Author: Girl Who Writes
Feedback: is beloved.
Pairing: past Mimi/Roger, implied Maureen/Joanne
Word Count: 3495
Genre: Angst, drama
Summary: The neighborhood hadn't changed much during the time he'd been gone, he's surprised to find.
Notes: Written for Speed Rent; the challenge was to write a fic about Roger leaving Alphabet City to become a huge rock star. Year later, he has to return in the face of a huge tabloid scandal to the friends he left behind.
Spoilers: Movie and musical.
Warnings: Language, probably
Disclaimer: Property of the Jonathon Larson estate.
The neighborhood hadn't changed much during the time he'd been gone, he's surprised to find. He thought that something would have changed; he changed and it should show somewhere on Avenue B, where he came from.
But no, it's exactly the same – tall, grey buildings, trash on the street and people curled up against the buildings. It's both reassuring and creepy at the same time.
Roger hands the cab driver a fifty and swings his bag onto his shoulder, sliding his sunglasses on and opens the door to the old building – he had unearthed his old set of keys from his L.A. apartment minutes before he left for the airport. It had been pure luck – he had been planning on crashing at a hotel, but the keys had turned up and…
He was wrong. Things have changed. The building is no longer a glorified squat. There are proper lights in the roof, and an intercom system has been installed. Two girls, barely out of their teens, saunter down the stairs looking just like the groupies he just left behind – long hair, tiny skirts and a layer of make up. They smile at him automatically as he begins his assent of the stairs. One girl turns around, a puzzled expression on her face, but he shakes his head and keeps walking.
When he dragged himself out of bed this morning, he didn't expect to find himself back in New York, back in Alphabet City. Hell, he thought about the itinerary stuck to his fridge back in L.A. – he should be at some sort of P.R. event, with girls on either side of him and a steady stream of alcohol at hand.
Yet, here he was. Walking up the stairs, with the walls freshly painted with some sort of hip, 'professional' graffiti in the last three years.
He paused for a moment in front of Mimi's – or what used to be Mimi's – apartment. He was tempted to knock and see if she still lived there, or if a stranger would open the door. He briefly wondered what would be worse – a stranger opening the door, Mimi long gone, or a strange man opening the door, Mimi in the background.
He couldn't stay here. He pocketed the keys and retreated from the building, calling a cab on his cell phone. Hotels may be impersonal, but that's exactly what Roger wanted. Somewhere where he owed people nothing, where he could just be another face.
He just hoped no one recognized him.
An hour later, Roger tossed his bag in the corner and moved to inspect the mini-bar. He understood why hotels charged through the nose for their alcohol now; he needed a drink, screw the cost.
He hadn't expected to be recognized, which was fucking naïve of him. L.A. might feel worlds apart from the New York Roger knew, but in reality … well, in reality, that fucking tabloid was published nationwide.
The miniature bottle of Jack Daniels wasn't exactly what he had in mind for drowning his sorrows, but it did make him feel marginally better. The second one made him feel almost good.
Roger looked around the room, pulling his cell phone from his belt and stared blankly at the messages he had waiting. Thirty seven – maybe a few from his band mates, a couple from his parents, a dozen from his manager and the rest from more papers, radio programs and magazines wanting interviews. No reassuring words, just accusations and a perverse sort of interest in him.
It was tempting to throw the freaking phone out the window, but Roger switched it off and pulled the AZT from his pocket. He had come back to New York for a reason, not to sit around sulking in a hotel room. He could've done that in L.A.
Tomorrow. Tomorrow he was going to find Mark and Mimi, Collins, Maureen and Joanne. He was going home.
It was Joanne who first saw the story – of course, Joanne was the only one who had enough money to throw down for a glossy, tabloid magazine detailing scandals of the rich and famous. And since Roger's hasty departure from Alphabet City and subsequent success as bona fide rock star in L.A., Joanne had subscribed to this particular magazine, which seemed to follow the Well Hungarians around, and report their every move.
Mimi and Mark had never really recovered from Roger leaving, amidst yelling and crying. Roger had stormed out, leaving both Mark and Mimi behind, bewildered and feeling lost now that their mutual reason for… well, Mimi said "living", but Joanne thought that was a bit dramatic, until she saw how all the enthusiasm drained out of the dancer. Maureen had been terrified that Roger's absence would be the catalyst for Mimi, and Mark would finally be living completely alone.
So, Joanne kept the magazines in her office, where no one else could catch sight of Roger Davis' grinning face splashed across the cover.
