Title: False Claims
Category: Dark romance, angst
Summary: This is based on a challenge by Impress which is included below. It’s set in S2 of BtVS, and it spins out of canon from there. Although I do use things that happened during the show, I do so to fit my purposes with little or no respect to canon. It’s my world gosh-darnit and I’ll make it how I like it.
Spoilers: Some for the first 3 seasons of Buffy.
Disclaimer: Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: If anyone wants it they’re welcome to it, but asking would be nice.
Notes: #3: I get help with demon names from this site – Seventh Sanctum. This was a great challenge by Impress, so if the story sucks it’s all in the execution and not in the conception.
Extra Note: Just want to remind everyone that this is kind of a dark story (although not nearly as dark as some I’ve read (which I enjoyed)). I’m going somewhere with it (hopefully), I just thought I’d put that out there.
Feedback: Always appreciated, never discouraged.
Part One – The Rules of Business
She was running again. Geez, what was it with Sunnydale and the running, Cordelia wondered as she tried to force her legs to even greater speeds. But the truth was that when you live on a Hellmouth you ran or you died; and tonight it looked like she might be doing both. Dammit! As the tombstones flew by in a blur she couldn’t help but wonder how she’d gotten into this situation. Oh, now she remembered. Like everything crappy in recent memory it started with Buffy.
Earlier That Evening
The heavy wooden doors swung violently open slapping the walls behind them, the loud noise incongruous with the library setting. Of course, considering the fact that said library was currently demon fighting HQ, leeway could be given to the unexpected.
Perhaps more startling than the abrupt sound was the petite blonde who stalked in. The epitome of suppressed violence, she carried with her a frenetic energy that warned even those not of a supernatural ilk to be wary.
That warning extended even to those who counted themselves as part of the slayer’s mission. Although in no way psychic, the watcher and his three students knew that something had apparently happened on patrol and all were present and accounted for to offer whatever help they could. Well, most were present and accounted for. Noticeably absent was the young gypsy teacher, Miss Calendar, who was still persona non grata for withholding what turned out to be some rather crucial information regarding Angel’s cruse, earning herself a seemingly endless spot in Buffy’s bad graces.
“Buffy, I’m glad you’re here. We were just-“
“Angelus.” Buffy’s implacable tone sliced through she was sure was about to become another well meaning yet extremely boring research summation from Giles, and concisely conveyed the fact that tonight’s priorities had changed.
“We were just Angelus?” Xander questioned from his perennial research position. “I don’t think so Buffster. I’m pretty sure I’d remember being Mr. Tall, Dark, and Homicidal.”
As far as jokes went that particular one, like most of Xander’s dropped with the all the delicacy of a bowling ball on a carton of eggs. Although rarely used it except in times of extreme trouble, Buffy’s slayer voice was a sign that serious was the new order of business and levity was to be left for later. Unfortunately no one ever thought to send poor Xander that memo.
Shooting the dark haired boy a withering look Giles returned his attention to his slayer. “What about Angelus? I understood that there had been no sighting of him for more than a week. Has that changed?”
“No. He’s still making with the vanishing act, and I think I know why. I stopped by Willy’s on my way over here. I…” Buffy hesitated, thinking how best to phrase what had taken place at the demon bar earlier. “…encouraged him to do his civic duty and explain to me the rumors about the new demons in town who, well to be honest, we desperately don’t want to research tonight.”
Ignoring Giles’ disapproving sigh at what she knew he saw as a shirking of her sacred duties, Buffy plunged ahead. There was no point not to, with what she’d learned today there’d be no Bronzing it for the Scoobies tonight. God she wanted a day to just be normal. With everything that had happened recently she knew that wasn’t too much to ask, but duty called and apparently she forgot to turn on the machine. Don’t people ever get tired of trying to end the world, she wondered wearily? ‘Cause, hello! Where are they going to live? Apparently villainous plots and common sense don’t mix.
With effort, Buffy pulled her mind back to Slayer endeavors. One would think that straightening to her less than impressive height and adjusting her powder blue cardigan with little pearl buttons wouldn’t seem intimidating, and yet gone was the teenage girl and in her place stood the protector of the Hellmouth.
“According to Willy, there’s a new group of demons with powerful ties in the community. Astoria or something or other.”
“A’toreal” Giles corrected, a force of habit and in no way motivated by any erroneous belief that the teenagers before him might actually attempt to learn something.
“Uh, yeah, them. Well Willy said they’re here to do a little hell raising, which in our neck of the woods usually means a literal Hell raising.”
