A/N- just something that I was thinking about for a very long time, and finally got motivated to actually write it during a class. A huge thank-you for everyone who helped me put this fic together with their great ideas!
Disclaimer- Still not mine. Damn.
Maureen went out of the subway station and into the street, happily walking towards their building. She nearly crushed into an old lady who was walking slowly in front of her, but surprisingly enough it didn't even irritate her as it usually would. She flashed the lady a sweet apologetic smile and skipped away, whistling a happy tune.
The rehearsal went really well today. She was finally getting better; she could feel it. She could hardly wait until opening night. Her first off-Broadway play. She couldn't help but smile as that thought crossed her mind in the who-knew-what-time. She would never admit it, but she was really excited about it. It meant so much to her, to her future career. If she'd be lucky, someone in the audience would notice her remarkable potential, and after he would? The skies were the limit! Contracts, real Broadway musicals, Hollywood, international fame…
She took a hold on a street lamp and spun around it, feeling like a black and white character from these old 30's musicals. Few people turned their heads after that somewhat crazy young woman, but Maureen couldn't care less.
Finally, home sweet home. She ignored the sight of peeling plaster on the walls, the shabby entrance, the flickering neon in the stairwell. Usually it was enough in all that to really piss her off and kill her good mood instantly, but today she didn't let it get to her. The same was true for the fact she now had to climb what looked like thousands of stairs up to the top floor on her sore feet. Today she felt like she was flying upstairs, accompanied by a flock of blue and pink birds that were singing cheerfully along with her.
Yeah, it was a perfect day, she thought as she finally made it to the top floor, breathless but still smiling. And it was going to be an even more perfect night, now that she was about to get home, to her Mark, to her Pookie… Her smile widened. She knew that April was in Vermont for the week, Collins was teaching a two weeks' seminar out of town and Benny was always too busy with Muffy to hang out with the rest of them anyway. So all that was left to do was to fool Roger out of the loft so that she and Mark could have the place for themselves. Not supposed to be a difficult task either; not with the right words and couple of heart melting smiles. Besides, Maureen Johnson always got what she wanted.
She unlocked the door and walked silently into the loft. Better as well surprise Mark, wherever he was. She heard some muffled voices from the other end of the hall, which she recognized to be Roger's and Mark's.
"NO! Roger, don't DO that!" exclaimed Mark, making Maureen freeze on her tracks.
"I have to! I can't take it anymore!" was Roger's answer. "Mark, please let my arms go, PLEASE!"
"Roger, you have to be strong-"
"So you're telling me you don't wanna do it too?"
"I… I do, but-"
"We can't! You know that!"
"Forget about what we should do, I don't give a damn!"
"Roger, come on, you are stronger than that."
Maureen's forehead cringed. What was going on there? What they were arguing about? Was Roger doing drugs again? He was clean for quite some time now. And Mark would never do drugs, she was sure of that. What was it that Roger wanted so much? He said Mark wanted it too, so it was definitely not drugs. On the other hand, it sounded like… was that possible that they…
She dropped her bag to the floor. NO WAY!
"Pookie? I'm back!" she called.
"Oh shit, Mark, she's here! Close the damn door, she can't see us like this!" There was some urgency, if not slight panic, in Roger's voice.
"Shut up, Roger, you'll only make it worse. We'll be right there, Mo!"
"Where are you guys?" She heard a door being shut as she took off her coat. One glance at the hallway confirmed her suspicions; the door to her and Mark's bedroom was closed. Okay, this was getting weird. Sure, she suspected them all along, but she never believed they'd actually do something about it. Roger and April seemed to get along pretty well, and Mark? She thought he was head over heels in love with HER! She strode down the hall and knocked on the door. "You guys, what the hell is going on?"
"Maureen, we can't really talk to you right now!" said Roger.
"Well, you can't stop me from going into my own room, can you?" she asked, jingling the doorknob. Apparently, they locked the door from the inside. The bastards. She frowned. "Guess you can… Seriously, guys, what's going on?"
"Nothing, why do you think that something's going on?"
