Characters: Collins, with healthy doses of Roger, Mimi, Mark, Benny, and, of course, Angel. (It really is Collins/Angel in the end)
Prompt: #003 Ends
Word Count: 1471 words
Rating: PG (character death, language, little bit of slash)
Summary: What is heaven? Collins finds the answer most surprising...
Author's Notes: Rent belongs to the late, great Jonathon Larson, his estate, and many other people who are not me. Psuedo-sequel to Santa Fe (prompt #30). Beta'd by wofl_iron.
The restaurant had been closed for a good half an hour, although Collins couldn't blame anyone for thinking otherwise: as he conducted the final tasks necessary to close Angel's for the night, he was in the habit of leaving the lights and music on to create the illusion of company. The silence and loneliness of continuing a shared dream on his own would weigh too heavily on him otherwise.
It wasn't that Collins absolutely had to continue on his own. Mark had offered many times to come to Santa Fe and help him run the restaurant, especially since Collins' last few calls back to New York had indicated his health had taken a turn for the worst. Really, what did that mean? He was on his feet and working, even if his staff gave him worried looks and he rarely presented himself to the customers. This wasn't the end yet, he told himself. Angel had been confined to a hospital bed when he'd died, and Collins was still on his feet.
Sighing at yet another reminder of the lover who had never gotten to see their shared fantasy become a reality, Collins wiped his hands on a dish towel and threw it into the linen basket to be taken away by a staff member in the morning. He suddenly felt immensely tired, and he could swear he'd even fallen asleep standing up for a few moments, but having gained his second wind, he stepped out into the main portion of the restaurant, where the guests were seated.
Collins jumped as two pairs of eyes turned to face him. He opened his mouth to tell the leftover patrons that they were closed for the night, before he realized who they were. “Roger? Mimi?” he asked in disbelief.
Roger dropped his menu and leaned back in his chair. He seemed wonderfully out of place in the tastefully decorated restaurant, and at the same time he seemed to compliment, and even create, the scenery. After all, Bohemians had been a part of the original plan that Collins had made with Angel, but the wealthy seemed to scare off anyone who would be willing to take a chance in a restaurant that mostly seemed to cater to an exclusive clientèle. If only there was a way to let people know that the wealthy were overcharged, but everyone was welcome.
“Sorry we didn't call for reservations,” Roger said easily. “This was kind of a spur of the moment thing.”
Mimi held up her own menu with a smile. “So are you going to throw us out or are you going to take our orders?”
Collins, still struck silent, finally managed to step forward and take a chair down from where it had been put up on the table for the evening, seating himself at the table with them. “Of course you can order. I don't care if it's three in the morning, if you guys give me a call I'll be in that kitchen making you waffles.”
“Waffles don't sound bad,” Mimi said, nodding appreciatively. “They're not on the menu...”
“Going to charge us extra for the fuss?” Roger asked, opening the menu again. “Or will our trying to pronounce half of the stuff on this menu be payment enough for your trouble?”
Collins laughed heartily, then shook his head. “I'll just make you guys do your own dishes. My dishwasher went home long ago.”
There was something about this scene that left Collins feeling uneasy, and he couldn't quite put his finger on what it was. Of course he was thrilled that his friends would unexpectedly drop by. He wanted to hug them and catch up and talk about old times and all that good stuff, but there was something nagging him in the back of his mind that was keeping him from discussing any of this.
“I seem to recall someone who a few years back seemed to think 'oh hi' was an inadequate response to seeing someone they hadn't seen in months,” Roger added. “Maybe you're the one who needs the Stoli this time around.” Mimi giggled.
“Hey, I've been working all day,” Collins shot back. “I know it's been a while, but I'm sure the concept is not completely lost on you.”
“Ooh, he got you,” Mimi announced, laughing as Roger shoved Collins affectionately for the remark.
“For that, we want double waffles. And beer. Do places like this serve beer?” Roger asked, looking around. “I've gotta tell you, Collins, you've really moved up in the world.”
“Not really,” Collins said with a shrug, getting up out of the chair and putting it back up. “Just apparently the aristocrats find this place to be their new flavor of the month. They don't even realize I am so totally ripping them off.”
He looked toward the reception area, where the host greeted and seated the guests. It was a separate room, divided from the main area of the restaurant by double doors. “Hey, I'm gonna go lock up really quick, okay? Unless there's more of you hiding somewhere.”
Mimi shook her head. “Nah, just us as far as we know. Anyone else can knock.”
Laughing, Collins went and pushed the doors to the reception area open, freezing in his tracks. Someone was standing back-to him, someone wearing a nice pink and black skirt suit and with neatly-bobbed black hair that looked almost real in the right light.
Time seemed to stop, and finally the person turned around. “What's the matter, sweetie?” Angel asked, acting as if her presence was no big deal at all.
Collins opened his mouth, but no words came out. He finally reached out and pulled her close to him, not saying a word, just holding her...
Mark stare at his telephone for a very long time. He had a drink in his hand, and it felt like he hadn't moved, not even to take a drink, in hours. He probably hadn't. He'd fixed the drink after the phone call came, and had just sat there, wondering who he should call. Could call. He'd already tried Maureen and Joanne's number, but no one had answered except their answering machine. He had to voice his thoughts, but not to a machine.
Putting the glass on the table with the phone, he picked it up and dialed a number that he had some difficulty remembering. A woman picked up. “Hello?” she asked, sounding surprised that someone would be calling her at all.
Mark cleared his throat to keep back the tears that were going to fall any moment. “Hi, is Benny around?”
“Who is- yeah, sure, just a moment,” Allison said, going to find Benny. She didn't sound happy, but apparently something in Mark's voice had made her feel compassion. Mark could hear noise. Were they having a party of some sort?
“Benjamin Coffin III,” Benny said. Apparently, Allison hadn't told him whoever was on the line was familiar enough with him to call him Benny.
“It's Mark,” the film maker said. He swallowed again, then pulled off his glasses as the first tears slid down his cheeks.
“Mark. What's going on?” Benny asked, sounding sincerely surprised to be hearing from him. He hadn't been Mark's landlord since Roger died, after all.
“Collins is gone,” Mark managed to choke out. “He...someone came into his restaurant to open it this morning and they found him dead on the kitchen floor.”
Benny was quiet for a long time. “Was it-”
“Yeah, it was,” Mark said, before he could say the word. “Apparently, I was listed as his power of attorney. They want me to decide what to do with his body...with him. I honestly don't know.”
Benny sighed. “You alone, man?”
Mark nodded, then realized Benny very well couldn't see it on the phone. “Yeah, I am. No one was at Maureen and Joanne's place.”
“I'll come over in a little while, okay? Allison and I have this thing going on. You can come if you don't want to be alone, but-”
“No, I'll wait,” Mark said, understanding what Benny was trying to avoid saying: he would just bring the whole place down, poor and depressed as he was. Not to mention Allison wasn't too fond of Benny's old friends and life, considering what she knew about him and Mimi.
“I'll see you then. Just...keep it together, okay? You can do this,” Benny assured him. He hung up before Mark could respond.
Mark listened to the dial tone for a few moments, then hung up the phone and picked up his drink. Tomorrow, he would visit the cemetery and see if the plot next to Angel's was available. Collins would want to be with him. And Mark found himself wondering if where ever he was, he was already with Angel...