Angel knew something was wrong from the moment he woke up.
It was not uncommon for him to be awake so late at night, seeing as he had this whole vampire situation to contend with, but since the arrival of his son Angel had made a special effort to keep more human-friendly hours.
All the same, he was exhausted and knew he should probably be trying to get some sleep.
Yet, something was missing. He lifted up the bed sheets and took a quick inventory of all his bodily pieces, mentally noting that nothing was physically wrong with him – but all the same, he felt different. Kind of weird, if he was being totally honest.
And for a long while he just lay there, butt naked except for a strategically placed silk sheet reaching only as far as his hips.
Angel lay there and brooded for a while.
Meanwhile, at a residence in Sunnydale – several miles away:
Buffy Summers was curled up on the couch, enjoying as well-earned night off from the Doublemeat Palace.
And although Buffy knew she didn’t have to be back in work until after the weekend, the fact that her dearest friends, Willow and Xander, had inched their way as far over to the other side of the sofa as possible was evidence enough that she still smelled like processed meat and animal fats.
Still, she didn’t mind. Buffy took what little comfort she could get nowadays. And watching television, even with mildly insulting friends, definitely fell under that category.
Impatiently Willow, clad only in fleece pajamas with some kind of teddy bear motif, flicked through the movie channels with some degree of frustration.
“There’s just nothing on!” She grumbled, very unWillow-like.
Xander and Buffy exchanged worried glances, knowing that their friend was going through a difficult time. She had given up practicing magic altogether, which Giles explained over the phone, was not unlike trying to give up crack cocaine.
And coincidentally, a conversation with Willow was not unlike lighting a bomb fuse and waiting for expletives to come flying back at you.
Buffy was worried. She missed the Old Willow. Teddy-Bear-Motif-Willow.
“Hey,” Xander said, “Look – is that Pretty in Pink? What say we fuel Buff’s Molly Ringwald obsession for a while, huh? Make fun of James Spader?”
Buffy was about to agree, but Willow’s glare silenced her.
“No. We’re not watching anything by John Hughes.”
“Because the eighties suck.”
“Oh. Okay.” Buffy agreed, quietly. Even though she was quite fond of the eighties.
Willow caught her friend’s sad facial expression and immediately felt a stab of remorse. She relented, just a little, on her bad mood and finally found a movie channel she could tolerate.
“Hey – let’s watch Interview with a Vampire. We can make fun of vampires in general and also, I like the angst factor. I need the angst right about now.” Willow settled further in the couch cushions, playing anxiously with a lock of red hair that she usually tucked behind her ear.
Xander balked, and elbowed Willow sharply in the ribs, gesturing frantically at Buffy. Willow didn’t understand what he was trying to tell her at first, but after he blinked emphatically for a couple of minutes, she finally realised what was wrong.
“Oh, Buffy! I’m sorry! That was completely insensitive of me! Watching the -… W-with the vampire! And the Anne Riceness! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring up bad memories.”
Buffy scratched the back of her head, and regarded her friend curiously.
“Wil – did somebody up your sugar dosage?” She asked.
“No, it’s just – I thought you’d be upset…. Because, well – y’know…”
Xander leaned over Willow, leaning an elbow on one of Buffy’s overly muscular thighs.
“Because,” He interrupted, “you were always talking about how the film reminds you of Angel, and blahblahblah, yay Angel! Blahblahblah, you and Angel can never be together! Blahblahblah…”
Annoyed, Willow smacked Xander on the arm, causing him to kick over the bowl of popcorn she had placed on the floor. Buffy thought back to Angel and felt a stab of something in the pit of her stomach.
It was a swirling empty feeling, and it felt kind of different to the pain she was normally used to feeling when she thought of her beloved Angel. It wasn’t loneliness or guilt. She didn’t particularly miss him, or anything. Somehow, Angel had stopped being the love of her life and had become simply – Angel. Her ex-boyfriend.
Someone she cared for quite dearly and who may or may not have once endeavored to eat all her friends. Somebody she had ceased to know several years ago.
Sitting up on the couch, Buffy managed to identify the swirling sensation in her stomach.
