abetterlie: (Default)
It wasn't exactly the week from hell, but a hell of a week. The strike meant everyone had to walk, and okay, I'm faster than most people, but not if everyone is blocking the roads because they need to walk as well. Everyone except for Spider-man, that is. Guess who was the only student arriving punctually at college that week? Webslinging is unfair.

On the other hand, Faith was in town. Which was awesome. Seriously, I was kind of surprised she wanted to talk to me at all because last time I saw her she was saving everyone's butt by taking Angelus down without killing him and I was busy freaking out and trying to stake him, so I figured she wouldn't have the time of the day for me, but she did. We even got to spar a little and patrol, and okay, it wasn't much of a patrol because even the vamps figured New York sucked as a hunting ground, no pun intended, but it was still good.

And then Faith, Harry and I went dancing. Which wasn't good, it was the fun kind of torture. I so wanted to kill Harry at times, but I guess finding out how many times you can have sex standing in a dark corner of a club afterwards made it all worth it. Top secret confession: looking back now, I'm sort of relieved Faith didn't go through with it. I mean, yeah, sure, she is incredibly hot, and okay, so I did have some fantasies now and then ever since she wiped the floor with me in Los Angeles. And Harry did say he was open to threesomes. Only I'm not sure I am. Fantasies are one thing, but if you have had sex with someone, things are different. You look at them differently. And I don't know - it probably makes me sound like a prick or a hypocrite because I started falling for Harry when I was still with Justine - but well, having sex with someone is special. It's not like a handshake. Or dancing, for that matter. So I'm glad the only one I ended up having sex with that evening was Harry.

I think Faith is still cool with me, because she came to the OsCorp Christmas party the next day as my sort of date because Harry was sort of going with Claire Davidson. Some guy named Griffin came over and wanted to dance with her, but she turned him down, and he glared at us for the rest of the evening.

On Friday, the strike was finished which was good because I wanted to take the train to Boston. Both because Phillip shouldn't work the day before Christmas Eve and because I just like going by train. I remember Mere and I thinking it was something out of the movies, like with Butch and Sundance. She'd like the East Coast, Mere. And the snow. Mom would hate it, though. I mean, she did hate it. She went to college here and told me she was always glad to return to California during the winter because of the cold, and even if she never told me because I was a child when she did and in Quortoth, she still must have disliked the weather. Father - Father would feel at home, because of England. It's so odd, because he described Utah to me and only now do I know it was England he described and not Utah at all. Utah was different.

(I'll never go there again, because it belongs to Justine and me, and going with someone else would be a betrayal. But sometimes I still dream of the heat, and of her.)

So now I'm in a Boston hotel that's not too far away from where Angel, Darla and Kara live. Their presents lie on the bed - oil and pastel and water colors and some Japanese brushes for Angel, the locket with the portraits for Darla and the concert tickets for Kara. I already sent the magazine Peter Parker made for me to Cordy, and MJ has the Italian shoes for Harry. After that quiz, he wanted a letter, so I wrote one, which was - well, after I had finished, I suddenly realized it wasn't just the first attempt at writing something sex-related, it was the first love letter I ever wrote. Since everything between Harry and me basically started with emails, it's sort of fitting.

Time to make a phone call, and then go over and - it's so weird writing this - visit the family. I kept practicing what to say to Kara in the train. Also to Darla. Less so to Angel, because I know I won't be able to remember it at the right moment anyway and because we're better at improvising.

Perhaps the best and weirdest thing is that I'm looking forward to this.
abetterlie: (Connor)
As yesterday was world AIDS day, the entire demonstration/assembly thing turned out to be way huger than just a bunch of students. It was also weird, because aside from demonstrating, everyone was soon arguing with everyone else, about all kind of things, from whether still connecting AIDS with homosexuals was discriminating against women to whether it was all a ploy by the pharmazeutical industry to exploit the Third World further back to whether not allowing gays to be priests was a way to blame gays for paedophilia. If there was anyone around who didn't have a clue what the demonstration was supposed to be about, they certainly didn't have after, either.

Note to self: demon fighting is way better organized. No matter whether it's Father or Angel giving the orders.

Or maybe this is because it's New York? I just never went to any demonstrations or group things at Stanford.

Anyway, at one point an idiot said to me "wait, I saw you in the tabloids - aren't you supposed to be banging Orlando Bloom's wife?". I tried to ignore him. I really did. He said something else about Cordy and ways of desperate repressed people to fight against their orientation, and then he called her a "professional fag hag", and I kind of snapped. Not so much that I didn't recall he was human and held back accordingly, but the punch was enough to get him on the ground anyway. Then another guy told me I was just enforcing bad stereotypes and I had enough and walked away.

