Author's Note - This has been expurgated for this posting. Anyone over the age of consent wanting to see the full scene including the bedroom scene please head to my site www.geekgirlz-r.us and check under the stories for Midnight Tangos or contact me direct.

CHAPTER SIX

I didn't plan on being back in the Wisconsin woods ever but in the light of day, safe from Wolfram and Hart and their monsters, it was beautiful. We had rented two big cabins at Devil's Lake for the weekend because Willow, Giles and Wes wanted to see the Perseid meteor shower without light interference.

It was like being in Girl Scout camp, or at least what I thought that would be like. I had never been anything normal, like a Girl Scout. Me, Buffy, Willow and Faith were in one cabin and Giles, Wes, Xander, Angel and Connor in the other. There would probably be cabin confinement-related deaths by the end of the weekend.

We had been in Wisconsin for two weeks now. Once all the terror was all over, Gunn, Fred, Principal Wood and Lorne had taken off for Cleveland to get some distance between them and Wolfram and Hart. Spike stayed behind as a decoy so he said. I think that most of us were wondering if he was on Wolfram and Hart's side since they were the ones who brought him back. We didn't know which was more risk, taking him with them and having him know exactly where the new Council was or leaving him behind and chancing him going over to the law firm completely. At least they were able to move Cordelia from her nursing home and took her to the Watchers' newly formed Council there so she could get the help she needed.

We stayed in Wisconsin at first to allow time to raze Wolfram and Hart's complex to the ground and to give me and Connor time to rest. Connor also needed time to get used to being back with Angel, which wasn't an easy thing for him. It was even harder for Angel. I could see the guilt eating at him. His child had spent a year being drugged, used and abused by Wolfram and Hart and it was his fault. Angel was going to be majorly down on himself and broody and maybe deservedly so. We all knew he had tried his best to help Connor but he had only made things worse but it wasn't beyond all hope.

Giles and Willow took the time to cast a few more locator spells, looking for more new Slayers. They found one up in Rhinelander, which proclaimed itself, of all things, the 'home of the Hodag.' Of course, they thought it was a hoax and someone had made a fake one once. I'd love to tell them there really was a Hodag and I wondered what it thought of having a festival named after it.

We extended our stay in Wisconsin to talk to this new Slayer, Diana Wannamaker, who was going to be a sophomore psych major at the University of Wisconsin this fall. She wasn't as surprised as some to learn what had happened to her. She was a competitive pow wow dancer and she had noticed her sudden increase in abilities, able to dance effortlessly and tirelessly. I liked her a lot and was sorry when we put Diana on the plane to Cleveland. Diana was Ho-Chungra, which I had never heard of. She explained that her tribe had been lumped in with other tribes and called Winnebagos by the government. She took me, Connor and Willow to a pow wow before she left. It was an amazing celebration of culture like I had never had time to see before. She was beautiful in the shawl dances. More importantly, she knew the legend of Hitcoga and told me all she knew.

During the last two weeks a couple of other important things had happened. For one, my period hit with a vengeance. Everyone was smart enough to stay clear of me but at least it was over with. I had spoken to a doctor and she said the hormones would clear quickly and I wasn't pregnant. I couldn't even express my relief at that.

The other thing was how much time Connor and I had spent together. He even spent cautious time with me during the bitchy days. We went to a movie in Madison. He had only ever been to a movie once before when Angel took him to a drive-in. Who goes to drive-in's any more? Wolfram and Hart had spoiled that movie for him.

Our movie went better. The next day, he bravely put up with the all-girl shopping trip up and down Madison's State Street, which I had roped him into. The poor thing didn't know enough to run with the other men when they heard the word, 'shopping.' I think he preferred the trip he and Xander made to the Wal-Mart to buy emergency clothes for him.

Diana insisted that since we were in Wisconsin, we had to go to the House on the Rock. It turned out to be a museum nearly three miles long that had begun with a freak house built underground inside a cliff or something. Willow, Giles and Wes were over the moon. Xander, Buffy and Faith wished they had stayed behind with Angel. I found it kind of cool. I couldn't tell what Connor thought about it. He was so quiet, just watching everything with big eyes; maybe absorbing it all; in his own world also possible.

