Without You 15b

DAVID & GOLIATH

“Angelus” Roared the Master standing just clear of the sullenly flickering flames.

“Good of you to join me” Angel answered as if there’d been some doubt, a subtle insult to the older vampire’s courage. He came round from the other side of the flames to face his old enemy and one time rival.

“Such surprise, Angelus. I always accept family invitations; you know that” purred the Master, ignoring the insult as nothing more than the petty stings of an irate child.

“You’re not my family and never were” snarled the dark vampire as he towered over the start of his demonic line, hating him with every fibre of his unnatural being.

“Why always so sullen, don’t you ever tire of fighting yourself? Tell me have you tasted her yet”? The Master asked delicately, knowing from his own forced abstinence the struggle it must have taken not to sink his fangs into such ripe and succulent flesh.

“No” Angel growled shortly lowering his chin as aggression poured through him. He had to clench his fists to keep from launching himself at that tauntingly knowing figure.

The Master wanted to crow at the thin crack of rage; mentally shaking his head at the emotions clouding this once celebrated vampire’s thinking. His own rage had cooled, leaving his thoughts pure and free of feeling.

“I’m curious as to why not? It may not be my scene” The Master shuddered in distaste, “but I hear it can be pleasurable for both and then of course there is the protection aspect of it”.

“Take your curiosity and shove it up your Ass. Or better yet just shut up and die”. The threat was said so dangerously low, it actually gave the Master pause.

“I’m already dead” countered the Master scornfully. “Did you forget, freak that you are”?

“There’s dead-er. Let me show you” Angel let a hard insolently amused smirk cover his face.

A stake materialised in Angel’s hand from side the sleeve of his black leather jacket, the hip length sides of which whipped up when he lashed out with a head high sideways kick.

The Master caught the boot just before it connected with his head. Anticipating that Angel dropped to the floor and planted the other in the Masters velvet covered middle, picking up the smaller vampire and tossing him over his prone body.

The Master landed in a roll and came up at the same time as Angel and the deadly dance between the two immortals began. Angel rained punches at the Masters head and torso, with every other strike bringing the sharpened stake only inches from the dead heart he needed to pierce.

The Master blocked with concentrated skill, and finally turned the aggression by landing a crushing blow to Angel’s wrist, knocking the stake out of his hand and sending it careening through the air to land several feet away beside the still smouldering tank.

Enraged Angel fought back and the tempo increased, until their arms and fists where just a blur of movement. Then the Master landed several telling jabs on Angel’s face, stunning him momentarily and the older vampire took advantage.

Landing on his back Angel struggled to get up, dizzily aware that he could not let the Master take control, he was too late. A vicious knee in his solar plexus pinned him to the ground with impossible strength for such a lean figure but nevertheless Angel couldn’t get him off.

Senses reeling from having his head slammed against the rough gravelled floor and the following savage punches to his head and throat the dark haired vampire desperately reached up and wrapping his large hands around that monstrous skull, dug his thumbs into the Masters blood red eyes.

Howling in pain and fury the Master reared back on his haunches, unbalancing himself enough that Angel could heave him off and stagger upright again. Knowing he had only a fraction of time before the Master recovered Angel gathered his swimming thoughts and leaped up and around in an arc, whipping his leg up to land a powerful kick to the side of the Masters head.

The kick landed as intended and sent the Master lurching to the side, and falling to one knee he looked up with watery bleeding eyes to glare hatefully at the younger vampire.

“Insolent Pup” he screeched and would have said more except Angel with blurring speed came up beside him and followed the kick with a crunching right hook to the mouth. The spewing words turned to grunts as blood welled and spurted from skin split by the smashing force of that single punch.

Bleeding from similar wounds and with his face congested with rage Angel stood over the fallen elder, and not waiting for the Master to twist his head back up, pummelled him with a series of rapid fire punches slamming down onto the already mottled skin of the Masters face.

Rage and sheer loathing seethed inside the younger vampire as he struck out at the creature that had over two centuries caused him so much pain. Frenzied with it he ignored the aches in his battered body and let his face contort into a picture of savagery as he vamped out.

Slitted topaz eyes gleamed manically over lips drawn back into a snarl. Grunting growls pushed between glistening fangs as he let loose the inner demon that despised the Master every bit as much as the soul, if for very different reasons.