Which was when I ran into Claire Davidson who was shopping for Christmas or something.

I had met her only that one time when Harry came home from his date and I had just caught Tom the thieving therapist, but she recognized me, so I said hello. And that was when things started to get even crazier. Because she dragged me to the next Starbuck's and said:

"Look, you've got to help me out with Harry."

Okay, I thought, I'm not that much of a masochist. And anyway, I thought Harry had said she knew the date hadn't been a date date but a publicity date. Plus I got Kara flashbacks, again. So I cleared my throat and said:

"I'm sure he likes you, but not as a girlfriend."

Which was the most diplomatic thing I could come up with. But she just shook her head impatiently and said:

"That's not what I'm talking about. How dumb do you think I am? Harry pinged my gaydar way back when he was still mooning over that Watson girl. No, I want Harry to back me up when I make my move with the board."

I made a very intelligent "huh?" sound.

"Boy, he really picked you just for your looks, didn't he," she declared pityingly. "Daddy is sweet, but somewhere back in the 19th century if he thinks all I'm going to do with my trust fund is to wait for someone with a bigger trust fund. I took business classes, and that whole bunch of crusty old men at OsCorp clearly has no idea about how to deal with modern management. Not that Harry is the world's brightest bulb, either, but I guess he can recognize talent, plus he really needs an ally on the board. So when I make Daddy go into his well deserved retirement? I want Harry to ensure the transition goes smoothly. Why do you think I agreed to that phony date?"

"To see Rent?" I said, so I'd say anything at all. She snorted in a semi-amused way.

"Right," she said. "So, tell him that when you get home. He has my phone number. And for the record? Next time he asks me on a PR date and brings me home to meet the rent boy, I expect at least a threesome out of it."

Then she rushed off, leaving me with the bill.

The rich are really different from you and me.
abetterlie: (Default)
More media nonsense, though this time at least nobody knows they’re writing about me. That J.J. Jameson apparantly has a hate-on for superheroes. Or maybe just for people connected with Spider-man. So, newest headline of the Daily Bugle: Spider-man’s Slimy Sidekick: New Masked Menace: Kid Vicious. Or something. Kill me now. I should have let Harry pick a pseudonym. On the other hand, no. Not given what he comes up with anyway.

On the bright side, the meeting with MJ went well. Okay, so she totally kicked our asses at monopoly, but it was fun. And we so ganged up on Harry before dinner. Serves him right; he did make Cordelia go shopping with me, which was such an alliance of the titans behind my back. It was weird at times, looking at MJ, because she really resembles Kara a lot. Kara a few years older, with red hair, and a whole lot happier, and each time I thought that, hello Mr. Guilt and his good friend Mr. Betrayal. Personality-wise, though, she’s not much like Kara at all. More like Harry, actually, in some ways. They both can put on the charm deliberately and make you feel at ease despite the fact you know they do it intentionally.

Personal highlight of the evening? When he told me I was a brat and kissed me in front of her. Rolling on X aside, he never did that in front of other people, and it wasn’t a big deal at all for him, just something he did on the spur of the moment like pouring in more wine for her or passing the whatever-that-great-appetizer-was to me later, and that’s what made it so great.

I thought of that this morning at college, when I ran into some guys from one of the NYU organization for gays who handed out leaflefts calling for students to demonstrate. Something because of the Pope’s new edict on homosexual priests. So I was about to say that I’m not interested because a) not a Catholic, and b) not gay, and suddenly I felt like a complete hypocritical asshole. Like Roy Cohn in “Angels in America” which we watched in my class at Stanford last term, the Mike Nichols version, yelling at his doctor who has to tell him he has AIDS that he’s not a homosexual, he’s a complete heterosexual who fucks men. And I thought of Kara writing to me that I only pick the obligations that make me feel good about myself – like the superhero gig, or college – and not those who don’t. So I took the leaflet and tried to figure something out, again. Not whether I’m gay or not. I guess if you’re in love with a guy, and if you have sex with a guy, semantics don’t really matter – considering that I still think certain women are hot, the term probably is bisexual, but who cares?

