All he wants is some fucking peace of mind.
He supposes she must have taken that, too, like she took everything else - that bitch, that - that -
But it’s Florence…
She takes everything when she leaves as though to make up for all the times that he took from her, little things that built up over the years (like her dignity) until she’d had enough, like everyone else.
He shudders as he lights the match, watching it burn right down to his fingertips in the dark room - there’s no use in turning the lights on, he wants it dark, wants to wallow for a while. There’s no Florence to tell him to come out, to drag him back into the light and smile at him, make everything okay.
He doesn’t think that Florence is ever coming back. There aren’t any matches left.
Hotel bathrooms are not notoriously clean around the edges, or at all, but while he’s here (he can’t go home without her not without her not without Florence no no no) he may as well embrace the mold. He fumbles in the dim, dying light-
dying like him, dying like them, there is no them-
fumbling with singed and stinging fingertips for the counter, pulling himself up. His eyes in the mirror are eerily bright, blue ice. He’s unshaven, hasn’t bathed in days. There’s no point. Florence usually makes him, but Florence isn’t coming back now. He’s fucked it up for good this time.
Good job, fuck you.
He used to think about killing himself, before he met her - used to think he was good for nothing, until she’d done the impossible. Loved him. Like nobody else had ever bothered, ever wanted to. He used to want to kill himself but now he’s a coward, got nothing to lose and still he can’t do it.
He can bring the razor to his skin, though, can watch his arm in the dark, blind, and pretend he can see the red ooze to the surface in straight lines. (he’s going to be sick sick sick and Florence isn’t here, isn’t here, no no no)
"Self-destructive," they called him, pathetic and selfish and crazy.
He wants to carve the articles into his skin, word for word, razor turned vicious journalist’s pen in his hands but he’s sloppy and it’s warm, it’s wet, it’s all over his hands, the blade slips and clatters to the floor-
It’s dark and he sinks down against the wall, greasy hair in bloody hands and he cries, and bleeds, and hates himself.
Later Walter will be here, a soft knock on the door, a wary look around the corner. He’ll pick him up off the bathroom floor and bandage him up, shaking his head. “God, Freddie.”
Right now it’s some godforsaken time in the morning and he’s tired, so fucking tired, and Florence isn’t here to guide him to bed. He’s not sure if he can find it now, can’t do anything without her. Nothing.
Tomorrow it will be bright and everywhere but his eyes, lost in dark circles. But tomorrow is so far away-
not nearly as far as Florence-
and he’s so tired, so tired…
He isn’t entirely sure how it happens, but then nobody had warned him about Freddie.
He’s Freddie because call me Freddie because he winks and pushes and grabs and forces him down, touches him so deep inside he can’t breathe except to gasp for more, please, more deeper harder MORE more than Russia and his wife and his brother’s children masquerading as his own will ever give him, more, more, suddenly he sees the West in this one man’s voice in his ear as he presses up against his back and fills him up and he remembers what it is to dream, and feel, and want.
It hurts, but for the first time the chess pieces have fallen right out of his head and rolled under the bed that he’s stumbling out of, pulling on his pants, emerging dazed and staggering like he’s been born again.
It hurts but now he feels it - the piece that was missing, an eternal opponent, the final square to set the board with - and here is the West, with white teeth grinning from magazine covers, with a voice low like sin except it’s not, not now, never again.
He is not going back.
He wants, and he wants Freddie, because call me Freddie - and he does. And he will.
Summary: Freddie and Anatoly get into a rather scary new kink; Florence Does Not Approve.
Florence has the misfortune of walking in on her roommates’ less than conventional bedroom activities at least once a week, mostly because they’re rarely confined safely to the bedroom. This doesn’t normally bother her all that much - hell, she’s just glad Freddie’s finally getting laid (it does wonders for his patience the rest of the day) - but this is definitely over the line.
"I’m ho-" She chokes on her greeting, dropping the grocery bags without a second thought - the eggs are done for, she doesn’t care - to march over and snatch the knife right out of Freddie’s hand. He jumps, toppling off of the couch in surprise.