Marky. He was much easier to deal with than Roger, no doubt. And she knew just the tone that would make him open the door for her in no time. Even though he couldn't see her, she put on her best pout. "Pookie?" she asked sweetly. "Baby, it's been a long day and I'm really really tired…"
There was a bit of a silence from the other side of the door, and then some quiet dialogue she couldn't decipher, as if they were arguing whether or not to let her in. Eventually, one of them approached the door and unlocked it.
"Fine," she heard Roger say, "You can come in now."
She gave the door a strange look. "Okay. But you'd better have all your clothes on when I do." She put her hand on the knob. The door opened easily now, but she hesitated. Did she even want to come in there? Did she want to see her boyfriend and his best friend… like THIS? But if that was to be the case, there wasn't much she could do about it, right? So it was better to just get it over with.
She opened the door wide and was about to say something melodramatic like "How could you do this to me, Mark?" or "I knew it all along!" but when she finally caught sight of Mark and Roger, the words froze somewhere on their way up her throat.
"If you'll make one nasty remark I swear I'll kill you," snapped Roger before she even had a chance to respond. He sounded annoyed. Well, actually more humiliated than annoyed. He had every reason to feel humiliated, she thought as she moved closer to the open window to take a better look at him. She couldn't hide the smile that started forming on her face.
Okay, so it wasn't what she expected to find in that room, but it was much more entertaining, no doubt. She turned her gaze from Roger to Mark, who looked at her miserably from the end of their bed. She gave him a questioning look, waiting for his explanation. He sighed.
"Remember last weekend, when my sister called and asked me to baby-sit?"
Maureen couldn't do much but nod. She already realized where he was going with this story and she had to use all her willpower to stop that wild laughter that was already climbing up her throat.
"Well, apparently, the kids had chickenpox. Apparently, I never had it as a kid."
"So you've got chickenpox from Cindy's kids…" she started, and turned her questioning look back at Roger.
"And I've got chickenpox from my best friend over there!" Roger was obviously pissed off by the whole situation. "Thanks a lot, Mark, really, and I thought that April's trip to Vermont was the worst thing that could have happened this weekend."
"Hey, it's not my fault you never had it, Roger!" said Mark defensively. Then he shot Maureen a terrified look. "YOU had chickenpox when you were a kid, right?"
"Well, DUH!" she rolled her eyes. What kind of a question was that? EVERYONE she knew had the chickenpox as kids! Well, except for these two.
"Man, that ITCHES!" whined Roger, scratching his arm in frustration.
"Don't touch that Roger, it'll leave scars if you do."
"See? Told you," said Mark. Roger looked as if he wanted to stick his tongue at both of them. He didn't seem to buy their warnings, but he stopped scratching anyway.
Maureen considered her options. She already realized that night wouldn't be the perfect night she hoped for on her way home. Mark's chickenpox didn't bother her as much as Roger's obvious refusal to go out looking the way he did. Oh well. "Well, it's seems like your lucky day, boys." Might as well be her good deed of the week.
"Why, you're finally moving out?" asked Roger, looking dead serious.
She narrowed her eyes at him. "If you won't shut up I'll call April and tell her to come back from Vermont and see how pretty her boyfriend looks." As she was speaking, her gaze wandered from Roger to the dresser, where Mark's camera was. Her frown turned into a smile as she thought of the greatest idea. "Or maybe…" She walked to the dresser and snatched the camera. "Maybe I'll just film it, for the next generation!" she said as she checked the old camera from all directions. How the hell did the thing work?
Mark launched himself out of bed. "NO! Maureen, don't-"
"Don't worry, Pookie, I know what I'm doing!" She pushed on some more buttons and the film suddenly started rolling. She smiled in satisfaction and started narrating her film. "September 27th, 5 PM, Eastern Standard Time, Johnson's Productions is proud to present a new documentary- When Chickenpox Attack: a special interview with two victims of the deadly children's disease." She focused on a very pissed off, frowning, full of little pink dots Roger. "Tell the folks at home what you're doing, Roger!" she singsonged sweetly.
