AN: And here we are at the last chapter! Thank you all for your reads, reviews, follows, favorites, and so on! You guys have been great, and I'm so happy that anyone has enjoyed this story.

Happy New Year!


Chapter 27

"You can stop pretending now, child," Connor pushed himself up onto his elbow when he heard his mother's footsteps disappear down the hall. The brother Oracle smirked at him. "How was your slumber? I'd assume much better, now that you have your mother at your side once more."

"Don't get me wrong, Goldy," the boy started. He got off the bed and walked over to his companion. "You were wonderful to cuddle with when I was a child, but I think it's understandable that I enjoy my mother's company much more."

"I will try not to be insulted." Connor laughed heartily for the first time in many years. It was wonderful to see him this way, and it pained the Oracle to know he was saying goodbye to the child he grew so fond of. "I suppose you heard what I told her?"

"Yeah… you sure we can't help you?"

The Oracle smiled gently, a rare sight for the boy before him. "It is not a matter of helping us. We are in no danger."

"But…" He stared at him sorrowfully. "What if I need you?"

"Connor, not even the Powers will keep me away. They know that. Besides, if they still want their champion to defeat Sahjhan, I doubt they would deny him such a simple request." There was a teasing tone in his voce, one not confident enough in what he was actually saying. The Oracle raised his hand, uncurled his fingers and presented the boy with a watch. "Take this, young one."

"What is it?"

"It is called a watch. It is how mortals in this realm perceive time," the being chuckled, smirking. "This particular one is the first gift your father ever offered us when he was in need of our aid. So, I return this to you." He took Connor's hand and held the object there. "And if you are ever in need of us, all you need to do is hold it close and think of us."

He tried his best to hide his sadness. "I'm guessing you mean if I'm in desperate times, and not just a friendly visit."

"Unfortunately so. We may not be as helpful as we once were, but my sister and I shall be there for you, young one. We will find a way."

"I will miss you, brother."

Connor didn't use the term much, but when he did, the Oracle had trouble retaining his cold exterior. "I am always with you, brother." They hugged, an act that Connor knew the higher being was extremely uncomfortable with. The tightness of his arms made him think that maybe just this once, Goldy didn't mind. He gripped the watch tightly as the Oracle slowly disappeared, still within his hold. Connor dropped his arms to his sides. He closed his eyes and allowed himself to mourn the loss of the only friend he had for the past ten years. Not wanting to wallow in sadness, he washed up and headed out of his room, eager to find his parents.

Connor stared at the watch in his hands, tracing the face of it with the pad of his thumb. He never told his father about it, wanting to keep it as something between Goldy and himself. He knew it wouldn't matter, after all. Angel would never be angry with him over something as trivial as a watch. He couldn't help but laugh in the midst of his misery. Surely, it was ironic, that his father's offering was once again going to save him.

He was unsure of what to do. Say a prayer, maybe, or an incantation. Something symbolic that would alert them. He had been examining the watch for a few minutes already, wondering what needed to be done.

Eventually, impatient and desperate, he held the watch up to his forehead and closed his eyes. He exhaled, prepared whatever he needed to say, and then blurted out, "ok, where the hell are you guys?" Silence passed, long enough that Connor believed it hadn't worked, when suddenly a wisp of warm air breezed past him. He turned around and jerked backwards, falling off the bed when he found both Oracles smirking at him, amused.

"Was that truly your best plea?" the brother drawled as they came around to stand before him.

"Goldy," Connor breathed. "It's really you." He turned his gaze to the female Oracle and grinned wildly. "Sister!" Connor scrambled to his feet and hugged her. "It's so good to see you again! The last time I saw you, you… were dying."

The female Oracle leaned back with a laugh. She cupped his cheek the way she had seen Buffy do many times in the past. "It is wonderful to see you as well, my little champion. You called for us?"

"It hasn't been very long," he frowned. "How did you escape from wherever the Powers were keeping you?"

They looked at each other, almost exasperated. "Honestly," the male one sighed. "How many times have we explained the flow of time to our wards?"

"Many times, brother, but how about we say it once more."

Connor held a hand up to stop them. "Right. Time doesn't run the same way. So how long have you guys really been gone?"

"If we measure it by this realm's standards, then nearly two centuries."

His eyes bulged out. "Two hundred years?!"

The sister Oracle nodded with a wink. "In the eyes of the Powers, we have finally released ourselves of our biased, very intimate attachments. We have vowed that every decision we make or action we take will only be to serve the purposes and needs of the Higher ones."

