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all your children here in their rags of light

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August 2002: She was really fucking drunk and she had nearly been killed and she had never seen such a bad haircut on a potentially attractive boy before in her life. And she'd seen haute couture runway ideas of haircuts. Micah Lunn, she thought, had a very high standard of bad haircuts.

"You're very socially awkward," she said. She was proud of herself for not talking about the haircut thing. That would have been total drunk talk.

He didn't say anything. He looked like the dictionary picture of abashed. Which was a funny word. She felt bad for him. "Sorry, I didn't mean that in a bad way. Okay, I did. But you are. You have to know you are."

"Sorry," he said.

"I do appreciate the whole saving my life thing. And now, come on," she said as she grabbed his hand. "Let's get out of this fog."

"Probably a good idea," he said.

But the fog wasn't exactly ending. It was everywhere and not getting any lighter. She said, "What's your name? I'm Micah."

He paused and then said, "Connor." His hand was warm and he had a very strong grip. Not surprising, given the whole so strong he could beat up three monks at once.

"Okay then," she said. She pulled him inside the diner that appeared out of the stupid fog. Why was there fog in LA? The diner wasn't like Brigadoon, she thought, but always there and they couldn't see it.

She was totally drunk. She inhaled deeply and said, "We are going to eat. And I am going to pay. Just to get that out of the way. So order whatever you want."

He actually smiled then and it was weirdly cute. "Thank you," he said. "Was that awkward, too?"

"Ha, no." She sat across from him in the booth. "Do you think this is an actual, like, booth, or one of those trying to be nostalgic things?"

"This is real," he said, looking confused. "It's not leather. But it's real."

"I know, but I wondered when it came to be. If it's like rebranding for nostalgia and trying to be, I dunno, Edward Hopper slash LA Confidential, or if it's just really actually old." She was not going to ask the waitress. She was not, she was not, she thought, she was not making a little song in her head. She could hear herself humming.

"It's old," he said. "I can tell."

"How?"

"I can," he said. "Smell, feel, stuff." He shrugged and studied the menu. "That's how I knew to help you, because you weren't the one who smelled evil."

"Thank you," she said. "I smell like Chanel, actually. Which is never evil. Do you need me to read the menu to you?"

"I can read," he said. He didn't sound offended or anything. He sounded like he was used to answering that question. "I like hamburgers and cheeseburgers and fries. What's in a turkey melt?"

Micah said, "They don't melt the turkey. You can't melt turkey. It's like, cheese melted over turkey. You've really never had a turkey melt?"

"No," he said.

"How does that work? How do you not know anything?"

"I used to live in this other dimension. Quortoth," he said. He was very matter of fact about it. On the other hand, crazy possibly not-people with sewn closed eyes had just tried to kill her and he'd beaten the crap out of them. Also, he thought those not-people had smelled evil. Evil had an odor. So, maybe it was matter of fact for him.

She said, "Was it nice?"

He looked at her perplexed again. He said, "I like here better."

"You don't like saying that," she said.

He shrugged and looked back down at his menu. Then the waitress showed up and took their orders. She stared more at Micah than Connor and Micah wanted to say, "I am not the strange one here."

Connor said, "Why was she staring at you?"

"I dunno. Maybe she saw me in a magazine. I did this, um, do you know what a model is? I'm a model."

"Oh," he said smiling. "We were watching a movie on the tv, and Gunn explained it to me. They hire you because you're beautiful and skinny and people think if they buy the clothes, they'll be beautiful and skinny, too. Right?"

"Sort of," she said. "I mean, I have something to contribute, too. I'm good at my job. No models in your dimension, I guess."

"It wasn't my dimension," he said. He was back to looking abashed or something. Some weird emotional thing.

Deep down, Micah didn't want to know. Didn't want his drama in hers. She said, "Maybe she was staring because she couldn't figure out what color I am. Or she couldn't figure what my color meant. I get that sometimes, too, are you Black or Mexican or Indian."

"Why does it matter?"

"Says the white boy. If only we were all colorblind, right," Micah said.

