Rating: PG [Gasp! I know!]
Content: C/A friendship.
Summary: In the dark, where he felt most comfortable, and with the one person in the world he felt most comfortable with.
Spoilers: Early S2, pre-Darla madness.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: Just Fic. Anyone else, just ask.
Notes: This is just a short fic I wrote cos I couldn’t get a few lines out of my head. Wrote it in less than an hour and am posting it pretty impulsively.
Thanks/Dedication:To DamnSkippy for the beta.
The dark was peaceful, silent and full of a thousand deadly secrets, all weightlessly floating on the wind as though they meant nothing. Frightening, noiseless, still – the habitat of a creature of myth, a deadly predator – a pensive man. He had been a feral beast, a killer born to the darkness, cursed with a soul, with a past that still haunted him.
But here, alone, in the dark, he felt comfortable.
Darkness was something Angel had always enjoyed, he still enjoyed, on the rare occasions that he had to himself. Cordelia, Wesley and now even Gunn made it increasingly difficult to find a moment of solitary, and he treasured it when it finally came along.
Their latest case had been gruelling – and unsuccessful. Research had proved useless, the battle had nearly cost Wesley his left arm, and the demon that they’d been chasing for weeks was still out there, terrorizing the helpless and taking lives.
Wesley and Gunn had gone home, bruised, battered and defeated. Cordelia hadn’t been able to sleep, the painful aftermath of her unsolved vision had been too much –
Angel’s fists clenched in anger, memories of Vocah pounding though his skull. She was too young for this, too brave for her own good. He remembered how she’d shone, brilliantly, when he’d first hired her. His very own ray of light in a world of too much black.
Now she dimly glowed in the darkness that he’d pulled her into, deeper and deeper as the flame was slowly extinguished. She was strong, and stubborn as hell – but this was hurting her.
And he couldn’t do a damn thing to stop it.
The Powers That Be had certainly wanted him to suffer. They seemed to damage or destroy everything he held dear. For a moment, Doyle flew through his mind. Pain flashed behind his eyes and he closed them, releasing a breath. Where one door closes, another opens.
Angel gritted his teeth. He wasn’t going to let that happen to Cordelia.
His eyes snapped open. Something moved in the darkness, barely, but he caught it. His hand reached out, curling around the handle of the sword that lay flat on the table beside him. A sound caught up with him before his sight did and Angel’s grip on the weapon loosened.
A heartbeat, pounding desperately in the dark. Cordelia. He’d suggested she sleep at the hotel earlier that night – she’d looked exhausted and she hadn’t been able to sleep at home.
He saw her, standing at the bottom of the stairs, in a big white shirt with rolled up sleeves and a pair of grey sweats. Her long, dark hair was messed up, as though she’d been sleeping on it, and her eyes scanned the darkness nervously, her hand gripping the banister.
“Geez!” She jumped, her hand slapping over her chest as she looked around frantically, the fear in her eyes replaced by annoyance. “We are SO getting you a bell.”
Angel turned, switching on a dim light on the table beside him. A dull glow was emitted from the bulb and Cordelia finally looked his way, her hands on her hips.
“Okay, I get the whole nocturnal vampire thing, I do. And I don’t judge you.” Cordy walked over to him, stopping a few feet away. “But do you have to think so damn loud?”
Angel stared at her blankly. “You couldn’t sleep.”
“No shit, Sherlock. And no thanks to you!” She flicked her hair over her shoulder. “You know, for a P.I? You’re not too stealth.”
“I am too – ”Angel cleared his throat, stopping himself. “I wasn’t…thinking loudly.”
“You were brooding!” Cordy snapped, rubbing her head tiredly. Angel frowned, more at the gesture than the snip. “Don’t you get it? Champion? Seer? We’re linked. I have a built – in brood radar. It picks up an overhanging brow from miles away.”
He didn’t know which emotion was stronger, irritation or amusement. The light beside him flickered, as though experiencing the latter.
“So?” Cordy tapped her feet.
Angel frowned. “So what?”
She sighed heavily. “So, what’s wrong? You woke me up and clearly you’re in the middle of another brood fest.”
“It’s noth – ”
“And DON’T say it’s nothing because I know you.”
Angel sighed unnecessarily. He really wasn’t in the mood to share. “It’s nothing. Really, it’s a waste of ti – ”
“And DON’T say it’s a waste of time, Angel. That is the highest level of lame when it comes from a vampire who has like, eternity ahead of him.” Cordy raised an eyebrow at him. “I’m sure you can afford to waste a little time.”
Angel’s expression remained blank, though it was difficult to restrain the smile that was pulling at his lips. It was a contest of will power as he stared at Cordelia, hoping she would back down. But the battle was lost before it even began, and he knew it would be. He’d never had a chance. She had that look in her eye, the one that made him think she knew him better than anyone alive. The one that made him trust her implicitly.
The one that made him want to tell her all the darkest secrets of his silent heart.
“I can’t stop thinking.”
Cordy crossed her arms, looking confused. “About what?”
“About everything. My past, my present, my future.” Angel leaned his head back against the chair. “It all just seems so pointless.”
“Okay, Charles Dickens.” Cordy narrowed her eyes. “Aren’t we Mr the-glass-is-half-empty?”
She sighed, shifting on her feet. “Why does it seem pointless, Angel?”
He paused, glancing at her. “It doesn’t make a difference. I can’t make up for my past, for all the terrible things I did. It doesn’t matter how many lives I save. There are too many I don’t.”
Cordelia contemplated him seriously for a moment. The light beside him flickered. “You really think that what we do doesn’t make a difference?”
