By Kita (Donna M.)
RATING: R for violence, disturbing imagery and M slash. Also, some het.
DISCLAIMER: Joss owns all characters. I make no profit off my obsession with them, much to my husband`s dismay.
SPOILERS: Assumes you have been paying attention the entire time. Takes place right after Reprisal, but right before Epiphany.
SUMMARY: Angel ponders on four ways to lose his soul to the Seasons.
NOTES: Assumes Angel has at least a vague knowledge of the goings-on in Sunnydale. Please don`t get used to Joss` revisionist Sire history, used here with dismay, or hetfic from me, used here with disbelief.
FEEDBACK: Please feed the demon? Thank you.
DEDICATIONS: Without Jess, Lar and Maayan, there would be few segways and very little dialogue in the Autumn. Thanks to everyone else who put up with me bitching about this fic as well. I love Lar.
To inhale the scent of sunlight and clean, clean soil.
Those arms, lithe and strong; a tumble of eager vines around his neck. Kisses flavored with ice cream and seasalt. Welcome pressure of tiny feet against the small of his back, and her eyes open..open...The flowers, the Heavens, all of it. Open to him.
He remembers the first time, after the rush of water. Her soaking white shirt hid nothing, and he did not even pretend to look away. Pressed against him, shivering and cold and still,...oh so much warmer than he would ever be. And he *wanted* it; wanted that warmth, wanted that innocence which allowed her to stand before him unashamed.
He thought to somehow *create something* that night. Stupid, random, post-coital poetic thoughts. About living, growing things needing both dirt and sunshine to thrive, and weren`t they then the perfect pair?
Conception immaculate. Transmutation of dark to light and coal stones to gold coin.
Stupid. The soil of the grave does not suffer to yield the fruit of the vine......
Years later, in mortal flesh with heartbeat and sweat. Splinters in his feet from the shattered kitchen furniture, and he ignored them. Tiny kisses pressed to his spine while he rifled through Doyle`s possessions, hoping to find condoms. Laughing at his own shaking hands.
Purple evening, laying spent on soaked sheets. Shadows lurking on the beige ceiling, and he ignored them. Tiny kisses pressed to his chest while he was still panting. Trying to find his breath. Laughing because he could not..could not..
`just one more time`...
`Buffy, I can`t`
Sharp slivers of memory (only his) and her scent on his bathrobe...And even in his humanity, their union bore nothing but a day which swallowed itself.
He hasn`t ever washed the robe, and he keeps a tub of Chocolate Mint Chip Cookie Dough in his freezer. But his thoughts of her are so much less...simple now. It has been years, and there have been apocalypses and resurrected Sires and Soldier Boys and it has been....years. And he *sees* her now, truly sees her. She shines less, but he loves her no less. He longs for Spring no less.
He just wonders if it still lies with her.
And he wonders what it would take to find out. Climbing familiar limbs beneath her bedroom window, standing on her porch, framed by the darkness, kneeling at her feet?
((invite me in I want to come home))
What would be worse, her rejection or her acquiescence?
Would the loss of Mother have her opening door and arms and thighs to him for comfort? Truly alone, would she cleave to him one more time for shelter and solstice?
Enfolded in clean coverlets, burrowed against her sacred warmth, the scratch of old, stuffed toys, the scent of soda pop and tears.
The rain of grief on his willing skin; catch each drop as it falls, salty and hot. A wellspring of life, and the loss that inevitably accompanies it. Nourishment for the burning-place inside of him which is never still.
Because their harvest never once came. Their unions have never gleaned anything but endings which go on and on...
He wonders if any of it would still be familiar...the hitch in her breath, the shudder in her shoulders, the upturn of her chin as she lay beneath him. Untended gardens wither and die; and what would he find now, in that coveted patch of earth he last visited in another skin? Would it even still be Home?
Or would it be dishonor? To lay with her once more, to wrap his arms and legs around `perfect happiness` and have it render only ash and broken memory. Just another part of his Hell. The knowledge that you can never go Home again.
It all seems so improbable of late. To lose his soul in the warmth of asylum and the promise of beginnings, when it has been so fucking long since he believed in either one.
