Secret Santa

AUTHOR: STARAICE (aka STARRY)
SUMMARY: Do you know what it’s like, when a mirror never lies and the truth remains unspoken?
RATING: PG13
POSTED: 17 Dec 2003
CATEGORY: HOLIDAY FIC (CHRISTMAS) / Challenge Fic / Humor
CONTENT/PAIRING: C/A, B/A (sorry), C/X (sorry), and W/O
AUTHOR NOTES:
1) Okay this is for Kate and she wanted the following items,
· A Cosmo Quiz
· Mistletoe
· An old condom in a wallet
· An awkward explanation
· Boxer shorts with something funny on them
· A dictionary and,
· A permanent marker.
2) And yes I know the title looks funny considering that this is a ‘Secret Santa’ fic but… the items had my squirrelly little mind spinning from word go. Oh, the events of Lover’s Walk haven’t happened. Yet.
3) Oh and thanks to Sach and Zan who helped (and Si who stalked and Kimmers who helped)
STATUS: Complete


Cordelia Chase was freezing; having worn a skirt to school- she’d never admit it though, everyone thought she was a bimbo anyway. She sat at the large library table, filling in the latest Comso quiz. Really who could be bothered looking through boring musty old books when all that would happen was Buffy chopping whatever it was up with a sword eventually? She sighed, it wasn’t even as if there was anything going on, from the little that they had told her there Giles was just making them research ‘in case’.

Angel sat in the corners, trying to make everyone forget his presence, as he did most of the time now after his sojourn in hell. None of them had really forgiven him, even Buffy, much as she liked to pretend otherwise. There was still a hint of resentment in her eyes every now and again even though she had tried so hard to separate him and Angelus in her mind. Her and Willow were the only ones who hid their feelings for his sake. Xander had never really liked him. Giles barely tolerated his presence for Buffy’s sake and Cordelia; well she seemed to have moved on actually. The girl puzzled him, the others he could figure out but she was a walking contradiction.

Xander was bored; he glanced around the room, taking in the cheerleader on the other side of the table and made his way over. Glancing over her rather drool worthy shoulder he glanced quickly to the book she was supposed to be reading. He snorted when he saw what she had hidden behind the book.

“Cor, I really don’t think you need to take the ‘Are you a Drama Queen’ quiz, I can tell you right now that you are.” He ducked the arm that was instinctively flung backwards and leaned down, wrapping his arms around his girlfriend’s shoulders. If anyone asked, he just liked hugging her; really it was an excuse to look down her top.

Buffy and Willow sat on the stairs, quietly discussing the upcoming Christmas holidays. Willow for once was glad for the break- they’d all been stressed recently and with Buffy coming back and having to go through all that trouble just to get back into school. She’d been distancing herself; Willow just hoped that the holidays would bring them closer again.

“Hey!” Almost everyone in the room jumped, when Xander yelled out and they had to feel a little sorry for the brunette he was currently wrapped around.

Willow and Buffy of course were a little less sympathetic than they could have been, but it was Cordelia they were talking about, and the girl was currently chewing out Xander anyway. Buffy cut Cordelia off mid-sentence taking no notice of the now familiar glare she was receiving, none of them listened to what she said anyway.

“What is it Xander?” Cordelia settled back into her chair with a huff- Typical, one word from Her Majesty over there and he ignores me completely. sat back and crossed her arms and raised her brow expectantly. He ignored her silent threat and perked up.

“I was just thinking,” He started, when Cordelia interrupted with a snide “Did it hurt?” Over on the other side of the room Angel was hard pressed not to laugh. Xander ignored her however and kept speaking.

“We should do a Secret Santa thing this Christmas, saves money and hey, presents for everyone, nobody gets left out in the dark like a diabetic at a chocolate convention.” He looked directly at Willow, immediately realizing she would be the one with the only legitimate reason to back out.

“Sure, that’s a great idea Xand.” Buffy chimed, and Cordelia rolled her eyes, resigning herself to doing this now, Buffy’s word was law here- she was like that kid in a book she’d once read who could control what happened by thinking it, so everyone had to keep him happy to avoid total annihilation. Okay, Cordelia admitted that she was bit like that herself, but still…

*******************************

The next day they were gathered around the library table with a scrap of paper in front of each one of them- names already written. Even Angel and Giles were sitting at the table; obviously, Buffy had done some fast-talking after they had all left.

One of Giles’ old hats sat in the middle like some weird kind of centerpiece, and they all stared at it before Cordelia sighed- said they were all acting like big babies, folded her paper in half and unceremoniously threw it in. Buffy, never one to be outdone by the cheerleader, quickly followed suit. One by one the hat was filled up until at last Oz calmly reached over and dropped his name in the hat, where it fluttered to rest on the top.

