Feb. 17th, 2007

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Gunn and Fred swore there was a ghost in Cordelia's apartment. Connor, who helped them move all the boxes Fred packed with Cordelia's belongings to the Hyperion, never saw or sensed anything. Granted, he didn't try very hard. Both because he needed to focus on keeping up the lost-son-hoping-his-father-will-return facade for Gunn and Fred, and because he didn't really want to.

He didn't understand how that many clothes could belong to one person. He didn't understand a lot of things.

"Cordy told me his beast of a mother build a wall to keep poor Dennis there for the rest of eternity," Fred said. "While he was still alive. Can you imagine doing that to your own child? I can't understand how anyone can be so cruel."

Connor tuned her out, and really didn't want to look for the ghost after that. After all the boxes were at the Hyperion, he didn't have to go back to the apartment again, and was grateful.

***

There were no pictures of Darla at the Hyperion. Not among the many photos that he retried for Cordelia, not among the papers in Angel's office he sometimes went through in secret. Nobody ever mentioned her; not Fred and Gunn during the summer, not Angel after he had come back from the sea, and not Cordelia after her memories had returned. You'd think Connor had sprung from Angel's forehead, fully formed; even when seething with anger at his deception, Fred referred to him as "Angel's son", half sobbing, half shouting.

If it had not been for his other father, his true father, as he still tried to tell himself, he would not have known Darla's name at all, or anything about her. As it was, he knew enough. She had been as vicious as Angelus, perhaps more so because she had given birth to that monster to begin with, just as she gave birth to Connor. Holtz never specified how she died, though. "God meant you to bring justice to the demons who spawned you," his father said, "and to Darla, you already did. That should be enough for you, Stephen. Let us not talk of it further."

Fittingly, it was Angelus who finally told him more about Darla. Angelus said her name, the first time anyone did in Connor's hearing, his tongue relishing the two syllables.

"Darla," Angelus said, "Darla felt the same way. It made her sick, you squirming inside her. So, she jammed a stake in her own heart, just so she wouldn't have to hear your first whiny breath."

"You don't know anything," Connor returned before he could stop himself, and the hatred inside, for the both the monsters Darla had given birth to, was overwhelming. He shouldn't care. She had been a demon, mass murdering demon; he should be glad she was dead because of him. But he did care, and now Angelus, smiling, knew it.

Perhaps that was why nobody had mentioned her. You do not mention the victim in the murderer's hearing, did you? It could bring back her ghost.

***

She was dressed in white, like the girl sobbing in the corner. Staring at her face, Connor wondered whether it was this that his fathers saw, both of them, when looking at him.

"You can't be my mother," he whispered, and when she talked about memories and feelings, he said it out loud, because if he knew anything, he knew this: "My mother is dead."

Her dust had to be what he first breathed in. Perhaps this is why he still took a breath, every time, when staking a vampire. But here she was, and he couldn't smell her. Even vampires had a scent. He couldn't hear her heart beat, either, but that was normal; he didn't expect her to have one. Perhaps the dead did come back. Why her, though? He had never known her, after all.

"Why did you leave me? Did you hate me that much?"

Weak, weak. And yet of all his parents, she was the only one he could ask that question. Of course, she answered by swearing she did not want to abandon him, but then, none of them did, did they? The girl in the corner didn't stop crying and wishing for her own mother, and the apparition in white kept telling him he should know better than murder, that he was better than a murderer.

"You've been gone a long time, Mom," Connor said, wearily. "How would you know?"

"Because we shared a soul," she replied simply. Perhaps that was what she wanted, why she was here; to reclaim that soul, to form him anew or discard him as damaged goods. Perhaps he should allow her; he owed her a life, after all.

So he started to let the girl go, and then Cordelia returned to renew her own claim on him. Cordelia, pregnant and alive, brought up the ultimate argument, the one Darla had not been able to refute with all her claims of sharing his soul.

Are you going to let them kill our baby?

The girl didn't stop screaming until Cordelia raised the butcher's knife she had found in the old slaughterhouse they were hiding in. Then, at that last moment, her face changed, and she grew utterly silent. Her face was Darla's, now, looking up at him, and Connor wanted to yell that this was the wrong choice. Not his, hers. If she could do that, why did she not take her due, why did she not enter his own body, took back the life he had taken and threw away the soul which obviously had not been of use to anyone?

Her blood splattered all over him. It was an answer of sorts. Perhaps, in the end, that was all ghosts could do: make the living repeat their actions, again and again.

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