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Title: The Witness
Author: [livejournal.com profile] thuri
Fandom: Rent
Pairings: Canon. Mark/Roger if you squint hard enough
Rating: R
Description: Mark's finished his film and finally found success. Now it's time to lay down his burden.
Author's Note: I was listening to Anthony Rapp's book in the car today, and had gotten to the part about Jonathan Larson's death, the night before their opening performance. Listening to him describe the aftermath, the performance for Jonathan's friends and family, and how--even though they were absolutely devastated by his loss--it seemed to be right, be time, to fit, I wondered what it might have been like if Mark had followed in his creator's footsteps in death, as well as his life. This is what came out, as is, when I sat down to write it. My fingers could barely keep up with the words.
Warnings: Character death.



It was done.

Mark walked into his dark hotel room, pulling his scarf off slowly, from one side, feeling the worn wool slide first tighter around his neck, then slither across his skin, slow and soft, a caress. He hung it up, following with his coat. Only then did he flip on a light, heading into the kitchenette to make himself some tea.

The warm glow that'd overtaken him in the theater remained, burning in his stomach. He hadn't felt well, in the last few hectic weeks, but it'd all been worth it. Thirteen years, since he'd been freezing in a loft apartment on the lower east side. Thirteen years, since Angel had slipped to sleep beneath the earth, and Mark's film had begun to take shape.

Thirteen years, and now...now it was done.


Mark'd pushed it to everyone he could, after once again finding work in the city. Buzzline hadn't given him much to sink his teeth into, but it had given him the ever elusive experience, and jobs had followed. In fact, he'd worked quite steadily, through the next several years, refining his craft, cutting and re-cutting the footage he'd filmed in that one magic year, finding more and more focus and depth and love in the lives of his friends.

His friends who slowly slipped away from him.

Mimi had been next, as they'd all known she would. She'd lived only two months after Roger's return, slowly fading before their eyes. But she'd been happy, at least, glowing almost, from the inside, as she weakened and sickened and died. It was then they'd met her family, large and loving and suspicious over the ragtag artists who'd stolen their precious niƱa away from them. Mark had shivered through the High Church mass of her funeral, glancing around to know when to kneel, when to stand, when to sit, as much lost in his fear of being smote by these people who thought his had killed their God as anything else.

Not that his fears were serious. No, they'd merely been something to concentrate on, other than the too small coffin hiding the impossibly wasted body of the woman Roger had loved. Of the friend Mark had been happy to have. All her passion, her light, her joy, her determination...they'd all been things that'd always drawn him. Things he'd always known he lacked. He found it no wonder he had the friends he did. Maureen, Roger, Mimi, Angel...divas to the last, their thirst for life unbelievably seductive to him, who'd never quite known how to live at all.

Collins disappeared that fall, for a teaching gig in the West. Word reached them he'd taken a sudden, inexplicable, irrevocable turn for the worse, and Mark and Joanne had together managed to get them plane tickets to California, for a visit, when it became clear Collins couldn't come to them, and couldn't be moved. He died the week after Christmas, and his eyes blinded to all earthly sight, though he spoke Angel's name at the end. Between them, Mark and Joanne paid what was necessary to transport his body back to New York, so he could be buried beside the man he'd never stopped loving.

Months had ticked away, then years, and Maureen and Joanne moved to Chicago. Benny and Alison got divorced, and Mark lost touch with his former college roommate, thinking on him only rarely. Alphabet City became gentrified under their noses, but Mark's work enabled Roger and him to remain, though their new apartment was much smaller. It had heat, at least.

And, gradually, the guitarist's health began to fail. He lasted the longest, and Mark made no mention of his health, simply doing what he could. In the end, even that wasn't enough, and he held Roger's hand in the hospital as he breathed his last, five years and six months after Mimi had done the same.

Leaving Mark alone.


Again, he poured over the film, added what he could to it, finally deciding to finish with Mimi's return to their lives, the hopeful month of that new year, before she'd again turned for the worse. He ended it with hope, with love. With life.

