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

Have you ever had one of those nagging puzzles that you just can't get out of your head? Like the meaning behind a particularly obscure bit of lyrics, you just have to know what it means.

I've got one of those and it's named Angel. Now sometimes Angel's the type of person who's emotions can knock you over from across the room. Take for instance the night when Angel and Darla… well… got things started, so to speak. No explanations needed, he was broadcasting more strongly than any radio station, but ever since that night, all I've heard is static.

Now if he'd sing all that static would clear right up, but Angel's the glutton for punishment, not me, and the less I hear of that man's singing voice the happier I'll be.

A few hours ago, however, I got a flash of what's behind the static. When he asked what SHE, Cordy, not the expectant mother, was feeling I got a faint signal.

Under the very understandable shock about Darla's condition… It is understandable that the whole impending fatherhood thing would throw him, I've seen a lot of people who aren't technically dead and thus infertile, who can't quite believe it when they get the news that they're going to be a parent.

But that was all very straight forward. I'm sure Angel will come to terms once he's had a little time, assuming the mommy to be doesn't kill too many people before he catches up with her.

What was surprising was the emotional mess below the shock. A great, big, old, Gordian knot of emotions. So far I've been able to pick out anger and fear. "Why'd she have to show them? What if they never forgive me?"

A house of cards that's in danger of falling down. Darla's the wind and Angel's not too happy about the threat she represents to everything he's built back.

Of course the anger wouldn't be there without the fear. If he weren't afraid of the delicacy, the instability of the friendships he'd rebuilt since Hurricane Darla last passed through his life he wouldn't be angry that she's back, laying bare old wounds.

Sometimes people rebuild a fortress in the wake of disaster, something so strong it'll never fall again. Just look at the Calico Palace up in San Fran. Sometimes though, people just go through the ruins and cobble together any sort of shelter as fast as they can. It's looking like Angel took the later route.

Took the memories of his old relationships and patched them together with gilt and glitter: new clothes and lies, eager to please smiles and proscribed behavior.

He spelled it out for me didn't he? "Angel, you should lighten up. Angel, you should smile more. Angel, you should wear a nice plaid." That's what he thinks they want from him.

Thank the PTB I headed off the plaid idea before it took root. Now that I think of it I'm the one who suggested that leather pants aren't the end of the world too. I know people all over the city would be thanking me for that suggestion if only they knew.

That isn't the point though, the point, the thing I'm feeling a mite worried about is how seriously has Angel been taking the suggestions, even implications he picks up every day.

I remember the first few times he, Cordy and Wes came here socially. After Wes told them about Caritas Cordy just had to come back and sing; wanted to know if the acting would ever go anywhere or, failing that, if Angel would give her a raise.

Sure Angel wasn't the life of the party, fairly quiet and reserved really, maybe a tad wistful when the songs got him thinking about his Slayer, but he wasn't unhappy. He had friends he felt close to, a purpose in life he believed in, even a hope for the future. Sure that hope calmed down a lot from the first time I met him, but that was all good. That first time he was fairly maniacal about the future, after that it eased off into a warm someday. Of course that was all before Darla.

I knew his little flirtation with darkness over her was going to change things forever. He did a lot of tearing down in his personal relationships. I thought they'd rebuild something stronger, a more equal relationship, something where they'd recognize each other's weaknesses and help each other deal with them. Instead Angel's pulled a chameleon on them.

He'll give them everything they even suggest they want of him, but not himself. Too afraid they won't like what's inside to let them see him.

But Darla's back and she and her little bundle are going to shake things up around here again. This time I think it's going to be in a good way. They're going to break down all Angel's illusions and give his friends a chance to meet him. I think Angel's in for a pleasant surprise, because I see a lot to like behind the façade he puts up, I think his friends will too.

Author's Note: The Calico Palace is a reference to Gwen Brook's novel of the same name.



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