Patron Saint of Lost People
Feedback: Love it, please leave it. . .positive or negative
Pairing: Angel/Collins, though not overt here, also involves Mark, Mimi, and all the gang
Word Count: 2278
Rating: Umm. . .we'll call this PG-13
Genre: General, with a little sadness/angst
Summary: Angel is always taking people in.
Notes: I tried to write this one so many times, I was about to start banging my head against the wall, but then my kitty died and her collar broke from around my ankle and it all fell into place. Italics denote the past.
Special Thanks: lj user"scotsinkilts" , lj user"shillaire" , and
lj user"retromelon" for all your help and support. And, as stupid as it sounds, thanks to my sweet Electra, for sharing your dubious love with me for five years.
C'mon now, really. Do I know anything you all don't?
Disclaimer: I don't own. . .
When Mark and Collins made it back to the apartment he and Angel shared, there was a message on the refrigerator "At the hospital—important—A." Collins pulled the note down, sighed, and crumpled it into his pocket.
"So much for our
dinner tonight. You up for a trip to the hospital, Markie?"
"Sure." Mark responded.
'St Angel, the patron Saint of Lost People,' that's how Collins thought of Angel at times like these. He'd never tell her that. He meant it affectionately; he was proud of her. Her kindness and her good heart were what brought the two of them together, but he worried that unless she learned to guard that heart a little more carefully she would be hurt every day of her life. It didn't occur to him that she had been hurt almost every day of her life. Helping other people deal with their pain actually alleviated some of her own.
When the two of them got together, Angel had begun seeking out other people with HIV, people with no one to cling to, no one to sit with them while they died. Angel had elected herself that person. Collins had been astonished at the number of sad tales she came home with, the staggering amount of people of all ages, races, genders, and sexual preferences who had simply been abandoned at their time of most dire need.
They caught sight of her coming out of the hospital. A tall figure in bright colors, she was hard to miss. When they got closer, Collins noticed that her eyes were red-rimmed her face puffy. He ran to her and took her into his arms.
"Oh babe, I'm so sorry. Who was it today?"
Wordlessly, Angel pointed to the intricately beaded choker around her neck. Collins recognized it instantly. It was Georgie's. A fresh burst of sobs tore from Angel's throat as she clung to Collins' flannel shirt. He stroked her hair gently, mumbling comforting words to her, knowing there was really nothing he could do. Mark stood a few feet off, feeling useless, just watching. Angel finally looked up into Collins' face, who tilted her chin up and kissed her. As she looked back down at the mess she'd made of Collins' shirt front, the choker, which had been made for Georgie's tiny neck, finally broke under the strain of Angel's much larger throat and all the crying she'd been doing while wearing it. Sparkly red beads flew everywhere. Angel cried out in anguish and dropped to her knees, trying to retrieve every last one. Collins quickly knelt to her level and took her in his arms again.
"Baby, shhh . . . C'mon, sit down. I'll pick them up." Collins quickly installed her sobbing body on a nearby bus stop bench, calmly indicating that Mark should sit with her. Angel collapsed into Mark's arms, still crying softly, her energy nearly spent. The smaller blonde man gently held her, stroking her hair, like Collins had, whispering to her, occasionally kissing the top of her head. They sat like that, Angel hitching sobs like a child, watching as Collins crawled around the sidewalk searching out each and every bead.
She had been in the clinic on 42nd street, waiting for her meds (it seemed you had to wait forever for someone to fill a prescription and Angel had been waiting three hours on this particular occasion) and had noticed the scared young woman silently crying in her hard plastic chair. She looked like she was no more than 12 years old. Angel got a tissue and moved gingerly to sit next to her, not wanting to scare the girl any further. The tiny blonde accepted the tissue with a sniffled "thanks," not looking to see who had offered it. When she did look up, she stifled a gasp seeing the smiling Latin face beside her. Angel knew she could be a little overwhelming at first. She didn't take the reaction personally.
"Thank you. I'm
– I'm sorry I . . ."
