Now before you flame me, remember that I wrote this entire story in one day for speedrent. It was a 24-hour muse.
Disclaimer: RENT belongs to Jonathan Larson
Mark's voice woke me, accompanied by his hand on my shoulder, shaking a little too hard. I moaned. It couldn't have been more than two a.m. "What is it, Mark?"
At that point, he was the last person I wanted to speak to. My head still pounded, though less harshly now, and the guilt of things I never did curled like hot sick in my stomach. And on top of everything, I was beginning to think thoughts I knew were bad.
I was beginning to think that maybe I wanted to go back to drugs. I wanted to feel good again. Why bother, after all, why bother living when there's nothing? Why live your last few months in fear and pain and loneliness? April left me. Even Collins was gone, though I knew, logically, that he was working but he would be home again soon. It was November already.
And I was beginning to think that maybe April was right. Maybe I should follow. Was this what her life was like, those last few weeks? Did I treat her this way?
April cheated one me, I know she did, because I was monogamous and I wore a condom every time. I didn't want children and I knew that. April got herself positive and gave me the virus. And yet I lived, and I got up every morning, but it was so hard, and I had to face Mark who was half the time caring and half the time…
"She left me, Roger."
He sobbed, then he wailed, "S-she, she le-e-eft me. Maureen. She s-said she's b-been se-eeing another puh-person, a la-lawyer…"
I sat up. "I'm sorry, Mark." I knew what he wanted, and my blood ran cold at the thought. Mark believed that Maureen and I made love. He believed she made love to other men because he forgave her after me. Now she was gone, and Mark was hurt, and I had absolutely no question that Mark was going to take that pain out on me.
But I had never apologized. Maybe it would sate him.
"No, dammit!" Mark slammed his fist against his leg. "No! She's negative, Roger. Maureen's negative so she never fucked you."
Maureen and I never made love, but I got the disease from April, from needles, and she started using that night. Even if we had, Maureen and I, she would have been negative.
I did not tell Mark that.
"No, we didn't," I agreed.
Mark sat on the bed then. He began to pet me. "You're a good friend, Roger," he said. "You're a really good friend." What? His fingers ran through my hair. "You were really good to stay with me, Roger. I know I haven't been very good to you lately, but I'll make that up to you. I promise. I'm gonna be nicer to you now."
"Okay, Mark." What else could I say? He was drunk. I could smell the liquor, and Mark always was a lightweight. "Okay, Mark," I said again.
He let loose a couple more bubbling little sobs, and then his hands shifted to my shoulders and he pulled me against him and kissed me hard across the mouth.
I pulled away. "Mark…"
"I just wanna treat you right!" he shouted at me, sobbing. "Let me do something nice for you!"
He was so angry, and that's when I realized… "You don't want me, you want the disease."
"Yes, you moron! Glad you've finally cottoned on! You think I gave a fuck about you, Roger?"
"Mark, you're drunk. You need--"
"I need you. I need your fluids, I don't care, blood, semen, I don't care, just make me sick."
"Mark, no!" He was scaring me now. "Get out of my room, now!"
"You want to. You know it. I've hurt you, Roger. I have. Get even with me for all the bruises."
I wanted to vomit. "I won't listen to this."
I tried lying down with the covers pulled up over my head, but Mark pulled the blanket away and started… it is difficult to find a fitting verb for what Mark did. He was trying to fellate me. He tore at my pants and I kept pushing him back, until eventually I pushed him to the floor and I sat on his chest until he calmed down.
After that I turned on the shower and helped Mark off with his clothes. His desire was gone, and he let me alone. He stood in the shower for a while but he didn't wash. He called my name when he wanted to get out. He was standing there, shivering, unable to get himself out of the shower.
I toweled him dry.
He couldn't or wouldn't dress himself. I helped him. I put him to bed. He asked me not to go yet, so I sang him a song. Mark fell asleep.
The next morning, I was on my second cup of coffee when Mark wandered out clutching his head. "What did I drink last night?" he asked, plopping himself down at the table.
"I'll get you an aspirin."
I brought the pill over for him. He took it with a sip of my coffee. "Thanks, Rog--"
Mark looked at me. I looked back. We both knew what had happened the night before. "It doesn't matter," I mumbled, and we never spoke of it again.
But it did matter. That was when Mark started taking care of me. I no longer needed to ask him to pick up my AZT, if he wouldn't mind, thank you very much Mark. He asked me if I wanted to talk about April (or anything). He sat with me and talked about nothing when I had bad nights instead of leaving me to cry myself to sleep.
He stopped touching me, though, and I missed that.