TITLE: Rebirth

AUTHOR: Scarlet Rose


DISCLAIMER: I do not own Angel or Darla, nor any of the other characters in this fic, no matter how much I desperately wish I did

DISTRIBUTION: If you’d like it, all ya gotta do is ask!

FEEDBACK: I love friendly feedback! Send it on over to detective_lockley@yahoo.com

AUTHOR’S NOTES: Takes place after “Lullaby” in the Angel-verse; spoilers for season 3 up to and including that episode. I’m very nervous about this one- though Darla is one of my favorites, I’ve never done a piece with her. I’m still reworking and such, but this will probably end up being the final one I keep. Not sure what reaction will be- but all reviews I’ve gotten off the site have been pretty good.

Darla squinted as her eyes focused on her surroundings. There didn’t seem to be a shape or dimension to the room she was in, all the walls seemed to blur into one another. Or were they moving? She groaned. She didn’t really care. So, was this what death was like? Reaching down, she placed her hand over her heart. She was shocked when all she felt was the material of her shirt. Shouldn’t she be feeling some sort of pain, or have a big chunk of wood sticking out of her? The last thing she remembered was being in labor, feeling like a piece of her was being ripped out of her stomach, feeling Angel’s tears on her hand and the rain on her face. She remembered the rough feel of the wooden stake, and the sharp pain as she plunged it into herself. Then there was just nothing- the black void she’d always heard of but never believed in. Maneuvering herself upright, she slowly paced around, getting her bearings. Suddenly she sensed a presence behind her.

Turning around, her slight apprehension and fear turned into annoyance. “You again,” she said darkly. The well-dressed man who’d forced Angel to go through trials to save her life what seemed like ages ago now stood in front of her again, nodding at her. “Why yes. It is so good to see you again, Miss…Darla.” He moved closer to her. Smirking, she moved to put as much distance between them as she could. “Oh, I’m sure you’re just delighted that we’re meeting again,” she said sharply. He smiled. “So, where are we? What’s in store for me this time? No heroic Angel to do tests to save me. So now what? I get to dive into an empty pool that doesn’t change, and lets my skull get crushed? Eternal damnation? Burning in flaming pits? Well? What’s my punishment going to be?” she asked, putting as much boredom into her tone as she could. Secretly trying to disguise the fear that was infusing her body.

He looked shocked. “Why, we’re not going to punish you. You sacrificed your life for your child’s, even while your demon was in control. It certainly wouldn’t be fair to…” She snorted, not believing a word he said. “Life isn’t fair, Ask Jeeves,” she stated roughly. “Yes, I killed myself. I killed myself so that I wouldn’t have to face the possibility of wanting to murder my own child once I gave birth. Is that heroic? Or just incredibly selfish?” she asked, turning away. Pacing a bit, she continued. “I killed, and I maimed, and I broke people. Not for a small while, but for hundreds of years. That certainly can’t earn me any passes out of punishment. This isn’t a game of monopoly, and I have no get out of jail free card. I have no money, nothing to bargain with.”

He shrugged. “So then what are you asking for?” he questioned. She turned back to him sharply. “I’m not asking for anything,” she snapped. “I’m waiting for my damn sentence, so that I don’t have to spend any more time with you. Or is that what my punishment is? Having to listen to your voice for the rest of time?” she asked sardonically.

He laughed mockingly. “Oh, I did forget your wit. But last time, I think you were too…preoccupied to bother with the insults.” Noticing her increasingly darkening expression, he hurried on. “Well, you are technically dead right now. Just in case you were wondering,” he said defensively at her incredulous look. “Punishment is not what we have in mind for you, at least not at this time. We’ve decided that your act was made out of love and unselfishness, no matter what you may feel. We’re going to give you a second chance, Darla. A chance to give back to the world you took so much from.”

Darla’s eyes widened with fear and anger. “No!” she screamed. He took a step back from her. “No?” he questioned. “No! I can’t do this! I can’t be like Angel! I cannot live with constant contrition! I’m not…worthy, nor is it right for me! I deserve punishment, not another chance! I’ve wasted too many. I’ll waste this one. Just send me away,” she begged hoarsely, panic pervading her senses.

He smiled with pity at her increasing frustration. “Darla, we’ve made our decision. You will be sent back. You will be given a time of probation, in which to get yourself sorted out and become acquainted with your son. At that time we shall determine what your final sentence will be.” At this, he slowly faded before her eyes. Darla felt tears running down her face. Damn it, no! She couldn’t take being sent back again! Why? Slowly, she sank to her knees, sobbing in pain and frustration and fear. Within a few minutes, she slowly drifted off to a restless sleep, as the man from before came in and picked her up.

