"Darla's back from the dead and she's pregnant with my child."

Xander nodded his head slowly and than realizing that the other man couldn't see the gesture over the phone, spoke up. "You're right, that tops last weeks topic of my engagement to Anya all to Hell."

Xander adjusted the phone on his shoulder while deftly opening a bag of chips and dumping them into a bowl. "So where's Darla now?"

"Napping upstairs, she tried to eat Cordelia." Angel took the heated mug of blood out of the microwave.

"Whoa, that would have been bad...for the baby." Xander cackled good-naturedly.

"Hey, I happen to like Cordy," Angel protested.

"Who doesn't," Xander responded brightly. Silence greeted his statement. Xander stared at the phone for a moment and tapped it gently on the kitchen counter. "I said 'who doesn't'."

"I heard you." Angel stared at the five bags of AB negative he'd picked up at the hospital, trying to decide how many Darla would need before simply shrugging his shoulders and pouring the whole lot into a large mixing bowl and shoving said bowl into the microwave.

Xander hesitated briefly and then pulled out a nice crisp apple from the fridge, quickly slicing it up and putting it on a plate next to the chips. He had promised Anya he would try eating better; keep that cholesterol down so that he would be in tiptop shape for the honeymoon.

"So, when's the wedding?" Angel tapped his fingers impatiently waiting for the blood to heat. Pregnant women, demons, whatever, sure did eat a lot. He shuddered to think how many people she'd consumed before her return to LA.

"I'm trying to put it off until the fall when the construction season slows down but Anya says that the most popular month for weddings is June so, who knows." Xander brought his dinner over to the couch, settling in and getting comfortable for the evening.

"Granted I've never been close to getting married but shouldn't you be a little more interested in the proceedings." Angel cursed as his fingers touched the too hot bowl of blood. He grabbed the oven mitts and carefully aligned the bowl over the pitcher and poured in the entire five pints. He set the pitcher on a tray already set with napkin and mug.

"I think I made a mistake Angel. Anya nailed it on the head when she said she didn't want me asking her to get married simply because I thought we weren't going to survive the fight with Glory. I said 'no baby, that's not why'; I lied." Xander sighed heavily.

"Don't talk to me about mistakes, I slept with my ex in a sick attempt to lose my soul so that I wouldn't have to face up to the complete ass I'd been and ended up getting her pregnant." Angel snorted, "And now she's upstairs, sleeping in my room, trying to eat my friends and generally causing havoc. I don't need a vision from Cordelia to see that this isn't going to

have a happy ending." Angel echoed Xander's earlier heavy sigh.

"I hate to say 'I told you so', who am I kidding, I love saying 'I told you so'. Last time we talked man, I told you, tell Cordy, Wes and Gunn that you're sorry. Sure they'll make your unlife a living hell but hey, you're used to it, but nooooo, Mr. King of the Bad Decisions decides to do the horizontal mamba with the ex and now you're gonna be a daddy." Xander 'tsked tsked' sorrowfully while flipping through channels.

"Says the man who's now trapped in an engagement with an ex vengeance demon who wants children - soon." Angel stressed the last part of the sentence with relish.

Xander groaned softly, "I'm so screwed. Can I stay with you if I decide to make a run for it?"

"Sure, sure, why not, like you said, penance is my life." Angel hesitated briefly before putting the bud vase complete with small carnation on the tray. "Look I've got to take her Ladyship her breakfast; same time next week?"

"Yeah, and hey Angel? Take care okay?" Angel could hear the smile in his ex's voice over the phone.

"You too Xander and promise me you'll think very carefully about this marriage to Anya?" Angel asked worriedly.

"I will. Love ya." Xander laughed.

"You too." Angel smiled before hanging up the phone, hefting the tray and heading upstairs.

Anya entered the living room just as Xander was hanging up the phone.

"Who was that?"

"Deadboy, couldn't get through to Willow and wants her to look something up for him at the Magic Shop." Xander sneered.

"I don't understand why you don't like him. He seems nice enough in a brooding way." Anya said. "I'm sure you could find something in common if you only talked to each other."

"Something in common? Deadboy and I, as if." Xander griped, hiding a small smile.

"Oh hey, there's a horse." Xander pointed out from his position on the hillside.

"Where?" Angel squinted up at the nighttime sky; cloud watching took on a whole new meaning with a vampire as your companion.

"Right there, see there's the mane and the tail?" Xander had been meeting Angel on and off over the years since their break-up in out of the way places where they knew they wouldn't run into the gang. Tonight's venue was a state park half-way between Sunnydale and Los Angeles.

"Oh yeah. Look Connor, look, see? It's a horsy." Angel juggled his baby into position to see the sky. He enjoyed these too infrequent time outs with his son and ex. They gave him much needed breathing room to simply be himself.

