abetterlie: (Innocence Drowned by Marciaelena)
Scars, right.

Due to the whole fast healing factor, I only have two which are pretty much invisible unless you know where to look, and I really don't want to talk about dying in the mall again, or about something pretty personal that isn't anyone's business.

In a way I guess super healing is one big cheat, and also really dangerous because sometimes you forget how fragile everyone else is. Sometimes I think people like me who don't have scars of our own, or nearly none, are like big lightning rods, channelling the wounds into everyone else instead. Jasmine could do that, only the other way around - she could take everyone else's wounds into herself and heal them. Maybe that's just the most extreme form of what we do to people. Everyone else gets scarred instead. When I was a child, I figured that was how it worked because my father didn't heal the way I did, and he kept aging - I thought he did it for me. One day I had to burn one of his wounds out with fire - it would have poisoned his flesh otherwise - and that was just a week after my arm got broken when we were hunting, but my arm had been fine for days. His wound - on his left leg - didn't heal until we did the cutting it open and burn it, and even then it took ages. When I saw the scar I thought it was mine. No, not in a "I feel guilty" way; I thought it was proof his trust in me was validated, that I could deal when something like that happened to him, and that in return him saving me, I had saved him. So what I actually felt was pride.

My father never gave me all the details on how we came to be together, just that it had been God's will, and one of Angelus' allies had somehow been instrumental in it. I got bits and pieces of the story later, from Justine, from Fred and Gunn. By the time I met Wesley, I knew it had been him, and that he had thought he was saving me from a prophecy (that's what Fred had said; Gunn had said something else, but he was pissed off at me at the time). We didn't exactly talk much - actually, we never talked at all in those months in the Hyperion - but I remember that I saw the scar on his neck and thought that he had gotten it because of me. And again, I didn't feel guilty: I thought that what happened to Wesley would somehow had been the payment that allowed my father and me being together, which made sense, because you always have to pay somehow. My father used to talk a lot about Abraham when he taught me the bible, back in Quortoth; I thought of how God had tested Abraham, had told Abraham to kill his son Isaac, slit his throat, and at the last moment, he had exchanged Isaac for a ram.

I remember thinking that Isaac and the ram must have felt pretty much the same way about God and Abraham both after that, and that I was immediately ashamed of the thought. So I pushed it away and avoided Wesley when I could afterwards.

There were only two times when that didn't work. One was when everyone tried to turn me against Jasmine. Nobody told me - which was pretty much the rule that year - but what made other people not love Jasmine anymore was getting in contact with her blood, or Cordy's. Like I said, nobody told me; instead, Angel just held me and Wesley took a knife and cut my chest so they could smear Cordy's blood in it. I had no idea what was going on, and not just because loving Jasmine for me was about her being my daughter, not about some kind of spell; they didn't explain what they were trying. So what I thought, at that moment, was that I had gotten the whole Isaac and ram comparison all mixed up; or maybe I hadn't, but what nobody told me was that Isaac and the ram could exchange roles if God wanted them to.

The other time wasn't that much later, when everything was breaking down, I could feel it was, but I tried to stop it after Jasmine had healed me, I tried to capture everyone and bring them back. Except that "capture" wasn't all I tried. When I had caught up with them, everyone except Angel, I took the sword I had and looked at Wesley, who was kneeling. We were in the tunners, under ground, but I cold see the scar at his throat far better than at any point in the past.

I remember thinking that it was my scar, that he had gotten it because of me, but somehow God hadn't wanted either of us, so maybe I should just bring it to an end, and maybe then the story would finally work out. So I raised the sword. And the story did work out. Because in the story, the voice of God finally intervened.

Jasmine's voice stopped me.

Fragile

Mar. 10th, 2007 09:39 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
All bodies are fragile.

It's a lesson Stephen learns very early, and it is one of the most important lessons. No matter how thick their hide, no matter their agility, no matter how sharp their claws and teeth, somewhere, at some points of their bodies, they are vulnerable. Fragile, even.

"Find out their vulnerable spot," his father says, "and you can break them. This is how we survive."

Quortoth offers most of its species in herds, so the knowledge gained can be used again and again. There is one exception. Stephen and his father are a species of two, and not even that. Growing up, Stephen realises their breaking points are not the same. His skin heals quickly, bruises and cuts fading, and he can fall from great heights without any repercussions. His father, on the other hand, carries cuts for weeks, and they leave scars. As Stephen grows older, taller, stronger, his father grows older, slower, and ever more fragile. It is not that he complains; that would be unthinkable. But his breath grows shorter when they have to run. One of the creatures he handled without a problem when Stephen's hands had not been able to wield a blade manages to deliver a sting. He orders Stephen to cut out the poisoned flesh, to burn it clean with a knife held into the fire first, and while this prevents an infection, it also causes him to lose consciousness and to drag one leg behind for two months.

