Santa’s Gift


Cordy and Angel receive a mysterious gift from Santa.

  • CONTENTS:   C/A in AtS
  • CATEGORY:   Holiday Fic / Christmas
  • RATING:   R
  • LENGTH:   Short Story / 5,100 words
  • STATUS:   Completed

What a wonderful fluffy fic. My C/A shipper heart is pleased.

– Luckylyn –

Santa’s Gift

Despite the last-minute vision prior to the Angel’s Investigations Christmas party, things were going precisely as Cordelia planned. She’d counted on there being at least one interruption— since history spoke for itself and they never got to celebrate anything without a random demon attack or an apocalypse crashing their fun.

So far, it seemed that the PTB were granting her wish for a peaceful party. Lorne was singing Christmas tunes and dancing with anyone in arms reach. His latest victim was Wesley who was not overly amused at being dipped. Forced to clasp Lorne’s shoulders, he stared up into mischievous twinkling red eyes as he drolly responded, “Would you mind? I prefer to lead.”

Fred twirled past them with Connor in her arms. The two-month-old was alert and bright-eyed as his ‘Aunty Fred’ bounced him to the music.

“Careful,” Angel sounded out a cautionary note from the sofa where he was in the middle of a videogame battle with Gunn. Keeping an eye on his son and defeating his opponent was tricky multitasking even for a vampire.

“He’s fine,” Cordelia swatted Angel’s arm. “Don’t be so overprotective.”

“Hey, you made me miss,” Angel grumbled.

Cordelia rolled her eyes. Soothing ruffled feathers, she rubbed her hand in a wide circle across his back as he leaned forward, elbows braced on his knees and game controller in hand. Angel glanced over his shoulder awarding her with the warmth of a rare smile.

Then glancing toward the dance floor, he added, “I was talking to Lorne. You’ve seen Wes dance.”

“You’re one to talk, Twinkle Toes.” Cordelia laughed at the memories that popped into her head. Firstly, of his spastic dance at the party at her apartment and then going further back to their awkwardly slow dance at the Bronze.

An on-screen explosion sounded followed by Gunn’s triumphant shout. Standing, he raised his arms over his head, “Winner and undefeated champion, ladies and gentleman.”

Cordelia watched annoyance replace Angel’s smile. “That one doesn’t count,” she told Gunn. “He was distracted.”

“You were also cheering for him,” Gunn pointed out Fred and the baby, “while my woman’s spending time with another guy.”

Both Angel and Cordelia were startled by the way he said it, suggesting Cordelia was Angel’s woman who stayed by his side to cheer for him in battle. With a slow blink, Cordy realized that she was curled up next to him on the couch, her hand still touching his back.

Hearing them, Fred waved Connor’s little hand in his direction. “Go Charles!” she grinned and kept dancing to the Christmassy tune.

Snatching her hand away, Cordelia rose from the couch to argue, “I was cheering for both of you, whichever one was behind. Obviously, he—,” she pointed directly at Angel, “needed more cheering.”

“Yeah,” Gunn nodded as if he actually believed it. “It’s Christmas, so I’ll take that. We’ll have a rematch later.”

Holding out his fist, Gunn waited until Angel got the hint and pressed his knuckles to his. The vamp had changed a lot in the short time they’d known each other. It was pretty clear to Gunn that Cordelia was responsible.

Though he wasn’t 100% on the idea of those two hooking up, some things were just inevitable. He hoped they’d buy a clue sooner rather than later because they both deserved some happiness. Though not too much if English was right about the curse thing.

In the meantime, if being distracted by Cordelia threw off the vamp’s game just enough to slow down those superhuman reflexes, Gunn figured he’d call it even.

“Now I think I’m gonna hit the dance floor,” Gunn told them smiling across the room at his girlfriend.

The song that had been playing ended. “I think I’ll sit the next one out,” Wesley practically dashed over to the couch to escape the dance-happy demon. Sinking down into the spot vacated by Gunn, he scowled up at Cordy. “The next time you ask me to get you some punch, please don’t.”

“I won’t,” Cordelia tossed her head back and laughed at him. “You didn’t bring me any.”

Wes glanced over to where Lorne was now making slow circles around the room with the baby in his arms. “I was a bit distracted when waylaid by our dancing demon.”