Angel thinks about losing his soul to Summer. To the heat of olde hatreds and the fires of righteous anger. To eyes of seastorm and squall, and the sticky feel of leather pressed against his groin. To bruises of purple and yellow and red, the colors of Dogday sunsets.
The flesh would be cool to the touch, but the rage, oh the rage would make it almost warm as ... life. Rage and memory, snarled together.
He actually dreams of Summer.
Summer is dressed in the skins of his Grand-Childe and standing in his shower. Rivulets cascading over white angles and clear planes. Too-thick fog from hot, hot water
and he has forgotten to leave the window open a crack, though Angel has reminded him many times, of course he has forgotten, his boy was never good with obedience, and hasn`t that always been the entire allure
and Angel turns on the fan so the sticky mist will part.
Sees the colors now, seeping from underneath the glass door, muted by the flow of the water.
One fist. Rain of glass droplets in the haze.
Unmoved by his Grand-Sire`s display of violence, the vampire simply stands beneath the spray, smiling. Pale flesh colored now with the green-black marks of tattoo ink, wrapped snakelike around muscles and veins. Arms and chest and legs covered with tiger-striping. Pale hair colored now with the dye of night. The pigments swirl along the tile floor in rapid currents; sky and earth moving within the waters.
Shakes his head like a wilde thing and the colors take wing, black stain, green ink, and rainbows in the shimmering bits of flying glass and water.
Then he is running, and Angel follows; naked, and wet, and pitching four stairs at a time. The mist from the shower has followed them somehow into the darkened lobby, blanketing the pretentious foyer with a humid, gray film. It doesn`t matter.
Sight is superfluous to hide and seek when no one is really hiding.
When the scent of dandelions and lightening can be followed like a trail of seeds. When one only has to reach out just so...the blow scarcely takes him by surprise. Familiar crunch of knuckle to jaw, and whorls of light against the backs of his eyes as his head snaps, connects with some solid structure behind it. Crimson oozes from his lip and his scalp, calling...calling...
Irresistible siren and eternal downfall.
Fists and blood and bone.
Rolling on the marble floor in a heap of naked limbs and teeth. And when flesh tears and muscles ache and cries of pleasurepain echo in his ears...isn`t that almost ... living?
Grabs a fistful of wet, spiky hair and tugs back. Is met by an unwavering stare. And it occurs to Angel suddenly that this man, this demon, this fucking *dream* is still more alive than he is.
Spike gets up every day and breathes because he enjoys the smell of the air. He eats because he savors the taste of the food. He throws himself in front of demons because he relishes the kill. He throws himself at Buffy`s feet because he wants to, and if it is a poor idea, a fool`s errand, well, at least Spike is living ....
...in the light. In his own version of truth. He is not skulking in shadow, he is not walling himself off from even those who wish he would; no, he stands in the center of the goddamn universe and he lifts his hands over his head.
And he shouts.
And Angel wants that. He had it once, a long time ago; he remembers it felt like sunshine. It felt like eternal Summer.
So he bends his head and lays claim to the still smirking mouth beneath his, and there is only a brief struggle before they are drowning.
Images surging past him in the murkiest of waters.
Mid-August in London, and sweltering. A heat wave they`d said. Enough to make the undead sweat. But Drusilla had insisted on a fire, and candles. Candles everywhere, sputtering and dying and swelling once more in the paltry, sticky breeze.
Angelus slipped inside the bed-chamber and found him there. The blond vampire barely two days turned, laying sprawled across Drusilla`s bed. Naked but for the white sheets pooled lightly around his ankles.
The older vampire moved closer, awaiting movement, a greeting, a blink of azure eyes.
Closer now, lifted a candle and let the faint orange glow fall upon feline grace and repose.
Raised one eyebrow.
Let a single drop of the scorched wax fall onto the inside of one lightly muscled thigh.
``Fuck! What the hell do you think yer doin`?!``
And smiles now- searching for something in him that still can- something beneath mere forgetfulness or the remembrance of warmth. Beneath the soft growl and the tenacious fist around his cock...
...the sudden and unexpected taste of fellowship.
