Title: Where There is Love…
Category: Angst, AU
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Notes: For the most part AU but keeping the main points – the Darla arc, Angel’s return to the team, Connor’s birth; but no got new clothes happy dance and no one enjoyed a smorgasbord of sandwiches either.
OK here’s the scoop. Both Dusted and I are feeling blue and can’t concentrate on ‘Was It Good For You’. Very sorry for being a party pooper. But my despair of blue spit this out. I’m using a prologue to lay the backdrop for what’s happened so far and part 1 can jump right into Angel returning to the hotel and finding Cordelia asleep in his room with Conner (teaser I know and ewe I’m talking baby Conner) But I really wanted to jump over the details of Darla, the firing, Angel’s epiphany, Pylea, Darla’s return, the birth, the birthday episode, you get my drift and just jump into the meat of the story which is A & C finding a way to deal with everything and moving on. So the details of the past will be explored in various thoughts & recollections of past events and how they effect the present and the future for A & C. As blue as I am I can already see a happy ending but I want them to work for it. I want their journey to that happy dance to have been worth what it took to get there. Now with that being said, don’t even know if this is something worth finishing. Thought I’d post the prologue and let what happens happen.
So clear the night sky, stars unhindered by even the smallest feather of a cloud radiated from the sky casting the emerging stretch of scenery in a timeless dance of twilight. But as all things beautiful did, it gave the man reason to reflect on his life, even when that life asked to be forgotten; even begged for it.
Having put about an hour’s distance between him and Sunnydale, Angel settled himself to the inescapable task of reflection. Sunnydale and Buffy, so much a part of the past, a past that was no longer moving in his journey to the future. Having been confronted with an evil that left her questioning her ability to protect her world and those in it, the slayer had asked for his help.
Even with those she had trusted for years at her side and the added strength of Spike, who had now found his place in the world fighting on the side of good, she had asked for his help. Being the heroic champion that he is, Angel immediately fled to her aid. He smiled as the amusing words whispered through his head and settled to rest with the collection of lies that was gathering centuries of dust.
Here, alone in his return home, he could be honest even with himself. Here, he could say the words aloud without risking the consequences. The guilt-ridden vampire had leaped at the opportunity to escape the consequences of his actions if only for a short measure of time. His truest objective in rushing to his past love’s aid was to escape the veiled glances of mistrust, betrayal and fear that shadowed his near nothing existence.
The enemy that had threatened the place that had become a bittersweet memory of his recent past defeated, the champion made the return to his current home; the place he once gave hope to leading to his future. But not before the girl of that bittersweet memory demanded answers, demanded the truth. What was the truth? Angel honestly reflected on that question before trying to answer her justifiable request. Having filtered through his collection lies that often left him searching for the truth, Angel took a deep breath and began the story.
The story of a vampire both graced and cursed with a soul that had purposely destroyed the light that would guide him to his future. At the time, his foolish quest had been fueled by an intense fear of failure, a fear of falling into that shining light and burning to nothing. Was it possible to be less of nothing than he was after his quest was so painstakingly accomplished?
He had survived the loss of Doyle, his first real friend as either human or demon, and found that fate had not graced him with just the one but two others that selflessly shared the burden of his redemption. Together they had survived the destruction of their headquarters and his home. Together they had saved one of their own from the debilitating visions conjured by Voca.
Together these two friends and a new one that was welcomed into the fold were ready to face the evil that Voca and the enemy law firm had raised. And therein lies the seed that was cultivated with the utmost care and devotion to reap his destruction. He had given aid to his enemy’s scheme by supplying the unholy water needed for their deadly harvest to thrive. And he had earned the gratitude of that enemy when she raised herself from the dead field in glorious evil splendor.
Having lost so much already, Angel felt no fear of losing anything else of value by telling the truth. And perhaps, he mused silently, it might actually feel good to tell someone knowing he had spoken the truth and damn the consequences. So with carefully selected words of honesty, Angel proceeded to tell Buffy of the past year in his near nothing life.
He told of Darla’s resurrection to human form and the horrid disease that threatened to claim that new life. He told of his failure to save her, not from a death that would offer some semblance of peace but from a death that condemned her a second time to a life of darkness and blood and evil. He told of his quest to destroy Darla and those that resurrected her, so full of undeniable purpose, he had forsaken and threatened those that offered him sanctuary from that very evil.
He admitted with shame his failure to destroy Darla and his cowardly acceptance to return to a world of darkness without consequences. He stuttered as he admitted that with a single conscious act he had embarked on a journey that would take him from the light that could save his empty soul. And with a voice quivering as it drowned in the blood tinged tears that flowed down his face, Angel admitted his ultimate betrayal. He had stood in front of the woman that had given him unconditional love, the woman that he loved in a way he would know only once in his lifetime and he had lied.
