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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.
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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.
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By the time Angel called them via radio to tell them there had been a short, abrupt phonecall from Cordelia, Connor and Phillip had followed the trace left by Harry and Cordelia for days, and it grown ever more recent. By now, they were at the bottom of the Ozark mountains. Angel said he had heard motion in the background, and Cordelia had definitely been panicked, so Connor decided to speed up as fast as he could, leaving Phillip to bring in the rear.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Right," Connor said. "Then let's go."
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After this and this

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

Enhanced hearing abilities are good for something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No.

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

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

The water is cold, and the tiles of the wall, when he starts to beat at them, crumble like paper.
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Moving to Savannah was a great idea, all in all, but it's still new territory, and I don't know the streets, plus I have no idea who the local bigwigs in the supernatural world are. I mean, I met a few vampires whom I staked, but just the usual type. Anyway, this makes things difficult when you try to find an Oracle.

Finding Cordy and helping her still feels a bit unreal. I'm so happy she's still alive; and then I also want to hurt Wolfram and Hart, badly, for doing this to her. But most of all, like I told Harry, I can't stop thinking about the child. Last night I dreamt of Quortoth again. That hasn't happened in a while. Only I wasn't me, I was Father. And there was Emily, and I bound her to a tree, and she cried with Jasmine's voice, and I told her it was for her own good and then when I looked back at her it wasn't Emily or Jasmine, it was a baby I had never seen, and I knew it was Cordy's.

So I have to find out. Whether the baby is alive, and what they did with her. Harry gave me the tip with the tarot reader, so that was where I started today, at the occult shop down in the square. Cue lots of touristy stuff but also some things I think Wesley had back at the Hyperion, and I remembered all the rituals, and how I always hated magic. Lots of incense, too. The smell nearly made me sick.

I asked for the tarot reader, who was a Mrs. Dupont, big woman, around fifty, and she took one look and said she wouldn't read the cards for me.

"You shouldn't exist," she said. "You know that, right? It's bad luck, touching the destiny of someone who shouldn't exist. Something. Something made of dead things, which should be dead. Unnatural."

I said I didn't want to know my future, I needed to find an Oracle. "Not just a seer. An Oracle who speaks for the Powers," I said, and felt stupid, plus I was sure she'd think I was just a tourist looking for some mumbo jumbo. At least she probably wasn't a fake. Given what she said to me. Or she had made a really good guess.

"Ah, but there aren't many Oracles left," she said. "There is a war, don't you know. They want something from me if I dare to contact them. Why should I give anything, hmmmm? What would you give me?"

Figures, I thought, Harry was right, and offered half of the cash I still had, because I thought I'd need the other half for the Oracle. If the Oracle was anything like the last one, that is. Mrs. Dupont snorted.

"You're not serious," she said.

"I get get more," I said, though I hate asking Harry for money. But it was about the baby, and that's more important.

"That, dear boy," she replied, and I got chills when she called me that, "is not what I meant. No, my sweet. What can you give me that matters? Let's see. How about a strand of hair from your beloved? A piece of skin from your father? Some drops of your blood?"

"No," I said without thinking. Which wasn't just because of magic, though I figure if she's the genuine article and a witch she could do some spells with that kind of thing. No, I just remembered what the lawyers did with my blood last time they got their hands on it, and I'll never forget that creep Griffin and what he did to Harry. And how he framed him for his own murders. Maybe I've watched too much tv, but I can just imagine some genetic samples turning up somewhere. For all I know, Mrs. Dupont is a W&H mole.

Or she could be my only way to contact an Oracle.

"Well, well, well," she said. "Tight, are we? I'm on a budget, too, honey."

"Isn't there anything else..." I said, and in the back of my mind, I heard my father - guess which one? - tell me I shouldn't waste any more time. I was stronger than her. I could grab her and break her fingers, for starters, until she called an Oracle for me, and no one could stop me.

The incense felt even more sickening. I could hear the girl crying again, the one in white who had Darla's face in the end when I dragged her to her death, and I remember all the times those people went to Jasmine's suite in the Hyperion, so happy she had chosen them.

She looked me up and down. "How are you at lifting weights?" she asked suddenly. Which was the weirdest thing, but it stopped me from thinking about broken fingers and how fragile and easy human beings are, and I said I was good. Then she asked me to carry some boxes for her to prove it, which I did.

"We need someone in the store who can handle the heavy stuff," she said. After all the you-are-unnatural declarations earlier, this was so, well, normal that I was just stunned and stuttered.

