Without You 12b

QUESTION TIME

Dreams of peaceful normal streets under a deep blue sky where rudely interrupted by the piercing sting of something sharp at her throat. Diedra woke up alert and ready for action just like she always did; only to lie there helpless, staring up at the angrily flushed face of Cordelia Chase.

“Guess what’s scarier than having a skilled hand with a knife at your throat” Cordy whispered softly. Deidra blinked and slowly moved her head from side to side. “Having somebody with no idea what they’re doing, holding a knife at your throat”, was the dry finish.

Cordy waited a beat, “That would be me. I’ve never done this before and I haven’t the faintest idea how much pressure is too much. So if I were you I wouldn’t move a muscle, okay” at the resultant nervous nod Cordy relaxed a little.

“I’ve just had a really unpleasant experience which I’d like to share with you. Woman to woman” Deidra’s eyes widened and her lips parted to speak. Cordy interrupted harshly.

“It’s my turn to ask questions now, got it?” Anger had her gripping the knife tighter, digging in a little more. Pinned under the sheet by the surprisingly strong girl above her, Deidra could do nothing other than lie utterly still.

Riding high on temper and sheer gritted determination, Cordelia glared down at the seemingly frail face on the pillow; refusing to be swayed by that façade, knowing there was more to this woman than met the eye.

“I am sick and tired of being screwed by everyone around me, thinking they can use me. Well I’ve got news for you. Not anymore you can’t – cos the bitch is well and truly back. Meaning I’ll gut you like a fish if you don’t tell me what I want to know- clear enough”? Deidra gave another slow blink.

“For starters, what’s the dish on this so called help you’ve asked Angel for”?

Deidra licked her dry lips and spoke, slowly and surely. “To kill the Master and remove the barrier” she admitted, her already husky voice made grittier with fear.

Incredulous Cordy gaped at her. “Kill the master? Are you nuts do you even know what happened the last time those two got together?, urgh nevermind..go on” she prodded the terrified old woman.

“He’s the only one can do it. No human could hope to defeat the Master and few vampires either. We believe Angel stands a good chance.” Deidra tried to keep her answers less provocative since the last one had nearly given her a heart attack with the knife being so close.

“Why” Asked Cordy bluntly, a frown creasing between her brows.

“Incentive- he has one” answered Deidra tensing and keeping her own gaze fixed on Cordelia’s, seeing the instant suspicion crystallised in them.

“What incentive”? Cordy swooped on that inexplicable statement; reacting to the anxious churning that had started up in her belly. Deidra made no reply, just shook her head. She didn’t need to, realised an aghast Cordy.

“It’s me isn’t it?” She whispered more to herself than the woman whose life she held under her hands. Shocked hazel bored deep into hooded silver. “You offered him me in return- didn’t you“? Her voice rose at the last, harsh and strained in accusation.

For a very long second Cordelia felt frozen, then a red mist swam before her and she exploded back to life. Her free hand dragged the woman up as she reared back, shaking the smaller woman hard enough to rattle her teeth. “How could you do that?” She yelled hoarsely; then dropped her back, disgusted. “I trusted you- okay, not much but..”

There was a snick and Cordy froze. “Please get off me, Cordelia and stand back” with no choice Cordy obeyed. The old fashioned revolver materialised from under the covers held unwaveringly in the old woman’s hand. “Forgive me- I’ve learned to defend myself in these hard times”.

“Good for you. Got a stake under there cos I might need one when you throw me to the wolves- or wolf as the case may be” retorted Cordelia sarcastically as she carefully eased off the pallet.

“How long do you think it’ll be before the demons find us? Well I’ll tell you- a few months at best. The humans at the farm aren’t breeding and they are running low on ‘stock’ and when it’s gone- they’ll come looking for us. When that happens were doomed”. Cordelia stared hypnotised into the revolvers round hole, listening to yet another end of the world scenario, dimly wondering why the hell she should care.

“I had a granddaughter, not much older than you, and pregnant with her first when the barrier came up. She’s dead now but her child still lives, if you can call it that, at the farm. Do you imagine there is *anything* I wouldn’t do to save that child”?

“Guess not” Cordy murmured flatly with an edge of reproach. Still she dropped the knife to land harmlessly to the floor, it’s dull edge reflecting the flickering candlelight; then hugging her arms tight around her body, turned away to hide the sheen of tears.

