The campus was bathed in darkness. Only a few flickering lamps lit the path
towards the dormitories. It was quiet, no students out on the grounds. They
were all in the dormitories, the libraries, and the late-night coffee houses.
All except one.
She was young, probably no more than a freshman. Her long, blond hair flew in front of her face as she stumbled down the concrete path. Her shoulder bled freely, staining her white camisole. She tripped over her feet, slamming to the ground. Her palms scrapped against the ground, the skin grating off.
"Help me!" She cried out, scrambling back to her feet. Her head snapped back, desperately searching for the predator that stalked her. She let out a gasp as she felt a hand on her shoulder. She whirled around to face the arrival.
It was a boy.
This couldn't have been the one chasing her. He smiled, his sweet face innocent and unassuming. His blue eyes appeared friendly. His wiry form was completely unintimidating as he e clutched several large books to his chest.
"What's wrong?" He furrowed his brow, cocking his head in question. "I heard you scream."
She turned her head. What had happened to her pursuer? She licked her lips, relieved not to see any sign of them. Maybe they had given up. "There was someone after me. They've been chasing me all the way from the CoHo."
He frowned slightly, looking behind her and searching the barren path. The corners of his mouth rose in a gentle smile. "Well, there doesn't seem to be anyone after you now."
Pushing her hair out of her face, she nervously bit her lip. "Maybe its because you're here. You scared them off. Do you think..." She smiled back at him, batting her eyelashes. "You could walk me to my sorority house?"
She could feel his eyes on her, raking up and down her form. He readjusted the books in his arms, freeing a hand. He held it out to her. "Come on."
Accepting the hand, she smiled gratefully. "Thanks a lot. I really hate walking alone."
"What's your name?" He asked, leading her down the path.
"Stephanie," she replied.
He looked out over the campus, seemingly looking for what it was chasing her. Well, he certainly was chivalrous. "You probably shouldn't be walking at night," he commented lightly, "You never know what's lurking."
Stephanie smirked, her features contorting. Her brow fell, wrinkled. She ran her tongue along her lengthening fangs. She felt the throb of his heartbeat, the warmth of his blood. "Oh, I have a pretty good idea."
She hissed, closing in on his jugular.
The heavy books he carried connected hard with her nose. She stumbled backwards, her wrist snapping as he twisted it.
Stephanie wiped her nose. Blood dripped from the nostril. She glared at the boy, hissing softly. "I'm not much of a fighter."
He reached into his jacket, withdrawing a wooden stake. He held it up, smirking. "Demon's a bad occupation for you then, isn't it?"
Stephanie growled. She leapt up, letting her foot connect hard with his mouth. The boy flew backwards, tumbling into the bushes lining the path.
"Don't like to." She strode to the bushes, snarling as she approached his crumpled form. "Doesn't mean I can't."
She gaped in surprise as he recovered from the hit, leaping into the air. No mere human could have managed such a jump. He balled his fist, slamming it into Stephanie's stomach.
She lurched backwards, hitting the pavement on her back. She shook her head in disbelief. "It was you who was after me?"
"I was actually just coming from the library." He slammed the stake into her chest. Stephanie's mouth widened in shock as her body disintegrated into dust.
Connor Riley gave a cough as the vampire dust blew into his face. "But it's nice to know there's another vampire hunter around."
He tucked the stake back into his jacket. He cracked his jaw, tasting the coppery taste of blood on his tongue. It wasn't a bad kick. She had split his lower lip.
He knelt down, picking up his scattered books. As he picked up The C++ Programming Language the cover fell away. He groaned softly. "Oh great. Now I'm going to have to pay a fine."
The Nyazian Prophecies
and Tom Lenk
as Andrew Wells
and Charisma Carpenter
as Cordelia Chase
Connor stepped into the bright light of the CoHo. The lighting
was harsh on his eyes after being in the dark night. He blinked, trying to
readjust to the drastic change.
The CoHo was filled with small tables. Students, piles of books in front of them, occupied each.
Connor sighed deeply, licking the blood off of his lower lip. He cracked his neck, sniffing the air. He darted his gaze around the room. Was the vampire a solo artist or was there a gang?
No, he couldn't smell any vampires in the room. They gave off a distinct scent: like clotted blood and ash.
"Chess team get a little rough?"
Connor turned towards the counter. He smiled as he saw the pretty girl next to the cash register, leaning against the counter. Her dyed purple hair was vibrant in the light. She was smiling brightly at him.
He gave another quick sweep around the room. Everything seemed safe enough. He bounded up to the counter. "What can I say? Those nerds can be really mean when they want to be." He cast a gentle smile to her. "So what's up, Sal? You don't normally work this late."
