Spoilers: erm … through to 'Sleep Tight', I suppose?

Disclaimer: not mine! Joss Whedon and friends'.

Author's note: I'm British. I haven't seen Ats season 3. But I've read a few summaries and so on. Basically this is AU from whenever it is that AI discovers Holtz is after Connor. That's it. Enjoy.



Connor woke with a start, sitting up in his bed and breathing quickly. He looked around himself, and was comforted to see the familiar fittings of his little room –pictures on the walls, his bears that he had never quite grown out of perched in his chair, a baseball bat against the wall. He lay back down again, trying to get to sleep, and to forget the dream – it had not been quite a nightmare – of dust, and yellow eyes glaring at him.

* * *

"Morning, honey." Connor exchanged kisses with his mother. "Did you sleep well?"

"I dreamt." He climbed on to the stool and picked up a spoon to start breakfast.

"A bad dream?" She passed him juice.

"No. I don't know." He chewed Cocoa Pops thoughtfully. "I can't remember."

He found it difficult to settle to school that day. Three times a teacher rebuked him for inattention, and in gym he lacked his usual energy. In the locker room afterwards, he overheard someone gloating that for once Connor Abrams had been beaten; though when he asked his friend Matt if he'd heard, Matt merely shrugged. Connor chalked it up to his own good hearing.

When he got home from school, he fetched his bicycle from the garage and shouted that he was going to ride it to the mall and back. His mother stood on the doorstep and called instructions to him, and, as usual, he barely listened, and cycled off to get rid of the frustration of the day.

Later on, he was never quite sure how the accident happened. It must have been quick, for one moment he was cycling along trying to remember his dream, and the next, he was lying on the road, his vision blurred and indistinct. People were standing over him, and someone told him to lie still and everything would be all right.

He woke up again in the bright white of a hospital. People were busy around him, someone doing something painful with a needle in his arm. He blacked out again and came to with his mother grasping his hand and talking to a nurse.

"He's AB."

"And you and your husband?"

"Both O positive." Connor tried to say something, but his mother gripped his hand harder. "Shhh, honey. Everything's okay. I'm here."

"I'm sorry, Mrs Abrams," the nurse said, "but are you sure he's AB? One of you should have the same blood group as your son."

"I … that is …" Connor's mother turned her head so that her eyes were meeting Connor's. "He's not our son. He's adopted."

Connor blacked out again.

He had been moved when finally he swam back to full consciousness, aware of the soft lump of pillows behind his head, and bandages all over him. He risked opening his eyes, and saw his mother. No, not his mother. What had she said?

"Oh, Connor!" She smiled, her eyes bleary with tears, and bent over to kiss him. "Thank God. Thank God."

He let her embrace him, too achy in any case to resist, but when she moved back, he asked the question. Her eyes filled again, and he let her cry.

The next day, he asked again, his father there too now and some of the bandages gone. His parents glanced at each other, and both settled down. They seemed resigned, as if they had been preparing for this for a long time.

"We adopted you before you were one," Mrs Abrams said, softly. "We'd always wanted children. We needed you. We wanted a child so much, and we knew that you were our only hope."

"You were a cute little thing, all black hair and little fists," Mr Abrams added. "I loved you the moment we saw you."

"We both did. As far as we're concerned, you are ours," his mother said. "I guess we hoped you'd never find out. But we promised ourselves that if you did, we'd tell the truth."

"The adoption agency told us that they'd had instructions from your parents – your birth parents," his father continued, the words catching. Connor watched them both. "If you ever wanted to know them, you were to be given instructions on how to find them."

There was silence. Connor took the hands of the people he had called Mum and Dad for fifteen years, and nodded. "I think I do. I mean, it's all sudden, but I think I need to know. I have this feeling."

* * *

He wrote to the agency as soon as he was out of the hospital, and enclosed a copy of his birth certificate, and they wrote back within a week, enclosing an envelope yellowed with age. On it, Connor found his first name written in an elegant, copperplate script, and on turning it over to open it, he discovered it was actually sealed with red wax bearing an indented "A".

