Days of Inspiration

Disclaimer: I don't own them, but I do own an empty bag of chips. If you want it, sue. You can HAVE my student debts!

All belongs to Jonathan Larson, God rest his soul.

Credit for not just plot bunnies, but rabbits by the score complete with breeding ground (and for being the source of my own personal days---usually midnights--- of inspiration) goes completely and totally to Chelsea, who would be the Roger to my Mark if she were completely different.

Perhaps it's been done before, but I don't really care. I treat you all to my MarkandRogerpriortoRENT story, which I hope enthralles and captivates you all. Hell, I'd settle for a few reviews...

Chapter One (the Life)

"Oh, honey, New York is such a BIG city..."

"You're sure you'll be all right?"

"I never thought this was a good idea..."

"You'll just screw this up too..."

"But Mark, all alone in New York..."

"Not sure you're ready..."

Mark Cohen shook his head, willing his parents' voices to fuck off. He would not prove them right, he had insisted, and look where that had gotten him. Lost somewhere in the Village with no clue how to read the subway maps, no idea where the bus station was, and without knowing where his friends had gone.

He didn't know how it had happened; one minute, he and the rest of his AV club friends, Andy, Trevor, Bruce, and Thomas, had been talking, laughing, and joking, glad to get away from Scarsdale (and their parents). There was a lurch on the subway, Mark had fallen over and lost his glasses, and by the time he had found them again his friends had exited the train, leaving Mark alone on the number six to God-knows-where. He had gotten off at the next stop, hoping his friends would reappear on the next train, but he had no such luck. He contemplated trying to take the train back, but after ten minutes of trying to decipher the code all New Yorkers seemed to be born speaking ('express but not late night ... local through Brooklyn...' a slew of seemingly unrelated letters and numbers) he gave up.

After waiting for the better part of an hour in the subway station trying not to look lost and alone, Mark headed up to the surface, glad to breathe fresh air again. Finding himself wholly unfamiliar with the street signs (not that he expected anything less, but it would have been a comfort to see Lafayette or something), he sighed, jammed his hands in his pockets, and started walking. Sporadically, he checked the beeper that his parents had insisted he carry ("But Mark, I don't like the idea of you alone in New York! What if there was an emergency? What if you get sick?"), but there were no messages from his friends. Twelve from his mother, which he ignored, but none from his friends. It was pretty obvious the others probably hadn't even noticed his disappearance yet.

He walked for an hour or two, realized that he had absolutely no idea where he was going or what he was going to do when he got there, and resolved to sit down somewhere to wait. As he walked down yet another unfamiliar street, he found himself wishing he had his camera. That was the concession he had had to make in order to make this last-bash-before-graduation trip, leaving his camera behind.

"But Mark, what if a gang of thieves saw you with that thing? I don't mind you having a little fun, but I don't want to have to drive into the city to identify your body! To think, my little boy mugged, lying somewhere in a gutter..."

In the end, it was easier to give in. It usually was, with his mother. That didn't help his longing, though, as he took in completely unfamiliar sights; people huddled together under blankets for warmth, the blank stares of children from a fenced-in schoolyard, the unfamiliar sight of rusty fire escapes clinging to the sides of ancient apartment buildings. It might seem ridiculous to some people that Mark, growing up so close to the city, had never before witnessed any of these sights.

These people did not know Abigail Cohen.

The fact that he had even convinced her to let him go now surprised Mark to no end. He supposed she was finally coming to terms with the fact that she couldn't control his life forever, hard as she tried, and was trying to come across as "letting go gracefully" before he moved off to college.

It wasn't working.

Mark was abruptly jolted out of his musings about dear old mom when a stranger bumped into him, sending him to the ground in an ungainly heap.

"I'm so sorry," came a stricken voice from above, and the man he had bumped into extended his hand, which Mark accepted gratefully. The man seemed truly sorry, brushing Mark's clothes off and apologizing profusely before going his own way.

Looking around, Mark spotted a nice-looking cafe, sporting a sign: "The Life Cafe."