“Look Cordelia” Deidra lowered the gun until it pointed harmlessly away from the girl and sighed heavily, “If there was another way..”

“Don’t start with that I know the drill. I’m not dumb” Cordy whirled to pace back and forth. Deidra stayed silent watching the girl try to settle the conflict that had risen inside her.

Finally Cordelia slowed then stopped. “Tell me one thing. Why did you tell me all that stuff about Angelus- if you intended to just hand me over later on”?

“I was afraid that you might change your mind and go back on your own. Then we would lose our leverage” Deidra shrugged uncomfortable. “I thought that if I told you those things, you’d stay as far away from him as possible”.

“Until you gave me to him like a ..trussed up chicken or something”, snarled Cordelia as the bubble of rage surfaced again. “God! You make me sick”

Agitated anew she went back to pacing, “I don’t understand why he didn’t just take me tonight and save himself the trouble”. Frowning hard in thought, she went back over that strange and now even less understandable confrontation with Angel in the tunnel.

“I can’t help you there; I’m as surprised as you- although relieved doesn’t begin to describe it”.

Cordy ducked her head, pushed out a ragged breath and sat down on the pallet to stare numbly at her hands. Next to her Deidre just waited, not prompting her; she didn’t need to she realised when she saw how distraught the girl was. “He wants to *own* me.” Cordy admitted hoarsely. “How am I supposed to deal with that- live with that? It’s impossible”.

“Cordelia I know I’ve given you every reason to discard anything I tell you. But I truly believe that it isn’t possessiveness that drives him where you’re concerned” She paused to stress the point she was trying to make. “I think he loves you”.

Silence. Then, “you wouldn’t say that if you’d been there earlier, believe me” replied Cordy dejectedly. Then shut her eyes and covered them with a hand. “I haven’t even read the diary yet- can’t face it”.

Deciphering that mumble took a while, then it clicked and remembering their earlier talk Deidra asked in surprise. “He gave you the diary”? Cordy nodded “Can I see it”?

Too dispirited to care Cordy pulled the book out of her back pocket and tossed it in Deidra’s lap. Then keeping her head down and eyes covered sat and just listened to the rustle of pages. After a few minutes it went silent and curious she looked up to see Deidra looking at her strangely. “What”?

“Hmm, can I ask; did you happen to read the page before the damning one”?

Cordy pursed her lips then shrugged. “I have no idea. I flicked but I was so mad I don’t think anything else sank in”.

“In that case” Deidra handed it back to her, a finger pointing at the bottom of the previous page, “I think you should read that”. Not sure she wanted to Cordy reluctantly took it and read….

I had a dream that.. she turned over.. Angel and Spike seduced me today... Dumbstruck she stared into space.

“What!! This can’t be right- can it”? Exclaimed Cordy staring back at the page, then flicked back and forth with a kind of horrified fascination colouring her face. “Dammit, how did I miss that. Kinda crucial and all”?

“Maybe you were feeling insecure at the time” soothed Deidra, knowing what young girls in love with older men were like. Only in this case centuries were involved instead of mere decades. She watched the girl pace again, having leapt up in sheer dumbstruck amazement, and wondered did she ever run out of energy.

“Maybe? Hah there was no maybe about it. Crap, how could I have been so … urg, I hate being wrong” Wailed Cordy, “it makes everything all complicated with apologies and stuff”.

Heaving a sigh, she tossed back her hair and planted firm hands on her jean-clad hips. “Well at least it explains how pissed he was”, she added laconically. “He kinda wigged when I accused him of being a ‘ho'” she explained and a small grin pulled at her full lips.

Deidra almost choked remembering the intimidating vampire she’d clashed with, “I can imagine”.

Cordelia gave Deidra an arch look, “What’s to stop me just walking out and back to him now”?

“Is that what you’re seriously thinking of doing”?

Cordy puffed out a long slow breath, contemplating the option. “I don’t know- dammit he didn’t *act* like he loves me- in fact the dumbass never did” she exclaimed irritably.

“No, he just took you in, chased you down, fed clothed and looked out for you- all of that with him being a vampire too” countered Deidra dryly. Neither mentioned the lovemaking although they were both thinking about it. “I never said he wasn’t obsessive” countered Cordy, “that just isn’t enough for me”.

