stopped squaring off and got down to what look like a doozy of a fight.
“You would stop me from doing what she has asked of me? Have you lost all nobility and honour then vampire”? Asked Groo coldly, deliberately stabbing at the heart of Angel’s insecurity and relishing the way he stiffened even more.
Pain lashed through Angel’s insides like claws twisting in his gut, “It’s not true” He denied, trying to hide the fact that he was hurting. “Cordy is where she wants to be”, God he needed to believe that. “I want to know where she is so I can talk to her” he demanded, eyes narrowed with suspicion on the half demon.
“She does not want to see you” said Groo with quiet conviction, changing his attitude to one less aggressive and more ‘sympathetic’.
“I don’t believe you, you’re lying” Fred jumped in, this makes no sense she thought, how could it be possible, when did Cordy change her mind and why?
“I am the Groosalug I do not lie” said Groo with a sharp glance at Fred, who went quiet, unable to dispute that fact and looking damned unhappy about it.
“We know who you are” said Wesley severely, “but we still want so see Cordelia in person before we’re satisfied”. He had a great deal less faith in Pylean folklore than Fred did.
“Forget satisfied” Angel interrupted still looking at Groo with unwavering intensity “I don’t give a rat’s ass what you say. Cordy is not leaving with you”. He didn’t care what this asshole said he wanted to see Cordy; he’d deal with her wanting to leave then. He pushed the pain aside to deal with later; for now he had only one focus and that was getting her location out of Groo, piece by piece if necessary.
“Cordy’s stuff is in the basement” Piped up Fred, earning her glare from all four of her male colleagues, she just shrugged and making sure Groo was looking elsewhere flicked her eyes to indicate the stairs and held her hands up; imitating holding bars.
They got the message and Wesley took the initiative, walking towards the door leading to the basement, they all followed including Groo while giving Angel a suspicious look and waiting for him to precede him. Angel ignored the unspoken invitation to go first and stood back his face expressionless now, hiding his rioting emotions and biding his time.
Once downstairs Fred, Wes, Gunn and Lorne stood facing Groo; two on either side of the cell door that now stood open. Groo looked momentarily confused when he saw it and then it clicked and he stiffened. But it was too late, Angel stood directly behind him, a silent and menacing presence.
“Tell us where Cordelia is or you cool your heels in there while we go find her ourselves anyway”, said Angel, watching and waiting for the attack that he knew would come; he wanted it so bad he could taste it.
Fred moved off for a moment and went over to the cupboard at the rear of the basement; they needed a chain to lock the cell now since Gunn had managed to bust it open the last time they’d been in there themselves.
Groo saw the opportunity and dived for her, his hands outstretched to snag her jacket and get himself a hostage. Fred felt the move though and dropped to the floor, Groo’s hands came up with nothing and Angel grabbed him by the belt of his pants and almost casually yanked back, sending the half demon crashing into the wall under the stairs.
Groo shook his head to clear it and looked at Angel, he smiled then with uncharacteristic coldness, his blue eyes filled with a gleam of anticipation. “I have not had a good fight since leaving here; I will enjoy beating you to a bloody pulp, vampire”.
“You have it backward Groo, I’m going to whoop your ass”, Angel smiled back every bit as coldly, his body moving with predatory grace, circling the man he now considered his enemy and so his prey.
“I am the true champion here, you are just a tool for the powers” goaded Groo deliberately while flexing his arms and shoulders and matching the circling movements.
“Who gives a shit” said Angel without heat, Gunn snorted with laughter and moved to the side to let Fred get behind them as they all moved to clear a space and watch. “So he can swear then”? Gunn asked Wesley and just got a raised brow and a small smile of agreement back.
That was the end of the verbal sparring, Angel waited for Groo to make the first move using the time to nurture the rage coursing through him. Channelling it to the demon inside him, feeding it and feeling it rise to the surface, making his skin tingle with pure unadulterated aggression.
Groo aimed a pile driver punch straight at Angel’s face, all of his considerable strength behind it making it capable of crunching bone. Angel caught the fist but didn’t try to stop it, simply held on and let Groo’s face come closer as he helplessly followed through, unable not to with no connection to halt him. When Groo’s face was only whisker away from his own Angel vamped out in full demonic form; feral yellow eyes underneath a ridged brow and with hungry fangs on full display as he opened his mouth and growled so savagely it was more of roar.
Groo jerked back and staggered a little before righting himself and taking a deep breath to steel his rattled nerves, Angel let him; satisfied that Groo was no longer under any illusions about what was going to happen here.
As he’d been trained Groo carried on with his offensive, using his strength and speed to attack at full stretch, ready to fend of any counter attacks. Only Angel made none, He let Groo’s confidence ebb as he deflected or avoided every strike no matter how fast or skilled. The coldness Angel used to maintain his control of the demon within was nothing but a dim memory, obliterated by the heat of jealousy and anger, fuelled by pain.
After a few minutes of this Groo was so frustrated he took a risk and left himself open, his midriff exposed with both arms back drawing for more strength. Angel instantly slammed his own fist directly into Groo’s stomach with all of his considerable might. Groo doubled over, gasping for breath only to have it knocked out of him again when a follow up punch to the mouth had blood flying off to the side from his now split lip.
