First Impressions Aren't Everything
The club scene really wasn't the place for Mark. That fact became abundantly clear to him as soon as he stepped into Club Voodoo. Without a camera in his hands Mark felt useless and uncomfortable. His hands twitched slightly as the urge to leave hit him.
Collins' hand was solid on his back as they walked through the crowded building. The air seemed to vibrate with the sound coming out of the speakers, another band playing. He barely heard Collins as the older man yelled to him.
"The bar," Collins shouted to be heard, "Go to the bar!"
And so the two made their way over to the bar and Collins called out for two beers. There was no room to sit so the two of them just stood there as they drank. Mark took a slow sip of his beer as he looked around.
"You okay?" Collins caught his eye.
"What time do they go on?"
Collins shrugged, "About twenty minutes."
He watched Mark as the filmmaker twitched again and chuckled to himself. He knew Mark was uncomfortable but corrupting this poor innocent youth was going far too well. Mark took another sip of his beer and looked around nervously.
"Mark, no one's going to bite, I promise."
As if to prove his point a loud voice suddenly interrupted both of them shouting "Thomas Collins!"
Collins and Mark both turned around as a young man pushed his way through the last of the crowd. He was one of Collins' recent flings, a young student from the university. He threw his arms around Collins with even more of a greeting.
"Steve, how are you?" Collins laughed. He returned the young man's hug as a few seats opened up.
"I'm great. Haven't seen you in ages."
"Yeah, I've been busy," Collins said, a huge grin plastered across his face. "Steve, I'd like you to meet my new roommate, Mark." He motioned to the now sitting filmmaker.
Steve turned and raised an eyebrow as he looked Mark up and down.
"Well hello there."
Mark offered polite smile and quiet greeting.
Steve leaned in toward Mark a bit more, placing a hand on Mark's thigh. "Well aren't you a cutie."
Collins roared with laughter as Mark turned bright red and stuttered nervously.
"Steve, I don't think he's your type," Collins laughed, "Leave the poor boy alone."
"Oh, you're no fun. That other roommate of yours here tonight; the one with the band?"
Collins nodded, "They're going on at eleven."
Steve's eyes went wide, "Here! And to think I was planning to go elsewhere. I'm going to have to stick around to see that fine piece of ass now."
Mark blush furiously, turning away and taking a few large gulps of his beer. It frightened him to think that he and Steve had the same taste in men. But then, he had to assume everyone saw Roger and had the same reaction.
He focused on his beer and let his eyes wander as Collins and the young student conversed. The whole place was making him uneasy.
"You're awfully quiet tonight," Collins commented as his former student walked off.
Mark shrugged, "I don't know why I agreed to come tonight. I hate places like this."
"Mark, you work in one."
"Yeah, but then I have my camera and I don't have to pay any attention to the people standing around me. I'm not… I'm not good with handling people I don't know, and I don't like confrontation all that much."
"I've noticed," Collins referenced Mark's way of behavior in general, and especially his way of avoiding an actual physical fight with Roger. "So how do you plan on getting a date?"
Mark rolled his eyes, "I'm not really looking right now."
"Oh come on, when was the last time you got laid, huh?" Collins looked around quickly, glancing up and down the bar. "See that pretty little redhead down at the corner of the bar, go talk to her."
"What? Collins, no."
"Yes Mark, I've seen her at a few of Roger's gigs before. Just go over and talk to her about the band. I'm sure she'll be interested in talking to you."
"Look, they're coming onstage," Mark tactfully changed the topic as the Well Hungarian's took the stage amid much applause.
Collins sighed, turning on his stool to watch Roger approach the mic with a wicked grin across his face. Personally Collins thought Roger looked like a punk in that tight t-shirt with the sleeves all cut off, but when all of the girls in the club started screaming he figured Roger knew something about how he should look.
If Roger's taste in clothes was wrong there were certainly two things he could do right, playing that guitar and singing. Even when Collins closed his eyes and took a long sip of his drink he had to admit the sound of the band was captivating.
