A/N: I wasn't planning on updating this again so soon, but I got a review and it just really made my night. So, I decided to be the fanfiction genie and grant their wish… I hope you enjoy the Mark abuse. Again. God, I'm so mean to the characters I love the most. There's got to be something wrong with that. ANYWAYS, reviews are still as awesome as ever!
Disclaimer: Cause everyyyythiiiiing is REEEEEEEEENT! Except the things I own, of course.
Chapter Two: Happy Pills
"God help me…" Mark muttered, inwardly shouting a colorful myriad of curses at himself for losing the only umbrella in the loft in the middle of April. It had been three months to the day since Mimi had passed away in that hospital bed and Roger was, predictably, moping in his room. He'd been almost alarmingly cheerful for the first month after Mimi's death, but he was withdrawing more and more and now… Well. It was possible, of course, that it was the rain that had him down but it made Mark nervous enough that he didn't really want to go out to lunch with Collins anymore as he'd promised.
It seems like all he does is dote on Roger, but then again that's nothing new. He's been doing it since April's death, before even, when Roger was in constant danger of overdose. And he doesn't really mind it, except times like these when he's anxious to get out of the stuffy loft and Roger is pulling a Roger on him and making it difficult.
He rummaged through his dresser drawers in a final attempt, rolling his eyes at his own sparse wardrobe. It was debatable, actually, whether or not the bulky black contraption would even fit inside his dresser but he'd run out of places to look and he was supposed to meet Collins at the café in half an hour. He'd hoped, earlier, that maybe the rain would clear before he had to leave but one glance at the dreary gray sheet over the window made it very clear that he was going to be drenched the minute he stepped out the door.
Great. Just great. It must be Monday.
Well, there isn't anything to be done. He'd just have to brave the typical New York weather with his hood up in a futile attempt at shielding himself from an impending cold and make a run for it. Once, a year or two ago most likely, he remembers his sister telling him matter-of-factly over the phone that running in the rain only got you fifty percent wetter. That's just too bad, because he doesn't have a lot of time to go anyways.
As he's feeling into the corners of his boxer drawer pointlessly in the last vestiges of his sad attempt, Mark's hand brushes the smooth, cold plastic of a bottle that he was almost certain he'd thrown out the day he'd moved in. It's dusty and obviously untouched, but it still sends a thrill of anxiety through him as he pulls it out and stares at it, stomach doing curious flips.
Lovely. His past come back to haunt him again. Aggravated, he itched absently at his wrist beneath his sweater sleeve and stowed the bottle away, back where he'd found it- it wasn't doing anyone any harm there. Just as he shut the drawer brusquely and strode out of the room, tensing and bracing himself for the coming unpleasantness, he brushed Roger in the hall and found himself abruptly shoved back into the wall. Eyes flashing up to the guitarist's stoic expression, the filmmaker opened his mouth to ask what exactly had crawled up his ass and died when he realized what Roger had thrust into his hands.
"Hey- where did you find this?" he spluttered, glancing from the rickety black umbrella up to Roger's mesmerizing green eyes, to which the other man simply shrugged.
"Nowhere. Go, I know you're running late." Of course he did. Roger always seemed to know when things were going wrong with his roommate, like he had some sort of sixth sense. Mark wondered sometimes if it was simply that he knew him so well, or if maybe it was something more.
But if he continued on that train of thought he might start to sound crazy again, so he decides to leave it at that and simply nod, a look of eternal gratefulness crossing his face as he scurries to the door and pulls his jacket on along the way, halfway shrugged into the second sleeve as he exits and pulls the door shut behind him with the metallic grating noise that they've become so accustomed to. With that, he's off.
It's easy to keep his mind off of the bottle when he's struggling with his rusty old umbrella, trying to get the damn thing open. When he finally succeeds he's just grateful that it doesn't seem to have been eaten by moths- the last time he'd checked, most of the things in his closet were more holes than fabric. Not that he cared. He didn't care about the state of his own body much less what he wore over it- his only concern was that, without all of those long sleeves to fall back on, he might be exposed.
None of them were ever meant to find out anything about his little problem and he didn't plan on letting it slip. He wasn't that stupid.
As he walks, though, the thoughts keep drifting past. They're so insistent sometimes, so pushy, almost like they were embodying the friends he could barely call friends anymore because they didn't even know him. Always poking and prodding and tormenting him with scraps of the past. The bottle, the hospital room, the therapist. Benny. It became a living nightmare that he couldn't shake off, left him trembling at night, curled into himself choking back the tears, pressing the metal firmly to his wrist to ward them off because anything is better than crying.
They aren't supposed to follow him in the daylight hours, but lately things have been slipping just a little bit. Enough for him, with his obsessive observational skills, to notice and begin to get nervous about. He was Mark, he was supposed to be strong, and he thought that he was but apparently not.
