Chapter 1: Cookie monster
Cordy smiled as she unwrapped her Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie. The seer licked her lips and swallowed the drool already forming in her mouth. Oh she was so going to savour this. All she needed was a glass of milk. Cold milk and The Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie. If some demon or demigod decided to attack right at that moment they would just have to wait. She would sit by and watch the next apocalypse happen while she enjoyed her milk and cookie.
Xander entered the kitchen. He was carrying a paper bag. Probably fast food.
“Hey, pretty lady.” Xander said as he started to pull burgers and muffins out of the bag.
“Hey, Xander.” Cordy said as she opened the fridge and started looking for the milk. She didn’t really notice Xander put the food back in the bag and leave.
Cookie and milk.
“Where the fuck is he?!” Cordy screamed as she stormed into Angel’s office. Gunn slowly backed up and looked over at Wesley. The ex-watcher shrugged and made sure to keep his hands where the crazy woman could see them.
“Who, Cordy?” Angel said looking up from the ancient scroll he was studying.
“Your Consort,” Cordy pointed at the vampire.
“Okay…” Angel put the scroll away “Xander just came home. He came in here and said he was going to go and eat his lunch…” Gunn snorted “Okay his second lunch…in the courtyard garden,” Angel looked at the seer “What did he do?” the vampire asked.
“Oh don’t you worry! No don’t you worry! I’ll deal with the bastard myself.”
“Xander!” Xander turned around quickly and saw Cordy. She looked furious.
“Um…hey,” he said.
“Where is it?” the ex-cheerleader demanded to know.
“Um…what?” Xander slowly got up. His hand never leaving the back of the bench he had been sitting on. Cordy walked up to him and grabbed the paper bag from the small table standing next to the bench.
“Hey!” Xander protested.
“Where is it!” Cordy opened the bag and looked through the paper wrappings. She showed on of them to Xander. The words Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie was printed all over the blue paper.
“Um…you need paper?” Xander looked confused.
“No you moron! I need my cookie,” Cordy grabbed hold of Xander’s hand and dragged him into the hotel. She didn’t stop before they entered Angel’s office. Wesley sighed and Gunn slowly edged his way over to the door.
“Cordy?” Angel sounded tense.
“Go on, Xander!” she pushed him forward “Admit it!”
“Um…” Xander looked mystified.
“He ate my cookie!” Cordy yelled.
“This is about a simple cookie?” Gunn asked.
“No!” Cordy snapped “Not a simple cookie. A special cookie. My cookie. Mine. Bought with my meagre earnings.”
“Xander?” Angel said looking at Xander. Sometimes Angel longed for his time spent in Hell.
“I…yeah I ate a cookie…Sorry Cordy,” Xander said looking down at his feet. “Didn’t mean to do it.”
“You’ve been eating non-stop this past week, Xander. Really. You could have left my precious cookie alone.”
“It’s not like I’m in control of it,” Xander sulked. Angel got up and rubbed Xander’s back.
“It’s okay,” the vampire soothed “I’ll buy you some new cookies, okay Cordy?”
Cordy looked confused for a second then she crossed her arms “What the hell is going on?” she asked. Gunn looked from Cordy to Xander and Angel. Then a thought struck him “Aw! Fuck,” he mumbled.
“What?” Cordy looked at the street fighter. “What?” she turned her attention on Angel and Xander.
“Um…” Angel started, looked at Xander and said “Liam is gonna get a little brother or sister in…um…about seven months time,” the vamp beamed with pride. Xander just sighed and scratched his stomach.
“Oh?” Cordy looked perplexed “OH!” she started dragging Xander out of the room. The three men left behind in the office could faintly hear the seer say “We have so much shopping to do…you got Angel’s Gold Card?…”
Chapter 2: Two of everything
Wesley walked into Angel’s office. The ex-watcher was preoccupied with the book he was carrying. An ancient text. So ancient that it’s age was to be counted in thousands instead of hundreds. Such items always fascinated Wesley. Not just as an academic but as a human as well.
If he was lucky he would die in his own bed. Old and surrounded by friends and family. Given his current employment that seemed improbable . But the point was that even if he lived to the grand old age of a hundred he’d still be an infant compared to the tome he was currently holding.
“Ah, Angel.” Wesley said as he looked up and saw Angel sitting on the floor next to the couch. The vampire had a protective hand on Xander’s stomach. The young man was sleeping on the couch with Liam resting on his chest. The little boy was sucking his thumb and snoring sweetly.
Angel turned and hissed “Be quiet, minion!” Wesley stopped moving “If you wake my Claimed I’ll rip your intestines out through your mouth.”
“A-angelus?” Wesley stammered. The vampire growled but immediately stopped when Xander moved. The hand resting on the human’s stomach seemed to curl into a fist and Angelus continued to snarl at Wesley.
“I’ll…I’ll just leave…” the ex-watcher pointed at the door and slowly backed out of the room.
“I…I don’t feel so good,” Xander mumbled as he curled up under the covers. Angel moved over and touched Xander’s forehead.
“That’s nice…cool,” Xander sighed and mumbled “Feel a bit dizzy.”
“You don’t have a fever,” Angel said “Did…was it like this with Liam?…Did you feel dizzy and nauseous like this?” Angel worried.
“No,” Xander murmured and fell asleep.
“Dizzy?” Mrs. Chan asked as she looked up at the tall vampire.
“Yeah. He says he feels dizzy and that it wasn’t like this with Liam.” Angel was nervously tapping the desk with his fingers.
“Does he eat?” old lady Chan asked.
Angel snorted “All the time…”
“I’ll come by tonight,” she promised.
“Xander?” Fred asked the crying man sitting in the kitchen surrounded by food.
“Fred?" Xander tried to conceal his tears by hastily drying the tears away with the back of his hand.
“You okay, Xander?” she tried again. Xander sighed and slumped against the chair again.
“I just can’t do this,” he said and indicated all the food covering the table.
“Um…” Fred looked uncertain “I don’t think I…”
“I can’t eat any more,” Xander shook his head.
“Then don’t. I’m sure you’ve had enough for today…” Fred said.
“No you don’t understand,” Xander mumbled “I can’t eat any more food…but…”
“But?” Fred encouraged.
“But I have to. I feel hungry all the time,” Xander pushed the bowl of yoghurt away and at the same time grabbed the spoon and ate a spoonful of strawberry yoghurt. “I feel sick all the time, Fred.”
“Does…does Angel know?” she sat down opposite the distraught man.
“Yeah. That's why Angelus has been around so much lately,” Xander started nibbling on a muffin.
“H-he told me…” Fred whispered “That he’d rip my windpipe out and b-beat me to d-death with the tonsil-end,” the girl admitted “Because I w-was breathing too loudly.”
“Sorry,” Xander said just as the kitchen door opened and Angel walked in. Fred looked from the vampire to Xander and hurried out of the kitchen.
“What’s with her?” Angel asked as he took Fred’s seat at the table.
Xander was sitting on the bed resting against the headboard. Angel was hovering next to him while Mrs. Chan was quietly chanting as her hand rested limply on Xander’s stomach. She sighed and gently patted Xander’s hand.
“So?” Angel asked anxiously.
“Well…” Mrs. Chan looked Xander in the eyes “I would start buying two of everything,” the old woman smiled happily.
Chapter 3: Can't control it
Xander couldn’t fall asleep. Angel grumbled and rolled over effectively pinning Xander to the bed. The vampire started nuzzling the human’s neck while mumbling sweet nothings. Xander ran his hand through Angel’s gel free hair and stared up at the ceiling.
He couldn’t help worrying. If Mrs. Chan was right - and had she ever been wrong about anything? - then they were going to have twins. As in baby times two. A baby double. Double trouble.
Xander sighed and fidgeted a little under the weight of Angel’s hand. He would wake up every day and find Angel’s hand resting on his flat belly.
Xander couldn’t help worry that maybe things were going to go wrong. He almost died last time. What if it wasn’t just almost this time?
“Xander looks awfully pale,” Wesley whispered to Gunn.
“Yeah,” the street fighter nodded “I’ve kinda noticed how he seems to keep to himself…that’s not really a very Xanderish thing to do.”
Liam ran over to the two men and giggled as he was lifted high into the air by Wesley. The little boy looked more and more like Angel every day.
The dark-haired little boy could brood with the best of them. Sometimes they would be looking for him and then eventually find him sitting on the floor in Wesley’s or Fred’s room. Looking at his hands or absentmindedly chewing on the ears of his stuffed bunny.
They all worried that his time spend with the doctors had damaged him somehow.
“What’s that?” Gunn asked and looked at the contents of the bowl in Xander’s hand. It looked nasty. Weird green stuff mixed with black and red. Here and there a small lump of something golden peeked out.
“Do you really want to know?” Xander said looking at the street fighter.
“Um…No?” Gunn guessed.
“Good answer,” Xander smiled and ate his broccoli-liquorice-pig’s blood-Twinkie-mix.
Angel reached out and stroked Xander’s rigid back. The human sighed and turned around so he could look at the vampire. Angel sat up in bed and pulled Xander close.
“You okay?” Angel asked.
“What if this goes wrong?” Xander said.
“Wrong?” Angel put his hands protectively over Xander’s belly.
“This…” Xander said putting his own hands on top of Angel’s “Them…” he clarified.
“You don’t feel right?” the vampire asked concerned. Xander got out of bed and stood there looking tired and worn out. He walked over to the crib and watch as Liam slept.
“What if something goes wrong?” Xander asked “What if…I know I shouldn’t be what if’ing but…last time I almost died. I would be dead right now if you hadn’t been there.”
“I won’t let you get hurt,” Angel insisted.
“Yeah…” Xander made sure Liam was covered by the yellow blanket Fred had bought for him “But you can’t really control this. Can you?”
“He just passed out!” Gunn yelled as he half dragged half carried Xander over to the couch.
Chapter 4: Fix this
Fred was frantically calling Angel’s cell phone. Nothing. Not even a chance to leave a message. She looked over at Mrs. Chan. The old woman was trying to get a response from Xander. But the man was completely out.
When old lady Chan had arrived - Cordy half screaming on the phone had summoned the healer - Xander stopped breathing. And for a long minute he was dead. Then the old woman had whispered in Xander’s ear and rubbed an ointment on his chest. The breathing had resumed. Ragged and shallow.
Things looked good for a few minutes but then there was blood and tears and humans panicking. Gunn wanted to move Xander. Get him more comfortable. Mrs. Chan had pulled the street fighter aside and spoken to him in a quiet hushed voice. Gunn went pale and nodded, his eyes never leaving Xander.
So here she was pushing the redial button again and again.
Cordy was holding Xander’s clammy hand. Mrs. Chan wrapped the second infant in a blanket. Kissed the tiny hand and mumbled a blessing. Gunn was holding the other bundle. Cradling it in his arms. Protectively.
“We can move Xander now,” old lady Chan said quietly. Gunn let Cordy take the infant from his arms and helped Wesley carry Xander’s limp form up the stairs.
“Angel…” Cordy whispered “Angel will be devastated.”
Mrs. Chan nodded and looked down at the infant in her arms.
“Yes,” she said.
“Where is he?!” Angel demanded to know “Where?!” He stopped. Cordy was standing there in the hallway. Her expensive white blouse covered in blood. Tears running down her cheeks.
“Is he…?” Cordy just sighed and pointed at the door to Angel and Xander’s room. Angel walked over to the door. His hand hovered over the door handle. A comforting hand touched his broad shoulder and he turned to face Spike. “I can’t,” Angel said. Spike nodded. Reached out and opened the door. A gentle hand pushed Angel into the room and closed the door behind him.
Xander was curled up on the bed. Curled up and shaking. On the edge of the bed sat old lady Chan. Her hands soothing Xander. Touching his shoulders and back. Whispering. Fred was standing in the corner crying. Her big frightened eyes looking at nothing. Cradling a small bundle in her arms.
No. No it was too soon. Almost two months too soon. Mrs. Chan looked up and nodded.
“Come, Angel.” She said and smiled sadly “Come see your son,” The way she said it…the things hidden behind the words...made Angel wish he could just storm out of the room. Leave and never come back.
The vampire slowly walked over to the bed and Mrs. Chan stood up making room for Angel. “Sit.” she said. Angel did. His eyes glued to the small infant wrapped in a blanket. Xander protectively had a hand on the blanket. Angel slowly, carefully pulled a corner of it away. Revealing a beautiful baby boy. Eyes closed, dark brown soft hair. Tiny hands and feet.
“D-do something,” Angel insisted “Fix this!” he pleaded. Xander tucked the blanket around the small body and closed his eyes. As if not seeing meant not happening.
“There is nothing I can do,” Mrs. Chan said brushing a finger over the dead infant’s cheek “He was dead before I arrived here,” Xander made a whimpering sound.
“Angel?” Fred said her voice small as if she was afraid to bother the vampire. Angel turned to look at her. Look at the bundle she held in her arms.
“I can’t,” Angel shook his head “Please…Don’t make me see…” Angel looked away.
“Go…” Xander whispered “Go see her.”
Angel stood up. The weight of the world on his shoulders.
She was perfect. Unfocused eyes open. Small hands searching for something to hold on to. Angel touched her. Warm. She was like a small furnace.
Chapter 5: What now?
Angel sat on the edge of the bed. His newborn daughter cradled in his arms. Xander was still curled up on the bed. Curled protectively around their stillborn son. Xander’s hands were stroking the boy’s small body.
“He should have a name,” Xander’s voice was faint as if the words were too sharp. Sharp enough to cut his soul. Angel nodded and reached out a shaking hand. Touched the tiny face that would never smile or laugh.
“He should,” Angel agreed. Xander seemed lost and Angel knelt on the floor still cradling the little girl. Xander hadn’t looked at her once since Angel had arrived. “Xander?” the young man looked at the vampire. “She needs a name as well,” Xander just nodded as if he understood the words but not their meaning.
“A name,” Xander accepted.
“I thought…maybe Kathy?” Angel touched Xander’s face and it was as if a dam broke. Xander started shaking and turned away from Angel and the children. He hugged himself and cried silently.
“Connor,” Xander mumbled against Angel’s chest “I…I always liked that name…Connor.”
The infant girl was sleeping next to them. The boy was cradled between them. Xander just couldn’t stop touching, holding, caressing.
Angel got off the bed making sure Xander was comfortable. He slowly took Connor from Xander’s arms and walked over to the door.
“No," Xander said “No…please…Angel…not yet…please.“
Angel turned back, smiled and said “I just want them to see him. He’s perfect…” Angel looked away his voice trailing off.
“Bring him back…please?” Xander begged.
“I’ll bring him back…and we’ll dress him,” Angel smiled sadly “Pick out something for him.”
Cordy held Connor close. She kept drying tears away from her cheeks. Wesley was hugging Fred. The poor girl was devastated. Dissolving in tears.
“How’s Xander holding up,” Gunn asked quietly.
“He isn’t,” Angel said and turned to Mrs. Chan “Is there something you could give him…something to make him sleep?”
“There is no potion or magic chant that will make this go away,” old lady Chan said “It will only prolong his sorrow.”
Angel checked on Liam before he went back to Xander. The toddler was sleeping in Fred’s room. Podgy arms sticking out from under the covers.
Liam’s favourite book had fallen from the bed and on to the floor. Giles had sent the book and Liam loved it. Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? was the reason the toddler could imitate most farm animals but still wouldn’t say Daddy.
Spike was holding Xander close when Angel entered the room. The human was clutching a blue sleeper in white knuckled hands. Spike was whispering and Xander pressed his tear streaked face against the blond vampire's neck.
“Shhh, luv. ‘S all gonna be fine…ya’ll see,” Spike promised and gently ran slender fingers through dark locks. Angel silently moved over to them and knelt down. Connor still cradled in his arms.
“Xander?” Angel said “We can dress him now,” Xander started shaking and Spike hugged him closer.
Xander’s hand tenderly spread over the small cotton clad chest. The blue sleeper was too big and made Connor seem smaller than he really was. Cordy had taken Kathy with her downstairs. The little girl had been hungry.
“What now?” Xander asked the two vampires.
“Now?” Angel asked feeling reality rush in.
“What do we do now?” Xander turned and looked at Angel “We’ll need to…” Xander’s breath hitched.
“Remember old Father Michaels?” Spike asked “We helped get rid of that nest of fledges hanging around the graveyard.” Angel and Xander nodded “We could ask if we…”
“Go talk to him.” Angel said.
Xander finally passed out. Kathy and Liam tucked under the blanket next to him. The toddler had been fascinated by his baby sister’s small hands and fingernails.
Angel had let him see Connor and the little boy had put a small chubby hand on the infant’s head. Serious brown eyes looked up at Angel and Liam had kissed Connor goodnight.
Chapter 6: Heart and soul
Xander felt numb. He looked at Willow and Giles. Buffy and Dawn. The Scoobies. And he had never before felt so numb and detached. Angel was standing next to him. A strong hand resting on Xander’s lower back. Soothingly drawing circles with his fingers over the rigid muscles.
Father Michaels kept it simple. A small prayer for the lost soul. The lost son. Then Angel moving away. Going over to Gunn who was holding the heart achingly small casket. Dark mahogany. Inside it lay Xander’s heart. Maybe even his soul. Perhaps that was why he felt so numb.
Angel knelt on the grass. Leant over and gently lowered down the casket. A split second it looked as if the vampire couldn’t let go but the moment passed and Xander’s heart and soul disappeared into a small cold hole in the ground.
The others left. Angel and Xander stayed behind.
“We’ll buy a gravestone,” Angel said.
“Simple,” Xander said.
“What?” the vampire turned and looked at his claimed.
“It should be…simple. Just his name,” Xander whispered “No dates…Just Connor.”
“Just Connor,” Angel agreed.
Buffy felt useless.
Her friend was in pain and there was nothing she could do. No demons to vanquish. No apocalypse to stop. Because she was too late for that. Stopping the apocalypse that had devastated Xander’s life.
Xander was sitting in the lobby feeding Kathy her bottle. The infant was getting sleepy. Eyes closing, opening, closing, one eye opening. Asleep. Xander smiled down at his daughter.
“She’s beautiful,” Willow said and sat down next to Xander on the couch. He looked at her.
“I have pictures,” Xander said and put the empty bottle on the table.
“Pictures?” Willow frowned.
“Of Connor…we…we...” Xander sighed “We took pictures.”
“C-can I see them,” Willow asked.
Angel was furious. Xander knew better than to walk around unprotected at night. Knew how dangerous it was. When he found him…
Angel stopped walking. Xander was right there. Sleeping on top of Connor’s grave. Holding on to a baby blanket. The vampire noticed how thin his claimed looked.
“How long?” Angel asked Father Michaels. The priest had been watching from the shadows of an old oak tree. He walked over to the vampire.
“A few nights a week…” Father Michaels said “Maybe those nights you’re out patrolling.”
“He knows how dangerous that can be…“ Angel sighed “wandering around the graveyard at night.”
“The vampires seem to stay out of his way,” the priest pointed over to one of the oldest crypts. A small group of fledges were watching Xander.
“It’s the claim,” Angel explained “They sense it. But only fledges and minions respect it. If another Master Vampire came by…“ Angel knelt next to the young man. Caressed his hair.
“mmmmm,” Xander murmured.
“Xander?” Angel pulled the human closer. Noticing Xander’s hands were filled with dirt from the grave. Angel gently brushed it away. “We’re going home.”
“Connor?” Xander mumbled and snuggled against Angel’s shoulder.
“Yeah,” Angel kissed Xander’s hair “I know.”
Angel drove home with Xander curled up on the backseat of the car. He was still clutching the baby blanket in his hands.
“It’ll get better, Xander.” Angel whispered as he watched the human in the rear-view mirror. “It has to get better.”
Chapter 7: Mending
Angel felt warm lips travel across his shoulder and down his spine. He sighed happily and tried to turn around but even warmer hands held him in place.
“No.” Xander whispered “Like this…” the warm hands continued to study the flawless skin on the vampire’s back. “Just need to forget…forget about today.” Angel nodded into the pillow.
Today the hotel had been invaded by family and friends. Kathy had been the centre of attention. Her first birthday. Liam had proudly announced to anyone who cared to listen that she was his little sister. His Kath. Kathy had loved everything. The balloons, the cake with the names Kathy and Connor written in chocolate, the presents and all the adults fawning over her ability to walk. In the end she passed out under the kitchen table. Cordy fished her out and said she’d get Kathy ready for bed.
Liam had fallen asleep listening to Giles read. It was a true novelty listening to the very British watcher moo-moo, cluck-cluck and oink-oink his way through the story. Liam loved it and had demanded to hear the story three times before his tired eyelids finally got too heavy.
Xander kissed Angel’s neck and the vampire let himself float away on the sea of caresses. Soon the heat of his claimed became a part of him. Filled him up and made him whole.
The scent of salty tears mixed with the heat and the musk.
“Xander?” Angel asked huskily.
“Shhh,” Xander whispered against the vampire’s ear “Need this…need to forget.” Angel gently pushed Xander away and turned around so he was on his back with Xander on top of him.
“Like this,” Angel said and stroked Xander’s arms. Kissed his lips.
“Like this,” Xander accepted.
“It’s like there’s a piece of me missing…A piece of us,” Xander tried to explain. Angel couldn’t see Xander’s face. The vampire’s back was plastered against the human’s chest.
“I know,” Angel drew small invisible shapes on Xander’s arm with the tips of his fingers. “I…I sometimes wonder what he would have been like…” Angel said “If he would have been like Liam. Confident and always happy. Or maybe more like Kathy. Curious and a little hell raiser.”
Xander laughed. “Yeah. Never saw a toddler run as fast as her,” he chuckled.
“When are you leaving?” Angel asked and turned to face Xander.
“I was going to wait until you were asleep,” the human admitted.
“I’ll go with you,” Angel said.
The inscription on the stone looked like liquid silver in the moonlight. Angel brushed a few leaves away from the base of the stone and let his fingers follow the letters.
“Hey Connor,” Xander said and sat down on the grass “You would have been a year old today. We had a party. Everybody came by,” Xander looked up at Angel. The vampire sat down next to his claimed.
“You would have liked it,” Angel said and smiled “Big blue and pink balloons, the cake…”
“I brought you a present from Liam,” Xander said and pulled a small stuffed toy out from his pocket.
Liam was fascinated by the concept of a brother that wasn’t really there. Xander had finally brought the boy with him to the cemetery on one of his many visits and they had spend the day talking about and with the invisible little brother.
Xander put the stuffed animal on top of the stone.
“Why a tiger?” Angel asked as they drove back to the Hyperion.
“Liam said it was because they’re big and scary and go grrr,” Xander mimicked claws with his hands and growled “Like his uncle Spikey.”
Chapter 8: Uncle Spikey
“Git git git git git git git git.”
Xander and Angel watched Liam run around and around the couch. The boy was chanting quietly.
“What the hell?” Xander asked and looked a bit worried. Angel just sighed and shook his head.
“Boy needs to spend less time with Spike,” the Master vampire said and looked at Xander.
“You think?!” Xander glared at Angel.
Xander had to press a hand hard against his mouth. He took another peek into Kathy’s room. Everything looked like it always did. A little messy, with toys all over the place. The four year old thought that cleaning up meant creating a small path through the toys, leading from the door to her bed.
In the middle of her room was a small white table with kiddie sized pink chairs.
“Would you like more tea, Mrs. Daisy?” Kathy asked her guest. The little girl’s voice sounding very formal, almost ceremonial.
“Well yes, Miss Harris.” Mrs. Daisy said and made sure the blue hat with yellow flowers didn’t fall off. “You do make such splendid tea.”
“Thank you,” Kathy said and beamed with pride as she poured some more lemonade into the tiny teacup. “I really like your hat, Mrs. Daisy.”
“Well thank you, Miss Harris.” Mrs. Daisy said and smiled.
“Yeah!” Angel said and startled Xander, he hadn’t even noticed the vampire sneaking up on him. “You look real good in that lovely hat, Mrs. Daisy.” Angel laughed and Xander snorted and then just couldn’t hold it in anymore. He laughed so hard tears started running down his cheeks.
“Daddy!” Kathy squealed “Go 'way!”
“Oh bloody hell!” Mrs. Daisy said and the hat fell to the floor revealing bleached blond hair with a few pretty pink bows in it.
“Oh my God!” Xander moaned and held his ribs “You’re killing me, Mrs. Daisy!”
Mrs. Daisy stomped over to the door and snarled “I’ll bloody drain ya, stupid wanker!” and slammed the door shut.
“Uncle Spikey?” Angel and Xander heard Kathy ask.
“Yeah?” Spike said.
“What’s a wanker?”
“Uncle Spikey?” William groaned when the small high-pitched voice reached his hiding place.
“UNCLE SPIKEY?!” Spike briefly wondered, if maybe walking into the sun wouldn’t be preferable to this…only downside was that the little bugger could follow him. Bloody hell! He was a Master vampire hiding from a five year old boy and his little sister.
“Already counted to twenty,” the boy called. Dishonest little git. Spike knew Liam hadn’t counted to more than twelve.
“No you didn’t,” Kathy snivelled in her small nasal voice.
“Shut up!” Liam hissed. Spike couldn’t help sniggering.
“You’re stupid! I’m gonna tell Daddy that you told me to shut up!” the sound of small feet pounding down the stairs.
“You’re stupid, Kathy!” the boy retorted a little too late. “Stupid Kathy,” Liam mumbled.
Spike could hear the boy sneak down the hall. For a 5 year old Liam was pretty good at it. The Master vampire sat very still and made sure he wasn’t making any noise. The door to the closet was pulled open. Spike blinked at the sudden light streaming into his hiding spot from the hallway.
