By the Chimney With Care

Author: Christie
Rating: PG
Content: Friendship
Spoilers: Season 2 through The Trial
Summary: Angel apologizes to Cordelia.  Set after The Trial.
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt, and belong to Twentieth Century Fox, all rights reserved. This story is not for profit.

*

He knew eavesdropping was usually a bad idea. Finding out all kinds of things he didn't want to know in the first place; although the idea of knowing them always sounded like a good idea before he actually knew them.

Hence the eavesdropping

But he couldn't stop eavesdropping on Wesley and Cordelia. It started soon after Darla came into the picture. And it hasn't stopped since. He'd learned that they'd alternately worried about him, and been royally pissed off. He'd learned that Cordelia hates Darla, with an uncharacteristic vengeance. He'd learned that Wesley was tired to the point of ambivalence about the whole situation.

They both felt like he didn't need them, didn't want them around, and would never confide in them again.

And that hurt him. Because it wasn't true.

It was Christmas Eve, and the hadn't been much of a situation for almost a month. Darla was a vampire, run off with Drusilla somewhere; and he didn't want to know where. Because he didn't want to have to kill his Sire again.

So it was over, and Angel wondered, why wasn't Cordelia back in Sunnydale for the holidays? Why wasn't Wesley spending time with Virginia Bryce? Why didn't he know these things? They were his friends, and he didn't have the slightest clue as to why they were still at the Hyperion Hotel near midnight on Christmas Eve.

Cordelia was fiddling with the stockings she'd hung above the fireplace. Four of them: labeled Cordy, Wes, Angel and Gunn. She wrote the names herself on the old fashioned red velvet, in a sparkly glitter pen. And he was touched, for some reason, that she did.

She had every reason to be mad at him, but she remained constant, his friend in the face of everything unspeakable that had happened in the last months. That was his Cordelia, strong, if not unflappable.

She didn't give up, Cordelia. And he truly loved her for it.

*

Once again, Cordelia pinched the velvet between her fingers, lifted, and let it go. She sighed, scrutinized the four stockings hanging from the fireplace, and finally turned away.

"I think they're straight, Cordelia," Wesley said dryly, lifting one eyebrow above the rim of his glasses.

The girl scowled at him and stepped back to the fireplace. "I want them to be perfect. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care. *Care* Wesley."

She closed her eyes and sighed inwardly at her small outburst. It wasn't about the stockings, or Wesley, or the fact that it was Christmas Eve, or any of those things. It was Angel. He had barely been around since Darla was turned. He'd pulled further and further away each time they tried to go to him. Wesley had stopped trying. Cordelia was determined to reach him, if it killed her. Not that Christmas was it. Christmas was never it, not when it came to vampires. But it was - something. And she had to do *something* because if she wasn't, she was doing *nothing* and that wasn't Cordelia Chase's style at all.

As if reading her mind, Wesley spoke.

"Angel's fine, Cordelia. It will do you no good to obsess about him. You saw how much good it did him to obsess about Darla."

"Stop! Saying! That! Name!" Cordelia shouted, her voice echoing off the marble walls of the considerable lobby. "I'm sick of hearing about Darla! Darla, Darla, Darla! Can ANYONE talk about ANYTHING other than DARLA?!"

*

He knew he had to approach her then. It had gone on long enough. He retreated back inside his room and picked up the neatly wrapped gift on the edge of his bed. Silver paper, a bright red bow. It had taken him four tries and almost a whole roll of paper to wrap it just right.

Fifteen minutes later, the vampire had summoned the courage to descend the stairs. Wesley had left; he'd heard something mumbled about phone calls to make, and a terse goodbye between his Seer and the former Watcher. No Merry Christmas, no friendly hug. Barely a glance.

The tension between them was his doing. Guilt weighed on his shoulders and he nearly turned around and raced back up the stairs to his suite. But the sight of Cordelia stopped him.

His dearest friend, slumped on the round sofa in the middle of the lobby, head in her hands. He was sure she wasn't crying, but trying valiantly to resist threatening tears.

"Cordelia?"

"Angel. I thought you were - I mean, upstairs."

An awkward pause, then he pushed out unnecessary breath. He couldn't remember the last awkward silence between them. Current moment notwithstanding.

"I heard Wesley leave." Then, more quickly, "Are you okay?"

She nodded, but he didn't believe her. Partly because she didn't offer verbal confirmation, mostly because the look in her eyes said she was anything but okay.

"I'm jealous of Darla. That's why I don't like her."

The statement might have surprised the girl making it as much as it surprised the vampire to hear it. She clamped her hand over her mouth, and a blush crept up to color the skin still visible beneath her eyes. The eyes, the eyes that said *whoops, did I just say that out loud?*

Angel stepped forward. One step, then stopped. Didn't know why he even moved except that he was so surprised he'd nearly tripped over his own feet. "Jealous of Darla?"

Because perhaps that's not what she'd said at all. It was possible. Probable. Very possible and probable.

But she nodded. Embarrassed. Vulnerable. The Cordy no one hardly ever got to see. Only he and Wes had the privilege, on occasion.

