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(Story co-written with Ficbitch82) (The characters are not ours, we are just playing with them.)
Of all the things that Cordelia expected when she woke up from her third and lasting Coma, courtesy of the Powers That Be, being a war-torn, apocalypse survivor wasn’t one of them.
She woke attached to about a billion tubes and wires – one really uncomfortable one shoved down her throat – and when she tried to pull that out it ranked right up there with the rebar experience.
Memorable, lasting and not at all pleasant.
The Nurse entered a minute later, wide-eyed and harassed and when she helped Cordelia take the tube out of her throat, she was immediately apologetic, offering her ice-chips and a glass of water.
Cordelia took one look at the clock by her bedside and the distinct lack of sunshine outside her window at 2pm and shot her a quizzical glance. “What happened?” She croaked out.
“I-I’ll get the Doctor.”
The Doctor, it turned out, was a guy who looked like he was barely out of his teens – a medical student who was filling in for the distinct lack of doctors in LA these days – and what he told her made her head spin.
Coma. Fair enough, she got that one. Apocalypse – which was pretty much a head trip all on it’s own. Then he told her that her friends were missing, all pretty much presumed dead, along with thousands of others. Then Cordelia had indulged in spazzing out.
Apocalypse had been right.
She stayed in the hospital for six weeks – so very pissed at having to re-learn how to do basic things like walk and on that very day Cordelia hitched a ride out of the city she used to call home, things got weird.
For one, her first real vision hit. Not such a head-trip in that Cordelia knew somehow, that the events she saw in vision had happened in the past (weeks before, maybe, months...given the fact that LA wasn't such a burnt out husk back then). It was more of a head-trip in that she found herself on the floor, blood trickling from her nose.
The guy she’d hitched a lift from looked at her like she’d grown a third head, and left. He hadn’t believed her seizure explanation and he’d left her right in the diner they’d been eating in, muttering about always picking up the wackos. A kind waitress had offered her a place to crash for the night and Cordelia had gone with her.
That’s when her second vision hit, and it was very much in the now. A guy, a flash of an evil thing (what else?) and it was all happening in the woods behind the waitress’ house, she got a clear visual of the location. Cordelia was out of her bed, grabbing the first weapon she could find (which happened to be a tire iron that from the waitress’ garage) and heading towards the woods out back.
It’d been a while since she’d done this, she realized, clutching the iron bar that little bit tighter. Her vision – vagueness, itself – had led her towards a tiny shack and she couldn’t tell why but she knew she had to be here now and--
Cordelia spun, wielding her tire iron like her life depended on it and realized two things. One, she was kind of stuck. She didn’t know howshe knew that – only the air had taken on an oppressive quality and oh God, she picked NOW to be claustrophobic, when she'd been stuck inside her head for, like, ever?
And two, she wasn’t alone. A guy – the one from her vision? – was shooting at something. Nothing, actually, because his bullets were doing the really helpful thing of bouncing off a forcefield or barrier.
“Uh, word to the wise?” She offered, making her presence known, “Guns aren’t the best thing in a situation like this.” She knew, Wesley had almost been killed by one of them. Groo had.
"Son of a bitch," Dean ground out, popping off a few more rounds, only to have the bullets glance off of nothing. Dammit, he turned to see who it was offering up such wise advice.
Cordelia’s heart stopped.
Dean's eyes were already full of angry fire when his gaze locked with hers. "What do you suggest, sweetheart, that I knock?" Even as the words tumbled out, something stirred in his memory. Eyes... eyes that had haunted him for years. Could it be her?
It took her a moment to actually process that it was him. Her mouth dropped open and she stared at him, impersonating a fish caught on a hook as she remembered Groo (sweet, dependable Groo who'd never hurt anybody) and this guy rushing in and pulling a gun and--
Cordelia took a step back. She remembered being tied down, helpless. No explanation for why Groo was dead (gone, who knew all it took to kill her Champion was a bullet to the head?) and she remembered needles. A doctor. Then being told she was free to go and her stumbling back to the Hyperion, somehow, relaying the whole story to friends who looked horrified, sure, but didn't quite know what to say.
"What the hell are you doing here?" She whispered harshly, because if her vision had been to save the jackass who'd killed Groo? She had just officially quit working for the Powers That Be.
It was her. A muscle twitched in his jaw. “Last time I checked it was a public forest. You should get out of here. Now,” he nodded in the direction of the edge of the invisible trap that kept him inside.
Cordelia glared at him. It was amazing how quick it all came flooding back, how she'd cried and cried and waited until they'd done their stupid tests. She shook now, with anger and barely suppressed rage at the guy who'd come in and turned her life upside down with a single bullet.
