Title: "Spring Eternal"
Author: Mala
Fandom: RENT
Rating/Classification: SAC for language, Mark POV, angst, slashy.
Disclaimer: Jonathan Larson, etc. Not I.
Summary: Takes place a few months before RENT begins. Mark isn't quite as detached and objective as people think.
Notes: In my head, they're Joey Fatone's Mark and Manley Pope's Roger, but since I'm not overtly physically specific, I guess you can insert the boys of your choice.

He shivers and you pull the ripped-up blanket up around his ears, muttering "Fucking asshole" with something that could be hate and isn't quite love.

The tracks on his arms have finally faded to faint white lines that only a lover could get close enough to see, to touch. But he hasn't let anyone that close since April...since she...a very long time.

Not even you. All you get is the comfort of capturing him in your lens and hoping that film will last longer than his self-denial.

Three years without contact. Five months without smack. Or a walk in the rain outside. A lifetime without any hope. Roger is dying.

And all you know how to do is try and keep him warm.

You're not even very good at that. At least according to Maureen, who said you were a cold, empty, fake before she moved uptown. Nothing bruises a guy's ego more than getting dumped for a Harvard-grad lawyer with a sweet apartment...unless that lawyer happens to be a woman to boot.

Roger doesn't get the shakes so much anymore. Not like he did at the beginning. He doesn't cry anymore or throw things or hit you...and he actually picked up his guitar yesterday and stroked it with something like longing.

He's coming out of withdrawal.

In more ways than one.

Soon, he might not need you at all.

And then what?

You spent months cleaning up after him when he was sick all over the place. You filled his scrips at the clinic, sometimes shelled out your own meager funds to get AZT from one of the dealers in the lot, and then force fed him his meds. You even tried, once or twice, to make a reasonable facsimile of your mother's chicken soup. Without chicken. Or much soup.

You urge him, constantly, to change his clothes, to go out on the fire escape, to check out the pretty stripper who lives downstairs, to *leave*.

Soon, he might just do that.

And then what?

When you moved here from Scarsdale with nothing except the clothes on your back and your camera, you had a dream. You had a purpose. You were going to become the best documentary film-maker that the East Coast had ever seen. You were going to look up Maureen, this crazy girl you knew from high school drama camp, and crash on her couch until you hit it big in the Big Apple. Be rich! Famous! Not starving and living in Alphabet City, huddling with your friends around an illegal wood-burning stove. Where your dream, your purpose, has somehow become one thing. One person. Roger.

You should've known...the first time you saw him...blond and chiseled and junior rock star, guitar hanging from a strap on his shoulder...that he was going to take over your life. Collins ...Collins was finishing his Master's. Never around. Dreaming of Ivy League paychecks and subverting the system. Benny...Benny, saved Allison Gray of the Westport Grays from a mugger in Midtown after you'd been living together just seven months. And that was the end of that brotherly alliance. But Roger...? Roger sprang eternal.

"Just you and me, Mark. Suffering for our art," he'd teased, fingers cramping on the fretboard.

Until he met April.

And Maureen finally let you move from the leg-less couch to her air mattress.

And then what?

This. Now.

Listening to him cough in his sleep and hoping to God that it isn't pneumonia. Hoping to God that he'll wake up fine and chipper and independent.

And also that he won't.

"Fucking asshole," you whisper, again.

And you don't know whether you're talking to him or yourself.

Roger springs eternal.

And so does hope.

--end--

October 30, 2002.



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