Intrigue

Nov. 9th, 2007 11:48 am
abetterlie: (Innocence Drowned by Marciaelena)
"A hunter has to be cunning," his father once said, and Stephen learned his lessons about snares and traps well. But his father never taught him to lie; there was no need, as the only two creatures in Quortoth that seemed to have speech were themselves. When Stephen did lie, blaming his demon blood for the impulse to do so, it was to his father, about and he always failed miserably.

The last time he failed happened in Los Angeles, about his encounter with Angelus, and his father saw through this as well. As a direct consequence, his father sent him back to Angelus and died.

"But what do you want to do?" Justine asked him, sounding both frustrated and surprised, when he told her he was not going to kill Angelus.

It was like entering a new world, all over again. Stephen was a miserable liar. Therefore, he had to stop being Stephen. He had to be the one who could think such thoughts, execute such plans, the one who could deceive with a smile, just as the Prince of Lies himself had done; the son of the demons. Not Stephen Holtz. Connor.

When he told her, Justine looked thoughtful, impressed and a bit frightened at the same time. The tears she had cried for his father were not yet dry on her face, but she did not waste time on gestures such as wiping them away.

"Could work," she said. "But if it doesn't, if he he figures it out ahead of time, then your father will never be avenged. It's really much simpler to stake him. Done and over with."

"I told you," Connor said coldly. "He gets to live. Forever."

She did not doubt him anymore. In his heart, he still was not sure whether he could do it. Whether Angelus, with the blood of his father still warming his veins, would not know him at once for the pathetic failure he was at this particular game. But no, that had been Stephen. He didn't get to be Stephen anymore. Stephen had caused his father's death, and so Stephen had to die.

The small voice of doubt refused to be silenced. It remained with him until he stood in the Hyperion and saw Angelus looking at him, dark deceiving eyes full of nervous joy. I amyour son, Connor thought, and suddenly didn't find it difficult to smile back at all.

The trap was laid.
abetterlie: (Quirky by Ithica)
Good question. I mean, I've met and I know a couple of smart and downright brilliant people, but that's not the same thing.

*locked*

Jasmine.

Of course, as a child in Quortoth and a good while after I thought my father was wise. I didn't stop thinking that until I got my head around the concept of him killing himself - well, using Justine to do it - something he had always taught me was a mortal sin. Once I started accepting Angel had said the truth about that, I knew it had been my fault, because obviously my father couldn't trust me to do what he had raised me to, but I also knew he had not been the wise man I had believed him to be. He should have found a way rather than to return to hell without me. He should have.

*unlocked*

So - I guess it was Lorne. When I met him - when I recall meeting him, he knew me as a baby, but I don't remember that - I pulled a knife on him. I'd say it was because I grew up in a hell dimension and didn't get called "The Destroyer" there because I was nice to demons, and he is, well, a demon, but the truth is, I was just freaked out and generally pissed off as hell after my first day Los Angeles. He sort of took that as a sign to leave town and wasn't around for the next three months when I was living with Fred and Gunn at the Hyperion, so I only really got to meet him once he was back from having a career in Las Vegas and living in the Hyperion again. No, we still didn't hit it off. I don't think it was because of the having tried to kill him thing - Cordy told me they all tried to kill each other at some point, pus apparantly Lorne can survive head removal, so he wouldn't have died if I had slit his throat, not that I'm saying what I did was okay because of that - but see, it had clued him into something everyone else missed: I wasn't the baby they had all loved, I wasn't whoever they imagined son-of-Angel would be, and he never expected me to be that again. He wasn't disappointed and horrified the way Fred and Gunn were once they found out about the under-the-sea-thing, and he didn't go into ultra-avoidance mode the way Wesley did; he just knew I was trouble, accepted that, was on his guard and otherwise was polite and never asked me to sing for him. (The last one is dislike of torture, I guess.)

The only person I've seen Lorne actively despise was Lilah (because of something she did to his brain); otherwise he was just relaxed with good guys, bad guys and just about everyone. He always knew what was going on between everyone, and I don't think that was being an empath deman as much as it was having figured people out and not judging them because of that (unless they tried to remove his brain). You know, not in a kind of lovey dovey "let's all be friends" kind of way - like I said, there were people he never stopped being wary of, me among them - just in a "that's what people are, so just chillax" kind of way. Plus he had a non-stop collection of nicknames for Angel which had all to do with food, and anyone who can do that really is the best. I think what I'm trying to say here is that Lorne was cool, he got people (of any species), it didn't make him a cynic, it just made him a realist who still enjoyed his life - it made him wise, in a word. I wish I had figured out how cool he was when we were still actually living in the same place and before I got mindwiped.

Also, I blame him for the Barbara Streisand lyrics I have in my head at times. No way that was Cyvus Vail.

Lost

Sep. 2nd, 2007 04:34 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
"The true magic of this broken world lay in the ability of the things it contained to vanish, to become so thoroughly lost, that they might never have existed in the first place." The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon.

"How do you know they were ever real?"

It's a question thrown at him when he's busy fighting a mind-reading demon, an empath who couldn't be less like Lorne; Cordelia once had an unpleasant encounter with a representative with the species and nearly ended up blind, her seer's eyes put up on an auction.

"Your family, that perfect family your father had tailor-made for you by the people he sold his soul to. How do you know they were ever real? Maybe that is why they died when you asked for their memories of you to be removed. Because they had no life of their own before they were created for you. Ever thought about that, hm?"

Connor recognizes distraction in a fight; he's been trained by two fathers brilliant with tactics. He also has a vivid memory of Tony Chilton taunting him, and how getting distracted then allowed Chilton to live long enough for more innocent people to die. So he focuses, and the demon is soon dead. But the question, once spoken, haunts him and refuses to go away.

Of course, he has known that most of his memories of the Rileys, technically speaking, were not real and never happened, has known for years now. It didn't matter because they were real to him. But the idea that the Rileys themselves did not exist before Angel made his deal with Wolfram and Hart is obscene, and horrifying beyond belief. It can't be.

All the photo albums burned with the house. He looks up his dead sister's high school website, to find that they list names of past classes but only have the photos of the graduating students. He looks up his parents' obituary; surely, all that business with the police suspecting him last year must have ensured those old articles were kept around? Except that they weren't, which might or might not be because someone paid a lot to have that whole story vanish. He calls his aunt, but there is a stranger on the phone who says the previous owner of the house has moved, and refuses to hand over a phone number or address.