“What are you doing?!” Anatoly twists around to blink at her, red-faced and trussed up like a hog with rope, arms behind his back, ankles bound, and tries to smile. He’s panting but manages to swallow down his uncomfortably evident arousal to speak, voice low and accent almost too thick to understand.
"Ah- Florence. I did not think you would be home so early…"
There are thin red cuts in a neat row down the left side of his torso, over his ribcage - the blood trail down his side makes her sick, covering her mouth and holding the knife away from her with a look of utter revulsion. “Why?”
It’s not as though she’s a virgin, nor has she ever been one to say no to a little oddity, but this was out of her league. It would stand to reason that Freddie - queasy, stuck up Freddie who wouldn’t go anywhere near an open wound and panicked over papercuts - wouldn’t be too keen on it either. But here he is, reaching for the weapon with that stubborn look on his face, powering through his embarrassment to grumble at her.
"None of your business. Give that back, I paid good money for that-"
It’s not a switchblade, as she’d originally thought - she doesn’t want to look at it too closely, the blade glinting, but she holds it away from him and levels a stern look at him. “Freddie, this isn’t safe. I don’t know what you were thinking-“
Anatoly clears his throat, unhelpfully quipping, “It was my idea, actually-“
"But I am not going to condone this-” she powers on, glaring until he’s silent, turning back to Freddie to continue her admonishing, but he’s preoccupied with zipping his pants, sighing.
"I don’t actually care what you think about my sex life," he sniffs, glancing up disdainfully. "But fine. I get it, we’ll take it back to the bedroom. Now give that back."
He holds a hand out, expectant. Her lips thin, and she takes a step backwards to keep it away; her eyes stray worriedly to the wounds decorating his ribs.
"Absolutely not. Untie him - Jesus, Freddie." She exhales shakily, rubbing her forehead with her free hand. "I can’t believe I have to say this. You know better."
"What do you know?" He’s defensive now, bristling and working up a few hasty insults. She’s used to it, by now, but she still braces herself for the onslaught. "You haven’t been with anyone since years before you even met me, you have no fucking idea what feels good-“
"It does feel good," Anatoly interjects with half of a moan, squirming against the couch cushion.
"I don’t care if it feels good. Heroin feels good too, and I’m not going to let you shoot up around the house-" she pauses, grimacing at the thought. "Or at all. That’s it, Freddie, I’m making you an appointment."
"What, are you scheduling me an exorcism?" He sneers, his temper making an appearance in the sharp glint of his eyes. He lunges to snatch the knife out of her hand on impulse, fast enough that she doesn’t even try to keep it away. "Don’t be a bitch. Don’t you have something to do? Go make dinner or something."
She would reprimand him on a normal day but right now she’s more than a little alarmed about the blood crusting to Anatoly’s side - she just rolls her eyes at him, subtly angry, and grabs the towel off the floor to dab at Anatoly’s side. He hisses, forehead creasing at the sting. “Yebat.”
"Don’t encourage him," she mutters, mouth tight with disapproval that she’s sure both of them can feel thickening the air. Or maybe that’s just the unbearable stench of male sexuality. Keeping her eyes pointedly fixed on his ankles and no higher, she set’s about working the knots loose.
Freddie throws his hands up in disgust and opens his mouth to complain. “Be careful with that,” she snaps, before he can get a word in edgewise, and points down the hallway. “Go, we’re going to talk about this later.”
"You don’t get to tell me what to do," he scoffs, but he stalks down that way anyways, fuming and slamming the door behind him.
The silence in the room lasts for all of four seconds before Anatoly coughs, eyes fixed on the ceiling, incredibly awkward. “Would you mind-“
"I’ve got it," she sighs, and jerks the rope clear of his ankles.
Clearly, it’s time for an intervention.
Summary: Sometimes Freddie thinks that there’s a conspiracy in his own home. If they’re trying to give him grief, they’re doing a damn good job.
