Title: Is One Man’s Memory Enough?
Disclaimer: Not mine, not a one
Synopsis: A journal is found and lives remembered.
A/N: This is sort of a sequel to my Connor ‘Heroes’ trilogy, but not really. It just seems to fit the best there.
I found a book today. Not an ordinary printed book, but one bound in leather and written in an awkward hand with black ink on yellowed paper. I wasn’t looking for the book, in fact it’s safe to say that no one knows it existed, but now I have it I have a decision to make on what to do with it and I want to make the right one.
On the face of it the book is not important. Certainly not as important as the vial of Beliasrius root I was meant to be searching for to help us vanquish the demon prince of the Valetran tribe that was cutting a bloody trail down by the beach front and would soon be leading his warriors into the heart of LA to start his domination of mankind as was foretold in his species’ mythology for eons.
I feel kinda bad for the guy. This is the third dominator of mankind we’ve put the smackdown on this year and it’s only February. You’d think the armies of the dark would learn that LA is *so* not the place to kick off an age of demonic power and domination if you want to live to see your next sunrise after you open up your dread portal. Jeez, give yourselves a fighting chance, guys, and try Iowa or something.
Anyway, back to the book. You see this book came as a surprise. It shouldn’t exist, actually the man who wrote it shouldn’t have existed so that fits kinda nicely, but now I know it does exist I don’t know how I feel about everything I thought I knew being a lie. A good lie, don’t get me wrong; hell, a *great* lie considering what came out of it but it’s still a lie. The man that told the lie has been dead for over a hundred years now and still the lie he created lives on in the people that I fight alongside and the people that fight their own versions of our war the world over. And we do it all in his name, a name that it turns out wasn’t his to begin with. It belonged to one of the creatures that we go out nightly to fight and that it turns out was the father of our long-dead leader.
That name strikes terror into the hearts of demons in untold dimensions even though there is no one now that bears it. There are over three hundred people that live in the Hyperion that fight in Angel’s name and not one of them know that it actually
belonged to one of the cruellest, most savage vampires ever to walk the earth. Well, except me. I know, and you have no idea how much I wish I didn’t.
I grew up on the streets of LA hearing that name as an example of courage and good my whole life. It kept me going through all the crap with my mom and her men, through the crap of getting hassled by the police and then through the first days of being recruited into the Hyperion and finally getting the chance to hit back at some of the things that had hunted me and the rest of the forgotten people of the streets for longer than I had been alive. The name was something to hang onto; something real that you tried to shape your own twisted soul into being because one man had managed to do something great with his life and if he could do it maybe you could too. Except, it turns out that Angel wasn’t a leading light of morality and goodness at all. He was just a guy. A who kinda liked fighting, got pissy when he didn’t get his own way and was pretty baffled and scared when people kept turning to him to come up with ideas on how to save them all. Oh yeah, and his parents were vampires and his name was Connor.
Somehow I can’t see myself fighting for a guy named Connor, no matter how good he was with his sword. I knew a Connor, back before I quit going to school in the sixth grade and hit the streets full-time, and he was kind of a dick. Never really liked the name since and now it turns out that I’ve been trying my whole life to be like another Connor and he didn’t even want people following him the way they did anyway. What a let down.
It took me four hours to read the recovered journal cover to cover and in that time our whole history changed. Angel wasn’t a human hero, he was a vampire with a soul that died even before our Angel took control of the streets of LA and led the discarded and unwanted people of the town to war on the demons. The real Angel even ran Wolfram and Hart for a short time and altered reality so our fake Angel could have a normal life in suburbia and never have to worry about demons or the other things that go bump in the night. Only fake-Angel didn’t follow the plan. According to what I’ve just read, fake-Angel didn’t even wait until his father’s ashes had settled on the ground before he was taking on his father’s name and heading off to England with a witch that appeared out of nowhere while he was checking out his inheritance. Gods, how could he be just a man? How *dare* he be just a man? And – from what I’ve just read – he wasn’t even a particularly great man. He was a guy who liked baloney, hated sprouts and thought that sometimes he was a little insane because people who died years before seemed more real to him than the people who shared his home.
