Connor couldn’t take his eyes off her.
It – her –it.
What do you call a Primordial Demon that is contained within the shell of the woman who used to be Winifred Burkle and referred to itself as a God-King?
It wasn’t attraction that caused him to stare anymore – not really. The thought now made him feel dirty because - that was Fred. And he had never thought about Fred that way. Fred had been a confusing mixture of sister and mother to him, but it had never been anything sexual. There had never been those boundaries crossed like the utter confusion of what had happened with Cordelia and him. Something that even with his memories he doesn’t think he understands.
Only it isn’t Fred. It’s Illyria using Fred’s body. And that is utterly clear from the way she moves, the way she smells, the way she treats him.
Lorne has disappeared. Cordelia is dead. Wesley is dead. Gunn is dead.
These are things that hurt – a surprising amount. But it feels almost like he is mourning the death of storybook heroes. A story that he was a part of.
It still feels so very unreal at times to have these memories of so many different lives. Quortoth, what he calls his Miracle-child angst phase, the cookie-cutter normal life....and then there is now.
Which feels like another one entirely. A fourth for him to deal with and attempt to pull all the other three together into it as well.
So, although he knows all of his early life was spent being indoctrinated to hate Angel, his biological (and scientifically impossible), father. And learning how to kill anything that moved in the harsh dimension, other than the man who raised him, it still feels unreal. (How could it not?)
And how the story goes from there, traveling back to the real world through a portal. Finding his real parents – vampires. The way everything eventually spiraled out of control until his father had to steal his memories, his life, his sense of self – because he loved him. All so he wouldn’t continue to destroy himself and everyone around him.
It’s so hard to believe.
So easier to think he’s still just in college. Still figuring out job applications and maybe just drank too much last night and is having this really really crazy dream.
(Only Connor always took way more than everyone else to get drunk so he barely bothered anymore. And his dreams – Connor’s dreams were always the same. A woman with blond hair and a sad expression. She reaches for him but always stops right before she touches his face and a bloom of blood appears on her chest – right over her heart. A woman whose eyes were the exact same as the one’s he saw in the mirror everyday.)
But he supposes it’s not really that these people are hard to believe in the reality of – they very clearly are here (or were when he met them). It’s hard to recognize who he is now, in the Connor that is in those memories.
Or perhaps he just really doesn’t want to.
Aren’t memories supposed to mesh? Isn’t magic supposed to make things easier? Instead he feels like he has four storylines going in his head and he doesn't belongs to any of them (or is it all of them?). He isn’t sure he wants to be any of those Connors.
And that still brings him back to the people who died. The people he misses sometimes distantly and sometimes so very sharply that it's disorienting.
When he thinks of Cordelia - well, it's complicated.
It's so very, very screwed up from the perspective that he has now as Connor #4 (and no wonder insanity runs in his family – the vampire one – if this is the sort of shit they have to deal with).
She had rocked him as a baby and then one of the Connor’s (Miracle Child angst Connor) went and had a child with her while she had her head screwed up from descending or a demon or something (he really needs to figure out that story, because the bits he remembers do not make sense). A child that ended up becoming a peaceful evil overlord. And afterwards Cordelia was in a coma.
And now she’s dead.
He hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye. Not even to see her when she was in the hospital or something. Don’t people say that coma patients can hear it when you talk to them? His mother (not his real mother - he knows now, but white-picket fence’s Connor’s mother) had told him that once when they went and saw one of her relatives who was ill.
And Cordelia had even been a Seer, she probably really could have heard him. Connor would have liked to have had the chance to have at least sat by her bed and just talked even if she couldn’t respond. It wouldn’t have been anything like the real Cordelia, but he’s not entirely sure he ever knew the real Cordelia.
But maybe they both would have gotten something from it anyway if he had a chance to try to articulate what had happened. Apologize. He had loved her (in the only way he really understood how at the time), had a beautiful child with her (that he had had to kill), and now she was dead.
