A/N: Huh. I just felt like doing this…I dunno. I think it's a bit original, at least. Right?

Disclaimer: I don't own RENT.


Twenty Years

The date is October 31st, 2010. Rachel Cohen glances into the room where her husband, Mark, is sitting at his desk. She's not sure whether he's trying to work on his newest screenplay or edit some film, but he's doing something on his laptop. She's just put the kids to bed after a long night of trick-or-treating. Fourteen-year-old Hanna Maureen is still in the living room, flipping the television between MTV and VHI and watching the never-ending coverage of all things music. Twelve-year-old Angel Roger and seven-year-old Elijah Thomas are both fast asleep, though. And as for the one on the way…well, Mimi Sarah was being a pain at the moment, kicking her mother's belly over and over and making a general nuisance of herself from inside the womb at this late hour.

"What are you doing, sweetheart?" Rachel asks, easing her way into the room, slowly as if to question if she is welcome.

Mark spins around in his chair and smiles at his wife, and gestures for her to come closer. As there are no other surfaces he finds suitable, he pulls her into his lap and rests one hand on her stomach, the other on the small of her back. He winces in sympathy for her as he feels Mimi deliver a tremendous kick into his hand.

Placing his head on his wife's shoulder, Mark asks, "She's moving an awful lot. Should I call Doctor Clark and make an appointment?"

"Well, she's a Cohen, hun," Rachel giggles, placing her hand on his slightly whiskered cheek. "She's restless. And she's due in less than a month. She's probably just trying to arrange herself into a good position for popping out in a few weeks." She puts on a face of displeasure as she continues to caress his face. "You need a shave, baby. Bad."

Mark smiles and yawns a bit. "In the morning. All the kids in bed?"

"All except our night owl," Rachel sighs. "I guess it's okay for her to stay up tonight; tomorrow is Sunday…"

He nods in agreement rubs a hand over her stomach. He bends at an odd angle to rest his head on her stomach and mumbles, "Be good for mom, okay? She's done a lot for you these last few weeks. Sit tight for a few more days. We'll see you in a while."

"What are you doing?" Rachel asks suddenly, glancing behind her at the laptop and trying to see what the window he has open is displaying. Mark deftly reaches behind him and shuts the laptop. This makes Rachel frown. "What? Can't I see?"

"It's just something to do with work," Mark says, attempting to shrug it off nonchalantly. Mark is a professional director and filmmaker. He's had three of his documentaries shown on the Discovery Channel, and directed and produced a semi-successful film a few years ago. This makes quite a bit of money, so Rachel stays at home and raises the big family they'd both always dreamed of. Mark is home half the time too, though. Their kids are provided with the unique experience of having both mom and dad there at least fourteen hours of each day, most of the time.

Sometimes Mark will have to go on trips to talk to someone or do some filming for a new documentary. But he doesn't have any serious projects going on right now. He's just previewed his newest documentary (On the national Health Care crisis) to the executives at Discovery Channel and they are planning on running it sometime in November.

Mimi is to be their last, however. Their family is large by today's standards and Rachel, at age thirty-eight, is quickly reaching an age impractical for childbearing.

"You wouldn't be interested in it," Mark adds.

Rachel smirks and twists in his lap, from sitting in a side-saddle fashion to resting her back flush against his chest, and lifts the lid of the computer, pressing the spacebar to pull it out of hibernation mode. Mark struggles to close it again, but Rachel grabs his hands and holds them above his head. "Come on, Mark! Are you looking at porn or something?"

"No!" Mark cries indignantly, his face heating up at the very mention of the word. "I'm just – Rachel, come on – just close it – you wouldn't…"

"I wouldn't blame you," Rachel continues, watching as the screen jumps to life and pops up on the main screen, asking for Mark's password in order to log on. Rachel quickly types it in (RaMaHaAnEl09) and presses enter. The little spinning blue circle that Windows Vista ® uses to alert that it is loading pops up and Rachel smirks back at Mark. "I mean, I know I'm pretty much useless with this bloated body of mine and there are sexier people out there."

"Rachel! I was not looking at porn!" Mark cries. "And first of all, you are beautiful; you're carrying my child, remember? And second, there is no one sexier. Third…uhg! I'm not looking at porn!"

Rachel laughs at the display worthy of their seven-year-old and glances at the computer once it's opened the window he was looking at once again. She expects to see it opened to Internet Explorer and showing…well, porn. But what she does see makes her furrow her brows. It is open to Media Player, but the film looks old. Like it is one of his very early documentaries he filmed in his twenties, when he was just starting out. He had a few of them converted onto DVD's a few years ago and proceeded to toss them behind a bunch of books on the shelf and never look at them again. Rachel had questioned him (actually, had a long 'debate' with him) about why he'd had the expensive conversion done if he wasn't going to watch them. He replied with the argument that he was, just not right then; something about working up to it.

"What's this?" she enquires, resting her finger tips on the image it is paused on; a Latin man waving at the camera, "One of your documentaries? I've never seen this one."

"If you wanted a name for it, I guess you could call it a documentary, yeah," Mark murmured. "It's more a bunch of home videos all cut and strung together. This all happened before I met you, though. You wouldn't know any of these people." They'd met in January of '95 and by that time the following year had had Hannah. Rachel thinks this must be from when he was living in the slums of New York in the late eighties; where he got his start.

