Characters: the S3 Ats crew plus Darla (in spirit)
Spoilers: Through Ats 3.9 "Lullaby"
Rating / Words: PG / 2100 words
Warnings: Plotless internal meanderings!
A/N: Finally posted in the fannish world: one of my first Buffyverse fics. I hated Darla when she was on BtVS - we’re talking fingernails-on-chalkboard hate – and I wasn’t thrilled when she reappeared on Ats. But as she became more complex as a character she started to grow on me, and the final sequence that built up to "Lullaby" blew me away. And then she died and no one ever mentioned her again. This made me mad, and so I wrote this fic.
And then I never posted it because I decided that the Angel segment was pants. I'm still not sure it isn't. However, shapinglight got me thinking again, and with some tweaks, here 'tis.
She ought to be mourned.
No records remain of her first life, though I suspect that in this, as in so many things of his former existence, Angel knows a great deal more than he tells. Perhaps she left a family, even children, to regret her passing; perhaps they followed her soon after in brutal death, as Angel’s did. Or perhaps she was utterly alone in that harsh, impoverished era that took the lives of so many, so young. She was a young woman and she died of a vampire’s bite, and we can say no more. So ended her first life.
For four hundred years she ravaged all corners of the civilized world: Venice and Galway and Peking and Rome. She delighted in massacres and petty murders alike. More than once, the records testify, she slaughtered all members of a house save one, all houses in a village save one, to leave the survivors in grief. She turned children. She personally aided in at least one attempted apocalypse. Any vampire might do these things, but few live so long or with such ambition. She did.
Until she didn’t. She misjudged her former paramour and she died at his hand. Perhaps her sire, the vampire lord known only as the Master, mourned her; it is difficult to predict vampire emotion. Regardless, he did not have opportunity to mourn her for long. So ended her first unlife.
Her second life began in a box in a massive antechamber in the bowels of Wolfram & Hart. Human and once again ensouled, she trapped Angel’s always-fragile sense of mission in a maze of pleading and hatred, passion and cold purpose. From the pattern of Angel’s silences I gather that she finally reached some kind of resolution before Drusilla turned her, that, if left alone, she would have died of her disease in peace. I am man enough (coward enough?) to wish it had been so, but it was not to be. So ended her second life.
Further carnage, further mayhem—what is there to say about her brief but violent reign as Empress of Los Angeles? Her very existence nearly destroyed our champion, our mission, our friendships. I can only guess why she suddenly vanished, but had she not, we could not have survived whole. (Indeed, I’m not sure that we did.)
Surely it was enough? She’d lived two lives, though brief, and a previous unlife, long and full (of blood and screams and exquisite torture). Could she not be satisfied with three more existences than any human being expects? Surely, she could spend her last one leaving us alone.
I shan’t detail how she returned to us again, unnaturally burdened and, I truly believe, frightened. I have Fred’s account of her death in a dirty alleyway for the sake of her unborn and dying son. So ended her second unlife, her fourth and final existence: at her own hand.
If any of us grieve, we do it privately. We do not mention her name; whether for Angel’s sake or ours, I’m not sure. Far easier to burble sweet baby-talk to the child and pretend he had no provenance, that a stork delivered him, that he is in no way tainted (blessed?) by the woman who bore him.
She ought to be mourned. I cannot bring myself to do so.
I know she was a vampire, and I know she tried to eat Cordelia even though Cordelia was being nice to her. We have a file on her and I read all through it, and I know she did awful things, like Angel did. But I know Angel has a soul and she didn’t—mostly—and that’s supposed to make the difference, and I know she wouldn’t have died in the end—least not the way she did—if she hadn’t been sharing Connor’s a little. And even then we couldn’t trust her, not really, even though she said ‘thanks’ when we found her a chair.
I shouldn’t feel sorry for her—not her, anyway, the vampire I met. She was human before, twice even, and if I’m gonna feel sorry it should be for that Darla, not the other one.
But I do. What she did was really brave, even for someone with a soul. Besides, Lorne doesn’t have a soul, does he? ‘Course neither did all the other green people in Pylea, and we all know how that worked out.
Anyway, I don’t think the soul is really the point—but don’t tell Angel I said that, okay? I think it’d hurt his feelings.
She could sing, for starters, and wasn’t that a surprise coming from the wing of Angel and co. Seems like only the bad guys in this town have voices. There she was, perched up on that stool and singing her little blond heart out and ho, boy, I don’t think Angel ever got the half of this woman. I can say this now that she’s passed on to that rocking karaoke bar in the sky.
She was up there, and she was petrified—not about the singing; this gal was a performer. She’d been cultivating that fearless act for a couple hundred years before I met her. No, she was scared about the whole rest of the world—being alive and being sick and maybe being dead before too long; having a soul and what that might do to her if she ever let herself think about it; of the WH boys of course, except for Lindsey, who even when she was terrified she mostly despised, poor kid; heck, she was even scared of being scared. She was a basket case, there on the inside—and she was too much a performer to do more than tremble a little. She remembered playing Titania to the damned and she was clinging to that shell with all the strength she had in those pretty white hands.
