A/N: This story is mostly musical-based (most elements from the movie are not here), told post-Rent with flashbacks way before Rent. While writing it I came up with some new twists and theories about the oh-so-overdone plot, so bear with me, give me a chance. I hope you won't be disappointed. Also, since these are mostly snapshots from Maureen's life bunched together, if you get the feeling that some parts move to fast and others too slow, it's kind of on purpose, because there were some things I wanted to focus on whereas other things just had to be said, mostly so that the chronology would make sense. So no flames about that because I'm aware of it. Otherwise reviews, suggestions and ways of improvement are always welcome!
Disclaimer- the Rent characters and plot-line are the eternal property of Jonathan Larson. Along the way there's gonna be some other stuff that are not mine, like references to songs and musicals, so I'll state it once instead of repeating it over and over- I don't own 'em, I rent.
On My Own
The orchestra played its final notes and the curtain fell upon the stage. As the stage-lights died out, the audience exploded. Their clamors echoed from wall to wall in the enormous theater house, loud and deafening. Then the main lights flickered on, signaling the beginning of the intermission. People all over turned to speak with one another, beaming with excitement. This was, by all means, one of the most successful opening nights Broadway had ever witnessed. It would definitely be remembered for a very long time.
She ran off-stage, following other actors and dancers in colorful costumes back to their dressing-rooms. In spite of the hateful mixture of sweat and makeup running down her face, the hair that stuck to her forehead, the heavy dress that was clinging to her body, making the heat even more unbearable, she had the most brilliant smile on, lightening her face with a remarkable glow. The adrenaline was buzzing in her ears, beating simultaneously with her heart, making her feel alive. This was what she loved best; being high with adrenaline, sweeping the audience off its feet, making it beg for more, hearing its applause way after it ended, never wishing it to fade away. For her, as for everyone else in the business, it was an addiction of the worst kind.
"Amazing first act, Johnson!" someone called in her direction as she went down the stairs. Her smile got impossibly wider as she shook her head in the man's direction, acknowledging his compliment. She continued to make her way through actors and stage-technicians to her dressing-room. It was her first time in the leading role, after so many times she ended up as a chorus girl or a useless understudy, usually for some unimportant role where there was never a real need in a replacement. All around her, people were talking about what had just taken place onstage. The words were whirling in her head, familiar yet somehow more meaningful than ever before, making her want to bounce up and down with excitement, like a little girl on Christmas morning. Terrific performances… Midnight reviews… Tony nominations…
"Sir, you can't go through here!" The voice, warning and persistent, shook her from her reverie. She recognized it to be Adam's, one of the theater's security men. As they were more or less the same age, they were always flirting with one another, but always as a way to release the tension during the intensive period of final rehearsals, rather than something serious. And both of them were very aware of that. He was always nice to her, making sure that she was okay and bringing her bottles of water during long rehearsals. And he always addressed her as "Miss Johnson," never by her first name, which was something she really liked. She stopped and listened. It sounded as if someone was sneaking backstage again. Some reporters tried to do that on their preview night couple of weeks back. It didn't end well.
"I need to see her!" said another voice, kind of urgently.
"Sir, if you won't step back, I'm afraid we'll have to call security," said a third voice.
"You are security!" Her eyebrows knotted together. She knew this voice, she realized. It was one of those voices she wished to leave behind her. "Look, I'm not some psycho fan of hers, I just need to-"
She turned, and stared. He stared back. Gazes locked, chocolate brown with icy blue. It felt as if everything stopped still as she approached the two tough-looking men who held him back, and gave them a questioning look.
"Miss Johnson, do you know this man?" asked Adam.
She hesitated, and stole a glace at him again. He looked just as she remembered, except for his eyes. There was something very old and haunted in them. It should have bothered her, as his eyes have always been so youthful and alert, but right now she just dismissed it. She had no idea how he managed to get in there, or why he even bothered, but she definitely didn't need this when she had a very emotional second act ahead of her. She shook her head, avoiding his eyes. "No. I don't."
"Maureen?" he asked in amazement, staring at her in disbelief. "Maureen, what are you-"
"We won't ask you again, sir. Please step back now."
She turned her back and hurried to her dressing-room, his protests leading her way, his eyes drilling holes in her back. He was calling her name once, twice, and then his voice ceased, as if he understood he'd better leave.
She found a refuge in her dressing-room. She closed the door and leaned against it. One of the benefits of having the lead on a Broadway show was the fact that you got your very own dressing-room. And boy, did she need privacy now. She moved away from the door, reminding herself she had less than 15 minutes to change for the beginning of the second act. Luckily, she wouldn't have to go onstage in the first 20 minutes or so, which allowed her some time to calm down.
As she zipped up her dress, she realized she was shaking. Damn him. She hated when people had the power to get to her that way. He was one of few people who always did and she didn't think he even knew it. She tried not to think about it, but all her thoughts stirred to this very direction.
She stared at her reflection in the mirror, letting her hair fall down her shoulders. If she'd close her eyes, she'd remember the first time she had met them, those people who became closer to her than her own family, who changed her life from end to end in a way she never believed was possible. Was it really so long ago? She tried to figure out how many years have passed since she had last seen them all, and realized that she couldn't. No more than five years, she told herself eventually, but even that felt like forever.
She looked around her dressing-room, as if for the first time. Since it was opening night, the small room was packed with flowers and "good luck" cards. Her costumes hung on a rack at the far end of the room, except for the dress she had just taken off and left on the back of the couch.
How did I get here, how the hell?
She got what she wanted. This has always been her dream. Broadway's glory, a leading role in what was sure to be the next big hit, a possible Tony nomination, and she was just nearing her 30th year. It happened. Broadway was finally ready for her. So how come it felt so wrong? She figured that getting your dreams wasn't so exciting as you hoped it would. But did she regret the step she took? She wasn't sure. This felt right. This was what she meant to be all her life. It felt as if she could never be something else, she could never have done anything else. Besides, she was never the type of person to regret choices she has made. And why would she? She believed that each choice was right, in its own way.
Well, except for some choices maybe, she thought, her thought shifting towards what had just happened, in spite of herself. She shook her head, as if to get the sight of his haunted eyes, his amazed and broken expression out of her head, but there it stayed, clear and vivid. It felt as if she would remember it for the rest of her life.
She didn't ask him to walk back into her life so suddenly, she reminded herself, as if she needed some sort of justification. She made her choice. And she wasn't the same person she was five years ago. She wasn't ready to delve into her past. She had a lot on her mind as it was. He had no right to come back like that after he made it pretty clear he didn't want anything to do with her. She came to give him a second chance, to give that chance to herself, and he didn't take it. So she moved on, and did it in the only way she knew, on her own. And now it was just too late. He lost his chance.
And so did she, she thought sadly, closing her eyes.