Title: Rise or Fall
Author: Girl Who Writes
Feedback: is beloved
Pairing: Roger/Mimi, Joanne/Maureen implied.
Word Count: 1651
Rating: T
Genre: Angst and drama
Summary:The doctor is gentle, older, and familiar with AIDS cases. He's been working with dying children and teenagers and adults for years, and he was kind to Mimi, talking gently and offering empty comfort to the three of them.
Notes: Eh. Who knows why I wrote this. Trying to get back into the swing of things with six whole weeks holiday coming up.
Spoilers: Movie and musical.
Warnings: Nothing horrifying.
Disclaimer: Property of the Jonathan Larson estate.


We are what we want to be…

When Mimi finished work at the Cat Scratch Club, she almost always came straight upstairs to the loft. Mark was usually awake when she tumbled in. There was such a difference in who Mimi was at night and who she was again in the morning.

When she left for work, it was easy to see the former junkie, the stripper, the AIDS victim in her. Her white-grey pallor, the dark circles around her dark eyes and the exhausted way she picked up her lipstick and brushed her hair and slipped into her costume. Mark would film her as she walked around the loft in her fishnet tights and leather shorts and Roger's green sweatshirt, gathering her stuff into her shoulder bag. She'd smile for the camera and laugh at Mark's jokes and narration, but she looked like she was dying in those moments.

Roger would sit on the couch and strum his guitar. At night, the shadows would fall across him, too – the dark circles under his eyes and quieter at night, more sulky as Mimi pressed a kiss to his temple and ran off to work.

She'd return in the early hours of the morning, and they'd still be up, talking, playing, writing and filming. There might be some cold pizza or left over Chinese, or a bowl of cereal waiting for her. She'd pick at the food, and joke around, still ashen-faced.

But when they emerged the next morning – just barely, as Roger yawns and reaches for the milk at 11:59 a.m. according to Mark's watch – they are different people. There's Mimi, with her hair in two braids and a sequined t shirt over her skirt. She'd bounce around the kitchen and tease both Roger and Mark.

He'd drag them to the park some darks, to film them under the guise of filming the homeless and the pigeons and the children. Roger would piggy-back Mimi around and sing to her. Mimi would clasp her hands around his neck and press her cheek to the side of his head and whisper sweet nothings to him.

It was during these sunny days, when Mimi begged for a few dollars to buy strawberry ice cream from the sidewalk vendors, the three of them snagging swings in the playground, and joking around, that Mark wondered why they stayed up at night, when the shadows cross their faces and the air is colder, and why they sleep so late in the day. Why do they spend so many hours sleeping?

It's in our selves to rise or fall

They got careless in the end; Mimi caught a cold and Roger caught it from her. There was no heat and no money left to pay for it to be repaired. It was Mimi they took to hospital in a cab, with money they borrowed from Maureen, her face white and black even though it was early afternoon. A threadbare blue blanket was wrapped around her, her body boney and cold underneath layers and layers of clothing. She's curled in between Mark and Roger, her head on Mark's shoulder, her hand clasped in Roger's hand tightly, her eyes closed and her breath shallow.

The doctor is gentle, older, and familiar with AIDS cases. He's been working with dying children and teenagers and adults for years, and he was kind to Mimi, talking gently and offering empty comfort to the three of them, Mimi lying in a ball on a gurney. But somehow, because it's not another doctor judging them and their lifestyle, treating her like a walking corpse, a ticking time bomb of disease and death.

The doctor smiles gently and admits Mimi, promising she'll be going home in a few days, but that she's a very sick little thing, and that puts tears in Mark's eyes because somehow it's just occurred to him how young Mimi is, how young they all are.

There's machines and medication and hours and hours of sleep in the nasty white and blue room. Roger brings his guitar and spends days and days on a cot in her room, exhaustion and worry making him thinner and sadder – and sicker.

It's Roger who cries when the doctor finds lesions down Mimi's right shoulder, her skin almost translucent under the neon lights, hot tears as Mimi lies back, the expression on her face one that is too old, too knowing for her, for her age.

Maureen and Joanne come with flowers, and bottles of nail polish, and boxes of expensive dark chocolate, with strawberry centers; Mimi's favorites. She eats none, but lets Maureen paint her nails candy pink, and listens to Joanne chat about work.