“Arrogant bastard, thought you were better than me huh”? Punch, “Such a badass wallowing in your own over-inflated ego. Well I got news for you old-timer. Nobodytells me what to do”.

Angel brought up a knee in a short vicious blow to the chin, sending the dazed and bloodied Master onto his back to curl into a ball. The dark haired vampire’s boots crunched on the gravel as he stalked over to stand over his fallen would be ‘Lord’.

“I do the dominating. I do not submit” the demonic growl was pure Angelus and for now he revelled in it. “Keep your goddamned cold detachment. I want to feel everything when I rip you’re fucking guts out. It’s called the whirlwind, baby” he mocked, deliberately using a phrase Darla always used to refer to the life of a true vampire.

An answering rage surged inside the Master and he gathered all of his ancient strength to thrust up from the ground with only the minutest push from his legs, leaping up to wrap powerful arms around his nemesis. The pair struggled, Angel straining to break loose the grip while the Master sank his fangs into the thickly muscled throat of his despised grandchilde.

Now it was Angel who howled in outrage, increasing his struggles to be free of that fierce embrace. Using his longer legs he heaved and strained to move them over to the burning tank, and freeing one hand shoved the heel of one hand under the Masters chin, then wrenching his flesh free shoved the head back until the bald skull touched the blackened and twisted metal with a raw sizzle.

Shrieking at the pain the Master head-butted Angel, who grimly held onto his dizzying senses and ignored the nausea bubbling in his gut at the smell of burning vampire flesh.

The Masters clawed hands scrabbled over the face and neck of his tormentor and continued to shriek higher and louder as smoke rose from where his flesh joined with the molten metal. His clothing started to smoulder where it was crushed to the tank too and he writhed and then manically laughed as his pain passed the threshold from sensation into pure unadulterated torture.

“You’ll never defeat me, fool. I’ll always be a part of you” he hissed and Angel reared back, repulsed by the gleeful leer on that twisted face.

“Wanna bet” he growled and using the last of his reserves, got ready to simply heave the Master inside the sullenly blazing tank.

It should have been the end but just then the ground underneath their very feet started to undulate and a deep rumble came from underground. Unbalanced Angel fell back and then was forced to scramble back as the ground started to break up. Before his horrified golden gaze two heads broke the surface, teeth gnashing at his outstretched feet.

Dazed and confused he lay there, hardly able to gather even the strength to try and reach safety when he felt hard hands pull him by his armpits and drag him back. Infuriated, Spike yelled in his ear. “What the fuck are you up to? Trying to get yourself eaten? Ya daft sod”. That was all he said before diving into the fray.

Angel sat bloodied and bruised, hardly able to believe what was happening as he watched a horde of demons and humans attacked the now dozen headed and truly enormous demon that had risen from the cracked earth. Hacking and slashing with knives and swords and makeshift spears.

The fight lasted long enough for Angel to pull together his wits enough to ask. “Where’s the Master”? Spike shrugged and searched the landscape.

“Dunno Mate, one minute we were watching the show and the next-“

***

THE FARM

Deidra, Don and the rest of the humans approached the farm filled with fear and desperately apprehensive about what they’d find. The timing had been arranged so that they arrived before the fighting in town started, in an effort to limit the chance of the captured humans being put to death in retaliation.

They were met at the imposingly locked doors by the terrified Doctor. “We did it but I don’t know how long the sedative will last” he whispered hoarsely.

Deidra nodded and like they’d planned the humans fanned out to find each drugged vampire and stake it before it could reawaken. The good Doctor had managed to locate the rota detailing which humans were to be drained that day and with their resigned permission drugged them as much as he dared without killing them.

It worked; the farm was wide open and undefended. They could leave with what was left of the town’s residents, women, men and children; each and every one ghostly pale and terrified that this offer of freedom was just another ‘crazed escape from reality’ delusion.

***

THE LAST STAND

Cordelia, Wesley, Clegg and about ten of the humans left alive alternately walked and jogged towards the Steel Factory. Fingers crossed she prayed they weren’t on a goose chase.