"You gave her all your attention for weeks on end. And I got jealous. I'm trying not to - you know, hate her - since she's a vampire now and all and it doesn't really matter, but I did. That's why I was mean to her when she was around and that's why I can't stand hearing her name. Okay?"

Of course it was okay; it was as okay as it was over, since Cordelia was obviously done with embarrassing confession time and Angel wasn't going to risk the wrath of dragging it out any further.

So he cleared his throat, and changed the subject. "How come you didn't go back to Sunnydale for Christmas?"

Cordelia made a face. Nose scrunched up, like she'd sooner entertain the idea of dating Xander again than going home for the holidays. "No one will miss me there. Besides - " she touched her temple. "Work."

The vampire smiled, sort of. It was lopsided, and really half-assed, but it counted, considering the limited amount of smiling he'd done the past few months.

"You can have visions in Sunnydale and call me, Cordy."

She might have responded, argued, had she not noticed the present he held. Her eyes brightened, if only momentarily, then she regarded him warily.

"Is that a present?"

Angel looked down at the gift; almost surprised it remained in his hand. He'd nearly forgotten about it, but thrust it in front of him, sort of eager to give it to her and get it over with. Not that he didn't want to get his Seer a present. He did. But shopping for Cordelia wasn't just an errand, it was a world-class event. The chore to top all chores. Really, the hardest thing he'd had to do in a long time. Nevermind the business with the trials.

So in typical Angel fashion, he'd looked at books. Convinced himself that Cordy would be happy with a book. That she didn't want a silk scarf, or a silver bracelet, or a new pair of shoes. She'd love a book.

Love it.

He'd compromised, and found something he hoped could pass for thoughtful without being too - Broody Boy.

"Yeah, it's for you."

Her eyes lit up once again, she might have even squealed a bit, grabbed it from his hands and settled on the couch to open it. Angel stood, hands sunk into his pockets, and watched. He was nervous.

Nervous because he gave Cordelia a present. Nervous because he wanted her to like it. Nervous because he wanted her to understand that with this gift came his deepest and most heartfelt apologies. Nervous because he wanted to tell her that she was everything real in the world to him, and that without her he might as well watch the next sunrise on the Santa Monica pier.

She turned the leather bound journal over and over in her hands. Smelled it. Real leather. Opened it to a random page somewhere in the middle. Closed it. Opened it again, randomly, this time more toward the back. Closed it.

Smiled.

"I love it."

"I wrote something in it. The first page." Angel pointed in the general direction of the journal. Cordelia's eyes grew wide, turned up at her boss.

She read aloud:

"She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!"

Angel fidgeted in the silence that followed. "It's by Lord Byron," he finally offered. "He wrote it in 1814 about his cousin but - I thought it fit you?"

The Seer stood, threw her arms around the vampire's neck and hugged. Hard.

"Thank you," she whispered. "It's beautiful."

Angel hugged back. Hugged until she let go, and he was forced to. She was smiling when she stepped back into his view. Smiling big. Smiling her Cordy-smile. Her crazy-Cordy-smile. Then she was laughing.

"I have something for you too."

She tripped over to the desk and he watched her, noticing how long and tan her legs looked stemming from the black suede skirt she filled in so nicely. She disappeared behind the desk, then reappeared, holding a green gift bag.

"I don't wrap," she announced, handing him the bag and stepping back. Clasped perfectly manicured hands around her new leather bound journal again and waited.

So he looked inside the bag. Moved the tissue paper away, and extracted a journal, near identical to hers, only paper-covered. The vampire smiled, turned it over in his hands.

She was not apologetic when she said, "It's not leather. I guess *some* people take in a bigger cut than others around here."

And he smiled a larger smile then, almost a grin, something Angel never did. But he looked at her, eyes shining, and felt the connection again.

It made him warm.

Then the smile was a frown, because he *was* pulling away, and he was sorry. So damn sorry. He'd lied to her, he'd ignored her, he'd been rude. And she'd taken it all, remained steadfastly loyal, didn't send herself on a vacation like she might have time ago. She stuck in there, and bought him a place to put his thoughts since he wouldn't talk to her anymore.

Guilt crashed in anew.

"I'm so sorry for how I've been acting, Cordy. I don't want to lose you - " He paused. It was that. But that was too much for now. "I don't want to push you and Wesley away. I want to be able to talk to you."

She nodded. "I know."

And she did.

"I know," she repeated. "I'm always gonna be here for you, no matter how wigged you get. You should know that by now, Angel."

"I do. That's why I owe you an apology. I knew that. I took advantage - "

"Oh please!" One hand released the leather bound journal and she waved it in the air with gumption. "Look Mr. Guilty Pleasure, get over it. You were a jerk for a while, but you're not now so I'm over it, you're over it, we're over it."

Dark eyes widened. "You sure?"

She whirled around, walked toward the fireplace where the stockings hung. "Duh. Like I want to relive *that* trauma." Fingers pinched the red velvet of the stocking marked Angel. She paused, silence settled quietly over them like a fresh blanket of snow.

"Merry Christmas, Angel."

"Merry Christmas, Cordelia."

END.

 



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