The Coincidence Of Memory
by Lar

The gray carpet on the floor by the desk was littered with three days worth of accumulated food crumbs, pizza crust and empty cans of Red Bull. Every time he pushed the chair back to reach for another can from the fridge, the wheels rolled over the remains, crushing it into the fiber and adding to the pattern of previous years' abuse. It's possible that at some time, the college will spring for new carpet. But Connor's not holding his breath on it happening anytime before he graduates.

If he graduates.

And that's the fucking problem, really. Hard to graduate when your stupid ass flunks out in freshman year over a lame-ass Chem class that he should have aced. Should have. Would have. Did ace the thing in high school but as Professor Hargadon pointed out to him in red ink on the last test, this is not high school. No more coasting on popularity and charm to get those extra credit points that saved his ass. No more yearbook projects that sub for an English essay you really don't feel like writing. This is the real thing and he's one little fish in the ocean of academia here.

Connor pops the tab and sips, eyes grainy and tired and hurting from the bad light, the glare of it on the page where equations and conversions and elements all blur together. He hates Red Bull. He hates Professor Hargadon. He hates chemistry, and he really fucking hates his goddamn roommate, who never cracks a book and who is currently out getting stoned off his ass.

"Come on, you're too damn uptight, little smoke's good for you." Tim's voice from the doorway, and Connor doesn't turn around to look.

One hand lifted, holding his pencil and waving it as if that should explain everything. "Can't. Midterm's tomorrow, I gotta review like, six chapters tonight."

A sigh then and Connor can picture the eye roll and the shrug of his shoulders. "Your loss."

Connor hates him in that one brief second, because Tim's right, it is his fucking loss.

He drains the can, crushes it in his hand and throws it towards the overfull trashcan. It hits the top, knocks the precariously balanced pile of pizza boxes, Doritos bags and the rotting remains of whatever the hell was in the Chinese takeout box, and the mess slithers to the floor in a stinking pile that makes him gag. Between the smell of the trash and the taste of the drink that coats his tongue, it's a wonder he doesn't just lean over and puke on the book.

Connor slams the book shut, pulling his t-shirt up over his nose and breathing in the warm, rank smell of his own body. Sweaty and overdue for a shower, it's still miles better than the reek of the trash, and he grabs one of the huge green trash bags that Tim, his roommate, swiped from the maintenance cart. A whole damn box of them and no one can be bothered to stick one in the can when they empty it, and it's just one more thing that reminds him that college is not the non-stop party train he thought it would be. Yeah, he's on his own, big fucking deal. On his own, working a shitty minimum wage job for work-study funds that barely cover his books and his laughable amount of pocket money. He doesn't want to think how he'd be if he'd ended up with a roommate as hard up for cash as he is instead of Tim.

Tim's like some college ad come to life. Not quite the no-neck jock, not really the standard issue pocket protector-wearing geek, he's got some kind of charmed thing happening as far as Connor can tell. He's always got some pretty girl hanging around, always has cash in his pocket, always fills the fridge, springs for pizza, picks up the check when he manages to drag Connor out for Chinese at one in the morning. He never picks up a book, not beyond a brief glance to see if he's left something more interesting stuck between the pages, like a Polaroid of the blonde girl in Thayer 213 flashing her tits with a huge grin. He's perfect, Connor thinks in disgust as he breathes in stale sweat and shoves the trash into the bag with the pizza box so he doesn't have to touch anything that's slimed with whatever was decomposing in that waxy white container.

He gets it all scraped up, tying the bag off as fast as he can and then scrubbing his hands on the legs of his jeans. They still feel sticky, and he still smells his own sweat even when he pulls the shirt back down and takes a tentative sniff of the room. His skin's starting to tingle from the caffeine hitting his system and a dull throbbing headache takes up a steady beat behind his left eye. As he looks down at the brand new stain on the carpet, his eyelid starts to twitch.