Benny comes with a huge arrangement of pastel coloured roses and new pajamas; they're jade coloured and silky and Mimi jokes she should've come to hospital earlier if it means they'll buy her so much nice stuff. Roger punches the wall and storms out when she says that, hot tears on his face. It's Collins who finds him later.

"You need to be there for her, Roger," Collins said gently. "You need to be strong until the end. And then you let go."

Roger shakes his head and wipes his eyes with his sleeve. "I can't watch her like this," Roger murmured. "I can't watch her joke and then come back tomorrow and ..."

"You don't leave her, Roger," Collins said gently.

"You know what I mean, Collins," Roger stands up. He's sick. There's a legion on his wrist, underneath his watchband, and he knows he's going to have to do this himself, but without Mimi. And maybe Mark's been with him since forever, it's Mimi who got him out of the loft and got him and life, and everything seems so much bigger and unmanageable if he has to do it without Mimi's sheer determination.

"Rise or fall, man," Collins says simply, and that piece of advice doesn't help him at all.

He knows the last night as soon as Mark leaves, his hand on his shoulder for a moment. Mimi's lying in her bed, swathed in another silky pair of pyjamas; this time, from Joanne, and a white-gold sort of colour. Her hair is brushed and pinned with diamonte hair clips brought by Maureen and she looks peaceful. It's so much different to when Angel died - they had the shock and horror of the first death, of scrambling to find something they could do, something they could offer Angel - some cold comfort - when it was Angel who subtly calmed their fears and did the things to make them happy. Now, with Mimi, it's a tired tragedy they were all expecting, in a way. There are bunches of flowers - expensive arrangements care of Benny and the brightest from Maureen. There's a balloon in the corner, also from Maureen; it's one of the transparents ones with the coloured balloons inside it, eight bucks on a street corner. But Maureen brought it in and Mimi laughed and held it for hours. "I always wanted one of these when I was a kid," she admits, hugging Maureen tight.

"Roger." Mimi's awake now, her smile soft and he feels like a child. "Can you get a nurse?"

The nurse brings in morphine for the pain and he climbs in next to her, wrapping his arms tight around her. "I love you," he murmurs. She smells like antiseptic and the lavendar perfume Joanne bought her.

"I love you too," Mimi's head is on his shoulder. "You'll tell the others that they were the family I always wanted as a kid, right?" Her chin quivers and he knows she's terrified of what comes next. Angel might not be waiting for her. He holds her tighter.

"Don't go, Mimi," he pleads, and feels hot tears on his cheeks. "Stay with me, please, Mimi." It's like a mantra, he keeps begging for her to stay.

Her eyes are wide, and glassy but she holds his hand. "I'll hold on as long as you need me to," she whispers. And they hold each other, their fear almost tangible in the dark room, tears on their faces. Roger hated himself then; he couldn't have just let her go peacefully, he had to drag more pain into it. He had to make her suffer longer, for him. And now she's frightened and he never wanted to make her afraid.

He jerks away, not more than an hour later, his arms still tight around Mimi, and her chest still rising, just barely. The nurse has come in, and promptly been called around, a tray weith morphine on the bedside table. It could be so easy, take away the pain of them both. The syringe, with it's plastic over the needle, is in his hand and slid into the pocket of his jeans.

"Mimi?" he whispers, shaking her shoulder gently.

"Mmm?" He's losing her now, he can tell. She's slipping through his fingers.

"The nurse brought some morphine in..." How does her explain something like this to her?

"I'm fine, Roger. Are you okay?" Her eyes are open and the needle digs into Roger's leg.

Rise or fall, Roger.

"I love you so much," Roger brushed her hair from her face. "And I'm going to be with you and Angel soon."

"Not too soon." She closes her eyes and smiles.

"Soon enough," he pulls her into his arms. "Tired?"

"Exhausted."

"Sleep, then."

He wakes up the next morning, disoriented. Mark and Maureen stand at the foot of the bed, Maureen's face streaked with tears.

"What?" He's careful not to wake Mimi as he slides from the bed, but he already knows. She's cold as ice and heavy, but not heavy enough.

"I'll get a doctor," Mark says finally, looking as lost as Roger feels.

He doesn't stay in the room. He digs the morphine from his pocket and leaves it on the bedside table, ignoring Maureen's slightly hysterical questioning of what he was doing with it.

He just grabs his coat and leaves.