"Indeed," Goldy murmured. "So, craft your words carefully, young one."

Connor glanced between them. "Well… There's a fallen Higher Power trying to take over the world. Jasmine."

"Jasmine," she gasped. "That cannot be possible. Jasmine is still locked away."

He shook his head. "Look again."

She closed her eyes. "…How sly of her."

"She's taken over Cordelia's body. That's one liaison to the Powers that has been taken out of the game. I'm sure she's taken out more, and now she's trying to recruit my father. One of their most important champions, am I right?"

Goldy raised his chin. "We will deal with Jasmine. Find your father. Make sure he is protected until we return to you."

"It's too late for that," the boy muttered. "He's Angelus. This is the other reason I called you. I was hoping you could help him. Give him his soul again. I think… I think they've given up hope. I think they want Faith to kill him."

"Ah yes," Goldy snapped irritably. "Your mother has aligned herself with the fallen slayer."

That piqued Connor's interest away from his father. "Fallen slayer? What do you mean fallen slayer?"

Like squabbling siblings, the sister elbowed her brother before he could continue. "Do not listen to your old companion, he is only trying to goad you once more, which he knows he shouldn't be doing. Faith was once very misguided, but she has found the right path once more. There is no need to worry about-"

"Her trying to kill your mother again," Goldy finished dryly.

While the two Oracles glared at each other, Connor's distress grew even stronger. "She tried to kill my mom? This is exactly what I was worried about! If she can do that to mom, what's to stop her from hurting my soulless dad? Please, you have to help him!"

The two Oracles paused then gave him a knowing smile. "Find him, young one. You may be pleasantly surprised. Do what you must to protect him."

He shook at the thought of having to face Angelus. There was only one way he'd be able to control himself, and that involved knocking the vampire out and bringing him back to the cage in the basement before he had time to wake up. "I'll do what I can."

Buffy smiled at the hospital workers while they walked out of the building, trying her best not to show any discomfort or pain. Willow, finally giving in to Buffy's demands, cast a spell so that anyone who had seen her would forget she had even been there. "Looking for anyone?" someone asked them on the way out, but a quick lie about wrong information and being in the wrong hospital had them in the clear. Once outside, Buffy was hit with a sudden realization. In the midst of all the panic and hysteria, she hadn't even questioned how Angelus was suddenly resouled. Wesley pulled round to the front of the hospital with Faith in the passenger seat. Fred and Willow assisted Buffy into the car, the red haired woman climbing in with her as they waved goodbye to the other, who still had to wait for Gunn.

"Guys? I don't want to look in the horse's gift box." Wesley interrupted her with a snort and she pointedly ignored him when he tried to correct her. "How exactly is Angel back?"

Faith glanced back at her in the rear view mirror. "I don't know if you saw me when I got back to you guys. You were a little busy dying."

"You're not wrong."

"Well, that sound I heard in the warehouse? It was Queen C."


Faith remained stone-faced despite the uneasy feeling she was getting from seeing the unfamiliar sneer on Cordelia's face. She had prepared herself for the possibility of facing Cordy, but she was still unhappy with how everything was playing out. Despite her strong belief in the other slayer, it was hard for her to focus, knowing she had left her alone with Angelus. It didn't help that it took a few minutes to finally find the source of the sound. Anything could have happened in that short period of time.

"Or should I be calling you Jasmine now?"

The woman smiled. "Faith. It's wonderful to meet you. Cordelia has such pleasant memories of you."

"I think we both know that's not true." She glanced at the shattered pieces of glass on the ground. "Shaky hands for a higher being. Hope what was inside there wasn't important."

"Depends on what you think is important." Jasmine smirked. "A soul, maybe?"

Her heart stopped. "I really didn't want to kill you. Some part of me thought, hey, if I help save Cordy, maybe she wont be so pissed about our history, you know? Call it even." Faith shrugged helplessly. "But now you've really pissed me off and I don't think I'd mind adding one more person to my record."

She rolled her eyes. "When will you all see that I'm doing you good? In fact," Jasmine suddenly looked sincerely gentle, almost benevolent, though her fully white eyes betrayed her. "How about I prove it to you right now? How would you like it if I put the soul back?"

"You're bluffing."

"If that's what you think. Right now, I have more important matters to attend to."

