abetterlie: (Default)
Wow. Is that supposed to be a trick question? I mean, define "biggest", "mistake" and "relationship". "Big" as in had bad results for the relationship? The other person in the relationship? Me? The rest of the world? And mistake as in "wrong informed decision" or the "if I only had known..." kind or whatever? Is "relationship" a romance only thing or not?

I'm going with not, I guess. And I don't know about biggest, but it definitely was the worst. I think. See, I'll never know what other people saw when they looked at Jasmine. Except that whatever it was, it couldn't have been what she looked like to me, because when they didn't see it anymore, they freaked out and hated her. And she knew that would happen.

But what she didn't know was that I had seen it all the time. She tried to keep it a secret from me, too; that's why she didn't tell me why she had to hide Cordelia, or how Fred had managed to infect change Angel. She must have believed I would hate her too, that she needed her power with me, and she never did. She was my daughter.

So - if I had told her. I mean, it took me a while to figure it out, that the way I loved her wasn't the way everyone else loved her, and that they saw something different, when they looked at her, but I did figure it out. I didn't tell her. Really, I didn't want to be different from anyone else around her. I wanted to be part of all that, that perfect peace and happiness everyone else was feeling, and I thought if I faked it long enough, I would be. I'd have done anything to make it true.

Here's what I should have done instead. I should have shown her that I didn't love her because I had to, that I could make my own decisions no matter what she said, but that this had nothing to do with not loving her. She only knew those two states, you see. Either people worshipped her, or they hated her and turned against her, like Fred had done the moment she got in touch with Jasmine's blood.

When she sent me to capture Fred, Angel, Wesley and Gunn. That's when I should have done it. I should have said: No. Let them go. And let us go, you and me. Let's leave Los Angeles together, we can change the world much better if we travel through it, much better than if you rule it, and I'll be there for you. You don't have to -

Anyway. Perhaps it wouldn't have worked. She was a Power that Was long before she became my daughter. Perhaps worship was the only form of love she could have understood, and the whole free will thing wouldn't have mattered to her. But the point is, I should have tried. And I didn't.

Instead, I lied to her and everyone else until it was too late.

Timelines

Mar. 18th, 2007 02:44 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
Time has always a been flexible thing where Connor was concerned. The summer after Connor arrived in Los Angeles, Fred tried to calculate his age. She had kept track of her years in Pylea through her scribblings on the wall; it had been her link to sanity, she said, and asked him whether Holtz had not done something similar. In truth Holtz had at first, had tried to keep adherence to a calendar, but Connor had been too young to remember by the point his father had given it up.

There were events, though, that he could use to differentiate the years. The year he first managed to track his father down within three days was a different year from the one they found the swamp with the poisonous flowers, and that in turn had been at least much later than the time Connor had made his first spear, and so on. After some recounting and a lot of frowning, Fred had worked out an equation that said he was seventeen years old, going on eighteen in November.

Fred was a mathematical genius, but to this day, Connor has no idea whether she got it right.

Cyvus Vail, who created one set of Connor’s memories, was very precise about years and dates. It helps keeping the two different timelines in his head without going crazy, though sometimes, they blur: dates, months, days, hours, those are for events which never happened. They are sharp-edged and fitting to exact moments the way photos do in an album. He is four years and seven months on the day his sister Mere is born, and it is two o’clock in the afternoon of the following day when his father brings him to the hospital to watch the new baby through the glass protecting it and the other babies. Connor stretches out a hand which presses against the glass, frustrated, and leaves a very visible thumb print because he has been eating a peanut butter sandwich before they got here. The hospital watches all show 2: 32 exactly when this happens, except it never did.

The other memories are not associated with dates in his mind; not just the Quortoth ones. He has no idea on which day he crossed dimensions, but he remembers the taste of ice cream on Sunny’s lips when she kissed him, and the sense of the sun setting down while she did. He doesn’t know on which day his father died, either, except it was two days after that, but what he can still remember is the way the stars and the neon light from the pier reflected in brittle fragments on the dark sea when Gunn and Fred talked about Angel going after Holtz behind his back. It was autumm when Cordelia returned to the Hyperion, but he doesn’t know which week; what he remembers instead is the way her hand felt when taking his and the sound her feet made on the pavement when she ran away with him.

It’s a wild mixture now. Sometimes he remembers the days on which things happened, and sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he thinks “September” when recalling a drive to Monterey, an encounter in a hotel room and a flight to Boston; sometimes he recalls anger, curiosity, the taste of whiskey and intoxication.

Perhaps his two timelines are still running, and never became one. Perhaps he just keeps crossing from one to the other and back, some kind of construct of different selves. Doesn’t really matter, though, except when both timelines somehow fail to produce memories. Recently, someone asked him what he did on 9/11. Connor thought, blanked out and concluded that Cyvus Vail, sorcerer extraordinaire, did not cover that one, so he made a story up.

Later, he went back to the old equation Fred had given him, which included his actual birth date, and realized he had not even been born then. So perhaps somewhere, there was a third time line, covering the live of that baby on the photo Cordelia had, the photo that showed herself and Angel. Supposedly, there is a world without shrimp out there, so presumably there is one where that baby is still a child and actually wearing that hokey t-shirt Angel says he bought.

Perhaps. If there is, Connor can’t remember it, and he doesn’t want it, not really, because if he did, it would mean giving up his other two timelines, and whether they consist of dates or sensations, they mean too much to ever want a third.

Got tagged

Mar. 12th, 2007 08:36 am
abetterlie: (Default)


Guilt
What is yours?
Explain yourself
Culinary: Pizza Hawaii, if you ask Harry I still don't know what's supposed to be wrong about pineapples on a pizza
Literary: Star Wars fanfiction I came across it on the internet and got hooked. Though I still think the Enterprise-D has a chance against the Death Star
Audiovisual: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider Angelina Jolie
Musical: Sometimes I sing in the shower Have you ever heard me sing?
Celebrity: Clint Eastwood I want to be that cool and working if I ever make it to 76


If you want to complete this same Quiz, Its HERE.
abetterlie: (Default)
Between Harry in California to see Kara and Evan in New York with his mother, Connor had a lot of unexpected free time at his hand during the weekend. Talking with Cordelia about the Lex issue helped a bit, but he still found himself somewhere between anger, disappointment and renewed attacks of self loathing.

It wasn't that he was in a position to judge. Between sending Angel under the ocean to avenge Daniel Holtz and bringing an innocent girl to be sacrificed so his daughter could be born, he understood the motivation all too well. But that was just it. He understood because he was tainted the same way.

Connor found himself wandering through the house Harry had bought after discovering he had a child, and coming across various toys left from Evan's last visit. A little truck, a bear, a plush penguin. The texture of plastic and artificial vibres on his skin when he picks them up and holds them is alien, utterly alien, all of a sudden. Perhaps because Vail didn't include artifiicial tactile memory of toys, or because it somehow sums up what's at stake.

After putting the toys on shelves, Connor decides to go to Bullock's office. The man won't be there, but a staple of bills and letters will, and he can do some unpaid overtime work, which means he will stop thinking what he's thinking right now.

Last year, Harry lost a friend and nearly died himself because of a vampire playing games with Connor. This year, he nearly lost another friend because Connor's mother wanted payback. It was all very well to rant about responsibility to Darla on the phone, or to Cordelia on livejournal, but what would be the truly responsible thing to do? Now that the stakes were so infinitely higher because there was a child involved?

