Without You 13b

SPARRING

Wesley and Spike did a slow dance in the circle left by the wary men and women who’d turned up for the training. Angel, appeased by the numbers who’d turned out stood to the side and broke the moves down for them. His voice carrying to the far reaches of the cave with ease.

To Cordelia he looked remote and coldly aloof. Why are you doing this? She wanted to ask him, well shake out of him actually. He’d actually dared to rebuff her in Deidra’s room, disappearing before she’d finished speaking his name, leaving her staring in dumb hurt at his broad back as he walked away from her.

Not to mention that silent and not exactly friendly exchange at the assembly. Cordelia was confused and she didn’t like the feeling one little bit.

“Time to turn the tables, big guy” she swore under her breath and eased her way closer to the front.

Cordelia deliberately approached from behind and without his coat there was nothing to hide his sudden rigidity and she guessed he’d caught her scent. Her heart picked up a pace and her palms went damp, not with fear but a weird kind of excitement. She was tired of being a pawn and was taking her own fate into her hands. Whether that included Angel would depend on him.

Cordy didn’t stop until she was standing not two steps behind him. She saw his shoulders twitch irritably and a rueful smile pulled at her full lips. I could always get to you couldn’t I? Well watch this space, she promised him silently and waited for an opening.

Free to look Cordelia let her eyes wander over him, tracing the impressive lines of his muscular body in the plain knit and clinging shirt, lingering with female appreciation on his ass, hating the nondescript pants, then travelling down his long legs. She was so busy looking she forgot to listen and nearly missed a prime opportunity.

Will you leave! He wanted to howl at her. She was driving him crazy, especially when he knew she was so close he could just turn around, stretch out and touch her. He heard the beat of her heart, the rapid tattoo of it, getting faster as she drew nearer. If possible he stiffened even more.

He’d lost count the number of times he’d changed his mind and decided to just take her back. He knew where and how, so why not? A few times he’d even gotten so far as to snatch up his coat and head out the door, his head filled with fantasies of what he was going to do with her when she was back under his control.

Then he’d stop as Deidra’s voice would come back to haunt him. “You never intended to let them have her did you.…A confrontation with the Master was inevitable”.

That was the crunch, the sting in the tail and the fly in his ointment. Bastard deserved to be dusted just for that, he thought viciously.

“Who’s next” he growled, shoving his hands in his pants pockets and shrugging to try and loosen his tight shoulders.

“Me” declared Cordy taking a single step forward so she stood directly behind him. If he turned as he was, his arm would brush her tee-shirt covered breasts.

Angel didn’t turn around. “Get out of here, Cordelia” he snarled over his shoulder.

“No way, I have as much right-“, all of a sudden she was facing over six foot of vibratingly angry male. Taking an instinctive step back Cordelia looked up into that hard face as it loomed over hers.

“I’ll decide that” Angel gritted out furiously. His fingers twitched and every muscle in his body locked to stop himself from picking her up. To do what he wasn’t sure and didn’t intend to find out, because once he started he knew he wouldn’t stop.

Cordelia folded her arms and raised a single brow into a perfect arch. “Not anymore you won’t” she countered sweetly and gave a tiny flutter of her lashes just to wind him up some more.

“Not slave girl anymore remember”? It was his own fault she was being this way, she rationalised to herself. If he’d been willing to be reasonable, this wouldn’t need doing.

Angel folded his arms too mimicking her stance and narrowed his eyes on hers. “I’m kinda busy here, little girl. Go back to your toys. Your not fighting and that’sfinal“. Even the thought of her fighting in the coming battle and maybe getting hurt was paralysing. He didn’t care what he had to do, she was staying here in relative safety.

The cave full of people faded until it was just the two of them locked in verbal combat. “We’ll see about that” replied Cordy unaffectedly. “No way you can stop me really is there? With everyone gone I can do as I like”.

“A tie and gag works wonders” shot back Angel, glaring down into her rebellious face. He meant it too; in fact, that was the least of it.

“I’ll keep that in mind. What’s up, Angel? Don’t tell me the big bad vamp is afraid one human girl is going to hurt him”? His eyes flickered at the pointed jab and his hard face got tighter with a jaw clenched hard enough to crack bone. They both knew she wasn’t talking about today.

