abetterlie: (Default)
Praise


They're outside the - "club" was what the girl with the visions had called it - , and Stephen feels the elation that usually comes with having won a good fight, only more so. Which is unexpected. As unexpected as Angel taking his arm and using his stake to dust the last of the vampires.

"They don't need to breathe or make any sound. You gotta be careful," Angel says, and the strangest thing is that Stephen isn't inclined to say "I know" or "you don't get to lecture me, monster", or "my father taught me that already". He doesn't even think of it. Instead, he just wants to continue what they have just done - fighting - against others, shoulder to shoulder, not against each other. Which is utterly and completely wrong, because this is Angelus the monster, and yet that is what he wants, at this moment.

"You know you were - you were good in there. I mean, normally I'd take you to a ballgame, or a museum, or - something," Angel continues, and Stephen, who doesn't know what a ballgame or a museum is, nonetheless grasps the most important thing. You were good in there. " But it's - it's good to know that you can handle yourself in a fight," Angel says, and makes a quick move towards Stephen. Stephen instinctively jumps back, but Angel doesn't follow, and Stephen understands. It wasn't meant as a serious attack. What then?

Perhaps it's just that Angel feels the same thing Stephen does. He, too, wants to continue what they started in there. But there are no other vampires around. So they have to do with each other. It's a game.

For the first time in this dimension, Stephen smiles. He doesn't think about it, he doesn't consider the enormity of betrayal this smile represents until later; at this moment, it's just a impulse of delight taking form.

"It's good to know you can do that, too," says Angel.


Accomplishment

Fred and Gunn in trouble again; wouldn't you know it. Connor tells himself the only reason he stays with them and keeps an eye on them is that they might actually stumble across a lead to A- to the drowned monster. Besides, they're human. So he can't kill them, even if they were the monster's friends and contributed to his father's death by luring Connor away.

He could leave them to die, though. He wouldn't have to do anything. So he really tries not to think about why he keeps checking up on them, despite Gunn's annoying lectures and Fred's conviction that she is the one protecting him, or why, when he sees a couple of vampires well in the process of making mince meat out of them, he hurries towards them. Gunn has managed to lose his axe to one of the vampires, who throws it at Fred, and Connor can't resist showing off a little. Instead of drawing Fred to safety, he catches the axe mid-air and throws it back to the vampire, perfect angle for a decapitation. The creature turns into dust, and the rush Connor feels comes out in a huge grin.

"Did you see that?" he asks Fred and Gunn. "Wasn't that cool?"

They're staring at him, and he can already hear the next lecture taking shape. Come on, he thinks, and lets the grin linger. Admit it. "That was cool!" he insists.

Angel would have admitted it at once, but that's a thought he allows himself even less than pondering why he keeps saving Fred and Gunn's lives.


Love

He wakes up, and she's lying next to him. Real, utterly real, not in a dream or a fantasy. Some of her scent is still on his own body. It all really happened. Also, the world didn't end, but that's really secondary.

"Morning," Connor says, and smiles at Cordelia, wishing this could last forever. Not the sex during the night, though that was great, but this, waking up next to her, the two of them together, knowing she loves him and trusts him, and all of it is real.

"Don't do that," she says, and he thinks she's teasing him; his smile gets even wider. He probably should say something smooth, something like the guys in the movies did he watched on tv when living at the Hyperion, but he can't think of a thing. He's too happy.

"Do what?"

"That. The look. The happy puppy look. Makes it harder."


Rebirth

"Top ten percentile is a big deal," says Mom, and Connor doesn't pretend to disagree. He feels giddy. It's probably because high school is really over now, and he didn't suddenly have a panic attack during tests, all those months of work and being called a nerd and asking Tracy to be patient were totally worth it. All the family talks at him at once, and for a moment, he tunes out, not listening to the words, just to the sound of their voices. He'll miss them once he gets to college.

Meanwhile, it's his official duty to tease them.

"Since it's my special day and I'm all brilliant and everything and I'm forced to spend at least a few more months with you freaks..."

"How mean," Aunt Jane interrupts, feigning shock.

"Um, I get to make the toast, OK? To family."

As Dad raises his glass to Connor, Connor is struck by a weird sensation of being watched. Just a for a second. Then he dismisses it. Of course he is; they're all watching him, and Mere will so get back to him for that freak comment. She wouldn't be his little sister otherwise.

Family, he thinks, and the giddiness never leaves his face.


Renewal

Weeks passed since he got his memories back, but when Angel suddenly stands in front of him, Connor is still unsure how to react. Or who to be. He decides to play it cool and stick with Connor Riley for a while; it's safer.

Also fun, unexpectedly, because Angel tells him all about a werewolf girlfriend, and Angel probably wouldn't if he knew Connor remembered. Plus he's so easy that way.

"There's some full-moon love, am I right? Fur flying."

" Huh?"

"So vampires really don't understand the concept of jokes," Connor says, dead-pan. Behind Angel, one of the girls who has classes with him and has been watching them ever since Angel showed up mouthes "boyfriend?" at him, and that's just too weird. But then, everyone here has met Connor's parents, and Angel is definitely too old to be another college student.

"I understand jokes. I was at the first taping of the Carol Burnett show. Tim Conway was on fire. It was special," Angel says, offended, and Connor decides to stop with the bs.

"I know you're my father."