Angel looked up. “Cordy, you don’t have anything to atone for.”
“Yes I do.” She corrected him. “There are a lot of things I’ve done that I’m not proud of. My past may not be as bad as yours but there are so many things I would’ve changed that I can’t.”
“This is my mission.”
“And you’d be sitting flat on your ass if it weren’t for my visions.” Cordy raised a deadly eyebrow. “Don’t make this all about you, Angel. It isn’t.”
Angel’s mouth snapped shut.
Cordy continued, oblivious. “All of us have something to atone for, however big or small. What we do *does* mean something, not just to us but to all the souls we *do* save.” She lifted her chin, daring for him to contradict her. “Life is about the now. If you waste your time living in the past, then you’re right – you won’t have a future.”
The light flickered again, once, twice, before the old bulb expired, fizzling out and plunging them into darkness.
“Angel?” Cordelia’s voice sounded suddenly uneasy.
“Come here.” Angel said, reaching out his hand in the dark and taking hers, pulling her towards him. She sat down beside his feet, curling her legs underneath her and leaning her arm across his legs. She balanced her chin on his knee, looking up at him.
“I know you’ve spent the better part of your life in the era of oil lamps and candles but seriously? A little decent electricity wouldn’t hurt.”
Unwittingly, Angel grinned. “I like the dark. It’s soothing.”
“Right. The ideal environment in which to brood.”
“I wasn’t – ”
“Yes, you were.” Cordy interrupted him. “So before this becomes a nightly ritual, let me say this – you’re the best man I know.” Once again, his mouth snapped shut, though this time he felt strangely warm. “And you *do* make a difference. We all do, in whatever way we can. It’s what allows us to sleep a little easier at night.”
Angel’s eyebrows shot up. “Neither of us is sleeping.”
She ignored him completely. “You just have to try the best you can.” He felt her fingers rubbing soothingly into his knee and a strange jolt shook his stomach. “And you do, Angel.”
There was a brief silence as Angel contemplated her words, considered whether or not to tell her what was really on his mind. He could see her eyes in the dark, soft and a brilliant hazel. As always, one look at them and she won out.
“I can’t even save those I really care about.” He covered her hand with his, pausing until she shifted uncomfortably. “Let alone everyone else.”
Cordy cleared her throat, closing her eyes and removing her hand from under his. “You may not be able to save everyone, Angel. The Powers don’t expect that of you. But you have to keep fighting.” When she looked up, her voice remained gentle but her eyes were harder, hiding whatever secrets she held deep in her soul behind them, somewhere he couldn’t reach. “And I know you well enough to know you will come through. You’ve changed people’s lives.”
Angel felt a frown slide over his lips. “I haven’t changed anyone’s life.”
Immediately, her eyes softened. “You changed mine.”
Three simple words stunned him into silence. In his opinion, the statement suited them better the other way around. Thanks to Cordelia in his life he did so many things he’d never done in the company of a human being before – drink blood in public, chat for hours, smile…
The hardness was gone and she stared at him now, trusting and vulnerable. His voice came out slightly lower than he’d expected. “I did?”
“Do you know who I was before I met you?” Cordelia asked earnestly. “Before I came to LA, I was a spoiled little rich girl from Sunnydale who had nothing more than a sharp tongue and a closet of fabulous outfits to get her through the darkest evils of the world.”
Angel felt a pang of sadness deep in his chest. She’d lost everything and she deserved so much more… He couldn’t sop himself from asking. “But?”
“But I found a way to make a difference.” Cordy said softly, finding his hand in the darkness and intertwining their fingers. Her palm felt wonderful and warm against his, and the gesture touched him deeply. “I found you.”
His heart fluttered a little and it was a wonderful feeling he recognised as happiness.
Cordelia squeezed his hand. “We take what we get, Angel. And we do our best with it. You have to keep fighting because people need you. *I* need you. Without you, I would’ve been just another sacrifice to Russell Winters. Wesley would’ve been just another fumbling amateur who got killed along the way by some demon he couldn’t handle.”
Angel nodded, understanding beginning to dawn.
“You *did* save us.” Cordy said. “You always do. And you need to know that, despite the losses and failures and the pain that comes with it all?” She smiled knowingly and Angel realised she was referring to her role in their mission, as much as his. “In the end, it’s worth it. It will *always* be worth it.”
Silence settled between them and Angel revelled in the comfortable moment – in the dark, where he felt most comfortable, and with the one person in the world he felt most comfortable with. His thumb stroked the curve of her palm and he saw her smile, that special, beautiful smile as her eyes closed sleepily.
“Tired?” He asked.
“Yeah.” Cordy stifled a yawn, glancing up at him. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be.” Angel said, getting to his feet and pulling her with him. They took a few steps forward and Angel sought out the light switch he knew rested against the wall, switching it on. Bright light flooded the lobby suddenly and they both squinted, blinking furiously as their eyes adjusted to it.
“I’m gonna head up.” Cordy said, squeezing his hand one last time and grabbing hold of the banister. Her lips quirked up. “You gonna stay here and brood?”
“No.” Angel said honestly. “I think I can sleep a little easier now.”
“Good. I don’t like seeing you suffer more than you have to.”
Angel smiled, turning to retrieve his sword from the small side table.
“And hey,” She paused at the bottom of the stares, looking him right in the eye as he spun around, that beautiful smile blooming across her face again. “For the record? You’re my hero, you know that right?”
Something tender warmed Angel’s heart and stayed there even as he nodded and Cordy retreated up the stairs. He stared, watching her go until he could no longer see her, the tiniest of smiles curling his lips.
“You’re mine too.”