Title: Shooting Without a Script
Written For: Zippit in Yuletide
Author's Notes: Thank you so very much to Absolutesnark and RhiSilverflame for their beta work. Any mistakes that remain are my own.
December 24, 10pm, Eastern Standard Time
Why is Christmas Eve always a turning point in my life?
Two years ago, Collins met Angel and Roger met Mimi. Maureen threw her protest and I got a deal with Buzzline (not that I stayed long).
Last year we almost lost Mimi, but, through a miracle, she got six more months.
Tonight? Roger kissed me.
I should back up and tell the story in the proper order though.
Five Hundred Twenty Five Thousand Six Hundred Minutes
"It's a Christmas miracle," Maureen said with her trademark megawatt grin, squeezing Joanne's arm.
Collins nodded. "We deserved a miracle," he said. "After everything we all went through this last year? It's about time we got something back."
Roger didn't look like he was planning to let go of Mimi anytime soon. "I'm so glad you came back to me," he murmured against her hair. "I've been looking all over for you."
"I didn't want to be found," she whispered, still shivering a little. "I couldn't bear the thought of being without you."
He pulled the blanket tighter around her and wrapped his arms around her for added warmth. "Why do you think I was looking for you? I'm just sorry that it took me so long to figure out my feelings."
"Don't," Mimi said, holding her finger up to his lips. "Nothing matters but right now."
"She's right," Collins said. "Focus on the here and now. Enjoy every moment you have together."
Let's Always Stay Friends
Even with the miracle, I expected Roger and Mimi and Joanne and Maureen to go back to their old ways. I started working on a new documentary. Roger and Mimi stayed clean and went to support group meetings several times a week. Maureen landed a gig singing at a restaurant in the theater district and, more surprising, managed to stay faithful to Joanne. Collins landed a new teaching position and moved back in with me and Roger. Mimi was living there, too, and things were going well for all of us.
I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Winter turned to spring and the documentary I had debuted to my friends on Christmas Eve got accepted to a small film festival. The critical acclaim it garnered scored me some decent cash and a "first look" deal with one of the smaller production companies for any of my new work. I knew I needed an amazing story to tell, something that would pack an emotional punch and hook viewers.
"Mimi's fading fast."
Roger's message spread quickly and brought everyone together. It was the same hospital where we lost Angel and Collins looked distinctly uncomfortable the moment we stepped foot in the door.
"You're all here," Mimi whispered, her lips dry and cracked from her illness.
"Of course we are, sweetie," Maureen said, picking up a cup of ice chips from next to the bed and holding one to Mimi's lips.
I moved to the bed and leaned down. "What is it, Mimi?"
"Take care of Roger."
Swallowing hard, I nodded. "Of course."
Mimi gasped for breath. "Don't let him turn back to the drugs," she pleaded.
"I won't," I promised.
Roger met my gaze over her head and I saw the sadness I felt mirrored in his eyes. Why did we have to lose so much?
The Tears Dry, Without You
"Roger, you've barely left the house in the last month."
He looked up from where he was idly picking at his guitar. "At least if I'm not out on the streets, I can't pick up smack."
I sighed. "Do you think Mimi would want you to hermit yourself away?"
Roger shrugged. "It's just a matter of time before I join her."
The reminder of his own ticking time bomb unsettled me. Roger's health had actually been pretty stable, but I lived in constant fear that I would have to watch everyone I cared about die one by one and leave me alone. "Don't talk like that," I said. "You're taking your AZT and you're eating healthy. There's no reason to think that the virus won't stay dormant for a long time."
"Why should I get a chance when Mimi and Angel didn't?"
We had had this argument too many times to count. "You're not dead yet. If you're not going to live, you may as well climb in the bathtub and slit your wrists."
Yes, it was a low blow, but I was getting tired of Roger's pity party.
His jaw dropped, but he cast his guitar aside, shoved his wallet in his pocket and stormed out of the loft. I had no idea where he was going and I just hoped it wasn't to try to score.
No Day But Today
"Hard to believe it's been a year," Joanne said, pulling her coat tighter around her as the fall wind picked up, blowing brightly colored leaves around our feet.
Collins traced the engraving on the headstone. "Thank you all for being here with me today," he said, his voice huskier than usual.
"Nowhere else to be," Roger said. I didn't miss the catch in his voice and I put my hand on his shoulder. He offered me a half smile.
"Angel and Mimi are probably watching us right now," Maureen said.
I couldn't help but chuckle. "And they'd probably yell at us for spending our time in a cemetery when we could be off somewhere celebrating life."
"Exactly," Maureen agreed, flashing me a grin.
Roger waited until Collins had stood up and joined us again before smirking. "I made a stop by the Food Emporium before we came out here today," he said. "Dinner at the Life Cafe?" he asked, pulling a wad of twenties from his pocket and fanning them in front of my face.
We all started laughing and I was pleased to see Roger being so easy. Things had been a little tense after I shocked him out of mourning, but it didn't take long before he was his old self again. This proved it.
December 24, 9pm, Eastern Standard Time
The moment the clock chimed nine, I plugged in the tree that Roger and I had put up in our loft. I looked over and he was grinning.
"You did a great job decorating, Mark," he said, pouring us each a glass of eggnog.
"Thanks," I said. "I just wish that Collins, Joanne and Maureen were here to celebrate with us."
Roger shrugged. "We'll have fun just the two of us."
I raised my glass and clinked it against his. "What shall we toast to?"
"To us," he said, smiling warmly at me. "To being alive and having a friend who forces me to live my life, even though he's a lucrative filmmaker now."
I felt my cheeks grow warm at the praise for my newest documentary, but I nodded. "And to those who couldn't be with us tonight, for any reason."
There was a moment of silence before we both took a drink. The alcohol burned as it slid down my throat. It was a nice, relaxing feeling though. I was focused on finishing my drink and didn't realize how intently Roger was watching me.
"What?" I finally asked.
Before I realized what was going on, he leaned forward and kissed me. "Merry Christmas, Mark."