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"He has my eyes, you know," a voice from behind Angel muses.

Angel turns to see her humming ‘Oh Danny Boy’ and holding the baby; holding Connor. His voice is startled, both fearful and questioning, "Darla?"

Cordelia steps back, away from Groo, hand unconsciously going to her neck and a slightly trapped expression on her face as Lorne stops her from running away. "Oh don’t worry, Cupcake, she’s not dangerous - she’s singing - I’d know."

Eyes sparkling with either humor or mischievousness, Darla stops singing and half bounces the baby in her arms, "I forgot that Greeny does that." She pauses to look down at the child she is holding, "Connor, I like the name."

It’s hard for him to believe she is here, alive, again, so Angel continues to stare. Lorne says she's not dangerous and she's here and all the questions he has are fading in the face of her. "Darla?"

His petite sire doesn’t even look up from holding Connor as she replies, words light and airy, definite amusement lacing her tone, "Yes, Darling?"

Groo is about to make some questioning comment, but Cordelia puts her hand to his lips, not ready to deal with explaining all this when even she doesn’t know what’s going on or why such a dangerous creature is still being allowed to hold the baby. "When did she get here?" It’s all she can think to ask.

Lorne smiles slightly as he takes in mother and son, happy that he answered the door and not any of his trigger-happy comrades, "Oh, while you lot were out." He steps closer to Darla and Connor, addressing the baby, "An’ we were all worried opening the door, thinking it was some big bad demon - weren’t we surprised!"

Slowly Wesley speaks, deliberately choosing his words, cautious, if bitter, "It would seem that your thoughts were correct, Lorne."

Unconcerned by their conversation, Darla continues bounces the baby in her arms, the rich sound of her laughter filling the room. She moves next to Angel and extends Connor between them with both hands, holding him easily but carefully, "It's strange, seeing our features blended in him. My boys. He’ll have your hair."

"Not as dark. He has your eyes though." Angel has to force the reply from his lips, wondering how he can stay so calm. Those final moments with Darla in the alley are replaying behind his eyes.

Trying to break into the tension lacing through the room, Fred ventures tentatively, "That’ll be pretty..." A glance at her friends and she trails off.

Darla nods happily, shifting the baby to one hand so she can run her fingers over his face, eliciting a giggle from the child. She still has a hard time seeing herself holding something so squalling and needy, but she doesn’t want to let go either, "Mmm, he’s so full of life!"

Pointedly, Cordelia takes a defensive stance in the room and asks what nobody else seems willing to, "Then you’re not?"

Slipping into game-face, Darla quickly retains her normal visage when Connor smiles and claps his hands. "You’re kidding me, right?" The question is directed at Angel, although she continues to answer Cordelia’s earlier inquiry. "I might as well be, with this pitiful soul I inherited this time around. Angel is such a glutton for punishment putting up with his!"

Glancing nervously around the room towards the weapon chest, Gunn cautiously asks, "So you have a soul now?"

Darla smiles down at Connor, speaking half to Gunn and the others in the room, and half to her baby. "Oh, yes. I’ve done such wrong, I have so much to make up for... It’s almost enough to make Mommy gag, isn’t it, Connor?" She looks up and shrugs towards Angel, her high spirits easily disappearing. "But I have more important things on my mind than redemption - my son."

Still uncertain but having watched the exchange carefully, Groo questions, "The child - Connor?" He looks to Cordelia for answers, but she has her eyes fixed on the two vampires and child.

The blonde rolls her eyes, sarcastic, "I’m a vampire, what do you think?"

Research possibilities running through his head as surely as others would think of the names of family, Wesley can’t resist asking, "But your soul doesn’t bother you at all? All the people you’ve killed…"

Darla makes a sound that could almost have been a coo and ever-so-carefully hands Connor to Angel. Once she is sure that Angel has the baby, Darla turns to Cordelia and smirks. "You mean: do I feel bad about things like biting her? I do. It could drive me crazy if I let it. But I was a demon. I'm not going to spend my un-life apologizing for being what I was. I have my baby," she neatly takes the baby back from Angel, ignoring his protests. "Our child needs to sleep, my boy. We can discuss the tiresome details later."

With that, Darla turns and walks towards Angel’s room, leaving behind a hotel full of stunned people. Finally, Cordelia moves close enough to hit Angel on the arm and asks, suspicious. "Angel! You’re not going to leave Connor alone with her, are you?!"

