|Where You Go
Author: Litt PM
Dead.Rated: Fiction T - English - Spiritual/Supernatural - Words: 2,549 - Reviews: 2 - Favs: 2 - Published: 10-12-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3831975
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Where You Go
October 31, 2006
"Why does God stay up in Heaven?"
"Because he's afraid of what he created on Earth."
Luce Lucet Alienta
"This is where you go when you die," Stephanie tells him before he has the chance to ask, before he has the chance to catch his breath--and then, of course, he realizes he doesn't have to. "If you're lucky, you stay. If you're not, you don't get the chance to argue."
Conner doesn't remember standing up but that's what he seems to have done. He can't feel his legs, can't feel much of anything, but knows he's not sitting or falling anymore; he can see the whole length of her, from blond hair to scuffed boots, and her eyes are on level with his own. She seems to be standing as well, but she's grown a bit taller, or maybe she's floating. He doesn't remember ever seeing her fly. "What chance?" He asks, his voice coming out as it always has, from his mouth, his mouth feeling like it always has: there.
He flexes his fingers and is surprised when he sees them move. Stephanie watches him, a stretched patience that doesn't seem at all real or inviting. He doesn't remember her ever looking like that.
"What chance, Steph?"
"To go back." She answers. Her uniform has shifted into something that resembles a hospital gown; she's wearing booties now, and there are bandages tucked all over places he shouldn't be looking. But I'm dead now, right? There's nothing to do but look. She doesn't seem to notice. "To live again."
Conner remembers Tim raging about his girlfriend's death, about not being there to see her off, about how badly she'd been hurt. He remembers not being able to say anything that might have mattered to his best friend and feeling that hot jealousy flare up: even though the girl was dead, she managed to keep that barrier up, that void between Tim and all that Conner could have offered. So this blond, bandaged, beauty before him is the image of her at her death. He wonders if she goes through cycles like this, if she wears pig-tails and then tube tops and then Robin uniforms before slipping into the backed-out gown and gauze. He wonders what he looks like. He doesn't ask.
She probably wouldn't answer.
"I…" never liked you, did I? I hated you for hurting him. I can't remember the last time I heard your name. "I'm dead, aren't I?"
(He sees it going differently somehow. Instead of the dumb, guilty teenager, he's a cocky, half-insane teenager, still trying to pull one over his best-friend's ex-girlfriend. And it's working, in theory. "I'm dead, aren't I?"
Even though it's not funny, the Stephanie he imagines laughs with him. Her cackle is just as harsh, just as frantic; she's slapping her knee and she's crying it's so predictable; she's right and she knows it. "You deserved it, boy. You really did.")
In this reality, though, Stephanie's face is fresh and healthy, but she's not smiling and she's not rolling her eyes. "Usually, you would stay that way, but I've seen this happen before. You're going to have to choose very soon."
Dying is easy. For Conner, it had been too easy.
"He hates me."
Stephanie arrives at his side with a little boy in tow; the two of them settle for peering over and under his shoulders to get a glimpse of the pool. Early on, he'd discovered that water was about the only reliable medium to watch the world by, as there were no mirrors and glass dissolved too fast into other, much more useful things--like grass; there is no shortage of grass here. He'd had to find this out on his own, of course, and while he didn't blame Stephanie for keeping that secret to herself, he does feel a bit angry at her for not warning him about what else came with looking through to the living world.
Briefly, he'd felt what Tim was feeling. Watching his grimaces, his quick smiles, his strained confessions, had been enough. Yet now, now Conner could feel what lay behind that mask. It had been sharp, clear, raw. "He…he hates me."
"For this?" The little boy asks.
"Yeah," Stephanie murmurs, "for this."
He can reshape constellations. He can block the sun. But he can't fly. Not really.
Sometimes, Stephanie waits by the tree. It's always an apple tree with her, and it's always sunset. She's dramatic like that.
