Title: Worth Waiting For

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: PG-13/T

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the worlds are not.

Summary: Even self-rescuing princesses could use a strong shoulder to lean on sometimes. 1200 words.

Spoilers: Post-series; no comics; Expendables (2010)

Notes: Challenge fic; filled with my take on Charisma Carpenter's role in The Expendables. Because Cordelia got shafted. And because Lacy deserves more agency than to just be The Girl Who Didn't Know How Good She Had It. (I love the movies, but they're definitely male POV.)

Most days, Cordelia Chase was glad she'd taken the Powers up on their offer to let her live in exchange for never interfering with Angel's destiny again. Sure, it sucked that they'd only given her one day to say goodbye, and to put him back on the path he should be walking, before they'd sent her away under the equivalent of supernatural witness protection. She'd never stop feeling bitter about that. But if she hadn't taken their offer, she wouldn't have had the opportunity to pass him that last vision; and she'd be dead now, really dead, buried in place of the magical decoy they'd provided. She knew exactly how damaged she'd been after Jasmine had used her as an incubator, and without the Powers' healing her soul-ravaged body wouldn't have kept breathing much longer.

New Orleans wasn't so bad. She still had her looks, she still had a job helping people, and she had a hot new British boyfriend who wasn't around often enough to notice the stranger things about that job. Like the floaty, glowy visions that still visited every so often, or the minor players who sometimes used her place as a magically neutral safehouse. Whatever the local Furies had done to make sure no one could track her under her old identity, it covered a multitude of other supernatural traces as well.

On the other hand... there were days when Cordelia wished she'd never woken out of that coma at all. Like the day said boyfriend showed up out of nowhere, more than a month after he'd last called, with a ruby ring and a couple of over the top romantic lines to cover for the fact that he still hadn't told her what he did for a living. Who even thought they could get away with that macho bullshit anymore? It was one thing in a centuries-old vampire, but from a guy less than a decade her elder?

Clearly, the idiotic part of her that had crushed so hard on Wesley at the end of high school hadn't quite been left behind with the rest of her old life. The charm, the accent- even the bike. Except that Lee kissed and snarked a lot more like Xander... god, she really did keep making all the same mistakes.

Cordy watched him ride off on his bike, heart aching, and wished she could just tell him the guy in the house wasn't a replacement boyfriend, wasn't anything but a local who needed a place to stay while he was having his house magically fumigated for demonic pests so they couldn't track him the way they had the last three times he'd moved. He was a slimeball, she didn't need Lee telling her that; but he was human, and had been referred to her for help. And whether Lee knew it or not, she could more than take care of herself.

If he'd ever told her anything about what he did, she might have filled him in... but how was she supposed to trust a guy, no matter how much she cared for him, if she didn't know anything about his past? All she had were the rough ridges of scars on his skin, the diligently maintained muscles, and a prickly but surprisingly soft-hearted personality to go by, and he could easily have picked those up working for guys like the old Initiative or Wolfram and Hart.

She'd seen the knives he sometimes forgot to remove from his jacket before he came over; if nothing else, those were enough to make a girl question. Maybe your average suburbanite wouldn't recognize a throwing blade when she saw one, but Cordelia Chase- whatever name she wore- certainly knew high quality hardware when she nicked a finger on it gathering up his clothes. She'd polished enough of Angel's and Giles' collections- and dug enough edged metal out of the bodies of her friends- in her pre-Lacy days to know the difference between cheap dick extensions and the real, deadly thing.

She crossed her arms over her chest, walking back up to the house with a scowl. She didn't want to let him go, even if he was dangerous; she was beyond sick and tired of guys trying to 'protect' her, but the glimpses of deep loyalty and caring under the rough surface were something she'd been looking for ever since she'd been forced to leave Los Angeles. Because even self-rescuing princesses could use a strong shoulder to lean on sometimes, and with a little reality check she thought Lee'd have that covered. She just needed to know if what she'd seen in him was real, or if she'd just been fooling herself. Again.

Paul, the idiot, was still watching her as she came back up to the door, propped against the screen with one arm stretched over his head to show off his bare chest. As if it wasn't obvious his personal trainer and stylist were more to thank for his looks than honest effort. He probably thought it gave him macho points, too, giving Lee the impression they were fucking; as if that would raise the odds he'd actually get into her panties. What a loser.

"Back in the house," she growled at him. "If I lose him over this, you're going to regret it."

"Oh Lee, I love you, but I don't know who you are!" he said in falsetto tones, then smirked at her, not moving an inch. "Sure didn't sound like you were eager to correct his impression, Lacy-girl."

"Like I could tell him the truth, and you knew it the moment you butted in on our conversation," she replied. Then she narrowed her eyes and pulled at the glowy ability the Powers had let her keep to mitigate the remaining visions. "And I said, move. You're out of here as soon as the exterminators call back."

His expression turned ugly at that, but he did move, turning and walking back into the house. "Whatever."

He was going to make trouble before he left, she just knew it.

...Then again, if he did, it could give her the perfect excuse to call Lee back. Between the opportunity to show off, and the confrontation they'd just had, he might actually, finally talk. As long as he didn't actually try to kill the guy- and if he tried to take things too far, that would be an answer, too.

It would grate not to just nip the problem in the bud herself, but she could sacrifice a little pride for a one-time thing. Because if he told her the truth- and she'd know; she had that gift too, as part of the glowy package, which was why the whole silence issue had been driving her nuts- she'd take him by a few of the city's walled cemeteries after dark, and they'd see if he could hack her truth. What better way to step into her world than a little zombie slaying?

Maybe she could never be Cordelia Chase again. But Lacy Ames had her high points, too. And if Lee couldn't handle that? Well. At least it would let her put a period on things without any lingering guilt.