It Was Real

Summary: Set after the Darla-Connor scene from 'Inside Out'. What happened after Darla failed to guide Connor into making the right choice? She goes back to her afterlife, that's what! And talks to Balthazar. No biggie.

A/N: I know there's been some debate about whether or not it was really Darla that appeared to Connor in 'Inside Out', but for the purposes of this story, let's just say that it really was her and not The First. Also, I know I said Soul Fascination was a one shot but obviously I made a second parter. It's not directly related to the first, but you could choose to make it that way if you want. Also, this one is dedicated to Kiss-and-Trauma since she was the one who mainly pushed me to write a second parter.

Disclaimer: I don't own Angel and Constantine.

She felt the girl's blood all around her, it was on her neck and on her son's face. She felt the impact of the blade and the immediate pain, tactile sensations she'd long since forgotten. The body she invaded had lost all life and she had failed.

She'd never known herself to be such a disappointment before and it made her feel hollow, defeated.

The walls shifted and faded, blurring for one instant before blinding white light filled her vision. She would have squinted but this form was hardly affected by such stimuli. The intensity of the brightness eventually faded away, until all that was left was the blackness of an abyss, until every living noise had stopped and her entire surroundings filled with cold silence. It was peaceful here, but lonely. A frosty solitude she had secretly feared when she was at the height of her existence.

Such fears seemed ridiculous now, of course.

She walked this abyss for years, holding on to the invisible connection that tethered her to the living. She'd always been beside him, of course, and she wished - more than anything, she wished he could feel it as well. Darla never forgot the warmth and the love, and she wanted to make sure he didn't either.

"Well, this is surprising," The voice was condescending, holding that slight tint of an English accent. From the shadows of the darkness emerged a figure, clad in a normal business suit. He looked like any professional human would, except for that red glow to his eyes.

Darla had seen him before. Balthazar, the demon called himself. An uncommon name, old and biblical. Unusual, just like that hideous looking polka-dotted tie he always adorned with his striped suit.

"Is it?" She tilted her head to coldly regard him, he was never welcome. "Or maybe it's not at all. He was so lost, and he still is. I could feel it."

Tugging at her soul, that overwhelming feeling of despair and want. It had been in him even before he came back from that horrid place.

"That's not what I meant," He smirked, taking out a gold coin from his left breast pocket and began rolling it over his knuckles. The flip, flip, flip of the coin hardly impressed her. "I'm surprised that you failed to prevent him. Your lies were always so powerful, so effective."

Then he shrugged, the smirk never leaving his face. The motion was so fluid that it looked almost natural. But Darla was never fooled, Balthazar was anything but natural and normal. Even if she had been human, she would be able to see it in his tone and in the way he spoke.

"Oh well, there's a first time for everything, I suppose."

Her mouth tightened, and her gaze grew sharp. "I wasn't lying. Everything I told him was the truth. It was his choice if he wanted to believe in it or not."

"Of course," The smirk faded from his lips and his expression grew serious. He stopped flipping his coin, pocketing it once he grew bored with the motion. It was a neat little trick, but hardly needed for the situation. He raised an eyebrow. "You must be so proud then, aren't you? Your little boy is following in your footsteps. Slaughtering innocent virgins and the like. You must pardon me, I have no children of my own but I'm sure the experience of seeing that must be so...thrilling."

Darla's face twisted as she fought to keep her anger down. Balthazar's insults were juvenile and there was no reason to respond to it in an equally childish manner.

"He didn't do it," Her voice was calm, but cold. She didn't want Balthazar to have any sort of leverage over her with words, but her recent failure and the memory of her son's anguish was still fresh in her mind. It was difficult to sound civil.

"No, he merely led the little lamb to her slaughter," Balthazar was amused, and he showed it by grinning, really wide and menacing. He then nodded, mockingly as if he were truly agreeing with her. "He didn't do anything at all, you are quite right."

Irritation flooded her, and she barely restrained herself from spitting out her question, "What are you doing here anyway?"

He clasped his hands together, then looked up as if he was thinking real hard about it. Then he looked at her again and shrugged, "I'm bored."

Darla rolled her eyes. "I'm glad I provide some form of entertainment for you then." There were many ways one might take that sentence, especially considering her former profession. Right now though, it was said dryly and flippantly. Like she cared what entertained Balthazar.

"Oh, you do, Darla," His eyes never left her face, the way he looked at her was anything but lustful. It was a hard perusal, stemming from cold fascination. There were no vampires in his world and encountering the ghost of one was enough to captivate him. He supposed that would be a bad thing for the object of his...affections, Balthazar tended to get attached to them rather quickly. Before they became too predictable, of course. Then that's when he needed to have fun and his idea of fun was far, far different than what humans usually thought of.

Darla didn't flinch at all, she used to be a predator herself. What use was being afraid if one was already dead?

