Angel numbly held the phone in his hand, seemingly oblivious to the dull tone it emitted. His unseeing eyes stared forwards, his mind crawling with the information he had just been told.

Aunt Lisa was dead. The great all-knowing, all powerful bitch was dead. He should be celebrating. Hell, this was cause to rejoice. Angel had always been the nephew who was 'a puzzle', the one who was never satisfactory, who never met her high standards. She took pains to avoid anything which might give him a small bit of pleasure in favour of watching him squirm with discomfort or embarrassment. She had laughed in his face when he had dared suggest that he might not be interested in girls, then smacked him there when he confirmed his passions lay with other men. Angel was the one she always used to ridicule in her jokes, who always displeased her, who always had the time taken to notice just how abnormal and 'incorrect' he was. The nephew who didn't exist except for when she needed someone to feel empowered over.

Aunt Lisa was dead.

And Angel cried.

Sitting in a heap in front of the front door to his and Collins' apartment, Angel wondered why the liquid was collecting in his eyes, threatening to streak the makeup he had so delicately reapplied an hour before. He wondered why he felt so depressed and affected by the passing of someone who had always been so unforgivingly cruel to him.

A shot of laughter then a light smattering of applause. Then a glare. The nine year old boy neatly detached the merry Santa paper off of the package to reveal a battered old shoe box, advertising its clumpy, brown leather lace-ups. Young hands twisted the box around, tactilely exploring whether an alternate angle would divulge a more favourable gift, but they rested the box down moments later finding none. Angel looked up at his aunt enquiringly, unable to hide the disappointment behind his eyes.

Angel was awoken from his reverie by the door opening into his knee. Collins gave a slight apologetic gasp then crouched down to Angel.

"I'm sorry, baby, I didn't see you there. Why are you- Angel, baby? What's wrong? What's happened?"

Collins brought a hand to Angels chin, lifting it up to look into his concerned eyes. "Angel, what happened?"

Angel looked up from the worn old box, his disappointment flooding from those angelic innocent eyes. Aunt Lisa gave a dissatisfactory 'tsk' towards her sister before looking imposingly down at the boy again and nodded her head encouragingly, her arms waving in little circular motions.

Angel looked back down to the shoe box and removed the lid. The shoes which where cradled inside were worn second-handers, but they weren't the ugly brown flat lace-ups he had been expecting to see. A loud shout of laughter sounded from the dreaded aunt. Oblivious, Angel's eyes were held captivated by the contents within.

Angel released the breath he had unknowingly been holding on to. "Lucifer- Lisa. My Aunt Lisa. She died." Angel paused, his eyebrows knitting in contemplative confusion. She's dead. A person I know; a relative- someone I grew up knowing is dead. Gone. Collins moved his arm around Angel's waist supportively, drawing him in towards his chest. Angel silently covered the hand and leaned his head wearily against his lover's shoulder.

"I'm sorry." Collins whispered. Angel shook his head in confusion.

"No. I'm not- she wasn't, I…" He sighed. "I don't even know how I'm supposed to feel. I don't understand, I can't figure it out in my head."

The raucous laughter became choked as Angel picked up the gleaming red stilettos in awe, his brain hurriedly trying to process the evidence his eyes provided him with. His Aunt Lucifer, most hated dragoness in the world, had just presented him with a pair of beautiful feminine shoes like those he had for so long dreamed about. What was going on? The young boy held his breath and just stared at the woman, trying to discern why he had been given those gems, and what her ultimate intentions might have been. The older woman continued to look down on him, keen grin still lingering on her face and her eyes filled with malice.

Angel's breath faltered as his stomach contorted painfully, his mouth becoming dry. He suddenly remembered what had happened three weeks before. What she had walked in on.

Collins remained silent, waiting patiently for him to continue.

"She never gave me a moment's peace when she came around, nothing was ever good enough or normal enough for her. But… She's dead. She just died, about a week ago. I'm not invited to the funeral…" Angel's voice drifted off.

Angel giggled lightly as he heard the moaning coming from downstairs, his face reddening slightly. His parents were out, eating a candle it dinner and, if they remembered, buying Christmas presents for the family. The dreaded Aunt Lucifer was now in charge, babysitting the VCR as she watched a rental tape, her real charge somewhat abandoned as she rewound back over her favourite bits.

Angel was not allowed to enter the room.

