abetterlie: (Default)
I think I pretty much expected it. That's what he told me, too.

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

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

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

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

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

"Can you type?" he asked.

"Yeah, but I thought -"

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

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

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

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

That's what he told me.
abetterlie: (Connor)
As yesterday was world AIDS day, the entire demonstration/assembly thing turned out to be way huger than just a bunch of students. It was also weird, because aside from demonstrating, everyone was soon arguing with everyone else, about all kind of things, from whether still connecting AIDS with homosexuals was discriminating against women to whether it was all a ploy by the pharmazeutical industry to exploit the Third World further back to whether not allowing gays to be priests was a way to blame gays for paedophilia. If there was anyone around who didn't have a clue what the demonstration was supposed to be about, they certainly didn't have after, either.

Note to self: demon fighting is way better organized. No matter whether it's Father or Angel giving the orders.

Or maybe this is because it's New York? I just never went to any demonstrations or group things at Stanford.

Anyway, at one point an idiot said to me "wait, I saw you in the tabloids - aren't you supposed to be banging Orlando Bloom's wife?". I tried to ignore him. I really did. He said something else about Cordy and ways of desperate repressed people to fight against their orientation, and then he called her a "professional fag hag", and I kind of snapped. Not so much that I didn't recall he was human and held back accordingly, but the punch was enough to get him on the ground anyway. Then another guy told me I was just enforcing bad stereotypes and I had enough and walked away.

Which was when I ran into Claire Davidson who was shopping for Christmas or something.

I had met her only that one time when Harry came home from his date and I had just caught Tom the thieving therapist, but she recognized me, so I said hello. And that was when things started to get even crazier. Because she dragged me to the next Starbuck's and said:

"Look, you've got to help me out with Harry."

Okay, I thought, I'm not that much of a masochist. And anyway, I thought Harry had said she knew the date hadn't been a date date but a publicity date. Plus I got Kara flashbacks, again. So I cleared my throat and said:

"I'm sure he likes you, but not as a girlfriend."

Which was the most diplomatic thing I could come up with. But she just shook her head impatiently and said:

"That's not what I'm talking about. How dumb do you think I am? Harry pinged my gaydar way back when he was still mooning over that Watson girl. No, I want Harry to back me up when I make my move with the board."

I made a very intelligent "huh?" sound.

"Boy, he really picked you just for your looks, didn't he," she declared pityingly. "Daddy is sweet, but somewhere back in the 19th century if he thinks all I'm going to do with my trust fund is to wait for someone with a bigger trust fund. I took business classes, and that whole bunch of crusty old men at OsCorp clearly has no idea about how to deal with modern management. Not that Harry is the world's brightest bulb, either, but I guess he can recognize talent, plus he really needs an ally on the board. So when I make Daddy go into his well deserved retirement? I want Harry to ensure the transition goes smoothly. Why do you think I agreed to that phony date?"

"To see Rent?" I said, so I'd say anything at all. She snorted in a semi-amused way.

"Right," she said. "So, tell him that when you get home. He has my phone number. And for the record? Next time he asks me on a PR date and brings me home to meet the rent boy, I expect at least a threesome out of it."

Then she rushed off, leaving me with the bill.

The rich are really different from you and me.
abetterlie: (Default)
Day Four in New York, and thank God all my paperwork arrived from Stanford, because I just spend half of the afternoon doing the registrations here at NYU and trying to convince the professors I could catch up. I don't think Harry was completely straight with me about the donation, because they were a bit too lenient with someone who may have had good grades at Stanford but cut a lot of classes last term.

I also got a letter from Dad's lawyer who had tried to find an address for me. About ensurances and inheritance, and I just wanted to write back and tell him I didn't want any of the money, he should give it to charities, but I couldn't. I don't want Harry to support me financially. Yes, sure, it's probably less than he spends on suits in half a year, but still. It feels wrong. So I have that money, and the rest of the newspaper stuff, and I'll try find another job to make some additional cash once I have caught up enough with school to have the time.

