Connor steps off the side of the roof and lands in a crouch next to the group that appeared a few minutes ago in the shadows beside an abondoned building (that he has been listening to the entire time).
"Can I help?" he asks almost desperately.
He had been trying to follow his father's instructions (and it still stumbles in his brain a bit to think of Angel as his father). Honestly. But it hadn't felt right to just leave, to just run away back to his foster parents, back to his old life, and pretend none of this was going on.
Pretend he didn't remember. (How could he ever pretend this wasn't his life now that he knew?)
But he was trying anyway. (He felt he had to; guilt still ate away at him over what he had done to Angel in the past, even if that Connor feels like a completely different person - those memories drenched with such hate and confusion that now looking at them feels as if he is seeing it through a distorted window, all diluted and wrong.)
If he hadn't recognized one of them, he might not have stopped. But it was her - Willow - the witch that had given his Father back his soul. (And a few weeks ago, this would not have been normal.) He is so starved to make sense of any of his past that he wasn't able to stop himself from listening. What he heard was the bare bones of their plan of attack had- to help out the AI gang in the fight against Wolfram and Hart. They had apparently left quickly when the witch had sensed the magic rising and pinpointed it to this area. When she had went to ready the others of her group for the coming battle she found out that Angel had been trying to get ahold of her weeks before and the others had been keeping it from her. Disgusted with their actions, but more concerned with what she could feel ready to explode in L.A, Willow was ready to leave right away but the three teenagers begged for the chance to come. The chance to fight. They were deadly serious and it was their choice (one she had made when she was younger than they were) so she took them with her.
And it is almost automatic for him to jump down and make the offer.
It being a spur of the moment decision doesn't make it any less meaningful. Connor is learning to trust his instincts again - well worn paths in his brain, burnt in savagely for survival when he was growing up in Quor'Toth , that were shadowed and muted the past few years but have now lit up again brightly. They are useful but he must keep that side of himself under check because he has seen were it all lead before, doesn't particularly like the person he used to be.
"I'm Con-" he starts to introduce himself, not knowing how far the spell went into effect. Or if it broke for everyone either.
"Connor," Willow says, interrupting him with a little fond smile.
"Can I help?" he repeats.
"It's up to you, Dawnie," Willow turns her head and looks over at the brown haired girl, letting her make the decision.
And she looks surprised at the responsibility being given but it passes quickly and when she meets his eyes, hers are surprisingly solemn. Dawn bites her lip worriedly and turns to her other companions for advice.
"Were you listening while you were watching us?" the darkly dressed girl beside her asks him with a challengingly raised eyebrow.
Conor simply nods.
The only boy in the group gives a loose shrug the belies the tension that Connor can clearly read in his body. "I say if he understands the risks and still wants to. Let him at it.
This is going to get weird any way we do it."
Lastly, Dawn looks over at Willow and they seems to have a complete conversation within the span of seconds, before she takes a deep breath and nods.
"We're going to learn things about each other - were going to learn everything," she corrects herself with a shake of the head. "I should tell you now that it's not normal magic powering this, that I'm made of. I''m the Key," and Dawn pauses staring right at him to see his response. When there is none she continues with a grim smile, "That might mean nothing to you - might just be words right now but it has the power to tear apart dimensions. The power to get people killed. It is something we try to keep within the Council, and even only a few people there, so that it is as safe as possible. So please - just - please don't tell," she is begging now and there is a directness to her entire being that he is not used to in people.
"Alright," Connor says feeling awkward and knowing he should say more, knowing that deserved more but now knowing how to respond. He knew he could keep her secret, he was good at living with secrets.
But Dawn, Willow, and the other girl smile at him and even the boy gives a slight grin and Connor thinks they might have understood anyway.
There is no spell to it - not in the sense he thinks of it with chanting and herbs. Willow simply walks up and places a hand on her shoulder and he sees Dawn close her eyes.
Green fire bleeds over her body as the Key is unlocked. It reaches out and spreads to first the boy and then the girl and then...
...then to him.
And then he is swamped with sensation. Seeing out of four eyes. Feeling the scratch of Kit's lace, the stiffness of Carlos' leather boots, the comforting roughness of the stake Dawn has rested her hand against.
