THROUGH THE PALE DOOR
By D.M. Evans
Disclaimer – Joss Whedon owns all. I'm just borrowing them.
Spoilers – AtS Season 4 finale (seriously BIG spoiler for that)
Pairings – Connor/Lilah (platonic)
Feedback – please, at this point I could really use it. Ripewickedplum2@yahoo.com
Rating – R
Summary – Connor's normal college life is disrupted when he learns all is not as he though it was.
Author's Note – This was written for the Buffy/Angel Lyric Wheel challenge #2. Thanks Farquarson for the lyrics by Brad Paisley (lyrics at the end of the story). I know and love this song. I could work the lyrics but the tone is so different from the song it's not funny.
Through the pale door;
A hideous throng rush out forever,
And laugh — but smile no more.
Edgar Allen Poe – The Haunted Palace
Connor woke screaming around the fist he pressed to his mouth. He barely held his bladder. He hadn't realized it was true, being so scared you could piss yourself. The dreams had come back just like they had for the last two weeks ever since…no, he didn't want to think about it.
He sat up and saw that Alan, his dorm mate, was gone. That wasn't a surprise. Alan wanted to be a Delt and spent a good deal of time at the frat house. Connor was glad of it. He just wished he knew where these dreams were coming from. He had never dreamed of monsters before, never even had time for monster movies. Now he felt like he was looking at hell playing across his mind.
Connor glanced out the window. Pink and gold streaked the slate grey sky. Dawn. There was no point in trying to get any sleep now. He got up and dressed.
* * *
"You look like hell," Michael said, sitting across from Connor in the wooded quad that Greek row was wrapped around. The two young men had original met in script writing class and they had planned on sharing a dorm room next semester, dumping off their bad roomies. That was up until two weeks ago when his nightmares started. Connor knew they were no more than he deserved after what he had done. It had been an accident but still everything changed that night.
"Leave him alone, Michael." Xiang shot Connor as sympathetic look. He noticed that his girlfriend didn't sit close to him, however, and she had been avoiding him ever since two days after the homecoming party.
His parents would probably be happy to have her out of his life. She was a drama major and had gotten him into acting and writing. His parents saw it as wasting his abilities. He saw it as stretching himself. He was only a sophomore. He had plenty of time to explore. But maybe that wasn't true any more. He hadn't seen his parents since they paid his bail. He had wanted to just go home but they wanted him to keep up like nothing had happened, like he hadn't nearly killed Gene Lange in a fight.
"It's okay, Xiang," Connor said. "It's just that the dreams are getting worse."
"The ones like something out of Hades?" Michael asked. "You should be writing this stuff down."
"Michael," Xiang snapped, slinging back her cobalt-dyed hair. "It's hard enough without you urging him to poke at this."
"Therapists will tell you it's good for you," Michael argued.
Connor wrapped his thin arms around himself. "It just seems so real. The man with the beard who's in that hell with me. He's so comforting and strong and so familiar. Then there's the man with two faces in Los Angeles."
"The handsome guy who turns into a monster, a vampire?" Xiang's pretty face darkened.
"That's him. It's like I know him as well as I know myself and I can't figure out why." Connor scrubbed a hand through his hair. "I've never had dreams like this, recurring dreams. They feel more like memories but they can't be. Vampires, demons, slukhs, they aren't real. I mean, who's ever even heard of a slukh?"
"I know your dad wants you to see a psychiatrist to help you deal with what happened." Xiang moved closer, putting her head on his shoulder.
Connor snorted. "He's building a defense if this goes to court. I'm not going crazy and I wasn't crazy when I went off on Gene. He and his buddies slipped GHB to Pam and raped her. She's your best friend, Xiang. I had to do something."
"I should never have told you what they did." Xiang looked away. "I didn't think you'd go all nuts."
"What? You think I shouldn't have?" Connor pulled away from her, his blue eyes going stormy. "It's not like I went over to the Delt house alone with a ball bat to kill them but they deserved it. Me, Michael, Tom and Eric thought someone ought to stand up to them. You know the college wouldn't. Gene and the others are the starting football line up. You told me the school was pressuring Pam not to press charges."
"I just didn't think you'd hit Gene. You've always been so…I don't know, passive." Xiang gave him a sheepish look. Michael mouthed the word, 'no.'
