Sleigh Bells Ring

SUMMARY: *sings* On the 2nd day of Christmas, your Goddess gave to you… Lots of pretty presents (and a fluffy fic in New York!)
POSTED: 13 Dec 2004
WARNINGS: None Listed
AUTHOR NOTES: Helen my love, if you’ve been missing my fluff then you’re in for a treat!
STATUS: Complete

Standing brightly decorated and shimmering in the corner of her apartment, the Christmas tree illuminated the living room and with the other decorations used, brought the Spirit of St Nick alive. Lining the mantelpiece, candle flames flickered orange and yellow, shadows danced on the wall behind, no doubt providing Dennis with some mindless entertainment.

Hanging on her bedroom door was a small circle of holly and mistletoe, no doubt giving Dennis ideas of using it to play Hoopla. Burning steadily and hot, the fire was full of logs giving out a peaceful woodland scent.

A quick glance at the quirky clock on the wall was followed by an excited little screech, drawing the quiet vampire’s attention. Not expecting her to make a sudden noise, Angel jumped slightly and shot her an irritated stare. “You startled me”

“Call it payback” was the quick, unrepentant reply.

Watching Cordelia take off at an unsafe pace into her room, he couldn’t stop from smiling a little in amusement. Looking at the clock, he noted the time was just before twelve midnight and he sighed, offhandedly wondering if she knew Santa Claus did not exist.

Though the atmosphere between them was a companionable silence, it was still a bit awkward, the cause of neither having spent a Christmas together before. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t enjoying it, of course. He’d enjoyed the way she tensed at every jingling sound, the way she looked at the tree and sighing, the way she glared at the clock wishing time to hurry.

The return of Cordelia brought his gaze from the tree to land on her, brown eyes frowning at the small pile she held in her hands. One was large and flat with a pink bow sat on a corner, one was smaller but thicker and one appeared to be a box.

“Here we go, Broodmeister” she grinned and her eyes appeared to shine, enchanting him with shades of fall. Brown, gold and hazel glittered under the twinkling fairy lights, looking beautiful.

Plopping down on the floor next to his feet, Cordelia began to sort through the presents, putting them into two piles. “One for Dennis” the box was held up and wiggled, only to be snatched away instantly. “A word of warning, ghost of mine, anything gets broken and it’ll be your head on the line.” The warning was crystal clear. “And Angel”

Looking up at him through those amazing eyes, she caught the rare flash of affection and an unacknowledged part of her responded to it. “These are for you. Admittedly, I had absolutely no clue what to get you so I… Well, open and see”

Under the uncertain gaze of his vision girl, Angel curiously ran his fingertips over the shiny wrapping paper housing one of his presents. As he traced the slightly off-centre pink bow, he was unable to keep the large grin from his face.

Looking up into the heart-shaped face staring at him, he couldn’t help but ask “What is it?”

Sparkling ruby red lips curled up, instantly brightening her face and creating two dimples. Rolling her eyes, Cordelia urged him to hurry up with exaggerated hand movements. “Open it and find out. Geez! All this time I thought culturally deficient was enough to explain you.” Teasing and coquettishly, the grin on her face took the sting from her words and he glared down at her.

Holding the small and thick gift, Angel turned it this way and that, trying to figure it out without destroying the careful wrapping or little pink bow. “Why a little pink bow?” The paper was shiny but by no means was it pink.

“I dunno, seemed like a good idea at the time” Cordelia replied, her eyes eagerly waiting for him to open it.

“Let’s give Angel a little pink bow seemed a good idea?” It wasn’t often Angel teased her in return but when he did, he thoroughly enjoyed it and it didn’t help when she took the bait so easily. “Are you trying to tell me something?”

Finally catching on to the threatening smirk, the brunette gave an exasperated sigh and nudging his leg with her shoulder. “Ass. What are you waiting for? Open it!”

Deciding to put her out of her misery, the vampire slid a fingertip under a corner and slowly began to unwrap the paper without killing it. Easing the shiny tape away, Angel peeked under the gap but still couldn’t see what it was and swallowed back the urge to tear into it.

“For the love of…” Cordelia huffed in annoyance, tugging his pant leg. “If the paper means that much to you, I’ll give you the spare sheets. Just go Grrrr!”

Fixing her with a blank and unimpressed stare, he stated “Grrrr!” His voice emotionless as his head shook from side-to-side, remembering the fabulous Hollywood party and her brief stint as an impressionist, offhandedly thanking himself she had a day job.

Blushing with the same memory, Cordelia glanced towards the floor before shooting him a sheepish smile and shrug of her shoulder. “I can’t believe I did that. In public no less, no wonder no-one hired me!”

Reminding her, “I hired you” in a quiet voice. “And it’s not so bad, despite you can’t type or file… Why was… You know what? I don’t particularly want to know.” Getting back to the task at hand, Angel finally gave in and tore the rest of the paper away, revealing a cell phone.

“It’s a Nokia which means it’s pretty easy to use and of course, I’m teaching you how to use it!” A finger was jabbed into her chest as a proud and confident smile lit up her entire face. “Just think of all the text-a-thons we can have!”

He was thinking of all the headaches he was going to suffer.