With a heart that was suddenly beating faster, he broke the seal and pulled out the letter written on the same parchment as the envelope, a business card dropping on to his duvet with it. He picked up the card and glanced at it. It seemed to depict a small figure, or maybe a lobster, with the title, "Angel Investigations: Private Detectives," followed by an address. Connor laid the card down and turned to the letter.

"Dear Connor," he read. "If you're reading this, then you know that your parents are not your birth parents. I hope you never read this. Not because I don't love you. I'm writing next to your crib, and you're asleep in it, your eyes scrunched up. The bear Cordelia bought is by your side, and you look so peaceful it breaks my heart. It is because I love you I'm doing this; I cannot bear to think of a world without you in it now, and if giving you up will save your life, then I shall endure the pain.

"Yet if, reading this at some distant point in the future, you have questions to ask, and blame to lay at my door, I will endeavour to answer the questions and take the blame. But know that the truth may be painful. Truth hurts, my son. And the truth is, I love you more truly than I've ever loved anything before.

"Your father."

Connor let the letter flutter to settle next to its envelope, and sat motionless on the bed for a while. He found that for some reason his eyes were wet, and angrily he wiped them with the end of his sleeve. The letter had touched something inside him, he found. No name except that of a girl – his mother? No description of his father, no real reason why he had been adopted, yet Connor felt the pain inside him. In his blood, almost.

He stood up, and went to his basin to wash the tear-streaks away from his face. In the mirror, his own dark eyes looked back. Suddenly Connor slammed the porcelain with his hand. "Why?" he asked, aloud. "Why?!"

The pain smarted in his skin, and he glared at himself in the mirror. And then stopped worrying about the pain, and leant forwards, just in time to catch the glint of gold in his pupils disappear.

He turned away from the sink, and began to pack some clothes together.

Mr Abrams dropped his adopted son at the coach station and saw him on to the coach for Los Angeles. "Call us. When you get to LA and when you arrive at this hotel place. We'll worry."

"I'll be fine, Dad." Connor hugged his father. "Honest. Now, bye."

* * *

He stood outside the Hyperion Hotel for a long time before going in. It seemed an absurdly large building. He examined the business card for another time, and wondered what a private detective was doing working for a hotel. Or in a hotel. He took a deep breath, and walked forward, and through the doors.

The lobby was huge and quiet, shadowed from the afternoon sunlight. Connor dropped his bag on the floor, the thud echoing through the room, and a face popped up from behind a counter.

The girl – no, woman, he corrected himself – was slightly built and had masses of brown hair tied back off her face. "Hi! Welcome to Angel Investigations. We help the helpless? Are you helpless? Do ya need help? Because we can give it to you." She paused. "Can I help?"

Connor found himself smiling at her words, tumbling out over each other in a strong Texan accent. "I hope so."

The woman came out from behind the counter. "Hi. I'm Fred Gunn." He shook hands with her. She frowned at him. "Y'all seem awf'lly young to be here by yourself."

"I'm looking for someone."

"Oh. Where did you hear about us? 'Cos, we don't really do that sort of work."

"I got this." Connor held out his card, and she took it from him. "And …"

He stopped, and turned towards the staircase that evidently led to the bedrooms of the hotel. He heard the footsteps before he saw their owner, but they were not loud footsteps. And something tugged at a corner of his heart as the man came into view, shrugging a black sweater over his head. A young man, probably younger than Fred Gunn, who turned a second later than he did.

"Hey! Angel. There's a young man here lookin' for someone. Do we do lookin' for people?"

The man addressed as Angel looked up from the red carpet of the staircase, and his eyes fell on Connor. There was a small silence.

"Not normally, no."

"There!" The woman pulled another card out of her pocket. "You should try Wheatley's. They're really good, they take the cases we don't handle."