Connor's lips skinned back from his teeth in a sneer. He hated that word. He had been called that too many times by women. He always seemed to go for the type who liked the aggressive ball players and other bad boys. His father didn't like sports, forbade him to play. Connor had never even been in a fight until two days after homecoming. Gene had been the one who grabbed the baseball bat and Connor had ducked under that swing and came up, fracturing Gene's skull with one punch. He didn't know where the strength had come from. He felt like he could have crushed Gene if he wanted to. The cops called it a lucky shot. His face had been all over the TV sets. Some people had called him a vigilante. Others were calling him a hero. Suddenly a bitter laugh bubbled up and he couldn't hold it in.
"What?" Michael gave him an odd look.
"Remember what we're always saying? 'Someday I'm gonna be famous'." Connor tore a wild flower up from the ground, trying to give his hands something to do. "Well, it occurred to me, now I am. I'm getting my fifteen minutes of fame and all because I nearly killed some date rapist."
"Connor, baby, don't think like that." Xiang ran a hand over his hair. "This will fade."
"You were protecting yourself when you hit that bastard," Michael added.
"I hope a jury sees it that way." Connor got up. "No offense guys, I think I just need to be alone."
"Are you sure?" Xiang asked but looked rather relieved.
Connor nodded and headed off. He followed Greek Row's road around until it became the library's road and finally to where it veered off into the cemetery. His private college boarded the graveyard. One of the girls' dorms overlooked it. Last year they had had a scare, something about Jean Dixon prophesizing that there would be a mass murder in a girls' dorm atop a hill next to a cemetery. His school fit that perfectly. Xiang told him they trotted that story out every third year to scare the freshmen and that it dated back at least to the 80's. Nothing happened of course. Connor liked the Victorian era burial ground. It was laid out park like and the statuary was beautiful. It was quiet and he could think there. Unfortunately all he had to think about was beating Gene. He could still smell the blood, feel the crunch of bone under his fist. He startled when he heard someone calling his name. Turning, he saw a smartly dressed woman picking her way cautiously and begrudgingly over the soft ground. The shadows thrown by mournful angels had grown long and the trees gone dark and creepy. The sun was on the way down. Connor had lost track of time.
He slumped his shoulders, turning away. "You're a reporter, right? I'm not talking to any reporters."
"No, Mr. Halloran, I'm a lawyer."
He spun back around to stare. "Did my father send you?"
"In a manner of speaking." She smiled at him. "My name's Lilah Morgan. Is there somewhere we can go and talk?"
Connor looked at her. She was pretty enough for an older woman. The scarf around her neck didn't go with the business suit but she was holding out a card for him to inspect as if that was proof enough of who she was. He took it from her and read the firm's name, "Wolfram and Hart." For some reason it made him frightened, like it was something he should know but couldn't remember. "Yeah, my roommate's never in. We can go back to my dorm." He wrinkled his nose, trying to figure out why his father hadn't told him to expect a lawyer. "How'd you find me out here?"
"Somehow there was something very right about you being
here." She made an expansive gesture, taking in the ostentatious monuments.
He curled his lip at her. "I don't think that's funny."
"Well, not knowing the people I do, I guess you wouldn't. Lead the way, young man."
* * *
Connor watched the woman trying to find a clean spot in his and Alan's room, not an easy task. There was something odd about her and not just her mannerisms. While professionally dressed, she smelled a little like Michael's room after he, Xiang and Connor had shared a bong, sweet yet acrid, like something burnt. It didn't fit her image. She had the smug superiority down pat.
She plucked a pair of his boxers off the back of his desk chair and sat down. Blushing, he grabbed them away from her, snatched up several other handfuls of clothes and shoved them under his bed.
"Sorry," he mumbled. "I got soda in the fridge. Do you want some?"
"No, thank you." She made a dismissive wave around the room. "Find a seat, Mr. Halloran, if you can."
"Please, don't call me that. That's my dad."
"Actually no, it's not," Lilah said, brightly.
Connor's brow wrinkled. "What are you talking about?"
"Your father isn't Patrick Halloran." She shot him that
superior smirk again leaving him feeling weak.
"That's not possible." Connor tensed. "My parents would have told me if I was adopted."
"If they knew. It's not so simple. Tell me, Connor. How'd it feel when you beat up that boy?" Lilah's lips pulled into a cattish smile.
"Who are you?" Connor's face darkened. "You're really a reporter, aren't you?"
