AUTHOR'S NOTE: WHY DID ANGEL'S DEAD AFFECT ROGER SO MUCH? I DO NOT OWN RENT AND REVIEWS ARE THE ANGEL TO MY COLLINS, THE KING TO MY CASLTE, THE MOAT TO MY QUEEN.

The Fourth Time

The casket was covered with the first fresh falls of dirt as Roger stood off to stare. Everyone thought he had just marched off after their fight, but there he was. They had all gone, too hostile, too stupid to stay. It would have broken her heart, didn't they know?

He was the only one in the cemetery except for the grounds workers. Another fling of dirt scattered, peppering the casket. Angel hated it when they all fought. Do heaven-Angel's cry? If so, their Angel was probably weeping.

"Don't," Roger mumbled, "It'll ruin the mascara."

She always was obsessing over that mascara of hers. She had the longest eyelashes he had ever seen, but with the mascara, they were three times as long and just as batty. She could get anything she wanted from just about anyone with just a single bat of those eyelashes. Angel was an expert of wrapping people around her little finger. For some reason, Roger just felt…protective. There was something about her (not the dying, because they were all dying. As Angel once said, "everyone on the planet is dying, love. Each breath we take is a breath closer to our last.") that made him want to protect her. He wasn't sure what.

Maybe it was that she just seemed to cut deeper than everyone else. She acted tough, of course, but Roger could see her eyes swelling with every "fag" she heard spat out at her. He used to say that word before he met her. Since last Christmas morning, he hadn't used it once. Not even on Mark when he was being stupid.

Roger could still remember the first time he saw Angel cry – the first of three.

"Come on," Angel tugged at his sleeve, "Let's go for a walk."

"But I'm not done eating," Roger said, looking sorrowfully at his plate, knowing well and good that he wouldn't be allowed to finish his pasta with meatless balls.

"Come on," Angel insisted, "Look at that sun. It's pleading with us to go out and walk in it, soak it all up. You don't want to break the sun's heart, do you?"

Roger rolled his eyes and put some cash on the table before following Angel outside.

"It is such a beautiful day, isn't it?" She asked, spinning around, drinking the sunbeams like cold lemonade.

"Uh-huh," Roger shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans and hoped no one would stare.

Unfortunately, he didn't get his wish. A group of three guys, tattoos running up their arms, marched over to where they stood.

"Look what we have here," one of them sneered towards Angel.

"A little fag in our territory."

"You gotta pay to be in our territory, fag."

"Don't touch it – it might be contaminated."

"Oh yeah…don't want to get cancer do we."

"It's HPV you dumbass."

"No, it's HIV. Aids."

"Shut up! I bet it's dying."

Angel had long-since stopped her dancing and was pulling Roger away.

"Come on…let's go!"

"No!" He shook her hand off, "You can't talk to her like that!"

"Who is going to stop me? It's in the Declaration."

"Constitution," Angel grumbled.

"Excuse me? Did you say something to me, fag?"

"Yes," Angel walked up to him, her face at his level, "I said it is the Constitution and not the Declaration of Independence that grants people their rights. But here's the thing, it's vague. I mean, you can call me fag, but where do I fit in?"

"You don't have rights. Rights are for people. Not you, not animals."

Roger flinched and he could see Angel stiffen, "I am sorry you think that way. Come on, Roger."

"But…"

"Come on," her voice had a shake to it he hadn't noticed earlier. Obediently, he followed.

"Angel," he said, once they were out of earshot, "Why didn't you let me doing something? I could have kicked their asses for what they were saying!"

"Can't let it get to you," she said, blinking more so than usual, "You gotta be stronger than they are, right love? If you let them get to you, you're proving they are stronger than you are. Can't do that."

They walked back to the loft in silence and Angel asked to use the restroom. She had been in there a while and Roger was a little worried. He decided to knock on the door.

"Ange? You okay in there?"

A sniffle.

"Angel?"

She opened the door to reveal a tear-streaked, mascara stained face.

"Angel," Roger didn't know what else to say. She walked over to the toilet and sat down on the lid, her head in her hands.

"I don't like people to see me cry," she attempted a sad laugh, "It's not pretty, obviously."

"Angel, what is it?" Roger knelt down in front of her, pulling her hands from her face, and holding them in his, "Is it what those guys said?"