The traffic on the roads was heavy as more humans streamed towards the factory as agreed, confused over which side was actually winning as the town blazed. Scuffles broke out when they came across vamps or even other groups of demons until it was sorted out they were all after the same end. The death of the Master.

Finally the factory came into sight and Cordelia shuddered at the nightmarish sight. Even from a distance it was everything she’d imagined and more. The power had been rerouted by one of the resistance fighters who’d happened to be an engineer before the Master rose, now he’d put his skills to good use and the Factory was alight once again.

Trying not to look scared she let Wesley and Clegg take point as they walked through the gate, largely ignored by the battling demons, humans and vamps already there. “I can’t see Spike and the others, can you”? She yelled over the din to Wesley. Clegg and the humans now drunk of the scent of victory dived into the nearest fight.

They’d separated to take different routes to the factory, “No, nor Angel or the Master” reported Wesley searching the various heaving groups and scanning the upper levels of the imposing factory buildings.

“Are you looking for me”? Asked a new voice and as one Wesley and Cordy whirled with pure terror striking them dumb.

Five minutes later….

Wesley dimly heard the roar of some great and terrible beasts. This is it, this is the end. Damn you Father! Damn us both for making me so useless. Hard hands picked him up and shook him with only a little roughness.

Behind Angel; Spike and the rest where climbing off the back of motorbikes, the riders of which roared off once they’d unloaded their passengers; intent on creating some havoc in the battle field now they were here.

Bewildered Wesley opened his eyes and squinted up at the blurred face looming over him. “Oh it’s you, I might have known” he was rambling and Angel shook him again, harder this time as an unnamed terror stole into his still heart.

“Wesley, where is Cordelia”? His voice was tight with worry and there was a ruthless look in his dark eyes that told the Englishman he had about 2 seconds to answer.

“Master took her” he got out, “So sorry- took us by surprise”. He finished weakly and found himself free as the frantic Vampire dropped him back to the ground.

Cordelia hung back and struggled in that hard grip, yelling and screaming until she thought her lungs would burst but the racket from down below drowned her out even if anyone was listening not fully under the influence of blood lust.

“You know my dear, I think you’ll enjoy being a vampire. After all you’ve already captivated one. I’m sure you’ll agree that of the two I am by far the better choice, hmmm”.

Ugh, delusions of grandeur much!. “Get real, buddy I wouldn’t spit on you if you were on fire” she snapped recklessly and hauled back on her arm, heedless of the pain in her wrist.

“Angel” she screamed in loud carrying wail and kicked out at the Masters legs.

Annoyed by her continued resistance the Master dragged her to him and snapped his fangs in her terrified yet pissed face. “Be careful my dear. You’ve already caused me to lose all I’ve gained over the last half year. Don’t push you’re luck”.

“I’m glad you lost it all, Loser!” Cordy spat back and squirmed to get some space between them. “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer monster. Now let me go” She panted and pushed as hard as she could.

Cordelia.. , the distant shout carried up to them and a spear of hope lit Cordelia’s heart when she recognised that panicked call. “Angel” she yelled back.

The Master dragged her by her hair to the edge of the oily railing and twisted his hand mercilessly until undone by the fiery pain from her scalp Cordy yelped. Her terrified eyes latched on the figure far below them and her heart squeezed at how battered he looked. Oh God, please-

Angel looked up and froze; everything seemed to just go utterly still when he saw the Master holding Cordelia tightly to him, a mocking possessive look on his demonic face. “Let her go” he yelled hoarsely. “This is between us. Not her”.

“That’s where you’re wrong, young Angelus. If not for her you would have stayed rotting in your hidey-hole, like the snivelling coward you’d become. Don’t deny it now” sang the Master gleefully, stroking a hand around Cordelia’s cheeks just to drive home who was in control here.

“She’ll make an excellent addition to the family don’t you think, Angel”? He taunted and pulled her up to sniff at her neck. Cordy’s eyes widened at that, and then she lost it.

“Eww what is it with you and that bitch with the yucky sniffing” she reached up and grabbed his face, unwittingly stabbing into his already painful eyes with her nails.

Surprised by her attack just when he’d been convinced she was cowed the Master reared back from her. Free of his hold and seeing an opportunity, Cordelia stamped on his foot for good measure and then backing against the metal wall ran at him, using her weight to topple him over the side.

