abetterlie: (Default)
Rebellion was not something that came naturally to Connor.

Given that before he got mindwiped, he never did anything Angel told him unless this was preceded by a fight, either against Angel or with Angel against someone else, some people might have debated this assessment. But the truth of the matter was this: he did not recognize Angel as an authority because he could not believe in him. Obedience, to Connor, was connected with unquestioning faith. He felt a lot of things for Angel, some of which he never acknowledged, but they were all riddled with questions.

On the other hand, you could count the number of times he did not do what Daniel Holtz had told him to on two hands, and that was including his childhood. Holtz, to him, was not just his father but the closest thing to the all-knowing, all-wise God Holtz had told him about Connor could imagine. To act against Holtz' commandments was to sin against both. It also meant to affirm the demon blood in himself. It wasn't that he feared Holtz; on the contrary, by the time they left Quortoth, Connor had known for years he was far stronger than the older man. But Holtz was his father; he loved his father; disobedience would imply distrust and lack of love, which was only something a demon spawn would be capable of; therefore, it was unthinkable.

When Holtz told him to go to Angel, Connor came closer to rebellion than ever before, but eventually, he decided it was meant as a punishment for having lied about Angel. Then one father died and he sank the other into the sea, and for a long time, rebellion wasn't a question because there never was obedience anymore to begin with.

Until Jasmine.

Jasmine was his daughter, but she was also his goddess; it seemed good and right to obey her in everything, just like everyone else did. He had done terrible things, he knew that; Jasmine put everything right, though. She wasn't just the justification for all the preceding horrors by the peace she created, she was family, at last, and for a brief time, so was everyone else. Because of her. Then Fred infected Angel, and everything began to fall apart.

"You've no idea what she is," Wesley told Connor when Connor had finally hunted all the betrayers down. Wesley didn't get it. None of them did.

"Yes, I do," Connor said. "She's mine."

It was the last certainty he clung to; he loved Jasmine, Jasmine loved him, Jasmine was all-wise and all-knowing, therefore, obeying Jasmine as he once had obeyed Holtz was right. It was a matter of faith. Unquestioning faith. You did not rebel against this.

But then he did.

It wasn't so much what Wesley said about Jasmine that made the difference, it was that Jasmine had not told him of her own what she had done with Cordelia. It was as if she didn't trust him. Which implied that there was something she did not wish to trust him with.

"Has it become necessary to explain my wishes to you?" Jasmine asked, amazed, and he denied it, but he knew he was lying to both of them. Because the past year with Angel had changed him; he wasn't Stephen any longer, and insidious doubt had become part of his nature. He wanted to give Jasmine the kind of unquestioning faith he had given Holtz, he truly did. But he wasn't whole anymore; he wasn't even wholy hers. A part of him belonged to Cordelia, and Cordelia didn't have anyone else left. He hadn't thought it possible that loving Cordelia and loving Jasmine might mean two different things, might demand two very different actions.

He tried to talk with Jasmine about it. She was her gracious self, but there was confusion in her eyes and bewilderment in her soft smile, and this only served to disturb him more. Because she was supposed to have all the answers, wasn't she? To be all-wise, all-powerful.

"I could never hurt Cordelia Chase, any more than I could you. You're my parents, my tether to this world. It was your love that brought me here. I understand. You miss her," she said, and of course he missed Cordelia, but that wasn't the point. Why didn't Jasmine just tell him where Cordelia was? Why did she keep secrets from him?

"It doesn't matter," Jasmine said benignly. "Just know she's alive."

And that was that. Something broke in him, irrevocably.

It had taken him a while to understand that everyone else obeyed Jasmine because they felt compelled to, and because they saw her somehow differently than Connor did. Connor never found out what exactly it was they saw before their disenchantment. What he saw was his daughter throughout, but she did not understand the difference, didn't even know there was one. He couldn't obey her any longer. When he closed the door behind him and started to search for Cordelia, he knew he would never obey anyone ever again.

After all, he would have to love them first.