"You - you want me to work for you? In a - a magic shop?"

"Pretty, strong and dumb," she said. "Sounds like a bargain to me. Work here for seven weeks, dearest, don't ask me to read the cards for you or help you in any other way, and don't bring destruction here, and I'll call you an Oracle. I promise."

And then she laughed. "Of course, you'll have to trust me. I could be lying to get a shop boy for free. Am I, hmmm?"

I still hate magic, I thought, and the smell here makes me sick even when it's just ten minutes I'm here, plus how would I know if anyone lies to me about something important? Usually I want to believe them so badly I can't tell.

But right now, she was the only lead I had. Maybe I'd find another. Maybe not.

"Okay," I said. I don't think she stopped laughing for eons. Then she told me to start with the storage room.
abetterlie: (Default)
*locked from Kara*


Before I got mindwiped, upgraded, personality-changed, however you want to put it, I pretty much sucked at it. In the "didn't make any, though some made me" sense. There was this girl, Sunny, and she was the first person who was nice to me in this dimension. I guess she was grateful because I had helped her against the guy who was bullying her, but she didn't just say thank you, she took me to the place she was staying and gave me something to eat, and we talked. Mostly about fathers and how they deserved to die when they were evil. Also, she kissed me. So you could say she had made me her friend, except that she died an hour later, and friendship takes longer than that, so I don't know what to call her. I later went back there, but the cops must have taken her body away, and I didn't even know about morgues and stuff then, so I never found out where she's buried.

My first real friend was Cordelia. Fred and Gunn had taken care of me in the summer, but that was because I was Angel's son, plus they didn't know what I had done. I told Cordy pretty much right after we met, and she wanted to stick around anyway. That was how she was, and I don't care whether you all think it was Jasmine in her, she didn't remember anything then, including Jasmine; it was Cordelia. She had lost everything and knew I was this guy who had pulled a knife on her once and had dumped his father in the sea, and she still gave me a chance. But again, that was her doing. She made me her friend. I probably would have blown it otherwise. Or maybe I did blow it anyway by falling in love with her. But the thing is, when she came back, she still wanted to be my friend. So that was real.

After I got mindwiped, I suddenly had a lot of friends. Okay, not a lot, but some. Complete with memories of hanging out and meeting and what movies they liked and what concerts we went to and what girls we had talked about. Sometimes I still miss those guys, but honestly, we didn't even see a lot of each other before my memories came back - the college thing, I guess. Or reality. Or something. I had two friends at college plus a couple of people I hung out with, but when my memories did come back, I kept having to lie to them all the time. What kind of friend does that? So, end of friendship, more or less, though it took a couple of months.

Then I met Justine again, and we were comrades before we became lovers, but I don't know about "making friends" - it was more like some cross between battle veterans and family meeting each other after some long time apart. I hardly knew her, and yet I knew her, and she knew Stephen because she knew Father. I didn't think of her in terms of making a friend - it was always a different thing. When Harry and I started to write to each other and hang out, I did think "we're becoming friends". No big friends-making skills on my part, though, I probably wouldn't done what he did after that first meeting, write an email to apologize. That impressed me, and he was so serious in that mail that I thought he had to lighten up, so I wrote a sort of joking reply, and that's how it started.

Except with Harry, too, it ended up by falling in love. Which makes three out of three people I met with complete knowledge of my past and became close to and then fell for. (Kara is a category of her own, because I screwed her over before we could become friends - we hardly knew each other then - but then she became family. And family is always different.) So that probably means I still can't make friends, because if you can't befriend someone and be selfless and unattracted or at least just mates with, you're sort of deficient, aren't you?
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The first time she teased him had been only an hour after they met, the loss of her memory making her as lost in the world as he was.

“I love that one,” he had said, showing her a stuffed white bear, one of the few beautiful things in the abandoned house he had made his home. It had seemed good and better than the streets of Los Angeles, but her presence made him aware of how inadequate and unworthy of her it was. “I wish I had killed it.”

“Kind of a funny way to express your affection,” she had retorted. “I love you, bang, you’re dead?”

