On The Education of A Young Man
Angel had great dreams for his son's education; he was not unlike Irish immigrants of earlier centuries, in that way at least. He had mapped it out in his mind, from the chubby red pencils Connor would need for kindergarten to the graduation ceremony at Notre Dame, which he hoped would be held indoors. None of that will ever materialize now. Connor has never set foot inside a school, nor will he ever do so. Besides the fact that he is without the birth certificate, immunization records or home-schooling documents he would need to gain admission anywhere, he would consider it an absurd waste of his time.
This does not mean that Connor is uneducated.
"Damn thing disappeared," Justine says, looking down from the rooftop for the demon.
"It'll come out," Connor says. Not all the demons in this dimension are like those in his own, but some are; this is a type he's seen before many times. "They hate small spaces. Or feeling closed in." Are all demons like that? Connor hopes so. "It'll panic soon. Then it will run."
"So we just -- what? Sit here and wait?"
Justine asks many obvious questions. Connor has begun to ignore her when she does this. He sits down on the roof -- rain-damp shingles wet through his thrift-store jeans. He doesn't look at Justine, even when she sits by him. He is watching the alley.
"I guess this is our big chance to make conversation," Justine says.
She's being sarcastic, but Connor isn't very good at catching sarcasm yet. Holtz was too good at disguising it, and he has had no other person from whom he might learn it. So he tries to think of something Justine would like to talk about. She liked Holtz -- maybe something Holtz liked to talk about with Connor -- "What do you think happened when Lord Darnley was killed?"
"Who?" Justine must not have heard correctly.
"Lord Darnley. Do you know him as King Henry? My father didn't think the Queen of Scots knew much about it; he said it was all Bothwell's doing. But I've thought about it, and I think she might have guessed."
This is Justine's cue to begin talking about the evidence left at Kirk o' the Field. Instead, she stares at him blankly. "Who are these people?"
Apparently this information is not valuable here. Connor has discovered this about too much of his knowledge, recently. He goes back to watching the alley.
It would be Connor's turn to stare blankly if you asked him about the American Civil War, Napoleon, the Russian Revolution or World War I. He has never heard of any of them. He was told a few things about World War II and the moon landing; however, the stories Holtz told him were themselves secondhand, passed on by SahJahn as part of the gift of modernity, and as carelessly and incompletely as the rest of his gifts. So Connor remains fuzzy on the details, and this is unlikely to change; his daily life does not call for the information, and Connor does not trouble himself with information he does not think he can use.
However, if asked about the American Revolution, Connor could say quite a bit about it, albeit with a pro-British slant on the subject. If asked about the Hundred Years' War, or the career of Oliver Cromwell, he could say even more; he knows these subjects as well as any college student and significantly better than most. Daniel Holtz liked history, and in a world all but devoid of any other means of pleasantly passing time, he grew to like telling stories to the boy he called his son. But he was not a fanciful man -- for a man who spent his life surrounded by demons, he had a remarkably stolid mind. The only fantasy he ever gave his adopted child was that of an idyllic life in Utah. (Connor has a very elaborate idea of what Utah is like, which, unfortunately for both Connor and the residents of Utah, is far removed from the truth.)
So instead Holtz told Connor what he knew of history, and he knew quite a bit. Connor not only has firm opinions about who was complicit at Kirk o' the Field, but also about the justifications for burning the heretic Joan of Arc.
His daily life does not call for this information either, anymore; he does not need it to converse with his father any longer. This is the least of the countless things Connor misses about his father -- conversations about the history of this world he barely knows -- but he misses it nonetheless. Apparently few others here have the knowledge to talk about these subjects. Because Connor cannot use the information any more, he is pushing it to the very back of his mind, where it is likely to stay.
2) LITERATURE AND THE FINE ARTS
"This is so goddamn boring," Justine says.
Connor doesn't agree. Hunting is the principal pleasure in life, at least so far as he has yet discovered, and waiting is an inseparable part of hunting. However, arguing with Justine is as useless as discussing history with her. "You don't have to wait, if you don't want to. I can take care of it."
Justine looks over at him, and he can see the battle very plainly in her eyes. She wants to leave, to go do something else -- most likely, hunt something else, something that will be quicker and easier to kill, put up more of a fight. So far as that goes, Connor can sympathize.
