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Jan. 5th, 2008 11:10 am
abetterlie: (Innocence Drowned by Marciaelena)
[personal profile] abetterlie



He has dreamt this particular dream, or variations of it, so often that it starts to blur with the actual memory: finding the dead bodies of a family that was made to love him as their own, with no regard for their own lives. Only the bodies aren’t those of Lawrence, Colleen and Mere Riley; they’re Harry, Evan and Kara. Or they are Cordelia, Jasmine and Emily. Or Justine, Daniel Holtz and Faith.

(Never Angel or Darla. Sometimes, though, they’re Connor himself, three times over; the baby he can’t remember being, in either of his lives, Stephen, just arrived from Quortoth, and Connor Riley, walking into Wolfram and Hart with no memory of ever having been someone else but the son of Colleen and Lawrence.)

Connor hasn’t dreamt this for a while when it starts again, shortly before Christmas. He has written to some friends from Stanford, though they had been estranged even before the Rileys died and Connor left California, and to Aunt Jane; telling them the non-supernatural version of his life in Gotham, of Harry’s son Evan, of having a partner and a family. They would have read the headlines when he had been arrested last summer for murdering his parents and Mere, and then the headlines when he was exonorated; they’re probably not going to bring either occasion up. In reply, he gets some cheerfully non-committal cards from Tim and Frank, a somewhat curious one from Judy. From Aunt Jane, he gets a photo of all of them celebrating Connor’s graduation, on the day which Connor now knows was actually his first as Connor Riley. No message, no note, just the photo, and he stares at the cheerful faces and knows they should be as alive as he shouldn’t be.

He is good at denial, though, always has been, so he doesn’t say anything to Harry until Christmas is over; then he mentions wanting to visit Jane Riley at the start of the new year. Maybe the photo was meant as a gesture of reconciliation, and maybe as an accusation, but if she hadn’t want to talk to him, she wouldn’t have sent it. He knows he can’t say something like “yes, I am responsible for the death of your brother, sister-in-law and niece” in return, because he hasn’t forgotten Harry threatened to go to jail again, too, if Connor did. But they can talk about the Rileys, whom nobody in Connor’s current life knew, not even Angel who only briefly met them; they can remember their reality, their aliveness. And maybe, just maybe, there is a way Aunt Jane can become part of his new life, too.

It’s something he hopes right until the point where he enters her house in Santa Barbara. He’s not alone; somehow Darla has heard about his trip to California, hasn’t said anything but has invited herself along, and he is aware that telling her to leave him alone, that he doesn’t need supervision and won’t make any confessions or whatever else she’s afraid of, would be against what he wants to achieve here. If he weren’t her son, Connor Riley would never have existed, and no matter whether Jane wants to reach out or accuse, Darla and what she symbolizes is a part of him.

But she’s human now, and so she doesn’t sense it immediately when Connor does, entering Jane’s house. “There are demons here,” he tells her, and then goes completely silent. Because the demons in question aren’t vampires, they’re not anything native in this dimension. But they’re very, very familiar, as familiar as Colleen Riley’s chocolate sundae to Connor Riley, as familiar as Daniel Holtz’ voice to Stephen.

They’re from Quortoth.

***


Clearly, there is something about California that spells disaster. At least whatever this is about doesn’t have anything to do with being insultingly used as a tool to get Lindsey McDonald killed. It’s also not the exercise in suicidal brooding Darla had been afraid of, which is why she had no intention of letting Connor do his guilt trip to California alone. No, this is something new. Or very old. She doesn’t waste time on wishing her vampire body back; life is too short for that, and always was, even after 400 years. She does wonder whether she should get the hell out of here so Connor can battle whatever it is undistracted. If you can’t help in a fight, be sure you’re not around to be taken hostage by the opposition. On the other hand, being limited to human fighting skills still doesn’t make one useless, and well, if whatever is in here has killed yet another Riley, Connor definitely needs someone around after he has slaughtered it. So she nods, as silent as Connor, and opens her handbag as they move into the house. Inside it is a taser, that eminently useful instrument which works against most species. Darla was never one to disdain modern technology. There is also her cell phone, and while activing the taser, she also hits speed dial. Her darling boy is a continent away, but it can’t hurt to let him know what is going on. As soon as they know themselves.

They don’t have to wait for long. In the living room, there is a woman, barely recognizable from Connor’s graduation day photo, looking as if her body is slowly turning to fluid glass.

“Destroyer,” she whispers hoarsely. “Destroyer. It’s been years.”

Next to Darla, Connor goes rigid. “Let her go,” he says. “If she dies, I won’t kill you right away. I’ll take a long, long time. You know I can.”

“So many of us,” the woman says. “So many of us you killed. But the Devourer isn’t here to help you with her light this time, Destroyer. And we have learned since coming to this dimension. We have learned through the years. We evolved. You’re not the only one who can lay traps anymore.”

“What do you want?” Connor asks, while Darla fades in the background, a skill she has learned before ever becoming a vampire. It’s useful. She plans on moving around the thing and getting the drop on it, but it would be good to find out more about it. With bad luck, it might just be immune to electricity, though that mention of a dangerous “light” hopefully argues otherwise. But this is clearly a case of demonic possession, and she has no intention of becoming the next host once the Riley woman goes down. She’ll leave that to the likes of Cordelia. No, the only demon Darla would welcome in her body is her own. Certainly not some watery, glassy ursuper from out of town. She’ll have to play this carefully.

“We want to go home,” the woman says. “Trapped in this world now for years, that’s what we were, all of us you and the Devourer did not kill. Underground we went, and there we evolved and learned. We can only go home together, Destroyer, all of us who came from Quortoth and are still alive. There will be another crack we can slide through if you say yes, but we must all go together. We cannot go through on our own.”