Keeping that thought firmly to himself, Angel turned the box over and around, studying the contents. So, he was curious to how these worked but he would die a thousand deaths rather tell her that. Sincerely “Thank you, Cordy. Now you have no excuses to let me know you’re alright”

That was an idea. He could keep a better eye on her if she could contact him when he wasn’t at home. Yes, the cell phone was definitely a good idea.

Eyeing him disbelievingly, Cordelia hummed and narrowed her eyes. “Hmm… Okay! Now for the other one, here.” Shoving the large flat gift into his already full hands, her excitement seemed to treble instantly.

Tearing off the paper, Angel found himself staring at light grey cardboard in confusion.

“Wrong way, turn it around.” Did she have to explain everything to him?

Grinning sheepishly, the vampire turned it around and stared down, his eyes taking in the framed photograph. Cordelia and Doyle stood on either side of him, both smiling for the camera while he looked less than excited.

Nibbling her lower lip, the uncertainty came back to her eyes as Angel looked at her, his dark gaze penetrating and unreadable. Not knowing what to say or do in light of the thoughtful present, he stared unblinking at her and stayed silent.

Knowing she probably couldn’t afford a proper portrait made the blown-up photograph all the more special and he promised himself to treasure it.

Glancing once more at the present before setting it aside, he reached down and gently brought her up to sit on the couch. Not giving her time to open her mouth, Angel enveloped her in a hug and let his head rest on her shoulder.

Surprised at the rare display, Cordelia blinked away the glazing in her eyes and returned the hug, stroking her palms soothingly on his back.

“Thank you Cordelia,” he said, his voice soft and vulnerable. “I now have a great burglar deterrent!”

Pulling away from Angel, her eyes were filled with mock anger and mouth open as she slapped his chest repeatedly. “You ass! You Grrrr!” Slapping his chest once more for good measure, Cordelia flopped back onto the couch, staring slyly at him. “So… where’s mine?”

Looking remorseful, Angel lowered his gaze from her face. “In the shop?” Getting the expected reaction of a huff and silence, the vampire’s twinkling brown orbs shot towards her as a sneaky grin appeared on his face. “I’m cooking the dinner tomorrow, what more do you want?”

He was definitely improving his teasing.

“A man-friendly mall and a 101 Gifts for Women at Christmas handbook.” Sighing in defeat, Cordelia graced him with a small smile, the light in her eyes never leaving. “It’s ok, you may a vampire but you’re still a man and that I can forgive because it‘s not your fault”

Getting up from the comfortable couch, Angel breezed past the brunette and ignored her look of confusion. After weeks of thinking deeply about it, he’d come to the decision she was the right person to give it too and though it left a bittersweet ache in his heart, he knew it was just… Right.

Going into his room, the vampire lifted an oak box given to him decades ago by his childe and opened it, smiling when he saw wrapped box. Carefully lifting it out, Angel held for a second and prepared to let go of the past.

Taking her present to her, he swallowed heavily and stood in front of his seer, eyes growing dark as he knelt down to look into her eyes. “Here”

Eagerly leaning forward as excitement bubbled up in her throat, Cordelia appeared like a little girl as her hands performed a flapping motion, making Angel dodge the flying fingers. “Oooh! What is it?”

“Open it and find out” he stated blankly, his lips quirking up slightly. “Geez! And I thought hopeless filing and typing was enough to explain you…” His sentence was cut short and ignored as the gift was literally snatched out of grasp.

Shreds of paper coated the paper, pieces landing in the ends of her hair and speckling her jumper. Pausing in the destruction, Cordelia became still when she saw the jewellery box and overly bright eyes locked with his before continuing with opening it.

Almost imperceptibly shaking, her fingers clicked the burgundy box and slowly raised the lid.

“It was my mother’s”

Staring hard at Angel, Cordelia’s eyes remained shiny but never crying, her lips were open but no sound came out. Visibly shaking, gentle fingertips swept over the gift, the feel of the stone like ice against her touch.

Thank you seemed far too inadequate, not that she could say it anyway.

Copying his earlier move, she took hold of his arm and brought him to sit on the couch, her arms curving round his neck and head on his shoulder. All the while, her gaze staring at the jewellery held protectively in her hand.

Pulling from her, Angel found his attention on her lips, wondering when he’d last seen her speechless. Cool and not a little nervous, he traced the plump lower lip, watching the way her throat hitched with breath. Carefully and uncertainly, the vampire splayed his hand across her cheek, enjoying the warmth her blush created.

Going to speak, Cordelia paid attention to the shake of his head and didn’t utter a word. Closing the gap between his mouth and hers, Angel’s eyes fluttered shut in anticipation.

Cutting through the haze and silence, a faint jingling of bells from outside distracted them. Colouring his face, the disbelief was obvious as she all but lept away from him and had the curtains wide open, eyes glued to the sky.

“Did you hear that? They were sleigh bells” Cordelia breathed excitedly and graced him with a smug look. “Oh ye of little faith”

Sighing wistfully, Angel joined her at the back of the couch where her arm looped round his. But he didn’t notice that or the expression on her pretty face.

Out the corner of his eye, he was sure he saw a swift movement across the sky…


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