abetterlie: (Default)
*locked from Kara*
*on second thought, locked from everyone else else as well*


Harry and Evan. Evan because he said my name. Okay, it sounded more like "Conma" and Harry said he said "Conman" and that this totally should be my name anyway, and I tried to pretend I was insulted, but I had this huge grin on my face that kind of gave it away. Afterwards Harry wanted to show off his omelette-making skills again, so count that as more smiles.

It's weird, sometimes, waking up in the morning and realizing no new catastrophe has happened and I totally don't deserve it, but - this is what happiness is, I think. Not flashlight, lightning strikes happiness but the ongoing thing where of course you sometimes argue and roll your eyes and piss each other off, and in between you think of things you've done and mistakes and worse than mistakes, but most of the time, you can just look across the table and listen to him reading to his son and know that there is no place in the universe where you want to be more.

If that's not a reason to smile, I don't know what is.
abetterlie: (Default)
Between Harry in California to see Kara and Evan in New York with his mother, Connor had a lot of unexpected free time at his hand during the weekend. Talking with Cordelia about the Lex issue helped a bit, but he still found himself somewhere between anger, disappointment and renewed attacks of self loathing.

It wasn't that he was in a position to judge. Between sending Angel under the ocean to avenge Daniel Holtz and bringing an innocent girl to be sacrificed so his daughter could be born, he understood the motivation all too well. But that was just it. He understood because he was tainted the same way.

Connor found himself wandering through the house Harry had bought after discovering he had a child, and coming across various toys left from Evan's last visit. A little truck, a bear, a plush penguin. The texture of plastic and artificial vibres on his skin when he picks them up and holds them is alien, utterly alien, all of a sudden. Perhaps because Vail didn't include artifiicial tactile memory of toys, or because it somehow sums up what's at stake.

After putting the toys on shelves, Connor decides to go to Bullock's office. The man won't be there, but a staple of bills and letters will, and he can do some unpaid overtime work, which means he will stop thinking what he's thinking right now.

Last year, Harry lost a friend and nearly died himself because of a vampire playing games with Connor. This year, he nearly lost another friend because Connor's mother wanted payback. It was all very well to rant about responsibility to Darla on the phone, or to Cordelia on livejournal, but what would be the truly responsible thing to do? Now that the stakes were so infinitely higher because there was a child involved?

Remove the taint, of course.

Perhaps that was what those dreams of killing Kara had been about, too. To show Connor something. No, it's not that he's the only one responsible for Kara's state, though he guesses in the end, he bears more responsibility than Lex Luthor, but maybe he's the one who can end it, only not in a lethal way. Kara told him more than once she wished she could cut him out of her life, but she couldn't, because of Darla and Angel.

Consider this: can anyone reasonably say Harry and his son would not be better off without Aurelians in their lives? And: if Connor was out of the picture, how long before Harry would get back together with Kara? And he would not dump her again. He loves her. She's not sixteen anymore. He'd know what's at stake. Kara would finally have what she wanted, a devoted boyfriend/husband, a family of her own.

And don't have any kids yourself. That Larkin poem. They fuck you up, your mum and dad...

How long before Natalie figures out that Harry's boyfriend is a lightning rod for all kind of trouble in addition to being someone with a psycho family and a bona dide sociopath, endangering her son? And if she figures it out, won't she do the responsible and sensible thing and deny Harry any more access rights, and won't that be the worst thing, worse than the death of Harry's father, because no pain is worse than losing a child, and won't Connor be the one responsible if he stays?

He's relieved when he arrives at Bullock's shabby little office. But the stench of cigars is fresh. The man himself is there. Drunk, as it turns out.

"What the hell are you doing here, Riley?"

Spare time and some more work, Connor says, and Bullock looks at him with bleary eyes.

"Shouldn't you be with your girlfriend, kid? What kind of retard spends Saturday at the office?"

"It's boyfriend," Connor says, "and I'm just following your example, boss."

"Watch your mouth," Bullock grumbles, but when he lights up a new cigar, he offers one to Connor as well.

"I don't smoke."

"God, your generation is so wasting being young," Bullock says, and then remains silent while Connor starts typing. After the third page, the former cop says:

"Did I ever tell you about saving Jim Gordon's life?"

It turns into an afternoon of tales about the Gotham police department and getting fired not for something that deserved firing, of which Bullock apparantly has done plenty, but for something he doesn't regret. By the end, Bullock is so drunk he can't talk anymore, and can't go back to his place, either. Connor can't bring himself to leave the man in his office, not in this state, so he takes him home, puts him under a shower which the drunken Bullock nonetheless manages to sleep through, and lets him sleep in the guest room.

Sunday morning arrives, and he has an overweight 40something with a hangover to deal with.

"How come you could carry me anyway?" Bullock asks suspiciously. "You look like you couldn't carry anything that's heavier than those pansy pamphlets you read when you think I'm not looking."

"Vitamins," says Connor, and makes breakfeast. If he's honest, the whole caring for the boss thing is very much due to this helping him not to ponder that possibility which is ever more clearly on his mind, but not exclusively. It feels comfortable, caring for grumpy elder men; familiar.

"Listen, Riley, whatever I said yesterday, I was drunk, okay? I make up stories when I'm drunk."

Connor can't resist. "You mean that whole part where I'm making you consider switching teams wasn't true?"

Bullock looks so horrified that he can't keep it up and apologizes for the crack.

"You're lucky I don't fire you," Bullock says, but he eats all his breakfeast, and after putting on his coat, he turns to Connor and remarks: "Just one thing, Riley. You won't get a raise for this. And for God's sake, get a life next weekend!"

