Disclaimer: not mine, not mine!

Author's note: picking up a few months after the end of 'Thicker than Water'. Might help if you read that first. Feedback always welcome!

"Phone! Connor!"

Connor clattered down the stairs and took the phone from his mother, who smiled and said, "dinner in ten minutes."

"Connor Abrams speaking," Connor said.

"It's Angel. How are you?"

Connor grinned to himself, and sat down at the bottom of the stairs. "I'm great. You?"

"As ever," replied his father. "Are you busy next week? Isn't it your spring break?"

"You remembered."

"Of course I remembered. I can remember what I was doing on New Year's Eve 1800, I'm not going to forget my son's holidays." Angel's voice was warm. "Can you come?"

"I can ask," Connor said. "I think Mum and Dad are both busy, I didn't have any big plans."

"Ask them."

"Hold on." Connor put the phone down on the stairs and hurried through to the kitchen, where his parents were laying the table and finishing off cooking together. "It's Angel on the phone," he said. "He wants to know if I can go visit next week."

His father – his other father – put down a knife and turned to Connor. "Do you want to go?"

"Yeah." Connor nodded. "You're both busy, at work …"

"If you want to go," his mother said, "we obviously can't stop you. But one day we'd like to meet him. All right? Tell him that."

Connor nodded again, and then hugged his mother. "Thanks. Thanks, Dad." He hurried back to the phone. "Hey. I can come."

He could almost hear Angel's smile on the other end. "Good."

"But they said you have to come visit us some day."

"That'll be interesting," Angel sighed. "All right. Come on the bus, and I'll get Gunn to pick you up, and then I'll bring you back at the end of the week."

"Cool. Okay. Can we practice fencing?"

"Of course. See you on Monday."

"Bye, Dad. See you."

In the kitchen, food was laid out on plates and Connor slid into his seat and tucked a napkin under his chin. "Thanks, Mum, Dad."

They began to eat.

"So, is he coming to see us?" Connor's father asked.

"He said he'd bring me back at the end of the week," Connor said through a mouthful of pasta, and caught his mother's eye. "Sorry." He swallowed. "So I'm going on the bus, and then he'll drive me back."

"Is he a safe driver?" his mother asked.

"Yeah. I guess. He has a cool convertible, black."

"He'd better bring you back in one piece," Connor's mother said, concern all over her features.

"Mum, I'm fifteen! I don't need babying anymore. I can drive myself next year."

"God forbid," his father said devoutly. "And not a convertible, anyway."

* * *

Connor hefted his bag and headed towards the black Plymouth and the black man standing by it. "Gunn!"

"Hey, kid." They exchanged high fives. "Good to see you. Angel's been up since ten this mornin' fretting about your room. Like an old woman. Jump in."

Connor threw his bag into the back and climbed in beside Gunn.

"So, how've you been?" the older man asked, easing into the traffic.

"Good. I won a track competition. And school's been all right. A break is good, though."

"Breaks are always good," Gunn said with emphasis. "Especially from fighting the good fight. I reckon I'm gonna be too old for it one day."

"Not that soon, though," Connor said. "I'd give you a week or so."

"Get away with you!" Gunn said, and they teased each other amicably till they arrived at the Hyperion. "There you go. Go and let Angel know you've got here."

Connor found his father pacing the lobby impatiently, but he turned as Connor entered, and a wide smile spread across his face.


"Hey." Connor dropped his bag. "I'm here."

"I'm glad."

Cordelia and Fred appeared from the office and engulfed Connor in warm hugs. "You've grown," said Cordelia, standing back and examining him. He fidgeted under her scrutiny.

"I don't think so," Fred disagreed.

"Aunts' privilege," Cordelia said, laughing at Connor's face.

"I, erm, did some decorating," Angel said from the side, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. "In your room."

"Cool." Connor disentangled himself from Cordelia and Fred and picked up his bag. "Can I see?"

He followed Angel up the stairs to the room he had slept in before, and his father opened the door. "I hope you like it … I'm not really very good on what boys like …"

Connor looked around the room, went back to the wall, switched on the light and looked around again.

The room had originally been papered in something bland and old-fashioned; now the walls were pale blue and covered in pictures. Connor prowled around the room looking at them. There were several of his old baby photographs; photos of Fred and Gunn and Cordelia; a painstaking sketch of Darla, framed in a simple wooden frame; and various posters – sports stars and film stars.

"It's nice," Connor said, eventually, going to the curtains and carefully peeking through them at the view. "Much nicer than before. The photos are great."

"You like it?" His father was still hovering nervously at the door.

"Yeah," Connor said, for although he would have chosen different posters and probably a different coloured paint, he appreciated the effort. "Can we do some fencing when I've unpacked?"

"Unpack? No … don't unpack." Angel stepped into the room. "How about a trip? A little further north, only two hours or so. There are people I want you to meet. Do you mind?"

"A road trip?" Connor grinned. "Yeah. Great. Where are we going?"

Angel squared his shoulders. "Sunnydale."

They spent the afternoon in the basement, after Connor had tried to get answers from his father about Sunnydale and failed. They began with some t'ai chi, despite Connor's objections to something so similar to dance, in his opinion; but eventually Angel persuaded his son to watch and copy.

"Stand like this," he said, pushing Connor gently into position. "Now follow me. It's easy, and it's good for you. It teaches you grace and coordination and without those, you can never become a good fighter. Raise your arms … palms downwards …"

They settled into the rhythm of the movements, Connor finding it peaceful following his father and the concentration on his face. After the t'ai chi, Angel brought out the swords and Connor eagerly listened to everything he had to say on fencing. Although by the end of the afternoon he had still not succeeded in getting past his father's guard, and his legs were aching, he was happy, and happier still when Angel passed him a stake.

"I think you've earned that. Keep it handy."

Angel made Connor shower and change before they left, and Cordelia and Fred were in the lobby to say goodbye.

"Call me if you have a vision," Angel said, bending and kissing Cordelia on the forehead. She smiled fondly at him.

"Will do. Behave yourself. No Buffy-brooding, all right?"

"I promise. Fred, tell Gunn to be sensible."

"He won't listen to me," Fred said cheerfully, "but I'll tell him you said so. Have a nice time."

"Mind the monsters don't bite," Cordelia said darkly, "and take Connor to the Bronze so he can have a mocha in my memory."

"I'm sure Connor likes his mochas full-fat with cream," Angel laughed, "but I promise." He glanced at his watch. "Sun's down. Let's go."

His father said little in the car, and Connor settled back with the wind in his hair and turned up the radio. After a while Angel turned it down without a comment, and Connor decided not to say anything. The road was empty and Angel pushed the Plymouth fast, and in under two hours they had reached the outskirts of a small, ordinary looking town. They passed the ruins of a big building with signs reading "Danger! Keep out!" and headed up a hill past a cemetery, finally coming to a halt outside a large house on its own at the end of the road. Angel turned off the ignition.

"Welcome to Sunnydale," he said.