Feedback: I love it!
Pairing: None, mentions of Collins/Angel, one sided Mark/Angel
Word Count: 2380
Rating: PG-13Genre: Angst
Summary: Why does Angel dress like she does?Notes: I use "she" for Angel when she's in drag, "he" if not because this is from the doctor's POV. I hope I didn't get too mixed up in the middle. Also, I doubt therapists would really do this so...shrugs..
Special Thanks: electrakitty74 for reading it over
Spoilers: Not if you've seen Rent
Warnings: Not if you've seen Rent
Disclaimer: Rent isn't mine, it belongs to the Larson family
Dr. Benjamin Henderson looked over the file for his next new patient, Angel Schunard, a twenty year old man dealing with his HIV diagnosis. Angel wouldn't be Ben's only HIV positive patient, but he seemed to have a very clouded history, barely touching on his family. Like many in the East Village, it appeared Angel was escaping his past.
"Dr. Henderson, a...Ms. Schunard is here to see you."
Ben raised an eyebrow. Ms? He'd been expecting a young man, not a young woman. "Um, send her in, Evelyn." He sat down at his desk and surveyed his paperwork again, wondering what he had missed. He heard the door open. "Have a seat," he said without looking up. He made a few more notes before looking up.
His mouth fell when he saw a young man in woman's clothing sitting across from him. That would explain the confusion. Angel was Ben's first drag queen patient.
"Ang...Angel? Hi, I'm Dr. Henderson."
"Hello." Angel smiled and gently shook the doctor's hand. "You look surprised. Not expecting this, were you?" She gestured with her painted fingers down at her clothing, a blue top with a light green skirt that looked more like an old jacket then a skirt and tights with big and small circles of a variety of colors. It was a style all its own.
"No, can't say that I was honestly." Ben leaned back in his chair. "Either way, you need someone to talk to and I'm willing to listen so...first, I have a few questions about your paperwork."
"Sorry if it was a little dirty. I did it while I was working."
"Oh, that's fine. I've gotten worse. Just...you didn't say much about your family. Just a sister, age twelve."
Angel bit her pink-colored lip. "Oh, well, I...I haven't seen them in...years." She smiled nervously before reaching up and slipping off her wig. "Not even sure where they anymore," she whispered, placing the wig on the chair next to her.
Ben made a quick note on his pad. "Care to talk about them?" he asked, adjusting his glasses on the tip of his nose.
Angel crossed and uncrossed her legs several times and fingered the hem of her skirt. "Well...my father, he...he didn't like that I was...that I..."
"Dressed in women's clothes?"
"Oh, he doesn't know about this. He'd have a heart attack if he knew. No, he...he didn't like that I wanted to sleep with men."
Ben nodded. He saw this a lot, probably why he was slightly balding now. He didn't have children but he didn't understand parents that would literally push their own children out of their homes over something like who they slept with. "Did you try talking to him?"
"You can't talk to my father, not when he gets an idea in his head. No. We fought for a good hour or so when I was fifteen and he kicked me out so...I ended up here. Lord if he could see me know. Dressed like this, he'd die. And if knew I had HIV, he'd...well he'd probably say it was what I deserved."
"Angel..." Ben leaned forward in his chair and met Angel's eyes. "I know you came here to talk about that, getting HIV, how it feels, what's going to happen. I know a good group for you to go to as well, Life Support. But today, I'd like to get to know a little about you. What you like, what you do, that kind of thing ok?"
Angel nodded, still fingering the edge of her skirt.
"Ok, first what do you do? For work or fun?"
"I play drums. Something else my father never liked. I would just start banging on anything and he'd take it away so I'd find something else. Oh, and I make my own clothing. Cheaper to find something someone threw out and make it your own. Easier when what little you make barely covers food let alone rent."
Ben chose to ignore the rent remark. Many of his patients could barely afford the basic necessities in life, sending them to his free clinic. He survived on money from the state and a private weekend practice."That's an excellent idea, Angel. Your mother teach you how to sew?"
"Yeah, she did actually. Not directly though. Whenever I went near the sewing machine though, she would pull me away and tell me only girls touch it. I do miss her but she...she used to pray at night to God that I would stop my unnatural lifestyle. Though she was always so loving to my face." Angel shrugged. "Guess I didn't mind that really. But the night my dad kicked me out, she just stood on the steps shaking her head before going inside. Haven't seen either of them or my sister since."
"Sounds like your childhood was very repressed. Your father wanting you to hide your sexuality, stopping you from drumming, your mother and the sewing machine. Did you feel repressed at all?"
Angel shrugged. "Not then. I guess I just saw it as parents being parents, ya know? Wanting you to be how they wanted, wanting peace and quiet. Normal parent stuff."
Ben nodded again and made another note. "So you came to New York about five years ago?"
"Yeah found a small place to live, a roommate, this delightful little thing named Mimi. She's my best friend and I love her to death." Angel frowned slightly. "Then I met Neil, my...my ex. He was great at first, said he loved me, took me out for a night on the town."
"And then?" Ben prodded.
"Then he...he started to get, I don't know, controlling. We could only go out when he wanted to, have sex when he wanted to. I could only wear what he picked out. I wasn't dressing like this then but...still, I don't...I don't like losing control like that. So we...we broke up. He was the only long term boyfriend I had. Met a few others but resisted getting to know them. I didn't want to give up control anymore."
"Angel," Ben started, wondering if his patient would even answer the next question. He'd been very open so far, offering up information before Ben even asked for it. "When did you start dressing as a woman?"
"I guess..right after I broke up with Neil. Mimi would help me with my make-up. She and I would come up with the most outrageous ideas..."
"Angel, this is a little more bold then I get on the first day and this isn't meant as an insult but...why do you dress as a woman?"