His eyes strayed over to Fred who was now encircled by Gunn’s arms, her head nestled against his chest as they swayed more than danced to the tune playing on the radio. Heartache held him tightly in its grip as he watched them together. Though seeing Fred happy made things tolerable, it was painful to him, even now.

When Cordelia narrow her gaze upon him, Wes figured she’d caught him staring at Fred. He’d been grateful for her advice about striking while the iron was hot. It had unfortunately come too late. She’d tried to make up for her mistake by being less argumentative with him, but that lasted less than half a day.

“You had fun, didn’t you?”

“No,” Wes answered stubbornly as he noticed Angel seemed to be enjoying the conversation. Sitting cross-armed, he wore an amused smirk that reminded Wes of Angelus. “You try keeping up with that whirling dervish.”

Angel merely arched a brow.

“Maybe it was a bit of fun,” Wes stubbornly conceded. Then devising a brilliant plan to get them out of his hair, “You two should try it.”

Cordelia’s jaw dropped, “Dance…with Angel?”

“I don’t dance,” came the expected rejoinder.

Then Cordy’s attention immediately turned to Angel. Irked, “You dance. Badly, but you do dance. So what you really mean is that you won’t dance with me.”

Angel bounded off of the couch, standing in front of Cordelia and sputtering for an answer that didn’t make him sound like an idiot. Listening in for a moment, Wes gave himself a mental pat on the back now that he was no longer the focus of the conversation. Those two were easy targets lately.

Actually, it was worrisome just how easily they seemed to rub each other the wrong way. Or the right way, Wes frowned at the thought. Despite the dark days of Angel’s beige period, and more recently the revelation of Darla’s pregnancy and Connor’s birth, his two friends were closer than ever. More and more, they seemed to be forming their own little family within the larger one which contained all of them.

Love was a given, Wes knew because they all felt it, but as Angel took Cordelia’s hand to lead her to their makeshift dance floor he could tell that there was more to it. This went way beyond simple friendship and the love friends share. Wesley gulped as he watched Angel’s hand close around her waist, pulling Cordelia closer than was probably necessary. She wrapped her arm around his neck, her cheek tucked against his shoulder.

Alarm bells were sounding in Wesley’s head. This was bad, potentially terrible, as a matter of point. He knew that he should say something to break this up. Surely he wasn’t the only one to notice what was developing between these two.

Why hadn’t the others said something to warn him of the danger? He glanced at Fred and Gunn again, but that did nothing to settle his nerves. Fred was simply watching Cordy and Angel with a contented smile. Was that because of them or because she was dancing with Gunn, wondered Wes.

Lorne was no help. Surely there had been signs that the anagogic demon was able to detect. He, too, wore a satisfied smirk on his face as he watched the pair dancing. Though Lorne was apparently aware of Wesley’s reaction because he sent a shrug his way before turning back to whisper something into the baby’s ear.

Even Connor gurgled happily.

Oh, dear. Wesley rubbed a hand over his stubbled jaw. This was not the time to lecture Angel on the hazards of getting too intimate with someone he loved. It was Christmas, after all and Cordelia had spent innumerable hours planning and preparing for this party. For once, things seemed to be going without a hitch.

Tomorrow would surely be soon enough to have a little chat with Angel. It would take a little longer to figure out how to broach the subject with Cordelia without ending up emasculated in the process for interfering. As for now, there was only one thing to do: relax and try some of that punch.

With everyone else occupied, Wes made a beeline for the front desk which served as their banquet table. Cordelia had found a silver punch bowl and matching cups in a storage room off the kitchen which was located in a previously locked section of the hotel. Now polished, it looked like new. A red fruity concoction filled the bowl, orange slices floating along its surface.

The countertop itself was covered in a white linen cloth. Several party trays were laid out across it full of little finger foods. Wes knew that Cordelia had no time to spend hours fixing food and thank goodness for that. No doubt she’d arranged for catering and charged it to the office as a business expense.

He was still snacking when the radio announcer switched over to a commercial as the song ended. Fred and Gunn walked hand in hand as they joined him by the punchbowl.

Wesley noted that Cordelia and Angel had yet to stop dancing. Swaying to music only they could hear, they remained locked in each other’s arms. Oh, dear. Wes knew he had his work cut out for him. Deciding he’d better risk it, he called out to Cordelia, “I have your punch.”

Next to him, Fred muttered a warning, “You’ll be the one gettin’ a punch.”

“How long have you known about those two?” Wes whispered.