"Oh you're not going-" Jasmine disappeared right before her eyes. "…Anywhere." With a sigh, she bent down and examined the broken glass. "Could be useful," she murmured to herself. Faith slipped her jacket off and gingerly placed the pieces onto the cloth. When she was done, she wrapped it up, examined the area one last time, and then ran back to where she left Buffy. Hopefully, the girl had subdued Angelus and was ready to head back home. If they were lucky, Willow could somehow fix the jar and find Angel's soul again.

"We think Jasmine knew, maybe even watched Angelus killed the Beast," Wesley stated. "That resouling him was her form of retribution."

"Locking him back up to punish him for his sins against her," Buffy concluded.

"Not just Angelus either," Willow said.

Faith nodded. "Bitch is strong. And she had this weird ass, white-eyes thing going on. My guess is she could see you guys while talking to me and picked the perfect moment to smack Angelus with the soul."

Buffy grew sad. "So she could punish Angel too. After this is done, I'm gonna kick her ass right out of Cordy's body."

"I'll help you send her straight back to the hell she crawled out of," she answered with a smirk.

"Does Angel know about any of this?"

"Uhm, B? We would've loved to tell him about it but, again, you. Dying? Ringing any bells?"

"Right." She exhaled loudly. "Just speed it up a bit, would you, Wes? We need to get to him before Connor does."

The man nodded. "I'll-"

They all jolted forward when he slammed on the breaks. The car skidded to a halt, just inches before it could hit a smiling Jasmine, whose arms cradled her very pregnant stomach. Wesley turned to the others, their faces confirming that he wasn't imagining what he was seeing. Willow laughed weakly.

"Well that… can't be good."

Faith was gaping at the woman. "She wasn't like that when I last saw her."

Buffy pushed the car door open, her friends following her. "Can we reschedule this?" she asked. "I got something a bit more important to take care of."

"The vampire slayers," Jasmine cooed as she stroked her swollen belly. "You know, I could give you both everything you desire if you join forces with me."

"That sounds pretty good, actually," Faith chirped. "What do you say, B?"

The slayer tilted her head in consideration. "I've always wanted a pink bicycle."

Jasmine pursed her lips. "So all of you truly are as foolish as I judged you to be. I was hoping I was wrong, that you'd see how little a price you'd be paying for peace and happiness." The woman rolled her eyes and began to pace. "I'm giving you one last chance to stand by my side. You might as well. Once I give birth, I will finally be out of this shell and you will be bowing down to me anyway. Don't you want to do it knowing you already learned to love me and that I didn't force you?" Jasmine extended an open palm to them. "Join me."

"Jeez, and I thought she was bossy before she got possessed," Faith groaned.

Buffy shrugged. "Hormones. Probably."

Willow let an orb of energy build up in her hand. She raised it up and sent it spiraling straight into Jasmine's stomach. The higher being slid backwards on her heels, uninjured but more infuriated than before.

"Now, you're pissing me-" She gasped when another ball of light slammed against her face. Jasmine tilted her head forward, patting her parted lips with her fingers. "I… I bit my tongue."

Willow beamed at Buffy, who gave her a grin. "I think you have our answer, Jaz," the blonde slayer called out. She reached into the trunk and pulled a sword out. Jasmine scoffed disbelievingly, sending a pointed look at the sling cradling her right arm. "I'm pretty ambidextrous when it comes to fighting. Ain't that right, Wesley?"

Memories of old training sessions flashed in his mind. "Quite."

"Besides, I got a witch and another slayer here. And don't let Wesley fool you. He packs a pretty punch."

"I guess I really will have to do this the long way," Jasmine sneered angrily.

"I'm afraid you do not have any time for the long way, Jasmine."

Buffy's jaw dropped. She heard Willow gasp next to her and Wesley inhale sharply though Faith remained silently confused.

Standing behind Jasmine, having appeared from nowhere, were the Oracles. The gold lines in their skin shined brighter than the last time she saw them, and there were no traces of kindness on their faces as they stared at Jasmine coldly. Buffy wasn't expecting to see them so soon, but she definitely was not complaining. They were back, and as much as she missed their friendship, she knew that she finally had the tools to dig herself out of the hole she seemed to perpetually be falling into. "Goldy… Sis!"

"Well, that took a while for you all to realize I was gone," Jasmine mocked. "It seems your bosses are slacking a bit."

"You were once one of our bosses, Jasmine," the female Oracle stated wistfully as she stepped forward. "It saddens us to see you this way."

"Don't try to pacify her, sister," the male one snarled. "She has been tried, tested, and judged unforgivable. I hate to disappoint you if were assuming this was an amiable visit from old friends, Jasmine. It is not to try and bring you back into the fold, beastmaster. This is your end."

