Summary: When Roger's mother falls seriously ill, his two younger siblings are suddenly left in his care. With Mimi in and out of the hospital, and Collins in Santa Fe, Roger finds out what it's like to be everyone's rock for once.

A/N: Starts pretty much a couple of weeks after the play ends. I don't know where this idea came from, but I'm working with it. I hope you all enjoy it, somewhat. The next chapter is where things really start picking up. You'll see! (And Jan, Mimi's in this one! Hah.)

-Mari


Hard to Hide

January 20, 1998

"So how are you feeling today?" Roger crushed out his cigarette in the ashtray and cradled the cordless phone against his head as he adjusted himself on the barstool. He glanced around the kitchen and began drumming his fingers against the island.

Mimi laughed and tugged on a piece of her curly hair. "I'm feeling a lot better. The doctors say I can be discharged at the end of the week, but I have to take it easy. They don't want the pneumonia to relapse."

"That's good, right? That they think you're healthy enough to be released?"

She laughed again, curling up underneath the thin hospital blanket. "Yeah, it usually is. That was kind of a stupid question. Are you coming to visit today?"

"Yeah, I was planning on it." He glanced at the clock. 4:00. Mark should have been back from the airport by now. Collins' flight to Santa Fe had taken off thirty minutes ago, but then again, it had been probably delayed because of the weather. It had been snowing pretty heavily on and off all day and Roger wouldn't have been surprised if both Mark and Collins' had come back to the loft together with news that Collins' flight had been cancelled.

"They're only letting me have visitors until five o'clock today." She coughed briefly and Roger heard Mimi talking to someone in the background. "The doctor just got here. I've gotta go, okay? I love you."

Roger grinned. "I love you too." He pressed the 'end' button on the phone and set it on the countertop with a yawn. Come to think of it, he was getting hungry anyway and hoped that Mark had enough sense to bring food with him from the airport so he could take something to eat with him to the hospital. Hospital food never really sat with him right anyway.

Mimi had been in and out of the hospital since the end of December, right after Maureen and Joanne had found her in the park on Christmas Eve. Her T-cell count was a little unstable, but not dangerously low, and with that came news that she would be released for good at the end of the week. It had taken her a little over three weeks to recover from pneumonia, but she was doing a lot better, and Roger was glad that she'd actually be able to come home for more than a day before ending up back in the hospital. He couldn't wait to wake up next to her every morning like he used to.

Since the end of December, things had been a little hectic with everyone.

Maureen and Joanne had moved back in together in Joanne's apartment about a week ago. They seemed to be getting on better than ever before, but only time would tell how much longer they would last before having another major fight. Joanne was often busy at the office and was so behind on paperwork that she often brought home stackloads with her, much to Maureen's displeasure. On the other hand, Maureen had spent the past few weeks attending a few different auditions, but without scoring any parts. She was still waitressing at the Life Café part time and had plans to return to college in the fall, but until then, she still had some issues to work out with Joanne. In another sense, their six year age difference didn't seem to be helping things in the long run either, and at twenty-eight, Joanne often felt more like Maureen's mother than her girlfriend.

Collins had taken a week off from teaching to visit Santa Fe, a place that he and Angel often spoke of visiting together. In the three months since her death, Collins had begun to cope with everything better and was finally beginning to move on. He was still everyone's rock, as he had grown accustomed to be, a part that he shared strongly with Mark as of late.

Mark and Roger seemed to be faring pretty well at the loft, and after purchasing two new heating units that they placed in the main room and in Roger's room. The funds had come from the generously rewired ATM that Collins had tinkered with after Angel's death. No longer was the loft absolutely freezing like they all had grown accustomed to.

Both had also managed to get a hold of steady jobs. Roger was still bartending three nights a week—Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at a local club downtown. Mark had managed to get a job at a video rental store two blocks away as a clerk and worked every night, Monday through Friday from three to midnight.

"Roger."

Roger snapped out of his thoughts, his eyes landing on Mark. "What? Don't do that."

"Do what?"

"That sneaking up on me shit. You know I hate that." He ran his fingers through his blonde hair in frustration.

"I didn't sneak up on you. You were just sitting there staring off into space and I called your name like five times in a row." Mark pulled off his scarf and walked over to the refridgerator, pulling out the orange juice and drinking straight from the carton. "Don't be so irritable."

"Whatever. I'm going to go to the hospital and visit Mimi now." Roger lit up another cigarette and took a long drag.

Mark nodded and put the orange juice back. "I thought you were quitting."

Roger shrugged and stared at the smoke emitting from the lighted cigarette. "It's a habit. What can I say? Don't get on my ass about it."