He just stared at her, thin little chapped lips pressed together like he was very chastened. Or completely confused, which was his apparent normal way of walking through life. When he wasn't beating the crap out of people and saving girls. Though if he was used to saving girls, he'd probably better know how to talk to them. "Anyway," she said. "So Quortoth, that's where you were raised."

"Yeah. But it wasn't my fault," he said.

"Your parents brought you there."

"No. It's complicated," he said. "I don't want to explain it."

"We have so much to talk about then, don't we?" She stared at the ceiling and listened to him breathe. "Okay, what movie were you watching?"

"I've seen a lot of movies this summer."

"Did you like any of them?"

He started talking about something he'd watched with his friend or whatever and Micah's mind started wandering. He stopped and said, "You haven't seen it."

"I think I have. Everyone's seen Star Wars."

"It was pretty cool." He smiled again.

Then the food came and he ate and she decided she would eat, too. She deserved a meal. It wasn't even awkward for a brief few minutes, just two people eating. "You know, you have a pretty good body. If you were taller, you could model."

"I don't think I'm going to get taller," he said.

"Then you'd better cross modeling off your list," she said, laughing.

"Okay," he said, smiling back at her. He'd finished his two cheeseburgers and was nearly halfway done with his fries.

It really was a cute smile. Which was when she decided to take him into the bathroom and fuck him.

*

"This is going to be complicated," Wesley said.

"That's a great start," Connor said. "Thanks for driving all the way up here to tell me whatever, it's complicated."

Gunn shrugged and sat down in the middle of Connor's bed. He looked tired and drawn, but less tired and drawn than the last visit of the Irritating Twins. Irritating Couple, Connor thought, that was more correct, judging by the smell of things. That didn't sound funny, though. Not that Irritating Twins was so hilarious. "So start," Connor said. "'Cause you look like it's bad complicated."

"Well," Wesley said. "I don't suppose you remember meeting a girl in the summer of 2002."

"Angel in a box, you lying to us, living at the Hyperion," Gunn said. He didn't sound too pissed which made Connor a little happier. Gunn was definitely the least irritating of the two.

"A, uh, specific girl?"

Wesley was now pacing up and down the narrow strip in the dorm room where there wasn't stuff. He probably wanted more room to pace. He said, "Yes. You would have met her in August, I imagine just the once."

"That's specific and also really vague," Connor said. "I got nothing."

"There's a prophecy," Gunn said. "Wesley just found it, but a bunch of other people and demons and maybe some other categories of beings have already been poring over it. But we're the ones who know who you are so we have a little bit of a leg up. But it's not much of a leg."

"You're too far ahead," Wesley said. "There's more background than that. Let me explain." He said, "There's a translation of the Rantings of the Mad Tailor." Wesley shrugged. "It sounds more imposing in Latin. It's even more imposing in the demonic language he chose to write it in. He starts by describing a phenomenon called the Singularity. Though, of course, it's had many names."

"Of course," Connor said. He glanced at his laptop screen and did a super speed page down. He could keep up with his fantasy football league while Wesley went on about phenomena.

"The accepted wisdom is that the Singularity are not quite higher power, not quite demon, they exist outside everything. And every once in a while, with no predicting when, they die and dissipate. It leaves a fog. A very special fog."

Gunn snorted. "A very special fog."

"Yes, a very special fog. Everything that happens inside that fog is unseen by all higher powers and demons. They don't even realize the fog is there. And everyone inside the fog or wanders into that area, they don't remember what they did, either. Until they are forcibly reminded."

"You describing this fog thing isn't bringing back anything to me," Connor said.

"No, it wouldn't. The point of the Singularity is that not even Higher Powers can see in. They are blind to its existence or even that that they are blind to it. So when certain people talk about omniscience, this would be the sole exception."

Connor looked away from his league stats and at Wesley. "You mean Jasmine."

Wesley said, "Yes. I believe that was the aim. The prophecy refers to a child who was intended to end her reign over our dimension."

"Wait," Connor said. "So you're saying at some point that summer I got some girl - you're saying she was pregnant."

"Yeah," Gunn said. "And it wasn't some kind of mystical whoosh done in two months pregnancy but a regular one. Ordinary little baby and then the momma goes out into the mountains away from the world. She trains the baby up to stop everything. Some real Terminator II action."