"Who are they?" Rachel asks.

Mark takes a deep breath and sighs against her neck. "I'd have to run it back. And it comes with a story. Wanna hear it?"

Rachel nods and takes it upon herself to run the movie back to the beginning.

The opening title flashes: "Today 4 U: Proof Positive." She gasps, realizing what this is. "Oh, this is that AIDS documentary you did in the nineties isn't it? The one you never published?"

"Like I said…the project just became to personal to publish," Mark said. "This first picture coming up is one of Angel Dumott-Schunard, Christmas Eve 1989."

Indeed, a young woman was shown in a Santa suit. She looks to be dancing, and Rachel smiles.

"The next one is Thomas Collins; same day, same shoot," Mark says.

Through the next ten and a half minutes (It was a rather short thing) pictures of the same eight people flash upon the screen. Rachel is of course familiar with the much younger face of her husband. Also, popular faces and ones she grows used to are that of Angel and Thomas. She learns from the movie that Angel is not a woman, but a transvestite. She thinks for a moment as to whether she exactly likes that her husband was friends with someone like that, before deciding that that transvestite is one of the prettiest she's ever seen and forgets about it.

A generous amount of screen time is also devoted to persons named Mimi, Roger, Joanne, and Maureen as well. A rarity is pictures of a person named Benny, but there are a few.

"So who were these people?" Rachel asks when it is over. "And why haven't I met any of them? You seemed to be good friends with them." She glances behind and does a double take. Mark is crying. Those words seem foreign in her mind. Her husband never cries. She's seen him cry four times, and only four times in nearly fifteen years. First, at their wedding, then at the birth of every one of their children. This bought of crying is coming two weeks earlier than expected, though. "Oh my Gosh, Mark! You're crying; what's wrong?!"

"The reason you've never met any of them, Rachel, is because they're all dead," Mark sniffs, wiping his damp eyes on her pumpkin orange sweater.

"Oh, Gosh!" Rachel cries. "What happened?" She's expecting some mass disaster that took them all at once. After all, how could seven people all drop dead between '89 and '95 any other way?

"Well, Angel was first to go," Mark sighs. "He died of AIDS twenty years ago. Exactly twenty years ago, actually. His funeral was on Halloween of 1990. He'd be forty-one in December if he'd survived."

"Oh…," Rachel whispers. She's forgotten up until this point about the menace that was HIV/AIDS in the eighties and nineties. "Mark…"

Mark smiles weakly at her. "Yeah, I know. After Angel died, we didn't expect Collins to live much longer…he didn't. He died in August of the next year."

"Oh. Were Collins and Angel…?" Rachel says.

"Lovers, yeah," Mark responds. "And they loved each other so much. We just didn't see Collins able to live much longer without Angel there with him."

"What happened to the rest of them?" Rachel whispers.

"Mimi and Roger both died in '93. They both had HIV too, which mutated into AIDS…Joanne died in a car crash a few months after that. Maureen was shot by a mugger. There was evidence that she didn't put up much of a fight. She wouldn't have…she was miserable after Joanne died."

"Maureen and Joanne were together too?" Rachel asks.

"Yeah; they were even committed in a ceremony in '91. They wanted to have it done before Collins died so he could be there…" Mark smiles a bit at this point. "Maureen said that they would have it in his hospital room if that's what they had to do. Said it wasn't legal anyway so why should they have it in a church? That's actually what they ended up doing."

"What about Benny?" Rachel murmurs.

"Undiagnosed heart defect," Mark said. "His heart was letting blood back into his heart every time it beat some out. It caused him to have a heart attack at the age of twenty-nine. A few months before I met you."

Rachel almost feels like crying herself now. She hasn't realized that he was so completely alone when they'd met. It seemed he'd had a lot of people who cared about him; his mother, father, sister and half a dozen nieces and nephews. But she hadn't realized he'd just lost a family he'd chose for himself.

"Why…why are you watching this if it makes you so sad?" Rachel whispered.

"It…it doesn't," Mark chuckled. "And I thought it would but it actually makes me happy. It makes me remember that we were all friends and that we had the time we had, at least. This is the first time in twenty years I've watched this. And I haven't seen any of their faces since Benny died. I guess…I wanted to reassure myself that they existed. Because I was going on like they didn't."

"What brought this on?" Rachel asks, realizing for the first time just what he meant by 'working up to it' when she asked him if he was ever going to watch any of his early films.

Mark shrugs and lays a hand on her stomach, staring down at it. She stares down, too, and suddenly realized something. Hanna Maureen, Angel Roger, Elijah Thomas, and Mimi Sarah…she thought he had just been hitting the baby name dictionary hard, because he always seemed to have some idea of what to name their children the moment she announced she was pregnant. In reality, he'd had people he wanted to honor.

Quietly, so she almost misses it, Mark whispers, "Do you believe in reincarnation, Rachel?"

Flamboyant Hannah, soft-spoken and kind yet rebellious and angsty at times Angel, and excitable and loud Elijah. And, of course, high-kicking Mimi.

Rachel nods. "Yes."


End Story

A/N: Wow, piece of crap if I ever did see one. But this is the one story I've been able to finish for almost three weeks so take it or leave it!

-Lynn