The man carried her for some time, finally arriving at a large set of doors. Knocking on them, he patiently waited. When the door slid open, he nodded in greeting. “I do believe I have something for you,” he said, then unceremoniously dropped Darla into a tangled heap on the pavement and walked off. Leaving the stunned eyes of Angel, Cordelia and Wesley watching after him.

Angel stared down at the woman he’d thought he’d never see again. Mixed emotions ran through him- the most pertinent one begging for him to grab her up and never let her go again. Realizing that Cordelia and Wesley were staring at him, he went to speak but found he could not. Instead he turned his eyes towards the unconscious woman and made a move towards her. Cordelia’s hand whipped out and grabbed his sleeve. “Angel, you can’t possibly be thinking of bringing her in here! You have no idea what she’s going to be like! She could attempt to kill you or one of us!” He resolutely pulled out of her grasp, and moved closer to Darla. “Angel,” Cordelia tried, one last time. “Think of Connor!” she pleaded. He stopped in his tracks. Without turning around, his eyes on the limp form, he answered her. “I am.” Reaching down, he scooped Darla into his arms, then breezed past Wesley and Cordelia up to his room.

After Angel set her on his bed, he stood back and stared at her. Sighing, he slowly slid a chair adjacent to the bed and sat down. He had no idea what to do. Rubbing his forehead, he tried to sort out a plan. He knew that bringing Darla into the hotel may have been a bad move, but he couldn’t just let her lay outside. He kept flashing back to the pain he’d seen in her eyes as she’d confessed she was worried she’d hurt their child after it was born. He also remembered the absolute pain that sliced through his heart when she’d put a piece of wood through her own. He hadn’t felt that way when he’d stabbed her in the back for Buffy. But this time…this time had been different. Everything was different now. Leaning back into the chair, he let her sleep. He’d worry about her and his associates and Connor in a moment. For right now, he just wanted to bask in the knowledge that she was back.

Angel had run downstairs to grab a cup of blood and check on his son before heading back up to the sleeping Darla. Sitting back down into his chair, he briefly wondered how long it would take her to wake up. And what she would be like when she did. He hadn’t had a chance to ask if they’d given her a soul, so he guessed he’d just have to deal with what was going to happen when she awoke.

Which was now, apparently. Carefully placing the mug on the nightstand, he moved to the bed. Darla thrashed about for a few moments, dislodging several pillows and blankets. “No,” she cried out, time and again. Angel felt an overwhelming sadness for her, but pushed it away and concentrated on keeping her from harming herself. Darla’s eyes slowly opened, glazed and unfocused. Then she gasped and ripped away from Angel, hurtling herself at the headboard. “Get away!” she snarled, carefully pulling a pillow over her stomach as a barrier. Angel slowly slid back to the chair, nervously watching her. Her eyes were wild with fear as they darted around the room. Finally, her muscles relaxed and she stared down at the pillow she held, pulling at the fabric with her fingernails.

“Where am I?” she asked hoarsely. “You’re in the hotel,” Angel replied, unsure if she wanted an actual response. She didn’t move. “How are you?” she asked. “Good. Tired. Late night feedings get a bit rough- especially with Cordelia arguing with me over how warm the bottle should be, and…Darla, what happened?” he asked sharply. She winced and shrugged. “I don’t know. It was dark, and black, and then that butler guy was there and he said I was going back. Then it was sleepy time.” He didn’t look satisfied with her answer. Becoming angry, she snapped at him. “How the hell should I know what’s going on? I’m the one who was dead. And brought back once again.” Ripping again at the pillow, she attempted to calm down. Angel sighed. “I’m sorry,” he uttered.

Darla looked down at herself, and cringed. Her hair was extremely dirty and stringy, and her clothes looked like she’d been sleeping out on the streets for months. The last time she’d been brought back, she’d looked much better. Briefly, she wondered if that was Lindsey’s doing. Dear Lindsey. Shaking her head, she blocked out the thoughts. Her head shot up when she noticed Angel moving. He grasped a cup from the table next to her and slowly reached out. She hesitantly accepted it from him, then gasped. “Oh, God, no!” she said, flinging the cup off the bed. Blood spattered everywhere. Angel quickly sat on the bed. “Darla, you have to drink…” She shook her head firmly, staring in horror at the blood that had splashed onto her hands. “Darla,” he said, getting up to go get some more. He would not allow her to starve herself. “Angel, no,” she said weakly, forcing him to turn around. “Angel, I’m not…” She couldn’t bring herself to say it. She wasn’t a vampire anymore. She wasn’t even sure if she was fully human. She was just… a mess.

