Beauty Effulgent

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Title: Pretty Pictures, Pretty Words
Pairing: Spike/Angel
Rating: Eh. Adult-ish
Notes: Set post “Not Fade Away.” My first "serious" S/A. As in no snark. Other than them at each other.
Beta’d by: Uberaeryn
Written for: Violethamster

Pretty Pictures, Pretty Words

Angel jerked back, staring down at Spike and frowning. “Too hard?” He leaned in closer, watching his hand as it rubbed lightly against Spike’s side.

Spike hissed again. “Ow! Just…stop that, you bloody sadist.”

Irritated, Angel dropped the damp cloth onto Spike’s chest. “You’re supposed to keep the burns hydrated, Spike. And I’m barely touching you; you’re just making it worse with all your...wiggling.”

“Not the burns that are bothering me, you nonce.” Spike winced, shoving Angel away from him. “You’re poking me with your bleedin’ hair every time you lean over.” He fell back against the sofa cushions with a quiet groan. “Stupid, crunchy, out-of-date, pokey, gelled to hell…”

Angel ground his teeth together, getting up from the couch and stalking across the room. “Okay! Dead horse!” he glowered, pointing at his hair, and then back at Spike, “you beating it! We get it – I use product…”

“Product,” Spike snickered weakly, closing his eyes.

Angel stomped back over to him, shoving his fingers through Spike’s hair. “And you have no idea how stupid this makes you look every time you say it!” Angel jerked his hand free, trying at once to keep from causing Spike more pain and to keep Spike from noticing his efforts. “Christ. You can barely lift your arms above your head, but your hair’s still bullet resistant and flame retardant.”

“Too bad the rest of me wasn’t,” Spike murmured. He looked silently at Angel for a moment and then gestured to the cloth drying on his chest. “You gonna finish this?”

Angel said nothing, just eased down onto the couch, careful not to jostle Spike any more than was necessary and taking up the cloth again. He drew it carefully over the burns that covered Spike’s shoulder, ribs and side, its sterile whiteness stark against the vivid pink and red blisters.

Spike’s lips tightened, whitening, as he tried not flinch away from the pain. Angel paused, his own lips drawing together, knowing this was too little, too late. And so damn tired of that feeling; tired of having to acknowledge that there were some things he couldn’t fight, couldn’t destroy, to make them stop. Helpless.

He sighed, his hand stilling against Spike’s skin. “Sorry,” he muttered, “I’m not good at this.” He looked up at Spike, their eyes meeting. “I guess we could wait for Illyria to get back from patrol, if you’d rather have a…woman’s touch.”

Their gazes held, and then they both snorted, chuckling, and looked away.

“’S all right,” Spike said, nodding for Angel to continue. “Not your fault.” He watched silently as Angel wet the cloth again and brought it back against his side. He forced himself to hold still and ignore the pain, or turn it into something else, something he could face. He glanced back up at Angel, his eyes narrowing at the concern he saw there, the pity. Directed at him.

“’Sides,” Spike continued, his tone light, careless, “burns don’t hurt near as much as the fact that I’m the one laid out, broken and helpless, and you don’t have so much as a dent in that hair.”

“No one asked you to get between me and the dragon, Spike,” Angel said, his eyes blazing with something other than pity now. “I had it pinned, beaten back, but then you got beneath my sword…”

“Yeah, yeah, Mercutio,” Spike sighed, looking down at the burns that marred his side from shoulder to hip. “No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door; but 'tis enough, 'twill serve.

Angel growled. “Would you stop being so pithy?”

Spike drew back, his forehead wrinkling. “Did you just call me ‘pithy’? Or have you taken to lisping, mate?”

Angel’s fist clenched around the cloth, his knuckles grazing Spike’s skin, and Spike gasped, “Right. No more pithy.”

Angel’s hand began its slow sweep again, and Spike stilled, his face serious, his voice quiet, “You looked back.”

He waited for Angel to look at him and then continued, “You had it pinned, sword blazing, and then you looked back, looking for us, checking on us. You didn’t see its tail sweep. I was going for that.” He was silent for a moment, and then he shrugged lightly. “But that’s you, Angel, always looking back.”

Angel droppped the cloth into the bowl beside the couch and stood, walking over to the doorway of his office, looking out into the dark, empty lobby of the Hyperion, his back to Spike.

Spike stared at that motionless, broad back for a moment and then offered, “I don’t feel any different.”

