Disclaimer: I do not own any of the original RENT characters.

AN: I know I haven't updated in forever, I'm sorry. I rewrote this chapter at least ten times because I knew it was kind of like a space filler and I didn't want it to be boring. Then my internet went down and well...it's up now. Thank you to those of you who have stuck with it! Enjoy!

Chapter Three: Falling

As the weeks wore on, Mimi fell deeper and deeper into her addiction. The days grew shorter and the nights colder. Ever second she was on stage was a second Mimi wished for a better life. More than once she considered quitting the Catscratch. Who needed a life of flouncing around on stage? Who needed an environment that only made her addiction worse? She knew she should stop shooting up, but she couldn't it felt too good and it was the only way she knew how to escape the horrors of her life. So why didn't Mimi quit her job and change her life? The answer was simple: Jose Marquez.

The portion of Mimi's paycheck that she sent home every week was the only thing keeping her brother in school. If she quit her job, Mimi would lose that income. She would lose Jose's future. She wouldn't let him end up like her: living in squalor and buying drugs every chance she got. Here she was, sixteen years old and living in hell. She couldn't let Jose go through that. Ever.

So Mimi endured. She lived day to day, regretting every decision she had made since moving to New York City. The only positive for her was the mystery man. The blonde man with whom Mimi found herself oddly attracted. She had never gotten within twenty-five feet of him and he had never laid eyes on her, but she knew that he was something special. However, he was always with the girl. Always.

As Mimi felt worse and worse, her old fears came back to her, could she be sick? No, that wasn't possible. She wouldn't get HIV, she just had a cold. But the persistence of her illness forced Mimi to go to the doctor's office for a checkup.

When the results came back, Mimi stood frozen in time. It couldn't be real. She would wake up and laugh at her own stupidity of having dreamed such a horrific dream. But it wasn't a dream. Mimi had not only HIV, but AIDS as well. She was going to die. Not now, not tomorrow, but sometime before Jose, who was nine years old, would be old enough to graduate high school, she would most likely die.

The thought was not a pleasant one for Mimi. When the doctor told her about a place where people like her met, she was reluctant to go. What does he mean people like me? People with AIDS? People who have no one else? Or people who are trash?

Mimi went into work that night wishing for a better life more than she had wished for anything in her entire life. She didn't want to work at the Catscratch. She didn't want to never see Jose. She didn't want to live in squalor. She didn't want to be addicted to drugs. She didn't want to be sick. But those were the cold hard facts of Mimi's life. And she was going to have to live with them.

Candy walked up behind Mimi as she was applying her makeup. "What happened to you?"

"What do you mean?" Mimi asked, a frown on her face.

Candy sighed, "I thought you were going to be okay. I thought that you would have learned from Bella. I guess I was wrong…" A bitter sweet smile crossed her face, "I've been wrong before. I just hoped this time I wouldn't be. You're to young for this kind of life." With that said, Candy drifted off, a sad look on her face.

Mimi paused with the blush brush in her hand. Was it that obvious that her life was spinning out of control? Candy had basically just told her that she looked like a druggie and that she was in for the same fate as Gretchen. No, Mimi told herself, I won't let that happen. If I die, who will pay for Jose's schooling?

Mimi took the next weekend off and went home to visit her family. For the longest time, she stood at the door, wondering whether or not she should knock. She shuffled her feet on the ground, her anxiety growing every minute. She had left a note on the kitchen table before she came to New York City, but she had never said goodbye. Would her mother have that bitter tone she always had when Mimi did something wrong? Would Jose ever forgive her?

"Mimi, ¿eres tu?"

Mimi spun around and her eyes softened, "Si Jose, it's me."

Jose ran up to her and flung his arms around her waist. If he was surprised by how thin Mimi had become, he hid it well. His arms were in a death grip around her and Mimi laughed as she returned the intensity of the hug.

"How have you been? ¿Comó esta mama?"

"Mama's okay," Jose said as he let go of his older sister. "She misses you. Come inside and talk to her."

Reluctantly Mimi followed her brother inside.

"Mama, look whose here."

Her mother turned around from where she was cooking dinner. "Mimi?" she breathed. "Is it really you?"

Mimi nodded, "I'm here Mama." She walked over to her mother and gave her a big hug.

"What has happened to you Mimi? You are skin and bone! Why are you wearing that coat, you must be sweating."

Before Mimi could argue, her mother had stripped the coat off her arms. Visible beneath her ratty T-shirt were her track marks.

Her mother's eyes which had been so warm and inviting the moment before now turned cold and hard. "I see you have been busy creating a new life for yourself."

Jose frowned and came closer to get a better look. Before Mimi could fold her arms and hide the evidence, he saw. "I thought you wrote that you were living a better live in New York!"

"It is better!" Mimi defended herself.

"How is this better?" her mother demanded.

"Because by making a living in New York I can guarantee that Jose doesn't end up like me! If I could do one thing to make my life better it would be to ensure that my brother leads the best life he can possibly have!" Mimi grabbed her coat from her mother's arms and ran out the door.

She heard Jose following her calling, "Mimi!" but she didn't stop. She had to give him a better life. If that meant taking herself out of the picture so he wouldn't have a bad example, she would have to make do.

On the slow train ride back to the city, all Mimi could think about was trying to wipe the look of horror on Jose's face out of her mind. And the only way she could think of to erase that memory, was to fall even harder into her convoluted life. She delved deeper into drugs and detached herself from work and even life. All so that Jose would never fall like she had.