Salome Simpson wrinkled her nose as she picked up a rag. She began to wipe down the counter. "Ugh. Freddie didn't show up for his shift. I was begged to work a double. Which sucks to the highest degree. It's like they forget I go to school here too." She sighed deeply, pushing her hair out of her face. "You want some coffee?"
Connor put a hand to his bleeding lower lip. "No, ice would be good thought." He ran a hand through his hair. Vampire dust slid out of it. "If I have coffee, I'll be up all night driving Jamie crazy."
Salome put some ice in a towel. The purple beaded bracelets on her left hand clicked against the cross dangling from her wrist. She held out the makeshift icepack to Connor. "I was under the impression you did that anyway."
Connor scowled, putting the icepack against his lower lip. He watched Salome bend over to pick up a fork that had fallen to the ground. He leaned over to observe her closer. "So... When do you get off work?"
Salome looked up, arching a brow. She rose back to her feet, smoothing her hands down her faded jeans. "Closing." She turned to a customer who had come to the counter. "So what have you got here?"
Connor watched Salome go about her business. He had met her the first time he had come into the CoHo. He never saw her outside, despite his best efforts. He didn't know much about her. They didn't really talk outside of some feeble flirting. She was nice-- always sneaking him free food during his study sessions. He knew she was an Art History student. He also knew she had a strange purple design tattooed across her breasts. He wasn't sure if she knew he knew that. That information came from her tendency of wearing low cut blouses and leaning over a lot.
"So why do you ask, Chess Club?" Connor snapped back to reality. Salome had finished with the customer and leaned against the cash register. Her head was cocked in query.
Connor moved the ice away from his mouth, grinning broadly. "I thought we could go out."
Salome rang up the sale, arching a brow at Connor. She cast him a flirtatious smile. "Why would you want to go out with me?"
Connor leaned against his textbooks, falling easily into the familiar routine he and Salome had developed. "Would you believe purple is my favourite colour?"
Salome slid back over to Connor. She leaned in close, her lips only a breath from his. He could feel her warmth, the thrum of her heartbeat. "How many times have you asked me out in the last year?"
Connor pulled away, ticking off of his fingers, calculating in his head. He furrowed his brow. "Oh... Two hundred... Give or take?"
"Pretty much every time you come in here." Salome nodded, leaning casually back. She crossed her arms over her chest. "Why the persistence?"
He didn't have the heart to tell her that it wasn't so much an obsession with dating her as it was just fun. He was a creature of habit and the idle flirtations gave him a good laugh.
True, Salome was pretty and he definitely wouldn't be unhappy were she to say yes, but he wasn't expecting that any time soon. "Just making conversation."
Salome smirked, hopping the counter and sauntering to a vacated table. "Good to know. As usual, I am much to busy."
Connor followed behind Salome, peeking over her shoulder as she began to clean up the table. "You must have some time after you're done work and before classes. You know, at night."
Salome turned back to him, clutching a coffee cup in one hand and a plate with a half-eaten croissant in the other. Her dark eyes darted around the room quickly. "You would be surprised how busy my nights are."
Connor's head jerked up. He smelled something acrid on the air. Ash and blood. A boy and girl walked from the back of the cafe towards the door. His arm was slung over her shoulders. They were giggling and whispering to each other. Connor listened more closely. The girl's heart was pounding in her chest. The boy lacked any such rhythm.
Sighing deeply, he pushed past Salome. He could feel the stake pressing against his chest. He narrowed his gaze on the retreating couple as he strode towards the door. "I know all about busy nights."
Connor's body ached as he dragged himself through the hallways of his apartment building. His jacket was torn open at the shoulder, a bit of blood soaking through the brown fabric. His ears were ringing.
The boy was-- no, had been-- an older vampire. He wasn't a master by any means. At best he had been a few decades old. It had been enough to make the fight interesting.
As his body complained, he wondered why he was compelled to go kill vampires. Why he cared if the fight was interesting. He hadn't given it a lot of thought in the few months he had been doing it.
But no, it hadn't just been a few months he had been killing vampires. Connor had fought demons since he was a small child. It was what he was. He was the Destroyer.
It was only the spell cast on him by his birth father that made him forget the world of the fantastic. He had been given a vacation from the blood and death and violence.
He had tried not to. He wanted so desperately to forget what lurked in the dark. But every time he saw another vampire sneaking off with some helpless student, he had to follow. He had to hunt the beast, kill it, before it hurt anyone else.
His stomach always did flip-flops when those he saved thanked him. Like the girl he had saved tonight. She had been so grateful, she kissed Connor on the cheek. Her red lipstick still marked his skin. That was probably the best part about fighting demons again. Those people would be safe.
