Disclaimer: I own nothing, this is just fun. And boy, is it ever fun!
Mark awoke painfully conscious of his high temperature, the pain in his back from sleeping too long in an uncomfortable position, and the smell of bacon. Mark's dream, a pleasant but twisted memory involving the film The Last Escape which, on reflection, he had been too young for in 1970, faded slowly as he recalled the date and precisely what the date meant for Roger.
He groaned and pushed away the covers. One mystery solved: Mark's high temperature had been induced by the sweater he had fallen asleep in. "Undfm… sweater," he muttered blearily, pulling the thing over his head. "Where my shirt…?" Unlike Roger, Mark kept his belongings organized. Ironically, the shirt he usually used for pajamas had once belonged to Roger. It seemed to have retained a mind of its own, and constantly hid when Mark needed it, thus the sweater. Mark pulled the worn thing over his head before stumbling out to tackle the morning.
Roger sat at the table, a newspaper spread out before him and a pencil in one hand. He took one look at jammies-and-socks Mark and giggled hopelessly. Grumbling, Mark shuffled past his roommate and into the kitchen. "There's coffee," Roger offered, then he squeezed his eyes shut and laughed.
Trying to ignore his friend, Mark poured himself a cup of coffee and slurped his first sip of the day. Once the stuff hit his tongue, Mark was clutching the sink and wheezing. "Fuck, Roger!"
"No, thank you," Roger replied. He looked at the squashed remains of a sandwich in his hand and took a bite. "Mm."
"I forgot your idea of coffee is…"
"Hey, you know the alternative."
"Yeah, you being grumpy all day. But this… is tar," Mark said, looking into his cup and roving it in slow circles. He stuck out his tongue as he poured the coffee into the sink. "I don't know how you stomach this stuff. I'm surprised you're not constantly constipated." He thought for a moment, then added,"Or running to the bathroom every minute."
Roger muttered to himself, "And here comes the bacon rant." He glanced again at his bacon sandwich and took another bite. "Mm." The established Sunday morning routine changed little from week to week, as always when Roger and Mark lived together, and so it had become their fallback, their constant. Roger had begun to notice that Saturday nights he had trouble falling asleep; his heart beat quicker with anticipation.
Mark grabbed the milk and took a long swallow. "It's bad enough you leave the coffee out--"
"You don't have to drink it!"
"--but must you eat that?"
"It's delicious. Persian king, enabled a priest, ten letters… Artexerxes." Roger penciled the name into his crossword.
"It's not fair. The place smells like fried pig."
Roger, refusing to face Mark in favor of the crossword, held up his hand, his index finger raised, and said, "One, it's my choice." He raised his middle finger beside the index finger and said, "Two, it's my money." Finally, counting on his ring finger, "Three, yum. Read between the lines, Mark. Consider yourself Saturned."
Mark growled. Because he was an unthreatening type, it was a comical sound, one which caused Roger to giggle--not that this was a difficult task. Nearly everything cause Roger to giggle, in the right mood."It's unkosher,"Mark protested.
Roger's hand returned to the crossword. "Anger at the first knuckle, six… temper." He penciled it in.
"Temper?" Mark asked. Roger raised his hands and pointed to the base of his thumb. "Really?" Mark asked. Roger's hands twisted to give him a double thumbs-up before returning to the crossword. "Can we talk about the bacon thing, please?"
"Mark, I like bacon! You don't have to eat it."
"Yeah, but… it's not kosher."
"Exactly. So none for you." Roger accented his words by popping the last bit of his sandwich in his mouth and brushing crumbs off his fingers. "Mmm… breakfast. Look, I think this is fair."
Mark sat opposite Roger, toast in hand, and leaned forward to help with the crossword. "How is it fair?" he asked. "PD off morphine, eight letters off p-r--"
"Priapism," Roger said, gramicing.
"Sorry." Mark considered himself an accessory to these crosswords. More often than not, Roger had the answer before Mark had finished with the clues--crosswords were not Mark's forte. But they seemed to make Roger happy, and for the topic Mark intended to raise he wanted Roger as happy as possible, so Mark sat at the table and helped with the crossword.
