Connor struggled to his feet. He panted, glaring up at Clarice. He crackled
his knuckles. "Salome? You said you fight demons?"
Salome nodded, glancing around the room at the large gang abandoning the surviving students, closing in on them. "Never this many."
Connor smashed his fist down into one of the wooden chairs. It splintered into pieces. He snatched one up, throwing it to Salome. She caught it in the chest, coughing with the impact that it hit her. Connor shrugged apologetically. "First time for everything."
He gripped a piece of the chair in his hand, the jagged edges digging into his flesh. He narrowed in on Clarice. She was the one who led them. She was the one he needed to kill.
Crouching down, he used his legs to propel himself into the air, leaping onto Clarice. Clarice laughed, throwing him off. She was strong, stronger than he had seen in a long time. "I'm just here to watch," Clarice hissed.
Connor forced himself into a roll. He flipped back to his feet, kicking one of Clarice's lackeys in the throat.
Dust billowed through the air as Salome plunged her stake into a vampire's heart. She yelped as the blonde who had imitated Cordelia leapt on her back, hands wrapping around Salome's throat.
In the din of the battle, the few remaining students scampered out the door. Clarice stood in the doorway, smiling as she let them escape. She kept her eyes locked on Connor.
Two large, leather-clad males descended onto Connor. He leapt into the air, kicking them both in the chest. They flew backwards. One of them flew into the chair Connor had broke. Debris impaled itself through his chest and he exploded into dust.
Connor used the opportunity to stalk up to the other male, plunging the stake into his chest. He whirled around to Salome, who still struggled with the fake Cordelia.
Salome twisted her wrist back, pressing it to the fake Cordelia's cheek. The female screamed, letting go. She stumbled backwards, the cross-shaped burn clear on her pale flesh.
"You had no right," Connor hissed, throwing himself at the blonde. He pinned her down, snarling. He beat his fist into her face as hard as he could. He didn't want her dead. He wanted to tear her apart piece by piece. How dare she pretend to be Cordelia? No one had any right to look like her...
The blonde struggled and cried, unable to get out from under his preternatural grip. None of the gang helped her. Connor was free to pound her into oblivion.
"You evil... Demon... You had no right! To pretend to be her! To play with me!" He shook her before slamming his balled fist across her face. Her cheek opened in a gaping wound, cut by the jagged wood in his hand. "You think you can control me? You think you can make me do what you want? All those terrible things!"
"Connor!" Salome yelled as four vampires surrounded her, closing in. "I need help!"
His head snapped up, looking at Salome. He then looked down at the blonde. Her face was almost completely demolished. His gaze drifted to his bloody hands, eyes going wide. He plunged his stake through the blonde's heart. She turned to dust beneath him.
Connor shook his head, staring down at his hands. He had felt it. The Destroyer. He couldn't do this. He wouldn't do it.
"Connor!" Salome had morphed into her demon form, dusting one of the vampires and staggering away. "I can't do this alone!"
Connor's mind went blank as he stared down at his bloody hands, the stake still clutched in his fist.
The world was dream-like, fluid. He didn't even know he had started to fight them. It was a blur of kicks and punches. Dust filled the air as he took them out one by one.
When the dust cleared, Connor dropped his stake. It clattered on the floor. "I'm done," he rasped.
He flew backwards with the force of the punch to his jaw. Clarice smirked as she flexed her fingers, crackling the knuckles. "Not nearly."
Connor collapsed on the ground, his head spinning. He tried to get back up, but his body complained.
"This is truly pathetic." Clarice kicked Connor in the stomach. "I came to fight the Destroyer. Not some sad little college student."
Her head snapped back to look at Salome, who was creeping forward with her stake. "You know I'd kill you before you had the chance, demon. Keep out of it and you keep breathing."
Clarice bent down, gripping Connor by the throat. She lifted him up, holding him a foot off the ground. "You know you want it, Destroyer. You want to unleash it. Let him out."
She swung her free arm back, hitting Salome upside the head as she rushed forward. Salome crumpled to the ground. "I said stay back!"
Clarice slammed her fist into Connor's nose. He could hear bones break, blood filling his mouth. "Your demon sidekick isn't too much help." Clarice threw Connor down, bringing her knee up at the same moment. The hard bone connected with his back. He howled in pain. "I wonder what Cordelia would say about your little friend?"