"So I have a kid out there," Connor said. He felt like throwing up. "Are you sure?"

Wesley said, "I'm sorry, yes, fairly sure. The prophecy implies the mother was a Slayer, or is now a Slayer, and our relationship with that faction is not the best right now. But it's clear they've seen this prophecy and are researching it very thoroughly. Of course, they don't have the knowledge to make sense of the lines referring specifically to you."

"I'm still stuck on the kid part. I don't -- really?"

"Yes," Gunn said. "And baby is out there, being protected by mama and probably a bunch of Slayers, because that's the part of the prophecy Wesley hasn't gotten to."

"I was getting there," Wesley said.

"Please," Connor said. "I thought the prophecies about me were all finished. Right?"

"Sort of," Gunn said.

"Technically, this prophecy is not about you. It's about the child. Ah, her blood. Which is apparently so mystically powerful that the demon who gets their hands on her and, ah, drain her, will be powerful enough to perform certain rituals that will enslave the world. On the bright side –"

"The bright side of baby blood draining," Connor said.

"Yes, the good news is that there is a time limit. The specific rituals must be done before the child is 19 months old."

"Why did you keep saying 'her,'" Connor said.

"Because the declension of the translation leads me to think the child is female. I could be wrong."

"Okay," Connor said. "How old do we think she is?"

"We probably have another 10 weeks or so."

"I don't get it," Connor said. "How could someone – how do you even. What about Wolfram and Hart's work and everything else, how did someone get around all that? Did she?"

"Wolfram and Hart was working from your memories when they made people forget, yours and Angel's," Wesley said. Gunn was frowning and Connor felt like frowning a little, too. Not that he didn't appreciate what Angel had done, but it was still really fucking creepy. Then he thought, baby, and went back to wanting to throw up.

"And how the woman escaped other surveillance during her pregnancy, when she was sure to remember you -- I can only assume she had contact with someone who was able to protect her."

"So, I have a kid," Connor said. He silently thanked God he already had a psychiatrist. He glanced at Gunn who was probably thinking something similar.

"Yes," Wesley said. "I'd try some of the usual spells to restore your memory but they won't work."

"Yeah, that didn't come back with the last batch," Connor said. "I don't remember it."

Gunn said, "How would Connor run into a Slayer?"

"She would have been a potential. No Slayer powers until all the potentials were empowered that summer by Buffy."

"Buffy? That's a person?" Connor didn't laugh but he thought about it. "Right, right, that's the girl Angel was in love with. Sorry. It wasn't her, right?"

"No," Wesley said. "As I said, potential Slayer."

"Weren't they all being hunted?" Gunn rubbed his chin and then said, "We heard about that after or at some point, all the potentials were being hunted."

"Yes, by the First Evil." Wesley sat down on the bed next to Gunn and pulled out a smallish laptop from the bag at their feet.

"You're going to look it up on your computer?"

"We've lurched into the modern age, yes," Wesley said.

"We used to use computers," Gunn said. "Cordelia had that laptop. Back in the day."

Wesley turned the screen around to show it to Connor. "Think," Wesley said. "Have you ever seen men who looked like this?"

They had sewn their eyes shut. It looked really gross. Connor shrugged. "I don't remember that."

"Try," Wesley said. "There would have been a girl. I imagine you heard that first. If you remember, we can find your child."

"Thanks for the guilt trip," Connor said. "I don't remember. Do you have other pictures?"

"Just of the Bringers. Nothing else that would help," Wesley said. He closed the laptop and put it away.

"So what do we do now? Do you just leave and we, what? Wow, did you tell Angel all this, too?" Connor actually found it a little creepy to think of Angel knowing. One more thing for his Wednesday appointment.

"What we do is track the demons who are after the girl. And hope you find a picture of her or something that helps us along. And that you -- remember," Wesley said. "Ah, it's worth noting that we are not the only ones trying to protect her."

"Oh, goody," Connor said. "And you're heading out now."

"We have a hotel," Gunn said. "A room at one, not like the old days. Tomorrow morning, we can fit around your classes, whatever, try some other stuff to get you to remember."

