Title: A Gay Man's Taste
Author: Dusk (dusk@goldserve.net)
Pairing: A/m (Angel/Host)
Rating: PG
Archive/repost: Rareslash, Angelslash, Songs of Mercy
Disclaimer: The characters aren't mine, much as I love 'em. No profit made from borrowing them.
Summary: Missing scenes from 'Disharmony' (And therefore mild spoilers, too.) Since when does Angel know anything about women's fashions?
Comments: Not in any way, shape or form related to anything else I may write about this pair. Stand-alone. This is important because this relates directly to canon, which my other stories do only in the vaguest sense. :)
Posted: April '01


***

Angel shook his head, steeling himself in the cold morning air. Still a few hours before dawn; long enough.

He looked at the door he stood in front of. There was no other option, except to go home and face the unending stony silence from Cordelia. He wasn't sure he would survive another night of that. Wesley at least spoke to him civilly, most of the time, while Gunn mostly ignored him in an impersonal way. But Cordelia was entirely capable of keeping it up indefinitely.

He knew he deserved it. That didn't make it any easier to live with.

But if there was another way....

He took another, unnecessary, deep breath and pounded on the door, keeping up a steady beat until, unseen, a button was pressed and the door opened. He stepped through and walked down the steps.

The Host was waiting for him, arms crossed, shirt half-buttoned, jacket absent entirely.

"Oh, Angel, not *again*. Just tell me you kept your pants on this time?"

Angel nodded.

"Well, small favours. So, any chance this is a social call?"

Angel shook his head.

"Thought not. And since you've lost the ability to speak, at least you won't be singing."

Angel cleared his throat. "I don't want to sing."

The Host smiled. "And the plusses just keep mounting up. So, what can I do you for that necessitated interrupting valuable relaxing time?"

"I... I need your help."

"Yeah, I gathered that. You so often do."

Angel crossed his arms, then uncrossed them. "Do you know anything about women's clothing?"

The Host shook his head sadly. "Oh, sweetie, much as I'd love to see you in a leather mini and heels, with those shoulders, don't even think about it."

Angel's eyes widened for a moment. "Not for me. Definitely not for me. For Cordelia."

"Most guys just send flowers. Designer undies tend to hint at a much closer relationship than you two really have. Unless you're not telling me something?"

"Flowers won't cut it. She is so pissed off at me, there isn't even a word for what she thinks I am. I sinned in the worst possible way and she is making me pay, and pay, and pay."

The Host raised one eyebrow. "And you don't think you deserve that?"

"I know I deserve it. I just don't think I can survive it. It's even worse than you think."

"Angel, what did you do to that poor girl?" Realising this wasn't something that could be solved in a few minutes, the demon poured himself a stiff drink and pulled a chair down off a nearby table. Angel pulled another chair down and sat, resting his elbows on the table.

"Fess up," the Host reminded him. "I can't absolve you but I'm very good at tutting and making disapproving noises."

"I... I gave away her clothes," Angel confessed. "She left them at the hotel and I didn't want to face her so I gave them away. To a homeless shelter. Do I get points for an unselfish act if it's done out of cowardice?"

"Fraid not. What were you *thinking*? No, don't answer, I don't want to know."

"So I was hoping that if I bought her some new ones... maybe some that I know she couldn't afford on the salary I paid her... she might at least defrost a little. But I have absolutely no idea what she'd like."

The Host sipped his drink. "Think, my dear. Think about what you've seen her wear, labels you've heard her mention, stores."

Angel looked away. "I tried that and I'm coming up blanks. Every memory I have of her... she's there, but the details are... blurry. I can't think of a single thing."

"Don't even *think* of letting her know that. To women, the details actually matter. You'd be writing your own death warrant."

"I know," Angel muttered.

"And so, in desperation, you turn to me. Again. Tell me, since I am obviously lacking in any noticeable female attributes... I'm curious as to why I'm the choice for women's fashions expert."

Angel winced. He'd hoped that question wouldn't be asked. "Cordelia once said that gay men have better taste than anyone on the planet. Looking down the very short list of people who are still talking to me, that narrowed my choices down to you."

The Host took another long drink. "I see," he said eventually. "Well, leaving aside the very personal assumption you're making there, which by the way you are in no way qualified to make... you still know several gay men a lot better than you know me."

"I do?"

He rolled his eyes. "You really are oblivious, aren't you? Never mind. So basically, you want me to haul your ass out of the doghouse by going shopping with you? And I get what out of this deal?"

"I... didn't consider that."

"No, you probably didn't. Tell you what, let's just add another tally to the list of really big favours you owe me, shall we?"

Angel sat up hopefully. "You'll do it? Tonight? Now?"