Later? Oh, yeah, she was still terrified. Different things, mostly. Still all demon and maybe some souliness, too. It was hard to see what was going on then, the destiny was floating around her so thick.
She was a sweetheart. You gotta understand, I meet a lot of demons—heck, I grew up with some. Bloody massacres are just vampires enjoying themselves; you can’t hold it against them. She never had any more malice than you’d expect from a vampire with a history like hers. And hey, that was some kind of closing number she had, a real heartbreaker.
Not saying she was always great company. My place got blown up on her account and hoo boy did that temper go nuclear now and again. Not to mention Angel’s not always the brightest boy on the block when she’s around; that beige period... Lemme tell you, I never want to see that again. But she was a good kid.
Vampire. Evil. Tried to eat me. Won’t be missing her, let me tell you.
She made a hell of our lives last year. Soul or no, didn’t seem to matter. And you know I’m no friend of vampires. Being cool with Angel’s hard enough. Vampires took my sister. Took a lot of other people’s sisters, too. There’s no good place for them except the end of stake.
But it wasn’t her fault, really, all that mess with Angel. Crazy, me saying it, yeah? Charles Gunn, vampire hunter. But if Angel’d trusted us a little more, obsessed on her a little less, used what little goddamn sense didn’t drain out of him when he died, then it all wouldn’t have gone down that way. He gets himself all tied up inside his head and it’s like he can’t see us anymore.
She died all right in the end. Fred told me. Not human anymore than Angel’s human, but brave, you know? Righteous. She didn’t deserve it—except who’s saying she deserved to be a vampire in the first place? Darla got a little grace, like I wish Alonna could have had. Like I tried to give her.
I think maybe I hate her for that.
It’s always been comings and goings between us. Alleyways. I died in one. She gave me Connor in another.
And so many deaths in between; she had four, and I was there for three of them. Every death a bullet, like she said once—they couldn’t kill me, but they hurt like hell. I can’t even figure out which one I should mourn.
So many resurrections and returns. How many lives have we had between us? I’m not even sure how to count them.
When I staked her that night at the Bronze I thought I was claiming my future. I chose action instead of apathy, Buffy instead of her. When I staked her, it was a good pain. A hundred and forty years I spent at her side, destroying. A hundred years I spent hiding from the world, from her, regretting. Then I staked her, and for three and a half years I lived my unlife assured that she was gone, that whatever infernal bond we’d shared was broken.
And then she came back. Irony again, or coincidence, or the inevitability of epics: the women most important to me keep coming back to life. Before I even knew Darla was back she reminded me how I’d hungered for her. It was never love, but the hunger—that was agony sometimes.
And then she came back, and it wasn’t fair. Once you mourn a person, once you put them behind you, they shouldn’t keep coming back.
She had a soul, and I wanted to help her with it. I knew what she was going through; I was the only person—demon, human, or other—who did. Then she told me about the syphilis and when I believed it—Lindsey told me, it was Lindsey I finally believed—I knew I’d do anything for her.
I took a few tests—these stupid supernatural trials all work about the same, and why is it everything’s always in threes, anyway? —and even that wasn’t enough, but somehow in the middle of it she found peace. I told her she’d never be alone. That was our moment of—happiness? Serenity, anyway. Neither of us ever had much of that.
And then she died. By the monster I created, she died.
If it had stopped there—I can’t wish it had stopped there. If it had, there wouldn’t be Connor. But if it had, I could have mourned her and the weeks she didn’t get to live. I still mourn for those lost weeks.
She came back again, soulless. I hesitated, and two innocent women died. I turned my back, and an entire cellar of humans—evil, soul-mortgaged, but still human—died.
I don’t want to remember this. Don’t make me remember this.
Yes, okay, then I screwed her. I don’t want to think about it.
It was our last chance together. I gave up. I let go of everything: mission, purpose. I’m still not sure why I didn’t lose the soul, or my mind, or something. When you surrender like that, you figure somebody will take your white flag. That’s just decency, right? But nobody did.
I guess I should have staked her then. You might call it mercy that I didn’t, but I don’t think that was it. Leaving vampires undead is never really a mercy.
That should have been enough, damn it. But no, she had one last surprise. Connor. Our son.
It’s all confused here. She confronted me with the lowest, weakest, most craven thing I’ve ever done with a soul, and I hated her for it. Then she was giving me a son, and how could I hate her for that? Then she was confused, vulnerable, terrified. And then she gave up her last existence for our boy, whom she shouldn’t even have been able to love.
At the end she understood better than I did, I think.
I can’t talk about it. I can’t think of anyone who’d understand. I don’t mourn one death; I mourn them all, all the chances she didn’t get, the life she didn’t live, the mother she never could have been to Connor. I watch him sleep and the grief paralyzes me.
I think she’s finally gone this time.