A/N: Well, after a brief hiatus (including two weeks of world traveling and more than two weeks of sitting on my lazy ass doing nothing because its SUMMER, for pete's sake!), I'm back. The next chapter is already in the works, no huge wait again. Sorry about that. Enjoy!
A time to keep silence….
Since the first day Mark laid eyes on him, Roger had always been a whirlwind of emotions. His green eyes never lacked some kind of intense feeling: blazing emerald if he was angry, deep and dark if he was sad or upset, dancing jade if he was laughing, happy. True, most teenagers experience drastic mood swings, hormonal imbalances that leave them drunk on life one moment and ready to end it the next. Mark always knew, though, that Roger felt things deeper than most kids their age. When Roger was happy, he laughed fully, head thrown back, mouth open. When Roger was angry, he fumed, fists clenched, body trembling, jaw set. When Roger was upset, he cried, tears pooling at the corners of pain filled eyes.
Mark, in their long history together, had witnessed almost every emotion Roger had to offer. However, Mark had never seen Roger like this.
It was three in the morning, and Roger was laying on his side, motionless, legs curled up so that his stocking feet would not be exposed to the cool night air. The heat was working, though, and Mark thanked God for small blessings, because surely they'd all freeze like this in the frigid November air if it wasn't. He pulled the blanket a littlehigher across Roger's shoulders, placing his hand back around Roger's gently. He glanced briefly at Collins, who rested on the other side of the bed, head propped up in one hand, rubbing small circles across Roger's back.
Mark laid his head back down onto the flat pillow, staring into Roger's eyes and feeling a lump gather in his throat. Those eyes, usually so fully of passion, were dead. Empty. Completely void of….anything. Not even when he was high did Roger's eyes get this glassy, this cloudy and unseeing. Mark lifted his other hand, running it through matted hair before resting it on the side of Roger's head tenderly.
"Roger?" he asked, his voice soft so as not to startle anyone. No one had spoken for at least an hour. "Roger, are you alright? Do you need anything?"
Silence. Roger blinked, slowly, and his head twitched slightly. "Stay."
"Of course," Mark said, not surprised at how rough Roger's voice sounded. It had been a long night….
Mark regretted that he was the one to find April. He had been relieved, at first, that Roger hadn't been the one to stumble into the bathroom to find his dead girlfriend bleeding on the floor. However, Mark knew that he hadn't helped the situation any. He'd panicked. Things like this didn't happen in real life. Mark wrote about things like this in his screenplays. He watched things like this in movies. This….this didn't happen to him.
The night had been so achingly normal, more normal than any night had been in a long time. Collins was home; he was leaving for MIT to teach philosophy second semester, but for now he was lounging on the couch, reading How to Talk Dirty and Influence People for the hundredth time and drinking whatever alcohol was left in the loft. Benny was out with Allison (or Muffy, as he so fondly like to call her), Roger was out buying groceries with the money he'd made at his latest gig, Maureen was….well, God knows where Maureen was anymore, and Mark was writing.
His latest screenplay was almost finished, and he could feel the excitement bubbling up in his stomach, making his pen fly across the page with an ease and speed that he hadn't felt in so long. This was it, he knew it. This was his masterpiece, his golden ticket, the moment he'd been waiting for. Mark just knew that this screenplay would sell.
After four hours of being shut up in his room, watching nothing but black letters form on white lined paper, his eyes were beginning to blur. He set the pen down, taking his glasses off and rubbing the bridge of his nose. He could feel the beginnings of a slight tension headache forming, but still couldn't knock the smile off his face.
I deserve a break, Mark thought, standing and stretching before heading towards the bathroom. He needed a couple of aspirin, first, before his headache increased and he couldn't finish his work tonight. Nothing would stand in his way.
Within seconds, however, the screenplay was the furthest thing from Mark's mind. He could only think in fragments….God….April….dead….blood….
He should have called Collins, should have called 911, should have told someone something. However, when Roger announced his arrival with his bag of groceries, Mark was on his hands and knees, scrubbing the blood from the bathroom floor with April's body lying limply in the bathtub. Outside of that little room, nothing was wrong. Everything was normal. He could fix this. He could fix this before Roger found out.
Mark shut his eyes, forcing his thoughts to return to the present. He couldn't change how stupid he'd been, how irrational his thoughts were. No one was blaming him, as of yet. He needed to focus on Roger, right now. Roger, who'd choked on his own words when he found his girlfriend dead and his best friend slumped on his knees with blood on his hands. Roger, who'd tried to break everything in his room before Collins could get control. Roger….who'd cried himself sick, sobbing and yelling until he threw up whatever he'd eaten onto the floor beside his bed. Who was now shivering in Mark's bed, between his two roommates, clutching his best friend's hand like it was the only thing keeping him from following April to the grave.
Mark's thoughts suddenly turned to the slip of paper in his back pocket. It had been something of an impulse, grabbing the scrap, reading it, hiding it away before it could become true. Before it was real. Before Roger actually had….
He felt the lump in his throat again, and looked down to see that Roger had drifted into a restless state of unconsciousness. He propped himself up on his elbows, slipping his hand out of Roger's carefully. Roger made a small noise of protest, shifted, and silenced. He motioned silently for Collins to follow him into the hallway.
Mark said nothing after they'd shut the door to his room, just pulled the paper from his pocket and handed it to Collins, rubbing a hand over his eyes. We have AIDS. The letters were burned into his brain. He couldn't finish his screenplay now. He knew that if he tried to write, only three words would appear on the paper, black and messy. We….have….