We even went dancing at the Inferno in Madison, but it took a little magic to make scraps of paper look like legal id; this club wasn't like the Bronze, letting just anyone in. I think Faith and I scared poor Connor out on the dance floor. Afterwards, we couldn't peel him away from our table. Still, it was a good night. Angel even showed up. He and Buffy danced. On the sly, Faith bought me and Connor one Long Island Ice tea a piece. We both got really silly drunk off of them and felt crappy the next day. The Buffy-Angel tag team lecture did not help matters until Faith demonstrated where they could shove things.

Willow occasionally made comments about how cute Connor and I looked, but that was Willow for you, all hearts and flowers. Buffy was less thrilled, but I couldn't tell if that was because she was being 'over protective big sis', or if she was worried about Connor in general or just that he was Angel's kid. That had to be really weird for her. It was pretty weird to me, too. What was worse was that Faith caught me and Connor making out, which barring that incident, had been really nice. Faith promised not to tell, though. We had been doing more than a little of the making out whenever opportunity presented itself, which was not nearly often enough; way too much adult supervision.

I headed out of our Nordic Pines cottage with Willow. Buffy and Faith were already outside. Faith leaned on the dark wood of the cottage, looking bored. Buffy's eyes sparked seeing me.

"Are you sure you don't want to come?" Buffy asked.

"You and Faith are going to hike Sauk Point trail, one of the longest and more difficult hikes in Devil's Lake. I'll pass. I've had enough hiking. You two go prove who's Queen of the Mountain by yourselves." I crossed my arms over my chest.

"How about you, Connor?" Faith called as he and Xander came out of the bigger cottage. "You wanted to see who was better, me or B. Come hiking with us."

He wrinkled his nose, walking over to me. "Wanted to see fighting. Walking in the woods, not too exciting."

"Well, if they did it like those guys at Mazomanie Beach, it would be interesting," Xander said, having become intrigued by Wisconsin's nude beach.

"Yeah." Connor bobbed his head enthusiastically and I reached over, twisting one of his nipples through his shirt. He yelped.

"I see Dawn's learned your trick, Faith," Willow said, wryly.

"Yes, very nice, Faith." Buffy shoved the taller Slayer.

"Hey, you have to get men's attention," Faith said.

"It's working," I said. "You two go hike. Have fun. I think I'll go swimming in the lake and just lay out in the sun."

"Sounds like fun but are you sure you and Connor don't want to go with me and Xander to get all the cookout fixings." Willow bounced a little as she talked.

"Tempting but I want to swim," I said.

"Me, too," Connor added.

"Your loss," Xander said. "You won't be there to stop me from buying the purple ketchup."

"Willow," I whined.

Willow put a hand on Xander's arm. "Purple is not a color for ketchup."

He shrugged and headed for the car with Willow.

"Last chance for the hike," Buffy said. "You two have fun," I replied and the Slayers headed off. Connor turned to go back to his cottage to get his suit, but I stopped him and led him into the lady cottage.

"We're not going swimming?" he asked as I locked the door.

"Later." Our suits would have to get wet or Buffy would get suspicious. "That hike takes average people three hours. It should keep Buffy and Faith busy for at least an hour. And Willow and Xander are going all the way back to Madison to get the goodies and pick up Wes and Giles." They had stayed in the city last night because they were coordinating something with the Cleveland crew and cell phones were a bit sporadic here in the hills. "I thought we could enjoy some alone time."

He smiled, knowing the only other person who might catch us was trapped in the men's cottage by daylight. "I like that."

I took his hand, realizing mine was shaking. I was scared, silly as that was. I wanted this and yet changing my mind wasn't off the decks. Maybe I wasn't ready. No, I was. I had meant what I said about not wanting to die a virgin. I didn't want to just give it away either. It didn't feel like that, though. I wanted it to be Connor. Maybe I didn't know him as well as I should. I knew he had a terrible violence in him, even though it seemed reserved for demons, at least now that he was relatively sane. I could probably find a hundred reasons why I shouldn't if I looked, but they didn't matter as much as the reason to do it. It felt very right.

Was he ready, though? I knew he probably still had feelings for Cordelia, but he certainly wasn't saying no to making out. He hesitated momentarily when I took him into my and Buffy's room, locking the door.

I pressed him back against the door, kissing him. He melted against me, that desire for love surfacing like a tidal wave. His mouth was hungry against mine, all but sucking my tongue into it. My eyes shut as I ran my hands through his hair, now cropped a lot shorter. He had soft hair, like a cat. It stubbornly refused to be styled but at least it looked better short. He must have his mother's hair because I couldn't imagine Angel's hair being silky like the strands trickling through my fingers.

