Title: "A Hazy Shade of Winter"
Author: Mala
E-mail: malisita@yahoo.com
Fandom: "Angel"
Rating/Classification: 'R'. Angst, nongraphic smut, character death.
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters.

Her dark hair is spread, like ruined russet silk, across the glacial earthen floor. A curtain. A carpet. An otherworldly path inviting Ophelia down to the river for a peaceful eternal soak. Leaves cling to her woolen coat...slush melts into tepid pools around her boots. Her limbs are at odds, akimbo. She looks like she's making a snow angel.

It seems like, any minute, she will leap up, brush herself off and point to the perfect imprint in the ground. The outline. "Would you look at that? Isn't it beautiful?"

"Yes," he'll say. "Yes, it's beautiful. *You're* beautiful."

She will snort and roll her eyes--every other inch a lady,*his* lady--because she never believes him. Never puts stock in his opinion. At least not when it relates to her. To the way her gaze dances with the light...darkening early just like the winter days. To the way her slender-boned body spins on edge like a perfect ice crystal...and always melts in his brutish, unworthy hands.

She does not see herself the way he sees her.

She thinks he is mistaken.

She thinks he's blind, foolish, besotted, idiotic, reckless, and any number of other things that might excuse the urgency and intensity with which he cares for her.

He thinks he might be all of the above.

Now that she is cold and broken and lost.

Now that she is dead.

Now that he has nothing else to lose.

***

Icicles lined the overhang that sheltered them from the bitter chill. The combined breath between them was crystallized. Her nimble fingers worked the buttons of his overcoat feverishly, dragging the billowing folds around both their bodies as she pressed against him. Mouth, hands, wind-stiffened nipples. Tight and soft and hard all at the same time. She laughed, huskily, warming him with the sound...with her violent kisses and even more vicious legs wrapping around his waist. The worn denim of her jeans was no true barrier. Only a tease as she rubbed her pelvis against his in slow, tortuous circles. A tease and a promise of what was to come.

Of *who* was to come.

She reveled in her power over him. In this and all things. She knew his every weakness. Her. Only her.

She wound her fingers in his hair as he unzipped zippers, pushed aside cloth, and buried himself inside her. She swallowed his whimpers, his groans, and welcomed him with the calculated roll of her hips. With the wet shine of her kiss-abused lips. With the glimmer of emotion in her bright eyes that she would never call anything but lust.

But he knew better.

He knew what this really was. What these assignations really were. Not just an attempt to chase away the cold. Not just an assuaging of animal impulse. Not just a chance to forget...but a chance to remember.

More and more and more.

Eternal summer.

And he cried out her name...listening to the ice cracking from the music of the syllables, feeling the melting snow washing over them both...as gentle as their orgasms were wild. Cool water and hot skin made steam.

His devotion and her passion made eternal love.

***

He smoothes her hair back from her face with bare, trembling fingers. He'll catch frostbite, he thinks, from the bluish ice that is spreading across her still, pale, features.

"You're beautiful," he whispers, touching his lips, lightly, to her forehead. Knowing she would hate it. Knowing she would threaten to toss him across the room and then drag him back and let her body love him the way her heart could not.

He lifts her easily, as if she weighs less than a single feather. Her dark lashes are crescents against her cheek...almost fluttering...as if she will wake up soon from some gorgeous dream. He cradles her to his chest, kicking aside the door as if it was insignificant, whisking her away from the would-be chalk outline, from the finality that will come with the cacophony of sirens and the haphazard clatter of boots and weapons. He takes her into the white storm of nothing, of madness. Into the silence. This is, perhaps, the first time she has ever been complacent in his arms. Content to lie still, to let him take care of her.

And he *will* take care of her.

Always.

He will thaw her the way she thawed him. He will warm her the way she warmed him. He will be her shelter. He will be her guide. He will be her lover *and* her love.

In the next life.

In this life--what's left of it--he will have vengeance.

Because he no longer has Faith.

--end--

September 5, 2001.



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