"No, I'm a lawyer. Go ahead." She pointed to the phone on Alan's desk. "Call the number on the card, talk to my secretary. I was just wondering if it felt familiar. The Senior Partners said there were some ripples in the spell that gave you this dull life. Honestly, Angel should have known better. Momentous magic always has consequences." Lilah used her reflection in Alan's TV to primp her hair.
Connor edged away, regretting having locked his dorm room door. He half expected he'd have to escape the deranged woman he had let in. "You're insane."
"Really? There was nothing familiar in the way crushing bone felt?" She seemed to relish that awful image. "How about your dreams? Anything odd?"
Connor's mouth went slack. "I'm calling my dad. I want to know why he sent you."
"Are you sure you were in the top ten percentile? You're awful slow." Leaning over, she tapped his knee. Her smirks were beginning to freak him out. "I just said that I was here on the behalf of your father. His name's Angel and he doesn't know I'm here per se but he should have guessed that breaching a contract with Wolfram and Hart would have dire results. And then you played right into it with that little stunt of yours. You handed us the perfect way to deal with Angel's deceit."
His eyes narrowed. "You're not making any sense."
"Let me explain. Your name is actually Connor Angel." She shrugged. "I know, it's stupid but given who named you that's not a surprise. You were born not quite four years ago to a pair of vampires."
Connor jumped to his feet. "Okay, get out! Who sent you? Gene's friends? I'm not in the mood for this shit."
"You were kidnapped by Holtz, an enemy of your father and you were raised in a hell dimension where time moved differently," Lilah plowed on, showing no signs of caring about his little outburst. "From our point of view you'd been gone less than two weeks but in Quor-Toth you aged about eighteen years."
"This is insane. I'm calling Dad because if he did send you he needs to get his retainer back." Connor made for the phone on Alan's desk.
"Sit down," Lilah snapped.
Connor, frightened by the look in her eyes and overwhelmed by the oddness of his situation, obeyed.
"Now be a good boy and listen." Lilah gave him a moment to protest then launched into all she knew about the Beast and Jasmine and Connor's involvement.
When she was finished Connor shook his head, laughing. "This is too insane. You're trying to tell me I'm a half demon-killing machine who fathered a goddess who was going to bring world peace until I killed her. Why would you think I'd believe a word of this? Get out of here and tell whoever sent you this wasn't funny."
"I'm not going anywhere, Connor. You need to come with me to Los Angeles," Lilah said. "There are things Wolfram and Hart need you to do. Angel needs to be taught a lesson especially for betraying you this way. He abandoned you, wrote you out of everyone's memory because he couldn't be bothered." The expression on her face said she couldn't be happier about it.
"I'm not listening. Now get out!" Connor felt himself shaking. It embarrassed him but he couldn't help it.
"I'm not going away, Connor and neither is this problem with Gene." Lilah smoothed her skirt, still cool and emotionless. "He still might die and you'll be a murderer."
Connor lost what little color he had and ran for the door. He fumbled with the lock, managed to get it open and fled. He didn't care that he was leaving a lunatic in his dorm room. He ran all the way to Xiang's off campus apartment a few blocks away. Pounding on the door, he prayed she was home. She looked frightened when she answered the door.
"Connor, you scared me. What's wrong?"
Connor pushed past her, locking the door quickly. He took a deep breath then everything that had just happened came spilling out of him in a rush of words.
Xiang slid her arms around him, kissing his cheek. "That's so crazy. Why would she tell you a story like that? What purpose did it serve? It's not like you would believe her. Hell dimensions, vampires, demons, all nonsense." Xiang suddenly sobered, gnawing her bottom lip. "But it's what you've been dreaming about."
"I know. And that's what's really getting me." He grabbed a handful of his hair, twisting it. "I had these horrible thoughts."
"That only me and Michael and your parents know about the dreams." Xiang's voice hardened.
"My parents would never play a joke like this. You know a lot of actresses who could pull this off but I know you would never be this cruel, Xiang." He started pacing the room, anger filling him. "Neither would Michael. I mean what would you gain? You two are my best friends, there has to be another explanation."
"I didn't tell anyone, Connor but maybe Michael did…possibly while high."
Connor spun around to glare at her and she backed away. "No."
"I hate saying it, Connor but how else would this Lilah person tell you a story so close to your nightmares?" Xiang went to him, rubbing his shoulders.
He shook his head, his long hair flopping into his face. "I don't know but there has to be another explanation." He hugged her. "I don't want to talk about this."