"It's ok, honey. I understand."
"It's just that I . . ."
"You've never been sitting in an AIDS clinic crying on the shoulder of a drag queen before?" Angel offered lightly.
The girl giggled.
"No, I guess not."
"Don't worry, sweetie. I have."
Now she was laughing outright. Angel smiled.
The girl sniffled. "George."
"Pleased to meet you, George. That's an interesting name for a little thing like you."
She wiped her nose with the tissue and smiled. "I'm named after my dad. It's Georgeanna, actually."
"Georgeanna." Angel rolled that around her tongue, liking the way it sounded. "That's really pretty."
"What do you say we get some lunch as soon as we get outta here?"
The girl sniffled a little and nodded.
Forty-five minutes later, both of them were back out on the street, their business at the clinic finally finished for the day. Angel steered them both into a café two blocks down.
"I'm buying." Angel declared as soon as they sat down in their little booth.
"Angel, no, let me."
"Nope, my turn. I'll buy and you can tell me why you were crying like that today. Next time, if you want, you can buy and I'll tell you my story. Deal?"
George nodded, swallowing a lump in her throat. "Deal."
For the next hour or so, Angel listened sympathetically to George's story. It was one she would hear countless times, but each time it struck her as if it were brand new: She had come to New York from New Orleans, wanting to be a star. Nothing new there. She had hooked up with her ex-boyfriend, who had contracted HIV, either through sharing needles or through anonymous sex with multiple partners, she couldn't be sure. And, as always happens, he had passed the disease along to his girlfriend. The guy had left (before telling her she was infected, she had heard through a mutual friend), and her parents had disowned her when she had told them she tested positive. Now George was left in a big city with next to no friends, no boyfriend, no family, nothing. And she had just learned that her T-cells were starting to deteriorate.
When finally she finished talking, George let out a defeated sigh.
"I guess you think
I'm just a mess, don't you?"
Angel reached over and covered one of George's hands with her own.
"Georgie, honey, look at me. You can't possibly be a bigger mess than I am." Angel smiled and both of them giggled. "And you know what? We two messes should go shopping together! What do you say?"
Georgie (as she was now officially renamed) nodded.
It was Angel who found the jeweler. She was a small Costa Rican woman making beaded jewelry on the street, her gnarled hands expertly stringing beads into beautifully intricate patterns. Angel chose the beads and Georgie chose the pattern. When she tied it on, Angel jumped up and down, clapping her hands.
"It's perfect! Oh Georgie, you have to wear that every day!"
A few weeks later, Angel, Georgie, Mark, Mimi, Roger, and Collins met at the Life Cafe after Life Support for dinner. Georgie seemed tired and run down. She sat next to Angel and leaned on her the whole time. Angel put her arm around Georgie and just held her for most of the meal.
"Georgie, honey, you've hardly eaten your tofu burger."
Georgie wrinkled her
nose "I hate tofu."
"Then why did you order it?"
She shrugged "I dunno."
Angel and Collins exchanged a look. Just two weeks ago, Collins had introduced Georgie to the wonder that is tofu burgers and she had declared that they were her new favorite food. She had even learned to make them herself.
In an attempt to lighten the mood, Mimi piped up.
"I just love this necklace, Georgie!"
Georgie straightened up a little and smiled. She lifted her chin so that Mimi could see her beautiful choker better.
"Thanks. Me too.
Angel and I designed it."
"Oh, yeah, that's definitely an Angel design." Mimi smiled at her best friend. "Did you make it?"
"This little Costa Rican woman was making them in St Mark's Place. You just picked out the beads and a design and she'd string it for you. I think this one took her like 10 minutes."
"Wow!" Mimi said, fingering the beads. "I don't think I could do that in 10 hours."
"How many beads did she say this one took, Georgie?" Angel asked.
"One hundred fifty
"Damn!" Collins joined in. "That woman's a marvel!"