On the other hand, Justine feels that she should stay with him. For whatever unfathomable reason -- Connor knows it has to do with Holtz, but still hasn't tied together the connection -- Justine seems to think it's her job to take care of him.
Connor doesn't think he needs much taking care of. "I've killed these dozens of times. It's not --" What's the phrase they use? "It's not a big deal."
Justine hesitates a moment longer, then shrugs. "You got it. How about you meet me at the Maple Leaf Cafe in an hour? Do you know it?" When Connor shakes his head, Justine pulls out a crumpled bit of paper and a pen from her jacket pocket. "I'll give you directions." Then she stops and stares at him. "Can you read?"
Stung, Connor says, "Yes. Of COURSE."
"Excuse me for asking," Justine huffs. "Didn't realize Hell was a good school district." She begins making some odd scratches on the paper. After a moment, Connor realizes he can recognize them, but with difficulty; he has only seen two people's handwriting in his life, Holtz's and his own, and Justine's is dramatically different from either. Nor does it resemble the clean lines of print with which he is more familiar. He would rather die than admit his trouble, though. So he accepts the directions from her and watches her go, and only then sits down to examine and decode her words.
Connor has read few letters in his life, and he has paid little attention to books or newspapers since his arrival in Los Angeles. Almost all of his reading experience is based on one single printed book. When Holtz took him and leapt into Quartoth, in his coat pocket was the one book Holtz considered valuable above all: the King James Bible. This is what he used to teach Connor to read, and it worked well enough. Connor has not read every single word of the Bible, but he has come closer than most people who are not students or seminarians.
One book may not seem like much, but the King James Bible is many books in one. Connor knows something of love poetry from the Song of Solomon, of philosophy from Ecclesiastes, of rhetoric from Ephesians. He is less intimate with the Gospels than most readers, modern or past, might expect; Daniel Holtz had a tendency to stress the Old Testament above the New.
His familiarity with this one book has given Connor a better grasp of grammar, spelling, structure and metaphor than the average public-school graduate from the Los Angeles area, a fact that would depress the school-board officials there but not surprise them.
It has also given him a love of language; he likes the turn of the phrases there, recognizes the music in the writing. Such language stirs his imagination, inspires powerful and original visions.
Connor has the creativity his adoptive father lacked. It is in part an inheritance from his true father, who in his kinder moments can spend hours or days engrossed in a sketch or a drawing, making sure the lines and light are correct. In his unkinder moments, he is also given to elaborate, inventive projects, though of a less conventionally artistic bent. Connor has heard about some of the latter. He recognizes this trait in himself at times, when he must strike through subterfuge and deceit.
However, Connor does not recognize the gentler half of his inheritance from Angel, the part that comes through when he reads about the visions of Elijah, or the book of Revelation. He envisions these things, wonders about the colors and shapes they would contain, the symbols that they hold. Had he grown up with Angel, he would have been given colors and chalk as soon as he could hold them, and with his father's encouragement would have developed his visual imagination into that of an artist.
But had he grown up with Angel, he would have had little familiarity with the Bible. Most Bibles have crosses on the cover. And Connor's mind without his knowledge of the Bible -- without those images, of seven golden lampstands and dens of lions and seas that part for the righteous and then flood anew to drown the unworthy -- would be the mind of a different person altogether.
3) MATHEMATICS AND NATURAL PHILOSOPHY
Go four blocks east, the directions say. Connor has to think a couple moments about the "east" part; he didn't grow up with this sky, these stars, and so he is having to learn to navigate in earthly ways. He knows "four," though, and he doesn't have to count it on his fingers, as he would have had to do just a few years before.
Connor can count, but that is nearly the beginning and end of his arithmetic. When he and his father would go into battle, Connor of course recognized that they were few, and the enemy were many; he could estimate how many they would each have to kill to stay alive. He could keep track of days well enough to know when it was safe for them to make a camp, when it was time to move. He was able to figure roughly how many arrows they might have to fletch in order to consider themselves safe. He knows numbers, addition, subtraction. He has a general concept of fractions -- he would understand what someone meant by a half or a third of something -- but he has not the first idea of how to work with any of them.
He has heard of multiplication and division, but he has never attempted to perform either. He has never heard of decimals, algebra or calculus. Connor knows his shapes, but otherwise is ignorant of geometry. This in particular is a pity; he would have been very good at working with proofs. He enjoys creating definitions, making up his mind about precisely what things are and are not.