“So what’s the problem? We see, we slay, and by we I mean you, and then we party all night long, and by we I mean us. Don’t worry, Buffy, I got your back.”
As Xander quickly outlined the plan that would get them soonest to the Bronze, Cordelia looked Heavenward as if somehow God might appear and explain why her boyfriend was such a dumbass.
She knew there were reasons she dated Xander but at moments like these she couldn’t recall one of them for the life of her. With a twist of her rust, silk covered shoulders and a flip of her glossy, dark hair she turned to the boy with the dopey smile and acerbically pointed out the massive flaw in his plan – which, in this case happened to be his entire plan.
“Look you goof. I hate to rain on the plan that’s designed to get us all killed, but 1) If the demons were all that easy to kill then why wouldn’t Buffy be out there killing them instead of her wasting our “non-Chosen” time. 2) Obviously this has something to do with Angelus, ’cause I’m pretty sure that she wasn’t just shouting out psycho-vamps name just so we could all remember that she boffed the soul out of her boyfriend. 3) If there was an easy way for her to end up at the Bronze I’m sure she would be taking it ’cause I’m not really seeing the dedication to duty. And 4) I’m sure that any plan that includes you watching her back she’d be desperate to find a way to revise.”
As Xander faced his clearly irate girlfriend, he did the only thing that a man in his position could do – he cowered away and tried to collapse into himself. He knew that there were reasons that he dated Cordelia but at moments like these he couldn’t recall one of them for the life of him. As she heaved a sigh of what he could only assume was disgust in his direction his attention was redirected towards her breasts, firm and perfectly formed, straining against the eye catching material of her blouse, and suddenly he recalled one, well two, reasons he put up with Cordelia’s abusive honesty.
As she watched her boyfriend’s eyes shift as if magnetically drawn to her chest she took another deep breath and let it out. She knew that she’d been kind of hard on him and really, letting him oogle her was the least she could do. Well, until they could make it to a broom closet that was.
Not that she felt bad for the things she said. They were true, and she didn’t have the time to invest in dishonesty, even if was cloaked in the need to make everyone feel better. Still, even she sometimes wondered if discretion might not be, well maybe not the better part of valor, but certainly some, minuscule part of it. It wasn’t that she couldn’t keep her thoughts to herself, it was more like, with this particular group of people, she didn’t even want to try. I mean, sure, she and Xander had always had an antagonistic relationship, but it wasn’t even that. It was…Buffy.
It wasn’t that she didn’t like Buffy. Well, no, she actually didn’t really care for Buffy. But it wasn’t like the normal way she didn’t like people – because of the clothes they wore or the music they listened to. You know, things that didn’t really mater. No, with Buffy it was an actual reason.
Cordelia understood that in the game of life Buffy got a crappy hand. After watching Buffy at her slayer duties over the past few months she could honestly say that she wouldn’t wish that kind of responsibility on anyone. Buffy was right when she said her life wasn’t ever normal. She was right when she complained that having to fight vampires and demons and God knows what else that skulked in the shadows in this rotten town was gross, disgusting, thankless work. Buffy was even right when she went on, endlessly at times, about the slayers plight – lack of choices and itty bitty life span. If that was the train Buffy was conducting Cordelia thought, “All aboard.”
Honestly, she sympathized with every point the young blonde made. But the part that really chapped Cordelia’s designer clad hide was that Buffy’s life may be one big overdose on the supernatural, but the only difference between her Chosenness and the rest of them was the Buffy was actually equipped to handle it. She was super strong and super fast and super heal-y.
Buffy wasn’t going to die young because there was some kind of slayer virus that would strike her down, she would most likely die young because she was always in a million dangerous situations, and – Hello! Who was always right there behind her? The “Scoobies”. (Actually Cordelia thought she might die simply from the shame of being constantly compared to a cowardly cartoon dog who could be easily bribed with snacks. Although she could clearly see how Xander had earned the nickname.)
Willow and Xander and, more and more often recently, herself, were always there to help Buffy with the staking and the magick and the rituals and the decoying. Not because it was their sacred destiny, not because they had some Watcher riding their ass (and wasn’t that a disturbing mental image), no, they did it because it was right, and no matter what their problems were they seemed to not be able to live in Sunnydale and not help, and Cordelia should know ’cause she had certainly tried.
