Okay, last chapter! Yay, I've finally finished a story! (I've never actually DONE that, with the exception of one-shots) So anyway, enjoy!
The waiting room. It was a horrible place, really. A bunch of people sitting, anticipating the diagnoses of loved ones. One man flipped through a newspaper. A woman looked at the muted television without really seeing it. Her two children played with germy little toys on the grey, speckled carpet.
And a whole corner had been taken over by a suspicious, but scared looking group of Bohemians.
Mark had his camera out. Everyone tried to ignore him as he habitually kept the film rolling. Mimi sat perched precariously on the arm of his seat, twisting a pinch of her hair and chewing on her lip, waiting anxiously for Roger. Maureen had called Joanne as well, and sat in the lawyer's lap, burying her head in her shoulder, ignoring the obvious glares from the mother of the two runny-nosed little kids. Jason and Misty sat on the other side of Mark along the other wall, holding each other's hands tightly.
Collins was physically seated beside Maureen and Joanne, but was really miles away. He had rested his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands and stared at the carpet before him. His breathing was heavy and forced, and he was consciously aware of it. Feeling the way his breath flowed in and out; how it fell at the top of the inhale, caught slighting at the bottom of the exhale, kept him just preoccupied enough not to have a complete break-down.
Waiting waiting waiting room.
Everyone in the room, except the children, jumped slightly when the doctor came in, holding a clipboard. Nine heads turned all at once to where he stood. He was a very tall, thin man, with receding, dark hair and thick glasses. "Tom Collins?" he said.
Collins stood quickly, his eyes holding apprehension and fear. He couldn't read this doctor guy. His voice held no clues. It did not say, "Angel is dead," but it did not say "Angel is just peachy keen" either. And nothing in between. It was a practiced lack of emotion that gave away nothing.
The doctor led Collins to a hall off the waiting room. He looked mostly at his clipboard when he spoke. It all sounded like medical mish-mash to Collins's ears. It appears that Angel has blah blah blah, and displays la dee da. Blah something something AIDS something. Blah blah blah….
"But what does that mean?" Collins exploded. The doctor adjusted his glasses. "Is Angel going to get out of this place alive or not!"
"Please settle down, Mr. Collins," the doctor said, suddenly changing his voice to sound kinder and more understanding. "This must be very difficult for you. Are you his… uh…."
"Yes, I'm his fucking 'uh'! Now tell me if he's okay!"
"We'd like to keep him here a few more days, but he should recover… this time."
This time. Now his voice did give something away….
But it was something that Collins did not want to consider right now. At the moment, he just wanted to be happy that his Angel was going to be able to come home.
"I should tell the others," Collins said with a smile. He felt a little kinder toward the doctor now that he had delivered good news. The doctor nodded and led him back to where his friends sat in the waiting room, all looking even more apprehensive than they had previously.
They looked at him. Maureen licked her lips nervously and the eye of Mark's camera stared at him expectantly.
A slight cheer went up. Mimi and Maureen jumped up and hugged each other. Mark and Joanne exchanged a rare grin, their dislike of one another dissipating for the moment. Misty relaxed and squeezed her fiancé's hand….
Jason looked up at Collins, guiltily. Collins gave him a suspicious once-over. It was quite clear who he blamed for all this.
"When can we see her?" Mimi asked Collins, her arm still around Maureen.
"Soon, honey," said a voice from behind Collins. It was a short, plump nurse with straight grey, shoulder-length hair and rosy cheeks. She smiled warmly at Collins. "He's asking for you," she said.
"Aw, just him?" Maureen whined. "I wanna see her!"
The nurse laughed. "Give the two of them a moment! I'll come back for the rest of you sweethearts, okay?" She winked good-naturedly. "We don't want to overwhelm the poor thing, do we?"
"I am a little overwhelming," Collins heard Maureen admit as he was led back down the hall, her voice fading, "right, Marky?"