Fred shrugged reaching for the cheese and crackers, “Since Pylea, I suppose, but I’ve watched them training. Now that Connor’s here, that just about makes things perfect.”
“Perfect?” Wes’ furious whispering was getting louder. He paused to swallow a gulp of punch as if expecting it to have the same kick as pure alcohol, or wishing it would. “You mean dangerous.”

He hissed the last word perhaps a little too loudly because it drew a strange look from Angel as they approached. Wes wondered just how much the vampire had overheard. With any luck, he’d been too distracted by Cordelia.

“Dangerous?” Angel asked seriously. “Something wrong?”

Wes plastered a smile on his face when Cordelia’s rosy-cheeked glow faded at the suggestion that something might interrupt their holiday party. “I haven’t had a vision, so whatever it is can wait until tomorrow.” She paused a beat or two, then asked, “What is it?”

“N-no! I was just saying that this punch is so good that you hardly notice there’s alcohol in it,” Wes stumbled to find an excuse. “Drinking too much of it could be dangerous.”

Angel and Cordelia stared back for a long, anxious moment before releasing sighs of relief. “Oh, is that all? Hey! That one’s mine.” Cordy grabbed the cup before Wes could lift it to his lips. “I’ve had enough Wes cooties to last a lifetime.”

“The little one is starting to get sleepy,” Lorne stepped up to had Connor back to his daddy.

“Maybe I should put him to bed.” Angel started toward the stairs. “It’s way too late for him.”

Cordelia reminded him, “We haven’t opened the presents. He can’t miss that.”

“He’s only two months old,” Angel pointed out that Connor wouldn’t remember it.

Stepping up close, Cordy ran her fingertips over the fine fuzz on Connor’s head, a soft smile on her face as she looked at the drowsy baby. “Angel, you’ll remember for him. He should stay with us.”

Her hand drifted down Connor’s back, warm as its whisper touch passed over his hand holding the baby to clasp his arm. The love in those words made him long for many more nights where they fell asleep in his bed with the baby between them. And even more, without the baby.

Angel also felt a deep need to kiss the woman he— dammit, there was never any mistletoe around when he needed it. Suppressing the urge to shock the hell out of her and everyone else, Angel settled on putting his hand on the small of her back as they walked toward the Christmas tree.

With Connor sleeping peacefully in his carrier everyone settled around the tree. Lorne sat on the couch so as not to get his clothes wrinkled. The others took their positions on the floor. Cordy pulled a Santa hat from its resting spot on the table and propped it on her own head.

“I’m in charge of handing out the presents,” she announced the rules. “We all get to open one before starting on the next round. Wes, you’re Camera Guy,” Cordy slapped a disposable camera box into his hand.

The gift opening commenced. Some presents were funny, some practical, others were sweet or thoughtful. Angel and Cordy took turns opening Connor’s presents. The baby slept on despite the noise of their chatter and the Christmas music still playing in the background. Hugs and kisses abounded as the thank yous followed each gift being opened.

Angel couldn’t help but notice the difference between Fred kisses and Cordy ones. The touch of Cordelia’s lips to his cheek and the way her body leaned into him for a hug did things to him that had no business happening. Still, he couldn’t help but smile at her enthusiastic reaction to everything she got even though most of her presents were inexpensive.

Their cash flow problem had improved recently, but it wasn’t as if Angel could afford to buy her another designer wardrobe. From his point of view, Cordy deserved far more than he could ever give her.

He adored her giddy enthusiasm over this party and the simple task of opening presents. Maybe it was a bigger deal than he’d first imagined with all of them being here together and enjoying themselves. When Angel wasn’t daydreaming about Cordy, he focused on memorizing every little detail about her and this night because he never wanted to forget either one.

Cordelia squealed in delight at Fred’s wide-eyed reaction to her present. She was laughing so hard that her Santa hat nearly fell of. “You’re supposed to share that with Gunn,” she winked as the other girl clutched the book close to her chest.

Gunn dropped the game box he was looking at to lean over Fred’s shoulder. “Let me see that.”

“I’ll show you later,” Fred elbowed him out of the way shoving the book back into the box and covering it with tissue paper. “Charles!” she slapped his hand when he tried to peek. “Later.”

“Now, now, children,” smirked Lorne. “No squabbling. There seems to be one more present under the tree. Let’s see who it’s for and then you two can do a little light reading before bedtime.”