Bad idea. Angel goes still and has that look again, that all out intense look he had when Connor first walked towards him at Wolfram and Hart's, and suddenly Connor is afraid to go there. Maybe it's chicken, but talking about the past, really talking about it would mean being the other him again, and he doesn't know how much of Connor Riley would be left if he allows that to happen. So he hastily says thank you and all but pleads to talk about something else, and Angel follows suit, asking him about internships and the like, and offering to help.

"Have you ever written a resume before? Ever?" asks Connor.

"No... but I have very nice handwriting."

So he's really going to let it go. And maybe this will work. Maybe he can hang around Angel without giving up his new life, his new self, that self unburdened by guilt.

"You girl," Connor says, and the dizzying relief becomes a smile that envelopes them both.
abetterlie: (Son of a beastie new version by bohemian)
Getting a dose of something the cops called "fear gas" later when they explain about some lunatic from the local asylum who apparantly decided to crash Harry's birthday party, would have produced a least favourite memory even if nothing had actually happened. If he had just been stuck with hallucinations and a bad headache afterwards. But something did happen. Something real. Not dreamt, not hallucinated, real.

Connor can still remember the sudden smell of blood, and the realisation. That she was alive, that everything previous might have been a trick, fear made flesh, but not this. Not the stak going into her arm because she blocked it from going straight to her heart.

The other thing had been real, too, the secret Kara told him, and he has no idea how to handle either. He talks with Harry about the seeing Kara sired by Angelus and staking her part, which help but also leaves him with some unsettling realisations. So he decides to go to Los Angeles. There are other reasons, too - all those recent attempts by someone to kill Darla, for one - but mainly he thinks he owes Kara a longer explanation than "I'm so sorry" and "Cordy saw it, too".

She wanted him to be "genuinenly nice" to his parents, so he gets into Connor Riley mode once he arrives at the Hyperion and makes sure he's not alone with either. He can do nice. He can. So he does what Connor Riley would have done for Mom and brings a present for Darla, whom he figures must be stir-crazy by now, a collection of poetry by Pablo Neruda because her friend the annoying Immortal had said it reminded him of her, and a list of new security systems available with Osborn money for Angel. High tech isn't heroic, but onsidering the assassination attempts so far have been non-supernatural, it just might be more useful than magic.

He keeps up being just Connor Riley - who would never have staked his sister even if he had thought she was a vampire, because Connor Riley wasn't a psychotic raised in a hell dimension - until he manages to slip away to the roof, hoping Kara caught the signal (and remembered the bit about the roof being a good place to be, with and without turtles). Hoping she'll show up, full stop.

On the way up, he studiously avoids the suite that used to be Jasmine's, the room which used to be Cordy's (who has a new one now), and the one where there are still a lot of clothes from people who died to nourish the Devourer. He remembers bringing them there a little too well.
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.

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)
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.

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)
If, despite your best resolutions, you keep making the same mistake, it's time for emergency measures. To wit: asking the one person you have a more complicated relationship with and feelings for than anyone else what he thinks. But then again, whom else to go to when you're not sure whether you're looking for help or punishment or an opportunity to vent, or all of the above?

Which is what Connor does. He uses an opportune moment when Harry is busy with phonecalls and mail, says he'll take the dogs out for a walk, and takes his cell phone along. Once at a safe distance from the house, he lets Bailey run, keeps an eye on the younger pup and gets out his cell phone. It's early evening in Boston, after sunset, so Angel is more likely than not on patrol. Connor punches in the number and waits.
abetterlie: (Default)
Rebellion was not something that came naturally to Connor.

Given that before he got mindwiped, he never did anything Angel told him unless this was preceded by a fight, either against Angel or with Angel against someone else, some people might have debated this assessment. But the truth of the matter was this: he did not recognize Angel as an authority because he could not believe in him. Obedience, to Connor, was connected with unquestioning faith. He felt a lot of things for Angel, some of which he never acknowledged, but they were all riddled with questions.

On the other hand, you could count the number of times he did not do what Daniel Holtz had told him to on two hands, and that was including his childhood. Holtz, to him, was not just his father but the closest thing to the all-knowing, all-wise God Holtz had told him about Connor could imagine. To act against Holtz' commandments was to sin against both. It also meant to affirm the demon blood in himself. It wasn't that he feared Holtz; on the contrary, by the time they left Quortoth, Connor had known for years he was far stronger than the older man. But Holtz was his father; he loved his father; disobedience would imply distrust and lack of love, which was only something a demon spawn would be capable of; therefore, it was unthinkable.

When Holtz told him to go to Angel, Connor came closer to rebellion than ever before, but eventually, he decided it was meant as a punishment for having lied about Angel. Then one father died and he sank the other into the sea, and for a long time, rebellion wasn't a question because there never was obedience anymore to begin with.

Until Jasmine.

Jasmine was his daughter, but she was also his goddess; it seemed good and right to obey her in everything, just like everyone else did. He had done terrible things, he knew that; Jasmine put everything right, though. She wasn't just the justification for all the preceding horrors by the peace she created, she was family, at last, and for a brief time, so was everyone else. Because of her. Then Fred infected Angel, and everything began to fall apart.

"You've no idea what she is," Wesley told Connor when Connor had finally hunted all the betrayers down. Wesley didn't get it. None of them did.

"Yes, I do," Connor said. "She's mine."

It was the last certainty he clung to; he loved Jasmine, Jasmine loved him, Jasmine was all-wise and all-knowing, therefore, obeying Jasmine as he once had obeyed Holtz was right. It was a matter of faith. Unquestioning faith. You did not rebel against this.

But then he did.