"I'm… going to kill you…" he muttered, moving closer to her.
She moved back quickly. "Zoom in on Roger's pretty face. Don't you guys think he looks hot in all this pink?"
"GOD I can't take THIS!" yelled Roger all of a sudden. His anger towards Maureen was totally forgotten as he started scratching all over again.
Mark returned to his previous position and hurried over to hold Roger's arms away. "Roger, DON'T, you're only making it worse!"
"I don't care!"
"Maureen, put the camera down and come over here to help me!"
She huffed in discontent, but put the camera down anyway. "You guys just don't appreciate art! This could have been the next best thing on the National Geographic channel!"
"Instead of rumbling around, why don't you make yourself useful and go to the drugstore to get us some of that good stuff?" asked Roger, pointing a nearly empty bottle of Calamine lotion on Mark's nightstand.
"You shouldn't use so much of it, you know, or it won't have any effect at all."
"I really don't give a damn, it's the only thing that helps."
"Fine, I'll go get you some. But in the meantime, both of you, into bed."
They both shot her horrified looks. "WHAT? I'm not going to be in the same BED with HIM!" they said almost simultaneously.
Oh, this weekend was going to be so much fun. She flashed them a sweet smile. "Yes, you are, it's an order. Come on, don't give me these faces." Mark quickly gave up and crawled under the covers. He looked paler than usual. Roger still stood next to Mark's bed, looking at her stubbornly. "Get into bed, Davis, or no Calamine lotion for you." These words worked their magic, and though he was grumbling endlessly, Roger finally relented and got into Mark's bed.
"Why can't I sleep in my own bed?" he asked miserably.
"BECAUSE we don't want you to spread this thing all over the place. I'm not sure if the guys had it. It's better for you to stay in as less rooms as possible. And besides, you'll be bored. And this way you can amuse each other and be sick and miserable together!" she concluded. To her, at least, the last point made sense. Roger still didn't look convinced. "I'll be back soon, okay? So you'd better behave."
She ignored a new choir of protests and complains and left the room. She put her coat back on and was about to leave when a sudden outcry made her stop in her tracks. She stayed with her hand on the doorknob, and listened.
"Watch it, Roger, your pox are touching mine!"
There was a bit of silence before Roger replied slowly, "That's not my pox, man." "Oh, God!" called Mark, horrified.
"It's my leg!"
This is going to be a long weekend, she told herself as she left the loft, laughing aloud.
The loft was suspiciously quiet by the time Maureen came back from the drugstore. From a quick glance into Mark's bedroom she could see that the guys were finally fast asleep, as far away from each other as possible. She smiled to herself and went to the kitchen to start on dinner for them. Usually she would never stand over there cooking for anyone, especially not for constantly complaining Roger, but she felt extra compassionate that afternoon. The problem was, that she had never done any serious cooking in her life. And they didn't have much to eat there, either. She rummaged through the cupboards and found couple of instant tomato soup bags. Hmmm. That might be easy.
"What are you doing?" asked Mark, startling her. She turned to look at him. He looked bad, worse than Roger.
"Pookie, what are you doing here? Go back to bed!"
"I can't sleep. Roger keeps kicking me," he grumbled. "What are you doing?"
"I'm trying to make you dinner," she smiled and inched closer. "How are you feeling?" she asked seductively, touching his cheek. It felt like sandpaper.
"Not too hot."
"Poor thing. Itches, huh?"
"Yeah," he sighed. "I think I'm gonna kill Cindy's kids when I'm better."
She laughed and turned her attention back to the cupboard. She pulled out the soup bags when a different bag caught her sight. "How didn't I think of that one before?" she muttered and took the bag out. She then turned to face Mark again, a huge smile on her face. "I think I found a way to make it a bit easier on you."
He looked at her hesitantly. "You're not gonna suggest some kinky massage with that lotion you got for us, right?" he asked, sounding slightly panicked.
