Pairing/characters: Mimi + the Man.
Word Count: 594

Disclaimer: I do not own Rent. I only own the DVD, but that DVD is all mine.

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She was nervous the moment she handed over her ID. A forgery, from the state of New Jersey, the laminated card was just waiting to betray her secret.

"Eighteen, huh?" The club owner fingered the ID carefully and she just waited to get thrown out.

Though, if she were being honest with herself, part of her hoped she would. It would make it easier. It would show her that she didn't need to stoop so low, that she didn't need the money that badly.

That was a lie. She needed the money. She needed the money to eat, to live. Living was pretty damn important. Still, it didn't mean she wasn't scared shitless.

"You have hot legs and a sweet ass," the man continued. "When can you start?"

Before she knew it, she was staring at a mirror, wearing so much eye make-up she could barely recognize herself. She didn't look eighteen. She looked every bit like a fifteen-
year-old playing dress-up, despite whatever the other girls told her.

Who the fuck was she fooling? She couldn't do this. One of the other girls must have recognized the fear in her eyes because she put down her mascara and placed a hand on her shoulder.

"Go take a breather, honey," she said. "Out in the alley. It'll open your eyes."

She nodded and headed for the door, plunging herself out into the cool October air. New York was mocking her. Telling her that she couldn't make it on her own, that she needed to go back to where she came from, back to the house full of hungry mouths and the neighborhood full of crying Spanish babies.

No! The word exploded in his head, and she took a deep breath. Grow up, chica, she told herself. This is the city.

Far from the city and a chance to become anything. She was going to become something. She was going to make it.

"You're a pretty little thing."

She looked up. The figure in the dark didn't startle her in the least and she wasn't exactly sure why. She'd watched television, seen what could happen in dark alleys. Knew what happened in dark alleys growing back home. An alley in the back of a strip club was the same as every other alley.

She wondered if he was the reason she'd been directed outside.

He stepped closer, his hand out, a small square object poking out between his fingers.

"Must be your first night. They always end up out here on the first night."

She blinked. "What do you mean?" she managed.

The man laughed. "Don't worry, baby, I'm not gonna hurt you. Only here to offer you a little courage. Just the thing you need to get your big break."

She knew exactly what was in his hand, then. She wasn't na ve. But she knew what it could do.

Open her eyes, indeed.

"I can't pay," she told him.

He gave her an eerie grin. "Oh, I think you can. You're a smart one. I can tell. You know exactly what I want." He can even closer into the glow of the light above the back door.

Courage, she said. She just needed a little courage. She had to make something for herself. She normally wasn't timid. She wasn't shy. Having stage fright wasn't her. Yet

Courage, yes. Sex was meaningless. A few moments of pleasure, she'd learned, that never lasted long enough. Easy.

Free.

She nodded.

After all, maybe this would be just what she needed to survive in New York on her own. To make it so she could be somebody.