"You don't even remember me, do you?" She spat, clutching the tire iron that little bit tighter. She was no match for his gun but if he started firing, she was aiming to get in at least one good shot before she went down. She owed Groo that much.
The truth was on the tip of his tongue, but he clamped down on it. “What? Met you at some bar and forgot? Sorry, I tend to do that.” Looking up at the darkening sky, he looked back at her.
“Look, you really don’t want to be here. Getting caught around her after dark is not a good idea... or hey, you might get trapped in here with me?” It occurred to him she was taking the forcefield in stride, but he figured she had an explanation all worked out in her mind for why his bullets were bouncing off an invisible wall.
She wanted to smack that look off his face. He had no idea. No idea who she was, what he'd done. She'd been over Groo a long time, longer if you counted the coma, but the ache that'd been there - that raw feeling that'd burned behind her throat and made her vision swim with tears - was suddenly right there again. And Cordelia wasn't ready for it.
"You're telling me that being in a forest after dark isn't a good idea," she deadpanned, "Well aren't you the poster boy for the 'duh' moment?" She was going to get this done and then get the hell out of here - being around him was not a good idea right now. Was not a good idea ever.
"What are you hunting?" She asked suddenly.
“What do you know about hunting?” Dammit, not another wanna be. Or did she pick it up after he’d... Pushing the memory aside, he swept his gaze over her body, looking for signs of weapons, not that he could tell without a pat down. Her back-off look told him that wouldn’t be a good idea and he didn’t need drama, not right now.
"A lot more than you think," said Cordelia, gritting her teeth as his gaze did a trained sweep over her body. Even she'd admit that she was a little rusty on the ground these days - teaching yourself to walk was not the same as re-teaching yourself to fight. She hadn't given it much thought. It was more a case of vision, guy in trouble, get out there. If she'd known it was this guy? She'd have stayed in bed.
"What are we talking here? Demon? Vampire? Hellhound? What?" Because whatever it was, going up against it with that itty bitty gun was a short way to get himself killed. And a bigger headache for Cordelia, since the Powers obviously had some investment in the guy.
Shit. “You think you know a thing or two about this, well congratulations. But this thing, it’s way too big to try to cut your teeth on it.” By the stubborn tilt of her chin, the same tilt he remembered, even as tears ran down her face and were soaked up by the gag in her mouth, told him she was gonna be trouble. He stuffed his gun into his waistband.
“Get outta here, I mean it... it’s for your own good,” he closed the distance between them, took her by the arm and started to march her toward the forcefield. “I hope you have a car nearby, but if you don’t, there’s a diner about a mile south.” That thing would pretty much ignore her, or anyone not with him... he was pretty sure.
Cut her teeth? Cut her goddamn teeth? She'd been about to tell him what he could do with his opinion of her when he was right there beside her, cutting into her personal bubble, and touching her. With those hands. Hands that she remembered securing a gag around her mouth so that she'd stop. fucking. screaming.
She wrenched her arm out of his grip and shoved him hard, bringing the tire iron up between them. "Get your fucking hands off me," she breathed heavily, pinning him with a gaze so furious that it just dared him to come closer. She was shaking now, beyond pissed, and ready to do some serious damage with her weapon if he touched her again.
"You think I need you looking out for me?" The tone of her voice said she'd sooner have an unsedated root canal with a blunt, dirty knife. She was about to tell him why she didn't need him looking out for her when the third vision hit and down she went, knees scraping against the ground as she clutched at her head.
What the... he’d been about to shove her through the field, but he hadn’t touched her yet. Leaning down, he grabbed her before she fell all the way down. It felt uncomfortably similar to how he’d catch Sammy, only she was a girl. One that hated him, and he’d given her plenty of reason to.
“Hey, what’s going on?” he asked, trying not to sound rushed. Fuck... he couldn’t baby sit, not today, not with that thing roaming around... hunting him. “You alright?”
He caught her. With those hands. And as grateful as Cordelia might have been once? Now she was just pissed again. She pushed herself away from him, leaning against a pretty handy tree to try and get her breath back. Fuck, that hurt. Why had it hurt? She looked up at him, wiping at the blood that was trickling down her nose and shook her head.
His mouth tightened, but he moved away. She’d probably had enough manhandling from him to last a lifetime.
"You can't kill it," she said, wishing that she'd wake up from this fucking awful dream because the Powers had made it abundantly clear what her part in all this was. And she wasn't happy about it. Not happy at all. "I don't know what your plan is or what weapons you've got, but I just saw the Hi-Def version of you dying at the hands of this big, freaky whatever, and it wasn't pleasant." She thought about that for a moment. "Actually? It was really pleasant. But since I don't want to die with you..."
