by Purple Lacey

Story #23 in the Angel Girl series.

Disclaimer: They never have been, nor ever will be, mine. (Which is one of the saddest things I know in this universe <sigh>.) No money is being made. This is written for entertainment purposes only (mine mostly <g>).

“Can you dip cookies in the Milky Way, Daddy?” Angel´s curious voice broke into the peaceful silence that had fallen between the little girl and her father.

Taking advantage of the crystal clear summer night that was perfect for stargazing, Buck Wilmington and his four year old daughter, Angela, were lying on an old blanket in their backyard. Their heads were side by side with Angela resting her head on her father´s shoulder as he used his other arm to point out different constellations to the fascinated little girl. The last few days Angel had been unusually interested in the stars, so Buck had found himself boning up on his astronomy to keep pace with the child´s seemingly endless fascination with the night sky.

Buck wasn´t sure what had sparked this latest obsession. Usually he could trace Angela´s interest in a subject to a particular event or conversation. Buck still shuddered to remember when JD had let her watch the special on sharks on the Discovery channel one night. Thanks to that one blunder, Buck wondered if he´d ever be able to swim in the ocean again. Her interest in insects had developed from watching a group of ant´s carrying a beetle carcass across the sidewalk one afternoon, and Buck had to grin when he remembered how happy Rita had been when that interest had be replaced with the next in a long line of intellectual enthrallments.

Angel was nothing if not predictable when it came to her curiosity. She latched onto a topic until she had squeezed every last bit of information from it, then eagerly reached out for something new. Buck had become quite adept as figuring out what thing was probably going to claim her attention next and made sure he was well armed with facts for the child. Buck was especially glad he had Josiah and Ezra around to help fill in the answers he didn´t know.

Yes, it was a pattern that had been repeated since she was old enough to ask “Why?” but this new interest in the heavens had seemed to pop up out of nowhere, completely blindsiding Buck and he had really had to scramble to re-familiarize himself with the help of his college astronomy textbooks.

Buck focused his attention back on the brown haired little girl patiently waiting for an answer to her question.

“Can you dip cookies in the Milky Way? Only if they´re Rita´s chocolate chip cookies,” Buck laughed, “because they´re out of this world!”

Angel giggled at her father´s teasing, and turned over on her stomach to watch his face in the subdued moonlight that shown down on the backyard of the large Victorian house that they shared with Buck´s friends and co-workers, JD Dunne, and Vin Tanner, and their live-in housekeeper, Rita Aragon.

Buck had first offered the spare room in his apartment to JD when the young agent had just joined the ATF team and JD had quickly become the little brother he had never had. When Buck had found himself a single parent after Angel´s mother had died soon after the child´s birth, JD had moved to the new house with the new father and his baby. The three had become a very tight knit little family unit, with JD happily sharing child-rearing chores with Buck and taking on the role of Angel´s uncle in all but blood.

Four years later when Vin had suddenly found himself the sole custodian of his eight-day-old triplets, Buck and JD had opened their hearts as well as their doors, and had insisted he move his new family into their spacious home. In the six months that the Tanners had been living in the home, Buck had never once regretted the decision, but was, in fact, happier than he could ever recall being in his life.

Angel scrambled up onto her knees and leaned over him, holding herself upright with her hands on his chest. She pressed her nose against that of her father´s and laughed when he crossed his eyes at her.

“Could we reach the Milky Way if we stood on the roof?”

Suddenly having visions of Angel trying to climb up to the steep roof of their home, Buck hurried to shut down that line of thinking.

“Nope, it´s too far away. See, it looks like it´s made of real small pieces but actually they´re really, really big. It´s just that they´re so far away that they look small. You know the way you watch Uncle Chris´ truck when he drives away and the farther away it gets the smaller it looks?” Buck raised and eyebrow at the child in question and Angel nodded. “Well it´s the same for the stars. You´d need a rocket ship to reach ‘em and then it´d take a really long time, years and years, to get there. You´d be an old lady before you ever got close to it.”

Angle was quiet for a moment as she absorbed this information, and Buck could almost see her processing it. He mentally started counting down from ten, betting himself that her next question would come before he reached zero. He made it to six.

“Then how do people get to heaven?”

“Well, sweetheart, I don´t really know the answer to that one. I guess God has a special way of making sure we get there, but I don´t know how it works. I guess we´ll just have to wait until it´s time to see him, and then we can ask him.”

