Secret Santa


AUTHOR: SCORCH (aka JUDI)
SUMMARY: The best part of Christmas is the giving of presents.
RATING: PG13
POSTED: 9 Dec 2006
CATEGORY: HOLIDAY FIC (CHRISTMAS) / HUMOROUSLY ANGSTY FLUFF
CONTENT/PAIRING: C/A
WARNINGS: None Listed
FICPIC CREDIT: N/A
AUTHOR NOTES: None
STATUS: Complete


Cordelia snuggled deeper under the covers and sighed when the warmth slowly chased away the outside chill. Her feet ached and her head hurt with the stress of last minute Christmas shopping. It was funny this year, it’d been Wesley she was unsure of, where last year it had been Angel.

For the vampire, she’d bought him a DVD box set of all his favourite movies, a simple set of smelly stuff from Valentino, and a few other bits and bobs. Gunn had a shiny new Samsung mobile phone that came complete with Bluetooth, camera, and a range of games she figured he wouldn’t let her play till he became the master. Dennis had a jigsaw and new set of alphabet tiles so they could talk more. Fred had been easy as pie.

She and Angel had chipped in the buy the scientist a plane ticket so Fred could go see her family for New Year’s, but Wesley?

God. It seemed four and a half hours of traipsing round a mall the size of Texas wasn’t long enough to find something for the awkward English ass. Demon books, some weapon whose only purpose was display, slippers, a sweater… Nothing on her Ideas for Presents list seemed right. Finally, at the stroke of 8:49 pm, she’d come across the perfect gift, and then she’d had to carry it back to her car, and then up two flights of stairs.

It wasn’t only her feet and head that ached, her back was burning with hellfire and brimstone. The bath she’d soaked in for a good hour hadn’t done a damn bit of difference to the new curve in her poor spine. If anything, the continuous bending down to turn on the faucet, to remove clothes etc etc, and probably made it a thousand times worse.

For the millionth time that day, Cordelia cursed herself for not calling Angel to ask for help. On the other hand, if she’d begged for help, then the vampire would have gotten that sneaky little gleam in his eye as he slyly hunted for the rest of the presents. She could have asked Gunn, but that boy would have teased and taunted the Brit with the words I know something you don’t know, and Fred?

Well, Fred was no stronger than her and the thought of the tiny Texan doing heavy lifting was incredibly amusing.

“Owww.” She groaned when her laugh sent a wave of unpleasant heat down her overworked and underpaid back. Easing onto her stomach, the seer carefully stretched out right across her wonderfully comfortable double bed. A yawn brought tears to her eyes and she forced them to close. The age old story of Santa not coming unless she was asleep made her push the childish excite of Christmas to the back of her mind.

It would have worked if her alarm clock hadn’t beeped.

Cordelia giggled, peering through one happy little eye at the green numbers reading out 12:00 am. It was Christmas Day! Whoo-hoo! She wondered what the others had bought her. Maybe jewellery would be involved, or clothes even. Ah hell, who freaking cared what she got?

It was Christmas!

No good. She couldn’t sleep now. She had to get up and do something, anything, to ring in the seasonal joys. Huh. She had some yummy eggnog in the fridge.

Who cared if drinking eggnog at 12:01 am in the morning wasn’t socially acceptable? It was Christmas, she could do anything she wanted, and if drinking eggnog at 12:01 am was what she wanted to do, then by God she was going to drink eggnog at 12:02 am.

Cordelia’s itty bitty smile turned into a full blown grin as she all but dove out of bed, directing her feet towards her bedroom door. A cheesy movie would go down a treat with her midnight tipple.

Just as her hand reached for the door handle, she heard the sound of breaking glass coming from her living room, and froze. Her grin faded into a grimace of worry, her palm instantly becoming clammy as nervousness and anxiety replaced her cheery disposition.

Oh God. Someone had broken into her home and was trying to steal the presents.