“Indulge me” she whispered softly, her gaze unwavering. She saw the flare of awareness light his dark fathomless eyes for just a split second before he blinked, banishing it. Slumbering desire rekindled and punched in his gut. Was she daring or challenging him, or just trying to drive him insane? He didn’t know and suddenly he didn’t care either.

Off guard, Cordy caught the wolfish grin he gave then gasped when a hard hand snagged her wrist and yanked her forward into the ring. “I’m always willing to indulge you. You know that” Angel rasped, and a shiver slid down her spine at the sand-papery sound of it.

The next thing she knew a stake was slapped into her open palm and she was facing off with the smirking vampire, his whole expression a statement of intent. He wasn’t going to make this easy and in all likelihood wanted to humiliate her. Whatever- Her self-esteem was robust enough for this and who the hell cares about fighting anyway? Except for dumb males on hormone overload that is?

Spike and Wesley both having surrendered the field to the more obvious combatants posed by the dark vampire and one determined Cordelia Chase. Cordy meanwhile tilted her chin proudly and tried to see past the insolently amused mask he was wearing.

A memory tickled at the back of her mind and she seized it. That was it! He looked exactly like he had in the kitchen that time with Darla- like she was nothing more than a dumb animal to be trampled on. Instead of making her mad that realisation gave her hope. He’d been lying his ass of then and she’d bet her life he was doing the same now.

She’d hurt him and he wanted to punish her for that, understandable if not exactly on her top ten most admirable traits in a man list. Who cares, I’m no frickin’ saint either. If it was the other way around I’d be foaming at the mouth and wanting to skin him alive for running out on me.

Her breath caught, constricted by her closed throat as she was gripped by the need to just drop the damn stake, leap into his arms and put all that aggression to much better use. She blinked, and sucking in a steadying breath, banished the image to another part of her mind.

“Tell me what to do” she insisted and tucking her hair behind her ears, placed her feet apart to steady herself.

That flash of something warm and needy in her hazel depths staggered him, especially when she didn’t try and hide it. Even as pissed off with her as he was he couldn’t deny she didn’t have a coy bone in her body. Confusion overrode anger, and feeling bereft by the change, Angel forcefully squashed the urge to simply call this off, and took her through the moves with none of the taunting offensiveness he’d planned.

His hands were gentle on her hips as he guided her into bending her knees, explaining that since she was smaller than your average man she needed to use a different angle of attack. Unintentionally their bodies brushed as they moved together. Her breasts against his rock hard chest and abdomen; his hands and arms on the curves of her waist and hips.

Even absorbed in keeping her actions in harmony with his, Cordy blushed when she felt her nipple’s pucker into tight buds at the light stimulation just being near him seemed to give her. Resisting the urge to cover them she concentrated on following his low voiced instructions to the letter.

Their forgotten audience watched in intermingled horror and fascination as the scrappy pair melted before their wide eyes; hardly believing that the girl had not only survived the confrontation but seemed to have tamed this particularly ruthless looking vampire with little more than shared glances.

The impromptu show was brought to an end when catching the hand holding the stake; Angel brought it round and up to complete the manoeuvre, pressing the tip of it into his chest over his still heart. For a moment they stayed that way, locked together with his hand covering hers until Angel dropped his back to his side, leaving himself unprotected.

Seeing the stake poised as if to strike and realising how vulnerable he’d made himself. Cordy gasped and drew it sharply away, only just managing to check the impulse to press her palm protectively over the spot. Her eyes came up to catch his with their shimmering honeyed warmth and her soft mouth opened to tell him she was sorry. Though for what she wasn’t sure.

“That looked excellent Cordelia. But I think it’s someone else’s turn now- don’t you, Angel” asked Deidra with false calm from the entrance, bringing all eyes swinging towards her and distracting them from the mesmerising sight of the imposingly large vampire and the beautiful girl both obviously enthralled with one another.

Angel struggled to come up from the mental fog their touching had left him in. Half of him wanting to rip Deidra’s head off for interrupting, while the other half was relieved the moment of weakness had passed.

It wouldn’t happen again he swore to himself. Trust, love and gentleness, all that human crap- it was dead and gone. He didn’t want her for that.

Growling he shook his head to clear it, and backed away from temptation. “Yeah” he muttered the disgruntled answer and lifted a shaking hand, rubbed at the back of his neck.

“Spike, you and Wesley take over again”, he took the stake off a silent Cordelia and tossed it to the blonde vampire, then snatching up his coat off the floor shrugged it back on. Still reeling from the last few minutes Angel didn’t dare look at her so kept his gaze at floor level, doing his best to make sure no one could tell how unhinged he was feeling.

