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After Harry had left for Metropolis, he felt a numb sort of relief, because that was good, wasn't it? Because that meant Lex must have decided to be Harry's friend again.

But that didn't change the rest of the current mess, and Connor still had no idea what to do about the rest. Mostly because anything he could think of, he had already either done or offered. Being-friendly-to-Bruce-all-the-time wasn't enough, and Harry hadn't been wrong when he said, in reply to Connor's offer of giving the apartment up, that this wouldn't change the original reaction and that one had to stand by one's decisions. He was too worn out to think very logical, and what thoughts he had ran in circles, but the only conclusion he could come to was this: Harry couldn't forgive him for having asked in the first place, and for whatever reaction Bruce had had. And as long as Harry couldn't forgive him, they wouldn't be able to get back to normal.

The irony about withholding forgiveness: he was so very good at that himself. A lifetime of training, wasn't it? Figured he'd be on the other end now.

He had learned his lesson from the Chilton affair. He had made himself a complete costume now, to hide his identity, something in dark blue that covered his face and body. It was only midnight, so presumably some criminals and/or demons were still around. It would help with the double need to beat someone up and to feel useful for something.

His father would be disgusted. Either of his fathers. Fighting evil is a holy cause, Stephen, Daniel Holtz would have said, not an excuse to distract yourself from your self pity.

You manage to self destruct every single time, Angel had said, about a year ago, in the Hyperion, or was it: you manage to ruin every single chance you were given.

There was no vampire in sight. He heard people talk about someone dressed as a bat and wondered whether that could be a case in point, but decided no real vampire would be so corny. On the other hand, people coming out of a club yelling about some zombie creature sounded like a) they really could need help, and b) something supernatural might actually going on, so he used the fire exits to enter the club from behind. It was easy to see where the commotion came from; someone huge and bulky was struggling with a woman, and for a moment he thought it was the Hulk, probably because of all the talk with Kara about it. Then he shook his head. This was real. Also someone brownish, not green. Whose argument with the woman had just reached a climax that caused him to throw her across the room. She would have hit the wall with her skull if Connor had not caught her. After making sure she was alive and well (and still yelling), he let her down and dived for the brown giant... who had disappeared. Utterly and completely.

Except his scent was still there. Slightly changed, but still there. In the room, together with dozens and dozens of panicked or morbidly curious people shoving each other into the direction of the exit or the place where the giant had been.

Maybe he was just too damm tired. Maybe he was completely off his game. But the scent was still there, only that element of - what had it been - something familiar - that was missing now. Connor closed his eyes amidst the noise and tried to focus, and then it hit him. That element which had been there earlier, and was missing now, that had not been organic, neither a part of human or demon physiology. It had been clay.

That wasn't explaning as to where the giant had vanished to. The scent was rapidly being fainter anyway, and maybe he really was imagining things. Next thing he knew, he would be seeing the actual Hulk, changing from David Banner into...

Connor opened his eyes. Changing. This was probably the craziest idea of all, but he was the child of two vampires, so he really wasn't interested in probability. He made his way through the crowd, honing in on it, narrowing it down, and finally, about two metres away from the exit, he thought he had it again.

The scent belonged to a man with grey hair and slight build who could not have been more unlike the creature he had just seen.

"Can I help you with something?" he said, and Connor was uncertain again. He shook his head and felt his hair chaffing against his neck because of the hood during the motion.

Wait a minute. He was in costume. Since when did innocent people, when encountering constumed freaks pursuing them, not cry for help?

"Maybe," he said, and decided to bluff. He pointed in the direction of the wall where he had caught the woman."The lady over there said you hadn't finished your conversation with her."

The slight man ran. Faster than any human should; and while he ran, he began to change form. By the time Connor had caught up with him again, he was as huge as the Beast, and judging by the fist that smashed into Connor when the guy turned around, nearly as rock-like.

He remembered his hopeless fight against the Beast only too well. So he went for speed, ducking, evading, jumping saltos across the giant's body, which worked out well enough but didn't give him the opportunity to land any blows, either. Connor felt a pang of envy at Spider-man's ability of shooting webs.

The Beast ultimately had been vulnerable only to something made of his own body, and this shapeshifting man who smelled like clay but was far too hard for that substance might be as well, but then again, he could be utterly different. Connor went through his memories of the Beast anyway, which turned out to be a mistake. It wasn't that far a jump from the Beast to Jasmine and Cordelia, especially now, only a few hours since he had told Harry what he had not told anyone else. He ducked a moment too late, and the arm of the giant hit him full force, throwing him against the dumpster.

