Author's Notes: There will be no throwing things at the author. I kinda got inspired to write this out of the blue. So I'll be working on this one and Gatsby so people will just have to be calm and patient… yea I didn't get that in heaven either… the line was too long. So enjoy the story and if you need a fix read some of my others.

Finding your own Inner Strength

Chapter 01:

Keeping you safe in a way I can't.

Mark lay on the ground shivering. He could feel the welts forming on his back. He could feel the blood slipping down his back. His body was sore from two days ago and tomorrow it would be sorer. He gripped his sides trying to breathe with out it hurting. Tonight had been especially vicious when Mark had accused him of cheating. Mark had seen the fist coming but hadn't moved. It would've just made him madder. Mark stared at the leather strapped that lay next to him. He could see his own blood strains on it. Mark knew it was the strap he used to inject the heroin into his body. Mark could feel the nausea rise up in him. When they had gotten together he had promised Mark he was clean. He had lied to Mark.

Mark wasn't sure how long he had lain on the ground. At least till it was bearable to move. Pulling himself up Mark made his way to the bathroom they shared. Mark looked at his own face. Mark had given up wearing his glasses long ago. HE had told Mark he looked better with out his glasses. Mark looked at his face; it had been spared a beating simply because it was hard to hide bruising to Mark's face. But Mark's body: Mark pulled his shirt off. Mark's sides here an array of blues, purples, blacks, and browns. Mark sighed then turned to look at his back. Red welts line Mark's back. Thin lines of blood ran from several of the welts.

"Oh my god…" Mark turned quickly to see Joanne Jefferson. When had Joanne came in? "JO!" Mark grabbed his shirt trying in vain to hide the bruises and welts. "Mark," Joanne could muster the words. Mark stared guiltily into Jo's face as tears welded in her eyes. He and Joanne had grown close since they had met three years ago on that cold December morning. They had leaned on each other more then once when things had gotten tough in their small family.

Joanne took Mark's hand and led him to the beaten brown couch held together by duck tape. "Oh Mark," Joanne said pulling Mark into her arms holding him gently. Mark could feel tears coming to his eyes. Suddenly his emotional dam broke. He started to sob his frail frame shaking as Joanne stroked his copper head. "Shh, we'll make it better Mark I swear." Joanne whispered. "Nothing can make this better…" Mark sobbed into her shoulder.

Roger Davis walked into the loft he had shared with his best friend Mark Cohen for the last six or seven years. He was surprised when he found Joanne Jefferson. A dear friend of the Boho Boys seated on his sofa with Thomas Collins in a chair next to it. Joanne was dating Maureen Johnson, another dear friend and ex-girlfriend to Roger's roommate. Thomas, just Collins to his friends, had once been a room mate in the same loft with Mark and Roger. Roger looked at his friends' faces, they looked distressed and upset.

"Jo, Collins, what's wrong?" Roger asked. "We need to talk." Collins said gesturing to the couch. Roger sat gingerly bracing himself for the worse. Was it Mimi Marquez, his ex-girlfriend who had become his best friend in the last nine months? Mimi, Collins, and Roger all battled with the same disease, A.I.D.S. The disease had already taken one of their friends, Angel Shunard, a drag queen who had been the love of Collins' life.

"Roger, its Mark." Collins started. Roger could feel his heart clench. Mark, his savior, his best friend, and some ways the only reason Roger went on living: The idea of leaving Mark by himself to hard to imagine. But Mark wasn't alone, not since he had met HIM.

"What's wrong with Mark?" Roger asked. "Roger, there's no easy way to say it." Joanne started. "What are you doing?" Mark's voice with quick and panicked. Roger's head turned to the voice of his roommate. He stood in the doorway of his bedroom. He looked positively frightened.