"Oh," Connor said. "I'll just wait here. Demons are hunting the child I didn't know I had and some girl I don't even remember is, I don't even know. Okay. I'll wait here."

Gunn gripped Connor's shoulder as they left. That was nice. Maybe they'd get to be friends.

*

"So this is her," Connor said. He held up the magazine. "It was so weird, this girl in front of me in class was reading it and she kept flipping through this article. And I kept looking, not just because of the clothes, or the ones where she's not wearing clothes, because things started to come back to me. I had to steal it from her, the girl in the class, and now I look at it, it's Italian, and she probably paid, like, $10 for it. Anyway, that's her. I had sex with her." He flipped through the pages and shoved it at them.

"No way," Gunn said. "I can not believe that woman would ever sleep with you. She is model gorgeous."

"No offense," Connor said.

"I don't really care if I offend you," Gunn said. "She's beautiful. Are you sure?"

"Yes, I remember, well, I remember parts. I remember enough."

"The sex," Wesley said, already typing on his laptop. "That's the part you remembered."

"Yes," Connor said. "And also, her name was Micah. The Bringers tried to kill her and I stopped them. She said I was really really awkward, which was true."

"Ah," Wesley said. "I sometimes find the internet incredibly disturbing in its scope but I believe I have found our child."

"My child," Connor said. He was standing behind Wesley before Wesley could exhale.

"That is also incredibly disturbing," Gunn said.

Wesley had found a post from some blog that had a very pink background. He guessed it was about fashion. And there was Micah, walking somewhere, stopped for a moment to smile and wave, baby in her arms.

"Wow," Connor said. The baby was smiling and looking at Micah.

"She doesn't really look like you," Wesley said.

"You were a cute baby," Gunn said. "That is also a cute baby. Cuter than you were, honestly."

The baby was a girl, pink socks and silver shoes and a bright pink dress and the same color as Micah. "Mexican or Black or what," she had said. He hadn't asked her to explain.

The baby looked very content and chubby so at least, whenever this picture was taken, she was a pretty happy baby.

Gunn said, "What's her name?"

"Once," Wesley said. "Like once upon a time. I believe the writer here is making fun of it a little."

"It's kinda weird," Connor said.

They were all being very quiet, looking at the picture and Connor could hear Wesley's computer humming. "So," Connor said. "What now? Which demons are we wiping from the earth to keep her safe? I mean, Angel's gonna go crazy, I assume. I hope." He forced himself to look away from the picture and sit down on the couch, away from the computer. "That's bad, right? Wanting Angel to go medieval on someone."

Gunn looked unconcerned. He said, "They're not-people someones. And their whole plan involves draining the blood of an extremely cute baby, so I don't think wishing Angel at his worst on their asses is a real moral dilemma."

"Okay," Connor said. "Good. And I'm happy to help."

"You really can't," Wesley said. "I'm sorry."

"What? Come on."

"Connor, right now, no one knows who you are. If you are again part of some conflict, specifically one involving this particular confederation of demons, it will not escape notice. No one knows you, there are five people outside those in this room who know that there ever was a child of two vampires."

"You had half of the evil in Los Angeles and Orange County after you when you were born," Gunn said.

"I'm not a baby now, I can defend myself."

Wesley said, "And your little sister? Your parents?"

Connor sat back in the couch and thought about little pink socks. "Okay, point taken. But can I help, like, covertly? Somehow? And when this is done, I'm not." He paused. "After this is done, I'm not going to be some absentee father."

Gunn said, "If you need a lawyer, I can probably handle that part. It'd be nice to use my considerable skills again."

"Promise?"

"I'll cut you a deal on my fee," Gunn said, smiling. "But I think we're going to have a ton of work before that that will not involve the law."

"Yes," Wesley said. He was already putting things in bags and fussing around the room. "And we need to get back to Los Angeles."

"Tell Angel I said hi," Connor said. He tried to think of something clever to add, but nothing came.

*

Micah took a long drag on her cigarette and thought how right now, if she could see herself, she'd look like one of those editorials she always found incredibly stupid. Half naked model, sitting in the window, smoking. She was tensed up, though, which would be unattractive, watching the two foot long purple gray magic slug make its way into the apartment through the other window.