“Hah, so much for turning me into a vampire” Cordy huffed and tossed back her hair. Still riding a wave of indignant fury she leaned over the side to yell, “Loser”.

The Master had managed to snag the railing from the level below and hung suspended over the floor with Angel standing underneath, not knowing which to chase down first, Cordelia or the Master.

The instinct to protect warred with the cold hard fact that the Master had to die and growling at himself for his indecisiveness Angel snagged up a length of steel from a nearby stack. Hefting it on his hand he waited for the Master to make his move, guessing it would be down rather than up, gauging by the obvious dislocation of the shoulder he was hanging from.

He’d guessed right, the Master let go and landed on both feet, frustrated fury poured from him in rancorous waves of energy and with a sharp twist of his arm he shoved the shoulder back into place and faced a coldly satisfied Angel.

The Master’s eyes bled and blinking profusely he focused on the shimmering dark figure he hated with such fervour. “I’m going to drain your precious pet and turn her into my whore before your dust has even drifted to the floor” he snarled and charged.

“Guess again” Angel snarled back and hefting the pipe like a baseball bat, met the furiously reckless charge with a clang of steel that sent the Master flying backwards. “I already kicked your ass once, twice is just double the fun”. He added, advancing on silent and predatory feet.

The Master staggered upright, and with his clawed hands raking the air, charged again; his own lessons about staying cold and detached forgotten in a seething mass of crazed rage.

Brutally certain of one thing, Angel twirled the steel pipe in slow circles, keeping it in motion and his target hidden. If he didn’t get this right and destroy the Master Cordelia would be doomed. Not gonna happen.

He *would* get it right. He refused to even entertain the possibility of anything else. Cordelia would not die, he wouldn’t allow it. A strange almost unearthly certainty filled him, muting every emotion that would try to distract him.

Focussing Angel closed his eyes and let the Master come at him. Just as the air was disrupted by the rake of claws he snapped open his eyes, and tossing the pipe, snagged its middle and squatting down, raised it to slam home, right through the Master’s upper torso.

Cordelia watched transfixed and her nervously fisted hand come out of her mouth as she gaped seeing the long metal spike protruding from the Master, front and back. Hope surged wildly and she yelled in joy; then clapped a hand over her mouth so as not to distract him.

The Master gave a blood curdling scream and staggered back, gaping at the thick metal spearing his middle. His mouth worked as he tried to speak past the blood choking him. “Metal won’t kill me” he rasped. Desperate he reached to pull it though his body with his hands but they couldn’t reach the end.

Dragging it through inch by torturous inch, the Master fell to the floor and howled at the pain. The universal instinct to survive alerted him and the Master looked up to find Angel standing next to him looking at him with his own death reflecting back from those pitiless depths.

“You’re good. But I’m better” Angel taunted. He leaned down to whisper in that ancient ear. “You know you really shouldn’t have touched her cos now I’m gonna do this the hard way”. That was all the warning he gave.

Angel locked his arms around that frantically snarling head with its snapping fangs and flexing his muscles bunched them to twist the neck he’d already put under strain. The neck snapped with an audible crack but he carried on until the Masters howls gave way to grinding shrieks as the sinew and bone started to part and finally his head separated from his body.

***

THE VICTORIOUS

The next hour was a blur for Cordy; in fact the rest of that day was one confusing jumble of happenings over which she’d had no control. Immediately after the Master was defeated, everyone had seemed to converge on the building just as the now headless vampire started to messily explode.

“Geeze the asshole can’t just go dust bunny like every other vamp. No, he has to cover everyone in his goo” she complained to herself. Even from way up there she’d been hit by stray blobs of Master parts and boy was she not happy about that fact.

Of course the gross, twisted skeleton he’d left behind had looked pretty gruesome too until every demon left in Sunnydale decided to hold a stamping party in revenge for him tricking them. By the time they’d finished there was nothing but white dust and broken shards left on the floor. Which was fine by her.

It was a jubilant if highly unusual group of filthy humans and demons that watched the sky shimmer and sparkle then fade as the barrier dissipated just as dawn arrived; breaking the dark blue and black sky into streaks of red and purple.