May. 13th, 2006 08:14 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
*locked from Darla*

He didn’t mention her as often as Angelus. I guess because she was dead, and so he didn’t need to prepare me regarding her. But he did tell me about her. I hadn’t gotten the timeline right then, the whole part where he had been born centuries ago as well, and so when he had me repeat the story of the murder I called his wife Caroline mother. I just figured she must have been. Someone must have been. With all the beasts around us, you did catch on the whole reproduction thing pretty quickly. Anyway, when I said “…and they killed Mother as well..”, he drew a sharp breath and corrected me, gently, but as clear as always in his phrasing.

“My wife,” he said, “was not your mother, Stephen, and I am most sorry for it. You know whose child you are. I never kept it hidden from you.”

I knew, even then, but I still wanted at least a human mother. The one he had loved who was A Saint And Much Too Good For Me, Or Any Man, My Angel Caroline.

“You know,” he said. “Tell me again.”

“No,” I said, because I was still a child then and sometimes did not heed my lessons, and was stupid enough to yell and cry about things I could not change, and ran away. He didn’t come after me. He knew I’d be back. And so I was, with some fresh meat of a beast I had killed.

“I am the bastard child of two demons,” I whispered, and he nodded and accepted the meat. That evening, he told me more about her. She was a demon as vile, that I had already known, but now he added details. She was unpredictable, he said, which had made her more difficult to hunt; you never knew when she would ditch Angelus and when rescue him, but the one thing you could count on with her was that as long as Angelus still existed, she would return, sooner or later.

“She created him,” he said. “She brought that monster into the world and revelled in no other deed as much as that.”

“So she was his mother as well?” I asked. The whole “siring” concept was a bit difficult to grasp, if you were seven and no actual vampires were around.

“In a manner of speaking,” he said, probably coming to the same conclusion. “And his whore. Everybody’s whore, if she wanted to lure victims to their doom, and even before that, I’ll wager.”

“What is a whore?”

“You will understand later,” he said. “But fear not. She is dust now, and whatever there is of her in you you will govern and defeat. Cleave to the good and remember God’s will, Stephen, and you will be safe.”

He said she died when I was born, but not how. When I was ten, I asked whether Angelus had killed her, having grown finally tired of her. After all, he had told me Angelus loved nothing more than to drink family blood.

“Oh no,” he said. “You were her death, my son. When I saw you in her ashes, I knew God had meant for us to be together, even then.”

“Good,” I said, and never asked him about her again. I didn’t ask Fred and Gunn, either, when I was living with them at the Hyperion, and they never mentioned her to me. When Wesley came back during the reign of the Beast, he brought his chronicles along, and I don’t know why, but I kept going through them when I thought everyone was out or asleep. That was when I finally saw what she had looked like, because he had an old photo of her there. He also had made notes on her, and they confirmed that she had been everything my father had said she was. Both in the past and in that year before my birth. There was also a lot of stuff about Angel being “obsessed with her” and kicking his friends out.

I didn’t get it, because Angel never mentioned her now. I mean, we weren’t exactly having many chats, but still, he never mentioned her, so I figured either he was ashamed of her when he had his soul, or maybe since I had been her death, he blamed me for that and didn’t want to talk to me about her any more than I wanted to talk about Daniel Holtz with him. Then eventually he did talk about her, when he was Angelus again. He told me just how I had been her death. She had hated me so much, he said, that she couldn’t bear it, the feeling of me squirming inside her, and so she staked herself.

So that was what I knew about her. And then she came back. Just before Jasmine was born, she came back to me, out of thin air, so exactly the opposite to Angel that it was like someone had invented them – small where he’s tall, blonde where his hair is dark, and with a soft voice. She told me she loved me, that she had died because she wanted me to live, and that I had a choice. That we had shared a soul once, and I looked into her eyes and knew that part at least was true.

But I also knew my father had been wrong, and so was she. I could not govern and defeat what of her there was in me, and I didn’t have a choice. If what she said was true, if she had died for me, she had to understand. It was the baby’s life at stake, Cordy’s and mine.

