A/N: Okay, so I've been thinking…and after seeing the Star Trek movie, I've fallen in love with alternate universes, SOOOO…here's the product of that whole mess. And I'll be updating 'Beginnings, Middles, Ends' on the weekend sometime. Hold your horses people, it's coming. And about the sequel to The Lessons We Learn? Yeah, there's gonna be one. So look out for that too. The working title is, "Young and Beautiful", once again based off of a Carrie Underwood song. And Young and Beautiful (YAB for short) is going to be just as dramatic, so if you got tired of the drama in the first story, the sequel really isn't for you. Peace and long life, peeps!

Oh, I know I wrote this in a really strange way. But the parts that are written in present-tense, you should think of as a different type of narration. Sorry if I'm making, like, no sense. But… I couldn't really explain it to you. I hope you get what I was trying to convey.

Disclaimer: Jonathon Larson was a genius. I am not a genius. Therefore I am not Jonathon. Therefore I do not own RENT.

Alternate Universes

Alternate Universes. There are probably hundreds upon thousands of alternate dimensions and parallel universes out there. Some are caused by large things; in one alternate universe, Hitler won the war and the Nazi party dictates international politics. In another, the south won over the Union and slavery is still very much a part of modern life. Then there are insignificant, minuet differences. An egg didn't take to a sperm; someone doesn't exist. A woman was born with brown hair, not blonde. And then, there are universes somewhere in-between…

Meet Daniel Schneider. He doesn't know it yet, but he's about to spin off an entirely different universe by doing one, typically harmless thing. Daniel is about to spill his coffee.

Twenty-seven-year-old Daniel James Schneider (Or DJ, as he was refered to by his friends) stepped out of Starbucks clutching a large dark-brew coffee with a shot of hazelnut and a generous sprinkle of cinnamon; his drug of choice. This cup of coffee was all he had to look forward to in the mornings before he made the long drive to the NYU campus, where he was studying to become a pediatrician. His eyes were still half-open, a state they had constantly been in since he rolled out of bed at five o'clock that morning. Nina, his baby daughter, had started crying and wouldn't stop until only half an hour ago.

He realized he probably shouldn't have been driving in that condition, but the subway didn't come down as far as his apartment, and the campus was thirty minutes away. He didn't have the money for a taxi to take him that far. So he stood on the sidewalk and chugged half of his coffee, hoping that would keep him awake for the drive, and continued onto his second-hand, beaten down, blue Ford Taurus and got in, pulling his seatbelt on and starting the car, placing the coffee in the cup holder and angling his car towards the street, easing up into the queue of cars waiting for their turn to pull onto East 11th Street.

Right before he turned, he took a sip of his coffee and accidentally missed the cup holder, instead placing it on the rim of the holder. He didn't notice and pulled his hand away, both hands now on the wheel and tapping impatiently for the person in the red coupe – they must have been either old or drunk – to hurry up and pass him already so he could turn. The coffee teetered precariously for several seconds, before it tipped over right onto his lap, scolding him with its contents.

There was a second of shock, then Daniel screamed and accidentally pushed down on the gas petal. This sent him careening forward into the red car, which had just now reached his part of the street, and sent them both into the next lane where their progress was halted by slamming into a large green pick-up.

What Daniel didn't know, is that in an alternate universe, none of that would have happened. The cup would have safely landed in the cup holder, he would have turned onto East 11th, and would have continued onto his classes unharmed. Instead, he would be receiving seven stitches to the head, a neck brace, have to wear a cast on his arm for the next year and a half, and get ticketed for negligent driving. The two people in the other cars were Cameron Alders, whom broke a toe and had a minor case of whiplash, and Denis Reid, whom came out of the accident unscathed due to the fact that his truck was so much bigger than both of the smaller cars which had slammed into it. Altogether, a pretty good result for such an epic accident; neither of the hit drivers decided to press charges against the young father whom had hit them, and all had insurance plans that would pay for most of the repairs. And everyone walked away (Or, in Daniel's case, was wheeled away on a gurney) feeling kind of okay about the whole thing.

However, the accident scene would back up the road for several hours. And that in turn would back up other roads. Most of the Alphabet City was in gridlock for the better part of five hours, and this wasn't good news for one Thomas Collins, whom needed to board a flight to Massachusetts at noon. So when he stepped back into his ex-roommate's apartment, it was to find frowns upon Mark, Roger, and Maureen's faces.