"It is not Quortoth," he replies when Stephen asks. "It is age."

Age, then, is the most terrifying foe of all. It renders his father more vulnerable by the day. Watching him, Stephen observes an ever increasing assortment of weaknesses. When he is very quiet and focuses all his senses, he imagines he can even hear his father's heartbeat losing that strong steady rhythm it used to have. His father, who is strength, wisdom and the justification of his existence, as God gave Stephen to him to console him for the loss of his other children and to avenge their fate, his father who is everything to him becomes the most fragile creature in Quortoth, and it terrifies Stephen in a way nothing else ever has.

One day, his father nearly falls into a nest of slugs. Later, Stephen decides to wipe them out so it never happens again. The creatures are sentient, and capable of speech. They mock Stephen even as they run and flee, taunt him with the fact that he will never be able to get rid of them entirely. Imprisoned, demon child, destroyer, but not us, oh no! they sing. Worlds are ours!

It could be an empty boast, but it gets him thinking. All bodies are fragile. All have their vulnerable spots. What is a world, after all, if not one giant body? His father had called Quortoth a prison more than once, explaining that the demon who allowed him to get here had sworn nobody else would be able to follow, or indeed return. But there had been an opening, once. There could be another.

The slugs, at any rate, have their own kind of fragility. He knows their breaking points, alright. He'll make them prove their boast about knowing the way to other worlds, or he'll kill them, every single one. Either way, he will save his father.

It never occurs to him that fragility is not limited to bodies. But then, Stephen was broken a long time ago.
abetterlie: (Bedroom by Ithica)
Note to self: don't fuck this up. Because one way or the other, you'll be in a position to. Either through the bringing-a-demon-to-the-housedoor thing, or otherwise, by being you. You know, that Larkin poem I quoted to Harry the first time we met? And don't have any kids yourself? Still good advice.

Sometimes I think that what I should have told Natalie was to take her kid and run.

Except, you know. Except for one thing, it's hers and Harry's, not mine. Except for another, good advice or not, I always wanted a family, and I think, maybe being a uncle, maybe that's safe for the kid. Evan. Who's not Jasmine, or Emily for that matter. That's a trap I have to try to not fall into. He's not them. God's gift in return for my dead children. I always hated it when HE called me that. He's himself.

Who's just woken up. So much for "sleeping through the whole night". Back later.

Okay, later. Much later. Harry's with His Highness, and I didn't want to call Natalie the first time I'm supposed to take care of Evan for longer than an hour, so I got sort of a crash course in trying out various ways to put a two years old back to sleep. My mom - Colleen - she did this via singing in my memories, but how do I know that works in real life? Yes, Father did it, too, but usually he couldn't afford to because there were predators around, so he just put a hand on my mouth and said "Stephen, careful". Plus you know, I suck at singing. I tried, anyway, and Evan was more awake than ever. So next I tried the "make some hot milk with honey" method which was on the list Natalie gave me, except we didn't have honey in the apartment. (I need to buy that.) So it was just hot milk. Well, luke-warm milk, because I figured it shouldn't be too hot so he wouldn't burn his mouth. Anyway, it didn't work.

(How I learned not to touch hot things as a child: very fast. Had to, because fire is one of the few weapons you have there when you're a middle-aged man without superpowers and with a toddler to protect. So Father did what he had to teach me. But this isn't Quortoth.)

Next I tried storytelling. Which actually didn't work to for me in either memories because I paid too much attention to the stories to get tired. Judging by the way Evan started to babble, it kept him up as well.

I guess I was pretty desperate. Seriously. And I, well. Imitated the sounds of every demon I could remember, in either dimension.

That did it. He got wide-eyed, and then he got back to sleep. It looks like he's smiling. But what if he's not? What if I've just given Harry's two-years-old son his first dose of nightmares?

Note to self: don't fuck this up. Really, really don't. Also, being an uncle is hard work.

Maybe I should practice that demon sounds imitation thing some more, though. Just in case.

