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Shanshu Blue

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Penn’s eyes are the color of a stained-glass window, pious and unforgiving. They burn with a blue fury as he carves a cross into his sister’s cheek. Slow and careful, the better for her to experience the pain. Just the way you taught him.

When her body drops to the ground, it makes a thudding noise like Christ during the first fall. No one comes to wipe her face clean, no one to help shoulder her burden.

“Family blood is always the sweetest,” you whisper in his ear, and you have high hopes for this one.

By the time his brother, and father, and cousins and villagers turn up with the same crosses carved into their cheeks, you’re already bored. You’ve so much to teach the boy, yet he presumes the lessons are already complete.

“Look at them,” he spits at his victims. “So holy and self-righteous. Their hypocrisy disgusts me.” But they were right, you think, to feel themselves superior. When you turned him, you had visions of the Sistine ceiling, of God’s finger painting Adam in blood. But there’s no artistry in this one. Each fresco is a copy of the last, pale and lifeless.

The irony of it makes you laugh out loud.

“Angelus? What are you laughing at?”

You clap him on the shoulder. “Just enjoying the slaughter, boy. I’ve been thinking we should take a trip to Rome. Entertain the Holy See with your lovely carvings. Why don’t you go on ahead, find a nice convent for us to make our home in? I’ll be along in a few weeks.”

Instead, you go to Chartres, where you kill the bishop as he’s putting away the chalice after midnight mass. You’ve heard that the windows in this cathedral are the brightest, most vibrant blue in Europe. But without benefit of sunlight, all you can see is gloomy grey.

Years later, when Kate impales you both on a wooden plank, you can’t even remember the color of his eyes.


patriot

Lawson’s eyes are the corner of blue on the American flag. You can almost see the stars waving in them when he salutes.

You watch as he makes the rounds of the control station, moving from one man to the next. When he gets to Hodge, he lays a hand on the boy’s shoulder. The kid is shaking, he’s so scared, but Lawson’s grip is steady.

“How you holding up, Hodge?”

Hodge blinks, and his eyes stay fixed on the controls in front of him. “Um… fine, sir.” Even from across the room, you can see the sweat on his palms.

Lawson smiles down at him. “Better stay sharp, sailor. Or I’ll tell your girl back home you fell asleep at the controls. She’ll never go driving with you again.”

Hodge’s cheeks redden and he breaks out into a fond little smile. “Can’t take her driving without a car, sir. Be nice if I had one. I could take her out to the country for a picnic or something.”

“Well, after you get married, you two can save up some money and buy one. Maybe a nice convertible.” Lawson’s face softens, and he’s seeing a future full of cut grass and clean, white houses. “There’s nothing like watching the way your girl’s hair shimmers in the sun.”

When his rounds bring him back in your direction, his mouth is a hard, thin line.

“They’re good men,” you say. You have the urge to put your own hand on his shoulder, but the set of his jaw keeps you at bay.

“They’re the best,” he says, “and I’ll die down here before I let anything happen to them.”

Lawson is as good as his word. But he didn’t quite get the flag-draped coffin he deserved.

Sixty years on, he comes back begging for a new mission. But his duty ended in the engine room of that sub. His sacrifice should have been honored a long time ago.

His eyes are grateful as you ram the stake through his heart. They shimmer from blue to gold to dust, and then to nothing.


hero

Doyle is the first one to call you a friend. The first friend you’ve had in… well, ever, really. Other than Buffy, but of course you two were never really friends.

He downs another shot of whiskey and eyes the band. His face is scrunched in distaste, as if he expects them all to shed their skins and morph into sluggoth demons. They’re playing “Blowing in the Wind.”

“Dylan,” he snorts. “You come to an Irish pub, you think you’d at least get to hear ‘Danny Boy.’”

“It’s overdone,” you reply, smiling at the ancient memories of wet meadows and morning mist. “Pretty cliché by now.”

“Says the vampire who stalks the street all night with a black cape swirling about his ankles.”

“It’s not a cape,” and you point a finger in his direction. There are two of him and you’re not sure if you’re pointing at the right one. “It’s a trench coat. It’s a whole different look.”

“Plus you’ve got that whole Anne Rice thing about being impotent.” Doyle downs another shot and slams the glass against the table.

“Hey! I can have sex. I just,” you hiccup, “choose not to. I’m keeping the streets safe for democracy.”

“Right. Doing your part for world peace, you are. They should give you a medal.”

“Fucking Nobel Prize,” and you clink your glasses together.

You’re too close to the stage, and the band is too loud. Even with acoustic guitars, you can hear the hiss of the amplifiers pitched too high for human ears. Doyle hears it, too—you can tell by the way he keeps wincing. He solves the problem by standing on his chair and belting out a tuneless chorus.

“The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind,” and on the last word, he flings his arms wide and topples over like a felled tree.

It’s been a long time since you laughed without malice. You never realized that laughter had a color to it, but you can see it sparkling in his eyes, grinning up at you from the whiskey-soaked carpet.

Later, when his face is bathed in a ghostly blue fire, stealing the death that should have been yours, you realize that courage is the same color.


outlaw

By rights, Lindsey’s eyes should be the color of money. He should smell like silk suits and patent leather, like tinted office windows and Berber carpeting. But his eyes are the color of desert sky, and he smells like the dustbowl—even though there hasn’t been a dustbowl in sixty-odd years.

“So, this family of yours. These five kids growing up with no shoes—”

“Six. Four after the flu came.” He’s sitting in your office, helping you try to save some children from a blind assassin, young beacons for the forces of light. Children who are growing up in poverty with no shoes. You doubt Lindsey can appreciate the lesson there.