After he left, Connor realizes that the house is full of cold cigar smoke now, and out of bagels. He spends the next hours with all windows open and a vaccum cleaner, and in between comes to the conclusion that vacuum cleaners double nicely as weights to lift for training. Something still lingers afterwards, so he takes out the dogs for a run. By the time it's early evening, he comes back, feeds the dogs, orders a pizza and starts a book. The temptation he doesn't want to think about is still there, but he's waiting for Harry to come home, which he supposes is a kind of answer.

Endgame

Mar. 8th, 2007 10:26 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
ooc: after Darla arranged for revenge on Lex Luthor because of Kara's suicide attempt, Lex became increasingly apathetic and lost bit for bit of his self under the spell, until
Harry noticed and colled Connor for help



All the way to Metropolis, Connor spent half of the time hoping he was wrong and half of the time hoping he wasn't. If he was wrong, it meant he wouldn't have to think further about just what his suspicion implied, but it also would mean that he had no idea what to do about the Lex Luthor situation, and would have to start from scratch. He thought about Kara taking pills and ending up in a hospital, and who was responsible for that; and then he thought about who was really responsible, and who had spent a good deal of the last months dreaming about killing her, instead of getting his soul sucked out by a doll.

What you did to me was unspeakable. Now the question is, what do you deserve?

By the time he arrived at the Luthor penthouse, he was back to hoping he was wrong. The penthouse itself struck him as an emotional freezer, not as off-putting as the Osborn penthouse had been the first time he had visited New York, just very cold with all the shades of blue. Lex' younger half-brother was arguing with a doctor about something and Harry was this side of frantic when he took Connor to see Lex. Who was indeed wearing fuzzy slippers and doodling flowers on paper. And humming "Mary had a little lamb". Lex ignored both of them, being happily lost into the song.

Well, well, well, said the inner voice which always sounded like Angelus, because anything else would have been unbearable. You've got to admit it's elegant. And funny. You've got to admit it's funny. Come on, son. Lex Luthor as a little girl because he was the jackass that broke our little girl.

He tried to focus on Lex helping to track down the dealers in Gotham. On the fact Lex wasn't, ultimately, the one to blame for Kara's miseries. On the knowledge of what it felt to be locked up, and that nobody, nobody deserved being locked away in their own body, a lesson Connor had learned too late.

Still, it could be something else, something else entirely. Could.

During the flight, he had gone through everything he remembered about the doll maker and her dead daughter. Which wasn't much that could prove anything, but he had to try. The girl had drowned, he remembered that much, broken into the ice.

"Sarah," Connor said sharply to Lex, "Sarah, the ice is right ahead of you!"

At that, Lex stopped humming, and looked up, blind panic in his eyes. "No," he screamed, and his voice didn't sound anything like the self-assured young man Connor had met before. "No, not the ice!"

So much for reasonable doubt. Harry's entire face was a question. "It's a spell," Connor said, without going into details. "I have to find something. If I'm right, he'll snap out of it suddenly, so stay with him and keep an eye on him all the time."

As opposed to Kara, Lex Luthor didn't have a doll collection; any doll located anywhere in the open would stand out as alien and would have been discovered by the servants a long time ago. On the other hand, it had to be at a place someone who had only a short time available would have access to. Connor went from room to room, trying to figure out where he would hide it, and getting a lot of irritated and suspicious looks from Lucas, the doctor and the remaining staff while he turned over books and investigated artificial plants and their pots, until he finally came to a stand still and listened. Something was off, ever so slightly off, and you heard it only if you paid attention and drowned out all the other noises, including questions like "what the hell do you think you're doing?"

The air conditioning. As with virtually every house in America, the Luthor penthouse had air conditioning in every room. But it did not sound the same everywhere. In one of the rooms, the master bathroom, in fact, it sounded as if there was an obstacle blocking part of the air.

Half an hour later, he held it in his hand; not nearly as well-crafted as the last one, but unmistakable. This one had to be an early attempt, or an unfinished work, but it was definitely crafted by the late Paula Shea, and the look in the barely painted eyes wasn't a doll's look. Connor left the penthouse as fast as he could, before anyone could ask any more questions, and spent the next hour looking for weights and water. Metropolis wasn't a harbour town the way Boston had been, but it did have several decorative lakes in the town parks. Drowning a doll the second time felt no less bizarre than the first.

Afterwards, he didn't go back to the Luthor penthouse to check whether or not it had been of any use. Instead, he used his cell phone to call Darla on hers. Not the Hyperion; he didn't want to risk talking to Kara. But he had to be sure.

"Did you ask your friend Nofret to use a soul-sucking doll on Lex Luthor?" he asked when he heard his mother's voice, without greeting.

"Yes, I can use my arm again, Connor," Darla said wryly. "Thank you for asking. Your father is well, too. And Cordelia has that special secret-affair-with-great-sex-glow."

He refused to be distracted. He wasn't 18 any more. Besides, Harry already had left those tabloids featuring Cordelia and Lindsey MacDonald rather pointedly on the bed.

"Did you?"

She sighed. "I'd ask you to be sensible and leave it where it was," she replied, "but I'm sure you already returned our Mr. Luthor to his senses before calling me. Tell me at least you're not anywhere near where he can hear you."

Despite half a day of increasingly firm suspicions, hearing them confirmed in such a flippant and unrepentant manner felt like a punch in the gut. Before he could stop himself, he said:

"How could you?"