"I'm looking for my father," Connor said, still watching the young man on the stairs. "My name's Connor Abrams."

There was dead silence in the lobby. Fred Gunn was doing a good fish impression, her mouth open wide, as she glanced between Connor and Angel and back again. Angel himself seemed frozen, his fists clenched tight.

"Can you help?" Connor asked, to break the silence.

The man relaxed enough to come the rest of the way down the stairs and across half the lobby. He paused a few metres away from Connor, his dark eyes fixed on the boy intently. "How did you know to come here?"

"I just found out I was adopted," Connor said. "I had an accident, and they wanted to know my blood type. So I wrote to the agency and they sent me this letter, and the card with this address on it. Can you help?" he repeated.

"Do you have the letter?" the man called Angel asked, his voice soft. Connor fumbled in his bag and fished it out.

"Here."

Angel took it, and glanced at it briefly before handing it back. "Thank you." He turned to Fred. "Fred … offer him something to drink. Please?" He waited for her to nod and then turned on his heel and disappeared through a door.

"D'ya want a drink?" Fred asked, dutifully.

"Just … coke?" Connor said. He waited as she went to a fridge and bent down to retrieve a can, and brought it back to him. He opened it, and drank, and lowered it to catch her staring at him. "What?"

"Nothin'." She turned away and pretended to busy herself at her desk.

"What?" Connor crossed the lobby to the counter. "What's going on? I come looking for my father, and I get soda?"

Fred looked up, her eyes bright. "Angel's very good at his job."

He leant on the counter and watched her type. "I'm not saying he isn't. I just want to find my dad."

"He'll …" Fred began, but the door to the hotel opened just then and she broke off.

"Fred!" A tall, good-looking black man rushed across the lobby and swung the slight woman in his arms. "Hell, girl, you're lookin' great."

A slim, elegant woman followed the man, dumping down a selection of shopping bags. "Hey, Fred."

"Cordelia." They hugged.

Connor looked from one to the other and back again. "Cordelia," he said. The elegant brunette turned to him.

"Yes? Who're you?"

Fred stood on tiptoes and whispered in her ear, and Cordelia's eyes went wide. "Really? What?" She lowered her voice. "What did he say?"

"He's in the office."

"Oh." Cordelia frowned. Then she smiled. "Idiot." She came around the counter. "Let's look at you." She took Connor by the shoulders, and then suddenly bent and hugged him. "It's a cliché, but how you've grown!"

"You know me?" Connor smelt perfume and shampoo. It was comforting.

"Hell yeah!" Cordelia let go of him. "I bought you bears. I changed your diapers." She stood back. "Doesn't he look like his dad?"

Fred and the man frowned. "Kind of, I guess." The man held out a hand to Connor. "Charles Gunn, and I don't reckon you'll remember me."

Connor shook the hand and shook his head. "No, I don't."

"Well, you were only a little bitty thing," Fred said matter-of-factly. "A cute little bitty thing. You smiled lots."

"So why was I given up for adoption?" Connor said, his voice rising. "Who gave me up? Who's my father?"

There was silence as the three adults exchanged glances. Gunn put his hands in his pockets. Cordelia pretended to unpack shopping.

"Um," said Fred.

"It's kind of complicated," Cordelia added.

"It's not really for us to say," Gunn pointed out at the same time.

Connor sagged. He knew that these people knew. He had come all this way. He folded up the letter and picked up his rucksack and put the letter away carefully, hoisting the bag on to his shoulders.

"Well," he said. "Thanks. I guess."

He turned, and started to make his way out of the lobby. Behind him he heard a door open, and rubber soles on the linoleum floor.

"Stop." Connor paused, but did not turn around. There was a moment's silence. Then the voice came again. "Connor. Please – don't go."

Connor turned around, his fingers tucked under the straps of his bag, and faced Angel across the floor.

"I … it was only to save you," the man said. "It was all for your own good." A pause. "My son."