Disclaimer: They're not mine.
"What are you doing here?"
Angel and Cordelia stared at each other. "It's New Years Eve," Angel said. "Don't you have some… party to go to, or something?"
"I'm the babysitter. Don't you have a Krepslach demon you should be slaying?"
"I… I figured I would stay home so you could go out. Wesley said he and Gunn could handle it, so he gave me the night off."
"And I figured I would stay home so you could go out, and then you'd all be back before midnight."
"Fred and Lorne?"
"He took her out for a night on the town; they left a half an hour ago."
It was 10:30 PM on New Years Eve, and the two of them were facing off in the Hyperion lobby as Dick Clark chattered endlessly on the television in Wesley's office. They shared an awkward, wincing smile at their Gift of the Magi moment.
"Go get dressed," Angel ordered.
She quirked an eyebrow. "Perhaps you didn't notice, but I am dressed."
"No, I mean…" he rubbed a hand through his hair, mussing the spikes. "Go put on something pretty."
Cordelia looked down at her jeans and burgundy cashmere sweater, and then looked back up at him, clearly about to protest.
"Not that you don't look pretty in what you're wearing now!" he said quickly. "But, um… just… go home and, and put on something special," he begged.
"No, I mean it. I'm gonna go check on Connor, and then I have to go out for a few minutes, but… meet me back here in a half hour, okay?"
"Okay…" she started uneasily, but he was already halfway up the stairs. She shrugged and went to find her car.
"No, no, no…" Cordelia grumbled, tossing dress after dress onto her bed with every exclamation. "God, why does everything I own suck?"
Her closet read like a yearbook of failed relationships. The prom dress Xander got her as an apology, the wardrobe Angel spent six months of savings to replace as an apology, the dress she bought with Wesley's gift money he'd given her as an apology… it was all incredibly depressing.
"Dennis, help!" she whined.
The dress she'd bought four days before jerked suddenly and fell off the bed. She stared at it a moment.
She'd written it off as a Wesley dress, but remembering the look on Angel's face when she'd tried it on for him…
Angel blew the dust off a couple of old wine glasses he'd found in the cellar and set them next to the (admittedly, semi-cheap) bottle of champagne he'd put on ice. The snacks were out, the TV was on, and Cordy…
Cordy was behind him.
"Cordelia! You look…"
"I know," she said with a self-satisfied smirk, sticking her finger in the bean dip he'd scrounged up from the depths of the mini fridge. "Angel, this is…" and then she looked at him properly for the first time. Her jaw dropped.
"Is that YOURS?"
He swallowed. "Uh. The vest is; the tie isn't."
In his haste, he'd forgotten that he didn't own a suit, let alone a tux. So he'd dug around his closet, eventually finding a slate gray vest which he did not remember buying (and had therefore probably been a gag gift from either Buffy or Cordelia at some point). He'd thrown it on over what he'd already been wearing and hoped for the best. The tie was a panicked, last minute addition—Wesley always kept a spare in his desk drawer in case of clients. He braced himself, waiting for Cordelia's verdict.
"You look so classy! You should wear ties more often. And—is that champagne?"
"You're going to let me drink?" She narrowed her eyes, suspicious. "You never let me drink."
"Well, your birthday's really soon, after all, and it's a special occasion…"
"If I didn't know better, I'd say you were trying to seduce me."
He sputtered. "What? No! I, I just… I wanted—"
"I know, you dork. Relax." She started pulling at the champagne cork, sticking her tongue out with exertion.
"That's for midnight," Angel protested weakly as she succeeded in popping it.
She grinned at him, splashing champagne into each glass. "It's already 2004 on the east coast." And with that, she took a long sip.
"You could have at least let me do a toast," he grumbled, a little put out.
"There's plenty of time for that later. Oh, I love this song!" she smiled, her attention caught by some singer on the TV. She grabbed at his arm and pulled him in. "Dance with me."
And in the time that it took for the words to travel from his brain to his mouth, his insistent "I don't dance" managed to transform itself into a could-be-classified-as-eager "Yeah, okay."
So he spun her in time to the music and dipped her when it ended. Hand hovering over where he knew her tattoo to be, he gently bent her backward, bracing her hip against his. She laughed, their eyes met, and—
The door slammed open with a loud report. Connor woke to the noise and started screaming his head off, which only made Wesley and Gunn argue louder in order to be heard.
"…had to come up with a Plan B!" Gunn was saying, gesticulating wildly.
"Oh, what: 'If the spell doesn't immediately work, jump out of hiding and start hacking at the highly volatile demon with my hubcap axe?' Did you come up with that all on your own?"
"Better than letting the thing get away again! Angel, back me up here."
Angel was completely at a loss. Thirty seconds before, he'd had Cordelia in his arms and they were alone in the hotel with a whole year of possibilities ahead of them. But now, all of a sudden, everyone was looking to him for answers.
Luckily, Cordy was there to diffuse the situation. "Girls, girls, you're both beautiful," she soothed, picking up Connor and placing him in Angel's arms. "Angel, please deal with your son."
Happy to have an excuse to get as far away from Cordelia Chase and his feelings as possible, he took the baby and ran.
Angel jogged back down the stairs and was surprised to see Cordy, alone, sprawled on the couch, full champagne glass in hand.
"That was fast," he commented, sitting down next to her. "I mean, I had to run the gauntlet of six verses of 'I Am Henry the Eighth I Am,' getting his bottle temperature just right, and a bedtime story, but you had… them."
She shrugged. "They were pretty easy to get rid of once I had the vision."
She gave him a small, secret smile. "I faked it. They're gonna be so pissed at me later, but… I kind of liked it, just the two of us."
He sighed. "I'm sorry about how this all turned out. I was trying to make it up to you for not telling you earlier that you had the night off."
"I'll put it on your tab," she said with a wink, but her hand was on his thigh and they both knew she meant that there was nowhere else she'd rather be.
"They're counting down."
And together, they watched as the ball dropped. The crowd went wild as Auld Lang Syne started to play, and Cordelia was looking at Angel with an expression he'd never seen before.
"Do you want to do the kissing thing?"
"I… um. Do you want to?"
She shrugged, as if this were easy or normal. "We kissed last week. No one died."
He started to put a hand to her face but thought better of it; it was just a New Year's kiss, after all, between friends. It was hard to tell who made first contact—only that at one moment they were staring wide-eyed at each other, and the next, their eyes were closed, and he was kissing her.
It only lasted a second or so. Exactly the kind of non-event that a New Year's kiss with a friend was supposed to be. But Angel couldn't deny that a part of him… a big part… a most of him part… really hadn't wanted to pull away. And that should have made him panic, but for reasons he had no desire to understand, it didn't.
"There now. Was that so bad?"
And in a week and a half it would be her birthday, and there would be one last vision and one more kiss between them—not that he would exactly be present for it. And then everything would change, forever, though neither of them knew it.
But for the time being, her hand was on his thigh and his lips were still warm from hers, and a week and a half seemed as good as an eternity.
Dedicated to all my readers, but especially to rapidreject, lyin', and Liana-chan, for being consistent and lovely reviewers.
A/N And so it ends. This has been really fun--if not, at times, very challenging--for me to write, and my experience with it has really brought me back to fanfiction. So, like. Thanks for taking the trip with me.
And if you want to hit that little button below and leave a comment, or hit my name up top and read my other work? Well, that's cool too.
Thank you for reading.