Strong people didn't shake when their friends weren't looking.
Strong people didn't have scars lacing up their arms like ugly red shoelaces.
He really needed to pull himself together before he got to the café, before Collins saw his expression and began the inquisition he dreaded so much. Every day was so full of fear, a tidal wave that rose uncontrollably in his chest every time somebody made eye contact with him, moved even the slightest bit-
Do they know? Can they know? What am I going to say?
It's irrational but then most of the things Mark thinks to himself these days are. He's a stoic person, a great liar by now, and it doesn't take much to school his expression. He can't, however, still his thundering heart as he approaches the familiar neon letters glowing against the gray-black backdrop of the city, above the sea of dark umbrellas and frowning faces. He knows better than to attempt the smile he's perfected, the aching quirk of the lips that keeps his friends happy, keeps him safe, keeps Roger from pulling up the sleeve of his sweater. That would be too conspicuous on such a rainy day.
If there was anything that Mark didn't want to be, it was noticeable. Once upon a time he'd wanted attention- way back, when Roger had been the earth and he had been the moon, hopelessly orbiting in an attempt to help however he could, never drawing as close as he'd like to be- and now he likes to think that he's grown out of that childish tendency.
He's Mark and he doesn't need anyone anymore. He just needs himself and the switchblade, a comforting presence, a constant weighing down his pocket just the slightest where he could touch it under the table to calm himself.
The scabs itch. Instead of the bottle he focuses on that, and although it becomes painful to resist he'd rather not start gushing blood when Collins was just inside the door he was pushing open, welcoming him with one of those blinding smiles, white against the dark of his face. In a way, Collins is sort of like a cat or a dog- he can't recall a time that he hadn't been happy to see him, but he also can't recall a time when any of the messages he sent his way had been truly received, understood. It was like they spoke different languages.
Mark was beginning to suspect that he just spoke a different language. It was almost as though, out of everyone on the planet, he was the only one who understood his own dialect.
"You made it! Good man, Cohen," he was booming, wrapping his arms around the scrawnier man tightly before pulling away to look at him. Now was the time to muster that smile he hadn't dared before, an ache that's becoming all too familiar growing in his chest, making it hard to breathe.
"I thought it would be rude to cancel without calling," murmured the filmmaker meekly, all the while his inner sarcasm raging, burning more brightly, more angrily than ever.
About as rude as forcing someone to crawl through the rain for some lousy lunch.
Almost instantly he was stabbed in the gut with a deep feeling of regret, remorse, and he winced to Collins questioning look. Fuck. This was happening more and more often lately, a testament to just how awful a human being he was. No wonder Roger didn't want him, didn't even pay him any attention, when he was capable of thoughts like that.
Collins had obviously wanted to see him, or he wouldn't have trudged through the rain. He had a lot more to lose than Mark if he caught a cold. Mark really ought to be more grateful.
Somehow, though, as he slid into a booth opposite the anarchist Mark didn't feel at all comforted this. He felt as unwanted as ever and then paused to wonder why he was so depressed, so inconsolable, before Collins struck up conversation again.
"So, Marky," he teased, leaning back and crossing his arms behind his head. His eyes, though, were searching Mark's face and it was making him far too nervous to relax, crossing his legs and squirming across from him. He grimaced at the nickname but didn't have the energy to launch a protest, just waiting for the rest. "What have you been up to? I've been out of the loop."
Maybe you shouldn't have expected the loop to stretch all the way to Michigan for you.
Actually, Mark reflects, it's probably a good thing that Collins hasn't been around. He's too sharp, too attentive- he's too similar to Mark that way, and he would surely have noticed his slow, graceless descent into insanity, into this neverending feeling of self-loathing. Just sitting this close to him, allowing his eyes to rake casually over him like he's some kind of lab specimen makes him feel naked. Where are his sleeves now? It seems like Collins can see right through them.
God, but it would be an awful time for Collins to develop super powers.
He's been silent for too long and now it's getting awkward. Cursing internally, he fumbles for words, for something other than the obvious. "Ah- nothing really. Filming. Getting bitched at by Roger…"
"How's he taking it?" The concern on Collins' face shifts subtly and to Mark's relief the limelight seems to have moved away from him, at least for the moment.
There's no way to misinterpret that. After April, Roger had overdosed almost six times before Mark had finally cut him off, given him the ultimatum- get clean or get out. None of them knew how many of those times Roger had been trying to off himself and how many were simply overzealous attempts to escape the maddening barrage of emotion that he'd always handled so poorly. Either way, the second dead girlfriend could easily have tipped the scales, and all of the bohemians had watched him carefully from the shadows for any abnormal behavior since the funeral.