Cordelia waited as patiently as she could, fully expecting him to do his usual grab and drag. Hoping that they could finally talk out their differences and start afresh. Only he didn’t much to her consternation. He just walked out without giving her another look.

Hazel eyes narrowed to slits of pure dumbstruck rage. “What the hell is this? Am I living in an alternate reality where people just walk out on me? That’s twice in oneday”. She exclaimed, raising her arms dramatically before slapping them on her hips. Cordy was positively vibrating with outrage. No one answered her, they didn’t dare.

Since audience participation wasn’t strictly necessary she carried on regardless. “If he thinks for one minute-” Her rant was interrupted by Deidra again.

“Cordelia, can I talk to you”?

“Later” Cordy growled back and not even sparing her a look, pushed her way through the silent onlookers, intent on catching up with the most infuriating vampire in history. She’d deal with the interfering old woman after, but her first priority was Angel.

Thankfully she didn’t need to be any kind of a blood hound to follow him, all she had to do was follow the bodies cautiously flattened against walls with frightened faces looking down the direction he’d obviously taken. Satisfaction surged and after sending up quick thanks that the busier tunnels were lighted, a concession to relieve anxiety about the new arrivals, Cordelia chased after him, not slowing her pace.

***

TRICKERY

Angel could hear her race after him and cursed luridly in his head. He had two choices he could either quicken his pace faster than she could possibly keep with and maybe get caught out later or they could get this over with now. He chose the latter and sensing an empty chamber on his left, pushed inside.

Cordelia lost sight of him when she rounded a corner and swearing under her breath, sped up, only to find herself swung into a chamber by a hand that seemed to materialise out of nowhere. Gasping and startled she pulled away at the first opportunity and stared at the shadowed figure with her chest heaving from exertion.

“Angel”? She asked unable to see him properly.

She heard the scratch of a match and then the flare as it caught and she relaxed when she saw it was indeed her quarry. Angel carefully lit the candle beside the pallet and then slowly turned back to face her.

“What do you want, Cordelia”? He didn’t look encouraging and Cordelia spared a moment to imagine strangling Deidra for ruining a perfectly good moment back at the training session. It seemed she was right back where she’d started- at square one.

“We need to talk” she told him firmly, “and stop-” she nearly said running out on me, but quick wits saved her, “ignoring me” she substituted with a scowl.

Swallowing back a scathing comeback in the interest of keeping this short, Angel merely shrugged. “Talk away” he offered indifferently. Keeping his face free of expression was getting damn near impossible but after a century of practice he coped.

“I read the diary. I know I made a big mistake. I was nervous and had just realised-” Cordy started to say, rushing to try and get it all out before the storm clouds gathering on his face let loose.

A century of practice was a drop in the ocean Angel realised, and nowhere near enough to deal with this one girl. Pain speared him quickly followed by panic and rage. He didn’t want to hear it- whatever stunning revelation had sent her running. He didn’t want to know.

A startled cry escaped just before a hard palm was flattened against her lips, sealing the rest of what she’d been about to say behind it. Wide-eyed she stared into the furious brown swirls of bitter darkness that were his eyes and froze.

“I don’t give a rat’s ass what maggoty idea you got in that fertile brain of yours” he shook her with his other hand on her bare upper arm, “Are we clear”? His fingers flexed on her warm skin and then he dropped her arm as if it burned.

“If this is some harebrained scheme to keep me sweet and interested cooked up between you and that old witch forget it. I don’t need or want stroking”, he sneered and not for the first time felt an overwhelming urge to wring her neck and that just for starters.

Stunned but unhurt, Cordy stared at him and licked her dry lips. “I don’t get you” she whispered while confusion warred with hurt. “Why have you even come here”?

“You mean to tell me Ms Curious never asked”? Angel scoffed and raised a disbelieving brow.

“Get real, of course I did” returned Cordy acidly, losing her temper a little at the disdainful way he’d put it. “Which is why I don’t understand what your deal is”.

“My deal? It’s simple. I don’t need you willing” He revealed silkily feeling a perverse satisfaction bloom inside him when her eyes widened even more in shock as understanding dawned.

Cordy stiffened as a wall of hurt came up to blind her with stinging tears. She opened her mouth to tell him if he wasn’t such an Asshole he could have got her back willing, but she shut her mouth again and blinked away the tears.