"Oh, shut up, Joanne, I'm just kidding!"
Angel lay in the hospital room with her eyes closed. It was the second time this year that she'd had an episode that landed her in the hospital. This time was far less frightening though. The first time, she had woken up in the middle of the night, shitting blood, her whole body feeling as if it were on fire. Collins had panicked, his fingers slipping on the buttons as he tried to call 911. He just kept screaming from the other room, "Hold on, Angel! Hold on, baby, you're going to be okay!" while Angel lay on the bed, moaning, gasping, positive that everything would end any second.
This time had been so much less scary. She wasn't coughing anymore, and she was unsure exactly what the doctors had done to achieve that. There was some sort of IV hooked up to her arm, pumping something into her blood. AZT maybe? Can they pump AZT? Oh shit, she thought, I don't think I took my meds after dinner…. No, I didn't…. Oh, damn I think I should tell the doctors…. No… I'm sure they've taken care of all that…. They're not completely stupid….
The grey haired nurse, Ruby, as she had introduced herself to Angel, came back into the room. Angel couldn't help herself. She had to make sure….
"Ruby, I didn't take my AZT after dinner, is that—"
"Shh," she said kindly. "You're just fine, Angel. Honey, someone wants to see you."
Angel's heart leapt. "Collins!" she exclaimed. Her voice was hoarse and scratchy from all the coughing, and her throat hurt when she talked.
"Don't strain yourself," Collins laughed from the doorway. He strode over to the bed and leaned down to give Angel a kiss, but stopped a few inches from her lips. He looked back at Ruby. "May I? Or does it screw up sanitation procedures?"
Ruby laughed. "Oh, I'm sure we can make an exception," she teased with a wink. "I'll leave you boys alone." She went out of the room, but left the door open.
Collins grinned and kissed Angel gently. She could not remember a kiss ever feeling so soft and welcome.
When he pulled away, Angel whispered, "Collins, I'm so sorry."
"For what, baby?" he said quietly, smoothing her hair.
"Everything: Jason. Being a bitch…." Collins cut her off by placing a finger on her lips.
"Don't worry about any of it right now. We can talk about it later. When you're feeling better."
"I feel fine—"
"Don't lie to me about this, Angel."
She fell silent. Then smirked and said, "You win." Collins took her hand in both of his and they were cold. "But I'm still sorry."
"I'm sorry too. For not listening."
"Well," Angel smiled, "I'm sorrier."
"I'm sorriestest times infinity plus two."
Angel laughed, and it hurt. She started to cough just a little, and Collins quickly gave her the cup on the table beside her, putting the straw between her lips.
"You okay?" he asked, concerned.
"Yeah. Thanks, honey."
Collins sat down on the chair beside Angel's bed. He took her hand in his, never taking his eyes from her face. She looked pale and sick, but was still the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He kissed her hand and whispered, "I love you."
"I love you too, Collins."
"Honey?" Ruby was back, her kind face appearing in the doorway. "Are you up for another visitor? There's a young man who says he has to leave soon, and says he really has to speak to you before he does."
Angel exchanged a look with Collins. She felt a knot tie up in her chest, and it wasn't another cough. "Yeah," she said, her voice sounding gravelly. "Tell him to come in."
Collins made a motion as if to leave, to give them privacy, but Angel instinctively tightened her grip on his hand, so he stayed.
Jason walked into the hospital room. His sleeves were rolled up to the elbow, and his usually perfect hair was standing on end as if he had been running his fingers through it again and again. He used to do that all the time when he was upset.
He glanced at Collins uneasily. The anarchist was glaring fiercely at him again, and Jason looked a little intimidated. Angel picked up on this. "Jason this is Collins. Tom Collins. My boyfriend."
"He knows who I am," Collins growled.
"Collins, be nice."
He looked from Angel to Jason and back. "I'll wait in the hall. Is that okay?"
