Disclaimer: I own nothing but this fic.
A/N: Written for TheLostMaximoff.
"Aren't you cold? Dressed like that?"
The question is sudden, almost random, but logical. This cavern he willed them to, trapped them in, is freezing, but she doesn't seem to mind. Which is strange, considering she's hardly dressed at all.
"Not really," Angela replies, a smirk on her lips, "my ribbons keep me at a pretty constant body temperature."
Al's eyes wander to the aforementioned ribbons, and he wonders just how that works. His suit covers his entire body, and still the cold filters through as though there were no barrier between it and his skin at all. Perhaps, he thinks somewhat bitterly, Heaven is more considerate than Hell.
The conversation dies right then and there as both angel and Hellspawn take a seat on the rocky ground. There's a good distance between them, and their backs are to one another. They're stuck together, but that doesn't necessarily mean they have to like it. But the last few hours have been strange and hard enough, so neither complain. They simply endure.
"Y'know, Simmons," she speaks up, and it almost startles him. Almost. If only because he hadn't expected her to speak to him unless she absolutely had to. But, clearly, that isn't the case right now, and she's doing this just for conversation's sake. "I've been set up, and I don't like that one little bit."
"Join the club," he replies sourly, knowing her troubles all too well. His career, his death, his deal – all one big set up that he has no real intention to follow. But now isn't the time to dwell on that. Who knows when, or if, he'll ever be able to speak with her like this again, to get answers to some of his burning questions.
"Hey, Angela. What... do you do?" he inquires, and the tenseness of his back slowly gives out as he leans back some, balancing his weight against one palm.
"Hm?" she hums, then casts him a side-long glance, a small half-smirk on her painted lips. "I hunt things," she informs him, "and when I'm not hunting, I'm a courier. I'm a good one. Maybe the best. I'm a damn good soldier, too."
She shifts, draws her knees up and hooks her arms under them, hugging her knees to her chest. "Well, I was, during the last Hellwar. And I will be again, during the next."
She has all the confidence in the world, he can tell, but something is out of place. Her heart doesn't seem to be in it – not the way he assumes it used to be.
He clears his throat, unsure of what to say. So, instead, he blurts out another question. "Listen, I was wondering... Why are you all women?" Because for the short amount of time he was in Elysium, before the angels swarmed both him and her, he was more than sure he hadn't seen a single celestial male.
She doesn't respond. He presses on. "Are you angels? Are you really angels?"
Good questions, she humors him mentally, but she isn't going to give any answers. Not now, anyway.
"Why did the Malebogia bring you back from the dead?" she asks.
He supposes his questions weren't that important, anyway. "I don't honestly know," he tells her.
"I do," comes her quiet reply – but now isn't the time. Before he can ask, she speaks again.
"Look, I'm sorry for dragging you into this mess."
He's quiet for a moment, and they shift closer to one another unconsciously, until their backs are brushing against one another. "Apology accepted, I suppose," he says softly. "Now, are you going to apologize for trying to kill me last year?"
She chuckles, soft and airy, girlish in her own way. "Of course not. That was sport. This is politics."
He should have known. But, then again, he understands where she's coming from. Orders are orders, a job is a job – feelings become moot and there's no time for second-guesses or regrets.
"Yes, Al Simmons?"
"Al," he tells her, brow furrowing underneath his mask as he slowly leans backward, just a fraction. "Call me Al. I was just wondering how we get out of here – when we want to get out of here."
She leans back as well, and soon their leaning against one another, frightfully comfortable. "Through the cloak?" she suggests. That is, after all, how they wound up here.
"I left the cloak back in Elysium," he tells her. Not that he meant to, of course. But, then again, he had been put on the spot and under a lot of pressure – what, with her yelling at him to transport them and all of Heaven hunting them down.
"Can you feel it?" she asks. "It's part of your costume..."
"Not anymore," he says. "I – " he pauses, unsure of how to phrase what he's about to say, then decides to just tell it how it is. "I think it's dead. Does that sound stupid?"
She laughs again. This time, it almost sounds like a giggle. "No, it sounds about right." She turns her head, just a little, so her cheek is pressed to his shoulder. "Poor thing. It really loved you, you know."
"My cloak," he starts, slowly, daring to cast a glance down at her, "loved me...?"
"Your whole costume loves you," she informs him, matter-of-factly. "Like my ribbons love me."
He doesn't really have a reply to that, but now that she's mentioned those ribbons again...
"Are you sure you're not cold?" he inquires again, because a part of him really cannot believe that scarce amount of clothing and those ribbons are keeping her warm.
