WARNINGS: Sensitive subjects, Coarse language, Violence
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from the work on this site. No copyright infringement is intended and nothing is to be taken seriously or as fact.
Chapter One: Too Close To Home
In the middle of Alphabet City one man stood looking lonelier than most usually feel in their entire life. Leaning against the brick wall behind him, taking his precious time inhaling each labored breath, his blue eyes squint wearily as he titled his head toward the sky. The filmmaker held onto his camera against his waist as his other hand ran through blond hair before it traveled down to finger the place where his glasses should've been. Eyes blinking incessantly, trying to focus on the stars above, raindrops fell and dripped over his bloodied face. He winced as the water pushed down to his bruised lip and he let out a tight, pained groan.
Mark Cohen was not having a good night.
His hair, usually spiked up a few inches off his head, was now wet from the storm and clung to his forehead. The usual coat he wore was coated with mud and dirt, showing faded green as it hung down his figure like an oversized blanket. His navy blue and white scarf was still situated tightly around his neck, covering a large bruise, and a thin hand tugged it loose. The annoying fabric was making his breathing even more difficult than it should've been.
Darkness. Everything was blurry and shadowed. Mark couldn't see anything but the black linings of the objects in front of him. His eyes widened at this prospect. The rain fell and it continued to dab at Mark's exposed eyes before he finally whipped his head back down and pushed off the brick wall. He took a few deep breaths before letting his feet guide him out of the alley and onto the sidewalk ahead, every step even more cautious than the last as Mark envisioned where he was and where the safest route to the loft would be.
It had been three months since Christmas Eve and Mimi's near death experience. The dancer had been admitted to the clinic for nearly three weeks before coming out in more health than she'd ever been in, although it was in the midst of withdrawal. Roger had stood faithfully at her side, holding her through the shivers, washing her of the sweat, staying strong as she begged for a hit and whispering sweet words into her ear as she cried. Mimi's old apartment was taken over by Collins when she moved in with Roger and Mark. Rocky relationships were dealt with on Maureen and Joanne's part, but it seemed as if the Joanne was putting up an even bigger fight to hold onto Maureen than Mark ever tried. Meanwhile, Benny had forgotten the patter of fighting and nobody had since seen him barging into the loft to ask for rent.
Then, of course, there was Mark. Mark, stumbling all alone through the streets of Alphabet City with no memory of how he got there and what had happened previously. He knew only a few things: he was hurt and he could not see anything but shadows.
Head tilting sideway, Mark used his ears as guidance as flashes of, what could've been, people wandered past him. His only thought was thinking he wasn't far from the loft–bump!
A garbled voice coughed. "Watch it!"
A blunt object, probably a person, rammed into Mark's shoulder, causing him to yelp out in pain. Without thinking, Mark rubbed his sore shoulder and tried, desperately, "Excuse me? Can you help me?" He turned to where the person would've been and squinted as he came face-to-face with a tall, shadowed figure.
"Wha's da' matter? Are ya lost?" The mysterious figure questioned, and Mark could almost hear the smirk in the stranger's voice. Suddenly Mark knew what he'd done was a bad idea. "Ya look a bit rich, despite the ruggedness. So how's 'bout it Mista' Filmmaker?"
Carefully taking a step back, jamming into a wall, Mark clutched his camera into a tighter grasp. "No… You've got it wrong. I'm poor–"
Useless. The larger man pushed Mark into an alley. Loud crashes of thunder and flashes of lightning continued to boom overhead. The little illumination brought the man's shadow-form in front of Mark's face as a fist connected with his gut and a hand pushed him to the pavement. Mark blinked tears back as he crumbled against the concrete wishing with all his might for some sort of solace. The offended mugger, however, was soon joined by two more figures as they tore his jacked from his body and tried to swipe his camera away from the death clutch he had on it. Mark kicked until his limbs were about to give.
A bark-like growl followed as feet stomped through the alleyway and pulled the nearest shadowed-figure, who happened to be working on Mark's shoes, away. Mark continued to blink against the rain and tears as he looked up to the dark figure above him, who had built up his own strong scuffle against the three muggers. He wiped the blood from his lips and spat out the wad of crimson liquid building in his mouth before letting the hacking coughs wrack his thin body. Not even noticing that the three muggers had run, Mark cringed as his savior bent down to place a comforting hand on his shoulder.
