SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1BUILT ON LIES
(costruito su bugie)
First story in the Il Fuochi d'artifico (Fireworks) Series
By D.M. Evans
Disclaimer - Joss owns all. I'm just doing some non-profit playing. The few characters you don't know, well those are mine.
Time Line – Post NFA
Feedback - yes thank you - FRT
Pairings - Telling you some would ruin the story's natural unfolding. There is Willow/Kennedy though. If knowing effects whether or not you want to read feel free to ask.
Summary - Connor, having survived the bad stuff in L.A. is doing a summer aboard in Rome. The last thing he expected to find was a stronghold of Slayers.
Note # 1 This was written for Gileswench's Make it All Better Challenge at Fire
and Ice Fic Group (see below)Any pairing, any rating, any season. Just make
sure that if there's
graphic sex involved, all persons participating are over the age of
consent for California, which is eighteen. Pick one moment you felt
Joss and Co. handled all wrong and fix it.
you'll need to include: a CD somebody dislikes, eggs, a
pleasant aroma in the air.
Author's Note #2 – This story was started before the challenge but I figure since it was JUST starting, it would be easy to fit it in (since it's multi-chaptered not all challenge requirements are in ch 1). I chose to rewrite parts of the finale. Okay, I would rewrite the entire Angel finale since I hated next to everything in it but I didn't. The one element I decided to rewrite was Connor actually obeying Angel and leaving. That's just so not Connor so that's what I'm going to Make All Better.
Author's Note #3 - Thanks to SJ, Maren and Kat for editing this. Thanks to Esmerelda, Leni and Flippy for their input and a special thanks to Marie for helping with all things Italian from the language at which I'm exceedingly rusty to points of interest in Rome (another thing I'm making all better since it was depicted very poorly on Angel) and lastly, this is a crossover with BtVS.
I The lights go out and I can't be
Tides that I tried to swim against
Have brought me down upon my knees
Oh I beg, I beg and plead
Singing Come out of the things unsaid
b Clocks – Coldplay /b /I
Maybe going to Rome had been a mistake. Connor had tried to put his past behind him, to value the new life Angel had given him. It had taken all his strength to walk out the doors of Wolfram and Hart after killing Sahjhan, to pretend he didn't remember anything. He saw the love in Angel's eyes and it hurt to turn his back on it.
He tried to remind himself even now that Angel had breeched his mind and removed his free will, taken away his memories, his life. He told himself that Angel had given him another lie to live. Only he wasn't really angry about it. Angel had tried to give him something good at a terrible cost to himself. Connor no longer felt hollow inside. He almost felt normal but now he knew why he was so different from his college friends.
He couldn't go back to the idyllic life he had before confronting Sahjhan. When he went back to school, he saw the dangers lurking on campus. It was hard to ignore that vampires and other demons stalked the school's quads, the nightclubs and frat houses, all the best places to go. Against his better judgment, he started fighting them while trying to hide it from his ersatz parents and his friends.
Connor remembered crying to Cordelia that all he wanted was to rest but he couldn't. Angel had given him a brief respite. He tried going back to his rest but it was like he had outgrown his skin. He tried not fighting but then he saw the demons on his turf. He couldn't just let innocents die because he wanted to give up. His rest no longer comforted. Connor felt better after a good fight. He slept better; ate better; screwed better after going toe to toe with demons. All his appetites seemed more sated after a battle.
His grades slipped but only just a little; then again he had nearly been in finals by the time he fought Sahjhan. His father, the one who was the lie, took it as a sign his idealistic son was losing interest in his major and was going to give up his plans to be a child psychologist and go into something with more teeth, as his father saw it, business. Dad was a CEO. Connor hated the idea of following in those footsteps. It had to be Wolfram and Hart's idea of a joke to implant the knowledge and the leanings in him to want to be a child psychologist. He was the pinnacle of a fucked-up teen. Childhoods didn't get more devastating than his. He didn't need to become of psychologist; he needed to visit one. God was laughing. Connor could almost hear him and it was never a good thing to get God's attention.
It hadn't been a hard decision to stand at Angel's side when the end was near. He had just been glad for that brief break from the end of his first year at school and his summer abroad. If he had already been in Rome when the Black Thorn attacked, he wouldn't have been able to live with himself, especially if Angel had died.
