TITLE: The Evil You Know
AUTHOR: Patricia RD (patricia_rosemary@yahoo.com)
SUMMARY: Hell is a little place on earth.
DISCLAIMER: Not my characters.
NOTES: Written for the Cordelia ficathon. For darlas_mom

Even before the tiny ghostly hands touch her body, Cordelia knows it's Darla. Again. She tries not to move, pretending to be asleep, but Darla knows. She always does. Darla also knows a little part of Cordelia looks forwards to this.

"Come on, Dearest," Darla calls softly. "Time to play."

Finally, Cordy has no choice but to open her eyes and face her very own personal torture.

For Angel, it was a miracle. For Wesley, Fred and Gunn it defied all logic. But then again, since when had their world followed the laws of logic? For Cordelia, Darla's return was the beginning of the end. Why did Dead Girl had to appear when things were going so well? Why cheat death once again and return, albeit as just a ghost? Eventually, Wesley had come with an explanation involving Darla's will to stay near her son, redemption and some other things Cordelia didn't hear as she saw Angel holding baby Connor in front of Darla so the happy mother could see her baby for the first time. It was such an emotional, tender moment for everyone. Except for Cordelia, who had set her hopes too high this time, already settling herself in the role of Connor's mommy and Angel's girl. Even in the middle of celebration, as Angel passed an arm around her shoulders and promised her that things between the two of them had not changed, she knew better. The look on Darla's eyes when everyone but Cordy was looking said everything.

Be afraid, Dearest. Be very afraid.

Darla's lips feel unnaturaly cold, a barely there sensation. Her arms wrap around Cordelia's curves, her lips whispering loving words laced with poison. Darla may be good at this, always making her lover long for more and lay afterwards gasping in pleasure. But in the end, the eternal predator wants one thing and one thing only.

Cordelia's body. In more ways than one.

It took some time, patiente and effort. But one morning Darla amazed everyone by simply pushing a quarter across Angel's desk. Wesley nodded in approval and admired her strength. Soon she'd be able to hold Connor, maybe take him out in the sunlit patio.

Nobody else but Cordelia seemed to noticed Darla could move heavier things already, like knives or books or Cordelia herself.

Even with all that suspiction, it came as a bitter surprise when the frail, fresh ghost grabbed Cordelia's arm and dragged her into an empty room one night where everybody else was asleep or at work. But looking back at it, it shouldn't had been that shocking. After all, Darla was no fool and should had seen Cordelia wasn't buying into the "Only my soulful self came back as a ghost" act. Something had to be done.

Cordelia had closed her eyes and waited for the killing blow, hoping it would be fast. But it never came.

Instead, Darla's agression had come as passionate kisses and wandering hands. Lipstick had been whisped away from Cordelia's mouth before those dead hands had found their way under her prey's ice blue dress, sharp nails drawing blood in the process. Cordelia had opened her mouth to scream, but Darla had killed any attempts with a few carefully chosen words whispered in Cordy's ear. Afterwards, the brunette had leaned against the wall and bitten her lower lip, letting Darla had her way with her human body. Her mind had gone blank, just taking in flashes of painful pleasure.

Payment for secrets well kept.

"Everything was so good," Darla says, stroking Cordelia's hair. "There was light but I didn't burn. There was no pain... Well, maybe a little. Because I could see everything. I was happy Connor was safe, but I kept wishing there could had been a way to be with him... And there was." This last words are said with a violent pull at Cordelia's hair. There's a a gasp and a whimper. But nothing else. Darla rewards that with a smile and a tender kiss. Good girl, no screaming and calling out for anyone. After all, there would be a lot of explaining to do.

The vision had been quick, but still a sucky kind of pain. As Cordelia had passed four pills with a sip of water in the bathroom, she had visualized everything again, minus the killing pain: A ritual, something requiring blood and herbs, calling to the Old Ones for protection and safety.

She hadn't understood its meaning until later. As Darla lie on lorne's bed, the child dying inside of her. She could had said it then, give Wesley all the details so the spell could be performed and both mother and baby could survive. But she had decided to keep quiet, play the fool and even suggest a C-section, knowing the answer would be no. Later on, she'd invented excuses in her mind, all of them false. She had not feared the arrival of a demon child. In her heart, she had knows Darla would have loved her baby once it was born. Sure, there would be a place on Angel's life for Darla and the baby.

In the end, it had been all about Cordelia fearing Darla would had taken such a special place if she gave Angel a son. She may had not been true happiness for Angel, but she was someone important in his life. And baby made three.

Cordelia had not expected Darla to kill herself in order to save her son. After Angel had gone through a brief period of mourning (silly girl, Angel had NEVER stop mourning Darla's death), Cordelia had started to find a new, cool place in Angel's heart, not only as her girl, but as a mother to Connor. In the end, things had worked out for the best.

Then Darla came back.

"I'm so sorry," Cordelia whispers to the darkness. Darkness laughs. Cordy wishes she could just fess up, tell everyone what she did, what Darla is doing to her. But even if she did, she knows things cannot be repaired. Darla is now too strong to be taken out of the picture.

And Angel might not come back to Cordy after such betrayal.

"Of course you are. And I get it. People does foolish things for love. It gets your mind all cloudy." A kiss, followed by a breath of cold air on Cordelia's neck. "Angel is really happy, seeing as you and I spend so much time together. Think of it as his very own wet dream coming true." Another kiss, lower.

"I know." Voice breaking, realizing her utter defeat in Darla's arms. She thought she could have it all: the man, the child and a semi charmed life. All she had done was keep quiet and hope things went her way. She never counted of becoming the vampiress' personal toy.

She never counted on loving it almost as much as she loves Angel. And so she finds herself giving in, accepting this is the only kind pleasure she deserves: Painful, harsh and filled with neverending guilt.

Not the stuff of fairytales, but it will have to do.