His lips traveled along the line of my jaw so he could nuzzle my neck. I let my head fall back, giving him better access. Our hips touched and the mix of fear and need escalated. All sorts of things went through my head; stuff friends had told me, sex ed lectures, things I've heard Willow and Buffy discussing when they didn't realize I could hear.

I knew it could hurt, a lot even. There might be blood. Did Connor know that? I'd bet he didn't. He'd only been with Cordy and she was a lot of things, but virginal wasn't among them. Connor was only one step away from a virgin and in a lot of ways more naive than me. At least he had some idea what to do instead of both of us stumbling through.

I slipped my hand under his shirt, feeling the tight muscles of his abdomen. He had a strip of soft hair cutting along the middle of him, heading further south, where I wasn't quite ready to touch. Connor eased me away, my hand slipping free from his shirt. His eyes met mine, seemingly enormous and inquisitive at this point. Maybe he hadn't twigged onto the fact I wanted to do more than make out. He was pretty sheltered, after all.

"I want to," I whispered. "If you do."

For a moment, he just stared. I'd feel so stupid if he didn't but he nodded. "Are you sure?"

"I am." Oh, lord why did I feel like I was about to cry? Maybe it was because this wasn't what I pictured when I thought about this moment. In my daydreams, I didn't have to worry about getting caught. The setting was romantic. Okay, a cottage in the woods was pretty romantic. The man was a Greek God in looks and build, and what I had was a skinny boy with beautiful blue eyes and a strange smile. Last chance to bail, Dawn. Only, I didn't want to do that. This was what I really wanted. I could see the same desire in Connor's eyes and I gave myself to him.

Afterwards, I snuggled into him. "Positive. That was...I don't have words for how nice that was."

Connor didn't say anything, just folding me into his arms. I could feel the pulse of his neck under my cheek. He shifted just a bit to pull off the condom and toss it in the bedside garbage can. He cuddled back up with me. This felt very nice, too, almost too nice. We nearly fell asleep. I wiggled out from under him and he looked at me curiously.

"We have to get up and get to the lake," I said.

He looked at me quizzically. He didn't seem to want to move. "Why?"

"Because we said we were going swimming and we don't want Buffy to think we did anything else," I said, pulling on my underpants.

Connor's eyes narrowed and I realized he didn't understand. He had to think I was casting him off now that I was done with him, just like Cordy had. I sat back down on the messy sheets.

"What's wrong with her knowing?" he asked, his voice going hot.

I stroked his arm. "Because she'll say we're too young for one. If you really are nineteen, you could actually be in trouble for being with me. I'm not old enough to have sex legally."

His brow furrowed. "Then why?"

"Because I wanted to. And I'm not sorry I did and I'm most definitely not saying we're never doing this again. We just should keep this part secret for now." I kissed him. "I guess maybe I should have told you that before."

He shrugged. "I'm good with secrets. Don't really want him knowing everything I'm doing." Connor glanced at the window whose curtain I had pulled. "Not sure if he could hear from their cabin."

I didn't have to ask to know he meant Angel and I so didn't want to think about Angel being able to hear. I hadn't even considered that. "Okay, good. Let them get used to the idea of us being boyfriend-girlfriend first, okay?"

He nodded, rolling out of bed, going for his pants. I ripped the sheets off the bed, wadding them up before he saw the spot of blood. I didn't want him freaking out. I took all the bedding off then finished dressing. I went to the bathroom before I did anything else. I had stopped bleeding, luckily. Connor was sitting on Buffy's bed, tying his shoes when I went back into the room. He didn't have his shirt on yet and I saw I left a big bruise on his shoulder.

I made a face. "How fast do you heal?" I pointed to the mark. At least it was getting so blue there, the teeth marks were overwhelmed.

He craned his head, trying to get a good look at the wound. "Not so fast they won't see that if I'm swimming."

"Tell them I did it holding you under the water," I instructed.

He scowled. "Why would you do that?"

"You're a boy. Boys are bad, explanation enough," I said and he made a face at me. "I'll meet you down there."

I had to shoo him out of the cottage. I went back, made sure the condom wrapper made it into the garage, too, and took it all to the dumpster. I carried the sheets to the office to dump them in to be washed and got some fresh ones. I made the bed and headed for the lake. I was really sore, but happy. I'd just go in enough to get wet and do a little tanning.