Freddie comes home to silence. All of the lights are on; both jackets, both pairs of shoes are exactly where they should be; there’s a pot of water boiling on the stove.
But there’s no sound.
Maybe they’re right, and maybe he’s just paranoid, but he feels his gut twist with a dark sense of foreboding as he shuts the door and kicks his sneakers off as quietly as he can, peering down the hallway.
Either they’ve both been murdered, or they’re sleeping together.
Or they’re plotting.
The third option makes him grimace and he takes a deep breath before stalking down the hallway, the sound of Florence’s giggle nearly giving him a heart attack - he stops just short of the door to his own bedroom and, incredulous, feels his eye twitch at the sight before him.
"Who the fuck is responsible for this?”
He sort of wants to give that a second take, dissatisfied with the amount of outrage he’d managed to fit into the words, but Anatoly is already grinning, striding over to wrap a hand around his wrist and tug him closer. His heels slide uselessly on the carpet, and he stares down in horror as Florence holds up a tiny ball of black and white fur in her palm, two huge blue orbs peering moistly up at him.
"Get rid of it," he stammers, shaking his head as Anatoly drags him closer. "When did I say this was okay?! Get it out of my house!"
"Come off it," comes the affectionate response, and a loud kiss just below his ear makes him scowl, swatting blindly back at him. The kitten opens it’s mouth and squeaks, nearly falling over. It’s tiny and somehow that’s terrifying. “Isn’t he cute? His name is-“
"Don’t you dare name it, I said no,” he spits, but Florence raises the kitten to eye level with him and he chokes on his next words. She takes full advantage of the lapse.
"We already did. Freddie, don’t pretend you don’t love them-"
"Just because I like cats doesn’t mean I want one tearing up my furniture with it’s filthy-“
"His name is Checkers, he’s two months, and he’s adorable," Florence smirks, daring him to challenge it. A little pink tongue swipes out over the tip of his nose and he jerks back with a whine, torn and flushing with indecision.
"I don’t care how cute he is! Florence-“ He twists abruptly at the sight of her barely-suppressed smile to scowl at his lover in a futile effort to seem menacing. “This was you.”
Anatoly just raises an eyebrow. “Is that a question?”
Florence stands and carefully transfers the tiny creature into Freddie’s unwilling hands, stroking it with her index fingers between it’s little shoulder blades and laughing, “Oh, you know you love him already.” He opens his mouth to protest and it snaps almost automatically shut, expression twisting when he’s interrupted by another high-pitched mewl.
Checkers raises his paw and pats him on the nose, whining again, and Freddie clutches him close to his chest miserably.
"I hate both of you," he grumbles, ducking his head as he falls to sit on the edge of the bed with the kitten in his lap, stroking his downy fur with hesitant fingers. Anatoly positively beams.
"I thought it would be best to acclimate you to the idea of having children in the house."
Freddie groans, and Checkers squeaks cheerfully back at him.
"You love him," Florence says smugly.
Summary: Freddie does not comfort, he is comforted.
There are two weeks, exactly, until his family arrives.
It would be a lie to say he wasn’t nervous. Anatoly paces a little more; his fingers twitch; he chews his lip and stares out the window, distracted. Freddie wins three consecutive games of chess on the battered old fold-up chess set he’s had since he was nine before he reaches across the table and snaps his fingers a centimeter from his face.
"Something eating you?" He sounds more annoyed than concerned but Anatoly can see it in the tense lines of his shoulders, and he smiles thinly to reassure him.
"I am fine. Just thinking."
"About?" Freddie can be like a dog with a bone sometimes; he brushes his thumb over the wooden crown of Anatoly’s king, warm in his palm. The pieces, these ones specifically, are so faded it’s almost hard to tell the black and white apart, and they’re like an extension of Freddie’s arm or so it seemed with every fluid movement. He slid them across the board so smoothly and so gently, like they were precious friends - it was the only thing about Freddie that Anatoly could even describe as "gentle", and almost as endearing as it was sad to think about.