Remove the taint, of course.

Perhaps that was what those dreams of killing Kara had been about, too. To show Connor something. No, it's not that he's the only one responsible for Kara's state, though he guesses in the end, he bears more responsibility than Lex Luthor, but maybe he's the one who can end it, only not in a lethal way. Kara told him more than once she wished she could cut him out of her life, but she couldn't, because of Darla and Angel.

Consider this: can anyone reasonably say Harry and his son would not be better off without Aurelians in their lives? And: if Connor was out of the picture, how long before Harry would get back together with Kara? And he would not dump her again. He loves her. She's not sixteen anymore. He'd know what's at stake. Kara would finally have what she wanted, a devoted boyfriend/husband, a family of her own.

And don't have any kids yourself. That Larkin poem. They fuck you up, your mum and dad...

How long before Natalie figures out that Harry's boyfriend is a lightning rod for all kind of trouble in addition to being someone with a psycho family and a bona dide sociopath, endangering her son? And if she figures it out, won't she do the responsible and sensible thing and deny Harry any more access rights, and won't that be the worst thing, worse than the death of Harry's father, because no pain is worse than losing a child, and won't Connor be the one responsible if he stays?

He's relieved when he arrives at Bullock's shabby little office. But the stench of cigars is fresh. The man himself is there. Drunk, as it turns out.

"What the hell are you doing here, Riley?"

Spare time and some more work, Connor says, and Bullock looks at him with bleary eyes.

"Shouldn't you be with your girlfriend, kid? What kind of retard spends Saturday at the office?"

"It's boyfriend," Connor says, "and I'm just following your example, boss."

"Watch your mouth," Bullock grumbles, but when he lights up a new cigar, he offers one to Connor as well.

"I don't smoke."

"God, your generation is so wasting being young," Bullock says, and then remains silent while Connor starts typing. After the third page, the former cop says:

"Did I ever tell you about saving Jim Gordon's life?"

It turns into an afternoon of tales about the Gotham police department and getting fired not for something that deserved firing, of which Bullock apparantly has done plenty, but for something he doesn't regret. By the end, Bullock is so drunk he can't talk anymore, and can't go back to his place, either. Connor can't bring himself to leave the man in his office, not in this state, so he takes him home, puts him under a shower which the drunken Bullock nonetheless manages to sleep through, and lets him sleep in the guest room.

Sunday morning arrives, and he has an overweight 40something with a hangover to deal with.

"How come you could carry me anyway?" Bullock asks suspiciously. "You look like you couldn't carry anything that's heavier than those pansy pamphlets you read when you think I'm not looking."

"Vitamins," says Connor, and makes breakfeast. If he's honest, the whole caring for the boss thing is very much due to this helping him not to ponder that possibility which is ever more clearly on his mind, but not exclusively. It feels comfortable, caring for grumpy elder men; familiar.

"Listen, Riley, whatever I said yesterday, I was drunk, okay? I make up stories when I'm drunk."

Connor can't resist. "You mean that whole part where I'm making you consider switching teams wasn't true?"

Bullock looks so horrified that he can't keep it up and apologizes for the crack.

"You're lucky I don't fire you," Bullock says, but he eats all his breakfeast, and after putting on his coat, he turns to Connor and remarks: "Just one thing, Riley. You won't get a raise for this. And for God's sake, get a life next weekend!"

After he left, Connor realizes that the house is full of cold cigar smoke now, and out of bagels. He spends the next hours with all windows open and a vaccum cleaner, and in between comes to the conclusion that vacuum cleaners double nicely as weights to lift for training. Something still lingers afterwards, so he takes out the dogs for a run. By the time it's early evening, he comes back, feeds the dogs, orders a pizza and starts a book. The temptation he doesn't want to think about is still there, but he's waiting for Harry to come home, which he supposes is a kind of answer.

Fragile

Mar. 10th, 2007 09:39 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
All bodies are fragile.

It's a lesson Stephen learns very early, and it is one of the most important lessons. No matter how thick their hide, no matter their agility, no matter how sharp their claws and teeth, somewhere, at some points of their bodies, they are vulnerable. Fragile, even.

"Find out their vulnerable spot," his father says, "and you can break them. This is how we survive."

Quortoth offers most of its species in herds, so the knowledge gained can be used again and again. There is one exception. Stephen and his father are a species of two, and not even that. Growing up, Stephen realises their breaking points are not the same. His skin heals quickly, bruises and cuts fading, and he can fall from great heights without any repercussions. His father, on the other hand, carries cuts for weeks, and they leave scars. As Stephen grows older, taller, stronger, his father grows older, slower, and ever more fragile. It is not that he complains; that would be unthinkable. But his breath grows shorter when they have to run. One of the creatures he handled without a problem when Stephen's hands had not been able to wield a blade manages to deliver a sting. He orders Stephen to cut out the poisoned flesh, to burn it clean with a knife held into the fire first, and while this prevents an infection, it also causes him to lose consciousness and to drag one leg behind for two months.

"It is not Quortoth," he replies when Stephen asks. "It is age."

Age, then, is the most terrifying foe of all. It renders his father more vulnerable by the day. Watching him, Stephen observes an ever increasing assortment of weaknesses. When he is very quiet and focuses all his senses, he imagines he can even hear his father's heartbeat losing that strong steady rhythm it used to have. His father, who is strength, wisdom and the justification of his existence, as God gave Stephen to him to console him for the loss of his other children and to avenge their fate, his father who is everything to him becomes the most fragile creature in Quortoth, and it terrifies Stephen in a way nothing else ever has.

One day, his father nearly falls into a nest of slugs. Later, Stephen decides to wipe them out so it never happens again. The creatures are sentient, and capable of speech. They mock Stephen even as they run and flee, taunt him with the fact that he will never be able to get rid of them entirely. Imprisoned, demon child, destroyer, but not us, oh no! they sing. Worlds are ours!

It could be an empty boast, but it gets him thinking. All bodies are fragile. All have their vulnerable spots. What is a world, after all, if not one giant body? His father had called Quortoth a prison more than once, explaining that the demon who allowed him to get here had sworn nobody else would be able to follow, or indeed return. But there had been an opening, once. There could be another.

The slugs, at any rate, have their own kind of fragility. He knows their breaking points, alright. He'll make them prove their boast about knowing the way to other worlds, or he'll kill them, every single one. Either way, he will save his father.

It never occurs to him that fragility is not limited to bodies. But then, Stephen was broken a long time ago.
abetterlie: (Quirky by Ithica)
Well.... )

Endgame

Mar. 8th, 2007 10:26 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
ooc: after Darla arranged for revenge on Lex Luthor because of Kara's suicide attempt, Lex became increasingly apathetic and lost bit for bit of his self under the spell, until
Harry noticed and colled Connor for help



All the way to Metropolis, Connor spent half of the time hoping he was wrong and half of the time hoping he wasn't. If he was wrong, it meant he wouldn't have to think further about just what his suspicion implied, but it also would mean that he had no idea what to do about the Lex Luthor situation, and would have to start from scratch. He thought about Kara taking pills and ending up in a hospital, and who was responsible for that; and then he thought about who was really responsible, and who had spent a good deal of the last months dreaming about killing her, instead of getting his soul sucked out by a doll.

