Title: Peace & Goodwill
Rating: PG-13 (My first) :blush:
Category: Secret Santa Fic fluff
Summary: This is a Secret Santa Fic for Christie (Ficbitch82) – hope it’s what you wanted!
Disclaimer: The characters in the Angelverse were created by Joss Whedon & David Greenwalt. No infringement is intended, no profit is made.
Distribution: GT/AA, anywhere else, please ask.
Notes: The random items Ficbitch82 would like to see included are:
***C/A not C/Aus ***Set during season 2 so friendship/possible romance ***Cordy putting up a Christmas tree in the hotel ***A bit of Cordy/Wes good-natured bickering please.(optional but would be loved)
Thanks/Dedication: Thanks to scorchy for the hand holding thru the block and Cali for being my lovely beta!!!
“It doesn’t go there” snapped Wesley, in a strained voice.
“Say’s you? Hah – who nominated you as Santa’s Helper and numero uno, Xmas tree decorator? I’ll have you know I’m an expert at this”.
Cordelia had her tongue between her teeth, balancing with one knee on the banister of the stairs and Wesley trying not to touch her in ‘no go’ zones and not drop her at the same time.
“We shouldn’t even be doing this and you know it, Cordelia” argued Wesley as he shifted enough to cause her to smack him on the head.
“Oowwe” he yelped and fixed the glasses she’d knocked askew, then twisted his head to glare at her with freezing annoyance.
“Don’t move, or me *and* this tree will do more than conk you on your head” she warned without bothering to even check out his best intimidating look. Wesley frowned and looked away, then pursed his lips again as a fresh wave of aggravation hit him.
“Angel is not going to be happy with this. Who knows what bad memories we may be bringing back with this nonsense. Christian religious festivals aren’t exactly his style these days- remember”. Wesley continued in the same vein. Feeling it was necessary to get his objections on record for when said Vampire descended the very steps the tree was nestling beside.
“Oh, pfft and all other sounds that implicate exasperation. It’s Christmas, Wesley. Even he can understand the importance to us- or me which is even more important”.
Cordelia grinned when he hissed in a breath at her ‘selfish’ statement. Geez the guys around here were so easy to wind up. Sometimes she felt she was wasting her talents here in the ancient art of men baiting.
“There, I’m done” then with an athletic grace that would put numerous professionals to shame, she jumped to the floor and stood back, brushing her hands to admire her handy-work. “Pretty damn good. Even If I do say so myself” She announced, satisfied and then eyed Wesley with an arch look that dared him to contradict her.
“It’s only the Angel, Cordelia” Wesley rolled his eyes at even the thought of such a thing on top of Christmas Tree for god sake, at the work place owned by a bloody vampire called Angel. “What about the rest of the traditional ornaments and decorations to accompany it”?
“It’s a start” Cordelia defended herself sharply and glared at him.
“Works of art take time. So no rushing or next time you want something researching on the net. I’ll go find a porn site and login under Wyndham Pryce with your email and laugh my ass off when you get craploads of junk mail”
“Don’t you dare” gasped Wesley with an indignant flush creeping up his neck, past the collar of his crisp blue shirt and darker hued tie. “Or I’ll…I’ll”
“Give it up, Wes. You and I both know you ain’t got nothing on me” Cordelia smirked and crossed her arms over her colourful print v-necked top, then just to finish the whole ‘body language’ thing; cocked a denim clad hip with a waistband low enough to give older guys a heart attack.
Wesley slammed his lips together tight enough to mash the flesh and walked off with a face like a thundercloud. “Floozy” he muttered under his breath and felt better until a shoe thumped him between the shoulder blades.
World War three was interrupted by the entrance of a large black man carrying a tan crate of something that looked pretty damn heavy. “Hey all. Wassup”?
“He’s up, in fact he’s so far up- daylight can’t reach him, hence the pale sickly colour. As for me, I’m just dandy. Whatcha got there”? Cordelia fetched her shoe back with a warning glare for the insulted ex-watcher and walked over to the counter to ferret curiously inside the box.
“Tell me now if there’s something icky in here” she said freezing and aimed a horrified look at Charles Gunn aka- Gunn.
