Title: Lasting Love
Spoilers: Heartthrob, Sleep Tight
Summary: Cordelia missed Connor.
Disclaimer: If you recognize them, they belong to Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt. Otherwise, they're mine.
Author's Note: Thanks to Dev for the beta. You're very much appreciated. :)
Cordelia sighed as she turned the pages of the baby book in her lap. She smiled when the saw the next page. It bore a picture of Angel, Cordelia and Connor. In it, she held Connor in her arms while Angel sat next to her, looking at them both, smiling. As she studied Angel's face, she wondered what the look on his face was. To the outside, it just looked like a father enjoying the company of his child and best friend, but she sensed something more. And then it hit her. It was clearly the look of a man in love. It was the same look she saw every time she looked in the mirror. She wondered how many times she'd seen that look on his face over the years, especially this last year.
Cordy knew she'd fallen in love with her best friend, but hadn't realized that Angel felt the same way. She'd mistakenly thought he could never love her that way, that she would always be his best friend and nothing more. How very wrong she'd been.
She wondered when he realized it himself. Thinking back, she thought she knew. When he came back from the retreat in Sri Lanka. He had seemed so calm in the aftermath of Buffy's death. Now she knew why. The fact that he'd brought jewelry back for her should've been her first clue. How many men buy jewelry for women they don't love? The necklace he'd bought her was absolutely perfect and so completely her. It was not something you bought for your best friend; it was something you bought for your wife or girlfriend. She touched the aforementioned item where it lay against the base of her throat. How could she have been so blind?
Angel stood in the corner, watching silently as Cordy looked at the baby book. He watched as she tenderly stroked the image of their happy family. He saw the proverbial lightbulb go off in her head. All he could think about was how much he loved her, how he wished he could have her in the way he wanted—as the woman he loved. He suddenly felt the overwhelming need to touch her, to be near her.
Coming out of his hiding spot, he walked to where Cordy sat on the sofa. "Hey," he said softly, dropping down into the cushions beside her. "What are you looking at?" he asked, leaning in for a closer view of the page she still looked at. As he did so, his chest brushed her body, satisfying his need to touch her.
"Looking at how happy we were," she admitted. She looked off in the distance, remembering that sweet little boy. "I miss him," she whispered, so softly only his vampire hearing allowed him to hear it.
"So do I. Sometimes I wake up in the morning, forgetting that he's gone. It's those days that hurt the most," he told her softly.
"What do you miss the most?"
Angel thought for a moment, considering. "I miss just holding him in my arms. I miss how he made me feel. I miss…being a dad."
"Angel, you'll always be Connor's dad and nothing can ever take that away from you. For the short time he was here, you were the best dad a kid could ask for."
"Thank-you," he told her quietly. "What about you?"
Cordelia looked at him, confusion written across her face. "Me?"
Angel nodded. "What do you miss?"
Cordy smiled softly, remembering. "I miss holding him. I miss the look of sheer joy you you had just from holding him in your arms. I miss—" she paused.
"I miss feeling like a mother. That probably sounds crazy since he wasn't mine, but that's how he made me feel."
Angel leaned back against the sofa cushions and pulled her back against his chest. "Cordy, it doesn't matter that you didn't give birth to him. In every way that matters, you were his mother," he told her softly, tenderly.
His quiet words brought tears to her eyes as she allowed herself the admission that yes, she was Connor's mother. She finally let the grief she had been denying herself to take residence in her heart. And she cried. The tears fell silently at first, but soon her grief was too much for her and she began to sob uncontrollably. Angel silently pulled her into his arms. She buried her face in his chest, letting go of the pain she'd been feeling since Holtz had taken Connor. Angel just held her, knowing that was what she needed most.
When her tears had subsided, she lifted her head from Angel's chest and gave him a small smile. He pushed a piece of hair that had fallen onto her face behind her ear and gave her a soft smile in return. Even with a tear-streaked face, he still thought she was the most beautiful woman in the world.
Cordelia suddenly felt like she needed to tell him what was in her heart. She reached up and gently cupped his face in the palm of her hand. "Angel, I love you. I'm so in love with you. You are my best friend, the one I can turn to, no matter what. You have always accepted me for who I am, faults and all. Somewhere along the way, you became the reason I was so happy. I don't know when it happened, but one day I realized why. That I was in love with you."
Angel couldn't believe it was really happening, that this woman returned the love he felt for her. "I love you, too, Cordy. You are my dearest friend, the one who accepts me just as I am, with no apologies. Where others have been repulsed, you just smile and take my hand, letting me know without saying a word that the way I am is just fine. One day when I wasn't looking you went from being just my best friend to the woman I love more than I ever thought possible."
She looked back down at the picture in the baby book now resting on the coffee table in front of the sofa on which they sat. "I know," she told him. "When I looked at that picture today, I suddenly knew how you felt about me," she said, smiling. "When did you know?"
"After Buffy died. When I came back from Sri Lanka. Or, more accurately, when I was in Sri Lanka. I realized that while what I had with Buffy was special, it was not the kind of love that lasted. It was a first love, not a lasting love. What I feel for you is a lasting love, a deep friendship that has blossomed after many years into that of true love."
Cordelia nodded. "I thought that might have been when it happened."
Angel looked at her, a question shining in his brown eyes. "How?"
"How many men buy jewelry for a woman who is only his best friend and nothing more?" she asked, touching the necklace once again.
Angel laughed. "None, I guess."
Cordelia's eyes got soft as she looked at him, love clearly shining within their hazel depths. She placed her fingers under his chin, lifting his face to her own. Gently brushing her lips across his, it was a kiss that started out sweet and gentle, but soon deepened into that of a kiss between a man and woman, deeply in love. In that moment, the world around them ceased to exist. They were so lost in that kiss that they didn't notice as Fred, Gunn and Lorne returned from the coffee shop across the street. They didn't notice the smiles their kiss caused, their friends happy that some happiness was finally returning to the Hyperion and Angel Investigations.