“Takes a while for the medicine to take effect,” Angel said, his voice low, almost inaudible.

“Not that,” Spike said impatiently, groaning as he struggled to sit up. “Though I can’t remember ever takin’ this bloody long to heal.”

Angel turned back to him with a slight smile. “Makes you wish all that garbage in the Watcher’s Diaries about vampire spit’s healing power was true, doesn’t it?”

Spike snorted. “Yeah, that were true, I’d have spent those wheelchair days licking myself all over.” He titled his head at Angel’s lifted brows. “That is, if the stuff about vampire flexiblity was also true.”

Angel turned away again and Spike shook his head. “No, I mean, I don’t feel any different now that it’s all over. We didn’t dust like you said, so I’m thinking now’s the time for the Powers of Whatall to keep their part of the bargain. Saved the world, stopped an apocalypse, threw a monkey wrench into the cogs of evil, so hail the battle victorious…”

“That wasn’t a victory, Spike,” Angel said, “it was a reprieve.”

“Bollocks, Angel,” Spike snapped, “next you’ll be telling me it was a police action, not a war. We won. They’re dead or gone, and we’re here. Game over – I want the prize.”

Angel turned and looked at him, his eyes dark, fathomless. “Why?”

“Because it was promised me,” Spike groaned, giving up the struggle and just falling back against the couch, letting the coolness of the sheet drape against his skin. “I bloody earned it,” he said, his voice quieter, “more than once. It’s mine.”

“Mine,” Angel agreed, walking over to his empty desk and leaning against it, looking back at Spike. “Yours. No one’s. It’s not real, Spike. Prophecies – just promises. And just as easy to break. Not worth the santicified, virgin goat skin it’s written on. Besides,” Angel said, crossing his arms, “I signed it away, remember?”

“Can’t bloody give back something that wasn’t yours,” Spike said, his fists twisting in the sheets and then smoothing them out, “wasn’t yours to give back. Not just yours, any rate. And you’re getting cynical in your old age, Angel. Prophecy’s more than just a wish your heart makes, remember? Buffy? Connor? Illyria? They’re real, prophetic or no.”

Angel leaned forward, cocking his head as he looked at Spike. “You’ve been thinking about this a lot.”

Spike looked down at his hands on the sheet, white on white, and at the way his skin disappreared, fragile and broken, beneath it. “Wanted it first because it was yours, you were right about that. Want it now just because it’s mine.”

Angel shook his head. “I don’t believe that, Spike. You don’t want to be human. You never wanted to be human, even when you were.”

Spike gasped, choking with laughter. “And you did? I bet you all but pranced after Darla, head cocked, eyes on her tits while you flexed your jugular at her.”

“No,” Angel said, not looking at Spike, “I wanted an escape, and I took the one she was offering, whatever she was offering, but I never wanted this,” he said, waving a hand between them. “You did.”

“Wanted this?” Spike said angrily, whipping the sheet away to reveal naked, pale skin, places mottled and angry red; scars that added depth and definition, but would only fade away. “Flesh that heals and never dies? Flays open and burns and then knits and seals so that it can flay open and burn again? Because it never stops, Angel.”

He jests at scars that never felt a wound,” Angel drawled.

Spike rolled his eyes. “Now who’s being pithy?”

Angel was against him before Spike could add snipe to snark, his fingers ghosting over raised skin, reddened flesh. “For a human, Spike, this would be death,” he said, fighting the urge to pull away as Spike hissed and shook beneath his hands. “If you were human, you’d have been laid out in that alley, rain making puddles in your eyes.” Angel swallowed. “Like Gunn. Like Wesley. Tell me you want that.”

Spike didn’t answer, his fingers clenching in Angel’s shirt, hands that were stronger than they should be for all of Spike’s talk of pain, pushing the other vampire away.

“That’s right,” Angel said, his fingers reaching for Spike’s, clasping them together and then tightening and digging in. He grinned as pain raced up his arm as Spike’s fingers clenched back. “This is what you want – this strength, this other, no matter how much pain was caused to get it.”

Angel squeezed hard one last time and then dropped Spike’s hand. “Wanting to be human. Who’s looking back now, Spike?”

“What else is there, Angel? Done my bit for glory.” Spike looked down at Angel’s hand, still near his, their fingertips brushing. “Don’t know if I have it in me to do any more. And you know that, too, ‘cause now I’m all you have left.”

Angel’s fingers closed into a fist, moving away from Spike’s.

