abetterlie: (Default)
He tends to associate people with places and the way they felt to him. It is one way to keep some certainties in an ever changing world. Angel is the Hyperion, always, the sensation of being backed to a wall, rooftops and the city underneath, and the far too bright light of a shopping mall. Cordelia is and always will be a makeshift home in an abandoned building, sitting in a window frame, watching her sleep. Harry, oddly enough, is Griffith Park before he is rave clubs and balconies and a variety of cities: Griffith Park, hiking, sunshine and dust, and what turned out to be, in retrospect, his last perfect Californian day. The road though, just the road and riding a car, listening to music, eating fast food, and being in no particular hurry to arrive at what is almost impossible to find - this will always be Justine.

When he saw her again for the first time after burying Angel in his watery grave, he hadn't intended more than not failing her the way he had failed Daniel Holtz, had not managed to give Holtz reason enough to live, and to stop her from her intended revenge on his parents when he went with her. What followed was a road trip, sure, but it became more than that. It was Utah, the Utah they both had been promised at different times by the man they had lost - had killed, each in their own way - all the Utah they would ever have. Justine once had said, before they really knew each other, that she should have been his mother; on the road, they became comrades; and then, inevitably, he fell in love with her. Sometimes he wonders whether there is something wrong with him, because he can't seem to manage friendship without love. At other times, he's afraid it's not friendship but family he can't manage that way, but he tries very hard not to think about this at all.

Better to think of the good days; of her red hair in the wind because she couldn't stand being locked up for too long, so they had the windows of the car open, of the Donna Reed tapes she played again and again, of that car which miraculously survived impossible roads (though not of the time when he smashed the window because they had argued and she had struck him, and at the last moment he remembered if he struck back she would end up seriously injured or dead, and hit the car instead), and the odd peace they had in an endless series of motels. He thinks about being Stephen and how hunting vampires again had been blessedly simple, without ambiguities. The scar on the back of her hand, and the letter he carried, last physical reminders that a man named Daniel Holtz had existed. They never had remained in one place for longer than four days, a week at most, and far more often just one night, not knowing, really, where and when they wanted to stop for good, and by keeping on the move, the reality of his parents and divided loyalties and past lies had been kept at bay.

For a while. Then, as all road trips must, it had ended.
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)
Two days in Boston, and the oddness of living with both of his parents at the same time hasn’t lessened. It reminds him of swimming in cold water. The water carries you, and flows everywhere around you, it makes you believe that you belong to it in a way you do not belong on land, and it nourishes you. But you still know it can’t last. You have get out sooner or later, or you drown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So much for the idea that life would get simpler as soon as I stop being Connor Riley. Right now, everything just gets more complicated, and that's putting it mildly. Because I soon won't be talking to my Mom and Dad and to Mere again, and because yelling on the cell phone about not being a rent boy and/or teenager-napping gangster is a sucky way to end a life, even though they might not remember that (I'm not sure how the removal of the fake memories will affect the real ones), I went over and tried, yet again. They tried, too. I mean, they did ask about Justine, and when they were finally going to meet her. Which at least showed they've accepted she's my girlfriend, not a lie or someone posing as my girlfriend while really being my handler, or whatever they were imagining. So that would have been the ideal time to produce Justine, yes?

Except that Justine and I are walking on thin ice these days, and that's putting it mildly. I'm starting to wonder whether maybe it's Los Angeles. Because when we were on the road, these things didn't happen. I mean, sure, there was the one time where I nearly smashed her skull and smashed the window of her car instead because I realized at the last minute, and then I ran away and she was drunk when I came back, but that was different. We still trusted each other completley. Which is pretty weird, because if someone nearly kills you with a punch, dumping that guy is maybe the smartest option, but - well, it was different. I don't think she ever thought I would hurt her, not seriously anyway. And I never thought she would hurt me.