Except that didn’t stop it from being murder, and I knew that when I saw that girl looking at me with her face when Cordy brought down the axe. Her blood was all over me.

That was when I at last believed I was really her son.
abetterlie: (Default)
Childhood Ambition

Stephen can’t remember the first time he heard the story. It was always there, told in his father’s low, calm tones, part of his life as the clouded sky or the bite of any creature one let come too close. His reason for existing, the point and purpose of his life, told back to his father during endless days of trekking, over fire that warmed them or in caves that gave shelter.

“…God gave me to you.”

“So that I could bestow on you all the love I could not give my first children.”

“Because he took them from you.”

Stephen knows the names before he knows much of anything else: Sarah and Daniel. Daniel had been “an innocent babe” and Sara “her mother’s joy, my own delight, the sweetest little girl there was”. He knows the colour of Sarah’s hair and her favorite song, because his father sings it to him as well. He knows the demons Angelus and Darla did worse than drink her blood; they made her into one of their own, and left her for his father to kill.

It is hard to imagine vampires, because they are not any in Quortoth. He points at some of the foulest beasts early on, asking whether these resembled the monsters, but his father shakes his head each time. Stephen does remember when he stops asking. His father is a patient, disciplined man, but one afternoon, when he’s bloodied from battle and worn out by the demands of a child, he makes Stephen kneel at the well that serves as their resting place for now and gestures at the reflection in the water.

“Like that,” he says. “When they do not kill, when they fool the innocent as they must have done to gain entrance to my house, they look like that.”

Sometimes, he dreams about it. Sometimes, it is himself the demons kill and feed while they wear his own face, and that is bad enough. Far more often, he watches them kill LittleSarahAndDaniel, who do not look like Stephen at all but are small, perfect versions of Father. This is worse, because Stephen watches and is glad before he wakes up with burning shame in his heart.

At last, he arrives at the obvious conclusion.

“I will find Angelus for you,” he tells his father. “Find him and destroy him.”

That is the part of the story his father withheld, the demand he never made, because Stephen had to figure it out for himself, and finally, Stephen has. His father’s face is sad and proud at the same time. There are no shadows of other children in his eyes when he regards Stephen now.

“Yes,” he says. “One day, you will.”


Mar. 3rd, 2006 09:22 pm
abetterlie: (Default)
My father was a good man. The first memory of him I have is him protecting me from three beasts who attacked us. I was in a sling on his back, and I smelled their blood and his and fire and smoke as he used a burning twig to drive them away at first, and then his knife, and the noises they made were ear-splitting, but I knew I'd be safe. He was my father. I think I must have been two or three years old; it's hard to say when anything happened in Quortoth, but I can't have been older, because by the time I was five, I would have had a knife of my own.

Whe he told me about God and how God had given me to him in place of his murdered children, I always imagined God to be like him. To sound like him. Patient and wise and unrelenting. When he made me repeat every detail of the murders, he was the voice of God as well.

It never occured to me to doubt my father, but something in me must have wished to rebel, because when I made the sluks show me the fractures that allowed me to escape the dimensions, I did not ask for his permission. In fact, I went without talking to him first at all. I thought I'd do what he had raised me to, kill the one who had wronged him, and then return, able to tell him that. Instead, I did not kill anyone, not then, and he followed me and saw me with his enemy, and a day later, he was dead.

"It must be terrible for you," Fred said later, "losing your father." She meant the other one, of course, but even if she had not, she wouldn't have understood. It wasn't just my father I had lost. He had been far more than that.

Gods usually are.


My father was a good man. When my sister Mere and I were yelling about some toy or something and he was watching a baseball game on tv, even if his favourite team played, he didn't make my mother go and deal with us, he'd get up and sort us out himself. Not by telling us to shut up. He'd ask what we were arguing about, and then he'd listen, no matter how stupid the cause was, because it mattered to us.