Sure, they could walk away, but so could Buffy. She, like the rest of them choose not to. And while Cordelia was grateful for that fact ’cause Lord knows she didn’t want to hang out on Hell central without a slayer, Buffy never seemed to acknowledge that if her life was a sinking ship, well she had a lot of company in that boat and she was wearing the only life jacket.
Even the endless whining about Angel/Angelus rubbed her the wrong way. I mean, let’s face it, Angelus was going to kill all of Buffy’s friends before he ever got around to his obsession, so they were all in danger. Yeah sure, tragic love story, star-crossed lovers, blah, blah, blah – the bottom line is that they were all going to die terribly, but at least Buffy got herself some salty goodness while all she’d gotten was Xander’s wandering hands while a mop dug into her back.
In all of the superficiality that was Cordelia’s life she knew to the bottom of her soul that it was only her honesty that kept her sane and that honesty would mean nothing if she never applied it to herself, so she did, ruthlessly and often. She knew, beyond doubt, that she was very egocentric, sometimes bordering, hell, crossing the border, into obscenely selfish. Life had taught her early and hard to look after herself because no one, no one else ever did. But whatever her reasons for her tunnel vision, at least she could own it. Whether she was admitting it to herself or someone was shoving it in her face (which they often did), she took the responsibility for her own behavior.
But Buffy, who was, admittedly much like herself, so often absorbed in her own angst that she missed what was going on with everyone around her (Can we say raising of the master’s bones), was practically idolized. She was placed on a pedestal so high that she was nearly untouchable.
And in a moment of honesty so deep it almost hurt, Cordelia had to admit that maybe that’s what bugged her most of all; not that Buffy was like that, but that Buffy was like that and came off looking so much better than Cordelia did for the same kind of behavior, to people who were, for some horrible, unknown reason starting to mean something to her.
Oh crap. Once again, intense self-examination had screwed Cordelia over because she had just missed everything that Buffy had said.
“Excuse me, Buffy, but could you go over that once more for those of us who couldn’t hear over your extremely loud skirt?” Okay…that might have something to do with them liking Buffy more then her, too. Oh well.
Shooting Cordelia a look that was clearly intended to hasten the statuesque brunette’s early demise, Buffy snapped back, “I’m sorry if were disrupting you fashion moment with our unimportant end-of-the-world talk, but if you could extend you attention span to more than 30 seconds we could actually use your help.”
Caramel eyes clashed with blue steel and surprisingly it was Cordelia who acquiesced first. If there was one thing she understood inside and out it was pride. She knew how hard it was for Buffy to ask for her help, and she knew that she didn’t make it easy for the slayer. Whether that was because of her personal issues with Buffy or because of the way that they just kept assuming that she wouldn’t help even though she was always helping. Either way, seeing the stress lines etching themselves more and more often into the blonde’s face of late, Cordelia decided that being nice just this once wouldn’t kill her. After all, the way things were going with her and Xander she was going to be hanging around with Buffy for a long time to come, and she certainly didn’t want to be starring at unsightly wrinkles the entire time.
And Buffy, shocked to hear no sarcasm in Cordelia’s reply, blinked in surprise and, deciding not to tempt fate began outlining her plan once again.
“Our newest group of demony tourists to our little paradise are here for some kind of necklace. Apparently Tiffany’s doesn’t make jewelry evil enough so they’ve come to evil central here to accessorize. Here’s the bad part. Okay, on a side note how sucky are our lives when heinous, fashion conscious demons *aren’t* the bad part.”
“Angelus is supposedly getting the necklace for them. I’m not sure what he wants from them. Willy wasn’t very forthcoming and I believed that he honestly didn’t know. After all, we all know that Angelus doesn’t exactly work and play well with others, so who knows what he’s after. However, it’s a very safe bet that whatever it is we’re better off if he doesn’t get it; and it seems that the first step in shutting down his grand plan is getting our hands on this necklace.”
“The good news is that we know where the necklace is now.”
“Let me get this straight, the *good* news is that we know where we can go to fight Angelus for a necklace that a bunch of demons would be more than happy kill us for.”
“Yes, Xander, do shut up. Buffy, continue.” The watcher’s matter of fact redirection of the conversation was, in its way, almost as tension reducing as Xander’s attempts at humor.
“Apparently the necklace is in the Van Warren crypt in the old Sunnydale Memorial Cemetery. We’ve got a little daylight left, so vamps aren’t our main problem. But Willy did tell me that there were other demons in the area that seem to be keeping an eye on things for Angelus.”