There are still his memories, both those from before graduating and after, with those after feeling no more or less real than before despite his awareness of the date meaning they actually happened. But his memories are deceptive, constantly intermingling, those of Quortoth with those from an idyllic California childhood, which they really shouldn't, and with what happened after, and who is it that loves the Simpsons, Kara or Mere, or both? Or either?

He can't recall Colleen Riley's favourite perfume anymore, and yet he must have given it to her for mother's day more than once. He can't remember. And if there is no one but him to remember, if that is really true, then he is killing them all over again, bit by bit, with every memory lost.

Connor dreams. Not of the Rileys. He dreams he's writing, a skill his father, the most relentless of his fathers, taught him by letting him draw lines in the red sand of Quortoth. He dreams he's writing in the sand, writing of what he still can remember, and the sea that never was in Quortoth, the sea he saw for the first time when Gunn and Fred brought him there, creeps towards him and annihilates every single line.
abetterlie: (Quirky by Ithica)
Where do you see yourself in twenty years?


Seriously? Up until about two years ago, I figured I'd be dead.

*locked from everyone except Harry and Cordelia*

Except for the part where I have this suspicion Angel wouldn't let me stay dead; he'd find some other way of bringing me back, and more people would die or go crazy or both, and maybe I'd end up like one of the Wolfram and Hart zombies because sooner or later, all those resurrection magic is bound to backfire. I just don't trust it. And I still think that could be a likely option for my future, and you know why? Because. If Angel got dusted. I'd find some way to bring him back, too. Any way. Don't tell him that.

*unlocked*

Now I have some less dramatic ideas. Going back to college at some point, really becoming an archaelogist because I enjoyed that, though I like the private eye job, too. But what I really, really hope I'll be doing in twenty years: being on my way to Mars. Because at that point, we should have at least limited space travel to the neighbourhood planet, and I just think being in space would be awesome. Plus I have the necessary physical condition and experience with other dimensions - no way Mars would be tougher than Qortoth. Watching the Earth from space, stepping on another planet. That's my wish for something to happen in twenty years.

Religion

Jul. 12th, 2007 12:47 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
Apostate.

It's a word Connor Riley, Connor who has two parents who are Episcopalian in theory but mild agnostics in practice, has absolutely no connection to. It's something he comes across while studying for his finals, Julian the Apostate, the emperor who tried to turn the tide and bring back paganism after christianity had ruled for several generations in Rome already. Julian who was raised as a Christian but chose to worship the gods anyway. He's been reviled as a traitor evers since. A historical curiosity, nothing more.

Apostate.

Once Connor gets his memories back, he starts to suspect why this particular expression resonated enough with him to remember it.

"When we arrived here, in hell," his father once told him, "I used the first water I could find to baptize you, my son. The demon who gave you life cannot enter a church without feeling his damnation, and thus he only gave you a false name, a name for earthly laws."

"But it is not my true name," Connor responded dutifully. He knew this story, and fell into the comforting rhythm quite easily.

"No. And why not?"

"Because the lord Christ has saved us from hell through the sacrament of baptism," Connor recited. "Connor was the child of two demons, and then you saved me and made me a child of the church. My name is Stephen."

"That is right. Even if we should die in this place, which we will not, Christ will lead you to heaven, my son." His father had put his hands on Connor's shoulders. "You are Stephen. Never forget it. There is no mercy for apostates."

An apostate denied the truth he had been shown, and embraced another faith. Starting to think of himself as Connor in addition to Stephen happened during the summer he spent with Gunn and Fred, when he still thought of himself as faithful; it wasn't just that they kept calling him Connor, it was that Stephen had let his father die and had felt drawn to the demon, and that was unacceptable, so there had to be something of Connor in him, and the name was fitting. Then Angel returned from the sea, and brought another story of his father's death with him. He claimed Daniel Holtz had told Justine to kill him.

"Suicide," his father had said firmly, "is a deadly sin, and the only one God can never forgive."

Suicides resided in hell, then, together with apostates.

Apostates could repent before dying, though. So could murderers. But not if they were angry; not if they were confused and trying to make sense of it all and could not pray any of the prayers they had been taught without feeling the fire of loss and rage. Our father, who art in heaven? But he was not. Neither of them. They were both in hell, only different levels of hell, and this was hell, nor was he out of it.

He couldn't let God save him, could he? That would be the ultimate desertion. He had to remain in hell, too.

There was another childhood prayer, of course. Hail Mary, full of grace. Mary the mother, but Connor's mother was dead and a demon, and the mother of his child, giving miraculous birth, with Connor and Angel kneeling in adoration like the shepherds, was taken away, always a Madonna, never reaching the Pieta stage. The Transcendant Mother, Jasmine's followers called Cordelia. Transcendant came from the Latin, like "apostate". Transcendere. To go beyond. Out of reach.

Jasmine was within reach, but Jasmine was not a part any world God created. She was another faith in herself. She was her own creator, her own communion, and the grace she gave to everyone was her own as well, untouched by any fathers, in heaven or hell.

"Give me your pain," she said, and Connor knew quite well that pain was love was faith was hope of salvation. And blood. Of course it was blood. His and hers.

She healed him, and Connor chose to worship.

Apostate.

He wondered whether Julian had known jealeous fathers were still waiting for his return, too.
abetterlie: (Innocence Drowned by Marciaelena)
Curt: We set out to change the world and ending up… just changing ourselves.
Arthur: What's wrong with that?
Curt: Nothing! … If you don't look at the world.
(Todd Haynes, Velvet Goldmine)



So, when your father whom you've left under the sea for all eternity comes back after three months, really pissed off, and tells you the reason why you did that to him was a lie and your other father was the cause of it, you don't listen to much else of what he has to say. You argue back, and then you get kicked out. Well, I did. But I while I didn't listen at the time, I did hear what he said, and in the weeks after, when I was trying to figure out who had been the liar between the both of them and whether it wasn't still Angel's fault, it kept coming back to me. Kept coming back. What he had said about the world.

Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh, and cruel. But that's why there's us. Champions. It doesn't matter where we come from, what we've done or suffered, or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world were as it should be, to show it what it can be.

My major purpose in life had been to avenge my father - Daniel Holtz, I mean. Which I had just proved I couldn't do properly, plus maybe, just maybe, it had been the wrong purpose. Or I was the wrong person. But I still existed, and it had to be for something. Something other than staking vampires or decapitating demons. And I hadn't been in Los Angeles or this world for much longer than three months; it was way better than Quortoth, but Angel still had a point. People were screwing each other over everywhere, they didn't need demons for that. And maybe if you're alive when you really shouldn't be after what you did, if you exist when you shouldn't have been born, then you owe it to the world not to sit on your ass and feel sorry for yourself but to do whatever you can to change things.