Xander was nominated to pick a name first and he reached in under the stares of 4 people who didn’t really want to do this, one who did, and one who didn’t care. He fished around for quite a while until Giles of all people pointed out that he ‘wasn’t drawing the bloody lottery’ and could he just ‘get on with it already’. Xander flushed and brought out a piece of paper, unable to keep the smile off his face when he saw Buffy’s name written there.

All in all though Xander was the only one who was really happy with who he had gotten, everyone else was just plain apprehensive, they may know each other- but now they were realizing that they just didn’t know each other well enough. Giles was baffled, he had gotten Willow’s name, and well he supposed it might be easier having to get something for her than for one of the other two girls, but still he had no idea.

Angel resented the fact that he had been talked into doing this; he resented even more the fact that it was Xander’s name that he had been stuck with. Cordelia had gotten him, he’d realized when she opened the piece of paper and her eyes darted quickly over to him for the barest of instants before she looked back down, a mask of indifference over her features. It was only during his stint without a soul that he’d realized that is what it was- before that he hadn’t paid too much attention to her, hadn’t paid too much attention to anything that wasn’t Buffy.

They ended up agreeing that the presents would be exchanged that very same day on the following week, before school finished for the year, but after school finished that day.

*************************************

Rupert Giles sat at his desk in the library office, looking for the entire world as if he were contemplating something as complex as the meaning of life. Instead he was merely trying to figure out what to get a teenage girl for Christmas.

He’d covered his head with his hands by the time Cordelia walked in; she took one look at him and started laughing. He looked up at the sound and glared dryly at the girl who shrugged off the expression, sitting casually into the chair on the other side of his desk without being asked.

“Let me guess,” she said, “present troubles?” He nodded and she smiled knowingly before reaching out and grabbing the wallet that he had left out on the desk. Surprisingly he wasn’t at all concerned.

“The first thing you need to figure out is how much you can afford to spend.” She stated, flipping the wallet upside down and open, with the ease of practice. A few bills fell out, along with an old condom, this she brushed to the side raising an eyebrow at the blushing man across from her- inside she was smirking, and maybe a little grossed out.

“I…um… well you see…” He stopped not knowing what to say. The cheerleader lowered her eyebrow and stated matter-of-factly that, “It’s good you’re practicing safe sex.” Which caused the English man to splutter even more.

“O- K,” she drawled, “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Well anyway I came in here to ask if I could borrow the books you had on Angelus, but I think I might just….” She was up and out of the door as she said this and the last word never reached his ears as she left his range of hearing.

**************************

Buffy tuned out the temp that was taking the history class and instead glanced casually over to Willow, who sat next to her. She couldn’t just ask her what to get Oz could she? No, not really, then it would look like she didn’t even want to know about him. Which she did, it was just, Oz was one of those people that don’t really talk. At all.

All she really knew about him was that he was he was a werewolf and he was in a band. She looked down at the notebook she was supposed to be taking notes on for class and wrote OZ in capital letters. She then boxed in the names, making thick lines on all four sides. As an afterthought she then shaded it in lightly.

Glancing around for a second to make sure the teacher wasn’t watching she continued, writing underneath the heading; werewolf and musician. She paused then just staring at the two words. She supposed she should be thankful that Faith was out of town looking for something, she would have hated having to get a present for her. Though thinking about it, it might not have been that bad – she could’ve just gotten her a knife. Ah, the joys of easy shopping.

Buffy sighed heavily, gaining Willow’s attention and she smiled at her, rolling her eyes in the teacher’s direction. Willow grinned back before returning her attention to the class as Buffy folded over her piece of paper surreptitiously and sneaked it slowly into her pocket. She decided she’d go to the mall tonight after patrol- if her mum didn’t miss her for that, she wouldn’t miss her for an extra hour or so.

*************************

On Wednesday after school Willow Rosenburg was in a place she usually avoided. The Sunnydale Mall. She wandered aimlessly through the brightly lit levels. The only idea she could think of to get ‘Queen C’ was something shiny. The problem with that was, she knew Cordelia was smart. She just didn’t act it.

Clothes were out of the question she thought, as she passed a few shops. Not only did Cordelia have plenty of them, but the other girl would just laugh at any piece of clothing she thought to buy her. Willow visibly cringed at the thought and turned right into another section of the mall.

Ohh, that’s a new stand. She thought, noticing the small cart stand in the middle of one of the walkways. It certainly hadn’t been there the last time she’d come past, though god knows when that was.