"It's fair 'cause you're Jewish. Deal." Roger shrugged. "Cap double-index to Keller, r in the second slot-- brother," Roger interrupted himself and penciled in the word. "Every religion has drawbacks."
Scowling, Mark asked, "How would you know?" Roger showed no signs of any religious affiliation--neither culturally, as Mark did, or spiritually, through prayer or belief. He did not even wear any indicative jewelry, like a cross or a Star of David.
Roger tilted his head; he and Mark were inches apart, both leaning over the crossword. In a high voice, Roger recited, "Our father who art in heaven…" Then he looked at the crossword again.
"You're a--a Catholic?" Mark stammered. "I never knew… there's a Saint Roger?"
Roger nodded. "Given his robes by Francis of Assisi. This matters? Freud's heyday in a toolbox--"
"Are you sure?" Mark asked. "It's fourteen letters and we only have one of them."
"It's The Turn of the Screw," Roger replied. "I don't need any letters for that." He penciled in the answer. Sitting behind Rachel Matthews in junior year English taught Roger more than a few things. "Davis?" Cover the puzzle--crosswords even then--"Sorry, Sir, I don't know."
"Very well. Matthews?"
And promptly Rachel answered, "Well, as you know, I favor the Freudian interpretation--"
Chuckles from the class, the teacher. "Yes, Rachel we all know." Then a note landed on Roger's desk. '3-down traitor/villain? Matthews.'
Mark persisted, "But… you're Catholic?"
Roger sighed. "My parents were--are Catholics. How d'you think I knew Artexerxes?"
"Catholic?" Mark asked, his voice rising in pitch.
"Raised, not practicing! If I answer your questions now, will you promise not to get the camera?"
"You're Catholic?" Mark could not comprehend.
It was the same answer every one of Mark's questions would receive: Roger tossed his head and laughed out loud. Mark blushed and bent closer to the crossword. He loved that laugh; it was uniquely Roger's. Nevertheless, it hurt to be laughed at."Three letters, will it bring you down but it can blank, four letters."
"Sing," Roger supplied. "Beatles. You say you've seen seven wonders..."
It was the most Mark had heard Roger sing since April's suicide. Rather than comment or ask, as he wished to, for the rest of the song, Mark nodded, picked up the pencil and scrawled the letters upside-down. "So..." He preferred not to ask, never one to savor conflict, but the alternative... "Today's the day," he said.
Roger frowned. "Is that a clue?"
"Um, no. It's a... reminder. Because today's the day you refill your perscriptions--"
"Oh, yeah," Roger mumbled. "Herriot of Yorkshire, well that's easy."
More than anything because he knew already what Mark would ask, Roger snapped, "What, Mark?"
"Are you going to the pharmacy today?"
The silence in the loft crushed Mark's lungs. Slowly, Roger's muscles tensed. His knuckles lost color. Mark forced himself to stand his ground, staring at Roger's down-turned head. At last Roger managed, "No, Mark. I'm not." He tossed down the pencil. "If you'll excuse me, I'm not in the mood for puzzles anymore."
He disappeared into the dankness of his room. Mark stared after him and sighed. He wasn't much in the mood for crosswords, either. From Roger's room came the sounds of tapes, an old Beatles album. Mark gritted his teeth and emptied the coffee pot into the sink. He rinsed the pot twice, then left it upside down to dry; the greasy pan he washed as thoroughly as possible. So sick of cleaning up after him... he's like some deranged puppy.
Mark went to Roger's door and knocked. Hopefully he had calmed down. "Roger!"
"I'm leaving your pills in a cup on the table, okay? I'll refill the perscriptions, just take your AZT."
After a moment's pause without response, Mark turned away from the door and went to the kitchen to portion out Roger's pills. Puppy? That's too much a compliment. He's more like a teenager... Mark paused. He had checked the number of pills on each bottle, the total already substantial, when he came to the tricyclic. He looked at the bottle, full of anti-depressants. "I am not crazy." Roger's words echoed in Mark's mind. And yet...
Mark popped the cap off the bottle and dropped one more pill into the cup.
"Take your AZT!" he called as he headed out the door.
TO BE CONTINUED!