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Them Bones

by Viola

Has this fellow no feeling of his business, that he sings at grave-making?

After they put Angelus in the water, the summer brought lightning to the air and ghosts to Connor's head.

His father's girl made promises and then disappeared like all the others. He slipped away one night, went to find her, only to discover she was no longer there. He hadn't been very surprised.

He doesn't think she's dead, though. He would know it if she were. And that bothers him more than he likes to consider, that all her pretty talk about family and loyalty and justice was only to get him to do what she wanted.

She was nice to him, even if it was all lies, and now she's gone.

As more time passes, he's sure she isn't dead, because she doesn't come to whisper in his ear. He doesn't see her on the rooftops or in the shadows of late-night streets. She doesn't brush against him in crowds. She doesn't lie beside him when he thinks that he's maybe, finally alone. Not the way the others do.

He sees his father in the trash-can bonfires in alleyways, on street corners. And no matter how many times it happens, he always has to stop and catch his breath.

It almost gets him killed.

Almost earns him a nasty death by demon when he looks up one night, sees his father watching, and hesitates. Afterward, Angelus' people -- who try so hard to play mother and father as if they were anything more than children themselves -- tell him he must be more careful. And Connor flees to the oceanside to drown out the noise of their voices.

He knows he ought to see Angelus every time he looks at the ocean -- but he doesn't.

Sunny, though, whispers in his ear every night before he falls asleep, telling him that really it wasn't his fault. He can't see her, but he thinks he can feel it when she touches his hair. He dreams that he can feel her beside him as he sleeps. He dreams that she smells like incense and tastes like chocolate-peppermints.

He doesn't mind her ghost so much. He likes having her around and he thinks maybe she likes being with him.

Cordelia's ghost, on the hand, doesn't like Connor. Dennis slams the door in his face whenever he tries to walk into the apartment, so eventually he stops going there. He had no reason to go anyway, other than appearances. It's a relief to have an excuse. He wonders, though, if he had ever gone in, what he would have seen. And how Dennis knew he could see it.

He comes to expect meeting his father. He looks forward to being with Sunny. He ignores Dennis. But there is one ghost he hasn't yet learned how to handle...

He sees his mother on rooftops. He knows it's her because she's porcelain and blood and he feels that if he ever let her get close enough she'd drain him dry.

"Stay away from me."

It's August and she's met him every night for two months. She's usually at the far end of the roof, her back half to him, watching the city and dressed in red. Tonight, though, she creeps up behind and takes him by surprise.

"You loved me once," she says. "I know you did. I could feel it. It drove me mad, I was sick with the love of you."

She steps closer and he fumbles in his shirt for a cross. The cross is heavy and old, knotted like barbed wire. It was his father's and Connor wears it like a penance. It scrapes against him when he fights, tears at his flesh, beats against his heart when he runs.

"You think that will do anything to me?" She laughs at him and for just a second he understands what makes some men hit their women. "I'm not a vampire. Not anymore, thanks to you."

Dry lightning cracks the sky, lighting the city a dirty pink and gold. But he isn't sure if the static electricity he feels is from the weather or the ghost. When she touches him the air crackles, sparks dance along his skin and he knows.

He can feel her, which isn't how it's supposed to be with ghosts. She takes the cross from his hand and he doesn't stop her.

"Who gave you this? Not Angel surely." She laughs again.

"My father gave it to me. Not Angelus."

"I see." She seems to consider that a moment. "Did you kill me for nothing then?"

"I didn't kill you. I never even knew you!"

"And yet, it's the truth." His mother cups his face with one hand and smiles at him. "You're a stupid child. If I were still alive, I'd eat you for breakfast."

It takes him a moment after that, but he says, "You were never alive. And you shouldn't be a ghost. Vampires can't be."

"Haven't you figured it out yet, stupid boy? It's you. It's always you." She smiles at him again, feline and predatory. "You keep us all here. Right. Up. Here." She taps a long, pale finger against his temple. "And none of us can get out."


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