She wandered over- it couldn’t hurt to look and she only had two days left after all. The stall looked like it might hold some jewelry and trinkets; maybe one of those would work. When she got to the stall Willow stopped and stared. These things were something like you’d see in an antiquities shop. She ran her hand over a silver candlestick in appreciation and let her eyes linger on a hand carved wooden box for some time. Then she saw it. There was no doubt about it; this is what she would get Cordelia.

She stared at the back of the mirror as if in a trance and slowly reached out her hand to lightly feel the silver and the jewels imbedded in it. The mirror was gorgeous. Elegant, yet not overstated being mostly plain silver, with engravings on the back of the mirror, ebony inside the grooves. It had a few emeralds and rubies embedded in different parts of the engraving, which gave it a symbolic kind of feel.
Willow turned the mirror over and almost gasped, the image was so clear, it was like looking into a pool of water. Two rubies sat near the base of the mirror, on either side of the handle and she ran her thumb over them as she walked around the cart to find the owner. She found the tiller but no person.

“This is gift yes?” Willow jumped at the voice behind her and turned to face the small woman behind her, the lady smiled up, missing and rotten teeth making willow wince inwardly.
“Erm, yes.”

Willow couldn’t help but stare at the woman throughout the transaction, and subsequent wrapping of the mirror, and therefore missed when the two rubies on the handle flared with mystical power…

*************************************

The day had finally come. Today was the day that presents were to be exchanged. Giles was as nervous as hell, and he was the only one who was there so far, having decided to hold it at night so the vampire could attend.
Truth be told he still hated Angel’s presence here. If it had of been him that found the vampire, he would have been back in hell by now, well and truly.

He was dragged out of his negative thoughts as the doors to the library swung open revealing Oz, who wasn’t with Willow for a change.

“Hey.” He said in his usual fashion and sauntered over to the table, flopping down and bringing the package tucked under his arm out, dropping it in front of him.

The next three to arrive were quite predictably, Buffy, Willow and Xander, obviously continuing a conversation they’d started outside.

“I can’t believe the look on his face when he realized he’d been writing in permanent marker.”

“Yeah and then Snyder walked in,”

“And he kept trying to stand in front of the whiteboard.” Xander then started an impression of someone ducking and dodging much to the girl’s amusement.

The group settled down and kept sneaking looks at both each other and the gifts in silence. That is until half an hour later when Cordelia breezed in from cheerleading practice, well she attempted to anyway, but found she couldn’t open the heavy doors with Angel’s present and her bag keeping her hands full.

The girl jumped with a start and almost dropped the gift box as a male hand suddenly appeared in front of her on the door. Angel smirked inwardly at her startled yelp as Cordelia turned and glared at him. He didn’t open the door any further either, forcing her to swallow her irritation.

“Hello Angel, could you please open the door for me?” She asked in a sickly sweet, entirely false tone of voice. He actually did smile this time, acting the gentleman to irritate her more.

“Certainly.” In reply she muttered something that sounded suspiciously like ‘Damn glorified mosquito’.

The rest of the Scooby Gang looked up as they entered, Cordelia scowling slightly, Angel as impassive as usual. Xander waved Cordelia over and she came to stand behind him putting the gift down gently on the table before she wrapped her arms around his shoulder, much like he had done the week before. Angel was still at a loss to what she saw in him, the kid obviously ignored her whenever he didn’t want something.

“Erm, well, should we get started?” Angel asked, sliding his present across the table to Xander, who stiffened upon finding out who it was from.

Xander looked at the box as if were poisoned for a moment before visibly shrugging and ripping top off. Inside were two packets of Twinkies and six high quality comic books. He tipped them out happily and opened one of the packets of Twinkies, starting to eat as he passed his present to Buffy.

Buffy smiled at Xander and couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit disappointed that Angel wasn’t the one that had gotten her something. She slid her fingernail under one of the sloppy edges on the small gift and tore the paper revealing a velvet jewelry box. She raised an eyebrow and opened it to reveal a silver charm bracelet, which she put on straight away before tossing her gift haphazardly in Oz’s direction.

Oz nodded at her before opening his gift in the simple way he usually did things: no mess, no fuss. He smiled wryly when he opened the last bit of paper and folded it back, revealing some guitar strings and two black picks along with three packets of hair dye. It was those that was really smiling at as he fingered them, looking up.

“Thanks Buff.” He said and both Buffy and Xander flushed as they realized they hadn’t thanked the givers of their gifts. As they quickly did so Oz reached up and passed his plain brown parcel up to Giles.

Giles fairly beamed with pleasure as he opened the package containing a single leather bound journal and a high quality fountain pen. He thanked the boy profusely as he walked around the table before placing his gift in front of her on the table.

Willow smiled, “Thanks Giles.” blushing shyly and glancing straight down as though she were embarrassed to be receiving a gift.