By the time Connor had made it out again, the shapeshifter was gone, and this time without obliging by leaving a trace of his scent. He probably did something as simple as taking a taxi. Connor spent the next two hours trying to find him again, and wasn't succesfull. So he returned to the apartment, put the costume into the washing machine and used the internet to print out what he could find on stories about shapeshifters. Out of an impulse, he googled for "clay" as well, and read a few articles there, before giving it up.

He hadn't realized how cold he was before taking a shower. Well. Bruce Wayne had said Gotham winters were tough. He made the water a bit hotter, and for no reason at all sank down on the floor, feeling the drops hitting his skin.

Harry would come back from Metropolis, reconciled with Lex, and presumably a bit happier.

Except if he didn't, or if the happiness would go away as soon as he saw Connor and remembered the non-forgiveness for the choice he had made again.

Entering the bedroom, he found the shirt he had looked for earlier in the evening, the one with the invisible bloodstains. It still vaguely smelled of Harry and the guilt of failing to protect him. Connor put it on and went to bed.

Harry probably thought he didn't get the need for drugs because all he had ever done was that one trip with Ecstasy in New York. But not all drugs where chemical. Either way, they all had the same problem. With time, they wore off. Fighting and pursuing as much as any other. They all wore of. Except love and guilt. Except for those.
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Okay, some new resolutions for the new year of my life, somewhat late:

1) Now that you're out, try to find an oracle again. You still need to check what happened to Cordy's baby.

2) Will yourself into liking Bruce Wayne. Being civil isn't enough.

3) Find an apartment that's not owned by Wayne Industries and which Harry will actually like.

3a) In connection with this: find a job.

Three seemed simplest and most immediate. Well, simple in the sense of not being as difficult as the other two. I knew it wouldn't be easy. Not just because Bruce Wayne owns a lot of places in this city. I mean, I'm pretty sure Harry still thinks this is just about marking territory, plus that I'm going to come up with a dump. And I don't want him to hate every single minute we spend in the new place, or at least wishing all the time he hadn't compromised.

We both did, but he hadn't before, and it's sort of a great present and a challenge at the same time. So, finding a place worthy of Harry? Really, really important.

I went to the public library and checked on the Wayne properties (and okay, the Blob Bruce really is the king of the city), and then I went through all the announcements of apartments to rent which weren't in any of them. Some of them were way worse than the abandoned building I used to live in with Cordy in Los Angeles, so that was out. (It was weird, thinking of that. I was happy there, but I know now she couldn't have been. Neither her nor - I'm not going to think of Jasmine now. Anyway. Los Angeles. Abandoned building. Not an option.) Then there were a couple of houses that used to belong to the local Mafia don, Carmine Falcone. The one I thought Bruce Wayne maybe replaced, which I must be completely wrong about. (Remember that. No more Bruce suspicions.) Turns out they were NOT bought by Wayne Industries after Falcone was arrested. They were transferred to someone named Carla Vitti. Who lives in Chicago and just happens to be Carmine Falcone's sister. And now Falcone is at large again. Okay, out of the question as well, but I marked down the buildings. The mafia is a human problem, not a supernatural one, sure, I get that, but if I'm going to live in this city, it can't help patrolling showing up there now and then and check whether someone is being bullied.

That still left me without a Harry-worthy apartment, so I went on looking. And then I finally hit the jackpot. Not too small, great view of the city, not belonging to either Wayne Industries or the Falcones. So I immediately wondered what the drawback was, because living with Harry taught me something about prices, and what they wanted for the first rate wasn't reasonable, it was downright cheap.

"Well," said the agent who was supposed to sell it, "the previous owner, ah, was a gentleman of taste and style, but he, err, went through a crisis in his life and had a mental breakdown of sorts. This started the ridiculous rumour that there is madness clinding to the apartment."

I thought about visiting the Osborn penthouse in New York for the first time and how it had felt like burning the place down was the most sensible thing to do because of the atmosphere. So not what I wanted. Except when he showed me, I couldn't feel a single thing. No Norman-esque vibe, nothing. So I quizzed him some more, and it turned out the previous owner was one of the local shrinks, Dr. Lucius Crane, who went insane himself. Figures. Anyway, just to be on the safe side, I said I wanted to spend some time alone in the apartment and then when the agent was out of earshot I did that exorcism which had worked with the Greek ghosts and at least for a time with Norman the Bastard. No reaction. Nope, no ghost here. I had Bailey with me, and she didn't sense anything, either.

