Rating: G, nothing even vaguely upsetting in here
Feedback: If you please, thank you.
Distribution: At the moment, here. If someone wants it, I'd really appreciate it if you would ask me, please.
Spoilers: Nothing, really.
Disclaimer: All characters are owned by Mutant Enemy (Joss Whedon), a wonderfully creative company whose characters I have borrowed for a completely profit-free flight of fancy. Kindly do not sue me, please, as I am terrified of you. Thank you.
Author's Note: You could kind of call this a companion piece to "Who Died and Made You the Iron Chef?" This is also the first fic I'm posting over in the Angel section (I usually post in Buffy).
"You Have, Like, a Gay Man's Taste!"
Over the centuries of his existence, Angel had faced countless horrifying situations and triumphed over them all. Beheading crazed Krozvod demons in Siberia, outwitting a clan of Tibetan death-hunters, escaping the perils of hell itself, even surviving Darla's bad hair days: none of them held a candle to the challenge that now faced him. His chocolate brown eyes gazed in wide-eyed, helpless terror at the prospect before him, and he knew, in that moment, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that he could never hope to conquer the task before him without calling in reinforcements. Before his courage could falter, he whipped out his hated cell phone and called information.
"I need the number for Caritas in downtown L.A.," he spoke into the receiver, his voice shaking slightly.
A few moments later, the telephone rang in the infamously peaceful demon bar.
"We're closed," mumbled a groggy voice on the other end of the line. "Whoever you are, call back later. Doors open at 7 o'clock."
With a start, Angel realized he still didn't know the green demon's name. "This is Angel. I could really use your help."
On the other end of the line, the host's eyes rolled melodramatically. "Look, sugarbuns, if you need me to read your aura, you're going to have to come down here tonight and sing your unbeating heart out just like everybody else."
"No, it's not that," Angel almost whispered into the phone, "but I do need your help."
"With what?" asked the demon, somewhat intrigued by the note of panic that had crept into the vampire's voice.
Angel glanced around at the vast sea of unfamiliar territory and shuddered involuntarily as he spoke the dreaded word.
It took Angel nearly twenty minutes to persuade the bar owner that he was dead serious, no pun intended. If the only way to win back Cordelia's friendship was to replace her clothes he'd donated to the teen shelter on her non-willing behalf, he'd do it. The only problem was he had absolutely no idea what on the good green earth to buy. Eventually, the host agreed to meet Angel at his current locale, the mall, and help him sift through what seemed to be an entire continent's worth of stores for items that would get him back in the seer's good graces.
Roughly an hour later, the vampire greeted the other man in the middle of the food court with an expression of such ecstatic relief splashed across his handsome face that the demon was slightly afraid his soul might evaporate into ether.
"Thank the Powers! I never thought you'd get here, not that you took too long, and not that the world revolves around me, or that I deserve the Powers to give me any kind of a break, but I was starting to go out of my mind, and there are all these places, and they all have all these things in them, and I keep having to avoid all the reflective surfaces and the skylights, and I've been here since 6:00 a.m. because I couldn't find any underground parking, so I had to keep dodging all the senior citizen mallwalkers for hours, and I'm stuck inside here until sunset and I'm about ready to go out of my mind, really, and…"
"Angel, darling, shut up," the host interrupted the babbling vampire with a look of disbelief. "You haven't said that much in the last month. You're going to sprain your larynx, and then we'd all be deprived of your glorious singing voice." He paused. "On second thought, keep yapping."
Angel shot him a look of sheer desperation. "I really need help."
"That you do. For crying out loud, those two naughty ladies and a whole slew of lawyers didn't quite succeed in sending you around the bend, but it looks like a run-in with the burgeoning economy might just do the trick. Breathe, for pity's sake. Oh, wait. That's right. You don't. Pardonnez-moi. So, what have you accomplished so far?"
With a look that exactly mirrored the eyes of a deer caught in headlights, Angel silently ushered the green demon into the nearest women's clothing store.
"I, uh, asked the salesgirl, er, saleswoman, er, sales associate…"
"Forget the PC title, Ang. Just call her the senorita who tries to sell you the most expensive, least attractive things so she gets a good comission," the other man explained, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Right. Whatever. I asked her to put these aside for me. I deeply need your advice."
The karioke demon sat down on a rather uncomfortable couch in the back of the practically deserted boutique, far enough away from any mirrors that Angel's little reflection problem wouldn't be noticed. In a moment, he was deeply grateful that he'd chosen to sit down. He had expected two or three hangers. When an entire garment rack six feet long was trundled out in front of him, filled to bursting with clothes, his jaw went slack from shock.
"You really do have the whole guilt thing down to an artform, don't you?" he said as he stared at the overcompensating vampire. "How exactly are you planning on paying for all this? Morgaging the hotel or signing on with the mob?"
"I've got the money," the dark haired man replied vaguely. "So tell me, how bad is it.
