Author's Note: This follows "Being Found," "Being Taught," "Being Accepted," "Being Stubborn," and "Being Aware". Verse/Setting: Post-Angel the TV series.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything from Angel and am not making money from this fic.
Warning(s): AU; discipline of adult.


BEING FOOLISH


"Guess who just got back today?" The Boys Are Back In Town by Thin Lizzy


Lindsey was, for lack of a better word, excited. After two months of being restricted to home and work; after two months of not being allowed to do anything remotely recreational; his grounding had finally ended. And he was going out…to a bar…that was not Lorne's bar…with a girl…that was not Faith or Illyria. It was a girl he'd met at the grocery store just that morning- while he was trying to decide which cut of meat to buy.

Angel was amused. Actually, the whole family was amused- but for once none of them teased him or gave him a hard time. His enthusiasm and happiness was contagious. Spike and Illyria had decided to go to a movie, Faith had called up Albert to see if he wanted to go to the same bar Lindsey and his mystery date were going (And no, she wasn't following her brother to make certain some demon-ho-bag wasn't out to get him. She really wasn't.) Lorne had decided to have an impromptu Karaoke contest at his bar. Angel- Angel had decided to catch up on paperwork and finalize some details on the job that they were going to do in two days time.

When the 'children' found out, they tried to coerce him into joining them in their fun, but he didn't want to be a third wheel on one of their dates, anymore than they wanted to have their 'father' supervising said date. It didn't take much to convince them that he was perfectly happy staying home.

Lorne was the first to leave- he did have a business to run after all. Spike and Illyria took off next. Finally, Lindsey- realizing he could either go WITH his sister and have it look planned (maybe he could pass it off as him being the one that was overprotective of her) or go without her and have it be obvious she was following him- wrapped an arm around her shoulders and drug her out the door after grabbing the keys to Angel's car. "Borrowing the car, 'kay? Thanks!"

Angel blinked and shook his head in bemusement. Yes. Lindsey was definitely excited. Snorting softly to himself Angel grinned and headed to his office.

#####

It had turned out to be a rather good date, all things considered. Lindsey's date Anne hadn't minded in the least that his 'sister' and her 'date' had tagged along. It seems she'd had the same idea- and had invited her 'brother' and his 'date'. They'd all had a laugh at that then piled into Angel's car. It had been a snug fit, but they'd managed.

Both Lindsey and Anne had been grateful they'd gone in a large group, as it quickly became apparent that they had nothing in common beyond their love of a top-notch sirloin. Even so, they had fun talking and dancing- Anne's two left feet aside- and figured they could keep in touch for those times when they were bored and wanted to go do something with someone else.

The night had gone by quickly and the group soon found themselves in the car, delivering people back home. After dropping Anne and her group off at home, Lindsey and Faith had taken Albert home and then returned to the mansion. When they walked in, they wandered to Angel's office, curious if their father figure was still working or if he'd decided to relax. Of course he was still working.

Angel glanced up in surprise when they walked in. "Back already? Isn't it a bit soon…?" his voice trailed off as he looked in surprise at his watch. "I guess not…" he muttered, then shrugged and looked up, smiling.

"So, did you have fun?" he grinned and began questioning them.

"Yes, we did. We'll remain friendly- that's all- and I didn't kiss her." Lindsey announced as if answering a checklist, then grinned. "That is what you were going to ask, isn't it?"

Angel blinked, then smirked. "Actually, I just wanted to know if you had fun- but if you want to admit that you didn't kiss her, that's ok too." Lindsey rolled his eyes, then flopped onto the couch.

"So what are you working on that has kept you in here all night?" he asked curiously.

Faith, who had been watching the two with open amusement, piped in. "Yeah Pops! I figured you'd just wait till we were gone and then go watch one of those sappy movies you think we don't' know about…"

Angel shot Faith an irritated pout. "I don't watch sappy movies…."

"Suuure ya don't." Lindsey drawled and nodded as if agreeing with the vampire, but it was obvious he was having a difficult time refraining from laughing.

"Anyway…" Angel eyed them both with wrinkled eyebrows- his eyes betraying his amusement, "I've been arranging our next job. I believe we will be able to go in tomorrow night. We're supposed to retrieve this vase. Simple."

Lindsey quickly stood up and knocked on the wooden desk. "You'd think you'd know better than to say stuff like that now…" he muttered.