She swallowed, glanced around the room for a weapon of some sort. She’d be damned if she let some schmuck run away with all her hard work. Crap. There was nothing in her room that would serve the purpose of territory defence. She was gonna have to sneak to the closet.

Cordelia gently turned the handle and tried to control her shaking as the door opened just enough for her to squeeze through the tiny gap. Breath sucked in, wide eyes darting here and there, looking out for trouble. She hated not being able to see properly. Damn human eyes. She rose up on tiptoes, slowly inching towards the closet a few feet away.

The three seconds it took to get there felt like an eternity as she listened to the sounds coming from the living room. If only Angel was here now, then the burglar would be in for it.

As it happened, Angel wasn’t here.

Yeah well, the thief was still in for it. Just as soon as she grabbed a decent sized object to throw at the burglar’s head.

The closet opened silently and she slipped inside, closing it right behind her. She began to fumble around in the black, trying not to make any kind of rustling whatsoever as she searched hopefully for something to ensure her survival.

Yes. Success.

“Sorry Wes.” Sweaty hands slid the golf club out of the bag and gripped the handle tightly. She bit her lip, preparing to go out there and get beaten to death.

Gunn and Wesley were gonna call for her in the morning, only to find her broken and bloody body clutching a golf club. Maybe she’d get lucky and they’d say a few words before running off for Christmas dinner.

Okay. She was ready.

Once again the closet was silently opened far enough for her sneak out, questioning her sanity as she did.

Another, louder crashing sound came from her living room, and Cordelia’s eyes snapped shut while blunt teeth bit down hard, drawing blood from her lip. Her heart thundered inside her chest as terrified eyes cranked open.

She could just see the tip of her Christmas tree on the floor. A wave a disappointment rode through her. All the work she and Angel had put into getting the lights on and decorations perfect had gone all down the drain.

Angel, where are you when I need you? She really wished she’d called him for help. Then he could have stayed over and been here. She ignored the tear rolling down her cheek and crept forward, adjusting her slippery hold on Wesley’s golf club.

She peered round the corner and saw the intruder. God, he was huge. Easily past the two hundred pound mark. She was gonna die a horrible, horrible death.

She knew she should get the hell out and yell for help, but the independent woman in her refused to let some moron steal or chase her from her apartment on Christmas day. Not just that, but she’d spent months saving up to get her friends good presents, and she was not giving up without a fight. Besides, Angel had been upping her training lately, teaching her some dirty tricks.

If she could knock a vampire like him to the floor, then she could take out a human. Right?

Right.

Here goes nothing.

Cordelia leapt out from around the corner, bringing down the nine iron with all the strength she had. One hit after another landed on the man’s head, the sounds of bone crunching and agonised bellows had her buzzing with adrenalin.

She only stopped when the intruder was splayed out on the ground at her feet. Without hesitating, she made for the phone, and gasped in shock when a strong hand grasped the back of her neck, throwing her against the wall.

Instinct overrode the terror and pain, and she brought her knee up hard, following through with a good swift kick to the man’s already injured head. When he once more hit the floor, Cordelia jumped over him, and this time aimed for the door.

She barely managed a few steps when she was pushed into a wall and spun round, feeling large hands slamming the back of her skull heavily into the plaster. Stars and tweeting birds flew past her eyes as the man let go, and she slid down the wall, watching as he made for the direction of her bedroom.

She would not give up.

Cordelia used the tips of her fingers to grab the golf club, the long handle thankfully within reach, and staggered to her feet. She swung it as hard as she could at his back, hoping this would be the blow to take him down for good.

All it did was make him angrier. Oh crap with a capital C.

The last thing she saw was a balled up fist head right for her face and her last thought before darkness hit were for the presents she wanted so much to give.

*~*~*~*~*~*

45 minutes earlier…

“Well?” Angel left his bathroom, self consciousness written all over his face.