"You're pretty familiar with habits, aren't you?" Mark stated, seriously.

"Shut up," Roger sighed. "You goin' to work today?"

Mark shook his head. "Nope. I took the day off. I'm probably gonna go out and film around the park. See what kind of footage I can get."

Roger nodded his head and slipped his leather jacket on his shoulders. He had just placed his hand on the doorknob when he turned around quickly. "Hey, did Collins' plane get out okay?"

"Yeah. It was delayed for about twenty minutes until they cleared the runway, but it took off no problem. He said he'd call us sometime tonight when he gets to his hotel."

"Okay. Catch you later. I'll be back in an hour." The door slammed loudly.

"Sure."


"Marquez, Marcela?"

The receptionist at the nurses' station smiled warmly at Roger and motioned for the clipboard on the counter. "Sign in, please."

Roger obeyed and signed his name on the visitor's sheet, quickly finding himself on his way to Mimi's room with a visitor's pass. He passed various patients and staff before finding himself in front of Mimi's private hospital room, B-64. He knocked once before poking his head in.

"Hey."

Mimi opened her eyes and turned her head to the side on the scratchy hospital pillow. "Hey, stud," she joked quietly with a yawn. "Took you long enough to get here." She patted the bed and Roger quickly sat down next to her.

"How do you feel?"

"Great," she smiled. "Can't wait to get out of here. They might let me go home on Thursday instead of Friday."

"Good." Roger firmly kissed her forehead and ran his fingers through her damp hair, freshly shampooed. "Your mom been by to see you lately?"

Mimi nodded and gripped Roger's hand loosely on top of the blanket. "Yeah. She was here this morning with my little brother, David. He's seventeen. I think you met him once." She shrugged and let out another yawn. "Anyway, my mom said that after I'm released, she wants to meet you. I told her I didn't know."

"Why'd you tell her that? Now she's gonna think that I don't want to meet her."

She shrugged again. "I didn't know if you wanted to meet her or not right away. I kind of want to get settled in at home again before we do the whole 'meet-the-parent's' thing. We've only been together a year, barely. I guess she still thinks of me as her little girl."

"Is twenty still little?" Roger joked.

"I don't know," Mimi smiled. "I'll be twenty-one in June, anyway. At least I'm not twenty-four, old man."

"Keep it up, or I might think twice about letting you come home."

Mimi laughed and kissed him. "Oh, such a tough guy. I forgot." She glanced up at the clock at the wall and frowned. 4:55. "You've got five minutes before the charge nurse comes and kicks you out."

"I guess I better make it a good five minutes then."

"Yeah, I guess you better. So tell me, how's work? And have you written any new songs?"

Roger smiled and wrapped his arm around Mimi's shoulders and caught her up on the past few days, but before long, the charge nurse swung by and attempted to kick him out, and even though Mimi protested, she still stood her ground.

"Out, Mr. Davis," the nurse barked. "Come back tomorrow at one. Mimi needs her rest and no more of those mouth exercises you young people seem to be so good at." She shook her finger at Roger before leaving the room with a reprimanding stare.

Roger kissed Mimi a final time and gave her a loose hug. "I miss you. I'll see you tomorrow. I'll call you tonight."

"Okay."

"I love you." He smiled and rested his head against the doorway.

"I love you, too."


"I don't know, Maureen. I kind of have some other business to take care of tomorrow night. Wait, hold on. Shit, I have another call. Yes. I'm not lying! We've always had call waiting on this phone! Okay, fine." Mark drew in a long breath of air and pressed the 'flash' button on the cordless phone. Even a thirty second conversation with Maureen Johnson was enough to drain him of all energy lately, even when she was doing most of the complaining.

"Hello?"

"Roger?"

"No, sorry, it's Mark. Roger's not here right now. Who's this?" Mark picked up the ashtray on the coffee table and walked over with it to the trash can, dumping the contents out. They fluttered neatly into the plastic bag and with a satisfied expression on his face, he placed it back on the table. He heard the line crackle a little bit and moved slightly in place. "Hello? Who is this?"

"This is Mark Cohen?"

"Yeah. Who is this?" He was growing frustrated with the young female voice on the other end of the line. He really wanted to get another draft of his latest script finished before Roger came home and began plucking away on his guitar.

"Mark, hi. It's Julia."

Mark blinked. "Julia…?"

"Julia Davis. Look, do you know when Roger's getting in?"

Floored, Mark gaped at the coffee table from the ratty old couch he was sitting on. Julia Davis…god, he hadn't heard from or seen her in years—not since the summer before he left for his first and only year at Brown University. Then, she had been an eleven year old snobbish, stuck up brat, and he hadn't seen her in six years. Roger certainly hadn't seen her or his own family in two years. Mentally, he calculated that she would be at least seventeen by now.

