Hey readers! (and hopefully reviewers too!) This is my first Rent-fic, I'd really appreciate your comments. It takes place the summer before the gang meets Angel and Mimi, though they may be making some AU appearances later. Roger has just gotten over withdrawal, and Mark has just been dumped by Maureen. MarkRoger, rated T for Roger's mouth, my mouth, and because it's Rent!
Disclaimer: I own nothing. It all belongs to the late, great, Jonathan Larson.
Mark had never been a highly religious person, he just had his own little ways of practicing his faith. Roger never gave a second thought to why Mark always lit a few candles on Friday nights until one hot summer night. That night, late in June, was uncomfortably hot and humid. It had been a long winter, made even longer by the pain of withdrawal, and as Roger plucked idly at his guitar, he tried to remember the last time he hadn't been cold. Even in the summer, the steel and concrete of the loft held a damp coolness.
The midsummer sun was level with the loft's windows, causing orange sunset light to fill the loft with a glow that was warmer even than the stifling temperatures. Jumping down from the metal table he sat on, he went over to the window that led out to the fire escape and climbed out onto what he liked to think of as their private balcony. When the weather was bearable, this was Roger's favorite place to sit and think, or strum out a few tunes. Although Alphabet City was dirty and grungy, the view from up here was one of the best. It was high enough that you didn't notice the filth covering the streets, and the incessant yelling and noise that was Alphabet City's soundtrack was only a gentle hum down below.
There was a slight breeze that blew his hair back from his face. He hardly had enough money for food, let alone a haircut, and there was no way he trusted Mark or Collins coming anywhere near him with a pair of scissors, so his hair had grown out and had become unruly. Brown roots were growing in under the bleached blondeness, and with all the weight he had lost from being in withdrawal and never having food anyway, he looked like a shadow of his former self.
The rock-god, he thought bitterly. People don't worship you when they find out about all the problems you've got. When they find out you're just as fucked up as the rest of them.
Mark hurried around the corner, glad to see the familiar rise of the Avenue B building he called home. He had completely lost track of time until he wound the last reel of film through his camera, and looked up to see the sun sitting low in the sky.
It's Friday. Shit.
Hands stuffed in pockets, shoulders hunched, he darted through alleys and around corners until he reached the familiarity of Alphabet City. Roger would probably kill him if he knew he'd been taking shortcuts through some of the most dangerous alleys in the city, but Mark didn't care. He needed to get home.
He stopped to let an old junker car chug down the street, making coughing and choking sounds as it went. As he crossed the street, he absentmindedly looked up at their fire escape and stopped. All previous thought abandoned his mind. There was Roger, leaning against the railing, guitar in one hand, sunlight in his hair. He looked amazing. Mark squinted for a better look and thought he saw the slightest hints of a contented smile pull at Roger's lips. The first one he'd seen in months, since April died.
The old tattered jeans hung off his hips, and the black Led Zepplin shirt hugged his body in all the right places. His beautiful green eyes were just observing, soaking up the city sunset. Mark felt his heart beat a little faster, and had a sudden urge to reveal the feelings he'd been harboring for his roommate right then and there, Romeo and Juliet style, with his love up on the balcony. Forget vines and trellises, he would scale the rusted old fire escape to the top floor, into his lover's strong, waiting arms, and lean in for a passionate-
Mark jumped as the speeding car came barreling toward him, and only then realized he'd been standing in the middle of the street, gaping up at Roger like a fool.
A fool in love.
The car horn startled Roger out of his reverie, and he looked down to see Mark sprinting to the curb to avoid the passing car, the driver flipping Mark the bird as he continued down the street. He smiled inwardly at the sight of his scrawny roommate dashing in the door of their building, and with a final sigh, walked back in from the fire escape.
He's home. Finally.
As Mark scrambled up the stairs, he remembered why he had been in such a hurry to get home in the first place. He had to light the candles. Oh, but why did Roger have to look that good tonight? Mark had tried to deny his feelings for his roommate and best friend, but he realized he was just denying the truth. He had feelings for Roger, and more than just friendly best friend feelings.
Oh, way more than friendly best friend feelings. Best friends don't long for a touch, a kiss, a look that has so much meaning behind it.
Mark wasn't even sure when the feelings had started. He remembered sitting there one night in the winter, holding Roger close as he shivered through the withdrawal, and as his mind wandered from one fleeting thought to another, it came to the wonderment that Roger's skin felt awfully good against his own. And then it progressed to wonder what those lips would feel like against his skin, his tongue exploring every crevice of Marks mouth. As if it was the most natural thought in the world. And Mark found himself enjoying this particular daydream, until common sense kicked in and he became conscious of exactly what those thoughts meant.
I'm not gay! That was the obvious first reaction. Oh my god, what if I'm gay? The second stage of the process. And then the realization that this wasn't the first time thoughts like this had crept into his meandering mind. Even if it was marveling at just how green Roger's eyes were, or thinking that his ass looked particularly nice in that pair of jeans, or suppressing an urge to run his hands over that ripped chest and pull that too-tight shirt up over his head to expose his entire-
Where did these come from! I'm practically having sexual fantasies about my best friend!
Mark snapped out of this thought process for what he was sure was the millionth time today and climbed the last few steps to the loft. He slid the heavy metal door open to reveal Roger sitting on the beat up old couch, guitar in his lap, piecing together random chords to create something of an easygoing melody.
The sun had sunk behind some of the skyscrapers in the distance, causing long shadows to creep across the loft floor and up the wall. Mark threw down his camera bag and grabbed his scarf off the hook on the wall, which he promptly draped over his shoulders. This earned a confused look from Roger, who only became more perplexed when Mark opened a kitchen drawer and pulled out a few stubs of candles and a book of matches.