Connor coughed, his mind overloaded with the agony. "But then, Cordelia's not thinking much these days. Didn't your Daddy tell you? Your precious Cordy is dead." She kicked Connor in the face. "And she's dead because of you. Because of what you put in her. Is that why you're letting me beat you to death, Destroyer? Feeling guilty?" She laughed heartily. "Well, aren't you a sweet boy?"
Clarice's foot came down again. But it didn't impact. Connor's hand snapped up, grabbing it. He pushed as hard as he could, throwing her backwards. She rolled and then crouched on the ground. She smirked. "Was it something I said?"
Connor rose to his feet. His face was caked in his own blood. "I hate being called that," he growled.
"What?" Clarice got up, cracking her neck. "Destroyer?"
Leaping up, Connor flipped, kicking both his feet against Clarice's chest. She soared across the lecture hall, falling in a heap. Connor landed on his feet. "No. Sweet boy."
All of the lies, all of the pain. They were all summed up in those two words. He jumped at Clarice, delivering a spinning kick to her jaw. "You must really want to die tonight."
Clarice licked her own blood off her lip. "No. Just want to make sure you're in the game, Destroyer." She muttered some other language. She was surrounded by a red glow and disappeared.
"More magic," Connor hissed. He turned away from where Clarice had been. "Why do they always have to use magic?"
The lecture hall was nothing but carnage. Dead bodies and vampire dust littered the room.
Salome struggled to her feet, wheezing. She clutched the side of her head. "She was stronger than I'm used to."
"She's stronger than most," Connor muttered. He looked down. "Are you all right?"
Rubbing the back of her neck, Salome took deep breaths. "Luckily vampires have no taste for demon blood. Doesn't stop them from trying to break my neck though."
Connor sniffed the air. He searched around frantically. "Someone is still alive in here."
He ran up the aisle of the lecture hall, tracking down the scent. He stopped dead when he saw the crumpled form. "Jamie."
Jules sat cross-legged on the couch, books surrounding her. Avril Lavigne was playing loudly over the stereo. She tapped her pen in rhythm.
The door opened and Connor backed in. She smiled when she saw him. "Hey Connor! What are you--" Her smiled faded when she saw he was carrying Jamie.
"Jules, we need your help." Connor carried Jamie across the room, going towards his bedroom.
Jules pushed the books off her lap, jumping up. Her gaze lingered on Salome for a long moment, before following behind Connor. "What happened?"
"He hit his head," Connor explained as he laid Jamie down on his bed.
Jules nodded, eyes wide. She knelt down next to Jamie, stroking his hair. She looked up at Connor. "And how does that explain what happened to you?"
Connor put a hand to his face, still stained with blood. At least Salome had the sense to put her glamour back on before leaving the lecture hall. "Don't worry. Just had a rough night. Can you take care of him?"
Jules nodded frantically. "Of course. But... What?"
"He should be all right," Salome said gently. "But someone should stay with him. Looks like he knocked himself pretty hard in the head."
Connor shook his head and strode to the door, pushing Salome out of the way. Salome looked to the still opened door, then back to Jamie and Jules. "I'm gonna--" She pointed outside. "Sorry."
She ran out, leaving Jules alone with her unconscious brother.
Connor stared at his face in the bathroom mirror. The vampire's hits had left various cuts and bruises all over him. He rested his elbow on the edge of the sink and rested his head in his hands.
The door swung open and Salome strode in. She closed the door, leaning against it. She cocked a brow, staring at Connor.
Connor raised his head, looking around. He furrowed his brow. "Do you often walk into occupied bathrooms without knocking?"
"I do when I know the guy inside is just brooding and not actually using the facilities." She manoeuvred in beside Connor, turning on the water. She tested it with her hand. She then muttered something under her breath, returning to demon form.
Connor frowned at her, cocking his head. "Why'd you do that?"
"The glamour diverts from what little power I have. I'm stronger and I heal faster like this." She picked up a towel and put it under the water. She rung it out and placed the damp cloth against Connor's face. She gently began to wipe the blood off of him. "Your roommate will be fine."
"He's lucky," Connor muttered, looking down. Salome caressed his cheek with the wet cloth. He shied away from the touch, turning to face the window. He leaned against it, staring down to the street. "Those vamps were ready to kill everyone there."