When Jasmine was born, I thought that this was it. A new world, one much better, and it was, in many ways. It wasn't just talk of change and some minor stuff, but people were different, genuinenly different. For those few weeks. They all loved each other, nobody hated each other, envy, greed, all of that was gone.

Not with me, of course, but still, I was happy to be a part of this until things started to crumble. And I shouldn't have been, because at the same time, I knew about the price, and nobody else who lived in paradise and believed in Jasmine did. Well, they knew but they didn't mind, except for Fred and Angel and the others after they left her. The price for paradise was that Jasmine needed to eat people to nourish herself. It ended the way it did. Fast forward some years, and the world is pretty much in the same state it was then. I'm not - no recent attempts to kill a couple of strangers, someone I love and myself, thank you very much - but I'm still around, and still sometimes wonder why, and still keep coming back to what Angel said then.

When I watch Harry playing with Evan, I'm reminded of one big reason why I can't stop wanting the world to change. It shouldn't be what it is now if you have a child growing up in it. Which means you have to work for this change. And figure out ways to do that which don't involve human sacrifice, obviously. But if you stop looking, if you settle, then it means that child will have to face the same shit later on. And what does that make you?

Restarts

Jun. 10th, 2007 05:39 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
If you could completely start your life over from scratch, what would you do differently the second time around (if anything)? Why?

I actually got to do that. Okay, sort of. Since someone else did it for me - rewrote my life, I mean, from scratch. Which is why I know how it works. Or doesn't. I mean, it did, and the reason I'm not dead is because I have the memories of another life in my head right now. But for that to happen, I had to forget everything else. And everyone else else had to forget the old me, and remember the new one. So all the reasons for wanting to change stuff were forgotten, too. And can you really do things differently if you can't remember what you regret doing? It's not you who does that. It's a rewritten you who does that.

Obviously, I remember now, and I make my decisions based on that. But the life I live now is after - after both lives I remember. Not from scratch. And no, I really don't want a third round. The first two got enough people killed.

*locked*


But okay. Say that I could go back in time, with all my memories, and restart. I think there's no choice, really. Not if you look at the facts.

I wouldn't make the slugs show me how to get out of Quortoth. I'd stay there with my father.

Not just because of him, though he's a reason, yes. He hated that place, but he was sort of resigned to it, and in any case, he'd never have given up there. He would have remained alive until old age or one of the predators got him, and I'd have made sure it would be old age. He wouldn't have killed himself made Justine kill him died the way he did.

I know now what it is to lose a child. So I know what it must have been like for Angel. But you know - he had started to adjust. It's what he does. Why he's still around, curses and trips to hell and three months under the ocean be dammed. Oh, yeah, the last one wouldn't have happened, either, if I hadn't come back. I'd have remained that baby on the photographs Cordy showed me to him, the one he imagined growing up to be how Connor Riley was before I got my memories back. Cordy - she wouldn't have gone through a coma and a death. Jasmine would still be there, but as a Power, she'd never have become flesh. Maybe she'd have figured out a way to help people that didn't depend on eating others, maybe not, but she'd still exist.

So would the girl who died so Jasmine could be born, the cop I met the night after she died, and a lot of other people.

Harry. I think Harry and I are good for each other, and I know I'm happy with him. I want to spend the rest of my life with him, if I can. But you know, I don't think I'm the only one who is good for Harry to live with. He really was in love with Kara back when he met, and okay, she was young - really young - but she'd have gotten older, and I think he would have waited for her. He doesn't stop loving someone; he would have. Which means no Lex, which means no suicide attempt for Kara, either.

Even if that's not guaranteed; even if. Something else is. Mom, Dad and Mere. Without me coming back, Angel would never have made a deal with Wolfram and Hart. Which means Cyvus Vail would never have screwed with their minds and inserted me in their lives, which means they'd still be alive today. Father, Angel, Cordy, you can say they all in different ways chose the life they led, though I'd tell you a lot of things happened to them that were done by others, but still. They made choices that led them to the point where I showed up. And Jasmine, of course, was a higher being anyway. But the Rileys were just normal people who never chose any of this. They didn't get to make a choice. They were just used so I could have my second life, and then I made it worse by not letting them choose, either, and now they're dead because of me. So really, if I could give them back their lives? If I could do that?

It's not a choice. No choice at all.

Mommy

May. 13th, 2007 06:37 pm
abetterlie: (Quirky by Ithica)
Mere stopped calling her that when she was three, because I didn't anymore, and she wanted equal sibling rights. Which was totally a Mere thing to do, even at age three. Mom looked sort of wistful. That day, Dad guilt tripped me into calling her "Mommy" again so Mere would have to a while longer, but Mom was on to him and said to stop that nonsense and that she was very proud her children were growing so fast.

So, either none of that happened, or those are someone else's memories they implanted in me; I don't try to think about that too hard, because that means that someone must have died, too. Either way it didn't happen to me. I never called her Mommy, and I wasn't there when her daughter Mere stopped doing that, either. But you know, it doesn't matter. Because here's another memory, just a few years back. After I had killed Sahjahn and gotten my memories back, we left Los Angeles again. I had still some vacation before the next term started, and I was going to spend it at home. Except the moment I entered our home, the moment I saw some family photo, all of us on a beach, me at age 5, it hit me, the reality of it. I was at Quortoth at age 5, learning to kill. And just the past night, I had killed again, some demon who told me I made a good case for free will versus predestination. And I had seen - that's how far I got when I had to throw up.

Now, Mom and Dad had zero idea about the killing Sahjahn thing, let alone anything else. I had told them I had done tests all the night at Wolfram and Hart's, because of the newly discovered superstrength, and that I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I didn't even hesitate before lying to them the moment I saw them again, which I guess says something about me. And while I didn't have any idea yet what I was going to do with two different lives in my head, I knew they couldn't find out. (Make that: I didn't want them to find out. I didn't want them to look at me and see a psycho killer instead of their son.) So here I was, throwing up for no reason as far as they knew, and I had been hyper and cheerful just the moment before. Dad had just spent the night patched up by doctors and dosed with tranquilizers. Mom had spent it at his side, so probably sleepless. Plus no matter what I said to them, of course they were still worried; they were parents. They had been worried since I got run over by a van and had recovered. And did I mention they had nearly been killed by some thugs of Cyvus Vail's early on in the night? Demons?