Immediately, he felt stupid for asking, so he did what he always did when either of his parents made him feel this way. He lashed out. "He was an absolute jerk towards Kara, I know that. But this -"

"Nobody fucks with my children," Darla said icily. "Unless, of course, my children fuck them back. You didn't see her in the hospital."

"No, because you made it very clear you didn't want me there. And leave Harry out of it. This has nothing - "

"Oh, but it has," she said in her deceptively soft voice. "And you know it has. But he is family now. Lex Luthor, on the other hand, is nothing but a menace. Again, thanks to your efforts. Tell me, Connor, is there any good reason why he shouldn't have spent the rest of his life making a lot of nurses and doctors rich and happy?"

Arguing abouut the individual's right to life without being lobotomized with her seemed incredibly pointless. Telling her Lex Luthor in that condition would have broken Harry's heart might have been something she understood, but she would have used it against him in that way she had, and besides, it would have negated that Lex had a right to his own mind whether Harry cared for him or not. Connor took a deep breath. Then he asked:

"Did Angel know?"

For the first time, his mother sounded hesitant.

"Well..."

"Did he?"

"Yes," she said. "But I very much doubt he gave it another thought after I told him. He's focused on being there for Kara and making things better for her, not on..."

"Helping the helpless?" Connor finished. It had taken him until now to identify the bitter taste in his mouth. Darla, well, finding out what Darla had done had been a shock, but she had never claimed to be anything but a former mass murderer, or to care for anyone but a very limited circle of people. But Angel had been the one to tell him about being a champion.

Daddy has not finished talking.

He had hated Angel then, hated and resented him, but he had believed him. Had believed what Angel had said about responsibilities, about the harshness of the world meaning that anyone with the power to affect and change needed to protect those who couldn't. It hadn't been that different from what his other father had taught, in this regard at last.

"Angel let you put a spell on someone, a spell that was meant take a man's soul away and lock him up inside a doll for the rest of his life. And because that someone had dumped his daughter, he didn't care," Connor said tonelessly.

Unspeakable. What you did was -

He had always known Angelus was his idea of the worst of beings. He hadn't known how much he had come to see Angel as a hero until just now.

"Connor," his mother said, and for the first time since Justine, she sounded pleading, "it was my decision. Your father -"

"Didn't stop you. Or did anything about it. All those weeks. While Lex Luthor rotted from inside out."

"Neither did Cordelia," Darla said, irritation supplanting the pleading. "And I gave her at least a strong hint about my intention. She seemed to approve wholeheartedly. Connor, Lex really hurt Kara. If he were a demon or a vampire, you'd have killed him yourself. I don't believe in humanity as some kind of immunity from punishment."

And he had thought the feeling of shock and disappointment couldn't grow stronger. Cordelia? Angel and Cordelia both?

"No. You don't believe in humanity at all," Connor said, and hung up.

Afterwards, he slowly walked towards the Luthor residence. Other than wanting to know that the guy was, indeed, recovered and himself, he didn't want to see Lex Luthor again. Ever, if possible, which it probably wasn't because of Harry. And for one of the few times in his life, he didn't want to see Harry, either. They didn't lie to each other, but now he probably would have to. If he told Harry the truth about the doll, Harry would either insist on going to California to confront Darla, or at the very least would tell Lex. Which meant Lex Luthor with a cause for vengeance set on his parents. No. Just no. He was furious with both of them right now, and he didn't want to see them, either, but there was no way he'd let them be threatened by someone who had the power and the money to do serious harm in retaliation of what they had done to him.

Then there was Cordelia. Cordy, who knew, none better, what it felt like to be possessed, to have one's soul draining away. How could she stand by and...

That's why there is us. Champions. You're not a part of that yet. Some day, I hope you will be. I love you, Connor. Now get out of my sight.

"Young man," said a voice, and Connor, looking up, noticed that there was a cop coming his way, "that hydrant is public property."

Somewhat bent public property right now. He hadn't even noticed striking and kicking at it. There were some scrapes on his knuckles, but they were already healing. Better to get away. He had a bad record with cops in this state.

Connor ran, and wished, right now, there was a way never to arrive anywhere at all.
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.
abetterlie: (Default)
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!"
abetterlie: (Default)
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."
abetterlie: (Default)
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.
abetterlie: (Quirky by Ithica)
First day at a new college, which is good in so many ways. Connor will be able to think about classes and whether all the attempts to catch up will have been enough, instead of thinking about Kara's outburst at the party, and Cordelia with both Bruce Wayne and Lindsey MacDonald. Yes, good in so many ways.

First, though, he cleans the apartment, because he's not sure Harry has clued into the fact you need to do that if you don't have servants and he doesn't really want him to; it's probably silly, but it feels like caretaking and helps with the whole what's mine is yours situation given that what was Harry's is such a lot. Harry has gone to the bank, and Connor has enough time to finish cleaning; his first classes start later than Harry's.

He's just about to try for the hundreth time to teach Armani how to stand still and walk on signal, like Bailey does, when the bell rings.
abetterlie: (Default)
If, despite your best resolutions, you keep making the same mistake, it's time for emergency measures. To wit: asking the one person you have a more complicated relationship with and feelings for than anyone else what he thinks. But then again, whom else to go to when you're not sure whether you're looking for help or punishment or an opportunity to vent, or all of the above?

Which is what Connor does. He uses an opportune moment when Harry is busy with phonecalls and mail, says he'll take the dogs out for a walk, and takes his cell phone along. Once at a safe distance from the house, he lets Bailey run, keeps an eye on the younger pup and gets out his cell phone. It's early evening in Boston, after sunset, so Angel is more likely than not on patrol. Connor punches in the number and waits.
abetterlie: (Default)
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.
abetterlie: (Default)
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.
abetterlie: (Default)
After this

"Anger and hate," Justine said to him once. "Severely underrated. Keeps you going. Well, not you."