His chains stir.
"Well," she murmurs, and gives him a coy sort of smile once his gaze meets hers, finally.
Her ribbons twist.
"I am a little chilly," she finishes, and then they're moving without thinking. He's shifting to take her against him, his strong, heavy arms wrapping around her smaller, frailer frame.
"That's better," she says quietly. "That's... so much better."
Chain and ribbon twine together.
He had to stop thinking about Wanda.
Those were his last thoughts before the angels had appeared to him in the alley and whisked him away to Heaven. And, no, that hadn't been as pleasant an experience as it may have sounded. There had been some pain, considering they thought it necessary to rough him up a little first. Apparently, in Heaven, it went something along the lines of shoot first, ask questions later. It had been awkward, considering he was being coerced into defending the angel whom had tried to kill him in front of a Heavenly court. It had also been rather uncomfortable, as his symbiote had responded violently to being in Elysium, producing spikes all across his body. And, to make matters just that little bit worse, he had been forced to take on his human guise. Then the time had come where he had actually tried to defend Angela, and all of Heaven seemed to come at him once the white skin and blond hair had been shed.
Angela had fought along side him, tearing through her own kind without a second thought or an ounce of remorse. He hadn't thought of it then, but maybe Heaven had it coming. After all, this court hearing was nothing short of scandal, as Angela had been framed for a crime she didn't commit.
However, regardless of everything he had gone through in the last few hours, he was grateful. He was grateful for the pain and the confusion and the adrenaline. It had kept him busy, kept his mind on something other than Wanda.
Now, though, his wife is managing to creep back into his thoughts, and he isn't quite sure what to make of it. It's wrong to think of Wanda while he's laying Angela down – but, at the same time, it's wrong to lay with another woman that isn't his wife.
His troubled train of thought must show, because as she stares at him, he notices her jaw is tight and her brow is furrowed. She wants to ask if this is alright, if he's comfortable in this scenario – but she won't, because that defeats the purpose of this spur of the moment affair.
That defeats the purpose of loving and learning to let go and move on.
And he knows this, somewhere deep down inside himself, because he doesn't stop himself from leaning down, and planting his ruined lips on her perfect ones. He idly wonders what this is like for her, how she can stomach him, but doesn't dwell too long on such thoughts. He hasn't had contact like this since he came back, and no matter how wrong it is and how confused it makes him, he knows he needs this.
She wraps her arms around him, hooks a hand behind his head and holds him in place, deepening the kiss. She giggles, but it isn't the girlish sound she made before, it's something a little more sinister. Before he can even try to imagine why such a sound would escape her, she's pinching some of the shoe lace that holds his face together between her teeth and tugging.
If anybody had ever asked him what he thought making love to angel would have been like when he had been alive, he's pretty sure he would have imagined it to be something slow and sensual. A near virginal, coquettish dance. However, as far as he can tell, this is going to be nothing like that. Angela's vivacious and coy and lusty, almost giving and then taking it all away.
She reminds him of a bitch in heat.
His thought process instantly stops the moment she lets go of the shoelace and begins to wriggle out from under him. He sits back on his knees and watches as she removes her headdress. Without those gaudy golden wings plastered to the side of her head, he notices her hair – really notices it. It's long and fiery and thick, and a part of him wants to run his fingers through it, just to see if it burns.
Throwing caution to the wind, refusing to acknowledge anything but this woman in front of him, he does just that. He leans forward, reaches a clawed hand toward her and cups her cheek, first. He thumbs her bottom lip, and swears he feels a heat rush to his cheeks when her lips purse against it. He's quick to carry on, and thread his fingers through her hair. Even through the symbiote, he can tell it's as soft as it is thick.
"I would have never guessed a man like you had a soft side," she teases, snapping him out of his reverie. He feels that heat rise in him again, and it's accompanied by a sudden determination to shut her up. To prove he can be as gentle and careful as he can be rough and reckless.
The rest doesn't happen too horribly fast, but it's fast enough that he'll have a hard time recalling specifics and details later. Not that they'll matter – all that will matter will be what they've done. He'll tell himself this is what he's sorely needed, and perhaps this is a step in the direction. He'll be lying to himself, but ignorance always has been, and always will be, bliss.
And even later, when all is said and done and he's gone, she'll make her way back to Elysium and wash away the blood that's stained her skin, cleanse herself of his touch and essence. She'll be consumed by a new sort of desire – one to break free and make her own choice, to live by her rules and no other's. Because there's more to life than Heaven and Hell and the war between them.