What you did to me was unspeakable. Now the question is, what do you deserve?

By the time he arrived at the Luthor penthouse, he was back to hoping he was wrong. The penthouse itself struck him as an emotional freezer, not as off-putting as the Osborn penthouse had been the first time he had visited New York, just very cold with all the shades of blue. Lex' younger half-brother was arguing with a doctor about something and Harry was this side of frantic when he took Connor to see Lex. Who was indeed wearing fuzzy slippers and doodling flowers on paper. And humming "Mary had a little lamb". Lex ignored both of them, being happily lost into the song.

Well, well, well, said the inner voice which always sounded like Angelus, because anything else would have been unbearable. You've got to admit it's elegant. And funny. You've got to admit it's funny. Come on, son. Lex Luthor as a little girl because he was the jackass that broke our little girl.

He tried to focus on Lex helping to track down the dealers in Gotham. On the fact Lex wasn't, ultimately, the one to blame for Kara's miseries. On the knowledge of what it felt to be locked up, and that nobody, nobody deserved being locked away in their own body, a lesson Connor had learned too late.

Still, it could be something else, something else entirely. Could.

During the flight, he had gone through everything he remembered about the doll maker and her dead daughter. Which wasn't much that could prove anything, but he had to try. The girl had drowned, he remembered that much, broken into the ice.

"Sarah," Connor said sharply to Lex, "Sarah, the ice is right ahead of you!"

At that, Lex stopped humming, and looked up, blind panic in his eyes. "No," he screamed, and his voice didn't sound anything like the self-assured young man Connor had met before. "No, not the ice!"

So much for reasonable doubt. Harry's entire face was a question. "It's a spell," Connor said, without going into details. "I have to find something. If I'm right, he'll snap out of it suddenly, so stay with him and keep an eye on him all the time."

As opposed to Kara, Lex Luthor didn't have a doll collection; any doll located anywhere in the open would stand out as alien and would have been discovered by the servants a long time ago. On the other hand, it had to be at a place someone who had only a short time available would have access to. Connor went from room to room, trying to figure out where he would hide it, and getting a lot of irritated and suspicious looks from Lucas, the doctor and the remaining staff while he turned over books and investigated artificial plants and their pots, until he finally came to a stand still and listened. Something was off, ever so slightly off, and you heard it only if you paid attention and drowned out all the other noises, including questions like "what the hell do you think you're doing?"

The air conditioning. As with virtually every house in America, the Luthor penthouse had air conditioning in every room. But it did not sound the same everywhere. In one of the rooms, the master bathroom, in fact, it sounded as if there was an obstacle blocking part of the air.

Half an hour later, he held it in his hand; not nearly as well-crafted as the last one, but unmistakable. This one had to be an early attempt, or an unfinished work, but it was definitely crafted by the late Paula Shea, and the look in the barely painted eyes wasn't a doll's look. Connor left the penthouse as fast as he could, before anyone could ask any more questions, and spent the next hour looking for weights and water. Metropolis wasn't a harbour town the way Boston had been, but it did have several decorative lakes in the town parks. Drowning a doll the second time felt no less bizarre than the first.

Afterwards, he didn't go back to the Luthor penthouse to check whether or not it had been of any use. Instead, he used his cell phone to call Darla on hers. Not the Hyperion; he didn't want to risk talking to Kara. But he had to be sure.

"Did you ask your friend Nofret to use a soul-sucking doll on Lex Luthor?" he asked when he heard his mother's voice, without greeting.

"Yes, I can use my arm again, Connor," Darla said wryly. "Thank you for asking. Your father is well, too. And Cordelia has that special secret-affair-with-great-sex-glow."

He refused to be distracted. He wasn't 18 any more. Besides, Harry already had left those tabloids featuring Cordelia and Lindsey MacDonald rather pointedly on the bed.

"Did you?"

She sighed. "I'd ask you to be sensible and leave it where it was," she replied, "but I'm sure you already returned our Mr. Luthor to his senses before calling me. Tell me at least you're not anywhere near where he can hear you."

Despite half a day of increasingly firm suspicions, hearing them confirmed in such a flippant and unrepentant manner felt like a punch in the gut. Before he could stop himself, he said:

"How could you?"

Immediately, he felt stupid for asking, so he did what he always did when either of his parents made him feel this way. He lashed out. "He was an absolute jerk towards Kara, I know that. But this -"

"Nobody fucks with my children," Darla said icily. "Unless, of course, my children fuck them back. You didn't see her in the hospital."

"No, because you made it very clear you didn't want me there. And leave Harry out of it. This has nothing - "

"Oh, but it has," she said in her deceptively soft voice. "And you know it has. But he is family now. Lex Luthor, on the other hand, is nothing but a menace. Again, thanks to your efforts. Tell me, Connor, is there any good reason why he shouldn't have spent the rest of his life making a lot of nurses and doctors rich and happy?"

Arguing abouut the individual's right to life without being lobotomized with her seemed incredibly pointless. Telling her Lex Luthor in that condition would have broken Harry's heart might have been something she understood, but she would have used it against him in that way she had, and besides, it would have negated that Lex had a right to his own mind whether Harry cared for him or not. Connor took a deep breath. Then he asked:

"Did Angel know?"

For the first time, his mother sounded hesitant.

"Well..."

"Did he?"

"Yes," she said. "But I very much doubt he gave it another thought after I told him. He's focused on being there for Kara and making things better for her, not on..."

"Helping the helpless?" Connor finished. It had taken him until now to identify the bitter taste in his mouth. Darla, well, finding out what Darla had done had been a shock, but she had never claimed to be anything but a former mass murderer, or to care for anyone but a very limited circle of people. But Angel had been the one to tell him about being a champion.

Daddy has not finished talking.

He had hated Angel then, hated and resented him, but he had believed him. Had believed what Angel had said about responsibilities, about the harshness of the world meaning that anyone with the power to affect and change needed to protect those who couldn't. It hadn't been that different from what his other father had taught, in this regard at last.

"Angel let you put a spell on someone, a spell that was meant take a man's soul away and lock him up inside a doll for the rest of his life. And because that someone had dumped his daughter, he didn't care," Connor said tonelessly.

Unspeakable. What you did was -

He had always known Angelus was his idea of the worst of beings. He hadn't known how much he had come to see Angel as a hero until just now.

"Connor," his mother said, and for the first time since Justine, she sounded pleading, "it was my decision. Your father -"

"Didn't stop you. Or did anything about it. All those weeks. While Lex Luthor rotted from inside out."

"Neither did Cordelia," Darla said, irritation supplanting the pleading. "And I gave her at least a strong hint about my intention. She seemed to approve wholeheartedly. Connor, Lex really hurt Kara. If he were a demon or a vampire, you'd have killed him yourself. I don't believe in humanity as some kind of immunity from punishment."

And he had thought the feeling of shock and disappointment couldn't grow stronger. Cordelia? Angel and Cordelia both?

"No. You don't believe in humanity at all," Connor said, and hung up.

Afterwards, he slowly walked towards the Luthor residence. Other than wanting to know that the guy was, indeed, recovered and himself, he didn't want to see Lex Luthor again. Ever, if possible, which it probably wasn't because of Harry. And for one of the few times in his life, he didn't want to see Harry, either. They didn't lie to each other, but now he probably would have to. If he told Harry the truth about the doll, Harry would either insist on going to California to confront Darla, or at the very least would tell Lex. Which meant Lex Luthor with a cause for vengeance set on his parents. No. Just no. He was furious with both of them right now, and he didn't want to see them, either, but there was no way he'd let them be threatened by someone who had the power and the money to do serious harm in retaliation of what they had done to him.