“I won!” Liam squealed and jumped up and down. His eyes shifting between dark brown and golden.
“Liam!” Angel bellowed from the lobby.
“Yeah?” the boy yelled and looked sheepish. Spike walked over and tussled the boy’s dark curls.
“You come down here right now!” Angel demanded.
“Bloody hell!” Liam mumbled.
“I heard that!” Angel yelled.
“The bloody Initiative could learn a thing or two from those two monsters,” Spike said and pointed over his shoulder with his thumb.
“What is it now?” Cordy asked.
“Barney the Wanker?” Spike growled.
“Barney?” Xander asked a little confused.
“Purple git dinosaur,” Spike moaned and shook his head. The door to the TV den opened and Kathy peeked in.
“He’s gonna sing now, Uncle Spikey!” she said eagerly. Spike sighed and walked over to the little dark haired girl.
“Let’s go then,” he said and looked defeated.
“And when Barney stops…” Kathy said and clapped her small hands “Teletubbies!” she said and beamed with joy.
“Bloody Stinky Winky.” Spike murmured and followed the little girl into the TV den for another round of torture.
Chapter 9: Going to a party
Xander was trying to make Kathy stand still.
“Come on, Honey.” he said patiently “You need to stand still, so Daddy can dress you in this pretty new outfit,” he held up the green dress Willow had sent.
“Don’t wanna,” Kathy pouted.
“Don’t wanna?” Xander asked.
“No!” she shrieked and ran out of the room. Xander sighed and rubbed his eyes.
“Want me to go get her?” Angel asked as he came out of the bathroom.
“Naw…let me rest my sensitive ears for just a second,” Xander sighed and put the green dress on the bed.
“Is Liam dressed yet?” Angel asked and sat down on the bed next to Xander. He reached out and massaged his Consort’s shoulders. Xander moaned and pushed into the caress.
“Said…he wanted to do it himself,” Xander whispered.
“I hope so,” Xander chuckled “I don’t think I have the energy to dress two of them,” Xander leant back and Angel let his hands ghost over Xander’s stomach.
“Three soon,” the vampire said and smiled.
“We’ll have to hire someone to dress them,” Xander said, his eyes closed.
“Oi!” Spike yelled from the lobby “Can’t wear that to your aunt Buffy’s party,” the blond vampire sounded amused.
“Can too!” Liam answered.
“No,” Spike said.
“Who are we kidding?” Angel said softly “We already have three kids. One of them is just 120 years old.”
“You’re stupid!” Liam yelled back.
“Well you’re a git,” Spike retorted.
“We should go down there, shouldn’t we?” Xander sighed and slowly stood up. He straightened his shirt and pants. Angel nodded and did the same.
“I’m not taking it off!” Liam pouted and crossed his arms.
“Not asking ya ta take it off, Pillock.” Spike answered “Just want ya to put something over it.”
“But I like Spiderman.” Liam stomped his foot.
“Not saying ya can’t wear it,” Spike rolled his eyes and turned when Xander and Angel came down the stairs. “He wants ta go to the party wearing that,” the blond vampire said and pointed at Liam.
The little boy was wearing his blue and red Spiderman underwear and nothing else. Xander started to laugh and Angel just shook his head. Liam scowled and frowned.
“Daddy!” Kathy yelled from the top of the stairs. “Look at me!” she hurried down the stairs and twirled around so Angel and Xander could see her.
“Honey?” Xander started, but Angel put his hand on Xander’s shoulder and said
“Let’s just go, Xander. I don’t think we have time to convince them to wear anything else.”
“Welcome!” Buffy said, when she opened the door to her house. She was about to say something else but then she caught sight of Liam and Kathy. Buffy closed her mouth, then she turned to Xander and was about to ask when Spike said
“Don’t ask, Slayer. Just don’t.”
Liam ran over and hugged Willow. His Spiderman underwear and green rubber boots making the witch frown but her attention was soon turned to Kathy.
The little girl swirled around ”Look at me, Aunt Willow.” she yelled and danced around in her ladybird Halloween costume.
Chapter 10: Babies and Puppies
“A baby’s in there?” Liam asked and pointed at Xander’s stomach.
“Yes,” Angel said and placed his hand on his consort’s flat belly.
“It’s still itty-bitty,” Xander explained and smiled at the confused little boy. Kathy wasn’t as interested as her big brother. She had frowned, poked Xander in the bellybutton and then walked off to one of her tea parties with her Uncle Spikey.
“What kinda baby?” Liam asked and scratched his ear.
“Well it could be a baby brother or a baby sister,” Angel crouched down next to his firstborn.
“What would you like it to be?” Angel asked. The little dark-haired boy frowned and looked thoughtful. Xander watched as Liam slowly looked more and more like Angel.
“I think…” Liam said “I think I wanna puppy,” he finished and then just ran out of the room.
“A puppy?” Angel mumbled, his lips twitching.
“Shut up, Angel.” Xander grinned and got up from the couch.
“Another one?” Dawn squealed so loudly Angel had to wince. Xander was hugged by Willow and Dawn. The two young women not noticing Angel growling softly. Xander looked over at Angel and smirked.
Buffy was standing behind Angel, a strained smile on her face. She walked over to the group and hugged Xander and then stepped awkwardly away.
“Hey, Buffy.” Xander said as he walked out on the porch. Buffy looked up at him and smiled sadly. Xander really didn’t want to do this. Sometimes things should just be left alone but he knew he couldn’t let this get tucked away to fester.
“Hey to you too, Xander.” Buffy said quietly. Xander sat down on the stairs leading up to the Summers’ residence and Buffy scooted a little to the left so there was enough room.
“It’s weird being in Sunnydale again,” Xander said and looked up when he heard Liam giggle. Angel and Dawn were playing with the children. Some strange elaborate ball game. Angel whooped and grabbed Kathy, lifting her high into the air as they did a victory lap around the lawn.
“You’re lucky,” Buffy whispered and watched Angel and Kathy as they were attacked by Dawn and Liam. Xander nodded and smiled.
“In the beginning…” Xander started “In the beginning I felt like a thief…Like I’d taken something that wasn’t mine to take,” he glanced at the slayer. She was toying with the hem of her skirt. “I thought that…I was stopping Angel from being with the one he loved…I mean with the curse not being a problem anymore I honestly figured he’d go back to Sunnydale and…and you.”
Buffy gasped and shook her head. She was about to say something when Xander continued “I knew he couldn’t…not really…the bond between a vampire and his consort is…being separated for a long time hurts physically,” Xander rubbed his hands together nervously “Angelus made sure I knew that.”
Buffy was up and had a stake out before Xander even knew what was happening.
“Buffy…um hey…put that away, okay?” Xander said and patted the stair he was sitting on “Come sit with me,” Buffy stared at him and stammered
“You…h-how can you be this calm if Angelus can pop out any second?” she looked over at Angel. Liam was giggling. He loved it when his Dad played tag with him. “You…you can’t be safe…I might not have seen what he did to those doctors, Xander, but I still know…I still remember what he’s capable of.”
“Angelus isn’t that crazy anymore,” Xander said. He couldn’t help smile. No Angelus wasn’t crazy anymore but he was still dangerous. He’d kill anyone who tried to hurt Xander or the kids. “Angel might not be in complete control all the time but…Angelus would never hurt me. He claimed me, Buffy.” Buffy frowned and then blushed prettily.
“Oh.“ she said.
“But there was a time where I…We didn’t…I didn’t want him. But with the bond and everything…I just felt like Angel had been forced into it. You know? Like…if he’d had a choice, he would have picked you,” Xander couldn’t look Buffy in the eyes as he said it.
“Oh, Xander.” Buffy reached out and took his hand “You should see the way he looks at you. He looks like a lovesick teenager. And he smiles all the time,” she paused “He seems happy. Happier than he ever was with me.”
Xander looked up and watched Angel. The vampire had stopped playing tag and was staring right back at Xander. There was a certain look in Angel’s eyes that made Xander smile. “Look,” Xander whispered to Buffy. The slayer turned her head and saw Angel walking over to the stairs.
The vampire stopped a few feet away. His eyes were locked on Buffy’s hand holding Xander’s. Buffy looked from Angel to Xander. The human was biting his lip, suppressing a teasing grin as he looked up at the vampire.
“Consort,” Angelus growled dangerously “See to the children,” Xander stood up and leant in to whisper something to Buffy. “Now!” Angelus snarled and Xander nodded and was about to walk past the vampire when a hand shot out and grabbed his wrist. Angelus hissed in his ear “I expect to see you later. In bed,” the vampire smirked. Xander hadn’t noticed that Buffy was clenching a stake in her hand.
“Count on it,” Xander said and Angelus let go of his wrist and gently touched the human’s upper arm.
When Xander left the vampire and the slayer alone, Angelus looked down at the woman and snarled “You keep your hands to you self. If you want to keep them.”
“Dad, look Liam found a snail.” Kathy yelled from behind the vampire. The scowl disappeared, Angel smiled and turned around to picked up his daughter. “Look, Dad!”
“Well, that’s a pretty snail.” Angel said and showed the snail to a stunned Buffy.
It was nice to be back in LA. Xander was unpacking their bags while Angel was putting the kids to bed. He was startled when he felt hands pull him close and arms curl gently around his waist.
“Liam just asked me a question,” Angel whispered in Xander’s ear.
“A question?” Xander turned in Angel’s arms. The vampire nodded and let go of Xander. Angel started helping with the unpacking. “What question?”
“He asked where his mother is,” Angel looked up at Xander as he put a small red sweater on the dresser. Xander sat down on the bed.
“Oh,” he said “Well…he’s been quiet the last few times we went to the playground at the park. Mostly women bringing their kids there…so…guess we need to have The Talk,” Xander looked like he was going to panic any minute.
“He not even six yet…I think The Talk can wait. But we still need to tell him something,” Angel kissed the top of Xander’s head.
“What?” Xander asked “Your Daddy is a fish-demon-freak?” Angel chuckled.
“No,” the vampire smiled as he inhaled the scent of his consort.
“Then what?” Xander sounded tired.
“That they don’t have a mother, but they have two dads that love them very much…“
“Oi!” Spike bellowed from the hallway “Who smeared chocolate and sticky jam on my duster?”
“And a crazy family,” Angel finished and smiled when he felt Xander shake with silent laughter.
Angel hadn’t said it, but Xander knew the vampire worried that something bad would happen. They usually spoke freely about Connor but as the months passed and Xander’s due date was approaching Angel stopped talking about their son.
He accepted it as Angel’s way of dealing with his fears. But Xander had approached the fear from another angle and had asked for Mrs. Chan’s advise and that was why he was currently naked in bed with Angel.
Well, Xander was certain that they could follow Mrs. Chan’s prescriptions without getting naked but where was the fun in that? Mrs. Chan had suggested that Xander was fed some of Angel’s blood a few times a week just to make sure the baby had all the nutrients it needed to be healthy.
“Oh…oh that’s nice,” Xander whispered when Angel moved just so.
“Just nice?” Angel looked disappointed “Maybe I should do it again?” Angel moved his hips. Xander’s answer was a small strangled sound. Angel was supporting his whole weight on his arms, not wanting to put unnecessary pressure on Xander’s body.
Xander arched up and pulled Angel down for a kiss. The human tilted his head exposing his neck and Angel kissed the skin just over the pulse point. Angel never drank much from Xander. He only took enough to strengthen their connection. Xander sighed as he felt teeth sink into his neck. Xander’s body tensed.
The vampire offered his wrist to the human and Xander bit into the skin. The feeling of Xander drinking was too much for Angel and he finally let go of his restraints and came with a quiet gasp. They curled up under the covers and Angel pulled Xander close.
“Remind me to send Mrs. Chan flowers,” Angel sighed and Xander nodded and fell asleep.
“What do ya mean it’s time?” Spike asked his Sire’s Consort.
“Time…” Xander just said and squeezed the blond vampire’s hand tightly.
“Well…where’s Peaches?” Spike tried to pull his hand away.
“Sit still!” Xander barked and winced as another contraction made him gasp.
“Right! Got ya! Sitting still!” Spike looked frantically around the lobby. “Well bugger me,” he whispered quietly.
“What the hell is going on?” Angel asked from the front door. Wesley, Gunn and Angel hurried over to the couch. Angel knelt down and took Xander’s hand.
“I think I need to be in bed,” Xander mumbled and Angel nodded. Wesley stepped forward and helped Xander up while Angel found Cordy and Fred.
“Is it here yet?” Liam asked Fred. The little boy had denied to go to bed and had stubbornly camped outside his parents’ bedroom with a plate of cookies and a glass of milk. He was getting tired of waiting.
“No not yet, Liam.” Fred said and sat down next to him. The little boy took the plate and offered the young woman a cookie. “Thanks.” Fred said and took one.
Cordy came out of the bedroom and told Wesley that they needed more towels.
“Is the baby here?” Liam asked again.
“No not yet,” Cordy answered and looked over at Gunn. The street fighter was sleeping on the floor, Kathy resting against his leg. “But soon now,” the seer said and took the towels Wesley brought her.
“A son,” Mrs. Chan said as she carefully handed the infant over to Angel. “A special son,” the old woman smiled and pulled the blanket away from the little boy. Angel gently let his hand cover the small body.
“What is it?” Xander asked anxiously from the bed. “Is he all right? Angel?”
“He’s fine, Xander.” Angel said and sat down on the bed, letting Xander see their newborn son. “He’s just different,” Angel put the naked infant on the bed next to his consort and Xander reached out, letting his fingers skim the little boys left side.
“He’s like me?” Xander looked up at Mrs. Chan. The old woman smiled and nodded.
“Like you, son.” she said and looked over at Angel “I’ll come back tomorrow…Make sure your consort sleeps and that the child is properly fed,” Angel nodded.
They both watched as the old woman walked out of the room and could hear muffled voices from the hallway.
“Guess The Talk just got much harder to do,” Xander mumbled as he fell asleep.
Chapter 11: What does it mean?
“Daddy?” Liam asked and looked very serious.
“Hmmm?” Xander said, he was busy reading a book about the depravity of vampires and sex, while holding a sleeping Jesse. The infant snuffled in his sleep.
“What’s homo-flex-i-al?” the little boy said slowly.
Xander looked up. “What?”
“Homo-flex…” Liam started.
“Who told ya that word?” Spike asked from the couch.
“Tommy,” Liam explained.
“Tommy-who?” Spike asked.
“Tommy from playgroup,” Liam pointed out.
“He told ya that word?” Spike said and got up from the couch.
“Mmmmm,” Liam nodded.
“Why did he tell you that…?” Xander asked.
“His dad says that Tommy can’t play with me cause you and Dad are homo-flex-i-als,” Liam pouted.
“I’ll just go kill him for you, Xander.” Spike said and grabbed his duster.
“Calm down, Spike.” Xander said and massaged Jesse‘s back gently. Liam started stealing glances at the book Xander had been reading. The book was put away.
“So what’s a homo-flex-i-al?” the little boy persisted.
“Um?” Xander mumbled and whished he had an easy answer. They had already told Liam and Kathy that they didn’t have a mother. They had even attempted to explain why, but the kids hadn’t really seemed that interested.
“It’s like this,” Spike began and Xander started to panic. “Tommy has a mommy, right?” the blond vampire asked. Liam nodded “Right…” Spike said “And he has a daddy?” Liam nodded again. “Well, see your Dad and Daddy don’t want a mummy,” Liam looked confused “They want each other, right? So ya see…some daddies like mummies and some daddies like other daddies, yeah?” Spike ended as if that explained everything.
“You want a daddie?” Liam asked Spike and Xander laughed.
“Um no,” Spike said.
“But you like my Daddy?” Liam persisted.
“Well….” Spike looked from Liam’s hopeful expression to Xander. The bloody git was laughing at him “Sure,” Spike finally said.
“So you gonna have babies with my Daddy?” Liam asked.
“I certainly hope not,” Angel growled as he came out from the kitchen.
“Um no…no babies with your Daddy….I want a lady,” Spike tried to clear up the misunderstanding.
“Cordy is a lady…right Dad?” Liam asked Angel.
“Oh bloody hell,” Spike mumbled and disappeared up the stairs.
Chapter 12: Being a master vampire
Jesse was crawling around on the floor.
Spike spread out his arms, while making encouraging noises. The baby boy shrieked and moved his chubby arms and legs faster but eventually ended up face down in the carpet. Small muffled unsatisfied noises made the blond vampire pick the little boy up, carrying him to the couch and gently patting Jesse's back.
Angel was sitting at the table, trying to make sense of the old demonic text Wesley had asked him to read.
Jesse looked up at Spike and gurgled. The little boy grinned and drooled a bit before he started making spit bubbles. Spike smiled and then abruptly stopped. He looked up at Angel and said
”I’m a Master vampire.”
Angel didn’t look up and just mumbled ”What?”
”I’m a Master vampire,” Spike repeated.
”I know,” Angel said a little confused and looked up.
”Yeah…It’s just…” Spike pointed at Jesse ”I’m a Master vampire and I’m getting all warm and fuzzy inside cause a baby is making spit bubbles…” Angel nodded as if hoping Spike would get to the point ”Look…” Spike started ”I used ta drain babies," Angel looked uncomfortable "Hell, so did Angelus.”
”You as much as show your teeth near my…” Angel was interrupted by Spike.
”Are ya bloody insane?!” the blond vampire clutched Jesse to his chest ”I’d never…”
”I know, Spike.” Angel said and walked over to the couch ”It’s not like I never think about how different things are. The things I worry about…”
”Connor,” Spike said reverently. Angel looked down at Jesse and nodded silently.
”You’re not the only one who’s surprised by this,” Angel said ”I caught myself gaga’ing and dada’ing yesterday and the weirdest thing about it was how right it seemed.”
”We’d be the bloody laughingstock of the vamp community if this ever came out,” Spike chuckled and tickled Jesse’s chin. The little boy squealed and drooled even more.
”’S amazing he doesn’t dehydrate with all that drooling” Spike contemplated.
”Oh God!” Angel moaned from the bathroom.
Xander looked inside and saw Jesse sitting on the floor, the little boy’s attention captivated by his own small and naked chubby toes.
”You okay, Angel?” Xander asked the tall vampire. Angel was leaning against the sink, his hands covered in soap bubbles and the water was running.
”Oh, how the hell…” Angel made a gagging noise and Jesse looked up at Xander and smiled showing his two front teeth.
”What?” Xander moved closer to Angel ”Are you sick?”
”No…” Angel almost snarled and squeezed his eyes tightly shut.
”Ooookaaayyyy…” Xander held up his hands in a don’t scare the crazy vamp gesture.
”How the hell…” Angel tried again ”How the hell can something so small…” the vampire pointed a dripping finger at Jesse ”…make something that smells so goddamn nasty?”
”Oh,” Xander smiled ”Another thrilling adventure in the dangers of diaper change,” Xander picked Jesse up. ”Let’s leave Dad alone to ponder the vile human smells you make, Jesse.” Xander said and walked out of the bathroom.
”Sometimes…” Angel mumbled to himself ”Sometimes having vampiric super senses suck,” the Master vampire washed his hands for the eighth time.
”Sssshhhhh,” Angel hissed in Spike’s ear.
”Didn’t say a bloody thing,” the blond vampire growled.
”Shhhhh, they’ll find us.” Angel whispered.
”Right,” Spike rolled his eyes ”Why couldn’t we have found another place ta…”
”Shut up, someone’s out there,” Angel pointed at the closed door. Spike could faintly make out the outline of his Sire’s hand in the dark. They both stopped moving and sat completely still.
The door was opened, revealing a flushed Xander. The human was looking away from the vampires. Xander turned his head and looked down at Angel and Spike. The two Master vampires were hiding under the coats hanging in the closet.
”Fuck!” he exclaimed in a whispered hiss ”Is there any room for me in there?” he frantically looked down the hallway and then back at Angel and Spike.
”Bugger off,” Spike whispered ”Go find ya own hiding place.”
Xander’s lips twitched. He looked at Angel and slowly licked his lips. Angel groaned and pushed Spike out of the closet.
”Go find somewhere else to hide, Spike.” Angel said. The older vampire reached out and dragged his smirking consort inside the closet.
”Well that’s just bloody rude,” Spike huffed as he found himself alone in the hallway looking at the closed closet door. He heard Xander moan.
”HA!” a little voice screamed and Spike felt arms hug his knees. He stared down at his archenemy. From under a tumble of dark-brown hair, a happy face gleefully looked up at him.
”Ya got me, Kathy.” Spike said and held his hands up in surrender.
”Yay!” the little girl danced around until she heard her big brother stomping down the hallway. ”I found him!” she shrieked. Liam made a small victory dance.
”What do you say we go down ta the kitchen and find us some really sugary treats,” Spike smirked down at the kids. ”Might even find some sodas…” Spike grinned evilly when he heard Xander sigh quietly from the closet.
If the scent Spike was picking up was anything to go by, Angel and Xander would be very tired when they finally decided to come…Spike snorted…out of the closet. They’d be tired and they’d have to deal with two kids high on sugar.
Spike smiled. Yeah! He was still the Big Bad!
Chapter 13: Car trip from hell
“Are we there yet?” Liam asked from the backseat. The six year old boy was bored. Angel’s grip on the steering wheel made the leather squeak. Xander reached out and patted the vampire’s thigh.
“Liam’s looking at me,” Kathy complained. Xander’s hand went from patting to clenching in a split second.
“Daaaadddyyyyy,” Jesse wailed and fidgeted in his car seat. His chubby hands tightly holding on to his favourite toy. The ears of the teddy bear were soaked in drool.
“Liam, stop looking at your sister,” Xander sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. Just one more hour. One more hour and they’d be in Sunnydale.
“Ewww. Jesse just ate a booger,” Liam laughed and scrunched up his face in disgust.
“Eeewwww!” Kathy tried to move away from her baby brother but the seatbelt made it impossible.
"I swear, I'll turn this car right around," Angel growled his eyes flashing golden.
“Dad? Can we listen to music?” Liam asked.
“Can we?” Kathy pleaded. Xander stabbed the power button on the car radio with his index finger and Celine Dion wailed for a few seconds until Angel turned it off.
“Thank God,” Spike mumbled from the backseat.
“Daddy, Liam is still looking at me!” Kathy complained again. Xander groaned and thumped his head against the dashboard a few times.
“I need to pee,” Liam started moving around in his seat.
“Of course you do,” Angel sighed deeply. The steering wheel groaned under the growing pressure of his hands.
“You just went ten minutes ago,” Xander turned in his seat and looked back at the kids.
“Stop this bloody car or I’ll bloody well drain the little buggers,” Spike crossed his arms over his chest and threatened.
“Dad! Uncle Spike said a bad word,” Kathy pointed out.
“Buggers buggers buggers buggers,” a small voice chanted and giggled.
“Daddy, Jesse’s swearing!” Liam and Kathy both ratted.
“Angel, if you hit me really hard in the face do you think I’d lose consciousness?” Xander asked.
“Ow! Kathy pinched me,” Liam screeched.
“I mean it, Peaches! I’ll drain ‘em and skin ‘em.” Spike leant forward and grabbed hold of Angel’s shoulder. The blond vampire’s eyes were big and beseeching.
“Daddy, Liam’s showing me his fangs. Make him stop.”
“Are we there yet?”
“I’m telling you, Xander, no more kids! I’ll stake myself first!” Angel warned his consort.
Chapter 14: Ding dong
The bloodcurdling shriek catapulted Buffy up from the couch so fast she felt dizzy. Blinking at the dimly lit living room, she reached out for the crutch leaning against the coffee table.
“What?” she mumbled as she limped awkwardly across the floor. She stubbed her toe against a toy truck haphazardly parked in the dark. Cursing quietly Buffy hobbled down the hallway. Bright yellow light was streaming out from the bathroom and she pushed the door open all the way.
“My ding-dong!” the crying little boy, standing butt naked in front of the toilet, whined. He looked up at the slayer with tears in his eyes.
“Your… ding-dong?” Buffy looked down at the boy’s crotch where two chubby hands were cupping the mentioned body part.
“It got whammed!”
“Let me have a look, Jesse,” Buffy said and gracelessly sat down on the lid of the laundry hamper standing next to the toilet. Jesse shook his head vigorously and made a small chocking noise, “I’m just gonna take a peek at it. Okay?”
“I want my Dada,” Jesse sniveled and a drop of snot dropped from his nose down on Buffy’s foot. She frowned down at the yellowish blob.
“He’s out helping Willow catch some bad guys cause I can’t with my leg being broken,” Buffy tried, “He’ll be back soon. But maybe I could take a look at your um ding-dong?”
Jesse pouted, “Where’s Dad?”
“He’s helping Xa… your Dada,” Buffy took a few pieces of toilet paper and dried the snot and tears off Jesse’s face.
“The toilet hurt my ding-dong,” Jesse looked angrily at the toilet and sniffed.
“How did it do that?” Buffy eyed the toilet suspiciously. This was the Hellmouth after all.
“The lid felled down and hit me. Wham!” Jesse let go of his genitals and slammed his chubby hands hard together.
Buffy looked down at the offended body part and saw a drop of blood hanging from the tip, “Oh, great,” she moaned, “I look after him for four hours and managed to castrate him.”
“Is it gonna be ‘k?” Jesse asked and gently poked at his ding-dong.
“Um…,” Buffy reached out and examined it, “It looks fine, Honey,” she said and patted Jesse’s hip.
“Is it gonna evur work again?” the little boy sniffed and dried a tear away with the back of his hand.
“Sure it is!” Buffy promised.
“What’s going on?” a tired voice asked from the doorway.
“Jesse just had a small accident, Liam,” Buffy sighed, already realizing that resting wasn’t on her agenda for the evening.
