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The   P R I S M   S E R I E S : G R E E N (story three of nine)

Author: Dazzle (RhinestoneDazzle@aol.com)
Rating: PG13
Archive: Wherever you want
Spoilers: Through the ATS third-season episode "Offspring"
Warnings: None
Summary: Angel tries to accept the upheavals in his life -- Darla's return, his child's imminent birth, and the dawning of new emotions for Cordelia. Third in the Prism Series, which follows Cordy and Angel's developing feelings throughout the previous year.
Thanks: To Inamorata for the great beta-read and encouragement
The symbolism of green: nature, fertility, youth, renewal, inexperience, jealousy, beginnings

*****

The moonlight is pale in the courtyard; with the hotel's height all around it, relatively little light gets in, by day or by night. But during the day, there's enough sun out here to burn. And during the night, there's enough sky to see. I sit down heavily on one of the stone benches; the leaves of the hedge-plants rustle, shining dark and green in the pale light. In the middle of all this metal and stone, this small place alive -- growing up toward the sunlight, even though there's so little.

"You're going to be a father," Cordelia had whispered to me. She said it like she was excited about it. Like it could be a good thing.

(but it has a soul it has a soul I can hear its heart beat and feel its body move and I can sense its soul)

Can it be possible? Can Darla and I have possibly created something good?

Everything I know -- from my own personal history, from Wesley's yellowing books, from pure mathematical probability -- tells me that shouldn't be true. But my child's soul tells me it just might be true after all.

My child. I haven't thought that before. My child. The words are unfamiliar, almost alien, and yet I have to whisper them aloud, to marvel at the way they sound. I am about to have a child. That child may be a harbinger of unspeakable evil. Or perhaps it may be the means of salvation for countless lives. But whatever else it -- he or she -- will be, the child will be mine. I'm going to be a father.

For a moment, I feel something I almost don't recognize -- pride, pure and strong. My dead body has given life, something that should be impossible but wasn't. And I know that whatever happened -- whatever strange aberration from the laws of gods and men made it possible for me to father a child -- wasn't anything I did or didn't do. I didn't choose this. I was chosen. But it's happened to me all the same.

"Hey, you." I look up at the doorway to see Cordelia standing there. Her body is framed by the pale light from the Hyperion lobby. Whatever anger she felt earlier today is gone; Darla scared it out of her, or her vision got her past it. Either way, I'm grateful. I smile and stand without thinking about it, welcoming her to join me.

As she steps forward, I find myself watching the curves of her silhouette, the soft shine in her eyes as she looks up into mine. I remember what Fred said to me, how vehemently I denied it. It was easier to do before I saw Cordelia nearly being murdered by Darla and knew, in one instant, that what I felt for her was -- not what it had been. It was easier to do when we weren't alone in the moonlight.

"This is probably my cue to ask you what you're thinking about," Cordelia says. She wraps her arms around herself; the weather tonight is fairly mild, but by Los Angeles standards, there's a chill in the air. "But I'm guessing there's so much knocking around in your head that you couldn't give me a straight answer."

"I like the fact that you think I'd give you a straight answer otherwise."

"I try to think positive." Cordelia glances sideways at me. "That was your cue to give me a partial answer. Or at least a clue to go on. You know -- start a phrase, let me try to finish it. Something like that."

I shrug. "It's not that I'm thinking too much," I say. "I can only think about one thing. The baby."

This isn't exactly the truth. But I don't think we're going to get anywhere if I admit that I'm also thinking about her. At least not anywhere I'm ready to go.

"Are you scared?" she says gently.

"Of course. With my history -- wouldn't you be?"

"That's exactly what it is. History. You're not the demon you used to be. Darla -- well, okay, she is, but something important must've changed somewhere. And don't remind me where."

"I haven't changed as much as you think I have." Her eyes narrow; her lips quirk. "Okay, I haven't changed as much as you say I have to make me feel better. I know I'm not Angelus any longer. But that doesn't mean I'm anywhere close to having what it takes to be a dad."

Dad. That word, for some reason -- it gets me, hits me right under the ribs, makes me blink hard. "Being a father" is an idea you can make abstract; you can talk about patriarchal roles and Freudian imagery and legal responsibilities and wrap it all up in "being a father." But I'm within a few days of being someone's dad. A dad is a guy who can fix a broken toy and sit up late with a child with a cough and take everybody to Disneyland. Fate and the Powers and my own misguided despair have made me a father, but right this second, I can't imagine anything in the universe that would be able to make me a dad.

"Hey." Cordelia's eyes are dark as she looks up at me. The bandage on her neck is pale in the shadows that surround us. She rests her palms against my chest, and despite everything else that's going on, I remember how we were together earlier in the training room -- our bodies sweaty and tense and inches from each other -- and I shiver. If she notices, she doesn't say anything. "You take care of us, don't you? And you do a pretty good job."

"I haven't always."

"This is true. But -- we're not always the easiest crew to take care of." Considering what happened last winter, the embodiment of which is lying upstairs pregnant and homicidal right now, this is about the most generous statement Cordelia could have made. "And every time it's mattered most, you've come through for us. Just like you're going to come through for little Jason or Hannah."

I feel myself frowning in confusion. "Jason or --"

"Just throwing some suggestions out there. What I'm trying to say is, when you stop tearing yourself up about the past and live in the present, you're pretty good at taking care of people. Who saved me from Russell Winters? Who kicked Wilson Christopher's lying butt? Who read the part of 'Rafe' about eight jillion times when I had that soap opera audition?"

"Oh, yeah." She's got me smiling despite myself. How is it she always does that? "What was the line again? Something about amnesia."

