Avox in Arcadia (perpetual) wrote,
Avox in Arcadia

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Infinity Questions (Part 2 of 4)

Title: Infinity Questions
Author: Kairos
Rating: PG
Wordcount: This part, 5404.
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Boss Whedon and his merry band of Mutant Enemies.
Summary: Ten days after the final battle in LA, allies gather to search for survivors and attempt to understand the events that led them there.

Astute readers will notice the last part said there were three parts total. Well, now it looks more like four. Next one might be "3 of 5". What can you really count on these days, right?

Real life is a stress casserole topped with frustration sauce, but fanfiction is still here for me! Blessed are they who read and comment.

“Any luck?” asked the Red Cross volunteer who had asked Connor to check in. He and Bethany both handed their binders back to her, and she stashed them in the box for the next unlucky visitors who had loved ones to find.

“No,” said Connor. “But thank y—“

“Do you have any information about a vampire fighting a dragon?” interrupted Bethany. “Or, like, the demise of a demonic law firm?”

Connor and the blonde woman each turned a stare on her, probably displaying identical shades of disbelief, but, Connor thought, for very different reasons. His eyes darted between Bethany and the other as he tried to think of some excuse for his new friend sounding like a crazy person.

Before he could come up with anything, the blonde sighed deeply and crossed her arms. “You know about all that?”

Bethany shrugged. “Not as much as we want.”

To Connor’s continued incredulity, the volunteer tore a corner of paper from a notebook and began writing an address on it. “Look,” she said as she was doing it, “I can’t guarantee you that this place is safe. But this is where the underground has been gathering since it happened, as far as I know, and I don’t have anything else for you.” She straightened up and handed the paper to Bethany, though she continued to speak to both of them. “A lot of people saw the dragon and everyone knows something was going on with Wolfram & Hart, but if you heard about Angel, you’re in the select few. I don’t know what your connection is and I don’t want to. Just do what you have to do.”

Bethany shot Connor a smug grin as she glanced at the address and then put it in her pocket. “So you don’t know what happened to Angel?” she asked the volunteer.

She tilted her head, looking pensive, then said, “I know he wasn’t with the demonic law firm. Good luck.”

“Thank you,” said Connor. “A lot.”

Bethany echoed him and the woman waved off their gratitude. “Hey,” she said in sudden concern, “do you two have a place to stay? We set up a temporary teen shelter...”

“I’ve already got a motel room,” Bethany assured her.

“Me too,” Connor lied, settling his backpack onto his shoulders. He knew he could find a room by the time he needed one, and he didn’t want Bethany thinking he was trying to shack up with any teenage girls.

When the two of them got outside the conference center, they stopped and faced each other for a moment, neither fully sure of how to proceed. “So where is this place?” Connor asked.
She pulled out the scrap of paper and studied it. “Just over the border of LA, it looks like.
Probably right on the edge of where it starts getting blocked off.”

“You want to go?”

“We could split a taxi.”

Bethany was the one to find a payphone and call for a pick-up. Connor had never actually called a cab before, and hadn’t ridden in one since he was a child. It was a token of his double past, he reflected as they both got into the back seats, that even with everything that had happened lately, he could still notice how peculiar it felt to be riding around Pasadena in a taxi. He secretly wished that the driver would yammer at them in a Brooklyn accent, because that’s what they always did in the movies, but he was mostly quiet.

When he pulled over to let them out, Connor’s first thought was that he had ignored their instructions and brought them to a completely random part of town, but after they had paid their fare and stepped out onto the curb, he finally saw a door bearing the digits they had specified. It was sunken beneath the tall nondescript buildings dominating that block, a plain black door at basement level with no sign or anything to distinguish it. “This is where the underground is converging?” he asked Bethany as the taxi departed.

“Well, it is underground,” she pointed out. “Do you hear music?”

He did, and it was coming from behind the door. He wasn’t sure what that meant, but there was nowhere else to go now anyway. Bethany’s estimate about this area being on the brink of the no-access zone had been correct; from where they were standing they could see the sun sinking behind the twenty-foot wall of plywood and metal and plastic that had gone up around the heart of Los Angeles. It was hard to tell if the neighborhood on this side of it was still occupied, but the stillness around them suggested otherwise. There didn’t even seem to be enough parked cars.

Bethany descended the stairs to the musical door first, then looked up at him as he was following. “Should I knock? Probably not, huh?”

