A/N: Wow, first Buffyverse published fic in over a decade? Madness. This story is based off a fic idea from Cangelgifs on Tumblr - they have a whole page dedicated to prompts, and I decided to try one out for a personal challenge. The idea is "Teenaged!Connor gets sent to an alt universe where he was never kidnapped and sees how good his life could've been", so I thought "why not?" Connor's someone I never really wrote a lot on or focused on back in the day, so this was different for me. Also, I set this in early Season 4, around 'Ground State', because I wanted to erase any Connor/Cordelia from happening. It's ick...don't get me started. So, without further ado, here's the story. One-shot.

Sleeping on the street was a luxury compared to the rocks and harsh ground of Quor-toth, but having experienced the feeling of a soft and warm bed, Connor felt a pang at that loss, as he searched for a spot for the night. However, he was a survivor who knew how to adapt to harsh environments, so the streets of Los Angeles was mere child's play to him.

Still, having been kicked out of the Hyperion by his own father stung – even though he had no regrets about what he'd done to Angel, Connor knew he'd messed up, believing too quickly in the lie of Holtz and Justine. He'd honestly believed Angel had killed Holtz and reacted with vengeance in mind, never stopping to question anything else – all that mattered was that Angel suffered immensely for his crime…only Angel never did it in the first place. It left the teenager wondering if Holtz actually loved him at all to be so willing to use him as a tool for his means of justice, to be so willing to have himself killed just to frame Angel.

Connor unrolled his mat and settled on the ground, his mind dark with thoughts of anger and hatred towards both Angel and Holtz…and hatred towards himself for being involved in their lives: Angel was a vampire who'd brought him into this world and Holtz was the man who raised him with fists and speeches of justice and stories of vengeance. Now alone in a hobo village, the teenager pondered the possibility that neither man truly wanted him around. Holtz had been so quick to die so soon after escaping from Quor-toth, and Angel gave him a grandiose speech before booting him from the first proper home he'd ever had – although Connor would never admit it, but he did like living at the Hyperion, even if only to ensure Gunn and Fred would never find Angel.

"Hey, kid," a woman nearby called to him. "You alright?"

She appeared older than him and far too attractive to look like she belonged there, despite the rags she wore and the dirt on her face, but Connor wasn't interested in anything she had to offer.

"Fine," he mumbled, wanting only to be left alone with his thoughts.

"How old are you, kid?"

Damn it, the woman was persistent.

Connor shrugged carelessly. "Sixteen, seventeen, somewhere around there. Why do you care?"

"Well, because you look too young to be hanging around here. What's the matter, did you have a fight with your parents or something?"

"Yeah, you could say that. Now leave me alone."

"I'm just trying to help you out here. Kid like you shouldn't be sleeping on the street like this, or even out at night. It's not for the faint-hearted."

A smirk came to the teenager. "I can handle myself."

"That's what they all say. What's your name?"

He hesitated. He wanted to be left alone, but it felt nice that someone was trying to look out for him. Gunn and Fred took care of him, but they had always been on his case, and it got irritating really quick – only his need to keep Angel submerged made him tolerate the pair. "Connor. What's yours?"

"Halfrek, but people call me Hallie. So, do you want to talk about it? About why you're here and not at home?"

"I don't have a home. Not anymore."

"Maybe talking about it will help you. You don't have to suffer the burdens on your own."

Connor huffed. "You wouldn't understand. It's too crazy."

"Honey, we're in Los Angeles. Crazy is the normal around here," Hallie said. "I've seen some stuff…there is nothing you could say that would freak me out."

"Okay," he decided to test her. "My parents are vampires."

To his surprise, she nodded sagely. "Interesting. Do continue."

"My mother staked herself to give birth to me and I was raised in a place called Quor-toth by a man who sought justice against my father," Connor continued, unsure why he was spilling his life story to a random woman in a back alley, but something about her calming presence made him want to talk. "See, my vampire parents killed my father's family and caused countless deaths – he taught me that they were evil and needed to be destroyed. When I left Quor-toth, I met my vampire father…and he was nothing like what my father told me. He acted like a hero, destroying his own kind…he seemed good, but I thought it was a lie."

"So, what happened?" Hallie prompted.

"My dad also escaped Quor-toth and had himself killed by an associate of his, but he did it so I'd think the vampire killed him…and I believed that lie. I trapped my father in a coffin and sunk him into the ocean to make him suffer. He got free and kicked me out of his house."

"Does your vampire father deserve punishment?"

"Yes…he is…was…evil."

"Even though he didn't kill the man who raised you? Even though that man used you to hate him."

"Holtz was a good man. He didn't deserve what Angel did to him."

"But this Angel is no longer evil?"

Connor shrugged. "He helps the helpless, but he said I'm not a part of that because of what I did to him. I know now he didn't murder my father, but it doesn't change anything."

"You poor boy," Hallie said, and he glared at her. She raised her hands in surrender. "Hey, don't get me wrong, Connor, it sounds like you messed up big time, but it's not really your fault. You can't help how you were raised and what you get taught to believe in, but to me, you're a victim here."

"How so?" he questioned warily. He'd never been a victim before and to be called that unsettled him.

"What was Holtz like growing up?" she asked. "Quor-toth does not sound like a pleasant place."

"No, it was full of demons. Every day was a battle for survival. But I made a name for myself as the Destroyer. I'm strong; there wasn't a fight I couldn't win – Holtz raised me that way…he had to. But that was our life."

"He raised you to be a weapon."

