A/N: Happy Valentine's Day! This goes out to Olivia, whom I love so dearly and lives much too far away for my liking. I hope you find your guy on v-day but if not, you've always got me. X) You're the Eli to my Harvey and the Roger to my Mark. I love you, girl. Peace! ENJOY!
Disclaimer: RENT is the property of one Jonathan Larson and I don't dare claim it.
Alone on V-Day
Breakups are, to a teenaged girl, the equivalent to the apocalypse- and, unfortunately, Mark Cohen was not one of them and therefore had no excuse to be crying in his room on the morning of Valentine's Day, 1982, as his sister pounded on the locked door to no avail.
"Mark, get your sorry ass out here or you're going to miss the bus!"
Ignoring her as he had all morning, Mark buried his face further into his pillow and tried to force back the stinging tears. Damn Maureen and her "freedom" and her "not looking for anything serious". Mark was looking for something serious. Mark LOVED Maureen- and now he had no idea if she had ever even loved him back.
Moping in his room and missing school probably wasn't the most rational response to a five minute phone call the night before, but it was VALENTINE'S DAY. Couldn't she have waited a week? Or at least until he'd given her the stuffed teddy bear that now laid in the corner, sad and alone? Which was exactly how Mark felt. He was only a sophomore, only sixteen, but that didn't make it hurt any less.
"I swear to God, Mark, you're such a pussy! Fine. Don't come. I'm going now." In a huff, Cindy stormed away, presumably to make a dash for the bus before it passed her by. Silence descended over the huddled form on the bed, cocooning him in his own misery, and Mark almost missed the sound of his sister's bitching. At least then he didn't feel like the whole world had turned their backs on him.
It occurred to him, as time dragged on and he tore the edge of his blanket to shreds with his restless fingers, that no one but Cindy actually knew that Maureen had broken up with him. His friends were probably wondering where the hell he was- Roger, Eli, Harvey. It wasn't like him to miss school. And it wasn't as though he couldn't have seen this coming, either, what with all the flirting and the boy he'd caught her with last week and the girl he'd caught her with the week before… Mo was just a free spirit, he decided, and she couldn't be tied down by his apparently "cute" mannerisms and big blue eyes.
His chest ached, though. The more he thought about it, the less he was sure that he had been in love with Maureen at all. He was a sixteen year old boy- shouldn't he be thinking of getting laid rather than getting married? But that's just the way Mark's mind worked.
Well, if he hadn't been in love with Maureen then what the hell was he feeling? What about the emptiness? Had she only been the temporary solution? He pondered it as, around noon, he peeled himself out of bed and unsteadily wobbled to his bookshelf. A pale finger traced the spines of a thousand books, all of the ones he'd owned since he was old enough to read, and finally settled on a spiral notebook wedged between two school textbooks on the uppermost shelf.
He pulled it out and let it fall open in his hands to a dog eared page. Everyone knew about the bulky camera that the young photographer kept around his neck at all times, snapping pictures when you least expected and least wanted him to- but only Roger knew about his scrapbook. Here was where he kept his favorite prints and precious memories in carefully need blue ink. A picture of the five of them- Roger and Eli and Harvey, Maureen and himself- stared back at them, laughing faces and a summer day almost a year ago. That was the day, he reminded himself as he sat down on the edge of his bed, that he'd gotten up the courage to accept Maureen's offer.
"Experimenting," she'd said matter-of-factly. "Not like, I mean, dating…" The face she had made should probably have clued him in to the end of this little adventure, but Mark was nothing if not naïve.
It shouldn't feel like the end of the world. Logically, he told himself, this didn't mean he was hopelessly alone- it just meant he was unattached. No more feeling bad when he was ogling the cheerleaders jiggling all over the football field or flinching away when Roger caught him staring-
Well. Maybe that one.
He wasn't quite ready to come out to his best friend yet. Roger might have known him since he was four years old, but that said nothing about his perceptiveness. Mark's crush on him had lasted, to this day, four years, seven months and two days. He had kept a careful record in his journal, tally marks and all, and it had never diminished.
And was it really such a big deal if he liked boys, too? Eli and Harvey liked boys and they were perfectly normal people. Sure, they got picked on- but in Mark's opinion, they probably shouldn't have been making out in the locker room to begin with if they didn't want any teasing.
A knock on his window made his head snap up. Shit. He was tiny- if there was some kind of serial-killer-burglar outside prowling around he was fucked. Cautiously, he rose and approached the glass, squinting from behind the thick frames of his glasses at whatever was making the noise.
Knuckles appeared, rapping smartly on the window once more and he exhaled a sigh of relief as he recognized the homemade tattoo on Roger's middle finger. Flinging the window open, he raised an eyebrow at his grinning friend whose hair was windswept and cheeks rosy from the cold.
"Hiya," Roger said cheekily, inviting himself inside. He disregarded Mark's personal space- as though he ever acknowledged it- and hoisted his leg over the sill, practically falling into his friend's bedroom. Mark squirmed and sat back on his bed, blushing both because of Roger's proximity and the fact that he was about to be interrogated.