Then there was Cordelia. Cordy, who knew, none better, what it felt like to be possessed, to have one's soul draining away. How could she stand by and...

That's why there is us. Champions. You're not a part of that yet. Some day, I hope you will be. I love you, Connor. Now get out of my sight.

"Young man," said a voice, and Connor, looking up, noticed that there was a cop coming his way, "that hydrant is public property."

Somewhat bent public property right now. He hadn't even noticed striking and kicking at it. There were some scrapes on his knuckles, but they were already healing. Better to get away. He had a bad record with cops in this state.

Connor ran, and wished, right now, there was a way never to arrive anywhere at all.

Partying

Mar. 3rd, 2007 06:46 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
"They go there to party," Angel said, which didn't tell me anything at all.

You have to consider this was my second day - well, second night - in this dimension, and while my father had told me about many things not to be found in Quortoth - including spoons, not that the knowledge had proved useful with Sunny and her medicine of death - parties were not among them. Well, he had sent me back to Angel to learn, and that still made me guilty, confused, angry and infinitely curious all at once.

Walk in his world, learn all you can. Discover what of him is in you that you might fight against it. But be on your guard. Remember what I've taught you. The devil will show you bright things, many colors.

The devil, who used to be Angelus and now was Angel who for some reason had saved me from bullets and constables, had first of all offered me food until he remembered he didn't have anything at hand. Then Cordelia, whom I had only just met and knew nothing about then, had a vision. Angel told me he had to leave. I pretended as best I could not to care. Why would I? Only because I was supposed to spy on him and learn more about him, so my father had said. No other reason.

"It's kind of my job," Angel said, and sounded less and less like the bloodthirsty, endlessly inventive menace from my father's stories. "It could be kind of dangerous. There's a lot of killing and violence." Something seemed to occur to him. Possibly the same thing that occured to me. "You wanna come?"

Well, of course I did. Violence and killing was what I was really good at, and so far, I had failed at most things in this dimension - I hadn't been able to save Sunny or figure out the rules of something as odd as the food machine in the motel my father and I had been for the night. On the way to the promised violence and killing, Angel tried to explain the concept of a club to me, and why there would be masses of innocent people we were supposed to protect and under no circumstances harm while we were killing vampires.

"But what do they do there?" I asked.

"They go there to party. They - dance, drink. Relax. Vent. Meet old friends, make new ones. Have s- have fun. You know."

"No," I said, taking that to be a question rather than a statement. Actually, I did know how to have fun, and was going to prove that soon after, but the other concepts were new.

"Ah. Well. They - well, you'll see."

We arrived, and I saw. He kept explaining, handing me a stake, telling me not to use it on anyone unless they were in game face, just in case. That face that looked like the one I had made him show me.

"So why do you do it?" I asked.

"Do what?"

"Why kill them if they're like you?"

"They're not like me, Connor," he said. Yes, well.

"I'm not Connor."

Masses of people, like he had said, overwhelming noise - that was my first exposure to rave - and equally overwhelming scents; human sweat, blood, and some other fluids I couldn't identify yet. Most of the people were jumping up and down or rubbing themselves against each other. I still didn't get it. Then I spotted three men who did, indeed have a face like his; they were busy surrounding a red-headed woman and holding her, obviously against her will. (That was the first time I ever saw Justine, but I didn't really meet her until later. No time to talk then.) Angel and I started to fight against the vampires, there and then, and if he still kept up the explanations, I didn't hear them anymore. I went for the vampire holding the red-headed woman, and he became the first vampire I staked, breathing in the dust while some others around us went into game face. I found myself back to back with Angel. When Father and I had fought predators together in Quortoth, it had been different, an unequal affair, always; first I had been smaller and weaker than he was, and later, when I grew up and he grew old, I had to take that into account and protect him, just as he used to protect me. This was the first time I fought with a comrade who was as strong as I was, if not stronger. And for some reason, it was incredibly easy to adjust to all his movements and take them into account while dealing out damage, death and destruction to anyone who attacked us. I can't tell you how that made me feel.

Dancing - fast motion together, strike, kill; having fun, partying. I got it now.
abetterlie: (Default)
I think I pretty much expected it. That's what he told me, too.

"You must have expected this," Professor Dodgson said. "After your first term at Stanford, your record is... shall we say, erratic at best. In Stanford, in New York, in Savannah, and here you did not even bother to show up the first week you were admitted."

So. No more college. For now, anyway. Actually I have no idea whether or not I expected it. Not because of the absences - and you just can use so many excuses for not being there before they give you that "don't insult my intelligence and yours" look - but because the way I got into each and every college was by cheating, if you look at the facts. I didn't know I was the first time, but I did the maths once I got my memories back. Finishing high school - well, high school altogether - qualifying for college, all that is courtesy of an evil sorceror who got paid lots of money by Wolfram and Hart for putting that knowledge in my mind. And the other times it was bribes. Yes, I worked, because I happen to like the stuff, but a lot of other people with my degrees still didn't get accepted if they pull regular disappearing acts, because they don't have connections. That's not a complaint. Either about the Vail-derived degree and knowledge or the bribes. Like I said, I enjoy college (mostly), and I really wanted to continue, so I was definitely grateful I got the chance. But. I guess it leaves you with the feeling that a) you didn't really earn it, mixed with b) you're living in this world where even if you miss a plane, there is a next one to catch every single time, so after a while, you stop worrying about missing planes.

Well, I made some noise a while ago about wanting to start facing consequences, so I guess this is a way to do it. It also means looking for a job, something long term, I mean, not the stuff I did so far to make some cash on the sides. Something where you need more the muscle. Plus job search means not having to think about how I felt about the no more college thing, so I started immediately. Of course, most jobs have regular working hours, and they kind of expect you to show up on a regular basis. Which would mean that I'd end up right where I started (getting kicked out) pretty soon, because I can't give up The Other Job, and it doesn't have regular hours.

So I found myself checking whether Clay Face had made a return appearance after being chased off in December, because I did feel like another fight, but he hadn't, and muggers can be dealt with pretty quickly, which meant brooding instead of fighting. I sat on someone's roof and tried to think of freelance jobs and not suicidal cops with family photos, and that's when the glaringly obvious hit me. Of course.

I had tried to do the detective thing on my own with Justine in Los Angeles for a while, but we hadn't been exactly besieged with clients. So what I did this time was trying to find P.I.s who already had an office and some work and convince them they needed me as their freelance assistant. "Just got kicked out of college" wasn't the best resume, but oddly enough, "was in jail last year" worked a couple of times, only then the "assistant" thing turned out to be not exactly what I had meant. Plus a lot of them really didn't need more staff. So I finally ended up with some guy named Harvey Bullock who got fired from the GCPD or something. Well, "resigned from the force" is how he put it. He has just started, but I guess as an ex-cop, he knows the score. After a lot of yelling about vigilantes (okay, note to self: The Other Job definitely needs to stay secret) and how he doesn't need anyone, it turned out he couldn't even find a secretary because they wouldn't put up with the non-stop smoking (and I guess the fact he puts his donuts on all the chairs).

