Visits to You

By: The Versatile Scarf

Chapter 8

A/N: So. It's finally come to an end. To tell you the truth it saddens me. For all this story gnawed at my mind I'm going to miss it. A -lot-. I'm considering doing a spin-off in which Thomas does not survive, but.. it will have to take a back seat to my other(seven) projects. I'm also considering doing a parody of myself, but again, that's very doubtful. Hilarity can wait, damnit.

Thank-you to reviewers and readers alike. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside to see that this has so many views, at the very least. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you.. And please check out my next project, Ready for You Thanks!

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Is this another time?
Or is this the last time?
How much more time?
When will time take away my visits..

Is this another time?
Or is this the last time?
How much more time?
When will time take away..
When will time take away..
When will time take away my

Deja vu, only instead of being seated beside the hospital bed, resenting the false happiness that the walls exuded, he was stretched out beneath the thin, starched, bleached blankets that only succeeded in emphasizing his now nearing skeletal figure.

God Damnit, Mark, you are not getting just fries again.

He'd been here a week. The doctors had deemed it unsafe for him to walk around his own home. Brittle bones broke easily, especially when the owner of aforementioned bones already had a degenerative tumor growing within his lungs and brain. His finger gave an audible 'crack' as he curled it around the stack of photographs before him, thumbing one up and away and thus moving it to the back of the pile, gripping as tightly as he could manage. Arthritis had long since viciously ravaged the joints in his hands, making it near impossible to operate his camera well--the shaking had caused every frame to be slightly different from the first, creating a steady vibration when the film was played back at full speed.

Fifty-five and he was already in such horrible shape.

Happy Birthday, Mark! ... fuck, you're getting old. What are you now, twenty-one? Shit, soon you'll be losing your hearing--sight's already gone. I said SIGHT'S ALREADY GONE. Another picture slipping past with a quiet sound--Thomas, five years old, and holding tightly to the woman he had come to know as his mother. Mark didn't even pause at this picture, merely continued to the next.

You're stuck in the past! Aren't those people all dead

That woman.. So much like Maureen. Perhaps that was what had drawn him to her? Drawn him into the pit that this fiery, curly-haired woman had created? Oh, I don't want children, but I'll be happy to take care of your little boy. Miss 'Responsible'? Miss 'Faithful'? Maureen had never been very responsible, nor faithful, but, while having a great passion, she had been compassionate as well. Until the very end, at least. The very, very end. Boston, they'd said? Something like that? If they'd gone there, they hadn't remained long. It was only five years after Roger's death that he'd gone to look for them, and there was no sign. Joanne's parents had moved on as well, following the path of so many others, and the lawyer had disappeared without a trace, taking her money and 'honeybear' with her.

Benny, supposedly, had taken his wife to the West Coast. So ironic, wasn't it? The man had always spoken mightily to both Mark and Roger--You must face your problems! Running away or ignoring them will do no good!

What a laugh, calling detaching 'ignoring'.

The photograph of Maureen yelling at Benny was placed at the back of the stack.

"Mr. Cohen? Would you like me to take those from you? Oh.. Oh, I understand, you're not done. No, no, don't try to speak. It's all right, I understand. Can you reach your table? Just put them there when you're done."

The click-clacking of the nurse's high-heeled shoes faded as she moved onto another room. Baffling, it was. When he'd sat beside his dying friends in the various hospital rooms he'd encountered, he'd always been impressed by the personal level on which the nurses connected with their patients. Collins had just laughed at him when he'd commented on it, and it had taken him until now to realize how false their smiles and questions were. They were just like telemarketers--false happiness, how-do-you-do-today, concern. All fabricated.

Mark had to admit. They were wonderful actors.

The world isn't a movie, Mark. It takes work. You should be studying--we have a final tomorrow. Or had you forgotten? No, I didn't think so. Come here, I'll quiz you.

A breath he didn't realize he'd been holding escaped in a hiss from between slightly clenched teeth and parted lips. Breathing had become much harder as of late.

It was a miracle what a camera could capture and place in a photograph. Little things, such as the way Roger's face was half-shrouded in the shadow of the building he was leaned against, or the way one could just tell that he was about to smile--the crinkles around his eyes and lips gave him away--, or the barrier of cigarette smoke between the two of them. Roger was seventeen in the picture.

Why do I smoke? Eh, something to do. Keeps my mouth busy. Why don't you? Afraid of cancer? Huh, is wittle Marky afraid of the big bad cancer

He could still hear the mocking laughter floating around his head as the cigarette settled between his lips, Roger-saliva present(disgusting), and he could still feel the choking pain that had come along as he gasped involuntarily, taking smoke into his lungs as the cigarette fell to his feet, burning into his white sneaker.

That had been an interesting experience.. and even more interesting to explain to his parents just why there was a scorch mark on his shoe.

A laugh of sorts escaped him--quick exhalation of breath through the nose, and that was that. Such memories held within this stack of photos, and the four shoeboxes full otherwise. Not to mention the cardboard boxes filled to the brim with film reels back at his apartment. The projector wasn't allowed in the hospital room--too cumbersome and in the way. Should there be an emergency they would be unable to get around it quickly enough. Besides, there was no surface against which the picture could play out their lives.