Jasmine rolled her eyes. "I'd like to see you try. Did the Powers really think sending their errand boys would stop me?"

"We've long ago graduated from mere messengers, Jasmine." In step, they walked up to her till they were a few feet away. "And now we give you your last chance to submit."

With a flick of her wrist, Jasmine sent them flying away from her. The male Oracle crashed into a car while his sister tumbled down the street until she landed on her stomach. Her arms and legs, scratched up from the concrete, healed instantly. They stood once more, unfazed, and sauntered towards her, only to be flung back once more. With every attempt they made, Jasmine effortlessly stopped them. "This is pathetic," she laughed. "What exactly are you planning? To exhaust me to the point of unconsciousness?" Buffy gripped her sword tighter when she saw the female Oracle fall flat on her back.

"Do not fret, slayer," she heard in her head. "Brother has been communicating with your sorceress."

She glanced at Willow and saw the redhead muttering something quietly, her hands glowing white. Willow continued her chant while slowly making her way behind Jasmine. Faith, instantly alerted by her movement, went with her. Buffy tossed the slayer her weapon. Wesley pulled a dagger out from under his sleeve and took the witch's undefended side.

Jasmine finally stopped her assault, allowing the two beings to approach her once more. "Did you really think you would be able to stop me?"

"No," the Sister told her.

Goldy nodded his head. Willow was just behind the woman now. "But we were hoping to distract you."

She frowned in confusion. "Wha-"

"Hey, bitch!" Buffy shouted. Jasmine spun in her spot to look at her. Willow reached forward and placed her hands on Jasmine's stomach. The fallen being let out an agonized cry, trying desperately to pull herself away from the witch. "Get the hell out of her," Buffy growled.

Much like the Beast, a bright light shone out of Cordelia's chest. Jasmine wailed and struggled a bit longer before the light finally faded and Cordy fell slack against Willow. Wesley lunged forward and picked the unconscious seer up, shaking her a bit to stir her.

"Cordy?" he murmured softly. "Cordelia, wake up."

Willow placed a finger on their friend's pulse point. She was alive, her heart beat slow but there. "Come on, Cordy!"

"I am sorry," the brother Oracle sighed. "Jasmine has destroyed much of our seer. We are unsure if she will ever wake again."

Buffy rushed forward to check Cordelia herself. "You can't do anything?"

"We did all we could," the female one swore. "Bring her home, slayer. We shall meet you there."

None of them knew how to feel. Finally, Jasmine was gone, but their fears were realized. Cordelia wasn't coming back. As they brought her to the car, Buffy ran up and hugged her old friends. "I'm happy you two are okay."

"And you," Goldy told her sincerely. "Take great care of the seer. There may be hope yet."

"We will see you at the Hyperion. Your mate and son await your return there."

Angel was still in the warehouse, unable to move from his spot on the ground. He was stretched out, staring blankly at the red puddles below his legs, his back against a crate and his arms resting on his thighs. The scent of Buffy's blood made him dizzy. His gaze turned to his forearms. He was covered in it. His shirt, his skin, his pants. There was so much red it was suffocating him. His eyes were bloodshot and his fingers were trembling. His phone remained silent. No one had called him, even though it had been hours since they left. Angel swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat.

They would have called to tell him that she had survived.

A single tear fell onto his palm as he hunched over and curled into himself. "Buffy," he choked.

In his despair, he didn't hear or notice the footsteps coming his way.

Angel groaned, looking around groggily in confusion. The back of his head ached, reminding him of the quick shot of pain he felt before falling unconscious in the warehouse. He jolted in his place when he realized he was back in the cage, his hands tied behind him and his mouth covered in duct tape. He felt his heart clench. Faith and Wesley knew he was back. Did they lose so much trust in him that they had to do this? Angel squirmed slightly, trying to release himself from his bindings. His calls for help were far too muffled for anyone upstairs to hear him, but to his surprise, the basement door open. He perked up when he saw his son come down the stairs, a smile forming behind the tape. It felt like ages since he last saw his beautiful boy. "Hmfh!"

Angel's eyebrows scrunched together when he saw the look Connor was giving him. He shook his head, trying to find a way to show him that he was sorry, that he hadn't meant to hurt Buffy.

"Hmm! Hmpfh!"

"I had to do this to you," Connor told him. Angel's fidgeting stopped. Connor had done this? "I'm sorry… No, I'm not!"