“They probably wouldn’t hear it anyway.”

She nodded and tried the knob. Just before the door swung open in front of her, Connor saw her shoulders rise and fall, as if she was steadying herself for whatever they would find inside. He couldn’t blame her, but as it was the first sign of apprehension he had seen from her, he had to suppress an urge to say something comforting and macho. If she wanted emotional support, she would seek it.

The club-- it was definitely a club, they saw as soon as they entered-- was even louder than the sound from outside it had promised. As they stood blinking themselves into adjustment to the relative lack of light, it became evident that the music was live, and Connor soon located the singer on a small stage across the room from where they were standing. She was so obviously inhuman that for a moment he had trouble noticing anything else, but her voice was beautiful and there was something unexpectedly sincere about her mixed features and vibrant coloration.

“Isn’t this a Cat Stevens song?” murmured Bethany, close to his ear to make herself heard.

He wrenched his attention back from where it had been getting lost in the singer’s voice. “I think he did a cover of it,” he answered, dazed. He was finally beginning to look at everything between the door and the stage.

As humans, he and Bethany were in the minority. They might even be the only ones, Connor realized with a start: all of those people mingling with the demons could just as easily be vampires. Or something else. Was there anything else that looked human but wasn’t? He didn’t know for sure. His alternate-reality memories were packed with demons and monsters, but most of them were native to a dimension with different rules than this one. Holtz had educated him about the evils of this world, but now that he knew what the man’s motives had been, he couldn’t trust any part of that education.

All the same, he didn’t think they were in any immediate danger. Demons and humanoids alike were focused on their drinks and the music, and there were no storm warnings of violence. Apparently this was just a place that the hidden populace of LA was using to recover from the disruption of their lives and unlives.

“Where do we start?” Bethany asked. Her eyes were moving back and forth across the room, taking in the eclectic crowd seated at the tables, the tealights filtering dimly through scattered clouds of smoke, the karaoke screen on the makeshift stage. She looked awed, and nervous, but far less afraid than Connor would have expected from a-- well, from anyone.

He let the last notes of the female demon’s song play out before he replied, feeling the need to respect the music. Both he and Bethany joined the rest of the audience in a vigorous round of applause as the singer smiled and left the stage, and for a moment Connor almost forgot that they hadn’t come here for entertainment. Showing appreciation for a voice like that just felt so natural.

In the following interval he leaned over and said to Bethany, “I don’t know. We should probably find the owner of this place. Or just pick the friendliest face in here and strike up a conversation. Of course, I’m not really sure what passes here as a friendly-- hey, I know that guy.”

Sitting by himself at a shadowy table in the corner was a solemn demon in colors that were anything but solemn: green skin, red accents, purple suit. It appeared he had been absorbed in the music, but after following the singer with his eyes as she left the room, he sighed and leaned back into his chair. Connor was pointing him out to Bethany at the exact moment that he happened to look their way, and his brow creased suspiciously under his horns.

“Guess we start with him, then,” said Bethany.

If it had been hard to find words when he first met the telekinetic, it was a hundred times harder to think of what to say to someone who had already featured in his past. Connor’s mind was a frantic mess during the time it took for them to cross the room. He tried to tell himself that however bad his history with this guy was, they didn’t actually have a history. It didn’t help too much.

When he reached the table, he coughed pointlessly and then looked into the expectant red eyes and said, “Lorne?”

“Blackbird has spoken,” said the demon. “Whatever it is that whoever it is told you I could do for you, they were sadly mistaken. Curb your disappointment and don’t tell anyone else where I am.”

Connor exchanged glances with Bethany before trying again. “Nobody sent me. We know each other-- I’m Connor Reilly? You worked for Wolfram & Hart, and I was kind of a client there?”

“Not exactly the key to my heart, sweetcheeks, but now that you mention it your face does have that certain glow of familiarity. So you’re looking for legal help? Allow me to inform you that this is the wrong place. Actually, this is probably the wrong place no matter what you’re looking for, including good company, a decent Sea Breeze, and two tolerable performances in a row.” He winced at the stage as a hairy and fat demon clambered up and grabbed the microphone. “Point in case. And you two aren’t quite blending.”