“Giles, Xander and I will create a diversion. Willow, you and Cordelia will go in and get the necklace. It’s supposed to be on the body of the Van Warren family patriarch, but who knows which corpse that will be, so grab every necklace you see.”
In apparent agreement with Cordelia’s echoing ewwww, Willow timidly offered, “Maybe we could distract and you could grave rob?”
Tossing her best friend a sympathetic smile the slayer continued, “Once you’ve got it you need to get to your car, Cordelia and drive to your house. Angel never had an invite and with whatever else is there focused on us you two should be safe as houses.”
And thus the crappiness ensued.
It had actually been a fairly simple plan. Grope the dead guys, steal their jewelry and drive to safety. Okay, make that a simply disgusting plan. Still, what could go wrong?
Well, for starters, demons could have swarmed all over the decoy detail, the fighting blocking the path from the crypt to Cordelia’s car leaving her and Willow stranded in the house of the dead. Then, the sun could have set just as they were able to make a run for it. And of course, by the time they got within sight of the car Angelus could have been leaning against it. All of that could have happened.
And it did.
Which is why Cordelia was now running. Since she and Willow had broke and run in different directions she figured she had a head start. The Scoobies had always believed that she was ineffectual, even when Angel had still been around. Actually, even more when Angel had been there. So it only stood to reason that Angelus would believe that it would be Willow who would find and transport the necklace.
But it wasn’t going to take Angelus long to learn that he, like most people had misjudged her. Cordelia fervently hoped that he didn’t learn that lesson by killing the quiet redhead.
As she whizzed past a fairly new grave she came to an abrupt halt. Cordelia knew that no matter what anyone else thought the one thing you couldn’t deny was that she was smart. She was a Chase, after all. Although she had a unique kind of logic all her own, when it came down to reality she could be as clear and analytical in discerning how to come out on top of a situation as the most seasoned of businessmen. That’s why, even as she was being chased through a graveyard by a demon who would have no qualms about killing her, she stopped.
Chase Business Rule #1 – A good businessman never enters a situation without leverage. Good business deals could only be made when both parties had something the other wanted.
Knowing this to be true, Cordelia set about creating herself some leverage. And with that thought in mind she carefully scanned the landscape for anyone, human or other that might be watching, and made her way over to the grave that had caught her attention. What had really drawn her eye to the plot was the headstone.
Made of granite, the headstone was nothing out of the ordinary, especially by Sunnydale standards. Simple, yet elegant, it bore the name Emily Winston and the dates of both her birth and death. Attached to the marker, below the writing was a brass vase proudly displaying a clutch of white carnations that were far past their prime.
This vase was what now drew Cordelia. Determined to make the most of the only leverage at her disposal, she quietly slipped the necklace into the vase where it was quickly hidden by the dying blooms.
The necklace seen to, she took of running once again. As she finally reached the edge of the cemetery she paused briefly to decide which way to go. Although there were houses in each direction this was a much older part of Sunnydale so they weren’t set close together, cutting down on her opportunities for help.
With a sixth sense that comes from being the prey of a much stronger animal, Cordelia knew that her time was fast running out. Looking once again to her right she saw a large house that was fairly well lit, certainly giving the impression of being currently occupied. Making her decision in an instant, she gathered what was left of her stamina and made a mad dash for what she could only hope was some kind of safety.
Reaching the door, Cordelia began pounding with all her might, begging for entrance. Repeating the mantra in her head, “Don’t look back – Don’t look back” she of course found herself looking back. As a blur of dark color reached the edge of the cemetery, she knew that lady luck was fast abandoning her. In desperation she reached for the door handle, and to her surprise it opened under her touch. Thankful for the homeowner who must be new to Sunnydale since no one who’s lived her for any reasonable amount of time would leave their front door unlocked, Cordelia threw it open and quickly made her way to safety.
Hearing sounds coming from what she assumed was the living room, Cordelia made her way towards the voices. Knowing that even if these people were unaware of the true dangers of Sunnydale they still might react poorly to a stranger just barging into their house she prepared to announce her presence.
A small, manufactured cough turned the heads of everyone in the room. As Cordelia struggled to catch her breath felt an odd shiver run down her spine. Surviving on the Hellmouth meant trusting your instincts and her instincts were screaming that something here was off.
She had about 2 seconds to give this potential trouble some serious thought when she became aware of definite trouble as two strong arms wrapped themselves around her waist, pulling her back against a hard cool chest. Even though she knew, without a doubt in whose embrace she now found herself, hearing the deep voice, smooth and silky still shot fear through her heart.