Title: Forever Young
Author: Girl Who Writes
Feedback: is beloved
Pairing: Mimi/Roger, Maureen/Joanne, past Collins/Angel.
Word Count: 2212 words
The room is white in the most unpleasant way possible – white on white,
turning everything a dirty grey color that gives Roger a
headache when he's alone in the room.
Notes: Written for Speed Rent 100; Challenges used were #13 (Set in a hospital), #35 (family) and #65 ("beginnings of endings.") I hope the HTML is okay.
Spoilers: Musical and movie
Disclaimer: These characters are property of the Jonathan Larson Estate, and I make no profit from their use. Hell, I'm in debt, so definitely not making any money from this. I do it because I love it. Aww tear
Hoping for the best but expecting the worst
The room is white in the most unpleasant way possible – white on white, turning everything a dirty grey color that gives Roger a headache when he's alone in the room. He lies back, staring at the ceiling and listens to the machines beeping. What a fucking slow way to die, he muses, as he counts the beeps. The nurse comes in and he pretends to sleep because he can't be stuffed to make small talk with the person who is going to be keeping him alive for a few extra weeks.
He begins to cough, and the nurse helps him sit up and hands him a paper cup of water, her eyes filled with pity. She has long, curling red hair and bright green eyes and Roger chokes on the water, because she reminds him of April.
He knows he'll be dead soon, and this is just the beginning of the end, and he wonders where everyone is.
"Why am I here?" he croaks at the nurse.
"You collapsed on the subway," the nurse said gently, helping him lay back down. "Everyone was very worried."
"How long have I been here?"
"A week. Everyone will be glad to hear that you're awake," the nurse smiles, and Roger is confused. He's been staring at the ceiling for days. He's been waiting for Mimi and Mark, Collins, Maureen and Joanne for hours. He hasn't been asleep.
"Are you feeling up to guests?"
He nods, but he's not listening or paying attention until Mimi's arms are around him, as she cries into his shoulder. Her perfume is strong and he breathes deep, to remember her by, because it can't be much longer.
Roger rubs her back as best as he can with all the tubes coming out of his writes, and it feels like satin. Her wedding dress – his hand is bleeding all over her white wedding dress, and he recoils, shoving her away so it isn't ruined. Mimi stumbles and cries up, Collins catching her, as Roger croaks on about her wedding dress.
Mimi tries not to cry as the nurse slips in again, behind the group, a sympathetic smile on her face. "It's the medication," she says apologetically. "For his pain - now he's awake, we'll change it the prescription."
"Will he stop…?" Joanne trails off as Roger collapses back into his bed, his breathing shallow.
"In a few hours, he'll be back to normal." The nurse straightens out the blankets on the bed and leaves. Collins hugs Mimi as she thinks about the red dress hanging up in the loft, waiting for their civil ceremony next month. The ring she wears is silver, bought at a street faire. Her face is blank as she stares at Roger, dozing restlessly and kept alive by machines, and the white walls of the room seem almost blinding.
Roger sleeps for hours, both Mark and Mimi dozing uncomfortably in hard, plastic hospital chairs. Collins, Maureen and Joanne cram in hospital hours between other commitments, bringing food and Styrofoam cups of coffee with them. Mimi and Mark burn their mouths on it, pick at the food and wait for Roger to wake up.
Sometimes, Mark will talk about 'after Roger gets out of hospital' – how they'll go back to the Life Café and take Mimi home to Scarsdale for the weekend, to see where they both grew up. Mimi nods along with Mark's chatter, her eyes blank and her hands clasped together, and Collins wonders if in another life Mimi was religious.
Joanne walks into the room, in her work-heels and carrying a tray of coffees. "I just got off the phone with the partners," she says softly, passing out the coffees and settling her self into a hard plastic chair. "Two weeks off," she smiles sadly, and they all know that sometime in the next fourteen days, in the next three hundred and thirty six hours there's going to be a funeral. Maureen turns away from the sight of Roger's wasted body, and Collins takes a long drink from his coffee.
Roger coughs, and Mimi materializes by his side, smoothing his hair back from his face and pressing her lips to his cheek.
"Mimi," he breathes, his eyes still closed and the machines still beeping.
"We're all here, Roger," Mark says from behind Mimi.
His eyes open and there's a weak smile, but it's Roger. Smart ass, moody, honest Roger.
"You can go home, you know," he croaks, trying to sit up, but Maureen is by his side with an extra pillow to support him.
"Better heating here," Mark jokes, before becoming somber. "I'm going to get a nurse."
The nurse who looks so much like April comes in, with a tense smile. She chatters at the group, and checks all of the machines connected to Roger, scribbles on a clipboard and turns to them, snapping the pen open and shut.
"Dr Reeves will be in shortly," she says and the words sound ominous.
Dr Reeves is tall and serious looking, and barely glances at Roger, but turns to Mark and Mimi, the two people listed on his medical forms. "May I have a word with you outside?" he asks in his deep voice. Roger's dozing again, thanks to the pain medication, and Mimi feels like she's following the Grim Reaper.
Collins, Maureen and Joanne sit in the hospital room, and watch Roger doze, his eyelids fluttering in the midst of a dream, and Collins allows himself to listen to the conversation outside the door.
"…infections… tests reveal… Respiratory system infection, most likely TB… possibility of Kaposi's sarcoma…"
The milk in the coffee tastes burnt and Roger coughs in his sleep. Joanne looks up to see Mark leading Mimi back into the small room, and Mimi seems to have aged ten years out in the hallway.
"Roger," she goes to his side, takes his hand. He's sleeping again. She bows her head at the sight of him, and Mark turns to the others, his mouth dry and the words caught in his throat.