"Can you type?" he asked.

"Yeah, but I thought -"

"Son," he said, "maybe, just maybe, if you really aren't as dumb as you look like, I'll let you do some grunt work later on. But right now, I need a secretary. You're hired."

Which means I have a new job. If Harry's next nickname for me is "Boy Friday", it'll be my own fault.

There were still some books from the college library I had to bring back. You know that libraries each have their own scent? You'd think they all smell the same, but they don't. The one I brought my books back to had a new toner in their copy machine, and you could smell that from the sheets everyone was carrying away from the copy room. Also, they have a first edition of Belzoni's Narration, and that doesn't smell like anything else.

Anyway. I'm not thinking about that. That's behind me, and I pretty much expected it anyway.

That's what he told me.
abetterlie: (Default)
Gunn and Fred swore there was a ghost in Cordelia's apartment. Connor, who helped them move all the boxes Fred packed with Cordelia's belongings to the Hyperion, never saw or sensed anything. Granted, he didn't try very hard. Both because he needed to focus on keeping up the lost-son-hoping-his-father-will-return facade for Gunn and Fred, and because he didn't really want to.

He didn't understand how that many clothes could belong to one person. He didn't understand a lot of things.

"Cordy told me his beast of a mother build a wall to keep poor Dennis there for the rest of eternity," Fred said. "While he was still alive. Can you imagine doing that to your own child? I can't understand how anyone can be so cruel."

Connor tuned her out, and really didn't want to look for the ghost after that. After all the boxes were at the Hyperion, he didn't have to go back to the apartment again, and was grateful.

***

There were no pictures of Darla at the Hyperion. Not among the many photos that he retried for Cordelia, not among the papers in Angel's office he sometimes went through in secret. Nobody ever mentioned her; not Fred and Gunn during the summer, not Angel after he had come back from the sea, and not Cordelia after her memories had returned. You'd think Connor had sprung from Angel's forehead, fully formed; even when seething with anger at his deception, Fred referred to him as "Angel's son", half sobbing, half shouting.

If it had not been for his other father, his true father, as he still tried to tell himself, he would not have known Darla's name at all, or anything about her. As it was, he knew enough. She had been as vicious as Angelus, perhaps more so because she had given birth to that monster to begin with, just as she gave birth to Connor. Holtz never specified how she died, though. "God meant you to bring justice to the demons who spawned you," his father said, "and to Darla, you already did. That should be enough for you, Stephen. Let us not talk of it further."

Fittingly, it was Angelus who finally told him more about Darla. Angelus said her name, the first time anyone did in Connor's hearing, his tongue relishing the two syllables.

"Darla," Angelus said, "Darla felt the same way. It made her sick, you squirming inside her. So, she jammed a stake in her own heart, just so she wouldn't have to hear your first whiny breath."

"You don't know anything," Connor returned before he could stop himself, and the hatred inside, for the both the monsters Darla had given birth to, was overwhelming. He shouldn't care. She had been a demon, mass murdering demon; he should be glad she was dead because of him. But he did care, and now Angelus, smiling, knew it.

Perhaps that was why nobody had mentioned her. You do not mention the victim in the murderer's hearing, did you? It could bring back her ghost.

***

She was dressed in white, like the girl sobbing in the corner. Staring at her face, Connor wondered whether it was this that his fathers saw, both of them, when looking at him.

"You can't be my mother," he whispered, and when she talked about memories and feelings, he said it out loud, because if he knew anything, he knew this: "My mother is dead."

Her dust had to be what he first breathed in. Perhaps this is why he still took a breath, every time, when staking a vampire. But here she was, and he couldn't smell her. Even vampires had a scent. He couldn't hear her heart beat, either, but that was normal; he didn't expect her to have one. Perhaps the dead did come back. Why her, though? He had never known her, after all.

"Why did you leave me? Did you hate me that much?"

Weak, weak. And yet of all his parents, she was the only one he could ask that question. Of course, she answered by swearing she did not want to abandon him, but then, none of them did, did they? The girl in the corner didn't stop crying and wishing for her own mother, and the apparition in white kept telling him he should know better than murder, that he was better than a murderer.

"You've been gone a long time, Mom," Connor said, wearily. "How would you know?"

"Because we shared a soul," she replied simply. Perhaps that was what she wanted, why she was here; to reclaim that soul, to form him anew or discard him as damaged goods. Perhaps he should allow her; he owed her a life, after all.

So he started to let the girl go, and then Cordelia returned to renew her own claim on him. Cordelia, pregnant and alive, brought up the ultimate argument, the one Darla had not been able to refute with all her claims of sharing his soul.

Are you going to let them kill our baby?

The girl didn't stop screaming until Cordelia raised the butcher's knife she had found in the old slaughterhouse they were hiding in. Then, at that last moment, her face changed, and she grew utterly silent. Her face was Darla's, now, looking up at him, and Connor wanted to yell that this was the wrong choice. Not his, hers. If she could do that, why did she not take her due, why did she not enter his own body, took back the life he had taken and threw away the soul which obviously had not been of use to anyone?

Her blood splattered all over him. It was an answer of sorts. Perhaps, in the end, that was all ghosts could do: make the living repeat their actions, again and again.

Night

Feb. 13th, 2007 09:07 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
You know what's weird? We didn't really have those in Quortoth. I mean, obviously we had periods of greater and lesser darkness. But it wasn't as distinct as it's here; more like those white nights in Alaska or Sweden are supposed to be. Only they weren't white but red, in various shades.

Anyway, when I first came here, that what struck me most about this dimension. Those sharp differences. Day. Night. And the very different colors, so sharp and distinct, during daylight. I could handle night better, because it was closer to what I was familiar with, but I loved daylight. It was sort of one of Father's stories come true, one of the good ones. Even after I had adjusted, day was better, and then, wouldn't you know, the sun disappeared entirely. For weeks and weeks and weeks.

In the other memories, Mere and I thought a long term eclipse was the coolest thing ever, but my parents thought even Santa Barbara was too close and took us for a two months vacation to Oregon.

Lorne said it turned Los Angeles into the devil's oyster. I'd have said it turned Los Angeles into vampire central, candy for all, but whatever. So, vampires from all over the country showed up, and you'd think that would kind of attract attention and keep the humans from coming as well, but no. Lots of end-of-days pilgrims, oh, and albinos from everywhere, too. And that was when Angel and everyone else decided the solution to dealing with the Beast who had made the sun disappear was to get rid of Angel's soul and make him Angelus again. So: Angelus in the basement and then at large, everyone else in the Hyperion busy with the Beast and Angelus, vampires everywhere, eternal night. I didn't sleep much during that time. I was out staking vampires as much as I could, because hey, someone had to, plus being the Hyperion meant everyone staring at me because they had just found out about me and Cordy.

But here's the thing: I should have hated it, all of it, and I didn't. I guess because in a way it finally felt like something I recognized. I wasn't homesick for Quortoth - I mean, I know everyone thinks I was crazy back then, and maybe I was a bit, but I wasn't that crazy - but you know, a place where most other creatures were out to kill you and you had to kill them first, and there was no light around to make you stop and wonder and look around? Yeah, that I could deal with. What I couldn't deal with was all the other stuff, even though I wanted it: family, most of all.

*locked*

When I told him he was my true father, in the basement. That was the same thing.