Connor narrowed his eyes. "Don't speak of him like that. He loved me, I know he did."

"If he truly loved you, Connor, he wouldn't have killed himself to frame Angel. His need for justice overrode his love for you – a good father wouldn't place his needs before his child."


"Do you ever wonder what it would be like if Angel raised you?"

Connor remained silent. To be honest, it was a thought that rarely crossed his mind. Earth was safe and quiet compared to the violent chaos of Quor-toth, but there were also some similarities, so he never really thought about it. He'd been too focused on keeping Gunn and Fred from ever finding Angel to consider that potential what-if of his life – except that one time he'd found a photo of himself as a baby in Angel's arms and the smile that the vampire wore as he stared at his son in wonder – Connor had immediately torn that photo up to stop that train of thought.

"No," he responded, the ground hard and uncomfortable beneath him. He wished for his bed. "Maybe once…Quor-toth is a terrible place of death and darkness…Earth isn't much better, but it's nicer. The customs here are strange and everything is confusing. I imagine growing up here wouldn't be too much different than Quor-toth."

"So, you were happy there?"

Memories flashed through Connor's mind – he couldn't pinpoint a single moment he was ever happy in that dimension, constantly scrapping and fighting to survive, doing to his best to make it through the day so he could meet and kill Angel one day, the harsh lessons that Holtz put him through to condition him, whether physical or mental – would it all be different in Angel's care? Would he grow up happy in the arms of a vampire? Or would he still fell this empty hollowness inside?

Connor shrugged, tiredness slowly overcoming him; it'd been a long day. "It was okay. Did what I had to do. Wouldn't change a thing." He'd kill for a comfy bed. There was a small rock digging into the middle of his back. If life had been different, he wouldn't be here…would he? "It's pointless, but maybe…maybe I do wish that Angel raised me…maybe then, I wouldn't be feeling so…lost. Ah, that's stupid. Nothing's going to change that."

"So, you do, or you don't?" Hallie prodded.

"What? I wish that Angel had raised me? Makes no difference," Connor said distractedly, sleep slowly overcoming his body. "He wouldn't be much better than Holtz."

His eyes closed and as he drifted off, Hallie growled. "Wish granted."


The first thing Connor noticed when he woke up was the softness underneath him. Frowning, he quickly sat up and realised that not only was he back in his bed, but also his own room at the Hyperion. An alarm clock blared beside him, and he turned that off, running hands through his hair as he tried to process his situation.

How did he get from the street to his room in his sleep? And why did his room seem different? He noticed a flat screen computer on the desk and there was a small flat screen TV in the corner, along with some kind of gaming console.

A knock at his bedroom door. "Connor, get up and get ready for school," called a woman's voice.


She was back? Also, school?

"Uh, yeah, I'll be down in a minute," Connor called back, swimming through the haze of confusion.

He noticed a cell phone on the bedside table, although larger than normal and 100% screen with only a single button. He pressed it, igniting the home screen, and he saw the date: 11th October 2018.


Did he travel through time? And how?

After getting dressed, and still in a state of confusion, Connor wandered downstairs into the lobby, just as Cordelia exited the office, and he stopped at her appearance. She looked a little older, her hair grown to the same length as her high school years, though with blonde highlights, but she still looked as fantastic as ever.

"Oh good, you're up," she greeted. "Another five minutes and I was going to send your father up."

"Cordelia, you're back," Connor said, and when her eyes narrowed at him, he felt terrified.

"Excuse me? What did you just call me?"

He fidgeted. "Cordelia? That is your name, right?"

"Yeah, but the last time you called me that, you were thirteen, and your father and I had told you about Darla and you were upset for a while." When he was thirteen? He didn't know Angel and Cordelia at thirteen…wait, what the hell was going on? At his bewildered expression, Cordelia's face softened, and she pressed the back of her hand to his forehead. "Are you okay, Connor?"

Her touch felt nice, maternal-like, and Connor felt a clench in his chest at the soft feeling, something he'd never felt before in his life. "I don't think so…is it okay if I skip school today?"

She withdrew her hand. "Alright, I'll call the school and let them know. But that means you'll be helping me around the hotel today, got it?" he nodded and she patted his shoulder. "Good, now go get some breakfast."

The day had just started, and it was weirding him out. Connor didn't like unknown confusing things, like why was he going to school and why was Cordelia upset he called her by name. It didn't get much better when he reached the kitchen and found Angel there, reading the newspaper and drinking from his mug – his father looked up and a wide grin broke out on his face.

Now things were definitely weird – Angel never smiled like that at him.

Well, he did…before Holtz killed himself…

"Hey son," Angel greeted. "Sleep well?"

"Uh, yeah, I guess," Connor said, hesitantly sitting across from him. It felt strange to see just open love in his father's eyes, but he just needed to get through it so he could figure out exactly what was going on. "I see that Cordelia is back from wherever she disappeared to."

His father frowned. "Why did you call her that?"

Great, first Cordelia, now Angel? What was Connor supposed to call her? Mom?

Oh god, what if…that was true?

"Oh, uh, I think I had a bad dream last night," Connor lied. "It's still lingering."

"Did you want to talk about it?"

Since when was Angel so open like this? Then again, Connor realised that he never really gave his father the chance in the wake of Holtz's death. Before the teenager could answer, Cordelia waltzed into the kitchen…and she wasn't alone. There was a little girl of about six years old in her arms, her expression half-awake as Cordelia deposited the child into Angel's arms.