He had lied because the truth would have lost her to him forever and that consequence was too much to bear.
But now that lie told out of desperation had been exposed. He had not staked Darla as he allowed his friends, as he allowed this woman to believe and three months ago that lie returned to his life ready to give birth to their son. Angel hung his head as he sobbed his last confession. Whatever small part of her the lie had enabled him to keep was now gone.
Darla offered Angel the most unimaginable joy, his son and took from him the one thing he needed to make it complete.
Cordelia left shortly after Darla’s arrival and Angel’s forced confession. Not another word was spoken between them before she left or during the thirty-seven days she was gone. He had been without her for seven hundred and forty-four hours; without her for forty-four thousand, six hundred and forty minutes when Cordelia Chase returned with her head held high and eyes full of clarity that defined her determined will. With a regal grace that only she could summon under such circumstances,
Cordelia quietly announced that she would stay for the sake of her friends and for the sake of the mission. Having simply nothing to offer him, Cordelia turned from Angel and walked away without another word spoken.
Using his sleeves, Angel wiped at the thick moisture that coated his face before facing the girl that had quietly listened to his confession of sins. Expecting her to respond in anger, he flinched when her warm hand gently pressed against his cold, damp cheek. Angel closed his eyes as he whispered his heartfelt gratitude for her compassion.
“Thank you for not hating me.”
Taking a deep, cleansing breath, Buffy prepared herself to offer Angel the one thing she had never given him when they were together. She would give him her friendship and trust him to protect it from harm. It had been another vampire that had taught her love comes in many forms and should be trusted as one would trust a mother’s tender touch. Her words were soft and held a trace of sadness as Buffy prepared to send her first love home where he belonged.
“Angel, unless you left it out because it was too painful to say, Cordelia never told you she didn’t love you. The Cordelia Chase I remember, the Cordelia Chase that you know doesn’t lie. And no matter how much she’s changed, Cordelia Chase does not avoid telling the truth because it hurts. I won’t even try to suggest what you should do but I’m going to remind you of one belief you need to hold onto.”
Buffy paused giving Angel time to take in a few shuddering breaths, believing at this moment he actually needed them.
“Where there is love, there is hope.”
Angel was torn between relief and dread as he reached the Los Angeles exit. His heart eager to embrace his son, his gut retched with anxiety over the suffocating pleasantries waiting for him. Was this not the epitome of his existence? Decades turned to centuries and still the struggle continued between man, demon and soul.
The soul blamed the demon for their recent fall into the darkness while the demon railed in the soul’s plight of indecision. Both chastised the man, the thin thread of humanity that had managed to survive yet wallowed in self-pity. After two and a half centuries, the boy still trembled under his father’s accusing glare of failed expectations. Angel’s most important trial and perhaps most defining failure, courage shadowed in self-doubt, unable to stand at the forefront and lead the undeniable fusion of demon and soul.
Angel fought against the urge to close his eyes and allow himself to drift in a sea of failures and regrets. He had drifted too long, accepting whatever fate the surging current swept him to. Overwhelmed by their unwavering commitment, he had walked away from his family. Plagued by his inability to survive without them, he had begged for their forgiveness.
Perhaps in truth his epiphany was admitting he needed them far more than they would ever need him. His son would need him and Angel knew without Cordelia it would be yet another good intention destined to fail, as destined as the prophesy that foretold of the child’s birth.
Pulling up in front of the hotel, Angel concentrated on Buffy’s parting words and willed himself to step away from the painful memories. For a brief moment, her words offered in a promise of friendship had soothed his lonely heart. Ignoring his mind’s warning, thoughts once again mingled with memories and drifted to Willow’s arrival. Their return from Pylea had been cruelly greeted by the news of Buffy’s untimely death.
Despite the wide gulf that still separated them, Cordelia had instinctively taken her place by his side. Releasing a heavy sigh, he remembered the feel of her warm hand gently smoothing its way up his arm. The care and concern in her eyes had melted his heart and then ripped it into shredded pieces. She came to him with an offer of provisional companionship because he had lost the love of his life.
Having no way to make her believe she had the power to give him back the cherished love he had so foolishly lost, Angel closed his eyes to her token reprieve and walked away.
That walk lasted for three long months while Angel searched for a way to mend the damage he had caused to his family or at the very least find the conviction to free them of his burdensome existence. The Tibetan monks possessing no wisdom that could help him with either endeavor, Angel began his slow journey home hoping that time and forgiveness would offer him some semblance of absolution. His unexpected return had been met with an array of cordial greetings that failed to mask their apparent surprise.
