Title: "Beauty Always Had a Cost"
Author: Mala
Fandom: "Angel"
Rating/Classification: 'AC', language, Wes, gen, angst, futurefic.
Disclaimer: Grrr! Aaargh! Title and lyrics from "Walking 2 Hawaii" by Tom McRae.
Summary: Wesley is waiting.
Notes: This comes from a combination of watching too many Wes/Faith music vids and watching a friend come to terms with terminal illness. Oh, and repeat listenings to one Mister McRae. 1+1+1=fucked up fic.

*Falling feels like flying, until you hit the ground
and everything is beautiful/'till you take a look
around so let it go.*

He wanted to die at the edge of the world. To crawl off its point and fall into nothingness. Back to the cosmic dust from whence he came. But wants and haves are two very different things. As he learned so long ago. So, he settles for the edge of the ocean. A scrape of beach. His battered chair, its plastic slats groaning under his weight, pulled right up to the tide so the crisp blue water can wash transparent over his toes.

He knows there is someone waiting on the other side. Standing in the bow of the ship that will take him across the river Styx. He won't have to pay her with coin. Just his lips pressed to the cold scar that slashes across her throat. As it should be. With Lilah. In Hell.

The girl at the rickety no-tell motel up the shore worries about him. In her limited English and his equally limited Quechua, they've established a simple policy. If she finds him dead, she can call somebody. Otherwise, she is to leave him the fuck alone. A useful word, "fuck." For a long stretch of years, he never deigned to use it--too proper and too stupid--and then he used it all the time. Too improper. Still too stupid. Peppering sentences with it like the gray that peppers his hair and stubble.

So, yes. Fuck. Quite. Indeed.

The girl isn't used to visitors. To the crisp dollars left in an envelope at the ramshackle front desk. Nobody comes here, she said when he checked in eight months ago. Coastal Peru, east of nowhere, is not a tourist trap. Nobody comes here. But the motel, with its six rooms that don't lock, is here just in case they arrive.

Which works well for him. He's nobody.

He's been nobody for a long time.

Sometimes, he tilts his head when the sun is high and he stares into it, remembering the old adage about going blind. But the dreadful orange-yellow glare doesn't take away his sight. Only enhances it. As he remembers starched suits coming back from the laundry. A flash of dark hair. Of smiles. Of family. Of betrayal. Knife blades sliding soft and sweet across his skin. The weight of a handgun against his palm. The heaviest thing he holds now is a bottle of the cheap local rum. Thick and cloying and an ever-so efficient placebo.

He could tick off the hours, the days, like notches on his bedpost. The worn wooden frame that he occasionally considers, before turning back towards the door and the sand and stars, has already taken what could be a century's worth of abuse. He wonders if the girl with her thick black braid and her perfect teeth was conceived on it, but is still too well-bred to ask. Even preparing for death, he maintains his appallingly clinical curiosity. Status quo.

He has upwards of a dozen scars. Near misses at the hands of enemies. Of friends. Of lovers. Everyone he knows has tried to kill him at some point in time, it seems. It only feels fitting that his demise should be as mundane and mortal as the existence leading up to it. In an era where getting drained by vampires or gutted by something web-footed and slimy is in fashion, cancer is passť. His body eating itself, mutated cells replicating into masses of tissue and clinging to his insides like the tiny crabs that skitter along the beach.

Angel refused to turn him.

Of course.

He wasn't surprised. And turned down the offer to suffer chemotherapy and radiation with a cool, ageless, palm holding his hand to the very end. Tit for tat and that is that.

He expected nothing more from the creature who defined his existence by acts of cowardice masked with bravery. Leaving the love of his life. Consigning a room full of lawyers to death. Sacrificing his son and his lover for a slice of sunlight and a corner office.

Angel led by example.

So, this time, he is the one cloaking his weakness with nobility. With rum. And sand particles caught in the crevices of his toes. He has lived a very long time for a milquetoast turned Watcher turned Rogue Demon Hunter turned...turned. It's been time enough.

And so, the edge of the world.

He expects to see her, of course. For her to find him. To conclude their dance of disaster. Out of all of them, he has Faith in that. That hers will be the last face he sees before he dies. He's been to that edge twice...never leapt.

But it's been time enough.

So, one night, as things are dawning and breaking, she is there. Barefoot in the shallow water of the tide. Naked, too, after a moment, when her black t-shirt and jeans hit the sand.

"Are you skinny-dipping, Faith? Or planning a pity fuck?" And there it is again. That word. "Fuck." So carelessly spilled from his lips as his hand shakes and he leans forward in the chair.

"The kid at the desk? You know she doesn't speak English. That's a bitch, Man. I had to describe you in mime," she says, conversationally, as she straddles his lap. "I decided if she recognized the size of your cock, I was going to have to kill her."

He laughs, barely recognizing the winded, broken sound, as she settles herself across his legs, her weight now the heaviest thing he has held since the handgun and the bottle of rum. "My dear... I sincerely doubt *I* would recognize the size of my...cock," he assures, dryly.

Her nimble fingers snake between them, into the frayed crotch of his cut-off shorts and discover for themselves the truth of the matter. Scientific fact says that a man can sustain erection well into old age, until the moment of death. Part of him must already be dead...waiting for the rest to catch up.

"Wes..." she whispers, then. And it isn't pity he sees in her eyes. "Wes, what are you doing?"

"Waiting," he says, raising a hand to brush the hair from her face. Her beautiful killer's face.

"To die? That's fucking lame, Man," she says, fiercely, hips grinding into him...curved, not bony points. Her body is a woman's now. Lush and warm. He wonders if she's borne children...curses, again, his never-ending curiosity. "That's the coward's way," she hisses.

"I know." He smiles, weakly, holding her as tightly as he is able to. "I'm exhausted with playing hero. I want to shuffle off the mortal coil with no pretenses."

"No pretenses? *Fuck* you!" she cries as he nestles his head in the hollow between her breasts. "Fuck you," she says, softer. "You're one of the bravest man I know."

"Knew," he corrects, simply.

The edge of the world.

He crawls off its point.

Falls into nothingness.

Back to the cosmic dust from whence he came.

After sunrise, Faith washes him from her skin and says "good-bye."

From the bow of a boat crossing the river Styx, he replies in kind.


June 16, 2003.

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