Clever disclaimer here. This has no relation to the song from SA that it's named for, only the fact I felt the song went well with this fic. The writing style is very experimental. Thank you for reading.
Written for the #3 FP Challenge. Must have used a cliche fanfiction trend and a certain ending line.
He doesn't know why he has to do it, but he has to. He has to put the lighter to his arm and feel it burn on his pale skin. The burn of fire allows him to forget for a moment how lonely and sad he is, how his friends are dying… It is a way of making sense of the confusing, scary world around him. It is a way to hide.
He lifts the lighter and looks at the fresh burn on the inside of his arm. Good. It feels satisfyingto burn him self, even though he can't wholly comprehend why. He moves to a fresh, unburned patch of skin on his arm, and holds the lighter to his skin. It makes a satisfying little click as he lights it up. For a few moments, he leans his head back, feeling the flames lick against his arm. It is a strange sensation, like both pain and numbness at the same time.
His head spins so fast his glasses fall askew as he heard the sound of the loft door being slid open and then footsteps…
"Hello…? Oh my God, Mark…"
Angel has seen him.
She has seen him with the lighter in his hand, sitting on the edge of the bathtub, holding it against his arm...
She knows what he is doing.
He rolls up his sleeves frantically and grasps the lighter tighter in his shaking hands.
She ventures into the bathroom cautiously, "Mark, honey…" she whispers urgently, "Put that down, please."
He drops the lighter, and it clunks softly as it hits the floor.
"Why are you here?" He manages to choke out.
"Collins didn't come home from work, and I thought he might've been here. I could ask you the same question, Mark."
Mark straightens his glasses hastily, and frantically wipes the tears quickly forming behind them. "I don't want to talk about it, Angel," Mark's cheeks are bright pink and he squirms on the edge of the bathtub he is sitting on.
"I want to, though," Angel said, tilting her head and squatting so she was in front of him. "How long have you been…?"
"Since Roger was diagnosed," he says. Mark averts his eyes quickly away from Angel's. He begins to shuffle his feet and fiddles with his fingers, like he always does when he's nervous. This is definitely the last thing he wants to talk about.
"So, this is about that…" she murmurs softly, almost to herself, "Did you try to talk to anybody, hon?"
"Talk to somebody? How in God's name will anyone even be able to comprehend what I'm going through right now? Jesus, Angel!" he bursts loudly, then buries his face into his hands. He's crying, and desperately trying to hide it.
Angels says quietly, "Mark, you're going to get through this, and you're going to be OK. I promise you."
"OK?" he whines, "How can I be OK with this…? You are going to die…" Mark's acting like a child, and he knows it.
Angel draws a long, heavy breath and says, "We all die in the end, it's just a matter of when and how, sweetie."
"I don't want to have to watch my friends die, it's just too… desolate… watching them fade away…"
Angel purses her lips and puts a hand on Mark's shoulder. "I don't know how you feel, and I'm sure I never will, but I have to watch Mimi fade. She's so pale and skinny. And I can't do a damn thing about it. And that hurts, because I want to stay with her, but I'm…"
"What?" says Mark, quietly, turning his head back to look at Angel.
Angel shakes her head and breathes, "Never mind, that's not important. You're such a strong guy, Mark, you don't need to keep on doing that," she gestures to the lighter on the floor, "To yourself." To us, she thinks sadly.
"It's an addiction, Angel, I've tried. Whenever I try to stop, the pain is just too much and I…" He puts his head in his hands once more and shakes his head. "I don't know what to do." He has been pretending he is unshakable for as long as he can remember and doesn't want to remind himself that he isn't.
"Feel," says Angel gently, "Pain is part of life, hon, one we have to survive and learn from."
"Easier said than done, Angel!" snaps Mark. "You just don't know…"
"Don't. I don't want to talk."
"Mark, come on!"
"No! You don't…"
" I just don't know what, Mark?" Angel says, putting her hands on her hips, "You think I haven't faced death or faced the fact that most of us are dying? Do you think I've ever felt like I'm standing at death's door, watching people I care about, people I love like family passing through, and I'm just standing there, waiting? Who the hell do you think you are to say you're the only one who feels lonely and depressed at that? Mark, honey," her voice is softer once more, "You're not alone. We can't feel what you feel, but we all feel pain, Mark, and we're your friends." She wants to hurl angry words at him and cuss him out until she loses her voice, but she holds her breath and doesn't. Angel doesn't lose her temper often, and she certainly doesn't want to in front of an emotionally unstable Mark.
His voice is dangerous as he mutters, "Angel, you're a mother hen, you know that, right?"
"You're acting like Roger did when he was going through withdrawals. Collins told me about it, told me how he acted, and let me tell you--you two are more similar than you'll let yourself believe. Hon, you're acting like a junkie…"
"Shut up!" he hisses angrily, his bright blue eyes shining with fury, "Shut up, shut up! It's my fucking life! And don't ever insult me like that, Angel!" He's so enraged that he can hardly think clearly, and he wraps his hands into tight fists.
"I'm not insulting you, hon," she whispers quietly, after a long period of silence. "I'm telling you the truth."
"Have it," he finally mutters in a defeated, weary tone, "Have the goddamn lighter!" Mark kicks the lighter towards Angel, who catches it and places the lighter in the green and pink pocketbook that hangs over her shoulder.
"It's a start, Mark," she smiles encouragingly. Angel honestly doesn't know if Mark has reached his breaking point yet or if he'll try something else to harm himself, but she has hope for him, and she's content with that right now.
Mark down at the floor, his eyes sad, "You need to…tell Roger where his lighter went," His face is still wet from tears, and he isn't sure if he's done crying or not. He feels very weak, and very helpless and he hates every moment of it. Mark's unnerved by the loss of the lighter. He wants to snatch it back, but knows it's already too late.
Angel sweetly says, "Come here, sweetie," and wraps him in a comfortable embrace. For a few minutes, he presses his face into her shoulder and cries loudly. Mark hasn't cried like this in years.
When he's almost done crying, she opens up her purse and says, "Let me see the burns, Mark." He rolls up her sleeves with a grimace and the agony of letting his secret wounds show. There are many of the burns, all very small, but very painful looking.
"Mark…my God…" she breathes, and takes out a band-aid out of her purse, taking it out of its wrapping and peeling off the paper backing.
As Angel sticks the band-aid on his arm, he almost laughs at the situation, despite how distraught he feels. It is an almost funny situation: his friend's transgender lover taking care of him like he is still in elementary school. As the corners of his mouth twitch very subtly up, Angel suddenly giggles and applies another band-aid to another burn, "Better?"
He looks down at the band-aid, holds back a snort, and with the first bit of happiness he's felt in the last excruciating months, says, "Yes, but why in the world did you make it pink?"