Now who the hell was getting THESE ideas into the boy's head? "NO! Though now that you mention it…" her voice trailed off as she winked. He looked terrified. She laughed. "Relax, Pookie, I had a whole different idea in mind. It's an old trick, but these always work better than anything."
"Oatmeal bath!" she stated, waving the instant oatmeal bag in front of his eyes. Suddenly, Collins and April's decision to move to healthier food didn't look like a total waste of time. She knew that under the circumstances, they wouldn't be angry with her for borrowing their bag of instant oatmeal.
"Oh. How does this work?"
"You fill a bath, you add this stuff, you go in. Simple as that. It eases the itching in no time, they say."
"Does it?" he asked skeptically. He took the bag from her and looked at it from all directions.
"We'll have to wait and see, right?" He gave her that skeptical look again, and she smiled. "I'll tell you when the bath is ready, okay?"
Miraculously, Roger was still asleep while she prepared the oatmeal bath for Mark. He kept sleeping even after Mark went out of the bathroom, and she helped him put some of that Calamine lotion. Afterwards she sent him to rest on the couch in the living room, and she went back to the bathroom to clean up. She stared cluelessly at the tub for a moment and her forehead cringed. This stuff might ease the chickenpox's itching, but it was impossible for it all to go down the drain. So she had to figure out another way to get rid of it. Yuck.
She took a spoon and a plate from the kitchen and knelt near the tub. Disgusted expression plastered on her face, she started scooping the remainders of the oatmeal into small bowls, then put the bowls on the plate she brought in with her. She couldn't believe this was the way she was spending her weekend.
"Marky, are you okay?" she asked on her way to put the plate back on the counter in the kitchen.
"Yeah, I'm fine," was his weak reply.
She looked at him from the kitchen's entrance. "Want some company?" She figured she could throw the oatmeal bowls later. She didn't wait for Mark's answer and dropped herself on the couch next to him. "Don't worry about it, Pookie, you'll be just fine in ten days," she promised, and smiled brilliantly. "Just in time for my opening night!"
Mark didn't have a chance to answer. Roger woke up. They could hear his grumbling on his way in and out of the bathroom, and into the kitchen.
"Feeling better, Roger?" asked Maureen.
"I couldn't be happier," was his sarcastic reply. She rolled her eyes. He was impossibly more annoying when he was sick. "Hey, food," he said all of a sudden. She looked back in horror, just in time to see Roger stuff one of the oatmeal's bowls into his mouth. Should she warn him? Nah, he probably deserved that. It'll be a proper punishment for that obnoxious attitude of his.
"Hey, that's pretty good," he said, his mouth still full. "What's that?"
"Oatmeal," she said shortly, repressing a giggle. She saw Mark's eyes widen as realization hit him. He was about to say something, but she quickly shot him a warning glare and he leant back on the couch.
"What, the stuff April and Collins eat?"
"Yeah, I guess you can say that." She could hardly finish her sentence. Her giggle turned into an uncontrollable laughter.
"What's so funny?" asked Roger as he stuffed a second bowl into his mouth.
"Nothing," she managed to answer, laughing harder.
Mark gave Roger a sorrowful look and got up. "Now that my bed is empty I'm going back to sleep, if you don't mind."
"Sure you don't wanna try one of these?" asked Roger.
Mark shook his head. "Yeah, Roger, I'm pretty sure," he answered and disappeared in the hallway.
Maureen was finally able to control her laughter as Roger joined her on the couch and turned the TV on. "Hey, what do you think you're doing?" she asked, quickly snatching the remote from his hand and turning the TV off.
"What do you think YOU're doing?"
"You can't watch TV now, Roger."
He looked stunned for a moment. "Why the hell not?"
"Because you're sick, and you need to rest."
"I don't wanna rest, I wanna watch TV!"
"Can I play my guitar?"
"Umm, I don't think so, no."
"Can I move back to my room?"
She shook her head. "Uh-uh. Maybe tomorrow, after we'll make sure April had chickenpox already."
"Who do you think you are anyway, my mom?"
