Disclaimer: I don't own anything of the brilliant musical, "Rent." Everything about it belongs to the late, great Johnathan Larson. May he rest in peace.

Author's Notes: I was inspired to write this after watching "Rent," wondering just how Maureen and Joanne came across Mimi. This is also posted at my livejournal.


Whistles the Wind

The night hung solemnly, a dark curtain drawn to a weary day. The air was as brittle as her nerves-uptight, so fragile, like glass animals, that one wrong touch was all it took to further crack her fragmented self-control. Oh, how brutal the wind was-it's melody, so precarious in its innocence, much like a young child, ceased to bring to mind images of her whistles-lascivious and lewd, tempting and sweet. Oh, why did nature feel the need to pin her with memories when she was already suffocating within the city of gray boxes and desperation?

Death seemed content to join in-after all, it had claimed one of her newest and closest companions. He was such a vibrant soul-she only wished she had been graced with more time-to laugh, to play, to console. When she was with him, being without her didn't sting as much. Oh, but how quickly the cherished treasures of the heart dissipated. Like the perfection in the warmth of spring, everything that ever mattered-from relationships to friendships-seemed to end within the span of a year.

Five hundred, twenty five thousand, and six hundred minutes. Fleeting increments of time that could, like the knife, save or kill. Seven days could scar, twenty four hours could bruise. One month could be the equivalent of heaven while the next day could mean a relapse into depression. Joanne reminded herself of this dutifully-she didn't want to inflate her hope just to be let down again.

Her pace was forceful and quick, much like the mood she currently found herself in. Winter's bite hurt more than its bark, that was the only thing she could be certain about, currently. Everything else she had found to be stable degenerated into decay and despair around her. From Maureen to Angel, she had never before been aware that her heart could break so many times and remain whole.

"Joanne!" The familiar, high-strung pitch of one Maureen Johnson met her ears, which, much to her displeasure, twitched eagerly at the sound. The last thing she needed was for her former lover to be hanging around her with one thousand more faux apologies-she'd had enough of Maureen's tall tales to last a life time.

However, there was something…different about her voice tonight. Unusually, it was painted in shades of panic-distress. Joanne wondered what could possibly be wrong.

"What's wrong, Maureen?" Just like in their previous relationship, Joanne was able to read Maureen, like, the old cliché, an opened book. From what she could tell, at the moment, her ex's pages were tattered, destroyed. Now she was really concerned. Not that it took much to upset her (former) diva, but it was rare that one would come across Maureen in a generally upset mood. It took a great amount of effort to bring the drama queen to genuine concern-an emotion clearly evidenced, as Joanne turned to face her, by the tears running down her cheeks.

"Oh my God. Tell me Maureen-what the hell is going on?" Joanne was driven to tears from the mere sight of her old girlfriend crying-nothing out of the usual from back when they were dating. God, what was it with the past rearing its ugly head? From the moment she left work, her history seemed eager to catch up with her.

"Follow me." Her stutter was hardly convincing, but Joanne knew that now was not the time to question the other's motives. Something was seriously wrong.

---

All that remained of the world that she knew had gone cold. Like when autumn fades to winter, the vibrancy of her life had spun out of control, falling into a comatose frost. She shivered. It was the only thing left that she could do, really. The drugs, the infatuation, the heartbreak-it had all taken a huge toll on her. She felt drained, exhausted. The blackness was closing in around her.

She was clawing at empty air, helplessly fallen as time ran out her imaginary door.

---

"So, are you going to tell me what this all about?" Joanne shouted, speeding up her steps so that she was nearly at Maureen's side. She had grown impatient with her silent guessing games, and they had been walking for nearly ten minutes. She decided to risk Maureen's flighty temper for the sake of a few answers.

"I found her." Maureen curtly replied, her eyes shining with premature tears. Joanne nearly halted in shock. Even though Maureen had yet to mention any name, she knew in a heartbeat to whom she was referring. They had been looking for weeks for any sort of sign. Joanne had given up hope, as had the others, only a few nights before. Their fruitless efforts had dampened even more so their sour spirits.