Salome touched his shoulder. "But you stopped them."
Connor shook his head, shrugging Salome's hand off of him. "They stopped themselves because I was there."
"What do you mean?"
"You heard her, didn't you?" Connor gripped the trim of the window. "It was a message for me. When we got there, they stopped feeding. Those people died because of me."
Salome grabbed Connor's shoulder, forcing him to turn and look at her. "They died because vampires are evil, not because of you. Sure, maybe those vampires wanted to draw you out, but that doesn't make it your fault. Keep the blame where it belongs."
"Bad things happen around me," Connor whispered.
Salome shook her head. "Bad things happen everywhere. You just notice them."
She winced, rubbing her neck. Connor furrowed his brow. "Are you all right?"
"Sore." She ran her tongue over her fangs. "It's going to take me a few days to recover, especially if I keep on having to use my glamour."
Salome shrugged. "It's not your fault. Well--" She smiled. "Actually, this area," she gestured to her nose. "Hurts the most so it is kind of your fault."
"Maybe you should go back to your dorm." Connor frowned. "It's probably not a good idea to hang around here in your demon form. Not with Jamie and Jules here."
"You know, people are more accepting than you think." Salome said, smiling at him.
Connor didn't smile back. He narrowed his gaze. "Just how many people have you told about being a demon?"
Salome's smile faded. She looked down, flustered. "Um, including you?"
She shifted to her human form and gasped, doubling over. Connor dropped the cloth, grabbing her. "Are sure you're all right?"
"Really not as strong like this," she wheezed. "But I don't think the deep purple will go over well in public."
Connor kept his arm firmly around Salome's waist. "Come on. I'll walk you to your dorm."
"You saw me take out a couple of vamps," she rasped. "I'm pretty tough."
"Yeah, you look very tough at the moment." Connor helped her out of the bathroom. "Come on. While my sense of chivalry holds."
He led her across the living room. He looked back at Jamie's door, wincing. He wanted to make sure Jamie was okay, but... He couldn't be around comatose people. Not after what he saw tonight.
"Who is she?"
Connor frowned at Salome as they walked down the hallway. "The vampire? I don't know."
Salome shook her head. "No. The woman. The one that vampire pretended to be. You were chasing her."
Walking down the stairs slowly, Connor couldn't meet Salome's gaze. "Someone I knew a lifetime ago."
"You loved her, didn't you?"
He didn't answer. They remained silent the rest of the way outside.
Once outside he lifted his head, smelling the night air. "You can transform back. There's no one around." He couldn't answer that question. He never allowed himself to think about Cordelia, about that life. Besides, he didn't know if he really knew what love was. Everything was so jumbled together.
Salome gasped in relief as she morphed back. She panted hard. "God, that is a real bitch." She gave Connor a weak smile, realising her question wasn't going to be answered. "I can walk by myself now." She slipped out of his grasp. "Thanks. For everything. You know, I'm not always that pathetic. I've just never dealt with that many."
Connor wasn't listening. He began to pace, furrowing his brow. He hadn't fought that many in a long time either. The last time he had fought that many was when the sun was blotted from the sky. He turned back to Salome. "You've fought for two years here."
Salome nodded. "Yeah. I have. Why?"
He looked down again, thinking of how many more he fought in the last month. "How many did you fight?"
"I didn't keep track." She shifted, looking away. Connor glanced up, seeing her uncomfortable movements. "I mean, a vamp here and demon there..."
Salome bit her lip. "Three, maybe four a month."
Connor strode back to her, looking into her dark eyes. "And now? How many now?"
Salome met his intense gaze. "Six, seven.... A week."
He turned away, shaking his head. He ran a hand through his hair. "Since school started again. Since the last time I was here."
The word hit him hard. He shut his eyes. They wanted him to be in the game, to be the Destroyer. The demons, the death... They were his fault. They were calling him out.
"Connor?" Salome whispered.
Connor turned back to her. He took a deep breath, trying to mask the pain he knew was evident on his face. "You didn't do bad."
"Thanks." Salome frowned. "Are you all right?"
"Yeah. I'll be fine." He hoped she believed it. He sure didn't.
They stood in uncomfortable silence for a long moment. Both of them kept diverting their gaze.
"I..." Salome cleared her throat. "Later, Ace."