“You’ll leave this woman?” Connor asks, and Darla thinks she knows what he is planning to do. He’ll trick the entities, draw them out of Jane Riley, and then either kill them, which it sounds like he knows how to do, or let them end in whatever “crack” they’re planning on opening.

This must have occurred to them, too. If they went to the trouble of luring Connor here through Jane Riley, they must be smart enough to know they need a catch, a safety pin.

“You go first, we follow,” the parched voice declares. “But we learned, Destroyer, we learned. This woman’s kin, you killed them just as you killed our kin.”

Connor says nothing. Darla is behind what was Jane Riley now, but still too far away to use the taser on her.

“Magic,” the entities whisper with one voice. “They died through magic. They became your kin through magic. We learned magic. There is power from opening a rift, Destroyer, you know that better than most. We wove a spell. If you go back to Quortoth with us, those who died for you will come back. At once. They will live again, all three. But only if you are back in Quortoth. If you ever return to this dimension again, they die once more.”

Darla looks at Connor. No, she mouths, no sound escaping her lips. It’s not true. It’s a lie. Don’t believe it.

“Slugs cannot lie,” Connor says out loud, and he says it to her as much as to them. His voice has gone flat. “They never could. They are physically incapable of it. If you force them to speak an untruth, they die. So it’s true.”

“Humans lie,” the possessed Jane Riley agrees. “You and your father, Destroyer, and your Devourer, you lie. We don’t. We swear. Their lives will be restored the moment you leave this dimension.”

He’ll hate her, but what else is new? Darla can’t allow this to happen. She sets the taser to full force. It’ll probably kill the body of Jane Riley, especially in its current condition, and it might get her possessed, but it probably will take out most if not all of those things, and most importantly, it will keep Connor from – no, don’t even think it. Act. Darla leaps forward, taser in hand… and finds herself pushed aside, to the ground, by her son. Connor is white in the face, and his eyes are burning.

“I agree,” he says to Jane Riley, and then he looks at Darla. “I’m sorry,” he adds softly. “I don’t want to leave, you must tell Harry that, and Angel. But Mom and Dad and Mere – this is my one chance to save them. They should never have been used by Wolfram and Hart. And I shouldn’t be here to begin with.”

Behind them, the slugs hiss inside of Jane Riley, and there is a smell of ozone in the air, a crackling sound pervades the living room, and Darla has to shut her eyes for a moment as a dark red light flares up. When she opens them again, she gets up and returns her son’s look, steadfastly.

“You’re not going there alone. Not again,” she says, and without hesitation or further argument, because Darla has never been one to waste time once she has made up her mind, she walks directly into the rift that has opened to the darkest of all dimensions.

She loses all sense of orientation, and it’s every bit as frightening and bewildering as waking up in a box at Wolfram and Hart’s was, with her last memory then being dying at Angel’s hand. It only lasts a second, though. Then she feels a hand clasping her wrist from behind, and she sees her son at her side.

“You,” Connor starts, sounding furious and overwhelmed, “you shouldn’t have – you never – “

Then words fail him, and he hugs her. It’s something that rarely happens, and Darla would treasure it, but there is a herd of slithery glassy slugs creeping up around them, and really, her family always has been better at killing things together than at bonding through verbal communication.

“Come on,” she says. “Let’s take them all.”

***

In Santa Barbara, Colleen, Lawrence and Mere Riley open their eyes.


ooc: and thus, I take my leave of my two favourite muses. It's been a wonderful experience playing them, and I will miss it, and my fellow players, so very much. But I hope their exit did them justice, and will give new muns the opportunity to play their own versions of the characters...

Date: 2008-01-05 08:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] queen-c-tm.livejournal.com
This is all so heart-breaking. And while Cordy may not miss Darla too terribly (heh), she will miss Connor more than I can say. And I'll miss them both, because you wrote them so beautifully, and were such a joy to RP with, whenever we did manage to get our muses together.

Cordy will do her best to watch over Kara and Angel, and even Harry. Take care, and good luck with everything. *hugs*

Date: 2008-01-05 08:25 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] abetterlie.livejournal.com
You're a wonderful Cordy, and each interaction, whether with Connor or Darla, has been pure joy. (I think two of my favourites were the ice skating for Connor, and Darla getting Cordy into a "so who at this party has slept with Angel?" conversation... oh, and of course their "if you really want to help with the Connor/Harry/Kara triangle, go and seduce Connor!" talk. *veg* I'll miss you, and the muses are a bit comforted by knowing Cordy will look after their loved ones...

Date: 2008-01-05 09:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] queen-c-tm.livejournal.com
Thank you, and I think those are some of my favorites as well. *g* Darla and Cordy were always fun to play off of one another. I think she'll miss her in her own way, even if she won't admit it.

Date: 2008-01-05 08:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] likeadeuce.livejournal.com
Oh, goodness. . .You gave it a perfect, Jossian ending, and you brought Mere back in the bargain.

Lovely work, as always, and again, the pups will be missed.

Date: 2008-01-06 06:41 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] abetterlie.livejournal.com
See, I know you'd appreciate Mere coming back. And well, if I had to give up playing them, I had to find a worthy exit that simultanously would allow the other muses to move on, so this came to mind. Good to know it works!

Date: 2008-01-26 09:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] perfectblue.livejournal.com
Oh, my. I've been away, myself, and came back to read this. I'll miss reading your Connor, though who knows? Illyria tends to find her way to strange demon dimensions. She says she'll see Connor again. :)

Date: 2008-01-26 05:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] abetterlie.livejournal.com
And who am I to gainsay Illyria! She's a god!

In other words, thank you. Your Illyria is wonderful, and I am so glad you let her interact with Connor.

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