---

Drug addicts and the homeless-they always were so noisy. But now, as she could feel herself slipping under the current of the living, their rhythm became overrun with static. As the sounds of reality faded, so grew her chill in intensity and volume. She felt as though caught in a hole, pinned by the aftermath of years of drugs and dancing. She felt…betrayed, almost, by her own body.

Sleep was so tempting. Like a gallant mistress, it beckoned to her like the scent of rose to romance. Her weakness swallowed any lingering resistance. She had nothing, no one to hold her back from indulging in blessed unconciousness. Not even Roger. No, he was blurred, nothing more than a memory now. But maybe that was the darkness speaking, the creeping, sinister tendrils wrapping around her, claiming her as its own.

She still loved him. She just wasn't certain whether or not he loved her. But none of that mattered. Perhaps her death would finally bring him to his senses. He couldn't run away forever. Maybe her short time on Earth could help to open his eyes and at last, find happiness.

"Oh my God!" Was the last she could remember before premature night shrouded her in a mess of a veil.

---

"Mary mother of God, Maureen!" Joanne was dumbstruck, for lack of a better word, at the state of Mimi's condition. A sickly pallor clung to the poor girl's skin as if she was already a corpse-already lost to the mechanics and "technological miracles" of this world. Joanne felt the bittersweet sensation of tears clutching at her eyes, begging for release.

"I know." She turned to find Maureen shivering, hard. Her maternal instincts refused to obey her voice of reason, and before she knew it, she had her arms entangled around her mess of a former lover, squeezing in reassurance ever so gently. The back of her mind attempted protest, but her heart knew better. She couldn't stand the sight of her honey bear in tears, resembling more and more an abandoned rag doll, in the process.

"Baby." She pleaded, apparently struggling with the same sense of duality. Her objection lasted only a minute more, if that. She was too weak, emotionally, physically. In their embrace alone, Joanne could distinguish a sense of loneliness in the other woman. It was in the way she clung desperately to her, like a life preserver.

They broke apart seconds later, alerted to the danger of the situation by the whimpers and pleadings of the younger girl. She was crying out while her eyes remained shut. Under the influence of delusion, she had degenerated into a skeleton of what she once had been. A vibrant, inspiring lover of dance and music, she had succumbed to the depression at last.

"We have to get her out of here, now." Joanne stared directly at Maureen, the authority returning to her voice once more. It had narrowed down to a battle between time and fortune, neither of which they had on their side. God only knew how long Mimi had been laying, near lifeless, on the bitter flesh of the pavement, wasting away in a city as good as wasted.

"Yes, but to where?" Maureen questioned, meeting Joanne's gaze with an intense stare of her own.

United in unison, they both cried out: "To Mark and Roger!"

Just like old times.

They went to work in a hurry, not wanting to further damage the already ill Mimi. Maureen scooped her benignly into her arms as Joanne watched, making sure the weight wasn't too much for the other woman to bear, as she did so. One look from the drama queen was all it took to silence her.

---

They arrived outside the rundown apartment complex a while later, Maureen still cradling the unconscious woman in her arms. Joanne was fidgeting with concern. She hoped to God that Collins and the boys were home…

"Hey." Maureen paused, just about to scream up. She had an almost…bashful look about her, a trait rarely, if ever, used to describe her. "Thank you for coming with me." She flashed an even shyer smile. "And…thanks for putting up with me, even when I was a complete and total bitch."

Joanne felt her smile expand upon her face, like a fluffy cloud blooming under a sunny day. The warmth in her stomach, no matter how much she tried to deny it, wouldn't let her escape from the hope and the sincerity in those words-never before had she seen Maureen so devoted, so…honest.

The other woman was preparing to shout up. Joanne managed to stop her, ending their petty warfare, patching up, for the moment, at least, their wounded relationship. All it took were two simple words:

"You're welcome."