“My ding-dong got whammed by the toilet,” Jesse said almost proudly and puffed out his chest. Liam looked very interested and leant over to get a better look.
“Wow! Is it all flat?” the older boy asked and tilted his head.
“No,” Buffy said comfortingly when Jesse looked a little panicked, “It looks fine.”
Buffy limped over to the couch and slowly slumped down on it. She reached out for the remote control and turned on the TV. David Letterman started his opening routine.
She was dozing off when she heard the front door open.
“Hey,” Xander said quietly as he hung his jacket up next to Kathy’s pink one.
“Hi,” Buffy sat up straighter and smiled when Angel and Willow joined Xander in the hallway, “How’d it go? Did you find the nest?”
“Yeah,” Willow nodded enthusiastically as she closed the front door behind her, “They were nesting down in the…” she yawned, “…sewers.”
“How did the babysitting go?” Xander asked and sat down next to Buffy on the couch and patted her good leg.
“Okay…” Buffy was about to continue when a loud shriek made them all jump.
“What the hell?” Angel turned around just in time to catch Jesse as the little boy threw himself at the vampire.
“My ding-dong!” Jesse wailed.
“Oh God,” Buffy said and closed her eyes.
Chapter 15: Silence
”Shhh,” Angel whispered against Xander’s flannel covered hip.
”What?” Xander sat up, the cotton sheets pooling in his lap.
”Can you hear that?” Angel looked up at the ceiling.
”What is it?” Xander tilted his head and listened intently.
”Complete silence,” Angel stretched languidly.
Xander fell back against the soft pillows, ”We need to do something nice for Cordy. It’s nice of her to take the kids for the night,” Xander curled up next to Angel.
”And that,” Angel pointed at the basket on the bedside table.
”I still can’t believe Cordy bought a gift basket filled with lube samples,” Xander smiled and shook his head.
”We have the whole place all to ourselves…” Xander waggled his eyebrows, ”What do you want to do?”
”Oh,” Angel grabbed one of the pillows, ”I have a few ideas.”
”Me too,” Xander’s warm breath ghosted against Angel’s ear.
Angel closed his eyes and smiled, ”Just so we’re both on the same page here…”
”Mmmmm?” Xander burrowed deeper under the covers.
”We both want to sleep…right?” Angel mumbled, his eyes already half closed.
”Oh yeah,” Xander nodded and fell asleep.
Chapter 16: Surviving your children
Xander found Angel in their bedroom which usually wouldn’t be a bad sign. No, far from it. Finding Angel in the bedroom usually lead to them locking the bedroom door and …well.
But Xander immediately sensed that something was wrong. Maybe it was the way Angel’s shoulders seemed to be hunched. Maybe it was the fact that Angel didn’t notice Xander enter the room.
“Hey,” Xander said cautiously not wanting to startle the man. Angel looked up and smiled sadly.
“Hey,” Angel echoed and looked back down at the photos in his hands. Xander sat down on the bed. The two men’s thighs touching. Xander reached out and took one of the pictures. His breath hitched and his fingers suddenly felt numb.
“Sorry,” Angel said and tried to take the picture back. Xander wouldn’t let him, the tips of his warm fingers holding Angel’s wrist. The picture hovering between them in Angel’s hand.
“Why?” Xander breathed deeply “Why are you looking at those pictures?”
“I…I was just,” Angel seemed to look through the picture ”I forgot what he looked like.”
”Oh,” Xander let his fingers rub small circles on Angel’s wrist.
”I’ve,” Angel started ”I’ve been thinking a lot about…about Connor and the kids.” Xander didn’t move, he just watched Angel. ”I…I worry that I’ll have to stand by and watch them grow up, grow old and then…”
”Angel,” Xander took the pictures and put them on the bed.
”Me and you, Xander...” Angel turned so he was facing his consort. ”We’ll live for a very long time. Just look at you,” Angel shook his head ”You’re thirty-six and you still look twenty. As my consort you could live as long as me. But the kids…We don’t know about them.”
”You…You’ve been thinking about that for some time haven’t you?” Xander asked and stood up, the picture of Connor in one hand.
”Yes,” Angel admitted ”I once…Angelus once wiped out an entire family. Killed the children first. The youngest first, a little girl not much older than a year or so, and then the rest of them. Leaving the parents…forcing them to watch,” Angel closed his eyes and ran a shaking hand through his hair. ”The father…before I killed him, he said…He said the worst thing a parent can experience is to survive their own children…He said it wasn’t natural. Not the way it was suppose to be.”
”Oh, Angel.” Xander knelt in front of the vampire.
Angel took Xander’s hands in his and shook his head ”I wonder if that’ll be my punishment…that I’ll have to watch my own children grow old and die.”
”Haven’t we been punished enough?” Xander said and put the picture of Connor in Angel’s hand ”Liam, Kathy and Jesse they’re half vampire half…whatever I am. They might live for hundreds of years or they might walk out of the hotel tomorrow and get hit by a speeding car. There are no guarantees.” Xander stood up and looked down at Angel. ”You could get dusted next time you go out to help someone…and then what would happen to me?”
”Don’t, Xander.” Angel begged.
”I’ve read the Watchers’ Journals I know what happens to me if you get yourself dusted…I’ll go mad, stop eating…eventually I’ll die.”
”No,” Angel said ”No, if Spike is still alive, he’ll claim you.”
”Angel, I…” Xander began only to be interrupted by a loud furious scream. They both looked over at the open door, through it they could see part of the hallway.
”I’ll fucking kill you, Jesse!” Liam screamed from somewhere down the hall. Jesse ran past the bedroom door holding something in his hands. The fourteen year old boy’s dark hair hanging in his eyes, obscuring the grin Xander knew was plastered all over the boy’s face.
”Aaarrrggghhh!” Liam growled.
”What the hell?” Angel said as Liam ran naked past their room with nothing but a shower curtain draped around his body.
A loud shriek could be heard. ”Kathy.” both Xander and Angel said.
”OH MY GOD! You’re butt naked.” the girl laughed.
”Shut up and help me catch Jesse.” they heard Liam plead, just as Jesse ran past their door again only to turn back and dash inside.
”Quick Dad. Hide me!” the lanky kid with the cheeky grin huffed.
”Nope,” Xander said and started pushing the protesting boy out of the bedroom ”You made a mess. You take care of it.”
”But Daddy!” Jesse whined and made big puppy dog eyes. Angel smiled, Jesse was almost an exact copy of Xander. Both physically and mentally.
”Better do as your told, boy.” Angel said ”Or you’ll have toilet cleaning duty for a month.”
”Oh man! So not fair. Much with the unfairness,” Jesse moaned.
”Liam!” Angel yelled ”Jesse is in here.” Jesse turned and looked at Xander.
”Daddy…please. Liam is gonna kill me.”
”Well, you should have thought about that before you stole all his clothes and his towel, now shouldn’t you.” Xander pointed out.
”Fuck.” Jesse mumbled when they heard Liam’s heavy footsteps on the stairs.
”Watch your mouth.” Angel said.
”Um…sorry. Darn it?!” the boy looked from Angel to Xander.
”Good,” Xander nodded ”Now out you go.” he pushed the resisting kid out of the room.
”He’ll kill me and then you’ll all be sorry! You’ll be all with the crying and the wailing over my broken body.” Jesse protested as Xander closed the door in his face.
”Think he’ll survive?” Xander asked when they heard a loud battle cry and a heavy bump.
”Fuck, that hurts, Liam!” Jesse cursed from the hallway.
”Watch your mouth!” Angel and Xander yelled.
Chapter 17: The talk
“You know why they wanted us here?” Liam asked and stretched. He was almost as tall as his parents and when he slumped down on the kitchen chair it creaked slightly.
“What ever it is?” Jesse said, pulled out a chair and sat down at the kitchen table,
“I so didn’t do it.”
Jesse scratched his ear and fiddled with the newspaper. Liam hummed tunelessly and clicked his tongue every few seconds.
“Well, I’m here…” Kathy walked into the kitchen “Let the partying commence!”
“As if,” Jesse snorted.
“So what did you do?” Kathy asked her little brother.
“What?” Jesse looked offended “Why do you always assume I’ve done something?”
“Well, if you didn’t do anything then why the hell are we here?” Liam asked and pulled a chair out so Kathy could sit down as well.
Hushed voices in the lobby caught the attention of the three teenagers.
“I just don’t see why we can’t just give them a book,” Angel said stubbornly.
“Man, I can’t believe a 250 year old vamp is all nervous about this,” Xander chuckled.
“Well, excuse me. I just don’t feel comfortable doing it,” Angel grumbled.
“I didn’t hear any complaints last night,” Xander said and then the kitchen door opened revealing Xander and Angel, both carrying brown paper bags.
Angel looked at his children and clutched the paper bag closer to his broad chest.
“Look,” Jesse said “What ever it is…I didn’t do it. So if aunt Cordy is like missing one of her dresses, it wasn’t me, okay?” Liam just stared at him and Kathy frowned.
“What’re you talking about?” Xander asked and put his paper bag on the table. Angel sat down, the bag still cradled against his chest.
“Oh…Oh this isn’t about…Never mind!” Jesse said and fiddled with the newspaper again.
“Okay,” Xander nodded and looked over at Angel. The vampire was unusually pale. “You okay?” Xander asked. Angel shook his head then nodded then looked pleadingly at Xander.
“Couldn’t I just go out on patrol? Kill a few demons? Get skewered with a sword?” Angel begged.
“Nope,“ Xander simply said and started unpacking his bag.
Liam’s eyes were caught by a small plastic wrapped square. He looked up at his parents and said
“Um…if this is about…you know…what I think it is, then…um…I don’t really think I need…”
“If I have ta suffer, boy, then I’ll be damned if ya won’t have ta,” Angelus growled.
“I don’t think this is something you’re gonna be very good at, Angelus. So if you could just let Angel handle this…” Xander started.
“The weak sack of shit is…hiding,” Angelus said with disgust and tapped his forehead. “And I’d think that I’d be much better at this. I have a lot of experience,” Angelus leered at Xander.
“What’s this all about?” Kathy asked and reached out for Angelus’ brown paper bag. The vampire growled at her.
“If’n ya like ta keep those pretty fingers…” Xander slapped Angelus up side the head.
“You behave or let Angel take care of this,” Xander warned.
“Shoulda just let William tell them,” Angelus pouted.
“He suggested we do a little show and tell,” Xander shook his head.
“I could manage that,” Angelus licked his lips.
“Is it just me or is this kinda freaking you guys out as well?” Jesse turned and asked his older siblings.
“It’s not just you,” Kathy said and slapped Liam’s hand as he fiddled with the condoms that had been in Xander’s bag.
“Right, lets get this over with so I can rip that hideous shirt off ya,” Angelus said and upended his paper bag on the kitchen table. Three bananas, a handful of condoms, a small tube and a book landed on the table.
“This,” Angelus said and picked up the banana “is fruit…” he frowned and turned to Xander “I thought we were goin’ ta tell them about sex. Why’d ya bring fruit?”
“It’s for the show and tell part?” Xander said and took one of the bananas.
“What ya couldn’t find somethin’ more useful in our toy box?” Angelus asked.
“Okay…I’m learning new and disturbing things here,” Jesse said and eyed the banana.
“Look just…” Xander said “just…” Angelus started kissing Xander’s neck, making the human moan quietly.
“Okay…” Xander said, his voice strangled. Angelus was still licking and the vampire’s hands were all over the place “This…” Xander’s voice was high pitched “Is a condom and it goes on the banana before you have sex. Always remember to put the condom on the banana. No banana no sex. Is that…” Xander squealed “is that clear?”
Liam looked from the bananas on the table to the condoms. Jesse’s mouth was wide open and Kathy’s eyes were glued to Angelus’ hand as it disappeared underneath Xander’s shirt.
Angelus growled, grabbed Xander and dragged him out of the kitchen. The master vampire returned a split second later, snatched the three bananas and rushed out of the room and up the stairs.
“Put the condom on the banana?” Jesse sounded puzzled.
Chapter 18: Rules for Dating our kids, rules 1-3
Inspired by "The Sentinel's rules for dating the guide" and "Rules for dating my daughter"
If you pull up outside our hotel and honk, you'd better be delivering a package or warning us about the next apocalypse, because you're sure as bloody hell not picking anything up…Wanker.
”I’m not ready!” Kathy almost yelled as she stuck her head out of the bathroom door. Her dark eyes were shining and she was pinning her hair up with a beautiful hair comb with little green and blue butterflies on it.
”Bloody hell, Bit.” Spike grumbled as he heard the car honking outside the hotel ”You’ve been in there for three hours.”
”Just two more minutes,” she whined and closed the door.
Spike growled as he descended the stairs and met Xander in the lobby. The dark-haired man looked up at the snarling and cursing vampire.
”What’s going on?” Xander asked and put down the katana sword he had been polishing.
”Bit’s date is here,” Spike said.
”That’s him honking like an idiot out there?” Xander said and put the sword down on the couch. ”Who the hell does he think he’s picking up?” Xander looked back down at the sword as if contemplating picking it up again.
”That some kind of ritualistic sword, that?” Spike pointed at the sword. It was gleaming in the light of the overhead lamps.
”Naw, I just like the way it looks. Ninja, you know?” Xander grinned and made a silly chopping ninja move with his hands.
”Mind if I borrow it?” Spike said picking it up and trying out its weight in his hand.
”Nope,” Xander shook his head.
Where the hell was that chick?
Sure she was good looking with that hair and those boobs but it wasn’t like he couldn’t just have asked out some other girl.
”Come on girl,” Patrick mumbled and honked again ”What’s taking you so fucking long.”
He slammed the heal of his palm down on the steering wheel again. The second his hand moved away it was replaced by a long thin sword that went right through the fine leather of the steering wheel. It stopped a few inches from his right kneecap. For a second Patrick just sat there and stared at the quivering weapon.
”Fuck!” Patrick mumbled and looked up into blue eyes.
”Seems ya have a problem with ya car there,” the blond man said and pointed helpfully at the sword.
”I-I-I-I,” Patrick stuttered.
”Speech impaired as well,” the man said and patted Patrick’s shoulder ”Maybe I should call the tow truck for ya?”
”N-no…I…I…better d-do that, t-t-thanks,” Patrick mumbled and stared at the sword and then at the man.
”Naw. Don’t ya thank me. I’ll just go tell Kathy that ya couldn’t make it, yeah. Had ta go visit some aunt of yours,” the man looked at him as if expecting some kind of answer.
You do not touch my son in front of me. You may glance at him, so long as you do not peer at anything below his neck. If you cannot keep your eyes or hands off of my son’s body, I will remove them for you right here-and-now. With a chainsaw.
”So you’re Tommy,” Xander said and looked at the grinning fool in front of him.
”Yeah,” the boy, who was apparently Tommy, nodded.
”He’s in a band,” Jesse said eagerly and seemed to bounce on his feet. Xander looked from his son to the grinning Tommy.
”A band?” Xander said.
”Yeah,” Tommy nodded.
”And what, pray tell, is the name of that band?” Xander asked and tilted his head. Cordy snorted from somewhere behind him.
”Piss In Your Ear,” Tommy said proudly.
”I’m sorry, what?” Angel said as he came out of the kitchen.
”The band,” Tommy smiled brightly ”It’s called Piss In Your Ear.”
Angel scowled and looked at Xander. Xander didn’t notice. He was far too busy noticing Tommy’s hand cupping Jesse’s butt.
”Angel why don’t you help Jesse get the car ready,” Xander mumbled, his eyes glued to the hand grabbing his son. Angel nodded and Jesse ran after his father down to the underground garage. Xander followed his son’s departure with a frown on his face.
”Why don’t you come over here with me…Tommy,” Xander said and grabbed the grinning teenager by the upper arm and dragged him over to the corner. Xander moved so fast Tommy almost tripped. It was only the death grip around his arm that prevented it.
”You see this?” Xander asked unnecessarily and pointed at the huge, beautifully carved, closet.
”Yeah,” Tommy nodded feeling a little uncomfortable.
”I made it,” Xander said, let go of Tommy and reached out opening the two doors. Inside swords and crossbows were mounted on special hooks, especially made for each weapon.
”See that?” Xander asked and pointed at a chainsaw sitting at the bottom of the closet. Tommy’s grin was completely gone and he swallowed as he nodded. His eyes shifting from the chainsaw to Xander.
”Do I need to say more?” Xander asked and looked at the lead singer from the band Piss In Your Ear.
The lead singer shook his head.
”Good,” Xander smiled and closed the closet doors.
I am aware that it is considered fashionable for boys of your age to wear their pants so loosely that they appear to be falling off the hips. Those who do this are complete idiots. Still, I want to be fair and open minded, I didn’t survive 250 years by being incapable of changing, so here's the deal: You may come to the door with your underwear showing and your pants ten sizes too big, and I will not object.
However, in order to ensure that your clothes do not, in fact, come off during the course of your date with my daughter, I will take my electric staple gun and fasten your pants securely in place around your waist. If that isn’t enough I know a witch that could shrink your pants so much you’d never get them off.
“Floppy?” Angel said and looked at the pierced kid standing in front of him. The boy’s pants were far too big for him and he kept pulling them up whenever they seemed to be falling off his slim hips.
“Yeah,” the kid said “All my friends call me Floppy,” the boy pulled his pants up.
“I’m not your friend,” Angel pointed out. Floppy opened his mouth then looked uncertain and mumbled
“Conrad…my name’s Conrad,” Conrad, formerly known as Floppy, admitted.
“Okay,” Angel said and frowned when Conrad’s pants slowly slid lower and lower until Angel could see that his underwear had the words spank that bitch printed all over them in different colours.
“You need to borrow a belt,” Angel said.
“Naw, man. That’s all right,” Conrad shook his head and smiled.
“I wasn’t asking,” Angel said.
“Oh…um…,” Conrad looked puzzled.
“I have a staple gun,” Xander said from the couch. Conrad went very pale.
“S-s-staple gun?” the kid asked and looked over at Kathy’s other father.
“Um…I-I would like to borrow a belt…sir,” Conrad said when he saw Xander slowly getting up from the couch.
Chapter 19: Rules for Dating our kids, rules 4-6
I am sure you've been told that in today's world, sex without using a "barrier method" of some sort can bloody well kill you. Let me elaborate. I am the bleeding barrier, and I will kill you. Slowly.
”I’m Jesse’s dad Xander,” Xander said and shook hands with Mark.
”Um…I thought Mr. Angel was Jesse’s dad,” Mark said.
”He is,” Spike said as he stood next to Xander.
”Oh…Oooohhhhh,” Mark looked a little embarrassed.
”So where are you guys going tonight?” Xander asked as if he hadn’t noticed the boy’s embarrassment.
”To the movies,” Mark said and started fishing out his wallet ”I-I’ve got the tickets right here…sir.”
”Daddy!” Kathy shrieked from the kitchen.
”What?” Xander turned and yelled back.
”I can’t find the Twinkies!” the sound of things being moved around and something hitting the floor with a loud thump made Xander sigh.
”Just don’t make a mess, Kathy.” Xander walked over to the kitchen ”I’ll show you where they are.”
Spike and the boy were left alone in the lobby. Mark was still holding the wallet in his hand.
”So…um…If…um…Mr. Angel and Xander are Jesse’s dads then who are you?” Mark asked.
Spike raised an eyebrow and studied the boy ”’M his uncle.”
”So you’re like Mr. Angel’s brother?” Mark said and fiddled with his wallet.
”Hardly,” Spike snorted dismissively.
”Um…” Mark looked desperately in the direction of the kitchen door.
”So,” Spike said, startling the boy enough to make him jumped a little and drop the wallet on the floor.
”Nervous?” Spike smirked and knelt down to help Mark pick up the many small slips of paper and two 20 dollar bills. Spike took the movie tickets and handed them to the boy.
They both froze. From the kitchen Xander and Kathy could be heard discussing whether Twinkies or Ho-Ho’s were the better snacks. Spike could hear Mark breathing.
”I-I…” Mark tried to explain when Spike picked up the three condoms. The plastic packaging made a slight squeaky sound as Spike crunched them in his fist. Mark swallowed. His throat suddenly very dry. A deep growl made him look up at Spike.
Golden eyes looked right back and Mark did something he hadn’t done since he was four.
”Where did the kid go?” Xander asked as he came into the lobby with Kathy following him, both happily munching on Twinkies.
”Had ta go home,” Spike said and sat down on the couch. He stretched and smirked at Xander.
”What’s that smell?” Kathy scrunched up her face and stopped eating.
”What sm….Oh that’s really nasty,” Xander put his hand over his mouth and nose and looked at Spike.
”Don’t look at me, I’m not the one who can’t control his bowels,” Spike drawled.
As you stand in my hotel lobby, waiting for my son to appear, and more than an hour goes by, do not sigh and fidget. If you want to be on time for something, YOU SHOULD NOT BE DATING. My son is doing his hair, a process which can take longer than summoning a Qua’k’t’nak demon from the fifth hell dimension. Instead of just standing there, you could offer to do something useful, like polishing my sword collection.
The tall blond girl sighed and looked at her watch for the eight time. She ran a slim hand through her beautiful locks and made an annoyed sound.
”Is he going to take much longer?” the girl, Melissa, asked and looked slightly bored.
”I’m sure Liam will be down any second,” Xander said and smiled at the girl. He really didn’t like her. Melissa acted as if she was doing Liam a favour by dating him. She kept making rude comments about things and Xander had seen Liam blush with embarrassment more than once.
”We’re going to be late,” she whined and Xander looked up and noticed Cordy standing behind Melissa. The seer had a stake in her hand and was making stabbing motions in the air with it. Xander chuckled and that drew the girl’s attention to him.
Melissa always looked at Xander as if he was a piece of dirt she needed to scrape off her shoes.
”What’s he doing?” she asked.
”His hair,” Cordy answered and walked over to her desk.
”His hair?” Melissa snorted ”Like he can do anything to make that thick mess look good.” Xander was about to tell her exactly what he thought of her when Angel and Gunn walked through the front door. Melissa turned and smiled seductively at the two men. She seemed to straighten up and push her chest out.
”Angel,” she purred and Xander sneered at the girl’s back.
”Oh…hey there Melissa,” Angel said and looked over at Xander.
”I was just waiting for Liam,” Melissa fluttered her eyelashes and smiled sweetly.
”Okay,” Angel said and tried to get past the teenager.
”What’s that you have there?” she asked and pointed at the sword in Angel’s hand.
”Oh, I uh…” Angel started.
”Mr. Angel collects swords,” Gunn said, emphasising the first word. That chick just got on his nerves.
”Uuuhhhhh how exciting,” Melissa purred and flicked her hair over her shoulder.
”Yeah well…okay,” Angel said uncertainly.
”I’m sure Angel would love it if you helped him polish his sword…collection,” Cordy suggested. Gunn snorted.
”Can I?” Melissa asked with wide eyes and pouted prettily.
”Um sure…it’s right in here,” Angel said and opened the door to his office. The large mahogany desk was cluttered with swords, many of them covered in stinking demon slime and bits of guts.
”Here you go,” Xander said and put a piece of cotton cloth in her slender hand and gave her a push. Melissa stumbled inside and heard the door close behind her.
The following places are NOT appropriate for a date with my children:
a) Places where there are beds, sofas, or anything softer than a wooden stool or bench. You should preferably remain standing up…no that does not mean you can lean against walls.
“What the hell?” Liam turned around in his room “Where the hell is my bed?” He turned and looked accusingly at Cordy.
“Oh it’s the newest in interior decorating,” the seer said and waved her hands at the room as if that explained everything.
“I don’t have a bed,” Liam pointed out “Or my comfy chair, or my…anything!” he glared.
“It’s called Spartan. It’s really in,” Cordy continued “All the top movie stars have it.”
“Dad put you up to this didn’t he?” Liam growled. Cordy just stepped into the almost empty room.
“Uhhh, look you have one of those paper thin and uncomfortable bamboo roll up mattresses. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have those too.”
“I wasn’t planning on….on…getting lucky with Monica,” Liam mumbled and kicked the bamboo mattress.
“Hey, watch out! You’re disturbing the feng shuiness of the room,” Cordy scolded and put the bamboo mattress back in place.
b) Places where there are no parents, peroxide vampire uncles, no seers or witches, or watchers within eyesight.
“Well this is…kinda…awkward,” Jesse mumbled and looked around the restaurant.
“Are they always like this, Jesse?” Belinda asked and looked over her shoulder at the redhead and the older man with the glasses sitting at the table behind them. The redhead lifted her glass and smiled at Belinda.
“Pretty much,” Jesse nodded and took a gulp of Coca Cola. His sweaty hands made it hard to hold on to the long stemmed glass. He looked over at the couple sitting at the table next to them. One of the men waved enthusiastically at him.
“Hey Dad,” Jesse waved back, blushed and started shovelling food in his mouth.
c) Places where there is darkness, or near-darkness…like cemeteries.
“Daddy,” Liam groaned and grabbed a pillow and held it in his lap “We’re trying to watch a movie here.”
“I’m not blocking your view of the TV am I?” Xander asked innocently and turned around to look at his firstborn. Liam sank deeper into the couch, the girl next to him blushing and pulling on her wrinkled clothes.
“You don’t really need to do that tonight, do you?” Liam said and pointed at the bookcase his father was working on. Xander started assembling his work light and looked over his shoulder at Liam’s date.
“Nice dress, Louisa.” Xander complemented.
“Um…thanks Mr. Harris,” Louisa bit her lip and looked over at Liam. Xander flipped the switch and the work light turned on, blinding the two teenagers. Liam groaned and shuffled his feet.
“Is the light disturbing you guys?” Xander asked and tilted the lamp so it was pointed straight at the kids. Liam huffed and stood up.
