Pairing: Roger/Mimi mentioned, Mark/Mimi friendship
Notes: Someday, I will write something happy and free of angst. This ain't it.
Warnings: Past character death.
Disclaimer: Rent does not belong to me. All I own is a copy of the DVD. But that is, in fact, all mine.

Mimi loved roses. From the moment she had laid her eyes on one at the age of five, she was captivated by them.

Her momma had just had her little brother and her father had brought her a single rose. He had said he wanted to buy her a whole dozen, and it was then that Mimi had learned roses had to be expensive. Such a fact made the rose even more beautiful and she had reached out her mother's arm to grab it.

"Ouch!" She had immediately snapped her hand back, cradling her finger. "Momma, the flower hurt me!"

Her mother had laughed. "That's because roses have thorns, honey. You have to be very careful when you hold one."

"Why do they have thorns?"

Her father had smiled. "Protection. Something so beautiful needs to be guarded. It hurts others so it will never be hurt in return."

At the time, the words had meant little, and she had been in awe of them and the flower that was more beautiful than anything else she had even seen. It was years later, that those words echoed in her brain as she stared out at another red bud in front of her, presented for a completely different reason.

"Happy Birthday. I wasn't sure what to get you, but Roger had said you liked roses and I couldn't afford more, so…"

She blinked at the gift in front of her, complete in its beauty and its thorns.

"Mark, thank you." She wouldn't cry, she thought as she took the flower from him, carefully, so she did not prick herself.

"I'm sorry," he said immediately, awkwardness coloring his tone.

"Why?" she asked as her fingers traced the petals, reveling in their silkiness. She knew the answer, yet she still pressed. She knew that she wasn't the only one hurting, but most days, and especially today, that fact was easy to forget.

"Because Roger…" His gaze shifted to floor and she instantly hated the fact that she pushed. It was hard. It was too damn hard.

It was then she wished she could be like a rose, beautiful, yet protected, hurting before being hurt. But she knew if she were, she would never live and that wasn't what she was. What she wanted to be.

Losing Angel had hurt so deeply, it made it hard to look beyond it. Drugs were easy to turn to when Roger seemed out of reach. She'd almost completely lost her chance, running away before anyone else could hurt her.

Maybe, just maybe, there was a piece of rose in her after all.

She found her second chance and time moved forward. Until…

"Roger never brought me roses, you know," she muttered. "He wrote me songs, but never…I never told him that I loved them." She looked up. "So you're lying when you said he told you."

She'd caught him, she could tell by the look that crossed his face.

"I, well, I," he stammered a bit before looking up at her, his eyes meeting hers for a brief, fleeting moment, "well, I guess you told me."

It was then that she remembered. She had. She had been babbling as they sat in a pair of uncomfortable chairs in long hospital lobby, waiting for the minutes to tick by until the next time one of them was allowed into ICU. She had told him that her father had brought her mother a single rose every time she had a baby.

She had also told him if that was when roses were supposed to be given out, she'd never get one.

She couldn't remember his response or if he had even had one, for Roger had died that evening and the conversation was forgotten as grief settled in. She was almost surprised he even remembered.

No, that was a lie. Mark took everything in; it was what he shared with the world that was surprising.

She swallowed past the lump in her throat. "I didn't have a baby," she said.

"That's not what roses are for," he countered. "Well, they are, but not always." He smiled. "Like I said, happy birthday, Mimi."

She blinked again, and threw her arm around him, not caring that her grip tightened on the rose, pushing the thorns into her skin. Mark was startled by the reaction, and it seemed to take him a moment to relax into the hug, but when he did, she felt a warmth and a beauty from him that she never experienced before.

At that moment, she knew. She wasn't the rose.

Mark was.