Pretty

A/N: This has some pretty graphic torture, more mental than physical, but there are both. I just want that clear up front. This was inspired by listening to "Pretty When You Cry," by VAST, and I even stole a line from it, but this is not a song fic, for those who care. If you're able though, listen to that song on repeat while you read, it really helps with mood. Finally, this is set in an AU fourth season, where instead of removing Angel's soul, they split him in two, so there's good Angel and bad Angelus. It's part of a larger story I'm working on, but this turned out so well that I couldn't resist posting it as a standalone. For the record, in case you didn't get this from the torture warning, this fic does not end up in a happy place. There is no sunshine here. Only rain. And acetone.

The laugh rang around the room, and I knew I was fucked. Because for one, I was chained to his bed. Two, it was not the right laugh. I could feel my breathing speeding up, could feel my dead heart try to beat in panic. One word rang through my brain, in my ears, filled up my mind with dread. Angelus.

He was here. I swallowed around the fear in my throat and tried to lift my head enough to see. Something around my neck constricted and I realized that not only had he chained me to his bed, but he'd completely immobilized me. That was a choke chain around my neck, and I knew better than to test it. He'd let me decapitate myself before he came over and took it off. And he'd probably laugh the whole time. Even if I wound up dust. Even if he wound up dust.

I heard the laugh again, and cursed myself for the fear I could feel pouring off me in waves.

I heard him sniff, long and loud in the otherwise quiet room. Then he chuckled, not the full bodied laugh of earlier, but a dark, deep, sinister chuckle. "You smell so pretty, boy."

Boy. That was a laugh, especially since--I pulled my mind away from that edge. If I thought too long about this, I would topple off the cliff into insanity.

"Do you know what else you smell like, boy?" he asked, his voice startlingly close. I didn't answer, and he whispered into my ear, his lips brushing my skin with every word. "You smell like want. Dripping, needy, human want."

It had always been one of Angelus' favorite games. Humiliate the vampire by comparing him to a human. The mental torture of telling a proud vampire that he was nothing more than a mortal in Angelus' eyes. I refused to take it like the insult it was, remembering that it was my humanity that made me different from him.

He laughed again, still in my ear. "You probably think that means you're special. You're not. You're just like me. And you know it."

I swallowed again, trying to keep my sense of humanity, of sanity, of otherness from him. But I could feel it starting to crumble. He would know exactly what to say to make it fall, too.

"When I kill humans, drain them completely or take just enough to kill, you like it. You revel in being able to do what the soul won't let you."

I could hear the mockery behind his voice. I kept my mouth shut. I wouldn't answer. I wouldn't. How had this happened? I wondered. How did he get loose?

"When I tortured Dru in Sunnydale, and forced you to watch, you chortled in glee, you wanted more. When I tortured the Slayer, leaving her little presents, killing that gypsy bitch, you got off on it. No more soul meant no more guilt, no more pain. No more need for penance. Just violence and death and the way things are supposed to be. Repression of urges a thing of the past. All that's left? Pure, unadulterated debauchery. Murder, lust, feeding, orgies, all things that had been denied you, and now, with me loose, you can have them back again." He laughed, really laughed, and walked to the dresser and opened the top drawer. "Oh, you were so disappointed when the little redheaded witch got your soul back for you."

I gritted my teeth. It wasn't true, it wasn't true. It was just . . . just him torturing me. Just like the past few hours, before I'd woken up to find myself chained to the bed. Just like before, in the basement, where he cut open my skin and poured salt and acetone into the wounds. Just like before, when he told me how he was going to make me watch while he killed everyone I'd ever felt even the slightest bit of affection for.

He must have guessed where my thoughts had gone, because he grinned as he pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from the dresser. He lit up, and I knew cigarette burns would be next on the physical torture menu. Sure enough, he approached me, burning cigarette held loosely in one hand. He bent over me, and I realized he'd stripped me completely, even the pants he'd let me keep in the basement gone.

"Thinking about what I told you I'd do to them?" he asked. Sometimes I hated that he could always tell what I was thinking. "You know, I've changed my mind. I'm not going to torture the slayer. I'll knock her out with a tranquilizer, then I'll maker her watch while I torture you. Again. And again. And again. And when I'm finally tired of that, I'll fuck her while you watch. And then I'll set her on fire. Think you'd like that? Watching the Slayer spontanteously combust?"