"Someone sent them," Giles had said. After she'd seen the first one and killed it. "They sense magic in people. And it seems your child has a lot of it. We talked about this prophecy."

Micah's child giggled a lot. And she had tiny fingernails and dark brown eyes. And Micah was going to kill anyone who acted like her baby was just some mystical doodad for people like Giles to obsess over.

Starting with today's slug. Giles had eventually said that the slugs would find her in any city, Milan or Paris or New York City. They were everywhere, they just had to be activated. "I could help you," he said, "if you'd give me more information. Or training, we have classes set up for the new Slayers."

Micah didn't want training.

She walked quietly over to the slug and dowsed it with her special mystical salt at about two feet from Once's crib. Once exhaled. The slug started steaming and collapsing on itself. Micah spat out her cigarette into the slug and up it went in a puff of smoke.

Once sneezed and was awake. Micah stepped over the sluggy pile of dust and picked her up. She was the world's most adorable baby. That was all. Granted, she was less adorable right now when her diaper was full and smelly, but it didn't change the essential ordinary miraculous quality of Once.

The next day, while Micah was walking in the Versace show wearing ridiculous slippers, the slug came while Micah's nanny was napping. It got its sniff of Once and scuttled away. When Micah was home, she could see the slime and she very nearly screamed while the woman went on about disgusting city bugs.

So she had to call Giles and throw herself on the not at all tender mercies of the whole awful Slayer establishment. She needed more than research now.

*

"And seriously," Autumn said, exhaling cigarette smoke and then taking another drag. "Seriously, he's a fucking pig."

"You are so bad," Micah said. "You're smoking and you're cursing and you're totally not looking over your shoulder to make sure your parents are nowhere around."

"Duh," Autumn said and they were both laughing. Probably, Micah thought, standing too close together.

Micah stepped back and leaned against the wall. "He's a fucking pig, you're totally right."

Another model stepped into their space and said, "I can think of 4 men that fit that description and that's just the ones I've met today." She was British but a different sort than Giles. Different accent, Micah thought. So Micah didn't glare at her and instead offered her a light.

"We were talking about that make up guy," Autumn said. Micah wanted to wince at how loud she said it, how 17 she sounded. Autumn grinned at her. "Micah's slipping into mom mode. She wants to spit and clean our faces."

New Model said, "Did your mum do that?" Micah was sure she had some suitably exotic name, but she couldn't remember it to save her life.

"My mom didn't," Micah said. "I don't do that to my daughter."

"You totally do," Autumn said.

New model giggled. "You really have a kid?"

"I really do," Micah said. "Do you want to see pictures, because I have at least five on me and a bunch on my phone."

"Wow," New Model said. "That's great. So you're not really 19, then?"

"No, I'm really 19. I really had her when I was 18." Micah took a long drag on her cigarette. "Are you really 19?"

"Ha," New Model said. "My showcard says I was born in '85 which is absolutely true." She rolled her eyes. "You know."

"Totally," Autumn said. Autumn had never lied about her age.

And then they were all talking and more girls came over because everyone smoked and Micah knew she would have to wait to talk about her impending doom and all the demons converging on Once later. Later, later, she thought. Those bitches Giles had sent had better make sure no one touched her daughter. This was just the first wave, two giggly girls who could lift a truck watching the most important baby in the world.

Except she was only supposed to be important to Micah. And Autumn, who took the role of Godmother very seriously.

Micah had been kidding when she offered it to Autumn. They'd met when Micah was walking in her first show since Once was born. Three months post-partum, she'd figured it only showed in her boobs, but the bitch measuring her hips had made enough noises Micah had nearly slapped her. Autumn, looking over at her, had rolled her eyes and smiled. It was nice when one of the other girls didn't snigger or act like Micah was some stupid cow slut slag for having her baby.

It was friendship at first sight. More so when after the show, Micah had heard Autumn getting a call from someone named Giles. "He's kind of a jerk," Autumn said. "But I'm pretty much done dealing with him."

"Like, predator jerk? Cause I can help you with that," Micah said. She was already protective of Autumn, which was hilarious since she was only two years older than the girl. And comical because Autumn was already taller than Micah, and Micah was 5'11". She was actually a smidge taller but she was keeping 5'11" on her showcard forever.