"Hey, why're you back?" Maureen inquired. "You were supposed to be on a plane fifteen minutes ago."

"Looked out the window much?" Collins inquired. "Everything's backed up from here to kingdom come. Some huge accident on East 11th. No way am I getting on a plane today."

"Shit man, but you were supposed to start teaching at MIT today," Roger commented.

"Yeah, and there are about twenty other guys all queued up for that position which means…" he waved his hands in gesture for them to figure it out and went to toss his bags back into his room.

"…You've most likely lost your position," Mark finished, giving Collins a look of sympathy. "Man I'm so sorry. But there are other teaching jobs out there, right?"

"None of them are MIT, man," Collins grumbled. "It's like the Mecca of all things computer-age. There's no other opportunity like that."

"I'm sorry, baby," Maureen said. Sometimes it was almost like she was dating everyone in that place, with all the endearments flying willy-nilly. "Maybe the position's still open. I mean, who knows more about whatchamacallit philosophy than you?"

"Computer-age philosophy, Maureen, and lets see…uhm…the people I learned it from?" Collins suggested with contempt. "But that's just a wild guess."

Maureen knitted her brow and stomped off to whine in Mark's ear about something; probably Collins. But he couldn't care less. There was no point in caring what Maureen had to say when she was angry; she'd forget why she was made and love him again within the half hour.

"I'm going for a walk," Collins grumbled, walking out with his arms crossed. It was a warm day in July, so he didn't really need anything more than the blue dress shirt he was wearing. But he grabbed a hoodie and threw it on anyway. When you were walking down Avenue B and looked like you did something with your life, hagglers seemed to bother you ten-fold. So he threw on the dirty-grey hoodie to hide the crisp blue shirt which he'd been planning to wear on the plane.

As he walks, he broods. He knows what the universe has in store for him isn't avoidable, but it still sucks. What he didn't know was that if he'd gotten on that plane, he'd have been seated right next to one Aaron Boyd. Otherwise known as the man who would have given him HIV. Yes; Thomas Collins, at this point in time, is a very healthy twenty-three-year-old man. And he's about to run into nineteen-year-old Angel Dumott Schunard.

Eventually, Collins started to feel the effects of wearing a cotton sweatshirt in eighty-degree weather and turned into the next building he came to, planning on resting for a few minutes in the air conditioning before heading back to the loft. Finding himself in a Salvation Army-like thrift store, he found an ancient-looking dining room chair and sat gingerly down on it.

From where he sat he could see nearly the whole store, so he people-watched. It was a pastime he and all his roommates enjoyed. He and Maureen would sit on the fire escape and stare at the passersby, wondering what they were doing, who they were, where they were going. Just to have an answer to these questioned – and to amuse herself – Maureen would create far-fetched stories in relation to the walkers ("You see that blonde girl? Well she's an operative for the CIA who's looking for evidence of alien activity because they've gotten word that a secret cult of Martians is living on Avenue C…") while Collins, when pressed, would make up much more likely stories. ("The redhead over there with the flowers is on his way to his high school sweetheart's house. It's her birthday and he's going to propose to her.")

Sometimes he'd ask Maureen if she felt weird about fabricating people's lives. She'd reply that it wasn't like they were walking up to people and telling them this. And there was nothing wrong with putting a story to a face. Authors did it all the time. So Collins took the habit and would sometimes sit when he was bored and just look at people, wonder who they were and guess what it was.

Of course, since there was no one to talk to he kept his thoughts to himself. Though that didn't mean they weren't there. The woman looking at baby clothing in the far corner of the small shop was three months pregnant; her lover wanted her to get an abortion but she didn't want to. The man looking at little knickknacks on one of the small shelves at the very back of the store was in love with his best friend but hadn't figured out a way to tell her. The young Latino looking at woman's shoes was…


His eyes widened and he stared at the man – boy – almost directly across from him, whom was nibbling at his bottom lip while staring at two different shoes; one a pair of black stilettos and the other a pair of yellow pumps. As Collins watched, he sat down and glanced around. When he laid eyes on Collins, he blushed as though caught doing something bad and placed the shoes back on the rack, crossing his legs and glancing out of the corner of his eyes at Collins every once in a while.

After several minutes of this, Collins got up and approached the Latino, whom looked alarmed and went to get up. Collins tapped his shoulder and the boy looked to slowly glance back at him.

"Hmm…?" he inquired.

"Uhm, no offense, but I just wanted to know why you keep looking at me," Collins said.