Every time he fought, words echoed in his head.
Nothing in the world is the way it ought to be. It's harsh, and cruel. But that's why there's us. Champions. It doesn't matter where we come from, what we've done or suffered, or even if we make a difference. We live as though the world was what it should be, to show it what it can be.
Angel had said that, what felt like a million years ago. Connor had never understood it. He wasn't a Champion, Angel had said that himself. Was he trying to be one now? No, he didn't stalk demons, hunting them down. If he saw them, he would kill them. But he wanted it to go no further. It wasn't his life anymore.
Angel gave up so much for Connor to be happy, to have a normal life. He obviously didn't want him to be a Champion. He would live and die Connor Riley, average guy with superpowers who occasionally killed vampires. Nothing more.
Connor opened the door to his apartment, taking a deep breath. He was completely and utterly exhausted.
"Man, you just keep getting in later and later."
Connor looked up at his roommate. James Black the Third was sprawling in a chair, his legs draped over the top of the desk on the opposite side of the living room. His hair was mussed and his thick-rimmed glasses were sliding down the bridge of his nose. A textbook was balanced precariously on his thighs.
After kicking his shoes off and placing his textbooks down on the kitchen table, Connor collapsed onto the couch. He turned onto his side, yawning. "Just can't seem to stay away from the library."
Jamie pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and cracked his knuckles. "And here I thought you had a new chick."
Connor groaned. He hadn't had a girl-- unless you counted verbal sparring with a coffee shop employee-- since he and Tracy had broken up. That had been almost a year ago. "I should be so lucky. I've been by my lonesome as of late."
Jamie grinned, jerking his chin towards Connor. "That lipstick mark on your face says different."
Connor wiped his cheek with his hand, the crimson makeup coming off on his palm. He scowled at Jamie. "Oh, stop looking so smug. It's not what you think."
"Don't presume to know what I think," Jamie shot back. He pushed his textbook onto the desk, swinging his feet down. "I think that if you were getting some play, you'd be crowing about it so much I'd have to ask you to move out."
"You're not wrong." Connor mumbled, snuggling into the armrest of the couch. He closed his eyes. "Of course, I wouldn't have time to crow about it seeing as how I would die of shock."
"Ah, you'll get a social life before me." Jamie shut his textbook, pushing Connor's legs off the couch to give himself a place to sit. "At least you're not trapped under a mountain of textbooks."
"Price you pay for being a big old genius," Connor replied. "Us lesser mortals may not be able to assemble a Doomsday Device, but at least we have the possibility of getting laid."
"The very slim possibly," Jamie retorted, smirking. "And you used to spend an awful lot of your time buried in the books."
Connor sighed deeply. Frankly, he would have welcomed worrying about homework again. Lately, it seemed like college was becoming less a place for him to learn and more a place for him to fight vampires. They were coming more frequently. After he became aware of what he was, he killed one, maybe two vampires a week. Now it seemed like every night there was another demon lurking about.
"Oh, before I forget your dad called." Jamie pulled a lime green Post-It out of his pocket, holding it out to Connor.
Connor sat up, blinking blearily. He ran his fingers through his hair. He had just spoken to his dad two days ago. "Really. Is everything--?"
He stared down at the note. There wasn't a message, just a very, very long phone number. He didn't even recognize the international calling code.
"So, what's with the globetrotting number?" Jamie asked, sliding his glasses off and putting them in his pocket.
Connor frowned, eyes riveted to the scrawled numbers. "He's--" Lawrence Riley was at home. He wouldn't even bother to leave a number, let alone one that probably cost five dollars a minute. Angel, on the other hand... Well, Connor hadn't heard from him in months. This was actually the first sign he had received that he was still alive-- if it wasn't a trap. "Business trip."
"On the other side of the world?" Jamie asked, furrowing his brow.
Connor paused, going through the excuses in his mind. He had grown more comfortable with the idea of Angel as his father. The old memories had integrated with his new ones, but he didn't know if he really wanted to tell Jamie, 'Yeah, I'm actually the son of two vampires and my father took down the evilest evil organization of all times in an attempt to halt their Apocalypse and if he's still alive, he's running for his undead life.'. Connor like living with Jamie and he really didn't want him to think he was nuts. Hell, Connor sometimes thought he was nuts and he lived through it all. "Convention... On the other side of the world."
"If you're going to call him back, we're so not splitting
on the phone bill this month." Jamie put his feet up on the coffee table.
"It's bad enough that I saved your ass from dormitory living this year."