"No, not like that," Autumn said. "Like, okay, don't think I'm crazy, but he thinks I'm special. Like super powered girl."

"Slayer," Micah said. "I mean, did he use that term?"

"Yeah," Autumn said slowly. "You've heard that before? Is it some kind of line?"

"No," Micah said. "It's not a line. How about we get some coffee, do you like coffee? I have to pick up my daughter, but I think we have a lot in common. And that does sound like some sort of predator line, but I'm not. Hitting on you."

"Okay," Autumn said shrugging. She was smiling as she said it and Micah suspected Autumn wouldn't have minded if she were hitting on her. Which Micah filed away in her "after she's 18" file. It was an arbitrary line she felt comfortable setting for herself. She resented a number of people who hadn't even tried to do the same for herself. Some of them should have known better.

Autumn said, "You have a baby? For real? Can I be the godmother, if we still like each other after we have coffee? I'll be a good godmother. I love kids. I love baby girls best. I dunno, girls are so cute."

And Micah had laughed and said, "Sure, okay. And my girl is super cute, I have to warn you. Like, super cute. She's only three months old but she's already got this smile, you have to see it." But they did still like each other and Autumn turning 18 was not coming fast enough for Micah's comfort and suddenly, Once had a Slayer godmother. Who smoked and hid it badly from her loving and oblivious parents.

*

"I'd like to hear it all again," Giles said.

Micah watched Once playing with the very bright blocks. She'd tried eating them, and after that proved worthless, she'd started fiddling and stacking. Every few minutes she'd look over to find Micah, smile and then go back to her play. But that wasn't unusual or mystical, it was just that Once was a wonderful child who was very well-raised by her single mother. Autumn looked at Once but stayed put in her chair next to Giles.

Micah sighed. "Alright, so I was in Los Angeles. For work. An ad, whole campaign, it was pretty good work." Micah felt like she fought for every campaign she got, and Autumn already had done twice that many. Micah'd been really proud of that one, going to LA and shooting all day, all her, no icy Russian girl standing in front of her.

Not that Giles cared about any of that. She said, "After, I went out drinking with two of the assistants." The only people who hadn't been complete assholes during that particular shoot. "I was thinking, I am so smart that I wore my flat boots, not the heels because I am drunk walking two blocks to where I can get a cab. Then these monks came out of nowhere. Or whatever they were. Their eyes were sewn shut."

"Bringers," Giles said. It was the most human he'd sounded since she'd met him, just spitting the word out.

"And I thought, oh, fuck, if I'd worn stilettos, I could have used them or something, but mostly it was running and oh shit, and all that. And then the boy showed up out of nowhere, out of the fog and he beat them all up. Like, like a Slayer except clearly he was a boy." Once laughed loudly as the blocks fell down, appropriately enough. "And I helped a little, I mean, I kicked one when he came near me. And then, you know, I took him to dinner, we ate, etc."

Autumn looked like she wanted to ask more questions, but Micah wasn't about to go into the porny details. Sex in a bathroom was harder than Micah had thought it would be, though they had certainly made it work. She had even enjoyed it, mostly. "Et cetera," Giles said. "He said nothing about his background?"

Micah shrugged. "He was sort of charming. Like a puppy. And you know, I remember, he walked me home. He cased my hotel room to make sure none of those Bringer people were there. And then he jumped out the window and I woke up the next morning and didn't remember any of it. I didn't even realize I'd forgotten everything."

"Yes," Giles said. "You were in a Singularity."

"Yes," she said quickly. "I know now. But really, it was three months later, when I was tired and couldn't lose 5 pounds, I went on vacation to my Gran's and she was all, baby, you're pregnant. And I thought, no, I haven't done it," with a man, she thought and did not say. "In months and months. But when I looked at that test, I started to remember."

"Your grandmother, she was a potential."

"Yes, but someone else got the job. Her watcher was kind of bitter, I guess. He was happy she didn't get picked so he helped her, got her studying magic and stuff. I never heard about any of that until she saw I was pregnant. Then she was all, oh, I had a dream. A Slayer dream. She was kind of surprised I had them, too. But I didn't. Not usually."