Of science he knows a little more, but he knows it in much the same way he knows history: as a set of stories he has been told. Connor has never been given a truly scientific view of the world, and it is in fact anathema to the way he has been brought up, everything he has been told. Connor does not test his beliefs. He does not consider them disprovable.
Holtz knew the history of science only so far as he knew any other history -- up to the late 18th century. Therefore Connor never heard anything about genetics, about atomic theory, about evolution. He also has not heard of the germ theory of disease, despite the fact that it existed in that era. Holtz, who was very serious about dealing with vampires, demons and werewolves, did not believe in germs, and he did not bother his son with such ludicrous stories.
But he did tell the stories he believed to be true, and so Connor has some understanding of how the physical universe works. He knows enough to get by in the world, which is of course all he ever wanted, and by and large all Holtz ever thought he needed.
For instance, Connor knows that the earth revolves around the sun. At least, in this dimension.
4) MANNERS AND DEPORTMENT
The demon moves. Connor is staring at the note, but he hears the motion. In an instant he is on his feet, sword in his hand, staring down at the alleyway.
Fortunately for the demon, one of the side doors swings open at that moment, and two humans stagger out. They are clumsy, ill-coordinated, belligerent as they shout and gesture at each other. Connor has recently learned that this is the state the Bible referred to as "drunkenness." He understands why it was written of with contempt.
The humans are crude with their language -- Connor doesn't know all the words, but the meaning seems clear from context -- and with their gestures, many of which are similar to those in Quartoth. They fight, if such a slow, ineffective set of actions can be dignified with the word "fighting." Connor watches them with little interest; all that matters is whether or not the demon will charge them, and right now, it appears it will not.
One of the humans falls down and remains down. It does not occur to Connor to see if the man is all right. He entered willingly into combat and was beaten, and this is all that matters. Connor remains totally unmoved until the winner of the fight staggers to the wall, unzips his pants and begins to urinate on the pavement.
Connor's eyes open wide. This man is urinating in public. That is not done. Connor is quite sure about this, and for one moment he feels one of his rarest emotions -- shock. Seeing a man beaten to a pulp did not disturb him, but public urination does. It's a violation of one of the very few rules he knows.
It was drummed into Connor that he should relieve his bladder and bowels in private. He also understands that he should not interrupt when someone else is talking. Unfortunately, his social education more or less stopped there.
It might be expected that Holtz, a man from an age far more structured and formal than the 21st century, would have instilled those earlier values into his son. But instead, Connor is kept from barbarity by only a few simple rules and an innate reserve.
This is partly a function of how Holtz and Connor lived in Quartoth. They fought to survive virtually every day, and they carried nothing -- not physically, not emotionally, not mentally -- that could not help them on their way. Connor had to fight and kill on a daily basis, he had to learn to sleep sitting or even standing to remain close to consciousness, he had to be able to run for his life without even looking for the only other person he loved in all the world -- and so his existence was not one that relied heavily upon things such as table manners. Connor mostly eats with his hands.
This is also partly a function of the other side of Holtz's love for his son -- the side that was born of hate and never truly did become independent of it. Holtz loved Connor deeply, and in the end he died for his son's well-being, as he defined it. But he knew that Connor was Angel's son as well, and he did not mind seeing Angel's son squatting on the ground, chewing his meal with his mouth open and wiping his greasy hands on his own clothes. Connor's lack of sophistication suited Holtz's practicality as well as his vindictiveness, and so it was allowed and even encouraged.
However, as Connor grew older, he acquired a little more dignity despite Holtz's indulgence. Like any boy, he wanted to be like his father in some way, and he took note of how his father ate and dressed, walked and spoke. He tried to imitate these manners, with varying success.
Since his emergence into this new world -- into Los Angeles -- he has had to learn significantly more, and he has learned quickly. Sunny's reaction, that first day, told him that nudity was considered unacceptable among strangers; Connor now keeps his clothes on until he's alone, even if they are wet or bloody or otherwise uncomfortable. He uses forks and knives when he's in public, though he does so clumsily and sometimes attracts attention.