But then, she hadn't known him when hate kept him going, save for those two days between the death of one father and the imprisonment of another. Then Wesley had captured her and locked her up. In a closet. He's thinking of Justine a lot these days, and how she hated closed rooms afterwards, how they drove with open windows whenever they could. He also thinks of Angel under the sea, and the question of who deserves what.

Until Darla comes, and suddenly the fact his cell is neither a closet nor a coffin under the sea and that he does have blood on his hands doesn't provide him with the same resignation any more. He wants to breathe air again, any air, even some of the more toxic fumes from volcanos back in Quortoth would do, he wants his life back, and no matter whether Harry is really okay back in Gotham or not, he wants to see that for himself.

He also wants to hurt someone for this entire situation. And there are no demons around.

(Save for himself.)

Ironically, his general passivity so far, after the first day and assorted knocked out inmates, and the fact solitary didn't cause him to confess have persuaded the administration to a change of tactics. He's put in a cell with another murder suspect awaiting trial. As opposed to many a prison movie, the man in question is neither an oversized gorilla interested in rape nor an innocent who somehow ended up in detention. He's mostly complaining about how his lawyer screwed things up and didn't get him bailed out, and otherwise looking forward to visits from his wife. The person he killed was his son's math teacher.

"She was gonna let him fail," he explains. "Bitch." Hastily, he adds: "But of course I didn't do it."

The next day, Connor is offered a more or less blatant deal. Instead of having to watch the photos of his burned family yet again, he gets to watch photos of Harry Osborn, severely beaten up.

"Now Detective Fitzgerald, she figures the two of you were in it together, for a joyride," the policeman pushing the photos to him says. "But me, I can see another scenario. Maybe the Osborn boy just had bad luck and bad timing. But not you. Look, son, I know a killer when I see one. Bet no one would get the idea of putting your pal Harry into general population again if you confessed to all the murders. I'm just sayin'."

It takes all the will power he has not to move and react until the policeman shrugs and is about to signal the end of their conversation to the guards. Then he takes a page from Faith's book. He has crossed dimensions. He can do this. The main thing is not to look back.

There are glass splinters in his hair and there might be a bullet somewhere in his shoulder, at least that would explain the blood and the stinging pain there, but half an hour later he's on the road. Another hour later, he's confronted with his first demon. Only the demon turns out to be a costume, and not qualified for painsharing. Connor is hiding in one of the many underground tunnels beneath Los Angeles, far too familiar from the past, when it hits him.

He had forgotten. It's almost Halloween.
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?
abetterlie: (Default)
There is nothing like a splitting headache and waking up in a strange place. Note to self: aspirin best human invention ever, except possibly for emails. Alcohol hugely overrated. Also, I’ve got find a way to say thank you to Peter and apologize to MJ for crashing on her couch.

On the bright side of things, it did make me face up to the fact the “make exit for Harry’s own good once Harry is back” option is patronizing bullshit. It has to be his decision.

He keeps writing emails, and I’ve stopped imagining vampires and axe murderers around every corner on his way. Which seems to go through Kansas right now. I looked the city he wrote from up in the map, and then I looked up the easiest ways to get there, and then I stopped. I’m not a stalker. I’m not. Plus he sounds happy, you know. And makes plans for our future.

Bernard made me go through Harry’s fanmail with him. He said it was because security is my business and so on, but he never did that before, so I guess it had something to do with either whatever he worked out about the Chilton disaster. Or maybe with the hangover. Or both. Anyway, turns out Harry gets lots of letters from strangers which fall roughly in the following categories: a) requests for money, b) people wanting to get laid, c) threats/complaints from people who didn’t get laid. Though Bernard didn’t call them that. C) isn’t just about Harry, either. There were some letters from Bruce Wayne groupies because of the article the other week accusing him of corrupting the Sainted B., and letters from Lex Luthor fans threatening to kill him if Lex is next.

I’d say they make vampires sound harmless if I didn’t know better. My favourite was the one from the girl who had this entire theory about the Sainted B. having a secret relationship with the Bald One with Harry as their cover. The proof was apparently them wearing the same tie in tv interviews filmed within a week, or something. Harry was supposed to confirm this. I don’t think these girls are demons, but I’ll keep an eye open anyway.

Harry being on the road, the headmaster of the school he volunteered doing readings and stuff needed a replacement, so I went and read. It’s scary. Not the reading, the reading in front of kids. Plural, and lots of them. Very different from telling Emily stories. I don’t talking out loud in front of the class being that scary in school. Which just goes to show all my high school memories are fake, I guess. Anyway, the kids didn’t try to kill me for not being Harry. They did say they hated the book and threw stuff. Then they wanted to know whether I really was a psycho killer like their mom/older brother/sister had said I was and whether I could show them some knife tricks. It ended up by letting them tell me some stories about themselves. There were was one kid, Jamal, whose mother had just left his dad, and the headmaster later told me that was a good thing because the father beat his wife and kids, they just couldn’t prove it without the woman testifying, and she had always been too scared to. Jamal and his brother and two sisters wouldn’t, either. So now she had left, but didn’t really have a place to go to and the women’s asylum or whatever it was called is way overcrowded.