He glanced up at the stage to catch the stage antics of Roger and his friends. As usual Roger was right up on the mic. Instead of looking around the room and paying equal attention to the entire audience Roger's gaze was directed toward the bar. He looked down to correct a chord he'd played wrong, lifting his eyes to glance at someone sitting at the bar. Collins turned to look in the same direction. The little red-haired girl he had told Mark to hit on was staring back at Roger with complete and utter infatuation.
Oh damn, Collins thought. The last time Roger had taken such interest in someone… well, Collins couldn't actually remember the last time Roger had stared down a girl he liked.
He turned to Mark, to see if the blonde had noticed the same and found him staring at the stage, almost in a daze. Several things clicked in his mind at the same time when he saw the way Mark was staring.
"Oh." he said out loud.
That knocked Mark out of his stupor, "Huh?"
"Nothing, forget it." Mark hadn't wanted to talk about it that day at CBGBs so he wasn't about to make him talk about it here.
Collins turned back to the bar. He definitely needed another drink to think this through.
When the show was over much of the crowd headed out but Collins made Mark stick around to congratulate Roger on a gig well played.
Mark sighed heavily, "He doesn't care what I have to say about it."
Even with his gut telling him to leave he sat reluctantly on the barstool until Roger burst through the crowd to embrace Collins.
"Hell, we were so on tonight. That show was absolutely perfect. Mike and I were so together and…" The grin on his face looked wide enough to crack, "This is what it should always be like."
Collins laughed, "Good show man."
Roger caught sight of Mark behind Collins and raised an eyebrow, "What are you doing here?"
"Really good show," he commented quietly.
Roger sneered, "I think you've made your opinion of the band quite clear. Don't bother trying to change that now."
"Be nice," Collins gave Roger a small push back.
"Yeah, whatever," Roger rolled his eyes. "Anyway, I'm gonna hang around for a bit longer, get a few drinks and come down from this high. You guys go ahead and head back to the loft. I'll be back later."
Collins looked at Roger and then at the redhead who was still sitting at the end of the bar. While Mark completely missed the action Roger did not. He smirked and shrugged, pulling on his leather jacket.
"Don't I know it," Roger replied before walking off.
Mark watched Roger walk down and take the barstool next to the girl without saying a single word to her. Within seconds the two were talking and she was looking at him with that look. Mark had to hand it to Roger; he knew how to get at people. He could walk right up to anyone and talk to them. Mark wished he had that kind of personality.
"Come on you," Collins grabbed Mark by the sleeve of his shirt.
Once they were outside Mark relaxed. He stretched out his shoulders and pulled on his coat. The walk back from Voodoo was a bit farther than any of Roger's usual gigs but the weather was getting better.
"So what makes you think I would have the same taste in women as Roger?" Mark asked as they began to ascend the stairs.
"Mark, I'm gay. I could also be blind and dumb and still know that girl was hot." He turned to Mark, "Are you telling me that you didn't find her attractive at all?"
Of course Mark had thought she was gorgeous but he wasn't about to tell Collins that. Instead he muttered, "Not really."
"Liar," Collins accused as he slid open the door. "Benny, you home!?" He made a pact with himself. If Benny wasn't home he would bring up the Roger thing.
There was scrambling in Benny's bedroom and the door opened. Benny appeared shirtless. "Keep it down," he hissed.
"Benjamin, do you have a girl in there?" Collins asked, shit-eating grin spreading across his face.
"Yes." Benny replied, "So I hope it's not too much to ask that you three keep it down and leave me alone- where's Roger?"
"Still at the club," Collins tried to take a few steps forward to see past Benny.
"I like this girl so fuck off, just for tonight."
Collins sighed. Ruin his fun.
Benny's door closed and Collins turned back towards Mark, emphasizing a frown. Mark just shook his head. As they heard girlish giggles come from the room both men tried to hold back their laughter. Collins motioned that he was going to bed and disappeared into his own room, holding back chuckles.