"AIDS," Collins whispered, shaking his head. He shrugged then, slipping the paper into his own back pocket. "We don't know…."
"What the hell does it matter?" Mark spat, his voice low. Tears were welling his eyes, but he refused to cry. Screw sensitivity. What the fuck will sensitivity do now? "It's a death sentence, either way."
Collins shot Mark a disappointed look, but didn't comment further. He sighed, crossing his arms across his chest and leaning against the wall. He tipped his head back, closing his eyes momentarily. "We don't tell him yet."
"We can't," Mark said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Who knows what he'll do."
Collins nodded. An uneasy silence fell between the two men.
"So…." Mark started, eyes shifting back to his bedroom door. "What do we do now?"
"We stay with Roger," Collins said, moving back towards the room. "We keep this a secret until….its right to tell him."
"When? When will it be right to tell him?"
Collins stopped, gazing back at Mark with an odd look in his eyes. "Never. It'll never be right for him. We….have to decide."
Mark nodded and watched Collins slip quietly back into his bedroom, wondering how and when it would ever be right to deliver a death sentence to his best friend. He figured there was only once instance….
When April comes back to do it herself.
….and a time to speak.
"Mark. Back again."
"And I'm Paul. Who would like to begin today?"
Roger kept his eyes glued to the floor, picking nervously at his nails and tapping his foot at a steady rhythm. He had been to three of these Life Support meetings that Collins and Angel and even Mark raved about, and he still didn't feel any less awkward than the first time he'd walked in. Collins insisted that once he got up and said something, anything, things would get a lot easier. Roger didn't see how that was possible.
The silence made Roger's palms start to sweat, and he could feel about a hundred pairs of eyes glued to the top of his head. His foot started to bounce a little faster. Someone coughed. Angel shifted. Mark rewound his camera. Collins' elbow came lightly into contact with the side of his stomach, and he felt like he jumped a mile out of his chair.
Jesus, Davis, get a grip. You were a fuckin' rock star once. On stage. Hundreds of people. Strangers. Screaming. All eyes on you.
"Um…." He began to mumble, instantly regretting it, because when he looked up, everyone's eyes were on him. Watching him. Waiting for him to say something. Anything. "Um….I don't…."
"You don't have to be nervous, Roger," Paul said, and Roger almost snorted at him. Yeah, coming from the guy who's done this a million times. "We're all your friends. We just want to know a little bit about you."
"Okay," Roger said, standing and glancing back at Collins. Collins gave him a thumbs up, as Angel waved and smiled next to him. He glanced up at Mark, who nodded furiously, rewinding his camera with renewed speed. "Okay, well, I'm Roger Davis."
Shit, they know that already. Come on, think, don't be an idiot.
"I….live with Collins and Mark, and I….I'm HIV positive." Well, that wasn't so bad, was it? Roger looked around, noticing that everyone was still silent, looking at him. Waiting for him to continue.
"I….uh….I used to be in a rock band, called the Well Hungarians…."
"Really?" Pam spoke up suddenly. "I saw one of your shows. At CBGB's?"
"Yeah," Roger smiled. "Yeah, we played there."
"You guys were good."
"Thanks," Roger said, and Pam gave him an encouraging smile. Go on. "Yeah, well, I met my girlfriend….ex…..girlfriend, April, there. At a show. We, uh, we started going out almost right away, and….."
Roger paused, looking up at Mark, whose camera was lowered, no longer running. He was staring at Roger, eyes focused and bottom lip caught between his teeth. He looked back down to Collins, who patted his arm silently.
"Well, she was…..April was….a junkie. Addicted to heroin," Roger laughed bitterly, shaking his head. "She introduced me to the wonderful world of powder, lighters and needles. I don't know how I got the virus….through her…..through the needles…..both. It doesn't matter. She's gone now."
"What happened?" Angel asked, smiling sympathetically. Roger wondered silently if she really didn't know, if Collins hadn't told her, or if she was just trying to give him a little push forward.
"She committed suicide," Roger found this suddenly easier to say. Like a knot in his chest had just been untied. "She slit her wrists….in the bathroom. Left a note. We've got AIDS."
There was silence, then, but Roger suddenly found that he was slightly less uncomfortable. Funny, he thought, glancing around at nine pairs of understanding eyes. Now that they know my baggage, everything is….easier.
"I actually wanted to ask a….a favor, I guess," he said, and everyone nodded.
"Of course, Roger," Paul said, smiling. "All you have to do is ask."
"I was wondering if I could bring my….friend…..Mimi….to one of these meetings with me. She's….addicted, like I used to be and it….scares me."
"Everyone is invited to our meetings, Roger," Paul said, and everyone nodded in agreement again. "I think I speak for all of us when I say that we would be glad to offer Mimi….and yourself….all the support you need."
"I….really appreciate that," Roger said, smiling. He suddenly noticed that he was still standing, and sat down quickly, rubbing the back of his neck. Collins patted his shoulder, and Angel blew him a kiss. Across the room, Mark's eyes said everything. I'm so proud of you.
Roger took a deep breath, rubbing his palms against his thighs, wiping the sweat on his jeans. He smiled, feeling his arms relax, the muscles in his stomach loosen, the world being lifted off his shoulders. Fucking Collins, maybe he was right.
"Thank you, Roger. Who would like to go next?"
Next Chapter: keep/throw away