Fred gave a delighted gasp and covered her mouth with her hands, shining brown eyes roamed over the vampire from toe to head. Black boots with silver buckles, red pants, and matching jacket, all complete with a bit of padding around the stomach area.

“You look…”

“Like a vampire dressed up as Santa.” Gunn shook his head. “Man, you got it bad.”

“Oh shush. I think you look adorable.” Fred came forward to tug on the outfit, straightening a few wrinkles here and there. She smiled up at Angel, her mouth widening when she saw utter dejection on his face. “She’s gonna love it.”

“Or she’s gonna need therapy.” Gunn shrugged, finding the whole thing totally ridiculous. “She can always tag along with me. We can split the cost.”

The vampire glared at the smartass kid right before he awkwardly trudged to his bed and sat on it. “I just want to make her smile.”

“And shoving a duvet cover up your jumper is the way to do that?” Off their looks, “What? I’m just saying.”

“Well, don’t just say anything.” Fred chastised with a wagging skinny finger. “It’s not what you think that matters, it’s Cordy, and I know she’s gonna love it.”

“You think?” The hope on his face made Gunn throw up in his mouth.

Maybe it was stupid to dress up as Santa and put presents under her tree, but Angel wanted her to have something to open on Christmas morning instead of waiting until they were all together. He wanted to see her face when she unwrapped her gifts, wanted to be on the receiving end of her high pitched, happy little squeals, and get himself some hugs and seasonal kisses.

“You’ll remember to take the turkey out of the oven?” Angel stood with a spot of trouble and adjusted the thick black belt around his unnaturally large abdomen. Whose idea was it to stuff a king size cover under the outfit? He sent a glare towards the Texan.

“No, we’ll leave it in there and let it burn the place down.” Gunn massaged his forehead. Why did Fred think this was adorable? The vampire was just being annoying with all that worrying. Remember to take the turkey out, don’t forget to put the potatoes on, don’t forget the Yorkshire puddings, Blah blah woof woof.

“All set?” Fred asked with a strained smile. Looked like Angel’s panic was getting to her, too.

Angel gave a small nod. “Then go.” She shoved him towards the door, grinning at her boyfriend when the cover squished under hands.

Before he left, “Thanks for helping me look like an idiot.”

“Anytime.”

They watched the vampire all but waddle out of the bedroom, and waited a moment or two until he was safely out of earshot.

“She’s gonna laugh herself silly, isn’t she?” Fred asked.

“Oh, yeah.”

*~*~*~*~*~*

15 minutes later, 30 minutes earlier…

Angel never realised how hard driving could be when being the size of a small country. His legs rubbed together when he pushed down on the clutch and brake, the seat was uncomfortable and the shiatsu back massager thing Cordy got him kind of dug into his spine, creating a really unpleasant friction.

He wiggled a bit, his face scrunching up when his boxers rode up into places no boxers should ever go. It was times like this when he questioned his sanity. All this for a woman.

He kept repeating to himself the reason for the detour to temporary insanity.

They were decorating the lobby and Cordelia had been telling him all about Christmas in the Chase house, about how her parents just had to have the biggest tree and brightest lights in the neighbourhood. A competition, she’d said with a wistful smile. Every year the lights and tree would get more and more elaborate, and when there’d been no more room outside the house, her father found a new target in the front lawn.

It got to the point where her mother had threatened divorce if her father didn’t put a stop to the quest for Christmas.

Angel found himself wishing he’d been friends with her back then, just so he could see the lights she described. Her favourite was always the outdoor pool. She told him how the water reflected the Elf lanterns and the apple blossom tree that was turned into something from fairy land, she told him all about the stone bridge that went across the fish pond and how she’d felt like a princess under all the beautiful decorations.

She went on to tell him all about her older cousin, the moody middle child on her mother’s side, who ruined Santa for her by pulling her father’s beard away from his face when she was five. Apparently she never got over the trauma.

Angel smiled softly as he recalled the indignant rant that followed the sweet story. Santa did exist. She was right, her cousin was wrong. End of.

