A/N- hey everyone! After long debates whether or not I should do this, I'm proud to present the sequel to Only Us! I'll confess, I don't like sequels so much because they always tend to be "less," but then I got this idea, and I thought I'd give it a shot. Well, I won't say anything about the story itself so I won't give anything away. You'd better know the first story in order to get this one, because it picks up right where Only Us left off. You know the drill, alternating POV's and all… I hope you'll enjoy this one as well. You know how reviews make my day, right?
Disclaimer- Mark, Maureen and any other character you recognize from Rent are the property of the late, great Jonathan Larson. The title is of a song from Aida. I also used some quotes from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in the first chapter. Libby, Tammy and Roger the Bear are mine. Yay me.
A Step Too Far
He shook his head stubbornly, trying to resist that pout that made her look so adorable. Even he had limits. "No, I told you, no way."
"But you promised!" she insisted.
He stared at her jaw-dropped. "What? I've never promised-"
"Actually, Mark, you did," Collins interfered, making her smile victoriously. The bastard.
"Yesterday, we all heard you," seconded Roger. Like he had expected anything else from him.
He frowned. There was no way he agreed to make a fool out of himself without remembering it. He had no idea what made her want to read specifically that scene. He'd rather not ask, he knew. There was no way it was for an audition, unless someone on Off Broadway decided to do a Shakespeare revival or something, which wasn't at all likely. He didn't even think she knew who Shakespeare was. He glanced at her. She had that look… that irresistible puppy-like look he knew there was no fight against. He sighed, defeated. "Fine. Give me the script."
She squealed happily and handed him a script.
Collins smirked. "This will be fun. We're still filming this, right?"
Shit. "No, we're not," he said, quickly reaching for the tripod, to turn off his camera.
Roger stopped him. "Of course we are," he said. He had that wide, annoying, wicked grin on his face. "April and Benny will want to see this when they go back."
What? "No… come on, Roger, there's not a lot of film left and I can't afford buying some more, we really don't want it to be wasted on-"
"Pookie, come on, you go first!"
He couldn't believe he was going to do this. He wouldn't do it for anyone else, but how could he refuse her? He glanced at his first line. Ugh. He swallowed his dignity, closed his eyes then opened them, and started reading. "What light through yonder window breaks?" He heard a snort and raised his head from the page. Collins was trying to keep a straight face without much success. A wide grin threatened to crack his face. Roger was soon to follow. The best thing to do would be to ignore them, he knew. And the camera that was still on. "It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Arise, fair sun, and kill-" Although they were trying hard to stifle their laughter, he could still hear them. And he knew how stupid he must have sounded. Ugh, he just couldn't do this. Not even for her. Mustering every piece of assertiveness that might help him in resisting that manipulative diva that was his girlfriend, he dropped the script on the coffee table. "Maureen, I'm not reading this!"
"Why, Mark? I think you're doing pretty well so far," laughed Roger.
He turned to give him a look. "Shut up."
"Please Marky?" She was moving closer and closer, until her mouth was near his ear. "I'll make it up to you later…" she murmured in that seductive tone that made his insides melt. Somehow, she managed to say that loud enough for Roger and Collins to hear. He knew what was about to happen next. He dropped his head just as they started wooing madly.
"Yes! Go for it, Romeo!" laughed Collins, making him blush.
"Why don't you read it, Collins?" he asked, now getting a little agitated. They stopped laughing in an instant, as if surprised with his unexpected outburst.
There was short, uncomfortable silence, then all of a sudden, Collins snatched the script from the table and stood on the couch. He cleared his throat dramatically, and started reading. "Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, who is already sick and pale with grief that thou her maid art far more fair than she!" he cried out, waving his arms this way and that. Their roars of laughter were much stronger than the rest of his speech, but he continued anyway, a bit over-dramatically in everyone's opinion, yet amazingly funny either way. When he finished his long monologue, they applauded him loudly, and he took his bow and jumped off the couch.