"Someone wanted her daddy," Cordelia said, and she looked at Connor. "Aren't you hungry, Connor?"

"Oh, yeah, um, I'll get to it," he responded, unable to come to grips with the scene before him. Angel had another child? He had a sister? As he fixed himself a bowl of cereal, he watched as Cordelia prepare breakfast for the little girl, who had nuzzled into Angel's shoulder, until his father managed to coax her into her own chair.

She had the same eyes and hair colour as Angel, but Connor noted that the child's skin was a lighter shade of Cordelia's, and her little round face had the same structure as the seer. He frowned in realisation as he finally put two and two together – this little girl was Angel and Cordelia's daughter!

What hell dimension did he wake up in?

"Angel, Connor's not feeling well today, so he's staying home," Cordelia announced. "He's going to help me around the office instead."

"Everything alright, Connor?" his father asked him.

"Yeah…just feeling lightheaded," Connor replied, conflicted and moved by the domestic scene around him. He watched as Cordelia lightly touched Angel on the shoulder as she took his mug from him and that was when he finally noticed the gold rings on their left hands – they were married?! "I don't think I had a good night last night."

"That demon did hit you pretty hard," Angel admitted. "You had me worried there."

"Which is exactly why I say that he shouldn't be helping you on a school night," Cordelia chastised.

"But he wanted to go," Angel protested. "Didn't you, Connor?"

"Um, yeah, I did," Connor said, unsure why he was helping his father in this regard. "Sorry."

"Don't be sorry, you were great."

The teenager blushed, unsure what to do with that compliment. He'd never received one from Holtz while growing up, and as such, he didn't know what to do with this unknown feeling, but it felt nice.

"Angel," Cordelia warned. "I want Connor to graduate from school in one piece."

As the couple spoke to each other, Connor felt eyes staring at him and he looked at the little girl. "What?" he asked brusquely.

She simply poked her tongue at him, something that didn't go amiss from Cordelia. "Jasmine, don't poke your tongue at your brother, or at people in general. It's rude."

Jasmine? That was his sister's name? It made sense, Connor figured, given the jasmine flowers that grew in the courtyard outside. But how on earth did he manage to have a sister in the first place? Vampires couldn't have children, and Connor knew that he was a miracle child of prophecy, so how did Angel and Cordelia have their daughter? Just another question Connor had to find the answer for.

Once breakfast was over, Cordelia took Jasmine upstairs to get her ready for school, Angel cleaned up, and Connor found himself wandering around the office, looking for answers. The lobby appeared unchanged over the years, with only the technology having upgraded, given the flat screen computer with wireless accessories on Cordelia's desk. He drew closer and spotted the photograph near the computer; he gently picked it up. It was clearly her wedding day, and she looked gorgeous in her white dress, beaming her brilliant smile. Angel stood beside her, his eyes on her and full of love, a wide grin on his face, but it was the little boy in the picture that drew Connor's eyes. In Quor-toth, he'd only saw himself in water reflections, so he knew without a doubt that it was him posing with the wedded couple, Angel and Cordelia's hands on his shoulders. The boy had a huge smile, as if imitating Cordelia, his dark blond hair spiked like his father's.

Connor felt a pang in his chest – was this a world where he was never taken to Quor-toth? Desperate for answers, he began digging around in the office and even went into Angel's office, until he found what he was looking for: a thick photograph album, this one for a baby boy. Filled with trepidation, his mind hesitant, Connor gingerly sat at his father's desk and carefully opened the album.

The first photo he saw was of himself as a baby, held by Angel and with Cordelia beside him, both staring at him with love and awe. Another photo was of him being passed between the couple, with the caption beneath it in Angel's handwriting "Cordy's 21st birthday". There was a photo of him being held by a beaming Fred, "Auntie Fred" written underneath, and another baby photo of him with Gunn, who was trying to give Connor a Gameboy ("Uncle Gunn teaching him young"). Connor turned the page, mixed feelings welling inside, and he saw a photo of him in the hands of the green demon – "Uncle Lorne", the caption read – who was crooning to him. Another photo showed Connor on his hands and knees, trying to crawl towards a grinning Cordelia, who was seated on the lobby floor, the caption reading "Connor crawling for the first time". A photo had Cordelia holding him, her signature smile in place, while baby Connor imitated her, a few baby teeth showing – the caption said "Mommy and Connor".

That one threw him.

He called Cordelia 'Mom'? That would explain why she wasn't too thrilled when he called her by name this morning, but it still felt confusing to him. He'd never had a mother before, so to see Cordelia taking on this role in his life…it did make him feel warm inside. Sure enough, as he continued through the photos, including his 1st birthday, in which his baby self, Angel, and Cordelia were covered in cake, but full of laughter, and the captions constantly referring to Cordelia as 'Mommy', reinforced that notion. But he also noticed the open love and adoration in Angel's face throughout each and every photo, including one where Angel was asleep on the lobby couch, clearly after a night of demon-slaying, and baby Connor was sleeping on his chest, the vampire's hand resting gently on the baby's back – that one made Connor's heart ache.

Clearly, Angel loved him without a shadow of a doubt, and clearly, the young Connor was happy, constantly smiling in the pictures, which was obviously an influence from Cordelia – they both loved him, loved him with all their hearts. The teenager got to his 2nd birthday, and he felt pinpricks in his eyes – a quick swipe revealed tears and he wondered what that meant.