Tomorrow: Cordy and her husband and ice skating. Which I'm looking forward to, well, not so much the husband though I've been wondering about him. (What does she see hin him? Sean Bean was much awesome in Lord of the Rings!) But spending some time with Cordy where no one's life is threatened and I don't mess things up. (I remember that oracle telling Angel and me we ruined her life, and she was supposed to end up with someone named the Groosalug.) When she and Emily and I were together, it was a bit like those times when she left me feel the baby in her body. A family. And this time, she didn't fall into a coma, and Emily didn't die.

I just bought the rest of the books I need, and went to one of these New York cafés, because damm, it's cold here. Which I won't tell Harry, because otherwise I end up with the inventory of whatever department store here sells cashmere sweaters. Not that I have anything against cashmere sweaters. Angel had one which I wore once in the Hyperion because there was nothing else around at the time, and okay, it felt good. It's just that he has this strange "too much is never enough" idea about wardrobe.

Or maybe it's just that he likes to give presents. Which I get. I've been thinking about it these last days, because I want to give him something, too. Just because. Obviously, buying anything makes no sense - one of the disadvantages of trying to find something for a millionaire - but today when I was buying the books, inspiration finally hit. Perhaps it's ultra corny and even more embarrassing than what happened on Thursday, well, the end of same, but I thought of what happened when we met and that flask he sent me afterwards with the Larkin inscription, and, well. So we met on September 24th, and Thanksgiving is next week on November 24th, and I know what I'm thankful for despite everything, and I'll burn a CD with a recitation of a poem for every day since then, and if he ever plays that for anyone else, I'm going to commit ritual suicide. But it's still something I want to give him.

Of course, we didn't just "meet". I was interrupting him and Kara. So I have spent most of this week trying not to think about Kara. I'm the king of denial if I want to be. But ever since getting the poetry idea, I couldn't stop. Which led to the other idea of the day. Practice letter writing, because one day, you might actually find something to say that's not completely idiotic and useless in this situation, Connor. So here is my first attempt:

Dear Kara,

I'm not going to mail this letter. I always hated it when people told me they were sorry, partly because I figured what they were really trying to do was making themselves feel better by saying so. Maybe I don't know how you feel, as you said, but I still think this is true for you as well.

Since you're not going to read this, I might as well say it, though. Except I try to find a way to say it that would be true and not about me making myself feel better, because what am I actually sorry for? That I'm in New York? No, I'm not. I can't wish I were elsewhere and you were here. A couple of weeks back, a weird entity looking like a teenage girl asked me whether I had a request, and I asked for that day in Monterey when I found you and him to be changed, so I didn't find you and never met him. Back then, I could still ask that and mean it. I thought that if that hadn't happened, you'd still be together and more or less happy, both of you. But if that oracle were here today and would offer again and promise not to turn me down again, I couldn't ask for this. Which is me being selfish because I need him, yes, but I also think he needs me. And now I'm talking about me again, and I wanted to talk about you.

I just realized that though you have this amazing ability to cut through the crap and figure out stuff about me just when I think you're on a completely illogical tanget, we don't know each other very well. I tend to assume a lot about you, mostly because you remind me of Mere, but you're not her. You're yourself. And come to think of it, you two don't even have that much in common, except for the age. At least I don't think you have a thing for Justin Timberlake. Plus she never knew. About death or monsters or any of it. She was happy. She had Mom and Dad and that life I had, too, before the other memories came back, but you never had that, right? You knew about death and lies and the need to believe long before you became a Slayer.

So you're not like Mere. In this dream I mentioned back when we were emailing, about yet another life, one where I don't remember Mom and Dad and Mere as my family but remember you and your parents and we run off to the circus together after your mother dies, I always imagine we'd end up as a trapeze act, but that's another thing I realized: I have no idea whether you even like trapeze acts, or flying. And I'm not likely to find out now.

You said to me that what it came down to was that I didn't want it enough. Being your brother or having you as a sister, as opposed to wanting him. Which I guess is true. But I still want it, so maybe one way of saying sorry is this: in that other version of my life, I actually know you. And you and I still drive each other up the wall because I'm overprotective and think your boyfriends are scum and you think I'm an overbearing interfering bastard, but never, ever in that other way. And at the ripe old age of 25 or so you marry a guy and I grumble all the way to the church how he's not worthy but still find the best wedding present ever. In pink. That's one of the few things I do know about you and which would be true in any version. You like pink.

