Disclaimer: not mine, never will be mine, all Joss's, boohoo!

Author's notes: This is the third in my alternative Connorverse. In this world, Holtz never got to Connor - instead the baby was given up for adoption, and for fifteen years, disappeared from the lives of the Fang Gang. In 'Thicker than Water', Connor discovered his strange origins, and in 'Blood Will Out', he became better acquainted with Angel and those around the vampire. Now, skipping three years, Connor is starting university - but will everything go smoothly?



Connor tore open the envelope, pulled out the folded sheet of paper, unfolded it, read it, and let out a shriek.

"Heavens above!" his mother said from the kitchen.

"UCLA!" said Connor, waving the letter in her face. "UCLA!"

* * *

His room was spacious and practical, with a bed, a desk, and some cupboards. Connor dumped down the box he was carrying and surveyed it. "Not bad," he said.

His father, grunting with effort, put a suitcase on the floor by the bed, and sat down on the bare mattress heavily. "Too many stairs," he puffed.

"It'll keep him fit, Roger," Connor's mother said, starting to hang clothes in the wardrobe.

"If we'd moved in in the evening," Connor said, "it'd have been easier. I told you the guys at the Hyperion said they'd help."

"We need to get back home, sweetie," Brigitte pointed out. "You know that."

Connor nodded, and began to unpack the box by his feet.

By five in the afternoon, the car was empty and Connor's room was starting to look a lot less spacious. He was puzzling over where to put CDs when his parents came to hug him goodbye, and soon they were gone. He watched the car disappear from the window, and turned back to his dilemma.

He was still busy, tacking posters to the bare walls, after nightfall, but when the hesitant tap on his door came, he pushed a tack into his thumb in surprise. "Owch. Coming!"

Angel's hand was raised to knock again when he opened the door. "Dad. Hey."

"Hi." His father fidgeted. "What did you do to your thumb?"

Connor put it to his mouth to suck it, and said, "bashed it with a tack. It's nothing."

"Can I .?" asked his father, pushing his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket.

"I invite you in!" Connor said, holding the door back.

Angel came inside, and stood looking around the room. "You could have lived with me," he said.

"It's too far, you know it is. Anyway this room's not bad."

"It lacks personality," said his father. "I missed you."

Connor put the box of tacks down on his desk, and turned to properly look at Angel. "I missed you too. Have you had a haircut?"

"Cordy made me," Angel said, putting an awkward hand to his head. "Does it look awful? We had to find a hairdresser who didn't mind not using a mirror."

"It's nice," Connor said honestly. "Took me aback, a bit, you looking different. I like it." His father instantly looked pained, and Connor felt dreadful. "I didn't mean different like that, I meant the . image change, it's nice. You could add to it. Wear something not black?" He grinned at Angel, who gradually relaxed into a smile.

"All right, I get the point. Erm. I brought you a room-warming present." He fished in a pocket and brought out a small package.

Connor opened it and discovered a strange wooden mask, painted in different bright colours.

"It's Peruvian," Angel said. "You could put it on the wall, or something."

"It's cool." Connor held it up to his face, and squinted at himself in the mirror. "Very cool. Very you. Thanks."

He came up to his father, and hugged him, and after a moment the hug was returned. "You're almost as tall as me now," Angel said.

"Another inch or so. You always hunch, makes you look shorter than you are."

"Do I?" His father looked slightly put out for a second, and then, after a moment's consideration, straightened his shoulders. "Better?"

"Much," Connor said.

"Hungry?" Angel asked, instantly relaxing again and losing the inch he had just gained. Connor thought about it for a moment, and decided he was. "Mexican?" his father suggested.

"Yeah."

They wandered out into the night, and Connor discovered his father had parked the old black convertible close by. They climbed in.

"Met anyone else yet?" questioned Angel, pulling out.

Connor rested his elbow on the edge of the door and shook his head. "Heard some music. Something loud." His father grimaced. "I guess I will, tomorrow."

"Just be careful," Angel counselled, taking a right turn. "Do you still carry a stake?"

"Of course!" Connor pulled his out of his pocket as proof. "Not that I've really ever used it. Not many vamps in San Diego."

"Well, there are plenty here," his father said, turning into a car park outside a restaurant. "Be careful - please?"

"Sure." Connor followed Angel into the restaurant, and they settled into a corner booth and were handed menus. "Does that mean you won't let me come and help you when I'm not busy?"

Angel looked up sharply from studying the menu. "Let you come and fight?"

"You might need someone to help, in a little while," Connor pointed out, wondering whether to have enchiladas or fajitas. "Gunn and Cordy and Fred might get tired."

"They're only forty or so," Angel said. "Plenty of fight left in them yet. They've been doing it for years. You haven't."

"So, I need the experience," Connor argued, deciding on mixed fajitas.

His father put his menu down and met Connor's eyes. "No. I've taught you to defend yourself, because I think that's important. I don't want you to get sucked into fighting - into killing."

"Demons, Dad," Connor said. "Mon ." He broke off as the waitress came back. "Mixed fajitas, and a coke," he said.

Angel frowned. "Oh - er - chicken quesadilla, please. And beer. Thanks."

"Pleasure," the waitress said, dimpling a smile at them both, and disappearing. Connor turned back to his father.

"Monsters," he finished. "Helping. You know."

"No." The refusal was flat, and Connor raised his eyebrows at his father. "No," Angel repeated. "It's not only for myself. What if something happened to you? What would I say to your parents? I couldn't cope with that, Connor. You're too important to me and to them. I'm glad you're here, glad you got into this university, but I will not let you fight. Understood?"

"Yeah," Connor sighed, and then saw the glint in his father's eye. "All right, yes, I won't ask again." He paused. "I'm going to join the fencing club, though - that okay?"

"That would be wonderful," Angel agreed.

The talk fell to more mundane matters, and soon the atmosphere lightened as Connor described his graduation for his father, and the beach in the Caribbean where he had spent the summer watching girls. The food came, and was good, and afterwards they drove back to the university campus in companionable silence. Angel insisted on accompanying Connor back to his room.

"I'll call," he said, hovering outside the door as Connor tried to locate his keys. "Any . problems, here, let us know, all right?"

"Promise."

There was a sharp bleep, and Angel pulled out a sleek cell phone. "Message from Fred. Vision. I'd better go. Look after yourself."

"Bye," Connor said, watching as his father turned and disappeared down the corridor with a swirl of black leather. He put his key in the keyhole and turned it, and then paused, hearing a click behind him.

"Hi!" Connor turned round and saw a pretty brunette smiling at him from across the corridor. "We must be neighbours," she said, leaning on the doorframe of the room opposite his.

"I guess we must be," Connor agreed, examining the girl with some appreciation. "Connor Abrams," he added, holding out his hand. She took it and shook it with a smile.

"Kirsty Foster," she said. "Who was that guy you were with?"

Connor began to say, "he's my father," but paused, reflecting that these days nobody would even begin to believe him. "He's my uncle," he ended. "My dad's much younger brother."

"Nice," Kirsty said. "Look, fancy a coffee or something? I'm way too excited to be here to sleep right now, and I've not met anyone else yet."

Connor considered the offer, and nodded. "I've got some mugs - you bring the coffee?"

Kirsty grinned. "You're on."

Connor unlocked his door, and held it open for the girl, reflecting that perhaps university would be fun, fighting or no fighting.