Shutting the album, Connor found another one, this one pink, and he opened it to reveal Jasmine's birth certificate and photos – Jasmine Katherine Angel, he read, born 6th February 2012 to Geraldo and Cordelia Angel – at least she got a middle name, he scoffed in thought. The album contained photos of a pregnant Cordelia, her hair long in these ones, with the occasional ones featuring both Angel and an eleven-year-old Connor touching her stomach. Then, there were photos of Jasmine in the hospital, held by an exhausted Cordelia who still managed her radiant smile, Angel beaming with pride beside her on the bed and Connor in front of them, the caption reading "Mommy, Daddy, Connor, and baby Jasmine". The next one showed the young Connor holding his baby sister, apprehension on the little boy's face, but also a sense of love – the writing underneath read "Big brother Connor".

Connor quickly shut the album, unable to help feel a tinge of jealousy towards the sister he never had until now, along with a well of feelings he couldn't describe. He was happy and loved here – he had a family here. There was no pain, no suffering, nothing like what he had in Quor-toth and that stung – Holtz had taken him from what could've been a happy life and given him pain and misery.

Setting Jasmine's album aside, Connor selected another one, this one of Angel and Cordelia's wedding. Apparently, they got married at a beachside resort at sunset, with Gunn, Lorne, and two unknown men, one who had unnaturally blond hair, as Angel's groomsmen, and Cordelia stunning as ever with Fred and three unknown women, one redhead and two blondes, as her bridesmaids. Connor, as about five or six years old, was the ringbearer, while a brunette teenager was the flower girl – the wedding itself was a small ceremony, probably under a hundred people at most. The reception had been held at the Hyperion, judging by the photo of Angel and Cordelia posing at the top of the stairwell. One of the blonde bridesmaids got identified as Buffy, posing with Cordelia, with Angel, and the blonde groomsman revealed as Spike.

There were photos of Cordelia with her bridesmaids (the other two identified as Willow and Harmony), Angel with his groomsmen (the last unknown man revealed to be named Wesley), the newlyweds on the floor for their first dance, Connor photographed with his parents, either dancing individually with them or just basking in their presence. There was the cutting of a beautiful three-tiered wedding cake, Lorne giving speeches, a photo of a sleeping Connor cuddled on Angel's lap, a photo of Buffy, Spike, and the flower girl (named Dawn), and a final one of Angel and Cordelia ascending the stairs as they retired for the night, giving one last smile for the crowd.

Shutting the album, Connor found a fourth and opened it, compelled to continue his journey through a life he had been denied – this one contained general photos, including Connor riding a bike without training wheels, Connor's first day at school, a birthday party he had at Chuck-E-Cheese, Angel Investigations at work, photos of a dark-haired woman named Faith posing with the group following her first day out of prison, photos of Connor and Jasmine playing together, photos of the family hanging out at the fair, school events (Connor was pleased to know he was an exceptional athlete, despite his lineage, and that he obviously held back), Connor in his try-outs for hockey, Jasmine doing dance classes ("next high school cheerleader" Cordelia wrote underneath), a photo of a young teenaged Connor with short hair ("my handsome boy" in Cordelia's handwriting), Angel having a tea party with Jasmine ("daddy and daughter play time"), and a recent photo of Connor covered in demon goo, but with a smile on his face ("killed his first demon" was Angel's proud message).

Connor closed the album, at a loss of the emotions swelling inside him – why had Holtz denied him this? Here, Connor was happy and loved – there were no secrets, no lies, no betrayals. He clearly loved and accepted Angel as his father, despite being a vampire (if that one photo of a baby Connor smiling at Angel's vamp face was anything to go by; there was a similar one with baby Jasmine), and Cordelia was virtually his mother in every way but blood, the pair giving him a well-structured life of safety and love. He clearly didn't have to look over his shoulder for danger at any given second while growing up, protected as he was by Angel and Cordelia and the rest of Angel Investigations – there was no fighting to survive, and any danger he'd been in was because he chose to do so.

He felt robbed – this was the life he should've had; he didn't realise he'd been crying until a tear splattered on the album cover and he hastily wiped it away, afraid that he would ruin the perfect memories captured in time.

The door opened and Cordelia walked in. "There you are, Connor," she stopped short at the sight of his teary face. "Honey, what's wrong?"

"It's nothing," Connor resisted, scrubbing at his face, ashamed not only of his emotions getting the better of him, but that someone had witnessed it, even if the person was his surrogate mother.

"Sweetheart, something's not right. Do you want to talk about it? You know you can tell me anything…you always did when something was bothering you. I promise not to tell your father."

"Where is he…Dad?" Connor asked, the word feeling weird on his tongue in regards to Angel, but it also felt…right.

"He's taken your sister to school…he'll be back soon. Are you sure you're okay?"

She was hovering nearby, clearly wanting to help him, but he felt a sense of panic and quickly rose up from the chair. "Yeah, um, yeah…I think…I'm gonna go lie down."

He went to leave, but Cordelia stopped him, and without a word, she pulled him into a hug, her hand softly stroking his hair. It reminded him of that moment with the original Cordelia, when he tried to kill her and she glowed in response – she had held him in a similar manner, very much like a mother comforting her son – at that, Connor sobbed, his arms clutching to Cordelia like a lifeline.

"Oh, my poor boy," Cordelia said maternally. "Whatever it is that's bothering you, you know that I'm here for you, okay; I love you, sweetheart."

"I…I realise that," Connor said. "Thank you." He broke away and kept his eyes to the ground. "I'm gonna be in my room."

She cupped his face. "If you like, I'll bring you something to eat."

He nodded his approval. "That would be nice."

