Again, English is not my native/first language. If you find an annoying writing error in this story, please email me (instead of mentioning it in a review) and I will correct it immediately.
Author's note: Thank you so much for your reviews. It means a lot to me. And now for the 2nd and last part…
Cordelia stuck her head around the door of the hotel. Her gaze wandered about the lobby to see if anyone was there. She didn't want to alert anyone nor did she want to run into someone. She needed some time to herself, some peace and quiet to think everything over.
Without making a sound she sneaked into the nursery. Although it was long past his bedtime Connor was still awake. He was sitting on his blanket, a stuffed animal in his small fist. He looked up when a shadow fell on his crib. His face crinkled into a huge smile as he recognized the person in his room. He was too young to understand who Cordelia really was, but it was her smell that told him that she was the one who had held him before. In his perception she was safe and nice.
"Hi you little guy," Cordelia murmured. "Why aren't you asleep? You should go sleepy, sleepy."
She leaned over the crib and tenderly caressed his head. Connor raised his arms and tried to grab her sweater.
Cordelia chuckled. "You don't want to go to sleep, do you?"
She lifted Connor up. It felt so good to have him in her arms. She sat down in the recently bought rocking chair. With sad eyes she looked upon him. His face radiated of joy for being out of his crib at this late hour. He was still so young, but his features already reminded her of someone she'd rather not think about.
"You look like your daddy, Connor." Cordelia brushed his lips, cheeks and finally his eyes. A warm feeling spread through her entire body. "You may not be my son, but I do love you so much. I wish the others would see that."
Connor began to blow bubbles and his fingers made a grab for her hair. She laughed despite a stab of pain. He was just a baby, but he already had the strength of a toddler. She knew he was going to be a very strong man.
She let him take hold of her fingers. He clasped her forefinger firmly and put it in his mouth. A satisfied smile curled upon his lips.
"You're the only one who loves to see me, Connor. The only one who cares about me. And you're just a baby. You don't know any better."
"I care about you."
Cordelia startled when his dark voice suddenly filled the room. Resisting the urge to look up, she kept her eyes downcast, her gaze fixated on the angelic face of little Connor. He stirred when her arms tightened around him in a sudden reflex to the emotion Angel's voice and comment brought about in her.
"You care about me, Angel?" Her voice was husky. "Then you sure have a strange way of showing it."
Tears were burning in her throat, but she swallowed them away. She did not want to cry. Not now, not ever again. She'd already cried enough for one day.
Her face clouded. "I don't need your 'sorry', Angel. What good will that do me? Will it take away all the things you said to me? Will it make me feel different?"
"I don't know what else to say."
"No, you never do. What will you give me this time? Buy me even more clothes? I don't need clothes, at least not yours. I don't need anything you can give me." Cordelia shook her head. "Maybe you're right. No one in his right mind would have forgiven you for some clothes. I did, so maybe I am just as shallow as you accused me of. Maybe…"
"No, you aren't," Angel corrected her quickly. "There's nothing I can do, nothing I can buy you. All I can say is that I was wrong. I didn't mean anything I said. I didn't mean to hurt you."
"But you do, everyday. You say that you care about me. Then why don't you ever show me?" Cordelia burst out emotionally. "I feel like I don't mean anything to you. You never tell me. Why don't you?"
Angel's back was bent, his face even gloomier than usual. "I don't know, Cordy." For a moment the room was veiled in silence, then he confessed: "Maybe because I'm afraid."
He evaded her glance. It was easier to bare his soul with his back turned towards her, so he would not have to see the pain in her eyes. "Afraid that if I let you come too close, you will leave me just like everyone else has done."
His confession came as a surprise to her. "Why would you think that? I won't leave you," Cordelia said confused.