I remember living on the streets, after Angel kicked me out. I could defend myself. But I looked at those kids and knew they couldn’t. The headmaster said she’d probably go back because she didn’t have much money of her own.
So then I had this idea. About the penthouse Chilton had leased and lost when Harry bought the entire building. Which means it is empty right now. I went there, and used the override code from security to get in. It still smelled of Chilton and I felt sick. But it is huge, nearly as huge as the Osborn place. So I figured, what the hell. I looked whether there was any stuff about me or Harry and there wasn’t. There was an address book which I took, but other than that, not much personal items at all – not surprising, he hadn’t been there very long. I went back to the school, got the address from the women’s shelter, and tracked down Jamal and family. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent persuading Mrs. Ortega – that’s Jamal’s mother – that I wasn’t an axe murderer, and then helping her and her kids move in.

They really liked Chilton’s stereo player.

Not sure whether to mention this to Harry in my next email yet. He sounded so happy in his last, and if I bring up the thing that nearly ate him, it’ll remind him just why he left, but it’s his penthouse.

Bernard just asked me whether I intended to move any more ghetto families into the building. I said this one needed a safe place to stay. He just gave me a look ™. Elizabeth, on the other hand, made cookies.

It’s late, but very warm. I think I’ll go to the Empire State, that’s high enough so the smog isn’t too much to see the stars. I really want to. Somewhere, Harry is looking at them, too.
abetterlie: (Innocence Drowned by Marciaelena)
The thing about being a murder suspect with a high profile runaway lover, lots of reporters camped outside and a staff inside who just went through losing a friend and know you have something to do with that and with the guy they raised like a son running away: opportunities to vent are really, really limited. Which could be a good thing. Last time I went and looked for a vampire to fight instead of patrolling to protect people I ended up with the one who did this to Harry and Mario Ribisi. And smashing the interior of the penthouse is sort of pointless, too. It might piss Norman's ghost off, if he's still around, but other than that. it would just mean destroying yet more of Harry's.

What I did on Saturday after going through the letter a couple of times was pretty silly, I guess, but it sort of helped. I took a pair of scissors from the kitchen and cut my hair and burned it in the fireplace. There's a practical reason hidden somewhere, something about not wanting to give someone an opportunity to grab it when I'm fighting, but I mostly did it because Harry has a thing about longer hair and made me not cut it for eons. Yeah, behold my maturity.

Then I thought he could be dead on a road somewhere, just like father, and I nearly threw up again.

Sunday was when the reporters, who still hadn't realized Harry wasn't around anymore, decamped for the most part. I had no idea why until Bernard put the Sunday papers on the breakfeast table with that look he has. Apparantly someone named Trixie Delight (is that a real name?) claimed to be bearing Bruce Wayne's love child and says she wants at least double the amount Prince Albert of Monaco has paid for his illegitimate children.

I so get why Harry wanted a break from this life, you know. Sometimes I think we should do what we joked about, making a tour around the world, and do it now, not when I finished college. A normal journey, not the jetsetting kind. But then I recall he wanted a break from me as well and that in any case I'm a violence magnet and what he wants most of all is a break from that. And that I am supposed to prepare to do the responsible thing once he's back, and leave.

It's just that his scent is here everywhere and I can't - I can't imagine being without it, yet.

Once the reporters had left for the Gotham side of the Force, there was phonecall from the police station where they had interrogated me the first couple of times. So off I went again. There was a new detective there, someone I hadn't seen before. A black woman in her 50s or something. She introduced herself as Lt. Vanessa Capote and said she had taken over the investigation. Then we had a little chat in the room I'm starting to get to know pretty well. Only this time there was no second cop present.

"So," she said, "Mr. Osborn left us a pretty extensive statement."

I said nothing.

"Tell you what, Mr. Riley. I'm either your nightmare or your lucky break, depending on how you'll play this. Let me give it to you straight. Half the guys here think it's a clear case of a rich boy and his taste for the wild side, and according to his files, he clearly has one. Masochist takes up with bad boy, bad boy carries game too far and kills bystander, masochist gets scared and runs after giving testimony that he hopes will be enough so bad boy doesn't come after him."

"Shouldn't there be two for a good cop, bad cop game?" I asked, because I thought that was where she was headed. I guess I should have made that phonecall to Alan Shore by now. I wanted to. Though I don't think he'll represent me. But there is that idea that maybe prison is exactly what I deserve, and that this would be option number 3, after quitting the fight or walking away again.

Then she did something I hadn't expected. There was a paperweight on the table, and she took it and threw it straight at me, at my head. So I caught it.

"Interesting," she said. "I had a friend once, Mr. Riley. Many years ago. She had those kind of reflexes, too."

"I'm into sports," I said, but she continued as if she hadn't heard me.

"My friend," she said, "was the reason I became a cop, and boy, that wasn't easy in those times for a black woman. She died in the subway. After some white guy had stalked her for weeks, at least that's what her kid told me. Nobody cared, except for me and the kid and a guy from England she was friends with. She was a black woman whose neck got broken in the New York underground. Big deal. Nobody bothered investigating. It wasn't like some rich kid was involved, after all. But see, my friend, she had made the neighbourhood safer for a while. When we were teenagers, there were a lot of deaths all around us. Sort of like Mr. Ribisi's death. And Nikki, she didn't look away. She tried her best to stop them, and she did, for a while. Are you with me, Mr. Riley?"

I thought I was. I just wasn't sure whether or not she wasn't playing me. And then I thought: what difference does it make?

"I'm sorry about your friend," I said. "Nobody deserves to die that way."

"Including Mr. Ribisi," she said. "So here's my question, Mr. Riley. As we haven't found any sign of the man the restaurant staff has described and nobody has seen him since. Do you think he'll do it again, to someone else?"

