Title: Non-Specific Gender Day Out
Author: Lioness Black
Rating: PG...13?
Genre: General Summary: Mark and Angel go out for an afternoon.
Warnings: Discussions about strippers, AIDS, and death.
Disclaimer: Not mine, just good fun.
"I hope you don't mind that hanging around so much lately." Angel tucked a lock of her dark brown wig behind her ear. "I'm just damn lonely without Tom around."

"We don't mind," Mark replied. He was standing at the counter fixing sandwiches. "Really Angel. You're welcome here anytime."

"Thanks, honey. He'll be back from Boston on Monday in case you're just saying that."

"I'm not just saying that." He held up a sandwich in offering, that Angel declined with a wave of her hand. "You're not our friend because you're with Collins. You're our friend and we like having you around. Roger, you want a sandwich?"

"What kind of sandwich?" Roger asked. He was sitting on the couch with his guitar.

"Tuna."

He wrinkled his nose. "Gross. Yeah, sure."

"I'm not usually like this, you know, all jumpy and insecure. It's just the first time he's been gone since we've been together... the conference is a big deal, though." Angel bit her lip. "And, well... I got a call from the doctor. They want me to come in for a follow up."

"What does that...?"

"I don't know. One time I had a follow up that scared me for three days straight, and they just wanted to let me know that forgotten to sign the check. I don't know, this one seems different, though. I think it's just because I don't have someone to hold my hand."

"Want me to go with you?" Mark asked. "I know it's not the same thing, but at least you won't be alone."

Angel smiled. "That would be great. I've got a Life Support meeting before if you want come to that too. That's one-thirty."

"Sure. Let's make the afternoon. We can out for lunch before."

"And window shopping after since we spent all our money on lunch. It'll be a real girl's day out." She paused. "Well, that's not right, is it, Mark? Boy's day out sounds silly."

"And that's not really right either. Besides, guys have nights out," Mark said. "Those usually just involve going to strip clubs and getting drunk. I can't really do those anymore anyway."

"Why not? No guys?"

"I've got the guys, but the only strip club I can afford to go to is where Roger's girlfriend works. And that would be awkward."

"Your money is just as good as anyone else's," Angel said, smiling. "I don't think she'd turn it down."

Mark rolled his eyes to emphasize his sarcasm. "Yeah, shoving a buck down Mimi's panties wouldn't be weird at all."

Roger looked up from his guitar. "What did you just say?"

"Nothing," he replied quickly. Angel giggled.

"Is my sandwich ready?"

"Come and get it."

Roger got off the couch and took his sandwich. He grabbed his guitar and retreated to his bedroom.

"What time should I stop by, then?" Angel asked. "Tomorrow, I mean."

"Oh, uh, if Life Support is at one-thirty... I don't know, around noon?" Mark shrugged.

She nodded. "Sounds like a plan."

---

Mark flashed fifteen dollars (he had found an old stash of cash in the back of a kitchen cupboard) to get him and Angel into the Life Café without a fuss.

They ordered their food, and Mark was surprised at Angel's order of a vegetarian chili and a diet Coke.

"Diet Coke?" Mark repeated when their waiter walked away.

"I know, I know. I gave up meat, not that I really ate a lot, so I don't miss it. You know Tom, though, it's all about water and tea and," Angel put her forefinger and thumb together and pressed them against her lips for a second, "herbal supplements. Sometimes, though, I'd kill for a Coke. I get diet because it makes me feel less guilty."

"It wasn't that, I just... you could use the calories."

She laughed. "Maybe, but I couldn't bring myself to do it."

"Is she doing the diet Coke guilt trip?"

Mark turned and there was Mimi. "Mimi! Hey." He thought about the conversation he and Angel had the day before about Mimi. He could feel the heat rising up in his face from simply Ithinking/i about it. Way too soon for her to show up.

"I saw you two through the window," Mimi said, sitting down next to Angel, "and I thought I'd pop in."

"I'm glad you did." Angel leaned over and kissed her cheek. "Feel like coming to Life Support with us?"

Mimi wrinkled her nose in the exact same way Roger had done to the tuna sandwich. "No, thanks, I'll pass."

"The offer's always standing."

"What are you two doing here?" Mimi looked to Mark. "Keeping my chica entertained while her boyfriend's away?"

He opened his mouth to speak, but Angel interrupted.

"I've got a doctor visit later on. Mark's coming with me."

"Oh. Honey, is everything okay?"

"We'll find out."

The waiter brought them their drinks, and Angel took a sip of her diet Coke.

"That," she said, "is Heaven. Oh, and, Mimi, Mark thinks it's totally inappropriate for him to go down to the Cat Scratch and shove sweaty dollar bills in your underwear."

The blush that had just faded from Mark's face came back with a vengeance.

Mimi looked back and forth between them. "What brought that on?"

Mark covered his face.

"I think he thinks that it would be wrong for him to watch you remove your clothes when you're dating Roger," Angel said.

"Well, that's really considerate of you, Mark. I really appreciate that." She paused. "Did you go to the Cat Scratch ibefore/i Roger and I starting seeing each other?"

He nodded, his face still covered by his hands.

"And... did you...?"

He nodded again.

"Oh."