Angel shook his head, "I never thought you'd be superstitious…."

Lindsey's eyes widened incredulously. "And you can say- after everything you've seen and experienced in your long life- that you aren't? Wow. Just…wow."

Angel grinned then motioned Faith and Lindsey closer. "Let me show you what we're going to do."

#####

Eighteen hours later, Angel had the team surrounding him at his desk for one more walk-through of the plans.

"Remember. There are only supposed to be 10 guards. That is 2 guards a piece. If it turns out that they have a substantive amount MORE than that, retreat. More than that indicates a change in status and we will need to rethink our plan." Angel looked at the two women and two men who were preparing to follow him.

He continued when they nodded. "You each have been given specific rooms that you are to look in. Do NOT look in any room beyond the room I assigned you. Those rooms have traps and alerts on them that… they are just nasty and we currently do not have what is needed to nullify them. Since the magic for those rooms react badly to the magic of the vase, I'm certain it won't be in any of those rooms."

"Yeah. Ok. We only go where you assigned us- no where else- and if there are more guards than expected, we book it out. Got it." Faith nodded, her voice only slightly irritated that Angel had repeated these instructions three times already and seemed intent on doing it a fourth and possibly fifth time.

Giving them a sheepish look, Angel still managed to look very stern. "It is just very important you follow the plan. Failure to do so can put you and the rest of us into grave danger. If ANY of you deviate from the plans- well I'm sure you can figure out what will happen."

Spike, Lindsey, and Faith winced. Illyria raised an eyebrow at Angel, who raised his back. "I may not turn you over my knee Illyria, but if you break the rules, I can make damn certain you don't go on any more missions with us." His voice was firm and the blue woman nodded once at him in acceptance.

"Does everyone have their ear buds? We need to be able to communicate." He watched as everyone nodded. Lindsey readjusted his so that Angel noticed. Satisfied that everyone knew what they were meant to do and had their equipment, Angel clapped his hands together. "Ok, then. Let's go!"

#####

Two hours later, Lindsey was hiding. He'd already searched through two of the rooms he had been assigned- and there was only one left. The only problem was, he was noticing a distinct rise in activity. He'd begun paying closer attention to the guards passing by his location. He frowned when he realized that a guard had walked past at least 20 times- and it was a different guard each time. If there were 20 different guards just in his area, then the information Angel had wasn't only wrong- it was hugely wrong. Waiting until the latest guard was beyond hearing, Lindsey whispered into his com, "I don't know what y'all's situation is like- but I've got at least 20 guards crawling over my area. I'm getting outta Dodge before one of 'em stumble 'cross me."

Looking at the last room he was responsible for with irritation, Lindsey began making his way OUT of the building. As much as he wanted to complete his objective- Angel had been crystal clear on what he expected. He didn't desire another two months grounding OR a trip over his father's knee. When he finally finagled his way back outside, he was relieved to notice that Faith was already by their hidden vehicle. Illyria was the next to arrive, with Spike not far behind. The only one left was Angel.

"I found the vase and have it here," Illyria intoned quietly. The others nodded, relieved that their mission hadn't been a complete bust due to having to leave so quickly. Angel still hadn't arrived.

Lindsey frowned. "Hey, Angel…" he whispered worriedly into his com. "You got trouble?"

A few moments silence went by, causing the four by the van to begin fidgeting in agitation, but finally a response came through their ear buds, static overlying it. "Good job Illyria. Am on my way out- just saw something that I need to check out first."

"Wait…Angel…there are guards swarming the building. Way more than you accounted for in your plans- and more are arriving in cars at this moment!" Lindsey hissed to the vampire, becoming worried as he watched black limos stopping in front of the building and letting out large groups of armed men. "There is NO TIME for you to check something out! Get out of there. We can come back later!"

The vampire evidently didn't want to hear what his son was saying, however. There was no answer from the vampire and Lindsey had no clue if the man had taken the warning to heart or not.

Illyria had placed the vase in the trunk of the car and crawled into the passenger seat. Spike had gotten into the driver's seat, preparing to start the car and take off as soon as Angel made an appearance. He kept glancing in the rear-view mirror or looking over his shoulder. Faith and Lindsey were pacing near the passenger side of the car. Five minutes later and Angel still hadn't exited the building.