He had paused for apparently too long, because Freddie was frowning now. “Well?”
"It is nothing," he insists, turning his eyes back to the board as he begins clearing it - carefully. As worn as the set already is, Freddie would kill him if he put so much as a scratch on one of the pawns. "I am just thinking."
Freddie is far from satisfied with that, forehead creasing as his frown deepens. There’s a long pause, the rustle of the sheets and the creak of the board’s hinges filling the space between them, and then, “What did I do.”
The thing about Freddie is that nobody has any idea how needy he is. Oh, they think they know, they think so alright, but even Antoly is only at the tip of the iceberg - and he knows.
"Freddie," he sighs, looking back up and extending a hand to cover his. He’s so warm. “It has nothing to do with you. I am just thinking.”
"Thinking about what?” and he’s almost cute when he’s agitated. It’s hard to take him seriously sometimes, but he knows that if he doesn’t act quickly he’ll be pouting all night and possibly for the rest of the weekend, and when Freddie is miserable everybody is miserable.
"My children." He finally admits, giving him a small smile and withdrawing his hand again. His eyes stray to the window - it’s gray outside and the air is unbearably thick, just edging on rain. It’s been that way for days now. He wonders if it will rain at all, or if the suspense will come to nothing.
"Oh." On the other side of the board Freddie seems to deflate, partially in relief and partially in very thinly veiled vain disappointment. "Right."
Right. You have children.
The tone of his voice is so petulant that Anatoly can’t help but laugh, forgetting the rain for a moment and snapping the board shut again, pushing it aside and tugging his arms in a silent invitation. “I am sure you will get along fine.”
Sure isn’t the word, but hey, optimism never hurts.
Freddie hesitates a long moment but, as usual, crawls into his lap and curls his arms possessively around his neck, resting his chin on his shoulder. “Mmph. I hate kids.”
That’s not reassuring. He didn’t expect it to be.
"Emilia will love you. You are exactly like her," he tells him instead, smiling against his temple and stroking down his back. There’s no use worrying about the weather when there’s nothing he can do about it; he’ll just have to wait, and hope he has an umbrella if he needs it.
When I say “run away with me”, when I tap the words out and mouth them in my bed alone in the dark and my thumb hovers over the send, I don’t mean it in a physical sense. What I feel transcends the boundaries of reality and is ingrained in every pore of my figurative body, constricting lungs made of hideous words and thoughts and feelings, a sharper sense of get me out of here than one could comprehend in the world outside my mind. I just mean that you should buckle yourself into my life, and we could tear through miles of insecurity, rip the sadness clean from my bones, we could fill my mind to bursting and I could breathe again, exhale all the stale hatred in a black cloud that dissipates under the force of your sunlight. Run away with me, if only in my head, because I don’t know how I’m going to inhale again otherwise.
Summary: Anatoly proposes - take 1.
In hindsight, this was not a question to ask in public. (or at all) Florence could have told him that, but for the first time in a long time Florence wasn’t in on it.
Freddie is stubbornly sawing away on a piece of well done steak, which he doesn’t even particularly like but insists on eating because he’s “not some pansy woman” and it happens to be on the menu that night, when Anatoly sets his silverware down and says, so casually he thinks he might not even hear him, “What do you think about marrying me?”
And that’s the story of how he got cow blood spit all over his face.
"No?" Freddie chokes, unraveling the napkin from his silverware hastily and letting it clatter to the tabletop as he wipes his mouth frantically. “I think no?!”
To Anatoly’s credit, he doesn’t let his face fall all that much. He calmly wipes his face clean, ignores the far-from-subtle stares from the patrons at the surrounding tables, and leans forward insistently. “Why no?”
"Because-" He doesn’t seem to have thought this through before saying ti and just stares with increasing incredulity at his lover, as though he’d just asked him if a double suicide sounded nice for that evening. Even that probably would have earned him less of a reaction. Freddie finally manages, voice tight, “It’s not legal.”
He aggressively resumes his sawing at the meat Anatoly knows he’s only going to pick at, just for something to do with his fidgety hands.
