abetterlie: (Default)
Okay, there are two ways of answering this, love declarations or rants, and I don't want do do either.

Also? The whole question is wrong. If I could choose, I wouldn't be me.

And how the hell am I supposed to know how other people were/are as parents? You look at some families and you think "oh, great" or "wow, they're so screwed up", but as long as you're not part of that family, you have no way of really knowing, do you. But even if. Even if I could know - look, I already have more than my share of parents, and I don't want to choose between them, so why should I want to pick even more?

*locked from everyone but Harry*

Sometimes I think you pick those who need you the most, if that makes the best sense. Mom and Dad loved me - they were made to - and sometimes I wonder why this Cyvus Vail guy picked them to be my parents. Maybe they wanted another child, maybe Angel just asked for two great people, which they were, I don't know. But now I remember them as my parents, and if I could wish them back to life, of course I would. They weren't geniuses or superheroes or anything, and they weren't saints, either; I guess if I had come clean and told them the truth instead of getting them killed doing what I did, they'd have been angry, they'd have felt violated by the whole mindwipe thing, and once they'd have gotten over that, if they had, Mom would have insisted on group threrapy. And self help books. She was really into those. Dad would have - I don't know. Probably wondered if they could hire someone to sue Wolfram and Hart, not because of money but because it was the principle of the thing.

I miss them.

But you know, their lives were pretty good without me. Actually way better without me, at least during the last year. Mere as an only child, I don't know how that would have turned out, except she must have been, pre-memory wipe, so I figure that would have been fine as well.

My father, now. I know people think I'm brainwashed or something when it comes to him, but I was with him for seventeen years, and I think that's more than anyone else can say. Even his wife and his other family, centuries ago. And so I think that gives me the right to say I knew him best. My father - Daniel Holtz - he needed me. I don't mean for vengeance, though obviously, yes. I'm not blind, okay? Or for survival. He kept me alive during the first years before it became a mutual thing. But you see, what happened to his first family, and the quest, that had become everything, and he had given everything else up - so he couldn't let anyone in anymore before God gave me to him he stole me God gave we ended up in Quortoth. I guess Justine came close - I couldn't ask - but ultimately, he left her behind. And then there were our seventeen years together, and he loved me, and I loved him. He wasn't alone anymore. He did let me in. That was such a major thing for him, and there is no way I could wish that away from him, or him away from me.

I miss him, too.

So I remember an entire life with Mom and Dad and Mere, and I remember an entire life with my father, and none of them actually produced me in the biological sense. You could still count the time I spent with my biological parents and it wouldn't even add up to a year, I think. Cordelia once gave me a present - a dvd with a film on it that showed Angel and a baby. Actually, Angel, Wesley, Cordy, Fred and Gunn with a baby. They're all happy and goofy like you wouldn't believe, and I can't watch that film without feeling about a hundred things at once, some of which make me sappy like a wet towel and some make me want to smash the tv. Darla isn't there on the film, of course; she was dead. Still, sometimes I wonder. What it would have been like. To be that child, still growing up in the Hyperion - I would be what, six or so? Sometimes I want that. Sometimes I want that desperately.

The thing is, I can never quite believe that baby was me. Except for one scene in the entire movie. Which is when the baby starts to cry, and Angel gets into game face for some reason, and the baby stops crying. Because - I remember that. The sense of it at least. I remembered when I first saw his face again. His true face. Which isn't the game face, and it's not the human one, it's both, one shifting into the other.


I never saw Darla as a vampire weird time travel occasions excluded; when I saw her the first time, she was dead and I thought I was going crazy. But I never doubted it was her, either. She doesn't need the vampire thing to be - well, her. I can't imagine her raising me at all, either in Quortoht or in an L.A. suburb, or in the Hyperion, and yet I can imagine her pregnant, which is all kinds of weird, I guess. Sometimes I think I don't get her at all, that she's alien in a way Angel isn't, and sometimes I think I understand her way better than I want to, but either way - I can't look at her without knowing she died for me. How can you ever be possibly worthy of that? It drives me crazy.

They're not normal parents; they're not the parents who need me most. (They need a child, which isn't necessarily me. Say Wesley suddenly comes forward and declares he switched babies before my father took me, and that their son Connor is somewhere in Los Angeles as a child and I'm some changeling he got elsewhere to fool Holtz - I think that would make the difference to them. Not that they'd suddenly stop talking to me or something, of course not, but they'd feel differently, and I think after a while, they would stop bothering.) And they're definitely the only parents I hated for being my parents, for being their son, when I was a child and a good while after. But even then I was curious about them in a way I never was about Mom and Dad, who were just Mom and Dad, or Father, who was beginning and end, but you didn't question him, you didn't wonder about him. I never stopped wondering about them, being curious - okay, make that obsessing - though the hate factor kept changing, obviously. Now I'm an adult, and I have adult responsibilities, so it's far too late to be a child anyway. Anyone's child.

Last night I dreamt they were both dead, truly dead, and I thought: I can't live like that.