"If he isn't out that door in the next minute, I'm going in after him," muttered Lindsey.

"You step foot inside this building and I'll bare you and put you over my knee in the backseat of the car with everyone watching." Angel finally decided to answer his com again. "I'm on my way out now; almost to the door."

Lindsey grimaced, not only at the vampire's words but at the sound in his voice. Taking his ear bud and com off and tossing it into the back seat, he turned to Faith. "Something is wrong with him. His voice didn't sound right." Faith nodded. She'd heard it too.

"I've got your back," she mouthed so that Angel wouldn't hear. Slowly, carefully, they made their way to the side exit door. They stayed in the shadows, careful not to be seen. Just as they were about to open the door and slip inside, Angel came staggering out.

Angel gave Lindsey and Faith a suspicious look, but didn't say anything. When they both wrapped an arm around him and quickly made their way to the car, he did his best to help them. Lindsey helped him into the backseat of the car, while Faith got in at the other side. Once all three were in the car, Spike took off. Lindsey and Faith stared at their hands grim expressions on their faces. Their hands were covered in Angel's blood.

"I'll call Lorne. See if he can bring any extra blood from the bar," Lindsey muttered in a hollow voice.

"I'll call Linda, she's better at stitches than I am." Faith replied.

"And I'll just carry his dead-weight into the house." Spike grunted. Angel had passed out.

#####


"Maybe you just need a friend
As clumsy as you've been
There's no one laughing
You will be safe in here."
Clumsy by Our Lady Peace


Lindsey had been relieved that they made it back to the house without any difficulty. Spike had driven in a very defensive manner- making certain that anyone who might have been following was left far behind. Lindsey did his own mojo to make certain there were no magical trackers. When the pulled into the garage, Lindsey's nerves were wound tightly- the frowns on his siblings' faces indicated that they were feeling much the same as he was. Only Illyria's face remained calm and neutral- sometimes Lindsey envied her ability to remain detached.

Spike had quickly pulled Angel out of the car and taken him inside, laying him on the kitchen table, while Faith and Lindsey began gathering needed supplies. Lorne and Linda had arrived not too long after and soon Linda was stitching up the older vampire while Lorne poured pig's blood down his throat. Angel woke up about half-way through the stitches, groaning slightly before opening his eyes.

"Wh…what?" he looked in confusion at the somber faces staring down at him, then grimaced as he felt the tell-tale sensation of needle and thread closing him up. "Oh. Thanks Linda. I appreciate it. You too Lorne." Angel licked his lower lip then tried to hold still while Linda finished off the stitches. He could taste the blood that had been poured down his throat and realized he was still hungry. He must have been losing more blood than he thought when he exited the building.

"All done," Linda leaned back wearily, then sighed and gave the vampire a crooked smile. "Damn good thing you don't have a heart beat- cuz I wouldn't have been able to do anything for you if you had."

"Yeah" he agreed half-heartedly. "Course, I don't, so there was really no reason to worry…." Angel's voice trailed off as he saw the incredulous and almost angry looks on the faces around him. "Not that I'm not grateful," he quickly reiterated. "I much prefer it only taking a few hours to get back into form than the several days it would have taken if you'd not gotten me closed up and….fed." He grimaced as he noted that the frustrated looks on everyone's faces hadn't changed at his words- the kid's faces looked even more upset, truth be told. He decided being quiet might be in his best interest for the moment.

Lorne gave him a narrow-eyed glare before shaking his head. "So what was so important that you had to get yourself nearly tore in half to get it?" he asked. The way the others focused intently on the older vampire, Lorne could tell they wanted to know the same thing.

Angel shrugged faintly. "The vase we went after is very special- it is needed for a ritual that would release a plague on the world and we need to keep that from happening. I was on my way out and didn't get out fast enough." He conveniently left out the information that he'd stayed behind to look at some other items- even when it was obvious they had been found out and needed to leave.

A sudden growl caused the brunette vampire's eyebrows to shoot up in surprise as his "youngest son" spun on his heal and literally stomped out of the room. Angel was positive if Lindsey could have slammed the door, he would have. Since Linda had moved to stand by the door and was in the way, the entry-way was saved that unnecessarily rough treatment.

"What's his problem?" Angel asked the others, confused irritation pouring off of him.