Her fingers trailed over his cheek. "Then we won't."
"I need you…"
She kissed him gently. "Shhh, I know I haven't been good to you since it happened. I feel so guilty. If I hadn't been so upset about Pam, you wouldn't have gone after Gene."
He kissed her hard, pulling her close roughly as if trying to lose himself in her. His tongue played over the stud piercing her tongue. "It's not your fault. Don't think that. I never meant to scare you, Xiang."
"I just don't…I was there at the Delt party when you all started fighting. I saw you hit him. I still don't know how you could have hurt him so badly with one punch," she whispered, shivering
He felt like she had reached into his chest and crushed his heart. "I'd never hurt you, Xiang."
"I know." She slithered out of his grasp and got up. She took his hand and inclined her head toward the bedroom. He smiled up at her and let her lead.
They were still entwined under the sheets when someone knocked at the door. Sweaty and drained, Connor raised up on one elbow, looking at Xiang.
"Were you expecting someone?"
She shook her head, her blue hair sticking to her perspiring shoulders. "Ignore it."
Connor collapsed back down but the person at the door was persistent. Cursing, he rolled out of bed and pulled on his clothes before stalking out to the living room. He yanked the door open.
"What?" he snapped before even looking at who it was. His eyes widened seeing Lilah standing there. He tried to shut the door but she slipped inside quickly. "Get out of here. Xiang, call the police. This is the woman I was telling you about."
"Get out of my house," Xiang said, tightening a lacy robe around her.
"Just hear me out before you do something foolish. I'm thinking the last thing you need right now, young man, is more cops. Or didn't you hear me when I said this thing with Gene isn't going to go away?" Lilah's smirk disappeared as she lost patience with him and that unnerved him totally.
"It was an accident," Connor said, weakly.
"You chose to hit a man. It's assault no matter what happens or have you been telling yourself I was defending myself and at worst I'll get community service?" Lilah managed to find another well of superiority to tap.
"I…look, maybe I am in trouble but you're the last thing I need, standing here telling me I'm the son of two vampires. They don't exist, lady, and no one is amused by this farce," Connor snapped.
Lilah sat on the couch, waving for the teenagers to do likewise but they remained rooted. "Connor, I'm already bored with this. Wolfram and Hart didn't summon me back out of hell to listen to a kid whine endlessly."
"Hell? So, what, you're a demon?" he sneered.
"You didn't mention dreaming about women demons," Xiang said and Connor made a slashing motion to shut her up.
"Dreams?" Lilah pounced on that like a cat on a rat. "So you have been getting tastes of the past your father had us erase. What an idiot. He must have forgotten that you were prophesized to destroy this world and that Wolfram and Hart wanted you just for that purpose. Why he would trust us to help him…well, I guess fatherhood makes you stupid."
Xiang marched for the door, fumbling with the locks. She didn't see Lilah getting up, an irritated look on her face. "This is insane. A few bad dreams mean nothing."
Lilah herded her away from the door. "I beg to differ and since I'm dead, not a demon, I can tell you firsthand that those dreams have plenty of meaning. If they didn't, Wolfram and Hart wouldn't have pulled me back here."
"You look alive to me," Xiang said.
"Thank you. I appreciate that. Really. But I am dead. Connor's 'I'm-a-Champion' bang killed me but at the time, they all thought it was his father who had. You were the one who suggested cutting off my head, Connor. I got to look in on that tableau." Lilah loosened the scarf around her neck showing the red line. "See? Your solution to the 'I might come back as a vampire' problem."
"Stage make up," Connor scoffed.
"I wish you wouldn't make me do this. I'm a little afraid it might hurt." Her smirk returned.
"Fine." Lilah grabbed a handful of her hair and pulled. Her head came off with a sucking sound. She waved it back and forth like a lantern then put it back on. "Happy now."
Connor made a strange guttural noise. Xiang passed out without a sound. Connor couldn't even move to catch her.
"Are you ready to believe this is real?" Lilah put a hand on his shoulder and he screamed.
"I've gone insane." Connor fell to his knees. Lilah thought he might retch.
"It's not your fault, Connor. Your mind was erased and you were planted into this life you think is yours. But this act of aggression ruined it. Your mind is breaking through to your true life."
Connor curled up in a ball, rocking.