As for the finer nuances of manners -- tact, consideration, empathy -- Connor has not yet discovered any uses for them. Ever since that night on the boat, he has not interacted regularly with anyone but Justine, and she does not invite such behavior. She gives him a place to sleep and helps him get things to eat, and at night they go out and find things to kill. She does not complicate matters between them. Justine is like his father, in that way.
5) COURTSHIP AND CONJUGAL FELICITY
As he stares at the urinating man in surprise, Connor almost misses the demon's move -- but not quite. It slithers down the alley, going near a back street. Connor runs along the rooftop's edge, then clambers down the side of the fire escape. Traveling downward costs him valuable time, but he knows these demons. They do not bolt and run. They dart from hiding place to hiding place; Connor only needs to find the next hiding place. It will not be far.
Two more men are standing on the sidewalk of this back street. They do not notice Connor, because they are too caught up in kissing. Connor watches them for just a moment; this kiss seems far friendlier than anything that ever passed between him and his father -- more like the way Sunny kissed him, that time -- and yet they are both men. He wonders if they are family, or perhaps close friends. Then he turns from them to seek the demon.
As it happens, Connor is heterosexual; so far, he is also unaware that homosexuality exists. Holtz never told Connor that anything else was possible. The Bible suggested that men might at times behave in other ways toward each other, but Connor does not look for this in the day-to-day world any more than he expects to see someone turn into a pillar of salt.
There is much Connor does not know, in the Biblical sense of the word: He is still a virgin.
He feels no embarrassment that this is so, as most boys his age would. Holtz told him that a man and woman could only lie together after marriage, and though Connor always suspected that this might not be the entire truth, he does not feel any mental pressure to be sexually experienced.
Physically, however, he is both curious and eager. He has inherited a healthy sexual appetite from both his father and mother, and he is of course a teenage boy.
Connor had never met a true human woman before he came to Los Angeles, though he had met females enough like in face and form that he had discovered their beauty, had his first crush, his first erotic fantasies. But these women were denizens of Quartoth, and they shared his father's pared-down, practical view of the world. They had to in order to survive.
These women in Los Angeles are different. They are safe, and so they are soft, and they appear to have great amounts of time to spend toward no other purpose than making themselves alluring. Connor thinks they do this very well. They wear very revealing clothing, but this actually affects him very little; growing up in a dimension where nudity was not uncommon has made the display of flesh alone fairly neutral for Connor. But the brilliant colors they wear -- scarlet and turquoise and gold -- he finds extremely attractive. The paint on their faces is very obvious and artificial to him; however, he sees it as body art, not unlike tattoos or earrings, with which he was already familiar. The colors and tricks are new to him, and he appreciates them for exactly what they are -- swipes of gray or green across eyelids, smudges of coral or plum across lips. And the things they do to their hair! Braids and curls and colors both beautiful and bizarre. Connor likes just watching them, seeing what they will come up with next.
Connor had never even kissed a girl before Sunny. He enjoyed it very much, both the touching of their lips and the electric charge the touch sent through his body, suggesting other, better things. He would like to daydream about it sometimes, but he can't. Remembering that kiss means remembering how Sunny ended up just a few hours later: slumped over on the tile, dead and cold.
His fantasies about sex are very unclear. Without movies, television and magazines to inform him of the details, he has only been able to learn from his father. Holtz came from an era when sex was little discussed and, by many, not much elaborated upon. Several of the acts we now consider pleasant and commonplace preludes to intercourse were considered perversions then, practiced only by deviants and the French. Connor understands the basic mechanics of the act, but when he asked his father more about it, he gained only this one bit of advice: A gentleman should take his weight upon his elbows.
He hopes there's more to it than that.
The demon lurks behind a large metal box -- a dumpster, Connor reminds himself. That is a dumpster. He edges away from the kissing men (who are still oblivious to him, lost in each other) and toward the demon. Although he moves as quietly as he can, very quietly indeed, the demon hears and bolts away, squealing. Connor runs after it, begins running hard, and as the pavement thuds against his feet, he is grinning. He never feels as good, as alive, as he does in moments like this -- when he is pushing himself to his considerable limits.
Connor is stronger than any other human being who is not imbued with supernatural power. He could be challenged by someone who was part-demon, or pummeled by a Slayer, but no ordinary person could expect to match him. He runs at speeds Olympians would envy, leaps dozens of feet without difficulty. His hearing and night vision are as good as that of his mother and father, after their deaths.
