Without You 14

Part 14

ANGEL

Ironically he ended up at the exact same bar as Spike had, after wandering the streets for hours in a miserable daze, broodily analysing everything until he thought he’d go mad with it.

*When are you ever going to learn, boy? Stop reaching for sky you fool; it’s always going to be out of reach. You might as well hope to walk in the sun as be able to love.* He could almost hear his dead Father’s voice. The Father he’d murdered along with the rest of his family on that long ago night in Ireland.

Why can’t you ever say anything nice, huh? It was always the same. Nothing I ever did was good enough and now you still haunt me. God! I hated being your son but not as much as I hate being hers. Darla the truest bitch hell ever spat up.

*You profane the Lord, Son. So what do you expect but for bad things to happen to you. Darla came to you because you called to her evil with your own black soul. You’ll never amount to anything but the abomination you are and where meant to be.*

Oh shut up, you sanctimonious old fool. Know what? I’m glad you’re dead and I don’t have to listen to your sorry ass preaching. Now leave me ALONE.

*You can send me away like you always did and do, but that won’t change what you and .. *, the ghostly face of his Father seemed to float in front of his reddened eyes, leering at him. *It won’t change the fact that she doesn’t love you. Who can blame her being so full of life like she is and you nothing but a demon wearing a mans body like a cloak.*

“Shut up!” Angel roared anguished.

It took a few seconds for his vision to clear and the taunting words of his Father to stop hammering at his head. Then he sat back down and ignoring the stares of the other patrons dropped his head in his hands.

***

An hour later…

The same glass of cloudy beer he’d got when he first arrived was gracing the scarred table when a pair of stout scuffed boots came into view as he stared blankly at the floor. He didn’t bother to look up but picked up his glass and sipped the bitter brew.

“Hey man; I got a question for you” Jeered a male voice. Angel’s eyes didn’t even flicker in acknowledgement.

“Hey, I’m talkin’ to you”. The same voice said aggressively and a handful of knuckles rapped on his table to get his attention. Slowly Angel looked up and with meticulous precision placed his glass back on the table.

“And what can I do for you”? He asked carelessly offensive. Red rimmed brown eyes stared with cold insolence up at the young cocky vamp.

The vampire only grinned at the jeering tone and pulling out the second chair, dropped into it. As soon as he was settled his two buddies sauntered over and leaned on the next table to them make sure they didn’t miss any of the fun.

“I heard you lost yourself a pretty little package? Is that right?”

More jostling and chuckles from the other two; they noticed his simmering look and quietened down. Angel closed his eyes at the indignity of having anything in common with them and took a deep unneeded breath before tuning them out. If he wasn’t feeling like he had the hangover from hell he’d dust him just for annoying the crap out of him.

“What are you; the mailman?” countered Angel, leaning back in his chair and spreading out his long legs. His eyes locked on target and then didn’t stray from his ‘guest’.

“Hey Clive the mailman” snorted one of his buddies while he nudged his neighbour so they could both laugh at the huge joke.

“Are you two for real”? Angel growled then sighed as a feeling of interminable boredom dropped over him. Why are the young one’s always so fucking useless, noisy and dumb. There should be a law that new vamps get trained before they’re let loose on the rest of us.

Clive was obviously not pleased with the title but laughed along so as not to lose face. Though he turned back to Angel as soon as he could and prodded, “so did you”?

Angel sat forward with a smile. “Clive… can I call you Clive”? He asked as affably as he could manage. Clive nodded and preened at being asked for permission. “I’m not feeling particularly chatty tonight so why don’t you and your pals just run along and play, okay”. Dismissing them from his mind, Angel’s thoughts turned inwards again, recalling saying something similar to Cordy earlier on.

The vamps brought him back to the present when they stiffened and Clive stood up with a sharp scrape of chair legs. “Right” he muttered resignedly and stood too. Before they could blink he plucked a chair up from the table behind him and broke the top into numerous pieces, including several wooden stakes.

The barman opened his mouth to complain and got a dark menacing look levelled at him containing a promise of extra mayhem if he intervened. “Shut up” snarled the irritated vampire. The barman shut up and ducked down.

Angel twirled one of his new stakes in one hand, and seeing that they were momentarily absorbed in watching it move with mesmerised fascination, he scanned the whole of bar for more potential trouble; surprised to notice that of the patrons watching they were the only vamps here tonight.

“Hey Buddy” Clive tried to laugh it off and ended with a gulp. “Yeah; didn’t mean to get you all riled up” said another, the last one hurriedly nodded in agreement.