He hadn’t loved her yet. Connor can’t remember the exact moment he fell in love with Cordelia, though it had come soon after, certainly before she had kissed him for the first time, a playful, happy gesture, born out of her relief when staking a vampire. It feels impossible now, thinking of Cordelia without remembering loving her as well. For all of Angelus’ taunts about Cordelia having been the closest thing Connor had to a mother, he can’t recall seeing her that way. But the truth is that she has formed him as much as any of his parents. Cordelia has been his first friend, and what he knew of friendship before his mind got shaped anew, he knew from her. She had been the first person whom he loved after Daniel Holtz died. Wonder, discovery, desire, the burning humiliation of jealousy and the transcendant happiness of being wanted after all; it all bears her name. Listening to her heart beat, feeling their child move in her body had filled out the world to him, and when both Cordelia and the child that had brought them together were gone, so was the world.

Being gifted with another life, he had found himself remade into someone who could, in fact, live without either. But the part of him that belonged to Jasmine and to Cordelia was still there. Perhaps this was the last lesson she taught him about love; that it does not end but can be transformed into something which no longer needs to possess. Seeing her happy and alive again had been enough. He had come to love others, and knew quite well that there was no wish in her for anything but friendship, either. And yet he brings Cordelia with him, still, in everything from the way he kisses to the way he kills, for that, too, had been one of her lessons.

He would kill for her now. Ever since Angel told him she is dead, the temptation has been there, the longing to escape the reality of her death that way: blame the reporters, blame Wolfram and Hart, for surely they could be behind even a car accident, blame anyone, and feel the horror inside with death.

In the end, he does not even kill the insects crawling across his hand in the humid summer heat of Savanna as he sits by the river, trying not to hear the echo of the past. Her heart beat, the movement of a child, and his promise to always keep her safe.

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.
abetterlie: (Innocence Drowned by Marciaelena)
When I woke up the next morning, I was completely happy, happier than I had ever been, and then I went and screwed it up. Which was pretty much my pattern that year.

Sometimes I rewrite it in my head, so I listen to what she actually says and don't storm out, and maybe then a whole lot of other things don't happen, like the sun vanishing, her needing to give birth prematurely and the coma, the dead girl, and all the others. But it was so confusing. I woke up, and there she was, so it had not been a dream, it had been real. And the world hadn't ended, which we thought it was busy doing during the night. I kissed her shoulder to make sure it had been real, and that she still was, because I had fantasized about it so often. (I was eighteen, okay?) I'm so lucky, I thought. She loves me. She does. And the world is still there, and okay, so there is a Beast which completely kicked the crap out of me the day before and made the sky rain fire, but so what? She loves me.

"Don't do that," she said.

Okay, definitely not another fantasy. Those always ended differently.

"Do what?" I asked, completely clueless.

"That," she said. "The look. The happy puppy look. Makes it harder."

And then she told me it couldn't happen again, because I was Angel's son. At which point I pretty much stopped listening. I felt so stupid. I mean, I was stupid, but not for the reason I thought then. I should have listened. I should have stayed there and asked her to explain what she meant. But basically I just thought that either she had lied last night when she had told me we were real, that the whole Beast thing wasn't my fault, and that she had just felt sorry for me, or that she had changed her mind because I had disappointed her so much and well and truly sucked at sex. Oh, and I hated being Angel's son a bit more than usual, but that was sort of my default mode then. Still is, sometimes. Anyway, both possibilities made me feel crappier than the dirt under her shoes. I got my jeans, grabbed my shirt and got the hell out of there.

Right to Wolfram and Hart, Lilah Morgan, and a bunch of zombies. Did I mention I was incredibly stupid that morning?
abetterlie: (Default)
Cordelia is pregnant.

I felt like the Beast had another go at me together with Angel in a very bad mood when I read that, so "suckerpunched" is putting it mildly. And at first, I couldn't figure out why. I love her, I want her to be happy, a non-demonic baby is great, she's adult and married and wealthy, so I should be thrilled for her and busy looking for presents or something.

But instead, I took Bailey and went out to the Central Park and sat down on a bench and stared, and at some point, I started to cry.

It moved, I had told her when she put my hand on her belly, and I could feel it, her, our child.

Of course it did, she replied and laughed. That's what babies do when they're happy.

Jasmine's gone, I know that, I accept that, I even get it's better for the world and everything. It was horrible experience for Cordelia and this one will be good. Emily is gone. I'm just kidding myself when I think she might come back once she has grown up and can control her powers, or that I'll figure out a way to get to that dimension without dying. But I think of Jasmine and her beautiful smile and the way Emily put her hand in mine and Cordy pregnant and the two of us sharing that and sensing the child for the first time in her, my child, and I couldn't stop the idiot tears.

("Gone". Look at that. Stupid prettifying word. She's dead because I killed her. Our child.)