Angel sort of wanted the comfort of her lover's hand in hers while she faced this, but really, when she thought about it, maybe it was better if she did it on her own. "Go ahead." Collins kissed her on the forehead and left the room.
Angel looked straight at Jason, challengingly. His eyes dropped to the floor.
"Andy, I'm sorry."
She said nothing. Just raised her eyebrows.
"I am!" he insisted. "Really. I… I don't know what I actually think about this whole… thing. You know the fact that you're a…a…."
"Transvestite?" she offered dryly.
The word seemed to startle Jason, but he regained his composure fairly quickly. "Um, and even though I don't know if I…. What I mean is….. Oh god, I don't know what I mean!" He ran a hand through his hair and began pacing the tile floor beside Angel's bed. "What you're doing is wrong, it's so wrong, and I can't honestly say that I'm completely okay with it, but…. Still, it doesn't matter when it comes right down to it, I mean, I freaked out when you came out in that dress but what freaked me out even more was when you said you couldn't breathe! That scared me so bad, Andy, I thought you were gonna die, and it didn't matter what the hell you were wearing or who you were sleeping with, I just didn't want you to die. And then that guy… Collins… he kept looking at me like I had done this to you, and then I started to think that it must have been my fault. I… I don't condone what you're doing, but still…."
He was crying. Angel stared at him open-mouthed. He wasn't sobbing, but his lip quivered and silent tears were sliding down his face.
"I just don't know what to say except that I'm sorry," he concluded, wiping his eyes.
Angel smiled softly at him. "I forgive you."
"But I do."
Jason nodded, sniffling. "Thank you."
Collins reappeared in the doorway, followed by cute blonde Misty. Someone else was behind them, standing on their tiptoes over Misty's head. It was Roger. He caught Angel's eye shrugged sheepishly in apology for his irrational behavior earlier. Angel tried not to giggle and winked at him. No hard feelings. He smiled, waved, and left down the hall.
"Jason?" Misty said quietly. "We have to get going." She came over to Angel's bed and shook her hand. "I can't say you were quite what I expected, Andy Schunard, but It was nice meeting you."
"It was nice meeting you too."
Jason came closer to Angel and looked her in the eyes. Then looked away quickly, as if eye contact made him a little nervous. "Keep in touch?"
I was not a request, but a question. Angel nodded. "Of course."
"It was good seeing you again," Jason said, backing up to the door. "Goodbye Andy—" He paused. Looked at the floor. Looked at her. "I mean, um, Angel."
He stood dressed in front of the mirror, decked out in sparkles and fishnets and heels. It would be his first night out like this. His friends would be here soon to take him dancing and drinking. He applied a layer of lipgloss and turned to check his butt in the mirror. A name. He needed a name. He could not dress like this and call himself Andy. It didn't fit.
It had to be feminine, but not clichéd. He didn't want something trashy or overly- queenish, but on the other hand, his new name could not be generic. He wanted something soft. Something that would be pleasant to be called for years and years.
He ran names in his head. None of then fit. None were right….
And then it came to him.
"Angel," he said out loud.
He saw his reflection smile. Perfect. It was perfect. There was no better name on the entire planet. Nothing he would rather be called. He said it again, "Angel." It felt as though this was the name he was meant to have all along. How could he have gone his entire life being called the wrong name?
There was a knock on the door to his apartment. No wait. Her apartment. Yes! She could not stop beaming. She did not think that she had ever felt so happy in her entire life.
After one more test to make sure that her wig was secured snugly, Angel turned on her three-inch heel toward the door, ready to finally step out of the closet and into the sun.
The end. Hope you all liked it and that it didn't dissapoint anybody. You're reviews have been awfully confidence-boosting, and you all rock my freaking sox :) Next to come? Perhaps something with the Mark/Maureen/Joanne love triangle? Or maybe some Mark/Roger if I can come up with something that's not overdone... Anyways, let me know what you thought of the end! Peace out!