Disclaimer: Characters and situations owned by Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.

Timeline: set during "Shiny, Happy People".


Dance

He had not been alone with her very often; come to think of it, only once, when she told him to stop feeling unworthy, that all his evil deeds were forgiven, that he was her champion. All the other times, all the others were with her. Connor was okay with that, more than okay: they finally were a real family. No one was fighting anyone else. He could look at Fred without seeing the memory of tazers and three months turning to ashes in her eyes, at Gunn without hearing the accusation of being in league with the beast, at Wesley without wondering the forbidden thing: what would have happened if Wesley had not been God's instrument in delivering him to his father. Most of all, he could allow himself to love Angel without feeling the shame of it fueling the rage inside. Jasmine made all that possible with her presence.

All the same, when he walked past the suite Lorne had filled with flowers and spotted her alone, he couldn't help but feel a pang of - something. He stopped walking, at any rate, and hoped she would call him in, which she did.

She was so different from what he had expected. No baby, for starters, but that made sense; she would not have been able to help anyone else for years to come if she had allowed herself to be born as a baby. But in those few weeks he had known about Cordelia's pregnancy, he had been so scared and filled with joy at the same time, imagining what he would do for the baby, and now he could do none of those things. It made him feel oddly useless, unless he was fighting for her, cleaning the earth from evil.

"There is something you could do for me, Connor," Jasmine said. He didn't know whether she had read his thoughts or just guessed, and that didn't matter. His face lit up.

"Anything," he said. She laughed. Her low, musical voice was so different from anyone else's, and suddenly he didn't wonder what a baby's gurgles would have sounded like; it could not have been more beautiful.

"Nothing as encompassing as that. But there are so many things I want to experience, now that I am among you in body as well as spirit. And I will. There is one thing in particular I always wanted to try."

She switched on the cd player Lorne had given her, and he recognized the tune because Lorne had hummed it quite often. Something from some guy named Sinatra.

"Dance with me, Connor," she said.

He felt ashamed again. "I can't," he said, face burning. "I mean, I watched people in clubs and stuff, and Fred and Gunn, but I - well, I didn't learn it, so - I'm sorry. I'll call Lorne or Gunn, they - "

Jasmine came to him and cupped his chin in her hands.

"They aren't my father," she said. "You are. And I want my father to teach me how to dance."

The warmth of her fingers burned a little, like always when she touched him, and it seemed to spread in him, sweeping his embarassment and sense of inadequacy away. What harm was there in trying? He had observed the others, and it couldn't be more difficult than learning new fight moves. Rhythm and balance. He could do it.

So Connor put his arms around her, closed his eyes, just for a short moment, and concentrated. Then he stepped sidewards, forwards, backwards, following the song about strangers in the night, and she followed suit with the perfection and grace she showed in everything. When he made a mistake and stepped on her toes, she laughed. With anyone else, and in earlier times he would have assumed she was laughing at him; at this moment, he understand she was laughing with him, because he joined her, and soon they were back making small steps and swaying gently to the sounds coming out of Lorne's treasured loudspeakers.

"I knew you could do it," Jasmine said. Connor didn't reply, focusing on the movement. He knew it would end soon, and there would be work to do. The others would come back, claiming their share of the wonder that was her. He'd check on Cordy, who would still be sleeping, unable to wake up until earth had become truly paradise, so Jasmine said, and then he'd go to sleep, dreaming of dead fathers fallen into ashes and whiteclad girls splattered with blood, because his dreams, rebellious to the last, did not seem to understand what she told him: that the past was over and done with and only she was the future.

Right now, he could believe it. Right here, right now, doing nothing but teaching his daughter how to dance.