"Good. Go and lie down. I'll be here all day if you need me."

In a daze, Connor headed upstairs to his bedroom, shut the door behind him – and jumped in shock. Hallie stood in the middle on his room, now clean and wearing a lovely dress…but her face was a cavern of exposed veins, not a scrap of skin anywhere on her features. Connor immediately slipped from startled to battle mode, but Hallie threw her hands up in surrender.

"Do you like it?" she asked.

"Like what?" Connor asked testily. He had enough surprises for today, he didn't need this.

"This world you created."

"What do you mean? I didn't make this…whatever this place is."

"No? You mean you didn't wish for a different life?"

He immediately thought back to the previous night, how he was dozing off and made a passing comment framed as a question, and he glared at Hallie. "You. You did this? Why? How?"

"I merely granted your wish. As for the how, well, I'm a vengeance demon, and granting wishes are our specialty."

"But I didn't wish for any vengeance."

"Well, that depends. See, I'm a patron of scorned children. I seek those who've been abused or felt neglected by their parents, and you, my dear boy, fit the bill quite well," Hallie explained. "As soon as I arrived in Los Angeles, I felt your pain screaming at me from every corner of this city. In fact, there was only one other time I've felt pain like this before, and so, I had to seek you out. So, do you like this new life?"

"You mean to say…that this life isn't real?" Connor tentatively questioned. "That this is just a lie?"

"No, my boy, this is real. Bending reality is another one of our specialties. All I did here was remove one obstacle that prevented you from growing up in Quor-toth."

His eyes narrowed dangerously as he interpreted that statement. "Did you do something to Holtz?"

"Hm, oh heavens no. Funnily enough, I didn't have to do anything at all to him. No, I prevented the Groosalugg from coming here." At his puzzled look, Hallie gave him a sympathetic smile. "A champion of Pylea: he whisked Cordelia away on a romantic vacation, and as a result, you got kidnapped and wound up in Holtz's care. By stopping that hunk-muffin, I stopped Cordelia from leaving, which meant that Wesley never kidnapped you and Holtz never raised you. You got raised by Angel and Cordelia, your loving parents, and you never had to experience the misery you received in Quor-toth."

"So how come I don't have the memories of growing up with them?" Connor asked. "I wouldn't have greeted Cordelia in the wrong manner or have to dig through photo albums to get answers."

"Well, how else would you have known any better if this is the life you wanted? I have to say, Connor, this might be one of the best wishes I've ever granted. Locking people in a house was fun, until I got trapped in there as well, but this one takes the cake in how happy it all is."

"Take it back," Connor croaked emotionally. "I don't want it."

Hallie frowned at him. "Take it back? But it's what you wished for. Nobody takes back their wish. Why would you want to give this world up?"

"It's not real…none of it is real…it can't be; it's just another lie, but with magic."

"You don't think you deserve this?" Hallie queried. "That's exactly why I granted your wish – my darling boy, you deserve all the happiness you can get…this is your chance to live life anew, the way you should have. Look deep inside you, Connor…you crave love and affection, the feeling of acceptance from a loving family, and this is that desire made real. Do you honestly believe you'll be happier having lived in Quor-toth and constantly be at odds with your father? All that pain never happened here. You are not the Destroyer; you're Connor, Angel and Cordelia's beloved son."

Emotionally drained, Connor slumped against his bedroom door. The demon spoke the truth – he couldn't refute them based on the fact that she was a demon and he was taught to never trust them because he knew her words to be true…he felt them. Quor-toth had been harsh and cruel, a world of darkness and despair, where he was moulded into an instrument of vengeance, not raised as a person, and forced to conflict terribly with his own father. In this world, he had the love and family he always wanted – no-one here treated him like a tool or a volatile child…he even had a sibling, something he never realised he wanted until now – to grow up with someone just like him, someone who could also understand what was it like to have a vampire father.

"Tell you what, Connor, I'll give you twenty-four hours to experience this life," Hallie offered. "If you still decide you don't want it, I'll reverse the wish, and you'll go back to how life was before we met. No strings attached."

"Will I remember it?" he asked.

"From what I've been told with a similar situation, no."

Connor nodded. "Fine. I'll stay here for a day, but don't get your hopes up."

"As you command," Hallie said, flourishing her hands, and with a snap of her fingers, she vanished.

The teenager wearily flopped onto his bed, as there was a knock on the door and he allowed the person in. Cordelia entered, bearing food, and put the plate on the bedside table.

"Feeling any better?" she asked, carding her hand lovingly through his hair.

The love of a mother made Connor's heart ache from the affection, as he nodded and reached for a sandwich. "It's been a rough few days," he said. "Thank you...Mom." Wow, that word felt so alien on his tongue, yet it felt right to say it. He barely spent any time with the real Cordelia, but to know how much she loved him as if he was her own child made him yearn to see her again.

"You're welcome," Cordelia said. "I was on the phone with Fred earlier; she said she'll be dropping by tonight after her seminar. I know how much you enjoy hanging around her."

The memory of the tiny, yet terrifying, woman jamming a taser into his chest over and over again while raging at him flashed through Connor's mind and he gave his surrogate mother a wan smile. Clearly, his relationship with Fred was different here. "Sure, that would be nice."

"Good. Eat up and get some rest, Connor. Your father and I are downstairs if you need us."

He gave her a nod, she smiled at him in return and left the room. He ate in silence, pondering Hallie's proposal – this was the ideal life for him, but it was a world created by magic because of a silly wish he'd made in passing. He didn't belong here, he didn't deserve this, but part of him wanted to know this world further, to experience the life he never got to have.