Xander turned his head slightly, watching Angel point out the horsy shaped cloud to his son. The baby gave a wide yawn to signify his interest in the proceedings. Xander chuckled.

"So who picked his outfit?" Xander asked, knowing full well what the answer would be.

Angel grimaced slightly. "Cordy and Fred thought it was 'just the cutest thing' their words. They wanted to take pictures but that's where I put my foot down. I mean look at him." Angel gestured to the yellow and brown striped sleeper suit complete with bumble bee headgear. "No boy wants a picture of himself looking like this lying around as blackmail material."

Xander chuckled again and shook his head. "He does look kinda cute, you gotta admit. Of course he's your son, so he'd probably look good in a sack. He's obviously inherited his dad's fashion superpower."

Angel sighed deeply and rolled his eyes.

"So you put your foot down eh? So they got, what only one picture instead of ten?" Xander reached out gently rubbing a fuzzy head.

"Three," Angel grumbled before sharing an understanding smile with the brunette, watching as the man stared in rapt wonder at one of Connor's little hands.

"Why did we break up again?" Angel teased gently.

"Because I was too young and you kept trying to do that possessive vampire thing, 'He's mine!'" Xander mimicked the vampire's growl convincingly.

If Angel could have blushed he would have. "Oh yeah, that."

"Yeah, that." Xander echoed. "If we weren't fighting we were making out which usually led to more fighting."

"Yeah," Angel sighed. "The making out was fun though."

"Yup," Xander nodded.

"You still going through with the wedding?"

"Yup."

Angel bit his lip and didn't say anything, choosing instead to shift his sleeping son to the other arm and move a little closer to Xander.

Xander rolled his head to the side and watched the manoeuvre with a small smile on his face and shifted his body to meet Angel half way. They leaned against each other in companionable silence watching the vast night sky.

"Oh now that one looks like a butterfly."

"Yeah, almost perfect wings."

"Yup."

"So Buffy's sleeping with Spike." Xander heard the calmly spoken words and held his breath waiting for the outburst. He'd thought long and hard before telling Angel and decided for once in his life to simply keep his mouth shut, apparently all for naught.

"Ummm, maybe; depends, why would you say that?" Xander hedged.

"Because Spike called me up to gloat about it." Angel stated coolly.

"Oh, okay than, yes, she is." Xander winced even though Angel was at least a hundred miles away; Xander knew that when he got reasonable heads were about to roll.

"How long have you known about this?" Angel asked, trying to keep the exasperation out of his voice.

"A while," Xander grimaced, "But not a long while, a short while, very short really."

"Xander," Angel growled warningly.

"A week all right! One lousy, frigging week, so sue me!" The young man griped loudly.

"Look, it's not like the two of you are still together or anything. You don't get on the phone to me every time Cordy goes out with someone." Xander defended.

"I told you about Groo." Xander could hear the hint of a pout in Angel's voice and felt his shoulder's slump, long conversation ahead.

"You told me about Groo because you had a crush on Cordy and you were feeling jealous." Xander stated reasonably.

"I was not jealous," Angel huffed, squinting in confusion at a credit card charge for fifty dollars to the Hot Momma Hot Tub House in Ventura. "Besides, that was a passing remark in the course of one conversation."

"We discussed that passing remark for forty-five minutes," Xander returned dryly.

"Still," Angel grumbled. "Is she happy?"

"With Spike? My guess would be no, but than who knows considering who we're talking about this could be as happy as they get." Xander said thinking with sorrow of his screwed up friend.

Angel heard the sadness in the brunette's voice and stopped sorting bills to focus completely on the conversation. "Xander, it's not your fault, remember? We discussed this."

"Yeah I remember but it is partially my fault. I know Willow; I should have known that you couldn't talk her out of something she'd decided on. I should have been watching her more closely Angel." Xander rubbed his eyes tiredly. Should have, could have, would have.

"You want me to come up there and drag Spike out of town? I could tie him across the hood of my car like a deer." Angel asked trying to lighten the mood.

"That would be sight I would pay big money for but no; I'm trying to stay out of other peoples' business. I've got enough stuff of my own to deal with." Xander gave a wry laugh.

"How'd it go with Anya when you asked for a stay in the wedding proceedings."

"She decked me and told me it was a good thing she wasn't a demon anymore or I'd be covered in boils and suffer a painful demise." Xander sighed. "All in all it went pretty well."

"Well at least you know she really cares otherwise she wouldn't threaten to kill you." Angel consoled the young man.

"You know I've been hanging around demons way too long when that statement makes a sick, twisted kind of sense and actually manages to make me feel better. I need serious professional help." Xander shook his head slowly and reached for another cookie.

Angel laughed, "Glad to be of service."

"Speaking of professional help, you talked to Wesley yet, asked him about his recent odd behaviour?" Xander split the cookie in half before licking the insides out.