Then there is what Harry told me, way before we got together, about the entire expectations-of-the-rich-and-famous thing. Normality as the watchword, and the dating of pretty girls plus the eventual marriage of same as an obligation, as if we’re still in the 19th century. So much for big changes in society. I guess those guys have a point, wanting to demonstrate. Plus though Mom and Dad weren’t Catholic, Father was, and Angel too, so that might make me Catholic by default. Anyway. So I decided to try and fulfill uncomfortable obligations, too. If you’re dating another guy, that means you’re obliged. I’ll go to that campus demonstration tomorrow afternoon. I mean, obviously Harry can’t, with his OsCorp gig, and I get why this is so important to him. If he can succeed where his father failed, he might actually get rid of Norman the Undead Bastard on a permanent basis. But I can.

In other news, Harry took my joke about the St. Bernard seriously and wants to buy a puppy. Which, you know, sounds like fun – I like animals – and I bet he’d be good with them, too. Except then I suddenly remembered Father telling me about Angelus.

”…that is how he often starts his torment. Nailing them to the doors of their owners.”

“Were they his prey? Did he take trophies?”

“No, Stephen. He simply killed them to cause pain. He would drive a nail through their eyes, and…”


Which killed any fuzziness I felt right then and there. It’ll come back, undoubtedly, because I do like the idea of a dog, but so will that old lessons.

Fathers. Don’t they… yeah.
abetterlie: (Default)
Day Four in New York, and thank God all my paperwork arrived from Stanford, because I just spend half of the afternoon doing the registrations here at NYU and trying to convince the professors I could catch up. I don't think Harry was completely straight with me about the donation, because they were a bit too lenient with someone who may have had good grades at Stanford but cut a lot of classes last term.

I also got a letter from Dad's lawyer who had tried to find an address for me. About ensurances and inheritance, and I just wanted to write back and tell him I didn't want any of the money, he should give it to charities, but I couldn't. I don't want Harry to support me financially. Yes, sure, it's probably less than he spends on suits in half a year, but still. It feels wrong. So I have that money, and the rest of the newspaper stuff, and I'll try find another job to make some additional cash once I have caught up enough with school to have the time.

Tomorrow: Cordy and her husband and ice skating. Which I'm looking forward to, well, not so much the husband though I've been wondering about him. (What does she see hin him? Sean Bean was much awesome in Lord of the Rings!) But spending some time with Cordy where no one's life is threatened and I don't mess things up. (I remember that oracle telling Angel and me we ruined her life, and she was supposed to end up with someone named the Groosalug.) When she and Emily and I were together, it was a bit like those times when she left me feel the baby in her body. A family. And this time, she didn't fall into a coma, and Emily didn't die.

I just bought the rest of the books I need, and went to one of these New York cafés, because damm, it's cold here. Which I won't tell Harry, because otherwise I end up with the inventory of whatever department store here sells cashmere sweaters. Not that I have anything against cashmere sweaters. Angel had one which I wore once in the Hyperion because there was nothing else around at the time, and okay, it felt good. It's just that he has this strange "too much is never enough" idea about wardrobe.

Or maybe it's just that he likes to give presents. Which I get. I've been thinking about it these last days, because I want to give him something, too. Just because. Obviously, buying anything makes no sense - one of the disadvantages of trying to find something for a millionaire - but today when I was buying the books, inspiration finally hit. Perhaps it's ultra corny and even more embarrassing than what happened on Thursday, well, the end of same, but I thought of what happened when we met and that flask he sent me afterwards with the Larkin inscription, and, well. So we met on September 24th, and Thanksgiving is next week on November 24th, and I know what I'm thankful for despite everything, and I'll burn a CD with a recitation of a poem for every day since then, and if he ever plays that for anyone else, I'm going to commit ritual suicide. But it's still something I want to give him.

Of course, we didn't just "meet". I was interrupting him and Kara. So I have spent most of this week trying not to think about Kara. I'm the king of denial if I want to be. But ever since getting the poetry idea, I couldn't stop. Which led to the other idea of the day. Practice letter writing, because one day, you might actually find something to say that's not completely idiotic and useless in this situation, Connor. So here is my first attempt:

Dear Kara,

I'm not going to mail this letter. I always hated it when people told me they were sorry, partly because I figured what they were really trying to do was making themselves feel better by saying so. Maybe I don't know how you feel, as you said, but I still think this is true for you as well.

Since you're not going to read this, I might as well say it, though. Except I try to find a way to say it that would be true and not about me making myself feel better, because what am I actually sorry for? That I'm in New York? No, I'm not. I can't wish I were elsewhere and you were here. A couple of weeks back, a weird entity looking like a teenage girl asked me whether I had a request, and I asked for that day in Monterey when I found you and him to be changed, so I didn't find you and never met him. Back then, I could still ask that and mean it. I thought that if that hadn't happened, you'd still be together and more or less happy, both of you. But if that oracle were here today and would offer again and promise not to turn me down again, I couldn't ask for this. Which is me being selfish because I need him, yes, but I also think he needs me. And now I'm talking about me again, and I wanted to talk about you.

