Pairing/characters: Mark + Maureen/Joanne. Mentioned Mimi/Roger and Mark/Maureen.

Notes: Written for speedrent and I got lyrics that just ooze angst, though I tried hard to make the ending a little more uplifting :).

Warnings: Character death.

Disclaimer: Rent is not mine. I only own the DVD, but that DVD is all mine.


"All my friends are gone
and once again I find myself alone"

- BARE


Christmas Eve. Pan across the empty lot…

The words were never spoken out loud. In fact, to be honest, he talked very little now and only when necessary. The narration remained unspoken in his mind, running itself over and over again like an empty reel of film. The only thing that ever changes is the day, but the result is always the same.

Loneliness. Bitter, numbing loneliness. The kind that keeps eating at his soul until there's nothing left.

He shut off the camera, lowering it to his side. The lot is indeed empty, the homeless having been scared away by the cops last night. It will be another day or two before they return. Then life will continue, just as if nothing had happened, when in truth, everything has happened.

"Mark, honey, they're gone. Nothing will change that."

Maureen's words had been soft, trying every bit to comfort.

"Joanne's gone, too," he'd replied. "Something you can't forget either. So why should I forget about them?"

A sigh. "Joanne's in DC. And it's different…it's—"

"Your fault? Nothing is keeping you here, Mo. Go get her before she finds someone else."

"I can't just leave you here."

"You always did before. Why is this time any different?" had flown out of his mouth before he could even stop himself from speaking. It had been his turn to sigh. "I didn't mean that, Mo. I'll be fine. I'm always fine."

He always was, he had told himself then. Told him himself that now. He'd ignored the worried look Maureen had shot him, but she'd left. Left for the pursuit of love, because love had meaning and all that shit.

Cynical. He'd become cynical.

There was no snow this Christmas Eve, only a biting cold that went straight through to his bones. He shivered involuntarily and knew that standing out here any longer with only earn him a chill.

Regardless of what has happened, he wasn't suicidal. He had never been suicidal. Maybe he was too much of a coward, but the thought had never entered his head.

No, he continued. Not lived – lived was a word that didn't seem to work for him. It implied meaning, happiness, and he knew both of those things were currently absent from his routine.

He took on last look at the barren lot and headed inside, trudging up the staircase. This time he prided himself that he only lingered a second or two when he passed by Mimi's door. A new record.

Roger's guitar greeted him as he slid open the heavy door. He stopped a moment and looked at it before slamming the door shut. He put his camera down on the table and rummaged through his bag, removing a paper sack.

Stolie, along with a single paper cup. He sat down on the windowsill and poured, drinking a silent toast to those gone.

He should be bitter. Angry, maybe. Allowed to be, even, would probably be what every psychiatrist in New York would say. But he's not. Not angry. Not bitter.

Just empty.

AIDS killed. Well, actually, infection killed, but AIDS left the door wide open for that to happen. Mimi was never same after her close call. Roger was never the same after Mimi. And Collins hung on as long as he could, until his body betrayed him.

They all knew it would happen. Never a surprise.

No reason to be bitter or angry about a fact that would never change. No, it played out just like it should. A perfect script.

He had no reason to wallow. No reason at all. Yet he was, wallowing for all it was worth, staring into a cup of Stoli like it would give him all the answers he needed.

"You're depressed," Joanne had told him, just before she'd left. "You should talk to someone."

"Everyone I would talk to is leaving," he'd pointed out, grinding in the guilt just a little more.

Joanne had just given him a small smile. "Mark, you never talked to any of us. And I mean really, really talked. I'm not sure what is ever going on in that head of yours."

That makes two of us, he'd thought, but instead, he'd changed the subject. "You love Maureen."

Joanne had sighed. "I do. But sometimes love just isn't simply enough."

"Yeah," he'd echoed. "Sometimes it doesn't change a damn thing." /i

Maureen had moved in for a couple of months. They'd done something they knew was so very wrong but they did it anyway. It was easier to wake up in each other's arms than to wake up alone, not that either of them would acknowledge that fact out loud.

No, it wasn't meant to be and Maureen was just as depressed as he was. They just had different reasons to mope. Hers could be fixed.

His might never be.

The phone rang and he heard the machine pick up. His voice alone, dictating a simple "I'm not here, leave a message." If he continued to screen, he couldn't listen to Roger's voice combined with his because it made him forget every once in while that Roger was gone.

His mother's voice droned on, wanting him to go home. Cindy was there, they missed him. His father even chimed in. Mark almost laughed. His family was definitely Jewish, but that never stopped his mother from getting a Christmas tree and decorating it in silver and blue. A "Jewish tree" she had called it and he'd always rolled his eyes. He'd figured she'd done it so that he never felt left out when other people in the neighborhood celebrated Christmas.

Roger had laughed at the idea of a "Jewish tree" when Mark had first mentioned it. It was Mimi that had thought it sounded like fun and dragged a pitiful tree she had managed to get for free home and dressed it in blue and silver tinsel. There'd been tinsel around for months after; Mark had even found some the month after Mimi was gone and he'd shoved it in a scrapbook, not willing to throw it out.

So he shouldn't really feel empty either. He had memories, good memories.

The phone rang again.

"Mark, pick the damn phone up. I know you're there. Because if you're not and Joanne and I drove all this fucking way—"

He snatched the receiver, almost knocking over the bottle of Stoli in the process.

"Maureen?"

"Toss down the key before Joanne and I freeze to death, will you?"

The window was opened and he stared down, finding his two friends below him. He dropped the key down and went back inside.

The Stoli bottle was still nearly full and he was sure he had two more paper cups. Neither Maureen nor Joanne would probably understand the custom, but it didn't matter. A toast to friends was a toast to friends.

So maybe, just maybe, for just a few precious hours, he could simply remember friends and forget what it was like to be alone.