She gasped openly as she read the title of the book he had gotten her ‘Wicca – A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner.’ She hugged the book to her chest and turned to Cordelia who was still standing behind her boyfriend. She couldn’t help feeling a pang as she looked at her, wrapped around Xander like she belonged there.

Willow shyly extended her gift and was surprised when Cordelia thanked her straight away, but then again the Chases must have taught her some manners. Cordelia didn’t bother with the pretence of sophistication for once and tore into the wrapping paper with relish.

When the paper fell clear of the mirror Cordelia stilled, running her free hand over the engravings, a gentle smile flittering across her features. Lifting the mirror up to her face she was oblivious to the flashing of the engraving as she turned the mirror around to look at herself, a tell-tale sign of magic being released.

***************************

In the instant that followed Cordelia found herself looking at a younger version of herself in the mirror in place of a reflection as words started to fill her head completely, leaving no room for anything else.

Little girl lost
Lonely and confused
Her Daddy ignored her
Her mother drank booze
Showered with empty gifts
Given Flattery and lust
But those could never make up
For a life lacking in love.

There was a bright flash of light and she was tackled from the side, the mirror wrenched from her grip and thrown forcefully shattering on impact. Everything went black.

Angel was treated to the dizzying and very unnerving sensation of being thrown around like a rag doll and the waist that he had thrown his arms around seemed to have shrunk, or was shrinking. He fell and as he did he twisted, bringing Cordelia around to land on top of him- he closed his eyes as he hit the ground. He opened them again in almost the same instant, not feeling the weight he was prepared for and sat up, dislodging the slight weight over his torso. In place or the cheerleader was a small girl, she couldn’t have been any more that 6 or 7 years old.

Automatically he extended his arms to cradle her head when it was about to bang on the floor after her body slipped to the side. Buffy had immediately risen to her feet, and had just about reached their side when the young girl stirred in his grasp. She turned her head to the side and looked up at him with large hazel eyes and he was just beginning to have a sense of recognition when Buffy reached down roughly and yanked her up by the collar of her baby doll dress, lifting her a few feet off the floor.

“What in the hell are you and what do you want with me?” She asked aggressively, shaking the delicate creature in her grasp, Angel frowned as the girl whimpered and reached out quicker than human eyes could follow, bringing his hand down sharply on Buffy’s wrists making her let go. The girl immediately scampered behind him, hiding from the stares directed her way, both hostile and bewildered.

Her voice came out from behind him, surprising everyone with its strength, and him personally with the fact that it wasn’t wavering.

“I’m not a thing, my name is Cordelia Chase and I don’t want to do anything to you, you big meany.” Shocked silence met the declaration as the girl gave into her fear, clutching the back of his legs, in any other circumstances he would have just moved out of the way, but with Buffy looking like she was on the war-path he felt a strange need to protect the girl. Cordelia. His senses told him it was the truth.

Giles cleared his throat and was ignored, nobody really hearing the sound through all the tension.

“Buffy, might it be a good idea if we looked at the girl?” His slayer turned to look at him and he could almost hear the wheels spinning in her head, slowly she nodded and then she stepped to one side.

That didn’t help though and Giles looked pointedly at Angel, who in turn twisted around to look down at Cordelia, she looked up at him and then peeked between his legs at the people looking at them. Slowly she inched her way out from behind him, keeping her grip on his left pants leg.

When she was all the way out, but for the hand clutching his pants both Willow and Xander took sharp breaths in. Willow turned to Giles shocked, and confirmed that it was indeed the cheerleader.

The rest of the night was kind of a blur to the young girl as the elder people argued and yelled. The blonde one had stormed off earlier and one of the boys had gone after her. Cordelia didn’t much mind the red head and the short man with funny hair, they seemed nice- but she couldn’t be sure so she stayed where she was, curled up on the top of the stairs. She couldn’t see the other two men anymore- they’d gone into the old man’s office.

“Angel I just don’t see how anyone else can do it.” Giles argued, trying to make the vampire see his point without fully losing his temper.

“But… I don’t know anything about children.” Angel tried to point out, Giles in a rare show of immaturity said he simply didn’t care.

Cordelia had obviously already come to the conclusion that he could be trusted, and he was the only one who didn’t legally have to be at the school during the daytime. It was going to be hard enough explaining the cheerleader’s absence as it was.

Angel ended up agreeing just because he could see how agitated the watcher was and didn’t want to be the cause of it any longer. If it weren’t for Buffy he would’ve avoided the man for the rest of his life.

Willow and Oz looked up from the corner, where they were trying to pick up the small shards of mirror that had been left when it shattered when Angel left Giles’ office. He quickly moved towards the girl and pulled her up fast, but gently.