Angel could smell the blood and growled again as the blood lust and hunger enraged him further, inciting the need to inflict more pain, a need wholly instinctive to his demonic nature. Playtime was over, he followed Groo’s downward path and grabbed his chin with his left hand so that he could drive another punch onto that bloody face with his right, crunching the nose ligaments and making Groo gag as blood ran down his throat.
Groo stiffened as he felt himself lifted off the ground by his shirt and fabric tore as Angel threw him across the basement to land several feet away. He looked up and saw the vampire coming at him again; the snarling demonic face ruthless and fangs glistening even in the dim light. He tamped down a spurt of fear and waited for Angel to get close enough.
Groo snapped out a booted foot and felt triumph flood him again when he caught the vampire’s knee driving him back and down, he made himself rise and take advantage of the only opportunity he’d had so far.
Angel felt himself hit the ground and used his weight to balance on his shoulder blades and then swung his legs up, the momentum and drive allowing him to rise but not quite quickly enough. Groo pulled a foot out from beneath him again and then followed it up with a stamping boot to the groin.
This time it was Angel who doubled up in pain, but what Groo didn’t or simply couldn’t realise was that the vampire within Angel thrived on receiving as well as giving pain. Angel rolled away and spun on the small of his back; bring his own legs into the action and catching the back of the half demon’s legs.
Groo fell to his knees and then could only clutch with desperate hands the legs that were suddenly wrapped with destructive force around his throat, the powerful muscles constricting and crushing his windpipe. Angel used his back and thighs to force Groo back down to the floor again, not relenting, gritting his teeth and refusing to release his deadly lock around the struggling man.
Once on the floor Angel sat up and brought a fist down onto Groo’s chest, the recoil would have twisted his own back if he hadn’t finally released him at the same instant the blow landed. Then he rose and waited for Groo to recover, backing away a few steps but not enough to let Groo think the worst was over.
“Where is Cordelia”? He snapped it out, his voice unnaturally deep.
Groo staggered upright, blood was still spurting from his mouth and nose, to the vampire the air was misted with it, his hunger increased but he tamped it down. Groo laughed, a crazy sound coming from his battered face, “I will not tell you and you will never find her, detective”, he said with careful mockery in every word.
Angel growled infuriated and struck with an unreasoning fear that had nothing to do with the conflict, his body clenched with an all-encompassing surge of pain, and the resulting fury was more than he could contain. “I will not let her go”, he roared the words that had been spinning through his mind since Groo had turned up, finally releasing them as they were dredged up from the depths of his soul.
Reason fled, emotions and the basest of violent instincts drove him to attack without thought of life only death. Wes, Fred and the others watched in horrified silence as the two went at each other in a vicious frenzy again and again.
Groo sensing the pain he had inflicted found a second wind and managed to strike out and drive back the vampire, but Angel would just rise and come back hardly slowing down for any blow that landed. They were both bloodied by this stage, but neither noticed nor cared; each focused entirely on the other man they considered a rival.
Finally Groo started to tire as he had been losing blood for longer, and not helped by the fact that his wounds did not heal quite as quickly as Angel’s. He couldn’t manage to duck from another crunching blow to the jaw and his head snapped back, then Angel whipped out a kick that also caught his jaw sending him crashing into the wall behind him, he stayed upright only because another kick followed that one and then another, his head continuously battered against the cement wall.
His head swum dizzily but he managed to see a fist fly toward him through swollen and slitted eyes, but it was not possible to avoid it, he could hardly move. It didn’t matter anyway, because he hardly felt it, his face was numb. Angel continued to pummel the half demon with blows to both body and face, only microseconds between each one.
Finally Angel stepped back gathering himself for a last killing kick to the throat that would crush the larynx. But just as he was about to unleash it, he felt strong hands gripping him by the upper arms and pulling him away; he snarled and twisted out of their grip, turning around to face his friends; his face murderous.
“That’s enough Angel,” said Wesley unflinchingly, not backing away from the rage that poured off the vampire in waves. Gunn stood beside Wesley watching Angel carefully; prepared to defend himself, but hoping like hell it wouldn’t be necessary.
“Think Angel, even if he’s telling lies about Cordy, she would never forgive you if you killed him” he said, praying it would be enough to get past the blood lust.
Fred moved to stand between the two, certain that he would think twice before hurting her. Lorne joined her but felt a lot less certain about that self same thing.
Angel backed away from them his hands clenching and unclenching as he battled for self-control, they watched him; aware of it and trusting he would be successful. Finally he crouched down on his haunches and covered his face with his hands, covering his eyes and nose to block out the smell and sight of the blood gleaming with red and tempting fire on the floor, walls and on Groo now slumped on the floor.
Wesley signalled to Gunn and Lorne to pick up the unconscious half demon and take him out of there while the going was good, they didn’t hesitate.
Upstairs unknown to the gang a slim figure was slouched over the reception desk counter, grey face almost pressed to the screen of the monitor, having watched with avid enjoyment the scene that had been played out and also made sure certain parts had been recorded. It darted upstairs with inhuman speed when it heard them stagger up the stairs with Groo held up between them.