He paused the film, chuckling. He didn't even remember he had it on tape. He gazed at the screen, where a close-up of a smiling Maureen remained frozen. He smiled. It's been two weeks since she left New York. These were probably the longest two weeks he had in his entire life. Sure, he was busy all over his head ever since, but still, everything he did felt kind of empty and lonely. He missed both of them so much.
He spent the entire weekend unpacking all the stuff he still had in boxes around the living room. He figured that once Maureen and Libby would get back, there would be some more boxes to handle with. He got the apartment ready for them. From the two spare rooms he had, he chose the bigger one for Libby. It was close to his and Maureen's bedroom, but not too close, and it had a huge window with a view to Central Park. He hoped she'd like it. In one of the boxes he found old books his mom used to read to him as a kid, so he put those on a shelf in her room as well. Maureen made him promise he wouldn't think of buying Libby new dolls or toys, because they had tons of those in San Francisco, and she still wasn't sure how they were going to get all of them to New York. Loyal to his promise, he took a good care of Libby's teddy bear. He didn't put it in her new room, but rather kept it in his own bedroom. It carried a sweet, baby-like smell that he reminded him of her. It was the only thing of hers he could hold on to, other than the photos he had that really didn't count. He made room in his closet for Maureen's stuff, but he suspected that it wouldn't be enough. Luckily, he still had that other room. In the worst case they'd make it a wardrobe or something, he figured. Tammy was a big help during that weekend. She helped him place all the rest of his books on the living room shelves, fold dozens of shirt he hasn't seen for months and hang some pictures and new curtains in Libby's room. Of course, this whole thing was a golden opportunity for her to tease and torture him endlessly, but he knew that no matter what, she was happy for him.
Other than reorganizing his place, the gallery still took most of his time, and he had to get ready for a new photography workshop he was about to instruct soon. Plus, there was this new project. This thing he wanted to do for so long and never found the time. He joined Recalled to Life, Life for short, a group that worked to promote the awareness for AIDS around the world. It provided support for those who had it, and the necessary information for their families as well as for anyone else who simply wanted to know. The people in the group were all well familiar with the affects of the virus and its consequences. Some of them were diagnosed with HIV; there were some others who had AIDS and also, some people like him, who lost their friends for it. Lately they started giving lectures in high schools, colleges and universities, spreading the word wherever they could. The first time he really felt like doing something like that was years ago, when he joined Angel and Collins in their Life Support meeting. He saw how important those meetings were for them, how helpful it was to share their stories with other people. Then he lost them all one by one, and when he was standing near Roger's grave, the last grave, he promised himself he'd do it, in the memory of them all.
While it felt as if everything was finally falling into place, there was this one thing that still bothered him. He had no idea how he could make his mother change her attitude. She never called after that day he told her his news. Whenever he tried to call her, she always managed to avoid speaking to him. She either gave him short answers in her coldest tone, or hung up quickly after saying he caught her on her way out. He knew Cindy was trying to convince her to listen to him, but so far, to no avail. His mom was always hard to convince.
He laid back on the couch and closed his eyes. He couldn't believe it was finally the weekend. He was looking forward to it. His bag was already packed, and the next day he would be on the first plane to San Francisco. He ignored the weather reports that forecasted heavy rainstorms. He had this opportunity to go and he didn't want to miss it. He didn't have any special obligations to Life, and the workshop would start in several weeks, so it was probably the only free weekend he'd have in a while. Tammy said she had no problem running the gallery by herself during the weekend, so he decided to go.
He pressed a button, and Maureen's smile disappeared as the screen went blank. He reached for the phone and dialed the number he came to remember by heart by now. It should be around 6PM for them, he thought as he listened to the dial tone. No one answered, and he was about to hang up when a small voice was suddenly heard from the other side.
He smiled, feeling his heart melt. He missed this little one. "Libby?"
"Sweetie, it's Mark. How are you?"
