Saturday, December 25, 1999

The display on the clock said ten am. Cordelia stretched and yawned. Had she really slept for thirteen hours? It felt like it. She was warm, rested, and... She jerked upright in bed, her hands flying up in front of her. They were solid. Not translucent, not even slightly fuzzy. Solid, solid, solid. Oh thank God -- the best Christmas present a girl could ever have.

The smell of brewing coffee snapped her out of her silent celebration. Bless you, Dennis. Real coffee, too, not that nasty instant stuff she normally had to make do with. She wondered where he'd gotten it. Maybe Dennis was a cat-burglar while she was off fighting the demons and other nasties of LA. Cordelia pulled the bedspread up to her chin, taking a deep, satisfying whiff.

Another smell caught her attention. Sage? Onions? Perhaps Dennis was making -- stuffing? Oh, poor thing. She should probably break it to him that there was nothing to stuff. He was going to be so disappointed. Maybe she could spread it on toast or something -- it would probably be tastier than plastic macaroni. To her relief, her stomach didn't heave at the thought of either. Actually, she was kind of hungry.

Someone knocked on the front door. Before she could lay a hand on her robe, she heard Angel's voice, low, almost whispering. "Come in, Wesley."

What the hell was Angel doing in her apartment? It was Christmas morning. Wasn't he supposed to be back at Brood Central, vamp-napping the day away?

"I must say, Angel, this had better be important, dragging me all the way over here on -- goodness mmph." Wesley sounded like he'd had a hand slapped over his mouth.

This was too weird. Cordelia tugged on her robe, jammed her feet in her slippers -- hey, look, still visible -- and marched into the living room. "Holy crap."

The room was festooned with tinsel, and other Christmassy objects. A little tree sat on the coffee table, with tiny bud lights twinkling on and off. Angel stood in the center of the room -- beside an equally startled Wesley -- wearing the apron that she never used.

Cordelia blinked a couple of times, and pinched herself on the arm. "Angel, what are you doing? Are you possessed?"

"No." He sounded wounded. "I'm roasting a chicken. The store was all out of turkeys." There was a long pause. "Dennis is helping." A bang on the wall indicated that, indeed, Dennis was a willing participant.

She sank down into a chair, taking in the room one more time. "I thought you didn't like Christmas."

"Maybe it's not so bad." He shrugged. A soft 'ding' came from the kitchen. "Oh, time to stuff."

As soon as he was out of the room, Wesley came over to Cordelia. "I see you're looking, er, more like -- something, today."

She glanced down at herself and smiled. "Thanks, Wesley. I mean it. You really came through for me yesterday."

The sound of plates and cutlery rattling around made his self-satisfied grin vanish, and he nodded his head in the direction of the kitchen. "This is most unexpected. Are you sure he hasn't turned evil?"

"I'm pretty sure Angelus didn't cook. He liked his food raw." She shuddered.

Wesley rubbed his hands together. "Well, I must say, if Angel can cook other things as well as he does eggs, I'm looking forward to this. Fancy a game of Scrabble while we wait?"

"You carry Scrabble around with you?" She tried not to laugh.

"Travel Scrabble," he replied, as if that justified everything.

She rubbed her forehead with one finger, perplexed. So much for a lonely Christmas Day, sitting in front of the TV with a frozen meal and only a ghost for company. Instead, here she was with her two friends, a nice cooked lunch on the way, and she wasn't invisible anymore. On the whole the day had turned out really well. Perhaps this wouldn't end up as the worst Christmas on record, which, after everything that had happened over the last few weeks, was -- unexpected. She felt the smile begin at her toes and spread all the way to her lips. "What the hell. Just let me wash up and get dressed, and you're on."