Mom, Colleen Riley, wasn't a demon fighter. She wasn't a champion. She wasn't anyone's destiny girl or prophecy child, and no special messenger ever came for her. But she didn't have a nervous breakdown. She didn't slap me or shake me; she didn't ask what the hell was going on. She just went to the kitchen, got a wet towel, cleaned my face, and sat with me on the steps in front of our house, silent, her arm around my shoulder.

That was when I knew it didn't matter whether one set of my memories was mostly fabricated. Whether I had ever seen her before the day of my high school graduation - which hadn't happened, either - or not. She was Mom, and I loved her.

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


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

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

If that's not a reason to smile, I don't know what is.
abetterlie: (Default)
Praise


They're outside the - "club" was what the girl with the visions had called it - , and Stephen feels the elation that usually comes with having won a good fight, only more so. Which is unexpected. As unexpected as Angel taking his arm and using his stake to dust the last of the vampires.

"They don't need to breathe or make any sound. You gotta be careful," Angel says, and the strangest thing is that Stephen isn't inclined to say "I know" or "you don't get to lecture me, monster", or "my father taught me that already". He doesn't even think of it. Instead, he just wants to continue what they have just done - fighting - against others, shoulder to shoulder, not against each other. Which is utterly and completely wrong, because this is Angelus the monster, and yet that is what he wants, at this moment.

"You know you were - you were good in there. I mean, normally I'd take you to a ballgame, or a museum, or - something," Angel continues, and Stephen, who doesn't know what a ballgame or a museum is, nonetheless grasps the most important thing. You were good in there. " But it's - it's good to know that you can handle yourself in a fight," Angel says, and makes a quick move towards Stephen. Stephen instinctively jumps back, but Angel doesn't follow, and Stephen understands. It wasn't meant as a serious attack. What then?

Perhaps it's just that Angel feels the same thing Stephen does. He, too, wants to continue what they started in there. But there are no other vampires around. So they have to do with each other. It's a game.

For the first time in this dimension, Stephen smiles. He doesn't think about it, he doesn't consider the enormity of betrayal this smile represents until later; at this moment, it's just a impulse of delight taking form.

"It's good to know you can do that, too," says Angel.


Accomplishment

Fred and Gunn in trouble again; wouldn't you know it. Connor tells himself the only reason he stays with them and keeps an eye on them is that they might actually stumble across a lead to A- to the drowned monster. Besides, they're human. So he can't kill them, even if they were the monster's friends and contributed to his father's death by luring Connor away.

He could leave them to die, though. He wouldn't have to do anything. So he really tries not to think about why he keeps checking up on them, despite Gunn's annoying lectures and Fred's conviction that she is the one protecting him, or why, when he sees a couple of vampires well in the process of making mince meat out of them, he hurries towards them. Gunn has managed to lose his axe to one of the vampires, who throws it at Fred, and Connor can't resist showing off a little. Instead of drawing Fred to safety, he catches the axe mid-air and throws it back to the vampire, perfect angle for a decapitation. The creature turns into dust, and the rush Connor feels comes out in a huge grin.

"Did you see that?" he asks Fred and Gunn. "Wasn't that cool?"

They're staring at him, and he can already hear the next lecture taking shape. Come on, he thinks, and lets the grin linger. Admit it. "That was cool!" he insists.

Angel would have admitted it at once, but that's a thought he allows himself even less than pondering why he keeps saving Fred and Gunn's lives.


Love

He wakes up, and she's lying next to him. Real, utterly real, not in a dream or a fantasy. Some of her scent is still on his own body. It all really happened. Also, the world didn't end, but that's really secondary.

"Morning," Connor says, and smiles at Cordelia, wishing this could last forever. Not the sex during the night, though that was great, but this, waking up next to her, the two of them together, knowing she loves him and trusts him, and all of it is real.

"Don't do that," she says, and he thinks she's teasing him; his smile gets even wider. He probably should say something smooth, something like the guys in the movies did he watched on tv when living at the Hyperion, but he can't think of a thing. He's too happy.

"Do what?"

"That. The look. The happy puppy look. Makes it harder."


Rebirth

"Top ten percentile is a big deal," says Mom, and Connor doesn't pretend to disagree. He feels giddy. It's probably because high school is really over now, and he didn't suddenly have a panic attack during tests, all those months of work and being called a nerd and asking Tracy to be patient were totally worth it. All the family talks at him at once, and for a moment, he tunes out, not listening to the words, just to the sound of their voices. He'll miss them once he gets to college.

Meanwhile, it's his official duty to tease them.

"Since it's my special day and I'm all brilliant and everything and I'm forced to spend at least a few more months with you freaks..."

"How mean," Aunt Jane interrupts, feigning shock.

"Um, I get to make the toast, OK? To family."

As Dad raises his glass to Connor, Connor is struck by a weird sensation of being watched. Just a for a second. Then he dismisses it. Of course he is; they're all watching him, and Mere will so get back to him for that freak comment. She wouldn't be his little sister otherwise.

Family, he thinks, and the giddiness never leaves his face.


Renewal

Weeks passed since he got his memories back, but when Angel suddenly stands in front of him, Connor is still unsure how to react. Or who to be. He decides to play it cool and stick with Connor Riley for a while; it's safer.

Also fun, unexpectedly, because Angel tells him all about a werewolf girlfriend, and Angel probably wouldn't if he knew Connor remembered. Plus he's so easy that way.

"There's some full-moon love, am I right? Fur flying."

" Huh?"

"So vampires really don't understand the concept of jokes," Connor says, dead-pan. Behind Angel, one of the girls who has classes with him and has been watching them ever since Angel showed up mouthes "boyfriend?" at him, and that's just too weird. But then, everyone here has met Connor's parents, and Angel is definitely too old to be another college student.

"I understand jokes. I was at the first taping of the Carol Burnett show. Tim Conway was on fire. It was special," Angel says, offended, and Connor decides to stop with the bs.

"I know you're my father."

Bad idea. Angel goes still and has that look again, that all out intense look he had when Connor first walked towards him at Wolfram and Hart's, and suddenly Connor is afraid to go there. Maybe it's chicken, but talking about the past, really talking about it would mean being the other him again, and he doesn't know how much of Connor Riley would be left if he allows that to happen. So he hastily says thank you and all but pleads to talk about something else, and Angel follows suit, asking him about internships and the like, and offering to help.