Then blood, as his tongue is pierced, and held between teeth...held...held...He gasps, makes to pull away, but sure arms grip him. Release him only enough to grind upward, hardness against his hip, and a whisper
Dyin`s easy mate, it`s the livin that hurts.
The dream ends the same each time.
They make their way back to the shower, rinse off the blood and the bruises. Only to create more as heads slam into shiny white tile, and flesh is torn by shiny white teeth.
He`ll wake up standing in the dark stall, and the water will be cold. When he moves to adjust the temperature, he`ll see it. On the wall. Written in blood and cum across the expanse of smooth ceramic.
Except, maybe, this morning, he won`t try to clean it off.
Angel thinks about losing his soul to Autumn. To fallen leaves and fallen icons. To the crunch of dead things underneath his feet. To the bite in the air that tastes of smoke, and the coming finality.
He grinds out his cigarette beneath one bootheel.
He is smoking (more) now. No, he never really stopped. But he hid it well. Clandestine puffs of nicotine into his dead lungs when no one else was about. Sweet, alone moments. Behind a dumpster. While driving his car. In one of the hotel`s myriad of bathrooms into which Cordy never trespassed. Of course, she doesn`t trespass *anywhere* anymore, and so, he can smoke. Wherever he damn well pleases. Whenever. Without fear of those soft, accusing eyes on him.
He can smoke and he can cuss and he can wear a colorful shirt. And hear no one`s heart speed up. Watch no one`s feet tripping over themselves to put ten paces between him and the door.
Because if Angel is not *good*, then Angel must be *bad*. And, Christ, it`s not like he himself doesn`t long for such lucid, mutual exclusivity. It`s not like he doesn`t know what would be required to get it *back.*
It is not arrogance on his part. He simply knows it would not take much persuasion. The wounds fester and stink and it is more painful to keep up the appearances finally than to just give in. And fall.
Just walk the familiar path. Knock on the heavy door. Meet the sleepy myopic eyes.
((Can I come in, Wes?))
The answer, before he realizes Angel was merely being polite, ``I-I never revoked the
Cups of tea flavored with whiskey to occupy uncomfortable silences, within and without. Pedestals and humble servants, and now that they are gone, what remains of the day? How many words mean `sorry`? Sit in silence //penance// until time and alcohol fills the endless empty spaces.
Breach the rest with touch and breath...Reach out slowly to caress the delicately bandaged wound beneath the man`s shirt and
((we don`t need you))
stroke with careful fingertips along polished cotton.
Rattle of china and a harsh gasp. ((``Sorry...``))
`What is it that you want Angel?`` Clipped tone. Angel doesn`t think he has ever caught this particular scent on Wesley before. It smells orange and yellow. Like burning leaves. Anger; and Wesley struggles with it. Wears it like a scratchy, uncomfortable coat. Wants to go back to simpler times when there was Master and Mastered.
Dear, sweet Wesley. After all that has come. Still. Doesn`t believe in monsters. Doesn`t know to beware the simple, the pretty, the mask of the animal. Thoughts to words and words to deed.
``I`m weak, Wes, I`ve always been weak. I need a keeper.``
The only response is poised confusion and a shaking wrist. Too much time spent watching, not enough spent listening. Angel must spell it out.
It does not bother him.
``I need a keeper.``
A slow blink. More silent bafflement.
Was he awaiting Understanding? Surely, that was expecting too much. This other does not possess the two-hundred plus years of experience which colored the carefully chosen words.
The illustrated version, then. Paint it clearly now, leave no room for error.
Angel catches the pale blue eyes.
Unbuttons silk shirtcuffs. Peels his own shirt off in precise, efficient motions. Holds the garment out in one hand. ((right off my back, Wes)) Pulls his belt from its casings. Lays it on the couch next to Wesley. Turns away from him. Kneels on the floor. Clasps his hands behind his head.
Closes his eyes.
He doesn`t see the slow, unblinking appraisal of his smooth flesh, or the eager tongue darting between suddenly dry lips. He is however, duly aware that he has been regarded with such innocent (ignorant) adoration before. And that each time he has carefully rebutted the unspoken invitation.
Angel lets his shoulders flex and his back relax. And waits for the fall.