“Oh,” Angel said, comprehension flying across his face. “Yeah, oh,” she repeated. “I…I’ll just give you some time by yourself,” Angel said, moving towards the door. She barely nodded, and he carefully closed the door behind him. Tempering his worry and impatience, he moved downstairs. Cordelia was immediately on him. “Well, what’s going on?” He looked into the expectant faces of his closest cohorts and friends. And had no idea what to tell them. “I don’t know,” he said, sinking down onto the couch. “You don’t know?” Wesley asked. “She’s odd, distant. Not quite all there. And…she’s not a vamp anymore.”

“Well, is she human then?” Cordelia asked quizzically. Angel just shook his head. Wesley, Cordelia, Fred and Gunn all shared worried looks. They’d seen what damage Darla had done to him before. And they were now worried about her being near Angel’s son as well. “What are we going to do?” Fred asked quietly. Angel gave her a reassuring glance. “I’m not sure right now, Fred. I need to find out what’s wrong with her, and I need to figure out what I’m going to do with her. Right now, all I ask is that you guys stay away from my room.” They nodded in agreement, and Wesley silenced his objections. Angel got up, but paused before leaving the room. “Cordelia and Fred, I would appreciate it if you guys could keep an eye on Connor for a while…” He trailed off with a grin, as both women nodded happily and rushed up the stairs. Chuckling with the other men, he moved back up to his room.

Darla hadn’t moved from where he’d left her, and she was still staring off into space. Grasping her hands, he shook her from her tumultuous thoughts. “Darla, let’s get you into a bath and some clean clothes. Okay?” he said softly, wondering what was going on inside her head that would cause her eyes to be filled with so much anguish. She nodded, and allowed him to pull her off the bed. He stopped on the way, and grabbed a shirt and sweats from a drawer. Then, taking her into the adjoining bathroom, he began to fill the tub. She sat quietly and unmoving on the toilet seat. After the bath was full with warm water and bubbles, he knelt in front of her. “Darla, I’m going to go now. Call me if you…” Her arm shot out, halting his words. “No!” she gasped, terrified. “Don’t leave me!” Angel grasped her arms to steady her. In all their time together, he’d never seen a look of such fright in her eyes. “Okay, okay. I’m not going anywhere,” he reassured her, stroking her arms.

Carefully, he maneuvered both of them upright, and stripped off her clothes. Reaching out a steadying hand, he helped her into the tub. She sunk down into it, but kept a grasp on his hand. He sat behind the tub, allowing her to hold onto his palm for comfort. Once she was certain he wasn’t going to leave, her muscles relaxed and she closed her eyes. Only then did Angel allow the tears to fall. Tears for her, and for him, and for Connor. Tears for their sordid past together, their confused present, and for their unknown future. Connor needed his birth mother, and Angel wasn’t sure at all if she’d ever be stable enough to see him.

After helping Darla shampoo her hair and rinse off, he handed her a towel and aided her dressing. Moving back to the room, he tucked her back into his bed, frowning at her exhaustion. He turned as he heard the door click open. Cordelia walked in, laden down with a tray piled with cheese, crackers and Sprite. “I thought this might help you,” she said, glaring daggers at Darla. But Darla didn’t even seem to acknowledge there was anyone new in the room- she simply stared off at the far wall. Cordelia’s glare turned into a concerned look, and she raised an eyebrow at Angel. He shrugged helplessly, not knowing what to tell her. Casting a worried glance behind her, she left the room again and closed the door.

Angel carefully placed the tray on the floor. He figured he’d attempt to get her to eat later, or maybe she’d eat once he was out of the room. Sitting in his chair again, he watched her fidget, seemingly lost in her own world. He worried that if she wasn’t able to snap out of this state, he may never be able to allow her near Connor. And he had no clue what he’d do with her then, either. Getting up again, he moved over to her and grasped her hand. “Darla, I’m going to go for a while. There is food over here, and if you need anything at all, just ring this bell. Okay?” She looked at him with wide eyes, but relented. He let loose a sigh of relief, and slid his hand down the side of her wet hair. Carefully, he left the room, keeping an eye on her as he closed the door.

Later on, he’d carefully pushed the door open a bit, and found her eating and reading his new copy of “A Beautiful Mind.” Though she didn’t seem to be totally concentrating on what she was doing, he hoped it was a good sign. She’d slept fitfully that evening, tossing and turning with Angel guarding over her. He hadn’t gotten much sleep, running back and forth to check on her and Connor. Finally, Cordelia had ordered him to go to Darla and she took over care of the baby.

