Title: Compromised

Author: GirlWhoWrites

Rating: PG

ficvariations Prompt/Claim: Work / Mimi Marquez (RENT)

Spoilers: Rent movie

Warnings: If you saw the movie, you'll be right )

Words: 1363 words

Count: 1/5

Summary: At least she's still doing what she loves, however compromised she feels

Author's Notes: Posting for the ficvariations challenge at livejournal - you're given a month to write 5 500+ word fics or 10 drabbles, all based around your claim and one prompt. The August prompt is 'work'. I've written 2 of 5 so far (Fic #2, The Mechanics, will be posted in the next few days) and I have until Thursday to write 3 more fics. I hope you enjoy this!

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The club is like a second home to Mimi, which makes sense since she's been working here for almost five years. The blinking lights, the state smell of cigarettes, sweat and cheap alcohol, the lingering scent of old vomit that clings to the cheap carpet.

Mimi walks through the main entrance, carpeted in cheap red and gold Turkish style carpet, the intricate pattern having tangled together from wear over the years. It's now covered in filth and closer to brown and gray, peeling back from the floor, revealing patches of cement.

She passes by the men queuing up, some watching her as she saunters her way towards the staircase with the bouncer standing in front of it, moving the old rope back so she can climb the narrow staircase up to the dressing rooms. Old movie posters are stuck to the walls, torn and crumpled. Glamorous, pin up girls trying to inspire the dancers, maybe, now they seem sad and outdated as the girls make their way up the stairs.

"It's not glamorous," Angel had said when she'd written down the address that morning; Mimi had been going through the fridge, looking for something for breakfast, and wasn't really absorbing what Angel had said. She ate the left over Chinese, after offering Angel some.

"Mimi-chica," Angel frowned as Mimi sat on the couch, her legs crossed. "Listen to me. The address of the club is here." Angel waved a piece of polka-dot patterned paper at Mimi. "You need to be there at eleven, okay? Just… be prepared, okay chica?"

"I'll be fine. You sure you don't want me to come with you?" Mimi frowned over her carton of food.

"It's just the clinic, blood test results, chica," Angel steps into her shoes, grabbing her bag and steadily avoiding Mimi's gaze. "I'll meet you at the club when I'm finished."

The so called dressing room is just one giant room on the top floor, with four long trestle tables, mirrors and seats. Girls sat around, gazing into their mirrors as they lined their eyes heavier, added another layer of foundation, jammed feathers into their hair and added more gold, more glitter to their skin.

Mimi takes her seat, stashing her back underneath the table, tugging off her coat. Costumes are lined up against the far wall on massive clothes racks, tagged with each dancer's name. There's two bathrooms for around twenty five girls each shift. Baskets of shoes are at the end of the tables, their size labeled in black marker on the sole. It's like heaven for any girl who likes to play dress up.

Another working night, Mimi touches the photograph of Angel as she begins to arrange her make up for the night. There's chatter, music on low in the corner, girls whispering into their cell phones, some others are stretching out, slurping water and coffee up. And the final little cliché, Mimi's old friends, snorting cocaine and injecting heroine, laughing, with cigarettes in their hands.

Mimi ignores their whispered conversation as she picks up a tube of pink lipstick, carefully applying it. Mascara, eyeliner, blush and black glitter eye shadow. Her comfortable sweatshirt and skirt are exchanged for the tightest leather and lace combination she can find, her hair fluffed out, pinned back with sparkly hairclips Angel gave her after her first night of work; tiny little diamante stars that catch the spotlights when she dances.

"You're going to be a star, chica," Angel said as she slid the clips into Mimi's hair. "Never forget that."

"They're so pretty," Mimi touched her hair, smiling. "You didn't have to do this."

"It's easy to stop seeing where you're going. Just a reminder that you're special, Mimi Marquez." Angel wrapped her arms around Mimi. "How was it?"

"It was okay. Almost fun," Mimi smiled, her head on her shoulder.

"I'm glad. I was worried. Probably won't be fun forever, though." Angel pulled Mimi to her feet. "Let's go out and celebrate."

It wasn't fun now, Angel had been right. Angel had been right about most things, Mimi found out. That there was an underworld for the dancers, that the people that crowded the alley ways when they got off work weren't fans, weren't potential lovers or stalkers; they were there to take off the edge for forty dollars a hit. Money for self respect, forty dollars was really a bargain. The argument Mimi used when her muscles were tight with pain, blisters and swollen knees, and the amber liquid was the answer to all of her problems.

She ignores those girls now, sits on her own, waits for her cue and works for every dollar they pay her. Another layer of lipstick and Mimi stands up, ignoring the stares of the girls in the corner, syringes and cigarettes, watching her, pulling out shoes – stilettos tonight – and stepping into them, tossing her hair behind her as dragging on her silky kimono. The stage manager appears at the door leading to the catwalk, a clipboard in his hand.

For a sleazy, underhanded strip club where girls overdose in the bathrooms, it's run with near military precision.

Her shift is almost six hours, the stilettos rubbing her feet raw and putting holes in her tights, but there's no time to find a better pair as she grabs the pole, swinging her leg around it. She thinks back to the dancers at the Broadway Dance Studio, with their black and pink outfits, their legwarmers and soft, worn shoes. Hair pulled back, faces scrubbed clean and pretty, their teacher guiding them through the steps. She waited at the bus stop just in front of that studio one afternoon, watching the girls go through their motions, clad in black and pink sweatshirts with 'Broadway Dance Studio' printed on the back. She listened to their chatter about opening night on Broadway – one of them made it into the chorus, her pride almost tangible as they walked past Mimi after class finished, street shoes replacing their ballet slippers, bags slung over their shoulders.

Mimi returns to the dressing rooms at just past one in the morning, prying the stilettos off her feet, pealing her stockings off the swollen red blisters. No one else has finished yet, she's alone in the dressing room.

She changes into her street clothes again, skirt and sweatshirt, old red stockings and her boots, her feet aching as she goes to the bathroom to scrub off her make up, brush the glitter out of her hair. She's looking forward for a shower, to put on her comfortable pajamas, to curl up with a book and a cup of tea.

Her old friends, she thinks that must be the term, have left the bathroom how they always do. A tin tray sits on the edge of the sink, a syringe, cigarette lighter and spoon assembled on them. The syringe is full, left alone, and there are still healthy girls working her. Mimi tips the tray and all into the bin, leaning over the sink, the cold water murky but a wake up call.

She bundles her things into her bag, leaving by the backdoor into an alley way, where the dealers smoke and wait for their 'girls'. She ignores their tempting offers and walks home the long way around, knowing that Mark and Roger will most likely still be awake, editing film and writing songs. Sometimes Mimi thinks that maybe she's selling out, staying with the club and not even trying to get a better job, to go to auditions. But on other days, when she and Roger pick up more AZT, she knows she's in the middle ground, clinging to her craft, her passion and compromising to give herself food, pills and a life.

Mimi's right, the boys are still up, Collins too, and they're crowded around the big, metal table eating, the film equipment discarded over the lounge, Roger's papers spread out over the window seat.

Glitter and sequins have lost their shine, and the sight of high heeled shoes make her feet ache and she hasn't had stars in her eyes in a long time, but at least she's still doing what she loves, however compromised she feels.

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