This is even different from the whole thing with Angel and Darla, although it's related, because if it hadn't been Angel who asked me to go after Kara, I would have told Justine and Father who it was from the start. The entire press fiasco could still have happened, I guess. I don't know whether she would have believed that stuff anyway, with no connection to them. Believed it enough to - it shouldn't matter so much. That guy didn't mean anything to her. I know that. And she did it because she thought I had hurt her, to punish me back the same way. Okay, strike the "thought". She was hurt, no matter whether it was true or not. So.

So now I know you can use sex to punish. You'd think given two sets of memories and the biological parents I have, I'd have figured that out sooner, but no. Not in practice anyway. And I want things with Justine to be good again and be there for her, and I want to hurt her for hurting me, and that's just the kind of thing to drive you crazy.

Anyway, I told Mom and Dad - will I stop thinking about them that way once they don't see me as their son anymore, I wonder? - I told them some lie about Justine needing to visit her parents. Figures. Yet more lies. Next thing you know, Mom, still in her "let's be understanding" mode, asks whether she can meet "the gentleman you live with" or Harry Osborn instead. Now I could theoretically introduce her to Father. Not. I never forgot what it was like, finding him dead, and I just know that if he meets Mom and Dad, he'll arrive at the "they're good for you" conclusion and will either go away or die again.

(Or maybe I'm afraid he won't. That he wouldn't do what Angel did. Either way, it's a big no.)

Then Mere started with the Harry Osborn thing as well. (You know, at least I won't have the chance to miss Mere too much post-spell removal. Because Kara is totally her twin. Same complete lack of logic, same irritation factor, and same unfair way to score some actual points now and then, as Kara did when she reminded me that if the restoration of true memories all around removes those of the last two years as well, I'm taking away choices, too, same as Angel and the Wolfram & Hart weirdos originally did. But back to Mere: I asked her whether she hadn't read the article about Wolfram and Hart suing the papers who had printed the original story for slandering their client, and she said she never bothered reading denials, and that she had kept the video footage that was linked on the internet. Downloaded and burned for all eternity.

(So that's what's going to stay with my family - the Rileys - once the fake memories are gone. A few minutes of me and Kara duking it out in front of a shirtless Harry Osborn in a hotel room. How is that for irony?)

At this point, I thought that if any member of the Riley clan was safe to introduce to either Father or Justine, it was Mere. Because no way they could see her and think I'd be better off with her, and she might actually be shocked into drawing something like correct conclusions for a change. So I offered to take her along to my place of work, the detective agency none of them really believes exists.

Mere said yes, and we took Angel's convertible (unfortunately yet further proof to her I'm not earning my living by helping a P.I, instead of being a cool car I could show off, which admittedly I had wanted to). Now. Guess whom we met back at the apartment. Father? No, patrolling. A client, maybe one whom we had actually helped? Fat chance. Justine? No, off to, get this, visit her parents, according to the note she left.

Whom we met was a guy from UPS. Delivering a package from Harry Osborn . Cue several squees and "I knew its" from Mere who took the parcel from Tiffany as if she had superpowers herself and opened it in no time flat. What it turned out to be was this:

http://i19.photobucket.com/albums/b187/hosborn/wb.jpg

Mere had time enough to read the inscription before I finally the flask from her, suddenly got serious and told me: "That is a mean poem, Connor. Nasty. You know that's not true."

Thereby pulling the worst little sister trick of all times, also called the vulnerable eye batting. (Kara does things long distance, which is something of an art form.) So I had to lie again and promise I didn't believe it. At least she didn't beg me to introduce her anymore by the time she left.

So, Harry Osborn. You know, presents are strange. In one version of my life, clear water could be one, or finding my father in less than three days and having him smile at me in relief and pride that I was good enough a tracker for that. And then, later, when I got here, there was a room full of things for a child which I didn't know what to do with, and later Fred and Gunn who meant well but kept giving me things for that image they had formed in their heads, "Angel's son". In the other version, I got the usual share, and I wonder what will become of stuff like the bike I got for my twelfth birthday which is still in Dad's garage, because that never existed once the spell is removed, right?