It wasn't so much what Wesley said about Jasmine that made the difference, it was that Jasmine had not told him of her own what she had done with Cordelia. It was as if she didn't trust him. Which implied that there was something she did not wish to trust him with.

"Has it become necessary to explain my wishes to you?" Jasmine asked, amazed, and he denied it, but he knew he was lying to both of them. Because the past year with Angel had changed him; he wasn't Stephen any longer, and insidious doubt had become part of his nature. He wanted to give Jasmine the kind of unquestioning faith he had given Holtz, he truly did. But he wasn't whole anymore; he wasn't even wholy hers. A part of him belonged to Cordelia, and Cordelia didn't have anyone else left. He hadn't thought it possible that loving Cordelia and loving Jasmine might mean two different things, might demand two very different actions.

He tried to talk with Jasmine about it. She was her gracious self, but there was confusion in her eyes and bewilderment in her soft smile, and this only served to disturb him more. Because she was supposed to have all the answers, wasn't she? To be all-wise, all-powerful.

"I could never hurt Cordelia Chase, any more than I could you. You're my parents, my tether to this world. It was your love that brought me here. I understand. You miss her," she said, and of course he missed Cordelia, but that wasn't the point. Why didn't Jasmine just tell him where Cordelia was? Why did she keep secrets from him?

"It doesn't matter," Jasmine said benignly. "Just know she's alive."

And that was that. Something broke in him, irrevocably.

It had taken him a while to understand that everyone else obeyed Jasmine because they felt compelled to, and because they saw her somehow differently than Connor did. Connor never found out what exactly it was they saw before their disenchantment. What he saw was his daughter throughout, but she did not understand the difference, didn't even know there was one. He couldn't obey her any longer. When he closed the door behind him and started to search for Cordelia, he knew he would never obey anyone ever again.

After all, he would have to love them first.

Revenge

Sep. 9th, 2006 10:58 am
abetterlie: (Default)
One would have thought that being raised as an instrument of revenge would give Connor a good understanding of the topic. But in retrospect, he doesn’t think he truly grasped it as long as he was still Stephen.

He thought he did. It was his purpose of existence, it was what God owed his fathers, both of them. He knew the wrongs Angelus had committed by heart before he was six. By the time he was ten, he had already made and discarded several childish and not so childish plans of how he would finally avenge Daniel Holtz and his family when, according with God’s plan as explained by Daniel Holtz, he would leave Quortoth and encounter the monster. Most of them began and ended with staking the creature, of course. Sometimes he imagined telling Angelus who his executioner was, and sometimes he did not. Sometimes he killed Angelus in front of an amazed and grateful Holtz, and sometimes he did this without any witnesses but the earth which had soaked up all the blood Angelus had shed.

When the time came, at last, he stuck to the most essential of plans. He greeted the creature, so Angelus would know who he was, and aimed his stake at the monster. But his aim was not true, partly because it was confusing him that Angelus had recognized him even before the greeting. He wanted to know why. Surely it was not more than that, no greater curiosity than that, which made him fight at less than his best, and then flee.

Then things derailed even more. He found himself fighting side by side with Angelus, and smiling at him, and lying to his father, and the shame about it held equal balance to the hunger that had driven him to seek out the thing that sired him for reasons other than to kill. No, he had not understood revenge at all.

He would always remember the moment he finally did. After hearing of Angelus’ treacherous plans for his father from Fred and Gunn, he ran, ran faster than he had ever done, and yet not fast enough. He found Daniel Holtz in the arms of a woman he had seen only once before, briefly, at that den where he had betrayed his father by fighting as Angelus’ companion. The smell of blood, his father’s blood, familiar from many wounds gained in Quortoth, was overwhelming. He knelt down and tried to stop it, but it was too late, far too late. There was no pulse anymore, no breath escaping his father’s lips. Daniel Holtz was gone, and the last of his blood mixing with the tears of the boy he had raised took Stephen with him. Stephen had been unreliable, and stupid. Stephen had been seduced by the devil, despite his father’s warning. He had been thoroughly inadequate.

But then, Stephen had been the son of a man. What was needed now, obviously, was the son of a monster.

“It’s my fault,” he said to the woman, who would later explain she was called Justine, and his father’s lieutenant. “He’ll pay.”

He didn’t just mean Angelus.

“I’ll help you kill him,” she replied.

“No,” he said, for he finally understood.

“You don’t want to kill him?” the woman asked. “After what he did?” He looked at her, and he could see that she, too, was beginning to understand. “What do you want to do?”

Later, during his masquerade, he made Angelus happy by proclaiming his name was Connor, not Stephen. It was necessary to lure his prey, but it was also the truth. Revenge, true revenge, was something you could only go through with if you had held your dead family in your arms, not through description, but in deed. If you knew that the reason why they were dead wasn’t just because a monster had taken them but because you had let that monster take them. You had not been good enough.

Revenge, finally, was something you could only succeed in if you become part of the monster first. Stephen had not known that.

But Connor did.
abetterlie: (Default)
Playing happy family was exhausting as hell. It also led to weirdness, because Connor kept forgetting he was just pretending, was having fun for half an hour or so, and then was hit by a memory. Not, surprisingly, that often by a memory of Angel, or anything that actually had happened. The memories of what hadn't were the ones who flickered into his consciousness, and sometimes he nearly used the wrong names. Which wasn't the weirdest hing. That was when he actually did try to remember and at one point saw Kara, not Mere, at age 9 in the circus, talking about the elephants. But Kara didn't like the circus, and he had not known her at age 9, and he wondered whether he might lose his grip on reality altogether.

