Summary: Mark is the light at the end of Roger's tunnel through drugs and rehab.
Spoilers and/or Warnings: Discussion of drug use, mention of suicide
Title, Author and URL of original story: The Ballad of Mark and Roger by marksykins.
April dies. It doesn't feel simple at the time, but it is. She leaves a note saying "we've got aids" before slitting her wrists in the bathroom, and April dies.
Roger walks in behind Mark and Collins and screams and screams and screams. That's also pretty simple.
He holes up on the half of a room he used to share with April, and does all of the drugs he bought to share with April, and waits to share April's fate.
Roger's days are pretty much all the same, only leaving the loft for drugs or money for drugs. He'd feel like he's in the reverse of a bubble the way everything near him is crystal clear and sharp and everything outside a six-foot radius is distorted and cloudy, only he's not aware enough to think it through like that. He's not Mark.
What's different about that day or how long it's been since April, Roger isn't really sure, only that Mark comes in, maybe early, between hits.
"Hey!" Mark says, loud. Roger realizes that it's the first time Mark has been anything but gentle with him, maybe ever. That doesn't mean he wants to hear what Mark has to say, though. He rolls away from where Mark has perched on the edge of his bed. "You have to stop doing this to yourself."
"And what exactly am I doing to myself, Mark?" Roger asks. He doesn't recognize the raw croaking sound of his own voice, can't tell whether or not he's conveyed that he's asked a genuine question.
"What are you doing? You're dying!" Mark yells. "The drugs are killing you."
Huh. Roger's never really thought about it like that. He's pretty sure he's pretty unhealthy, but he figured that was just to be expected. It didn't ever occur to Roger that he might have some control over it. He's pretty apathetic about the situation, really.
"Who fucking cares if the drugs are killing me? I've got AIDS."
Mark hits him. It's the first time he's felt awake, maybe since just after he moved in with Mark before he and April's drug use started escalating, however long ago. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Knocking some sense into you!" Mark shouts. Roger doesn't recall Mark being such a yeller, but then, he doesn't recall a lot of the things he probably should. "Just because you're sick doesn't mean you have to speed up the process! Fucking live already!"
"I have nothing to live for," Roger says. It's maybe a little loud, but Roger hasn't had an actual conversation with anyone in awhile. "April is dead, and I'm too much of a coward to join her."
"You're not a coward!" Mark jumps to his feet. "You have lots of things to live for!"
"Name one," Roger asks. He really can't think of any. Can't think of much of anything at all through the haze in his head.
"Me!" Mark says.
Roger stares at him. Suddenly some of the haze clears and he's thinking about the kid with the camera at the club, the one who wrecked his shots with spazzy exuberant dancing. The one who bought him soup with his last four dollars, then gave him a home.
Roger flops back on the bed and waits to see what Mark does next. Roger never could quite anticipate his best friend's next move. Mark sighs and sits next to Roger. Their legs touch.
"I didn't want her to die. We could have-- have-- I don't want to die," Roger tells Mark.
"So live already," Mark tells him, but Roger and doesn't know how. He leans against Mark who hesitates before resting his head against Roger's own.
"Help me," Roger says softly.
Rehab is easily the most boring four months of Roger's life. It's also maybe the most painful. He's buried a lot of shit under the euphoric haze heroin gave him and now he has to dig it up and deal. With his grief and guilt over April, with the ways he's treated his friends, with all of his tangled emotions about Mark.
Mark who, hey, really is far more than a friend. The realization is bittersweet and not something Roger could have ever concluded before now. Before April died, he only really had eyes for her and the drugs, certainly didn't spend sleepless nights thinking about the kid who loved him lying a few feet away.
It's reciprocal, Roger's certain. How could it not be? There's a limit to the kinds of things you do for friends, and Mark's hopped over that line in the sand as if were little more than, well, a line in the sand, more times than Roger can probably count.
Roger is dreading going home, even though there's no place he'd rather be than curled up on his bed on the other side of the curtain from Mark. He feels like a magnet, being drawn inextricably back to the loft.
He starts dawdling when he rounds the corner onto 11th street, to prove he can and because he's scared, and then speeds up when he thinks he sees the familiar silhouette of his dealer.
He tugs open the heavy metal door of their building open reluctantly, but takes the stairs two at a time until he reaches the floor below theirs, then he freezes.
It takes him a long time to climb the last flight of stairs and slide the loft door open.
When Roger returns, Mark is asleep on the couch.
He sits up, rubbing sleep from his eyes and fumbling for his glasses.
"I'm back," Roger says, afraid for the first time that he may no longer be welcome. That the reciprocated feelings he was so certain of in rehab aren't in fact reciprocated.
Mark smiles, "Hey."
"Hey," Roger dumps his duffel bag lands on the floor with a thump. "How are you?"
"Collins is leading revolts in Massachusetts, I haven't spoken to Benny in two months, Maureen left me for a lesbian, and we have no heat," Mark tells him.
Roger looks at him for one beat, two, then grins harder than he thought he was capable of and reaches for Mark and pulls him into a hug. Mark goes slack in his arms and Roger hangs on tight. He's not alone anymore.