Faith rolled her eyes and huffed. "Are you sure you didn't hit your head? Cuz it's pretty obvious what the problem is from where I'm standing." With that the slayer turned and followed her brother out of the room- not stomping, but still making her own irritation clear.

Spike snorted. "Yeah. What she said." The blond vampire took Illyria's arm, leading her out.

Angel looked at Lorne and Linda in consternation. "Did something else happen while I was out of it?"

Lorne shook his head and gave the vampire a knowing look. "They were worried about you- what happened back at those offices, anyway?"

#####

Angel had explained everything to Lorne about their mission objective and how Lindsey had sounded the alarm and they'd all had to leave quickly. He noted that Illyria had managed to find and retrieve the vase- which meant their objective had been filled. He also explained how he had been almost to he door when the guards had swarmed him. He'd managed to get out and thanks to the kids quick thinking, they'd gotten away and he'd been patched up right as rain. Lorne had the feeling that the vampire had left a very important piece of information out of his narrative, but he couldn't be certain what it was- and the kids were being very tight-lipped about it, not wanting to talk about that night at all.

Unfortunately, while the kids didn't seem to want to talk about it- they had no problem showing their irritation at it. If Lorne didn't know better, he would have sworn he was dealing with a house full of hormonal pre-teens. It didn't matter what Angel said or did, one of the kids- usually Lindsey, but often Faith or Spike, would make a snarky comment. The comments made to the vampire were often rude and disrespectful, but whenever Angel would get frustrated enough to confront them on the behavior, they'd clam up and act like they didn't know what he was talking about.

"I swear Lorne, I can't figure out what's gotten into them," Angel bemoaned to him one evening, a week after the vase's retrieval. "They won't tell me what's wrong, so I can't fix it. And I swear if I get one more smart-ass comment from Lindsey…." The brunette vampire sighed, running a hand through his hair. "I'm beginning to wish I'd made respect one of the rules so that I could punish them for their behavior. Only that wouldn't help take care of whatever the problem is and I'm afraid it would push them even further away."

Lorne looked at the man in sympathy. "This has gone on long enough. We'll get to the bottom of whatever is bothering them- even if they don't want to share. Come by the bar tonight. We're going to have a pow-wow. If the kids don't want to talk- then they'll have to sing." Lorne smiled at Angel, patting him on the shoulder once the vampire smiled hesitantly back.

#####

"I don't know why we have to go to the bar tonight," Faith grumbled to her brothers as they all piled into Lindsey's truck. It would have been more comfortable if some of them had gone with Angel in his car- but when he'd offered, the only one who seemed inclined to take him up on the offer had been Illyria- and Spike had firmly taken her arm and led her to the truck with the other two.

"Lorne said he wanted a family night out. As much as I don't really want to have to deal with Angel right now, Lorne didn't do anything to deserve us ignoring his requests." Lindsey shrugged slightly, moving closer to the door so that there would be a few more inches for his companions to sit.

Spike snorted, "Besides. Do you honestly think he would take no for an answer? He had that look on his face."

"What look?" Illyria asked curiously.

"The look that says if you don't do what I ask now, I'll do something horribly embarrassing to you in the future…" Faith chuckled.

Lindsey grinned faintly. None spoke of it, but they knew that this was more than just a 'family night out'. Lorne had been increasingly short with them the last few days- even the green demon's patience could only last so long and Lindsey knew that they hadn't been behaving like the adults they claimed to be. It was easy to lay the blame on Angel- the vampire had yet to admit that he'd done anything wrong the night they had retrieved the vase- but despite all the frustration and anger Lindsey felt toward Angel's actions, he couldn't honestly lay the blame for his own behavior anywhere but at his own feet. Lorne had tried to talk to him several times to find out what was wrong and Lindsey had brushed him off. The demon was obviously going to attempt to find out what was wrong in the only way left to him.

"You know he's going to make us sing." He muttered out loud.

Spike huffed. "Yeah- course he is. Prolly woulda been easier if we'd just told him what was wrong."

Faith flinched. "I don't want to tell him what's wrong. What if he sides with Angel?"

"You think he will?" Lindsey asked curiously, hesitantly.

"I dunno. But if he does, I'm not sure that I could…" she didn't complete the thought, shrugging slightly instead. Lindsey knew what she was thinking though. He was thinking the same thing. How could they continue to follow and obey someone who thought it was ok to ignore their own advice or rules?