"I can't let it get to me," Angel said, turning away from him, "I can't let it…"

"Angel, if it didn't bother you, then I would be worried. It is okay to be upset. Hell, I am upset and it wasn't even me they were saying those things to. You don't deserve that. They are just stupid people who's heads are shoved up their asses so far they can't really see anything – like what a good person you are and what an honor it is to know you."

"Really?" She asked, her voice cracking.

"Really," Roger wiped a tear away, "It's okay to cry over this stuff, Angel. It's good."

"But I don't want it to bother me so much. I want to hold my head high and…"

"You did. You walked off with your head high. Hell, they don't know you're crying right now."

"I guess."

"And if you want, this can stay between just us."

"A secret," Angel smiled.

"Yes," Roger reflected her smile, "A secret. No one will have to know if you don't want them to."

And no one did know. Roger doubted she had even told Collins, and she told Collins practically everything. But then again, she didn't like it when he worried or got upset about something. She was always trying to be strong for him, no matter what.

She didn't want him to see her crying. She had to be strong to help him get through, right? Roger could still remember the second time she cried to him. It was just a few days after New Years when she knocked on the apartment door.

"Angel?"

"Roger, can I come in for a while?"

"Of course."

He let her in and got her situated on the couch before asking, "What's wrong?"

"Collins," she sighed, "I…I realized the other night, after recovering from a mean hangover, that that was probably my last New Year's. Did you think about that?"

"A little," Roger sat down next to her, "But it could be my last too."

"But you got more time than me," Angel said, "And I just couldn't help but think about next year and what Collins will do. Who will he celebrate with?"

"Us…if he wants."

"But who will he get drunk with?"

"Us…if he wants."

"Who will he have passionate, heated, drunk-sex with?"

"Definitely not us," Roger grinned, "Even if he wants. Angel, he's always going to think about you, that's a given. But we will be here for him whenever he needs us to be."

"But I won't be," a tear trailed down her cheek, "I won't be there to make him smile, I won't be there to kiss away the tears, I won't be there to…"

Roger pulled her into a hug – their first, "It's okay," he assured her, "You don't know when you will have to go, but you still have time with Collins now. Make that special so he can have the good memories of you two."

"It's hard. I want to be strong for him and smile and laugh, but some days, it is like my heart is breaking. I can see a countdown in my head, ticking off the seconds and I hate that. I just…I wish I could be stronger for him."

"If you need someone to talk to, you know where to find me."

"Thanks, Roger. You were always so nice to me."

"Don't talk like that," he had insisted, "Okay, we still got lots of time together. Don't talk like you won't be here tomorrow."

But he didn't know, and neither did she, that she would be there tomorrow, and the day after that, and the next. No one knew.

A cup of hot chocolate with extra marshmallows and a marshmallow fight later, she was smiling and laughing again – her usual Angel-self. He loved making her laugh, like he was fixing something in away. He always wanted to fix everything, take away her pain.

If he could soak up her pain into his own self, he would have done it in a heartbeat. He adored her, and seeing her suffer so much was heart-crushing to him.

The third time Angel had cried in front of him was when she was in the hospital. Collins had insisted that she go, and it was her third day there. Everyone had already gone and seen her, both together, and separately. He was the only one that had yet to go by himself.

Mimi had gotten angry with him, accusing him of being selfish. The thing was, he didn't know if he could handle it. The last time he had been to a hospital was with April, another loved one. How many more loved ones would he have to see suffer so much?

How many more would be taken?

"There you are," Angel smiled as he walked into the room, "I was wondering when you'd come."

"I was wondering the same thing too."

"It's hard, huh? I'm not exactly easy on the eyes."

"You're beautiful," Roger told her, for the first and last time, "Always."

"Thank you," her smile was broken and the glint in her eyes was fading, "I am glad you came."

"Me too."

"Can I tell you something?"

"You know you can."

"I am scared."

"Me too."

Another track of tears for him to wipe away with grimy hands.

Roger missed her. The casket was almost completely covered by the dirt and he couldn't help but think of how peaceful she must look inside. She had died with Collins holding her in his arms – the way she should have.

Everyone had come together for her funeral, shed tears, shed memories like layers of clothing. Now, they had fought just a few feet away.

"I am sorry," Roger apologized, "They just don't know what to do without you."

As he stood there, a rain drop splattered onto his hand.

The fourth time.