“Come on, you’re going to stay with me.” He said and started moving again forcing her to keep up and hopefully making her less likely to be able to argue.

Willow and Oz exchanged a look and went to rise but stopped when Giles appeared, waving them down as the odd looking pair reached the doors. It was then that Willow spoke up, remembering something just in time.

“Angel, your present.” The vampire stopped, let go of Cordelia’s hand and turned striding to the table and scooping up the gift.

***********************************

Angel walked down the darkened streets Cordelia’s small hand in his own, not adjusting his pace to accord for her shorter legs. At first she just started to trot but after the first block her breathing became heavier and her pulse increased. Frankly he was just trying to see how long it would be before she started whining as she usually did when they were out on patrols. She didn’t, even as she was breathing harshly and her feet were dragging on the ground in obvious exhaustion, she held her tongue.

Slowing slightly he stooped and wrapped his arm around her tiny waist effortlessly hoisting her up in the air, secretly delighting in her squawk of almost-fright. She instinctively wrapped her legs partway around his waist and twined her arms about his neck, so she wouldn’t fall. Angel didn’t put her down until they reached the mansion, and then he had to so he could open the door.

By now Cordelia was practically swaying on her feet in exhaustion and Angel prodded her gently into the foyer, putting the still unopened gift on the small coffee table on the way to his bedroom. When they reached the room she stopped and looked at him.

“Mister?” She asked, eyes wide.

“Yes.”

“What’s your name?” He started not having realized he hadn’t told her.

“Angel.”

“Angel? Like in heaven?”

“Not quite.”

“Angel’s a girls name.” She stated, then her eyes got wide and she bit her bottom lip. “Sorry, I didn’t mean it, it’s not a girls name.” Angel smiled gently, confused as to why she was apologizing. He moved to the side of the bed and pulled the covers down.

“Go to sleep.”

Cordelia climbed onto the large bed and bent over, attempting to undo her shoes, her tired mind not registering it at all when gentle hands pushed her own aside and stated undoing the tiny sneakers on her feet, in fact she was asleep by the time the vampire picked her up again and settled her into the bed, tucking the blankets securely around her.

He stepped back and watched the girl sleep for a minute, and if his smile was a bit too predatory or more possessive than it should have been, he never noticed.

****************************

The next night saw them both at the library, Cordelia sitting on top of the table with some of his charcoal and paper- occupied as she had been for most of the day. He was staring at the door waiting for either Buffy or Willow to come through with news about what was going on. Was it his imagination, or was the girl slightly bigger now than she had been this morning. He shook his head at the thought and resolved to get her some more clothes if this couldn’t be fixed soon.

Willow burst through the doors trailed by Buffy and Xander and he stood up, mildly noting the fact that beside him Cordelia seemed to kind of shrink into herself, much as Willow sometimes did, in shyness. She burst out speaking as soon as she was safely inside.

“ I went to the mall to ask the lady at the stall whether she knew where the mirror came from but the entire thing had disappeared. How could a stall just disappear into thin air? Nobody could even remember it being there.”

Giles came out just then, a heavy book in one hand and what seemed to be a dictionary in the other. He looked over at Willow who stopped babbling.

“It’s not surprising, I think I’ve found something in this book about the mirror and from what I’ve translated the mirror itself is one of those items that just turns up now and again.”

Angel turned his full focus on the man, but maintained a casual front. Cordelia sensed his interest and also looked up at Giles, though she had no idea why.

“The mirror seems to show the erm, younger versions of the people it is given to and turn them into that version of themselves. Usually all it would take would be looking into the mirror again to undo the change but as the mirror was smashed from what I have been able to gather, it will probably just wear off and Cordelia will most likely be able to remember what happened.”

Angel bristled slightly, he was sure that Giles was lying about something, he just wasn’t sure about what. Before he could call the other man about it though he continued.

“Buffy, would your mother be able to look at Cordelia during school hours?” Angel almost growled at this, he had enjoyed having the girl stay with him and even though he deserved the distrust that had obviously prompted the suggestion, he still didn’t want the girl to leave.

Buffy had been staring at Cordelia in disdain for some reason, perhaps jealousy because the girl had been taking up Angel’s time. Either way she reacted badly. She snapped her head around to glare at Giles.

“NO. Absolutely not!” Everyone else in the room turned to look at her and she coloured slightly. “Well um, my Dad’s coming in to visit me and well you have to admit, she would be kind of hard to explain. What am I going to say? Well gee Dad, this is Cordelia she’s one of my best friend’s girlfriend except she got turned into a six year old by a magic mirror.” Xander snorted behind his hand while Willow winced in sympathy. Giles frowned.