It's not as hard getting used to life lived sundown to sunrise again as he thought it would be. Lindsey's always been driven by stubbornness, and it's got him through more than what could be called a fair share of problematic situations. He relies on it more often than he admits to, calling it tenacity, which sounds like a virtue. He pushes himself to stay awake for longer and longer stretches of time: eighteen hours on the road with nothing but caffeine pills washed down with black coffee strong enough to eat the lining of his stomach. Once he arrives in L.A. he spends twenty hours walking around the perimeter of the apartment he rents, flipping through the TV channels over and over until it's some compulsive twitch of his thumb on the button, and he has to put the damn remote under the bed so he won't grab it up and start doing it all over again. When he finds himself literally asleep on his feet, swaying under the heavy weight of exhaustion as it crushes him, he gives in and collapses face down on the bare mattress.

Lindsey sleeps for twelve hours, straight through to sundown. The only sound in the apartment is the squeak of the springs when he jerks an arm or a leg, reacting to whatever's chasing him through his dreams. He wakes with a stiff back, a crick in his neck, and a bladder so full he nearly pisses on his hands getting his zipper down.

He opens the tiny window in the bathroom while he washes his face and scrubs it dry with the rough towel that smells like bleach. He can't see more than a crack of the darkness outside, but he can hear the traffic on the street, the never-ending rush of cars passing, and he rolls his neck to ease out the kink while he listens.

The shrill sound of the message alert on his cell makes him jump, and he forces himself to walk slowly to the other room, pick up the phone, scroll to the new message without rushing.

It's just a time and an address, and he deletes it as soon as he reads it. Turns around and heads back to the bathroom to take a cold shower and wake himself up, wash off the traces of fatigue that want to cling to his consciousness and make him slow, make him think about things that he can't afford to entertain right now.


Somehow he's not surprised to see that she can still manage to summon a limo even with everyone else they ever worked with dead or worse. The door opens and, ever dramatic, Lilah's posed in the shadowed interior, one long leg crossed over the other, sleek and covered in silk stockings. Lindsey slides in and sits beside her, unwilling to put the window to the driver at his back, even if it is closed, bulletproof and no doubt warded to prevent anyone hearing a word that's spoken in the leather-encased seats.

Her voice hasn't changed; it still sounds like she's been drinking whiskey. Or, as it so happens, had her throat slit. The scar's vivid, and he knows that must piss her off. She purses her lips briefly and pushes her hair back with a smooth motion of her hand, and Lindsey can see where the mark circles her neck like a choker.

"Did you ever wake up one morning and say to yourself, 'I thought I left those pants on the chair, not the floor'?" She smiles at him and picks up the heavy crystal glass from the bar, ice cubes tinkling against the sides and each other when she shakes it back and forth. She doesn't drink, though.

Lindsey doesn't have time for this old routine. "Cut the shit. What do you have?"

Lilah frowns and leans back against the seat. "You're ruining my set up. I had a whole metaphor."

"And I have a gun. What do you know?"

She sighs at him, rolling her eyes. "Hello, dead! Guns not so scary." She rattles the ice again and gives him what he wants to know. "The Senior Partners wrote over reality as a bribe to get Angel on the home team."

He barely blinks at that, wondering briefly what it would belike to be so fucking important that they'd consider running that mojo without the payment of a dozen pure souls and a hundred virgin sacrifices. "What changed this time?"

Her smile's the triumphant one he always associates with her, cool and full of perfect teeth. "What're you going to give me to tell you?"

He shrugs, letting his jacket gape open to show the gun. "Your life." He smiles back at her, all blue eyes and calculated charm. The smooth, with dimples, put on in the blink of an eye for clients or when he was bored and getting laid seemed a fairly entertaining prospect to while away the time.

She pulls a face and puts one perfectly manicured fingernail against his shirt, pressing the edge in enough for him to feel the pressure of it leaving a tiny crescent-shaped mark on his skin. "BUZZZZZZZZ! Nope. Already dead."

"The severed head kind of gave that away." He looks down at her finger and pushes it away, then nods to the glass she's still holding. "I can get you a real body. It won't look the same, but it'll work."

Lilah puts the glass down with a thump, sloshing clear liquid over her hand. She flicks the drops at him and says with all the disdain she has at her command, "Trust? Me and you? That so isn't happening."

Lindsey smirks at her, leaning back and sliding his arms over the back of the seats. His fingertips just touch the back of her hair. "You contacted me for what, old time's sake? For kicks? You're playing some angle."

