Author:  Meltha

Rating: G

Feedback:  Yes, thank you. Melpomenethalia@aol.com

Spoilers:  For "Surprise" in season two of Buffy.

Distribution: Fanfiction.net, the 500 Club, and the Blackberry Patch.  If you're interested, please let me know.

Summary:  Set just before "Surprise" in season two, Angel prepares for Buffy's birthday.

Author's Note:  Eighteenth in the Jewel Box series, a collection of stories that are exactly 500 words from title to end (a challenge from the 500 Club) and that revolve around a character, an emotion, and a piece of jewelry, a concept from Challenge in a Can. This time, it's Angel, nervous, jewelry.

Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy.  Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you.  Thank you.

Lover's Gift

Angel frantically rubbed his hands on his pant legs.  He had sweaty palms.  A nervous laugh broke from him at that thought, but in a moment his face was back in the tense expression it had worn ever since the mail arrived.

Shopping was not something Angel did regularly, and for a very good reason.  He hated it.  It meant contact with human beings, and even after the past year with Buffy and the rest of  her team he hadn't lost his awkwardness completely.  Dealing with strangers was worse.  Usually, his suave, cryptic mystique vanishes when he stands in front of a counter, his shoulders hunched protectively, as he asks some tiny salesgirl an inane question.

"Uh, excuse me, but…"

The pause as she stares at the hulking guy who looks like he wants to run away screaming lasts forever.

"I was… looking for… something…"

Another long pause ensues as she edges toward the security phone.

"I don't remember what they're called.  They're… you put them on your… those things… what you stand on?"

"Feet?" she suggests, her expression pure Cordelia.

"Yeah… oh!  They're… socks?" he asks, completely unsure of himself and wanting to bolt through the door even if it is noon.

Inevitably, the girl points to a display directly behind him, nine feet tall and featuring flashing neon, which holds hundreds of the items in question.

So Angel hates shopping, which is why he ordered Buffy's gift through a catalogue.  When the present arrived on his doorstep, he'd quickly shredded the packaging and pulled out the tiny velvet box that had come across an ocean and a continent.  If he sniffed carefully, he could smell Ireland clinging to it.

Why was he feeling nauseous?  He hadn't been sick to his stomach since 1926, and that was guilt, not nerves.  The last time he'd felt this panicked was the first time he'd asked Kitty O'Sullivan to meet him in the barn.  And there was no comparison between the situations.  None at all.  Nope.  Nothing like that was going to happen.

Flipping open the case, he looked at the circle of gold, the kind of ring that, as a mortal, he would have given to the girl he planned to… and Angel suddenly found himself dry heaving.  Sitting on the side of his bed, he willed himself to calm down.

"It's not like anything terrible is going to happen," he said aloud.  "I'm just… giving her… I need some air."

Glancing at the clock, Angel realized he had to leave for the Bronze.  With a steady hand, he slipped the box into his coat pocket then silently left.

Ten seconds later, he ran pell-mell back into the room, grabbed a bottle of Pepto from under the sink, chugged half of it, put the rest in his other pocket and fled.  If he could manage not to mix up the pockets and avoid handing her a bottle of dyspepsia medicine, he shouldn't have anything more to worry about tonight.