"Why wouldn't you? Everyone else has. I'm just as alone as you are. Buffy, Darla… They're not here, are they? All I have left is Connor. And when I heard my son crying like that, I was afraid that he would be taken from me as well. I didn't want to burst out to you. I didn't mean anything I said. I was just so…"
"Worried about him," Cordelia finished for him. She already knew that. It had taken her a few hours to realize that his harmful words only stemmed from his concern for Connor. And although she was still offended – his words had hit home, exposed her insecurities – she could not stay angry with Angel for long. She never could. But that didn't mean that she had to forgive him right away.
"I don't want to be the punchball you need every time things get too tough for you."
"You can call me a jerk, a moron or an idiot…" Angel suggested.
"Or all of the above."
Angel grimaced. "You're right. I have been a moron and a jerk and an idiot."
"Yes, you were Angel. And you did hurt me a lot. Not as much as with the whole Darla thing…," she added as casual as possible.
Hope raised in Angel's dark eyes. "The last thing I want to do is hurt you. You have to believe me. I lost my temper when I found you sleeping instead of looking after Connor. I can't lose him, Cordy. I can't. He's everything to me."
"He's everything to me as well, Angel. I would never do anything to hurt him."
He nodded. "I know. I know you love him. You've been more like a mother to him than anyone else has, than anyone probably could be." He paused for a moment, then continued softly, almost hesitantly: "I was worried about you too when you didn't come home. If something had happened to you, I would never have forgiven myself. I don't want to lose you, Cordelia. I don't know what I would do…"
His face was blank, but his words said enough. Cordelia knew he meant it. That afternoon he had hurt her, but his confession that he was afraid of losing her had already made up for a lot. She needed to hear him say those words, that he needed her, he wanted her. This time he didn't have to buy her anything, act like a busy overworked father who'd forgotten his daughter's birthday. This time true words were enough. His concern was enough.
Cordelia looked up. Tears shone in her beautiful green eyes. "I went to the park. I sat on the bench for hours, thinking about my life as it is. And the more I thought about it, the more I…"
"…Hated it," Angel finished gloomily.
She looked intently at him. She could dream his features. His black bottomless eyes in which a girl could drown, the sharp lines in his face, the smile he sometimes shot at her… Cordelia was suddenly overwhelmed with so many warm feelings, so much emotion, that a knot formed in her stomach. Confusion, sadness, joy and also a stronger feeling were fighting inside of her. She couldn't imagine a life without Angel anymore. He had become a part of her, probably the most important and special part.
Then she looked at the baby in her arms. He was so precious to her. As he lay there, blowing bubbles and playing with her sweater with those cute tiny fingers, she felt so at ease as if there was no evil waiting for them outside the hotel, no distress and no sadness. Just this moment.
Her voice was barely a whisper when she said: "No, the more I counted myself lucky."
Angel looked up. Their eyes met. Surprise was clearly written in his. He had not expected her to say that. But then again, this night was full of surprises. For the first time since they'd met they were completely honest to each other about their thoughts and feelings.
"You look surprised," Cordelia said with a small smile playing at the corners of her mouth. "It's simple, Angel. Apart from all the bad things that have happened, I feel like I've finally found my own place. I do important work, I help people who need it, I have my friends. Wesley, Gunn and…you. I think I finally know who I am now."
"But what about your dreams?"
She closed her eyes for a moment. Though she had resigned herself to her fate, she could not hide the sadness and bitterness that clouded them. "I had dreams of becoming a star. I wanted people to look up to me, to admire me. I wanted to feel important. But especially, and I realize that now, I was looking for someone who would love me for who I was, not for who my parents were or for how much money I had."
Angel listened attentively to her. She was so different now. Not the spoiled or brainless child he'd accused her of. He was looking at a serious woman who had the strength and courage to be that honest to him, to share her insecurities with him. He now realized what she had meant earlier by the way she behaved in order to deal with the horrors. Her act prevented her from getting hurt, from being drowned by the evil and despair she had to experience every day.
