Summary: Roger at rehab. From the therapist's POV. Pre-Rent.
A/N: Written for challenge 22 at speedrent on LJ. Didn't place, but people there seemed to like it and I enjoyed writing it.
Disclaimer: Rent is not mine, and I am only temporarily borrowing a character and I will return him in one piece.


She tapped her pencil against her regulation clipboard, each tap sounding especially loud in the silent room. She was in a staring contest, she decided, and both her and her opponent were stuck in a dead tie. He hadn't shifted – not once – and his blank eyes were both focused directly on her, yet not. How one could manage to achieve both of those things at once, she didn't know.

What she did know was this was quickly becoming a waste of both of their time.

She sighed, laid her pencil down, crossed her legs, and gripped the end of her clipboard, resisting the urge to tap her fingers on the bottom of it.

"Mr. Davis," she tried again, muttering her patient's name for what felt like the hundred time in the past fifteen minutes.

He didn't budge.

"Roger."

Nothing. Well, she wasn't about to give up. She hadn't spent forever in school to give up on every difficult person that crossed her path. Not yet, at least.

"We still have another mandatory fifteen minutes. And while we could spend that sitting in silence, we'll still have another mandatory thirty minutes tomorrow. And, I think, Roger," she took the time to empathize his name and was pleasantly surprised when he flinched, "that silence will get pretty old."

Again, no answer. She pressed forward. "You signed the paperwork. You know you can't leave for the next seven days. You committed yourself."

"No, I didn't." His voice was soft and for a brief moment, she was taken back. Though she was determined, she still hadn't expected an answer from him. Not yet, at least.

"You didn't?" she asked. "Your signature was on—"

"It was under protest."

She raised her eyebrows. "Protest?"

"Yes," he muttered, teeth clenched.

She fingered her pencil again, but realized that writing things down during a session didn't help. It never had. She'd write notes later. "Do you not think you have a problem?"

"No…it's…" Roger moved, leaning back in his chair. One the chair legs squeaked as his weight shifted. "It's…complicated."

"Is it?" Again, her eyebrow rose.

"Don't do that."

"Do what?" she pressed.

"That!" His hands were moving, gesturing towards her. "Turning everything into a question. You don't know what I'm going through and even though you pretend, you sure as hell don't give a damn. So save the chatter and just let me sit here for the next few days."

"You know I can't let you do that." The words tumbled out her mouth, so professional, so calm, so perfect. Yet, she wasn't sure if she believed in any of them. Every day it was a different addict, a different sob story. She liked to think she helped, but she lived in the real world. A few therapy sessions during the seven-day involuntary stay didn't cure anyone. They left clean, true, but many were out the door as soon as day seven came around and back to their bad habits an hour later.

She wondered if anyone learned. That if even those that hit rock bottom could change.

Her line of work told her yes. She had to go through the motions and try.

"Can't let me did that?" Roger repeated, raising his own eyebrow. Mocking her. He had been drug-free for almost four days, she knew. Lucid enough to know and realize exactly what he'd done.

She needed to shift gears.

"Why did you sign the papers, Roger?"

The untrained eye would have missed it, but she caught it. The ever so slight shift of the eyes. Regret. Pain. All stored up, no doubt. Another sad life layered underneath.

Did she really even want to unearth it? Did she want to care?

"I told you, it wasn't my choice."

"You did," she agreed. "But whose choice was it? Because I was there when you walked in and I didn't see someone forcing your hand down on that sheet of paper."

His eyes narrowed. "I thought shrinks were supposed to be nice."

"Shrinks are supposed to be good at their jobs," she countered. "That doesn't mean they need to be nice."

He studied her a moment before responding, "Touché."

"Is that a compliment?" He shrugged and she felt a new surge of energy hit her. Maybe, just once, she could get this one to stay clean. He hadn't come in alone, so he had a lifeline. Someone that cared, maybe even people he cared about. "So, you haven't answered my question."

"No one forced me. Is that what you want to hear?"

"Well, it's a start." She uncrossed her legs leaned forward. "You didn't come here alone." She gave a quick glance to her clipboard. "A Mark Cohen is filled in as your emergency contact. Is he the one that influenced you to sign?" She tossed the word "forced" out the window. She knew, and knew that Roger knew, that no one forced you to do anything. You always had a choice.

Roger turned, ripping his eyes from her. He faced the wall for a minute before focusing back on her.

"Mark…" He stopped short and she wished she knew what thoughts were running through her head. It would make her job easier. Success possible.

"Mark brought me here after April."

"April?" she asked.

"Yes, April." At her blank face, he frowned. "Oh, come on, I'm sure Mark had to have talked about April."

"Mr. Cohen didn't say a word, Roger. We don't require many details up front. That's what I'm for. Our first objective was to get you clean."

"Oh." Realization seemed to have hit him and he visibly sagged into his chair. "Mark really didn't say anything?"

She shook her head. "Who is April?"

"Was," Roger corrected. "Girlfriend. She's dead." He didn't elaborate.

"Overdose?" she inquired. She hated drawing conclusions, but they were rarely ever wrong. A girlfriend dying of an overdose could have been why he didn't fight his friend, why he signed the papers.

It could have been rock bottom.

