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The first time Darla rose from the dead, it wasn’t like this. The first time, it was liberation: from the siezures that left her trembling and bruised, from the denouncement in public by men she knew so well in private, from threat of violence or starvation.

She held her face to the shower spray, willing it to wash away the grime she felt clogging every pore. Natural, she supposed, that a creature reformed from dust would find some of it under her fingernails. Natural that her hair, recalled from what parched void she declined to guess, would fall stiff and ragged as straw.

Whatever void it had been, it had been dark; her head ached with every glint of light.

She twisted the water off. The worst of the water wrung from her hair, she crawled into one of the shapeless one-piece dresses hanging in the closet – perhaps there’d been concern she wouldn’t remember zippers or buttons – and stepped out of the bedroom.

“Darla.”

She betrayed nothing at the sound; some habits, she was realizing, had survived even the void. “Lindsey.” She turned to smile on her foppish boy keeper.

He would have been appetizing once. She might have let him kiss her before he died.

“So,” he said. “Sleep, a shower. Thought you might like some real food next.” He lifted an eyebrow at the bowl of warm grainy mush – gruel, they’d have called it once, and as enticing as it sounded – and smirked. “On the Wolfram and Hart dime, of course.”

Thin strips of daylight stabbed through the blinds. She felt the resentment of every muscle fiber at its sudden reexistance, and the three days she’d slept since she’d been escorted to this room could not begin to make up for three and a half years without.

But those boyish eyes were sizing her up, still undecided on whether she was predator or prey, and there was only one tolerable conclusion.

Darla smiled. “That sounds perfect. And then you can explain some more of this... plan you have for Angel.”

He offered his arm, and she took it. Even in the hideous sensible shoes, her feet were still unsteady; better he felt her weight on his arm occasionally than watch her sprawl on the carpet. She matched him on the stairs, step for step. At the lobby door, she felt him watch her face the streaming afternoon sun. She strode out into it, unhesitating.

It was warm. Of all her memories of life and unlife, of habits and motions and sights, this she’d forgotten.

After only two blocks Lindsey guided her into a restaurant, small, dimly-lit, not as exclusive as she’d expected.

“To drink?” said Lindsey.

“Chocolate,” Darla said without even thinking. She felt Lindsey’s eyes on her “Hot chocolate,” Darla clarified.

Lindsey watched her, warmly skeptical.

Darla had won something, she realized, in that walk down the crowded sunlit sidewalk. It wasn’t fear, was barely even respect, but it was something to build on later. “The first time I drank chocolate, it was from the cup of a French courtier, mixed with cane sugar and vanilla and served hot. You can’t imagine the sensation.”

Lindsey listened, his smile amused at her nostalgia, his eyes underestimating her still. That was useable, too, in time. “Of course fifty years later there was a chocolate house on every street corner and any common gentleman could drink it, but I had it first.”

When the waitress came by, unrefined, insipid, Lindsey ordered chocolate, too, and offered Darla suggestions for her entrée, as Angelus learned early never to do. He was easing her in, she realized. O fragile blossom she, who could not yet bear more exacting scrutiny than that of these accountants and aides and lawyers who had not yet made partner. He would regret it, she decided, one way or another, even if he never knew what it was he regretted.

When the waitress had gone, Darla glanced down at her dress, even grimmer now than when it hung in her closet, and said, “I hope your firm don’t expect me to impress Angel like this,” she said. “After...” Dinner? Lunch? Lazarus’s first meal? “After eating, maybe we could see about making me presentable. Try on some dresses. It’s amazing what a little death will do to a girl’s figure.”

He laughed, assent readily given, suspicions of her weakness further allayed.

Darla drank her chocolate, funded by her own personal keeper, and thought: whatever this resurrection was, it was not liberation.

That, she would have to seize for herself. Again.

Finis