"He's not coming home, guys."
The words seem to echo in the room, and Maureen buries her face in Joanne's neck, her shoulders shaking from tears.
Collins watches as Mark sinks into a chair, and wonders if any of them actually thought Roger was going to be coming home with them. The only relevant, definite thing from the past few days is that Roger is here, in the hospital that Angel died in, and that his time is rapidly coming to a close.
When Collins leaves the hospital that night under the guise of needing a shower and a night's sleep in an actual bed, he goes to a dingy bar and has a stiff drink; if Roger's time is ticking down, he and Mimi aren't far behind.
The alcohol burns his throat, and Collins coughs; an impromptu yet fitting tribute to the dying rock star.
Let us die young or let us live forever
Roger's awake and the pain medication has been changed; he swears that he doesn't want to sleep away his last days on earth; he wants his guitar, his Mimi and his friends by his side. He sits up on a pile of stiff, hospital pillows, his bright red Fender guitar propped up by his bed.
He is in high spirits, playing old songs and singing with a worn voice, but all the nurses applaud and Mimi kisses his cheek and runs her fingers through his hair, murmuring sweet nothings in his ear. His arm is right around her waist and they talk in quiet voices, so Mark makes everyone sit outside the room so Mimi can kiss good bye the man she loves – the man she lost the opportunity to marry because Fate is a bitch
Roger forces them all to go home on the third morning, when he wakes up for natural sleep, and finds Maureen sleeping with her head against Collins' legs. He calls the nurse with the red hair in and insists they're not allowed back until early evening.
Mimi cries silently as Roger forces her out, her big brown eyes shining and her cheeks wet. Joanne wraps Mimi's coat around her shoulders and pays for the taxi to get them all back to the loft. Joanne is still the most sensible of the group, and she rallies her dull-eyed troops with clean clothes and long showers, and restless sleep, and plates of sandwiches. AZT is handed to Mimi and Collins like a treat for a well behaved child and Mimi throws a plate to the ground in a split second of angry passion, of betrayal of everything.
Then they all curl up around the loft and silently grieve until they can return to the vigil beside Roger's bed.
They go back one minute past, and this time, Maureen's taken things into her own hands. There's bottles of Stoli and pizzas that the nurses end up finishing and a brand new reel of film for Mark's camera, which has been forgotten in his bag for the past week.
"Film it all, Mark," Maureen asks. "Please."
And Mark films, because that is what Mark does best. There's Mimi, curled up by Roger's side, and eating pizza. There's Collins swigging from the Stoli bottle and Joanne shaking her head as Maureen reenacts her 'Over the Moon' protest, completely with jumping and dancing and cheerful choruses of cows.
And Roger's grinning like crazy, and Mark makes sure not to film the left side of his face, which is marred by lesions. Mark feels selfish, but he'll let himself have this one comfort as his best friend dies in the white room.
Sometime towards the end of the bottle of Stoli, a pleasant looking couple appear at the door – typical suburban parents, holding a big bunch of flowers between them.
Their grey faces, and the terror in the lines on their faces clash with the celebration of the room. Maureen stops mid-moo and Mimi laces her fingers with Roger's.
"We'll be outside, man," Collins leaves the bottle of vodka on the nightstand and gently leads Mimi out of the room, followed by Maureen, Joanne and Mark, letting Roger have one last moment with the parents he so easily left behind.
Mark leaves his camera rolling on the table though.
So many songs we forgot to play
Roger says nothing about his parents' short visit; the flowers stay, but they don't, and that speaks louder than words ever could. He plucks out the notes to Musetta's Waltz and breaks a guitar string, which leaves him swearing. He asks Maureen to wear the cat suit when she comes back tomorrow, and makes them make simple promises. He doesn't let them leave without a tight hug, and Joanne stands outside the door, choking back tears, because she's caught on what's happening.
They all watch from the door as Roger holds Mimi tightly, kissing her face, and singing to her under his breath, and makes promises to her that he'll be waiting with Angel for her, however long she'll be. She doesn't cry, but stumbles from the room looking dazed. Mimi and Maureen cling to one another for a few moments, so tight that it looks almost painful.
As they leave the hospital, Mimi's hands shake and Mark's camera out of film, Collins thinks he can hear Roger play his guitar one last time.
Life is a short trip
The funeral is simple, straight to the point. A blessing, a prayer and left to the family themselves to finish. Mimi lights candles around the church and sings the song Roger wrote for her. Maureen cries into her hands, dolled up in spandex and cat ears.
Benny pays his respect, and Roger's parents only stay as long as the priest does. The grave is close to Angel's, which offers some comfort to Mimi and Collins that their loves aren't alone.
They sit around the grave together, in the warm summer breeze. Roger's guitar is across Mimi's lap, the broken string replaced days before his death. Collins smokes and Joanne plays with the petals of the flowers she brought.
1966 – 1992.
Beloved brother, friend and husband.
Mimi is the first to stand, kissing her fingers and pressing it to the headstone. She leaves an unlit white candle and turns her back on the grave, clutching the guitar like a lifeline.
They stand one by one, and leave their memories – a roll of film Mark hastily edited together for the funeral, a bottle of Stoli from Collins, flowers from Joanne because she knows all graves need flowers and finally Maureen looks over the grave, the others watching her.
The cat ears are propped against the grave, along with an almost full bottle of AZT. She cries as they follow Mimi up to the top of the hill. They stand together, and look at the grave – one old, one new – and they let everything freeze in place for a moment; the warm breeze, the weight of the guitar in Mimi's arms, and the shrine of Roger Davis.
And they turn around and leave the cemetery.
Forever young, I want to be forever young