So I said I'd take it, but without the furniture, and that the agency didn't have to paint the walls new because I was going to do that myself, which meant even less of a price. I still can't pay more than the first rate from my own money right now, but that doesn't matter, because next I went job-hunting. It had to be something for which I didn't need past references and which paid in cash, which sort of limited the options. I got lucky again, though, or rather, superstrength comes in really handy at times. One of the contractors the agent gave me the address off in case I changed my mind and did want help about the apartment was willing to hire people willing to work night shifts and somehow able to do way more in an hour than your other workers can in a day.

Okay, so, revised plan 3): Tomorrow I'm going to start repainting the walls of the apartment. I've also talked to Philipp and Maria and Elizabeth, and they'll send bits of the furniture from New York and Savannah. (See, this is something which millionaires don't get: you can move with your stuff.) All pieces which I know Harry likes and which I like, and when I'm done, it's going to be a good, comfortable place to live which he won't be ashamed of, or embarassed by. It's going to be a home we don't owe to anyone but ourselves and which he would have picked if it had been offered to him.

Now about 1) and 2)....
abetterlie: (Default)
The last days and nights in Los Angeles, free of prison but not yet free to leave the city, had been an eerie mixture of wandering through the past and getting ready for the future. He had gone back to the Hyperion, but he hadn't really slept there, not because of the memories but because after weeks of being locked up, walking and running and the free sky, even if it was the cool November sky, was more attractive. As was getting back to fighting demons and vampires; no lack of them in Los Angeles, never. He didn't have to hold back anymore, and though the familiar rush of the fight was followed by the equally familiar shame afterwards, the awareness that he was every bit as inhuman as the creatures he killed, it set him free.

Taking the bus, he reached the suburb where his family-that-wasn't had lived, and visited the cemetary he had done his best to stay away from. The urns with their ashes were hidden behind a stone slot, and there was no sense of anything human left. Nevertheless, he let his hand rest against the stone. Oddly enough, it wasn't the photos he thought of, the ones the detectives had shown him again and again in recent weeks, it was the first memory he was sure had been real, celebrating his graduation from high school in a joyful, messy family meal. It left him with a sense of fragile peace.

The other thing he did while in Los Angeles was waiting for something he had asked Philipp to sent to him from Savannah via Federal Express, and on Monday, it arrived, just in time for his departure for Gotham. On November 14th, it would be exactly one year since Connor had come to New York to live with Harry Osborn. While they had been in Egypt during the summer, he had found something that he knew he wanted to give Harry to honour that day, though the prospect made him nervous in a way even the Beast had not. Perhaps it was too much, or altogether the wrong gesture. But he couldn't imagine not doing it, either.

Harry wasn't the only one he had a gift for. As it seemed he would have to be an uninvited guest at St. Bruce's manor for a few days, Connor figured a gesture of gratitude was in order. The problem with millionaires was, of course, that they could buy themselves pretty much everything they wanted, and if you didn't particularly like them, you had no idea about their personal tastes which made a handmade gift equally impossible. Besides, presenting Bruce Wayne with a weapon would probably be seen as a threat instead of a peace overture. This left Connor with an appeal to St. Bruce's sense of humour, a visit to Chinatown and the aquisition of a bag of grasshoppers in eatable, i.e. frozen form.

All in all, he left Los Angeles for Gotham with even less luggage than he had arrived in New York with. The jeans and shirt he had worn when they arrested him in Savannah and which had been given back to him upon his release, the things he had had with him on that day, including the few items he always carried around, such as Daniel Holtz' letter and Harry's first gift, the silver flask with the Larkin poem, the grasshoppers for Bruce Wayne and the item that mixed the joy and expectation at the prospect of seeing Harry again with alternating embarassment and hope. He held it in his hand during the journey, freed of the small Egyptian box made of sandalwood it would be in once he presented it, and felt it grow warm, absorbing his body heat. Connor looked at it, and suddenly was sure it was wrong. Too old fashioned, too melodramatic, too -

Then he remembered the letter Harry had written to him, and it seemed right again. To hell with second thoughts. This was his anniversary present, and yes, he meant every implication of it as well.

In his left hand lay a simple silver ring.

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abetterlie

July 2010

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