I did just that, wading out waist deep since my thighs felt too sore to swim. The water was icy but it felt good on my tender flesh. Connor swam, probably burning off excess energy. He always had that in spades. No wonder he was so thin. I stayed in the water longer than I planned but it made me feel a lot less achy, not to mention it was so beautiful in the lake. Purple cliffs poked out of the surrounding pines, honestly purple. The mountains, or hills or whatever they were called, looked like some giant had dumped thousands of purple boulders to make a ring of rock mounds around the lake. Willow said it was purple quartzite. I would have to come back here with my artist's pad and draw it.

I climbed out and laid on a beach towel on the soft grass. The sun felt even better as it warmed me. Connor finally came ashore and laid down on the towel next to me. He reached over and stroked my arm. I smiled at him. He looked so sweet and silly at the same time. His brown hair was plastered on his cheeks and face as he nestled belly down on the towel. Xander had obviously picked the swimsuit Connor was wearing. It looked dangerously close to sliding off and it bagged to his knees. And somehow I didn't see Connor going in for something that looked like Van Gogh's "Starry Night" on acid; violent purple, brilliant blue and neon green swirled on the cloth with splashes of sunburst yellow. It was too flashy for Connor, but it was definitely Xander's style. Lying there in the sun, Connor looked anything but nineteen. If someone had asked, I would have said he was fifteen or sixteen.

"You really don't know how old you are, do you?" I asked, just as his eyes were shutting.

He cracked open one to look at me. "No. When I came back to this place, Cordy decided I was eighteen, not sure how or why. We didn't celebrate birthdays on Quor-Toth. Who knows if a year there is as long as a year here. I don't even know when my birthday is."

"Well, you'll have to ask Angel," I said and he grunted. I tapped his hand. "Be nice."

His eyes opened again. "I'm nice."

"I think you're trying, which is of the good."

"It's hard," he admitted, sighing. "That thing he wants me to see tonight, the meteor shower, what is that?"

"You'll see...so will I. I've never seen one tonight. It's a shooting star. Do you know what that is?"

"No."

"Well, Wes, Giles or Willow can explain better but you'll be there forever."

"Like when they explained the effigy mound here in the park?" He shuddered.

"Yeah, like that. You and Faith really shouldn't have threatened to toss Wes off the nearest cliff, because that ended up a whole separate lecture," I said and he made a lemon face. "Anyhow, the short version is it's a hunk of rock and ice from space that comes to earth and it's all bright and sparkly...and probably just like that rain of fire thing you went through. Maybe this isn't such a good idea."

He flopped onto his back. "It's natural and not because of a demon?"

I nodded. "A hundred percent natural phenomenon, happens every year."

"That's okay then. The rain of fire was scary, especially since I thought I was responsible but it was pretty amazing to look at," he said.

Every time I thought I'd heard the worst, most painful thing that could possibly happen to him, he found something new to make it more tragic. "Why would you have been responsible?"

"Because the Beast came through in the alley I was born in. Never did figure out what that was about," he said. "You were born in an alley...oh, ewww, that's terrible for you."

He shrugged. "I don't remember it." Connor glanced over at me and smiled. He took my hand. I would have been content to lie there soaking in the sun, holding hands but a shadow fell over us. I looked up and Buffy and Faith were standing over us. Faith was beaming. Buffy looked more solemn. I let go of Connor's hand like it had burned me and he gave me a hurt look.

"So here you two are," Buffy said. "We looked for you in the cottages."

"We're right where we said we'd be," I shot back a little too defensively. "How was your hike?"

"We had fun," Buffy said. "What happened to your shoulder, Connor?" Faith's grin was slick.

He sat up, rubbing at it. "Dawn did that."

Lovely, he forgot the part about it happening in the lake. Note to self, boy's brains don't fully engage after sex. "That's what he gets for roughhousing in the water," I added quickly.

"Was that before or after you let him suck on your neck?" Faith's grin broadened as she pointed to my neck. I slapped a hand to where Connor had been nuzzling earlier. I hadn't thought to check for hickies.

Buffy's face didn't show whether or not she believed my story. Her eyes were on the sucker bite. "You're both getting pink. You probably have had enough sun."

"Good point." I sat up. "We forgot to buy sun tan lotion."

