CHAPTER NINE

I And call it an angel
Call it a muse
And call it karma that you've got comin' to you
What's the difference
What's in name
What matters most is never ever losin' faith
'Cause it's gonna be alright
You're not alone tonight

b You're not alone tonight - Keith Urban /b /I

"You had better bring me back something from Florence," Dawn told Buffy, hugging her impulsively. Connor watched the sisterly exchange distractedly as he packed up his laptop. "Or I'll go bitchcakes on you."

"You mean for a change?" Buffy grinned and her sister playfully shoved her.

"Dawn, are you actually expecting Buffy to leave the hotel room?" Willow asked, a faint smile on her face. Connor knew the witch was faking happiness. Kennedy had been cremated two days before and Willow was debating taking the remains home to the girl's parents or simply sending them, unsure if she was emotionally up to the task.

"We'll leave the hotel room. Connor will go all junior Giles on me and I'll never get him out of the museum," Buffy lamented and Connor rolled his eyes, taking care to make sure she didn't see it.

"If he pulls that shit, find some Italian stallion to amuse yourself with while Connor's somewhere being boring," Faith said, a knowing look on her face.

Connor glared at her. "Thanks for nothing, Faith. I'll leave the museum. I mean they close after all." He smirked.

"B, if you want someone to spend all day in the museums ignoring you, take Giles." Faith made a face. "Then again he's old enough to be desperate enough to sleep with you so maybe your chances of getting laid would be better with him."

"Who got insulted more, me, you or Buffy?" Connor asked Giles who was on the couch trying to pretend he was ignoring both the ladies teasing Connor and Buffy, as well as Xander and Andrew who were deeply involved in a Gamecube death match.

"Does it matter? She's just seeing if you'll take the piss," Giles said, glancing up from his book.

"I know," Connor said. "And I'm in too good of a mood to ruin. No more soul-eater sightings, reservations in Florence, a cool rental car because someone insisted getting there on the back of my motorcycle wasn't happening, and predictions of wonderful summer days. I'm jazzed." He grabbed Faith, lifting her off her feet before he kissed her cheek and dropped her. "You can't ruin that."

"Whoa, whoa, sounds like someone's getting a little too frisky," Xander said, pausing the game. He came over to Connor and wagged a finger, a goofy grin on his face. "You behave yourself."

"Who are you kidding? I don't behave, Buffy can kick my ass," Connor replied, smirking at her.

"And don't you forget it," Buffy said, tapping his chin.

"Museums make for good dates. I'd tell you to do what Giles would do but then that might include orgies," Xander said and Giles leveled a withering look at him. "So, museums, libraries, good wholesome fun. Take a church tour."

Connor snorted. Orgies? He made a mental note to ask about that when he got back. "Yes, Dad, will do."

"Try not to desecrate any churches. I am not coming to Florence to bail you two out," Giles warned.

"He takes the fun out of everything," Buffy said, linking arms with Connor.

"So I see," Connor replied, wondering about his parents. He knew from Holtz they had spent time in Italy. How many churches had they desecrated? He'd bet at least one.

"Anything we need to do before we go, Giles?" Buffy asked with a look of worry that he might say yes.

Giles shook his head. "I'm expecting a visitor who might be here before you return. Her name is Harry Doyle. I only know her by reputation but she's emailed me several times now about something that might be coming here from one of the dark worlds."

"Do you need us to stay?" Buffy asked and Connor wanted to drag her out of the house before Giles could say yes. Connor knew all he wanted to know about dark worlds but he wasn't about to share that with the general populace unless he had to. All he wanted was some time alone for fun. He knew it was selfish but he had spent his entire life fighting. He wanted a break.

"No, go. Have fun," Giles said.

"But if there's a threat," Buffy said, ignoring Connor's hot look.

"B, get out of here. Connor, drag her if you have to," Faith said, pushing Buffy along. "There's me and Concetta here, not to mention Willow's kick ass magic. Giles, Xander, Dawn, and Andrew can cover the other stuff. We don't need you."

"She's right," Connor said before Buffy could argue. "We're a phone call away if something happens."

Buffy held up her hands in defeat. "I know. Let's go. Call us if you need us."

Connor grabbed up the last of Buffy's luggage and tossed it into the car then opened the door for her. She kissed him as she got in. "This is going to be fun," he promised.

"I know. We deserve it," she said.

"Truer words never spoken," Connor said. He slipped behind the wheel and started off. He was happy to leave the recriminations and guilt about not stopping Gabrielle faster behind. For once, he was going to be a normal guy with his anything but normal girlfriend enjoying summer days in the sun. If there was another doomsday on the horizon, it could just damn well wait. He was grabbing this opportunity with both hands, no regrets. At last, he was going to enjoy life and the way Buffy smiled at him, Connor knew she felt the same. For just a moment, life was good.

Coming soon to a computer near you...

Excerpts from the sequel "Young Lies"

"Quor-Toth?" Giles looked at the curly haired, attractive young woman who was laying out books on his library desk. "Isn't that one of the darkest of the dark worlds? I know next to nothing about it."

Harry glanced up at Giles. "No one does and that's the problem. But if my sources are right the Destroyer, a creature from there, is going to be coming to Rome. I've called in the one person I've heard tried to find a way into Quor-Toth."

"You called him in? Isn't that risky? Anyone who would willingly enter such a place..." Giles said.

"Isn't necessarily evil," Harry assured him. "I don't want to say much more until I know for sure he's coming. Let's just hope your Slayers don't overreact when he gets here."

"Packing? Going somewhere?" Spike lounged against the door frame to Angel's bedroom.

"No Spike, I just wanted to see how fast I can put all my clothes into small rectangular containers," Angel said, not looking up. He wondered on a daily basis why he allowed the younger vampire to share his new home.

Spike lit up, blowing smoke into the room. "Just glad you're going." His brow knitted. "Where are you going?"

"Rome."

"Like bloody hell you are," Spike said. "I meant what I said. I know Buffy might not want me but I'll be damned if I let you get her."

Angel zipped the luggage shut with a sharp jerk. "This isn't about Buffy, Spike. I don't even know if she's in Rome. I'm going there to meet Harry."

Spike's eyebrows cocked up. "Always knew you were a Nancy boy at heart."

Angel sighed. "Harry's a woman, an ethno-demonologist. She needs my help regarding Quor-Toth. Somehow she heard that I tried to get there and now something might have torn its way through to Rome. She's asked me to bring everything I have about Quor-Toth with me." Angel patted the suitcase, thinking about the dvd's Eve had given to him, recordings of Connor's first days back from that hell. He didn't know how Wolfram and Hart had made them without Lorne picking up on the surveillance but they had. Eve had given those and the tape of the hostage situation to taunt him. Angel has moved them out of Los Angeles just in case he survived Blackthorn's attack, along with some other personal items.

"Why in the hell would you want to go there?" Spike said then rolled his shoulders. "Never mind, don't want to know. Fine you go for Harry. I'm coming along, too," He didn't add 'for Buffy.' He didn't need to.

Angel shrugged. "Fine. I'd rather have you where I can see you."