Angel narrowed her eyes in confusion. "Why I do it? I do it because I like it. It's fun, it's freeing, it forces people to take notice. It's fun to make the clothing and put it out and shock the shit out of people."
"I really don't think that's it." Ben stood up and stepped around his desk. "From what you've said, you went from a very repressive home, one that wouldn't even allow you to be yourself into a controlling relationship where you couldn't even dress how you wanted."
"I...I...what are you getting at? I do like dressing like this. Maybe I should've been born a girl and that's why. This...it's fun."
"Angel, please, I'm not trying to upset you." Ben pulled up another chair beside Angel. "I think you dress like you do yes for fun but also to have some sort of control over your life. You were repressed for years and this is your way of expressing everything you couldn't."
"No, no you're wrong!" Angel grabbed her wig and stood up. "It's fun! I like it! I feel like a woman so why not dress like one?"
"Angel, relax please," Ben said, trying to sooth the fire. He'd had a feeling this would be the reaction he would get but he wanted Angel to confront the reason why he dressed like he did, to accept it and move on.
"I won't stop dressing like this and you have no right to tell me not to!"
"I'm not..." Ben stood up and stepped closer to Angel.
"You're not my father!"
With that Angel broke down and collapsed to the floor, sobbing quietly.
Ben grabbed a tissue box off his desk and knelt beside thecrying drag queen. "I know I'm not. And neither are you. I'm not going to ask you to change." He pulled a tissue out of the box and handed it to Angel. "Only you have a say in that. I usually don't get like this with my patients on the first day but..."
Angel looked up, her blood shot eyes meeting Ben's green ones. "But what?" she whispered.
"There's something about you, Angel. I wanted you to see why you are like you are. Accept it and move on, still being you."
Angel dabbed her eyes lightly with the tissue, trying in vain not to upset her make-up job. "I just...I don't feel like I do it for that reason."
"People do a lot of things without knowing why they do it. Kind of like why you prefer men. You don't know why you just know you do and you enjoy it. There's nothing wrong with that." Ben smiled and tugged his hand under her arm. "Why don't I let you use my bathroom to clean up, then if you want we can finish with your hour or if you think you've had enough, you can make an appointment and head home?"
Angel nodded and let Ben help her to her feet. "Let me clean up first, then we'll go from there ok?"
Ben smiled and showed her to the bathroom before sitting down at his desk, making some notes. Angel was an interesting case, an interesting person, someone Ben would like to get to know better. He was married and as straight as they come but there was something about Angel that went right into his soul. He wondered if everyone felt like this about the drag queen currently cleaning herself up in his bathroom.
Angel came out about twenty minutes later, her eyes red from crying but her make-up more or less back in order. "I hope I don't look too bad. I didn't really expect to cry." She blushed and looked at the floor. "I did some thinking. In the bathroom." She sighed and returned to her seat. "I was repressed, held back, controlled, whatever word you want to use. I did have people telling me to do one thing and not another. I never really thought about it but...when I dress like this, I'm no longer Angel, the skinny little boy who preferred dolls to trucks and watching his mother get dressed to his father at work but was told to stop that and do as I was told. I'm...I'm me. I'm who I want to be and not what they want." She shrugged and managed a weak smile. "Just...guess I never thought of it like that before."
"A lot of people don't, Angel. And it's ok to admit that. As long as you're true to yourself and friends who respect that, then you'll be fine." Ben looked at his clock. "Unfortunately, your hour's almost up. Do you want to make an appointment?"
Angel nodded. "Yes, I would. I do have Mimi but...I like you."
Ben chuckled. "Well, I like you too. How about...next week? Same time?"
Angel smiled and nodded again before standing up. She affixed her wig expertly and shook Ben's hand. "Thank you, Dr. Henderson."
Ben jotted down the meeting place and time for Life Support and lead Angel out, watching as the young drag queen walked down the street, her held high. Just a few door down a young woman stepped out and hugged Angel. A spring appeared in the queen's steps as she and her friend walked down the street, arms linked like two school girls. Mimi, Ben guessed before turning back to his guest, eager for his next appointment with his first drag queen.
Angel went to see Ben at least once a month for two years. Their conversations ranged from Angel's battle with HIV and then AIDS to current boyfriends. Ben would know when Angel was feeling under the weather, when a young man would appear in jeans and a t-shirt. Those days their conversations were a bit darker but the sparkle that was Angel was still there.
Only one boyfriend came along to the appointments, a young teacher who Angel called Collins. Ben was happy to see his favorite patient happy with someone who loved him...her like Collins appeared to.
Angel's last appointment was September 12th, 1989. He was dressed down in the worst way, his jeans dirty, his shirt wrinkled and worst of all that sparkle of Angel was duller. That meeting Angel told Ben he knew he was close to dying, that he probably wouldn't live to see another Christmas.
Ben's heart broke when Angel kissed him on the cheek and smiled. "You've helped me so much, Ben. Thank you."
Somehow they both knew this would be their last meeting.
Collins invited him and his wife to the funeral. Ben watched as Angel's friends took turns telling their best memory of Angel. His favorite was the young, nervous man with the camera who had just as much trouble as Ben had had over what exactly to call Angel, a he or a she.
"Oh, poor thing," his wife whispered in his ear.
"What do you mean?"
"Ben, honey, if you can't see it, then maybe you should quit while you're ahead. He loved her...him...whoever. He loved Angel."
Ben looked back up as the young camera man looked back at the coffin before returning to his seat. Leave to his wife to notice that, he thought.
He and Collins exchanged a few words before heading back home with his wife. He rested his hand on her swollen belly. "Jess, what to you say to 'Angel' if it's a girl?"