A long time coming I know, usual excuses with a new one thrown in, lost my job and then my computer died. Are they valid? Yes. Any less pathetic? No. MKAngelus.

CH 6

Christmas Eve rolled into LA like fog onto the beach, quickly, quietly and with very little fan fare. Southern California was as far from what the traditional Christmas thoughts were like as a person could get, but even without Hollywood magic the local citizens made the holiday special. This year was no exception, hardly a storefront window or doorway was without something representing the biggest commercial holiday of the year. Driving to work Cordelia enjoyed seeing the lights and trees and even though it was still a brisk 65 degrees out she thought if she squinted into the dusky sky she could almost imagine a white Christmas actually happening.

Cordelia parked behind the Hyperion hotel and exited her car, her hands full of the last minute gifts she'd picked up and the garment bag holding the dress she was going to wear to the Christmas at midnight party Lorne was throwing at Caritas. She was so looking forward to the evening, having convinced Angel that as the 'father' figure of their motley family, it was his duty to go to the soiree and he was definitely going to pretend to be having a good time. And, if she could convince him to kiss her under the mistletoe and maybe get some of these unresolved and frankly confusing feelings out of hiding, so much the better.

She walked into the lobby and was instantly on alert. Fred and Wes were sitting side by side, arrow straight and had identical expressions of shock on their faces. "What?" she asked, slowly setting down her bags as she looked to the staircases on either side of the doorway. Clearing his throat in that annoyingly British way he had, Wes said, "Cordelia…err…well, something else has happened, that is to say, something more has…um, well happened to Angel." He stepped towards her and Fred rose from her seat, "Well, nothing more really happened to him," she said soothingly in her soft Texas drawl, "It's really just more of the same?" her statement ending in a slight lilt.

A slight squeak from the basement door made them all turn to see that Angel was no longer the young, robust vampire of only a few days before, instead, he was bent almost in half, his hair totally white, wrinkled and…tiny was the word that came to mind. Cordy put her hand on her mouth and inhaled slightly, her eyes widening and then blinking back the sudden prick of tears she walked towards him. Well, them. He was currently being held up more or less by Lorne.

"What happened?" she whispered, helping Angel to sit on one of the banquet couches. He was lighter than she could have imagined him ever being, looking at him and feeling him slightly lean into her she was utterly shocked at how fragile he seemed. Fragile and Angel were never words she would have imagined having any connection with each other. Angel was heroic. Angel was strong and agile and fearless and ageless and naïve and brilliant and honor bound and there was no way this shell of a man was her Angel. No way was this trembling, shambling gray haired geriatric creature her champion. "I mean, what the HELL happened? Wesley?" she turned to him, half supporting Angel's weight and half reverberating with furious anger. "Lorne?" Turning towards the demon she raised an eyebrow and said, "Do you think Angel is fine, right as rain or any other assorted metaphors now?"

Sensing that this was not the time for light Lorne started to speak at the same time Wesley opened his mouth, but both of them were outdone by the quiet, almost fervent whisper of Angel himself, "Cordelia, it's okay, I feel fine, whatever this is…" he paused to shift, wincing slightly at the ache in his back, "we'll find a cure, vampires don't age and Wesley and Fred and Lorne have all been working hard this afternoon."

"Vampires don't age?" she repeated like a question taking his hand in hers as she knelt in front of him, tears now spilling over her lashes despite her wishes, "That may be true for other vampires Angel, but you're not like other vampires and you, you my love are aging and Angel," she hiccupped slightly and leaned in to him, "I don't want you to die."

"Hold on kids, no one is going to die any time soon." Lorne said holding up his hand and trying to remain stoic, "We'll get to the bottom of this if we have to call in every guru shaman from every dimension, we'll figure it out."

"That's the spirit." Angel rasped, reaching out his arm to Lorne. "I'm just going to go for a walk." He said, once righted and more or less facing the basement. "Oh no you aren't going anywhere, Mister." Cordelia said, rising behind him, one hand on his back and the other holding his arm to steady him, "You're going back to bed and you're going to stay there, who knows where you caught this whatever it is that you have and who knows if you'll get worse. Nope, you're not leaving my sight." She angled him to the elevator where Fred had jumped up to call the cab to the lobby floor. "Don't you worry Angel," Fred said quietly, "We'll get you back as soon as we can." Angel glanced up at her and smiled slowly, his face heavy and wrinkled but his eyes clear, "I know you will Fred, I know you will." He and Cordelia entered the cab and he stumbled slightly which made everyone reach towards him. Cordy easily absorbed his weight and glared at the rest of them, which made them all stand back up. The doors closed and she stared at the hand marking the floors as they ascended to his suite.

Once the elevator doors had opened and she ushered him into his room and had helped him lie down, all the while not saying a word she paused at the inner door to his room and watched him as he lay on the bed, eyes closed, and arms over his chest. As still as death, not needing to breathe at all and apparently too tired to fake it even for her, she gasped as she thought how if they didn't get this figured out and soon, he may be gone from her life for good, long before she wanted him to be and long before she could tell him how she felt.

Angel knew that Cordelia was stopped and watching him pretend to sleep and he'd normally indulge her in some light banter, but, well the truth was he was tired. He was tired and really all he wanted to do was make sure that the necklace he'd gotten her was still safe, which is what he'd been trying to do when Lorne intercepted him. He relaxed as he heard her leave and thought to himself, 'just a moment, I'll lie here for just a moment, and build my strength back up and then go check on the necklace.' After all, tonight was going to be the big night, he'd thought it over carefully and tonight he was going to tell Cordelia how he felt, surrounded by their friends and family at Caritas, he was going to give her the necklace and hopefully come away with her heart.