“Well I suppose you do have a point there. But how are we going to explain her absence to her parents?” Xander perked up and started bouncing up and down waving his hand in the air.

“Ooh, ooh I know this one. Cordy’s parents are out of town for a few weeks.” Seeing the looks passing his way he quieted and shuffled a bit awkwardly.

“Well I suppose that does solve the problem, Angel would you mind continuing to take care of Cordelia?” Giles then asked the vampire somewhat reluctantly. Angel responded with a shrug he then gestured to the English man that he wanted to talk to him alone and followed him into his office.

As soon as the door closed Angel’s entire demeanor changed, his back straightened and he leant over the other man.

“What is it you were keeping form them?” He asked dangerously, Giles looked at him with disdain, and maybe a little fear.

“I merely didn’t state that the mirror changed the person looking into it, into their inner self, I think that is a bit personal don’t you.” Angel growled under his breath but couldn’t help but be impressed by the man’s sensitivity.

Angel turned without another word and left the office, walking over to the table, where Willow was talking to Cordelia with a slightly puzzled look on her face. He reached the two girls and bent down, patting Cordelia on the shoulder, she looked up and he once again scooped her up in his arms.

Buffy watched them as they left and sighed, something always seemed to get in the way of them being together.

*********************************

Angel walked into the brightly lit shopping centre, Cordelia’s hand clutched safely in his own. They must have made a funny picture, this huge guy and a tiny little girl. Finding a map Angel studied it intently for a few minutes before turning to take Cordelia to the grocery store to buy some food he’d realized that while she could live on crackers it probably wasn’t a good idea. Besides all the clothes shops were closed at this time of night, he’d take her tomorrow- he didn’t know how yet but he would.

She was hiding behind him again though and he looked around trying to find the reason. He smiled gently when he saw a little boy about her age looking through a nearby shop window and waving at her. Angel started walking, forcing Cordelia to trot out from behind him and walk in the open to keep up.

Reaching the grocery store a minute later Angel paused before picking an aisle at random, they started walking down and he groaned to himself. Cleaning!

Two aisles down they had finally reached some food, unfortunately though it was the candy section. He held breath he didn’t need and prepared to tell the girl she couldn’t have any. However once again she didn’t say anything, she just looked at the treats with wide eyes- remembering the watcher’s word’s he realized that the cheerleader must be this insecure normally but hid it. It was a little hard to believe that she could hide it so well.

Sighing he grabbed three bars of chocolate off the shelf at random and was rewarded with a huge smile as Cordelia saw them enter the basket she had grabbed upon entering the store.

By the time they finished shopping it was nearly dawn and they had gathered all the staples, egg, spaghetti, potatoes, meat, cereal, fruit and vegetables. He’d even gotten her a tiny toothbrush. Once again Cordelia was yawning as they entered his home and he winced inwardly as he remembered that she had no pyjamas.

“Just put those on the couch, sweetheart.” Cordelia nodded and took the two light bags he had let her carry and placed them on the couch with a small huff of air.

He placed the four heavier bags he had been carrying just inside the door and walked through the foyer down the hall to his bedroom, squashing the thought that it was cute when Cordelia hesitated before trailing him. He opened the closet and grabbed one of his shirts. He held it out to the girl and told her to go and change into it so she could go to sleep.

He actually had to bite his lip when she came out of his bathroom; the hem of the shirt was pooled around her feet, the sleeves actually trailing on the floor behind her. On top of all that the collar of the red silk shirt was falling off one of her shoulders, it was just a bit much to handle, his demon recoiled at the sight of so much cuteness.

“Angel.” She said. “I think it’s a bit too big.” He couldn’t help it then, he just started laughing.

***************************

Angel was doing Tai Chi when Cordelia came in, having finished the picture books they had gotten the second time they had gone to the shops. Walking in she saw him doing what looked like really slow dancing and she walked up and facing him started to copy.

Angel had sensed the girls’ presence from the moment she entered the room, her heartbeat having become a familiar pattern in the last few days. He was prepared to stop and talk to her at any second, even his demon was used to her now. Tolerant you might say. He wasn’t overtly surprised when the girl said nothing but was suitable impressed when he finished the set and she had still kept up with him. He turned to face her and bowed, she copied the movement and it was then that she fell over, stumbling into him.

Angel righted her and silently steered her towards the bathroom, stopping to grab a clean dress for her, Buffy and the others had taken it upon themselves to come over that night and for some reason he thought that the girl should look her best.