Anatoly decides to forget, momentarily, what Freddie’s drop it tone sounds like and steeples his fingers, dogged. “I have been thinking about-“
"I’m going to change the locks," Freddie threatens, his voice slightly too high. His ears are bright red, his knuckles white as he brings a chunk of thoroughly mutilated meat to his mouth and forces it down, hardly even chewing. He’s going to regret that later. “I swear to God. I’m going to get one for the bedroom door and then I’m not giving you the key-“
"It was only an idea," he sighs, turning his eyes back to his own plate and morosely stabbing at a piece of overcooked broccoli that looked almost as sad as him. This wasn’t over, but Freddie was going to make a scene if he kept it up today.
"Stupidest idea I’ve ever heard," Freddie grumbles, snapping as the waiter gathers the courage to walk by at last, "Where the fuck is my drink?"
Summary: A depiction of the insecurity of a certain troubled teenager and the bond she shares with her best friend.
Warnings: depression, implied self harm
Pairing: Mimi/April if you squint
Darkness should be scary, unknown- but to April, the blindness she suffered in the dark was more of a miracle than anything else. At least when she couldn’t see she couldn’t distract herself with all of those awful thoughts, the voices, the ones she was going to the shrink about tomorrow.
The ones that landed her in a hospital bed all hooked up to a thousand IVs.
It was early March and still chilly at three in the morning. April was tired; a mile was a long way to walk to find a pay phone in the cold, but she couldn’t risk getting caught calling anyone at this hour. Better for her father to assume she was out whoring herself for drug money again than to hear this conversation.
Feet aching and short, choppy red hair sticking to her head in the thick mist, April kept on down the sidewalk resolutely. God, this had better be worth it…
A handful of coins were warm in her palm, tucked into her pocket in an attempt to keep her fingers from freezing before she could punch in the numbers. She shouldn’t be out in the city this late at night, alone, easy prey- but she’d seen things and she’d done things and she trusted herself.
Herself. Not her luck. Her luck was shit.
It was a few unbearably chilly minutes before April found the payphone, glass cracked and dirty, and stepped into it. She licked her lips nervously and fumbled with the coins, inserting them with pale, shaky fingers. It was all she could do to keep the tears at bay. April prided herself on being numb, on being able to school her expression and just suck it up no matter how much it hurt, and she hated the times like these when the pressure cracked the dam she’d built, threatening to implode her skull.
But everything could still be okay, she reminded herself. Mimi was going to be there for her, just like she always was. Like she’d sworn to God that she always would be.
Of all of the people who had made that promise to her, she was the only one who’d meant it.
Once she’d managed to punch the correct numbers she shifted from foot to foot as she listened to the tinny ringing, trying not to let her mouth too close to the cool metal or risk catching some kind of herpes. (She’d had quite enough brushes with that particular disease, as well as all of the others.) Come on… Come on… She clung to the phone like it was the only thing in the world, shivering violently in a way that had nothing to do with the cold.
Ring… Ring… The orange streetlights were starting to get to her, the lack of sound making her paranoid, spinning around and around getting the cord wrapped around her as she tried to keep a lookout in every direction at once, fear and anxiety clouding her mind. She was dangerously close to a panic attack, right there and then-
"Hello? Who the fuck is it? It’s three a.m. you asshole, you can’t just-"
"Meems?" Her voice had never sounded so weak, like a lost little girl, and she barely had time to be disgusted with herself before Mimi was responding.
"April?" Alarmed, her voice sharpened with concern, slightly louder now. "Where are you? This isn’t your number. Are you hurt? Did you relapse? Did you run awa-"
"I- I’m fine," she stammered, shivering violently again and not daring to focus on any one object in the darkness lest she scare herself again. Shadows were all too easily turned to frightening beasts and murderers and- and rapists in her mind’s eye. "I’m fine…"
"Chica, it’s three a.m." April could practically hear her friend rolling her eyes and fought back a tearful smile. Mimi always made her smile; it was exactly why she had come all the way out here to talk to her. "What’s on your mind?"