#####

Lindsey pulled the truck into the parking space right next to Angel's car, quickly hopping out of the vehicle and waiting for the others to slide out before locking the doors. Angel had already gone inside and it didn't take the four to follow suit. Lindsey nodded at Albert as he walked in, smiling brightly at his friend before heading back to Lorne's table. The green man had already had drinks poured and waiting for them.

Lorne didn't beat around the bush. "Ok. This has gone on long enough. I've tried to talk to each of you and find out what is wrong, only to have my questions evaded or ignored completely. You've left me no choice." The demon gave Lindsey, Faith, and Spike a stern look, causing the three to begin squirming despite their attempts to appear unaffected. "Up on stage. Now. You're singing."

Lindsey opened his mouth preparing to protest, but Lorne held up one finger, cutting his words off before they were voiced. "That wasn't a request Sunshine. It was an order."

Swallowing hard, Lindsey nodded, then sighed and slid out of the booth heading up onto the stage. Lorne chose to ignore the kid's stooped shoulders- Lindsey obviously didn't want to have Lorne figure out whatever it was he was trying to keep from talking about. Faith and Spike sighed, then followed their brother- the same hang-dog look in their posture and on their faces. Illyria sipped her drink quietly, seemingly unaffected by what was occurring around her. Angel, however, looked worried and uncertain. Lorne raised an eyebrow at the brunette vampire.

"You look like you aren't sure you want whatever it is they're hiding to come out, big guy. Any reason that might be?" Lorne questioned, ignoring the disgruntled look Angel shot him before they both turned to listen to the trio. Lindsey and Spike both looked embarrassed and irritated while Faith was giving them both an impish grin. Apparently their sister had arranged for them to sing "Papa Don't Preach".

Lorne chuckled softly to himself then began to focus on the auras of the three singing for him. His brow became more furrowed and his eyes became more worried, the further into the song the group progressed. Finally, he'd seen enough and turned toward Angel in agitation.

"Just WHAT did you DO?" he scolded.

"What do you mean???" Angel retorted uncertainly, knowing he didn't like what Lorne was implying.

Lorne eyed him with a narrow gaze. "All three of them have the same aura. Disillusionment, confusion, irritation, hurt…numerous others that I can't put words too but all add up to the same thing." Lorne shook his head. "Whatever you did, it pulled the rug out from under them."

Angel shook his head in confusion. "I don't KNOW what I did- that's the problem!"

Lorne sighed. "Well, we'll just have to force them to talk then, because whatever it is has caused them to question their trust? Reliance? On you."

The three had finished the song and were making their way back to the table, but stopped and stood warily when they noticed the defensive look on Angel's face. The look on Lorne's face had them all turning and getting ready to head for the door.

"Hold it!" Lorne ordered. They all stopped immediately.

"Sit down!" The normally mild man's voice was firm and promised swift retribution if he wasn't obeyed. Biting his lip, Lindsey turned around and did as told. Faith and Spike quickly followed.

"Now talk." Lorne's gaze was strict, but concerned. The three 'kids' looked at each other helplessly, not sure how to explain. Faith finally began, her voice hesitant.

"Well, it's just…You'll probably think it's stupid." She muttered. Lorne just raised an eyebrow.

Lindsey attempted to help his sister. "When we went after that vase- Angel was very clear on what we were and weren't supposed to do!"

Lorne glanced at the younger man. "Yes, that surprised you?" he couldn't help the hint of confused amusement. Surely the kids weren't upset because Angel was being his normal protective self?

"No!" Lindsey frowned, irritated. "That didn't surprise us at all. We expected it, even if it was a bit irritating to have him repeat himself twenty-million times to make sure we knew what we were allowed to do…" the ex-lawyer muttered.

"Hey! I only repeated myself five times- at most…" Angel protested half-heartedly.

Spike snorted, then rolled his eyes. "This is stupid. We shoulda just said from the very beginning what the problem was- he obviously hasn't figured it out on his own. Prolly doesn't even realize he did it."

Everyone looked at the blonde vampire. Seeing all eyes on him, Spike grimaced, then looked at Angel and frowned. "You were a bloody hypocrite!"

Angel spluttered before managing an inarticulate, "What?"

