Author: Christina Kamnikar
Summary: Darla finds that being a little bit pregnant is like being a little bit undead.
Author's Notes: I'm not trying to give an opinion on the subject of unwanted pregnancy. But she's not exactly poster child for Mom of the Year. So, I wrote this *before* the ep "Offspring" aired... and I only made one or two adjective changes after. I think I like my take on Darla's pregnancy attitude better. Copyright 2001
Thanks to the Horsechicks for reading and eep'ing.
Warning: General ickiness warnings apply. This *is* Darla we're talking about, here.
When she'd finally accepted that Dru was right, crazy but right, again, she'd gone looking for him with a knife. Taken the sewers to the Hyperion, crawled up a ventilation shaft, and approached his bedroom noiselessly in the middle of the day, half- crazy with nauseated rage. Sunlight flooded his room though the open French doors, leaving it as exposed and deadly as the man who slept there.
She'd waited until nightfall, the edges of the knife hilt grinding into the bones of her palm as she squeezed it, then emerged from her hiding place too furious to think about strategy or defense or tactics. Cut his throat, mark his face, make him bleed, castrate him, gut him, bring him to his knees....any and every idea that ran through her head as she waited for him to return. To greet him without games or demands and simply take revenge for her body's betrayal and the terror growing inside of her; too afraid of her obscene condition to trust herself without a weapon, unwilling to risk a moment of dizziness, a second of nausea, an instant of vulnerability.
Except he didn't come back, not that night or the next, and hunger and rage finally drove her back out into the city. She discarded the knife in a dumpster, then wandered through the back-alleys, disbelief and denial rendering her blind to her surroundings, trying to comprehend how this had happened to her.
"Grandmama has a delicate condition."
Dru's eyes had been glowing with almost dreamy delight as she'd watched Darla retch into the toilet. Twilight had settled in an hour earlier, and the neon sign over the freeway had already begun blinking its excruciating rhythm of welcome to passers-by.
The last time they'd been inside the motel, Dru had drained all the blood from her while Angel watched, too weak from trying to save her unsalvageable life to rescue her from Lindsey and Dru. Love and craziness. That's what killed her last time.
It felt like it was killing her again.
"Delicate...." She spat into the bowl, licked the edges of her teeth for the sick rich taste, and spat again. The blood she'd vomited was dark, maroon-black, the color of new bruises. "There's nothing delicate about this, Dru. It's all too *vivid* to be 'delicate.'" She dropped the lid on the toilet and pulled the handle, then pulled herself up to stand swaying over the sink. Hot. It was too damn hot in the room; maybe the air-conditioner had broken. Typical of the place. One more unfixable thing to curse. Like her body, which had become increasingly unreliable of late.
Drusilla had frowned, her brow folding up into the puzzled gaze that always made Darla long to slap her. "Aren't you happy? Mummy always said that it was a blessing. A blessing from the angels."
She turned the faucet for cold water, cupped some in her fingers and drank it, swirling it in her mouth before spitting it out, then splashed it across her face, letting it trickle down the edge of her neck. "Dru, I am not in the mood - not in the least - to hear about your precious Mummy. She's dead. She's been dead a century. We killed her. She died at the hands of vampires, a reality she never imagined before Angelus ripped her apart. So I seriously doubt she had anything helpful to say about why I'm sick." She leaned her face against the mirror, dully noting the coolness against her forehead.
Sorcery. Magic. Wolfram & Hart. A vengeance curse from Lindsey, one last sour good-bye? Leftover weakness from the syphilis that had progressed so much farther, this last time she'd been human? A hex the ex- Watcher or that little Seer of Angel's bought, to keep her away from him?
Craziness, kicking her out of his bed when he almost had the peace and wholeness he always claimed he wanted. Insanity, rejecting the only person he couldn't hurt, the only safety he was ever going to have. Love... letting her live, when he thought he should kill her. Hurting her so he wouldn't have to watch her die again, sending her away when he had to know that she'd always, always come back. After the girl died, after the Slayer was gone, after the Watcher and the ghetto kid were corpses, he'd take her back. She'd just miscalculated. Pushed him too fast, too far; but all she had to do was wait. Centuries couldn't be wiped out by a handful of years and a flickering soul. She had time.
If she wasn't dying right now.
