False Claims 3

Part Two – The Encore

Chapter Three

Acting quickly so as not to give Cordelia a chance to disrupt the delicate balance of power that she had established, Angelus wrapped his right arm around her, securing her to his side, and before she knew it they were out of the house. Another blink of swirling colors and they were back in the cemetery.

Suddenly everything stopped and then started again as Angelus released his grip on all except her hand which he used to spin her around to face him. Cordelia, sure that all of this speeding around was going to make her hurl, briefly considered aiming for the big dumb vampire and his lovely cobalt blue silk shirt. Although destroying his shirt would be satisfying, wardrobe damage probably wasn’t worth her life. Besides, she knew that she’d probably be better off trying to destroy some of Xander’s shirts. Not only would that not get her killed, but it would be a good dead almost worthy of the slayer.

As soon as the nausea passed the anger took over. “What the Hell did you think you were doing in there?” Cordelia brought her hands to her lips and began scrubbing furiously, but still Angelus could make out the nearly hysterical words coming out of her mouth. “Ewww! Vampire lips! Lips of the undead! Bah!!!” Suddenly the scrubbing was replaced by spitting noises. “Ptuey! Ptuey!”

Angelus frowned at the spectacle of the cheerleader jumping up and down in the cemetery trying to disinfect herself as if she’d been attacked by a leper. What was wrong with his lips? He’d kissed thousands of women with these lips and he’d never had any complaints. Sure, most of them died soon after and the least of their grievances against him would have been his kissing technique. But not all of them died and they never said anything derogatory. Hell, even the slayer liked his lips – and wasn’t that a disgusting image. Suddenly he, too, felt like spitting and wiping away imaginary cooties.

What was it about this girl that made the world seem slightly over tilted on its axis? A mission that should have involved nothing more than her death and the instant retrieval of his amulet instead turned into a night of amazing revelations.

He had actually claimed the girl. Not just marked her as part of the Order, but claimed her as his own. At first the thought hadn’t bothered him because he’d assumed that he’d be killing her before the night was through. But now…he wasn’t so sure.

A claim was a strong bond between a vampire and their human. While marks were given to human minions to delineate them as part of an Order, protect them while on clan business, and make them more malleable, claims were much different. They denoted a vampire’s emotional investment in a human; a taking of a pet. It was a bone deep infusing of one’s scent that declared, “This is mine and mine alone” and bespoke of the wrath that would be faced should one dare to trespass. And while it wasn’t frequent that one saw such a bond between a vampire and a human, it was by no means rare. Some vampires actually preferred to claim a human years before they turned them, thus strengthening the already compelling sire/childe bond.

Generally bonds worked best on weak-minded humans who were often chosen as servants, but even strong willed people would feel the pull. A claiming bond was infinitely more potent than that, cracking even the strongest of wills.

Angelus thoughts flew back to 1824 when Darla had claimed a demon hunter who had followed them for months all across Europe. He had a remarkably fierce will and it had taken months for the bond to break him, but when it did there was nothing he could do to resist.

Of course, that was the deconstructing of a fanatic. Most normal people felt the compulsion of the bond at once. And yet, here was Cordelia Chase acting as if his touch was repellent and she couldn’t wait to cast him from her sight.

That couldn’t be right. There was no way the shallow, self-centered bitch of Sunnydale High whom the slayer’s little gang spoke of with such contempt could be this strong. She was dating the moron for God’s sake.

He briefly considered that maybe he’d done it wrong. It had definitely been a while since he’d done anything like that, over 100 years. Maybe he was a little rusty. But no, he could smell himself all over her. And wasn’t that intoxicating – his scent mated with hers, swirling around her, declaring his possession of her.

For the bond was certainly not one-sided. The vampire, too, was affected by it. Possessive and demanding by nature, a claiming bond magnified those feelings exponentially. Just as it, over time, increased the submissiveness in the human’s nature it also increased the dominant nature of the vampire. The drive to own the person, to control every aspect of their life until everything they had was yours – their obedience, their loyalty, their love, became an imperative, escalating until it became painful for the human not to give and for the vampire not to receive.

He could feel the need to be acknowledged already churning in his gut. Why was she feeling nothing? She couldn’t be that accomplished of an actress, could she?

But of course she could. Hadn’t he seen for himself tonight as she pretended to be his adoring pet and his partner in crime. He’d hoped that when this night was over he’d be one step closer to his ultimate goal, and yet instead, he found himself immeasurably nearer to consolidating his position on the Hellmouth. And though he would never admit this outside of his head, he owed a lot of that to Cordelia Chase. A lot of it, Hell, he owed almost all of it to her.