Aunt Lucifer, in turn, would not be leaving it for hours.

Collins' expression grew pained at his lover's explanation. He had rarely ever seen Angel looking so low, or speaking so slowly, so sadly.

"Its alright, Angel. What you're feeling is natural. It's alright to be confused or relieved or angry. She treated you badly; you've been hurt, upset. There is nothing wrong in feeling somewhat pleased or relieved as her passing."

Angel drew a passive sigh, shouldering deeper into Collins embrace as the older man's arm moved up to embrace him tighter. You don't understand…

He didn't know how to fully explain himself, his mind reeled at trying to figure out how to start. How do you explain to someone over 20 years worth of complicated experience and history? How can you fully vocalise the intricacies of such a human relationship?

The young boy stuffed his fist into his mouth to deaden the laughter he knew would not disturb the Aunt. Had she been doing her job, Angel would not now be standing dead centre on his mother's bed, fabric flowing from his hands as he enjoyed the pleasures of the forbidden room. The wardrobe doors were still open to where they had swung; several draws peaked out irregularly where Angel had been unable to close them, several examples of their contents strewn over the floor and bed. A frilly lace bra which Angel had giggled hysterically when measuring it up with his balled hands; a couple of socks which he had later used to gauge the bra's size; a wrapped sweet with what felt like a jelly ring inside the foil- he would open that later; a matching frilly triangle with string connecting the three points.

From downstairs the TV fell silent for a minute, before the moaning started up again.

"Aunt Lisa. She used to tease me; she used to be so horrible. It wasn't her fault, it was just her way. The way she was- horrible. She couldn't understand that I was who I am, that I was someone else entirely. She just didn't understand… me."

Collins watched Angel closely as he began his soliloquy. As much as he knew he should let him to continue the story in full, Collins could see that he was only pulling himself deeper into the depression. "And that's okay-"

"No, it isn't!" Angel cried. He shook his head dejectedly, upset and confused. He blinked more tears away, upset at his own inefficiency in making his lover understand.

"She just didn't care! She saw me as entertainment, a silly little child to keep her amused." His voice continued to escalate in speed and pitch as he continued. "But unwittingly, she also made me who I am. And I can't hate her for that!" Angel cried as the tears steadily coated her delicate face.

Angel bounced lightly on the springs of the bed, his excitement already manifested into hyperactivity as he tried to pull what seemed like a pale pink tent over his head and scrawny body. The fabric passed smoothly over his skin, slipping past several shadowy bruises on his arm he had not received at school. The texture of the cloth was something he marvelled at, he had never felt it used on his own clothes before, it was something he could only describe as woven water.

Reaching his arm behind him, he tried to pull the miniscule zip up his thin form, but he could only reach midway up his back. Turning back around, he slid down and off of the bed, skirts billowing, and moved towards the next victim- the shoe rack. Finding a pair of outrageous zebra striped sandals, he sat himself on the floor and proceeded to pull the stringy stilettos onto his overlarge feet. His toes squeezed into the front, but the rest of his foot just arched irregularly over the shoe, his heel overlapping an inch past the end of the platform.

Angel looked at them mutely for a moment, before shaking the shoes off bitterly. Disappointed with the small failure, he pushed the shoes back onto the rack and closed the door quickly, forcing his eyes away from the other beautifully feminine shaped shoes.

He jumped, startled, as he recognised the figure of Aunt Lisa standing in the doorway. Her imposing stature taking up most of the room, she stood silently, rigidly, shocked as to what she had walked in on.

And then she had started laughing. Angel frantically tried to rip his mothers clothes off his body and flee.

"Angel, honey, I'm trying to understand, I really am, but you're not making any sense. What debt do you have to her?" Collins asked rhetorically, his voice soft and unaccusing, trying to let Angel come to terms with her grief. He moved his arm down her back again, rubbing tenderly as she clutched, hunched over, at Collins' chest.

Angel had barely strayed into his mothers room after that night. He felt shy of the glorious materials housed within, unworthy to touch them, to feel them. Sitting alone in his bedroom, he couldn't stop thinking about that dress, the texture of the fabric, the pleasure he had almost forgotten how to experience. He couldn't drive it out of his head, it kept on haunting him; the euphoria that had flooded him. But Angel was ashamed. Deeply ashamed of his clumpy large feet not fitting into the sculpted feminine shoe; ashamed of having been caught- especially by her. Ashamed of his own lack of determination to go back in and feel that euphoria again.