*unlocked*

Wesley brought in Faith, Faith chewed me out and took on Angelus and was generally awesome, and the Beast got slain. I didn't see that, I was back at the Hyperion, but everyone knew when it happened, because the sun came back. It was like seeing it for the first time, also outside the Hyperion. Beautiful. That's what I had forgotten, I thought, that nights did end here, no matter how long they take. That this place wasn't a hell dimension. All the sharp colors were back, and the differences, and I was excited and happy and maybe slightly freaked out, too, because now it was back to being the place where I didn't truly belong. So I ran to tell Cordelia.

"God, I'm sick of Oregon," Mom says in the other memories. "Including the smell of the damm trees. Let's go home."

She told me she was pregnant then. Which was better and scarier than anything that happened to me before. I love sunrise, better than any other time of day. Because it always brings back that moment. The long night ending, being mostly happy about that and somewhat ashamed because not all of me was, and then finding out, in that first returned light, that we had a child.

It was night when she died, Jasmine. I don't know what else it could have been.
abetterlie: (Bedroom by Ithica)
Note to self: don't fuck this up. Because one way or the other, you'll be in a position to. Either through the bringing-a-demon-to-the-housedoor thing, or otherwise, by being you. You know, that Larkin poem I quoted to Harry the first time we met? And don't have any kids yourself? Still good advice.

Sometimes I think that what I should have told Natalie was to take her kid and run.

Except, you know. Except for one thing, it's hers and Harry's, not mine. Except for another, good advice or not, I always wanted a family, and I think, maybe being a uncle, maybe that's safe for the kid. Evan. Who's not Jasmine, or Emily for that matter. That's a trap I have to try to not fall into. He's not them. God's gift in return for my dead children. I always hated it when HE called me that. He's himself.

Who's just woken up. So much for "sleeping through the whole night". Back later.

Okay, later. Much later. Harry's with His Highness, and I didn't want to call Natalie the first time I'm supposed to take care of Evan for longer than an hour, so I got sort of a crash course in trying out various ways to put a two years old back to sleep. My mom - Colleen - she did this via singing in my memories, but how do I know that works in real life? Yes, Father did it, too, but usually he couldn't afford to because there were predators around, so he just put a hand on my mouth and said "Stephen, careful". Plus you know, I suck at singing. I tried, anyway, and Evan was more awake than ever. So next I tried the "make some hot milk with honey" method which was on the list Natalie gave me, except we didn't have honey in the apartment. (I need to buy that.) So it was just hot milk. Well, luke-warm milk, because I figured it shouldn't be too hot so he wouldn't burn his mouth. Anyway, it didn't work.

(How I learned not to touch hot things as a child: very fast. Had to, because fire is one of the few weapons you have there when you're a middle-aged man without superpowers and with a toddler to protect. So Father did what he had to teach me. But this isn't Quortoth.)

Next I tried storytelling. Which actually didn't work to for me in either memories because I paid too much attention to the stories to get tired. Judging by the way Evan started to babble, it kept him up as well.

I guess I was pretty desperate. Seriously. And I, well. Imitated the sounds of every demon I could remember, in either dimension.

That did it. He got wide-eyed, and then he got back to sleep. It looks like he's smiling. But what if he's not? What if I've just given Harry's two-years-old son his first dose of nightmares?

Note to self: don't fuck this up. Really, really don't. Also, being an uncle is hard work.

Maybe I should practice that demon sounds imitation thing some more, though. Just in case.
abetterlie: (Default)
Ever since the thing with the van, it feels like he's waiting for something.

His parents for sure are. They can't stop freaking out on Connor. Okay, granted, being run over by a van and getting up without a scratch is something to freak out about, but he feels they should give it a break already. Chill. It's good, isn't it? This stuff happens. Some people fall from a third floor balcony and survive, too. Perhaps he's just waiting for them to calm down. Or maybe not. It was weird, though: that moment when the van hit him, that was one of those "you're about to die and your life flashes before you" moments, right? Except it wasn't. He didn't see anything. No memories of Mom and Dad in the supermarket or Mere getting sick and puking all over him in Disneyland or making out with Tracy or breaking up with Tracy. Nothing of that.

He's nineteen, and sure, most people would describe his life as pretty boring. But it's a life, and he likes it. And yet, at that moment, when he thought he was about to die? Not only were there no memories, but there wasn't any sense of loss or regret, either. And that freaks him out somewhat, just as the surviving does his parents, so he tries not to think about it.

Maybe that's what he's waiting for, though. To finally feel the fear, the whole "oh god oh god I don't wanna die" thing, or even the "I'm alive, woo hoo!" thing. Delayed shock reaction and all that. Though he figures shock should feel different.

He's somewhat stunned when his parents go to a law firm, ostensibly to set up a trust fund for him, because that's such an obvious excuse to see through. What is he, twelve? If these Wolfram and Hart people are expected to figure out why he survived being run over by a van, though, Connor thinks he should be present, instead of waiting somewhere like a toddler, so he follows them to the executive suit and runs straight into the CEO. Who takes one look at him and kicks the lot of them out. Wow. Okay, that was definitely not Connor has been waiting for.

Next thing you know is that they get mugged by some LotR extras and the Wolfram and Hart boss jumps in and beats them into a pulp. At which point Connor guesses things finally start to make sense, because he's read superhero comics and watched Star Wars. He half expects the man to tell him that he's strong in the force and is supposed to be a Jedi. Okay, not really, because the guy is so damm serious and humor really doesn't seem to be his strong suit. There is something about him, though. Well, other than than the whole superpowers thing which apparently is more of a vampire thing, and hey, how cool is that?

No, the something is more the way he looks at Connor. Which, weirdly enough, is exactly the same way he looked just before he kicked Connor and his parents out, only now he keeps it up and it doesn't lead to kicking out but getting shown around in the building and being presented to everyone, including a truly awesome butt-kicking woman in blue and some white-haired weasel. The look doesn't disappear when he explains about an evil sorceror and having to kill some sort of genie for him, either. Connor tries to figure out what it is, because nobody in his life has ever looked at him this way before. It's not friendly, it's not hostile, it's not like the guy wants dinner, which is the first explanation Connor reaches for when he hears about the vampire bit. It's not until they're in the sorceror's lair - and really, not much of a lair, that, there weren't even evil minions or heads on a stake or stuff like that around - and Angel reaches out to straighten Connor's collar, his hand lingering, cool, inhumanely cool skin touching his cheek and neck, that Connor has pinned it down. He couldn't before because the look is a mixture. Angel looks at him as if Connor is simultanously the worst and best thing that ever happened to him. There is a hunger there which has nothing to do with blood or wanting a protegé for superheroing, or anything, and there is a sense that Angel is waiting, too, waiting, and what does it mean?

"Dude, you're freaking me out," Connor says and pushes it away. He has to go save his family. The rest can wait. Angel lets him go and very soon, he finds himself talking to a demon named Sahjahn who keeps bringing up names with no meaning, like "Quortoth", and proceeds to make mincemeat out of Connor. Sahjahn has him pinned down on the table, his death looks him right in the eyes, and again, there is no panic and no sense of loss, surely there should be something, right? He wants to live, after all. So what is he waiting for?