Her quick thinking had solved problems he’d been struggling with for weeks. She created not just a plausible, but a beneficial explanation for the slayer’s continued existence. More than that, in less than an hour she’d undone the century of damage done by the soul.

Her cunning mind and easy grace had led the demons to every conclusion she wished them to reach – that the slayer had been duped, that he’d organized what amounted to the assassination of those above him in the Order, and most magnificently, that he’d never had a soul, that it had all been a ruse to gain power – an honor worthy pursuit in the demon world.

But the coup de grace had been convincing them that they were brilliant for seeing what no one else had. By implying that only lesser demons would have been taken in by the artifice, she guaranteed that by this time next week the entire demon community would not just be claiming that he had no soul, but each asserting that they had known all along.

For there was no way that the A’toreal clan would keep this juicy bit of information to themselves. No, they would want to preen and posture, basking in the glow of knowing something others did not, and in an endless jockeying for position and face saving all the other demons would jump on the bandwagon.

Still somewhat stunned by the doors that Cordelia had opened for him he chose to ignore her childish display and got back to business.

“Where’s the amulet, Cordelia?”

Cordelia stopped her pantomime of spitting and looked up at the vampire who loomed far too large in this dark graveyard. “Nuh-uh. Home, safe and sound. That was the deal. My car’s just a few rows over. Once I’m home you can have your Crackerjack prize.

Angelus controlled his rumble of discontent and once again grabbed her arm. Thankfully he chose not to use his demon speed, maybe sensing that Cordelia’s stomach couldn’t take much more and wanting no part of that unpleasantness. Still, with his large stride Cordelia was rushing to keep up.

Reaching the car, Angelus held his hand out in a silent demand for the keys. This time Cordelia made no effort to contain her eye roll, and loudly pffted almost directly in his face as she pushed passed him, unlocked the door and slid into the driver’s seat. Her life was certainly important, but come on, this was her beautiful sports car. No one drove it but her. Not Xander, not Harmony, and certainly not the guy who could crash it with impunity knowing that he’d survive any crash except maybe one into a lumber mill.

Shooting her a death glare as he climbed into the passenger’s seat Cordelia replied to his ultra-clear nonverbal communiqué.

“What?! You haven’t even been around since they invented cars.”

Angelus ground his teeth at her response as he managed to grind out, “I can drive.”

“Not my car you can’t.” As she looked over at the fuming vampire she decided to try to give that discretion thing one more try before she was strangled with her own tongue.

As they passed through the security gates and pulled up in front of the Chase home it was clear that no one was home. Angelus was out of the car and around to Cordelia’s door before she could even shut off the motor.

Escorting her to the front door he turned her to face him. “Here you are, safe and sound.”

“No,” Cordelia replied, “I’m here, but I’m not safe ’til I’m on the other side of that door.”

Angelus smiled, surprisingly, not unkindly at her. “You know I can’t let you go in there without telling me where the amulet is, Cordelia.”

In a ploy that had been working for her very well tonight, Cordelia let Angelus think that he was in control of the situation. Letting him believe that his crowding of her was intimidating she slowly inched her way until she was leaning entirely against the door.

Chase Business Rule #4 – Just because you’re in business with someone doesn’t mean you have to trust them.

Before Angelus could react, even considering his great speed, the Chase’s large wooden entryway opened causing Cordelia to fly backwards into an elegant entrance hall.

As he watched all of his plans crumble as Cordelia scrambled backwards, Angelus began expelling rapid fire obscenities and beating his hands futilely against the mystical barrier preventing him from snapping her neck.

Cordelia, finally assured that he couldn’t follow, held up her key chain before the amber eyes of the now fully vamped Angelus. Gesturing to a small black device dangling amongst the keys she explained. “Electronic locks. They automatically open the doors to the car” Cordelia pointed to the appropriate button, “to the garage door” again displaying the correct control, “and this one – the front door. Daddy likes me to be safe”

Angelus’ words took on a guttural tone as he barely managed to push words through the rage choking him. “Safe? You bitch, when I get a hold of you they won’t be able to identify your body, if they can find all the pieces – “

Cordelia waved of his threats and hurried to cut off talk of her imminent death at his hands. “Geez, don’t get your knickers in a twist, grr guy. Your necklace is in the cemetery in the flower vase of Emily Winston’s tombstone.”