After magic shows and roller coaster rides were over and done with, he found out he was supposed to stay in one room with Angel while Darla shared one with Kara, and fled to the hotel business center to catch up with his email. There was one from Chilton, and Connor decided to call Harry, lateness of the hour or not, just to make sure he was okay. He didn't want to do so from the business center; it would be just his luck to have either of his parents show up there just when he started to talk. So he left the hotel again, reasonably sure he wasn't followed. He had just taken his cell phone out when a limousine stopped next to him. Slowly, he put down his cell phone. He hadn't come unarmed; there was a stake in his other pocket, and another bound around his ankle, hidden by the baggy trousers he wore.

Except that nobody left the limousine. Instead, the window went down. Tony Chilton sat in the back, as Connor had more or less expected when the car had stopped; what he hadn't expected was the young woman next to Chilton, eyes clazed over, obviously drugged, and smelling utterly, completely human. Chilton's hand kept circling her neck.

"Get in," the vampire said. "Passenger's seat."

He could do the human thing and cry for help. He could try to dive through the backside window that had just opened so Chilton could talk to him. But there was no way he could reach the young woman before Chilton broke her neck. Such a fragile thing, human bones. So very, very fragile.

You have a choice, his mother said in his memory, and her bloodstained face looked at him from the body of a terrified young girl.

Connor got in the car, passenger's seat. The Fyarl was driving.

"So," Chilton said, a low, baritone voice from the back while one could hear the sleep-addled breathing of the girl, "you suddenly had a change of heart and decided to trade in the Osborn kid before he trades you in? I'm wounded. I thought I had left the impression of being an intelligent man, and that ploy is really transparent. Though as covers go, playing family with that old has-been and his squeezes is at least somewhat imaginative."

"You're not a man," Connor said while the car sped up, trying to figure out how to provoke Chilton into leaning forward and taking his hands of the girl's neck. "You're just something that should have died a long time ago. And apparantly sucks as a demon as well, if you can't find minions in a less complicated way."

"Well," Chilton said, sounding amused, "there is complicated and there's interesting. You know, originally I thought you were just from one of the demon species who can pass as humans, but that's not what your blood smells like. Tell me, just how many vampires already had you?"

The Fyarl just kept driving. He didn't look at Connor at all. If he jumped him, he could get behind the wheel, but that still would give Chilton enough to time to kill the girl. No, he couldn't risk it. Better to go for the provocation attempt.

"Doesn't matter. That's another thing you'll leave behind when you stop playing human. All those pretensions to guilt."

"I thought you didn't want to turn me," Connor said.

"I don't," Chilton replied, matter-of-factly. "As you are right now, you have no problems with daylight, which is useful. Besides, you're one of us already, aren't you... and then there is something which every businessman knows, even such lousy specimen as your poor little rich boy in Manhattan."

"And what is that?" asked Connor, making himself turn around. Chilton still had his hand on the back of the girl's neck.

"Never try to change the act of a first class whore," Chilton replied with a thin smile. Connor said nothing at all. Tony Chilton's smile deepenend.

"You know that this is what you are to him, don't you? You're responsible for the instant gratification. That's all he wants, nothing else. The high-minded conversations take place in Gotham these days. Now, I'm the last person not to be thankful for trained personell. Tell you what - I'll tell you to kill the industrious Mr. Wayne as a first order, and I'll even reward you with a saved damsel in return. That's what you want most, isn't it? The permission to kill and to tell yourself you have no other choice. Not free choice. The freedom from choice."

Connor stared at him. Then his lips moved.

"I didn't quite catch that, Mr. Riley. My hearing must be in decline."

"Yes," Connor whispered. "That is what I want."

Lazily, Chilton extended his right arm to let his hand touch Connor's cheek.

"Now that can be..."

It wasn't a cunning move. It wasn't a long-practiced throw with axe or stake, it wasn't anything Connor had learned from either of his fathers. No Watcher ever would have considered teaching this tactic. It was, however, a move he had observed quite recently, patented and practiced by one Kara Marie Keating.

Connor slightly turned his head and bit.

Chilton was easily as startled and completely surprised as Angel had been and reacted by an outraged yell, as well as an instinctive drawing back of both arms. This momentarily freed the girl from his touch and gave Connor the opportunity to get in the backseat between them. The Fyarl snarled but apparantly didn't quite know whether to stop the car without getting orders. Connor grabbed the girl, kicked the door open and jumped out with her, trying to make sure his body shielded her from the road.

Landing on tar ejected from a car that was driving at 70 mph was a bitch, superpowers or not. So was trying to make sure one didn't get run over by the next cars. Las Vegas showed no signs of being less populated at 1 am than it had been at 10. But once Connor had made it to the roadside, that came in handy. So many people were shouting and yelling at him, including the driver of the next car, that there was no way Chilton would have escaped public attention if he had come after him and the girl now. Out of the corner of his eyes Connor could see the limo slowing, then speeding up again.

The shock of hitting the road had at least woken up the drugged girl, who had started to cry. He held her and realized he didn't even know her name.
abetterlie: (Default)
*locked*

I hate him.

I really, really do. Not because he's a vampire, or because he can be an asshole, because yeah, pott, meet kettle - because he's such a hypocrite. "Your sister" bla blah blah. This isn't about Kara. It's him wanting his pound of flesh for what I asked of him. Fine. Nothing is free. I knew it would put us both through hell when I asked. And that I'd owe him. But that's not how he plays it, no, it's all moral high ground and "you owe your sister to make a family trip to Vegas and have a go at playing smiling family harmony and what do I care that there is a psycho on the loose who could munch your boyfriend and his family in the meantime, you have to be here". He's hiding behind her and it makes me sick and I just -

Okay. I'm going.

