LadyStarlight - May 8, 2003

A/N: written for the Lyric Wheel challenge #2. Thanks to Yseult for the lyrics, which can be found here.

I hate him.

It wasn't supposed to be like this - so hard all the time. It was supposed to be easier - there should have been books to read, videos to watch. I wasn't supposed to have to fumble my way through this! I missed everything in his life - the first smile, the first steps, the first word. I thought I'd be able to explain to him why Uncle Gunn took him to the park in the daytime. Instead, I lost him and got back a stranger whose mission in life was to kill me.

I resent him.

He was my second chance at life. I knew his heartbeat, his breathing rhythms. I wiped his butt and soothed his cries. And when he stepped through that portal, pointing the stakes at my heart, my first thought was not 'my son is back' but 'why me?' My son was someone else I had to save, something else I had to fix. Another burden on my shoulders.

Another problem for me to deal with.

I pity him.

From the tidbits of life in Quortoth he dropped during the Jasmine days, Holtz was a competent caregiver - he came out alive, after all. But there was no love, no warmth, no fuzzy blankets or toddler-sized hockey sticks to play with. His toys were knives - stone chipped into a brutal point, steel honed until the edge glistened in the red sunlight. His playmates wanted to kill him and suck the marrow from his bones. He told me once of coming back with water from a stream and being snatched off the path by something who lifted him up, saying only 'as light as straw and brittle as a bird', before throwing him into the rock face above the cave he and Holtz shared.

He picked himself up, killed the thing, then went calmly back to the stream to replace the water that spilled. Holtz loosely translated the thing's words for him to make him work harder at training. To get stronger, faster, tougher.

I fear him.

He could have killed me. I knew it from the first time we went hand-to-hand. That's the real test. Any idiot can get a lucky shot in with a weapon, but hand-to-hand allows you to test weaknesses, strength, speed.

He disgusts me.

I offered him truth. Love. A real home. And he clung to the words drummed into his head by a madman who tortured him and fractured his psyche.

I am your father.

Your name is Steven.

Angelus killed the rest of your family. Avenge them. Avenge me.

I want him.

He was my son, damnit! Flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood, a miracle handed to me by his mother's sacrifice. He should be telling me about college plans, about girls named Nancy or Helen or Jane, calling me 'family', calling me 'Dad'. Instead, we were both used.

I miss him.

He leaves a Connor-shaped hole in my life now. I must be careful about the words I use, pick my way through the minefield of conversation, or else the whole fragile fabric I wove will fall apart. Hide the few pictures, keep the mementos in a locked box with an aversion spell on it hidden deep in the bowels of the hotel.

I tire of him.

Every sidelong glance from under his bangs cut me. He watched me - vigilant to my every move. No doubt, had anyone thought to question him, he could have given chapter and verse as to my movements, facial expressions and every word out of my mouth. I could not get away from that silent stare.

I need him.

He was my reason for trying. The only thing that kept me sane during my stay on the ocean floor. I dreamed that when I shanshu'd, he would be there. That we could walk in the sun together.

I despise him.

That he could hate me so much that sleeping with Cordelia made sense to him. He rubbed that in my face every chance he got. When I watched them together, his first tentative caresses, I turned my face to the meteors streaking to earth and prayed one would hit me.

I killed him.

My fingers threaded themselves through his hair, my palm ached to cup the back of his skull again, but I tightened my grasp into a fist and pulled his head back. His eyes were empty, no emotion showed when he locked onto my gaze. The hilt of the knife balanced itself in my hand, shifting for the best grasp. He didn't close his eyes even when I drew the blade across his throat and watched his heart's blood spill out at my feet.

I changed him.

The spell was a variation of one Wolfram & Hart found and had waiting for me. A group of monks had used it on something called 'The Key', so a protector would keep it safe. It inserted him seamlessly into another life; gave him and them memories of 18 years together. A happy life, a safe life. One with puppies and baseball games and family vacations to Disneyland instead of demons and fighting and 'why can't you go outside, Daddy?'

I watch him.

Tomorrow, leave the windows open. Let me snatch glimpses of him through glass and wood, a fragile barrier to the things that stalk the night. Let me see that he's happy, that I did right by him, finally.

I love him.

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