He didn't know what would hurt more, the loving, or the leaving. Because it would be hard to leave him, of course, but it sure as hell was hard to love him. And it wasn't just because of the jealousy, or the fear, or even the fists. It was hard to love him because he could never be sure if he was loved in return. Between the kissing and the hitting and the making love and the yelling, he wasn't sure where love was anymore. And he hated that he had lost it. He wanted to have complete control over it, and if not complete control, at least some semblance of a clue, some knowledge of what had happened to it.

"Mark, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. I love you, baby, you know that. I'm sorry...I'm so sorry..."

He thought that maybe this was love. Maybe this was where the love had gone. It had fled his heart and run into his apologies. Because that's where he heard it. Not when he left for the day, or before they went to sleep, or even while they made love. It was only in the apologies. But after a while, the apologies were so abundant, that it felt like love was still there, because he heard it so often. Too often, really.

"I didn't mean for it to happen, love, and it won't...happen again. I'm sorry, baby, I love you so much. Forgive me? Please..."

He often wondered why his forgiveness was so important. What would Roger do if he refused to accept his soft apologies? Would he hurt? Would he hurt as much as Mark hurt? Mark hadn't found that to be possible. No matter what happened, Mark was the only one hurting. He attributed this to all of it being his fault. If only he hadn't been so demanding, if only he hadn't acted so distant. If only he were always there when Roger needed him to be, he wouldn't have to hurt. If only he worked a little bit harder.

"Why can't you just help me? I have problems too, you know! Why can't you just try, Mark? Can't you just try? For me?"

It was clear that he wasn't doing enough. Loving and needing and hurting and giving wasn't enough. He should have been doing more. He should have taken care of everything, of him. He should have looked out for him, given all of himself, not just what he could afford. He shouldn't have cared at all about himself. He should have focused on Roger, and known that Roger would take care of him, the way he always had.

"If you would just trust me, this wouldn't be so difficult, Mark! I have all this shit I have to deal with and you can't just help me with it, can you? You have to cry and complain and make me feel guilty for having problems. I'm not going to feel guilty anymore, Mark, I don't deserve this."

He believed Roger. He had always believed Roger, because this was the one man who had never lied to him. And so Mark felt bad. He felt terrible for the things he was doing to the musician. All Roger wanted was someone who could love him and comfort him and hold him when he needed to be held. Now look what he had done. He had made Roger into a violent, easily angered, scary creature. He had ruined Roger. Torn his beautiful loving hopeful happy spirit into shreds of mad that filtered into tight fists and forceful punches.

"I just want us to be happy. Is that too much to ask? I want us to be the way we were before! We didn't have to fight. We were above that. What happened to us, Mark? What happened to you?"

What had happened to him? He had become a worthless nag. The shameful shadow of a man who tried his hardest and still failed. The fragile shell of someone who wanted to love, and ended up a depressed, tearful punching bag. It was what he deserved, really. Roger gave him all he could ask for. Roger loved him. And he supposed that it was true, the old saying. No pain, no gain. Being loved by a man like Roger wasn't anything to take for granted. If he wanted to keep that, he needed to take what came to him. This was what he deserved. This was the way things were.

"Can we just stay like this, baby? We're happy now, right? I mean...we fight a little...but it's worth it, don't you think?"

Of course it was worth it. Mark was curled snugly into Roger, and that made everything worth it. The words, the bruises, the welts. He would have to learn that this was what it would take to love Roger Davis. And had he been a stronger person, he would have stood up to him. He would have yelled back, and explained that having Mark was a privilege, not a right. He would have told Roger that if the abuse didn't end, he would leave. He would run away to god knows where and never speak to him again.

But he wasn't a stronger person, and he relied on Roger far too much for that. He truly believed that he needed Roger. More than anyone should need any one person. He depended on him. And blood stops flowing, eventually. Bruises heal, and physical pain can be alleviated. This was meant to be. This, he believed, was true love.