“I had no idea you were so hard up you have to resort to rape”? She lashed out her voice abrasive. Repugnance growing she stepped back only to have him follow with a soft measured tread.

“Who said anything about rape? I can be very persuasive” Angel demurred smoothly, trapping her against the wall with both arms on either side of head.

“Don’t split hairs with me- its all the same”. Cordy shot back, feeling as if her throat was raw. She couldn’t look at him so concentrated on the candle a few feet away.

“That’s were your wrong. There’s a huge difference when you add, taking away every iota of resistance slowly and surely until a girl’s literally begging for it. Just think of the humiliation”. The relish in that soft purr was too horrible to describe and an ugly feeling of loathing uncurled in her belly.

“That’s gross” She shoved with all of her might, needing to get away from the crawling sensation he was bringing out in her.

“Glad you think so” Angel stepped back and welcomed the chill her obvious disgust woke in him.

A part of him was howling to be free and for a change it wasn’t the demon in him but the man. I loved her, reverberated with painful anguish in his skull. He shoved it back down with merciless determination and watched her like the predator he was- and all he wanted to be, he told himself fiercely.

Revulsion surged queasily, making her feel light-headed until something occurred to her halting it and making hazel eyes narrow thoughtfully. Not giving herself time to change her mind she put it to the test and slapped him as hard as she could.

Having expected her to run screaming hysterically she caught him off guard and the slap landed with stinging force, driving his head to one side for an instant before he swung back to glare at her in dark molten fury.

Cordy waited, tense but almost certain and the silence lengthened punctuated only by her sharp panting breaths and the creak of his leather jacket. The air seemed to crackle with tension until finally she realised she’d been right. He wouldn’t hit her back.

Relief and red-hot temper had her nearly following it with a second blow but she held back and simply stood toe to toe with him. She was so mad she could feel charges of electricity shooting through her body and she was sure her hair must be standing on end with it.

“You lying jerk. What kind of an idiot do you take me for, huh? I mean please, do I look blonde to you”?

“What the hell are you talking about” Angel growled, glowering darkly at the sharp tongued and high indignant young woman confronting him with such impressively scornful fury.

“Did you seriously expect me to believe that the same guy who took in two strays, fed, bathed and lets not forget nursed me back to health is capable of doing that to me”? She felt like kicking his ass all over the place for scaring her like that.

“You have no idea what I’m capable of” He snarled back, resenting the fact that the chill was gone and he was back to feeling things he had no business feeling.

He backed away shaking his head at her, denying what she was saying. She couldn’t know that much, how could she? You ran out on me he didn’t yell it or even say it, just pulled it back into that dark place where pain lived.

“That’s bullshit and we both know it. Maybe in your bad vamp days you might have got a kick out of that but I know you, Angel” she advanced on him, one finger stiff and ready to poke with all she had. “If you thought I was really unwilling you’d let me go and that’s the truth”.

She was so busy attacking she didn’t even notice how fast he was giving ground. His back hit the far wall and she still hadn’t finished. “Geeze I don’t believe that I let you sucker me in even for a second with that crap” Cordy scoffed and rolled her eyes in self disgust.

“Oh, I don’t doubt you’ve thought about it a few times- maybe; and believe me you lose points for that. But that’s just you being a guy and wanting to get back at me for hurting you”. Cordy was running out of steam but not arguments. For a moment she’d let herself be convinced that she’d loved a monster, proving that wrong was the high point of her life and she was rolling with it.

Angel was too stunned to say anything, was actually powerless to do anything except let her words wash over him. She was right, he’d been fooling himself and apparently she knew him better than he did. Sweat popped out on his forehead and a bitter bile rose up as he fought to adjust to having his world go topsy turvy yet again.

He let her continue haranguing while he struggled to come to terms with the fact that he’d lost it all- what was the point in even pretending anymore. No matter what he’d fantasised in the first heat of outraged possessiveness, he couldn’t force her. They’d passed that point a long time ago and that left him with nothing because he knew she’d never be willing.

He’d fucked up; pain and bitter loneliness threatened to consume him and all he could think was that he had to get out of there now.

One second Cordy was riding an emotional high after the roller coaster of the last hour and the next she was landing on her back on the pallet with a startled cry. Scrambling to sit up she searched the chamber only to find he’d gone.

Part 14

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