Spike grimaced. "You went over all the 'family' rules with us to make certain we wouldn't forget. You went over the special rules that you came up with just for this job- because you didn't want anyone to be hurt. You made certain that everyone knew exactly what would happen to them if they didn't follow the rules or went off-plan. Hell- you even threatened Illyria with consequences if she didn't follow the same rules you gave us."

Lorne blinked in surprise, looking at the old-one to see what her reaction was. As usual, she wore a placid and unconcerned face, although she nodded at Lorne to show that what Spike said was true.

Spike continued. "You gave all those rules and threated consequences- and then when push came to shove and we all had to bail out because one of your conditions for retreat had occurred- you bloody ignored your own rules and conditions so that you could get a looksee at ….at some thing that ended up not being important!" The blond growled. "You….Are…A…Hypocrite!"

Angel swallowed. When he was finally able to speak and defend himself, his voice came out weaker than he would have liked. "I made it out ok. And that item I stopped to look at COULD have been important!"

"If I'da done that, you woulda had me bawling over your lap as soon as we got home- maybe sooner." Lindsey muttered morosely, remembering Angel's threat to punish him in front of everyone else if he stepped foot back into the building.

"He woulda done that to any of us if we'd done what he did." Faith grumbled.

Angel frowned. "Yes- but unlike you I'm not MORTAL. Plus, I have centuries of experience that you haven't got…" his voice trailed off as he noted that the younger two were becoming more agitated and Lorne was actually giving him incredulous and furious looks.

"Well, that's just unacceptable." Lorne stated emphatically.

"What?" four surprised and slightly confused voices questioned his statement. Sighing and rolling his eyes, Lorne began to shoo everyone away from the table. "Go home. Get some food. Uncle Lorne knows what the problem is now and it's gonna be fixed." Lorne grabbed Angel's arm before he could slide out and join the others. "Not you big guy. You and I need to have a 'chat' in my office."

Lindsey, Faith, and Spike stared at Lorne's hand gripping Angel's arm, then looked up into the green demon's eyes in shock. At Lorne's exasperated "Go HOME!" they quickly turned and fled the bar- Spike pulling Illyria behind him.

#####


"Sometimes the wrong
Don't know that they're wrong
Sometimes the strong
Ain't always so strong…"
Sorry for the Stupid Things by Babyface


Angel watched as his family quickly left, surprised at the feeling of unease that descended on him once they were gone. Lorne waited until they were completely out of the building before sliding out of the booth and firmly tugging Angel behind him. Within minutes they were in Lorne's office, the door closed firmly and the blinds closed tight against potential nosiness. Angel couldn't help but take a step away from his friend, as Lorne turned his stern, unyielding gaze on him. The green man's eyes were flashing indignantly.

"You aren't stupid Angel, so don't even TRY and pretend you don't understand why they are upset!" he admonished.

Angel opened his mouth to protest, but found he couldn't. Unable to look Lorne in the eye, he fidgeted and started playing with the knick-knacks on his cohort's desk. Finally he mumbled. "I didn't think it would matter that much to them. I'm in charge…." He shrugged slightly.

Lorne shook his head in exasperation. "How could it NOT matter to them Angel? Lindsey and Faith were right. You WOULD have had either one of them over your knee and crying like babies if they had pulled the stunt you pulled."

"And again, I'd like to point out the fact that THEY are MORTAL, where as I am NOT!" Angel rolled his eyes. "If they had done what I did, they would have bled out and been dead before we could have gotten them any help. Yeah- I was a bit messed up, but there was never any chance of my not recovering from the wound!"

"Unless one of the guards that sliced you open realized what he was dealing with and staked you or cut off your head instead." Lorne folded his arms over his chest and just stared at the vampire.

Angel frowned uncertainly. "That didn't happen though."

Lorne snorted. "But it COULD have. How can you not understand how that affects them??? You hold them accountable for every action they take. And until now, they have been more than willing to accept your direction and whatever consequences you decide to dole out because they trust you to do right by them. Part of doing right by them is making sure you don't pull stupid stunts that will take you away from them!" Somehow Lorne's voice remained steady without raising- but Angel felt the words lash into him as if the demon was shouting at the top of his lungs.

"You've taken those kids in hand Angel- they needed you to- the problem is…" Lorne sighed, turning away from the vampire and running a hand through his hair before looking back at him. "The problem is, they don't just need you to keep them in line and punish them if they do something wrong. They need YOU. They need you to be there. You can't be there if you get yourself killed because you think you're invincible and decide to go take a looksee at some useless trinket when the hounds of hell are closing in!"