Bethany blushed and glanced furtively around the room at that, but Connor simply decided it was time to get serious. Quickly he pulled out a chair for Bethany and then one for himself, and sat down in front of Lorne with his arms crossed on the table. “I know you can help us. I know what you can do. We just want to find out what happened to Angel, and then we’ll leave you—“

“Whoooa! Red light! I’m not looking for Angel, Angel isn’t looking for me, and what I can do has no relevance to this situation. Can we just drop the subject and listen quietly to Olfer the Malevolent slaughtering an innocent Beach Boys tune?”

No.” Connor said the word with such emphasis that Bethany leaned in with a worried look on her face.

“Connor,” she started, but he took a deep breath and tried speaking again in a calmer tone. It was actually kind of nice that she was concerned about keeping the peace, but he wasn’t going to let Lorne just shoot him down like this.

“Look,” he said. “If I sing, will you read me and tell me what you can? I won’t ask for anything else.”

Bethany raised an eyebrow at both of them. “If you sing?”

“He’s an empath,” Connor explained. “When people sing he reads their auras. Or futures, or something. Anyway, he can get something out of me.”

Lorne sighed and took a sip of his drink, giving it a look of distaste as he set it down. “I’m not a destiny vending machine,” he complained. “Even if I do hear you out for a song, there’s no reason it should give me anything about Tall Dark and Tragic.”

“I think it will,” said Connor. “I mean, I’m his son, that’s got to count for something.”

For a few seconds there was just an uncomfortable silence, and then Lorne said, “Someone really should have taught you the facts of unlife, my lamb. You see, when a mommy vampire and a daddy vampire love each other very much, nothing happens. Your delusions, while charming, require a specialist in a field other than mine.”

Connor’s frustrations were mounting. He had thought that someone would have given Lorne some kind of explanation of the reality shift. Or at least an outline of it. “Can I just sing?” he repeated. “Then you’ll at least know if I’m telling the truth, right?”

“You don’t need my permission for that,” said Lorne. “Not my club. If it were, you’d notice a few major differences in sight, smell, taste, and touch.”

Bethany giggled. “Not sound?”

“Unfortunately, cupcake, wherever you leave an open mike, you’re going to attract a few Olfers. It’s the price of freedom.” He looked at Connor. “If you sing, you’d better understand you’re getting in line and singing for everyone. It’s beyond tacky to interrupt while someone else is on the stage.”

“I’ll go get the song list!” said Bethany. She was gone from the table before Connor could reply, leaving him to wonder what had her so enthused.

“So who’s your friend?” asked Lorne. “Offspring of a ghost? Renegade goddess, maybe?”

“Uh, no. Not that I’m aware of. She’s a-- we just met today. But she knew Angel too.”

The demon nodded and then went silent, keeping his eyes locked on Connor in a vaguely unsettling manner. “Are you reading me already?” Connor finally asked. “I thought it didn’t work without singing.”

“Can’t get anything substantial, but you’ve got one doozy of an aura. It’s kind of checkered.”

Connor had a moment of doubt about Lorne as a source of information-- it was, after all, possible that he was willing to make things up for his own reasons. Bethany’s return put a stopper on the pursuit of any such suspicions, which Connor had to admit was probably a good thing. As she slid back into her seat and set down a large book listing the karaoke selections, Connor heard Lorne murmur, “Or maybe plaid...” He did his best to ignore it.

“So what are your favorite bands?” asked Bethany. “Let’s see if they’re in here.”

“Amon Tobin doesn’t have words. Massive Attack...is not going to be in there. Looking for my favorites in a karaoke bar is probably a lost cause. I just have to think outside my box.” Suddenly recognizing a chance to win some points with her, he added, “Who’s your favorite?”

She shrugged. “I like a lot of different stuff. Never heard of yours, though. What do you think of Gorillaz?”

“Marketing ploy,” he answered immediately, flipping past pages and pages of terrible pop songs. “Damn good one, though.” He looked up just in time to see her satisfied smile: right answer.

“They have Barenaked Ladies,” she noted, pointing. “I bet they’d be easy.”

“Obviously we’re not thinking about the same Barenaked Ladies...”

Lorne looked pained. “So that’s a random sampling of the music you kids are listening to? Not healthy, I say. You need some Jackson Five in your diet.”

Connor disregarded him; Bethany could plead their case if she wanted to. Drawing inspiration from the comment she had made when they entered the club, he flipped back towards the beginning of the book. He had some good memories of his father playing Cat Stevens on his guitar for family sing-alongs.