The morning it was published, Joanne was slightly – well, quite – hung over from a celebration at the Life café. Collins had returned from Boston for good, and it seemed as good a reason as any to get completely and utterly piss drunk.
With a pounding headache, a coffee in one hand, Joanne slipped into her office, all glass and cream coloured walls, a view of the city and three overflowing filing cabinets. Her secretary had left the usual selection of newspapers and magazines fanned out over her desk, a clipboard of phone messages obscuring the headline of the tabloid.
The coffee was dumped inelegantly on the edge of her desk, her bag, the clipboard and the papers slithered to a pile on the floor as Joanne drank in the cover of the tabloid. The title of the magazine might have been Gossip! but, with a sinking feeling, Joanne realized most of their scandal reporting was factual and right on the money.
Rock Star Davis Heroin Junkie And AIDS Victim! Is He Really The Role Model Our Kids Should Have?
The cover photo was less than flattering, Roger stumbling somewhere, looking drunk and completely spaced out, with his arms around any equally intoxicated stick-like girl.
Joanne closed her eyes for a moment, and she found the two page article, dotted with unflattering pictures of Roger drinking, smoking and popping pills – probably his AZT, Joanne reasoned as she began to scan the article.
It seemed someone had informed the press everything about Roger, from April's suicide - insinuating that it was Roger's fault – to his excessive drinking and smoking, implying he had a death wish because his life was cut short. Joanne stared at the article, which just kept going, making vague references to Mimi as 'the under-aged S&M dancer-junkie Davis had been intimately involved with before his band took off'. There were notations that Davis had come from a 'seedy New York neighborhood, where he was regularly seen cavorting with other known drug addicts, transvestites and others infected with HIV'.
The whole article was offensive and bias, painting a picture of debauchery that sounded nothing like the stoic song writer she remembered. And no matter how much Roger might have changed, this article detailed things that Joanne herself had witnessed inaccurately. It was a witch hunt.
"Joanne?" her assistant, Rosie, stuck her head around the door. "I need to grab the Talbot file."
"Go ahead," Joanne didn't look up, but went back to the magazine.
"Ooh, you heard about that junkie singer?" Rosie grinned as she began to dig through the filing cabinet. "I always thought he was so cute and dreamy. Guess you can never believe the media."
Joanne looked up at the young secretary, to see if she caught the irony of her statement. "Has he said anything about this?" Joanne grabbed her lukewarm coffee and gulped it down.
"The singer – Roger Davis." Joanne involuntarily looked at the photographs framed on the wall next to her door – most of Maureen, one professional one of her parents and grandparents and one of the group before they lost Angel – before the first commitment ceremony she and Maureen had had (they were up to their third, even thought technically Maureen hadn't shown up to the second one). Roger grinned at the camera, one arm possessively around Mimi's waist, and the slung other around Mark's shoulders.
"Oh, yeah. One of the paper's today said he's holed up at the Four Seasons," Rosie dragged the thick file from the depths of the cabinet.
"No, here in New York," Rosie tucked the file under her arm. "Can I get you anything?"
"Hold my calls, I'll be back around noon," Joanne scooped up her bag, the magazine and swept out of the office as efficiently as she'd come in, the hangover miraculously disappearing in the face of the impending drama.
The Four Seasons was swarming with photographers, television crews and an equal amount of screaming fans and yelling protestors, waving posters declaring, "Fight AIDS!" and "Roger Davis is our anti-Christ."
Well. Joanne knew Roger could be, for lack of a better word, a complete bastard when he wanted to be, but 'anti-Christ' was overkill.
She marched through the hotel lobby, right up to the hotel reception and smiled at the lady behind the counter.
"Hi, I'm Joanne Jefferson, Roger Davis' attorney," she said in a clear voice, smiling.
"Mr. Davis hasn't listed any guests, I'm afraid I cannot let you up," the girl smiled and returned to her typing.
"I was meant to arrive tomorrow, but I got an earlier flight," Joanne lied briskly. "Could you please inform him I'm here?"
The woman pursed her lips but picked up the phone. A short, murmured conversation, punctuated by, "An attorney, Joanne Jefferson, is here to see you, Sir… Joanne Jefferson, Sir," and Joanne was issued a key to Roger's hotel room. But when she reached the room, she didn't need it. Roger was hunched in the door frame, a look of exhaustion on his face.
"Roger," Joanne greeted him simply.
"Hey, Joanne," Roger offered what might have passed for a smile in L.A. but looked more like a grimace.
"I saw this." Joanne held out the magazine.
"Everyone has seen that." Roger's eyes seemed almost dead. "I fucked up."
"You want to go inside and talk?" Joanne rested her hand on his shoulder.