Angel sighs, "Darla does have some standards, Cordelia. She wouldn’t hurt Connor," at the look he receives from the assembled group, the vampire concedes the point. "I’ll just go check on them."

!~(*)~!

Blonde hair falling over her face, Darla stands over the crib, singing softly. She turns slightly when Angel enters, keeping her eyes on her baby. "He’s asleep already."

Sitting down, Angel gestures for the other vampire to join him, peaking over the crib as he does so, just to be sure. "We’ll be quiet then."

"What do you want to talk about, Angel?" Darla pretends to yawn and covers her mouth with her hand - this time there’s no mistaking a slight hitch in her voice when she says his name.

Sighing as he looks over at his former sire, Angel asks the question he would prefer not to, "How?"

Even though she grins, Darla twists her hair and Angel recognizes the gesture for one of confusion. "Lindsey."

It’s simple enough of an explanation, but he has to be sure before he tracks Lindsey down and makes sure that Darla’s telling the truth, "Why?"

Darla just shakes her head, as if she has been pondering this for a while, and she has been. "I really don’t know. He was in love with me, I think." A soft smile graces her face as she thinks back on the things the mortal has done for her, "I can’t understand why else he would have brought me back."

Hearing the unspoken why anybody would have brought me back, Angel shakes his head to clear the guilty thought. He’d long known of Lindsey’s obsession with both Darla and himself. "And the soul?"

Smiling again, Darla shrugs, not wanting to get into anything about Lindsey, "Stupid really. He figured I wouldn’t kill him with a soul."

"What did you do, Darla?" Angel frowns as he thinks that maybe the former Wolfram & Hart employee didn’t deserve the things Darla could do to him.

Careful, Darla would break you in half… Darla raises an eyebrow, recalling how she used to so despise caring as a form of weakness; now she’s filled with it, "I…" she looks towards the crib and frowns also, "do you think he understands us?"

"I’m sure of it," Angel nods, voice softening as he glances at Connor's crib. Despite his better judgment screaming at him, he finds himself already believing Darla simply from watching her with their child. He's known Darla too long - she's never been any good at faking the affection he sees in her eyes.

Looking worried for a rare second, Darla tucks a lock of hair behind her ear and murmurs, "I’ll tell you later. There’s plenty of time before he has to learn about Mommy and Daddy, after all."

Angel fights back the familiar guilt at the reminder that eventually Connor will have to learn about their past misdeeds. "Right." He startles, surprised to feel a head lean against his chest, glancing down in time to see her eyes close. "Darla?"

"We’ll be able to hear if Connor stirs," is the quiet reply, begging without saying for him to let it all go for a minute and relax - let them both relax. There are times when eternity just seems so unbearably tiring.

It's been - quite a day. Quiet moments like this are rare and brief. Angel mutters his agreement and closes his eyes also, his arm naturally coming up to tighten around Darla - he tells himself just in case. It's hard to let go of the tension. After a couple of minutes that feel like years, Darla asks gently, "Angel?"

His eyes open, the moment shattered by just having to see reality, "Yes?"

She starts to sit up, just enough to meet his eyes, and he can see the soul shining there, the guilt and fear and disgust that she'd been hiding downstairs. "You’ll still have to protect him from me if something happens. I don’t trust Lindsey’s abilities with magic, and I won’t let anything happen to Connor because of me - no matter what."

Her quiet determination, so reminiscent of the alleyway, more than anything, makes him believe her. Angel tightens his hold and urges her to lie back down, closing his eyes against the very likely possibility that her concerns are valid. "Nothing will happen - I promise."

!~(*)~!

"I should’ve known you’d hop right back into bed with her!" Her voice is sharp with both her own pain and the easily identified intent to cause pain.

The two figures spring up from the bed and into sitting positions faster than normal vision can detect as their minds race to shake off sleep. Where they are and why they are lying in bed, curled around one another. The same damn bed. Flustered at the accusing tone and still feeling guilty, Angel rushes to explain, "Darla and I were talking."

Stiffening at the implications of this place and what the girl obviously thinks, Darla decides to finish Angel’s explanation, noting how he refuses to look at her now. "It’s not what you think." At the snort she receives, Darla gestures downwards, "We’re dressed, aren’t we? Even I'm not that good. We fell asleep. Big day and all that."

Conceding the slight point that her reaction was making a mountain out of fully dressed, Cordelia still can’t help but remember the way they looked. So at peace. "So, what, you just happened to end up in bed?" Her eyes are accusing and the question is directed to Angel.