Once they'd returned home from the hospital, after he'd tucked an exhausted Angel into bed, Collins carefully pulled the little red beads out of his pocket. He turned on the lamp he kept over the couch for reading and grading and set about counting all the sparkly little red beads. He finally worked out a system for keeping the ones he'd counted separate from those he had not and counted them several times. He kept coming up with one hundred fifty five. He sighed and put them all into a plastic bag, which he tucked into an outer pocket of his messenger bag. Checking to make sure Angel was still asleep, he headed for her closet and pulled out her single dress shirt to check the size printed on the shirt tail. "15x32," it read. Just to be sure, Collins wrote that down, tucking the paper into his bag along with the beads. He planned to take a trip to St Mark's Place tomorrow between classes.
Three weeks later, Collins was beginning to get a little frustrated. He'd been to St. Mark's Place every day since Georgie had died and still there was no sign of the Costa Rican woman. Every day, he'd asked the other vendors if they'd seen her. None had. He still headed down that way every day between his classes, out of sheer desperation. Angel had asked him about the beads the night before and he'd somehow managed to deter her. He suspected that if he put it off much longer, he'd end up incurring her infamous Latin Wrath. He'd only managed to spark his lover's temper one other time and he never wanted to again. Several weeks ago, he'd accidentally insulted one of her favorite outfits when she'd already been having a bad day. She'd shouted at him, both in English and Spanish for almost five minutes, and hadn't spoken to him for days. Finally he'd managed to make up to her, but he wasn't eager for a repeat of the situation. As he rounded the corner into St Mark's, he saw someone who hadn't been there before, a big black guy with dreads and a tam selling organic honey from a bee farm somewhere upstate (everything which wasn't in the city was upstate, in Collins' opinion). Collins approached the guy.
"Hey man, you know anything about a Costa Rican woman who makes beaded jewelry somewhere around here?"
"Yeah. I seen her in Times Square a coupla days ago. Short, right? Like this big?" He held his hand about chest high to indicate. Collins nodded.
"Yeah, that's her!"
"Seems like she was near Broadway on . . . 41st, maybe?"
"Thanks, man." Collins grabbed his bag and dashed for the subway. He was going to miss his 2:00 class, but some things were more important.
And there she was, sitting there on 41st, right near Broadway, just like the guy had said. She was in the middle of a project when Collins approached her, but put it down and gazed at him. He explained the situation, how the necklace (well, the beads anyway) had come to be in his possession and she nodded sympathetically.
"You want I can put the beads back together for your girlfriend?"
"Yes, please. But I only have 155 of the original 157. Do you still have these beads?" He pulled out the bag and showed her the beads in question.
She pursed her lips. "No, I don't have those anymore. I got some new ones though. We replace the center two with something else, it look just as good, ok?"
Collins looked through the beads she had to offer. Finally he found the perfect ones to replace the missing beads. The woman's fingers flew, restringing the choker just as he remembered, with one alteration.
"Angel-baby! I'm home! You here?" Collins dropped his bag on the couch and swung into the apartment, hiding the newly restrung choker in his hand.
"In here!" Angel
He followed the sound of her voice back to the bedroom where she was sitting at her vanity, putting on makeup.
"Hey babe." He kissed her cheek carefully, trying not to ruin her makeup job.
"Hey honey." She
turned to look at him. "What are you doing home? Don't you have
"I did, but I cancelled. I couldn't wait to see you."
"What? You never cancel class!"
"I couldn't wait to see you . . . in this!" He stepped behind her and put the necklace around her neck. Angel clapped her hands to her mouth as he fastened the clasp.
"Oh honey! It's beautiful! And it fits! How did you . . .?"
"It wasn't easy, that much I'll tell you. Your Costa Rican woman was hiding, but I found her. And I must've missed a couple of the beads. She didn't have just these, but she changed the design just a little bit. Look at the two central beads."
Angel leaned close to the mirror. The two beads in the center of the design were different, white where the others were red, but no bigger. In tiny, almost microscopic print one said "Angel," the other "George."