"Have you ever written a resume before? Ever?" asks Connor.

"No... but I have very nice handwriting."

So he's really going to let it go. And maybe this will work. Maybe he can hang around Angel without giving up his new life, his new self, that self unburdened by guilt.

"You girl," Connor says, and the dizzying relief becomes a smile that envelopes them both.
abetterlie: (Default)
*locked from the eyes of the law and pretty much everyone who isn't a close friend or family*

You know what makes replying to this difficult? Not the human being part. I already know the answer to that one. The "own species" part.

When I grew up - both times - things were pretty simple. The way Connor Riley remembers it, Mom and Dad were against the death penalty, and self defense, or saving someone else from an immediate lethal threat, those were the only instances where you should kill someone. I grew up believing that, and I never had reason to doubt it until the mindwipe went away.

Things in Quortoth were pretty simple, too. As in: there were only two human beings around, and I'd never, ever kill my father. Everything else was a demon, and if it got close enough to be dangerous, killing it was the only thing to do, no questions asked.

Then I switched dimensions, and things started to spin out of control and got turned upside down. The first humans I met on my own were some guys trying to hurt a girl who didn't look like she could fight back. All humans. The first demons I met, vampires aside, were Lorne and Cordelia - in a half demon kind of way - , and they were trying to help me. Despite me, you know, trying to kill them. Plus there was the whole question as to what the hell I was. Other human beings didn't have the abilities I had, and you didn't have to be a genius to figure out that I got them because of my biological parents, who were vampires. Even my father said he did not know what I was, other than the bastard son of two demons. So did that make me human or demon?

I didn't want to be a demon, of course. So I tried to cling to what I knew, which meant that you didn't kill humans but anything demonic, vampires or otherwise, was fair game if it threatened someone; if not, like with Lorne and some of his clients, it was supposed to be a wait and see thing.

(Not killing anyone at all wasn't an option that occured to me then. I tried it after I got my memories back, after Sahjahn, and I kept it up for all of a year or so.)

During the time Angelus was loose, Lorne did a sanctuary spell in the Hyperion, which was supposed to make any kind of demonic violence impossible. The idea was to keep Angelus from slaughtering people in their sleep, not that he wouldn't wake them up and torture them a bit first anyway. Sure enough, he showed up after the spell was in effect, and I attacked him. The spell was strong enough to throw me down to the lobby. Which meant it had identified me as demon, not human.

I kept thinking then - and I still do: if I am not human, if I am, in fact, a demon, then what difference does it make whether I kill humans or demons? Why should I protect one species and hunt the other? (I guess the fact that the whole "protecting both" didn't occur as opposed to "hunting both" says something about me, too.) (Or maybe about how I was then. Maybe. I don't know how much difference there is now, when it gets down to it.)

But there had to be a difference. There had to be a line. Because if you can kill anyone, anyone at all, and it makes no difference, you will. Okay, not you as in all of you. But I think - I would. Not just because I can, or because I have so much practice, but because the whole thing, fighting, hunting, it's part of me. The longest I ever was without was when I was mindwiped, and after that not even a year.

The first time I caused the death of a human being, that was when I realized. What the line had to be. I didn't strike the lethal blow but I did everything else - kidnapped her, dragged her to the slaughter. So I did kill her, and I knew what I was doing, and that it was wrong. The point wasn't that she was human - the point was that she was innocent. She hadn't done anything to me or anyone else. It didn't matter whether I was human or a demon or both, killing her was wrong either way. I still did it, because I believed it was the only way to save my unborn daughter. It did save her, for all of a few weeks until -

Anyway. Yes, I would kill a human being. I would kill a demon. I try to limit it to demons who are busy attacking other people because I need to draw a line somewhere, and because there is no way I can bring back that girl, or the cop, or other innocent people who died because of me. But it doesn't make me less of a killer.
abetterlie: (Quirky by Ithica)
Dear Clint Eastwood,

first of alll, I wish you had gotten the Oscar for Letters of Iwo Jima. I mean, nothing against Scorsese, but The Departed was so not his best, plus it was a remake, whereas your film was one of the best ever.

Anyway, I'm a fan, both of the movies you directed and those you were playing in as an actor. I recently read that your next project is a film written by the guy who created Babylon 5, which is cool, but made me wonder: could you maybe postpone that and persuade Steven Spielberg and George Lucas to let you direct Indiana Jones IV? And maybe co-write the script? Because that's really urgent. Here's why you'd be ideal:

1) You would do it both as an action movie but also as a character piece, and you would have no problem coming up with a story that pays attention to the fact Harrison Ford is sixty or something and still make it cool and moving at the same time.

2) Dialogue! Don't let George anywhere near it. I think Harrison Ford would back you up on that one. You'd totally be able to stare Lucas & Spielberg down, too.

3) You wouldn't pull the kind of crap Steven Spielberg did in Temple of Doom when he replaced Marion with that blonde bimbo. I'm still mad about that one. Marion was cool and kicked butt and was so my imaginary girlfriend. In fact double imaginary.

4) You could make Harrison Ford act again. I think he stopped sometime after Mosquito Coast, which sucks because he can. Perhaps you should send him Unforgiven as inspiration?


Also, I have an idea for the artifact Indy could be after. It could be something that leads to the rebirth of an awesome blue-haired goddess in a leather suit. She could take over for the action sequences and you could let Harrison do the exposition and character stuff.

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter, and best of luck with all your projects, no matter which ones you pick -

Yours,

Connor Riley
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.

Both.

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)
Wow. Is that supposed to be a trick question? I mean, define "biggest", "mistake" and "relationship". "Big" as in had bad results for the relationship? The other person in the relationship? Me? The rest of the world? And mistake as in "wrong informed decision" or the "if I only had known..." kind or whatever? Is "relationship" a romance only thing or not?

I'm going with not, I guess. And I don't know about biggest, but it definitely was the worst. I think. See, I'll never know what other people saw when they looked at Jasmine. Except that whatever it was, it couldn't have been what she looked like to me, because when they didn't see it anymore, they freaked out and hated her. And she knew that would happen.

But what she didn't know was that I had seen it all the time. She tried to keep it a secret from me, too; that's why she didn't tell me why she had to hide Cordelia, or how Fred had managed to infect change Angel. She must have believed I would hate her too, that she needed her power with me, and she never did. She was my daughter.