“I’m hungry.” She said, “Who wants pizza?”
Angel was suddenly forgotten.
By the time Angel had managed to drift off and wake up again, it was already late morning. A quick trip to his make-shift nursery informed Angel that his son wasn’t still in his crib.
Someone – probably Cordelia – had already sashayed into his bedroom without asking, to feed his son and bogart all the baby snuggles. The baby and offending culprit were, undoubtedly, downstairs.
Angel smiled to himself. Well, he just couldn’t allow that now, could he?
He didn’t notice the squeaky floorboard in the hallway outside his room. He didn’t notice the strange looks he got off his colleagues as he skipped the stairs, two at a time. He didn’t even notice his own uncharacteristic chipperness, because today, as far as he was concerned, was a great day.
All Angel was focused on was his son, who quite happily lay in a small woven Moses basket, next to Gunn on the circular couch in the middle of the lobby. Gunn was playing one of those – whatd’yacallits? Game boys? A miniature obnoxious computer game that made far too much noise.
Connor, in turn, just lay on his back and moved his legs, gurgling happily. Being a baby, he’d only recently developed the ability to kick his legs and therefore found this activity endlessly fascinating. This suited Angel just fine, because he found the whole routine to be endlessly cute, in fact everyone did.
Angel leaned into the basket and tickled his son, causing yet more gurgles and more then a little squealing.
Gunn shifted in his seat, his eyes not leaving his game.
“Man, please. I am trying to concentrate here.”
Angel didn’t let that ruin his mood. He nodded and scooped up the Moses basket, moving it over to the front desk where he could fuss over his baby appropriately. En route, he noticed Cordelia at her desk, typing away on some case file and occasionally pausing to crane her neck, trying to work out the kinks.
Angel gently placed Connor on the desk, and watched her, intrigued by something. By what? He wasn’t sure, but there was definitely something.
Cordelia yawned, stretching her arms high about her head and arching her back, inadvertently sticking out her breasts in the process. Angel felt a stirring of something down in his joy department, and damn near squeaked in surprise.
Breasts?! Since when did Cordelia grow breasts? Why didn’t anybody warn him?!
Horrified, Angel glanced about the office to see if anybody else had noticed what had just happened. Gunn was still playing with that god awful Gameboy thing of his, which had a tendency to suck up all his undivided attention.
Fred, wearing her cute little professor glasses of hers, was sitting opposite Cordy, scouring a book and Wesley was safely sheltered in his office, blissfully unaware of what had just occurred. Lucky bastard.
Cordelia noticed him standing there, and smiled.
“Morning!” She said, quite simply. Like it was any normal day.
Oh God, what if she knew? What if she felt it too? What was going on here?!
Suddenly, Angel felt like he was under a spotlight. He didn’t know what else to do, so he grinned nervously, flashing Cordelia a wide set of beautiful white teeth, and in turn – causing her smile to grow confidently and rival his. In fact, everything else seemed fade insignificantly into the background, eclipsed by this bright, sunny phenomenon that was – what?
Cordelia being happy? He got to see Cordelia being happy all the time, so what was so different about today? It occurred, quite randomly, to Angel that Cordelia once told him he should smile more often.
That must have meant that she liked his smile too, right?
Cordelia looked a little creeped-out now. Angel knew his smile must look forced and possibly a little malevolent, like that of a china clown. So, nodding to Cordy by way of hello, Angel made the executive decision of indignantly snatching his son out of his little woven basket and carrying him upstairs at a terrifying speed to hide in his bedroom.
Cordelia stared at the space Angel used to occupy, more than a little confused.
“Alright,” she said, “you all know I pride myself on my title of ‘Miss Vamp Psychologist’, but I’m stumped on this one. Anyone know why Angel’s being weird?”
Gunn shrugged, “Because it’s Wednesday?”
Fred wrinkled her nose in delight, causing her thick-framed glasses to move further up her face. “No, silly! It’s ‘kyrumption!'”
“Fred, honey – don’t make up days of the week. Gunn?”
Gunn grunted, putting most of his effort into his stupid video game.
“Man, I don’t know. Maybe it’s his time of the month, or something. Ask English.”