O Rose Thou Art Sick

Disclaimer: I do not claim to own anything that is the genius Jonathon Larson's property. Credit also goes to Mr. William Blake for the title (from his poem the Sick Rose,) and Emily Dickinson (chapter title).

In Memoriam: To Mr. Larson. May your genius continue to inspire millions.

Chapter One: Because I could not stop for Death-

Because I could not stop for Death-

He kindly stopped for me-

-Emily Dickinson

Mark first noticed the cough a year after Roger's death. It wasn't much of a shock. After all, disease was rampant here in Alphabet City. Coughs could be heard all over. Mark simply coughed, then coughed again and again, stopped coughing, and thought nothing of it.

It wasn't until that day at the cemetery, when he'd actually had to sit down, driven to the ground by the ferociousness of his dry, hacking cough, that he even though he might really be sick. But he pushed the thought out of his mind, got up slowly, muttered a short 'good-bye' to Roger, Mimi, and Angel's bodies, their tombstones, and went on back to the empty loft.

What with three of the Bohemians dead, Collins teaching at Berkley, Maureen in Chicago on tour with her protest performance, and Joanne in Washington D.C. working as a lawyer, Mark was very much alone. Any hope at Benny's redemption after Angel's death had been lost after Mimi was gone. The power was turned on periodically, had been on for a while when Roger had been ill, when he had been dying, but now it was more often off. Not that Mark much cared. Mark didn't much care about anything these days.

What was the point in caring? If there was anything Mark had learned from his friends, it was that only one thing could be counted on in life, and that was imminent death. Not that you might not achieve all your goals before you died, not that you may or may not be surrounded by friends and family at the final moment of truth, but that, at some point in your life, through some means, you were going to die. Every day, Mark looked out the window and said his mantra, one of few consistencies in his life: "It might be today."

It might be today. Who knew? Mark certainly didn't, coughing as he hurried to his destination. He had taken to just going into bars, selecting a few people at random, and taping them all night, to see how they reacted to situations, to see how they lived a normal life.

Mark coughed as he sat at a table; it was so smoky in this damn bar! He stopped coughing for a moment, trying to focus on the young man who looked a bit like Roger. His hands were a little shaky from the strain of all his coughing, and he gripped the camera fiercely, trying to steady them. Then, it started again.

Mark coughed and coughed, again and again. He couldn't stop, couldn't catch his breath, just kept coughing and coughing.

Cough. Cough. Mark could feel his face getting red from lack of oxygen as the dry, hacking sound of his cough filled the air. Shit. People were starting to notice. Panicking a little, Mark got up quickly and hurried out of the bar, finding refuge in a nearby dark alley. There, he leaned up against a cold brick wall, his cough becoming lost in the noises of the city. He coughed and coughed. His vision was getting blurry, he needed air…

Mark put a hand to his mouth, trying to stifle the cough. A wet piece of phlegm flew up against it, and became stuck to his hand. Then, the cough stopped.

Instantaneous relief flooded Mark's body, sending him to his knees, the fresh air blinding him. He panted shallowly, trying to get oxygen to his brain.

Mark, finally able to breathe, went back out onto the sidewalk. For some unfathomable reason, instead of simply wiping it on his pants, he looked at his hand.

"Oh shit," he said.

On his hand lay a wad of green, sticky phlegm. And in the phlegm, there was a streak of red.


Mark's blood.

Oh shit was right.

A/n: What did you think? If you didn't like this chapter, stay for the next; something will happen in it. Please review! Constructive criticism is heartily accepted.