Pausing in the process of attacking the barrier once again, a confused look crossed Angelus’ face and, as if finding an appropriate home, seemed to settle there. All other thoughts escaping him he asked the one question that wouldn’t flee in light of this shocking concession.

“Why?”

Although in the short time they’d spent together that evening Cordelia had spent most of her time lying, the eyes that lifted to meet Angelus’ now clearly contained nothing but a pure and unvarnished truth far more characteristic of the lovely brunette.

“Look Buffy can build her mansion in the land of denial for all I care. But you and I live in reality…well, I live, you exist. Your big plan for Buffy is to kill her friends, kill her family and leave her broken and alone. I get that.”

“But Buffy doesn’t want to believe that because then she’d have to kill you and she doesn’t want to do that. She believes that, deep down, there’s some of Angel in you still. Of course, you and I both know that, salty good exterior aside, you’re no Angel. She’s just not prepared to understand that the only constant thing about Angel is you. You’re the natural state, although not the preferred one, and Angel is the temporary component in this equation.”

“So I know that everyone around her slayership is on your list, but I figure – Buffy and I, not the greatest of friends. In fact, killing me might actually be a favor in her mind. So I have to believe that I’m fairly low on the “Angelus’ List of People to Kill Today”.”

“Why’d I give you the necklace? Simple; I don’t want to move up.”

Angelus considered her explanation. Short and to the point it underscored his earlier thoughts that Angel and the entire Scooby gang had severely underestimated the girl standing before him.

Not entirely sure whether he was taunting the brunette or genuinely enquiring he probed her understanding of the ramifications of her decision.

“You do understand that by giving me the amulet you’ve basically guaranteed my ascendance to power in this town.”

Hazel eyes shot him an incredulous look. “And I care because? Whether you’re in charge or the arterial clan – “

“The A’toreal clan.”

“Gee, thanks Giles.” Cordelia shot back, sticking her tongue out at the vampire.

Angelus had the grace to look chagrined, knowing that he had, indeed sounded just like the watcher. But embarrassment was soon overtaken by lust as the tongue he had feasted on earlier that evening came into view.

“Anyways” Cordelia carried on having no idea the directions the vampire’s thoughts were now heading, “like I care which demon runs the Hellmouth. You’d all kill me as soon as give me a second glance.”

His thoughts still filled with better ways she could use that tongue than mocking him, Angelus slowly let his gaze wander down her body, eyes pausing to gauge the fullness of the breasts straining against the thin burgundy silk of her blouse, appreciating the firm curves of her hips highlighted by the thin material of her pants, the endless length of her legs. His blatant desire was an almost physical caress as he burned his way back up the path he’d just descended, meeting her eyes and flashing her a smile that would rarely be seen outside of the bedroom.

“I don’t know, Cordelia. I’d certainly give you a second glance.”

Despite the rapid beating of her heart and the aching deep in her belly that accompanied the mental stripping the vampire had given her, she attempted to retain at least her outward composure, and, pinning him with the easy glare of one often admired, dismissed what she assumed he thought passed for a compliment.

“And now I have to take two showers.”

He paused for a moment. That was never the reaction he got from the opposite sex, especially once he expressed an interest. And dammit all, she was his! She should be feeling something.

As the absurdity of the entire evening came crashing down on him, Angelus threw back his head and laughed, a deep, sensual sound.

Cordelia was right in her assessment of his intentions. He was planning on killing everyone in the slayers life. What he hadn’t planned on was Cordelia Chase. She’d spent the evening surprising him continuously, and after a quarter of a millennium, that wasn’t that easy.

She’d definitely accomplished her goal – She’d moved herself to the bottom of his kill list. Maybe off it entirely.

After all, limited exposure to each other should restrict the bond, and he certainly had no reason to hang out with the girl. Even with the soul he’d rarely spent time with her.

Besides, it could only help his reputation in the demon community to have a pet in the slayer’s camp. Yes, Cordelia Chase was certainly off the killing agenda.

Angelus’ kindly musings were interrupted by Cordelia once again. “Of course, the biggest reason I’m giving you your amulet is so that I can watch the slayer kick your ass getting it back.”

And she was back on the list, Angelus thought as she winked and closed the door in his face. But breathing in her lingering scent which stirred his predatory instincts in for more than just homicidal ways, he knew that she was indisputably at the bottom.

As Angelus turned to make his way back home his steps were contemplative as he wondered whether Cordelia Chase presented a burden or an opportunity.

Chapter 4

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