In quieter moments, when no-one is watching, I can admit the terrible truth to myself. I've found my place. I aspire no higher, aim no greater. I am... content. Happy. Satisfied.
And so, all great pretensions fail. But, thankfully, none of mine. My parents, my teachers... they all expected so much of me, in the mold they created. But I always knew what I wasn't - and what I was. A supporter, not a leader. A follower... no. That's not quite accurate.
I'm the beta wolf. Not the greatest, but far from the least. The second in command. The support, the fallback, the shoulders and neck upon which the head rests, and that description, perhaps, takes visualization a step to far. As Cordelia might say, 'ewww.'
Angel is alpha. Perhaps not as a human, but as a vampire he leads by right. Force of will, weight of age, right of strength and experience. And a sheer natural arrogance, I suspect. I fall to his shoulder out of instinct, allowing him dominance. He would never think to ask for it - arrogance - but his very existence demands it.
Cordelia is alpha as well - her arrogance muted by experience, but innate, undeniable. Beautiful in its inevitability. Her new-found compassion does not hide the fact that she leads, deferring only to the alpha male. She would be horrified were she to see this - and no doubt we would get into an argument about gender equality. But the deference is there.
It is amusing, in retrospect, to consider the social dynamics back in Sunnydale. Buffy was the dominant alpha there, of course. And Giles the alpha male - I could no more have supplanted him while he reigned than I could have flown. I do wish I hadn't made such a poor showing of it... but there's no erasing the past.
But, again in retrospect, it explains why both Angel and Cordelia felt the need to escape. Two sets of alphas cannot exist within the same pack.
Xander understood the role of the beta male instinctively, I suspect. And so I fell to omega. It's some small consolation to know that I was even less suited to the least position than I am the highest. My father would doubtless reject that consolation completely. As completely as he has rejected me.
No, I'm not omega, not the weakest. I contribute. Ingrained paranoia aside, I know my strengths as well as my weaknesses. I've learned to respect them, learned when to bring them to the fore, and when to step back. In Sunnydale, in England, I served no purpose.
But here, now, I have a place. A pack. I belong. And I'm not lonely any more.