Angel eyed them carefully, a thoughtful look on his face. Then quirking a brow he sat down and after dropping the stakes back in his jacket pocket picked up his drink, swung his boots onto the broken chair and proceeded to ignore them.

Relieved they headed off back to the bar and relative safety. “Just thought you might be interested about the raid on that secret hideout the humans hole up in”.

That sullen statement hit him like a pile driver and his head jerked up in shock. A multitude of thoughts raced through his brain but he didn’t have the time to act on any of them.

“Gentlemen”

They turned back to find Angel smiling apologetically and holding out fresh chairs at his table. “Please join me. Drinks are on me”.

***

CORDY AND WILLOW

Willow had been trying to straighten the blanket on the pallet and gave a startled shriek when the curtain covering the chamber she was to share with Spike was abruptly thrust back, then relaxed when she saw it was Cordelia.

“Sorry Cordy, I didn’t mean-” she faltered and tried again. “It’s just I’m still adjusting and-“

“It’s okay, Willow. I know how you feel” Interrupted Cordy dryly and walked deeper inside, casting her eyes over the bare space to hide how uncomfortable she suddenly felt.

“Oh right, of course you do, silly me” laughed Willow, feeling every bit as uncomfortable. Silence was worse though she decided and jumped in to fill it. “I’m so sorry about the diary” she announced slightly muffled as she pulled at the hem of her jumper with agitated fingers.

“I know you are” agreed Cordy and a smile broke out, defying the tension but unable to help it seeing Willow just being Willow. It felt so damn good to see something familiar and beloved in this strange place. “It doesn’t matter really” she offered. “Here…” She pulled it out of her back pocket and held it out. “I have it here to give it back to you”.

Willow eyed it like it was made up of live snakes or something. “Eww I don’t want it. Yuck I hate that thing and I swear I’m never writing another diary ever again”. She announced with a very real shudder.

Knowing how stubborn Willow could be Cordy decided it was simpler not to argue and tossed it in the corner. “We’ll burn it” she offered the suggestion with a twinkle in her eyes.

“Great idea” enthused Willow. “I like it we’ll have a ‘burn the diary’ ceremony tomorrow”. The light-hearted moment was ended abruptly when the redhead dropped her eyes. “You should have seen Angel’s reaction to it”. She mumbled in remembered humiliation and fear.

“I can imagine” replied Cordy with a snort as she sat down and lay back to stare up at the drab rock ceiling.

“Er no, you really can’t” denied Willow as she tentatively followed suit so that both girls lay side by side. Jean clad legs dangling down the side.

“That bad huh”?

“Oh yeah” agreed Willow feelingly.

“Tell me about” Cordy turned on her side and propped her chin on one hand. “Tell me what’s happened since I left; particularly Angel; and try not to leave anything out, okay”.

She’d decided it was time to try and figure out what was going inside that thick head of his and find out once and for all if he loved her or not. Asking straight out wasn’t working since they kept getting interrupted or he walked out so…..

Lord help me, I’ve fallen in love with the most difficult, moody, broody, bad-tempered and impossible man-pire in the world. I need all the help I can get.

***

DEIDRA

Deidra found them gossiping on the bed; a charmingly normal sight most of the time except when she was frantic with worry and half out of her mind with paranoia.

“Cordelia, do you know where Angel is”? She asked without preamble before she’d even stepped over the threshold.

Cordelia frowned at the interruption of such a juicy topic but since it happened to be on the same subject matter she shrugged off her annoyance. “No idea I talked to him a while ago but he just-” she walked her fingers to explain the result of her ‘chat’.

“Dammit” exclaimed Deidra and looked to walk out again, then stopped and turned around. “What did you talk about”? She asked suspiciously.

“The deal” answered Cordy shortly with a trace of defensiveness in her tone.

“You did what“? Deidra almost yelled. Then groaned “Please tell me your not serious”. Cordy spread her hands. “All-right what did you talk about exactly”?

“Honeymooning in Florida” quipped Cordy with a dark look. Her eyes caught Willows and she shrugged. Well it was better than a flat out ‘none of you business’.

“Look forget my talk with him. This… whatever it is can’t have anything to do with that”, at least she hoped so, Cordy thought and crossed her fingers. “Tell me what’s the matter and maybe we can help”

Deidra sighed deeply and searched for patience. “Angel has gone missing. We’ve searched everywhere and can’t find a trace”.

What“? Cordy shrieked and jumped off the bed quicker than a scalded cat. “Why didn’t anyone tell me? We have to find him now. I mean he could have gone off and done something dumb and need help”.

“Help with what”? Asked Willow looking confused. “He’s a vampire. He can look after himself”.