Conner appreciates her silence then, because there's nothing to say and she's willing enough not to push it. Sometimes, though, when she's so still and so patient that he remembers where they are, he picks an apple and blasts it. When he's really pissed, and when she's really stubborn, he'll eat it, being careful to draw this loud encounter out for as long as he can.
One twilight, and every twilight they spend together after that, she throws the apple at him and tells him to step off.
He'd thrown it back. When it hit her in the forehead, her face showed pain, shock, but Conner knew by then that she hadn't felt it and she'd been here so long she'd probably seen things that made the not-apple hitting her head seem mundane and so he hadn't apologized. "It's not real. You're not real."
Up close, she looks anything but. "We are not real."
"And this," he'd quipped, "is me not caring."
"It's been, like, a month."
Stephanie has long since given up bringing visitors to him. She comes on her own now, every other day, getting more aggressive, more persistent. Sometimes about this, sometimes about that; sometimes it's just staring or groaning. All in all, Conner feels she's trying to prove something. "What?"
Everyone has their own sphere of existence here. He travels to hers once because he's tired of hearing her echoed sobs. It is perpetually sunrise in her plane and he wonders why it never is when she's in his.
"Go away, S-boy."
If there's one thing he hates more than being stuck in the Afterworld with her, it's being stuck in the Afterworld with her while she's PMSing. He hates seeing a girl cry; he feels so…helpless and obligated. And it's not like she's dying or in shock or anything (She's dead, right? And we can't go into shock anymore, can we? No body, no…emotions.) so his training fails him, because no amount of placating will save her now. He can handle a victim, even a sociopath, but Stephanie is going all out: shoulders hunched, half-laughing, half-gagging into a pool of lake water, voice not muffled even though her palm is "bleeding" against her lips. No ambulance here.
It reeks of apples and winter air. He goes on that, says loudly, "I get the apples, but what's that other smell?"
Her eyes are red; she's in overalls and her hair is cut just like Raven's, close to her cheeks, razoring just along her jaw line, which is trembling. Her voice is hoarse. "The Cave."
Of course. "Right. So," are you going to be okay? "are you going to be quiet any time soon?"
"Today, I'm going to teach you how to float."
Stephanie nods; when Conner fails to do the same, she nudges him hard in his ribs. He almost convinces himself he can feel the alerting pain that gesture is supposed to produce. She's wearing her Robin uniform--jab, sharp, no, never, augh, man--and he feels it.
Pay attention. Her voice in his head.
I AM! He thinks this too loudly so it echoes around the canyon that belongs to the first whack job to invite them in without offering their Death Story in return. This one is wearing a red towel over his shoulders and some whities; one look at Conner and he'd declared himself his tutor in all things aerodynamic. Stephanie had just nodded.
Apparently, this is what she meant when she'd said they needed to "get out more".
Conner can't sleep.
He wants to try again, to have that as an excuse when he wastes seven hours, but it is something he is no longer capable of. He has no body and therefore no needs. Instead, he ambles about, chatting with anyone who passes him by without recognizing him. He'd met an old crone once, made the mistake of agreeing to hear her story: she'd gone from diapers to her Sunday best before he could stand it no more; in the end, it was only his name coming out of her mouth in that revered tone that made him stay to hear the ending. And then I died.
Conner can't dream.
He feels a tug. He ignores it.
For once, Stephanie doesn't visit him. His first day alone is spent drowning. She discovers him later on, angrily dragging him towards dry ground. "What the hell, Kon! What the…"
He cannot breathe. That's never been a problem, because he's dead, right? But, no, he cannot breathe but he's choking all the same, even though she's got him against her tree; the water is gone, and so is the world. He's screaming but he cannot breathe; she's singing something and crying all at once, and he almost remembers why this makes sense, but then it doesn't matter because then he's crying too. He feels gone and then here, and now he just feels empty.