She'll discard her golden armor, and don a new suit of black and crimson before she leaves Heaven forever.
The apple's just lying there, in the midst of the city's garbage, seemingly untouched and flawless. He stares at it for a few long seconds, as though daring the vision before him to fade, for the alcohol to wear off and for the true nature of the fruit to show itself. It wouldn't be the first time, after all, that something wasn't as it appeared – especially in Rat City. Especially now. But it doesn't change, it remains as it is, even as he takes it into his hands and turns it over, inspecting it for any hidden imperfections.
He doesn't find so much as a bruise through the shining red skin. It's rare that something actually worth coveting is found in these alleys, be it food or something of another kind of value, but Bootsy feels this apple is one of his best finds. Of course, he doesn't plan to keep it. Something this perfect, this valuable, should not – cannot – be wasted on the likes of him, or any of the other homeless inhabiting the alleyway.
He tucks the apple away into his coat, making sure to keep it hidden as he begins to make his way deeper into the alley. He can't have any of the others spotting it, making a grab for it. Not that he isn't confident he couldn't fight off any other vagrant who may try such a stunt, but he can't risk the fruit taking any damage. Thankfully, however, no one else seems to notice him as he takes careful and calculated steps toward Rat City's protector.
Bootsy stops a foot or so in front of Spawn's throne. Their eyes meet, blazing green boring into dulled brown. For a few prolonged seconds, they say nothing, and Bootsy is almost afraid to speak to the undead man. Al has been more withdrawn than usual since his return from wherever he had been. He refuses to speak of it, and they all know better than to ask. He'll talk when, and if, he's good and ready.
"Al?" Bootsy asks, breaking a days-long silence between them. His grip on the hidden fruit tightens just a little, eager to give – prepared for rejection.
"What is it?" Spawn replies, more out of habit than actual interest. His mind is elsewhere, Bootsy can tell, and those thoughts are clearly more important than he is. Some may have been offended, but Bootsy doesn't mind. Bootsy understands. Perhaps better than most think.
"I got something for you," the homeless man says slowly, and pulls the apple into view.
Spawn's blank eyes flit from the man's face and down to the fruit in his hand. He stares at it for a few moments, then looks back up, clearly waiting for – expecting – some kind of explanation.
"I found it," Bootsy starts, taking the silent, demanding, cue. "There ain't a mark on it, Al," he continues, "thought you'd... appreciate it, more'n any of us would."
The Hellspawn says not a word, but like any good King, he accepts the offering his subject is making. Bootsy returns the silence, placing the fruit into the dead man's hand. He waits, watches, and suddenly feels as though he's intruding. So, maintaining the silence, he turns on his heel and leaves Spawn to himself again, and to his thoughts.
Alone again, Al stares at the apple in his hand. Idly, he thinks it feels smaller than any apple he ever held in life, but that's only natural. This body isn't his, and it's bigger than his ever was. He also fleetingly recalls the way an apple used to taste, the slight resistance of the skin, the surrender of the flesh.
He turns the fruit over in his hand, careful not to puncture the red skin with his talons. He can't ever remember seeing an apple this clean before, this red. Red like blood. Like fire. Like –
And suddenly he isn't thinking clearly again. He thinks of brimstone and a chilled air, of red hair and the way his fingers combed through it. He thinks of red lips, and how they felt against his mangled, necro-plasmic flesh, how they parted and the sweetest sounds escaped from between them. He thinks of a woman that isn't his wife, and a guilt-that-shouldn't-be sets in, heavy and deep within his wretched heart. Because Wanda isn't really his wife anymore, and what he did with Angela should have been a release, not a punishment.
Should have, would have, could have – hindsight always has been a bitch.
His grip on the apple suddenly tightens, and he finds himself glaring at it. Some part of him rationalizes that it's more than a little silly to glare at a piece of fruit, as it did nothing – but his mind has wandered a little too far, and he's thinking of things that go beyond a simple gift from one man to a monster.
But the apple makes him think of Gardens and of Serpents, of Temptation. The apple makes him think of her, and some part of him longs to sink his teeth into it. Instead, before he can give in to the urge, before he can be tempted again, he crushes it. The pulp drips heavily, thickly to the ground before he lets the rest of it fall. It splatters by his foot, and he shakes juice and stray chunks of white flesh and torn, red skin from his palm.
He's damned enough as it is with the deal he's made and the vows he's broken. The Devil's fruit is the last thing he needs – even if he knows now just how sweet that which is forbidden can be.