Because I don't want to owe him anything. I'm even more sick of that. Plus he did make me think of something. Thanks, Daddy. I really should have thought of that before. The oldest thing in the book. You don't wait till the abomination hunts you, you hunt it yourself, and if that means you have to use bait, fine. Father and I did that, in Quortoth, when there were Shi'ar hunting us. I cut my hand, so they'd smell the blood, and lured them away from him. So I sent Chilton a mail, and I hope he does show up in Las Vegas. But not when Angel is anywhere near me.

Because if Angel takes him out and combines that with one more you suck, I rock lesson, I'm just about ready to stake myself.

Okay, reality check. Getting rid of Chilton is the most important thing. No matter who takes him out.

If it's not me, though, can't it be Kara? I'd be fine with Kara doing it.

Except then she'd be mad about me ruining her vacation. Okay, forget that, something is bound to happen that makes her mad anyway. But it won't be me. You want your exemplary son, Dad, fine, you'll get the complete brainwashed model. No arguments for the entire weekend. All smiles. Because I remember how to do that, and I could before your mindwipe, too, because even if you want to forget Jasmine, I don't. And that's something else where he's such a hypocrite. Family spirit, sure, except when it comes to his granddaughter. Free will, except if it comes to what makes him feel better, but he can't admit it's all about him, no, it's all "you ditched your sister".

Fine. They'll all get the hugs and smiles model, and the only violent thing is going to be staking Chilton when Chilton shows up, and then when he had his Norman Rockwell weekend playing Daddy with his two adoring kids I'll never talk to him again.

Rubbish. Of course I will.

God, I hate him.

*unlocked*

I'm in Las Vegas for the weekend. Anyone want any souvenirs, let me know.
abetterlie: (Default)
Connor's real birthday is in November, but this year will be the first time he'll actually celebrate it then. It was hard to measure time in Quor'Toth, nobody except Angel remembered in Los Angeles and he had lost his soul again by the time the date came along, and after the mindwipe, the newborn Connor Riley received a fake birthday anyway, courtesy of Cyvus Veil. July 4th, because Veil believed in irony. As this date was only one day after Kara's birthday, and as the Rileys were dead, Connor decided to abandon what had never been reality altogether.

The security chief of the building the Osborn penthouse was in asked him whether he'd be available on Independence Day; most of the staff wanted to be with their families, and Connor still earned some income of his own by working security anyway, so he said yes. The Bruce Wayne incident together with the fact he later got trashed by a vampire and his pet Fyarl for the first time in a long while had left him more shaken than he wanted to admit, and at any rate with the burning desire to work on responsibility and impulse control.

The later was put to a rather hard test when it turned out that the new owner of one of the other penthouses, who was throwing a party that night to celebrate his moving in in addition to the national holiday, was none other than Tony Chilton.

"Ah," he said with a smile when he saw Connor. "The very security man I had requested. How's the hand?"

There were party guests already arriving, dozens and dozens of them. Living, unsuspecting party guests.

"Oh, don't worry," Chilton said, following Connor's look. "This is a vegetarian night... I think. It depends on how security works, wouldn't you say?"

More and more people, and each of them said hello to their host with a smile. "See you later," Chilton said and mixed among the crowd, impossible to take out without everyone noticing. Connor would still have tried to if he had seen Chilton attack anyone, but so far, there were no signs of that. Teeth gritted, he did play security, looking for other vampires and discovering none. Everyone but Chilton had a pulse. Two hours and one drunken guest who had to be bounced out and thus was one less person to worry about later, he met Chilton again, this time in the floor of the penthouse after returning from throwing the lucky drunk out.

"Nice work," Chilton said. "I told you you'd work for me, didn't I?"

"As soon as those people are gone," Connor said. "You're dust." Quite apart from having gotten trashed a few nights ago, there was no way he could let a vampire stay in a house full of potential victims, including Harry and his staff. Chilton continued to smile as calmly and sincerely as Bruce Wayne had done.

"I don't think so," he said. "But I'm delighted you intend to be at my disposal after working hours as well. Harry Osborn must be really good with sharing, hm? Though then again, one hears he's already auditioning replacements."

The party took until four in the morning. As soon as he was sure the last tipsy guest and all the catering staff who as it turned out were only hired for the night had gone, Connor broke the next armchair he could find, took the resulting makeshift stake and looked for Tony Chilton. Who wasn't in the penthouse any more. He had left with one of the guests, in their limousine. The next day, the security chief gave Connor a note.

Another time, it said. Urgent out of town business. But I'll be back. After all, it would be a shame to let all that instinct go to waste, wouldn't it?

Mind games. He hated mind games. Connor tore up the note. It didn't help.

Thinking about vampires, mind games, disappointing people, failures to protect and things he should have done but hadn't, his thoughts ran in circles and inevitably arrived where they always tended to do when these factors were involved. With his father. Both of them.

The next day, he took the Thundebird to Boston and timed it to arrive just after sunset.

If...

Jun. 30th, 2006 10:15 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
“If I told you I just found out I was adopted,” he asks his little sister, “a few weeks ago, what would you say?”

Mere is fourteen and thinks she knows everything. He is nineteen and is none too sure about that fact, either.