Then the world falls to pieces and resurrects itself in his head, and Sahjahn is dead before Connor can even begin to process what just happened. Figures that the first thing to come alive about Connor-that-was should be his killing instinct. When Angel approaches him, he drops the axe and desperately goes for the tones of Connor Riley. It's not a lie, not really. He just needs to get out of there, or he won't be able to be either Connor ever again.

Something other than Sahjahn died in that room, though. Which isn't something he understands until much later, and then it fits. Perhaps that was what Connor Riley had been waiting for ever since the van hit him; for death to really, truly show up, instead of faking him out.

Connor turns around and looks at Angel, who is death and life at the same time in a way nobody else is or ever will be. You, he thinks. I was waiting for you.
abetterlie: (Default)
"I finally figured it out," Connor tells her in his dream. It is the night after Harry told him about Kara, and he's sitting at her bedside. Not in Boston, though. Even sleeping, he knows he can't go to Boston. In California, where everything started. He can feel the sun, the long-missed sun with its warmth and utter lack of New England restraint, shining through the glass. They're not in a hospital room, though. They're in a hotel room in Monterey, and he can smell Harry there, though he's gone.

"Took you long enough," says Kara.

"You could have asked me."

"I did."

This makes perfect sense to him, and he nods. He's still happy he figured it out. Positively light-hearted. This is his role, this is what he does, this is what he's good at. He's so happy he could dance. "I shouldn't have left it to you," he says. "It's a mess, trying to do it alone. I know that. That's what family is for. My father taught me that."

"You have Kara envy," Kara says. "I don't want you to touch my dolls. You break them, every time."

She's blonde again, and there should be something wrong about that, though he can't quite figure out what. She's also dressed as in her pyjamas and wearing a shawl. He frowns. The shawl is wrong, too. Slowly he pulls it off, and Kara rolls her eyes because he isn't faster.

"Get on with it, know-it-all."

"I really do love you, you know," he says.

"So what are you gonna do about?" she asks, as she has to.

"Prove it," Connor says, and brings down the knife.

When he wakes up, he automatically checks the watch. It's 4.02. Third time for this particular dream tonight.

He won't go to Boston any time soon.

Hindsight

Jan. 27th, 2007 10:46 am
abetterlie: (Default)
Father,

today is your birthday. I don't think anyone knows except for me; you probably didn't tell Justine, because you didn't tell me, either. After I got my memories back, I did some research, because I knew you were a tax-paying citizen of England once, living in Yorkshire. It took a while, but I finally found it, your birth year. Your birthday. I don't know why I wanted to. I guess to make sure I wasn't crazy. That I didn't dream you, that you existed. It was a weird time, trying to make all the different memories make sense, and I couldn't face Angel yet. Sometimes I thought I must be schizophrenic and should see a psychiatrist or something. Then there were times when I woke up and couldn't understand why I was at Stanford, and looked at the photo with Mom and Dad and Mere and didn't know any of them until I remembered.

Anyway. I keep thinking about those last days. Everything you said, everything I said. Angelus later told me I killed you, and I did. At first I thought that I did it by being weak and not managing to stake him the first time I saw him, though I tried. Then I realized that was an excuse because I didn't want to admit my true offense, which happened the third time I saw him, not the first. The offense you watched, in that alley behind the club, as you told me later. And there is no excuse for that. Even now, when things have changed so much between him and me. Because it will always remain true that back then, all I knew of him was what he did to you and your family and countless others. Weighed against that was the exhiliration of a shared fight during which I saw him kill some other vampires, and that dammable curiosity which you had spotted. All the other things that have made him different to me, I learned later. I didn't know them then. So I betrayed you in that alley, I betrayed you by that laughter I shared with your enemy. Seventeen years against a single day, and I betrayed you. No wonder you thought that the only way to make me keep to my path was a lie. That unspeakable lie in which you died.

"If your right hand offends you, cut it off." You quoted the bible a lot to me when I grew up, Father. But you did not cut your right hand off, because who was your right hand, if not me? Instead, you used your left hand to cut your throat. And yet she wasn't the one who killed you. I was. I understood that as soon as Angel told me about Justine and kicked me out of the house, and I should have understood it sooner, because I knew you knew I had betrayed you in that alley. How else did I expect you to react? I knew you would never, ever surrender. You weren't weak, not like me, and you never had been. Believing you when you sent me to him so you could set your plan in motion, that was my second betrayal of you. It must have strengthened you in your resolve. If I had been less of a betrayer, I would have seen through the pretense and said: "Father, I will not leave you, no matter what you order me to do."

I betrayed so many other people since then, Father, I failed them in various ways. But you were the first. And with the others, I'm usually able to tell myself that I couldn't have known this, or that what happened was necessary because of that. Or that I tried to make it up to them later, or that I tried to be better afterwards. Not with you. And there is no way I can atone for what I did to you, how I failed you, because the only way that would mean anything to you and give you peace in the hereafter is through a stake in his heart, and I won't do it. Can't, won't, don't want to, no matter how you put it.

And so I continue to betray you to him, day by day, every day we both live. I'm not asking you to forgive me, Father. I don't forgive you for being strong where I was weak, either. I went to one of the local churches today, to light a candle in honour of your birthday, and I wonder: if Judas had survived, had his mind wiped and survived and gotten cured with fake memories, would he have done this, too? It's not blasphemy, Father. You have to realize that if you live in a world of two, with everything else hell, one has to be God as well as everything else to the other.

But that, as opposed to knowing I betrayed you, is something I only figured out with hindsight.

Stephen
abetterlie: (Default)
Actually, I never thought I'd say a couple of things over the years, so I'll just get them all out of the way:

- sometimes trusting magic really pays off (and sometimes it screws things up even worse and gets your family killed, but right now, I've got to go with the former)

- "Angel is/was right." (No immediate reason, I just never thought I'd say this for most of my life, and I did a couple of times, because, well, he is/was.) (About some things.)

- "I miss....": insert Quortoth/Los Angeles/New York/Savannah here; I didn't exactly grow up attached to places, so this keeps surprising me, but sometimes I do (yes, even home sweet hell dimension, sort of, very sometimes, but it happens)

- "fighting isn't for me" (never expected to say it pre-mindwipe, said it post mindwipe and post memory recovery and meant it; the months afterwards were the longest time I consciously quit; I was wrong about that for a lot of reasons, but it does qualify as something I never thought I'd say and did mean anyway)

- "I wish I didn' have enhanced good hearing" (four words: Velvet Underground. On Repeat.)

- "Sorry about the tiles." (Don't ask.) (I am, though.)

- "Thank you" to a couple of people who weren't exactly the usual suspects (this started with Angel the second time we met; most recent additions to the list include Lindsey McDonald and some Arkansas cops)

- "Harry, your old girlfriend showed up with a child."... actually, there are still some things I don't think I'll say; I'm working on the phrasing and the timing, I guess
abetterlie: (Default)
By the time Angel called them via radio to tell them there had been a short, abrupt phonecall from Cordelia, Connor and Phillip had followed the trace left by Harry and Cordelia for days, and it grown ever more recent. By now, they were at the bottom of the Ozark mountains. Angel said he had heard motion in the background, and Cordelia had definitely been panicked, so Connor decided to speed up as fast as he could, leaving Phillip to bring in the rear.

The first thing he found, about five minutes later, still within the woods but with a few buildings in the far distance, were two decapitated bodies, a woman and a man, bleeding yellow blood. Even more importantly, he found a man with a shot gun and a very sharp machete, covered in blood which wasn't yellow at all. He recognized the smell, at once. Harry's and Cordelia's both.