And sure enough, there was his song, too appropriate to avoid even if it made Connor want to sigh: “Father and Son.”

Bethany informed him that there wasn’t anyone else in line, so as soon as Olfer the Malevolent left the stage (to the sound of relieved applause), Connor was up. The stage only put him about a foot higher than the rest of the room, but it still felt like he was looking down into a pit full of savage monsters. He gave them a little wave, wondering if he should introduce himself, but then the music started. He was almost thankful for it.

Singing wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t as if he’d never done it before. He’d even been told he had a good voice. But a few lines in, Connor started thinking about the song he had chosen a little too hard. He couldn't to relate to the first part, which referenced his own old age and cautioned against rash action. In fact, Connor could readily imagine the lyrics being spoken by either his father or Angel, and it kind of ticked him off.

Where had that damned vampire gone? What right did he have to take on the world by himself and refuse help from his own...whatever Connor was? Los Angeles had been trashed, and Connor had been sent back to Stanford like a child. “You will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not.”

Yeah, right. He reached the chorus and surprised himself by tearing into it with more passion than he’d realized he had in him. The crowd, subdued as they were, showed some reaction, causing him to remember to look over at his table. Bethany looked impressed. Lorne looked completely dumbfounded, which gave Connor some peevish inner validation. That would show him.

The day after he had gone to Wolfram & Hart with his parents and had his original memory restored, Connor had shut himself into his room and let his weak knees give out. For hours he had lay huddled on the floor, eyes open and unseeing, and worked his brain as he never had before, trying desperately to recreate the person he had always thought he was. The only thing that had brought him to equilibrium was realizing that his two lives were not equally formative; only one had contributed to his present-day self. Only one was really him.

As much as that simplified things, it was no easy burden to know what could have been, and to see firsthand how Angel considered him. It would have been helpful to just talk to someone about it, but Connor had to keep the secret: his family could only be hurt by it, and anyone else would never believe. And Angel himself...making the choice had been hard enough on him. The only way Connor could make it any easier was by pretending everything was fine.

“...Keeping all the things I knew inside, it’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it.” The song was drawing to a close and Connor was starting to feel faintly embarrassed about the way he had been belting it out like a rock star, but he got to the end of the final chorus before setting down the microphone and making a swift exit from the stage. Applause was following him, he realized, not as loud as it had been for the brightly-colored female singer, but still fairly enthusiastic. It was a good thing none of his college friends were here. They never would have let him live this down.

Bethany was smiling as he took his seat next to her at the table. “He believes you now,” she said, gesturing at Lorne.

“Wish I didn’t,” the demon agreed. “Takes a moment like this to make you start wondering how many of your friends have tampered with your mind. Do me a favor, my little walking contradiction, and refrain from doing anything else interesting for a while.”

Connor, feeling inexplicably chagrined, nodded and wondered how long he should wait before picking up where he had left off in pressuring Lorne for information. “It wasn’t exactly tampering with your mind,” he offered. “It was a reality shift. Everything changed at once.”

“Indeed it did, and it never changed back, did it?” Lorne’s voice was low and shrewd, and his eyes gleamed with a scarlet intensity that was easy to miss when viewed as part of his clashing ensemble. “Let me cut this deck, now. I mean you no harm, but what I just picked up from you is your memories, not mine. You’re not my little adopted nephew, and you’re not the psychopathic demon-killer from another dimension. I’ve got the facts about you, sure, but that’s the only thing we share, so we’re starting from scratch here.”

“Cold,” observed Bethany.

Connor shook his head. “No, he’s right. It’s the same for me. I’ve got the memories, the skills I learned, but there’s no emotion attached to them. I remember you,” he said to Lorne, “but this isn’t a reunion. Right?”

The demon nodded and opened his mouth to reply, but Bethany interrupted. “Which life taught you to sing? ‘Cause that didn’t sound emotionless to me.”

Her reasoning dug a much-needed laugh out of Connor, though he had never formally learned to sing in either life and thus had no answer for her. To his surprise, Lorne was smiling too, and even raised his eyebrows as he raised his glass, in a way that suggested agreement with Bethany. All he said, though, was, “Right you are. Welcome to Square One.”

“Cool.” Connor hesitated, wishing he had a drink of his own. Having something to occupy your mouth always made the hesitations easier. “You mind if I ask you something?”