She began to walk, limping slightly. She paused and turned. "Connor, if you ever need any help..."
Connor nodded. "Yeah. I know." He wanted to believe she would be there, that he wouldn't have to do this alone. But that's how he had always been. That's what this life always left him.
Connor stood in the doorway of Jamie's room. He leaned against the doorframe, watching Jules looked down on her brother.
"Any change?" He asked after a long moment.
Jules shrugged, turning to Connor. "I don't really know what I'm supposed to be looking for. Medicine is not my strong suit. You know, if Jamie were awake, I bet he could tell us exactly when he would wake up. He's annoyingly good at being smart." She sniffled. "What happened?"
"Gang." Connor blurted out. "I don't know what they wanted, or... It was really weird." It wasn't a complete lie. It was a gang and it was weird, but he knew exactly what they wanted.
"It's really scary... Seeing him like this." Jules's hands shook. She folded them, putting them in her lap. "I mean I bug him all the time, but I don't know what I would do if anything were too..."
"He'll be fine," Connor assured her, kneeling in front of Jules. He took her shaking hands. "I know this kind of thing. He was just knocked out."
"Not the best thing that can happen to a guy." Jules whispered.
"Not the worst," Connor replied, his voice weaker than he had wanted. "Believe me."
"Ow...." Jamie touched his head as he sat up. He blinked, trying to focus on his surroundings.
Connor jumped to his feet, looking down at his friend.
"Oh my god!" Jules threw her arms around Jamie's neck, hugging him tightly. "I was so worried!"
"Argh!" Jamie winced. "Give a guy some room, will ya, kid?"
Jules moved back. She stood beside Connor. "Sorry."
"Are you okay?" Connor frowned. "You hit your head really hard."
Jamie hissed in a breath, lying back down. He winced again. "That was the weirdest thing I ever saw... What did I see?"
Connor stepped backwards, inching his way towards the door. Jamie could have been killed. Those vampires would have killed everyone in the room if he hadn't arrived. When he had gotten there, Clarice had let them go.
The message hadn't been the sound beating Clarice had given him, or the taunts she had spat about Cordelia and his weakness. The message had been that more would die if he refused to fight.
"...I'm not sure." Connor said. He shrugged. "I mean, I found you unconscious."
Salome knowing was one thing. She was part of the mystical world. She could understand what he was. Jamie and Jules wouldn't be able to. Connor knew him well enough to know that. Jamie liked things to make sense. As much as he loved comic books, he doubted Jamie would like living with someone who was....
What was he? A hero? Hardly. The fake Cordelia had called him one, but he knew he wasn't.
He was just Connor. He was the son of Colleen and Lawrence Riley; he was the son of two vampires. He was a computer science major; he was a hunter. Neither set of memories was stronger than the others. They all melded together, making him what he was now.
Jamie wouldn't understand that. Jules might, if only because of her crush on him. He didn't want either of them to know. They were normal, not involved in the world of the mystical. Maybe if Jamie and Jules stayed normal, he would still be able to cling to some semblance of peace.
Jules was looking not at her brother, but at Connor. She frowned at him. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," Connor replied. "It's just been a really weird night."
Jules turned back to Jamie. "I'm going to get you some water." As she passed by Connor, she paused. She leaned in, pressing a kiss to his cheek. "Thanks for helping him." She left quietly.
"Are you sure you don't know what happened?" Jamie asked after Jules had left.
Connor shook his head. "Sorry. I saw some people. I didn't get a good look at them."
"I think they were on steroids or something," Jamie muttered. "It was... Like you said, weird."
Connor looked down at the floor. "Steroids. Yeah. Sounds about right."
Jamie sat up. "Connor, can you do me a favour?"
"Yeah." Connor sat down beside Jamie. "What is it?"
Jamie's pale cheeks flushed red. "Don't tell anyone I was hit by a girl."
Connor managed a smile. "No problem."
"Do you think we'll see those guys again?"
He looked away. He didn't know how to respond. He knew it wasn't over. There was no way the vampires were going to leave it at a simple message. They had plans for him.
As for his plans, he didn't know what to do. He just knew he couldn't do it alone. Angel had only been as strong as he was with his friends beside him. If it weren't for them, he would have still been at the bottom of the ocean.
