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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.
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ooc: after this

It was Peter's night for patrolling, so Connor avoided any areas where they could cross paths. He really wasn't in the mood for a chat with Spider-man right now. He just wanted to kill something, or at least beat it up and get beaten up in return.

It took a while before he found a vampire who obliged. As it turned out, this particular specimen was, like the late Russell Winters, whom Connor had never met, a business man, in town to check on some contacts, which made him perfect. He even had the requisite casual-chic-suit and two Fyarl demon bodyguards with him, and was dark haired to boot. Unfortunately for Connor, he was also far more intelligent than your avarage vampire and had dug up all the information he needed about the local superhero scene. Thanks to the recent Harry-Osborn-Comes-Out articles, he even made the connection between Kid Vicious and the guy Harry came out with. After observing the fight between his bodyguards and Connor for a while, he asked:

"Interested in a job opportunity, kid?"

"No," Connor said, managed to break off the first Fyarl's left horn and plunged it into the creature's gut.

"Pity. You have the right instincts," the vampire, whose name had been Arminius once upon a time but these days was simply and less flamboyantly Tony Chilton, commented. "And you'd be more more presentable than my current lot. I mean, considering the Osborn boy taught you how to behave in public. Hey, I could do with some private service as well."

Connor stopped wasting time with the second Fyarl and attacked Chilton directly, which turned out to be a mistake. Tony Chilton, aka Arminius, was a vampire going with the times, and, as mentioned before, prepared. He had a taser, and had gotten it ready while his bodyguards had done their duty.

The last person to taser Connor had been Peter, during the Griffin showdown, and Peter hadn't followed it up the way Chilton and his surviving Fyarl did, Peter had just wanted to stop him from killing a human being. Chilton, on the other hand, had long term plans, and a lesson to impart. Which made for the most thorough trashing Connor had received since Angel cut loose on him during Jasmine's day.

"Ts, ts," Chilton said while delivering kick after kick. "Overconfidence. Young people these days. Want to know why I don't just kill or turn you?"

"Not really," Connor gasped, trying to get a hold on Chilton's feet, but he couldn't move his arms properly, and then the surviving Fyarl's foot stamped on his hand.

"Because you cost me a daylight bodyguard, and I still want you to replace him. After you've learned your lesson. Stop playing around with humans, kid. You're not one of them, and you never will be."

By the time Chilton and his Fyarl left, Connor was a bloody mess on the ground. It took him two more hours before he could move again, but the advantage of supernatural healing still held. He made it to the subway upright, collapsed gratefully in the next train and nearly missed the right station to exit. It was three in the morning by now, but for one of the few times, he wasn't even tempted to take the short cut and climb up to the balcony. He took the elevator. Thankfully, everyone at the Osborn apartment appeared to be asleep or at least pretended to and remained in their rooms. Connor didn't go to the bathroom he shared with Harry, he took the one next to the guest room Illyria had used during her brief stay, and showered. Watching the blood disappear, he felt mostly numb.

As days and nights went, this was certainly not one of the better ones.

Rubbing the water stain away from the mirror, he checked his face. There were some visible bruises, but nothing spectacular. It would be healed by mid-morning. Next evening at the latest. It still hurt like a bitch, though, and so did his ribcage. Perhaps he had needed a reminder that enhanced powers didn't mean immunity from pain, and vampires weren't there as a convenient venting for one's issues and temper. And of course, it hadn't solved anything.

It had just allowed yet another smug bastard to triumph over him while Connor made an idiot of himself.

With a grimace and the taste of blood and bile in his mouth, he switched off the light and made his way to the bedroom to check whether Harry was there.

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abetterlie

July 2010

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