“I’m gonna walk Louisa home now, Dad.” Liam glared at Xander.
“Bye Louisa,” Xander said and waved at the girl as she was dragged out of the TV-den. Angel stuck his head in a few seconds later and smiled.
“It worked?” he asked.
“Yeah,” Xander said and turned the work light off “It worked all right.”
“Good. If their moans were anything to go by it sounded as if…” Angel’s voice trailed off when Xander bent over picking the hammer up from the floor.
d) Places where the ambient temperature is warm enough to induce my daughter to wear shorts, tank tops, midriff t-shirts, or anything other than overalls, a sweater, and a goose down parka zipped up to her neck.
“Aunty Cordy! Please tell Dad I can’t go out like this!” Kathy said and pulled at her big warm sweater.
“Oh my God!” Cordy looked at the teenage girl wrapped in blue overalls and a pink sweater. Angel was standing next to Kathy. The tall vampire was holding a black goose down parka draped over his arm ”You look like Goodwill barfed on you!” the seer said and started helping the girl pull off the sweater.
”She’s going out with Paul,” Angel said. Cordy looked from Angel to the sweater in her hands.
”Hey…um…Cordy?” Kathy’s voice was muffled by the pink sweater. Her arms were in the air waiting for Cordy to pull the sweater all the way off and her face was buried inside the hated garment. Cordy pulled the sweater back down and reached out for the black goose down parka.
”What?…No!…Hey!” Kathy protested as she was manoeuvred into the parka and the zipper was zipped all the way up to her neck. She stood there, looking like a black Michelin man, glaring at them.
”Maybe a woollen hat and a scarf?” Cordy considered.
”Right here,” Angel grinned and grabbed the green hat and the blue scarf off the kitchen counter.
(e) Movies with a strong romantic or sexual theme are to be avoided; movies which feature chainsaws or the ritualistic killing of teenagers having sex are O.K.
“Intestines don’t do that?” a mocking voice from the row behind Liam snorted “Disembowelling is much harder than that too,” the voice kept going “There’s lots of muscles in the abdomen. Takes for bloody ever to cut through that.”
A hand reached past Kelly and into Liam’s popcorn. Liam closed his eyes and prayed for the earth to open up swallowing him and ending the torture.
“There’s nowhere near as much blood in the human body as these idiots making the movies seem to think,” another deeper voice said and Liam opened his eyes and looked at Kelly sitting next to him. Her mouth was a thin displeased line.
“Hey did ya see that?” the first voice asked with laughter when a teenage girl on the giant screen had her heart ripped out of her chest “Reminds me of the old days, that.”
“Well they broke the Horror Movie Law, didn’t they?” a voice, Liam knew belonged to the popcorn thief, offered.
“Horror Movie Law?” the deep voice from behind them asked.
“Yeah. You know?” the popcorn thief continued “If you’re a teenager and you’re camping in the woods you just can’t have sex. Not without getting killed right after.”
“Abstain,” the deep voice from the row behind Liam said.
Chapter 20: Almost seventeen
Kathy silently slid her key into the lock. The door made a tired small squeaky noise as it slowly opened and she froze, her hand clenching the door handle. Letting out a breath of air she hadn’t even been aware of holding back, she walked into the lobby and closed the door behind her as quietly as possible.
The lobby was dark. The large room seemed strangely small shrouded in darkness. She walked over to the stairs and made sure not to step on the old creaky board on the first step. Halfway to the first landing she stopped when the lobby was suddenly showered in light.
”And where do you think you’re going, young lady?” Xander asked.
Kathy turned and looked down at him. He was leaning against the wall, his finger hovering just above the light switch.
”I was…” Kathy pointed at the front door.
”I’ll tell you were you weren’t,” Xander said and walked across the lobby to stand at the bottom of the stairs, ”You weren’t in your room. You haven’t been in your room all night. Despite the fact that we told you we didn’t want you going to that party.”
”I was just having fun,” she tried to defend herself.
”We said no,” Kathy turned and looked over at the door to the small office, Angel was standing there.
”I’m almost seventeen,” Kathy stomped her foot, ”All the other girls were there.”
”We said no because you’re only almost seventeen,” Xander slowly folded the small blue blanket he had been holding in his right hand.
”You could have gotten hurt,” Angel said and rubbed a hand across his forehead and sighed.
”Not everybody’s a homicidal maniac waiting to kill us!” Kathy yelled.
”We’re just worried,” Angel mumbled, ”We’ve been waiting up all night, Kath.”
Kathy looked down at the blue blanket Xander was holding and frowned.
“I’m not Connor!” she said coldly. Xander’s knuckles turned white as he tightened his hold on the baby blanket. The silence in the room was deafening.
“Daddy…” Kathy almost whispered.
“Go to your room,” Angel growled.
Kathy walked down the long hallway. The door to Liam’s room opened and Liam stepped out into the hallway.
“Hey,” he mumbled and squinted sleepily at her. His boxer shorts were wrinkled and he was wearing a washed-out green t-shirt. Liam yawned and scratched his stomach, “What’s going on?”
“I screwed up,” Kathy said and kept walking. She stopped in front of the door to her own room.
“You okay?” Liam said and rubbed his nose with a fist.
“No,” Kathy said, opened the door, walked in and closed the door quietly behind her. She just stood there, staring at the bed. A knock on the door startled her enough to make her jump.
“Kathy?” Jesse whispered through the closed door.
“Go away, Jesse,” Kathy sighed and slumped down on the bed, “Don’t anybody ever listen?” she asked when the door opened enough for Jesse to stick his head inside.
“Heard you yelling in the lobby,” Jesse said and opened the door a little more. His hair was sticking up at the back of his head, his Loony Tunes shorts twisted a little to the left, leaving his right hip uncovered.
“Yeah…” Kathy closed her eyes.
“Liam says you fucked up,” Jesse reported.
“Rumor travels fast in this house,” Kathy looked up at the ceiling.
“You…Hey!“ Jesse looked over his shoulder as Liam pushed him into Kathy’s room.
“Dad’s pissed,” Liam said and slapped Jesse across his bare back.
“Ow, man!” Jesse jumped out of the way and scowled at his older brother.
“Wimp,” Liam laughed, “So,” he picked up an old battered doll from the dresser next to the door, “What’d you do?”
“Went to a party,” Kathy sulked, “And put that back.”
“A party?” Jesse grinned, “Any hot girls there?”
“No one special,” Kathy mumbled.
“What about guys?” Jesse persisted, “Any hot guys?”
“Do you always think with your dick?” Liam asked as he gently put the doll back on the dresser. The doll’s old purple dress was a little dusty but he still took the time to arrange it artfully around the sitting doll.
“Like you don’t,” Jesse threw back.
“You guys better go back to bed,” Kathy finally said after the boys had stared at the walls for a few seconds.
“Yeah,” Liam agreed and started pushing Jesse out the door.
“What’re the odds of going to a party where there’re no hot chicks OR hot guys?” Jesse asked just as Liam closed the door behind them.
Kathy stood outside her parents’ bedroom. The lamp over the door flickered every now and then in an annoying rhythm that made the numbers on the door look as if they were moving around.
She lifted her hand and was about to knock when she heard a soft murmur. It was impossible to make out what was being said but the soothing tone was easy to recognize. Her fingers flexed when she heard a quiet sob and her hand fell to her side.
The soft soothing voice followed her all the way down to her own room.
Kathy sighed and stretched, dislodging the fingers running through her hair. She opened her eyes and looked up at her father.
“Hi,” Xander said, his eyes were a little red and Kathy looked away.
“Hi,” Kathy whispered and pushed herself up by the elbows.
“You know…” Xander started.
“Daddy, I’m sorry. I‘m really…” Kathy interrupted.
“I know,” Xander tugged on a lock of her hair, “I also know that you’re not Connor…cause I know exactly where he was last night.”
“Daddy,” Kathy sat up, the blanket pooling around her.
“I sat there all night and just stared at the front door,” Xander took her hand and let his calloused fingers trace the blue veins under her skin, “I was so worried.”
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that about Connor,” Kathy’s fingers closed around her father’s.
“See…” Xander licked his lips, ”The thing is…we both have a job to do,” he smiled, ”I have to keep you safe and make sure you have everything you need to become the best version of you that you can be,” Kathy nodded, ”And you…” Xander continued, ”have to make me obsolete. You have to grow up so that you don’t need me to take care of you. But the time hasn’t come for me to let go yet. You’re still just a kid.”
“I’m seventeen,” Kathy mumbled.
“And you want to be treated like an adult,” Xander nodded, “I know. I know you desperately want us to stop fussing. Stop getting in your way…But that’s our job. And I like to think that we do a damn good job, me and Angel,” Xander cupped Kathy’s face, “You are not Connor. You’re Kathy. And we love you for that. Even when you yell at us and sneak out at night.”
“So I’m not grounded?” Kathy asked hopefully.
“Ppffth,” Xander shook his head, “You are so grounded that you’ll be lucky if you ever see the sun again.”
“But I promised Jenny I’d come over tomorrow and help her choose an outfit for her date with Tom,” the teenage girl whined.
“Sorry, Honey,” Xander simply said as he got up from the bed and walked over to the door.
“She’ll stop hanging out with me. She’s one of the really popular girls! I thought you loved me?” Kathy pleaded.
“This,” Xander said and waved his hand back and forth between them, “Is called tough love. So suck it up, girl, or you’ll have to clean all the toilets in the hotel with your toothbrush.”
“That isn’t fair,” Kathy pouted.
Xander turned in the doorway and smiled at her, “It’s not a race, you know. Don’t rush. There’s no reason to grown up too fast. You’ll get a boring job and a mortgage soon enough,” he said as he closed the door.
Chapter 21: Home movies...or We're never gonna talk about this again!
“Damn I’m bored!” Liam groaned as he stretched on the couch in the Tv-den. Jesse opened his mouth as if he was about to say something but Liam held up his hand and said “If you mention Monopoly I’ll kill you.”
“Aw man, come on.” Jesse whined “Why don’t you guys want to play?”
“You cheat, jerk.” Kathy entered the room with a huge bowl of popcorn.
“I so don’t cheat!” Jesse huffed and crossed his arms over his chest.
“Jesse,” Liam sighed and looked at his little brother “There’s no such thing as a thousand dollar bill in Monopoly.”
“There is in this game,” Jesse said.
“Yeah?” Kathy dumped the bowl of popcorn in Liam’s lap and sat down on the couch “Then why is it you always seem to be the only one who has them?”
“Well that’s just…you know…coincidence,” Jesse tried to explain.
“Yeah, Dumbo. You coincidentally cheat,” Liam laughed.
“Idiot,” Jesse sulked.
“Moron,” Liam shot back.
“Wankers,” Kathy said.
“I so don’t!” Jesse denied just as Liam said “Hey!”
“Oh please,” Kathy laughed “So those flesh hitting flesh sounds the two of you always seem to make while you’re taking showers is just you guys meticulously cleaning yourselves?
”Oh my God,” Liam groaned and Jesse’s ears turned bright red.
"So what’s on tonight?” Kathy smirked and picked up the remote.
“Reruns of reruns I think,” Jesse answered.
“For once we have the hotel to ourselves and then there’s nothing on,” Liam stretched and yawned.
“Daddy has some old TV-shows up in the closet,” Jesse said as he ate a handful of popcorn, spraying them all over the place.
“Then go get them, Dumbo.” Liam suggested.
“Man, forget about ancient TV-shows! I struck gold,” Jesse came in juggling a huge pile of video tapes and DVDs.
“What's that?” Liam said and sat up in the comfy couch.
“Home movies,” Jesse smiled “Who knows we might just get to ogle your naked baby butt, Liam.”
“You wish,” Liam took the video tape on the top. The rest of the tapes were put on the floor next to the TV. Kathy and Jesse leant back and let Liam get the video playing.
“Hey…Is that Aunty Cordy?” Kathy asked when a younger version of the seer came into view. She was pointing at the camera and talking to the person filming. “She hasn’t changed that much.”
“Naw, still looking good,” Liam nodded and fast forwarded.
“Hey that’s Daddy!” Jesse pointed at the screen “No wonder people sometimes think he’s our big brother.” They watched their fathers and their family for a few minutes. Laughing every time they caught sight of mini-Liam stumbling around the hotel.
Suddenly they all grew quiet.
“I didn’t know they…filmed him,” Kathy whispered as they saw Angel holding a small bundle protectively to his chest. A tiny pale face surrounded by a baby blue blanket.
“Man…that’s just…so fucking sad,” Jesse mumbled and reached out putting a hand on Kathy’s arm. The scene changed and they watched Xander slowly dress the lifeless baby, stopping every few seconds to wipe his own eyes. A soft murmur from somewhere behind the camera made Xander look up and Liam couldn’t help looking away.
“Do you remember any of this? I mean do you remember him?” Kathy asked and looked over at Liam.
“Not really.” the teenager said “I remember…sadness. You know? Like everyone was sad and Dad and Daddy were…I don’t know…” Liam’s voice broke and he looked down at his own hands.
“You think they still…,” Jesse began.
“Miss him?” Kathy said. Jesse just nodded.
“Yeah, they do.” Liam answered “They still talk about him…They still visit him at the cemetery on his birthday.”
“I always feel awkward when they bring us there,” Jesse admitted “I mean, I didn’t know him. None of us did. It just feels like we’re intruding.”
“Oh man, look at that!” Kathy suddenly giggled and Jesse and Liam both looked back at the screen. An almost toothless Liam was in game face, drool dripping from his mouth and growling at the camera. “Liam the fangless vamp,” Kathy teased.
Liam pounced on his grinning little sister and snarled at her, letting her see his game face up close.
“Not so fangless now!” he growled and started tickling Kathy.
“Gonna peeeeeeee!” the girl squealed and Liam was pushed off her and ended up wrestling Jesse on the floor. They were both in game face and Liam finally managed to hold his squirming little brother down.
“I van ta suck yar bloooodddddddd,” Liam said and had his fangs inches from Jesse’s neck when he was hit in the face with a pillow.
“Guys the movie ended,” she said “Lets see what’s on this one.“ She ejected the first tape and replaced it with a new one.
“It’s just static,” Jesse said as he climbed back on to the couch.
“Try fast forwarding it,” Liam said and picked up the bowl of popcorn. Jesse tried to take a handful but was met by Liam’s game face. Popcorn was stuck between the fangs.
“That’s just disgusting, man!” Jesse huffed. A shriek made the two boys turn their attention back to Kathy and the TV-screen.
“Fuck!” Liam mumbled, his hand hovering, with a handful of popcorn, halfway to his mouth.
“Is that…” Jesse said, his eyes glued to the screen.
“Yeah…it’s…they’re having…doing…um…” Kathy stuttered.
“Each other,” Liam said as the popcorn fell from his hand and down on the carpet.
“We shouldn’t watch this…should we?” Jesse stood up but didn’t move away from the couch.
“No,” Liam croaked, his empty hand still hovering in the air.
“Turn it off?” Kathy asked, her hand gripping the edge of the TV.
“Yeah,” Liam nodded.
All three teenagers stood still as the video was ejected and the TV was turned off. The room was deadly quiet.
“We’re never gonna talk about this again,” Jesse said.
“Talk about what?” Liam asked as he looked at his empty hand.
“Exactly,” Kathy nodded and they quietly picked the popcorn off the floor and made sure the pillows were back in place.
“I’ll go put those back,“ Jesse pointed at the videos and DVDs on the floor. He picked them up as if they might explode and shuffled out of the room.
“You think maybe Aunt Willow has some kind of spell that’ll erase it from our minds?” Kathy asked and glanced at the TV.
Chapter 22: Premonition
The warm water felt like caressing fingers as it slowly flowed down their bodies.
“Hell of a way to spend date night,” Angel mumbled and scrubbed the bath sponge against Xander’s shoulder.
“Yeah,” Xander nodded and flexed his bruised shoulder, “I was planning for us to shower together but demon slime wasn’t anywhere in my fantasy.”
“Poor baby,” Angel said and scrubbed harder to get the crusted slime off Xander’s skin.
“You going to make it all better?” Xander turned and Angel started working on the green slime that had dried on the human’s neck.
“Too tired,” Angel admitted.
“Yeah, me too,” Xander sighed and turned the warm water up a few notches. His skin slowly turned red under the heat of the water.
“The kids are over at Cordy’s. We have a rare teenage-free night and all we do is get covered in slime…” Angel squirted some more shower gel on the sponge.
“Is it harmful in any way?” Xander asked. He was picking dried gunk off his wrist. He winced when he realized the small hairs on his hands and arms were stuck in the slime.
Angel took Xander’s wrist in his hand and started rubbing the soapy sponge against the dried gunk gently, “Don’t think so. Wesley’ll tell us when he identifies the demon.”
“He’s hitting the books?” Xander looked relieved when the slime started loosening from his skin and went down the drain with the dirty water, “Guess his and Fred’s date night got screwed too.”
“He did seem kind of disappointed,” Angel nodded and rinsed them both one last time. Xander turned the water off and stepped out of the bathtub. Angel pressed the last water out of the sponge and dumped it in the trashcan.
“At least Spike didn’t get slimed,” Xander said and started drying off with a big fluffy towel.
“Bet he’s covered in fledge dust, though,” Angel took the towel from Xander and started drying the human’s arms, “Buffy says Sunnydale has been run over with them lately.”
“It’s good Spike went to help her,” Xander said and brushed a hand through his unruly dark hair.
Angel sat down on the toilet lid and started gently drying off Xander’s flat stomach. His cool hands ghosted over the soft skin just below Xander’s bellybutton.
“Angel?” Xander looked down at him and put his own hands over the vampire’s. They stood there, a frozen tableau, both of them covering Xander’s stomach.
“I know,” Angel didn’t move his hands.
“I’m not ready yet…” Xander said.
“I know,” Angel repeated and looked up at Xander.
“When I’m ready, we’ll try, okay?” Xander promised and rubbed his fingers over the back of Angel’s hands.
“Take all the time you want,” Angel kissed Xander’s stomach and felt strong fingers cart through his damp hair, “I know Jesse’s birth took a lot out of you…and…” Angel’s voice trailed off.
A sad silence filled the bathroom.
Finally Xander sighed, “You want me to warm you a mug of blood?”
Angel stood up and started drying his own chest with the towel, “You going downstairs?”
“Thought I’d get a cup of hot chocolate before bed.”
“Make it two mugs of blood for me and it’s a date,” Angel’s voice was muffled by the thick towel as he dried his hair.
Xander flipped the switch and the overhead light flickered on. He rummaged through the fridge and pulled out two blood bags. He found three mugs and poured one of the blood bags into the blue mug.
Suddenly shivers ran down his spine and Xander shrugged his shoulders attempting to fight off the odd feeling. He plugged the electric kettle in and pinched the bridge of his nose. He straightened up and put the mug of blood in the microwave oven.
“Man, I’m tired,” he mumbled and took the little can of chocolate drink powder and dropped two spoonfuls into his mug. The microwave beeped and Xander took Angel’s blue mug out of it. He filled the third mug with blood from the last bag and put it in the microwave oven.
The kettle’s light turned green and he turned it off and poured the hot water over the powder.
Dragging his feet he walked over to the kitchen table and sat down on one of the six chairs. He sniffed the hot chocolate and closed his eyes. Shivers ran through him again.
The kitchen door opened behind him and footsteps screeched against the linoleum tiles.
“This for Dad?” the microwave made a clicking noise as it was opened.
“Yeah, just leave it on the counter,” Xander said and took a sip of the chocolate, “He’ll drink it later.”
“Better get here quick,” the kid said, “Cold blood tastes like crap.”
“Hey,” Xander sleepily grumbled.
“Sorry,” the teenager sat down on the chair opposite his father.
“S’oaky. You done with your project?” Xander asked.
“Almost,” Connor said, “Liam helped me with the computer when Kathy couldn’t figure it out. I just need to find some cool music for the PowerPoint presentation.”
“You could ask Lorne to help you pick something out,” Xander suggested, leant back in his chair and studied his son.
The teenager had grown almost two inches in what seemed like as many months. His ocean blue eyes would certainly make him a favorite with the girls once he started filling out. The teenager ran a hand through his brown slightly - at least according to Angel - too long hair.
“Come on, Daddy,” he protested, “He’ll make me listen to Diana Ross!”
“Okay, okay,” Xander smiled and held his hands up in the air.
“I’ll just try to get something quiet. Maybe…um… classical music,” Connor mumbled and tapped the table with his fingers.
“So?” Xander asked when the boy seemed reluctant to say what was on his mind.
“So…I’m thinking about taking art classes,” Connor said and looked a little embarrassed.
“Yeah,” Conner drawled, “Miss Schuler has this really great art class where you get to try out different arts and stuff.”
“Sounds good,” Xander said and drank the last of his chocolate.
“Um…I’ll have to stop playing basketball.”
“You want to do the art class more than basketball?” Xander watched his son as the boy clenched his jaw and looked very much like Angel.
“I really want this art class and I’m pretty good at drawing. I mean, not as good as Jesse cause he’s…you know,” Connor shrugged.
“So stop basketball and start art class,” Xander’s words made the teenager smile.
“Who’re you talking to?” Xander turned in his seat and looked at Angel standing in the doorway.
“I was just talking to…” he turned back and stared at the empty chair opposite his own.
“Are you okay?” Angel asked. He walked over and crouched down next to Xander’s chair and looked up at him.
“I was…” Xander looked from the chair to Angel, “I think maybe I’m hallucinating.”
“Not necessarily,” Wesley said as he came into the kitchen with an old book in his hands, “The demon you vanquished tonight was an Cartesian. A dimension opener also known as a gate keeper.”
“What do they do?” Angel asked. He stood up and pulled out the chair next to Xander and sat down. Xander leant a little over so their shoulders were touching.
“Well,” Wesley said and started pulling the chair opposite Xander out.
“Don’t!” Xander almost yelled. He blushed when both Angel and Wesley studied him, “Just… um… could you sit there instead?” he pointed at the chair next to the one Wesley was intending to sit in.
“Of course,” Wesley nodded and pushed the chair back only to pull its neighbor out and sit down, “As I was saying,” he opened the book and lovingly pressed the frail pages down, “The Cartesian demons have the power to open doorways to other dimensions.”
“Like hell dimensions?” Angel asked.
“Yes…But also other dimensions like ours,” Wesley said and pressed his index finger on a specific part of the Latin text.
“I’m not sure…” Angel began but Wesley continued.
“Imagine a dimension where Hitler managed to take over all of Europe and maybe America as well,” Wesley closed the book, “Or perhaps one where slavery wasn’t abolished.”
“Different versions,” Xander mumbled, “Placed where things took a different path.”
“Indeed,” Wesley nodded.
“So we got covered in Cartesian slime and now we can open the gates to other dimensions?” Angel didn’t look thrilled.
“No. See if a human comes into contact with the slime, blood or…eh…other bodily secretions of the Cartesian then they can see into other dimensions…perhaps feel like a part of that dimension for a short while.”
“What I saw was real?” Xander asked hopefully.
“Yes,” Wesley smiled, “Whatever you saw was real. Just as real as our own dimension.”
“What did you see?” Angel asked Xander.
“Later…” Xander patted the vampire’s arm, “I’ll tell you about it later,” he said and couldn’t stop smiling.
Chapter 23: No bananas or condoms allowed
“Is it just me or are you guys scared to death as well?” Jesse asked and fidgeted on the kitchen chair. Liam was staring into his mug of hot chocolate. He just nodded.
“If they start mentioning bananas I’m so out of here,” Kathy said and slumped down on the chair next to Jesse, “I just can’t go through that again.”
“They’ve been acting really weird lately,” Liam said and looked up at his siblings.
“What do you mean? Weird?” Kathy tilted her head, her ponytail brushing against her shoulder.
“Whoa!” Jesse put a hand up as if he was trying to ward Liam off, “You mean…like weirder than usual?”
“Uh huh,” Liam nodded.
“Holy shit!” Kathy whispered.
“Did you bring any bananas?” Jesse blurted out the second Xander and Angel entered the kitchen.
“Bananas?” Angel frowned.
“Just promise us there won’t be any bananas,” Kathy demanded.
“I’m not really expecting bananas to be a part of this conversation,” Xander shook his head and looked at Angel standing next to him.
“Or condoms,” Liam added and looked at Kathy and Jesse, “We don’t wanna hear about those either.”
“Okay,” Xander said.
“So we agree?” Kathy asked.
“Agree?” Angel looked slightly confused.
“No bananas or condoms,” Jesse said.
“Um…sure,” Angel agreed.
“Any other fruits you don’t want us to mention?” Xander asked.
“So…um…” Xander started and looked down at his hands, they were resting on the battered kitchen table, knuckles a little white.
“Yes…” Angel said supportively.
“Um…yes…you see,” Xander licked his dry lips, “It’s like this…ah…hmmm…”
“You’re not gonna die? Are you?” Jesse said and looked from Xander to Angel.
“Oh my God!” Kathy put a hand over her mouth.
“What?” Angel stood up so fast his chair crashed against the floor.
“No, no. Angel, damn, you know what I’m gonna tell them. Why the he…heck are you freaking out?”
“Oh…right yes…um…” Angel sheepishly picked the chair up and sat back down, “We’re not dying.”
“Oh…okay,” Kathy said and calmed down.
“Man, I could eat,” Xander looked over at the fridge.
“What do you want?” Angel asked, got up and walked over to the fridge. He opened it and looked at Xander enquiringly.
“We got any off that chocolate milk left?” Xander smacked his lips.
“Yeah,” Angel put the bottle on the kitchen counter, “Got some of those chocolate chip cookie dough things as well. You want some?” he looked questioningly at Xander.