*****************************

Angel looked up at the sound of muffled sobs; halting his efforts to make sure the room was tidy before the Scooby gang arrived. He walked towards the noise, correctly assuming it was Cordelia; after all, there was nobody else there. When he reached the kitchen he stopped, the girl was crouching down on the floor, surrounded by shards of glass, which she was trying to pick up with her bare hands.

“What are you doing?” He asked and Cordelia looked up at him, a fresh wave of tears starting to coat her face.

“I… I didn’t mean to…I wanted a drink… Please don’t hate me?” Something In Angel’s heart started to ache, and despite his aversion towards human contact he knelt down and spread his arms.

“Come here.” He told her in the gentlest voice he could manage- the same voice in fact that he used to use when luring prey as Angelus.

When Cordelia just sniffled again, he repeated himself. This time she stopped and looked at him curious, when he didn’t move she steeped over the glass on the floor and launched herself into his arms. It was a good thing he was a vampire, otherwise he would have been bowled over.

Angel picked up the still trembling child with ease and carried her into the foyer area, settling down on the couch. A few minutes passed and Cordelia settled down, cuddling into him. She shifted suddenly and looked up at him.

“Angel?” She asked.

“Hmm,” He responded sleepily.

“Your chest doesn’t go thump-thump.” She stated and he was surprised to hear only curiosity and no fear until he remembered that in this day and age a six year old probably wouldn’t make the immediate connection between a heartbeat and life.

Cordelia reached one small hand up and started tapping it against his chest in time with her own heartbeat. “Thump-thump, Thump-thump.” She kept tapping absently until her hand gradually stopped moving and she fell asleep, face tilted towards his, hand lightly curled in his shirt.

He shifted and something in his face changed as the move brought her further up on his lap, pressing her closer to his chest. She made a contented sound and resettled, head lolling to the side as his hands ran slowly up and down her back, raising the fabric slightly each time.

His face shifted, teeth elongating as he leant in slowly, coming closer to her innocently bared neck. He took a deep breath, inhaling the sweet scent of her skin and the dry salt water of her tears. He leaned in even closer, so close he could almost feel her pulse vibrate through his fangs, he opened his mouth…

*************************

Buffy knocked on the door impatiently, glancing back towards Xander and Willow. She heard a muffled, “Just a second.” from inside and shifted kind of nervously. She didn’t know why, she’d been over at Angel’s mansion plenty of times.

Angel meanwhile had snapped back to reality and shoved Cordelia roughly from him in guilt. She looked up at him in shock and confusion, having being thrust out of comfort so suddenly.

“Everyone’s here, you need to wash your face.” He said gruffly and she nodded eyes wide. He took her by the hand and walked her into the bathroom, waiting while she splashed her face with water. Meanwhile he picked up the soft brush from the side of the basin and ran it gently through her hair, when her hair was back in place he put the brush down and turned her gently around to face him, still preoccupied by what had almost happened before, he quickly straightened her dress and tugged her quickly towards the front door.

He opened the door just as Buffy was about to knock once more, and Angel just looked at her for a moment, feeling that somehow she would sense what he had been about to do. Instead she just looked at him questionably and he stepped aside, making Cordelia who was still at his side, also move. The young girl tracked the three teens with her eyes as they moved further into the room.

Dinner was awkward and Willow kept casting Cordelia odd looks she couldn’t believe that this shy young girl was Cordelia, she’d known Cordelia back then and she hadn’t been like this at all. Mentally shrugging she eventually put it down to being uncomfortable in the presence of so many strangers for unexplained reasons.

Cordelia had gotten tired halfway through the evening and had started yawning, Angel went to get up and put her to bed but Buffy surprised them all by offering to put the young girl to bed. Cordelia immediately turned to look at Angel and he smiled reassuringly, nodding his head. Buffy watched as Cordelia slid down off the chair she was in and walked over to stand next to her own chair, looking up at her with large hazel eyes, trusting her completely. It was easy to see why Angel didn’t much mind looking after her. What had happened to the cheerleader to make her so bitchy?

Buffy stood up, taking Cordelia’s hand and the girl pulled her slightly to where Angel’s room was. Buffy stood in the door as Cordelia climbed up onto the bed and grabbed a red silk shirt with the sleeves ripped short. She was surprised the girl stayed in here, Cordelia looked over at the blond and quietly asked for help to take her pretty shoes off.
Buffy came into the room and knelt on the floor as Cordelia’s legs dangled off the side of the bed, she gently slid the shoes off and Cordelia smiled at her before jumping up and running to the bathroom, she came out a minute later dressed in the shirt and climbed onto the bed once more. Buffy Stood up and tucked her in, turning to leave.

“Wait.” She stopped.

“Can you please tell me a story?” Cordelia asked shyly. Buffy couldn’t refuse the girl and sat on the bed.