“Cordelia while I agree obsession does not necessarily mean love, neither does it exclude it” advised the older woman wisely.

Cordy rolled her eyes. “I thought you didn’t want me to just go back to him. Make your mind up already”.

“I don’t but if I can make your eventual return easier” Deidra smiled at the impatient girl and shrugged again.

“Right- I just love how everyone has a hidden agenda around here” was the sarcastic rejoinder from the less than impressed brunette.

“Sign of the times” quipped Deidra sadly. “So will you? Just walk out I mean”

“No” said Cordy slowly, “Just because sicko psycho vamp is now just plain psycho vamp doesn’t make me want to just waltz back in there. I need more time. So don’t worry you get your way this time. You did a good job with the scary vamp tales”.

“Thanks, we aim to please” replied Deidra hiding her relief.

“I bet. But don’t think you’ll get your own way all the time. I intend to be fully involved in this thing- since I already am without even knowing it”. Her glare brooked no refusal. Deidra sighed and agreed- reluctantly.

“Besides if I don’t see him how am I supposed to find out if he does love me or not”?

“I see your point”

***

SPIKE

The bar was doing a brisk business with demons of all persuasions coming and going, talking, arguing and standing around, even some of the less humanoid ones where stomping around on insect like legs or as in one case slithering on tentacles.

One tentacle jammed on a chair leg, “OY watch it” the occupant hotly complained, snapping red rimmed blue eyes shot cold sparks above the snarling mouth. “Stupid letting you in ‘ere getting in everyone’s bleedin’ way, go on ‘git” A foot snapped out, slamming into the leathery hide of the demon and sending it skittering over the stained linoleum floor.

The conversation dropped for moment and the white blonde head of the aggressor swivelled to catch a few eyes and snarl unrepentantly. Then the noise level rose again and still muttering expletives Spike sullenly turned back to his drink.

Dirty glasses littered the table, drying foam patterning the inside from the home brew the bartender cooked up himself. It was pretty lethal stuff and Spike knew he must be seeing things when a cloaked figure pulled out the opposite chair to his and lowered to sit at his table.

Blinking owlishly the blonde vampire stared at the apparition, willing it to go away and when that didn’t work leaned forward to slam the glass on the table and snarl. “I didn’t invite you and you ain’t welcome- now piss off before I rip your sodding ‘head off”.

Rather than scuttling off like it was supposed to the creature raised a familiar grey, clawed hand and twitched the concealing hood aside. Spike narrowed his eyes in instant recognition and a disrespectful smirk pulled at the corners of his mouth.

“Well aren’t we the honoured ones tonight then?” He mocked and sat back to nurse his drink, he eyed his guest over the rim. “What’s with the disguise, going all incognito are you? Not that I blame you, mate- with a mug like yours I would too”.

“I do occasionally like a spirited companion, breaks up the- oh how to put it? Bowing and scraping but I should mention, it is only very occasional”. The voice was deep yet melodic- a strange combination to any who didn’t recognise it and tremble.

Spike snorted into his drink and then lifted the glass in a mocking salute. “Just don’t expect me to call you Master and we’ll get along alright”.

“Do you know what I like about you, my dear William? Apart from your being family of course”.

“No idea- and don’t remind me” Spike shuddered and scowled. “Hate family connections- do nufink but piss you off and mess a bloke around”. He complained scowling and took a deep draught of the beer.

“I understand completely, William. Believe me I know how troublesome family can be” was the sympathetic reply. “What I admire about you is your unsullied joy in being what you are. It’s getting to be a horribly rare trait in this lamentably modern world. So few of our kind know how to truly embrace being the lonely and terrible creatures we were meant to be”. Mourned the old vampire sorrowfully.

“Lonely- says you with your army of sodding worshippers” Spike countered, jeering.

“My point exactly- they are sheep, William. So much cattle, like the humans, only useful for other purposes so that the few who are meant to lead can do so in comfort”. The Master painted the picture he craved himself, sure he could seduce his youngest relation with its powerful allure.

The Master leaned closer and his red eyes pierced the gloom to catch Spike’s with their manic glow. His clawed hand came out to circle the sculpted face, raking the air around the discomforted younger vampire. “It’s such a waste to stay and rot where you are. You can’t tell me your appreciated like you should be” he probed delicately.