His thoughts were interrupted when he realised the sick turn his plan had taken. He shook his warped little head and forced that well out of his mind as he carried on driving and mentally went over his inventory.

Gift vouchers for her favourite beauty salon? Check.

Gift vouchers for her favourite CD’s? Check.

Dancing teddy bear that sang Jingle Bells? Check.

Now that he thought about his gifts, they seemed so impersonal, not at all the kind of gifts a man would give the most important person in his life. He really couldn’t go to the woman who’d given up everything she had, including her humanity, with those.

Angel ignored the sound of angry horns as he performed an expert u-turn with one hand and fished his cell from the car charger with the other. It took a few rings for the call to be answered. “It’s me. I’m calling in that favour. I need you to open up and fast… And tell me you have something pretty.”

Crap. He only had 25 minutes too reach her house. He’d better step on it.

*~*~*~*~*~*

10 minutes later, 10 minutes earlier…

He took the stairs as fast as he could, both arms clutching her presents as though they’d disappear any second now. He was much happier now that he’d spent the extra 20 minutes getting a few final purchases, which he knew would get him plenty of those hugs and kisses. Maybe if he was very lucky indeed, she may even hold his hand and say she loved him.

Angel stopped at her door and took a few precious moments to gather his wits and yet again question his sanity, which he was sure had taken a vacation. He put the long white beard back into place, straightened the Santa suit, and hoped someone would shoot him in the head before he made a total idiot out of himself. Okay.

Here goes nothing.

He lightly rapped on the door so as not to wake her and ruin his plan, waiting patiently for Dennis to hold up his end of the bargain and unlock the door. A single second passed, it eased quietly open, and he inched inside, taking the time to look at the decorations he’d helped her with. He left the G H O S T to close and re-lock the door while he made for the tree that housed the presents.

Damn it.

Angel glared down at the little glass animal that now lay in two on the floor. He had to fix it or else Cordelia would kill him for breaking yet another one of her tiny mammals. He bent down to pick it up and place his gifts down, but when he went to stand straight, the stupid white beard got caught on a tree branch.

“Damn it,” he grumbled as he tried to free the cotton. Unfortunately, gloves weren’t known for their good grips and extra strength was sometimes not a good thing. He yanked on the beard, stumbled back a bit, and the tree fell to the floor.

Aw hell. Now she really was gonna kill him.

Angel bent down yet again to pick up the tree, but on standing, something hit the back of his head.

Hard.

Crap. There was someone in her apartment. Someone who was about to die.

He was hit again and again and again. One of the blows cracked so heavily off his head, that it drew blood. He ignored the cool liquid trickling down the nape of his neck and spun round, capturing the intruder by the throat.

Angel didn’t have time to do anything when a knee smashed into his crotch and he fell to his knees, both hands going to his injured manliness. Oh, they were going to get it.

He didn’t care what they did to him, he couldn’t handle any of what they had to give, but they’d broken into Cordelia’s house, and that meant they fully deserved what he was going to do to them.

The vampire was up on his feet and shoving them into the wall before they had the chance to escape. He didn’t hesitate in slamming their head into the plaster. He watched as the intruder fell to the ground.

He had to get to Cordy, make sure she was alright.

Angel didn’t get far when he was struck again, this time in his back, and God, did it ever hurt. He’d worry about that later. All that mattered right now was Cordy. He turned, his vamped out face unseen behind the beard, and rammed his fist straight into the bastard’s face, instantly knocking them out.

“Cordy.” He ran to her bedroom and booted the door half off it’s hinges, mentally telling her he’d pay for the damage. “No.”

Her bedroom was empty and the blankets were thrown haphazardly across the bed. The worst of scenarios ran through his aching head. There was only one reason why an intruder would be in a woman’s bed and he felt sick to his stomach at the thought of what Cordy must have gone through.