Mark sighed, flopping down onto the couch. He had grown accustomed to getting Benny's room because usually he stayed with this girl of his. Now they were here and it was back to the couch.
It was still dark when he woke up. He had no idea why he was awake but sat up and pushed the blanket off of himself, stumbling to the bathroom. What the hell had woken him up?
As he stumbled back to the couch he heard noise, figured it out.
"Oh Roger," he heard a girl's voice and froze halfway between the bathroom and the couch.
"Shh…" Roger hushed her and Mark could hear whispers followed by a delighted groan.
The noises that followed made Mark blush. Of course he was not purposefully listening to his roommate have sex. He made his way back to the couch and pulled the blanket back over his shoulders, hoping the distance and cover would block out the sounds. It didn't. He closed his eyes and took a few long, deep breaths. This night was going to be miserable.
Mark jumped, blinking rapidly and rubbing at his eyes as he floundered for his glasses. He was certainly not used to hearing a perky, female voice in the loft. Finally his fingers closed around the cold plastic frames that had fallen off of the coffee table sometime in the night.
As he slid them onto his face the redhead from Voodoo came into sharp focus. She was sitting on the arm of the couch dressed in one of Roger's shirts and little else. The smile on her face was friendly and dangerous at the same him, and her eyes were laughing.
"Sorry if I startled you," she apologized.
Mark shrugged, uncertain of what to say to her. Where the hell was Roger?
"Coffee?" she asked. "I think it's about ready and you look like you could use some."
Mark pushed himself up into more of a sitting position on the couch, "Yeah, yeah coffee'd be great."
"Okay," she got up and practically bounced into the kitchen.
Mark quickly pulled on his pants. Sleeping in his boxers was one thing but he wasn't a fan of walking around the loft in them when there were guests. He looked around the loft, already brightly lit by the sun, for any sign of Roger, Collins or Benny. The shower was running. Damn.
She returned to the couch and handed Mark one of the large mugs. He immediately took a sip of the scalding liquid. It was much better than the coffee he or the other boys managed. None of them was really good at guessing the amount of coffee beans needed and the machine was temperamental. Mark liked this girl. She was gorgeous, she was nice, and she made amazing coffee. Alright, maybe it wasn't true love, but it was early and he had yet to get up and move around the loft.
He released a long sigh, "Thank you."
"Don't mention it." She smiled at him again. "So how long have you been living with Roger?"
"Umm…" It was March so that was… "About three months, maybe closer to four."
"He's a really cool guy." She said, "And you're not so bad yourself. I expect your even cooler when you're more than half awake. I'm-"
"April, babe, leave him alone." Roger came out of the bathroom with only a pair of boxers on. He leaned down and kissed her just long enough to make Mark uncomfortable. When he stood up again he headed for the coffee pot, probably enticed by the wonderful smell.
"Aren't you going to introduce me to your roommate?" April asked.
Roger looked back at her, glancing only so quickly at Mark, "No."
April looked after him incredulously before turning to Mark.
"I'm Mark," he said.
"Nice to meet you Mark," she said, sliding off of the arm rest and onto the couch beside him. She was still looking across the room at Roger.
"Is he always that moody in the morning?"
Mark shook his head. "No, we just don't really get along."
"You don't? But you're adorable. Why the hell wouldn't he like you?"
"Because he thinks the band is crap." Roger's voice echoed from the kitchen.
April gaped at Mark, obviously believing him. Mark had seen her the night before. She had been just as enthralled in the band's performance as he was every time he watched them.
Mark shook his head muttering quietly, "I don't think that. He just… It's complicated. Let's just say we tolerate one another."
She giggled as Roger came back into the room.
"April, leave Mark alone," He said walking over to the back of the couch and leaning on it with one hand. "You want a shower?"
April looked up at him with admiration. His eyes held the same feeling.
"No, I think I'll just go back to my place and take one."