"And?" One perfectly groomed eyebrow lifts as he looks over at him. Her arms cross and one hand strays to her neck again. New bad habit she's acquired, always wanting to touch it.

His smile broadens and he slides down further in the seat, thighs spread on leather, boots slipping on the carpet. "And I can make it more fun."

She considers, just a beat too long, and he knows she's hooked. Doesn't matter how cool and bored her voice sounds when she answers him, he knows he has her. "I'll have to talk to the men downstairs. They're not happy with you."

He nods and sits up again, lets his fingers slide over her hair, her shoulder, before he reaches for the door handle. The light comes on, and Lilah blinks, startled, as he slides over and climbs out. Leans back in and gives her that cool blue-eyed gaze as he says casually, "Fuck off to the netherworld and let me know."

"I can still kill you, runt."

He's laughing as he shuts the door of the limo with a crack.


Tim slams the door when he comes home at 3:00. Connor's eye twitch has upgraded from annoying to making him feel homicidal. His skin crawls from the caffeine, and when he hears the door slam, he nearly falls off the chair. He flails briefly, drops the book, and manages to catch his balance by grabbing hold of the edge of the desk.

Tim stares at him solemnly for a second, then bursts into laughter, the hysterical braying of the seriously stoned. "You almost fell on your ass!" he exclaims, pointing and sliding down to the floor in a heap of giggles and hiccups.

Connor glares at him and forces himself not to slap a hand over his left eye. Forces himself not to pick up the pencil and slam it through Tim's eye either, and that's so very tempting that it scares him into taking a deep breath. "Go to bed, you're all fucked up," he says in a tight voice that makes Tim snort again. The sudden impulse towards violence always feels like it's waiting under his skin. His first reaction to shock or anger lately is the curling of his fingers into fists.

"You are so uptight, man, you sweat everything." Tim gets to his feet and pulls open the drawer next to his bed, snagging a slightly squished packet of Brownie Bites and tearing it open with his teeth. He spits the little bit of plastic wrapper to the floor and pinches the bag open, then upends it into his mouth. All five of the little nuggets of cake tumble out, and his cheeks swell grotesquely. Bits of half-chewed brownie fall to the floor as he tries to work out the finer mechanics of the eating process and he waves his hand at Connor to come closer.

"I don't have time for this," Connor says dismissively, turning back to the book and rubbing his eye until the twitch subsides for a few seconds.

Tim shuffles over, stares at the book and snorts. There's brownie crumbs all over his shirt and a smear of chocolate in the corner of his mouth. Connor looks away from him again before he loses his mind and stands up to beat the shit out of his roommate who's kept him in beer, pizza and Red Bull for months now. Tim's finger traces over Cesium, Barium and down to Radium before Connor pushes it away.

"Tim, this might come as some kind of huge shock to you but I need the damn scholarship. To keep it, I need to pass the classes. To pass the classes, everyone who's not you has to actually study. Are you getting the thread here? Go to bed, leave me alone, I have..." Connor looks at the clock by his bed on the other side of the room. " Five hours to learn all this shit and you are not helping."

Tim raises his hand, covers his eyes dramatically and recites. "Hydrogen, Helium, Lithium, Beryllium..."

"God, shut up, you asshole, so you know it all, stop fucking with me." Connor gets out of the chair and walks to his bed, sitting down and turning on the light.

Tim still has his hand over his eyes and he shakes his head slowly. "You don't get it, do you? Wait. Two hundred sixty two, two hundred fifty nine, two hundred fifty eight, two hundred fifty seven." Tim's voice rambles on, spilling out numbers and Connor ignores him until he realizes that he's reciting the goddamn atomic mass of all the elements. Backwards.

"Shut up, you fuckhead!" He throws the book and narrowly misses Tim's eye. It slams against the fridge, and Tim jumps, startled at the noise and confused when Connor jumps off the bed and stalks over to him, skinny body all tense and just about shaking.

"Hey, no, hold on," he begins, reaching out to tug at Connor's shirt. "I'm showin' you somethin' here."

"That you have a photographic memory? Thanks, that's really helpful, I'm gonna ace that test now because you know all your shit." He bends down and snatches up the book.

"You really are stupid," Tim says mildly. "I don't have a photoanything."

