Notes: Mutant Enemy, other entities created and profit from these characters, not me. Written for the second freeverse challenge. My quote was From the inexhaustible well of static/ we pull up words to call ghosts, apparitions,/ the unknown. The shower swirls with/ voices. All the little dead girls know/ all our names. Thanks to SA, Tigs, Dine, Mare and Mosca.
The Hyperion is half rubble and Wolfram and Hart's building is paved over. Now Angel's in a warehouse, a live/work space. "They have a bunch of these in Oakland and San Francisco, now," Angel says. "And in LA, so it's a really great deal."
Connor nods and doesn't ask where Angel gets the money. But it's weird, how Angel always lands on his feet. He always has a place to live all lined up and rent paid like it's nothing. He even has a bank account, writes checks, order things with his debit card.
They watch a lot of hockey because Angel likes it and he thinks sports are a way to bond. Angel grouses about the labor dispute and goes on and on about the traditions of the Stanley Cup. Connor nods again. "When you were a baby, I bought this little hockey jersey with your name on it. Little hockey sticks, too. I bet you would have been a great goalie." Connor would have been, could be great at any position. Which Angel knows, too. Super speed, super strength, all that stuff. He could play every position. After Thanksgiving, Connor brings a picture he found in his parents' scrapbooks with him and Angel says, "That's it exactly. See how cute you were? Huh."
"Crazy magic there," Connor says. "My mom said the outfit was a gift from her grandfather."
"Can I have this?" Angel's already putting it on the refrigerator, tucked under a magnet of a Jack Daniels logo.
"I guess you can."
"They won't notice, right? They probably have a lot of pictures of you." Connor thinks the baby pictures are less false than the ones where he's happy at the park at age five or in his soccer uniform at age eight. Connor nods and Angel keeps the picture.
The warehouse has an office downstairs and a large open space, with weapons. Everything falls down and gets destroyed, but Angel always has money and weapons. Spike and Gunn have their own rooms with their own bathrooms and tiny kitchens on the other side of the place.
And more people helping. Angel always ends up attracting good people around him. Connor's not sure they get any kind of redemption, but they all seem to try. Until they die, like Wesley, Fred, Cordelia and even Illyria, the only one not to walk out of the alley. Now there's Robson, who used to be a Watcher. "You could still be a Watcher," Connor says. Angel says there's lots of Slayers now, there didn't used to be.
"No, I couldn't," Robson says. "I won't watch more of them die." Spike says Robson reminds him of that Giles guy, after Buffy died. But Buffy came back and it's some long story Spike likes to tell and Connor tunes out. Robson, Spike, Gunn, Angel and sometimes other people are around but not enough that Connor remembers their names.
"I thought there was a big apocalypse or something," Connor says. There's no hockey on so they're watching a documentary about the 1980 Olympics. "Wasn't that the thing, with the building falling down and the alley? Where is it?"
"Someone told us we were soaking in it. Turns out, his information was wrong. Turns out we were all being manipulated. Which worked out pretty well since I was a little depressed." Angel frowns.
"Huh," Connor says.
"We did good, though. We broke Wolfram and Hart's hold here in LA and a lot of places. We made a difference. They weren't expecting us to do that," Angel says. He's hunching over, clenching his fists like he's strategizing again. Connor doesn't really care, but it's one of those family obligations: listening.
Angel goes on and Connor nods in the appropriate places. Lied to, pushed around, it's a familiar story. Part of him is smiling inside that Angel gets to feel it, too. But it's not the part of him that comes down once a month to sit on this really uncomfortable couch and watch hockey.
Saturday nights, Angel always makes plans. Basketball tickets once, the Clippers playing the Bulls, which is as lame as Connor expected. "Last year, I could have gotten the Lakers," Angel says.
"Last year, the Lakers were better than the Clippers," Connor says. "It's fine. Can't look for celebrities, though."
"Did I tell you how I saw the first taping of I Love Lucy?" Angel looks eager again. Next he'll talk about Elvis and Priscilla's wedding. Connor nods.
Another time it's a hip restaurant Angel read about where they can look for celebrities. They only see Wilmer Valderamma, and Angel says, "Do you ever watch his show? It's really funny."
"You watch that show?"
"Sometimes. Late nights, TV's right there, you know. You don't watch it?"
"I did in high school," Connor says.
It feels like farce. Connor smiles a lot and puts up with Angel's eagerness and neediness for one weekend a month. He does it for every other day when he can go to college. So he can see his parents and his sister. Payback.