"Wouldn't think of it," Connor muttered. He put the Post-It down on the coffee table beside Jamie's feet. He rose to his feet. "I'm really tired. I think I'm just going to go to bed." He couldn't deal with Angel at the moment. He would call him after he got some sleep. Right now his mind could barely process the conversation with Jamie, let alone one with his biological father.
"Be careful passing by Jules' room." Jamie warned as he turned on the TV.
"She's asleep?" Connor frowned. "Usually she's still up studying."
"Oh, she's still up." Jamie began to flip through the channels. "I just don't think I can stand hearing my sister get a flustery because you're in. You would think she'd get over it already."
Connor shook his head and continued to his room. He tread carefully passed Jules's door. He opened the door to his room and sighed. Shutting the door behind him, he began to carefully peel off of his clothing until he was in his boxers.
He winced, touching his shoulder. The wound had already closed, but hurt like hell.
He fell back onto his bed, putting his hands behind his head. The vampires were coming more frequently. Angel, for the first time in months, was contacting him.
Something was coming. He just wasn't sure he wanted to know what.
A statuesque redhead strode into a darkened room. The only lighting were a few flickering candles surrounding a throne. A hooded figure sat before her. His eyes glowed yellow in the shadows.
She fell to her knees before him, bowing her head. "Master."
"Clarice." He reached out, caressing her hair. His voice was low and throaty. "Rise."
Clarice stood back up. Her beautiful visage morphed to one of a vampire. She growled softly. "Stephanie and Christopher were slain tonight. By him. He is killing more of my brethren every day." She had a gentle British accent, a stark contrast to the ferocity of her demon face.
Clarice's master remained calm, relaxing in his throne. "Does this bother you, Clarice?"
"I don't care about those children. They were foolish, hunting in heavily populated areas." Another growl escaped her lips as she exposed her fangs. "But I don't understand why you won't let me kill him."
"You have already earned your place. His death does not concern you."
"His death does not concern you!" Her master hissed. "Whether or not the Destroyer dies is not up to you. I want him alive. I want him to be what he is meant to be, not the pathetic echo. He cannot deny what he is. Everyday he comes close to showing his true nature. His killings of your offspring prove that. I promise you will not go wanting."
Clarice snarled, crossing her arms over her chest. She gave a curt nod, rolling her yellow eyes. "What is our next move, Master?"
He rose, placing a hand against Clarice's cheek. His thumb caressed her wrinkled forehead. "The time has come to give our boy a very clear message. He won't be able to resist when something he cares about is in danger."
He pushed down the left shoulder of Clarice's shirt. Pressing a hand to her flesh, he growled. "I want to hear you say it."
"I am every faithful..." She laboured out the words as thorned circle began to burn red on her flesh. "I pledge myself to the Circle..."
"Okay, Mary Jane, and having to keep a secret identity, or Rogue and being able to tell her everything but having a super screwed up relationship?" Jamie walked down Sequoia Lane. On top of the many textbooks he carried was a copy of Ultimate Spider-Man.
"Hm?" Connor hadn't been listening. He blinked, shaking his head to get the cobwebs out. "What were you saying?"
Jamie sighed deeply, shaking his head. He pushed his glasses up as best he could without disturbing his books. "Dude, it's really hard to have a meaningful conversation with you when you're staring off into the ether."
Connor rubbed the back of his neck, his cheeks flushing pink. He didn't know what they had been talking about. In fact, he wasn't even sure why he was walking with Jamie. He had already finished his last class of the day. "Sorry. I got distracted."
Jamie nodded. "I noticed. It's really hard to play 'who would you rather?' by yourself. What were you thinking about so intensely you forgot I existed?"
He had been thinking about the sun, how it beat down on him. He remembered when the sun had disappeared, when he had to fight vampires at high noon.
He had been thinking about the air, how clean it was. In Quortoth, the air was always thick with the stench of blood. It had reeked of death and brimstone.
Last night he had terrible dreams. Maybe it was because of the phone call from Angel he hadn't yet returned. He had been thinking of his old life. The dreams seeped deep into him, making his heart pound and his head ache. "It's complicated."
"You know, Connor, if you don't mind me saying..." Jamie paused, taking in a hissing breath. He had stopped walking along the path. "You've been acting like a complete freak lately."
Connor glared at Jamie, crossing his arms over his chest, trying to look as intimidating as his small, lithe body would allow. "I think I mind."
Apparently Connor had underestimated his scowl. Jamie tensed, putting his books in front of him like a shield. "Seriously. I don't mean it as an insult. Just concern. We've known each other-- What? A year? We're friends. And you've been acting really strange."