Noting the slight screech to Cordelia’s voice and not wanting everyone else in the building to come in demanding explanations for his actions, practically able to feel her hurt, Angel tries to defuse the situation. "Cordy, now is not the time. Can we please talk about this later, like adults?"

Cordelia's eyes widen and then narrow, and she turns and walks back out of the room with a wordless scoff, not really sure what she had expected. Once she is gone, Darla stands and pins Angel under her gaze. "Are you sleeping with her?"

Forcibly reminded that Darla knew - knows - him as well as he knows her, Angel finds himself answering honestly. "No," nobody since you. It feels too raw, the unspoken words hanging between them, so he sighs and adds wryly, "The curse, remember?"

Turning her back to him, Darla smiles despite herself. She was the one he forgot the curse for; she had been there for him when he was lost in the darkness. She laughs at it, because it was a victory for her then and she refuses to not let it be a victory now. "Have you kissed?"

When she's not facing him, Angel worries. Her voice is too light, too unconcerned. He may not know her with a soul but all his memories of her point out that her reaction can only be bad. Jealousy, he remembers. "No," at least, not without magical influence, he amends in his head.

Spinning and letting him see her triumphant smile, Darla comes to stand right over Angel, both loving and hating the memories that gesture reminds her of. Leaning down slowly, deliberately, she waits for his breath to catch before she whispers, "Then tell the secretary that it’s none of her business."

Standing straight again, she spares a last glance at a sleeping Connor and turns to leave a baffled Angel. Darla won’t let anything come between her and their son, especially some silly secretary who feels threatened by her. She doesn't look back. "Don't try to explain - they'll never understand. Better to keep things between family."

!~(*)~!

In actuality, neither Darla nor Cordelia had wandered very far from Angel’s room.

Cordelia storms through a still horribly confused Wesley, Lorne and Groo towards her room. Groo is about to follow her before Cordelia calls back, "I just - I need a minute."

His unexpected presence coupled with Darla's is just too much to take in at once. How is she supposed to decide how she feels when she doesn't even - she'd thought that - Cordelia retreats carefully from the questions she's afraid to even fully form in her own mind. Good thing she's well stocked on aspirin.

Only moments later, Darla strolls past the three men, pointedly ignoring them as she walks towards the refrigerator. She grabs a bag of Angel’s blood along with a mug, quickly pouring herself a glass, and heating it in the microwave. She stores the remaining blood back in the refrigerator and crosses to the couch to settle with far too much ease to comfort anyone else in the room.

She is still sitting there, sipping the blood in her human mask, as Angel strides through the room. He sighs, seeing the questioning glances of his friends and pauses to request, "Try not to hurt each other, please? Connor’s still asleep," before continuing through the room after Cordelia.

Darla doesn’t bother to look up, simply shrugging, knowing that Angel is on his way to have that ‘adult’ conversation with the secretary. She doesn’t expect the others to approach her at all and is rather surprised when Lorne comes to sit next to her, "How you holding up, Sugar?"

Pulling her head up and back, and cocking it at a slight angle, she regards both Lorne and his question, deciding for the moment to ignore the term ‘sugar.’ Never in any of their previous meetings has she sensed any sort of camaraderie from the passive green demon. Still, there is no hostility in his red eyes that she can tell. "Me? I’m undead and kicking, again. What could possibly be wrong?"

Leaning in closer, eyes filled with the knowledge of one who has seen many lives and destinies unfold. Pitching his voice quieter than the others can hear, Lorne whispers, "Keep telling yourself that, Sunshine. Just remember - I heard you sing."

Shaking off the shiver that this whole idea brings out of her, Darla reminds herself that she’s lived more than her fair share of lifetimes and that it doesn’t matter what this demon can see when she sings. The singing was for Connor, not anybody else. "Hardly a pleasant nickname for a vampire," she coolly informs Lorne.

Not daunted now that he’s seen, rather literally, into her newfound soul, Lorne agrees amiably enough. "I was referring to your oh-so-pleasant attitude, but fair enough." The green demon sits back, out of her personal space, regarding her. "Guess you’re really more of a nightingale then, yeah?"

"Mmm," she notes that Wesley and Groo are straining to hear her and Lorne’s conversation just as her enhanced hearing picks up the soft gurgles of a baby waking. The sound is unfamiliar to her but enough to let her know that Connor must be awake. One baby that she has no desire to hurt. "Just remember, I'm not Angel. I still bite."