"There were no hounds of hell…" Angel stopped at Lorne's glare. "Ok. I guess I understand why they were upset. I took what they view as a stupidly unnecessary risk….what WAS a stupidly unnecessary risk." Angel sighed. "And if any of them had done it, I would have blistered their backsides on top of grounding them for several months for disobeying orders." He gave Lorne a sheepish look. "I always have been more of a do as I say, not as I do type." He shrugged helplessly.

Lorne shook his head, giving the vampire a fondly exasperated look. "You can't expect the kids to listen to you and do what you say if you don't do it yourself. It won't work. You scared them Big Guy. You hurt their trust in you. The fact that they stayed around to give you grief about it instead of taking off to parts unknown is a good sign that you can fix things with them- but it's gonna take a change in your attitude…."

"Yeah- I can see that. Guess the "rules" should apply to me too, huh?" Angel smiled crookedly.

Lorne smiled back and patted Angel on the shoulder. "The rules should apply to everyone in this family- not just the kids. Of course, it wouldn't do to have the children punishing their own father for breaking the rules…"

Angel's eyes widened comically at the word punishment. "We don't really need to…" he closed his eyes tightly when he saw Lorne's raised eyebrow. "Of course we do." The vampire sighed, shoulder's slumping as he opened his eyes again and stared at his friend. "So…I'm accountable to you and you're accountable to me? Somehow I don't see you getting into this type of situation."

Lorne chuckled. "I don't plan to EVER get into this type of situation. But yes, if I ever do something as idiotically stupid as you just did, then I will place myself in your capable hands and pay the piper. Please hand me your belt and then bend over the back of this chair." Giving Angel a sympathetic look, he pulled the desk chair away from his desk and motioned toward it.

Angel winced then decided he was lucky. Lorne was allowing him to keep his pants up and he wasn't being subjected to the childish position of being over his friends lap. Wordlessly, he removed his belt and handed it to Lorne before leaning over the back of the chair and gripping the seat firmly in his hands.

The whistling of the leather as it cut through air was the only warning the vampire received before a painful stripe of fire ignited his backside. He yelped despite his efforts to remain quiet, but after the first lash landed, he managed to relegate his response to pained grunts and soft whimpers as Lorne lit his butt on fire.

Lorne held nothing back, and Angel had to be glad that the other man's office was far back in the building and that the chances of anyone overhearing were slim. It seemed like each time the leather hit his posterior it did so with a loud whistle and a crack that no one would be able to mistake for anything other than what it was.

Lorne didn't lecture as he punished his friend. Angel knew what he had done wrong. The punishment in this case was more about being fair and showing that the vampire was just as accountable as anyone else in the family. Angel wasn't sure if he was grateful for the lack of lecture or if he would have preferred to be lectured. The lack of talking on Lorne's part was making it too easy for him to think about what he had done and to realize how it had affected his family.

Lorne had belted every inch of Angel's backside and upper thighs several times. He was beginning to start a fifth round when Angel finally hissed out, voice broken and contrite. "Lorne, please…"

Immediately stopping, Lorne dropped the belt onto his desk and carefully helped Angel stand straight. Tears streamed from the vampire's eyes, and Angel gave him a weak smile, not trying to hide the wince of discomfort he felt as his pants rubbed against his heated rear-end.

Eyeing his belt with more than a little distaste, Angel finally picked it up and looped it back through his belt loops before slowly limping toward the door.

Lorne took pity on him and held onto his arm, leading him toward the back exit. "I'll drive you home Big Guy- you can pick up your car tomorrow. My car is in the back…"

Angel thankfully smiled at the demon for the gesture. "Thanks Lorne."

"Anytime Peaches," Lorne smiled back, happy that there didn't seem to be any awkwardness between them. "Anytime."

#####

When Lorne and Angel finally got home and walked into the house, the kids were all siting at the kitchen table eating soup and sandwiches. Angel stood in the doorway observing them silently, noting how Lindsey and Faith both seemed discouraged and depressed while Spike seemed to be attempting to cheer them up. Angel glanced back over his shoulder at Lorne, a worried and sorrowful expression on his face. Lorne patted him on the back and gave him a small smile before walking around him and going to sit at his place at the table.