"Okay," she said, giggling. "How are you?"
"Libby, who is it?" Maureen's voice was heard from somewhere in the room. There were some rustling noises, and then he heard her more clearly. "Hello?"
"Guess who," he said, smiling.
She laughed. "Well, well, isn't it my favorite camera boy," she said seductively.
How did she manage to do that to him every time? "She'll hear you."
"No she won't, she went to take off her coat, we just walked in," she sounded as if she was smiling. He missed her smile. They talked quite a lot in the passing two weeks, but although talking had its own benefits from time to time, it just wasn't enough. And both of them had very busy couple of days, so when they did manage to talk it was late night for him, and usually he was exhausted. He couldn't wait until he'd get there. He needed to see her. "Mark?"
"Yeah, I'm here."
"I thought you fell asleep on me again."
"Ha, ha," he said. It happened only once, couple of days before. He woke up the next morning on the couch, without realizing where he was or why the phone's receiver was next to his ear. He knew she wouldn't let him forget it. "Where were you?"
"Shopping. I needed some stuff for dinner. So do you have big plans for the weekend?"
"Actually, I do." He wouldn't tell her, he decided.
"Oh, wouldn't you want to know."
"Hmm… should I be very jealous?"
"Cindy invited me for dinner. It was Natalie's birthday and I couldn't be there, so-" He hoped she'd buy that. "And you?"
"Well, my parents are coming over tomorrow so we'll probably meet them for dinner. I thought I'd tell them about us before Libby would."
Her parents? Oh damn. "Are they going to stay with you guys?"
"No, our apartment is not big enough, so they never do."
Should he tell her he was booked on a flight to San Francisco for the next morning? He really wanted it to be a surprise, but what if she'd be too busy with her parents? What if she wanted to break it to them alone? But then, on the other hand, if she was going to tell them, maybe he should be there too. Yet wouldn't it be better telling her instead of showing up on her doorway uninvited? Probably so. He should tell her. "Maureen-"
No. He wouldn't tell her. On the worst case, she'd kicked him out. He knew several good hotels in San Francisco. "Nothing. I miss you."
"I miss you too, Pookie," she said playfully.
He frowned. "I thought we had an agreement about this stupid nickname."
"I thought it turned you on when I used it."
"Oh, don't you dare start with that now."
"Why? You're too far away to smack me or anything. I bet I made you blush. Are you blushing?"
He laughed. She was impossible. "I don't know, I don't have a mirror."
"You're so cute when you're blushing." She sounded kind of sad. Just wait for tomorrow, he thought.
"How's work?" he asked, trying to change the subject. He didn't want her to be sad.
"Crazy, but that's okay because at least it means we'll be in New York more or less as planned."
"Which is what, late January?"
"Or early February. They found this guy to replace me once I'm gone, so there's really not much to do for me here anymore, other than showing him around and make sure he'll do everything right."
"Is he cute?" He realized what he had just asked her only after he did.
"Oh, wouldn't you want to know." Good. She was definitely smiling again.
"Yeah, use my own words against me, that's clever," he said. "Is Libby okay?"
"Libby is great. She misses Roger, but she's doing okay without it. Better than I expected." She laughed. "I should make dinner right now, actually, but someone here is distracting me."
"Okay, okay, I know when I'm not wanted. Go make dinner. I'll call again soon, okay?"
"Give Libby a kiss for me, will you? Tell her that Roger misses her too."
"I hope you're taking a good care of it or I'll personally kill you. She loves this teddy bear to death. I still can't believe she agreed to leave it with you."
"Well don't worry, I'm taking a very good care of it for her. It's safe with me."
"Good." She paused, then added quietly, "I love you Mark."
He smiled. "I love you too. Bye, I'll talk to you soon."
"Okay. Bye Pookie." She giggled, and hung up on him.
He just sat there speechless for a second with the phone in his hand, listening to the dial tone. Then he hung up and laughed, rolling his eyes. "Pookie…"