"You have accepted me, Angel. I know I've driven you all mad several times, but you didn't push me away for once. Everyone else has. My parents, my friends, everyone. Except for you. So, why would I want to leave when I have everything right here?"
Angel smiled warmly at her. He was relieved to hear her say that she wasn't leaving. Then again, where would she go? She had nowhere to go. She belonged here, just as much as he belonged here. Cordelia could have chosen any city in the entire country. She could have gone to New York, to Chicago, to Boston, anywhere. But she chose Los Angeles. The city of Angels. His city. Maybe it was fate. He didn't really believe in fate. He'd seen too much to believe in anything except himself, and even that was difficult sometimes.
Still, he got the feeling that they were linked somehow, and it wasn't only because of the Powers that Be. Cordelia was meant to guide him and he needed her for that, but he also needed her to keep him in this world, to prevent him from slipping into that darker, beckoning place. And there was also another reason why he needed her, one he wasn't ready to give into. At least not yet.
Cordelia's sweet voice startled him out of his thoughts. He looked at his son in her arms. They made a pretty picture.
"Let's get him to bed."
Cordelia lay Connor down in his crib. He stirred in his sleep when his back touched the blankets, but fortunately he didn't wake up.
A shiver ran down her spine when she suddenly felt an arm around her shoulder. Angel had touched her before, held her whenever she had a painful vision, but this was not 'workrelated'. This was different, more personal and also more enjoyable.
She leaned into his embrace, feeling his body against hers. It was strange not to hear a heart beating or feel his body heat. Feelings she had pushed back for too long surged through her. It had been so easy telling herself that they didn't have a chance together, that they could never be, but with his arm around her she could no longer deny her feelings.
"I'm really sorry, Cordy." Angel briefly caressed her cheek. Her face turned into a flattering shade of pink at his touch. "Don't believe the words of an idiot. You're not shallow. You've already done so much for me, for Connor. I wish I were better in showing you how much I appreciate that, how much you mean to me. You're a caring, strong, brave, amazing woman…"
Cordelia raised her eyebrows. "I believe you're forgetting something."
"And beautiful as well," Angel added quickly.
Cordelia turned around and faced him. His features had softened; his eyes radiated warmth.
"Since I know how much you hate to say you're sorry, you probably mean it. But I do know of a way you can make up for it."
Angel sighed relieved. He was a man of action, not of words. "Anything."
"Well," she grinned mischievously. "Next week there's this party. We will go with your car and you'll have to wear a tuxedo. It will be a whole evening of mingling, drinking champagne and showing off. Great, huh?"
With every word Angel's face became darker. A horrified look appeared in his eyes at the thought of spending a whole night socializing. It was the ideal punishment – and of course she knew that – but it was nothing if it would help her forgive him.
"All right. If that's what it takes to have your friendship back. "
"Well, part of it." Her eyes were sparkling. "I will have to think about the rest."
Angel shook his head, smiling. "I'm sure you will come up with something."
"Oh, I will. You can count on that. And my revenge will be sweet." She lowered her eyes for a moment. "You know, I'm sorry too. I shouldn't have…"
"I know. It was just a reaction to my words."
A soft radiance came over her face as she looked up again. "You don't have to be afraid of losing me, Angel. I am not going anywhere. You're not getting rid of me that easily."
In a sudden impulse – ignoring the alarm bells in her head – Cordelia wrapped her arms around his waist and rested her face against his chest. She felt Angel stiffen for a few seconds, then his body relaxed and he embraced her firmly, running his hand through her short hair. They stood there for what seemed like hours, both enjoying the rare and special moment.
Angel tightened his arms around her and with his chin on her hair he said softly: "I do care about you, Cordelia. I care about you very much – 'more than I can tell you' – and I don't want to see you get hurt."
Cordelia smiled. "That's all I need to know, Angel."
I hope you liked my story. I know you were probably hoping for a whole 'I love you' scene, but this is all you'll get for now! : -) Please let me know what you think of it. Thank you! - Karin -