He avoided eye contact with Aunt Lisa from then on. Scared of what he would see as she looked back at him, scared of the possibility that she might tell. Angel was just scared. Scared, and powerless, and weak. A feeble little boy beaten down by those around him.

"Angel?" Collins prompted, when she didn't reply. Angel let out a steady breath, unclenching and clenching Collins' shirt in her hand. When she still didn't reply, Collins bent down and lightly met his lips to her forehead. Angel's muscles unfurled as she leaned back into the man he loved, her face still turned against his shirts.

"She was the one who gave me my release from that life. She gave me my identity. Gave me my first pair of shoes. She- she made me who I am." Angel whispered softly.

Christmas. Angel looked at the gleaming red shoes in his hands as if they had real diamonds sewn into them. They were gorgeous. A little scraped and definitely well-used before falling into Lucifer's possession, but Angel didn't care. Vibrant red woven-water coating over the straps, a chord of black here and there, and more black material inside.

They also looked about his size.

Collins furrowed his eyebrows for a moment. "I don't understand."

Slowly, hesitantly, Angel slipped off his tattered, worn old trainers, and slid the gleaming stilettos onto his feet. His shame from the failed dress-up attempt blossomed into pride and warmth as this small but crucial success completed him. The euphoria flooded back through his system.

Parchment faced, and ears ringing with the incredibility of what was occurring, Angel rose to put his full weight onto the heals, standing to reveal himself fully. Slightly light-headed, she turned to regard her mother, and then her aunt, staring her down for the first time in her life as Angel Dumott Schunard found her identity.

The tears ceased as Angel stilled to comprehend his lover's words. His mind stopped reeling as it as it fixated on one small fact. He doesn't understand. Almost instantaneously, Angel felt a chill coursing through his veins, his mind suddenly clearing with a blue, echoing silence.

Collins' arms no longer felt secure. They were cold, uncomfortable, Angel's back contorted awkwardly against his chest.

Angel stood up, pulling himself unapologetically from Collins arms and kissed him lightly on the cheek. Collins looked up at him in confusion as Angel calmly walked out of sight and then back again, purse swinging from the crook of one arm, hands atop his head straightening out the wig.

Angel picked up his keys, walked to the front door, opened it, and then disappeared from his lover's view.

A few hours passed, but Collins didn't feel hungry. He couldn't eat dinner, not with the constant images of Angel's distraught face playing in front of his eyes; the knowledge that his actions, his lack of sensitivity had caused more pain to that beautiful creature. The thought crushed him; his shame and guilt penetrating his gut like a knife.

More hours passed, and yet Collins couldn't sleep. He should have been back by now. None of the other Bohemians had seen or heard from his lover that night.

Sitting alone in the pitch black apartment, Collins grew more and more concerned by each passing hour. Sleep would not take him.

Angel didn't return that night.


Well, thank you for reading. This fic was actually designed as the opening chapter to a much darker epic fic I'm writing, however I realised that this chapter didn't merit an R rating, and I had a good idea going on here.

I will be uploading that story separately in the R rated section, and will continue on from the events which happened here, however the plot will take a dramatic turn. I warn you, this will be a heavily R rated angst / tragedy / hurt/comfort. Keep an eye out on my profile (or use author alert) for more information and expected uploading times if you're interested.

On another note, I have another Rent fic which is very near completion, and should be up within a week or so. It's an angsty Collins-centric oneshot, rated T: Set postRent, the virus is finally catching up with Collins. Though he has tried not to waste his life after Angel and not regret what he still has, he's tied between dread over how his body will deteriorate without a lover to hold his hand through it, and the guilt of wanting to see Angel again so soon. In the end, his Angel in heaven has already made plans for relieving his pain and guilt, and she will be with him as he joins her- sooner then expected. (Not suicide.)

This fic is all my original work, however character names (excluding Aunt Lisa) and descriptions/personalities are borrowed from Rent, which I do not own. I'd like to thank my good friend and resident beta, Richard the Pedantic for his suggestions and patience, and also TMac for her help with the main R rated story, and general support and kindness. Trust me, if you haven't yet, read some of TMac's stuff, because they're beautifully written.

Thank you for reading!