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

Sunrise

Nov. 18th, 2006 09:24 am
abetterlie: (Default)
"It is the best of times, Stephen," his father used to say. "The best of views. It means you have survived through another night, and the world is yours, anew."

"But there is no sun rising here, Father," he replied once. Quortoth did not have days and nights as such; it had a diffuse red horizon turning darker or brighter.

"You will see it," Daniel Holtz said, and Stephen felt the hand on his shoulder, felt the warmth of skin and strength and absolute certainty. It never occured to him to doubt any of the promises his father made, and certainly not this one.

But he still couldn't imagine the sunrise.

****

The world was full of brightness and noise once he escaped the Hyperion. By the time the sun set, he was in a room once more, though, listening to a girl talk of fathers and ice cream, sleeping as she found her death. He woke up to darkness and his second meeting with the demon who gave him life. Later on, he found his father, or his father found him. They needed shelter for the night. There was confusion and shame in Stephen, shame about not having killed the demon and being unable to stop thinking about him, and so he did nothing but follow his father's instructions about aquiring a room in a "motel".

"Sleep," his father said, but Stephen could not, and admitted as much. His father nodded, slowly.

"I understand," he said. "Then let us await the sunrise together."

Stephen had forgotten about the sunrise, and that was an additional source of shame and confusion, because he really had been looking forward to it. So they waited in the small room that smelled of sharp salts and other people, and when it came, breathtaking, glorious, he felt his father's hand on his shoulder again. Stephen thought his father would repeat what he had said in Quortoth, that his was the best of views because it meant they had survived and the world was theirs, but what Holtz murmured was something quite different.

"This is how I saw the sun rise before," his father breathed. "With my child at my side." His fingers on Stephe's shoulder's dug in a little deeper. "I keep my promises."

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)
Define "strong". I guess it's true in one sense, the way my father used to believe it. You've got to learn fast in a hell dimension, or you die, when you're lucky, or you're kept alive for some time as something's food supply or toy. There's no time to coddle a child or fool around or anything like that. If he had raised me that way, well, he wouldn't have raised me at all. There wouldn't be even bones left.

So he did what he had to. You don't make a child understand just by saying "don't". And if you're surrounded by monsters, you have to make it clear you're every bit as tough as they are.

The thing is, this completely worked in the sense that I made it out of Quortoth alive, and that I'm good at fighting till this day. But I don't know about strong. I mean, let's face it, strong people don't go to pieces and go crazy and try to kill themselves and blow malls with people up while they're at it. Strong people find a way to keep their child alive somehow. Angel did it for me, and I couldn't do it for Jasmine, I couldn't find a way to help her with the pain she was in except to kill her. Strong people don't have violence as their drug of choice, full stop.

So no. It didn't make me strong in that sense. Perhaps it was the basic material, but sometimes it just makes you completely fucked up.

But on the other hand, the next time I lost family and was in a pretty bad place, I didn't go for a repeat performance. Which was partly because by then, I had memories of making my parents believe I still believed in the Easter Bunny so they'd keep on hiding chocolate eggs at Easter, of learning to swim in an ocean that nobody ever dumped anyone into, and of getting into a shell collecting competition with Mere. I don't care whether they're fake, they're real to me. And partly because I had got it into my thick head by then there were still other people around who needed me. And whom I needed. So if that means I had gotten a bit stronger, it wasn't because of stuff that almost killed me. It was because of having had the chance to be weak.
abetterlie: (Default)
I've been thinking a lot about my father lately. No, not him. (Though him, too, he's sort of a permanent fixture on my mind.) The one who raised me. Daniel Holtz. Because here's a funny thing: both memory sets I have make me believe in nurture versus nature, with nurture winning. At least it should. And he raised me for seventeen years. I loved him. I still do. But if you ask me about his legacy, about what I inherited from him, about what is still there?

There is the entire destiny thing, obviously, aka the task I failed at doing and won't do now, let's be honest. The whole reason why he went to such lengths to get me. He came to love me later, I know he did. But. As a child, I never wondered about the details, how that whole "God gave you to me" went down exactly, but I know now, and I know my father. What he must have thought first when he saw that baby who wasn't me yet, because it was not yet his son, was that finally, here was his chance to having vengeance, true vengeance.