He had belonged with his father, facing an almost certain death. He didn't regret the decision to ignore Angel's command that he leave, to not join in the fight. Since when did he ever listen to anything Angel said? He had gone back to his father's side, throwing himself into the battle. If Angel was going to die to save the world, how could he not be there? And if Angel failed, would there have been a world left to live in? He still hurt in places from the horrible battle. He suffered cuts from more weapons that he cared to think about, a few more broken bones, which came as much as shock then as it had when the Beast broke him.
The emotional pain was worse. He watched Fred die, well Illyria at any rate. It was her sacrifice that saved the rest of them. The energies released with her destruction laid waste to several city blocks. In the end nothing but the cockroaches were left. Wolfram and Hart was gone, broken hopefully beyond repair. Wes was dead and Connor felt the guilt of that. If Angel hadn't tried to spare him his insanity, Vail wouldn't have entered the picture and Wes would be alive. He never even had a chance to talk to Wes about his role of putting him together with Holtz. Everyone else had blamed Wes for it but in some ways, Connor was thankful. He knew now God hadn't stepped in and put him with Holtz, no matter what he was raised to believe but he had loved Holtz – no matter what he had babbled at Angel in that mall - and he didn't blame Wes for his role in his life.
Gunn was the only non-roach to survive and Connor wasn't entirely sure Gunn was human any more, at least not entirely, not after what Wolfram and Hart had done to him. The rest were the roaches, the demons, himself, Angel, and Spike. Maybe it was sick to think of himself like that but he couldn't help it. Angel had not been happy to hear him murmuring that in the hospital when they were putting blood back into his ravished body.
Connor only had vague memories of the end of the battle. He remembered Illyria dying, shredding before him like a paper doll in a hailstorm. He had already been so injured at that point he was barely on his feet. The blue burst of light that signaled her end was embedded in his mind, seeing it when he shut his eyes. The buildings fell and he couldn't dodge all the debris, wounded as he was. Connor remembered lying on the pavement growing cold and heavy, knowing he was dying, his life leaving him in a warm sticky puddle of blood. Connor barely recalled Angel scooping him up and running with him to a car, tossing him in the backseat. He remembered being propped up next to Gunn, who Connor had thought was dead at the time. Spike had been trying to staunch the blood pouring out of the mortal man's wounds.
The next two days in the hospital were a blur as the doctor's pumped blood into him. His poor parents thought he had been caught up in the 'riot' around Wolfram and Hart and promptly blamed Angel. For his part, Angel never left him for long, sleeping when he could on the sofa in the room, equipped for visiting families. He had to work around daylight and the Reillys but Angel tried hard.
In the end, after Connor discharged himself against medical advice, before the doctors could notice how fast he was healing, he had a choice to make. Angel told him to go back with his human parents. Connor almost didn't. He saw the defeat in Angel's eyes. The vampire had lost nearly everything and he was willing to lose the last thing that meant something to him by sending Connor away. He told his father he couldn't chose yet, that he needed time.
It was the reason he decided to head to Rome for a summer semester abroad. He hoped distance would help him get perspective, to decide if he could remain a college student and forget the world of demons or if he should just give up the lie and go back to his real father. There weren't many who could fight the demons. Holtz had raised him to believe in doing good. Taking evil head on was a good thing but it was so hard, bone wearying. He just didn't know what he should do.
Rome was supposed to help him sort things out. At the moment, what he was sorting was a pack of vampires. The urge to fight was winning out over the impulse to remain normal. The battle was almost routine until a little blond vampire whacked him so hard he plowed through one grave in the I Cimitero Acattolico /I and nearly took out John Keats headstone. Lying stunned on his back, Connor had an upside down view of the I Piramide di Caio Cestio /I , a pyramid built by some wacky Roman noble back in the B.C's or so the tourist info he had read earlier in the day had told him. He had been there to take photos of Keats and Percy Shelley's graves for his sister, the wanna-be poet. He figured it would be a good place to come looking for vampires. He hadn't been wrong.
He flipped up, his heel catching the blond vampiress' jaw. She stumbled back but recovered enough to plant a spin kick in his gut. She grabbed his throat, shoving him back but he twisted away. "Try not to destroy Keats' grave," he said, slamming a fist in her face.
When she staggered, Connor grabbed her, shoving her against a tree. She panted under his grasp, her body warm against his. He didn't relax his grip as he said, "You're not a vampire."