"Whoa, buddy. Are you okay?" Eyes flickering upwards to the man, Mark watched the shadow-form ran a hand through his hair before grasping Mark's shoulder comfortingly. "Mark?"
"Rog?" Mark croaked in reply, another coughing fit overtaking his body. "Jeezus," Mark spat another wad out of his mouth. "What the hell are you doing out of the loft?"
"Man, you've been gone for hours! Collins came up and I asked him to look for you, but he came back without a clue where the hell you were, so Mimi told me to look; told me she'd be fine as long as Collins was there with her." Mark saw Roger shake his head. "Damn, what'd they do to you?"
"Just bruises." Mark sighed, drawing his knees close to his chest after stuffing his camera into Roger's safe hands. He moved a hand to run through his hair and massage his temple. "Damn it…"
"Can you make it back to the loft?"
"I can't see," Mark's voice was muffled through his knees.
"Well, that's okay, I can–"
"No, Roger." Mark cut in. "I can't see. Everything's black. You, you're this black outline I can only make out by voice."
Roger questioned confusedly, "Are you sure? I mean, it could just be because you don't have your glasses on. Plus, there's a pretty nasty bruise-" Roger fingered the bruise in question before whipping his hand away as Mark crumbled further into the wall.
"Yeah just- just help… help me to the loft." Mark gulped down whatever was stuck in his throat, bringing his face up so that his chin was settled uncomfortably on his knees.
"Here," Roger said, pulling gently on Mark's arm as he stood. Mark couldn't help cringing in obvious pain as he slid back down the brick wall and hit the pavement with a thud. "Are you okay?"
Mark cursed, "Damn. Damn. Damn…" He opened his eyes and shivered. "I don't think I can move."
"Let's get you to the clinic," Roger suggested, worry lacing his voice. "Maybe your ankle is broken."
"Roger Davis wants to go to a clinic?" Mark laughed hollowly, "Come on, Rog, just take me to the loft and I'll be fine."
"You're shivering," Roger pointed out, peeling his jacket off and wrapping it around Mark's shoulder. "Here, jus- just trust me on this. Okay?"
Mark subconsciously hugged himself. "I can't get up," he whispered pathetically, shaking his head as another burst of pain rushed up and down his side. "You'd think after getting mugged so many times it would make you used to this… Damn, it hurts…"
"Worse than usual?"
"I can't see."
"Can you walk?"
"Honestly?" Mark questioned, watching through squinted eyes as Roger's shadow-form nodded. "No… I don't think so…"
"Come 'ere," Roger whispered, scooting forward before giving Mark his camera back. He carefully scooped the smaller man into his arms as if Mark was a newborn baby, stifling a laugh as Mark tried not to blush. Roger carefully straightened and shifted Mark in his arms until he was content he could walk without dropping him.
"This is embarrassing," Mark muttered, shuddering.
Roger just shook his head. "As soon as I can, I'm going to shove three steaks down your scrawny throat."
"Sure," Mark sighed, closing his eyes and settling into his friend's arms, his face contorting in pain. "Sure…"
Mimi Marquez sat on the duct taped couch wearing an old pair of gray sweatpants and one of Roger's old band t-shirts. She chewed her bottom lip as she watched Thomas Collins walk around the kitchen, rummaging through cabinets and drawers as he searched for something to cook for dinner. He hummed a soft melody and happily danced through the area with a skip in his step; hand moving ceremoniously through the air. Mimi couldn't see how the man could be so carefree; she was worried about Roger, who had been gone for an hour.
"Knock! Knock!" a sing-song voice shouted from outside the sliding door. Mimi jumped in surprise. "Anybody home?"
"Benny!" Mimi shouted in glee, welcoming the ex-enemy of Avenue A as she jumped off the couch and opened the door with a beaming smile. Long ago this would've caused worried looks but, now, everybody knew Mimi was in love with Roger and Benny was just a friend.
Benny grinned as he hugged Mimi and quick-hugged Collins, never a touch-feely kind of guy like the rest of the bohemians. He scanned the room with a cocked eyebrow. "Where are the filmmaker and rocker?"
