Title: He, She

Author: Girl Who Writes

Feedback: is beloved.

Characters: Maureen & Collins.

Word Count: 1 309

Rating: PG

Genre: Angst

Summary: Maybe when she was born, someone painted an invisible target on her, because she always fucks up everything good, and even when she thinks that maybe she's doing okay, someone's got something – a Pandora's Box of Maureen's Fuck Ups.

Notes: Written for speedrent to include the quote in "VI", from QaF. I always saw Collins and Maureen as being close and thought I'd explore that.

Spoilers: Movie and musical - post movie.

Warnings: Language! Bizarre formatting!

Disclaimer: Rent belongs to Jonathon Larson. Lyrics used are from Shawn Mullins' "Shimmer".


I. Sharing with us what he knows

He heard the yelling before he even got up the stairs. The yelling, the screaming and finally, the sobbing; he waited on the stairs for a minute, to give them all some time to compose, his arms laden down with a bag of food and several books for Mimi.

He started up the stairs again, only to almost be knocked down by a female whirlwind, stumbling out of the loft, face streaking with tears, head down.

"Mo?" Collins called after her.

"Leave her," Mark appears in the doorway, looking half drained and half disgusted with whatever transpired.

He takes the groceries in, and holds Joanne tight when he sees her red eyes. He doesn't ask what happened, just pulls bottles of alcohol out, and Mimi and Roger quietly take up the preparation of the meal, tearing open bags of chips and cookies, trying to change the subject and make the conversation flow again.

It's like someone has broken a glass, and they're hurrying to sweep the shards away and fetch a new glass. Except that new glass is cracked. Last time Maureen and Joanne had an argument; Maureen had hurled a glass at the wall, above where Mark was standing. Mark had gotten two stitches along his hair line, and Maureen had sat in the emergency room with her head in her hands, her knees pulled up to her chest, and rocked back and forth. He'd sat beside her, one hand on her shoulder, keeping her there with him.

He gets up, still wearing his coat, and leaves the loft without a word.

II. You know I drink a whole bottle of my pride

She doesn't remember how the argument starts, but when it does, she wants to cover her head. Maybe when she was born, someone painted an invisible target on her, because she always fucks up everything good, and even when she thinks that maybe she's doing okay, someone's got something – a Pandora's Box of Maureen's Fuck Ups.

She's left her coat hanging on the back of the orange chair in the loft, her wallet in the pocket. But she digs out some money from her back pocket – money that's been there for awhile. She stands in the middle of the street for a moment, looking behind her at the loft, before she keeps walking.

If they want to yell at her, scream at her, cry because of her, well, she'll give them something good. Maureen Johnson doesn't do anything by halves.

III. Sometimes I think of all of this that can surround me

He meant to grab her coat before he left, seeing the pile of soft red wool on the back of Roger's chair. But he forgot, and its cold out, and he wants to go back and get it for her, but he doesn't want to go back up to the unhappy silence.

It's so fucking cold though. He doesn't like the thought of Maureen walking around in this at all. Last time, he found her sitting in the park, her arms wrapped around her, staring up at the sky. He sat beside her, and they talked about Angel for awhile.

And when he wrapped his arm around her, she was ice cold to touch. He wonders how many faces there are to Maureen, but he knows he'll never ask, because she'll never answer; all of Maureen's faces are seamless, he's got to learn them himself, by heart.

IV. Just get these demons off my back

She remembers sitting on the stairs at home, listening to her parents scream and yell at each other. It was the day after her tenth birthday and she'd come down for dinner. Her grandmother was there for a family dinner. She could see her grandmother sitting in the dining room, smoking a cigarette and watching the show.

Scream, yell, curse, smash; her mother fled into the depths of the house, her father hurling one last thing at the wall, plaster crumbling, and the gentle tinkling of broken glass, before he vanishes too.

"Come in here, Maureen." Her grandmother calls out, leaving to get the housekeeper. She walked into the dining room, still dressed in her stiff school uniform. And viewing the wreckage; the smashed plates and glasses, the spilt wine and salad upturned, half on the floor, half on the table, the vinegar seeping into the linen table cloth.

She bends down to pick up some picture frames that have left dents in the wall, the glass tearing through the photographs; her school photo, a family portrait, a holiday snap. She stacks them on the edge of the table, and her father's crystal decanter has tipped over, spilling everywhere.

"Maureen!" Her grandmother is back. "Get up before you hurt yourself."

V. She said you know its crazy

He finds her in a dark bar, one he thinks Roger might have played in their past life. She's slumped at the bar, a beer in front of her, and he honestly thought she'd be drinking something stronger.

"Mo."

She looks up at him, her eyes red and her face white. He takes a seat beside her, orders a beer and they both watch the bottles on the shelf, the way the dim lights catch the colour of the alcohol.

"I screwed up again."

"I know."

"Why do I keep doing this, Collins?" She downs a mouthful of beer. "Why can't I do one god-damned thing right?"

"You tell me, Mo." He pulls a cigarette out of his coat pocket, and lights it. He wonders if she remembers Roger's performance here. They only had fifteen bucks between them, and Mark got drunk on peppermint schnapps, and it was Maureen who took him into the bathroom, and rubbed his back while he vomited.

VI. I love this woman's way

"I'll tell you why. My mother was a frigid bitch, my father an abusive drunk. They had a hateful marriage, which is probably why I am unwilling or unable to perform a long term, committed relationship of my own. The fact that I drink like a fish, abuse drugs, and have more or less redefined promiscuous sex doesn't help, much. As a result, I've lost the two people in my life that mean the most to me."

He offers her the cigarette; she takes a drag; her eyes flicking to the ceiling.

Her voice is flat, speaking the truth. "You know, I was ten when I realized my father didn't wear cologne; that he always smelt of whiskey, no matter if it was breakfast or dinner or he was picking me up from school."

She drinks more beer and rests her head on her arms. "They'll never forgive me."

"Yeah, they will. Maybe you need to tell them this."

"You think I'd say this shit when I was sober?"

"I think you should try."

"Who's going to come after me when you're gone?" The marijuana has gone to her head, and she's getting weepy.

"Whoever you let come after you, Mo." He rests his arm around her shoulders.

She finishes her beer and stands up. "I remember my parents hated each other; they wanted to leave, but they couldn't. I don't want that." She stretches her arms above her head.

"Maureen." She looks directly at him. "Jesus, Mo, give Joanne a chance to stay because she wants to. You're forcing Joanne and Mark to hate you, to hate you and leave. Give them the god damned chance."

VII. But time I cannot change so here's to looking back

They walk home slowly, through the park, smoking and silent. She blows smoke circles into the night sky, his arm around her shoulders.

They're sitting in a circle when they get back to the loft; eating chips and chicken and salad out of the packaging, booze and soda being passed around. Collins takes his seat, leaning back and grinning at Mark and Roger who look up at Maureen in sync.

Joanne looks up too, her face unreadable, as Maureen lingers outside the circle, her face guilty and sad.

He knows she'll try her hardest, but she'll still fuck up on occasion, but Maureen's screw ups are legendary, and there will always be a place for her here.

She thinks back to Pandora's Box of Maureen's Fuck Ups, and remembers the last thing left in Pandora's Box was hope. Good enough.