"You can't tell him, it's none of his business." Mark snapped. It was the first time Roger had seen Mark in a month. Mark had unofficial moved in with HIM. Now Roger was in shock looking at his emancipated roommate. Mark had to weigh 20 pounds less then when Roger had last seen him. His skin was sallow and paler then normal. Roger was sure if Mark turned just right or if the light hit Mark just right Roger would literally see right threw him. But it was Mark's eyes that gave everything away,

Mark's eyes, rarely showed emotion now showed fear, they now showed anger, worse, they showed shear exhaustion. "What's going on?" Roger asked looking at Collins and then at Mark. "Nothing!" Mark yelled. Mark, who had never raised his voice to anyone, shook visibly. "EITHER YOU TELL HIM OR I WILL!" Roger jumped at the sound of Collins yelling. "Don't you get it? You'll just make it worse! I can handle it Collins!" Mark pleaded. "Right, handle it, cause you're doing such a banged up job now of handling it." Collins snapped. Collin raised slapping Mark on his side. Mark screamed and then collapsed. "COLLINS, that was uncalled for." Joanne rushed to Mark's side checking on him. "Got his attention didn't it?" Collins said.

Roger had never seen Collins so angry. And to hurt Mark was unheard of from any of their family. "Roger, help me get him to bed." Joanne asked. Roger stood leaning down he threw one of Mark's arms over Roger's shoulder; Roger paused a moment, then shifted Mark's legs over his arms and attempted to pick Mark up. Roger was sickened when Mark came easily. He was too light to be healthy Roger knew. Roger carried Mark to his bed. "Put me down I'm fine." Mark mumbled. Roger laid Mark down as Joanne covered him with a comforter that she'd bought him last Christmas.

Joanne sat on the edge of the bed stroking Mark's copper hair. "You're not fine. And I am going to tell Roger. He can keep you safe in a way that I can't. I know you don't believe that Mark, and I know your going to be angry. But I won't sit by and watch. I care about you too much. If Maureen was doing it would you sit by and watch?" Joanne spoke softly to Mark. Mark closed his eyes and sighed shaking his head no. "Get some rest; we'll keep Roger calm till you're strong enough to talk." Joanne promised kissing Mark's forehead.

Roger knew this was bad when Jo had said that she'd keep him calm. Why would Roger need to be kept calm? "Jo what's going on?" Roger asked as they entered the living room. Collins sat there with three cups of coffee waiting. "Mark was here, I watched him come up. I hadn't seen him in awhile so I was going up when I heard voices yelling. Sam was here waiting for Mark." Joanne said.

Sam, Roger hated HIM. An ex-junkie Mark had met threw Buzzline. Roger always felt that Mark was too good for Sam. But Sam made Mark happy and that was important to Roger. To see his best friend happy, Roger had bit his tongue and kept his opinions to himself until little things got to Roger. The way Sam was always calling to check on Mark. The way Sam would say little things Roger knew made Mark doubt himself even feel bad about himself. It had all come to a head when Sam had forbid Mark to be alone with other guys. Sam had this insane notion that the minute Roger was alone with Mark that Roger would steal Mark away from him. That had been a month ago and Roger hadn't seen Mark since then.

"Okay so it has to do with Sam, what did he do? Cheat? Accuse Mark of cheating? Oh wait let me guess, Mark's been seeing me on the side secretly." Roger said sarcastically. "He's been beating Mark." Joanne said looking at Roger levelly.

Author's Closing: And you all thought I was gonna make Roger or the Benny the bad guy. Shame on you. So yeah, every time I referred to HIM I was talking about SAM. Anyways… no throwing things… hope you liked it. I'll give you a preview of the next chapter,

Roger and Mark lay on Mark's bed staring into each other's eyes. Here they could be honest. Here they knew anything that was said was between them and them alone. Here, their heads covered by the sheets and comforter they knew it was just Mark and Roger. There was no A.I.D.S., there was no rent to be paid, no anger, just love and caring. Here they were themselves.

Roger looked at Mark's soft Chocolates and spoke, "He's hurting you." "I know, but I love him Roger. He's hurting me out of fear I'll leave. You used to do it all the time." Mark admitted. "I never meant to." Roger whispered. "I know. And nither does Sam." Mark answered and leaned over kissing Roger's forehead knowing Rog needed reassurance that the sins of the past were put exactly where they belonged. In the past.