“Connor, you self-important freak,” she says, “you’re not adopted. Mom has all those obnoxious photos of you as a baby. Way more than she has of me. Which is so unfair. No way you’re adopted.”

In her hands, she holds the waffle with icecream he just bought her. She grins at him, sure he’s come up with a new way to tease her. It’s the same grin she had as a toothless baby, only he has never seen her then. He has never met her until about nine months ago.

It’s impossible.

“No way,” he repeats, and grins back.

“Wow, you had me going there for a moment,” she says, and after gulfing down some more of her scrawberry-flavoured icecream, confesses: “You’re getting better. So that’s what this Stanford thing is good for. You’re totally motivating me to go to college, Connor.”

“Nah, you’re too smart for college already,” he shoots back, and by the time he is on his way back to Stanford, he knows two things: she has successfully made him loan her fifty dollars for A Very Important Very Secret Don’t Tell Mom And Dad thing, and he’ll never ask her again. This is his world now, Mere and Mom and Dad and Stanford. His one girlfriend was Tracy who dumped him which he’s till sore about somewhat, but Tracy is dating some football-playing math genius now and safe and sound, and not in a coma or in a grave. He never breathed in the dust of a vampire after staking it. He never killed anyone.

He never had a daughter.

He’s just a boy.

Everything else is a dream. This is his world, and he wants to keep it.

The next day, Angel drops by for coffee, and the world ends.

Loyalty

Jun. 10th, 2006 09:53 am
abetterlie: (Default)
Loyalty isn’t something I’m really good at. I mean, I thought I was, but let’s face it, the only times I managed were when I was in a hell dimension or brainwashed, and what good is that?

Father and I had to trust each other completely back in Quortoth; we wouldn’t have survived otherwise. And just two days after leaving it, he had to watch me laughing and sparring with the man who ruined his life and took his family. And then lie to him. I knew it had been wrong, I knew that it had been a betrayal, that’s why I lied, but he saw through me; of course he did.

“I’ve seen his true face,” I said, feeling the shame burn in me.

“And I’ve seen yours,” he said, and that must have been when he decided to kill himself. Or have Justine do it. Because he couldn’t trust me, because I already had been disloyal.

Fred once asked me how I could do that to my father, but she meant Angel and sinking him to the bottom of the sea. Everybody seems to think that was the big betrayal, and not what had happened earlier, and I never understood that, because one was being true to the man who raised me and his cause, and the other was being Judas; that’s how he would have put it. Anyway, it sort of set the pattern it took me a while to figure out – that you can’t be loyal to one person without betraying another. Well, maybe you can, but I couldn’t.

*locked from everyone save Harry*

Still can’t, I guess. I can’t imagine making another choice than I have done in Ireland, I’d do it again, but it was still a betrayal, of him and all those people Angel and Darla killed throughout two centuries.

*unlocked*

It’s even true for Cordy and Jasmine. When I made my choice and condemned that girl to death, I told myself it was because I had to protect the baby and Cordelia, my family, that I was being loyal to them, even if that meant murder. I hadn’t thought that being loyal to Cordy and being loyal to our child could be two different things as well. I only realized when Jasmine had Cordy moved and didn’t want to tell me where to.

“Has it become necessary to explain my wishes to you?” she asked, and I said no, of course not, but that was when I realized, and that was when I betrayed Jasmine. Not when I killed her later – that was for her, like what Angel did was for me. But earlier. I loved Jasmine more than anyone, but I also loved Cordelia, and I had to find out what happened to her. If I had been truly loyal to Jasmine, I would have trusted her word, but I couldn’t, not anymore, and so I betrayed her, too.

Here’s something that took me even longer to figure out, though: loyalty and betrayal may be completely mixed up, but that doesn’t mean one is more true than the other. Angel was someone I betrayed pretty much from the start. Well, from three days after the start. I never understood why I should feel loyalty to him, just because he and Darla had brought me to life – that was just another reason to hate him.

But when my memories had come back, and he had stopped by for coffee and I knew he wouldn’t have done that if he didn’t think he’d survive, when I had my family I could love without guilt and my shiny new life, I still didn’t think twice about going after him, showing up at Wolfram and Hart to find out what the hell was going on. I wasn’t kidding myself. Going back there meant going back to who I had been as well. It meant that sooner or later, I wouldn’t be able to keep Mom and Dad and Mere away from that other world, not unless I kept them away from me. But he is my father. Or maybe he became my father at that moment, when I betrayed his gift and my other family by being loyal to him for the first time.

Mother

May. 13th, 2006 08:14 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
*locked from Darla*

He didn’t mention her as often as Angelus. I guess because she was dead, and so he didn’t need to prepare me regarding her. But he did tell me about her. I hadn’t gotten the timeline right then, the whole part where he had been born centuries ago as well, and so when he had me repeat the story of the murder I called his wife Caroline mother. I just figured she must have been. Someone must have been. With all the beasts around us, you did catch on the whole reproduction thing pretty quickly. Anyway, when I said “…and they killed Mother as well..”, he drew a sharp breath and corrected me, gently, but as clear as always in his phrasing.

“My wife,” he said, “was not your mother, Stephen, and I am most sorry for it. You know whose child you are. I never kept it hidden from you.”

I knew, even then, but I still wanted at least a human mother. The one he had loved who was A Saint And Much Too Good For Me, Or Any Man, My Angel Caroline.

“You know,” he said. “Tell me again.”

“No,” I said, because I was still a child then and sometimes did not heed my lessons, and was stupid enough to yell and cry about things I could not change, and ran away. He didn’t come after me. He knew I’d be back. And so I was, with some fresh meat of a beast I had killed.