As the Destroyer, Connor's weakness lay in his solitude. It had been the separation from Angel that Cordelia-Jasmine-Whatever had been able to manipulate him. He couldn't let Jamie and Jules in on his secret, but maybe--
"I have to go." Connor got up. "Take care of yourself."
He strode to the door, clenching his fists. He steeled his nerves. His stomach was writhing. He opened the door, gritting his teeth.
Jamie called after him, sitting up. He blinked, squinting at the clock. "It's nearly midnight. Where are you going?"
Connor turned back to Jamie. He smiled weakly. "Somewhere I don't want to."
Connor hesitated in front of the door, hand raised to knock. He pulled his hand back, dropping it to his side.
Now that he had come all this way, doubt was starting to creep in. Did he really want to do this? Did he want to open himself up to all of this again?
No, he really didn't. But he didn't have much of a choice any longer.
He rapped his knuckles against the door. He could hear the movement inside the hotel room.
There was time. He could still run. He didn't have to do this. He could be halfway home before the door opened.
No, running would do no good. He had tried running from who-- what-- he was for months now. Maybe if he hadn't, those people wouldn't have died in the lecture hall.
The door opened. Andrew stood in front of him in plaid pyjama pants and an oversized t-shirt bearing the image of Wolverine. "Oh." He brought his hands to his hair, trying to fix the messy locks. "I wasn't expecting you to come by so soon."
Connor pushed past him, going inside the hotel room. There was a half-empty pizza box on the bed. Boxes filled with books littered the room.
He kept his back to Andrew, hearing the door click close and Andrew walking towards him. After a long moment, he looked up. "What does a Watcher do?"
Andrew nodded. "A very good question. A Watcher trains a Slayer, guides them on their mission to fight demons. They provide the information they need to successful slay."
"I'm not a Slayer," Connor looked back down at the dirty tan carpet.
"Are you so sure?" Andrew circled Connor. "A Slayer is a human imbued with the powers of a demon to be able to fight the forces of darkness. Maybe there's never been a male Slayer before..." He smiled. "But things have been changing a lot lately."
Connor looked at his hands. Traces of blood still clung to his skin. "Angel told me the demons are here to get me."
Andrew nodded. "I was told that."
Connor looked up, taking a deep breath. "If I were to leave, they'd still be here, wouldn't they?"
"A sleepy little town with lots of tasty college students and no superhero?"
Connor's heart sank. He had known that deep inside. No matter what, he had condemned this town. If he were to try running, the demons would keep killing. "It's all my fault."
"If you run away and let them take over, then it's your fault." Andrew stepped closer to him. "But if you stay and fight..."
He began to pace the room. He didn't want anyone else to die because of him. His whole life people had died just because of him. Hell, his mother died just so he could live. He shook his head. "No more. No more die because of me."
"What are you going to do to stop it?" Andrew asked.
"I'm not the Destroyer. I can't be him anymore." He stopped pacing. "But I'm not Connor Riley. No matter how much I try to pretend, neither of those people is real anymore." He shrugged, smiling sadly. "At the end of the day, I'm me." He sighed. "I'm just not sure who that is anymore."
He stepped towards Andrew. "Until I figure that out, I need help."
Andrew smiled, nodding as he clapped Connor in the shoulder. "You've just taken your first step into a new world."
Clarice sauntered into her lair, smiling broadly. She had returned to her human face, blood still clinging to her mouth.
Her Master's back was to her as he looked out the window. The hood was pulled off of his head.
"How did it go?"
Clarice ran her thumb over the corner of her mouth, collecting the blood there. She sucked it into her mouth, smiling. "It went very well, Master."
She threw herself into his throne. She shifted, trying to get comfortable. She rested in a sprawl. "I think he got the message. He came, with demon help. Not that his friend did much good. He resisted quite a bit. You were right. Cordelia Chase still affects him deeply."
"His false memories can never erase what has already happened." Clarice's Master rasped out a laugh. "Cordelia, his fathers, his isolation... They are his weakness. I know this better than anyone."
"He isn't quite there yet." Clarice purred. "I began to feel the Destroyer, but he still clings to the lies. It will be a time before we can finally bring him out."
Turning slowly, he faced Clarice. Wesley Wyndam-Pryce smiled. "Well. It's a start."
Special Guest Star
Talk about this episode in the forums