"Yeah, why not. Who needs sleep, anyway, right?"

"Thank you. Really. A lot."

"Thank me when we've won fair Cordy over. Wait here while I change, okay? There's no way I'm walking around this town in these shoes."

Angel nodded and the Host departed via a previously unnoticed door.

"Is too a fair assumption," Angel murmured rebelliously.

***

They strolled along the streets, which were as close to being deserted as they ever got. The few people out were careful to express no interest in anything but their own business.

Angel shook his head as the Host pointed to yet another store window. They were closed, of course, but he was making notes for his return. A risky daytime outing was still preferable to facing the wrath of Cordelia.

"I don't get it. What's the difference between *that* red top and the one... three stores back? *Is* there any difference?"

"The difference, sweetie, is the difference between you giving her an insultingly outdated garment and a fabulously stylish one. Which translates as the difference between forgiveness and instant staking."

"You're making this up. They're identical."

"I'm not even going to dignify that with a response. Besides, the first one? It may have looked pretty good on the mannequin, but in Cordelia's size? Totally different. Trust me." He looked sideways at the vampire. "You do know her size, don't you? Because if you guess and you guess too big, that too will mean eternal damnation. Too small will win you points but she won't actually be able to wear any of it, which kinda defeats the object."

"Yes, I do. I... talked to Dennis. He wouldn't let me in, but when I told him my plan, he brought a few of her outfits to the door for me to check."

The Host laughed. "Creative solution. I like that guy."

Angel nodded at the window they were passing. "What about this one? Nothing good there?"

"Even if there was, with that label on it...? Not worth the risk. Best stick with the tried-and-true. Any idea how much you're looking to spend?"

Angel stuck his hands in his pockets. "I'm thinking quantity will be necessary as well as quality."

"Good tactic. Rarely fails. Which means you're going to have to go with accessories, as well. Scarves, shoes, earrings... ask a sales assistant what goes. Pick one as Cordelia-like as possible. Ooh, and make a note of that one there," he added, pointing to a mannequin. "In the pale green."

Angel frowned. "Isn't that meant for a man? I'm not sure she'd like it."

"Not for her. For me."

"I thought I was going to owe you a favour?"

The demon gave a kind of one-shoulder shrug. "Well, now I want the favour *and* the shirt."

Angel sighed and wrote it down, trying to ignore the mounting total. He'd probably have to sell a few things... some of the less important books. Maybe that ornamental crossbow that didn't shoot straight but looked great hung on the wall. It would be worth it.

***

Angel practically floated down the stairs.

"We're closing," somebody called crossly from behind the bar.

"Not yet you're not," Angel replied. The Host stuck his head over the counter.

"Well, well. Let me see... Angel, closing time... what do you need this time, honey?"

Angel shook his head, smiling. "I don't want anything. In fact, this might even qualify as a social call."

"Huh. Excuse me while I faint from shock." He brushed his hands off and stood up, leaning across the counter. "You know, this place is a lot more social when it's actually open, and has customers. People being the essence of 'social'."

"I didn't come to see the bar. I came to see you."

"*Why*, though? Someone slip you a happy pill?"

Angel was close to bouncing and didn't even care. "It worked. I've never seen Cordelia so happy. She even said I had great taste. Which means that *you* have great taste, which means that I owe you, big. Which means that you get this." He held out a box.

The Host took it. "It's not going to explode, or anything, is it?"

Angel just grinned and the demon took that as a probable negative. He opened the box, then stared at Angel.

"Well?" Angel asked. "Say something."

"I'm pretty much stunned. You actually bought me this?" He held up the shirt, running his fingers over the tone-on-tone embroidery. Hand-sewn. The perfect shade of green to offset his skin. Even the right size.

"You wanted it, didn't you?"

"Well, *yes*, it's gorgeous, but... I wasn't trying to guilt you into buying it."

"It wasn't guilt. I bought it because I wanted to, because you helped me yet again when you didn't have to, and because I though it'd look good on you."

"Then thank you. That was very thoughtful." He reverently folded the shirt back into it's box.

Angel smiled. "Interestingly enough, Cordelia also said that I - meaning you - had a gay man's taste. She meant it as a measure of my success, but..." and here he leaned up against the bar top, "... it also means that my assumption was correct. Straight men just don't have what it takes to buy the right women's clothing."

"And, shirt or no, I still say that is a very personal assumption," the Host said with a smile.

Angel grinned and without warning, leaned in and kissed him on the lips. The Host stared at him, speechless.

"Tastes good to me," Angel murmured, and was gone, not giving him a chance to respond.

The Host blinked a few times at the now-empty bar, shook his head to clear it then picked up the shirt again, examining it.

"Tease," he muttered with a smile.

[end]





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