And, determining the conversation over, Darla gets up with her mug of blood and wanders back towards Angel’s room to check on Connor. The first baby she’s been around for any period of time since the Boxer Rebellion. And maybe she is more tamed than she thinks because she’s more disgusted by that fact and accompanying memories than delighted.

!~(*)~!

Knocking loudly on the door, Angel can’t help but sigh when the only response he gets is a muffled ‘come in.’ Nonetheless, he pushes open the door and enters one of the hotel's many rooms, the one that Cordelia has picked as her home-away-from-home.

Inside, Cordelia is sitting on her bed, her back to the door, thumbing through pictures, some recently of her, Angel and Connor. Angel comes in and sits down next to her on the bed, careful to make sure that his footsteps are audible to the human ear.

After a second or two of silence, Cordelia’s voice fills the room, "It feels like the ballet wasn’t the only place doing the time warp."

Conceding her this point, Angel nods, almost relieved that she won’t look at him. Just an hour ago he recalls all these manufactured feelings, lingering from the ballet spell and all directed towards Cordelia. Now, all he can think about is Connor and Darla and he doesn't know what he feels at all anymore. He's ignored hundreds of years of feelings for Darla before, even with Angelus railing at him. But it's not so easy with their son. The one good thing they've done. With the chance to save her this time. "I know everything is sudden right now. Groo and Darla unexpectedly showing up."

At the mention of the other two people that are on her mind, Cordy jerks slightly away from Angel’s presence, shoving the pictures back into a box and the box under the bed. "There might have been some overreacting, but I can’t believe you’re just allowing her to be around, like everything is all hunky-dory. Big with that sucking last time, literally." Suddenly she has to question. "You’re not evil again, right?"

Taking a deep, if unneeded, breath, Angel spares a moment of think over all the answers and assurances that he can give her. He watches as she twiddles her thumbs and avoids his gaze, and he knows that Darla was right - it's impossible to explain. "I know - I know you have every reason to want Darla gone, but Connor needs her." He sighs. "I won't let her hurt anybody. I promised." But she's staying doesn't really need to be said.

"You didn’t answer my other question," she points out with a giddy, almost hysterical, laugh, even though she pretty much knows what the answer will be.

Getting up rather abruptly, Angel walks towards the door, only pausing right before he leaves. "I still have my soul, Cordy. And now, so does Darla."

Cordelia sits there on the bed, thinking about what Angel’s said, her hand still absently rubbing that spot on her neck where tiny scars still reside from the one time she felt for Darla. She sits that way a long time, until the door opens again.

This time she lets the person who enters comfort her, in his own way. Lets Groo try to make it all better for his ‘princess,’ even though he doesn’t really understand what’s wrong. She tries to remember that this is what she wants and that she’s safe with Groo, always.

!~(*)~!

By the time Angel wanders back to his room, Darla is rocking Connor carefully in her arms, the baby almost asleep. Angel stands to the side a moment, regarding them. "He tends to fall asleep once I put on my game face."

Darla doesn't turn to him, but he can hear the slight sound of her shifting features. "Huh." Then she's cooing to the baby with a slight slur - not well practiced in baby-talk with fangs. "Mommy's gonna getcha, yes she is."

Sure enough, Connor giggles happily, reaching out a pudgy arm as if to touch her face, though he can't reach that far. His eyes screw up and he rubs them tiredly, eventually drifting off to sleep. Darla puts him back in his crib and turns towards Angel, still in game face. "I'll never get used to that."

"Surprised me the first time, too," Angel shrugs. He's just as comfortable in his game face, and he so rarely gets to let it out that - if Connor enjoys it - so be it.

After a moment, Darla moves to sit down on Angel's bed. She glances at Angel and catches him brooding. She shakes off her game face. "Is this the part where we sit down and have a heart to heart, one soul to another?"

Her sarcasm is not lost on Angel. He decides to move straight to the point, "Did you kill Lindsey?"

"I killed him all right, Angel." She notes his intake of air that he doesn't need to breathe, and smirks. "Just not how you think. His body is still alive and functioning, but I broke his heart." Darla sighs, her forehead creasing into a slight frown, "I think I killed the only real part of him left."

Angel stays pressed against the closed door, watching. He recognizes the guilt on her face better than most. He waits.

"He brought me back, like this. I'd been -" Darla shakes her head, not looking at him, "and then I was back and there was my soul again, this blinding pain like someone had just shoved it back into me and it didn't fit. I don't know what Lindsey thought. That we'd run off together into the night? That I'd turn him? That I'd," her voice cracks, "love him?"