I just realized that though you have this amazing ability to cut through the crap and figure out stuff about me just when I think you're on a completely illogical tanget, we don't know each other very well. I tend to assume a lot about you, mostly because you remind me of Mere, but you're not her. You're yourself. And come to think of it, you two don't even have that much in common, except for the age. At least I don't think you have a thing for Justin Timberlake. Plus she never knew. About death or monsters or any of it. She was happy. She had Mom and Dad and that life I had, too, before the other memories came back, but you never had that, right? You knew about death and lies and the need to believe long before you became a Slayer.

So you're not like Mere. In this dream I mentioned back when we were emailing, about yet another life, one where I don't remember Mom and Dad and Mere as my family but remember you and your parents and we run off to the circus together after your mother dies, I always imagine we'd end up as a trapeze act, but that's another thing I realized: I have no idea whether you even like trapeze acts, or flying. And I'm not likely to find out now.

You said to me that what it came down to was that I didn't want it enough. Being your brother or having you as a sister, as opposed to wanting him. Which I guess is true. But I still want it, so maybe one way of saying sorry is this: in that other version of my life, I actually know you. And you and I still drive each other up the wall because I'm overprotective and think your boyfriends are scum and you think I'm an overbearing interfering bastard, but never, ever in that other way. And at the ripe old age of 25 or so you marry a guy and I grumble all the way to the church how he's not worthy but still find the best wedding present ever. In pink. That's one of the few things I do know about you and which would be true in any version. You like pink.

If you actually read this, you would say that it is still more about me than about you and another pathetic attempt to get myself off the hook. And you'd probably be right. So I'll end this and hope the next attempt will be better.

Connor


I won't send it, so I guess I should tear it up, or burn it, or something. But maybe keeping it is better, so I can remind myself the next time what not to write. One day, I'll get it right. I hope. I'll just fold it and put it in between the annotated Waves.
abetterlie: (Default)
After this

Sex, among other things, is a way of knowing people. Not deeper or better than you know them anyway, just differently. So when you think of Cordelia, you remember her smile that lits up the room and the sadness and confusion that surrounded her when she could not remember who she was, but you also remember kissing her when the air tasted of sulfur and there was fire in the sky, and the way her long, long legs were wrapped around you. When you think of Justine, you think of the smoke of your father's funeral pyre, and the salty air of the oceon when the two of you drowned your other father; of her hand covering yours in a fast food restaurant for the first time in gesture of trust; of her car and all the many things inside, you never found out now many, and her red hair in the wind because she doesn't like closed spaces and has pulled down the window. But you also think of her nails digging deep enough in your back to draw blood, and what her breasts feel like if you stretch out your fingers to encompass each in one hand.

Harry was already many things and many moments, and now he's also a particular way of gasping, of wrapping his fingers in your hair when he pulls you down, of the way knuckles feel against a penis. So you've had sex with a man for the first time, and you still haven't figured out whether or not you're gay. Because while you enjoyed most of it enormously - note to self: prostate gland stimulated through the perineum has great results, and you must remember doing that to him the next time - and think you can adjust to and figure out the rest, you can't imagine doing it with anyone else. It seems to belong to Harry, all of it.

You don't have nightmares or for that matter any kind of dreams at all that night, you fall asleep quickly and in a kind of happy daze, but then you wake up and think about these things, and other things, like college - you'll catch up, you know you will, if they just let you in - and Boston (Kara, your mind supplies, and you push the thought back again), and whether or not to ask about what Peter Parker has told you about Harry blackmailing him. Plus Harry, like Cordelia, hogs the covers. Figures. It makes you smile, but it also makes you freeze, and so you carefully rise to make yourself a cup of tea, grabbing your jeans in the process, because it is rather cold in the penthouse, now that you no longer have the contrast to the night air.

Finding the kitchen in the dark isn't that difficult, since the room Harry is currently staying at is actually the cook Maria's bedroom. It's definitely the largest kitchen you've seen, though. No poblem to boil some water, but you rumage a bit, looking for tea, and who should turn up but a fortyish woman with black and grey curls and a bathrobe, giving you a rather stern look. You feel heat in your cheeks and know you're blushing.

"I'm just looking for tea,"

you say a bit awkwardly.

