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Fic: I Know (Rent)

Title: I Know
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: ~1890
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Jonathan Larson, not myself.
A/N: Inspired by the song "I Know" by Fiona Apple -- cut-text from same.



I'm waiting for Maureen again. She's got another half hour, then if she's not home I go to the club. The only club she'll stay at past midnight without me.

The gay club.

It's her newest game. She flirts up all the lesbians, then when things start to get serious she apologizes and drops the bomb -- "Sorry, sweetie, I've got a boyfriend." And the girl won't believe her, some of the time.

Usually about then is when I find Maureen. It's our unspoken rule: if she's not home by one, I find her and bring her home. She doesn't argue, I don't complain.

I sometimes wonder if it would be better if I didn't know I was being used.

xoxoxox

How can she think so little of me? Does she honestly think I'm completely blind?

Her newest game is to go home with someone, then go back to the club to meet up with me. Sometimes it's a guy she picked up earlier in the night, sometimes it's a girl she met at the club. An equal opportunities lover.

Except for Mark, who gets weeks of "I'm sorry, Pookie, I'm absolutely exhausted. Tomorrow night, I'll make it up to you, okay?"

But I don't say anything. I let her play her little games. I kiss her and whisper "That's fine, beautiful. I love you."

And even though she never says it back, I know she does. I know it by the little flash of guilt every time she doesn't say it. I know by the way she tries to hide her cheating. I know by all the little signs that in any other person would mean they don't love you.

But Maureen is hardly "any other person." The regular rules just don't apply.

Which I also know.

xoxoxox

"Oh, God, Mark!" She cries into my shoulder as I make soothing noises and rub her back. I have no idea what's got her this worked up, but I've got a pretty good idea. I'd been at the club early tonight -- I'd seen the look on her face when that redhead came up and told her something.

She had gotten some Bad News.

"It's okay, baby, it's okay."

She finally calms down.

"What is it, beautiful? You know you can tell me anything." It's not like it'll be anything new.

"I -- " She has to take a deep breath and start again. "I -- I really fucked it up, Mark. It might be nothing, but -- " And she dissolves into body-wracking sobs once more.

"C'mon, Reenie, tell me. What's wrong? Sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll?" All three, at the same time, with some gorgeous redhead in a miniskirt?

She smiles weakly at my attempt of a joke, calms down somewhat. "I'm not Roger," she says. "But -- I don't want to -- I have to go to the doctor, okay? Pookie, I don't want to get you worked up over . . . over nothing. It's probably nothing."

"All right, baby, all right. You want me to sleep on the couch tonight, let you alone until you can see the doctor?"

"God, no!" The tears literally pour out of her eyes as she grabs my arm. "I need you! I -- god, don't leave me alone . . . "

So I sit beside her, calm her down. We fall asleep curled together for the first time in over a month. And when I wake up, it's to the sound of a door closing.

A note is on the pillow --

"Gone to the doctor. Thank you, Pookie. Love you."

xoxoxox

When she comes home that afternoon, she's worried. She locks herself in our room and cries for a few more hours and doesn't go out clubbing.

Collins and Benny raise their eyebrows and ask what's going on. I just tell them it's personal, she'll come to me with it in her own time. I don't ask her any questions. She offers no answers.

A month and a half she stays away from the clubs. We spend each night together, and each night she cries. Each morning I wake up to find her clinging to me desperately.

xoxoxox

After that nearly-blissful month and a half, she gets a call. I stay across the room, viewing and criticly despising the day's shots, while I listen in.

"Hello?
"Yes, this is she.
"Okay.
"Oh -- um, which . . . yes. Yes, I can come in.
"Thank you."

She hangs up, comes over to me, kisses me desperately. "I have to go to the doctor's. My test results came back."

"Test results for what, Maureen?"

But she's gone.

xoxoxox

She comes back home, and she's happier than I think I've ever seen her. She's belting out any song that comes to mind, she's bought a giant chocolate cake that was on the "Oops! Overbaked!" shelf at the grocery store, she's got a six pack to go with it.

She greets me with the best kiss I've had in my life.

"We're okay!" She all but yells.

"Reenie, what was wrong -- " I try to ask, but she cuts me off.

"Let's celebrate, pookie. Let's get absolutely ripped, right now, and let's fuck right here, where anyone could come in and see us. Give Benny a much needed shock, that prude."

I'm so happy to see her back to herself that I don't even think of arguing. Even when it's not Benny but Roger and April who get to walk in on our little "show" . . . Maureen clearly thinks this is the funniest thing in the world, and I laugh right along with her. Roger just looks sick -- I think April's too high to notice anything but the half-eaten cake beside us. And in various other places.

