CHAPTER EIGHT

"So you've explained to everyone what's up?" Connor asked as they got into the elevator. He and Gwen had driven separately from Angel and Gunn to Wolfram and Hart.

"Several times now," Angel replied. "And everyone's waiting for us in my office. The windows at least have been repaired." The vampire eyed his son sourly. Connor looked utterly unapologetic.

"Even Lorne's here," Gunn added.

"I should go change," Angel grumbled.

"No time," Gunn said and Angel thought he heard a hint of sadistic glee in that.

Connor and Gwen helped Gunn make sure Angel didn't detour. The vampire set his teeth knowing Spike, no matter how serious the situation, would never let this outfit pass without commentary. Angel wasn't, however, prepared for the additional quartet of people in his office. As Spike brayed with laugher, smoke bubbling out of his mouth, the serious expressions on the quartet's faces melted. Angel suddenly wished the ground would open and take him whole. He shifted nervously.

"Angel-cakes, that outfit is awful. The next time you want to have a make over, let me call the Fab Five," Lorne said. "I have Jai on speed dial."

Angel shot the demon a stricken look. "Um, Buffy, Faith, I wasn't expecting you, Or you and Giles, Willow. How...planes couldn't get you here this fast."

Buffy took a few steps towards him, a soft smile on her face. "Well, we were in Palatka, Florida investigating that Hellmouth that opened up, but Giles and Willow did a teleportation spell. It was really hard on them but with Andrew dead and the Alatyr, missing it was a risk we thought we needed to take." Buffy's eyes raked over him as she covered her mouth with a hand. "It's, ah, good to see you, too, Angel."

"He needs to put on real pants. I can't talk to him like this. Those legs could blind someone,"Faith said, coming over to slap Angel on the shoulder. "But it's good to see you again. I didn't come in on the Witch Express. Giles called me in Cleveland for back up for Andrew before we knew he was dead."

"And these would be our two determined thieves?" Giles gestured at Connor and Gwen.

"That's them," Kate said.

"Hi, Connor," Willow said with a little finger wave.

"You don't look any older, kid," Faith added.

Connor smiled. "Neither do either of you. It's good to see you again, Faith, Willow and I don't think I ever met you two." He gestured to Giles and Buffy.

"That's Rupert Giles. He's a Watcher, which I'll explain when there's time."

"Holtz told me about them a little, Slayers, too," Connor interrupted Angel.

"Fine. We can leave it at he's usually in charge," Angel said. "And this is Buffy, a Slayer."

"Oh, hello," Connor said, looking oddly shy.

"Hi, you must be Angel's son, the one no one told me about." Buffy's eyes cut over to Angel who shrank away.

"He went through a lot of effort to hide me away," Connor said.

"She means before that," Willow explained. "Wes explained about the spell. There just wasn't time to tell you, Buffy, after I first found out and afterwards, with the First Evil, the right time never came."

"And things here were always so crazy," Angel said.

"Like me getting kidnapped and raised in hell," Connor put in.

"Like that. Later, when we catch Andrew's killers and get the Alatyr back, I'll explain why I never found the right time to tell you, Buffy," Angel said, apologetically.

"You two were together once, weren't you?" Connor asked, looking between them.

"Yes, but that's also a long story for another time but it is how Willow knew how to put Angelus in his cage," Angel replied.

"That makes sense out of something that confused the crap out of me at the time. Cordy got mad at me, thinking I liked Faith, talking about me having my dad's weakness for Slayers while she's bouncing me off walls." Connor's brilliant blue eyes dimmed.

"She did that?" Angel put a hand on his son's shoulder, looking shocked and upset.

"Now I've another reason to dislike her," Gwen grumbled.

Connor turned to her, taking her hand. "I'm sorry, love. I should have introduced you. This is my wife, Gwen."

"You're married?" Faith raised an eyebrow.

Connor made a face. "Why does everyone say that like it's a huge surprise?"

"Worry about it later. Can I go change before we talk strategy?" Angel asked.

"God yes, you don't have any underpants on under those shorts." Spike waved him off. "Too bad we don't have a camera, though."

"Why are you even looking?" Angel grumbled.

"Hard to miss all that jiggling around even if you're trying hard not to look," Spike replied, lighting up.