They all had to hit rock bottom.

"No," Roger answered, but again gave no more information. Frustration crept up on her again.

"How did she die?"

He stayed silent and she checked her watch. Five more minutes. Determination could only take her so far.

"She killed herself."

She looked up, finding Roger staring at the floor, his arms pressed down on his thighs.

"She, uh, she slit her wrists in the bathroom."

This explained a lot.

"Did you find her?" If he had, the trauma – well, again, she was back to rock bottom.

He shook his head. "Mark did. I was so," he swallowed, "fucking high that I walked right past her. Right past the words on the damn mirror."

"Words?" Up the eyebrow went and she noticed that without eye contact the words appeared to tumble more easily out of his mouth.

Admitting you have a problem is first step.

No, she thought, sometimes it just wasn't.

"'We've got AIDS.' In lipstick. The red, slutty kind that she always wore to my gigs. The lipstick I hated."

AIDS. She'd known from his file that he had recently been diagnosed – just a few days before he arrived – but he was a drug user. HIV was part of the territory, almost expected. Even the most careful, high society users found themselves at risk.

"When did you see the words?"

"I didn't. Well, not until later. Mark shoved me away, and there were people in and out, and she was gone before I even saw them staring back at me. She'd been sick…" His voice trailed off and if she didn't know better, she would swear he choked on a sob.

"Look, are we done?" The shift was sudden and she wondered if that was all she'd ever be able to get out of him.

"What?"

"Time, I mean. We're out of time, right?"

She glanced at her watch. Sure enough, their mandatory appointment was up. She was free to go to lunch. Lunch was usually the highlight of her day. Still…

"No. We've still got five more minutes. You said April had been sick."

He blinked. "I did." He shifted again. He was uncomfortable, clearly. It was a distinct change from the silent, stony attitude he'd had less then ten minutes before.

"Did you love her?" It was a simple question, but one she never asked again. So someone in your life died? Is that what caused you to spiral? Turn to drugs? Or was it what brought you here? The script was easy-to-follow, and though the responses varied, it always came down to feelings.

Love, even.

Roger's eyes drifted back to the floor. "I don't know."

"You don't?"

His head snapped back up. "I don't? Why? Is that the wrong answer? Am I supposed to say I loved her with my heart and soul and that losing her makes every day more painful than the next? Because, it doesn't, you know. AIDS already claimed that right."

The bitterness in his voice was so raw, so familiar, and she wished she hadn't gone so used to its tone. Bitter was the way to go. Everyone had something they were bitter about and they never needed to be an addict or HIV positive to harbor it.

She almost repeated that very thought out loud, but she stopped herself. Roger's eyes were back on the floor and she saw the story laid out in front of her.

It was all an act, a lie.

"Do you hate her?"

Again, his gaze came upward, meeting her eyes. "What if I did?"

"Hate is a perfectly natural emotion, though always a strong one. However, it is a harsh word. And passing on HIV—"

"That's not it," he interjected. "I don't care about that."

"Yes, you do." She didn't blink.

"All right, I do. A lot. It's a death sentence. But it's not why I…I mean, shit, we were stupid, it could have been my fault, not hers. But if she wanted to go, why didn't she…"

"Take you with her?" she finished. "Survivor's guilt."

'"I'm not a survivor. I'm dying."

"Not yet, you aren't, and I'm sure you've had that fact repeated to you enough that you know exactly what I mean."

Roger didn't respond.

"Tell me about Mark."

He flinched again. "Why did we need to talk about Mark? Weren't we talking about April? And I know it's been five minutes."

"It's been three," she lied. "And I want to know about Mark. He brought you here. You didn't seem to be fighting him—"

"I wasn't."

"—yet you seem convinced that he forced you here. We both know that's a load of crap, Roger."

"Mark's my roommate. He drove. I couldn't or I'd have killed us both."

"And would you have been sad about that? Killing yourself?"

That surprised him and she saw in his eyes. He had no clue what to say.

Score one for her.

"I..I meant, I…" he stammered. "Mark…I couldn't."

"It would hurt him, right? You kill him, you hurt him. You kill yourself, you do the same thing. You realize that."

Silence, but this time it was welcome. She'd pushed him far enough for one day.

"I do believe our time is up, Roger." She pushed herself out of her chair and gave him a smile as she retrieved her clipboard and pencil. "I'll see you tomorrow, then." She tucked her pencil behind her ear and walked out, listening to the click of her heels against the linoleum floor.

Progress was funny and the things that made up each person were numerous and different. She never knew if she had helped; she just knew when she hadn't. Never count your victories, she'd learned, or you'll depress the hell out of yourself. Hate your job, even.

Be bitter.

She sat down in her tiny office and scribbled across her clipboard, writing down all the right terms to describe her session with her patient. Her boss would read them, acknowledge them, and they'd be shoved in a drawer long after Roger had left, either on his accord, or perhaps picked up by his friend, Mark.

She bet on the latter.

Either way, words and paper didn't create success and certainly didn't foretell it. Roger had a long way to go and she doubted that she would be the one to bring him all the way. No, that would be someone else, someone just right and at the right time and only Roger could decide when it was the right time.

But even so, for the first time in a long while, she thought that maybe, just maybe, this one might be a success.