Disclaimer: Not mine… as usual. Though lately they've taken to residing in my head. Roger has, at least.

Notes: Started out meaning for it to be humorous, but… the boys got just a littleangsty. What can I say? I would thank Beth for giving me the idea for the story, but I don't think she wants credit for even mild angstyness, so… heh.


"Roger! Go. To. Bed!"

"No!"

Any other time, Mark might have been amused by the situation. Usually, it was Roger trying to get Mark into bed, albeit for entirely different purposes. At the moment, however, he was simply frustrated by his boyfriend's sheer stubbornness.

"Why not?" he demanded. "You're sick, you idiot! You need to rest."

"I am not—" Roger broke off to sneeze, and then looked sheepishly up at Mark. "Sick."

Mark, in the middle of heating a can of condensed chicken soup, narrowed his eyes at the other man. Roger sat on the couch, surrounded by crumpled tissues, with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. He claimed the blanket was because the loft itself was cold, not because he had a cold—despite the fact that it was mid-June. He hadn't been able to come up with an excuse for the tissues, so he simply ignored them. Mark lifted the spoon out of the soup and brandished it at his roommate.

"You are going to bed. I am going to bring you this soup when it's done. And then you are going to go to sleep."

Roger eyed him sulkily for a moment, and then muttered, "I'm not going to eat that."

Mark looked down at the soup and frowned, starting to stir it again as he turned up the stove a little more. "Why on earth not? What's the matter this time? There's nothing wrong with it."

"Chicken soup is for sick people."

For a second or two, Mark just stared at him, and then shouted in exasperation, "You are a sick person!"

"I am not." With that profound rebuttal, Roger got to his feet, threw off his blanket, and started to stride towards the window, grabbing his guitar as he went. "I'm going to be out on the fire escape if you decide to stop trying to be my mother."

He pushed up the window and stepped out onto the fire escape. He slid the window closed behind him, and through the window Mark could see him sit down angrily, bend over his guitar, and start to play something. For a second, he considered following him outside, but then sighed and shook his head. Roger would only push him away.

When the soup finished heating, Mark hunted through the cabinet for one of the few clean bowls left in the loft. The pot he had used to heat the soup went in the sink, on top of a precarious pile of dirty dishes someone really ought to wash some time soon. Mark grabbed a spoon from the drawer and started towards the window, balancing the soup in one hand grabbing the blanket off the couch with the other.

He struggled with opening the window for a moment, fighting to get it open without spilling the soup or dropping it altogether. The window stuck halfway up, and Mark muttered a soft curse under his breath. That window always stuck, and Mark knew he wouldn't be able to get it unstuck with both hands full.

"Roger?" he called out softly. "A little help here?"

Up until that point, Roger had been ignoring Mark though he obviously knew he was there, shivering with chills as he played and sniffing now and then or wiping his nose on the back of his sleeve. But at Mark's request, he sighed and set the guitar aside before turning to the window and easily shoving it open. He then gave Mark a look as if to say, Now why couldn't you have done that yourself?

"Shut up," Mark muttered as he slid through window carefully, even though Roger hadn't actually said a word. "You know I'm not as strong as you are. Here, take this."

Roger looked at the blanket held out to him, then looked back up to meet Mark's eyes. "I don't need it."

"You don't need it?" Mark repeated dubiously, frowning at the musician. He could see Roger shaking with chills from where he stood. "You're shivering! Will you set aside your pride for just one minute and—"

"I am not sick!" Roger shouted. His blue eyes met Mark's for a moment, and then he turned away, picking up his guitar again and sitting down angrily, his legs crossed underneath him. He didn't start to play anything, just stared at his hands on the string, the guitar pick in his hand.

Mark stared at him for a moment, and suddenly understanding dawned. He set the soup down on the window sill and slowly walked over to stand beside Roger, draping the blanket over his boyfriend's shoulders. This time, at least, Roger didn't shrug it off. Carefully, Mark sat down beside Roger and reached over to take the guitar from him. Roger let him, and Mark set it gently aside before he put his arm around the other man's shoulders and pulled him close. He felt Roger shivering underneath his arm as another chill hit him.

"Roger," Mark murmured, "pretending it's not there isn't going to make it go away, baby."
Silence for a moment, and then Roger whispered back, "I know."

Absently, Mark traced a winding line down Roger's upper arm with his fingers. "You're scared, aren't you?" Not an accusation, a simple question.

Roger didn't answer.

Mark sighed and leaned in to kiss him on the cheek, then got to his feet and held out his hand in an offer to help Roger up. "Come inside, your soup's getting cold." Waiting for Roger to take his hand, Mark smiled. "You'd better just give in, because I am going to take care of you whether you like it or not. That's what I'm here for."

Roger took Mark's hand, nearly pulling Mark over as he stood up. He paused, looking at his feet on the steel grate of the fire escape, and after a moment or two looked up to meet his lover's eyes. "You know you can't protect me from everything, right?"

For a second, Mark just watched him, and then smiled sadly at Roger. "I can try, can't I?"