"I want to get the hell out of here," Roger admitted. "Get some food, some coffee."
"Grab your stuff, and you can call reception and check out on our way out," Joanne said.
Fifteen minutes later, speeding away in the shiny, black car supplied by the hotel, Roger jabbed his phone angrily with his finger, listening to message after message, his eyes sad and angry and hurt all at once.
"Fuck," he swore after he finished dealing with the hotel. "Damnit."
"What?" Joanne looked up from her Palm Pilot, where she was sending emails to the office. If she was lucky, she could convince the office sorting out Roger was a pro bono case so that she didn't have to dump him and run back to the office.
"My manager called. My running away to New York looked really bad," Roger glared at the phone. "So, the band wants me to walk away. Say I lied to everyone, maybe get a book deal, and fade into fuckin' obscurity."
Joanne looked at Roger with sympathy. He'd given his all to his music and suddenly everything was breaking and he was left with nothing.
"Calm down," Joanne ordered as the car pulled up. "We'll get breakfast and talk. If the band wants you to leave, I can make sure you walk away with the rights to your songs."
"What about my dignity? And the truth?" Roger grumbled as he climbed out of the car. "Here?"
"Best pancakes in Manhattan," Joanne walked through the doors of the Life café. "And don't worry – it's barely ten in the morning. No one will see you."
"Reassuring," Roger muttered, taking a seat opposite Joanne, waving the menus away from the waiter and ordering whilst sending messages on his phone. Half an hour, three coffees and a pile of eggs later, Roger's mood had improved marginally.
"Why did you come back, Roger?" Joanne asked softly. "You hurt everyone."
"I… you see that article?" Roger slumped in his seat and began spooning sugar into his coffee. "How I became this jackass who only cared about drugs and partying. It's not true, but they said how I was sacrificing my life for smack, and I thought, I gave up my friends for my music, and this is what I get? And… I stared at that god-damned magazine and just thought if Angel was here… and I needed to come home." He drank some coffee. "If that makes sense."
"Divine justice," Joanne grimaced and pulled some money from her wallet. At Roger's startled look, she smiled genuinely. "Maureen was sitting in on some of Collins' philosophy classes when we thought he was getting too sick. He's fine now, just got back from Boston, but Maureen's caught on to some of his ideas. Come on, they should all be up by now."
"What?" Roger blinked at her.
"The Loft? Mark and Mimi should be up by now."
Roger was quiet on the walk back home, his sunglasses obscuring his face, almost hiding in the heavy leather jacket of his, and Joanne shook her head, likening him to a man walking towards the gallows.
When Roger had left, Mimi had finally given up her little apartment, and moved into the Loft with Mark and Collins when he was home. Neither of them had wanted to live alone, and somehow they had each come through for the other. It was a strange domestic arrangement that Benny always made jokes about when he came to collect the rent; over three long years, Mimi had become the younger sister that Mark had never had, and Mark had become the first man Mimi had truly trusted that hadn't let her down.
Mark was still working on his films, making a bit of money on the side giving classes about filming and editing at the Ryder Community Centre. Mimi still danced at the Cat Scratch Club, taking dance classes on Broadway when she could come up with the cash. Money was stretched to every dollar, especially with Mimi's clinic visits and AZT, but with Collins' return to the Loft and NYU, it would get easier.
'Hell,' Mark thought as he examined the fridge for breakfast foods, 'maybe this year we can do something great for Christmas. Extra reels of film for me, books and academic journals for Collins and some new clothes for Mimi.'
"Ugh," came a groan from the couch.
"Maureen?" Mimi came padding out of her room - once it was Roger's, but it had been a long time since Mark had thought of it as 'Roger's old room'.
"Aspirin," moaned the Maureen shaped lump from the couch. "Please. I think I'm dying."
"There's coffee on the stove, Maureen," Mark didn't turn around. "Did Joanne leave you here last night?"
"No," Maureen hurled herself off of the couch and dragged herself towards the alleged coffee.
"You came back to be hung over here?" Mimi beat her to the coffee with an evil grin, pouring herself a cup and moving it further away.
"How are you not dying?" Maureen whined, snatching at Mimi's mug. "No, Joanne and I both stayed here. She left this morning to change before work."
"I am the very picture of drinking in moderation," Mimi replied sweetly.
"She took some aspirin and spent the early hours of this morning eating the leftovers," Mark handed Maureen her own mug of coffee and a bottle of aspirin. "Take your AZT, Mimi. I'm going to go and get food. Any requests?"