The reason, Wesley later explained, they simply had not expected his return; assuming he would abandon his quest for redemption after losing the love that gave him purpose. Despite the pitiful absurdity, Angel chuckled at the cruel joke life was enjoying at his expense.
The lobby, almost dark except for the faint glow of a single light on the far wall, seemed large and spacious. As he stood in the empty room surrounded by deafening silence, Angel grimaced at how similar it was to him. Large and foreboding but without character when no one was there to fill the dark, desolate space.
Halfway up the stairs he paused as the scent of her perfume flooded his senses. The aroma of her presence lingered in the stale air guiding him to the second floor. During the past year, Angel had spent as much time as Cordelia would tolerate in the common area of the lobby. His purpose, to saturate his senses with her tantalizing fragrance. His reason, Cordelia restricted her daily activities to the neutral boundaries of the first floor.
The only time he remembered her scent upstairs was after returning from his useless sabbatical. Night after night, he had retraced her perfect, unwavering trail from the lobby. A floating mist up the left side of the stairs, a brisk breeze down the left side of the hall and ending with a swoosh at Fred’s bedroom door. Each night the sweet trail grew more faint, his return having marked the end of any late night chats in the hotel.
Angel’s pace slowed, then quickened as he inhaled the heady aroma that filled the second floor. The fruity bouquet of her soap beckoned him to his forbidden, private space. He ran his hand over the smooth wood before sliding it down to grip the brass handle. Lifting the hand to his face, Angel opened his mouth and inhaled the delicate mixture over his tongue.
The smell of peaches left behind as the soap slid across her skin, nail polish freshly applied and undeniably red, lotion true to its name of ‘Passion Unleashed’, but the most distinctive, the most alluring was the scent of her sweat; her body’s natural essence as it seeped from her skin leaving tiny droplets on anything she touched.
Rubbing his forehead against the door, Angel listened to his son’s soft, rhythmic heartbeat. Capturing his upper lip in a hard bite, he struggled to calm his anticipation as his senses became mesmerized by the music of her pulse tone. Easing the door open, he stole into the room with movement more silent than the shifting air.
His chest became full from the swell of his heart as his gaze rested on the treasured gifts cuddled together in contented slumber.
The need to move closer caused his limbs to ache in resistance from the rising pitch of fear that his presence would crush this delicate morsel of fallen heaven. He watched as his son began to wiggle and squirm in the crowded space and froze in a hovering crouch when a tiny fist flew back, lightly tapping against the delicate curve of her cheek.
Fearing she would wake ending the moment too soon, Angel scooped the baby into his arms hugging the small body, soft and warm, to his broad chest. His body shuddered as the mingled spices of mother and child washed over him, healing his soul like a powerful elixir.
Placing his son in his crib, Angel held an unneeded breath as tiny eyes fluttered in resistance before surrendering to the sandman’s call. Stroking the side of his face against the soft terry sleeper, he swallowed one more taste of their blended flavors.
Sensing the emptiness, her arms clutched against her chest, then relaxed as her body stretched out into the now unoccupied space. The silk, lilac pajama top fell open revealing the deeper shade of lilac that teasingly covered her perfect breasts. The fabric so sheer it gifted him a faint view of rosy pink nipples. His mouth watered with hunger and Angel smacked his lips together, resisting the urge to sate that hunger with ravenous licks of her delicious flesh. Needing to cover the temptation before all control was lost, he dropped to his knees snatching up the kicked off blanket.
“Hey.” Angel hesitantly whispered as long, thick lashes fluttered across beautiful, hazel eyes.
Angel? No, it’s just another dream. I need to think about something else or someone else. Someone who wants me in his life.
“Sorry we woke you. Connor was getting restless…I tried to get him before his squirming disturbed you…sorry.”
Her mind still fuzzy from sleep that ended too soon, Cordelia struggled to waken. With desperate determination, she broke through the sleepy barrier, confused that his face was still hovering over her bed.
Good, this isn’t a dream. I need a cold dose of reality so these ridiculous dreams will stop. There was never anything real between Angel and me. It was only a fantasy. I needed a hero so I created one, but I don’t need a made-up hero anymore.“Angel…what are you doing here?”
“I live here.” Angel whispered in with a light chuckle.
Her eyes became like a stormy sea as tidal waves of emotions broke against the hard lines of her blank expression. Angel silently pleaded that the battering turbulence would settle into calm acceptance as he watched her struggle come to an end.