"No, no, no. She knew. Mummy knew. She was a good Mummy, she knew all the songs, and how to braid little girls' hair, and how to serve tea with cream and muffins. You'll have to learn now." Dru came closer, trailed her cold fingertips down Darla's face. "Lullabies and warm rabbit blood at bedtimes. Patty-cake and socks. Little feet get cold fastest, you know...."
Darla turned her head to stare at Dru, eyes widening in shock, and her granddaughter-mother giggled, high and gleeful. And behind the glee in her avid eyes there had been shivering fear, and for two seconds her sing-song voice had been flat and calm. Sane. "It's a miracle, Grandmama."
"No." She shook her head slowly, the pounding across her temples almost like a heartbeat. "No. Not. Possible."
"A dream come true!"
"Not mine. Not... Not..." She looked down at her stomach and a clammy chill swept over her, making her gag before she got the feeling under control. “Can't. Isn't... I'm dead, and there is just no way...."
"A gift from Angel's soul to you. Or a present from someone else?" Drusilla smiled, clapping her hands. "Miss Edith shall have a sister!" Her face fell into confused, worried lines. "Or perhaps an uncle. Or a niece." She drew away from Darla, then drifted out the bathroom door, humming. "We shall have a baptism for the little one, a baptism of fire. A family again...."
The weight gain was from indulging the last few months, depression assuaged by drinking cocktails bought by men with eyes like Lindsey's. Drinking from them in rooms softer than she'd ever had as a mortal had made it possible to sleep. Bingeing on bums and hookers, killing those who would never be missed, brought comfort when nausea and rage woke her from dreams of Angel's rejection. Vertigo from being thwarted, emotions raging out of control because she'd had him back, her Angelus, her equal partner, her match, and then a streak of lightening and an instant of regret ripped him away. Lethargy from the heat. The goddamn heat, and having to hide from him and the stupid law firm and their pet demons and even the L.A.P.D., still looking for both she and Dru *months* after they should have given up.
No. No. No. No. No.
Denial could only take her so far. Fury took her farther, back to the room where they'd created a nightmare.
Two days alone gave her time to think, just enough to realize the danger. Tell Angel, and fail to kill Angel, and she would be trapped. Doomed. Condemned to see the disaster through to the end--- unacceptable.
And still the question of how haunted her as she wandered down the late-night boulevards. Undead flesh, cool and quiet and still, generating life? A star spontaneously exploding out of empty space was more likely. It was an effect without a cause, like a plague of locusts hatching from rocks in the desert.
An alien being was going to rip its way out of her body in nine months if she didn't stop it. She halted, retching into the gutter at the thought, humiliating tears of frustration tracking their way down her face.
"Are you okay, lady? Should I get a doctor?"
"No." She turned her head, glanced up, seeing the concerned face of a policeman standing next to her. "Just a little... hungover." Her little hangover. Her souvenir of almost-had-him-back. Her nightmare.
"Are you sure? That mess doesn't look good---"
"I'm fine," she said more strongly. Staggered to her feet. Heard his heartbeat, smelled sugar and coffee and tiredness on him, the thick scent of his blood making her reel back, overwhelmed. She leaned forward, passed a hand over her forehead. "But maybe I could use a ride home?"
The officer and his partner had bought their lives with tepid coffee and a pint of ice cream without even realizing it. The cold sugar rush had actually settled her stomach and cleared her mind, enough to prevent her from causing herself all kinds of inconvenience when their dead bodies turned up. When the reality of her behavioral cliche' hit her, she wanted to throw up again. She walked into the bathroom and stepped into the shower instead, stripping off her dress as the water soaked through it, sweat sloughing off under the icy blast.
Dru had found her lying naked on the bed several hours later, staring at the ceiling, her hands clasped over her abdomen as if trying to press it into her spine.
"I can't do this. There has to be a way out. Tell me what to do, Dru. You knew what this was. You have to know how to end it."
Her sire perched on the edge of the mattress, barely shifting it with her weight. Dark eyes huge and solemn as she studied Darla's body, her trembling fingers traced patterns in the air over her stomach; then she froze, motionless.
"It's strong. It's hiding from me...." She tilted her head sideways, her brows lowering. "Down and down, and in and around. Little fish, little fish... swish, wish, a yummy dish...." Dru jerked back her hand suddenly, her lower lip quivering as her eyes filled with tears. "It bit me, Grandmama! Snapping teeth like a turtle! Naughty monster!" She shook her finger at Darla's belly, hopping off the bed. "Bad, bad, wicked thing. You shall have no lamb's blood when you come to tea!"