“Once upon a time…”

********************************

Xander looked at Angel, Angel looked at Willow and Willow looked at Xander who cleared his throat.

“Silence.” He said just to get rid of said silence, and then he continued.

“Hey so what did Queen C get you anyway?” He asked genuinely curious as Cordelia has refused to tell him when he’d asked both who’d she’d picked and what she had gotten for them. Angel just shrugged.

“You haven’t opened it?” Willow asked, surprised that someone would wait so long before opening a gift.

Xander prompted him to do so and for once Angel just did what the boy wanted, not wanting an argument when Cordelia was asleep or almost asleep. He went into the foyer and took the gift box off the fireplace and back into the kitchen. Setting it down on the table he lifted the lid.

Xander laughed when Angel brought out a red Hawaiian shirt, Angel himself frowned slightly. Willow was surprised Cordelia had brought such a common looking item of clothing in the first place. He also pulled out two pairs of boxer shorts, one plain black, the other containing a lamp over the crotch with the slogan ‘Rub me and I’ll make all you wishes come true’ if vampires could blush, he would have. Next he pulled out a copy of Dracula- note affixed to the front stating that she knows he won’t like it but it is amusing. The last item he pulled out of the box was a crystal angel, pure in it’s perfection, an inscription etched in a gold plate near the bottom in Gaelic reading Féin Aingeals anás duine éigin go cúnaigh iadsan suas nuair a iad tit . Which roughly translated meant ‘Even angels need someone to help them up when they fall.’ Xander once again started laughing.

“Figures she would give such shallow gifts.” Only the vague thought that Cordelia was in the other room stopped Angel from smashing the boy’s head in.

*****************************

Cordelia woke up mildly disoriented, she was sure her room wasn’t usually this dark. She stretched against the silk sheets and as she felt the smooth texture, remembered what had happened during the last week or so. She sat bolt upright and launched herself out of Angel’s bed. Running through the mansion until she saw him, she ran up and hugged him and he almost fell back, startled beyond words.

“I’m me again! I’m me again! Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you.” She leaned up quickly and gave him an impulsive kiss, then pulled back and stared at him.

“Sorry, I shouldn’t ha…” Her words were cut off in total shock as he leant down and kissed her again, pulled her closer to him. Taking advantage of her still slightly parted lips Angel ran his tongue along her bottom one. Cordelia sighed slightly as the kiss deepened and let it continue until she rediscovered the need for air.

She started pushing at his arms and Angel; vaguely recognizing her need to breathe switched his focus to start kissing his way down her neck. Cordelia was reeling but still managed to gasp out a few words.

“Shouldn’t…. do this…. Wrong… Buffy…” Angel jerked back at the slayer’s name his brain somehow registering it and jumping to the conclusion that she was there. Cordelia stepped back as soon as he released her and looked at him nervously.

“Maybe we should just forget about this? It never happened?” She proposed backing away slightly. Angel looked at her dumbly before slowly nodding.

“Never happened.” He repeated, still confused as to what had actually happened. He just watched as she turned and walked back towards his bedroom, silently wishing that the hem of his shirt was just that little bit shorter.

*******************************

The gang was gathered around the library table once more, all of them more or less relieved that Cordelia was back to her normal, if less than loveable self. Cordelia herself was just glad it was the last day of school; she hadn’t been able to concentrate on much since that kiss.

Speaking of kisses, she looked up and rolled her eyes as Xander brought out a sprig of mistletoe above his head, closing his eyes and pouting his lips hopefully. The other two girls and Giles turned to her and she looked at them silently for a second before a wicked grin came across her face. She pranced her way over to Giles and motioned him down, whispering in his ear. Slowly the watcher grinned too and walked over to Xander giving him a quick peck on the cheek.

Xander opened his eyes and screamed in shock making Giles cover his ears and then pout, feigning heartbreak, the other four cracked up and he turned to face Cordelia who was laughing so hard she almost had tears running down her face.

“You.” He stated and started to chase her around the room. “I’m going to get you for that!” Her screams and shrieks of laughter could be heard echoing down the hall the hall and soon Willow and Buffy joined in, helping or hindering her as the mood took them…

“See I told you we had Xander to thank for getting us together.”

“Willow was the one who brought the mirror.” Angel pointed out.

“But she wouldn’t have brought it if Xander hadn’t of made her do the Secret Santa thing.” Cordelia countered, letting out a squeak when Angel tackled her back onto the bed in response.

She looked up into his eyes, suddenly quiet; she didn’t really care who made it happen, or why it did. She was just glad he was here with her now, even if it had taken a while. She smiled widely and stretched up to kiss him.

“I love you.”

 


…THE END…


 

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