Suddenly, all the lights in the apartment flashed rapidly. On, off, on, off, on, off.

Angel blinked back the surprise and moved back to where the intruder still lay unconscious on the floor. He blinked again, then again, and again.

There, with blood trickling from her nose, badly swelling eye and golf club in hand, was his missing seer.

He glanced down at his gloved hand, still curled up into a fist, and blinked once more. Oh God. Ohgodohgodohgod. He’d hit her. Really hit her.

“Cordy.” Angel was immediately on his knees, in a Santa suit, and running his hands over her lifeless body. How could he have missed that it was her? How could he have…

He swallowed as he gently shook her, praying to high heaven she’d wake up. God. What if he killed her? Ohgodohgodohgodohgod.

Before he over-reacted, again, he bit off a glove and checked her pulse. When he felt the strong beating, he sagged in relief. She was alive. Thank God she was alive.

He inhaled, took in her scent, and thanked God over and over and over as he stroked her bruised face. Wait a minute. She attacked him. He could have been a real intruder and she attacked him, in the dark, with a golf club. Was she nuts?

What kind of sane woman attacked a man twice her size in the dark?

Oh, he was so going to kill her when she woke up.

*~*~*~*~*~*

10 minutes later…

One blurry hazel eye opened to harsh light and the feel of her bed beneath her back. Her head was throbbing and there was something cold on the right side of her face. What happ…

Oh yeah. There was a burglar and he’d knocked her clean out.

Her lower lip pooched out into a pout as she thought about all the presents that had been stolen right out from under her nose. She almost had him, too, and if it hadn’t been for that punch, she would have had him.

A tear fell from the eye that wasn’t the size of a goose egg and the salt stung her burst lip.

“You’re awake.”

Cordelia jumped a mile at the deep voice of Angel and she winced when the pounding in her head increased to the point where the pressing of fingers were needed to fight the hammering in her temple. She went to sit up, grateful when the vampire helped her. Without wasting a second, she flung her arms around him and held on tight.

The ice which had fallen from her cheek dropped to the bed.

“Angel, it was terrible. I was broken into and he took all the presents. I’m so glad you’re here.” She clutched him as hard as humanly possible and didn’t let go until he carefully loosened her limbs from around his slowly breaking neck. “I’m sorry I let him get away, but he was stronger than me.”

“What were you thinking?”

His anger went unnoticed. “I saved and saved to get everybody good presents because I wanted us to have a great Christmas together. He took them, Angel. He took them all, and broke our tree.” All but one golf club. Maybe if she bought another nine iron, Wesley could have Jedi fights with Gunn.

The tears and heart breaking sadness in her voice and face left him unmoved.

Cordelia pulled back and sniffed once before her good eye went wide at the sight of blood on his forehead. “Oh my God. You’re bleeding.”

Oh really?

“Did you get the guy? Did you have a fight? Are you badly hurt?” Warm little hands began to poke and prod, pushing dark spikes out the way so she could get a better look at the healing wound. “Oh honey, why didn’t you say something?”

Angel ground his teeth together. He wished his soul would leave for a few minutes, then come back once he’d finished giving her a sound talking too. Or a sound spanking in which common sense would be knocked into her.

“I’m not the only one hurt.” There was a single emotion powerful enough to force the rage out and that was horror. What caused the horror was seeing his beautifully stupid, beautifully crazy Cordelia sporting a black eye and bruise the exact width of his fist.

“What?” Didn’t she realise she wasn’t talking properly? The blue-black shade went right from her ear down to the corner of her mouth, the red fingers marks providing an ugly contrast with her tanned skin.

“This.” Angel softly traced her swollen right eye and followed the shape down her face. “Care to tell me what happened?” And why you threw out all forms of sanity?

“Oh.” Cordelia replied with a wince. “That.”

Yeah. That.

“I got Wes golf clubs for Christmas and thought it’d make a good weapon. I did pretty well, too. Until that criminal ass hit me. He hit me, Angel! Look.” She pointed to her face.