Submitting a film to festivals took time, getting it recognition took even longer. But here he was. Sundance. Where he'd never expected to actually be, getting the recognition he'd never expected to receive.

And telling the story he'd feared no one would hear.

But now they had. The film had been screened. People had cried and laughed and gasped and wept and thanked him and hugged him and he'd been interviewed and it'd happened. Mimi and Angel and Collins and Roger...they had lived again, for one night, their stories filling the screen and moving into people's hearts and minds and they'd never be forgotten now. Never.

He'd done it, talked to a reporter afterword, spoken to the friends who'd helped him, to people he'd never met, feeling the joy of his completed work burning through every part of his body.

And now he was back in his hotel, knowing the morning would bring the reviews, no doubt in his mind of how positive they would be. What he'd created...it'd somehow taken a life of its own, champions of its own, and his agent and everyone else involved in getting it this far...they had just as much belief in it as he did. He was overwhelmed by their love and support, but he knew the film...it was so much more than just his. And it was right.

And now it was done.

He breathed a long sigh, sitting there in the dim room, the mug of tea in his hand. "I finished," he murmured, looking out the window, up at the sky, smiling softly. "It's over, Rog. Did you hear them down there? It was for us. For all of us. They know, now, and they get it, and it won't die. What we had, what we were, that light, that love..." He took a deep breath, tears of joy and remembered pain standing in his eyes. "It's theirs, now, too. Everyone's. No day but today."

The shadows beside the bed seemed to move, resolving themselves into the lanky form of a twenty-something grunge rocker, his early nineties flannel and scruffy hair looking desperately out of place compared to the slick post millennial styles to which Mark had become accustomed.

The ghost grinned, teeth shining in the dark. "Still singing that tired old song, huh?" he asked, crossing over to the couch beside Mark's chair, dropping down on it. "You look old," he added, conversationally.

"Thirty-five isn't old," Mark protested, though he had to admit privately that he felt it, at least lately. "Haven't you heard? They've extended adolescence until thirty, anyway. I'm practically still a kid."

"Good to know," Roger's ghost replied. "We get a pass on being stupid, since we were still kids." He fell silent, studying the man in front of him, his immaterial eyes unreadable. "Mark...the film's good."

Mark smiled, faintly. "I know. But thanks. I mean it, Roger, thank you." He looked out the window, at the silent snowfall, the lights of Park City, Utah. "It's time, now, isn't it?" he added, lifting his glass again, vaguely noticing a growing numbness in his left arm. Hmm.

"Almost," the ghost told him, standing up and crossing to the window. "You could stay, you know."

"No..." Mark sighed, raising a hand to massage the ache in his chest, though he knew it wouldn't be going away. "It's finished. I'm finished. They won't forget us, any of us, and I'm...I'm done. I never wanted to be left behind, anyway. And maybe they won't understand, but..."

"They will," Roger interrupted, looking back at him, a wry smile spreading across his face. "The ones who really know."

"The timing is very theatrical," Mark agreed, sinking a little further into his chair. "It fits just well enough...I knew the film was going to do really well, but this should put it over the edge."

"I think Angel and Mimi put their heads together over it," Roger agreed, leaning back against the wall, crossing his arms. "We've missed you," he added, brows furrowing as he watched Mark.

"I missed you guys, too," Mark said, softly, sincerely, feeling his body start to panic at the growing pain in his chest, the way his breath seemed to come shorter and shorter. "So much. But I had to keep going, keep..."

"We wouldn't have wanted you to do anything else," Roger assured him, quietly, his face more intent now. Expectant. Compassionate. Like his voice, when he spoke again. "It'll be over soon. Just ride it out."

"You'll...be there?" Mark managed, wincing away from the pain, even as a part of him welcomed it. He knew, somehow, that there'd be no escape, no miraculous recovery. He could reach for the phone, call someone, but the result would be the same. It was merely his time.

"Always."

"Then I'm coming home." The words fell softly from his lips as the mug slipped to the floor, bouncing once on the carpet, coming finally to rest, still and silent.

It was done.
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