This was the point where I had to make a decision. If this was a game, she wanted me to admit to killing Tony Chilton, so that even if they couldn't pen Mario and the assault on Harry on me, they could nail me for Chilton, lack of body not withstanding. If she said the truth, if her story was real and she had been friends with a Slayer, then she wanted to know whether the vampire was still around looking for more victims, or staked.

"No," I said, looking straight at her. There was a long beat.

"I thought so," she said. "Now get your ass out of here, kid. And for Christ's sake, be a little faster next time."

That probably means I'm off the list of suspects. I guess. At least I haven't heard from the cops since.

Mario Ribisi's funeral was scheduled for Monday afternoon, and I figured I had no right to attend. So after that conversation with Lt. Capote on Sunday, I went to St. Patrick's and lit a candle for him. My father taught me prayers in Quortoth, and though I have no idea what I believe these days, they stuck with me. When I was done, I thought: please.

I don't know whether I meant "please let Mario be in heaven", because like I said, I don't know what I believe about that anymore, or "please let Harry be okay and not encounter an axe murderer wherever he is now" or "please let me know whether I should go or stay or what the hell is the right thing to do now".

I didn't get an answer anyway. But I got hungry on the way back, and bought some of those horrible New York sausages.

Also a reply of sorts.
abetterlie: (Default)
after this

As soon as Bernard hands you the letter, you know. When you actually read it, on the balcony because the sudden lack of air makes you nearly throw up, the words mix and mingle with two other letters, one written to you, one written by you, and it's hard, so hard, to keep them separate.

Dearest Stephen, this is a most difficult letter for me to write.

..You're probably going to understand what motivated this letter, but there is a good chance that you're going to be pissed off that you're being told in a letter instead of me in person...

Dearest Justine, don't tear the letter up before you've read it. I know you'll want to after anyway.

You mean more to me than anything in this world or any other.

...I love you. I told you in the hospital room that no matter what went down, that in the end I would always love you...

Thank you for being with me. I know what you think about lies, and how we all use them. But you're the most real person I've ever known.

by the time you receive this, I will be gone. I hope one day you will be able to forgive an old man's weakness, which compels him to say these things in a letter. But to attempt a good-bye in your presence would be impossible for me.

...the reason you're reading about it instead of hearing me tell you is that I'm not sure I would have the guts to awalk out of the door if I had to face you first...

I know I'm betraying the mission, but there is a Slayer in Los Angeles now, so there is someone to help people. I'm betraying you by leaving as well, but that's better than getting you killed, or hurting you again...

I'm comforted by that certainty and the knowledge that with him you will discover your true purpose and come to know who it is you are meant to be.

But I have to get away from Manhattan, and the life of Harry Osborn so I can figure out who I am on my own.

What happened with my - what happened wasn't a coincidence. It keeps happening, again and again. They all die. Everyone I care about. He said each time I get a family I destroy everything, and he was right. But maybe I can stop it from happening if I just go away.

Full circle. It always comes full circle. And the one thing that keeps you from jumping off that balcony, not to die but to hunt him down, because two hours is nothing, not to you, is that he did what you and your father had not. He promised to come back.

He also made it a question of need and trust not to follow him. That's another thing. He knows you so well, he knows that being told he needs something, being asked to have faith is what works invariably, every time, and for a moment you hate him a little for having that power. Then you think of him bleeding on a table with the corpse of his friend next to him.

That was all about you, baby.

It's not a suicide note, he isn't lying in an alley somewhere after having wished for his death, any more than you did when you started walking in Los Angeles. Though how would you know if he were? If he wasn't caught by the next mugger, never mind vampires and demons? You don't. Nobody knew whether you were still alive or dead, either, for three days, until you started sending brief email messages.

He had been your lifeline then, hope personified while you tried to figure out how the hell to exist with yourself. He hadn't been above pressing buttons then, either.

You know, Connor, I don't care about that other stuff. It happened and you can't change what has happened, but you can make a difference now. If you die or you give up on people then you give up on saving others. If you aren't around to fight the demons? Then who will be? If you aren't around to keep me from doing something stupid? Who will be?

That was almost a year ago. He would not write these words to you now. You two have changed positions, and it is the last thing you ever wanted for him.

Do you have any idea how frustrating and terrifying it is to know that the only reason you are slammed on a table and having your throat ripped away is because some psychopath wants to make your boyfriend hurt?

No, Harry, but I know what is to be an instrument. The only reason I exist was to bring Jasmine into the world. I was her instrument, and I was my fathers' to wreak vengeance on his enemy. It wasn't about me, either. Yes, I know it's not the same thing.

You talk to him in your head because he did not give you the chance to talk to him in person. (Any more than you had given it to Justine, and by the time Justine finally found you, there was little left to say.) Harry Osborn, who hates being lied to, who hates being ignored even more, who considers the fact Peter Parker left him to rescue MJ and never came back that night to talk as near to unforgivable, who told you to never hang up on him again after that early morning argument on the phone you had when you were in Vegas, essentially hung up on you. And what was that last sex but a lie so you would not realize what he truly had on his mind?

You know what it was. Same thing Cordy gave you. Some people call it "I want you to have something real". The rest of us refer to it as a pity fuck. Congratulations, son. Full circle indeed.

Thank you, Daddy.

It occurs to you that this kind of selfish thought train is exactly why Harry should be far away from you while trying to work through everything. It's not Harry's fault that you have tainted Manhattan for him. Or that you can't be to him what he was to you then. You're part of the problem. Not the solution.