The host walked to the rack and proceed to remove the first garment: an ankle length skirt. Then the next: a turtleneck sweater. This was followed by a pair of slacks, a jacket, a coat, three long-sleeve blouses, and a chunky pull-over. Every last one of them was pitch black.
"Angel, are you aware that there's this remarkable new invention called color?" the bar owner dead-panned as his eyes roved over the six feet of funereally hued clothes.
The vampire blinked in surprise. "I hadn't even noticed I'd done that."
"Uh huh. You've got another little problem, too," the host said in a voice that suggested he was speaking to a 5 year old. "You got her a size 4 skirt, but the pants are size 16. That, in and of itself, is enough to make Cordelia never speak to you again as long as you unlive."
"The salesgirl said they ran small," Angel murmured in an embarrassed voice. "I guess I overdid it."
"Right. Oh, and here's an interesting little number," the green demon declared in ringing tones as he pulled a long dress out of the far end of the rack. "Take a good, long look at this one, Ang. Think a minute, then try to tell me what's wrong."
"I thought it was kind of pretty," he replied as he glanced over the full silk skirt hemmed in black lace, the classic high neckline, and the full, puffy sleeves.
"Angel, you nitwit! You are shopping for Cordelia, not Drusilla!" the host railed at him as he slugged the vampire in the stomach with the hanger. "Try to join the twenty-first century!"
"Look, I only know two modes of dress: penitent and evil. It was either this or an entire wardrobe of leather."
Exasperated beyond words, the normally show-tune-spouting extravert raked his fingers through his two-toned hair and tried not to scream.
"Think about it. What does Cordy usually wear?"
Angel closed his eyes tightly and tried to focus. Why was it he could remember every last footnote from The Diaries of Nobandanel, yet couldn't seem to recall anything his secretary/connection to the Powers had ever worn?
"I have no idea."
"Typical male. She must wear something! I assume you'd notice if she was a nudist!"
"Cut me some slack, okay!" the vampire retorted quickly, starting to lose it. "I've been fightin' ta keep me soul for the last six months, me sire tried ta drive me insane, Wesley keeps actin' holier-tan-thou, which, I grant you, he is, and I'm stuck in ta middle of a shoppin' market full of ladies' apparel tat woulda got a girl arrested fer indecent exposure when I was still livin'!"
Compassion, mixed with a heavy dose of fear due to the fact the vampire had actually reverted to his Irish brogue, made the demon gently pat him on the back.
"It's alright, big fella. Look, I tell you what. You go back to the foodcourt and get yourself a nice smoothie on me," he said sympathetically, pressing a five dollar bill into the taller man's hand. "Go wander around for awhile. Stop at the music store and listen to classical, or the Irish Tenors if that's more your thing. I'll handle this end of things."
"You will? Really?" Angel almost wept in relief at the burden that had slid from his back.
"Leave it all to me."
Watching the vampire's retreating back, the karioke demon sighed softly. "Well, he gets bonus points for actually trying."
Several hours later, after the sun had set, the two men left the mall loaded down with shopping bags, Angel still thoughtfully slurping his third strawberry-banana smoothie.
"You know, these aren't bad," he pondered as he lugged more than his own bodyweight in purchases out to his trunk.
"Glad at least one of us got some enjoyment out of the day," the host muttered under his breath.
"I really can't thank you enough for doing this for me," the vampire said as he got into his car and prepared to drive away.
"Oh yes you can, honey," the bar owner declared.
"I've done a little something for you, now you do something for me. We're a barkeep shy at Caritas tonight. You know how to make a decent Sea Breeze?"
"You'll learn. Oh, and wear the leather pants. The customers will love them."
Although he already had an excuse forming in his mind, Angel sighed and decided to chalk one more humiliation up to his Shanshu account. "Okay."
"Good boy. Toodles!" the bar owner said as he turned to go.
"Wait! I have to ask you something," the vampire called after him. "How come you can just go out in public even though you're…"
"Green?" he finished. "Easy. Anybody asks, I just tell them I ate bad clams. Not only does it shut them up, they get the heck out of my way in case there's any projectile vomiting."
With these heartfelt parting words, the host returned to his own car and sped off into the night. Not long after, Angel's car left the mostly deserted parking lot as well. No sooner had he left than two figures emerged from the shadows of the mall, shaking with laughter.
"Oh, that was too rich!" bellowed a small blond woman. "Did you see the look on his face when he saw the bill?"
"Yeah," replied her brunette companion. "But I still think the black dress was lovely. Like a pretty little storm cloud."
"You would," Darla snarked.
Unbeknownst to the brooding Angel and his light-hearted shopping buddy, the two female vampires, who had been planning on a shopping spree of their own, had not only seen the entire ordeal, but had, in fact, caught the entire scenario on videotape from their concealed position in a nearby changing room. For months to come, they giggled themselves senseless over the shopping-impaired scourge of Europe.