"What? I'm not looking at you," he said quickly.

This kid was skittish. "No, I just wanna know why you keep glancing over at me. It's not a problem; I just wanna know."

"Uhm…waiting for you to walk away…?" the boy suggested with a nonchalant shrug.

"Why?" Collins inquired. "And why did you put down the shoes when you saw me? Were you going to try them on?"

"Nooo," the boy said. "No. Why would I? High heals are for girls, you silly man." He glanced around, his foot bouncing up and down and fiddling with the hem of his shirt.

"Well…why did you sit down and start to take off your shoe?" Collins inquired.

"Would you please leave me alone?" the boy asked. "If you're gonna tell me I'm disgusting and my very existence is a sin, please get it over with and get out of my face. I don't need it right now."

"Thomas Collins," Collins said, holding out his hand. "Hi. I'm gay. Just thought you should know so you'll stop freaking out."

"Okay, seriously, who put you up to this?" the Latino asked. "Because, really dude, I don't need this today. So please, leave me alone…"

"What's your name?" Collins asked over the boy's rant.

"Angel," the boy admitted. "Happy? Leave now?"

"So, Angel, why don't you try on those shoes you were looking at?" Collins asked.

"Because…," Angel said, screwing his face up. "Uhm…I didn't want anyone seeing me trying them on. And I don't really know my size in girl's shoes. Why am I telling you this?" The last part was obviously directed at himself, but Collins answered anyway.

"Because I'm obviously not gonna beat you up," Collins said, taking the two pairs of shoes off the rack and handing them to Angel. "Here. Try them on. I'll stand in front of you if you want?" the shoe isle dead-ended into a wall, so all he had to do was stand right in front of Angel and no one would see the Latino trying on the shoes.

Angel shrugged and bent to untie his white sneakers, toeing them off to reveal feet already clad in knee-high nylons, and sliding on the yellow pair. He turned his foot to both sides and shook his head, mumbling something about them being tight in the instep, before sliding on the stilettos.

"I like the looks of those," Collins said helpfully.

"I do too," Angel muttered. "Do you make a habit of walking up to random people and being weird?"

"Weird?" Collins inquired.

"Yeah," Angel agreed. "You just walked up to me and asked if I'd like you hide me while I tried on woman's clothing. I call that weird, honey."

"Niceness is weird?" Collins inquired.

"Round here it is," Angel sighed. "Especially for someone like me." He looked up and smiled. "You're cute though."

"Thanks," Collins replied, unbothered. Well, maybe a little phased, but only because such a cute person was calling him cute. "You are too. You're very…uhm…pretty, if you don't mind me saying."

Angel smiled. "Thanks, hun." He got up, sticking the pair of shoes in the basket he was carrying around. "Uhm…this is gonna sound weird, but would you mind helping me pick out an outfit?"

"Why?" Collins asked.

"Well…," Angel sighed. "Uhm…I've never…dressed in woman's clothing before, and I guess I just need someone there to tell me whether it looks good on me or not."

"Sure," Collins agreed. He'd been dragged around by Maureen enough to know one or two things about fashion, and it wouldn't be hard to pinpoint what looked good on someone and what didn't.

"Great," Angel said with a smile. "Uhm…this way."

Daniel's accident has now altered two lives for the better. If Thomas hadn't been standing in front of Angel, the young Latino would have been spied by a man named Ken Moore; a wannabe painter whom had a thing for boys who wore dresses. If Thomas hadn't been standing there, Ken would have approached Angel and they would begin to flirt. This would start a three-hour relationship for Angel, which would result in the Latino getting HIV. And because Thomas was standing there, Angel wasn't seen by Ken. Crisis averted.

"So what do you think?"

Collins turned from where he'd been staring at an…interesting painting of a half-nude woman hanging on one wall of the store, to see a smiling Angel wearing a jean skirt which went half-way down his thighs, and a tight, white, long-sleeved tee-shirt under an equally tight pink tee-shirt. His legs were bare, due to the fact that he didn't trust any of the tights the second-hand store had on sale. Collins liked them bare. Actually…he'd like to see all of Angel bare…

"Collins?" Angel asked with a slight frown. "What don't you like?"

"Oh, I like it a lot," Collins said. "I think you looked very…hot, again if you don't mind me saying."

"Oh, no, I don't mind," Angel said with a smile. "What about the wig? It's a sucky one that I got at a Halloween store, but if it looks good on me I'm going to save up my money to get a better one."