"I had to go in the pool and he wouldn't let me back in his house wet." Angel jerked a thumb at Connor.

"My floors are teak, not to mention some of the carpets are wool and silk. No chlorine should ever touch it," Connor said. "And it's not my fault you're too fat to borrow my clothes."

Angel managed to look highly offended. "I'm not fat. You're a sack of bones. I'm going to change."

"While he does that, I'll get the security tapes. We can screen capture that outfit to our heart's content," Kate said, smiling at the vampire.

"Don't you dare," Angel warned, knowing it was useless. They'd be using the picture as the company's Christmas cards with his luck. He tried to leave with as much dignity as he could in the horrible shorts and Hawaiian Mod shirt.

"Less than two hours, Connor, and you've managed to torque him off more than I've seen him in years," Gunn said. "Yep, we're back to normal."

"Happy to be of service." Connor beamed.

Spike ambled over to him, examining Connor closely. "Can't believe Peaches has a son."

"Peaches?" Connor's grin widened.

"Don't you call him that," Faith warned, elbowing Spike.

"Gotta question for ya, kid. Are you going to shoot me, douse me with holy water, shove me in sunlight or otherwise stake me or are you done with all of that?" Spike asked.

Connor's lips skinned back. "Do I have any reason not to?"

"Spike has a soul, Connor, like your father," Wes said.

"Not to mention we're kin," Spike said, touching Connor's shoulder as if to prove he was real. "Your sister, in the way vampire's usually do it, was my mom."

"Wow, just when I didn't think my day could get any worse, you have to go and say that." Connor backed away from him.

"Yes, well, being related to Spike would disturb the best of us," Giles said and the vampire's jaw dropped. "I'm sure it'll probably do no good to ask who you're working for and if you have any idea who Ethan is working for."

"I don't know this Ethan fellow and his demon friend beyond the fact they ran me down with a Hummer," Connor said. "As for my buyer, even if I knew anything about them, I wouldn't say. Bad for business."

"We don't really like to know much about our employers," Gwen said, grimly. "It's not good for the health."

"But this makes me curious. Gunn, can I borrow your computer?" Connor asked. "Given our failure, the buyer might be looking for another operative."

"Help yourself."

Connor started weeding through his messages. His face darkened.

"The buyer's looking for alternatives." Gwen read his look.

"We have until midnight to get the Alatyr back in our possession," Connor said.

"We so don't need another player in the game," Buffy said.

"That's something to consider if we get the Alatyr back," Connor said. "Our buyer isn't just going to give up. If you try to restore the Alatyr to Booyan Island, the buyer might fetch it back. We might want to start thinking along the lines of preventing that," Connor suggested as Angel returned outfitted in all black.

"All better?" Buffy couldn't hide her smile.

Angel scowled at her then sat down behind his desk. "Yes, so thoughts on how we're going to find the Alatyr?"

"Let me give our magic contacts a call," Gwen said. She put in the call. "Hello, Caran? Yes, thanks, I'll tell him. How about the other matter?...No? Okay, keep trying, thanks." Gwen hung up."No luck on tracking the Alatyr but they do have that anti-invite the vampire spell you wanted, Connor."

"Oh, good."

"You were going to ban me?" Angel looked hurt.

"Hey, if a strange vampire you didn't know got into your house, wouldn't you try to ban it?" Connor asked.

"I'm not an it," Angel grated out.

"He's a man but just barely. Ask any of his lovers," Spike smirked.

"Connor, any time you get an urge to kill a vampire, you can start there." Angel jerked a thumb at Spike who just snorted. Connor looked delighted.

"That's not helping," Buffy said, her eyes narrowing.

Angel held up a hand. "Willow, Giles, Wes, any thoughts on tracking the Alatyr?"

"Most of the spells Giles and I've tried failed," Willow said.

"Why don't we go to the library? It has access to things even the Watchers don't have. We can look for another way to track the stone," Wes said.

"We know it can be done. Ethan tracked it to us using a floating oak leaf," Gwen said. "We used that same leaf to track it back here but the spell wore off."

"Floating leaf? I think I might know that spell," Giles said.

"Good, in the meantime why doesn't someone who's had contact with the stone sing for Lorne That might be the quickest way to find it," Wes suggested.