Here was the hard part. Why had she called, if she didn’t want to explain herself? Why did she bother when even she couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason she was so upset? She didn’t feel right, but everyone had bad days. She was nothing special, just another depressed teenager doing stupid shit on a weeknight when she wasn’t supposed to be out. There was a long pause before she finally whispered into the phone, “I’m just nervous.”
In her mind she could see the transformation coming over her friend’s caramel face, a glow of understanding. “Oh, no. Is this about your appointment?”
"Course it is." She barked a short laugh, already getting that sinking feeling in her chest. You’ve made a mistake, you’ve done something stupid- why can’t you just suck it up and deal with it on your own? The voice, not hers, haunted her day and night.
It was the same voice, she remembered with a shudder, that had told her to bring the blade to her wrist that first time and who told her "deeper" the last.
Mimi gave it a moment and then, even more softly, asked, “Are you going to tell them this time? Everything?”
The redhead’s knuckles turned white around the phone, swallowing thickly. She wondered, briefly, when this girl had come to know her so well. The very thought of telling anyone about the voices in her head made her squirm but somehow Mimi had understood when she managed to stammer it out, hugged her even, told her that she didn’t think of her any differently. It was, if possible, even harder to force anymore words out of her throat.
"I- I don’t know. I should. Right? I should…" she trailed off uncertainly, twisting a strand of hair around her finger to ward off her anxiety. Every time Mimi paused to gather her thoughts she faced a sudden and rather irrational wave of panic- what if she’s hung up, what if she doesn’t want to deal with me anymore, what if she didn’t care all along- and fought to keep silent, waiting as patiently as physically possible.
"I want you to promise me you will," Mimi finally murmured, sighing quietly through the phone. April felt a tear trail down her pale face and didn’t bother wiping it away, nodding even though the other girl couldn’t see her.
"I- I will. If you want me to." Always anxious to please, always waiting on everybody else. April sometimes wondered how she had spiraled so out of control in the past year. So unlike her, she heard the family whisper behind her back as she passed. So unexpected. She’s off her head, that one- should have seen it coming with parents like hers.
Not to say that she had the worst parents in the world, but she definitely didn’t have the best.
"I want you to do it for you, not me- but if you’ll do it for me then I guess that works, too." Mimi’s smile transcended all of the distance between them, made April smile weakly in return and hope that her friend could feel it. Humor laced her tone, and there was nothing in the world that April appreciated more.
"… I guess-" Belatedly realizing how inconsiderate she was probably coming off, she sheepishly replied, "I’m sorry I woke you up…"
"It’s no problem, chica. When has it ever been a problem? Really,” the Latina laughed. That laugh always did strange things to April’s heart.
"Love you," she whispered, relief rolling off of her in waves. There was hushed smacking sound and a whoosh, and she realized that Mimi had blown a kiss through the phone.
Suddenly, it didn’t seem quite so dark anymore.
"Love you too, chica." A pause. "…I’ll catch a bus up there tomorrow and we can talk about it, okay?"
"Okay…" She bit her lip, gut coiling again. Had Mimi gotten sick of her already? Of course she hadn’t protested to being woken up. She was too nice for that. April should have-
"Do you still need me?"
Caught off guard, she babbled, “Wh-what? No. No I- I’m fine, I should really let you sleep…”
"Pshh… Sleep , or you. Which one do you think is going to win?"
"You need your beauty sleep, don’t you?" she countered, beginning to warm up to Mimi’s natural optimism. It was ever so helpful in situations like these.
“Me? Please, honey, you ought to go to bed yourself,” she giggled. “Well… If you don’t need me- I should get off the phone before mom has a cow. Good night?”
"Good night," she confirmed.
As she hung up, April squared her shoulders, unable to stop smiling.
It may be a long few hours before her appointment and a mile to home, but her heart was light. This had been so worth the walk, the cold, her lunch money for the next day. Mimi. She was always worth it. She was the only one in the world who understood, or tried. The distance that April had so dreaded when she first moved to the suburbs barely even affected her now.