She gave him a stunned look. "Neither are you."
"You're a Slayer?" He let her go, jumping back out of easy striking range.
She rubbed her throat, her eyes narrowing. "You know about us?"
He nodded. "My father told me about your kind."
"How do you move like a vampire?" Her finger clenched the stake she had. She closed the distance between them.
"Tell you later," he said, shoving her aside with one hand, coming up with a stake in the other. It pierced a charging vampire's heart. "But I come by it naturally."
"Too bad the Slayers can't say the same." She laughed bitterly as she dispatched another vampire. "At least not originally."
A cry of pain cut through the cemetery. Connor scanned the white stones trying to home in on the cry while the Slayer was already on the move. He saw three vampires on another woman, beating her down. She had dark hair, or at least he thought she did in the moonlight. Faith? He helped the Slayer take out the remaining vampires. She held out a hand to the other woman.
"You okay?" The blond Slayer surveyed the younger girl.
" I Si /I ," the other young lady mumbled.
"I think we got them all," Connor said, knocking vampire dust off his fraternity T-shirt. If the brothers of I Tau Kappa Epsilon /I could only see him now.
The blonde nodded. "Let's get out of here. You, come with us." She crooked a finger at Connor.
He followed her the short distance back to Aventine Hill. It was quickly becoming his favorite place in Rome. From the hill, he could see the Tiber River, the Circus Maximus and the Forum Romanum. It was a holy place to more goddesses than he cared to remember. Connor closed his eyes. He didn't want to think about goddesses. It would only stir up memories of Jasmine. "You both Slayers?" he asked, as they paused under a street lamp.
The dark haired Slayer, most definitely not Faith, looked at him in surprise then over at the blonde for guidance.
"We're Slayers. I'm Buffy," the blonde said then pointed at her companion. "This is Concetta."
"You said your father told you about us. Was he a Watcher?" Buffy asked persistently. He wished she'd let this go.
"Something like that," Connor said, deciding that to own up to being parented by vampires was not the thing to say to a pair of Slayers. He couldn't tell them he knew Faith either since she wouldn't remember him.
"But that doesn't explain how you move, how strong you are." Buffy's eyes held an ocean of suspicion in them.
"Born that way. I never thought much about how I can do it, just that I can," Connor said, echoing the lie that had been told to his ensorcelled parents. Again, the whole coming out of the demon closet seemed like a foolish thing to do given his current companions.
Buffy's eyes were still hard and questioning.
Concetta seemed confused. "Boy Slayer?"
"No such thing," Buffy said dismissively, waving off the idea. "And I'd like to know more about you. Giles will want to know. Too bad Willow's in South America."
Connor hoped his face didn't betray he knew that name or the shock that Buffy knew Willow as well. He was a little relieved the witch wasn't in Italy. He was grateful that Willow helped Angel but his opinion of magic hadn't changed much. He was very intrigued by Buffy now. She knew some of the people his father had and he wanted to know more about her and her friends and how they fit into Angel's life, only he didn't want to let on he knew Angel since that would just lead to questions he didn't want to answer until he came to a decision; could he live life as Angel's son? "I'll tell you what I can. Meet me for lunch tomorrow."
She seemed amused by the suggestion. "You're a little young to be taking me to lunch."
He rolled his eyes. "I'm in college."
"He's just a boy," Concetta said in disbelief.
"I have a student visa, honest." Connor shrugged. "Fine, don't meet with me. I'm sure we'll see each other on a hunt sooner or later."
"Patrol," Buffy corrected him. "We call it patrolling, not hunting."
"Same difference," he said and saw she didn't like that.
"I'll meet you," she said.
Connor told her when and where then watched the two ladies go. He was as intrigued by them as he had been with Faith. It wasn't often he found someone who could match or beat him in a fight. There was something definitely arousing about it. He wished he had a way of checking out Buffy but he could hardly call Angel and ask about it. Angel had problems of his own and, if Angel had any idea he was in Italy fighting demons, the vampire would lose it. No, Connor was on his own but he was used to that. He was better off that way. He'd learn about Buffy without any help.
Author's Note - Tau Kappa Epsilon is a real fraternity. No disrespect is meant by using them here. I used to hang with the Tekes and many of my fondest college memories revolve around them.