"I can always call HER and ask her advice. I might mention that you've got chickenpox. Maybe these three annoying cousins of yours didn't have it yet and she'd want them to come over here for a few days. Now wouldn't that be fun?"
It took him a moment to think about it. "You are a real bitch sometimes, you know?"
She smiled sweetly. "I can't help it, baby." He got up, defeated. "Where are you going?"
"Well, since I can't watch TV, and I can't play my guitar, and I can't sleep in my own room, I'll go and see if Mark has some room for me in our… his bed."
She raised an eyebrow at his slip of the tongue, then nodded. Soon he was gone, and she shrugged and turned the TV on. She nearly missed the beginning of her favorite comedy because of that pointless argument with Roger. What did HE know, anyway?
The sun rose on the alphabet city. In the loft on Avenue B, Maureen slowly woke up. The rays of the morning sun that invaded the room through the half open shades hurt her eyelids. She opened her eyes lazily and raised her head from Mark's chest to glace at the digital clock on the nightstand. Its numbers glowed 8:24. She frowned and was about to close her eyes again when she suddenly remembered what day it was. After spending the past ten days rehearsing in the mornings and babying Roger and Mark in the evenings, it was finally the day she was looking for. It was finally the opening night of her play.
She went out of bed. Mark didn't even stir. He looked much better though. The chickenpox were nearly gone by now. Ugh. All this thinking about chickenpox made her whole body itch. She scratched her arms absent-mindedly as she made her way to the kitchen. Roger sat there, sipping coffee and reading through the sport's section.
"Morning, Roger," she said cheerfully. That seemed to startle him, but he didn't even look up. She poured herself some coffee and turned to face him. He then raised his head from the paper and spat his coffee as he caught sight of her.
"Charming," she remarked, rolling her eyes. He just kept gaping at her. "What are you staring at?"
"N-nothing. Good morning," he said and hid behind his paper again. He probably thought it would hide that wide grin that curled on his lips.
Maureen's eyes narrowed. What the hell was so funny so early in the morning? "When is April coming back?" she asked as she sat on the stool next to him.
That seemed to put him back on track. But he still had that grin as he replied, "She's supposed to be home by lunchtime." He gave her a weird look. "Are you… feeling okay?"
"Yeah, of course I'm feeling okay, why wouldn't I?"
"Just… wondering…" he burst into laughter.
"Okay, smartass, what is it? I'm not wearing that transparent nightshirt again and all the buttons in this one are perfectly fine. What? Is there something one my face?" This one made him laugh even harder. She was getting agitated, even though she tried to restrain herself. She didn't want to get all stressed up before the play. She wouldn't let his annoying behavior get to her.
She shot him a murderous glare. "Will you STOP laughing and tell me what the hell is wrong?"
"What's going on?"
The two of them turned to the sound of Mark's sleepy voice. He was standing in the entrance of the kitchen and gave then a puzzled look from behind his spectacles.
"That's what I'm trying to find out!"
Mark turned his unfocused gaze from Roger to Maureen, then did a double take and gave her that same weird look Roger had given her couple of minutes ago.
"Mo, are you… okay?" he asked carefully. She stared at him incredulously. She could not believe her ears. First Roger and now Mark? Was that the way they thanked her for treating them so nicely for the past ten days? By torturing her on the most important day of her life? They were doing this on purpose because they knew how much this opening night meant for her, she just knew it!
"Guys, will you cut the crap and tell me what the hell is going on? I have to be in rehearsals in less than an hour and I-" her voice trailed off as she suddenly caught sight of her arm. Her eyes widened in terror. No. No, it can't be, I must be dreaming it. She raised her head to meet Roger's amused smile. He slowly nodded. She turned her gaze from Roger to Mark, who seemed quite awake by now.
"Well, you said you had it, but-" he started, but she didn't even wait for the rest of it.
Roger's wild laughter echoed behind her as she ran to the bathroom and locked herself inside. She walked towards the mirror, and then slowly, hesitantly, raised her head to face her reflection.
And she instantly knew that if she WAS dreaming this, it was probably her worst nightmare.