But I don't think there were gifts from people you met, exchanged insults with, got drunk with and somehow got into the habit of corresponding with in that version, either. I hadn't expected to like him, or exchange confidences, or to have that much fun kidding around. But I do. It's strange, having the chance of a friend your own age whom you don't have to pretend with all the time.

"I'll be hiking with a friend on Saturday," I told Father and Justine - both at the same time, and I don't know whether I was feeling cowardly or reckless. " In Griffith Park." Father, who knows about walking for days and not for fun, either, just nodded, and Justine gave me a look. But she didn't say anything.

"I'll have my cell phone with me. You can reach me all the time."

If she asked to come with me, I'd have said yes. If she had asked me which friend I meant, I'd have told and explained. But somehow I couldn't make myself ask her to come, or to tell her on my own. I wanted to, and I didn't. We just kept looking at each other, silently. I've no idea what Father made of it. And then I decided that most of all, I wanted to go hiking alone with a friend, and got out one of the books Professor Stern said we need to read this term. And that was that.
abetterlie: (Default)
Alcohol is so overrated. Seriously, I don't know what Marlowe and Spade et al saw in that stuff. At least the whole embarassing part didn't happen until after I solved the case, as it were. If I had known Kara went to California to get some distraction from her mother's death anniversary by playing Lolita, I'd have just given Angel the hotel address. Anyway, on the bright side, I got some workout. Though Kara really needs to train more. She's fast, but her technique sucks. She should have seen that move coming. If I had been a vampire, she'd be dead now. What the hell did Wesley teach her when he was still around?

On the really, really, really dark side: I had no idea this Osborn guy was so famous every freaking paper in the country would print that stupid idiotic story. And I hear the security vid with me and Kara fighting and him standing uselessly around is online, too. So I thought I'd get the convertible back from Monterey first because that gave me some more hours before having to explain stuff to Justine and my father, but as soon as I was in California, my sister called. Mere, that is. Not Kara. And then my mother. Who'll soon have forgotten I exist, so that's probably one of our last conversations. Great. And then Mere again. And so on. Mom thought this was more proof I started life as a male hooker, and Mere sounds like she wants to have a date with Harry Osborn, too. That was when I got sick again.

Now I'm back, and everyone is out. Whatever Justine has to say when she returns, it's bound to be better than this.
abetterlie: (Default)
It's a strange thing, trust. If you start to lie to people, which he did very soon after arriving in Los Angeles, you soon expect everyone to lie to you as well. His first lie - the first lie he ever told - had been said to Daniel Holtz, regarding his encounter with Angel, and had been said out of a sense of guilt, for not having been able to kill Angel outright. His father had seen through him and forgiven him. In retrospect, Connor would call it a harmless lie, except that he came to believe much later that it was what ultimately made Holtz decide to die in order to ensure Stephen would not stray from his path again.

So when Connor returns to the place he shares with Holtz and Justine this time, he does not say anything about what happened between him, Angel, Darla and Justine. If Justine wants to mention it, she is free to. But Connor has no words anymore; he feels as if they had been all carved out of him. The hollowness isn't quite the same as it had been after Jasmine's death; but there is a sense of it.

When he makes a late dinner, his father touches him on the shoulder, briefly. It's a rare gesture, and there is a strange comfort in it because of it. Connor still doesn't speak. After dinner, he goes out again, though it is nearly midnight by now, armed with an axe and a couple of stakes. He goes straight to the vampire night club where they drugged Justine and himself a few weeks ago. They recognize him there, but not soon enough. He kills every single vampire in the club. No drugged confusion this time, or showings off, come to that. Just very efficient execution. There is no hatred for the vampires in him, probably a first. But he had been told that this was his city to protect now. And it seems the only way to protect people he's actually good at is to destroy.

That was what they used to call him in Quortoth. The Destroyer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(I still do.)

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

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

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

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

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abetterlie

July 2010

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