A/N: Hi! Sorry it's been so long. School's kept me busy, not to mention certain people have been breaking down the last bit of self confidence I have and it's been difficult...Anyway, enjoy this; it's a pretty long oneshot but I felt I needed to write something for you guys. R&R, please!
Angel abruptly looked up from the magazine she was reading, a little surprised at the sudden remark. She found herself staring into Collins' soft eyes. He was in the middle of grading term papers—or, at least, he had been.
Now, he was simply gazing at her, and Angel raised an eyebrow. "Uh...thank you, sweetie, but where did that come from?"
He shrugged. "I just thought you should know. Considering you're so intently studying a magazine that says, Go from pretty to gorgeous in ten easy steps on the front cover."
Angel blushed and quickly replied, "Who says I was reading that part?"
"You're blushing, Angel; I think that just gave it away."
Angel tossed the magazine to the other side of the couch, crossing her arms in front of her chest defiantly. "What are you, a mind-reader, now, Professor Collins?"
He chuckled, shaking his head a little. Angel raised her eyebrows and wondered what exactly Collins was getting to. "So...You stopped in the middle of grading essays to tell me I'm beautiful. Why?"
"Why not?" Collins challenged, "All I did was look up to give my eyes a rest from reading for so long, and there you were—and let's just say my eyes were certainly grateful for what they saw..."
Angel couldn't help but smile. She hopped up from the couch to Collins in the old recliner chair. Plopping down on his lap, she smirked up at him. "Okay. I'll take that as an answer."
Collins nodded. Angel rested her head against his chest and let him grade papers for a while before he finally said, "Ang?"
Angel had started to doze off when he called her name. "Mmhmm?"
"You do know you're beautiful, don't you?"
Tilting her head to look him in the eye, Angel replied, "You tell me so all the time—so I guess I don't have any other choice, do I?" She laughed only to find that Collins wasn't so amused.
"Whether I tell you everyday or not doesn't matter. You are beautiful. Inside and out. I've never met a more amazing person in my life. People play out definitions of 'beautiful' on TV, and in movies, and in stupid magazines like the one you were reading..."
Angel closed her eyes and listened to Collins' deep voice; felt his heartbeat against her.
"...And they don't even have a clue about what beauty is. It's not all about the looks, which you most certainly do have already, but it's about character, and about personality and dignity, and love. If you're not the definition of beauty, I don't know what is."
Blinking up at him now, Angel was grinning from ear to ear. "Collins," she said, "I still don't know where the hell that came from, but it was the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me!"
Collins opened his mouth to say something, but Angel cut him off with a passionate, loving kiss.
Thomas B. Collins trudged into the apartment after a long day at work. Throwing his suitcase on the floor and hanging up his coat, he smelled the aroma of delicious food coming from the kitchen. Just then, Mimi scurried into the room. She whirled around and jumped at the sight of Collins standing there. "Ah, mi Dios! Collins...you scared me!"
Collins chuckled. "Sorry, Mimi-girl. Where's Angel?"
Mimi took a deep breath and shouted, "Angel! Will you quit obsessing over the food and come say hi to your boyfriend?!"
Collins winced at Mimi's high-pitched call, but all was forgotten as Angel came out of the kitchen. She was wearing a sweatshirt and jeans that were stained a little with some kind of sauce. There were no wigs or makeup—just Angel, her curly locks of hair askew, but her smile as bright as ever. "Hi, Collins!"
He held his arms out to her as she ran to him, flinging her arms around his neck. "I missed you!"
"I missed you, too," he said.
Pulling away slightly, Angel looked up at Collins, then down at her worn out sneakers. "I know, I know," she muttered, "I look like shit. But I've been cooking dinner, and—"
"You," Collins interrupted, brushing his fingers against her skin and holding her close with his other hand, "look beautiful."
Angel rolled her eyes. "You lie," she said bluntly, "I didn't even have time for makeup...there's pasta sauce on my jeans, and this is one of your sweatshirts I put on because I was cold after I took a shower, and I probably smell like food instead of the perfume I usually wear..." she trailed off, and Collins stared down at her all the while, his eyes explaining every unspoken word.
"But you're beautiful," was his simple argument, "no matter what."
Mimi squealed from the kitchen doorway, and Angel sighed, turning around to her. "Chica, it's really hard to pretend you're not listening when you're standing right there."
Mimi stuck out her tongue and wandered back into the kitchen. Meanwhile, Collins had wrapped his arms around Angel's waist from behind, kissing her neck. "How many times do I have to say it before you believe me?"
Angel turned around in Collins' grasp and stood on tiptoe to kiss him gently. "I dunno," she whispered, "Maybe someday I will."
Angel let the cool, soothing water touch her lips and flow down her throat as Collins held a plastic cup to her mouth. She closed her eyes at Collins' gentle touch against her forehead. "You're burnin' up again, baby."
Her eyes popped open and she squinted up at him. He looked at her with such worry and concern...Angel couldn't remember the last time she'd seen him smile and really mean it since she'd arrived at the hospital a month and a half ago.
"Am I?" she whispered, "I can't really tell anymore."
Collins bit his lip, running his fingers through Angel's hair. "You need anything else?"
"No. Just you," Angel muttered, taking shaky breaths in between each word. Collins stretched out on the small bed beside her, and she snuggled up close to him, breathing in his familiar smell. "Mmm..." she whispered, "I love you."
When he said nothing, Angel had a feeling he was crying. Sure enough, he started sniffing a little, his body shaking ever so slightly.
"Collins? Don't cry..." Angel whispered, eyes fluttering open and closed as she looked up at him with all the strength she had.
Collins looked away, his eyes closed, grasping Angel's waist as tightly as he could. "I'm fine," he replied.
Angel gave into the weakness and closed her eyes again. "But...but you're crying...I don't like when you cry..."
She knew that they both understood it was almost time. She coughed, and felt Collins' lips against her forehead. "I love you, too," he said, "more than anything. And, honestly..." He kissed her dry lips ever so gently, and Angel smiled weakly against the warmth of his lips. "I'm afraid of what I'll be without you. I'll miss you too much...You've changed me, brought out the best in me that I thought I'd lost a long time ago...You're everything to me, my Angel..."
"I know," Angel breathed, "I know...But you'll do fine. You're so strong...stronger than I could ever be; you're the one who got me through all of this..." Taking in a shattering breath, she added, "Thank you for always being there for me..."
"Angel...don't go...please, baby...please..." Collins whispered over and over.
Angel squeezed Collins' hand with her remaining strength. "Promise me...you'll be okay."
"I...I can't..." Collins began, but when Angel let out a little cry, he knew what he had to do. Letting the tears flow down his cheeks, he said firmly, "I promise, Angel. But tell me something..."
"Tell me you know how beautiful you are."
Angel's eyes filled with tears. Her lips were chapped and gray, her skin a shade of ghostly white, her voice cracked...maybe she wasn't beautiful. But Collins made her feel that way all the same—he always had.
She smiled a little. "I think...I think you've finally proven your point, baby."
Hearing him sigh shakily against her, she knew he was relieved. That was all she wanted. She whispered his name and said countless 'I love you's until, still holding on to his hand, she uttered her final breath.
Through his sobs, Collins couldn't help but recognize the little spark of happiness somewhere among the sadness. No matter what place she had been led to after this life, Collins was sure of one thing.
He knew, wherever she was, she was beautiful. And nothing in this world or in the next could ever change that.