"That would be Gwen or Connor. They handled it the most," Gunn said.

"It was in Angel's safe," Connor protested.

"No one wants to hear me sing," Angel shot back.

"What makes you think we'd be any better than you?" Connor asked.

"You'd have to be, kiddo," Lorne replied, patting him on the back.

Connor wrinkled his nose. "This sucks."

"Let's shoot for who does it," Gwen said, shaking her fist.

Connor joined her in the fist shaking. They shot out their fingers, yelling out numbers in Italian. This went on until Gwen shouted out the exact number of their combined fingers and Connor snatched his hand away.

"Damn. Who taught you to play morra that well?" he grumbled.

"Your friend, Dom." She grinned.

"It's not hard, spice cake, just warble a little something. That should be all I need," Lorne said encouragingly.

Connor sighed and hesitantly sang:

"So may this round be on the corpse of a dead man
With a toast that tells of a love you never shared
So as we dance on the grave of the misbehaved
Raise your glass and sing the praise of a fallen soul

Many bow their heads for this man they knew so well
With solemn thoughts they drink and drug for a resurrection
Facing death you fear no danger
While Mothers shed their tears through a veil of desperation
These fiends of vicious breed raise holy hell."

His eyes pleaded with Lorne to let him stop.

Lorne finally held up a hand. "You don't sing all that bad but your song selection." The demon shuddered.

"Hey, I'm the one who has to hear him singing Curse of a Fallen Soul along with the Dropkick Murphysall the time," Gwen said. "Be thankful he didn't pick the Pogues. Connor loves Irish punk bands."

"Hey, maybe the kid's not so bad." Spike nodded approvingly.

"Did you see anything, Lorne?" Connor asked, ignoring the vampire.

"Does a park with a classical orchestra mean anything to you?" Lorne asked.

"Griffith Park," Angel piped up immediately.

Connor nodded. "The symphony in the glen. They're performing tonight."

"You do classical music?" Gunn smirked.

"Yeah." Connor sounded a little exasperated as if no one could believe he had a little culture.

"I go sometimes, too," Angel said, pleased he finally found something he might actually be able to bond with his son over. "I know exactly where it is."

"So we think that's where we should go?" Buffy asked.

"We'll see what Wes and the others come up with," Angel said. "And we can think about what we're going to do once we get the Alatyr back."

Angel was disappointed when Wes, Giles and Willow came back in defeat. Ethan had shielded the Alatyr from detection. They thought they might be able to break it eventually but Giles and Willow were totally exhausted from the teleportation spell. Angel's team, not to mention Connor and Gwen, were wiped from days of little sleep. They decided their best bet was to actually try and sleep and head to the park at night, gambling on Lorne's reading.

Connor didn't like the set up. There were far too many people in Griffith Park for them to do this easily. He had no doubt of the outcome. Two Slayers, two vampires, himself and Gwen rounded out the super powered people. Giles, Willow and Wes had the corner of the magic market. Gunn and Kate could handle themselves. He doubted Ethan and the demon had a prayer but that didn't mean innocent people weren't going to get hurt. The Jesked demons was obviously willing to kill humans. Worse, a storm was rolling in.

They had fanned out around the fringes of the park, figuring the deal wouldn't be going down in the middle of the crowd that had showed up for Mostly Mozart, a predictable selection but always a crowd pleaser. Connor could hear the animals from the nearby zoo over the strains of the Serenata Notturna. He took Gwen's hand, sparing a moment for a kiss to those delicate digits. He felt eyes on him and didn't have to turn to know Angel was watching. Suddenly he stopped and looked back at the vampire. He saw Angel testing the air was well.

Buffy jogged over to them. "You found something?"

"His scent," Angel said and headed for the treeline.

The rest of the group took note and they converged. Connor saw Ethan in the shadows of the trees talking to several short men built much like his companion was. They had a large container that Ethan was about to put the Alatyr inside. Connor glanced up hearing a peal of thunder. That didn't bode well.

"More Jeskeds," Spike said. "They ain't brave but they can really hurt you if they get hold of you."

"Thanks for the warning," Buffy said then glanced up at the sky. "I think it's about to rain."

"Yeah, we noticed," Connor said. "Everyone might want to give Gwen a wide berth."

"Why?" Faith asked.