All it took to reach her was a couple of quarters.
Summary: Everybody thinks that what it comes down to is Roger, and maybe they’re right after all. Mark’s depression following Roger’s departure for Santa Fe from start to finish. Roger doesn’t know it, but he saved him that day he returned.
Warnings: depression, suicidal thoughts
Pairing: Marker, implied unrequited
Everybody thinks that with Mark, it always comes down to Roger.
No matter how much he tries, how many times he explains and re-explains and futilely protests, they’re thinking it anyways. It seems painfully obvious, to everyone except maybe Roger himself, that Mark is totally pathetically in love with his roommate and will be for the foreseeable future. But in reality, what it all comes down to is detail.
When you obsess each day over shots and angles, lighting and shadows and the tiniest features that give an image that fleeting charisma you were searching for, it always comes down to detail. It’s his profession, his passion, and the only thing that he can hide behind.
So yeah, Mark’s in love with Roger- big deal. It’s been years since he figured it out and years since it mattered, because everyone knows that he’s never going to do anything about it. He’s had Maureen and he knows that while love is fine and dandy, it’s just not worth it. When Roger leaves, actually packs up and drives off like he’s been saying (like they’ve all been saying) since they got sick of the city a month into living there, Mark doesn’t miss him because he loves him.
He misses him because he’s his best friend.
He misses him because there’s so much else, so much uncertainty and strain and he doesn’t know if he can deal with it.
Roger’s absence makes it all too apparent that Mark’s life is taking a turn for the worse.
What it really comes down to, then, has nothing to do with whatever long-buried longing he has for his best friend and everything to do with the year that preceded it. This time last year, early November, the chill had begun to creep in just as Roger’s withdrawal symptoms had become somewhat bearable. He’d stopped begging for a hit, just one, and stopped locking himself in his room for days at a time, stopped throwing up, stopped mourning April like a lost puppy. Last year Mark’d had so much optimism, even if he was so, so tired already after half a year of hell. Through everything he can always count on something. On Collins, on Roger, on his film. And now…
Now what does he have?
His film is a piece of crap. He’s ready to scrap it, but somehow he can’t bring himself to actually bring a lighter to the film- maybe it’s just because he remembers all of the shifts he worked at the Life to pay for it, or maybe it’s just the nostalgia that makes his insides burn uncomfortably. Mark is awful with emotions. He wishes that he didn’t have them at all, could just keep facing the world with that small smile and shove his glasses up his nose and just not feel anything, but he’s already tried that and it doesn’t work.
He’s a sellout. That’s one of the details, the things that keep bothering him when he closes his eyes in bed at night. The word haunts him, a recollection of the early days of his bohemian life- everyone was a sellout, everyone but them, and they’d sneer and they’d trudge on down the sidewalk and Mark would tilt his camera just so and Roger would loudly proclaim that he was going to be a rock god and the world was still bright with possibility, even in the slums. He wonders where his enthusiasm has gone.
When had he become a robot? When? Where were the nights of feverish scribbling, ideas for screenplays and documentaries and novels pouring onto a page in a deluge of black ink from a cheap pen that Roger had probably chewed on already- what had he become?
He had known, been warned and been prepared, that the city might wear him down eventually but he’d never imagined it feeling quite like this.
And besides the fact that he’s just so drained, so tired all the time no matter how much sleep he gets, how much he eats, there’s more than one detail that makes every day so difficult to drag himself through.
The world, he’s determined, is not full of happiness. He’s not a child anymore, not some idealistic teenager fresh out of Brown (freshly dropped out, but who’s counting) who thinks that everyone has their place and everything will work out. Sure, for Roger he might be able to muster that sort of optimism, but now he doesn’t know where to draw it from.