Read the letter again, and try to think for a change. If Bernard has a way of calling him back in the case of an emergency, he keeps in contact with someone. Which means at least there will be someone regularly checking whether or not he's dead. If you try to find out who it is, if you try to track Harry down, you'll prove to him that you don't trust him at all, that he is incapable of not being a victim.

Consider something else. He promises to come back before Egypt. That gives you time to think as well. You can't restore the dead to him, or what was lost when Chilton nearly killed him. You can't even promise, credibly, that you will never fight another vampire again, and not just because of the part in you which craves violence. You have been given your second chance when so many died because of you, starting with a girl in white. All those Jasmine killed to nourish herself. A cop on the roof of a Los Angeles skyscraper, with a family waiting for him. Your parents and Mere. And now, in a way, all those victims Angelus and Darla claimed, because fate had presented you with the moment of the fall, two hundred and fifty years ago in Ireland, and you found yourself incapable of doing what needed to be done. The very least you can do is to use what freakish nature has given you and try to keep others from dying.

I think he knew that as long as he was Spider-man the rest of us were at risk. And he was right.

There is of course another option. The one you saw when you started your own walkabout, leaving Justine and Los Angeles behind, as it turned out for good. Something you can give Harry.

When I think about my dreams and the life I want to have, it doesn't involve hiding from the demon and the criminal of the week.

Say he's not lying somewhere in an alley, even now, dying. Say he comes back in a few weeks, as he promised.

Maybe then you'll be able to do the responsible thing, finally. The one you know you should have been doing all along.

To be perfectly honest with you, it's what I want to give myself.

But you can't, Harry. Not unless someone cuts out the taint in your life altogether.

You're not the one who should have been walking away.

I am.
abetterlie: (Default)
„Let’s go through this one more time, Mr. Riley. You just happened to show up at Mario’s because…?”

“I wanted to apologize for the incident the other week.”

“Where you pulled a knife on Mr. Osborn and Mr. Wayne.”

“I didn’t pull a knife, I used one of the knives of the table to cut a pizza and used too much force because I was upset, so it went into the table.”

“…naturally. You went there to apologize on your own instead of going with Mr. Osborn, whom you happen to live with, and who had left for the same destination only forty five minutes earlier.”

“I did not know that.”

“Naturally. And then you arrived and found Mr. Ribisi dead, Mr. Osborn bleeding and the culprit gone.”

“Yes.”

“But you did not check for other survivors.”

“I saw Harry was bleeding and in a bad condition. He needed medical attention at once. So I took him to the hospital. I didn’t have time for anything else.”

“Hm. Guess Mrs. Ribisi and the others were lucky that Spider-man just happened to drop by only a few minutes later…. You really expect us to believe all this?”

“Yes.”

****

“Look, Connor, I don’t know how to put this, but – well, you shouldn’t take part in the demonstration on Saturday. We just might get tv coverage this time, and some of the papers. And it would be just typical if they spotted you and asked whether psycho boyfriends who are suspects in murder cases are a really good argument why same sex marriages should be allowed. No offense, buddy, but with that article – no. Just no. We can’t risk it.”

****

“Mr. Riley, Mr. Osborn is sleeping right now. He doesn’t want to be disturbed. I’ll tell him you were here when he wakes up.”

“I can wait. I have brought some books along, so -”

“Oh, I don’t think so. There were more than enough visits for one day.”

****

“… let’s go through this again. You have no idea who the man in his late forties whom Mr. Ribisi and the others saw pulling a gun on Mr. Ribisi was?”

“No.”

“Mr. Riley, we just got an interesting fax from Las Vegas. Seems a young drugged woman was handed over to ambulance by someone matching your description. Guess whom she described has having drugged her in the first place once she recovered? A salt and pepper haired man in his late Forties. She claims to have some vague memories of driving around with you and him in a limousine. Any comment?”

****

“Mr. Riley, you remember the purpose of summer classes? As in actually attend? You are late again.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Any additional explanations?”

“Maybe he beat up his boyfriend again. Or stabbed another restaurant owner.”

“Nobody asked you, Mr. Elias. Mr. Riley, sit. Now, where were we? The Hittite period…”

****

“Let’s go through this again. You were at Mario Ribisi’s because….?”
abetterlie: (Default)
As vampires went, Tony Chilton was not particularly old; a mere century. So he was not surprised to encounter new experiences. Getting evicted by a snotty human kid determined to play with the adults was one he could have done without, but then again, it offered new opportunities to move his own current pet project forward. He went through the files he had accumulated, made a choice and decided to enjoy an Italian evening. After all, he was a paisan, of sorts, by virtue of having been bitten by one.

Around eight pm on Tuesday evening, one Mario Ribisi, owner of a small but popular restaurant, made a phonecall to one of his favourite patrons, Harry Osborn. He asked him to come, to help out, as Harry had offered, and he specifically asked Harry to come without the young man who lately had displayed an unstable temper by driving a knife in one of Mario's tables while dining with Harry and millionaire Bruce Wayne.

Mario Ribisi had no choice but to make the call, of course. Every word had been dictated to him by the man holding a gun to his head. After hanging up, Chilton dispensed with the mortal pleasantries and the gun; he had his Italian meal. Then he arranged the leftovers; Tony Chilton did love his displays.

The table had been set for Harry Osborn's arrival
abetterlie: (Default)
The last time Connor had spent alone with his mother had been a rather uncomfortable Christmas chat. The truth was he never quite knew how to handle her. Angel, he got, whether he was angry at him or not, but he never knew what Darla was thinking, and was secretely convinced she knew what he was thinking all the time.