“Vampires aren’t invincible, Willow” refuted Cordy sharper than she’d intended. “No I want him found now. As for what- Hello! This is Angel where talking about here. Take your pick…The Master, Darla and every other frickin vamp and squiggly demon in Sunnydale. Any of this ringing a bell”.

ANGEL RETURNS

Angel got back to the compound with less than half an hour left till dawn and walked into an uproar. For every step he took there were at least three humans sprinting away in front of him, tossing him weird looks as they did and almost tripping over their own feet in their haste to get somewhere.

Ignoring them for now he hefted the big white box in his arms to a more comfortable level and just carried on going, thinking he’d find out what the problem was when he got where he was going. He was wrong. The tide turned and before he knew it he was swamped with questions- among other things.

The box was lifted out of arms by a stern faced Wesley and in the next instant he had armfuls of Cordelia trying to climb up his still walking body. Paralysed with sheer surprise his arms dropped to his sides.

Not that it made any difference since she was holding onto him like the proverbial limpet. Dumbstruck all he could do was stare up at her face as she glared down with one serious pout pulling at her bottom lip.

“Where the hell have you been. I’ve been worried about you, dammit” Cordy snapped reproachfully, and her hazel eyes still dark and shadowed with worry bore testimony to that fact. She started to slip down his long body and rather than let go, she simply wrapped her legs around his hips and hauled herself back up.

Not knowing what else to do his arms came up to support her back while he searched for something to say. Not exactly easy when every time he opened his mouth their last encounter threw him for another loop. Not to mention the fact that she was pulsatingly alive in his arms and way too close for comfort.

Why don’t you hate me? His brow wrinkled and conscious of being overheard he retreated from asking it. “I went for a walk” he got out while a confused frown pulled his brows down and wrought creases between them. “I needed to get some air”, and to think he added silently.

“Well duh! We knew you went out and don’t gimme that air crap, you don’t even breathe”. Cordy countered unappeased for all the worry he’d put her through.

“If I might get a word in edgeways” interjected a new voice.

Cordy recognised that oh so precise voice and only just managed not to tell him to shove it. She turned her head to say something similar but less tart when her eyes fell on their audience. Dozens of staring eyes were goggling at her perched up high on the vampire’s waist with her arms wrapped around his neck as if she belonged there or something.

Embarrassment flooded her and she looked back to find bemused chocolate brown eyes searching her face, and wanted to cry for picking the wrong place again. Giving him a strained smile, she dropped her arms.

“I think I’d better get down now” she whispered chagrined and silently he lowered her to her feet.

Tossing her one last befuddled look he turned to Wesley who didn’t waste any time either. “You should have told one of us you were going out. In fact, you shouldn’t have gone out at all” criticised the ex-watcher stiffly.

“Forget that. We have bigger problems looming. We need some privacy to discuss it”. His brows lifted in silent warning of bad news.

Cordy heard every word and grabbed his arm. “You’d better be including me in this ‘private’ meeting”. He knew better than to argue and just nodded resignedly. What did it matter pretty soon everyone would have to know they were out of time.

“Let’s wait until we get out of the tunnels and into a more conducive atmosphere” intoned Wesley, trying not to rush too much and create an unnecessary panic. “But do hurry” he couldn’t help adding. He had a bad feeling about this.

Privacy in the compound was at a premium and was never whole; the best they could do was crowd into one of the smaller caves. A message was relayed and Deidra soon arrived with a couple of the other men Angel had met earlier, her Lieutenants he’d guessed at the time.

“What’s this about news”? Asked Deidra looking at the dark haired vampire with a mixture of reproof, relief and fear of what he had to tell them.

There was a table to the side of them and Angel used it like a prop to toss a pair of fangs onto the wooden top. Everyone watched them land and roll with fascinated eyes and then looked back at the detached face of the vampire that had removed them.

“I met up with some vamps tonight. They had some interesting information about a raid planned on a ‘secret’ human hidey hole” he intoned carefully enunciating the ‘secret’ part deliberately so there’d be no doubt it meant here.

“We’re out of time Ladies and Gents” he added laconically and then finished off with. “If this is going to go our way we need to strike first, which means tomorrow”.

“Well thank god for that” Piped up Spike from the corner. “I hate waiting gets me all over excited”. His face was one big anticipatory grin as he stood up and stretched. “So tomorrows D-day is it”? It wasn’t a question and he rubbed his hands together gleefully. “So do we have a plan yet or are we just gonna roll with the punches”?

“We have a plan” replied Angel decisively and picking up the box he dropped it on the table with a flourish and stood back so they could all get look.

Curious Cordy opened it with one finger as gingerly as she could, sneaked a peak and then frowned in disbelief. “You do know this is just a box full of paper? Right?”