It is startling to know everyone now - not only know there names but everything about who they are, who they've always been.
In his mind the others are there. They all tackle his confusion over his past life head on and insecurities over his birth parents are comforted as the gifts they have given him are simultaneously celebrated - the magic burning strong spreading his strength, speed, and healing with the others through the link.
He learns about Kit; the way her depression and Gift grew at the same time, spiralling into itself as she felt more and more of what others were feeling and didn't understand what to do with it, how to control or untangle the sticky web of what was others and what was hers. (And the Key takes that boosts Kit's natural powers and gives them to the others to share - Connor can feel his already well tuned senses are adjusting to include her Empathy.)
He sees Carlos always able to tell something was wrong in Sunnydale and doing as he was supposed to - telling parents, adults, teachers and constantly being brushed off. His disdain for authority growing so that when his power appeared he knew there was no way he would tell. (Power burns bright and delighted as it shifts them all on a molecular structure - allowing all four Carlos' ability to change their bodies density.)
And Dawn - there is such a joyful sense of kinderd when their minds meet - memories trading rapidly of their bent sense of loss, supernatural, and their own reality as beings.
This all happens within the span of a few heartbeats and then they are all in sync. Breathing at the same time, blinking at the same. Only hazy, malleable lines keeping their minds and memories from blending completely.
The Key has given Empathy a "power up" to Healing and Kit eyes turn in the direction of the Hyperion where they can all sense the battle starting - where they can all feel Gunn bleeding out.
"We have to go now," one of them say. And he can't really tell who anymore.
Willow just nods because she has been keeping a line to them to monitor the spell and knows what is happening. Dawn leads the telleportaion and the entire group appears in green fire admists in fighting.
They need no communication to know what to do - there minds are shared. Kit runs over (automatically shifting her body so she is able to run through whatever demons are in her way) to where Gunn is propped behind a trash can - mostly unconscious and gets to work while he keeps cover. It doesn't take long - but they all share the wonder as they watch the wound close, skin knit itself under their hand - and then Dawn is there to switch off with them sliding an arm under the healed, but weakly blinking, man and disappearing in fire to drop him off at the Council while they join the fray.
And it is fun.
He feels the surge of unexpected glee from Carlos the first time he swings his axe in an arc (added strength and shared skills giving it ease) and it lobs the vampires head right off - the shocked look on his face before he disintegrates making it all the better. The feeling redoubles in on itself when they all start giggling during their own skirmishes at his shock confusing their opponents.
Connor still can't get over the new joy of being able to adjust his molecular density. By accident he phases his arm through a demons body when it tries to rush him - as the red scaled being looks down in horror he re-solidifies his arm and pulls it roughly out again. He smiles wildly as the body drops and jumps onto the back of his next target with blood pumping in his ears - the guilt he expects at letting this part of himself free doesn't come as he feels the others echo the savage sentiment running through him.
He sees Spike across the mass of bodies, fighting just as wildly, and feels a sense of family flare through him that is happily seconded by Dawn.
Dawn is annoyed though when she looses her stake early and soon after her sword is swallowed by a gel-like demon during it's death throes. In a fit of irritation she forms another one created soley out of her power. A thought later and they all have weapons of their choice made of green fire: Carlos an axe, Dawn and Connor swords, and Kit is cackling wildly as she uses a flaming whip that cuts through demons like butter.
As a loud cry tears through the night, he looks up to the air and sees his Father on the back of a dragon, attempting to fight it. That should be startling but today it is only yet another part of this battle. He sees Illyria through Kit's eyes and feels mourning for Fred rise up (instantly comiserating feelings entertwine. Sharon, Joyce, Aunt Jo, Tara all rise up and twirl around Fred's image in his mind).
"The half breed has unnecasarily quarreled with a benign race. I require your bonded one that travels instantneously to assist me," she says knocking away a vampire that tries to appoach them with a vicious kick that sends him flying.
Dawn has been watching as well and is by her side in the next moment and Illyria nods with something like pleasure at their swiftness.