"How long were you watching?" She asked, not sounding surprised at all. Balthazar was a powerful demon who had tricks up his sleeves, that she could sense, and the fact that he showed up now indicated that it obviously had something to do with what happened earlier. The taunting was fairly obvious, and she wasn't sure if she completely bought the whole 'boredom' motive. With Balthazar, one never really knew.

She knew his type though, had been as infuriating as he was - although she liked to think she was more sophisticated than stooping to such infantile tactics.

He smiled. "Does it matter?"

"What do you think?" She shot back, growing tired of his games. She was dead already, didn't peace count for something? Even if she didn't deserve it.

"You're avoiding the subject," He began walking towards her, stopping at a considerable distance. So close yet so far.

She remained where she was, refusing to be intimidated by his presence.

He continued prattling on, ignoring her furious glares. "'My life for yours', that's what you said. Did you really mean it though?"

She frowned. "Of course I did. You have no concept of the -"

"-feelings that a mother has for her children, blah blah," He said, rather tiredly. He went on to pick off an imaginary lint from his sleeve because that was just so Balthazar, everything had to be perfect. His whole manner was lazy, in general, as if he was anticipating her every move. Which he probably was, he's had eons of practice after all. His whole entire existence revolved around humans and using their vices against them. While Darla may not have really been a human when she died, she at least used to be one and that was all that counted.

"You meant it when he was in your womb, when he shared his soul with you that one moment. I just want to know if you would have meant that had you lived? You were incapable of love, you never understood it. You still don't," He continued prattling on, ignoring the way her eyes widened before her face became rigid. He can see the subtle twitch of her hands and the clenching of her jaw. If Balthazar could smirk, he would have done so right at that moment. Oh wait, he can smirk. So he did, oh-so-slowly stretching his lips reminiscent of a cheesy movie villain.

Balthazar was not Angelus. Darla knew what Angelus was, she knew his mind tricks because she's seen it thousands of times, because she's taught him most of those games and she had no feelings for it. She loved seeing his victims' faces, loved smelling the shame and horror that spiced their blood right before they would have their fill.

When Angelus got uppity, Darla knew what made him tick and hurt and so she could bring him down. She didn't know what made Balthazar tick or hurt, she didn't even think he could.

He seemed like a demon who knew exactly what he was, his purpose, and made no apologies for it.

But then again, so did she.

"I never loved anything for the longest time," She began, her voice soft and far away, as if she was dreaming. She could be, but she wasn't living anymore was she? The dead can't dream, she knew that much.

"But I feel..." She hesitated, hating this rare form of speechlessness. "I feel everything he does. I felt it when he was scared, when he was alone and angry. I feel his confusion and longing. So much longing. I want to give him everything."

Balthazar was listening to her raptly, his head tilted.

I'd die everyday for the rest of eternity for you.

"What else could it be but love?" She looked tired and empty. She couldn't tell if that was her or Connor.

"You are uncertain of your feelings," He observed, taking another step closer. He was enjoying this little debate between them, but he really would rather see her scream in torment at hands of his brethren. It would be a far sweeter sight.

He tsked, "That's not really helping your case, my dear."

Darla could see that he was practically preening with the way he thought he had something over her. If she had been a vampire she would have ripped out his tongue minutes ago and not bat an eyelash. Darla knew herself, she knew she loved her son. She died for him and watched over him, saw what he went through, wept for him.

Balthazar was an outstanding manipulator, but she spent one hundred and fifty years playing these tiresome tricks with Angelus.

"Is that what you're here for?" She let a vicious smile curl her lips. "To tell me I can't love? That's sweet, but I've got my non-corporeal proof right here." She swept a hand over her form. "You might want to try a different game next time, my dear."

He laughed pleasantly, but there was no warmth or genuine humour underneath at all. "So you believe you could have given him what he wanted then, hmm?"

"No," She said quickly, firmly.

But he went over her as if she hadn't interrupted. "That his vampire mummy wouldn't wonder what his blood tasted like? Or how sssweet and delicious he would be once he popped out? It's like housing a little snack."

Balthazar was practically hissing, the reds of his eyes glowing even brighter.

"No," Although her tone wavered the second time she said it. She still loved Connor, that would never change. Past was past. "The only thing I could give him was life, so I did what I had to. So he could live. Don't try and twist my feelings for my son."

"It's an illusion," he sing-songed. He could have looked like the Cheshire Cat if he grew whiskers. "Souls are pesky little things, aren't they? Pieces of fluff that make you feel things that don't really exist. But then, I shouldn't talk. My profit comes from sending these little suckers down below."

He sighed, then pulled his sleeve back to check his watch. Whether time actually worked here was another matter altogether. It was probably for appearance. Balthazar was all appearance, really. "Well, it's that time again. I really should be going now."

He started walking away from her, then turned back and grinned. Part of his form was shrouded in the darkness of her afterlife. "I'll sssee you again, Darla."

"It was real," She called out to him, but he had already gone.

All that was left was the hollow emptiness of the abyss.

She shivered and looked around again, and wondered, for the first time, if this was her Hell.