"Hi…" he said reluctantly, averting his gaze.
"Where've you been? I went crazy in English without you. Actually, I'm supposed to be there now… Eh." Shrugging, the aspiring rockstar plopped down on the bed beside Mark as soon as the window was closed, leaning up against him. Mark's heartbeat accelerated. He murmured in addition, "I heard about Maureen. Tough luck man. She's not worth it though."
"She's my friend. Of course she's worth it," Mark glumly protested, shrinking in on himself. He ran a hand through his fluffy blonde hair nervously. "I love her."
"But you don't LOVE her," Roger emphasized, still speaking in that husky tone. Turning his head slightly, Mark nearly passed out at the sight of Roger's closed eyes, long brown eyelashes fanning over his cheekbones. The hitch in his breath must have caught Roger's attention, because the musician blinked and refocused his gaze on Mark in such a knowing way that Mark wanted to crawl into a hole and die.
"I- Yes I do," he said weakly, not daring to move at all lest Roger make one of those rash decisions he was known for making. "I l-love her… I do."
It didn't exactly sound convincing, even to him. If Eli had been there he would have given him the crossed-arms-raised-eyebrows-"I don't believe you" look. But Roger just kept smiling.
"No, you don't." His smile quickly changed into a smirk and grew ever closer to Mark's- or that could be Mark's overactive imagination talking. He did spend an awful lot of time reading fantasy novels…
"How would you know?" Frowning self-consciously, he leaned away slightly, feeling paralyzed. An electrical current seemed to be swirling under his skin and making all of the hairs on the back of his neck stand up straight. "You aren't me, Roger."
"Psh. I know you better than you do, Cohen," Roger snorted. Quick as a flash, Mark was on his back on the bed, wrists pinned above his head and Roger straddling his waist easily. He hadn't imagined the mischief he had sensed when his friend had entered the room… Struggling weakly, he whined, feeling his face flood with any excess blood in his body- that was, any that wasn't going in the opposite direction.
"Get off of me! Jeez, Roger, I'm fucking sad! Give me a break!"
"Mneh," taunted the brunet on top of him, wiggling smugly just because he could. If he really wanted to he could have kept Mark down with the one hand, but it wouldn't have given him an excuse to lean over him the way he was doing. Seeing how uncomfortable his friend was only spurred him on. "You aren't allowed to be upset over MAUREEN. God, Mark. Get a fucking hold of yourself, huh? Shut UP."
Swallowing down the frantic urge to knock Roger off of him, Mark made a rash decision. Glaring at the boy holding him captive he spit out, "How about you make me?"
That was all the incentive that Roger needed. In seconds his lips were crashing down on Mark's, bruising them, and all the young photographer could do was gasp and arch up into it. For a moment the world became blissful warmth, surrounding him in a cocoon where nothing could harm him- not Maureen, not his bitchy sister, nothing. And all too soon it was over, and Roger was pulling away looking delighted and wicked, his mouth flushed and slick with their shared saliva.
"Er…" Mark said awkwardly, squirming, but Roger still wouldn't let him go.
"It's Valentines," he said casually, shifting and rubbing up against him in just the right way to set his cheeks on fire and make him squirm even more desperately. Mark had to struggle not to whimper and he knew that if this kept up he wouldn't last long.
"Yeah? I know," he snapped, internally panicking. Roger had kissed him, was still sitting on top of him- no, straddling him- and now he was acting like it was all fine and dandy, perfectly normal. Well, it wasn't. "You think I don't know?"
"You're supposed to tell the person you love that you love them on Valentine's," Roger reminded him, a strange smile back on his face. Was it just Mark, or was that a hint of a blush on the young musician's face…? "Get to it, Marky."
"Wh-" Mark choked. His eyes went so wide he was almost afraid they'd fall out of his skull. "I-I-I-" he stammered. "I'm-"
"Gay," supplied his friend cheekily, watching him with an overdose of affection. "Totally fucking smitten with me. Come on, man, just say it so we can make out."
"I…" Baffled and lips twitching up against his will into an impossibly wide smile, cracking his face in two, Mark found himself unable to speak. Instead, he tugged his wrists from Roger's grip- he met no resistance this time- and wound his arms around the other boy's neck, pulling him down into a slow, deep kiss twice as sweet as the first one. He'd mastered the art fairly quickly of breathing through his nose and so they stayed like that, lips moving gently as though murmuring affectionate words to each other.
This time, as he pulled away, Mark found himself almost steady- the shaking and the terrible anxiety had finally disappeared. And as he looked quickly around his room, he realized that everything seemed brighter… The sun had come out.
"Hey… shouldn't you be at school?" he finally asked. Roger remained nuzzled into his neck, settled comfortably on top of him. Mark couldn't find the strength or the desire to tell him to get off.
"M'happier here," mumbled the brunet, pressing his lips to Mark's neck and then his tongue, making the other boy wince and jerk away.
"You love me."
And as embarrassing as it was to admit it, he did.