It seemed a nice enough place to wait until his 'friends' realized he wasn't tagging along as usual. Going in, he noticed that the establishment was cleaner than most of the cafes he had passed, and only a few people had chosen the same place. Sitting down, he chose a seat where he could see the window. He loved to watch people pass by, try and guess where they were going, who they were, what they were thinking. Filmmaker's mind, he supposed. Hoped.

He was watching some sort of high-powered business executive looking woman juggling two cell phones when a young man came over to take his order. "Just a tea, thanks," he said, going back to staring out the window.

Instead of leaving to get his drink, however, the waiter grinned and sat down across from him. "So, who'd you lose?"

Mark looked at him, startled. "What?"

The young waiter (now that Mark was really looking at him, he realized that he couldn't be much older than himself) just grinned wider. "You're obviously lost. I saw you wandering around, and you keep checking your beeper. offense, man, but you look really nervous. First time to the city?"

Mark was surprised at himself. Usually, under such close (and accurate) scrutiny he would be grossly uncomfortable, but something about the other person set him strangely at ease. The newcomer was taller than he by more than a few inches, and looked strong. Blond hair, but bleached. Mark got the feeling the stranger would be much more at home in torn jeans and a faded t-shirt than in the uniform he was currently wearing. Liking this person for no reason, he replied, "Yeah, actually, it is. My friends and I got separated...I'm Mark."

"Roger Davis," the other said, sticking out his hand. "Musician, part-time minimum wage slave, dropout, and all-around general fuck-up." His grin, Mark realized, was infectious. Everything about this Roger seemed infectious, come to think of it.

Mark cocked his head, and remarked, "I thought New Yorkers didn't talk to strangers."

Roger laughed, a clear, honest sound. "But then you don't meet anyone interesting!"

He seemed about to say something else, but a loud throat-clearing sound was heard from behind the counter, and Roger immediately shot up. "Right," he said professionally, although Mark could hear the laughter in his voice, "one tea. Herbal or no?"

Mark shrugged. He had only chosen tea because it sounded like it would be cheaper than coffee. He was a bit low on cash after the whole weekend in New York, and really just wanted to sit, but most places didn't let you if you didn't buy something. "Whatever's cheapest."

Roger grinned again, and disappeared into the back of the cafe under the disapproving gaze of the manager. When he brought out a steaming mug, Mark said quietly, "I didn't mean to get you in trouble with your boss or anything."

Roger snorted. "Don't worry about it. I'm only working here until my band really takes off, anyway. We're really close to getting into CBGB's. You've heard of it, right?"

Not wanting to seem ignorant, Mark replied, "Oh, yeah. Of course."

Roger punched him in the arm, and Mark winced as Roger laughed again. "Liar. You're not even a good liar. You blush."

"Do not," Mark grumbled, but he knew he was blushing even then. His beeper went off right then, and he looked hastily down at it, only to sigh when he saw it was from his mother. Again.

Roger saw the look, and before Mark could stop him he grabbed the beeper, his eyebrows raising as he saw the slew of calls from the same number. He smirked at Mark before handing it back. "Clingy girlfriend? Is Mark whipped?"

Mark rolled his eyes. "Sure, that's it." I wish.

Roger's smirk widened into a full-blown grin, yet again. Mark wondered idly if all that mirth got tiring, and wondered how Roger kept it up so long. "It's your mommy, isn't it?"

Mark glared at him from above his mug, eyes narrowing as Roger laughed harder. "It so is! Isn't it?"

"Shut up," Mark muttered. Instantly Roger's expression changed to one of concern. "Hey, man, I didn't mean it. We're cool, right?"

Mark stared at Roger. Something about this guy was totally different from anyone he had ever met in his life, somehow. "What is it with you? You don't even know me. What do you care what I think of you?"

Roger shrugged. "You're interesting. So, I'm interested. No big deal."

Mark snorted at the idea that he, of all the people in New York, was interesting enough to deserve this kind of attention. Roger Davis, he knew, would never survive in Scarsdale. He didn't seem to know the meaning of repression, which is what the inhabitants lived and breathed. The idea of a person that open with their emotions was foreign to Mark, and he wasn't quite sure how to deal. He settled for just saying, "Yeah, okay. We're cool."

Roger grinned at him again, and to his surprise, Mark felt himself grin back.