However, Connor does not yet fully understand that his abilities are unusual. He grew up in Quartoth, surrounded by creatures who were stronger and faster, and who saw farther in the dark. He has noticed that people in Los Angeles are taken aback by his strength, so he has begun to realize that he is more powerful than they are. But Connor still believes this to be a function of Holtz's training and his own experience, more so than his physical adeptness. After all, the only other human being Connor knew, growing up, was Holtz, and by the time Connor was old enough to realize what he could do, physically speaking, Holtz was old enough that his relative inability was not surprising. And the humans in Los Angeles do very little to show their strength or their weakness; their principal activities seem to be walking slowly, standing in lines or sitting down. Connor has not yet been to Muscle Beach.
Connor overestimates the effects of his training, but he is right to place faith in his considerable knowledge of swordfighting, martial arts and battle tactics. Travel between West and East was rare in Holtz's day, and so Connor does not know the traditional Asian martial arts, at least not in their usual form. But he has nevertheless acquired many of the moves and techniques of judo, karate and taekwando, through invention, trial and error.
He has speed, discipline and courage. However, he lacks restraint; Connor has lived almost his whole life in a world where fighting with anything less than full strength is a very good way to get killed. He does not understand the concept of pulling punches. Worse still: He thinks that most fights end in death. This tendency more than any other is likely to get him in serious trouble, and sooner rather than later, but thus far his fury has mostly been reserved for the demons of the world, and so no one has troubled to check it.
No need to check it now. The demon is slowing, and Connor is gaining, and the advantage is his.
7) MORAL INSTRUCTION
As he runs the demon down, it swerves wildly into another alley, making a curious barking sound. Connor recognizes the bark, but it confuses him. It is not a sound the demons make when they are frightened. It is a sound they make when they attack.
Connor takes the same corner the demon took, sees it standing, its back to him, its spines on edge as it barks again -- preparing to charge something, someone, standing nearby. He grabs his sword and draws back, ready to strike --
And then the demon shrieks, and staggers backward, and falls onto the ground, dead.
Connor stares down at the demon, which has an arrow protruding from its forehead. He feels both relieved that the demon is dead and very cheated that he didn't get to do it himself. Then he hears the voices.
"Damn Velga demons are everywhere. What's it doin' this far from the beach anyhow?"
Connor looks up to see Gunn checking the crossbow he fired. Gunn hasn't seen him, because he's looking at Fred. But Fred is looking at Connor, and after a moment, Gunn follows her gaze. "Oh, shit."
As Connor draws his sword back again, Fred puts out one hand. "Wait," she says, her voice quavering. "Wait."
Connor remains on edge; she could be trying to lull him into relaxing before they attack. Fred would be foolish to fight him, even with Gunn's help, but she has proved herself a fool already, by trusting a vampire.
But she only says, "Just tell me this -- what you did to them --" Her eyes are wide, and she swallows hard before she finally asks, "Was it quick?"
"No," Connor says. He runs off before she can say anything else. They don't follow him. He doesn't understand why.
Holtz never heard of Sigmund Freud or Carl Jung, but he was in his own way an adept student of human -- and inhuman -- nature. He understood well the importance of this study. He did not teach Connor anything of it.
The reasons for this are varied, and they reflect upon Holtz's character in different ways. Most critical of all, Holtz feared that if Connor understood behavior in general, he would understand Holtz in particular. And Holtz did not want his son to understand him. He did not want Connor to see the desperate need within, the hatred that lay beneath his love. And in that, he was being a good father; he loved Connor enough to try and shield him from that hate. Connor still idealizes his adoptive father in a way few parents of teenagers would consider remotely plausible. He read Holtz's last letter and believed exactly what Holtz wished him to believe; he could not interpret his father's behavior in any way besides that which he was specifically taught.
But Connor has nonetheless learned a little bit about other people -- not so much in Quartoth, where virtues more subtle than dominance went ignored. In his first two months in Los Angeles, however, he has learned a great deal. Enough to know how little he knows.