"Third shelf on the left,"

she says in something of an accent which sounds a bit like Talia Shire who plays Al Pacino's sister in The Godfather. Cool. Also surreal. Not that you're not used to living with other people in the same house, but if Fred had caught you in the kitchen in the middle of the night, she'd have asked you what was wrong (before Angel came back), or what what you were doing there (after, during the time of Angelus). If she had found a stranger, she'd have asked the later and probably used a crossbow or a taser to underline that she wanted an answer. Same with Gunn, or Cordy.

(Lawrence, your mother would have said, Mom, your other mother who wasn't, I think we should call the police. But while Dad was calling the police, she'd have made the intruder tea anyway.)

"You must be Maria," you say, still feeling embarrassed and awkard while finding not one, not two, but ten different kinds of tea, and offer: "'I'm Connor."

She doesn't say anything.

"Would you like a cup of tea as well?"

You ask desparately. She gives you another stern look. Then, slowly, she nods.

So you find yourself sitting in the kitchen with Maria the cook, drinking South African roibos tea which she informs you will not keep you awake at night, and you listen and nod while she tells you in no uncertain terms that Mr. Osborn does not need any more trouble in his life, he is trouble, and he needs people to take care of him, not to add to said trouble.

"I want to," you say, truthfully, but it still feels strange to say it out loud to a lady you don't know. "Take care of him, I mean."

She wrinkles her nose, but she pours you some more tea, and tells you you better start by eating more, because as thin as you are, you're going to be blown away by the New York wind in the first winter storm, and that wouldn't be of any use to Mr. Osborn now, would it?

"Yes, Ma'am,"

you say, as has been drilled into you by Colleen Riley and Fred both, and Maria nods and then dissappears as suddenly as she has come. You finish your tea, and then you wash yours and Maria's teacup because that's another thing you've been taught, dry them with the next towel, and find your way back to the room you came from.

Your eyes work well in the darkness, and you see Harry quite clearly, lying there, curly hair, clear profile, face looking younger when he's asleep, one arm half out stretched. The sensation this evokes is as intense and engulfing as anything else that happened earlier. You can't imagine being anywhere else.

He's still hogging the covers, though. You shrug, and climb back into the bed, feeling warm through and through anyway.
abetterlie: (Default)
Connor left his parents’ home on Sunday afternoon. It was an awkward goodbye; they were still very new at interactions that did not involve life and death situations or vicious arguments. And he knew how they felt about his eventual destination. Still, they managed to get through the leavetaking without resorting to old patterns. It would never stop being strange and fitting at the same time, watching the two of them together. He found himself memorizing the way they moved closer together as he left. For the first time, the thought that they must have struck the same pose when asking little Sarah Holtz to let them in did not produce rage and guilt for being unable to kill them. He had done too much on his own for that by now. If losing first the Rileys and then his daughter again, to life, not death this time, taught him anything, it was that you give the people who love you what you can while you still can; they can be gone any second.

Originally, he had planned to kill some time visiting the Boston tourist sights, something for which he had had neither the time nor the mood during the previous days in Boston, try to find some vampires to stake to make himself useful through the night, and then take the early morning train to New York. Where he would spend the day checking out New York University, the English literature schedule, and maybe some sights as well, until meeting Harry Monday night. But the Boston demon scene was unusually quiet on Sunday evening, and after a while, Connor decided that if he had to walk around aimlessly in a cold November night, he might as well do so in New York. Harry would be still at the hospital and would remain there for the better part of Monday, but Connor could scout out the territory, which would make the walking around less aimless. If you moved to a new place, you had to be prepared for any kind of surprises, and the ongoing bodyguard joke had been with an entirely serious main text.

Arriving at Central Station was decidedly different than his one and only experience of visiting New York before, with a jet, and he felt both less impressed and more comfortable with it. He stored the duffel with what luggage he had in one of the lockers and went hunting. If anything, the temperature was even lower than in Boston, but Manhattan vampires were accomodating enough to prey after late night tourists rushing to their hotels from theatre or clubs, and to be blatant enough about it to make it clear it had been a while since a Slayer or any kind of vampire hunter had been around. It kept Connor busy for a while. Afterwards, he was still on an adrenaline kick and decided the best way to test how good the security of the Osborn penthouse really was was to try and break in while the owner was away. That, after all, would be the obvious course for criminals of the normal and supernatural kind would take. At the very least, it would give him the opportunity for a good view over Manhattan. Finding the building again wasn’t that difficult. Nor was getting up to the right floor. It was on the balcony the surprises started, because the balcony wasn’t empty.

Standing there, apparantly taking in the view as well, was a guy in a very tight red costume with a web pattern on it. One did not have to be a New York native to recognize him.

Spider-man.
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.

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July 2010

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