Author: Kat Lee
Rating: Soft PG-13/T
Challenge/Prompt: ficlet_zone 1: Songs by the Beatles: A Hard Day's Night
Word Count: 2,083
Date Written: 13 April 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to Whedon, not the author, and are used without permission.
Angel felt like sighing as he finally walked back into the Hyperion. These walls had become very familiar over the last few years and had come to stand as much more than his base of operations. They were more than a refuge, too; they were his home. In these walls were laughter and smiles, two things Angel had never thought he’d have much of after receiving his soul back, but most of all, there was love, brotherly love with Gunn, Wesley, Lorne, and even Fred, the love of a father for his boy with Connor, and most of all, the love he felt for the woman who had become much more than just his Secretary or even the link to his humanity.
He was exhausted; yet, if Darla or Spike were here with him, either of them would quickly tell him that Vampires were not supposed to feel fatigue. That was a problem mortals had, and they weren’t mortals. Perhaps that was his problem with the exhaustion that seemed to be slowly eating away at him every night lately: maybe his exhaustion was human. Maybe it came from his soul. He had not been putting his body through anything extra really. His muscles were not sore, but yet he was exhausted.
Yet, as he walked through the quiet halls of the Hyperion, pausing once to check in on Gunn and Fred, who were sleeping soundly curled up in each other’s arms, he felt the exhaustion that had been nipping at his heels all night begin to slip away. His countenance lifted, and with it went the memories that used to never leave him alone. In any quiet moment up until the last couple of years, even when he’d had Buffy in his life and arms every night, he used to still hear the screams of those he had killed. They varied sometimes, moving from a terrified man’s voice to a shrill woman’s final cry, from quick screams as he pulled them into ecstasy with his fangs buried deep in their throats to screams that his victim had sometimes thought they might never stop emitting -- and truthfully, he, as Angelus, had sometimes ended their torture early just to get them to shut up. They varied in a multitude of ways, but they had always been there . . .
But not lately. Lately, when he closed his eyes, he thought of Cordy or of his son, a boy who was quickly becoming more theirs than his. In the quiet moments, he thought of little ways he could possibly surprise Cordelia, like slipping new, expensive makeup into her desk drawers or greeting her by wrapping his arms and a new designer jacket around her shoulders, or new toys he could buy or even make for Connor, like the crib he’d built with his own hands or the rattle that Cordy so loved teasing him with.
He might be tired, but lately . . . Angel glanced around him at the long, silent halls of the Hyperion. He was home; he was safe. Yes, here, he could admit the truth: Lately, he was happy. He knew it wouldn’t last. Something would come to mess it up; something always came to mess up his joy whenever he finally discovered it again. It was only a matter of time . . .
But however long or short that time was, he was going to enjoy it. He stopped walking as he emerged into his bedroom and just stood there for a moment, basking in the joy and love of the sight before him. It was a wonder he had not always reverted to Angelus. He could feel the monster gnawing at him, deep down inside, just waiting for a chance to be free and kill everyone for whom Angel had allowed himself to care. These two before him, Angel knew, would suffer the slowest, most excruciating deaths his Demon could create for them.
But that was only if the monster actually got out. That fact was the only thing keeping Angel from furthering his relationship with the gorgeous woman curled up on his bed with his son fast asleep in her arms. That wasn’t only sexually speaking. He hadn’t actually told Cordy that he loved her even though he was reminded of that love every time he gazed upon her. He wouldn’t tell her, even though he knew she would be thrilled to finally hear him say the words and would openly gush of the love he saw shine in her eyes every time their gazes met.
He wouldn’t, because if that moment for which they both longed every happened, Angel knew that Angelus would be freed in that very second. He’d kill them all, even Angel himself, because in losing Cordelia and Connor, in losing his family, even if Willow did manage yet again to restore his soul, he would have lost the will to survive. He knew how easy it would be to let himself go. He’d come so close to it so very many, many times, after losing Darla, after losing Buffy, back when he had been surviving on the rats he found in alley ways . . .
All it would take was one slip, one block to defend himself that was a second too slow, one battle that he couldn’t quite win, and didn’t even try to do so, one stupid move, one failure to protect himself against others of his kind . . . He’d be gone, but then so, too, as Cordelia had reminded him so often in their past together, would be the champion who was the last ditch effort to save so many people. It was easy to keep fighting as long as he had a personal reason to fight, as long as saving the world included saving the people he loved, as long as he had people he loved to whom to return at every sunrise.