“Oh yeah,” Xander nodded, “Got any raw meat?”
Jesse looked at Kathy, she shrugged and poked Liam in the arm. Their older brother was looking kinda sick.
“Please God, no,” Liam whispered.
“Hmmm…Is raw hamburger meat okay?” Angel bent over and searched the fridge for the elusive dead cow.
“Sure,” Xander got up and walked over to stand behind Angel, he narrowed his eyes, “Is that some of those Chinese take out leftovers I see tucked behind your bags of blood?”
“I think so,” Angel passed the small white boxes over to Xander.
“Great,” Xander grinned, put the boxes on the counter and plugged in the blender.
“Liam?” Kathy hissed. Liam just started banging his head against the table.
“What’s wrong with him?” Jesse asked.
“They. Are. Gonna. Have. Another. Kid.” every word was accompanied by Liam head butting the kitchen table.
“What?” Kathy looked over at their fathers.
Xander was humming and putting the Chinese take out leftovers in the blender together with the raw meat and the cookie dough. He topped it off by pouring the thick chocolate milk over it. Angel was standing behind him, rubbing his big hand against Xander’s back.
“No way,” Jesse said and looked pleadingly at Liam.
Chapter 24: Deep regular breaths
“It’s weird,” Kathy whispered and looked down at the small body wrapped in the green blanket.
“Yeah,” Jesse was standing next to her, close enough for her to feel his warm breath on her cheek. Kathy rubbed her thumb over the silent heart.
“How’s Daddy doing?” she turned her head and looked over at Liam. Her older brother was pale, he looked tired. Liam’s fingers flexed around the crib bars.
“He’s still sleeping,” Liam’s voice was gruff, “It was pretty rough.”
“Look at those tiny fingernails,” Jesse leant over the side of the crib and gently took the baby’s cool hand in his. He traced each tiny, white fingernail with the warm tip of his index finger.
“She’s beautiful,” Kathy said quietly and removed her hand from the motionless chest.
“She’s perfect,” Liam agreed and tucked the green blanket tighter around the cool body.
The baby gave a jerk as if she had been surprised and opened her eyes. She squinted, her golden eyes trying to focus on the faces hovering over her.
“She’s awake,” Jesse said and looked expectantly at Kathy.
“Why’re you looking at me?” Kathy asked.
“You’re a girl,” Jesse pointed out.
“So?” Kathy frowned at her little brother.
“So you pick her up…” Jesse continued uncertainly.
“Because I’m a girl,” Kathy finished for him. The narrowed golden eyes observed them from the crib.
“You’ve got the whole maternal thing…going…” Jesse took a step back when Kathy’s brow went from smooth to ridged for a split second.
“Man,” Liam grinned at Jesse, “You are so fucked.”
A loud shriek from the nursery made Angel look over at the stairs.
“What‘s going on?” Cordy asked.
“If they wake the baby up I’ll rip their entrails out,” Angel grumbled and started walking up the stairs.
“What’s going on here!” Angel demanded to know.
Liam was standing by the crib, a big grin on his face. Angel glared at him and the grin disappeared. Kathy and Jesse were fighting on the floor. Kathy was sitting on Jesse’s back, her hand curled tightly around a handful of her little brother’s dark hair.
“He said I was maternal,” she hissed and flashed her fangs at Jesse.
“She bit me, Dad,” Jesse shrieked and pressed a hand against his neck.
“If you woke up Joyce…” Angel warned and walked past the fighting teenagers and over to the crib. He reached in and lifted the baby girl up. She gurgled and started whining.
“She wasn’t crying before,” Jesse said from the floor, Kathy had him pinned down with a knee to his back, “Honestly…”
“What’s with all the shrieking and yelling?” Xander mumbled from the pile of blankets and pillows on the bed.
“Jesse called Kathy maternal,” Angel said softly and toed off his shoes before he scooted on to the bed. Joyce was resting against his chest. Her small fingers tangled in the soft fabric of his shirt.
“Wow. Did he survive?” Xander chuckled sleepily.
“Barely,” Angel lifted his arm so Xander could rest his head on his shoulder.
“How’s she doing?” Xander rested his warm hand on the small cool back. The baby wriggled and pushed back against her father’s hand, seeking out the warmth.
“She got cranky when they interrupted her sleep,” Angel whispered as he watched the small golden eyes open and close, fighting to stay awake.
“Poor baby Joyce,” Xander kissed the slightly ridged forehead. She frowned and made a small needy sound just as she finally capitulated and fell asleep.
Xander reached down and pulled the thick blanket over the three of them and curled around Angel and Joyce.
Soon all that could be heard in the room was Xander’s deep regular breaths.
Chapter 25: Helpless
“Open up!” the voice coming through the door insisted.
“No! Go away, Troy!” she begged and looked frantically around the hallway hoping to spot something she could use for a weapon. The pounding on the front door stopped abruptly. She stood still, her own ragged breath the only thing she could hear.
“Get away from that phone,” Liam said as he walked down the stairs, Joyce cradled in his arms.
“I was only looking,” Jesse frowned and stomped away from the desk.
“Yeah,” Liam put Joyce down on the floor, “You keep telling yourself that.”
“Guys seriously,” Kathy closed her history book, her notes on the French Revolution pushed between the pages as a bookmark.
“I was only looking,” Jesse repeated.
“With your fingers,” Liam pointed out.
“Oh Mister High-and-Mighty,” Jesse whined in a high pitched voice, “You’re just totally taking advantage of everybody being out on that demon hunt.”
“You bet your scrawny ass I am,” Liam grinned and looked down when Joyce grabbed on to the leg of his jeans. She tilted her head back, looked up at him and slowly got to her feet. Liam reached down and took her chubby cool hand.
“At least I’m not on diaper-duty tonight,” Jesse smirked at Kathy.
“That’s only because you used that athlete’s foot powder on her butt in stead of the baby powder,” Liam snarled at his little brother.
“They were both standing there,” Jesse tried to defend himself, “How the hell was I supposed to know which one to take?”
“One had a foot on fire on the label the other had a baby,” Kathy got up from the couch and let the thick school book land on it with a muffled thump, “I can see how that would have been really confusing.”
“Come on, baby!” Troy kept begging, “Open the door. We need to talk.”
“No we don’t!” she frantically looked through her purse. Where had she put it?
“Sarah? Baby, I love you. You know that, right?” Troy’s deep voice asked pleadingly.
“No, Troy,” Sarah started pulling everything out of the red leather purse, “You loved me. Loved. Past tense.”
“Aw, don’t be like that,” Troy sulked. She angrily pushed the lipstick away and threw the little package of tissues across the room.
“Honey…” Troy sounded tired.
“You fucked up, Troy,” her trembling fingers closed around a small card, “You shouldn’t have been driving when you were that drunk.”
“I was just a teeny-weeny bit drunk,” he protested, “I was good to drive.”
“Yeah,” Sarah fumbled with her cell phone, “Good to drive right into a tree and get yourself killed.”
“Hey! That’s totally uncalled for,” Troy banged his hands against the door making it shake a little.
“You died! Died! Why the hell won’t you just stay dead?” Sarah finally managed to punch in the number written on the business card.
Jesse jumped in surprise at the phone’s loud ringing. He looked over at Kathy then his eyes slowly turned to Liam.
“Jesse…” Liam said warningly as he watched Jesse’s hand hover over the phone.
“Angel Investigation,” a happy voice said, “We’re helpless. OW! What the fuck, Liam?” Sarah looked at her cell phone as if it was possessed.
“Um…Hallo?” she tried.
“Why the hell did you head slap me?” the voice on the other end sounded upset and as if it was coming from far away. “What do you mean I didn’t say it right? I totally did!” the voice had turned whiny.
“H-hallo…hallo?” Sarah jumped when she heard Troy bang his fists against the door again.
“Oh crap!” the voice on the other end of the line said. A great amount of rattling and a noise that sounded as if the phone was getting pushed across a tabletop made Sarah wince. “Hallo?” The whiny voice sounded apologetic, “Could you hang up and call us again. I really need to practice this answering the phone thing. Thanks. Bye.”
A click and then the relentless beeping of the phone.
“You jerk!” Liam ripped the phone out of Jesse’s hand.
“What if the caller’s been drained by vamps because you’re such a dork?!” Kathy asked, stomped past Joyce crawling on the floor and over to the phone. Jesse seemed to shrink as his two older siblings stared daggers at him.
“Well…” he swallowed and tried again, “Miss Perfect why don’t you take the next call?” Jesse dared Kathy.
The phone started ringing. Liam’s large hand landed on Jesse’s shoulder pinning him to the chair by the desk. Kathy stared at the phone and picked it up.
“Angel Investigation. We help the helpless!” a pleasant voice said.
“Hallo?” Sarah ducked behind the couch when Troy started rattling the door handle wildly.
“Open the door!”
“Can we help you?” the pleasant voice asked uncertainly.
“Y-yes…It’s my boyfriend he’s…this is going to sound crazy but…He’s dead and now he’s banging on my front door demanding that I open it…”
“Okay,” the sound of a pen writing on paper floated through the phone, “When you say he’s dead…” the voice paused, “What kind of dead is he?”
“W-what kind?” Sarah looked over at the door just in time to see the door shudder as Troy slammed his whole body against it. The wood creaked. “The pissed off kind?” she whispered.
“Oh…” the sound of the pen writing stopped, “I kinda meant if he’s a vampire or a ghost.”
“Vampire?” Sarah unconsciously rubbed a hand against her neck.
“Has he tried to bite you?”
“No,” she said and pulled a blanket off the couch to wrap around herself, “He just wants me to open the door.”
“Did you invite him in after he died?” the sound of writing began again.
“No…He got buried a month ago…he’s dead but he’s standing on my front step.”
“Hmmm…” Sarah could hear muffled voices and then the pleasant voice came back, “We think we can help but it might be a while. See…we’re just taking calls, we don’t actually go out on cases and my D…I mean our boss is currently out handling another case right now.”
“But but…” Sarah stuttered.
“Could you give me your address?” the voice interrupted.
“Pacific Ocean Road, it’s the small red house at the end of the road,” she said loudly in order to drown out the noises coming from the front door.
“Do you think you could wait an hour or so?”
“NO!” she yelled into the phone, “My front door is gonna be history before then.”
“Look…um…we’ll send someone over there as soon as possible. All right?”
“Daddy’s gonna ground us for life,” Kathy said as she buckled Joyce into the baby car seat. The toddler started whining and fidgeting. Her small chubby arms and legs pushing the blanket Kathy had draped over her off.
“We can’t just let that woman get hurt,” Liam dumped a duffle bag into the trunk of the car. It made a clattering metallic noise, “We can’t get in contact with Dad or Daddy or anyone else from the team…”
“It’s the magic cloaking thingy,” Kathy finally just pulled the blanket off the irate toddler.
“Magic thingy?” Jesse asked and looked at Kathy in the rear-view mirror, “That’s some fancy witch talk you’ve got there, sis.”
“Shut up, Jesse,” Kathy sighed.
“Jesse,” Liam said as he closed the trunk and walked over to the driver’s seat.
“What?” Jesse said as he finished buckling in and grabbed the steering wheel.
“Get your ass in the backseat,” Liam reached in and unbuckled the younger boy.
“Why can’t I drive?” Jesse asked.
“You haven’t got a drivers license yet,” Kathy said matter-of-factly and grinned at Jesse.
“I don’t know about you guys but I’m not really in a hurry to get myself killed,” Jesse looked from Liam to Kathy. They were parked a few houses from the little red house at the end of the road.
“Look…I’ll just go and…” Liam waved a hand in the general direction of the small house.
“You’ll wave him to death?” Jesse asked.
“I’ll go get a closer look,” Liam snapped, “We still have no idea what we’re dealing with here.”
“If it’s a vamp then we should dust it,” Kathy pulled a stake out of her coat pocket.
“Could be a ghost,” Jesse looked over at the man standing on the front step of the house.
“Wouldn’t he be see-through then?” Liam frowned, “How do we kill a ghost, anyway?”
“All my info on ghosts is from Ghostbusters…” Jesse slumped back in his seat. A cool chubby hand latched on to his wrist. Joyce’s golden eyes were filled with laughter and she squealed and bounced in her seat.
“I don’t think we should leave her in the car,” Kathy accepted the dagger Liam handed her from the duffle bag he‘d slung over his shoulder.
“Jesse, you’re gonna stay with Joyce,” Liam ordered.
“That’s so unfair. Just cause you’re older you think you can…” Jesse stopped talking when Liam grabbed on to his arm and pulled him over to the car.
“Listen up,” Liam said and pushed Jesse against the side of the car, “If anything happens I’m counting on you getting Joyce out of here. You get that?”
“Yeah…” Jesse wasn’t sure how to react.
“Open the door!” the large man said and banged on the front door with clenched fists.
“Hey!” Liam said loud enough to startle the man, who turned and glared at them. His clothes were crumpled, the dark dress shirt had dark spots of dirt on the chest.
“Who the hell are you?” he pointed his large index finger at Liam, his fingernails were torn and dirty.
“You could use a manicure,” Kathy said and nodded at the dead guy’s hand. Liam slowly turned and just stared at her in disbelief. The dead man looked curiously at his fingernails.
“What?” Kathy just shrugged her shoulders, “He could.”
“Right…” Liam said slowly and turned his attention back to the tall man in front of the door, “Your ex-girlfriend called us and asked us to get rid of you,” Liam said sternly.
“Ex-girlfriend?” the man looked surprised, “She’s breaking up with me?”
“Just go away, Troy!” a frantic voice pleaded from inside the house.
“Look…Troy,” Kathy tried in a friendly voice, “You’re dead. You do know that, right?”
“Sure I know that,” Troy scratched his grey cheek, “But I promised her.”
Jesse was tapping his fingers on the headrest of the driver’s seat and humming tunelessly. Joyce babbled softly and shifted uneasily in her car seat.
“Yeah,” Jesse said, “I know how you’re feeling. Restless huh?”
Joyce looked up at him and tilted her head. A few locks of light brown curls fell into her face and she rubbed at them with her chubby hands, Jesse leant over and ran his warm hand over her cool ridged forehead.
“Let them do all the grunt work,” he grinned at her.
“Look,” Liam put the duffle bag down on the ground, knelt down and unzipped it, “Could you just tell us if you’re a demon, a vampire or a zombie?” Liam held up a stake in one hand and a small book of spells in the other.
“Why?” Troy looked worriedly at the stake.
“Well…see…um…” Liam tried, “I need to know what weapon to use.”
“Babe,” Troy turned around and yelled, his nose pressed against the hard wood, “They’re gonna try to kill me. You want them to do that?”
“You’re dead,” Sarah said said from behind the door, “I cried at the funeral and for weeks after. I can’t deal with you hanging around like this.”
“But I love you,” Troy said, unaware of Liam standing behind him practicing his stake holding, “I promised to love you forever.”
“Awww,” Kathy whispered.
“And then you got yourself killed,” Sarah’s voice sounded as if it was closer to the door.
“Yeah,” Troy rested his forehead against the door, “I messed up, babe. Real bad. But I promised forever and not just until death do us part.”
“Liam, stop looking for spells,” Kathy said and wiped a tear from her cheek.
“If he’s a zombie I think there’s a spell…” Liam mumbled and thumbed through the book’s extremely thin pages.
“Forever?” Sarah asked through the door.
“Yeah… I understand if you don’t want a dead guy hanging around… so I’ll just,” Troy waved his hand in the air.
“You destroy the brain, right?” Liam mumbled and picked up a hammer from the duffle bag, “With zombies it’s the brain… I watched Dawn of the Dead…” his voice faded out as he hefted the hammer.
There was a small squeak as the door opened an inch, just enough for a pair of beautiful blue eyes to peek out. Kathy grabbed hold of the hammer just as Liam started lifting it above his head, ready to smash it into Troy’s skull.
“You loved me enough to come back from the dead?” Sarah asked disbelievingly.
“I loved you enough to claw my way out of my coffin,” Troy said and smiled at her.
“Oh, Troy,” Sarah said and opened the door, stepped out and flung her arms around the man’s big body.
“Wait a minute,” Liam said and pointed at the happy reunited couple, “So you don’t want us to kill him?”
“No,” Sarah said and stood on tiptoe so she could kiss Troy.
“Oh,” Liam deflated and looked down at the hammer in his hand.
“I guess sooner or later you just gotta go with it,” Jesse was leaning conspiratorially against the car seat with tiny Mickey Mouses on it, “Time passes, baby deer get their antlers…you know shit happens… well not shit cause you’re not allowed to say shit, so you know, don’t repeat this conversation to Dad. He’ll go all Angelus-y on me with the growling and the overhanging frowning forehead.”
Joyce looked at him seriously, her little nose wrinkled as if she smelled something bad.
“What I’m trying to say, man to man…well man to baby… is that…” Jesse turned so he could look into the toddler’s golden eyes, “You have a seriously weird family. You’ll sometimes wonder why the hell…heck…why the heck you ended up in this one. But really,” Jesse looked out the window and watched Liam pack his duffle bag while Kathy looked at the dead guy and his girlfriend with a sappy smile, “It’s all good. Liam might act like a hard ass and Kathy might be a snotty cow sometimes…you’re lucky I’m so cool…anyway…you can always count on them being there for you. Always.”
“I’m gonna put Joyce to bed,” Liam said and walked up the stairs with a very sleepy Joyce in his arms. She put her small chubby arms around his neck and gave him a big noisy kiss on the cheek.
“Good,” Kathy looked at her watch, “I guess I can manage to read the rest of my homework before I crash,” she started walking up the stairs, turned and looked down at Jesse. He was slumped on the couch, “Hey, Jesse.”
“What?” Jesse craned his neck so he could looked up at her.
“You did real good today…Liam thought so too, but you know him,” Kathy smiled.
“Yeah,” Jesse nodded, “Thanks.”
“Go to bed soon, okay,” she said as she reached the top of the stairs.
“Sweet dreams, Kathy,” Jesse said.
“You too, Dumbo,” Kathy’s voice drifted down into the lobby.
Chapter 26: Disagreement
“Oh oh oh fuck yeah,” Xander moaned, “Harder…just a little yeah oh ooohhh.”
“Xander, stop pushing back…” Angel panted, “or this ends real quick.”
“Just…” Xander rested his forehead against the sweat soaked pillow, “Think about something else.”
“What?” Angel clenched his jaw.
“Baseball,” Xander sighed and tried to push back but Angel’s fingers were digging into his hips.
“I…don’t watch…baseball,” Angel groaned.
“Basketball…no you don’t follow that either,” Xander sighed.
“Demons,” Angel decided.
“Really?” Xander asked.
“Yeah…describe a d-demon and I’ll try naming it,” Angel said, not moving an inch.
“We’re having sex and you want us to play Name-that-demon?”
“Unless you want this to end right now, then yeah,” Angel’s fingers stroked up and down Xander’s flanks.
“This is incredible…” Xander rolled his eyes, “Okay. Green skinned and red eyed. Little horns.”
“You gotta do something harder,” Angel said.
“You should do me harder,” Xander muttered.
“Okay. I’ll start then,” Angel continued, “Grey skin, four legs, one yellow eye and two white ones…”
“Q’kanas,” Xander answered.
“Yeah,” Angel nodded.
“You ready yet?” Xander looked over his shoulder at Angel.
“What’s that demon with the grey skin, four legs and two black eyes?” Angel seemed to be thinking deeply.
“W’k’lomdk?” Xander suggested.
“Nooo,” Angel shook his head, “Those have slimy blue skin, remember?”
“No, they don’t,” Xander denied, “They have grey skin, four legs and two black glowing eyes. W’k’lomdk. I’m sure of it.”
“You’re wrong,” Angel said.
“Look,” Xander said and pushed up on his elbows, “I helped slay one of those back in Sunnydale and thrust me when I tell you it didn’t have slimy skin, blue or otherwise.”
“You’re remembering it wrong then.”
“I can’t believe I’m saying this but…” Xander pulled away from Angel and sighed, “You wanna go downstairs and look it up?”
Angel crawled off the bed and threw Xander’s sweatpants in the human’s lap, “If I’m right you change Joyce’s diapers for a month.”
“And if I’m right?”
“I’ll change them for two months,” Angel grinned.
“You’re pretty self-confident there, Deadboy,” Xander pulled a white t-shirt on.
“Damn it,” Angel muttered.
“See,” Xander crowed, “I told you so.”
“You know, if you’d just kept doing that you would have gotten off scot-free,” Xander grinned and patted Angel’s shoulder in mock comfort.
Chapter 27: Demon Child
“That is it!” Xander practically growled as he strode through the front doors of the Hyperion with Joyce in his arms. The little girl’s yellow sundress had some strange deep red stains on the front.
“What?” Angel lowered the battleaxe he had been sharpening and looked at Xander.
“Here!” Xander said and pushed the grinning toddler into the vampire’s arms. Angel awkwardly tried to hold the squirming girl and the battleaxe.
“Oh calm down, Xander,” Cordy said as she came through the front doors.
“Calm down?!” Xander pointed at Joyce, “Calm down, when she goes and does something like that?!”
Joyce bounced up and down in Angel’s arms causing him to loose his hold on the axe. It fell to the floor with a loud thump that made everyone in the lobby turn and look down at it.
“Maybe if…” Angel tried.
“And there is no way, this side of forever, that I’ll take her to the park again,” Xander shook his head and started pacing. Angel looked over at Cordy but the seer just shrugged, “I’m scarred for life. I’ll never be capable of looking at a squirrel again without gagging. Never.”
“Well, it wouldn’t have happened if you haven’t been ogling that slut’s boobs,” Cordy snorted.
“You were ogling boobs?” Angel asked and looked at Xander.
“That is totally unimportant right now,” Xander waved his hands in the air.
“I just bet it is,” Cordy mumbled.
“What exactly happened?” Angel put Joyce down on the floor and brushed his large hands over the little girl’s dress. He rubbed a finger against one of the red spots on the bright yellow fabric. Joyce giggled and tried to escape the tickling fingers.
“Noooo, Dada,” she pushed at his hands. Angel smiled and kissed her ridged brow. She put her chubby arms around his neck and gave him a loud kiss on the cheek.
“I mean,” Xander continued, holding a small silver bracelet in his hand, “What is the use of the bracelet from Willow, with its neat magic that makes it impossible for people to see her ridges, if she does something like that?”
“What happened?” Angel repeated.
“What happened?” Xander turned disbelieving eyes on Angel, “Haven’t you been hearing a single word I’ve been saying?”
“You aren’t really saying much, Xander,” Cordy pointed out.
“Right,” Xander nodded, “Yeah, okay, yeah. So it was like this,” he breathed deeply, “I was talking to this nice lady…”
“Hot single mom,” Cordy corrected, Xander glared at her.
“I was talking to this nice lady and we’re watching Joyce and the lady’s little girl play in the park when I get distracted…”
“By her boobs,” Cordy interrupted.
“By her very interesting story about diaper rash,” Xander attempted.
“Boobs,” Cordy persisted.
“Xander?” Angel growled.
“And then the lady’s little girl starts screaming. I mean it sounds like someone ripped her arms off…so we all run over to Joyce and the kid and…”
Cordy started laughing, “You should have seen her,” she giggled, “The other kid was screaming her head off and Joyce was just sitting there with…with…”
“I can never show my face in that park again,” Xander groaned.
“What? What?” Angel asked impatiently.
“I don’t know how she did it but somehow she must have caught it…” Cordy had to sit down on the couch, she was laughing so hard she couldn’t stand.
“One of you better start making sense,” Angel warned.
“She was draining a squirrel! A freaking squirrel, Angel!” Xander yelled, “A squirrel! Cute brown and with a fluffy tail.”
“Well, not so much anymore,” Cordy laughed and hiccupped.
Liam came running down the stairs, his backpack slung over one shoulder.
“Iam!” A happy voice exclaimed and a small chubby projectile slammed against his leg. Liam looked down at his little sister and smiled.
“Hey, baby Joyce,” he picked her up. She smiled back at him revealing her small pointy fangs.
Liam frowned and rubbed at one of the fangs with his thumb, “What the hell?” he walked into the kitchen and stared at the three grown ups sitting at the kitchen table.
Cordy seemed to be drying her eyes with a tissue, her slender hands shaking slightly. Angel had a proud silly smile plastered on his face despite the fact the Xander was glaring at him.
“Why does Joyce have fur stuck in her teeth?” Liam asked and watched Cordy slide out of the chair and down on the floor where she clutched at her stomach while she made strange guffawing noises.
Chapter 28: Using both hands
“Get the popcorn,” Jesse whined in a high-pitched voice, “Don’t forget the sodas, Dumbo,” he made sure to stomp his feet as he walked down the hallway, “Like I’m their damn waiter. Would be so much cooler to be an only child.”
Jesse ran a hand through his dark hair and growled, “Should make cool-handsome-popular-Liam get his own damn popcorn. Maybe if I spit in ‘em he’ll start getting his own freaking snacks.”
The low moan coming from the door to his left made him stop ranting. His foot hovered in position as he froze mid-step.
“Mmmmm, yeah you have incredible hands, Angel,” the moaning voice continued.
“Turn over,” Jesse heard Angel say huskily, “It’s easier that way. Better access.”
“Don’t I know it,” Xander’s voice drifted sleepily through the door.
Jesse’s foot landed with a muffled thud on the soft carpet of the hallway. He blinked and was just about to leave and go pour molten lava in his ears when his eyes widened even more.
“Not the balls, Angel,” Xander moaned and Jesse heard the sheets rustle, “Too sensitive right now.”
“Okay…okay,” Angel grunted with effort, “Maybe later?”