Before Connor could reply, a deafening clap of thunder echoed in the clearing and lightning sent Gwen rolling head over heels.

"Shit," Faith jerked to a stop.

Connor helped Gwen up. "My wife tends to attract lightning."

"That's not all we're attracting." Angel pointed towards the treeline. Ethan and his demon companions had seen the celestial display of wrath and were running.

"Told you they weren't brave," Spike said.

"Damn it." Buffy took off at top speed.

Gwen shoved Connor ahead of her and he didn't wait for her. She was fast but she couldn't keep up with Buffy, Faith, Angel and himself. His ankle was still hurting but not like yesterday. The demons weren't particularly fast either but Connor didn't like where they were going. "No! Don't let them get to the historical merry-go-round. I like the merry-go-round."

"We'll try not to break it much," Buffy called over her shoulder.

Connor scowled. He didn't want to see a pile of irreplaceable jewel-encrusted bridles, sunflower and lion head decorated blankets and horse heads everywhere. They poured on more speed and he managed to grab one of the demons before it got to the carousal. It whirled on him, trying to gore him with its horns. He easily side stepped but saw his companions were all having similar problems. Worse, Ethan was the one who was carrying the Alatyr and he had jumped on the still carousel. At least it was closed and no children were going to be imperiled by what they were doing.

Connor pulled out the knife he had hidden in a boot sheath. It wasn't as long as he might have liked but it wasn't as if they could walk into Griffith Park well armed. He managed to gut the demon anyhow, blue ichor spilling over his hands. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Gwen grab two of them just as lightning hit her again. She was fine. The demons fried.

Buffy and Faith were fighting back to back while Wes, Gunn and Kate were taking on another pack of the demons. Connor saw Giles go for Ethan on the merry-go-round and went to help, catching a demon fist in his kidneys for his trouble. Breathless, Connor rolled on the ground, kicking up, shattering the thing's knee. He slit its throat when it went down. At least they had the decency to turn into a powdery blue pile of sand when they died.

"Give it up, Ripper. Don't you know by now I always have the upper hand?" Connor heard Ethan saying.

"Is that why usually you're the one on the ground spitting teeth?" Giles inquired and before Connor could go to help he heard flesh hitting flesh. Ethan groaned, whacking his head off a jumping horse as he went down. The Alatyr rolled free and Giles scooped it up just as a demon snared him by the shirt. He hauled Giles into killing range when Willow shouted something in Latin and the demon flew backwards right into Angel's kill zone.

Connor looked around and saw nothing but piles of blue sand left and Ethan scurrying off into the nearby parking lot. "Son of a bitch." He tore off after the man and nearly got ran over for his trouble. Disappointed, he jogged back to the others, taking note that no one on their team looked seriously hurt. "He got away."

"He usually does," Giles said, sardonically.

"I could probably track him," Connor said.

"Ethan's good at covering his tracks. You could give it a try if you want but the storm's getting worse," Giles said and as if on cue the sky opened up and rain pelted down.

"That'll kill the scent trail quick," Angel said.

"We have the Alatyr," Buffy said. "Maybe we should get inside before Gwen gets hit too many more times."

"I'd like that," Gwen said ruefully.

"And I think I have an idea how to get the Alatyr back to Booyan Island safely and get my buyer off its trail. I just need to talk to Willow, Giles and Wes about the magical logistics of it," Connor said.

"So, back to the firm then," Wes said. "We don't have much time before your buyer hires someone else."

"Okay, but we're going to need to take the stone to our buyer," Connor said.

"Ooo, I don't think so," Buffy protested, arms akimbo. It would have been more intimidating without the rain rolling down her face.

"We have to if this is going to work," Connor replied.

"What makes you think we'll let you take it?" Faith asked, eyeing the sky angrily.

"We'll cut you in on the profits." Connor shrugged, pushing his wet hair back.

Faith's eyes lit up. "How much?"

"Faith!" Buffy said, sharply.

"What did you have in mind, Connor?" Giles shot his two Slayers a warning look, trying to get control of the situation before they could really get to squabbling.

"We have to convince our buyer the Alatyr is out of reach for good but for what I have planned I'll need the stone. You'll get it back," he assured them.

"And you'll pay us rent on the stone for this?" Faith pressed, her dark eyes gleaming.