“Nah, Barbie, would I let you touch something less than tasty?” He grinned at the sardonic look she gave him and his grin got wider when she pulled out two bottles of unopened champagne. “This here is just 100% drinkable party time fizz. Think of it as a gift and you now owe me your first born” he was crowing but the delighted brunette didn’t care.
“There’s more of this”? Asked Wesley, insult and aching back forgotten as he walked over to take out two more. “Where did you get it? And no before you say it. I wasn’t suggesting anything illegal”
“Donation from a liquor store that doesn’t get robbed by late night demon flunkies anymore thanks to me and my boys.” The pride on his face was unmissable as he spoke of his victory. ” We got loads of this stuff and I don’t want my crew getting too loaded- so I thought of you guys and how ya’ll need a serious injection of fun before you go as stiff as the boss”
“Who’s stiff”? Asked a new, and as usual, slightly disgruntled voice.
They all looked towards the dark clothed figure walking with predatory grace for such a large man down the stairs. Gunn noticed the tree. “Hey, nice tree but kinda bare dontcha think”?
Wesley sucked in a breath and stiffened waiting for the vampire to notice it too. It didn’t take long. “Why is there a tree with a … ang.. er cherub on top in the lobby”?
Dark as midnight eyes searched two guilty faces and one assessing one, currently eyeing the other two with the glimmer of understanding lighting his now humour filled face. Gunn grinned again and thought better of staying. “Right that’s me off- job done. Have fun and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do now”.
Cordelia poked Wes in the side and pulled out her biggest, brightest and most effective smile and then aimed it right at the aloof face of her boss. “Hey Angel”. His face didn’t melt or do anything else like it was supposed too. Damn vampires!
“The tree, Cordelia”
HALF AN HOUR LATER
“No- the tree goes, Cordelia” He was inflexible with a will of iron, and he *would not* bend.
Having repeated his refusal to agree to her demands to have a tree in the lobby for about the twentieth time; Angel sat back in his leather executive chair, swept up some miscellaneous papers off his desk and proceeded to ignore the agitated brunette.
Cordy gaped at him, Geez, talk about unreasonable and selfish. “I’m gonna nominate you for the worst boss of the year award- you know that” she stormed uselessly, then whirled to pace back and forth in front of his desk
“Go ahead”. Angel frowned at her persistence but carried on reading. Talking only encouraged her to keep trying; he’d learned that the hard way.
“If that tree goes..” Cordelia pointed a dramatic finger at the disputed tree. “Then I do too”. Finishing with a verbal flourish she waited for the fireworks to start and the thunderclouds forming on his lowering brow told her she’d at least caught his attention.
Angel leaned back in his chair and levelled emotionless dark eyes on the furious figure currently trying to drive him crazy. Whoever said peace was boring needed some time in this one’s company he reflected sourly.
“What are you saying? You’d quit over a tree”? Creased lines appeared between slashing brows as he asked for clarification.
“It’s not just a tree. It’s a Christmas tree and who said anything about quitting. I’ll just take paid leave and go sit in my apartment and look at my own tree”. Her hazel eyes clashed mutinously with his.
“Paid leave”? Angel asked quietly and quirked a brow. Who the hell’s the boss here? He didn’t say it loud, what the hell was the point?
“Yup- it’s a principle I have. No tree, means a crappy Christmas which means *me* not happy”. She stabbed a finger towards her chest and tossed back her head, glossy strands flew over her shoulders to rest in a waterfall of mahogany locks down her back,
Angel sighed heavily and leaned forward to tap aggravated fingers on the smooth polished surface of the desk. The desk he polished because Cordelia considered it too menial a job for her, and Wesley refused on the principle that Cordelia should do it.
“Your not gonna leave me alone about this are you”?
“Not on your unlife!”
“Fine, it can stay.” he growled, giving in just to get a few moments peace. “Shut the door on your way out” Resignation gave way to cold annoyance and the return of aloofness; Cordy took it in her stride and just stood there, waiting for him to look up again. One, two, three…
“Why are you still here”?
“I need fifty bucks.” Silence greeted that matter of fact statement and this time she did concede a rueful grin and even offered up a sheepish smile while raising her hands in a helpless gesture. “I bought the tree and the ang… er cherub. I’m broke and we need more decorations”.
“I don’t even want the damn tree”. Angel growled not even trying to hide the fact he was reaching his limit of patience. His hands went white knuckled as the paper crumpled in his hands. The drawer where he kept the money seemed to have developed a weird fascination for him. God, anything to get rid of her. No, dammit giving in will only create precedence.