So - if I had told her. I mean, it took me a while to figure it out, that the way I loved her wasn't the way everyone else loved her, and that they saw something different, when they looked at her, but I did figure it out. I didn't tell her. Really, I didn't want to be different from anyone else around her. I wanted to be part of all that, that perfect peace and happiness everyone else was feeling, and I thought if I faked it long enough, I would be. I'd have done anything to make it true.

Here's what I should have done instead. I should have shown her that I didn't love her because I had to, that I could make my own decisions no matter what she said, but that this had nothing to do with not loving her. She only knew those two states, you see. Either people worshipped her, or they hated her and turned against her, like Fred had done the moment she got in touch with Jasmine's blood.

When she sent me to capture Fred, Angel, Wesley and Gunn. That's when I should have done it. I should have said: No. Let them go. And let us go, you and me. Let's leave Los Angeles together, we can change the world much better if we travel through it, much better than if you rule it, and I'll be there for you. You don't have to -

Anyway. Perhaps it wouldn't have worked. She was a Power that Was long before she became my daughter. Perhaps worship was the only form of love she could have understood, and the whole free will thing wouldn't have mattered to her. But the point is, I should have tried. And I didn't.

Instead, I lied to her and everyone else until it was too late.

Timelines

Mar. 18th, 2007 02:44 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
Time has always a been flexible thing where Connor was concerned. The summer after Connor arrived in Los Angeles, Fred tried to calculate his age. She had kept track of her years in Pylea through her scribblings on the wall; it had been her link to sanity, she said, and asked him whether Holtz had not done something similar. In truth Holtz had at first, had tried to keep adherence to a calendar, but Connor had been too young to remember by the point his father had given it up.

There were events, though, that he could use to differentiate the years. The year he first managed to track his father down within three days was a different year from the one they found the swamp with the poisonous flowers, and that in turn had been at least much later than the time Connor had made his first spear, and so on. After some recounting and a lot of frowning, Fred had worked out an equation that said he was seventeen years old, going on eighteen in November.

Fred was a mathematical genius, but to this day, Connor has no idea whether she got it right.

Cyvus Vail, who created one set of Connor’s memories, was very precise about years and dates. It helps keeping the two different timelines in his head without going crazy, though sometimes, they blur: dates, months, days, hours, those are for events which never happened. They are sharp-edged and fitting to exact moments the way photos do in an album. He is four years and seven months on the day his sister Mere is born, and it is two o’clock in the afternoon of the following day when his father brings him to the hospital to watch the new baby through the glass protecting it and the other babies. Connor stretches out a hand which presses against the glass, frustrated, and leaves a very visible thumb print because he has been eating a peanut butter sandwich before they got here. The hospital watches all show 2: 32 exactly when this happens, except it never did.

The other memories are not associated with dates in his mind; not just the Quortoth ones. He has no idea on which day he crossed dimensions, but he remembers the taste of ice cream on Sunny’s lips when she kissed him, and the sense of the sun setting down while she did. He doesn’t know on which day his father died, either, except it was two days after that, but what he can still remember is the way the stars and the neon light from the pier reflected in brittle fragments on the dark sea when Gunn and Fred talked about Angel going after Holtz behind his back. It was autumm when Cordelia returned to the Hyperion, but he doesn’t know which week; what he remembers instead is the way her hand felt when taking his and the sound her feet made on the pavement when she ran away with him.

It’s a wild mixture now. Sometimes he remembers the days on which things happened, and sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes he thinks “September” when recalling a drive to Monterey, an encounter in a hotel room and a flight to Boston; sometimes he recalls anger, curiosity, the taste of whiskey and intoxication.

Perhaps his two timelines are still running, and never became one. Perhaps he just keeps crossing from one to the other and back, some kind of construct of different selves. Doesn’t really matter, though, except when both timelines somehow fail to produce memories. Recently, someone asked him what he did on 9/11. Connor thought, blanked out and concluded that Cyvus Vail, sorcerer extraordinaire, did not cover that one, so he made a story up.

Later, he went back to the old equation Fred had given him, which included his actual birth date, and realized he had not even been born then. So perhaps somewhere, there was a third time line, covering the live of that baby on the photo Cordelia had, the photo that showed herself and Angel. Supposedly, there is a world without shrimp out there, so presumably there is one where that baby is still a child and actually wearing that hokey t-shirt Angel says he bought.

Perhaps. If there is, Connor can’t remember it, and he doesn’t want it, not really, because if he did, it would mean giving up his other two timelines, and whether they consist of dates or sensations, they mean too much to ever want a third.

Partying

Mar. 3rd, 2007 06:46 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
"They go there to party," Angel said, which didn't tell me anything at all.

You have to consider this was my second day - well, second night - in this dimension, and while my father had told me about many things not to be found in Quortoth - including spoons, not that the knowledge had proved useful with Sunny and her medicine of death - parties were not among them. Well, he had sent me back to Angel to learn, and that still made me guilty, confused, angry and infinitely curious all at once.

Walk in his world, learn all you can. Discover what of him is in you that you might fight against it. But be on your guard. Remember what I've taught you. The devil will show you bright things, many colors.

The devil, who used to be Angelus and now was Angel who for some reason had saved me from bullets and constables, had first of all offered me food until he remembered he didn't have anything at hand. Then Cordelia, whom I had only just met and knew nothing about then, had a vision. Angel told me he had to leave. I pretended as best I could not to care. Why would I? Only because I was supposed to spy on him and learn more about him, so my father had said. No other reason.

"It's kind of my job," Angel said, and sounded less and less like the bloodthirsty, endlessly inventive menace from my father's stories. "It could be kind of dangerous. There's a lot of killing and violence." Something seemed to occur to him. Possibly the same thing that occured to me. "You wanna come?"

Well, of course I did. Violence and killing was what I was really good at, and so far, I had failed at most things in this dimension - I hadn't been able to save Sunny or figure out the rules of something as odd as the food machine in the motel my father and I had been for the night. On the way to the promised violence and killing, Angel tried to explain the concept of a club to me, and why there would be masses of innocent people we were supposed to protect and under no circumstances harm while we were killing vampires.

"But what do they do there?" I asked.

"They go there to party. They - dance, drink. Relax. Vent. Meet old friends, make new ones. Have s- have fun. You know."

"No," I said, taking that to be a question rather than a statement. Actually, I did know how to have fun, and was going to prove that soon after, but the other concepts were new.

"Ah. Well. They - well, you'll see."