There’s a list of names that run through the journal, people that I’ve never heard of. Forget the vampire with a soul for a moment; I’m talking about people that were doing the whole saving the world thing long before even my mother’s mother showed up on this earth. Once upon a time there was a girl who was a Slayer --*the* Slayer – and because she moved to a small town in California and met two geeks there who thought the demon fighting thing was pretty cool, I get to live in a converted hotel in LA and fight back the darkness that daily tries to swamp humanity. How weird is that? My life is made possible because three kids who lived over a century ago *didn’t* stake a vampire with a soul and he went on to help create man that wasn’t the hero we all thought he was.
Obviously we all know logically that there was a time when there was only one slayer in all the world, but it seems pretty ridiculous and far fetched now when there are three of them living under this very roof and another five within a hundred miles of LA. The tale of the Slayer that changed the world has been handed down for generations and our children learn it at their parents’ knees, but we didn’t know *her*. Her name hasn’t been passed on along with her legend and so she’s become kind of like King Arthur or something. Her name was Buffy. Which is almost as disappointing as finding out the man you’ve tried to emulate all your life is called Connor and he got bad wind when he ate barbecue chicken. There are some things you just prefer not to know, okay?
And Buffy wasn’t on her own. Even though Connor didn’t ever meet the Slayer, he found her sister and she told Connor the history of the Buffy and her friends. The names Willow and Xander and Giles and Anya and…Gods, there’s so many of them, *how* could we not know this about ourselves? How could we forget a group of people fighting for the world long before the world ever realised what was happening and started to fight for itself? These people were the heroes to *our* hero and we’ve let them die all over again because no one cared enough to make sure they were remembered. Except one man. Connor. Angel. Whatever. *He* cared, enough to write in a chicken scratch scrawl words that would remember when there was no one left to do so.
He doesn’t just write of how it began, but of how it ended and how he was left alone. Names flowing across the page that are imprinted for all time with the longing he felt for them and the understanding and solidarity he could have had if things had been different for him. Wesley, Cordelia, Gunn, Lorne, Fred; people he had and lost and who gave him everything they had to give apart from the rest of their lives. And it wasn’t enough for him. Selfishly – humanly – he wanted more, he wanted it *all*. He didn’t want them going to their perfect, heroic deaths and leaving him behind, he’d spent his entire life waiting and hoping for his own perfect death because he couldn’t give them anything less and still honour them and he couldn’t make himself stay and live the life they died to give him. Shit, I’m trying to be a guy with a demon death wish, ain’t that a kick in the ass?
I find myself studying the journal in my hands and turning it over and over, looking for something that says it is more than it appears. I mean, you’d think there’d be something there to show I’m holding the lives of the greatest heroes the world has ever seen between my sweating palms, right? Between the old pages of this book are the tales of a vampire named Spike and his quest to be worthy of a woman he died for, a human man that ran the streets of LA and in the end died on them, a young girl that should never have existed and who lived and loved with a vampire’s son for fifteen years before she died without him by her side. But there isn’t anything to show how extraordinary this is. This is just a book, just like Connor was just a guy and I’m just a guy and surrounding me on every floor in this old hotel are hundreds of just-a-guys just living the best they can until they get their own deaths and go on to their own rewards.
So. What am I going to do with it? Put it back behind the pipes under the old bathroom sink and wrap it securely in the plastic bag I found it in to keep it safe for another just-a-guy to have his world blown apart another hundred years from now? Another kid who spends his days looking for herbs and roots to vanquish demons and his nights swinging swords and cleaving heads from supernatural shoulders? No, that hardly seems fair, not to the nameless kid and not to me. Or to the ones whose lives are recorded in the book. But the alternative is to tell their tales and sing their songs and somehow I don’t think that’s right either. I don’t think they fought for their names to be known and venerated years after they are dust, never being allowed their rest because what we have isn’t enough to keep us fighting on our own. They fought for each other, because it was the right thing to do and because someday they knew they’d be given peace they’d earned with every trickle of sweat and every drop of blood of their too short lives. So, what to do?