Kit turns back to the fight but a gloved hand grabs her arm. "Your powers will be necessary," Illyria tilts her head more bird like in movements then human. "As I once heard the song of the green you listen to the pain and joy of the beings of this world. Are you able to project such things?" her face showed the disgust she felt at the thought of those human emotions.
And the Key answered for them causing all four of to gasp as it surged through their bodies.
Kit licked her lips and shared a look with Dawn before turning back to the God King with a smirk, "I can now."
It is an understatment to say that Angel is surprised to see them appear on the dragon's back.
He is more surprised when, before anyone else makes a move, Illyria rushes forward, picks him up, and drops him off.
At the girls obvious shock at her actions the blue being simply states, "He will survive. You." she points at Kit, obviously moving on to her mission. "The spikey haired one has agitaed her. Calm the dragons mind."
Nodding but having no clear idea of what she is doing Kit gets to her hands and knees and attempts to project calm into the being. To show her that she means no harm.
And it is Carlos who is closest to Willow, she reaches out to them first with her mind and then runs up to him slicing a path for herself with magic. Spinning in place when she gets to his side burning all of her opponents in a potent wave of destruction.
"Having fun," she asks with a goofy grin when she's done - that's only slightly belied by glowing white eyes and black hair.
Carlos sighs dramatically, "It's rather dead for my tastes."
The most powerful witch in the Western Hemisphere giggles and laces her fingers through his. "Well, I guess we'd better close the party down then," she said pointing to the fissure across the sky where Wolf Ram and Hart had torn through dimensions.
"All of you ready," Willow asks suddenly serious.
And Carlos takes a deep breath - and Connor, Dawn, and Kit all take deep breaths at the same time. The other three continuing there fights but keeping attention on him and leaving all of their power open. Dawn and Kit atop a dragon but still able to keep track of everything else through the bond.
"Yeah, good to go here," he nodded, squeezing her hand.
She closed her eyes and he could feel her pull from them - a small link to the power that was much better suited for this sort of work but none of them knew how to properly direct it in this manner. Because this - this was what they lacked the control that had took the woman so many years, bad choices and pain to learn. Everything that happened with them was instinct, the Key reacting to them and their needs. Willow was molding the power, directing it with her will to close the tear in the sky.
And slowly....it starts to close
They cut it close. But no one seemed overly surprised - that just seemed to be the way it was with apocolypses.
At the end of the day (or somewhere around 4 AM really) the dragon was returned to it's home, the dimesional rift was closed, the demons were demolished, and the Wolf, the Ram, and the Hart got their asses kicked.
Gathered with all the others in the Hyperion, Connor didn't feel jubilant though. Because he knew what was coming, knew that now that the battle was over that the bond would be broken.
Mourning flooded him at the thought and he couldn't pinpoint who it came from - wasn't sure if it wasn't just everyone. (Can see Carlos watching him, feel Dawn bite her lip, Kit's nails bite into her arm as she hugs herself tight.)
If it was just this, just the sharing he would never want it to stop. Never want to leave this feeling and go back to the loneliness and confusion of before - and he can hear agreement amongst the others. But of course it isn't just this closeness involved to think about, there is what has been powering it as well. And after all off that (the joining, the battle, the boosts in power, the healing, the multiple teleportations), the surface of the power of the Key is barely scratched. They are all far to jaded to be impressed by that - to be tapped into such an endless font and not be respectfully fearful of its capabilities.
So when Willow comes towards them with a sad look on her face, there is no fighting it, no wrestling with it, because the Key is not just power. From the beginning of it's time in Sunnydale it was power formed into a teenager it is Dawn (at this moment it is Carlos, is Kit, is Connor) and it trust her, they trust her.
A gentle brush against Dawn's temple firmly pulls it all back in, slides the green energy out of the other three separating their minds with an extreme delicacy born of care, and traps it dormant again under the deceiving exterior of a skinny girl with large blue eyes that blink back tears.
But Connor sucks in a startled breath. There is no longer power running under his skin but he still feels them in his head. They meet each others' wide eyes and he lets out a startled laugh. Because if nothing else, he won't be lonely anymore.