"A fatal mistake for Snow White and her boyfriend, Casper the Friendly ghost," Faith snickered, nudging Connor with a toe.

He swatted at her and Faith danced away.

"No fighting in public," Buffy said as I tried to get to my feet without looking like I was in pain. "You two can wait on the cage match until we're in private." She grinned.

"Oooo, cages." Faith smirked and Connor's eyes lit up.

I could have killed him, but I honestly didn't think he knew he was flirting with her. I think he thought Faith was relating to him as an equal warrior. I wouldn't get jealous. I didn't want to be that kind of girlfriend, but Faith had best keep her claws off of him. She can have any man she wants and probably already has.

I picked up the bath towels and we headed for the cottages. It wasn't easy to walk normal but I couldn't exactly stumble along like I had spent the day horseback riding. At some point, Faith got the idea that racing Connor to the cottages was a good idea. They darted off and I figured she'd cheat to win.

"He's not as smart as he could be," Buffy said, lightly.

"I'm making allowances for a complete lack of schooling," I said.

"Hard to argue that. Take off a few IQ points for being a teenaged boy." Buffy grinned, looking happy for the first time in a while. "Giles assures me that they do get better as they get older."

"He should know," I said and she laughed.

I hoped that she was going to leave it at that since she was quiet the rest of the way home. Faith was already in the cottage on the couch watching the little tv.

"Faith, do you mind?" Buffy nodded toward the door.

I really didn't like that. I could sense a lecture in my future. I went into my bedroom to get my clothes. I ducked into the bathroom, but I could only drag out changing out of my swim suit for so long. Peeing actually did take a little time, between the burning and the twinging. Buffy was waiting for me in our room, sitting cross-legged on her bed. She gestured at mine.

"Have a seat."

"Are you going to yell?" I flopped on the bed. It suddenly didn't have the same wonderful feeling it had just a little while ago.

"I'm not going to yell." Her eyes narrowed, a sure sign yelling was going to happen despite what she said. "I just want to talk."

"Probably not going to do much good to pretend I don't know what about." I punched up the pillow then hugged it tight.

Her lips thinned. "Not if you think I'm going to yell."

I eyed her uneasily. I so did not want to have this talk, and I hope she didn't yell. Connor and Angel could probably hear that from the other cottage. Oh lord, could Angel have heard us to begin with? The other cottage was only yards away. "So?"

"Dawn, I'm not sure Connor is exactly good for you," she said slowly as if weighing each word. Maybe she didn't really want to be doing this either.

"I knew you'd say that." I sat back up. "And I know there's plenty of reasons to think that way but..."

Her eyebrows raised. "But?"

"I really care about him, Buffy. We have a lot in common," I said.

"You've known him two weeks, how much could you know?" She uncrossed her legs, putting her feet on the floor.

I guess she had a point. It did seem a little like we were rushing when it was put that way. "We're two very unnatural kids, Buffy. Together we feel a little less weird."

I didn't expect Buffy's eyes to mist up over that, but they did. She got up and sat next to me. She stroked my hair back off my forehead. "You're not unnatural, Dawn." "I'm a ball of green energy some monks decided to make into a real girl. I'm like Pinocchio...only a girl...and not of wood but you know what I mean," I yammered. "And Connor is so different. He's having even more trouble fitting in than I did and I can help him. But it's more than that."

Buffy's hand closed over my knee. "I'm listening,"

I looked at her, studying her face. "Yeah, you really are, aren't you?"

She put an arm around me. "I knew we'd have to have the big talk some day. I kept hoping Mom had done that."

"She did, after my sex ed classes." Maybe that would end it, but I wasn't usually that lucky.

Buffy nodded. "I remember how I felt when Mom screamed and ranted at me about this."

"But you slept with Angel," I said cautiously, "who was a lot older for one thing."

Buffy smiled sadly. "And that differs from you how? Beyond the whole my- boyfriend-lost-his-soul-turned-into-a-fiend thing."

"Connor might not be older than me. We don't know how old he is, and what makes you think he and I...." I looked away. I didn't want to lie to Buffy's face about it especially since she was making a special effort to be understanding.

"Call it a sneaky suspicion." Buffy got up, pacing around the room. "Call it intuition."