“Not everybody goes to heaven though,” Angel said as she moved away to recline on her father´s shoulder again.

“No, not everybody goes to heaven,” Buck agreed.

“Bad people go to the other place, right?”

“Um hum,” Buck murmured and had to bite his lip to keep from smiling at her phrasing.

It had taken them almost a year of punishments and time outs to break Angel of the habit of using the word hell every time she was hurt or angry, and the child had learned her lesson so well she was always careful to avoid using the word even in a context that wouldn´t get her into trouble.

“But good people go to heaven?” Angel looked questioningly at Buck.

“That´s right, darlin´. They go to heaven to be angels.”

Angela turned over all the way and faced her father and he could see how serious her expression had become.

“Like Mama´s an angel?” she asked quietly.

Buck felt an ache start in his heart when he heard the plaintive undertone in his daughter´s voice when she spoke. He reached out and wrapped the now silent child in his strong arms and pulled her close. He nuzzled his chin against the top of her head in comfort while he gathered his thoughts.

“Yes, sweetheart, you´re Mama´s an angel. She´s up in heaven doing all the things angels do,” Buck reassured her. “and, she´s watching out for you. She´s been watching you grow up, and I know she´s very proud of you, Angel. Almost as proud of you as I am.”

“Really, Daddy? She´s watching me?”

“All the time, Angel girl. You may not be able to see her, but she can see you.”

“All the way from heaven?” she asked.

“Yep, all the way from heaven,” Buck replied.

Angela waited half a beat then asked, “But if heaven´s so far away then how could she see me?”

Buck barely stifled his laughter as they circled back around to their previous topic. He really should have seen that one coming.

“Well I suppose angels have special telescopes that let them look down and see the people down here.”

“Oh,” Angela said then fell silent again for a moment, lost in thought.

Buck was startled when Angel suddenly jumped up and started running for the house yelling, “I´ll be right back!”

The confused father watched the little girl race up the back porch steps and throw open the back door, and he winced when he heard it slam shut again. He really hoped Vin hadn´t been trying to get the triplets calmed down yet. Barely a minute passed before the door burst open again and Angela flew down the steps.

Buck could see something fluttering in her hand but the yard was too dark to tell what she was holding until she reached him again. She had pulled the crayon picture she had drawn of their family from the refrigerator door where Buck had secured it with magnets only that afternoon.

Angela rejoined her father on the blanket and quickly reclined against his shoulder again, holding the picture against her chest so the crayon drawing showed.

“Look what I drew, Mama,” the little girl addressed the sky. “See here´s me, and that´s Daddy. I drew his mouse-tatch see? And here´s Uncle JD, and there´s Uncle Vin and he´s holding Austin, and Houston, and Dallas. They´re my cousins. And see, here´s Uncle Chris he´s wearing black jeans and standing by his black truck. Over here´s Uncle Ezra. You can tell it´s Uncle Ezra ‘cause he´s wearing a tie. That´s Uncle Nathan with his medicine bag. You can see the band-aids comin´ out the top. This one is Uncle Josiah. I drew a big cross for his necklace ‘cause he always wears one, and he´s got a mouse-tatch too, but his isn´t as dark as Daddy´s. I didn´t draw you ‘cause I didn´t know you were looking, but I´ll put you in tomorrow. See there´s a place for you right next to the sun.”

As the little girl spoke to her mother in heaven, Buck´s eyes filled with tears: tears of regret for the little girl that had never known her mother, tears of sadness for the mother that had never gotten to see her little girl grow up into such a beautiful, loving little person, and tears of gratitude for himself because he had been blessed with gift of this wonderful child.

Buck remained silent, content just to listen, as the child happily held her one-sided conversation with her mother. When the temperature started to get too chilly, Buck regretfully called an end to the evening.

“It´s time for bed now, Angel,” he reminded her.

“Okay, Daddy,” Angel acquiesced. “I have to go now, Mama, but I´ll talk to you again soon, okay?”

Buck stood up with Angel in his arms, then reached down to pick up the blanket and tucked the clean side around the little girl to ward of the chill of the night air.

As he walked across the yard to the house, Angel waved to the sky then blew a kiss and said, ““Night, Mama! Sleep tight.”

As Buck was climbing the back steps to the porch, Angel looked into his eyes and asked, “Do angels sleep, Daddy?”

 “Well this one does,” Buck teased and began tickling Angel.

 The sound of their shared laughter was muffled when Buck closed the back door and turned out the light.


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