Disclaimer: The characters belong to Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy. I'm just playing with them. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Note: Once upon a time, I had a plot bunny. "Wouldn't it be nice," thought I, "to spend Christmas with the folks at Angel Investigations." And then the bunny became two bunnies, and then the bunnies multiplied—as bunnies are wont to do.

Here's how this is going to work: Every day, I am going to post a chapter. Each chapter represents a day on the calendar, documenting the hypothetical events of December 2001 (season three) of the Angelverse. It's intended to be entirely canon-compliant, taking place between the episodes "Dad" and "Birthday."

And without further ado… December 1st:


"Bum bum!" boomed a strong baritone.

"Ching-a ching!" added a light soprano.

"Bum bum!"

"Ching-a ching!"

Lorne and Fred, he realized belatedly.

Lorne and Fred were singing.

From his bed, Angel groaned and put his pillow over his head in a vain attempt to muffle the impromptu rendition of 'Up on the Housetop,' wondering how long he could plausibly hide in his room. He should have been up hours ago, but Connor had had an uncharacteristically colicky night, which had led Angel to get a sadly not uncharacteristically small amount of sleep, and really, was a little peace and quiet too much to ask for? In the spirit of the season and all?

"Knock knock, Angelcakes! Rise and shine!" Lorne called from the other side of the door.

Apparently not.

He did his best to seem chipper when he opened the door for them, rubbing at his sleep-flattened hair. "Good, uh. Good morning?"

"Morning!" Fred chirped as she slipped past him, rushing to Connor's bassinet. "How's my boy?"

"Sleeping!" Angel sputtered, clawing after her with not even the slightest hint of desperation in his voice. Nope. "We should probably let him be for a while longer."

Her face fell.

"…you want to look after him while I check on things downstairs?"

And lit up again. "Can I?"

It probably said a great deal about his (perfectly normal and healthy) paranoia about leaving Connor with other people that she was so surprised.

He decided not to care.

"I didn't mean to oversleep, and I don't want to leave him alone. Just bring him down when he wakes up, I guess."

"You bet!" she enthused, already pulling over a chair.

"You're gonna love what we've done to the place," Lorne assured him as they made their way to the lobby. "We've spent the whole morning—"

Angel stopped abruptly when they hit the top of the landing.

"—decorating."

Oh, god.

Angel hadn't exactly had high hopes for the day, considering he'd been caroled awake, but he still hadn't expected to see Gunn holding a ladder (where had they even gotten that thing?) for Wesley while he hung tinsel off the balcony banister.

"I… what?" he finally managed to say.

Gunn shrugged. "Don't look at me, man. I just work here."

"Cordelia's idea?"

Wesley and Gunn wisely chose not to reply.

"Where is she?" he asked with a resigned sigh.

Another shrug.

Eventually, he hoped, he would stop being surprised when these things happened.

-

He found her in the basement, stringing lights.

"Before you say anything," she announced, cutting him off before he'd even started—her back was to him, but he'd long stopped questioning her ability to know he was there—"I am not doing this for you. I am doing this for Connor, because he deserves a nice, happy first Christmas."

She turned around and gave him one of her 'go on, challenge me. I dare you' looks, and all his protests about maintaining a serious work atmosphere disappeared.

"Cordelia, it's only barely December," his excuse sounded weak even to him, "and this is our training room. Connor's never down here."

"Like it would kill you to have a bit of cheer," she snorted, dismissive. "This whole building is seriously lacking in festive spirit. And if Connor's going to be well-adjusted, then he's going to need a dad who isn't a festering black hole of Scrooge-y bitterness. Luckily for you, bringing a little brightness and color into your life? Pretty much my job."

It was an off-handed comment, but it caught in his chest and made him want to…

If their roles were reversed, she would've just grinned and called him a dork and that would be that. But he'd never really mastered the art of playful banter, and so he was forced to settle with giving her his best effort a grateful smile. He wasn't entirely sure what one looked like, but hoped she'd at least recognize the attempt.

"Angel?"

Well, he'd tried. "Right. Yes. That's why I hired you."

"And that's another thing," she added as she crossed the room, abandoning her project for the time being. "You're not the boss anymore; Wesley is. And he thought it was a great idea."

"Really? Those were his exact words?"

"He probably also called me a genius."

"One of these days," he chuckled as he held the basement door open for her, "you'll be the death of me."

And she understood implicitly, passing by, that he meant the exact opposite.


A/N That's it for now. See you tomorrow, with EXCITING BOARD GAMES.