The teen looked like he wanted to smack himself. He turned away and rubbed his face in agitation.

"I'm not sorry! Because you aren't my father! You're a- a monster! Dad would never do that to her!"

Angel looked down at his feet guiltily. He couldn't take Connor's glare. But suddenly, the boy was on his knees in front of the cage, forcing himself into his field of vision. Connor's shoulder's were shaking and his eyes were clenched shut.

"But that's not true, is it? Mom kept reminding me over and over again but you are my father. And that's why I can't kill you. I can't make you pay for what you did. Faith and Wesley… they wanted to talk to me, wanted to reason with me and give their excuses about why you need to be killed," The boy pulled at his hair.

Angel, who had realized that Connor was unaware of the ensoulment, began struggling against his bindings once more.

"I have to keep you protected, so I can get him back. So I can see Angel again. Even if it means keeping you alive after what you did to her."

"Mm! Hrrrm!"

Their attention turned upwards when they both heard the sound of feet scurrying above them. Connor stood, grabbing an axe from the corner. "Don't take this as a sign of affection," he muttered. "I'm doing this for dad. I'm gonna make sure you get locked away for good, you son of a bitch."

"Connor?! Baby, where are you?"

The boy's tense frame slackened. "Mom?"

Moments later, they were all rushing down the stairs. "Connor, thank god!" She looked behind him and gaped at the sight. "What-"

"I won't let them hurt him!" He shouted, glaring at Wesley and Faith. "That's what you were gonna say at the hospital, right? That you have to kill him? That he was too out of control, that there was no going back anymore-"

"No, Connor," Wesley said calmly. "That wasn't it at all."

"You stay away," he warned when Wesley came forward, taking a step closer to the cage. He held the axe up to them as a threat. "You may have given up on him, but I won't! I'll never give up because he's my father! No matter what he did! Even if the Oracles can't give him his soul back, even if he stays like this forever! I'll find a way!" A few tears streamed down his face. "I'm sorry, mom… I'm so sorry, but if you all can't forgive him for what he's done, I will. Because he's still my father, I know he is. Even without the soul. I can't let you hurt him."

Buffy bit her lip. She stepped forward and pushed the axe away from him. "Sweetie," she chuckled and hugged him tightly. "Let your father out of the cage."


"You're right. Angelus is your father. In the same way Darla is your mother. Biologically. That's all the claim Angelus has on you. Thankfully, Angel gets that and the rest of the perks of being your father. So you don't have to do shit for Angelus, least of all forgive him, because that evil?" She grinned. "That's the kind of evil we don't have to forgive. Though I'm really proud you're starting to learn how to put all the angry mean vengeance stuff away, baby. Soon enough, you can start channeling it towards the right things, and not the homicidal monster your father has the unfortunately good luck of sharing a body with. That being said, that is definitely your father in there."

"B-but- huh?"

Connor looked at the vampire behind him. Angel shrugged his shoulder helplessly. "Hmm," he hummed with a laugh.

"You may be pleasantly surprised."

"Holy hell," he wheezed. "He's already back… that's why the Oracles said-" Connor blushed violently as he fished for the keys in his pocket and fumbled with the lock on the door. "Stupid cryptic, ridiculous- Dad!" When he finally got the cage open, he dropped to his father's side and hugged him while untying the ropes around his wrists. When Angel was finally free, he ripped the duct tape off of his mouth, tossed it aside and held his son close to him. "I'm sorry! God, I'm an idiot! I thought you were still Angelus!"

"It's alright, kid," he told him. "I'm sorry you had to see me that way."

Connor tightened his arms around Angel's shoulders, burying his face into the fabric that rested upon them. "It wasn't you."

Angel ruffled his son's hair lovingly. "No, it wasn't."

"And you're sure it's permanent?"

The Oracle didn't bother hiding his irritation. "Tonight will tell, I assume."

Buffy grinned, wiggling her eyebrow suggestively. "I guess so. Thank you again, for everything. I know we'll be seeing your faces a lot more, right?"

The Sister squeezed her hand. "I am certain we will meet again."

Buffy was saddened by the answer, knowing this was another goodbye. "Until we do, I guess." The slayer gave both of them a long hug, unwilling to let either of them go. Buffy smiled at Connor over their shoulders. "Man, this sucks," she sighed. "I'll miss you both."

"You will survive without us. I have confidence in you all," the Brother told her. "Shall we say our farewells to our young champion, sister?"

Angel took their place at Buffy's side when the Oracles followed Connor out to the courtyard. "You alright?" he asked as he pulled her into his arms.