He could feel the sun rising in the sky outside. Exhaustion rippled through him again, but then Cordelia stirred in her sleep and murmured something. Her voice broke through his dark reverie, and Angel smiled as he gazed upon her beautiful smile. Suddenly, just watching her laying there, he was no longer tired. Coming home to her at every daybreak made anything and everything he endured during his nights always so worthwhile. It made everything else pale in comparison. Even Angel’s worst memories didn’t stand a chance of keeping their usual hold on him when he saw her smile like that.
He walked forward and scooped Connor gently up out of her arms. Cordy didn’t resist the pull as the baby left her. She was too deep in her dreams, and whatever they were, they were making her bask with unbridled joy. Angel walked the few steps to his son’s crib and laid his child carefully into it. His hands stroked the baby, and he leaned down and kissed his little forehead. Connor was fast asleep, however, and made no response, leaving Angel to be able to return to the woman who would always be his mother far more than the Vampiress who had actually given birth to him. Connor may have come from his union with Darla, but it was Angel and Cordelia who were his true parents.
He sank onto his bed with his eyes riveted on Cordelia. He should probably leave her here and let her sleep. He could take the couch out in the foyer or any of the multitudes of other beds still sitting unused throughout the hotel; it wouldn’t take much to sweep the cobwebs away. He didn’t want to leave her, however. He didn’t want to leave Cordy’s side, and yet she didn’t even know he was there.
Her full, beautiful lips parted and whispered his name. “Angel.” Angel swallowed hard, one of many human habits he still possessed after all these years of being undead. Yes, taking any other bed would definitely be safer than laying with this beautiful temptation, and yet . . . All night, he’d been thinking of coming home to her.
As he lay there, caught with indecision, Cordelia reached out, still fast asleep, and caught hold of the sides of his black jacket. She tugged him closer and sighed with happy satisfaction as she snuggled into his side. “Angel,” she whispered his name again.
He pressed a finger to her lips and then his own lips to his forehead. Though the kiss was simple, it was nowhere near as chaste as the one he had given Connor. Oh, how he wanted to take this woman into his arms and confess his love for her both with words and actions! But he could never do that, he reminded sternly. He couldn’t free Angelus again! Freeing the beast would mean losing her; it was nothing short of a miracle that she had survived the first two times he’d been unleashed around her.
No, he could never make love to her. He could never voice his love for her. But he could hold her. For just a few hours, as the sun crept higher in the sky outside, he could hold the woman he loved. He could hold her close to his heart and cherish every second he had with her, and when she did eventually wake, he could feign having been asleep and reached out to her in his dreams. He was becoming a bit of a professional at that deceit, and for once, he didn’t regret deceiving her in the slightest, not when it meant he could hold her close to him for a while. He kissed her forehead again and then lay still with her in his arms.
Cordelia, for her part, carefully kept her breathing the same as it had been when Angel had first walked into the room and as it had been when he had laid down beside her after depositing Connor into his crib. She had not awoken when he had first lifted his baby from her, but she had woken shortly thereafter, an ache in her emptied arms where Connor should have been. It had taken her only a second to realize what had happened as she heard Angel’s soft footsteps against the carpet, and she’d quickly closed her eyes again when he’d started to return to her side.
She had wondered if he would move her from his bed. She had wondered how he would react to her when she had whispered his name. She had hoped for this very reaction. She knew she couldn’t tell the man that she loved him, but she hoped that, in her warm embrace as she continued to feign sleep, Angel could sense at least a little of that love.
She had never loved a man like she loved him. Always before, she had been involved in any relationship she’d ever had only for what she could glean from it, but her relationship with Angel went far beyond that. It went beyond being his link to the human world and way beyond guiding him to keep saving lives. She loved Angel. She truly loved him, and for him and for Connor, she would gladly do or give anything, even if that included the hefty price of never speaking her love aloud.
So Cordy kept quiet and continued to feign sleep as Angel pulled her close. She felt his lips against her forehead, then against her soft hair, and a part of her flashed back to when she had been a giggly teenager. Back then, if a man like Angel had kissed her hair, she would have secretly vowed to never wash it again. She would wash her hair, but she would lay with this wonderful man again at every opportunity she received. She would lay with him again. She would love him for as long as she breathed, but she would never tell him.
It was a small price to pay to know and feel his love with her, even if they never spoke of or consummated it. It was a small price to pay to live this life with Angel and Connor. It was a small price to pay to be so completely loved and completely happy, a small price indeed for her paradise here on Earth. She’d always wanted to be treated like a Queen and have her own kingdom, but right here, right now, and for as long as they managed to stay together, Cordelia was Queen, Angel and Connor were her kingdom, and she was happy, loved, and fulfilled at last.