We arrived, and I saw. He kept explaining, handing me a stake, telling me not to use it on anyone unless they were in game face, just in case. That face that looked like the one I had made him show me.

"So why do you do it?" I asked.

"Do what?"

"Why kill them if they're like you?"

"They're not like me, Connor," he said. Yes, well.

"I'm not Connor."

Masses of people, like he had said, overwhelming noise - that was my first exposure to rave - and equally overwhelming scents; human sweat, blood, and some other fluids I couldn't identify yet. Most of the people were jumping up and down or rubbing themselves against each other. I still didn't get it. Then I spotted three men who did, indeed have a face like his; they were busy surrounding a red-headed woman and holding her, obviously against her will. (That was the first time I ever saw Justine, but I didn't really meet her until later. No time to talk then.) Angel and I started to fight against the vampires, there and then, and if he still kept up the explanations, I didn't hear them anymore. I went for the vampire holding the red-headed woman, and he became the first vampire I staked, breathing in the dust while some others around us went into game face. I found myself back to back with Angel. When Father and I had fought predators together in Quortoth, it had been different, an unequal affair, always; first I had been smaller and weaker than he was, and later, when I grew up and he grew old, I had to take that into account and protect him, just as he used to protect me. This was the first time I fought with a comrade who was as strong as I was, if not stronger. And for some reason, it was incredibly easy to adjust to all his movements and take them into account while dealing out damage, death and destruction to anyone who attacked us. I can't tell you how that made me feel.

Dancing - fast motion together, strike, kill; having fun, partying. I got it now.
abetterlie: (Default)
I think I pretty much expected it. That's what he told me, too.

"You must have expected this," Professor Dodgson said. "After your first term at Stanford, your record is... shall we say, erratic at best. In Stanford, in New York, in Savannah, and here you did not even bother to show up the first week you were admitted."

So. No more college. For now, anyway. Actually I have no idea whether or not I expected it. Not because of the absences - and you just can use so many excuses for not being there before they give you that "don't insult my intelligence and yours" look - but because the way I got into each and every college was by cheating, if you look at the facts. I didn't know I was the first time, but I did the maths once I got my memories back. Finishing high school - well, high school altogether - qualifying for college, all that is courtesy of an evil sorceror who got paid lots of money by Wolfram and Hart for putting that knowledge in my mind. And the other times it was bribes. Yes, I worked, because I happen to like the stuff, but a lot of other people with my degrees still didn't get accepted if they pull regular disappearing acts, because they don't have connections. That's not a complaint. Either about the Vail-derived degree and knowledge or the bribes. Like I said, I enjoy college (mostly), and I really wanted to continue, so I was definitely grateful I got the chance. But. I guess it leaves you with the feeling that a) you didn't really earn it, mixed with b) you're living in this world where even if you miss a plane, there is a next one to catch every single time, so after a while, you stop worrying about missing planes.

Well, I made some noise a while ago about wanting to start facing consequences, so I guess this is a way to do it. It also means looking for a job, something long term, I mean, not the stuff I did so far to make some cash on the sides. Something where you need more the muscle. Plus job search means not having to think about how I felt about the no more college thing, so I started immediately. Of course, most jobs have regular working hours, and they kind of expect you to show up on a regular basis. Which would mean that I'd end up right where I started (getting kicked out) pretty soon, because I can't give up The Other Job, and it doesn't have regular hours.

So I found myself checking whether Clay Face had made a return appearance after being chased off in December, because I did feel like another fight, but he hadn't, and muggers can be dealt with pretty quickly, which meant brooding instead of fighting. I sat on someone's roof and tried to think of freelance jobs and not suicidal cops with family photos, and that's when the glaringly obvious hit me. Of course.

I had tried to do the detective thing on my own with Justine in Los Angeles for a while, but we hadn't been exactly besieged with clients. So what I did this time was trying to find P.I.s who already had an office and some work and convince them they needed me as their freelance assistant. "Just got kicked out of college" wasn't the best resume, but oddly enough, "was in jail last year" worked a couple of times, only then the "assistant" thing turned out to be not exactly what I had meant. Plus a lot of them really didn't need more staff. So I finally ended up with some guy named Harvey Bullock who got fired from the GCPD or something. Well, "resigned from the force" is how he put it. He has just started, but I guess as an ex-cop, he knows the score. After a lot of yelling about vigilantes (okay, note to self: The Other Job definitely needs to stay secret) and how he doesn't need anyone, it turned out he couldn't even find a secretary because they wouldn't put up with the non-stop smoking (and I guess the fact he puts his donuts on all the chairs).

"Can you type?" he asked.

"Yeah, but I thought -"

"Son," he said, "maybe, just maybe, if you really aren't as dumb as you look like, I'll let you do some grunt work later on. But right now, I need a secretary. You're hired."

Which means I have a new job. If Harry's next nickname for me is "Boy Friday", it'll be my own fault.

There were still some books from the college library I had to bring back. You know that libraries each have their own scent? You'd think they all smell the same, but they don't. The one I brought my books back to had a new toner in their copy machine, and you could smell that from the sheets everyone was carrying away from the copy room. Also, they have a first edition of Belzoni's Narration, and that doesn't smell like anything else.

Anyway. I'm not thinking about that. That's behind me, and I pretty much expected it anyway.

That's what he told me.
abetterlie: (Default)
Gunn and Fred swore there was a ghost in Cordelia's apartment. Connor, who helped them move all the boxes Fred packed with Cordelia's belongings to the Hyperion, never saw or sensed anything. Granted, he didn't try very hard. Both because he needed to focus on keeping up the lost-son-hoping-his-father-will-return facade for Gunn and Fred, and because he didn't really want to.

He didn't understand how that many clothes could belong to one person. He didn't understand a lot of things.

"Cordy told me his beast of a mother build a wall to keep poor Dennis there for the rest of eternity," Fred said. "While he was still alive. Can you imagine doing that to your own child? I can't understand how anyone can be so cruel."

Connor tuned her out, and really didn't want to look for the ghost after that. After all the boxes were at the Hyperion, he didn't have to go back to the apartment again, and was grateful.

***

There were no pictures of Darla at the Hyperion. Not among the many photos that he retried for Cordelia, not among the papers in Angel's office he sometimes went through in secret. Nobody ever mentioned her; not Fred and Gunn during the summer, not Angel after he had come back from the sea, and not Cordelia after her memories had returned. You'd think Connor had sprung from Angel's forehead, fully formed; even when seething with anger at his deception, Fred referred to him as "Angel's son", half sobbing, half shouting.