Despite what his enemies thought, my father wasn't all about vengeance, though. He taught me his beliefs. There was good, there was evil. A man's task was to strive for good, protect the weak, fight against evil. Since we were in a hell dimension, striving for good meant trying to survive, protecting the weak meant first him protecting me and then me protecting him as I grew older and realised I was stronger than he was, physically, even though I was a child, and fight against evil meant fighting against anyone else. Easy. Then I left Quor'Toth, and everything turned upside down. Who was good and who was evil kept changing and was harder and harder to see. I still wanted to fight, but even I had to clue into the fact that might have been more about violence being in my nature - that word again. Though maybe as well because that was always the thing I could rely on being good at. As for protecting the weak, well, he died within forty eight hours of our arrival in Los Angeles, and he died because of me. I could protect the occasional victim a vampire was after, but my track record always was better with strangers. People I cared about? Usually followed suit and either died or went through hell because of me.

My father believed in discipline and patience. Which was one big reason why he survived in a hell dimension stuck with a baby. He had those virtues, and he tried to teach them to me. It worked, in as much as I used them when hunting and trapping my quarry. Or in the tracking game, when he tied me to a tree and disappeared so I could practice my skills and find him. But my father was also patient and disciplined when it came to other people, and well, we all know I wasn't before the mindwipe. I try to be now, but again, not exactly with great success.

So what part of his legacy haven't I betrayed is still there, with me, in me? Life, first of all. He kept me alive against all the odds, and nobody who hasn't lived where we did can really understand how heroic that was. He did not have any superpowers, he didn't have any magical gifts, and he wasn't young even then. He had no one to help him at all until I was old enough to fight. But he didn't just survive himself, he kept me alive. It's because of him that I'm still walking around these days, just as much as it is because of my other parents.

And he knew living and fighting wasn't enough. That's another thing his enemies don't get about him. He always knew you have to hope for something more than win the next fight, live another day, or even the utter defeat of the one you hate. That's why there was one story all through my life with him which wasn't about Angelus and Darla, or about his dead family, or about duty and destiny. It was my favourite story, and it was about where we were supposed to live. In a place called Utah, on a ranch. Together. My father had never seen Utah, and nor had I, then; later I found out Utah had been Justine's choice, but I hadn't know that then. He might as well have called it Oz. Or just "home'". The name didn't matter. What mattered to me was that this was the place where you could go after fighting the monsters, with the monsters staying outside. Where you'd just be with the person you loved, and they would be with you. You wouldn't share struggles for survival, you'd share breakfeast, and when you listened to their breathing and their heartbeast, it wouldn't be because you're afraid they would die, but just because.

My father had that dream, and he gave it to me. It was the best of his gifts, and I have it still.
abetterlie: (Default)
Parents committing suicide or trying to, and parents mistreating their kids. It's a tie. And yeah, kettle calling pot black about the suicide thing, glass house, stones, and so on. No, I haven't forgotten the mall. And what I did to that cop was wrong, utterly and completely. But it still makes me angry to think about what he wanted to do, not just guilty. He had a family who waited for him. And he - that's like saying to your child: You're nothing. You're not worth living for. In fact, it's your fault that I die. You are my murderer. So I lost it.

The other time I lost it to that degree because of how angry I was: when I found Emily with that creep who kept her locked up and called her hellspawn and thought he could just do to her what he wanted. It wasn't about Emily being my daughter being connected to Jasmine, I didn't know that then, it was about her being a little girl, and treated that way. I'm still not sorry for what I did then.

It's not always that clear cut. Sometimes I get into arguments with total strangers at airports and it turns out the father was just refusing to let his daughter go to Disneyland or something. Plus before I got mindwiped, I used to be angry pretty much most of the time, and for lots of stupid reasons, too. But there were still different degrees of anger, and these two things? Push my buttons each time. Before the second life, during, now. I can't act rationally about that kind of stuff, so forget about telling me to. Doesn't work. It wouldn't be an "angriest" if it did anyway.

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.

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.
abetterlie: (Default)
Ooc: this is connected to a longer storyline

Your New York Day And Night )
abetterlie: (Default)
After persuading Justine that they should tell Holtz the truth, Connor seeks out his father and asks him to come along on patrol. He's both nervous and looking forward to this. Both Justine's parents and his own - the Rileys, that is - have reacted badly to the nature of his and Justine's relationship, but then again his parents did not know Justine, and Justine's didn't know him. They also learned about it from other people. Daniel Holtz knows them both, and Connor has persuaded himself by now that his father has never been in love with Justine, so he hopes the revelation will not go down too badly. At any rate, it will put an end to the awkwardness that strikes whenever he and Justine get too close to the subject around Holtz, and will mean they can now be honest about everything with each other.

