Disclaimer: I own nothing, this is just fun. And boy, is it ever fun!

Mark had never particularly cared about the insults thrown out by the boys at his high school. Being smart and poor at sports did not mean he was gay; being gay, though Mark was not and Nanette Himmelfarb could attest to that, did not mean he was a girl. The surreality of his situation, of the insults, had kept them from hurting Mark. They only confused him.

That night, as he chewed his knuckles to keep from crying out, Mark felt for the first time that the insults were true. He felt like a girl, a pathetic, needy girl. He felt like Roger.

When had everything changed? When had the bed gone from being too crowded to being too big, too empty? When had Mark gone from having a friend and a girlfriend to being alone, despised and rejected? It had been too quick for him, and suddenly Mark could not ignore the fragments of his past existence.

He listened to the sounds of the loft: the dripping sink, shuffling feet as Roger left his room. At least Roger left his room, but Mark was too far gone to be comforted by that tiny victory.

The door to Mark's room squeaked open.

"Mark?" It was Roger, and who else, creeping in. "Mark. I know you're awake." When Mark said nothing, Roger sat on the bed. He continued gently, "I'm sorry for a lot of what I said. I was out of line. Um… I do think you need to learn to love yourself the way other people love you--"

Mark rolled onto his side and propped himself up on one elbow. "What other people?" he demanded. "Where are they?"

Roger considered before answering, "Collins is working. Your family is in Scarsdale. Benny… I don't know or particularly care where Benny is," Roger admitted. He and Benny had never completely been friends, more endured, semi-abusive housemates. Roger hesitated before reaching out and stroking Mark's hair. "I'm here," he said. "I don't… I won't… Mark, I love you. I do. But not like that. You understand?"

"Yeah," Mark said, and rolled away from Roger. You have affection for me. You appreciate me. But you don't love me.

Roger sighed. He shifted until he was lying beside Mark, then gave his roommate an awkward, horizontal hug. "Mark," Roger said, "listen to me. This can't mean anything other than I love you like a brother. It can't. I'm here for you, Mark, I am, but… Mark… Jesus, this is really hard to say. Mark, I… care about you, but too much. You're the one with dedication. You're the one with talent. You'll do something for the world, Mark, and I can't take that away. It would be… criminal."

"I just don't want to be alone," Mark told the darkness.

"You're not alone," Roger promised. "And you know… if you still want pity sex…" As he spoke his hands traveled slowly southward. "I wasn't kidding when I said I'm not that good. I haven't even done this for myself since… since April. Mark? Is this what you want?"

"You know," Mark said thoughtfully, moving his hands to cover Roger's, "it really isn't." He brought Roger's hands higher and clasped them together, then rolled over to bury his face against Roger's chest. "Can you just stay here tonight?" Mark asked. "It won't mean anything. Just stay."

"Okay," Roger promised. His arms stiffened slightly, tense.

Mark knew Roger had never before shared a bed with another man. "Talk," he mumbled. "Just talk."

"Okay. Um… I was born out of state…" Roger mumbled his history into Mark's hair long after Mark had fallen asleep, until he was too tired to be bothered. Only then, in certain privacy, did Roger twist to kiss Mark's hair. "I'd love you if I could," he promised his sleeping friend.

Mark smiled. Yes. That'll do.


For anyone still reading this, thank you. I'd love to hear from you if you enjoyed this story and/or have criticism of it.