"Sign here, here, and here."

Boy, times had changed. They sure didn't do things like they used to. He hadn't exactly expected warts and cauldrons in the woods—he'd learned better than that from Willow—but he certainly hadn't expected penthouse office, either.

"And initial here."

Spike slowly added his alias' signature on the indicated lines, frowning and looking warily at the witch the entire time. He couldn't help but feel like he was making a huge mistake.

"Don't worry," she said cheerfully, perhaps literally reading his mind, "it'll be fine. I do these types of things all the time."

"Yeah, I know," he said dryly. "Victim, remember?"

"'Victim' is such an ugly word," she chided defensively. "It couldn't have been all that bad if you're requesting it be done for your friend."

"To my friend," he corrected. "To him, not for him. Make no mistake, it doesn't matter how you dress it up—" he waved a hand around the fancy office "—this is still strictly a disservice you're doing here. And your prices are outrageous."

"Do you want it done or not?" she snapped impatiently.

"Yeah, yeah," he said, sniffing indignantly. "Just get on with it, then."

"Good," she said, pleased again for no apparent reason. "The last thing I will need is—"

"Something of his, I know," Spike interrupted, heading toward the door. "Follow me."

"Nice, very nice," the witch said approvingly as she followed him into the parking garage and took a look at the Mustang. "Does he know you stole his car?"

"Er... Borrowed it, love," Spike said with a sly grin. "Only borrowed. I mean, you … You don't have to keep it for the spell to work, right?"

"Right," she said after letting him sweat it out for a few seconds.

"Get to it, then," he invited.

The professional little witch put her hands on the car and got to work, and Spike thought it was the perfect time to reach into his jacket for a smoke. He'd been jonesing for some of that delicious nicotine so badly, but he knew he'd never hear the end of it if he smoked in his mate's car. And for him, never was a long time.

"It is done," she declared, clapping her hands together as if to dust them off. "Goodbye and good luck."

"Wait," Spike said. "Are you sure? I mean, how can I tell? How do I know it worked?"

"I suggest calling him," she answered with a wry smile. "Goodbye."

With that final note on the subject, the witch did a little poofy thingy and disappeared. That was bad customer service and downright rude if you asked him, but who was he to tell her how to run her business? He took one last drag off his cig before stomping it out on the concrete and jumping into the car. He had to hurry back to the Hyperion, and if he was to make it before sunup, he'd have to do some serious speeding. California was a long damn state.

He wasn't going to call. He'd nicked Angel's cell phone before he'd left, so he had the means to do so, but he wouldn't. He'd already made up his mind that calling would be the wrong thing to do. It would spoil the moment or something. It'd be all, "Look what I did! Me, me, me!" Spike had already had his time. Angel needed to enjoy those first special moments with his little boy.

Still, it was rather disconcerting that half an hour had passed and he hadn't received a call. Surely his grandsire had figured it out by then. He was stupid, yeah, but not completely clueless. Though, Spike supposed, it was entirely possible that he didn't know his own cell phone number...

"Bugger this, I'm calling," he murmured to himself.

The phone in the hotel lobby rang. And rang. And rang some more. He hung up right as the machine got it.

He really, really didn't want to, but he was going to have to try Connor's cell. If the kid was going to have an angry meltdown on him, over the phone was as good a time as any. Better, even.

"Hi!" Connor answered brightly, taking Spike by surprise.

"Er... Hello," he said carefully, using the guarded tone that one uses with moody, temperamental children. "It's Spike."

"I know, silly," Connor said, laughing.

"Right," Spike said uncertainly. "Listen, Connor, I know you're angry with me right now, but I did it for a good reason, and..."

"I'm not mad," Connor assured him.

"You're not?"

"No. Why would I be mad? We're playing and having lots of fun!"

"Connor, put your dad on the phone, please," Spike said, growing more and more uneasy.

"He can't talk right now," Connor informed him.

"He can't … Connor, he is home, isn't he?" Spike asked, feeling something akin to fear and pushing the gas pedal almost to the floor. "You aren't home alone, are you?"

"He's here," Connor replied.

"Then why didn't he answer the hotel phone when I called?" Spike asked suspiciously.

"We couldn't reach it!" Connor exclaimed happily.

"'We?'" Spike asked. "What do you mean, 'we?' Connor, what are you doing? Where's your dad?"

"He's hiding," Connor said. "We're playing hide and go seek!"

"That's … That's great. Now, listen to me very carefully. I need you to call your dad out of hiding, okay? You can finish up your game in a few minutes after I talk to Angel, all right?"

"Oh, fine," Connor mumbled sulkily.

Spike held the cell away from his ear as he heard Connor bellow at the top of his lungs for his father.

"Hello?" a little boy's voice said again after a moment.

"Connor, I told you I needed Angel," Spike said impatiently. "Now be a good boy and put him on the phone, please."

"This is Angel!" the boy said cheerfully.

"No," Spike said, shaking his head and reaching into his coat to pull out another cigarette, the smell be damned. "No, it can't be."

"It is!" the boy insisted, much less cheerful this time. "It is Angel!"

"If this is a joke, it isn't funny."

Spike shook his head in disbelief. No. No, this was not happening to him. It was not. It couldn't be. He wouldn't allow it to be.

"It's him!" he heard Connor shout in the background. "It's my dad!"

Twin peals of laughter were all he heard for a good forty-five seconds while he attempted and failed to process this horrible information.

"Angel," he said loudly, hoping to get his attention. "Angel. Liam!"

The giggling abruptly stopped and an apprehensive little voice said,


"Angel," Spike said slowly, "why are you small, too? What happened?"

"I don't know," Angel said airily, completely carefree. "I thought you did it."

"Well … Well, I guess I did do it," Spike said, puzzled, "but I didn't mean to. I took Connor's car because the witchy one needed something of his to do the spell, and..."

"Oh, that's what happened, then," Angel said, and Spike imagined him nodding solemnly.

"What?" he asked. "What happened? What do you mean? Why would the car make it hit both of you?"

"Because," Angel said with another giggle—he could hear Connor joining in in the background—"who do you think co-signed for the loan?"