Maureen perched on the edge of the metal table. "Sugared doughnuts," she said dreamily. "And pink iced cupcakes."
"No," Mark turned to Mimi. "Breakfast?"
"Eggs, bacon, more coffee," Mimi shrugged and leant on the counter, sipping her coffee. "Milk. You've got enough cash?"
"I took ten dollars from your purse."
"Good. You can bring Maureen and I cupcakes. Pink ones," Mimi smiled angelically, as Mark rolled his eyes and wrapped his scarf around his neck.
And he slid open the loft door to come face to face with Joanne and Roger.
"Look who I found hiding from the tabloids," Joanne said with a slightly forced smile.
"Close the door, Mark," Maureen groaned, resting her head on the table. "I'm too hung over for this."
"Does that mean we can skip to the 'forgiving me' part?" Roger said with uneasy grin.
Mimi strode across the kitchen, a dark look on her face. Emotions flicked over Roger's face – hope, fear and shock as Mimi tossed her cup of coffee into his face before turning around and storming back into her room. Maureen hurried after her.
"They're really going to want those cupcakes," Mark muttered to himself, unable to bring himself to actually look at Roger.
"Mark…" Joanne said pleadingly. "Please…"
"We need milk," Mark shrugged and brushed past them both, leaving Roger and Joanne standing in the middle of the loft.
Roger shrugged, and dropped his bag to the ground. "I thought it'd be worse," he shrugged, but Joanne had seen the look on his face when he'd laid eyes on them all – like a starving man feasting. Now, he just looked defeated.
"It's okay," Joanne dropped her stuff next to his and pulled the offending magazine from her bag. "Just wait here. I'm going to show them this."
Mimi and Maureen sat curled up against each other, Maureen smoothing Mimi's hair as she cried, sobbing in Spanish about Roger's betrayal; three years of Mimi's Spanish dramatics had taught Maureen a little.
"Ssh, it's okay," Maureen smoothed Mimi's hair back from the Latina's face. "Mark will throw him out and then he'll get us our cupcakes."
Joanne slipped into Mimi's room. "How are you?" she said gently, sitting at the end of Mimi's bed.
"Pookie, why the hell did you bring him here?" Maureen burst out. "After everything!"
Joanne shook her head and handed Maureen the magazine. "He was a bastard when he left, I know that. He fucked up. But … just read it. His choice has come back and bitten him on the ass. He hasn't got anywhere else to go and I like to think we can give him a place to stay. You don't have to forgive him or talk to him, but…"
"No killing Bastard Roger," Maureen flicked through the magazine. "Oooh, I like those boots."
"Maureen. Page fourteen."
"I'll be in the kitchen with Roger."
Maureen left Mimi with the article. She skimmed it once, detailing all of Roger's screw ups in the most degrading way possible. She ran her fingers over the pictures of her ex boyfriend and wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her shirt.
"Mimi." Mark stood in the doorway, with her AZT, a can of soda and a pink cupcake on a plate.
"Is he still out there?" Mimi asked softly. "I don't think I can face him."
Mark sighed and sat down next to her. "Collins came home," Mark said, setting the things down on the bed side table next to her. "And he agrees with Joanne. If Roger wants to try and make amends…"
"He can't fix this, Mark," Mimi said with a sad look. "Three years he's been gone, three years of borrowed time for me, and he can't have those back. I can't have those back. Fuck, I loved him. I love him, but…"
"I know," Mark sighed and handed her the AZT bottle. "Take your AZT. You don't have to forgive him or talk to him or even look at him, Meem. Just ignore him. I'm not going to let him hurt you again."
And when Mimi and Mark emerged from the bedroom to give in to Joanne and Collins' pleas to let Roger stay while he sorted out his life, Roger looked at the identical expressions of stony defeat and wondered if it was a good idea to come home at all.
Except he had nowhere else to go.
"For what it's worth," Roger looked at the two people he had hurt the most. "I fucked up, and I'm sorry." He can see the hurt raw on Mimi's face, in Mark's eyes, in the way Maureen stands. The disapproval and pity in the way Joanne defends him and the disappointment in the way Collins watches him.
Mark shook his head and retreated into his room. Mimi looked at Roger square in the eye. "From you? It's worth nothing."
Collins shook his head and stood up. "Angel would be kicking your ass right now," he warned Roger.
Roger offered a weak smile and sat down on the couch. "I kind of wish someone would kick my ass," he admitted. "I deserve it."
And he pulled his guitar out of it's case and plucked the tune out to Musetta's Waltz for old time's sake, and Mark and Mimi looked up in sync. But the string broke and they aren't looking at him anymore.