"Call it Angel could hear us and you stopped here before finding us." My face went bright red, realizing that had to be it. I wanted the bed to open up and swallow me whole. "Buffy, he's not yelling at Connor is he? I mean, things are bad enough between them without that."

She came back over, sitting down and squeezed my hand. "He's not saying anything to Connor. He still hasn't forgiven himself for what happened. Connor could probably burn the cottages down around us and Angel wouldn't yell at him for it."

"Good point." "Dawnie, I'm just worried that you're going too fast. I mean, you've already taken a huge step." She caught my chin, making me look at her, "too big of one."

I pulled away from her grip. "I know Buffy but it felt right." I slung my hair back then met her eyes levelly. "I know that this was the way it was meant to be. He makes me feel safe and happy and wanted."

Her face went somber. "Dawn, he's dangerous. You know that better than I. For all we know he's a killer. He didn't get the nickname the Destroyer for nothing." "I know that, too, Buffy but given your last few boyfriends you don't have any room to talk. Between Angel and Spike they have a body count the size of a small city." I showed her my best defiant face. That had been a dangerous card to play but it was the truth and part of me still hadn't forgiven her about Spike, or at least the part where she had left me with him after he tried to rape her. I didn't care that he couldn't physically hurt me and who was to say he couldn't? I wasn't entirely human. I watched my sister's face, expecting the yelling to start now.

Instead, Buffy sighed, shrinking in on herself. "What can I say to that?"

"Probably nothing. I didn't go into this blind, Buffy. I know the risks. I know all the reasons why I shouldn't have done it and I know what my heart is telling me."

"I just want to keep you safe, Dawn," she whispered, and it was incredibly touching. I was grateful my sister cared so much about me, even if I didn't always act like it.

"And you do, but sometimes you have to let me do things on my own. And if it's a mistake, I have to be the one to pay the price," I said. She embraced me and I hugged her back. "I like that you worry about me, Buffy, but you have to trust me, too."

"I do." She played with my hair again. "Just tell me that...um,"

"The condoms are in my purse." I held up my hands. "Believe me, Buffy, pregnant is the last thing I want to be."

"That's a relief." She ran a finger over the sucker bite. "Letting boys suck on your neck can be dangerous."

"You'd know," I replied, grinning.

She laughed. "It's part of my job...stopping the sucking. Okay, that just sounds dumb. And remember, good girls don't leave huge bite marks on their boyfriends."

"Who said I want to be a good girl?" I smiled at her.

"Don't make me send Faith to another country to end her influence on you." She ruffled my hair. "Are you feeling okay?"

I nodded. "A little sore, but I'm good. He was worried about hurting me, being as strong as he is. I guess kinda like you were with Riley."

"Yeah, that's a real concern and I'm glad he was worried about it. I think he does like you a lot, Dawn. Of course I was sort of thinking he liked Faith, too."

"I know. Everyone likes Faith." I gave a full body shudder. "I think he's more interested in showing her he can beat her in a fight than anything. He's interested in you for the same reason." "That scrawny little kid is so not beating me in a fight," Buffy said.

"You have no room to be calling any one scrawny, Buffy," I said and she rubbed a self-conscious hand over what was left of her belly. "But if he gets out of line, I give you permission to smack him around a little. Angel probably won't mind."

"Yeah, Angel." Buffy ran a hand through her hair. "I'm still trying to wrap my head around him having a son, especially a short, bony, girlie looking one."

"Hey, that's my boyfriend you're talking about." I shoved her lightly. "You stick with Willow's description of him."

"Androgynous, yeah like that's every so much better," Buffy said, smiling. "I thought Angel was going to have a fit the last time Willow called Connor that."

"I know. It was cute," I said.

"It was but...I worry about what will happen once they go back to L.A," Buffy said.

I felt my heart drop to somewhere past my heels. I hadn't even thought about that. "I...I mean, can't they stay in Cleveland with us? That's our new home base."

"Angel will have to deal with Wolfram and Hart, Dawn." Buffy got back up. "I don't see him leaving Connor behind."

"Why not? Giles can help keep an eye out for him. It's good for Connor to be with me, Buffy, and not just because of how we feel about each other. He's never had friends his age. Being with the new Slayers will do him good. He needs schooling, too. He's not going to get that chasing after Wolfram and Hart. I don't even know if he can read and write. He's missed school entirely. And he'll like the Hellmouth. There're things to slay."

