Wordcount: Can't remember. Under a grand.
Setting: Joy'verse (post-Shanshu, happy B/A)
Notes: There isn't any angst in this. Like, zero. Yeah, it scares me too.
“Okay,” said Angel to the girl sitting on the step. The instruments he needed were all around him, each one carefully selected at her prompt. “I’m ready. Read me the next one.”
She pointed to the difficult words in the book as she said them out loud. “Sand...corners...of, each, um...puh...”
“Sound it out,” he urged her. “P, then what?”
“Puhhh...lank. Plank!” Katie looked up proudly.
Angel checked the page and then gave her a low-speed high-five. “Great! You are the best assistant I have ever had. Now, turn the page and I’ll show you something cool.” She complied, and he pointed out the illustration filling up half the page. “That’s what it’s going to look like when it’s finished.”
Katie’s eyes widened. “Really?”
“Just like that. Only we can paint ours in whatever colors we want. So, why don’t you go talk to Joy about it inside?”
“But I’m helping!”
Angel nodded. “You’ve been lots and lots of help already. For the next part I need to use saws and hammers, though, and you’re not allowed to be around those until you’re thirty. Come on, playhouse colors! You’re on a mission!”
As his daughter scurried back to the house, Angel circled the table slowly, staring at his tools and the instruction manual. This couldn’t be that hard. He had everything he needed. He wasn’t on a deadline, unless you counted Katie’s birthday, because of course she would want to show the playhouse to her friends when they came for the party. And that was a whole three weeks away. Of course, he would want to give the paint a week to dry, and they might not be able to paint it right away, and - Angel shook his head fiercely. He was not going to take any discouragement about this.
Two hours later he was in the kitchen with Buffy rubbing balm onto his thumb. “Relax,” she was saying. “In a few minutes you won’t even feel it.”
“I’m not worried about my hand,” he complained. “The hand’s fine. The playhouse foundation is going to take forever to redo. If I can even fix it. What if I have to get more lumber? I can’t believe this.”
Buffy frowned. “Are you sure it’s that bad?”
He turned and stalked around the kitchen. “Yes, it’s that bad. The alignment of the entire thing is skewed. I must have used the wrong measurements. Gah, I can see it from the window!”
She sighed and tried again. “Maybe you should call Xander..”
“I am not calling Xander!”
Buffy abandoned her attempts at reasoning and went for an old surefire win, coming up behind him and wrapping her arms around his waist. “Can you at least take a break?” she asked, leaning her head against his back. “It’s going to get dark soon anyway. You’re not that obsessed yet, are you?”
He chuckled softly. “No, I can call it quits for today. I should get dinner started. I hope the chicken is done defrosting.” Imbued with a purpose once again, he opened the refrigerator and began poking around.
Recognizing the futility of offering help when he was in a mood like this, Buffy sat down at the table and looked out the window at the rectangle of wood on the grass. “Are you sure this is how you want to do things? You’ve been kind of frenetic lately.”
Angel glanced up from the pile of vegetables he was setting on the counter. “Frenetic?”
“Yeah, it’s a polite word for google-eyed crazy.”
“I’ve been fine. This is exactly what I want. Always have.”
She crossed her legs and leaned back in her chair. “It’s just, you’ve only been stay-at-home dad for like, two days, and you’re already overloading yourself with projects. I can cook sometimes, you know. I could also probably put together that -” she glanced at his stony expression and instantly decided to backtrack “- nobody could put together that playhouse like you can, nuh-uh, not a chance.”
Angel left the vegetables to face her. “It’s a big opportunity,” he said. “I want to use my time well.”
“So it’s a guilt thing? You don’t deserve the time you’ve got if you’re not using every bit of it for the benefit of someone else?”
He frowned. “You and Joy and Katie aren’t ‘someone else’. You’re my family.”
“Yeah,” she said with a tired smile. “And you would happily work yourself to the grave for us. I’m just asking you for my own sake to not do that, okay?”
“Don’t worry about it, Buffy. I’m having fun. And if it’s this good now, just wait until my victory over basic carpentry.” He turned back to the counter and washed his hands, then shook them off, looking around for a dish towel. “I should get an apron. Don’t you think?”
Buffy snickered. “You could go shopping for one tomorrow. Sounds like fun.”
Angel shook his head disdainfully as he selected a chopping knife. “That would conflict with Katie’s private tutoring in Latin.”
“You’re teaching her Latin?”
“She asked me to!”
Buffy flopped forward onto the table, face in her arms. “Commencing countdown,” she mumbled. “How long is it going to take before I start insisting you get a job?”