"He's actually not so bad," Mark admitted, glancing down absently at the menu. He wasn't really hungry- he was rarely hungry anymore, which he would find more concerning if he gave a shit about anything. "The weather's got him down but other than that…"
"Got a new band?" The professor arches an eyebrow in slight amusement and the endearing gesture, something that he'd taught Mark a long time ago that to this day aggravated Roger to no end simply because he couldn't do it, makes Mark's stomach quiver with an odd nostalgia. It takes him several extra seconds to compose a response to the simple question, preoccupied with an unexplainable bout of nausea.
"Yeah… He doesn't like them much, but it gets him out, you know?"
There, that sounded natural. Satisfied with himself he looks away again, picking something random and cheap off of the menu and setting it aside, disinterested. His eyes stray out the window into the gray cityscape, the ducked heads and muted patters of rain, and finds it alarmingly descriptive of the way he feels most of the time now. Cold, bleak and vaguely downtrodden.
When he finally forces himself to look back at Collins, the other man is giving him another one of those speculative looks that he hates so much and he has to forcibly put a lid on his own hysterical assumptions that yes, yes he knows, he knows and now they'll all know-!
"W-what?" he asks nervously, trying to smile. It probably looks more like a grimace but it's too late to try and fix it now. Collins shakes his head, furrowing his eyebrows just slightly as though regarding an impossibly difficult equation and trying to figure out where to start.
"Mark… are you feeling alright? You seem kinda off," he asks, sounding so genuinely concerned that guilt claws at Mark's insides all over again. He forces a laugh, words slightly sharper than he'd intended as he shakes his head.
"I'm fine, Tom." He never really called him Tom, but this was a warning. Collins visibly backed down, nodding shortly and then mustered another smile as he tried to restart their stinted conversation.
Lunch is the short, awkward affair that Mark had expected it to be and as they part that ache in his chest returns. He doesn't know exactly what he wanted out of the exchange, but it wasn't what he got, and whatever it was he wanted he probably wasn't going to get so he might as well forget about it. The nausea had disappeared, replaced with a slightly uncomfortable hollow feeling deep in the pit of his stomach that he just doesn't want to think about.
The only other thing to think about, however, seems to be that bottle looming closer than he ever wanted it to be in his mind. Fluoxetine hydrochloride. He shudders to think it, his grip on the plastic handle of the umbrella tightens, but he forces himself to because anything is better than feeling empty, even this.
It was so long ago but it's still crystal clear. It's the pain that makes it sharp, he thinks to himself grimly, a morbid smile twisting his lips. He keeps his head down to keep anyone from seeing it- after all, he wouldn't want to disturb any of the other, less deranged inhabitants of the city. This was his problem. Pain was good for his memory, he was convinced, because all of the things he remembers are embedded in his mind with a nail of pure agony.
Benny was there, he remembers that. His mother, too, and his father was on the way. The paramedics had said later that he was lucky to be alive but he didn't feel lucky, not at all. He felt like a failure. Still, he plastered on that smile that he'd grown so accustomed to wearing like a mask as the years worn on and insisted he was fine.
It wasn't like they could prove otherwise.
He takes the stairs one at a time, dragging his feet, shutting the umbrella with some difficulty. Now that he's thinking about it, now that he's almost home and he's going to have to face Roger again, force himself to act when he was never meant to be an actor, he doesn't want to stop.
The pills he remembers, too, but not as clearly. The pills were numb rather than painful and they made his memory foggy but he still manages to dredge up the memory to torture himself with.
He remembers waking up every morning and taking two with breakfast, swallowing them and making a face. Breakfast, they lectured him, was normal. They just wanted to help him get back to normal. He didn't have the heart to tell anyone that he didn't eat breakfast before the whole ordeal and normal was somewhere he'd never been, so he couldn't exactly go back to it. He just swallows and winces and gets on with his day, because that's what he should do, is expected to do, and hasn't he always been eager to please?
When he reaches the top of the stairs he opens the door and tries not to think about the key in his hand, because he's had enough of remembering for the day. The loft is silent, which comes as no surprise, but what he really wants to know is whether or not Roger is sleeping.
As much as he doesn't care, or doesn't think he does, he doesn't ever do it when Roger is home. He doesn't know what he would do if his roommate walked in on that gory little secret.
Slowly, cautiously, he sets down his umbrella and pads down the hall, searching for Roger's skinny figure, straining to hear the sounds of the poorly tuned acoustic but there's nothing. Peeking into his room he's relieved to find him lying in bed, presumably asleep- Roger never sleeps during the day anymore, not since withdrawal, but Mark seems to have been correct about his assumption that the guitarist isn't feeling well.
He doesn't have time to be worried about whether or not Roger is really asleep, or whether or not he's getting sick- right now everything feels too bright and too real and he reaches into his pocket for the soothing metal, making for the bathroom and shutting the door tightly behind him.
It was all too much, the past and the present and the desolate future stretching before him, and he doesn't have the pills to make him numb so he'll settle for pain.
If pain can make him remember, it can also make him forget.