“Not terribly, but thanks for the greatly belated thought.”

“Why aren’t you and Angel looking for each other? I thought you were friends.”

He wasn’t blind to the sensitivity of a question like that, but Lorne’s reaction wasn’t exactly offended. If anything, his silence seemed full of fathomless sadness. “We were,” he said finally. “But you came here to find out about the end, didn’t you?”

The word end resonated in Connor’s ears, and his heart sank. No wonder Lorne was being so reluctant. He had bad news, and he was weary of being the bearer of such. Even while trying to begin processing the reality of Angel’s death, Connor’s conscious mind found room to feel sorry for the empath. “I just want to know what happened to him,” he said, studiously refusing to look at Bethany until his voice stopped sounding quite so weak. “He was my father.”

“Would you swear to that in a court of law?”

“He’s one of my fathers. You know all this.”

Lorne tilted his head, birdlike. “The one without the emotions attached, supposedly, yet here you are. Miles from home, grasping at straws, and until quite recently, all alone. You’re not doing this because of lineage.”

“What about me?” Bethany cut in. “I’m here because he did me a good turn. Not everything is about lineage.” Only Connor’s enhanced senses allowed him to hear what she added under her breath: “Thank God.”

Lorne looked at Connor. “You second that, dumpling?”

It was the first time he had needed to think about it in those terms, so he rolled it over in his mind before answering. They had a point, though Connor couldn’t quite find the importance of it. “Sure. I mean, I have a dad already. And even if I could still feel the way I felt in the old memories, Angel and I had a pretty messed up relationship. But now I know what kind of sacrifices he made, and it’s, you know, it’s not fair. I thought maybe if I found him, he would need some help and I could help him, and then we could kind of be a team. Not a family, a team. But I guess now I just want to know what I should have done differently to get here in time.” He dropped his head into his hands and scrubbed them through his hair. “I suck at saving people. Who the hell rides a bus to the rescue?”

“Depends on the rescue, sugarplum,” said the demon sympathetically. “But in Angel’s case I don’t believe any public transportation was involved. Possibly an airplane. Details are fuzzy, but I’m sure it was a top-class rescue.”

Connor lifted his head slowly to find Lorne’s gaze. Bethany, who had been slouching over the table with downcast eyes, did the same. “What are you saying?” Connor asked. “He was rescued? Well why didn’t you say so sooner? Is he alright? Where is he?”

Lorne shrugged, holding out both hands to dramatize the gesture. “This is only what I’m lifting off your merry tune. And let me tell you, that was a few Brittanica volumes worth of information, so don’t expect to have it all interpreted and recited back to you. But I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t true: the big guy’s alive. Anything beyond that, you won’t be hearing from me.”

“Anything?” Bethany’s voice was brittle with disbelief. “So he could be bleeding in an alley somewhere?”

“He could, except that would really defeat the whole purpose of a rescue, wouldn’t it?” Lorne sighed. “I don’t know what’s in the cards for Angel. It certainly appears that he’ll have help, but you won’t be the ones bringing it. Sleep soundly knowing he’s still around for the occasional act of heroism, and let him alone.”

Connor’s memory involuntarily flew back over his last few minutes with Angel. “Let him alone?” he said. “Don’t you think he’d want to see me? To know I was okay?”

“Are you?”

Connor narrowed his eyes, but Lorne looked guileless, sincere. “Are you sure you’re okay?” he repeated. “The last Angel knew, you were getting yourself away from danger and living the normal life he wanted for you. Now you’re in a demon club-- one without any protective forces on it, I might add-- and you’re asking me for directions on where to get yourself into more trouble. Believe me, if Angel wants to check up on you, he’ll do it. And you’ll probably never know he was there, but where’s the harm in that? You know he’s got your back. Listen to me, o little plaid prince, you can either have a working relationship with your long-lost daddy, or you can live a good long life for his sake, but you can’t do both. He knows that. He made his choice.”

It was no less than the explanation that Connor had previously given to Bethany about why he had left Los Angeles before the battle, and he could see from her face that she was thinking the same thing. It wasn’t enough this time, though. True, he had told himself that all he wanted was to affirm Angel’s survival, or learn the story behind his death, but now he was forced to admit that he had paid for his bus ticket expecting it to buy a handshake or hug. Lorne couldn’t offer him that, and he couldn’t kill the guilt, either.