“Thanks, Cordy,” Fred hugged Cordy who whispered something into her ear.

When Cordelia settled back into her spot next to Connor’s carrier, Angel leaned over to ask, “What’s so interesting about page 127?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Cordelia smirked back. Angel’s steady expression gave away nothing.

As she pictured the image on page 127, which she’d only discovered because she was casually examining the contents and not in any way studying them, it was all too easy to think about Angel and— gulp, her. “Come to think of it, you probably do know.”

With that, she turned to pick out the last present. It was tucked way behind the tree. Cordelia had to crawl under to reach it. Muttering, she slowly dragged it out, pausing to adjust her hat before checking out the gift tag.

“Who’s it for?” Gunn prompted as he leaned against the back of the couch and put his arm around Fred.

Wesley was wondering the same thing. He hadn’t exactly been pleased with the obviously naughty nature of the gift Cordelia had given to Fred. Just more proof that Cordelia’s attitude was less-focused on the practical rather than romantic. “Do tell. We’ve all received an equal number of presents. Is this another for Connor?”

The baby had made out like a bandit receiving at least two gifts for each one of theirs. Cordelia, Angel and even Fred had gone a bit overboard. Wesley made certain that he snapped enough photographs of Connor’s baby things. Heaven forbid if he forgot to take the pictures Cordy asked for.

He reached for the camera again as he watched Cordelia overcome by surprise as she read the tag. Looking over at Angel, she asked, “What’s this? It’s addressed to us.”

Clueless, Angel took a look at the tag, a similar expression of surprise appearing. “I have no idea.”

“So who’s it from?” Fred wanted to know.

Cordelia looked at her with a hint of suspicion. “It says it’s from Santa.”

“Oh!” Fred immediately looked over at Angel who was too busy staring back at Cordelia to notice. “Maybe it’s from Angel.”

All Fred got was a sarcastic “Pfft!” and a roll of her eyes.

Wes had to concur. “It doesn’t appear to be Angel’s style.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Angel bristled defensively.

“Obviously that you don’t normally send yourself and Cordy expensively wrapped presents,” he explained somewhat flustered. Grabbing several torn pieces of wrapping paper with the gift cards still attached as evidence, he went on. “Nor do you sign your name as ‘Santa’ when giving something to your son. For him, it’s ‘Love Daddy’. The rest of us get a perfunctory ‘From Angel’.”

“Wes is right,” Fred looked closely at the tag. “There’s different handwriting, too.”

Cordy didn’t recognize the black scrawl and said so. “Maybe it’s a trap.”

“Maybe,” Lorne agreed as he leaned forward for a closer look, “but your enemies don’t normally send you presents. Maybe the fat guy in the red suit is just looking out for you.”

Angel picked up his son’s carrier and moved it over next to Fred. “Just in case,” he said before moving back to Cordelia’s side. He was fairly certain that one of his friends, or possibly even Cordelia was the guilty party, but he figured it was safe enough to play along. “We’ll open it together.”

The outer layer of the present was wrapped in a golden fabric and tied with a silk cord. Cordy and Angel each took an end and tugged gently until the knot slipped open. Beneath the fabric layer was one of gilded wrapping paper. Silver and gold ribbons on a snow white background. They edged the tape open carefully.

“Oh, just rip it,” Cordelia decided her curiosity wouldn’t wait for such a careful extraction of the contents.

There were no markings on the plain red box to give away the secrets of what was inside. It was a sturdy box and though not overly heavy, the contents were not feathery light. Cordelia glanced at Angel before reaching for the lid. It was hard to tell if he was really surprised or not.

Layers of tissue paper obscured several items. Cordelia tossed it out of the way to reveal an ornate blue bottle fashioned out of blown glass. The colorful lights of the Christmas tree blinked across its surface. Next to it with red velvet ribbon wrapped around it was a scroll of parchment.

“Nothing exploded,” Cordelia let out a little confused laugh. “That’s a good sign.”

Angel pointed to the rest of the tissue paper. “There seems to be more.”

“Okay. You take that side. One, two…,” Cordelia counted and on three they both snatched the last remaining barrier away.

“Clothing?” Angel reached in and pulled out a short slinky red nightgown.

Gunn wolf-whistled. “Maybe that’s supposed to go with this book. You sure that wasn’t for Fred and me?”

A bony elbow jabbed him in the gut. “Shush!”

