The Sketchbook

by juniperphoenix

Angel can't draw anymore.

As casualties of the apocalypse go, it's relatively minor. He gets that. He won't list "artistic ability" among his demands if he ever gets to chat with the PTB, or go crying about it to the kids who got their legs gnawed off at Hollywood and Vine. It's just a little, personal thing, something no one else will ever know about, but it frustrates him in a way that's different from all the other, sharper pains wracking him and his city.

It took a while to notice. He's been pretty busy fighting for his life… or post-undeath, or whatever. Not much time at first for artistic endeavors. But once things settled down (for certain values of "settled down" that equal "okay, it's still hell but he's sort of getting used to it"), he discovered that he actually has a lot more down time now than he had before — mainly because these days, once he's down, it's a hell of a lot harder to get back up than it used to be.

He found out several weeks ago, upstairs in the apartment. He doesn't sleep there anymore. It's a pain to get up there; the elevators don't work and the stairwell is crushed in places, and besides, a penthouse view in this neighborhood isn't what it used to be. But he's trekked up there a few times for shirts, weapons, toothpaste. The last time, on a whim, he grabbed a sketchbook and his leather case of charcoal pencils from the nightstand and settled down to draw.

— and two hours later, had a few undefined blobby shapes and a stick-figure Slayer to show for it.

It's not just the equivalent of writer's block, but an utter lack of technical skill. He used to be able to draw straight lines, perfect circles, faces that jumped off the page and came to life. No more.

He's never really thought about it before, but he didn't draw before he died. Young Liam hadn't had the patience for such pursuits. He's willing to bet, now, that he hadn't had the skill either. Darla gave him that while she was taking away everything else.

Yeah, hand-eye coordination (oh, and not being in hell) is definitely what he misses most about being a vampire. Fighting now feels different than it ever did before: hotter, sloppier, and more desperate. Gone is the cold confidence that he'll move fast enough, hit hard enough, never miss a step. And healing. Great muppety Odin, he misses that healing.

Now he fights with pure guts and balls and adrenaline, fueled by the bravado and terror of his pounding heart. Sometimes he feels reckless and giddy with it, this heady wildness of having nothing and everything to lose. And it's enough. Hell, it's more than enough. Even if he does have trouble walking the next morning.

During his enforced leisure hours, while he waits for bones to knit and endures the touch of squirmy, toothy amoeba things with dubious medical benefits, he takes out the sketchbook. He always starts out trying to draw, as if something will have miraculously changed, and ends up filling pages with lame doodles and shapes that look like nothing. Eventually he gives up and flips through the older pages, looking at the things he drew before — the things that mattered to him before he sent it all to hell.

Two hands clasped together, Wes and Fred's. Strong, warm, human hands made of supple lines and gentle shadows. They're first in the book, and looking at them hurts the most.

Gunn, all smirk and resolve. He turns the page quickly.

There's a page filled with nothing but Cordelia's eyes. He drew them over and over again in every mood he could remember — angry, amused, determined, affectionate, edged in charcoal shadows. He looks at the page and it looks back, as if trying to tell him something.

Connor in motion, thin and bright as the blade he wields, with a dragon coiling in the margins.

There's a quick sketch of Spike in waistcoat and cravat, leaning in a darkened doorway, and he is so not allowed to see that ever.

And Buffy. Always Buffy, perfect as a photograph. Once upon a time, he could close his eyes and see her, put pencil to paper and duplicate his memory in every line. He has trouble now recalling her face, although the smell of her hair wakes him sometimes from uneasy dreams. Photographic memory is also up there on the casualty list.

If he ever gets out of hell, he's going to have to find a new hobby. Or maybe he'll take an art class.

He won't take an art class; he knows this. He won't have hobbies. Vampire or not, in hell or out of it, he'll be fighting for the rest of his life. He owes that much, and more, to everyone captured in these pages — to all those people out there on the streets who went to hell because he needed to learn a lesson.

He's learned it now.

He closes the book, puts it away, and gets up to go out and fight again.

Author's Notes: This was written mostly in February 2008 and completed September 13, 2009.

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