"Faith, honestly, that's not why we're here," Willow said, sternly, crossing her hand over her chest, realizing her pale green shirt was now nearly see-thru with rain.

"Hey, he offered." Faith tossed her hair. "I say we take him up on it."

"We'll decide after we hear his plan," Buffy replied. "How much did you have in mind?"

"Can't we do this out of the rain?" Giles urged.

"How much do you want?" Connor countered.

"How about forty grand," Faith said quickly. "That's ten thou a piece. We could have a little fun."

"Done, if you agree to the plan." Connor couldn't help but smile.

Connor was surprised to see the buyer, or at least the proxy, was nearly eighty years old but seemingly perfectly at home in her suite in one of Las Vegas' finest offerings. He and Gwen watched her examine the stone carefully, handing it off to one of her companions whom Connor presumed was a mage of some sort. He inspected it for authenticity. He nodded at the old woman who smiled up at Connor and Gwen.

"It's everything I could have hoped for. With its power maybe I'll look a little like you dear, when it's done," the woman said, tapping Gwen's hand.

To her credit, Gwen didn't shudder. Connor hadn't ever put much stock in people being so evil you could feel it. Demons yes, people no but this woman had proved him wrong. She gave him the cold chills. He was hoping Willow's spell was going to work. Buffy wasn't thrilled with the risky plan to begin with and he didn't want to explain if something went wrong.

"Make the transfer," the old woman said to her companion and Connor watched as they electronically transferred the millions into his Swiss account.

"Thank you, ma'am," Gwen said. "Sorry it was so problematic."

"You two are as good as your reputation." The old woman kissed the stone. "I can't wait." She put the stone to her chest. "Start the spell."

"We should study it some more," her companion protested.

"I'm not going to be this old and pained for a second longer. Do it," the old woman insisted. "Use the Alatyr to heal me."

Frowning her companion started chanting and the stone started to glow. "That's not right. I'm no where near done with the ritual."

"What's wrong?" the old woman asked then shrieked as the stone burst in a white bright light, turning into dust and pebbles. "No!"

"Wow, what was that?" Connor asked.

"It's gone," Gwen said.

"Maybe you were too impure," the mage said and the old woman wept, throwing the pebbly bits at him.

Connor and Gwen just backed out and merged with the casino crowd in the game rooms below. Connor flipped open his phone and placed a call, speaking the code phrase. "Was that twenty on black or red? Uh-huh. Great."

Gwen looked at him as he rang off. "It worked."

"Perfectly." Connor let himself relax. Willow's spell had worked as he had hoped. A teleportative bait and switch, a little light show and Willow yanked the stone back to her, leaving the rubble. "They have it where it'll be safe."

"Good," Gwen said, looping her arm around his waist.

EPILOGUE

"That was the most fantastic meal ever," Buffy said, patting her belly which was full of linguine alla'arragosta.

"Beaurivage does make some of the best Italian around," Gwen said, opening the front door of her home.

"At thirty dollars a dinner, I should hope so," Willow said. "And you said there was dessert for later?'

"We'll go to Gladstone's 4 Fish. They have chocolate desserts to die for," Gwen assured her. "A mile high chocolate cake."

"I could live like this," Faith said, strolling through Connor's home and out onto the back patio where Spike and Angel were sitting at the bar.

Connor grinned. Everyone had gone to an early dinner before the vampires could come out to play so they would have more time to spend with them afterwards. Gwen had taken the ladies shopping for clothing appropriate to wear to the lavish restaurant they had treated them to.

"I mean, look at this pool." Faith slid her foot out of her pump and touched a toe to water. "I'm glad Gwen insisted we get suits, too."

"Pool, hot tub, private walk to the beach, make yourself at home," Connor said.

"You might regret that invite when you can't pry her out of one of your guest rooms." Buffy laughed.

"Hey, you don't know, they might have an open marriage or Angel could have turned him into a Mormon or something and he'd like a second lady around," Faith said, cocking a hip at him.

Connor shook his head. "Sorry, Irish Catholic. I'm lucky they let me sleep with the woman I'm actually married to and while we're pretty adventurous, I'm thinking I'd find my balls in a pickle jar if I said yes to the offer."