It's like the last of her is being replaced and erased as if it never existed, I thought, and I knew that was stupid but I still thought it, and Bailey put her head on my knees and tagged and wanted to go and walk some more, and I stood up and did.

Maybe later I'll come up with some honest way to say congratulations to Cordy - she always could see through me when I lied - and stop being selfish and dumb, but right now, I still feel like shit.
abetterlie: (Default)
It was one of those days when you don't know what you're looking for until you've found it. So it was a pretty typical day for me in that year.

After Angel had kicked me out of the Hyperion, I lived on the streets for a while, and I didn't get why that should feel wrong because compared with your average Quortoth scenery, L.A. was fine. So I had lived in a big house with far too many rooms for three months, so what? Except that maybe you get soft pretty soon and adjust to these things. Then I found some place to stay at which I liked because there were stuffed animals downstairs. I guess it had been some old department store with fancy decorations or something like that. Anyway, it was a house, and it still felt wrong. Like something was missing.

My father was, but he had been missing the three months before, too. We had never been apart for longer than a few days - when he was testing me - through my entire life, so it was okay to miss him, except he wasn't the only one I was missing, and also, I kept thinking about what Angel had claimed about the way he died. That he had made Justine do it. I tried to find Justine after that, but she wasn't in Los Angeles any more, and I didn't see her for two more years, so it was just a question of whether to believe Angel or not. I think I hated him a bit more for telling me because I ended up believing him.

So I tried not to think about Angel and my father anymore and it still felt like I was looking for something. When I passed some Taco-selling place I thought "I could bring some home to Fred" and then I felt stupid. Okay, so she and Gunn and I had lived together for three months, but it hadn't been real. She hadn't taken care of me, she had taken care of "Angel's Son (tm)", and so had he, and that fell apart when she found out what I had done. And I hadn't really liked them, had I? I had just pretended to. I mean, I believed they either had been okay with Angel murdering my father or that they were stupid and hadn't figured out why they were supposed to distract me that night. And I had heard Gunn say "so Angel confronts the kidnapper", which made me think the first guess was probably true. So living with them and learning how to type and use the computer from Fred and learning how to throw frisbee from Gunn and eating tacos and learning about tv, that all was a ruse, and we had all been lying to each other, right? It couldn't have been real to me, so I couldn't be missing it. Missing them.

Except that I saved this family from vampires and they were far more freaked by me than they had been by the vampires, and then I ended up sneaking into the Hyperion afterwards. I didn't know why. I just had to. First I saw Fred and Gunn and him, Angel. I don't need you, I thought. I don't need any of you. You're not what I've been looking for, you can't be.

Then I saw her.

She had disappeared the same night I had sunk Angel into the sea, and the only time I had talked to her before that was when I had lost it upon hearing she was part demon and pulled a knife on her and she went all glowy on me. So I really didn't know much about her. But now she was back. Except different, because she came across as confused as I felt. I couldn't figure out what was going on, so I decided to stay and watch for a while. It didn't have to do with missing something, I thought. I just needed to find out what was going on. Because nobody was telling me anything anyway. Not that I wanted to hear from them, right? No.

As it turned out, it was a good thing I stuck around because some demon attacked her later when she was on her own. I think the lawyers sent it. (One more reason to love Wolfram and Hart.) So I killed it and then I thought she would ask me what the hell I was doing there. That she'd either know what I had done and hate me like Fred and Gunn did or freak like that family had done when I had staked the vampires in front of them. But that wasn't what happened. She looked at me. Not freaked, not hostile, just trying to decide something. Cordelia, I thought, and suddenly her name had a meaning it didn't have before. Any moment now that look would be over, though. Which was okay. I didn't need her any more than I needed Fred or Gunn or him. Least of all him.

"Can you get me out of here?" she asked.

For some reason I held out my hand, and she took it.

That was when I knew what I had been looking for. Not for a home, not for people I needed.

Just for someone who needed me.
abetterlie: (Default)
Realisations of the past seven days:

1) Puppies like Italian shoes. Just as well, because if they liked normal sports shoes, it would only encourage Harry to buy me new ones. Also, New York millionaires really like puppies. Which is good because I'm so going to train that dog to act as a second body guard when I'm not around, and St. Bernards get pretty big. No more Todd Campbell idiocies.

2) Cordy's husband is a moron. Without a sense of humour. Or maybe he just had a bad day. We all have those. Plus she must see something in him, right? Still. No idea what his problem is. Maybe I should ask Angel whether that's his general mode towards anyone Cordelia ever was involved with, or just with me. But that would mean talking about Cordy with Angel, which just isn't - well, we haven't done it so far. Since.