“Right. That family. You keep in touch with them?”

He shakes his head. Keeps studying the floor plans of Wolfram & Hart. “Long hours. I don’t get back much.”

“Come on. You can’t pick up the phone? Send an e-mail?”

“I’m the only one ever finished high school,” he snaps. “Most of my relatives can barely read.”

“So you’re better than them, is that it?”

His palm slaps against the desk and his lips curl back over his teeth. If he were a vampire, he’d be snarling. “You gonna help plan this, or are you gonna lecture me about family values?”

You chuckle at his desperation. “I’m just saying, Lindsey. If you’re serious about changing, you gotta have a reason. Something worth fighting for.”

“Right now my reasons are to keep from getting killed. Now can we get to work?”

His voice is dune-swept, drier than dead bones. This one, you might have saved. Tried to give him a reason, but he wouldn’t reach out and take it. Little bastard deserved to lose that hand.

Years later, when he finally agrees to follow you, it’s less a mission than a gamble. He’s betting that he’ll end up on the winning team. Even with a new hand, he still reeks of old blood.

So you give him what you can. The only thing you’ve ever been able to give any of them.
It’s a mercy killing, really. You’d do it yourself, but then caritas was always Lorne’s thing, and you’ve got a bigger fight on your hands.


apostle

Of all of them, Wesley might have been the one who loved you best. The one who bled the most for you. But it was only fair, really. When his hands reached down into a basket and snatched out the only heart you’d ever really had, he came closer than any of them had to killing you.

But that’s not what you think of, in that final moment before you send him to his death. When your eyes meet his and you silently say goodbye, you remember a bumbling boy who touched your arm with reverence, and looked at you with something like love.

“Angel,” he’d said, eyes carefully fixed on the floor, “I just want to say, how much it means to me to be working with you. When the council sacked me…”

You were in your old office, just after you’d decided to put him on the payroll. “Wesley, I’m not doing this out of charity. You have a lot of knowledge. You’re useful to the fight.”

He’d looked up at you with eyes the color of blue ribbons and badges, of being chosen for the cricket team against the odds. “The fight, yes. That’s it exactly. I’ve been rather at sea for some time, and working with you… helping you in your mission… well, it’s…” Then he’d broken off and fumbled for a handkerchief. You’d smiled and clapped a hand on his shoulder.

“Want some scotch?” you’d said. “I’d offer tea, but Cordelia’s as bad at making tea as she is at coffee.”

You regret that you aren’t with him at the end, when his eyes close at last. Instead, he walks into heaven with a false god holding his hand. Your only comfort comes in knowing that when he arrives, they pin a blue ribbon on his chest, and all the angels sing of how they’d always known he was destined to make the team.


prodigal

Spike’s eyes were always lovely offset against deep red. He’s roaring in the rain, slicing through demon necks and tentacles. His sword is stripped with gore, and his mouth is a bloody gash across his face. You wish you could stop fighting long enough to kiss him, especially since you’re both about to die in this alley.

Broad brush strokes around his mouth, tiny spatters across his cheeks and forehead, and he’s a work of art. Pointillism and expressionism, Seurat and Van Gogh. You have a sudden flash of Montmarte, a baptism decades ago. He’d roared then the way he is now, fangs sinking into a tender young thing in white lace. A puppy shaking his prize.

“Slow down, boy,” you’d told him. “You’ll be wanting to save some for later.”

“Later?” He’d dropped his prey to the floor and reached for a young boy cowering under the church pew. “We’re in Paris, mate. Not like we’re gonna run out of eats.”

“You’re a glutton, William,” and it must have been the hundredth time you’d given him that lecture. “We’re not jungle animals, living from one meal to the next.” You’d yanked a candle down from the altar then, snuffing it out on the inside of the deacon’s thigh. The man’s hands and feet were tied to the altar, but you’d left his mouth free to scream. “You should take your time with your meals. Learn to savour the taste.”

Spike had merely scoffed. “Sing me a new song, Angelus,” he’d said, licking the blood from his fingers. “Chorus of hosanna or something.” On the last word he’d leapt up, balancing on the back of a pew, and then dove after another mouse trying to scurry away. He’d let out a howl of joy in mid-air, fit to rival a whole pride of lions. You had scowled in his direction, but inwardly you’d smiled.

And you’re smiling at him now, as the skies open around you and you face the hordes together. In the rain, his eyes are the color of midnight, of memory and old grudges. The same blue as the tattoo ink that snakes, eternal and unfading, beneath your skin.


prophecy

So that leaves me. The only one left alive. Though you had to kill me, too, and that must have been the deepest cut of all.

I know you, Dad. Wherever you are, in Heaven or in Hell, you’re blaming yourself for getting us all killed. Even the ones who weren’t really yours. Cordy, who was more guide than disciple. Gunn, who would rather lead than follow, who never completely trusted you. His eyes were always the wrong color.

Fred’s eyes turned blue in the end. Maybe that means she really was one of yours.

Everything you did, you did for me. I get that now. I watch the way my new parents’ eyes crinkle when they smile… the way my kid sister bounces when she talks… and I know what you felt. I’m sorry I never got the chance to tell you how much it means. Or to tell you not to blame yourself. None of us do. We followed you because we knew you’d give us something bigger than death.

You gave us all something worth dying for.

So I’m writing this now, hoping you’ll be able to read it, wherever you are. In memory of them, and in memory of you. Piecing it together out of refracted memories, Spike’s diary and your drawings. Dreams that Darla whispers to me in my sleep.

She tells me that I have her eyes but your heart. I guess that makes me the lucky son.