"See, you aren't just another pretty face." Gwen kissed his cheek. "But you all are welcome to stay here for a few days until you get things taken care of."

"Andrew will be buried tomorrow," Giles said, looking regretful to interject business after such a relaxing day. "My group will return the Alatyr to its rightful spot. Wes will come with us, if Angel wants someone along, or do you prefer to send Connor?"

"I have pretty much no control over him, Giles," Angel said, ruefully.

"Damn straight. I think I should keep a distance from the stone just in case the buyer wasn't totally convinced," Connor said. "You have enough protection on the Alatyr with the group that's already going."

"Speaking of that, you owe us rental money," Faith said with a 'gimme' motion. "Or I could just take Gwen's jewelry. I could be happy with that."

Angel came over and touched Gwen's necklace. "It is exquisite." He looked at the necklace, a double strand of freshwater pearls supporting a triangular array of over a dozen white-gold dragonflies each connected to the ones lower in the pyramid with more pearls and each body a brilliant cut diamond. She wore a matching bracelet that was three tiers of pearls and diamond bodied dragonflies. Matching dragonfly earrings completed the set.

"Thank you." Gwen preened.

"Can't have that, Faith. I bought Gwen that for her birthday and together, not counting her wedding ring, you're looking at over half of the agreed upon price," Connor said.

"You're wearing over twenty thousand dollars in jewels?" Buffy's mouth gaped.

"Afraid so. Why don't we all go inside, get changed into swimsuits and just relax," Gwen said, a little sheepishly. "Connor can transfer the money to your accounts."

"How do you want me to do it?" Connor asked.

"Give it all to Giles. We'll divide it up later," Buffy said and Faith looked disappointed.

Connor nodded. "Dad, did you and Spike bring suits or is that something we really don't want to see?"

"You don't want to see it," Angel replied with a whole body shudder.

"Speak for yourself, Peaches. I'm going swimming," Spike said.

"Great. A glow-in-the-dark pool toy," Angel mumbled.

Connor left them bickering at the pool side bar as he went in and made the money transfer with Giles' help. Everyone else changed into swimsuits then he got a few bottles of Kristal for the ladies and a bottle of Scotch for the men, taking it out to the pool bar. "I might have been a little sexist in thinking all you ladies wanted wine. Anyone want the a hundred year old Scotch?"

"Did you say a hundred years?" Giles asked, almost salivating. He was all but one with the bar rail.

"Yes, I did. Vampires can drink beer since they have no taste anyhow," Connor said, decanting scotch into crystal glasses.

"I want to try the scotch," Angel said, disappointed.

Connor gave in and let both of them have some scotch. Kate opted for the scotch and Lorne the wine. Gwen raised a glass. "To a job, if not well done, at least done for the right reasons in the end."

They drank to that. Faith was the first to break for the pool, barely able to restrain herself. "So, how much did you two end up making after the forty grand you gave us?"

"The job was for fifty," Connor said.

"Fifty? You ended up taking all that punishment for a mere ten thousand?" Gunn shot them a pitying look.

"Fifty million. You should have asked that question first, Faith," Connor grinned.

"You're shitting me, right?" Faith's eyes were as wide as the pool she treaded water in.

"No."

"That's cheating," she pouted.

"No, just a bad business deal on your end. Besides, I'm a thief, were you expecting complete honesty?" Connor grinned and Angel shook his head looking pained.

"I'm still working on fifty million. I can't picture that," Willow said. "Then you two must be worth..."

"A few billion. See Dad, really the spell did work out in my favor," Connor said.

"I never wanted you to be a...billions? Really?" Angel asked, stunned.

"Gwen was probably worth a billion before I even met her," Connor said, pulling his wife against him.

"I should have been nicer to you way back when," Faith lamented.

"No, you and Connor...if the darkness ever came out of either of you, together you'd make me and Darla look like well...angels." Angel smirked.

"My dad has such faith in us," Connor said. "Who's for a little music?"

"Got any good punk? Like the Sex Pistols?" Spike asked.

"Don't even think about it," Gwen warned. "I'll put on some dance mixes."

"That might be for the best," Connor said. "Oh, and if the dogs jump in the pool, just let them swim. You can't stop a hundred and fifty pound wet dog."

"Thanks for the warning," Buffy said and joined Faith in the pool.