Mark couldn't really even remember anything much about her, although the fact that she had dark brown hair and was crazy about sports were the two main facts that came to his mind. But the fact that she was clearly calling out of the blue, for no apparent reason, seemed a little out there.

"Mark, are you still there?"

"Oh, shit. Sorry, Julia. Yeah, I'm still here. Is everything okay? Can I take a message?"

There was a long pause. "Um…can you just tell Roger that Mom's really sick, okay? And that we need him to come up to Scarsdale as soon as he can, like tonight, if he can make it, if you know, if he doesn't get back from wherever he is late. And if he does get back late, then he can come then, too, because I'm at the hospital right now with Matt and Mom told me to call Roger because she can't get a hold of our Dad. Okay? We don't know where he is, so you really have to, have to have Roger drive up here or something…" Julia stopped speaking and broke off into soft sobs that came over the phone line.

Uncomfortably, Mark cleared his throat. "Hey, Julia, whatever it is, everything's going to be okay."

"No, it's not. Mom's dying. Hold on a minute, let me give you my cell phone number, okay? Have Roger call this as soon as he gets in."

Mark agreed and soon enough, he had managed to calm Julia down enough and collected her cell phone number. He jotted it down in black Sharpie marker and taped it straight on the fridge.

Now, there was nothing to do but wait for Roger to come home.

Suddenly, the phone rang again, but instead of answering it like he should have, Mark screened it.

"Mark! I can't believe you hung up on me! Hello? Call me back, pookie!"


Luckily for Mark, he didn't have to wait long for Roger to come back from the hospital. At least he had only been pacing for ten minutes.

The loft door opened and then slammed with a cold blast of air. "It's freezing out there. Holy shit," Roger cursed as he pulled off his leather jacket and tossed it on a hangar in the closet. "The winter is the worst."

Mark managed a weak smile. "Uh, yeah. So how's Mimi doing?"

"Good. She seemed a lot better today. Word is that she'll be discharged Friday, but she said she'd keep me posted. Remind me to call her tonight, okay? You know how absorbed I get with my guitar sometimes."

"Speaking of phone calls…"

That got Roger's attention. That, and the tone of Mark's voice, along with the worried, pale look on his face. "What's up?"

"Um, well. Your sister called."

Roger stared at Mark for a few seconds, running his fingers through his hair. "Julia?"

"Yeah."

"Why? Is everything okay? She never calls here."

"Well uh, no. Sit down?" Mark suggested. He pointed to the island and Roger lowered himself into a barstool. "Julia called and needs you to go up to Scarsdale tonight."

"Why? It's a school night for her and Matt. My mother never asks me to come up on a weeknight." Roger lit another cigarette. "Besides, I haven't been to Scarsdale in two years. You know that. My mom's been trying to get me up there, but whatever. I have my own shit to take care of. My own life."

Mark's eyes darted to the ground. "Roger, your mom's in the hospital."

Roger started at Mark hard. He set the cigarette in the ashtray and swallowed. "What?"

"She's in the hospital, and she had Julia call you to tell you to find your way up to Scarsdale tonight to be with Julia and Matt. How old are they now?"

"Seventeen and fifteen. Julia's a senior and Matt's a sophomore, but what? What's wrong with my mom? Shit."

"Julia didn't say. She just needs you up there. She said she can't get a hold of your dad."

Roger frowned and picked up his cigarette. "Good. I can't fucking stand that asshole. Did he do this to her, because I swear to god if he put her in the hospital I'll lay it on him so hard—"

"Stop. Look, just get up to Scarsdale. We'll work this out. We'll get you a car somehow and get you up there, but for now, call Julia back. I've got her cell number on the fridge. All you have to do is tell her you're coming and save the big conversation for the hospital if you don't want to talk too much on the phone, and please, don't be an asshole. They really need you now."

"I know that!" Roger snapped. He put out his half finished cigarette and grabbed the cordless. He stopped before the fridge and quickly glanced at the number, but didn't dial anything. "Mark."

Mark nodded. "Yeah?"

"I don't even have this number. What kind of brother am I? I haven't talked to my sister or any of my brothers in two years. I haven't talked to my mom since a couple of months ago. But I haven't seen anybody in two years. What the hell is wrong with me?" He shook his head.

"Just call, Roger," Mark replied softly. "It's okay. Just call."

"Yeah. Like they'd be thrilled to hear from me." Roger then dialed Julia's cell phone number and pressed the cordless against his ear. After what seemed like a couple of rings to Mark, Roger began speaking. "Hey…Julia? It's Roger."


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