"Oh," echoed Angel. She kept a straight face for a moment, and then burst into giggles. Mimi followed suit.

"It's not funny! And don't tell Roger!" Mark said.

"Stop hiding. Come on, Mark, it's okay," Mimi said. "You can't predict the future, you had no idea what would happen. Was this when you were dating Maureen?"

"It was a guys night out." He dropped his head on the table. "I made some really crude comments that I feel really guilty about. I'm sorry, Mimi."

She laughed. "It's okay! You didn't know me, and I'm sure, since you were getting banged by Maureen, you really didn't mean any of them."

"Not really."

"See, then it's okay. I'm sure worse comments have been made about me by guys who meant them. You're a nice guy, Mark, and I'm not offended. It's okay!"

He finally raised his head. "Well, now that I feel like crap..."

"And we're amused," Angel said, grinning. She and Mimi giggled at his still-flushed face.

Mark smiled despite himself. At least he had caused for distraction long enough from Angel's doctor visit for them to have a good laugh, even at his own expense.

After lunch, they parted ways with Mimi and went down to the community center.

"I wish she'd come," Ange said. "It's the one thing I've never been able to convince her to do. Well... one of many, I guess."

Mark put a hand on her shoulder and they sat down. She pulled off her wig and ran a hand across her short hair.

"Hot?" Mark asked.

She nodded. "Beauty is suffering. Same with the three-inch heels."

"You're crazy. But you're also the most beautiful person I know, so you must know what you're talking about."

"You think I'm pretty!" Angel said. She grinned.

"Who wouldn't?"

The Life Support meeting went smoothly. Angel was quiet, but mentioned her upcoming doctor visit briefly. She didn't go into detail and no one pressured her to talk about it. There would be later to talk about it.

Angel grabbed Mark's hand and looked at his watch. "We should go," she whispered.

He nodded.

She put her wig back on and stood up during a break between people speaking. "Sorry, we need to get going."

"Good luck," Paul said. She smiled at him, but Mark noticed her smile was shaky.

It was a subway ride away, and Angel was quiet. She tapped out a beat on the seat while they waited for their stop. Mark half wished he had thought to bring his camera with him, but he was more relieved that he hadn't. He had filmed during inappropriate moments, said inappropriate things to get a rise out of people for documentary's sake, but there was something about Angel that begged for this to be private.

He could respect that, but he was glad that he didn't have the temptation sitting in his hands.

At their stop, they walked out into the daylight. "Up here," Angel said, and Mark realized that he had no idea where they were going.

"Right outside the stop," she said, putting on that shaky smile again. "You know, that check I didn't sign? It bounced."

"Let's just go see what they have to say," Mark said. "Before we worry."

"You've said those words before."

He nodded. "More times than I wanted to."

"This one." She pointed to the next building ahead of them.

He opened the door for her and they went inside.

"Did you ever have an HIV scare?" Angel asked when they were in the elevator. "I mean, almost everyone you know...?"

"Once," Mark admitted. "When Roger was going through the hardest parts of his withdrawal, right after April... there was a needle in the bottom of this pile of dirty clothes. It pricked me, and... I freaked. Apparently it hadn't been used, because I was clean. I just assumed that it had been. I've... I've never told anyone that before."

"Did anyone ever ask?"

"Well... no."

"That's all you ever have to do." The elevator doors opened and they went into the office. Angel spoke to the woman at the desk, and they waited.

They waited for about ten minutes, when someone asked for, "Mr. Schunard?"

Angel stood up, but it took Mark a moment to realize that they were talking about Angel.

"Want me to stay here?" Mark asked. She nodded.

"Knowing you're out here is enough."

Mark waited. It took less than ten minutes for Angel to walk back out into the waiting room.

He stood. "Well?"

With a look of calm on her face, she said, "My T-cells are down. Really down."

"Angel," he said, giving her a hug. "I'm sorry."

She hugged him back. "I'm not dying today, Mark."

"Do you want to call Collins?"

"I'm not dying tomorrow either. There's no sense scaring him into coming home early. I'll tell him when he gets home."

Mark pulled away and Angel was crying, but just one tear. "You okay, then? At least for now?"

"You reach a point where you know it's going to happen. I've known for a while that it's coming down to this." She smiled a real smile. "I'm okay with dying. I'm not okay with what I'm leaving behind."

They went back to the loft in silence.

"Want to stay here?" Mark asked. "Until Collins comes home?"

"No, I'll go home. I can do it." She leaned over (taller than him in her heels) and kissed his cheek. "Thanks for coming with me. I might have gone a little crazy if I walked out to an empty waiting room."

"I have a hard time seeing that. But I'll go with it. I'm glad I could be there for you, Angel. You're here for all of us. Return the favor."

"Sneak me diet Coke and all is repaid." She started to leave when she turned and looked at him. "We had a non-gender specific day out. We should do it again. More window shopping next time, though."

"You got it." He nodded and grinned.

Three months later, when Angel was lying in the hospital, Mark found a time when they were the only ones in the room.

"I got you something," he said.

"What is it?" she asked. She smiled, but all it did was make him want to cry.

Hands shaking, he held out a can of diet Coke with a straw stuck in it."

Her eyes lit up. "Mark, you're my hero."