"They started after you got pregnant?"

"No, they started earlier, but they weren't, you know, frequent. They happened all the time once I was pregnant. With Once," she said, smiling. "Anyway, my grandmother took me to this demon seer. She's the one who told me the father was dead."

"And that was the day before you gave birth?"

"Two days, basically. Roughly." Autumn made a face of boredom. Micah took it to mean Autumn was on her side, tired of the endless questions.

Giles fiddled with his glasses. "Your child was born at the very moment you became a Slayer, I do remember. You know it's one more mystical omen that adds to the power in her blood. However, you've skipped from your first trimester to the third."

"Yeah, after I found out I was pregnant, I decided to have the baby." She just decided. She'd looked at her tummy and thought, here's a horrible idea, but I want it. Even before all the psychics told her the child would be important and save the world.

She said, "My grandmother took me to a number of psychics, most of whom said that my child was impossible because the paternal line didn't exist and there was great badness coming blah blah blah. I worked for a few months, you know, build up some cash reserves, maternity catalogs and stuff, and then we lived on Gran's farm, and turned off all the tvs and radios. Because on that, the psychics were all agreed. I needed to be ready for all the apocalypses. They also said that if there was no apocalypse, as seems to be the case, there was nothing to worry about. So I guess they were wrong."

"Not necessarily," Giles said. "The Singularity means there was prophecy involved, but history is full of children who were born to avert apocalypses that never came to fruition. In your case, the solution was potent enough to attract attention."

"I love the way you talk about my child," Micah said, glaring at him.

"I'm sorry," Giles said. He did seem to mean it. "I promise you, we want to protect her."

"Okay," Micah said. She wasn't trying to sound convinced. Her Gran had told her a lot about the Watchers and their establishment, how they used Slayers and potential Slayers and she knew it was all different now, but what she saw was a lot like her work – lots of young girls being dressed up and pushed around.

"Well," Giles said. "If you're not convinced, should these evil forces get their hands on your daughter, they will gain a fair amount of power and so it's in our self-interest to protect her. Does that make you feel better?"

"Actually yes," she said. Autumn had gotten bored with the whole discussion and was now on the floor playing with Once. She was trying to get Once to play pattycake with her. "Kortoth," she said. "He said he was raised there. In that dimension."

Giles blinked and then said, "Quortoth? Are you sure?"

"Yes. Does that help?"

"It's impossible," Giles said. "Quortoth is a hell dimension. There are no portals between here and there. But I believe you," he said, clearly noting her frown. "I believe you. He's an impossible boy." He stared at Once but it didn't make Micah uncomfortable for once.

She said, "Once doesn't look like him at all. He was, you know, some blue-eyed skinny white boy. I'm sorry I can't help you."

"I appreciate the Quortoth tidbit," Giles said. Now he was very nearly smiling at her and she was quite sure he was being sarcastic. She didn't really have much more she was holding back.

"So what now? They know she's out there, they have definite proof. I can't, what am I supposed to do for the next two months? I'd like to work."

"They're not after you," Giles said. "I'm sorry, but it's true. The question will be who's watching your daughter while you're out, and how quickly they can summon reinforcements."

"Why can't you just find the demons who want her and kill them all?"

"I don't have an army," Giles said.

"Yes, you fucking do," Micah said. She was nearly about to cry. Autumn had picked up Once and was hugging her close. Autumn and her stupid big green cartoon eyes looking at her over Once's curly hair. It made her want to cry more.

"No, I don't," Giles said. "There are Slayers everywhere, but many of them are busy enough with the local demons and vampires. There are Slayers who aren't in contact with us and, as I'm sure you know, there are other apocalypses afoot. There always are. So I have ten girls, along with your friend and yourself, and a few Watchers who can help you. But I don't have an army."

"Well, fuck," Micah said. "So would I be better off in New York City or Paris, you think?"

"I vote New York City," Autumn said. Once squirmed out of her arms and sat back in front of the blocks. "Also, I think we're taking those blocks."