He knew that Cordelia cared deeply for Angel; he thought perhaps they were in love, although his experience with romance is so limited that he is willing to consider that this might be no more than his overactive imagination. He condemned Cordelia's acceptance of the vampire, but other than that, he had no dislike for her. (He knew her to be part-demon, but he experienced her ability in a burst of light, in a transcendence he had never imagined. He doesn't like to think that a demon had that ability, so he doesn't think about her demonic side at all.)
When she did not appear at the seashore that evening, he was relieved; he would have had to kill her to carry out his work, and though the thought of dropping her dead body in the box along with Angel has a certain welcome acidity, it would have involved more pain than pleasure for Connor.
Instead, Cordelia would be left to wonder what happened to Angel, to seek him in vain.
And yet Cordelia has not been looking for Angel. Connor watched the hotel for many weeks, and he never saw her. He followed Gunn for a while, and on one of those trips he saw Gunn enter a home he think might have been hers. Nobody was within, and he got the distinct impression Gunn might have been looking for her.
What could have happened? What other enemies did Angel have? There's no telling.
He knew that Angel exercised some authority over Gunn and Fred; Holtz had told Connor often of Angelus' swaggering dominance of the vampires and demons under his command, and certainly there was little reason to believe he would be kinder to humans. So Connor expected Fred and Gunn to quickly be glad of Angel's absence, to leave the hotel soon (Connor had some vague thoughts of claiming the building himself) and find their own, hopefully less-degraded paths.
And yet they seek Angel still -- months later, with no clues, no hope. They drove Angel's car back to the hotel, and Gunn even washed it once. They are doing work Connor must approve of, however unwillingly; many nights he has begun stalking a vampire, only to find it confronted and then staked by one of the two. When he did not come back to the hotel, at first they thought him missing like Angel and Cordelia. However, as time went on and their paths crossed again and again, they began to suspect what Connor had done. He thinks that they know by now what he is capable of.
Still, they have not given up hope. They keep on searching, and they keep on fighting. Were they not so corrupt and venal, so forgiving of Angel, Connor would be forced to admit that he might have to like Fred and Gunn.
He knew that Justine was committed to his father, and so he wanted very much to like her. She does not lack courage, and she is an able fighter, a trait Connor appreciates very much. Better still, she can tell him stories about Holtz that he did not know. At night, perhaps after a few cans of beer, she will lean back against the wall and tell him these stories in a slow, alcohol-slurred voice. Connor laughed when she told him the story about the icepick through her hand. That was just like Dad.
And yet, he does not like Justine very much, not really. She drinks too much, and she doesn't seem to care that it affects her fighting. Sometimes, when she's had more than usual, she tells him stories about his father that hint at an improper familiarity between them; Connor can accept that others have sex outside of marriage, but it still seems unthinkable that his father would ever have done so. These stories shock him, and though he would be loath to use these exact words, they hurt him.
Worst of all, he can tell that Justine likes that part, at least before she sobers up.
Above all, he knew that Angel was evil. Holtz never lied to him about who -- or what -- his father was. Connor can describe the way the body of Daniel Holtz's wife lay on the ground as clearly as if he had seen it himself. He knows what became of the convent in Rheims, of the village in Galway.
(Holtz did not spare any details; Quartoth did not allow for delicacy, and Connor cannot be shocked by gore.)
He was always curious about Angel, and when he finally met him -- this is difficult to admit, now, but Connor is new at lying to himself and not yet very skilled at it -- he almost liked him. He hadn't planned on seeing Angel fighting evil as he does himself, nor on his patience, his directness or his humor.
Most of all, Connor was unprepared for the naked, vulnerable love Angel gave him from the very first moment; from Holtz, Connor has been schooled to think that love comes with expectations, and his first experience of it as an unconditional, desperate force shook him. Made him forget things he shouldn't forget. Connor's hated himself for that often enough, since he found his father's aged, weak body crumpled on the pavement. Since he learned that Angel was really just the killer he'd always been.
And yet Angel did love him. Of that Connor is certain, and he still doesn't know what to do with this knowledge. He still dreams of the way his Angel's face looked as Connor sealed him into the box; he had expected pleading, or wrath, or sullen anger. He did not expect to be forgiven. He did not expect to be loved. Nothing in Connor's past -- not his relationship with Holtz, not his time in Quartoth -- has taught him why someone would do that, would realize that he was being condemned to eternal torment and still grant forgiveness. Still give him love.
Connor tries to imagine why someone would do that, and he can't.