Connor rubs his hand over his face as his eye begins to twitch again and his head throbs with the beat of his heart, erratic and racing. "Fine. You're just brilliant or whatever. Leave me alone, alright? You can brag tomorrow and tell me what a fuckup I am after I fail out of this class. It'll give us something to talk about while I pack."

Tim pushes Connor towards his bed and shoves on him until he sits. He holds up one finger, and then walks to the table where he retrieved the bag of brownies, reaches in and peels something from the underside of the tabletop. He holds up a medallion, some weird metallic configuration that looks almost familiar somehow.

"I don't need to be brilliant, I just need this," he tells Connor. "You think I got into this place by studying?"

Connor stares at the medallion and then at Tim, highly suspicious that this is all some grand practical joke at his expense. "OK I'll play. What the hell is that and how does it have jackshit to do with you getting into college?"

Tim sits down and slings a companionable arm around Connor's shoulder. "Listen, I know this sounds like I'm fucking with you but I swear, this is the thing. I got this cousin, and he's one of those scary smart freaks. I mean, really... dude, he's like brilliant with what do you call it, robots? Yeah, anyway, he's all bragging about how he's going to fucking MIT if he wants to because he's got the system all worked out. And no matter what we told him about how some kid from Sunnydale is never going to end up beating out all the alumni kids whose families like, buy buildings and shit, he swore he was in. So I figured what the hell, right?" He waits for Connor to say something.

"Right," he says, just wanting this over with so he can study for five hours and go fail and never have to see Tim or this campus again. But Tim smiles and nods like he's got the most attentive audience in the world.

"So I get him stoned, and after about three hits, he's giggling his ass off and it's so easy. Man, it's so easy to get him to run his mouth off about this perfect plan he has." Tim rubs his thumb over the medallion and shakes his head. "Turns out the little fucker's not so smart, he's just got this thing."

"Thing?" Connor asks wearily. "What thing?"

"This." Tim holds it up in front of Connor's face and lets it spin on the chain. "This and a spell, man. It's magic. I remember shit I only ever just looked at one time. I remember everything, I swear to you. Everyfuckingthing. I remember my locker combination from sixth grade, you know? All of it." He taps his forehead with the metal and grins at Connor. "I'll show you."

Connor shakes his head. "Yeah, ok, big joke on me, right? I buy into this and you laugh at me for being a dumbass and sorry but no, I don't have time to be the asshole you wanna make fun of because you're stoned."

Tim shoves the medallion into Connors hands and closes his fist over the smooth edges of it. "Don't be a dick, man. I'm tryin' to help you. You're a good guy, you know? So keep your fuckin' scholarship, pass the test, tell Hargadon to blow you when you ace the fuckin' midterm."

That alone is a sweet enough thought to give him pause. The freedom to walk out with a passing grade and even if he can't tell Hargadon to suck his dick, he thinks getting an A might work just as well. "I'll kick your ass if you're messing with me," he says. He hates the way his voice shakes enough to give him away.

Tim just grins at him. "You couldn't on your best day."

Connor closes his eyes. Tim starts chanting words that sound too ridiculous to be real. Like he's reading the chemistry book backwards and trying to make it sound all slick. But the metal in his hand begins to feel warmer. And the words on Tim's lips slide into his head, and he can see them there, letters in bright white that flash and fade away, replaced by more and more as they jumble together. Flashes that slide into a trail as they burn across his eyelids. There's a searing rush of heat on his palm, and he tries to drop it, tries to let go but his fingers won't open. Won't open and Tim won't shut up and it's all louder, all faster, everything a blur and the voice changes, gets deeper, shouting now. Calling his name, screaming it, and the lights all rush away, everything running back, time pulled like taffy in his head and it's not right. Not right, not fair and he's going to kill him, he's going to rip him apart and gut him like an animal, he's going to slit his throat and bathe in his blood and all of it is for Connor.

The buzz in his head makes him scream, and it's an unending loop, over and over until he thinks his skull will shatter and all he can hear is HoltzFatherJustineCordeliaJasmineJasmineJasmine


The room's very quiet when Connor opens his eyes. He can still hear the echo of that name in his head, the one he screamed out as the memories rushed back in and filled him up. He looks down at the body laying on the floor, the head turned around so that Tim's looking back at him even when his chest is flat on the dirty gray carpet. Lifeless eyes opened wide and Connor feels nothing for this useless human as he looks down.

