Revenge

Sep. 9th, 2006 10:58 am
abetterlie: (Default)
One would have thought that being raised as an instrument of revenge would give Connor a good understanding of the topic. But in retrospect, he doesn’t think he truly grasped it as long as he was still Stephen.

He thought he did. It was his purpose of existence, it was what God owed his fathers, both of them. He knew the wrongs Angelus had committed by heart before he was six. By the time he was ten, he had already made and discarded several childish and not so childish plans of how he would finally avenge Daniel Holtz and his family when, according with God’s plan as explained by Daniel Holtz, he would leave Quortoth and encounter the monster. Most of them began and ended with staking the creature, of course. Sometimes he imagined telling Angelus who his executioner was, and sometimes he did not. Sometimes he killed Angelus in front of an amazed and grateful Holtz, and sometimes he did this without any witnesses but the earth which had soaked up all the blood Angelus had shed.

When the time came, at last, he stuck to the most essential of plans. He greeted the creature, so Angelus would know who he was, and aimed his stake at the monster. But his aim was not true, partly because it was confusing him that Angelus had recognized him even before the greeting. He wanted to know why. Surely it was not more than that, no greater curiosity than that, which made him fight at less than his best, and then flee.

Then things derailed even more. He found himself fighting side by side with Angelus, and smiling at him, and lying to his father, and the shame about it held equal balance to the hunger that had driven him to seek out the thing that sired him for reasons other than to kill. No, he had not understood revenge at all.

He would always remember the moment he finally did. After hearing of Angelus’ treacherous plans for his father from Fred and Gunn, he ran, ran faster than he had ever done, and yet not fast enough. He found Daniel Holtz in the arms of a woman he had seen only once before, briefly, at that den where he had betrayed his father by fighting as Angelus’ companion. The smell of blood, his father’s blood, familiar from many wounds gained in Quortoth, was overwhelming. He knelt down and tried to stop it, but it was too late, far too late. There was no pulse anymore, no breath escaping his father’s lips. Daniel Holtz was gone, and the last of his blood mixing with the tears of the boy he had raised took Stephen with him. Stephen had been unreliable, and stupid. Stephen had been seduced by the devil, despite his father’s warning. He had been thoroughly inadequate.

But then, Stephen had been the son of a man. What was needed now, obviously, was the son of a monster.

“It’s my fault,” he said to the woman, who would later explain she was called Justine, and his father’s lieutenant. “He’ll pay.”

He didn’t just mean Angelus.

“I’ll help you kill him,” she replied.

“No,” he said, for he finally understood.

“You don’t want to kill him?” the woman asked. “After what he did?” He looked at her, and he could see that she, too, was beginning to understand. “What do you want to do?”

Later, during his masquerade, he made Angelus happy by proclaiming his name was Connor, not Stephen. It was necessary to lure his prey, but it was also the truth. Revenge, true revenge, was something you could only go through with if you had held your dead family in your arms, not through description, but in deed. If you knew that the reason why they were dead wasn’t just because a monster had taken them but because you had let that monster take them. You had not been good enough.

Revenge, finally, was something you could only succeed in if you become part of the monster first. Stephen had not known that.

But Connor did.
abetterlie: (Default)
He's on the way back to the penthouse after a long day at NYU, backpack full of the notes of this day and the copies from Peter Parker, plus the present for Harry he has finally finished, when he spots someone vaguely familiar in the subway. Not very familiar, just vaguely. An elegant, bronze-skinned woman holding on to some shopping bags with one of those labels Cordelia and Harry are so fond of, so for a moment Connor wonders why the woman takes the subway at all, instead of having her own limousine. Then memory catches up with him.

It's the shop owner. N. Sadat. The one who sold Darla the doll.

She recognizes him, too, and despite her shopping bags moves towards him through the other people without missing a beat.

"Well, well, well," she says, in her cultured, accented voice, "look who I find on my trip to the big city. If it isn't the miracle child."

He doesn't say anything. She did kill that crazy dollmaker of hers, so he figures she really hadn't known what the doll would do to Kara, but there is something old and deeply dangerous about her, something which he recognizes as not human. I should know, Connor thinks, and though Emily has changed the way he regards his nature somewhat, some of the old self-loathing is still there.

"I still owe you," the Sadat woman says. "For your rather impolite behaviour towards myself. And I always repay my debts."

Automatically, Connor tenses. This isn't the ideal place to fight, with all the witnesses, but he can do it, no problem. She notices his reaction and laughs.

"Ah, no," she says. "Not this way. The ways of the Red and Black countries are far subtler. And you have offended me."

With a lightning fast move, she tears out a single hair.

"Sleep well tonight, child of Angelus and Darla. Sleep well."

****

After that, he's tempted not to sleep at all, but that would be cowardice, not to mention that Thursday is going to be an important day, and following the truce with Parker he has just arranged to spend Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night patrolling, so sleep makes sense.

Connor doesn't have to wait long. He's in one of the desert plains on Quortoth, and thirsty as he is, he knows they haven't found a drinking hole for quite some time. "Stephen," the low, beloved voice of his father says, "Stephen. Look at me."

Daniel Holtz is holding papers in his hand. They're the sketches Angel sent for Thanksgiving, the sketches showing Emily. Connor had spend a part of the evening holding them and letting his hand trace the lines.

"Tell me again, Stephen," his father says. "You know the story. Tell me how I found my daughter."

"You found her hiding, and then she came out and smiled at you, and you saw the wounds on her neck," Connor says, as he has done a hundred times. He knows the story. It never loses its power. "They had not been content with killing her. They had made her into an abomination."

"And I found my wife and son," his father says. Dutifully, Connor continues:

"Your found your wife violated and dead, and your little son drained."

"Was that the last time I saw them?" his father asks. "Any of them?"

"No," Connor whispers. "You saw them a few weeks later. Angelus had made sketches of all of them. Of your daughter and himself and Darla draining her, changing her. Of your son. Of your wife. He left them for you to find at every place you tried to track him down, him and Darla."

His father looks at the sketches of Emily, then at Connor, and the expression in his face is unbearable. All the old horror, guilt and shame rush back. Connor tries to cling to what he has learned since, but it makes for a flimsy, faulty reasoning in the face of his father's disgust and pain.

"He did all this," he tries, "and she did, but they did other things as well. I did. They gave me life, they gave me life twice over, and I can't..."

"Stephen," his father says, cutting through these justifications, "I sent you to him so you might discover what of him is in you. So that you might fight it. But you did not. Look at you. Pride, envy, lust, sloth, gluttony, anger, greed. Each of the seven deadly sins were his, and now they are yours."

His father turns to the horizon, and points towards seven huge mirrors, mirrors as they never were in Quortoth. Each of them shows Connor. Killing the farmer, insulting Kara during the drinking game, showing off against Parker in a silly contest, letting Harry drink from him at Halloween, having sex in the library, it's like being turned inside out, and none of these things wever ever something he could bear Daniel Holtz to see.

"The demons who gave you life might have broken my heart," his father continues relentlessly. "But you broke my soul."

The two punctured wounds on his father's neck, the ones Justine made, start to bleed, all over the sketches that show Emily and were so painstakingly crafted by Angel. And what is visible under the blood doesn't show Emily any more, either, it shows the girl he has never seen, Sarah.

"The first of the sisters you betrayed,"

his father says.

And the last trace of Emily and Angel's gift is swallowed up whole.

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