Roger was about to reply when another door opened and Collins strode out of his room, bare as the day he was born. Mark immediately averted his eyes, Roger shouted, "Thomas!" and April just roared with laughter.
Collins finally focused on the three of them and did not seem to notice or care about his lack of clothing.
"April this is Collins," Roger introduced, trying to hold back his own chuckles, "Col, this is April."
"Morning," Collins greeted pleasantly as he stumbled to the bathroom.
April and Roger disappeared back into his room and as soon as Collins returned to his room Mark managed a quick shower. As he was exiting the bathroom April was kissing Roger on the cheek and heading out the door.
"What are you looking at?" Roger snapped as he noticed Mark staring.
"You introduced her," Collins interjected before Mark could reply, "Does that mean we're going to be seeing more of her."
Roger nodded. "Yeah. I think so. I'm going to her place tonight and we're going to attempt to make some food." He rounded on Mark, "And don't you dare think about crashing in my room."
"Wouldn't want to," Mark mumbled. He was getting sick of the uppity attitude.
Roger spent the entire day composing what was to be the first of many love songs contributed to April. He disappeared shortly before dark without a word to anyone. Benny and his mystery girl had disappeared long before anyone else had woken and Benny returned to the loft alone after work. When Collins commented that Roger had found himself a possible girlfriend he scoffed.
"Yeah, what does she look like this week?"
"I think he might actually like her."
"Roger likes anything that can walk. She'll be gone in a week, two tops."
"I don't think so," Mark said. The way April looked at Roger was the way he looked at Roger. The only difference was that Roger looked back at her the same way.
Benny looked at Mark as though he had appeared out of nowhere. The two of them had not spoken to each other for nearly a week. Mark had been attached to Benny when he had entered the loft; that had been his only connection to this world. His departure from Benny had been quick and it was only now that he noticed it. He realized at once how Benny stuck out in this world more than he did.
Benny's words cemented the feeling, "Your mother called me at work today Mark. Would you please call her? She's worried about you."
"Yeah, I'll call her tomorrow," Mark relented. If anything Benny was always going to be the rational voice in his head.
"Good," Benny said, cracking open a beer and joining them on the couch. "So how was Roger's gig last night?"
"I don't know." Collins turned to Benny, "How was the sex?"
Benny smiled. The look said it all but he went on anyway, "Damned good."
"So was the concert." Collins allowed.
"I'll have to get there next time."
"Roger would like that," Collins said.
"Yeah, another person to stroke his ego, just what he needs," Mark commented dryly.
"Is he still being a prick to you?" Benny asked, taking a sip from his drink.
"Do you even live here anymore?" Mark countered, "Of course he is."
"I wonder if that'll change now that he's got a girlfriend," Collins mused.
"I told you, it won't last to the end of the month," Benny confirmed.
Benny finally shut up two months later. April and Roger saw each other practically every day. They spent so much time together that the boys in the loft rarely heard the chords of Roger's guitar.
The school for which Collins was teaching kept him on for the summer session, and CBGB's was even busier than it had been all winter so Mark spent what felt like every hour of his days cutting and editing film. The Well Hungarian's only grew in popularity. If Mark wasn't at work filming he was usually at one of Roger's gigs with Collins, April or Benny.
April adored Mark, which of course, annoyed the hell out of Roger. It wasn't any romantic kind of adoration; she just treated him like they had been friends forever, even like they were siblings. It drove Roger mad that the two of them got along so well and she was always keen to stop by CBGB's to peer over Mark's shoulder as he edited film.
For what it was worth Mark thought April was cool as well. She took more interest in his work than anyone else in the loft and with her around there was always something to film.
There was something about her though, her moods changed from amazing highs to drastic lows. He never knew what to expect.
That was what Mark was musing as it grew later into the night. The loft was empty and he was tinkering away at an old typewriter, working on a manuscript. April had come back with Roger the night before amazingly happy. She'd jumped all over Mark when she walked in the door, and yelled at both Benny and Collins loud enough that he was sure the neighbors would complain. Then she and Roger disappeared into his bedroom for amazingly loud sex.