"I like it," Collins said, staring at the black bob wig on the boy's head. "It's nice. What is it? Like a Cleopatra wig or something?"

Angel held up his hand, squinted one eye closed, and made a clicking noise while cocking his thumb down as though shooting a gun. "Dead on. I had to yank out that stupid headdress and everything."

Collins laughed and said, "I really like the outfit. I think you should buy it. And…do you like coffee?"

"I love it," Angel said, already on he other side of the curtain. "Why?"

"Would you like me to buy you some after we leave?" Collins asked.

Angel peeked out from behind the dressing room curtain and smiled. "I'd like that, Collins."

"Great," Collins said.

Angel paid for his clothing and they walked out, down to a nearby coffee place to get two coffees and sit outside, sipping and talking. Collins told the story of how MIT had most likely fallen through and tried to teach Angel a bit about computer-aged philosophy, which the Latino was unsuccessful in understanding but said, "Sounds really interesting." Angel told Collins about his life-long battle with GID and how he'd only recently come to terms with his transvestitism. It made Collins glad to hear that Angel had a supportive family. His own only barely accepted his homosexuality; he doubted they'd take to it very lightly if he had ever started parading around in a skirt.

"Angel, how old are you?" Collins asked finally. It had been bugging him. Angel didn't look under eighteen, but it was rather hard to tell; if he did turn out to be under eighteen, Collins wouldn't be very surprised. He just needed to know before he did anything else.

"Nineteen," Angel replied. "You?"

"Twenty-three," Collins said. "How long have you been nineteen?" he'd still feel very weird dating someone who had just passed the age of consent.

"I'll be twenty in December," Angel said with a smirk. "Chill out. I know I look all of fifteen, but I dated people older than you when I was seventeen. Uhm, not that we're going to date, just that…"

"Would you like to?" Collins inquired.

"…Huh?" Angel asked.

"Would you like to date?" Collins asked. "I wouldn't be averse to taking you out once or twice. In fact…I think I'd kinda like it."

"I would too," Angel replied. He leaned across the table and gently kissed Collins' lips, sighing at the spark that went through him at the contact and leaning his forehead against Collins'. He giggled, "Cool. What was that? Have you been dragging your feet along the carpet or something?"

"Have you?" Collins sniggered.

"Mmno," Angel muttered, pulling back to glance into Collins' eyes. "Don't laugh okay, but I have this weird urge to say this to you, okay?"

"Okay," Collins agreed.

Angel, with a smile, said, "Just so you know? I'll cover you."

"…Huh?" Collins asked. "Cover me from what?"

"Everything," Angel said. "I'll cover you. Don't ask; I just suddenly felt like, if I didn't say that right now, I'd explode or something. So, I'll cover you."

"And I'll pay you back with one-thousand sweet kisses," Collins said. His eyes widened. "Whoa. It just happened to me too. It's like word-vomit."

Angel giggled and pecked his lips again. There was another spark, which resonated down to his heart. To his surprise, he wouldn't describe the spark as painful…rather pleasant and warm, actually. Like getting a really good surprise. "One down, nine-hundred, ninety-nine to go. Does that mean you'll have to stick around long enough to give me those one-thousand kisses? I'm getting kind of tired of being yanked around by my heart."

"I'll stick around," Collins promised in a whisper. "I'll stick around as long as you can put up with me."

"…If I start something with you, I'm not gonna want it to end," Angel admitted.

"Go ahead," Collins said with a smile. "I'm not stopping you."

There are some things that are definite in every universe. There will be a sky, there will be earth under our feet. There will be tears and there will be laughter and there will be both hard and good times. For Angel and Collins, their definite is finding each other. In any universe, not matter how diverse from the others it may be.

End Story

A/N: Hmm…that was a really strange story. I apologize. It's really the product of an overactive imagination, and the romanticized game of 'What If' I played with myself the other day…Whoa, put your hand over that sentence except for the last seven words…sounds really wrong…

Anyway, I hope you liked it. It didn't really turn out the way I wanted it to, but I find I tend to set my expectations too high. Oh well. Oh, and Katie, I stole a line up there from your lovely story named "What's Stopping You". (Shameless pimpage, people.) Sorry, Chicita! I hope you don't mind!! *Huggles* I give you the right to use Tony whenever you like, and steal whichever two lines from my stories you want. (Because I think this is the second line I've stolen from you.)