“Because he’ll never have a good normal life, right?” Connor said at length. “He’ll always keep fighting.”

“As long as he has the strength.”

Connor paused again, not really wanting to pursue this train of thought but seeing no other option. “I have the strength,” he said. “I have superpowers. “

“I can get cats out of trees,” said Bethany. “It always makes them mad, though.” It took a moment for Connor to understand she was being wry. Her sense of humor took a little getting used to.

Lorne took it in stride. “I’m sure the cats are thanking you, deep in their fuzzy little hearts.”

“Right,” said Connor, trying to get back on track. “So what right do we have to let someone else do all the fighting while we live like average humans?”

Bethany’s eyes widened. “With great power comes great responsibility!” she said suddenly, then looked sheepish. “Sorry. I didn’t mean...you just made me think...”

“Spider-man,” Connor finished, and they shared a grin.

Nobody had taken the stage directly after Connor’s turn, and the music playing in the meantime had been a bland local radio station. Now it stopped, and another singer picked up the microphone, a demon with only a few subtle differences from the appearance of a human. The change in atmosphere as he started on a slow ballad was enough to make the conversation at the table take a break, all three of them gazing ponderously at the stage.

Lorne was the first to speak, though he gave no indication of whether he was talking to Connor, Bethany, or neither. “Spider-man would have probably found a few kindred spirits in that last battle. Sometimes it seemed like they stopped even wondering what normal lives would be like.” He leaned back and stretched out his legs under the table, but his eyes flicked over to Connor. “I’ve known a lot of heroes, your father not last among them. And I’ve had the mixed blessing of hearing some of them sing. Without that, it’s hard to tell who’s got the great power, and out of those, who sees the great responsibility. Some of them are centuries old with super strength and a bleeding conscience, sure, but then there’s the skinny girl with a knack for science and a history of mental instability. Or the kid from the ghetto with a homemade battleaxe. Funny thing, though: no matter how different they all were, no matter what kind of background they started out with, they all had this one thing in common-- not a one of them took up the gauntlet until they realized there was something in this world worth saving.”

The nameless heroes of Lorne’s speech were recalled with such compassion that it was difficult for Connor to get beneath it and find the point he was seeking. “You don’t think I realize that,” he accused. “You don’t think I care about the world I’m living in.” He could have gone on, but he didn’t want to get any more angry than he was. If something happened to his family or friends he would go through hell and back to save them, and it made him ill to think that Lorne, empath that he was, could read him and still not know that.

“I think you care, kid. I don’t think you know.” The demon exhaled slowly. “Not my place to say, but unsolicited advice is a way of life for the born chatterbox, so here it is: give yourself a few years. Get acquainted with the world and see if it wants you to be its savior.”

Connor clenched his teeth and stared at the tabletop, unable to snap out of it even when the singer finished his song and left the stage, applause rising from every other part of the club. A paper napkin brushed against his hand and landed silently before his eyes. Scrawled in ballpoint pen across it were the words, He’s cool but he’s kind of confusing, isn’t he?

Bethany was smiling at him when he looked up at her, and he closed his hand over the napkin and smiled back with a slight nod. “I should go,” he said, just loudly enough to be heard by both her and Lorne. “It’s been a long day. Unless you’ve got anything else to tell us, Lorne. Any facts, I mean.”

“Everyone wants the facts,” said Lorne. “Nobody wants the opinions of the guy who knows the facts.” He paused, then saw Connor’s and Bethany’s waiting looks and concluded, “No, I don’t have anything else to tell you.”

“I better go too,” said Bethany, starting to rise. “Taxi again?”

Connor reached under the table for his backpack and then stood up. “Sure.” He turned to Lorne, knowing they probably wouldn’t meet again and unsure of how to feel about it. “Thank you. Really.”

“Don’t mention it. Have a swell night, Junior Mints.” After he had bid goodbye to Bethany, showing her a little extra warmth that Connor couldn’t begrudge her, Lorne was silent until the two of them were starting to walk away. Then he said, in a tone that suggested loads of mental hesitation, “One more thing.”

They both turned to listen, and he raised one hand slightly off the table to gesture at them. “You two should stick together.”

Bethany looked up into Connor’s eyes, then back at Lorne. “Thanks,” she said.

Part 1~*~Part 3~*~Part 4

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