But when Angel, who had been his anal-retentive self about the schedule he had made, reached the "alone time with Kara" point, Connor was actually glad to take the opportunity, and for several reasons. He had successfully managed to keep the New York Times society page away from Kara and his parents, though it had taken hunting down every single copy of the dammed paper in the Pyramid hotel and tearing said page out to do so. Which had been quite cathartic, in its way. But it still left him ashamed he hadn't handled the news better, and determined to somehow find a make to make it up to Harry. Atonment, they said, happened through suffering. Though the reconstructed and on occasion slightly schizophrenic person Connor was thought suffering should not be pointless and result in something Harry would actually enjoy. These deliberations led him to one inevitable result: shopping for clothes, which he really, really, hated to do. Finding something which Harry would enjoy wearing was difficult when you considered fashion brands strange aliens from another planet. Hence the urgent need of maternal advice. Darla might have been the bloodthirsty nightmare of centuries, but even Holtz had always described her as elegant.

"Don't tell Angel and Kara, though," he implored while they headed off to the next boutique. "I mean," he said, embarassed, when she regarded him with a raised eyebrow, as if to ask what kind of fool did he believe she was, "we have to find something to tell Angel and Kara about where we were."

"No, dear boy, we don't," Darla said wryly. "Angel thinks we're off to watch the Chippendales."

By now, thanks to a lot of posters, Connor had actually figured out the Chippendales had nothing to do with furniture and stared, then was unable to prevent himself from using a Kara term.

"Gross!"

Not strippers per se, though really, Harry always excepted, the idea of guys stripping did nothing for him. But going to a strip bar, no matter who stripped, with one of his parents in tow was just wrong.

"Don't worry," Darla said amused. "I wouldn't dream of wasting the boys on you."

Yes. Atonment was suffering.

Darla suggested the Venetian, which would offer the opportunity for a gondala ride while visiting the shops there. He had never been in Venice, or Italy in general; that brief time in Rome, courtesy of being abducted for an insane ritual, didn't really count. For a moment, while helping his mother in the gondala, he remembered the sight of her in Galway, a ghost from the past made flesh, similar and yet different. But she looks at him, and her smile is a human smile, eyes crinkling with what soon will remain signs of age, and for another moment, he loves her without being ashamed of it.

"So," Darla says, while they sit in the gondola, gliding on a canal between art galleries, restaurants, apparel and jewelry shops, "first you ask your father to torment you and now it's my turn. There are easier ways to handle your love life and deal with those jealousy issues, you know."

So Angel had told her about Wednesday. Well, he would. Connor bites his lip and avoides looking into her eyes which are identical to his own. At least she doesn't know about this morning, and the papers.

"It's not about that. Not only about that. I need to take out..."

"One Tony Chilton," Darla interrupts, and her voice, usually soft and whispery, sounds rather steely. "Yes, so I gathered. And I have no doubt that you will."

This was actually encouraging.

"And what then? When the next enemy comes along? Because there always will be one. You don't always get consultation time. You certainly don't the next time Hal decides to branch out his social circle, because really, darling boy, be a little realistic and a little grateful. If you two were stuck with only each other and no one else, it wouldn't be an idyll. It would be the final five minutes of Dead Ringers, and trust me, you wouldn't pull it off as well as Jeremy."

"I already know I screwed up," he says in frustration. "Tell me something new."

Darla signals for a halt, and they exit the gondola near a shop called "Lior's".

"You'll never have an entirely peaceful relationship, not with him, not with anyone," she says. "You're your father's son. But here's the new part, because apparantly someone has to spell it out for you. You'll always be able to make him want you more than anyone else, no matter how much a shining hero the someone else is to him. Because you're my son as well." She looks at him, entirely serious. "We may never get the Madonna position in their lives, Connor. But trust me, we're the one ones they bloody well can't do without. Now let's go shopping."

Three hours of severe atonment later, during which Connor stumbled across the strange fact he had not the slightest idea what Harry's size was but that his mother didn't even hesitate to make a guess, he found himself carrying bags David and Goliath and Banana Republic in addition to Lior's, filled with what Darla had declared to be Harry-suitable casual wear for the summer. He desperately hoped she was right and figured he'd have to get rid of the bags and boxes and hide the actual shirt and trousers in his duffel before Angel and Kara returned to the hotel. He also hoped that he'd make it through the next six months or so with complete serenity, taking everything in stride, never making a single mistake in his reactions to anyone in Harry's life, because Darla had shamelessy exploited the opportunity to blackmail him into trying out some items for himself as well. It was difficult enough to distract Harry from doing that all the time, without giving his mother the opportunity to join the act.

Between carrying bag and storing them in various gondolas, between waiting in shoe stores while Darla tried on new shoes and staring at the children's toys section in a speciality shop, wondering whatever became of those legos Harry had given to Emily, he did have another idea. They were sitting in their final gondola when he cleared his throat, pulled something out of one of the bags and handed it over to Darla.

"And what's that?" she asked, sounding surprised for first time.

"A thank you," he said, blushing. He had thought about it. What would be suitable. Jewelry would probably be too much, and besides, his budget was pretty much blown apart by this trip, and he really didn't want to ask Harry for money. And he didn't want to just say thank you, he also wanted to make her smile and show her he got it, at least some of what she had meant about herself and him. So, thinking about certain recent journal entries made by Angel and ramblings made by Kara, he came up with what was hopefully just the right symbol.

The small package he handed over to Darla, beautifully wrapped up, contained a chinese laque box, and in the box, filled to the maximum, tea.

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