A/N: Ooh, yay, a Mark/Roger friendship fic! I promise, I was good, I didn't make it slashy angst . . . it's sad as all-get-out, though, I cried while writing it. And I don't do that a lot. Disclaimer: I don't own RENT, as I am not Jonathan Larson, may he rest in peace. Now, read on. Warning: A teensy bit of language, plus it's just sad in general.
"Mark?" Roger says raspily. His quiet whisper is barely audible over the beeping of the monitor and the rustle of his sheets.
"Mm?" is my reply; it's been at least a week since I've gotten decent sleep, and I'm about to fall asleep sitting up. Then again, God knows the last time Roger slept normally, so I can't complain.
"Here," he says quietly. I blink slightly to clear my head, and take the paper he's holding out in his bony, fragile hand. I start to open it, but he clears his throat.
I blink at him, confused.
"Not til after I'm gone."
I don't have to ask him where he's going. I know what he means.
"Wait a year. Y'know. A year after I'm dead. It's a letter," he says, absently running a hand through his hair, a nervous gesture of his.
I wince slightly, but I don't let myself think about it. Instead, I slip the paper into the pocket of my coat, nodding my head slightly. "Alright."
He gives me a small smile, before burrowing under those scratchy, standard-issue hospital sheets that he hates so much. He tugs the sheets up to his chin like a small child would with a favorite blanket, and normally I would laugh, if he wasn't so thin and gaunt under them. After a few moments, his raspy breathing gets steady and slow.
I watch him for a while, feeling strange. I feel like I should try to commit him to memory, so that I'll be able to remember him when he's gone, but this isn't the Roger I want to remember. Not this bony, thin wisp of a man, the one who cries when he thinks I'm asleep and who doesn't manage a genuine smile anymore.
Then again, maybe seeing him like this is better than not having him at all.
It won't be long before I find out.
Today isn't like last year. The last October 8th, that is. Today, it's cloudy, and the chill of autumn is in the air. Exactly the kind of day Roger didn't like – not cold and bleak enough to be winter, not bright enough to be summer. Last October 8th was sunny and unseasonably warm.
Roger died last October 8th.
He probably would have liked that day. I bet he did.
The crunch of leaves underneath my feet is both comforting and vaguely annoying. That's another reason Roger hated the fall – the leaves all withered away and died, then dropped to the ground to be mashed underfoot. How ironic.
I slowly walk into the cemetery, clutching my coat around me even tighter. As usual, I make stops at Angel's grave, then Mimi's, then Collins's. It's pretty disturbing that I have a routine involving this graveyard.
Last is Roger's grave. It's near a big tree – I think he would have liked that. He was always the kind to do stupid crap like climbing up trees before realizing he had no way to get down – besides falling, that is. He fell a lot.
I stand awkwardly by the tombstone for a second. There's a bouquet of flowers on his grave – bright blue tulips, with yellow ones mixed in. The flowers scream of Maureen, and for a second I muster a wry smile. I allow my gaze to flick over the tombstone, reading the too-familiar inscription. Roger James Davis. March 17th, 1974 - October 8th, 2001.
"Well," I say finally, "It's been a year, Rog."
After a short pause, I continue, "I don't know if you remember – well, of course you don't, because you're . . . well, yeah – but you gave me a letter or something. Before you died. And you said not to read it until a year after you died, so – so I'm gonna read it now."
Christ, I think. Don't be so nervous. It's not like Roger cares, he's dead. I wince at that thought. Of course he'd care. If he was alive. But he's not, so – might as well get on with it.
Slowly, with trembling fingers, I open the letter and read.
Wow. I'm not much good at writing letters, especially not last letters. Not that I've tried before. It took me at least thirty minutes to figure out how to start this, and I still did a bad job. Oh, well, I don't suppose it matters. Guess I'll get on with it. Say what I need to say and all that jazz. Oh, and I hope you don't mind the whole 'Mark:' thing. 'Dear Mark' just sounded wrong.
This is the third time I've been in the hospital this month. I've started keeping track of my room numbers. Room 312; I was in for three days. Room 86; a week. Room 156; that's where I am now, and who knows when I'll get out. My stays are getting progressively longer, I think. Naturally.
Did you know that when you're dying, your memory starts to go?
I can't remember Mimi's eyes too well anymore. I try, but they've blurred. She's been gone so long, Mark. I miss her. I wish she was here, but I know she wouldn't want to watch me die; trust me, I know how hard that is. Then again, so do you, don't you?
I can't remember what snow tastes like. Not that snow would taste like anything – it's just frozen water, right? But I know I stuck my tongue out and waited and then I caught a snowflake, and now I just can't remember. Maybe I'll see winter this year. Probably not.
I can't remember your smile. You don't smile enough anymore. Then again, I guess I don't, either. I try, though. I really do. To be strong, that is.
It hurts, Mark. God, it hurts.
I'm probably addicted to the pain medicine they pump into me. As soon as I get off of it – if I get off of it, if I ever leave this hellhole – I'll probably go into withdrawal or something. That would be preferable to this.
I want to go home. To the loft, that is. I want my guitar and I want black coffee and I want to sleep in my own bed. Do you think they have all that in Heaven? Do you think I'll make it to Heaven? Is there even a Heaven?
I hope so. I'm sure there's a Hell.
Maybe I'll see you in Heaven someday. I know you definitely deserve it. But not for a long time. You have to live for me, and then maybe, when we see each other again – you can tell me what it's like to get married, or have kids. I'm sure I'll laugh my ass off when I hear about your fortieth birthday -- God, it's hard to imagine you at forty. Bet you'll be bald. Just kidding.
Thank you, Mark. Thanks for everything. You've been through it all with me, and I've given you hell time and time again. You're my brother in everything but blood – who cares about blood anyway, or what's in your blood? – and I love you, man.
I'm tired, which isn't shocking. I think it's time to conclude this letter. So – bye. I guess if you're reading this, then I'm already dead, so maybe I've already said goodbye. But I'll say it again.
Absently, I wipe away a few tears, my lips trembling with the effort it's taking not to sob.
"Oh, Rog," I say after a second, before being unable to speak due to my tears.
It takes me a long moment to talk again. "I love you, too, Roger. I miss you. I – I need my best friend, Rog. You're the only one I'll ever have."
Just then, I realize something. The sun has come out.
It's peering out around a cloud, shining brightly. I look up for a second, marveling, and I think I can almost imagine Roger for a second, looking up with me, smiling, happy and free.
I'm still teary-eyed, but I'm smiling. Wherever he is – Heaven, I bet – he's happier. I just know it.
Lightly, I reach out and pat his tombstone. "Goodbye, Rog," I say quietly. Then, I turn and walk away, Roger's last letter clutched tightly in my hand.
A/N: Well, that was it. Writing this gave me an idea for another oneshot, so be on the look-out. Reviews are candy (and the sun's a ball of butter) . . . excuse my Funny Girl reference. Be on your way now.