Spike licked his lips. “No Council, no Slayer to believe in you, need you. It’s either me or them,” Spike said, nodding toward the window, the outside world. “Caught between us – the devil and the deep blue sea. Scylla and Charybdis.” He dropped his head back against the couch, chuckling, “Torn between two lovers, feelin’ like a fool.”

Angel frowned. “I don’t think that last one works, Spike.”

“Why’d you stop, Angel?” Spike asked, his hand reaching for Angel’s and straightening the fingers out, stroking down the palm. “Believin’? All that rot with Angel’s Avengers and then tryin’ to take over from inside the belly of the beast? That wasn’t for Buffy. If you’d just taken off, moonin’ and broodin’ over her without the do-gooder act, she would still have been just as hung up on you. So it wasn’t for that. You believed in somethin’. Believed you were going somewhere. And now you don’t.”

Angel stared at his hand in Spike’s, wanting to jerk away, wanting to be away, but he just sat, watching pale fingers trace the planes of his skin. “The price was too high. For over two hundred years, I watched people die. And I watched, Spike, I didn’t just drain and run, I was there for it all – the death rattle, the release, the silence. And I felt nothing. Except maybe pride.”

Angel’s hand turned in Spike’s, his fingers mindless as he traced and re-traced Spike’s skin. “Two hundred years of nothing followed by five of…” Angel’s voice roughened, “Buffy. Doyle. Darla. Cordy. Fred. Wesley. Gunn. You.”

Angel’s fingers tightened around Spike’s again, and he looked away. “Some came back, some never will. But I felt everything – anger, sorrow, shame, relief.” He looked back at Spike. “Maybe I thought if I were human, that would stop. But it won’t. I’d just be helpless and unable to make their deaths mean anything – Connor, Buffy. They’d all still die. Everyone.”

“Except me,” Spike said simply, saying nothing as Angel drew their hands down to rest on his injured side.

Angel laughed suddenly. “And that’s the real bitch, isn’t it? My inescapable destiny turns out to be you.” He lifted their hands away from Spike’s wounds, settling them above an unbeating heart. “Because you know I never liked you.”

Spike chuckled, his hand clasping Angel’s tighter as his laughter threatened to separate them. “Oh, you liked me right enough, mate, was me who didn’t like you.”

“I think we’ve had this conversation enough to agree that the dislike was mutual,” Angel said.

“Wasn’t me fillin’ parchment after parchment with drawings of me fresh from the kill,” Spike’s voice lowered, “or fresh from your bed.”

Angel lowered his head, and Spike’s eyes widened as Angel’s lips hovered above his. “Dark Angel, with thy aching lust / To rid the world of penitence / Malicious Angel, who dost still / My soul such subtle violence!” Angel quoted quietly.*

“Was drunk when I wrote that,” Spike muttered, feeling his chin brush against Angel’s as he spoke.

Angel lifted a brow. “Let’s hope,” he murmured, his lips nudging Spike’s open as he covered them with his own.

Memory slammed into Spike as his mouth parted beneath Angel’s. Words and images blurred past until they were here, back in this quiet dark room, alone and hurting, but finding something new.

Spike’s hand reached up and fisted in Angel’s hair, cupped the back of his head, pulling him closer and moaning softly, shaking as he felt Angel moan back.

And then Angel was pulling away, his eyes opening, focusing on Spike and filling with questions.

Spike kissed Angel softly again, lips pressed together, closed and silent. He drew back, letting his eyes find Angel’s as he said, “That’s all I can offer you, love.” He looked down at his body, the pain making him draw away even as he wanted to press close, and knowing that was nothing new. “Now…and maybe ever.”

“Maybe it’s enough,” Angel said. “We’re not who we were, Spike, and it won’t be the way it was. No matter what changes for us, or between us.”

Spike smirked. “Even if your reward turns out to be getting stuck with me for as long as our forever lasts, ‘cause I’m all that’s left?”

Angel winced. “Reward’s not a word I believe in anymore, remember? How about our…reprieve is being given the strength to protect the people we care about, and learning to live without killing each other? I think we can do that with the right amount of happiness.”

Spike grinned as he reached up and pulled Angel back down to him. “Pretty pictures, pretty words.”


A/N: " No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a church door…" and "He jests at scars…" are both from “Romeo and Juliet.”

Dark Angel by Lionel Pigot Johnson. (This soooo sounds like Spike wrote it about Angel. Rhyming “penitence” and “violence”? Yeah, that’s my boy.)

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