Angel hearing the licking noises over the phone didn't immediately answer the question instead closing his eyes and smiling at a pleasant memory involving Xander and licking.

"Earth to Angel, hello Angel?" Xander called out.

"Huh? Oh no, not yet. I will." Angel stammered.

"Well do it soon, something tells me that weirdness is afoot." Xander stressed.

"I will and you, be careful and take it easy. You've always got a place to stay, you know." Angel answered warmly. "And next time you see Spike, smack him for me would you?"

"You got it and thanks. Love ya."

"You too, Xander, you too."

"I don't know about this Angel," Xander said for the third time since Angel had picked him up at the bus station.

"Everything will be fine. I've set aside a nice suite for you, right down the hall from Fred." Angel encouraged the reluctant young man. "This'll work, really."

"But if it doesn't..."

"If it doesn't you can leave anytime you want and I'll be fine with that." Angel quickly added.

"I don't know." Xander said again.

"Why do you keep saying that?"

"Because we've spent the last couple of years building a really good friendship and I don't want to ruin it by us trying to recapture the past. It's the whole 'Willow kiss' fiasco all over again." Xander shuddered.

"This is different, we're both adults. Our relationship won't be ruined by you moving in with

Connor and me."  Angel argued.

"I don't want us getting into a bizarre Spike and Buffy situation either? We're ex's who are sharing living space on a temporary, let's see how it goes, basis." Xander stressed.

"I agree, completely." Angel nodded vigorously. "How are Spike and Buffy by the way?"

"In their own completely dysfunctional way, I believe they're happy. She's decided that she doesn't want to be dead anymore and that Spike really does care for her, so our Buffy has determined that there are going to be some changes." Xander smiled in silent commiseration with the blonde vampire he'd left behind in Sunnydale. Angel winced.

"No more of this illicit sex business in a crypt while he tries to lure her into darkness. Nope, he wants to be with her, fine; he gets a job and helps out with the housework."  Xander sighed deeply. "She'll have him picking out china patterns by the end of the summer."

"Damn, poor Will," Angel said in disbelief. "And he's doing it?"

"He's got it bad," Xander patted the older vampire's arm consolingly. "That's one of the reasons I had to get out of there. After Tara put her foot down and got Willow some counselling and Buffy put her foot down and started remaking Spike and Anya put her foot down and left, I decided I needed to take a breather. Entirely too many feet were hitting the ground."

"Well that won't happen here," Angel promised.

"Angel?"

"No I mean it Xander. You may think that I was overbearing before when you and I were - together but I've learned my lesson." Angel said confidently.

"Angel?"

"I've matured in the last two years. I'm a lot more used to being around humans than I was in Sunnydale." Angel smiled brightly. "I'm flexible now, a very take life as it comes kind of person."

Xander lifted an eyebrow in polite disbelief. "Angel?"

Angel blithely continued, "Yes, being a parent has taught me that you have to roll with the punches."

"Angel!" Xander finally broke in.

"What?" The vampire gave his human passenger a bewildered look.

"I believe you, you've obviously become Mr. Relaxation, Perry Como has nothing on you." Xander bit down hard on his tongue to keep from laughing.

Angel frowned but brightened as they reached the hotel. He grabbed Xander's bags from the backseat and led the way inside.

"Wow, impressive. Where's Connor?" Xander ran his hands over the hand carved columns in admiration; man this was some fine workmanship.

"Fred's babysitting." Angel stared at the young man with hopeful eyes. "What do you think?"

"Nice, very nice."

"Great, that's great. I'll show you to your room." Angel practically bounced up the stairs, Xander trailing along behind, their conversation unimpeded by the climb.

"I'll pay for all my own food and bills." Xander listed, "I'll be happy to help out with the

investigation work, especially while Wes is out on vacation; I want to do my fair share."

"Absolutely," Angel agreed.

"As soon as he gets back, I'll look for another job." Xander added.

"Whatever you think is best." Angel concurred.

"And I don't mind letting you know where I am but I need my space." Xander warned.

"Nothing but space here," Angel said with a contented smile.

"Are you paying attention?" Xander asked the suspiciously happy vampire.

Angel pointed to his head, "It's all right up here," he intoned before casting a thinly veiled hopeful glance over his shoulder. "What about unscheduled and completely unsolicited possible fooling around, you know that kind of unintentional thing that might happen between friends? Not that I'm hinting for anything because I'm not but in case it does happen I want to be prepared."

Xander smiled to himself before sighing in mock exasperation at the tall brunette's back before answering, "Well, we'll have to assess the situation and deal with it in a mature manner."

Angel's shoulders slumped slightly.

"Or we can say 'what the Hell' and throw caution to the winds. We'll see." Xander smiled in wry amusement as Angel's laughter echoed merrily on the stairs.

......................................................................................................................................................................................