If you actually read this, you would say that it is still more about me than about you and another pathetic attempt to get myself off the hook. And you'd probably be right. So I'll end this and hope the next attempt will be better.

Connor


I won't send it, so I guess I should tear it up, or burn it, or something. But maybe keeping it is better, so I can remind myself the next time what not to write. One day, I'll get it right. I hope. I'll just fold it and put it in between the annotated Waves.
abetterlie: (Default)
Two days in Boston, and the oddness of living with both of his parents at the same time hasn’t lessened. It reminds him of swimming in cold water. The water carries you, and flows everywhere around you, it makes you believe that you belong to it in a way you do not belong on land, and it nourishes you. But you still know it can’t last. You have get out sooner or later, or you drown.

So far, Connor has avoided arguments. He has managed to say what he wanted to say to Angel, and he is glad about it. But after the second breakfeast and Darla looking at him with her too familiar eyes while she asks Angel something, or rather starts and then stops, and Connor finishes her sentence without a thought, he knows he has to get out soon, or he won’t be able to any more. They are his parents, all the parents he has left; he has accepted that now. They just can’t be his life.

Emily was supposed to be his life, or at least the next twenty years of it, and she’s gone. So are Mom and Dad and Mere, but apparantly Connor Riley is not, because Connor finds himself missing Stanford when that Spike guy shows up with a few pointed quotes from some Victorian tripe about faithless lovers until Angel snaps at him. Which would have been unnecessary. Connor doesn’t know Spike, and consequently, Spike’s opinion doesn’t really affect him. But the quotes which he can’t identify – because sure, some of the Victorians were bad, but did someone actually publish that stuff? – remind him he used to enjoy his English literature classes. And the psychology classes. College in general. Back when he wanted more than demon fighting. Even further back when he didn’t want any demon fighting at all.

So Connor calls the TA of his favourite professor, mostly because it’s better than another round of wondering what Emily is doing right now in Reloin, and hears what he has already suspected: he has lost his place at Stanford. It’s been a minor miracle they didn’t chuck him out after all the absences last term due to travelling with Justine. His most recent flight did it. It shouldn’t matter, not with everything else that has happened, but somehow, it does.

“Look, I know your parents died,” the TA says. “They still haven’t caught the arsonist, right? Has to be brutal. But rules are rules. If I were you, I’d audit classes and try for readmission next term.”

“Thanks,” Connor replies, and hangs up. It’s amazing to think he could actually do that. Try and pick up his old life again. A part of it.

Then Harry's email arrives, and he wonders whom he was kidding. He’s not going to return to California. The realisation that he wants to finish college remains acute, though. New York has universities. He could try to get admitted there. His grades are still impressive enough.

A child laughs in the streets, and he’s back in Greece again, watching her become light. Go through the portal.

Following an impulse, he announces he’s going out, and predictably enough, Angel and Darla look at each other, and Angel obviously is on the verge of saying he’ll come along, but Darla puts her hand on his, and he refrains. It’s one of her more obvious strategems, a gesture of trust that demands repayment in the form of returning.

After walking for a while, Connor decides to visit Buffy Summers, both because he doesn’t think he thanked her back in the plane for her part in getting Emily to safety, and because she’s the only person here who could tell him how Justine is. She had promised to keep in touch with her, after all. Connor knows that sooner or later, he’ll contact Justine directly. The letter he had left her had been a goodbye, but he can’t let her believe he’s still wandering through the wilderness somewhere, trying to be a hermit or trying for an early death. Maybe by now, she won’t think of him as anything but a soldier who deserted his post anymore, but she needs to know he’s alive, and that his reasons for leaving are not the same as his reasons for not returning. He can’t stand the idea of her imagining him as some sort of suicidal martyr. Being despised as a deserter will be better. And he worries about her. With Buffy here, does she have anyone who could be her friend back in L.A.?

Because he’s thinking of Justine and Los Angeles, he first assumes what he sees when he turns around a corner is a trick of the imagination. Angel’s old car, the Plymouth, the one Angel had given him and which he has left behind together with everything else. Standing parked near a bar. But it’s still a coincidence, and so he walks over to check. The license plate is the same.

He doesn’t have time to think about the implication, though, because the door of the bar opens, and out in the cold November night, wearing clothes that are clearly more fit for California, comes Justine.

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abetterlie

July 2010

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