Title: What You Left Me

Author: Girl Who Writes

Feedback: It would be lovely if you feel inclined

Pairing: Mimi/Roger, Joanne/Maureen, past Collins/Angel

Word Count: 1088

Rating: PG

Genre: Angst

Summary: And he laughed and grabbed me in a hug and told me how proud Angel would be if she was still here – how proud Angel was, looking down on us.

Spoilers: Movie and Musical

Warnings: Language

Disclaimer: Jonathon Larson and the movie studios own Rent. I just play with them.

Notes: Written for speed rent at livejournal.

The power's out again. I don't bother putting the candle stubs away anymore. They've melted onto their surfaces and it seems wrong to crack them away and shove them in a drawer when I'll just have to get them out again. I fumble in my purse for a cigarette lighter, and my little apartment is bathed in a faint glow. It's reassuring, somehow, the candles glowing in their corners.

The light of the city makes night here just like a lesser day; there's better light out on my fire escape than my seven candles can supply.

There's something exhilarating about climbing the fire escape and sitting on the edge, my legs twisted around the metal, but holding onto nothing, five stories up. I remember the day I moved in here, and Angel helped me move my scant few things here, and we sat out here and drank cheap wine and ate curry – well, she ate, and I shot up and smoked and we laughed like we had a lifetime together, when we both knew we were dying.

God, I miss her. Angel was the first person who ever made me feel perfectly safe from everything – from the bad stuff, from the good stuff and from anything and everything. She helped me grab control of my life, and never judged me for my faults, my flaws. I was simply Mimi to her, and she was Angel to me. There are no other words to describe what we were to each other. I have – had – sisters, and Angel cared more than they did. She was my confidant, protector, co-conspirer and idol.

I've been a fucked-up train wreck for the best part of nineteen years, and people used to spit at me on the street for being a junkie, a whore; my presence was an insult to them. Even Benny treated me as if I was inferior to him. Angel was always there, cheering on most of my decisions and choices, but never ever judged me. And that was something I needed.

I shouldn't have thought about Angel, as I wipe tears off of my face. She'll have been gone for two years this October, and it's still strange to see Collins alone. It's strange not to have someone to run to when things get tough – Maureen is good for the girly things, and Joanne's a good, practical friend but they just aren't Angel.

I used to worry about what happened when Angel left me behind; I thought I'd be Mimi Alone, like I'd been for most of my childhood. There'd be no one left to offer perspective or wisdom; no one to really care if I got up in the morning or if I overdosed in a park bench.

Yet, two years on, I can walk up two flights of stairs, and I have friends, I have a boyfriend. I could climb off the fire escape and go upstairs, crawl into Roger's bed and be safe. I never had that sort of security before. There will be people crying at my funeral, and considering my death a loss to the world. And to know that is reassuring; is the thing I am most grateful for.

I can go upstairs to Mark, and talk to him while he films everything from me to the banana Roger left half eaten on the sink. I can call Joanne, and we can get coffee and talk about everything from politics to what cases she's working on, and she can try to convince me to go back to school. I can walk to Maureen's and help her rehearse for her next performance, and go crazy with her. I can wander around NYU, where Collins sometimes lectures, and surprise him because Angel's not there to do it anymore.

I remember when I first got clean, that first Easter after Angel was gone. It wasn't about being too broke or that Roger was holding me down, screaming whilst Mark paced in the background. It was me getting up, and getting dressed and walking upstairs to the loft and holding out my arms. Three whole months, and nothing by choice; no dark circles under my eyes, no shivering, no track marks. Just me being truly happy for the first time since my best friend was buried. And he laughed and grabbed me in a hug and told me how proud Angel would be if she was still here – how proud Angel was, looking down on us.

And there was Mark, handing out congratulatory cups of coffee because the last thing I needed now, he had said jokingly, was a drinking problem. Roger had dragged himself out of bed and twirled me around the loft with a grin on his face that made him look so much younger.

If Angel left me under the watchful eye of Collins, left my friendship for Mark and Maureen and Joanne, she left my love and safety to Roger. I could wax lyrical on how much I love that stubborn musician, but I'd end up sounding like one of those ridiculous romance books Angel used to buy at the drug store. I tried to quit drugs for him when I had never given a second thought about giving them up for Angel; maybe because she had never been a junkie, maybe because she wanted me to want to help myself for my own sake. I don't know. I couldn't do it; I had to want to get myself clean for my own sake, not for anyone else. But I know that wanting to get clean for him was possibly the strongest single sentiment I've ever had for another person. Heroin was what had got me through to this life, made my miserable existence better.

I stub out my cigarette and head back inside to blow out my candles before going upstairs to the loft, where I find Collins, Mark and Roger in a circle on the floor, drinking and laughing. There's a single candle lit in the middle of the coffee table, and a seat next to Roger. They're glad to see me and welcome me to take a seat, handing me a paper cup of whatever they're drinking, and I know whatever I've lost in my life, I've gained tenfold over the last two years. I've got love and happiness and trust; I'm worth something here. I just wish the one person who started to teach me these lessons, to push me in the right direction, was still here to witness it.