Title: Tarkna
Author: Meltha
Rating: G
Feedback: Yes, thank you. Meltha
Spoilers: Through Angel season four
Distribution: Fanfiction.net, the 500 Club, and the Blackberry Patch. If you're interested, please let me know.
Summary: Lorne gets ready for another day of being his lovably self, or so it would seem.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Author's Note: Twenty-first in the Jewel Box series, a set of 500 word fictions that grew out of an idea from the 500 Club and Challenge in a Can . This time, we have Lorne, jewelry, frantic.

Blood and raw silk don't go well together. Granted, it's just the teeniest spot on his cravat, but it's got to be perfect, he thinks. With a frustrated growl, he undoes the vibrant yellow tie, carefully avoiding the agate stone tie tack that caused the snafu. It's a tiny thing, but it sparkles like a Broadway chorus boy's smile. A touch of glitter is required to complete any outfit. After all, if people are busy looking at the flashing lights, they don't notice the bad things. That's the first trick he learned after Pylea.

His life has become a long smoke and mirrors trick. Bright colors and a thousand watt grin are all people see when they look at him, and that's the way he wants it. For the first time, he's accepted, and he doesn't want to mess it up.

So he's the guy everyone comes to with their problems. They love him for it. It's nice to be loved after years of being told what a failure he was. He's probably the only one of them who would actually say to their faces that he loves them too. But underneath it all, there's a fear that if for one moment he's not perfect, he'll be tossed aside.

Connor did it. He'd adored that baby, and even when he was passed over time and again to go somewhere because they needed a babysitter, he'd been happy with the completely non-hypocritical smiles and coos of delight that broke from the little one's lips. It was unconditional love at its finest for both of them.

Mourning the loss of that bundle in blue was the sharpest pain he'd ever felt. His mother's curses and the screams of children when they saw his face were nothing in comparison. Besides Angel, no on had suffered as acutely as he did. He didn't sing and for a long time thought he never would again.

Then Connor had returned, a young man with hate in his eyes. Holtz had killed his innocence and replaced it with loathing of everyone unlike him. The baby had snuggled close to him in arms, been soothed by his voice, and trusted him with all his being. Connor called him "it" and "demon," sneering, threatening, despising.

The thought that if it could happen with Connor it could happen with all of them haunts him. Now, even on days when he's worn to a fiddle string, he plays his role with sparkly costumes and cheerful songs. He knows his place: comic relief, with an emphasis on relief. Perky, happy, trouble-free Lorne.

He'll never tell Angel mind wipes don't work on Pyleans. If he knew, Lorne would have to mourn alongside him, and that's the one thing he can never allow himself to do.

There, he thinks as the stained yellow is replaced by vivid aquamarine. Perfect. He exits his office, grin firmly in place, ready to be all things to all people again. He has to be.

He has to.