Angel can hear the guilt and disgust and confusion warring in her and he hates it. He knows how much a soul hurts, the way it aches and claws against the demon. And maybe Darla deserved this once upon a time, but hasn't she proved herself enough to escape this painful yo-yo of life and death and unlife yet? Angel finds himself sinking next to her on the bed without consciously deciding. His hand comes up to her shoulder and Darla looks up with wide eyes. "What happened?"

"I was scared, Angel." He can tell how much it costs her to admit that, "And so I lashed out. He wanted me to stay and I just - I had to see my baby. To know that he was all right." Her eyes drift to the crib, wet and shining. "Connor."

Angel tucks her under his chin, "So you approve of the name, then?"

If Darla's laugh ends on a sob, Angel doesn't say anything. She's trying to pretend that everything's fine. That she's fine. But Angel knows. A soul changes everything.

!~(*)~!

The conversation with Wesley and Gunn and Fred doesn't exactly go much better than his conversation with Cordelia, but Angel does his best. "She needs me." He tells them, "And Connor deserves to know her."

With Lorne's support and Darla's shiny new soul, they can't do much but shake their heads and tell him to be careful. They all know Angel well enough to know that he never gives up on anyone. Least of all the vampire in the other room.

There's centuries between Angel and Darla. Centuries of love and lust and blood and hate and death and rebirth and more than the others can ever hope to understand. But they do understand the protective set of Angel's jaw when he refers to her.

Cordelia, unsurprisingly, retreats back to her apartment, taking Groo with her. She offers a shaky smile as she hugs everyone goodbye and tries to pretend it's just a much-needed vacation. Her eyes don't meet Angel's.

Wesley and Fred and Gunn seem torn between making themselves scarce and being close by in case they are needed. Angel appreciates their support, at least, but they are clearly busy dealing with their own issues. Gunn and Fred disappear as soon as they are sure the situation is under control; too busy staring at one another to be much use anyway. Wesley looks after them both for a long moment, then shakes himself out of it and quickly retires to his own apartment. Lorne just continues on, business as usual, and Angel is so thankful he could almost sing for him.

Darla shares his complete amazed fascination with Connor. With this tiny, helpless creature that they somehow created. An innocent with their features. It's been lifetimes since either of them were around a baby, and dwelling on those memories does no good, so watching Connor is like being reborn all over again. It's like the first time. It simultaneously makes Angel feel ancient and brand new at the same time.

Thankfully, neither vampire requires much sleep. It makes taking care of a human (well, mostly human, at least - Connor has quite a grip on him and Lorne still hasn't forgiven him for nearly breaking off a horn) baby that much easier.

Angel keeps a close eye on Darla and Connor for the first few days, until Cordy has a vision of some new monster that demands Angel Investigations' expertise, but it's unnecessary anyway. Darla is seizing her new chance at life. Shoving away all the guilt and melancholy by holding her baby. This new body never grew him, impossibility that that was, but she still remembers feeling him grow. Dying without a chance to see his face. And she never wants to look away.

If Connor is the only good thing she's ever done, Darla is going to make sure he's the best. She doesn't remember much about her first human life, but she knows that she wants him to feel safe and loved in a way that she never knew.

She understands Angel better now. That it's hard to love with no soul at all. Still, she thinks she's loved Angel from the moment she met Liam in a bar and lured him out to an alley. The risks she took, turning him and running away with him. A neat symmetry to taking Angel's life and her own in such similar settings. How fitting that she gave up everything for both her boys in alleyways.

But Darla would do anything to make her boys happy. To have them with her. So she sips the vile pigs' blood without complaint and makes her footsteps purposefully loud so as not to startle the humans milling suspiciously about the hotel during the days.

Angel lets her sleep in his bed, keeping a weary watch over her and Connor. It's to keep an eye on her, to make sure she's not off snacking on his friends or their child, but Darla merely raises an eyebrow as she slides between the sheets, slipping off her clothes and breathing in his scent.

If Angel's eyes trail her body, well - it's nothing he hasn't memorized before.

!~(*)~!

The first time she wakes up screaming, Angel is there in the space of a nonexistent-breath. He pins her flailing arms to her side and pulls her into his arms, hushing her.

Darla is disorientated, caught between her memories and the hotel room, grounded by Angel's presence in both. Connor is crying and Angel's grip on her is firm, and Darla's still shaking herself into the present when the others burst into the room.