He remembers everything.


Lilah must have been on the phone to the Senior Partners before Lindsey's boots were at the end of the street. His cell rings before he's halfway to the hotel, and he doesn't need to see the number of the incoming call to know it's her.

"I missed you too," he says with a grin when he presses the button.

"Your contract isn't annulled. It's a message, I'm passing it along." She waits for his reaction, but he's not surprised. He signed the contract fresh out of law school, he read every damn word before he signed it, and he wasn't stupid enough to think that they'd chosen their words casually.

Lindsey's free hand touches his chest, and he rolls his shoulders, feeling the sting of the needles all over again. "I have my insurance."

Lilah laughs, and it sounds like she hasn't done it in a long time. Could be the scars fucking up her voice, he supposes. Not likely having a spectral body, though. The scorn in her voice when she recovers is pretty clear. "You don't really think those tattoos are going to stop them? You always were one step off the short bus."

"Are you in, or are you comin' to make me kill myself?" He stops outside the hotel and looks up the street waiting for an answer. As the limo pulls around the corner a few blocks up, he hears her again.

"I better not be ugly." Almost whispered, and he remembers her sounding this way the first time they'd ended up in bed. When he really didn't believe in good or evil, and he believed all women with hard exteriors were just waiting on the right man to turn them soft.

He watches the limo get closer. "Why are they letting you do it?"

It pulls up to the curb, the engine idling, and he's still listening on the phone even when the door swings open. He can hear her voice inside the car and in his ear at the same time. "It's part of the plan. You don't still believe in free-will, do you, Lin?"

He gets inside without answering her, gives the driver an address, and reaches past her to pour himself a drink.


Connor prostrates himself on Cordelia's bed in the Hyperion, face in the blankets, fingers curled into the sheets. He can smell her there, hear her voice in his ear, breathy and intimate. He went to the church first. Nothing. Not even the building still stands. Standing in the bombed out lobby of the hotel, Connor imagined this as his own circle of hell. The one reserved for patricides and matricides, because by the time he goes to his grave, he knows he'll have taken both their lives.

The magical wards in the lobby smell of sage and comfrey, and Connor knows his movements are marked. By whom, he's not positive. His father and his lackeys never were handy with witchcraft. Someone else, some new ally. Connor doesn't like unknown quantities. Like who his so-called 'family' is. A lifetime's worth of memories of people he still loves inexplicably, and he has no idea why. Why them? Why did Angel cast him away after swearing through his traitorous lips to love nothing in this world or any other more than Connor?

He wants to cry for Cordelia, for himself. For the twice lost feeling of being secure and loved. He always has his hate, though. Hate has driven him and kept him alive long enough. Hate is safe.


Lilah looks down at her new body and sighs. "That's all? You shake some leaves around and toss some sand on me? Do you ever get the feeling that magic is a cosmic joke?"

Lindsey drops the branches into a sack, ready for burning in the nearest incinerator. "Don't start on cosmic jokes unless you want..."

"I'm shorter than you! You did that on purpose!" Lilah's new body feels both too small and too heavy in equal measure. She stalks past him to the mirror on the wall and stares into it at the skin she wears. "I look like I'm twelve."

He shrugs, glancing around the newly warded rooms. The smell of sage and paint mixes together in the cool, over processed air. "I didn't pick the body, Lilah. If I did, you'd be black-haired." He bends down and picks up his jeans, pulling them on as she stands transfixed before the mirror.

"I remember you liking blondes." The remark is typical and offhanded. She's still running her hands over her hair, looking slightly disgusted and entirely relieved in equal measure.

He buttons his pants slowly, familiar prickle of anger behind his eyes that he's never gotten around to managing, preferring instead to push off all things Darla to the realm of the untouchable. "One blonde, and you better pick your words carefully."

She turns around, naked and smiling faintly. "Ooh, scary! Let me give you a tip: when you've already been murdered, decapitated, and brought back as a specter, threats sort of lose their effect." She puts her hands on her hips and looks at the closet doors that are half open. "Tell me I'm going to find something in that closet that doesn't come from Wal-Mart."

