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Secret Santa

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Cordelia does not take shopping lightly. Shopping is serious business, and it is a business at which she excels. It's kind of like hunting: you want to snatch up the rarest, tastiest prey before someone else does. And, occasionally, it ends in bloodshed. The only difference is at the end of the day you're cute, and not all sweaty and bloody and gross.

So Cordelia is frustrated, perplexed, and then frustrated again at the prospect of Christmas shopping for Angel. The man is impossible to buy for. What does he need: more dusty old books? No, 'cuz that'll only encourage him. He doesn't eat, so snacks and candy are right out. He lives in that dank old Batcave, so there's no sense giving him a plant or flowers or anything; they'd only wither and die, and nothing says holiday spirit like death on display. It's useless buying clothes for him, since he only wears the same Dark Avenger black-on-black all the time. He doesn't even need light bulbs, because he can see in the dark! Come on!

***
Secret Santa. Who invented that crap? Cordelia is not in favor of anything that results in her getting less presents.

Plus, she got Angel, and that's a pain in the ass.

Mostly badly-wrapped gifts are exchanged. Wesley is entirely too giddy over his new hurling axe, and Gunn pretends to be impressed by the rap CD Wesley selected for him.

"Yeah, uh . . . thanks . . . um, G," Gunn says. "This is what's hot on the streets right now."

And on to more important things. Gunn had the sense to buy Cordelia a gift card, and nothing's so wonderful as money, so she hugs him and even kisses him on the cheek. His expression this time is of actual pleasure.

Angel is last to open his gift, but Cordelia stops the show before he can even lay eyes or hands on the package.

"Um, I was kind of hoping we could do that in private," she says. Everyone is looking at her, accusing not nice looks, so she adds, "you know, great sentimental value and all that . . ."

They buy it, and Gunn and Wes are back to work researching demons that are fond, ironically, of living in chimneys, and Angel leads Cordelia into his office.

She shuts the door behind them; he's almost smiling.

"What's up, Cordy? You know, if you didn't get me anything, I don't mind; it's okay—"

"Oh, I got you something, mister." She hands him a tiny package, expertly wrapped. "Open it."

Angel gives her another let me in on the joke look, but he does as he's told.

She swears, if he could blush, he would be doing it now.

"You got me . . ." He looks up at her, flustered and confused and hoping she'll lead him out of this. "Panties?"

"No," Cordelia says, and she takes the very small, black lace thong from him. "I got me panties. I got you an opportunity to see me in said panties. In just said panties. Anytime you want."

Angel's mouth works uselessly for a few moments. Finally: "Really?"

She smiles. "Really."

He looks desperate, still wanting her to lead him out of this safely. "Cordelia, you're my best friend . . ."

"And I love you . . ."

He smiles. "I love you too—"

"But don't you think that maybe, every once in a while, we could have really great, just friends here so no risk of losing your soul sex?"

Angel considers for a moment, his face grave. Finally: "I definitely think it's worth a try. Just, you know, to see. Like a . . . a test."

"An experiment," Cordelia agrees, and begins to unbutton her blouse.

Angel slips his shirt off over his head, and unbuckles his belt. "For a moment there, I was kind of afraid that you wanted me to wear those . . ." He nods at the panties, still dangling from her hand.

Cordelia tosses her blouse to the ground, and smiles. "Oh, don't worry. There's time for that later."