That same slipping sound as Roger joined Benny and Maureen in the back of the stack, which was becoming hard to hold in his hands. He lightly set the stack atop his blanket-covered legs, letting his hands rest. It was quite the chore, holding those pictures for as long as he had, especially considering just how sick he really was.

Cancer, they'd diagnosed. Lung cancer. His argument? He'd smoked one day his entire life. Second-hand, they'd offered, and he had no counter-argument for that. That had to be it. Collins had smoked, Mimi had smoked, Maureen had smoked, Benny had smoked.. Roger. Roger had smoked since they were seventeen. Not heavily. It had never progressed to that pack-a-day addiction, but it had been a steady habit, especially during the musician's half-a-year of withdrawal. A steady habit..

He shivered, picking up the pictures once again, resuming his lamenting. Angel and Collins, holding hands, separated by the side grating of a hospital bed. They were both smiling, Angel through her lesions, Collins through his grief, the both of them through the knowledge that this might very well be the last time they were photographed together.. the last time Angel might ever be photographed. The last time..

That picture quickly joined its brothers. Or, as quickly as Mark was able to get it out of his sight, at least. Every muscle took concentration to move. It even seemed as though he needed to consciously remind his heart to continue beating, pumping blood through him. Death was imminent, but their orders.. Survive. The one to survive them all. Hah, right. Maureen and Joanne were probably living large in some penthouse in Los Angeles, detached from their pasts. Maureen was probably living out her dream of being Patti Smith while her partner reaped the benefits of having money from New York, which went so much further in California.

The one to survive. Laughable. Three of them were outliving him, and they didn't even know it.

Come on, Mark. Get out from behind that camera and take a picture with us. It is your birthday.

It was on their ratty couch. He was seated directly in the middle, grinning as widely as he possibly could, eyes nearly invisible because of the intensity with which he was smiling. His hands were laced together and placed on his knees. Roger to his left, Collins to his right. The anarchist had his drag queen pulled to his side as tightly as he possibly could, and Angel's head was resting on his shoulder. The guitarist had one arm around his best friend and another supporting his girlfriend, who was sitting sideways on the couch, one leg across the laps of Roger and Mark, the other hanging off of the couch. Benny sat behind her, thus creating a sort of leaning post. Even so, he looked extremely isolated, despite the half-grin he wore. Joanne was seated beside Angel.. and that was all the room they had on the couch. Maureen, upset by this, took her flair for the dramatic and stretched out across the back of the couch, looking too much like a cat for her own good, smiling coquettishly at the camera.

That day was remembered all too well. Everyone had had their own plans, or so they'd said, leaving him alone to cut film the entire day. His birthday. Not that he'd minded all that much--he'd prefer not to celebrate it anyway. There was no need to make a big deal about it.

How wrong he'd been.

All of them. All seven had been there, differences temporarily settled to party as hard as they possibly could in honor of their filmmaker's birthday.

Their filmmaker, they'd said.. and that would explain his huge grin.

A single, degenerating hand reached up to run along his image on the glossy paper, brushing against Roger's and Collins' in one action. Tears that had threatened to fall for twenty-some years finally burned at the back of his eyes, and with the next blink they spilled forth, twins rivers down lined and creased cheeks, falling off of his chin and onto the hospital-issued clothing he wore, creating dark patches on the soft blue. The pictures splattered from his hands, all except for the picture he'd just been looking at. Roger and Mimi and Collins fell to the beside, Joanne and Maureen and Benny fell to the floor, his ex-wife fluttered every which way, before finally landing face-down on the floor. Faces from his past, everywhere, everywhere. Some just blank white backs of pictures, others' expressive faces giving their best to the world of the hospital room.

Mark clutched the picture to his stomach, unable to fold his arms up to his chest because of the various needles and wires and artificial life. If not for this support, he would have faded days previous. He knew this, and he knew the doctors realized. Why couldn't they just let him go? Just go. Just.. go.

Just let go.

The former blonde's eyes squeezed shut and his teeth clenched as he tried his damnedest to sit up as well as he could. Old bones creaked, there was a loud 'crack' from somewhere along his spine, and a wordless, silent scream as a torrent of pain crashed in on and around him. The grate on the hospital bed fell down with a quiet mechanical sound. All mechanical. All artificial.

It's okay now, Mark.

Feet, barely strong enough to hold him up anylonger, slipped off the side of the bed as he stood, pathetically. A photograph was caught beneath his foot, but it went unheeded. The only one that really mattered was against his stomach.

One of the IVs slipped from his arm, followed by another--the two that were stuck in the right arm. He braced himself as well as he possibly could, using the bed for support as he shuffled carefully toward the machine emitting the high-pitched beep-beep-beeping. Cold blue eyes took it in with a calculating look, before he merely reached out and unplugged it. His glasses were gone, and his vision was blurry--everything. Absolutely everything within his reach was pulled from the socket it called its home. Gone. Everything.

He was very nearly panting when he collapsed back into bed, pulling the IVs from the other arm, a mad man on a mission. He was wheezing with every breath, each one of which had been harder than the last.

One more, Mark. Just one more.

That same hand came up to his face, weakly taking hold of the tube wrapping under his nose and pulling it out and away from his face.

"Viva... La Vie... Boheme."

And then blessed darkness.

Visits to You