Lindsey sits on the edge of the bed, watching her as she pulls out one item after another, finally settling on a scrap of a red dress and pulling in on over her head. He watches, feeling that oddly detached arousal he gets now and then, when his body's gone too long without a release. "I need a fucking drink. Did you remember the plan?"

Lilah pulls the dress down over her head, smoothing it over smaller breasts and hips. Still, there's solid skin there, that's got form and function, and it's something. Not much, but a start. She smirks at him and pulls her hair out of the neckline of the dress. "Plan? Sending something in the mail isn't really a plan."

"For fucks sake! Were you ever spanked as a child?" He runs his hands through his hair as she turns and grins at him. She does look about twelve, he realizes when posing, cocking her hip and tossing her hair. A twelve year old, jaded hooker with murder on her mind.

"Is that an offer?" she chirps with an oddly perky voice he'll never associate with Lilah.


The streets are the same, even with the residual telltale signs of the violence the masses did in the name of perfect love, in the name of Jasmine. Connor's chest constricts at the thought of the bliss that's lost forever. He pushes that away, thinks instead of Angel, that lying beast that walks like a man. His scent is everywhere, and Connor can't track him clearly. Can't find him in the places he remembers from before, although he checks them all, methodical and precise. In the mall, he stands for an hour in the sporting goods store where Angel killed him, where the true memories tangle with others that he can now tell are false, shredded at the edges and unraveling. There is no loving family. All that happiness and safety and warmth are false, magic planted in his head to give Angel the freedom to walk away and forget him.

Holtz was right when he told Connor that Angel spoke only lies. Pretty lies wrapped with words like love and caring and family, and Connor was blinded by that. But he remembers everything now.

He goes back to the wreckage of the church and begins to look for Cordelia instead. Harder because her scent is older but he's a hunter, a tracker. He finds the creatures that were drawn to her when he cannot find Cordelia herself. Some of them talk to him, some of them threaten him, some of them beg. All of them die when he tires of their words, more lies whispered and screamed into his ears.

All paths lead back to the building, the one that smells of evil and demons for blocks around it. Connor is not surprised at this, not in the least. He haunts the alleys that surround it, killing everything that smells of that place. Some of them smell like they've been to the Hyperion, that lingering smoky taste of magic in their clothes and skin. Those are the ones he wants to talk with before he kills them. Those are the ones who finally give him the answers he's looking for.


Lilah refuses to answer to her new name outside of Wolfram and Hart. She stalks in the front door of the apartment every night, slams it behind her, and most times Lindsey just pours her a drink and sits it on the coffee table. Eventually she'll sit and drink it with him and tell him what's happened. What's worked and what hasn't. Mostly she belittles him in an endless harangue that ends with them both shouting and falling into bed, drunk and angry. He likes the lights off so he can feel that small body moving under his and pretend it's Darla. She tells him not to shave and rubs her hands over his face and more than once it's Wes' name she groans when she comes.

When Lilah returns from the Halloween party reeking of stale alcohol and Angel, Lindsey fucks her against the front door, slamming into her harder every time she tells him how it felt. And she gives him every. Single. Detail. In the morning she drops a picture on his chest while he's drowsing in the bed, a grainy black and white of a young boy, all lean ropey muscle and shaggy hair. Taken with some cheap surveillance camera, the kind they use in clubs and 24-hour convenience stores. She sits on the edge of the bed and crosses legs that are neither as long nor as elegant as the ones that she used to have. She taps her nails on the edge of the picture as he rubs sleep from his face and alternates staring at the photo and at her.

"What's this?" he asks, too tired for games this early in the morning.

She smiles brightly. "You might have missed out on the chance to nail your dream girl. But who knows, if you're lucky? You can have her son instead. Just think, it'll be like screwing Darla and Angel at the same time." She slinks out the door, rolling her hips and wearing a scarf around her neck to hide the bite marks Lindsey's left all over her.

When Lindsey stares at the picture long enough, he thinks he can see Darla in the boy, in his mouth and eyes. His entire life's been about thinking on his feet and changing the plan to fit the need, and if this is the next part of his life, he's damned ready.


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