"It doesn't want to play, Grandmama. It wants its secrets wound inside." She sighed softly, then grinned with lunatic joy. "A baby aunt. A baby brother. A tiny Angel, with its tiny teeth. I'll find a music box for its lullabies. A bird! I'll turn a nightingale, so it can always have music for its bed- time when you kiss it good-night---"
"Never," she hissed.
"Soon," Dru contradicted her. "You'll be such a good Mummy. I know my little girl. You were a good Mummy to Daddy." Her mouth curved in satisfaction. "A family again. All together."
"Like. Hell." Dru had all the maternal instincts of a headlight-dazed rabbit, so it wasn't surprising she didn't recognize the same lack in Darla. The closest she'd ever truly come to having a child before had been Spike. Angelus had been a consort, a playmate, a peer--- and never truly a child. Dru herself had been a hobby for Angelus, a pet dragged out to be tormented and teased, then ignored. Spike... Dru had brought him home to Darla and Angelus like a mortal teenager who got pregnant during the Prom and then left the baby on her parents' doorstep during the Homecoming dance. Housebreaking Spike had been murderous, with years of effort put into civilizing the little savage into a vampire that still refused to learn sense or even self- preservation.
To go through that with an infant didn't bear thinking of. She'd kill it the moment it was born. Easily. Simply. Break its neck, throw it out into the sunlight---
And if she died as it burst out of her stomach, or it ripped out her heart as it came into the world?
Better to end it now. It was still weak, barely there. A ripple in her depths. How did mortal women stand this? This invasion of her self by outside forces? A violation worse than the sickness of mortality, or violence; a parasite battening onto her and feeding off her, turning into--- what?
Forget how this happened. What would it take to reverse it?
Pills. Bottles and bottles of alcohol. Liquid cleanser, which scraped her throat raw and upset her stomach. Garlic, which inspired another round of retching, then subsided in an hour. Rat poison that burned in her veins and made her eyes itch. Jumping off the freeway overpass and landing hard, breaking bones in her hands and knees that took hours to heal. Drinking the blood of crack addicts did nothing but give her a headache; the blood of heroin addicts made her sleepy and her fingers numb. Toothpicks swallowed with shots of tequila stabbed all the way down her throat, tearing tiny holes inside of her, only to be vomited up a few hours later. Other, more invasive measures, ones she'd pitied mortals for having to inflict on themselves when they'd screwed up, ones she'd never thought she'd have to use on herself, were as useless as the rest.
In her mortal life of the seventeenth century as she vaguely remembered it, there had been prevention measures. Measures that had been good enough to ensure that she'd never have to worry about a brat to take care of, robbing her of her looks and livelihood. That had been as far as her contemplation of motherhood had ever gone. A burden and inconvenience to be avoided, never mind the risking of life in childbed.
The twentieth century had better prevention measures, better medicine, better remedies for unwanted pregnancy. And they were a thousand times less effective now that she was immortal, and supposedly sterile and safe from breeding anything but fear and lust and regrets.
The first time she felt it move--- the first time she really believed that this was happening to her --- was during a Tarot card reading in Laguna Beach. The incense burning in the room left the taste of burnt straw at the back of her throat, and she constantly had to watch Drusilla out of the corner of her eye to make sure she wasn't going to reach for the fortuneteller's throat too soon. She wasn't, honestly, paying attention to the reading; she'd heard it all before from Dru. Symbols and metaphors mixed with stupid questions: how do you feel about this? What do you *really* want? Are you sure? Is there something you've forgotten? Are you looking at this from all possible angles? Every hope has a shadow, every dream has a price....
Only desperation would have driven her to this. She'd never trusted magic. It took Angelus away from her; brought her out of Hell and back to weak mortality; trapped the Master for decades in his own mistakes. And it had undoubtedly been responsible in some measure for the *thing* coiled inside her now. But that didn't mean she had to lie back and take it. If she didn't fight, she'd be dead, even if she survived the mess that had been forced upon her. And if she couldn't win, she could make someone pay. Pay in pain, hopefully.
She just needed to know where to present the bill.