If Quor-toth was Hell, and Earth could be considered Purgatory, then this world would be regarded as Heaven.

Once he finished eating, Connor explored his room, finding further evidence of a good life here. Apparently, he had hobbies, he had friends (even a girlfriend – Natalie), he had dreams, all things he never had before. Conflicted, Connor headed downstairs, wanting to put his mind at ease; he could see Cordelia bustling about in the office, but he headed straight for the basement, where he found his father practising some kind of slow-moving martial arts.

"Hey, Connor," Angel greeted with a smile. "You doing okay, son?"

"I think so," Connor replied, hesitantly edging into the basement. He still felt wary around the vampire, even though he knew he shouldn't, but Angel's champion talk right before he kicked him out of the house was still fresh in the teenager's mind. That obviously never happened in this world…Connor imagined he never sunk his father into the ocean either. "Got a lot going on."

"I get that," Angel said, stopping his motions, sitting on the bench and inviting Connor to do the same – the teenager chose to remain standing. "Do you want to talk about it?"

It was strange to see his father attentive to his needs; Holtz fed and clothed him (except for the gruelling tests where the teenager had to deal with starvation), but often had no interest in anything else, so Connor learnt to keep any concerns and emotions to himself.

"If you could wish for anything, to change something in your life for the better, would you?" Connor finally asked.

Angel turned contemplative. "Well, I've done a lot of terrible things in life that I wish I could take back, but I look at the life I have now, with you, Cordelia, and Jasmine, and I wouldn't change a thing. All three of you are the best things to happen to me, and I'm grateful for that."

"So, you're content with everything?"

"Yeah, I guess I am. For a long time, I was worried about being a parent, worried that I was going to screw you up, but I believe Cordelia and I have done alright: you're a good kid, Connor, and I'm proud of you. Now I have to do the same with your sister."

"Yeah, speaking of which, how is that possible?" Connor asked.

"Connor…I gave you the birds and the bees talk."

"No, I meant her entire existence…you're a vampire."

Angel chuckled sheepishly. "You remember how the world completely lost magic for a while? When we restored it, Xander wrote in the Vampyr Book, allowing ensouled vampires to have children. Still, it wasn't easy for your mother and I…that rebar incident caused a lot of damage to her."

"Oh…must have forgotten."

"What brought that question up? Everything alright at school?"

"Hm, yeah," Connor lied, like he would know anything about school. "Dunno, just been thinking about things, about choices we make and how the outcome can be vastly different."

"I know if I didn't go to the tavern that night, I would never have met Darla. If I didn't move to Los Angeles, I would never have met Doyle, or gotten reacquainted with Cordelia. We are defined by the choices we make, whether good or bad."

"What happened to Holtz?" Connor asked suddenly. "I can't remember if you ever told me."

"Holtz? Why do you want to know?"

"Just tell me what happened…please?"

"Alright," Angel agreed. "He engineered a plot that put your life in danger so he could take you away from me, but we stopped him in time. Then, once I calmed down, I found him and we talked…it wasn't the easiest conversation I've ever had, because I wanted to really kill him, and how do you apologise to someone for murdering their entire family? But we talked, and last I heard, he was living on a ranch in Utah."

"So, he's still alive?"

"I don't know. That was the last time I saw him…I hope he found his peace."

Connor remembered the stories that Holtz used to tell him about his original plan to raise him out on a ranch in the middle of nowhere. It had sounded nice at the time, so it somewhat pleased the teenager to know that his adoptive father got to achieve that dream without the horrors of Quor-toth. The one thing that stood out to Connor, however, was that Angel had the chance to kill Holtz and stayed his hand, letting the old vampire hunter live out his life in peace, despite his plans.

Perhaps Angel wasn't entirely as terrible as Holtz made Connor to believe.

"That's all I wanted to know," Connor said, and he gave his father a smirk. "You up for a spar?"

"You feeling better?"

"Yeah, a little."

"In that case, go help your mother in the office and I'll think about it."

Connor groused, but did as he was told, heading upstairs and doing whatever Cordelia requested of him. He found it nice and relaxing to be able to spend his day without fighting to the death or worrying about shelter. And Cordelia was easy-going, often getting a small laugh out of him with a joke or reminiscing about her life in Sunnydale; he didn't get to spend a lot of time with her before Holtz's death, but he found himself wishing for her presence in his real life.

When he helped her to her satisfaction (which was mainly cleaning up around the hotel and deal with paperwork), he was allowed back downstairs for a sparring session with his father, which was enjoyable, to say the least; Connor was starting to understand how much Angel loved being a father, and for being a dead being, he exuded warmth.

The more he hung around in this life, the more the teenager began to realise the wrongdoing in Holtz's actions, and that perhaps, his adoptive father was actually the villain all along – this was the life Connor was meant to have.

When Jasmine arrived home from school, she immediately went into the office to talk to her mother about her day; Connor hovered nearby, unsure how to act around the little girl. Judging by the photos, he had a strong sibling relationship with her, but having never experienced that feeling himself (and wishing he did) made him keep his distance – he was also curious about her.

"Hi, Connor," Jasmine greeted him. "Why are you lurking like Daddy?"

"I'm not lurking," he immediately defended himself. "I'm just hanging around."

"Yeah, okay."

Wow, mini-Cordelia at heart.

"How was school?" Connor changed tactics.