Lilah stood over him giving him a superior sniff. "I didn't think you'd snap." She flipped out her cell phone, feeling ludicrous. A corpse with all the modern conveniences. She placed a call to the Senior Partners. "Sorry, sirs. Angel's brat is overwhelmed. You'll have to completely reverse the spell before he believes."
Lilah watched as Connor convulsed on the floor, shrieking. She hoped it hurt. She hated coming back to earth. It was too pleasant, reminded her too much of what she'd had and had foolishly tossed away. Finally his cries ended and he stretched out on the floor panting.
He dragged to his feet, tears racing down his face. "Why did he do this to me?"
"As a cruel joke, Connor. He couldn't take the time to work with you, to help you adjust to this world. He went for the quick fix. It got you off his hands. You became someone else's problem." Lilah watched as Connor's blue eyes went dead. She could almost taste his rage. "He'll tell you he gave you up because he loved you, because this way you could have a normal life. The truth is you're a difficult child and not the child he wanted. He wanted a perfect little boy, who loved him and called him daddy. He didn't want something raised by a man he hated. He knew you were slowly coming around but it wasn't fast enough. You were too needy, too broken, too much work. So he dumped you like trash and just erased everyone's memories. You never existed as far as they were concerned. He turned your life into a travesty."
Connor's breath came in deep ragged gasps. Lilah watched as his insanity peeled away like layers of an onion until nothing was left but animal rage. "He always ruined everything."
"I'll go along with that." Lilah put a hand on his bony shoulder. "Want to get back at him?"
Connor grinned at her with a smile that seemed to split his skull like Marvyn the Jack O'Lantern headed creature in Wesley's Sandman comics that he kept hidden under his bed. "You'll help me?"
"Wolfram and Hart could use you like you can't believe." Lilah smiled back. That was true but not in the way the boy was imagining. They'd use him until he was a dried husk and left to blow away in the wind. Maybe the Senior Partners would rip up her contract for delivering him.
"What about Xiang?" Connor asked as his blue-haired lover chose that moment to regain consciousness.
She rubbed her head, looking up at them. "Who are you people? Why are you in my place? Did you hit me?"
"You fainted." Lilah waved her off. "No one remembers you living this life, Connor. This was the lie. Everything's back the way it really happened, the way it should be. Only you remember this life and only because you need to understand how terrible your father's betrayal was."
"I'll never forget."
"Or forgive I hope." Lilah locked arms with him. "Don't get up, honey. We'll show ourselves out."
Lilah led Connor out to the limo that had brought her here. He got in beside her, insanity glowing clearly in his eyes. She patted his leg, half expecting him to start ranting and raving and foaming at the mouth.
"I promise you, Angel will pay for what he did," Lilah said, thinking more on how Angel had destroyed Wolfram and Hart's L.A. branch from within than anything he had done to this useful tool. Connor just laughed coldly as Lilah rested back against the car seat. Maybe if she couldn't talk Wolfram and Hart into destroying her contract, she could convince them into letting her stay to guide the boy. Now wouldn't that be fun?
Sung by Brad Paisley
Someday, I'm gonna be famous,
Do I have talent? Well, no.
These days you don't really need it,
Thanks to reality shows.
Can't wait to date a supermodel,
Can't wait to sue my Dad.
Can't wait to wreck a Ferrari,
On my way to rehab.
'Cause when you're a celebrity, it's adios reality.
You can act just like a fool;
People think you're cool just 'cause you're on TV.
I can throw a major fit,
When my Martini isn't just how I like it.
When they say I've gone insane,
I'll blame it on the pain,
And the pressures that go with bein' a celebrity.
I'll get to cry to Barbara Walters,
When things don't go my way.
An' I'll get community service,
No matter which law I break.
I'll make the supermarket tabloids,
They'll write some awful stuff.
But the more they run my name down,
The more my price goes up.
When you're a celebrity, it's adios reality.
You can act just like a fool;
People think you're cool just 'cause you're on TV.
Now, I can fall in and out of love,
Have marriages that barely last a month.
When they go down the drain,
I'll blame it on the fame,
And say: "It's just so tough bein' a celebrity."
So let's hitch up the wagons and head out west,
To the land of fun in the sun.
We'll be real world hatchling, jackass millionaires.
Hey, hey Hollywood, here we come.
When you're a celebrity, it's adios reality.
No matter what you do,
People think you're cool just 'cause you're on TV.
Bein' a celebrity.
Yeah, bein' a celebrity.
Aw, where's my coffee?