"....as the Queen of Swords, the mind is your element. The mind and words, gossip and rumors. But even a Queen must give way to the Empress. You cannot ignore this possibility, because it is part of the natural order of---"
She slapped her hand down in the middle of the cards spread out on the dark cloth. "Were you not listening to me? Or not looking for the truth? There is nothing *natural* about this pregnancy. And that's why it has to end." Leaning forward, she let the demon push to the fore. "Now tell me what I want to know, or I'll find that I'm experiencing a craving for two-bit psychic wannabe. And I wouldn't want to upset the baby by denying it what it needs. Would I?"
The woman swallowed hard, her gaze never leaving Darla's face, her voice a thready squeak. "I..."
"She can't see," Dru murmured, her eyes on the candles, fixed and glinting strangely. "She's blind and blindfolded. The corners are too sharp to peek around."
"Is that it? Are you worthless to me?" Darla swept half the cards from the table as she stood, taking a step toward the psychic. "Except as protein, that is."
"The Wheel of Fortune," blurted the reader, holding out the card, and trying to back away. "It's not my fault, it's hidden, it's already been determined by a higher power---"
"I'll show *you* power, girl---"
"But maybe I know someone that can help you."
She stopped, about to say something scathing, and that's when she felt it: not a kick, or a bump, but something much smaller, like the distant beckoning of a finger somewhere below her lungs. Shocked, she stared down at her stomach, giving the fortuneteller a moment to breathe and space to back away.
For a moment.
Her head snapped back up and her eyes narrowed as the demon receded. "Give me the name. And the address. And the phone number. And if they can't help me...." She let the threat dangle as the woman fumbled in a drawer for apiece of paper and Dru giggled at a riddle the candle told her.
She broke the psychic's neck before she drained her, as a token of gratitude. The woman had tried, after all. But failure had to be recompensed in equivalent coin.
The baby -- the thing --- curved again, moving against her navel from the wrong side. Darla burped, then scowled down at her abdomen. "Are you trying to criticize my choice of cuisine?"
Dru purred, then snickered softly. "Baby wants dessert."
The tarot reader's recommendation lead to a palm reader in San Diego, which led to a brujeria in Tijuana, which led to a Santeria priestess in Cabo....
Dru disappeared after Guadalajara, when Darla started eating bats, and other things. She hadn't meant to. The little monsters roosted in the eaves of the inn, and one got into the room after dawn, when it wasn't safe to go looking for another drink. Irritated by its fluttering, she crushed its head against the wall with one blow, then absently licked her fingers.
It tasted of plums and nectar, wild bulls and summer heat. It was the best thing she'd had in months, since she ate the lawyers in L.A. Human blood wasn't satisfying now--- sweet but dull. Never as rich as she remembered it being. She ate well that night, perched on the roof, catching and consuming a half- dozen of the flying rats like eggrolls dipped in wine sauce.
"Grandmum's changing. Growing scales, growing warmer. The music's slowing," Dru whispered to her in bed that night. "The little one doesn't want me here."
"That's stupid. And impossible. And it would hardly matter."
"It matters." Dru stroked her hair out of her face, gently. "It wants what it wants. Like its Mummy. All to its own self."
"If I am it's Mummy, it can damn well deal. You're staying." She couldn't, wouldn't ask her to stay. Dru was never a very comforting person; more of a distraction than a companion. But the thought of being alone with her growing belly and odd impulses was terrifying.
"For a little while. But it isn't safe." Dru closed her eyes, stilled. "It's lots of things, magic and power and fear. Bat's wings and serpent eyes and the pulse of the deep. But it isn't safe."
She understood what Dru had meant, the next night.
"Ay, rubia. Quieres bailar conmigo?"
"No, gracias." She ignored the Mexican vampire in the seat next to her and signaled to the bartender for another beer.
"Ahh, is that anyway to talk to un hombre who just wants to be friends?" He leered, pressing himself against her side and nuzzling at her neck. "You smell so *good*, chica... I know we could get along jus' fine...."
"No." She didn't move, didn't push him away, but she felt her bones turn to steel. "I don't want to dance, I don't want to drink, I don't want to be ‘friends.' Go. Away."
"You say that now, but I think you better reconsider, rubia. I *own* this town." He caged her against the bar, one hand on each side. "It would be a good idea if you were nice to me."
"Nice." Darla felt a smile curve wickedly across her mouth, seemingly of its own volition. "I can be nice."
