13: Ties That Bind
Ties that Bind
Old sweat and other unidentifiable smells permeated the air in the old van. It was completely disgusting and she was pretty sure the fake fur rug lining the floor was the cause. Their brawny captor was not exactly a paragon of cleanliness either. Cordelia had to put up with his beefy hands copping a feel every time he stopped the van to check on their bindings.
The last time he took the duct tape off their mouths telling them that screaming would not bring them any help. They were stopping for a while somewhere out of the way. Doyle made a plea for their release. He seemed to know the creep from somewhere, but that just made things worse.
“I’m not supposed to rough you up,” he balled up his ham-sized fist to hold it close to Doyle’s face. “You still owe me for your losses at the Orbit Room. Don’t think I won’t take my pound of flesh from you or your pretty little friend if either of you tries any shit.”
Cordelia shuddered at the thought of what he might do. When the van door shut behind him, she went back to tugging on her bindings. Her arms were bound behind her with rope that was thin, but strong. Her efforts to loosen the rope only left a raw abrasion across her skin.
“Maybe we had better sit quietly,” Doyle suggested from his equally tied up position on the other side of the van. “Manny is not exactly a prince among thieves. He’ll hurt you—or worse—just to get back at me no matter the deal with Spike.”
She did not need to hear the details about why he was involved in some dealings with such a shady character. It was part of his old life. The one he was trying to avoid even if it did not seem to want to let him go. Even so, Cordelia did not like getting dragged into the middle of these things. Doyle and Manny apparently had issues and they were not the only ones. Angel and Spike’s conflicts would probably fill a book.
“This whole damsel in distress thing is wearing thin.” She was not sure how much more of this she could take. A trickle of sweat rolled down her back, clothes sticky against her skin. For a moment, she wondered if she might be contributing to the grossness. “I am so ready to be rescued from this disgusting van.”
Doyle let out a sardonic laugh, “We’re a bit short of heroes at the moment,” sounding just as frustrated over the situation. “Angel doesn’t even know we’re here. He could still be fighting off trouble at the Hellmouth.”
There were a few other ideas rolling around her head about what Angel might be doing back in Sunnydale. Just how long was this apocalypse going to last anyway? “Spike should’ve just gone back to Sunnydale. This whole captive thing is a waste of time.”
“It’s a question of when, not if, Angel will get here,” Doyle assured her. “Don’t doubt that.”
Cordelia shook her head. “You don’t understand. He’s there with her. What if he doesn’t come back?”
“He’ll come back,” said Doyle with a lot more confidence than she felt. He had never seen Angel around Buffy before. “There’s the mission to consider. And you. He’s got feelings—”
Vexed at the soothing tone intended to calm her down, Cordelia cut him off, “Angel called me an annoying pain in the ass. He hates that I live next door. He’s probably still mad at me.”
“Princess, you may frustrate the hell out of him in more ways than he’ll ever admit, but staying mad at you is impossible.”
“Think so?” The thought cheered her up a bit.
Doyle shifted forward as much as his bindings would allow. “You’re always fighting about something. Has he ever held a grudge?”
That just made her smile and stare back incredulously. “Hello, this is Angel we’re talking about. I can’t even eat peanut butter in front of him without getting that judge-y stare.”
“Point taken,” he nodded, “but he does care. You know that.”
Not the way she wanted, if in fact she actually wanted to go there, to a place where she knew just how much he felt, but without being able to do anything about it. Those kinds of feelings were off limits. Dangerous.
“Sure. It’s just nice to hear it once in a while. Y’know?”
It was her own stupid fault if she had lied to Angel’s face before he left. Told him it was just the story that had gotten her hot and bothered when in fact she had somehow been working her way up to it for weeks—or years. Living near Angel, patching him up, getting closer as friends, and the whole naked thing, might just be putting thoughts in her head that really didn’t belong there. Kissing him was a mistake. He might want her, but that did not mean it was anything more than physical combustion between two hotties.
Doyle hung his head low, closed his eyes, and stayed quiet for a while until the only sounds around them were the van’s squeaky chassis as it rolled over a pothole. “Sometimes,” he began without really looking at her, “it’s better to keep things under wraps for a while. Test out the waters. Wait for the right time to reveal things.”
Ugh! Cordelia did not like that idea at all. That was too much like covering up the truth. But… “Okay, so what if I held out on telling him about the play. Every time I fail at an audition, he gets this smug look as if he knows he owns me. He takes me for granted.”
Looking at her like she was crazy, Doyle countered, “No he doesn’t. Trust me. He is terrified that you’re going to leave. He….” Breaking off, he closed his mouth into a tight line as if realizing he had said too much. Their conversations about Angel were fairly open, but Doyle usually walked a tight rope when it came to revealing what might be something private.