Two weeks later, and progress was slowly being made. Darla now seemed more aware of everything around her, though she was still extremely withdrawn. Angel sighed every time he looked into her tight face and noticed the emotions held in check there. She’d started eating a bit more, and read most of the time she was awake. She slept as much as she could. Once in a while, she’d take a walk outside. He’d watch her from the upstairs window. She always seemed to be closed off, like a reflection in mirror- cold, only a fraction of the real person, and he had no clue how he could reach her. And she also had never asked about Connor. Angel was too worried to bring it up. He was scared any mention might unbalance her mind, and he also was concerned about having her anywhere near the baby at the moment. The guys had tried to talk him into going to see Lorne, to maybe get some more information on what was going on with her. But Angel nixed the idea. Right now, he wanted to keep the information that Darla was back as quiet as possible. Holtz had disappeared recently, and Angel had no doubt he was planning a new attack. Angel had to make sure that both Darla and Connor would be safe, and part of that meant keeping the news about Darla’s resurrection a secret.

That evening, Angel was startled but not totally surprised to find the room empty when he went to check on her. He figured she probably went for another walk outside. But after checking and finding the lawn empty, he began to get worried. Then a frightening thought occurred to him. Ever since Connor had been born, Angel had been able to find his son by sense. If Darla had the same sense, she would be able to find him… Angel took off at a run. In Darla’s present state, he had no idea what she would try. She could not hurt their baby, he wouldn’t let her. Slamming his fist against the wall as he ran, he wondered if the way she was acting had all been a charade. Praying he hadn’t been scammed.

Flying into Connor’s room, he stormed to the crib. Connor lay there, looking up at his father with surprised but calm eyes. Then he heard a noise behind him. Swirling around, his glare melted when he saw her. Crumpled up in the corner, Darla was sobbing into her skirt. Taking one last glance to make sure Connor really was okay, he moved to her side. “Darla,” he whispered, kneeling down before her. She looked up at him with grief-stricken eyes. “Angel, I can’t do this,” she got out. “I’m…I’m a horrible person. Everything I did, I remember. I shouldn’t be here. I should be in hell, being punished for all my sins. Angel, I should never have gotten another chance. I don’t deserve any happiness at all. I don’t deserve anything!” She gasped, tears rampantly running down her face. Angel fought his own tears. He knew what it was like to have the remembrance of sufferings past, of knowing what kind of pain and grief you’d caused people. But he also knew that if he deserved a second chance, then so did she. But how could he possibly convince her?

Angel placed an arm around her, trying to comfort, but she only began crying harder. Frantically, Angel searched for the right words to say but found none. He’d never been good with this sort of thing. Just then, Connor began to wail as well. Hating to leave Darla, but knowing he had to, he quickly got up and pulled his son from the crib. Holding him carefully, his attempts to soothe the boy only seemed to make his son cry harder. Even his vampire face didn’t calm him. Frustrated and scared, Angel forced himself to think. Suddenly, he whipped around and carried Connor over to Darla. Sitting next to her, he carefully settled Connor in his lap. Reaching over, he lifted Darla’s chin and made her look at him. “Darla,” he started. “Darla, please, calm down. Connor can feel your sadness, and it’s making him upset too. Please, Darla, it’ll be alright. Just calm down for your son. Okay?” he said soothingly. Darla looked at him disbelievingly, but forced herself to take deep breaths. Soon, her shoulders still hitched but she was able to stop bawling. She looked down at the bundle on Angel’s lap, and was shocked to find that their son had also stopped his crying. Their son, she thought with a slight gasp.

She brought her eyes to Angel’s, and watched as he smiled gently. Carefully picking Connor up, he placed him in Darla’s lap. It was difficult for him to do so, but he forced himself to- knowing it was best for all of them. He watched Darla’s expression move from fear to wonder to happiness. She looked up at him again, and he was amazed to see that the icy look she’d always had in her eyes was gone. In its place was a warm glow that he’d never been privileged to see before. Looking back down at their son, she felt tears build up again. But as Connor tensed up before wailing again, she quickly took to relaxing him. “No, no. Happy tears, happy tears,” she babbled. She leaned over and placed her head on her son’s lap, letting the tears fall. Angel felt his own tears wash down his face, cleaning the old resentment he’d felt for her and changing it into something else. He quickly moved closer and put one arm around her, pulling her and the baby closer to him. Connor reached out and grabbed hold of his father’s pant leg- holding his mother and father together by the strength of his tiny fist.

Angel glanced up at a soft sniffle and saw Cordelia and Fred standing in the doorway. Fred was wiping away tears of her own, and Cordelia was flashing him a happy smile. Once he’d seen them, Cordelia started to usher Fred out of the room. With Cordelia tsk-ing at Fred’s red face, Angel heard her dragging Fred away to find some kleenex. Though he knew that his friends were still very suspicious and uneasy around Darla, he had a feeling that they’d all work through it somehow. They’d all work through it together- as always. It was time for a new beginning, a new life. Rebirth.