Of air displaced. Of leather. Of blood. Creeping death, come to cover the Earth in
In exchange for such a stay, the courtesan would have demanded obedience, the poet-cum-murderer surrender, and the girl, oh, the girl would simply have recoiled in horror. But this one will do it. Maybe Wesley will do it simply... out of love. Or maybe he will look at that proud, broad expanse of back and channel all the rage and misery of lovers who left and Fathers who never did. Will watch unbroken skin and muscle tense and recoil under the whip and think of dreams that have withered untouched on the vine, of faith and fidelity that have somehow crumbled to dust.
What he will not do is call for any sort of further submission in return. Because he will assume this very act has already bequeathed him with it.
Because Wesley had long ago surrendered his own good taste and better judgment to this man bent at the knee in front of him, and the bitter-cider taste of treason lies still on his tongue.
Wes has lost his religion, and he thinks perhaps to find it in the swoosh of the cowhide and the split of the vampire`s ancient, secret skin. It never occurs to him to think of what Angel has already lost. Or what he dearly wants to yet.
No. The rhythm of the lash is solely his own. And he is mortal, he is wounded, and he has neither the physical strength nor the stamina required for this task.
``I`ve been to Hell, Wes. You`re gonna have to work a little harder to make this count.``
Oh, it`s always the most softly spoken words that crucify, isn`t it?
((You. are. Not. good. enough.))
And Angel ought to be ashamed. For flaying open decaying mortal wounds to meet his own ends. For how large a part of him is simply so goddamn grateful for this respite from elementary morality.
For the most beloved and coveted of luxuries. A wood box filled with hand rolled tobacco. A glass cabinet stocked again with finely aged whiskey. The sweetest and most needful vices. The thudding sound of a human heart as it surges with rage. The sudden chill on the back of his neck, and the feel of all his small hairs rising as he waits for the heaviest blow to fall.
((There had been that never-gone lilt in the soft, smirking taunt, and his thoughts swirl around his ankles like the scattering of so many seeds..how he misses the pretty and the clear and the animal mask and how every time Cordelia opens her mouth he wonders if she gives good suck))
In ragged breaths, the faint trace of centuries and continents. Appetites that Angel was supposed to have *forgotten*, put away, burned and buried and crushed clean in the name of longing for humanity
The souls of the dead begin to gather here. He wonders if Wes can see them. Thinks it unlikely. But perhaps he can taste them, in the sweat. Coppery and pungent and crisp. Read them, in the tears. Salty and acrid and preserved for two hundred years.
Let him. Angel no longer cares. He ignores the burn of betrayal in favor of the burn of the belt.
Falling like leaves. Falling like rain. Falling like ((Angels)).
Though the lash still scarcely hurts, he can nonetheless find the primitive rhythm in the beating. Funny, how it sounds like a chant. How suffering always seems to make someone holier.
He tries to suffer.
Tries to recall all his prayers and psalms but it`s been so damn long, and the forest in his memory where shelter lies has been stripped. Brittle twigs on barren trees and all the fragile limbs reaching futiley to Heaven.
((Full of Grace..Bless me Father for I have sinned...Forgive us our trespasses...In thought and in deed...I am humbly sorry for having offended thee who is all merciful and deserving of all my love...As we forgive those who trespass against us...Pray for me, a sinner, now and at the hour of my death...))
*That* is where the pain is. That secret place covered in a knot of brambles and wick-less vine, because the days here are far too short for anything living to thrive.
Where only the knowing lives.
That *his* soul hallows nothing. That it does not make him worthy enough to suffer or to be redeemed.
But he remembers... In the Autumn, the veil between life and death is the thinnest, and the ghosts walk and the dead sing. Drusilla would leave offerings for them, small bowls of pomegranates and cold, green apples. In the Autumn, the god will fall, only to arise in a new form. William would get blissfully drunk on All Saint`s and vomit blood and ale on the frozen ground. Somewhere in those woods...a truth, a sacrament that speaks to him. It is writ in his bones which do not shatter, and his flesh which does not age, in the stripes on his back, and his blood on the floor, and the tightness in his jeans.
And Wesley has found his mark and measure suddenly, the belt kissing flesh with a frenzied rhythm in time to Angel`s forward jerks.