Cordelia pulled on her clothes, squeezed the last of the water from her hair, and taking a hairbrush in one hand, wandered into her bedroom. Showering always made her think profound thoughts. Maybe it was from the hot water on her head, she wasn't sure. Today, for the first time in weeks, her shower thoughts hadn't been all about Doyle, and finances, and her stuttering acting career. They'd been about the vampire stuffing a chicken in her kitchen, and the English guy setting up Scrabble on her coffee table. Okay, so maybe that didn't qualify as profound in most people's dictionary, but in the Cordelia Chase book of serious thoughts, it came pretty damn close.

She'd laid out her gifts to Angel and Wesley on her bed, prior to getting in the shower. She'd intended to give them out yesterday, but the whole see-through thing had kind of forced everything else from her brain. They weren't very exciting, but in the small time she'd had after they finished Santa-ing, combined with her limited budget, it was all she could manage. With a sigh, she sat down beside them.

Hold on -- there was something different. A third gift nestled beside them on the duvet, wrapped in silver paper and decorated with a glittery bow. A small rectangle of red card had the words 'From Santa' written in Angel's handwriting. With a small squeal, she picked it up, squeezing it. Soft. Little tingles of excitement fluttered in her stomach, just like when she was a little girl. Okay, patience was not one of her strong points. It needed to be opened, and now. She slid her fingernail under the flap at one end, popping the wrapping open and peering inside. A flash of blue satin made her gasp.

"Oh my God," she breathed, tearing the paper off. How did he know? Her mind flashed back to him, watching while she wrestled with her conscience outside the Victoria's Secret changing rooms. He'd noticed. Who'd have figured? Without warning, her eyes filled with tears.

For no apparent reason, she suddenly thought of Aura and Harmony, and what they would be doing this morning. In their expensive houses, with their stuck-up families, and their piles of presents. And at that moment, she wouldn't have swapped where she was for the world. The little piece of blue satin in her hands had more thought in it than any of the presents her friends were opening. She wiped a tear away with the heel of her hand, and began to laugh.

The squeak of a floorboard made her jump. "Angel, how many times do I have to have the 'stalker' talk with you?" She frowned, and he stepped into her room, looking embarrassed. She wagged a finger at him. "I swear I'm going to put a little bell on you."

"I just wanted to see if you liked it," he said, shuffling from one foot to another.

course I do. It's a bit -- personal, I mean -- hello, underwear -- but I love it. Thank you," she said.

He looked at his hands, and then out of the window, avoiding her eyes. "I didn't know what to get you, and you seemed to really want that. I know underwear is usually for lovers..."

"Ew! Let's just leave it at 'thank you,' shall we?" she said. "And thank you for today, too. This is all so great."

He perched on the end of her bed, stiff and nervous. "Uh, are you all right?"

"Again with the big sensitive thing. Did you inhale the aerosol snow?" she asked. Twice in three days was just too weird.

He looked uncomfortable. "Well, after what you said in the men's room the other day..."

"And isn't that a strange sentence?" she interrupted. "Sorry, go on."

"I was worried." He looked her in the eye. "So -- are you?"

She thought about it for a long, strange moment. About everything that had happened that week, and especially that morning, and there was only one clear answer. "You know what? I really am."

His smile changed his whole face. "That's -- good."

For a moment they sat in silence, not quite sure what to say next, and then Wesley's voice floated through from the living room. "I've set out your letters, Cordelia!"

"Oh, right, Scrabble," she said. "I can't believe I'm doing this. And I can't believe you're cooking something besides eggs. Who knew you were a gourmet?"

"I'd save your judgement until after you've eaten," he chuckled, rising and motioning towards the door. "Coming?"

"In a moment." She nodded.

As soon as she was alone, she stripped off her top and threw the old, disintegrating bra in the hamper. Beaming now, she put the new one on. "Hello, silky goodness," she giggled, pulling her sweater back over her head.

Then she gathered up Angel and Wesley's gifts, and sighed a long, contented sigh. There was good food to eat, friends to share it with, mall vouchers on the way and new satin against her skin. It was a pretty good Christmas, after all.