I could burn it that seems the best thing to do. Just destroy the evidence that a boy called Connor ever lived and just remember the man called Angel who led the forgotten into battle and made life just a little bit better with his time on this earth. I could do that. Or I could send it to the man called Macleod who comes to us once or twice a year and smiles with warm eyes at the chessboard under the picture of our dead leader. Or maybe to the Watcher’s council or the wizards in England or the woman in New Orleans that lives with her own monsters and helps slay ours.
All of them would know the value of what they held and perhaps they would keep it safe for a while but then something would happen and it would come to light once more and then the story that I have read would be known and I am sure that the man who wrote of his life and that of others would not want that. This is not a story meant to be known by all, because to share it would make it into something that it never was and distort it until all that would be left would be legends and myth and nothing real could ever be remembered of the people that lived as hard as they could until they died in much the same way. So. What to do, what to do?
It’s real, it’s all real. Rather stupidly that’s the only thought in my head as I stand in a long abandoned graveyard an hour from the Hyperion at four thirty in the morning and stare at the names carved onto a plain stone marker by the light of my torch. Stupidly thought because I *know* what lurks in these graveyards but I still snuck out under cover of darkness without telling anyone where I was going so I could see if the marker still stood where Connor said. It does. It’s here. Three foot high, an arch of discoloured stone and a list of names slightly worn by weather and time on the surface.
Angel, Cordelia Chase, Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, Charles Gunn, Winifred Burkle, Spike, Ilyria, Lorne, Dawn Summers, Faith….Gods, they’re all here. He really did it. Everything he wrote in the book is real. I forget all about the stake I hold in my hand and bend closer, eyes straining to see the names that stream down in a waterfall of honour to the damp grass at the foot of the stone. Buffy Summers, Willow Rosenberg, Xander Harris, Rupert Giles, Anya Jenkins…they *lived*, they really and truly lived and he remembered them until the day he died. Adding to the marker with each tale that his Dawn told him until – finally – it was full of their memories and there was something other than his own mind to hold them safe through the passage of time. But who will hold his? Who will remember the boy called Connor and the life he lived? I realise I’m smiling and I slowly bend to place the stake in my hand on the floor before reaching for the other things in my pocket that I brought with me on my lone mission.
Fifteen minutes – and a lot of cursing and two bloody knuckles later – there is a new name added to the marker in the only space left vacant. Right at the top –just under the curve of the arch and sheltering the names below like always – the name Connor, in shaky, unskilled letters is now chiselled into the stone and I am laughing softly as I know what I have to do with the last item left in my pocket. I pull out the journal, taking a moment to make sure the plastic cover is water-tight and secure, and then I begin to carefully slice away a square of neglected turf and then dig in the damp earth underneath. Pretty soon I have a decent hole and the time has come. I lift the journal to look at it one more time before gently laying it into the hole and scooping earth over it as I bury the last evidence of a boy called Connor and his determinedly ordinary existence. Not forever. Even though his story – *their* story – shouldn’t be known by everyone, their lives and names *should* be remembered and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to live my own ordinary life and I’m going to remember the people, not the legends, and I’m going to find someone else out there that can keep them alive and then when *their* time on this earth is ended they can find a someone to remember and so it will go on.
It could never be enough for the whole world to know the legends, but it will be enough for one man to remember them as they were and to know that even though they were heroes at the end they were people first and foremost and that’s all they ever really fought for.
So, is one man’s memory enough? I look one last time at Connor’s name and grin to myself. Well, it’s worked so far, hasn’t it?