The sky is dark and clear. It smells like chemicals. Instead of crickets, there are faint yells. Conner grimaces. If there's one thing he has figured out about this place it's the intrusive nature it can adopt, the fantasies it can relate if one gives it the chance; he knows what this means. He's just been born again.
Pain. Light. Green. Stretch. Growth. Tim? Glass.
Sigh. Dark. Red. Burn. Cold. Tim! Grass.
He's just been aborted.
When he opens his eyes, she's sitting at his shoulder, blowing listlessly at a daffodil. The weed is out of place on his plane because it and the girl are all that aren't green and black and red. Slowly, it starts to get lighter and the echoes fade. She offers him a quick and ironic smirk.
"This isn't the first time this has happened." She says.
"Was I asleep?" He blurts out. There is a distant bubble of excitement in his gut, a burst of energy buzzing at the base of his neck. It's fading fast but is all the more thrilling because it is there. "Was I asleep?"
Her bones would have broken if she'd had them still; instead, she yanks her arm away and stands up. Her eyes are the same bruised they were the day she died. It's sunset again and he lets her take control. You've got to chose. Your soul can't take this much longer; the longer you hold off, the more you strain your chance of making it through eternity whole.
Above them, the sky is pink, going on red.
If you keep going on like this, you won't be yourself anymore— that thing that makes you You will have been spread out through so many incarnations it won't exist at all. Conner. Kon.
"Was I asleep?" And, when that doesn't work and she's still not looking at him, he screams as loud as he can, "Was I asleep?"
She's walking away. "This isn't the first time this has happened."
Red, going on black, going on green and purple. Sunset, going on supernova.
The ripples make everything clearer. It doesn't hurt, watching his lover and his best-friend kiss beside his memorial. It doesn't. Everything is clear now.
"You see what I mean?"
"Step off, Steph." Conner warns, far too concerned for Tim to actually care what Stephanie has to say about him. "I mean it."
"Or you'll what? Beat me to a pulp? Blast me with heat vision?" Her voice is mocking, her mouth is smiling. "I may not be half-alien, Kon, but I'm all hero; I can take you. And anyway, we're barely able to hold hands; how the hell do you expect to hurt me?"
Conner doesn't like hearing his real name from her. He points towards the pool, the culmination of last week's tears made real, made useful. "You see that? He's crying."
A part of the girl's spirit might have recoiled at where this conversation was headed, but it must have been worn away over the years. "I can see that, even from way over here."
Everything clicks. He laughs and it hurts. He laughs until he can't catch his breath anymore. "Xerox of a Xerox of a Xerox. He's trying to bring me back; he's trying to clone me, Steph!"
She looks vaguely wary, edging closer, familiar enough with these attacks to endure them. "Kon, please. Fight it. Or don't, but stop putting it off!"
Somewhere down in the living world, a new collection of old cells is vying for that just-so formation: a new body is being grown ever-so carefully and Tim and Cassie are kissing because it's dying before their eyes—it's dying because he's still up here in Afterworld. Conner laughs again, louder, attempting to catch that peak at the end of hyperventilation that makes him black out. "He's failing and he's trying and he's crying." When nothing happens—when the body dies and Conner doesn't even get the chance to reject it—he stops laughing, looks straight into Stephanie's battered eyes, and hurts her, "He never did that for you."
AN: Because daybreak25 requested a Crazy!Tim story and that means torturing Kon first. (And, yeah, to express my feelings about DC's choice, which I'll probably end up liking later, but for now--Pshaw!) I went on a limb and started jotting down a bunch of encounters in which Dead!Steph and Dead!Kon try to deal with their new existence. I didn't get too far, as the bell was about to ring. There is potential here, which I will tap later, but I thought I'd post it here for safe keeping, some critiquing, and just because it's Halloween. Also, in this story, they know each other's names; I'm not sure if this is at all realistic, relatively speaking, so just count it off as an Afterworld quirk.