Man! challenge in a can Man!






There was something about a woman's hands that drew him. Not just women, for that matter; he'd always been quick to note the stretch of a palm, the curling of a finger, the chipping of a nail. It was something he just did, a surefire way of pulling some quick and dirty detective work and learning the unspoken about people.

He, for example, had the hands of a sinner. Smooth and worn, his wrists were wide, his palms pale and traversed by bloodless veins. He kept his nails close cropped, and his fingers were long and slender. Not those of a pianist, but of a killer. They were hands that he could easily picture wrapping around a throat and squeezing, snapping, tearing, or acting out any other number of atrocities. But only, as he'd more than once pointed out, because the sight was not an unfamiliar one to him.

He'd always be haunted by those fever dreams of Angelus. The chase, the crush, the blood, and finally, the casting aside. All the lost souls he'd created wailed at him from the dark. Rightful penance.

Los Angeles. Angel Investigations. Cordelia. Thoughts of Cordelia, thoughts of anything but death.

She'd made more than the occasional pass at him when they'd first met, a lifetime and five years ago in Sunnydale. Pretty, he'd thought then, but not his type. He preferred B+, and the irony of it all flooded him along with the stupidity of such a thoughtless and unintentional joke.

Cordy. He loved her, a little. As much as he was capable of loving anyone else. No blonde goddess was Cordelia Chase, but Doyle had been right -- she was royalty. Bright, vivacious, a woman and a child with long, elegant fingers and a well finished French manicure.

She was also oblivious. Of them all, he thought that perhaps only Wesley would notice the way Angel worried over her. It embarrassed him. He hadn't meant to love her, and he had no intention of ever telling her.

She had beautiful hands, but they weren't the ones he worshipped, weren't the ones he'd go to hell for. Again.

He remembered the white nailpolish Buffy had worn throughout most of her first year in Sunnydale. A passing, ugly fad that he was glad to see go. He'd preferred her hands bare, except, maybe, for a claddaugh ring as decoration.

They often fluttered with too much energy, which was always rather amusing, but when they were calm, focused or lucid, he liked them much more. Her hands had been small and compact, not long-fingered like his or Cordelia's. They were meant to grip a stake, not play the piano or tear out throats. Often sporting broken nails and bruised knuckles, he thought them beautiful.

Everything about her was beautiful. And now she was dead.

Which, he had thought, was appropriate enough, since every other woman he'd loved was also dead.

Buffy, though... Buffy was different. He'd loved her because she was different, because she was alive. He'd loved her inside and out, even when she was with other men. Being apart had never been easy, or simple, but what they felt for one another was ever present, always hovering nearby, a breath away. A breath that Buffy would never take, Buffy with that silly nailpolish of hers.

They'd tried to be friends, after. "There's one way," she had said in that soft voice, and the pain of it all had made him keep looking away, down to her hands and the chipped polish adorning them.

"Tell me you don't love me," and he couldn't. Wouldn't. Deathly still heart breaking, Angel had watched her leave. It were as though everything under the sun and the moon had tried to tear them apart, and oh, those forces had definitely done their best job yet.

Dead. Dead like him, but worse. His feelings for Cordelia, even for Darla, were nothing in comparision. Buffy had been his road to redemption, and damn her, she had left him stranded permanently this time.

It was so easy to be selfish, to forget the sacrifice Willow had told him of. All he had to do was to think of the smile he'd loved and the nailpolish he hated, and suddenly, Angel was the wronged one. Wherever she was, he hoped that she was thinking of him.

Angel. Bitter. Nail polish.

Man! challenge in a can Man!