“Am I hell” grumbled Spike, and the sullen cast to his mouth got sulkier. “I might be younger but I know a thing or two”. The mumble got lost in the glass again and his throat worked as the beer level dropped to almost nothing, just a hazy brown ring at the bottom of the glass.

“Angelus always was an arrogant pup” Sneered the Master avidly watching the disgruntlement flit over the pale handsome face opposite. “I tried to teach him to share- but like most children there is always one that upsets all of the others”. He added silkily.

“Not bloody interested in sharing meself” dismissed Spike with a woozy wave of one pale hand. “He just doesn’t fuckin listen- that ‘is problem. Big dumb Poof. Too much muscle and not enough between here, ya know” he tapped two fingers against his forehead and smirked. “Now me, I can use me brain and don’t go haring off..”

He fell silent as suspicion finally managed to dispel some of the alcohol-induced haze fogging his wits. Red rimmed blue met gleaming red over the expanse of the scarred wooden table, spilled beer stains and acrid tobacco smoke drifting between the two of them.

“You and me old Grandsire never did you get on did you? I’ve heard the stories”. Spike questioned softly, lounging back and tapping negligent fingers on the table. “Even before he got that effing soul of ‘is back”.

“Don’t believe everything you hear and I don’t care about Angelus” the Master lied dismissively finishing with an airy wave of his hand and a curling lip over gleaming, sharp fangs. “It’s you I care about, William. I hate to think of your wondrous potential being destroyed by a creature sullied by tainted humanity”.

“Thanks. now I feel all warm inside. So is this where you start spouting about how far I’d go if I joined up with you?” Spike didn’t bother to wait for a response. “Forget it, mate. Thanks all the same but it smacks too much of the Mob. Me I prefer me killing and crime as disorganised as I can make it”.

The ancient vampire and the young upstart sat in mute conflict for a minute, letting the wash of noise flow around them, as if their table where an island in a river of jumbled noise. The Master eventually heaved a resigned sigh and stood up to leave.

“Pity but I understand I can’t force your loyalty. I’ll leave you to consider your future and while you do think on this. Angel is going to *die*” The last was forced between gritted fangs in a sibilant hiss, filled with malicious hate. Face contorted with displeasure, the Master without further ado swung around and swept out of the bar.

Spike watched the Master go without any of the other patrons being any the wiser that he’d graced them with his illustrious presence. “Wanker” he sneered in an undertone, then rolling his eyes snatched up the remains of the beer, drained the dregs and stood up himself.

“Right then, you lot.” His raised voice drew all eyes to the arrogantly assured if not so steady vampire. “I want a game of poker and *you* are going to oblige me. Only not just any poncey dick’ll do, so here’s who’s coming off to a back room with me”.

“Sid, stop hiding behind the bleedin’ stairs and get your arse over ‘ere”. Assessing the possibilities Spike swept the room with his lips pursed ad fingering his chin in thought. He lit on a large demon with a shiny bald head. “Oy Baldy you look like my type of trouble, and Pinky next to him too”.

“My skin is always this colour” growled the offended demon. It had a twin crest running over its skull like marching spikes on either side, “I don’t like you. Leave me be” it threatened and turned away to face the bar, sullen discontent in every line of its tense hulking body.

“You don’t know me. So what? I don’t know you either” Spike shrugged carelessly. “No skin of my nose if you just wanna drown yourself in piss poor beer. Me and these” he jerked a thumb at the small gathering, “have got better fish to fry”.

The demon known by a few as Clegg refused to turn around until the sound of a door closing had him turning to stare across the length of the bar. Uncertainty flickered over his fiery face until he forced his eyes back to the amused bartender, a stunted little demon with a permanent grin on its face that caused it no end of trouble.

“What are you looking at it” Clegg growled, then getting up fast enough to raise a few gasps he stormed over to the back-room, half thinking to show arrogant vampires how not to irritate a Pharrlock Demon.

Clegg found an amused blonde vampire waiting for him; embarrassed he sat down at the round table, uneasy yet curious. Spike let them stew for a minute before asking a question that had each and every one of them freezing them in their seats, none willing to look at their neighbour.

“So, who here isn’t bloody sick and tired of being stuck here; like foxes in the chicken-coop from hell”?

Part 13

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