Roger leaned forward, toward Mark. "Why do you watch people?" he asked. "You do it like it's your job."

Mark shrugged. "I guess it is. I mean, I want to be a filmmaker. It's never going to happen, but it's what I want."

Roger looked puzzled before asking, "Why isn't it ever going to happen?"

"Do you know how few people make it in that industry? Besides, it's not like my parents would let me, anyway. I think it's against the law in our family to become anything except a good Jewish doctor or lawyer."

Roger looked at him incredulously. "And you always do what your parents want you to?"

"No! I mean..." Mark stopped. "Yeah, I guess I do. You know, it's just easier that way. Easier to do what they want than to fight them on it. Like, I'm going to Brown in the fall. But that's not what I want to do, it's what they want me to do. I figure, I can always minor in film or something. They can't control my hobbies." Even as he said it, he heard how lame his life must sound.

"That's totally messed up," Roger declared. "You know that, right? Mark, I'm gonna give you some advice. You need to grow some balls, and stand up to your mommy. You're eighteen now?" At Mark's nod, he went on, "You can't let your parents live your life! What the hell kind of life is that? Besides, even if you starve as an artist, at least it's the life that you've chosen. That's what I think, anyway. You know?"

Mark looked down. "I know. I'm working on it. The growing balls, I mean. It's just..." He trailed off, unsure what he was trying to articulate.

Roger stole a glance back at the counter, and saw the manager glaring in their direction. Rolling his eyes, he said under his breath, "I think you'd probably better pay. He hates it when people sit and don't buy." He looked apologetically at Mark, as if asking forgiveness for making him pay.

"No, that's cool," Mark said. He reached in the pocket of his coat, then stopped dead. His pocket was empty. Frantically, he searched the rest of his pockets, then tried to think when he had last had contact with his wallet. He had come out of the subway...his hands were in his pockets...he remembered feeling his wallet...and he hadn't taken his hands out until... "Oh, fuck!" he swore. "That bastard robbed me!" Seeing Roger look at him a bit skeptically, he rushed to explain. "No, really! I was walking and this guy bumped into me, and he helped me up and...that bastard, he robbed me! Fuck, that's got my driver's liscense, my emergency credit card, all my money!"

Roger, seeing how upset Mark was getting, said, "Hey, calm down, it's cool. You can get that credit card canceled, and you can get a new driver's lisence. Seriously, not the end of the world, man."

"But I don't have any money to pay!"

Roger laughed at him again. "Dude, your wallet was just stolen and you're worried about a tea? Don't worry, I'll cover you." He looked back at the manager, who had obviously overheard this exchange and was not happy. "Um, I think we'd better go, though. My shift's over can wait for your friends to call at my place, if you want."

"Are you sure?" Mark asked, worriedly. "I don't want to impose...I swear I'll pay you back as soon as my friends show. Andy owes me some money from last night..."

"Man, I said don't worry about it. It's like, two dollars. I think I can handle it." As if to prove this statement, Roger reached into his pocket, pulled out three dollars, threw them on the table, then picked one of them up and put it in his pocket. At Mark's bewildered look, he quipped, "Tip."

Mark laughed. "You are so weird."

Roger winked at him as he shucked his apron, grabbing a grubby-looking leather jacket from behind the counter and signalling to the manager that he was leaving. Coming back to Mark, he murmured, "Don't mind him, he's been pissy since his wife left him."

"Ah," said Mark as they walked out of the cafe. "That explains it, then. He's horny and frusterated."

Roger sighed dramatically. "Aren't we all? Well, not me. But you, you seem frusterated."

"Fuck off."

Roger laughed and led him down the block to an extremely dilapidated-looking building. "This is it," he said proudly, "my place."

"What, the whole thing?" Mark asked.

"No, idiot, the loft. Come on."

Several flights of stairs later, Roger turned the key in an extremely beat-up door, which swung open with a bit of protest. "Home sweet home," he declared.

