This is it! Thank you to everyone who has read and reviewed.

Chapter 5

"Why didn't the singing work?" Spike asked Lorne, even though he thought he already knew. He kept his voice low, but it didn't matter, really: under normal circumstances, Connor could have heard him anyway, and at the moment, he probably wouldn't have noticed if Spike had screamed it directly in his ear.

"Because they were both real," said Lorne. "The aura is the same, more or less, but there's two versions of Connor in there. The - the other one, he's not just a possible version of Connor. He is Connor. Just not this one, anymore. Angel made sure of that."

"Still there, though," said Spike. "Just under the surface."

There was a faint moan from the floor as Harmony returned to consciousness. Lorne ran to her.

"Don't scare me like that again, Kitten," he said, helping her to a stand.

"Lorne!" said Harmony. "I'm not evil anymore!"

Spike rolled his eyes. "Go back to sleep, Harm."

Harmony glared at him. "You're just jealous that you aren't the only good vampire around now I sacrificed myself for Lorne."

"You what?" asked Lorne.

"I sacrificed myself for you," said Harmony proudly. "He was coming, and I stood right in front of the door, and I said 'You're not getting past me, mister' and so he staked me. I saved you!"

Spike very much doubted that. Even aside from Harmony's apparent confusion over intention and execution - and assuming, which he didn't, that her story was true - there was no way Connor version 1.0 would have spared Harmony whatever she had done. Harmony, however, was still absorbed in the story of her heroics.

"That's why I didn't get dusted," she finished. "It was a reward from the Powers. Aren't you going to say thank you?" she asked, turning to Lorne.

Lorne didn't answer right away. Finally he said "Harmonica? Would you mind singing for me? Just for a minute?" Spike was no empath, but he thought Lorne actually seemed nervous as Harmony started screeching some idiotic pop ballad. After a moment, he smiled.

"She's telling the truth," Lorne said to Spike. "Or, at least, she thinks she is."

"I'm suddenly feeling a lot less special," said Spike. "I mean, if bloody Harm can grow as a person..."

Harmony finished her song. Spike turned away as Lorne began praising her lavishly for the performance, just in time to see Connor stand up and come to meet him.

"Ready to go home?" Spike said, hoping that he sounded casual.

"I'm not going," said Connor.

"Don't be stupid, "said Spike.

"I'm not," said Connor. "It's just - I've remembered something." He kneeled down, and picked up a few shards of glass still littering the floor. "Before Wolfram & Hart, Angel had this hotel," he said. "I worked there with Fred and Gunn one summer, after I buried Angel in the ocean. We didn't have Cordy's visions, or Angel. But people came to us with problems. Haunted apartments. Demon possession. Curses. And we solved them, when we could."

Spike sighed. "That was before, when there weren't armies of slayers out there. You mentioned Faith? Multiply her times a few thousand, and you've got some idea of how much the world needs a couple freelancers."

"It needed us today," said Connor.

Lorne spoke up. Spike hadn't realized he was listening. "Hate to rain on your parade, Junior Mint," said Lorne, "but if you're thinking of using this place, I've got to remind you that I'm not playing that game anymore. Like I told your dad once, I don't judge. I'm not forgetting that again."

"Bollocks," said Spike. "If nothing else, you judge Angel for what he made you do. And there's a reason you were scared of what you'd hear if you let Harmony sing."

"I'd never ask you to do anything you didn't want to," said Connor. "We'd just be helping people who needed it. That's all."

"I've heard that tune before," said Lorne. He smiled, a bit grimly. "But what can I say? I've always been a sucker for the classics."

"So you're in?" said Spike.

"We're in," said Lorne, pointedly.

Connor looked taken aback, but he recovered quickly. "Happy to have you," he said, and put out a hand for Harmony to shake. Lorne's smile became more genuine, as if Connor had passed some crucial test.

"You too, Spike?" he said, and Spike realized he had never actually agreed to anything.

"Never been known for making good choices," said Spike. "Bit late to start now. Besides," he added, "you lot wouldn't last a week without me."


They drove back to Palo Alto that night. Connor hadn't changed his mind, but there were some things he wanted to get from his apartment. He also needed to stop home on his way back to LA for what was going to be a very difficult conversation with his parents.

"Got a confession to make," said Spike, when they'd been on the road for a while.

"Yeah?"

"I wasn't looking for you, the other night," he said. "There's a slayer at Stanford. Thought she might be up for a road trip to LA. Turns out, not every slayer's as big a believer in the power of change as Buffy."

"She tried to stake you?"

"Yeah. Managed to get out of it without hurting her, then went off and got shit faced."

"And that's when you decided to look me up?"

"Don't want to hurt your feelings, but I didn't even remember you existed."

"Then how - "

"I smelled Angel," said Spike. He was speaking quickly, as if this were his last chance to say it. "I smelled Angel, and I thought somehow he'd survived and gotten his bloody Shanshu after all."

"I'm sorry," said Connor.

"Don't be," said Spike.

Connor was struck with an uncomfortable thought. "It's kind of a big coincidence, then" he said. "You finding me like that. Do you think it was the Powers?"

"I hope not."

"If it was -"

"Then destiny can go screw itself," said Spike. "At least until it screws us."

It wasn't the most inspiring motto Connor had ever heard, but, he thought, maybe it would do.