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It never rains but it pours. So I’m meeting this woman who is supposed to be our first client and supposedly read the advert in the papers, and it’s my Mom. Looking pale and exhausted and worse than at any point except when she and Dad were afraid I had died when that van ran me over, and I hadn’t.

“I want to know what happened to you,” she says. “Maybe your father and I reacted the wrong way, but Connor, you shouldn’t have said you’re not our son anymore. We love you. We only want you to be happy. We miss you. We miss our son.”

I look at her and wonder how she would have seen me if she had met me before the mindwipe. She and Dad both. Colleen and Lawrence Riley, visiting the big city. I think she’d have felt sorry for me but she’d also have been afraid, like that family I saved who thought I was going to mug them. Dad would have thought the same thing. He’d have told me to stay away.

“Don’t you miss us?” she asks, and I want to hug her and tell her that yes, of course I do. Which is true and is not. Sometimes I wish I’d have never remembered, because everything was much simpler during those nine months or so when I didn’t. And I do want to be their son again, and no one else’s. But I do remember, and there is so much of me that is not their son, and I can’t hack it away and hide it anymore. I can’t. If I do the hugging, repenting and going home now, it’ll be just like locking myself up in a box.

“If I was an orphan,” I ask her, because clearly she and Dad don’t believe a word of what I said when I was angry a few weeks ago, “and you only just met me, would you adopt me? Would you love me then?”

“Of course,” she says eagerly, and you can tell she’s thinking of all the Psych 101 books on parent-child relationships she’s ever read, specifically those chapters about “acceptance”. “But you’re not adopted. Is this what this man you’re working for now has told you? That you’re adopted? Is that what started all of this? It’s not true. You’re our son. You were born on the fourth of July, and your father joked about firecrackers all the while to distract me. He was there all the time.”

I know the story. They often told me. Only I wasn’t born in daylight and on the fourth of July. I was born in an alley in the night, and it was raining, Fred said, and the first thing I breathed in must have been the dust of my mother. Later I saw the Beast emerge at that place, and that is where I kissed Cordelia for the first time.

“Come home,” Colleen says, and she sounds so sad. I never wanted to bring her grief, her and Dad. Lawrence. I wanted to protect them when I found out the truth. But now their lives are getting derailed bit by bit, and how long before someone targets them again, just because of their connection to me? They got involved in this without their consent, they got brainwashed just as surely as anyone ever looking at Jasmine and seeing whatever it was everyone but me saw. Angel did to them what Jasmine wanted to do to everyone. He wanted to create paradise for me, so he took their free will and made them love me.

“I’m sorry,” I say, and I run away, because if I stick around any longer, I’m going to tell her, again, and maybe this time she’ll believe me, and then she’ll hate me for what was done to her and Dad and Mere because of me. People hated Jasmine for taking their free will away once her thrall was broken.

When I come back, Colleen is gone, but Father is there, back from patrol. Holtz. He asks me where the next Catholic church is. So I figure he needs some holy water, as a weapons supply, and go with him so I can carry it back. But what he actually wants is light candles for his dead family and pray for them. He prays in Latin, and I understand the words because he taught me a few Latin prayers in Quortoth and because I started take a Latin class at college. All the while, I’m aware of what I agreed to a few hours earlier. To meet Angel and Darla, this weekend.

I never saw Caroline Holtz, or her dead children, and they were killed centuries ago. But I could tell you exactly how he found them. What they did to them. Angel and Darla. They weren’t just content with killing them, except for the baby, who was just dead. They turned the little girl so Father would have to kill her, and he remained with her the entire night, nonetheless, and in the morning, he put her in the light, and saw her burn into ashes. And Caroline wasn’t just killed, either. She got raped before she died, and she had wounds on her tighs instead of her neck. Father told me Angelus joked about that, too, when he caught up with him. So Angelus raped her, and Darla had fun watching.

(That was when he first had to explain to me about sex, back in Quortoth. So I’d know what rape is.)

I’m watching my father who raised me light those candles and wonder why on earth or any other dimension I can’t even do this one little thing for him, if I failed to avenge him already. Turn my back on the two demons who brought me into this world. It would have been so easy just to say no when Angel asked. Because I don’t think they’d have come then. Just one word, no. No, I don’t want to meet you. No, I don’t want to talk to you again, to either of you. No, there isn’t a sick, sick part of me who enjoys being with you and wants to get to know you better.

Sometimes I wish I could cut myself into pieces. Several parts of me. One is Connor Riley who isn’t real, except he is, and Colleen and Lawrence need him to be as he was. One is Stephen who got raised by Daniel Holtz in Quortoth, given to him by God to make up for his dead family, who is a dutiful son fighting the monsters with him, who is in love with Justine, Justine who had so much grief in her life and deserves someone completely at her side. Someone human. And one is “the bastard son of two demons” as Father once put it. Who enjoys killing far more than he should and had a daughter who was older than creation and yet lived for little more than a month.

Betrayal

Aug. 15th, 2005 12:01 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
A few months ago when I couldn’t sleep, I watched this old sci fi show on tv with really weird costumes. Everyone had British accents which reminded me of my father, and at one point a girl said: “My people have a saying: he who trusts can never be betrayed, only mistaken.”

The guy she told this to said that life expectancy must be pretty low among her people, which was sort of what I was thinking, but not quite. I don’t think betrayal is about trust. Especially not trust in strangers. It’s about loyalty. You can’t betray someone you have no reason to be loyal to. You can only betray someone you care about. The other people? You can deceive them, trick them, sure. But not betray them.

When Fred found out what I had done to Angel, she kept asking me “how could you do that to your father?” or “how could you betray your father like that?”. (Not sure anymore which one it was; I got tasered at the time.) But the thing is, I hadn’t. This was before I had even started to think of him as anyone other than the thing who had killed my father. I also thought she and Gunn had been helping him to do that, by distracting me with that beach trip. So I hadn’t betrayed Angel any more than I had betrayed any of the demons in Quortoth which I had lured in a trap.

Only it wasn’t that simple, but it took me a while to figure that out. I don’t mean because I was wrong about what had happened between Angel and Holtz. But I had stayed with Fred and Gunn all through the summer. At first I thought it was just because I had to make sure they wouldn’t find out what had happened, but that was just an excuse; I didn’t have to live with them to do that. Now I wonder whether it wasn’t because I had never been on my own, and this entire dimension was still freaking me out, big time, and Fred was the only one who had a clue what that was like.

So I stayed with them, and they took care of me, and I started to like them. And that is why I betrayed them. Not Angel, but Fred and Gunn. Liking them and lying to them all the time meant I was betraying them. That’s why I got why Fred was so angry once she found out. She was right about betrayal, just wrong about who it happened to.

The worst time I betrayed someone was something else altogether, though. I don’t mean the worst thing I have done – you can do far worse things than betrayal. But as I said, if you care for someone, if you have reason to be loyal to them and still turn against them – that’s betrayal. That’s what happened when I killed Jasmine. I was the last one she had left, and it wasn’t like she had forced me to love her. It wasn’t like that at all. She needed my help, she pleaded with me to help her, and I killed her. I can’t even say that if I could go back, I wouldn’t do it again. Because she was in agony. Because she was about to kill Angel others. But I still betrayed her, and later, when Angel brought down the knife, I thought that was the just punishment for it. Only it wasn’t; I got a new life out of it. Which is good. I don’t want to go back, and I don’t want to die anymore; I truly don’t.

But. Betrayal should be punished. My father taught me that, you know, all those years back in Quortoth. And that’s why I keep waiting for the punishment to show up.

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abetterlie

July 2010

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