At the sight a huge heartfelt cheer that started from their toes and ended in their hearts filled the air until even the steel girders seemed to sing along in its own way, only fading away as the tip of the sun appeared on the horizon.

Not that was the end of it yet, with the arrival of dawn, the vamps streamed inside the buildings each one trying to avoid being turned into crispy critter, so of course the free for all carried on.

With nowhere to run to the vamps were taken down and dusted one by one, until only the two vampires, the demons and humans were left. The shaky alliance had won the day but the fact that it couldn’t last was a given and with barely a backward glance the demons drifted off and left the humans to their celebrating.

Eventually the humans started to wander out of the factory, staring in wonderment at the sunny landscape, hardly knowing what to do with themselves except hug anyone that passed and continue to meander their way back towards the still smoking town.

Cordelia was one of them. Only she was a great deal less happy. Where the hell did they go? One minute they’d been fighting along side everyone else and the next Spike and Angel had disappeared from sight.

She’d searched high and low, in every nook and dirty cranny until giving up for now she’d followed everyone out. Now hugging her arms and trying to ignore a disquieting feeling of despair, Cordy carried on trudging along.

Until coming across a familiar hobbling figure, Cordy snagged him and then shoved his arm around her shoulders to help keep him upright. “Where’s Angel”? She asked Wesley without preamble.

The ex-watcher looked tiredly at the beautiful grime covered girl and envied her, her energy. Then after a quick smile of thanks for her assistance he put some thought into her question. “Sewers I think. Last time I saw him anyway”.

Cordy thought about that for a minute then shook her head, still frowning heavily. “Makes sense kinda. But why didn’t he take me too? I mean I thought that was the deal”? She queried sounding confused and a little pissed.

Wesley shifted; discomforted by the blunt mention of the nefarious deal he’d been a witness too. “Well I don’t know, Cordelia. You’ll have to ask him that”. He finally answered and hoped it would be enough.

“Well duh, goes without saying. Except it helps if I can find him first”. Retorted Cordy caustically; then ducking her head she heaved a sigh and helped the wounded Englishmen walk back into town.

Chomping at the bit to get to the mansion, Cordy left Wesley in the first capable hands she could find and made her way as quickly as she could to the last place she’d really thought of as home.

Just seeing its pale façade rising up made her heart beat faster and without noticing she was doing it she started to run. Desperate to reach it Cordy ran so fast her lungs were burning by the time she reached the doors, and hardly hesitating or slowing she slammed one open and literally fell inside.

“Angel” she called out, then again louder. Her voice echoed emptily back at her and her heart sank when there was no answer. Eyes searching she turned in a slow circle and came up with nothing. I knew it! I frickin’ knew it. Geeze I turn my back for a minute-

“Don’t you dare do this to me, you- ugh! Where are you”?

***

TWO MONTHS LATER – LOS ANGELES

Angel trudged wearily back to his new place, dodging fellow pedestrians, carefully keeping his eyes lowered so they wouldn’t accidentally catch anyone else’s. He could smell the arrival of dawn and cursed himself for not getting back sooner.

He always tried to be asleep by the time dawn arrived, as he found it a too painful reminder of another dawn and the last time he’d seen Cordelia. Not that it worked to keep the bitter loneliness at bay or stopped him thinking about her constantly but it felt better to at least do something to help limit the pain.

Annoyed at the way his thoughts had turned back to her again, he slammed the door shut behind him and ignoring the empty office space, entered the elevator cage and pressed for down.

Inside his basement apartment, he shrugged out his leather jacket and slung it carelessly on a nearby armchair. Then unbuckling the straps of his newest weapons, a pair of sprung stakes, he dropped them on top of his oak dresser.

A stray whiff of perfume caught and spun his senses making his head swim with memories before he ruthlessly shut them out and turned with a black scowl marring his handsome face.

-Only to stop short and stare at the apparition leaning negligently against the doorframe leading into the tiny kitchenette. “So does the dumbstruck act mean you’re happy to see me”? Cordelia asked archly.

“Why so surprised, Angel. You didn’t seriously think you were going to get away that easily did you”? She derided softly, catching his dark eyes as they finished travelling hungrily over her lushly clothed body. “You’re a difficult vamp to track down but then- I’m a very determined woman”.

***

Epilogue

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