“I can see.” Oh, he could see alright. He could see a lunatic seer who thought she was a badass with a golf club. He to admit she hadn’t done too badly, but still. He could have been a real intruder who wouldn’t have stopped and who would have done a lot worse than steal a few presents.

Didn’t she know she was way more important than that?

Angel retrieved the forgotten ice and placed it on her cheek, taking a sick form of pleasure when she hissed in pain. Yes, maybe that would teach her not to do anything so stupid in future.

“Here,” Cordelia touched his hand with hers, taking the ice away from her injury, and putting in on his. “Ooh, sorry,” when he scowled at the jolting sting which came from the cut on his head. “You need this more than me.”

He really didn’t think so.

“You’re bleeding.”

She’d been bleeding, too, and didn’t she care about that? Of course not. This was Cordelia Chase. She didn’t matter, did she? After all, she was only his best friend, no-one important.

God. She made him so freaking furious, it was unbelievable. Sometimes he would give anything to wring her crazy, stupid, nutty little neck until she cried and begged for mercy.

He was powerless to stop the wave of boiling rage burst out of him. For the first time ever, the soul and demon were in complete agreement.

Angel gripped her arms and refused to let her yelp of pain get to him. He brought her face close to his and spoke slow enough for her to read him lips, feel each breathless growl, and see his eyes as they turned from puppy dog brown to the colour of gold.

“Ow, Angel, you’re hurting me.” Cordelia frowned at him, wondering why he was so angry.

“I’m hurting you? Really?” Good. Now she knew what it was like for him.

“What did you think my ow meant? It tickles?” She tried to get his hold off or loosened, but failed. What was he doing? You weren’t supposed to hurt your best friend on Christmas day.

He had to take a deep, unneeded breath as he counted to ten in an effort to calm down some. “How could you be so stupid?”

Now she was just confused.

Angel shoved her harshly away from him and rose, shoving a hand through his hair in frustration.

It was only then did she notice what he was wearing. “Angel, why are you dressed as Santa?”

Oh no. He wasn’t going to let her change the subject. “What the hell were you thinking, Cordelia? Wait. I know what you were thinking.” He’d never been this angry in his entire existence. “You were thinking about not thinking.”

“That doesn’t make any sense…”

“Lemme make this easy for you to understand.” He ignored her insulted expression. “As long as we’re okay, that’s fine right?”

Cordelia was still confused.

“I would’ve thought you’d learned something this year, but obviously not. Guess that pretty head of yours doesn’t hold anything but hot air after all.”

He ignored the hurt that flashed through her eyes. He was too far gone to care about her feelings.

“You didn’t tell anyone, didn’t tell me, you were dying, and as much as I hate to admit it, I can understand why. I don’t agree, not by a long shot, but I can understand. I can understand why you didn’t tell anyone, as in me, about the first cut you got after Wolfram and Hart messed with your visions. Again, I don’t agree, but I can understand.”

When Angel faced his seer, she was shocked to see him fully vamped. She bit her lip. Why was he so worked up?

“You remember those dreams I had? The ones about Darla and Penn?” He was mildly pleased to see something other than confusion on her swollen face. “I didn’t tell you because I didn’t want you worrying. I didn’t want to bring you down to the place I was going. I was wrong when I did that and you were wrong not to tell me about your dark time. That’s okay. We’re even on that score.”

Now she was angry. “I think not. I didn’t have a soul to lose.”

“No, you only had your life to lose, but sorry. That doesn’t mean anything to me or anyone else.” He was seconds from picking up her damn phone and taking Buffy up on her offer to come beat his seer to death. Even the blonde had been pissed when he’d told her about Cordelia’s visions. He’d sat and listened for a solid hour in shock as the slayer unleashed a slew of curses that would make a sailor blush.

He wondered what his seer would make of that. Probably turn it round so Buffy was the bad guy, stating the slayer would make it sound as though she did it for attention, which wasn’t the case.