Hesitantly, Cordelia pulled out the contents of her side of the box. She started to giggle as she saw the reindeer-decorated red boxers. Then realized the gift-giver intended them for Angel. “Cute, huh?” she held them up for his inspection.

They stared at each other awkwardly for a moment before snatching the opposing items out of the other’s grip. Angel wasn’t looking very amused at all, Cordy saw. He was all smoky-eyed with intensity as if he was going to bark out accusations or bite her because he’d missed a meal.

Angel inched closer to Cordelia who refused to budge and tugged on the fluffy white tip of her Santa cap. “Something you want to tell me, Santa?”

Okay, so maybe the biting idea had nothing to do with hunger. Or maybe it did, just not that kind, Cordy gulped at the idea. “No, nothing at all, I didn’t do this.”

“You are the one with the Santa hat,” Wes commented dryly.

Teasing, Fred sounded out a sing-song, “Maybe you’re the guilty one, Wesley.”

“I would never,” he spluttered, “give anyone such intimate apparel. Why, it’s just asking for trouble. Those two are already—”

Angel growled out, “We’re what, Wes?”

“Nothing,” Wesley tried to recover from his little slip. Seeing that it wasn’t going to work a second time, he admitted, “I’ve been meaning to have a little chat with you about….certain things.”

Cordelia cut off what looked to be Angel’s angry retort. “What’s that got to do with this present? All I know is that I didn’t do it.”

Gunn snagged the slinky gown from Cordy’s lap and held it up so that it danced. “I dunno ‘bout that. Gotta agree with English on this one. You’ve been handing out the naughty presents this year.”

“But I didn’t—” Cordelia shook her head.

Fred cut in, “I think you’d better take a look at this.” While the others had been gaping at the intimate holiday apparel, she’d taken it upon herself to look at the scroll, surprised that Wesley hadn’t beaten her to it.

She handed it over to Angel and then reached slowly for the glass bottle holding it up to the light to see the thick elixir inside. “Want me to get rid of it?” Fred teased when Angel finished reading the contents of the scroll and looked up at Cordelia, his eyes full of so many emotions it was difficult to tell what he might do.

“No!” Angel practically shouted. “Be careful with that.”

Fred giggled as Cordelia demanded details, “What is it?”

Opening his mouth to speak, Angel couldn’t find the words to explain it, so he handed her the parchment and waited for her to finish reading it.

“Oh, Angel, I don’t know what to say,” Cordy felt her heart pounding in her chest.

Smiling suddenly, Angel reached out. “That’s a first.” Cordy flushed at his touch, her cheek blooming with heat. He could hear her pulse racing and there was a light of hope in her eyes that he couldn’t ignore. Nor did he want to.

Angel clung to that hope as he did his own. “We need to talk. Now.”

“Don’t mind us, Angelcakes,” Lorne piped up. “Feel free to say anything you want.”

Ignoring the teasing remark, Angel rose smoothly to his feet and held out his hand to Cordelia. With eyes only for him, Cordy slid her hand into his feeling Angel’s fingers close around hers. Rising up, she followed as Angel led her to the stairs and up to the privacy of his bedroom.

Fred watched them go. “Maybe they should’ve taken this with them.” She placed the glass bottle back into the box.

“What is that stuff?” asked Gunn.

“Elixer,” Wes muttered as he quickly scanned the discarded parchment. “It says here that it will protect Angel’s soul from the effects of the curse. Taken over time and when the bottle is empty, Angel’s soul will be permanent.”

Gunn was impressed. “That’s some gift.”

“And it comes with cute little boxers,” Fred picked them up for closer inspection.

“So which one of you did it?” Gunn looked first at Fred and then at Wesley. “It’s time to own up to it. Wes, man, did you find some dusty old scroll with some ancient formula?”

Wesley’s chin raised up a notch, “Certainly not. Had I made such a discovery, I would not have waited until now to reveal it. Moreover, I don’t think Angel is the type for reindeer boxer shorts.”

Lorne chuckled, “What makes you think that, my little English muffin?”

Scowling, Wes didn’t bother with a verbal response.

“So what about you, Fred?” asked Gunn. “You’re the physics whiz. Make any cool discoveries?”

Wes gave her a pointed look. “Yessss… that is a distinct possibility. Winifred does seem to enjoy unusual gifts. Good thinking, Gunn.”

