Title: Home

Author: Aimee

Beta: Dev

Rating: PG

Spoilers: Vague references to season 4

Pairing: Angel/Cordelia

Summary: Cordelia wakes up.

Disclaimer: If you recognize them, they belong to Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt. Otherwise, they're mine.

Author's Note: Set in season 5, this happens around You're Welcome, but before the phone call that told Angel Cordelia was awake.

Angel sat in a chair beside Cordelia Chase's hospital bed, holding her hand in his. It had been six months since she'd been admitted, six months since he'd heard her voice. It had been nearly a year since he'd last looked into her hazel eyes and saw his best friend. In the six months since she'd slipped into her coma, he'd been here at her side every night. He couldn't risk her slipping away from him without knowing she had someone who cared about her.

Angel laced his fingers through hers and looked at her, studying her face. Her skin was flawless, just as it had always been. Her dark hair fell just above her shoulders, framing her face. What he really missed, though, was her eyes. Those beautiful hazel eyes that had always looked into his and known just what he was thinking, had known what was in his soul. God, how he missed her.

In any other hospital in the country, the staff would have told him to go home, to come back when visiting hours started, but here it was okay. They encouraged the families of their patients to stay as much as they wanted to, no matter what time of day or night it was. Here, they knew him by name. What they didn't tell him was that his very presence made their patient rest easier, just as they suspected that her presence allowed him to get the sleep he wouldn't otherwise get. They'd never seen a man more in love.

Angel yawned. He was exhausted. He kissed Cordelia's forehead tenderly and lay his head down beside where her hand rested at her side. He picked up her hand, needing the physical contact with her and closed his eyes. He was asleep within minutes.

Angel felt soft fingers caressing his hair. He could feel them stroking the skin at the base of his neck. His subconscious mind knew it was only a dream, but it felt so nice. He hadn't felt this relaxed since before Cordy had been taken and made a higher being. In his sleep, Angel sighed with contentment.

In the conscious world, Cordelia Chase was waking up. What neither she nor Angel realized is that she really was unconsciously caressing his hair and stroking his skin. She was slowly regaining consciousness. Out at the nurse's station, Nurse McBride scanned the monitors, checking to see that everything was normal. When she came to the monitor of Cordelia, she saw that her respiration was slightly elevated. Her levels were not that of a comatose patient, but of a woman who was—awake. The nurse quickly made her way to her patient's room.

Once inside, the scene that greeted her was one she'd seen so many times over the past six months. The man at her patient's side held tightly to her hand while they both slept. It was the only time they both were completely relaxed, she knew. There was one exception this time, though. Cordelia Chase had shifted on her bed and was now lying on her side, the fingers of her other hand tangled in Angel's hair.

Nurse McBride made her way to her patient, checking her vitals quietly so as to not wake the sleeping couple. She had just written down the latest numbers on her clipboard when two hazel eyes opened. After quickly surveying her surroundings, Cordelia's eyes studied the man at her side. She noted the way he held tightly to her hand like it was his lifeline. She saw the pain etched across his handsome face and somehow knew how much he'd missed her. She sat up slowly, not wanting to wake him. He was so attuned to her body, though, that the movement did wake him. Nurse McBride took that moment to quietly slip out, closing the door softly behind her.

Angel slowly opened his eyes and looked into the face of a smiling Cordelia Chase. Suddenly, he was wide awake. "Cordy," he whispered, praying he wasn't still asleep and dreaming. "Are you—am I—" he faltered.

Cordy smiled. "You're not dreaming, Angel. It's me."

With those words, Angel pulled her into the biggest soul-crushing hug of her life.

When she pulled back, she slid over slightly and patted the bed, indicating that he should join her there. He quickly slid in next to her and wrapped his arm around her, pulling her close.

Cordy looked up at Angel as tears silently fell down his face. "Hey," she said, tenderly touching his face. "What is it, Angel?"

I missed you," he told her softly. "I missed you so much," he told her in a voice choked with emotion. In his eyes, she saw all the pain he had been trying so desperately to hide. She saw all the fear, all the loneliness.

Let it go," she whispered, drawing his head to her shoulder. "Let it all go." With those simple words, he finally let it out. He let his fear of losing her go, all the loneliness he'd felt without her. He let go of it all. And he sobbed. Sobbed like he never had before. Cordelia's heart broke.

Lifting his head from her shoulder, he looked calmer, happier, if still teary. Cordy reached up and tenderly brushed his tears away with the tips of her fingers. "I missed you, too," she whispered.

Angel held open his arms and she fell into them, laying her head on his broad chest. She relished the feel of his body against her own. It felt right. It felt like home. She raised her eyes to his and knew it was time, time to finally let him know what was in her heart. Being away from him for the better part of a year and a half had not changed the way she felt about him. In fact, the intensity with which she loved him had only grown stronger.

Angel," she whispered, taking his hand in hers. "I love you. I'm in love with you. I can't remember what it was like not loving you, not being close to you. Somewhere along the line, the friendship that I cherish turned into a love that I can't imagine my life without. You are my best friend, my love, my everything," she finished softly.

The tears that had now formed in his eyes were not ones of sadness, but of joy. "I'm in love with you, too, Cordy. I love you with everything I am, both the vampire and the man. You don't make me feel like a vampire; you make me feel like a man. No other woman has ever made me feel like that. Living without you these past six months have been hell. It almost killed me the first time; I can't do it again. You are my dearest friend and the one true love of my life. You are my universe."

Tears of joy now glistened in Cordy's eyes as well. Tears that told him without her saying a word just how happy he'd made her. Angel lowered his lips to hers and gently brushed his lips across hers in their first official kiss. It was perfect. And so was this moment.

Cordy lay her head back down on Angel's chest, closing her eyes. Angel wrapped his arms around the woman he loved and closed his own eyes. He smiled, knowing that when he woke, Cordelia Chase would be by his side.

An hour later, Nurse McBride poked her head in to find the couple wrapped in each other's arms, sleeping. The tenderness with which they held each other made her chest hurt. They had a love she'd seen so rarely over the years. It was a love that would stand the test of time. It would see them through the bad times as well as bring to light the everyday joys of life. She smiled, closing the door behind her as she went to call the rest of their family. As she dialed the numbers of Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, Charles Gunn and Winifred Burkle, she had no idea that she was relaying the news that would bring joy back into their lives. The heart of their little family was home.

As day broke, the vampire and his lover slept on, oblivious to the three that had quietly crept into the room. Blinds were drawn so the vampire didn't burst into flames at the first hit of direct sunlight. They didn't care that the couple seemed not to know they were there. It didn't matter that life had been hell for all of them for the last six months. Cordelia was back and now, life could begin the process of returning to normal. Life could go on.