Spike dived into the box after Cordelia’s announcement and pulled out a pristine packet of paper, looking askance at it he transferred the less than impressed look to his grandsire. “You a convert to the pen being more powerful than the sword and all that malarky or something”?

He let go of the packet and it dropped and landed next to the box with a ‘thwak’. “If so, count me out. I’ll stick with a trusty sword thanks” he finished sarcastically and crossed his arms with an air of decisive finality.

“The paper will serve as a means of communicating the information about the Master and his connection to the barrier to the rest of the demon population. You didn’t seriously expect that we’d hold a rally did you”? Jumped in Wesley snatching up the packet and glaring through glinting glass filled frames.

“Wesley is going to produce templates of various common demon languages for people to copy out. Once they’re finished and just before we attack they’ll be distributed around the various demon watering holes and larger nests to get the biggest impact”. Explained Angel, ignoring Spike’s outburst in favour of dealing with the details, such as they were.

“Won’t that give them advance warning”? Asked Don, previously one of Sunnydale’s finest. He was pretty much all that was left of a once experienced and effective police force – for a hellmouth-ridden town that is. His hair prematurely grey was meticulously combed back and thanks to a lack of washing opportunities, stayed that way.

“It’s a risk but highly unlikely that they’ll expect an attack immediately; we’re only talking a couple of hour’s difference at most. Not enough time for them to do much by way of forward planning. Most likely the Master won’t have even finished raising the roof by the time we move in”. Angel answered gravely.

It was a justifiable concern and one that had worried him the most, but the bigger the fight the bigger the risks you have take was the deciding factor in this case.

“It’s the only feasible option. If we leave it till the battle itself we risk bloodlust clouding their thinking and then we have more than triple the numbers to fight”. Wesley was in full agreement. Anything that could possibly reduce the size of the opposition was worth trying in his opinion.

“Let me get this straight. You’re gonna start the fight to destroy the most powerful vampire in Sunnydale with a marketing campaign? Okay, am I the only one who thinks that’s just incredibly lame?” Fretted Cordelia with a sharp edge of dismay in her voice.

“It worked for Barbie” murmured Deidra with a strained smile.

Those were the first words she’d spoken since Angel had announced the bad news. She was out of her element and knowing it was damned uncomfortable. When she’d set things in motion she hadn’t realised just how quickly events would unfold.

Their fate was now wholly in the vampire’s hands. Her apprehensive eyes drifted over him, desperately seeking some reassurance that she’d done the right thing.

“Well that’s just great except for the tiny fact that we’re not talking plastic dolls here- hello! Vamps and monsters and everything else that goes bump in the night”. Retorted Cordelia not pulling her punches, anxiety was making her jittery and when that happened all brakes on her tongue were off.

Spike had snorted in disbelief when Deidra spoke up and now he gave Cordelia a conspiratol grin. “I’m with you, Pet. Seems to me we’re the only sane two here” he derided caustically.

“Pfft; Speak for yourself. There is no way anyone can lump me in with you”. Countered Cordelia absently, with her head tilted and hair flowing down one shoulder as she perused the town plans. Wow it felt weird to look at them, everything looked so familiar and ordered. It was kinda horribly if fascinating to scan them and realise just how different everything was now.

The main street with it’s small but quaint shops nestling next to one or two chain stores was all but demolished, everything stolen and the buildings burned out and nothing but husks. As for the Schools, Hospital and Town Hall?

Well the best guess was that they were homes for various types of demons and vampires all living in disharmony with fighting constantly breaking out as the tension of enforced and regulated sharing was pushed on the alien races.

“What’s that place? I don’t recognise it”? Her eyes came back up to catch Angel’s and he ducked down to look at the spot she was pointing at.

“Steel Factory” he answered without hesitation. He knew what she was going to ask next. He could see it in her eyes.

“Why is it ringed”? She asked with a confused frown. She had an instinctive distrust of big industrial type places, which was not surprising since they were so alien to her.

She had visions of huge hulking machines making loud noises and spewing smoke, fire and sparks while overhead, steel galley ways and grilled floors covered in grease and oil bore down on you if you dared look up. She shivered and banished the images.

“That’s the last stand. Depending how the first wave goes, we all retreat there and fight it out until one side or the other wins out”. He said it without inflection and with a carefully neutral expression, giving nothing of his inner thoughts away.

“What about the Master”? Cordy whispered for his ears only as she was assailed with a sudden feeling of guilt. God was this all her fault? Would they be standing here now… like this, if she hadn’t run away from him? Somehow she didn’t think so.

“I’m planning on stopping him before he gets to it. If not then I’ll face him there”.

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