Fred rolled her eyes. “Ya’ll actually think I could keep this a secret from Cordy?”

Both Wes and Gunn contemplated the idea for a moment before simultaneously agreeing, “No.”

“So if you two didn’t do it,” Gunn began, “neither did Cordy or Angel and I know that I didn’t do it that leaves only one person.”

They turned to face Lorne who was sitting back on the couch looking extremely pleased with himself. “Some things are all about timing. The PTB clued me in on this little elixir and after a little trip to Madame Dorian’s world famous demon brothel a week ago I decided to turn it into a little Christmas present.”

“Why not just say it was from you, or the Powers?” asked Fred.

Lorne shrugged. “They might not have opened it if I said it was from the PTB. I thought playing Santa was a nice touch.”

“Very nice,” Fred grinned and moved over to the couch to give Lorne a big hug. When they parted, she looked toward the stairs. “It’s pretty quiet up there.”

The others had to agree. Their curiosity was only outweighed by their hopes for their two friends.

Upstairs, Angel and Cordelia had spent the past three minutes trying to start a conversation they both knew they needed to have. Angel was more nervous than he had been about anything in his life— or after it for that matter. He tried to speak to his feelings for her, but faltered several time as he saw her anxious face.

Angel had shut the door behind them locking out the faint strains of Christmas music still playing downstairs. As if keeping an avenue of escape open to her, Cordelia clung to the door, her back pressed against it. Maybe it was just that he had crowded into that personal bubble of which she was so defensive. He pressed his hands against the door, leaning toward her and hoping that by some miracle the words he wanted would come to him.

Then Cordelia started to speak, “Angel, I—,” and he feared that she was going to say something he didn’t want to hear. He simply reacted by covering her mouth with his own.

Instantly winding her arms around his neck, Cordelia sighed at the first touch of his lips and then gave in to the hungry kisses that followed. He kissed her with a plea for understanding, an unmistakable passion that built quickly, and with the feelings he’d kept hidden. Almost desperate for a taste of truth, she melted into him, feeling every erogenous zone tingle in anticipation of more.

Finally, tempering their passion with tenderness, Angel slowed the tempo down, more for necessity than anything else. The elixir was downstairs and even if it wasn’t, he felt Cordelia deserved time to adjust to the idea. Assuming that she wanted to wait, Angel moaned his desire into her mouth as Cordy’s open palm slid down to cup his ass giving it a squeeze.

Angel took that as permission to do the same letting his hands skim over lush curves from breast to bottom before placing a final soft smooch across her pursed lips. Pulling an inch away was difficult enough. His body protested separation from the starry-eyed woman in his arms, but there were still things to say.

Somehow, Angel found the words he’d been searching for. “Cordy, I’m in love with you. I have been for a while now.” He brushed his thumb across her mouth when her lips parted to speak. Wanting to finish, he added softly, “I want you so much, love you—”

“I love you, too,” Cordelia finally tugged his hand away and smiled brighter than he’d ever seen before.

A knock sounded on the door and they both grumbled about the timing. Stepping away from the door, they moved so that Angel could open it. Lorne stood in the hallway wearing the Santa hat that Cordelia had dropped in her haste to follow Angel upstairs. He held up the ornate bottle of elixir.

Grinning, Lorne asked, “Did you forget this, my little love monkeys?”

“We did, thanks,” was all Cordelia had to say as she took the bottle out of his hand before shutting the door.

A second knock sounded.

Angel opened the door again to find that Lorne had not budged from his spot in the hall. He took another look at the Santa hat and made the connection. “You’re a good friend to both of us. Thank you.”

“My pleasure, Angelcakes,” Lorne beamed. “You know how I feel about you and the princess. There’s just one other thing.”

Cordelia and Angel glanced at each other before sharing their worried looks with Lorne thinking that there might be something the parchment had not revealed. “What?” they asked.

Then Lorne pulled his hand from behind his back. “You forgot these, too.” He held out the red gown and reindeer boxers. After Angel took them, Lorne winked. “You two have fun. Connor will be staying with me tonight.”

The door closed again and this time Lorne turned away, giving the fuzzy tassel on his hat a tweak. Feeling triumphant and sensing the spirit of love, happiness and contentment that filled the hotel, he decided he liked the role he’d chosen for himself for the holiday.

“Merry Christmas to all,” he called out to anyone who could hear, “and to all a good night.”

The End.

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