They're not the parents who need me. But they're the parents I need.
abetterlie: (Default)

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:


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)
It never rains but it pours. So I’m meeting this woman who is supposed to be our first client and supposedly read the advert in the papers, and it’s my Mom. Looking pale and exhausted and worse than at any point except when she and Dad were afraid I had died when that van ran me over, and I hadn’t.

“I want to know what happened to you,” she says. “Maybe your father and I reacted the wrong way, but Connor, you shouldn’t have said you’re not our son anymore. We love you. We only want you to be happy. We miss you. We miss our son.”

I look at her and wonder how she would have seen me if she had met me before the mindwipe. She and Dad both. Colleen and Lawrence Riley, visiting the big city. I think she’d have felt sorry for me but she’d also have been afraid, like that family I saved who thought I was going to mug them. Dad would have thought the same thing. He’d have told me to stay away.

“Don’t you miss us?” she asks, and I want to hug her and tell her that yes, of course I do. Which is true and is not. Sometimes I wish I’d have never remembered, because everything was much simpler during those nine months or so when I didn’t. And I do want to be their son again, and no one else’s. But I do remember, and there is so much of me that is not their son, and I can’t hack it away and hide it anymore. I can’t. If I do the hugging, repenting and going home now, it’ll be just like locking myself up in a box.

“If I was an orphan,” I ask her, because clearly she and Dad don’t believe a word of what I said when I was angry a few weeks ago, “and you only just met me, would you adopt me? Would you love me then?”

“Of course,” she says eagerly, and you can tell she’s thinking of all the Psych 101 books on parent-child relationships she’s ever read, specifically those chapters about “acceptance”. “But you’re not adopted. Is this what this man you’re working for now has told you? That you’re adopted? Is that what started all of this? It’s not true. You’re our son. You were born on the fourth of July, and your father joked about firecrackers all the while to distract me. He was there all the time.”

I know the story. They often told me. Only I wasn’t born in daylight and on the fourth of July. I was born in an alley in the night, and it was raining, Fred said, and the first thing I breathed in must have been the dust of my mother. Later I saw the Beast emerge at that place, and that is where I kissed Cordelia for the first time.

“Come home,” Colleen says, and she sounds so sad. I never wanted to bring her grief, her and Dad. Lawrence. I wanted to protect them when I found out the truth. But now their lives are getting derailed bit by bit, and how long before someone targets them again, just because of their connection to me? They got involved in this without their consent, they got brainwashed just as surely as anyone ever looking at Jasmine and seeing whatever it was everyone but me saw. Angel did to them what Jasmine wanted to do to everyone. He wanted to create paradise for me, so he took their free will and made them love me.

“I’m sorry,” I say, and I run away, because if I stick around any longer, I’m going to tell her, again, and maybe this time she’ll believe me, and then she’ll hate me for what was done to her and Dad and Mere because of me. People hated Jasmine for taking their free will away once her thrall was broken.

When I come back, Colleen is gone, but Father is there, back from patrol. Holtz. He asks me where the next Catholic church is. So I figure he needs some holy water, as a weapons supply, and go with him so I can carry it back. But what he actually wants is light candles for his dead family and pray for them. He prays in Latin, and I understand the words because he taught me a few Latin prayers in Quortoth and because I started take a Latin class at college. All the while, I’m aware of what I agreed to a few hours earlier. To meet Angel and Darla, this weekend.

I never saw Caroline Holtz, or her dead children, and they were killed centuries ago. But I could tell you exactly how he found them. What they did to them. Angel and Darla. They weren’t just content with killing them, except for the baby, who was just dead. They turned the little girl so Father would have to kill her, and he remained with her the entire night, nonetheless, and in the morning, he put her in the light, and saw her burn into ashes. And Caroline wasn’t just killed, either. She got raped before she died, and she had wounds on her tighs instead of her neck. Father told me Angelus joked about that, too, when he caught up with him. So Angelus raped her, and Darla had fun watching.

(That was when he first had to explain to me about sex, back in Quortoth. So I’d know what rape is.)

I’m watching my father who raised me light those candles and wonder why on earth or any other dimension I can’t even do this one little thing for him, if I failed to avenge him already. Turn my back on the two demons who brought me into this world. It would have been so easy just to say no when Angel asked. Because I don’t think they’d have come then. Just one word, no. No, I don’t want to meet you. No, I don’t want to talk to you again, to either of you. No, there isn’t a sick, sick part of me who enjoys being with you and wants to get to know you better.

Sometimes I wish I could cut myself into pieces. Several parts of me. One is Connor Riley who isn’t real, except he is, and Colleen and Lawrence need him to be as he was. One is Stephen who got raised by Daniel Holtz in Quortoth, given to him by God to make up for his dead family, who is a dutiful son fighting the monsters with him, who is in love with Justine, Justine who had so much grief in her life and deserves someone completely at her side. Someone human. And one is “the bastard son of two demons” as Father once put it. Who enjoys killing far more than he should and had a daughter who was older than creation and yet lived for little more than a month.


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July 2010

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