Angel knew the two girls didn’t always see eye to eye, but he knew for a fact Buffy had a great amount of respect for Cordelia. Not only for the visions, but for the sheer selflessness she showed when she gave up her humanity. Plus, he knew, the slayer had a soft spot for his seer.

But Cordelia couldn’t understand why her friends were so angry with her. Was she really so self conscious that she didn’t really know how much she meant to them, to him? It made him want to cry to think that she didn’t.

No. He would not go down that road, not when he still had a point to make, and make it he would.

“Angel, if you’ve got something to say, then say it. I’ve had a pretty rough night and…”

Okay. He’d say it.

“You’re as stupid as they come, Cordelia.” Perhaps he could have said it in a more tactful manner, but whatever. It seemed only harsh words would drive it passed that dense wall she called a brain. “I could have been anybody and you were more worried about presents?”

Slowly, the light dawned on the bruised seer. “You were the intruder?”

“No. I’m Santa Claus.” What? Didn’t his outfit give it away?

Her face went from shock to horror as she realised the man she brained with Wesley’s Christmas present was Angel. “Oh my God! Angel!” Cordelia was off the bed, in front of him, and trying to make him better. “What were you thinking? Sneaking around my place in the dead of night? Are you okay? Did I hurt you?”

“You’ve never stopped hurting me.”

Ahh. His old friend confusion was back and this time it came with it’s twin, hurt.

“What if I’d been a real intruder, huh? What if I hadn’t stopped with taking a few presents? What if I’d…” God, he couldn’t even think it let alone say it. He took a breath and closed his eyes, trying to wipe away the images of Cordelia having to listen to some bastard panting in her ear and feeling hot, stinky breath on her neck.

He knew those images would keep him awake for many nights to come.

“I came in here and saw your empty bed. The sheets were all over and I thought… I thought he’d hurt you.” Angel’s eyes opened and they were still gold. “What if it hadn’t been me, Cordelia? What then? You were unconscious. He could have done anything he wanted to you.”

He hated hypothetical situations. Even though He didn’t exist, Angel wanted to go out and find He, and kill Him painfully. An early New Year’s resolution. Tackle human demons as well as supernatural ones.

“You know, there was one person who gave up on me, and it was the person I counted on, the one I needed the most. You, Cordy. When I got you back, I lost you for the second time in as many months. I lost you again to not only a hell dimension, but a big giant lunkhead called the Groosalug.”

Her mouth opened and closed once or twice, but she couldn’t find a single thing to say, so she just stayed quiet.

“You said you loved him. Only a few months earlier, you said you loved me. Me.” Angel pointed to his chest in case she didn’t get it, which he could believe. “I know you meant it as friends, but God. Do you have any idea what it’s like to be told you’re loved by someone you love in return?”

She had many expressions he couldn’t read and the one on her face right then was one of them. “No, Angel. I haven’t. You never tell me. None of you tell me what I am.”

The truth of what she said hit him harder than the damn golf club. “I get that and I’m sorry. I’m not a man of many words…”

“You’re doing fine at the moment.”

The snarky comment was good. It was her first line of defence. He was getting through to her and she didn’t like it. This was good. It was so very, very good.

He ignored it and carried on stating his case. “Since words don’t like me much, I use actions to show I care. More than care. I jump through portals to worlds unknown, I cut off hands, I get thrown around by higher beings, and I do it all for you.”

“Then there’s the visions. I walked away once. I could do it again. Just pack up and leave, but hell knows I won’t, and do you know why?”

She kept silent and he respected her for it.

“Because of you. You, you, you. You, the crazy, stupid, nutty woman who thinks she means nothing to no-one. Not Gunn, not Wesley, not Fred, and certainly not me. Why would you mean anything to me? All you do is be there for me, patch me up, heat and spice my blood, smile for me, be my friend and generally be a pain in my ass. Why don’t you realise how much I want you, how much I need you? What will it take to get through to you?”