“I am the bastard child of two demons,” I whispered, and he nodded and accepted the meat. That evening, he told me more about her. She was a demon as vile, that I had already known, but now he added details. She was unpredictable, he said, which had made her more difficult to hunt; you never knew when she would ditch Angelus and when rescue him, but the one thing you could count on with her was that as long as Angelus still existed, she would return, sooner or later.

“She created him,” he said. “She brought that monster into the world and revelled in no other deed as much as that.”

“So she was his mother as well?” I asked. The whole “siring” concept was a bit difficult to grasp, if you were seven and no actual vampires were around.

“In a manner of speaking,” he said, probably coming to the same conclusion. “And his whore. Everybody’s whore, if she wanted to lure victims to their doom, and even before that, I’ll wager.”

“What is a whore?”

“You will understand later,” he said. “But fear not. She is dust now, and whatever there is of her in you you will govern and defeat. Cleave to the good and remember God’s will, Stephen, and you will be safe.”

He said she died when I was born, but not how. When I was ten, I asked whether Angelus had killed her, having grown finally tired of her. After all, he had told me Angelus loved nothing more than to drink family blood.

“Oh no,” he said. “You were her death, my son. When I saw you in her ashes, I knew God had meant for us to be together, even then.”

“Good,” I said, and never asked him about her again. I didn’t ask Fred and Gunn, either, when I was living with them at the Hyperion, and they never mentioned her to me. When Wesley came back during the reign of the Beast, he brought his chronicles along, and I don’t know why, but I kept going through them when I thought everyone was out or asleep. That was when I finally saw what she had looked like, because he had an old photo of her there. He also had made notes on her, and they confirmed that she had been everything my father had said she was. Both in the past and in that year before my birth. There was also a lot of stuff about Angel being “obsessed with her” and kicking his friends out.

I didn’t get it, because Angel never mentioned her now. I mean, we weren’t exactly having many chats, but still, he never mentioned her, so I figured either he was ashamed of her when he had his soul, or maybe since I had been her death, he blamed me for that and didn’t want to talk to me about her any more than I wanted to talk about Daniel Holtz with him. Then eventually he did talk about her, when he was Angelus again. He told me just how I had been her death. She had hated me so much, he said, that she couldn’t bear it, the feeling of me squirming inside her, and so she staked herself.

So that was what I knew about her. And then she came back. Just before Jasmine was born, she came back to me, out of thin air, so exactly the opposite to Angel that it was like someone had invented them – small where he’s tall, blonde where his hair is dark, and with a soft voice. She told me she loved me, that she had died because she wanted me to live, and that I had a choice. That we had shared a soul once, and I looked into her eyes and knew that part at least was true.

But I also knew my father had been wrong, and so was she. I could not govern and defeat what of her there was in me, and I didn’t have a choice. If what she said was true, if she had died for me, she had to understand. It was the baby’s life at stake, Cordy’s and mine.

Except that didn’t stop it from being murder, and I knew that when I saw that girl looking at me with her face when Cordy brought down the axe. Her blood was all over me.

That was when I at last believed I was really her son.
abetterlie: (Default)
Childhood Ambition

Stephen can’t remember the first time he heard the story. It was always there, told in his father’s low, calm tones, part of his life as the clouded sky or the bite of any creature one let come too close. His reason for existing, the point and purpose of his life, told back to his father during endless days of trekking, over fire that warmed them or in caves that gave shelter.

“…God gave me to you.”

“So that I could bestow on you all the love I could not give my first children.”

“Because he took them from you.”

Stephen knows the names before he knows much of anything else: Sarah and Daniel. Daniel had been “an innocent babe” and Sara “her mother’s joy, my own delight, the sweetest little girl there was”. He knows the colour of Sarah’s hair and her favorite song, because his father sings it to him as well. He knows the demons Angelus and Darla did worse than drink her blood; they made her into one of their own, and left her for his father to kill.

It is hard to imagine vampires, because they are not any in Quortoth. He points at some of the foulest beasts early on, asking whether these resembled the monsters, but his father shakes his head each time. Stephen does remember when he stops asking. His father is a patient, disciplined man, but one afternoon, when he’s bloodied from battle and worn out by the demands of a child, he makes Stephen kneel at the well that serves as their resting place for now and gestures at the reflection in the water.

“Like that,” he says. “When they do not kill, when they fool the innocent as they must have done to gain entrance to my house, they look like that.”

Sometimes, he dreams about it. Sometimes, it is himself the demons kill and feed while they wear his own face, and that is bad enough. Far more often, he watches them kill LittleSarahAndDaniel, who do not look like Stephen at all but are small, perfect versions of Father. This is worse, because Stephen watches and is glad before he wakes up with burning shame in his heart.

At last, he arrives at the obvious conclusion.

“I will find Angelus for you,” he tells his father. “Find him and destroy him.”

That is the part of the story his father withheld, the demand he never made, because Stephen had to figure it out for himself, and finally, Stephen has. His father’s face is sad and proud at the same time. There are no shadows of other children in his eyes when he regards Stephen now.

“Yes,” he says. “One day, you will.”
abetterlie: (Default)
Did you ever intentionally make a complete fool out of yourself while fully realizing what you were doing?

When Lorne suggested his morale booster to cheer everyone up about Fred's betrayal and continued absence, Connor didn't quite know what to say. Demonstrating his love for Jasmine by slaying her enemies was one thing. But standing in front of hundreds of people and "reciting" something? It sounded horrible. Given that everyone else, including Angel, was beaming at the idea and congratulating Lorne, he adjusted his face to a smile as well and said "Sure".