“The fuck I can’t kill it,” his gaze met hers as she made it clear how happy his death would make her. “You and plenty of others,” he admitted, wanting to help her with the blood on her face, but sure it would only make things worse.
The air changed again. The forcefield was shifting and any notions the guy had about getting her out of here were gone suddenly because her big, freaky whatever from her vision was crashing right towards them and-
"Shit," said Cordelia, which summed it up quite nice.
He’d been looking around and part of the problem was that this damned thing was translucent, until it crashed into shit, like the trees, and then it was all scales and teeth for a few seconds. He would have pushed her through the force field, but he saw her hand resting on something solid. She couldn’t get through it either.
It was his turn to curse, then he gave her a hard shove. “Go... run... there’s a place down there,” was all he had time to say, before he ran toward the gigantic figure, aiming two pistols and shooting... “sonova...” There went his damned bullets, glancing off it again.
Pissed at the shove but not so pissed at the fact that she had somewhere to go, Cordelia went. Sort of grudgingly. It was his fault, anyway. She'd have been all for helping the guy if it hadn't been that guy. So Cordelia did what he said.
She ran. And she didn't look back.
He was dead by now, she was sure, and though the headache hadn't quite faded she was actually kind of happy about that. In a pissed off kind of way. Gone were the notions of her smacking her tire iron over his head. She'd even harbored fantasies of grabbing his gun and bestowing on him the mercy he'd given Groo, which had been none. And then Cordelia got tired of thinking about that - of thinking about everything and she just wanted to sleep.
Sleep didn't come though, not in the little porta-cabin thingy that was serving as her home and sanctuary right now. Being in a coma for the better part of a year meant that when you woke up, you were pretty rested, so she ended up just sitting there, waiting. And when she heard the growl of an engine, her heart sank.
Forty-five minutes later, Dean was backing his Impala up almost against the door of the little cabin. At least his baby was on the right side of the force field with him. Stepping out, he picked some more leaves off his shoulders and got some of his gear out of the trunk.
He tried the door handle. “Open up.” A sinking feeling had him wondering if he’d be sleeping in the car tonight.
Grudgingly, she did what he asked. Pulled open the door and stared at him, still wielding her tire iron. "Aren't you dead yet?" She asked, frowning.
“Hi honey, and you’re welcome,” ignoring the weapon, he walked in and shut the door. It was only after the words left his mouth that he remembered why this wasn’t like talking to any other girl. “Now don’t you wish you’d listened and hightailed it,” he muttered, tossing his bag in a corner of the room and turning toward her.
The slap came out of nowhere. She felt the rage bubble up inside her and she wanted to do so much more than feel her hand connect with his cheek. He didn't flinch or step away and Cordelia was surprised at how empty that left her, how dull she felt. Like the spark had gone, somehow. Right along with Groo, Angel, everybody.
She was left with this ass, inside some invisible force field and she realized right then how much she actually hated her life. "The day I listen to you will be the day hell freezes over," she told him. Then, "Remember who I am yet?”
There went that muscle in his jaw again. Eventually, he tore his gaze away and walked deeper into the room. Stripping his jacket off and dropping it onto the back of a chair, he was very aware of the weight of her stare... stabbing him right in the back. He didn’t need this... didn’t need to open up old wounds, even someone else’s. “Sometimes it’s better not to remember.” His tone was final, the conversation was at an end.
"Better for who?" She snapped. She felt older now. Every one of her 21--well, 24 if you wanted to get all technical--years and then some. She didn't understand this, why she was back from her coma, why they'd sent her that epitome of vague vision. Why they'd put her here, with him.
She watched as he moved around the room, pouring salt over the entrances, closing shutters, and she dropped back into her spot again, crossing her legs at the ankles. "Must be nice to forget so easily," she told him, "some people don't have that luxury."
She'd never had that luxury. She could see Groo, plain as day, the shocked look on his face as he'd gone to protect his Princess. Could see the bullet hole-
She closed her eyes at that one. She needed to figure things out. Like when the world had gone ass end up and an honest-to-God apocalypse had happened. Not that she was shocked by this, of course, she'd just... Never really survived one. Prevented one or five, maybe, but that was different. The one true source of information she had was sitting right in this room with her, trapped, and Cordelia wanted answers so badly that her mouth actually started forming the questions.