When Maureen's finally asleep, I open her purse and pull out a folded doctor's receipt. She's been charged for HIV testing.

I fold up the paper and put it back, right where I found it. Just because I know, doesn't mean she needs to know that.

I sit down on the bed beside her, hold my head in my hands, and cry. She wakes up a bit, crawls into my lap, and begins kissing me all over.

"Oh God, Maureen, what if you'd been . . . " I can't bring myself to finish the sentence. Amazingly enough, in her drunken-half-sleeping stupor, she makes the connection anyway.

"Markie, Markie, it's okay." She sing-songs. "We're negative. It's okay."

We wake up on opposite sides of the bed, and I can tell that she doesn't remember that I know, what happened in the middle of the night.

That night I'm back to looking for her at the club.

xoxoxox

I think she's getting serious. This is becoming more than a game to her now -- now she's only been with one girl. No, not a girl. This is a Woman. She's intimidating without being butch, she glares at anyone making a pass at Maureen, and she doesn't let Maureen run all over her.

I see them together every night, and I see Reenie getting more comfortable with her. She's different. She wasn't a one-night stand, either. I saw them meet, and this woman clearly told her she was in it for something more than a night of sex.

I wonder if Maureen's ever had that happen. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that's how I started off. I was a one-night stand that became once a week, then twice, then we were Together.

And then she was Cheating.

And now there's This Woman.

And now Maureen is nervous at home, nervous with me, and she keeps wanting to tell me something. I know what she wants to say, but she can't.

This Woman follows her home, hovers over her shoulder, takes all her thoughts. This Woman sits at the foot of our bed when we have sex, which is rarely these days.

And until she can leave This Woman at the club, I can't bring myself to say anything.

She intimidates me, too.

I can wait. Reenie isn't that strong -- she'll break.

xoxoxox

"Markie, honey, I need to tell you something." She's nervous. I can feel it -- this is when she tells me.

"You've been cheating on me, and now you're in over your head. She's offered you an ultimatum, am I right? Me or her?"

She blinks, whispers "What?" and I know I'm right.

"I'm not fucking blind, Maureen." I snap and stand up.

"But -- "

"But you were careful? But you never did anything while I was around? But you always went to her place? Cut me a fucking break."

"Markie, I'm sorry." The tears well up in her eyes. "I know I didn't say it enough, but I do -- "

"I know." I hesitate -- here's the only part I'm unsure of. "So what now?"

She comes over and gives me a hug. "I don't know."

xoxoxox

Another day, another protest. Another performance I dutifully help her set up for. Another performance I couldn't pry Roger out of the loft for. Another performance Collins discusses in disgusting detail beforehand, making sure Reenie knows what her stance is. This time, though, she's got all her answers ready -- she knows what she's doing, how to defend herself.

It's the Woman. She's a lawyer, I've learned. She's helped Maureen prepare.

But I'm the one who Reenie comes home with every night. She still doesn't know what to say, to either of us, I suppose.

I can wait.

xoxoxox

I give her openings. I offer her chances. She never takes them.

Not the ones I want, anyway.

A month ago, she told me she was moving out, moving in with Joanne.

At least I have a name now.

I still work with her, set up for her. I do everything she needs for her performances. I'm the Technical Boy. Production Manager is the fancy term, the one I put on job applications -- "Production Manager for Maureen Johnson, 2 years" -- but Technical Boy is who I really am.

I keep waiting for her to say "I love you."

xoxoxox

I kept waiting for her to say "I love you."

I guess it's not going to come. Three days ago, Joanne took over as Technical Boy. Best of luck to her. May she be handy with duct tape.

The phone rings again -- we're popular tonight. I don't think it would be Mom or Benny calling back, so on the off chance it's Collins I pick up.

"Hello?"

"Markie?"

"Maureen?"

"Thank God! I'm abso-fucking-lutely a mess! Something happened, and Joanne is hopeless at trying to figure out the wires, and you know how much the mixer cost me, and it'd be awful if the damage is as bad as she makes it sound -- "

"Your equipment won't work?"

"Yes! You've got to get over there and help her out NOW! I can't have faulty equipment -- Benny would never take me seriously! Those people need my help, and to do that I need your help! Markie, you're the best, you must go over there and clean up Jo's mess!"

"Okay, all right, I'll go!"

"Thanks Markie. Knew I could count on you. You know I -- "

I know. I hang up.