Cordelia laughs, and I can't help but revel in the sound of it as it echoes in the courtyard. Then I wonder if Darla can hear and then realize, of course she can. Darla understands what I'm feeling, even if Cordy doesn't -- hell, even if I don't. She always did. Always will. And no matter how much she wants to be done with me, she'll never be able to endure seeing that I care about someone else.

Because of that, even this small moment of closeness is endangering Cordy. So how can I even be so irresponsible as to let myself think about --

Her hands are still resting against my chest. I turn away from her abruptly, trying to put some distance between us. "Cordy, I need some time alone. To think."

"Alone is the last thing you need to be." She's standing close behind me, so close I can almost feel her breath against my back. "And Angel -- you're not ever going to be alone again. Not really."

Oh, God, she's right. From this day on -- I can fuck up or lose it or take off. I can alienate my friends and obliterate my enemies. I can go from city to city, continent to continent, taking nothing with me but what I've got on my back. But my child will be my child forever. I will always be a father. Even a century from now -- even when my child is old and gray, or dead at the end of a long life -- I'm still gonna be a father. Everything else might pass away; if Wesley got that translation right, even my being a vampire will someday be a thing of the past. I even got out of hell. But this -- this is forever.

I'm terrified. I'm exhilarated. I want to turn around and grab Cordy close, for comfort and for celebration and - no denying it -- a few other things besides. Instead I sigh I run my hands through my hair. "God, Cordy, I want this to work out."

"Why wouldn't it work out?" Her voice has moved -- I glance over my shoulder and see her settling down on one of the stone benches. She's not aware that I'm watching her, and I realize that she's more tired than she's letting on. No wonder, considering the close call she had with Darla. But she's putting on a good show for me, only revealing her exhaustion -- a slight slump, a hand drawn through her hair -- when she thinks I don't see.

I look away from her again before answering. "You heard Wesley. My child might not be normal. I mean, why would we even expect normal?"

"The situation's pretty far from the beaten path," Cordy agrees.

"Darla and I could have created a monster. Heredity would pretty much call for it, if heredity even applies to our kid. And that night --" I know she's flinching without seeing it, still angered by my lie, but once again I find that I have to talk to her, spill it out, even if it hurts. "That night was terrible, Cordy. I was in despair. I didn't care about good or evil, right or wrong. If Darla had tried to stake me afterward, I would've let her. I didn't care. How can a life created from that be good?"

Unwillingly, I flash back to Buffy; as we fought, that horrible last day, she asked me why Cordy hadn't had a vision of her death. Asked if I wasn't meant to save her, if she wasn't truly intended to be dead. I asked myself then if I would have prevented Buffy's resurrection, if the Powers said it was the right thing to do. At the time, it seemed like the hardest question imaginable, one I was grateful not to have to answer.

And now, here's a harder one. One I may have no choice but to answer before too long. What if my child isn't something that's supposed to be on this earth? What if my mission demands that I sacrifice what I love most in the world?

"I don't know," Cordy says. I wait for her to follow it up with something reassuring -- but apparently she doesn't have anything reassuring to say. When I look down at her again, I see that she's lost in her own thoughts about my child. Her own fears? Hard to say.

And I realize, in turn, how much I've been counting on her saying something reassuring. Darla's back, Darla's PREGNANT, the world is possibly ending as a result, and I'm enough of a fool to think that something Cordelia's gonna say is going to fix it all.

I'm enough of a fool to think that Cordelia can fix everything. A curse, a heart that's still beat-up after leaving Buffy, a demon, Wolfram & Hart, prophecies, my dark, dingy practice room -- everything, I expect her to fix all of it. Just by being here, being in my life. And the burden of my expectations and my -- wishes -- isn't something I have any right to expect her to bear.

Fred wasn't totally right earlier, but she wasn't totally wrong. She sees more than we realize; we think her nervous chatter and her fluttery gestures mean she's flighty. But I won't make that mistake about Fred again. She saw -- something that has been waking up inside me, something I hadn't even acknowledged before.

Something I won't ever acknowledge again.

I can still turn away from this, save our friendship, my sanity and her heart. What we are now is all we ever can be. And God knows it's already so much more than I deserve.

"About heredity," Cordelia says, startling me. She's abrupt, even by her standards; she's not saying this for my benefit as much as just letting the idea spill out. "It must apply. Otherwise, how would your baby have inherited a soul?"

"I don't know if it works that way," I say, taking my place by her side on the bench. We sit together in the moonlight, faces grave. "Nice thought, I guess."

"Okay, so, we're both clear on the fact the baby situation might not end nice." I nod. Unexpectedly, she smiles -- nothing gentle or sweet, a fierce grin that I've seen on her face when she's gearing up for battle. "Well, if it's an evil-kill-destroy thing, I'll handle it."

"Cordy --" I don't know whether to thank her or punch her.

"And then I'll handle whoever or whatever put you in a situation where you couldn't keep -- where you had to -- whoever put you in this situation," Cordelia says. I find myself hoping Darla can hear that, too. "You don't have to worry about it. You -- I want you to worry about the daddy side of things."

Maybe Cordelia can't fix everything. But right at this moment, it feels like she can. I bet she'd like to try.

"Cordy?" I might as well say it now, before I lose my nerve. I know I'll never say it again. "What I was trying to say before --"

To my surprise, she gets up as if to go. "You need some time alone," she says. "I don't blame you. Take as long as you want, okay?"

"Thanks, but that's not what I meant." I take her hands in mine and look up at her. "I really do love you."

I mean it as a friend, and she accepts it the same way. She leans down and kisses me on the forehead, chaste and sweet, and for a moment it seems insane that I could ever want to trade what we've already got for anything else.

"Love you too," she says. "Good night, Daddy."

*****

END

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