The house was mostly quiet; some of the partiers asleep in the guest rooms; Faith, Buffy and Gunn still out with the vampires at the pool. Connor and Gwen had retired to their room, sitting in the yab yum position, her in his lap, arms around each other, hearts touching as they just gazed into each others eyes. The followers of Tantra believed it to be a position of profound connection. Connor agreed. They didn't speak. There was no need to. Connor could feel the energy flowing from Gwen into him and back again. It wasn't a time for their wild games. The soft, gentle reconnection was what they needed.

Eventually they broke the connection, Gwen stretching out on the bed. Their love making quiet, honey-hipped but intense. They both knew they had come close to losing their lives. They wouldn't talk about that now but Connor knew later, maybe there would be adjustments in how they lived. For now, they would simply glory in each other.

Afterwards, they lay entwined in each other's arms. He kissed her again. "The spell changes nothing. I still love you."

"I know," she murmured. "It makes you even more special."

Connor let her fall asleep against him. Sleep, however, wouldn't find him. He slipped out of bed and saw the party had moved indoors at least in so much as Faith and Gunn were passed out on the modular couch in the game room. Buffy was asleep on a chaise lounge overlooking the view. He didn't see Spike at all. Angel was outside looking at the beach. "It's beautiful isn't it?"

"Gorgeous. I forget to take the time to appreciate stuff like this," his father replied.

"I try to make time every night. Usually I run the beach before dawn, just getting in touch with nature, with the power in this body." Connor tapped his chest.

Angel turned to him. "Are you happy, son?"

"Yes, and knowing the truth hasn't changed that. I'm not sure how I feel about having my mind messed with but I don't doubt you meant well, that you were trying to do the right thing. I meant what I said that day in the mall. I know you tried very hard to love me and I can't stand here surrounded by everything I have and complain about how it was done," Connor said.

Angel grabbed him, pulling him close. "I'll tell you all about how and why, whatever you want to know."

Connor surprised himself by embracing his father back. "I have a lot of questions, not just about the spell. About you and mom and things I never had time to ask before."

"I'll do my best to answer...even if it's not stuff I really want you to know about it. I can't expect you to know how you really feel if I'm not honest," Angel said.

Connor backed away, feeling an emotional tide trying to break free. "That's all I'm asking for." He took a deep swallow regaining control. He looked down at Angel's feet. "I can't sleep. Your shoes are good. You want to join me on a run up the beach?"

Angel looked at him then down at the water. "Uh, okay. Can't remember the last time I did that when something wasn't chasing me."

"Like I said, nature, the strength of your own body, it's a good high."

Connor went in and changed into his running gear then led his father down to the surf. "I'll stay closer to the water. I have the aquatic track shoes. Try to keep up, old man."

"The day I can't outrun you, is the day I hang it up," Angel retorted, good naturedly.

Connor snorted. "Please, it'll be all you can do to keep that bulk moving."

"At least I'm not in any danger of disappearing if I turn sideways. No wonder security measures can't stop you."

This time Connor laughed and started jogging in the moonlight. Angel paced right along with him. Connor got lost in the feeling of finally having all the pieces back in place, feeling like he belonged. He knew he'd have to have a talk about not being a thief with Angel, knew that this reconnection might make bumps in his and Gwen's relationship but he wasn't worried. It had been a long time since he felt worry free. Nothing was going to take that from him tonight.

He scooped a hand into the cool surf and splashed Angel playfully. He darted ahead of the sputtering vampire, laughing. He knew Angel would pay him back for that but that was all right, too. Fate had found its way in reuniting them and finding out what that meant, for better or worse, was going to be an adventure.

Author's Note #1 - if you want to see Gwen's jewels head to Tiffany's "margin-bottom: 0.0691667in">Challenge Requirements : Pairing: Connor/Gwen
Two things you want to see: Connor sometime in the future, W&H mind blank still applies. He works with Gwen as a thief, and Angel must combat them from stealing a special artifact or something from W&H. You take if from there, Angel could have the past with Gwen, or you could ignore her past on the show. Connor could find out who he is or not, up to you.
Two things you DON'T want to see: No restrictions.
Genre: Anything but comedy.
Rating Level: Doesn't matter although I prefer NC-17