Stepping inside, Mark looked around in awe. He couldn't think of any place less like his family's five bed, four bath in Scarsdale. Instead of color-coordinated knick-knacks decorating side tables, there was what looked like sheet music scattered over the floor, on the table (which looked as if it had seen better days), and on what Mark could only assume used to be a chair. Instead of the compulsive order he had grown up with, there was rampant yet comfortable chaos, investing every inch of the loft with the feeling of being "lived in." The paint on the wall was chipped, the door to one of the rooms hung at an odd angle, and there was less furniture than he'd ever seen in a room. In the corner there was what looked like firewood stacked next to a trash can, for some reason, and Mark was willing to bed that very few of the food groups were represented in what passed for a kitchen.

It was perfect.

"God," he whispered. "My mother would hate this place!"

Roger laughed. "Isn't it awesome?"

"It's" Mark frowned. There was a word for it, for this existence. He knew it, but it wasn't coming to him. He gave up. "What is it?"

Roger caught his glance, knowing exactly what he meant. "It's bohemian."

"Yes! That's it exactly!" Mark marveled at Roger's uncanny ability to somehow read his mind. "You live here alone?" he asked, still in awe.

"Nah," Roger shrugged, taking off his jacket and throwing it on the table. "There's usually a few other people living here—you know, it helps with the rent and shit—but right now it's just me and Aaron. He's a little...well, he'll probably just stay in his room, so you don't have to worry about that."

At Mark's inquisitive look, he just shook his head, and Mark dropped the subject. Instead, he asked a question that had been in the back of his mind for a while. "Why'd you drop out?"

Roger shrugged again. "Didn't see the need for any more school. I sucked royally at it, anyway. Can't do math for shit. Funny, because I'm a musician. They say if you're good at one, you're probably good at the other, but hell if that's true. Can't do English or any of that either, but I can write. Songs, I mean. Not like, a book." He crossed to the table and reached underneath it, unearthing a battered electric guitar. Plugging it in, he hopped up on the table, strumming it idly. "That's what I do. In my band, I mean. The Well Hungarians." He winked at Mark. "Guitar. And I sing, you know. Just, like, with the band. I guess I'm like the front man. You know, the pretty boy that sells tickets." He smiled briefly, but there was another shade of meaning in the gesture behind humor. He went on, "I really want to write more, though. I think that's what I eventually want to do. I mean, it's awesome to be a rock star, and I'm totally going to do it once we take off, but unless you're Elvis, nobody's gonna care in twenty years. But if you write something..." his strumming had coalesced into a tune that he was absently picking out, something that sounded like it belonged in an opera, not on an electric guitar. "If you write, like, one great song, people remember that. And even if they don't know you, or if your name even gets forgotten, if you write a great song, you've got it."

"Got what?" Mark asked, entranced by the husky quality of the other's voice as his fingers moved over the strings.

Roger looked up abruptly, locking his eyes with Mark. "Glory," he said softly.

They stood there for a minute in silence, each understanding each other completely. The moment was broken, however, by Mark's beeper going off.

"Shit," he muttered, trying to turn it off. "Probably my mom again..."

But it was Andy, at some pay phone, demanding to know where he had run off to. "Hey, Roger, can I use your phone?"

Roger nodded, jerking his head in the direction of the phone. It was old school, with a cord and the numbers you turn. Mark shot Roger a glance, but he just shrugged. "It works," he explained.

Mark was inclined to doubt that, but refrained from commenting. In two minutes, he was off the phone with plans to meet his friends at the fourteenth street/Union Square subway station. It was a bit of a walk, but it didn't matter. He looked over at Roger.

"Hey..." he said awkwardly. What did you say to someone you felt as if you had known your whole life that you just met? "Uh, thanks. For, you know..."

"Don't worry about it," Roger interrupted. "And you can always crash here, if you need a place to stay or anything."

"Thanks," Mark said, casting his eyes once more about the dingy apartment, hoping it wasn't the last time he would see it. He smiled at Roger and headed for the door. "I'll see you around, okay?"

"Yeah," Roger said, "I'll see you. Good luck at Brown."

"Good luck at being a rock star," Mark retorted, heading out the door.

Back on the street, Mark shook his head. It had been a very unusual day, and he could see what his mother hated about the city. It was seductive, very seductive, and it was easy to see where so many artists of all sorts found their inspiration. One day, he promised himself, one day, I'll be one of them.

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