A/N: Okay. I know this took me… several long months, but I am done. And for those of you who reviewed in the period between chapters, you're the only reason I bothered to finish this, so give yourselves a pat on the back for that. Thank you. And now I think I need a break from this series and Mark/Roger in general, before it kills me…
Chapter Six: Will You Still Know Me?
"Yeah, I think so." Mark had to wonder, now, what he had been thinking, giving that answer, what kind of a stupid answer that was. Saying that while talking to Lisa was one thing, and it had seemed sensible at the time. But now that he was actually walking down the street to where Roger worked, trying not to slip on the hardened ice that had a few days ago been new snow, he had to think… Stupid idea. Stupid, stupid idea. Roger didn't want to see him. He'd made that quite clear the last time he spoke to Mark, made sure he knew Mark didn't mean anything to him now, after abandoning him. But Lisa had said…
No way to know unless he talked to Roger, though that was currently high on Mark's list of things he would like to avoid doing even on pain of death. It had hurt too much the last time… And you hurt Roger by leaving, he told himself. Be a man and talk to him.
However much it may hurt.
He'd reached the bar where, Lisa had told him, Roger was working, and Mark shoved open the door. There weren't many people in the dingy little place, and at first he didn't see Roger—but no, he was there, behind the bar at the far end, staring distractedly into space and looking distinctly unhappy to be there. Somehow that was comforting—Roger had always hated to hold down a steady job when Mark knew him, been fired from several jobs like this for just that reason, and if the same held true now… Well, Mark liked the idea that some things, at least, stayed the same.
With slow, cautious steps, Mark walked over and sat at the far end of the bar. Roger didn't seem to notice him at first, and so Mark sat there, watching him—until Roger caught sight of him in his peripheral vision and turned with a start. "Hey, can I—" He stopped mid-sentence as recognition lit his eyes for a brief instant, before his face darkened. His voice was flat when at last he said quietly, "Mark."
Mark glanced down for a moment and folded his hands on the bar in front of him awkwardly. "Yeah."
"What're you doing here?"
"Lisa told me you worked here and… uh…" He trailed off, realizing that perhaps bringing up Lisa wouldn't be the best way of starting this conversation. Sure enough, when he looked up Roger was all but glaring at him, no visible emotions in his expression other than anger.
"You talked to Lisa?"
"I was looking for you, and she…"
"What else did she tell you?"
Mark winced. "Not—not a lot," he stammered, the attempt at deception painfully obvious. "I just wanted to see you so that I could… um… I wanted to tell you…"
"You want a drink?" Roger asked abruptly, completely interrupting Mark's train of thought. Mark stared at him for several seconds before he composed his thoughts enough to respond.
"What? Roger, why would I—what?"
"We're in a bar," Roger pointed out. Suddenly, Mark felt like smacking him. He'd forgotten how frustrating this could be, Roger's stubborn refusal to even acknowledge something he didn't want to, simply ignoring a conversation he didn't' want to have… Now, remembering all of that, Mark wanted to scream at him.
"That's not why I'm here, and you know it." He grimaced and looked down again. "Look, is there somewhere I can talk to you alone? Just for a couple minutes, I just… really need to talk to you."
"Wait until I get off work, in about half an hour. We can talk then." He didn't give Mark a chance to respond, just turned away, everything in his posture indicating that he was hell-bent on ignoring Mark at this point. Mark could have been hurt by that, and was a little, but he took the opportunity to watch Roger, taking in the way he moved, the lines of his face, every little detail, as if to make up for six long years of absence.Roger seemed to take no notice of Mark for some time, refusing to even look at him, but at last he glanced up and met Mark's eyes, jerking his head toward the back door and starting to walk away without waiting to see if Mark would follow. Mark hesitated for a moment, and then all but vaulted out of his seat to follow him. Roger led him out to an alley in the back, turned to face Mark as he leaned back against a wall, and eyed his former friend with a visible edge of hostility. "Well?"
Mark couldn't think clearly with Roger looking at him like that, and for a moment forgot completely what he had come to say. God, he couldn't do this, there was no way that—
Suddenly he found himself speaking without any conscious thought, the words spilling out and tumbling over themselves in a confused rush. "I just wanted to tell you that… that I miss you and it was stupid to leave and I swear I never meant to hurt you, I just don't know what I was thinking anymore. I probably wasn't thinking, and it's been hell without you and I'm sorry, I'm sorry… I don't even know what else to day, I just don't want you to hate me anymore. Please, Roger, please, I'll do anything, I just… I…" He trailed off for a moment, the torrent of words coming to an abrupt halt, and at least finished weakly, "I'm sorry."
And Roger just stood there, arms folded over his chest, impassive and unreadable as if Mark's words had no effect or only served to close him off more, and God it hurt to see Roger, of all people, looking at him like that. The distance between them, just a few feet, seemed an impossibly huge gulf, the way barred by years and unhealed wounds, and how could a simple apology span that, however sincerely it was meant?
At last, Roger said flatly, without the slightest trace of a sneer or a glare or any other expression, "I bet you are. But Mark, you had the chance to come back and you didn't. You left me. And it took you six years to realize you're sorry? It's too late, Mark. I can't—"
"Please, Roger. Give me one more chance. Please."
For the first time Roger's expression shifted, his eyes narrowing fractionally, posture stiffening a little though somehow he managed to retain that air of cool, uncaring disdain. "One more chance? Like you gave me before you left?"
Mark flinched and let his gaze fall to the ground, shivering in the winter air—not from the physical cold, but from the icy disregard radiating from Roger. He'd thought that anger and hatred would be bad, but this was worse, and Mark now realized that he had no hope of being forgiven, and never really had if he were to be truthful with himself. He allowed himself one more glance at Roger, silently memorizing every little detail with the certainty that it would be the last time he saw him. "Okay," he said at last, very softly as he turned to go. "Goodbye, Roger."
He was halfway down the alley, every step slow and painful as it carried him just a little further from the one person he'd missed the most these six years, the one person whose forgiveness he needed most of all, before he heard Roger's voice behind him, rough and reluctant. "Mark."
Mark turned slowly, forcing himself not to expect too much though the faintest trace of hope lit his face, almost invisible. "Yeah?"
Roger crossed the distance between them in a rush, gripping Mark's shoulders hard enough to bruise and pushing him roughly against the nearest wall, and before Mark could catch his breath Roger's mouth was on his and there were all the emotions he'd refused to show before, anger, hurt, loneliness, fear and breathless, desperate love, fierce and possessive, need and hope and some sort of redemption… After what felt like forever and not long enough, Roger pulled back an inch, no more, and whispered fiercely, "Don't you ever fucking dare leave me again."
And Mark pulled him down to kiss him again, and promised wordlessly, never, never, never again.