Remembering why she was so depressed in the first place, Mimi averted his gaze and walked back over the couch to flop down with a sigh. "Roger went out looking for Mark; he's been missing for a while now." She shrugged helplessly. "I can't go out…"
"Right." Benny didn't press the issue of Mimi's current situation, so he turned to Collins. "Anything I can do to help?"
"Nah. Roger's handling it," Collins replied. "What're you doing down here, man? Don't tell me Allison let you loose just to come down for a visit."
"Ha, ha, ha…" Benny mocked. "No, actually we're getting a divorce. I was wondering if there was a couch I could take for the night." He flashed a tight smile and said, "Ownership of the loft went over to this new guy from the Department of Whatever-It's-Called-Dealing-With-Safety-And-Rights."
"Which is why the power hasn't gone out in three months," Mimi pointed out. "Should I be sorry?"
"Do I have a couch to crash on?"
"As long as you need it, down in my loft." Collins smiled. "You can use the spare room instead. I don't think the couch is very comfortable."
"Good, than you don't have to be sorry." Benny smiled. "Roger will be pleased, it's not like he didn't see it coming." He flashed another smile and opened the door to point to his luggage. "So, can I move in immediately?"
"No problem, the door is unlocked already."
"There's something we need to fix," Benny mumbled to himself as he picked up his duffle bags and headed down the stairs. "Thanks!"
Collins watched Benny's form leave and said, "Mm-hmm, he sure has changed for the better." Mimi was unsure if he was talking to her or not but before she could ask, Collins was moving back into the kitchen. He looked back at her and smiled cheekily, "How's 'bout I just order takeout? On me."
Mimi giggled. "I'll chip in."
"Save your money," Benny said as he walked back into the loft. "I'll pay. Consider it my way of saying that I'm sorry for being such an ass."
"You got any more money?" Mimi joked, sticking her tongue out.
Suddenly, the phone rang. "Speeeeeeeeeeeak!"
Collins groaned. "I'm going to make Roger and Mark change that, it always gave me a headache, even when I was living here."
"Ahhh, you're no fun," Mimi pouted. "That message lives in this loft too; it'd be hell trying to get those two to change it now."
"Sure, defend the drunken message." Benny laughed.
"Hello, this is Doctor Cork calling for Thomas Collins. For the record, I would like to say that I dislike bringing this sort of news over the phone with a friend or relative is here capable of doing this himself, but, he, Roger Davis, is nearing the thin line of being kicked out of the clinic-"
"Hello!" Collins jumped, finally coming out of his shock. "Yes, Thomas Collins- No! Well, yes, I… No, we'll be there- Yes, right away! Thanks… Bye."
Mimi stood behind Collins, her whole body shaking at the multiple thoughts forming in her mind. "What is it?"
"It's Mark," Collins said, shaking his head. His eyes glazed over as he quickly grabbed his coat. "He's at the clinic-"
Benny took Mimi's hand, leading her out of the loft. "I'll drive."
"Dammit, move!" Roger banged his fists against the door. "I'm gettin' in there whether you like it or not! Come on! I'm the one who brought him here! Let me in this damned door!"
"Sir, please, calm down!"
"Calm down?" Roger growled, bringing the small orderly up off the ground by grasping the scruff of his shirt in one shaking hand. "How would you like it if your best friend was torn from your arms and tossed into a room full of doctors with no explanation?"
"Sir, the doctor will be right out…"
"Would you be calm if that happened?" Roger demanded, "Well!"
"Well, either let me in or be faced with a busted door!"
Collins burst through the waiting room door with Mimi and Benny hot on his heels. He rushed toward Roger and shouted, "Rog, put him down!"
"Davis!" Benny yelled placing a hand on the man's shoulder. "Calm down!"
"Rog…" Mimi gently took his arm, tugging at it softly. "Come sit down, please? The doctor will be out."
Roger dropped the young orderly, watching with a frown as he scampered away from his glare. He allowed Mimi to lead him over to one of the plastic chairs in the waiting room and watched through glazed eyes as Benny and Collins tried their own luck at the administration desk. Carefully, Roger pick Mark's camera up and gently placed it in Mimi's hands, mumbling that it should be kept on per Mark's own request. Mimi obediently turned it on, having been taught how by Mark, and placed it on the side table so it was pointed it at her and Roger.
"Love?" she questioned uncertainly. "What happened? Are you okay?"
Roger placed his face into his hands and shook his head. "You shouldn't be out. You should be resting."