"I'm just really relieved to see you again."

He leaned down and kissed her lips tenderly. "I've missed you too. What did they say?"

"Safer than safe," she sang happily. "But we should definitely test it out with cuffs, just to make sure."

Though his eyes darkened appreciatively, he couldn't help but run his hand along her cast. "I'm so sorry, Buffy."

"Don't," she commanded. "You aren't Angelus. I know that, so don't apologize for something he did."


"Shh!" He frowned, but she stood on her toes and kissed his jaw. "I love you." Angel pressed his forehead against hers and pecked the space between her eyebrows. She sighed, knowing it would be a long time before he forgave himself for what happened. The two smiled when Connor came back in and joined them. "Hey, sweetie." Buffy rubbed his back when he squeezed himself between them and hugged his father for the tenth time that night. "You good?"


She nodded. "I'm gonna go upstairs and check on what Willow's been doing for Cordy. Meet you guys up there? We should probably talk before getting some rest."

They watched her disappear up the stairs. Connor looked at his father somberly. "Dad, I need to tell you something important." Angel glanced around the lobby. Gunn and Fred were home, sitting on the couch and talking quietly. Wesley was across from them, filling them in on everything that happened. "My room?" he suggested. They went up together. Angel felt Connor's anxiety radiating off of him. When they were finally at the teen's bedroom, with no one to listen to them, Angel took an unneeded breath.

"So? I guess we can't get one victory in without having another obstacle thrown our way."

Connor reached into his back pocket and, after finding what he wanted, placed the object in his father's hand. "The Oracles gave it to me. They said you would need it one day soon."

Angel brought the amulet to his eyes, examining it carefully. "They say what it was?"

"An amulet." The vampire snorted. "It's powerful. And dangerous. They said it had purifying powers, and would be important for a 'final battle.' It gives strength to one ensouled, but stronger than a human."

"What the hell does that mean?" he muttered.

"I don't know," he admitted. "But we both know who's the only one that can use it."

"Me." He stuffed it into his pocket. "I'll get Wes to look into it. Let's not tell your mother about this until we find out some more about it, okay?"

"Which reminds me. We have one more thing to talk about."

"Which is?"

Connor gave him an accusing frown. "When are you going to tell mom about the Shanshu Prophecy?"

Angel's face fell. "Where did you hear about that?"

"They told me about it when they gave me the amulet." It suddenly felt heavier in his pocket. "It's going to be a choice isn't it?" the boy asked, coming to the same realization as his father. "Using the amulet or fulfilling the Shanshu prophecy."

"This is exactly why I haven't told your mother about it yet," he confessed. "I don't want her to get her hopes up just for them to be crushed if it doesn't come true or if I-"

"Don't say it," Connor interrupted. "That's not happening."


"Dad, please," he begged. "Just drop it for now. I won't tell mom about the amulet or the Shanshu. Just… don't."

"Knock knock!" They heard from outside the door. "You guys in there?"

Angel gave him one last look before opening the door. "Come on in."

Buffy kicked the door shut with her foot and pulled them both towards the bed one at a time. She giggled when they landed on either side of her with a bounce. "My boys," she beamed contentedly. "I'm so happy to have my boys with me." She got herself comfy between them as they rested against the wall. Angel snaked his arm around her waist while Connor took her hand in his. "Willow's still working on it, but we're hoping for the best."

"Good," Angel responded. "That's…good."

"And Dawn and Tara will be here by tomorrow morning. Xander and Anya, the next day... So, we still having the song and dance, or can we agree that we all know what we want to say to each other?"

"Angelus is never coming back, and I won't ever have to see his face again?" Connor started.

"Anything that comes our way, we'll get through as a family?" Angel continued.

"Nothing can break the bonds of our love?"

"Come what may, never give up, never surrender?"

Buffy rolled her eyes. "Alright, alright! But seriously, through our Quor'toth post-trauma, and what's going to be a long few months of daddy's self-deprecation… we'll get through this because we'll be together."

"Yeah," Angel agreed confidently. "No more nonsense, no more Angelus-"

"Definitely no more Angelus," Buffy exclaimed joyfully.

Angel gingerly placed a hand on her stomach, feeling the bandages wrapped around her stab wound. "I love you guys," he told them. He smiled at Connor, whose gaze was meaningful, knowing, but warm. "More than all the stars in the night sky."

They spent a few more hours on Connor's bed, enjoying their little time away from the world and the problems they would confront later on.