If it had not been for his other father, his true father, as he still tried to tell himself, he would not have known Darla's name at all, or anything about her. As it was, he knew enough. She had been as vicious as Angelus, perhaps more so because she had given birth to that monster to begin with, just as she gave birth to Connor. Holtz never specified how she died, though. "God meant you to bring justice to the demons who spawned you," his father said, "and to Darla, you already did. That should be enough for you, Stephen. Let us not talk of it further."

Fittingly, it was Angelus who finally told him more about Darla. Angelus said her name, the first time anyone did in Connor's hearing, his tongue relishing the two syllables.

"Darla," Angelus said, "Darla felt the same way. It made her sick, you squirming inside her. So, she jammed a stake in her own heart, just so she wouldn't have to hear your first whiny breath."

"You don't know anything," Connor returned before he could stop himself, and the hatred inside, for the both the monsters Darla had given birth to, was overwhelming. He shouldn't care. She had been a demon, mass murdering demon; he should be glad she was dead because of him. But he did care, and now Angelus, smiling, knew it.

Perhaps that was why nobody had mentioned her. You do not mention the victim in the murderer's hearing, did you? It could bring back her ghost.

***

She was dressed in white, like the girl sobbing in the corner. Staring at her face, Connor wondered whether it was this that his fathers saw, both of them, when looking at him.

"You can't be my mother," he whispered, and when she talked about memories and feelings, he said it out loud, because if he knew anything, he knew this: "My mother is dead."

Her dust had to be what he first breathed in. Perhaps this is why he still took a breath, every time, when staking a vampire. But here she was, and he couldn't smell her. Even vampires had a scent. He couldn't hear her heart beat, either, but that was normal; he didn't expect her to have one. Perhaps the dead did come back. Why her, though? He had never known her, after all.

"Why did you leave me? Did you hate me that much?"

Weak, weak. And yet of all his parents, she was the only one he could ask that question. Of course, she answered by swearing she did not want to abandon him, but then, none of them did, did they? The girl in the corner didn't stop crying and wishing for her own mother, and the apparition in white kept telling him he should know better than murder, that he was better than a murderer.

"You've been gone a long time, Mom," Connor said, wearily. "How would you know?"

"Because we shared a soul," she replied simply. Perhaps that was what she wanted, why she was here; to reclaim that soul, to form him anew or discard him as damaged goods. Perhaps he should allow her; he owed her a life, after all.

So he started to let the girl go, and then Cordelia returned to renew her own claim on him. Cordelia, pregnant and alive, brought up the ultimate argument, the one Darla had not been able to refute with all her claims of sharing his soul.

Are you going to let them kill our baby?

The girl didn't stop screaming until Cordelia raised the butcher's knife she had found in the old slaughterhouse they were hiding in. Then, at that last moment, her face changed, and she grew utterly silent. Her face was Darla's, now, looking up at him, and Connor wanted to yell that this was the wrong choice. Not his, hers. If she could do that, why did she not take her due, why did she not enter his own body, took back the life he had taken and threw away the soul which obviously had not been of use to anyone?

Her blood splattered all over him. It was an answer of sorts. Perhaps, in the end, that was all ghosts could do: make the living repeat their actions, again and again.

Night

Feb. 13th, 2007 09:07 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
You know what's weird? We didn't really have those in Quortoth. I mean, obviously we had periods of greater and lesser darkness. But it wasn't as distinct as it's here; more like those white nights in Alaska or Sweden are supposed to be. Only they weren't white but red, in various shades.

Anyway, when I first came here, that what struck me most about this dimension. Those sharp differences. Day. Night. And the very different colors, so sharp and distinct, during daylight. I could handle night better, because it was closer to what I was familiar with, but I loved daylight. It was sort of one of Father's stories come true, one of the good ones. Even after I had adjusted, day was better, and then, wouldn't you know, the sun disappeared entirely. For weeks and weeks and weeks.

In the other memories, Mere and I thought a long term eclipse was the coolest thing ever, but my parents thought even Santa Barbara was too close and took us for a two months vacation to Oregon.

Lorne said it turned Los Angeles into the devil's oyster. I'd have said it turned Los Angeles into vampire central, candy for all, but whatever. So, vampires from all over the country showed up, and you'd think that would kind of attract attention and keep the humans from coming as well, but no. Lots of end-of-days pilgrims, oh, and albinos from everywhere, too. And that was when Angel and everyone else decided the solution to dealing with the Beast who had made the sun disappear was to get rid of Angel's soul and make him Angelus again. So: Angelus in the basement and then at large, everyone else in the Hyperion busy with the Beast and Angelus, vampires everywhere, eternal night. I didn't sleep much during that time. I was out staking vampires as much as I could, because hey, someone had to, plus being the Hyperion meant everyone staring at me because they had just found out about me and Cordy.

But here's the thing: I should have hated it, all of it, and I didn't. I guess because in a way it finally felt like something I recognized. I wasn't homesick for Quortoth - I mean, I know everyone thinks I was crazy back then, and maybe I was a bit, but I wasn't that crazy - but you know, a place where most other creatures were out to kill you and you had to kill them first, and there was no light around to make you stop and wonder and look around? Yeah, that I could deal with. What I couldn't deal with was all the other stuff, even though I wanted it: family, most of all.

*locked*

When I told him he was my true father, in the basement. That was the same thing.

*unlocked*

Wesley brought in Faith, Faith chewed me out and took on Angelus and was generally awesome, and the Beast got slain. I didn't see that, I was back at the Hyperion, but everyone knew when it happened, because the sun came back. It was like seeing it for the first time, also outside the Hyperion. Beautiful. That's what I had forgotten, I thought, that nights did end here, no matter how long they take. That this place wasn't a hell dimension. All the sharp colors were back, and the differences, and I was excited and happy and maybe slightly freaked out, too, because now it was back to being the place where I didn't truly belong. So I ran to tell Cordelia.

"God, I'm sick of Oregon," Mom says in the other memories. "Including the smell of the damm trees. Let's go home."

She told me she was pregnant then. Which was better and scarier than anything that happened to me before. I love sunrise, better than any other time of day. Because it always brings back that moment. The long night ending, being mostly happy about that and somewhat ashamed because not all of me was, and then finding out, in that first returned light, that we had a child.

It was night when she died, Jasmine. I don't know what else it could have been.

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abetterlie

July 2010

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