((Disclaimer: These characters, sadly, belong not to me but to Jonathon Larson, who deserves endless thanks for creating them!! Please read and let me know what you think - but be nice or at least constructive because this is my first Rentfic. I've edited this a little bit so it's not in third-person anymore. In case anyone cared. *smiles* Whatever, just read.))

Anything But Lonely (previously titled All By Myself)

Prologue: I Remember

I walked down the street, my arms wrapped tightly around myself in vain hope of trapping in some body heat. The wind whipped bitterly against my thin frame, chilling the tears that trickled down my cheeks. "December 25th, eight PM, Eastern Standard Time. I can't believe I'm talking to myself," I mumbled. "When did it come to this? The camera's gone, and still I narrate for some film that doesn't exist and never will." I sighed and turned a corner. "So what do I do now?" I wondered, making sure to think in my head this time. "The same thing I've always done, I guess; the only thing I know how to do: analyze the past." I found an empty alley and sat down behind a garbage bin, away from the relentless winds and the distraction of passing strangers.

I guess it all began about a month and a half ago. November 12th, 1999, to be exact: the night Mimi died. Oh, we all knew it was coming. I knew it as soon as she started coughing. "It's just the flu," she insisted. But that wasn't true, couldn't be true; only healthy people get "just the flu." For someone with AIDS, that influenza virus can be a death threat. And for Mimi, that's what it would mean -- death.

After that first day of coughing, she got progressively worse. The doctor tried to help, but well, we were all broke and there wasn't much the doctor would do for free. So Roger and I -- well, mostly me, Roger was kind of a wreck by that point - I fixed up the couch in the loft for her. That's where she stayed for about three days. Finally, as Roger cradled her frail, fading figure in his arms, the rest of us (Maureen, Joanne, Collins, and I) watched as Mimi took her last breath.

I remember right before she went, she said "I love you," and she wasn't just talking to Roger - she meant all of us. God, we were a family then. Ever since Christmas Eve last year, when Mimi had her near-death experience, the six of us had been practically inseparable. Nothing could break us up - strange to think how easily we've fallen apart now. But I'm getting ahead of myself.