Buffy nibbled her lip. "You know, you make a very good argument. We ought to sit down and talk to Angel about this. He might be agreeable to Connor staying with us for a while. He wants what's best for Connor. Willow and Giles would make good tutors...and I think they both want to study Connor for being what he is."

"Yeah, he'll love that." I rolled my eyes. "But does the big talk have to be tonight? I mean, star gazing and heavy angst don't go together. It's supposed to be kind of romantic." "Star gazing, romantic? With the three brains there?" Buffy smiled.

"Ha, ha."

"We'll let it go until tomorrow."

"Thank you, Buffy."

* *
*

I was stuffed full to the gills with hamburger, hot dogs and brats. Willow was sadly alone in eating the garden burgers. The rest of us tore into the meaty feast like starving carnivores. Somehow I found room for baked beans, cole slaw and chips, and several cans of root beer. Then there was apple pie. Connor laid to rest any theories about him not actually eating and surviving on air. I wasn't sure where he found room to put all the junk he ate.

We all chilled for a few hours by the camp fire, listening to the boom box. Everyone else had real beer to my and Connor's root beer. We looked like normal people for a change and it felt good to pretend. I only wished Willow and Xander would have let me beg off dancing by the fire with them. Why did I get the impression they were the only two who didn't know me and Connor had done it?

As the night wore on, and we were still waiting for prime Perseid watching time, Willow produced the fixings for s'mores. I don't know how I managed to squeeze them in with everything else I ate. Connor's sweet tooth was as bad as Xander's. I half expected both of them to puke later from all the sweets they stuffed in.

"Ooo, ooo," Willow cooed. "It's getting close to time. We should get ready."

She, Buffy and me laid out some blankets to go with our camp chairs. I claimed one, motioning Connor to sit with me on it. Of course, Buffy and Angel took the one next to us but there wasn't really anywhere else to go. It's not like I could expect them to take their blanket and go elsewhere in the woods with it but it might do them some good, since Angel obviously had found a way to have sex and remained souled. Bad sex, maybe? Whatever, didn't want to think about them doing it. Willow and Xander took the third blanket after Willow turned the music to a classical station. The rest had to deal with the chairs but they might have been more comfortable or maybe I had just had enough of lying on the ground.

Still, it was a beautiful night. The sky was crystalline. Frogs and crickets accompanied Mozart, according to Angel, and I was snuggled up with my man. It was all a girl could ask for. I looked over at my sister who was lying on her side, Angel next to her. They both smiled at me. Connor noticed.

He leaned in close and whispered, "I think he knows."

I nodded. "They both do, but it's okay." Connor didn't look convinced but he stretched out on the blanket without making a fuss.

"Ooo, there's one." Willow stabbed a hand skywards.

"Where?" Giles asked.

We missed that one but I spotted the next one. The Perseid meteor streaked through the heavens, in a wavering light of red, orange and white. It looked like it had sparklers for a tail. It was just simply beautiful.

"Wow," Connor muttered next to me.

For some reason I looked back at Buffy and Angel and saw the joy on Angel's face born of Connor's reaction to the stellar display. I could feel the love he had for his son. I nudged Connor hoping he'd see it, too. He shifted beside me then pressed his lips to mine. I could feel him smiling through the quick kiss.

"Look at that one," Faith said, hopefully talking about a shooting star and not us.

We went back to looking at the night sky and we made a game of seeing who could spot the most meteors. Between Giles, Wes and Willow we learned more history about the Perseids than we ever wanted to know; like our knowing that the first sighting was back in 36 AD by the Chinese was absolutely vital to our enjoying the evening. Of course, that was who and how our friends were and you had to love them for it.

I entangled my fingers in Connor's strong hand. I might not know what our future held, but I didn't care. We shared a scary past. Things could only get better from there. I was ready to face whatever came. Content, I squeezed his hand and turned my gaze to the heavens.

Author's Note - I didn't invent the majority of the creatures in this story. Splinter Cats, Gumberoos and the Hodag are all part of Wisconsin mythos (Boy, I do so miss living there). Hitcoga is an important part of the Ho-Chungra Indian's oral traditions. Here is her story. Hitcoga -

And Wisconsin is a lovely state so please, take time to play the online tourist and check out these sites for various places that appeared in this story.

Rhinelander Wisconsin - Devil's Lake Wisconsin - The House on the Rock - The Inferno - www.clubinferno.com The Perseids -