The tension was thick in the air, and maybe that was for the better. So long as she was pissed at him, she wouldn’t bring it up. It was no use going over old wounds. Liar. You want to forget, selfish bastard. Yeah, he did want to forget. At least he knew she was alive. He’d never asked. He’d been afraid to.
Stealing a glance at her and seeing her eyes were closed, he watched her for a long moment. She hadn’t changed a lot. Still had that ‘look but don’t touch’ quality to her, not that he’d received that first hand. Nah, he’d made the stupid mistake of walking around her place and seen her pictures. From the portfolio type shots, he’d thought she was gonna be a model. He’d probably fucked that up for her when he killed her... her... if he’d had to guess, he’d say her fiancé.
His gaze got a little too heavy after a moment and Cordelia opened her eyes to find him staring at her. She wanted to say something biting - like ask if she needed a gag in her mouth to help him remember but her voice got stuck in her throat and she couldn't. She looked away instead.
Brushing some of the salt he’d spilled back into a line, he went and dropped the sack in his bag and checked one more time to make sure the shutters were closed tight. “I have to get her during the day,” he said, reaching for some normalcy. “Impossible to see the bitch at night.”
"And you know it's a she because...?" Cordelia leveled her gaze with his, trying to focus on something normal like... Being petty. She was aware of the headache raging behind her eyes and the really overwhelming need to do something embarrassing like... cry. Not that she was about to, God no. Seeing her cry once was enough and it wasn't like she'd had any choice in that matter.
"Didn't I tell you that you wouldn't be able to kill this thing? My visions don't just hit me for no reason," she said, her voice tetchy. God, he was grating on her. And he hadn't even said much.
Unused to being questioned, he shot her a look. Then he noticed how she was holding her head, and knew why. "I pulverized and burned her eggs, so she's after me," he said, casually walking across the room, fishing some of Sammy's emergency Tylenol out of his duffel bag and leaving it on the table next to her. She already had a glass of water, and he was pretty damned sure that if he offered her another glass, the water would end up on his face. Not that he blamed her.
Walking to what served as a kitchenette, he started rummaging through mostly empty cabinets. "I don't put a whole lot of stock into visions or 'can't'." He said, pulling out a bag of flour and setting it on the old dinner table. "Did you really come here just to tell me I'm wrong and it's gonna kill me? Funny, didn't get the feeling you cared." If it had been Sammy, he'd have told him to shut up. Maybe he wanted her to do the same.
"I don't," Cordelia shot back, "care, that is. I came because-"
Because the PTB still think of me as their bitch, she thought sourly, Or their puppet. I'm not sure what's worse.
"I put a lot of stock into my visions," she decided on finally, waiting until his back was turned before taking one of the Tylenol he'd placed on the coffee table. Petty, maybe, but she wasn't about to let him think he'd done her any favors really. "And that vision showed me a guy that needed saving. If I'd known it was you, I'd have stayed home." Not that she had a home, these days. But he didn't need to know that.
That shouldn't have bothered him. He didn't know her, and she sure as fuck didn't know him. But one thing was true... she should have stayed home, where it was safe. Stayed the hell away from him.
"What are you doing?"
He looked over at her. "Figure if I can get flour on it I can see the damned thing better. What? Think I'm gonna give up and not fight it because of your visions? Guess what? It looks like it's not gonna let either of us leave, which leaves us only one option." At least they had water and electricity. Later, he’d try to call Sam again. Damned force field was interfering with his cell and he’d bet the lap top’s wi-fi wasn’t an option either.
Cordelia looked at him, "What, you think my original plan was to turn up here and tell you that, sorry, you're gonna die? Pfft. My plan was to help you, dumbass. Unfortunately? I never forget a face. And yours isn't one I want to be helping these days." Or any days. "And not to put too fine a point on it, but I have a pretty good track record with my visions. I tend to change the bad before it happens."
Only not in his case. Unless, like now, it was going to serve her more than it would serve him. She'd like nothing better than to see him die. Painfully. And maybe slowly. She guessed that made her a sadist, only she couldn't find it in herself to care.
The Tylenol was starting to work. It was giving a fuzzy edge to things, putting the pain on an even keel so that it seemed... blurry, kinda. The second Tylenol would have been more than enough to rid her of the headache but considering that Cordelia didn't want to take anything from the guy, the first pill was a push.
"So you're gonna batter it to death?" When he didn't even attempt a smile at that one, Cordelia rolled her eyes. "C'mon, that was pretty funny."
He gave a snort of laughter, asif on command. "You got a sense of humor. Huh," he eyed her warily, waiting for the catch. When she didn't say anything, he shrugged. "Slingshot and little flour bags. Feel free to call me McGuyver." She'd cracked one joke, didn't mean there was a truce. You didn't have to be a hunter to know that. Hell, if someone had done to him, what he’d done to her, he'd have... Well he was just lucky she was new to this hunting thing. But if eyes could throw daggers, he'd have been dead ten times over today.