Lost in it now, in the swirl of red blood and red sky, bruised skin and bruised earth, and he doesn`t feel the acid in his throat, doesn`t notice the blisters on his tongue, doesn`t even realize he is speaking aloud until the cursing starts.
Calling him names he hasn`t heard since before he was Turned.
``How dare you presume? Who do you think you are, who do you think you are, who do you think *I* am, that you can ask this of me? How could you trample and spit on what we both know I would have given you willingly, gladly at any other time?"
Angel finds it odd that the crop keeps on marking him, even as the tirade continues. And that somehow Wesley smells a little more...familiar...
A bit like decay.
``Do you think me stupid? Do you still under..underestimate me that much? You thought I wouldn't see...?`` And now Angel can feel Wesley`s stare - both outraged and beseeching - on his crotch.
``And I *loved* you, Angel. I fucking well *loved* you.`` The last thrash catches him off guard; the thin, leather strap wrapping around his neck and leaving red and purple weals on his throat and across both nipples.
Without turning around Angel grabs the belt as it flies again, tugs once, and his lap is filled with panting, writhing, enraged mortal flesh. He pushes his hips up against the invitation of warmth, and thinks he can see the sun setting in those angry, angry eyes.
((Do you believe in monsters now, Wes?))
Deft fingers to the shadow of cheek and jaw; how long has it been since he has felt razor stubble on the face on a lover? Tasted the lingering burn of aftershave on his tongue and teeth?
One day, this too will be gone. And Angel simply does not know what to pray for. For Wesley to be killed mercifully swift in the frenzy of some crucial battle, to be honored for his sacrifice, but die far too young? Or for him to live to grow old and feeble, surrounded by family he can no longer recognize, and left to die finally, alone in a puddle of his own piss.
The only certainty at all is that one day, he will die.
Angel inhales again, hoping to commit the smell of Wesley`s aftershave to the memory of his cells. Catches only the scent of rain and wet leaves. Mulch. Wesley smells like mulch. He draws the man closer to his breast, whisper falling against the staccato of neck and heart as he roots for the pulse.
``You can`t love me, Wes. You can`t even forgive me. Because if you did, maybe, it would make me very. very happy.``
Pulls Wesley`s palm open toward his face, and nuzzles there, breathing and shuddering as the wet sounds trickle down his spine. He runs a chilly tongue along the man`s wrist, tastes the frantic cadence beneath thin, white skin . Once. Twice. Three times, to make the majik. Salt and blood and endings. As he pulls away, Angel wonders if the sky will thunder this time.
Then Wesley is on the couch, and there is a small pouch pressed into his palm. A cross. A few herbs. A carelessly scribbled spell.
``Revoke the invitation, Wes.``
Angel leaves without his shirt.
Angel thinks about losing his soul to Winter. To icicle kisses and the cold expanse of white white flesh. To life and spirit frozen for eternity, under a veil of heavy frost. To all things unending and immutable.
He has lain with the snow before, countless times; ran big hands over the peaks and valleys of a landscape rendered changeless some two hundred years before his birth. When his soul came, and set ablaze all things that made his prior self, those memories did not melt away. The dip in her belly, the curve of her calf. The spill of her hair on slender shoulders. The chilled puff of air on his lips as she leaned toward him and whispered his name. (His olde name.)
She smells the same. Clean. Barren. A bit like juniper and musk. It is familiar.
Their first time was upon the icy ground of a cemetery in Ireland. On his grave. He rose from the Earth.....*needing*. Layers of lace, pantaloons and petticoats, torn and rended to the muddied earth. He was cold, but she was colder, and somehow, that was right. And no matter how he tore into her flesh with teeth and nail and cock, she would moan and laugh, tickle his ear with her tongue, and call him ``beloved.``
Just hours later he'd do something to affront her, and she would grab him with two fingers-one on either side of his larynx- effortlessly lifting his two hundred pound frame. She called him ``beloved`` then too.
Angel remembers that as well. But it doesn`t matter, he was not looking for comfort in this bed. She has never been a source of solace, even when she was his sole source of love. He simply needed to hold someone that was just as cold as he was, one more time. Needed to bury himself inside a thing that would not burn. Needed to find out if winter still wanted him. If anyone did.