Once he took me camping, but he was a complete klutz at these things, and so basically everything went wrong. Finally he said "tell you what, Connor, the outdoor life just isn't for me, but I can teach you a mean game of poker." I had been looking forward to the camping trip for a while, and I had been seriously dissappointed and was sulking, but when he said that, I said "really?" and felt about 100% better because that sounded grown up and cool. He nodded, and was completely true to his word.

He had this obsession with crossword puzzles. One Sunday he started out early at breakfeast and was still at it late in the afternoon. By that time, we were all looking in dictionaries for the three or four missing words. Mom found one, and then he finally figured out the other ones, and whooped like a tv Indian. Mere was totally embarassed and said "DAD!"

"Pizza for everyone, Princess," he said.

Of course none of that ever happened.


My father is a man. For a long time, that was one of the things I hated most about him because it confused me the most. I had expected him to be a monster. The worst monster of them all, and I had seen so many. But when I crossed the barrier between dimensions and saw him, he was just a man, and he knew me. From the first time he saw me, he knew me, and that was more terrifying than any scales or claws could have been, because what was it in me that he could have known?

I made him show me his other face later, but that didn't help.

When I sunk him to the bottom of the oceon, telling him he'd get to live like this forever, my father told me he loved me. He also told me this when he came back and threw me out, three months later. I don't know which occasion was confusing me more. Confusion, you'll notice, is the watchword with my father. One time, my father changed the world for me. Literary. It gave me a new life and everything I had ever wanted. A few days before that he had beaten me into a pulp. I heal very fast and I don't get bruised easily, but I was such a complete wreck that it took a miracle by the goddess who was my daughter to heal me.

My father really can't sing, but one of the best memories I have of him is of the two of us singing together. (Being his son, I can't sing either. It was fun anyway.) When he thought he had only one more day to live, he dropped by for coffee and thought this was subtle and no hint at all. He's an incredibly easy mark if you want to tease him, and he has a deadpan sense of humour, if you pay attention.

The third time he told me he loved me was right before he cut my throat. Which was what I had wanted back then - I told you he gave me everything I had ever wanted when he changed the world for me, and that was the start - and when I was lying there, dying, I felt him take my hand.

That was when I knew I had wanted that, too.
abetterlie: (Default)
He doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand any of it.

Not his father, who sends him to the very demon who destroyed his other children, his wife, and his life. Unless it is meant as a punishment; the penance for Stephen’s failure to kill Angelus. For having been lured into laughter and joy in Angelus’ company. His father’s punishments have always been lessons, for his father is a wise man, and never does anything without purpose. But Stephen fails to see what lesson can be learned without his father at his side.

He doesn’t understand Angelus, either. So far, the only thing meeting his expectations have been the face he made Angelus show him, and the fierceness with which Angelus fought. But the cruelty, the guile, the arrogance of which his father has talked, all this is absent, and instead there is some kind of endless hope and hunger in Angelus’ eyes, and he looks at Stephen like a man dying of thirst who finally finds water yet dares not to touch it, for fear it might disappear. And yet Angelus, too, sends him away. First talks of how losing his child had torn him apart, and then sends him away with Bald and Chattering, as if bored with his company already.

Bald and Chattering are incomprehensible as well, for the most part. They talk about their gladness to have him back “home” when they should know he came from what was home to him to this strange new place, they present sand and the horrid black emptiness made of water to him as if expecting him to rejoice, as if he couldn’t smell the salt, as if he would not know the water is poisonous to drink. Walking towards it to escape their words, Stephen wonders whether they expect him to drink it anyway and die of lunacy. Whether this is their plan to avenge the hurt he almost dealt out their friend, the woman who became light for a short while.

Then Chattering mutters something about feeling “creepy, keeping him busy and distracted while Angel” and Bald interrupts: “Confronts the kidnapper?”

Everything in Stephen freezes. He can’t believe how foolish he has been.

“Angel will deal with Holtz in his own way,” Bald declares.

Stephen turns around.

“No way,” Bald exclaims, sounding disbelieving and horrified at the same time.

But Stephen understands him all too well.


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