The notion that Angel would be terrified over anything drew a scoff of disbelief from her throat. More likely, he wanted to keep the status quo going at the office. Things were going great so far. The office was all set up and nicely organized. She had already started a nifty filing system that helped her remember each case. More clients were coming in week to week. Thanks to her billing methods, they were actually starting to be paid something. Though Angel might handle the heavy stuff when it came to Doyle’s visions, she was totally there for patching up duties.
Hell, yes, Angel should be terrified, she decided. Try finding someone else to fill her shoes.
But it was not her duties as an Angel Investigations associate that she wanted him to care about. It was their friendship, which had gotten so much closer over the past few months. Maybe the kisses were just a sign that they both needed to get laid. That might be off-limits for Angel, but not her. Yet, the thought of getting intimate with another guy left her completely cold.
It was wrong to let him go off to Sunnydale thinking she didn’t care. That was her bad. If he actually felt a tiny spark of desire that was not the result of a cursed vampire getting turned on by reading a sexy scene, she needed to hear it directly from him.
“Even when Angel bottles up his feelings I know there’s something going on behind the broody silent mode. I don’t like secrets,” she said as much to herself as to Doyle who was doing a fairly good job of trying out that patented broody treatment. “If someone has feelings about someone else they should just say so.”
Doyle choked out the question, “Really? Just like that.”
“Simple. Real. That’s the truth.”
“Okay, then. Cordelia, I think—”
Oh, no. She did not want him sticking up for Angel again. Before he could say anything else, she cut him off. “Look, Doyle. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the effort, but if I wanted relationship advice I would get it from someone a lot more Rikki Lake and a lot less Phil Donohue.”
For a second, Doyle looked like he was going to argue, but she sent him a stare that shut him up again. He let out a long sigh, gave her an odd smile, and said, “You’re right. This isn’t the time or place for this conversation. We’ve got to get out of here.”
“Love to, but hello! Just a little tied up right now.”
“Close your eyes.”
They narrowed instead. “Why?”
Doyle stalled on the question finally coming up with, “Because I asked.”
How was closing her eyes going to help them escape?
“Just do it,” Doyle hissed reminding her of Angel for a moment.
“Ooookay. Dramatic much?”
Following orders, Cordelia shut her eyes tight. Now she was curious. He was up to something scuffling around on the other side of the van and probably trying to free himself from the rope binding his wrists without looking like a dweeb.
It was not like Doyle had vamp strength or anything. Angel could probably rip out of these ropes like they were paper chains. If he were here, they never would have been captured in the first place. Angel would have kicked Spike’s boney ass all the way back to Sunnydale, but that’s where Angel was—Sunnydale.
Not that she was bitter about it.
Fine. She would keep her eyes closed and her mouth shut. Let Doyle try to be the hero just this once.
A hand suddenly closed over her mouth preventing her from screaming. She couldn’t turn her head to see what was going on. Struggling did not help.
Cordelia stilled at the sound of Doyle’s voice next to her ear. “I said keep your eyes closed. Wishful thinking, I suppose.” Something sharp brushed against her wrist rending the rope to the point that she was able to pull free. She reached up to move his hand away from her mouth, but Doyle’s skin felt almost leathery. He held her there long enough to warn her, “Don’t scream, Princess. This is the only truth I can give you.”
As soon as he released her, Cordelia swerved around to look at Doyle. Her eyes widened in surprise, but she felt no need to scream at the sight of Doyle with bright red eyes and green leathery skin with odd blue spikes. There was just a sense that it explained a few things. “I guess this is what you’ve been hiding from me. Now the whole ‘some demons are good’ conversation makes total sense.”
Using his spiked hands to cut across the rope tying her ankles together, he waited until she was free to answer. Sounding shameful about it, Doyle admitted, “I wasn’t sure you could handle it. You’d see me differently.”
“I work for a vampire, dumbass! Pretty sure I can handle anything.
Despite his demonic appearance, she could still see her friend Doyle when he smiled. “Maybe you can.”
“Duh! Now let’s get out of here.”
Doyle moved closer to the van door grateful for the fact that Manny could not see them from the driver’s seat. “The next time he stops we’ll make a run for it.”
“Good plan.” Cordelia scooted up next to him noting the way he quickly shifted back to his human appearance when she kept on looking. “You’re not hiding anything else, are you?”
The quick denial, “No, no, not at all,” seemed almost too hasty, but the van started to slow down making escape the priority.
Cordelia grabbed the door handle to help Doyle pull it open. “Run!”