“Oh, right…I should go.” Anxious to move from under the hovering vampire, Cordelia sat up holding the blanket snug against her.
I can’t let her leave. I’m alone with her for the first time in months, so many months since I’ve been this close to her. “Stay, it’s late…well actually it’s early. The sun will be up in about an hour. Cordy, why didn’t you and Connor take the bed, it’s not like it was being used?”
Don’t think so big guy. You made it perfectly clear who is important to you. You wanted to make sure I understood what you are and that I couldn’t give you what you need. I may have been naive about you but I forgot who I was too. You’re a good teacher and I’m a fast learner. Lesson over Angel. I’m Cordelia Chase and you’re a vampire.
“The couch was plenty big for me and I didn’t exactly plan on sharing it. That son of yours had a different opinion and after awhile I gave in and let him have his way. Don’t know who he gets his pigheadedness from. It may be one of those wonders of the world that we never figure out.”
“Is that right Miss Chase? I’ve missed that unique Cordy snark.” Angel’s hand reached to tuck the loose hair behind her ear but froze midair when Cordelia flinched at his intentions. Shaking against her distrustful glare, the trespassing hand fell limp at his side.
What’s the matter champ, Buffy not overjoyed with the idea of playing step mom to Darla’s offspring? Did you have to come back to LA and settle for us? Hell, we didn’t even score second behind Buffy. Darla held that position, still does. But she’s gone and I guess for the time being we’re all you’ve got. Well make no mistake Angel, Cordy is gone too. You through her out and she never came back, at least not to you.
God, I’m so sick of hearing that. Like that’s suppose to make up for all the crap he’s put us through. “I should get my things and go.” Pushing the blanket away from her, Cordelia pushed it into Angel’s face as she sprung from the couch.
Hearing the click of the bathroom lock, Angel slowly pulled the blanket from his face. He slumped his dead weight onto the warm but lonely couch and stared at the door that shielded her from him.
Why did I try to touch her? If I had just contented myself with being close to her she might still be sitting her with me. Hell even when we were on the best of terms Cordy always insisted I respect that damn personal bubble. Stupid, stupid, stupid; will I ever learn?
Angel ended his self-inflicted lecture at the sight of Cordelia lugging the large, overstuffed tote. “Here, let me carry that for you. You know you can stay; right?”
“No, no, I’ve got it. And I really need to go Angel. Looking forward to a few hours of uninterrupted sleep.” Cordelia rattled off in a nervous whisper as she moved around the room like a gust of wind, hastily checking for any missed items.
After her unexpected firing, the reclusive vampire had quickly discarded her personal possessions left behind and Cordelia was determined to never again clutter his home with anything remotely personal.
Giving in to defeat, Angel moved out of her way and stood next to the crib. “So…why did you stay over? Not that I mind. You’re always welcome…stay are much as you want.”
“Angel, you’re babbling and you’re going to wake Connor. Fred’s been sick and Lorne’s been busy getting the club ready so he couldn’t be here at night. I suggested that Wesley and Gunn take turns staying over but as you can see that didn’t happen. You would have thought I asked them to slay the world’s stinkiest stinkbug demon, or worse. Gees two grown men afraid to be alone with a baby. I really know how to pick my heroes.”
I used to be your hero. I’ll be your hero now, if you’ll let me. “What’s wrong with Fred? Is she OK?”
“It’s just the flu but she was way too sick to take care of a baby and besides it wouldn’t be good to expose Connor to the flu. So here I am, but you’re back now and I can officially retire from my substitute nanny position.”
You’re so much more than that. Connor needs you, I need you. “Cordy, you’re not a substitute anything.”
“I just meant I was filling in for Fred and Lorne. Little ole me taking on both shifts while my two so-called heroes ran for cover. OK, that’s everything. I’ll see you tomorrow; well I’ll see you later today actually.”
“Cordy…” Ask her not to go. Tell her she belongs here with you and Connor. “…thank you for taking care of my son.”
Gracing Angel with an uneasy smile and a quick nod, Cordelia walked out of Angel’s bedroom closing the door softly behind her.
With a heavy sigh of disappointment, Angel stripped away his clothes before stretching out on the couch where Cordelia had slept just minutes before. Reaching for the blanket drenched in her sweet fragrance, Angel wrapped it around his naked flesh. He wanted to immerse himself in her lingering scent, soaking it up into his skin before time could take it away.
Tonight as so many other nights, he would content himself with dreams. In his dreams, he could taste her. In his dreams, he could feel her heat surround him as he buried himself inside her welcoming hearth.
I wish I had kissed her before she woke up…