"Your Daddy has something he wants to say to you." Lorne stated without preamble, causing Angel to straighten up in surprise as all eyes in the room were suddenly on him.

Taking a deep breath the brunette vampire walked to his spot at the table, his attempts not to wince causing him to grimace. He wasn't limping- too badly- but it was obvious to everyone that he was in pain. Lorne truly hadn't held back. Luckily his vampire healing had already begun to kick in. When he finally made it to his seat and carefully sat down with the tiniest of hisses, he looked up into his children's faces opening his mouth to apologize. Their expressions of horrified astonishment caused his voice to disappear and he ended up gaping back at them.

It took Lorne clearing his throat for his voice to return. Of course now the kids were staring at Lorne with the same looks of horrified shock.

Sighing, Angel ran a hand through his hair. "Kids…" he waited until they all were looking at him again before continuing. "It was brought to my attention that I behaved like a complete and utter…" he paused trying to come up with the right word.

"Wanker?" Spike supplied in his most helpful voice.

Angel shot the blond vampire an irritated look, then continued "Idiot." He smiled crookedly as he noticed the shock on Lindsey and Faith's faces slowly change to uncertainty. "To be honest, I never once thought about the fact that I COULD in fact be killed. And I never once thought about how that would affect you all. That was completely selfish and unacceptable. You were right…" he looked at Lindsey and then Faith. "If either of you had done what I did, you WOULD have gone over my knee."

Lindsey snorted softly, crossing his arms over his chest in an almost defensive move, not quite looking Angel in the eye. Faith stared into the brunette vampire's face as if trying to determine something.

The slayer finally nodded, seeing what she was looking for. "You let Lorne spank you- cuz that's what you woulda done to us?" She whispered.

Angel smiled crookedly at her, before reaching out and placing a hand on her and Lindsey's arms. "Yes, Lorne held me accountable for my actions. And from here on out, he will hold me accountable and I'll hold him accountable. The rules of the house are meant to keep this family safe- ALL of this family. I can't very well expect you to follow something if I'm not willing to do so myself. I'm just sorry I ended up hurting you both before I realized…."

Lindsey finally looked up and gave Angel a faint smile drawling, "You were the one hurt. That was the problem…"

Angel nodded. "Point taken. I will do my best to make certain this never happens again." He glanced around the table at his family, a wistful look on his face. "Are we ok now?"

To his surprise, although thinking on it later he realized he shouldn't have been surprised at all, both Lindsey and Faith hopped out of their chairs to throw their arms around him in a tight hug. Spike had nodded at him, but Angel could see the approval and relief in the other vampire's eyes. Angel couldn't be certain, but he was sure he owed the blonde a lot of thanks for keeping his brother and sister from going off the deep-end in their response to Angel's behavior. He mouthed a thank-you toward the younger vampire, wanting him to realize that he was appreciated.

Smiling brightly, Lorne clapped his hands together and stood up. "Good. Now that everyone understands where we all stand….I think there is always room for ice cream. Illyria darling, if you don't mind…"

Everyone laughed as Lorne flounced out of the room with a bemused blue goddess trailing along behind him.

Lindsey and Faith both sat back down and leaned back in their chairs. Lindsey ran a hand through his hair, before looking back up at Angel curiously. "You really let…" his voice trailed off. It wasn't a question though. Angel could tell that the boy was surprised that Angel would allow himself to be disciplined in that manner.

"Like I said. The rules are for EVERYONE in the house. It was wrong of me to believe that I was above them." The vampire shrugged. "Trust me, it won't happen again. Lorne showed no mercy." He shifted uncomfortably in his seat and winced.

"Good!" Faith blurted out. Everyone stared at her before she laughed quietly. "Well, what do you expect? You really scared me!" She pouted, then smiled as the men began to laugh with her.

Lorne and Illyria chose that moment to return, handing out bowls and spoons. Angel leaned back in his chair and watched his family as they playfully argued over the ice cream toppings and who got more. Things were finally back to normal. He shifted again, the slight sting he still felt in his backside reminding him. Well, mostly back to normal.

Glancing across the table at Lorne, Angel smiled. Being accountable to another person really wasn't going to be such a hard ship. Especially if it kept his family happy and safe like they were now. It was kind of nice, knowing that they worried about him, just as much as he worried about them. He just needed to make certain he didn't give Lorne any reason to remind him of that fact.


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