I couldn't stop the whimper of fear and disgust. He smiled, and I realized he knew that he was getting under my skin. But I couldn't find a way to stop it.

"The watcher will be next. What I did to him before, that will look like a nice rub-down compared to what I'll do to him this time. I won't stop until every bone in his body is broken in three places." Angelus smiled at the thought. "He'll smell so good when he's broken like that. All self righteous pride gone over to agony."

I forced myself to think of wholesome and good things. Apple pie and Christmas and farm animals. Chocolate chip cookies. Willow made good cookies. I saw Angelus smile too late.

"You know what I'll do first? Well, after hunting Dru down and bringing her back to me of course. The first one of them I'll kill will be Willow. I'm going to stretch her out and seduce her with the pain. She'll be begging for more by the time I'm done. If she's especially good, I may even turn her. She'd make a lovely companion for Dru, wouldn't she?"

I cried out, choking on tears at the thought of sweet Willow forced to wait on Drusilla, the craziest vampire ever to be turned.

Angelus scented the air. "Ah . . . lovely, boy. Your tears smell like . . . actually, I don't know how to describe it. It's like everything good and perfect in the world has suddenly been corrupted. It's . . . intoxicating." He got in my face then, and sniffed at the tears I couldn't seem to hold back. "Mmmm . . . so good. So good." He licked his lips. "Oh, poor Angel." His smile was that of the devil. I wondered if maybe that's what he had been, the devil incarnate. "I didn't want to hurt you," he said, pressing his now smoldering cigarette into the tender flesh of my hip.

I screamed, giving in, giving up. Unable, utterly unable, to stop what I knew would happen. He gave me a matching burn on the other side, then began a line of burns down my chest, making patterns around my nipples and bellybutton. He watched for a while as the burns continued to eat away flesh, even after he'd stopped pressing the cigarette into my skin.

"Pretty," he whispered, and I don't think he realized he'd said it aloud.

My tears were constant now, I couldn't have stopped if my life had depended on it. He lifted the cigarette to his lips and took a final drag, then tapped the ash onto my stomach. I realized I was shaking with the pain. He stood up and walked away, going into the bathroom attatched to the suite he'd commandeered. It wasn't my room, because that stank of good. I didn't bother to listen to what he was doing in the bathroom. I didn't want to know.

I raised my head as much as I could without causing myself any more pain. I looked down the length of my body. Lines from earlier, from when he'd cut me zig-zagged and criss-crossed, making x's and z's over most of my body. I could feel blood drying on my face where he'd carved our initial into both my cheeks. "A" for Angel, for Angelus. The cigarette burns added a counterpoint to the cuts, somehow both grotesque, and though I was loathe to admit he'd been right, grotesquely pretty.

I lay back thinking about that. About what he'd said about us being the same. And suddenly it all clicked. He was right. I had wanted the things he'd done, with at least part of my soul. Part of me would get off on seeing the tortures he'd inflict on the Slayer and her friends. Part of me would get off on what he'd do to my employees when he caught them. And part of me screamed in protest, shouted that it was wrong, yelled at me to get away, to get up, to keep fighting, because if I stopped, if I let him do what he wanted, he won.

But I couldn't fight anymore. He had won. I didn't want to stop him. We were the same, but we weren't, and it was so confusing, and all I wanted was to wake up and find out that it was all a dream.

It wasn't until he came back into the room that I realized I was sobbing, gasping out my pain wordlessly. He came over to me, sat on the bed and caressed my bloody, painful, tearstained face. He ran a finger over the "A"s, down the bridge of my nose, over my browbone. He traced my eyelids and my gaping, parted lips, even as I screamed out sobs against his fingers.

He cocked his head at me, smiling, and I realized he was aroused. I didn't want to know what came next, didn't want to see him torture me anymore, didn't want this. I didn't, I couldn't. Could I? I knew I was sobbing harder now than before.

Head cocked, eyes reflecting some unreadable emotion, he traced the A on the cheek nearest him again. "I didn't want to hurt you, baby," he crooned, whispering softly to me, for my ears alone. "I didn't want to hurt you, but you're pretty when you cry."