"It was sooo boring," Jasmine replied with a dramatic eye-roll. "Mr. Ellis talked all day, but that's because he's not my real teacher. Ms. Gosling was sick today…she's fun. Are you better, Connor?"


"Dad said you weren't feeling good, so you stayed home. Are you better now?"

"A little."

Jasmine hopped off her seat beside Cordelia's desk, walked up to Connor, and wrapped her little arms around him. "Mom always said that hugs make you feel better quicker. Did it work?"

Something broke inside Connor at the touching gesture, of the feel of this pure, innocent love this little girl had for him. Slowly, he hugged her back, careful not to crush her with his strength, but firmly enough to reciprocate what she was giving him.

"Yeah," Connor said, kneeling before his sister. "I'm better now. Thank you."

Jasmine beamed at him. "You're welcome."

Feeling emotional, the teenager retreated to his room to collect his thoughts and process them, later returning when Cordelia called him down due to Fred's arrival. Trepidation clung to him as he braced himself for the reunion with the physicist and was disarmed by the big smile she wore when she saw him – a vast contrast to the rage she'd expressed only a day ago.

"Hey, Connor, it's good to see you again," Fred greeted, pulling him into a hug. "How are you?"

Like Cordelia, she looked like she'd barely aged, her hair cut short to her shoulders and her glasses a seemingly permanent fixture.

"I'm good," Connor replied, tense in her arms and willing himself to relax. She had been the nicest person to him, only turning on him when she learnt the truth of what he'd done to his father; in truth, he'd used her and played his part in order to keep her off Angel's scent, but a small part of him did like her.

"How's school? Did my input help you out?"

"Uh, yeah, it did…thanks," Connor said, eager to get some distance from her, the phantom pain of her taser ringing in his chest. "Uh, you look…good. Is Gunn with you?"

"No, why would he be? Is he not here?"

Okay, this was confusing...were they not together anymore? They seemed very much in love with each other to the point that Connor always left the room because it made him feel sick to the stomach…mostly because it was out of envy, as he thought he could never have what they had.

"Uh, no, I haven't seen him, and I've been here all day," he admitted.

"Oh…he must be really busy with his cases then," Fred said. "Well, I hope he does come around…it's been a while since I've seen him, well, seen everyone, including you. I've been so busy with my seminars, it's really nice to talk with promising students and seeing their potential and not have to worry about demons and gore and evil prophecies and have you decided which college you're going to?"

"Fred, let him breath," Cordelia cut in before Connor could even formulate an answer. College? He was going to college? "It's lovely to see you, sweetie," the seer said as she hugged the physicist. "Come on, we have a lot to catch up on."

Dinner was another eye-opening experience for Connor: he already agreed that Earth food was far better than anything in Quor-toth, but during the summer, he always ate in his own room. In this reality, everyone gathered together at the dining table – Angel had cooked, and the teenager got to experience his father's culinary skills for the first time and immediately concluded that the vampire was better at providing than Holtz, a thought he would've hated to realise a week ago.

The domestic scene felt nice and wholesome and for the first time, Connor truly felt like part of the family: Cordelia and Fred were deep in conversation, while Jasmine regaled Angel with her day and in between, Angel would talk to him about hockey, which Connor tried to follow along with, since he was supposedly a fan too, even though he knew nothing about the sport – it was just simply nice to talk with his father about something that didn't involve vampires or fighting.

However, it couldn't last forever – in the middle of cleaning up, Cordelia got a vision of a demon downtown. Angel immediately prepared to head out alone, but his wife told him the demon was too big for him to face by himself and that she was going with him. Fred offered to stay back with Jasmine, and Connor surprised himself by offering his help.

"It's a school night," Cordelia pointed out.

"I know, but if this demon is strong, three is better than two," Connor replied.

"I won't disagree there," Angel said, tossing him a sword, giving another to Cordelia, and taking a small battle-axe for himself. "I'll see if a Slayer or two are available."

"What's a Slayer?" Connor found himself asking.

Twenty minutes later, and he got his answer when a Slayer joined them in the fight. He found her strength and fighting skills impressive, although she didn't hang around for long after the fight was done. However, what also impressed the teenager was how Cordelia handled herself in the fight, and how Angel and her worked seamlessly together, watching out for each other and covering and aiding the other when needed. Overall, the group made short work on the demon, and now, he was heading home with his parents, having enjoyed himself.

Slipping into the Destroyer was easy for Connor, but to fight alongside Angel was something else, and it reminded him of that night they fought vampires in a club and then sparred for fun in the back alley…a good memory before it all came crashing down when Holtz decided to destroy the teenager's blossoming relationship with his biological father.

When he slipped into bed that night, all Connor could think about was how nice it was to finally have the family he once yearned for.

The next morning brought another surprise, this one in the form of one Charles Gunn. Again, Connor was hesitant around someone, this time due to the friction between him and Gunn during the summer, where the latter would often berate him for not listening. Again, here it was different.

"Connor, my man!" Gunn greeted him with a wide grin when he came downstairs. "How's it going?"

"Still sleepy," Connor replied as he took in the older man's appearance. Since when did Gunn wear a suit? "Uh…your clothes?"

"Oh, yeah, got a case today that I'm hoping to close by lunch if it all goes well," Gunn said, adjusting his tie. "Thought I'd pop in and say hi to everyone."

It was then the teenager noticed the briefcase on the lobby counter. "You're a lawyer?"

"Have been since your parents got hitched, but thanks for noticing," Gunn replied good-naturedly. "I know I haven't been around since then, but I try, especially if your old man needs a hand."

