Crosses to Bear

Disclaimer: Characters and Premise are borrowed from the show "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer."

Angel shut the door between himself and his co-workers, his friends really. Blocking out Wesley and Cordelia's concerned, caring, fearful expressions. Shutting out the sight of the tranquilizer gun held awkwardly in Wesley's hands and Cordelia's guilty smile. He was surprised she hadn't brought a cross.

Crosses worked so well, at least on him. Darla had held hers easily, pressed it to his chest letting it burn him. Her words rang in his mind, "It doesn't matter how good a boy you are, God still doesn't want you."

Angel picked up the cross; he'd brought it back from the cloister with him. As always it burned, smoke rose from his hands as the flesh reddened then blistered. Angel ran his fingers deliberately over the cross, not flinching from the pain, it was a welcome distraction.

In some ways Darla knew him so well, better than anyone else living or unloving, better than Cordelia or Drucilla or even Buffy. She knew all three of his incarnations: Liam, Angelus and even a bit of Angel. She had known that her ability to touch the cross without pain would hurt him, anger him.

How could it not? Darla had been everything that he had been, a vampire, a soulless killer, his co-plotter in many of his most notorious crimes. Now they were both souled, he had to believe that she would come to regret her actions, nothing souled could look at their past without horror.

But she was human and he wasn't. She could be forgiven even before she asked and he was not. The cross burned him and not her. She could walk in sunlight, take a lover, have children, have a life, he couldn't. Maybe someday, if he survived, if he did enough, he could have that. Meanwhile, Buffy was moving on, falling in love with blond, all-American, soldier types, learning to hate him.

Darla knew that her words would hurt on more than one level, knew they would bring to mind another Father who hadn't wanted him. Who he had tried to please in every way he could think of, but who he had always failed. He remembered trying to be good, but never being good enough. He remembered being everything his father had ever said he was and still not pleasing him.

He remembered a mother who barely seemed to matter and a younger sister who he had loved dearly because she wasn't what their father wanted either. He remembered killing his sister for her love and trust in him, killing her even as she named him an angel.

Those were things only Darla knew, but Darla didn't know Angel as well as she thought she did.

She thought he could loose his soul in her, when her touch reminded him only of darkness and depravity. He might crave it, crave any touch at all in the self-imposed prison of distance he lived in, but he would loose his soul to her.

She thought it would be a revelation that the darkness, which had made Angelus the scourge of Europe, had always been a part of him and not something she had given him. He knew that, it was had always been with him. Liam's loneliness, his hopeless yearning to be loved, something only Kathy could manage, and only because she needed his love as much as he needed hers, that unhappiness turned against the world was Angelus' darkness.

Angelus hated and feared love far more than any Slayer. Even Spike and Dru's twisted version of the emotion had been intolerable to him.

When the Kalderash had returned his soul there had been nothing left but self-loathing and apathy. Whistler had forced him to let it go, he never would have survived Sunnydale with that darkness still clasped to him. Xander's first sarcastic crack would have driven him away, or the look on Buffy's face when she realized what he was. He would have crumpled at the first set back believing he could only make things worse. Retreated under the guise of hurt anger rather than risk failing, like he had done with Judy.

He knew the darkness was still there, still waiting to claim and consume him, but he had reached beyond it and found hope. Some days, like today, hope was hard to hold to, but he knew it was there and he wouldn't give in to Darla's machinations.

With renewed determination Angel set aside the cross, no he couldn't touch it today and Darla could, but he had chosen to earn his redemption. Twice he had passed by shortcuts to the sunlit future he wanted, he wouldn't mourn now because of Darla. He wasn't that weak, not anymore.



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