"Didn't have much choice, did I?" Mimi questioned smoothly, shrugging easily. "I'll be fine. What happened?"
"I was so clueless. Mark didn't even want to come here, I had to carry him. He's so damned stubborn-"
"Sounds like somebody we know." Collins walked over and sat across from the two, Benny sitting down on the chair next to him. "I called Maureen and Joanne; they'll be here as soon as they can."
Benny shook his head, leaning his arms onto his knees as his fists clenched together to hold his chin. "Nobody will tell me anything; they said the doctor will be out soon." He frowned. "Never did like this clinic, but it's the only thing…" He trailed off and turned to Roger. "What happened?"
"I found him." Roger chuckled, the action not meeting his eyes. "He was getting mugged by these three guys and I drove them away, but, hell, I didn't even know it was Mark at the time. I mean, usually I'd just walk by because it wasn't my problem, but I got this sick feeling and I went to help… I don't know…" Roger leaned back, closing his eyes against the fluorescent lights above. "It was Mark, though, and he was shivering like crazy. He didn't have his glasses and the muggers got his jacket, but, still, he couldn't see…"
"Couldn't see what?" Benny questioned, eyes narrowing.
"He couldn't see…"
"What didn't he see?" Mimi tried patiently. "You? The muggers? What happened?"
"Me, him, everything!" Roger exclaimed. "He could not see! Everything was a big blur to him, a big shadow of images that flashed before him."
"Honey bear! Damn it, Maureen!"
Maureen burst through the waiting room door with Joanne on her heels. She was clad in a tight black dress that reached down past her knees and had black fishnet stockings with high heels. Her eyes found the four bohemians sitting down and she questioned softly, "Where is he?"
Mimi stood quickly and with a few strides had a hold on the distraught woman in a furious hug. They pulled apart soon; Joanne coming to calm her girlfriend as Mimi muttered, "Damn rain…" she wrung out the water that had splashed off Maureen's hair.
"Hasn't let up since two days ago," Joanne replied, laughing hollowly. "How's he doing?
"How do you think if he's in a clinic?" Roger jumped, promptly shoving away Collin's arm as he stalked towards the back of the room and leaned against the wall, his arm leaning against the white plaster as his brown hair fell in front of his glazed green eyes.
Joanne looked to Roger, pursing her lips. "He found him?"
"Yeah," Collins stated bitterly.
Joanne's mind reeled through a string of incidents she remembered. "Did he witness anything? He could be suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder-"
"He's not a client you can diagnose!" Mimi hissed suddenly, her eyes widening with disbelief. "He just found his best friend hurt and unable to see anything! How would you feel if you had to carry him to a clinic? This is Roger we're talking about; he's not the kind of guy to make Mark, of all people, to come here!"
Maureen, still sniffling onto Joanne's shoulder, murmured, "When can we see him? I need to see him…"
Collins shook his head and took the woman's hand into his own. "We need to wait for the doctor; they won't let anybody in who isn't blood-related."
"Blood doesn't count," Roger mumbled, more to himself than to anyone else. "Blood doesn't count. We're the closest thing he has to family."
Benny cleared his throat, as if to make his presence known once again. "Come on Davis; don't stick that sentimental crap in our faces." He stood up, rigidly at first, and walked over to the musician with arms crossed over his chest. "You know Mark as well as I do, probably even more. Mark doesn't let things get to him. He hides behind that damned camera," he pointed lazing over his shoulder to the machine on the table, "and he think he'll be safe from everything."
"Is that supposed to comfort him?" Maureen questioned, wrinkling her nose as she flopped down onto Benny's vacant chair and leaned her head onto Collin's shoulder.
Roger wasn't pay attention; he continued to stare into the bluish-black carpet of the waiting room as Benny's words reeled through his mind. He tightened his freehand into a fist as the other leaned even more heavily onto the wall as his jaw clenched until he was frowning.
"Davis… You know Mark. He's the one who survives."
your failure, facing your loneliness
Facing the fact you live a lie
Yes, you live a lie - tell you why
You're always preaching not to be numb
When that's how you thrive
You pretend to create and observe
When you really detach from feeling alive
Perhaps, it's because I'm the one of us to survive
Roger sighed knowing his words would come back to bite him in the ass. "Well, he might not be so lucky if he's going blind…"