Still wish Cordy had married someone else instead, but to fair, it could be worse. She could have married Todd. (Though Todd at least has a sense of humor...)

Speaking of humor - Harry was kidding when he said he and Cordy have the same type, right? Right. Absolutely. 100 %.

3) Kara conversations involving me work best when I'm not part of the conversation. I mean, it totally floored me when she defended me when talking to Orlando. But no sooner do I start talking to her about bracelets and tattos that we end up with the me having hurt her by falling for Harry again. With something bizarre about Angel shoved in between. Note to self: do not speculate about what she meant by "the point is NOT that he wouldn't. The point is that I wouldn't!" There lies badness. I mean, sure, there was a time when I believed Angel was capable of anything, but the mindwipe cured me of that, I know it has. I do not believe he'd go for a sixteen years old blonde slayer who needs a father figure. NO WAY.

4) And while we're on the subject: Christmas presents are a nightmare. So far, I have:

a) Darla: Italian locket bought at antiquity store with two photos in it, one of Kara and one of self. Will not think of Father having a portrait like this of Caroline and Sarah. No.

b) Angel: oil and pastel and water colors and some Japanese brushes. Because he gave me the sketch of Emily. Which I can't look at now without recalling the damm nightmare, but that's not Angel's - well actually - anyway. I hope he'll like the present.

c) Kara: concert tickets for the Rolling Stones (she told Alan Shore in my lj she liked them), January 13, 2006, Friday, 7:30 pm, TD Banknorth Garden. Then it suddenly occured to me that it was a Friday the 13th, and she could think - hell, this is Kara, she so will - that I wish something bad on her. And maybe she wasn't serious about the Stones. So I bought her tickets for Lifehouse on February 1st in Avalon as well. That's a Wednesday. And she probably likes Lifehouse. Three tickets each time, so she can go either with Tucker and Warren or with Angel and Darla, as she likes.

I guess she'll just tear them up and throw them at me.

d) Cordelia. Now, the obvious person to ask is Harry. Because I have zero idea about fashion, and he'd definitely pick something fabulous and fitting. But he's a bit paranoid about her. Or he'd pick something so expensive I can't afford it and buy it for me to give to her, and then I'd feel guilty, because I want to pay for it with my own money. I'm still debating this with me. Until then, I've been getting her a cross bow. She used to be great with them. With my luck, Orlando will probably think this is another complicated insult because he used to play an elf who shoots arrows and will ruin Christmas for her, so maybe I should skip that and ask Harry for fashion advice anyway.

e) Justine. Would probably punch me for wondering. And call it cheap sentimentality or something like that. Plus I don't even know where she is. But I think of her and Utah and driving, and the car - her old one, not Angel's which is what she has now - and... well. I bought some Donna Reed CDs, because she said she liked Donna Reed, and carved some stakes so they'd fit perfectly for her - you can adjust them to the handsize of a person, you know.

f) Harry. Well, the meme kind of settled that, but I've never done this kind of thing before! I mean, it will probably sound either corny or like a description of gymnastics instead of erotic. But a wish is a wish. So: move those brain cells, somehow write an erotic love letter. Instead of a corny description of gymnastics.

I was also thinking of surprising him by replacing the Italian shoes Bailey is so fond of, but that would mean asking Cordy for advice, and that's an even worse idea than asking Harry for advice about Cordy, because Cordy is Kara's friend.

Conclusion: life was so much easier when I just had to wonder about whether or not to kill my biological father...
abetterlie: (Connor)
after this and this


"I don't know what she sees in him,"

Connor mutters after returning from his ice skating expedition with Cordelia. There isn't any particular emphasis and hostility in the remark; he could have just as well said something about the weather. But for some reason, the silence with which it's greeted makes him look up. They are in the library of the Osborn penthouse, and Connor has started putting his various books in the shelves as well as trying to make an inventory of those which are there already. (Who in the Osborn clan read Rebecca, he wonders? Mrs. Osborn, casting Norman the Bastard as Maxim de Winter?)

But wondering about books and what Cordelia sees in Orlando Bloom suddenly takes second place, because Harry is sitting in the library armchair and glowers. Radiates anger on a spectacular level. Harry, of course, hasn't said much of anything since the Kara argument, and since Connor doesn't think he has anything useful to say in regards to Kara, either, he hasn't tried to change that. Just when Connor is about to ask, Harry opens his mouth and speaks.

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abetterlie

July 2010

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