“Yeah,” Xander agreed with a sigh, “I’d love that.”
“Damn! You’re really tense,” Jesse closed his eyes and willed the images in his head to go away when Angel continued, “You need to relax or I can’t do my job here. Guess using my fingers won’t be enough…Gotta use my whole hand.”
Maybe he could drill a hole in his scull and pour bleach into his brain. Jesse knew they had some heavy-duty drills in the basement. Maybe Liam wouldn’t mind doing the drilling, then Kathy could pour the bleach into the hole. Joyce could hold his hand.
“Oh, God! Angel…”
“You need to relax, Xander. Looks like one hand isn’t enough.”
Jesse squeezed his eyes closed and hurried down the hallway until he bumped into someone.
“Whoa,” Cordy grabbed on to his right shoulder, “Watch where you’re going, Jesse.”
“Sorry, sorry,” Jesse mumbled.
“Why are you blushing?” Cordy narrowed her eyes, “Did Liam show you another synchronised German porn flick? I’m going to kick his ass from here to…”
“No no I um just no,” Jesse babbled, “No p-porn flick. Don’t need ‘em around here.”
“Ooookay,” she kept staring at him, “Well, if there’s nothing going on I promised to get this bottle of oil for your Dad,” she waved a large green plastic bottle of massage oil in the air. A deep moan coming from Xander and Angel’s bedroom made Cordy shake her head, “Sounds like they’ll need my assistance if they’re ever going to finish in there.”
She walked down the hallway and stopped in front of the bedroom door, opened it and held up the bottle of oil.
“This should make things much easier,” she said and was met by happy grunting.
“Popcorn, power drill, bleach, sodas,” Jesse mumbled as he stumbled down the stairs and over to the kitchen.
“Thank God,” Angel said and reached out for the bottle, “This stuff just isn’t working,” he dumped the half empty bottle of baby oil on the bedside table.
“I told you,” Cordy sighed and sat down on the edge of the bed, “You need the massage oil that warms up,” she touched Xander shoulder.
“Ouch,” Xander grimaced into the pillow.
“Wow, that must have been one big demon,” Cordy gently traced the big bruise on the shoulder.
“Yeah,” Xander nodded, his sweaty hair sticking to his forehead, “But my back hurts the most.”
“I told him to be careful,” Angel said and squirted some oil into his hand, “But did he listen?”
“More massage, less I-told-you-so,” Xander turned his head and glared at Angel.
“Did you try out the massage balls?” Cordy asked and picked up the two red rubber balls with the small soft spikes on them.
“Hurts too much,” Angel said and started rubbing the oil onto Xander’s back.
“Mmmmmmmm,” Xander moaned, “That’s so much better.”
“Yeah?” Angel asked hopefully.
“Uh huh,” Xander smiled blissfully, “Use both hands,” he ordered, “Not just your fingertips.”
Chapter 29: Tough love
Lorne mumbled and curled up a little tighter under his purple silken sheets. The annoying sound didn’t change. A strange rasping on his front door making its way down the hallway and through the closed bedroom door.
“Nnnnngggh,” Lorne protested and grabbed one of the smooth pillows and pressed it against his ear.
The rasping turned into insistent knocking and what, oddly enough, sounded like high-pitched singing.
He ripped the black satin sleep mask off with a frustrated snarl, fumbling with it when it got stuck on one of his horns. He got out of bed and then stumble out of his bedroom without falling over or getting fatally injured.
The knocking turned desperate and then a muffle voice called, “Lorne?! Uncle Lorne!”
Lorne was suddenly completely awake and he strode purposefully down the short hallway, unlocked the door and opened it. Three teenagers tumbled into his apartment making a huge pile on his newly waxed hallway floor.
“Are you okay?” Lorne pushed at their feet, slammed the door closed and locked the door. He pressed his back against it, trying to strengthen the wood with his body, “Who’s after you?”
“Hey!” Liam yelled, “Hands, Jesse! Hands in weird places!”
The teenagers rolled around for a few more seconds before Kathy and Liam managed to get up. They were both breathing hard and sweat made Liam’s hair cling to his forehead.
“But,” Jesse whined from his position on the floor, “My hands…” he held up his hands, “They’re so HUGE!”
“Uhhhhh,” Lorne started then looked at Kathy, “What’s going on?”
“He‘s high,” Kathy made sure to look disapprovingly at Jesse, who was currently frowning down at his sneaker clad feet.
“He…What?” Lorne moved away from the door. Apparently he wouldn’t have to protect the kids from shambling teen-eating-zombies or anything worse, since nothing was hunting them.
“He went to a party, even though we promised to stay at home while our parents are in Sunnydale,” Liam crossed his arms over his chest and looked self-important.
“You’re all so tall,” Jesse said and looked up at them, “Did I shrink?”
“No,” Lorne sighed and rubbed his hand over his eyes, “You’re just sitting on my hallway floor. Let’s get him into the living room. He can sit on the couch,” Liam and Lorne leant down and started hauling Jesse past the kitchen and into the living room.
“You’re green,” Jesse pressed the tip of his index finger against Lorne’s cheek.
“So I’ve noticed,” Lorne answered.
Jesse looked over his shoulder at Kathy and whispered loudly, “He’s all green.”
“I’m sorry,” Kathy said as she climbed onto the bar stool, in front of the fancy breakfast bar in Lorne’s kitchen, “We didn’t know where else to take him.”
“What about Wesley?” Lorne asked as he poured a tall glass of soda for the tired looking girl.
“Fred’s due any day now and…” she trailed off just in time for both of them to hear Jesse yell,
“My ass itches!”
“And Cordy?” Lorne continued.
“I’m not scratching it for you, Dumbo,” Liam grumbled from the living room.
“Eh,” Kathy began, “She went with them to look after Joyce. And Gunn and Spike went too, cause Dad said they might need the extra help.”
“But,” Jesse sighed helplessly, “You’re my big brother, my only brother, you have to help me.”
“I see,” Lorne pinched the bridge of his nose.
“I’m NOT scratching your ass.”
“But…But, buddy,” Jesse pleaded, “What if one day your ass itched? Wouldn’t you want someone to help?”
“I can scratch my own ass, thank you very much,” Liam was sounding a little desperate, his voice breaking on the last word.
“But what if your arms were too short? What if you had these tiny stumpy T-Rex arms that just hang there? You couldn’t scratch you own butt then, could you?” Jesse asked worriedly, holding his arms up to illustrate short T-Rex arms hanging limply at his chest.
“Shut. Up,” Liam grumbled.
“How did he get high?” Lorne pulled another glass out of the cupboard when Liam came into the kitchen.
“I can’t prove it or anything,” Liam said and leant against the breakfast bar, elbows on the counter and his broad hands spread out over the dark granite, “But I’m sure it’s two of the guys I play basketball with at school.”
“I’m not really following,” Lorne started mixing a Mai Tai. As he poured the juice into the shaker, Jesse started humming the theme song to Love Boat. “God, I hate that song,” Lorne muttered and finished the drink by plopping a yellow paper umbrella into it.
He looked at the kids over the brim of the glass and took a drink of the peach colored liquid. As Jesse continued to hum, Lorne had a sudden flash of mocking eyes and voices pass through his field of vision. It lasted only for a second and stopped when Jesse started talking to the ceiling.
“I think they’ve been picking on him,” Kathy said and grabbed a grape from the bowl on the counter, “He hasn’t said anything but Jeff and Brian are assholes.”
“Hey,” Liam protested weakly.
“You know I’m right,” Kathy said and looked over her shoulder before she continued, “I know they’re your friends… But they haven’t been very nice to Jesse.”
“It’s just,” Liam shrugged, “They’re being guys.”
Kathy arched an eyebrow at him, then turned her attention to Lorne, “They tell the most horrible gay jokes, Lorne.”
“Why’d you want to hang out with idiots like that?” Lorne asked Liam. The teenager was scraping his short fingernails over the countertop.
“It’s not that bad,” he tried.
“Remember when that gay kid got beaten half to death in New York?” Kathy asked no one in particular, “They made jokes about it. Said someone should go to New York and finish the job.”
“They were just joking,” Liam didn’t sound as if he even believed it himself.
“So,” Lorne recapped, “Jeff and Brian are hateful idiots. But I still don’t see why they’d want to get Jesse high.”
“They probably hoped he’d do something stupid,” Kathy jumped down from the tall bar stool and walked over to where she could look into the living room.
“They didn’t have to get him high for that to happen,” Liam mumbled.
“I just don’t understand why he’d go to a party Jeff would invite him to?” Kathy looked down at the black tiled kitchen floor.
“He’s probably trying to fit in,” Lorne suggested gently.
“He shouldn’t have to fit in with assholes like Jeff and Brian,” Kathy looked sternly at Liam, “They’re not worth it and Jesse’s too nice…”
“Hey!” Jesse head popped up over the back of the couch, “My ass stopped itching!”
“That’s great,” Lorne took another sip of his drink.
“I scratched it with this,” Jesse excitedly held up what looked to be a tusk or possibly a horn from a very large animal.
“What the hell is that?” Liam narrowed his eyes to better see in the light coming from the kitchen behind him.
“That,” Lorne almost choked on his Mai Tai and coughed, “Is the dried penis of a W’lamnka demon.”
Kathy and Liam both turned to stare with horrified fascination at Lorne.
“I bought it for Wesley,” Lorne held up his hands, “He needs it in a potion he’s making.”
“Sure,” Kathy blushed.
“I’ll just go take the dried demon dick from my little brother. Before he decides to scratch something else with it,” Liam deadpanned.
Lorne turned all the lights on in the living room. He’d just had the whole apartment redecorated with nice LED lamps fitted into the ceiling in every room.
Jesse, stretched out on the floor, pointed up at the blue-ish lights and whispered, “Look. Big Dripper…Onion’s Belt…’S pretty. The final frontier,” he sighed wistfully.
“So when’re your dads coming home,” Lorne tilted his head so he could look up at his new awesome ceiling.
“Day after tomorrow,” Liam was sitting on the couch, his head resting against a deep red satin throw pillow.
“So Monday,” Lorne looked away from the ceiling. His eyes were starting to hurt.
“I like Mondays,” Jesse said, “I like all the days of the week. Except Wednesdays. Wednesdays can go to hell.”
“I’ll be sure to tell them that,” Lorne promised solemnly.
“Good,” Jesse nodded emphatically, “Someone should tell those bastards the truth.”
“How long do you think this’ll take?” Kathy slumped down on the couch beside Liam. A strand of hair was sticking up at the top of her head. Lorne reached out and smoothed his hand over the soft brown hair. The second he moved his hand away the strand jumped back up.
“Probably be almost back to normal by tomorrow morning…” Lorne looked at the digital clock blinking on his DVD player, “Make that mid-afternoon.”
“Thank God nobody’s home,” Liam closed his eyes, “We only came here because it was closer.”
“And my ass itched,” Jesse informed helpfully from the floor.
Parking in front of the Hyperion, Lorne turned around and looked at the three teenagers sitting in the backseat. Kathy was sitting squashed in the corner, she looked tired and irritated.
Jesse looked down at his feet, “I think the gnomes took my shoes.”
“I took your god damned shoes!” Liam’s face shifted warningly as his eyes flashed golden.
“Why?” Jesse looked at Kathy, “Why’d he take my shoes?”
“Cause you tried to throw them out the window,” Kathy pushed Jesse’s leaning form away from her.
“My ass,” Jesse leant forward so he could whisper to Lorne, “It’s…” he looked suspiciously over his shoulder at his older siblings, “It’s starting to itch again.”
“Okay,” Lorne hurried out of the car, “Time for all teenagers, higher than a kite, to go to bed.”
“Who’s he talking to?” Jesse asked from inside the car.
Liam fished his keys out of his jeans pocket and was just about to unlock the front door when it was suddenly opened.
“Where the hell have you been?!” Cordy asked. Joyce was sleeping slumped against her shoulder. The little girl was teething and a large spot of drool was spreading on Cordy’s shirt. Liam was pretty sure he could see tiny puncture marks in the fabric as well.
“Shhh,” Jesse pressed a finger against her lips.
Cordy shot him a disbelieving look and then her eyes zeroed in on Lorne standing behind the kids.
“I was just taking them home,” Lorne defended himself against her accusatory look.
Liam let out a deep breath and slid past Cordy into the lobby of the Hyperion. Jesse’s finger was still pressed against Cordy’s lips and he was staring at the smear of lipstick that painted the tip of his finger a deep red.
“Jesse,” Lorne pulled the boy away from the scowling seer and he tried to smile winningly at her, “Xander and Angel are home then?”
Angel answered his question by shouldering his way past Cordy and grabbing on to Kathy, “Oh, thank god,” he pulled her close, “We were so worried when we came home and nobody was around.”
“Group hug!” Jesse pulled away from Lorne and enveloped Kathy and Angel in a big hug and just rested against them.
“Jesse?” Angel looked down at the boy‘s unruly mop of hair.
“Group hug,” Jesse repeated and smiled dopily.
“Oookay,” Angel stepped away from them and took a long hard look at his youngest son.
“I don’t have T-Rex arms,” Jesse confessed seriously and held his arms up so his fingers were pointing at the sky.
Lorne started pushing them all inside the hotel.
“Oh!” Xander exclaimed and held his cell phone up to his ear, “You’re all right,” he eyed all three teenagers and then continued talking into the phone, “It’s all right, Wesley. Sorry I called you. They’re home now…Yeah, they just got home.”
“I scratched my ass with a demon’s dick!” Jesse yelled at the top of his voice.
Xander nearly dropped the phone but managed to fumble for it before it hit the floor. Joyce started whimpering against Cordy’s neck and Angel just opened his mouth and closed it again with an audible snap.
“Oh…great,“ Kathy pressed both palms against her eyes.
A loud, yet muffled, voice could be heard coming from the cell phone. Xander pressed it against his ear but kept staring at Jesse, “Uhhh, yes, Wesley. He did actually just yell that.”
Jesse woke up face down on his bed, still fully clothed and with a really weird taste in his mouth. He smacked his lips a few times and then slowly sat up.
“Daddy?” Jesse turned around and saw Xander sitting on the chair by the foot of his bed.
“How are you feeling on this very fine and drug free day?” the older man gave him a big smile.
“I ah…feel fine?” Jesse asked uncertainly.
“I’m going to tell you two things now,” Xander said, got up from his chair, walked a few steps and sat down on the edge of the bed.
“Okay…I guess,” Jesse moved so his father would have more room to sit.
“Okay,” Xander agreed, “First thing,” Xander took a deep breath and began talking, “You know, how sometimes, you do something despite knowing you shouldn’t?”
“That’s my entire life…” Xander smiled and continued, ”I wouldn’t have experienced half the stuff I have, if I hadn’t done things I knew I shouldn‘t. I call it my Spock voice. If I listened to him all the time I wouldn’t have helped Buffy or meet your Dad or had you guys.”
Jesse leant closer. His parents didn’t talk much about how they ended up together.
“I’d have married some girl, worked construction and died of a clotted artery at the grand old age of 45,” Xander looked Jesse in the eyes, “I know, I’m supposed to tell you to do the smart thing, to listen to your Spock voice. But Jesse…Every fun thing I ever did in my life, I did despite what that little nagging voice in my head told me.”
“So you’ll fuck up, pardon my French…Why do people say that anyway? Do French people curse more than the rest of us?” Xander frowned. “Anyway, that‘s the first thing!”
“I didn’t want to take the drugs,” Jesse said, “I think they put it in my soda.”
“But you did sneak out to go to a party,” Xander pointed out.
“Yeah,” Jesse admitted and looked down at his hands, ”It’s just that Jeff’s one of the popular guys and when he invited me…”
“I know,” Xander sighed, “I think Jeff and…what’s his face? Brian?”
Jesse nodded and picked on a loose thread on his sock.
“I think Jeff and Brian could use a visit from their friendly neighborhood vampire,” Xander said, “I’m pretty sure Spike would love to show off his fangs a little.”
Jesse snorted then spoke softly, “I didn’t listen to my Spock voice.”
Xander ran a warm hand through Jesse’s unruly hair and leant closer, putting his mouth next to his son’s ear, “Spock’s a boring bastard anyway.”
“My head hurts,” Jesse licked his lips and squinted up at the ceiling lamp.
“Well, straying off the beaten path sometimes hurts,” Xander confessed.
“’S worth it,” Jesse made it sound like a question and Xander laughed.
“Oh, yeah, Dumbo,” he whispered using the boy’s nickname affectionately, “It’s worth it.”
Xander stood up and walked over to the closed door. He was about to open it when Jesse spoke up.
“The second thing?” he asked.
“The second thing?” Xander frowned a little, “Oh! The second thing,” he opened the door, “If you ever go out when we’ve told you not to, if you ever sneak off to parties, if you ever get drunk or high again…”
“I’d still love you.”
“I…” Jesse started.
“But you’d never be able to sit down again,” Xander quietly closed the door as he walked out.
Chapter 30: Romance
“Hurry up!” Xander pushed the door closed behind them with his foot.
“Just…” Angel struggled with his jacket. The dark fabric suddenly turning into a boa constrictor. Xander made an impatient hissing sound and started pulling on the right jacket-sleeve. “Hey!” Angel protested weakly.
“Get it off. Just get it all of!” Xander let go of the vampire’s jacket and started unbuttoning his own shirt. The red shirt was waddled up and thrown in the direction of the bathroom. A few drops of sweat slowly ran down the man’s face. He absentmindedly swiped them away with the back of his hand.
“Done!” Angel proclaimed victoriously and stepped out of the black pants pooling around his feet.
“Oh, thank God,” Xander said and licked his lips before he practically jumped the vampire.
“Uhf,” Angel let out a startled noise when his back hit the mattress. Xander was straddling him. The human’s eyes dark and full of promise, “The kids are all off making Giles grateful he never actually had any children of his own.”
“How long before he calls us asking for help?” Angel asked.
“Well,” Xander huffed as he unbuttoned his own jeans. Angel tried to help but Xander batted his hands away, “He said he’d take them out to lunch.”
“With Joyce there? Does he know how impossible she can get?” Angel rolled over when Xander climbed off him. The human pulled the jeans off and let them fall over the edge of the bed.
“No,” Xander said, “Are you going to call him and tell him about it?”
Angel snorted and shook his head. He grabbed on to Xander’s shoulders and wrestled him down on the bed. Xander made an appreciative sound and kissed the vampire’s shoulder.
“Get the lights,” Xander patted Angel’s back and the vampire shot him an incredulous look, “Or not,” Xander grinned.
“Did you just spit in your palm?” Xander asked in a calm voice that, never the less, made Angel stop moving.
“Uh… No?” Angel dried his palm off on his naked thigh. He made a disgusted face when the spit started drying on his skin.
“You did, didn’t you?” Xander turned his head and looked over his shoulder. His eyes were narrow slits.
“Yes?” Angel nodded only to stop when Xander’s eyes seemed to narrow even further.
“Do I look like Jake Gyllenhaal?” Xander knelt up and turned all the way around, the sheets twisting under his knees.
“What?” Angel asked a little confused, “It’s just spit.”
“And it’s just my ass!” Xander exclaimed and crossed his arms.
“That smells funny,” Angel sniffed the tube delicately and grimaced, “What is that? Garlic? Why the fuck do we have garlic scented lube?!”
“It was a gag gift from Gunn,” Xander said and reached out for the tube.
Angel growled deep in his throat, “Oh, I’ll make him gag on it all right!”
“Get over it and just take the other one out of the drawer,” Xander awkwardly tried to reach the bedside table. He managed to get the drawer open, dumped the offending lube in it and fished out their regular brand.
“Oh…” Xander moaned and pressed his face against Angel’s neck.
“Mmmmm,” Angel agreed and pressed himself closer to the human. The bed made a small creaking noise as it bumped against the wall.
“Oh…oh…” Xander’s warm moist breath ghosted against Angel’s cooler skin, “OH…” Xander’s tone of voice changed and he pushed against Angel’s shoulders, forcing the vampire a little away.
“What? Did I hurt you?” Angel asked uncertainly and was about to push all the way off Xander.
“No,” Xander shook his head, “I just remembered. Jesse and Kathy are going to need a ride to school tomorrow. And I don’t think I can make it in time. So could you ask Wesley to drive them?”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Angel answered and picked up where he left off.
“Lift your hips a little,” Angel ordered and pushed Xander’s knees higher.
“Like this,” Xander asked and watched as Angel bit his lower lip in concentration.
“Perfect,” Angel nodded and somehow managed to push his entire weight down on the human without hurting him.
“Love this,” Xander whispered in Angel’s ear and licked the earlobe before biting down on it.
“The ceiling needs to be repainted,” Xander pointed out as they both enjoyed the afterglow.
“Didn’t we do that only a couple of years ago?” Angel asked and pulled the bedcovers up over their bodies.
“That was at least eight years ago,” Xander cuddled closer so he could rest his head on Angel’s shoulder, “Maybe we should just repaint the whole second floor of the hotel? I mean, we haven’t really done anything to maintain it lately.”
“Did stopping the apocalypse get in the way of your interior designing?” the vampire asked teasingly.
“Painting the ceiling doesn’t really equal interior designing,” Xander poked Angel’s ribs.
“We could make the kids do it,” Angel offered and pulled Xander closer, “Let them earn some cash to spend?”
“Maybe…” Xander conceded, “Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen though.”
“When did Giles say he’d bring the kids back?” Angel pushed himself up on his elbow and stared over at the clock radio on the bedside table.
“Around two,” Xander ran his hands up and down Angel’s sides, “Still have time.“ He leant closer and kissed Angel’s chest, just as the cell phone started ringing from somewhere on the floor.
“We should totally get that,” Xander kept kissing his way down Angel’s chest.
“Yeah, we should,” Angel agreed and pulled the covers over their heads.
Chapter 31: Ever changing
“That’s the fourth attack in as many weeks,” Gunn carefully stepped over the body of a dead demon half-breed. The blood on the concrete floor made it slippery and Gunn made sure not to step in it.
Angel used the end of his sword to poke at one of the purebred demons that had attacked him. Its muscular arms were covered in tattoos. The vampire knelt down and tilted his head a little as he studied the dead demon.
“I really hate these bastards,” he said and got back up.
“You know,” Gunn knelt down by one of the victims, a young female, “It never struck me that demons could be racists. Sure a lot of ’em hate humans and some see us as big steaks on legs but…” he looked around the blood spattered room.
“Some don’t believe demons should breed with…” Angel sighed and wiped a drop of demon blood of the back of his hand, “Lesser beings,” the last words were said with a deep frown. Angel snarled down at the dead demon by his feet and walked away from it.
“I doubt Wesley and Spike found any survivors upstairs,” Angel checked for a pulse on one of the half-breeds piled up in the corner. The young man’s chest was soaked through with dark purple blood.
“Think we got the last of them?” Gunn asked and deliberately kicked the dead body of the demon Angel had killed.
“At least the last of this group,” Angel nodded, “But they won’t be the only ones around. I’ve made the mistake of thinking they were gone for good once before. Obviously I was wrong.”
“Peaches!” Spike’s voice startled both men.
“What?” Angel yelled back and walked over to the stairs leading up to the third floor of the condemned apartment block. Gunn gave the dead body another swift kick before following the vampire.
The hallway was sparsely lit by the blue neon sign hanging on the supermarket on the other side of the street and Gunn simply followed the sound of voices until he arrived at an abandoned apartment. The front door was missing and nowhere in sight.
“What do we do with it?” the street fighter heard Spike ask uncertainly. Gunn walked over so he could see what Wesley was carefully holding.
“That’s a baby,” Gunn pointed out.
“No?!” Spike sarcastically exclaimed loud enough for the baby to startle, “Really? We hadn’t noticed!”
“Looks human,” Angel leant closer. He could see the baby clearly in the blue light shining through the broken windows. The baby looked to be a year or so with dark tufts of hair and big blue eyes.
“Looks can be deceiving,” Wesley said, “Probably a half-breed.”
“Where’d you find it?” Gunn asked.
“In the closet,” Spike pointed to an old closet standing crookedly in the corner of the otherwise unfurnished room.
“Parents must have hidden the little guy there,” Angel said and made funny faces at the silent baby.
“We still need to sweep the rest of the building,” Spike walked over to the doorway leading to the dark hall.
“Here,” Wesley pressed the baby into Gunn’s unresisting hands, “Take him…her… whatever.”
“What?” Gunn asked but still made sure to steady the baby’s body with his hands, “Why me?”
“I might need my hands free to cast spells or… stuff,” the ex-watcher waved a hand at the other man.
“And I just get left holding the baby?” he asked disbelievingly when the three other men disappeared down the hallway.
The baby started fussing. Its voice gained in strength as Gunn started running after the rest of the group to keep up.
“Shhh,” Gunn tried to hush the now screaming child by bouncing it as he ran. That resulted in a high pitched angry scream, “What?” he asked and stopped. He looked down at the baby in his arms and almost dropped it when a pair of brown eyes looked up at him.
“Angel! Spike! ANGEL!”
“Okay,” Spike squinted down at the baby as if that would change what he saw.
“I’m not quite sure what’s happened,” Wesley said slowly.
“The kid changed race on me without warning,” Gunn held the black baby up for closer inspection. It was slightly larger than when Wesley had held it.
“Take the kid, Spike,” Angel said. Spike wearily took the baby from Gunn and shot Angel a questioning look, “Just give it a second,” the older vampire explained and the four men watched as the baby slowly changed color from dark chocolate brown to pale white. The child’s body seemed to grow a little longer and thinner. The eyes changed back to blue and the hair was the last to change. Blond curls instead of black.
“A shape shifter?” Wesley asked.
“Looks like it,” Angel agreed, “At least one of the kid’s parents must have been one.”