He remembers April, gone out in a flash of fiery passion just like her hair, just like she’d lived right up until that cryptic lipstick message on the mirror and the swirls of ruby water caressing her pallid face in the bathtub. Perhaps that was the turning point. He remembers thinking, where’s the justice in this? What has April done that’s so bad? Bad enough that she’s dead at twenty two, leaving her friends dazed and horrified in her wake, a zombie of a boyfriend hooked on drugs and riddled with disease.
There was no justice for April. He searched for months- every moment he wasn’t by Roger’s side, holding him while he shook or holding him down while he screamed and flailed his fists in angry desperation at the injustice of it all- but no signs emerged. No God painted a rainbow on the sidewalk in her memory, no flowers bloomed on her grave. Nothing got better when everything got worse, not even a little, and Mark, baffled, let it slide because he had other things on his mind.
Other things like Roger, who had always managed to keep his head above water even if he doesn’t know it.
Now it trickles down, to Maureen and her abandonment, to Collins disease, to Angel’s inevitable spiral towards death that they’d all watched in morbid fascination until it was over and the church bells were ringing in their ears, the casket lowered into the leaf-strewn ground. It comes down to all of this. To Mimi, her tiny body racked with those same horrible shudders he’d endured with Roger a year beforehand. To pure loneliness as everyone around him lost the ones they loved, and everything shattered.
Suddenly the cracks in the sidewalk aren’t so interesting, and Mark couldn’t give less of a fuck about the plight of the homeless staring back at him from the other side of the lens. Everything begins to blur together, color fading into black and white and then to a uniform gray that he can’t escape.
And then Roger leaves. Life loses meaning.
Mark hasn’t been able to find passion in anything for weeks, if he’s being honest with himself. To bear witness to so much, and he’s still so young, he’s only twenty five God dammit, but he can’t take it anymore and he hates that he can’t. Mark has never simply not been able to do something like this. He’s never just given up, but now he’s thinking about it.
Every day has become an endless dragging of his feet on the ground, a monotone, a flash of images before him that he barely sees. Why does it matter? Why? He hates himself, and then he hates himself more for being so disgustingly self-deprecating, for drowning in his pity for his own pathetic existence. Without Roger, whose always been there and always kept him sane even if just barely…
Well, that’s the last straw.
He quits his job. He stays in bed. The phone rings, but Mark doesn’t see why he should answer it. Let Maureen and Joanne and Collins live their own lives, it’s none of his business. And he’s none of theirs.
When it comes down to it, Mark is running out of options about as fast as he’s losing pounds, which is alarmingly rapidly. He wonders vaguely if he’s just become dumb- his thoughts are so limited now. Mechanically going through the motions, and not even that, some days. His camera is growing dusty on his nightstand but he hasn’t slept in his room in days, because that would require passing Roger’s bedroom and then he’d be reminded and it’s not that it hurts, it’s that it doesn’t and it’s scary, too much to think about.
So when the details don’t mean anything anymore, Mark finally decides that enough is enough. It’s almost an abstract thought. It would just be so easy and it’s not like he hasn’t thought about it before, just not seriously, not without someone close by whose willing to grab him and pull him back to safety if he really does try to fling himself over the edge.
He finds himself standing on the roof in the bright November sunlight. The sky is blue, the traffic is blaring, and everything just seems so sickeningly normal like Mark hasn’t known in daysweeksmonths and he takes one deep breath of fresh air, one last breath-
Roger has always been the only person. Always there, even when he’s moping, always there for Mark and he doesn’t even know it.
His voice does it. That single utterance, beautifully awkward, familiar. “Hey.”
Color seems to burst back into the world for one startled moment. It doesn’t stay- the gray returns in a matter of seconds as he whips around to search for Roger’s stubbly face, overgrown hair, leather jacket he’s really back but it will eventually. Now he knows that it will.
He doesn’t know how it happens. All of a sudden he finds his arms around him, Roger’s wrapped around him in a suffocating hug and they’re laughing, reuniting after what feels like an eternity of endless disappointment and sinking depression.
So maybe it does come down to Roger, after all. That’s fine. Everybody knows that already.
Maybe someday Roger will, too.