"Still got your axe?"

"In the closet, but I put it to good use every now and again."

There was a blur and suddenly Jasmine was wrapped around Gunn's waist. "Uncle Gunn! You're here! Mommy and Daddy will be happy to see you."

"No doubt, darling girl. And how's my favourite princess?"

"I've been really good, doing all my homework on time, even though it's really boring. Did you bring your axe? Can I see it?"

Gunn chuckled. "Sorry, Jas, not this time. Maybe another time."

The little girl pouted, but quickly scurried towards the kitchen for breakfast. Connor pointed after her. "Uh, I better go with her, and get ready as well. Good seeing you, Gunn."

"Likewise, buddy."

Gunn as a lawyer? That was something Connor never expected to see ever happening, given the older man's temperament and preference for fighting first, asking questions second. But not a single ounce of hostility was displayed in the man's face or body language, and Connor found he liked that. Perhaps, he reasoned, he never really gave Gunn a chance, given his own stubbornness.

When he returned to his room after breakfast, Connor jumped in shock, then glared at Hallie once again standing in the middle of his room. "It hasn't been twenty-four hours."

"I know," she replied. "But when the time is up, you'll be in school, and I'm certain your classmates wouldn't appreciate a vengeance demon popping up out of nowhere, no matter the populace's general acceptance of demons. So, have you made your decision yet?"

He paused, trying to find the best way to articulate his thoughts and feelings. "This reality…or whatever this is…made me realise what I never got to have…what Holtz – he was a good man, but he stole me from this life…forced me to live his mission of 'justice'. Even though this seems like the life I should've had…it's not real. I made it with a wish and I can take it back, so it's not real to me."

Hallie frowned in confusion. "You don't want to be happy, Connor?"

"I…I don't deserve it…there's this emptiness inside of me…and you can't fill that with a fake reality."

"You deserve love and happiness. You deserve to be surrounded by those who love you. Can't you see that this world gives you exactly that? You would really deny yourself this? Are you going to let Holtz win by giving this away?"

Connor shrugged. "He already has, hasn't he? Whatever Dad and I had, he broke it with a lie. There's no getting that back."

"Connor, listen to me, my boy," Hallie said tenderly. "Yes, you can. Your father was angry, yes, but that doesn't have to mean you give up. There's still a chance, whether that's here or there, there's still a chance. You can make it right…you don't have to follow what Holtz told you."

"How? How do I do that?"

"Oh, honey, that's for you to work out…just trust your gut, think about what you experienced here…just because you think this isn't real doesn't mean it can't become real."

His thoughts went to Jasmine, the little sister he got to enjoy in his short time in this reality. Perhaps it might be too late for him, but it wasn't too late for her, and in that moment, he realised what he needed to do. He looked at Hallie, who seemed to understand.

"Are you sure?" she asked, one last time.

"Yes," Connor replied. "Take me back."

"Okay. Wow, two wishes taken back in the space of a year? D'Hoffryn's going to have my head," Hallie said, and with a flourish of her hands, the bedroom melted away into the hobo village. "As a little gift, I granted you the memory of your wish. I hope you know what you're doing."

"I do now," Connor said. "Thank you, Hallie."

"Oh, it was my pleasure, dear boy. It's not very often I get to grant a wish like that one. You should see the world that Anyaka created once – oh, that was marvellous…I was so jealous. Anyway, Connor, you take care of yourself, okay? I have to go now – I hear my boss summoning me…I hope I only get a scolding."

"Take care," the teenager farewelled, and the vengeance demon vanished before his eyes. "Goodbye."

He hurried towards the Hyperion Hotel, bringing back the memory of when he'd last raced through the streets of Los Angeles in desperation. Where before he ran because of fear, this time, he ran due to hope, the wish replaying over and over in his head, showing him the possibility of what he could have, thanks to Halfrek's words. Before long, the lights of the Hyperion shined like a beacon, and he entered the hotel, finding it empty.

Trepidation crawled through him – what if Hallie had brought him to a different reality?

Connor whirled around and found Angel standing there. "Hi, son," the vampire greeted warmly, and took in the teenager's expression. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah, everything's fine," Connor replied. How was he supposed to do this? Trust his gut, Hallie suggested. "Look…Dad, I wanted to say…I'm sorry…for throwing you into the ocean."

A light lit up in Angel's eyes. "You're forgiven. I'm sorry about Holtz-"

"Don't," Connor cut him off. "There's no need for that."

"Oh…uh…okay then…uh, listen, if you want to come back, you're more than welcome to."

"No," the teenager responded, and that light dimmed. "Not yet…but one day, maybe."

"That would be nice."

Something caught Connor's eye and he looked towards the second floor, where he saw Cordelia watching them. "Cordelia's returned," he said to Angel, thinking of the woman who was practically his mother. "Is she okay?"

"She's seemed to have lost her memory," Angel admitted softly. "We're trying to help her get it back."

There was restrained eagerness in the vampire, and Connor thought of his little sister – he may have lost his chance to grow up under Angel, but there was still a chance for Jasmine, and that perhaps in giving that chance, he could achieve what he'd always longed for: the love of a family. "What can I do to help?"


As Halfrek burned to ashes, her last thought was that she hoped Connor found his path to happiness.

A/N: I thought the best way to make this plot work was with a wish, and there's Halfrek with her rasison d'etre, so it works. Also, the reason I named the Cangel daughter Jasmine was because I wanted to take something that had been done horribly to Cordelia and turn it into something good for her instead.