“You’re a good looking little bloke aren’t you?” Spike asked the baby, “Look at that handsome face!” he said and grinned at the others.
“What’re we gonna do with him?” Gunn asked, “Its parents are probably dead. For all we know we might have passed by them down in that blood soaked lobby,” he tilted his head indicating the lobby of the condemned apartment block.
“Shape shifters live in clans,” Wesley began, “Even if we find a group of shape shifters, somewhere in town, they wouldn’t take the child.”
“Um…Xander?” Angel opened the door and peeked into the small bedroom. Xander was sitting in the comfy chair Lorne had bought. It was a ghastly pink colour and had tiny purple pompoms hanging on the sides.
“Shhh,” Xander was holding Joyce. The three year old was sucking on her thumb and rubbing at her nose with a chubby index finger.
“Sorry,” Angel whispered, “But uh…we have…Well, we have a problem…”
“Just a second,” Xander said and slowly stood up. He placed Joyce in the crib and pulled the blanket up to her shoulders.
“Still teething?” Angel asked and opened the door enough for Xander to exit the bedroom.
“Yeah,” Xander closed the door and followed Angel down to the Hyperion’s lobby.
“Aren’t you a cute little one?” Xander tickled the baby. Gunn shifted the child into a less awkward position, placing his hand under the squirming kid‘s butt.
“He looks just like you,” Xander continued and then stopped to look suspiciously at Gunn, “You had a child and didn’t tell us about it?”
“No,” Gunn shook his head hastily, “Oh, no,” he handed the child to Xander, “He isn’t mine. He might look a hell of a lot like me. But he isn’t mine.”
Xander put a protecting hand on the child’s head as he held it.
“Just give it a few seconds,” Angel said and Xander looked from the baby to Wesley and Spike studying it closely.
“Is it going to turn into a man eating monster?” Xander asked tentatively.
“Unless it kills its victims with cuteness I seriously doubt that,” Wesley said.
“And there he goes,” Spike pointed at the baby.
Xander looked down at the baby in his arms and gasped, “He looks just like Jesse!”
“He looks just like you,” Angel touched the baby’s soft dark hair and it turned a slightly lighter brown.
“What is he?” Xander rubbed his finger against the deep red bloodstain on the baby’s onsie, “Is he all right?”
“As far as we can tell, he’s unharmed,” Wesley gave Xander a reassuring smile, “Not that we’re actually sure it is a boy. It’s a shape shifter. Or one of its parents was a shape shifter. So it could be a female.”
“But should it really be changing so much?” Xander watched as the baby changed its appearance when Angel held it.
“Normally it wouldn’t be changing like this,” Angel said and ran a finger over the baby’s broadening face, “But he’s had a really traumatic experience. It‘s a defence mechanism to imitate the people surrounding it so they won‘t hurt him.”
“And his parents?” Xander asked and then sighed when he saw Angel’s eyes turn sad, “Oh, poor little guy.”
“Do demons have orphanages?” Gunn walked over to the couch and sat down.
“Not that I know of,” Angel answered, “Maybe we could keep him here at the hotel for a few days until I figure out who’ll take him in? We didn’t find anything at the apartment block that could help us track down his family. If there are even any left. I’ll ask around…maybe call Giles and ask him if…”
“Give him here,” Xander said and took the baby from Angel’s arms. Xander kissed the child’s dark hair and started whispering soothingly in its ear.
“Okay,” Angel watched as Xander carried the child up the stairs.
“Congratulations!” Spike slapped Angel’s shoulder when Xander was out of sight.
“What?” Angel asked and stared perplexed at the younger vampire.
“It’s a boy!” Spike grinned.
“Well, at least for the time being,” Wesley mumbled from his position by the couch.
Chapter 32: Advice
This is a very short piece build mostly of plot bunnies that never survived.
1) When we say that you shouldn’t go into the basement, it isn’t because we’re hiding all the cool stuff down there. It’s because your crazy aunt Dru has decided that dancing naked, with a dead half decomposed squirrel attached to her hair, is a grand idea.
2) Never poke Uncle Spike with a toothpick just to see what happens. What happens is potentially painful. For you.
3) Never run with a sharp battle axe. It’s all fun and games until somebody loses a foot.
4) When finding a cool looking magical artefact, with even cooler etchings on it, do not trace the lines with your fingers. You will find that the novelty of your parents turning into 5 year old brats is only mildly entertaining.
5) When your Daddy is, inadvertently, turned into a 5 year old boy, do not feed him large amounts of sugary treats. The Hyperion will never quite recuperate from it.
6) Your Dad and your uncle were never intimate. Except for that one time that must never be spoken of again.
7) When your date turns out to be a soul eating monster, you should call your parents. You should not, in pure terror, throw your iPhone at the monster’s head.
8) You are unique. In your case this is actually true and not just your Daddy trying to make you feel better.
9) Never drink any liquid you find in Uncle Wesley’s office. Having a tail might sound cool. But in reality it gets old pretty fast.
10) Putting your shape-shifting baby sibling in a room, plastered with pictures of Adolph Hitler, might seem like a funny idea. The outcome however is disturbing.
Chapter 33: Tall tales
Joyce opened the door to Wesley’s office just a teeny tiny bit. She wasn’t going to go in cause Daddy said she couldn’t. Daddy said that uncle Wesley’s office was an important room. Just like the big locked closet with the sharp things downstairs wasn’t somewhere she was allowed to play.
“Can I see?” Baby asked from behind her. The half demon child’s eyes, blue today, shining with excitement.
“Only a little,” Joyce stepped away from the almost closed door, “Cause we can’t go in. Daddy says so.”
“’Kay,” Baby nodded, the purple spiky hair on its head slowly changing into soft dark-brown curls, “I’ll look real quick,” it said and stood on tiptoes by the partially opened door.
“That’s enough,” Joyce announced with authority and pulled Baby away. Baby’s arm flailed out in surprise and hit the door which slowly creaked all the way open.
“Oh ooohhh,” Baby giggled and put a hand over its sharp-teethed mouth.
“Daddy’s gonna be mad,” Joyce look at the door with big eyes.
“We can just close it and say we never ever opened it,” Baby suggested.
“But we have to go inside to reach the door handle,” Joyce started chewing on the edge of her index finger, “We’re not ’lowed to go inside.”
“We can just close our eyes,” Baby closed its eyes to demonstrate, “That way we won’t really be in there.”
“You think so?” Joyce asked hopefully.
“Uh huh,” Baby nodded and closed its eyes. Joyce closed her eyes as well and slowly started walking, over the doorstep, into the room. She heard a loud bump and a startled, “Ow!” from behind her.
“Shhh,” She hissed through her fangs and opened her left eye just enough to see that she had walked too far.
“Oh no,” Baby whispered and Joyce turned around and looked at her sibling through one almost closed golden eye.
“Close your eyes!” she demanded crossly and watched as Baby closed its brown eyes.
“But now we already saw…stuff,” Baby complained.
“Daddy’s gonna yell,” Joyce pressed her eyes shut as hard as she could. Small white dots danced behind her eyelids. Another bump and a low sniffling cry made her open her eyes again. Baby was pressing its hands against its head, silent tears running down its scaly green skin.
“Hurts,” Baby complained weakly, lower lip trembling.
“Come sit on the chair,” Joyce tried to cross the room with her eyes almost shut but had to finally open them all the way when she bumped into a small table filled with books.
“Ow. Ow. Ow,” Baby sniffled loudly and then bit its lower lip trying to keep quiet.
“Did you bang your head?” Joyce asked and patted Baby’s limp blond hair.
“Ah huh,” Baby nodded carefully.
“I can kiss it,” Joyce offered, “Dad kissed my knee yesterday when I felled and hit it.”
“It helps?” Baby sounded uncertain.
“Yep,” Joyce promised, “Dad is really good at kissing hurts better.”
“’Kay,” Baby tilted its head forward and held still. Joyce put her hands on the sides of the blond head and pressed a gentle moist kiss into the hair.
“Herbert?” Angel asked tentatively and stretched on the bed. His toes wriggled against the soft sheets.
“What?” Xander asked incredulously, “No! Definitely no. I am not calling one of my kids Herbert.”
“We can’t keep calling him Baby,” Angel pointed out and turned on his side so he could look Xander in the eyes.
“Well, we certainly can’t call him Herbert,” Xander pushed up on his elbows, “That’s a grandpa name. Grandpa Herbert.”
Angel sighed and flopped back onto the mattress. The room was gently lit by an old art nouveau lamp. It stood in the corner and the slightly green-tinted glow filled the room. “Louisa?” he tried, “I saw Baby wearing Joyce’s yellow sundress yesterday. Had the cutest little blond pigtails as well.”
“Hmmmm,” Xander snuggled down next to Angel.
“Don’t cry,” Joyce begged as Baby started sniffling.
Baby’s face was slowly turning red as the lower lip started trembling and its feline green eyes started brimming with tears. Joyce petted the top of Baby’s head. The younger child just shook its head violently and tears started running down its face.
“Want Daddy,” Baby whispered pleadingly.
“Shhhhh,” Joyce looked guiltily over her shoulder. The door to the hallway was still wide open.
“Want. Daddy,” Baby insisted and dried the tears off the tear streaked face with the sleeve of the red long sleeved shirt the child was wearing.
“We can’t tell Daddy,” Joyce reminded Baby, “We’ll get yelled at. Lots.”
Baby took a few deep breaths and tilted its chin up. Seeing Joyce’s frightened eyes made Baby deflate some and look down at the floor, “Sorry?”
“’S okay,” Joyce said in a tone she had heard her Dad use whenever Daddy sighed real hard.
“Does Uncle Wesley have crayons?” Baby asked and looked around the forbidden room.
“He writes stuff with pens and…stuff,” Joyce stood on tiptoes so she could see the top of the ex-watcher’s big mahogany desk.
“Whycome?” Baby asked and struggled to crawl up on the old leather padded chair. Finally getting up on its knees Baby put his snot sticky fingers on the tabletop.
“You can’t touch Uncle Wesley’s stuff!” Joyce gasped in alarm and pulled on Baby’s chubby leg. The limb squirmed under her fingers and became a little slimy, “Ew!” she pulled away and brushed her fingers off on the front of her pyjama shirt.
Baby just giggled and waved its new tentacle at her.
“You’re a stupid-face,” she pouted and Baby suddenly looked uncertain.
“’M just playing,” the tentacle stopped waving and slowly solidified and turned into a chubby leg again.
“You know I don’t like it when you get all slimy. It’s icky.”
“Sorry,” Baby said solemnly and patted the now completely sticky free shin sticking out of its pyjama pants, “won’t make it sticky again. Promise.”
“Cross and hearts?” Joyce asked.
Baby attempted to make a cross sign over its heart but mostly it just looked like a weird sketch of a stunted fish, “And hope to die.”
“Until you’re really really dead?” Joyce narrowed her eyes.
“Until I’m really really really dead,” Baby promised and then looked down at the book that lay open on the table, “It don’t have no words in it.”
“What?” Joyce asked and jumped up and down a few times to get a glimpse of the book on the table.
“Books are ‘posed to have words in ‘em,” Baby said and turned a few pages in the book. Every page was blank, “Lots of words. Like the books Daddy reads from at bedtime.”
“Books always have words inside,” Joyce proclaimed.
“Maybe,” Baby turned a few more blank and pristine pages, “Uncle Wesley uses it when he wants to draw.”
“Is it a colouring book like my princess one?” Joyce was getting impatient and she shoved Baby a little aside as she climbed up on the chair to see the book.
“No,” Baby shook its head, “It’s all empty.”
“Beelzebub,” Xander chuckled against Angel’s neck.
“See,” Angel hummed deeply in his chest, “That would be a very fitting name for our little troublemaker.”
“You can’t do that!” Joyce’s golden eyes widened in alarm. Baby pressed the tip of the pen down on the clean white page.
“Look,” Baby said and lifted the pen from the paper. A small red ink dot stood out on the paper, “Uncle Wesley has colour pens.” With a delighted look on its face, the demon child grabbed a good handful of the pens from the stainless steel penholder on the table. The pens were carefully spread out next to the open book.
“Wow,” Baby whispered reverently, “He’s gots a gold pen.”
“Let me see,” Joyce demanded, “Let me see!”
“We could just get everyone to write suggestions on pieces of paper, put them all in a jar and just draw a random name,” Xander closed his eyes and mumbled as he felt Angel pull the covers up over them.
“What’re you drawing?” Joyce asked and looked over Baby’s shoulder.
“Grass,” the younger child responded, the pink tip of its tongue caught between its blunt teeth.
“But it’s blue,” Joyce grabbed one of the pens and started drawing on the page as well.
“Grass can be blue,” Baby insisted.
“Hmmmm,” Joyce bent closer to the paper and held her breath as she drew a happy smile on the face she had just drawn.
“Who’s that?” Baby asked.
“Daddy,” Joyce started drawing black hair on the stick figure.
“Howcome he’s laying on the grass?” Baby drew a few more strands of grass just under the stick figure’s head.
Something was tickling Xander’s cheek.
“Stop it,” Xander waved his hand a little sleepily. His boxer shorts were sticking to his warm skin and he groaned and pulled his t-shirt down a little. He hadn’t opened his eyes yet, “I mean it, Angel. Stop tickling me!”
The tickling continued.
Sighing deeply Xander opened his eyes and blinked at the tall blue grass that filled most of his view. Sitting up as fast as he could, he made a small sound at the back of his throat, when he realised he was alone in a big vast nothingness with nothing but blue grass under him.
“Oh, this can’t be good.”
“Maybe Daddy should have a puppy?” Joyce suggested.
“No,” Baby shook its head, “Daddy should have a kitten.”
“Can it be a green kitten?” Joyce held out the green pen.
Something slid against Xander’s leg and he did not scream like a little girl.
Really, he didn’t.
Joyce picked up the yellow pen and drew a small hat on top of the kitten’s head.
Xander stared down in disbelieve at the green kitten staring right back up at him. It was wearing a fancy yellow hat.
“Angel!” Xander called, his voice slowly rising in pitch.
“Wha’s that?” Baby asked and pointed at the new stick figure slowly emerging under Joyce’s pen.
“That’s Dad,” Joyce said, “Look,” she stabbed the figure in the head with her black pen, “He’s got a big head.”
“Ow!” Angel grabbed at his head and gently palpitated his forehead.
“Angel?” Xander asked as he turned around. Angel was standing in the middle of the white nothingness, black silk pyjama pants riding low on his hips. He wriggled his toes in blue grass.
“What the hell is going on?” Angel asked just as a big strange looking tree appeared next to him. It had big red apples hanging on it as if they had been glued to the outside of the green crown.
The children slowly filled the page with drawings of animals and trees and brightly coloured houses.
“We can make a bedtime story,” Joyce suggested.
“’K,” Baby nodded and picked up the purple pen.
“Do you mind?” Xander scowled at the big goofy-looking purple elephant standing right next to him. It took a slight step to the side and then made a ridiculous trumpet sound with its extremely long trunk.
“It’s starting to get a little cramped here,” Angel said from somewhere behind a small group of penguins. They all tilted their heads back and looked at him with their beady eyes.
“What the hell is going on?!” Xander yelled at the happily smiling sun hanging over his head.
The sun cheerfully waved a sunbeam at him.
“We can start the story here on the new page,” Joyce said and turned to a white pristine page.
“This is Daddy,” Baby said and drew a picture of its Daddy.
“Can it be a fairytale?” Joyce asked and picked up the pink pen. She clicked it on and looked expectantly at Baby.
“What kinda fairytale?” Baby asked suspiciously and stopped drawing his Daddy’s hair.
“One with a princess in it,” Joyce said and pressed the pen against the paper. She looked at Baby and raised one eyebrow, silently asking for permission.
“Okay,” Baby finally agreed and Joyce started drawing a big puffy ball gown. Baby leaned closer and frowned.
“I already drawed a picture of Daddy,” it said and picked up a green pen.
“So?” Joyce didn’t look up from her drawing. The dress had small oddly shaped jewels around the neckline.
“So don’t you think Dad is gonna be sad if we make a story about Daddy and a princess?” the younger childe asked wisely.
Joyce pondered the question for a few seconds, her eyebrows furrowed. “That’s okay,” she concluded with a big smile, “Dad can just be the princess!” she put the finishing touches to the dress before she picked up the black pen and started drawing her dad’s hair.
“Uhhh,” Xander started.
“Not one word, Xander,” Angel warned darkly.
“Is that…” Xander pointed at Angel‘s attire.
“Not. One. Word,” the vampire growled.
“Princesses have that thing they always… have,” Baby made a vague gesture at the open book.
Joyce put the black pen down and studied the pretty pink puffy dress her Dad was wearing, “Glass slippers?” she asked uncertainly and then drew a pair of pretty glass slippers.
“Uhhhm,” Baby scratched its scaly yellow cheek, “No, that thing,” it patted the top of its own head, “A tiama,” Baby finally said.
“A tiara!” Joyce yelled and clapped her hands, “Dad needs a tiara,” she picked out one of the fancy silver pens and painstakingly started drawing the most awesome tiara ever.
Xander held a hand over his mouth. He was about to say something when Angel shot him a warning look. Xander just shook his head.
“We need to find a way out of here,” Angel grumbled.
“Yes,” Xander agreed, his voice a high pitched noise.
Angel grabbed onto the billowing heavy skirt and started walking, his glass slippers clinking against the floor. Xander gasped, made a quiet strangled noise and then followed the vampire princess.
“Shut the fuck up, Xander,” Angel warned menacingly.
“I didn’t say anything,” Xander’s voice was strained.
“You were thinking it,” Angel turned around, the skirt of the dress swaying to follow him and the tiara on his head glinting in the sun.
“And then…” Baby licked the tip of the pen just like he’d seen Aunt Cordy do. Baby scrunched up its face and smacked its lips to get rid of the awful inky taste. “And then a bad witch came and made the princess fall asleep for a hundred bazillion years.”
“No,” Joyce shook her head and looked up at the ceiling in thought, “The bad troll wanted to steal the princess away and marry her.”
“Hmmmm,” Baby grumbled dissatisfied, “That’s stupid.”
“No it’s not!” Joyce wanted to stomped her feet but they couldn’t reach the floor when she sat in Uncle Wesley’s big chair. She flashed her fangs instead.
“Yes it is,” Baby crossed its chubby arms, “You’re a stupid face.”
“No!” Joyce yelled and then slapped a hand over her own mouth. Baby’s eyes grew wide and both children sat very still and listened, “I don’t think anyone heard us,” she whispered.
“Maybe,” Baby’s voice was almost inaudible, “the witch could be an evil troll witch.”
“Uh huh,” Joyce tapped the tip of the pen against the paper, “Grandpa Giles can do magic.”
“But he’s not a troll,” Baby pointed out and drew a little penguin next to Princess Dad.
“We could make him into a troll,” Joyce started drawing.
“With glasses,” Baby said and helped Joyce draw the wire rim glasses.
“Oh dear,” came a startled voice from behind them.
Angel and Xander both slowly turned around and stared at Giles. The watcher was standing in the white endless room wearing only his glasses. His skin was damp and water dripped from his hair.
“Giles?” Xander asked and took a step closer.
“Don’t go any closer,” Angel said and grabbed on to Xander’s elbow to stop him, “He might be dangerous. We have no idea who that really is,” the vampire pushed Xander behind him, shielding him with his puffy pink gown.
“What?” Xander asked disbelievingly, “What are you gonna do if he’s dangerous? Beat him to death with your glass slipper.”
“I,” Giles began and then self-consciously put his hands over his crotch, “I was taking a bath and then…I suddenly ended up here.”
Xander grabbed onto one of the many layers of Angel’s dress and pulled a long pink silken strip of cloth off.
“Hey!” Angel protested.
“Here,” Xander handed Giles the cloth, “So you can cover up.”
“Oh, thank you so much,” Giles gratefully held the pink fabric around his waist.
Joyce giggled and drew horns on the troll witch.
“Ow,” Giles exclaimed and put his hands up to his forehead. The pink fabric slid off his hips.
“Naked, Giles,” Xander closed his eyes, “You’re naked again.”
“Horns?” Giles felt around the horns protruding from his forehead, “Are those horns?”
“Sure looks like it,” Angel ran a hand down his dress to straighten out the wrinkles. He frowned at the ripped edge of the outer skirt.
“Is he still naked?” Xander asked and peeked out from between his fingers.
“What on earth is going on?” Giles bent down and picked up the pink cloth.
Baby rifled through the many pens and picked out a red one, “Can the witch have fur?”
“Trolls have fur,” Joyce nodded and looked on with interest as Baby started covering the witch troll in red fur.
“Oh dear JESUS!” Giles screamed and patted wildly at the fur spreading over his body.
“Well…” Xander said, “Never seen that before.”
“And then the troll witch grabbed the princess and ran away with him,” Baby started drawing a picture of the troll and the princess. The troll’s mouth was filled with big scary sharp teeth and the princess was screaming.
“Put him down!” Xander grabbed hold of Giles’ arm and tried to wrestle Angel away from him. The red fur made it difficult to get a good hold on the troll.
“I’m trying,” Giles whimpered under the heavy weight of Angel. The vampire was hanging over the watcher’s shoulder.
“Put me down!” Angel demanded and growled at Xander and Giles.
A little green penguin waddled past. It had a tiny turquoise bow attached to the top of its head.
All three men stopped fighting and watched as the little bird walked past them.
Baby started drawing an axe.
“What’s that for?” Joyce asked.
“Daddy needs a weapon so he can kill the troll witch,” Baby explained.
“What on earth is going on in here?”
Joyce and Baby both turned around so suddenly that the book and a few pens fell to the floor. Baby’s eyes widened in shock and it turned to Joyce for guidance.
“We’re just playing,” Joyce managed to whisper.
“Now I know we’ve told you, several times, not to go into my office unless a grown up is with you,” Wesley said and picked up the pens, “Isn’t that right.“
“Uh huh,” Joyce nodded and scampered off the chair. Wesley put the pens back on the table.
“Isn’t that right?” Wesley asked Baby. The child just nodded and looked crestfallen, “Come on then. Lets get the two of you back to bed.” Baby climbed down from the chair.
“Did you write in this?” Wesley asked and bent over to pick up the book.
“We can’t write, Uncle Wesley,” Joyce said and looked up at the much taller man.
“Did you maybe draw in it,” Wesley asked and opened the book. He leafed through the first few pages, “Oh…no.”
“We’re sorry,” Baby blurted out and tears started dripping down its rosy cheeks.
“This is important,” Wesley knelt down in front of both kids, “What did you draw?”
“Just Daddy and Dad. Cause we wanted to make a story about a princess that gets taken by a witch,” Joyce blubbered through her tears.
“A troll witch,” Baby felt it necessary to correct her.
“Uh huh,” Joyce nodded miserably.
“But no one else?” Wesley asked and picked up a black pen.
“No,” Baby continued, “Just Daddy and Dad and the troll witch.”
“This book,” Wesley began, “it is a very special book. It makes what you write real.”
“Whycome?” Baby asked.
“It just does. A very powerful magician made this book and we have to be careful how we use it,” Wesley reached out and dried a few tears off Joyce’s cheek, “Now, I want the two of you to go straight to bed.”
“Yes, Uncle Wesley,” the children said in unison and wandered out of the room.
Wesley turned his attention to the book and under the last picture the two children had drawn he wrote,
And then Daddy and Dad both returned to their home and all was well.
He closed the book and pulled out his mobile phone.
“Arrggghhh!” Angel flailed when the mobile phone started ringing and gently vibrated across the bedside table.
“Let go of him!” Xander yelled beside him and struggled with the bed covers.
“Wesley?” Angel said into the phone, “What? Yes. We’re both safe. I see,” Angel continued, “Well, is the book secured now?”
Xander could hear Wesley mumble somewhere on the other end of the line, “Good,” Angel closed his eyes and sighed. He handed the phone to Xander.
“Yes?” Xander nodded as Wesley explained everything that had happened, “Thank God. Yes. Thank you, Wesley. You saved us.” He let the phone drop down on the bed and rubbed his fingers against his eyelids.
“Well, that was seriously disturbing,” Angel muttered.
“I actually thought you looked fetching in your ball gown,” Xander teased.
“Shut up,” Angel grumbled.
Xander just snorted, “Do you think,” he continued after a few seconds silence, “we should call Giles and check up on him. Make sure he made it home all right?”
“I think,” Angel stretched and ran his hand over the smooth fabric of his pyjama pants, “That we should give him a little time to forget the embarrassment.”
“Hello?” Giles shivered despite being covered in thick red fur.
He looked around the white nothingness, “Hello?” he asked feebly and turned around when he heard a squeaking sound coming from behind him.
The little green penguin stared up at him.
Giles stared back.
Chapter 34: Bittersweet
She didn’t mean to do it.
It’s their special time.
The one time during the year where Xander’s strength oozes out of him like blood from a deep wound and Angel allows himself to feel all the years he carries.
Her birthday is always bitter sweet.
She wishes she could mourn like they do. Wishes she had memories of her brother but she doesn’t, so all she really feels is a strange emptiness at her side, as if someone cut her shadow away.
She uses every bit of stealth she’s inherited from her father and follows them through the shadows.
They always walk there as if they need the extra time to get ready. To collect every bit of their strength and build up a resistance to the pain they know they’ll have to deal with. Her father’s sunburned hands are clutching a small bouquet of flowers.
The flowers look fragile in his work-roughened hand. She knows how gentle her father’s hands can be. Knows how they feel running through her hair and how he will dry tears off her cheek with his calloused index finger. How safe they can make her feel.
She stops behind a red parked car and watches as they enter the cemetery.