Angel presses Darla against him, shielding her with his arms, mindful of the sheets that have fallen away. Torn, he glances helplessly between Darla and their son.

Fred steps up neatly, keeping her eyes averted as she crosses the room to gather up Connor in her arms, shushing him quietly. Wesley and Gunn exchange a look. Gunn ventures, "Everything all right, Angel?"

Angel nods as much as he dares over the top of Darla's head, fishing about for an explanation. Darla's still shaking against him, but her breathing is evening and he knows she wouldn't want the others to see her like this. "We're fine. Do you mind-"

Fred cuts him off, ushering the men out of the room with a nod, "We'll just go make Connor up a bottle then."

After their footsteps have faded away and Darla's breathing has evened and then stopped completely, signaling that she's calmed, Angel queries, "Nightmare?"

Darla shakes her head against his shirt. "Memories."

Angel loosens his grip and runs a hand soothingly across Darla's bare back. He's not surprised. There are still too many days he wakes hating himself for his own memories - and most of those involve Darla. Angel steels himself against the wave of guilt that he knows is coming. "Which ones?"

Darla pulls back and smiles mirthlessly at him. "All of them." She sighs. "It was all blood and pain. My dreams are drenched in red. Bodies screaming. We always did love to make them scream." Her voice is wistful and horrified at the same time. It's hard to watch four hundred years of memories turn into regrets in the blink of an eye, and Darla has never been one to dwell in the mistakes of the past.

"I know it's a lot," Angel begins, not quite sure how to make his usual redemption speech with Darla. Again. "But you can do something with this life, Darla. Make up for some of the bloodshed."

Darla's not looking at him. "I was dreaming of the children. The babies." Her voice chokes on a sob, "God, Angelus. So many babies."

And then she's collapsing into herself, sobbing; the guilt of centuries breaking through her careful walls. Angel gathers her into his arms, rocking her. He ignores the use of his previous name because he understands - it was Angelus there, with her. The two of them cutting a bloody swathe across the continent. It was Angelus by her side, draining all those children. Darla is perhaps the only other creature in the world now that can understand the difference between Angelus and Angel - the divide pre and post soul.

He doesn't offer her any false words of comfort because he knows how hollow they are when behind her eyes she can see each and every one of those nameless children. Hear their sobs and screams before, mercifully, they died. So he soothes her as best he can, stroking her hair and back. Rocking with her until the wave of guilt passes. Clenching his jaw against his own guilt and staying strong for her. He's had a lot longer to come to terms with his soul than she has.

"I was right, before. I'm a monster. What can I possibly offer our son? Pro tips on prostitution and torture and murder? I don't even remember my mother. I can't - how can I be his mother?"

She is staring up at him with ancient, wounded eyes. For the first time, Angel realizes how scared she truly is - how she had clung to her old life and old self because she is too old to remember how to be anything else. And here she is, caring for a squalling child, and trying - going against everything she knows.

"Because you are." He brushes the tears off her cheeks with his thumbs, taking her head in his hands. "Connor is our miracle, Darla. Our one good thing that we never deserved. And if I -" He takes a deep breath and says the thoughts he's been afraid to acknowledge. "Darla, I killed my family. I have no idea how I'm supposed to be a father. But Connor is our chance to make up for some of that. He's ours. We'll figure it out together."

Angel's vehemence surprises even him - how much he wants her there. With him. How much he wants them to have their chance at redemption, even if it's only through their son. He'd not allowed himself to properly mourn her, caught up in balancing fatherhood with Angel Investigations, but he realizes now how bereft it had felt. He wants Darla to see that her sacrifice was worth it - to watch their child grow up with him.

Darla is searching his face with widened eyes, and Angel becomes all too aware of how close they are. Their faces are inches apart, and Darla is naked in his lap. It's most of his dreams and nightmares and he is frozen, terrified. The last time he gave into Darla he almost lost his soul. But he gained his son.

Her hands tentatively reach up and brush against his jaw. Darla's voice is a cautious mix of sarcasm and hope. "Together. One little family."

His still blood is rushing to his head, and Angel finds himself closing the gap and kissing her before he even knows he's moving. Blood and family and sire and Darla.

Darla melts into him, and it's everything that they've always been. Everything he's remembered. He's missed her. More than he has ever been willing to admit. It's softer, the way her tongue twines with his. There's less violence than is usually between them, but they still know each other like pieces of themselves, as her hands slide through his hair and his slide down her body.

As they fall back into his bed, it feels like coming home.