“Oh c’mon Angel get in the Christmas spirit, it won’t kill you, besides you’re already dead for chrissake”!
“I’m going out”.
Startled Wesley dropped the file he’d been pretending to be browsing and then miscalculated the distance to the counter when he was forced to make a show of picking it up and promptly banged his head on the smooth wood.
Wincing and trying not to look guilty of eavesdropping, Wesley tried for light interest. “Going anywhere in particular”? He called after the escaping vampire, cut off by the sound of the basement door slamming shut.
Meanwhile, Cordelia swanned into the lobby with a look of pure feline self-satisfaction glowing all over her exotic face. “Don’t tell me he agreed”? Asked Wesley in astonishment and not a little disappointment.
Not that he had anything against Christmas tree’s he assured himself he’d just been waiting for Ms Cockysosureofherself to get her comeuppance and get taken down a peg- or three.
“Of course” assured Cordelia breezily with a knowing twinkle in her eyes. “It was a snap. A walk in the park and like taking candy off a baby all rolled into one”. She was waving a fistful of notes in her hand too, narrow eyed Wesley snorted and slammed the file open again.
“All-right no need to rub it in” he grumbled, thoroughly disgruntled. Cordelia leaned over the counter from the opposite side and palming her face in her hands grinned engagingly at him.
“I’m sorry I hit you on the head and threw my shoe” she offered in a mock solemn tone and fluttered her lashes. She was feeling magnanimous and intended to make the most of it.
“Hah- your just pleased you got your own way again“. Countered Wesley, sniffing in disdain and shooting her a glare. Just so she’d know he wasn’t fooled.
“True. I love being a woman. Especially when dealing with noble, guilt ridden vampires with no resistance to females. Hey; all that broodiness has to pay off somehow”. Cordelia refused to feel guilty about it. Left up to Wesley, Angel would be a mini despot by now.
“That’s not true” argued the ex-watcher, feeling a certain amount of male loyalty rising to the fore, then rapidly deflating added. “Bloody unfair. If that was me in there..”
“You’d have got kicked out on your ass and saved me doing the floor. Face it, Wesley like I’ve told you before, you just don’t have a woman’s touch”. Replied Cordelia, with an unrepentant grin and raised brows.
“I think you mean breasts,” bantered the Englishman with uncharacteristic snideness.
“Those too” unfazed Cordelia rounded the counter and fetched her purse. “I’m going out. You can hold the fort against the hordes of non-paying clients can’t you”? Cordelia didn’t wait for an affirmative but sailed for the glass doors with gleeful anticipation of shopping in every clickety clacking step.
Angel was still pondering exactly how he’d been pushed, forced, bullied and outmanoeuvred by the pushy brunette, into giving into her whims. He was tired and irritable in the extreme yet she’d still managed to get round him- how?
Was it the dreams of Darla, coupled with the obvious difference between his dead sire and Cordelia that made it impossible for him to resist indulging the human girl? Cordelia, for all her manipulations was at least honest about it when she was doing it. Almost as if daring you to call her on it. Sometimes he almost did, but always pulled back at the last second before the words could fly out of his mouth. He did not want to go there!
Thoroughly aggravated after wasting several hours doing nothing and getting nowhere he stormed up the basement steps; determined not to get involved with Cordelia and her damned tree. He got halfway across the lobby before he halted in his tracks, shock blanking his irritable face as he took in the scene before him.
The tree was decorated, glittering with every bauble imaginable, wincing he avoided the Angel on top and returned his now inscrutable gaze back to the sprawled pair on the steps. The strong smell of fermented grapes swirled around him, intoxicating enough and unknown to him a smile twitched at his hard, sculpted lips.
Crossing his arms over his black clothed chest he cleared his throat- loudly!
Wesley didn’t even stir, unless you counted an extra loud snore. Cordelia opened an eye, then both and blinked owlishly at him. “Oh Hi, Angel” she decided to wait before trying to find her feet, and settled for smiling woozily at him from her speck at the bottom of the stairs.
Mildly amused despite himself, Angel hunkered down in front of her and offered her a flat wide palmed hand up, which she took with a grateful look. He hauled her to her feet. “So are you and Wesley an item now” he asked, indicating the sprawled man against whose shoulder she’d been leaning.