However, the next morning April had emerged while Mark was making coffee. Even in the warm loft April was shivering, twitching. She looked uncomfortable and barely said a word to him.
"You okay April?" he'd asked.
"I'm fine," she'd replied shortly, running her hands over her arms as though she were cold.
She had whispered to Roger as soon as he left his room, and very quickly the two of them had slipped out of the loft. They'd been gone all day.
Mark had expected Roger was going to spend the night at April's but he came stumbling through the door just shy of two a.m. Collins and Benny were both out with their respective other halves, and Mark was alone in the loft with someone who hated him. It wasn't that he thought Roger would come after him without provocation. It was just that Roger was bigger than Mark, and Mark had trouble keeping his mouth shut.
"Mark!" Roger shouted, "Where the hell is Collins?"
"Hey! I'm talking to you." Roger crossed the room in a few short strides and grabbed Mark roughly by the shoulder, nearly knocking the typewriter from his lap.
Mark took Roger in. He was tense and jittery, shaking just slightly. Mark looked up and met his eyes. They weren't as clear as they should have been, and something behind them was wrong.
"Are you high?" he asked.
Roger released Mark's shoulder with an angry shove and a growl.
"Fuck you," he snapped.
"It was just a question." Mark tossed back, more and more on edge. Roger didn't get like this when he smoked pot. When he smoked with Collins he usually got really mellow and now he just seemed more violent than usual.
"What the hell are you on?" he continued. As far as he knew Roger did not do anything harder than pot. This was frightening.
"I'm fine." He snapped, striding back to the kitchen and digging around for something to drink and punching the wall hard when he found nothing harder than a stale beer.
Mark was worried. He kept his mouth shut and got out of the way, barricading himself in Benny's room to stay away from the frightening thing that was Roger in his current state. He heard things being thrown around the loft haphazardly. That was the Roger he had feared since the first time Roger had advanced on him his first morning in the loft.
He made a note to himself to ask Collins about some of the drugs people currently did in the clubs because that behavior certainly was not normal.
With the door securely locked he relaxed once the noises outside died down. It seemed that Roger had gone to bed. Chances were if Benny was not back yet he would not be back tonight. Rather than risking Roger's wrath if he woke up Mark chose to sleep there.
Roger was long gone when he woke the next day. The loft was quiet save for Collins grading papers. All he did was point to the coffee pot.
Mark had never been much of a snoop. In fact, he rather disliked digging into other people's business but Roger's guitar was gone and he was pretty sure he had a gig later in the night.
"Did you see Roger last night?" he asked Collins. "He was acting funny."
"Nope, you were both asleep when I got back. What happened?"
Mark shrugged, "I think he was high. He was yelling and just… really rough."
Collins looked up and sighed, "Was he out with April yesterday?"
Collins sighed again and rose from his seat, dropping the remaining papers onto the table. He walked right into Roger's room with no reservations. Mark did not follow him. He had only been in Roger's room on one or two occasions and felt it best to stay out of the room unless necessary.
"Collins?" he asked.
"Just a minute."
Mark looked through the door to find Collins looking through the set of drawers next to Roger's bed.
"Fuck," he muttered, rising from the floor. He held up an empty plastic bag and a syringe.
"What the hell is that?" Mark asked, coming into the room.
"This had heroin in it," Collins held up the bag. "Fuck, I thought I saw April buying from some guy but she said it was just some weed. Damn, we're in trouble if Roger gets into this."
"What are we going to do?" Mark was not keen on dealing with an angry roommate whenever he decided to shoot up. Now that he knew the name of the drug memories came rushing back from his mother's lectures about why her children should not do drugs.
"I don't know," Collins said, "I'll try to talk to him, make sure he's being safe."
Collins replaced the needle and bag on the tabletop and retreated to his papers. There was nothing he could do until Roger came home. Mark stood in the doorway to Roger's room. He was worried.