Ten seconds' groping in the alley behind the cantina; ten seconds of rolling her eyes and looking for an advantage. And then.... unfamiliar instinct took over, stronger than the normal urge to slap the stupid puppy around or rip his heart out. Her fangs descended against his skin and punched through, and her mouth was full of his blood. He tasted terrible, like Dos Equis and condescending lust and sweat; he tasted wonderful, thick and cold as liquid mercury. He couldn't scream, she struck so quickly. He barely fought, and when she'd drunk him dry and flung him away, he faded into dark ashes.
She wanted more. She wanted every vampire in town to line up with drinking straws in their carotid arteries, and every vampire in the province to be lined up after that. Darla slumped against the wall of the alley, shivering, desperately glancing around to make sure no one had seen what she'd done. Risky. Reckless. *Dangerous*, to kill another vampire in strange territory. Without thought, or cause, or precautions. An act she'd have whipped Spike for a hundred years ago. An act she would have done only with Angelus by her side or the Master's blessing, once upon a time.
The baby kicked her in the ribs, hard.
Dru had left her a pint of ice cream on the bed covers when she returned to the inn. She scooped it out with her fingers and licked the lid, and almost felt full for the first time in years.
She let the last shaman live. Isolation would keep her secret from reaching anyone else... and the man had clearly been terrified. Whether terrified that his gifts had failed him, or terrified at the implications of her pregnancy, Darla neither knew nor cared. They'd all been afraid, to various degrees--- the specialists, magicians, seers and oracles all tripping over themselves to get away from her. She supposed she ought to be awestruck as well, speechless when contemplating her body and the bizarre possession that had occurred. She'd been overwhelmed, and at points fearful of what this meant to her continued survival. But impressed--- she was not.
The shaman wasn't worth killing. Not that that had ever stopped her before. Necessity and whim were all the same, really, and needed no justification. But she liked the idea that he would tell the story, someday, of how he'd met her, and told her that her pregnancy was fated. Inevitable. That nothing could have stopped her child from being born.
She rather admired the little monster for that.
It was the strangest feeling, boarding the plane back to L.A., actually being... happy? Content? No, nothing that peacefully vulgar. And resignation was impossible. She was simply feeling--- anticipation. A morbid kind of interest in what her child would turn out to be. Would it resemble what Dru described? Or would it be something worse?
Either way, acknowledging the reality she faced gave her things to look forward to. The expression on Angel's face--- and his friends' --- when she told him the news was certain to be something she would treasure. Making him feel the guilt of responsibility, possibly even luring him back to her--- another shining possibility. Finally getting her body back to herself, now *that* she was looking forward to. Admitting that she was pregnant and could not stop it meant that it had to end sometime. Her baby would be born, and then....
Well. She was its mother, wasn't she? The mother of a thing that no-one and nothing, human or magical, had been able to prevent. A thing like that...would have to be powerful. Strong. A force to be reckoned with. A force to be feared.
She'd just have to make sure it knew who Mommy was. And understood what that meant.
The no-smoking sign shut off, and she frowned at the man about to light a cigarette next to her. "Do you mind? I'm having a baby."
She smiled wickedly and closed her eyes, humming along with the engines. The baby might like the smoke, for all she knew. But that wasn't what mattered. As long as she had this baby, she was going to get exactly what she wanted.
After all... Baby wouldn't have it any other way.
The dark was calm now. Not as satisfying as hungry- hunting-eating. But safe. Secure. Restful.
The voice of the dark was softer, not hard like the shiny-sharps that had come poking a while before (a long time) ago. And the Other was gone, it was long gone, no more fear of fingers and eyes and (images of the outside world, of ice and blood and crazy badness) pushing. The Other was fading away into shadows and sounds that were not the voice of the dark. Unimportant things.
There had been fingers again, but easy to push away, just a little while (asleep and a feeding) ago. Too warm too hot too close, so there had been a moment of waving and... searching. Hunger. And the fingers had gone away,cold afraid and lost. And then the dark had stilled, and sighed. But now it hummed.
"Going to see Daddy. Soon, baby. Soon."
Whatever the darkness hummed, it was a good thing. Like cold sweetness and warm darkness. Like the taste of its thumb in its mouth. Like the blur of warm-sweet- strong life, passing by outside the dark. Like the sound of the Other singing softly, far, far away. Like the memory of Before. And what would come After.
Turning, dreaming, sleeping. Waiting. For soon. Soon.
Copyright Tania 2003-2004
Violators will be forced to ride in the trunk.
A FangedFour.com Production