"What do you mean 'strange'?" Connor asked. He looked down at the ground, idly kicking a stray pebble. He had been trying very hard to keep his nocturnal activities from Jamie. He supposed it was inevitable he would notice something was up. It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure it out.
"You come back to at all hours, usually with blood on you. You're always yelling in your sleep, so loudly I hear you down the hall..." Jamie took a deep breath. "Just level with me, man... Are you in a gang?"
Connor was about to spit back a fast retort, when what Jamie had said sunk in. He opened his mouth, closing it quickly. He licked his lips, running a hand through his hair.
He then burst into laughter, nodding. "Oh yeah. I'm in a gang. We're calling ourselves 'skinny geeks who will never get laid or intimidate anyone'. Want to join?" He shook his head. "Dumbass." He gave Jamie a playful shove in the shoulder.
Unfortunately, the shove was much harder than he had anticipated. Jamie's books flew into the air while he toppled over onto the pavement.
"Dammit!" Connor knelt down, mentally kicking himself. He still hadn't completely adjusted to have these powers. "Sorry?"
Jamie rubbed the back of his head. His glasses were hanging off one ear, crooked on his face. "Guess someone's been eating his spinach."
Connor held out a hand to Jamie. "Sorry." He heaved Jamie to his feet then knelt to pick up the scattered books. "I really didn't mean it. I guess I don't know my own strength."
"Yeah. Sure." Jamie adjusted his glasses and took the books Connor handed him, clutching them to his chest. He let out a laugh. "Probably a good thing anyway. We were getting kind of close to Movie of the Week territory."
"Totally agree." Connor nodded firmly. The more questions Jamie asked, the closer he got to discovering what-- who-- he really was. Best they just left it to geeky conversations and lusting at the co-eds. "I'm fine. Really. You don't have to worry. No gangs for me."
"Hey!" A thin blonde in glasses ran to catch up to Connor and Jamie. She was grinning broadly, books clutched to her chest.
Jamie grinned, wrapping an arm around the girl's shoulders. He squeezed her tightly. "Hey there, Jules. How's my favourite little sister doing?"
Jules blushed deeply. "I'm kind of lost." She looked down. "You're the first people I've seen for an hour that I recognize. I'm looking for the Crown Library."
Jamie rolled his eyes. "Jules, it's been a month. You're a law student. You should know this already."
"Oops." She shrugged apologetically. "Connor, do you think you could maybe... Show me?"
Connor blinked. "Me? You want me to show you?"
"Well, Jamie has books. Looks like he's going to class." Jules smiled sweetly at him, curling a lock of hair around her finger. "Please, Connor?"
Jamie opened his backpack, digging out a map. He put it on top of Jules's books. "Here you go. Your very own map. We were having an important conversation."
Jules scowled. "You're a jerk, Jamie." She strode off.
Shaking his head, Jamie gestured to his retreating sister. "And that is the child my dad prefers over me."
"What?" Connor frowned. "I think Jules is sweet."
"Of course you do," Jamie slapped Connor on the shoulder. "She's desperately in love with you."
Connor smiled, feeling the heat rise in his cheeks. He shrugged. "What can I say? I can't help my animal magnetism... You should be nicer to her."
"It just bugs the heck out of me that the little space cadet gets all the attention just because she's trundling along in his footsteps." Jamie sighed.
"Come on." Connor jerked his head down the street. "You've got class. Show your dad being a genius is just as good as a lawyer."
"You make it sound so easy," Jamie shook his head and began to walk along. "It not like your dad is a soulless bloodsucking fiend."
Connor faltered, nearly tripping over his own feet. "What?"
"Nothing." Jamie furrowed his brow. "Just a bad lawyer joke. You are the height of weird, Riley."
"Right." Connor nodded. "So... Uhh... Who was it we'd rather?"
Jamie grinned, starting to walk again. "Mary Jane and having to keep a secret identity, or Rogue and being able to tell her everything but having a really screwed up relationship?"
Connor strode beside Jamie, thinking about the question. He supposed, given his own personal circumstances, the answer was obvious. Thought the idea of being any sort of comic book character had lost its appeal with the resurgence of his old memories.
He opened his mouth to answer, but someone behind them spoke first. "Personally, I think the real question is who would rather be: Peter Parker or Remy LeBeau?"
Connor and Jamie both stopped walking. They turned slowly towards the interloper.
He was dressed completely in black, topped with a leather duster. His blond hair was slicked back. He wore mirrored sunglasses over his face. It was a parody of intimidating, like someone out of a Matrix convention.
Connor raised an eyebrow, as he took in the scene. "And who are you?"
The new arrival smiled mysteriously. "Wells." He pulled off his sunglasses. "Andrew Wells. And we need to talk."