By the time Phillip caught up with him, there were three decapitated bodies. "They made it to the town," Connor said shortly, and started running again.

It was barely a town. One road in, one out, a bar, a tiny grocery store, a tiny motel. The fact both Harry and Cordelia were bleeding made it even easier to trace them. Their scent led all the way to the motel, which had a payphone outside, the one Cordelia must have used. Except that wasn't where they were. They were inside the motel, together with five, no, six men, who by the sounds of it were either forming a lynching party or intending a gang rape. They also smelled utterly and entirely human. No yellow blood there.

Connor was past caring. He went for disabling as fast as he could. Two of the men caught on quick enough to try and shoot the new arrival with the motel clerk's weapon, only to find themselves bereft of wrists and kneecaps by Phillip, who had entered with his own gun in hand, given the three bodies on the outskirts.

Which left Harry and Cordelia, clothing torn to shreds, Harry bleeding from his arm, both armed with a pitchfork and a shotgun. Which they pointed in Connor's and Philipp's direction. The look in their eyes was utterly and completley crazy.

"You think we're gonna fall for that?" Cordy yelled. "Back off, shapeshifting demons!"
abetterlie: (Default)
After the meeting with Lindsey McDonald, Connor started travel preparations. There was something definite now, a place to look. Granted, "place" was a bit of a euphemism. The mid-lower part of the mountains of Arkansas, starting in the north west part of the state, going into the middle of the state were such a wide area to cover that it could take days. But it was a start.

Unfortunately, telling the police was out, for the same reason telling Bruce Wayne was. The former would ignore him if he had to admit what his source for this information was ("A lawyer dabbling in magic? You should really take our offer of grief counselling for the families, Mr. Riley"), and as for the later... well, he could imagine the disdainful, utterly superior look. Which meant it would have to be him, Angel and Philipp Santini, Harry's pilot, who could also use the OsCorp jet to take them to Arkansas and try a cursory area sweep.

Angel, of course, had the problem of daylight. Connor very much doubted that they'd be able to find Cordelia and Harry within the space of one night. And if they moved only during the night, staying covered during day time, they wouldn't be of much use. It was Philipp, who, despite never having been officially told about more than Angel's "skin condition", made the suggestion that Angel should set up headquarters somewhere, coordinating Connor's and Philipp's sweeps via radio, and stay in contact with Wayne, Lex Luthor and whoever else could be trying to reach them.

"Assuming the kid has his cell phone with him," Philipp said, "and it wasn't taken by the bank robbers, it obviously doesn't work in those mountains. So take my advice and stick to radio. I'll show you how to work with it."

They'd both carry first aid supplies and food, but Angel would be the one to call in the cavalry if - when - either of them would find Harry and Cordelia.

"Right," Connor said. "Then let's go."
abetterlie: (Default)
After this and this

In front of the bank, he finds Harry's Aston, empty, and the cops. He also finds traces of burned rubber on the ground, usually left by a fast-leaving van, and, ending there, the scent of several strangers as well as Harry... and Cordelia. Her perfume, her scent, and if he doubts his sense of smell because of the incredible coincidence, he can overhear conversation from the cops who won't let anyone into the bank. There has been a robbery. Two hostages, a man and a woman. The cops say that according to the bank personnel, they have been identified by the robbers as Harry Osborn and Cordelia Chase. There have been threats against the manager's and tellers' families, and so this will all have to be played incredibly low key until there is a sign of the robbers.

Enhanced hearing abilities are good for something.

There is an advantage of having grown up in a lethal environment, too: a certain kind of rage will let you go cold instead of crazy, because you need the cold, you need it to trace down your prey now. So he doesn't allow himself to feel anything yet. He just goes back to the apartment, tells Natalie the barest facts, hardly hears her promising she'll stay with Evan at her hotel and wait for news and whether she can help, and suits up as soon as she's out of the door.

Three hours and a lot of hurt people later, he doubts that the robbers recruited themselves from the local criminal population. No one has heard anything, even a rumour, no one knows anything, certainly not about getaways and hiding places, and they would tell, they really would, and what kind of a psycho is he?

Not one who's going to jail again. He can't afford that. So he's wearing the costume. But there is blood on the blue fabric now, and it's a good thing it's daylight, because otherwise there'd be vampires around in no time flat. Sometimes he hopes for them, but not now. No time to stake or to fight. No time for anything but to find them. He found his father as a five years old child in hell; why are a couple of bank robbers so difficult?

Because this isn't hell, and they don't leave scents to follow, that's why. They use technology. Not even a particular sophisticated one. Something as simple as a van, and there is no trace to follow.

It gets worse when he tries the cops again. Because now they're talking about two bodies, two people shot, at an abandoned airfield. Time freezes until someone mentiones both were male, and he should feel relieved, but he doesn't feel anything, anything at all. Which is probably a good thing.

When he gets home for a change of clothes, he barely avoids beeing seen by the officers who are there to talk to the person likely to get ransom calls for Harry Osborn. He has to leave the bulding and climb up the wall, entering through a window, but in the end, he's able to hear the news looking like a college student instead of a murderous criminal himself. Bank robbery, likely escape via private plane, can we bug the phone, ransom call, please contact, do you anyone to stay, and...

What a little creep, says one of the officers when they leave to the other, and he can hear them through the door. I checked out his record before coming here. Triple homicide suspect. Well, they say the Osborn kid likes it rough.

There are several voicemail messages, one, very annoyed, from the professor whose class he was supposed to attend, two from Natalie Spencer. None from any kidnappers. Or Harry. Or Cordelia.

There has to be something, some way to track even an air plane which isn't on anyone's flight schedule, if it's even still in the air and not landed somewhere, somewhere being anything between Alaska and Mexico, and -

This is wrong. He's letting himself feel again, and if he does that, he won't be of use to -

His father's body, neck wound still bleeding, in an alley, and he's arriving too late, several life times too late. Harry in a New York restaurant, and he's almost too late there as well. Cordy in a church, utterly still in her coma.

No.

There has to be an idea, something obvious, some way that is better than going out again and trying to beat up more small time criminals and big time mafiosi in the vague hope one of them does have a connection to the robbers, or to wait till the police calls. Except the idea won't come.

The dogs whine, and he realizes he has to feed them. Except they won't go near him, and only then does it register: Connor might have changed his clothes, but the stains of blood underneath are still there. So he goes upstairs and takes a shower.

The water is cold, and the tiles of the wall, when he starts to beat at them, crumble like paper.
abetterlie: (Quirky by Ithica)
First day at a new college, which is good in so many ways. Connor will be able to think about classes and whether all the attempts to catch up will have been enough, instead of thinking about Kara's outburst at the party, and Cordelia with both Bruce Wayne and Lindsey MacDonald. Yes, good in so many ways.

First, though, he cleans the apartment, because he's not sure Harry has clued into the fact you need to do that if you don't have servants and he doesn't really want him to; it's probably silly, but it feels like caretaking and helps with the whole what's mine is yours situation given that what was Harry's is such a lot. Harry has gone to the bank, and Connor has enough time to finish cleaning; his first classes start later than Harry's.

He's just about to try for the hundreth time to teach Armani how to stand still and walk on signal, like Bailey does, when the bell rings.

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abetterlie

July 2010

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