"Oh, hey Rog, how was your-"
"Mark, what the fuck are you doing?"
Mark glanced up, lit match in hand. "What?"
Roger stared incredulously, before stating what he thought was rather obvious.
"It's like a hundred fuckin' degrees out there, on one of the longest days of the year, and you're wrapping up in your scarf and lighting candles?"
Mark gave him a confused look before understanding. For as many times as he had done this, he thought Roger would have caught on by now and had just never asked about his strange little Friday night ritual.
"I'll explain in a sec. I just…I thought you got it a long time ago."
Roger continued to watch in confusion and almost horror as Mark lit the candles, and began muttering under his breath in some strange language. Mark then closed his eyes for a few seconds, hands pressed together, and when he opened them to take in the glow of the sun dipping below the horizon, he only saw Roger. Roger, who looked like he'd just seen the ghost of their former landlord, hands clutching the neck of his guitar like a security blanket.
"Haha, aww Rog, it's not that bad, I swear!" Mark chuckled as he took in the absolute ridiculousnss of Roger's expression, and could only imagine what kind of thoughts Roger was entertaining at the moment.
"Would you care to explain yourself?" Roger practically whimpered.
Mark just laughed harder as he hung his scarf back on its hook by the door.
"It's Shabbat." Absolutely no response or change of expression from Roger. "You know, the Jewish Sabbath? Rog, are you completely serious that you have no idea what I'm doing or what I'm talking about?" Roger just nodded dumbly. Mark sighed and walked over to the couch. He jerked his head to invite Roger into the empty space next to him. When they were both sitting cross-legged facing each other, Mark began to explain the Jewish ritual to his best friend like he would explain it to a little child.
"Okay, well the Jewish Sabbath, or Shabbat, starts at sundown on Friday, and lasts until sundown on Saturday. It symbolizes the day of rest that God took at the end of the week when he created the world. To mark the beginning of Shabbat, we light Shabbat candles and say a few prayers." He looked expectantly at Roger for some sign of understanding. Roger just got more curious.
"Okay, but that doesn't explain the scarf, or the weird muttering in strange languages, or how 'bout the fact that I've never seen this before?"
"I use the scarf as a makeshift shawl. See, there's a special one that Jewish men are supposed to wear one when they light the candles, but when I got to the city after I left home, I realized that it was something I didn't bring, so I had to use the next best thing, which was Scarfy over there." Mark looked lovingly over his shoulder at the scarf and smirked. "As for the muttering, I was saying prayers in Hebrew. And I was sure you'd seen me do this before, I do it every Friday night. I did it my room at first, 'cause I didn't really want anyone seeing me do it, but once I got more comfortable in this place and when we needed the candles for when the power was off, I just kept them out here and started doing it out here."
"Oh…wow, I had no idea you were so religious! Geez, makes me feel guilty, like I should go to church on Sunday or something…" Roger trailed off.
Mark stood up and moved back to where the candles were still burning on the table. He gently blew each one out, and then placed them back in their place in the drawer.
"Normally I'd let them burn longer, but I don't have any more and can't afford to buy any more either. And I'm really not that religious, I just feel the need to practice my faith a little bit. Besides, it's easier to do this than get up in the morning for Temple. I don't even know where the nearest Temple is!"
Roger laughed a little before looking at Mark from this new perspective. Maybe this was Mark's way of making up for the life that they lived. Maybe this was his own personal way of making everything alright with the Powers That Be. It made Roger think so much higher of him, like he wasn't worthy to be his roommate, because since April died and since the withdrawal, he hadn't really had faith in anything. Except Mark, who apparently had more faith than Roger thought possible.
"Wow, it's so hot in here…too bad we can't bottle up this heat and save it for the winter," Mark mused.
"Yeah, you should have been in here around 4, it was like…too hot for clothes, I just wandered around in my underwear until…" Roger stopped when he saw Mark's face go scarlet. "Um, you okay?"
"Uh, yeah, I…uh, it's the heat…you know, it's gettin' to me…I was out in it all day and…y'know…it was…hot…" The last few words came out as Roger peeled off his shirt, and for the second time in minutes, Mark lost all conscious thought due to Roger's form. He just gaped at his gorgeous body for a few seconds before realizing that he was staring, slack jawed and bug-eyed. He quickly recovered before Roger saw him, and felt the sudden need to have something in his hands to fiddle with, like his camera.
"So, uh…do anything interesting today?" Mark attempted to start another conversation, trying to force from his mind the image of Roger sauntering around the loft in nothing but his underwear.
Roger's face fell a bit, and Mark realized that Roger hadn't exactly left the loft in months, and thus, really didn't do anything interesting.
"I worked on a song a little…but I think I'm gonna scrap it…it's complete shit anyway…everything I do is complete shit."
Mark felt his heart got out to him. No it's not. You seemed like you were actually kind of enjoying yourself out on the fire escape earlier. You need to get over April. You need something new and good in you life…or someone…someone like me…
Everything that Mark wanted to say to Roger, but couldn't, raced through his mind at that moment, and the last strain of this thought startled him. Did he really want Roger like that? Did he want more than just a physical relationship? He needed to get out of this room, now, before he did something he regretted.
"Uh, well, I'm gonna hit the sack…I'm pretty tired, I was all over the city today. So um…g-goodnight," Mark stammered as he retreated into his bedroom. He closed his door fast. So fast that he missed the crestfallen, disappointed look that came over Roger's face as Mark left his sight.
I'll try to have the next chapter up ASAP, but knowing my schedule, no guarantees. Now go review!