Angel walks through the old gate. It stands open; its hinges so rusted with age that she doubts it can even be closed any more. Angel stops just inside to look back at Xander standing on the side walk crushing the stems of the flowers in his fist.
A few drops of liquid fall to the ground as the stems break.
Angel takes the lilies from Xander’s hand. Their fingers touch for just a second. He strokes his thumb over the back of the warm skin before he kneels down and puts the flowers by the headstone. He pushes a few yellowed leaves away and steadies himself with a hand on the cool stone.
“I sometimes wonder,” Angel says quietly and rubs his fingers over the grain of the stone, “what he’d be like.”
Xander doesn’t answer. Instead he sits down on the moist ground and closes his eyes. He hums quietly for a second and then sighs. His breath is visible for a split second.
“He would have been…” Xander begins only to stop, the words cut off.
“Perfect,” Angel continues for him.
“Perfectly annoying,” Xander whispers, “18 is a tough age. All awkward body and,” he waves a hand at the air, “uncontrollable hormones and dreams that seem too close and too far away all at the same time.”
Angel looks over and smiles, “Yeah, you’re probably right. I’d have loved to deal with the trouble, though.”
“Me too,” Xander smiles.
They silently let the lost opportunities fill their minds. Half an hour passes by only broken by the quiet rustling of the animals that make the cemetery their home. Angel stands up and holds out a hand to Xander. He helps the other man up and Xander brushes the seat of his pants off, leaving streaks of dirt across the denim cloth.
She can hardly see them. Her eyes are swimming with tears and she can’t seem to stop them from falling. Her cheeks are wet and her nose is stuffy. She hates how she always ends up looking when she cries.
All snot and red puffy eyes.
She presses herself harder against the wall as her parents walk by the alleyway she’s hiding in. Her shoulders are digging into the red clammy bricks. She closes her eyes, willing them not to notice her.
Like a child playing hide and seek.
She hears their steps retreating, becoming distant.
She looks down at her shadow that is cast by the light coming from the old street lamp. It connects to her feet and stretches out in front of her in a strange long-armed way that used to freak her out when she was little. It erases her curves and makes it look as if the shadow is taller and slimmer.
She taps the tip of her shoes against the ground and the shadow does the same.
“Should we ask her to walk back home with us?” Angel asks as he looks over his shoulder and back at the teenager tap dancing on the side walk.
“She’ll find her way home,” Xander says and takes Angel’s hand.
Chapter 35: Family tree
“Your assignment for next week,” Miss Hawkland started handing out papers to the class, “is to make a family tree. Make it as detailed as possible and I would love to see some creativeness as well.”
“Uh… Like writing with different colours?” Jeff asked from behind Liam.
“If you like,” the teacher continued down the row of tables, “But maybe you could experiment with the way you represent your family tree. No one says it has to look like the examples I’ve shown you today.”
“Hmmm,” Jeff stuffed the paper into his backpack, wrinkling it in the process.
“Here you go, Liam,” Miss Hawkland handed Liam the paper and then continued down the row of tables.
He scanned the page and sighed. All the family relations were already written under the little boxes on the tree’s branches. “When we have all the information, we’ll use different internet sites to track down the roots of your family. You’ll pick out one of your ancestors and write a short biography about them.”
“Man,” Carson drawled, a quick smile on his suntanned face, and slapped Liam on the shoulder, “This is some of the easiest homework we’ve been given since becoming seniors.”
“Yeah,” Liam nodded numbly and folded the paper twice before slipping it into his backpack.
Liam shuffled the paper back and forth over his desk. How the hell was he supposed to do this? No matter what he wrote on the family tree it would either be a lie or so far out that he would be accused of lying.
He’d have to fiddle a little…well, a lot… with the dates. He was pretty sure his teacher would notice if he wrote Angel’s real date of birth.
Jesse walked in, without knocking and uninvited, and slumped down on Liam’s bed. The gangly teenager closed his eyes and started whistling tunelessly.
“Stop it,” Liam groaned and poked his brother in the thigh with the end of his pencil.
“No,” Jesse squeaked, pulled his leg away and closed his eyes, “The kids are driving me crazy and I need to get ready for tonight.”
“Why would anyone invite you for a sleepover?” Liam tapped the pen against the top of his paper.
“It’s this school thing. We’re making a short film about…um…” Jesse scrunched his face up trying to remember.
“You have no idea, do you?” the older boy asked.
“No…but,” Jesse sat up on the bed, “Carl is really cute and he’s going to be directing it.”
“Bummer Kathy is on the film team as well,” Liam grinned.
Jesse sighed, “I know,” he fell back on the bed with a blast of exhaled air.
“Hmmm,” Liam started writing O’Leary next to Angel’s name on the family tree.
“Baby is imitating Spike today,” Jesse said, “It’s a little disturbing. I mean, he’s wearing footie pajamas and keeps sucking on his thumb and then he leers at me.”
“Uh huh,” Liam bit his lower lip as his pen hovered over the box labelled mother. Jesse leant across and read the family tree.
“So…” he began after Liam had finally filled out the box, “You don’t think the teacher is going to notice that Dad’s last name is O’Leary and Cordy’s last name is Chase but our last name is Harris?”
“Shit,” Liam grabbed the eraser and was rubbing at the a in O’Leary when Jesse continued.
“And why the hell is Cordy tagged as your mother?”
“You wanna come to my class and tell them about our unique family situation?” Liam asked and slammed the eraser down on the desk.
“Hell no! But I…” Jesse began.
“Jesse?!” Kathy yelled from somewhere down the hall, “I’m gonna kill you when I find you, you little dirtbag!”
“Gotta go,” Jesse disappeared as quickly as he had arrived, slamming the door behind him.
Liam woke up hunched over his desk. The green lamp on the table was the only thing illuminating the room and it draped the walls in warm jade. He rubbed his eyes with his fists and then blinked sleepily down at the piece of paper he had been drooling on.
He had erased all the dates and names and the paper now only showed the tree with its tagged branches. He briefly wondered what Jennifer from class would do. She had never lived with her real parents but had been living with different foster families. How was she going to fill out the paper?
And he hadn’t even started finding information on his grandparents yet. He had no idea who Angel’s parents had been. Didn’t know their names or if his father had had any siblings, apart from the sister Kathy had been named after. And if half the horror stories he’d heard about Angelus were true he didn’t really feel like asking for details. Knowing what he did about newly turned vampires, Angelus had probably dined on his family.
And Tony and Jessica Harris?
He’d never met them. He just knew his Dad didn’t have any contact with them. It had never been said outright, but Liam had the feeling that his grandfather was an abusive alcoholic.
A knock made him drop the eraser on the floor.
“Liam?” Xander said as he slowly opened the door and peeked in through the gap.
“Yeah?” Liam stood up and stretched, groaning when his back made a snapping noise.
“Could you come down and keep an eye on the kids while I get some stuff ready for tonight’s hunt?”
“Oh, yeah…” Liam folded the family tree up and stuffed it in his jeans pocket before he followed his dad out the door.
“Just make sure they don’t get too dirty or…” Xander began and then groaned when Joyce reached out with a spoon, covered in green jello, and smeared it on Baby’s sleeve.
Baby whined and tried to get the green blob of its clothes and in its distress its hair started going from the bleached blond spiky hairdo to a darker brown. Joyce laughed and smacked the spoon against the table spreading drops of sticky jello all over it.
“You know what?” Xander looked down at the baseball bat he was pushing into the big duffle bag, “If they’re still alive and in one piece when we come back we’ll call it a success.” The heavy weapons clonked against the kitchen floor.
“Sure,” Liam grinned and leant against the counter. He opened the fridge and took out a milk carton. In the background he could hear Joyce talking.
“Jelly jelly belly!” she shrieked and Baby gave a wail of protest.
Shaking the carton, and hearing it was almost empty, Liam drank directly from it.
“Glass,” Xander said and opened the cupboard over the sink. He grabbed a handful of stakes on the lower shelf and then put them in the bag as well.
“It’s almost empty, Daddy,” Liam swallowed the last of the milk.
Xander shot him a look and then zipped the duffel bag closed.
“Where’re you going? I’m guessing vamps are involved,” Liam nodded at the four stakes peeking out of Xander’s jeans pocket.
“Yeah,” Xander put the bag back down on the floor and walked over to the table where both Baby and Joyce were sitting in their high-chairs, “You be good for Liam now,” Xander said and kissed first Baby and then Joyce on the cheek. Baby was still trying to get the jello of its sleeve.
“Yay!” Joyce shrieked.
“And Liam,” Xander turned to look at his son, “I know you’d rather be doing other stuff instead of babysitting…”
“It’s okay, Dad,” Liam put the empty milk carton in the trash can, “I know Jesse and Kathy need to go study at Carl’s place.”
“Still,” Xander helped Baby get some of the jello of its clothes and took the spoon from Joyce, “We’ve been leaning pretty heavily on you these last couple of weeks. Spike is usually our backup but…”
“Dad,” Liam looked Xander in the eyes, “Really, it’s okay. You’re busy and Spike is helping aunt Buffy. It’s not as bad as you might think. Mostly it’s fun,” Liam pointed at the two toddlers.
Joyce was using the jello droplets, still sticking to the table, to paint Baby’s face while Baby was rapidly changing its hair, letting it go through all the colours of the rainbow as it waved its chubby arms angrily.
The hotel was quiet.
Liam looked up from his homework when Baby started to whimper.
Joyce had taken Baby’s favourite toy. She was currently trying to press the small red Elmo doll into a blue plastic truck.
“Elmo in twuck,” Joyce said and sighed when Elmo’s feet wouldn’t fit into the cab of the truck. She pressed harder causing Elmo’s left eye to pop out of the truck’s empty windshield.
“No!” Baby screamed, its skin slowly turning a sickly green while small horns started poking through its forehead. It grabbed for the red stuffed toy, “Moe!”
Joyce crossed her chubby arms, “Elmo goes in the twuck!”
“Whoa,” Liam pulled the contorted Elmo out of the truck and handed it to Baby. The sulking baby immediately put the toy’s furry hand in its drooling mouth and gave Joyce a hateful stare.
“But,” Joyce’s eyes started tearing up, “Me put Elmo in twuck.”
“Yeah,” Liam sat down on the floor between the two toddlers, “But Elmo is Baby’s toy.”
Joyce scowled at the now happily grinning Baby and then said loudly, “I want my fuck.”
“Okay,” Liam snorted, “I’ll go get your frog.”
The hotel always seemed much bigger whenever he spent any time alone in it. The hallways, at least on the floors they used, were all painted a velvety dark red and the lamps lining the long halls illuminated everything so the beautiful wooden panels shone deep mahogany.
But whenever he was alone, or practically alone – the toddlers didn’t really count - he felt like the hotel went from being a home, his home, to being just a huge shell.
Baby’s damp fingers slipped from his hand and the little shape shifter swaggered along, its feet still a little unsure and unsteady. Liam’s hand hovered just over the child’s right shoulder. Joyce was walking behind them, holding on to their stuffed toys.
The door to the nursery was open and he stepped in and started getting the cribs ready. Both the toddlers were shuffling along behind him, their tired eyes already half closed.
“Wake up, boy” a voice close to his ear rumbled and Liam jumped in the comfy chair he’d fallen asleep in. The book he’d been reading to Baby and Joyce slipped from his fingers and hit the carpeted floor with a loud bump. He winced and his eyes drifted over to the two cribs. Oh, good. The toddlers hadn’t woken up. There was no way he was reading them another damn story.
“What?” he squinted up at the figure standing by the chair.
“We’re back,” the voice continued and Liam blinked a few times until his eyes could focus properly in the dim light of the nursery.
“But I thought you’d be out at least until early morning…” Liam groaned as he got up and tilted his face down a little to look Xander in the eyes.
“Yes.” Xander slowly nodded and looked around the room, “We were… lucky. The zombies were weak.”
“Oh," Liam blinked the last of the sleep away, "okay,” he started walking out of the room. He still felt groggy and his feet felt like they weighed a ton each, “I’ll just go to bed then.”
“Yes…” Xander watched him sharply as the teen stumbled into the door jamb, “You go to bed… um, boy.”
Liam scratched his cheek as he made his way to his own room. The warm red colours of the hallway felt soothing to his tired eyes and he felt himself slowly get more and more tired as he opened the door. He thought about maybe getting into his sleep clothes but then just unbuttoned his pants and fell face first into his bed.
He loved that bed. Softest bed in the whole damn hotel. And it was all his…
He felt his thoughts drift away as if they were caught on gentle soft waves...until, without warning, his brain suddenly kicked in. He sat up in bed, the bedsprings creaking at his sudden movement. His heart was beating fast and his body felt like he’d just had ten espressos in one large gulp.
Something wasn’t right. His body knew it but his mind still hadn’t caught up. His hands started shaking with the adrenalin coursing through his entire body.
What the hell was happening? What was wrong?
He ran through the last twenty minutes in his head. They’d come home early from hunting vam… no… no his dad had said they hunted zombies but… the duffle bag that morning had been packed full of stakes. No one with half a brain hunted zombies with stakes.
And his dad had… something had been off about his dad… something…
Liam buttoned his pants and went to his bedside table. He rummaged around in the drawer’s eclectic content. He threw an old Playboy on the floor followed by the rubik's cube and finally his fingers closed around the hilt of a small knife.
He still had no idea why he felt the need to arm himself. But something was wrong. Very wrong. A shiver ran down his spine and he hissed as he involuntarily went into game face, his eyes picking up far more detail in their altered state.
His dad had said they’d been lucky… his dad… had been shorter.
Liam’s fingers flexed around the small knife.
His father had been shorter than him. He’d had to look down slightly in order to look his dad in the eyes.
Both his fathers were still taller than him.
And if the man in the nursery wasn’t his dad then who the hell was he?
Liam had to take a few deep breaths and calm down. He could feel his instincts telling him to charge right into the nursery and rip the imposter’s throat open. He could practically taste the bastard’s blood in his mouth and he could feel control slowly slipping away from him.
He was completely alone. He was completely alone and a stranger was in the nursery.
He snarled at the empty hallway and looked down at the pitiful excuse of a knife he was holding in his right hand. The hilt was cool against his skin but he couldn’t fool himself. The knife was basically useless. All it did was hold his own panic at bay.
He heard movement in the nursery and pressed himself harder against the hallway wall next to the door. He counted to three and then pushed the door open.
The imposter was standing by Baby’s crib holding on to the crib’s side.
“Get away from there,” Liam’s throat felt dry as a desert and he tried to swallow, hoping his saliva glands would decide to start functioning again.
The man turned and now Liam saw that he only looked a little like his father. The eyes were the right color but the wrong shape. They were narrow and the eyelashes were sparse. The rest of the face looked almost right but still made Liam feel like someone had taken his father’s face and, like a wool sweater, had washed it just a little wrong causing it to not fit right on the skull.
“Go back to bed,” the man said, his voice wavering slightly.
“I said,” Liam repeated and winced when his voice broke in fear.
“What?” the man took a step in Liam’s direction, “It’s not like the kid belongs to you people.”
“He belongs,” Liam said lamely and tightened his grip on the knife, “Get away from the crib.”
“Or what? You’ll tickle me to death with your butter knife?” the man laughed and the action contorted Xander’s face until it was unrecognisable.
A whimper came from Joyce’s crib and as if in slow motion Liam saw the man turn and pick the little girl up. His fingers were digging into the toddler’s chubby arms and the sudden movement and the pain made Joyce start crying.
“If you don’t get the fuck out of this room right now,” the man said and his face shifted until it looked completely unfamiliar, “I’ll kill the little bitch.”
Liam’s body, which had been overflowing with adrenaline and fear, suddenly went completely quiet. His heart stopped thundering, his fingers stopped shaking and his mind sharpened until he could see every single hair on the man’s head.
He watched as the man’s fingernails grew long and caused small smears of red to appear on Joyce’s skin where the nails started to dig in.
“Let go, Liam,” warm hands were slowly unwrapping his fingers from the hilt of the blood soaked knife, “It’s al right now,” the voice promised.
“Come on, son,” Liam looked up into a pair of kind brown eyes, “let go of the knife, please.”
“Dad?” Liam whispered his voice raw and unsteady.
“Yes,” Angel said resolutely and pried the knife out of the teen’s hand. The blood staining the knife crimson made Liam gag. He could taste the blood that coated his tongue and lips.
The sounds in the room suddenly all rushed in on him. Joyce was screaming, her voice stringy and weak, as if she’d been screaming for hours. Baby was crying softly, sniffling and whimpering in between inconsolable sobs.
Xander held both toddlers, his back pressed against the nursery’s yellow wall, his eyes closed. Big bloodred spots stained the sides of the cribs and the wall opposite where he stood. He held the screaming and crying children closer. Joyce’s clothes were covered in blood and Baby’s sleeves were splattered with the dark fluid.
“Here,” Angel said, “Get up. Let me help you,” Liam felt strong hands pull him to his legs and steer him out of the room.
The warm water drenched his jeans and t-shirt. He just stood there under the spray supported by Angel. His body felt foreign, his arms felt heavy as if he had weights tied to them. Angel reached out and turned the warm water up causing the room to fill with steam.
“Clean your mouth,” the vampire said gently and pushed a washcloth into Liam’s hand. His hand trembled as he rubbed the cloth against his lips as hard as he could.
“Can you stand on your own?” Angel slapped the teen’s cheek a few times with an apologetic look in his eyes, “You need to stay awake, Liam.”
Liam put his hands up to shield his face, “Yeah, yeah, okay, I can…stand.” He felt his father slowly let go and step back. The hands started pulling the clinging t-shirt off his wet body. The shirt was thrown down on the tiled floor and then his jeans and underwear followed. His socks, stained with blood, were the last to land in the growing pile.
“Liam,” the voice was calm, “Liam, you can let go now.”
“Wha…” he managed.
“Your game face,” Angel let a finger caress the ridges on his son’s face, “you can let go now. The danger is gone. Joyce and Baby are safe, you can let go now.”
Liam nodded and felt the last remnants of adrenaline seep out of his muscles. His father’s fingers rubbed over smooth skin.
“Good,” Angel sighed, “Now you need to tell me if you’re hurt. Did he hurt you?”
“I killed him,” Liam mumbled.
“I know,” Angel started rubbing the washcloth against the boy’s skin, “I saw what you did.”
“I… I think I…” Liam swallowed; “I think maybe I… drank…” his voice petered out.
“What you didn’t drink ended up sprayed all over the nursery,” Angel squeezed more soap on to the cloth and started cleaning Liam’s thighs.
“He wanted…He said he’d take them…” Liam felt more and more of his energy disappear. If he didn’t know better he’d think it went down the drain with the dirty red water.
“You did what you had to do,” Angel held Liam’s face in his large hands, “You protected your family and you did what you had to do. I’m proud of you.”
Xander finally managed to get the two frightened toddlers to calm down enough for him to undress them. They both lay naked on the bed, a sheet covering Baby while Xander used antiseptic wipes to clean the small wounds on Joyce’s arms. Golden eyes stared up at him as he mumbled meaningless chatter at the toddler, praising her for being so patient.
The wounds were already healing as he wiped the smears of red off Joyce’s face. She blinked up at him; whimpering quietly, and he picked her up and held her close. Her silence disturbed him. He pressed his nose against her light brown hair.
Baby tried to push up on its elbows but the mattress was so soft that its chubby arms sank into the bedding making the child wobble back and forth. Xander settled Joyce on his lap and reached out to the small shape shifter, getting it settled against his side, he rubbed Baby’s back. Baby looked up at him its lower lip trembling and tears streaming down its cheeks.
The shape shifter’s face was oddly blank. Normally the child’s face was animated and shifting, showing every emotion it felt. But now the face was a rigid mask and only the tears and the slight wobbling of its lower lip gave away any emotion.
“It’s okay,” Xander whispered to the children, “You’re safe.”
Angel helped a shivering Liam into a pair of sweatpants and an old t-shirt. The shirt had been washed so many times that its colours had paled and the hem was threadbare. The damp bathroom seemed too small with both of them taking up space.
“What’s happening?” Liam asked and looked around the room with a frown on his face. He looked completely lost as he stood there, arms hanging and eyes clouded with shock.
“I’m helping you get ready for bed,” Angel said and guided the teen out of the room.
“I’m going to bed?” he looked uncertain.
“Yeah,” Angel opened the door to Liam’s room and with a hand pressed against the teens lower back he carefully pushed him toward the bed.
They’d both fallen asleep curled up in Xander and Angel’s bed, the two small bodies hardly taking up more room that one of the pillows. Joyce had a death grip on the front of Baby’s pyjama and the small shape shifter’s face was tense even in sleep.
Xander didn’t like the look the toddler’s face seemed caught in. It reminded him too much of the spooky kid mannequins that stores had in their windows. A weird vacant expression, a mask frozen in blankness.
“Everything al right?” Angel quietly pushed the door open and walked in.
“Yeah,” Xander whispered, “Joyce had…” he just rubbed his hand against his upper arm, “but she’s healing. Liam?”
“He passed out,” at Xander’s worried expression he hurried on, “He’s okay though, unharmed. What worries me…” Angel lowered his voice, “What worries me is that he fed on the man.”
“He was protecting…” Xander began.
“I know,” Angel pulled Xander down the hallway to the nursery, “I know he was but he ripped the man’s throat out and then fed on him. He’s never fed on someone before. You didn’t see it,” Angel opened the door to the nursery, “I saw it, Xander. The bloodlust,” Angel turned Xander to face him, “When we got here Liam wasn’t in shock, that happened later.”
“I don’t follow you,” Xander looked lost as he kept trying to look over his shoulder and into the blood sprayed room.
“He wasn’t in shock, Xander. He was high on the kill and the blood. We need to keep an eye on him. Things might get… he might have gotten a taste for it now. That rush? There’s nothing like it.”
Angel took the childish paintings off the wall. The canvas was stained with blood spatter. He dumped them in the black plastic trash bag Xander was holding.
“Why now?” Xander asked, “We’ve had Baby for almost a year now. Why not come for him sooner?”
“I doubt the guy had any family ties to the kid,” Angel rolled up the bedding in Joyce’s crib and dumped it in the trash bag.
“Then why come for him?” Xander persisted.
“The skin,” Angel wrestled with the mattress until it finally came out of the crib he tossed it on the floor. Hopefully it would soak up the worst of the blood.
“Baby’s skin?” Xander picked up a few of the dirtied toys from the floor and threw it in the bag.
“A shapeshifter’s skin is worth a lot of money, Xander. Some use it in potions others use it to make cloaks. The shapeshifting ability is believed to be captured in the skin.”
“He would have skinned Baby?” Xander was horrified.
“They’d skin him alive to maintain the shape shifting powers,” Angel ripped the bedding in Baby’s crib out and slammed it against the floor. He turned as he heard Xander throw up behind him.
Angel checked the last locks in the basement and then made his way through the long dark room to the stairs. He walked up slowly, feeling as if someone had installed a few hundred extra steps since last time he’d used them.
Xander was locking down the rest of the hotel. The unused levels were closed off permanently a few years prior to keep the little ones safe. But Xander had still checked all of the boarded up doors bringing a hammer with him just in case a nail or two needed a few extra blows.
They met up in the foyer.
“I called Kathy and Jesse,” Xander’s voice was hoarse, “Told them not to leave Carl’s house. They’ll wait for us to go get them after sunrise.” He sat down on the couch situated in the middle of the room, “We got complacent. We forgot what the world is really like.”
Angel slumped down next to him and rubbed his palms against his face and sighed, “It’s easy, you know, forgetting. Letting the hunts turn into a routine, letting your guard down. Forgetting that to the world our kids are different enough, unique enough, that they’re worth money. Worth killing for.”
Xander reached out and massaged Angel’s shoulder, “We’ll be more careful, take better care.”
“What do we do about Liam?” Angel asked, “Joyce and Baby will bounce back but Liam…”
“He’ll need you,” Xander said and moved closer to the vampire, “I can’t really relate to what he’ll go through.”
“I hope he only got a taste. It looked as if most of the blood ended up on his clothes and… well, the walls,” Angel stood up and looked down at Xander. “We need to go clean the rest up, get rid of the body.”
“We’ll clean the room up but Joyce and Baby won’t be sleeping in there again. I’ll close it off for now and we can use the room next to ours as a nursery,” Xander ran a shaking hand through his hair, “We’ll need new mattresses and bedding for the cribs. I’ll repaint when things are more…” he shrugged.
“One thing at a time,” Angel helped Xander up. He could feel the shivers running through the human’s body, “We deal with the trash and the body first.”
“Should we call Spike back from Sunnydale?” Xander asked uncertainly.
“No, Buffy needs him,” Angel lead Xander up the stairs, “We’ll call Cordy and Wesley tomorrow and maybe Gunn and Fred can look after the kids until everything is back in order. But Buffy needs Spike more than we do right now.”
Xander dumped the wet blood soaked shirt into the almost full plastic bag and then picked up Liam’s damp jeans from the bathroom floor.
He was about to throw the jeans into the bag when he noticed a piece of paper sticking out of the back pocket. Very carefully he checked the other pockets and then pulled the wet paper out and dropped the jeans in the bag.
The paper was difficult to unfold but with slow movements Xander managed to unfold it and he could just make out what the title printed on the top of the sheet said.
The rest of the paper was soaked through with blood and water making any of the other words unreadable. School work. Right now school work was the least of Liam’s worries.
Xander crumpled the soggy paper in his fist and threw it in the black bag.
“You okay in there,” Angel asked from the hallway as he dumped the plastic wrapped body of the intruder on the floor outside the bathroom.
“Yeah, just taking out the trash,” Xander mumbled and walked out to join Angel.