Disclaimer: Rent does not belong to me. I'm only having fun with it. Also, the program mentioned below is Square One Television, a wonderful children's program that makes learning Math fun. I do not own it, either, but heartily encourage you to check it out.
A/N: unbetaed in order to post in time for challenge central deadline. All mistakes are my own.
Over the next two weeks, my routine involved searching for a job, visiting Roger in the hospital and sessions with Reg. He helped me to realize that I've been using my deafness as a way of detaching, just like I used my camera in the past. He also helped me identify things I could do to solve my problems and recognize when they were actually someone else's.
Eventually, we started to discuss my love life and lack thereof. I'd been pretty open about my sexuality, and since Reg was gay, he knew the minds of men. He made me realize that I could do something about my crush on Roger. If Roger didn't return my feelings, that was his problem, not mine. Still, I was nervous about bringing it up with him.
Roger made progress at the hospital, but not enough to go home. He was seeing Doctor Sheffield every day. I usually visited after their sessions. Roger was always exhausted, but every day, he would talk to me more.
Fifteen days after Roger was admitted to the hospital, I had stopped in his room after my session with Reg. I had some good news. My resume blitz had finally paid out. I had found a job working at the Children's Television Workshop, filming segments for a educational program about Mathematics. The writing was clever and there were plenty of opportunities to express my creativity. They had other Deaf people working for them, so communication wasn't an issue. Several of the employees signed. They had a TTY in the main office, as well as closed caption machines on many of their TVs. I also had a great health plan.
Reg was ecstatic about my new job and took me to the cafeteria for a celebratory lunch. Unfortunately, he decided to change my homework for the next session. Now that one of my biggest concerns was in the past, he wanted me to talk to Roger. He even went as far as asking Doctor Sheffield if Roger was stable enough to hear my confession, once I gave him permission to disclose, of course.
At two o'clock, I entered room 742 and took a seat. He was happy to see me. "Hey, Mark."
"Hey, Roger. I've got some news. I got that job on the math show today."
"That's great. I'm happy for you."
"It's going to be nice. It pays enough to cover rent, food and leave a bit extra to do what we want with. I even have insurance now."
"That's good. I wish I had insurance. Benny came by, and told me he'd cover this stay. I accepted, of course, but the Doc wants me to keep coming to him every week. He put me on Prozac, too. That shit's expensive."
"When I signed my contract, they gave me a policy booklet to read. I didn't actually enroll in my plan yet, but something jumped out at me in the booklet. I wanted to ask you something. It's not exactly honest, but I think we can pull it off."
"What is it?"
"Remember when Maureen and Joanne came over before Mimi died and we were talking about family designations?"
"You mean, when she told us that technically, we could be considered common-law partners since we've lived together for so long?"
"Yeah. The insurance company accepts same-sex partners. Would you mind if I wrote your name as my partner? You'd get free insurance. And they cover pre-existing conditions, so your AZT would also be covered, too."
"Go for it. Collins will be proud of you, sticking it to the man like that. Actually I wanted to talk to you, too. I've been trying to work through some things with Doctor Sheffield. He told me I needed to talk to you about what I did to you."
"I told you , Roger. I don't blame you for what happened. You didn't realize what you were doing. I've learned to deal with it."
"I know. But I still have to live with the fact I hurt you. I wish I could take it back."
"Forget regret, Roger." I tried to ease his concerns, but he wouldn't have any of it.
"I've tried to. I'm scared, though. I hurt you so bad. What if I do it again? What if I kill you next time? In one moment I took your hearing from you. What if I lose control again?" He appeared to be on the verge of tears.
Although I knew it was insensitive, I had to ask."Is that why you overdosed?"
With tears in his eyes, he nodded. "I wanted to keep myself from hurting you again. I was trying to protect you."
I took his face in my hands. "Roger, don't you realize that if anything happened to you,it would hurt me even more?"
"I don't understand, Mark." He blinked.
"I'd die without you, Roger. I love you." I let go of him as I confessed. If I didn't have to read his lips, I would have looked away.
"We've been friends practically forever. Of course you love me."
I shook my head. "No, Roger. I mean more than love between two friends. Even more than the love between brothers. You complete me, Roger. You touch my soul and make me who I am. I'm not complete without you."
Roger was in shock. It took him a moment to speak. "Mark, I really don't know what to say."
Disappointed, I looked away. "I'm sorry. It's going to be awkward living together. I'll find a new place."
"Mark, I don't want you to leave. I'm shocked, but it's because I've been working up the courage to tell you that I feel the same way. I love you, too."
With that, he leaned towards me and brushed his lips against mine. It was the first of many kisses we would share in our new lives together.
A/N: Many thanks to Challenge Central for planting the idea in my head, my beta, Mel, who will have her work cut out for her after the holidays, and my many loyal readers and reviewers.
I decided to end this where it was since there are only fifteen minutes before the deadline and it looked like a logical place to end this. It is most likely that I will post an epilogue as a separate story at a later time. It's working title is Beyond the Silent Curtain.