Not feeling universal bliss when everyone else did was really quite unfair.

Later, Angel came to him and said: "You're not really happy about this, are you?"

Panic engulfed Connor. If Angel knew, it might mean he'd do what Fred had done. Tensing into a fighting stance, he looked at Angel, yet could spot nothing but continued cheerfulness.

"Don't worry, son," Angel said. "I used to hate doing this as well. But that doesn't count. What counts is proving how much we love Jasmine, and you know what? I think it's going to be fun."

Angel didn't know, and Connor relaxed again.

"So what do you have in mind?" he asked cautiously.

"You and I," Angel pronounced gravely, "are going to rewrite one of the all-time classics. I never taught you about Barry Manilow, did I?"

The next hour was spent practicing what Angel said was "the best song in the world" with new lyrics. By necessity, Connor had heard Lorne on numerous occasions during the recent months, and he had heard several recordings Lorne played now and then. He liked music. In fact, he liked it enough to realize that Angel sounded terrible, and he himself sounded worse.

"And we're going to sing that in front of everyone?"

Angel stopped humming Jasmine, and looked at him. There was something of the old uncertainty that used to come with every second look at Connor in his brown eyes.

"Don't you want to?"

It would be completely humiliating. But they'd do it together. Something that had nothing to do with death, or any kind of struggle. They'd do it together, and everyone would smile and have a great time, and maybe Connor didn't deserve being as completely happy as everyone else, but on this occasion, he would be.

"Sure," Connor replied. "Sure, Dad. I want to."

Fathers

Mar. 3rd, 2006 09:22 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
My father was a good man. The first memory of him I have is him protecting me from three beasts who attacked us. I was in a sling on his back, and I smelled their blood and his and fire and smoke as he used a burning twig to drive them away at first, and then his knife, and the noises they made were ear-splitting, but I knew I'd be safe. He was my father. I think I must have been two or three years old; it's hard to say when anything happened in Quortoth, but I can't have been older, because by the time I was five, I would have had a knife of my own.

Whe he told me about God and how God had given me to him in place of his murdered children, I always imagined God to be like him. To sound like him. Patient and wise and unrelenting. When he made me repeat every detail of the murders, he was the voice of God as well.

It never occured to me to doubt my father, but something in me must have wished to rebel, because when I made the sluks show me the fractures that allowed me to escape the dimensions, I did not ask for his permission. In fact, I went without talking to him first at all. I thought I'd do what he had raised me to, kill the one who had wronged him, and then return, able to tell him that. Instead, I did not kill anyone, not then, and he followed me and saw me with his enemy, and a day later, he was dead.

"It must be terrible for you," Fred said later, "losing your father." She meant the other one, of course, but even if she had not, she wouldn't have understood. It wasn't just my father I had lost. He had been far more than that.

Gods usually are.


***

My father was a good man. When my sister Mere and I were yelling about some toy or something and he was watching a baseball game on tv, even if his favourite team played, he didn't make my mother go and deal with us, he'd get up and sort us out himself. Not by telling us to shut up. He'd ask what we were arguing about, and then he'd listen, no matter how stupid the cause was, because it mattered to us.

Once he took me camping, but he was a complete klutz at these things, and so basically everything went wrong. Finally he said "tell you what, Connor, the outdoor life just isn't for me, but I can teach you a mean game of poker." I had been looking forward to the camping trip for a while, and I had been seriously dissappointed and was sulking, but when he said that, I said "really?" and felt about 100% better because that sounded grown up and cool. He nodded, and was completely true to his word.

He had this obsession with crossword puzzles. One Sunday he started out early at breakfeast and was still at it late in the afternoon. By that time, we were all looking in dictionaries for the three or four missing words. Mom found one, and then he finally figured out the other ones, and whooped like a tv Indian. Mere was totally embarassed and said "DAD!"

"Pizza for everyone, Princess," he said.

Of course none of that ever happened.

***

My father is a man. For a long time, that was one of the things I hated most about him because it confused me the most. I had expected him to be a monster. The worst monster of them all, and I had seen so many. But when I crossed the barrier between dimensions and saw him, he was just a man, and he knew me. From the first time he saw me, he knew me, and that was more terrifying than any scales or claws could have been, because what was it in me that he could have known?

I made him show me his other face later, but that didn't help.

When I sunk him to the bottom of the oceon, telling him he'd get to live like this forever, my father told me he loved me. He also told me this when he came back and threw me out, three months later. I don't know which occasion was confusing me more. Confusion, you'll notice, is the watchword with my father. One time, my father changed the world for me. Literary. It gave me a new life and everything I had ever wanted. A few days before that he had beaten me into a pulp. I heal very fast and I don't get bruised easily, but I was such a complete wreck that it took a miracle by the goddess who was my daughter to heal me.

My father really can't sing, but one of the best memories I have of him is of the two of us singing together. (Being his son, I can't sing either. It was fun anyway.) When he thought he had only one more day to live, he dropped by for coffee and thought this was subtle and no hint at all. He's an incredibly easy mark if you want to tease him, and he has a deadpan sense of humour, if you pay attention.

The third time he told me he loved me was right before he cut my throat. Which was what I had wanted back then - I told you he gave me everything I had ever wanted when he changed the world for me, and that was the start - and when I was lying there, dying, I felt him take my hand.

That was when I knew I had wanted that, too.

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