She wrapped her smooth legs around his calves, his thighs, his back, she arched and she scratched. Tiny pieces of glass fell from her hair and skin from when he had thrown her through his door. He was covered in scratch marks, finally, when she climbed on top of him for the third time.
Here, now, in his Frozen skin, stamina was not an issue.
It was hours later when she rolled away, curled into a tight ball with the blue sheets wrapped around her middle. He watched her for a while. His stolen blood still flushed her face, and she was breathing in her sleep. The deception of life clung to her, in a way it never had centuries ago. Or perhaps then, he had simply never noticed it. Foolish thoughts about creation and rebirth again, and why is it that he cannot ever seem to get off without waxing philosophical?
He reaches a hand out to touch her, and she growls, soft, small, instinctive. Pulls away, and rests his hand on his chest instead.
He remembers Winter; pine and cinnamon and Earth untouched. Even the Hellmouth streets looked beautiful covered in snow. It was just Illusion too.
He realizes that`s what it all is, finally. When the pain comes, and he is retching in the pouring rain, outside on his balcony. One big fucking illusion, and him walking around inside of it as if it were all real.
But nothing has ever *changed*. He leaves countries and friendships, continents and lovers, and he is still in the same place. Always surrounded by bespectacled Englishmen with the hearts of poets, dark haired Seers, and small, blond women who kiss him and kill him and damn him to Hell.
He sees himself throwing rocks at the moon, consumed with the primal fear that it has stolen the sky. That the Longest Night will go on and on, and that maybe, just maybe, the Sun will never come up again. Even the longest winter gives way to spring eventually, but not for him.
Sudden flash of memory: Kate and he working on a case, and he had to identify the
body of a witness, post-autopsy.
She looked askance at him, ``You sure you`re up for this?``
He wanted to laugh. If she only knew...but she didn`t.. not yet..not yet.
Laid out on a slab all gray and doll-like, plastic. But it wasn`t a plastic doll, it was someone`s husband/father/lover/son with his chest cut open to the waist in a great, gaping Y shape, and all of his blood in a white commode by the steel table. The coroner was eating a sandwich and talking to Kate, oblivious to the stench of formaldehyde and /death/ and Angel saw the pruning shears and the man said ``cheaper than medical equipment, and it`s not like they mind.`` There were bits and pieces of brain and heart and insides in little carefully sealed bags, and everything that made this man human and real and alive was all cut up and cut out and Angel wanted to cry, but he didn`t know why. He didn`t know why at all, `cause its not like he hadn`t ever seen (caused) worse.
So he let Kate lead him out and chalk it up to ``Seeing the first one is kinda tough, I know. You don`t really get used to it, but you learn to fake it better``.
And he just nodded. Went home. Called Cordelia to hear her voice, but hung up after she said hello.
And now he knows why, oh gods, he knows. And it hurts more than going to Hell did, more than losing Sunnydale and Spring, more than the supernatural ass-kicking he is getting out here, in the pouring rain, while the thunder mocks him with false memories of sanctuary and forgetfulness.
He will never lay on a steel slab. He will never be cut open or pried apart, and when he dies, no one will be able to look at his insides and say ``he was a smoker, he was 27, he died of a blunt wound to the chest.``
Because when he dies, he will be only ashes and dirt, and there won`t even be anything left to bury or mourn over or ..*mark*. It will be as if he was never here at all.
And isn`t it just fucking sick that he *wants* that? Wants the simple horror that is the greatest fear of every mortal walking this stinking planet? He wants to die and rot in a fucking coffin, he wants to return to the Earth, he wants to feed the slithering things and the flowers. He wants to *be a part*.
But that is not for him.
No creation, no resurrection. No destruction, no death. And no peace. He is simply not...of them. Still on his knees, still looking at the sky as it opens, and falls.
He can survive with Eternal Night, with the knowledge that the sunlight can kill him, and that Day is his enemy. But oh...to be able to mark change and cycle, to be a part of rhythm and Wheel...the seasons, gods, he misses the seasons. And the winter is just so long.