A/N: (deep breath) Okay, this is the last chapter! I know I haven't updated this in months, but I just had to finish. Sadly, this chapter is a lot like a fic I just posted called Need. I assure you that I had this written in June and I was so goddamn lazy that I never posted it. I wrote Need two nights ago.Enjoy!
" Maureen? That you?"
Maureen winced and clenched her jaw as she heard the voice. For a moment she couldn't tell where it was coming from: the loft was dark, but dim enough to tell that the sleeping bodies scattered across it weren't talking. Then she saw him, perched out on the fire escape with an unlit cigarette. Picking her way carefully across the room ( Mark and Roger had the weird ability to fall asleep on the hideously uncomfortable loft floor), Maureen unlatched the window and climbed out to join Collins on the fire escape.
"Hey. I…um…how it's going?" she asked lamely, hugging her knees to her chest as she sat back on the platform. Collins, who was leaning against the railing, shrugged and twirled the cigarette between his fingertips. His face was stony, illuminated by yellowish streetlight.
"It didn't go on for too long after you left. Roxy and Jon…they understood. I'm not sure how, but they got what that video meant. Maureen, she never even knew them, but she loved your kids," he said softly, glancing in her direction. Maureen nodded and bit down hard on the inside of her lip. It was less painful than listening to him speak.
"After she was done talking to them, she—she wanted to know if I was available to talk to privately…god, that's so Angel. 'Available'…instead of asking whether I've died or not," Collins said with a dry laugh. "But everyone left and she…I…I miss her. I missed her before seeing this, but now I miss her like I'd miss my lungs if they disappeared. I can't breathe without her now, I can't…she spoke to me. She knew she was dying when she made that video and spoke to me…" He trailed off, eyes glittering in the streetlight. Maureen nodded slowly and exhaled, tasting blood from her lip as her teeth dug in. But she was going to scream if she didn't bite down, if she didn't shut herself up…she was going to scream.
After a moment or two, Collins sighed and reached into his pocket, taking out a book of matches and lighting one. Touching it to the tip of his cigarette, he waited until it glowed and breathed in deeply, throwing the match away and letting smoke curl into the air. As he blew the smoke in his lungs out through his lips, Maureen could have sworn that it lingered before him for a second…as though it were afraid to leave his side.
"I didn't want to have them," she said suddenly. She wasn't quite sure where it came from; maybe she'd wanted to say it for a while. Collins showed no sign that he'd heard her. He merely took another drag on his cigarette. "I didn't want my life to change like that. I didn't want to be that person…the one who screws up way more people's lives than just her own when she has a baby…or babies. Everything I knew and everything I wanted said I shouldn't."
"Then why did you?" Collins asked quietly. Maureen felt as though she should have an answer. But there was no reason in her brain, at least none that she could understand. Still, she spoke…though with the hesitancy of someone who does not know what will come out of her mouth.
"Maybe…maybe being that person, in this world—this world where you can't be sure of anyone, you can't know what's going to happen tomorrow because it only takes a day for your friend to get sick or to lose the place that you live in or a million other thing…maybe I wanted to be that person because then I'd have done something that I could carry out of this world. I'd have something—maybe good, maybe bad, but something—to remind me I'm not stuck in one place. I have room to move, to have and raise the kids from one bad party, and I know it. I screwed us all up quite a bit, and God knows life with them isn't easy or cheap or even fun some of the time…but that doesn't mean I would give them back if I could. They're mine…and if loving them is stupid, then that's what I'll do."
"Because you're so good at being stupid," Collins broke in, a half-smile on his face. Maureen snorted before she could help herself; the whole thing seemed ridiculous, here in the middle of the night on a fire escape. Then her eyes drifted towards the loft and she saw Roxy, her tiny form limply sprawled on Mimi's stomach. In this light, she looked more like Angel than ever.
"Well…who knows what things'll be like for them in ten, eleven years?" Collins mused aloud, exhaling smoke. Maureen tore her eyes away from her child and glanced up at the sky. Smog floated like Collins' cigarette smoke across the tops of buildings, and she saw the faint glimmer of the strangest stars, peeking through the pollution.
"Yeah. Maybe the East Village will be the new Upper East Side," Maureen sighed. Collins smiled.
"Let's hope not."
"I don't think we have anything to worry about," Maureen replied. And as she looked at Collins and at the sleeping forms of her friends, her lover, her children… Maureen got the feeling that they might have things to worry about…
But a certain guardian Angel might help them out from time to time.