“What”? Gasped Cordy with a horrified look. “Eww no! One lame ass kiss was enough to convince me, soul crossed lovers we aren’t”. Halfway through that little confession, she stumbled over the floor and turned round to give the innocent floor a black look. She’d spun so fast she’d have gone full circle if the harassed vampire hadn’t caught hold of her again.
“How much have you two had to drink and..when did you kiss Wesley”? Angel winced- damn he hadn’t meant to ask that. It’d just slipped out and now she was looking at him weird. He didn’t blame her; he’d look at himself weird if he had a reflection to do it to.
“The bottles are over there and ..did I say I’d kissed Wesley”? Oops that one must’ve slipped out, sneaky confessions. Hmm, best way out of this one was..? Her usually fertile mind drew a blank as her tongue ran away with her again.
“It was ages ago, in the school library, behind a load of books. I thought he looked like James Bond” Cordelia slapped a hand over her mouth and looked with wide eyes over the tops of her fingers. “Erm can you just kinda not ask me embarrassing questions”? It was part plea and part demand.
Uncomfortably relieved Angel gave her a “sure” and started steering her towards the couches. “Wait”! Yelled Cordelia, making him jump a mile high at the imperative demand.
“What is it now” he griped then watched disbelievingly when she snagged up an open bottle of champagne, handed it to him and then picked up a plastic cup. She’d taken the bottle back before his mind registered just what a bad idea it was. “Cordy, don’t you think you’ve had enough of that”?
Cordelia evidently disagreed and they wrestled for the bottle. Angel wasn’t sure how it happened but he ended up on the floor with a very determined brunette lying on top of him. Hazel eyes blinked at him. Instantly freezing, he waited for her to get up and off him.
Much to his surprise and not to mention discomfort, she didn’t. Cordelia braced herself on her arms and tossed her hair out of her face. “I’ve kissed you too,” she reminded him. Stunned she’d bring it up; Angel gave her a sideways look full of wariness. “Yeah I know. I was there, remember”.
“That was just as lame” she advised him bluntly.
Insulted, Angel started to rise, taking her with him. “Thanks” he snapped annoyed.
Cordelia let him lift her up enough to straddle him then pushed a hand against his chest, stopping him. Frowning in confusion he waited for her to spit it out. “What do you expect, Angel. You didn’t kiss me back. At least Wesley put some effort into it”.
They stared at one another, neither of them quite believing this was happening. “What are you saying, Cordelia”? Angel shook his head bemused. He could feel her warmth seeping through his clothes, warming his lap and abdomen. It was strangely seductive and. .. He blocked that line of thought with desperate zeal. “What happened to personal bubbles”?
“Don’t pull that one on me, Angel. This isn’t about personal bubbles”. Cordelia scoffed and pushed him back down the floor. He let her but only because he was entirely lost about what else to do with her. She was seriously freaking him out.
She wasn’t sure what this was about herself. All she knew was this was the first time she’d even been in a position to make him sit and listen to her. A giggle threatened to escape at the thought that she’d pinned her ‘vampire’ boss to the floor and sat on him. She was gonna be dying of shame later but for now…Whoo boy, she was going to take advantage.
“You and I are gonna get some things straight, buster”. She was flying by the seat of her pants, thankfully not literally, but what the hell. She was on a roll- go with it.
“Oh we are- are we”? Any sane person would have taken note of the thunderous rumble in that gravely voice and got off sharpish; Cordelia didn’t budge, just continued to stare haughtily down at him.
Forget being a gentleman, he was seriously starting to think about just moving her. “How about I just dump you in that chair over there and gag you until you start sobering up”? He growled ominously.
“See! That is just typical of you. Now c’mon, would I do this if it weren’t important? How the hell do you think I’m gonna feel tomorrow”?
“Hung-over, rotten, foolish and so embarrassed you won’t wanna come in” Angel offered nastily. His hands flexed on her waist, getting ready to lift up and dump her to the side.
Cordelia paused, that was a little too close to the bone and it did manage to put a dent in her confidence. Nuh uh- that wasn’t going to happen, so she simply ignored it and shored up her resolve.
“You’ve been acting like an arrogant insensitive jerk for weeks now and it’s seriously pissing me off”. For some reason that stung enough to freeze him.