And then there was Wesley. Another complicated one.
In many ways Wesley is the reason he is who he is. (He doesn’t think Angel ever truly forgave him.) Connor himself never really gave Wesley a lot of thought when he was younger. And now, well now there seems no use to manufacture anger at the man that he doesn’t actually feel.
He doesn’t know what his life would have been like if he had been raised in the Hyperion instead of a hell dimension. Holtz and that place shaped Connor so very much and so many things happened that it is hard to throw stones at another man who was confused and made mistakes. Wesley shouldn’t have taken him as a baby, should have told someone – yeah. But, when he looks at the jumble of his life, the choices he made – keeping his father trapped in a box under the ocean for one….well. It’s hard to judge.
When he thinks of Wesley’s death, he feels an odd amount of understanding and pity. This man’s life and choice were inescapably linked to his and in the end he spiraled down so badly.
Gunn, was - Gunn to him. He doesn’t think they ever completely got along or trusted each other. But, that was somehow alright. Connor had learned to respect the man even in his angriest and angst-iest of times.
And now that he can see him through the eyes of someone who has only lived a normal life, he has even more respect for him. Gunn always just wanted to protect his people. Who those people were shifted from his gang to the AI team over time, but that fundamental truth about him didn’t change. He didn’t trust demons easy or any strangers really – but it all seemed to go back to the need to protect.
Gunn changed and adapted so many times. He was a survivor – that is something Connor could identify with even then (not to mention now). Connor had used to pop in on Fred and his’ patrols and show off to try and impress him (like he used to do with Father). It didn’t mean they liked each other – Gunn recognized that he was lying, recognized him as a threat. But, in a way, Connor feels like he looked up to the man.
They are all dead though. And of course it hurts, but he can mourn them and lay each of them to rest at his own pace. Remember everything he can - try to find any of the good parts in his memories and ask the others for stories once the harshness has worn off for them.
But they are dead and there is some actual finality to that.
The thing that hits him hard – makes him feel all twisted up inside is that he doesn’t feel like he can mourn for Fred.
She is dead, too. He has been told this – knows it intellectually, as much as he can, but….
….her body is walking around.
And sometimes Illyria will be doing something – sparring with Spike and she’ll knock him to the ground with him cursing and yelling the entire time and there will be this ever so slight twist of her lips in amusement. The same facial expression Fred would make when Connor would pitch a loud fit about doing chores around the Hyperion during that summer Gunn and her had cared for him.
Then it feels as if he’s the one that has had the wind knocked out of him. It’s like losing her over and over again because he can’t let her go. He can’t think of her as completely gone when he is constantly seeing her like this.
If Illyria was just another demon, had a form of someone else entirely that he had never known, than he could probably just put this to bed. Maybe it’s the programmed memories in his mind of that normal life, but he can’t seem to bury a woman he sees up and walking around every day even though he knows it’s not really her. That Fred is gone, as dead as the others. He can accept that they are dead.
You can add glasses to Superman and he’s Clark Kent. You add blue to Fred’s skin and you get Illyria. It’s absolutely ridiculous because anyone who really knew them, really looked would see that it is still the same body underneath.
It’s times like this that Connor almost wishes that his brain would only think with the perspective of those past Connors. Because he knows from their point of view Illyria would just be a powerful demon. The fact that she looked like someone he knew would cease to matter after its essence took her over. The only thing to worry about was the threat that needed eliminating.
Not how devastating it is to look at her.
Not, how he wishes he could just mourn Fred like the others and move on instead of being stuck in this suspended state.
A part of him though fears losing it. Losing this last hold of the woman who was that Connor’s – that was his - family because the others from that time (except Angel) are all gone, too.
And if he loses her, he can’t help but wonder as blue eyes pierce him, what does it mean for him? Will he get lost, tangled up in someone’s memories (as tangled up as his own are), too?