"I got them at this local store," the gay blond kid said. Giles hadn't introduced him and Micah assumed he was some assistant. Who bought blocks. "It was a really nice store, I can get you their card. I mean, if you think you won't be back and want more."

Micah looked up at the ceiling until she knew she wouldn't cry. Then she said, "Alright, no objections to New York, then?"

*

"So my granddaughter is super cute, right?" Angel sounded a little whiny to Gunn's ears. He was definitely taking being kept out of the initial loop a little personally.

"We can show you the two pictures we've got again," Gunn said. He didn't look up from the map on the desk. Wendell had done some damn good work on this, he'd have to remember to say something since Angel wouldn't. Maybe Wesley already had.

"No, it's fine," Angel said. He traced two streets on the map. "They're probably there."

"Yeah, I think so, too. But there's still 40 of those demon dogs there, too."

"Poison kibble," Angel said. "I've used that on real dogs."

"When was that?"

"I was evil at the time, but they weren't nice dogs."

"I remember," Spike said as he walked in. "Those dogs were possibly possessed by some very unpleasant demons. That was, what, Bulgaria?"

"I'm really enjoying this trip down 19th century veterinarian lane, but we have demon dogs who don't eat kibble here."

"Demonic kibble," Spike said. "We could poison that."

"I guess we could ask Wesley to figure out what they do eat," Gunn said.

"We could just shoot them," Wendell said. He'd come in with Spike.

Wendell's older sister had been murdered by vampires when the sun went out, since then he'd working on his own crew. Even after they kept dying on him or quitting, Wendell kept on. Gunn had found his story very familiar when he first heard it from one of his underlings at Wolfram and Hart. He'd carefully steered any of Wolfram and Hart's tentacles from getting near, literally and metaphorically, and now they had one more body to throw at their many many many problems. Ally and friend and employee, as soon as Angel started making money again.

Also, they were temporarily all living with Wendell. In Wendell's warehouse, granted, which was pretty big. But they'd still taken over the guy's life and home pretty thoroughly. Wendell didn't mind, but Gunn thought he should. Boy needed a life. Something.

"I hate guns," Angel said. "Not that I haven't used them, of course."

"Because you're a lousy shot," Spike said.

"No, I'm not, Spike," Angel said, now sounding irritated.

"I like guns," Wendell said. "I know they don't work on vampires, but they're pretty effective on a lot of demons. Did you guys really have a flamethrower?"

"That was pretty awesome," Gunn said, smiling. "Man, did we check the Hyperion when we were there? Because that really was pretty sweet."

"We did," Wesley said, finally speaking up. He'd come in with Spike and Wendell and retreated from the conversation again. He said, "I agree, it was pretty sweet."

"I'm going to vote no on the flames, sorry," Angel said. Spike was nodding behind him.

"Yes, we took the vampires' vetoes as a given," Wesley said. "I do like the idea of shooting them. But we're forgetting the 10 Pillors who will be there as well. I don't think they'll be sitting around playing cricket while we shoot their pets."

"Yeah, but the Pillors are easy," Angel said. "I could take ten of them."

"With help. A lot of it," Spike said.

"Maybe we could lure the dogs out, half of them or something," Wendell said.

"I like that," Angel said. "You lure some of them out and then me and Spike go in and take care of them. The remaining them."

"So you and I take on ten Pillor demons and a bunch of demon dogs? Okay, you go in first."

"It's a start of an idea," Gunn said. "Let's work on that." Sometimes he felt like he was herding cats. Gunn was pretty sure everyone else in the room felt exactly the same way. Well, not Spike. It was the five of them now, alive because Illyria was dead and gone and Lorne had run away. Not that Gunn didn't get the impulse. But they were back to fighting evil on the mean streets of Los Angeles with what was almost a normal level of approaching doom. He'd decided he liked it.

He liked getting to do some lawyering, too, but that wasn't really needed right now. Right now, they had to wipe out the Los Angeles branch of the evil demonic alliance that was trying to drain Connor's baby and then take over the world. And while he'd been staring at the map, trying to think of an actual plan, Spike and Angel were now arguing about which of them would do better reconnaissance. They were, Gunn knew, repeating every argument they'd ever had since the 19th century. It was a little tiring.

*