Cordelia really wanted to be able to say something, but her mouth and dense wall of a brain seemed to be on unpaid vacation.

“I know,” Angel grinned nastily. “How about I go out, kill someone, and use their blood to paint a billboard saying I love you, Cordelia. Would that work?” What more did a man have to do? Naked cartwheels down the street while singing Mannilow?

He looked at her, really looked at her. Saw past the tears glazing her beautiful eyes, saw past the defensive posture, saw past the hard hearted front she loved to queen so much, and saw something he’d never seen in her before.

Fear.

Shock replaced the furious rage as he came to realise that she did in fact know how much she meant to him. His head tilted to one side. “It scares you, doesn’t it? Having someone love you, I mean. It’s the other way round for me. Loving someone, you for the sake of argument, scares me half to death because I don’t want to get hurt, but you?”

Angel chuckled when Cordelia averted her gaze. “You’re downright terrified of being loved because you think you’re not good enough, never will be good enough. You’ve spent half your life living in the shadows of other women. Buffy, Willow, Darla. Even though, in my eyes, they can never compare, you think all you’re good for is a part time lover.”

She hated it when someone other than her was right. She didn’t tell him that of course, never would, but the fact he knew it all by himself was a killer in itself.

“Jesus Cordy. I fight for you. I let myself play the part of a puppet because I get to make the world a safer place for you. Gunn, Wes, Fred all do the same, and you’re terrified you might let us down, that you’re going to disappoint us. You’re not going to let us down Cordy. You’ll never disappointment me. Days, weeks, months, years… Hell, centuries from now, I still won’t want anyone else.”

“You’re for me and I’m for you. The sooner you realise that, the better.”

Angel fell silent. Having nothing more to say kind of did that to people and vampires alike. He patiently waited for her to say something, but by the look on her face, he’d be waiting a while.

“You take your time. I’ll just go in here,” he gestured to the living room. “And put your presents under our tree. You might wanna put the ice back on your eye before it gets bigger. Sorry about that, by the way. I thought you were the intruder. You, uh, don’t have any broken bones. I checked.”

Yeah. Checked whilst ignoring the odd trickle of salty water wetting his lips. He wouldn’t tell her what it felt like to know he’d hit her. He didn’t think she could handle anymore truth right now.

He was halfway out of her bedroom when he heard her voice. It was a mere whisper, but at least it was there.

“Why do you have your duvet cover up your jumper?”

Angel’s grin went unseen, but he wiped it away before he faced her. “It was Fred’s idea. She said Santa wasn’t Santa without a good belly.” He jiggled the fake flab and watched as a half smile worked its way across her blue-black features.

Cordelia nodded. “She’s right. Angel, I’m sorry. I just wanted…”

“I know, but presents are things and things aren’t you. We’d rather have you alive, kicking, and without my fist shape on your face.”

“Right. Got it. I guess next year you’ll have to stay over on Christmas eve, huh?”

“I don’t know. Despite the beating I got from Wes’s golf club, I kind of enjoyed it.”

She laughed then and shook her head, then winced. He really did have a hard punch. “You’re such a sadist, but I love you for it.”

“Yeah, you do. Get used to it because I’m gonna make you fall in love with me every day from now on.”

For some reason, Cordelia didn’t think he’d have to work hard for that to happen.


…THE END…


*~*~*CHRISTMAS DEDICATION*~*~*

This is for Lily and Zanita. We haven’t talked for eons, mainly due to my current circumstances, but never ever forget how much I love you and know how much I miss you both. We once went over a scenario where Cordelia and Angel would accidentally throw down with each other and since it’s Christmas, I thought I’d write that very scene just for you two.

Merry Christmas Zan and Lil. I hope the coming New Year brings you both all the happiness you deserve and more.

Love Always, Scorch 1/3rd of the original AO Mod Squad xxxxx


 

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