They lapsed into silence. Eventually, she came around to the table and started making the little pouches and filling them with flour. This didn't come naturally to him, giving someone the silent treatment. Especially a woman who made him want to show her he could be charming... that he could make her laugh, even if he'd caused her pain. But he was smart enough to know she'd throw anything he said back into his teeth. Plus maybe what he really wanted was to make himself feel better. He didn’t deserve that.
He passed her more of the cheesecloth, and caught her gaze when their fingers brushed. The rush of heat he felt was unmistakable. And by the look in her eyes, unforgivable. He was first to look away.
She'd done well, really. Played the whole thing by ear, decided she really didn't want to die here and got up to help him fill the pouches with flour - no muss, no fuss. Well, not really. He went to hand her something, she wasn't even sure what, and when his fingers touched hers she felt a wash of heat and then an even bigger wash of anger. He'd felt it too and when she glared at him and he looked away, Cordelia decided she was done helping.
Once she left the table and went back to the sofa, he started to sharpen his knifes. One after the other, he took them out. Cleaning his guns would have been more satisfying, but he'd already done that. All he wanted was for some time to pass and then, if that thing wasn't after them, maybe they could grab a bit of shut eye.
No guns, that struck her as odd. The only gun in sight was the one he had in his waistband and she didn't remember enough to know if it was the one that shot Groo. A gun was a gun to Cordelia - a truly big scary that could snuff out a life in an instant.
The silence was weighing on him, or maybe it was the guilt. He went and pulled out a bottle of whiskey and offered her some. When she recoiled and gave him a 'what the fuck' look, he wasn't surprised. He sat back down at the table and drank right from the bottle. He should be researching, and he would. But he needed to take the edge off first.
Dean didn't know how much time passed. He did know that she kept catching him staring at her, and he kept catching her staring at him. And then their eyes locked, and he had trouble breathing. The anguish in hers was too much. The accusation. The hint of tears. Sonova... He lifted the bottle to his mouth, never breaking eye contact. "I remember."
Any response on her lips died as soon as it was born. She stared at him for a long moment, caught between a rock and a hard place literally now, and got off the seat, taking the bottle from him. She took a long drink, wincing as it burned its way down, and went to sit again - not before handing it back. "Y'know, I thought about this for months. I even entertained notions of Angel tracking you down but he was-" she frowned. Overshare.
"Why'd you do it?" The question tumbled out before she could stop it.
He saw the expressions chase over her face and knew she was no longer in the room with him, she was back there... in her apartment, three years ago.
"We have to go," she told Groo, laughing as his hand crept down her side again. She could see where this was going - semi-packed, another round of lazy yet very satisfying sex - they were gonna be so late for their plane. So, so late. And this was the first break she'd had in EVER from her job. Miss this? She didn't think so.
"You're not usually this punctual, Princess," he told her, smiling as she got up from the bed.
"Oh, you'll so pay for THAT later," she laughed, tossing a balled-up shirt at him for his troubles. She was the worst packer in the world. Of course, it helped that Groo was a big guy - sitting on her suitcase would totally be his thing, if she ever got the damned thing shut.
She looked balefully at the little suitcase he was taking, marveling at the fact that it was completely easier being a guy and not needing seven outfit changes per day.
Ten minutes later they were finally packed, Cordelia laughing at something Groo had said about a Bavarian demon being lighter than her suitcase as he'd pulled it towards the door. Then it all went wrong.
The temperature dropped considerably, Dennis' too little, ‘too late warning’ delivering a slap to Cordelia's system. The door burst open - ghostly energy be damned - and all of a sudden he was there.
Groo hadn't stood a chance. He'd stepped towards her, intending on protecting her, but the gun wasn't meant for her. She'd known that even then.
The bang was deafening. The silence even more so and as Groo dropped, the back of his head exploding over her sunshine yellow wall, Cordelia realized someone was screaming.
He grabbed her a second later - no muss, no fuss, this guy - and had her up against the wall before slamming her into a chair.
He'd bound her wrists, gagged her. She forgot to be pissed. Somewhere, in the back of her mind, she realized it was too final. That Groo couldn't be dead from one teeny, tiny bullet, damnit, why wasn't he kicking this guy's ass?
When she looked up at the guy she realized it was final.
Groo was dead. God only knew what the guy was going to do to her.
(A/N: comments very much looked forward to and appreciated.)