(Except, perhaps, his natural parents. Talking about Angel and Darla will still be a minefield. He wishes he could hate them unreservedly as he used to in Quortoth, but he can't.)

Stepping outside the old warehouse, he waits for his father to join him.
abetterlie: (Default)
So, this saying about being careful what you wish for? Turns out to be true. It's either one of the best things or one of the worst that happened to me, but: my father is back.

I used to pray for that. Especially once I figured out that returning from the dead is something of a regular trick in this dimension. I thought that it was so unfair that Darla got second chances, and Angel, and I, but he didn't. Ever since we got to Utah, Justine and I kept talking about him and wondering what he would do or say, if only he were alive. And now he is, again, and one minute I'm so happy I could hug everyone from Justine's annoying mother who thinks I'm a freak to Tucker "Now I'm going to completely weird you out by proving I'm capable of sensible conversation" Wells, and the next I feel like asking for another mindwipe.

Because. Justine. I haven't told her he's back yet, but I have to, or she'll find out by herself and think I tried to keep it from her. And when we started this journey, we said no more lies. Secrets are the worst kind of lies, sometimes. I know. But she'll find out, and then - I honestly don't know what she's going to do then. Maybe it'll be like with Cordy and Angel. I mean, she never said so, but I'm not stupid. (Most of the times.) I know she was in love with him. So if she is already ashamed of being with me after seeing her parents again, guess what she'll feel once she finds out he's alive?

Or. Or she's not ashamed, but she tells me that her and me was just something that happened because we were both missing him and alone with each other and seriously screwed up, and that it's over now.

I'll be twenty next week. I think (I should ask him; Fred did a calculation about my age, trying to figure out how time passed on Quortoth in relation to how it does here, but she said it couldn't be more than an estimation). Well, Connor Riley definitely is going to be twenty, but his birthday isn't the day Stephen was born. (That's something I did find out when I did some calculations of my own.) And I promised my parents - the Rileys - I promised them I'd be back for the birthday at least. I thought I'd introduce Justine to them. (And they were so not going to be freaked. They're way more mature than hers.) So you'd think that's old enough to accept if a woman dumps you. Because she will. I just know she will.

And speaking of my parents. The Rileys. They'd get Justine, I'm sure they would, but there is no way in hell I could explain about Father. Unless I tell them the truth. And then they'd either think I'm mad and put me in the kind of nuthouse the police had Justine imprisoned hin when they thought she'd killed me, or they believe me and know I'm not really their son and the cause for them getting a brainwashing, and they'll hate me forever. Plus they still wouldn't understand about Father. They'd be like Todd-the-know-it-all, telling me he was just using me and incapable of love and so on and so forth. (That's what pretty much everyone of Angel's friends think, too, but then, they would. They don't know him, not really. I lived with him for at least seventeen years, and I do.)

And that's not mentioning the fact I met Angel again, the other night, before I found out that my father Holtz was back, here in Utah. He said he was just passing through. Right. Whenever I meet one of my biological parents, someone tries to kill either them or me, so I'm still waiting for that.

(I'm really trying not to think this, but Jasmine would make everything easier. Becuase you know, I could handle living in the Hyperion with the Rileys and my father and Justine and Angel. If they loved each other and me, the way people did when Jasmine was around.)

(Only that was a lie, too, because they rather wanted the pain and the hate, and anyway, I know, I know, she was eating people. It's bad to want any of that back. I know.)

(I still do.)

So I still don't have any idea what I'm going to say to Justine, or what I'll do once I'm back in Los Angeles. Other than find a place to live other than campus, because he shouldn't be in a crappy motel, not like the last time. He should have a good room, with a fireplace, the kind he described when he was telling me about what England was like. And I'll be there, and I'll get it right this time. He won't kill himself again. We'll hunt the other vampires and demons together, the ones I'm not related to. Maybe he'll even give university life a try; I bet he'd enjoy Stanford, and he knows more Latin than most of the professors there.

Except: if Justine dumps me, and then wants to live with him as well - I don't think I could do that. Not again. It was bad enough living in the Hyperion with Cordy and Angel at the same time, before she told me she was pregnant.

I could really use some advice now. But I can't ask Fred or Cordy because they hate him for saving abducting saving taking me, and aren't keen on Justine for the same reason, and I know exactly what my mother Darla other people would say.

I'm starting to think Kara had the right idea about gettting into a coma. Though I was really sorry to hear that. I was hoping that I was wrong about the possession thing.

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abetterlie

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