Sometimes they have disturbing conversations. Angel tells stories about Darla and Connor doesn't miss the glee lacing his voice when he's talking about slaughter. Then there's the obligatory Angel brooding about Cordelia and Fred and Wesley. Sometimes he throws in names Connor doesn't recognize, like Doyle and Drusilla. Everyone Angel talks about is dead or dust. Connor pays more attention to that.
"How are your classes? You picked a major yet?"
Connor shrugs. "Classes are good. I'm thinking of Economics, maybe. I don't really know."
"But you have to decide soon, right?"
"Sure. Or I could just keep going to Stanford forever, rack up the credits, make my parents take out 18 million loans. Actually, I can't, there's an upper limit on how many classes you can take without graduating. But I'm not there yet."
"Maybe if you figured out what you wanted to do after you graduate," says Angel the guidance counselor. Connor smiles.
"I'm not really sure yet. I mean, I'd pretty much done all the things I was supposed to do, right? So now everything's just, I dunno."
"What do you mean, 'all the things you're supposed to do?' You're not counting graduating high school as all you have to do, are you? Because that's crap."
"That's not what I meant. Graduating high school isn't my accomplishment, anyway, because all I really did was take the finals. I meant, killing Saijahn, being born." Connor sighs. There's more to it than that, of course.
"*That* isn't all you were supposed to accomplish," Angel says.
"There were more prophecies? Cause that sucks."
"That's not what I meant. I meant your life isn't defined by those things. Not the whole of it."
Connor shakes his head and wishes fervently that they had hockey to watch. Stupid labor dispute. "What about your whole life? How many years are you going to be here in LA, helping the helpless and stuff? Not all your prophecies have come true yet, right?"
"I'm different from you."
It's 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning and when it's ten, they'll walk in the sewers to a very dark pancake house Angel likes. Divorced Daddy's weekend breakfast place. Angel always orders blueberry pancakes for Connor and gets extra maple syrup because Connor ordered that the first time they went there.
Connor says, "We're both killers."
Angel starts to say something and stops. Then he says, "My body count beats yours. Even minus everything Angelus did."
"Well, then. I'll totally stop feeling bad about it."
Angel stands up, because he has a point to make. "It's not like that. You feel bad, you should. But you have your life now. You have everything in front of you."
"Other people make mistakes, do evil, they have to pay and make amends. But when I do it, I should pick a major and study hard in my classes," Connor says. "Why do I get an exemption?"
Angel sighs and sits down. "Because you do."
"From you, yeah." Connor gets up and says, "I need some sleep. Wake me up at 9:30, okay?"
Angel says, "Okay," and Connor leaves for the guest room. It's decorated for him, even though Connor can smell that other people stay here. A Stanford banner, bookcase with Anne Rice novels because he mentioned it once, neatly made bed and some clothes always in the drawers. He never gets a real rest here but he tries to make sure Angel doesn't notice.
Once or twice Connor gets roped into helping out the once and present Angel Investigations. He's a better tracker than Spike or even Angel -- nothing like training since birth to hone the skills -- and it's not like he doesn't know how to fight. It's better than a Clippers game, that's for sure.
Gunn avoids him and the girls who show up always shoot him down. Robson is like Wesley and always has his head in books. Spike likes to try to horn in when he and Angel go out. It's pretty funny for the first ten minutes watching Angel and Spike fight, but even Connor's gratitude can't make him endure the next thirty.
His roommate makes mix CDs every day, so Connor always has music to listen to on the drive home. It's like detox: the music played loud, the car fast, all cleaning him up for getting back to himself. The easier face to present.
Sometimes on the drive home he talks to Fred. Angel's told him enough that he doesn't think he wants to be talking to Cordelia. He pretends that Fred can hear and that she's not mad at him anymore. Plus, he likes the idea of someone who knows him. And isn't blinded like Angel.
He tells her how his roommate thinks he's visiting his godfather, how he tells his parents that checking in with Angel helps keep him safe. He feels an obligation, is what he tells himself. He wishes it were painful enough to count as some sort of amends. Mostly, it's just uncomfortable.
He tells her how confusing it can be, how a smell triggers two different memories and one is always horrific. How he's a murderer and he got away with it. How he doesn't think killing Jasmine is amends for anything though he's pretty sure Angel counts it that way. How he meant that he didn't want to see Angel again, not really, but he couldn't keep to it. He's obligated.
She doesn't answer. He pictures her bringing him a sandwich and a glass of milk with a taser in her pocket.
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