Hurt brown eyes jerked to hers. “I gave in on the damn tree didn’t I”? He snarled defensively.
“Urghh, Angel. Geez can you be dumb or what”? Frustrated she leaned over him so that her face was directly over his.
“Forget the tree. This isn’t about any stupid tree. It’s about us, our family, and me wanting the Angel back who stayed beside my hospital bed, while I woke up from the worst frickin’ nightmare of my life, and then gave me the sweetest smile. That’s what this is about”. She stopped to haul in some fairly heavy-duty breaths of air and glared at him.
“That’s…. I am still that … I am me, how can you..”
Giving up in confusion Angel stared up at her. His eyes flickered over her face, all too aware of how close she was and recalling exactly the moment she was describing. He felt it again, the pure relief and then that instantaneous feeling of connection when she’d opened her eyes and looked at him.
“I haven’t been that bad have I”? There was a sinking feeling in his belly that was telling him he had been. Damn, he hated being in the wrong.
Cordelia tried not to think how cute he looked when he was looking all hurt and bemused. He had those creased between his eyes and then, aww pouty lips- Cor get a grip!
“Duh- yeah! I may be drunk, even though I don’t feel it” she mused for a moment, then got back on track. “But I’m still smart enough to know when you’re being an asshole”.
“Hey”! Angel exclaimed highly offended.
“What”? Cordelia shrugged.
“That’s a … bit strong isn’t it” he glowered again, he hated it when she called him names.
“You’ve been bad tempered and irritable beyond belief. For crying out loud you even snapped at Wesley yesterday for saying “Hello” when you bothered to come down. You have everyone stressed out and walking and on eggshells and it’s got to stop. What the hell is your problem anyway”?
“I’m not sleeping” Angel growled, but he was listening and shame started to creep in. He knew he’d been behaving like a bastard but …hadn’t been able to stop. The worse he’d felt- the worse it got.
“You’re not sleeping” repeated Cordelia in disbelief.
“And dreaming again” Angel winced and waited for the explosion.
“Take a pill- do something. Whatever it takes. Okay” Cordelia calmed down and tried to ignore her woozier head. “Tomorrow when I’ve gotten over the acute, mind numbing, belly churning embarrassment, we’ll sort it out. Tackle it like a puzzle, maybe there’s a reason that we don’t know about” She shrugged and eyed him. “But we do it like a family – together, got it”?
“Got it” Angel agreed and eyed her uncertainly when she started to sway a little. “Are you okay”?
Cordelia dropped her head until it rested on his shoulder. “Hmm, just tired now. You sure know how to take it out of a girl ya know that?” Angels’ lips twitched and he dragged his mind out of the gutter.
He nudged her cheek with his chin until she twisted to look at him out of one hazel eye, only centimetres away from his. “Me, take it out of you? Who’s lying on the hard floor here”?
“Yeah like that’s gonna bother you. You’re harder than the floor”. She thought about that for a minute. “Oops didn’t that sound wrong”?
Angel decided to be a gentleman again and refrained from commenting. “You’re not feeling sick are you”? He asked gently and felt her shake her head. “Good”.
“So were talking peace and goodwill between men here- right? Think we can manage it”? He asked with a twinkle in his eyes and rested his cheek on her glossy hair. Cordelia lifted one hand with a single admonishing finger, but kept her face pressed to his way too comfortable to move, shoulder. “I never said we had to be perfect all the time”.
“Oh good; realism, you are sobering up aren’t you”? Cordelia might have taken umbrage at that except she could hear the teasing in his voice. Relief filled her until she felt like a bubble about to burst. She’d missed his almost impossible to detect teasing. It was going to be all right she realised and without thinking, she lifted up enough to plant a smacking kiss on his lips. “Happy Christmas”.
Dumbstruck, Angel looked up into her glowing face. “It’s not Christmas yet” he reminded her softly, marvelling at how much tingling you could feel in such a small space.
“Feels like it to me” Cordelia smiled softly and then it was her turn to gasp in surprise when he reared up and kissed her back, lingering this time to gently brush his lips over hers, massaging them and taking her little puffed out breath into himself.
“Why did you do that”? She asked him, there was a spurt of warmth in her belly that was growing like molten honey.
“I didn’t want you to chalk this up as another kiss I didn’t kiss you back on”.